Many thanks to my Beta!
And as always, thanks to everyone who reads, reviews, follows and puts this story in their favourites! I hope you all will enjoy this new chapter as well!
Lucy waved one last time to Celia and her family as the great iron gates closed after her and Laxus. Packed with their luggage and reward money /Oh my god when was the last time someone paid me the full amount and it's so much!/ they were now heading down to the city and it's train station.
Lucy sighed. Seeing her only friend from childhood again had brought forth many emotions and memories for the young woman; some good, many frustrating.
But all in all, she was very happy with the outcome.
And as an unanticipated, but very welcome bonus, she and Laxus had grown much closer. She was no longer nervous in his company, but instead comfortable and she felt that she had managed to gain some of his respect during the last two days.
Lucy now knew that he liked and cared about her and she had even grown fond of his pet name for her. Though she had threatened him to never reveal how he came up with it to their friends back at the guild. He had agreed only under the condition that she wouldn't tell anyone about his altercation with the gassy freaks.
The memory had made her giggle, but she agreed. It felt strangely nice, that they both had this embarrassing thing they could hold over each other's heads. It was almost like in that one book she had read.
An adventure about old ruins and myths and great treasures. Two of the main characters had been siblings, the sister only about a year older than her brother. These two had teased and blackmailed each other through the whole story. But at the same time they had been fiercely protective over one another.
It had been very sweet.
Unaware of her actions, Lucy stepped a bit closer to the lightning dragon slayer as they waked away from the Layton mansion.
Laxus noticed her new proximity and smiled lightly. He never would have thought that things were going to work out this well. The S-class mage remembered when he was watching the younger woman read over the mission paper just two days ago, while he was wrecking his brain for a way to get to know her better.
When he had accepted to take Lucy on this mission, his goal had been to simply make her stop being afraid of him. He had never imagined that he would come to care for her as much as he did now, or that she would ever feel so comfortable in his presence. But he couldn't possibly be happier with how things had gone.
The sealing of the book had thankfully gone off without a hitch and they could finally say goodbye to Mr. and Mrs. stick-up-their-asses. He was damn glad to be out of that stuffy mansion.
Sure, the bed had been the most comfortable one he had ever slept in and the food had been delicious, but the company (Pixie excluded, of course) was less than desirable.
And he had to ensure that Pixie didn't suffer any more relapses into her upbringing. She didn't belong there. She belonged with them, in Fairy Tail. So, it was high time he got her away from all those harmful influences.
And speaking of harmful influences, that Leonard creep had fortunately taken his leave shortly after the ceremony had been completed. Though he had managed to piss Laxus off royally right before the sealing, to the point of nearly sending his lightning through the rune mage. But he was gone now and that was all that the dragon slayer cared about.
It had almost seemed too good to be true, how easily the sealing had gone. Laxus had been sure something would go wrong. That he would have to intervene at any moment. Knowing the nature of the demons power had put him on edge during the entire time.
He knew that due to the close proximity to the book, the council mage would have been the most likely to get possessed by the demon, and he wouldn't really have minded electrocuting the guy just a bit.
But there was always the chance that Drazsur could have somehow gotten his demon-y hands on himself or Lucy. Both scenarios had frightened him deeply, loathe as he was to admit it.
No matter how many times he ran the different possibilities through his head of either of them being possessed, the end result was always the same: Pixie would have gotten hurt.
She wouldn't have stood a chance against him had he gotten possessed. And he would have had to subdue her in a way that made it impossible for the demon to switch bodies had she been the one to get possessed. The thought formed a knot in his stomach.
Thank Mavis nothing had happened. He had known that the sealing was successful as soon as the malicious aura, that had been so palpable before, vanished. Leonard Leonard, who was actually the councils highest ranking rune mage as it had turned out, had assured them that the seal was supposed to suppress the demonic aura, so as not to lure in any dark mages intending to free Drazsur.
And regardless of how much of a little demon fanboy the creep was, he was quite obviously a capable mage.
Laxus was shaken out of his thoughts by a hand on his arm. He stopped, looked down at his female companion beside him, and saw her staring ahead.
"What is it, Lucy?"
He then, too, looked forward in the direction she was looking at and found the answer to his question. It seemed Lirca had some kind of festival. Several booths lined up the main road before them, people already bustling between them and playing games, hoping to win a prize. Children were running around, laughing and eating lots of candy, while their parents could be heard shouting after them.
Mavis, how he hated street festivals.
Everything was loud and crowded. Smells of various food stands would mix together to create the most nauseatingly sweet aromas and people tended to bump into him, despite his impressive physique.
Sometimes, if a particularly attractive woman managed to "accidentally" bump into him, he would take advantage of the situation to scratch an itch. But most often doing so came with very unwanted repercussions the next morning. I.e. when the latest 'itch-scratcher' woke up and expected more to come out of what Laxus only intended to be a one-night-stand.
/Thank Mavis we are leaving today and don't have to deal with any more annoying things./
He was just about to suggest to Lucy to take one of the side roads to the train station and avoid the damn festival altogether, when he saw her huge, sparkling eyes locked onto the excitement ahead.
/Goddamn fucking shit!/
He inhaled deeply, counted to ten, exhaled, and then steeled himself for what he was about to do.
"You wanna check out some of the booths, Pixie? It's still early, we can take a later train back to Magnolia."
Laxus took a moment to consider if maybe he was just one sick masochistic bastard to do this to himself, but when Lucy looked up at him gratefully, smiled and then ran ahead to gush over the merchandise of the very first selling booth in her path, he dismissed the thought.
/Fuck it, I liked these things well enough as a kid, I will survive this for a few hours. At least she is happy./
"Laxus, come on! Look at these adorable little key chains they have. I'm so getting one for Levy! Oh, and this one looks like a cake, Erza will love it! Ah, how cute, this is perfect for Wendy! Oh, what is this..."
/Hopefully one of these booths sell whiskey./
If there was one thing Drazsur had always respected about humans, it was their thirst for knowledge. After all, information could be turned into power, and who in their right minds didn't want to be powerful?
However, curiosity was also often the reason for their downfall. Why else would the otherwise intelligent and accomplished Leonard Leonard have opened up the book that had kept him prisoner for centuries, before renewing the seal?
The fool had been too excited about learning more, too thirsty for knowledge, too impatient to wait until it was safe.
Impatience, another weakness of humanity. Another thing Drazsur knew how to take advantage of. He had reigned in his aura, letting out only a trickle of his power and tricking the rune mage into believing that the original seal would withstand any attempt of his to escape the book. Too overwhelmed by the prospect of being able to add to his knowledge of demons, the poor fool had waited only long enough until he was in the privacy of the train compartment and away from the prying eyes of the council.
Leonard Leonard had wasted no more time to open up the book – and sealed his own fate.
Ordinarily, Mr Leonard would have made the perfect shell. He was knowledgeable, powerful and had connections in high places. The centuries old demon could have used this human for weeks, months even, to establish himself a base of power.
There was one drawback though. Leonard Leonard of the Folkshire Leonards was unspeakably dull. The man had no living blood relatives, no treasured friends, no close acquaintances and no lovers. The man considered himself married to his work and had no passion outside his field of expertise.
There was nothing that kept the demon from devouring the poor sod's soul, because there was nothing which kept said soul and will strong. What a pointless existence.
And for Drazsur, who had spent hundreds of years trapped inside the journal of this insidious moron Weimar, the notion of being cooped up with a soul that held nothing dear enough to torture it with, was simply unbearable.
Which was why he had been overjoyed when he learned about the S-class mage waiting in Lirca to oversee the procedure. S-class; such ranks had not existed back in his time. But he had learned all he needed to know from Leonard's mind. Surely this S-class wizard would be more to his tastes. Powerful and with a strong will and soul just begging to be broken.
He had been giddy throughout the whole journey to the mansion. And he had not been disappointed. Oh, that power. That sweet, delicious, wonderful power He had almost devoured Leonard's soul then and there to take control of the blond wizard.
However, he couldn't act foolishly so soon after release from his prison. After all, not knowing the type of mage he was about to possess was why he had been trapped in the stupid journal to begin with. He would not make that mistake twice.
So instead, he had used his shell to get closer to the two wizards present. Had used speech and mannerisms of the rune mage he already possessed and gushed about the one passion the pathetic human had. Drazsur could tell that his behavior had made the two guild wizards uncomfortable.
Magical guilds. Another thing Drazsur had been surprised to learn about from Leonard's mind. The world had changed very much during his imprisonment.
But he digressed. The important thing was, Mr Leonard's obsessive behavior had succeeded in irritating the S-class mage enough to let out a bit of his magic. It was grandiose. Drazsur had noticed two things about the blond man during their introduction. One, he didn't appreciate having his personal space invaded, and two, he had taken up a protective stance beside his female partner.
So, just before he had started on the 'sealing ceremony', "Leonard" had stood really close to the blond man. So close in fact, that their chests almost touched. And then, before the other mage could retreat to an acceptable distance, Leonard had leaned up a little to whisper in his ear.
"Say, you wouldn't mind if I invited your beautiful partner out to eat after this is done with, would you? I find myself quite drawn to her various and obvious... qualities."
Drazsur had been sure to put just enough play into his voice to make his intentions toward the young woman pretty clear. It had brought forth the desired reaction.
If looks had the ability to kill, Drazsur would have had no hope of possessing another body before his essence was lost. The blond man's anger in response to Leonard's question had consumed the air around the two. And then actual electrical sparks had danced over the blond man's skin, forcing Leonard to take a quick step back. Muscles tense with the effort it took to control himself from attacking the rune mage, Mr. Dreyar had leaned forward to stare right into Leonard's eyes. His voice had been deep, dark and dangerous.
Glorious. That man's power was simply glorious. And due to that slight loss of control, Drazsur now had the certainty that the S-class mage did not wield the type of magic that could be dangerous to him. He had been worried when the man had so surely declared they wouldn't need an explanation about the capabilities of a Seith mage. This could have meant that either they were acquainted with one, or one of the two mages present was a Seith mage themselves.
After catching a glimpse of the key pouch hanging from the girl's belt, he had quickly identified her as a celestial spirit wizard and dismissed her as a threat, as well as the thought of her being of any practical use to him.
It was a pity. Celestial spirit mages fascinated him. Though often not as powerful as wizards who wielded other types of magic, a celestial wizard was far more versatile than any other.
Whereas normal wizards were bound to one, maybe two, types of magical powers, the arsenal of a spirit mage was simply astounding.
Every magic had a weak point, having inhabited and possessed many different wizards in his time, Drazsur knew this fact for certain. There were magics that canceled each other out, and magics that were especially compatible with others. And for each and every one of them, there was a weakness that simply couldn't be overcome. When their inherent kind of magic could no longer aid them against a foe, a wizard would have to take a more physical route to win a fight.
Celestial spirit mages however were different. They needn't rely on only one type of magic. If their current spirit should proof to be ineffective, they could simply summon another one. Not only that, but given enough magical power a spirit mage could summon more than one spirit at once.
A formidable power indeed. It was, therefor, probably in the balance of things that opening and holding open a celestial gate required a good amount of the key holder's magic. In his long existence, Drazsur knew of only one celestial wizard that had managed to summon three spirits at once. In the great scheme of things, it was right as it was just. A magical creature, be it human, demon, or any other living being, that could claim such a multitude of power its own and wield it indiscriminately, would be unbeatable. Omnipotence was not a feat for the living soul. Even Drazsur, as much as he yearned for power, accepted that fact.
But even though the limits of a celestial spirit mage's growth were all clear to him, Drazsur had still not been able to resist the temptation of possessing one many years ago. To his great displeasure, he had come to learn that the spirits contracted to the mage were able to realize that their master was possessed. The wizard himself, nor his spirits, had been any the wiser during their interaction with Drazsur's previous shell, but as soon as the demon had entered the new body, the spirits had known and refused to adhere to his commands. A pity indeed.
But back to the matter at hand, neither the gloriously powerful man who wielded a kind of electrical magic, nor the young woman had the means to prevent him from possessing his next shell. And if he had read the situation right, the celestial mage wouldn't be completely useless to him. There seemed to be a bond between her and his next shell. A bond that would aid Drazsur greatly in breaking the great wizard's soul.
There was still the possible connection to a Seith mage to worry about, but he would cross that bridge once he had gained the necessary knowledge about his soon to be victim.
He could see him now, approaching his female partner who stood in front of one of the many booths lining the streets ahead. It seemed Drazsur's fortune knew no bounds today. First he was able to free himself from the seal, then he found a wonderfully strong new body to possess, and now the town festival would provide him with the perfect camouflage to approach the man.
All he needed to do right now was to wait just a little bit longer, until the perfect opportunity presented itself. Patience, after all, was a virtue he was very familiar with.
Laxus wasn't sure if he should be amused or frustrated. While walking through the street festival, (and being bumped into multiple times – seriously, didn't anyone watch where they were going anymore? He hated festivals!) Lucy had spotted a fluffy, pink, stuffed puppy dog hanging from one of the game booths and instantly fallen in love with it. The thing was one of the middle-ranged prizes of the game booth and in order to win it, one had to hit anywhere on the four inner rings of the dartboard with three out of six darts.
It wasn't too hard a task where Laxus was concerned, but Lucy, stubborn little Pixie that she was, had insisted that she would win the stuffed toy herself. Thirty minutes, countless darts and many jewels later, Lucy's best attempt was two of the miniature arrows in the second and third inner ring, two in the outer most ring, one stuck in the wall beside the dartboard and the last having gauged out the eye of another one of the stuffed toy prizes.
Laxus shook his head and turned to look at the frustrated girl.
"You know, with all the money you already spent trying to win this stupid looking thing, you could have probably bought five of them."
The pretty blonde gritted her teeth while she paid for six more darts.
"Shut up. It does not look stupid! It's cute!"
She threw the first dart, causing the booth owner to dodge frantically out of the way. Red-face, Lucy apologized profusely, but the middle aged man kindly waved her off, assuring her this happened all the time. He none the less took a few steps back when Lucy prepared for her next throw.
"How can you have such bad aim anyway? I have seen you with that whip of yours. Mastering a whip takes some serious skill and you are really good at it."
Had she not been so frustrated with all her failed attempts at the throwing game, Lucy would have blushed at the compliment. As it was, she just sighed.
"It's different with the whip. I don't need to let go of the handle when using it and I can still adjust the direction and strength behind each lash with a quick movement of the wrist. With these stupid darts, everything has to be perfect as soon as I let go. Including the moment whenI let go."
With that she threw the next dart into the fifth ring on the board, giving a disappointed sigh. Seeing this, Laxus tried again to sway her mind.
"I could just win it for you."
But, just like the other times when he had made that offer, Lucy shook her head.
"Thanks, but I can do it. I've already gotten a little better at this."
The third dart got stuck right on the line separating ring four and five. Laxus admired her determination, he truly did, but if this went on, the girl would spend her entire half of the job reward on this stupid toy.
"How about I give you some pointers then?"
Lucy halted before throwing the fourth dart and looked up at the lightning mage.
"That... would be great, thanks Laxus."
Without wasting any more time, Laxus got behind the smaller girl and laid his hands on her shoulders.
"First, loosen up. If your shoulders are that tense it will affect your arms as well." Lucy nodded and tried her best to relax her posture.
"Next, place your legs a bit more apart from each other. A firm stance will help your aim." She did as told. Laxus inspected her new posture and nodded.
"Good. Now comes the dart. You need to know what you are working with. The tip is made of metal, therefor it's heavier than the rest of the dart. What does that tell you?"
Lucy weighed it thoughtfully in her hand.
"It's gonna be the center of gravity as soon as the speed of the throw is slightly reduced in the air."
"Right. That means you either have to throw it hard enough that it reaches its destination before the tip gets pulled down, or you need to adjust the angle you throw it in."
Lucy slowly nodded at his explanation.
"Aim a little higher than my target lies and let the gravitational pull do the rest."
Three minutes later a relieved Laxus and a happily skipping Lucy, clutching her new pink stuffed puppy dog to her chest, were again wandering through the streets.
Laxus shook his head.
"I still don't get why you would be so excited about that stupid pink thing. Or why you insisted on winning it yourself."
Lucy stuck out her tongue at the older mage in response.
"First, a stuffed toy's job is to make its owner happy, so of course I would be excited. Second, winning it myself just made it better. Don't you feel pleased when you succeed at something you worked for? And last of all, stop calling it stupid!"
Laxus was about to retort with something along the lines of how Lucy seemed to especially like pink, stupid things, when his attention was drawn to shouting a little ahead of them.
"And don't you dare loiter around my stand if you don't have any money you damn brats!"
Laxus watched as a pot-bellied man, probably the owner of one of the many gaming booths, carried two small children into the street by the collars of their shirts and then dropped them down to the ground. The boy, who Laxus assumed to be around eight, glared at the man's retreating back while rubbing his aching backside. The little girl, probably four or five years old, sat where she had been dropped, tears gathering in her eyes.
Seeing this, the little boy scrambled over to the girl, waving his hands comically in front of her.
"Don't cry Elize! Just forget that mean old man! I will win you a toy at some other booth!"
The girl sniffled, but tried to hold in her tears.
"B-but Jyde, we don't h-have any more jewels. Daddy said we need to learn to be responsi-...respan-... responsiblily with money and now we used up everything on that game."
The boy, Jyde, who Laxus assumed to be little Elize's older brother, grabbed his sisters shoulders.
"I bet that stupid old man cheated, I know I hit the can in the middle with my last throw. But don't worry, I promised to win you a prize and that's exactly what I will do! I just have to find some way to make some money and try again before mom and dad get back."
Now, Laxus' feelings about kids were pretty ambivalent. Most of the time, he found them to be loud and annoying and wanted nothing more than to be a good distance away from them. However, confronted with an almost despondent little boy and a nearly crying little girl, he simply couldn't walk away. Just as he was reaching into his pocket for some jewels to give to the kids, he saw Lucy walking up to the two, holding her stuffed animal concealed behind her back with both hands. He followed curiously.
Jyde was desperately trying to come up with some idea to make a few jewels quickly and win his sister a toy just like he promised before their parents came to pick them up, when he noticed a blonde young woman stop right before where he and Elize were still sitting on the ground.
"Hi there!" The woman smiled brightly and squatted down to their level. "I bet your parents taught you not to talk to strangers, right?"
Jyde and Elize nodded mutely, to which the woman smiled even brighter.
"That's very good. Not every stranger has bad intentions, but you still need to be careful if someone approaches you that you don't know. Now, my name is Lucy Heartfilia, I'm a mage from the Fairy Tail guild."
At that point the young woman moved one of her hands from behind her back and showed Jyde and his sister the pink symbol of the Fairy Tail guild on the back of her hand. The boy looked up at her in awe.
"You really belong to that famous guild?"
She nodded. "I really do."
Elize next to him gasped a little "Daddy said Fairy Tail won the last Grand Magic Games. And Mommy said they were the strongest guild in Fiore."
"That's right!" Lucy nodded happily. "Are you two siblings?"
They nodded. "I'm Jyde and this is my sister Elize. Isn't Fairy Tail in Magnolia? Are you here on a job? Are you going to fight a huge monster? Have you fought many monsters with your magic?"
Lucy giggled a little at the onslaught of questions from the excitable boy.
"I have indeed fought a few monsters, like Wyverns and a giant Octopus and Vulcans. And my friend over there," she nodded behind her where a big man with wide shoulders and short blond hair stood, "has fought even more and bigger monsters than me." She leaned over slightly to whisper to the two kids. "He even fought a dragon once."
"Whoa!" The duo exclaimed in admiration, looking up at the large man with round, sparkling eyes. Laxus almost blushed under their gazes. Seeing as the two siblings had now relaxed their guard and Elize didn't look like she was about to break into tears any second now, Lucy decided to cut to the heart of the matter.
"So, I couldn't help but overhear that you have had some trouble with one of those game booths, is that right?"
Immediately Elize tapped her finger tips together nervously and Jyde looked down to the ground, ashamed.
"I was trying to win one of the prizes from that booth over there with the can pyramids. I only had enough money for three balls and I know the last one hit right in the middle of the pyramid, but not even one can fell down. When I told the owner he said I was lying and when Elize told him as well that the ball hit the cans, he started shouting and threw us out. Literally."
Elize spoke up as well. "Daddy gave us some money to play some games at the festival, but now we don't have anymore." She then turned to her brother. "It's okay Jyde. You don't have to win me anything."
But the boy shook his head. "No. I promised you I would get you a prize and I will. I know you wanted one of those stuffed animals."
Lucy smiled even wider than before and cheerfully exclaimed, "Well, you are in luck! You see, I just so happen to have the most amazing, cutest, fluffiest toy in my possession." Little Elize's eyes started sparkling again at hearing that description. Then Lucy's voice took on a warning note as she continued. "But this special toy is bound to a very difficult game. I would like to give it to you, but I can only do that if you win."
Jyde looked at the Fairy Tail mage contemplatively. He hadn't had the best of luck with games so far, but that old man had cheated, he was sure. And the pretty woman in front of him wouldn't cheat him out of a win, right? Not if she was a Fairy Tail mage anyway.
"Is it really that hard?"
Lucy nodded sagely. "Very hard. In fact, there is probably only a hand full of people who would be able win in this game."
That didn't sound good. Jyde didn't feel very confident at all. If there was only a hand full of people who would be able to do this, what where his chances of succeeding? He felt a light tug on his sleeve and looked at his sister. Her eyes were big and pleading.
"Please try, Jyde."
That sealed the deal. He had promised Elize to win her something, and even if the odds were against him, he would at least try. So he looked back to Lucy and quickly nodded his head.
"What do I have to do?"
"Like I said, winning the game is very difficult, but the rules are simple. I'm right now holding the special toy behind my back. You have to guess in which hand it is. But, you have only one try, so think carefully which one you will choose."
Laxus looked on bemused at the scene unfolding in front of him. Lucy had put just enough mystery in her voice to make the simple guessing game sound like an ominous test almost impossible to pass. He could tell the kids were completely hooked and the boy seemed to be doing his hardest to guess the right answer. From where he stood behind Lucy, he could see that she held the stuffed pink puppy dog between both her hands.
After a few more moments of thinking, and his sister holding on to his arm in tense suspense, an anxious Jyde made his decision.
"The left one."
Laxus watched with a little smile as Lucy quickly transferred the stuffed animal into her left hand. Fully immersed in her role, Lucy gasped loudly and brought her empty right hand forward to cover her mouth in astonishment.
"Unbelievable! You won!"
Then she brought forth her other hand, holding out the grand prize to the siblings. Elize squealed loudly and joyously hugged her stunned brother, who took the 'most amazing, cutest, fluffiest toy' with shaking hands. When Elize finally let go of him, he held out the pink doggy plushy to her and the little girl wasted no time in crushing it to her chest, while looking at her brother with something akin to hero worship.
"Thank you thank you thank you thank you!"
It took a few seconds for Jyde still to get over his shock, but after that he grinned widely and ruffled his little sisters hair.
"I promised you, didn't I?"
Lucy meanwhile slowly stood from her crouching position, watching the two siblings with a fond smile. Until she heard their names being called in the distance and looked up to see a man and a woman some feet away, looking around trying to spot their children
"I think your parents are looking for you. You should go before they get worried."
Elize and Jyde looked in the direction Lucy was pointing at, recognized their parents and quickly stood as well. Clutching her new 'most amazing, cutest, fluffiest toy' tightly, Elize rushed over to the young blonde woman and hugged her around the legs with her free arm.
"Thank you so much!"
Her brother bowed his head. "Yes, thank you for letting me play the game. Mom and Dad were right, Fairy Tail really is the best!"
Then the boy took his sister by the hand and the two quickly ran over to their parents. Lucy looked after them with a soft smile on her lips as Laxus stepped forward to her side.
"Though that was certainly amusing, why not just give the toy to them?"
The spirit mage looked at him, grinning. "Nope. That wouldn't have been right. He needed to win it for her. That's a big brothers job."
He found himself nodding, though one question remained in his mind.
"What happened to the stuffed animals' job then? About making you happy?"
Before she answered him, Lucy looked back once again to the two kids who had met up with their parents. Elize was held in her father's arms, showing him and her mother her new stuffed toy and apparently telling them excitedly about the hardest of all hard challenges that her brother had to master in order to get it for her. If Jyde's blushing but proud face was anything to go by.
Lucy smiled. "It did."
to be continiued...
Fanfic Recommendation: The Keys of Fire, by LoneStorm. A refreshing and unique interpretation on the characters and guild in a different invironment, while still following the fairy tail story line. Much recommended.