Perchance to Dream

Chapter Two



            He wasn’t dead. At least, not according to the surprisingly still-alive Xellos that Lina had left crumpled in the alleyway on the outskirts of town. In retrospect, she probably ought to have dragged the sorry son of a… well, she didn’t bring him with her, and that was that.

            Lina had told Amelia… but the Princess of Saillune had only replied that she would believe the words of the Trickster Priest when she saw it. Lina had nodded and withdrawn from the Royal Hall. Amelia’s so cold now… what could possibly have happened in only three years? She thought glumly to herself as she trudged across the yards, through the gates, and across town into a little tavern that was off the beaten path. She hadn’t wanted a big and bustling bar, and the closed confines of this dusty and half-lit tavern suited her mood just fine. It smelled of old wood, dust and wine.

            She walked up and sat at the bar, mumbling an order as she rested her head in her hand. She’d come in for information, but after a moment, a good stiff drink hadn’t sounded too bad either.

            “You’re Lina Inverse, aren’t you?” A soft voice asked her as a glass was placed next to her elbow.

            “Yeah, what of it?” She snapped as she looked up to see a pair of quietly deep brown eyes. Ever mindful that it wasn't wise to snap at the bartender, she admonished herself. “Sorry about that… It’s one of those days…”

            “I see. And what is it that brings you to NightWisp’s Tavern? People only come here when troubled… so it is trouble that you must seek to leave behind…” His voice was gentle, just the right tone and timbre. He sounded more than politely concerned, but it was clear that if she pushed him off, he wouldn’t press her.

            Lina swiped the drink and tipped it back. Setting the empty glass on the bar, she winced, as it was only water. “What, did I find the only non-alcoholic tavern in the entire city of Saillune?” she grumbled to herself. Looking back up, she shook her head. “Not really. I’m here to find information. A friend of mine has gone missing and maybe someone in here has seen him. This is the kind of place he prefers.” But I don’t know if that’s true anymore…

            “Only people in here lately have been my regulars. Though there was a rather silent guy in black that came through this morning. Reason I recall him is that he seemed a little disoriented,” the bartender replied, wiping down the surface of the bar by her glass. “You want more?” he indicated the glass.

            “No… what did this guy look like? Blue stone skin? Silvery wire hair?” Lina asked, interested, crimson eyes focusing on the bartender for a moment.

            The bartender shook his head, pushing the rag aside and wiping damp hands on his apron. “Nope. He was kind of pale, like he hadn’t seen the sun for a while. Nice blue eyes, though.”

            “Damn,” Lina whispered under her breath, shoulders slumping.

            “Sorry I couldn’t help you. But I’ll keep my eyes open for you. I tend to gather information.” He started to move away from her, to fill another customer’s drink.

            She glared at the empty glass for a moment, then slid off the barstool and looked over. “Hey, what do I owe you?”

            The bartender looked over as he filled another patron’s glass. “For the water? Nothing. For the conversation, you owe me the knowledge when you find your friend. If I’m not in here, leave a message for Arendil.”

            Lina offered a faint smile to him and nodded. “Alright, I’ll do that.”


            Out on the streets again, she glimpsed a figure in black watching her, and she took off after it when it turned and fled. A brilliant chase through the city ensued, which took to the rooftops after she’d made it clear that she wasn’t going to lose him in the city streets. Man! Whoever this guy is, he’s gotta know something! Lina thought as she leapt up, calling forth the powers of levitation to her aid.

            Flipping around and over his head, she landed facing him on the roof of a small building and put out her hand. “Stop it right there!” She looked at him, one hand on her hip and tipped her head slightly up. “I’ll grant that you’re pretty smart to run from me, but you can’t keep running from me forever. So just tell me who you are, and then…” Her pose faltered, brilliant blue eyes looking at her from under the gold-rimmed hood. Narrowing her eyes, she leaned forward, voice edged with shock. “Zelgadis?”

            His eyes widened slightly, and he stepped backwards. “No… You have me confused… with someone else…”

His voice, so very much like Zel’s… She moved forwards, grabbing at his cloak. “It is you! You’re alive!” Something filled her, threatened to overflow and for a moment, she couldn’t catch her breath.

But then he frowned, shaking his head. “You have me mistaken.”

She frowned in return, emotions swirling. He looked like him… his eyes under the shadow of the hood were the same. And his voice! It had to be him! Had to be! “It’s me… Lina… you know… the redheaded sorceress who forever screws up anything personal… Just like I did three years ago.” That last comment was accompanied by a blush, whether she’d intended it or not.

“Release me.”

Shocked out of her embarrassment, she looked up at him and saw the coldness in his eyes. “But… Zel…?”

A spell formed in his left hand, right hand reaching across to a sword she had not yet seen at his hip.

She let go of his cloak, stunned that he’d threaten to use a spell on her, hand opening in a quick reflexive motion as she took a step backwards in her own defense. She didn’t look all that different, did she? Her hair was longer maybe, a few silvery strands a new testimony to her Nightmare affiliation… but she hadn’t changed… He hates me. He hates me for breaking his heart… “I’m… sorry…” she stammered, then called her levitation spell again, and took off into the clouds, fighting tears that clouded her vision.

She wasn’t watching where she was going, and eventually ended up in the outskirts of the city, landing in a small alleyway, trying desperately not to cry. Honestly, she’d hurt less when Gaav had blasted her all those years ago. It felt like something was crushing her, and the harder she fought it, the harder it crushed.

“Lina!” Sylphiel’s voice. The word that came to Lina’s mind wasn’t polite, nor was it worth repeating. But Lina repeated it none-the-less. She hadn’t wanted to be caught like this. Particularly by Sylphiel. She closed her eyes, only to open them again as Sylphiel put her hand on Lina’s shoulder. “Lina… what happened? Did you find him?”

“I don’t know who he was… he looked like Zel… sounded like Zel… but he told me that I was mistaken…” Lina forced herself calmer. It was harder than she’d thought it would be.

“Lina, are you hurt? I saw you on the rooftops chasing someone… did he hurt you?” Sylphiel asked, looking to her with concern in her eyes.

Lina sighed, looking away. “It’s nothing. Nothing you can help with, Sylphiel. Let’s go back to the Palace. Maybe Gourry’s had some luck.”

Sylphiel nodded, understanding. “We’ll walk. It will give you time to collect yourself.”

Lina flashed her a grateful look. “Thanks, Sylphiel.”

The girls walked back to the Palace in silence, Lina struggling with that mysterious person, Sylphiel worried about her friend who had come back after so long.


Gourry’d had absolutely no luck, and the news sent Lina spiraling down into the depths of depression. She’d drifted out of the Royal Hall like a ghost, the light fading from her eyes.

They’d watched her go, but Amelia’s hand had stayed them from following. Sylphiel didn’t notice, but Gourry saw the glint in the blue eyes of the Princess and silently wondered what Amelia was up to. He wasn’t dumb, and he knew what had happened after Lina hadn’t shown up at the ball. And he knew that Amelia blamed it all entirely on Lina.


Lina hadn’t been paying attention to where she was walking, just drifting along, lost in memories. She’d passed through the courtyard and on into the royal graveyard. Looking at the gravestones, she passed them one by one until a newer one caught her attention. Only half reading it, she froze as the name etched itself in her mind: Gracia ul Naga Saillune. Naga!? Memories of her irritating once-companion came flashing up, and suddenly, Lina saw the resemblance to Amelia. She’d missed it before. Frozen to the very core of her soul, she realized that not only was Naga dead, but she had been Amelia’s missing older sister.

“Oh L-Sama…” Lina breathed. She couldn’t deal with it, couldn’t bring her mind around any of it anymore. It was just too damn much. Amelia hated her. Zelgadis hated her… Naga was dead… lifting into the air, Lina took off for that little tavern again. And this time, she wanted something other than water.


Arendil was a good bartender. And like any good bartender, when a person who needs what a bartender can offer enters the tavern, he was right behind the counter. It wasn’t surprising that she was back. He knew a lot of things, and he’d known she’d return. And being a bartender, he was very good at knowing what drinks would be needed. So it was no trouble to produce a glass with Zefilian wine when she walked up and sat quietly in the seat.

She picked it up silently, taking a sip and closing her eyes. The anxious pain etched across her face eased only slightly, and she set the glass down, crimson eyes opening to look at him. She studied him silently in return for a moment, then looked away.

He could tell that he was going to have to work harder on her. She wasn’t the type to give herself over easily. Getting much out of her would take a fight. “Rough day,” he said, not needing to ask it. He knew by the look in her eyes.


“You’d better not waste that,” he said, pointing to the glass of wine. “That was a six year old bottle.”

Her gaze flickered to the wine. Silently, she reached out and picked it up again, sipping at it.

She was tougher than most of his visitors. Just about as tough as that guy in black over in the corner was. And she wasn’t likely to open her mouth and start talking. He knew the type all too well.

“You say that you gather information. What do you know of the Princess’ older sister?” The girl asked in a deathly quiet voice before taking another mouthful of wine.

“Oh… Gracia. Not a lot is known… she vanished shortly after the incident, and hasn’t been seen since,” Arendil replied, absently filling another customer’s glass.

“There’s a tombstone in the Royal Cemetery.”

He looked to her, noting the strange tone in her voice, the tightness of her closed eyes. “Is there? Now that’s a bit of information that I hadn’t known.” Arendil shook his head and turned to the shelf of bottles behind the bar. Some of his stock was a little low, and he wanted to- a crash gave him cause to turn around.

A purple-haired priest was standing there by the stool that the redhead had occupied with a perplexed look on his face, looking down. He noticed Arendil’s expression, and scratched the back of his head. “Oh my, it looks like Lina’s had too much to drink!” A hastily offered coin was left on the counter and the priest reached down and picked up the limp woman. “Don’t mind me, I’ll see that she’s taken care of…”

Arendil was vaguely aware that this was no ordinary priest, but he couldn’t put his finger on the strangeness of it. Instead, he nodded, picked up the coin and pocketed it as the priest left the tavern, carrying the redhead.

He noticed the man in black followed silently, as if he knew the priest. All the news would come to him. He didn’t need to worry himself. He’d know it all in due time. But as for the identity of that priest… now that was worth considering…

He wasn’t anyone important to the city of Saillune. But he was important in his own right, more than a simple bartender. He was a Free Agent of the Cephied Knight… and hastily went to the back room to bring the latest events to her attention.

The Knight was displeased to identify the priest as the Mazoku General-Priest Xellos. She was even more annoyed that once again, the Mazoku had taken it upon himself to interfere with her sister’s life. For the Knight of Cephied was none other than Luna Inverse. And she knew a few secrets. Such as the little-known fact that Xellos was not a pure Mazoku. No, Xellos had just enough human remaining in him so that Zelas could contain him and remind him of what it truly meant to feel pain when necessary.

Arendil was told to keep his ears open, but not to take any direct action on his own… yet. Time alone would tell what was needed of her Free Agent. In the meantime, she had three tables to take care of, and since the busboy hadn’t come in today, she’d need to do that too. She’d catch up later.

It never failed to amuse Arendil that some of the most powerful people on the world were waitresses and bartenders. And he meant that in more than just the power granted by Cephied. Waitresses and bartenders were a class all to themselves.


            Xellos grinned to himself as he prepared to turn into an alley and spirit Lina away. It had been entirely too easy. She’d let her guard down, and while alone, she had no-one to protect her. A shadow within the shadows moved, a brilliant pair of blue eyes opening to pierce the Mazoku’s closed-eye gaze.

            “You will let her go. I wish no quarrel with you.’

            Xellos considered for a moment. “My my… this could get interesting. Very well. You get to explain it to her.” With that, the Trickster Priest faded from sight, Lina’s unconscious form falling, forcing the other to move quickly lest she hit the ground unprotected.

            Eyes the color of the clearest aquamarines regarded the slender redhead. He’d take her to the Palace. Leave her at the gate. It was best. For everyone.

            So why did it make him so sad?