ayvid Davince prowled around his lab like a caged animal.
    She was out there, somewhere.  Not that he was TRYING to avoid her, of course, no no, never that.  Just that he was deathly afraid that if he bumped into Amelia again, she might continue talking about... it.
    "It's got to just be the Talent used on her," Dayvid said, since he understood what a Talent was, after the three days working in close quarters with Reason.  "That's all.  That's why she's acting funny.  Seems reasonable."
    "Actually," Reason said, writing with her right hand while doing calculations with her left while talking with Dayvid in a conversational tone, "It's reasonable to suspect that rather than cause a reaction which wasn't there to begin with, it simply unlocked one that was unrealized as an unexpected side benefit to the removal of her enchantment.  The possibility is high, and it would be in league with both Love and Drama."
    "Oh, come on, that's silly," David said.  "I know Amelia's saying she wants to marry me, but she can't MEAN it."
    "Nothing is unreasonable with the right thinking," Reason said, finishing a complex series of equations.  "Why don't you talk to her if you don't believe me?"
    "I'm... I'm far too busy on our project," Dayvid said.  "It's important work."
    "You realize that she may suspect that the reason you're avoiding her and spending time with me is because you're seeing me behind her back?" Reason said, calmly.  "It'd be reasonable for her to think that way."
    "WHAT?!" Dayvid gaped.  "But.. but that's silly!  I mean, you're--"
    "You can ignore my conclusions and evidence because they're silly all you want, but it's inadvisable," Reason said, shuffling her papers together and getting up to write the results on a blackboard.  Her mind was already thinking three or four problems ahead, Dayvid's relationship being one of the minor ones.  "In fact, I'd suggest going to find her immediately and engaging in some sort of gesture Love would approve of.  Otherwise, she may engage in Loathing.  Mind you, Loathing is simply Love with her back turned in a lot of respects, but--"
    Dayvid was no longer there; the door swung back and forth, wobbling on its hinges.
    People could provide a lot of fun during working hours, Reason reasoned.  It was a tremendously good way to relax while you're getting serious work done.  She turned her attention back to her task in full, chalk clacking as she worked through the numbers on the spell--
    A small device in the pocket of her lab coat started to vibrate.  Using her right hand to pull it out while she continued the thaumatological sequence of progressive pulses with her left hand, she clicked a small button.
    A window opened, pulling light from her living quarters on campus in Darata.  Her spy spell had sensed movement.  She kept an eye on it while writing.
    Her room was an organized mess, as she last saw it; work piled on work piled on findings in a curious system that only she understood, as it was part of a geometric sequence of numbers.  She didn't have visitors last time, though.
    "...understand, you can't come in here without a visitor's pass--" the dean was trying to explain.
    "Back off.  We're on a mission from God," the sorceress said, pushing by him and into the room.  She was followed by a swordsman and a wingless -- that would be Lina, Gourry and Myth, if Reason recalled correctly, which she did.  Her thumb clicked the send button.
    "Wrong place," she said, and the words echoed through time and space in a way she suspected Paradox didn't like, but he was such an unreasonable sort that she didn't particularly care.  "We're in Sailoon Palace.  Come on by."
    The surprised Lina flinched as words came to her from thin air, and that was all the visual recognition Reason needed.  She turned off her box and pocketed it again.
    They probably wanted her to explain things, but she was far too busy.  Explanations could come later.  Work to do right now.
    "We're in Sailoon Palace," the disembodied voice said.  "Come on by."
    Lina twitched.
    "Hello?" she asked, but didn't get a response.  "Helloooooo?  Yoo hoo?"
    "That was Reason!" Myth recognized.  "That's her voice.  ...and that's what's she's like, too, she never really bothers saying more than you need to know..."
    "At least she gets to the point," Lina said, trying to see the good in things.  "Back to the Sub Ways with us, then.  We'll be leaving campus now, Mr. Dean."
    Pushing by the still unbelieving Dean, Lina led her little party through the university hallways, back to the front gates.
    "I'm feeling on a roll here," Lina said.  "Pumped.  Primed.  Psyched.  And so on.  Myth, tell me about Reason.  What can we expect from her?  Gonna be a stand up fight or a sneaky one?"
    "Uh... uhh..." Myth gasped, having trouble keeping up with Lina's brisk trot.  "I don't know.. she always has her own weird motives for things.  She likes to say that anything's reasonable, so she's actually very unpredictable... umm, what else, what else... likes science, likes magic... and she doesn't have any Talents."
    "Eh?" Lina asked, confused.  "How can you be a wingless with no Talents?"
    "She just doesn't use any," Myth said.  "She's smart and remembers everything and is ambidextrous and said she didn't need anything else.  If she has any, they've never been touched."
    "I had a cousin once who was ambidextrous, so they put him in jail," Gourry said.
    "Gourry, ambidextrous means 'can use both hands equally well," Lina defined.
    "Oh, I know.  He was able to pick two pockets at once."
    "Wait wait!" Myth said, dashing in front of the group to block them.  "We can't go by Sub Way.  If it runs through Nightmare's place, we'd all be in danger."
    "It moves near instantly," Lina reminded.  "You got stuck that one time because some old dirt was jamming up the system.  It'll be fine.  Besides, it'd take us a long time to get to Sailoon, and we've only got a week to go.  Right?"
    "Well, right, but--"
    "Then Sub Ways it is," Lina said.
    "It's dangerous!"
    "So's swallowing a whole zucchini!" Lina snapped.
    Myth attempted to figure that one out.  "Huh?  What does that have to do with anything?"
    "...I don't know, it just sounded cool," Lina said.  "Don't bug me, I'm feeling righteous today."
    Like a holy rolling freight convoy of crushing importance, Lina's party stormed through Darata to the stone circle just outside the city, and traveled the Ways (uneventfully) to Sailoon.  Then it was a steady jog down the merchant's path towards Sailoon City, storming the gates of the fair city at a brisk yet determined stroll straight up to the gates and through them before the guards had enough time to say 'What's your business here' and into the palace and straight through the Main Hall where majestic tapestries of Sailoon's rulers were hung (sometimes literally) and on through the Royal Gardens and down the hall and out the servant's rear entrance and onto the street of Small Shops and...
    "I think we went too far," Gourry observed.
    So the party turned around and marched right back into the castle, and this time chose to stop in the Royal Gardens and wait there.
    Myth slumped against a tree, completely out of breath.  "How can you have that much energy on one fried egg??"
    "Don't you see?" Lina said, gesturing dramatically.  "We're near the quest's end!  It's almost over, and we're moving right along according to schedule and plan barring little hiccups like perpetual nightmares and so on.  I feel like I could take on the world!  Bring it on!  LET'S GO!!"
    The world didn't bring anything on and they didn't go anywhere.  A few butterflies roamed the nice flowers of the gardens, but other than that, movement was not the word of the day.
    "Aren't we supposed to be greeted or something?" Myth asked.  "After that entrance, I mean..."
    "Maybe they're busy," Gourry said.  "Probably getting a really big celebration of our arrival together or something."
    Lina tapped her foot, and waited.  Impatience knows no boundaries to one who is On A Roll.
    Finally, someone came into view.  Two someones.  Arguing as they walked by.
    "...swear, there's nothing happening between us!  Really!" Dayvid protested, pleading after a haughtily-marching Amelia.
    Amelia turned on him with a really really nasty but cute look.  "Soooo!  You're busy doing nothing in that lab of yours for hours and hours while I'm here trying to plan our wedding.  Very inconsiderate of you!  I'd almost think you didn't want to get married."
    "I don't!" Dayvid said truthfully.
    Gears started to turn backwards.  "Wh... whaaa?  You hate me!?" Amelia bubbled, on verge of busting out into tearful hysterics.  "I just had this flash of realization recently that we got along really well and enjoyed spending time together and you've looked at me funny ever since Happyworld and... and I was wrong?  Oh, woe is me!  Tragedy!"
    "Huh?... no no, you've got it all wrong!" Dayvid said, whose grasp of feminine feelings was proving to be more complicated than subatomic thaumatological methodology.  "I don't mean it that way."
    "So you ARE cheating on me with that Reason person!" Amelia accused, going right back to angry.  "Well, fine!  The wedding is off!  Good day, Mr. Davince!"
    Dayvid was left to pick his jaw off the floor as Amelia turned and marched right across the gardens, past a cluelessly puzzled Lina and off to some other hallway in the castle.
    "Err..." Dayvid said, just now noticing the questing party.  "Reason won't be ready until tonight, you'll have to wait.  Excuse me.. Amelia!  Hold up!  Pleeease!!"
    And off he went, jogging after her.
    Lina's mind reached for what just happened like a bar of soap in the bath.
    "I didn't know Dayvid was trying to grow a beard now," Gourry observed, missing the point entirely.
    "And she thinks I'M on drugs?!" Lina yelled, shaking her fist after them.  "HEY!  Lina!  Yoo hoo!  Important person waiting for proper greeting!"
    "He said they'd be ready tonight," Gourry said, relaxing under the shade of a tree.  "We can wait, right?"
    "Waiting.. good," Myth said, already trying to recover from various shocks and energy drains from the day's events.  She leaned back on a grassy knoll, and pulled out her book.  "I'll just write a bit.  Don't mind me.  Waiting is VERY good."
    Lina paced in rapid little circles.  "I don't wanna wait!  I'm full of steam here... I mean, I'm... oh... oh, foo.  Nevermind."  She sighed, and sat next to Gourry under the tree, finally getting some exhaustion after the adrenaline reserves had run dry.  "We can wait.  I swear, this palace is just as boring now as it was last time we were here..."
    Spontaneously, Gourry plucked a few tiny flowers from a nearby patch.  "Boy, they've got some nice ones," he commented, examining the golden leaves.  Then, he offered them to Lina.  "Here."
    Lina looked at the flowers, uncomprehending.  "Huh?  What're those for?"
    Gourry blinked.  "I thought girls liked flowers.  You know, you put them in your hair or something."
    Lina winced.  "Ugh.  They used to do that all the time back in Zeifilia.  Bunch of soppy girls who liked reading romance novels and sighing.  I always wondered if they had lung problems or something..."
    "Oh..." Gourry said, pulling the daisies away a bit.  "Nevermind, then."
    "Eh, what the hell," Lina said, snatching the flowers away, and trying to arrange them off to one side of her hair, as casually and uncaring as possible.  "Can't hurt... what's with that smile?"
    Gourry's big goofy smile got a little less goofy.  "Oh, nothin'..." he said, looking off into the sky to think a moment.  A gear clicked.  "Hey, you guys want to go do something fun?"
    Across town, two conspirators were drowning their woes in fancy fruit cocktails and straight lager respectively.
    This was their last hope, that maybe Lina and Company would come back to Sailoon.  Before he got taken, Loathing said he had no idea where Paradox was, and as for Nightmare... who could say?  They had no leads left.
    A few flies buzzed around Bugger's drink; he shooed them away with a wave of his hand, and sipped again.
    "I tell you, it's right awful," he said.  "Should've taken Nightmare's advice.  Punk had a good idea -- just hit the little tart upside the head with everythin' we got, you know?  None of this playin' around.  Why don't we do that more often?"
    "Huh?" Angela said.  For a Dragon of grace and elegance, her slump wasn't particularly attractive, looking up from a goblet of wine.  "Why don't we do what?"
    "Screw 'em hard and fast," Bugger said, making a drilling motion with his hand.  "Just whack 'em.  Noooo, Mazoku gotta trap them, taunt them, kill them in interestin' ways... actually, that usually works, I mean, get some poor sod into a fleshpuller or a quality nine 'o burning irons, their clock is PUNCHED... but then you gots these ones like Lina, and you're all like, 'Oh looky, nudder stupid human to toss into the gapin' maw 'o destruction' and they're the ones who put the smack down on YOU, 'cuz you're all goofin' off and... geez, Angela!  Pay attention!  Damn good stuff here!"
    "What does it matter?" Angela groaned.  "We've failed.  Lina's gone, she's obtained nearly all of the wingless and we have no leads.  All we can do now is pray that our superiors won't demote us too far for the slipup, and pray that this wasn't important enough to let slip between the cracks... I am SO miserable!"
    Bugger glared at her.  "YOU miserable?  At least when you get back, you're just goin' to get a slap on the wrists and a 'Bad Dragon!  No soup for you!'.  Mazoku got a worse lot, believe me, gel... I go back and say I lost Lina, I'm gonna be exterminated.  No warning, no expression of disapproval, just flat out erased.  There ain't no points for second place in my gang."
    "My lot is bad too," Angela said, trying to defend her kind.  "I'll fall in prestige in all the right circles!  This was going to be my golden mealticket.  I even had to nominate myself to get on the mission, something that they'll have figured out by now... if I brought Lina back in chains, I'd easily be forgiven.  But now?  And need I remind you that someone of the Dragon hierarchy is aiding Lina?  It's a complete cock-up and I'm to blame!  It'll take centuries to get back to my previous status."
    "You've GOT centuries," Bugger grumbled.  "I gots... days, I'd guess.  Hours if I'm unlucky.  I'm tellin' you, the only way our luck is going to look up at all is if Lina walks through that door right there in the next--"
    "Yeah, this is the place!" Gourry smiled, pushing open the swinging entrance doors.  "Come on in."
    Bugger's mouth hung open, as in walked Gourry, Lina, and Myth, checking out the bar, and looking for a place to sit.
    "It's them," he said redundantly.  "Okay.  I'll kill Lina in one hard and fast shot; you contain the other two and we'll pick 'em off later."
    "What?" Angela said.  "We can't do that.  There are other humans here.  We'd make a huge stink of it and possibly destroy the city block!"
    "Gel, this is the only opportunity we're going to get!" Bugger said.  "No more screwin' around!  We kill them now or might as well pack our bags and head to the headsman!"
    Angela eyed their prey, who were sitting at the bar, ordering drinks.  A clear line of fire to them.  So easy to...
    "Can you make it clean and not injure any of the others?" Angela said.  "The last thing I need is to go back to the Dragons saying that I had to slaughter dozens of humans to do this mission."
    "One tight shot of black power," Bugger said, prepping a small bullet of darkness.  "Smooth as silk.  You contain the other two.  Could probably leave them be if you wanted to, neither of 'em know the Resurrect spell.  Then we bail.  Agreed?"
    "Agreed," Angela said.  She charged up a shielding spell, ready.
    Bugger wound up, and there's the pitch--
    The tiny speck of black power shot through the air, straight and true, until it encountered a similar shot of white power; the two canceled out, smooth as silk, nobody disturbed.
    "What the...?" Bugger said, confused...
    A waitress stepped up behind them, and cleared her throat.
    "Take your order?" she asked them.
    Both Dragon and Mazoku turned, looking upon the face of Luna Inverse, Knight of Ceipheed.
    Luna snapped her fingers, and all three vanished into thin air.
    Across the room, Lina felt a slight breeze.  She turned to look at a strangely empty space in the room, wondering what it was.  Probably nothing.  She turned back to the bar.
    "Okay, I'll have a mug of ale," Lina ordered.
    "No alcohol," Gourry said, cutting her off.  "We've got a quest tonight, right?"
    "C'mon, Gourry, it's just one--"
    "How about some coffee?" Gourry said.  "It keeps you awake and alert."
    Awake and alert was a state Lina was starting to approve of, after the last few nights.  "Right.  Coffee for me, then.  Strongest stuff they've got!"
    "Umm.. I'll have a glass of milk," Myth said.  "It's good for your bones."
    "And I'll have the Ultra Fudge Ripple Slam Chocolate, Boysenberry and Mint Chip Shake Deluxe," Gourry said, reading each word in turn off a nearby menu.
    "I don't get it, though..." Lina said, glancing around.  "Pretty ordinary bar.  Why did you say this was the 'funnest place in Sailoon'?"
    "Huh?  You don't know why?" Gourry asked.  "It's... okay, take a look over at the stage.  See that guy there?"
    Lina turned on her barstool, glancing at the spotlight cast on the stage.  A small band was playing a popular tune, and the singer was singing it... very badly.  A young boy held cue cards off to the side, prompting him with the lyrics.  A few folks in the crowd were actively booing and hissing at the singer, who was a bit nervous.
    "What about him?" Lina asked.  "So the floor show is weak.  What--"
    The booing got louder, and suddenly a high pressure hose hooked up to a barrel of water cut loose, blasting the guy.  He ran off stage quickly, there was applause, and a judge held up a score of 27.
    "If you do really bad, you get the hose," Gourry grinned.  "It's a Karoke Bar!  People can sing songs and if they get a score of 95 or better, they can take home a trophy.  It's really fun!  I got an 87 once, before we left Sailoon."
    "Karoke," Lina said, dumbfounded.  "You took us to a KAROKE bar?"
    "Sure," Gourry said.  "It's my treat.  I wanted to take you somewhere nice and fun, Lina.  Get your mind off all the problems we've been having lately.  Ne?"
    Well... his heart was in the right place, Lina thought.  She gave him a smile.  "Thanks, Gourry.  So, what'll you be singing for us?"
    "Actually, I thought you two might like to sing," Gourry said, fetching a list of available music from a stack of papers on the bar.  "It only takes about a half hour to get into the rotation and be on stage, so--"
    "Sing?" Myth said, horrified.  "On stage?  But.. but it's embarrassing!"
    "Don't you tell stories on stage?" Gourry asked, confused.
    "Uh, yes, but... singing is totally different," Myth said, taking a copy of the song list.  "It's all verse chorus verse, no real structure at all like a really good story, and if your voice cracks it sounds all wrong.  I can't think of a single thing I could possibly... whoa, they have 'The Ballad of the Wreck of the Old '49er'?"
    "Uh-huh," Gourry said.
    "Plenty of interesting narrative in that..." Myth said, musing it over.
    But Lina put up more resistance.  "No.  Nada.  No way.  No how.  Not happening.  Not a chance.  Never going to occur in your lifetime.  Forget it, skip it, move on, I am NOT going to sing."
    She took a sip of her coffee, which was so black that light had trouble escaping it.  Her body vibrated for a moment.
    "Whoawhattheheckisinthis?" Lina asked.  "Everythingsmovingslowlynow!"
    "You said you wanted the strongest thing," Gourry said.  "That's also why I picked this place.  Very good coffee."
    "WellanywayIwon'tbesingingGourrysoyoucanjustforgetitbecauseI can'tsingandIwon'tmakeafoolofmyself," Lina blurred.
    "Awww, come on," Gourry said.  "I bet you'd have a pretty voice."
    "BetIwouldn't," Lina said.
    "OhFINE!" Lina said, moving too fast to want to argue about it anymore.  She jabbed her finger on a random song.  "I'llsingthisone!  SeethatIdon't!!"
    Quite a distance away, over the middle of nowhere (unrelated to the middle of Noh Wheir), three figures, a table, a candlelit placesetting and two drinks materialized five hundred feet over the ground.
    The table dropped, but Bugger managed to rescue his drink before it plunged into the forest below.
    "That was very rude," Angela said, maintaining a cool status in front of the Knight of Ceipheed.  "Snatching us away like that.  Didn't He teach you better manners, human?"
    "Nope," Luna said, in her usual clipped way of talking, eyes hidden by her bangs, mouth smiling.  "Work better this way."
    "This is a conspiracy, isn't it?" Bugger asked.  He took a last swig from his bottle, and tossed it aside.  "You planned all along to sell my poor little Mazoku bum to the Dragons.  I just bet.  It'd round off a perfectly lousy day, I can tell you."
    Luna ignored Bugger, continuing to address Angela.  "You cheated," she said.  "Nominated yerself."
    Refusing to show any concern, Angela gave a shrug.  "So?  I have been doing my task as appointed.  Perhaps using unorthodox methods, but you are certainly familiar with going outside the lines.  In fact, is that not your reason for being?"
    "You're fired," Luna said.  "Ceipheed's orders."
    "Fine, fine," Angela said.  "Just kick me while I'm down, why don't you.  I swear, this is not going to be enjoyable, facing everybody when I return--"
    "New orders for ya," Luna said.  "Under me.  Got it?"
    "And if I refuse?" Angela asked.
    "Don't," Luna suggested.
    The waitress cum Knight of Ceipheed and enigmatic human agent for the Dragons who happened to be Lina's sister spotted Bugger, as he tried to sneak away.
    "Hey," she called.
    Bugger turned, readying a black fireball.  "Okay, okay!  I can sneak off AFTER a fight.  Bugger's got no bloody problem with that--"
    "New orders for ya," Luna said.  "If you want."
    The Mazoku quirked an eyebrow.  "The hell?  A Dragon sneak telling a Mazoku what to do?"
    "Blackmail," Luna informed him.  And left it at that.
    Bugger tried to work out the logistics, and failed.  "What's that supposed to mean?"
    "I... believe I know," Angela said.  "What our short spoken colleague here is saying is that she'll turn you into Zelas-Metallum if you don't help her.  Did I neglect to mention that Luna, through some twisted reasoning which I'm shocked the Dragons don't disapprove of, is friends with Beastmaster?  I doubt our working in secret will remain a secret now."
    The Mazoku's heart fell into his stomach.  "Oh, hell.  OH, BLOODY HELL!  You'd do that, wouldn't you, you sadistic human tart?  Just ruin Bugger's life completely, you would!"
    "Yep," Luna said, smiling.
    "Don't that beat all," Bugger grumbled.  "Fine.  So what do you got for me?"
    Luna told them.
    "HELP her?!" Angela and Bugger shrieked in unison.
    The sun started to set when Lina and Company finally got back to the castle.
    Myth was walking tall, quite proud of herself.  The trophy was pretty heavy to carry, but she had won it quite skillfully if she did say so herself, which she had said at least three times now.
    Lina just dripped, leaving little puddles of cold water as she walked.  Nothing's worse than being shocked back into reality after a coffee high by a water hose.
    Once again, there were no trumpets or vast celebrations at their arrival.  The gate guards simply gave a nod of recognition, directed Lina to Dayvid's Lab, and let them be.
    "Hospitality seems to be at an all time low," Lina grumbled, as they made their way through the maze of palace hallways.
    "Does it really matter, though?" Gourry said.  "We're here on business and stuff, right?  So we shouldn't make a big scene."
    "I was kind of hoping for a big scene," Lina said, approaching the door to the lab.  "You know, fireworks, cheering and yelling, that sort of thing..."
    Lina turned the doorknob, and stepped into the apocalypse.
    Elemental fire fluttered near, threatening to scorch her eyebrows.  There were plenty of small midair explosions, in various colors, in addition to plenty of yelling and panic -- then it all stopped.
    Dayvid sat on the floor, panting and white as a sheet.  A woman in a lab coat finished making a modification to a blackboard filled with math.
    "I see what went wrong.  Forgot to carry the two," Reason said.  "Sorry about that.  It should work now."
    Dayvid was hysterical.  "But... but!--"
    "It's reasonable to make a mistake from time to time," Reason said, stepping past the dazed scientist to greet Lina.  "Hello.  Sorry about the floor show.  We're just about ready to send you to Paradox's lair."
    "...huh?  I mean.. how'd you know?" Lina said.  "We just thought of that this morning!  Are you telepathic?"
    "No, it's just the most logical conclusion one could come to," Reason shrugged.  "The minute I heard you were gathering the wingless I realized you had no way to reach Paradox, and I'd have to lend a hand."
    "Gosh, that's pretty nice of her," Gourry said.
    "So... you came to Sailoon?" Lina asked.  "Why?  I wasn't here."
    "Oh, I didn't need you," Reason said.  "I needed Dayvid.  He's potentially more skilled with magic and has the ulterior emotional motivation of rescuing his father, and he could understand the higher forms of thaumatology required to make the gateway since he had cast something similar once before in addition to having dealt with Paradox once already.  In actuality, you're extraneous transportable goods for the operation.  Cargo, if you will."
    Lina stood and stared.  Confusion shifted quickly over to anger.
    "No offense intended, of course," Reason said, and then went right back to her calculations on the board.
    "Cargo!?" Lina barked.  "I'll have you know I'm considerably more important than--"
    "You're filling a prophecy rather than having filled one," Reason said, not looking away from her writing.  "You could still fail, as the others have.  In which case, while it's important to lend aid, you haven't won the position of honor that you seek and therefore are not important to the span of history as of yet.  Try to keep things in rational perspective, Lina.  Ego tends to trip up famous leaders throughout all of time."
    "She's right, actually," Myth piped in with.  "I've written plenty of morality plays about how hubris can lead to--"
    Lina cast her a Sharp Look you could cut depleted uranium on.
    "--but they could have been flukes," Myth concluded.
    Dayvid, having recovered most of his wits, decided to take over and try to calm things down.  "Um.  It's just that Reason likes to work mathematically with magic rather than with spells and rhymes, see... and I'm very good at math.  Not that you're bad at math, Lina!  But... um.  It's a very complex spell designed to bust through all the security Paradox has placed around his reality bubble, and it has to be done in a sneaky way he won't notice, so we've been working on it for days, and... well, when it works, that's when you take over."
    Lina, calming somewhat, nodded.  "Because I have to confront the guy.  Right.  So!  Let's fire up the spell, and go get him!"
    "The spell will take five hours to cast, allowing for minor in-course alterations in the code," Reason said.  "Go get a good night's rest and we'll do it in the morning."
    Lina froze.  "A good night's rest?  But.. hey, it's okay.  I can stay up late.  Let's get this thing up to speed!  Got a quest to do here--"
    "The challenge with Paradox could go on for a long time, and you need rest," Reason said.  "We won't leave until morning.  Excuse me, I have work to do."
    Reason fetched a book, flipped exactly to page 247 without looking and started to refine the equations.
    "But... but I can't..." Lina protested.
    Dayvid whispered to Lina in an aside.  "It's best not to bug her when she says she has work to do.  She won't hear you, anyway.  Don't worry, we've got your quarters upstairs prepared just like they were."
    "I don't want to go to bed," Lina said, almost like a kid begging her dad to let her stay up a few more hours.
    "Sorry," Dayvid shrugged.  He turned to his part of the spell, and started adding up numbers.
    Gourry placed a hand on Lina's shoulder.
    "Don't worry," he smiled.  "Remember the plan?  I'll just wake you up every few hours.  You'll be fine."
    Except that means YOU won't get any sleep, Lina thought.
    The Royal Princess's Quarters have big, heavy, nasty doors.  Dayvid tried tugging at them again, without much luck; they were locked tight.
    He really didn't deserve this.  He was a man of logic and reason, who was fully capable of entering in any sort of debate with a good sense of improvised logic; but Amelia wasn't exactly behaving logically.  Dayvid, whose life at sea with no companions save thick textbooks and funny machines, lacked any experience whatsoever with girls.  Nobody had written a comprehensive book about them, after all.
    But still, he persisted with trying to plead with Amelia.  He was, after all, friends with her as far as he could tell, and didn't want to just let this slide.  Sure he was busy with all this magical study (which he was beginning to see more as another kind of science, rather than an esoteric spiritual thingamabob) but that didn't mean he could just ignore Amelia.  Actually, when she was like this, it was rather impossible to even attempt to ignore her.
    He summoned his remaining will, and launched a final strategy.
    "Please?" he begged through the door.
    "Go away!" Amelia demanded.
    So much for that.
    He probably should just give it up, and give Amelia a chance to cool down.  Talk to her tomorrow, after the spellcasting.  That would be the sensible thing to do.  She was just a crazy princess.  He didn't care THAT much how she felt, right?  Right?
    Ten minutes later he was dangling out the window in an improvised harness attached to a rope he had secured using a standard knotting technique, and trying to bungee his way down to Amelia's window.  He managed to do this without concern by thinking of anything other than how insane it was.
    The gambit worked, except he hadn't counted on Amelia's window being closed when he got there, and he forgot that while shimmying down a rope was easy, climbing back up took more physical effort than he was capable of giving.  Dayvid dangled there in the dim light of early evening, politely knocking on the window, hoping Amelia would notice -- as she was busy moping in bed.
    Amelia looked up, after a minute or two of this.
    "Aaaaa!!!" she yelled, which alone might have been enough to shatter the window.  She ran over, staring at Dayvid through the glass.  "What are you DOING!?"
    "Can I please come in?  It's cold," Dayvid said, not looking down, not looking down, not looking down...
    Amelia quickly unlatched her window, and swung it open.  Dayvid dangled there, his arms flailing around to grab onto something; he took Amelia's hand and pulled himself inside, undoing the release on his primitive rope harness and falling into the room on his face.
    Any entrance you can walk away from is a good one, he hoped, getting up and trying to look dignified.  "Um.  Hi.  Can we talk?"
    Crisis averted, Amelia went back into Snit mode.  "Why should I talk to you?  You don't even like me," she said, snitting away freely.
    "I do too like you!" Dayvid protested.  "I like you a lot!"
    "Certainly aren't showing it!"
    Dayvid tried to fall back onto debating methods.  "Okay, look... give meee... two and a half minutes.  That's all, and if you're not convinced, I'll go back out the window and won't bug you again.  Is that fair?"
    Amelia thought about it.  "Fair," she agreed.
    "And you have to promise not to talk when I'm talking."
    "Shh," Dayvid said.  "Right.  I don't want to get married.  But that's not because I don't like you!  It's because I like you too much to dive headfirst into something like that.  Yes, we get along well, yes we work well together, but... it's too early to be thinking about anything like that.  I mean, we're both young, I just met you maybe a few weeks ago, and these things take time, and... and..."
    Rule number one about debating was always to have enough research done to know what you're talking about.  Dayvid didn't have any.  He was wobbling at the podium.  Taking a deep breath, he just decided to talk from the gut and hope it all worked out.
    "Look... Amelia," he said, relaxing slightly.  "You're a really nice girl, and I'm glad I'm here in Sailoon instead of just bumping from port to port on the Guppy.  It's been a great few weeks, with a few hiccups, but I think that's pretty normal; I'd be more worried if there weren't any.  But this is a pretty big hiccup, you know.  It's just not the right time to start thinking about weddings.  And that doesn't mean I don't care about you, just... let's wait, okay?  Let's just wait on this and decide later.  Together, instead of you just announcing one day that you had some revelation and it's time to hit the chapel... I mean, I get a say in this too, right?  I haven't had a revelation, and frankly, you're spooking me with all this.  Maybe if I have one later that'll change and everything'll work out.  Please?  Um.  Pretty please?"
    Amelia's face was unreadable.  She could be happy, she could be sad, could be confused... Dayvid felt the need to add something.
    "And NO, nothing's going on with Reason," Dayvid said.  "She likes mathematics more than me, anyway.  More than breathing, I'd suspect.  Besides, I'm not planning on dating any other girls."
    That softened her a bit.  "Umm..." she started, not sure what to say.  Eventually she decided.  "Okay."
    "Okay?" Dayvid asked.  "Really?"
    "Sure," Amelia said, smiling now.  "Sorry, I just... it's hard to explain!  I just woke up that day feeling so much in love with things, and I just realized how I REALLY felt, and I had to act on it, and... well, I guess I got a little crazy.  Hee hee."
    "You sure it wasn't just that weirdo magic the Dragon put on you?" Dayvid asked.  "I mean, Reason said it probably wasn't, but--"
    "Oh, no, it was there before.  I just never saw it," Amelia said.  "I had a lot of time to think about it, and could think really clearly about it for some reason.  I thought you felt that way too.  I got really worried when you reacted like you did, but I thought it was obvious before that... you've been looking at me funny ever since HappyWorld, you know--"
    "Have not," Dayvid flushed.
    "--and you keep suggesting we go out for dinner and stuff after working on the plans for the Sailoon Waterpark or whatever you're doing in the lab--"
    "I was hungry," Dayvid explained.  "That's normal, right?"
    "--and there was the box of chocolates you gave me on Pumping Heart Day a week ago," Amelia said.  "With a little card addressed to Amelia-chan."
    "Uh... aren't those customary in this country?" Dayvid said.  "I don't know too much about Saileese holidays, and um, I didn't, uh--"
    "Actually, what really clinched it for me was your diary," Amelia said, fetching it from a nearby table.
    Dayvid's face exploded with red hues.  "WHAA?!  Amelia, you read my--"
    "You left it out in the open behind a portrait in a locked wall safe that any crowbar and three servants applying pressure could get at," Amelia said.  "I just sort of stumbled across it when I was wondering if you were doing something funny with Reason the other day.  Sorry!  I guess jealousy can do some funny things, huh?"  And she giggled.
    Dayvid made a mental note never to cross someone in the Sailoon royal family again.  It was potentially fatal or embarrassing or both.
    Flipping through the diary, Amelia read. "'Ever since Dad had to go out of his way to point it out, I think I've got a crush on Amelia.  She's really pretty and very nice, if a bit scary from time to time, and I find myself really looking forward to getting back to Sailoon and working on this park she likes.  Although I wouldn't have the faintest idea what to do about the crush itself, so I think I'll just keep it quiet and hope it's just a phase of mine.  Besides, she probably doesn't like me that way, at least not that she's saying.'  Gosh, Dayvid!  I was in denial the whole time but you knew and were too polite to say anything.  That's so sweet!"
    "Uhh... uh..."
    "But you're right.  We should wait," Amelia said, nodding.  "It's the mature thing to do.  It's a good thing I've got someone as sensible as you around, when I get all impulsive and stuff!  Thanks, Dayvid.  You've really cleared things up for me."
    With that, she gave him a cute little peck on the cheek.
    Some sort of chemical reaction fired into Dayvid's brain like a pink mortar round.  "Ah... you're welcome," he smiled.  "...Amelia-chan?"
    Amelia's face lit up like a really really bright shiny object.  "Thanks, Dayvid-kun!"
    Dayvid relaxed.  Sure, he was still weirded out, but it was a good-feeling weird.  "Glad we could talk.  Not that anything feels less confusing, but... anyway.  Can I use the door on my way out this time?"
    In proud standing with her other mood swings, Amelia shifted once more.
    "Actually," she said, voice quiet and purr-like, "Now that we've got an understanding, I had a silly idea..."
    Naturally, Lina made Gourry wait in the hall while she changed into her pajamas.  She made sure every button was done on them, too.
    This was mild to moderately embarrassing for her.
    True, Gourry had stayed in her room once before... back on the Island of Ultimate Despair.  And it was under similar circumstances, but... why should she need him to watch over her like this?  True, waking her every hour was a logically sound idea, but Lina wished she didn't need the help in the first place.
    Was she relying on Gourry too much?  For things she shouldn't need to rely on anybody for?  She wasn't some little kid anymore, she was Lina Inverse, after all.  Genius sorceress supreme!  Able to overcome any obstacle, leap any bound with her clever wit and gratuitous application of highly destructive -- err -- careful control of the forces of magic.
    Of course, part of her was relieved to have Gourry around.  It wasn't going to be a fun night, and now that the secret was out, at least she had some sympathy and some help from him -- from her other friends too, of course...
    Lina decided to stop thinking about the reasons why, and simply to do it.  She opened the door for Gourry.
    "Okay, come on in," she said.  "All set."
    Gourry peeked to make sure the coast was clear, then entered; in full armor with sword.
    "What's all that for?" Lina asked.
    "Oh, you never know with these weird monster types," Gourry said.  "Just in case some big black weirdo pops out of you or something, I want to be ready.  Besides, it's not all that uncomfortable.  Good Testabournian armor.  My Uncle Rami made it, you see, and--"
    "Sorry I have to put you through the trouble of all this," Lina interrupted.
    But Gourry dismissed the idea.  "Don't worry.  I'd be happy to.  And you need your rest, right?  Right.  I'll just sit over here in the corner, pretend I'm not here."
    Gourry moved a chair over to his designated sitspot, and put a portable hourglass on the table near him.  He sat down, and twiddled his thumbs, waiting for 59 minutes to pass.
    Climbing way, way under the covers, Lina attempted to sleep.
    Not easy, considering she didn't want to.
    "You know why I wanted to get a move on today, Gourry?" Lina decided to admit.
    "I was actually hoping we could finish the entire quest in one day," Lina said.  "Seemed simple enough... get to Reason, use her to get to Paradox, hit Paradox with all the magic I have and trap him, get the spell from Xelloss then go after Nightmare, quick quick quick... before I'd have to go back to bed.  Heh.  Silly, isn't it?"
    "Could've worked that way," Gourry said.  "Just that it didn't.  But it's okay.  You'll get him eventually.  Besides, you've got help, ne?  Me and Myth."
    "I don't like asking for help," Lina muttered, starting to doze.
    "Oh, I know," Gourry said, cheerful.  "But that's okay, because I like to give help anyway to people I care about.  Wanna hear something interesting, Lina?"
    "Mm," Lina sounded, eyes closing.
    "I'm supposed to be a mercenary," Gourry said.  "That's what I trained to be when I left home.  But I thought the job was pretty boring, the few quests and things I went on... when I met you I thought it'd be a short bodyguard job, like I was used to.  And I decided I shouldn't bother charging any fees.  I just sort of went along.  And after awhile I forgot about being a mercenary completely.  I know the job never really appealed to me, but I think it was mostly because I was enjoying traveling with you..."
    He looked at Lina, who was very still under the blankets, and smiled.
    "I know you told me back at home that we were just hunting treasure and you could replace me with Naga," Gourry said.  "But I don't think you will.  I know I wouldn't want to be partners with anyone else.  As for why, actually... I think I'm in love with you, from what I've figured out.  I don't know how that all works because Aunt Koirry just told me to do what I felt is right, so I'll just help you out like I usually do and spend time with you for now.  Seems right, and I'd want to do that anyway.  You think that'll work, Lina?"
    "ZZZzzzzzz..." Lina replied.
    "Yeah, I think that'll work," Gourry said, agreeing with himself.  He glanced over at the hourglass, and waited.
Story copyright 1998 Stefan Gagne, characters copyright H. Kanzaka / R. Araizumi.
A Spoof Chase Production.
Okay, maybe Amelia's a little TOO wacky in this one, but it was too funny to pass up. :)
Let's just say Chaos has a slightly different take on the characters and tone/attitude than Reflect did.