Perchance to Dream
In an out of the way tavern in Saillune, a bartender closed his eyes for a moment, looking away as if in pain.
In a restaurant in a small town, a waitress lifted her head and opened her eyes to look across the room.
Silence fell in the dining room and Amelia walked quietly back to her chair and sank into it. Her sister, equally shaken, sat in her own chair, unwilling to break the silence.
At length, a voice did break the silence. “She has to know that she can’t win.”
“She knows, Jedah. But I’ve never known something like that to keep Lina from doing what she wanted to do,” Gourry replied. “Whatever will be, Lina will be Lina.”
Amelia nodded slowly. “Lina never lets much get in her way. When I first met her, I thought she was the most amazing person I’d ever met. After I got to know her, I knew that she was.” There was a pause, and in a quieter voice, Amelia added, “Even after everything that’s happened, she didn’t walk away from me. She doesn’t let anyone down.”
Sylphiel leaned forwards, clasping her hands on the table. “What do we do now? It’s obvious that she doesn’t intend to come back. No sorceress goes physically into the Astral Plane without knowing the chances of returning are slim to none.”
Naga shook her head. “She doesn’t want us to do anything. A long time ago, Lina and I used to get into a lot of things together. She told me on more than one occasion that if something went wrong, I wasn’t to stop living just because she wasn’t around anymore.”
Gourry put his hand on the table with a loud thump. “Guys! Enough of this! If there’s even the slightest chance that Lina can make it, can defeat Xellos and come back to tell us all about what she did to him, she’ll do it. Lina’s not a quitter. So we’d better not quit on her.”
Everyone looked to Gourry as his words sank in. He was right, and they knew it. How many times had Lina come back from the edge of destruction? How many times had they known Lina was gone, known beyond the shadow of a doubt that she had nothing left to try… and yet she’d pulled something out of nothing and triumphed?
“You’re right, Gourry!” Amelia chirped, the old cheerfulness coming back into her voice. “If anyone can do it, Lina can! So we’ve got to do our best to help her!”
“But… how?” Jedah asked, not entirely certain that Amelia was in her right mind.
“I wish I knew, Jedah, I wish I knew,” the princess replied.
The sorceress in question hovered in the Astral Plane and considered her options. From here, she could very easily travel to whatever Xellos called his pocket of reality. She could also do a bunch of other things, but right now, she had to prepare for what would be the hardest thing she’d ever do. Gaav and Xellos were close to the same level… and she knew that she hadn’t managed to destroy Gaav. That had been Hellmaster’s doing. And the Lord of Nightmares had destroyed Hellmaster.
So how in the hell did she expect to win?
She was going off half-cocked, on a mission that would end up in her getting killed.
“Well, those are odds you’re used to, Lina. Nothing new there. So let’s get going…”
The battle was dragging. He wasn’t showing any signs of tiring, but he hadn’t turned yet, either. So just what in the hell was going on? Firing off a Burst Rondo as a distraction, he phased out of the area. There! That would confuse him for long enough…
An Elmekia Lance slammed into him, and the force of it spun him around. But his attacker wasn’t who he thought it was. He gasped in surprise as a hand shot out, fingers catching his cloak and yanking him unceremoniously towards her. His eyes opened in astonishment, the impossibility of it all striking him.
Lina Inverse wasted no time. If Xellos has been dropped in her lap, so to speak, who was she to question it? Her lips moved with the words, the talismans responding. “Lord of the Darkness and the Four Worlds, I call upon you, grant me all the power that you possess!”
The words that came immediately to Xellos’ mind were not in any language that could possibly be translated into anything that made any sense. But he was in a whole lot of trouble, and if he didn’t manage to recover from that Elmekia Lance in time…
Crimson eyes narrowed as she focused on Xellos. He looked concerned, and the last time she’d seen him look like that, Gaav had just blasted a hole through him. So then… “Lord of Darkness and the Four Worlds, I beseech thy fragments;”
Oh hells. She’s going to cast the Laguna Blade and it’s going to take me a damnably long time to recover from that! Xellos thought. “Look, Lina… I can explain this… there’s no need for brute force…” he started, trying to squirm free.
“By all the power thou possesseth, grant the heaven’s wrath to my hand…” Lina continued relentlessly, tightening her grasp on Xellos’ cloak.
He phased into the Astral Plane in time to hear the chilling second phrase of the Laguna Blade spoken by a very familiar, yet very cold voice. Damn! Lina must have come into the room and…! “Lina! No!”
Chaos was crackling within the Astral Plane. The Laguna Blade was not a spell to be taken lightly, and it definitely wasn’t one to be cast in the Astral. Chaos Words and the Astral Plane had long ago proven to be completely incompatible. Not only would the spell severely injure Xellos, but he doubted that Lina would survive the aftermath.
“Unleash the sword of dark, freezing nothingness;” Lina continued, eyes closed and hand weaving the Chaos that was slowly gathering around her. At point blank… Xellos was going to have a very rude awakening.
Xellos wasn’t entirely certain what had just occurred, but Lina wasn’t casting anymore. In fact, she wasn’t moving. That enabled him to free himself and he was just about to flee when a vice-like grip caught him by the shoulder.
“Oh no, you don’t. Not until you start explaining a few things.”
Xellos cringed. He’d forgotten about that. Perfectly matched, and perfectly out-matched. There was no way he was going to escape easily… and with the effects of the Elmekia Lance still stinging, it was easier just to give in and explain for now.
The area shimmered, the scintillations of the Astral Plane parting and dissolving to reveal the room in the forgotten part of the palace.
He paused for a moment, and then looked to Lina. This wasn’t going to be easy to explain. He’d handle that later. Reaching up to touch two fingers to her forehead, he cast a sleeping spell and she crumpled without a whimper. He caught her and set her easily on the bed before turning back to the Trickster Priest.
“Now then. I see that Lina’s little attack gives me the chance to ask you a few questions…”
Amelia and Naga both shuddered suddenly, looking to each other nervously. “I have a bad feeling about Lina…” the younger princess whispered.
The elder nodded and put her arm around her sister. “I do too, Amelia. But there’s nothing that we can do.”
There was a sigh, and Sylphiel walked up and looked to the princesses. “Your father is finally healed. It seems that Xellos had put a curse on him as well, which just suddenly fell apart. Your father is very lucky to have lived this long.”
The girls sighed in relief, for Prince Phil had been in a coma since the day of the attack. He had no idea that Gracia (Naga) had returned, and they both knew that he was in for a shock at everything that had happened since.
But there was more of a shock coming to all of them. They just didn’t know it yet.
“You were turning into a Mazoku. That couldn’t be allowed to happen,” Xellos said, looking not at who he spoke to, but to Lina’s crumpled form on the bed. She had to have known that she wouldn’t survive the calling of Chaos to the Astral Plane. So why did she do it? Was it because… because of him?
Xellos looked up out of his thoughts. “Because you would have replaced me.”
“Wait a minute. You’re telling me that if I had turned into a Mazoku, I would have replaced you? So none of this was to get me out of the way so that you could have Lina?”
Xellos considered. “No. Lina was merely a convenient way to get to you. Just as Amelia was an easy way to get to Lina. You were my ultimate target. But because of the spell…”
There was a sigh. “Because of the spell cast by the Red Priest, you couldn’t touch me directly. So you had to lay an elaborate trap and wait for the pieces to fall one by one. And while you managed to succeed… you ultimately failed. I didn’t become a Mazoku.”
Violet eyes glinted for a moment. “No, you didn’t. And so I have no reason to want you dead.”
“Get lost, Xellos,” He waved his hand and banished the Mazoku from the room. He had to admit; whatever he’d become had its advantages. He was a human with almost all the abilities of a Mazoku. He could dismiss Xellos with a thought, not that he thought for a moment that Xellos wasn’t capable of returning immediately if he so chose. But now there was Lina. He’d caught her in the middle of casting a powered-up Laguna Blade. This could get tricky…
She was standing in the clearing with her sword, but for the life of her, she couldn’t remember why. Oh yes. This was where she’d told him. This was the last place she had ever been happy.
Her spell must have failed. Maybe casting the Laguna Blade in the Astral Plane wasn’t such a good idea after all. Chaos and Astral magics didn’t precisely go hand-in-hand, but that was an old story, wasn’t it? Was she alive? Was she dead? Did any of it matter?
She sheathed her sword and walked over to lean against a tree. Left with only memories, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. I’m still alive. There’s still a chance that I can get back and find out what happened…but first… rest…
But she couldn’t rest. Thoughts plagued her, little whispered mental questions asking a thousand different things. Why hadn’t she said yes when she had the chance? Why hadn’t she kissed him when he was in her room that night? But it was too late now, wasn’t it? He was gone. And soon, so would she be.
She opened her eyes. There was no sense wasting what little time she had left by whining in her own mind. She should focus her energies on how to get out of here… wherever here was.
As she considered, the stone at her throat began to glow.
She froze, looking at the blue brilliance. A voice caught her attention.
She looked up, too worn out to cringe. “Luna…”
Her sister was standing there with her sword at her side, hands on her hips. “Lina, sometimes things aren’t what you make them to be. Sometimes you have to take it on faith.”
Lina frowned. Her sister had said that to her a very long time ago, long before Lina had even met Naga.
“You’re going to meet someone special one day, and he’s going to mean more to you than the entire world. But if you aren’t careful, you’re going to mess it up. You push, you pull, one day you’ll break something and you’ll never get it back, Lina.”
Lina looked away. Memories. That’s what this was. It was nothing more than a collection of memories that she was digging out of her own mind to chastise herself with. Confront, accept, and move past. Time to get out.
“Yeah, I know, Luna,” she said, as if her sister really was standing there. “I pushed too hard. And now that I know it… it’s too late. Zelgadis is gone… and there’s nothing that I can do to get him back.”
“Hey, Lina? Why don’t you walk beside Mister Zelgadis?”
Lina spun to see Amelia standing there, younger, happier. The forest was gone, and they were standing on a dusty road. “Amelia… I…”
“I told you that he likes you… it’s not just because of that spell. And when we get to Saillune… I have a special gift for you two, okay, Miss Lina?”
Lina sighed. Yeah… and that gift was the ball that I ran away from. Luna was right. I really can be an idiot.
“I don’t know why you worry about Zelgadis liking you, Lina. It’s not like you’re fat or anything…”
Lina cringed. She’d beaten the fool out of Gourry for saying that.
“Lina, why don’t you come with me?”
She turned, seeing Zelgadis standing there. He was standing right there, blue eyes looking at her so gently… and he’d never look at her that way again. He was gone, and there was nothing that she could do to change that. Accept, Lina. Accept, and move on… Tears filled her own eyes and she looked away, fighting the overwhelming sorrow for a moment before allowing herself to be swallowed into the darkness.