A/N: This is dedicated to Emil C, who requested that I write a GraLu fic for his birthday. Rated T for language. It was inspired by the One Piece doujinshi "Hito Ha Maigo Toiu Keredo." It's not the same, but it contains similar elements, so I'm putting credit where it's due. Speaking of that... Fairy Tail is the property of Hiro Mashima. I don't own it or make money off of it, I just hone in my skills by writing about it.
I'd Freeze the Heavens for You
a Fairy Tail fanfic
"Gray, Natsu, come look!" Lucy enthusiastically waved a mission flier as she came over to where Gray, Happy, and Natsu were sitting by the bar. "It looks like a really good mission, and the reward will cover my rent." She read off the mission. "Apprehend the wanted criminal Willie Whitehall, notorious terrorizer of carnivals and summer festivals. Capture him alive and bring him in for interrogation on how to undo his nefarious magic. Approach with caution. Wanted for causing fifty-two deaths and over two hundred disappearances."
"Wait a minute," Gray said, shaking his head to slow down her eagerness. "Did you say Whitehall, as in the Willie Whitehall?"
Gray looked over Lucy's shoulder, way too close for the blonde's comfort, and read the job description once again. Lucy blushed a little at feeling his icy breath on her neck from how close he was.
"Have you heard of him?" asked Natsu.
Gray frowned. "Yeah. Runes wizard. He lived near my home village. Even back then, Whitehall was known for being a psychotic dark wizard with a sick fascination for fatal games. He'd show up at carnivals and such, have so-called fun houses, but people never came out. He once turned an entire mansion into a haunted house and set a rule that the weak-hearted heiress of the family had to make it through the haunted house without screaming or all the family and servants would become ghosts, and she would be trapped inside with them forever. That haunted house was still there when me, Lyon, and Ur went by it one day. You could still hear the girl screaming inside, trapped in there for eternity."
Lucy shivered a little and looked back down at the flier, thinking twice about it.
"How cool!" Natsu shouted. He grabbed the flier away and looked over it for himself. "The reward is good, too. Leave it to Lucy to find the missions with the best rewards."
"Aye!" Happy agreed. "Lucy is good at finding men with money to burn."
"A runes wizard," she muttered with a worried frowned. "I dunno. I mean, it sounded easy at first, it's just one man, and a carny at that! Still … are you sure we're a good team for something like this? If you get caught in their runes, there's not much you can do. The Thunder God Tribe might be better since they have Freed."
Mira, who had been waiting patiently to see whether or not she should confirm their team's choice in mission, informed them, "They're still not back from their mission with Laxus."
Gray looked thoughtful. "Taking Whitehall down would cancel all the runes he's set up so far. It could free that girl in the mansion, and who knows how many other people he's terrorized over the years."
The Dragon Slayer thrust the flier at Mira. "We're taking it!"
"Natsu," Lucy warned, but she held back from protesting. It was she who picked the mission, after all. "I dunno, I suddenly have a bad feeling about this one."
Erza stomped forward just then. "A mission? Where?"
"Far north, Tigardus Mountains," replied Gray. "I know the area. There will be a lot of snow this time of year."
"Then pack warmly. We leave tomorrow morning," the Titania said, and Lucy knew there was no point in arguing now that Erza was set on going.
It was a long train ride, with Natsu vomiting the whole way, then a carriage ride to a place the northern locals called simply "The Maze." According to rumors, Willie Whitehall had built the hedge maze five years ago, and already it took the lives of two dozen people, plus over fifty people simply disappeared in the maze. From the outside, it looked like just a towering wall of thick bushes with a gate to enter, but there was an invisible barrier humming with magic.
Erza stepped up to the glow around the gate. "Runes," she realized. "This really must be Willie Whitehall's maze. I can't tell what they say."
Lucy touched the runes, but her hand passed right through. She cautiously began to walk past the gateway.
"Be careful," Gray said, holding onto her shoulder and also walking into the entry of the maze.
"What do you see?" Erza asked, still examining the outer wall.
Lucy looked left and right. "Just a passage made from bushes with red berries. I don't know, this is a little creepy."
"I don't care, let's go," Natsu said, and he and Happy walked toward the gate only to smack into a barrier. "Hey, what gives!"
Happy rubbed out his nose. "That hurts."
"Lucy!" Erza shouted.
"Waah! They're disappearing," Happy yelled.
The three watched as both Lucy and Gray faded from view. Erza requipped a sword and stormed forward, but she too was blocked from entering.
"What the hell?" yelled Natsu. He pounded his fists against the purple runes. "Lucy!"
Erza pulled out a mini-lacrima. "We need someone who can interpret these runes. Damn, I was too careless. I'll see if Levy can come and figure out what this is all about."
"Dammit!" Natsu shouted, kicking the gate of runes. "Why only Lucy and Gray, huh? Stupid ice bastard!"
Inside the maze, it was eerily silent. Lucy walked forward two steps to the left with her hand against the left wall.
"What are you doing?" Gray asked, watching her curiously.
"My family's estate had a hedge maze," she answered. "There's a trick to them. Keep your hand on the left wall. If you do that, eventually you'll find the exit."
A craggy voice laughed. "Smart girl."
The snow on the ground whipped into a storm. Gray grabbed Lucy and pulled her against his chest in worry. In the midst of the snowy cyclone, a form took shape, and soon an aging man with a long white beard stood before them. He took off a floppy hat, showing the shine of his bald head, and bowed in a flamboyant manner.
"Whitehall's the name, mazes are my game! I am a genius of games, and you, my dearies, are lucky enough to have stumbled into my masterpiece, a maze of epic proportions, designed especially for lovers like you."
"What!" Lucy shrieked. "Lovers?"
Gray quickly released his hold on her. "Just a minute here. It's not like that."
"Oh, but if you're here, then it most certainly is like that, my boy."
Gray glared in annoyance. "Screw this. We are from Fairy Tail, and we're here to arrest you."
Whitehall covered his mouth. "Oh dear me! You're not here for the fun? Perhaps this maze will change that frigid attitude of yours."
Lucy looked back to the gate. "Where's Erza? I don't see them." She tried to run to the entrance, but she was blocked by a wall of runes.
"No, no, sweetie. Once a person enters Whitehall's Wonderful Winter Maze," he declared the name flamboyantly with his arms stretched out, "they can't escape until they make it through to the end, and those outside can't see the people inside after ten seconds, enough time to say your goodbyes."
Gray sneered. "I knew you were a sick man. When I was growing up, parents in my village told children about you as threats to be good. Our town couldn't have a summer festival for three years because the town leaders were too scared you'd show up and wreck it."
"Oh my, that was a long, long time ago," Whitehall said with a nostalgic chuckle. "It's been simply ages since my days of carnival chaos and festival fatalities. No, I'm into mazes now, and as I said, this is my masterpiece, a true work of art, flawless in every way. It's certified as the largest maze in all of Fiore."
"And we have to beat it, right?" Gray said stubbornly. "I bet those runes out there have that as the rule."
The old man tapped the side of his nose. "Very good, boy. Even if you try to arrest me, you cannot leave until you complete the maze."
Gray sneered. "Fine. We'll play your game. How long does it take to complete this damn maze?"
Whitehall chuckled with a cruel smirk. "When I first had the maze built, I made it through here on my own in three days. Of course, I am a genius. I figure it'll take average people twice as long. That is why you have one week."
"It takes a whole week?" Lucy exclaimed. "We don't have a week."
"In a hurry?" the man asked.
"No, but we have no food or water with us. Unless there's food inside, at like checkpoints."
"Oh, no, nothing like that, sweetie. Still, you're lucky. It's snowing, so you can drink the melted snow, and the bushes that make up the maze have bloodberries."
"Bloodberries!" Gray cried out.
"Oh, don't worry," Lucy said. "I used to eat bloodberry pie as a kid. They're tasty." She began to reach toward some of the plump berries that covered the bushes.
Gray grabbed her hand and yanked it away. "Those were southern bloodberries. Northern bloodberries are highly poisonous. If you eat them, you'll die in three days."
The old wizard looked delighted. "Ah, you must be from this region. Indeed, bloodberries in the south of Fiore are edible, but the northern bloodberry is highly toxic. They smell alike, look alike, even taste alike. Only those who grew up around here know the difference. Most who enter the maze don't know the terrain, eat the berries, and die before completing the maze. Isn't that deliciously tragic?"
"How horrible!" Lucy gasped. "You purposely picked a berry others would mistake."
He held up a knobby finger. "Ignorance is no excuse. You should be feeling grateful that I went to the trouble of planting berry bushes at all. Poison is more preferable than starvation."
"And what happens at the end of one week?" Gray asked suspiciously.
"Hmm? Oh, did I not explain that part?" Whitehall waved his hand. A massive shadowy black hand came out of the ground at Lucy's feet, wrapped around her in a tight squeeze, and lifted her into the air with a scream.
"Lucy!" Gray bolted forward but froze suddenly, worried that if he did anything, the shadow might crush her.
"She'll be waiting for you at the end of the maze, my boy. In one week, if you have not solved my maze, the girl will be frozen and it's Game Over. If you make it out after that time, you're free to leave, but she becomes my newest piece of frozen art. Have fun! Kyahahaha!" Whitehall rose into the air, and Lucy was pulled away with him.
"Gray," she shouted, reaching down to him.
Gray stretched his fingers up to her. They touched for only a moment before she was pulled out of his grasp.
"One week, boy," Whitehall called down tauntingly. "Enjoy yourself, and beware of the berries."
Gray cursed as both Lucy and the insane man floated over the maze and to the north.