Chapter Thirty-Four

Their Team

"Mars," by Sleeping At Last (Thanks to for requesting!)

I stared at Natsu, my fingers twisting nervously, watching him lower himself to the bed, a frown on his lips, his eyebrows crinkled together.

He cleared his throat. "I overreacted this morning. I should have waited until I remembered what happened. I understand now why you feel… that way towards him. I'm sorry for yelling at you."

I could tell it had taken a lot for him to apologize, and noticed how he probably didn't believe he was wrong, only that he had overreacted prematurely. It hurt deep parts of me to acknowledge that Natsu hated a part of himself so much that his first immediate reaction was anger when he had to discuss it.

I took in a long breath, drawing the courage around myself to give him what he was owed, "And I'm sorry that I wasn't more sensitive about your feelings."

He nodded, placing his hands on his thighs, long tanned fingers clenching, showing off an odd bout of anxiety as his shoulders tensed and rose up.

I bit my lip. I felt like I was intruding, strangely. I wondered if this was what Natsu felt like when I was having a moment with myself.

"Malo does mean little in demonic language...but it's got more nuance than just that."

I guess we aren't going to poke at the demon topic anymore today, I thought briefly, feeling slightly better since I knew it was going to be a difficult conversation.

"Oh?" I tried to look uninterested, but Natsu saw right through me and his lips curled a bit, probably at how hopeless I was at hiding my real feelings. I felt my own nerves settle at little, grinning back as his breath gushed out between his lips.

"It all depends on the context of who is saying it and whom they are saying it to," he explained softly. "If I called Gray 'Malo' it would mean I was insulting him, given our personal relationship."

Huh. I tilted my head, "What if you called Igneel that?"

"I wouldn't." He shook his head definitively at the thought. "But he could say it to me. 'Malo' in that context would mean he was acknowledging my age, or his experience over mine."

"And it's up to you whether to be insulted or not?"

He nodded slowly, spreading his fingers along his leanly muscled thighs, and I had to rip my mind away from my sudden fascination with them. He hadn't noticed my blatant staring. Thank the heavens. Instead, he seemed consumed with his own thoughts.

I pressed my lips together, trying to give him the time to process his thoughts. But, in the end, I caved to my hunger for information.

"So, how did your… demon mean it?"

Natsu closed his eyes. I flinched, wondering if it was bad.

Was it an insult on my own naivety?

"I can't give you a concrete translation. But, it's used as a term of… endearment, for lack of a better work, for a…" He struggled, eyes clenching tight. I watched him, closely before the cogs in my brain slowly began to work.

"Endearment," I repeated before guessing, "It can be used for a lover?"

I knew I had gotten it right when his eyes opened slightly, clearly watching for my reaction. I smiled a little.

"It's better than an insult, Natsu."

"An insult would have made more sense," he admitted. I walked over to the bed, sitting beside him.

"What do you mean?"

"For so long, I viewed that part of me as darkness personified. So, this… How he reacts to you, it confuses me."

"And you don't like to be confused when it comes that part of yourself," I summarised, lifting my hand to run it through his hair. His eyes lifted to mine and I smiled gently, nodding in understanding because on some…vulnerable level it made sense to me.

"No. I don't."

I didn't say anything, I just stroked his hair back, playing with the shorter strands at his neck. He closed his eyes, his shoulders lowering, as he stated softly, his voice barely above a whisper,"When demons use it that way, it can mean 'little queen', 'little kitten', even 'little demon.'"

I snorted a little, a surprised laugh bubbling out. "I think I can guess which one he used it as then."

When he gave me a confused look, I shook my head. "Lion genes, remember?"

"You aren't upset about it?"

"Why would I be? It's a silly nickname, Natsu." I shrugged, the loose strap of my sundress falling off my shoulder. I went to rearrange it, again. It had been bugging me all morning. But his hand stopped mine.

His eyes were staring at the exposed skin, and he lifted his fingers, tilting my chin up. I bit my lip, knowing what he saw.

"He marked you."

I didn't know how Natsu would react to that. I hoped it would be as bad as that morning.

I didn't say anything. Something told me keeping quiet and letting Natsu work his way through whatever he was feeling was the best course of action. His thumb ran over the mark and I gasped. Silk swept across my insides, leaving behind humming, sensitive nerves. Goosebumps rose up on my skin and I ducked my head to catch his eyes.

"Careful," I warned, breathless. "He's closer than you think."

His hand snapped back, shocked, and I pulled the strap back up, covering most of the mark with the high neckline.

"How did you know?"

"I could feel him," I replied, turning my head away. I felt ashamed, strangely. Like knowing that his demon was closer to the surface before he did was against the rules. Like it was too…personal.

His hand cupped my cheek, turning my gaze back to his.

"I'm not angry with you."

"I know." I smiled tentatively. "You have no reason to be angry with me."

He raised his eyebrow, a glint of amusement running through those oh-so-serious green orbs.

"I could be petty and blame you for my rapidly decaying sense of control."

I shook my head, teasing back, "You are far too nice to do something that rude to little ol' me."

"I could do plenty of rude things to you."

Heat curled low in my stomach, and I felt a pleased, anticipatory flush crawl up my neck. I held his eyes bravely.

"Promises, promises."

He leaned closer and I mirrored him, biting my lower lip until a sharp knock made me jump.

"I'm happy to stay for the foreplay, but if you want to rumble, I'll need to use your bathroom." Ultear's voice made my flush change from 'excited' to 'flustered'. Natsu chuckled. I placed my hands on my cheeks in an effort to soothe the heat away.

He stood, walking over to the door, pulling it open.

Gray and Ultear stepped in.

"How long have you been out there?"

"You are far too nice to do something that rude to little ol' me." Ultear mimicked my voice and I flushed redder, giving her a petulant glare.

Gray, in a surprising show of teasing, drawled out, "I could do plenty of rude things to you."

Natsu's grin was wiped away with that, and I moaned, hiding my head in my hands.

"We've got a couple of voyeurs stuck to us," Natsu laughed, and I glanced up, watching as he smacked Gray's shoulder 'playfully.' The latter flinched slightly, standing taller in response to Natsu's biting words.

Ultear passed them, snickering, "If I'm not getting any, then Lucy won't either."

"That seems very unfair. I mean, you'll be a virgin for the rest of your life carting around a horrible attitude like that," I teased, feeling a little lighter when she let out a cackling laugh, throwing herself on the bed beside me.

She wiggled a little, then gave me a playful smirk. "Who said I was a virgin?"

I tilted my head, reading the truth in her question before smiling. "Apologies. The fact that you aren't makes much more sense."

"Oi." She pinched my side, and I fell back, landing beside her. We erupted into giggles, and I let myself bask in her presence.

"Why isn't Erza here to roll around with us?"

"One of her spies showed up this morning, so I imagine she's in a meeting," Ultear informed me, shrugging one shoulder. "She'll probably be around soon."

We both ignored the growing animosity from the boys and I turned onto my stomach, watching her sink into Natsu's extremely soft, plush bed with a happy sigh.

"So, do I know him?" I whispered to her.

"Know who?"

I gave her a flat stare, and she laughed again, flapping her hand up to point at the doorway. My eyes followed the gesture and I asked, shocked, "Natsu?" She burst out in peals of laughter at my stunned guess.

"I have been waiting for those inherently blond genes to poke out, and they came at the perfect time!" She wiped her eyes, before poking my nose. "No, you dolt."

My eyes raised once more, and found Gray's. His eyebrows were pinched, eyes staring at us, clearly trying to figure out what we were talking about.

I flushed, whipping my head back over to Ultear. "Really?"

She hummed. "Yes."

"When?" To my knowledge, Gray had had Juvia through his teen years, when sex would be most enticing. And I couldn't imagine him being really interested in anyone else after her death.

Ultear also turned on her stomach, playing with the thread coming loose on the soft knitted blanket.

"After J."

I stared at her, shocked, and she shrugged, a sad smile on her lips.

"It was a few months after. He was grieving."

"Oh, Ultear…"

"Don't feel pity for me," she playfully snapped. "Yes, it might not have been the best idea, but I don't regret it. He's a kind, considerate lover."

"I really don't need the details," I whispered, still surprised, but she continued, a look of affection in her eyes that I couldn't figure out. It could have been familial...or something more.

And then I wondered if Ultear spoke about herself and her experiences to anyone else. She had always been strong and playful, never-wavering, but even the strongest, could break. I remember when Erza had visited my kingdom, wracked with fear that Jellal would not win the tournament for her hand.

So, I remained quiet, letting her speak.

"He cried after," Ultear whispered, so quiet that I could barely hear her. "I knew his first time had been with… And I knew it could either break him apart or make him stronger. I was willing to sacrifice that part to him."

Her strength and kindness were two of the things Ultear had spades of, the things that made her the quiet victor, a silent hero. I reached to her hand, lacing our fingers, letting her know I was listening. That I would listen.

"It was all consensual and he was gentle, sweet. The next morning, I knew he was worried about how I would react. It was the first time in months I had seen something other than hallowing despair around his future. He just looked so nervous." She snorted, clearly holding back her amusement.

I smiled, and she squeezed my hand. "So I approached him, told him to remove his head from his ass, and informed him if he mentioned it to anyone in the kingdom, I would make a rug from his skin."

I giggled. "That sounds like you."

She agreed with a nod. "I think it was good though. Juvia… She was so passionate, kind and loyal, so… steady. So, after her, he found me for one night."

"I would call you all of those things," I admitted softly, and she threw me a roguish smirk, winking.

"That's because you know me. And those are parts of me that I don't show often. To him, I was wild; a flitting thing. I had the worst attention span, and everyone knew that the minute I hit the Edge, I was gonna be gone. Free."

"You weren't going to be there for him." I realised now what she meant. Juvia had always been a constant to Gray at the time of her life, she was his rock, and his salvation. Ultear promised the exact opposite.

"One night." She nodded, her words so truthfully honest, so pure. "I wasn't going to baby-him. I wasn't going to hold him after that one night. If he wanted to survive, he was going to have to take my strength and move on."

"Ultear..." Tears swam in my eyes, touched by her strength and courage. She glanced over to me, her eyes a little lost, a little wet, before she blinked, coming back out of her thoughts.

She gave me a kitten smile, stretching against the sheets, a smugness surrounding her. "One night. That's all anybody needs with me and then they can fly and soar. I should start charging."

I laughed at her, knowing she was pulling back from her vulnerable moment. I felt refreshed, and even more in awe of her.

"Prostitution isn't a joke Ultear," Gray's voice made us both jump as he stared at us, eyes narrowed. He strode forward quickly, gripped Ultear's ankle, and tugged sharply, lips twitching when she slid down the bed, landing harshly on the floor with a thud.

I viewed them in a new light. Even with the way Ultear jumped to her feet and kicked his shin, smirking triumphantly when he grunted.

"Natsu, think you can handle this royal? He's trying to assert his dominance over me." Ultear pouted at my other half, who grinned.

"I can shackle him up and throw him in the cells, if you feel threatened," he offered with a grin.

"I feel threatened. Lucy feels threatened as well, if that will sway your decision."

I giggled, taking Natsu's hand as he helped me up. Gray rolled his eyes, but the brief flash of warmth in his eyes when he glanced at Ultear went unnoticed by everyone but me.

"We probably should see Aquarius," I cleared my throat, patting my hair down, a little nervous, and very excited, to see her once again.

Natsu shook his head. "I still have to take the darkness from you."

"It's going to hurt," I informed him, frowning, as Ultear piped up.

"He can handle it, he did it last night, didn't he?"

I blinked before clearing my throat again, looking away as Natsu replied quietly, "I did, didn't I?"

Yes, you did, I thought quietly to myself. But it's not the same.

"We'll wait outside." Gray tugged on Ultear's hair, obviously reading the suddenly tense atmosphere. Ultear's eyes darted between Natsu and I, staring closely before following Gray out, closing the door softly behind her.

We were both quiet before he sighed, and I sat down, holding out my hand, "I'm sorry."

"You don't need to apologize, Lucy. If I can help you, I will."

I smiled tightly, still not liking the idea of hurting him as he ignored my outstretched hand, settling on leaning down over me. My heart stuttered in my chest when he used his head to gently nudge mine, his hand pulling down the strap on my dress.

"What are you doing?" I breathed, as he brushed his lips against the vulnerable bare skin of my neck. He pressed a very gentle kiss there, and I noticed dimly that it was in the exact same spot where his demon half had marked me, but on the opposite side of my neck.

What did that mean?

My thoughts quickly evaporated when he lightly sucked in the skin there. My lips parted and I felt the dark edges suffocating my aura seeping off of me, a strange feeling like a warm shower washing away dirt, slowly begin to leech away the darkness.

I was blubbering.

I was also ignoring the fond, amused looks I was receiving.

Aquarius sighed, running a hand over my hair as I continued to sob and cling to her waist.

"You're such an emotional brat," she sighed, her words harsh. I welcomed them, wiping my snotty nose on her shirt. She groaned, feeling the action, pulling on my hair lightly.

"Don't be gross. Sit up straight, you are a Princess."

"I'm having a moment, Aquarius," I sniffled. "Don't be cruel."

She sighed again before water began to slide down my forehead. At first, I smiled, thinking that Aquarius was also weepy, but when the drips began to turn to rivulets, I jumped back, touching my soaked hair in alarm.

She smiled coldly, her eyes glinting with mischief, and I laughed, tears slipping down my cheeks.

"I missed you."

"I gathered that," she replied softly. "From the snot you've left on my shirt."

I shrugged, accepting the towel a grinning Ultear offered me to wipe my face and wring out my hair.

"Some things never change," she spoke, shaking her head. "Will you ever grow up?"

"No," I replied stubbornly, grinning when she smiled reluctantly. Natsu stepped up, watching me with a look of awe and amusement in his eyes. I took his hand, and presented him to Aquarius, whose eyebrow raised, noticing how I had laced my fingers through his.

"This is Natsu," I told her. "He's my…"

I faltered, not sure how to put it into words about how much I cared for Natsu; not sure if the label 'boyfriend' was really enough.

Natsu helpfully stepped in. "I'm her pre-fiancé."

Aquarius eyebrow raised higher and then she reached out, checking his teeth. I let her, smiling when Natsu just allowed her, this random stranger, to touch him. She pinched his cheeks, a scrutinizing look on her features before tilting her head up.

"He doesn't trim his nostril hair."

Natsu opened his mouth to reply, but I intervened on his behalf. "I can fix that."

"He's awfully…" Aquarius removed her hands, gesturing with them in a waffling motion. "Rough."

"Nothing a little scrubbing can't fix," I chirped. Natsu looked between us, his smile growling.

"At least he has a good jaw. When you were born, I thought for sure you were going to have no chin for the rest of your life."

"Ugly duckling turned graceful swan."

Her lips twitched. "I would say ugly duckling turned mediocre duck."

I just grinned, letting the insult warm me, as she reached out, grasping my hand for a second.

"Do I need to threaten him?" Her question was serious and stern. I nodded at once, almost excited for it.

"Oh yes. Please do."

She glanced around to the small captive audience we had, before giving Natsu an evil look. "We'll have to talk later, Prince Dragneel."

"I look forward to it." Natsu smirked, before bowing. "And it's Natsu to Lucy's family."

Aquarius sniffed superiorly, gathering her dress so she could sit down. I sat in the chair opposite her, noting how her eyes flickered to Acnologia once, and then again.

"I always assumed the nose was from the Heartfilia genes," she murmured to me, delicately placing her hands in her lap. "But perhaps it was integrated into the blood-line."

"Speak up, mermaid. I don't think I heard your conspiracy theory properly."

"Old age does tend to negate the hearing." Aquarius studied her fingernails flippantly. "But unfortunately, I don't care about or like you enough to put the strain on my voice that would enable your ancient ears to hear me."

Acnologia huffed turning away from her. I jumped as Yukino unexpectedly dove in through the open window, covered in leaves and soot.

He raised his eyebrow at her, a silent question about her state, and she grinned. "Northern perimeter is clear as a whistle. But I ran into some dragons on my way back and they taught me how much fun it is to stand at the top of a volcano and try to disrupt it."

"Is that safe?" I asked, alarmed. Natsu sighed, sitting down next to me.

"No. But a volcano erupting is a sign of good fortune, so a lot of hatchlings try to force it."

"They didn't look like hatchlings. One guy was actually quite large...and I don't mean his muscles." Yukino wiggled her eyebrows at me and I stifled my smile, listening to Ultear's amused snort from behind me.

Acnologia's eyebrows furrowed deep. "Don't fraternise with the dragons."

"Why not? You're a dragon."

"And I know exactly how horrible I am. It's bad enough Lucy is already infatuated with one."

I flushed at his words, surprised and slightly embarrassed as Natsu turned to me, a soft smile on his lips. He ducked down, kissing me very softly and the embarrassment eased, replaced by warmth and love.

"I do what, and who, I want, boss. You can't control what's between my legs."

Acnologia narrowed his eyes at her. "I can tape them shut."

"Tape could never stand up to hot dragony muscles," she sighed dreamily, turning away from him dismissively, "Prince Natsu, oh future sovereign of the Moltens, am I allowed to fraternise with the dragons?"

"I'll allow it. The dragons of the Moltens will be happy to accommodate your needs. As long as it's consensual."

I giggled at Yukino's bright grin, noticing the strange glare Acnologia and Natsu shared.

How many times had they glared at each other? She was losing count.

I turned back to Aquarius, puzzled over the look they burned into each other over our heads, and she sighed. "A classic case of overbearing protective father mixed up with the irrationality of dragons."

Her words didn't exactly help me, but they did remind me of a sobering truth.

"You have information about my father."

The room's good energy died completely. Aquarius kept her eyes on mine, nodding slowly.

"It is not good."

"I didn't think it would be." I willed my voice to be strong, despite the fact we were talking about the person who gave half of me to this world. And had ordered by arrest.

"Do you know anything of the situation in the Stars?"

I pursed my lips, nodding. "Loke tried to capture me and take me back a while ago. He told me that the kingdom was split in two. Some thought I should pay for my crimes and others thought I was… some sort of..." I struggled to put it into words.

"They think you are the judge, jury, and executioner of those who are not strong enough to survive."

I closed my eyes. "Yes, that."

"That has not changed, but King Jude has created a stand-alone law. Any who praise and preach of your godlike power will be sentenced to the dungeons for thirty days."

"He can't do that. The tribunal board would never allow it."

"They've been sent to the dungeons as well, Lucy." Aquarius frowned at me. "Don't let your naivety play into what I tell you. King Jude has grown mad, and he will stop at nothing to regain order."

"He'd throw innocent people, who are probably just traumatised and confused, into the dungeons?!"

She nodded. "The whispers I hear tell me that the discerning public believe his… insanity has always been there. A lot of them are starting to suspect that the only reason they've never seen it is because of you."

"Of me?" I repeated, confused and struck with a tempest of emotions. My father would run the kingdom, that my mother and my ancestors had worked so hard to build, into the ground.

"It came from a very close source in the kingdom. The rumours."

I could feel my face grow pale. My heart began to pound and I closed my eyes. Images swam to the surface, trying to frighten me, trying to make me remember. But I had put those nightmares to peace long ago.

"Rumours should never be believed."

"Some have merit."

"Who leaked them?" I whispered, grinding my teeth together. "It would have to be someone I knew well."

"Aries," she informed me shortly. "Libra confirmed them."

"What are they doing?" I asked her. "Why would they tell the public when they are in such a fragile state?"

"If they can make the King look unfit before the event happened, there is a chance that they can ask another royal for help and get him overthrown. There is also a slim chance the people will vote for you to take his place."

I opened my eyes, rubbing my palms over my cheeks with an exhausted sigh.

"It's a very stupid plan. The public doesn't want a killer as a queen."

"Perhaps it is not," she said. "Perhaps mentions of abuse will create a gentler opinion."

"Abuse?" I flinched at Natsu's growl. "Your father abused you?"

"No," I sighed. "Not in the way you are thinking."

Aquarius raised her eyebrow. "True, he never touched you wrongfully, but that was more for his security than yours."

The room erupted in a sweltering heat, Natsu's emotions creating an atmosphere of hot, raw anger. I gave Aquarius a look.

"Don't," I warned softly, placing my hand over Natsu's. "Don't goad him."

She frowned and I turned to Natsu, placing my hands on his cheeks, lifting his eyes to mine. "It was more mentally degrading, Natsu. He didn't think I'd be worth anything until I got a husband. But I never let any of it get to me."

His eyes flashed black, and I bit my lip, hoping that Ultear, who was the closest and could see Natsu's face, didn't see that.

That was happening more often now, glimpses of black through his eyes, the touch of the demon peeking out at me. I didn't know what to tell Natsu, and after our fight, I was unsure if I even should.

"'Whorish hips?'" he snarled out, quoting me. "Was that him?"

I nodded once and he closed his eyes, inhaling deeply, shoulders tensed. I waited, stroking my fingers along his skin, before shuffling closer when he was quiet for too long.

"You like my hips, and I love you, so his opinion doesn't matter."

His jaw clenched with my words and I sighed, keeping a hand on his cheek as I turned back to Aquarius.

"So, the kingdom is split in two and my father has gone mad. Is he still searching for me?"

She frowned. "Yes. But not for the same reasons. I had my sources inside the castle, but… they grew quiet."

"That's not good."

She nodded, confirming my words. "I sent Scorpio to investigate a few days ago. We had heard of a rather… interesting development and I wanted to know if it was true."

"Another rumour?"

"This one, I am hoping will be a rumour. There is talk of a terrifying magic defending the kingdom. Anybody who walks through it, dies."

"What?" I frowned at her, confused and horrified, "Does that mean the citizens can't leave?"

"And none can enter."

"What sort of magic is it?" Natsu asked. Aquarius tilted her head, eyes flicking to him, then back to me.

"The woman who told me said it was like a million screams wrapped in one white glowing wall. A mist of pure power."

A low murmur echoed through the room, as soft theories were spoken into the atmosphere. I glanced away from them, looking out the window, my mind spinning with the possibilities.

My hand tightened on Natsu's, and I could feel his head move, staring at me closely.

"I'm going to need a moment. Aquarius, you won't be leaving, right?"

"Scorpio knows he is welcome here so I have no need to." She sniffed. "I wouldn't mind a long bath."

I smiled, but it was weak. I stood up, my body numb, and brushed off my skirt, reaching out for her. She took my hand. A very brief, heart-warmingly concerned look passed over her features.

"I'll talk to you later," I promised. "Thank-you for getting this information to me."

When I turned back to the room, Natsu stood up and Ultear straightened, her eyes finding mine.

"Find Erza. Tell her to meet us in the dungeons," I murmured.

"The dungeons?" Acnologia repeated, catching the end of my request. "Why there?"

"Natsu and I need to talk privately," I shrugged, lying. "Relationship stuff. I don't want anyone to overhear us."

Yukino grinned. "Dirty talk?"

I laughed. "You know it."

Acnologia stared at me closely, his intense gaze boring deep inside of me and I stared back, my heart thudding in my chest.

He knew I was lying.

Erza leaned against the wall, her arms crossed over her chest. "Yes. I would say that's the most probable guess."

Ultear and Natsu both stood around, the door locked behind the group of us, our voices low. Natsu told us he'd warn us if he heard anyone coming. Secure in our solitude, I shook my head, a slightly hysterical laugh leaving my lips.

"My father is an idiot."

"We don't know if he let it in willingly."

"If he was feeling threatened by the support I was getting, he would," I informed Ultear, shaking my head again, biting at my lip to stifle the onslaught of emotions rolling inside of me. My power trembled.

Erza looked to Natsu and their eyes met. Natsu growled softly, "He'll kill them all."

"He's already started. My people won't just sit by and allow this," I whispered, horrified. "If he pushes them into a corner, they will fight back. But they aren't born like you all were. We are peace-keepers, star-readers, farmers."

"And seeing as we haven't heard anything about this 'power' before, I'd say that means it's either a very recent development, or anyone who tried to get out previously has fallen to it."

I stared down at the floor, hard, before tucking my hands behind my back, hiding the tremble in my fingers.

"You know what this means," I stated softly.


"Another Banshee. Older, stronger and crueller than I am. And she holds my kingdom in the palm of her hands." I ran my hands through my hair, grinding my teeth together.

"How did she know Lucy was still alive? I thought Acnologia told you that the other Banshee must have assumed Lucy wasn't strong enough to pull through the second awakening." Ultear's voice was tight, almost as angry as mine.

Erza's expression remained stoic. "Despite Acnologia's vast knowledge, we have to assume that he does not know everything."

"Didn't Acnologia say that every time you awakened, your power expanded? The more power you have, the more chance you have of dying then resurrecting yourself?" Natsu asked as he turned away from the door, keeping his eyes locked on mine. I nodded.

"Basically. He told me that it's like another level of power is breached when I bring myself back to life. That's why it took so long for my power to be fully restored."

His jaw clenched, as if I had told him something that he didn't want to hear, and Erza spoke softly, her tone blank.


"What is it?"

"It sounds like this other Banshee is grooming Lucy."

"Grooming me?" I repeated. "For what?"

Natsu shrugged, the movement frustrated. "We know from the books that when a Banshee dies, the soul itself travels to the other dimension. But does that mean a Banshee's soul cannot be taken?"

"She can't take my soul." I shook my head. "It doesn't make any sense. My soul doesn't hold my power. What would she want with it?"

They all remained quiet before understanding lit up Erza's features. She turned her eye to me. "But your soul does hold your lion."


"It's a part of you. Your lion form, even if you can't change fully."

"And?" Ultear asked. "What does this have to do with that?"

"My spy reported a strange woman, who had the ability of multiple animals, but was unable to change. It was a year ago and while I found it strange, I didn't think anything of it…"

I jolted. "Wait. Could she want to kill me for my lioness?"

"For your soul which holds your lion form and its abilities. The way you manifest that ability is just through power and if she's as old as we think she is, she has plenty of that."

I felt my power twist and fold into that furry, pale creature inside me, hissing angrily. I agreed with it, I didn't like that idea at all. I curled my arms around myself as Ultear breathed out.

"So, let me get this entirely straight. We think this other Banshee, let's call her Evil Bitch, purposely killed Lucy as a way of 'grooming' her into another power level. And she wants to take Lucy's soul when she dies, so she can have the lioness spirit inside of her. Why would she kill Lucy and make her more powerful if it was just for that? She could have taken her soul when she died before and it wouldn't have been an issue." Ultear shot me a 'no-offence' look and I waved it off, understanding what she was pointing out.

"It does seem like a lot of work, and effort, for just a soul that she had the opportunity to take previously," I agreed, before taking a deep breath in, calming my agitated and confused nerves. My power only reacted slightly, making me smile a bit as I realised how much my control had grown and developed.

"Well," I cleared my throat. "We can ask her what her big bad plan is when we go to my kingdom and kick her ass."

All five of their eyes snapped to mine as I raised my eyebrow. "We aren't going to sit here and let her destroy and kill my people. Whether they like me or not, they are my responsibility."

Erza leaned forward, her voice soft. "Do you understand what you are saying, Lucy? If we go, it could start a revolution within your kingdom and many. We have no evidence besides our own experiences…"

"It will be likened to a witch hunt. Prosecuting, and attacking what the public might see as an 'innocent' woman." Natsu's voice was also low, and I could tell how much they wanted me to understand. I stared back firmly, before glancing at Ultear who wore an excited grin.

"I'm a witch, so I'm sure I should be frightened, but, I say, down with the Evil Bitch."

I laughed, and she pranced over to my side, wrapping an arm around my neck, wearing a playful smirk. I gave her a thankful squeeze. Natsu sighed.

"You both don't have to come," I told them truthfully. "This fight is going to be hard, and I'm only relying on hope that I can defeat her, at this point."

Erza smiled slightly, walking towards me. "We do our best work with only hope pushing us."

She placed her hand on my shoulder, her one eye twinkling with fondness and I smiled, giving her a little hug as well.

Then I turned to Natsu who shook his head at me again.

"You seriously think I'm going to let you go traipsing off to fight the good fight without me?"

A happy, thankful smile spread over my features.

My hand reached out to his, a pleased blush spreading over my cheeks as he laced our fingers together.

"Looks like we'll have to kick some Banshee butt."

Am I late? I feel spiritually that I'm late. But I can't tell. Oh well, if you guys won't hurt me, then oh-ho let's ignore it. ;) Finally we get to see Aquarius. And uh-oh, what's this other Banshee up to? Can we also just appreciate the sprinkle of Ultear/Gray. Before any body freaks out, this is NOT a canon set-up for a future relationship. You can do with whatever Ultear's backstory inspires within you to do. It's just another facet to show how incredible Ultear really is.

It's hard to believe this story will be wrapped up so soon since it feels like just yesterday I was writing a flustered Lucy thinking about her hips while Natsu read every thought clear from her mind.

How the time flies :')

Question Time!

Will we see some bro time between Lucy and Jackal? Not in the way you are thinking

Will Natsu accept his demon side? That is a MASSIVE ask, especially since there are no fuzzy feelings between Natsu and that part of himself.

Because of Lucy's slight dragon ancestry, if she and Natsu have a child, would the child have some amount of dark dragon powers in it/ be a dragon or a banshee? Genetics are a fun thing so I can't really answer that. I think the best part is assuming that they will both live to have babies.

What the frack is Zeref's purpose in riling up one of them enough to kill him, voiding the contract? Natsu, as he stated previously, tells Lucy that Zeref will do anything to invoke emotion in other people because of his unwillingness to feel any for himself. It's safe to say, he used his powers on Lucy because a) he wanted to see what would happen and b) he's a little bitch and Lucy don't have tim t.

Can banshees also be boys? Or is it only girls? I wondered if the gender of a Banshee could be both for the longest time, but seeing as Mythology only records female, I'm going to stick with the idea that only girls can be a Banshee.

Will Lucy and Natsu do the nymph ceremony again since she died? This will be addressed in the next chapter, but have you noticed, she's… not 'cold' anymore.

Does this "odd" meaning have to do the fact that "malo" also means bad/villain in Spanish? Snort. No but I should have added that. Malo in this context is Romanian mixed with my own tweaking. Most demon language in this book fluctuates between Romanian & Bosnian.

Why does seem like even Zeref and Igneel separate his (Natsu's) two halves? Surely they can grasp that it is him? Like saying you become someone else when drunk is the only comparison I can think of but it never made any sense to me...cuz it's still you...ya know? That is an excellent question and similarity. And you are right, deep down, they both know that Natsu is END down to his bones but find it easier to separate the two core parts of him. The ways people deal with grief and stress fam.

Will Lucy address the fact that she's figured out the connection to gpa Acnologia or is that just going to be left in of those "we all know this secret but nobody is gonna admit to it thus making it a real thing"...? SNORT. I vote second.

Natsu and Lucy to be engaged does Natsu REALLY have to tie her to a tree and leave her? Dragons have all sorts of nifty, ridiculous mating/wooing rituals. Wait till they have to experience burning Natsu's pubes by the fire of his father's flame.

When is Lucy going to beat up Zeref for harming a hair on Natsu's rose colored head? Will be addressed shortly.

Does this mean the demon is sexually attracted to her? And if he is wouldn't this be great for Natsu? Cause he wouldn't kill her, cause he likes the thought that Lucy is his too, right? You can be sexually attracted to someone and feel a sense of possessiveness but still react badly/not really care. I'm not saying THIS is how it is with End, but I'm not NOT saying it either ;)

Will "dark emotions" like anger and fear make the darkness multiply? Can too much Darkness kill a banshee or will she just go insane from all the negative emotions building up inside of her and go on a killing spree? It's more of a metaphysical side-effect to getting too close to the otherside. The darkness would eventually go away by itself over time, but the fact they are healing it, just means Lucy can sleep/function better without that otherworldly energy around her.

I will be bringing back the 40 reviews for an earlier update since the next chapter is almost done and I'm finally back on schedule.

Can I get a hell yeah!

Hope you enjoyed this chapter friends and I'll see you on the flip side.

Stay fresh

freshprincess out xo