torming through the temple, Zelgadis led a confused Chi'Nai by the hand, worming his way down the passages.
    "Where are we going?" Chi'Nai asked, requesting information.  "Where's father?"
    "He's taking a nap," Zelgadis said.  "We're going to the reflecting pool.  Lead me there.  Although I doubt it'll be of any use, the way the old madman was rambling..."
    "It's this way," Chi'Nai said, not reacting to the 'old madman' comment.  She took the lead, pressing on past doors and halls, out of the building, down the streets...
    Zelgadis couldn't believe it.  He couldn't understand it, either.  Where did Chi'Leas get off, telling him he wasn't a chimera?  Of course he was!  Why else would he have to hide behind a cloak and mask whenever he went into a populated town, or why he could pick his teeth with his hair, and tended to leave gravel behind in bed?  What was the one thing he was striving to cure?
    Granted, from what he was saying, these guys were worse off.  They looked funny, and they lacked human minds... at least, they had them once, but no longer.  And this person leading him, Chi'Nai... he noticed she was a little bland, but just chalked it up to a bland personality.  Was she actually alive?  What was the definition of 'alive', anyway?  And WHY did the old fart think he could do anything about this situation?  This was Lina's quest, not his...
    A thousand thoughts raced through Zelgadis's head, arguing with each other, throwing chairs and calling names.  Frustration mounted on top of frustration.
    "It's ridiculous!" he said aloud.
    "We're here," Chi'Nai said, gesturing to the large array of fountains, pouring crystal clear water into a renewing pool, flowing through over and over again.  "And what's ridiculous?"
    "Your dad," Zelgadis said.  "You know you don't have a personality, right?  All of you don't.  According to him we're dealing with a bunch of mechanical people here.  And he expects me to do something about this??"
    "I.. don't understand.  What are you talking about?"
    "No, I didn't think you'd understand.  It wasn't the impression that I got.  If you're even aware of what's going on on the same level, that is," Zel said, just freely speaking his mind, wanting to get this off his chest.  "When was the last time you had a good laugh?"
    "Why, just the other--"
    "A big one?  As in, you REALLY found something funny, and you felt it, and laughed?" Zelgadis asked.
    Chi'Nai thought back, a look of focus on her face... continuing and continuing.  "I don't know."
    "When did you laugh last?" she asked.
    Zelgadis stopped.  "Why, just... look, I'm not up for discussion here, okay?  So I'm not a joker.  I just... ugh!  This is really, really...!  Really!!"
    "You shouldn't be so stressful.  Stress is bad for your skin, it causes cracks at an early age," Chi'Nai recited.  "You should relax more."
    "Oh?  And what would you suggest?" Zelgadis asked, contemptuous.
    "Moisture usually helps cool people down," Chi'Nai said.
    "You want me to dive into the pool?"
    Chi'Nai scooped up some of the water, and raised it up for Zelgadis.  "This pool was a gift to us from an old friend of the tribe, who had similar views on chaos.  It's said to bring wisdom."
    Without putting any thought into it, Zelgadis took a hearty sip, and sat down by the pool's edge.  "Who gave it to you guys?"
    "A mage named Silverquick," Chi'Nai said, sitting next to him.  "It's special water.  It--"
    Zelgadis choked.  "Wait, you mean I drank... THAT w
        as flying across a span of reality that stretched him to temporal limits he wasn't expecting to run into, linking, winding, peeling away into visions he found strange familiarity to, a pang of recognition, a grumble of similar dissent, bleeding into light of silver flowing through a non-space of sight, where he could sense the BEING of all, here and now, moving away from something, a golden streak in a silver sky, lines crisscrossing like a grid, like strands warped around each other, like chains,  reaching out, binding, five pieces locking together to become a mechanism which shouldn't be, restricting and constricting, the face of a goddess bound looking at Zelgadis, pleading for understanding, as a darkly gray shadow loomed and chuckled, the three of one below the altar wrangling for control, bickering and fighting as the world shakes itself apart to their whim, the end of everything, and falls and drops and skims backwards through time and returning to a hard shell from which he
    reeled, his mind not ready for that sort of thing.  Zelgadis teetered, and fell back into the water with a resounding splash, knocked unconscious.  And now, completely submerged in the water.
    Chi'Nai's mind registered; Zelgadis passed out.  He could be drowning.
    Inside, a pang urged her to help him out of the water quickly, even if it meant giving him a little whiplash.  Not a very wise thing to do, but she had to do it.  She checked his breathing, found it was okay, and summoned some help.
    Lina paced in a tight little oval that was slowly but surely being worn into the rug.
    "Why isn't he waking up, if he's fine??" she demanded to know.
    The chimera doctor shrugged.  "I don't know."
    "Don't you care that your patient could possibly not get up at all here?" Lina asked.  "Or that I could burn this entire place to the foundations if made upset?"
    "Lina!" Gourry gaped.  "Let's not go overboard, okay?"
    "And you," she continued, facing Chi'Nai.  "Why did you take him near something as dangerous as waters from the Lake of Reflections?"
    "They're not dangerous to us..." Chi'Nai said.  She was feeling... slight embarrassment.  A pang.  "Silverquick said that only humans need to worry about bad side effects."
    "One way or another, they've done a number on Zel here," Lina said, discontented.  "We're going to have to stay here until he wakes up.  No two ways about it."
    "But your quest," Chi'Nai remembered.  "Do you need Zelgadis for the quest?"
    "No, but we're staying anyway," Lina said.  She sat right down on the floor, crosslegged.  "In fact, I'm not moving from this spot except of course for bathroom breaks, large meals and sleep until he--"
    Zelgadis's eyes opened.
    "Much better," she smiled.  "You awake now?"
    "Yes?" Zelgadis asked.  He sat up, slowly.  "I feel... more awake than I have in years, actually.  Did someone give me coffee or something?"
    "You fell into the pool," Chi'Nai said.
    Zelgadis rubbed his forehead, a scraping sound of stone on stone.  "Ugh... I know, I know.  I can tell.  I keep having--"
    He froze.
    "--flashes," he continued, a few moments later.  "Please let this pass... oh no.  Lina!!"
    "Present?" Lina said.
    Zelgadis jumped out of bed, and grabbed Lina by the shoulders.  "We've got to hurry with this quest, and find all those.. pieces, things, whatever!  Do you have any idea what they are?!"
    Lina wobbled, being shaken.  "N-No, we don't.  You know tha--"
    "First of all... the thing stolen from the chimeras?  They aren't clasps, they're manacles," Zelgadis said, eyes focused somewhere far away.  "You combine them with the other parts... and you can bind the Lord of Nightmares.  That's who the goddess was in my dream, and that's why she was chained to that altar.  These parts are meant to enslave her power to whoever assembles the Most Important Things In The World.  And with that kind of power..."
    The room fell in complete silence.  Nothing moved.
    Lina turned to Chi'Nai.
    "How soon can we restock our supplies and get out of here?" she asked.
Story copyright 1998 Stefan Gagne, characters copyright H. Kanzaka / R. Araizumi.
A Spoof Chase Production.