aking up every hour put Lina into a surreal state
of consciousness. Dreaming awake, awake while dreaming, mixed between
the two in ways that Nightmare was trying to pull her out of, and Gourry
was trying to tug her into. Like one thick layer of butter spread
on a slice of bread, Lina dreamed of horrors and terrors, of Gourry poking
her awake, of her bed and her feet and running and flying and running to
Gourry and away from Nightmare...
She could feel, on at least one level, that it was
working. Nightmare had to move slow, as dreams needed buildup, and
each time he got close to her, Gourry was there to stop the music.
And this made the king of dreams howl in rage, that something so simple
should be pulling his treasure out of his reach...
Finally, Lina woke up in the morning, and woke up
for good. She wasn't very refreshed, but at least she didn't wake
up in a flight of fear. Instead, she simply yawned, stretched, and
carried on like any other morning.
"Did it work?" Gourry asked. He had baggy
circles under his eyes, clearly from not sleeping a wink, but kept up a
"You know, I think it did," Lina said. "He
didn't figure out a way around it. I think we got him licked, Gourry."
"Glad I could help," Gourry smiled. "We're
going to raid Paradox's place today, right?"
"Not you," Lina told him. "You need some sleep.
You're a mess, Gourry."
"But I have to come with you," Gourry said.
"Don't you need my help?"
"No," Lina said. "Now, get that hurt look
off your face. Paradox is not the kind of guy you can wave a sword
at, and if you do, he probably could do a lot of damage to you in return.
There isn't much you can do against him, and I need you rested and ready
for tonight. Reason and Myth are coming, and maybe Amelia if she
isn't still stomping around in a lover's quarrel. I'll be fine."
"No buts," Lina said, putting a finger to Gourry's
lips. "Trust me. Okay? Just trust me on this one."
Gourry looked doubtful, but decided to put some
faith on the table. "I trust you," he said. "I'll get some
rest. Night night!"
His head sank and his eyes closed and he was instantly
asleep, still sitting in his chair.
Lina groaned. The big oaf wasn't gonna get
any rest THAT way, in a wooden chair. She nudged the chair and its
surprisingly heavy occupant (must be the armor) over to her bed, then stepped
back, and rushed the chair, slamming into it from behind--
WHUMF. Gourry tipped forward out of the chair
and onto Lina's bed, face first. Maybe it wasn't the most comfy of
sleeping postures, but it was better than nothing. Task done, Lina
got dressed and ambled downstairs.
In the Great Hall of Sailoon Palace, the war party was
Reason had a large stack of notes on thaumatology
with her. On it were inscribed numbers and syllables of chant, as
well as power flux dampening sluice gates for magical energies and patterning
formulas. She had put on a cleaner lab coat, but other than that,
made no extra preparations.
Amelia, however, had decided the best way to go
on this journey was in her costume... her NEW costume. Lina winced,
remembering her last encounter with 'Sailor Justice', and quietly hoped
that she would not be making any longwinded speeches. It was probably
a slim hope.
Dayvid was another matter. He was grinning
stupidly for some reason, tagging along after Amelia like someone had dumped
a layer of gauze on his brain. His shirt was also on backwards, but
Lina didn't point it out.
"So!" Lina said, reviewing the troops. "Are
we ready to go kick some wingless behind?"
"YEAH!" Amelia cheered.
"All set to go traipsing across the known realities
and bust down the doors of Paradox?"
"Suure," Dayvid smiled.
"Are locked and loaded, primed and pumped, and ready
to GET IT ON?!" Lina asked, pep running high.
"Affirmative," Reason said simply.
"RIGHT!" Lina exclaimed, holding a fist to the sky!
"Then let's HAVE SOME BREAKFAST!"
"We don't have time," Reason said. "We should
start off immediately. The longer we wait, the more chance he has
"I don't fight overpowered antagonists on an empty
stomach," Lina indicated. "It's a major ruling guideline in my life."
Reason sighed. The one thing she couldn't
handle were irrational people. She pulled a small pill from her pocket,
and passed it to Lina. "There you go."
Lina peered at it. "Little. Yellow.
Different. What's this thing?"
"Breakfast," Reason said. "It's my own magically
compressed full course meal. Easy to digest, and rich in nutritional
value. Very efficient means of obtaining daily vitamins and minerals."
"What fun is that?" Lina asked, holding the pill
up to study it in distaste.
"It's not supposed to be fun. It's supposed
to facilitate mealtimes."
"Bleah," Lina said. "Oh, fine. The sacrifices
I make for god's little quests, honestly..."
She swallowed the pill. It tasted like chalk.
"Sorry, my mistake," Reason said, passing Lina a
white pill. "That was my chalk."
The second one actually tasted worse.
Reason passed the stack of paper to the dazed Dayvid.
"Here you go. You may start casting the spell."
"Huh?" Dayvid said, looking away from Amelia, to
read the papers. "Oh, right. Spell."
"You seem to be experiencing an emotional backwash,"
Reason said. "Are you fully capable of spellcasting, or should we
wait and do this tomorrow?"
"Today," Lina said quickly. "We do it today.
Get to work, Dayvid."
Every universe has a number of pockets. Places
where will has burned hard enough to melt a hole in reality, pushing a
bubble into the fabric of space and time. In those pockets, the laws
of physics tend not to apply in full... as if one had shredded the law
book that ensures the smooth operation of the world and spread out the
pages in a decorative pattern.
Paradox hated it when humans made places like that.
They ruined the flawless mechanics of the universe, the ticking clock that
he felt responsible for inventing. Was he not the one who theorized
Hours? And Days, Days were a good touch, including a Sun to guide
them by and divide them into light and dark. It was so elegant.
And they DARED to mess with his creations? (He refused to acknowledge
that absurd notion that the Lord of Nightmares was the real creator of
Of course, this anger at those who would violate
the machine didn't stop Paradox from ignoring his own laws when he felt
like it. Which is how his home was made, a mushy blob on reality's
fabric, assembled of hypocrisy, tended to with loving care. It was
guarded by levels of hard reality, where existence of humans was impossible.
Nothing could get in or out without his permission. He was lord and
So he believed. Reason felt otherwise, as
the spell she and the young protégé Dayvid had assembled
wormed its way past every single defense Paradox implemented, slithering
through known and unknown angles until it opened a simple doorway from
Point A in Sailoon to Point B in Somewhere Else Entirely.
Lina stepped into the new world, feeling the old
one tug at her like a sticky substance she was breaking free of.
The landscape was dominated by fractal trees, with
melting clocks keeping perfect time as they dripped off the nearly wooden
branches. It was bleak and featureless, everything ticking along
in sync, like a low, second-counted rumble across the land.
"Cute," Lina said. She finished examining
the land, and turned to her partners. "Okay. Reason, have you
ever been here before? What sort of resistance can we expect?"
"I don't know, I never bothered to come here," Reason
said. "We don't get along. I think it's perfectly reasonable
to be able to do a lot of things he thinks should be patently impossible."
"You've never bothered to...? But you made
"So you could use it," Reason said. "Necessity
is the aunt of invention. Beyond this, it's up to you and Dayvid
to free Xelloss and capture Paradox. That's not my job. I do
have one recommendation, however..."
"Don't bother trying to fight him with magic," Reason
said. "This is his world and it's reasonable to expect him to prevent
you from using its magical powers against him. Good luck. I'll
be waiting back in Sailoon. Dayvid will open a doorway back for you.
"Hey, WAIT!" Lina demanded. "What do you--"
Reason stepped through the doorway, which promptly
twisted itself shut after her.
"Oooh, you LITTLE.... rgh!" Lina growled.
"Fat lot of help you are. Hmph... Amelia? Where'd you run off
Amelia popped up from behind one of the melting
clocks, followed by a still dazed Dayvid. "Hai, Lina-san?" Amelia
"We've been abandoned," Lina said. "C'mon,
we've got to find Paradox and get out of here."
"Right! Sailor Justice is on the case!!" Amelia
said, posing. She paused, and turned to Dayvid. "Hey, would
you like to wear a tuxedo?"
"Suure," Dayvid smiled. Then his senses snapped
into sharp relieved. "Wha? Huh? No! I like my clothes
just fine the way they are!"
"Ah, poo," Sailor Justice pouted. "Ne, Lina-san,
where is this Paradox guy?"
"He lives somewhere around here," Lina figured.
"So if we split up and look for--"
--twisting around her, the ground itself bending
through optical tweaks, grabbing the three of them and shifting them through
solid objects and on and on stretching beyond conceivable possibility and
A glass sphere.
Lina's brain oriented itself to this weird place
again, having been dragged to a new location. She saw clocks -- countless
numbers of them, not hanging on anything except the air, in a limitless
void of a room... She was inside a sphere, with identical spheres nearby
containing unconscious forms of Dayvid and Amelia, as well as--
"Xelloss??!" Lina gasped.
The trickster priest looked up at Lina weakly, through
his good eye; the other was terribly bruised. In fact, the guy was
a total mess, with signs of a serious beating, a few floggings and worse
-- all without his priests robes being removed. He slumped against
the floor of his sphere, and tried to focus on her.
"Oh dear..." he said, after coughing. "He
got you. I'm terribly sorry, Lina..."
A man wearing a cloak of stars and moons stormed
over to the glass prisons. He glared at Lina angrily.
"Here I was expecting some big challenge from you,
the one who's filling that damn prophecy," Paradox said. "And you
get snagged so easily when I change the universe to relocate you here.
How did you worm your way by Loathing and the others if you're this sloppy?
It must not have been your companions; they didn't put up much of a fight
when I told their bodies they were asleep."
Lina chewed on her lip. This wasn't the best
way to start things, was it?
"Simple," Lina explained, tossing some who-cares
attitude into her voice. "I let myself get captured. It was
certainly faster than trying to track you down, since you could easily
have hidden yourself."
Paradox flinched. "Oh? Trying some of
that inverted psychiatry on me?"
Xelloss pulled himself up to standing, weakly.
"It's 'reverse psychology', Paradox-kun," Xelloss taunted. He was
still smiling, despite being in clear pain. "Perhaps if you would
read a book now and then other than Billy Bunny Bumps His Nose, you'd know
that. Although your lips would move while you read it--"
"That's enough out of you!" Paradox shouted, knocking
on Xelloss's glass. "You're trapped, you stupid little ex-Mazoku!
When will you get it through your head that I WON?!"
"I'm sure I'll get a Get Out Of Jail Free Card any
minute now," Xelloss said, giving Lina a wink.
A wink... meaning... Lina tried to figure it out,
fast. Clearly the trickster was trying to give her a signal.
Paradox was red in the face and flaming angry from being teased.
Was that the way to get out of here? Power wouldn't cut it, Reason
said. Lina decided to make a try.
"You know, for someone with command of any physics
he cares to invent, you're really unimaginative," Lina said, refusing to
show any nervousness, keeping cooler than the hotheaded wingless.
"Is that so?" Paradox said, stalking over to face
Lina, outside her prison sphere. "Strong talk from someone who's
"Lost what?" Lina asked. "I don't recall playing
any game. Did you, Xelloss?"
"The very slightest thought of the possible coincidence
of perhaps engaging in some kind of competitive activity never crossed
my senses," Xelloss responded, playing along.
"And what sort of game did you WANT to play, then?"
Paradox said, crossing his arms. "Poker? Go fish? Bonkers?"
"It'd be a start," Lina shrugged. "Unless
you want to just keep me in this silly thing without REALLY testing me.
You think you can beat me? I don't think you have the balls.
Other than your glass ones, of course--"
Lightning stabbed through Lina's spine, Paradox
losing his cool completely and deciding to strike out. "You talkin'
to me? Are YOU talkin' to me, Lina Inverse?! Let's go!
Right here, right now!" He cut off the electricity with a sharp snap.
Lina willed herself not to show any signs of agony,
and glared up at Paradox. "A game, then," she said. "I win,
you're mine. You win, I'm yours. Simple enough even for you
"I'll pick the game," Paradox said. "Objections?"
Of course Lina had objections. Very big ones.
But if she backed down now, Paradox might lose interest in this single
chance for her escape...
"None whatsoever," she declared.
"FINE!" Paradox shouted, throwing his hands up,
forming a bubble of reality. Inside, Lina vaguely saw rain... "A
game of you, then! Find your way back to who you are, and win.
Sink inescapably into the mind of the other and you belong to my partner,
Nightmare, to do with as he plans! Are you ready, Lina Inverse?"
Xelloss's eyes opened wide in concern, his usual
smiling eyes deadly serious. He quickly pressed himself to the glass,
whispering half audibly and half telepathically. "Remember what you
most want to return to," he said. "That's the path. I've played
Fire flooded Xelloss's sphere briefly, scorching
"NO SPOILERS!" Paradox yelled. "Game's on,
And she fell, and fell sideways into the bubble
world in Paradox's hands--
Story copyright 1998 Stefan Gagne, characters copyright H. Kanzaka
/ R. Araizumi.
A Spoof Chase Production.