Being treated like a worthless magical artifact is what bothers me. He went back to his scrubbing, venting his frustrations on the floor. He had always done his best. Was it his fault if that wasn't good enough to please his creator? Was it his fault that the power of the original had been lost in the copying process?
Actually, he had a sneaking suspicion that it was more than his lack of power that displeased his creator... it was the implications. He can't make a good copy of himself, which means HE'S flawed too. Ha! He chuckled softly to himself, eyes twinkling. Of all the tries, he had been the only one to come out even semi-usable. And as it turned out, he had talents...
"ITAI!" He had scrubbed very hard, and nudged a bookcase. The sound of a metal bound book hitting his skull wasn't very nice, and neither were stars and darkness....
I'll know as soon as the world stops spinning. It only took a few seconds. He was pretty good at bouncing back from damage, thankfully. It had turned out to be a major requirement of his existence. But what hit me? His eyes were caught on the glittering brass binding of the very heavy tome that had bonked him on the head.
Taking it as a grand portentous sign, or at least an excuse to stop working for a moment, he picked up the book and leafed through it.
Magic. He sighed, almost throwing it away. Magic was a sore spot for him. The third copy Rezo had been furious that he couldn't remember a thing about it, and even more furious that any attempts to teach him met with utter failure. I can't help it if the magical talent is gone...
But something about his book was tweaking an odd memory, so he picked it up again, looking at the runes on the cover... they looked like a black flame in a circle of silver....
Rezo gently touched the cover of his latest book. He couldn't actually see it, but he had ways to get around that disability. Opening it, he touched the pages, and began to read...
A tome of magic. Perhaps this strange, strange book would hold the keys to unlocking his blind eyes...
It made no sense. Rezo shut the book with a snap. He had tried to use the magic within, the odd spells, but none would answer to him. Was it even magic at all? Or just some clever fake?
He finally picked it up, and stored it in its niche in the wall, never to be seen again...
Then his blue eyes widened as he read the first spell once, a second time, then a third.
This makes sense!!! It made deep, heartfelt sense to him, the way no other magic had...
Grabbing the book and putting it under one arm, he hurried off to one of the practice rooms, leaving his scrub brush and water behind. His step was bouncy, and his blue eyes blazed with joy.
I will finally have some power around here!
Did I do That?
Elsewhere, far, far away... (but not quite far enough)
Lina Inverse was eating breakfast.
If you've never seen her do it before... good for you. Keep as far away as possible. It is a sight akin to piranhas that have just discovered the disemboweled cow in the river. Many of the people watching wondered if she even tasted the food, it went down so fast.
Her blond swordsman companion wasn't much better, piling it away like there was no tomorrow. Gourry Gabriev was his name, protecting Lina (not that she needed it) was his game.
Watching this with slightly wide eyes was the petite, unutterably cute princess of Sailroon. She had chipped in her quota of the dirty dishes, and now was content to watch the race, and burp occasionally.
The last vic... ahem, companion, was sitting well in the shadows. This interested many of the villagers, or would have normally... but he WAS travelling with Lina Inverse, so oddness was only expected. The way he kept his face covered WAS a trifle odd, but who knew? Maybe he had some terrible scar or deformity...
"Lina, how long before we reach the temple?" Zelgaldis asked quietly, slightly annoyed by the puppy dog looks Amelia insisted on shooting his way.
"I... grph... dunno... mrph... a week?" Lina hardly let the words interfere with her mouth action. Zelgaldis sighed.
What a RUSH! He smiled, just the tiniest flick of his lips, but his eyes glittered with joy. I never knew magic could feel like this! His magic lessons had formerly been only a dull, aching torment. And then a sharp, biting torment when Rezo number 3 realized he hadn't been paying attention.
Let's try the others... Shadow Ball was the easiest. But a few minutes later, he had Shadow Slipped across the room, and was trying out other neat spells...
There aren't many combat spells in this thing. He realized, troubled. In fact, there were only three. Shadow Ball, which he had already tried, something called Night Flare, and the last one, right at the end of the book...
Chaos Wave? Sounds... interesting! As he perused it, his eyes got wider. Then he slammed the book shut.
That is enough magic for today. Let's go on to other things... And he pulled his sword off its peg on the wall, and started his practices.
The moves came smoothly too him, as they always did. He took great pride in this, his greatest talent. So I can't work magic like Rezo. So what? He couldn't use a sword. He did fight very well with his staff, but the copy chose to overlook that, focused on his own ego gratification.
And I learned magic he couldn't! He attacked the training monsters gleefully, sending pieces flying.
And I'M not blind!
WHAP! The staff connected brutally with the top of his head, right on the already tender lump. A loud yelp echoed through the practice room as he ended up with his chin on the floor, hair spread out over his face.
-- Really hurt.
"What are you doing?" The soft, breathy voice came from behind him, and it was just like his own... except for the coldness. Then a hand grabbed his arm, and hoisted him to his feet. "I told you to clean the west wing... or have you forgotten?" Then he was looking into his creator's face.
The same thin, white face as his own... but even more emotionless. Luminous gray eyes that usually burned intensely, permanently furious with the world. And him in particular. It was all very painful. His creator wore the exact same robes as Rezo the Red Priest...
"No." He retorted sullenly. "I didn't forget. But I wanted to practice. You said if I got good enough I could go out..." Rezo 3's face was still the usual bland mask, but his voice was tinged with derision that reddened his copies cheeks.
"Ha! Without magic, you're nothing. Just that stupid sword. Get down to the west wing..." A nasty smile stretched across the copies face, and he had a hand up, holding a black attack globe, before Rezo 3 could finish.
I have magic now! "Shadow.... Ball!" The blazing energy blazed right toward his creator's chest... and exploded in a shower of completely useless sparks.
Ooops. He hadn't anticipated that. It was hard to tell, but he was willing to bet the look on Rezo 3's face wasn't amusement.
"Fire Ball!" The copy only had time to gulp before he was blasted right off his feet, clothing singing as he whammed hard into the opposite wall. Fortunately, he was intimately acquainted with head injuries, so his eyes crossed for only a split second, and he was up and about.
"Night... Flare!" An arrow of utter blackness formed in his hands and then whistled towards his creator...
"Flare Arrow!" The two magic's cancelled each other with a brutal, clashing noise, and then the fight was REALLY on.
Sword and staff clashed, sparks rising at the violent contact. The end result was not pretty... as his sword snapped neatly in two.
OH ~Bleeep~!!! (Yes boys and girls, we DO censor this program!)
When his eyes finally uncrossed, the copy found himself lying on the floor, a foot at his throat and a staff pointed at his head.
If he moved forward a bit I'd be able to see right up his... Rezo 3 chose that moment to increase the pressure on the copy's throat, cutting off his irreverent musing with a gagging noise.
"Well well well." The soft voice was... thoughtful? The copy peeked up nervously, sapphire blue eyes shaded by his lashes, and saw his creator staring at him.... "Now, how did you do that?"
"Unh..." He choked out, feeling more uncomfortable by the minute. "My stunning good looks?"
I really wish he would STOP that... Copy Rezo 4.0 thought muzzily. My skull isn't made of rock... no matter what he thinks... In fact, he was taking his former diagnosis of mild concussion, and working his way up to multiple skull fracture. Or at least that's what it felt like, anyway. What a life. What a pathetic, wretched, hopeless...
"I asked you how you did that." Rezo repeated calmly, but his staff was going into position for another swing, the rings clinking.
"Book of... magic... Rezo couldn't... understand..." He wheezed out around the pressure on his neck, which abruptly stopped as Rezo 3 stepped back.
"Shadow magic..." His eyes seemed glazed for a moment, unfocused, then they snapped back to him. "And you mastered it. You..." His copy shivered, inching away, head down, purple hair hiding the fear on his face. I don't like that tone at all. Not even slightly.
"Well." His creator seemed to come back to himself, and bestowed on him an unnerving, tiny smile. "I might let you go out after all."
WHAT?!? He practically choked. THAT, he hadn't expected. "REALLY?" His tone was high, breathy, excited. "You will?!? Absolutely?!?"
"Why, certainly." Rezo 3 gestured calmly. "To spy upon Lina Inverse. Do you think you can manage that?" His tone turned slightly sour, but his copy was so excited, he didn't notice.
"Oh yes! How long shall I spy upon them?" He looked up, eyes full of an almost puppy like enthusiasm, and a corresponding lack of brains. But if Rezo 3 noticed that second part, he chose to ignore it.
"Until the reach an ancient temple. I'll give you more instructions there. Go get a new sword out of storage, any one you like, and get going. But," His creator raised one finger warningly. "Do not fail me, child."
"I won't, I promise!" And he was out the door before Rezo 3 could say another word.
I get to go out!
I get any sword I want!
And he forgot about the West wing!!!
The day was looking up.
Travels and Trials
The still nameless copy whistled happily, making his way down the highway, a brand new, black hilted sword banging against his leg. It had a really nice sapphire gem in the hilt, and he was just so proud of it! Not to mention the brilliant idea he had, hiding his face in a black scarf. He was so pleased with himself that it would make most normal people sick.
My first mission! I've learned magic and I'm on a mission! I'm so special! Ego gratification was travelling 90 mph, and accelerating. I can do anything! Hey, maybe I could take on Lina Inverse! Wouldn't that be something? He savored the notion briefly, then giggled to himself, stumbling along with very little attention on the road. Nah. Why make Rezo 3's job any easier? Tee hee hee!
Suddenly his thoughts shifted... to musings about himself.
I must have a really strange mind. I mean, I don't have anything to judge it by, but Rezo always talks about trains of thought and I don't have trains I have-
Oh, that's a pretty butterfly! How do they fly? Is it the wings?
--bouncing balls of thought that-
And it's so pretty!
--go along all together all the time!
I wonder what it would be like to be a butterfly?
If the truth were known, Rezo 4.0 had hit the nail right on the head... no, not with the butterfly part. No, the bouncing balls. His mind, seen from the outside, was a sparking wonder that jumped from subject to subject so fast it would leave even a seasoned mind reader blinking in confusion.
I wonder why I think this way?
As far as he could tell, none of the other copies, or even the original, had had a mind even remotely like his whirring cockpit.
And why is a bush glittering like that...?
A stunning howl erupted from all the bushes, which vomited a horde of half-washed, really ugly men. Copy Rezo 4.0 watched in slight bemusement as he was surrounded.
What on earth could these people want? As he sometimes was, he was oblivious to the imminent peril of being ripped limb from limb and being displayed to other unwary travelers as a warning. Sometimes, he was acutely aware of such possibilities, but right now... he wasn't. It just happened that way. That also explained why it could be weeks before Rezo 3 bapped him on the noggin, and other times, he had a multiple skull fracture in one day.
But right now, he was facing a bunch of bandits. Yes, my friends, bandits. Who else could look semi-evolved from an ape and really, REALLY stink? (besides little brothers, but we won't get into that.)
"Your money or your life!" The head honcho bandito snarled, eyepatch and facial scars making a very interesting map of past abuse. He blinked.
"Awww nononono!" The bandits stared as he started to hit himself on the head. "I forgot the money! Oh man... I'm so STUPID!" Ego gratification switched directions so fast it left skid marks on his id. And I won't even mention what it did to his superego.
The head honcho bandito had come to the conclusion he was dealing with a crazy man, but did get the part about no money. "Then your weapon and valuables, now!" A bad mistake...
His face going even paler, (if possible,) Copy Rezo 4.0's hand clenched tight around the hilt of his beautiful sword. "MY sword?" Then, if the bandits had been able to see his face, they would have seen a very slight smile flick across his features, and a devious twinkle in his eyes. I know how to make eeeeeverything better. And he pulled his sword with an ominous metallic sound.
"YOUR money or your lives!" He announced grandly, pointing his sword at the head honcho badguy leader type. There was a brief, stunned silence... then very crude laughter. The copy felt his cheeks warm up at the derision.
"This guys crazy. Let's get him boys!" And they dashed forward... but he was ready with just the right spell.
"Rebound Wall!" A shining silvery globe surrounded him... and the bandits found, to their shock and dismay, that not only were their attacks not hitting him, they were bouncing back.
In an equal and opposite direction! The copy giggled, and pulled back his hands, letting the darkness form... "Night... Flare!" He had quite deliberately targeted the bandit leader, who screamed rather pathetically and tried to run. Just before he was immolated in the fabric of chaos.
Yeah! I just.... Just... ewww. A skeleton is such an ugly thing. The other bandits regrouped, and tried shooting arrows. Still no use against his lovely shield, which just sent them back the way they had come, skewering a few unlucky (and stupid) archers.
"I repeat... your money or your lives!" He threatened, letting a ball of bluish black energy grow in his hand. The bandits looked at each other, looked at him, and a few of the brighter ones assessed their chances of making it back into the bushes before he let loose with that spell.
Calculations turned up a dismal answer, and finally with a lot of grumbling...
Don't have to worry about money anymore! He cheerfully made his way along the road. What they had on them was probably only a pittance of their true treasure, but who really cared? Money was just what you had to have to feed your face. And I have enough for a lot of meals! Although not even that meant a lot to him. Eating was something to do so you didn't die, as far as he was concerned. Of course, that might have had something to do with the fact that his creator had jammed a cookbook in his hands, and told him to look after it. I am not a cook! The copy giggled at that. It somehow struck him as very funny.
"Man..." The copy yawned as he stumbled along. "I'm SO tired.... Unf..." There was a rather nice clearing just up ahead, and he decided that would be a good enough place to stop for the night. Tugging out his sleeping bag, he set to making an acceptable nighttime hideaway. A bit of cold, hard cheese and some bread made an okay supper, and he curled up tightly under his fluffy bag, not pulling off his scarf even to sleep. His purple hair scrunched up messily as he wrapped his head in his pillow, as usual.
And, unfortunately, dreamed. Also as usual.
Something.... A vibration.... A sound....
"Soon enough, my copy... you will be awake to help me, to fulfil our destiny..."
Time had no meaning in his warm, safe placental tube. But he remembered the day when that changed... When there was a loud grinding, an unsettling vibration in his haven... which was destroyed forever.
Fluid rushed forth, spitting him out like the seed of a grape, onto the cold, hard floor. Opening his eyes for the very first time, his lungs drew their first, shaky breath.
Birth. It really wasn't all it was cracked up to be.
Other things were a whole lot worse.
"What do you mean you can't remember any of this?!?" His creator glared down at him, face cold... and deadly. "This is the knowledge of Rezo! The knowledge I was created with, and you as well. You must know this!"
"Well, I don't. Guess you're not all you're cracked up to be, hunh?" It was the first time he had taunted his creator. It was also the last.
Broken bones take too long to heal, even with spells.
Mopping the floors, dusting the bookcases, cooking the meals... it was endless drudgery. Until that day...
"This is Beorn. He'll be your instructor." Rezo 3 announced to him one day, leading a hard faced, scarred man into the room. He looked up from his mopping.
"So this is your twin brother, aye?" He rubbed a callused hand over his stubbley chin, looking over the slim, muscular man sitting on the floor in front of him, blue eyes wide. "Sure looks it."
"Yes." Rezo replied smoothly, shooting his copy a look that said "follow along or you'll regret it for a very, very long time." He wasn't that stupid, and nodded wordlessly, looking up at them both like a kicked puppy. The sword master noted the look, and frowned.
"Well, I'll teach him what I can. You're paying for it." Rezo 3 nodded graciously, cast a glance in his copy's direction, and left the room. He and Beorn, who was actually quite perceptive, both got the message.
He had better learn.
That was the beginning of the best time in his life. Beorn was hard, but fair, gifting him with bruises when he did something stupid... but praise when he did something right. Before long, he was treasuring that rare praise, and working towards it. Not like Rezo 3, who could never encourage him... only criticize. Although... Beorn criticized him sometimes, too, but it didn't seem bad. He knew Beorn only wanted him to succeed, and never really hurt him.
"Bruises help you remember." Beorn said to him once, when they were resting from a particularly trying bout. "Make's you remember where you went wrong." He nodded, his lips flicking the tiniest bit in wry amusement. His sword master was right.
"I'm getting better, though, aren't I?" He might be wrong, but the copy thought that he was getting very good, indeed. Beorn nodded slowly.
"Yes, you are. Pretty soon, you'll be damn good. You've got a feel for this." High praise. He glowed, feeling so proud to have the good word of his mentor...
"But you still have to work at it. So get your lazy butt up here!" The roar didn't frighten him in the slightest, and he pulled out his sword, giggling.
But why, why did he tell?
"I'm a copy of Rezo, Beorn, just like my... 'brother.'" He glanced up hesitantly, seeing a grim, thoughtful expression on Beorn's face.
"Go on." His voice wasn't exactly encouraging, and he hesitated before proceeding, but... he wanted to talk. And Beorn was his best friend...
"Well, you see, it involved a quest for his eyesight..."
He told Beorn everything. Lina Inverse. Zelgadiss. Gourry. Even Shaburnigdo. It took well into the night, and Beorn prodded him for several details.
"A grim story." His mentor finally said as they sat together and drank cheap, soldier's wine. It was something Beorn had gotten him into, and he sipped it slowly, his throat sore. "A very grim tale." And he glared into the dancing hearth fire. The copy shivered, seeing something like hot iron in his gaze, strong and unbending. Something bad was going to happen. He knew it. But before he could say anything...
"Go to bed." Beorn stood up abruptly, looking down at him. He shut his mouth with a snap, blue eyes luminous, and guilty. The grizzled veteran stared down at him for a moment, then cracked an almost unwilling smile. "You're the only student I've ever had who can look like such a harmless thing, yet be so deadly. Go to sleep, you little weasel." His tone was affectionate, and the copy preened, taking it as a compliment. He liked his weasel hood.
"Come see me in the morning?" He asked Beorn, still just a little afraid. His mentor nodded, but there was something in his eyes...
"Next morning." And Beorn walked out the door. He chewed on his hair for a long moment, wondering if he should follow... and finally lay down on his small, hard bed, going into a fitful, worried sleep.
And he never saw his friend again.