All had gone silent inside the warehouse once Henway finished his explaining and, in guilt for his earlier outburst, apologizing. Not that he was actually sorry. The old man hardly ever did anything he regretted, but for the sake of keeping these people in his company for the time being, he needed to be on common ground with them. They were good people, he could tell, but if they couldn't go along with what he said, if they couldn't grasp the severity of the matter, then there was no hope in helping Lucy find her way out if that bind.
He looked at all their expressions, shock, anger, sadness; it was all present on their faces. Tears were being shed and fists were being clenched, but the rose haired teen he'd snapped at earlier, who seemed to be a further distance than before, was yet to show anything. The mage had his head facing downward, so his face wasn't visible to Henway, but from what he could see, veins had begun to show on his clenched arm.
"Again, I'm truly sorry for this to have happened. I understand if you need time to process, but we don't exactly have that." He sighed and unconsciously fidgeted with his hands, his thumbs making rotations around each other.
Lucy's friends still didn't move or speak a single word.
Becoming restless, he turned his sights to the one with whom he had first spoke to, Gajeel. Not even that man had spoken. All that was evident on his face was an obvious disgust and frustration at the news he had just been told. His arm had moved to cover the older blunette's shoulders; the poor girl wouldn't stop shaking.
"Do you have any idea where he might be headed?" the scarlet haired woman spoke up this time, and Henway could hear the obvious anger in her voice.
"Well of course." he answered immediately, "The Jureners have many properties amongst the country and others, but most of them are either being renovated at the moment or being built, so he'll be most likely to not leave the country yet." He paused to let them take in the possibility of him leaving Fiore and went on, "The only place he can comfortably go now would have to be his cottage near the Northern border of our country, and I'm eighty-nine percent sure he will go there but the point is that we can't just go after and retrieve Lucy from the man."
"And why not?!" the older blue haired girl snapped, "She's been through enough. Why can't we just go after her?"
Henway shook his head, "It's much too complicated for it to be that easy! To take her away from him recklessly, the consequences would be severe."
"What else can we do?" Gray questioned, his voice wavering as much as the one's before him.
"Listen for a moment-"
"We have to go after her right?" the small blue cat spoke this time.
"You don't understand-"
He was cut off again but by the one called Erza this time, "I agree. We haven't much of a choice now. If we're going to help her then we have to go after her."
"LISTEN!" he shouted and finally got them to be quiet once more, "You have to understand the severity of the situation you're in! Lucy's not the only on in danger here!"
Gajeel's studded eyebrow raised as he questioned, "What the hell are you talking about old man?"
Henway sighed out hot air and tried to compose himself, "What is it exactly that you mages do?"
"You know damn well what we-"
He cut the pierced man off, "Yes, but for the sake of getting somewhere with this conversation, please just answer the question."
Gajeel raised his hands to his waist and opened his mouth to speak, but Erza answered before he could, "We take jobs that are given to our guild. We travel to our employer, carry out the mission, receive payment for it, and come back to take on more jobs. Now why did we need to answer what you already know?" she crossed her arms.
He nodded in appreciation for the answer the mage gave, and turned to face all the others, "What if that was all taken away by the soiling of your guilds name?"
Silence and raised eyebrows were their reply, so he went on.
"What would you do if you were no longer able to go on jobs? If you were blacklisted by every guild and employer for a crime you did not commit? Even if the consequences were not life in jail, which he could surely do, your lives as mages would be over if he wish as so."
"He undoubtedly has the power," he clenched his fists in front of him, "to do all of these things if you get in the way of what he wants. And there is not even the slightest chance he will let you get away with that."
"How can a spoiled brat of an adult harbor that much wrong inside him?" Erza held a confused look about her face, "What is it that would cause him to go to such extreme measures to keep one girl?"
"You would go to extreme measures wouldn't you?" Henway gestured to the lot of them, "You've surely proven that."
"He has a point." Levy added as she tried to compose herself.
"Yes but we have an attachment to said girl." Erza countered looking to Levy then back to Henway, "This Ainsley has only known Lucy for all of how many days now? It's not like he has such a need to keep her is there? I know that money was one of the bargaining tools in this predicament, but surely this family would only go so far even for that, right?"
"The greed of man would seem to have no boundaries Ms. Scarlet. Trust me when I say this family knows no other way of life than to wrongly gain wealth."
"In other words they don't give a fuck what happens to anyone as long as they get what they want?" Gray spoke up, crossing him arms over his chest.
His head wasn't exactly dealing with this well either. Lucy was like a sister to him, and if he knew her even the slightest bit, there was no way Lucy was "fine". Everyone in the room knew she loved them like family and would never want to be separated from said family, they learned this back when Phantom Lord was giving them trouble. So for her to do this was not like her at all.
They'd already drilled into her head that no matter what the cause, they would stay by her side and support her. Nothing was too big and bad that they couldn't handle, or so they had thought. After the Phantom Lord incident, they had confirmed and reconfirmed with her that she was never to sacrifice herself for them, they would get through it together. And it was certain that she had accepted and wanted to abide by that rule, so why now? Why after all this time was she doing exactly what she'd happily sworn not to do?
The answer after all was that this proved to be too "big and bad".
"In a sense, yes." Henway replied to the dark haired man and sat down on a nearby crate, his old knees quivering with a sudden shot of pain, "Do you all understand now? Going after them recklessly will only spell demise for you all."
"Then you expect us to do nothing then?" Levy shot with a weak spat of anger.
"I never said that." He replied immediately while shaking his head.
"Then what?" The smaller blunette questioned with a shaky, her eyes still bearing tiny tears.
"Wendy…" Happy spoke, not having any real sentence to voice.
Charle, who was standing next to her with folded furry arms, contorted her brows in focus. Small as she was, her brain was no match for her size. While her guild-mates had been speaking with the elderly man, her mind had been searching through every possibility. She had been coming up with countless ideas, and striking out the ones that were nonsense until she had finally come up with the only solution. One that she knew almost everyone in the room would disagree to.
The white cat sighed and spread her wings, lifting into the air to get everyone's attention. "Ahem." She cleared her throat and earned their gaze, "It would seem that the only logical thing to do is convene with the man."
"What?!" a unison of appalled voices sounded in the room, save for Henway who was focusing on not passing out and her ears twitched in irritation. She looked down at all of their faces, and noticed that Natsu's head was still down, his body seemingly closer to the exit than before but she shrugged it off, "What else then?!" she scolded their close-mindedness.
"What else is there for us to do?!" clenched fists and stubborn faces revealed themselves to her in response, "We can't take her back by force, we can't rush after them, we can't be reckless like you all love to do. What else then?! If anyone has a better idea then speak up quick because Lucy is getting farther and farther away as we speak."
No one in the room had a good enough plan to speak aloud so she went on, "You people are intent on rescuing her aren't you? You all have the guts to use force to get what you want, but not the will to try and speak to the man? Granted that it may not get us anywhere but it's the only thing left that we can do."
"We catch up with them, try to talk with the man, see why he's so intent on keeping Lucy away, and if things don't go well I'm sure you guys will act in the heat of the moment like you always do." She partially scoffed at the end of her sentence. She didn't need a vision to know that that's exactly what they would do if things went wrong.
"I fear that the young uh, cat is correct." Henway spoke up after regain a hold on his breathing, "It seems that this is the only option for-" and suddenly he was cut off by the ear splitting sound of thunder crashing amongst the now darkened sky.
"Shit!" Gajeel, who was covering his highly sensitive ears, cursed at the sudden noise and sniffed into the air, smelling the scent of rain water close by.
Everyone in the warehouse jumped at the noise that was soon followed by the pattering of rainfall hitting harshly against the metal roof. The lot of them turned their heads to one of the windows place high upon the warehouses wall, and saw the gray sky combined with a harsh down pour of rain.
"Just our luck." Gray muttered.
Happy on the other hand, who was not a fan of thunderous weather, turned on instinct to hide in between Natsu's feet, but was met with nothing. He swiveled his furry head around looking for the fire mage, and soon found that he was nowhere in sight. He was gone.
"Natsu?" He called aloud, and immediately gained the concerned attention of all of his friends in the room. They began mimicking Happy's actions, turning their heads back and forth looking for the fire mage, but weren't met with the sight they wanted
"Wha-" half a word slipped out of Erza's mouth as she walked a few steps forwards and turned her eyes to the door that had been hidden from their view by some large crates until now. She walked closer, now with a few people following her lead, and saw that it was slid open half way with rain water pooling at the foot of the entrance.
Upon the full realization of what had just happened, she dashed toward the sliding door and stuck her head out into the rain storm, "NATSU!" she yelled out and waited a second before shouting again, "IF YOU CAN HEAR ME YOU'D BETTER HAUL YOUR ASS BACK OVER HERE NOW!" She called out again, her voice colored in fury, but the sound was lost amongst the thunder and rain.
She stepped back inside, and paced a few steps before putting a dent in the side of the warehouse, "Damn it!"
"How the hell did he get out without anyone noticing him!?" Gray questioned, his voice also raised in emphasis.
"How does that even matter now?! The damn pyro's gone off to get his girl back, and his scent's gonna be untraceable thanks to this rain." Gajeel joined in, two fingers pinching the bridge of his nose, "For fucks sake, what the hell are we going to do now?"
"We go after him! What else?" Levy stepped out from behind the pierced man in front of her, "He's already got a head start on what we were about to do right?" she looked over to Charle who was still in the air, "We just have to catch up with him before he gets too far!"
"I wouldn't count on catching up with him." Happy, who had also extended his wings muttered with a pained look on his face, "He's already faster than most of us when he's running for fun and I've never seen him act this way before so, I'm sure he's going even faster to Lucy now…" his voice trailed off at the mention of his missing blonde friend.
Erza, gritting her teeth, turned her sights back to Henway who hadn't moved an inch. She gave the elderly man a look of desperation. If what he said about this Ainsley character proved to be true, her family would lose everything; their jobs, the guild, their livelihood, all of it.
Being blacklisted hadn't really been the talk of the towns she'd visited, but she had heard her share of details from people who had actually suffered from it. Bars would sometimes harbor a man or woman who had actually been blacklisted by the courts of Fiore, and she didn't envy them. They had all either converted into drunkards, thieves, or more daring criminals who fought foolish fights and drank their problems away.
A woman she had shared a drink with once told her the details of her blacklisting, and all too willingly she might add. A letter had been sent to every guild in the country to be hung up and it stated that no guild was to accept her into their ranks; no person was allowed to offer her money in exchange for a job concerning magic. The woman had literally become a ghost in the world of mages, forced to hang it all away and work a normal job.
Thinking about this though, any right minded person would think that working a normal job and living a normal life would be a perfectly sound option, but the fact that most of their guild mates didn't know anything other than using magic for their jobs was the problem. The majority of them had grown up using magic, not needing any real schooling other than the completely necessary knowledge for everyday life.
Erza clenched her fists. Even she had to admit she would be at a complete loss if she were unable to use her magic for a living. Being held prisoner, escaping, joining Fairy Tail, and honing her magic didn't leave much time to even worry about schooling or normal jobs. She knew the things she needed to know to fit her current lifestyle, not the things that would easily settle her into a non-mage life.
"Well," Henway spoke as he stood from his sitting position, his throaty voice snapping Erza out of her panicked thoughts, "it seems we need to be going now."
"And where exactly are we supposed to be going?" Levy questioned, "Do we even know where he's taking Lucy?"
"As I mentioned before, the most likely place for him to go would be his cottage near the Northern border of Fiore, and it would be best that we reach him before he gets that far."
The mages in the room stilled for a moment, taking in exactly what he meant. If they were to let the bastard get that far then Lucy would be lost to them. In unison they nodded to each other and immediately began filing out of the warehouse and into the downpour. Each one of them held a grave look about their faces, and Henway didn't blame them one bit. They were practically gambling they're entire guilds future on this chance, where as he was old with not much of a future left ahead of him.
He walked out of the warehouse, and set his eyes on finding his old friend Betsy. Just before he had gone in to explain everything to the young ones just ahead of him, he had left her outside the entrance, but now he was met with an empty post and no horse.
A hand reached up to rub his forehead, "That man... it seems the he even took my horse on his way out." He spoke aloud but not really in anyone's direction.
"What?" the redheaded woman questioned him, not hearing his words because of the storm, but Henway only shook his head.
"Just follow me!" he shouted to the mages and began his run towards the stables, "We'll gather horses, ride back here to get the carriage, and be on our way!"
All at once, they ran out into the pouring rain to follow Henway, getting their hair and clothes soaked within seconds. The weather itself was going to be an obstacle for them. Severe winds and fluctuating rain pour wasn't exactly fit weather to find people, and he was already beginning to shake from the cold.
Tossing that to the side for a moment, he detached himself from the severity of what he was doing, and began to truly appreciate little Lucy's friends. He was glad she had made such a good life for herself, having known what she had been through, it made him all the more happy that she had a place she could happily call home.
And by the looks of it, he thought to himself and remembered the rose haired man from before, smiling in spite of everything, it even seems she's found someone willing to risk all of him for her sake.
Fortunately, yet unfortunately the old man knew exactly what love was. And what that man held for his dear friend, he knew, was indeed love.
A/N:So completely sorry that I made you wait this long. Things happen, I don't get to write as often as I want, and then a long waiting period happens... -_-
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed and thanks to all who reviewed while waiting patiently.c: I'll try to update quicker this time, but hell this took way longer than it should've so I can't promise anything other than I will be updating.