orning arose over the Circle Sea like the finest drops of golden purity across spotless plains of blue.  The clouds were puffy and white, as if to say, 'Good Morning!'  No, there wasn't a care in the world.
    Lina crawled pitifully from her room to the main deck, feeling every bump and shudder that ran through the ship's high speed engines amplified to a power of seventy eight.  Her bloodshots were eyes, rather than the other way around, and she was very much considering emptying everything she had in her stomach over the rail, but that would mean getting up off the nice, flat ground.
    "Ugh," she offered, shaking her fist weakly at the world at large.
    A door from below decks SLAMMED open, and Amelia jumped out, dressed in her formal royal dress. "HIEEE!  Okay!  I'm all set to represent the honorable royal line of Sailoon in this, the final battle to--"
    Lina regained enough energy to grab Amelia and throttle her gently.
    "NOT... SO... LOUD," she requested, then dropped the princess.  "I feel dead. Ughh.."
    Amelia looked up in slight fear.  "Ah.. I think you had too much to drink, Lina-san," she said quietly.  "I know!  I'll cast Dicleary, and remove--"
    The ship lurched, once.  Lina turned green.
    "A... ano?  What was that?" Amelia asked, looking around... as the cloud above stopped being puffy, smiley, happy little clouds and rapidly started getting gray and nasty and evil looking.  She climbed up to that deck that's a little bit up at the front of the ship which Dayvid had never named (when you're a crew of one, there's no need to use quickly shouted nautical terms) and looked...
    Lina started to get to her feet when Amelia's scream pierced her brain.
    "AAAAAAA!!!!" Amelia shrieked.  "There's a hurricane up ahead!  I've got to go get Dayvid!"
    She ran right by Lina, as Lina was climbing up the steps to the deck to see what the fuss was about... and the sight made her stop dead in her tracks.
    The Island of Chaos is, as Dayvid had explained the earlier day, surrounded by a constant whirling storm.  A blanket of clouds prevented sailors from getting close, much less seeing what could be on the island, and any ships that tried to approach were usually shattered into tiny little bits.  Of course, that's skimming over the details.  Lina experienced the look of that storm first hand, how it had one message painted all over it to any being with self preservation : If you can read this, you are too close.
    The others were on deck quickly, Gourry, Dayvid, Chi'Nai and Zelgadis.  Lina tore her eyes away from the storm, and looked at them.
    "I think my hangover just went away," she said.  "Don't bother with the coffee.  Dayvid?  Could we, say, slow down now?  We're still moving at Incredible Speed."
    "I... think I miscalculated," Dayvid admitted.  "I thought we wouldn't reach the island until afternoon, giving us ample time to slow down.  Er.  Sorry."
    "How long will it take...?" Lina asked, knowing the answer already.
    "Just a few hours," Dayvid said.  "I could... try to steer away and slingshot around, but then we'd probably just get sucked in..."
    The group fell silent.
    "WELL!?" Lina shouted.  "I'm open to suggestions, people!  C'mon!"
    "Water magic could get us through, with enough control," Zelgadis said cooly.  "Of course, it's a Shamanistic practice, not white or black.  I don't think you and Amelia plus me would be enough.  Sorry."
    "Why don't we just slow down?" Gourry asked.
    "Keep up, Gourry," Lina snapped.  She turned to look at the island to confirm that Yes, it was coming up faster than she expected and Yes, they were all going to die.  "Okay.  So.  Ah.  Um.. we--"
    Her breasts vibrated.
    Now, admittedly there wasn't much there to shake, and under any other circumstances the above statement would seem very weird.  But Lina peeked into her shirt, to where she had tucked the Key of Order on a makeshift necklace, and pulled it out... the silver key was shaking, tugging on the string, pulling itself towards the approaching island...
    A germ of an idea formed.
    "Rope!  We need rope!" Lina said.  "We'll tie the key to... to... dammit, Dayvid, what's the pointy stick thing that pokes forward on the boat called?!"
    "'The front of the boat'?" Dayvid guessed.
    "What kind of a sailor are you?-- nevermind!  We have to get this thing attached to the very front of the boat.  It'll part the clouds, and we'll sail right though that thing!"
    "That's nuts," Zelgadis said.  "What makes you think it'll happen?  We don't know anything about how the key works."
    "Key, silver, Order," Lina commented.  She pointed to the storm.  "Storm, gold, Chaos.  It's symbolism, look it up.  Order controls Chaos, so we'll let the key slice through that mess!  It's PERFECT!"
    "The clouds are not gold," Chi'Nai said.
    Lina grabbed a length of rope from Amelia, who had fetched it from wherever they store rope on a boat. "Details, details!" she shouted, stringing the cord through the handle of the key.  She ran up decks, and climbed out on the mast, trying to ignore the choppy sea foam hurling around her and the frantic shouts of her friends (notably Gourry) because this was just one of those things where if you look BACK, you'll realize it's insane and probably will die so she pressed on, lashing the key to the Front Of The Boat, and--
    The effect was instantaneous.  The key flared with silver light, tight mathematical coils of power trailing behind it as the storm parted for them, sailing now through water as calm as a sea of glass.  The heaving of the boat gave way to a near parallel run right over the ocean, still moving at high velocity, perhaps even accelerating with more consistent friction.
    Lina pulled herself back to the boat, and stood up.  "See?!" she yelled.  "Of course it works!  I have a knack for these things!"
    "We're about to crash," Zelgadis said, casually pointing to the shore, which was approaching.
    "What?" Lina asked, turning to look, before finding herself flying through the air.
    Of course, Lina was no stranger to flight, as she had done quite a bit of it in her day.  Usually it was with the handy Raywing spell, although lately she had been using those wings of hers to glide more easily through the air... like she was now, but with no wings.  And with the ground about to make very close friends with her...
    The wings snapped open instantly, sunlight playing off them as she swooped low, skimming the ground and pulling vertical.  The drag slowed her down, and she fluttered a few times, hovering, before landing gracefully.
    All around her was a lush island, of grassy plains and forests.. a perfectly blue sky.  Surrounded by walls as dense and white as snow, with lightning crackling from wall to wall overhead, but otherwise a nice day.
    The others arrived after that, with Zelgadis carrying Chi'Nai and magically flying in for a landing; Amelia was left struggling to haul Gourry and Dayvid by their shirts.  They didn't exactly land, but at least they could get up shortly after.
    "Everybody okay?" Lina asked, surveying the troops.
    "We are fine," Chi'Nai stated, hopping down from Zelgadis's arms as if nothing had happened.
    "Ow," Gourry responded, with a face full of dirt.
    "Okay, good," Lina said, nodding.  "We're here, and we're alive!"
    But Dayvid was on his knees, staring back at the SS Guppy... which had apparently hit a rock, rolled three times, shattering every mast and breaking up the hull, and now was upside down with the little spinny things in the back twirling in the air uselessly.  "My SHIP!" was his mourning.  "It's dead!"
    "Ah.. okay, we're not all alive," Lina corrected.
    Zelgadis sighed.  "I'll go get the key from the wreck," he announced, lifting off alone, and flying back to the disaster.
    "Right, Zel, you d-- wait, wait!!" she called, flapping her wings and zooming after him.  "Only humans can touch the key!  You'll get hurt if you--"
    He had already pried it off of the mast, and snapped off the cords.  "What?"
    Lina froze.
    "Ah... never mind," she said.  That didn't make sense.  The other chimeras couldn't touch it, according to Chi'Leas.  Why could Zel?
    She dismissed it.  No time to think about now.
    "Come on," she said, waving him back to the group.  "Let's get to work and explore this place."
    Despite the crackling energy storm on all sides, Lina had to admit that the island was a pleasant place.  Not at all what she was expecting out of a locale called the 'Island of Chaos'.  The hike to explore it was short, as it was a small place, just a mile or three in radius.
    She had taken to flying up a distance and looking around from time to time, but was walking for the most part, with Gourry at her side.
    "Lina.. what happens now?" he asked.  "I haven't really been able to keep up..."
    "It's okay," Lina said.  "None of us are sure.  Probably some big fight.  My sister's going to be here and the Knight of Shaburanigdo and whoever gets all these objects is going to end the world."
    "Oh, I see," Gourry said.  He continued to walk for a full minute before asking, "Wait, isn't that a bad thing?"
    "Don't worry!  I'll stop it," Lina said, clenching a fist.
    "We'll stop it, you mean, right?"
    "Gourry, there's not much you or the others can do here," Lina said.  "It's a fight between all three knights.  One of those apocalyptic sorts of things.  I don't think the prophecies and fables and what have you mentioned a bunch of rag-tag sorcerers, princesses and mercenaries."
    Gourry's eyebrows raised.  "But we're your friends.  Of course we'll help you fight."
    "You don't have to," Lina said, smiling.  "I'm the one who has to be put at risk, not you.  So you should just stay out of it and let me do the dangerous stuff!"
    "I can't do that."
    Lina paused in her tracks, to look at Gourry.
    "Why not?  It's a simple thing," she explained.  "You just sit, and don't move."
    "I've got to protect you," Gourry said simply.  "I love you, after all."
    Her left eye twitched.  "Ahh..."
    "I know you don't like to talk about it, but it's true, isn't it?" Gourry said.  "And I know you feel the same.  Okay, maybe we haven't had a chance except maybe back at Timmy's house to understand it--"
    Lina blushed faintly.
    "--but it's still true.  So, I've got to fight alongside you."
    "Gourry!  I... you don't have to.  It's okay!"
    "It is true, right?" Gourry asked.  "You do feel that way?  You said it before, but..."
    "Of course... I mean, of course I..." Lina said, looking around nervously.  She took a deep breath, shoving past her usual reluctance.  "I lo--"
    "Camp ahead!" Zelgadis cried out.
    It was enough of a distraction.  Lina and Gourry glanced over as the chimeras approached them.
    "Very fuzzy, but it's there," Zel said.  "I've got better vision than you.  Look up."
    "What?  Who?  Wha?"
    "Up, Lina."
    Lina looked up.  Yes, it was the blue sky, just like she had seen before.  With...
    "It's getting darker," Lina said.  She turned, to face the place Zel was pointing to.. and yes, she could make out some fuzzy shape in the distance.  Her feet started to run.
    The others were behind her, she could feel, but she was focused on what she saw... the landscape crossfading between two places, the closer she got to something, the center of something.  One place melting away to show another, which existed right alongside it...  she skidded to a halt, kicking up a few pebbles on the shores of the lake she saw.
    The Lake of Chaos, the home of the Lord of Nightmares.  Not all of it, but a single, randomly shaped pool of the golden waters was here, with the same black pebbly shores.  Now, all around Lina, she saw the island as being of sand and rocks, black bushes and yellow flowers, lakes and pools of golden radiance...
    A single object stood in the center of the central lake.  An altar of silver, almost chairlike in shape.
    Nearby, someone had set up a small cooking fire and a cute pink tent with a blue flag flapping jauntily in the breeze.
    Lina turned to face the others.  "Gourry, I don't think we're in Sailoon anymore," she said.
    "I thought we left Sailoon days ago?"
    "I think I understand," she continued, regardless.  "If these things trap the Lord of Nightmares, it'd have to be in a place where she's strongest.  A hidden place on a hidden island behind chaotic storms, right?  This place."
    "Possibly," Chi'Nai said, unable to just accept that without real evidence.
    Zelgadis stepped forward.  "That's the altar..." he said, recognizing the chair.  "That's the thing from my visions.  You combine the lock, the manacles, the chain and the altar, and she's trapped."
    "All that's missing are those other pieces," Lina agreed.  "We'll sit here and wait for the others, then.  I--"
    Luna Inverse walked out of her tent, yawning and stretching.  She nodded in greeting to the group, fetched her bacon and eggs from a skillet over the cooking fire, and walked back into her tent.
    A gentle breeze blew across the very, very quiet scene.
    "Was that your sister?" Gourry asked.  "Wow, she doesn't look a thing like you.  Her chest is a LOT bigger."
    Gourry didn't get pounded.  He turned to look at Lina, who had gone as white as the purest white you could get out of the optical spectrum.
    "Lu-- Lu-- Lu-- Lu--" she kept repeating, like a broken record.
    "Lulu?" Gourry asked.
    "I think she's in shock," Amelia said, stepping forward.  She readied a calming spell, and fed it into Lina.  Nothing happened.  She turned up the power on the spell and tried again.
    "Luna!!!" Lina finally managed to say.  Then she socked Gourry, knocking him back ten feet.  "And I am NOT FLAT!"
    "Oh, good.  Lina-san's back to normal!" Amelia cheered.
    Lina stomped over to the pink tent, and threw open the flap.
    Inside, her sister, the Waitress of Holy Justice, the Knight of Ceipheed, First Of The Holy Order Of Humanity was busy arranging a grand slam breakfast on a tray, complete with a little flower in a vase and a check.  Some habits are hard to break.
    "SIS!" Lina shouted.. and started to go white again.
    "Hiya," Luna replied, offering Lina a cheese danish.
    Food, especially since she had gone without breakfast, was enough to crack the younger Inverse's fear.  She snatched the danish and ate it before continuing.
    "Sis!" Lina said.  "It's... ah... good to see you!"
    "Still scared of me?" Luna asked, nibbling on some toast.
    Lina put a hand behind her head and did the Godai.  "No no!  Not at all!  Ha ha!"
    The elder Inverse contemplated for a moment.. then shrugged.  "'kay, I forgive ya."
    "You what?"
    "Forgive ya.  For that little mistake ya made.  S'okay."
    Lina started to look real hopeful.  "Ah.. you mean the time I... projected that illusion of you taking a bath to the guys back home to make some money and then you got real mad and beat me up and I ran away?"
    "Right," Luna said.  "S'cool.  Bygones.  Wasn't mad 'bout it after a few days anyway."
    "...you realize I've been living in mortal terror of you for years over that, right?"
    "Not my fault you overreact a lot," Luna said, cutting up an orange.
    Lina controlled her Fist of Death, and had a seat.  "So.... what happens now?"
    "You know," Luna said, offering Lina some of the orange.
    "A big fight," Lina sighed.  "We don't HAVE to fight though, you and I, right?  I mean... Dragons like not having the world go boom, and darn it, so do I!  So we could work tog--"
    "--ether, and what?"
    "No," Luna repeated.  "Ain't Ceipheed's will."
    "Then.. what IS Ceipheed's will?"
    "Ah," Luna said.  "That's a secret."
    "...please don't tell me you're Xelloss in a wig," Lina said, horrified.
    "Nope," Luna replied.  "Wanna bagel?"
    Lina relaxed, and accepted.  "Okay, then.  Where's the Knight of Shaburanigdo?  WHO'S the Knight of Shaburanigdo?"
    "You'll find out," Luna said.
    "Yeah?  When?"
    The silverware on the breakfast tray rattled, a muffled explosion shaking the tent.
    "'bout now, I think," Luna replied.
    Lina dashed from the tent immediately.
    Commotion comes in many flavors.  You can get loud commotion, angry commotion, dangerous commotion.  The stuff being served outside Luna's tent was loud angry dangerous commotion, hot and fresh.
    Gourry went flying over Lina's head when she stepped out; in the air, Amelia and Zelgadis were busy hurling magic at a darkened figure, in a long black cloak.  The figure was easily deflecting every spell flung at it.
    "WHERE IS LINA INVERSE?!" It boomed.  "Bring me Lina!"
    There wasn't a more obvious cue than that.  Lina spread her wings, and took off, to confront this person.. the Knight, most definitely.  When she approached, Amelia and Zelgadis cut their spellwork.
    "Jeez, you could've walked up and asked politely!" Lina said.  "No need to make a big explosive entrance.  I'm here.  Whaddya want?"
    The figure paused... studying her, from inside the depths of the cloak.
    Then it spoke : "I thought you were taller."
    "What you see is what you get, okay?!" Lina said.  "Now speak!  You're the Knight of Shaburanigdo, aren't you?"
    The figure pulled the hood back... and shook her raven-black hair free, eyes of red hate glaring at Lina.
    "I'm here to bust heads with you and your other sister," the Knight said.  "But you're obviously aware of that.  So could you tell your friends to mamba off somewhere else?  I wanna talk with you, and you alone.."
    "I don't debate real well in the middle of the air," Lina said.  She pointed down, and floated back to earth.. the other three airborne folk followed in turn, touching down.
    The group had reassembled.. Gourry rubbing his shoulder, which was badly bruised under his armor.  Dayvid had dug himself out of wherever he had hidden, as did Chi'Nai.
    Also, was a young chimeric boy.. who had hidden himself behind a scraggly bush.  He sheepishly looked at the group, and joined the Knight's side.
    Chi'Nai leveled her eyes at him.  "Traitor," she declared.
    The Knight of Shaburanigdo looked around.  "This is too many peanut gallery members.  Vamoose, people.  I just need you, Lina Inverse."
    "They're my friends.  Anything you got to say to them, you can say to me," Lina said, all cool and confident in her well-tested battle clichés........ she paused.  "Ah.. I mean anything you've got to say to ME, you can say to THEM."
    "They're a little trigger happy," the woman said, eyeing the group.
    "So're you," Zelgadis said, voice like ice.
    The Knight sighed... rubbing her temples in frustration.  "Fine.  Fine.  I've been waiting enough years to say this, I don't care who hears it."  She looked up at Lina, locking eyes with her.  "Don't think I'm going to pulverize you just for my father, the great dark lord.  This is personal too, toots.  And I want you to understand WHY, before I go about putting the smack down.  You might want to sit down for this."
    "I'm fine as is," Lina said, crossing her arms defiantly.
    "You're the reason why I am what you see," she said.  "You alone.  You've got no concept of how much I hate you for that.  There isn't enough hate in your entire life to cover all the basis.  Your father was happy with my mother, and they were getting along FINE until you went and got kidnapped, and he LEFT me for you!  My poor mother couldn't take it and she jumped off the mortal coil.  You orphaned me."
    "What?  Whoa, pause!" Lina said, backstepping.  "I don't even KNOW you!"
    "Of course not!" the woman said, stepping forward.  "Why would you?  I'm Lara Inverse!  Your father's illegitimate daughter, the one he didn't want to keep!"
    Lina's jaw sagged.
    "Oh, sure, this is some big dramatic surprise NOW," Lara said.  "Oh look, the missing Inverse shows after all these years, what a shock.  Well, I've had plenty of years to live with it, Lina.  Long, nasty, hard years.  But I got strength from my TRUE father, Shaburanigdo, and he's going to help me do what I've always wanted to do... soon enough.  I want you to adjust to the idea of having me in the family.  I'm going to give you one day before I finally, after years of getting ready, kill you.  One day to make your peace and--"
    "I already knew."
    The group (except Lina, who was too stunned) turned, to see the waitress of Ceipheed approach, dabbing at her cheeks with a napkin.
    "You stay out of this," Lara said, pointing at her.  "I only moderately despise you.  You I'll whack nice and quick, but Lina's MINE."
    "I already knew who you were," Luna said.  "I got Dad to tell me a long time ago, and Ceipheed to tell me what you've become.  Don't think you're not the only one came with plans and expectations.  You won't win in the end of everything.."
    The Knight of Ceipheed flicked her pinky finger-- and the ground exploded around her, knocking people aside.  White fire started to drip upwards in a magical circle pattern, bleeding from the ground and into the sky, as she floated in the center, hair in zero gravity.
    The Knight of Shaburanigdo glared evil steaming rage at Luna, and darkness coiled around her like a serpent, also charging up, ready to fight...
    Lina got to her feet, trying to stop it, running towards them.  A sudden weight in her backpack threw her off balance, but she continued all the same.  "Big Sis!  Don't!  Just--"
    But it was too late; the two had already taken to the air, the powers stripping the rocky land around them, debris floating upwards as well.  Gourry was first into action, running over to grab Lina and drag her back with the others to safety -- Lina didn't fly or resist, too scared to move.
    Both knights went high into the sky, and started an assault; it was impossible to hear the spells being cast, but the effects were obvious.  Bolts of white and black seared through the sky, bouncing off each other, striking and being absorbed into both warriors.  Zelgadis and Amelia cast in tandem, snapping a shield over the group to keep the fallout from hitting them...
    Above, Lara glowed with anti-light, shoving Luna away with all the power she had.  Luna tumbled backwards in the air, trying to right herself, while Lara cast one more spell... somehow, Lina could hear the words clearly, despite the distance between the two.
    "Darkness beyond blackest pitch...
     deeper than the deepest night...
     King of Darkness,
     I call upon thee!  Swear myself to thee!
     Let the fools who stand before me be destroyed...
     By the power you and I possess! GIGA SLAVE!!"
    A ball of the darkest black Lina had ever seen, a black that sucked light into itself, ringed with an aura of silver formed above Lara Inverse, and streaked with deadly accuracy towards Luna Inverse.
    "Get DOWN!" Lina screamed, hurling herself flat, to weather out the blast.
    The entire island rocked, and kept shaking as whatever was happening happened; colors flared into being around the group, rolling over the white magic shield and continually threatening to annihilate it.  Lina added flow after flow of white magic into the mix, as did the others, continually rebuilding the shield until the island grew quiet once more.
    The dust slowly settled on top of the shield, as the others started to rise.. Gourry got up, having thrown himself over Lina to protect her.  Lina ignored that; she had bigger concerns.
    The island had been reconfigured.  There was now a huge bay where there was previously a huge chunk of land, and the sky looked positively seared by the black fires.  Outside the shield, Luna's tent had been burned, now little more than a tattered rag.. but the altar remained, as well as the lakes.  Little could affect those things.
    Luna herself was nowhere to be seen.  Quite possibly, vaporized.
    Lina Inverse looked up, to see her third sister staring down at her, and remembered the promise.  One day.  She had one day to make peace.
    The Knight of Shaburanigdo vanished, without a sound.
    Dinner that night was held over the smoking remains of Luna's cooking fire, around which they had put up several tents.  Why eat?  Why rest?  Why not?  Not much else they could do, except wait.  Wait, and try to plan a strategy laced with unknowns.
    "We could still beat her," Amelia said, trying to cheer up the group's spirits.  "So she can cast the Giga Slave!  We're strong too.  Lina especially!  If we all team up, we--"
    "We can't outpower her," Zelgadis said.  "What we should do is find where she's hiding on the island.  She's only human, and she needs sleep too.  Kill her in her sleep."
    "That would be advisable," Chi'Nai said.  "And the traitor can inform us as to where she's staying."
    The traitor being, of course, Chi'Bi.  The young chimera was twice as shaken as anybody else, from the power display.. and as the night wore on, seemed increasingly worried.  "I don't know where she's sleeping.  I'd WANT to know... I don't know what I'm going to do, now.  I'll never sleep again..."
    "What's he yammering about?" Zelgadis asked.
    "It's okay!  We just need to sweep the island for strong black power!" Amelia said.  "That'll find her!"
    "She'd sense that coming miles away," Zel reminded.
    "If I had some time," Dayvid said, "I could sort through the ruins of the Guppy and work up a marble thrower with orihalcon bullets, like my old one... then we could just shoot her through any magic.  Um.  But I don't think I had any orihalcon on board..."
    "Of course, this is why we have a leader," Amelia said.  "To help make these tricky decisions, and guide our path towards love and justice!  Lina-san?  What do you think we should do?"
    All eyes went to Lina Inverse, who was busy staring into the fire.
    "I don't know," Lina said, quietly.  "I'm going to go sleep now.  Excuse me."
    She got up quietly, and walked over to her tent, which she had installed a distance away from the rest of the camp.  The group didn't protest her leaving, but refrained from commenting until her flap was down.
    "...I get the feeling she's depressed," Zelgadis said.
    A figure that was sitting away from the fire stood up, and followed her.
    Lina let the flap drop, the darkness of her tent more or less total.  She fell face first onto her sleeping cot, exhausted and spent, but didn't go to sleep.  She simply didn't move.
    Light trickled into the tent, as the flap was raised.
    She looked up.
    "Gourry," she said.  "What do you need?"
    "What do you need?" he asked.
    "Gourry, it's too late to be playing word games," Lina said, sitting up, rubbing her eyes.
    "No it isn't.  It's early evening," he said.  "A bit early to go to bed.  I mean, I know I like to get to sleep early and wake early, but I'm not the least bit tired right now."
    "I didn't mean that kind of late.  I... ah, jeez.  I don't know WHAT I mean..."
    Gourry crouched into the tent, letting the flap drop behind him.  "Explain, then.  I'm all ears."
    "It was... wrong.  The spell, the fight... all of it was wrong!"
    He nodded... agreeing.  "It's hard to lose a sibling.  I mean, I wasn't even related to Loathing, but--"
    "Not that," Lina interrupted.  "Yes that, I mean, I'm.. but... not that.  Not all of that.  It's the spell, Gourry.  I know the Giga Slave, and... Lara left out part of it.  There's a line right after 'king of darkness', meaning Shaburanigdo, that talks about the 'sea of chaos', meaning the Lord of Nightmares... Lara left that part out.  It wasn't complete, and wasn't using the power of the Lord of Nightmares like it was supposed to."
    Gourry struggled to understand that, so he could talk with Lina without looking dumb.  "Ah.. so... if that's not what the power was, what was it?"
    "I saw.. a silvery tint around the spell, right before she killed... you know what that color means," Lina said.  "These gods practically use it as their calling cards.  Order is the one who's fueling Lara.  You know, the big nasty we met in the world of dreams.  He said he had 'set my sisters in motion'.  Is that what he meant?  That he was the one who's pulling Lara's strings, giving her the power she wants?"
    "Yes?" Gourry guessed.
    Lina paused.  "I know you don't understand me.  Nevermind... I shouldn't trouble you with it."
    "It's okay, it's okay.." Gourry said.  "I don't have to understand.  I can see how you feel, instead.  What's going on is bad stuff, right?  I mean, you know technically why it's bad, but it's bad either way.... and the end of the world is coming, from what you guys are saying..."
    "Yes... that's right," Lina said, shivering slightly.  "And if the Knight of Shaburanigdo is that strong, with Order.. and.. and if big sister is really gone, then... this really is the last night any of us are going to see, isn't it?  She'll easily take care of me, take the key and the lock, and use the altar to destroy the world... I have the lock, Gourry.  Big Sister must have known she wasn't coming back -- she teleported it into my backpack right before the fight started.  Now I'm the only thing between Lara and disaster.. between someone who can CONTROL the Giga Slave, and.... how can I do this?"
    "We'll help," Gourry said.
    "You'll just get hurt," Lina softly spoke.  "You should just leave.  Go to the World of Dreams with the others, where you'll be safe.  I can handle this.  No problem.  I've handled stuff like this before.  I'm not scared.."
    Lina wasn't quite sure how she ended up there, but she was in Gourry's arms, held close.  She didn't pull away; if anything, she buried herself into his embrace more.
    "I don't want to die," Lina continued, barely a whisper now.  "There's so much I haven't done yet.  I don't understand how this all happened, or why the Lord of Nightmares thinks I can do anything about it... but I just don't want to die.  This CAN'T be my last night."
    "It won't be," Gourry said, rocking gently.  "Don't worry.  I'm here; you're not alone in this."
    Lina leaned away from Gourry, looking into his eyes... worry, fear, hope and trust as fleeting visions dancing between them.  Need like nothing she had felt before comforted her, as she leaned over, and kissed him.
    The hours of that night passed for her in warmth, in dreamless rest.
Story copyright 1998 Stefan Gagne, characters copyright H. Kanzaka / R. Araizumi.
A Spoof Chase Production.