Somewhere beneath the shining sun, somewhere in the green and fertile lands the world, somewhere in the city/state of Sailoon, somewhere on the grounds of the Singing Drunk Karaoke Bar, a story was finished.
    "And so," Myth said, "The beast and the dragon returned to their respective homes, and the wingless scattered like butterflies to the winds of chaos.  As for the knight... like any good knight, her quests were not done.  But that was exactly how she wished to live her life, forever in the world of stories and adventures, forever with her companion by her side.  And they lived happily ever after.  The end."
    The various patrons of the bar sat back in silence, soaking up the story like sponges in the ocean.
    "Admittedly it's a pretty rough draft," Myth said, closing her copy of 'Lina Inverse and the Chaos Factor'.  "But any thoughts?"
    "Rubbish," one of the customers said.  "Doesn't make sense.  You expect us to believe that the whole human race stemmed from these eight gods?  There'd be inbreeding problems.  Doesn't take a scientist to know that."
    "Oh, come off it, it's not meant to be realistic," another customer argued.  "Clearly this stuff never happened.  It's all a parable, metaphorically relating to man's inward qualities and how we relate to dragons and monsters, which are actually just projections of our extremes.  Everybody knows Mazoku don't exist.  Wouldn't be reasonable."
    "It's not believability that's a problem, it's just too damn confusing," another guy said.  "Keeping track of all these people and why they were doing what they were doing... why didn't anybody just say at the start of it all that it was a quest to find some sort of knight?  That'd make it all so much simpler."
    "It's DRAMATIC BUILDUP, yew bastard!" another shouted.  "And it woz a right good story, so piss off, mate!"
    "No more for Earl, he's topped," the first drinker noted.
    Finally, someone stood up, tapping his glass.  "Look, I don't know about you fellows, but I'm a fan of a good Lina Inverse story.  And I'd say the best one out there has got to be 'Lina Inverse and the Journey of a Thousand Reflections.'  This one... it was decent, but miss, you could take some pointers from the author of that story.  Maybe he could teach you a few things about how a Lina Inverse story should go.  That one was simply masterful."
    Myth barely suppressed a smile.  "Really?  I heard the first time s.. he told that one, everybody called it rubbish."
    "Nonsense," the critic said.  "Probably just some folk myth."
    She gathered up the tips and donations given by her audience, which was pretty sizable for a group that was complaining so much, and moved on.  Likely she'd come back in a month when her next story was done and hear the same thing; it's nice, dear, but nowhere near as good as 'Lina Inverse and the Chaos Factor.'  That's just how myths spread.
    And she could feel, on the edges of perception, that another story was building.  Perhaps the biggest one yet...
    This time, she'd sit on the sidelines and observe from afar.  She'd enjoy the story as a reader first and a writer second.  In all respects, Myth was looking forward to this.
    She already had a title, too.
    'Lina Inverse and the End of Everything.'
    Mind you, that wasn't final.  In any respect.  She hoped.
    Far away and a long way down, a single torch lit dim caverns and twisty little passages, all alike.
    For the fifth or sixteenth time, Zelgadis begin to wonder if he was on a fool's errand.  He had been staying in Pleasantville for two weeks now, keeping his face hidden so he wouldn't frighten the population with his chimera's skin.  Every day, he'd come out to the ruins and to the entrance he had uncovered, and every day he'd explore and map the network of caves.
    He hadn't found anything even remotely interesting.
    It didn't make sense, though.  There was an entrance, complete with a ladder, so presumably someone felt these caves important enough to open up.  And admittedly, finding natural tunnels that didn't squeeze too tight or crumble too easily was a true find, but not when they're totally empty.
    The wall painting seemed to suggest some kind of goddess, able to turn a chimera into a regular human.  He hadn't seen any other hints, though, no paintings, no writing.  Maybe he was just hallucinating when he saw that vision in his dream.  Long suspecting that was the real explanation, Zelgadis paused in his journey underground, briefly considering turning back and leaving Pleasantville altogether.
    Why consider it?  Just split.
    Zelgadis turned to leave when he heard the groaning sound.
    Hand to his sword hilt, the other holding the torch out, he scanned the cavern for some sort of life.  Fortunately, chimeric eyes were good at seeing in the dark, so he was able to see some movement fifty yards down the tunnel.  It wasn't threatening movement; someone was hurt down there.
    Quickly, but carefully, he picked his way down the tunnel to the fallen form.  Definitely an injured person.  He nudged the figure, rolling her over--
    A female chimera looked up at him, eyes clouded, dying of thirst and starvation.
    "Ha..." she tried to say.  "Have to... get to..."
    Zelgadis got over the shock fast, needing to act.  He pulled out his canteen, and let her sip from it, water over blue lips.
    "Have.. to get to her," the strange chimera spoke.
    "What?  Who?" Zel asked.
    "Wings.." the chimera said, weakly grabbing at Zel's cloak, to pull herself up.  "The wings of chaos..."
    Energy spent, she collapsed.
    Zelgadis stood up, wondering what he was supposed to do now.  He looked around, trying to see where the girl came from, but all that was around him were miles and miles of tunnels.
    No other options, he picked her up -- stone skin being very heavy, even for him -- and started to make his way to the exit.
    Despite being shapechangers, capable of living in small huts or large caves filled with gold, Dragons tend to stick to Dragon-based haunts.  Tall mountains, with rocks to perch on and peaks to sail majestically between, picturesque and breathtaking.
    The scenery was not on Angela's mind.  The Council of Dragons, hastily formed in order to chastise her actions, was the main problem.  All eight of the anonymous Councilmembers looked down on her in disapproval...
    Not just at her, of course.  Luna Inverse was right there next to her.  And weirdly, Luna was still smiling, and seemed totally unconcerned.
    "Evaluation of the situation was abbreviated," a Dragon accused.  "Action preemptive.  Destructive.  In addition, bonding with Mazoku for assistance, and eventually joining with darkness in other ways..."
    Angela tried to hide the black bat's wing that had joined her feathery bird's wing, but it would be even more shaming to will her wings away in front of the others.
    "In addition, you, Luna Inverse, allowed the rising of a Knight of the Lord of Nightmares, Chaos of the Winged, a thing which has equal danger as well as benefit.  Angela's risk calculation was accurate in that this is a thing which is threatening to the Dragons.  Why did you allow this?  Why did you order Angela to side with chaos rather than the order of the Dragons?"
    "Ceipheed's orders," Luna said, her usual minimalist response.
    "I don't see how Ceipheed could possibly suggest that we allow an enemy to rise, if not aid him," another Dragon said.  "In addition to ordering you to blackmail a Mazoku into assisting in a DRAGON'S quest!  This is appallingly chaotic and unforgivable.  Angela, do you have any words in your defense?"
    Before any of this happened, before her humbling at Nightmare's hands, Angela would have a prepared speech.  She would stress the importance of maintaining the Dragon way of life, as well as the preservation of life in general.  She would reiterate how it is her duty to uphold the ways of her people, and that she sought nothing for herself save a noble deed for the betterment of all...
    "No," Angela said, instead.  "I have no words that can defend me truthfully.  But I did act nobly once, fellow Dragons.  I helped punish our true enemy.  For that, at least I can be thankful."
    "Perhaps we could have bargained with this Nightmare, or sent more capable warriors to destroy it," another Dragon said.  "Insufficient defense.  Unacceptable.  The Dragons do not act so wildly.  We preserve life, we do not endanger it.  Luna Inverse, do you have any words in your defense?"
    Angela was expecting her to say something glib, something short.  Luna even appeared to be about to bark out a tiny sentence, but... changed her mind.  A white flash burned in her eyes a moment, the light of Ceipheed -- the Dragons flinched in involuntary response, recognizing the prophetic implications...
    "You don't have the foresight of my lord to know how to truly preserve all life," Luna Inverse said.  "Ceipheed possesses knowledge beyond your comprehension, and even then the Lord of Nightmares above Him knows more.  Who are you faceless things to accuse me and one of your own of acting outside your interests when you don't even have a tiny scrap of the bigger picture of what is at stake?  What comes of your petty bickering but sound and fury?
    "This world needs my sister in her new position, in order to destroy this threat and to take on the largest threat yet to come to all living things.  I am proud of my sister as I always have been, even when nobody else in my family would be.  The Dragons are not my family, simply my adoptive kin, and I personally don't care how you feel about me, since I answer to a higher authority than you.  Don't forget that I am the Knight of Ceipheed, His pawn in the eternal game.  Even if I am 'simply human' and easily destroyed by any one of you, you will lose the game for you and all your kind if you do so.
    "Hear your god, and know this, Gold Dragons; everything will change, as everything does.  The end is the beginning and the beginning is the end.  My usefulness in your hierarchy is now over, and I will be taking leave to complete one final quest.  Angela, you may accompany me if you wish."
    The words of Ceipheed ending, Luna resumed her usual silent smile.
    " that all?" a Dragon asked.
    "Yup," Luna said.
    The Council dismissed, with nary a word, shapechanging back to the Gold Dragon form, and flying off into the sky.  In confusion, Angela turned to face the human.
    "You want me to to accompany you?" Angela asked.  "They were going to destroy me, you know.  I'm corrupted.  What use is a tainted Dragon to the Knight of Ceipheed?"
    "Dunno yet," Luna said, back to glib answers.  "We'll see."
    "I thought you hated me," Angela said, looking away.
    "Says who?" Luna asked.  "C'mon.  Gotta go now."
    The Royal Gardens of Sailoon couldn't be considered one of the wonders of the world, but they were definitely a nice place to be, regardless.  Just the place to be if you were winding down after a strange long journey.  Also quite boring.
    Lina sat in a tree, looking over the walls of the palace.  "Hey, Gourry?"
    Her companion leaned against the tree, resting at ground level.  He looked up.  "Yeah?"
    "I'm bored.  Let's go trash bad guys," Lina said, hopping down, landing on her feet.  Her wings were probably helpful in that regard.
    "What, already?  But we just finished a quest," Gourry said.
    "So?" Lina said.  "What's the sense in sitting around for a month doing nothing?  Besides, it's not that hard to stomp bandits.  More like... exercise.  Plus, we're still broke, and if we're ever going to eat without looting Sailoon's royal kitchens..."
    "Okay, okay," Gourry smiled.  "I get the idea.  I'm not THAT slow, you know.  But hasn't everything changed?  I mean, you're a Knight of Somethingorother now.  That's an official thing."
    "Knight of the Lord of Nightmares," Lina corrected.  "And... you've got me, Gourry.  Nobody gave me an instruction manual.  My sister's a Knight too, you know..."
    "You have a sister?" Gourry asked.  "You never talk about your family, you know."
    "I didn't have a close family.  Not like yours... my sister was the only one who knew I was alive, practically.  But then she left to be the Knight of Ceipheed.  I don't know what she does on the job, either, but since she also holds down a waitressing job, it's not presumably a full time occupation... I guess if something comes up, I'll be told what to do."
    "Oh, that's good.  Hey, you wanna go get dinner before we start hunting bandits again?" Gourry invited.  "My treat."
    "A date?" Lina asked, suspicious.
    "Uh... no, not if you don't want," Gourry said, tugging at his collar.  "Just food, right?"
    "Whatever," Lina smiled.  "C'mon, let's get some chow.  Gonna need a lot of energy for tonight!"
    "What're we going to do tonight, Lina?"
    "The same thing we do every night, Gourry," Lina smiled.  "Try to rid the world of evil!!"
    "I thought you just liked to steal gold from robbers," Gourry said.
    "Side benefit.  Now c'mon, let's book."
    Gourry decided to risk his own horrible death.  "Actually, um... there's something I wanted to ask you."
    "Food, Gourry.  Food calls."
    "It'll just take a minute, I swear," Gourry said.  "Are you, like... angry at me?  Over what I said to you that night..."
    "Oh?  What was that?  I can't remember," Lina teased.
    "You know, the uh... what I said."
    "When I said how I felt," Gourry simplified.  "Jeez, weird how it's hard to say now... when I said that--"
    Without any adequate warning, Lina stepped over to Gourry, and gave him a big hug -- and held it there, warm and comforting.
    "Don't worry about it," Lina said, quietly, but still smiling.  "I had a small revelation too, while I was away..."
    Gourry's internal steam started to hit danger levels.  "Uh, you did?  What about?.."
    Lina whispered it in his ear, then let go.
    He fell on his rear, with a thud.  Lina smiled at him.
    "So, that settled, let's go stuff ourselves silly with fine cuisine!" Lina said.  "Race you there!"  And she turned and ran at top speed.
    "But... hey!  Lina, wait for me!!" Gourry shouted, running after her.
    "Slowpoke!" Lina taunted, tugging an eyelid at him.
    "How can someone with such scrawny legs move that fast?" Gourry wondered aloud.
    "I am NOT scrawny!"
    Once upon a time in fair Sailoon, there was a sorceress.
    Let's call her Lina.
    Lina was known across the land for a variety of reasons.  She was a famous bandit hunter, magic slinger, world saver, and consumer of large dinners.  With no fixed address, she wandered the world doing random quests and getting into surprising amounts of trouble.  In recent times, her and her usual gang of cohorts managed to track down the first eight beings that ever lived, fill a couple prophecies along the way, and save the world from unending nightmares; all in the span of a few weeks.
    That's just the sort of person Lina was, always active, always leading an exciting life.  Randomly moving from situation to situation.  She was like a monster reincarnation of some hero long gone; a girl on the move, just lucky enough to be totally confident.
    And if you look fast enough, maybe you'll catch her as she moves on by.
Story copyright 1998 Stefan Gagne, characters copyright H. Kanzaka / R. Araizumi.
A Spoof Chase Production.