ouncy Bunny waddled along the sidewalk, occasionally stumbling over his floppy fuzzy funny feet.  If you listen close enough, you can hear him swearing like a sailor under his breach, whiskers twitching, one ear flopped over his face.
    A young tyke wandered up to Bouncy Bunny, towing a perfectly orderly formation of little souvenir wooden ducks on wheels behind him.
    "You're Bouncy Bunny, aren't you?"
    "Beat it, kid," the happy slappy rabbity fun mascot suggested.
    "I've seen pictures of you eating growing carrots and teaching children about nutrition," the boy said.  "Is it true that vegetables are good for your eyes?"
    "What answer would you prefer?"
    "I'd like it to be true, because mum's always saying if I don't eat my vegetables I'll lose my sight because she'll lock me in the basement for a week."
    "In that case, yes.  Eat as many vegetables as you can.  Whurffle," Bouncy Bunny said, looking for the nearest exit.
    "Yeah, whurffle.  Rabbits make that sound, right?"
    "No, they sort of go wuffle.  No Hur," the boy said.  "You're not a very good Bouncy Bunny, are you?"
    Bouncy Bunny glared down at the annoying brat.  "I just got hired today, okay?  Give a mammal a break.  If you'll excuse me, I need to visit the smallest hutch, so..."
    "I should report you for being an improper bunny," the boy smiled.  "They give you candy if you report someone breaking the rules and mum doesn't give me any candy."
    Bouncy Bunny sweatdropped.  "Is that so... well... wait right here."
    The rabbit fluffy wuffy bouncie wouncied down the sidewalk, reaching one of the many sidewalk food vendors.  He dug into his costume and brought out a silver or two, and bounced back to the kid with a giant bunny head lollipop.
    "Here, suck that," Bouncy said, handing the confection over.
    "Eww, yuck.  There's some fur on it."
    "It's free candy, kid, you get what you pay for."
    Bored by the exchange as young'ns frequently are when there are no bright shiny objects around, the kid wandered off towards the Cone of Tragedy, plucking white hairs off his lolly.
    Zelgadis breathed a sigh of relief.  He hadn't counted on the absurdly strict nature of this apparently funpark, and all these miniature humans that kept bugging him to tell them a story or dance around singing.  He tried to be as inconspicuous as a six foot tall white rabbit can, and slipped through the crowds.  Somewhere around here there'd be a lake; above ground or underground, and it'd have to be somewhere nobody else went, or it'd have been found already.
    He just hoped he'd find it before he had to sing that damn 'Joy Happy Joy Happy' song again.
    Surf 'n Sand Gift Shop was identical to East Wavepool Gifts, Sunken Treasures and Shop Here Because It Is Good.  In fact, every single one of the stores in Happy World were stamped out of the same cookie cutter, strictly dictated in terms of architecture and content.  There were always five of every item on the shelves, and a clerk would dash to replenish the supply when something was purchased.
    Xelloss had a great deal of fun with this, picking up random items and wandering around the store, exuding an aura of consumer readiness.  Then he'd watch in the security mirrors as some poor sod ran himself ragged trying to adjust the store contents... after which Xelloss would put the item back, making the clerk remove one item to maintain the five count.  It was a great deal of fun.
    "That's amazingly cruel, you know," Dayvid pointed out, once he had caught on.
    "Ah!  You noticed!" Xelloss smiled.  "I always knew you were a clever lad.  Very bright.  Remember that time I helped you set up a lemonade stand with some of my special lemon mix?"
    "If I knew what the word 'narcotic' meant at that age, I'd never have done it," Dayvid muttered.  "You just love watching people suffering, don't you?"
    "Well, of course," Xelloss admitted freely.  "I'm a Mazoku.  It goes with the territory, can't be helped, to be honest.  But don't get me wrong, I can be a nice guy too.  Didn't your little stand make six hundred gold that day?"
    "That doesn't count!  Name ONE way in which you've ever been nice whatsoever!"
    "That is a secret."
    "Hmph.  See?"
    "...but, I will be very nice for you right now," Xelloss said.  "And point out that you're starting to get a crush on that nice girl from Sailoon.  Mmm?"
    The younger one stared at Xelloss as if he had grown three heads and a tail.  "What??"
    "Oh, I'm sure you haven't realized it yet.  Those involved never pick up on it, but take it from an expert on human emotional reactions, you're going to start entertaining the notion verrrry shortly!" Xelloss teased adorably annoyingly.
    Dayvid fehed, continuing to browse the swimwear racks.  "Yeah, right."
    "In fact, I'd hazard that me bringing it up is bound to cause you to work your thoughts in that very direction, simply because the issue has been raised and you won't be able to get it out of your head," the trickster grinned.  "Simple facts of human behavior.  A little stimulus, a lot of reaction."
    "If I even BEGIN to act anything other than a traveling host towards Amelia, DAD, I'll... I'll..."
    "Mmmmmmmm?" Xelloss hummed, curiously.
    "I'll stop calling you 'DAD' in a very sarcastic way," Dayvid concluded.
    "Done deal," Xelloss said, grabbing Dayvid's hand and shaking vigorously.  Then with his other hand he passed the boy some swim trunks.  "Now go try these on, so we can get to the pool."
    Dayvid grabbed the shorts from his father, and walked off in a huff, towards the changing rooms.  Just in time to bump into Amelia, who was just stepping out of them in a spectacular dark blue bikini.
    There's some gene in the Wil Tesla Sailoon family line which dictates that no matter what you're wearing, you'll wear it well.  Scientists haven't gotten far enough beyond some steam machines and trying to turn lead into gold instead of just more lead, but if they ever manage to tag chromosomes, they'll label this one the Fashion Genome.  In this case, it made Amelia's youthful but soon to be Nagalike in a year or three figure very appealing.
    Dayvid, who realized too late that long days on the open sea meant you weren't used to seeing anything other than a woman's face, hands and sometimes ankles, locked dead in shock.
    "Oh, hello!" Amelia smiled.  "Ne, what do you think of this?  Is it my color?"
    "It accentuates your lovely eyes in a way that rivals the flowering blossoms of sunlit fields," Dayvid did not say.  Instead he said something like "Gaaah ug umm errr gee well yeah."
    Amelia checked herself in the nearest full length mirror, posing a bit.  "I don't know... do you think it makes me look fat?"
    The critical question.  Analytical mind at maximum strain against confused emotional center, task processing.  If the answer is negative she might think you're lying and if positive it'll offend her deeply.  Seeking alternative answer.  Standing there looking stupid and staring inadvisable.  Muscles not responding.  Danger.  Danger.  General protection fault.  Restoring from backup.
    "Oh, look, floppy hats," he said quickly, distracting himself with the nearest display.
    "I think I'll take this one," Amelia said.  "I could probably work up a good tan today!  Let's get going to the pool, everybody!  And we'll look for that lake too sometime."
    The cheery sorceress bounced over to the shop's counter, paying the man from her money purse.  Dayvid watched her bounce.
    Xelloss floated up behind Dayvid.  "I think I won the bet," he smiled.
    This snapped Dayvid out of it.  "Yeah, right.  Sorry, dad, but I'm afraid you're just wrong about this."
    Smiling at the way Dayvid sounded the words, Xelloss simply nodded along.
    "I know how it is, brother," Flippy Frog nodded.  "I mean, you slave away for hours and hours in a big animal head, becoming your character and entertaining, and they have the nerve to pay you skimpy wages.  Where's the respect for the creative process?  That's what I'm saying, we need people to acknowledge our art."
    Salty Shark agreed, his fins in a ruffle.  "It's discrimination, it is.  Nobody properly appreciates us just because we wear animal costumes.  You don't see them mocking the theater actors on Widestreet play productions, do you?  They wear costumes!  And they do just as much work as we do.  Don't you agree, Bouncy?"
    Zelgadis looked around nervously.  This wasn't helping.  Yes, he wanted to fit in and not make a scene, but when he agreed to get a cup of coffee with some of the other mascots in the park, he didn't count on them yacking away for twenty minutes about method acting.  It was wasting his time.
    "Oh, I agree wholeheartedly," Bouncy Bunny lied.  "It's a shame, a crying shame.  And this park, I mean, it's not even a classy one.  How recently was it made, anyway?"
    "I think it's been around for about five years," Flippy said, sipping his steamy java.  "Ever since the King ordered the construction of a funpark for the citizens to relax in.  The contractor built the thing at the base of an inactive volcano so they could heat the water cheap then pocketed the rest of the funds."
    "Good break for him," Bouncy said.
    "I wouldn't say that, unless you mean the snapping sound his neck made when they found out."
    Bouncy Bunny choked momentarily on his drink.  "Ah, yes.. that's what I meant exactly.  So, the volcano keeps the wavepool warm?  Where do they get the water?  It's fresh, not salt, right?"
    "Some underground lake," Salty Shark said.  "At least, that's what I heard."
    "Really?  That's interesting.  How do you get to that lake?"
    "You don't," Flippy said.  "There wasn't a way down there until a year ago when one of the attractions hit a snag of a classified nature.  Now it's forbidden.  The rules specifically state that you do not go into areas that are demarked by the red signs, and that place has been tagged for months.  You couldn't pay me to go there, some people say it's haunted, even..."
    Bouncy Bunny leaned forward.  "And which place is that, exactly?"
    The waterslide was a fairly new invention, a tube of highly polished, magically constructed glass that you could pour water and people through.  The weirder the design, the more fun the disorientation.  Amelia, who had never experienced a ride at a themed attraction, was living it up as the shot down the curls of the slide, finally upending over the deep end of the wavepool, splashing down.
    Amazing!  These things existed, and Sailoon didn't know!  Her country was truly in the dark age.  She'd have to be the princess to bring waterslides to her people.  Millions would herald her name for that, surely!  And that way she could ride it down whenever she wanted, too.  Funding it might be hard, but she could just give up her allowance for a year or so.
    Sputtering, Amelia surfaced and bobbed on the water.  Dayvid didn't seem to be having as much fun, she noted, as he hung around the edge of the pool, not really swimming, just sort of floating a little.  So, determined to cheer him up, Amelia paddled over.
    "Hi!" she greeted.
    "Oh.. hey," Dayvid said.  "So, how's the slide?"
    "It's fuuuun!!" Amelia said.
    "It's a very simple principle, really," Dayvid said, examining the structure.  "You wouldn't need the magic glass if you could use a synthetic crystal, or some kind of material that was strong, thin and slick... and the water could be drawn up to the top with a pumping system of some kind instead of a magically enhanced channeling tube..."
    "Either way, it's a lot of fun," Amelia said.  "Right?"
    "I haven't ridden one before."
    "You HAVEN'T?" Amelia gaped.  She grabbed Dayvid's arm, tugging him along.  "Come on, come on!  You've got to try."
    "Uhh... uh..." Dayvid protested, as Amelia towed him along.
    A short distance away, on the artificial shore which was frequently raked into eye-appealing and very organized dunes whenever customers messed it up, Xelloss was catching some sun.
    Relaxing in a nice folding wooden chair, with a quaint little umbrella, the Mazoku priest was contemplating a tan.  He could change his appearance to have one, and technically Mazoku didn't tan, but he felt it might be a nice change of pace to pretend to earn one naturally.  It almost felt like he was on vacation.
    He had a nice vacation, years past.  Nothing was going on with the Mazoku.  The wars were over for centuries going, and other than the occasional tidbit of snippy infighting, he generally had nothing to do except torment small villages with con jobs and carefully arranged, soap opera like incidents.  Realizing he was going to waste, Zellas-Metallum gave him an order : 'Wait for further orders.'
    Xelloss, knowing his mistress's usual mannerisms, interpreted this as some paid leave and decided to go mingle with the humans again.  He was a human once, uncountable years ago, and of all the recruits he managed to hang onto his delights of human senses the most.  So, at a particularly loud concerto, after ingesting a number of very interesting plants, he met a very nice girl and took her home.
    Surprisingly -- one of the few real surprises he had had in a hundred years -- Dayvid was born as a result.  Shocked and intrigued by the situation, and having nothing else to do, he opted for marriage and to raise the boy right.  Dayvid at an early age didn't take well to magic, but he'd have time to work on that, and maybe be able to bring him into the family business...
    Except, of course, that he didn't have that time.  That's when he received his next order.
    'Watch over Lina Inverse.'
    He didn't have much choice except to abandon his play-family.  He didn't feel very bad about it at the time, excited that he'd be getting back to work.  But... well...
    Tricky things, the human emotions.  He rarely had them.  He fed on them freely, of course, that's just who he was, but having them was a bit less common.  Fairly certain he was having one, right here, right now, on the shore of the world's most orderly funpark, he wanted to examine it closely.
    Regret, perhaps?  That he wasn't around for Dayvid's life.  The mother he felt less about, he'd never had a true love that he'd publicly acknowledge, but he did have high hopes for the boy.  That perhaps the boy would understand things, would appreciate them, would come into the fold and be a valued companion.
    Sadly, this was unlikely.  Dayvid had his own life now; he had Dayvid's life, not Xelloss's.  Xel could accept that, perfectly reasonable, perfectly natural, no need to stress over it.  But it still tugged at him slightly.
    Another thing tugged at his senses.
    "You know, you could try announcing yourself," he said, without looking.  "It's rather unnerving just to feel a light shadow over my shoulder."
    A supernatural voice did not clear its throat.
    "your feelings are irrelevant.  She requires an update," the Minion, Zellass-Metallum's apparently new recruit into the fold said.  "Why is Lina Inverse still alive, against Her orders to you?  you have been given sufficient time."
    "I could tell you, but you'd never understand, I suppose," Xelloss sighed, his introspective moment influencing his words.  He was aware he was doing this, but didn't really care.
    "i am capable of logic beyond accepted standards..."
    "Logic, my irritatingly boring non-friend, is not the medium," Xelloss said.  "How little you understand.  I fail to see why you're a superior tool for Zellas-sama than me."
    "i obey without question. i carry out orders. i do not stall. i am will made action and nothing more," Minion replied by route.
    "As, unfortunately, are a lot of Mazoku goons.  I'd like to think of myself as having that little something extra than a typical faceless minion, however..."
    "Lina Inverse lives," Minion reminded.  "you cannot distract me from that."
    "Fine, fine!" Xelloss said, turning to glare at the thing.  "If it'll make you so very happy, I'll kill her next time I meet her, at the Island of Ultimate Despair.  Would that satisfy you?"
    "i am incapable of satisfaction.  She will be satisfied in my stead."
    The Minion vanished, its business complete.
    Xelloss slumped in his beach chair.  Complicated matters, complicated indeed.  And no logic would help in the realm of emotion, Mazoku or human.  Time was tight.  If things were going to carry off as he wanted, perhaps only one option was left.
Story copyright 1998 Stefan Gagne, characters copyright H. Kanzaka / R. Araizumi.
A Spoof Chase Production.