Hibiki sat in his wheelchair, staring out the window at the people walking the streets, not a care in the world. That wasn't strictly true, they probably had lots on their mind, it wasn't what Hibiki was used to. But he would have to get used to it.
His magic was gone.
He was lucky to be alive, many of the other mages of his guild hadn't made it, their magic being ripped from them causing their bodies to go into a shock reaction that was their downfall. Hibiki, like the rest of his guild, was confined to a wheelchair until his body could cope with the loss of power. He couldn't stand without assistance, and to even suggest walking was practically asking for a rant.
The image of her coffin… Making its way through the city she had called her home… It still haunted him.
Lucy had been the strongest mage he had known, the bravest person he had encountered, and a close friend of his for the time they had been guildmates. Her loss hit him bad, like a bullet straight in the chest. He had known her when she was Lucy of Fairy Tail and Alice of Wonderland, he felt like he knew her, because he understood her.
Now she was gone.
"Hibiki!" he heard a voice call for him, and he turned his head to see Jenny, his girlfriend, supported by one of the many nurses assigned to their guild as she hobbled over to him.
"Jenny," he responded, and she leaned down, sitting on his lap as she pressed a light kiss on his lips.
"They let me out the wheelchair," she told him, "Said I my body had adapted to the loss of magic. Hopefully you'll be out soon too."
"Yeah," Hibiki agreed softly.
Jenny turned to the very window Hibiki had been staring out of, and she walked the people mill around the streets in their normal fashion.
"We're never going to get our magic back," Jenny whispered, "We can never be mages again."
Hibiki was silent, knowing the facts but never daring to say them aloud.
"What are we going to do?" Jenny couldn't hold back her sob as she spoke, "How can we live without magic?"
"Just like everyone else," Hibiki answered, and his hand reached out to take her own, "We'll buy a house and settle down and get normal jobs. We'll get mages to help us with our problems and rely on them to keep us safe. We'll grow old and be happy, Jenny, I promise."
Jenny buried her head in his chest, hiding her tears from the world. Her hair was messy and tangled, not a dab of makeup on her features and she wore only the basic hospital gown. But she had never been so beautiful.
"I promise, Jenny," Hibiki repeated, wrapping his arms around her, "I promise."
Erza had lost friends before, she knew what the pain was, but it had never hurt this much. For days she had stayed in her quarters, sleeping or crying or just mourning the girl who she had lost. Jellal popped in sometimes, bringing her food and sharing hushed conversations with her. He held her when she cried, and he stroked her hair when she needed calming. Erza could see in his eyes that he mourned her too, Jellal had told her what Lucy had done for him, and now with the knowledge of who exactly Alice was Erza knew exactly why she had done it, and she told Jellal as much. Lucy had saved him for her. She had done it for Erza.
After a week, the grief burned to rage.
When she woke up, it was as if it suddenly clicked. She threw off her bedcovers, reequipping into a black shirt and skirt, slipping on some black heeled boots as she walked out of her apartment. She stormed down the stairs, walking with anger in her purposeful steps, making her way to her guild. She threw her doors open, storming over to the table where she caught Gray and Juvia holding one another, and Natsu staring blankly into the distance, a saddened Lisanna with a hand on his shoulder.
She slammed her fist down on the table.
"We will find them!" she yelled, and the whole guild had gone silent to watch her, "We will find them and make them pay! Either you're with me, or you're not!"
Natsu stared blankly at her, as if he was looking right through her. Lisanna squeezed his shoulder, trying to bring him back to reality, but he was lost. Gray looked up from the table, Juvia was curled into his side as she looked up too.
"Juvia will," Juvia stated.
"I'm in," Gray growled, and took a swig of his drink, which reeked of alcohol.
"Natsu?" Erza questioned in a cold tone.
"Yeah," he murmured, and then his eyes focused, "Yeah, me too. For Luce."
"Wait a second… You're going after the people who killed Lucy?" Lisanna clarified, "But… They're dangerous!"
"We owe it to her," Gray growled, pushing his drink away as he stood up from the table, Juvia by his side.
"You think Lucy would forgive you if you got yourselves killed for her?" Lisanna cried, "She'd hate you for it! And she'd hate the rest of us for letting you go! These people killed her, and they rid the whole of Blue Pegasus of their magic, don't you think she'd want you safe? I think Lucy would want you to be here, to mourn her and then let her go because sh-"
"Shut up!" Erza screamed, and her eyes wide and furious as they glared at Lisanna, "You didn't know her! You don't have a clue what Lucy would have wanted, and don't you dare pretend to!"
Lisanna flinched at the redhead's words, looking down.
"Let's go," Gray suggested, and turned to the fire dragon slayer, calling on him to make his decision, "Natsu."
"Give me a minute," Natsu responded, and Gray nodded in answer, taking Juvia's hand and following Erza as she stormed out of the guild. Once they were gone, Lisanna turned to him.
"Natsu I didn't mean to-" she started but he interrupted her.
"I know," he cut her off, "I know you didn't mean it, and I know you just want us safe. But we have to do this. I have to do this. Luce was my best friend and… And I wasn't there for her. No, before you interrupt me, it wasn't just over those seven years. Since I got back… I didn't have a clue where I stood with her. She was this completely different person and I never had a chance to set things right. So that's what I'm doing. I'm making it up to her. I have to do this. So please… Please don't try and stop me."
Natsu then stood up, getting off the bench and turning for the door and walking away.
He had a mission to complete.
Levy hurried back to the guild, her feet quickly moving against the cobbled stone beneath her feet. Her blue hair was in front of her face, her orange band that usually held it back tied around her wrist instead, she had forgotten to put it in and had instead tied it around her wrist to remember to do it later.
And just then, she ran straight into Erza.
As in literally, straight into.
She fell backwards, landing on the hard stone after the collision and looked up to see Erza hadn't moved a muscle, but her expression changed from a cold rage to a somewhat apologetic expression.
"Sorry Levy," she apologised.
"Not, it's my fault, I ran into you," Levy told her, and then she caught sight of Gray, Natsu and Juvia behind the S-Class mage, and deduced from the expressions on their faces that they were going out.
Erza met her gaze for a moment, and it was the look in her eyes that brought Levy to speak.
"You're going to find them, aren't you?" Levy questioned.
"Don't try and stop us," Erza warned her.
"I won't," Levy answered, "But I want to help."
"Levy…" Erza seemed taken aback by her answer, "As much as I would want you to it's too dang-"
"Okay then, maybe I won't come with you," Levy relented, "But let me do some research, see what I can dig up from the library, find out more about their magic and see if there's any record of them."
"That would be useful," Erza accepted softly.
"Good," Levy responded, "I'll call you on your lacrima when I have something."
"Thank you," Erza murmured meaningfully.
"She was my friend too," Levy stated, "And so are you. All of you. So just… Don't die out there, okay?"
With that, Levy pushed herself up and skirted around them to the guild.
They travelled on the train for only two stops, and Natsu didn't moan once about his motion sickness. They sat in their compartment in silence, no one speaking as they were all engulfed in their grief. When they stepped out of the station and headed to the last sighting of the aloof killers, the ruins of Blue Pegasus, Erza couldn't help but pause.
Seeing the image from the lacrima in the guild was nothing compared to standing in front of it.
It was taped off, armed guards of the Magic Council ensuring nobody got too close, reporters had swarmed around the edges through and Erza spotted at least five different reporters speaking to rolling camera. A hesitant step forward and Erza saw the ruins of what looked to be table, covered in the rubble of the building. No one was too sure what the mages had done, all of the mages had been unconscious, at the very least, once they had cast their first spell, so they hadn't seen what spells had been used on their precious guild hall. But from the state it was left in it was better they hadn't witnessed it.
"Juvia thinks we should look for clues," Juvia suggested, and Erza gave a curt nod.
"Gray, Juvia, you two go round the left, Natsu and I will take the right side," Erza instructed, and the group split in half, moving to their appropriate sides.
Natsu and Erza walked in silence, neither of them having a word to say to the other, not out of anger, but not knowing how words could possibly lessen their grief. As she surveyed the rubble, Erza found nothing. Blue Pegasus had been a big guild hall, much bigger than when Erza had seen it last, and the fact it had been reduced down to rubble made it no small, bits of broken rock strewn around the place. It was a large distance around the circle of tape. But as Erza caught sight of Juvia she realised she had found nothing from her search, and Natsu would have told her had he found something. She could only hope that their companions had found something.
"Gray found something," Juvia stated, and she turned around to lead Natsu and Erza to it.
As they approached, Gray was standing to the side with his hands buried deep in the pockets of his jeans, it seemed his subconcious was too grief-stricken to strip his clothes, his eyes staring at the marking.
Erza moved as close as she could whilst restricted by the tape, her eyes memorising the symbol, trying to recognise it but coming up blank.
It was like two hammers crossing over one another by the handle, with a marking that resembled the number one slanting at a diagonal to meet the head of the hammer on either side, although one was mirrored and so an opposite of a one. It had been carved into stone, and as Erza doubt they had had the time to carve into rock one of their mages must have been skilled in it.
"Does Erza know what it is?" Juvia questioned softly.
Erza tilted her head, trying to see it from a different angle, trying to make sense of the carving.
And then she realised.
"A guild mark," she answered, "It has to be."
"Juvia's never seen a guild mark like that before," Juvia remarked.
"Neither have I," Gray put in.
"Natsu?" Erza called to him.
"No," he murmured, "Me neither."
"We're at a blank then," Erza concluded, "But this is something. If we can find out which guild it belongs to, and then where their base is then-"
"If they go and attack a guild like Blue Pegasus I doubt they've got their address a history book," Gray responded.
"True," Erza accepted.
It then occurred to her that she didn't have to go and research this herself. She pulled her lacrima out and plugged in Levy's name. It flashed for a moment as she waited for Levy to pick up the call, and after a beat Erza was greeted with the blue headed girl's face.
"Levy," Erza greeted, "I think I may have some new information."
"What is it?" Levy cried, scrambling forwards and slamming the book in front of her shut to give the reequip mage her full attention.
"We've found a marking at the ruins of Blue Pegasus," Erza explained, "We think it may be a guild mark."
"Can you show it to me?" Levy requested.
In answer, Erza turned the lacrima around and held it in the direction of the marking.
"Oh!" Levy cried, "That looks familiar! I think I've seen it before!"
Erza didn't speak as she watched Levy throw a book to the side, grabbing one from outside of the lacrima's field of vision and pulling it onto the table in front of her, the pages flying until she found the one she wanted.
"I've got it!" she exclaimed, and then she paled, "But it isn't good."
"Tell us," Gray ordered roughly, coming to stand next to Erza, and Juvia moved to Erza's other side, so they could both watch as Levy spoke.
"That guild mark belongs to a dark guild called Tartaros," Levy stated, "There's not much on them, but it says that they're the only remaining piece of the Balam alliance, with Oracion Seis and Grimoire Heart being disbanded. According to rumours and legends, they have a Book of Zeref in their possession. And it says here that they… That they worship demons."
Erza was silent for a moment, as were Gray and Juvia, all of them processing who exactly they were up against.
"Thank you Levy," Erza whispered, and shut off the call.
Ultear backed herself up against the wall, hiding in the shadows as a stranger passed along the street. She couldn't be seen. It would be ruined if anyone caught even a hint of what exactly she was doing. She turned her head to survey her surroundings, to check she was alone.
You're alone, the voice of Andromeda confirmed for her.
They shared a strong connection, due to the whole fact that Andromeda was the only reason Ultear was alive, and could easily communicate between themselves when they needed to.
"Thanks," Ultear muttered aloud as she pushed herself off the wall and crept along in the darkness.
She was going solo. Jellal, although the leader of their little guild, was busy comforting Erza, even when he wasn't with her at her home he was buying her groceries or getting her gifts, it was so sweet Ultear resisted from calling him a lovesick puppy, only just. Meredy had been weeping buckets after hearing about Alice, and Ultear had comforted her to the best of her ability, but she wasn't of a shoulder to cry on. Ultear respected Alice, or Lucy as she was, and she considered her a friend, but she wasn't going to sit around moping because she was gone. Alice wouldn't have wanted that. Or Lucy. Well, no. Ultear didn't know Lucy, she had no clue of what she was like, except of what she had been told. So to her it was Alice. And that was it.
There was an aim to her mission. From the rumours that were circulating, this was the house of a highly esteemed man who just happened to have come by a large sum of money, Ultear had hacked into his financial records to check. The man specialised in travel in and out of Fiore. If anything, that sounded suspicious. It had been Jellal who had suggested she check it out, after hearing that Erza was going to get revenge on the people who had killed Lucy. He would have gotten down on his knees and begged her if Ultear hadn't agreed so easily, she could tell.
What's his name? Andromeda asked.
"Kurata," Ultear answered in a hushed whisper, moving ground to the building.
It wasn't his usual fine establishment, he was settling for something a little less fancy, to hide out whilst the storm blew over Ultear bet, and so it was easy to break into the back door, just a slip of her fingers and it was open.
I've heard that name before… Andromeda mused.
"Is that good or bad?" Ultear mumbled as she walked silently into the kitchen, closing the door soundlessly behind her.
Bad, most likely, Andromeda responded.
Ultear paused, processing what that meant.
"Is he dangerous?" Ultear questioned in a tiny voice.
Kurata… Andromeda repeated.
"Andromeda?" Ultear prompted.
I'm thinking, Andromeda replied, You're so impatient.
"I'm breaking into someone's house and wanting to get some information out of them," Ultear snapped, "I think I deserve a warning if they're dangerous."
When you put it like that, you sound like the criminal, Andromeda mocked.
"Shut up," Ultear hissed.
She scanned the kitchen, looking at the pots and pans that looked to be perfectly placed, as if unused, and Ultear guessed they hadn't. She moved through the room, advancing into the corridor, her eyes always searching for the first sign of danger. Cautiously she made her way over to the staircase, ascending the stairs on the balls of her feet, ready for anything. Upstairs was another corridor, with three separate doors leading off of it. On a hunch, she reached out to open the first door as quietly as he could. It looked to be a bathroom. She moved onto the next one, and this one opened to reveal a bedroom.
And a sleeping figure on the mass of bedsheets.
Ultear smirked as she moved, ripping the bedsheets of him, and when that didn't awaken him, grabbing the glass of water on his bedside table and throwing it over him.
It was oddly satisfying to watch as he screamed whilst waking up.
His eyes were wide and filled with fear as he realised she was there, standing right next to his bed, her face looming over him. She wondered if she looked frightening to him, with her dark hair and pale skin, she supposed she must look slightly out of place.
"Hello Mr Kurata," she greeted, pulling up a wooden chair from the other side of her room, "You and me need to have a chat."
"Who are you?" the man demanded, "What are you doing in my house?"
"Who I am is none of your concern," Ultear denied, "And you don't need to know how I got into your house. You just need to answer my questions and I'll be out of your hair."
"You better get out of here before I call the authorities," the man threatened.
"You don't want to do that," Ultear warned, "I'm just going to ask some questions. Either you answer them, or you face the consequences."
"You have no right to do this," the man swore.
"Just like you had no right to transport a dark guild into the city?" Ultear countered, and from the man's wide eyes she knew she had hit home, "Oh yeah. I know about that. So, again, I'm not asking you. I'm telling you. You will answer my questions or you will get hurt."
The man swallowed thickly, his eyes never leaving hers.
"Okay," he whispered, slightly fearful.
"Good," she chirped, leaning back in her chair as if she were relaxed, "So, did you know they were a dark guild?"
"No!" the man denied, "They just asked for transport into Fiore with no questions asked, and I really need the money."
"Mr Kurata, the very people you transported into the city attack and killed mages of Blue Pegasus," Ultear stated, "And you want me to believe you had no clue about who they were?"
"I didn't!" he cried, "Only when I saw them did I realise they were a dark guild, and then it was too late to pull out! Honestly, I-"
"Whenever someone starts with honestly, I have a reason to disbelieve them," Ultear commented, "Stop babbling, just stick to the point. Now, where did you pick them up from?"
"I didn't go to their base," the man answered, "I met them at the edge of the Boundary Forest, but I didn't go in, they came out. They must have been strong mages because I could hear the sounds of the monsters roaring as I waited for them. And-"
"Well, that's all I really need to know," Ultear declared, cutting him off yet again and standing up, "I would say thank you, but you don't deserve it, you scumbag. So instead, you can say thanks to me for not killing you."
"What kind of psycho are you?" Kurata snarled.
"A psycho that can kill you," Ultear retorted, "Don't tell anyone about seeing me, so I might just so slip and spill the beans on what you did."
Ultear walked out the door as the man muttered curses under his breath.
That was fun, Andromeda mused.
"Hell yeah," Ultear murmured in agreement.
Erza was stirring the mug of tea with the small teaspoon the café had given her. Across from her Natsu was blankly sitting in front of a warm beverage, with Juvia and Gray each with a glass of water, only Gray's was filled with chunks of ice.
They had hit a wall.
They had no clue where Tartaros were, no clue how to find them, and no ideas on either of their problems.
Erza's fingers curled into a fist, and she took in a sharp breath. That didn't matter. They could be ghosts all she cared, because she would find them, and she would make them pay for killing Lucy.
She was pulled out of her thoughts at the sound of her lacrima beeping. She reached into her bag and pulled it out, accepting the call and being greeted by the face of Levy, her usual hairband back in place, and she saw a mass of books surrounding the young mage.
"Erza!" Levy cried, "I've found it!"
"Found what?" Erza asked.
"The magic!" Levy shrieked, "The spell they used on Blue Pegasus! The one that took their magic! It's a spell called Face. It effectively pulls all the magic from the victim and into the caster. Like a transfer. From what I can guess, it's only written down in a handful of books, and the only one that has the whole spell is… The Books of Zeref. That must be where they learnt it from. It says that it is an incredibly hard spell to cast, and that it takes up a mass of magical energy. But… Oh yes! Here's something! The spell takes time to recuperate. They can't use it until they're built the magical power back up."
"Right," Erza accepted, straightening up in her chair as she processed the information, daring to hope that she might actually be able to complete her aim.
"I hope that helps Erza," Levy told her, "I'll keep on searching in case there's anything more. Be safe."
With that, Levy ended the call, and Erza turned back to her tea, and took the mug in her hands, raising it to her lips and in a single go gulping down all of the hot liquid. Just as Erz was about to formulate a plan, her lacrima beeped again, telling her someone was calling her. She accepted it, and instead of Levy's small face and stacks of books, she was greeted by the pretty features of Ultear.
"Erza," Ultear greeted, "I might know where the guild is."
A/N Hey guys, sorry this chapter's a bit shorter, I didn't want to drag it out and the next bit deserves a chapter of its own. And I'm sure many of you are waiting for how Lucy will react to her newfound status, but unfortunately you're going to have to wait a little longer. I just wanted to do this to emphasis the difference in time between the Celestial Spirit World and Fiore. All this is happening, and Lucy is just waking up. Anyway! Tell me what you think! I'm going to answer reviews in a little bit, I just wanted to start on the next chapter.
Lonewolf: I respect that, I wasn't really too happy with myself for killing her off, not that she actually died, as you say. Ooh! Good idea! I admit that I thought of this before, so this just further proves that great minds think alike! Although I didn't have the same reason for her visit, but I'll say no more. Thank you. I'm really, truly, delighted that you like this story and are willing to stick with it even when I'm a lousy author and don't update quickly. But hopefully this was quick enough. Thank you for taking the time to review!
Guest: That was my reaction when I realised there weren't any other stories out there where Lucy is a spirit, or maybe I just couldn't find them. Really, I'm surprised no one else has used that. I thought it was quite obvious when I drafted it in. Yay! I'm glad you like it! I was worried I was pushing the boundaries a little too far… But I'm happy if you're happy! Thank you, but really you're the awesome one, you reviewed! Ooh… That is an interesting question… One that, for the sake of spoilers, I won't answer. Sorry about that. I also pictured her as a really strong celestial mage, but I thought her becoming the embodiment of her magic both gives her a deeper insight into who exactly she is, and it just shows how far she really has changed. But I'm so happy you're willing to stick with it regardless! Thank you!
Unknown: Yay! Another LoLu fan! I didn't realise how many of us there were out there until I wrote this story…