(A Slayers Fanfic)

By: Niki "NeeP" Paradis

Chapter Two: Getting to Know One Another --and Others...

    In a smoke filled gambling house, a group of four men sat around a table.  They had been sitting almost absolutely still for the past two hours.  They were all hunched over their cards and staring at their hands with intense concentration.  Almost all of the faces held no expression at all, except one.  That young man had a blank look, almost idiotic.  You could almost tell that he didn't have a chance of winning except for one thing...  He was.
    The young man grinned, flipped his long braid over his shoulder, stood up and slammed his cards onto the table face up.
    "Royal Flush!  I win again!"
    A low moan was heard around the table.  The crowd surrounding the table cheered.
    Copy scraped the winnings towards him, while thinking about how lucky he was that Devin did manage to teach him poker.  He gave a huge smile as he scooped the coins into a pouch.
    "That should be enough for dinner, thanks guys!"
    Low mutters could be heard around the table.
    "I'll see you all later!"  Copy picked up his sword from the peg by the door on his way outside.  He strapped the belt around his waist and hummed a merry tune that he learned from Aunt Tilly.  He waved to the crowd that was watching, and smiled at the young girl who leaned casually against the wall near the door.  He paused momentarily as he elbowed a poor loser that was trying to sneak up on him and take his hard won coin.
    "That wasn't very sporting of you," he said conversationally.  "I mean, if you weren't prepared to lose the money, maybe you shouldn't have betted it."
    The would-be thief only groaned in reply.  Copy turned away and resumed his humming.  The man behind him pulled out a dagger and charged towards his victim.
    Swish!  Copy pulled out his sword and took a swing at the man.  The man jumped back and jeered.  "Ha ha!  You missed me!"
    "No, I didn't."  Copy grinned and re-sheathed his sword.
    The would-be thief's pants fell down around his ankles.
    "Waaaah!" the thug waaaahed in surprise.
    Copy chuckled and walked to the inn that he was staying in for the past two weeks.  He took a quick look in the pouch, and then sighed.  For a normal person, there was enough money in the pouch for a guy to stay at an expensive inn and eat three high quality meals for three days.  But for the young kopii, there was just enough to have one more night of lodging and dinner, providing that he skipped dessert.
    He finally reached the inn and looked at the board that advertised the special of the day.  It featured roast beef and a triple layer black-forest cake.  Copy drooled as he took another moment to think about his situation.  He shrugged and decided that a night on the road wouldn't hurt, but missing the dessert might.
    The serving girl came up to him as soon as he entered.  She smiled at him in a way that indicated that he was one of her better customers, and showed him a table immediately.
    "How are you doing today, Mister Copy?" she asked.
    Copy smiled back at her as he sat down.  "I'm doing alright, Cynthia."
    "That's great!  What can I bring you today?"
    "Hmmm...  I think that I will have five portions of that special that you have posted outside, including the black-forest cake."
    The girl grimaced momentarily, then smiled.  "Not a problem.  Should I tell the innkeeper that you need a room again for tonight?"
    "No thanks.  It's about time that I went on my way."
    "Okay.  I'll be right back."  The girl went up to another waitress that was bussing a table.  She told her about Copy's order.  The other waitress nodded and gestured towards the kitchen.  Cynthia hurried through the doors.
    Copy blinked.  He was certain that he had never seen her before --at least in the two weeks that he had been staying at the inn.  He watched as she came to clean a table next to his.
    "Hi," he said to her.
    "H'lo."  The waitress smiled and went back to her work.  She seemed older than Cynthia and she didn't seem to be as talkative as Cynthia was.
    "You're new here, aren't you?" he asked.  The waitress, with tray and all turned around to face him.  She was fairly tall with chin-length dark hair.  Her bangs appeared to cover her eyes, and she had uh, attributes that appeared to be trying to burst out of the top of her uniform.  Copy was certain that she looked familiar, but he couldn't place her.
    "Yup," said the waitress.  "Sorta.  Helping a friend out while other employees are sick."
    "I see."
    "You have a big order," the waitress continued.  "Might be awhile before Cynthia comes with it.  Will need help as it is.  You a good tipper?"
    "Yeah.  It's only fair.  I mean, especially after the effort it takes for a person to bring food out, especially the amount that I eat."
    "Good," the waitress nodded.  "It's nice to know that a guy can appreciate what a waitress goes through.  Not many do."  Copy had the feeling that such a sentence was longer than the waitress was used to.  Not that she was stupid either.  It seemed that she was trying to use as few words as possible in her conversation.  She smiled at him again.  "Be right back.  Gonna go check on the meal."  She went through the doors leading to the kitchen.
    Soon, Cynthia and the other waitress came out with the first of the dishes for Copy's meal.  They set the dishes down and went to get the others.  Copy didnít wait.  He set into the first plate of roast as soon as it hit the table.  When the women came the second time to the table with the rest of the meal, Copy had managed to finish the first two servings of everything but the cake.
    "This is great!" he told the two women.  "You have to give my compliments to the chef."
    "Sure thing, Mister Copy," beamed the younger waitress.
    "Will do," agreed the elder one.
    Soon the meal was done and the elder waitress came to him with a bill.  Dishes were stacked high on the table and the other customers were trying to stare discretely.  Cynthia was returning with a tray to start taking the dishes away.  There were no other remains of the huge meal and the young waitress could only shake her head in wonder.  The other waitress could only smile at the young man.
    "You eat like my younger sister," she commented.  "Only not as much."
    Copy chuckled.  "There's not many who can eat like me, I think."
    A moment of silence followed.  Then...
    "I like you," commented the busty waitress.
    "You're a really nice person," said the kopii.  "My name is Copy."
    The other waitress smiled.  "Pleased to meetcha!  My name is Luna."

    Lina Inverse was staring gloomily at a piece of ancient manuscript that she had found during a raid of a bandit's camp.  She was certain that the ancient writing translated into something about 'Idol' and 'Infinite Magic', but other than that, she really couldn't make heads or tails of it.
    "Lina?"  Gourry Gabriev sat down at the table.  "Are you still staring at that piece of paper?  You really should take a break."
    Lina looked up at her 'protector' and sighed.  "I can't, Gourry.  I have to figure this out."
    "But you have been looking at that scrap of paper for over three days..."
    "I know that, Gourry.  But..."
    Gourry shook his head. "Here.  Try this."  He shoved something under Lina's nose.  She took the proffered food item dubiously.
    "What's this?" she asked.
    "Local speciality.  They call it a 'Shish-ka-bob'.  It's pretty good.  And I brought lots."  He gestured to a large covered basket under his arm.  Lina took a taste of her shish-ka-bob.  Her eyes widened and she swallowed the rest of it in a gulp.
    "You're right, Gourry!  This really IS good!  Gimme another --five."
    "I knew that you'd like them," said Gourry as he handed over five more of the delicacies.  "But I understand that you're supposed to eat them off of the stick, not eat the stick along with it."
    Lina had already crunched her way through the second shish-ka-bob.  She looked thoughtful.  "Hmmm.  I guess that would explain the crunchy middle," she said.
    The two wanderers ate the rest of their snack in silence.  After the last of the shish-ka-bob was eaten, Gourry leaned over to look at Lina's manuscript.
    "What have you figured out so far?" he asked.  Lina looked at Gourry, sighed, and then brushed the remaining bamboo sticks to the side as she spread her sheet out.  She pointed out the various symbols as she explained what they meant.
    "This symbol here represents the Lord of Chaos."  Lina planted her finger directly on the fanciest of the runes.  "This one is 'Idol'.  And this one translates into 'infinite power'.  So this manuscript tells of a grail of infinite power of some type and it relates to the Lord of Chaos.  You follow me for once, Gourry?"
    "Sure Lina, I think so.  But I have a question."
    "Yeah?  What?"
    "What exactly are we after again?"
   After mashing the swordsman into the ground, Lina took a deep breath, counted to 21, and then released it.
    "Listen, jellyfish-brains.  We are going after one of the most powerful items in the land.  When I --I mean WE get to it, WE will become rich and famous."
    Gourry peeled himself off of the ground.  He brushed himself off and looked quizzically at Lina.  "What for?" he asked.  "I don't need to be rich and famous.  What would I do with money and fame?"
    Lina was more than a little surprised.  She actually heard an intelligent philosophical question from Gourry.  She looked up at the sky to make sure that sky wasn't falling too.  Relieved that it wasn't, she decided to respond to his question.
    "Why else would we go on these great quests?  What else is there but fame and fortune?" she asked.
    Gourry actually took a moment to think of a reply.  Lina watched as smoke started to come out of his ears.  He sat back down at the table and rubbed the tip of his nose with his index finger.
    "I'm in it for the adventure, I guess," he said.  "I don't need money or fame.  Fame gets you into more trouble than you need and I just need enough money to buy food to eat.  Give me a full stomach and I'm happy."
    Lina nodded.  "I guess I can see it like that... sorta."
    "And besides, I promised to protect you and that usually leads into a LOT of adventure."
    Lina gulped.  "You still remember that?!?"
    They looked at each other in silence, which seemed to stretch on forever.  Gourry coughed uncomfortably.
    "I'm gonna look for desert," he mumbled as he got up from the table.
    "Right," replied Lina as she returned her attention to the scrap of manuscript.

    Later on, as Copy left the inn and started to head for the road out of town, he became aware of a presence following him.  He looked behind but wasn't surprised that he couldn't see anyone.  He had just used most of the money that he had left to purchase apples, and dried beef for the road, so he didn't think that he was any real temptation for thieves.  But he remembered the very disgruntled gamblers and decided that it wouldn't hurt to be cautious.  He shrugged and continued on, re-shouldering his pack and discretely loosening the straps that bound his sword.

    In the shadows of an alley, one lone thief looked towards her mark.  She knew that the tall guy with the braid had to have lots of money on his person.  After all, she saw him leave the gambling house and go into the inn and back out again.  It wouldn't be as if he had eaten all of his winnings.  She left the alley and followed the tall youth from a discreet distance.  She watched him stiffen a couple of times as if he was aware of someone following him, but she always took cover when he looked around.
    She managed to get closer, without him catching on, or so it seemed.  She waited until they were both in a large crowd before she made her move.  She reached over...
    And came face to face with the business end of a very sharp looking sword.
    "I wouldn't do that if I were you."
    The young woman looked up the length of the sword and into the face of the person that she was going to rob.  She froze and tried her best to look innocent.  "I have no idea what you are talking about, sir..." she started.
    "Yes, you do," said the young man patiently.  "Besides, I don't have that much money."
    The girl narrowed her eyes.  "Yes, you do!" she argued.  "You won it all this afternoon in that gambling hall."
    The young man blinked.  "I thought you looked familiar.  You're that girl from the hall!" the tension left his sword arm and the young thief relaxed a bit.
    "Um, yeah.  So you KNOW that I know that you have money!"
    "Uh..."  The young man looked abashed.  "Not anymore."
    "What do you mean?!?  Not any more?!?"  The girl's voice started to rise in pitch and volume.
    "Well, I bought myself some supper..."
    "And it cost you all that?!?"
    "Well, after the five helpings of roast beef and dessert and the fact that I kinda cleaned out the larder, it was only fair that I tipped big."
    "You're kidding!  Right?"
    She heard a murmur and she glanced around.  A large crowd gathered around the two of them.  It was only then that the young thief realised that they both looked ridiculous with her arm frozen in the motion of trying to reach the pouch and the sword of the young man still at her throat and both of them arguing.  Apparently the young man noticed it too, and he looked embarrassed.  At the same time, they both went into a more natural stance.  She pulled her arm away, and he sheathed his sword.  The tall youth cleared his throat.
    "Nope, I'm not kidding.  Sorry to disappoint you."  With that, he walked off to wards the edge of town.
    The girl watched him walk away.  But only for a moment.
    "Hey!  Wait up!" she called as she chased after him.
    She caught up to him just as he reached the bridge that led out of town.  The young man looked over his shoulder at her with mild curiosity.  They walked on in silence for a few moments.
    "Why are you following me?" he asked her finally.
    The girl blinked at the question.  "I, I really don't know," she said finally.
    "Don't you have a home to go back to?"
    "Nope.  I live on the streets, or stay at an inn when I can afford it."
    The young man looked thoughtful.  "It must be difficult," he said.
    "Nah," she said with as much forced cheerfulness as she could muster.
    He said nothing.
    "My name is Kitsuan.  Kitsuan Catalyn."
    "Mine's Copy."
    The girl looked up at him.  He was really tall.
    "Copy?" she asked.  "No last name?"
    "Oh.  Well then, are you an orphan like me?"
    "Sort of," he replied.  The town was now just a glow of lights in the twilight.  Copy looked again at Kitsuan.  "Did you plan on leaving the village?" he asked her.
    "Not really, but it's all right.  I was planning on leaving soon anyway.  And I rather be travelling with someone than by myself."
    "But why me?"
    "Because you're quick with a sword, you don't seem to have a huge 'thing' against thieves, and because you're kinda interesting."
    "You win a huge sum of money and now you don't have anything to show for it.  You can slice the belts off of drunken losers without hurting them, and you are on the road with an interesting story to tell."
    "But what makes you think that I want to tell my story?" he asked.
    "I just do.  If not now, then later."

    Zelgadis Greywords paused in the shade of a huge tree and casually studied the scrap of paper in his hands.  It was about the twelfth time he has done so since he woke up.  The old manuscript told of an ancient idol desecrated to the Lord of Chaos that was supposed to grant wishes.  He didn't know whether or not that it held the answer to his problem, but he figured that it was the best lead he got for the last couple of months since leaving the others.  Then he thought about what the others might be doing right at the moment.
    Lina and Gourry are probably off raiding bandit's dens again.  And Amelia is probably off fulfilling her royal duties.  He smiled.  He figured that they have their own lives to lead and that he should be off finding his cure so that he could finally continue with his own life.
    He turned his attention back to the old piece of paper.  He grunted in frustration.  The little piece that he got hinted towards what kind of monsters are guarding the 'treasure', but nothing about where it is.  He was almost tempted to look up Lina and ask for her help.  But then he shook his head, realising that he was NOT ready for another wild goose chase involving powerful demons and other enemies.
    Besides, I really ought to do this on my own, he thought to himself.  There's no reason to drag anyone else into my problems.
    He was on his way to Seyroon to visit the libraries and archives.  He figured that there might be references on the Idol of Chaos, and/or he might be able to find a way to translate some of the runes that he did not quite understand.  He was certain that he would be able to obtain permission from Prince Phillanel to enter the more obscure sections that would otherwise be closed to the public.  That might mean meeting up with the over-exuberant Princess Amelia, but there were rare times where Zel would gladly bear with the company of Amelia Wil-Tesla de Seyroon over the hot headedness of Lina Inverse and the empty-headedness of her 'protector', Gourry Gabriev.  Those two are simply crazy, he had concluded long ago.
    He shook his head and headed back out on the road.

    Copy and Kitsuan had stopped to set up camp for the night.  They sat around the campfire, eating the fruit that the young man brought along.  They were both quite exhausted and they were having trouble staying awake.  Finally, Copy banked the fire and gave Kitsuan a blanket from his pack.
    "Here.  You can use this tonight.  Okay?"
    "Um, thanks."  Kitsuan was startled by the generosity of the man she had attempted to rob earlier.  Why is he so nice? she wondered.
    "And just so you know, I'm a really light sleeper and a great tracker, so don't get any ideas about robbing me while I sleep.  Okay?"
    "I wasn't!" protested the young thief.  Or at least I'm not any more, she thought.
    "Good.  At least we got that settled.  Sleep well, okay?"
    Kit couldn't sleep as she tried to figure out the young man who was so nice to her.

    Morning came soon enough and Kitsuan woke up and found Copy packing up his few things.  It was the first time that she had seen him clearly in daylight and as a person rather than a target.
    He was quite tall and rather lanky.  Long strawberry-blonde hair was secured into a braid that reached the small of his back.  Lavender eyes were framed with long lashes and placed in a thin long face.  Long heavy bangs obscured some of his features.  He was wearing a light blue peasant shirt and dark leggings that contrasted oddly with the sword strapped to his side.  His face was presently wearing a rather blank look, as if he didn't have a care in the world.
    She decided that he was rather pretty, in a dumb sort of way.
    "Sleep well?" he asked her as soon as he noticed that she was awake.  "I noticed that you're still here though."
    Kitsuan yawned before answering.  "What's that s'pose to mean?" she asked.
    "You didn't take off.  I kinda expected that you would have."
    "Thanks a lot."

    Copy returned the glare of the young thief with a blank look.  He figured that there was no reason to respond to her sarcastic reply.  She turned away and got up, folding the blanket that she was using.  She appeared to be about fourteen years old, with chin length brown hair with shaggy bangs.  Her large brown eyes were situated in a round face, making her look rather innocent.  She was wearing a green tunic over a white shirt and darker green hose.  She had a sheathed dagger secured to her thigh, and the way that she moved suggested that she was comfortable with it.
    He decided that she was kind of cute, in a deadly sort of way.
    "Don't get me wrong, I'm not really a suspicious person.  It's just that I was under the understanding that a thief would do anything for money."
    "Hey!  Listen here, pal.  I'm not that kind of girl.  I have my standards!"  The face of the young thief went red and her voice raised a notch in volume.
    Copy was confused.  "Sorry?  Did I say something wrong?  I meant that you had a chance to grab my money and run, and you didn't take it.  I just figured that most thieves would have."
    Kitsuan's face went even redder.
    "You mean to tell me that I'm not allowed to decide that I don't want to steal?!?  That's awfully biased.  I mean, how many thieves DO you know?!?"
    "Um, I think that you're the first..." Copy started uncertainly.
    "And you don't even know me!!!  We just met last night, remember?!?" she was almost hysterical.
    "I'm sorry," said the young man at last.
    "I'm sorry.  You're right.  I should have just judged you like that.  Can you forgive me?"  He looked ashamed of himself.
Kit blinked.  No one has ever apologised to her before.  No one has ever really thought that she was worth apologising for.  A thief was usually considered to be very low on the social ladder.
    "Um, okay.  I forgive you.  You just didn't know any better."
    Copy brightened immediately.  "Thanks," he said sheepishly.  "I hate to lose a travelling companion, especially one that I like."
    "You like me?" asked the young girl in surprise.
    "Yeah, I believe I do.  Do you like me?"
    "I think I do."  She chuckled.  "But I guess that you DO have a little problem with my being a thief, right?"
    "Maybe a little," Copy shrugged, "but I trust you enough not to steal form me, so it's okay."
    "Great!  I think..."
    Copy handed her one of the remaining apples.  "I think we better get going, alright?"

    Gourry was following Lina listlessly down the road.  "Can you tell me why we're heading towards Seyroon again?" he asked.
Lina took a deep breath before she told Gourry again for the umpteenth time.  "To take a look in the Royal Library, numbskull!  There's ought to be some information about this Chaos Idol thing, and I want to look it up."
    "What makes you think that you'll find something in there?"
    "There's a lot of old lore and legends stored in the Royal Library.  I'm sure that Phil will let us poke around in there for a bit."
    "We're not going to visit Amelia?" he asked dumbfoundedly.
    Lina looked thoughtful.  "Well..." she began.  "If we happen to bump into her, I guess we can visit.  But then again, it would be a shame to miss the banquet that she would definitely put out in honour of her friends, right?"
    "I guess...  The food's always nice, but I thought we could visit just for the sake of visiting."
    "Yeah, sure, whatever.  We'll see what happens."

    Copy and Kitsuan had stopped by the side of a river, under the shade of some trees to catch fish for lunch.  Not twenty minutes have passed and they already had a pile of fish that reached up to the young thief's waist.
    "Don't you think we have enough yet?" she asked her companion.
    "Nope.  Not yet.  There should be enough for you to eat as well."
    "You mean to tell me that you plan on eating all of this fish?!?"
    "I know that it's not much, but I find it uncomfortable travelling on an overly full stomach."
    "Right."  Kitsuan shook her head in disbelief.  "You finish catching what you want, then.  I'm gonna go look for firewood to cook 'em with.  Okay?"
    "Alright!  And Kit?"
    "Be careful out there.  Bandits tend to live in the woods."
    "I will."  Kitsuan was touched that he would be concerned over her.  But he didn't seem to grasp that she was more than capable of taking care of herself.  She has been doing it most of her life at any rate.
    By the time she came back with enough firewood, Copy had scaled and spitted most of the fist on green twigs.  He had managed to clear a suitable amount of space for a fire.
    "Hurry up, Kit!  I'm getting hungry!"
    Quickly, the fire was laid and started, with the fish propped up over it.  While waiting for their supper to cook, Kitsuan decided to ask Copy a few questions, hoping to get his story out of him.
    "What do you do for a living?" she asked him.
    Copy looked thoughtful.  "I guess that I'm kind of a mercenary," he replied.  "You know what I mean, right?  A sword for hire and doing odd jobs."
    "Really?  You don't look the part."
    "What do you mean?"  He reached over to check on the fish.  A tiny nibble told him to put it back over the fire.
    "You don't look, umm, hard enough."  She looked at her travelling companion pointedly.  "You wear peasant clothes, and a braid.  You look way too pretty for the job."
    "Pretty?!?"  Copy looked insulted.  "I'll let you know that I am more than capable of the job.  I can prove it right now if you want..."  He looked at the fish.  "I mean after supper, that is."
    Kitsuan nodded.  "You're on, pretty-boy.  After dinner."

    "This is NOT what I had in mind," grumbled Kitsuan as she crouched in the bushes near the cave where the local bandit gang lived and stashed their loot.  It was late in the night, and the huge campfire on the commons provided the only light available.  It highlighted the bandits easily enough, while hiding herself and Copy in the shadows.  There were only two men on guard that she could see, and they were tossing a game of dice, and drinking from a wineskin.
    "Quit complaining, Kit.  You wanted me to prove myself, remember?  How else do I do it?"  Copy simply crouched in waiting.
    "Um, a simple demonstration would have done."
    "But this is much more effective."
    "But I really can't do this.  'Honour among thieves', remember?"
    "But they're thieves.  And I know that rival bands fight amongst themselves all of the time."
    "Yeah, so?"  Kitsuan watched as the men guarding the camp passed the wineskin back and forth.
    "The way I see it," said Copy philosophically," is that thieves and mercenaries usually fend for themselves."
    "Isn't that a bit against your ideas of 'stealing is wrong'?"
    He looked startled.  He thought about it.  "I think," Copy began, "that since the stuff is already stolen, we can't possibly be stealing it.  And besides, if there are things that rewards are being offered for, then we will return them."
    Kitsuan sweat-dropped.  "I think your morals are messed up," she suggested.
    "I'll figure it out later," he assured her.  He then casually reached out and punched one of the guards unconscious.
    The other guard was about to cry out for help once he saw his buddy go down, but a quick backhand from Copy sent him flying.
    "Aren't you gonna kill them?" asked Kitsuan.
    "Not unless they try to kill me first," answered the tall young man.  "Then it's anything goes."
    "Sounds fair enough."  Kit drew out her short blade.
    "How good are you with that thing?" asked Copy as they crept across the commons towards the main cave.
    "Good enough," answered the thief.  "Let's just get this over with," she muttered.
    "But I am supposed to prove my skill to you."  Copy's voice raised a little.  "You said so, and I promised."
    "Be quiet already, Copy!" growled Kitsuan in a voice that was a little louder than it should have been.
    "Who goes there?" demanded a gruff voice.
    A scarred face poked out of the opening of the cave.  The bandit looked the two trespassers up and down.  He raised an eyebrow.  "Well?" he asked.
    "New recruits?" squeaked Kitsuan.
    "New recruits my bunions!" growled the scarred man.  "Hey Boss!  We got trespassers!"
    "Oh?" asked a lazy sounding voice.  "Just kill them and get it over with.  We don't have time for interrogations."
    "If you say so, boss."  The bandit looked to his cronies.  "You heard him, boys!  Let's kill 'em!"
    Copy drew his sword.  He looked to Kitsuan.
    "See, Kit?  They threatened me.  Now, I can kill them," he said simply and loud enough for the bandits to hear.
    "I wonder about you," muttered the young girl as she readied her blade.  "You're just strange."
    The whole gang of bandits charged at the two interlopers.
    The odds of the battle were awkward, 30:2, but it was no reason for Kit or Copy to feel sorry for the bad guys.  Copy was skilled with his long sword and Kitsuan was skilled with her short blade.  He slashed and dodged in a graceful manner and she went and cut hamstrings, and dashed in and out of her opponents reached.  The fight was over in just a bit.  Bodies lay around them, either unconscious or dead.  The victorious duo stood in front of the leader, a large burley man in noble's ruffles and lace.  His face was white with fear.
    Copy blinked.
    "Hey, are you the guy who tried to jump me back in town yesterday?"
    The head thug's eyes narrowed in replied.
    Copy shook his head.  "With all of this stuff that you already have stolen, you had to rob me, a guy who won fair and square?"
    There was no reply.
    "Why don't we just kill him and go, Copy?" asked Kit.
    "He hasn't threatened me yet."  The tall youth looked thoughtful.  "Although...   I really don't want him in the way at the moment."  He raised his sword up, and the big man whimpered.
    Copy brought the pommel of the sword down on the man's head.  The thug went out like a light.
    "Now, let's get us some of that treasure and go get something to eat!" he suggested to his friend.
    Kitsuan had no problem agreeing to that.

    In an inn in the next town, a tall woman with long dark hair and an encredibly huge bosom sat at a bar drinking and giggling to herself.  She wore nothing more than a bikini made of leather and a long cape.  The other patrons of the inn were giving the woman enough space to be by herself.  She didn't notice or didn't care that the people were avoiding her.  She didn't really noticed when two conspicuous people walked in and up to the bar.  At least not until she heard the solid clank of a bag of gold hitting the countertop.
    "Hey!" shouted a young female voice.  "We defeated a bandit gang and we're hungry!  We want food!"
    "Make that 'lots and lots of food'," chimed in a light male voice.
    The woman looked up.  There was a young girl standing at the counter with a tall young man with a long strawberry blonde braid.  She paid them the barest glance as she was focusing on the heavy bag of gold that they had just set on the table.
    "And I really mean 'lots'!" said the young man.
    "Let's start with menus," suggested the young girl, elbowing her companion in the ribs.
    "Good idea..."  The young man looked thoughtful.
    The serving girl showed the two newcomers to a table.  They sat down and opened their menus.  The woman at the bar stared longingly at the bag that clinked when moved.  She watched as the tall young man opened the menu and pointed out his selection to the waitress.  The young girl's eyes opened wide as she overheard what her companion has just ordered.  The waitress just about fell over.
    The woman laughed as she watched the scene.  Many of the near-by customers cringed.  She figured that the serving girl was just in shock from having to serve more than one person that much food in a night.  She'll get over it, she thought.  She focused he blurry eyes again on the bag of gold.  There's got to be a way that I can get my hands on that.  Her fuzzy vision travelled from the bag to the sword that the young man was wearing to the dagger that the young girl was wearing.  But it can't be a simple grab and run.  They both look like they know how to use those weapons.  She downed another mug of ale while she thought.  She watched as the waitress brought out the first of the appetisers, and at the young man who started to devour them.  I have to come up with a plan...
    It wasn't until the strangers have nearly finished their meal and she had managed to down her twentieth mug of ale since the two came in before she managed to come up with one.

    Kitsuan was dumbfounded.
    "I can't believe that you ate all that," she said.
    "I got a healthy appetite," grinned the young man.
    "I swear that no human being can eat that much and still be skinny!!!  How do you do it?!?"
    "Um, I dunno.  Good metabolism?" he shrugged as he tidied up a place on the table.
    "I don't believe you!" she muttered.  "No wonder you were so broke when I tried to steal from you."
    The waitress came out to clear the dirty dishes and to wipe the table clean of spills, then she returned to the kitchen.  A few minutes later, the kitchen opened again as the waitress returned to them with the piece de resistance.
    Copy was practically drooling as the first huge dish of dessert reached the table.  As soon as it landed, he reached over and helped himself to generous portions.
    "Aren't you gonna have any, Kit?" he asked.
    "I have to watch my figure," muttered the young thief.
    "Are you sure?" he asked again as he gestured to the triple layer chocolate fudge cake.  Kitsuan looked at the tooth-rotting, mouth-watering dessert.
    "I can't," she mumbled.  Then she looked at the cake again...
EAT ME... commanded the cake.
    "I really shouldn't," she muttered.
    "Did you say something, Kit?" asked Copy with his mouth full.
    "I think I just heard the cake telling me to eat it."
    "Oh?"  Copy looked at his friend.
    "I think I'm going crazy..." Kitsuan felt awful.
    "Nah.  I think it's just because your blood sugar level is low.  Eat some cake and you'll probably feel better."
    Kitsuan reached for the cake.  "Maybe you're right."
    "Speaking of crazy," Copy gestured with his fork.  "Did you see that lady at the bar?  She's one bonafide loony, if you ask me."
    Kit looked towards the bar.  "Yeah, I know what you mean," she said with her mouth full.  "She's been watching us since we got here too.  I wonder what she wants."
    "We can ask if you want, but not until we finish this other cake, okay?"  He cleared room for the second cake.
    As soon as the cake was on the table, both Kitsuan and Copy dug right into it.  It wasn't until they came up for air when they noticed that the crazy woman from the bar was standing at their table.
    "I have a proposition for you," she challenged the young man, obviously believing that he was in charge.
    "Hey!" countered the young thief.  "Copy's not that kinda guy, you floozy!  Go away!"
    If the woman's face wasn't already red from the drink, she probably would have blushed.
    "Not that kind of proposition!" the tall woman nearly shouted.  Then she looked thoughtful.  "Not this time at any rate...  Ho ho ho ho ho..."
    Kitsuan winced at the sound of the laughter.
    "Just hang on for a second," said Copy through his mouthful of cake, oblivious to the tall woman's comment.  "I wanna finish this first!"
    The woman crossed her arms over her impressive chest and waited patiently until the cake was done.  After the waitress cleared away the last of the dishes, the woman placed both hands on the table and leaned forward.  The position was supposed to distract Copy, and it seemed to work to a degree.
    "I understand that you two have busted up the Blue Tooth Bandit gang today, right?" she purred.
    Copy wrenched his gaze from the Grand Canyon presented beneath his nose to the slightly ruddy face above it.
    "Yeah," he began.
    Kit slammed her elbow into her companion's ribs.  She decided that she really didn't like this woman.
    "So what that we did?  What about it?" she challenged.
    "Well, you see," started the woman, without the slur that one would expect o person that have been drinking heavily to have,  "I was planning to clean them out tomorrow.  So the way I see it, you two owe me.  So pay up!"
    "Say, what?!?" yelped Copy.
    "You?!?" demanded Kitsuan.
    "Yes, I!"
    "Who the hell are you anyway?" asked the young thief to the woman.
    "I am the beauteous master Sorceress, Naga, the White Serpent!  Ho ho ho ho ho ho!  No doubt you have heard of me...?"
    "Nope."  Copy shook his head.
    "Not a clue."  Kitsuan shrugged.
    The woman seemed to wilt.  Then she stood up straight.
    "Here is my challenge," she delivered in a haughty voice.  "I am willing to bet all of you gold that you cannot drink me under the table."
    "Drink?" asked Copy in a confused voice.
    "Yeah!  Or don't you think you can handle it, pretty boy?"
    Kitsuan looked towards her friend.  She remembered what had happened when she challenged Copy the day before and called him a 'pretty boy'.  The gold's nice and all, but she didn't like the risk it took.  His fist was clenched and trembling.
    "You're on!"
    "Wait!!!" cried out the young thief.  "What are you going to bet?" she asked the tall woman.  "What will we get if we win?"
    "Um..." Naga the White Serpent looked uncertain, as if she had never thought about that little detail.  Then her face brightened and she reached into her leather brassier and pulled out a gold medallion.  "This!" she said, slapping it onto the tabletop.
    "What is it?" asked Copy.  "There's no way that that thing is worth the bag of gold."
    "It's a key to finding one of the most mysterious treasures in the land.  Are you two up to it?"  The woman looked smug.
    "Yeah, right," the young girl said skeptically.
    "Well, Kit," interupted the young man.  "Why not?  It'll be fun."
    "You're not gonna cheat, are you?" asked Kit.  Naga looked at her.
    "You remind me of my sister," she muttered.  Then, "No, I won't cheat.  In fact, you two have an advantage.  There's two of you and I have already been drinking for most of the night.  So, come on.  What do you say?"
    "I'm game!" said Copy.  "Who's buying the first round?"
    "I will," replied Naga.  "You can buy the next round.  Then your friend can buy the round after."
    "Nuh-uh," said Kitsuan.  "I'm only fourteen.  I'm too young to buy alcohol."
    Naga shrugged.  "Whatever."  Then she called out to the barkeeper.  "Hey!  Three mugs of ale!  Put it on my tab!"
    "Wait a minute!" called back the barkeep.  "That girl ain't old enough to drink!"
    "You mean that she isn't old enough to buy," retorted Naga.  "She's definitely old enough to drink though."
    "We'll keep an eye on her," offered Copy.
    The man shook his head, yet poured the drinks.  The waitress brought them over.  She gave the trio a nasty look as set them down.
    "Bonzai!" cheered Naga and she downed her ale in one gulp.  Copy had his down shortly after.  Kitsuan choked a little as she swallowed hers.  But once it was down, she felt a little better.
    "That wasn't so bad..." she said, proud of herself.
    "Hey!" cried out Copy.  "Can we have another round here?"
    The waitress brought over the drinks and they too went down.  After the second mug, Kit definitely felt better.
    "And another!" called out Naga.
    "This is kinda weird," commented Copy.  "Here we are, matching drink to drink with you, and you don't even know our names."
    "Ask me if I care," commented Naga as she downed another drink.
    Copy finished his fourth mug.  "I'm Copy."
    "Pleased to meetcha," mumbled the tall woman.
    "This is Kitsuan Catalyn."  Kit waved idly as she gulped from her mug.
    "Pleased to meet you too, I guess..." replied the woman.  "I'm still Naga."
    The fifth mug went down even easier.  Kitsuan felt really great.  The stuff in the mug just might be bitter, but the more she drank of it, the more she liked it, and the better she felt.  But then she looked towards the tall woman and realised that she didn't look any more drunk than she did when she and Copy entered earlier.  This might be a problem, she thought to herself.  She tried to shake her head to sobriety.  She and Copy did a hard job, busting heads, and there was no way that she was about to lose her hard won bag of gold over a few drinks.
    "Another!" called out Copy.  He didnít sound particularly drunk, but there was glossiness to his eyes, that Kit was certain weren't there before the last drink.
    He doesn't have a chance, she thought.  Nor do I.  She hardly ever drank before that night and she KNEW that she didn't have the necessary stamina, and now she was starting to doubt that Copy had it either.  She eased up, trying to slow down the consumption.
    "You're slowing up, Kit," challenged Copy.  "We can't let her win."  His voice was just starting to show a bit of a slur.
    "You're drunk," mumbled the young thief.  Then she burped.  "But then, so am I..."  She hook her head again, trying to remember something important.  She started to check her pockets, hoping that she could find a clue to whatever it was that she was trying to remember.  She found a small knife, a string of wooden beads, and a paper packet of some type.  She tried to remember what was in the packet.  Then it came to her with a splurge of inspiration.
    Sleeping powder.
    It was leftover from an attempt to drug a prosperous merchant and rob him blind.  The powder worked and the old man slept, but the guards who were protecting him kind of prevented her from finishing the job.  But now, she has another purpose for it.
    Naga and Copy were still matching mug for mug.  Copy was obviously drunk and Naga was starting to slur.  But it was still obvious to who was going to win the competition and take the gold --unless she helped out.
    But it took some slight of hand and a perfect moment.  Then she got an idea.
    "Why not we go easy on the waitress?" she suggested.  "I'm obviously out of the running, and I'm sure that she could use a break.  I'll go get the next round.  Okay?"
    "Okay, Kit."
    So Kit carefully picked her way across the almost empty floor.  If it were anyone else, that person would have fallen by now.  But with the nimbleness of a thief, Kitsuan had no real problem.  She reached the bar, picked up the tray of drinks, and poured some of the powder into one of the mugs.  She looked around to see if anyone were watching.  But Copy and Naga were both into their cups, pretty much unaware of what was going on around them.  She grinned to herself and managed to carry the mugs back to the table.  She gave the tainted mug to Naga and the good one to Copy.  It seemed that there were no problems.
    "I want that mug," said Naga, pointing to Copy's.
    "Why that mug?" asked the young thief.
    "It looks fuller."
    "No," replied Copy.  "This is MY mug.  You got your own."
    "You can have the fuller mug the next round, okay?" suggested the young thief.
    The well built sorceress' eyes narrowed.  Kit was afraid that she was going to protest anyway.
    "Alright," she said in a pouty voice.  "Just this once."  She picked up her mug and swallowed.  "Now go get some more!" she commanded.
    "Yes'm," said Kit as she headed back to the bar.  She got two more mugs and returned to the table, nearly tripping on something lying in the middle of the floor.  She looked down, and found Naga unconscious, and starting to snore.  She set the tray down and looked at Copy.  "I think we won," she said.
    "Yeah," said Copy in a slurred voice.  "She was a hot-looking woman, but she sure couldn't hold her drink, could she?"
    Kit debated about telling her friend the truth, then decided not to.
    "Yeah.  Sure Copy," she replied vaguely.
    "Si... sit down and celebrate with me, Kit..." offered the tall young man.  Kit sat down, and pulled a mug towards her.
    "Here's to the winners!" she cheered, as she downed the contents.
    The little bit of sobriety that Kitsuan had recently repossessed went out the window after that drink.  And she didnít miss it one bit.  She wondered about Copy though, who was starting to mumble to himself as if he was depressed.
    "It's s'not like som'thin' that Gourry would do..." he mumbled to himself.  "Don' think that its som'thin' that Lina would do either...  What's wrong with me...?"
    "Something wrong, Copy?" asked Kit in a slurred, yet concerned voice.  "Whoís this 'Gourry' that you speak of?"
    "Um, just some guy that I'm s'pose to be a kopii of..." mumbled the young man.
    Kit was a little startled, but too drunk to get excited about it.
    "You're a kopii?" she asked.
    "Yeah, sorta."
    "How can you be 'sorta' a kopii?"
    "I'm not exact."  Copy sighed.  "Apparently, according to Master Thomas, I'm only a kopii of a swordsman named Gourry Gabriev, never mind that I have his memories.  And not just him.  I got something that comes from a sorceress named Lina Inverse in me too.  Some of her hair was mixed in with Gourry's when Master Tomas made me."  Copy's head slumped onto his arms.
    "You donít look like what I imagine what a kopii should look like..." commented Kit.  "I heard so many bad things about kopiis and you don't seem like that at all."
    Copy groaned.  "That's what I keep telling the people who want to kill me because I am a kopii.  I've been on the run for about two months now."  He sighed.  "I just want it to stop..."
    Kitsuan reached over and patted him on the arm.  "I know what you mean, Copy."
    "Yeah, right."
    "I do.  You're not the only one with secrets."  She sighed, then continued in a low voice.  "When I was about six, my father was murdered by some unknown assassin.  I think he had many enemies, and a lot of them wanted him dead.  I remember him pushing me out of the way..." Her voice went even softer.  "I saw the knife go into his back...  I remember hiding --for days, then weeks."  I never even got to go to his funeral."
    "Um..." Copy didn't know what to say.
    "I was sorta adopted by the local street gang, and learned how to steal to survive.  And so continued until I met you."
    "Until you met me?"
    "Yeah.  But don't get me wrong.  I'm still a thief, but busting up that gang, that's one of the first times I did something else to get money."
    "One day, I will find out who killed my father and take my revenge.  But until then, I can't even let anyone know that I am still alive, especially my father's enemies, or else they will send someone after me."  Kit sighed.  "And that's my story."
    "Oh."  Copy looked around, at the near empty common room, and at the unconscious Naga still on the floor.  "I think we better turn in for the night Kit.  Okay?"
    "Yeah, sure."
    They got up, and started to head out to where the stairs leading to the rooms were.  Kitsuan paused, reached down and removed the medallion from the still sleeping form of Naga, the White Serpent.
    "We've won this," she said.
    Copy nodded and continued on.
    Then Kit reached down and removed a small bag of money from the leather brassier, while her friend wasn't looking.
    "And I think we deserve this, you underdressed hussy," she murmered as she tucked the little pouch into her tunic and followed her friend out.

On to Chapter 3
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