Disclaimer: I do not own Slayers. If I did I would have made sure that the information given in the fourth season about Zanaffar was the exact same as the first season, with perhaps a bit extra added in to give a little more detail for the current situation they found themselves in (and of course to give info for the all the noobs). I mean, the group all acted as if this was the first time they had even come up against Zanaffar, like they hadn't fought Copy Rezo/Zanaffar at all! Grrr! I hate continuity errors!

AN: Just soes you know, this story is rated M for a reason, at least if I can get away with it. The last chapter just gave a small hint of what's… coming. Pun intended. XD

"Wow."

"Yeah."

"That is just…"

"So…"

"Hot."

"Yeah."

"Do you think maybe she'd-"

"Nope."

"Yeah."

"I wish I were…"

"Me too…"

"Yeah."

"We'd never…"

"Nope."

"Yeah."

Four young men stared longingly on a most sensual tableau, their eyes glazed over, and perhaps a slight bit of drool forming at the corner of their mouths.

The main participant of such a scene was their Goddess, Lina Inverse, passed out after her over-expenditure with her Chaos Magic against a gang of bandits that actually thought they could take on the Sorceress Supreme… and win.

Lina was still in the outfit that had been almost entirely obliterated by said magic.

And that outfit just barely covered her modesty.

Barely.

Another glorious redhead flanked Lina on the left; although this redhead was nowhere near as striking as the gorgeous sorceress. This redhead was dressed in a number of fiery orange veils and though they covered more skin than Lina's current bedraggled outfit, they also revealed more of her body than they concealed, as they were only slightly opaque. The redhead curled into Lina, one arm draped over the sorceress in a very tender and—to the boys—arousing way; her hand just happened to rest upon one of Lina's breasts, her fingers just beginning to curve around the luscious mound. The redhead's wolfy ears were cocked at attention despite her rather sleepy appearance, and her tail was twitching; one moment slowly moving up Lina's very naked thigh, the next batting the blanket they lay on.

It was a wet dream that every single man, that was interested in the fairer sex at least, had and fantasized about.

The two redheads alone were hot enough, and all that snuggling and cuddling was enough to make even a saintly man wish for carnal enterprises. However, the third occupant on Lina's right added to the more exotic fantasy of not just two breathtaking women together, but three.

On Lina's right, the dangerous and incredibly magnificent Mistress of Beasts snuggled, her arms wrapped tightly and possessively around one of Lina's. Her nose was buried in Lina's hair, a small smile curling her luscious lips as she breathed in the wonderful essence that was Lina. A fang gleamed wickedly behind that smile, and a twinkle was somehow flashing beneath her eyelashes, even if her eyes were closed.

It didn't hurt that the platinum blonde just seemed to exude sensuality. Another woman would have been mightily tempted to join the lovely ladies—even if she wasn't interested in the fairer sex—just based on Xellas and the raw sexuality she radiated.

Out of the three, Xellas was the most naked, her voluptuous body practically on display for anyone who cared to look her way.

Out of the three, the other lovely redhead's furry appendage was making the boys wonder just how soft it was, and if that tail was as dexterous as it looked.

But out of the three, Lina's lack of clothing was currently inspiring the most perverted thoughts in the young men admiring such an erotic exhibit of their goddess' flesh.

It had been very early afternoon when Lina had passed out and now it was very late in the day, dusk creeping in as the sun began to set, and Lina had yet to awaken. Xellas and the other redhead did not seem worried in the slightest about Lina's current state of exhaustion, and it was that fact alone that made the rest of the party unconcerned about when Lina would finally awaken. For the most part, after all the chores that could be done were done, the only ones currently interested in keeping an active eye on Lina were the four young men—and it was most definitely not because they were concerned for her health, as much as they tried to say they were.

When the young men had arrived with Xellas early that afternoon to find their goddess passed out, with Gourry and Naga tending to their various wounds and attempting to sort out their temporary camp, they immediately set about making the campsite more hospitable, especially with the extra provisions they had brought with them—like actual tents—courtesy of Prince Zelgadis.

Bari and Ari had set up most of the tents so that the group could rest off of the cool ground and actually get a relaxing night's sleep. According to Naga, they had been sleeping on the ground almost every night except when they hit a town. Apparently, when they hit a town on those two rare occasions that was the only time they got proper sustenance as well. So Sian had started very quickly on the makings of a stew. He had most of the ingredients from the provisions left on the wagons that had been abandoned in such haste. The rest, mainly a bunch of spices and salt, he carried with him in his own pack. Rolf had been willing to hunt so that they could have fresh meat, but Sian had known that hard jerky would do in a pinch when hunting was always an unknown in terms of meat and time, and that they could always hunt the next day and add to the stew if needed. Rolf had the onerous task of collecting dry wood for the fire, then starting the fire, and of course then gathering the water for the stew pot. And once all that was done, he had more wood to collect. Luckily by that time, Bari and Ari had gotten the hang of the tents and had finished up, so were conscripted by Rolf to gather more wood with him. They all knew to leave the cook alone.

It was obvious that Gourry and Naga were unable to do any of this by themselves, and the three remaining Mazoku were diligently guarding their sleeping charge to the exclusion of all else—and likely would not deign to do actual camp chores unless it directly benefited Lina. The large number of comfortable blankets that Lina lay on was obviously the extent of their generosity; they would stoop no lower.

The boys did not question why Lina was laying on top of the blankets; they were just grateful that the Mazoku had been kind enough to allow them to see her in such a… natural state.

The Seyruun guardsmen and bandits that were somehow still alive after the battle that had exhausted Lina and her human companions, were either running for their lives, or were being tortured by the rest of Lina's enraged Mazoku honor guard.

Nowhere nearby, thank goodness.

The wagon drivers were among the lot that was currently running for their lives—the Mazoku, in their fury, were not making any distinction between traitors and innocent bystanders—if they were affiliated with Seyruun and in Lina's caravan, they were dead meat.

The young men, still dressed in Seyruun Elite Trainee uniforms, were just glad that Xellas was willing to vouchsafe for them when the irate Mazoku eventually returned.

Though Rolf was not entirely certain the evil woman would do so immediately—perhaps only when the young men were close to being killed, he figured she might step in. Her sense of humor was really warped, and he had gotten to know it a little too well since they first made contact with her. The only reason she wasn't hanging off of him even now was only because she was clinging to Lina instead.

The young men of course could not get any closer to their goddess than the wagon they were leaning against on the opposite side of the fire from where Lina was sleeping. The second Mazoku of Lina's party was lying in front of the sleeping Lina, intentionally creating a barrier against the young men. It appeared the lupine Mazoku was not intent on sharing Lina with anyone more than she had to—something all the Mazoku seemed to have in common. It was odd that Lina had attracted such dark creatures to her, and that they all felt compelled to protect her and be constantly at her side.

From what the young men knew of their goddess—which admittedly wasn't much since their revelations with Xellas—they had never thought that she would really tolerate such companionship. But here she was asleep with two Mazoku curled right against her and another laying just below her feet, and the fact that she was willingly traveling with them meant she had no problem with what they were, even if to be completely honest, they still had no clue on what Mazoku truly were.

The third Mazoku of her traveling party, and the most dangerous of them all—especially to the four young men—was sitting on the lowest branch of the tree that Lina was currently sleeping under, keeping a very vigilant eye out for any would-be troublemakers. The four teenagers were currently considered part of that group if his eyes were anything to go by. By casual mentioning from Xellas, this Mazoku had to be the infamous Xellos, and he was obviously not a happy camper where the four boys were concerned—the look in his eyes, when he deigned to glare at them, stated that he would enjoy hurting them if they made so much as a wrong step towards Lina.

That deterrent, and the fact that Lina had four Mazoku in total surrounding her kept the boys from even thinking of acting on their current fantasies involving the red-haired Sorceress Supreme.

Rolf was doubly worried about going near her, because he just knew Xellas was waiting to pounce on him. Every time he even thought about the Beastmaster, that gleam behind her eyelashes became just a bit brighter, and her fangs seemed to become more pronounced even though the smile on her face never changed. He was beyond alarmed by the idea that she would follow through on her threat and decide to train him as her new cub whatever that meant and he was certain it could not be good in any way. He was even more terrified by the fact that he may not have any choice in the matter, especially since it seemed Xellas was not the type of woman who took 'no' for an answer.

Sian was the first to turn away from the vision of loveliness that was Lina.

He may have wanted to keep watching his ladylove, but he had some simmering stew to attend to and he knew that even by themselves, he and his three friends ate enough to satisfy three times their number. He knew of Master Gourry's appetite as well and had figured he should just make enough to feed a small army, especially since he wanted to be polite enough to offer the Mazoku of their party some. He didn't know if they'd eat it or not, but it was wrong to make only enough for the humans. Thank all the heavens that when the drovers had fled in fear of the ferocious Mazoku, they had at least fled with only two of the five wagons—dumping most of the equipment that was on those two to make a more speedy getaway—including the massive black pot that he was now cooking the stew in.

It was a relatively simple stew to make, especially with as many raw vegetables as the wagons had had, but he was glad he knew how as both Master Gourry and the indecently covered brunette were both looking at the stew with some avarice, and were commenting that neither of them had had a decent hot meal since they had left that last town, despite the plethora of people they had traveled with until very recently. He checked the meat quickly. Over the time it had taken for the sun to travel from its zenith to the edge of the western sky, the meat had finally plumped up and softened. He took a small nibble. It wasn't as tender as fresh meat might have been, but the texture was right, and the taste was good. Too bad the woman Naga had not been willing to share some of her red wine with him. It would have made a lovely flavor addition. Maybe later. Now he just needed the broth to thicken a bit before he'd actually call it a stew. He added a small amount of flour, a little at a time as he stirred, to thicken the broth into more of a gravy consistency. He'd never be happy with the result of course, but he knew his compatriots would soon be clamoring for his cuisine.

Rolf was the next to turn away.

He knew it was probably just his overactive imagination, but he would swear that the Beastmaster was winking at him and he did not want to see it. He did not want her attention on him at all. He knew he was smitten with Lady Lina, and that he would do anything she ever asked of him, but the Beastmaster… He shuddered at the idea of even kissing her much less doing anything else, despite how tempting and luscious her body was. He may have been just a teenaged male with raging hormones, which had reacted instinctively to the voluptuous female that was placing all her amorous attention upon him, but his brain knew better! She was danger in a lovely tempting package, and he was not about to open that beautiful bundle unless his life depended on it but the way her interest was going, he knew his life would depend upon it very soon.

Ari and Bari finally turned as well, when they realized that their two compatriots were no longer sharing in the splendor of their goddess in silent wonder. Both sat down by the fire, close to Master Gourry and the large breasted brunette who was supposedly the other princess to Seyruun.

In a way, they could not believe that this woman and their Princess Amelia were actually sisters. They were definitely not cut from the same cloth; especially in the way they wore outfits.

Did a princess really show that much skin? Was she even allowed?

They had always just assumed that a princess would be stately and elegant, like Princess Amelia. Of course Princess Amelia still had her moments of klutziness that she was well known for, particularly among her people, but those moments were few and far between, especially as she had gotten older.

Having a council member for a father as they did, they were the most likely of the four boys to know the inner workings of the Seyruun kingdom, but politics bored them—and they had still been in their cribs when Crown Princess Gracia had run away, so they really had no idea what she looked like except for the few family portraits that hung in the Seyruun palace even now. For all they knew, this crazy woman could be an imposter who looked like the long lost princess.

Especially since she did not have the same sort of ideals that King Philionel and Princess Amelia had.

There was greed in this woman's eyes, perhaps dampened at the moment by the bottle of wine she was drinking from, but the greed seemed to be ever present. So despite the fact that their king and princess believed that this woman was their long lost child/sister, they would not believe it until they had irrefutable proof that she was.

As the twins settled—impatiently waiting for the stew to be ready now that their attention was no longer on their goddess—and were staring at the fire, they noticed that there was something a bit off about the air of the camp, like someone was breathing down their necks.

Make that several… someones.

Bari was the first to turn his head. His eyes connected with those of a very large wolf, and it was not the one that was still lying below Lady Lina's feet, though her head was perked up to watch the proceedings. Ari felt his twin tense and turned to look himself. The wolf staring his brother down was not the only one doing so. There were several large wolves, and they were all glaring rather intensely at his brother and him. His eyes darted to where Sian and Rolf stood, as still as possible, the ladle from the stew still hovering right at Sian's lips. They too were beginning to be surrounded by these massive creatures. Spittle even dribbled from the wolf that was closest to Rolf, a snarl deforming its face, its hackles completely raised up.

Ari couldn't help but glance to where the Beastmaster was. She was leaning against the tree that was behind where Lina lay sleeping, a shit-eating grin on her face. She seemed to be waiting for someone to make the first move. And still more wolves appeared around the camp, some with muzzles still covered in blood. Those were not the only creatures to appear. Some of the animals beginning to crowd up on the four Seyruun trainees were feline in form. All very large hunting cats with insanely large teeth, also blood covered.

One of the largest cats that Ari had ever seen in his entire life took a step toward him, and then another. The black creature had to be at least a thousand pounds, and that was just a guess based on its size alone. It could have easily weighed much more. And it's bloody claws were practically the size of daggers. He was absolutely certain that one swipe from those lethal claws would not only instantly kill him, but he was dead certain that he'd be in several pieces when it did.

Ari surreptitiously reached out his hand to his twin, finding Bari's hand halfway. At least if he was going to die, he had his twin right by his side. He closed his eyes, waiting for that blow of death to land upon him.

Rolf's voice broke through Bari's silent pleading to Ceified to be spared. There almost seemed to be a crack in it as he spoke up, "M-Mistress Xellas… Would you please let your servants know that we mean Lady Lina no harm and that we are only here to help protect her from her enemies."

Ari opened his eyes to look at the Beastmaster. That shit-eating grin had not gone away. In fact, it looked even wider than before.

Xellas's voice was low and husky as she responded, "Whaddya gonna do for it?"

Rolf was stalled for a bit. They all knew why. He was afraid of what she would do to him if he gave her any kind of opening. His face was pale and he gulped twice before he was able to speak up this time. "Um, what would you like?"

"What would you like, Mistress."

Rolf took a deep breath, as if asking for patience. "What would you like, Mistress?" For some reason, tacking on the Mistress at the end had given him a little more vigor in his response, for he almost seemed exasperated as he said it.

Xellas practically purred, her voice even huskier, almost as if she hadn't heard that exasperation. "Why don't you come over here and sit by me for a bit."

Ari noticed that throughout this interchange, the feline and lupine Mazoku had not advanced any further upon them.

Rolf looked at his friends and then at Xellas. He looked very much like he wanted to say, 'Screw you guys, I'm outta here!' right before he ran off.

But despite what his eyes told his friends, his feet began to move him towards Xellas, albeit extremely slowly. It looked almost as if he was forcing himself to walk towards his own noose.

Xellas frowned at him, her right eyebrow raised. "Now." Her voice had lost some of the huskiness, and was enough of a command that Rolf did not dare delay a moment longer.

For a second, Rolf's eyes widened as he looked at the woman, before he quickly responded, "yes Mistress." Rolf was at Xellas's side in a moment. She sat back down beside Lina, and Rolf sat with her. But though she was extremely relaxed, Rolf was as rigid as a board, and was not likely going to relax any time soon even though she was running her hand through his hair as if she were trying to calm him. Ari might have found it most amusing, if their lives had not been on the line. He only hoped that he could one day look back upon this and laugh.

Hopefully, Rolf would be there to laugh with him.

But Rolf obeying Xellas had called off her… Mazoku. The creatures all lay down where they had stood, still keeping an eye on the three other Seyruun Guardsmen Trainees as if they would suddenly jump up and attack Lina. Sian finally put the ladle back in the stewpot and began stirring furiously to keep the bottom from burning. Who knew how long they had been like that, with the Mazoku breathing over them and scaring the shit out of them. Sweat had beaded on his forehead and he took a moment to wipe it off with his sleeve, relieved that he could finally move again. Ari and Bari refused to release each other's hands as they turned back to the fire once more.

Gourry smiled as he clapped Bari on the back. "Ah, don't worry. She wouldn't really have let them kill you. Lina would have been very upset if she had."

Ari looked at Master Gourry. "I'm more concerned for Rolf. There's no telling what she'll do to him."

Gourry suddenly looked very solemn, despite his previous comment, and then nodded, his tone very serious. "Even I don't wanna trade places with him."

Bari and Ari glanced sharply at Gourry for a moment, their eyes wide. Bari spoke up first, concern for his friend now increased. If Master Gourry didn't want to trade places with Rolf, then the woman must be bad. "Do you know what she's gonna do to him?"

Gourry didn't turn his head, but his eyes quickly assessed the boys sitting beside him and then flicked back to the fire. "Not particularly. I guess it just depends what she wants him for."

Bari and Ari responded immediately. "Training."

Here, Gourry frowned. He looked to the two boys by his side. "Training?"

Sian stepped over from the cooking pot and kneeled down next to the three men. He wanted to know exactly what his friends were talking about as he had been passed out at the time.

Bari nodded, while Ari responded. "Yeah. She said she only trained one cub at a time, and that he was the only one she would choose out of the four of us."

Bari then spoke up. "Yeah, she said that she wanted to use us to help Lina get over her monogamy with you."

"Her monogramy? What's that?"

Ari and Bari both closed their eyes and took a deep breath. They adored Master Gourry, they really did. But they sometimes really wished he would grow a brain. Or at least cleared all the dust webs off of his and started using it. He was absolutely brilliant when it came to sword work, or anything to do with a weapon. There was nothing that Gourry could not take up in the training salle and not use without perfect expertise. He was even an astounding teacher, and he had the patience of a boulder. But he really was boulder-brained for practically everything else. It was something that they put up with, and didn't even mind from time to time, but it did get fairly annoying on occasion. It was probably why they admired Lina so much. She had remained loyal to the man for over ten years, and those could not have been easy years.

Ari looked to Bari, and when Bari nodded, Ari answered. "Monogamy. It means you remain faithful to only one person. That you refuse to be with any other while you are with them."

Gourry looked down, a frown still marring his face. "Oh. Okay. Why'd she say that then?"

The twins shrugged. This time Sian spoke up. "Well, we don't really know, but when Xellas was pretending to be Lina, she said she wanted to start a harem of blonds."

Both Bari and Ari blushed when they recalled exactly what they had been contemplating when who they thought was Lina had said that.

"A harem?"

Sian leaned in and whispered, quite dramatically, "It's a place where a person keeps a group of beautiful women or handsome men or both, and has sex with them all day long."

Naga, who had only slightly been paying attention, began chortling with glee.

"Sian!" Bari exclaimed.

"It is not!" Ari's face was red with embarrassment at the very thought, especially since an older woman was listening in on the conversation.

"It is too!"

"That person doesn't have sex with them all day long."

"All right, all night long. What's the difference?"

"One person would be exhausted if all they did was have sex all day."

"They usually have a lot of stamina from all the practice."

"Sian!"

"Where'd you find this out?"

"I read about it in some of my books. Just because you two don't read doesn't mean I don't." Sian then elaborated at their flabbergasted expressions. "My older sister said the books would be very educational, especially if I wanted to know how to treat my future lover."

Naga chuckled again. "That's an… interesting older sister."

Ari shook his head. "It's always the quiet ones."

Bari frowned. "Wait a minute. Just how do books about harems teach you how to treat a woman?"

Sian smiled. "Easy. They have a lot of sex scenes in them. The ones with the monogamous relationships have sex scenes that become kind of bland after a while cause the two usually don't differ in their desires. But the polygamous ones require the participants to become inventive in order for all of them to be pleasured properly. And one man with a large number of women to please leads to endless possibilities as each woman likes sex in a different way. It's also the same when it's one woman with multiple men."

Bari and Ari shook their heads at their friend, surprised that they did not know this simple fact about him.

What a pervert!

"Just how old were you when she had you start reading these things?" asked Naga, far more intrigued by their conversation than she probably should have been.

Sian frowned for a moment. "I think I was twelve. She already had a guy she was seeing and he wasn't pleasing her at all, she kept saying that he left her high and dry all the time. She said that she didn't want her little brother ruining a girl's good time, so she made me start reading them."

Naga nodded. "Clever girl, too bad there aren't more sisters like her around."

Ari quickly glanced at Naga and then his brother before he looked back at Sian. "Do you have the names of these books by any chance?"

Bari's eyes widened as he stared at his twin in shock. "Ari!"

"What? I'm curious."

"Still!"

"I brought them with me."

Both Ari and Bari looked at their friend, completely stunned.

"What? You know this trip has the possibility of being boring. And who knows when we'll be back home again? I just wanted to have something to keep me entertained. And, you know, just in case we meet any girls, I wanna stay fresh on my subject…"

"Wait, I thought you were a virgin."

"I am."

"Then how can you stay fresh on the subject?"

Sian almost looked pious for a moment. "It does no good to stop studying the scenes, and just in case I do meet a girl I like more than Lady Lina, I need them for reference material. I want my first time to be perfect."

Bari looked at Ari for a moment, before looking to Sian. "Can I borrow one?"

"And you're giving me shit?"

Bari frowned, then shrugged. "Well he is right after all, this trip may possibly be very boring. Who knows when Lady Lina will wake up? And in addition to training while we wait for her to awaken and then while we travel, what else is there to do? Besides… I'm curious too."

Sian smiled. "Of course I'll let you borrow them. But you need to start off slowly. Some of them can get really racy, and I don't want to shock you with how raunchy some of the better ones are." Sian whispered again. "Some of the ones I brought have full on orgies with really detailed descriptions, but I think they may be too much for you since you've never read them before. I think I brought one or two of the light reads, but I'll have to check."

Naga leaned in, "Can I borrow some as well?"

All three boys looked at the indecently covered woman, eyes wide, before Sian nodded. "Sure, I don't mind. Which type would you like?"

"The harem ones. Though I'd prefer the ones with the multiple men if you have any."

Gourry was looking at the three boys and Naga, shaking his head when suddenly the light went on in his brain. "Oh, now I know what you're talking about. I was in a harlem once."

"What?!" All three boys exclaimed in unison.

"Yeah, the crazy bitch," at this all three boys' eyes bugged out, for Master Gourry NEVER swore, "drugged Lina's and my food so I was easy to kidnap. Then she had a mind control spell on me so that I would stay loyal to her, especially since I was traveling alone with Lina at the time."

Ari shook his head. "What happened?"

"Oh, I don't really remember much, as it was a while back. That woman was even crazier than Lina. But she really did like her orgies."

"You mean…"

"You've actually…"

"Been in one?"

Another form of hero worship was beginning to sparkle in the young men's eyes as they stared up at their idol.

"A couple actually, as it took Lina a while to find and rescue me. But there was only one girl and a whole bunch of guys. She wanted us to… She liked to watch as we…" Gourry shuddered for a moment. "I really wish I could forget those memories because though I still sort of had my mind, I had absolutely no control of my body. The first one, where I was her guest of honor was okay, but after that she had me with the other guys in her haren and…" Gourry shuddered again. "Let's just say that orgies and harens don't do anything for me."

"Well definitely not after experiences like that." Ari concluded. Bari nodded in agreement even as he winced. It was one thing for a man to be in an all female harem. It was quite another to be a man in an all male harem.

Naga shrugged. "I can see the appeal of men together, but it never did anything for me. I always liked the one woman with multiple men pleasing her."

Ari and Bari both scooted a little further away from her. There was no way in hell that this chick was their long lost princess.

Sian got back up to check on his stew, though he was not as bothered by these revelations as his two friends were. His older sister had insisted that he accept any sort of sexual situation he got involved in. If it pleased his woman, he would do it and be happy to do so.

"Hey Sian, is that stew ready yet?" Ari asked, very glad for a change of subject; he did not want to imagine what it would be like being in an all male harem where he was required to… perform with the other men. From what Xellas had implied when she was his Lady Lina, she would just be having lots of sex with all of them, not them having lots of sex with each other…

Ari loved his twin, but not like that!

Sian pulled out the ladle after stirring the stew for a bit and tasted it. "Needs more salt."

"Just feed us already." Ari complained.

"Yeah, we're starving here." Bari seconded.

"Just let me add a little more and it'll be ready, I promise. Someone get the bowls."

The twins quickly got up to grab the bowls and spoons, ready to hand out the food to the rest of the group. Both Gourry and Naga eagerly accepted the proffered bowls and dug into their meal like they were starving.

"Oh Sian this is delicious! Would you like to become my chef? I'm sure Finn would love someone else cooking the food besides him."

Gourry spoke up between slurps. "Yeah, your attempts are pretty terrible Nago."

Naga growled.

"But I have to say, this is pretty good Sian. Almost as good as Sylphiel's cooking and her cooking is amazing. I didn't know you knew how to cook."

Sian scratched behind his head, suddenly a bit bashful from all the praise. "When I was a little boy my older sister said that if I wanted to catch a woman and keep her, 'I damn well better know how to cook'. So after she started teaching me, I kinda just got into it. I just like to cook, you know."

Naga chuckled. "I'd like to meet this older sister and thank her. Cause she's right. If more men knew how to cook, a lot of women would get married a lot faster. It's part of the reason Finn caught me, well that and his winemaking skills. With the way she's trained you, I'm surprised you don't have more girls begging to marry you."

AN: To any guys reading this story, this is very true. I will gladly marry a man who knows how to cook (just so I don't have to), and I'm sure a lot of girls would agree with me, so start learning!

Sian spoke up, wonder in his eyes. "So my sister was right. It's all about food and sex."

AN: Also true. We girls are totally perverts.

Naga spewed all her food out of her mouth and began coughing. Gourry pat her back until she could breathe right again. "How old were you when she started teaching you all this?"

"Well she started teaching me to cook when I was eight. But she told me about sex when I was ten or eleven. She had me start reading the books when I was twelve."

Ari frowned. "After all that, it's weird that you're still a virgin."

Sian shrugged, not at all bothered by it. "She always kept an eye out on me. She said she didn't want my first time to be with a skank. And she's threatened and dismissed all the ones I brought home for her approval, so I really just never got past the kissing and petting part. And I don't want her mad at me. She can make my life hell when I disobey her."

Naga's eyes were wide. "You really must introduce me to her. What an impressive woman to be in control of your future lovers… She must be remarkable."

"She was a barmaid in the Bone Runes Tavern in Seyruun until the revelry. She told me that she finally found her handsome prince though, so her searching finally paid off and she no longer has to work as much. She still does it for fun though, cause she likes to rabble rouse, and her prince doesn't mind. In fact he sometimes joins her when she does. She also wants to prove to his courtiers that she's not after him for a title, just the sex."

Naga stopped eating, her eyes suddenly quite wide. "Is her name Kadria by any chance?"

Sian beamed. "That's her! She was born ten years before me, so she already had lots of worldly experience to let me know what women wanted out of their men."

"Wow. Just… Wow." Naga shook her head. "And just so you know Sian, the prince your sister is bumping uglies with, is my dad."

Sian frowned for a moment, "You mean the King of Seyruun?"

"If what you say is true, and it looks like it is, yes; the King of Seyruun—Philionel de Seyruun." Naga snorted with amusement. "And she is one bawdy woman. But since my dad really likes her, I have no complaints. And the way those two go at it…" Naga snorted again, as if some particular image or memory hit her. "She makes my dad happy, so that's all that matters. But, no wonder she started training you early."

"She just wanted to make sure that I would make some woman happy someday, and she knew that if I made my woman happy either with sex or cooking or both, that my woman would keep me happy."

Both Ari and Bari had their heads in their hands, disbelief coursing through their veins. They, of course, knew Kadria. Having been Sian's friend since they were in their preteens, they on occasion had run into her, and knew she was indeed of the scandalous variety. She had even offered to take their virginities once they became teenagers so that their first time could be with a woman of experience. But they hadn't truly realized that she had corrupted her younger brother in such a manner, especially since she had seemed to be so harsh about any girl he was interested in. But hearing this come out of his mouth, now of all times was just positively shocking, especially since he was still admitting that he was a virgin.

Naga grinned. "I doubt you'll have any problems with that, as educated on the subject as she seems to be."

Sian sighed with longing. "I really hope that Lady Lina's my first and only. She's my beau ideal, and since my sister actually liked her out of all my choices, I think it's meant to be. But she told me I had to wait until Lady Lina was available before I propositioned her."

This time Gourry spewed out the food he was eating and Naga had to smack him on the back to get him to breathe normally once more. Of course she was making her banshee laugh at the same time. "OH HO HO HO HO HO HO HO! Keep that attitude kid!"

Both Bari and Ari's heads snapped to look at their normally quiet friend.

"Sian!"

"You're not supposed to say stuff like that out loud." Bari then continued, sotto voce, "especially around Master Gourry."

Ari shook his head. "I think Rolf might be hungry too, Sian. Why don't you go take him a bowl?"

"Oh you're right. I should probably bring one for Lady Lina too. She might be very hungry." Sian filled two of the bowls and walked over to where Lina and Rolf were.

Bari looked at his twin, and whispered, "We are really gonna have to watch what he says from now on."

Ari whispered right back. "It must be because he's blond. He's just like Master Gourry in that regard."

"Doesn't think before he opens his mouth."

"How do we stop him?"

"Talk to Rolf and then all three of us gang up on him."

"Good idea."

Sian stepped carefully around all the Mazoku that surrounded Lina, and brought the bowls to Rolf. "Here Rolf, we thought you might be hungry. And I brought a bowl for Lady Lina, just in case she wakes up enough to eat." Sian turned to Xellas. "Would you like a bowl as well Mistress Xellas? I couldn't balance more than two on my way here, but I thought that maybe you might be hungry, and I made more than enough."

Xellas grinned at him. "How nauseatingly sweet of you. I am hungry, just not for stew. Thank you for offering, but I'm sure that if I want to eat, Rolf will share, won't you Rolfy?"

Rolf stopped mid-bite, his eyes wide, his face looking like he was ready to panic any time soon. "Um, okay?"

Xellas squealed. "Goody! Now run along Blondie. One of my cubs will get you when we need something."

Sian smiled and walked back to the camp, getting himself a bowl to eat with the rest of his friends.

For a moment all Xellas did was watch as Rolf ate; she could see the muscles of his neck tensing even as he seemingly tried to ignore her. She smiled sweetly, before her grin became absolutely devilish. "So… are you going to offer me some, or do I have to ask?"

Rolf closed his eyes—he knew it was the only way she would not see most of his vexation—and did his best not to grind his teeth as he asked, "would you like a bite Mistress?"

"Don't mind if I do." Xellas's fangs flashed in her wide grin before she bit him, hard, on his neck.

Rolf screeched as he practically jumped up and away from Xellas. Only her hand on the back of his tunic stopped him from truly getting away. "OW! You bit me!"

"Keep your voice down. You might wake Lina." The frown on her face was a good imitation of a stern mother telling off her young child, but the smile that lurked in the depths of her eyes belied it.

Rolf growled at her, now unreasonably angry, but unable to do anything about it. Who the hell was this damned woman?! And why the hell did she have to be so damned obtuse? "But you bit me."

Xellas just smiled at him, her logic perfectly comprehensible, to her at least. "You didn't exactly specify what I would like a bite of. Lesson Two. Be more explicit."

Rolf frowned as he tried to think through this. "And just what was Lesson One?" He was getting tired of dealing with her, and his voice matched his anger level at being pushed around by this… this Mazoku.

"You don't remember? Oooo, I get to punish you now." Xellas practically squealed.

All the color drained from Rolf's face as he realized just what that meant. His voice went up an octave as he despairingly yelled, "wait, no no no! I remember! I remember!"

"Oh poopy. And I really wanted to spank you too." Xellas's pout still seemed devilish, and her grin just started again as she continued, "I may just have to anyway because you did almost forget."

Oh dear Ceified, please no.

Rolf sighed. He just wanted a hole to open up right underneath him and swallow him whole before this woman took any more bites out of his flesh. Time to distract the damned wench. He tried the best servile look he could manage, and hoped his voice was ingratiating enough. "Would you like a bite of this stew Mistress? It's very tasty."

"Thank you so much for offering. I would like a bite of your stew." Xellas this time took the proffered spoon. "Mmmm. It is delicious. Thank you Rolfy."

Rolf sighed again, but this time in some relief. He just wanted to eat his dinner, feign exhaustion and escape this dangerous woman. Hopefully he'd have all night to himself before he had to deal with her again in the morning. "You're welcome Mistress." He said that more as an addendum to the conversation than to really be polite.

"You know Rolfy, I don't really like your name. I think we'll change it to something more suiting you. Something like Wolfy."

Rolf glared at her again. What the hell was with her mood swings? Was this how all women were? Or was it just Mazoku? Or perhaps, female Mazoku? He'd have to ask Lina whenever she joined the realm of the living again. "My full name is Rudolf, but I changed it to Rolf as too many kids made fun of me when I was little."

"Hmmm." Xellas tapped her chin in thought. "Rudolf. It actually has a basis in wolf. I knew I liked you for a reason. So, Wolfy it is. All right Wolfy?"

Rolf hung his head and sighed. There was no way around this woman! "Yes Mistress." It was the only thing he could think of to say that didn't require her to continue talking; at least he hoped it didn't. Rolf did his best to finish his bowl of stew, but he had lost his appetite. Xellas was still running her hands through his hair, and pinching the nape of his neck. When he finally put the bowl of his unfinished stew on the ground beside him, Xellas picked it right back up.

"You need to finish your stew. You need to eat and keep up your strength. How do you expect to protect Lina with so little energy in your system?"

Rolf sighed. The exhaustion of the couple of previous days in their race to find Lina and save her from her iniquitous guards, to basically becoming nothing more than slave labor to make sure they were all comfortably set up for the night, and now this irritatingly beautiful woman who just wouldn't leave him alone—it was finally getting to him, and sometimes with exhaustion came lack of appetite. "I'm just not hungry anymore."

"Tough. No cub I train goes with so little food." She continued in a sing-song voice, "now eat it up, or I'll force it down your throat."

Rolf really just wanted to smack the bowl out of her hands and scream at her. But he did nothing of the sort. He knew better. He just held out his hands to take the bowl back from Xellas, without looking her in the eyes. If he made eye contact with her, he just knew she'd see the rebellion in his eyes.

She just smiled and shook her head. She was intending on hand feeding him, and the spoonful she held up was indicative enough of that.

But Rolf had to put his foot down; otherwise she would just walk all over him. She might do that anyway, but at least he could say that he held out a little. "I can feed myself," he ground out.

"You don't want me to feed you Wolfy?" There was that damn pouty voice again.

Rolf's eyes darted towards his friends. Thankfully they were not watching his humiliation, though he could very much bet they were hearing every word, as he had practically heard every word of their conversation. The fact that Master Gourry had actually been in a harem was just shocking, though he had known about Sian's book collection. Still, he was getting too many shocks at the moment, especially with Xellas around. His voice was even gruffer than before. "No, I don't Xellas."

"Mistress."

He wanted to beat his head back against the tree in frustration, several times in fact. Maybe add her head too. Rolf growled out, "Mistress."

Xellas just giggled. She seemed to be enjoying herself immensely. "All right. I'll let you feed yourself Wolfy, but you better finish all of it. And you can bet I'm gonna check the bowl."

Rolf looked up to the sky as if to ask, 'What the hell did I do to deserve this?!' Then he grabbed the bowl and did his best to inhale the food as quickly as possible. When he was finished he found that Xellas was pushing Lina's bowl in his hands.

"She's not gonna be awake anytime soon, and you need the food more than she does at the moment."

Rolf's shoulders slumped even as he took the second bowl and did as she bid him. He ate this stew even faster, not even tasting what he would normally spend time on and enjoy. He had to admit that she was right though, as much as that irritated him. The second bowl had stimulated his normally large appetite, and even after it was done, his stomach seemed to growl for more. He didn't even notice, until Sian was there with two more bowls of the hot steaming stew, that Xellas had ensured that his hunger was sated by getting one of her servants to fetch Sian. Sian then took the two empty bowls back to the fire where Ari and Bari began cleaning them.

Xellas held one bowl, while he finished off the third. He took the fourth bowl, and this time actually took the time to enjoy the stew. He might as well. Xellas just watched him with that knowing smile on her face. When he was finally finished and he was happily satiated she grinned. "You think I don't know all about human males and their incredible appetites, especially teenagers? Your stomachs are bottomless pits."

Rolf had to nod in agreement, as she was right. But now that he had all that warm food in his belly, he was feeling very tired, and he didn't feign the yawn he gave as a response. He thought for a moment before he spoke, as he had to choose his words very carefully, in order to escape her. He tried to sound as servile as he dared and hoped to hell and back that she didn't take it the wrong way. "I am very tired. I wish to go to my tent to sleep. By your leave Mistress?"

"Of course. Can't have you exhausted for later, now can we?"

He shook his head and got up, glad to see that she did not pull him back down for a kiss, nor did she get up to follow him. His relief was profound as he walked back to his tent, giving his friends a vague wave as he walked past them. They would forgive him the clean-up this once considering what he had just been through. He just wanted to hit the sack and no longer deal with such an intimidating woman, who obviously wanted something more from him than he was willing to give at the moment. She may have been incredibly hot, but he really just wanted to strangle her more than anything.

Bari and Ari shook their heads at their friend as he walked off to his tent. They had heard what he had to go through, and it was all for the sake of their skins, so that the other Mazoku of the party would not kill them. They were so glad that Xellas had not taken an interest in either of them.

They were broken from their musings when a loud yell broke through the quiet of the night from the direction of Rolf's tent, and they turned to look at the tent. The tent was dark so they couldn't see shapes. But from what they could hear, they didn't want to. A quick look to where Lina still lay, confirmed that Xellas was no longer there.

"AAAAAAA! What are you doing in my tent?!"

The female response was inaudible.

"I don't care! And I don't need your help! Now get out! Get Out!"

There might have been another response, but they didn't hear it.

"No! Let go! Stop pulling on my tunic! Knock it off! Damn it Xellas!"

"Mistress." That was the first audible sound made from the other occupant in the tent, and it was very distinctly stated.

"Like Hell! I am not one of your cubs! Give that back! No! Keep away!"

There was another female comment made in the tent, but it was squealed in so high a pitch that they couldn't really understand it. 'Love' may have been one of the words.

"Oh no I won't! Stop it! Stop It!"

Ari looked back to his twin.

"What are you gonna do with that?! No! Get away from me!"

Bari stared right back.

"Aieeee! That hurt! No! Don't do that! Ack! That tickles! Stop it! STOP IT!"

Very glad.

They would remain tremendously glad for the rest of the night as the shouts continued on in the same vein every so often. When the shouts stopped, and then other sounds took their place…

Enormously Glad.

xxxx

When Lina woke up it was to very bright sunshine; too bright to be later in the day. That meant it was morning, perhaps late the next morning? Had she slept the whole day and night through? She tried to stretch and found that her arms were locked to her sides—by two pairs of arms. She looked to her left. A redhead with ginger colored wolfy ears was nuzzling into her side, her eyes closed but a smile was on her face. She looked to her right. A platinum blonde was holding tightly onto her right arm, and her yellow eyes were open.

"Morning Sleeping Beauty. Sleep well?"

"A little. I had a dream with someone screaming in it though. That wasn't very pleasant."

"It wasn't a dream, but don't worry, he's quite happy now. He's such a little fighter. You really should try him out some time. Lots of stamina. And I'm training him so you'll definitely like it."

"Whom are you talking about?"

"My new cub Wolfy. Well you probably know him as Rolf, one of the young Seyruun Trainees under Gourry. He's very enamored of you, not that I'm surprised. But I wasn't about to let him have a go at you until he was properly trained."

"Have a go at me? Xellas, I'm really not interested in anyone but Gourry."

Xellas smiled as she leaned in and whispered in Lina's ear. "Liar. But don't worry; I'll keep your little secret. Just remember, there are more men interested in your pleasure than just your blond. And some of those men are way better in bed."

"What?" Lina's eyes widened as she looked at Xellas.

Xellas just smiled back, her expression may have even been termed ingenuous, guileless… innocent.

Like Hell! This was Xellas after all.

"Because I trained them of course."

Lina frowned, unsure of the Mazoku, and just what the woman might be implying.

Xellas just smiled right back, her grin now absolutely wicked.

"Oh, someone's waking up. I kinda wore him out last night. But I don't want him waking up thinking his lover has left him already." With that and a wink, Xellas phased away, and Bleed immediately crawled over to where Xellas had been, taking the warmth of her spot.

Morning.

"Good morning Bleed."

I just want to say that you are without a doubt… amazing.

Incredible.

Astounding.

Extraordinary!

If I were more humanlike I would have you right now, in front of everyone despite our similar genders and the fact that you aren't interested in females. But Xellos would probably kill me.

Bleed laid her head right on Lina's chest. It'd be so totally worth it though.

Lina shook her head then used her now free hand to scratch behind Bleed's ears.

I'd purr if I could. But Beastmaster didn't design me to be catlike. She prefers wolves as her main children. Cats too, but wolves more.

Blut spoke up as well, just as she cuddled even further into Lina's side; and though she was in her human form, Lina could hear her mental voice just fine, which was kind of odd because Lina hadn't been able to before yesterday. Perhaps because wolves are more like pack animals and will follow an alpha. Cats do form a sort of pride, but there's not really an alpha, at least not like wolves. I think that being wolf-like in our physical and astral forms engenders more loyalty to our Mistress because we feel that she is truly our alpha. Only a few of Xellas's cubs have become disloyal to her, and those ones I believe were not wolf in form as they were not completely hers. I prefer being more wolf-like. I like having an alpha.

Oh don't get me wrong; I like having an alpha too, but sometimes I just wish I could purr.

Don't lie Bleed. You wish you had more power so that you could have a human form. You just wanna have sex with all the humans out there.

I only get my nookie from other wolves, and if you haven't noticed, wolves only take one mate. Do you know how many times I've had to 'die' just to try a new one out? And when I've finally found one that I like in particular, he always wants cubs outta me. And then he dies on me before too long and I have to start all over. Humans at least have longer life spans. And there are more positions to do than just doggie style. Do you know how old that position gets? And I'm only built for mating with males as I don't have enough power to change my gender. I'd like to try it with a female just once!

Lina shook her head. "More information than I think I needed."

Blut chuckled. Maybe if Lina can help us like we all hope she can, Beastmaster will be able to grant you more power.

That is a day I wait for with bated breath.

How are you feeling Lina? Rested? Tired? Hungry?

"I do feel a little rested, better than yesterday I think. But I'm starving and I'm still exhausted."

Beastmaster did say that that spell you used took an enormous amount of energy from you. She said that she'd be surprised if you even woke up this morning, and since you have it just proves how remarkable you are. But you forget that in using such a spell that you take the nutrients away from your unborn cub, and she said you need to become more aware of that as you use your spells. And she also chastised me for letting you fight when I was told not to, so now I'm going to chastise you.

You are no longer allowed to walk into an ambush like that, especially when you know it's an ambush ahead of time. I'll even restrain you if I have to. You have some very powerful enemies out there, and these ones were able to hide the thoughts of sixty plus men from me, and even Xellos. Xellos figured it out way before I did, but even he did not realize that the Seyruun guards were there to kill you. My mistress is likely the only one who might have been able to read all their signatures and notice exactly what was off about your guards. But since she wasn't here, and she's not always going to be here, it was up to me and Xellos, and we didn't get to warn you in time since you just ran off all hot-headed like that.

"Sorry." Lina actually felt a bit sheepish at the rebuke. She knew she was in the wrong, but never before had she actually had a creature of darkness chew her out over causing a little bit of chaos in the world. It was odd, and it really made her feel that she actually did wrong, that she had been foolish for even doing so. She only thought Luna had the ability to make her feel really guilty. It was weird that a Mazoku that she didn't know all that well was doing the same.

Blut actually sat up and leaned over Lina, as if to truly show Lina her displeasure. Lina winced a little more at the Mazoku's expression. 'Sorry' doesn't cut it. You were very lucky to have Bleed with you, as she managed to protect you from some of the more dangerous foes you didn't even realize were there. Bleed's ears perked up at such a roundabout compliment, but didn't bother to add her two cents. And you were very fortunate that Xellos and I arrived when we did. Of course we were also pretty lucky since you had that incredible spell of yours. But please, don't do that again. Your humans have been worried about you, and they shouldn't have to worry like that. That was a very unnecessary risk you took.

Lina sighed. "I really just wanted to get rid of my bad mood and I knew that destroying something would help. Plus I wanted more treasure." It was a bad excuse. She knew it. At the look on Blut's face, she knew Blut knew it too. Her exasperated response was even more proof.

Do you really need anymore?

"I can always use more." It was true. Lina would never have enough treasure. Having the financially hard childhood she'd had, she could never have enough money.

Not according to Beastmaster… and your sister. Blut's tone could not have dripped with enough sarcasm to express what she truly felt at Lina's supposed greed.

Lina's eyes widened, "She told Xellas about that?"

Blut actually chuckled aloud. It was difficult for Beastmaster to not notice, honestly. Despite your justified reputation, I'm really surprised you haven't yet attracted a dragon… The sound of Blut's mental voice was now quite dry. But then she sighed. So really, you don't need anymore, especially if it is more likely to get you killed.

Lina frowned, and a stubborn look crossed her features even as she agreed vocally. "Fine. I'll listen to you more often, okay?"

Blut didn't look convinced, but she figured it was going to be an argument they would have a couple of times before Lina finally got it, and pushing the issue would likely make Lina more mulish. Good. Now it is time to get you fed so that you can regain all the energy you lost, and then you need to rest some more. Those four Elite Trainees that are so captivated by you set up a pretty good camp so far. Your tent is set up, and with all those Seyruun guards gone there are plenty of extra blankets for you to be comfortable while you sleep. Blut got up, and then helped Lina to her feet. Lina immediately slumped against Blut, her exhaustion hitting her even harder now that she was trying to move around.

Blut was right. Food and then more rest.

Lina had forgotten how weak that Chaos spell made her. She had only cast it once before, and according to Gourry she slept an entire week before she finally woke up from her exhaustion-induced coma. And though she had not been pregnant at the time, she had almost let the spell consume her being.

To this day she still did not know why she had been able to stop the spell and come back to herself that first time she cast it. She remembered that at the time she was quite ready to rip out Gourry's throat—and he hadn't even been an enemy, but she knew that it was more because she just wanted one more life, one more taste of the sweet elixir that a soul gave off before it was taken away by the Sea of Chaos.

She did not know what stopped her hand, or even what had happened afterwards. All she really remembered was the delicious taste of fear and death from the enemies she was so easily slaughtering, ready to reach out to Gourry to taste it once more, and then waking up about a week later feeling beyond drained. She had been bedridden for a week after that before she was back to full strength, and that was with Gourry attending to her every need.

The Chaotic Claws was a very frightening spell, in a way more frightening than the Giga Slave, even though the Giga Slave was in fact more dangerous.

Basically from what she could determine from her two experiences, the caster allowed a small part of the Sea of Chaos to attach to their body and soul; because of that the Black Sea was now given shape and form on the mortal plane in the form of the caster and their… claws.

It was not truly a theory that Lina wanted to test to be certain, but from what she could ascertain when she translated part of the texts on Chaos and the theory involving the Lord of Nightmares, the spell could technically make the caster an avatar of the Great Lady if the caster allowed all reason to leave them—if the caster allowed the Chaos to consume all that they were, which could happen all too easily as she recently discovered before Xellos stopped her this second time; and if she also added what had almost happened to Gourry and herself, that was even more irrefutable proof.

The problem with that spell was that she truly wanted death and destruction while under its influence—they made her feel even more alive as she caused them. It was just so easy to let the Chaos take over, just so easy to feed and nurture such a dark desire. The Chaos that wrapped itself around her body was like a siren's song to her soul, a song that thrummed louder with every beat of her heart as the Chaos continued to surge along her limbs. And when she was no longer in the grips of the spell, she absolutely hated it for she knew how much of a danger it truly was; but she still yearned to use it once more, just to hear that beautiful song if only for one more moment. It was why she told both Gourry and Xellos to stop her if she used it again.

It was just too unstable and too much like a drug.

But she wouldn't tell that to her friends; she couldn't—as they could never understand. She would only tell them that the incantation was wrong and that she needed to rework it.

And though it technically was an incomplete spell when it just remained the Chaotic Claws—also making it very difficult to control with the current incantation—it would be entirely complete if she allowed it to become what it was meant to be. All she had to change was the name of the spell, and only part of the incantation.

Its true name was one she told no one: Avatar of Chaos.

Lina feared beyond all else exactly what might happen if she truly became the Avatar of Chaos. She had the feeling that if she actually used the spell by that very name she would become exactly what she was calling upon herself. She did not know if she would lose all that she was—like the first time she had ever lost control of the Giga Slave—or if she would have any semblance of what made her the Sorceress Lina Inverse. While using the Chaotic Claws she still knew who she was deep inside even if she seemed to go temporarily insane.

She wasn't even sure if that was the Golden Lord's entire reason for allowing Lina to live—so that She could have an Avatar on their world, to be able to affect things more directly than She could while existing within the Sea of Chaos.

For that very reason, any spell Lina created that used Chaos was dangerous, for each spell asked the Lady of Nightmares to channel Her power into something specific for the caster. But though the spell was dangerous enough if allowed to go unchecked, the Giga Slave was still infinitely worse.

The Giga Slave called the Golden Lord Herself to the world. Lina had even felt the Lady of Nightmares that last time she cast the Giga Slave; having been possessed once by the Lord of Nightmares had been enough for Lina to know exactly what She felt like when She brought Herself and Her power with Her. Lina had felt the Lady of Chaos enter her body as she struggled to contain all that power to kill the Ghost of Shabranigdo. The Chaotic Claws and the Avatar of Chaos just called Her power onto the caster, and all her other spells that used Chaos felt quite different to the Giga Slave. And Lina knew the difference between the two, though it was difficult to explain that to just anyone; it was hard to describe to anyone who had not cast the spells themselves. No one could possibly understand all that there was to the Great Lady, not even one who called upon Her and Her power.

It was difficult for a finite being to even try to describe or understand an infinite one.

Lina sometimes just wished that there were someone that she could discuss all this with. To understand the knowledge and information she had gained about the Lord of Nightmares, she needed someone who had similar knowledge, or had a Claire Bible manuscript handy and was well read in it. Someone who understood magic, who understood her and wouldn't judge her based on the magic that she chose to use. And unfortunately, not one of her friends really fit the bill in that regard.

Gourry didn't really judge her for the most part, but he also didn't understand magic and trying to discuss anything with him got very frustrating after a while. Amelia and Zelgadis understood magic, though not at the level that she did, but they also tended to judge her on most occasions unless the world was in dire straights, and her magic could fix it. Filia had for the most part given up her ties to magic and being a priestess of Ceified, as taking care of Valterria was her single most important duty in life. Sylphiel… Lina mentally chuckled. She did not dare bring up Chaos Magic in Sylphiel's vicinity.

Pokota was limited by his stuffed animal body and the fact that it would never age; it had been a little less than two years since Lina had last visited him and he really hadn't changed much since they had last traveled together years before, he still acted the same age he had been when Rezo had first turned him into a stuffed animal. Because of this, Pokota hadn't really matured to the same point that she had, even though he technically was older than she was—his body would never go through the physiological changes required for a person to age and mature, and she sometimes wondered if he would ever be on par with her. He would gain knowledge and experience, but he would never grow up. And Xellos, well… Xellos was Xellos, and Xellos was Mazoku. Her actions and antics amused him because she caused so much chaos, so he didn't really ever judge her, but it was really only very recently that they had even begun to be on speaking terms. She knew he was very knowledgeable about magic and their world—hell he'd been alive for over a thousand years, but her past experiences with him told her not to trust him as most of the time when they did talk he hid vital information from her and that was almost as frustrating as Gourry never understanding her. Even if very recently he'd begun to be quite open with her…

As Lina attempted to force her legs into movement, she didn't have a chance to stumble as Xellos was suddenly there, breaking her from her musings, and propping her up on the side opposite of Blut. They both led Lina to one of the logs that had been felled for the very reason of sitting beside the warmth of the cooking fire.

Three of the young men that Lina had danced with the night of the ball were suddenly by her side, making sure she was comfortable before they began plying her with food and drink. She was surprised to see them despite the comment from Blut. She wondered how the hell they had managed to travel such a distance and so quickly. They didn't even look the worse for wear—not even considering how travel stained her party had been before the fight. She did find it odd that the fourth musketeer was nowhere to be seen. From what she understood from Gourry, the young man Rolf was never far from his three friends, and that they were nigh inseparable.

Gourry and Naga were there as well, both fussing over her as if she had just come from her deathbed. Lina immediately noticed the limpness in one of Gourry's arms as he hugged her and felt a twinge of guilt for what she had unintentionally done to him.

Naga saw it and immediately responded. "Don't worry Lina, my power is almost one hundred percent better and as soon as it is, I'm going to give him a more powerful healing spell than I was able to give him last night and early this morning. His arm will be as good as new."

Lina sighed with some relief. If she had been the reason for Gourry losing an arm—for making him lose the only way for him to earn a livelihood—she wasn't sure what she would have done. It may have even tripled her guilt. "Thank you, Naga." She meant it. Naga, besides Sylphiel, was one of the best white magic users she knew, and if Naga said he'd be as good as new, she believed her. "I couldn't even do a light spell at the moment. And I'm so glad that the two of you are mostly unharmed. I'm sorry about throwing you into that. If I had known-

Naga laughed. "OH HO HO HO HO HO HO! If you had known, you still would have gone charging into the ambush, you just would have been smarter about it."

Lina chuckled as she shook her head. "True." She heard Blut growl behind her. "But I've promised Blut that I'll try and listen to reason when and if I do it again."

Humph. I don't really believe you.

"I said I'd try Blut. It's against my nature to think things through."

It needs to start becoming second nature to you. I'll work on you though. Or Beastmaster will have my ass.

Lina took a drink of the water that one of the twins Bari? handed to her. The other twin—Ari? handed her a bowl of stew. It had obviously been cooked last night, but it still smelled delicious, and sitting overnight over a low fire would only improve its flavor, not worsen it. She took a bite and moaned in joy. After a week of virtually nothing but trail rations, and badly made attempts at cooking from Naga and even herself, this delicious and savory stew was practically balm to the soul. "Mmmm, who made this?"

Sian puffed up his chest, "I did Lady Lina."

"This is soooo good Sian. I think I'm in love with you and your cooking!" Lina began digging into her food with great relish, not noticing that the blond had promptly fainted.

Bari hung his head. "Again?"

Ari was shaking his head, "Xellas was right, she does need to train that out of him."

"Definitely. He honestly needs to stop passing out just because Lady Lina says something that fries his brain."

"You would think that all those books would make him less likely to faint."

"He might be fainting because of all those books. He could be imagining…" Bari looked at Lina and blushed.

Ari blushed as he finished his twin's thought process himself. Lina sitting in her torn and bedraggled tunic was even hotter than her unconscious body laying in it. For one thing, her curves were much more accentuated, and some of those luscious curves were almost completely on display.

But saying something might be bad. She might get embarrassed. And then she'd know they were staring. It was best to keep silent and just admire, and then no one would be embarrassed.

And she wouldn't cover herself.

But most importantly, she wouldn't be embarrassed.

"You might be right."

Lina held out her bowl for another helping, which one of the twins grabbed, before she finally noticed the blond on the ground. "What happened to him? All I did was praise his food."

Naga chuckled. "He's got a Lina Inverse complex. Nothing to be concerned about. Just don't tell him you love him again."

"Huh. Okay." The twin with the long hair handed the bowl back to her. "Thanks, Bari right?"

He beamed. "Yes! You do remember my name!"

"Am I missing something?"

Ari chuckled. "Not really. It's just that when we first ran into you yesterday, or rather when we ran into Xellas who was pretending to be you, she didn't recognize us. And let's just say that after we danced with you, we expected you to know us on sight."

Bari continued. "It really hurt our egos when she claimed to not know who we were."

Lina chuckled. "I can imagine. No, I wouldn't forget two handsome young men who double-danced with me. It was a lot of fun. You're going to make one woman happy or a couple of them, when you finally decide to settle down. I know I was happy."

Both boys grinned quite widely, but backed off a little when they saw that Master Gourry was starting to feel left out. Lina somehow noticed and ran her free hand over his back, quickly pulling him in for a hug before applying herself to her food again.

When she had finished her eighth bowl, the last Elite Trainee Rolf finally joined them. He looked the worse for wear. His lips were a bit swollen and red, and to Lina's now more expert eye, they looked as if they had been nibbled on. His neck had a number of bite marks all over it along with a large number of hickeys, but his clothing covered the rest of his body so she couldn't ascertain if those bite marks stopped at any particular point. His wrists did have a few welts surrounding them, and that wasn't typical. He still had bed hair, which was actually kind of funny to look at, despite the sympathy she had for him.

Gourry spoke up first. "Xellas didn't hurt you too much, did she?"

Rolf sighed as he sat down with a wince. Ari immediately handed him a bowl of stew, which Rolf began scarfing down. In between bites he spoke. "She tied me up when I kept trying to escape. And she wouldn't take no for an answer."

"That's Xellas all right."

Lina looked sharply at Gourry for a moment, but decided to ignore what her gut was telling her.

He couldn't possibly have.

There was no way.

This was Gourry.

He'd never even think about it.

Xellas phased in, sitting right next to Rolf, her hand in his hair. He actually leaned into her touch. "Of course that's me. I get what I want. And Wolfy needed to be taught another lesson."

Lina looked at Xellas, "Oh?"

Rolf answered for the Beastmaster. "Lesson Number Three, Never Deny Mistress Xellas Anything. A subpart of that is that you never deny whomever she chooses for you, anything either. I was informed of the subpart, but only after I learned the important part of the lesson."

Blut spoke up. "That was your Lesson Three? Mine was-

"Shush." Xellas glared at Blut until she looked contrite.

Blut hung her head. "Yes Mistress."

Lina looked at the two women, a frown on her face. "What lessons are you talking about?"

Xellas sighed, like the cat was out of the bag. "Each cub I train requires different lessons. Each lesson teaches them to be better at everything they do, especially since they become one of my cubs. Of course since each cub is unique, I have to come up with different types of training. If you were ever to become one of mine, I'd have my work cut out for me, starting with teaching you not to be so reckless especially in regards to your health. But it looks like it's time for me to teach Blut another one…"

Blut seemed to hang her head even further.

Lina shook her head. "Which is why I'm not going to become one of your cubs, ever."

"You say that now… Wolfy said it too, and look where he ended up."

Lina winced in sympathy towards Rolf. "Are you all right?"

Rolf groaned as he moved into a more comfortable position, now leaning against Xellas; she wrapped an arm around him, holding him closer to her. He placed his finished bowl back on the ground. "Just a little sore. My Mistress had me using muscles I didn't know I had."

Xellas chuckled. "He's got excellent stamina Lina, and his endurance is just amazing! And he's physically very pleasing. He just doesn't have much in the way of practice. He was actually a virgin before last night."

Bari and Ari were flabbergasted. "You were?"

"But what about Sierra?"

"Or Padrisa?"

"Especially after the revelry?"

Rolf shook his head. "They were friends, but they were never the one, ya know?"

Ari scratched his head. "Not really."

Bari nodded. "We kinda just took whoever threw themselves at us."

Ari tilted his head a little, almost ashamed. "Which was pretty much every girl around our age."

Rolf rolled his eyes. "You guys are such sluts."

Bari flicked his long black hair, speaking with some condescension. "We can't help it if we're gorgeous and that girls like the idea of twins."

Ari shuddered. "Don't forget about the older women."

Bari raised his eyebrow, a look of disgust now on his handsome face. "Or the boys."

Ari gagged. "Or the older men."

Lina was glaring at Xellas the entire time. She heard what the boys had to say, but ignored them since there was a more important issue at hand. "You realize that you raped him Xellas."

Xellas blew a raspberry at her. "That is such a dirty word. All I did was force my attentions on him. And he was grateful for it in the end, weren't you Wolfy?" Her voice strangely did not take on any undertone of a threat or a command, just a woman asking her lover if he enjoyed their night together.

Rolf actually smiled as he turned to her. "I admit I wasn't thrilled in the beginning, but… It became a lot of fun as the night wore on."

Xellas preened. "See? I knew what I was doing when I took him on as my new cub. Out of the four, he's the only one who could have handled what I threw at him and come out on top. He's wiser for it too. And besides you Lina, and of course myself, no other woman will ever be able to make his hormones rage again. Only you and I will have that privilege."

Lina frowned. "I still say it's rape. He probably only began enjoying what you were doing because he was under duress. And you should have stopped the moment he said no."

"Humph. If I were to do that every time one of you humans said 'no' or 'don't use your teeth' or 'stop it, that tickles', I'd never get any new cubs or toys out of you. And life would be so infinitely boring. I hate being bored."

Lina sighed. "I still think it's wrong."

Blut spoke up, instead of mindspeaking with Lina. Her arms had wrapped around her knees as she stared at the ground. "Trust me Lina, my Mistress doesn't exactly rape humans. And I would know the difference between the two. My human brother was a bastard, and he raped me plenty of times. Of course Beastmaster showed up and stopped him, and then took me, even though I initially didn't want to be taken as one of her cubs either.

"She has always been forceful, but there has to be some spark of interest or longing for her in the intended human before she'll even consider taking them as one of hers. Case in point, she stops when you tell her to. That she wants you is obvious enough, but she has never taken you against your will, and she never will. Of course she may try and attempt to change your mind, but if it doesn't change, she won't go against your wishes. If Rolf had really not wanted my Mistress to take him, she wouldn't have."

Xellas sat back, placing her hands behind her as if for support before she nodded. Rolf actually laid his head in her lap, and she immediately began running her hand through his hair again. He closed his eyes in bliss. His fingers even began tracing patterns along her legs. "Rolf desired me the moment he saw me. I could sense his instant arousal the moment I changed from you to me—he loved you, but he lusted after me. He actually tried so hard to mask his lust, but of course I played him very well, and he just kept getting more aroused. The problem was that he didn't know what to do about it, and once I realized he was a virgin, I realized I just had to work around his virginal shyness. Which basically meant I had to catch him off guard and force him to realize that sex with a woman was okay."

Xellas snorted. "I tell you, virginity is such a pesky problem. The only thing virgins are good for are deflowering and sacrifices, and I've never liked wasting a virgin on a sacrifice. In the old days I used to kidnap the virgins that they would try to sacrifice—since they were all young, attractive and vigorous—and placed a dummy on the sacrificial block that was real enough to the senses that the people wouldn't know the difference. The people got their 'sacrifice' to their gods, the virgin was spared a gruesome and bloody death, and I got a fresh new toy to play with. Much better my way I'd say."

"I'd agree." Blut responded.

"Me too. Even if you were a bit rough last night." Rolf chuckled even as he continued to trace patterns along Xellas's skin, his fingers climbing higher up her leg.

"It'll only get worse before it finally gets better. And you liked it." She swatted his hand, stopping him from traveling further along her thigh. "Such a randy one you are. Back to your tent."

"Yes Mistress." Rolf got up with a smile and headed back to his tent, an actual bounce in his step.

Xellas shook her head. "I told you, virgins are such pests. He's gonna be like this for days! Now that he's over his silly little fear, he wants sex all the time. But don't you worry Lina, when I'm done with him, he'll still be ready for a go if you want. Plus he'll have the movements down pat."

Lina sighed and closed her eyes. "I won't, but thanks." When Xellas phased away, Lina shook her head again. "I still say it was rape, no matter what it looks like now."

Bari nodded. "It did sort of sound that way last night."

Blut shook her head. "Then you don't know what an actual rape sounds like," she paused as she looked the boy over, "and I hope you never will. His shouts last night were more along the lines of indignant exclamations than fearful screams of anguish, terror and pain. And he never once screamed for help and he could have and you would have all come running; he never even screamed for that matter, well except when he had his first orgasm, and that was more along the lines of a grunt and a shout to Ceified combined. She may have been a bit rough, but she's always been that way because she expects everyone to yield to her and when one doesn't she teaches them to.

"For the most part there is no one but our Mao who is stronger in power than she is—and he regards sex to be used only for creating more Mazoku. And she typically won't have sex with her siblings unless the making of a new pure Mazoku is required—and considering how jealous her siblings can get over power, there have not been many made within the past few hundred years. She usually only has sex with her servants either to produce another lower Mazoku that will be loyal only to her or to train them for when they go out into the world amongst the other races.

"In all actuality my Mistress prefers humans the most for sex, because we give physical stimulation and because we sometimes provide her extra power depending on what direction the sex goes. And as far as rape goes, I think the only race she would truly consider doing that to is the dragons, especially the Golden Dragons. Then again, the females go for that sort of thing anyway, and the males are so proud that she can't help but assert her dominance over them whenever she gets the chance."

Lina stared at Blut for a long time, assessing her. "I thought you were a Mazoku."

Xellos spoke up for the first time. After he had assisted Lina to the log, he had taken a position a little ways off from the fire, his eyes ever searching for trouble. "Blut is Mazoku, fully and completely."

Lina glanced back and forth between Xellos and Blut, finally focusing on Blut again. "But you've been saying your 'human brother' and 'we' like you were once a human."

Blut nodded. "I have. Because I was once human. But I am now Mazoku. It was my choice and I willingly made it."

"How does that work? I know Valgaav chose to become a Mazoku himself, but his Ancient Dragon body was in constant war with his Mazoku side."

Xellos shrugged. "It's complicated to explain. Let's just say that Valgaav should never have been able to become Mazoku. But he was so full of hate that Gaav targeted him and forced him, though he came quite willingly, to become one of us. His hate is what helped him turn to our side, but because he was an Ancient Dragon, and had been for quite some time—longer than a human has to get used to being a human—his body rejected the change, and that rejection of self made him insane. Of course it was an insane idea in the first place, and Gaav should have known better. But by that time, Gaav had already gone through too many changes himself as he kept getting reincarnated in humans. I suppose he had forgotten some of our cardinal rules after being forced into a shell that was not meant to contain a Mazoku's spirit.

"As for Blut, she is very special among Beastmaster's pack; she wasn't a human when she made the decision to become Mazoku."

Lina looked at Blut. "You weren't?"

Blut shook her head. "Nope. At the time that I made the decision, I was actually one of Beastmaster's werewolves."

"How'd you become a werewolf in the first place?"

"You were there when she told you the story of the werewolf princess. I was sister to the man that she married."

"So the prince who only took his own pleasure and never gave any in return…"

Blut leaned back against the log Lina was sitting on, staring up into the painfully blue sky. "Was my older brother. He started on me very early, when I was eleven. My parents were already dead by then, otherwise things might have gone a bit differently. When Beastmaster finally arrived in our kingdom, I was practically eighteen and used to it by then, well as used to rape as one can get I suppose. I was a little mouse of thing, and almost all men scared me half to death.

"My brother used the rape as a way to control me because he knew I feared him so much. On those very rare occasions when I disobeyed him, he'd let his friends use me while he watched, and then he'd tell me that if I didn't behave he'd throw me to our prisoners next. He wanted to make sure that I'd be too afraid to the steal the crown from him, especially since I was the chosen heir despite him being older than me. I couldn't become queen until I reached majority which was my eighteenth birthday and there was only one way he could become king before I inherited the title; but he had to become king without killing me and thereby upsetting our people and our laws."

"And how was that?" Lina asked.

Blut responded, "He had to be married to a princess of royal blood, even if she herself wasn't landed, and obviously it could not be myself. But most of the princesses of the kingdoms near ours refused to be married to such a foul beast. They knew of his proclivities, not from me like he suspected, but from our maids and servants and from any other woman who was unlucky enough to get caught in his web.

"So when Beastmaster appeared with her amassed wealth, and he charmed his way into her heart, she agreed to marry him. I hid away for most of it, afraid that he was going to make me perform with him or with her or with them both. But he never did because, apparently, she exhausted him too much. But she sought me out. She was not in the form we see her as now. Actually, at the time, she looked a lot like I did. My brother had a thing for redheads, and I guess she discovered that before she came to him. Xellos?"

Xellos took up some of the narrative. "That would be a fairly accurate description. I was required some of the time by Beastmaster to be an adviser, shall we say, to his highness. But I was mainly there to keep an eye on the proceedings. His harem of girls were mostly redheads like his little sister and all about the same age, and though that may have been because he just liked them, it was mostly because he didn't want his own people to suspect him of incest and rape. Especially since he was not very careful of how and when he took Blut. Humans can be so blind when they want to be. And the little princess was hardly seen out in public, as she was such a fragile and delicate little waif."

Blut nodded. "My Mistress was very gentle with me when she first started. She knew how frightened I was and she had to coax me out, little by little. She took the brunt of his sexuality away from me, and never seemed harmed by it, so I honestly thought that at the time she was my angel. When the marriage finally took place, and they said their vows, and he kissed her to seal the deal and they consummated the marriage… That's when all hell finally started breaking loose. I was one of the first to turn. And as the night wore on, I began to notice the small fires in the city as the rest of my kingdom began to turn as well. My brother and his friends, the ones who all took part in raping me, were the only ones who remained human by the time the sun rose the next day.

"Beastmaster helped to storm the castle, allowing my people to take their revenge on the man who had ruined their lives. I was at the front, and she held my people back, allowing me my vengeance against him. I was so angry and full of hatred at that time. But Beastmaster, she was calm, and stood by my side as I advanced upon my brother. He had ruined my life, and I wanted to make his last moments be as painful as possible."

Lina was completely engrossed upon the tale, her eyes avid for the knowledge. She didn't notice the rest of her party being just a little weirded out by such a dark story, or by the fact that she was so intrigued. "What'd you do? How did you take your vengeance against the bastard?"

Blut smiled at Lina as she tilted her head. "I ripped his dick off."

Lina's eyes widened. "Oh."

"Ow." Gourry winced.

Naga was shaking her head, "That's gotta hurt."

"I don't wanna know anymore." Ari responded, while Bari attempted to cover his ears and his privates at the same time.

Blut snarled, the anger and hatred for her brother still with her after all these many years. "I wasn't finished though. I then shoved it up his ass, so that he could feel the pain of a forceful penetration. And since he had already shat his pants by then, I decided he could use a little experience in being choked as well since that was another thing he liked to do to me, so I then shoved his feces covered dick down his throat."

"And did that kill him?" Lina asked.

"No, which was strange because as far down his throat as I was shoving his dick, he should have died." Blut stated.

Xellos spoke up again. "Beastmaster had Hellmaster with her at the time. He was keeping the prince alive so that the rest of the people could tear him apart and eat him while he was still alive. Our Mistress wanted him to feel every ounce of pain he could before Hellmaster took his soul to be tortured for eternity."

Blut seemed to calm once more. "Ah yes, I forgot about him. He seemed odd to me when I finally did notice him as he was in the guise of a child. He and Beastmaster just kind of sat there and watched me as I took my revenge. He was playing with a small yellow orb that seemed to give off its own light, and she just kind of ran her hands over and through his hair, like she had begun to do with me when she first started courting me."

"What happened after that?"

Blut smiled once more at the interest that Lina had for her story. "I was allowed to do the same to the rest of my brother's friends before I finally stepped back and let my people have them. I didn't partake in eating them; I just kind of sat with Beastmaster. She held me while we watched; petting me and caressing me, basically treating me like her new cub. It did not take long after that for me to realize exactly what she was. But by then, I didn't care that she was Mazoku. She had saved me, and I wanted to devote my entire being to her."

"Wow. I'm not sure what I would have been like in the same sort of situation. I don't know if I have that much anger in me."

Blut shrugged. "I had plenty of anger towards my brother, but it was impotent. I was scared to death of him, and there was nothing I could do to him that wouldn't just end in something worse than I was already experiencing. One of the few times I went against him, he recovered because he hadn't eaten too much of the food I had poisoned. Even though I used a slow acting poison, his poison checker still died too quickly for him to ingest too much because he waited a while to eat, longer than he usually did. I was beaten for the name of the poison and when he was given the antidote and he had fully recovered, he turned his rage upon me and everything got worse. I'm not sure how much longer I would have lived had my Mistress not come when she did. I was quite ready to take my own life by that time. I am truly grateful for everything that my Mistress has done for me, and I will do anything she wants."

"So, I'm really curious. Did your experiences taint you, or are you…"

Blut chuckled with mirth. "I prefer women, but Xellas doesn't entirely approve of her cubs being one way or another, so I take men just as willingly, just not as often."

Xellos spoke up as well. "She allows us to have a preference for a specific sex, but she expects us to be open to all possibilities. She hates the idea of us losing extra power just because our preferences were off in regards to the one interested in us."

Blut leaned in towards Lina, and spoke conspiratorially to her. "That was my Lesson Number Three. Take sex in whatever form it was offered."

Lina glanced in the direction of Rolf's tent. "Is that what she's gonna do to Rolf?"

Blut shrugged. "It depends on her whims I guess. Like whether she's gonna train him as a cub or a toy. If she's training him specifically for you, he's a toy. If she sees something else in him, a use for him beyond the here and now, she'll train him as a cub."

"Do all of her cubs become… Mazoku?"

Blut shook her head. "No. The cub has to want it with every fiber of their being. Every fiber. They must be willing to give all that they are to her, to completely surrender their lives, their minds, their souls to the Beastmaster. They must be willing to die when she tells them to, to kill when she tells them to, to do everything she asks without question, ever. They are allowed to disagree with her, but they cannot act upon their personal feelings if those feelings go against her will. That is the only way she will make someone one of her Mazoku cubs, and as you can likely imagine, most cannot fathom giving their freedom for her gifts. It was an easy decision for me, considering the life I had, but it is not the same for any of the cubs she trains, and especially so for the toys."

Lina sighed as she sat back. "So, I don't need to be too concerned about Rolf then?"

Blut shrugged. "Rolf made his decision, the moment he saw her and desired her for what she was. The twins and Sian saw her, and felt no true desire for her. She frightened them. But Rolf… Ah now Rolf was intrigued despite the danger that she represents. And he knew she was dangerous, but even so, he still wanted her. He is in capable hands. And as she said, no other woman will ever have power over his lusts. As a handsome young man, that was a definite danger he would have faced, but now… Now he will be in control, and that is no bad thing."

Lina sighed again. She was too young to be mothering a teenager, but part of her felt somewhat responsible for the young man. He had never been outside of Seyruun's city walls, and now that he was, he was in the company of one of the most powerful Mazoku Lords in existence. And he was in Xellas's company because of Lina. The worst part was that she still didn't truly know what Xellas was capable of. The woman was so crafty and cunning, and then at times she could be so direct; she truly was a mischievous spirit, and there was no way of knowing how Xellas would take something until seeing it after the fact. Plus the Mazoku was a mass of contradictions. Lina still wasn't quite sure how to react around the devious woman, and she had previous experience with Mazoku—Rolf didn't have any of that, and he was in closer quarters with the woman than she was with Xellos.

It was too much to think about. And at the moment she lacked the spare energy to do so. She was starting to feel her exhaustion catch up with her, even after all the delicious food. She began leaning even more heavily into Gourry, and her eyelids were starting to droop.

As she was lifted from her sitting position, Lina forced her eyes to open, if only to see just who was carrying her this time. To her slight surprise, Blut held her. She was certain it would have been Xellos, since Gourry was still not physically able, but Xellos had remained with the rest of her party. She leaned her head back against Blut's shoulder, her curiosity satisfied.

Well, not completely.

Lina raised the arm that had been draped over Blut's neck and her fingers began caressing and rubbing Blut's large wolfy ear. Lina was barely able to mumble out, "it is as soft as it looks."

Blut chuckled. Bleed's right, if I could purr I would. I'll have to discuss that with our Mistress. I'm sure she wouldn't mind making a minor adjustment in that regard.

Lina sighed happily, sleep overtaking her, her fingers still wrapped around the furry ear.

Blut only clasped Lina tighter to her chest, and whispered, "Too bad you're straight."

xxxx

Almost true to form, Lina seemed to sleep for an entire week before she finally woke with enough energy to suggest that they press on. She woke intermittently in that week, enough to go to the bathroom, and then eat some more, and on one occasion to do a light sponge bath on her bare skin, though she couldn't quite recall who helped her with any of those situations. The only time that she truly remembered at all was when she first woke up the day after casting the spell. The rest of the time when she was awake was really a blur, and she could not recall any specific moment with lucidity. The only thing she was really certain of was that she was constantly surrounded by Mazoku when she slept, all of them female, mostly Blut and Bleed, though she was certain that Xellas would not have missed an opportunity to hold her in her sleep—likely the only time Lina wouldn't really struggle against the powerful Mazoku. She knew this for sure because she always had a hold of something furry, whether it was Bleed, or Blut's tail. They were like having her own personal snuggle bunnies, and they provided a very nice degree of warmth that she hardly had to use her blankets to keep warm. She even woke this one last time curled around Bleed, with Blut spooning up behind her, Blut's tail curling around Lina's waist.

Gourry would later state when she was moving around on her own, her week of sleep was better than the last time, as she had been in a complete coma and nothing he had done could wake her out of it. And now that she was awake, she seemed to have recovered a bit quicker. She wasn't one hundred percent better, but she was much improved.

As Lina stretched out of her tent, she sighed happily into the brisk morning air. Gourry was training the four Seyruun trainees in sword work, a slight sheen of sweat on their shirtless bodies. LIna leaned against the wagon nearest the men and allowed herself a momentary fantasy as she watched the five men, in the prime of their lives doing strenuous physical activity.

Now that was hot.

She would have continued silently watching their physical prowess except that Xellas decided to open her mouth.

"Lina!" Xellas's squeal could not have reached a higher pitch, startling the men out of their workout. "You're awake!" After such an exclamation, Lina was not really surprised when the woman jumped and wrapped herself around Lina in a full body hug. As if she hadn't been getting enough of that whilst Lina had been asleep.

Lina could not help but growl.

Xellas only smiled in response. "I was very worried."

Lina glared at the Mazoku Lord who had yet to relinquish her death grip. "My ass."

Lina suddenly squeaked as she felt a hand grope her bottom.

Xellas nodded. "It is very nice. You must walk a lot."

Lina growled louder. "Get off me Xellas."

"Oh poopy. You are such a grump in the morning." Xellas leaned in to whisper, "Must be lack of sex. Rolf is now in perfect condition for you by the way. And Xellos is still an expert."

At the mention of Rolf, Lina groaned, but at the mention of Xellos, Lina blushed, brightly.

"That is such a lovely blush. I'll have to see if it goes all the way down with the proper stimulus. Or if you're still too much of a prude, I can always ask someone else who has seen it."

Lina's blush burned even brighter, her embarrassment enough to make her forget she was miffed with Xellas.

By this time Gourry and the four teens had walked up to where Lina was standing. Before she could repeat her earlier demand to Xellas, Xellas hopped off of Lina and suddenly glomped onto Rolf.

"Nice and sweaty, just how I like 'em. Reminds me of other wonderful physical activities. How about you Lina? Do you like a man to be all sweaty?"

Lina found that her mouth wouldn't work to respond to such a question. Though she was certain that if she could answer, the four young men would immediately take her words as gospel, and she had no intention of swaying their easily suggestible minds. They were all too determined to become her perfect man, and she was not about to let them. Despite how gorgeous all four were, they all were at least ten years her junior and she was not a pedophile, nor did she have any inclination in becoming one.

In truth, Lina had only experienced the sweat of one man in particular—which she actually liked because she loved Gourry, and she couldn't avoid it anyway when they had sex… And since Xellos didn't really have sweat glands, she didn't really have much of an opinion either way. It was like asking a woman whether she preferred hair on a man's chest or not. Gourry didn't really have a lot of hair on his chest—just the happy trail, and Xellos had been completely bare, so she didn't yet have an opinion to the matter—though she did wonder if the reason Xellos did not was because she hadn't expressed an opinion on it either way. Realizing her brain had gone on an internal tangent, Lina clamped her mouth shut, and refused to respond, angry that Xellas seemed to make her mind delve into naughty thoughts.

Xellas's smile became an outright grin, as if she knew exactly what her questions had led Lina to think about.

Rolf looked between the two women, and finally focused on Lina. "Are you well enough to be up and about Lady Lina?"

Lina nodded. "I feel much better, thank you. In fact, I think I'm well enough to start traveling again. My big sister is going to be mad enough as it is that it took me so long to get on the road. She'll be furious with me if I tarry any longer."

Gourry shook his head. "She can stuff it." Lina's eyes widened. "We'll wait an extra day, just to make sure. You obviously don't remember how long it took you to get better last time Lina. I do. And you weren't pregnant then."

Lina frowned. It was not like she was some delicate flower, some weak innocent damsel ready to faint at a moment's notice. She was Lina Inverse, the Sorceress Supreme and made of tougher stuff than that, magic completely drained or not.

Rolf spoke up quickly, seeing Lina's reaction to Gourry's comment. "Besides, we've pretty much settled here for the week. It'll take us some time to repack everything. We'll have to decide what to abandon. We can't take all the wagons with us, and we still have the carriage, and the horses to go with it all."

Lina sighed, defeated by sound logic. "You're right. It's just, you don't know my big sister. She's… scary." Lina shuddered.

Sian spoke up. "We'll defend you Lady Lina."

Ari nodded before he also spoke, "And if she really cares about you, then she can wait a little longer to see you."

Bari agreed, "It's your health we're concerned about. Not her temper."

At the nods of five men, Lina slumped against the wagon. "All right. But if that's how you really feel, then somebody better be ready to feed me. I'm starved."

Sian perked up. "I'll get right on it Lady Lina!" He practically ran to the campfire.

Lina smiled. "I so do love that in a man."

Bari and Ari looked at each other for a second, before they too ran after Sian.

Xellas sighed. "Those two are way too easy to manipulate." She squeezed Rolf tightly. "Not like my Wolfy. You know the real way to please a woman."

Rolf shrugged as best he could with a Mazoku Lord wrapped as tightly as she was around him. "If cooking would help, I'd willingly learn it too."

Xellas sighed as she released him. "It's not exactly going against your lessons, and if it does please Lina…" She looked at Lina for confirmation.

"If it makes my food come to me four times faster, or gives me four times as much, I'm all for it."

Xellas waved Rolf off. "Go, learn a new trade to please my Lina."

Rolf smiled and took off after his friends, where Sian was already patiently explaining some cooking tips to both Bari and Ari even as his hands were beginning to prepare his ingredients.

Xellas shook her head. "You have those four boys wrapped around your finger and you're not even using them properly." She sighed as she looked over at Gourry. "Aren't you going to join them?"

Gourry chuckled and scratched his head. "Nah, I'd likely forget what I was told two minutes after I was told. And I know better than to ruin Lina's food, especially when she's hungry."

Lina chuckled. "Damn straight."

Now that Xellas no longer had Rolf to cling to, she began sidling up to Lina again, her intent very obvious.

"Oh no you don't!" Lina exclaimed with a shout, before she hid behind Gourry.

Xellas sighed. "You are such a bore sometimes."

"I do not need you hanging off of me. You're like an ill-trained monkey or something."

Xellas pouted. "I am not. I just like physical contact with a nice soft, warm human body. And if I'm not wanted, I'll just leave." And with that, Xellas just completely phased out.

Lina glared at the spot Xellas had previously been in. "I really don't know how anyone can stand that woman. She is such a pain."

Gourry turned around, looking down upon Lina. "True, but her servants have helped us a great deal. And she has taken a great deal of care of you, better than I could have done." He shrugged. "Don't you suppose we should put up with her oddities for the duration of our trip."

Lina glared up at Gourry. "You obviously have no idea what that woman is capable of."

Gourry looked away quickly, before he refocused on Lina again, something that was not entirely lost on Lina. "I have more of an idea than you realize."

Lina blinked, a bit surprised at such a response from her lover. "Care to elaborate?"

"Not really."

Lina frowned, her instincts nagging at her, but she couldn't figure out what they were trying to tell her. She sighed. If Gourry didn't want to tell her, she couldn't very well force it out of him. He was remarkably resilient in some ways. She had never gotten the Sword of Light from him after all. It was likely best just to drop it. "So what have you guys been up to while I was passed out?"

Gourry brightened. "I've been training the kids on more sword work. They really have gotten better." He suddenly beamed at Lina. "When we finally settle down together, I think I'll become a Weaponsmaster like Llywelyn. We could even open up a school. You'd teach magic and I'd teach weapons craft."

Lina leaned back as she studied her lover. "When we finally settle down, huh?"

Gourry suddenly placed his hand on Lina's belly. "Yeah. I'm not saying it has to be now of course. I know you have to do some stuff for What's-Her-Face, and that it might take some time. But I really think we should maybe start considering it at the very least." Gourry then smoothed his hand over Lina's face and Lina couldn't help but lean into his warm callused palm. "I love you Lina, but I'm not getting any younger. And I really don't want our child to grow up without a home."

Lina sighed, doing her best to keep from shaking her head. At least he wasn't demanding she marry him. After her screw-up with Xellos, that was the farthest thing from her mind, even if she still did love Gourry. "I'll think about it Gourry. I won't promise anything. But there's still so much I want to do in this life."

Gourry shook his head and then grabbed Lina into a hug. "You forget that once you have children, that changes…"

Lina rubbed her face into his chest, now dried of sweat. She breathed in the scent that was Gourry, a little musky but somehow still smelling of cedar chips like he had been in a training salle, and not on the road for the past few weeks.

"Do you regret it? The baby I mean…"

Lina sighed again. "I'm not sure how to answer that. Yes and no, I guess."

Gourry chuckled. "You can still travel you know. After the kid grows up a little."

Lina pulled away from Gourry, losing his warmth and regretting it a bit. She shook her head. "That's what happened to me and Luna. As soon as I was old enough to be babysat, my parents took off, leaving Luna to run the store and me to get into trouble. I don't blame them for it. They had bills to pay, and the store didn't generate enough profit to pay all of them, especially with…"

Gourry looked down at Lina, curious. Like himself, Lina was not very forthcoming about her past, and he typically never pushed because he knew he'd forget anyway. But the way she just stopped talking, it seemed important… Important enough for him to inquire. "Especially with what?"

Lina's eyes widened. "Nothing. It's just Mama and Daddy had to leave a lot in order to provide for us. And Luna was stuck raising me on occasion. And that wasn't really fair to her. Nor was it fair to me. I know they had to do what they had to do to make ends meet. But I don't want that for our baby."

Gourry pulled Lina in for another hug. She had successfully diverted his question and he knew better than to press. Perhaps, one day he'd find out. But it didn't matter too much if she wasn't willing to divulge it. There were some things he didn't want to talk about as well. "Me either. I didn't have a lot of stability in my family, and I want to make sure my children have it better than me."

Lina nodded. "And I suppose we can always travel with the kid, once it's older."

"One step at a time Lina, one step at a time."

"Well, isn't this just all lovey-dovey and… disgusting." Blut snorted. Her tail waved behind her in slight irritation. "Come on, break it up, there are innocent children watching."

Lina frowned as she looked at the four young men who had indeed been watching both her and Gourry cuddle up together. Envy was shining clearly in four sets of eyes, with perhaps a little bit of avarice, yearning, and confidence as well in one particular brown pair of eyes.

Well that was just great.

Her worries over the young man had not been accurate enough apparently, not that she could have done anything as unconscious as she had been for the last week. Being with Xellas had fairly corrupted his young mind, and from the way Xellas had smirked at her, Lina knew that Rolf knew very well how to please a woman—and that he wanted to test out his knew abilities on the object of his desire.

Lina growled. Just what in the hell was Xellas thinking, teaching the young lad things he shouldn't learn until he was just a wee bit older? And besides that, what the hell was Xellas thinking, in making yet another man able to vie for her attentions? Lina had enough to contend with when it was only Xellos and Gourry. Was Rolf truly in the running even though she had not once entertained the idea of him? When he was just another of the lovesick puppies that his three friends were, she thought nothing of it, because truly… What woman cared if she had a bunch of lovesick puppies following her when she had a man who thoroughly pleased her?

Now that lovesick puppy looked as if he might actually become someone she'd have to keep an eye on, if she didn't want to find herself alone and suddenly pressed between him and a rock or a tree. She shuddered at the small thrill that idea gave her.

Bad Lina! Down girl! Heel! Heel!

If worse came to worse, she knew Xellos would have none of the young cub intruding upon what he considered his territory. She wasn't sure why, but somehow that sort of pleased her, even if she was also slightly appalled by her own mind's word choice. Especially since she had put Xellos in the place of her protector and not Gourry. Then something really worried her as she contemplated even that. What if Xellas told Xellos to back off while Rolf had his way with her? Would Xellos just allow the kid to have what was his because his master told him to, or would he fight for her? And why the hell was she worried whether Xellos would allow it? Shouldn't she be more concerned on whether Gourry would fight for her? They were lovers after all. Xellos was just a one-time mistake. She was not planning a repeat of that, ever—even if what they shared had been amazing. But Xellos…

Where was he? Was he keeping an eye on the young Seyruun trainee? Or was he just as gone as his master?

Lina looked around and could not see him, and she was worried now, even more. Neither Xellas nor Xellos were anywhere to be seen. She knew that Xellas had phased off—had she made Xellos leave as well, just to see if Rolf would go after Lina? Rolf wouldn't try anything with Gourry or any of the others around. But would he try something if she was alone, was he the kind of man who would do such a thing? She didn't know the young man all that well. Hell, she didn't know any of the young men all that well. She had written them all off as inconsequential the moment she realized how they worshipped the ground she walked upon; lovesick teenagers—nothing more. But now that Xellas had meddled with the leader of their tiny group, one of them was definitely not so lovesick anymore. Or more, he was still infatuated, but now he knew what to do about it. He had the possibility of becoming something much more dangerous, especially to her love life and her sanity.

Gourry tugged on Lina's hand and pulled her toward the campfire, where the four boys were sitting and preparing her breakfast. He had no idea of the inner turmoil Lina was currently fighting against. As a precaution, Lina allowed Gourry to choose his seat on one of the logs, before she chose her own, hoping his choice would help her out just a bit. Unfortunately, Gourry took the end of a log, and she was forced to sit in the middle and she knew that was going to bite her soon.

She knew she was right the moment Rolf got up to sit next to her, sitting a little too close than was strictly necessary, or comfortable. He was definitely taking a page from Xellas's book.

Lina had to say something, but Rolf beat her to it.

"So, did you sleep well Lady Lina?" At least he was still calling her Lady. She wondered if he would give that up when he decided to make his move.

Lina shrugged not sure about how to redirect him, and still not sure about how to get him to move away. "As well as one can, I suppose."

Blut had followed all of them and now she leaned lazily against a tree, her eyes closed. "Oh, don't worry young Wolf. Lina slept very well. Bleed and I made sure of that. She was as cozy as one could be, and nary did she twitch in restless or disturbing dreams. Our mistress made certain that hers was the sleep of the dead, though I'm pretty sure the Great Lady had some hand in that as well."

Lina looked over at Blut, her head cocked to the side. "Oh?"

Blut nodded. "Of the times that the Beastmaster was not there to hold you, Our Greater Mistress made sure you were not to be troubled. Which only proves how important you are to Her if She is willing to bend Her will upon you."

Lina nodded in response, then turned back and looked into the fire. Her concern over Rolf became insignificant compared to this, and even as she looked to the fire, she looked inward, trying to remember once more the riddle the Lord of Nightmares had given her the first time she had cast the Giga Slave and become absorbed by the Goddess—because if the Lord of Nightmares had made sure her sleep was restful there had to be a reason.

Maybe She was giving Lina a hint to the riddle itself, and Lina just had to remember her dreams to get it.

How do you create Order out of Chaos?

Yes, the riddle had repeated once more in her head while she slept.

She was reminded of its simplicity, as the male/female voice seemed to repeat the question in her head even as she thought about it. Yes, it was a simple enough riddle in and of itself, but the answer was not so simple especially when there was more to the question than what was asked. She did her best to think back to that time she had cast the Chaotic Claws the first time—no, she could not recall whether the Lady of Nightmares had been present during her coma, but she also hadn't truly accepted the Lord of Nightmares as her God then either. Lina really focused inward as she tried to feel if her Goddess was more connected to her after casting it this second time.

Lina almost gasped. She was. Lina could almost feel Her in the back of her thoughts, a tiny presence, more constant than ever before, even more so than when she had died that third time in Seyruun less than a few months ago. But what was She doing, why was She there?

She was about to focus even more on this wisp of the Goddess when one of the twins spoke up, breaking Lina from her reverie. "Oi, Rolf! Help us out over here."

Rolf looked up to his three friends who were doing their best to carry what looked like a five course meal over to Lina. He bounced out of his seat, quick as quick and took hold of the fourth corner.

Lina turned as she heard chuckling to her right. Blut had phased into Rolf's empty seat, a decidedly evil expression on her face. "Don't worry Lina, I got your side."

And I got your back! Lina felt Bleed's presence behind her and absently reached down to scratch behind one of her ears. Oh yeah, that's the spot, a little to the left, yeah, right there.

Blut chuckled again. "Hedonist."

Lina shook her head, even as she agreed. "Yep."

The four boys brought the large wooden plank full of food over to Lina, and placed it before her. Her attention was immediately riveted on the food, so she didn't notice Rolf's glare at Blut. She did hear Blut's response, however.

"You move your feet, you lose your seat. You should know that space next to Lina is at a premium these days." At this, Lina felt Blut's tail curl around her waist. She did her best to ignore it. "Now leave her alone, she hasn't eaten well in over a week and wouldn't have the strength to keep up with you anyway."

Rolf huffed, but moved to sit with his friends.

Blut growled. "Damned hormonal teenagers." She leaned over Lina to glare at Gourry. "They haven't worked off enough energy yet, O Master Swordslinger." She poked her finger in his face as if to make her point. "Go give them a workout they're not likely to forget!"

Gourry's eyes widened as he looked at the female Mazoku. He glanced at Lina, then back to Blut. Her eyes narrowed, and he recognized the look as telling him he would face dire consequences if he dared disobey. He immediately got up and called to the four young men, who, Lina only now realized with a blush, were still quite shirtless. They grudgingly got up, glancing at Lina every now and again as they trudged after their armsmaster, until Rolf furiously whispered something to his friends. They looked to him, wide-eyed, looked back at Lina who was half-watching them, half-eating her food and then chased after Gourry with much more alacrity.

Blut actually laughed. "I won't say much for his wooing, but he does have a sharp mind on him."

Lina looked over at Blut, questions in her eyes.

Blut nodded toward the five men who were now practicing very vigorously near enough to where Lina could watch with her view unhindered. "Breakfast and a show."

Lina chuckled as she caught on. "Most enjoyable. Is that why you 'suggested' Gourry resume their training."

"Me? I 'suggested' nothing. I told him he better do it or face my wrath! Our young Wolf only caught on to the fact that though he may not be able to be in your presence while you ate, he could most certainly impress you with his skills while you watched… And the fact that he got his reticent friends to follow him only proves that he realized what an opportunity it was."

Lina smiled as she dug into the meal the boys, mostly Sian, had prepared for her. Once again, it was a delight to her taste buds. That Sian really knew how to cook!

She felt another body sit next to her, and looked to her left to see Naga, who was yawning hugely. Lina mumbled around a mouthful of food, "morning Naga."

Naga yawned again. "Morning. Ugh, do they have to be so energetic and loud when they're training? First I can't sleep cause Xellas and the Brat are up practically all night, and now all of them are up at some ungodly hour, making a bunch of noise and ruining my beauty sleep."

Blut actually looked sympathetic as she looked towards The Big Breasted One. Naga's tent was closest to Rolf's after all. "I think Sian made a pot of coffee to go with Lina's meal."

Naga's face instantly perked up at that. "Coffee?!" She was up in an instant, filling her ever-present beer stein full of the dark ambrosia. Naga gulped half of it down in an instant, and sighed with the bliss she usually gave when drinking her wine. She looked ready to pour the rest of the brew into her stein, before she looked at Lina. "Need some?"

"A small amount would be nice to get the rest of the sleep out of my system."

Naga walked back over, taking her place next to Lina, before handing Lina the extra mug and then sipping at what was left of the coffee in her stein.

"So, Gourry said he'd been training the boys with sword work while I was out. Has anything else in particular been going on?"

Naga snorted. "Xellas and the Brat have been going at it like a pair of rabbits."

Lina sighed. "I didn't choose to bring them out here, you know?"

"Oh I know. In fact, they chose to come here to, and I quote, 'protect Lady Lina'. You wouldn't know that of course, because you were already passed out. But Zelgadis sent them as a secondary measure of protection because he had word or something that your Seyruun guards were trouble. Too late, obviously, but they ran into Xellas when looking for you, and well, she brought them here, but not before taking an interest in the Brat." Naga stopped and looked around. "Where is she, anyway? I thought she'd surely be hanging off of you or that kid."

Lina sighed. "She did, with both of us, but the second time she was about to attempt it with me, I got mad and called her a name and she got miffed and disappeared."

"What'd you call her?"

"An ill-trained monkey."

Naga giggled. "And you got away with it?"

Lina smiled. "Apparently. For now at least. She'll likely get back at me soon enough."

Blut nodded. "You can count on that."

Oh boy, can you. She can be vicious when she wants.

Lina sighed with defeat. "I'll bet. I'd rather not find out what she has in store for me, but I suppose I'll find out sooner rather than later."

"Yeah, she's pretty quick about coming up with a suitable punishment. Though for a comment like that, it won't be too bad. Just bad enough to embarrass you, I think."

Lina inhaled the rest of her food and then stretched. "Well, if you ladies don't mind, I'm going to bathe and then change. This outfit has seen way better days."

I'm going with you. No need for the young cubs to see more than they should.

"I'll go with you as well, two sets of eyes are better than one."

Naga nodded, "I too shall join you. I know your tastes, and I know you will want a proper bath. And I can't tell you how much I'd kill for a proper bath right now. Bathing in that cold stream, I'd swear my tits would freeze off."

Lina shrugged and slowly meandered back to her tent. She grabbed her pack ignoring the clink it made as she picked it up, and then allowed Bleed to lead the way to the nearby stream.

She looked around her before testing the water. As she had expected from the comment Naga made, the water was cold, as if it had just melted yesterday—great for drinking, not at all for bathing. And there was no particular spot like a pool or a pond for her to just heat the water because it would flow away before she even had a chance to dip a toe in. She smirked. Time to play.

As the rest of her small group gathered a little ways away from her, Lina gathered her magic about her, feeling it pool at her fingertips. Still no significant drain on her magic at all—given the fact that she had cast the Chaotic Claws only a week ago, she should have felt her reserves completely taxed. The first time she had cast it, it had taken her significantly longer to regain her magic. She shrugged; perhaps the Lady of Nightmares had something to do with this as well. She focused her magical energy into that of the shamanist category of earth.

She wanted a proper bath damn it, and she was going to get one even if she had to make the damned tub herself. Not that it'd be that difficult. As she called forth the spell in her mind, she finally felt a draw on her energies. She couldn't completely mind-cast this one. At the end of her internal incantation, she yelled, "Stone Basin!" and finished it up with planting her hand into the ground just around three feet from the stream.

The earth around her hand didn't necessarily explode away, though it seemed to. Instead, it compressed together, compacting tighter and tighter, and forming what looked like a small bowl in the earth. But that was not all. As the dirt and soil pressed further together, the pressure seemed to actually meld it into a smooth shape and the basin became almost cement-like as it continued to expand into the ground and outward from where Lina's hand had first touched the earth. And instead of slowing down the further it got from Lina's hand, it sped up, becoming larger and larger until the hole could fit at least four people sitting comfortably. Lina did not stop there though; she trailed her hand from the relative center of the basin to the lip where it just began to meet the stream. She continued focusing her earth magic into her hand and the lip seemed to shrink down so that water, slowly at first, but then building up speed began to cascade into the basin, filling it up with the cold clear stream water.

Lina waited for it to become completely full before she then gathered her magic once more to form a fireball. After plenty of experience with men during her travels, she knew better than to cause an explosion that would send the five overprotective men to her location and give them a free show. So after some time of building up the power of the fireball in her hand, she placed her hand above the water, letting the heat rolling off of the ball warm the water in the basin. It would take a bit longer this way, but was more likely to ensure her privacy. She didn't mind Gourry joining her, but the Four Raging Hormones—no way in hell, especially not with those glances Rolf was giving her every chance he had to look her way, as if he were sizing her up and deciding he could take her. Another shudder trilled through her spine at the delight in that thought.

No Way In The Nine Hells, Damn It All!

The heat of the fireball actually fluctuated with her anger for a moment before she realized her emotions were getting the better of her and she calmed herself down again. Besides, the water was beginning to steam. She slowly called back the power from the fireball; it's heat and intensity slowly diminishing even as its size decreased. Suddenly it was no more than a spec of light before it altogether vanished. And Lina was feeling a little tired from the exertion. Looking at her handiwork, it was worth it.

Naga was in the 'hot spring' moments later sighing quite dramatically. "Oh Lina, this is the best! I'm gonna have to use a variant of that spell to expand my resorts! I know Finn will absolutely love it."

Lina smiled as she stripped down out of what was left of her clothing. Piled on the ground as it was, it more closely resembled rags than an outfit. She sighed. She supposed it was well past time to change that outfit to better fit in with the times, but she had really liked it. It was comfortable and easy to fight in. Though, as she stepped into her artificial hot spring, she knew she would have had to ditch it at some point anyway. There was no telling what size she'd become while pregnant and that set of pink tunic and pants was not made for a pregnant girl. She hummed in bliss as she let the almost scalding water relax every muscle of hers as she dipped her head below the surface.

This was heaven.

She still had her research outfit. It wasn't really suited for traveling about, but it would do until she found a sorcerer's guild or magic shop where she could replace her bedraggled outerwear. And now that she thought about it, her unmentionables could use some changes as well, as they really hadn't survived her Chaos Magic either. She was truly surprised the boys hadn't jumped her the moment they saw her up and about, walking in that get-up. She knew that their eyes were never far from her, and perhaps that was why Rolf was eyeing her like a piece of meat. The way her clothing was displaying her body, she was likely a very tempting target to the hormone-driven young man.

He wasn't as well developed as Gourry was, but Gourry was older than the boy by over fifteen years. Still, Rolf did look pretty good for a kid his age…

Good enough to eat.

Lina sputtered as her head burst out of the water.

Naga cracked an eye open at Lina, before closing it and leaning back against the lip of the earthen basin. "That's what you get for staying under so long."

Lina thanked the Lord of Nightmares that the heat of the water could account for the red color of her face. She couldn't believe where her mind was heading, and why she was having such naughty thoughts, especially about a boy who was ten years her junior! She wanted to growl out loud, but that would lead to Naga asking her why. She knew why. It was all that sneaky, conniving Xellas's fault, damn her.

It had been that way with Xellos, and Xellas had gotten exactly what she wanted—Lina had had sex with him. Had had mind-blowing sex with him. Had cheated on her lover, her confidant, her best friend, the father of her unborn child! And now Xellas was setting her hooks into Lina's mind, making Lina think of Rolf in the same way that she had with Xellos. And if that was how it started, she knew how it would end. She fisted her hands under the water and set her jaw. She would not commit adultery on Gourry a second time, no matter how tempting Xellas made her two other prospects. She was not that kind of girl.

"Okay Lina, Naga, I think you've soaked long enough. And the boys are finally realizing you are nowhere near camp. And I think… Yes, they are heading this way to look for you." Blut broke Lina from her anger with the way she said 'look'. As if it was not so much to make sure Lina was okay, but to catch her naked.

Lina growled. "Bleed, could you please stall them?"

Bleed chuckled. You got it!

"Blut, you're the next line of defense. I'm not done here yet."

Blut shrugged. "It's why I came in the first place. What is it about boys and seeing girls bathing, besides the obvious."

Naga giggled as she stepped out of the water. "The obvious of course. Plus I think they want to have a near death experience at least once in their short pitiful lives. It might as well be worth it, don't you think?"

"Not when I'm done with them…" Lina ground out.

Naga sighed. "That's the bad Lina. Don't worry, you have nothing to fear. I'll freeze them in place if I have to." Naga quickly dried off and then dressed in her leather bikini. Once finished she strode off, the bounce in her steps showing her eagerness to cast some magic on the four perverts.

In the distance, Lina and Blut could clearly hear Naga's laugh, though nothing of what she said afterward. Blut shuddered. "How the hell did that Banshee learn to act like a human? She almost has you fooled until she starts to laugh."

Lina snickered. "She has her moments. And she has calmed down a lot since I last traveled with her."

Blut's eyes widened. "You mean she used to be… worse?"

Lina nodded. "A lot worse. And it was harder than you can even imagine to ditch her. And even after I got rid of her, she'd still show up again."

There was an explosion that went off in the distance, followed by an even louder boom of that horrific laugh of Naga's.

Blut looked in the direction it had come from, then brought Lina's stuff over and sat down at the edge of the pool. "Just so you know, my respect for you has just increased, by a lot."

Lina laughed as she dug through her pack and pulled out a bar of soap. It wasn't the best for her hair, but it was better than nothing, and she was certain her hair was looking less than its best anyway. She finished soaping up and then did her best to wipe and rinse the suds off. She used some of her magic to push some of the hot sudsy water back out into the stream, then allowed the stream to fill some of the pool with clean cool water. It dropped the temperature of the water a bit, but she was getting overheated anyway. She stood up to get out of the pool, and once she was completely out, Blut handed her a towel.

"I've been meaning to ask. Where's Xellos? I know Xellas left, but I haven't seen Xellos all morning."

Blut shrugged. "He'll be around shortly. Beastmaster had him running some errands along with the rest of her servants while she kept an eye on you. She still has kingdoms to ruin and destroy, and people to meddle with. As much as she likes you, she can't let any of her schemes go to waste if she can avoid it."

"Huh. I hadn't thought about it like that I guess."

Blut shrugged again. "Why would you? It's not like you're a part of our pack yet or anything. I know you've never really spent much time with Mazoku as a whole or even as a group. And even among Mazoku, Beastmaster's servants and cubs are way outside the norm, mainly because she is outside the norm. I think she's the most involved in human affairs, well after Hellmaster and Chaos Dragon. Chaos Dragon was forced to become involved in human affairs because he became human himself in a way, and Hellmaster was only concerned in human affairs when it amounted to him getting more souls. But since they're dead it's not like it matters. Beastmaster always chose to involve herself with humans because we intrigued her so. Still do, really. You especially. She hasn't met a human like you in centuries."

"I'm not sure if that's comforting."

"Take it as you will. What are you going to do with the pool?"

It was Lina's turn to shrug. "Leave it I suppose. I might want another bath before we leave tomorrow and why go to all that work of making another one. Besides, after their sweaty workout, the boys may want to use it, and who am I to deny them that?"

"True enough. You might want to get dressed soon though. Naga and Bleed kept the boys from coming to check you out, but some are more persistent than others thanks to a certain mistress."

Lina nodded at the heads up and dug into her pack for her research-wear.

And was seeming to come up empty.

"What the…" Lina frowned, as she searched all around for the burgundy tunic that she knew she had packed into this very backpack. The brown tights were rolled up within the tunic to protect them from snags, so she knew if she found one, she'd have the other. But she couldn't find the one. In fact, she kept feeling the cool slide of metal and the sensual rub of leather across her fingers, but nothing felt like her tunic. She was ready to screech as she dumped everything in the pack onto the ground. Everything of regular importance was in her pack. Her spellbook and reading glasses. Her emergency rations of food as well as her belt pouch containing all her gems and platinum pieces and the pouch containing all her very pricy spell components. But there was no sign of her tunic or even her extra underthings. In fact the only clothing that was in there at all could not even be defined as clothing. Not really.

She looked to where she had dumped her outfit from earlier. A few small pieces of cloth indicated that she had indeed placed what was left of her outfit on that spot on the ground. But now it was missing, except for those scraps of fabric too small to even be used for patches. Lina felt the snarl form on her face even as she picked up the 'clothing' that had been in her pack. It was a two-piece. Made of chain mail and leather.

Scratch that.

Dark pink chain mail and a slightly lighter pink leather.

Blut looked up with wide eyes at what Lina was holding in her hands and wisely refrained from a smartass remark, despite how close to the tip of her tongue it was. She dearly wanted to ask if Lina was really into bondage and where her matching pink cat o' nine was. But she didn't. She knew she'd get a Ragna Blade for that if Lina's expression was anything to go by. As it was, she might still get a Dragon Slave just because she opened her mouth at all. She'd have to choose her words very carefully at this precise moment.

"I'm going to kill that bitch!"

Oh yeah, it was bad.

Lina's red aura was coming off of her in waves. Perhaps it was best to escape now. Yes, that was safest. If Rolf was anywhere near, well, he'd die for sure and that was one less person in competition for Lina's affection. The thing was, Blut was rooted to the spot. And she knew it was not because of fear.

"Oh come now Lina, you don't like my little present?" Xellas asked as she suddenly phased in right next to Lina, holding a pair of dark brown leather boots in one hand, and a pair of dark brown leather gloves in the other. Both had the same dark pink chain mail motif running along the tops and sides of them, along with wolf fur running along the cuffs.

"How the hell is this a present?"

Xellas smiled brightly as she sat up in the empty air. "Well. Your current outfit was causing such licentious thoughts in the young boys that I felt I absolutely had to do something about it. And I looked at what was in your pack and felt that that flimsy little tunic and tights combo could in no way survive the rigors of your traveling experiences, especially since not even your normal magicked travel-ware could. Why, you'd end up even more naked in that than you were in your first outfit, and before you ever reached a town to get a decent outfit in. I could not have that. So I designed your current selection down to a T. I hope you'll enjoy it. I know your man, whomever that may happen to become, will."

Lina shook the two-piece in front of Xellas. "How the hell is this supposed to protect me from the rigors of traveling?! There's nothing there!"

Xellas giggled. "Of course there is silly. Just put it on, you'll see."

"I will not!"

Xellas sighed, but it was with a very mischievous smile. "As you choose. I personally wouldn't want to walk around in only a towel though. Never know who might accidentally grab it and then, whoops, Naked! Such a dangerous prospect, especially around horny teenagers."

Lina glared at the woman, and growled deep in her throat. Why the hell did this damn woman find such joy in grating upon her nerves?

Why did Lina even let her?!

Sighing, Lina dropped the towel. She knew from her previous experience that Xellas had no concept of modesty. And asking her to turn around was just an effort in futility, especially since she had just been naked in front of Blut, and had previously been naked in front of both Xellos and Xellas.

What was it about the Beastmaster's servants and getting a free show from her?

In fact, arguing with Xellas about the damned 'outfit' was also futile. The wretched Mazoku Bitch was just going to get her way anyway. She threw the top at Xellas as a way to vent some of her frustration. Xellas somehow deftly caught it; she even smirked at Lina's version of small petty revenge.

Lina looked at the bottom part of the two-piece more closely. It sort of looked like it was made of two pieces, but was connected despite this.

Xellas spoke up again, as if reading her thoughts through her expression. "It technically is two pieces, but once together on your body, they function as one."

"So the leather bikini bottom first then?"

"Mm-hmm. And then the chain mail skirt. Blut, you'll need to help her connect the leather to the chain mail. Once you get used to putting it on and taking it off, it'll become easier for you Lina, but until then, you may need assistance."

"Oh joy."

"Blut, myself and Xellos will of course always be willing to help you out of it."

Lina's face which had been flashing back and forth between different shades of red and white, went full tilt into scarlet. Lina was unsure of what the hell she should say. Hell, even if she said nothing, she knew Xellas would misconstrue it into something that benefited her and hers. And why did she mention Blut as well? Unless Blut was also interested-

Ah shit, not her too!

What was Xellas trying to do in setting up all these potential lovers?

She didn't need any of them. She had Gourry.

Lina felt Blut click the last buckle or clasp into place and Xellas handed her the top. She tied the pink leather bikini into place at her back and neck, adjusting the cups to her breasts. She had to admit, the damn thing felt like butter it was so soft and smooth against her skin. Blut helped her adjust the chain mail portion of the bikini top so that it protected and covered most of the pink leather.

Xellas then handed Lina a pair of flimsy pink stockings.

"What the hell is with all the damned pink?" Lina asked, even as she began pulling one of the stockings up her foot. The boot to the matching foot dropped so she could immediately place her foot in it without damaging the stocking.

"Oh, I thought it was your favorite color. You always seem to wear it after all."

Lina grumbled even as she placed her other foot in the second stocking. "It's not my favorite color, it's just my sorcerer's rank color."

"Well, if that's the case, then you still have to wear it then, correct?" The other boot dropped.

"Yes." Lina quickly pulled it on.

"Then quit your bitching. I would have given you something to match your lovely eyes, but I was just following your chosen color scheme. If it bothers you that much, I might change it later. But it's what I have at the moment, so deal with it."

"I wouldn't have to deal with it if you hadn't stolen my tunic."

"Oh pish posh. I'm doing you a favor. In the long run, you'll see. You're just blinded by embarrassment right now." Xellas then handed Lina the gloves before she floated back to admire her handiwork. Lina was a perfect model for something this well designed. Of course she did look a little like a red-haired, pink barbarian sex kitten, but Xellas wasn't going to tell her that just yet… She'd find out when all the boys either swarmed her or fainted.

Lina still frowned at the woman as she crossed her arms over her chest. "I feel naked."

Xellas ignored her comment. "How does everything fit?"

Lina sighed. "Like it a glove. Like it was tailored specifically to my body. Though that can't be too difficult when dealing with a bikini."

"Not with the leather, no, not really, well except for the cup size. It took a lot of groping while you were asleep to get your size just right…" Xellas's smirk caused Lina's blush to turn maroon. "But the chain mail had to be made perfect to fit you so it wouldn't be loose and likely to catch on anything."

Lina managed to growl out, "it's chain mail. It has holes. It's gonna catch."

Xellas chuckled. "Not as much as you think it might. Besides being fitted to your exact cup size, all of the chain mail is imbued with magic, so even the loose parts of the skirt won't catch—even if you walk through a bunch of briars and brambles, though I wouldn't recommend it just so you can see if I'm telling the truth."

Suddenly Lina's eyes were boring into Xellas's. "What do you mean, it's imbued."

Xellas grinned widely. "Oh, so now you're interested, huh? It's got a little bit of this and a little bit of that; a few spells here and there. The chain mail was magically enameled so it will stay pink no matter what you do to it, or what fights you get into. Also, you'll be pleased to know that the chain mail is made out of pure Orihalcon. I only put the pink enamel-"

Before Xellas even knew what hit her, Lina had practically glomped onto her as she interrupted her. "What else? What else?!"

"Ah, I knew you'd come around eventually, my greedy little goose." Xellas didn't bother prying Lina off her, perfectly fine with such personal contact, her fingers already running through Lina's damp hair. "First tell me you love my gift, and I'll tell you all about it."

"I Love Your Gift!"

Lina could admit it. She could be bought.

She was just damned expensive.

xxxx

The man finally made it. It wasn't the city itself, but he knew that the city wouldn't be safe for him, not anymore. It was why he was in this particular mansion. He had heard rumors on his way back to Seyruun that made mention of the fact that the king knew that Lina's bodyguards had been there to kill Lina. How the king had found out was anyone's guess, but as disheveled as he was and wearing his Seyruun uniform, he knew he'd be stopped and taken in for questioning, and if anyone had recognized him, he'd be dead on the spot—if rumors about the prince consort were also true.

The servant of their shared master had looked at him with some disgust once the door had opened, and he was requested to stay in the outer foyer so that he didn't stink up the place.

He had a right to stink damn it all.

Being on the run for almost a week, with hardly any rest, and definitely no time to clean up tends to make one less than fresh. And though the journey that had taken the Slut's group two weeks only took him one, it was also done without the comforts of civilization. Of course he wasn't moving at a sedate wagon's pace, and he was alone so he could set whatever pace he chose without someone else slowing him down.

He had lost the main group of Mazoku on the first day, mainly by taking a separate path than the remaining fleeing guards and drovers—after waiting a bit in the forest to see which way they had all gone, but he could feel that he still had a pursuer. In a way, he almost felt sorry for the wagon drovers. They'd had no part in the betrayal that cost them their lives. The concern he felt was truly negligible compared to his worry for his own self—and that unease for his compatriots was definitely fleeting, especially since he was still alive and they weren't. At least their death was quick enough, if painful. The rampaging Mazoku that had chased after them had likely made short work of the drovers, as they were probably men who would not stand up and fight.

But he had not rested for two full days because of that feeling of being watched—which had been a rare feat for him as he was not in the best of shape. Still, the two weeks of traveling with the Bitch's group had put him in better shape than the rest of his comrades, and had made jogging those two days at least somewhat possible. The third day, the stitch in his side and his complete exhaustion had stopped him from moving another foot and he had collapsed in pain and fell into a sleep that lasted most of the day and into the night.

When he woke feeling only slightly refreshed, he had continued. Since he hadn't died in his sleep, he felt it might possibly be okay to slow his pace just a bit. He had even made it to a town to get a bite to eat, and his uniform had granted him the knowledge that Seyruun knew of the Whore's bodyguards' duplicity. He had lied smoothly enough about his bedraggled state, enough that he got a decent meal and food for the road, but it hadn't been enough to allow him a place to bathe or sleep for the night. He'd had to continue onward toward Seyruun bereft of even one night of comfort. And once he was back on the road he couldn't disregard the itch on the back of his neck that said someone was still watching him, and following him.

He never saw anyone. But he could feel eyes, tracking his progress. Five days in, he had shouted that they should just come and attack him already, but nothing ever appeared. If it had been a Mazoku, he knew it would have just attacked him and killed him quite easily. But it obviously wasn't as it never did anything to him, just watch… Just that same tingle of constant unwelcome surveillance. It kept him from stopping in any towns as he neared Seyruun, for he hoped that without much rest it would just give up on him, whoever it was. And he kept his pace up, hoping he'd finally lose whatever was tailing him, but he never did, not really. Even now, though he was in his master's mansion, he still felt as if he was being watched—but no matter how hard he looked, he could not find what was observing him. He really hoped he was just imagining things, especially with how fatigued he felt, but he wasn't really certain.

As exhausted as he was, he desperately wanted to lean and rest against one of the walls in this room, but he dare not—if he made so much as a mark, he'd be dead—he was in enough trouble already that he did not need to add to it. Hell, he knew he was likely dead just for coming back alive and not having made one scratch on the little Twat's person—it didn't matter that she had been so completely protected by her Mazoku bodyguards that the very idea was preposterous or that he was likely the only one to survive the onslaught, especially when the number of Mazoku they had been fighting seemed to triple—Master Tavarius was not a man who took kindly to those who failed in his orders, even if the odds were against his lackeys.

In all honesty, not one of the Seyruun Bodyguards truly knew what those beasts traveling with them were capable of. Not even him.

To the men in his company, the 'Mazoku' wolves were just that—wolves; nothing more and nothing less. He had personally just thought they were an illusion created by the Inverse Witch to frighten everyone into thinking she was well protected. They certainly hadn't done much except surround the Harridan and keep everyone away from her. It had worked as the men had kept far away from her, but it really wasn't because they believed the creatures were Mazoku, just wolves.

Who knew that Mazoku could take such an exact and perfect form like that? It's not like much was known about the blasted creatures of Hell. Aside from the fact that making deals with the higher ups was beyond dangerous, the lesser Mazoku were just demons hell-bent on destroying everything they touched. And why would the Harpy make such a dangerous agreement with something so evil, when a spell of illusion would be so much easier?

Even that other Mazoku that had been with her, that Xellos; he was much too human to truly be a Mazoku. At least, that was what he had thought until he actually saw the man phase shift away to go protect the Shrew.

Humans could not do that. Even he knew that much.

And of course when the illusions had suddenly started attacking and killing his men once they came into the forest to complete the pincer movement, attempting to kill that horrible Virago, he truly began to believe that maybe they were at least real beasts, perhaps under her spell of control… No illusion could possibly tear a man's throat out in one bite—or in the case of the newly arriving Mazoku great cats, rip open a man's fully armored stomach to spill his intestines upon the ground. Oh no, those killings were too real to be done by anything but real creatures.

The fact that their attacks were perfectly coordinated, wolves and great cats working in pairs on occasion to more easily kill their enemies, meant they were more than just intelligent beasts under a spell—even he knew a sorcerer had to concentrate on a spell to keep it going, and the Tart was busy fighting against a number of men that would have made mincemeat of any lesser person and the spell would have broken regardless.

He had come to the conclusion very quickly that they were exactly what that Termagant said they were. Mazoku.

Bloody damned who-would-fucking-believe-it Mazoku.

Mazoku who were the perfect forms of the animals they were pretending to be, a Mazoku who was the perfect form of a human being. It should not have been possible. But it was, and he had the horrible luck to experience knowledge most people would kill for and die because of.

He became very educated indeed about Mazoku that day.

For a man who had grown up as ignorant as most of the populace of the world, that had been one of the worst days of his life. Not from the bloodshed itself, or the casual killing going on around him—quite honestly, he was used to that. But for suddenly gaining knowledge that was previously so far out of his reach as to be considered only old wives' tales.

That Mazoku existed, well, that was more rumor than anything.

Of course he had heard of entire villages being burned to the ground, and being done by a single Mazoku, no less.

But couldn't man also be considered just as evil? Couldn't a man be capable of such heinous acts as to make sure even the babies, children and pets died with the adults? Some men had even been found to be so. They were typically killed on sight, as you didn't cage a dog with rabies—you killed it. Of course these men were sloppy enough to leave evidence behind, proof of their evil.

So truly, why blame a rumor when a man could do it, and be just as evil about it all?

He himself had been without mercy when doing his duty for his master.

An outspoken tenant denying his master the future year's rent, or a rebellious farmer arguing about the tithe and tax imposed upon him by his lord? Sure, he'd gladly beat up, and if needed, kill and burn the insurgent and his homestead. And if the man had a pretty wife or daughter—no matter the age, he'd happily rape the female while forcing the man to watch before he finally killed them all.

It was a motto he was quite happy to live by—always Rape And Pillage Before You Burn. But leave no proof of it behind.

However, the knowledge that Mazoku truly existed, and that they could take such an innocuous shape as to be unrecognizable to an ordinary person—it scared the piss out of him. That the Supreme Slut had made buddy-buddy with them was even worse. That they were willing to kill for her, to protect and defend the Gorgon even—he was scared shitless! Who the hell was she to warrant such behavior, especially out of Mazoku who were well known for their evil? And the fact that they had given chase, even after it was apparent that they had won and their enemy was routed—who the bloody hell was this damned Lina Inverse?

Was she a Mazoku herself?

It would explain why she was wanted dead, but he and the men in his company had not even made a scratch on the Mazoku they were fighting. Swords seemed to pass right through them, but they still managed to inflict some of the worst damage he had seen outside of a regular battle, or one of his torture sessions. It was almost as if they were incorporeal one moment and corporeal the next. If the Inverse Bitch was truly Mazoku, why hadn't they been warned about that?

All they had been told was that they were to wait to attack her until the ambush with the sixty plus bandits occurred—they would know when. A spell was going to be placed upon their minds so that no one would know their true purpose, and that they were not to think upon the attack, or the spell might not work as well.

It had been difficult for him. He had been thinking almost every night before he went to sleep about the Trollop's body and all the things he wanted to subject her to before he finally tired of the sport and killed her. He was quite certain he was not the only man to do so. As much of a bitch as she was, the Inverse Strumpet was hot. She was curvy in all the right places while still having that tiny waist. If he hadn't been under orders to kill her, he would have kept her as his little sex slave for as long as she lasted. Hell, even before he had been told to kill her—when he had seen her about town and without her blond guardian—he had been thinking of spiriting her away, and having his way with her; whether she wanted it or not. He knew of ways of dealing with recalcitrant sorcerers to keep them from casting—bind their hands, and most specifically their fingers, and then gag them.

He had something he could gag her with that would be most effective, and enjoyable. And if she bit, well, he could always knock out all her teeth.

The man was broken from his dark thoughts by the entrance of his master, and the most beautiful woman he had ever laid eyes upon. Thoughts of the Inverse Hussy went right out the proverbial window. The way this woman was dressed stated she was definitely into his type of sex—the girl bound and helpless as he did as he willed; typically the girl was in a fair amount of pain as he took his pleasure.

She looked like she'd be fun too. She might even last a while.

The sinfully gorgeous female cocked an eyebrow as if she could read his thoughts. And for some reason, he felt he needed to bow before her—this was odd, as he didn't even bow before the king, much less his master. Why would he need to bow before this painfully beautiful woman? She was just another slut when all was said and done. All women were. They just needed to be taught that. He was happy to teach them, even if they typically didn't live long enough to learn their lesson. And oh how he really wished he could teach that Inverse Bitch her lesson, multiple times if possible.

The inhumanly magnificent woman actually smiled. It was breathtaking.

His master seemed to be taking a page from the dreadfully ravishing woman standing just behind him. He cocked an eyebrow as he said, "So, you're alive Kalvan. For your sake, I hope the Inverse Witch is not."

Kalvan's master's words were deadly, true, but the insanely lovely female behind him suddenly exuded deadliness, and produced a fear in him that he had not had even when he was unexpectedly faced with all of the enraged Mazoku beasts in that forest a week ago. That need to bow became overwhelming. Kalvan sank to his knees and prostrated himself before his master and the agonizingly stunning woman. "She is alive, Master Tavarius. I do not understand how myself, for it could only be luck, but we were not able to kill her. Her companions were more than we could handle, even including the bandits that were part of the ambush."

The fatally ravishing female spoke up. Her voice was lethal, and made him shudder in sudden desire. He didn't care how he had her; he just needed to have her despite the malicious tone to her marvelous voice. "Even with all the back-up we gave you, you couldn't even manage one scratch upon that little Bitch?"

Oh how his spine tingled at the sound of her voice. "She was wounded. That Mazoku," here his voice filled with fear and anger and he said the word as if a curse, "Xellos I think, was carrying her unconscious body back to her two companions, the Idiot Swordsman and the Princess Banshee. Her outfit was ripped and cut and she was almost naked. But she wasn't dead. That Mazoku would not have been quite so calm, I think, had she died."

There was now amusement in her wicked voice. And she was much closer, he could tell by how much louder her cruel voice was, even if he couldn't see her. He was still face down before the two, his ass still sticking up in the air, to prove his submission to this terribly dazzling woman. "You say Mazoku as if you actually fear them."

Kalvan shuddered again. It was hard not to fear them. He had seen what they could do. What normal human wouldn't be afraid? Aside from his rather dark proclivities, he was about as normal as they came, and as ignorant of the true nature of the evil race as one could be. "I have seen what they are capable of… My Lady. Although they were only beasts, or I suppose, in the form of beasts, they still managed to take on almost all of my men, and the bandits that had not gone after that Inverse Whore. They tore through us like tissue paper. I do not know what that Xellos is capable of, and I never wish to face another Mazoku ever again."

The dreadfully beauteous female's high-heeled foot suddenly slid under his chin and lifted his face up so that he could look up at her. While still prostrate as he was, the angle on his neck was agony, but he'd endure it and enjoy it as long as it was she who was producing that misery in him. He was in complete and absolute awe over her. How could any one woman be so pretty while she exuded such malevolence? She was divine, but also hellacious—in a word, perfect. She reminded him of blood, fresh and dried on a victim's skin as he took his gratification from her. Even her smile was equal parts evil and heavenly. "Too bad. And it's Milady." She turned her gaze back to his master.

His master looked to the incredible woman. Even to Kalvan, it was obvious who held the true power in this room, despite the fact that Master Tavarius was a force to be reckoned with. "Do we kill him?"

She shrugged her delicate shoulders. "I haven't decided. True, the Inverse Slut is not dead like I had hoped, which displeases me greatly." At this, her foot rose an inch, bringing Kalvan's chin with it. He heard a distinct crunch in his neck. He winced, but did not dare cry out—she might just keep raising her foot until his neck broke if he did. "But he has a very dark soul, and he enjoys causing pain. There are not that many humans in this disgusting city who are willing to do so—hell, there are not that many humans like him at all. I dislike the idea of killing off a man with such wonderful talents. He may not be effective against that Bitch, but he can bring me a great deal of power in other ways."

"As you wish Milady." Master Tavarius almost sounded disappointed. Almost. Obviously it was not wise to have even the slightest hint of disobedience with Milady around. It was something Kalvan made a mental note of.

Milady chuckled. That throaty laugh sent even more sinful shivers down Kalvan's spine. Oh Gods how he wanted to fuck her. "Do not worry, Lord Tavarius. He will be punished. We can both enjoy that. But he is useful to me. And I will not destroy such a sinister soul while he is still useful."

Kalvan made another mental note. Always be useful to Milady.

Milady dropped his chin as she quickly took her foot away, and Kalvan face-planted against the floor, smashing his nose and quite possibly breaking it. It hurt, but aside from a muffled curse, he did little else to indicate his pain. Just as suddenly, Milady grabbed Kalvan by his hair and he was hauled to his feet. His face contorted for just a moment, but he refused to cry out.

As he looked her over, he could not see how she had grabbed him, for her arms were still bound to her sides, just like they had always been. She stepped in close, licking the blood dripping from his nose. Milady practically moaned in delight. It was the sexiest moan he had ever heard, even sexier than a broken girl moaning in pain as he pounded into her—a moan being the only sound she could make as her voice had finally been lost to all her screaming.

She spoke once more. "I wonder how long I'll have to torture you before I get a proper sound out of you." She looked deep into his eyes, and Kalvan fell even more into her soul, into her dark lust. Her smile was absolutely spiteful. "Quite a while, I think. You enjoy inflicting as much pain as possible on your women. And you consider yourself the type who can take a lot. I think I might just agree with you." Milady looked to Master Tavarius. "Come. You may watch us. You could learn to be more inventive with how you torture someone, and when he tires out, I will need you to sate my lusts."

Both men immediately followed the viciously exquisite female. One, because he feared what would happen if he tried to escape, and he really didn't want to leave her anyway. The other, because he was addicted to everything she did to him, even the pain. Both of them had the exact same thoughts though.

They wished the other man was dead.

AN: OMG. I really am so sorry for how long it's taken me to put this chapter out. I had almost thirty pages of it written, and then bam I just kinda dropped off the face of the planet. I'm a horrible person. So sorry. My humblest apologies Sirrah. But, to sort of make up for such a hiatus, this chapter is pretty frickin' long—the longest one so far. And I even have part of the next chapter written. Actually, it was part of this chapter, but it didn't mesh well with the action of this set, so I took the ten pages it encompassed and moved it to the next chapter. Hopefully, if I get enough reviews, *hack, cough, hint hint, cough, hack* I'll get it out sometime sooner than the next year.

Cross your fingers. And write reviews. Make me smile. And I'll do my best to do the same for you!

I almost rhymed! I must be drinking Kvasir's Mead.

Also, thanks to my Beta, Miss Autumn Ivy, she helped me make this chapter even better with some of her suggestions.