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Chapter 13

     "Okay, Lina what's up with you and Xellos?" Canal asked, pushing her mane of blue hair back.  "You seem more connected lately."

     Lina sighed and thought for a moment before answering.  "We are more connected.  We've had a rudimentary link with each other through our artefacts since our choosing but it took a lot of effort  .  Due to various factors," Lina blushed and looked away, "it's become deeper and more instinctive. If I wanted to I could tell where Xellos is, what he's doing, and how he's feeling at any time of the day."

     Lina walked over to the view port and stared out and thought of the differences between her world and this one.  She missed home; she missed magic that she was used to using, darn it all, she even missed Amelia's speeches and Gourry's stupid comments.  Shaking herself, she turned back towards Canal.

     "Kain needs a sword instructor. Does that data base that you're always bragging about have any listed?"

     "Just a minute, let me check." Canal's eyes turned inward.  "There is a fellow in this system. His students list him as very eccentric, but he's one of the top swordsmen in the galaxy."

     Lina smiled. "Eccentric is the norm for our little band, he won't be out of place."

     "That's true, a normal person would run screaming as soon as they met us, let me confirm the course change with Kain…. Okay here we go."  

     "Just out of curiosity, did you tell Kain why we were going someplace new?"

     "Naw, that's no fun, especially if half of what those students said is true," Canal responded, pointing to a monitor.

     Lina sat down and started reading; soon, her laughter filled the control room making Canal shudder, not realising that the laugh Lina is emitting is a pale shadow of the laughter that the victims of Naga the White Serpent had to endure.  

     Elsewhere on the ship, a pair of purple eyes looked toward the control room and smiled wickedly, this swordsman seemed very familiar.

     "Well, Rail, life is about to become very interesting around here." Xellos smirked at his companions as he passed over a cup of tea.

     "You don't say," Rail responded, taking the cup of tea. "Interesting for who in particular?"

     "Well for us of course, however, I don't think Kain will enjoy it all."

     Taking a sip, Rail put down his cup.  "But, will it be a learning experience?"

     "In more ways than one," Xellos answered.

     "In more ways than… what are you talking about?" a voice asked from the doorway.

     "Just chatting. Kain, are you all done with your session with Lina?" Rail asked.

     Kain nodded. "A while ago, Canal wants to set down and refuel." He shrugged. "I guess she wants to make sure we have plenty of reserves in case we have to fight."

     "Very smart individual that Canal, don't you think so, Rail?" Xellos blinked, trying to keep a straight face.

     "She is the top ship's AI in existence," Rail answered. "You should be proud of her, Kain."

     Kain looked at the pair suspiciously.  "Are you two up to something?"

     "Us? Of course not," Rail replied.

      Xellos echoed Rail's denial then added, "Is that Milly's cooking I smell?  I hope we can get there before Lina."

     Kain paled. "I haven't had a decent meal for days, I gotta go." He ran off leaving a snickering pair behind him.

      The arrival in port was a quiet one; checks were routine, the officials boringly official.  Milly completed her shopping without a hitch; even the daily kitchen explosion was smaller than usual. No one even noticed Lina and Canal quietly leaving the ship; if they had, the manic looks on their faces would have quickly warned the strongest individual to flee quickly.

     Stepping over an unidentifiable piece of refuse, Lina looked at her surroundings. She had seen the worst her world had to offer from slums to bandit hideouts, however, the sheer poverty and hopelessness of her current surrounding appalled her. Gasping when the refuse moved and showed itself to be a ragged old man with glazed eyes and spittle oozing down his chin, she began to wonder if Canal had the right locale.

     "Here we go, this is the address," Canal announced.

     "Are you sure?  This doesn't seem the right type of place for what we're looking for." Lina looked at Canal warily.

     "You'd be surprised." Canal touched a panel by the door. "Excuse me sir, are you in there?  We'd like to discuss business with you."

     "Business, what business, what is filthy lucre when compared to my art? But, hark, is it not the dulcet tones of two young maidens which reaches mine ears.  I must see if the beauty of thy voices is matched by an equal beauty of visage."

     Lina turned to Canal and shrugged. "You did say that he was eccentric and I think the file did mention archaic speech patterns."

     "You have to expect some differences, he is the greatest swordsman in galaxy. Remember Milly," Canal answered.

     The door panel crackled and a buzz announced that the door was unlocked.  With a quick glance at each other, the pair entered the residence halting in the entrance in shock at the sheer opulence of their new surroundings.  The entranceway spread out in front of them, the spacious floor covered with real wool embroidered carpets and precious paintings drew their eyes to the walls.

     A small man dressed entirely in black bowed in front of them, coming out of now where.  "If you would please follow me, the master awaits in the salle."

     As the women followed the little man, the opulence of their surroundings continued to amaze them.  The aesthetic starkness of the exercise salle came as a further shock contributing to a growing feeling of dislocation.  A small noise brought their attention to the other side of the room where a tall man with wavy hair knelt in meditation.  His dress was an archaic kempo uniform and across his knees lay a wooden bokken. Bowing deeply to the shrine, the young man stood, took a step back and then turned towards Lina and Canal.

     "Mine ears did not deceive me, thy beauty is a radiance which outshines the sun.  A scarlet tressed goddess, whose fire warms my soul, and a buxom blue haired beauty, whose eyes holds the turbulence of the sea.  The fates have indeed been kind to me this day."

     "Yeah right.  This is all very flattering but as our message earlier stated, we are here to see you about instructing my apprentice in sword techniques," Lina told the young man, a flush rising unbidden to her cheeks.

     " Thou wishes for me to accompany both of you fair maidens on a voyage through space. Verily, if thou wishes my company, thy request is all that is required. .  However, I can understand that maidenly modesty bids thee to fabricate an excuse to obtain my august company, so I will accede to thy requests and accompany my fire goddess and my sea green maiden."

     Lina's right eye began twitching and she shot an admonishment to the laughing voice she heard in the background.  "Fine, meet us at the Swordbreaker as soon as you're ready."

     "No need for that, my fire goddess.  My manservant will address all the minor details.  Beauty such as evidence by thy  fair selves should not roam unescorted.  Who know which foul demons lay in wait for a defenceless pair of fair innocent young maidens such as thyselves."

     "Now, my sweet visions of loveliness, let us depart for  thy proud vessel where I shall let thine eyes  bask in the radiance of my regard."

      In an aside, Lina whispered quietly to Canal, "I'm not sure if I'm finding this flattering or if I should just fireball him out of his misery."

     "I know what you mean, I think we should just leave him to the guys to handle.  It's bad enough that I have all you messy humans on my nice clean ship but I keep on reminding myself that I need all of you to get rid of Darkstar.  Though once Darkstar is gone, I'm cleaning house." Canal smiled to show that she wasn't totally serious.

     The trip back to the ship was completed quickly.  The swordsman had grabbed Lina and Canal's hands and proceeded to regale them with tales of his ancestors' exploits.  While Canal had put her consciousness on autopilot and checked the status of the ship's repairs, Lina did not have the same luxury and had to suffer through the recitation of obviously false accounts of his and his ancestors' prowess.  The continuing laughter that she felt in the back of her mind was not helping much.

     Entering the ship, Canal quickly excused herself and ran to the control room, leaving Lina to the amorous swordsman.   "Xellos, get here with Kain and get this idiot away from me!" she screamed telepathically to the monster.

     "Don't worry, we're on our way already," she was answered.

     Wiggling her way out of another attempted glomp, Lina breathed a sigh of relief when the hatchway opened and threw herself at Xellos, grabbing his arm and hiding behind him.  "Kain, this is your new sword instructor," she babbled quickly at the wide-eyed youth.

     "You knave, what is  thy connection to my scarlet haired goddess?" demanded the swordsman, glaring at Xellos.

     Xellos smirked. "Oh this and that, and a few other things. Eh Lina-dear?"

     "You besmircher of innocent young maidens! I, Tatewaki Kuno the 23rd,the pinnacle of a long line of renowned Kuno swordsmen, renowned throughout the galaxy as the undefeated Kendo Champion and the Blue Thunder of the Crab Nebula, do hereby challenge you to combat for the hand of the fair scarlet tressed goddess."

     "Umm, Lina, did I besmirch your innocence?"

     "Oh, you most surely did."

     "Then, should I fight him?"

     "Only if you want to."

     "Not really.  Sorry Lad, but I'm too busy at the moment, get back to my secretary later," Xellos told Kuno (the 23rd).

     With a cry of rage, Kuno raised his bokken only to be bounced back as Xellos raised a  shielding spell.

     "You foul sorcerer, I will free the maiden from thy evil spells!" Kuno shouted as he hit the shield over and over again trying in vain to find a weakness in the barrier.

     "Listen, Kuno, I am not the sorcerer here, Lina is. I'm just a monster."

     "You admit your depravity and attempt to include my goddess in your perversions."

     "Tut, tut, tut okay one more try. Lina is the sorceress, I'm the monster, and Canal is the closest to qualifying for the title of goddess." Xellos smiled and wagged his index finger at Kuno. "Lina dear, this is the most fun I've had in ages but I have to go, bye now and have fun."

     As Xellos dematerialised, Kuno shouted out futilely in rage. "Coward, leaving the field of battle so abruptly."

     Lina sighed and shook her head. "Mister Kuno, this is your student Kain.  He is a wielder of the psi blade and needs instruction in swordsmanship."

      The swordsman looked at the blade in a disparaging manner. "A psi blade. Nice trinket, it doesn't match the beauty of wielding steal but it should be adequate."

     Kain flushed in anger. "Listen buddy…"

     "Sensei, you will address me as sensei during thy  period of instruction.  Draw your blade."

     Kain drew his blade and powered it up.

     "Now attack me. Come on boy, I am Tatewaki Kuno the 23rd, the pinnacle of a long line of renowned Kuno swordsmen, renowned throughout the galaxy as the undefeated Kendo Champion and the blue Thunder of the Crab Nebula. I have dealt with psi blades before."

     "If that's what you want." Kain shrugged and attacked the long-winded swordsman only to find his blade blocked by the wooden bokken. Kain blinked in surprise only to find his blade blocked again and again, taking a step back he stared at the wooden blade, noticing a blue tinge that had not been there before. "What is going on?  Nothing can stop a psi blade."

     "Fool, your psi blade uses the power of the mind, a skill that is inborn. I, however, use the strength of my heart and spirit, that which the ancients used to call Chi energy.  After being defeated by a vile demon for the hand of his loves, the first Tatewaki Kuno spent many years trying to find a way to defeat the vile sorcerer. He developed this method of fighting, which has been passed down through the generations, with each practitioner becoming stronger, finally culminating in the excellence which I display for your edification."

     "What happened to the vile sorcerer?" Lina asked quizzically.

     "Ah, my scarlet tressed goddess, the sorcerer, well my revered ancestress, the one called Marika the nimble, bade my father to remain close to her as she felt that the sorcerer would, in his cowardly way, take advantage of my forefather's absence to steal her away and add her to his infernal harem.  Alas, one of the maidens was enslaved to the sorcerer and was forced to bear his children; the other disappeared after a peculiar accident with some cursed water. A very sad tale but fear not my beauty, I will persevere where my ancestor lost hope, and I will free you from the sorcerer Xellos. "

     "Did it ever occur to you that I would not want to be free of Xellos?" asked Lina, the twitch returning to her eyebrow.

     "That is part of his vile enchantment." The young man rushed forward, ignoring Kain and swept Lina into his arms.  "Fear not, a frail weak maiden such as yourself should not have to defend herself. I will protect and care for you as a true samurai protects all that are weaker than them.  I can see it now, our happy home with you and the sea eyed maiden bearing the next generation of Kuno warriors."

     Kain seeing the look in Lina's eyes, frantically backed up and chanted the barrier spell that Lina had taught him, desperately hoping that he got it right.


     "Weak, I don't think so. Just be glad I can't do the Dragon slave!"  Lina yelled as she left the area stomping her feet angrily.

     Kain walked over, pushed at the pile of cinders experimentally and jumped as a voice emerged.

     "She be little but she be fierce."

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