A/N I'm so sorry for the late update, minna! I'm so busy I couldn't even respond to messages and tweets (I used to regularly check that out) I couldn't stress enough how thankful I am to your reviews, PM's, tweets, fav's and alerts. *bows* Arigatou gozaimasu! And big big thanks to both WolfieANNE and keysXdragon (Congratulations for winning the dance competition once again) for beta-reading this chapter and being so cool with keeping up with my impulsiveness. Haha. I re-wrote this twice. Teehee! Anyway, to compensate for the delay, I made this chapter unusually longer. Yep, you've been warned. Oh, oh, oh! And also… this'll be another one of those chapters that I wouldn't be able to respond to reviews. I swear, I could barely open my laptop nowadays. Gomenasai. :( hope you enjoy this chapter though. I'm getting the feeling you'd pull my hair or something by the time you finish this.


"Lucy-san is with Sting-sama and Rogue-sama as of the moment." Yukino revealed as she sniffed. She was confused as to why Natsu seemed to know nothing about Lucy's situation.Wasn't he Lucy-san's supposed best friend and partner?

As far as she could remember, their lady master had informed Fairy Tail about Lucy's situation but looking at Natsu and the exceed's face, she could tell it was news to them.

Natsu's jaw comically fell to the ground, his hands clenched into tight fists.

"B-but that's impossible. L-Lucy's in–"

"Tell me… how do I get to your guild?" Natsu cut Happy off as his eyes pierced through Yukino.

The celestial mage shivered, "Y-you can take a train from h-here."

"Let's go, Happy!" Natsu swiftly turned around and without so much as a goodbye, left with Happy gloomily flying above his head.

Yukino was left standing there, looking after the boy's retreating back.

What the hell did she just do?

"Explain," Natsu uttered coldly once he finished bandaging Happy's stomach area.

Gray shut his eyes, anxiously curling his fingers around nothing.

Their cover was blown, what else could he do but tell Natsu the truth? He had failed his purpose, he shouldn't have allowed Natsu and the white haired Sabertooth girl to talk.

Right after Natsu left the celestial mage alone, Gray immediately approached and interrogated the girl. It took some time before the Sabertooth girl got to the most crucial part of their conversation. Upon hearing Lucy's name… everything clicked.

"What did you say?" Gray's grasp on her arm tightened, Yukino flinched.

"I-I told h-him I met Lucy-san h-here and… what's g-going on? Why are all of you acting s-strange?" She asked, her eyes red and puffy. "When I told Natsu-san about me meeting Lucy-san here, he didn't believe me and accused me of lying. Didn't Mai-san inform him that Lucy-san is with Sabertooth? And Fairy Tail, of all people, should know this because it was your guild who agreed for her to be the reward? Isn't that the case?

The words she uttered made him let go of her wrist and stagger backwards. It was as if there were sharp blades piercing through his heart. Heaving a sigh Gray ran his fingers through his hair.

Yukino bit her lower lip. She noticed a regretful glint in the Fairy Tail mages eyes and suddenly, she felt bad about what she just said. "I'm sorry… I-I didn't think about what I was saying…" She bowed her head shamefully.

Gray smiled at her. "Hey, no worries… What you said was true. It's our guild's fault. Anyway, do you have any idea where Natsu's headed?"

"To S-Sabertooth I guess…" She managed a smile as she pointed at the train which was preparing to depart.

Gray whipped his head towards the direction she indicated. Once he realized the train had started its engine, he immediately ran but not before he yelled a sincere, "Sorry and thanks".

The train had started to move. The ice alchemist desperately threw himself on the tail of the last cabin and swiftly avoided being spotted by the station guards and train personnel. Yukino stared at the departing train, dumbfounded.

"Oi," Natsu dragged Gray's collar (which, miraculously, was still on him).

"The Sabertooth girl was lying, right? Lucy is in Joya with Erza, right… Ice brain?"

They stared at each other intensely, neither wanting to back down. Gray knew what the idiot wanted to hear, but could he lie to him more without feeling bad afterwards? Even though he acted as if he didn't care, Natsu was still the closest thing he had to a best friend. Should he keep Natsu from knowing the truth or should he just tell him everything?

After thinking things through, he told him what he thought was the right thing to do. After all, he had the right to know.

And shortly, afterwards, a fiery fist collided with his jaw.


"I can see her, I can see her," the sand mage yelled from above, binoculars still attached to his eyes. "She's on her way here!" he pulled off the gadget and looked down as everyone in the guild secured their positions.

As soon as the doors flew open, Fairy Tail enthusiastically shouted, "Welcome home, Lucy~" and the confetti popped into the air, courtesy of the over-eager first master who flew around in circles just above the door.

Suddenly, the party atmosphere died down, their faces all fell as they realized that the person standing by their doorstep, mouth full of and covered with colorful confetti wasn't Lucy – but a familiar, really familiar blond haired man with an annoyed expression plastered on his face.

"Eh?" Mavis blinked owlishly as she flew back to Makarov and cried, "The confetti popper was wasted, the confetti popper was wasted!"

Makarov squawked childishly, "First, we have a lot of stocks in the basement. You're making me cry as well~"

"Oi, Max! What kind of eyes do you have?" Ever screeched as she clicked her tongue, "How can you mistake that," she pointed at the Sabertooth blond guy, "…as the cosplay girl? Are you stupid?"

"It's not manly to mistake Lucy as a man, Max." Elfman declared from somewhere behind.

Max scratched his head, glancing at the window and back to them, "B-but it was really Lucy I saw earlier. If not, then why are they here?" the sand mage tried to prove his point, pointing his lips towards the front door.

The rest just breathed out disappointed sighs as some said, "False alarm, sheesh..." Some others cheeped, "Yeah, why are they here?"

Eyes all on the front door where Sting stood, behind him were Rogue and the two exceeds – Rogue and Frosch tried to restrain their selves from laughing at the white dragon slayer but an annoying (in Sting's perspective) spirit beat them to it as a loud laugh resounded throughout the air. Lector, as loyal as he was to Sting, couldn't help but let out a small squeak from trying to restrain his laughter.

It was then that they noticed Loke was also standing behind the Sabertooth mages. Indeed, Lucy was with them… but where was she?

*Sniff* they heard sniffing by the curtains. "I'm so happy to be back~" Lucy's voice echoed around the suddenly quiet guild.

Everyone spun their heads towards the voice's direction, only to find Lucy hiding behind the stage curtain. Her eyes all teary and her face all red…

"Welcome home, Lucy~" Mira exclaimed, jumping at the blond celestial mage. As if on cue, everyone followed suit – her name could be heard everywhere, leaving the Sabertooth mages kind of left out.

Mavis flew once more, trying to pop an already-used confetti popper over the blond celestial mage's head unsuccessfully.

"Well then," Makarov roared, "Let the party begin~ all the booze on the house tonight~" he yelled as he started slugging a bottle of liquor over the bar table in an unreserved manner.

"Oi, dorei!" Sting's voice thundered, making everyone pause.

Upon remembering her forgotten company, she stood erect, "Ah," Lucy pulled away from the girls who managed to flock over her in less than a minute. She quickly walked down and hooked her arm around her marker. She grabbed Rogue's hand and brought them in the middle of the hall.

The whole guild grew silent, watching them intently as Lucy grinned widely, "You knew them from the Games, right? This is Rogue-kun," she tugged the shadow dragon slayer's hand lightly and most of the people present nodded their heads. "…And this is Sting." She nudged the scowling blonde as she turned her head to look. It was then that she noticed the confetti papers sticking out of his hair and vest. Immediately, she let go of Rogue's hand and stepped in front of the now baffled Sting – she inched closer and lifted her hand as she started to pick out each colored bits of confetti papers. "There~" she beamed, "You've got confetti papers everywhere. What a kid." She whispered in a low, soft voice which made the blond guy blush and Rogue look away. She jumped and faced her guild mates once more, she pointed at the two cats standing proudly in front of her lion spirit, "And then right here we have–"

"Call me Lector, yup! I'm the partner of the strongest mage in Fiore, yup!" he smirked arrogantly; Charle raised a brow at this.

"Call Frosch, Frosch. Frosch is Frosch's name." the other cat dressed in a frog costume chirped cutely.

Upon realizing his state, Sting cleared his throat and frowned, allowing Lucy to check him out more. Rogue just stood, his face devoid of any emotions.

Just then, Wendy stepped in, bowing her head slightly. "Thank you for taking care of Lucy-san, Rogue-san, Sting-san." The sky dragon slayer spoke softly.

Sting and Rogue tilted their heads as loud murmurs exploded into the air. One by one, the other members bowed their heads too, each uttering a word of thanks. This brought a smile to both Makarov's and Mavis' lips.

The Sabertooth mages gawked at them in extreme disbelief, is Fairy Tail really doing this? Both were bewildered, unsure of what to do. And as if that wasn't enough shock, Lucy also took a step back as she sniffed and also bowed in all her fours. "I know you'd probably say this is ridiculous but," she snuffled, not raising her head to look up at them – a sign she was close to crying for both the dragon slayer duo, she heaved a deep breath and continued, "Thank you for taking care of me."

Sting was utterly flabbergasted. She was thanking him once again – why? He wanted to ask himself. He was strangely getting hooked to how she expresses her gratitude – her soft voice, her humble approach, her teary eyes – to be honest, he was sick of it, he was annoyed yet he was so into it. Again, why were she and her guild mates thanking them? It was something he couldn't answer himself. As far as he could recall, all he did to her was nothing but awful maltreatments.

He was an abusive marker – an undeniable fact.

And outlandishly, his marked human was definitely casting some shady magic that he was starting to lose himself – another undeniable fact.

Momentarily forgetting the displeasure that was brought unto him – not that it was intended – by the Fairy Tail mages earlier, he took a step forward and hesitantly tried to reach her out.

"Stand up dorei, it's my responsibility to take care of you – because our lives are bonded, stupid blondie!" was what he was about to say when he realized something was wrong. He furrowed his brows and thought of a better way to say it, "I command you to stand, dorei. I am your master so that justifies why. Don't get the wrong idea, though." Was that better? His hand suspended in the air, still struggling to find the right words to say that would make him, well, cool. But it wasn't like he really took good care of her, right? In fact, all he did was insult her and make her cry. That itself, was uncool.

"It's the marker's responsibility to take care of his marked she-dragon – in our case, human." Rogue said monotonously, breaking Sting's stupid train of thoughts.

It was then that Sting realized that Rogue was already crouching down and reaching for Lucy's hand. "O-oi–"

"So stand up and don't lower yourself in front of your marker. We don't deserve this gratitude, we haven't really taken care of you. Always keep in mind, you share the same lifeline," he continued, rendering Sting speechless and motionless as the rest of the Fairy Tail mages listened to him, the shadow dragon slayer leaned closer to Lucy's ear and whispered, "So you're in equal terms."

Lucy blushed and blinked vehemently as she pulled out her head and took Rogue's offer to pull her up. Astoundingly, her tears retreated back. She faced her guild and smiled brightly, "See, you don't have to worry about me. I'm perfectly doing fine."

With tears lining Makarov's eyes, he yelled. "Booze, bring out all the booze in the storage room. We'll party all night!" And the whole guild roared with cheers, party blowers filled their ears as everyone started to party – in their own weird ways which kind of surprised the Sabertooth mages.

Rogue was dragged here and there by various members of the guild. He won't deny he was ticked off, most of them thought he was Lucy's marker. That would be the only time they'd hear him talk as he denies it courteously. Though he would admit, at first, he was only interested when the topic was about Gajeel or Lucy – but as time passed by, he found himself enjoying their nonsense bickering about how manly a man should be – courtesy of the manly Elfman – and how an ideal Fairy Queen must always act – courtesy of the self-proclaimed 'Fairy Queen', Evergreen. Moment later, however, Bixlow joined in the conversation, making things awkward for Rogue as the weird man with his tongue sticking out (is that the new trend?) peculiarly asked him in a blunt manner if he was Cosplay girl's new boyfriend.

Rogue almost gagged to this – the first time he made something so explicit (in his opinion) in public. Add the annoying toys flying around them, oh how he badly wanted to get out of there fast. He remained speechless even though he was sincerely wondering who the hell was this Cosplay Girl – it was later on that he finally understood that the masked man was talking about Lucy.

He mentally laughed. Just how many nicknames does this girl have? He asked himself inwardly as he glanced at the Celestial mage, who was at the moment, being dragged by a familiar drunkard girl – he recognized her as the sole finalist in the drinking competition. She must have had won that competition but it seemed like luck was on his partner's side that time.

Cana dragged Lucy and Sting towards a table, barrels of alcohol overflowing around them.

Sting snarled, peeved with the current events. How could these weak mages of a weak guild think they could lug him around wherever and whenever they wanted to – especially this drunken girl who reeked of alcohol? He was extremely frustrated with what happened a while ago as well – he had lost this round to Rogue once again.

He yanked the card mage's hand making the latter laugh her heart out loud. "Oh, shy are we?" Cana slurred, her eyes droopy, "We have matters to settle, young man." She winked as she burped un-lady likely – Sting winced to this.

Lucy chuckled softly, "Cana, how long have you been drinking?"

"Not long, Lucy. Don't worry though?" she sneered, sitting over the table informally, "Gildarts' still out, I'm taking advantage of the time you know? Lucky you came home, he hadn't come back."

The blond celestial mage hugged her tight, "Ah, sheesh! I missed you a lot. Not your alcoholic scent though."

The brown-haired lady hugged her back, with eyes directed to the blond dragon slayer, she squeezed both Lucy's butt cheeks, making Sting blush furiously. She smirked, Lucy squeaked. "Cana~"

"Heh, I missed you too." Both ladies pulled back, Lucy's face was red all over. Cana pointed a group of girls in the bar and tapped her back, "Go on, I'll accommodate this young man here."

Lucy smiled and turned to glance at Sting.

"O-o-oi, dore–"

"What?" Cana threw down the gauntlet and nudged Lucy towards the group of girls' direction, Lucy stalked off leaving Sting with the drunkard, "You afraid of a rematch, little boy?" She smirked dangerously.

Sting clicked his tongue. Is this girl looking down on me? "You wish," he hissed as he grabbed a barrel loaded of alcohol and glugged it down straight.

"Lu-chan~" Levy pounced on the blond celestial mage even before she could reach the spot where most of the girls closest to her were gathered.

"Welcome back, Lucy~" Mira flashed her signature smile – a gesture from the eldest takeover mage she missed the most. The barmaid prepared her favorite drink on her favorite spot.

After most of the girls managed to greet her, she sat down and placed her head over her arms.

"You should definitely try my new mix, Lucy." Kinana chirped from behind the bar.

"I'd love to." Lucy lifted her head up and grinned.

Wendy sat beside her, Levy on the other side, Lisanna stood behind her. Questions after questions were thrown, all attention was on her. She didn't even realize she had already consumed seven glasses of Kinana's new mix.

Just then, she heard a gloomy voice from behind said, "Juvia is happy Love Rival is back, but not that much because Gray-sama is gone because of Love Rival. Juvia wants Gray-sama to mark her too." The water mage sniveled as she drew imaginary circles on the floor, just below Lucy.

And to be honest – the celestial mage was creeped out, she could never get used to Juvia's mushroom-like behavior. Lisanna comforted Juvia as she stroked the water mage's back gently, "But Gray isn't a dragon slayer."

Juvia cried loudly and for a moment, it scared them – she might turn the guild into a swimming pool – it's not like they weren't used to this but it would surely ruin the atmosphere. Juvia's lips quirked downward as she desperately grasped the arms of the youngest takeover mage, "Juvia must make Gray-sama mark her, also! Love Rival~" she turned to the utterly shocked blonde celestial mage, "Tell me what did you do to… uh," she shook her head and paused for a moment, "Juvia knew it," imaginary flowers bloomed around her as she stormed off with a happy vibe, "Juvia must get Gray-sama drunk~" and she left – leaving them astounded.

Lucy could only let out a relieved chortle, she wasn't sure why her vision was starting to blur – must be because Juvia kind of made her nervous, she asked for another drink and spoke, "Speaking of which, where is Team Natsu?"

Mira smiled, "Natsu's out on a mission, Gray was trailing after him." She placed the drink Lucy ordered in front of her and continued, "And Erza, well… Haven't you two met yet?"

"Eh?" Lucy raised a brow in confusion, "What do you mean?"

"Erza, along with Gajeel and Lily~ they were following you." Levy chirped in, a strange glow emanating from her.

"Now that you've mentioned that, Levy-san… then, that must mean, they'd be coming back in Magnolia as well?" Wendy prompted, gaining a nod from the Strauss sisters.

Lucy finished her drink in one gulp, "One more please, Mira?"

"Err, Lucy~ aren't you drinking too mu–"

"Kinana's new mix is refreshing~" she hummed and gave the barmaid a puppy-eye look. Mira could only shrug and make her another one. Lucy grew serious once again and asked, "Erza is following me?"

"Yes," Lisanna replied, "She was watching over you."

Lucy was touched but something bothered her, "I'm really grateful," the blonde spoke in a soft voice, "But I'll appreciate it more if you guys don't worry too much about me. I don't want anyone to waste time watching over me. Just like Erza, Gajeel and Lily~ they have their lives to take care of too." She pursed her lips into a thin line as she redirected her gaze towards the blond dragon slayer – who was desperately trying his hardest to win a drinking contest with Cana, Macao and Wakaba idiotically gaping at him. "I promise to take care of myself~ and aside from that, they're not as bad as how we first thought." She turned to look at the girls and raised her glass unsteadily, "Ne, does this drink contain alcohol?"

"It does, Lucy. You mean, you didn't notice?" Mira smiled brightly.


"Told you, I'm getting better at it, Mira-san." Kinana cheered.

Sting clicked his tongue as he sneaked out of the guild hall, finding himself at the back where a large pool was situated. He was able to finally escape the worthless rematch – as the drunkard Fairy girl called it – inside. At first, he was trying to spot Lucy – but she was nowhere to be found. Next was Rogue – also nowhere to be found. Then Lector and Frosch, both were pampered by the girls flocking over Lucy's smug lion spirit – that was when his heart beat frantically. Once again, he roamed his eyes inside the guild hall – Lucy wasn't there and so was Rogue. Were they together?

His fists unconsciously rolled into a tight ball. He was irritated, so fucking annoyed – why the hell did Lucy leave him all alone… and perhaps, why the hell would she accompany Rogue instead of him? Damn it! What the hell was he thinking? An inexplicable sensation overwhelmed him from inside – and he didn't want it. It was the least feeling he ever wanted to feel – insecurity? Jealousy?

Tss, jealousy my ass. Why would I be jealous? He angrily told himself – lucky he wasn't holding anything at the moment, because the force on his clenching hands would surely break it into fine pieces.

"Sutingu-dono~" A hiccup, "Eh, my bad! Sting, I meant~"

Sting blinked, turning his head only to find Lucy staggering towards him. "O-oi~" he tilted his head to the side, watching her struggle with her balance. "Did you drink?"

"Drink?" Lucy paused, about two feet away from him. "Yeshhaa~ just a yummy juuuuuuice, though~ Mira and Kinana tricked me~ seriously, it tasted like juice. Sweet and yummy and citrus-y and then~ I got dizzy."

Sting furrowed his brow, "Huh?"

She started walking once more, this time slower. "Wonder why you're here alone?" She voiced out in a sing song voice and propped down beside him.

The white dragon slayer could definitely smell alcohol from her. It wasn't as strong as the drunkard girl's scent but he found it rather unusual to see and smell Lucy this way.

It made him want to take all the other scents away and just leave his and only HIS scent on her – wait, what was he thinking? He immediately shook off the thoughts but kind of felt relieved that Lucy was finally with him now – with HIM, not Rogue.

"Are you alright?" Lucy asked out of the blue, her head raised and eyes directed at the night sky.

Sting was utterly mesmerized at how the moon light illuminated Lucy's pale face, how it made her caramel orbs shine brightly despite her blank expression. "H-hmm~" he hummed, staring straight at her face.

"Is there something wrong with my face?" she asked innocently, "You keep staring~" She abruptly faced him and her eyes met his.

Sting almost bit his tongue as his blood rush up to his face. Quickly, he looked away, tried to compose himself and cleared his throat. "What are you doing here outside? Aren't you supposed to be enjoying your party?" he tried to save his ass, words desperately dripping of sarcasm.

Lucy giggled, "Oh, well yeah." she hugged her knees and rested her cheek against it, she tilted her head sideward and watched him – Sting felt uncomfortable under her gaze. He wanted to curse himself. "But I was worried about you…" she said, inaudible for ordinary people to hear – thank goodness his sense of hearing was one of his strong points.

Sting's eyes widened, his mouth almost falling open. "S-shut up, that's your job."

The celestial mage then buried her face on her knees, feeling all the warmth from her body rising up to her cheeks. Goodness, since when did she become this bold? But she meant it the way she said it. She was really worried. The time she noticed Sting was missing in Cana's table, she got worried.

She wasn't worried that he might stir up a brawl – after all, brawls occurring here and there were a normal event in her guild. She wasn't worried that he might kill any of her guild mates out of mere annoyance – she trusted him, she believed in him. She was just plainly worried that he might be feeling out of place. Was that it? Or was she worried that he might leave her there… without saying anything.

It was weird, really. She couldn't believe herself either. She had grown attached to him – was it the mark? She should probably do her own research about it. An uncomfortable silence enveloped the air.

"Ne," Sting broke the silence, "Dorei?"

Lucy felt a vein popped out of her head even though she felt like the world was spinning too fast, it still made her irritated to hear him call her that. Does he really see her only as his slave? She's got heaps of weird nicknames but this, so far, was the worst. "Hm?" she hummed, too tired to argue.

"During the Games," he heaved a sigh, recollecting the memories that bothered him deep to the bones, there was a hint of hesitation but soon it died out as he continued, "In the second day?"

Past events flooded over the dizzy celestial spirit mage as she lifted her head up to look at the sky, "Oh," she grinned, "That time you placed last in the Chariot round?" she tried her best to sound subservient.

"Tch," the white dragon slayer frowned. "I just gave that round to your guild, you should thank me."

He was indeed a proud one. Lucy plastered a blissful expression, "Thank you then~ I remember that was our first point."

For a moment, Sting stared at the blond girl in astonishment. Was it just him or Lucy was really casting a strange spell on him? Because right on the spot, his heart was thumping uncontrollably inside his chest and Lucy was shining in his eyes.

"What about it?" Lucy cleared her throat, her voice waking him up from his temporary stupor. A tipsy smile lined her lips, "Are you drunk?"

Yeah, it's probably just because I'm under the influence of alcohol. He concluded, comforting his self. "You're one to talk? You look funny."

Lucy tilted her head, looking so innocent. Instinctively, Sting reached out his hand but halted midway. What the hell was he doing?

"I-I'm the great Sting Eucliffe, you know! Alcohol doesn't stand a chance against me." He boasted, contradicting himself in an instant as he turned his gaze elsewhere.

Lucy giggled and her voice sounded like melody in his ears. It felt like torture, really. He shook his head vehemently and dragged his vision ahead, "But yeah, about that round…"

The celestial mage's body twitched towards him, a taunting smile etched across her lips, "You were totally hilarious back there, Sting-dono~" a vein popped out of Sting's head, "The first time I saw you, I never imagined you'd look worse than Natsu when riding anything in motion since you know… from what I've heard, you were really tough." She laughed out heartily, tapping her leg. "I guess you should never judge a book by its cover, no?"

Sting raised a brow. Was that supposed to be a compliment?

Lucy's face softened, "Weren't you moved by what Natsu said back then?" She stared at him from the side, Sting tried his best to stop himself from meeting her eyes. "Being with you for days now, I can surely testify you're not totally heartless."

The white dragon slayer winced, calming his nerves. This girl really talks too much. "Uh, I wasn't."

"That's what I said?" Lucy chimed, stretching her arms up.

"I mean, I wasn't moved by what Natsu-san said." He decreed, clearing the misunderstanding. It was hard talking to her when she's sobber but even harder when drunk. "Actually," a look of confusion spread throughout his handsome features, "I don't understand his logic at all."

Lucy redirected her gaze up to the sky once again, admiring the stars trying to outshine the night. She raised a hand up and drew imaginary lines connecting each star she could spot. She heaved a deep breath before she retorted, "Don't think too much. Natsu's logic isn't really easy to comprehend."

An inexplicable feeling swirled inside Sting's system – a feeling he absolutely loathed.

"Master once told us that humans are naturally weak but weakness isn't evil. Alone, you will feel nothing but insecurity – that's the main purpose of being in a guild."

Sting's eyes widened, come to think of it… What's the purpose of him being in a guild? A guild where power was the ultimate goal? It was a question he couldn't answer right away.

"We walk together in order to live strong," she continued, "The clumsy ones will walk into more walls and it may take them longer to get there, but one thing is for sure… You'll be able to get stronger." She drew out a smile as she pulled her hand down and turned to look at the speechless dragon slayer. "Think of it this way, we were gone for seven years… but they waited for us to come back. They waited and waited and waited… bearing in mind the uncertainty that we might all be dead. And yet, they waited."

"It's for our comrades! They were waiting for us. For seven years, they protected the guild even if they were made fun of… no matter how tough it was, no matter how sad… They endured… That's why we'll keep moving forward!"

Sting recalled Natsu's response during the second day of the Grand Magic Games and he felt his heart clench. Why did it feel so unpleasant? Perhaps he was feeling envious. But he still couldn't understand.

"We find strength in our nakama, that's how it is in Fairy Tail." Lucy stated enthusiastically.

"Isn't that bullshit?" Sting prompted monotonously, bitterness dripping from his words. "You grow stronger because that's what you want. You don't find it in somebody else."

Lucy gaped at Sting in worry, she could literally feel the abhorrence from his bitter retort, and it made her curious. Just how hard did Sting live his life for him to be this hostile? "Tell me, Sting." Lucy bit the inside of her cheeks in extreme reluctance, but she madly wanted to know. "Why did you kill your dragon parent?"

Sting was surprised, he knew people were naturally nosy but rarely in his life would someone ask him about why he killed his dragon parent – most of the people he met wouldn't even believe dragons existed in the first place, how much more would someone believe he killed one?

"I'm amazed you believed me." A smirk grew on Sting's face, he felt delighted that his marked human didn't doubt his words.

"Eh?" Lucy scratched her head awkwardly, "Well, I've seen one with my own eyes and you said you killed your dragon parent? Why wouldn't I believe you?"

Sting sneered proudly, "I'm a real dragon slayer, it's my job to slay dragons."

Lucy nodded, eyes filled with anticipation, "So, why did you kill your dragon? He raised you…" She asked but Sting remained speechless, "Come on, I want details." Her face hopeful, but as if sudden realization hit her, she immediately waved a hand. "Ah, I'm sorry. I'm going overboard."

"You really talk so much for your own good." Sting hissed pushing himself up, "Let's go home."

But even before he could take a step forward, he felt her tug his pants weakly. He looked back, finding Lucy on the ground in a kneeling position. "O-oi," he tried to shake her off. "Why did you drink alcohol if you couldn't even handle yourse–"

"Aren't you going to tell me something that I needed to know?"

"Huh?" Sting stared at her, he couldn't see her face clearly. Damn, and now he had to carry her because she's drunk. "Wh–"

"My father…" she uttered softly, Sting's heartbeat raced.

She knew! Of course she should have heard of it, Jude Heartfilia was her father after all. "W-what do you mean?"

"How did he treat you back then? Tell me…" her voice quavered, "Tell me. I want to know."

"You're drunk, it's–"

"Please?" she spoke, her voice low and almost inaudible.

The white dragon slayer felt a sudden pang of guilt hit him straight to his chest as his body shook uncontrollably. "You knew?"

He heard her chuckle bitterly, "I… Yes," she lifted her head up, her grip to his pants loosening, she pulled her hand back. "I've heard… from my father's friend." She forced a smile, her eyes gloomy and dark. "It was you and Rogue-kun who saved him from the depression brought by my mother's death…"

She spoke so innocently that Sting clenched his teeth, he was so overwhelmed with remorse that he found himself sweating cold.

"You missed some details." He finally answered, his words cold causing chills to run up and down Lucy's spine. "Your father found me and Rogue at the woods sometime before Layla-san's death."

"So, you also met my mom?" Lucy tilted her head.

Sting's eyes narrowed, "I did. And Layla-san was against Jude-san's plans."

"I assume you're referring to the annihilation of the dragon race?" She inquired, Sting couldn't tell exactly how she was feeling at the moment. All he knew was, today, he would tell her everything – regardless of the circumstances.

Sting nodded sternly, he took a step back and crouched down, leveling his face to hers. "I was planning to tell you after the dragon slayer mark disappeared, I don't want you to avoid me because the truth would certainly hurt you. Since you initiated this topic, I'll allow you to do what pleases you." He tilted her head, his index finger under and his thumb pressed over her chin, he gently tilted her head sideward and caught a glimpse of her neck – white scales withdrawing, almost glowing in his eyes. "It was your father who saved me in my greatest time of need. I killed my dragon parent because it was him who destroyed my hometown. It was him who killed my parents. Can you blame me?" His eyes narrowed, "Jude-san was the one who implanted the elemental lachryma to my body – I didn't have to ask why – it was obviously because we share the same hatred against the dragon race. I hated your mother – I really, really did. She sided with the dragons – she never experienced my pain. It was said she died because of a sickness but really, she didn't. It was because she tried to hide the dragons. It was the talk in the lab. But indeed, the dragons had disappeared that time."

Sting halted for a moment, realizing Lucy was already crying silently.

His face was inches closer to Lucy's, his conscience was screwed. He had expected this confrontation long before today but he miscalculated the fact that it could be this hard. He just wanted to tell her the truth as soon as possible but he didn't want her to avoid him. If she wanted to, she could walk away from him – even though she had his mark but he didn't tell her that.

As to why, who knows?

It wasn't just the mark, really. And to be honest, Sting found this rather puzzling.

He had gotten used to Lucy following her around, or teasing him, or fighting with him, even talking back to him. What if… after his confession, she leaves him?

The mark doesn't concern her as it does to him. He was the marker, it was his life. Should he let her go? The mark was nearly disappearing – he could feel it was so close to full withdrawal.

"I caused your father's death, Lucy."

And everything went black.


to be continued...