(I'm staring into the abyss of crickets chirping and I'm terrified of what's waiting for me within). ALRIGHT HI EVERYONE! It's me, Mslead. BACK TO GIVE YOU WHAT YA'LL HAVE BEEN DEMANDING. Man I didn't realize so many people would be waiting for this chapter I'm sorry! Anyway, this is the last chapter that I, Mslead, have written solo for this fic. After this chapter Kytrin will be hopping on board to write the rest of this story with me.
THAT BEING SAID: It will not be done until our more recent projects are completed first. I'm updating this just so you all are aware that Kytrin and I have a couple of projects currently going that take up our attention before we will finish this story. Alright? This was a story originally I began to write on my own, Kytrin is going to be assisting to finish it!
So I won't take up much more time!
Enjoy the chapter!
Back in Ultear's shop, Lucy sat in stiff silence as she stared at Erza. The redhead returned her gaze, her brown eyes steely and unyielding, and the queen's mouth set in a firm line.
"You mean to tell me Lucy, you are Lumen Historie," Erza's voice rang out, as clear as a drop of water in a tuning glass. As disconcerting as it was to be faced with such a question, Lucy had no choice but to respond with honesty. Especially since it was true.
"Na-" Lucy's voice caught, barely able to bring herself to say his name. Taking a huge gulp of air, she attempted it a second time, "Natsu and I found out just recently."
He had wanted to keep it a secret. At the time Lucy's hadn't really understood why, but a single day of having her world turn on its head had a tendency of shedding new light on the situation.
The magic she apparently had was a game changer in this war. Natsu must have known this would make her valuable to both sides. Even his own.
He wanted to avoid her being part of the war, even if he had never said as much. It hardly took a genius to figure out his motivation, but the thought worried her. He was willing to keep a secret that could help his people. All for her sake?
Who knew what other lengths he would go to?
The distant thought, that perhaps she didn't know Natsu well enough at all sprang to her mind. Unbidden, worry crept in her heart.
She couldn't lose another person. Especially not him. She would just have to out stubborn Natsu if it came down to it. But her first task laid in front of her.
Erza was still in front of her, arms crossed and expression dark. Her lips were pressed into a frighteningly thin line. Conflict warred in her eyes, no doubt trying to reconcile what she thought she knew of the Fairies Light as opposed to the person standing before her.
"This changes things," Erza spoke stiffly.
Already seeing how Erza began to withdraw in her body language alone, Lucy grabbed the queen's wrist. Perhaps that was considered impudent, but what could she do at this point? Erza was a Queen without a country and Lucy wanted to help her get it back.
Back to Natsu.
"This changes nothing," Lucy argued. Erza's eyes widened at the intensity behind her words. She dropped Erza's hand and took a deep breath, "you need me."
"Yeah? And so what?" Gajeel asked from where he was slouched over behind Levy. The blue haired girl was bent nose deep in several books, ignoring everything around them. Lucy opened her mouth at Gajeel, unsure what to say to a response so rough and flippant.
"What that idiot means," Gray interrupted, "Is your lack of training, both magical and physical. You may be some badass light bulb but let's be honest, you won't last in a fight with demons."
"Natsu taught me some magic," Lucy argued, to which Gajeel let out a bark of laughter.
"You mean that scorch mark in your apartment the Salamander drew a smiley face on? Please, that ain't gonna do shi-" Gajeel's laugh was cut off into a strangled wheeze when Levy suddenly elbowed him in the stomach in her haste to stand up, she didn't even blink as she began to pace with her book, "Argh! Watch it shorty!"
"Enough!" Erza barked, bringing the room to a sudden silence. Her presence alone smothered all sounds of arguments, even from Gajeel.
"Lucy's magic is dangerous and unstable. Even then, it's holy. If she pulls the cork out from her magic, there is no way it will be easily contained again," Erza addressed everyone at once. The moment weighed on them as the implications sank in.
For Lucy they were half understood. All she knew were the very basics. That her holy magic would no doubt be very effective against their demonic enemy. It seemed like all the more reason for her to help.
Before she could bring that to voice, Erza continued. It was like a weight smothered the fairy, crushing her wings before Lucy's eyes.
"The argument is pointless anyway, as we no longer have a way of traveling home. "
With those simply spoken words, Lucy felt as if she suddenly shared the full brunt of Erza's burden. She had believed up until that moment the portals would always remain open. They had supernatural royalty by their side, so didn't that mean they got a free pass? Before she could ask Erza what had changed in just a matter of hours, she took a breath and went on to explain.
"The gate which had remained open for so long was our last way back. The magic which allowed us to part the veil and come to the human world was fueled by the magic of fae." Erza closed her eyes, "It was old magic, ancient in fact. But when Mard Geer took control of my castle, he was able to rewrite the rules of the gate."
Her hand dropped to the pommel in the sword ever present by her side, "I fear the rules of engagement no longer apply. In time, Mard Geer will take the fight to us, with END by his side or leading the charge."
The finality of which she spoke left a hollow ache in Lucy's chest. She looked around her at the gathered warriors, all of which held similar expressions of defeat.
As if they had already given up.
Lucy reasoned that they had fought for centuries, struggling in an ongoing fight that never seemed to end. They had taken heavy losses and even greater risks.
But the sight of it made her angry.
"That's it?" She demanded.
Erza looked up at her, expression guarded. The others too looked at their leader, but Lucy wasn't inclined to let it go.
She shoved Erza right on the shoulder, uncaring of the injuries that were still bandaged up.
"You do not get to give up, not now," Lucy snapped. She lifted her chin and put her shoulders back, trying to summon the rage and anger that seemed to fuel Natsu's passionate nature, "your race is facing extinction and my world is facing annihilation!"
"Natsu crashed into my life and woke me up to all this madness," Lucy continued, "Now he's gone and we are all that's left."
"I'm not afraid to keep on going even though all of us have so much left to lose," Lucy grit her teeth, glaring around to each of the members in the room, "We can't just wait for Mard Geer to show up whenever he wants. Now is the time to go on offense, when this nut job is so sure of his victory he won't expect us to hit him right at home where it hurts!"
"You mean you want us to take down the floating fortress?" Gray asked, looking somewhat shocked. He shook his head, "You realize that's in the middle of the demons realm, right?"
"How do you expect us to even get there, huh?" Gajeel demanded, right on the heels of the other man. Erza however remained silent, almost thoughtful.
Admittedly, that took some of the wind out of Lucy's sails, her rant dying on her lips. Her mouth trembled a bit, not sure what she could say in response to their very valid and poignant questions.
It seemed that Levy was in favor of helping her fill in the blanks.
She snapped her book shut and dropped it to a side table. It thumped loudly, shocking everyone in the silent room.
She raised an eyebrow at them, a small smile on her face.
"Before the gates closed, what would happen to someone if they tried to breach into the human world?" Levy asked the room as a whole.
Gajeel shrugged, a look which was shared by everyone.
"Nothing," Levy filled in the blanks, pointing towards the book, "I was reading into it, but do any of you guys actually know what the veil between world's actually is?"
Erza raised an eyebrow, "We have always assumed it was a powerful construct created to keep the humans safe from the backlash of magic."
Levy nodded, "but not all magical creatures are affected by the barrier."
She pointed at Lucy, "The magic in her is intangible, and people claim to see spirits and ghosts all the time. There are literally thousands of documented cases of paranormal activity."
"Someone is a fan of Ghostbusters," Gray muttered under his breath. Levy shot him a withering glare.
"The point is, don't you think it's strange that all the realms except the spiritual one had a say in protecting the humans?" Levy went on. She tapped a finger against her arm. At their blank expressions, she threw up her hands and shook her head.
"Spell it out nice and slow for us Lev," Gajeel grunted, looking a little amused by her irritation.
She gave him a frown, but the effect was dulled by the softness in her eyes.
"The spiritual world is the veil," Erza filled in, having caught onto Levy's meaning. Lucy's eyes widened with understanding.
"There are stories that talk about the departed souls 'parting the veil,'" Lucy gasped. Levy gave her a proud thumbs up that lifted her spirits.
"More importantly, there are cultures that will cover mirrors when a family member dies so their soul won't be drawn into a mirror," Levy lifted her hand, "It's so they can move on peacefully."
"You think we can use a mirror?" Gray asked.
Levy's lips twisted, "Yes and no. We would need a guide and a lot of power to get where we're going. Not to mention a demon to serve as a compass to Tartaros."
She shot a hesitant look at Lucy, "and we're kind of on short supply of demons."
Despite the truth behind it, Lucy couldn't help but feel a sliver of hope for the first time since Natsu was taken. They were running against a clock, but Levy had solved one of their ongoing problems. There was a way to reopen a gate, even if they didn't have all the ingredients for it yet.
"But where can we find a demon willing to help us?" Lucy questioned, deflating at the thought of trying to search long and hard for someone like that.
"They're closer than you think," Gray murmured. He lifted his arm, exposing the skin of his forearm and the magical tattoo that glowed black upon his screen. A haunting violet glow entered his eyes for the briefest of moments before the magic flickered away as well as the tattoo.
"You're a demon?" Levy asked in shock.
Gray shook his head, "No. I'm a devil slayer, which carries the magic of a demon. It's not the same thing, but if I use my magic it can get us close to Tartaros, right?"
"It seems like a sound enough idea to me," Erza supplied, creeping in closer to the group, drawn into their planning despite herself, "that only leaves us with acquiring a spirit to aid us in parting the veil."
"And I think I know just the one," Lucy jolted, a sudden thought springing to her mind. She smiled, the sensation feeling odd and stiff, but she rejoiced in the fact they were not coming together to defeat their common enemy.
"Does anyone know how to hold a séance?"
Natsu's eyes opened to the dimly lit room. He groaned quietly and twisted around, his body aching from Juvia's strike. With exaggerated slowness, he pushed himself up off the ragged cot Juvia had dragged his body onto. At the reminder of the water sprite, Natsu jerked up and looked around to where he could see the dimly lit torch he had given her flickering away in the dark.
In a corner, Juvia was crumpled.
"Juvia!" Natsu shouted and sprang to his feet, jumping to her side across the small space. Hesitant to touch her while he wasn't sure how his magic was faring against hers, his hands hovered uselessly above her.
Blue eyes squinted at him in the dim light, and Juvia flashed him a hazy smile.
"Natsu, you're awake. Juvia is happy, she thought she might have hit you too hard," Juvia said like she was half asleep.
"I'm fine Juvia, you don't look like you're doin' too hot," Natsu cursed himself and their poor luck. Of all the people to take hostage, it had to be Juvia.
"Juvia will be fine," she slurred, "she managed to read the walls."
Natsu couldn't stop himself and he gathered the failing water sprite in his arms, sweeping her upright and rushing her to the bed. He deposited her there to make her comfortable and then stepped away as far as he could while still remaining by her side. He was cautious over overheating his friend, but knew they had tried everything else to avoid the inevitable.
"Shh, Juvia it's okay. Just keep your strength up," Natsu fought for a smile, hating how he was killing her just by his presence.
She lifted a pale hand towards him, fingertips brushing against his forearm. Her cheeks were flushed, a clammy sweat breaking over her forehead and neck.
"Natsu listen," Juvia whispered, "there is no way out of this cell. But also know there is no way for Tartaros to force you to become what you once were. Not without your consent."
Natsu stilled, jolting in awareness as Juvia's hand grasped for his. Their fingers wove together and Natsu dropped the palm of his other hand down on hers. He didn't interrupt Juvia, wanting to hear what she had to say and knowing it was a struggle for her to even speak right now.
"The Etherious cannot force you to become END again, you must consent to it. Only then will they have their leader back," Juvia gave him a tired smile, her eyes sliding shut, "Fairy Tail can still win - just don't give up…"
She fell silent, her words trailing off as the fever overtook her.
Eyes growing wide, Natsu stared at the shallowly breathing sprite, panic rearing its head and causing a knot of nerves to clamp like a shackle in his heart.
"Juvia!" Natsu clutched her hands, "Juvia wake up! Please wake up! It won't matter if Fairy Tail wins or loses if you're not there to celebrate it with us and Gray! Come on, that moron is waiting for you!"
Juvia didn't blink, causing Natsu to surge to his feet, panic clawing at his chest from within.
He had to do something. He couldn't just let Juvia die here, alone and by his hand. Natsu wouldn't allow it. He would save her - there had to be another way
Her words spoke back into his mind, haunting him like they were being whispered in his ear.
They cannot force you…
But they also needed Natsu.
An idea springing to Natsu's head, and knowing if Juvia was awake she wouldn't approve, he sprinted to the door and pounded his fist against it.
"Mard Geer!" He roared for the demon's attention. No doubt he had the whole thing arranged to watch Natsu from the beginning, "You want me right? Then leave Juvia alone!"
"I'll do it! I'll become END again and rejoin Tartaros!" he shouted, somewhat desperately as he glanced back at his dying friend. He didn't want to tip his hand to how badly he wanted to save Juvia, but at this point there was no use hiding it.
This was Mard Geer's real plan. The reason they were put together in a room.
It wasn't to torture Natsu, although that no doubt had been an appealing turning point for Mard Geer. No, this was to force Natsu to consent. To force him to become everything he hated and more. And ultimately it was Juvia who gave him the idea for it despite how Natsu knew to the core of his being how much she would hate for him to sacrifice himself for her. Especially if he became what he hated most, it would certainly mean the end for Fairy Tail.
But Natsu had faith.
Faith in his friends to save him, to turn the tide in the war and rescue Juvia. And ultimately he had the faith for them to pull his head out of his own ass if he fell too far into the Etherious. Even if he forgot who his friends were, there were some things which Natsu was certain could never be stripped from his heart.
At first Natsu thought his cries and pleas would go ignored. He suspected that perhaps Mard Geer's only goal really was to have Juvia killed, at least that was the thought until the door began to creak open.
Natsu took a step back as light cut into the dark room, bringing in a rush of cool air into the stuffy room. Natsu hadn't even realized how hot it had become in the room until the door's latch was opened.
He didn't have the time to contemplate it for longer. Mard Geer stood before him, flanked on either side by two of his lieutenants. The cold smile on Mard Geer's face was enough to make Natsu's blood boil, but he kept to his word and didn't make a move against them.
"Juvia will be safe if I do this?" Natsu asked, quiet in the face of the three demons.
"Very," Mard Geer promised.
Taking a heavy breath, Natsu steeled himself for what he knew was soon to come. It would be a battle for his humanity to say the least, but he was determined to hang on as long as he could until Fairy Tail came to rescue them.
And he knew they would come. Because it wasn't in them to give up.
Lucy's face drifted to the forefront of his mind, praying she and her father were both okay. The chaos he brought to their lives was nothing short of insane, but he prayed she would recover. His heart ached with the reminder of her in all of her fiery temper and sweetness, but stepped out of the dark room and into the light of Tartaros.
"Welcome back Master END."
He hoped the memory of her would remain.
OKAY EVERYONE! THANKS A BUNCH FOR THE SUPPORT! I hope I still have people wanting to read this fic o.o BYE NOW! We'll update this just as soon as we can!