ina touched down in the Great Hall, surprised that the conversation had been cut off so suddenly.  But she knew why.
    It was time to get serious.
    Lina had two working modes, Serious and Who Cares?.  Usually, she was in Who Cares? mode, making fun of everything and generally not worrying about anything.  It was actually a useful tool, since she could toss fear by the wayside and enjoy whatever she was doing.  But now and then, usually times exactly like now, it was time to get Serious.
    "I've got no idea what to expect out there," Lina told her troops... specifically, the two new ones.  "If it's anything like Paradox's realm, we're in for a mess.  Are you two going to actually help me out here?  Considering you were trying to really hassle me last time we met."
    Bugger sulked.  "What choice do I have?  I'm doomed if I don't.  So whatever.  I'll help."
    "Your sister ordered me to help you," Angela said.
    "Sis-- LUNA?!" Lina said, going white.  "Big Sister?"
    "Yes, the same," Angela said, annoyed.  "Can we go now?  I really would like to get this over with."
    "Maybe you should take my Sword of Light," Gourry suggested, holding the blade out by the hilt for Lina.  "It could help you."
    "Really??" Lina said, cheering up after the shock of her most feared sister.  "Why, thank you, Gourry!  I can keep this, right?"
    "Oh," Lina said, disappointed.
    "Actually...." Reason said, drawing their attention.  The crowd looked over at her, her arms folded, a wry smile on her lips.  "If we have the time to do this, I know a sword that would be considerably more effective against the wingless than a Sword of Light."
    "Big weapons.  I like big weapons," Lina said, grinning as well.  "A few minutes won't make a difference.  Where is it?"
    "You're holding it," Reason said, gesturing to Lina's sword.
    Confused, Lina drew her sword, to make sure it was the same one she put on moments ago.  The blade was still above average, not not particularly special... there was a pleasant brass butterfly design in the hilt, the attractive feature that drew her to it, but she couldn't detect any kind of magic.
    "It's just a sword," Lina concluded.
    "At the moment," Reason said.  "Brothers, sisters.  Gather around.  We can each bless Lina's blade with a flow of our Talents.  That should give her the power to strike Nightmare.  Provided she gets close enough to use it and doesn't miss before he tears her throat out, naturally."
    Lina didn't like the sound of that.  Neither did the wingless, apparently.
    "Give her some of MY power?" Paradox balked.
    "Would you prefer Nightmare win the fight, and come back to express his displeasure at your capture?" Reason reasoned.
    Paradox quickly touched the blade, golden light flowing from his fingers into the steel.  "O bless this blade with the powers of time and space and be true in goal and cutting and whatnot, yadda.  Hark and beware."
    Reason nodded, satisfied.  She repeated the gesture, adding more power; now the sword was glowing with a very faint golden aura.  "May it move in very reasonable ways and for reasonable purposes."
    Drama slipped back into his usual role easily.  "May thine blade strike true in the cause of heroism, as the drama of life transcends!" he declared.
    "That was such a pretty speech," Luck burbled, sobbing.  "Waaaah!  I'm moved!  Oh, and may this sword be very lucky and not cut off its owners head by accident or anything."
    Love and Loathing were next, taking the blade at the same time.  By now, it was glowing a steady yellow.  "Use this sword to protect what you love," Love said.  "And destroy what you hate," her brother added.
    Myth was next, but wasn't sure what she could do with it.  She didn't have a little speech ready, or anything, and telling a story didn't seem to fit.  Still, a blessing was a blessing.  She touched the blade.  "I hope they live happily ever after," she hazarded.
    The blade glowed stronger than ever, almost difficult to look at now.  Colored lights flared into being on the butterfly handle, one for each of the wingless.
    "I think that'll do it," Reason said, not showing any signs of bedazzlement.  "Happy hunting, Lina."
    "Right," Lina nodded.  "Now, the spell--"
    "Uh, Lina...
    "Yes, Gourry?  We're on a schedule here," she reminded.
    "Just... come back," Gourry said.  "That's all.  Come back."
    Lina paused.  It was a stupidly simple request, but... she could see Gourry making it.  Very direct and honest.
    "I will," Lina said.  She turned to face the empty space in the room, and started her spell.  Light started to flow around her, a blue glow.  "Power beyond the known powers, deeper than the deepest mind... between the known worlds, vaporous as ether, I call upon the way to that which has no entrance... let the obstacles between what is and is not be shattered!  GIGA'S DREAM!"
    The light swirled, sliding along the floor to the point indicated, and arced upwards; a line of shimmering power expanded, turning sideways to make a rectangular door.
    "Everybody ready?" Lina asked, getting a good grip on her photoluminescent sword.
    The raiding party had their weapons.  Bugger was tossing, oddly enough, a handful of dirt from hand to hand.  Angela had a sphere of white light ready.  And Myth had... her pen.
    "You're gonna get slaughtered, gel," Bugger cheerfully told her.
    "I thought the pen was mightier than the sword?" Myth asked.
    "Sure, if the pen is really long and bloody sharp--"
    "That's enough of that," Lina snapped.  "And as for you wingless, no playing around while we're away.  I've got a hunch that L-sama isn't done with us yet.  Now, everybody into the pool."
    The four walked into the doorway, almost hesitatingly.  Purpose served, the glowing blue gateway sank back into the floor, and vanished.
    Contrary to all dramatic expectations, Gourry smiled, and waved goodbye without a care.
    Drama looked at him funny.  "How can you do that?  No tearful goodbyes or pining?"
    "Huh?" Gourry asked.  "Why would I need to?  Lina's coming back."
    "And why's that?"
    "I asked her to," Gourry said.  "And I've got faith in Lina."
    Sleep comes in waves and patterns, in disconnected fragments of vision sequence.  It is shapeless and formless, guided by thought and memory.  Raw dreamstuff works like cotton, easily torn, easily mushed together, hard to move through.
    Stepping through the gateway, Lina had to plow through gauzy material that was up to her knees.  The group had arrived in a null of dreamspace, of factory material unrefined.  A remote, nondescript location.
    Myth, however, inhaled sharply.  "It's true... this is it.  This is my home."
    "So he did claim his home," Lina repeated.  "Bastard's got his own prophecy set up.  I'd trust Giga's more, even though I have no clue what it really means.  Myth, if you've been here before, do you know where we're going?"
    "How can you find anything in this mess?" Bugger said, picking up a handful of the dreamstuff, appraising it.  "Funny realities aren't a ball.  They're a--"
    "Don't say his name!" Myth said.  "Sound carries in this world!"
    "I was going to say a bloody awful place to be, thank you very much," Bugger completed.  "This sucks.  Where are going?"
    Myth looked around... and pointed in a seemingly random direction.  "The Palace of Chaos is that way, at the heart of the dreaming.  That's where we made our home, once Love made up the idea of 'home'.  It's one of the few solid structures that exist here."
    "There's that word again," Lina said.  "Chaos.  I really wish someone would explain why it was so important."
    "The Lord of Nightmares doesn't have to explain Herself to some human," Angela said.  "If--"
    A low rumble shook the land.
    "Angela, DAMMIT!" Bugger shouted.  "You bloody well named him!  Didn't the lady just tell you not to do that?!"
    "I didn't say Nightmare, I said Lord of Nightmares," Angela defended.  "If... oh.  Oh dear..."
    Rising darkness started to take form, corrupting the puffy dreams around it like an ink stain.  The four got their various weapons and non-weapons ready, expecting an attack...
    Slowly, the figure took on a human form, with human pigments.  But still with very, very black hair and clothes.  It was a small boy, perhaps an adolescent.  With large butterfly wings, corrupted like black gold.
    "I feel true forms are more satisfying for true ends," Nightmare said, a normal voice, rather than a slick voice of oil and liquid from nowhere.  "Especially since your gift of wings have given me the power to resume my form, after years of morphic corruption.  How I thank you, Lina."
    "So what's the deal?  We going to fight or not?" Lina asked.  "I didn't come here for tea and crumpets."
    "I don't see a need to fight," Nightmare said.  "You cannot stop me.  My plans are already working.  In hours, it'll all be over."
    "And those plans are...?"
    "Do you think I am as stupid as my brother Drama?" Nightmare asked.  "Why should I tell you?  Better that you die, unknowing."
    "What's the fun of that?" Lina asked.  "There's a reason why your bro's chosen ones tell all their plans.  It's pretty satisfying, since your enemy knows exactly what's going on and how powerless they are to stop it."
    "Yes, and then they break out of the easily escapable deathtrap.  We won't have that," Nightmare said.
    "Then what's the risk?"
    Nightmare's will wavered, just a moment.
    "Very well," he said.  "It's simple enough.  I have control over the world of dreams now, my home original.  I have the wings of chaos, the power granted to the one chosen by prophecy to be the Knight of the Lord of Nightmares.  With that, I can easily turn this plane into a world of nightmares, corrupt every human dreamer, and render the entire population insane.  All in the span of one good night's sleep.  Does that satisfy your curiosity, Lina?"
    "Knight of the Lord of Nightmares?!" Lina gaped.  "That's what this has all been about?  I was PROMOTED?"
    "Turn humanity insane?  Right on!" Bugger cheered.  "I'm all for that!"
    "And then I will have them use the Giga Lores to destroy each and every Dragon and Mazoku they find," Nightmare added.  "After which, I can rule over this world as the single most powerful being imaginable.  I will become the NEW Lord of Nightmares.  One that does not need Mazoku or Dragons."
    Bugger went from delight to outrage.  "HEY!  That's our bloody war to fight, not yours!  Stay out of it!"
    "My nightmare..." Angela said, realizing.  "Of the death of my kind... the figure with wings wasn't Lina, was it?  It was you!"
    "But enough of such pleasantries," Nightmare said, darkness flowing from under his clothes, wrapping itself around his flesh.  "There will be no faceless minions.  No goons.  No subverting of your friends.  There will just be me, Lina, and I will kill you very directly.  Goodbye."
    Lina got ready to move, as the death fog closed in on them...
    A golden shot of power arced from the back of the crowd, shattering the fog around Nightmare.  Lina could swear she saw... an orchard?  Gophers?  Something inside the light...
    "Don't ignore us," Myth said, lowering her glowing pen.  "You have four here to deal with.  I'm not the weak runt of this litter, either."
    "Four," Nightmare said, splitting once, twice.  "Four."  "Four."  "Four."  The group of identical beings looked at the group, one per player.  "Then let it be this way." "We will still kill you directly." "Simply directly by numbers." "Again and again until you are gone..."
    "Which one's the original dickweed?!" Bugger shouted, a fistful of dirt at the ready.
    "Doesn't matter!  Scatter!" Lina ordered.  The group split up, moving away from each other... and into different dreams, piercing the thin walls of the world around them.
    Bugger flew backwards, pushing through a barrier of dream.  His personal Nightmare followed.
    "You don't fight our wars," Bugger said, ready for him.  "Mazoku and Dragons settle their own.  You stay the hell out of it!  Who do you think you are?"
    "Fear," Nightmare said.  "Your fear."
    Beastmaster Zelas-Metallum engulfed Bugger's world view, gargantuan, fire from her eyes and mouth, glaring down at him with hate.
    "You have displeased me," Beastmaster said.  "Destruction.  You will be destroyed.  You are failure."
    Sixteen kinds of chemical fire rained down on Bugger, searing his flesh, burning him to the core.  Darkness and whiteness cascaded into his bones, tearing him to shreds, screaming in agony... and when the horror ended, he was gone.
    The dream Beastmaster went away, purpose complete, and Nightmare turned to join the others--
    A wall of dirt smashed into Nightmare, hurling him backwards, as Bugger stood fifteen feet tall in true Mazoku form, slimy and revolting, a pungent green gas following him as he advanced.
    "Not gonna work, buddy boy," Bugger oozed.  "I live in fear.  I cause fear.  I'm so used to complaining about how miserable I am that that sort of crap just doesn't bother me anymore.  You can't scare me, because the worst possible thing you can think of, the most hideously godawful miserable experience you can dream up... I thought of it FIRST."
    Nightmare knew when he was beaten.  "This is only one of four matches.  Your friends won't survive," he said, quickly.  "The Dragon and the human and the wingless.  Angela will burn and you cannot get to her.  I have won.  And you say I am wrong?  Tell me, stinking Mazoku, what could possibly go wrong?"
    The Mazoku lifted the projection of Nightmare, and crushed it neatly, like a small, crunchy ball of meat.
    "You'll see, lad," Bugger said, casting the pulpy mass over his shoulder.  "Call it a professional hunch."
    Myth squared off against Nightmare, across a void plain.  She held her pen defensively, for what it was worth.  Nightmare opted to use a blade of darkness, wrought from the dreamstuff, shaped by his Talents of fear.
    "If you give up, I promise to give you death quickly," Nightmare said.  "Or perhaps you can enjoy life first, as a gift for what we once had.  Would you like that?"
    "I didn't want it then and I don't now," Myth said.
    She felt Talent touch her, flood her with fear...
    "Can't you feel that?" Nightmare asked.  "I know I scare you.  You have even admitted you live in fear.  Perhaps once you stood, but that was in a shade, a flimsy parable.  This is the actual moment..."
    Myth gritted her teeth.  "I'm afraid..." she said, acknowledging it.  "You've hurt me before, forced me.  I'm afraid of you."
    "As you should be."
    But then, Myth flared gold, and sprang away, garbed in the light armor of an adventuress.  She held her sword tightly, squaring off against the king of dreams, in his empty throne room.
    "But so was she," Jean said.  "And she was able to act regardless."
    "This sad trick?" the dream king asked.  He smiled playfully.  "Please, Myth.  Lina attempted this in self defense once before, and it did not work for her either.  Are you certain you want to take this stance in the game?"
    "Lina didn't write this story," Jean said, standing, sword at the ready.  "I did.  You never understood stories.  I don't care if we both came up with the idea 'Story', you never got the point.  I didn't either, for that matter, not until recently."
    "And your pretty words are supposed to impress me?  Is that it?" the dream king asked, turning away from Jean, wholly unconcerned.  "That you've found the true meaning of writing mankind's dreams, and now you will destroy me, and so on?  You truly have been hanging out with Drama too much, letting him influence your writing.  Next thing you'll be doing is posing andgnghghkkk..."
    Blood dripped on the ground.  Jean kept her blade firmly jammed into the dream king's side.
    "You have to be clever to win over your fear," Jean explained.  "For instance, stab them when they're taunting you.  That's how weaklings like me win against the strong."
    The dream king staggered, tripping on the rise before his throne, falling into the black iron chair.  "How... you... how could you be able to..."
    "I won't bother to explain it again," Jean said.  "Goodnight."
    The king of dreams was dead.  His shade vanished.
    Myth could only hope that was the true Nightmare, and not just a copy of him.  But she knew that wasn't going to be the case; Lina was going to have to take on the original.  That's how the myth worked.  She just hoped the others wouldn't have too much trouble with their fights.
    Angela backed against the stone wall, her feathered wings scorched and bloody.  The Council of Dragons continued to advance on her, each face a mask of identical disappointment, each bearing tearing claws with her own lifeblood on them...
    "Failure," they chanted, in unison.  "Failure.  Failure.  Failure."
    "I always did what was best for the Dragons!!" Angela protested.  She had sank too far into the dream to realize what it was, and frantically tried to defend her life.  "I sought nothing for myself!  I preserve life!  I do!"
    "Liar," they accused.  "Liar.  Liar.  Liar."
    Weakly, Angela summoned her power, putting a glamor on herself.  "I.. I am Angela of the Dragons.  I am fair, as wise, and moderate in all things, like a force of--"
    "Hypocrite.  Hypocrite.  Hypocrite--"
    "STOP, STOP!" Angela shouted, curling up into a ball, trying to cover her ears.  "I'm SORRY!  I just wanted.. I wanted to be special above others, and... I didn't think--"
    "Stupid.  Stupid.  Stupid.  Stupid."
    A fierce pounding sounded on the walls of Angela's personal nightmare, like a force beating its way in... distracting her from her self-loathing.  She glanced up -- and saw Nightmare's face on each of the Dragons, their true identity.
    "A trick," Angela said.  "You're tricking me!"
    The four merged into one Dragon, a creature of goodness and light that bore the face of Nightmare.  "It's the truth, isn't it?  You nominated yourself to your task.  You deliberately sought every opportunity for bettering yourself.  You disobey orders.  You're a poor excuse for a Dragon!"
    "..I do," Angela agreed, gathering a ball of burning whiteness the side of a boulder, sucking more power than she could tolerably hold into it.  "And maybe I am.  But I will not hear that from YOU!"
    The two clashed, light consuming them as they fought--
    The wall shattered, stiff dream bubble pierced as Bugger charged through, enraged at being locked out in the first place.  He had to shield his eyes from the pain of witnessing so much white magic, knocked backwards from the force of the fight, unable to approach...
    "Angela, you dimwit!  Get out of there!" Bugger ordered, voice like spittle on pavement.  "You'll blow yourself up like that--"
    Sometimes Bugger wondered if his words were what caused the event.  It was his domain to make your day turn out badly, and that's exactly what happened; Nightmare, unable to cope with the strain on his body, detonated.  Angela flew away, landing on the idea of a ground, a lot of her body missing, a wholly disgusting mess.  She only had one of her wings, her preened and cared after wings.
    Cursing in sixteen languages, Bugger took a more human form and went to her side.  "See?  That's what happens.  Some days, you just LOSE, Dragon or not."
    "I got him..." Angela bubbled, in a near death euphoria.  "I showed him who I was.  I can have some glory of my own, can't I?  True glory?"
    "Yeah yeah, whatever," Bugger said.  He appraised her injuries.  "You're going, gel.  Out of the bloody park."
    "'tis a noble end--"
    "There ain't no such thing as a noble end!" Bugger said, offended by the very concept.  "Believe me, I know.  The end is wet and nasty and smells bad!  That's all there is, and you deserve...  you.. oh, soditall!  I think I can bring you back from this, if you trust me..."
    Angela looked up at Bugger, confused.  ""
    "You ain't gonna like it," Bugger said, readying a flow of black energy over his palms.  "And you'll be the first person I've ever tried Black Healing on.  You ain't gonna kick.  Call it the one thing I want to go RIGHT today."
    Lina landed on terra non firma, facing off against Nightmare.
    "A swordfight," he recognized, forming a blade of darkness.  "Very well.  Let's--"
    "Wait up a minute," Lina said, holding a hand to signal a time out.
    "What is it this time?" Nightmare asked.
    "I just want to make sure of something," Lina said, leaning on her sword, loitering like a professional slacker.  "It won't take long--"
    An explosion of earth was heard, faintly to Lina's left, as well as a death rattle.
    "I believe that would be Bugger crumpling one of your shadows into a little wad," Lina said.  "That didn't sound good.  And you're still here, so that must not have been the real you..."
    "What are you trying to prove, Lina Inverse?"
    "Shhh!  I'm busy!" Lina said.
    A minute or more passed, and the sound of a sword sinking into someone's ribs was next.
    "And that would be Myth, disposing of her nightmare," Lina said.  "I'm proud of her.  She's had a lot to go through thanks to you, you know--"
    An explosion of sound, a holy note ringing in her ears.
    "Last but not least, Angela," Lina said.
    "Angela lies dying," Nightmare responded, proudly.  "Her sacrifice to stop me was in vain."
    "Because you're the real thing, right?" Lina said.  "The factory original.  I suspected as much.  It's me you want, the others were just some side fun.  By the way, where's Xelloss?  I know this is about more, but I personally would like to have him returned."
    "Oh, very well," Nightmare said, tossing Xelloss at Lina by his hair.  The priest flew ungracefully through the air, landing at her feet.  "He's all yours, for as long as you live.  I simply needed to keep his spells away from your ears."
    "Didn't do much good," Lina noted.  "So.  You get your sword up and and I'll get mine and we'll kill each other like civilized people.  Sound fair?"
    "Yes," Nightmare said.  "Very fair."
    Lina charged Nightmare, sword ready at her side; but the wingless just stood there.
    "I don't do fair," Nightmare said, and sent a dark pulse towards her--
        --running headfirst into a battle of fire and lightning, Lina, Gourry and Zelgadis facing down Shaburanigdo, the Demon King of All, the Ultimate Evil.
    All their resources were exhausted.  Dragon Slave was useless against him, as were all the spells of Shamanism, and Gourry's sword was like a toothpick.  There was only one spell left, which Lina had used once before... but it was risky.  Chances were, she'd be consumed by darkness and doom the world...
    ...and didn't she?  In another place and time, surviving the horror of her mistake, destroying everything and ending up an insane, paranoid madwoman... she can't take that risk!  She can't!
    Fear gripped Lina's throat, threatening to choke her.  She looked to Gourry and Zelgadis for help, and they looked at her the same way; hoping Lina had some hidden ace up her sleeve she'd play in the game.  Betting on her luck.
    Lina broke free.  "Okay, I have one last trick I can do," she told Shaburanigdo, wagering.  "And if this doesn't work, I'll give up."
    Her sword glowed gold, Luck radiating--
        --charging at Nightmare, who was not pleased that Lina had broken free of his dream.
    "You will not reach me!" he declared, another dark pulse flying--
        --Lina was on the Island of Ultimate Despair, watching the darkness consume the entire island, creeping out to sea.  This was not good.
    She had a tool she could use.  But she didn't want to; it was part of that damn prophecy, and she'd be walking directly into some cockamamie, hero-of-the-day, predicted chosen warrior trap if she did!  It was the kind of stupid thing a lantern jawed, no brains hero would do.  Those sorts of people had a low life expectancy.
    But if not that, what?  The darkness from other Lina's mirror was going to engulf the world.  This was all she had.  Would it work?  It was a Giga spell, and she knew what the Giga Slave could do if you messed it up... fear...
    Lina wouldn't mess it up, though.
    After all, it was perfectly Dramatic for her to save the day with the big spell and start down another series of weird journeys.  That's how it worked.
    Her sword shone, glinting the sunlight with a *PINGGG!*, as Drama was her ally--
        --Nightmare worked faster now, sending dual pulses towards her--
        --Myth was trapped inside the mechanisms of the Sub Ways.  This was foreign equipment from an era long gone.  How the heck was Lina, who only knew these little cookbook spells, supposed to do anything?  She could fiddle with the equipment for years and never make headway.  Myth was gone for good without the knowledge of the past.  No user manual, no operation.
    Of course, the thaumatological hackers had no manual either.  They just relied on a sheer dogged determination to make it work.  Anything was Reasonable with the right thinking -- even causing a Paradox, pulling someone through time and space when any sane person knew that time and space were definite, unmodifiable things--
        --charging at Nightmare, now more confident, her sword thundering with energy and ready to strike him down.
    "You will not be Chaos!  I AM Chaos!" Nightmare shouted, hurling another blast at her.  "I am the Lord of Nightmares!!"--
        --tied and left to crawl on the rocky cave floor, which was tearing at her pretty new dress, crying.
    "They still aren't paying the ransom?!" the bandit leader asked.  "But... it's their little girl!  What are these people made of, ice?  I thought you said they were made of MONEY!"
    "The mother is made of money," a bandit said.  "And the father.  I guess they just care about the money more."
    Lina didn't understand.  She was alone here and these bad men were going to hurt her, and her parents didn't care?  Why?  Wasn't she a good enough girl?  She didn't mean to be naughty and sneak into sister's treasure chest!  She was sorry!  She wanted to go home, go home!  It was all her fault...
    It was all her fault, right?  She hid when she heard the bandits, and they accidentally took her.  They took her.  It was her... it was their fault.  THEY took her away.
    She hated them.  Lina hated all these stupid bandits who would take little girls, and rob people, and make people unhappy.  Someone should be stopping them from doing that.  Maybe she could stop them.  Loathing filled her, Loathing of the robbers.  Once she was out of here, she'd see to it nobody had to be afraid again!--
        --closer now, as Nightmare kept his blade up, in case she made it far enough to hit him, strike him down...
    One last attempt.  Nightmare willed up all the horrors he could imagine, tuned them to Lina's mind, and launched--
        --no memory now, pure imagination, black imagination as Lina was held back by unseen hands, prevented from running to help...
    "Lina!!" Gourry shouted, being pulled away by similar forces, but ones Lina could see; terrible monsters, hooks and chains, claws and teeth ready to tear Gourry Gabriev apart, licking their lips, ready and willing, wanting to shred him for Lina to see, to kill him...
    Fear hit Lina stronger than ever before, seeing him pulled from her, wishing she could act, wanting him back, needing him, needing power to get him, needing him and wishing he was safe...
    "NOOO!!" Lina screamed, flaring with an aura of chaos, of golden energy.  She burned through the hands of her captors, running after Gourry, the monsters running too, keeping her at distance, making the distance larger and longer, every foot she gained she lost, monsters on her heels, likely going to die, not caring, pushing on, fueled by something stronger than fear...
    And why did she do this?
    "You can't have him, you freaks!" Lina yelled, sword flaring brighter than the sun as she made one desperate lunge for the beasts.  "Gourry, I LOVE YOU!!"
    Lina's blade struck home--
    --and Nightmare coughed blood, eyes wide in incomprehension.  The sword had slashed him from shoulder to stomach, parting him like butter, leaving behind a trail of chaos, fractal cuts to his body.
    "How...?" he asked.
    "Because that's how the story ends," Lina said, pulling out her sword, the final step to reaffirm the Myth.
    The form of Nightmare swirled with blackness, trying to heal itself and recover, but it was a losing battle.  Melting back into the dreamstuff around him, losing his personality and sentience, the king of dreams returned to the ashes from which he came.  A tiny blaze of gold launched from the mess, seemingly relieved to be away from it, and swung around to impact against Lina's back; and unfolded, a pair of brilliant golden wings, chaos embodied.
    Lina leaned heavily on her sword, catching her breath, fluttering her wings to exercise some stiffness out of them.  Soon after, her companions arrived... from where?  Who cared.
    Myth approached first.  "Did you--"
    "Yeah," Lina said.  "Got him.  How're you guys?"
    Bugger helped a limping Angela along.  Something seemed different about her...
    "Why's one of your wings black and leathery while the other's white and fluffy?" Lina asked.
    "Don't ask," Angela pleaded.  "Please don't ask."
Story copyright 1998 Stefan Gagne, characters copyright H. Kanzaka / R. Araizumi.
A Spoof Chase Production.