Lina felt dizzy and her body heavy. Something was wrong, she knew, but couldn't really understand what had happened this soon into getting dumped into that thing called consciousness. Eventually, pain started to make itself known- centered on the back of her head, but other places hurt too, like he wrists, ankles, right shoulder and hip. She forced her eyes open, realizing that she was in a cart, going down a bumpy road. The sun had set.

She glowered and pulled at her arms, finding them tied behind her back, her ankles were roughly tied as well. She was laying on her side, her right side, which explained why her hip and shoulder hurt the way they did. She was cold too. Something was very wrong.. She didn't remember ever feeling so heavy before, so she tried calling up a fireball or something- something to let her know her magic was still an option.

Nothing happened. No familiar tingling in her hands that told her the spell was working. Lina tried harder, still unable to call up even a flicker. She closed her eyes again and curled up some, pretending to be weak and unable to do anything, but her captors weren't fooled, they didn't loosen the rope, they didn't offer her a blanket, they didn't even communicate between themselves.

The dizziness and bumping was too much for her stomach to handle and her stomach heaved. Thankfully she hadn't eaten all day, but that didn't mean that her bladder wasn't full. She gave a soft moan. "I need to go to the bathroom," she stated.

There was a chuckle from the three men, large men, wearing all black clothes, even their eyes seemed to be covered. "Then wet yourself, woman," said one to her and she would have turned her head to glare if she hadn't felt so terrible.

****

"Heh heh.. what've we got here? Two women, traveling alone in the woods?" Siori came to a stop in the middle of the road, SURE it was midnight, but that still didn't give robbers any right to try and take HER money. Erisa stumbled to a stop when she found a disgustingly dirty man before her on the road through the dark woods and she stepped back, about to cast a lighting spell. A hand gripped her wrist and she quickly glanced at Siori to find the girl with a slight smirk on her lips, the late moon's light reflecting off her hair and across her face. Obviously, the men didn't realize that they had gotten far MORE than two young women traveling alone.

"Erisa, dear, if you're going to cast a spell, then please make it a useful one?" Siori suggested and let go of her twin's wrist, her hand going to the hilt of her sword.

The bandits laughed, "And are you gonna fight?" it seemed like at least ONE of them had been somewhat taught to use proper language structure, but his abilities only went so far before he spat out, "S'gettim!"

Erisa yelped as her hair was caught by one bandit and she twisted to face him, "Lighting!" she shouted, bringing forth a ball of bright light, blinding the man for the time being. The bandits, sadly, didn't have time to register what they had stumbled upon before Siori was upon them, slicing stomachs open and lopping heads off. It wasn't more than a minute before the road was littered with wounded and dead, those left alive fleeing into the night.

Immediately, Siori went for their purses, grabbing up what there was and starting into the woods. "Siori!" Erisa called, "Where are you going?! We've got to find Lina-san!"

Siori glowered, looking devilish in the light cast by Erisa's spell as it hung above them. "Look, they've gotta stop some time, so we'll catch up with them then! We can go far faster than any half dead horse, besides."

Finally, the sorceress hung her head and Siori sped on into the forest as Erisa arranged the bodies, praying over their souls and hoping that they were actually good people, just driven to bad deeds.

****

Zelgadis glowered at the road ahead, hearing Gourry's grumbling about his feet and his back and his this and his that. It was getting on his nerves. Almost, he turned and shouted at the aged blonde to stop complaining and that the whole trip was HIS idea in the first place. Almost, but he stopped himself, doing so would be terribly cruel, Gourry was more than likely trying to keep his mind off worrying about Lina, more than likely not succeeding. So the chimera kept his peace and listened to Gourry's mutterings. He even took pity on the man and checked them into a room at the town they reached by late evening.

"But-" Gourry started to object when Zelgadis rounded on him.

"Gourry, you're just as old as I am," the chimera stated, "And I point out that your body is made of flesh, and THAT tends to break down quicker than rock does. So if you want to be in any shape to save Lina, then I suggest shutting up and getting some rest."

The swordsman lowered his gaze and nodded, he was tired, but he was worried, and wished he was younger. Lina would be chasing after that cart as fast as she could if it were him who had been taken. But if she complained about it taking so long to rescue her, he could rightfully blame it on Zelgadis. So he went to bed, eventually getting comfortable, and falling asleep.

Zelgadis lay in his own bed in the room, watching as his spell took hold and put his friend to sleep. He sighed softly, rolling onto his back and staring up at the ceiling. Once more, he felt the ache in his chest, one that usually accompanied thoughts of Amelia. Even after all this time...

He closed his eyes on the tears, willing himself to put thoughts aside and get some sleep. Just as he told Gourry, they weren't young anymore, even he felt tired.

****

Diroz sat in his throne, looking down scornfully at the Mazoku that crouched before him. Idly, he swirled his deep red wine in the glass he held and finally just tossed it away carelessly, knowing that a slave would come clean it up the moment he was gone. "Still you refuse to tell me your name, Mazoku," he said calmly.

The priestly seeming creature lifted his head, a smile so wide it made his eyes squint shut on his face. "Of course, my lord!" he stated.

"And what of Lina Inverse after I have her here?" The emperor stood gracefully, walking down the steps of his dais to stand in front of the Mazoku. "You want her, but perhaps I should have her prepared for you?"

Slowly, the Mazoku opened his eyes, showing amethyst shards with slit pupils. "Simply bring her here and disable her magic, that is all I want."

Diroz gave a laugh. "You? or who you're working for... As I understand it, no Mazoku actually works for themselves."

Once more, the priest was smiling, "That is true," he stated. Oh the manipulation of truth was a wondrous thing. One could say much, without ever saying a thing of importance. This Emperor knew Mazoku ways, and knew how they could lie, but what he hadn't been expecting was a Mazoku who spoke nothing but the truth- but only when asked a rhetorical question. Otherwise, the answer was always a Secret.

The Emperor gave a laugh, folding his arms on his chest as he moved to stalk past the Mazoku. "I suppose your boss wants me in power- or perhaps you're distracting me from seeing the real threat."

"Perhaps," the Mazoku replied, moving to face Diroz and sitting on the floor Indian style with his staff across his knees. He disliked the Emperor, far too few emotions slipped past him, the only one that he broadcast was lust and contempt for all living things.

Diroz turned, a smirk curving his fine lips and he flipped his head to get his bangs off his forehead, even if they fell right back into place a moment after. "I have plans for this little empire of mine," he stated, "I didn't just make it for the power... perhaps it played a large role in my desires, but it's not all. I see the people in the towns, happy..." his smirk stretched into a sneer that showed his canine teeth. "I see them happy, fed, and secure in their little hovels, but no.. this is not how a country should be run! Peasants are supposed to grind and toil under their master! They're meant to suffer and give all they own to their masters! I will right this wrong. I will be the one that everyone toils for!" His hollow laugh rang through the huge dark room and echoed back at them. He gazed down at his Mazoku guest and slowly paced forward. "Your master likes me, does she not?"

The Mazoku's eyes widened as he looked up, "I wouldn't know," he replied.

"A lie," he stated, "Xelloss lies, finally."

The Mazoku priest/general got to his feet and starred at Diroz, opening his mouth to question.

Diroz quickly lifted a finger and held off the Mazoku's words, replying to the unasked question in a soft murmur, "That... is a secret."

****