...in which the battle for the wings of chaos is decided.
By Stefan Gagne, Spoof Chase Productions.

ilence echoed in the Planes of Paradox.  Its lord and master now safely bottled away, the clocks had fallen out of sync, ticking no longer a low, steady rumble; the brief cacophony of unorganized clicks quickly turning sour, until every clock gave up... then nothing.
    "That was needlessly dramatic," Lina commented.  She turned, to check how the others were doing.
    Amelia and Dayvid looked confused, but otherwise quite fine.  The real problem was Xelloss.  Paradox hadn't been nice to him, and without his Mazoku healing ability, the priest wasn't doing very well... his breathing shallow, blood leaking from several places.
    "Is it over?" Dayvid asked.  "Where'd Paradox... DAD!!"
    The boy quickly ran to help Xelloss.  He waved Amelia and Lina over, and the three conferred.
    "What's wrong with him?" Dayvid asked.
    "If I had to guess, I'd say... a lot," Lina said.  "No idea what kinds of injuries Paradox was able to cause.  I could try the Ultra Restoration, but I'd rather not risk such heavy magic in this weird place..."
    "We can't move him, he's too hurt," Dayvid said.  He thought briefly.  "Amelia, can you heal him using your powers?"
    "I can try," Amelia said, shifting herself to be more comfortable.  "Here goes..."
    White light gathered into Amelia's hands, shining with dull light and attenuated power.  Amelia tried hard to gather more, but the physics of this world weren't making it easy... working with what she had, she pressed her hands on Xelloss, feeding the white magic into his body.
    Xelloss jerked once, twice, and most of his wounds erased, save a few scars that were too stubborn to go away.  His breathing grew more steady... but he didn't wake up.
    "Is he stable?" Lina asked.
    "I.. think so," Amelia said.  "Something here is twisting magic, like you said... but we can move him."
    "We'll have to carry him.  I don't see any handy stretchers lying around," Lina said, glancing about.  "Dayvid, get the portal open back to Sailoon.  We'll revive Xelloss back there."
    "Ummm..." Dayvid mumbled.  "Problem."
    "I don't like that word," Lina said.  "Usually it means bad things.  What kind of problem?"
    Dayvid held up his stack of notes, which contained the portal spell.  A rounded corner had been taken out of them, cut finer than the sharpest sword could have managed.
    "I think when Paradox moved us here, he didn't move everything," Dayvid said.  "A chunk of the spell is gone."
    "Aaaaaaaaa!!" Amelia yelled.  "We're trapped!!"
    "Uh, actually, I remember most of it," Dayvid said, nervous.  "I think.  I think I can still cast it right and get us back."
    Lina sighed.  "Meaning either we can be stuck here forever, or possibly dumped in some random location in the universe.  We're going to have to risk it, I guess."
    "No need to be, it's not your fault," Lina said.  "I'll smack Paradox around sometime later for you."
    Dayvid took a deep breath, and pulling from the page and the memory of the page, he started the spell...
    Fortunately, Sailoon was right where they had left it.
    After Dayvid fumbled through his mathematical spellwork, the portal opened just as sure and true as it had before.  Not one to kick a gift horse in the mouth, Lina and Amelia hauled Xelloss through, Dayvid shortly after, and the four of them landed in the Great Hall of Sailoon, right as rain.
    A maid nearby dropped a stack of dishes in surprise.
    "Hello!" Lina waved.  "Could you go tell Gourry and Reason that--"
    "They're back!!  They're back!" the maid screamed, and ran.
    "...Amelia?" Lina said, watching her go.  "You really need to work on this kingdom's hospitality."
    Before Amelia could respond, Gourry came bounding down the hall, sprinting like a marathon runner.  Lina had just enough time to register that he forgot to shave this morning or more when he grabbed her into a hug.  A small group of servants gathered by the door, watching the scene.
    "LINA!" Gourry exclaimed.  "Thank the Lord!  Where have you been??"
    "Uh.. uhhh...." Lina said, dazed.  "What?  We went to Paradox's home.  You remember, ne?"
    "Yeah, but that was FOUR DAYS ago!" Gourry said, letting go of Lina.  "Reason figured you guys were trapped, and was trying to figure a way to rescue you..."
    "Four days?!" Lina gagged.
    Dayvid swallowed.  "Must've been the spell..." he said.  "It displaced us in time, if not space."
    "Calendar!" Lina said.  "I need a calendar, fast!"
    The servants, being a prompt and efficient staff, presented Lina with a Well Oiled Stud Pin-Up Calendar from nowhere.
    Ignoring Mr. November, Lina checked today's date.  "Oh, no..." she muttered.  "It's the Forenight of Chaos tonight!"
    "What, the holiday?" Amelia asked.  "Oh boy!  That means the festival will be tonight.  Ne, Dayvid-kun, do you want to go?"
    "It's also the most likely night that Nightmare is going to launch some twistedly freakish scheme," Lina said, tossing the calendar back to the servants.  "This isn't good.  This is SO not good.  I was planning on having plenty of time before then to make an assault... we've got to wake Xelloss up and beat down Nightmare's door before dusk.  Set him down, I'll get him healed."
    Lina and Amelia eased the trickster priest to the carpet, and Lina knelt beside him, readying the spell.
    "As tall as the tallest pillar..." Lina chanted, a white glow starting to shift and blend around her.  "As bright as the lightest sun...  final level of power, final spell of might, shining brightness that brings all life,  let the darkness be repaired in this place... ULTRA RESTORATION!"
    The whiteness consumed Lina and Xelloss, too bright to look at...
    After a few moments, the light faded away, and Lina wobbled on her knees, visibly exhausted.  "Okay... that'll do it," she said, weakly.  "All injuries healed, everything's hunky dory.  He'll be up any moment now."
    Xelloss continued to lie still.
    "ANY moment now," Lina repeated.
    The priest didn't move.
    "Why isn't he getting up?" Amelia asked.  "It looks like he's asleep to me..."
    Lina nudged Xelloss a few times, then shook him outright; nothing was rousing the snoozing man.
    A small disturbance pushed through the assembled crowd, and Reason entered the scene.  "Sorry, I was busy working when I heard the news," she apologized.  The wingless swerved through the others in order to examine Xelloss, peeking under one of his eyelids with a lightstick.  "Hmm... ah, I see."
    "See?  What do you see?" Lina asked.  "In detail."
    "Nightmare has his mind," Reason said simply.  "Similar side effects to Amelia's previous enchantment.  Xelloss was likely injured by Paradox, yes?  Nightmare took advantage of the thin reality in Paradox's realm to claim Xelloss's mind before you could heal him."
    "That's impossible.  I used Ultra Restoration," Lina said smartly.
    "You can't heal something that isn't there," Reason said.  "It stands to logic.  Good thing you kept the body alive, though, otherwise he'd be truly homeless."
    "Nightmare's holding dad hostage?" Dayvid asked, a hint of anger in his voice.
    "And Xelloss knows the spell to get to Nightmare," Lina groaned, slumping.  "Ladies and gentlemen, we are effectively screwed.  Any ideas?"
    "I think I've got one," Dayvid said, stepping forward.  "The spell I used to get to Paradox could be modified... I can rework it to enter the world of dreams instead.  We shouldn't need Giga's spell to do this since there's always more than one way to solve a problem.  Right?"
    "Anything is reasonable with the right thinking," Reason recited, nodding along.
    "Wait," Lina said, turning to face the scientist.  "Dayvid, since when do you know as much about magic as Merlin Giga?"
    "It's not my specialty, but..." Dayvid said.  "Magic is just like another science, the way Reason's been showing me.  Once you look at it as numbers, it makes sense.  To me, at least.  I think we can do it.  Besides, it's the only option.  Reason and I won't rest until it's done."
    "Won't rest...?  Waaait a second.  How long is this gonna take??" Lina asked, sinking feeling...
    "No more than a day or three," Dayvid replied, smiling.  "A week, at worst.  Probably."
    Lina sagged.  "If I said something definitive like 'You've got until midnight,' and walk away, you'd be able to pull together all your resources and do some daring feat like finishing up the spell by eleven fifty nine, right?"
    "Are you kidding?  No way," Dayvid said.  "This isn't some adventure story."
    "I guess it was a longshot," Lina sighed.  She looked tired by the news, eyes drooping.  "Okay... on the positive side, this means we WON'T be confronting Nightmare on his happy hour, the Forenight of Chaos.  That's actually a good thing.  I can't stand prophecy, honestly, it makes an easy job so much harder... we'll need somewhere comfy for Xelloss to sleep the night off, and I could use some.. a nice dinner would be..."
    The room spun gently, and Lina started to lose her balance.  Gourry moved to catch her, and set her upright again.
    "You need rest too," Gourry said.  "That Ultima Respirator spell really takes a lot out of you, right?"
    "Rest?  Are you nuts?" Lina gaped.  "If I go to sleep, who knows what Nightmare'll do?  This is his big night!"
    "So I'll wake you up every half hour instead," Gourry said.  "Or every fifteen minutes.  You've got to get SOME sleep."
    "I'm not tired," Lina lied badly, with an involuntary yawn to follow.  "Okay... a little tired.  Dinner, at least?  I haven't had a decent meal in awhile."
    Amelia's turn.  "Right!  We'll prepare a glorious feast!" she proclaimed.  "So that the heroes who will soon claim victory over this horrible being may be fed and prepared for their battles yet to come!  Have the cook prepare the finest in Sailoon cuisine and Zefielian dishes!  Oh, and someone make a sandwich for Dayvid to munch on while he works."
    Dayvid's stomach rumbled in protest.
    The meal went smoothly.  Myth was there, quiet as usual but occasionally telling a long, enthralling Anecdote with punchlines tried and true, but still funny... Amelia kept spirits up by just being who she was, and Gourry decided to carve the turkey with the Sword of Light, causing an amusing scene when he almost sliced the table in half.  Lina, whose appetite was able to overcome any negative situation, chowed down and chatted and generally had a good time.
    It was a rare moment for everybody, able to forget the random weirdness of their quest so far, and just enjoy the calm before the storm.  Lina could forget for the night that she still didn't have a solid idea of why she was doing any of this, and how she bopped from location to location tracking these people down through wild coincidence and chaotic encounters.  When all was said and done, Lina had a heavy load of food and a smile when she wandered back up to her room, Gourry tagging along like a puppy.
    "Ne, Lina, I was thinking..." Gourry said, following along.
    "Maybe we should take a vacation after this quest," Gourry said.  "Not like a sit around and do nothing vacation here in Sailoon, but just a week somewhere nice, you know?
    "A vacation?" Lina blanched.  "What, just sitting around doing nothing?"
    "Not nothing, just.. fun stuff, you know?"
    "I'd prefer to go back to nice, simple and enjoyable bandit hunting, actually.  Profitable and with low risk.  Ne, Gourry... can I be frank?"
    "Why would you want to be Frank?  He's allergic to oxygen," Gourry noted.
    "...I meant be direct and bluntly honest," Lina corrected.
    "Oh, okay.  That's good."
    "What's WITH you lately?" Lina asked.  "You've been exceedingly nice to me for no reason at all.  And you haven't made a crack about my figure in the last... I can't even REMEMBER how long!  Who are you and what have you done with Gourry?"
    "Huh?  I'm Gourry."
    "I MEAN, you seem different," Lina clarified.  "Why is that?"
    "I'm not different, I just... figured a few things out," Gourry simplified.
    "What things?"
    "...just stuff.  You know."
    "Come on, Gourry, spit it out."
    "You'll get mad..."
    "About what?" Lina smiled.  "It's no big deal, Gourry.  Don't worry so much!  What's on your mind?"
    "I'm in love with you," Gourry said.  "Actually, I have been for a long time.  So I figured I should probably act on it and not say anything bad about your figure and treat you better and stAAKCHK--"
    "You WHAT?!!" Lina said, throttling Gourry gently.  "Not you too!  Ever since Testabourne I've had people shoving it down my throat that we're supposed to be red hot lovers, and now you've jumped on the bandwagon too?!  I can't believe this!  Love enchanted you or something, didn't she??"
    "Oh, never MIND!" Lina said, dropping Gourry like a hot potato.  "I can't deal with this right now.  I am going to BED.  Goodnight, Gourry."
    Marching quickly down the hall, Lina opened the door to her quarters, stomped in and slammed the door hard enough to knock a few royal tapestries off the wall.
    "She took it better than I thought she would," Gourry said to himself.  Wait.  Something not right here.  Thinking, thinking... "Aaa!  Lina!"
    Gourry ran up to the door, and... knocked politely.
    "Hit the road!" Lina shouted.
    "Lina, don't forget, I need to keep waking you up tonight!" Gourry said.  "Nightmare, right?"
    "I don't need your help!"
    "You do," Gourry said.  "You can't wake yourself up.  I'm sorry if I upset you, but this is really important and stuff, right?  Please?"
    A long pause.
    "Fine," Lina said, opening the door, already in her pajamas.  "But don't expect anything from it, okay, Loverboy?  And we're going to have some firm words about this in the morning!"
Click to continue...
Story copyright 1998 Stefan Gagne, characters copyright H. Kanzaka / R. Araizumi.
A Spoof Chase Production.