SLAYERS REFLECT #10 : Through a Reflection Darkly
By Stefan Gagne, Spoof Chase Productions.

amned if he was going to let a solid investment go bad, Howard D. LaHeffer developed what will go down in history as the ultimate vacation resort and condominium complex the world has ever seen.  He spared no expense, developing leafy green palm trees in neat rows along the main strip, constructing hotels, casinos, swimming pools, every modern convenience, every form of entertainment.  He hired a crack team of magicians to develop persistent colored lighting spells, shaped into signs and lampposts, so that the whole island glittered like a gem in the twilight sky.  He advertised through the whole free world, air-dropping leaflets inviting one and all to come and enjoy a luxurious weekend of fantasy, fun and adventure.  But the one thing he didn't do was rename the island from what the original owners called it.
    Not that simply renaming the place would have changed the key problem.  Names tend to shape what they're attached to after centuries, especially very dramatic names.  The Island of Ultimate Despair, then, despite having a resort stapled to its shores, still had the foreboding black Mountain of Agony and Peak of Despair, in which you had the Caves of Gloom and the Pools of Insanity, and of course the Volcano of Untimely Future Erruption.
    Howard made sure not to label these things on the map and clearly mark them off limits, but the aura of despair maintains.  People lose fortunes in gambling.  Relationships break up.  Sudden, swift, and above all highly nasty accidents occur in motel showers.  And generally, you may have a fun time on your first day there, but you can bet your life -- literally -- that your stay won't end on that note.
    Not that any of this mattered to the one who called herself Lina Inverse (when she felt she had enough of a grasp on who she wanted to be to use that name).  She already had the next few days planned out perfectly in her mind.  She felt she already had experienced them; this was just the echo of the dream, the retracting of steps, like going over a highlight reel.
    Nobody else on the midnight ferry would sit near her.  She carried her marble-thrower and her recently acquired Sword of Light in her lap, in case anybody reached out and grabbed her right there so she could kill them, but none of them had tried so far.  So far.  They wouldn't, not in her future-memory, anyway.  She had her plan.  She had her tools.
    She had her book.  She had misplaced it for a day, searching in a panic, but it turned up again.  Other than that, it was her constant companion through the trip, reading, rereading, over and over.
    All the text was backwards, but Lina didn't notice until the third time she had read through the seroL rorriM.  It didn't matter, she could chant them the right way around when the time had come.  Came.
    She experimented with a hand mirror, just a slight Oracle Burst to see if it worked.  It had been years since she last cast a magic spell; she had forgotten how wonderful it could be.  Joy filled her, power filled her, such sweet power she hadn't felt since white magic, black magic, shamanism, her three tools, all burned and torn from her by the darkness which...
    But that was behind her and yet to come.
    For now, she smiled.  Lina was going to love this.  Lina was going to show that other Lina, the dream-Lina, just what was supposed to happen to her.  Everything was going to be okay.
    'Everything is going to be okay, if you follow the plan I gave you,' a voice in her head spoke.
    Lina grabbed her ears.  "Shuttup!!"
    But it wasn't really a voice, she just was remembering what the strange man told her.  It made sense.  She didn't trust him.  He smiled so much.  But it made sense.  She would consider doing things that way.  They would lead her where she wanted to go, she saw that.  It would be okay.  It was all going to be okay...
    Tensing, relaxing, Lina calmed.  Okay.
    The next day, travelers arrive at the Island, in small groups.  They arrive from the public docks, they arrive by ferry.  Most of them are here to lose their entire life's savings on Roulette, Poker, Guess the Ferret, Rock Paper Scissors and the ever popular How Many Fingers Am I Holding Up.*  They wander, laughing and thinking about good fortunes and good times, to various hotel/casinos.
    The sunset ferry rolls into place after most people are already busy getting drunk and poor.  A horsedrawn coach that has clearly seen better days totters down the ramp, and onto the streets of fabulous Despair City.
    Up top, Lily and Gourry were sitting, driving the coach.  Since the horses had insisted on trying to go in opposite directions at different speeds for the last few days, Lily had taken to keeping a mild Enhance Calm spell on them.  Now they rode straight and true, if a bit slowly, to stop and smell the roses every now and then.
    "Boy, this city is pretty cool," Gourry commented, watching the magically lit streets as they clop-clopped on through.  "This must have cost a lot of money."
    "I.. I don't like this place," Lily said.  "It's too cold."
    "Huh?  It's pretty warm.."
    "I don't mean cold like temperature," Lily said.  "It... FEELS cold.  Wrong."
    "Don't worry, Lily-san," Gourry smiled.  "We'll be out of here once we meet our friends and Lina masters those mirror things enough to finish up our quest."
    Inside, Lina was grumbling.
    "I don't get it," she said, shaking her hand mirror.  "I can't see my future.  I've cast this silly Oracle Burst spell like sixteen times, and each time I just get static..."
    Naga, who was busy admiring herself in her own mirror, primped her hair a little.  "Now now, Lina.  Practice makes perfect.  I, on the other hand, have successfully seen my own future using these wonderful Mirror Lores!  I am to be a valiant and beautiful sorceress all the world will appreciate as my deeds are heralded across the land!  OOHHOOHOHOHOHO!!"
    It took a lot of bickering and arguing, but in the end, Lina did cave and gave Naga access to the book of Mirror Lores.  After all, Naga couldn't really do anything dangerous with them without that water -- the stuff Zelgadis likely had with him at this moment.  Lina did make sure to warn Naga never, ever, ever, ever to break a mirror unless she wanted seven years of something much nastier than bad luck -- Lina's anger.
    Generally, the Mirror Lores didn't seem very useful.  Lina, who was used to spells that blew things up (because frankly, that's what most spells she knew did) regarded the mirror spells as utilities, mostly.  Really well done utilities, neat tricks, probably useful when you're trying to look at the stream of time, but beyond that not the amazingly dangerous things that.. well, there were some dangers involved.  But not world-shattering, earth-quaking, flood-the-land-with-evil sort of dangers, she figured.
    Still, having Naga succeed at using the spells when she couldn't was very... irking.
    "How are YOU getting it to cast and not me?" Lina asked.
    "Simple.  You're using the wrong spell!" Naga said, pointing to a passage in the open book between them.  "Use that 'Optimum Vision' spell."
    "Nagaaa!  That's not your future, it's just what you think the best you should be!  I think."
    "Exactly.  That IS my future!  OOHHOOHOHHOO!"
    Resisting the urge to smack her was harder than Lina realized.  "Did you at least TRY the Oracle Burst spell?"
    "Yes, but it was just some boring stuff," Naga said.  "This is much better."
    Curious, Lina changed gears, and dropped a temporary Optimum Vision enchantment on her own mirror.  It took a little while for the spell to replace the previous one on the mirror.  It made sense, she supposed, that she couldn't see her future; Silverquick mentioned in his notes that he couldn't either, and he was a master of this magic.  It was still very disquieting, though.  If...
    Lina looked at the image in her mirror in surprise.
    Her image looked back her in equal surprise... gave a little smile, gave a little shrug, and faded away.
    "Ne, what's that?" Naga asked, peeking over Lina's shoulder.
    Lina Inverse quickly removed the enchantment, returning the mirror to reflecting her own face.  "Nothing.  I can't get these silly things to work right," she said.
    With the sun rapidly setting and no sign of the rest of the gang, Lina suggested that her group take a tactical retreat to a strategic outpost that had proven a successful haven in numerous encounters before.  Namely, that they go get something to eat.
    If there was one thing this island had enough of, it was restaurants; streets were lined with them, to the point where the smell of delicious food cooking over a hundred stoves was reaching critical mass.  Lina practically floated, dragged along in delight of aroma.
    "Mmmmmmmmm..." Lina said, wafting along.  "Food.  Good food.  GORMET food!  I haven't had a meal this good in weeks!"
    "Ano, but you haven't eaten anything yet," Gourry said.
    "By this smell, I can tell that when I DO eat, it'll be something special," Lina explained.  "So!  Where would you guys like to-- Oooh!  There's a Saileese takeout place over there!  Let's go!"
    The others weren't quite so enthusiastic.
    "Shouldn't we be finding the others?" Gourry asked.  "I mean, I know we arranged to meet here, but meet WHERE here?"
    "And I'm not one for Sailoon's food," Naga added.  "The spices and flavorings are too weak and the soups too runny."
    "...I'm not really hungry..." Lily said quietly.
    "Well, *I* am going there.  You guys can eat where you'd like.  More for me!" Lina reasoned -- or rather, a puff of smoke shaped like Lina did, as she was already halfway down the street by the time the sound arrived in their ears.
    "Oh, alright, if you insist," Naga sighed dramatically.  "Come along, everybody."
    Walking along, taking his time, Gourry tagged along with Naga.  "You know, she always perks up around food, even when she's really sulky.  Why is that?"
    "A road-wise sorceress knows always to eat big at dinnertime, because you don't know when your next meal may be," Naga recited.
    "Good nutrition helps magic," Lily said, feeling she should say something.
    "Uh... but she eats all the time," Gourry replied.  "How is that good nutrition or not knowing when your next meal may be?"
    "Exactly!" Naga said, as if that answered everything.  (Sometimes, Naga's dialogue didn't exactly correspond to reality as others saw it.)
    Gourry had trouble trying to parse that, but wrote it off and continued.  "I'm actually kinda glad she's getting some good dinner to cheer herself up.  Is it just me, or has she been moody lately?  I mean, I'm not a smart man, but I can tell some things."
    "You know... quiet.. doesn't seem too thrilled.. spends a lot of time thinking.. hasn't hit me in days.."
    "I just mean... well, what I MEAN is... I don't know what I mean," Gourry said.  "But I'm sure I mean something."
    "Ah," Naga said, nodding.
    Gourry nodded, and opened the door for the women, because a gentleman is supposed to do that sort of thing.
    Through the door he could see Lina reading the menu, conveniently stapled to a wall near the door.  Then someone in a cloak stepped behind her.
    "I mean to kill you, Lina Inverse!!" the figure proclaimed.
    Gourry was in the door and had his temporary replacement sword he bought a day ago out and yanked the man away from Lina placing the blade at his neck in less than a half a second, tops.
    The priest at swordpoint smiled nervously at Gourry.  "I was only kidding."
    "Lina-san!!  Gourry-san!" Amelia called from a nearby table, waving a chicken leg at the group.  "Hieeee!  Ano, Xelloss, quit clowning around."
    Xelloss blurred slightly and appeared next to Gourry, away from the sword.  "No hard feelings," he said.
    " then we got sucked into this hole in time or something and ended up in the future!  And it was really bright and neat looking and everybody was so nice, but apparently something was pretty wrong with it because Zelgadis and a bunch of military guys blew the place up before we left--"
    "Something was very wrong with it, yes," Zelgadis interrupted.
    "--and before that we went to this REALLY FUN PLACE with all these waterslides and it was really cool except we blew that place up too, but Zelgadis got this water stuff so I guess we got what we came for and before that we got attacked by pirate hunters who really were pretty strange and didn't have the right idea about justice and oh by the way this is Dayvid and he runs the ship we were traveling on say hi to Lina-san Dayvid!"
    "...hi?" Dayvid managed, a bit stunned.
    "An.. interesting story," Lina said.  "Especially the way you told it backwards and summarized so I couldn't understand any of it."
    Amelia took this as a compliment, smiling widely.  "So!  How was your quest?"
    "Welll, first we broke down in the middle of Noh Wheir, then we got jumped by a bunch of bandits who practically were zombies," Lina started.  "Lily here was healing them as fast as we could tear them apart.  Say hi, Lily."
    "um, hi," Lily said.
    "Then we went off to Evilania, where I got drugged and we had to take out a Mazoku with a bad attitude and no brains," Lina continued.  "We visited the Great Library, did a couple standard trials of worthiness, took out the Mazoku guy AGAIN for good this time and made off with the Mirror Lores.  After that we hightailed it across the country, paused to study magic and party, hopped a ferry and here we are."
    "Sounds fun," Xelloss smiled.  "Perhaps you should write a book of legend.  'The Ballad of Lina Inverse and the Journey of a Thousand Reflections' springs to mind.  I, of course, would play a major part."
    "And what part would that be?" Zelgadis asked, eyeing the priest.
    "That is a secret," Xelloss winked.
    "I'm no writer," Lina said.  "Besides, it wasn't much of a quest.  The Mirror Lores are interesting, but once I get Sailoon's mirror back together, I probably won't bother with them much."
    "So what now?" Amelia asked.  "What what huh huh what?"
    " had a lot of sugar today, didn't you?" Lina asked.
    "No, why?"
    "Ah... um.  As for what now, we all get a decent night's sleep away from monsters and madmen, Zelgadis and I take the stuff we've collected and make that silly mirror, then maybe Dayvid can give us all a lift back to Sailoon.  Then... it's over."
    "Then what?" Amelia insisted.
    "Then.. nothing," Lina said.  "That's it.  Finis.  Quest over.  We win."
    "Awww.." Amelia frowned.  "I was hoping there'd be more."
    "It's no big deal," Lina replied.  "I could think of worse ways to polish off a round of adventuring.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I could use some rest.  There's an inn over this place, right?"
    "We've been staying there," Zelgadis answered.  "Plenty of free rooms."
    "Great," Lina smiled.  "Cheer up, gang!  Everything's coming up sunny."
    The young sorceress departed, paying the innkeep for her share of the food and for a night's rental on a room, and going upstairs.
    "Anooo..." Gourry said, poking at Lina's plate.  "She didn't finish her dinner."
    "More for me!" Naga smiled, rapidly transferring grub.
    "But she ALWAYS finishes her dinner," Gourry said.
    Rising, Zelgadis dabbed at his mouth with a napkin, and made a suggestion.  "We should probably get some rest too.  It's been a long day.  Dayvid, I know we just bought passage to the Island of Ultimate Despair, but can we charter it for a trip to Sailoon too?"
    "Uh, sure thing," Dayvid said.  "I'm going that way anyways."
    "Then it's all settled," Zel said, stretching.  "The end of another successful journey.  Of sorts."
Click to continue...
Story copyright 1998 Stefan Gagne, characters copyright H. Kanzaka / R. Araizumi.
A Spoof Chase Production.
* blatant Mafia! joke. I hope the movie is as funny as it looks.