Hi there and welcome to my story! I'm oddly excited about this, although maybe it's because I have a tendency to come up with ideas and write them at three in the morning when I'm a giggly sleep-deprived mess. Or maybe not. Who knows. XD

This will be an AU by the way.


Chapter 1: The Key

"Miss Lucy?" A few knocks hesitantly sounded on the oaken door to Lucy's room. She ignored them, instead grumbling incoherently to herself in annoyance and pulling the covers over her head. It was too early to face all she had to do during the day. The knocks rapped on the door again, followed by a louder, "Miss Lucy?"

Lucy sunk further in her bed, her mind going over and over again all she had to do. Today was July seventh, and it had to be the busiest day of the year. She had four, count them four events to attend. She couldn't even remember what they were for. Of course she was obligated to attend them, as they were for her family and she was the one everyone seemed to want to see. The Heartfilia heir, yes, they all wanted to see her.

The Heartfilia Empire stretched across nearly the entire region, and Jude and Lucy were the only figureheads for it. Lucy wasn't even quite sure what she was considered. She was the heir, but she sorely doubted her father would want her taking over the leadership of the region. Undoubtedly he'd want her to find a husband who could "properly" lead their people. Sometimes she joked to herself that she was a princess, of course that wasn't' true, princesses were only in stories.

"Miss Lucy!" the voice shouted this time and she grunted loudly. Today was going to be awful; all day bound up in fancy dresses, forced to smile and nod when her father's acquaintances talked with her; the final straw being the fact that it was supposed to be her day. July seventh was her birthday, and yet every year it seemed to go unnoticed by everyone, aside from of course, the woman currently calling for her to get up.

Lucy couldn't help but smile to herself. Even if everyone missed her special day, Virgo, her maid, always remembered. "Come in," Lucy called with a sigh, throwing the covers down so she could eye the doorway carefully.

"Good morning," a sweet voice nearly sang as the door creaked open slowly, revealing a young pink-haired woman in a maid's outfit. She was carrying a large stack of fabric and Lucy's stomach sank again. That dress looked even tighter than yesterday's. She dreaded July; it was the month Jude dedicated to meeting up with the leaders of other regions. Every single day of the month was full or torturous events and parties and meetings that Lucy was afraid she'd fall asleep during. She had no idea how her father would react to that, but it surely wouldn't be well.

"Morning Virgo," Lucy sighed, sitting up in bed and slumping over, a stray yawn escaping from her lips.

Virgo gave her a smile, "I know it's early but your father wanted you up and dressed. He said there'll be people over soon."

Lucy sighed in compliance and slipped out of bed, stretching, a few bones in her back crackling. "When will it all be over?"

Virgo shook her head and tossed the flowing gown onto Lucy's bed. "I'm not sure exactly, but I'd say close to midnight. They'll all go home and you'll be able to sleep in peace."

"And I'll have to get up and do it again tomorrow, won't I," Lucy droned, rolling her eyes before quickly pulling her pajama shirt over her head.

Virgo frowned, "Yes, you will. But Miss Lucy shouldn't be so sad today." A smile curled the maid's lips. "Happy Birthday, dear."

Lucy smiled back at the woman and nodded, slipping off her shorts and holding out a hand for the dress. "Thanks. How much you wanna bet that's the only time I hear that today?" she asked, taking the pale pink silk dress when Virgo handed it to her.

"Oh don't be that way, Miss Lucy," Virgo tsked, "Your father might forget it, but today is one of our favorite days."

Lucy nodded to herself as she slipped on the dress. Yes, the help always remembered, and she was grateful. She figured that if her maids and butlers remembered, and her father didn't, that perhaps they were more fit to be her family.

"By the way, I got you a present!" Virgo added quickly as Lucy shimmied the dress on, turning her back to Virgo so she could fasten the small ties on the back of the dress.

Lucy raised an eyebrow and tipped her head just enough so she could see Virgo out of the corner of her eye as she felt the maids' hands on her back. "Really? You didn't need to."

Virgo's eyes flitted up to Lucy's head before looking back down to the dress, "I know. I wanted to." Lucy opened her mouth to protest but Virgo shushed her. "Just accept it, honey."

Lucy pursed her lips but nodded, turning forward again and steadying her focus on the wall. Virgo was quick with her work, easily threading Lucy's ties across her back in an intricate pattern, pulling every once in a while to tighten them and causing Lucy to grit her teeth.

"There you go," Virgo said after a moment, patting Lucy on the shoulder and stepping away. "You look good, aside from your hair…," she said with a smirk.

Lucy reluctantly tipped her head toward the mirror on her dresser and groaned at the mess of blonde locks on her head, frizzy and sticking out in all directions.

Virgo chuckled, "Don't' worry, Cancer'll have you covered. But first, here," she said, stepping forward and handing Lucy a small white box tied with a blue ribbon.

Lucy took it and slowly pulled the bow undone as Virgo bounced on her toes excitedly. She pulled off the lid and on a small bit of tissue inside sat a silver chain-link bracelet. It was plain and simple and yet beautiful all at the same time. Lucy smiled to herself, pulling the bracelet out of the box and slipping it onto her right wrist.

"You like it?" Virgo asked, nodding excitedly.

Lucy grinned, "Of course I like it. I love it," she said, marveling down at the small piece of jewelry. She'd received everything she'd ever wanted growing up, and yet it was the small things such as this that she treasured the most.

Virgo clapped twice and sighed, "Good I'm glad. I remember when you were little and I used to wear those chains that you thought they were the neatest things. A little trip down memory lane," she smiled before sending Lucy a wink. "Well, anyway, good luck Miss Lucy. Cancer will be in here soon then you'll be off for the day."

"Don't remind me," Lucy groaned as Virgo sashayed out of the room, giving her another smile before the door closed with a click.

Just as Virgo had said Cancer arrived only a few minutes later, entering in a whirlwind and doing her hair just as quickly. She'd hoped something would happen that would postpone her arrival downstairs, and yet Cancer had worked just as fast as he usually did, styling her hair with skill and then leaving with nothing more than an, "Happy Birthday, Ebi." before leaving.

She was then ushered downstairs when her father called for her loudly, his booming voice echoing off of the marble floors and high ceilings. She'd taken a deep breath to steady herself before quickly slipping on a pair of shoes and exiting her room, hiking up her dress to walk down the grandiose staircase.

Once she'd arrived in the entryway she saw her father was already present, ordering butlers this way and that while standing in a pristinely clean suit. He'd looked up for only a moment when Lucy entered the room before going back to his orders.

When everyone seemed to know what they were supposed to be doing he finally turned his attention to his daughter. He straightened his suit, quickly briefing her on what would be happening. The first gathering was to be in their ballroom, and was a welcoming to the Prime Minister of Hargeon. Jude had lectured her endlessly on how she was to act, what she was to say, and what she was not to say. She was to be nice to everyone, bow when her name was said, and of course keep an eye out for any males that might suit her tastes.

Lucy had bitten back an eye roll at that comment. Her father was ready to marry her off so he'd have a more adept and educated heir to the fortune and region. Lucy was pretty, and made a good picture for the Heartfilia Empire, but in all reality she wasn't suited to run anything. And she didn't want to.

Jude had glared her up and down before approving of her appearance, nodding toward her wrist and telling her the only thing that didn't pass was the 'god-awful' bracelet she was wearing. It'd taken all Lucy had to not snap back at him, but instead she nodded, slipping off the bracelet and when her father turned, she slipped it down the front of her dress. She knew he'd make her get rid of it if she couldn't find a place for it.

And that was when the exhaustion began. The staggeringly large front doors to the Heartfilia estate shuddered to life, creaking open as Jude quickly plastered on a smile and began welcoming his guests. It had been hectic from that moment forward.

Lucy, after the day was over, didn't remember much of what had happened. She'd tuned most of it out gladly, instead letting any conversation she'd had enter one ear and go out the other. She'd shaken hands with Prime Ministers and Presidents of nearby regions, she'd smiled and laughed with Secretaries and Treasurers, and most of all she'd tried to keep her distance from any man that her father might see fit for her.

She had no intention of marrying one of the stuffy and snobby men that were at the parties. They were only twenty and yet she swore she saw grey hairs on their heads. She had dreams of the day that someone would come into one of the events dressed casually and making fun of the snobbish things the people said. Yes, that would be the kind of guy she'd go for. But dreaming was childish.

The day had droned on for what seemed like eons to Lucy. Seconds ticked by at a record-setting slow pace, as she watched the hands on the large grandfather clock in the corner. But finally, after a lot of wishing on Lucy's part, the day had finally come to a close, her father calling out to the President of Balsam before finally closing the door to the mansion.

Lucy let out a breath and collapsed into a chair, eyeing her father sleepily as he let out a yawn of his own. He turned her way as the butlers again went rushing around from room to room, cleaning up any messes that the guests had made and straightening vases and paintings. Jude nodded toward her, "You behaved well. Get ready for tomorrow, we'll be traveling to Era and speaking about a large trade of land." Without another word he stalked out of the towering entryway and up to his bedroom.

His door closed with a slam and Lucy slouched further. At least it'd been only parties and meetings today. Tomorrow would be an exchange, one of the most boring things she could ever imagine. She figured if she didn't get to bed that she really would fall asleep during it.

She shoved out of her chair clumsily, kicking her shoes off and leaning over to pick them up. She swung them around her fingers as she padded up the staircase, the stone cold under her bare feet. The thought of her warm bed enticed and elated her so much that she began softly humming an unknown song to herself.

It'd been another birthday come and gone and nothing had been celebrated. Although by now she was used to it. It wasn't like the first few years when she'd sat in her room and cried. No, by now she expected it; in fact Virgo's present had been a welcome surprise. It sure was better than last year when she'd come down with the flu on top of it all.

She smiled to herself as she turned the knob to her room and stumbled inside. She closed the door quietly and tossed her shoes off to the side, pacing inside with a spring in her step. She was almost excited that her birthday had come and gone. It just meant one more day gone before the dreaded month of July was over.

She walked to the center of her room, her toes curling on the plush carpet as she looked out her grand window. The moon was shining down at her, the stars sparkling beautifully. As much as she wanted to go to bed, she was happier to sink to the ground, sitting criss-cross and staring up at the night sky.

The blues and blacks swirled together took her breath away. She'd always liked the night sky. Virgo as a child told her that that was where her mother was, and so she'd taken a liking to the sky ever since. She'd tried to memorize the placing of the stars, wondering which one was her mother. She took a deep breath, her eyes never wavering.

After of minutes that slowly turned to nearly an hour she finally reluctantly tore her gaze from the sky and instead looked over her room. It was her haven, in a way. It was the only little slice of the house that she could consider her own, and she'd take it. It was large enough in her opinion to stay in permanently, and if it weren't for her father's bellows she assumed she would.

She gazed over at her fluffy bed with longing, again reminding herself that the next day would be boring and that she should smarten up and hit the hay early.

Lucy squinted at her bed, suddenly noticing a small sparkle on its surface. She cocked her head to the side before scrambling up, slipping and sliding on her dress as she clumsily crawled over to her bed. She hadn't noticed the small red object on her mattress before, and wondered exactly how long it'd been sitting there.

When she reached her bed she quickly reached out and snatched it before turning it over in her hands. It was a key. A small red and shining key, only about the length of her index finger. She ran her finger up the blown glass surface, up the smooth pin. The bow of the key was what made her look a little closer. The glass twisted and turned, intertwining with each other and creating an intricate woven pattern. It was so small and delicate, that in a way she was afraid she'd break it.

A small and thin strip of tan silk was tied around the key, making it almost look as if it was meant as a necklace. And on the silk tie was taped a small scrap of paper. Lucy found it hard to take her eyes off of the key. It was otherworldly; its surface gleaming in a way that made her wonder if it was on fire. And whether it was her imagination or not, it felt warm in her hands, as if it was putting out a heat of its own.

Eventually she shook her head of the trance and turned the piece of paper over.

'Happy Birthday.'

Lucy's head shot up, quickly looking from the window to the door. Who had given this to her? Surely it was one of the hired help, they were the only ones to ever do anything for her birthday, but everyone that she could think of had already wished her a happy birthday. Would they really give her a gift after already congratulating her?

She looked back down at the key and shook her head; her eyes shining as she again turned it over in her hands. She'd have to ask around to see who had given it to her so she could properly thank them. It was one of the most beautiful things she'd ever seen and even though she wasn't sure why, she was mesmerized by it.

As she smiled to herself, slowly bringing the key to her heart, contemplating who exactly would be the one to give her a gift like this, her guesses were miles away.

Because the person who had carefully placed the key on her bed was sitting on a cold stone floor hundreds of feet below the ground, listening to water drip and smiling to himself as if he could feel that she'd received his gift, and that she had liked it.

Oh boy. I hope it didn't seem too cliché. It'll stray off the path of 'spoiled rich girl goes to parties' starting next chapter, haha! NaLu is so cute. XD

I also apologize if Virgo was out of character. I just kinda wanted that one maid Lucy was close to, and who better than Virgo? So yes, her spirits are her helpers in this story.

Please please let me know what you thought of it! Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!