Wizards are easy to spot at large social occasions; they blend into the wallpaper, mumble to themselves and have difficulty approaching the opposite sex. Sometimes they'll try to impress people with minor acts of magic, flashy tricks that arouse oos and aas but don't get them hooked up for the night. Power is sexy, but only to a point.
However, when a large group consisting entirely of sorcerers is the norm for a party, anything goes. There's no need to impress others (well, more than sorcerers normally do), no need to make annoying smalltalk with laymen, just a bunch of similar minded folks getting down with their bad selves and dancing to something not quite entirely unlike the rhythm of the music. Fortunately, the music was being supplied by Mystical Marvin and his All Telekinesis Driven Band, so there wasn't much chance of all the instruments playing the same harmony, much less at the same beat.
Lina, who naturally was outgoing and friendly, was
amplified even moreso when the party rolled around and she dragged a semireluctant
pair of Gourry and Zelgadis along with her. The normally slightly
hyperactive sorceress turned into the human superball as the night progressed.
"WEEEEEEHOOOOO!!!!" Lina intellectually commented in daring critique, taking a moment aside from the dance floor with her two escorts (who had yet to actually venture into the fray). "Now, this is my kind of crowd! And did you see the size of that buffet table?!"
"I almost did, before it disappeared down your throat," Zelgadis dryly commented.
"This punch tastes funny," Gourry wetly commented. "What's in it?"
Zelgadis swished some in his mouth, thinking. "Water, apple juice, cranberry juice, fructose syrup, corn starch, sucrose extract, various sweeteners and vodka."
"Oh," Gourry nodded, understanding all of that. "What's vodka?"
"Who cares? It's a PARTY!" Lina cheered. (Considering how her skin was quickly approaching a nice shade of red, she had sampled the fructose syrup a few times by that point.) "C'mon, Gourry, let's dance!!"
"Okay," Gourry nodded. Then his brain caught up with him. "Whoa, wait. I don't know how t--"
Lina had already grabbed his arm and by laws of party physics, was able to haul a body 4/3rds her size and weight onto the dance floor effortlessly. Gourry stared as the dozens of magicians grooving in neat costumes in absolute fright, like a deer pinned in torchlights, while Lina started to hop around to one of the beats.
"It's easy!" she encouraged him. "Don't just stand there, move!"
"Where do you want me to move to?" Gourry asked in a small, terrified voice.
"Move your body around, like this! Shake your booty, dammit!"
"But you don't have any booty to shake," Gourry noted honestly.
Lina fumed. "FIREBALL!!!" she chanted / yelled, lobbing a tiny (but effective) blast of flames at Gourry's feet.
He jumped out of the way to dodge, landing on one foot. "Yaaa! Lina, be careful!"
"Dance, Gourry!" she laughed manically, flicking a half dozen more marble-sized fireballs his way. Soon Gourry was playing the age old game of 'get funky or be burned alive', and playing it well. A few drunken wizards laughed and enjoyed the show while Gourry tried to convince his heart not to seize.
"OI! LINA INVERSE!!" a voice boomed from within the crowd.
Pausing, Lina turned to see a thug (who technically had gone to school for three years to be a goon) shoving his way through the throng. He stood resolutely in front of her, a couple heads taller.
"Ne, did you call me?" Lina asked.
"Damn well I did!" he spat. "You've got no right treating Gourry that way! Now cut it out before I turn you over my knee and spank you, you underdeveloped brat!"
A wiiiide circle was formed around the goon, most wizards knowing the blast range of any number of black magic attacks by heart.
"Oi... oi!" Gourry interrupted, waving his hands. "I'm fine, really! There's no need for this--"
"WHAT did you call me?" Lina inquired.
"You heard me, kid!" the goon snarled quite menacingly. "Now you behave yourself and quit picking on him or I'll send you crying home to mommy with--"
Very few people have the rare treat of witnessing an indoor lightning storm. In Hampton's Book of Freak Weather Conditions, it ranks in rarity somewhere between ball lightning and showers of frogs. However, always one to buck the odds, Lina whipped one up right there on the spot, pumping a fair number of volts into the goon and a few others who had the unfortunate mispleasure of being nearby. After the shock wave had passed, a few twitching, smoking forms littered the dance floor, leaving Lina looking satisfied.
"Much better," she smiled. "So! Let's party!"
The wizards stared in relative shock.
"Oi! I said, LET'S PARTY!" Lina demanded. And judging from the previous scene, nobody was about to argue. Servants hustled the victims off to the infirmary and everybody went back to dancing, socializing and getting completely drunk, and all was well. Nodding, as things resumed normality, Lina went back to her table, Gourry in tow.
Sitting where they had left him, Zelgadis observed Lina's approach, sipping his punch. When they arrived, he spoke. "So, did you have fun, Lina?"
"Other than that little interruption, sure," Lina grinned. "They're gonna have Karoke later. You should try singing, Zel-kun! It's fun!"
"No," Zelgadis said, putting his cup down and standing. "I'm leaving."
With that, he weaved through the crowd at an ordinary pace, and disappeared through the door marked EXIT.
"Anooo..." Gourry started, looking up from patting out small fires in his clothing, "What's gotten into him?"
The night air was still and calm, compared to the roaring fiasco indoors.
Zelgadis leaned against the railing of the balcony, taking a deep breath. Studying the moon. Listening to crickets chirp, listening to the faint music drifting through the doorway. It was almost like a different world out here, compared to the madcap antics he had witnessed over the weekend. Out here was just the rest of Sailoon, loaded with civilians. A relaxing thought.
He knew immediately whose shadow was cast through the doorway, interrupting his thoughts.
"Hello, Lina," he nodded, without turning around.
"You're missing the fun, Zel-kun," Lina said. "Come on, let's go back in."
"I'm not in a partying mood," he replied. "Should've listened to me when I said I wasn't much for this sort of thing. Sorry I put a damper on your good time..."
"Eh, it's fine," Lina smiled, walking over and hopping onto the railing, having a seat.
Zel backed up a step. "Careful. You could fall there. It's only one story, but that's enough to break your neck."
"Always a pessimist!" Lina laughed, rocking on her precarious perch.
"A realist," Zelgadis noted, folding his arms. "Don't you ever worry about anything?"
"Not if I don't have to," Lina shrugged. "I don't see the reason to panic about every little thing."
"Not panicking. That's worrying too much," Zelgadis said. "I'm talking about basic concerning. You never bother with that."
The boy opened his mouth to speak.. then closed it, and shook his head. "Nevermind. I'm going to head to my room for the night, Lina. Later."
"Whoa, hold up," Lina protested, hopping down from the railing. "What's on your mind? You've got one of those 'I'm Thinking Really Deep Thoughts But Don't Want To Share Them' looks. I can read it like a book."
"You wouldn't be interested in what I have to say. And I don't want to offend you."
"Awww, come on!" Lina pouted. "Try me. I won't bite."
"Biting I could handle..." Zel mused. He sighed, and gave in. "You really annoy me sometimes, Lina."
"Eh?" Lina asked, surprised. "Me, annoying?"
"Not annoying, exactly.." he continued, trying to piece together his thoughts into words. "Just.. frustrate? Maybe that's it. Let's take stock.."
Lina nodded. "Go on."
"I'll use this weekend as a case example," Zel continued. "During this convention, you blew up a city block, electrocuted a few people, raised a roof or two, shot fire at Gourry--"
"What, that?" she laughed. "Come ON, Zel--"
"How old are you, Lina?" Zel broke in with.
Lina considered. "Welll... I'm going to be eighteen in a month or so. Boy! It's been, what, three years since I bumped into you first? Heh. I-"
"You act like you're twelve," Zelgadis said. "Like a kid."
"Hey! I am NOT--"
"Yes, you are. I'm telling you that to your face. Are you going to blow me up now?"
Lina got quiet.
Zelgadis looked up a bit, studying the night sky. "All your life, or at least the parts I've seen and I have yet to see any evidence to the contrary, you've done things that seem like a good idea at the time. Trying not to bother with messy cause and effect if you can avoid it. And each time, you.. get away with it. Things get messy, but you manage to get serious just in time, and eventually everything's fine despite it all. Like you were born under a lucky star. You follow?"
"I follow," Lina nodded, regaining her footing in the conversation. "Okaaaay... so... maybe I'm a LITTLE irresponsible. But what does it matter? I'm young yet, and there's so much to do in life! Things to learn, places to see, food to eat, and so on! And like you said, I'm lucky. Even when things get really dangerous it's all good in the end. What do you want me to do? Constantly freak out and worry?"
"I didn't say that."
"You implied it."
"No, I didn't," Zel denied. "I'm not good at expressing this sort of thing... look.. I'm just warning you, okay? Watch it. I acted a bit like you once, when I was younger. Always wanted to be stronger, to do things my way, be the best."
"Well, good for you! If--"
"So I made a deal with Rezo to be stronger, figuring it couldn't hurt, and now I'm a chimera instead of a human," he finished.
"...oh," Lina said, her train of thought derailed.
A pause held over the two of them, Lina muddling over that for a bit. The crickets continued to chirp.
"I don't want you to think I hate you," Zelgadis said. "I guess there's nothing innately wrong with living carefree. I'm simply worried there'll come a time when the other shoe is gonna drop, and you won't be ready for it. Not in the slightest."
Lina considered this, in quiet shock. "Well, that's.. that's very caring of you, Zel-kun."
"I don't care about you," Zel quickly said. "I'm just making an observation, because you asked me to. And now I'm going to my room to think and to sleep."
Zelgadis turned and headed for the door, quietly. And was stopped with a hand on his shoulder.
"No, you aren't," Lina said. "Let's go back in."
"I'd rather not."
Lina smiled. "You're the one saying I need to think more about what I'm doing, right? Well, I think you need a good time whether you admit it or not. Those folks don't care if you're a chimera, and we're all friends. It's the best opportunity. So, in your own interest, I hereby order you to try and have some well-deserved fun."
"And if I refuse?"
"I might blow you up, ne?" she joked.
Zelgadis managed a smile.
"I suppose if I must," he agreed.
"Thaaat's more like it. Ne, you really do worry too much, Zel-kun. Now's not the time for that sort of thing," Lina said. "It's just a convention! What could possibly go wrong?"
Thunder immediately tore across the sky like a hammer blow of the gods, a fork of lightning stabbing through the heart of an ancient oak tree sitting in the courtyard of the inn. The tree split down the middle, crashing to the ground loudly, splintered wood tossed for yards around. The echo rumbled across the land ominously, carried across the tallest mountains and the lowest valleys...
"Lina, you can let go of my head now," Zel said, muffled by the spooked sorceress that was clinging to him.
Lamps were lit all around the inn, as the party raged on into the night. Eventually, all sane people (like the staff) had gone to bed; only a few straggling wizards remained to enjoy drinks, more bad music, and atmosphere. Zel, still refusing to admit he was having a good time, went up to his room a few minutes before; Lina could tell, though, that he at least had an enjoyable time, if not a thrilling delight a minute amusement blast-o-rama. But...
"Ne, Gourry, do you think I abuse you?"
The swordsman looked up from the paper dolls he was trimming out of a set of napkins out of boredom. "Eh?"
"Like that guy was going on about," Lina said. "Kept babbling about.. well, a lot of objectionable things, but how I shouldn't, you know, fry you and stuff."
"Oh, I don't mind," Gourry said. "You haven't killed me yet!"
"Night's still young," Lina grinned evilly.
Gourry cowered slightly.
"Joke, joke!" Lina laughed. "Relax. Hey, want to go on a little adventure?"
"Actually... yeah, I'd like to," Gourry said. "I really haven't had much to do around here. What's up? A bandit tribe outside of town?"
"No, we're going to defeat the inn's security and get a look at that mirror," Lina beamed.
"I see. So, we're-- WHAT?!"
"Like I said. Ten minutes? Feh!" Lina fehed. "Silverquick's book is gone, and all we have is the product of his genius. That's not much, but if I have a few hours to study it, maybe I figure out how it was made. Of course, to do that, we'll need to sneak into the room they're holding it in."
"Lina, is that such a good idea? I mean, what if we get caught?"
"Oh, that's easy. I'll just say a lecherous older man tricked my poor, innocent self into doing it."
"Ah! Brilliant! Ano.. what older man?"
"You, of course."
"Oh. Uh. Okay."
Security actually wasn't much of a problem. There were two guards posted outside the door, which Lina cast a sleep spell on from afar. They cuddled up adorably on either side of the portal, allowing Lina and Gourry to walk right in; and get caught by the guard who was INSIDE the room. Lina tried to seduce him into letting them in with a honed Kawaii, Innocent and Vulnerable act, and when that clearly failed, simply bonked him over the head and continued along.
"What IS all this stuff?" Gourry asked, poking at the various altars, statues and display cases around the room.
Lina pulled some white sheets off of various objects, looking for the mirror. "It's the Artifact Display Room. Sort of a showcase for the state of the art in magic... wow, they have an iconograph!" She took the small box with a circular hole in the front off its display pedestal, and aimed it at Gourry. "Smile!"
"AAAAARGHH! I'm blind!!" Gourry screamed, falling to his knees and scrabbling at his eyes. "Oh, god!!"
Lina pulled a slip of paper out from the machine, and put it back. "Wow, they weren't kidding. The light spell in these things is really powerful... ne, look, look!"
"I can't! My eyes have been burned out of their sockets!"
"No, you just have to open them."
"Eh?" Gourry asked, blinking a few times. "Oh.. I see. I mean, I can see now. Whoa! That's me!" he exclaimed, taking the picture of a very shocked Gourry from Lina's hands.
"Yeah, it's a magical-image-making-box. Woodcut artists will be out of a job in five years, mark my words," Lina grinned.
"It also makes a great weapon!" Gourry observed.
There was also an amazing stick which could project a lead ball hundreds of yards by detonating a small amount of black powder, complete with an attached device with a set of glass circles that let you see for hundreds of yards and project a tiny red dot from a focused light spell where you aimed.
"I don't get it. Why would you want to throw a little ball that far?" Gourry asked.
"Maybe it's a new kind of marbles game."
Next to that was an amazing box which could do mathematics when you pushed number-buttons on it and pulled a handle, writing the answer on a strip of tape with magical ink.
"Hmmm... 2 + 2 - 56 / 12.4. What's it say the answer is?" Lina asked, poking buttons.
"(100 * 34) + 12?"
"121 raised to the power of nine?"
"...three plus three?"
"Uh, it's just giving me a little 'E'."
"Needs work, I think."
A large oblong box with six sides sat next to that. It had a number of rubber tubes going in and out of the box, and a lid with three hinges. Inside was a small farm animal and a set of bells, attaches to several levers on the outside with circular grips. The sign in front of it simply read 'MARITAL AID'.
"Isn't Marital Arts that fighting form they practice off in the east or something?" Gourry asked.
"No, it's... yes. Yes it is, Gourry."
Nearby was an amazing wooden barrel with an internal, perpetually driven whirlwind. A long tube was hooked up to it which could suck anything up if you turned on the handle. It could roll around on little wheels that could handle rugs, carpet, wood or cement. The sign read 'DIRT DEVIL.'
"I hope there really isn't a devil in there. That'd be dangerous," Gourry said. "Um.. what is it we're here to see again?"
"Oh. Is that it?" Gourry said, pointing to a drape-covered object that stretched from floor to ceiling and had a large sign on it reading 'THE MIRROR'.
"..." Lina agreed.