Disclaimer: Special thanks to Dark-Angel-874 for letting me use her character Saya Hitai, or Trip as she's called in this. This is the fourth chapter in the Shojo-ai Chain Story, started by Dark-Angel-874 with "Of Rogues and Wanna-Be Playboys".

Must Love Animals

"Come on! What the crap-monkeys was that?! Weak! That's what it was! Come on, hit me! Hit me like you mean it!" Maria shouted to Lizzie and Rayne, who were standing on the opposite side of the Guardian Arena as Maria. The Guardian beat her chest challengingly towards the younger girls. "You're weak! You're pathetic! The pair'a ya are nothing but a bunch of scared, silly little girls!" She called again. Rayne's face went blank at this, she leveled the Claymore in her hand and charged full-spread. Her sword exploded alight with purple flames as she swung. Maria had just enough time to utter two words. "Ah, crap..." Before the blade struck her right in the chest. The force from the impact launched her body towards the wall, causing a human-shaped crater in the concrete wall on impact. She collapsed face down to the ground.

"Rayne! What are you doing! We're supposed to be sparring! Not murdering people!" Lizzie's hands went over her mouth instinctively in terror. She ran to the downed Guardian's aid. "Are you okay, Maria! Speak to me!!" Lizzie threw herself to her knees at Maria's side and began shaking the Guardian furiously. "Speak to me!"

"Please... please stop the ride... I wanna get off now... so... dizzy..." She looked over to Lizzie. "But I dun wanna get up, mom. It's Saturday. Can't I sleep in late?" Lizzie breathed a sigh of relief at this sign of life. The blow to the head must have disoriented her something fierce.

"Humph. If she didn't want the beat down, she shouldn't be talking like that." She replied, crossing her arms, throwing her head away defiantly. "And... to be honest, I didn't know I could do that..." She picked up her Claymore and examined it. "It was pretty freakin' cool."

"Ugh..." Maria muttered, shakingly getting to her feet. "Holy hell in a hand basket! What was that?" She asked, holding her head. She looked down at her chest plate, just to see a huge gash ripped in it. "Ah, crap. Artix'll not be happy about having to replace my armor. AGAIN. Not after how I lost it last time. Stupid Drakel Zombies." She muttered, pulling her chest plate off herself and dropping it. She then proceeded to take the rest of her armor off, and pile it neatly in the corner. "Okay, Rayne. You wanna spar for real? Want to go toe-to-toe with me?" She grabbed the sword handle that was dug into the ground and pulled up. The blade glowed to life with a yellow aura. The runes in the blade twinkled in happiness. "Let's go then." She grabbed the Blade of Awe with her other hand, holding it up.

"You're gonna die, Rayne. Admit it!" Trip shouted over the edge. She was seated on one of the arena seats, overseeing the entire thing, a bag of Warlic's Heal-All potions (Guaranteed to heal all non-life threating wounds in under forty five minutes or the next one's free) just in case someone got hurt.

"Don't preach the future to me, Trip! 'Miss'. Despair is going down!" A hint of sarcasm evident in her voice at 'Miss'. "I think I can replicate that move..." Her sword ignited again, the same purple fire. "There we go!" She smiled, charging. Maria stood her ground, her Blade of Awe hanging loose in her hand. The second Rayne's sword would've touched Maria, the black-haired girl lost her balance, stumbled forward and ran right into the wall, face first. When the dust cleared, Maria could be seen some couple feet to the right of where she was standing, her foot, never moved.

"Sorry. I guess I didn't move my foot. My bad." Maria laughed.

"Oh, you're gonna pay for that!" Rayne hissed. Maria and Trip kept laughing. Before Rayne could charge again, the Arena gate opened and a small figure walked out, two trays of food in her hand.

"Lunch time!" She called. It was Aria, the relatively petite owner of the pet store. She was older then she looked, just like Maria.

"FOOD TIME!" All three girls called at once, Maria leading the charge for food. Rayne dug her Claymore into the ground and about tripped over herself trying to get at the food. Trip vaulted over the side of the Arena to get down, but didn't quite have the footing to land, and found herself on her butt, in the sand.

"Itai..." She muttered, standing up, rubbing her hand across her rear to dust herself off. "Hey! Save some for me!" Maria got to Aria first. Being taller, she could run faster. She took the trays from Aria's hands, and held it high over Rayne and Lizzie.

"Hey, this is mine! Get your own!" Maria teased, watching Rayne and Lizzie jump for the food.

"Oh, stop being a big tease, Maria. There's enough there for all of you. If not, someone needs to loose weight." The pet shop owner grinned.

"Hey, I'm not fat. I'll have you know I'm one of the top ten most attractive women in Lore!" Maria lowered the trays so Rayen, Lizzie and Trip could get some.

"Really? Maria, you don't even qualify for the top ten most attractive women in Battleon!" Maria faltered and fell. That was a burn.

"Oh, that one hurt!" She muttered. "There's not even ten women in Battleon..."

"Food! Food! Yummie, yummie food!" Rayne and Lizzie chanted, dancing around the food. They both sat down in the sand and started eating, joined by Trip.

"Oh, before I forget, could you stop by later today? I've got some boxes I need moved, and they're a bit heavy for me. Be sure to bring at least one other person. The more the merrier." Aria whispered to Maria. "Please."

"Yea, sure. When do you want me over?" She asked, taking a slice of Aria's Famous Pizza.

"Just at sundown, please. Thank you." She finished, walking away. Maria grunted a reply and waved as she walked away.

-

The sun sank beneath the horizon, the last dying breath of this gaseous ball of hydrogen was a small, hardly noticeable solar flare. A small group of people walked from the distant Guardian Tower looming in the distance, to the small, hardly important shop at the edge of town. The group's leader was Maria Despair. Dressed in a white tank top and denim daisy dukes, she was humming a brisk tune in the night. Behind Maria was Natalya, the Guardian's sister. She wore similar garb as the leader, but her tank top was fire red. Skipping along behind the former Fire Mage was Trip, Rayne and Lizzie, in that order. They had all removed their armor and were all dressed comfortably. Behind Lizzie, a very smug look painted on her face was Serras Nerra. She was the only one dressed in her armor. Smiling a mile a minute next in line was the Lion of Nightmares, Crystal Lion. She had actually bothered to take her armor off and wear something somewhat appeasing to the eye. Her hair, while darker then Maria's was still the same style, a fact that made most adventurers and Guardians mistake them for sister. Bringing up the rear was Wolfblitzer, and consequently the only male in the entire party. He was carrying a crowbar with him and several other assorted tools.

"This isn't gonna turn out to be an all-girls party, is it? Cause if it is, I'm going to be horribly mis-placed." He muttered swatting imaginary bats with the crowbar.

"Oh, curses! He's on to us! Quick! Switch to plan B!" Serras called. "Maria, you tie him down, I'll take his armor off!"

"Hey! Wait a second!"

"Hark, was that some humor from you, Serras? That's new." Natalya laughed, along with her sister. "I still think you should at least give me an ice cream cone, or a drink for reviving you. Even if I don't get to turn you into my personal sex slave."

"Nice try, not gonna happen."

"Hey, Maria. Thanks for coming and... wow! Overkill much?" Aria asked, opening the door, the light from inside flooding the streets.

"Oh, god! The sun! I'm melting! I'm melting!" Maria called, covering her face with her arms. "Wait... Vampires burn in sunlight... not melt... Well I botched THAT legend something fierce!" She called. Everyone laughed.

"Well, just come on in and head out back. I got an unusually large shipment in tonight... Did Maria tell you why I needed help?" Aria ushered them inside, where they were greeted by a raging fire.

"No. She just told us to follow her, or she'd gouge our eyes out with a dull spoon." Wolfblitzer replied. "I don't want to get my eyes gouged out, so I came along."

"Really? She promised us candy." Natalya replied.

"Ah, yes. Candy and Eye Gouge Hell. The two most common methods to bend others to your will. Well. Let's get started." The X-Guardian replied.

"Alright, what I want you to do is to pull the boxes off the wagon, let the animal inside out into the pen, the stack the boxes somewhere out of the way, I'll break them up in the morning." Aria instructed, pointing to each area in turn.

"Piece of pie." Maria cracked her knuckles and helped Crystal Lion pull a box from the wagon.

"Oh, OH! Can I break the boxes? I can't lift anything over..." He picked up his crowbar and sets it in his hand, gaging it's weight. "Around two and a half pounds. Bad back. Orta said if I did any heavy lifting, she'd tie my hands to my butt and make me run around Battleon squawking like an eviscerated chicken." He looked at everyone.

"What?" Natalya asked, a slight hint of comedy in her voice. "What the hell was that?"

"I agree. That's random, even for you." Aria replied. "Fine, whatever, you can break the boxes."

"YES!" He exclaimed, raising the crowbar in victory. The group worked diligently for some time, offloading the crates and releasing the animals within. Each of the countless wooden crates which were on board weighed somewhere in the vicinity of eighty pounds, so it took two people to carry one box (Or, in Serras' case, the ratio was reveres, she could haul two boxes at once, and it took Rayne, Lizzie, and Trip to carry one.) Wolfblitzer was directing everyone where to put the boxes when they were empty. He had them piled into a very tall pyramid.

"Okay, boxes. It has come the time for you to die. I am now going to smash you into tiny wooden shards with: THE CROWBAR OF JUSTICE! Oh, and don't even think about hitting back, or I will sue you so fast, it will be like Ninja Lawsuit! Who-TA!" He adopted a cheesy fighting stance, and gave one box a good whack with the crowbar. The wooden frame shattered and collapsed. "Oh, this is gonna be fun."

-

Time had flied by like an instant, and before dawn, the entire wagon had been emptied, all the animals set free inside Aria's pen, and the boxes pulverized into firewood. The job had been done, and now everyone was exhausted. Maria yawned loudly and sighed.

"Well, it's time for us to hit the sack. Hope we did what we were supposed to, Aria."

"Excellently. I can't pay you, seeing as I'm a bit strapped for cash... but if you guys ever need animal help... or anything like that, I'd be glad to help. Just call. G'night." She watched from her door as the line walked back to the Guardian Tower, one short.

"I just have one question, Wolfblitzer." Maria asked when they got farther down the path. He answered with an 'huh?'. Maria drew a breath in. "'Ninja Lawsuit'?" Everyone laughed.

-

"Oh..." Aria exclaimed as she saw someone fast asleep on the couch. It was Trip. Apparently the work was too strenuous for her, and the hours too long. She walked over and gave her a bit of a nudge. She didn't even respond, just moaned and flipped onto her other side. "Trip... get up... you need to go to bed."

"Mmmph... phaaa..." She mumbled incoherently. "Fhive more minutes..." Suddenly, a piercing cry shattered the night calm.

"ARWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" came the distinct howl of a werewolf. Aria froze. The back gate, which was always opened, slammed shut. A light 'tchk, tchk, tchk' of claws scratching against the wood floor struck at Aria's heart with every sound. The young pet shop owner slowly looked up over the couch to come face-to-face with a very old, very hungry werewolf. Drool was oozing down it's mouth, pooling on the back of Trip's makeshift bed. Aria couldn't move, let alone speak for fear of being eaten. She tried to poke Trip awake, but she was still unconscious. The werewolf put both claws on the back of the couch and drew its head out farther and opened it's mouth.

"Solar Incinerator." Trip muttered in her sleep, her open hand shoving it's way down the creature's open mouth. The entire room glowed a creepy red, the light source being the werewolf's mouth. It emitted a loud, high-pitched scream as it's insides broiled. The werewolf grabbed Trip's hand, tried to yank it out of it's mouth, but she had grasped the creature's tongue and was holding tight. After several seconds of pained convulsions, the werewolf stopped screaming and slumped over the couch, smoke rising from it's mouth, and a very sickening smell flooding the room. "Yahamatusi nai yasona..." Trip muttered before going back to sleep.

-

Word of the previous night's events was on everyone's lips the following morning. It seemed like the only one who didn't know what happened was Trip herself.

"That's bullocks and you know it, Maria! Me, fighting and killing a werewolf! It's crap!" Trip protested.

"Not how I hear it. Aria told my you just shoved your hand right in it's mouth and toasted it's guts. It's all roasty-toasty now."

"Roasty-toasty!" Natalya echoed. Trip just crossed her arms, muttered 'whatever' and turned to walk away. Aria came out of nowhere and grabbed Trip around the waist and pulled her into a hug.

"Hey! Hey what are you huggin' me for?" She asked, trying to break her grip.

"You saved me! I'm rewarding you!" Aria responded, a smile on her face.

"Let go, man!"

"No, you like it. Admit it." Serras chuckled.

"Well... now that you mention something, it is nice. To be loved. Not falling on my butt all day." Trip replied.

"I always said my knight in shining armor would come save me one day! I just never expected it so soon, and I never expected it to be another girl. But I'm happy nevertheless."

"Now, the pair'a ya are too young to have a serious relationship, ya know that, right?" Natalya asked. Aria opened her eyes, smiled and replied.

"I'll wait. Eighteen can't come soon enough for either of us." Trip grinned at Aria's remark.

Author's Note: "Yahamatusi Nai Yasona" is a very, very bad spelling of "Yahoo I won" in Japanese. Just sound it out, and you'll get what it says.