I know. I know. I didn't forget. I was legitimately sick (no joke)-enough so that I think it warranted a long break to recover. With that said, my remaining chapter(s) are planned out. I think there are about 2 left. It's hard to believe I've been writing for so long, but I promised an end and it will happen sooner rather than later.

Thank you all: reviewers, PM-ers, readers. Kind words were exceedingly helpful and much appreciated. I will truly be sad when this is all over. I owe apologies to all those I didn't get back to. I'm still catching up on emails and things I had to put off over the past few months.

Read & Review, thankyouverymuch.

Disclaimer: Don't own FT.


"What? What's she calling?" Lucy yelled as she dropped next to Adie. The spirit was leaning forward on her hands, face pale and sweaty. "What's Ba-Bahamut?" The word was like acid on her tongue, and it was pulling at some deeply hidden memory that she could not elicit.

"It's just what I expected. That bitch. Dammit, Lil!" Adie grunted, pushing herself backward to sit on her feet.

She looked over her shoulder at Lilith, who looked terrified and strained as well—as if she were using every ounce of energy she owned to not summon the beast Ultear had commanded of her. Lucy met Juvia's look of concern as the Dragon Slayer attempted to keep the bedraggled spirit from a complete and utter breakdown. Lilith looked gray, as she clamped her hands over her ears.

"You'll kill yourself if you don't," Adie whispered as Lucy's brow knit with confusion. Lilith watched her sister's lips move and she stiffened. Adassandra nodded slowly, their eyes locked. Lilith swallowed, her hands trembling as she lowered them to the ground, where her eyes remained.

"But what is it?" Lucy inquired; she had no idea what had passed between them. She only had the nagging sensation that all was not well. That all was far from well. "It's bad…right?"

"Yup," Adie inhaled slowly, her lips pressing together as she collected herself, fists firmly against her thighs.

"Are you…OK?" Lucy's eyes roamed over her. She was beginning to look much sicklier. "You're scared! Whatever it is—"

"I'm fine….I just….time's not on our—erm, my side," her pale irises firmly held Lucy's gaze without offering anything further.

Suddenly, it clicked like the last piece of the puzzle. "You're dying, aren't you? It's Ultear's injury—" Fear laced Lucy's voice. That has to be it!

Adie's shoulders dropped slightly as she cast a look of slight defeat. She looked at Lilith, who was nodding at Juvia, and standing. She muttered, "I knew what I was getting into…"

"What does that mean?" Lucy grabbed her arm, refusing to accept the cryptic response. "What. Does. That. Mean? Answer me!" She shook Adie with as much fury as she could muster, tears in her eyes from exhaustion. Hadn't they lost enough?

Adassandra was mute for some time. Her eyes betrayed her concern—for Lucy or for Lilith, it didn't matter. She tried her hand at a wry grin, but the move fell short. "My key isn't made to be owned. I think….." She paused, her voice wavering ever so slightly. "That this—" she waved her hand—" is my purpose. Do you understand?"

"I-I…" Tears slipped over Lucy's cheeks as fought the argument swelling in her throat. She refused to look away. Her mind raced and reached for other options. Maybe Adie was wrong…. "It doesn't have to be like this."

"My options are limited, Lucy," Adie whispered, gesturing toward herself. "And right now, so are everyone else's'"

Lucy stared ahead as Ultear grinned at Gray, blood pooling on the ground. Gray was screaming at her, his fists white. It appeared Ur's daughter was beyond all reason. She had always had this planned, Lucy thought, though she wasn't certain whom she believed that about more: Ultear or Adie. Lucy's fists balled with frustration. She quickly jumped to her feet, eyes on Ultear.

"Get up. Now!" Adie looked up at her, somewhat stunned. Lucy held out a hand. "This isn't over."

Adie eyed it momentarily before slipping her own cool palm into Lucy's. The mage pulled her to her feet. Tears slipped over Lilith's cheeks as her arms shot out at her sides, body growing rigid from her summoning. The sky was darkening, wispy gray clouds swirling around, becoming a deep purple. A red haze shown behind the cloudy curtain, burning more brightly. Lucy knew that Bahamut was behind that eerie glow; she also knew that it was going to devastate her home if they didn't do something. Ultear was hissing in satisfaction from her seat in the pool of her own blood.

The red glow grew more ominous, and the clouds ripped apart with a furious sucking noise. Lucy gasped as she saw the massive winged form—larger than anything she had ever seen. She couldn't make out any of its features, though she knew that if she could—it was too close. It reeked of evil.

"Luce? What do you need us to do?" Natsu asked, suddenly beside her.

Lucy glanced at him, noticing that he had gestured behind her. She turned around to see the remaining forces behind her, closer than she had remembered, all eyes on her as if awaiting her command. She met Mirajane's expectant look, and the Guild Master nodded in agreement.

"All you have to do is lead us," Erza spoke up, the mayor's wife tending to her wounds.

Jellal watched Bahamut from beside her. "It feels unlike anything I've ever experienced. An ancient magic, but not something I can even begin to place a finger on."

"I don't think we have many options, do we Lu-Chan?" Levy asked, understanding the fear hidden in her eyes. She seemed to be prepared for defeat.

"We could give Ultear what she wants," Lucy found her voice. "Maybe then…."

"No!" Someone yelled out. "We didn't come this far to allow her to win!"

Murmurs of agreement grew louder. Lucy felt tears sting her eyes. "Then we may all very well die! Do you want that?"

She looked around at them, and was met with silence. She watched Levy grab Gajeel's hand. Erza looked up at Jellal as her parents each grabbed a forearm, staring into one another's eyes. Mirajane's eyes watered as Hibiki pushed a singed strand from her face, kissing her forehead. No one challenged her. She realized that they were all ready to sacrifice their lives. They had lost loved ones, and they were not ready to be give up to someone who had brought so much chaos and death to their world.

She turned to look at Ultear, catching the briefest glimpse of shock, before being replaced with indifference. Gray was nearer to Lilith and Juvia.

"What kind of world would this be?" Lucy heard Morpheus's voice beside her. She turned to find her spirits flanking her other side. Hundreds of them. Many of whom she did not recognize.

"We will fight with you, win or lose, Lucy." Leo pounded a fist over his chest, bending forward in a genuine bow, glancing at Adie who looked away, closing her eyes.

Again, hot tears spilled over Lucy's cheeks. Her eyes met Happy's, then Natsu's—all filled with the same determination as others, though with more devotion and pride than she felt she deserved. She was overwhelmed. She saw Gray lift a collapsed Lilith, Juvia at his side. They joined the others, leaving Ultear to her machinations.

"Fine." She nodded, wiping her cheeks with a dirty forearm. She steadied her voice. "Then there's only one thing to do." She sensed Natsu's nearness, and drew strength from him. "We fight until we can fight no more."

Nods and cheers of encouragement rang out. She heard Adie chuckle softly, speaking to Morpheus. "Humans. I finally get it."

"You've always had it, girl," he told her, plucking a whisker. She looked surprised by his response, but kept her cynicism to herself as she mulled over what he had said.

Lucy smiled at her, glancing up to see the pulsating glow of Bahamut as it hovered in the sky, much closer than it had before. She could see the energy growing in an angry crimson flare, and she knew that it was an impending attack. Lucy finally understood what she needed to do.

It was time.

"Adie, I have a request," her voice was stronger than even she anticipated. The spirit was watching Bahamut. "Aleksander, please."

Adie's jaw clenched as if she expected the request. The spirit mage maintained her composure. "I d-don't think we have many options left. You and I both know that he's our best chance—if we have any chance at all. At least it can buy us time."

Adie grunted, lifting her arm. Her keys flickered around her body, shooting upward, then down. It continued for some time as if she were debating on another option. Lucy noted a slight hesitation over another key as Adie plucked the largest key Lucy had ever seen. She took a step back, throwing the key into the air. She leaped up, grabbing it and plunging it into the ground in a drapery of red fabric. The earth shook violently, and a bright white light shot out the earth.

"What the hell?" Natsu grunted, impressed.

Lucy sensed the spirits around her drop to their knees in greeting of the summoned entity. Aleksander stood tall, his turquoise and gold armor magnificent as he towered over them. His red eyes search for the caller, and he focused on his niece.

"Ah, Adassandra, I see you have returned to us," he bellowed, voice powerful. There was a hint of support buried in the baritone depths.

"Uncle, I have…we, er, have a dilemma," she jerked her head toward Bahamut. The massive spirit turned to see the towering summons. His expression quickly turned to fury as he glared at Lilith. Adie stepped between them, eyes on Bahamut as she maintained a respectful tone. "Majesty, you created the laws that she cannot break. She tried to refuse, but was unable to do so in her state."

Aleksander howled, "Look at this mess that has been created! The human carnage that we have been dragged into again!"

"I am not here to lay blame, your Highness," Lucy interrupted, fists clenched with restraint. "We have little time before this creature attacks, and I'm growing tired of fighting. This human has not asked one spirit for help, it has been given freely. If the Celestial Spirits wish to help our cause, is that not something worth fighting for? You spoke of our bonds before." Her glare was pointed, and she hoped she sounded far more courageous than she felt. Her palms were growing sweaty as she awaited his response. She had only spoken with the Celestial King like this on one other occasion—when Loki was being exiled from the Celestial World. Silence hung over them for some time, and the Spirit King stroked his beard. Lucy wasn't sure if he would kill them all or if her words had any impact on him. She stood tall, "I did not summon them; they are here on their own accord. Anyone is free to leave. At any time."

"Yet we will not," Veleda stepped forward. She bowed her head to the King.

Aleksander studied her for some time. Lilith was coming around, and Adie was at her side, speaking low to her sister. Lilith saw the glow of Bahamut's attack and she hiccupped in panic. She saw her uncle, and she scrambled to her knees.

"Please, Uncle! I know I am responsible for this, allow me to sacrifice—"

"Enough!" Aleksander hissed in interruption. He turned to look at Bahamut, looking almost weary from all of this. Lucy had to wonder if he had been following the events in her world more closely than he let on. He watched Ultear for some time, his eyes narrowing.

Bahamut, oblivious to what was occurring on the battlefield, drew back its head, the fiery ball glowing with energy that was about to be unleashed. Its wings began to move, and Lucy knew it was heading toward them. Suddenly, the air in front of it grew black and inky. Lucy saw the shimmering script and she immediately recognized Jellal's Heavenly Magic combined with Levy and Fried's Rune Magic. Bahamut continued into the void and Lucy ventured to believe they had succeeded in eliminating their enemy. Her hope was short lived as the monster disappeared and then reappeared as if simply flying through a cloud. It gained speed, its head rearing back. Lucy could see its deep-set red eyes in an armored head surrounded by thick curling horns. It had four limbs—akin to arms and legs, though each fitted with deadly onyx talons. It landed in on the ground, front claw digging into the hard earth.

Before it could unleash its attack, a glowing white magic barreled at it, throwing the monster backward. Aleksander stood between the humans and Bahamut, hands clasped together and eyes closed. His red eyes quickly opened and he pulled a helmet over his face, obscuring it as a mighty hammer materialized. He leaped into action, swinging the majestic weapon that glowed with runes that were unfamiliar to Lucy. It flew at Bahamut, striking it in the face. The attack momentarily dissipated as the beast shook its head. Aleksander summoned his hammer to his right hand. Bahamut seized, its mouth opening and a stream of molten red magic firing at them.

People screamed and the spirits stood in front of the humans. Natsu grabbed Lucy, his body covered with scales. She knew that it was useless, Bahamut's attack would likely kill them all—spirits and humans alike. Aleksander seemed unfazed, dropping his hammer to the ground, hands once again clapping together. A giant wall of white energy met Bahamut's attack and holding it for some time. Lucy peered over Natsu's shoulder, and she could see the Celestial King, palms now outstretched to reinforce the magic barrier that was the only thing keeping any of them alive. It was both beautiful and lethal at the same time. With a roar, Aleksander overtook Bahamut's flare attack, and the monster briefly stalled, its body rolling into the mountains as it screeched angrily.

Bahamut writhed, trying to regain footing as Aleksander dropped to one knee, his defense obviously taking more out of him than he had anticipated. Lucy wondered if Bahamut was truly that strong…..

He can't keep this up! We can't muster that kind of power, can we?

Bahamut was recovering at Lucy's mind raced. Suddenly, she had an idea. She briefly caught Morpheus' eye, and she saw the flicker of comprehension and agreement. It confirmed what she suspected, and she pushed away from Natsu, who was staring at Aleksander in awe. She took a step to the side, striding forward and yelling Adie's name.

"There's someone else!" Lucy screamed as Bahamut flew toward the battlefield in retaliation. Adie, distracted, half turned as Bahamut flew toward them, the blazing attack growing in its mouth. Lucy sucked in a deep breath, certainty on her tongue as she roared as loudly as she could muster: "I want you to call Freya!"

"It's time."

"Eh?" The elder Eksheed yawned, surprised by the other feline's words. His joints were aching. They were always aching. And he wondered if his hearing was starting to go. He thought she had said something. Something profound, maybe.

"The time….it's now," she repeated with a hint of gentle annoyance. Her slate grey eyes opened, a stark contrast to her unique snowy fur. "She has been summoned, albeit too early. It's futile." She sighed, her mind reaching out to her daughter. Not enough time.

The wizened cat jumped to his feet, recognizing the importance in her words. Time! "Your predictions are impeccable, my Queen!" He took a moment, shifting on his hind paws, " But is it wise…t-to interfere with these human trifles?"

The Eksheed stood, a head taller than her companion. Her eyes flashed a regality that made him cower slightly. She stretched, closing her eyes briefly. "We've already interfered, have we not? And are we to leave our hatched eggs to share the humans' fate? I swore to recover each of them, and we can't very well do so if that realm is no more."

He paused, thinking back to the launching of their eggs, ten years earlier. It had been to save their race, she had proclaimed, though he knew better. He was more than aware that a certain spirit's prophecy had prompted such derisive action, though he would never share that thought with anyone.

He bowed slightly, "As you command it."

"Bastet and Pantherlily…. " She hesitated after the latter's name, quickly recovering, "have sworn to protect her. I can sense that they, too, have stirred. Quickly gather everyone, we must leave at once. We have very little time to spare."

to live.

to die.

"Yes, Shagotte," he agreed, shuffling away and leaving the Eksheed to her thoughts, which were drifting to her daughter. She had seen this outcome in the Human World, years ago. Apparently, the spirit had known this potential outcome, as well. Unfortunately, despite the difference in time between Extalia and the Human World, the spirit hadn't completed her sleep.

The dragon slayers and their Eksheed had come, as Shagotte had also expected. Their news wasn't welcome to her ears, but seeing the female dragon slayer's companion had warmed her heart in a way she didn't know possible. They had come to request safe refuge for the two elder humans—who were apparently privy to knowledge sought by Ultear. Shagotte had known then that harboring the humans would only alter Ultear's course, not derail it. Despite this, she had agreed, as she had been told to do. There was something with this future that gave her more…..hope.

"Hope," she repeated softly, sensing the approach of the two Eksheed guardians.

It may very well be the only thing any of them had left.

Or the end of her race.

Her eyes were wide, the whites bright as her face contorted into a mixture of surprise with a hint of defiance. Then realization. Lucy's eyes dropped to the spirit's hands, and there was the key. The same key she had seen the demi-spirit hesitate on twice before. Morpheus had silently confirmed her suspicions, and it was enough for Lucy to take a risk. She reached out, clamping her hand over the elaborate key with the odd feline face and golden eyes. Her own deep brown irises traced over Adie's face.

"It's too late," she smiled wryly. "What do we have to lose?"

Adie opened her mouth, shutting it just as quickly, her features pale and greenish. She looked at her sister over her shoulder. Bahamut was closing in and Lilith knew that their time was limited. She didn't know what the women's exchange had been, but she sensed it. Lucy saw the dark haired sister nod her head, a golden armor over her forearm as her black dress flapped in the wind of Bahamut's roar.

Adie closed her eyes, and the rumbling of the King's attack droned out whatever she muttered to herself. Lucy stepped back as the key was flung upward, growing brightly and blinding them all. She heard Natsu yell and she was yanked backward by her upper arm. She crashed into his hard chest, and he turned to shield her, scales still coating his skin. Lucy tried to tear away as Bahamut's quickly recovered attack split as it was launched toward them, far too wide for even Aleksander to protect them.

Suddenly, she was there—in all her armored glory. Pale hair whipped dangerously in wisps from the immaculate braid down her back, and she quickly leaped into action without guidance—as if she had been expecting the call. She yelled, and the Celestial Spirit King dodged right, his armor taking the brunt of Bahamut's right flanking Flare. Lucy gasped as she recognized Adie and Lilith working in stealth unison to dissipate the encroaching attack on the left, Adie's large emblazoned shield shuddering from the strike. A wave of Lilith's armored forearm created a void that sucked up the remainder of the lethal light. In the center of it all was Freya, streaking toward Bahamut like a bat out of hell, a shield on her left arm, easily engaging in a head-on attack as she thrust a pearly lance at Bahamut. It elongated far beyond its expected reach, striking the beast in the chest. A flash of light, and the beast was propelled backward with amazing force—its body clearing the far mountain ridge. Freya recoiled, flanked by each daughter.

"Freya," Lucy murmured to herself, "Amazing."

Freya's weapon disappeared, though Adie remained armored. Two dark figures dropped from the sky in front of Freya, and Lucy struggled to see what they were.

"What…are they?" Lucy wondered aloud, impressed with the lithe, sleek creatures.

"Eksheed," Natsu answered. "We visited them, that…erm, night. They are Happy and Charle's people."

"Happy and Charle's people?" she murmured. She hadn't really thought of the felines as different, she supposed. "Where are they from?"

"Somewhere else. Very difficult to find," he shared, before grinning. "But they were watching over her," Natsu indicated.

"You knew she was alive?" Lucy was incredulous.

Natsu shrugged, "I didn't know who she was. But, yeah, we knew that there was something important being guarded by the Eksheed."

Lucy swore under her breath, but said nothing more. Of course Freya would have a place for her rest, though Lucy wondered why she chose their world and not her own. She focused her energy on the issue at hand. Bahamut would soon return, its roars quaking the earth in the far off distance.

"We don't have much time," Freya told her daughters.

"Mother," Lilith began, "I'm sorry—"

"It's done," she cut her daughter off, turning to look at both of them. Her fierce expression softened. "My how you two have grown…how much I have missed."

Adie stared at her as if she were ghost, "You're not at full power."

"No," Freya quickly agreed. "My summons was a bit premature—but expected, nonetheless." She glanced at her daughter from the side of her eye, "I can't stay long, as you've deduced."

"Why are they here?" Adie indicated to the Eksheed.

"Distraction," Freya admitted, "Which you will soon understand." She raised a hand to cut off Aleksander, who didn't appear as surprised as Freya's daughters to see her. "I don't have time, let me finish, and quickly." The massive sleek Eksheed who guarded the Celestial Queen remained in a half-kneeling position. Pantherlily stole a look for his approaching kin.

"You may go to her if you wish," Freya told him, her hand touching his sleek black fur.

His golden eyes opened wide, though he lowered his head to shield his reaction. "I won't leave you, it's my duty."

"And this may be the last time you can speak to her. Go, old friend," Freya softly urged, leaning closer. Pantherlily hesitated, a golden iris sliding toward her. After another moment, he denied it any longer, nodding quickly and using Aera to launch into the air. "You, too, Bast," Freya prompted. "I am perfectly safe here, for the time being."

Adie watched the scene mutely, questions swirling through her mind, though unable to reach her tongue. Lilith grabbed her hand and squeezed, as she had when they were children. Adie squeezed back. "It'll be alright, Lil."

"Always the protector," Freya mused, glancing at Aleksander. "You two were born for a reason, I believe. For this….exact moment." She glanced at Bahamut, who was struggling to recover. "Brother, could you? While we have a moment of its weakness."

Aleksander responded with his Holy Magic, once again striking Bahamut down. "It's only a matter of time!"

"I know," Freya smiled, her lips firmly pressed together. She turned to her daughters, eyes filled with torture. "There are many events that I took care to ensure did not happen. For this very reason, you are both here. Do you remember the outcome of the battle with Veleda's human mother?"

Lilith looked at Adie, who nodded. "Lucy's ancestor."

"The human…yes," Freya looked toward the blonde Stellar Spirit mage. "She's quite powerful. And willing to sacrifice herself—"

"No!" Adie hissed.

Freya raised her hand again. "No. I agree."

"It was never her," Lilith suddenly whispered, "It was us. We fill both roles…." One from each world

Freya looked at her cautiously, the two sharing a look of understanding. Adie had missed the interaction, musing on how to protect Lucy. Freya studied her silent first-born. It was obvious that Adie had been the brawn, but Lilith—despite her flaws—was wiser beyond her years, able to pick up on subtleties and sensitive to others' feelings and thoughts. She stared pointedly at her youngest daughter, "I believe that to be true. But remember, Adassandra has her mother's stubbornness." Again, another moment of silence and passing knowledge.

"What do we need to do?" Adie asked, taking their conversation at face value.

Suddenly, Ultear's cackles broke through their conversation. She sat, slumped on her knees and bleeding. Her teeth were stained red, and her eyes were crazed as they rolled toward the beast Lilith had summoned. Bahamut roared, flying higher. Instead of attacking, it flew higher, yet, hovering as the clouds above it swirled open, a bright, pale blue flicker pulling energy from the atmosphere.

"Freya, that's it!" The Spirit King informed them. "That attack will destroy this world…."

"Shit!" Adie growled. "Quit your laughing!" she roared at Ultear.

Freya studied the mortally wounded mage, sending an inquiring look at the decrepit woman. "She's misguided. She's lost," the Spirit Queen, for the faintest of moments, looked as if she pitied Ultear. She understood the toll of a mother's absence and its effect on a person's emotional fragility. She tore herself from her thoughts, though her eyes were on the dying mage. "And…yet, there's still some hope."

"Some hope?" Adie nearly laughed as Lilith tugged at her hands. "Uncle just said—"

"I know what he said," Freya interjected, hands gripping either side of her eldest daughter's face. They were solid, but held no temperature. It was an odd sensation. Her eyes bore into her daughter's, "You must call the Weaver." Her form flickered somewhat.

Adie noticed and drew back, immediately panicking, "That's ridiculous, you c-can't be serious!" She looked to Aleksander for support.

"I….trust Freya," he responded quickly, expression unreadable. "Our time is limited. Bahamut will eliminate this world completely, as is its destiny."

Lilith looked away, biting her bottom lip as Adie let loose a long string of profanities in her typical fashion. Her mother raised an eyebrow, but said nothing further of the issue. She looked at both of her children languidly.

"I have failed you as a mother. But there was always a reason, you must know that. " She blinked quickly, standing straighter in her glorious armor. " Lilith, you look so much like your father that I nearly forget he's gone. But, it's obvious yours sister—that Adassandra has his dedication. She has taken care of you when I couldn't."

"With Barsky's help!" Adie hissed. "And now he's gone."

Freya flinched. She had forgotten just how fleeting human life can be, and she should have recognized Barsky would eventually grow old. She watched Adie wipe at a tear. She knew her daughter's human form was dwindling, but the emotions and attachments remained. She felt her heart ache for the lives she had given her offspring. Lilith watched her, awaiting further instruction.

"You can't leave!" Adie's voice grew louder. "Not again! We obviously need your help!" She gestured at Bahamut.

"No, that much is untrue." A glanced passed back to Lilith, before settling on Adie. This time, she did not attempt to hide her sorrow. Her form flickered, growing more transparent. "I will see you again, my children," she whispered, tears in her eyes. "You will find come to find me."

"No—you don't understand!" Adie yelled. "I don't have time—"

"I understand more than you know," her voice faded with her shimmering form. "I must go now. But let me give you one lasting piece of advice—until we meet again: let Lilith protect you. Trust your sister, for once."

With that, Freya was gone. Adie screamed, falling to her knees and pounding the earth. She felt a hand on her shoulder and she pulled away, turning to yell at the owner. Her voice caught in her throat as she saw Lucy looking down at her. Concerned. Frightened. Trusting.

"What can I do? What can we do?" The Stellar Spirit mage gestured at those behind them—both human and spirit. They were awaiting a command—any command.

A majority of spirits were also present, reminding Adie that they would very soon all share the same fate if she didn't collect herself. Lucy held out an open palm, as did Lilith. Adie studied them momentarily then looked to Bahamut. She glared at Ultear. She felt her fury return. She raised her hands, and the two women quickly lifted her to her feet.

"Better?" Lucy asked.

"I'd tell you to shut it," Adie growled, "But that'd be mean, if Levy had any say."

"You've gotten manners now?" the blonde raised an eyebrow.

"Or I'm just tired of this shit."

"And she's back," Natsu muttered as Lucy slapped him behind his head.

"What did…erm, your mother tell you?" Lucy pressed the issue, though feeling uncomfortable about it.

Adie glanced at her, "She told me to do exactly what I was trying to avoid."

"Which is?" A look of surprise crossed Lucy's features.

"To call the person that bitch—er, Ultear—wants us to, of course."

"No, you can't!" Lucy yelled. "That's exactly what she—"

"I know. But unless you have any other options," Adie countered, her voice raising as she pointed, "That attack that Bahamut is producing will kill us all."

Lucy heard the gasps and commotion behind her. She saw the mages' looks of fear, then acceptance. Their eyes were on Lucy. They trusted her. The spirits were looking at the mage, as well, except for Leo.

He was watching Adie.

"We trust you, Lucy," Ezra encouraged her friend. "We all trust you!"

Lucy saw the sea of nods as mages held hands and joined arms. She looked at Ultear, and her fury returned. Suddenly, she stepped away from Adie and her sister, walking toward the dejected-looking mage.

"You come to cower to me?" Ultear rasped, her features wan and drained. Despite this, she still look slightly smug. Lucy noted the amount of blood she had lost. There were patches of ice on her skin in an attempt to repair her own wounds. But even someone as skilled as Ultear had her limits. Her magic was failing her.

Lucy drew back her arm and punched Ultear with all she had. The mage choked and slumped over, and Lucy grabbed her by the shirt, pulling her upright and leaning over. "Whatever it is you hope to accomplish, it's a waste of your time. You had a mother who loved you dearly and you refused to trust in that. And for that….I feel sorry for you."

She released Ultear, who said nothing, simply staring ahead, a half-smile on her face. Whether it was triumph or delusion—Lucy had no idea. Nor did it matter.

"But…you win," Lucy whispered, mouth close to Ultear's ear before drawing back.

The dark haired mage's eyes widened as they rolled toward the spirit mage, a child-like hope filling them. Lucy inhaled sharply as she released her enemy and stepped back.

"Adie! Open the Gate….to the Weaver!"