Lina looked out at the expanse of blue that stretched from horizon to horizon. Setting sail for the outer world had seemed like a good idea. Especially when the alternative was returning to a port that had been damaged by the tsunami her Dragon Slave had caused. Unfortunately, the ship they were on lacked a rudder or any reliable means of steering, and even worse, most of the provisions had been ruined by the aforementioned tsunami. The remaining edible food was not going to last much longer, a fact that did little to improve Lina's mood. She scanned the horizon once more, but only saw the same thing: nothing. Nothing to see, nothing to do, man this trip is sooo boring! A sudden thought occurred to her.
"Hey, Gourry," she called out.
"Yeah?" Gourry was sitting near the bow of the ship, honing his sword blade with a small whetstone. He peered intently at a spot, gave it a careful swipe with the stone, and then, seeming content, took out a soft cloth and began working oil into the blade.
"Are you really sure that Filia-person had a tail?" They had been over the incident several times already, but no matter how she looked at the issue, she came to the same conclusion: either Gourry was less of a jellyfish than she thought, or he was a pervert. Neither option was very palatable.
Gourry sighed. "How many times are you gonna ask me this question? I already told you, I know a tail when I see one, and she definitely had a tail."
"I just don't see how someone with the attention span of a jellyfish could be so observant," Lina shot back. She hadn't seen a tail, and she wasn't entirely convinced that Gourry hadn't been looking for something else when he flipped up Filia's skirt. What a cute couple they'd make, she thought sourly to herself, both tall with long blonde hair . . . Zelgadis's comment about Gourry giving up on her was bothering her like a wooden splinter stuck underneath a fingernail.
Gourry looked at her, his blue eyes narrowed, then returned his attention to his sword. "You may be a sorcery genius, but you'd make an awful guard," he paused and then looked back up. "You don't pay enough attention to details."
"And I suppose you do," she purred, the tense demeanor of her body at odds with her tone.
"Yup." For someone supposedly observant, he certainly seemed quite oblivious to the danger he was in. "'An unobservant warrior is a dead warrior,' my sword master always used to say."
"Are you saying you're more observant than me?" Lina wasn't sure if she should start laughing at the joke, or fireball him for the insult, although she was definitely leaning towards the second option.
Gourry grinned. "Let's find out. I challenge you, Lina Inverse, to a game of observation. And if I win, you have to buy me that dinner you promised me for defeating Zangulus!"
Lina just stared at him. He actually remembered that?
Gourry started digging around his pack and pulling out assorted small objects. "Hey, Zel, Amelia," he called out. The princess and the chimera had began edging to the other end of the boat when they noticed how ugly Lina's mood was becoming.
"Yes, Mr. Gourry?" Amelia responded, throwing a nervous glance in Lina's direction.
"I need you guys to find as many small objects as possible. Lina and I are going to play 'eye-mind'."
"I never said I'd accept the challenge," although she probably would. She was definitely intrigued, if nothing else. However, no one, not even Gourry, made her decisions for her.
"But you will, won't you?" Gourry looked at her with guileless eyes. "After all, you're Lina Inverse, and I've never seen you walk away from a challenge. Besides, this'll give us something to do."
Lina narrowed her eyes at Gourry. He seemed awfully sure of himself, almost cocky. Smug too. But, he was right. She couldn't refuse a challenge, and it would pass the time. Anything was better than staring at a featureless ocean. "Okay, I accept your challenge, Gourry Gabriev. But if I win, you have to buy me dinner for the rest of my life."
"Sure thing," he shrugged his shoulder casually.
"I mean it, Gourry, and I won't let you forget." He couldn't be that confident.
"I heard you. But I'm not gonna lose."
He was that confident! Now her curiosity was really aroused. He had called this game "I, mine" and asked Zel and Amelia to find small objects. She took a close look at the pile he had assembled from his pack. There was his whetstone, a sock, some glass marbles, and a small, flat blue-gray rock. As she watched, he added a cake of soap. She was starting to get a glimmer of what this game would involve.
Lina gave in to her curiosity and crouched down on her knees next to him. "Okay, how do we play 'I, mine'?"
"Eye-mind," he clarified, pointing first at his eyes, and then at his head. "First we have to get a bunch of small objects. Some of them should look a lot alike, but be different in some way." He paused. "Oh, and we also need a large sheet or something. We'll take turns laying out the objects while the other person is not looking. Then, you get a moment to look at them before they get covered up again. You have to remember what was there. We'll keep taking turns, making it harder as we go. The first person who makes a mistake, loses."
Lina unclasped her cloak, and added her Demon's Blood talismans to Gourry's pile. "We can use my cloak as a cover. How do we make the game harder?"
Gourry looked suspiciously at her cloak. "I don't know about that. Are you sure nothing will fall out of it?"
"It'll be fine. Nothing will come out unless I pull it out." Lina waved her hand airily, dismissing his objection.
"Maybe we should use something else instead."
"Are you accusing me of cheating?" Lina shot to her feet, her eyes flaming.
Gourry fell back before her, holding his hands out in front of him to ward off her ire. "No! You really can't cheat at this game. I just don't want objects suddenly flying at my head if your cloak gets whisked too violently."
"Hmph." She was only marginally mollified. "Now that that's been settled, how do we make it harder?"
Gourry looked at her warily. "Well, there are lots of different ways. We can add more objects, or look at them for a shorter time, or we can look at them and then change them and look again and say what's different."
"Then let's get started!" Lina forgot her earlier annoyance and boredom. This sounded like a challenging game.
"Let's see what else Zel and Amelia managed to find, first." Gourry smiled cautiously, unsure of her temper. "The game is more fun when there are more things."
After scouring through their belongings and looking through the ship, they managed to assemble over one hundred small items, including cutlery from the ship's galley, small pots of make-up that Amelia had brought, an assortment of gems from Lina, and two similar belaying pins. Zelgadis had even contributed some strands of his wiry hair. Gourry had taken them and kinked them slightly at different points. They all had fun setting up for this little contest, and decided that Amelia and Zelgadis would act as the referees, setting up the objects and timing the viewing period.
"Okay," Lina rubbed her hands together, "let's get started!"
Zel took over, seeming to relish his role. "Turn around," he ordered. "We're going to start with ten items."
Lina and Gourry both turned away. They had drawn lots to see who would go first, and Gourry had lost. Lina glanced at him surreptitiously. He seemed calm enough. She was really curious about how far he would be able to go. Obviously he had experience with this game, whereas she had never played it, but she had gone through enough mind exercises that she was sure she would do fine, no matter how confident Gourry seemed.
"Okay," Zelgadis's voice announced the beginning of the game. Gourry and Lina turned around. Lina's cloak lay tented on the ship's deck. She examined it carefully to see if she could get any information about the items that lay beneath it, but it looked like Zel and Amelia had rigged some sort of support to keep it from coming into direct contact with the objects. She sighed to herself. No advantage there, she thought.
"Ready?" Zel asked. Gourry nodded. "On my mark. Three, two, one, mark!"
Amelia flipped up Lina's cloak to expose the objects that lay beneath it. Lina carefully examined the objects. It wasn't her turn yet, but it didn't hurt to get some practice in.
"Mark!" Zelgadis called out again, and Amelia quickly replaced the cloak.
Gourry took a deep breath. "Amelia's hairbrush, Lina's nail scissors, a spoon, Zel's sock, my whetstone, a black thread, one of Lina's talismans, a pot of ink, a moldy potato, a piece of rope, and a piece of canvas."
As Gourry listed the items, Lina silently compared them to the inventory she had in her own mind. When he said, "a black thread", she began to panic, because she hadn't seen it, but then she calmed down when she realized that he had listed eleven items, even though Amelia and Zel had only set out ten.
"You're such a jellyfish," she crowed, certain that victory, and endless free food, were within her grasp. "There were only ten items, not eleven."
"Mr. Gourry," Amelia frowned, and exchanged a quick glance with Zelgadis, "we didn't put down a piece of black thread."
"I saw it though," Gourry remained unruffled and confident, "right between Zel's sock and Lina's talisman."
Amelia lifted up Lina's cloak, and sure enough, there was one thin black thread, right were Gourry had described it. Lina started feeling uneasy. She wasn't sure if she could win this game if Gourry could notice a tiny piece of thread.
"Wow, Mr. Gourry," Amelia gushed, "you're really good at this!"
Gourry smiled at the compliment. "That was too easy, really," he said deprecatingly.
Too easy! Lina thought. "My turn," she announced.
Zelgadis and Amelia made a new set up while Lina and Gourry gazed at the ocean. "Okay," Amelia announced.
"Ready?" Zelgadis said again. When Lina nodded, he began the countdown. "Three, two, one, mark!"
Amelia whisked away Lina's cloak and she quickly tried to memorize each of the items there. All too soon she heard Zel's voice call "Mark!" and Amelia covered the objects again.
Lina took a deep breath, realizing that this game wasn't as easy as she had first thought. "A small cup," she began, "Zel's canteen, one of Amelia's bracelets, a short stick, a fish hook," Lina closed her eyes and tried to visualize the rest, "a razor, a gold coin, a quill, a cowry shell, and an iron ring." She opened her eyes and sighed in relief when she saw Amelia smile.
Zelgadis cleared his throat. "You are currently tied. Next we'll put down twelve items."
Lina tried not to sigh as she turned around. Gourry still looked incredibly calm. She had been able to get all ten objects, but she had been concentrating really hard, especially at the end. On the other hand, it seemed like Gourry had listed them out practically in the same breath. They repeated the process, first with twelve items, and then with fifteen. Each time, Gourry nonchalantly named each of the objects, while Lina had to cudgel her brain to remember the last few items. They remained tied at three rounds each, but it was increasingly obvious that Gourry was very skilled at this game. She wasn't sure how much longer she could keep up. She had never realized how much information Gourry could take in with a single glance. She also wondered how long he could remember what he'd seen.
It was Gourry's turn again. This time there were twenty objects.
Gourry took a deep breath, and his eyes gazed out over the ocean, as he began to name the objects. He looked like he was concentrating a lot harder this time, and he spoke more slowly, but he still seemed very confident. "A green glass bead, a piece of charcoal, a piece of parchment, a pair of chopsticks, a potion vial, Amelia's pink fuzzy thingy, a blue button, my glove, a white feather, Zel's boot lace, Lina's headband, a tin plate, a red gem, Lina's dagger, the wax seal from the letter Lina got from that tail-lady, a piece of scrimshaw, a gnawed chicken bone, a hair pin, a white washcloth, and a needle." When Gourry finished, there were three sets of eyes staring at him in amazement.
Lina had remembered most of the list, but she hadn't noticed the sewing needle, and she'd forgotten about the wax seal. She sighed, and then she laughed. "I guess I'll be buying you that dinner after all."
"Miss Lina, are you giving up?" Amelia asked.
"I think in this case, I'm out of my league. I didn't notice the black thread the first time, and I didn't see the needle this time," Lina tried to maintain her dignity and hide her chagrin.
"Well," Zelgadis had his arms crossed, and was leaning against the ship's railing. "I for one would like to see just how far Gourry can go with this."
"Sure," Gourry agreed affably. "To make it a real challenge, put down, oh, say around thirty objects, but don't tell me how many. And don't give me as much time to examine them." He turned around again.
"Thirty?" Zel gasped in amazement.
"Well," Gourry didn't turn around, "only if you want to make it challenging for me. Twenty is hard, and by the time there are thirty things, I sometimes start to miss things."
This time, Lina helped Zelgadis and Amelia set up the items. They tried not to put things that "went together", like cup and spoon, or quill and ink pot, in close proximity to each other. After they had arranged things to their satisfaction, Lina carefully placed her cloak over the items, and called to Gourry, "You can turn around now."
Zel repeated his countdown, and Amelia removed the cloak. Gourry stared hard at the items arrayed before him, until Zel called out the second mark. He closed his eyes and started to list the items. After naming twenty, the pauses between his words got longer and longer. He seemed to be approaching his limit, but he managed to remember each of the twenty-seven objects they had laid out.
"Did I get them all?" Gourry asked. Lina nodded, and then he sighed in relief. "That was hard, even for me. Now, change a few things, let me see again, and then I'll try to tell you what was different." He faced the ocean once again.
Lina wondered how far Gourry's power of observation extended. She knew there was no way she could ever see so much in one brief glance. She took one of Zelgadis's hairs and replaced it with a different one, and then switched the location of the two belaying pins. Zelgadis and Amelia were busy making similar modifications. Zel had exchanged the talisman Lina wore at her neck with one she wore at her wrist, while Amelia rearranged the triangle she had made out of a red, blue and yellow gem, moving the blue gem to the top apex, replacing the yellow.
"Okay, Gourry," Lina said, "we've left it uncovered, so you can just turn around when you're ready."
Gourry spun on his heel, and Zel began his silent count to mark the time. When he called out "Mark," Gourry closed his eyes. Lina replaced her cloak, and then Gourry opened his eyes again.
"Hmm," he cupped his chin with his hand as he considered. "The triangle made out of gems was different. I think you switched the blue and yellow gems?" Amelia nodded, so he continued. "The oak belaying pin was switched with the maple one . . ." he hesitated, ". . . and you changed which of Lina's talismans were there?" He closed his eyes in concentration. Lina tried to remember when she had ever seen Gourry look so intent outside of battle. Finally he opened his eyes. "I think Zel's hair was different, too." He paused to consider. "I think that's it," he said after a moment.
"So that's what makes you such a great swordsman," Zelgadis said with admiration.
"Yup." Gourry leaned back against a ruined mast. "My sword master always said that the eyes and mind needed to be trained as much as the muscles. I had to do exercises like this every day during training. After I got good enough, my sword master made me start doing the same thing, but instead of using small objects, I had to notice everything about the practice field. It's just gotten to be a habit, now." He laughed. "Compared to that type of exercise, though, small objects seems a lot harder than I remembered."
Lina was just as impressed as Zel and Amelia. "Maybe you don't have the attention span of a jellyfish," she said with a grin. Then she remembered something. "So, how did you know that Xellos wasn't human?"
"Simple," Gourry replied. "He only breathed if he was talking."