This turned out to be much, much longer than I expected it to be. Anyway, since I'm updating after a month (exams were on, no judging) I hope it makes up for that :)Thanks for the reviews :)


Chapter Nine- The Slayers

My fingers do not let go of the silver dagger as I drag myself forward towards the path to the chasm.

I can feel blood—his blood—on the blade and my fingers. I can feel the unsteady, overwhelming beating of my heart as it threatens to rip out of my sternum in fear and the rush of adrenalin.

But all I can think about is Gray and Wendy. I have to get to the rest of the mages Minerva spoke of, and that's what keeps me running.

At last, I reach the jagged door of stone and slam against it with gritted teeth. It gives way and I fall on the other side, and immediately pull myself up, knowing I'll have to fight.

As I look at the path around the chasm, I freeze.

Every single of the mages we have training with are kneeling around the drop, motionless and weaponless.

Yet, I know that's not what's sending shivers down my back.

There is no one from the Alliance here. No one trying to kill the other mages, no one keeping guard.

My fingers unfreeze and the dagger drops to the stone floor with a clatter. The sound resonates around the whole cavern; there isn't a single sound, not even the sound of breathing,

Frantically, I look for Gray, trying to shake off the horrifying feeling that something not quite right with these mages. As my eyes find him, I rush towards him through the human maze and drop down in front of him.

"Gray," I whisper hoarsely, touching his face. His eyes are blank, emotionless, like the hoax Gray I had faced in my first test here. But this time, he's real.

I run my fingers across his eyes, but they don't fall. They stare straight ahead.

Somehow, everything that has been happening in the last few hours crashes down; my adrenalin chips away and I start to cry.

After all that, after I used up so much power to free Lyon, to keep Minerva down, to keep Zeref away—Gray and everyone else has been reduced to something I'll never know how to fix.

My tears run down my dirty and bloodstained cheeks, and turn into sobs. I scramble up, and crawl my way towards Wendy; she too has no expression of pain on her face. It's just plain and blank.

"Gray," I repeat again, and my sobs shake me all over. "What happened to you guys?"

Suddenly, I feel a light touch on my shoulder and I jump back with a scream.

As I blink away the tears, I gasp; a blonde boy with his grey eyes and without his usual smile looks at me painfully.

How is he still okay when everyone else is—

"Nicky!" I rush forward and lock my arms around his neck, and he embraces me back almost as tightly as I need to hold onto something. "Oh, my God."

"Lucy," he murmurs. "Hey, it's okay. Shh."

We hold onto each other in this place where no one is letting out a breath.

He doesn't speak for a moment, and neither do I. Then, somehow comforted by the warm touch of another human being I'm not trying to kill, I pull back and wipe my tears away. I suck in a deep breath.

"You're…aren't you supposed to be…" I gestured hopelessly at the mages around us.

His face falls. "They didn't find me. They thought I was dead, and when that pink-haired girl came into check in on us, I was already up here, so I played along."

"Sherry." I stand up, pulling him up. Then I scowl at him. "Why didn't you talk to me sooner? I was so scared…I thought all of you—"

He looked apologetic, a very rare expression on Nicky's face. "I'm sorry. I didn't know it was you, and I only saw a flash of hair from the corner of my eye." He shrugged. "I thought you were part of the Alliance too. I didn't realize it you until I heard you cry."

I sigh. "Do you know what's happening?"

He looks grim as he stares at the mages before us. "Their powers have been stripped."

"What?!" Even as I say it, I remember Zeref saying something to Sherry about having their powers taken. "But, now what are—"

"Look, I escaped because my brother was onto something. He's been spying on the Alliance, and we were supposed to follow Minerva today." He bit his lip. "He got caught."

"Is he…?"

Nicky pointed to a blonde figure by the chasm sadly. "There. That's my brother."

A rush of pity and rage swept through me; I always took Nicky's grin for something part of him. I could never imagine how a person like him could have such sadness on his face, and it enraged me how we were nothing more than chess pieces in this deadly game the Alliance played.

"We'll save him," I said firmly. "We'll save them all. But I need your help; tell me what you know about Minerva, because Sherry is up to something under Zeref's orders and I have a feeling, leaving them powerless is just…" I hesitate and look at Wendy's blank eyes. "Just the beginning. Temporary," I finish. "There is a bigger picture and we can't let it happen."

Nicky nodded, a flare of his old determination come back in his storm eyes. "Right," He said. "They have the Oculus Sword."

I stare at him and he hurries to explain, "It's one of the nine Swords of the Underworld." He squints at me. "You do remember?"

"I feel I should mention," I said. "I wasn't very good at listening in Magic History." But a distant memory tugs at me; Levy and me, sitting outside the Guild in the garden, reading up on the Dark Guilds and the weapons of the Underworld.

"We may need this someday." Levy looked at me, eyes glazed in the direct sunlight hitting her face.

"Yeah, right," I laughed. "Like we'll be classifying their weapons right before they kill us."

She frowned. "No, I mean; we may need to use strategies instead of force to win one day."

I shrugged it off. "Tried explaining that to Natsu, Lev?"

A shudder runs through me at the memory of the sunlit afternoon and trying to ignore it, I ask; "The nine Swords. What about the Oculus one?"

"Well, they follow the will of their yielder. They can take away your powers forever, take your soul, or kill you completely." His face grows ashen and I can't help but think that he has suffered the powers of these weapons.

"The yielder…"

"Bound to the nine swords by blood," Nicky nods. He runs his hands over his arms, as if trying to keep warm, and some colour returns to his face. "You see, once you're bound to them, you can't ever undo it unless you're killed. Then the killer becomes the yielder."

"And if you die…?"

He looks at me as if it's obvious, and maybe it is, but my head still feels dizzy and it's taking me all I have to keep standing. I can barely think of these deadly secrets of the Underworld yielded by the Alliance Guilds. "Then the sword's bond is broken and it's useless until someone else makes a blood sacrifice. What I mean is," he says urgently. "They have the Oculus one, and I have a feeling that by the time they get us to Domas Flau…" He gestures to the silent partisans around us. "Their souls won't be there anymore. They'll be puppet soldiers doing their dirty work."

At that moment, nausea rolls over me and I clutch my mouth, slamming against the rocks.

"Lucy!" Nicky moves forward but I push him away.

"How much time do we have?" I ask instead. I cannot give up now. I have to help Gray.

He shakes his head. "I don't know. But we need to hurry."

"We need to find Sherry," I amended. "She's the one who's been sent to get the sword."

I fumble for my keys; maybe, Pyxis could help us. But the second my fingers touch the silver key, the doorway crashes apart, and in the sudden cloud of dust and broken rocks, Nicky and I are thrown apart on either side.

Screams and shouts and curses of rage fill the chasm, and my eyes widen and remain frozen as I see mages pouring out and onto the stones. They trip and fall over the mages in our section and I catch flashes of familiar faces; Erza, Lisanna, Eve.

I hear Erza scream as she sees Gray. I flinch.

"Quiet!" Jiemma's loud voice breaks their noise and silence falls. Nicky and I cower behind the fallen rocks. "Quiet."

Then he throws down his staff and a golden light bursts forward and hold everyone in suspension. I fight against it, and I see Lisanna do the same, but I am well away from them all, and the magic leaves me. Lisanna, however, freezes into place. The magic holds them all, their bodies bent at odd angles.

Then Jiemma calls; "Zeref!"

So I was right. There can be only one reason why all forty two mages were thrown here; they'll follow the same fate until they're led like pigs for slaughter to Domas Flau. And it's Zeref who has been stripping them off their power.

"ZEREF!" Jiemma calls so loudly, that my ears start to ring. "Don't you dare disobey me!"

Disobey?

Nicky throws a piece of stone at me and I meet his eyes in surprise. He looks crazed. One, he mouths, and ignores me as I try to frantically tell him not to do it. Two, he continues, and I cover my eyes in frustration, and clutch Capricorn's key.

Gate of the Goat—

"Three!" Nicky yells, and thrusts a hand encased in silver magic towards the Sabertooth Guild Master.

"Capricorn!" I cry out, and in a second, Nicky and my powers strike Jiemma squarely in the chest. Capricorn unleashes his full strength, sensing my despair, and Nicky's magic bind Jiemma in coils of silver; at first I think they're ropes, and then I realize with fascinated horror that they're snakes. As Jiemma lets out hoarse curses, his silver bindings burst into flames and Capricorn pins him down as Nicky and I rush past and outside the broken doorway.

"Zeref," Nicky pants out, one eye closed in pain. "We need to deal with him too."

"No," and I almost grin. "He's well held up. Trust me."

I expected to be drained so bad of magical energy, that I wouldn't be able to stand up. I was waiting for my body to fall apart and for me to give up whether I wanted or not.

Instead, as I push back Capricorn's key, strength flows into me. I sense celestial energy, and as I watch the broken doorway, my spirit steps past the rubble and comes to me.

"Capricorn, thank you—"

But he bends down and both his hands touch my chest. Warmth spreads through my heart and my head stops throbbing; I can still see dried blood all over on my skin, but it doesn't hurt anymore. My keys glow and I gasp.

"Take our power," he says. "You'll need it."

Nicky stares at us. "Dude, you're wicked cool, man! How do you maintain all that—" He steps forward to touch Capricorn, but shrinks back when Capricorn throws him one of his stern, cold looks.

I can't help but feel as if my spirits are suffering right along with us; perhaps more. Though I know now, that it'll be useless to summon them now, I do have their power in me now, and gratitude surges through me.

I hold Capricorn's hand, and see he's fading away already. "Thank you."

"Pyxis will lead the way," he says, brushing away my thanks. "Find the Oculus."

"Do you know what—"

"Leo says he's sorry." That's his last words as he melts away into a whisper. I stand there, fingers half-outstretched. Capricorn's key feels cold.

What does he mean?

I close my eyes and when I open them again, a trail of celestial magic flows from my keys towards the broken rocks above.

"Sherry's not here," I confirm, and Nicky looks up at the direction the light points to. "She's up in town. Come on."

Nicky's magic bursts apart the rocks that fell down in the fight, revealing jagged entrances, and I scramble up the way I came. The new mages have just been brought here, and it looks like they didn't come silently. Marks of the fight are left in the paths split apart, which only makes it easier for us to make it up.

Our hands touch the cornerstone, and I tap the Alliance insignia, circling it. It glows, and Nicky pushes it upwards and pulls himself up first. His hand appears, and though I don't need it, I grasp it and he pulls me up too.

For a moment, letting precious seconds slip away, we stand there on the pavement edge of Crocus and marvel at how everything seems so normal here.

It's afternoon; the sun hits me in the eyes, and at first I flinch away because it's so bright after hours in the darkness below. Nicky closes his eyes and throws his head back, soaking in the sun. His arms are spread on either side as he smiles.

That's how I last see him.

There's a loud sound and the place above Nicky's heart deepens in fresh scarlet. His eyes fly open in shock, meet my horrorstruck ones, and then there's another thunderous report and I stand there, seeing another scarlet spot over his torso.

I think I scream his name until my voice breaks and becomes hoarse.

As he falls back, I turn quickly; a girl of about my age, stands there with a gun in her hands; a mortal weapon. "Mages," she spits out. "Come to kill a few more of us defenseless ones?" Her bloodshot eyes find mine, and her fingers inch towards the trigger, but I'm faster. In my fury, I grab my Fleuve D'étoiles and crack it forward.

She drops the gun as I move forward and my whip binds her around the throat. I don't even look back at her as I rush to my friend. Nicky lies on the sealed cornerstone entrance, blood staining his clothes, eyes blank and glassy.

My tears fall onto his blood as I embrace my first friend in this dark place, and he's like a lifeless doll in my hands.

I don't know how long I hold him, but I know I have to finish what we started. At least if not for me anymore, for the bravest boy from Phoenix Grave. I shut his beautiful eyes and kiss his forehead. "Be in peace, Nick." I whisper to him. "Pleased to be strangled." And I laugh softly before it fades out quickly.

I can't take him back, so I simply follow Pyxis's lead as I walk across the street and pick up my whip. I don't even look at the girl. But as I walk, I realize the place isn't deserted; there are bodies everywhere, girls like her, and children and adults. Some are alive, and the scene destroys the beauty of Crocus.

I ignore it all, though it leaves an uneasy feeling in me. Who fought them all?

It's the same like when we first arrived at Crocus; people sit inside, curtain's drawn, pale faces staring out at me from here and there, fury in their eyes. I can't even stand to meet the eyes of these strangers. They still hate us mages.

Pyxis's light leads me to a house, and my confusion increases as I approach it; why would the Sword be here?

Then realization hits me. Why wouldn't it be here? It's the perfect place; hidden away in the middle of life outside magic, a deadly weapon which no one but the Alliance knows of.

As the light fades out, I touch my weapons and pull open the front door; Inside, it's dark and the faint smell of perfume lingers. Sherry, I think automatically. That disgusting rose she uses.

I walk inside cautiously, eyes searching the untidy house bathed in a bluish light from the drawn curtains. I rip them apart as I touch them; why wouldn't they enjoy the sun when they have it?

Throwing the shredded curtains beneath me, I call loudly, "Hello?"

"The Fairy."

I spin on my heel, and face a mage in a hooded cloak, gloved hands gripping a sword. I stare at him—it's a male voice—and he flips his hood back. I don't recognize him.

"Sherry warned me about you."

"You're with Sherry?"

The mage is tall, with dark hair held up and falling over his eyes in glossy locks. His skin is dark, muscles ripping through the skin, and as his dark brown eyes meet me, a flash of recognition runs through me.

"You're from Grimoire Heart," I say, my hand covering my mouth. "You're…Az…"

I struggle to remember his name, and in that second he grins and his sword comes down onto the floor, and the ground rips apart. I clamber onto a bed, as a crevice opens up in front of me

"Don't remember me, Fairy?" He grins cockily. "Azuma." He bows. "At your service."

I gasp as I remember that fight so long ago Erza spoke to me of. "But Erza killed you!"

He examined his nails. There was something different in his face; he didn't look like he wanted to kill. Almost as if it was just an unpleasant necessity. An ugly demand.

The question is, from who?

"Defeated me, certainly," he agreed. "But not kill me." He smiled. "How easily you underestimate me, Fairy."

My mind whirs; I need to find that Sword, but it seems as if Sherry has planned this well with the Alliance. Of course. Grimoire Heart is a guild part of the Alliance, and it's natural he'll be aiding them.

How many of the mages have come from Grimoire Heart?

Sherry. That weak, stuck up, fickle girl has a mage like Azuma under her wing.

I realize two things; One, I need to find the people of this house.

Two, I need to keep Azuma talking.

"So you came here with all the other mages?" I ask, eyes raking the place. Are they dead?

Azuma studies me closely and then nods once, curtly. His hands casually finger his weapons. "I'm their commander. Like Zeref is yours."

I drop down from the bed on the other side, and watch him as he shifts for a second, as if to attack. "Why are they here?" I fire off. "What are the other mages doing here?"

He scowls. "So many questions."

I don't answer, but begin to move away a step at a time. Oh, Mavis. Azuma radiates waves of fear and I try to keep my concentration. "Why, Azuma?"

"You're being put together in nine sections each," he snaps. "There were eighteen, and each now has two sections of mages."

Nine sections…nine swords…

"Stop trying to talk your way out of a fight, Fairy," he growls. "You're one little girl. You're not going to destroy our guild."

"Your guild?" I inch towards a door—are the people in here? They could help…

"Our Alliance," he says, and I feel disgusted.

"Don't you have a heart?" I ask him. "Do you like what your precious guild is doing to us?"

He moves too fast for me to grab my weapons. He pins me down by sheer force and it takes all I have for me to not lash out; if I do, I'll start a fight, and I don't have enough time for one. Especially against Azuma, no matter how much power Capricorn gave me.

"My 'precious guild' has given me a life," He snarls in my ear. "I was encased in a tree, bound by my own powers, and now I have all the strength I need because of this guild."

"So you use that strength to kill the people of this town, huh?" I ask, and as his hand moves to my throat, I act as a reflex reaction and thrust my knee into his chest; he is thrown off momentarily and I grab his sword and hold it to his throat.

But his hand touches the blade, and then he contorts it; I pull my hand free just in time. The blade bends and the sword falls in the small crevice in the floor, useless.

"Power," he breathes out heavily. "Is everything, Fairy. You'll know that soon enough."

How could I not understand it? Of course Sherry had a supporter.

"Enough games," I rasp. "Tell me where Sherry is going, Azuma."

He doesn't answer me; his face darkens and he says, "You're right. Enough games."

Azuma lunges forward; he brings his hands down on the walls, and a glowing arc splits the walls apart. They crumble and explode in my face. I raise my hand and channel Virgo's power, trying to manipulate them, but I was never good at Earth Magic.

The explosion throws me back, and I crash against the door. I raise my whip, ready to bind Azuma's hands together, when the door opens behind me and I back up against the wall.

More sunlight fills the dark house as I vaguely see three figures in the doorway, and the fact that I'd have any kind of help just when I thought I'd be stuck here, fighting a lost battle as Sherry got away, made me giddy with relief.

I stand up, and the person I last expected to see smiles down at me; Lyon, and beside him, holding a crumpled body, Sting. "Caught this one," he starts, and I notice Rogue behind him. "Trying to sneak this back in."

He drops Sherry, and I rush down to her. Lyon stands in the shadows, face taut, hands balled into tight fists.

Does he still love her? After all that happened?

I search her for the sword, and then feel something sharp cut me as my fingers run over her chest. I notice the bronze hilt of the weapon above her clothesline and grab it.

Azuma snarls behind us. "Put the sword down, Fairy."

"Bit of a temper, don't you think?" I can't smile, but I manage something like it as the two Dragon Slayers step forward, Sting uttering the words in his usual cocky tone.

"Think you can help with that, Sting?" Rogue asks. His voice is calm as always, and both their bodies are covered in dust and blood. I notice their chains have left marks around their wrists, and yet they have come here to fight for us.

"Think I can," The White Dragon Slayer agrees, and Lyon pulls me out as they leap forward at Azuma. The smell of paint and oil leaks out as walls are destroyed behind us, but we don't stop running until we've reached the cornerstone.

Nicky's body still lies there, cast to one side. Lyon didn't even see it, and I don't point it out.

As we circle the insignia, I ask Lyon, "How did you find me?"

We drop down as he tells me. "Well, I went back and got Minerva to free the Slayers. I couldn't just do nothing; fighting Minerva sapped a lot of energy, I don't know how you held up for so long," he adds with a touch of pride, but I don't feel anything. "But it took all three of us to keep her down once the Slayers broke free. Then Sting broke the barrier and we saw Sherry, trying to wake up Zeref." He looks at me as we hurry through the dark path. "Did you do that?"

"Do what?" I say evasively.

"Zeref…?"

"Yes," And he doesn't ask anymore at my tone. "And you attacked Sherry then?"

He nodded.

"Don't you still…?"

Lyon sighs, eyes cast down. "I knew it isn't worth saving Sherry anymore."

"What? Lyon, as much as I hate her, she was being forced—"

"No," The ice mage cuts across. "Lucy, she's gone. She tried to kill me. She belongs to them now."

I try to imagine what it must have felt like, Lyon being tortured in that dark cavern for all these days, with the knowledge that Sherry was a puppet of the Alliance because of him. His relief, finding Sherry. His shock, when she tried to kill him to help Zeref instead.

She was weak, but he wasn't. Anger boils in the pit of my stomach at what Jiemma did to her. Sure, I didn't like her, but the Alliance singled her out as an easy pawn to play and destroyed her.

"You're brave, Lyon," I say at last, softly and without really looking at him. "You're as brave as Gray."

We fall the next few steps in our haste to get to the chasm, and as we hurry forward, something hits me in the chest and the Oculus falls from my grasp.

"No!"

I clamber forward to grab it again, but slender fingers pick it up before I can. I already know it's Zeref before I look up; it's the same star-adorned dagger he has that hit me hilt-first lying on the ground.

"Lucy," he says, and his voice is sad. He healed faster than I expected him to, and guilt and fear grips me, and I stumble when I stand up. Lyon brushes my shoulder, standing next to me. "Please stop it."

"Give us the sword, Zeref," Lyon says and he sounds much more confident than I feel.

Zeref has pulled up his hood again, and it overshadows his pale face as he stands before us. He is in battle gear, and though I can see the torn fabric where I pushed the dagger in, he seems to be in no pain.

Even as I think back on all that he has done, all that he's doing right now, I can't help but feel a sudden relief that he's alright. I couldn't shut up the voice which kept whispering you killed Zeref in my mind, and though I knew I didn't, I hadn't been able to shake off the horrible gut feeling that knew I left him helpless and bloodied in the darkness.

He's destroyed people and threatened friends I have known for several years and I feel pity for him.

And yet I never once looked back at the girl who killed a friend I made in a few weeks up on the streets of Crocus.

He grips the Oculus. "And who are you to command me, Ice Mage?"

Lyon narrows his eyes until they're slits. "Zeref," he whispers darkly. "Give. Us. The damn sword."

"No wait." I'm not sure whether it's me or Lyon that's more surprised as I catch his arm and pull him back. Then I turn to Zeref. "What are you guys planning, Zeref?" I ask, and for some unfathomable reason his name leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. "What do you want with the Nine Swords?"

The hood tilts a bit. "A guild," he says finally. "Needs mages who are loyal to it. And if you feel you little rebels will stop us from being the most powerful guild since the Dark Ages, then you're mistaken, Lucy."

I let the words sink in, slowly. "So you'll strip us of our souls," I guess. "Make us blank minions. That's rather cowardly, don't you think?"

His grasp on the Oculus tightens. "Don't call me that," he snaps. Lyon breathes heavily next to me, about to attack, but I step on his foot and hold him back. Wait.

"Why not? That's what you are, aren't you?"

"Lucy—"

"Lucy?"

A gasp tears itself off my lips and I look up at the sound of the voice. Zeref's hood falls back as he looks up too, and I see no surprise on his face.

Natsu Dragneel.

But he doesn't even belong to the section that Azuma controls! He's not supposed to be here!

He looks worse than the last time I saw him; his clothes are shredded, like Sting and Rogue's had been, his hair falling in a tangled mess over his disheveled face. But that's not why my horror is mirrored in his eyes—he's held by two more mages of the Grimoire Heart Guild.

I vaguely recognize them as the two from the Seven Kin of Purgatory; Zancrow, and his wide splitting grin is all it takes to know that he loves having power over Natsu again, and on his other side, the tall Ultear Milkovich. Her face is irritated, bored, and the arrogant way in which she stands reminds me of Minerva.

Capricorn's key glows faintly against my waist. Didn't he once belong to them?

"What is he doing here?" I tear away my eyes from Natsu towards Zeref, and I rush towards him. "What are you doing?!" I shout.

Zeref thrusts one hand forward and I fly back into Lyon. "That's enough, Fairy!" He looks enraged at my sudden attack.

"What are other mages doing here?" Ultear asks in a mildly surprised tone. "Haven't you taken care of them yet?"

Zeref doesn't look at her as he answers, "They're all in there, Ul. Jiemma took care of them."

I am clutching my whip, unsure of whether to try and attack. Lyon doesn't look too eager to take on Zeref now that Grimoire Heart stands right above us, and Natsu's a target.

Our commander points at us. "Go in there. Now."

"No." Lyon sets his jaw.

"Oooh," Zancrow cries from above. He looks delighted at just about everything taking place. "How about we have a small negotiable fight, Ice Mage?" he drawls out. "Fire and ice?"

"Shut up!" Zeref says. "Ul, go get the other Dragon Slayers."

Ultear moves lithely down; Natsu immediately tries to free himself, but Zancrow whispers something in his ear and dark purple fire binds itself around his wrists and Natsu stops struggling.

The tall mage comes down in front of us. Her eyes flicker with recognition as she looks at Lyon, but then she shrugs. "Three Slayers here, right?" She asks Zeref.

"No, two," he says. "One's too young. Her blood's not strong enough."

This time, Lyon pushes me back and step forward with a cocky grin. He looks like he doesn't care anymore. "Pity, isn't it," he calls loudly. "That there aren't any Slayers at your disposal here?"

I know what he means, but obviously, Zeref doesn't. My mind is still spurring; why do they want the Slayers? Is that why they captured Sting and Rogue?

"What?" Ultear scowls.

Lyon shrugs and spreads his arms. "The Light and Shadow Dragon Slayers are gone. They're not here anymore."

Zeref's shock breaks through his mask. Then he turns to Ultear; "Go find them," he says. "Now. Before Jiemma finds out."

Ultear growls once at Lyon, who continues to smirk, and then she saunters over to Zeref, kisses him once on the lips, and disappears. I stare in shock for a moment, and then turn my eyes away.

Zancrow leaps down with Natsu, thrusting the Fire Dragon Slayer in front of Zeref. "He was fun to play with," he laughs gleefully, and I want to punch a hole through his face. "All yours."

He steps past the rubble and stones and moves towards the chasm, and Zeref stares coldly at us. One of his hands, the other gripping the Oculus, casually holds Natsu's throat. It's encased in black fire. "In," He says. "Now."

Lyon goes first and I follow, and I hear the door resealing itself from the fight as Zeref enters it. I see him look at Gray in the crowd, and gasp. I cannot even look at Erza and Lisanna, all bared of emotion and powers down here. Lifeless bodies, waiting to be turned into servants of Dark Magic.

Jiemma is nowhere to be seen.

Zancrow snaps his fingers, laughing, and the purple bindings hold Natsu to the rocky walls, covering his mouth as well. His frantic eyes, scared for the first time, dart towards mine. Then Zeref touches his forehead, and Natsu's eyes fall shut; he hangs limply.

I told Lyon to wait. And now I turn to him as Zeref hands the sword to Zancrow. "Now."

Lyon brings down his hands, slamming them together, and a wall of ice erupts from there and spreads across the rocks. It bursts forward and hits Zeref first, but Zancrow leaps away. I close my eyes and channel power through me, palms up, and balls of golden fire start circling them, before bursting into flame.

"Distract them," I yell at Lyon frantically, and we run forward as Zeref cries out and touches the walls; black magic spreads over them like frost and they fall on us and, turning to ashes when they reach the ground.

I narrowly miss getting hit in the head, but my left wrist feels the full impact of the rocks as I try to brace myself, and it bends at an odd angle as I scream. I undo my whip at the same time that Lyon sends sharp ice stalagmites erupting around the two Alliance mages.

"Amateurs!" Zancrow calls callously, and then his grin widens; He spreads his hands and there's a thunderous sound that freezes me into place. Then in the next second with a splitting roar a scythe of black flames swivels around me and Lyon, and it's like a thousand knives pressing down on bare skin.

Lyon freezes the magic, but it gets bigger and churns around us. My legs feel like lead but I try to move forward. The Flueve D'étoiles fell from my grasp when Zancrow attacked, but I still have power from my keys.

As I try to move towards Zancrow, Zeref says something to him and the magic leaves us, dissipating into wisps of dark magic. "I hope you've learned your lesson," He calls. "Now stop trying to fight."

Lyon and I look at each other. It's hopeless. For now.

Or is it?

I touch Virgo's key as we kneel down on the ground, and pry it free. If we can't get the Oculus, then they won't have it either. It looks like Nicky wasn't all correct.

Seeing Natsu strung up here, and their desperate need to find the Dragon Slayers, it doesn't take long for me to figure out just whose blood the sword will bind itself to.

The most powerful mages of magic have always been the Dragon Slayers. Of course it's their blood.

"Gate of the Maiden," I whisper. "Virgo."

Power tugs away and my spirit senses my despair. I whisper to her in my mind, hoping against hope she'll understand. It's worked once, will it work again?

I feel worn out from the onslaught of dark magic, but I notice the ground cracking beneath Zancrow's feet and smile.

Lyon looks at me once, and I nod. A crevice opens up and before any of us can breathe a word, my spirit breaks the ground and Zancrow's eyes widen in shock as he falls below into the chasm, sword in hand.

Zeref rushes to the crevice as it starts to reseal, and I know it's a few seconds before he goes to look for the Oculus. That's what he really cares about.

"Not so fast, Zeref," I say, standing up. Lyon moves behind me and seals the door with ice; it spreads thickly around the edges and barricades the entrance.

It's either a fight, or the chasm.

Zeref's eyes tighten in some emotion I can't understand, and his mouth curved downwards in his usual frown. "You're playing into the hands of death, Lucy."

Lyon and I stand next to each other. It's now or never.

"Shut up," we say together.

And then we attack.


Phew! That took me all of the weekend. Do review!