unlight doesn't shine in this fragment of shores from the Sea of Chaos, but morning is something you can feel in your bones.  It's a new day born, refreshing and timely; and for an adventuress, who sleeps wherever she can and finds new things each day, waking to a new morning is no problem.
    Lina knew, in her heart, when she wanted to wake.  She rose from sleep, feeling renewed, stretching out... she glanced at Gourry, who slept like a rock next to her, still out.  A smile danced across her lips, as she quietly got to her feet and dressed, stepping out into the cool air.
    She considered setting out a note, but the chances of Gourry taking the group back to the World of Dreams to avoid the onslaught just on her say-so were low.  But she absolutely didn't want him hurt in the mess... instead, she had tried to contact Xelloss in her dream, and ask him to take them all there while they were sleeping.... presumably the message got through.  He was taking his time about it, though.
    No matter -- Lina had business to do.
    She opened her wings, and flew in silence to a point on the island out of view of the camp.  Settling to the ground, she gathered her wits, and called out.
    "You coming or not, Lara?!"
    Darkness, with the silver edge she had seen earlier, coalesced into form.
    "I was always there, actually," Lara commented, studying her manicure.  "I just turned myself invisible and inaudible for the night.  Keep your enemies close, so to speak..."
    Lina frowned in distaste.  "I'm not your enemy."
    "Of course you are, Knight of the Lord of Nightmares," Lara said, glaring at her.  "Everything ABOUT you is nemesis to me.  But don't worry.  I won't kill your stud boyfriend; I'm not interested in him, only you.  That's why you came alone, isn't it?"
    "Shut up."
    "I hope he enjoyed you last night, seeing how it'll be the last time," Lara said, starting to gather a ball of black fire.  "But fun is fun and work is work.  And I'm going to ENJOY this--"
    "Boring," Lina yawned.  "Fireballs and zappy wappies.  Woo.  I actually had something else in mind."
    Lara voluntarily powered down her spell.  "This is the part where you taunt me into making a huge tactical error, isn't it?"
    "Hey, you decide yourself," Lina shrugged.  "I was just wondering if you'd like to try fighting with blades.  You're free to turn down the offer.  The world won't care."
    "Swords?  I don't do swords," Lara said.  "Or knives or bows or nooses or slings and arrows.  Just magic--"
    Lina finished the spell she had been chanting under her breath.  "LAGUNA BLADE!" she shouted, tearing a black stream of lightning from the air, a sword made up of pure chaos energy, funneled from the Lord of Nightmares.  She held it defensively, careful not to lop any of her own bits off (since it was a pretty big blade).  "Your turn."
    The Knight of Shaburanigdo wasn't impressed.  "I can do that spell..." she said, pulling an almost identical blade into being.  "And without the silly chanting."
    "Yours isn't a true blade," Lina said.  "You don't have any chaos.  Look at it.  You can SEE the way it just keeps repeating a pattern of squiggles through the air."
    "Could we get on with the kicking of ass and taking of names, please?  Taunting's old."
    "I'm trying to explain," Lina said.  She played a hunch hard and fast, inwardly hoping it'd help her avoid trouble.  "You aren't drawing any of your power from Shaburanigdo.  It's all coming from a being called Order.  Can't you tell?  Doesn't it feel strange when you go to tap all those Mazoku specialties?"
    But Lara took direct offense.  "My father protects me," she said, cold as steel.  "You're a lying little slut, Lina Inverse."
    "Shaburanigdo's dead.  Look, Lara, you're being duped here if you think your 'father' is the one guiding you.  It's all a trick!  Order is manipulating you.  We don't have to fight; we can team up to--"
    The ordered blade slashed at the space Lina had occupied half a second ago.  Lara swiveled to face her, purest hate in her eyes.  "Shut up about my FATHER!  You can never understand him!"
    Lina gave up the argument; in this intense a fight, you can't spend time trying to debate a point like that AND defend yourself.  She parried each strike, but Lara was fast, faster than Lina could have guessed -- a few narrow escapes popped up, now and then, as she kept solid distance between themselves.
    The fight took to the air.  Lara rode on a dark Raywing, sliding through the atmosphere smooth as silk while Lina was fluttering around with her butterfly wings, movements erratic.  Lara couldn't guess where Lina would wobble off to next, and her strikes skimmed through the air, upsetting reality but not destroying her opponent; the two flew apart, losing the weapons, and started going back to conventional magic.
    But that was Lina's error.  While they were fairly even at the Laguna Blade, Lara was still a stronger opponent at straight fire tossing, ice flinging, explosions of darkness sock 'em beat up magical combat.  Before Lina could start to get some defenses up and work on a nice weapon, Lara had her whipped left and right by strands of ordered darkness; Lina span out of control, like an insect with its wings damaged, and crashed to the ground.
    Lara descended next, landing on one toe.
    "Not much, are we," she said, holding out a hand that gathered as much black light as it could grasp...
    A bar of solid white light penetrated the center of her spell, vaporizing it.
    The Knight of Shaburanigdo turned to face the meddler, and saw Gourry, Sword of Light drawn.  And backing him were Amelia and Zelgadis.
    "Ganging up on me?" Lara asked, wrapping herself in a glowing red shield.  "Fine.  It'll just--"
    She found herself staring down the barrel of a combined Ra Tilt attack from the two Shamanists, spinning like electrons around the nucleus of a Sword of Light strike.
    The Knight of Shaburanigdo went away, black lines fading into nothing as the attacks shot through her.
    Gourry immediately ran to check on Lina, while Zel and Amelia looked around, trying to make sure the target was really squished into atomic paste.  "LINA!  LIIINAAA--"
    "You don't have to yell," Lina muttered, pulling herself up.  "Ugh.  What're you guys doing here?"
    "Saving your ass, thank you," Zelgadis said.  "Be careful.  I don't think we got her."
    Lina felt around at her side.  "Wait, where's my bag?" she asked.  "I put the Lock of Order in it."
    "It's over there," Gourry said, pointing to the nice, open space where Lina's bag had fallen in the fray.
    Before any of them could reach for it, Lara burst out of the ground, chunks of rock and dirt flying as she neatly scooped up Lina's pack.  She tore the lock from it, and tossed the bag back to Lina.
    "You know, you were right," Lara said.  "Why fight?  Now, I've got all the pieces!  Lock, chain, clasps!  You'll die with the rest of them, when I burn the world!"
    Gourry, who had gotten a clue about one thing at least, spoke up.  "But that's not all the--"
    Lina silenced him with a hand over the mouth.  "You won't get away with this!" she filled in.
    "Watch me!"
    Lara readied a large attack, and.... dashed away.  South, towards the camp, towards the altar.
    "Stop her stop her!!" Lina shouted, although really, there wasn't a need.  Already, Amelia and Zelgadis were in pursuit, with Lina dragging Gourry along much slower than they could fly.
    "We've (ow) got her (oof) on the run now!" Gourry shouted, occasionally bumping his head on a rock.  "After all, you've got that key on your necklace and she doesn't!  What could possibly go wrong?"
    As if triggered, Lina's mind remembered something.  "Gourry.. the key wasn't IN Zelgadis's vision.  She can still assemble the pieces and use them!"
    "...oh.  Well, Amelia and Zel will stop her!  I mean, what ELSE could possibly--"
    "Stop SAYING that, Gourry!!"
    Too late.
    Twisting into reality from some unknown place, a wall of silver lines formed, blocking Lina from reaching the others.  She stopped running, and Gourry stabilized as well, Sword of Light at the ready.
    "This is getting old!" Lina spat.  "Out of my way!"
    Lina spread her wings as far as she could, and dove through the matrix; the natural chaos of her wings penetrating it easily.   But Gourry was an other matter.  He hurled himself at the wall, and simply bounced right off.  The Sword of Light wouldn't cut it, either, as the grid shifted to cage him...
    "Gourry!" Lina called, turning to return and help him.
    "I'm fine!" Gourry said, waving her off.  "Stop Lara!  You don't have time!"
    Lina was torn, glancing between the raging battle between Zelgadis, Amelia and Lara.. and Gourry.  But Zel and Amelia went down fast, as Lara sniped at them with magical strikes, knocking them aside while she made a beeline for the throne.. there wasn't much choice, after that.  Praying that nothing would go wrong, she used every drop of speed she could manage, and closed in.
    At the Altar of Order, Lara landed, and quickly assembled the pieces.. manacles on either arm, chain to connect them, lock to bind them.  She was operating on autopilot now, doing the motions without knowing how she knew to do them.
    A stream of golden water seeped up from the lake, drawn to the completed altar irresistibly.. flowing uphill against much force, flooding quickly into a near-human form...
    "Finally," Lara sighed, relieved.  "Lord of Nightmares, you are bound to a human as was dictated by your nemesis, and must obey my command... I wish you to destroy this world!"
    Lina plowed into Lara head first, knocking her aside.  The two girls splashed through the lake of gold and rolled to a halt on the shore, but the damage had been done.
    The human form in the chair started to take on color and shape now, that of a little girl with a curiously sad expression, socks mismatched, golden hair waving in the breeze.  She nodded to Lara, supremely disappointed.. and the earthquake began.
    Lina got to her feet, and looked around as the island started to tremble.  "Oh, come on, what now?!" she shouted.
    "Hehh... I did it, I did it!" Lara laughed, wiping some blood from her lip.  "I broke the world!"
    The shaking drew out the non-combatants from their hiding places... staying away, but curiously watching, Dayvid, Chi'Nai and Chi'Bi watched the scene.  Zelgadis and Amelia, bruised but not buried, were next; followed quickly by Gourry, who had somehow escaped his temporary trap.
    Lina grabbed Lara by what little shirt she had.  "Okay, you had your fun.  Now STOP it."
    "It's too late, don't you understand?" Lara said.  "The command has to be obeyed.  It WILL come true!  Nothing's getting out of this one!  The Mazoku have won, and so has my father!"
    The rising form of Order took his place among them.. in the form of Shaburanigdo, demon king.  A smaller and less ugly one, but...
    Lara pulled herself away from Lina's grip, and knelt at his feet.  "Father, are you proud of me?..." she looked up, hoping to see the elation in his ruby red eyes.
    But Shaburanigdo's eyes weren't red.  They were silver, quick as mercury, pure as steel.
    I AM NOT YOUR FATHER, Order replied.
    A sinking feeling, like lead into soft peat.  A horrible realization, like the first moment a noose snaps.  Lara understood.
    Order melted back into the ground, its task complete, leaving only the rapidly disintegrating island behind to mark his victory.
    "Oh... shit," Lara said quietly.
    The world was shaking.  Even from high above it, it could be easily seen; and far below, on its surface, nobody escaped the notice of it.
    Naga the Serpent was busy gutting the third Mazoku she had caught today when she first felt it.  Looked left, looked right, but didn't see any more of the beasts that could be causing this tremor.  More fighting, far away, perhaps?  The war had been winding down over the last two days, both sides seeming to have lost the spirit that originally drove them to war, but the possibility was still there...
    The ground cracked open beneath her feet, and she flew into the air, to avoid any injury... only to see entire villages be sucked under, from here to the horizon.
    Far away, in some random village in the middle of Noh Wheir, a couple was having breakfast.  Most people stayed away from them; they smelled like trouble.  They smelled like badness gone sour.
    "I think I need a shower," Angela said, sniffing herself.
    "It's one of the many social problems Mazoku have," Bugger commented, munching on his pancakes.  "Don't worry, you'll get used to it..."
    The silverware started to rattle, gently at first, then louder and louder.
    "Oh, bloody hell.  Don't tell me the war's moved over THIS pit of the world as well," he grumbled.  "Thought we came here to get away from all those morons."
    "Can't you tell what's happening?  It's in your power," Angela reminded.
    "I know, I know.  Misfortune's my game.  Let's see, if........ oh, god," Bugger said, changing his tune.  "The ULTIMATE misfortune?"
    "What's that mean?"
    Bugger looked at her seriously.
    "It means you put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye, gel," he said.  "End of the world.  But look on the bright side.  I won't be able to complain anymore."
    "You can't be serious..."
    The ground cracked beneath the restaurant, breaking the building in half.
    "Oh, bugger," he said, shortly before falling in.
    Even in the World of Dreams, some vibrations could be felt.  The population of Sailoon, as well as the population of a few other cities that had been evacuated, started to worry.
    The winged were gathered for a morning meeting at the time it started.
    "We're fine up here, right?" Myth asked, growing more nervous by the second.  "I mean.. if anything happens. Not that anything is happening."
    "Of course," Paradox said, totally confident.  "Hard reality separation.  These are just dimensional shocks.  They can't damage us."
    Love hurried into the room, pulling her dress up to keep from tripping over it.  "Something's wrong!" she shouted.  "The people are vanishing!  I just came from the city square; everybody's waking up from the World of Dreams!"
    A loud WHAM signaled Paradox falling out of his chair.
    "That's impossible!" he shouted from the floor.  "You don't 'wake up' when you're here in the flesh!  The only way is to be kicked out!"
    "That's right..."
    Darkness faded into darkness, as Xelloss teleported himself into the room.  He wasn't smiling very much.
    "I'm afraid Paradox is quite correct," he said.  "I am, indeed, ejecting every man, woman and child from the World of Dreams, and moving them back to the waking world.  Which is, yes, self destructing."
    The winged stared at him, mixes of horror, anger and fear washing over them.  Drama went as far as to draw his sword, before Xelloss dreamed it away.
    "I'm afraid that the true traitor here is myself," he said.  "I have sold all life on earth over to destruction, including you.  I hope you understand once you enter the big picture.  Goodbye."
    He banished the winged in one flick of his wrist, and had a seat.  Dream-Sailoon was empty now, and within minutes, everyone else would be gone as well.
    He turned to face an unseen figure.  "Are you certain this was required, my mistress?"
    The ghostly specter of a god nodded to him.  "It Was," she said.  "And It Will Be."
    Back on Chaos Island, Lara was starting to foam over with anger.
    "You.. you TRICKED me!" she screamed.
    Lina stepped up.  "We can still stop it, right?" she asked Lara.  "Just give the altar another command!"
    "I can't.." Lara said.  "It would have to be someone else who has touched the lock.  That's the crucial part at this point.  He... he told me, but I can't remember when..."
    "I'll do it!  I'll do it!" Lina shouted, bounding over to the altar.  "It'll be as easy as--"
    A wall of white magic split the space between Lina and the Altar.  She blinked in surprise, not sure who could have placed it here, and cut through with a swath of black magic... it healed itself instantly.
    The others joined Lina, in confusion.
    "I'm lost," Gourry said.  "Could someone tell me who to attack now?"
    "I didn't put that there," Lara said.
    "There's a strong power near..." Amelia said, looking around...
    A figure formed out of mist and vapors, on the other side of the shield.  A smiling figure.
    "Hiya, sis," she said.
    "Lu-LUNA?!" Lina gasped.
    "Here just in time," she said, adjusting her apron, and turning to face the altar.  By now, the figure bound there was clearly a small girl, the Lord of Nightmares in some human form... Luna smiled to the girl.  "Got sidetracked, but I got one more thing to do.  To save you all."
    "Sis?  Take down this shield, okay?.... what're you doing?" Lina asked.
    "Ceipheed's will," Luna explained, resting a hand on the little girl's arm.  "I gotta command for ya, Lord of Nightmares.  Preserve the life of this world.  Preserve all of it even after the destruction.  I order."
    The Lord of Nightmares-icon flashed golden, the command obeyed.
    "That's great, sis!" Lina smiled.
    But the shaking of the island didn't stop.
    "I don't think we're out of trouble yet," Zel said, stating the obvious.
    Luna turned, to face the group.  "Oh, can't stop the world from ending... but it's okay.  All life will be preserved.  The Dragon creed, Ceipheed's will.  Even after death everybody will live on."
    Lina's look turned to confusion... and she saw Order again, this time in the form of a great Dragon, a shimmering outline behind Luna, behind the altar.
    "He got you too..." Lina said, realizing.
    Gourry pulled Lina away from the shield of white magic.  "Time to go," he said, running and leading her on.. the rest of the group also running, taking to the air if they could.  The area where they stood collapsed, sank into nothingness as the final crumbling began.
    Zel and Amelia took to flight, carrying along Chi'Nai and Dayvid respectively; even Lara had joined them, holding a shrieking and panicking Chi'Bi by the back of his shirt.  Lina kept Gourry aloft, as the ground beneath them started to... go away, to nowhere, a blank void beneath them.
    "We can't fly forever!" Amelia shouted.  "Where can we land?"
    "There isn't anywhere to land!" Lara replied.  "Don't you see?  I broke the world, dammit!  That means it's over!"
    The group felt that they were descending... but descending into what?  Nothing was around them, nothing at all...
    "Gourry, hold on!  Quit squirming!" Lina said, tempted to kick him, but realistically wanting him never to let go.  "We can go to the World of Dreams!  I've got the power to take us..."
    But when Lina probed the membrane between the dreaming and the waking world, all she felt was battleship steel.  She was blocked.
    "We're stuck," she said aloud.
    The light around them started to fade.  Amelia and Dayvid, who were the farthest down, let out a confused cry and vanished completely... Lara seemed almost to give up, her spell weakening, dropping into whatever oblivion lie below.
    Zelgadis... Zelgadis was almost peaceful, in a state of confusion.  The universe was silent, as he turned to Lina, and reflected.
    "It's funny, but... all I'm really upset about is that I couldn't keep my promise to Chi'Leas to make the chimeras human," he said, voice a pale echo in the void.
    Finally, the nothingness, the total order of zero consumed the whole group... Lina felt it go, her grip still iron hard on Gourry but fading through... and at the last second, as if pulled by a bungee cord a thousand miles long, that battleship steel that had kept her out of the dream opened, and a hand pulled her through.
    And then, silence.  Oblivion.
    The world had ended.
Story copyright 1998 Stefan Gagne, characters copyright H. Kanzaka / R. Araizumi.
A Spoof Chase Production.