"Can I help you?"
A man peered out from the tiny crack of the barely open door. He had piercing eyes that were so blue that they almost didn't seem real. Lucy paused. Normally she would take over as the words part of the team and politely explain their purpose, but she was getting a strange vibe from this man.
She glanced over at Natsu and, judging by the wrinkle in his forehead, his instincts were similar. Not really understanding why her gut was warning her to be cautious, Lucy smiled as brightly as she could and said, "Hello, we heard that you are something of an expert on dragons? We're really curious about dragons and would like to know more if you would be willing to share with us."
The man's eyes roved over her and her companion's faces, before shutting the door rudely without a word.
"Hey!" Natsu shouted, banging on the door with his fists.
"Please sir!" Wendy asked entreatingly, stepping out from behind Lucy and standing near the door. "We just want information. We're not trouble or anything!"
The man didn't respond. Lucy was about to tell the others to forget it when Natsu's fist sunk into the dark wood of the door. They all froze, staring at the damage he'd done. Lucy groaned, unsurprised.
Inside, there was a small crash and a muffled curse, before the man wrenched the door open fully. The man appeared to be in his mid-twenties with disheveled white-blonde hair and an angry expression. He gestured to the door, "You're not any trouble? I suppose this is polite wherever you come from?"
"How do you know we're not from around here?" Lucy asked.
He paused in his angry inspection of the damage to the door and turned to her, "No one from around here would visit or ask about dragons."
"Why not?" Wendy asked.
"Because dragons aren't real," the man said simply, starting to retreat back into the house. Natsu caught the shutting door with his foot, his expression battle serious.
"Dragons are real," he said with force. He pulled the door from the man's grasp and opened it fully again. "I was raised by a dragon. And, my friends have seen a dragon as well."
"I was raised by a dragon, too!" Wendy offered.
The man hesitated, his eyes roving over the group again. He seemed to struggle for a moment before sighing and waving for them to follow him.
"Raised by a dragon, you say," the man said over his shoulder as he led them down halls with fading wallpaper. The whole place in general was…not in disrepair…but had clearly seen better days. "Which dragon?"
"Igneel," Natsu said. "A fire dragon."
"I was raised by Grandeeney. An air dragon," Wendy said.
"Igneel and Grandeeney," the man hummed to himself.
"Have you ever seen a dragon, Altor?" Lucy asked. If he was surprised that she knew his name, he didn't show it.
"I have," he said. She wanted to ask him more about it, but they'd arrived at two tall French style doors and Lucy was filled with a sudden apprehension. A gust of air conditioned air swirled out of the room when he opened the doors.
Natsu noticed her reluctance to enter the room and sent her a questioning glance. She slipped her hand in his for courage and he stooped to give her a reassuring kiss. With a steeling sigh, she followed the group into the room.
Inside was a man that was so still and looked so old that she thought maybe at first that it was some sort of wax sculpture until he moved. Despite his ancient appearance, his movements weren't difficult or jerky in the least.
"Get down!" Wendy shouted, diving for the floor and pulling Lucy with her. A clawed hand-like contraption swung a hairsbreadth from their heads. She clasped her hands over her head and shouted in surprise at the sudden attack.
Natsu leapt forward with an enraged roar, bringing a flaming fist towards the younger man who had led them to the room. He bounced back uselessly off of an invisible boundary shielding Altor from harm. Altor smiled humorously.
"Why did you attack us?" Lucy asked, looking around warily for anymore threats. "We just want to know about dragons? What do you have to hide?"
"Do you think the dragons want to be found? If your Igneel and Grandeeney wanted you to know where they were, don't you think they would have brought you along, or at least have told you where they were going before they disappeared?"
Natsu growled again, flame erupting around his body, "Igneel cared about me. I don't know why he left, but if he didn't tell me, he must have a good reason not to. That doesn't stop me from wanting to find him. Maybe he's in trouble!"
Altor scoffed at his speech, but Natsu wasn't done. "But, that's not why I'm here today. I'm here because the person I love most is dying and I want to save her. I think Grandeeney is the only one who can do that!"
"Please," Wendy added, desperate tears in her eyes, "if you know where they are at, tell us!"
Lucy touched her key pouch, prepared for another attack. The old man stood on spindly and time-warped legs. He lifted both hands, his palms glowing with a cool, white light.
"Do you honestly think you're the first to search for the dragons with personal reasons such as that? The dragons are a secret that is my duty to keep. Stop searching for them, or I will be forced to stop you."
This was it for Natsu. His flame output increased, the previously damp and cool room began to feel stiflingly hot as his temper got the best of him. How could the man stop him when he was an unstoppable force? Lucy tore her eyes away from the beautiful sight to look for something to help with. Her eyes stopped on an old text that said something about dragons in an ancient language. She didn't recognize the language, but she did remember the word for dragons from her previous research.
She glanced back to make sure that Natsu was still distracting both of the men before quickly slipping the book into her pack. If they made it out of here alive, hopefully this would at least send them in the right direction. It didn't look like these men were going to help them.
The white light on the old man's palms grew until it was touching the ceiling. The material of the roof broke away easily under its touch, raining debris down on them and forcing them to take cover.
Lifting with the light, the old man floated up out of the hole, hovering just above the house. He looked down at them with a sneer, "You are abominations. Mages with the power to kill dragons? And, taught this very magic by dragons? Disgraceful!"
Electricity joined the fire swirling around Natsu as he leapt up to attack the old man. Altor intercepted him mid-air with a brutal kick to the chin.
"Natsu!" Lucy shouted.
He managed to catch onto the edge of the broken roof and swing himself up through the gaping hole. Altor and then Happy joined him seconds later and then they were all out of sight, the noises of their fight the only thing marking their presence.
Wendy grabbed Lucy's shirt hem and sent her a questioning look. Lucy patted her head reassuringly and then pulled out a key, calling her spirit crux. The cross-like spirit appeared before her, floating and smiling.
"What can I do for you, Lucy?"
"Can you take this book?" Lucy asked, passing over the said book, afraid that something might happen to it in the destruction that was surely to come. She'd seen Natsu's expression. There was hell to pay. "Can you also look for any information on an old man named Custos? He has some sort of connection with dragons, but I'm not sure what."
After the spirit promised to do both of these things, he poofed back to the spirit world and was quickly replaced by Loke.
"Wendy, let's go help Natsu."
#34 Bad Vibes