"Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses
who are only waiting to see us act, just once,
with beauty and courage.
Perhaps everything that frightens us is,
in its deepest essence,
something helpless that wants our love."
— Rainer Maria Rilke
It had taken twenty-one days to reach the mountain entrance in a journey that should've taken ten.
Inclement weather, roaming bandits, and an ambush by a wolf pack had cost her time she didn't have. She lost her horse to the wolves, leaving her with meager rations – not nearly enough to make the return trip.
It scarcely mattered.
They were all good as dead anyway.
The dragon had already rejected two would-be champions. By ancient decree, Lucy was the third chance...
...and the last.
Fiore had been fighting for a span of three years. For every season they battled and lost, the more desperate they had become. By doctrine, they'd had been unable to ask for the dragon's help until exactly one hundred years had passed. Any who tried to flout the edict and arrived before the appointed hour was met with a deserted cavern, no fire-breathing beast to be found.
They couldn't afford mistakes, not now – so they followed the old customs to the letter.
The conflict with Alvarez had transformed once-thriving cities into smouldering piles of little more than rubble and ash.
Like all insidious things, it had begun in small ways – higher taxes were accompanied by a spike of military fervor as young men conscripted, urged to join the front lines of Magnolia's army. Churches implored those who had a penny to spare to donate it to the war effort. Minstrels touted national pride.
It had all been very rousing at first, in a way.
Then the casualties started piling up.
Where disease starts, famine sets in, Lucy's mom used to say.
The oldest and youngest were culled first by the plague. Mothers buried their children. Fathers were often found hanging from trees with a rope around their necks. Whether because they ran afoul of thieves or by their own despairing hand, only the Fates knew.
War had sunk its claws in deep, drawing out blood after blood, and nothing had been able to staunch the flow of death. It hollowed-out eyes and lined the faces of the people.
Before this, her beloved country had been at peace for four hundred years. During that golden age, they hadn't sent a champion to invoke the treaty at all; but instead appointed only their most-trusted merchants to bring gifts of gold, jewels, fine long-haired goats and spring lambs to appease its monstrous appetites.
All for nothing, if this is the thanks we get.
A harsh blast of air whistled from the opening of the rock shelter, blowing off her sable hood and biting into her skin. She pushed onward into the thickening darkness, not bothering to waste good flint and steel on a torch that would be extinguished within seconds by an unwelcoming wind.
In this at least, she'd been warned.
The would-be champions who had gone before—both the vanquished and the victorious—had carefully chronicled their expeditions so that those who came after might learn from them. There were maps detailing each step to take, which paths to follow or avoid through the treacherous terrain, as well as personal accounts of meeting the dragon. These parchments had been poured over by scholars for thousands of years.
All for naught, in Lucy's opinion. She had read the scrolls and thought only overfed nobleman could afford to be mired in such frivolous pursuits.
The dragon choose who it wanted and it was as simple as that.
She ventured further into the cave, which had remained nameless even after millennia. It was simply the dragon's cave.
It didn't need a name.
When the cavern narrowed and sloped downward, the winter chill that had followed her these long days slowly retreated...merely tonguing at the edges of stone. As though it, too, was hesitant to venture any further into the belly of the beast.
Lucy reached a stalagmite with clear markings – some in her own language and others with foreign symbols she didn't recognize. Most were faded into the limestone wrinkles, but a couple were so fresh they stood out, the stark white of jutting bone.
All of them were some variation of the words light or torch.
She paused to dig into her pack and unwrapped an alabaster shell from within her bundled clothing. She pressed a tincture of beeswax into the shallow bowl, and then carefully lit the wick.
The oil lamp carved a circle of light in the gloom ahead of her, softening the sharp edge of the walls but doing little to abate her growing sense of unease.
For several long minutes, nothing changed as she walked. All Lucy could hear were the scuttle of small rodents and all she could see were the shiny disc-black bodies of beetles crawling up the walls.
The further she ventured downward, the steadier the temperature climbed. Eventually, the scent of pine needles and charred wood wafted up to reach her. It curled around her, embracing her like an old, dear friend.
Not much further now.
The passageway thinned to the point she had to go sidewise to get through, wary of her hips as she crouched through the narrow gaps. She encountered gypsum crystals sticking out like fanged teeth, shining moon-bright.
Lucy wished she had time to admire them.
After she picked her way around the minerals, the path evened out and widened, as promised by the scribes. The rockface became flat as a skipping stone, tempered by sharp claws and wicked flames.
The dragon was waiting for her.
The stories did not do him justice.
His long serpentine body was covered in crimson scales brushed with gold edging at each tip, so shiny in the reflected light they looked wet. His wings tucked comfortably along the sides of his body. He stayed coiled, for which Lucy was thankful, because even small as she was, she doubted there would be any space left for her if he decided to stretch to his full length.
"So...you're the third champion," it grumbled, the timber of his voice filling the den, sonorous and harsh with disuse.
"I am, sir." The dragon had not disclosed his name in all the centuries he'd lived here, but it never hurts to be polite. Lucy raised her lamp higher to see him more clearly.
He slowly moved his neck toward her, cocking his head to the side in an oddly puppy-like gesture. His eyes a glistening black – the space cleaved between the stars. He grinned.
If he refused her, Lucy knew that smile would haunt her nightmares for the rest of her life.
Rows of glinting bone-white teeth – far more pointed than any sword could be – came closer and closer. She inhaled sharply, astonished that he didn't emit a putrid scent from his maw, but instead smelled of kindled birchbark and fine polished cedar.
He snapped those teeth and it was the dry sound of a hundred skulls cracking.
She stood her ground.
He let out a snort of surprise, inhaling deeply. "The third guardian to be sent, the last hope...and a princess at that."
Lucy scowled. Her titles weren't worth the parchment they were printed on now. Not that she had ever cared about her birthright.
"What's your name?" He demanded. He had a voice like flint and steel – the possibility of fire lingering behind each wrought syllable.
She opened her mouth to answer but inhaled a great mouthful of limestone dust. She coughed viciously, keeling in half, one arm wrapped around her stomach. Her embarrassment amplifying as the hacking continued incessantly for several long minutes. The dragon seemed to grow more amused the longer it took her to speak.
Finally, she was able to rasp out, "Lucy Heartfilia."
"You're aware of the decree?" It was a formality to ask.
"I am." She could still feel a tickle in her throat. She tried to swallow it down.
Three questions. She had three questions to ask and three to answer. The rhyme children chanted to each other while skipping popped automatically into her head.
Dragon's tale, dragon's tale
Chase it 'round without fail
Three questions you must ask
And three truths you must tell
Aid lies at Summer's fell
"Why did you refuse both Erza and Gray?" She blurted out.
A trifle unethical to combine both former challengers in the same question, but it wasn't as though she had a lot of options.
"Why did you send them?" he countered.
So, she was to go first then.
Lucy didn't even have to think twice about the first part of her answer.
"Erza is our mightiest warrior, the strongest among us. We had hoped strength would beget strength. It is said you have respected fearsome fighters in the past, especially ones with purity in their hearts."
The dragon seemed to mull over her response and was slow in speaking.
"That is true, but your first champion did not interest me. Her questions were trite. I refused her because I wanted to see what else you people would come up with."
People are dying and you refused a champion for not being entertaining enough for you?
It took everything Lucy had to keep the words locked behind her teeth.
She swallowed thickly, trying to push down her anger.
He was their last hope, after all.
She took a few steadying breaths before continuing. "We sent Gray because he was voted amongst us as the most diplomatic. Although not the most learned scholar, he is the fairest. It is rumoured you respect those who can set aside their feelings for the sake of the greater good. Gray has that capacity."
"Did you vote for him?"
She almost lied and said yes, but the song flared in her mind. Three truths you must tell.
"No, I didn't."
The dragon tilted his head, too smart to use up his last question, but obviously encouraging her to go on.
"Gray is fair, that is true. But you're a fire dragon. Gray's icy exterior makes him seem distant, even when he's not. I had reservations about how fire and ice would mix, especially in a short amount of time."
Time they didn't have to spare.
"I seriously considered Gray," the dragon rumbled, "He was honest and unwavering in his conviction. But then he started to get naked…"
Seriously? Gray's stupid stripping habit was the reason why she was here?
"...and I found that distasteful so I asked him to leave."
Asked was a generous word. The way Gray told it, the dragon had suffocated him in his claw until he lost consciousness. When he finally awoke, Gray was at the foothills of the mountain, horse and pack tethered beside him, untouched.
Which brought her to her second question.
"Why did you refuse the gold and jewels we sent?"
The dragon gave a bemused grin.
"I'm over four thousand years old. I have tasted the wind from the highest mountain peaks. I have bathed in water clear as glass. I have basked in sunlight on foreign sands untouched by man. I have magic and immortality...and you think I value a pile of shiny trinkets?"
He snorted, quickly adding: "That was a rhetorical question, not one I wish you to answer."
Lucy longed to ask more about it, since the dragon had accepted – no, had demanded treasure from past champions as payment for his aid.
However, she only had one question left and needed to be careful.
"You go first," she said. Maybe she could learn something from it, something that would compel him to come with her.
The dragon tilted his head, studying her carefully.
"Why did they send you?"
Lucy had thought about it constantly during the journey – why the other contenders had elected her. She wasn't smart like Levy or strong like Gajeel. She didn't have Cana's cunning or Laxus' natural leadership.
She chewed the inside of her cheek. It didn't bode well to take too much time in answering.
Lucy closed her eyes, shutting out everything – all hope, all fear, all desire. It was something her mother had taught her as a child. To let the world fall away and connect with her own body. She breathed out, trying to find the kernel of truth inside of her.
"My heart…" she gasped out. "I think they sent me because of my heart."
The dragon studied her closely, whiffing at her hair.
Those dark eyes seemed to swallow her in their depths – something flashing within its pitch, as if he saw through her, before they cleared once more.
"I think you're right. Very well, I shall go with you. Lucy Heartfilia, I accept you as my champion."
The words were binding, an ancient rite.
His words wound around her chest, unraveling in her veins. It immobilized her. She went rigid as pain sluiced through her, a golden light anointing her. It burned a brand on her skin, just above her collarbones, crimson scales and chasing gold flame appearing in an intricate, thin pattern depicting the dragon.
She slumped to the ground as the magic released her, her knees knocking against the jagged rock and her lungs constricted tight. She put one hand to her throat, the other reaching up to touch the soul-enchantment he had placed upon her.
The rigid, blazing tattoo cooled instantly against her fingertips.
The heat became part of her.
A piece of dragon fire.
It was done.
She and the dragon were bound together, until her death.
"This feels so odd…" she said, looking down at her hands. She hadn't known what to expect, but it wasn't this. When she waved them, they gave off a bit of shimmer, like wafting gold dust.
"You'll get used to it," the dragon chuckled.
Lucy concentrated, trying to light a fire in the palm of her hand. To her great disappointment, only a tiny flicker of flame appeared.
"It'll get stronger the longer we know each other," he assured her. "Within a few months, you will be able to command the flames as I do. Your eyesight will sharpen and already my scales have begun to form underneath your skin. As a human, you are practically indestructible now."
Then he murmured almost to himself, "Not that I would let anything happen to you."
He sat up, his spiral horns brushing against the ceiling of the cavern, dust raining on them. He shook himself to clear it from his scales, his shifting weight causing a shudder along the limestone floor.
As he moved, he exposed a cache in the plain rock wall behind him that his bulk had previously hidden. Lucy was able to see piles of treasure. Gold coins, rubies the size of robin's eggs, emeralds, sapphires...jewels she didn't even know the names of – most loose, but some set into tiaras, swords, sashes and rings.
"There's probably a sack around here somewhere," the dragon said, carefully nudging the piles with his nose.
"Sack?" She repeated numbly, still caught up in the fact that the dragon had accepted her. That he was her familiar.
The dragon grunted. "I assume Fiore needs funds: for armour, seeds to replant crops, and the like. Wars are expensive things."
"I don't understand…"
The dragon paused in his search, craning his head to look at her. "What don't you understand?"
She loosed a breath, a few golden strands of her hair drifting away from her forehead before settling back down again. "Why did you take treasure from us for thousands of years if you're just going to give it back? Isn't this part of your horde?"
He gave an exasperated sigh. "I told you, I have no need of such things."
No, that wasn't right. He had all these things because her people had gifted them to him.
"You demanded Yuri The Wise give you half our coffers in exchange for the familiar bond two thousand years ago," Lucy told him.
"Yuri the Wise? Is that what history is calling him now? He'd be so pleased. Yuri the Reckless would've been more apt. He was a small princeling when he came to me. At a time when Fiore was at its richest. Most of what you see here came from him. He had the potential to be great, but there was too much greed in him. He would've been too wasteful with resources if I hadn't intervened. I took away a portion of his means and he had to think before he spent the rest. It made him a better leader, a better King. And of course, he had me to help him." At the last, the dragon seemed to preen a bit.
Realization filtered through her. "You take treasure to save? So that you can help out in future conflicts?"
He snorted again like it was painfully obvious. "Of course."
"But...but...none of the chronicles mention that," she spluttered.
"And neither will you," he said seriously, the cathedral of his deep voice darkening to the sound of mourning bells before lightening again. "It's something best kept secret until needed, don't you agree? It wouldn't be good to have treasure hunters coming here in search of my horde. It's taxing placing glamours over it so that the cave appears empty when I leave."
Stupefied, Lucy persisted. "But...it's not just treasure. What about the lambs and goats?"
He seemed to shrug, his massive wings spreading out a bit. "A dragon's got to eat and it's nice every now and again to have a meal prepared for you."
She stared at him agape, but he was already moving on, finding a few large gunny sacks and nudging them in her direction. "Would you mind getting those?"
Lucy did as he asked and held the bags open as he filled them with a bit of everything.
When she was finished tying off the last sack so that the riches wouldn't spill out, the dragon said, "There's a saddle you have to strap it to my back, then tie the pouches to it. Tightly. I move quickly."
Mutely, Lucy nodded and found the saddle. It was made of black leather, softer than doeskin. It didn't work in quite the same way as a horse's pillion, but the dragon gave her clear instructions on how to cinch the straps. He checked and flexed to make sure she did it correctly.
"Good," he approved finally, motioning she should move the riches to the saddlebags.
She attempted to lift the first load but it was heavy. With her arms straining, hands barely able to reach all the way around, the material course and bumpy against her cheek, she heaved with all her might.
It didn't move an inch.
She switched tactics, tugging with both arms, digging in with her heels to try to drag the damn thing.
It refused to budge.
The dragon seemed to be laughing at her, if the chortling rumbles coming from his heaving chest were any indication.
The blonde harrumphed, her boots toeing the burlap sack as she put all her weight into it and pushed, attempting to roll it to him.
She gave the bag a disgruntled kick, succeeding only in injuring her toe. Lucy yelped, hopping on one foot.
A resounding roar filled the room as the dragon watched her, his wings and shoulders shaking with mirth.
She stared at him, crossing her arms. "Are you quite finished now?"
Her peevish expression set him off further and his howls became thunder. Dust got in her hair and on her shoulders but she stubbornly refused to brush it off. She could feel her hair turning white, the weight of the limestone powder flattening her golden tresses.
It made him laugh harder—great heaving laughs that rang out like forge bellows—the air becoming swelteringly hot and faintly smoky as he snorted.
Lucy tapped her foot impatiently and the dragon chortled some more, forcing a reluctant smile from her. She knew she must look ridiculous. She giggled, shaking her head so that the talc scattered around her like snowdust.
The dragons' titters subsided and he seemed to catch hold of himself. If he were human, he would've wiped a tear from his eyes. Instead, he just gave a fanged grin, putting his head on the floor so she could see herself reflected in his onyx orbs.
"I don't seem to recall humans being so puny. You haven't got much for muscles, do you?"
"I'm ignoring that remark. A nice dragon would offer to help," she said, over-sweet.
He huffed, a cocky smirk gracing his features, but he dropped down beside her, obedient as a lapdog. He even rolled slightly so she could just latch the treasure directly to the saddle packs, shifting his body to accommodate her.
After she secured the sixth one, he said, "That's enough. We can always come back for more if we need it."
Lucy swung herself up onto his back. In this, at least, she needed no assistance. Once she had adjusted her seat and had one hand on the pommel, she couldn't resist reaching down to stroke his ruby scales.
They were hard, impenetrable, but felt like liquid metal, warm beneath her hand. She smoothed them down and the dragon purred.
"There's a good boy," she whispered. She had meant to poke fun at him a bit, as revenge for him laughing at her, but the words caught in her throat and the dragon fire inside her seemed to flare at the words.
Is this what he meant by her fire getting stronger the longer they knew each other? Did touch strengthen the soul-bond between them?
Before she could find the wherewithal to ask, the dragon was moving and she screamed, both her hands struggling to find purchase, grasping the pommel until her knuckles turned white.
The dragon grunted and paused, twisting his neck back to ascertain her safety. When he was convinced she wasn't about to fall off, he continued walking, his wings scraping the walls as he went through a complicated maze of pathways, each one seeming to climb higher and higher.
Lucy had never been one for heights. Not frightened, exactly. She just had a healthy respect for them and tried to remain with both feet firmly planted on the ground as much as possible.
The dragon finally emerged into the sunlight onto a stone ledge. He unfurled his vast wings, the bloodred membranes and tendons giving a slight crack, as if they'd been cramped.
The fog surrounding them making it difficult to gauge how high up they were, but Lucy surmised it was much higher than most humans had ever gone before.
The thin air and the snow pelted her—wet and sticky against her flushed face—but she wasn't as cold as she had been before. The tiny bit of dragon fire nestled inside of her, a soul-ember, hot as a brazier coal.
"You might want to hang on for this bit," the dragon said, giving her a cheery wink.
"I am hanging—on—!"
He plummeted straight down and the fog cleared. Lucy felt her legs pulling away as she almost lost her balance and toppled off. She locked her knees against the dragon as tightly as she could, bending forward to shelter her body from the buffeting wind. There was a long scream and it took a moment to realize it was coming from her.
The dragon's wings snapped open.
She was lifted right out of her seat before he caught the thermal and then she was unceremoniously planted right back down again with a loud smack to her backside. It stung but she was too grateful to be alive to even notice.
"Lucy...look," the dragon commanded.
Snow whirled around rock formations like playful sprites chasing the wind. Treetops pointed their finger-like tips at them, as if in awe of the dragon's majesty. Flashes of bird wing caught the corner of her eye, but by the time she turned her head, they were gone.
And the quiet.
Lucy hadn't known silence could resound, that peace could submerge bone-deep. She tightened her legs and arched back, spreading her arms wide, letting go of the dragon and...perhaps for the first time in her life, fully trusting herself.
The dragon must have felt her shift because he gave a startled gasp, but when he turned to look at Lucy, she was fine.
Better than fine.
She was flying.
Her eyes were closed and the wind was tussling her hair and her throat sang wordless praises for a long, long time.
The dragon flapped his wings, disrupting the calm for a split second before banking and gliding again, making lazy circles as he descended towards the ground.
It was over far too soon.
They landed at the base of the mountain, near the edge of the forest.
"I have never experienced anything like that," she said in a hushed tone, as if a raised voice would break the spell she was under. "Thank you, dragon."
"Natsu," the creature grunted.
He twisted his neck to face her. "My name...it's Natsu," he repeated.
"I've never told anyone that before," Natsu said, trepidation clear in his voice.
"I'm honored to know it, Natsu," Lucy said, tasting the words and liking the way they felt in her mouth.
"That's part of the reason I choose you, you know," he said inexplicably.
"Lucy...it means Light. My name means Summer. Summer Light seems like a good name for a dragon and a companion, don't you think?"
She wanted to say it all might just be a strange coincidence but there was something so hopeful behind his eyes that she just couldn't.
"I feel like we were meant to be great friends, Natsu," she said honestly.
The dragon grinned at her, swishing his tail and knocking a few trees over. Lucy was too polite to point it out and Natsu was too happy to notice.
"I have something else to show you, as well." he told her, "but I need you to climb off my back."
Lucy slid off the saddle, her legs wobbly as a newborn calf but she somehow managed. She walked around to the front of him.
Natsu stepped back a few paces and then reared into the air, standing on his hindlegs, blotting out the sun. Then he glowed, so bright she flung an arm out in front of her eyes to protect them – wincing and backing away from the force of power she felt emitting from him.
"You can look now," Natsu said, his voice less a cacophony of bell-like sounds and more the brass-deep tones of a single instrument.
She opened her eyes.
Where a dragon had been a man was now standing there.
He looked about her age and had thick coral hair styled in choppy spikes. His face was lean, with defined features – chiselled cheekbones, straight nose, and full lips. When he smiled, his incisors were slightly longer than normal, but they gave him a carefree, devilish look.
His shoulders were broad and his muscular bare chest could've made a sculptor weep.
Lucy found herself drawn up to his face again.
"Your eyes are green now," she told him.
Green wasn't the right shade for them. They were luminescent and glittered like foxfire.
Natsu snorted, "A man is standing naked in front of you and you're worried about eye colour? You're kind of a weirdo, aren't you?"
Lucy looked down again.
He was indeed naked.
She screamed, shielding her gaze – whirling away from him.
"Hey, I don't mind you looking," the dragon said, laughter colouring his tone. Lucy didn't answer, willing away the fiery blush gracing her cheeks, but she could hear rustling. She muttered under her breath as she calmed, her blood cooling just as he called out to her.
"It's fine now, I put some clothes on."
Lucy peeked over her shoulder. Natsu was indeed dressed in a grey linen tunic embroidered with a scarlet crest in the shape of a dragon over his left pectoral. Back pants were tucked into black boots to complete the ensemble.
"I always keep some clothes in the packs," he explained before she could ask where they came from.
"I didn't know you were a shapeshifter," she muttered.
Those chronicles had been next to useless.
Natsu shrugged. "No one knew. You're the first person I have shown my true form."
Lucy's mind snagged on the last thing he said, "Your true form?"
"I was born a human. I was cursed and trapped into the form of a dragon." Natsu said, as casually as one might discuss the weather.
"Who...who did that to you?"
"My brother, Zeref. The same dark wizard you're fighting now," he said in that same calm, measured voice.
Zeref – the Emperor of Alvarez, the Black Wizard...and a dragon's brother?
Lucy collapsed to the ground, her legs too shaky to hold her weight any longer. If this is what Zeref would do to his own family, then what would he do to a nation with which he had no ties? She peered up at him from beneath pale lashes, the kohl long worn away from her journey. "But why would he do this? Why would he curse you?"
"He's immortal too, or near enough. He didn't want me to die, so he changed me so I couldn't."
"The things you're saying sound like they're from myths and fairytales," Lucy murmured in a daze, ripping up a few blades of damp grass just to feel rooted to the earth.
"Ah, but aren't dragons and soul-bonds the stuff of fairytales? And yet here we are," Natsu countered.
Lucy had a million questions to ask, but she started with something simple. "How did you break the spell?"
Natsu tilted his head, carding one hand through his salmon hair. "I told you I have magic. With four thousand years and nothing but time on my hands, I eventually broke free."
"But...why didn't you stay human?"
"I age as a human," Natsu explained. "And those once-every-hundred year visits by your people convinced me I wasn't missing out on much by staying in dragon form."
She snorted, unsure whether to feel insulted or not.
He bounced on the balls of his feet and she surmised he had problems standing still.
Natsu continued talking, "Oh, I have thought of dying, just to spite my brother. But when he went quiet a few centuries ago, I knew he was plotting something. This war Fiore has been launched into is by his design. He's baiting me, trying to draw me out."
"Looks like he succeeded," Lucy said glumly. If Zeref was a powerful enough dark wizard to turn people into dragons four thousand years ago, what chance did her people have now?
As if reading her thoughts, Natsu spoke.
"Lucy, don't worry. I would've accepted the third champion no matter what, but I wasn't totally honest with you earlier. There was something else, some deeper instinct that told me to reject Erza and Gray. I think...I think I was waiting for you."
At his words, Lucy could feel her own dragon fire blaze...it seemed to want to reach for him. But also, there was something more. Something deeper she couldn't yet comprehend.
Something they didn't have time to discover.
She shook her head as if to clear it. "You're a very handsome man Natsu, but if we're going to haul this treasure out of here, I need you back as a dragon. We both know I can't carry it."
Natsu started in surprise, his mouth going slack for an instant before a sweet smile tugged up the corners of his mouth. He looked boyish and mischievous all at once.
"You think I'm handsome?"
Lucy felt her face flushing; she hadn't meant to say the 'handsome' part aloud. She found a note of false bravado. "Natsu, I was supposed to be back days ago. We're just lucky Erza must be occupied. Otherwise, she'd be charging through this forest, thinking I've been kidnapped and coming to rescue me."
"Okay, okay," Natsu conceded, but he came closer and reached for her hand. He raised it up to his lips, his hand warm, his breath hot. For some reason, it sent shivers racing down her spine. He brushed his lips over her knuckles in a chaste kiss that punched the air right out of her lungs.
"But if I were to steal a princess, it would be you."
Lucy blinked rapidly, but before she could respond, he had transformed back.
She gave a soft chuckle, reaching out to stroke his cheek, enjoying the way the light played over his ruby scales that were dipped in gold. Natsu leaned further into her hand, a deep hum of contentment reverberating from his chest. She gave him a final pat and then swung back into the saddle.
"Ahh, but you might be a little too late. You see, I've already captured the dragon and bond him as my familiar."
She felt his shock and pleasure at her remark, soul-deep.
As he spread his wings, she gave him a playful nudge with her foot.
"Let's go save the world, Natsu."
A/N - Natsu's cave is based on the Cave of Crystals, found in Mexico.
Foxfire is a real thing and it's a glowing green, most often found in forests. Satyrykal always surprises me with wonderful colour descriptions, but this time I had hoped to surprise her.
Thank you to Satyrykal for putting up with me these incredibly hard yet wonderful few weeks. Her editing prowess but most importantly her friendship kept me from capsizing. She has several Nalu stories on here as well as an amazing Nalu/Miraculous Ladybug crossover! Please go check her out!
Other authors who went into the madhouse with me for Nalu Week are: ShanaHollows, wordsaremyspells1331, and Professor of Gallifrey.
Thanks to my reviewers from last time: lovetoreadff, Slash2104, JAKEDSNAKE, Professor of Gallifrey, ShanaHollows, Fireshifter, stranger1999 and BrokenAngelWings83!
About Me Section
Two weeks to prepare 7 stories! It was a whirlwind and I apologize if I haven't sent a proper PM. I wanted to thank you, say I appreciate each of you, and am so incredibly grateful to have shared this journey with you guys. Thank you for your support.
I wrote these stories in the following order:
6) On The Road
All seven prompts taught me something.
Chance is my personal favourite and flowed easiest.
Trial took the least amount of time to write.
Treasure I have the most plot bunnies for. ETA: Story most likely to be turned into a multi-chapter fic.
Cursed took the most time to write. (Worth it.)
Lost was initially the hardest with rewrites but ended up being the most unexpected.
On The Road was the hardest to write.
Stranger is the most personal as I did play the piano. Lucy's thoughts on music are very much my own.
All of them I wished I could've spent more time with, perfecting them for you.
In addition to my first Nalu Week, this is first time I have Completed a story.
The other stories I write are both Nalu and M. rated. They're called Request Board Romance and If The Shoe Fits, if you're interested.
Do you have a favourite one-shot now the week is over? Please let me know!
Thank you all for reading!