Disclaimer: Hiro Mashima owns Fairy Tail. The bookcover is by Zippi44 on DeviantArt and used with permission. The original is at fav. me/d5cxnp1 (remove space).
Rated M for language, violence, and sexual situations.
Wheels of Fire
a Fairy Tail fanfic
A Timid Switch
"Fire Dragon's Roar!"
A battle between Team Natsu and the bandits of the Misty Hills raged through a deserted village, destroying abandoned buildings where the bandits had taken up shelter. Erza was busy with a katana wielder, Gray teamed up with Lucy to take on a dozen weaker enemies, while Natsu hurled himself headlong into a battle with the bandit leader. So far, it looked like it would be a quick mission without much serious trouble.
Natsu laughed wildly as the bandit leader swung at him with a massive baseball bat that could have knocked a full-grown cow out of a ballpark for a home run. "Too slow," the dragon slayer taunted. "Did you really defeat wizards from Twilight Ogre with swings like that? Then again, they're not much."
"Ack, you shtoopid wizards," the man sneered with a strong accent to his words. "I show you who eez not much. Runes Magic: Drain!"
Runes lit up under Natsu's feet. Although he felt his energy weaken slightly, it was not much. "Is that it? Sheesh, Freed's runes could have left me too tired to move for days and without any magic at all. This is boring. Mind if I finish it off fast so we can eat?"
"Don't be gettink cocky, leetle lizard," shouted the bandit. He pulled out a cannonball from a massive pack on his back, tossed it into the air, and hit it with the baseball bat. A crack like thunder made Lucy shriek, but Natsu easily leaped out of the way. The cannonball hit a building and leveled it.
"Those are getting annoying," Natsu frowned. "And you're scaring Lucy."
"You mean ze purty blondie gurly?" the bandit chuckled. "She looks tasty. Runes Magic: Gather." The runes grabbed hold of Lucy and yanked her backwards.
"Lucy!" Gray shouted, grabbing for her hand, but she was pulled away.
The bandit caught her and held her tightly in his arms. "Sorry fer gettink a leetle rough, gurly," he chuckled.
"You jerk, that hurt!" Lucy shouted. She struggled to get free, but the man's massive arms held her tightly.
"Mmm, you schmell goot," the man moaned. "After I keel zee rest of you, I tink mebbe I vill make dees purty gurly mah woman."
"What?" Lucy shrieked.
"Let her go!" Natsu bellowed in outrage.
The man grinned hungrily at Lucy. "A strong gurly wizard like you vould give me nice sons."
He gave her cheek a long, drooling lick. Lucy cringed back and tried to shove herself away from him, but it was no use. She was completely powerless against his huge arms. She could not even reach her keys because her arms could not stretch around the girth of his tree-trunk-like limbs.
The flames on Natsu's body surged in fury. "You perverted scum. Don't you dare touch Lucy."
"Hoy?" he asked in amusement. "Iz dees doll precious to you? Iz she yur gurly-friend, mebbe?"
"Who'd want to date her?" snapped Natsu. Lucy huffed at such an insult. "She's my nakama, and no one messes with my friends."
"If she iz just a friend, zen vhat do you care if I do dees?" He grabbed Lucy's breast. She gasped in shock, then screamed and pounded his hand as hard as she could. The bandit merely laughed at her vain attempts. "You iz cute vhen you iz angry, but doze teeny fists hurt a leetle. Runes Magic: Drain."
Suddenly, Lucy lost all strength. She was already tired from fighting, so she became limp in his arms.
"Much bettah. Drain vorks better on gurlies who iz angry. Ze angrier I make dem, ze more der power slips avay. Den I take my time vith dem." He chuckled as he gazed at Lucy's body and licked his lips.
Unable to move, Lucy turned her eyes toward the dragon slayer. "Natsu," she pleaded weakly.
"Bastard!" he yelled. "I said not to touch her."
"Hoy? You mean like dees?" The bandit grabbed her breast again. Lucy cringed, but she could not move. Natsu leaped at him, but the bandit waved into the air. "Runes Magic: Shield of Watching." Natsu's fist hit a barrier of glowing runes. "Dees lets you vatch ze whole ting. Jeest sit back und enjoy ze show." He laid Lucy on the grass and began to unbutton her shirt.
"No," she panted, straining to move but having no energy. "Stop it."
"Stop!" Natsu roared in fury.
Lucy's shirt was split apart and showed her lacy bra. She looked away, ashamed to have both this horrible man and Natsu see her in her underwear.
"Look at dat," the bandit chortled. "Dresses like a slut. Gurlies who vear clothes like dees vant to entice men. You ze type who spreads 'em fer anyone, no?"
"I'm not that type of girl at all," Lucy snapped.
"Oh? Iz you a virgin?" The bandit slid his hand up her thigh, and she yelled at the lewd touches. Then he licked her cheek again. "I like deflowerin' ze innocent maidens."
"Natsu," Lucy begged in desperation.
Flames leaped along the dragon slayer's skin. "Now I'm pissed. I'll break this damn wall down no matter what. Dragon Slayer's Secret Art. Crimson Lotus: Fire Dragon's Fist!"
Natsu leaped at the guy. His fist punched the runes that shielded them. They glowed and sparkled fiercely. Right above them, the sky darkened. Lucy looked up as the clouds turned black and began to swirl.
There was a white flash. Lucy closed her eyes, but just then it seemed like Natsu broke through the runes barrier. Then...
Lucy was amazed to hear that cry come from Natsu. "Owwie?" she questioned.
He laid on the grass cradling his fist. "Owwwww! That hurt."
Lucy looked in surprise as Natsu shook out his hand. Then he began to suck on his knuckles. That was definitely not something Natsu would do.
"Vell vell, looks like you broke ze barrier. Guess you iz not all talk, leetle lizard," the bandit laughed.
Natsu looked up in confusion. "Little lizard? Sorry but...who are you? Oh, hi Lucy," he grinned and gave a quick wave. He looked from Lucy lying on the grass with her blouse spread open and her skirt shoved up high, then to the massive man with huge arms. "Uh...am I interrupting you two? Sorry."
"No! What the hell is wrong with you, Natsu?" she yelled.
"Huh?" Natsu looked back and forth again. "Then is this one of your friends? Is he joining the guild, too? I know you have weird initiations and sometimes you take the guys away and they come back all flushed and..."
"Natsu?" Lucy questioned, worried by the strange look in Natsu's face and disturbed by what he was saying.
The bandit laughed. "You iz an eediot, Salamander. You had yur chance. Now I iz gonna kill you und take yur gurlyfriend."
"Salamander?" Natsu asked in confusion. "Girlfriend? Whoa, Lucy, I...I didn't tell this guy we were boyfriend and girlfriend, I swear," he insisted, cowering down and covering his head. "Please don't hurt me too badly."
Lucy gawked at him. "What...? Wait...Edo-Natsu?" she questioned in disbelief.
The pink-haired man looked up. "Huh? Edo-Natsu? Why would you call me...? Oh wait. Wait a minute. Your hair! You're not Lucy Ashley, are you?"
The Celestial Spirit wizard felt her heart drop in disappointment. "Oh man, this is not good," she moaned. "Edo-Natsu, you need to get out of here. This guy will seriously kill you."
"Huh? He's an enemy? But you're dressed like that and...and...oh," he whispered, suddenly realizing what this situation was about. "You...you're trying to hurt Lucy." He jumped up to his feet and held his fists up, although his knees were shaking. "I...I can't let you hurt Lucy, even if it's Earthland's Lucy. I...I'll f-fight you."
"Oh God," Lucy groaned as her hand covered her face. "I told you to run, idiot. Get help."
"No," he said firmly. "I...I can't leave you. This guy will do horrible things to you. I...I can do this much."
The bandit rose off of Lucy. "I haff changed my mind. I vant some privacy vith dees leetle maiden." He tossed another cannonball into the air and smacked it with a monstrous crack of his baseball bat. Natsu cried out in shock as the ball hurled toward him.
"Lucyyyyy!" he wailed.
"Natsu, move!" Lucy yelled. Why didn't he dodge? Why didn't he leap out of the way? Why didn't he just blast the ball with fire? Was this really that whimpering, weak Edo-Natsu? That was when she realized that although the clothes were the same, the white scarf was missing. Instead, the pink-haired teen wore goggles on top of his head.
Just as she thought for certain that the boy would be pulverized, there was a flash of steel and the cannonball split in half. The two halves soared past Natsu, and only the edge of the ball struck his cheek, putting a small nick into his skin.
"Erza!" Lucy cheered.
"Waah! Knightwalker!" Edo-Natsu yelled, cowered back.
"So, you really are from Edolas," Erza realized as she strode forward. "I only heard a little, but I saw how you were reacting. Natsu is never that way."
"Aye," Happy said, flying forward. "Natsu is strong and fights anyone and never has to shout for Lucy to save him. It's always Lucy shouting for Natsu."
"Hey!" Lucy snapped.
"S-Sorry," Edo-Natsu muttered.
Erza attacked the bandit, and in less than a minute she had him completely subdued. Lucy slowly regained her strength, straightened out her clothes, and kept rubbing the disgusting feeling of the man's tongue off her cheek.
Gray glared at the nervous pinkie. "So, you're Edolas' Natsu? Do you have any clue how you got here, and where our Natsu is?"
"S-sorry, I don't know what happened," he admitted shyly, twisting his hands and staring at the ground. "One minute I was watching Levy building one of her new machines, the next minute I'm flying through the air and my fist hit something that glowed but felt like a brick wall."
"Lucy, you said there was a flash," Erza investigated.
The blonde nodded. "Yeah, the clouds went weird, then a flash just as Natsu was about to hit with one of his secret art attacks."
"Like Anima, except their bodies switched?" Gray wondered.
Erza stroked her chin as she thought over this dilemma. "If Edo-Levy was in the midst of some sort of experiment, it could be her invention had a power surge just as Natsu did his major attack and it hit the runes. It's no use guessing. Let's get these bandits to the village police, collect the reward, and head straight home. Master might have a better guess."
She began to stride forward, pulling a cart with the unconscious bandits lying inside. Gray and Happy followed her, and Lucy began to bring up the rear. Then she realized someone was missing. She looked back and saw the pink-haired boy sitting on a tree stump and gawking slack-jawed at the world around him.
He jolted a little. "Huh? Y-you mean me?"
"Yeah, hurry up. We can't leave you behind. We have to figure out how to switch you and our Natsu back. Besides, you're like a homeless puppy sitting around like that."
He laughed and ran up beside her. "Lucy tells me that all the time. I guess Earth-Lucy is a lot like my Lucy."
"Oh please, do not compare me to that crazy woman," Lucy sighed.
In the nearby town, Natsu jumped at every sign of magic. Lucy quickly got annoyed that he kept grabbing her arm and whimpering. She volunteered to stay with the poor lost Edolas resident while Gray and Erza talked to the man who hired them, that way they did not leave a bad impression on the client. Lucy was ashamed to have anyone think Salamander Natsu was a scaredy cat.
"I can't believe I'm really in Earthland," the boy said in awe. "Oh, look, Earth-Lucy! What's that? That kid with the floating thing that looks like a huge butterfly. It's even flapping its wings."
"It's just some simple balloon magic."
"Wow!" he said with shining eyes. "Everything is magical here, huh?"
"No, not everything. Most people can't use magic. Only a small part of the population trains to become wizards."
"Is that so? Still, it's so neat. My world is still a bit lost without our magic. I mean, it was always in short supply, but now we don't have any at all. It's sort of depressing."
"Sorry," she frowned, seeing the wistfulness in his face.
"Huh?" he jolted. "Oh, no, no! I didn't mean to blame you. It was King Jellal who made that decision, and I guess it was the right thing to do so we'd stop fighting over lacrima supplies and hurting people of Earthland. Still," he sighed, gazing out at the street again, "I miss my four-wheeler."
Lucy pouted and patted his back. Then she wiped at her cheek again.
"You keep doing that," Edo-Natsu realized. "Is it itchy? Do you have a rash or something?"
"No, that jerk bandit licked my face. Now it feels gross and the feeling won't go away."
"Oh, I know!" Natsu pulled out a handkerchief, ran to a rain barrel, and dipped it into the water. Then he came back and gently wiped Lucy's face. Lucy tried to pull away, but he rubbed her cheek softly. "You just need to wash it off a bit." He gave her a blushing grin. "See, all better, right?"
Lucy's face turned pink with embarrassment. "Y-yeah. Thanks."
It was Natsu's face, but that smile was not Natsu-like at all. It was timid and looked...cute. Even the shine in his eyes was different. To the side, Happy covered his mouth and began to chuckle. Lucy shot a venomous glare down to him.
"Don't even say it, stupid cat," she threatened.
Just then, Erza and Gray stepped out of the client's house. Gray handed Lucy her share of the reward money.
"I'll keep Natsu's share until he returns," Erza decided. "Let's get on the train. The sooner we get back to Magnolia, the better."
Natsu grabbed hold of Lucy's sleeve again. "Where's Magnolia, and what's a train?"
She sighed and shook her head. He might be cute in a timid sort of way, but he was annoying in a completely different way from her own Natsu. "Magnolia is the city where we live, and a train...it's a form of transportation."
His green eyes lit up. "Transportation? Really? Cool!"
"That clenches it," Lucy muttered. "He's definitely not our Natsu."
"Aye," Happy pouted.
Half an hour later, they were on a train heading back home. Gray was worn out from the fight and leaned against the window for a little nap. Erza sat back and looked contemplatively at this odd situation. Lucy pulled out a book to read. Happy sulked off somewhere. With his best friend gone and an imposture in his place, the Exceed was obviously depressed.
Edo-Natsu sat by the window and bounced in his seat. He was not timid anymore, but more like a little kid on holiday. "This is so cool! This is a train, huh? Does it run on magic too? What's its top speed? How many passengers does it hold? How many kilometers of track is there in Fiore? Do you think I could drive it for a little while? Pretty please!"
Lucy gave a long, weary sigh. "I miss the moans of motion sickness already."
Later in Magnolia
Makarov rubbed his briskly chin as he leaned in close to the pink-haired doppelgänger. Edo-Natsu cringed down a little. Was this tiny man really the guild master? He remembered his own Fairy Tail guild master before he was killed, and he was nothing like this weird old man.
"The physical similarities are astounding," Makarov admitted. "And you have no clue how you got here?"
"S-Sorry," Edo-Natsu whimpered. "I...I was just watching Levy. My Levy," he corrected as he glanced over to the blue-haired Earthland version. "She was trying to build something to do with teleportation."
Wendy looked up in surprise. "You mean like when you guys teleported the entire guild?"
"Yeah, exactly. Although we got a pardon from King Jellal, we quickly got in trouble again. We've been on the run, so Lucy—our Lucy—asked Levy to see if she could use science to invent a transporter."
"Using science?" Gray asked in concern.
Edo-Natsu grinned happily to Gray, thinking this was his best friend. The glaring eyes quickly told him that this was not his Gray. What was even odder was the lack of clothes. In fact, Gray had once again stripped completely naked, and Juvia looked ready to faint. She was practically drooling at Gray's feet, yet he ignored her. All these things acted as reminders that Natsu Dragion was in a dimension completely unlike his own.
"Yeah, it's sort of the new rage," Edo-Natsu explained. "The tech industry is booming, and new inventions are in stores every week. Edolas is gradually recovering what we lost, replacing magic with science, but it's a very slow process." He frowned deeply. "They still haven't figured out how to make my car run."
"Master," Freed called over. "I think Levy and I got the runes to work. They should break the veil separating our dimension from Edolas. However, we have no way of knowing just who might latch on to the signal. It could be someone in Fairy Tail, or an enemy, or it could even arrive halfway around the world."
"Let's try it," Makarov decided. "Whoever picks up our message won't be able to trace it, at least."
Freed and Levy had used a mix of runes and solid script to completely encircle a large communications lacrima. When they turned on the lacrima, the runes glowed, then flashed, first slowly, then faster. An intense light and whining pitch built up inside the barrier, growing brighter and getting louder, wavering, like two tonal pitches colliding together. Levy kept writing ENERGY into the air to power the device, but her pen hand was slowing down just as the lacrima's flashes of electricity sped faster.
"I can't keep up!" she shouted, her pen slashing through the air quickly. "Energy! Energy!"
Laxus sat in a corner of the guild with a mug of beer, watching all the activity with disinterest. However, when he saw Levy beginning to sweat from fast writing, he sighed, shook his head, and slowly rose to his feet. He plodded forward and tapped her none-too-gently on the head.
"I can handle this much," he said, and he placed his fingers up against Freed's runes. Lightning crackled down his arm and to his hand, filling the area inside the runes with immense energy.
"Oh Laxus!" Freed praised. "You really do care."
"No, but that flashing is giving me a headache, and that scaredy cat Natsu is getting on my nerves for some reason."
Edo-Natsu cringed down and whimpered.
Suddenly, the lacrima lit up in a solid beam of light. It projected right against the runes, and the face they saw surprised them. Hard eyes glared at them, and wild red hair gave the woman a fierce look.
"Knightwalker?" Erza asked out loud in amazement.
Edo-Natsu squeaked and hid behind Lucy. "Kn-Kn-Knightwalker! It's Erza Knightwalker! Oh please, anyone but her."
The redheaded soldier glared at them. "Scarlet? Was it you who made our monitor do that?"
"Did you figure it out yet?" came a voice from the side, and Knightwalker rose to attention. Another face leaned in, blue hair, a tattoo on his face, and a crown on his head.
"Jellal!" Gray gasped.
"Mystogan," Makarov muttered.
"Wah!" Edo-Natsu quivered, completely hiding his face in Lucy's blonde hair. "It's King Jellal! It's the king himself. Oh man, I'm in big trouble now, aren't I?"
Lucy tried to shove him away. "Hey, you're pulling my hair."
"Waaaaaah!" The pink-haired boy scrabbled backwards. "I'm sorry, Lucy! Please don't hurt me."
The regal looking man raised an eyebrow in surprise. "Master Makarov? Fairy Tail? How did you manage to contact us?"
"It's complicated," Makarov dismissed. "We have a problem. It seems we have your universe's Natsu here, and ours has gone missing. It happened during some experiment on your side. We were hoping Natsu Dragneel is in your dimension, and we want to find a way to switch them back."
Jellal focused over to the whimpered boy, and Edo-Natsu shrank down even lower. "Yes, that's definitely not Salamander. An experiment, you say?" he mused. "We got reports of blackouts all through the southern districts and suspected someone was doing illegal research again."
"Any help you can provide will be deeply appreciated," Makarov sighed. Edo-Natsu's whimpering was starting to annoy him.
"I owe you a lot, Fairy Tail of Earthland. Finding Natsu is the least I can do. However, if he's with the Fairy Tail dark guild, they're on the run again, and we've been having a lot of problems trying to catch them."
Knightwalker scoffed softly. "Catch them alive, at least. I could do it if..."
"Erza, not now," King Jellal scolded, and she stiffened at his words. "Since all the magic was stripped from Edolas, people have been experimenting with science to fill the void. We immediately had catastrophic results from desperate people. Entire cities were destroyed when mad scientists began pushing their limits and creating fatal chain reactions, both chemical and mechanical. To stop the deaths, I declared that all research must be overseen by a royal quality assurance inspector. I allow relative freedom to the inventors; I don't care what they make so long as their research is documented, no humans are used as test subjects, and none of the inventions pose a threat to peace. Fairy Tail is at the forefront of these scientific discoveries, yet they do so illegally and tend to cause a lot of trouble."
Edo-Natsu shouted out, "We were only inventing weapons to help defend ourselves." Then he hid behind Lucy again.
King Jellal frowned deeper. "Weapons, yes, but that was only one issue. The experiments from Fairy Tail resulted in numerous casualties. They've been focusing on wormhole theory, how to instantly transport from one location to another. I'm not sure how many people were vaporized as unwilling test subjects."
Edo-Natsu protested quietly, "Lucy said they were murderers about to be executed anyway." He was only brave enough to say this since he knew Knightwalker could not stab him. He was safely in another dimension, and he did not want this Fairy Tail to think Edolas' Fairy Tail were evil law breakers. "We...we got permission. The local police said it was okay for them to be used in the name of science. Besides, that only happened a few times. It's not like we kidnap people off the street and torture them like Twilight Ogre."
King Jellal went on, "During one wormhole experiment, half the guild vanished only to reappear seven years later and not a day older."
Makarov laughed tensely. "Ah...haha...yeah, sounds familiar."
"Those damn Fairies," Erza Knightwalker shouted in disgust. "Of all the crackpot inventors threatening our civilization, they're some of the worst offenders. They invented some sort of projectile weapon."
Edo-Natsu protested. "It was a gun, but uses explosive powder instead of lacrima. Levy built it as a belated wedding present for Bisca and Alzack...that is, before their divorce."
"What?" Bisca cried out, grabbing hold of Alzack's hand tightly. He hugged his wife to reassure her that she had nothing to fear. Edolas' Bisca and Alzack were opposites of themselves, after all.
"They mass produced these so-called guns," Knightwalker went on bitterly. "Then they sold the weapons to members of the Traia Underground, who then began terrorist attacks against citizens, leading to dozens of deaths."
"Lucy said she thought she could trust them," Edo-Natsu insisted. "Her friend Hibiki is part of their group, and those two used to date, so she thought she could trust him and his people. She didn't know he was with the mafia."
"Lucy Ashley and Hibiki dated?" Lucy cringed, shivering slightly at the idea.
Erza Knightwalker glared hatefully. "They're up to more trouble, I just know it," she insisted. "Why else are they so desperate to learn how to run away, how to disappear and reappear anywhere? Maybe they want to reappear inside a bank vault and disappear with all the money. Maybe Lucy Ashley and that mafia boss Hibiki have teamed up and are a couple again."
"No!" Edo-Natsu shouted, almost looking angry, which stunned Lucy and the others. "You can't blame Lucy for trusting Hibiki when you were once engaged to his boss, Ichiya."
Erza Scarlet spit out the strawberry cake she was eating and began to choke. "You...almost married...that man?"
"What of it?" Knightwalker sneered to Scarlet. "Ichiya was a dashing gentleman, good friends with some funny-looking Exceed with a similar name. I had no clue about his underworld dealings."
"Dashing?" Erza moaned, looking sicker than Natsu on a train.
"Under King Faust," Edo-Natsu explained, "we survived by escaping the people who hunted us. We suffered a lot. We lost precious friends. You can't expect us to instantly trust the same people who killed Master and so many others. Like I said, our experiments have only been to find ways to defend ourselves just in case Faust regains power, or if King Jellal decides to eradicate us once and for all, or if Knightwalker decides she wants to hunt Fairies again. Mister Hibiki...he...he knew we needed money, and he paid off our debts to Twilight Ogre for us. In thanks, Lucy gave him six of the guns Levy invented. It wasn't a stockpile, it was only six, and they were the only things we could spare to show our appreciation. Really, it wasn't Lucy teaming up with the mafia. We're not trying to cause anarchy. Lucy just believes in showing her appreciation. She acts tough, but...but she's a kind person deep down inside," he said with a faint blush.
Knightwalker began to list on her fingers. "Fairy Tail boldly breaks the rules. Their experiments are destructive. They nearly killed the quality assurance inspector we sent..."
"He tried to flirt with Lucy," Edo-Natsu said. "That was just her standard reaction to flirtation."
"They rarely keep documentation of anything..."
"Levy said it's all in her head and she can't be bothered to write it down. She hates writing!"
Levy McGarden was shocked to hear that about her alternative self.
"Their activities resulted in three cities being destroyed..."
"That...that was an accident, really." The pink-haired boy cringed slightly at trying to defend that one, although it made Lucy laugh. Edolas' Fairy Tail sounded very much like her own after all.
"...and they also experiment on humans."
"They were about to be executed anyway," Edo-Natsu protested. "They agreed to be test subjects because if it had worked, it would have meant freedom for them. Mostly we did experiments on each other, and we volunteered...usually," he ended meekly.
Knightwalker glared at him. "You're defending them, yet you're trapped in another dimension thanks to Fairy Tail's reckless experimentation and utter disregard to the people who claim to be their friends."
"Erza," King Jellal warned softly, then he faced the video recording. "Master Makarov, if I had to guess, Natsu Dragion was likely an unwitting test subject for wormhole transportation using trans-dimensional travel. Levy likely used him to test a new invention and just didn't tell him. Instead of sending him to another location within Edolas, the wormhole pierced into Earthland and switched him with Salamander."
Edo-Natsu looked ready to cry. "Levy wouldn't do that. She's scary sometimes, but she wouldn't send me away like this. Lucy would kill her."
Erza Knightwalker laughed wryly. "This is the truth about how good your friends are, Fireball Natsu. Reduced to being one of their guinea pigs!"
"Easy, Erza," King Jellal warned. "I don't care which dimension they're in, the one universal truth about Fairy Tail is that they care deeply for their friends. It very well could have been an accident."
The redheaded soldier sneered at him. "King Jellal, you're too soft. I say we leave him there. Maybe after they've hurt one of their own, Fairy Tail will stop the senseless human experimentations."
"No," King Jellal sighed. "It's possible the two Natsu's switched places, which means we need to find Natsu Dragneel before Fairy Tail uses him as their newest test subject."
Lucy covered her mouth. "They'd experiment on Natsu? That's horrible!"
"We know where they are, at least," King Jellal assured them. "The epicenter of yesterday's power outage should be their new headquarters. Knightwalker, I want you to take a small dispatch of Legions and fly out there immediately. No hunting!" he insisted sternly. "Investigate if Natsu Dragneel is with them, retrieve him unharmed, then return here without creating a conflict with Fairy Tail."
"Che!" she scoffed.
"I'm worried," King Jellal admitted. "Natsu has a vast amount of magic within his body, and even after seven years, the people of Edolas are still in the throes of magic dependency. As much as I would like to give our Fairy Tail the benefit of a doubt, since you helped them back during the war, Salamander is still a link to magic. My father did horrible things to try and siphon that dragon slayer magic out. I fear Fairy Tail might be that desperate, too."
"Oh no!" Wendy gasped, remembering the agony she and Natsu went through in Edolas at the hands of King Faust.
"Any help is appreciated," Master Makarov said humbly. "How long will this take?"
"Give us a week. Are you able to contact this monitor again?"
"It was a shot in the dark," Makarov admitted. "Maybe the output of your communication device was strong enough for us to latch on, or maybe it was pure luck. We're not sure."
"It was likely due to this technological invention they recently perfected called Webnet. Today was the first time we tested it at full power. It's a massive archival and communication device, a web of information. I think using both Webnet and the magic of Earthland to pierce the division between dimensions, we can communicate."
"That would be helpful in trying to correct this problem," Makarov nodded.
"Then in one week I'll have the Webnet operators crank this to full power again. Try to contact us at that time. Hopefully by then we'll have Natsu safely in the castle. We can then figure out how to switch the two back."
"Understood. Thank you, Mystogan."
The king smiled fondly at that name. "It's the least I can do for sheltering me for so many years, Master Makarov. Until next week." Then Laxus removed his hand from Freed's runes and cut the power.
"Well!" Makarov said with a yawn. "Looks like you're stuck with us for a week, Edo-Natsu."
"Huh? Oh...yeah, I guess," he muttered.
Erza patted the boy's back, and he cringed away from her in instinctual fear. "Don't worry. It was likely nothing more than an accident. I'm sure your friends would never purposely put your life in danger."
"Oh...uh...thanks," he whispered, yet he still hid behind Lucy.
"So, what are you going to do until then?" Lucy asked, trying to push him away.
"Do?" he asked in confusion. "I figured I'd just wait around here in the guild. You have sleeping quarters, right?"
"Not really," Mirajane explained. "Most people live in town or in the girl's dorm. We have beds in the infirmary. That won't be too comfortable, though. How about you go to Natsu's home with Happy?"
"No," Lucy sighed. "Happy is depressed." She pointed over to where the blue Exceed was trying to drown his sorrows away in a pint of mackerel-flavored ice cream.
"I...I can't live with an Exceed anyway," Edo-Natsu whispered. "They're...they're...gods."
Gajeel chuckled. "Oh, that's right! You folks think the cats are angels and shit."
"Yeah, that'd be bad," Gray realized. "Happy might get too cocky and start ordering this guy around."
Makarov considered the dilemma. He hummed and stroked his mustache. Edo-Natsu hid behind Lucy again as Cana came up and invited him to drink with her. The old master saw how the boy responded to each guild member. He seemed uncertain around Wendy since she was a child compared to his own version. He was scared to death of Erza. He tried to be friendly with Gray, who shoved him away whenever Fireball Natsu got too clingy. Mirajane made him smile, likely since she was exactly the same as his own Mira. Lisanna came up and began asking about her old friends. However, Elfman terrified the boy. Other people in the guild either kept their distance, unsure about this timid version of Natsu, or their boisterous nature scared the poor boy. Whenever that happened, Edo-Natsu cowered behind Lucy, grabbing her arm, using her for protection.
Makarov realized, that was what this Natsu needed during his week-long stay in Earthland. Lots of things might scare him. He needed someone gentle, someone with patience, someone who could be friendly with him and who he felt safe around.
"Lucy," the master shouted out. The Celestial Spirit wizard looked over in question. "Fireball Natsu will stay at your place."
"What!" she shouted. "Why me?"
"You're the only one I trust for this duty. Watch over him this entire week. Don't let him go wandering around on his own. If he gets lost or hurt, we might not be able to get Natsu back."
"But...but I have to do jobs," she protested. "I don't have enough to pay rent yet."
"The guild will compensate you. Consider this as a job: shelter and protect Natsu Dragion for one week. In payment, I'll cover your rent for two months."
"Two months?" she gasped, and her eyes lit up. "Okay, I can do that much. Just keep him company and out of trouble, right?" She looked at the shy boy who flailed helplessly as Cana grabbed him into a drunken hug and smashed his face into her boobs. "How hard can it be?"
Edo-Natsu blushed as he turned away from Cana and back to Lucy. "You...you'll take me in?"
"Only if you're good, neat, behave, and stay quiet," she said, listing the demands on her fingers.
"Oh yes! Yes, ma'am!" he nodded vigorously.
"Fine, let's go," Lucy grumbled, and she stomped out. Edo-Natsu followed like a happy puppy that just found an owner.
"Ya know," Cana chuckled, "that version of Natsu is sorta cute. Lucy's gonna be in big trouble."
Happy covered his mouth and giggled. "He lllllllikes her!"
End of Chapter 1
A/N: This is a request from Serena Starling. I decline most requests, I simply don't have time, yet I instantly got taken in with this one, especially since there are currently no fanfics for Edo-Natsu and Lucy.
Before you all point out about Ichiya and the lookalike Exceed, my imagination is that, since we've seen no evidence of cross-species lookalikes in Earthland so far, it was a (sad) incidence of doppelgänger. Somewhere out there is the "real" Edo-Ichiya, a human Mafia boss. My story, my imagination.
EXTRA NOTE: This story is now in Italian. efpfanfic -dot- net/viewstory -dot- php? sid=1682609 (add in the dots and take out the space after the question mark...stupid "no links" rules!)