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Why Natsu? Erza? Gray? Why did you betray me? Lucy Heartfilia sobs as she runs down the streets of Magnolia, leaving Fairy Tail and her "family" behind.
You have brought disgrace on this guild.
I had such high hopes for you.
You've tarnished our reputation.
Ever since they'd returned from Edolas along with Lisanna, things had been going downhill. Lucy wasn't blind, she could see how her guild mates distanced themselves from her, blowing her off with a myriad of weak excuses. She plastered on a smile and pretended not to notice, convincing herself it was all in her head.
They think I'm weak, Lucy laments. She wipes the tears from her eyes with the back of her hand only for them to start anew when she sees unblemished skin where her guild stamp used to be.
Lucy is hyper aware of the pointed looks and harsh comments from the citizens as she runs by. She hasn't just fallen from Fairy Tail's good graces but the townspeople have turned on her as well and she has no idea why.
Who needs them? Lucy sniffles, almost bowling over a tiny old man with a crown of white hair.
Lucy runs without stopping, ignoring the burn from her overworked muscles. She makes it to the outskirts and finally runs out of juice near where the state park is located.
Her legs like jelly, Lucy collapses on the grass and throws an arm over her face to block out the sun. "What did I do to deserve this?" She murmurs.
Lucy doesn't know how long she lies there. It's long enough to nearly cry herself to sleep, coming to with a start at the sound of a wizened old voice.
"Why do you cry?"
Lucy's muscles protest as she pulls herself into a sitting position.
After wiping away her tears, Lucy looks up and sees a wrinkled face that takes her a moment to place. "You're the man I almost ran over in the street," Lucy sniffles. "I'm so sorry."
"Water under the bridge," he assures. The old man sighs in a mix of discomfort and relief when he takes a seat next to Lucy in the grass. "What has you so upset?"
Lucy hesitates at the thought of unloading her personal troubles on a man she had just met. The choice is made for her when words start spilling out of her mouth of their own accord. She weaves her tale of woe to the old man, detailing her history with Fairy Tail, the growing distance from her friends, their betrayal, and most recently getting booted from her apartment as well as her guild.
"I feel so stupid. I put all my faith in my friends and I just ended up getting burned."
"What's wrong with putting faith in your friends?"
Lucy looks up with watery eyes. "What?"
"Yes, you friends let you down in the worst way, but that is their failing not yours. You weren't wrong to trust your friends even if they didn't trust you."
"They gave me my strength and now I've never felt so weak." The man chuckles, earning a glare from Lucy. "What's so funny?" She glares.
"Nothing. You just remind me of someone I used to know. A young man by the name of Shun. He believed he didn't need the support of his friends, that he was fine on his own."
"What happened to him?"
"With time, he learned that you are never more strong than when you are part of a team."
"How can I be part of a team when I feel like my trust has been violated?"
"If I'm not mistaken, I don't believe all of your friends have betrayed you," he says, pointing a gnarled finger at the ring of keys on her hip.
"My Celestial Spirits?" Lucy blinks, the keys jingling when she removes them from her hip, insecurities and doubts taking root in her mind. "What if they leave me too?"
As if in answer two of her keys releases a bright light that enters the duck pond with a splash. Lucy wipes the water from her face and sees Aquarius swimming in the water with Ares standing on the surface
"Some bonds can't be broken," says the blue-haired mermaid as they are both engulfed in a blue light that merges together.. When the light disappears, there stands a new creature that heavily resembles Aquarius more so than Ares. She's gigantic, her skin a light blue and smooth like down. Her hair is long and wild and her arms are now bird wings while her feet are taloned and birdlike. "Cat got your tongue, princess?" She smirks.
"It's good to see you, Harpus," the old man greets.
"My word, if it isn't Marucho. You've gotten so old."
He chortles. "You look the same as ever."
She tucks a strand of hair behind her ears. "If you're here then I can only assume Preyas must be as well."
Lucy's expression grows more confused when a small blue ball floats out of Marucho's cloak, hovering next to his face when it opens up into what appears to be a toy fishman. "Whoowhee, you really need to wash that cloak. It smells nasty in there!"
"Hello, Preyas. It's nice to see you under different circumstances."
"Who are you people? What happened to Aquarius and Ares?" Lucy babbles, her brain struggling to cope with the events unfolding.
"She's just full of questions, isn't she?" Preyas laughs.
"It's like talking to myself," Marucho agrees.
"Where are my manners? I am Aquos Preyas, but you can just call me Preyas. It's short, sweet and to the point."
"Preyas," Lucy tests the name on her lips. "What are you, exactly?"
"I am a Bakugan, just like Harpus though you may know her as Aquarius."
Aquarius looks away guiltily. "My apologies for the deception but I am afraid that Celestial Spirits don't actually exist," she adds.
"But I've summoned you guys like a hundred times. Now you're telling me you aren't even real?"
"What Harpus means," Marucho interrupts, "is that Celestial Spirits are just a front for the Bakugan, a way to hide in plain sight."
"Bakugan possess great power and there are those who do and would seek to abuse their power. For centuries, the sides of good and evil have been at war using their Bakugan as weapons. Every major conflict in history the Bakugan have been involved in some way. When the next great conflict comes, a new generation takes up the mantle… on both sides."
"But I've got most of the keys. What harm could anyone really do?"
"You have most of the Golden Keys but Silver Keys are Bakugan as well, most of them fragments of a greater power. Besides, there's actually another set of keys."
Lucy gapes at Marucho. "What do you mean there's another set? There are only twelve zodiac signs."
"Just as the golden Keys represent the Bakugan seeking to do good and bring peace, there is a mirror set of Bakugan seeking to bring ruin and destruction. They are called the Eclipse Keys."
Lucy is racked with an involuntary shiver at the mention of the name. "Just the name gives me the heebie jeebies."
"They're out there, make no mistake about it. It's my job to prepare you and your allies for the war ahead."
Lucy stiffens in disbelief. "Hold up a second. I'm not looking to get involved in any war."
"I'm afraid that choice may be out of your hands," Marucho sighs sadly. "You've been chosen as a strong soul of light and good, a prime candidate to be a Battle Brawler. It's not just chance that you have so many of the keys already.
"You're special Lucy. You always have been," Harpus says, her voice unusually kind.
"Me?" Lucy blinks, jabbing her thumb to her chest. "But I'm nobody."
"That's not true," Aquarius argues though Lucy supposes she ought to get used to referring to her as Harpus.
"Okay, first of all, why are you being so nice to me? You hate me," Lucy accuses.
"I don't hate you, Lucy. I was merely following orders."
"By who? I thought i was your only Summoner."
"There was one before you."
"It was her wish, before she died, that I prepare you for the harshness of the world, to help you stand on your two feet and give you the strength to flourish. She worried that you would turn soft and complacent like your father. I complied by teaching you the same way I learned, the Bakugan way."
"For centuries, Bakugan existed in competition with one another. It was either eat or be eaten," Preyas pitches in.
"It was a harsh lesson, yes. But I believe it was necessary and can only hope this won't come between us in the future."
"While I would love to continue this discussion," Marucho wheezes, "you have a choice to make Lucy." Marucho gives a light wave of the hand and a glimmering portal of rainbow lights opens in the air. "Will you continue to sit here and feel sorry for yourself, or will you accept you are destined to be great, take charge, and fight?"
Lucy's fists clench tight as she wars with her own mind.
What am I doing? What would mother say? Lucy wonders as her mind goes at war with itself. I can't just throw a pity party for the rest of my life. I still don't know how I feel about this war business but I can't stand still. The only way things can improve is if I move forward.
Lucy takes a shaky breath and prays that she is making the right choice. "I still think you might have the wrong girl but I'm willing to try. Please, teach me." Lucy says with embers of determination glowing in her eyes.
"That's the spirit," Marucho laughs before devolving into a coughing fit. "Shall we then?" He gestures to the open portal.
"Where will it take us?"
"To your future," Preyas answers.
Lucy takes a deep breath and steps through the portal before she can lose her nerve.
For the next several seconds, Lucy feels like she's helplessly plummeting from the sky with the ground nowhere in view.
None too soon the experience comes to an end and Lucy comes to on her back, her eyes squeezed shut to stop the world from spinning. Once she's confident she isn't about to puke, Lucy sits up and stands on wobbly feet. "What is this place?"
"Welcome to New Vestroia," Harpus greets, hovering happily in the air.
"This is the home world of the Bakugan," Preyas' voice booms unnaturally loud. Lucy takes a peek over her shoulder and her jaw drops at the sight of the massive fishman towering over her form.
"Preyas?" She squawks.
"Yes," he chortles at her expression. "This is the real me. I know, I'm even slimmer in person," Preyas cracks to no applause. What do you think of my world?" He presses.
Lucy's head is on a swivel, taking in her surroundings. She sees lush jungles shrouded in darkness, mountains bathed in a harsh white light and burning fields of magma with the odd lake here and there.
"It's beautiful," Lucy admits, finding the almost choppy juxtaposition of different environments is beautiful in an artistic sort of way.
"I'm glad you think so," Harpus giggles. "I haven't been home in quite some time."
"So this is where the Celestial Spirits come from." Lucy snaps her finger in remembrance. "That reminds me, where are the other Celestial spirits? Shouldn't they be out too?"
"Check your belt."
Lucy gawks openly when four of her keys glow a bright gold and join together into a large gold sphere. The light grows in intensity until Lucy is forced to look away. She doesn't dare to look until she feels two round objects fall into her hands.
They're balls, one is red and black and the other a dazzling white and yellow. "What happened to Leo and Virgo and Cancer and Scorpio?"
"This is the form we take when we're sleeping or expecting a battle," Harpus plows on. Right now they are doing the former."
"What happened to them?" She demands again in a shaking voice.
"Some Bakugan were too powerful to contain within a single key, so they were fragmented between multiple keys."
"You mean, they're gone?" Lucy tears up. "They were my friends. I didn't even get to say goodbye," she cries, feeling like she is being punished.
"They are not gone."
"What do you mean they're not gone?"
"We retain our memories as Celestial Spirits. Our past interactions and experiences we remember them all. You haven't lost anyone, we've just combined into who we truly are."
"It still feels like I've lost more friends."
"Your loss will endure for a while, and that is alright. What you need to remember is that no matter what, we exist in your heart, and in your memories. Do not dwell on the sadness of change, but the happiness of what has already been." "Do it, for me?" Harpus adds when Lucy stays quiet.
Lucy wants to cry and scream and tell her she's mad to even suggest a thing. But in her heart she knows that would be a disservice to her former Spirits. "I'll try," Lucy sniffles, wiping the tears from her eyes.
"You are so much stronger than you realize, Lucy."
"I'm flattered you think so but are you sure I'm cut out for this?"
"Come on, Lucy. All the fights we've been through, all the memories we've made, what more proof do you need to believe you have what it takes to be a Brawler?" Harpus presses.
"Thank you, for all your support. I'll do everything I can to become worthy of it," Lucy vows through teary eyes. Once the tears cease, Lucy speaks again. "Why did you bring me here?"
Marucho sighs and seems to age twenty years in the span of a few seconds. "I'm old, Lucy. My eyesight is diminished and my bones fragile. I cannot battle on the same level I once could and the world needs a competent Brawler to take the reins from the last generation."
"And you choose me?"
"Lucy, new Brawlers are chosen during times of great danger and turmoil. The world needs you whether it knows it or not."
"That's a big responsibility," Lucy gulps, wiping her strangely sweaty palms on her shorts.
"One I believe you are able to handle. Now, there is only one more test," Marucho rasps, pulling an electronic device from the folds of his cloak.
"This is a Baku-Meter, a must have for a Brawler to engage in a Bakugan Battle."
Lucy fixes the multi-colored device to her wrist and admires it in the sunlight.
Marucho takes the next several minutes to explain the rules of battle to Lucy. "Do you understand?"
Lucy gives a tentative nod. "I think so."
"Good. Gate card, set!" Marucho cries, tossing a bakugan in conjunction with the Abilility card. "Bakugan Brawl! Aquos Preyas stand!"
Lucy follows suit and lays down her own gate card. "Bakugan Brawl! Aquos Harpus, stand!" A card materializes from her Baku-Meter. "Ability activate: Typhoon Twister!"
Lucy gasps when she feels a sliver of her magical power be consumed along with another, stronger source on the edge of her senses. Is that Harpus?
Harpus cackles and flaps her wing furiously generating a typhoon.
"Water Wall!" Preyas opens his jaws wide and water comes flooding out, gathering together to form a wall and stop Lucy's attack.
She pushes the issue to the back of her mind, deciding she can worry about it later. "We're not out of this yet. We're just getting started!" Lucy declares. "Ability Activate: Feather Storm!" Harpus flies up high and gives a hard flap of her wings that sends a barrage of razor sharp feathers raining below."
There it is again. The cost is small but still noticeable to Lucy. Are the ability cards doing this?
"That's not good," Preyas gulps. "Marucho buddy?"
"I've got you covered. Ability Activate: Subterra Reaction:"
"I do not look good in orange and brown," Harpus notes with mild concern at her attribute changing.
"Gate Card Open: Big Blue!" The light of the gate card activating has stars ringing in Lucy's vision. When Lucy opens her eyes she sees that the lake has flooded with water spilling into the valley leaving Marucho and Lucy standing on tiny islands amidst the water. "Now your water advantage is gone and Preyas gets a power boost."
"That's the good stuff!" Preyas howls, surrounded by an blue aura with his muscles bulging out.
"This is bad. What do I do?" Lucy panics.
"Don't panic, Lucy! You've got this!"
"One of us has to," Lucy mutters. "My Aquos abilities may be out of my reach but Harpus has some tricks up her sleeve. Double Ability activate: Feather Storm plus Feather Mirage!"
"I'm gonna serve you up for dinner, fishboy!" Harpus laughs, blasting him with another barrage of feathers.
Preyas raises his arm to block and gapes when he looks up to see several Harpus clones fluttering about amidst feathers drifting down from the sky.
"Bet you can't hit me!"
"What is this?" Marucho gawks.
Lucy feels a small smile come to her face. "Feather Mirage is an ability unique to Harpus. It gives the illusion of five Harpus clones and you have to guess which is the real one."
"Easy peasy," Preyas laughs it off but Lucy can see sweat beading on his face. Preyas bunches his legs and takes to the air, going after Harpus clones with a lightning fast barrage of punches.
When there is only one clone left the real Harpus strikes Preyas with a taloned foot to the face that sends him skipping across the water like a stone.
"Five skips. I think that's a new record," Harpus smirks.
Preyas staggers to his feet gently massaging his face. "Geez. I don't remember her hitting that hard before."
"That would have to do with the second effect of Feather Mirage."
"There's a second effect?"
"You only get three chances to find the real Harpus. Every incorrect guess gives Harpus a power boost and if you can't find the real one, her power rises even more."
"Great move, Lucy!" Marucho compliments. "But this round still isn't over. "Double Ability activate: Stealth Walk and Heat Seeker."
Preyas waves his hands in front of his face with a flourish and fades from view. A densely packed ball of water comes from nowhere and lands a solid hit. More and more water spheres begin to appear and launch from various places. Harpus takes to the air and pulls some fancy aerial maneuvers but she is being quickly overwhelmed. My gate card is useless since the attribute changed, Lucy laments watching as Harpus is overwhelmed by sheer numbers becomes the center of a small explosion.
Harpus falls out of the sky, back in her ball form and lands at Lucy's feet with Preyas following suit for Marucho.
"Lucy life gauge at twenty percent," Lucy's Baku-meter chimes in.
"No worries. We'll crush him in round two," Harpus growls, surprising Lucy.
"Right," Lucy nods. "Let's do this."
"Are you good to go again?" Marucho asks.
"You bet!" The two brawlers throw their Bakugan back onto the field.
"So nice to have my natural coloring back," Harpus sighs happily.
Preyas shrugs. "Personally, I like to spice things up with a bit of variety. Let me show you. Attribute Change: Haos."
Lucy gawks when Preyas changes his attribute and coloring to that of a Haos Bakugan.
"Correlation between Aquos and Haos," Marucho calls, giving Preyas a power up.
"Is that supposed to scare me?" Harpus scoffs.
"Ability Activate: Delta Marine Snow!" Lucy looks on with bright eyes when snow starts to drift down from the sky.
"Let's see how you like having your abilities blocked from you. Ability Activate: Blue Shield. I'll be taking that power boost you just gave yourself," Lucy smiles cheekily as a stream of energy surges from Preyas to Harpus.
"That's a good move," Preyas says. "But you're still going to need more than that."
Lucy bites her lip, knowing full well that Preyas is right. The power gap between the two is still prominent. Would it just be better to save everyone the time and give up? Lucy wonders before forcefully shaking her head. I'm sick of doubting myself, Lucy growls.
"Double Ability Activate: Aqua Repulsor plus Shooting Stardust!"
More of Preyas' energy is sapped and Harpus blasts Preyas with three streams of water holding the force of a cannon.
Lucy watches in disbelief when Preyas is sent back to Marucho's hand.
"Did I just win the round? I did it. I really did it!" Lucy cheers happily with Harpus and Marucho looking on in approval.
"Marucho life gauge down to thirty percent."
"Good job, Lucy. This is the round that will decide the battle."
Both brawlers summon their Bakugan again with Marucho wasting no time in powering up Preyas. "Attribute Change; Pyrus!" Preyas cries.
"Double Ability Activate: Flame Tornado plus Fire Tornado!" Preyas becomes the center of a flaming twister right on course for Harpus.
"Dive!" Lucy gasps and Harpus submerges herself.
"I just need to wait it out. It'll go out on its own," Lucy mutters to herself. After a few moments it becomes clear that's not the case with the flames still going strong. A small stab of panic rises in Lucy's chest when the water starts to steam.
"That is hot!" Harpus screeches, flying out of the water like a bat out of hell.
Lucy breathes a sigh of relief. She forces herself to stop shaking and takes a steady breath. "Let's end this! Are you ready Harpus?"
"You know it."
"Gate Card: Open! Aquos Reactor!" Harpus is then empowered by an aura of blue energy.
"Ability Activate: Tidal Wave," Lucy pants, feeling the biggest exertion on her magic yet. And if her senses are correct it is no small matter for Harpus either. Her legs feel like jelly and her body is racked with involuntary tremors like she hasn't eaten in days.
The water in the lake swirls together and flows over to Harpus to form a tidal wave standing several stories tall.
"Ability Activate: Supernova!"
A ball of fire forms in Preyas's hand that is around the size of a large horse. "Here we go!" Preyas hurls the sphere in the same moment that the water comes surging forward. They clash together, forming a sweeping wall of steam that has Lucy raising her arms in defense squealing in pain when she feels the skin on her arms burn and strip away before going numb.
"Lucy life gauge: Zero percent."
"Lucy!" Marucho cries out with worry and runs to her side just in time to catch her from falling over. Marucho gently lowers her to the ground and speaks softly. "We're going to get you help, okay?"
Lucy barely registers the sentence. "Harpus," she croaks. "Is she okay?"
"Lucy, your arms are covered in third degree burns."
"Is she okay?" Lucy demands a little stronger.
"I'm okay," Harpus whispers soothingly and crouches on Lucy's other side back in her Aquarius guise.
"Good," Lucy mumbles. "Sorry I lost us the match." Her head tilts to look at Marucho. "Guess you'll have to find somebody else."
"Don't worry about that right now. Just relax. Get us out of here," Marucho yells, Lucy feels the ground rumble and her ears pound at the resounding roar of a large beast.
Thank you if you stuck around until the end. I have the first five chapters typed already and now it's just a matter of editing the 17k or so words I have on file. Did you like it? if so subscribe and follow for future content. Don't forget to leave a review or lob some constructive criticism my way. Thanks fo reading. Until next time.