"Yes Sweetie?" an beautiful blonde hair woman answered as she neared the room's door.
"Could you please tell me a bedtime story tonight?" the young girl asked, chocolate eyes meeting the kind and gentle features of her mother's face.
"Oh!" her mother answered, unaccustomed to her daughter's request. Layla secretly wondered if her daughter had unconsciously realized this could be the last night they spent together but pushed the thought aside as ridiculous, after all, she had asked her mother to tell her stories when she was younger as well. She looked towards the clock, it was only 9, she only had 3 more hours left to prepare. "Are you sure you want me to tell you one. Kanokora-san is much better at telling stories than me. Besides, it's getting late and mommy has somewhere to go."
"It would be a great pleasure to read little Miss Heartphilia a story m'am." Kanokora chimed in dutifully, bowing towards Mrs. Heartphilia and her charge, little Ms. Lucy Heartphilia.
"No, I want you to do it." The toddler answered defiantly staring at her mother intently. She harbored no ill will or disdain towards her nanny but Lucy had begun to feel a slight change in her mother's attitude that scared her. She wasn't sure if it was her fault or not but she had felt her mother's warm and sparkling eyes turn colder as if she was thinking of something else, something far more serious and pressing than anything she was doing at that moment.
Layla couldn't help but smile at the sweet little girl who laid nestled in-between satin sheets, pressed down by the ornate embroidered comforter on top. She was such a strong willed girl. She hoped she would see just how beautiful and marvelous her daughter would become when she was older, mentally cursing herself for even thinking so negatively. She would certainly come back to her sweet little girl. The elder Heartphilia made her way to her daughter's bed and as she did so, looked around the spacious room filled with soft, sumptuous rugs and furniture, only of the highest quality, and various toys and books. The vast array of luxuries calmed her soul. She was lucky to have married so well. Even if her husband was crass and preoccupied with his business, he would always take care of Lucy, this Layla knew. "Ok then. Kanokora, you may retire to your quarters now. I'll take care of Lucy tonight." Layla instructed the maid as she sat on top of Lucy's beading never taking her eyes away from her little angel.
"Yes m'am." The maid responded politely, leaving the room with a bow. Both mother and child were alone now, the faint glow of Lucy's night light casting shadows upon their faces. "Now, which story would you like to hear tonight Lucy?"
The little girl put her hand to her chin and began to ponder just what kind of fairy-tale she wanted to listen to that particular night. She shook her head from side to side as she thought of the vast assortment of stories she knew, but did not want sending her off into her dreams. With each rejected tale, Lucy shook her head vehemently causing her blond hair to squirm and wriggle on her pillow reminding her mother of little golden snakes ensnaring themselves in the soft cushion supporting her daughter's head.
'That's it!' she thought to herself, remembering an old story she had heard during her younger, more adventurous years.
"Lucy?" she asked, interrupting her daughter's thoughts and capturing her attention, "do you know the story of the Zodiac?"
"Mmhmm!" she nodded, pleased in the direction where the topic was now headed. "I know all of them!"
"Really? All of them?" her mother asked in rather unbelieving tone.
"Yes! I do!" Lucy answered back, pouting a bit, offended that her knowledge of the zodiac was being questioned. "There's Aquarius, Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Pisces, and Scorpio!" she proudly stated, believing to have vindicated herself.
"Hmmm," her mother said quizzically, raising a hand and counting off on an imaginary tally, "Let's see…. That's 2…6…9…12… You only mentioned twelve. You seem to be missing one."
"Silly mommy, there are only twelve Zodiac signs."
"But what about Ophiuchus?"
"Who?" Lucy asked dumbfounded. She had never come across any such Stellar Spirit in her books before.
"Ophiuchus! Don't tell me you haven't heard about him!" her mother asked in feigned surprise.
"No, I haven't! Why isn't he in any of my Zodiac books?"
"Well Lucy, he was lost a long time ago."
"Lost? How can a Stellar Spirit be lost?" Lucy chimed back, now dubious of her mother's tale. She might have been young but wasn't naive, or at least, that's what she thought.
"You see Lucy, all of the Stellar Spirits were at one time real people on this Earth. So they, like any other person, can get lost at times."
"But none of that makes sense. If they were all people at one time, how did they become Stellar Spirits? And even if they were real people, how can they get lost once they become a Stellar Spirit? Couldn't they just use the stars or their power to find their way back?"
"Well, there isn't just one way to get lost sweetie."
"No. People can get lost in whole bunch of ways; being lost simply means that you can no longer find your way. You don't have to be trying to get to someplace in particular to no longer know where you are going." Layla tried to explain but despite her best efforts, Lucy's face still gave away traces confusion. Her mother thought for a moment, "Like your father for example."
"You see he no longer knows what is important in this life. All he can think about is wealth and position. He was not always like this mind you. When I met him he was very different and now is hardly the man I once knew. He has lost himself. You might not understand what I'm telling you now but hopefully you will in time. But know this we both love you, even if he doesn't always show it and even if I'm not around to tell you, it's true."
Lucy's eyes grew big as she tried to comprehend just what her mother was telling her but after a few moments, accepted that mother her mother was telling the truth when she said that in time she might just understand.
Layla just watched the little girl mull through what she had just been told with a bitter smile on her face. She regretted that she even had to tell the toddler that her father loved her. She wished with all her heart that he would find his way soon and stop hurting the one thing he truly did love the most.
"-ommy? Mommy?" Lucy solicited pulling on her mother's skirt growing more concerned after her mother didn't respond to her first call.
"Hmm?" Layla responded slightly dazed. She had let her thoughts get the better of her and forgot just where she was. She looked down into the dark brown eyes staring up at her in worry, eliciting a smile from the elder Heartphilia. "Yes dear?"
"Oh, nothing, you just stopped talking and seemed…sad."
"My sweet little angel, I'm fine, thank you for your concern. But…look at this!" Layla exclaimed staring at Lucy intently.
"What! What?" Lucy asked growing more agitated by the second. She couldn't tell what was wrong. 'Maybe it's a bug!' she thought with horror.
"Your sheets! They are terribly disheveled and crumpled!" Her mother said playfully. "I'll just have to fix that." She said as she began to tuck Lucy back into bed with a mischievous smile. Small shrieks of laughter could be heard from Lucy's room as her mother went about tickling and tucking in the young girl. By the time she had finished, Lucy had been tucked in so tight that she could hardly wiggle, causing her to giggle and fight against the sheets in futile attempts to loosen their hold on her.
"Now, where was I? Oh, yes, Ophiuchus is lost and can't use the stars or his power to find his way."
"How did he get lost? Like daddy did, with 'wealth and position'?" Lucy's quoted her mother innocently, eliciting a smile from the older Heartphilia.
"No, sweetie, Ophiuchus is lost because of a mixture of unrequited love and self-pity but mostly the latter."
Her mother smiled at her daughter's mistake, "Not unrequieted, unrequited, meaning the person who he loves, doesn't love him back."
"Oh, how sad."
"Yes, unrequited love is one of the saddest things there is but you must keep faith even if your love isn't returned because if you do, maybe you'll find someone else who will return your love." Lucy looked at her mother baffled. "Don't worry, you're still a little too young to know yet, but you'll understand someday."
"There sure seem to be a lot of things I'm going to understand when I'm older." causing a beautiful sound, like bells chiming, rung throughout the room.
'Even momma's laugh is beautiful.' Lucy thought in wonder.
"Yes, I suppose there is." Layla answered, still chuckling from her daughter's previous statement.
"Now then, do you still want to hear the rest of the tale?"
"Ok then." Layla replied, mirth overtaking her features, "Ophiuchus was a great doctor and well known for his skills. But unfortunately for him, the one person whom he wanted to impress the most did not care about his fame or ability. You see, the beautiful young maiden he had set his sights on already had a lover. He was a strong yet humble warrior, and, I believe, that you have heard of both of them before."
"Yes, of a matter of fact, I'm sure you have." Her mother's eyes twinkled as Lucy thought of all the people she knew. She thought to the various maids and help around the house but even Mr. Osbalt didn't seem quite old enough to be in a Stellar Spirit story. She then thought of some of her father's friends but like her previous musings, none seemed old enough to have been the lover of the warrior or the warrior himself.
Lucy nodded dejectedly nodded her, conceding to her mother.
"It was… Aquarius and Scorpious." Lucy let out a slight gasp.
"B-but how?" was all Lucy was able to get out before her mother delicately put a finger to her daughter's lips.
"Lucy, if you ask me anymore questions I'm afraid we won't be able to finish the story even if we stay up the whole night!" Layla giggled.
"I'm ok with that."
"Yeah! That way I could spend the entire night with you!"
"You silly girl." Her mother told her back, patting Lucy's head. "I'm afraid that I have something to do later tonight so I can't spend it with you." Lucy tried but couldn't hide her disappointment and Layla hated to hurt her, "We still have a lot more story left so I won't be going anywhere for a while, ok?"
"So we left off with Ophiuchus's unrequited love towards Aquarius whom in turn, loved Scorpious. Then, one day, Scorpious learned that his friend, Taurus, a man known to be as strong as a bull had met his death at the hands of Orion, a great hunter of the day."
"Was Taurus really a bull?"
"No sweetie, he was just as strong as one."
"Then why did Orion kill him if he wasn't an animal?"
"Well, Orion wasn't that kind of hunter, he was a bounty hunter. He killed or captured people that were wanted."
"Did Taurus do something bad?"
"Well, he was an infamous womanizer and one night he happened to come across a rather beautiful young woman coming from a prestigious home. They spent the night together but he left her in the morning chasing after another girl. The woman, upset that Taurus had left her, told her father all that had happened, and enraged that someone had taken advantage of his daughter, he put out a price on Taurus's head.
So, when Scorpious heard that his friend had been killed, he vowed to take revenge and set off in search of Orion, leaving Aquarius by herself. When he found Orion, the pair fought for three whole days and nights until it seemed that Scorpious would be the victor. But, in Orion's last few moments, he grabbed Scorpious and propelled them both over the edge of a nearby cliff, thus crushing Scorpious under him when they hit the ground.
Because of their Scorpious's loyalty to his friend, he earned a spot as a Stellar Spirit becoming Scorpio and joined his friend Taurus whose strength and tenacity had earned him a spot among the Stellar Spirits as well. Orion, instead, was placed into the stars. You see, the hunter had committed some good deeds in his life such as hunting terrible and evil people who truly deserved their fate, but as innocents were included among his victims, he was not allowed to become a Stellar Spirit.
Now, Aquarius had been left all alone, waiting for her precious Scorpio to come back but he never did. Ophiuchus tried on several occasions to sway the maiden's heart but to no avail. She believed that Scorpious would one day return to her. However, the truth cannot be concealed forever, and eventually she heard news that her beloved had died in battle with Orion and she fell into an inconsolable sorrow. Her tears were never ending and despair unrelenting. The maiden's grief was so touching and beautiful that the God's took pity on her and placed her amongst the Stellar Spirits to join her lover. Her sorrow preserved through the pot that she carries holding the infinite amount of tears she shed on Earth and serving as a reminder to world of the pain felt after the death of a loved one.
While Aquarius received her wish of being with her lover, Ophiuchus was denied of his. He had hoped that when Scorpious had died, he had finally gotten the chance to capture Aquarius's heart but the God's unintentionally thwarted his plans. Angry, he wished for a way to free Aquarius from her position as a Stellar Spirit and return her to the life of a mortal so he could be with her. But to go against the God's like that would require a great power, one that humans do not have.
So Ophiuchus searched around the world for the secrets to conquer the God's and increase his powers. During his travels, Ophiuchus happened along into an ancient forest filled with snakes. He had heard rumors of the seeming immortality these creatures possessed and wished to know their secret. He followed them covertly for years, hoping to one day learn the truth behind their long existences. One day, his wish was granted. As one of the snakes he had followed had now grown quite old and was surely near death, he watched as it was given a strange herb that rejuvenated him completely, turning back the clock until it was young once more. Astounded over his discovery, Ophiuchus followed the snakes for several more years, now acquainted with the forest and the other creatures in it. His chance came once again as another snake had grown too old to continue and like before, a fellow serpent was sent to retrieve the herbs to prevent the elderly reptile from dying. Ophiuchus followed the snake for days until the snake and Ophiuchus reached the bottom of tall and treacherous mountain. While the snake was able to travel up the mountain with ease, Ophiuchus was stuck at the mountain's base and could only wait for the serpent's return, hoping that he could trick the creature into giving him the plant. When the snake came back down with the medicine, he was intercepted by the doctor. Ophiuchus words, which were more convoluted and tricky than the snakes own body, managed to tame the beast into giving him the plant. However, unbeknownst to him, Ophiuchus had been under the strict and watchful gaze of the Gods.
You see, the forest belonged to the Gods and nothing within the ancient land occurred without their knowledge of it. The Gods had long been aware of Ophiuchus's presence and chose to let the doctor wander among the trees, firmly believing that the snakes would kill Ophiuchus if he ever approached the reptiles. However, when they realized that their faith had been misplaced, Ophiuchus had already drawn upon the plant's power. The God's could not let him spread the results of his discovery and thus called upon Scorpio to deal with him. Scorpio you see, possessed a powerful venom in his tail derived from the same plant Ophiuchus had conned from the snake, thus making him the only one capable of killing Ophiuchus. A great battle ensued and Ophiuchus, now beyond the realm of mortals and with the assistance of his serpent friends, was able to defeat the great Scorpio. As Scorpio's beaten and bruised body lay before him, Ophiuchus could no longer hold back his resentment for the spirit and laughed as he began to beat and stomp him into the ground. Scorpio was clever and stubborn however, and refused to fail at the task given to him by the Gods. In his last few moments, Scorpio used his tail to sting Ophiuchus on his foot, injecting the strong poison into his system. Ophiuchus doubled back and fell to the ground clutching his foot, slowly becoming aware of his impending death as the pain surged up his body.
Aquarius, who had been watching the fight all along, now knowing that the fight was over, came down from the stars and rushed to her lover. Once again, she began to cry over his wounded body and tended to him as best she could.
When Ophiuchus saw this, he screamed in pain, pain that he was dying and pain from the realization that all had had done until that point had been for not. He was now certain that he could never win his love's heart and welcomed his demise. However, after his death, the God's took pity on his tortured soul and felt it proper to give him another opportunity at living, letting the Ophiuchus become a Stellar Spirit, Ophiuchus the snake charmer.
But when Ophiuchus awoke, no longer a human, no longer in death's peaceful arms, and no longer away from the memory of being spurned by his only love, he wept. He no longer wished for Aquarius but only for death to find relief from his suffering. He began to pity his situation, forced to be close to his beloved but now knowing that nothing he could do would make her love him back. He considered his becoming a Stellar Spirit a curse of all things and became enraged at the God's and the other Spirits. He merely wished for a way to disappear from the world for good and vanished without a trace in search of his quest. And despite that the God's and other Spirits searched for him profusely, no one could ever find him again."
*Sniff* "That's-" *Sniff* "…so-" *Sniff* "…sad Mommy!" Lucy let out wailing, managing to free her arms from her sheets to try to rub the continual flow of tears from her eyes.
"Oh darling, it's just a story." Her mother said, trying to soothe her grieving daughter.
"B-b-bu-but, the Stellar Spirits are real so what if that story is real?" she asked crying even harder now.
"Well, ummm…" Her mother said, clearly flustered on how to properly answer her daughter's cries, "I guess… you'll just have to become a Stellar Mage and help him find his way again!" she answered quickly, inhaling deeply to catch her breath and silently commending her ingenuity.
"Huh?" Lucy said, rubbing her now red and puffy eyes.
"Well, haven't you always wanted to be a Stellar Mage?"
"Uh huh! I love Spirits!" Lucy said, wiping the tears from her eyes.
"Well then, one day, when you become and big and strong, you can go and try to find Ophiuchus and help him realize that being a Stellar Spirit is not a curse but a blessing because by being one, he will have gotten the opportunity to meet you." Her mother said, now completely recovering her daughter's smile.
"Y-you mean, I could be his prince?" she asked happily.
"Y-yeah, sort of." Layla answered, a bead of sweat forming on her brow. She turned to look towards the clock on the wall only to realize the story had taken her longer to tell than she had anticipated.
"Well dear, I believe that that story was incredibly long and it is now past your bedtime." Her mother firmly stated, letting the little girl know that her mother would not let her stay up any later.
"Ok. Hey, mom?" Lucy called as her mother neared the door.
"Will you tell me a story tomorrow too?" Lucy thought she saw her mother's face pale a little at the request but blamed it on her imagination.
"I hope so darling, I love you. I love you so much." Her mother said, coming back to her bed and placing a kiss on her cheek.
"Good night mom." Lucy smiled contently rolling onto her side.
Her mother shut the door with a click and began to walk down the hall, fists clenched and weight upon her heart. She didn't want to do this, but she had to.
"I'm sorry Lucy. I'm so sorry."
Lucy waited a few seconds. She needed to make sure the coast was clear. If mother was still nearby or if a maid found her, she would be scolded for not staying in bed. Once she deemed it safe, she flew out from under the covers and to her night stand, where her diary was waiting for her. She loved to write and wanted to be author when she grew up, well, an author, and a Stellar Spirit Mage. She loved the story her mother had just told her and wanted to write it down as soon as possible so that she would never forget it. One day, when she was older, she would publish this story and let everyone know of the story of Ophiuchus. With unbridled determination, Lucy began scribbling down the tale, paying no heed to the date marked on the top right hand corner of the page,
Lucy woke up with a jolt, tears streaming down her face for a reason she couldn't remember. It must have been a bad dream she reasoned to herself and tried to shake off her dejected mood. It was the beginning of the day. She couldn't be upset already!
"Alright!" she said as she scurried to bathroom to take a nice shower before she went to Fairy Tail hoping that freshening up would make herself feel even slightly better than how she was feeling now. The warm water proved to elevate her mood to an extent, but she couldn't shake the uneasiness that she had woken up with that morning. Almost considering jumping back into bed and calling today a waste, Lucy shook her head with determination to rid herself of this depressive mood and make today the best day ever!
"Ready or not, here I come!" she shouted to the bustling street, earning her a few glances and giggles that she refused to let bother her. This was going to be a good day she promised herself.