"I can't believe," a voice from behind her complained, and Lucy spared a look over her shoulder in time to watch her friend struggle up the last of the steps that led from the entrance of their new home to the living room, "that I agreed to live here with you. It makes me feel like I'm some fairy princess that should be wearing fancy ball gowns or something."
Lucy's lips quirked as she nudged the box at her feet aside and went to help the desperate Levy McGarden when she nearly toppled backwards, struggling with the weight of yet another box of books. "You're already halfway to being a fairy princess. I mean, look at your height." said Lucy, grinning as she took the box, and Levy pouted at her.
"Don't be rude, Lucy. You promised to leave me alone about my height if I left you alone about your wealth, and you don't want to know how many thoughts I've had about that since you first showed me this place."
"Don't lie, you like it." Lucy threw the words over her shoulder as she and Levy started down the hall at the back of the room they'd chosen to split into a living room and dining room. The gray stone brick walls, which really did look like some kind of ancient castle, made the hall dark, and Lucy mindlessly mused that she'd need to get some lights put in. They passed the kitchen - a nice spacious room, with new appliances that didn't fit in with the rest of the old building - as well as the bathroom and a closet that would do nicely for storage, and then ducked into the room across from Lucy's.
Levy had barely started unpacking her things, mostly due to an overwhelming amount of books that she had brought to line the several bookshelves they'd hauled up those flights of stairs and into the main floor of the building. But her room was lovely enough, with a large window overlooking the forest that surrounded the stone manor, and Lucy eyed it and the window bench with appreciation. That had been Levy's condition upon moving in: she wanted that window bench.
"I do," Levy admitted, watching intently as Lucy placed the box carefully beside a few others. "It's just kind of big and empty. A little creepy. I still think Gray should move in with us, but…"
Lucy agreed, wincing at the thought of her poor friend. His girlfriend of several years had disappeared off of the streets, like a friend of hers she'd always claimed had, and despite months of searching, still hadn't been found. He'd been struggling, she knew, and no matter what his adopted family did, it didn't make him feel any better. It didn't help that the police had stopped pushing so hard to find her.
"Oh!" Levy suddenly gasped, glancing at her phone. "I have to go, I promised Jet and Droy that I would be at the shop by noon and I'm already going to be late!" Without pause, she bolted out the door, running the length of the hall as she shouted over her shoulder, "See you later, Lucy!"
Chuckling, Lucy followed her out, listening to her slam one of the heavy oak wooden doors shut behind her as she left. She owned the shop, so being late wasn't such a big deal, but Levy wasn't fond of being late.
Lucy stopped at the entrance to the big living room and dining room, hands on her hips as she looked back and forth between the two. Both had to be unpacked still, although she doubted either would take her long. All the two women had was from their previous residences, and Lucy had lived in a tiny apartment. Levy had lived with thousands of books, but not much else.
But...she loved the massive building she'd bought. All with her own money, without any help whatsoever from her father. It had been suspiciously cheap, but she didn't mind. Whatever was wrong with the manor, she'd deal with. She certainly had the savings if it got pricey. As far as she knew for the time being, however, there was nothing to worry about.
Deciding her time should be spent unpacking, Lucy headed back to her own bedroom, which had yet to be unpacked as well, and dug a bluetooth speaker out of one of her boxes before returning to the main room. We should name the rooms, she mused, dubbing the one she was in the Common Room.
Within minutes she'd set everything up and with tap on her phone, the music was blaring out of the speaker. Lucy grinned as the room was filled with the sound of violins. A classical song from her childhood, one that she hummed along to and allowed her feet to fall into the familiar accompanying waltz she'd once hated learning. She might have left the pressures of a wealthy life willingly years before, when she had run away from her father and stolen herself the freedom she'd craved for years, but such teachings would never leave her soul. Her mother's gentle words and stern teachings had been implanted deep into her before her own death, and Lucy had decided upon turning her back on that life that she would never, ever allow herself to forget them.
Lucy allowed herself to enjoy the music as she went to work, her mind going blank as she did so, freeing her of painful memories that accompanied the remembering of her family life after her mother's passing. She remembered a sharp blow, which had only happened once, and even sharper words that even now cut her deeply when she remembered how they'd been spat at her.
After a few hours of working, Lucy abandoned her work, physically exhausted and ready for a break. She dropped onto the couch after snagging her phone, draping herself over the comfortable seating, and was scrolling through various social media sources, the music still filling the room, when she heard the door opening and slamming shut over it.
"Levy!" she called after pausing the music.
"What?" her friend called back as she climbed one of the twin flights of stairs that led up to the Common Room. She appeared at the top, her grin seen from across the room by the snickering blonde, who peered over the back of their white couch at her.
"You need to get a move on with your room." Lucy propped her chin on the back of the couch, arching a slim brow. "Look, I did all of this," she gestured to the living room side of the Common Rom, "by myself."
"Brag about it why don't you," Levy scoffed, dropping onto the couch beside her after shoving her legs aside and snatching up a few pieces of candy from the bowl that Lucy had put on the coffee table. She popped a piece of chocolate into her mouth. "I will unpack soon. I promise. Eventually, I'll get to it. I have to get the rest of the books in there before I even think about sorting through them."
"There's more?" Lucy whined, thinking of how sore her arms were going to be by the end of moving them all.
"Don't worry," Levy said with an outright laugh. "I've already convinced Droy and Jet to come in and help us with the boxes. They're going to help me organize them, too, since they know what I like when it comes to my books."
"I would hope so, since they work for you."
Levy was the proud owner of Magnolia's only bookstore, The Quiet Place, and was fairly well-known throughout town for it. Though they both had to travel quite a bit to get into the town now, since their home was out in the country surrounding it, Levy loved her shop and vowed to remain the owner for years to come.
"I might take a room here," Levy said suddenly, "and turn it into a storage for my shop if you don't mind?"
Lucy waved her off, shrugging. "Do what you want. It's your house, too, and it's not like we don't have the space, you know?" Lucy paused, considering. "What do you think of renting out spots on the second floor or something? It'd make us some money. You could upgrade your bookstore like you've wanted to for so long."
"I'd like that," Levy said eagerly. Her eyes sparkled at the idea, and she pushed some blue hair from her eyes. "We'll probably have to spend a lot getting started, but we could add a kitchen to the second floor. Mira would help, I bet. She could hand out ads for us."
Lucy nodded in agreement and then thoughtfully looked up. "We should probably explore a bit more first though. We want to make sure there's nothing dangerous anywhere, just in case. We'd probably get sued or something if something went through the floor and nearly crushed someone."
Levy agreed, popping another piece of chocolate into her mouth. "So it's going to take us forever to check each floor. Why don't we start tomorrow morning? Since we both have the day off. I'll take the west side of each floor, you take the east, and we'll meet up the staircase when we're done. If we clear five floors a day, we'll be done within two or three weeks."
Lucy made a face at the thought of how long it would take, but agreed. "How early should we get up? I have a feeling we can get more than five floors done if we really push for it. We haven't finished checking rooms on the first floor just yet, either."
"That's because we've been moving in and unpacking," Levy pointed out. "How about eight or so? Be looking by nine. Make sure to bring your phone so we take pictures and call one another if we get lost."
"Definitely. I'll charge mine up tonight," Lucy promised. She patted the device affectionately. "You should do the same. Who's working tomorrow? Jet or Droy?"
"Both." Levy made a face. "Should we try calling Gray? I know he's upset, but he was showing some interest when you mentioned we'd bought the place...it would do him some good. We could invite Erza, too, and maybe make a little pizza party out of it."
"It'd be safer." Lucy yawned, stretching her arms above her head. "If you get lost, at least you wouldn't get lost again. I call Gray. I took Erza out for strawberry cake the other day, so it's your turn to deal with her." They truly loved their friend to death, they really did. Erza Scarlet was a kind soul, who could be rather temperamental and stubborn in some cases. But she was just as enjoyable as Gray had been before his girlfriend had disappeared.
"Fine," Levy grumbled. "Not fair. You know Erza won't let me check out what I want to look at though...she'll be after what she likes. So that means you get the next Day of Cake, you hear me?"
"Loud and clear." Lucy sat up and popped her back. She'd won...for now. Levy would get her back in addition to taking the next Day of Cake. "I'm going to head to bed. Don't stay up too late, alright? I don't care how excited you are about that book you picked up today. We have a busy day tomorrow."
"Oh, alright," Levy said grouchily. "See you tomorrow, Lucy."
"Night!" Lucy said cheerfully. She climbed to her feet and started for the hall, humming under her breath as she ducked into it and made her way to her new bedroom. She paused in the doorway of it, eyeing the violet, golden-streaked sky, stained by the setting sun, through the window in her room and smiled.
She was quite fond of her new home.
When the next morning rolled around, it found Levy and Lucy shoveling food as quickly as they could into their mouths, eager to get on with the day's planned activities. Both were excited to explore, even as Levy prolonged her eating by doing so while simultaneously balancing a book in her free hand, eyes locked on it. Her hair had been shoved from her face with a headband. Lucy was simply nibbling at a piece of toast that she'd made in the time it had taken Levy to eat three bites.
Impatience crept through her; she didn't like that her friend was taking too long.
"Did you call about back up?" Levy suddenly asked, hazel eyes flicking up.
"No," admitted Lucy. "I got a text from Gray early this morning that Lyon was taking him out of town for a little bit. A breather. And I figured we might as well let Erza be if we can't do teams."
Levy nodded, accepting this without hesitation. With a yawn, she pushed her food away and set her book aside, finally standing up. "Let's get these dishes done," she said, "and then we can finish getting ready and dressed and head upstairs.
Lucy agreed, and the pair went to work, finishing the dishes quickly before heading to their rooms. It didn't take Lucy long to get ready, and she was waiting outside Levy's door, worried that she'd gotten caught up in a book again, before long. She'd chosen simple clothes: a long-sleeved shirt with the sleeves rolled up to her elbows, a pair of older jeans in case she got caught on anything, and some tennis shoes, so her feet wouldn't get sore from walking all day. She'd swept her long hair up into a ponytail, too, to keep it out of her dark eyes.
But when Levy emerged from her room, dressed with a phone in hand and distress in her eyes, Lucy knew that Levy's plans for the day had changed. "I'm sorry!" she wailed, frantically lurching past Lucy for the Common Room. Lucy trailed after her. "I have to go to the shop! Droy just called about a money problem, and-"
"Don't worry about it," she reassured even as disappointment rolled through her. "Don't worry, I get it, just go and deal with it. We'll explore some other time."
Levy threw a thankful look over her shoulder, pausing. "Lucy, you can go ahead and start if you want. Just keep your phone on you so you can call me if you get lost - okay?" She smiled broadly as Lucy perked up and then waved as she sprinted down the stairs to the front door, shouting a farewell over her shoulder.
Lucy shouted a thanks before the door slammed shut behind her, and then turned to look at the Common Room. She put her hands on her hips, eyeing the room thoughtfully. She'd finish exploring the first floor, she decided, and then work her way up. She'd be careful, of course. Some of the upper stories might be more dangerous than the more commonly used main level and second story.
It was a little lonely, Lucy admitted as she made her way down the hall, heading all the way for the back. She stopped in a few rooms, peeking in with curiosity. The building had once been a well-kept mansion that housed the royalty of Fiore centuries before, and she could see it in the dusty decorations. They had a lot of remodeling to do, she realized, her feet clattering noisily against the floor as she finally reached the room at the very end of the hall.
This had been the room that had made her decide to buy the manor.
It was huge, perhaps once a ballroom. And, at the very center of the room, stood a tree. Lucy had no idea how someone had grown a tree that was in bloom within a building, but it was gorgeous, towering hundreds of feet in the air. Its branches reached to the skylight at the very top of the building, and a wooden bench circled its roots, making Lucy smile. She loved this large room. She would have claimed it as her bedroom had Levy not said no.
Lucy wondered if Levy would be up for hosting a holiday party that year. It would be the perfect place for it. She went up a flight of stairs that led to the second story, held at the back of the room she dubbed the Room of Content and then peered down when she reached the balcony that was near them, grinning. There was a balcony to view the tree on each floor - and it had her approval.
She went to work on the second story, sweeping around it. She peeked into each room, using her phone as a flashlight to avoid tripping and hurting herself. It was particularly useful when she came across an old and broken wardrobe that had just been abandoned in the middle of the halway. She hauled herself over it, noting the old servant's quarters which smelled of mold, and thanked the heavens above that the previous owners had kept the living spaces updated and cleaned at the very least, because the rooms up here were absolutely disgusting.
By the time she'd almost finished the second floor, it was approaching noon, but she didn't mind. She contemplated going downstairs to get some food, but she pushed past her hunger in favor of returning to the balcony on the second story, smiling up at the tree as she leaned on it. It was so beautiful, truly beautiful. It gave off a peaceful sensation, making the old manor feel safe despite all of the dark, shadowy corners.
"Maybe I should have grabbed a stick to use as a sacrificial twig," Lucy muttered under her breath, and then turned away.
She went back to work. This time, as she picked her way down the second story's hall, aiming for the last few rooms, she called Levy, lifting the phone to her ear. Levy picked up on the first ring. "Everything going okay?" her friend asked, voice muffled.
"Perfect. I'm not lost," Lucy reassured. She looked around herself, making a face. "We have a lot of cleaning to do on the first and second floor. That's all I've gotten to, by the way, yet I feel like I've hiked a goddamn mountain."
"Drama queen," Levy teased. "See anything suspicious?"
"Not really, but I considered going back downstairs to grab a sacrificial twig from the tree in the Room of Content."
"The Room of Content," Lucy repeated. "I'm naming rooms, so it's easier to know what we're talking about. I feel content in the Room of Content, so it's the Room of Content. The living room and dining room is now the Common Room, and the kitchen is just...a kitchen, so it can stay that way until we figure out what to do with the old kitchen in the servant's quarters on the second floor."
"Okay...and what the hell are you going to do with a sacrificial twig against the bears hiding upstairs?" Levy asked, amusement filling her tone now.
"Levy McGarden, there are no bears up here in our manor. Anyways, everything going okay at your bookstore?" She started forward after peering into a room, curiously locking her eyes into a door at the end of the hall. Her feet began to move towards it.
"Yep. Droy was panicking over nothing really, but since I was here, I figured I'd take my day off tomorrow instead. Oh! A customer's here, I gotta go. Be careful and I'll talk to you later!"
Levy hung up without waiting for a response, and Lucy grinned and shook her head. She chose to turn on some music, putting a waltz that differed from the one she'd chosen the day prior. She touched the door curiously as her feet fell into that familiar dance, her dark eyes studying the wooden door without a hint of fear in them.
Finally, Lucy pushed it open. She stepped into the small space behind the wooden door, shining her flashlight around as it played the waltz. She sneezed softly as dust motes flew and filled her nose. Swiping at it, she peered around, noting how dark it was. The small space opened up to a series of stairs that led down into an area that was pitch black. The staircase itself was wooden and narrow and when she dared to put a foot on one, it creaked and moaned beneath her feet.
Shrugging, possessing no fear of the dark, Lucy began to follow it.
She huffed softly as she made her way down those stairs; they were practically never ending! She wondered what Levy would think when she showed the stairs to her. She felt as if she'd been moving forever when she finally reached the bottom, and when she did, she shone her light around. The area was stone again, looking very much like a prison cell from a movie, as if someone had built a medieval version of one beneath the manor.
She shivered at the sight of blood stains, dark and old, on the floors and walls as well as the heavy duty metal chains that were attached to the wall. She faltered then, not liking what she'd found. It was one thing to not be scared of the dark; it was a completely different situation to be scared of history, of what might have happened here.
Lucy decided to leave and call exploring quits for the day. She'd have Erza go down there with her at another point. Just as she turned to leave, however, she thought she saw something move in the corner of her eye. She whirled around, heart rising in her throat, the waltz doing nothing to calm her fear.
Fear became sheer terror when something slammed into her like a freight train.
She screeched as she was slammed into the stone floor. Her head smacked it and for a moment, stars danced across her vision, but she cried out anyways when something wrapped around her arm and hauled her back to her feet, shoving her up against a stone wall. Her phone had clattered to the floor, shattered, but continued to play the waltz in a lilting, happy manner. She opened her mouth to scream, but a calloused hand slammed over it.
Instinctively, Lucy struggled to pry the hand from her mouth and nose, regretting that she'd ever set foot in the beautiful yet haunting manor as pain slashed through her fingers when something sharp nicked them. The flashlight on her phone, still working, was face-up, silhouetting the person that pinned her with ease to the wall by her face and arm. She couldn't see their face as they leaned in close, but she could certainly feel the hot breath on her face - feel the mass of heat that seemed to naturally flow off of them - and she could most definitely hear the animalistic growl that filled the air, drowning out the music still escaping her phone.
And she could sure as hell feel the incredibly hateful and piercing glare that rested on her face, as if the owner would rather see her curl up and die than deal with her.
Lucy could barely breathe. Their grip was tight over her face, and she couldn't get air through their overheated fingers. She shoved again and their grip slid. She cringed, but gulped air down in rapid, quick panicked gasps. Her body trembled as she fought the urge to whimper. There's someone else...there's someone in our house!
Her eyes slowly adjusted as best as they could to the darkness, allowing her to see just a little better as she stared at the person who'd attacked her. Her face went white, shock crossing her features when she saw the pair of horns that spiraled off of the top of their head. She thought she might of seen a flash of flame in the back of their throat when they began to speak, voice hoarse from lack of use, clearly male, and definitely lethal.
"Who the hell are you and why are you down here?"
It's time! Mostly because it's September and I got a spike of excitement surrounding scary things and Halloween. :D At long last...the re-write! I've finally figured out a direction to take this, so this'll be updating on Mondays (unless I run out of chapters, and if that happens, whenever it comes out). I'm going to make this way darker than the original, but I'm going to try and keep some of the light-hearted things, like the card games and what not, because I know people really liked those. :)
Thank you to all of those who read the original and are reading this now for your patience, and welcome to new readers of IT! I hope you're ready for one hell of an interesting ride, because I'm just as clueless as before despite having a direction and we'll see where this goes.