Sorry for the wait on this chapter! I've had it more or less ready for weeks but I forgot to post it. Oops.
On another note, significant amounts of this chapter is just summary of what Natsu saw and bits and pieces of what Lucy saw in the Soul Trap. However, there is information in this chapter on how Lucy was tortured and her perspective on the events around her. So if you don't really feel like reading a summary of sorts, or are uncomfortable with reading that sort of material, skip down to the next bold section that says that "summary is over" or something.
Chapter Twenty One: Truth
I began by telling Natsu the story of the girl who lived happily with her mother and father. She was beyond happy. Nothing could be better. But then one day, her mother died. The girl's life began to crumble around her. Her father was no longer willing to listen to her, locking himself away for days before emerging briefly only to lock himself away again. When she tried to speak to him, he would shout at her, scold her for being so impudent. Years passed and the girl became a young adult. She attempted to speak to her father one last time, but he simply regarded her as a business endeavor, as he was attempting to arrange a marriage between her and one of his business partner's descendants. So she ran away.
The girl was so sad, cold and hungry. She didn't have very much money, but she knew that she couldn't go back. She decided to wander around for a while to decide what she should do with the rest of her life. Then she remembered her mother's final gift to her: a golden key. This key was wasn't just any ordinary key, but a magic one. It summoned a powerful spiteful water spirit to her. Despite their seemingly angry relationship, the girl loved the spirit and remembered one of her dreams from her childhood. She once hoped that she could join a wizard guild. Not knowing where to start, the girl wandered some more, obtaining two new keys in her travels. Then she decided, after much deliberation, to join the Fairy Tail guild.
One day in her travels, she heard that Fairy Tail's Salamander was supposed to be in the port of Hargeon. She quickly made a detour over there in order to see if she could convince him to let her join Fairy Tail too. Unfortunately it was all a trick, and she ended up stuck at the mercy of him and his goons. Then a teenager that she had met earlier that day showed up and saved her. It was during this that she realized that he was the true Salamander. He immediately helped her and told her to follow him to the guild so she could join.
Things were finally turning around for her. Once she joined the guild, she took on jobs to pay rent on an apartment that she found. She met a bunch of brand new friends, becoming like family to her, yet none were as close as the Salamander. He and her were nearly inseparable and whenever she was in trouble, she could always count on him. However, one day it became too much for the girl. She didn't want to be saved anymore. Because of her weakness, she had nearly been killed dozens of times, only for the Salamander to save her.
So she decided to do a job all by herself, to prove to everybody else that she wasn't weak. On her way there, she met an elderly woman who asked her to help her carry many heavy bags to her home. The woman couldn't carry them by herself, so the girl immediately agreed. Unfortunately, she never made it to said destination, as it was revealed that the elderly woman was a fake. The girl was taken captive, along with one of her other female friends.
I took in another deep breath. This was where things became painful to think about. But I had to. I had to remember for Natsu's sake. But I don't want to remember. I shook my head and I knew that Natsu's eyes were glued to my face, listening more intently than ever before.
For an indeterminate amount of time, the girl was trapped in some dark looking dungeon. Her precious keys had been stolen from her, her hands and legs bound. The girl began to panic. She had just wanted to prove to the others that she could be strong too. But look where that got her. The "elderly" woman came back, revealing to be a dark sorceress, the daughter of one of the enemies the girl had helped the Salamander to defeat. She was looking for revenge and began to take it out on the girls.
The main girl of this tale was subjected to watch horrible visions of terrible gore and death of her new friends again and again and again. Her voice grew hoarse, her eyes unable to shed any more tears. Then the visions shifted slightly: instead of seeing her friends die, she would see them mocking her, telling her that she was worthless, pathetic. The worst one was of the Salamander. He was the strongest of them all, and in these visions, she witnessed his terrifying true raw power, eventually coming to be directed at her. While these visions were all in her head, the girl suffered terrible mental trauma, her real personality hiding in the darkest corners of her mind.
The dark sorceress would give enough food and drink in order to keep her alive so that the torment could continue. Until one day, the girl no longer reacted to the visions. She subconsciously knew that they weren't real, but they were slowly repeating themselves, no new horrors awaited. The sorceress realized this and then began to subject her to physical torture, mimicking that of the visions. The woman would slash the girl across her body with a knife, representing the "attacks" of the girl's knight friend. A wound that would frequently be inflicted upon her skin was a long deep cut across the side of her neck. One day she would be placed in a room with a freezing temperature, only for the next day to be trapped in an airtight room, losing all oxygen.
But the worst out of all of them was what the woman called the heat room. The girl would be thrust into what could be called an enlarged oven, and the girl would just be left there to roast and burn. This was by far the room that the sorceress preferred for this girl. What made it worse was that it reminded the girl of her best friend, the Salamander. She wanted him to save her for once, but he didn't come. The girl cried, thinking that she had been abandoned. All that was left for her was to be at the mercy of his power.
It was then that the sorceress decided that it was time. The girl was to die. The girl fought as hard as she could, yet all of her strength, mentally and physically, had been sapped out over the past period of time. She could nothing to stop the sorceress from taking her soul away. Just before her vision faded black, her last thought was, "Salamander…I'm sorry."
For a while, the girl felt as though she was floating in nothing, yet an image flickered to life in front of her. With a start, she realized that she could see her friends from the guild, all of them, with Salamander and his "brother" Black Steel leading the charge. They both looked incredibly different, with Salamander dragon-like with scales appearing all over his body. The girl had never seen him look this angry before and she tried to call out to him, but her body would not respond.
With grief in her heart, she watched her friends fight against the dark sorceress, only to find that the girl herself was one of the obstacles. The sorceress had repossessed her body to fight against her friends. With strength that she didn't know she had, she wrenched herself out of her numbing state and felt herself moving quickly through space until she awoke with a gasp.
She was back inside of her own body and was looking up into the Salamander's concerned expression. Hope soared through her body, but she knew it wouldn't last. She could feel the numbness coming back in full force and knew that she didn't have a lot of time. There was so much to say to him, but all she could sputter out was a request for him to destroy her body. To stop holding back to end all of this torment. She told him that this was all her fault, for being too weak. Salamander didn't agree, and praised her and her spirit highly. She wanted to thank him, to hug him, but the numbness came too quickly and before she knew it, darkness consumed her once more, only this time, she could not see anything.
I continued my telling of what exactly happened to me while I was stuck in the Soul Trap. I could hear Natsu inhale loudly when I revealed that I had heard everything that he had said while my body was no longer moving. His entire confession.
HERE IS WHERE THE MAJOR SUMMARY STOPS
When I finally finished speaking, I snuck a glance at Natsu to see that his head was bent forward, attempting to hide his embarrassment once again. Tears began to stream down my face as I whispered, even though I didn't need to, "You're the reason I came back. I wasn't going to at first. I was too far gone." Tears began to threaten again and I choked out, "But I came back because…because I feel the same way you do!"
I could hear a chair scrape back and a firm hand land on my shoulder, squeezing gently in comfort. I looked up towards him to see him looking softly into my eyes. He turned me around and gently ran his hand through my hair, running his hands through the strands individually, ending flat on my cheek. He was so close now, he was breathing heavily and I could feel some of the heat from his breath on my face. It was so warm. So…Natsu.
My eyes moved up to meet his own to see that his eyes were dark, darker than I had ever seen them before. The pupils even looked a little bit thinner than they used to be, giving him a more sinister animal-like appearance. Even though Natsu looked menacing, I did not feel an ounce of fear. He's Natsu. He wouldn't hurt me. It looked like he wanted to do something, but he didn't move. If anything, he seemed to be holding back, afraid of what would happen.
So I asked, "Natsu?"
His eyes closed and he let out a short growl that caused goosebumps on my arms. His hand dropped and he turned away from me, slamming his fist into the opposite wall, creating a small hole. I could yell at him about that later. I asked again, "Natsu? What's wrong?"
His breathing was labored and slowly worked its way back towards a "normal" rhythm. When that was controlled again, he spoke, not facing me, "You have no idea how happy, how thankful I am that you said you feel the same way as I do. But…" he trailed off, searching for his next words.
My heart broke at the thought but I had to ask, "Is it because you aren't sure about this?"
His head snapped back towards me and he replied immediately, "Not at all. I know that I want to be with you Luce." Hearing him say my nickname caused my heart to flutter in my chest. He took my hands into his and he continued, "I just want to make sure that it's what you want."
"What…? I don't understand." I asked in confusion.
He held his head in his hands and said, "You said you heard me say that you are my mate right?" I nodded and he continued, "Do you know what that means?"
He had surprised me with this one, "No actually. There's almost no knowledge about dragons and dragon slayers. Basically everything I've ever learned is because of you or one of the other dragon slayers."
He let out a loud sigh and said, "Well…traditionally, when a dragon slayer has found their mate, they go through a ritual of sorts." He ran his hand through his pink hair, struggling with some internal conflict, "We call it "Marking", since the mates have to each magically mark the other."
I was even more confused now, "That doesn't sound so bad. What's the problem here?"
He sounded a little exasperated now, "The thing that you don't understand is that when the mates mark each other, there is a strange kind of magic involved. Once the process is complete, we should be able to sense each other's emotions and feelings."
My jaw dropped, "Whoa. That's crazy! How does that even work?"
He replied, "I don't know. But all I do know is that it is so that they each can sense how the other is feeling and to make sure each other stays out of danger." He blushed, "It actually kind of started before."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"I mean that when you were taken, I could fear your fear. Feel your anger, even some of your pain. That's when I knew that…" he trailed off. He didn't need to finish for me to know what he was talking about. The moment that my soul was taken, the moment I died, he somehow knew.
I asked him, "So I still don't see the problem." His hands lingered over mine, "I wouldn't mind being connected to you in that way. If anything, it makes me glad. That way I can always make sure you are okay too." I gave him a slight smile and his eyes lightened slightly.
His frown deepened though as he told me, "Yeah, but I've heard stories from Igneel about people that go through with it. Most of the time, it goes completely according to plan and everything ends well but…" he quieted, "there are some instances where when one of the mates try to back out or the impact of emotions is too strong. Then one or both of them go insane and kill themselves."
A shudder ran down my spine at his words. Go insane? I gulped slightly and Natsu noticed. He asked, "I think that you and I are strong enough to handle it, but I needed to know how you felt about it. So before we go through with this, are you absolutely sure? We are going to be each other's sole partners and once the decision has been made, you can't back out. So do you want to go through with this?"
I whimpered slightly and asked, "Isn't it just kind of possible to be mates but not go through the ritual?"
He shook his head, "If there was a way I would have told you but there isn't. Besides," he shrugged, "the process has already begun somewhat. This is your only chance to back out. If I remain unmated for much longer…let's just say bad stuff is going to go down."
I didn't even want to know about what that meant. He was considerably powerful enough to begin with. Combined with the rumored rage/madness of being unmated, there is no telling how bad things will get.
But I wouldn't be doing this just out of fear of him going insane. I grasped his hands in mine tightly and firmly repeated, "I came back because I feel the same way you do. I will not refuse because I am afraid." I put my hand on his cheek and he nuzzled into it affectionately. I smiled faintly and said, "I'm going to be honest. I am a little afraid. But since you will be there, because we are doing this for you, I feel as though that there's nothing that could go wrong. I will be your mate."
His eyes widened in shock and for a moment he remained still. Then his mouth widened into his signature grin. God I would never get tired of looking at it. I let out a small giggle and he raised an eyebrow. Then without warning, his face lunged forward and before I knew it, our faces were connected, his lips on mine.
It being my first kiss, since technically I was kind of dead for the first one, the entire sensation felt very awkward and very unlike what I was expecting. But eventually, the feeling of his lips on mine began to feel comforting as they moved together in sync. He hummed slightly in response and I could feel warmth coursing through my body. I opened my eyes, not realizing that I had closed them in the first place to see Natsu, and it took all of my will to not jump back in shock. His eyes turned into slits, the pupils flickering black with gold, a portion of his skin looking scale-like.
A moment later, he pulled his lips off of mine and the draconic transformation faded and the normal Natsu remained. We were both breathing heavily and if I had to guess, he nearly gave into his dragon-half just now.
He blushed and muttered something under his breath. As I did not have supersonic hearing I asked him to repeat a little louder and he said, "I really liked that Luce." I blushed slightly as his words causing him to laugh.
He backed away slightly and hung by the windowsill and continued, "I think we should do the process as soon as possible. It's becoming difficult to keep my control around you. Meet me outside the guild tonight." With that, he jumped through the window and I was left alone in my apartment.
Even though Natsu just totally ditched me, I couldn't help the grin that was plastered on my face. I couldn't believe it. I was soon to be connecting to Natsu, and the fear that I had felt before was nonexistent. If anything, I realized how exhausted I was and climbed into bed. From what Natsu said, I had a feeling that I was going to need my strength tonight, both physically and mentally.
Wow this chapter was waaaaay longer than I was expecting. But I hope you enjoyed and the next chapter will be the final one of this story, about the marking process. For those of you that have stayed with the story this long, I would like to thank you all and hope that you will continue to read my future writings.