Jude awoke to find himself in an awkward hunched position with a stack of papers stuck to his face. Oh, lovely. He had fallen asleep at his desk for the third time this week. It had been oddly quiet in the study lately, which made it hard for him to stay awake in the late hours of the night. He hadn't really thought about it until now, but he seemed to rely on hearing Lucy constantly wandering around and coming in to interrupt him to keep him awake. But he hadn't heard a peep from her in days. Jude didn't think much of it though. Sometimes she came late from the library because she'd been too caught up in a book, or she'd lose track of time when she went out for walks. She seemed to be going out a lot this week, he figured. It'd been quiet every day. It was blissful, but he had to admit he was starting to miss having her around to distract him from his stressful workload. He figured she finally gave up on trying to get his attention, and although he'd been completely fine with it at first, now he couldn't seem to shake the feeling that something was missing, and it didn't help that it was accompanied by a gut feeling that something was wrong. I'm probably just tired, he thought sleepily as he rose from his desk to get ready for bed.
Levy was getting worried.
It'd been several days since Lucy visited the library, and that didn't sit well with the petite bluenette. Not a day ever passed where Lucy didn't walk through the wooden doors with a book shoved in her face and another peeking out of her bag. Being the librarian's daughter, Levy worked at the library, practically living there at this point. She and Lucy ended up quickly becoming best friends, meeting every day at the same table to hang out and discuss their favorite books. But it had been nearly a week since the blonde had visited, and that unnerved Levy greatly. Something had to be wrong, but she had no idea where Lucy lived, nor had she seen her around town lately, so she had no way of contacting her at all.
Her worried thoughts were rudely interrupted when the door of the library slammed open and the most obnoxious man in town stormed in, his eyes immediately falling onto the bluenette.
"You!" He pointed a figure at the unsuspecting young woman, bewilderment and slight fear suddenly filling her expression. Oh. It's Dan Straight, how pleasant, she thought sarcastically to herself.
"Me?" Levy pointed at her own chest, still confused as to what he would want with someone like her. What did the most popular guy in the village want with her, and how dare he ruin the peace of her sanctuary?
"Yes, you," he slammed a hand on the round table she was sitting at, causing her to jump slightly and a few more heads to turn in their direction. "Where's Lucy?" he demanded with a scowl.
"How should I know? I haven't seen her in days," Levy answered truthfully, honesty and a hint of sadness clear in her tone.
"How do I know you're not lying?" he spat, not believing a word that left the bluenette's mouth.
"I'm not," she asserted, brows knitting together in frustration, though Levy somewhat understood why he'd think she was lying. She was telling the truth, but even if she did know where Lucy was there's no way she'd ever tell him.
They stared each other down for a good few moments before he slammed his fists on the table once again and quickly turned to leave. "Whatever. I don't have time for this."
Levy let out a breath she didn't know she was holding when the tall, built man finally left the building. No wonder Lucy's always avoiding him, she thought with a scoff
"Where are you, Lu-chan…" Levy sighed dramatically as she sat at that round table in the library, bored and alone once again with only the books around her to keep her company. Her eyes mindlessly looked over to the calendar and widened shortly after, her mood immediately shifting to excitement when she saw the circle drawn around today's date. Her worry for a certain blonde had made her nearly forget a promise she made to a kind lady she met while wandering in the forest.
The bookworm quickly rose from her seat and hurriedly made her way to the back room, worried thoughts moving to the back of her mind for now. She grabbed the large wheelbarrow next to the door and pulled it toward the large bag that sat in the corner, hauling the heavy mass into the basket of the moving device before leaving through the back door of the library and making her way into the forest.
I can't wait to see them again! she thought with a grin, excitedly dragging the heavy wheelbarrow through the rough terrain.
Lucy awoke to the sound of obnoxious activity going on in the hallway, and sighed. Well, there went her plans to sleep in. What was even going on away? The whole castle was usually dead silent, with the exception of an occasional creak in the floorboards or the wind blowing outside. It was a little eerie, but Lucy was used to it. Besides, she was in an old abandoned castle alone in the middle of the woods, with no one to keep her company but demons. Nothing could scare her at this point.
Well, nothing except for Natsu.
That guy could suddenly have a change of heart and leave her to rot in a dungeon for all of eternity if he wanted.
Forcibly shoving that thought out of her brain space, Lucy lazily rolled out of bed and dragged herself to the door, opening it just enough to look into the hallway. Suddenly, a small stream of water rushed in through the narrow opening, pooling around the blonde's bare feet and shocking her awake.
"What the—" more water was pushed in through the door, this time accompanied with the culprit; a dripping wet mop being dragged back and forth across the soaked floor by Juvia. The demon seemed to have noticed the mess moving into Lucy's room, and rushed in to clean it up with the drenched mop, though that did nothing put push more water in.
"Oh! Juvia is sorry!" the demon picked up the mop and dropped it in a nearby bucket, her shoes sloshing against the wet floor of the hallway. "Juvia likes to use a lot of water. But sometimes she uses too much," She admitted with a shameful smile. Lucy still found the fact that the demon spoke in third person a bit funny, but had quickly gotten used to it. It was a unique quality Juvia had, and it oddly suited her.
"It's quite alright," she waved her off with a reassuring smile. "Why are you cleaning the hallway though?"
"Mira said the castle looks horrible, and Juvia agreed. We are all taking the day to clean it up and make it look a little less gloomy," Juvia answered, and Lucy nodded in understanding. It was true, the castle did look like some sort of glamorized haunted house at the moment, which was a bit unsettling.
"That's a great idea! I'll help!" Lucy offered, willing to assist in attempting to bring this castle to it's former glory. It'll probably make her feel better about staying here when it looks more habitable.
The blue-haired demon shook her head furiously. "Juvia insists that Lucy relaxes while we clean. She is a guest, after all," Juvia interjected, lightly resting her hands on the blondes shoulders and pushing her back into her room.
"But I want to help," Lucy argued, placing her hands over the demon's and taking them off her shoulders. Juvia gave her a comical look of bewilderment as she pondered Lucy's words.
"Juvia doesn't understand," the demon knitted her brows together in confusion. "Lucy wants to help? But she is a guest."
Lucy was a bit confused herself as to why her wanting to help was such a surprise, but then she figured it was only natural. There probably weren't very many royal guests back in their time that would offer to help servants of the castle.
"Yes," Lucy stated, reaching out for the mop Juvia had placed against the wall. "We'll have this castle looking spotless by the end of the day, just wait," Lucy beamed, walking over to the mop bucket to squeeze out all the excess water. "I'll deal with this, don't worry. I'm not sure how much water these wood floors can take," she said with a sympathetic laugh. Why don't you try washing the windows?" The demon looked at her in confusion but gave a slow nod, the concept of a guest cleaning the house completely foreign to her.
"Er, Juvia will get started then," the dazed demon made her way down the hall, puzzled as ever, though the blonde didn't seem to notice as she began humming contently, finishing what Juvia had started.
Levy looked up at the afternoon sky, taking a moment to pause after hauling a wheelbarrow down the rugged path of the forest for the past hour. She sighed in relief as she eyed the long bridge in front of her, the final stretch of her trip.
Dragging the wheelbarrow across the bridge was significantly easier than lugging it in the forest, the smooth stone making a much easier path for the wheels to move. The friendly white-haired demon woman met her at the front gates, taking the heavy load from the lightweight, clearly exhausted bluenette with a large grin.
"Mira! Good to see you!" Levy smiled wide, meeting the demon halfway for a hug.
"It's so good to see you again, Levy," Mira beamed.
"Likewise," Levy grinned. "How is everyone doing?" she asked the demon hesitantly, concern slightly dimming her bright expression. She had expected Mira's smile to drop as it unfortunately always did when Levy asked, but much to her surprise Mira seemed to look even happier.
"We're actually doing pretty great right now," the demon grinned. "We have a new guest."
Levy's eyes lit up at the mention of a guest. "Really!? After all these years?"
Mira nodded enthusiastically. "Indeed, she's been very kind to us. Come in! You should meet her! Maybe you know her!"
Levy had only been in the castle once before since she started coming every month, so she jumped at the opportunity to see the inside again. "Okay!"
Mira led her through the front entrance to the large double doors, pushing them open to reveal the vast hall. But it wasn't the elegance of it all that caught her attention, not at all. What caused her eyes to widen into saucers and her jaw to drop was the busty blonde kneeled over in the center of the hall, intensely focused on scrubbing a particular part of the floor.
"There she is!" Mira exclaimed.
"Wow, this stain is really tough–" Lucy looked up at the demon's voice and immediately began to smile and wave, but froze in place when she saw the bluenette standing next to her.
Both girls bolted from their places to meet halfway in a big embrace. Mira gave them both a warm smile and left the hall to give them space.
"Why are you here?" Lucy questioned, though unable to hide her excitement at seeing her friend again.
"I bring supplies here every few weeks or so. It's kind of a long story," Levy explained with a sheepish grin. "Anyway, where have you been?!" The smaller girl cried.
Levy knew about this place the whole time?
"I've been here," Lucy answered brightly despite the large amount of questions that filled her mind. "I kind of got myself into a… situation."
Levy's eyebrows knitted together in clear confusion. "What? Are you lost?" She looked around wildly. "... Trapped?" Her voice quickly went quiet as panic filled her eyes. "D-did they… Did they kidnap you? Should I get help?" She was shocked. Mira wouldn't do this, would she?
"I wasn't kidnapped," Lucy laughed nervously, nearly flinching at the half-lie she just told. "I'm here on my own will."
"What? Why?" Levy almost cried, though a sense of relief washed over her at the blonde's words. "Don't you miss us back home?"
Lucy looked up in thought, unable to give the bluenette a straight answer. She did miss Levy, but the same couldn't be said for anyone else back there. "There's something I need to do before I go back. I'm really sorry Levy, it's just something that has to be done."
Lucy could tell by the look on Levy's face that she not only felt extremely confused, but a bit betrayed. "So you're just gonna stay here? But you're my only friend," she whimpered, lip beginning to quiver slightly.
The blonde wasn't sure how long it was going to take to fix the situation here, but she definitely wasn't going to stay forever. She couldn't. "No," she responded with almost no hesitation. "Of course not. I'm coming back, I just need some time."
Light returned to Levy's eyes and she nodded. "Good. 'Cause I need you with me back there. It's been lonely just sitting in the library by myself all the time," the bluenette said with a dim smile.
"Don't worry," Lucy reassured her friend. "I'll be back soon, and we can talk about that book I noticed you were reading last time I saw you. I read it last year!"
"Good," Levy responded with a tearful smile. "I'm so glad you're okay!"
Lucy grinned brightly, though her smile waned at her next thought. "…Do you know if my father has gone to look for me?" she asked, a bit of hope filling her eyes, only to leave immediately as Levy's expression dimmed.
"Not that I know of. Oddly enough, no one except for Dan Straight has asked about you."
The blonde scoffed. The one man she'd rather steer clear of was the only one besides Levy that actually knew she was gone. Not even her father cared. The thought damped her previously happy mood considerably.
Levy seemed to the notice the blonde's distress and rushed to console her. "But I mean, who cares about anyone else in that town anyway, right? They're all shallow and boring! And you're always talking about how your dad is always caught up in his work, he's probably just super busy! Don't worry about it Luce, just focus on coming back, okay?"
The bluenette had a point. There was no point in being upset about her father not caring about her right now. She had too much to do here. This castle should be her first priority.
"You're right," she admitted. "Like I said, I'll be back soon, so you shouldn't worry either."
"That's really good to hear," Levy replied happily, giving Lucy another hug. "I should probably go since no one's looking after the library right now, but I'll be waiting!"
The blonde grew sad at the thought of parting with her friend once more, but let her go nonetheless. "I'll see you soon," she smiled.
"I'll see you," Levy echoed with one last grin before turning around and walking out the huge doors of the castle.
With a sigh, Lucy went back to working on the stain on the floor.
"You know the blue haired girl?"
She jumped at the sudden presence in the room, eyes immediately looking up towards the direction of the voice. Natsu stood at the end of the hall, slowly walking towards her.
She immediately stood up and began brushing the dirt off her dress with her hands.
"Y-yes, Levy is my friend from back home, we were just talking about how she was doing back at the village," she stated hurriedly, hoping he didn't suspect her of conspiring to escape with Levy.
"… I see," he frowned in thought. "She is one of the very few humans I despise, so I guess it is no surprise that she'd…" he stopped suddenly.
"That she'd what?" Lucy questioned curiously. He growled at her persistence and she recoiled slightly, but stood her ground.
He turned around swiftly to leave, stopping at the door at the end of the hall where he entered. "It makes sense…" he continued, "that you guys are friends," he muttered before leaving Lucy alone in the hall once again.
Was that… a compliment?
Mira smiled from the spot where she was eavesdropping, picking up a nearby broom and beginning to sweep the next room while humming a happy tune.