A/N: *Lets out a sigh of happiness*  Isn't Liona the cutest?

Slayers: Definitely!

A/N: I wonder what the quest for Mazolina is. . .

Lina: You're the writer, shouldn't you know?

A/N: Eh?  Well, okay. I know what it is. . . sort of.  I'm still doing this mainly on the wing you know.  That's part of the reason why I can update so quickly.

Zel: I foresee trouble on the horizon.

A/N: Most definitely-

Slayers: *Backs away slowly in slight fear*

A/N: It'd be trouble for anyone who goes on the sun.

Slayers: *Collective sweatdrops appear and sighs of relief are heard*

A/N (To herself): I'll still wind up causing trouble for you though. . .

Disclaimer: I don't own Slayers and I never will as long as I live.

Liona's Quest: Dragon Cuisine for Mommy Dearest!

                                       Chapter One: Liona the Early Years

            As soon as Luna's shift was over on the day that Lina came back home, Luna demanded that she give Liona a medical check-up.  Not wanting to anger Luna, and wanting the best for Liona, Lina and Gourry complied with her wishes.  Luna sat Liona down on a covered table and began her procession.  Luna's "check-up" consisted of several degrees of examination such as a cavity check, breath check, eye check, dirt check, temperature check. . . the list went on and on.  In the end, this was Luna's evaluation.

            "Lina, Liona is in terrible care; do you ever watch her at /all/?  She almost has three cavities when she has a total of 13 teeth out of the usual 15.  Liona's hair is covered in a layer of dirt and dandruff, while her body temperature is 0.2 degrees higher than usual for her age.  Not only /that/ but. . . (Okay maybe I'm exaggerating just a tad, but you get the picture – Luna's a perfectionist and Liona has become her new 'project')"

            Let's just say, Luna found a lot that needed improvement in Liona's health care.  Before anyone could protest, Luna picked up Liona and hauled her upstairs to give her a thorough cleansing of both mind and spirit.  Just before she was out of hearing range, she told Lina to show Gourry where her practice arena was and start to make plans on what needed to be done with it.

            Lina led Gourry into the forest just on the outskirts of town and at about half a mile in, reached a clearing.  Gourry sweatdropped as he literally saw a large pile of rubble in the tree-locked clearing.  He could only ask, "Is /this/ supposed to be your training ground?"

            Lina proudly huffed as she started to lead Gourry closer, "Yup.  The walls were made of Orihalcon, but it didn't really matter since the last spell I cast here was a perfected Dragon Slave."

            Gourry kicked a small pebble of orihalcon and muttered, "Naturally."

            Lina thought she heard a hint of sarcasm in his voice, but shrugged it off.  "Now then…'What needs to be done' She says.  Well, I'd just about say collect 100 blocks of orihalcon, bring it here, and rebuild it completely.  What do you think, Gourry?  Oh wait, sorry, I asked the wrong question."

            "No, that's exactly what needs to be done.  That, and clear away the debris.  But Lina, I was just wondering. . . Don't your Dragon Slaves create craters?  Besides the debris, I don't see any damage to the environment."

            Lina scratched her head with a finger and chuckled slightly.  "When this was first built for me, Luna cast a protection spell around the dome just in case.  I guess it really was necessary, but you know, since this is orihalcon and I was only 12 when I cast this Dragon Slave, it's only natural that the level of destruction was lessened."

            "12?!?!  You cast the Dragon Slave when you were a kid?!"

            Lina's eye twitched slightly with remembered teasing, but answered, "No, that was when I /perfected/ it.  I first tried to cast it when I was 8.  Hehe.  That was precisely the reason why Luna wanted me to practice out here instead – I kind of blew up the school."

            While this had been happening, Zel was escorting Amelia back to Seyruun.  He normally wouldn't have done this, but he secretly wanted to make sure she was safe and busy before he went to plunge into Lina's underground library.  With Amelia delaying him, it took a while, but he returned two months later.  By asking a cook in the kitchen, he found that the cellar was a trapdoor in the pantry.  Zel hastily thanked him and headed for the pantry.  He easily found the cellar door and went down.  Looking around, he wondered where the secret entry was.  Before he got very far however, he heard Liona's childish voice from behind him.  "Whatcha doin' Zhelly-shan? (For the remainder of Liona's sentences, just imagine them with several childish slurs and an innocent tone in them)"

            He turned to see Liona sitting on one of the steps, elbows propped on knees, swinging her short legs back and forth over the step's ledge and an extremely happy look on her face.  Zel took a step towards her, bent down slightly and answered, "I want to find the library that your mother found when she was young."


            "Because I think it's the closest thing to my cure that I've ever heard of."


            "Why what?"

            "Wh-----y, are, yaaa here?"

            Zel groaned.  He thought to himself, "I think Liona received a bit too much of Gourry's genes. . ."

Outloud, he said, "Never mind that.  What are you doing here?"

            Liona answer indifferently, "Auntie -shan knowsh dat you're here – witout per-mi-shun.  She told me dat if I got you out o' her way, she'd make me and Mommy and Daddy a big fweast tchewnite."

            Zel raised an eyebrow.  Not only was he having a bit of a hard time understanding Liona's speech, but. . . what she apparently said. . . "Where /are/ your parents?  And what do you mean 'get out of her way'?"

            "Mommy, and Daddy, are helpin', da vi-wi-gers to rebwild, Mommy's, twaining djome sho I can pwactice, magick, lata.  Auntie-shan tchold me jat she goesh up an' down here conshtantly – an she doeshn't want anyone to boteh her unlessh, it'sch for, a wewwy good weason.  So ya wanna find Mommy's libwawy?"

            Zel nodded determinedly.

            Liona stood up.  "You're neva gonna find the entwance here.  Auntie-shan shealed it off a wong wong time ago becush de wall wit de entwance dat Mommy found is vewy fwagile and connects with de wallsh of all de udder fwoors.  In udder words, if jhis wall cowapses, je whole bwilding cowapses wit it – so Mommy and Auntie-shan djon't want it jamaged."

            Zel was obviously frustrated – with more than one thing.  "How do you know so much?"

"Auntie-shan and Mommy told me last week."

"You wouldn't happen to know how I /could/ get in, do you?"

            Liona nodded and half-turned as she beckoned Zel to follow her with a wave of her hand.  "Mommy showed me how yesdeday.  Come on, I'll show you."

            "Won't your parents worry about where you are?"

            "I've been shtaying wit Auntie-shan all day.  Dey won't worwy unless I show up wate for dinner at shix."

            With a shrug, Zel followed Liona.  Liona led Zel out of the cellar, out of the pantry, out of the kitchen, and just plain out of the building.  Then she walked around the front of the building to the alley to the right of the front door.  Besides a whole bunch of garbage cans there, the alley was pretty much empty – big, but empty.  Liona pointed to the garbage cans and looked up at Zel.  "Can ya move doze gabage cans over dare (points to the beginning of the alley)?  Pwetty pwease wit a chaiwy on chop?"

            Zel thought this was a queer request but did as she asked and levitated the c into the entrance way so that they were blocked in..

            Liona happily thanked him and ran to the end of the alley and stopped next to the restaurant's wall.  Zel watched her as she quickly began groping the wall with her little hands, apparently trying to find something.  By the time Zel stopped behind her, she had found it.  Liona quickly began looking for something under her shirt (^_^) and pulled out her medallion that she was currently wearing around her neck.  Zel noted that a protective gold-framed glass-panel casing had been put over the actual medallion.  He continued to watch as Liona pressed the medallion into a small imprint in the wall.  The glass panel of the medallion glowed black briefly before resuming its natural clear look.  Liona quickly took the medallion back out and told Zel to step back as she heeded her own advice.  Before long, the ground upon which Liona had previously been standing opened to reveal a pitch-black square hole.

            Happy as ever, Liona told Zel to "fo-whoa" her before jumping fearlessly into what seemed like a bottomless pit.  Sighing, Zel took the plunge as well, but not nearly as enthusiastically.  The tunnel was very straightforward and long.  Fortunately, at the end of the chute was a huge pile of large pillows to soften the blow.  When Zel landed, he found that Liona had already stepped off the pile and was looking at him in a completely innocent and excited way as she rocked back and forth on her heels with her hands behind her back.  Slowly Zel jumped off as well and looked around.  He was rather astounded at how many books there were just underneath Lina's home.

            At least 20 rows of bookshelves were lined up perfectly parted and neatly organized.  The surrounding walls were of stone and a desk could be seen on either side of him.  As Zel started to walk through the aisles, he fingered the binds of books as he looked at the neatly written titles.  Zelgadis was also surprised to find that every single book was in alphabetical order according to the titles and that every single book was initialed ~L.I.~.  He picked a random book out and looked at the cover.  He compared it to the one right next to it.  Below the title was the same magic insignia and the same author - ~L.I.~ Lina Inverse.  Zelgadis called over Liona and asked, "Liona, did you know that all of these books were written by your mother?"

            Liona blinked and cocked her head innocently.  She looked at a book eye level with her and smiled as she shook her head.  "Jeeze booksh weren't witten by Mommy.  Mommy's handwiting ish vewy messhy.  Jish handwiting ish vewy pwetty."  Liona put a hand on a bookbind and took a deep breath before she turned back to Zel and told him, "Jat nish lady – je one jat makesh me sweepy – she's the one who wote jeeze booksh."

            Zelgadis looked from the books to Liona.  "Wait- are you talking about that Kollina?  And how do you know that?"

            Liona plopped herself down on the cool gray marble floor.  She shook her head again and smiled as if she were in a blissful dream.  "I djon't know. . .I just. . . do."

            Shaking her head vigorously to rid herself of her dreamlike trance, Liona stood up again and told Zel one last thing.  "Oh yah.  Ya can't get in or out witout one of jeeze mejalli-ons.  Mommy, Auntie-shan, and me are de only ones who have dem whight now, sho you can only look dwew jeeze booksh when one of ush ish wit you.  Okay?  I'm gonna go ova dare to lie on de piwoes now.  If I fall asweep, pwease wake me e-de when ya wanna leave or ya can hear Auntie-shan or Mommy or Daddy callin me okay?  Whichever comes firsht.  Good wuck!"

            Zel had one last thing to ask, well, two things.  "Wait.  How can you hear them – we seem to be very far underground?  And how can we keep track of time down here?"

            Liona fished through her pockets until she took out what appeared to be a small golden sundial.  She put it on the ground next to Zel and told him, "Mommy gave dis to meh a while back.  I can't use it yet, but I hope I can shoon.  Ya cast a Lighting spell anywhere near it and it'll act like a wegular shundial and show what time it ish outshide.  I'll weave it wit you for now, but make shure to give it back befowe we go back okay?  Oh, Auntie-shan says dat if I want dinner I have to be at the res-tore-rant by sundown, so pwease be done for da day by den, okay?"

            Zel nodded and before he could stop himself answered back, "Okay."  After Liona left to play in the pillows, Zel tested the enchanted sundial and according to it, it was close to noon.  So he had about 6 hours to search.  He let the ball of Light rise and stay suspended in the air while he began his search.

            About 30 minutes later, Liona began to feel bored.  She fished through her pockets for something to do.  After pulling out twenty or so items, she finally found something worth doing.  Liona neatly put away the other things (just so she wouldn't have to later) and looked at the rolled up piece of parchment that she held in front of her.  She unrolled a little bit and squinted her eyes in an attempt to read the scrawled writing.  Taking hope, Liona rolled it back up, jumped off the pile, and went to find Zel.

            "Zelly!  (A stressmark appeared on Zel's head)"

            "What is it?"

            Liona had found Zel in the "C" Section, looking at a book titled "Chimeras Big and Small".  Liona held out the parchment and asked pleadingly while jumping up and down anxiously, "Can ya wead dish chew me?  Pwease?"

            Zel looked at the sundial and shrugged.  He took the parchment and as he opened it answered, "Since you've been a big help, I guess I don't mind trying.  Let's see here…"

            Zel sweatdropped at the illegibility of the writing before he realized that it seemed to be written in Runes-a language he had yet to decipher.  He glanced at Liona's medallion casing and thought a moment.  He asked her, "Are you allowed to take the casing off you medallion?"

            Liona shook her head.  "Both Mommy and Auntie-shan forbade me chew.  I wearned dat when dey agwee upon shomting, itch's unquesh-chin-ably cowwect.  Sho I can't.  Even if I could, I dunno how to- boat o' dem put a pwotectshun shpell on it."

            "I see.  Well, I'm sorry but, it looks like this was written in runes by Lina –"

            "Auntie-shan wrote it quickly."

            "-which means, most likely, that only she'd be able to read it to you.  Either that or someone who is used to her writing and/or knows how to read runes and has extremely good eyes – even better than mine."

            Liona shrugged after Zel gave it back to her.  "Ah well.  I washn't shupposhed to wead it anyway, eben ip I knew how.  I wash shupposhed chew give jis to my Mommy.  Sho um… Would jit be okay if we went up eawy today?  I wash told to give it to Mommy as shoon as I could but I forgot."

            Zel nodded and stood up to dust his pants off.  "Just as soon as I put back these books-"

            The words barely came out of his mouth when Liona's medallion glowed gold, sending a chain reaction to the books on the floor and levitating them back into their original places.  Once all the books were back, the golden aura on the books and the medallion ceased.  Both Zel and Liona looked questioningly at the medallion, but the medallion heeded no answers.  Finally, they decided to let it go and started back to the chute.  "De mosht obious way to get back," Liona recited from what Lina had told her," ish to shimply Way Wing up de chute.  I dunno how to, sho I'd be gwateful for some help.

            "Of course."  Zel picked up Liona and he flew them back to the surface.  Upon reaching the closed trapdoor, Liona's medallion glowed black and it opened before them.  After they got out, Zel replaced the garbage cans, Liona said goodbye and ran off to find her mom, and Zel decided to go inside and try another sample of coffee – a different one this time.


            Time passed rather "uneventfully" for the next few years.

  It seems, that Luna had chosen to make the feast a little "punishment" for Lina.  The appetizer was – would you believe it, Unshelled-Escargot (Basically cooked slugs) Soup.  Lina had turned green as soon as Luna had told her what it was, and she saw what she thought to be a slug eyeball looking up at her from the bowl.  For the main course, the special of the house turned out to be escargot in steak.  Lina turned blue with dread when she heard the sickening crunch of the escargot's shell crack under her quick knife.  Finally, after Luna had let out her eerie laugh, she insisted that she was done for the day and gave Lina a large jug of "juice" to drink so that at least /something/ went into her stomach.  As soon as she drank the first sip, a wave of déjà vu hit her.  It tasted so familiar and yet. . . Oh no.  She quickly pushed the jug away and excused herself from the table.  When Gourry asked what was wrong with her, Luna simply smiled and answered that she just took a sip of a drink mixed with a special powder that made the substance it was mixed in with, do the opposite effect.  In other words, instead of keeping down her lunch, it forced her to, well, throw it back up and leave her mouth as dry as a bone.  Some people may not think that the dinner was all that horrible, but to Lina, it was.

            Back to Liona.  Around 3 and a half, she showed remarkable intellectual signs.  She learned how to cast the Lighting and Sleeping spells, could pronounce almost everyone's names (even though she still called them by nicknames named after food), and was able to almost legibly write her name.  Thus, she was enrolled in the rebuilt school to learn the basics and necessities in the following subjects: Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Geography, History, and an elective course on learning the magic of his/her choice.  Since Lina, Luna, and even Zel and Gourry (slightly forced) offered to help, she decided to take on Shaminism.  Not because she particularly admired Zel or anything, but Shaminism and several different types of "cool" magic, including Fire-based spells.  After careful coaxing, she also learned various spells from the other types of magic such as Recovery and Dragon Slave (-_- Oh no). But as any other learner, she, too, had her problems.

            One day when she was still about 4 or so, Lina and Gourry went with her to the rebuilt dome to train.  Once inside, Lina told Gourry to stand at one side of the dome while they stepped about 20 feet away (it's a big dome).  Lina had already taught Liona the incantaion, but now she just had to practice…

            "Alright, ready Liona-chan?  Whenever you're ready, try to launch a fireball at Daddy, okay?"

            Liona was genuinely concerned.  "Won't it hurt him?"

            Lina laughed and patted her daughter's shoulder as she assured her, "Don't worry, he can handle it."

            Grimacing, Liona hesitated before she saw the encouraging looks from her parents (Okay, so Gourry was just confused because nobody told him why /he/ was there even though he didn't know any magic. . .).  She took a deep breath and closed her eyes while she chanted the short spell.  Let's just say, her deformed speech garbled up the spell. . . "Fwirebwall!"

            The effect wasn't what they expected it to be.  Twin /wires/ came from Liona's hand, and apparently ignited in flames and started to "brawl".  Lina had to laugh at this, Gourry was still confused, and Liona seemed to be exhausted and hopeless.  After putting out the fire with an Aqua Create, Lina comforted Liona and told her what she did wrong and how to fix it.  It seemed to take a long time, but finally, Liona learned how to say the spell without her childish slurring, but the target was now asleep and snoring.  Lina smirked and challenged Liona to throw a fireball at him to wake him up.  Concentrating hard, Liona did just that.  Of course, her fireball was significantly smaller than Lina's usual ones, but that was to be expected.

Due to a tendency to catch on very quickly (after learning how to not slur), opposite of her father, Liona "graduated" from school with flying colors a month before her 8th birthday.  (I know, way too quick, right?  Just stay with me here)

            Lina and Gourry wanted to throw a party to celebrate Liona's birthday and her graduation.  Luna didn't object to this idea, so she sent instant invitations to everyone who knew Liona.  As soon as they sent their replies back, Luna took note on how many could make it.  A month later, the party took place, and it was a joyous occasion with food, presents, guests, and more food.  Even Xellos came, which ticked off Filia greatly, but as he obviously did not enjoy joyous occasions greatly, he soon left.  Before he left however, he did what he came to do.  Xellos told Liona that both him and his mistress gave Liona their congrats, and handed her a thin, long black box tied with a violet bow and ribbon.  With that, he teleported away.  Staring blankly at the gift, Liona seemed to be wondering what to do.  Suddenly remembering her manners she looked up to say 'thank you' but Xellos was no longer there.  With a shrug, Liona tore away the ribbon and slowly opened the box.  Out of protective curiosity, Lina and Gourry leaned forward to see what Xellos, a high-level mazoku, had given her.

            In the box, on top of black tissue paper, was a black whip (with a swirl of purple) – at least, the handle of one.  The actual whip was nowhere to be seen.  The room was silent for a long time.  Finally, Gourry asked, "What is it?"

            Lina bonked him on the head out of habit.  "It seems to be the handle of a whip, but where's the actual whip?"

            This whole time, Liona was staring blankly at the whip.  She slowly picked it out of the box to get a better look.  More silence and more staring occurred.  Finally, something clicked in the back of Liona's memory and she slowly tilted the whip so that she was looking at the end of the handle (the opposite side of where the whip would be).  Liona suddenly exclaimed at what she found.  Lina and Gourry started and came forward quickly to see what surprised her so.  They too, were surprised.  In the center of the octagonal end, was, in golden engraving, an intricate picture of a dragon, behind the initials, "~L.I.~"

            Filia wondered aloud, "Is that what I think it is?"

            Luna murmured in a low tone that everyone caught, "It appears to be a picture of a golden dragon behind the initials 'L.I'  I believe I've seen that insignia somewhere, though."

            Zel immediately stated, "The library.  All the books are signed like that – well, without the dragon part."

            Sylphiel asked, "What does it stand for?"

            Liona suddenly spoke.  "I remember this.  Ko-Kollina gave me this when I was really young and was visiting Xellos and his mistress.  I remember. . . 'L.I.' Stands for 'Lina Inverse'."

            Lina immediately said, "I never owned a whip like that-"

            Liona shook her head.  She slowly continued, as if her mind was whirling to bring back all of her oldest memories (which is pretty much true).  "Kollina-san told me that her previous name was Lina Inverse, before her new mistress changed it.  I remember. . .  I know how to use this whip. . . She taught me. . . I was really slow, but she took the time to teach me. . ."

            Gourry asked, kindly as ever, "Well, how /do/ you use it?"

            Liona breathed three silent words, but the spell initiated.  "Light come forth."

            A blue light in the form of a whip, suddenly appeared from the tip of the handle.  It lay suspended in air, as if waiting for a command from its master.  Liona eyed the last present on the table, about 12 feet away.  Goal in mind, Liona carefully slung her arm with the whip back, and with deft speed and accuracy launched it forward like an experienced fishermen throwing the line into the water.  The tip of the whip neatly wrapped around the sides of the box, and with another tug back, Liona succeeded in making the present land in front of her.  All were speechless at this performance.  Nothing was said as Liona retracted the whip and clipped it to her belt.  The party started again when Liona opened the present, revealed to be Filia's, and seemed ecstatic to find that she had been given a beautiful pink-flowery tea set.  After thanking Filia, she greedily asked if they could eat.  Everyone laughed and was merry once more as the feasting began.

            Not long afterwards, it happened.  Liona was playing with her friends on the bustling street in front of the restaurant.  Everyone in town, by then, knew who she was, and didn't dare to hurt or be mean to her whatsoever, for fear of the consequences.  Liona and her small group of close friends, were currently doing a classical game of dodgeball, which is to say, they went back and forth trying to hit each other with a ball that was ignited with a fireball.  No worries, nobody got seriously hurt in this game since all the players knew Aqua Create and Recovery, if need be.

            It was late afternoon when their game was suddenly interrupted by a loud shout of "Help! Run away horse!"  Not a minute had passed before said horse came into view and was galloping at top speed toward them.  Using her abnormally heightened senses, Liona saw what was causing the trouble for the horse, and while everybody else ran either inside a building or to the far sides, in order to save their hides from being stampeded, Liona fearlessly ran and stopped right in the horse's path, her arms outstretched on either side of her.  The horse saw her, of course, but was going to fast to really stop.  It hit Liona dead on, sending her flying into the sky, but with remarkable accuracy, Liona landed on the horse's back several yards ahead, the horse still galloping at full speed.  Minds working quickly, her group of friends hurriedly decided to split up – two to fly after Liona and the horse, the other two to inform Luna and Liona's parents.  As soon as the word had spread, panic had risen among those who knew Liona the most.

            Meanwhile, Liona winced with the gnawing pain she felt in her lower ribs, but she forced herself to sit up on the saddle, and reached into the thin bag on the left side of the saddle.  Carefully, she pulled out a glowing golden egg, that looked bigger than an ostriches, and held it in front of her.  The horse, now that the source of the pain was off of it, came to an abrupt stop – that and that he was at a racing river's bank.  Of course, this sent Liona hurling into the river – straight for a waterfall.  She saw two of her friends flying towards her, trying to get her, but the river was too strong and too fast – she went over the watery ledge.

            Clutching the egg firmly in her grasp, Liona braced herself as she went down.  Though, she probably wasn't expecting what did meet her at the end – A large, semi-pointed rock, that seemed to break her back before she slid into the cool lake.  By this time, she was knocked out, so she simply let the water take her deeper, and deeper. . . That was when Luna, Lina, and Gourry arrived.  Having seen Liona's descent, Gourry beat the others to diving in to save her.  The sisters could only wait breathlessly until Gourry resurfaced with an unconscious and bleeding Liona.  As soon as she was on the shore, Luna healed her.  Even though she cast a resurrection spell, and her wounds were healed, she didn't' open her eyes.  Luna felt for her heartbeat, and took a sharp intake of breath when she didn't feel one.  When she shook her head, informing Lina and Gourry, and Liona's friends that she was gone.  They were all obviously saddened.  Liona was the life of the usually dull town (Luna scared away any potential villains, and punished any who dared to come immediately).  Lina, bent down next to Liona's form, and held her on her lap.  The medallion that Liona never took off, was now lying on top of her motionless chest, cold and dormant.  Lina bent her head over Liona, and tears started to fall.  One lone tear landed on the medallion, triggering something from within.

            The medallion case started to glow gold, then red, then blue, then white, and finally gold.  They watched captivated as the gold aura surrounded Liona's form and allowed her to slowly levitate into the air.  In a burst of golden energy, a feeling of warmth touched the hearts of all those present.  Liona slowly descended back to Lina and the golden aura vanished.  Just before it did, however, Lina could have sworn that she heard Kollina's voice echo inside her mind, "Let the curse begin.  1%"

            Lina glanced at Luna, and she nodded – she had heard it too.  Slowly, Liona began to open her eyes.  The spectators were breathless with hope as her eyes opened, completely, she blinked a few times, and smiled wanly.  She put a childish hand on Lina's face, and wiped away some of the tears on a cheek.  "Why are you crying, Mommy?  Did something happen?"  Lina smiled a large smile of relief and tightly hugged her magically revived daughter.  She whispered hoarsely into her ear, "Idiot.  Don't you ever scare me like that again.  We almost lost you today."

            Liona hugged back with a soft smile before her eyes suddenly snapped wide open, and she pushed away frantically.  Lina released her but quickly asked, "What's wrong?"

            Now Liona was closed to tears.  "The egg.  My egg.  Did you get it?"

            Gourry asked for everyone, "What egg?"

            Liona quickly said, "The golden egg!  The one that made the horse run off!  It's a hazard to regular animals without protection!  But I gotta get that egg!"

            Before anyone could stop her, Liona hurriedly got up and dived back into the water.  Grimacing with regret and recently recovered heartache, Lina rushed to follow her.  She quickly cast a Ray Wing and descended into the water in the bubble.  She quickly found that Liona was on the bottom, frantically searching as if she had lost one of her best friends.  Lina wordlessly put the bubble around her as well, and scolded her.  But Liona wasn't listening because although she was grateful for the air and the fact that her mom came down for her, it was then that she spotted the egg amongst a large clump of seaweed, still intact.  She pointed at it with anxiety, hurriedly begging her mom to bring them over there.  While she did as she was asked, Lina had to ask why.  The answer was probably not the one she was expecting.

            "That's the egg of a White/Dimos Dragon – can't you tell?  Something hot is protecting it right now, but I don't know how long it'll last.  Please hurry!"

            Seeing her daughter's anxiousness, Lina went as fast as she could, but it was still relatively slow to an extent.  Finally, they reached the kelp and Liona carefully but her hands through the barrier, freed the egg, and took it back with her into the shielded bubble.  Lina wordlessly started going to the surface, as Liona seemed completely gratified by saving the egg.  She smiled and shook her head in amazement of her daughter, but took it as a trait from Gourry.  Little did she know, Liona would be showing an even bigger and worse trait then Gourry's. . . to an extent.  When they reached the surface, everybody exclaimed with joy and hugged her at all the same time.  Liona covered the egg with her arms, but smiled back at everybody.

            You see, after that, it began.  First and foremost, she didn't remember a single command for longer than five minutes.  At that point, she'd alter to her liking.  For example, if Lina told her to practice magic, Liona would take about five minutes normally to get to the dome, her eyes briefly became vacant, and then she would turn to do something like practice fishing at a nearby river.  If Luna told her to run fifty laps around the nearest orchard, she'd run about 2 laps in the five minutes, and then eat 48 grapes off the trees.  Lina noticed this one day, but Liona didn't even realize that she was doing it.

            Second, every single night, she demanded that someone tell her a story, be it from memory, or a book, she didn't care as long as she heard it.  About 15 minutes into any story, she would fall asleep, but if the story teller left before finishing the story, she'd wake up furiously and whine until they came back and finished it.  She seemed to show a remarkable skill of memorizing every detail of a story that someone told her, even if she didn't remember commands.

            Third, by the time Liona was ten, Lina realized that she hadn't grown a single millimeter since the accident.  But, when she told Luna, she worked it to her advantage – she had Liona dress up as a waitress and take the tips from customers, and on some days even had her take the smaller orders to the customers.  However, while Luna saw that this plan worked extremely well, she didn't figure in that Liona had become a conniving little sneak when it came to money, food, or magic.  Sure, she used her adorable cuteness to get extra tips, but she only gave Luna less than half of it every time.  It may have been related to partly what she said to get the money. . .

            Skipping in an adorable fashion, Liona would stop at the designated table and put down the drinks, well, tried to since her nose was level with the table surface.  The customers usually had to help her.  After thanking them, Liona would put the tray behind her back with both of her hands and start to rock back and forth on her heels.  Looking up at them with pleadingly innocent cerulean eyes, she would ask, "Kindly sirs (or ma'am if it was a lady), would you be so ever kind to help a poor little girl like me raise a little money for my ma?"

            When they asked if anything was wrong with her mother, she would resolutely nod her head and without letting her eyes off of the customers would say, "Mommy's dying from a terrible disease.  I don't know how much longer she'll last, but the money I'm gathering will go to buying her something that'll surely ease her dyin' heart.  Can't ya help me at all?  Pwetty pwease with a cherry on top?"

            It was obviously a lie, unless you counted Lina's greediness or abnormal hunger as a disease, but it got them almost every time.  Usually, the nice people that she targeted, gave in and gave her a little bit of change.  Some of the richer people gave her gold coins, while those with cold hearts turned away from the charity request.  But no matter what, Liona was always terribly cute and polite, unless you deemed some of her actions, a little on the not polite side.

            One day when she was nearing fourteen years of age, she was on a break and plopped down next to Zelgadis, who was having his fifth cup of coffee after searching fruitlessly in the library.  Swinging her legs back and forth while her small fingers were wrapped around the edge of the seat, she sat and smiled at Zel with an unnerving stare.  Eyebrow twitching, he asked, "Am I that freakish to you?"

            Liona suddenly stopped waving her legs, and her smile disappeared.  After a short moment, she murmured, "Don't move."  Slowly, Zel watched as she unhooked her whip and aimed the potential whip at his head.  Before he could protest, she whispered, "Light come forth," and the whip hit something mere inches above Zel's scalp.  Carefully, she severely shortened the whip so that it was barely larger than a shard of ice.  She stood up and maneuvered it carefully to burn and disintegrate what her whip had just hit.  After they both heard a sickening sizzle, Liona retracted her whip completely and sat down, resuming her happy aura.  Zel sweat and asked, "What did you just do?"

            Eyes closed in happy bliss, Liona murmured in reply, "Hm?  Oh, there was a giant spider crawling down from the ceiling.  I got it just before it landed in your hair, but it landed there anyway, so I burned it."

            Zel could only nod in reply.

            Two more years past without significant events.  Liona continued to perfect her skills, and stayed the exact same height.  Her egg had long since hatched, to reveal a pure white dragon baby.  Liona insisted on raising it herself, and that's exactly what she did.  Now, her white dragon friend, that she had named Angelina (what are the chances?), since she looked like an angel descended from "heaven", but called her Ange for short, could take on the form of a human child with flowing white robes and silvery-white hair, without hesitation.  She was Liona's best friend in the whole world and went wherever she went.

            Sometime after Liona's sweet 16 birthday party/banquet, Lina really came down with something.  She was bedridden with fever and fatigue, just when Luna was on a long-term errand as the Knight of Cepheid.  During one of her daily visits to see if her mother was any better, Liona caught four strained words come out of Lina's mouth while she dreamed, "Must – have – Dra-gon Cuisine."

            Liona softly contemplated these words.  She remembered a tale that her mother had told her a while back, when her friends and her helped a widowed and childless cook slay a lake dragon only to find that it would take much too long to cook before they could eat the cuisine.  Mind set on a goal, Liona rushed to her room and began gathering things that she would need for her journey.  Then, when nobody was watching her, she took one last lingering look at her mom, kissed her cheek, left a note on the bedside, and ran down the steps, out of the restaurant, and into the forest with Ange in tow.  Zelgadis saw her go, and decided to tell Gourry.  Once Gourry was alerted, they both went up to Lina's room and saw a small piece of parchment left on the side table.  Zel picked it up and read it aloud, "Gone to get Mommy some Dragon Cuisine.  Be back ASAP ~ Liona Inverse"

            It took a long while before Gourry's mind clicked, but click it did.  "Liona-chan – ran away?"

            Zelgadis muttered, "That's what it seems like."

            Gourry slowly brushed Lina's bangs away from her face.  Her fever hadn't gone down at all, and half the time she was asleep and breathing laboriously.  This was one of the moments that Lina woke up briefly.  She slowly opened her eyes wearily and told them in between coughs, "Don't' worry about me.  *Cough cough* Bring back Liona-chan.  Tell her *Cough* I don't need the Dragon Cuisine- I'd rather that *cough*she be with me."

            That was all she said before she fainted into a deep sleep again.  Gourry sighed as he stroked Lina's face.  After a moment or two of silence, he turned to face Zelgadis.  "Zel, would you do us a favor and bring Liona back?  I want to stay here with Lina, to make sure she's okay.  Besides, I've seen her when she's with you; it's the happiest times she ever has besides when there's food or money in front of her or she just learned a new spell."

            Zel saw the genuine look of torn pain in Gourry's eyes, between going after his only daughter or taking care of his only wife, both having been taken away by "death" at least on one occasion.  Zel solemnly nodded in agreement.  "Agreed, but how am I supposed to find her?  She really is a fast runner you know.  Not to mention she has a horrible sense of direction.  She could be anywhere by now."

            Gourry took off the medallion necklace that he had received from Luna soon after Liona's accident.  "Take this.  If you swing it and say, 'Find the black mate of thee' it'll direct you to where Liona's medallion is.  She never takes it off, so when you find the medallion, you'll find her.

            Zel nodded and after taking the medallion, set off to find Liona.

A/N: Whew.  Muchachos longos chapter.  Much longer than I expected.  Liona begins a quest for Dragon Cuisine, but will Zel be able to stop her before she get herself in trouble?  Review and wait to see!