Gundam Wing x Slayers Crossover

Numbers are funny things. Different ones are sacred to different peoples, and what is sacred to one is often the antithesis to another. For example, shaman hold the number three to be sacred: three over three lines to create a circle of protection, three times three candles used in each blessing. Dragons hold the number four to be sacred: four Dragon Kings, four races of Dragons, four times four spires in each stronghold. And then are the Mazoku who hold the number five to be sacred: a five-pointed pentagram to weave a seal, five Dark Lords created by Shabranigdo.

It had been eight thousand years--5 times 5 times 5 times 4 times 4 times 4--since the cycle had last begun; the cycle that dwelt at the center of every living being. The humans had even given the opposing forces of the cycle names--though humans liked to name everything now that she thought about it--yin and yang, life and death, creation and destruction, magic and technology. Perhaps the number was significant, implied the inherent necessity for balance in all things... or maybe it was just a supreme coincidence. She looked down on the world that was her plaything and smiled. It was nearly time for the cycle to begin again, magic coming back into being from the husk of technology like a phoenix rising from the ashes. Time for the world to be reborn, to have a chance to live again after the continual rape of her resources that she had suffered for the last four thousand years. Time to call the other players back out of the mists they had slept in for all those years.

The Lord of Nightmares smiled and rang for her daughter. This would be fun...

The incessant ringing began just about the time that consciousness returned. The chestnut-haired boy curled under a mound of blankets desperately tried to ignore it in favor of returning to sleep. For one brief moment he managed to fool himself into believing that he had succeeded... RING!! The boy burrowed further into the covers with a mental curse and a prayer to whatever being might be listening to let him have just a few more minutes of sleep. The ringing fell silent. Three minutes later, just as he had managed to drift back off towards dreamland... RING!!! This time the curse exploded from his throat in a violent denial as he sat up and glared at the source of the ringing. Who the hell would be calling me at this ungodly hour of the morning? The phone fell silent once more, then began ringing for the fourth time--if he wasn't attributing characteristics to an inanimate object that it shouldn't, in theory, possess, he would have sworn that the phone sounded resigned.

A sleepy, slightly irritated tenor voice spoke up from the other half of the bed, "Are you planning on answering that anytime soon, baka?"

Duo Maxwell growled something uncomplimentary at his partner, glanced at the clock--which read 10 AM--sighed, and lifted the phone from its cradle, "Moshi moshi?"

The voice of the only person in the universe that Duo couldn't bring himself to berate for this interruption of his desperately needed sleep rolled smoothly from the earpiece, "Duo! I was beginning to think that you might have left already and I had missed you!"

Duo let out purely mental groan and sank back against the pillows, "Quatre... We're supposed to meet you for lunch today..."

He could almost seeing his blonde friend nodding from the other end of the phone line. Damn it, he'd forgotten all about that. Quatre had contacted all of the pilots last week to invite them to his estate for lunch, just a day to get together, reminisce, and enjoy each other's company. In the two years since the war had ended they'd become so busy with their new lives that they saw less and less of each other. So, he and Heero had agreed to come with enthusiasm--well, Duo had agreed with enthusiasm. Heero had just nodded and muttered, "Ninmu ryoukai." Oh, the enthusiasm was there, his partner just still wasn't comfortable sharing his emotions with others. But Quatre had understood. Quatre always understood. And now, the only way the two of them would make it to Quatre's by noon was if they got out of bed this instant and were in the car by the next one. Damn... He'd really been hoping for some more sleep.

Quatre laughed, "Yes, you are. And I know you, Duo. If I hadn't called, you'd likely have slept right through it. Are you quite awake, now?"

This time Duo let the moan escape his lips, "Sadist. You're enjoying this..."

Quatre's voice was now full of amusement, "Tell Heero I wished him a good morning, as well, Duo-kun. I look forward to seeing you both."

Duo finally smiled, defeated by Quatre's gentle, good humor, "Hai, hai. We'll be there. Ja mata ne, Quatre."

"Ja mata!"

Duo placed the phone back in its cradle and rolled over to bury his face back into his lover's shoulder... only to find the other boy already up and half-dressed. He sighed, "Mou... Heero, just a few more minutes... please?"

His partner gave him an arched eyebrow in response. Duo knew he had lost, even though he hadn't even begun to fight. He wouldn't do anything to upset Quatre--none of them would--and Heero damned well knew it. Duo moaned his way out of bed and into his clothes, grumbling all the while about being pulled away from his rest.

Heero gave him a rare smile as he headed for the bathroom to finish his morning routine--Duo would be like this until he'd had his two cups of coffee, then would be back to bouncing off the walls, as per his usual state of hyperactivity. Heero wouldn't have him any other way.

Ten minutes later they were on the road heading to a meeting with their friends that was long overdue.

L-sama's daughter waltzed into her throne room as if she owned it--then again, she walked everywhere like that. The Lord of Nightmares smiled. She'd chosen well with this one, a being truly worthy of receiving the many secrets held by the Sea of Chaos. Once she had been known by the name Lina Inverse. She had been human, then, a truly talented sorceress who had mastered all three Magics known to mortals and then finally moved on to Nightmare magic - a force only L-sama herself had controlled until then. She was a worthy daughter, indeed. And she thought that Lina would enjoy this upcoming assignment.

The Lord of Nightmares watched as her Chosen approached the throne to kneel beside her. She had changed over the last four thousand years--anyone touched so consistently by Chaos would have to--but not nearly as much as she had thought she might. Her eyes, once a steady, burning red, now glowed with the gold fire of the Chaos power she wielded. Whether they were still red beneath the power, only Lina knew. Her hair was still the same brilliant fire it had always been, but she no longer wore the black headband which had originally hidden L-sama's mark upon her brow. If her hair had any ornamentation at all these days, it was a simple band that held her long tresses up into a ponytail.

The only other physical changes were the maturity that her body had finally attained and a change in attire. Lina had finally given up on the ornate sorcerer's robes she had favored in mortality. Now, she wore a simple black bodysuit, calf-high black boots, the four talismans she had acquired from the Beastmaster's servant, and a hooded cloak--black on the outside and a gold which matched her eyes on the inside. When she reached the throne, she pushed the hood back from her head and knelt to kiss her Lord's hand, "Okaa-sama... you called?" Her eyes tilted upwards to catch her Mother's expression as she slowly rose.

L-sama nodded, "I have a task for you, one that I think you will enjoy." Lina gave her Mother her full attention. "As you know, the world has lived in dark times these last four thousand years. She has suffered under the burden of humanity's technological advances for long enough. It is time to begin the Cycle anew. Time to begin the rebirth. Time to reawaken the Magic. Are you up to this task, my daughter?"

Lina smiled, cracked her knuckles, and flashed a Victory sign, "You can count on me! Lina Inverse is on the job!" She gave her Lord a cursory bow and phazed out. L-sama watched her go with a grin. Oh yes... this would be fun indeed.

Duo stared up at the mansion that they had pulled up to and let out a long whistle, "Wow... Quatre always had nice houses but this is... wow..." The land upon which the Winner estate rested expanded for miles in every direction. Once past the main gate, the road became the drive up to the Winner Mansion. And what an impressive view it was... It made Duo feel like the little street rat that he'd once been. He'd admired places like this often, stole from them more often still. As a child, he'd hated the ostentatious way that the rich put themselves forth, as if they were better than everyone else because they had bigger houses, more land, more everything. Duo had never thought of Quatre as being one of Them... Even during the war when Quatre had invited him to spend time in his own kingdom, he'd still been just another friend, a fellow Gundam pilot. Duo shivered. Subconsciously, his left hand stretched across the seat towards Heero. It wasn't that he was scared, or needed the assurance... he just wanted to know that Heero was there, that he wasn't as alone as he suddenly felt. That was all. The other boy's hand wrapped around his in a reassuring embrace. Duo smiled and squeezed back.

Heero turned the wheel, pulling their car into the Winner's rather spacious garage. Duo's eyes widened further at the sight--you could house an entire family quite comfortably in the garage, alone! The sudden silence as Heero turned off the engine jerked Duo out of his reverie. His partner looked at him, a curious expression on his face, "Are you all right, Duo? You don't seem quite yourself, today..."

Duo put a hand behind his head, emitting a nervous laugh, "I'm fine, Heero, just fine. Just... didn't expect Q-man to have shut a huge... house..." He smiled until his eyes closed, trying to look normal. Heero wasn't fooled. He knew Duo better than that, and most likely would have pushed the issue... except that Duo wouldn't let him. He hopped out of the car and waited impatiently for Heero to join him. The Japanese boy sighed as he got out of the car. If he thought about it, he would admit that Duo had been acting strangely all week. It was nothing that he could pin down, just a feeling really. As if... as if Duo were... waiting for something. As if he were nervous about something. But that made no sense, for surely, if Duo were unhappy or worried he would have confided in him by now. Kitto...

Heero walked around the car and laced his fingers with Duo's again. The braided teenager was surprised, but happily so, at the gesture. It wasn't like Heero to display his affection so publicly. Even though he had opened up quite a lot to him in the past two years, there were still a lot of things that most people took for granted that he had trouble doing. He didn't really enjoy going out in public--going to the movies, to the mall, anywhere that he might be noticed. He didn't show his emotions in public, either, often retreating behind the cold, silent mask that he had worn during the war. He didn't like being touched, even briefly, by strangers... not even by Duo when they were among others. Of course, in private, it was quite a different story. Heero would never be as flamboyant as Duo, or as mothering as Quatre, or as passionate as Wufei... but he had his own quiet gentleness... and as much as he wished that Heero was more open with other people, he was rather selfishly glad that he was the only one that got to see that side of his lover. And if Heero was happy... who was he to complain?

The two ex-pilots began the walk up to the house, each lost in their own thoughts. Duo knew that Heero was worried about him--the hand that had firm possession of his was proof enough of that--but Duo didn't know that he could reassure him. He wasn't even sure what was wrong, himself. Just that, for a few days now, he'd been restless. As if there was something that he should be doing, somewhere he should be going, someone he should be seeing... but he didn't know what, where, or who. It was beginning to get frustrating, and he didn't know what to do about it. And the worst thing of all, was that somewhere deep inside... he knew that he should understand this. There were a hundred signals being given off all around him, and in spite of the fact that he was picking them up, he couldn't understand them, couldn't piece them together into some sort of whole. It wasn't really the sort of thing that he expected Heero to understand, especially because he didn't understand it himself. So, he kept quiet about it and tried to act as normal as possible. What else could he do, after all?

When they reached the house, a stern-faced butler ushered them inside and led them to one of the informal dining rooms. Now there's a sure sign of wealth if I ever saw one. Not only does the man have formal and informal dining rooms, but he's got multiple formal and informal dining rooms, Duo chuckled to himself. Heero shot him a look and he shrugged, still smiling. When they reached their destination, they saw that the other three pilots were already waiting for them. Quatre was out of his seat like a shot, a huge beaming smile spread across his face as he hugged Duo for all he was worth. He was more sedate with Heero, only offering a polite handshake. Heero surprised them both by offering a genuine, albeit small, smile of true happiness. Duo thumped his partner hard on the back, exclaiming, "Maybe there's hope for you, yet!" He received a grumpy, "Duo no baka" in return.

Wufei was the next to step up to greet them. He exchanged silent nods with Heero, earning a set of rolled eyes from Duo, then extended his hand to Duo with a smile as small as Heero's had been, "I see you haven't changed, Maxwell."

Duo grabbed the proffered hand and pulled the other boy into a back-thumping hug, "Good to see you, too, Wu-man!" As Wufei silently spluttered at the treatment and the nickname, Duo turned to greet Trowa. Of all the pilots, Trowa was the one that Duo had always felt the least connection with. He knew that the Heavyarms pilot had had a hard childhood--most likely the hardest of all of them, with the possible exception of Duo's--but that wasn't what made him uneasy around the other boy. It was as if, when he'd met Trowa, that he felt like he should know the taller boy. It was the same sense of recognition that he had felt when he met Wufei... and Heero... but different somehow. There was something more there, and whatever it was, it made him uneasy around the other boy. Trowa didn't feel it, of that he was almost certain. Heero didn't feel it either... but sometimes Duo would catch Wufei looking at him, as if he'd done something puzzling and he was trying to figure it out. Perhaps that was why he teased him so much... He extended his hand to Trowa, almost glad when the handshake was over and the taller pilot had moved on to greet Heero. For whatever reason, the feelings of recognition were stronger today, and combined with the weird things he'd been feeling the rest of the week it was making Duo feel downright out-of-sorts. So, to cover it up, Duo did what he always did in a time of crisis... teased the hell out of everyone else.

Duo draped himself over Wufei's arm and offered the Chinese boy a huge smile, "So, Wu-man, how's life in the Preventers? Get anywhere with that gorgeous lady doctor, yet? Ne, ne? You can tell me, Wu-man, that's what friends are for!"

Wufei, who had just calmed down, began to splutter again, "Maxwell! I can't see how that is any of your business!"

Duo laughed and shook a finger at his friend while winking at everyone else, "O-ho-ho! Methinks the lad doth protest too much... Come on, Wu-man... Tell me all the gory little details, you know I can keep a secret!"

Wufei stared at him for a full five seconds before visibly gathering his dignity and stalking back to his place at the table. Quatre shook his head sadly at the braided boy, "Duo... when will you stop teasing Wufei? You know he doesn't take it very well..."

Duo laughed as he dropped an arm around the smaller boy, "Ah... Quatre... you just don't grasp the finer points of teasing. It's always more fun to tease the ones who don't take it well. They turn such interesting shades of red... Ne, Wufei?"

Wufei's only response was a glare of such angry proportions that if looks could kill, Duo would surely have been on his way to join the angels... or whoever. Duo offered the Chinese boy another eyes-closed smile and plunked himself down to his left--the better to tease him, of course. Heero sat down on his left, at the head of the table, and took his braid in a firm grip. Damn... Heero definitely knew him too well...

Quatre inquired about one of Wufei's current cases and the small talk carried them through the meal and into dessert. Dessert was a delicate puffed pastry filled with whipped cream and strawberries. And the minute that Duo's was placed in front of him, he was caught. There was something... something about the color of those preserves... He frowned, trying to catch hold of the elusive image trying to rise up into his mind, but it slipped away from him. All he managed to catch was a voice. The voice was gentle, harsh, quiet, loud, beautifully soothing, and tearingly agonizing all at once. A voice that could ease pain and cause it in equal measures. A voice equally at home in a genteel court setting or crying out the victory of a successful Hunt. It spoke... but Duo lost it even as he reached for it, like so many of the teasing clues he'd received this week. He fought back a growl of frustration as he realized that he was being stared at by four pairs of worried eyes. He forced another loud laugh, "Nan demo nai! Really... really..."

Quatre raised his an eyebrow at him, "Are you sure, Duo? You looked very pale for a moment... would you like to lay down?" The blonde's eyes flickered over to Heero, a silent question in them. Heero's worried look was all the answer he needed. This had happened before, then. He trusted that more than Duo's nervous assurances that everything was all right. But Duo was already shaking his head and digging into his dessert as if afraid that someone might take it away from him now that he'd exhibited that strange behavior. Quatre watched him for another moment before picking up his own fork and beginning to eat. Whatever was going on with Duo, they would get to the bottom of it. Kitto.

The next morning, Quatre had come to a solution--a temporary solution, but better than nothing. He greeted Duo with it on the way down to breakfast, blue eyes shining with as much excitement as he could jam into them, "Duo! I've thought of the most wonderful idea! A new amusement park just opened about an hour from here, and since we all could use a day free from responsibilities... I thought we might go...?" He left the sentence hanging, wobbly eyes and all. Somewhere in the back of his mind a voice whispered that he was laying it on awfully thick, but with a slight effort of will he ignored it. He had to convince Duo to go along with his little plan, because otherwise he had no hope of convincing the others.

Duo considered his words for all of 3 nanoseconds before glomping onto him and exclaiming over what a terrific idea it was. Quatre let out a breath that he'd been unaware of holding until then, for this was the first time since arriving that he had seen Duo act completely like his old self. Perhaps this would work after all. He let out an undignified squeak as his overenthusiastic friend nearly dragged him off his feet in his haste to go and get the others to agree to come with them.

Naturally, Heero was the first stop. They found him on the back porch, calmly cleaning and polishing his gun. A completely normal action... if one ignored that the war was long since over. But Quatre couldn't really fault him for holding onto that particular habit. Though peacetime had certainly come, the universe was far from being a wholly safe place--especially the colonies. Duo promptly latched onto one of his lover's arms and began babbling about how much he would love to go to the amusement park.

It wasn't often that Quatre got to watch the two of them like this. While outwardly Heero looked his same old irritated self, his eyes told a different story. They held a warm affection in their depths as they watched Duo chatter on animatedly. Quatre felt it through his Uchuu no Kokoro like a ray of sunlight. Even though it did not fall directly on him, the gentle glow of his friends' bond filled him and warmed him through and through. Heero's eyes also held a soft sort of wonder, as if he didn't entirely understand why such a wonderful creature would willingly tie himself to someone like him. It was a look that Quatre was all too familiar with. He saw it in Trowa's eyes often enough.

When Heero finally waded through enough of Duo's exaggerations to understand that he was being asked if he would like to join them on their excursion, his eyes rose to meet Quatre's. In them were two questions: what had prompted this, and was it a good idea given his worries over Duo. Quatre tried to give him a reassuring look, but he was too full of his own worries to make it as sincere as he could have. Heero understood. He understood the look and the ambivalence behind it. He looked up at Duo, a light almost-smile touching his features as he nodded once. An answering smile flowered over the braided man's face, not his normal manic grin, but a true smile--one that was just for Heero.

Quatre ducked his head, feeling as if he had spied upon something private and precious that he shouldn't have seen. He didn't have long to dwell on it, however, for Duo grabbed up his hand and dragged him off again, this time with Heero also in tow. Heero still wore that slightly awed and confused look in his eyes, but masked more carefully, now. Quatre had the sudden feeling that he had been granted a gift, that he had been given a privilege by being allowed to witness that moment between them. So busy was he in thinking about this that he didn't notice when Duo suddenly stopped and ran full-tilt into his back. Duo let out a quiet "Oof", but made no other complaint. Quatre turned to see where he was staring and quickly discovered why.

In the back of his mind, the Arabian knew that all of his friends had their own talents--outside of the ones that they had shared as Gundam pilots--that had made them successful soldiers. But sometimes he forgot these things. It often surprised him when one of his friends displayed those skills. And right now... He smiled as he watched Wufei flow into another of the kata's graceful set of steps. The sheer beauty, the grace of movement, the focused stillness of his friend's spirit... he could watch Wufei practice all day. It never failed to sooth him, to calm him.

Whether he had noticed his observers, or the kata had simply reached its close, Wufei straightened, sheathed his sword, and turned to face them. His gaze turned wary when it fell on Duo, but that was nothing new. Duo took that as the signal to pounce, repeating his earlier babble of words--minus the open love that he had showed to Heero. After much protesting and grumbling, Wufei too folded to Duo's soulfully pouting eyes. Quatre smiled in triumph as he saw Trowa approaching the group from the direction of the stables. With Heero and Wufei in agreement, Trowa was no challenge at all. Pulling on his own set of soulful eyes, Quatre approached the tall form of his lover. Trowa's visible eye filled with a sort of exasperated, resigned smile that told him that he would go along with whatever the golden-haired young man wanted. Winding one arm through Trowa's, Quatre indulged in a purely mental smirk. No challenge at all.

Wufei let out another heartfelt sigh--at least the 30th one this hour--and raised a hand to rub at his forehead. Why had he allowed Maxwell to talk him into coming along? That damned American could talk anyone into doing anything, no matter what the person's better judgment was screaming at the time. Wufei didn't even like amusement parks. They were too loud, too crowded, and far too chaotic for his tastes. It didn't even bear mentioning what a horrendous waste of time they were.

He looked up to find Duo staring earnestly up into his eyes, a concerned expression on his face, "Ne, Wu-man, you OK? You don't look so good... Maybe we should try a few of the tamer rides next..."

Wufei could feel his face grow warm as the implications of Duo's comments sank in. He grabbed the front of that braided baka's shirt and lifted him up onto his toes, "You dishonorable cur! You honestly believe that the reason for my melancholy is that I can not handle one little roller coaster??" He was about to launch into a full-fledged rant when he noticed that his victim did not look in the least frightened. In fact... was he laughing? Wufei's face burned. He was. And so was Quatre, that ingrate. He dropped the American like a hot coal.

Duo bent over nearly double, so hard was he laughing. In between chuckles, he wheezed out, "Oi... Wu-man... you should have seen... your face! That was so... classic!" He straightened up abruptly, a wicked gleam in his violet eyes, "Ne, Wu-man, does this mean we can go on the Hellraiser again?"

Wufei tried, once again, to glare the American into submission. It didn't work. He had had far too much time to become immune to his comrades' death glares. Damn Yuy for overusing that tactic. Now none of us can shut him up! Wufei met those purple eyes with his own ebony ones, "You are a grown man, Maxwell, as hard as that may be for any of us to believe. You are free to do as you wish. I will remain here," he pointed to the bench that Trowa and Quatre were now occupying, "and wait."

Duo gave him one last token protest before turning to try to convince the others. Trowa and Quatre seemed just as exhausted as Wufei felt. They had only been at the park for three hours... but three hours spent at an amusement park with a Duo Maxwell overloaded on sugar could seem like an eternity. Add to that the summer heat, the crowds of people, and the overlong lines, and they were all long overdue for a break. Eventually, Duo let the other two pilots off the hook with their promise to go purchase lunch for them all. Heero, of course, accompanied Duo back to the roller coaster. Wufei snorted lightly--Heero would follow Duo to the ends of the earth and beyond if he could. It was really rather... cute.

Now alone on the bench, Wufei pulled his legs up into a lotus position and tried to settle into a light meditation. He had a feeling that he would need all the balance and equanimity that he could muster to survive the rest of the day. However... something called him away from his meditations--the feeling of being watched. He opened his eyes, slowly scanning the crowd for the source of that stare. Eventually his gaze lit on a young woman--perhaps in her mid-twenties--with long red hair and eyes that matched. She wore a pair of jean cut-off shorts, sneakers, and a black tee-shirt that read, "So much treasure, so little time..." in gold lettering. She was licking lightly at an ice cream cone. When Wufei's eyes finally came to land on her, she gave a little jump as if surprised to have been caught, then wiggled her fingers at him in a wave. Wufei closed his eyes only briefly to blink, but when he opened them again... the woman was gone.

Wufei stared at the spot where she had been, an eerie feeling sweeping through him. It was the same feeling that he sometimes got around Maxwell, as if he should know that woman... as if he should be grateful that she had taken no further interest in him. Another chill swept through him and he redoubled his efforts at meditation. Calm... Just stay calm. You're only being paranoid, Wufei. Like the dreams, this means nothing. There are only twelve more hours in this day. You can make it. Focus on the meditation. Stay calm... Calm. The mental pep talk finally succeeded and Wufei settled down into his meditation.

Lina Inverse had had a long week. She'd had longer--that whole mess with Almayce and the Dark Prophecy came to mind--but not since becoming L-sama's avatar. Since the Lord of Nightmares had charged her with this task she had spent her time scuttling about the Universe, trying to locate the scattered Dragon Kings and Mazoku Lords. The Dragon Kings were easy--not a one of them had moved from their chosen kingdoms. They only had to be awoken from the Dreaming that they had fallen into with the death of Magic 4000 years ago. They had awoken... and fumed. The Ryuzoku did not take well to being manipulated. They were already convinced that the Mazoku were at fault and were planning a retaliation. Lina chuckled. They really were just too predictable--like always. The sole exception had been the Water Dragon King--who had finally been reincarnated. Aqua-baachan was always happy to see her.

The Mazoku were not so simple. L-sama had helpfully pointed out that the souls of Hellmaster Philbrizzo and the Demon King Gaav had been transformed into human souls and were living out their cycles of reincarnation--the irony of which was not lost on her servant. That left only three Lords and their servants to search for, since Valgaav was already accounted for. Lina's smile turned slightly sentimental at the thought. The Ancient Dragon turned Mazoku turned whatever-the-hell-he-was-now often visited her in the Sea of Chaos. He was the only one aside from herself and L-sama who held enough Chaos in his being to be able to enter and leave Her territory with impunity. She chuckled again. And boy was that a bee in L-sama's ear...

But as she had said, Valgaav was accounted for and had been all along. The first of the remaining Lords that Lina had been sent to find was the Deep Sea Dolphin. And, amazingly enough, she had been relatively easy to find. She had taken up residence in a sunken human boat somewhere in the Arctic Ocean. Once she had awoken she claimed to have chosen it because she liked the atmosphere. Something about living in a spot where hundreds of humans had died horrible, tortured deaths... Lina shivered. No matter how much she had changed, her roots were still human and her sympathies laid with them. The thought of so many people dying in the freezing cold water of the Artic... Well, the Dolphin was Mazoku. She was entitled to her little quirks just like the rest of them.

The next step in her quest was Dynast Grausherra and his two Priests and Generals. Why on earth he needed two of each, no one had ever been able to explain to her. Xelloss had once told her that it was because of a lack of competence on the part of his original General and Priest... but Xelloss had a tendency to exaggerate--especially when it came to the flaws of his fellow Servants. He had been difficult to find--having become locked in a dimensional bubble somewhere on the Astral Plane--and difficult to awaken. The only excitement in that little trip had been that Dynast's General, Sherra, had awoken and challenged her right to be there. And if Lina were to base her opinion of Dynast's servants solely on her encounter with Sherra... she had to admit that she didn't think Xelloss had exaggerated their incompetence. And when the woman finally figured out who and what she was fighting... Lina chuckled. She hadn't been able to get the apologies out fast enough. That had gotten boring rather quickly, so she had left.

That left only one last stop--a stop she had deliberately saved for last--Wolfpack Island... the home of Xelas Metallium, the Beastmaster. She had arrived on the island with little fanfare, not even entirely sure that Xelas had chosen to take refuge in such and obvious place. She needn't have feared. Not only was Xelas there, she was already awake and had prepared tea and biscuits. Lina had been tickled pink. This was far better than her past encounters with the Beastmaster had been--Xelas had even kept to a human form for the meeting. They'd enjoyed quite a pleasant afternoon, an afternoon which had been sweetened all the more by Xelas' rather clever attempts to get information out of her. She'd been looking for any kind of general knowledge of the past 4000 years... and one fact in particular. Lina had deduced, from the few pointed questions that the Beastmaster had asked, that she had no idea where Xelloss was. And she knew that Lina did. Of course, Lina hadn't told her. You couldn't do everything for them, after all. And besides, it was more fun this way.

However, all of those little side trips had taken longer than she'd thought. And it looked like it would take even longer before everyone was awake and doing anything interesting. So, having grown bored with waiting for the remaining Greater Mazoku and their servants to reawaken, she had searched around for something to do. And what a something she had found! She had found the human being who held Xelloss' soul sleeping deep within him. And having found him, she couldn't resist taking a closer look. She had known that Xelloss had remained awake, but unlike she and Valgaav, he had gotten caught in a reincarnation cycle of sorts--just without the death part. Periodically she would grab him to come visit with her in the Sea of Chaos, but she only managed to catch up with him once every few centuries or so. She'd lost track of him recently and hadn't seen him in nearly 500 years. And now she'd located him at last--and he seemed to have no conscious memory of who he was! He actually thought that he was an 18 year old human. She snickered. What a joke. Valgaav would find it absolutely hysterical. What was even funnier, in a way, was that he could feel the magical awakening going on around him, but he had no clue what it all meant.

He and his companions had taken the day to go to an amusement park of some sort. She'd spent the last six hours watching them zip around the park from this ride to that ride--truthfully Lina found it all rather exhausting. Apparently, she wasn't the only one. His companions had periodically sat down on benches and refused to budge as he tried to drag them along. She knew that feeling--how often had he dragged her and her companions along on adventures that they'd rather not have taken?

And, nearly as amusing as finding Xelloss had been... Lina was nearly positive that she recognized the souls of three of his companions as well. One of those three had even managed to catch her by surprise. Taking advantage of the fact that they had all decided to break for lunch, Lina had taken a break of her own. She'd forgotten how perfectly wonderful that ice cream could taste. And so, there she had been, quietly sitting and enjoying her ice cream--and watching the Chinese man trying to meditate--when she'd been caught. He had abruptly looked up from his meditations and stared straight at her. She'd been shocked... and delighted. So, naturally, she couldn't resist playing with him for the rest of the day--showing up in every possible, and several impossible, spots along his route of travel and seeing if he could spot her. And he very nearly caught her every time. In fact, if she wasn't mistaken, he was getting ever more adept at picking her out. Perhaps she should try a different outfit next time...

An abrupt wave of Mazoku magic swept out over the astral plane, jerking Lina right out of her musings. If she wasn't mistaken--and she almost never was--that was a mass transport spell... and it had Dynast's feel to it. Well... looked like things were about to get interesting after all. She settled back to watch, one curiosity foremost in her mind... How would Xelloss react to this little invasion of his world?

Wufei gaped as he spotted the red-haired woman in yet another highly improbable spot, this time sitting cross-legged on the top of a ferris wheel car as it swung by. And none of the other pilots saw her! He raised a hand to his forehead to wipe away the sudden sheen of sweat there. Perhaps the heat was affecting him... But no. She was too real. And she mocked him every time he spotted her! Winking, waving, blowing him kisses, and disappearing just as he got one of the others to turn and look. Quatre was standing next to him practically radiating worry, and Heero was giving him a look that clearly said, "You are becoming a danger to the mission." The mission, of course, being to discover what was bothering Maxwell.

He sighed and checked his watch--only 3:30. Would this day never be over? He'd had enough of amusement parks to last him a lifetime... And even as he completed that though, a chill swept over him. He jerked his gaze up to see if anyone else had felt it. Duo was frozen completely stock still in front of him, Heero was gripping the American's elbow and trying to get his attention, Quatre looked vaguely ill, and... it might have been his imagination, but Trowa looked surprised as well.

Wufei stepped forward and took the braided pilot's other arm, "Maxwell, what's wrong? What do you see?"

Duo shook off his paralysis and slowly turned widened violet eyes upon him, "Cold... a burning cold." He shivered violently in their grasp, "It's what I've been feeling for over a week, now... An Awakening..." He turned his eyes up to the sky which was rapidly growing dark, "We're in danger here. Everyone. It isn't safe..."

Heero's eyes were filled with visible worry as he clutched his lover's arm tight to his chest, "Duo. Snap out of it. You have to pull it togeth--"

The rest of Yuy's sentence was lost as a wild, cacophonous roaring began to fill the park. The sky plunged into a deep, storm-tossed gray, revealing a black-as-pitch hole nearly directly above them. But that wasn't the most surprising thing of all. No. What sent everyone around them into a screaming panic and nearly drove Maxwell to his knees was what came out of that vortex. Monsters. Like everything from all of their worst nightmares combined. Screeching, howling, hungry things that streamed from that tear in the sky and flooded the park and feasted on the innocents they found there. Wufei could only stare in horror, unable--or perhaps unwilling--to absorb or understand the Chaos around him. And somewhere... from the direction of the ferris wheel... he heard a joyous, wild kind of laughter.

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