literally was nowhere. He felt nothing, saw nothing.
He had no body. His mind did not float detached; it simply existed,
somehow, in a limbo. He wasn't enjoying it.
Then, with a rushing sense of speed, but no wind,
no wind whatsoever--
He landed on a grassy knoll, at the pausing moment
of midnight. The stars did not rotate in the sky; he couldn't see
them move under normal circumstances regardless, but somehow, he knew they
were held at this time.
Getting to his feet quickly, he looked around for
Xelloss. "I should've known it was you," he said, to the night air.
"You turn up like a bad penny."
A bad penny dropped from the sky, bouncing a few
times before coming up heads. A copper Xelloss formed out of the
disc, smiling. "Indeed I do. But as usual, I'm here to help
"Help?" Zelgadis said, ignoring the tricks.
"Every time you show up, things get worse. Either you're selectively
leading us down the road to danger, or deliberately fouling things up...
and once, if I have to remind you, you practically sold Lina out to the
Xelloss popped up right in Zelgadis's face, eyes
all huge and cute. "Awww, Zel-kun! That's so mean! Don't
things always get so interesting when I'm around, too?"
Zelgadis crossed his arms, frowning. "Define
"Amusing to me, of course. Entertaining."
"Then yes, they do."
"And keep in mind all those times I helped you folks
out," Xelloss reminded, floating over to one side. "I gave Lina those
nice talismans she needed to control stronger magics. I helped you
find your way to the Hellmaster once. And why, just tonight, I managed
to save both Lina and Gourry from being killed in their sleep. Isn't
that nice of me? Huh? Isn't it?"
"Poor things. They were too snoozy-woozy to
notice people attempting to assassinate or kidnap them," Xelloss said,
shaking his head in dismay. "Fortunately for them, I've got this
nice new spell."
"Which is?" Zelgadis asked, sick of supplying straight
"Ah. That is a secret, afraid."
"It wasn't a request."
Xelloss went tisk-tisk. Smiled. "Quite
violent, aren't we? You couldn't handle Giga's lores, regardless,
so I see no need to tell you. Let's just say that if the Mirror Lores
are as powerful as this, they'd be quite a prize indeed."
"In it for personal gain, I see."
"Yes, but that's besides the point," Xelloss said.
"No reason we can't spread the wealth. I gave you nice people the
location of Silverquick's home, a place you had no chance of finding alone
-- I help you, you help me, see? Silverquick locked the spell to
keep Mazoku out, for some reason. You know what? I think he
didn't like us very much."
"Gee, I can't think of a reason why..."
"So, I gave you all those absurd little 'maps' with
the spell on them, then sent Melvin home and took his place so I could
come with you the moment you got back," Xelloss explained. "And that
was the grand plan. Finis, sum total, the whole shebang. Except,
of course, I'm no actor. I admit that, I'm really quite humble.
Does it matter, in the end? Of course not! Because regardless
of WHO I am to you, I'm still one thing..."
"Which is?" Zelgadis said, REALLY getting sick of
supplying straight lines.
Xelloss appeared at Zel's other side, wearing identical
robes to him and identical skin pigments. He wrapped a friendly arm
over Zel's shoulders, a friendly smile on his face. "Your partner
in this affair, of course! I'm your helper, your minion, your pilot,
your contracted expert system. I'll be your tour guide slave to the
stars. We're a team! You, me, Lina, and the whole fat lot of
them. Just think what fun it will be!"
Zel impolitely nudged Xelloss aside. "No dice."
"Awwww," Xelloss said. He shifted back to
his normal priestly robes, and paced, thinking. "Here I go telling
you more than you really need to know, out of the goodness of my heart--"
"--and you're so disagreeable. I know!
Let's ask Lina-chan for her opinion. How about it?"
"Lina's leagues away."
"Actually, we're standing in the middle of her dream,"
Xelloss said. "Or what will be it. She's just bedding down
about now after a rather exhausting little brawl in the middle of Noh Wheir,
which happened to start off on this very spot. You see the hill over
Zelgadis turned to look, and spotted the unimpressive
mound of dirt and grass. "What about it?"
"Keep your eye on the hill," Xelloss smiled, positioning
himself behind Zelgadis to watch over his shoulder. He munched from
a bag of popcorn as well. "The fun's about to begin."
Lina hadn't been asleep for five minutes when she
had her first nightmare.
This time around, she came prepared. She had
always been taught as a little girl, by her sister, that dreams will go
away once you realize what's going on. Being a smart girl, she remembered
that, and decided it was high time to apply it here.
"You can go away now, I know it's all just a bunch
of symbolic images drudged up by my cerebral whatsimajigger," Lina said
proudly. "Thank you for playing."
But the midnight drenched hillside did not go away.
"No, really, I mean it," she continued. "It's
okay. I know, I met 'the worst within' tonight, just like my other
dreams said. It's okay, I recognize it now, everything's fine."
The night refused to respond.
"HELLO? Are you deaf?!" Lina yelled, hopping
up and down, waving her arms. "Bring on the orange penguins and other
normal dream stuff!"
A snigger followed.
"Quit that," Lina mumbled.
The snigger flowed into a chuckle. A particularly
nasty little laugh, not a laugh of amusement; a laugh that lets you know
that you are the one being laughed at.
"Oi! Can it!" Lina demanded, stamping her
foot. There was a crunching sound -- she looked down out of instinct,
and caught the hand mirror she had just stepped on, her own face reflected
in the dozens of shards, broken up in jagged edges, the dead white hair
staring back at her, a laughing face --
Grunting, Lina forced herself to look away, only
to see a full length mirror with circular corner notches, like the Oracle
Mirror. In it, the other Lina, from that blasted world was laughing
at her, a full body guffaw that rocked the mirror's surface.
Lina ran down the hill, hoping to escape it; she
slipped between trees, using most stealth and evasion she knew. After
a minute or two, emerging from the forest, she looked around and spotted
no mirrors. "Well, at least the worst is over with," she mused out
loud, right when the mirror rose from the ground in front of her to show
her just how bad the worst could possibly be.
Because this time, it wasn't just a reflection of
the other her laughing. It was the reason why the other her existed
as she did. Disconnected, random images flew past the silver surface,
of the other Lina running, hiding... being hunted down by laughing monsters,
caught, tormented and broken a thousand ways by beings who delighted to
feed on negative emotions--
A fist smashed into the glass of the mirror, shattering
it, only to have another appear by her side. Lina kicked that one,
and the one that followed, running away as more joined, unceasing, and--
All the mirrors shattered in an instant, as the
man at the bottom of the hill raised his ruby-tipped staff, a flare of
power streaking through each mirror in turn. The glass shards faded
away, and the hill was relatively normal again. Lina's pulse kept
racing, her breathing hard, as she tried to calm it down.
She turned to face her benefactor, and whatever
calm she had went bye-bye.
"Hel-loooo, Lina!" Xelloss greeted, waving enthusiastically.
"Again?" Lina asked. "Why do my dreams keep
having you as m... Zelgadis?!"
Zel sulked next to Xelloss. "You could have
stopped that nonsense at any time," he told the priest, voice angered.
"You didn't have to sit by while she was facing that."
"Now now, if I made ALL your problems go away, how
would you ever learn?" Xelloss asked, bopping Zel playfully with his staff.
Zel fumed as Xelloss turned to face Lina. "It's me. In the
flesh, so to speak. I found a rather nice little spell that lets
me walk dreams. Good to see you again, Lina-chan."
"...huh?" Lina asked. "What on earth are you
Xelloss was nice enough to use his newfound powers
to turn the hilltop meeting into a pleasant day in the sun. Lina
seemed to be more comfortable with her surroundings after that, as she
explained about their trip... the sidetracking to Noh Wheir, the attack
by the former Sinister Icy Black Hand of Death Gang, and who the white-haired
girl was. This in particular raised some eyebrows.
"I can understand why she hates you," Zelgadis said.
"But what is she planning to do about it?"
"All she said was that she was going to 'put things
right'. HER version of right, of course," Lina reminded. "But
she didn't say how. Probably just going to try and kill us.
We can handle that."
"Can you?" Xelloss smiled. "You didn't seem
to be able to face up to those dream images. What about the real
thing, Lina? Will you have the strength to fully overcome yourself
"That's for me to worry about, not you," Lina said.
"New topic. Xelloss, what are you DOING around here?"
"Zel-kun here seems to believe I'm Shaburanigdo
himself," Xelloss yawned. "Really, I'm just in it for the mirror
lores, as you are. I'm simply more resourceful than the others from
the convention, who are still poking around Sailoon looking for you.
Pardon my flashy theatrics in sneaking aboard your cast as Melvin, but
as has been proven, some of your comrades are less than happy to see ME
"The minute we get back to reality, I'm tossing
him off the boat," Zelgadis casually said. "I don't like uninvited
"But I only know how to dog-paddle," Xelloss complained.
"You're so mean."
"Hold up, Zel," Lina said. "Xelloss... well,
frankly, I don't trust you much either, but you've never COMPLETELY messed
us up. You did get us those maps, as well. But if you're going
to come along, I want you to make a promise to me."
"A promise?" Xelloss asked, highly curious.
"Me? I suppose that depends on the promise."
"You can come along with us," Lina said, shooting
a stopping glance at the about to protest Zelgadis. "IF you promise
to leave if I ask you to."
For a change, this tossed Xelloss's normally nonchalant
mockery out the window. He asked, in all seriousness, "How do you
expect to enforce that sort of a promise on me, Lina?"
"I don't," Lina said. "I just figured I'd
take your word on it."
"I'd sooner take the word of Rezo," Zelgadis mumbled.
"My WORD? My word! What an interesting
request!" Xelloss laughed out loud. "Lina, Lina, Lina... you never
fail to amaze me. You deliberately phrased that to trap me into a
situation I'd enjoy, didn't you? Very well. I'll say yes to
that promise, although you'll likely never know if I'll hold to it or not."
"Good enough for me," Lina nodded. "And Zel-kun,
if he tries anything overtly funny on your end of things, toss him into
the sea. Fair's fair, right, Xelloss?"
"Fair's fair," the priest nodded.
"Maybe I'll teach him the backstroke. Just
as a preventative measure," Zelgadis smiled unkindly.
Lina stood up, dusting off her costume. "Okay.
Xelloss, do me a favor and send Zelgadis back to your boat. Then
stick around, I need to talk to you."
"No way," Zelgadis said. "Me leave you alone
with him? I'd sooner--"
"I've got his word," Lina reminded. "I'll
Zelgadis's skin turned a redder shade of blue-green.
"Fine. I suppose I'll go back to being Amelia's 'Advisor,' then."
The blue portal opened itself again, Xelloss having
started to cast the spell under his breath once Lina asked. Zel,
seeing that nobody wanted him around, walked off. The portal vanished.
Lina winced, not intending for all this to sound that harsh, but quickly
turned back to the events at hand.
"You know..." Xelloss mused, eyes studying Lina's
expression. "You're being unusually reasonable. And quite serious.
I take it your little tete a tete with the demon you could become has twisted
your outlook on life somewhat? Tossed you into that state where you
realize it's up against the wall and you need to start acting your age?"
"No," Lina denied. "I'm fine. The only
reason you're staying with our quest is because I can use you, make no
"Allow me to be your humble tool," Xelloss said,
throwing in an extra-extravagant sweeping bow for gesture. "How may
I be of service, Lina-san?"
"Two things. Show me the spell you used to
enter this world without falling asleep. Second, I need to know--"
"Those spells are secret, afraid."
"I understand sea salt tastes quite lovely."
"I don't mean to brag or to deflate Zelgadis's little
ego, but I don't think he could give me the heave-ho if he tried," Xelloss
Lina sighed. "Look... Xelloss.. please.
This is important, okay?"
"Hmm. Definitely quite serious, aren't we?
Intriguing. I'll teach you the spell, but not right now. I
hate to disappoint you and Zelgadis but I really do need to take leave
for a short period of time... I have things to take care of," Xelloss said,
rising to leave. "I'll contact you later, perhaps?"
"Hey.. hey! We're not done here!" Lina said
to the rapidly vanishing Xelloss. But by then it was too late, and
the orange penguins had already come out to play, Lina slipping into the
deeper sleep of the dream.
Story copyright 1998 Stefan Gagne, characters copyright H. Kanzaka
/ R. Araizumi.
A Spoof Chase Production.