The First Drops of Rain
By Mox Jet
Though her first match was at 10:00, by noon, Lina had already made it through the first two rounds of the tournament. The way in which the competition was held was positively ingenious. Each fighter wore a magical ward that provided them with a powerful protection barrier about three inches from their skin. This protection barrier was constantly reinforced by a cadre of white mages from the sidelines. When these mages sensed a collision with their barrier, they gave a signal, indicating a point for the opposing fighter. In this way, you could still erect protection barriers of your own, and if they stopped the attack then no points were scored, but if the attack gets through, the second field will still protect you. Death, it would seem, could only come if a spell was ridiculously overpowered, or someone reinforcing the barrier decided on losing their focus.
And speaking of ridiculously overpowered, Lina was about to add win number three to the day.
The stadium was a giant structure, easily capable of holding some fifty thousand screaming Seyruuninan fans. It was a beautiful white building, the outer walls sculpted out of granite and the hallways floored with marble. Giant arches outlined each entrance and at the center was a circular battle arena about fifty yards across.
"Fireball!" came the cry as the young sorceress hurled a red ball of light at her opponent, a thin man in white and red robes. The man side stepped out of the way and the ball flew past. He drew his arms back and gathered an array of magical energy.
"Flare Arrow," he said, waving his hands in front of his chest as seven bolts of fire forms and streaked towards Lina. The sorceress quickly cast a few Freeze Arrows to negate them, then placed her mind back on the Fireball that her opponent had already forgotten.
"Heads up!" she yelled over to him as she grabbed control of the Fireball again and brought it up and around, crashing into the back of his head with an explosion. The mage was thrown forward by the explosion, but the ward protected him from any magical injury. The white mages holding up his barrier signaled that he had been hit and the referee ran out onto the arena floor and raised Lina's hand in victory.
"Winner!" he screamed. Lina held her other hand up in a V sign, grinning like an idiot and waving to the screaming fans. She'd caused quite a stir this morning and was quickly rallying the crowds to her favor. As a newcomer to the circuit, she was paired with the third seed in the first round. When she dispatched him in under two minutes, she became a fan favorite almost instantaneously. After all, who could resist the great and beautiful sorcery genius, Lina Inverse?
Lina reveled in her victory for a few moments before marching out of the stadium, signing a few autographs on her way. She passed through the marble tunnels of the stadium, eventually finding her way to the locker room she was designated to. Sitting on the bench, she found that her cheering section (otherwise known as Gourry) was already there waiting for her. The room was small: enough to change clothes in before washing up. The floor was padded with some moisture absorbing substance. The walls were framed in wood and given the effect of a traditional bath house.
"Good fight, Lina!" he said, getting up and being quick to pat her on the back. She gave him a puzzled look.
"How did you get here so quick, Gourry?" she asked, taking off her cape and shoulder armor.
"I just came down after I saw you cast that Fireball. I guess I just sorta knew you'd win after that. My seat is pretty good. It's close to this room."
"Oh," she said, starting to take off her robe before perking up and giving him a dirty look.
"What?" he asked.
"What do good boys do when girls have to change?" she asked him with parental undertones.
"Umm go and wait patiently outside?" Gourry suggested.
"Right," Lina said with a wink. "Now be a good boy," she said, walking forward and pushing him out of the room. "And let Lina have a bath in peace." Gourry was quickly pushed out of the room and met with a slamming door. He let loose a sigh and walked down the hall to find the nearest concession stand. On the other side of the violently closed door, Lina slipped into a towel before walking into the next room where there was a complimentary bath provided. Tossing the towel casually to the side of the blue tiled bath, she stepped into the well heated water, sitting on a bench on the far side of the bath and sinking her body in up to her neck. She let out a contented sigh as the steam in the room enveloped her.
"Honestly," she said to herself, "I should have picked up on this mage battle thing a long time ago. This is the life! Public recognition, complimentary baths and food I swear, if Zelgadis saw me now, he'd think I'd gone soft!" She sighed again. "In all honesty, though, maybe this is too good to be true I guess I shouldn't get too used to such niceties."
Things have a funny way of happening for Lina Inverse, though, and right when things always seemed most comfortable, it was normally the time for one of two things to happen. Either some of her male traveling companions would walk in on her bathing, prompting a quick punishment, or someone was about to try to kill her.
In this situation, it happened to be the latter.
Lina perked up, her preternatural senses detecting something past the steam. She couldn't see out of the bath room, but something seemed to be moving
Thwang! A four pointed throwing star darted through the steam and past Lina's face as she managed to dodge. She quickly ducked underneath the water as three more stars zipped overhead. As the assault seemed to abate, Lina quickly leapt out of the bath, snatching her towel and running after the suspected villain, wrapping the towel around her body as best she could.
"Wait!" she screamed, sprinting into the dressing room then out into the hall. Looking down to her right, a black cloaked figure was bolting away, just making it past Gourry as Lina caught sight of her.
"Gourry, grab that guy!" she shouted, pointing at the offender with one hand while using the other to keep her towel from allowing anyone far more of a show than they deserved (Gourry being undeserver number one).
Gourry's ear's perked up, and luckily his reflexes were faster than his wit. He moved quickly and with great skill, snapping forward and grabbing the black garbed figure as he passed. He spun, threw Lina's attacker against the wall, and in an instant, his sword was out and pressed against the man's throat.
"Don't try to move," he commanded, sounding as menacing as he could. Lina quickly caught up, securing her towel and going through the motions of rolling up her sleeves, completely oblivious to the fact that she didn't currently have any.
"Good work, Gourry," she said.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
"Of course," she confirmed. "It's way too early in the story for the heroine to die. This lacky here is obviously completely unversed in the basic rules of dramatic story telling, otherwise he wouldn't have even bothered." She turned to her attacker. "And YOU!" she screamed. "You've got a LOT of nerve! I oughta kill you right now for coming so close to seeing me naked!" She grabbed his hood and pulled it back, revealing his face. She quickly staggered backwards.
"You?" she asked. "The guy from before?" The man remained silent.
"You know him?" Gourry asked. Lina shook her head.
"Not really. I saw him yesterday getting carted off for starting a ruckus." She leaned in, getting right in his face. "So what's your deal?" she asked. "You better have one hell of a good reason for trying to kill me."
"The End is Nigh," he said coldly and quietly, his lips trembling. "The Three are almost aligned." Lina promptly punched him in the stomach.
"That's what you said yesterday, you crazy dimwit!" she said at him. "Now answer me and sensibly. Why did you just try to kill me?!"
"The End is Nigh," repeated. "The Th-" he started, but Lina cut him off.
"Yeah, yeah, the Three are almost aligned," she said. She looked to Gourry. "He gave me a weird look yesterday when he saw me," she said. "I didn't like it."
"Any chance he's just a wacko who had money on some of the guys you beat today?"
"Not with my luck, Gourry," Lina said, shaking her head. "You've been traveling with me long enough to know that. It's never that simple." Some voices came from down the hall. Lina and Gourry turned, seeing three members of Stadium Security running towards them (and we can be sure they were hot on the intruder's trail).
"There he is!" one of them shouted as they ran up to the duo. "He's the one who broke past us."
"And tried to kill me!" Lina added. "If you guys are security, I'd say your performance needs some review!"
"Do you want to ask him any more questions?" Gourry asked. Lina shook her head.
"Something tells me he's not gonna talk
" Lina admitted. "Or at least,
he won't say anything beyond that rhetoric that he's already been going off
"Rederict?" Gourry asked, confused by the new word. "What's that?"
"Never mind, Gourry," Lina said, turning to the security guards. "How'd he get by you guys?" They let loose a rather unreassuring shrug. Lina shook her head. "Well, just take him away, then. I don't need him for anything."
"Right, Miss Inverse," one of them said, grabbing him and binding his hands behind his back. Gourry withdrew his sword and sheathed it. The man mumbled something about the world ending again as he was roughly carted off by the three security officers. Gourry looked down at Lina with his big blue puppy dog eyes.
"What does this mean?" Gourry asked her. Lina shook her head again, this time more slowly, letting out a sigh.
"It means my vacation might just be over," she said. "And it's looking to be adventure time again."
With the completion of her third fight, Lina was done for awhile and so she and Gourry retired to one of the complimentary lounges provided for the competitors. The room felt surprisingly regal. Luxurious couches were set up in circles around dark wooden coffee tables. The floor was well decorated in fancy rugs, the walls hung with similar tapestries. Possibly most important of all, though, was the free food left out for the fighters and their coaches.
The buffet table was long, covered with fruits, breads, crackers, salads, various hors d'oeuvres and deserts. It was needless to say that Lina had parked herself next to the table and was picking freely from it, never swallowing all of what was in her mouth before inserting the next tasty treat.
"Oh, man, I love this stuff!" she exclaimed as she stuffed her face. Gourry was not feeling his usual hungry self, instead wondering when his diminutive partner would be done making a fool of herself. True enough, people were looking at her like she was some kind of animal. That was another interesting thing about Lina Inverse: the looks on the faces of her victims were often similar to the looks on the faces of those who watched her eat.
"Lina, I don't think that food's all there to provide you with dinner," he said, sitting down on one of the couches with a glass of milk. He had restrained himself from too much, having only consumed a giant green salad and a few dozen buffalo wings.
"Nonsense," Lina argued with a full mouth. "It they didn't want me to eat it, they wouldn't have put it out."
"That's not what I mean " Gourry said with a sigh. Lina paused from eating for a moment to defend herself.
"Listen, Gourry," she said. "Someone just tried to kill me. The least I can do to feel better is have some food!"
"Yeah, but shouldn't you, you know, like, try to figure out why you were attacked so you'll know if it'll happen again?" he asked, genuinely concerned. Lina understood, put down the food she was holding, and walked over to the couch he was sitting on. She took a seat next to him, hoping that he'd be able to follow what she was going to say.
"Gourry, It's like this. Now maybe this is stretching it, but do you remember the conversation we had at dinner before we fought Shabranigdo?"
"Shabranigdo?" Gourry asked. "Who's that?" Lina promptly slapped him across the head and was quickly yelling in his ear.
"The Dark Lord of this world, Gourry!" she yelled. "You helped kill part of him, remember!? You, me, and Zelgadis fought him and I used the Giga Slave and your Sword of Light to kill him!" Gourry seemed to show signs of some sense being literally knocked into him.
"I seem to remember something like that," he conceded with his hand to his chin. "But that was an awful long while ago, wasn't it?"
"Yeah, Gourry," Lina said, sitting back down. "It was about a year and a half ago, in fact. That doesn't matter, though. What matters at the moment is what we did before we fought him. Now, I guess I can't expect you to remember, but I made everyone go and have a big dinner and try not to worry about the impending encounter with one of the primary sources of evil in our world. The point behind all of that was because sometimes you just can't worry about stuff.
"A friend of mine once told me that the best way to get your mind off things is to go and do something you enjoy, and I've been living my life like that ever since. Do you understand? Now, I can't begin to comprehend why what happened earlier today happened, but that doesn't mean I should fall into gloomsville when there's still a lot to be happy with!"
"I think I understand," Gourry said. Lina smiled.
"As far as figuring out why I was attacked, that might not be answerable at the moment. Whatever it is, though, it'll unravel itself as time goes on. It always does. And until then, I'll be damned if I'm going to be deprived of enjoying free food. Like someone smart once said, we can burn that bridge when we come to it. I think it's a pretty good saying."
"Isn't the saying that we can cross that bridge when we come to it?" Gourry asked. Lina gave it some thought.
"I think he was trying to be funny," she said. "And at any rate, it's a good philosophy. And before you ask, yeah sure, I'm a little worried about this. I mean, that's an unsettling thing. For all practical purposes I could have been killed earlier. Still, you've been around me long enough to know that not only to I find myself in situations where I might be easily killed often, but I never let them get me down. Now go over there, eat some food and let's have some fun until my next fight."
Traveling with Lina for an extended period of time tends to have two effects on a person. First, your life expectancy drops about twenty years. Second, you learn to do whatever she says, whenever she says it, as it's usually less painful that way. Gourry, practically an ace in the game of not pissing off Lina, followed orders like a good sidekick. He went, he had some more food, and then Lina promptly dragged him out of the lounge by the arm and paraded him around town in search of fun.
Since the Tournament brought a lot of foreigners into the country, the marketplaces in Seyruun were always especially active around this time. With a little effort, all sorts of entertainment was available, and only about half of them involved getting plastered. Lina and Gourry found their way to a small theatre where a traveling troupe of actors was putting on a performance of a comedy called "Godo, King of Thieves." Admission was only three silvers a person, and so the duo sat down and enjoyed the show. The plot was about a cross dressing prince that was exiled from his kingdom by the Evil Chancellor, where he was adopted by a group of thieves. Their leader, Godo, also had a habit of cross dressing (and a fetish for dwarves, but that's besides the point) and quickly became friends with the exiled prince. After a few adventures and much hilarity, Godo and his men, the Red Drag-on Clan decided to help the beleaguered prince regain the right to his throne by defeating the Evil Chancellor in a Walk-Off and restoring peace to the land. Gourry missed a lot of the subtle humor, but sympathized with the Red Drag-ons that were forced to dress in women's clothing against their will.
Lina and Gourry dined outside of their inn, later that night, enjoying dinner at a seafood place in the theatre district. They went all out and ate every lobster in the place, making sure there was time to have first dessert and second dessert before making it back to the stadium for Lina's night match. Not fully satisfied with her second dessert, she made sure to finish her poor sap of an opponent off quick so she could make it for third dessert, some time around nine o'clock. By that time, the sky was dark save for the iridescent glow of the fireworks marking the end of the first day of the competition.
"You know, I went to visit Amelia last night while you went to bed early," Gourry said as they walked along one of the catwalks on the city walls, each eating away at triple scoop ice cream cones (fourth dessert). There was a wind that swept over them, but it was the first inkling of the warm breezes of summer, as opposed to the cutting, painful winds of winter. Behind the light of the fireworks, the stars were out in full force.
"Oh yeah?" Lina asked. "How's Little Miss Justice doing?"
"She's upset you didn't come see her when you came into town," Gourry said, as if a little disappointed in his friend's lack of consideration for Amelia.
"Really?" Lina asked. "I figured if she wasn't too busy with royal stuff, I'd see her around the city at some time or another."
"Apparently they've been a bit tied up in the palace, lately," Gourry said.
"Busy with important
palace stuff or something."
"Probably just trying to get a sense of order back in that place," Lina said. "I mean, it wasn't even that long ago that the whole deal with Alfred went down."
"Say, wasn't part of the city destroyed by your Dragon Slave when you blew up that flying island?" Gourry asked. Lina quickly clamped her hands over his mouth, hoping no one had heard.
"Easy on that stuff, Gourry!" she scolded him. "The last thing I need is anything adding to my bad reputation." Gourry laughed.
"It does seem to follow you wherever you go, doesn't it?!" Gourry asked with a smile. Lina smiled too. Ah, simplicity. How she envied it, sometimes.
"I guess I just can't help it," she said. "It must be my magnetic personality." She forced a laugh. "But I guess I should go see her sometime tomorrow. I don't suppose you remembered what you guys talked about, do you?"
"Nothing important," Gourry said with a surprising lack of puzzlement. "I just told her about all the neat stuff we've been doing since that whole mess with Flibritzo, or whatever his name was."
"Fibrizo," Lina corrected.
"Yeah, that guy," Gourry agreed. "I told her what we've been doing since then and she told me about all the new responsibilities her dad was giving her because she needs to learn how to be a Queen or something."
"Yeah," Lina said. "I think I'll give her a visit tomorrow "
A few hours later, Lina lay awake her bed, unable to fall asleep. She had changed into her sleeping clothes, her body half-covered by the blankets, but all she could do was stare at the ceiling. She was caught in one of those horrible states where your body and mind are at ends with each other. As much as you feel the physical fatigue that your body wants to remedy, your head refuses to acknowledge what your body is feeling and instead decides to keep you awake indefinitely. She wanted to go to sleep. Really, she did. After all, sleep was one of those things that Lina loved about all else. There was too much to think about, though. Too much had happened today, and the repeating facts didn't feel like leaving her head without a fight.
I need to find out who that man was, she thought. Its not like people aren't trying to kill me often, but typically I like to know why. She let out a muffled chuckle. Well, at least its not a Mazoku, she conceded. She had to deal with enough Mazoku over the last few months for a life time. In the grand scheme of things, dealing with one, or at most, a few, measly human psychos wouldn't be that big a deal at all. And honestly, it was probably just some psycho crusade against redheads, or something. Yeah. Maybe that was it. Lina decided it was best to not look too far into the events and just get some sleep. She had a big day tomorrow, and she'd have to be-
Her internal monologue was abruptly cut off by a shuffling sound from outside in the hall. She focused intently on it. Several bodies were moving around and it seemed a bit too late for that many people to be up and about. Should she be worried? Her bed, on the wall perpendicular to the one with the door, gave her a decent chance to get out of the way if someone decided to burst in. Gourry was just next door, too, but he was a pretty sound sleeper.
The handle jingled. Lina sat up in bed, doing a quick scan of the available magical energy in the area, more out of habit than anything else. She had locked the door, so if someone wanted in, they'd have to put a little effort into it. Ever so slowly, she slipped out of the covers and began to move to the corner
With a bang, the door was kicked in and man rushed into the room with his sword drawn. His eyes darted around the room, searching for his prey. Always one to deal with things head on, though, Lina had already formed a fireball in her hand.
"Over here, pops!" Lina announced, ready to hurl the fireball at the intruder when an arrow flew through the open door and caught the man in the neck. The man dropped his sword and clutched his wound, but it was for naught. He stumbled back as blood flowed freely form his torn jugular, eventually crumbling to the floor dead. Lina looked up in confusion as another man rushed into the room, long blonde hair trailing behind him as he entered. Gourry? she thought, but she quickly realized that wasn't it as the man slid the bow he was carrying over his shoulder.
"Catch you at a bad time?" the man said, not turning to face her, yet. Lina's eyes strained for a moment as she looked at his back, as if trying to discern something that was not clearly visible.
"I know that voice " she said. "But that's impossible "
"It's been a long time," the man seemed to agree. "How you been?" he asked, finally turning to show his face. "Kid." he added as an afterthought. She got a look at him, and it definitely wasn't Gourry: not tall enough and more slimly built. He wore a deep red cloak that was drawn back over his left shoulder where the tails of the arrows protruded from his quiver. His clothes under the cloak were blue, black, and silver, styled in the manner that indicated traveling mage robes like Lina's. A pair of black belts hung from his waist and two intricate, bronze bracers guarded his forearms. Blond hair spilled generously over a black headband, culminating in a few upward pointing spikes. The long portion was tied loosely at the base of his neck with another black band. His eyes, a deep shade of blue, met with Lina's and she suddenly remembered.
"Greven?" she asked, unsure of herself, but knowing deep down that it had to be him. He was older now, as it had been a few years, but those eyes and the way he had said "kid" were unmistakable.
"Oh, good," he said with a friendly smile. "I was afraid you'd forgotten your friends that you left behind those years ago." Lina smiled widely as she trotted up to him, memories flowing back into her head, then nearly knocked him over as she hugged him. At this time, Gourry came into the room, sword drawn.
"I heard some noise," he said, keeping the sword in a position so as to easily strike the unknown man in the room. "Is everything okay?" Lina released the blonde man from the bear hug and addressed her companion.
"Yeah, yeah, just fine, Gourry," Lina said. "Put that thing away. He's a friend."
"A friend?" Gourry asked, tentatively sheathing his sword. Lina nodded, her gaze going back to Greven.
"Yeah," she said, still a little confused by the oddness of the situation, but smiling, none the less. "This well this is Greven. We kinda grew up together. He's from my hometown and he killed that guy there," she pointed to the dead body against the wall. "That's the one who broke into my room." Greven nodded, walking up to the limp form and pressing his fingers against the man's neck. Fingering the skin around for a moment, he pulled his arrow out and wiped it off on the dead man's cloak.
"I saw him snooping around," Greven said. "And I knew you were staying here because I saw you last night in the restaurant." Lina was taken a bit aback.
"You knew I was here and you didn't say anything?!" she asked, slightly flaring up. Greven laughed.
"You're just as bad!" Gourry interjected, referring to their discussion about Amelia. Lina shot him a death glance
"Well, you know how I like to make an entrance," Greven said, giving the sorceress a wink. Lina quickly remembered that one aspect of her him that was in fact true: he was always the showman. She suddenly came to another conclusion.
"Wait, so if you're here, does that mean you're with-" she started to say, but he cut her off.
"Yup," Greven confirmed. "Kreutz is in our room. He's sleeping like a baby."
"Just like usual," Lina said with a wide grin. Then, laughing. "Well, my, my, the gang's all here. This is absolutely bizarre. Are you here for the tournament?"
"I've been on the circuit for a few months," he confirmed.
"Wait, who's Kreutz?" Gourry asked, always a few moments behind a conversation.
"He's my traveling buddy," Greven said. "He's also a very good friend of mine. And, if things haven't changed too much, of ours, in fact," he added, motioning to Lina. Greven took a moment to size up Gourry, then looked back at Lina with a smirk.
"So who's he?" he asked with a raised eyebrow.
"It's not what you think," Lina said, quickly waving off bullet that was sure to come. She didn't deal with that question. She didn't like dealing with that question. In fact, everything worked much easier when she didn't have to deal with that question. She knew it well, and was relieved Greven didn't nail her with it. The supposed question was, of course: so Lina, who's your boyfriend? Three years ago, he would have done it while putting her in a headlock and drilling his knuckles into her head. She normally then kicked him in the shins and put him in a figure-four leg lock. Perhaps he had learned his lesson.
"My name's Gourry," Gourry said. "And I'm her protector." Greven shot Lina another glance with the same devilish grin attached.
"Ooh, how cute," he prodded. Lina's face flushed red, but she knew the others wouldn't see in the poorly lit room.
"Shut it, Greven," she said. "So where have you been? What have you been up to? Jeez, there's so much to ask."
"Well, what better time than now to catch up," Greven agreed. "This reunion requires some sort of celebration. Do you drink, Lina?"
"Not really," the sorceress answered.
"Ah, well there's your first problem," Greven said, as if suddenly the entire world made sense. "Come on you two. Gourry, we can handle the introductions at the bar. The first round's on me." Greven practically grabbed the two by the arms and dragged them out of the room. As he led them to some unknown place, the only thing Gourry could help but think was something to the tune of: Gods, they must all be like this over there. And, given what he now knew from the only two Zefelian's he had met, he wouldn't be far off the mark.
Mox Jet's Fanfiction