Chapter VI

What concerned Lucy most was the lack of the phoenix's warmth and touch. Was he okay? Am I okay? She felt sore and unable to move for the longest time, and she couldn't feel her arms or legs. The only thing she felt in her head was sharp pain and a ringing sound.

When she did regain her senses, she opened her eyes. Her vision was a bit blurry, but she could make out the form of the phoenix starting to stand up a little ways from her. He called something to her, but she couldn't hear properly. She almost called back, but she couldn't seem to speak, either. She was just… there.

Slowly, but surely, Lucy was able to make out what Natsu was saying.

"If you can move, you can fight. Come on, Lucy!" the phoenix said, a little closer than before. He looked different now.

He held out his hand. Wait… HAND? Lucy could see the injuries he sustained on his side and torso. She took his hand with some effort, and he helped her up.

"Are you alright?" Natsu asked her, a concerned look on his face. Face…

Now Lucy saw what made Natsu look different than before. He's human!

"How did you..?" she started to ask, but was interrupted by another explosion. Natsu shielded her from most of the debris.

A dark magic sphere threw itself at Natsu, then another, then another. He was able to burn away the first two, but the last ones remaining he had to dodge. In doing so, he edged away from Lucy.

Taking the advantage of her isolation, the thorny vines attacked from below. They wrapped around her tightly, digging in with sharp pain. Lucy gasped, closing her eyes from the sudden pressure. Mard Geer was closing in, followed by two other demons who were hard on his heels.

Upon hearing the noise, Natsu looked behind him. Lucy heard him mutter, "Crap!" before he turned back to Zeref, his fist igniting. "Don't touch her!"

Zeref smirked, seemingly happy at the sudden burst of anger and increased attacks from Natsu.

"Yes…" the dark mage said, smiling creepily. "Give me all you've got, END!"

"It's Natsu!" the pink-haired young man corrected, fire forming around his arms. He lunged forward, punching and kicking Zeref.

While he was busy with that, the demons closed in on Lucy, who was still trapped by the vines. They suddenly got tighter, and Lucy felt the breath escape her. She tried freeing herself, but found that she couldn't move; the vines were wrapping ever tighter around her.

"Don't try to escape," Mard Geer told her. "You'll only waste your energy."

"Can I blow her up yet?" a rather furry demon asked impatiently. He had a tail and two ears, accompanied by claws.

The dark-haired demon sighed, stepping aside. "Very well, Jackal. Have your fun with her." He started walking away, and another dark-haired demon, a female with horns, followed after him. The vines remained, even as the caster disappeared.

Jackal gave Lucy a devilish smirk, raising one paw at her. "Let's see how loudly you can scream, little girl."

Lucy felt a soft touch on her leg, and a moment later she felt the impact. She winced in pain. The demon then touched her thigh, and an explosion was summoned. Lucy screamed, feeling as if her leg would fall off.

Her stomach was next, and then her two shoulders at once. Jackal was about to finish her off with a tap on the head, but Natsu's flames consumed the demon before he could. The vines crumpled to ashes, setting Lucy free.

She felt warm hands pick her up, and she managed to open her eyes enough to look at him. His gaze locked with hers for a heartbeat, then he tore his attention from her. He turned towards the battlefield, the dead and dying forest.

"We've got to get you out of here," he told her softly. "Before Anna's spirit dies."

Anna? Who was that? Lucy wanted to ask him questions, but he was paying more attention to the battlefield at the moment. She thought she saw his nose twitching, but she discarded the thought.

All of a sudden, the ground shook. Something was coming.

Don't forget to check late next week for chapters 7 and 8!

Will Natsu and Lucy be confronted by more enemies? Will the newcomers be allies? The answer may not be what you expect... or maybe it is.

I hope you're all enjoying Calling Echoes so far! :)