eneath the ground, a lofting breeze started from the surface above swirls dust through the Great Library.  The curves and surfaces along a hallway, by random chance, are just right to conduct the wind along like water flowing down a river...
    A larger wind settled down outside the ruins of the Great Library.  The wings that produced the wind were not golden, nor were they attached to a butterfly.  They belonged to Ozek.
    The Mazoku had followed the scent-trail of the stinking humans for a long time.  He was not an excellent tracker, but he always found his targets eventually, and was exceptionally good at toying with them once found.
    The trail led here, to the ruins of some underground cave.  Ozek changed his body size, which was a mere ten feet thanks to his depleted energy (but still sufficient to rend that stupid bikini-wearing woman asunder when he felt like it) down to six feet, to squeeze into the door and through the hallways.
    Now it was just a matter of finding them in this human-constructed place...
    Lily, Lina and Naga frantically used magic and improvisation to get the wall full of books back in place (Gourry wasn't allowed to help because he kept getting them in the wrong order).  The whole thing took about an hour, and left them all exhausted.
    Despite being tired, Lily was actually enjoying herself, not that she felt she should enjoy herself.  Nobody had yelled at her recently.  This was a big revelation for her, since she naturally assumed she was supposed to be yelled at, since he tended to do it a lot.  She deserved it, after all, for constantly being a screwup, a messup.
    Here, she was actually doing her job well, and everybody seemed happy.  But that wasn't the strange part.  When putting books back up, she accidentally got a few in the wrong order, and Lina didn't hit her or scream, she just pointed it out and helped Lily get them back in the right order.  That's all.  Strange, because Lina seemed the most irritable of them.  Naga, despite having a scary laugh, was treating her better than she had expected.  Lily couldn't imagine why, although...
    Somewhere deep inside, she knew that people acted like this with each other a lot, and it was really very normal.  She just never knew she could be part of those 'people'.  Naturally, she decided to feel a bit ashamed of this, that she could think her new friends would treat her badly.  She tried to prompt them to treat her badly from time to time, but nothing really happened.  Things were different, things were strange... but she wasn't sure that was a bad thing.
    Now that she had already done a trial, Lina had done a trial and Naga had done a trial, it was Gourry's turn.
    "Gourry's more than physically fit," Lina said.  "This won't be too bad."
    Gourry flexed a bit, warming up exercises he usually did before a battle, and turned to Pendix.  "Okay.  I'm ready for my challenge!"
    The Librarian handed him a single book.
    "Ano?  But this is light," Gourry said, testing its weight.
    "THE FOURTH TRIAL!!  This is 'The Sixty Wars of the House of Ogg,' by the famous writer Louis Penderfaust," Pendix said.  "Write an essay comparing and contrasting the protagonist Melford and the antagonist Dyne, explain, use examples.  You have two hours to complete this exam."
    "Can he read?" Naga asked, honestly curious.
    Lina gaped.  "Write an essay?!  You can't be serious... but.. but Gourry--"
    "Contrast? Isn't that like chiaroscuro?" Gourry asked.
    "..." Lina said.
    "Gosh, it's a really big thick book..." Gourry said, opening the book and squinting as he flipped through.  "Lotta words.  Where are the pictures?"
    "You can use this room," Pendix said, gesturing to an open door, and passing a stack of empty paper and a stylus to Gourry. "The trial starts now!"
    "Uh..." Gourry said, a bit dumbfounded.
    Lina gave him a shove into the room.  "Hurry up and write an essay!" she commanded, and shut the door.  She slumped against the door, looking tired.  "We are doomed.  Doomed, doomed, doomed.  Gourry couldn't contrast and explain if you explained and contrasted for him ahead of time.  Trust me.  I know this from personal experience."
    "We'll know in two hours," Naga said.  "If you'll excuse me, I saw a section on fashion back there.  I think I'll do a little light reading to prove I am far more stylish than any silly book writer can hope to be... OOHHOHOOOO--"
    "Go, go!" Lina begged.  "I have a headache."
    Reaching over, Lily immediately erased Lina's headache like an eraser across a chalkboard.
    The pain was swept away effortlessly.  Surprised, Lina looked at Lily.  "How do you do that, anyway?"
    "It's just white magic.." Lily said, not stumbling over her words.  "I'm very good at it because my family have always been strong at white magic."
    "Yeah, but you're VERY strong.  As in, unreasonably strong," Lina said.  "For someone who's trying so obviously to fade into the scenery and not be noticed, you're an interesting person in that way..."
    Lily blushed.  "Uh... thank you.  Thank you, right?"
    "Yeah, that'll work.  So.... what was that spell you used back in town?  To cure the zombies?"
    "That's a secret," Lily said.
    "YAA!!! XELLOSS!" Lina panicked, scooting away.
    "Wha--wha??" Lily panicked, scooting away as well.  "I'm sorry!  I'm sorry!"
    "Oh... ehheh... sorry," Lina said, recovering her wits.  "Knee jerk reaction.  That was my fault.  Um.. secret.  Why's it a secret?"
    Lily settled, slightly, still a bit shaken.  "It.. it's a family secret.  We pass it down the women's side... so I learned it from my mom.  It's the.. it might not be the strongest white magic, but it's... it's very strong, and... it's called Ultra Restoration."
    "A healing spell, then?"
    "Not exactly.." Lily said, looking left and right, to make sure she wasn't being overheard.  Pendix had wandered off for some reason, Naga was gone and Gourry was busy, so she was secure.  "It illuminates the darkness."
    "A light spell?" Lina asked, confused.
    "Any darkness," Lily said.  "Darkness in the body, darkness in the soul, darkness shadowing the mind... creatures of the dark, beings of utter darkness... it illuminates.  Erases the dark with pure light.  The light from the top of the pillar of white magic in the lake of chaos..."
    "Whoooaaaa," Lina said, little stars coming to her eyes.  "Teach me!  Teach me!  Anything that could cure death or restore a city or slaughter Shaburanigdo in one blast has GOT to be good!"
    "It.. it can't do some of that..." Lily said, a little unsure she should be saying this much.  "It can, I mean, theoretically.  Maybe if you combine it with a stronger call.  But you can spread it out thin, like I did to keep his bandits from dying, or you can concentrate and restore someone to full health... and you can destroy a Mazoku with it since it's anti-black magic.  But it's not easy!  It's not easy at all, and it can take years to master and learn..."
    "Oh... damn," Lina said.  "I don't have years.  What an incredibly useful spell!"
    "That's part of the balance," Lily said.  "So difficult to control, so hard to learn if you're learning conventionally... it's out of reach of most people.  But still, very dangerous in the wrong hands, so my family has guarded it and protected it."
    "I can see how.... wait," Lina said.  "Back up.  Conventionally?"
    "What do you mean?  There's another way?" Lina asked.  "Tell, tell!  This is really amazing stuff!"
    Lily shifted around a little.  "It's a secret, I mean..."
    "I won't tell a soul," Lina said.  "Pleeeease?"
    "No!" Lily said.  "I'm sorry, I can't... I can't!"
    The two fell silent, Lina contemplating something.  Heavily.  Lily watched her face, seeing a serious look there, unlike the giddy eager looks she had been giving before...
    "...you say this can heal the darkness in someone, right?" Lina asked.
    "It can, if you apply it right."
    "Then let me pose a situation to you," Lina said.  "Then you can decide if it's worth breaking that secret over.  Fair?"
    It wasn't known to many, other than Pendix and the rats, but the Library is riddled with secret passages.  Mud-lined tunnels, drafty but narrow stone passages behind walls, twisting and turning.  Like a rabbit's warren.
    The sorceress was used to tunnels like these.  She had made and escaped through many in her day, fleeing capture from the Mazoku, escaping the humans who had her locked up as a madwoman or worse.  It was surprising how many old castles and dungeons had secret passages, once you learned the ins and outs of how they were made.  The trick bricks, the telltale signs of a false wall... and then freedom.  Limited freedom, freedom for a time, but the time was savored.
    Lina Inverse scooted through the underground tunnels of the Great Library.  Her strength was back, her memories capped, she ignored what Ozek had done to her and moved on.  The strange priest who kept egging her on, helping her occasionally, he had a point -- she needed to move fast.  Ozek would finally kill Gourry, Gourry who was already dead and should be dead, this damnable phantom Gourry that teased Lina so often.
    But there was a chance her book, the mirror lores, would be destroyed in the fighting.  She calmly worked her way through these passages, instinct carrying her, exploring the rooms she arrived in for magical books.
    One passage opened to a small study room, with a single lantern to illuminate the working desk.  Gourry was reading a book, with a dumb look on his face.
    Curse him! Lina thought, biting her tongue.  Why did he have to come back from the dead?  She had accepted that Gourry was gone, that she'd never see his smile or hear his stupid laugh again or have to whack him when he just didn't catch a clue.  And here in this dreamworld, this impossible world, he was back.  She raised her weapon.  She could take him down right now.
    She could, she knew she could.
    Just pull the trigger and he would die again.
    Lina lowered her weapon and ignored why.  This situation could be exploited in other ways.
    For instance, the chair Gourry was sitting on was very large and awkward.  You can't wear a swordbelt when you're sitting in it, it'd poke directly into your ribs.
    Smiling, Lina reached for the Sword of Light, propped up on the wall nearby...
    Lina paced around the study room, nervously fingering a knife she was carrying with her.
    "This is a very, very dangerous way to learn Ultra Restoration," Lily warned again.  "It's sink or swim.  If you fail..."
    "If I fail, you're here to bring me back, right?" Lina asked.  "Nothing lost, nothing gained.  I can do this, no problem.  I'll handle it.  You taught me the incantation, the preparation, the rest is just practice.  Okay?"
    Lily looked around nervously.  "Maybe we should get Naga-san or Pendix-san to--"
    "Gotta do it privately," Lina said.  Because I don't think I could in front of anybody I knew well, she didn't add.  She had a seat on the floor, crossing her legs under her.  "Okay.  Let's do it.  You ready?"
    Lily sat as well, and nodded.
    Opening herself to white magic, the power she never really had much practice with, Lina strained to bring as much of the energy into her body as she could.  Not an easy task, as black magic had to be wrestled into control, but white magic needed to be coaxed.  Lina never could coax well when a poke with a sharp stick worked just as well.
    Nothing lost, Lily's here, nothing can go wrong.  Lina started the spell.
        "As tall as the tallest pillar...
         As bright as the lightest sun...
         Final level of power, final spell of might,
         Shining brightness that brings all life,
         Let the darkness be repaired in this place...
         ULTRA... gh... RESTORATION!"
    Before the last word, Lina plunged the dagger into her stomach, and slumped forward.
    Time slowed to an absolute halt.  Lina floated free inside her body, riding a wave of the light she had collected.  Would it be enough light?  She sought out the darkness, the pain-feeling she could sense throbbing in this Lina-body she coasted through, circling it, looping it.  Then she realized the horrible mistake she'd made.
    She was SUPPOSED to take the dagger out before the last word of the spell, so she could heal the wound closed.  Instead, stupid, she left it in.  She couldn't feel the pain, just sense it detached, but knew it was going to be a bad situation if she couldn't do something about this.  Sure, Lily would pull her out of it in a minute, but... she wanted to succeed.  Had to.
    Task one.  Get the Lina-meat to move the dagger out, pull the hand.  The light raced up Lina's spine, shifting into nervous signals, to the brain.  She knew nothing about anatomy, but the spell knew about life, and life was what she needed to guide.  The hand wanted to pull out.  She guided the light through the mind, down the arm, into the hand...
    Time started back up, the dagger withdrew, and Lina concentrated to shut time down again.
    Okay.  Close call.  Now, for the hard part.
    Lily explained that it was not just a wave-wave-poof it's all healed sort of spell.  Lina had to get small.  Repair a little at a time, tiny pieces that accumulate slowly into the whole.
    Examine the ripped flesh, know the way it should be.  Get down, get small, get cellular.  Find the rends, mend them, bit by bit... painstaking tasks, like threading a needle under the wrong end of a telescope, working...
    It was ridiculous.  A normal healing spell could patch that wound up in seconds -- Lina slaved away inside the light of the Ultra Restoration for what felt, to her, like an hour.  Minute work, tiny details... why would such a powerful spell take so much effort, just for this?  Lily said it always was difficult, the light management, the purifying of darkness.  No matter how big the task seemed in the physical world, it always took about the same time inside...
    Patch, paste, heal, reform, cleanse.  The wound seals slowly.  No pauses, no breaks, Lina keeps working, taking from the reserves of light she brought with her, which are frighteningly running low... how could she start this with such low power?  She needed practice at white magic, clearly... it was such little light...
    But enough to finish the task.  Satisfied, she closed up, surfaced, ran back to her physical world...
    The dagger clattered out of Lina's hands onto the stone floor, her body refreshed and not feeling the tiniest slip of pain.  She carefully prodded the new flesh, very tender, very delicate, but healed.
    "Lina?  Lina?" Lily was asking.
    "I think... I think it worked," Lina said.  "I got it."
    Lily sat back, amazed.  "It took me years..."
    The younger sorceress smiled.  "I'm just a lucky kinda girl, I guess."
    A crowd nervously waited outside of Gourry's obliette.
    "What do we do if he fails the trial?" Naga asked, curious.
    "I guess we have to go get the book anyway..." Lina said.  "Not going to be easy, of course."
    Lily took strong words.  "You should have some faith in Gourry-san!" she warned.  Then caught herself.  "I mean.. if you want."
    "No, you're right," Lina said.  "But it's a little hard to have faith in someone who can barely spell their own last name, you know?  If--"
    The door opened slowly.  Gourry, holding a slim piece of paper, peeked out.  "I'm done..."
    Pendix the Librarian nodded.  "Read it."
    "Okay..." Gourry said, taking a deep breath.  "For my book report, I read a book about a lot of wars.  People ran around and hit each other and I think they had a lot of problems in their family, because my family never hit each other or started wars.  There are these two guys, Melford and Dyne, and they really hate each other.  I can compare them because they're in the same family, but I can contrast them because they have different hair colors.  Also, Dyne likes bacon and Melford does not.  I thought this book was very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very..."
    Gourry turned the page over.
    "Very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very long and boring.  I'd give it two stars.  That's it.  How'd I do?"
    Lina's stomach sank.
    "Excellent!" Pendix said, passing out library cards to the group.  "You are now book-lenders.  Enjoy our written works!"
    "Whaaa?!?!" Lina gagged.  "But... but it was a lousy essay!"
    "He never said it had to be good," Gourry said.  "So I just wrote how I felt about the book and didn't worry.  What, you mean you guys were worried about that?"
    Lina fell over.
    "OOHOHOHHOO!!" Naga laughed.  "We have overcome the four trials!  Now, on to the Mirror Lores, and GLORY!"
    The Library rumbled.
    Naga poked her stomach.  "That's funny.  I just ate before we came here.."
    Stonework collapsed, as the entrance to the hallway was filled by a large form, a figure with great leathery wings.
    "Oh, come on!" Lina groaned.  "Not him again!"
    "OHOO!  Come for another tongue lashing, foul thing?" Naga asked.
    "Nobody's lashing anything," Lina said, calmly.  "Gourry?  Sword of Light, please.  Let's get this guy gone for good."
    Ozek stepped back.  "SWORD OF LIGHT?!  BUT IT IS LOST!!!"
    "How little you know!" Lina smiled.  "We happen to have it... right... what is it, Gourry?"
    "I think I lost it," Gourry said.  "I just looked in the room, and it's... gone."
    The humans looked at the Mazoku.
    The Mazoku looked back.
    "RUN!" Lina yelled, turning one eighty and sprinting for it.
Story copyright 1998 Stefan Gagne, characters copyright H. Kanzaka / R. Araizumi.
A Spoof Chase Production.