"I knew it as destiny, and at the same time as a choice."

-Jeanette Winterson

Chapter Thirteen

The Past

The forest around Cattail Valley was silent. Not even the birds were singing. The air was brimming with tension. The horrors which had happened in this place had stained the natural energies, the demonic aura tainting and corrupting the flora.

Trees were marked by blackened veins, grass and flowers wilted and a faint smell of sulphur permeated the whole woodland.

Even someone without magic containers, who had no sense for anything even remotely magical, would be able to feel the grief that this place carried. The once lush greenery had been drenched in the blood and the agony of the innocents.

An unwilling sacrifice to a dark force - the very opposite of life itself. Mother nature itself was weeping for the murders that had happened on her ground.

This haunting feeling had been in this forest for weeks now. Today the dark atmosphere was disturbed though.

A light was forcing its way through the murkiness. A warmth that whispered of life and love. Like shooting stars guiding the way through the darkness towards safety.

This new energy was pulsing throughout the forest, carrying the righteous fury of its origin to the very edges of the foliage.

A promise of retribution.

The dense forest only allowed for flashes of gold between its blackened leaves. A shimmer of a Maiden who held the power and the anger of the stars which had always guided humanity. The stars which had watched over mankind from afar from the very beginning.

Stars which had stood against the forces of hell, who had wrought a war fiercer than any other, past, present or future. A war to save the fledgling mankind from annihilation.

These stars had seen empires rise and fall, endured enslavement by the very creatures they swore to protect, who they had bled for.

The same as the creatures now attempting to bring back one of their most ancient enemies. The ancient war had cost them much of their power, only their spirit bodies left behind, unable to survive on Earthland.

They couldn't wage the same war again. The stars would undoubtedly lose this time. And life would be snuffed out.

The stars weren't worried though. For their very own champion, their chosen, their friend, their princess was advancing through the scarred forest.

A Starry Maiden painted in gold. A young woman still unaware of the ancient power lying within her, of the war and her role ahead of her. She wouldn't be for a few years. The stars knew it though. As did the ancient enemy, lurking so close to the surface in this defiled ritualistic place.

The stars had lost much of their power. The thirteen generals only husks of their original glory, their king unable to raise worlds and rip them apart, their queen lost for so long.

Their nemesis gathering their strength in secret, waiting for their chance to break free and bring carnage and end life. The forces of hell had been patient. And they would rise again, renewing the ancient war between life and death, light and dark.

Still, the stars weren't worried. For they had the woman who would lead them. The woman who would lead mankind's final stand. The woman who had loved and lost, who had been raised to be an empress, but ran to be a hero.

No, the stars weren't worried. For they had Lucy Heartfillia.

As soon as Lucy had recovered from her battle and felt her magic containers filled to the brim, she left for the forest.

Walking straight into enemy territory with no prior knowledge of neither the area nor the enemy was not a good idea. At all. It was Natsu level recklessness and the complete opposite of Lucy.

However, despite it being two days after the fight, after the slaughter, her fury was burning even hotter than before. Besides, she was a member of team Natsu as well.

And there was something inside of her, an undefinable feeling, that told her it was alright. That this was what she was meant to do. Stop these lunatics and hold her head high while doing it.

Lucy could feel her power simmering underneath her skin. It was pulsating with a ferocity she hadn't ever felt before. Looking back, she would realize that on that day, she had for the first time merged her two sides fully.

Lucy Heartfillia, the calculating, calm and collected heiress, who had taken down generals with mere words and Lucy of Fairy Tail, the mage who ran into danger to save those who couldn't fight themselves.

Jura who had always observed her from afar would later say that this was the Starry Maiden. Not just the hint Dasa and himself had seen during their fight, or the flashes of it during her spar with Laxus. No, this was the full-fledged version. A woman confident in herself and her skill, who didn't fear death if it meant saving the innocent. Someone who knew their flaws and knew how to turn them into an advantage. A true ruler.

Since Lucy didn't bother to hide her presence or the magic wafting softly around her, the enemy was well aware of her approach.

The blonde broke through the trees into a giant clearing, a monolith made from pure obsidian perched in the middle, runes burnt into the ground around it. Red cloaked individuals bowing and prying to the monolith and the burnished golden basin on the ground at the feet of the black giant.

The crimson liquid stinging her nose with its metallic smell. Lucy remained at the edge of the clearing, her brown eyes hard and cold as she took in the thirty cultists before her. They weren't moving, only remaining kneeling towards the monolith.

It was then that Lucy heard it. It was accompanied by a sickly yellow, pulsating light from the black monument. The voice spoke directly into her mind, and judging by the stiffening of the robed people, theirs as well.

A voice that sounded like a metal claymore being dragged over stone, a horrible screeching echoing with the deep rasping of the speaker. It made her hairs stand up and cold sweat break out.

She wasn't scared of the people in front of her, nor of the battle she would be fighting right now, but the voice terrified her. It caused every instance she had ever felt scared to repeat in her mind, all the panic melding together, snatching her breath away, speeding up her heartrate.

The voice was the most horrific thing Lucy had ever heard, and she was never able to accurately retell just how it made her feel. Only that it was fear personified.

Lucy forced herself to breathe normally, even as the fear rooted her in place, making her unable to reach for her keys or weapons.

"Kill her."

And the cultists leapt into action.

Lucy barely had time to leap away from her attackers. One of them grazed her right shoulder with his jagged blade. Blood was pouring from the frazzled wound, a numbing pain spreading towards her fingers.

The celestial mage used her left hand to grasp two keys. Without the usual incantation she called forth Virgo and Lupus. The maid immediately started bandaging her wound, while the giant blackish purple wolf leapt into action.

Lupus was easily the size of a grown bull, her fur flowing in unseen wind, the countless silver stars speckling her body shining brilliantly. Her mismatched eyes only held disgust for the thirty foes. Silver and gold gleaming at them.

Sharp teeth snapped at whatever limb got into range, and one cultist screamed in agony as his left leg was ripped from his body. Aside from superb tracking and monstrous strength, Lupus was not quite tangible. Whenever one of them attacked her, she would phase out of existence, avoiding their strikes.

The wolf was an incredibly powerful spirit, even with a weak master. And Lucy was anything but. Her available time was severely limited though. Lucy could already feel the time limit approaching for the wolf summon.

Her arm now rudimentary fixed, she sent Virgo towards the attackers, having her trap them in Spica locks and burying them underneath boulders. The Maiden was handling five of them at once, leaving her master with the remaining ones.

Lucy dismissed Lupus and instead summoned Scorpio and Gemini. Upon emerging from their gates, the twins took the form of Bisca, aiming at the enemy from a distance and providing back up for the rest.

Scorpio flicked his tail, creating a massive sand tornado. Its force was so massive, that the unlucky cultist close to it got his ribs crushed. Lucy herself unfurled her whip, snatching up charging enemies and throwing them into the giant sand vortex.

Her magic was starting to deplete massively, as she kept fuelling her spirits to give power to their devastation. The enemy was throwing projectiles at them with telekinesis. Those who were close enough slashed at them with jagged bladed daggers.

Once of them managed to get Gemini at the same time as another reached Virgo, sending both spirits back into the spirit world.

Scorpio moved closer to Lucy, now that Gemi-Bisca was gone, her back was vulnerable. The scorpions focus was on his vortex though, slowing down his movements. He was not in time to intercept the woman leaping at the blonde.

Lucy cried out in pain when she felt a blade dig into her lower back. Her knees buckled and she lost her grip on her special dagger, the blade returning from a fleuret back to its normal form, the golden glow disappearing.

Instinctively Lucy reached out for Scorpios power. Her attacker saw the symbol flare up above her wound, before sand exploded from the ground, slamming into the woman.

The celestial mage was still on her knees, clutching at her wound, trying to stop the blood. The pain from her arm was still limiting her movement and now she felt cold seep into her body as she took ragged breaths.

She had been pouring so much magic into her spirits and her defence just now had drained her almost completely. Lucy couldn't stop Scorpio from being forced back into the spirit world as he shielded her from another attack.

Her blonde hair stuck to her sweaty face as she glanced towards the remaining enemies. Of the thirty only ten or so remained. Before she could summon another spirit, a searing hot fireball exploded right next to her, burning her pants and blistering the skin underneath.

Another scream bubbled from her throat as she forced her aching muscles to leap aside. She didn't have the control to land properly anymore, and skidded across the ground, scraping open her unburnt side.

In that moment, ice cold fear gripped her heart. She was out of magic, her body was hurt badly and she couldn't even flick her whip anymore. She was going to die here, and this wretched cult would continue to murder people in order to bring back their master.

Lucy could only imagine the horrors this demon would bring once freed. She wasn't scared of dying. No, she was scared of what it would mean. Would her spirits end up enslaved under a cruel master? Would the town be decimated? How would her family feel? It would kill her father. And Ultear and Meredy. And Laxus ...

She didn't want to die. She didn't want to leave them behind. She didn't want to die before telling him what she felt for him. Lucy didn't want to die here, to lose to these maniacs.

The man who had sent the fireball stepped forward. He was no ordinary cultist. He was clearly the same as Dasa. Even with her wavering focus, Lucy could sense his immense power. The rest around him were small fry. Lucy only had the strength to summon one more spirit. It had to be one who could devastate whole areas. Who could fight against hell fire?

The only one capable would be Aquarius. However, there was no water for Lucy to summon the mermaid. Brown eyes caught a glimpse of red. Beside the injured woman was the sacrificial blood. Her mind stalled for a moment. Blood was a liquid, right?

Aquarius would murder her. She would go berserk if summoned in actual blood. "Brat. I don't fucking care. If you don't summon me, you are dead meat. And if me being summoned will avenge the murdered, then I'll raise em' hell."

A newfound determination filled Lucy, forcing back the pain, and bringing back focus to her vision. She unhooked the key and crawled backwards, away from the slowly advancing cultists.

"Is the little Fairy done for? No more magic left? No more stars to call?" The bald man in the middle who was playing with another fireball in his hands was laughing evilly. His little friends cackled in response.

Lucy grit her teeth as she fought through the agony of lifting her arm. "Hasn't anyone ever told you that Fairy Tail doesn't know the meaning of giving up?" With a last effort she plunged the key into the dark blood.


Golden light exploded from the bowl, sending the blood flying in all directions, drenching the people and the ground. Everyone had to shield their eyes from the blinding light.

As it receded the blue mermaid floated proudly in the air, the blood from which she had been summoned dripping from her fin. Her eyes were cruel and cold. She spared a quick glance at her summoner. Lucy was dangerously pale, but her brown eyes were alert and focused. Slightly stained gold.

"Make them pay, Aqua." The mermaid grinned ferally at the order. "With pleasure, Lucy."

She raised her silver urn and before even one of the robes could react, a tidal wave of water shot out, extinguishing the hell fire launched at her, sweeping all of them off their feet.

Aquarius directed the water off the ground into a floating sphere with the fanatics trapped inside, the immense pressure forcing them to remain inside of it. The water was so filled with celestial magic that none of the contaminated cultists could call on their own magic.

It took only seconds for the magically charged sphere to choke them unconscious. Aquarius sensed the exhaustion of Lucy and dismissed herself. The water splashed back on the earth, the cultists making an uncomfortable splat sound.

Lucy breathed heavily, magical exhaustion and blood loss taking their toll on her. She wasn't done yet though. She knew Jura would be kind enough to round up the defeated opponents. If they were still alive. Lucy didn't know and to her dismay, didn't care either. No, her final mission was something she knew deep inside.

She pulled herself back up. Her legs shaking and giving out underneath her several times before she managed to remain upright. Swaying she approached the monolith, that was still pulsating a sickly yellow light.

Lucy stumbled, but managed to catch herself before falling down again. She forced herself to move through the haze in her brain towards the monument. She couldn't hear the voice anymore, but she knew that its owner was still watching her. This obsidian being the gate for it.

Panting heavily, she glared at the smooth surface. She clenched her fist, ignoring the sharp pain. With a last effort she reached deep inside herself and pulled out the last slivers of magic and power she had left.

Give me your strength, my friends. She whispered a prayer in her mind. Her eyes fully turned golden, her spirits connecting with her through her bond, their love manifesting in golden and silver wisps around her.

Wind was picking up around her, whipping her hair around violently. She raised her fist, the symbol of Taurus gleaming prominently on it. And with a crushing force she rammed it into the monolith, pouring all her energy and magic in.

Cracks formed, starting under her fist and crawled over the whole obsidian. With a screeching noise of despair, that was heard even in the next cities, the monolith crumbled into pieces, the unholy magic inside of it dissipating and vanishing from Earthland.

Lucy let herself smile in triumph before she collapsed to the ground. Before she hit her head, arms caught her and gently picked her up.

The last thing she heard was Jura congratulating her.

The doctor in Cattail Valley was able to fix Lucy up good. She would have scars from where the blades cut her, but she was willing to wear them proudly. They would always remind her of the feat she achieved, and the lives lost.

Jura had informed her that all of the cultists ended up dying. Apparently, their magic containers were so corrupted with demonic energy, that the heavy exposure to the pure light of celestial magic was too much for their bodies to handle.

Lucy felt guilty for not feeling guilty about their deaths. She wondered if she had become cold hearted. She hadn't said anything about it to the wizard saint, but when he left two days after the fight to inform Macao about his verdict, he had put his hand on her shoulder and stared into her eyes full of compassion. He hadn't said anything, but he didn't need to.

His eyes had said it all. He was proud of her, that she had done good and nothing wrong. That these deaths were inevitable and that it was okay if she didn't feel guilty about it.

Lucy herself remained in the town for a whole week, the villagers were hailing her as a hero. When she was cleared by the doctor, they threw a feast in her honour and revealed to her, that they were planning on erecting a statue for her.

The blonde woman was completely flustered and tried to deflect their praises, saying that she only did what anyone else would have done. In truth, she felt undeserving of their thanks. Yes, she had ended the cults reign of terror and saved many lives, but the ones she couldn't save from Dasa were still weighing heavily on her mind.

The town didn't pay any mind to her polite disagreements. To them, the Starry Maiden of Fairy Tail would always be their hero. Their saint patron. Lucy wanted to get away from this mayhem and go back home. She missed her apartment, her friends and most importantly, she missed Laxus.

Back when she wasn't sure if she was going to make it out, when she could feel her blood pouring out of her, the enemy gloating and advancing, she could only think of him. She saw his scarred face and heard his rough voice.

As Lucy watched the town light lanterns and put them on the water for the memorial service, she let her thoughts once again wander to the lightning slayer.

The past few days had made it painfully clear to Lucy that she wasn't just crushing on him. That she was truly in love. That Laxus was the man she wanted to spend the rest of her life with.

Could she tell him that though? Lucy felt anxiety gnaw in her belly. What if he didn't feel the same? She couldn't lose him as a friend. A sharp pain in her head distracted her momentarily.

Even though she was blocking her spirits currently, they were still aware of her inner turmoil and made their displeasure clear. Via pain. Lucy smiled and shook her head.

She just stopped some madmen from resurrecting a dangerous demon, she fought a battle for her life and the life of many innocents. She had gotten her very own moniker. Lucy was more than capable of telling Laxus Dreyar that she loved him. And if he didn't feel the same? Well she just had to change his mind then.

When Lucy opened the large oak doors of the guild, she was immediately assaulted by yells, cheers and screams. Before she could react, she was tackled to the ground by a pink blur.

Lucy fell on her rear as Meredy clutched her shirt and sobbed into her chest. Her brown eyes softened, and she gently patted the cotton candy hair. Ultear fell to her knees next to her and hugged her tightly, followed by Bisca.

"Jura told us everything. We are so sorry you had to go through all that." Ultear's eyes showed an old pain, no doubt remembering her own time as a power-hungry mad woman.

"He said you were fine, but I was still so worried!" Meredy wailed at her. Lucy only chuckled sadly.

"I am fine guys. Really! I promise!" Despite continued assurances from the blonde, it took several minutes until she could disentangle herself from the pile and approach Macao.

Jura had already left for home and Lucy was a bit sad she didn't see him, but the fatherly look on Macao's face made it okay.

The master put his hands on her shoulders, his eyes shining with pride. He smiled gently at her.

"Lucy, we are so, so proud of you. Jura told us everything and how impressed he was. It is my great honour as the fourth guild master of Fairy Tail, to bestow you, Lucy Heartfillia, celestial mage of our guild, the title of S-Class!"

The applause was deafening. Everyone whooped and cheered and a giant party started. Lucy felt numb. Yes, this had been the goal, but actually having the title given to her? And spoken with so much pride? It was overwhelming.

She was still in a daze when Laxus approached her. His stormy grey eyes were soft as he hugged her, more gently than ever before. His voice was low as he whispered: "You did good, Starry Maiden."

Hearing her new moniker from him was almost too much for her. Lucy finally split into a wide grin and she hugged him back.

She inhaled his smell of rain and ozone and felt her heart do looping's. She wanted nothing more than to kiss him. But they were in the guild hall, with everyone else around them. Her birthday had been something different, she couldn't just do that. She would have to wait for a more fitting situation.

"Princess. I doubt anyone would care. Forgive me my choice of words but, just fucking get on with it." Lucy's eyes grew to the size of saucers when she heard Virgo in her mind.

Laxus had already let go of her and was walking away towards the bar. Lucy stood there frozen. Her mind was going into overdrive, her heart beating madly. She loved him. She knew that. And unless her people skills had suddenly turned into goop, he felt something for her too. Lucy remembered the fear she felt when she lay on the battlefield, broken and feeling death close in. How his face had been what she kept seeing in her mind.

She took a deep breath and took large steps to catch up with him. "Laxus!" She shouted at him, making him turn in confusion. "Blondie, wha-"

His question was cut off when the woman yanked on his shirt, pulling him down to her and pressing her lips to his. Laxus froze for a millisecond, before his eyes fell shut and he grabbed her waist, pulling her closer to him, answering her kiss hungrily.

Lucy sighed contently, and Laxus deepened their kiss, turning it into a blaze of passion. The guild was shell shocked. You could hear a pin drop.

Droy had a chicken leg hanging from his mouth and Wakaba was frozen in midmotion, pouring his beer on the counter instead of his mug.

The two blondes in the middle didn't notice nor did they care. When they finally came apart, they still didn't pay any attention to their surroundings.

Laxus only had eyes for the woman in front of him. He took her face in his hands, caressing her cheeks with his thumbs. His eyes were full of love and desire, but also with confusion.

"Lucy, what was that for?" His voice was soft, sounding more vulnerable than it ever had before. His own heart was matching the wild beating of the celestial mage's. Lucy couldn't stop herself blushing, but didn't avert her eyes. Instead she held his gaze, with just as much desire and love as him.

"I almost died. And I realised that I don't want to live without you. Because I am in love with you, Laxus Dreyar and I won't waste any time, knowing that it could be taken from us at any moment."

The stoic man was gaping at her. She had just confessed to him. Lucy Heartfillia, the light of the guild, the former heiress, the newest S-Class mage, had just in front of the whole guild declared her love for him, the delinquent and former villain. He wasn't good at feelings. But his whole being was screaming at him to answer her. To tell her his own feelings, onlookers be damned.

Laxus was good at following his instinct. Not good at words though. So, his reaction was to kiss her again, clutching her close before breaking the kiss and saying: "Same." Before kissing her again.

Later on, the guild would make fun of the most unromantic confession of all time, saying that Laxus set a record there, but to Lucy it was enough. She knew what he meant. Because she knew him.

The others might make fun of it, but they too, knew what he meant. That Laxus also loved her. That's why they didn't interrupt them and why no one stopped the two from leaving.

Or, why no one batted an eye when neither came back for that day or the day after. Or, why no one commented when they did return the day after tomorrow, his arm around her shoulder, both of them sporting hickeys and Lucy with a distinct limp.

They didn't tease or holler. At least not for the first twenty minutes.

Macao just sat at the bar, grinning widely. Those two finally got their shit together. He was happy for them. And even happier for the Jewels he had earned by betting on those two getting in a relationship.

The Present

When the Dreyar family arrived several hours later at the guild, the parents where utterly exhausted. Nadiya was still on her sugar high and showed no signs of slowing down. Layla was just confused at it all. Her sister was slightly terrifying her, Makarov had practically vanished and her parents almost broke down crying. Twice. Her young mind just couldn't comprehend.

Most guild members picked up on the miserable aura of the family and steered clear of them. Jet and Droy actually leapt under a table.

Natsu, Gray and Gajeel found it utterly hilarious. And laughed out loud at the dishevelled look Lucy and Laxus were sporting. "Come on, Bunny girl. How bad can a four-year-old be? Just play with her and wear her out." The other two agreed with Gajeel.

Mira stood next to Lisanna and smiled serenely at the scene. This was going to be fun. Elfman had a slightly more pessimistic outlook.

He was inching away from the dark aura building around the celestial mage. Levy just shook her head and Happy started a eulogy for the three idiots.

Lucy grabbed Nadiya's hand, the girl momentarily startled out of her hyperactivity at her mothers' anger and annoyance practically taking physical form.

The blonde pulled her daughter to the three cackling guys and deposited her on the table. Their laughter got stuck in their throats at the scathing look she was giving them. Lucy smiled sweetly at them and then addressed her daughter.

"Nadiya, love. Today you will play with your uncles Gray, Natsu and Gajeel. They will be responsible for anything you do today and won't let you out of their sight unless they want to deal with me. If you need something, just tell them." The little girl got an unholy gleam in her eyes. How does a four-year-old even look like that?! (Gray was terrified of the kid).

The guild collectively held their breath. Gajeel started to protest. "Bunny Girl, I won't look after your hell spawn!" He wanted to say more, but the withering glare she gave him put Erza's to shame and he just nodded as he was cowed into submission.

"You better take her to the park. We wouldn't want you to try and pawn her off to someone else in the guild." With those words she sent a wave of magic pressure at them, which had Gray grab the little girl and sent the group running out of the building in record time.

Lucy went back to her husband and collapsed on the bench next to him. She was exhausted. Laxus shook his head in amusement. "She will traumatise them, you know, that right?" The look she gave him was answer enough.

Panic. That was what the three men felt as they stood in the market place, frantically looking around. Their fear riled them up, making them snap at each other.

"What the fuck, Flame brain? How did you lose to a four-year-old?!" It had only been an hour since they had left the guild.

Within this hour Gray had fallen into the canal, three times, Gajeel had gotten his hair singed and Natsu had ended up fighting against Nadiya, and lost.

"Well, Bolt Breath, I want to see you avoid a magic powered headbutt into your crotch!" Natsu was hissing at his fellow slayer from his curled-up position on the ground. Gajeel was about to retort when they heard a kid laughing.

Their heads snapped up towards the sound. "How the fuck did she get on the roof?!" Gray already started jogging towards the building where the little dragon was dancing on. Gajeel on his heels.

"Wait for me!" Natsu wheezed. Her hit was beyond unfair. How did she even know to do that?

At the bar, Meredy sneezed. "Bless you", said Kinana.

Gajeel resorted to turning his arm into a metal pole for Gray to run up to reach the kid. "Gotcha!" He wrangled the little monster and returned to his two current partners.

He put the blonde girl down, but kept a hand on her head, lest she take off again. The little demon was fast as hell.

Natsu was slowly recovering and was now staring at Nadiya. "Um... guys?" His voice still sounded a little whiner than normal.

Gajeel snapped at him. "What?!" Natsu ignored the aggressive guy, keeping his eyes fixed on their little delinquent. "She is wearing different clothes than before." Gray and Gajeel started and stared at the girl.

Indeed, instead of the white t-shirt underneath the red overall she was now wearing a yellow raincoat over it. A coat that was two sizes too big. As the three started to realize the implication of that, a burly man was running towards them, huffing and spitting furiously.

"THIEF! SHE STOLE FROM MY SHOP! YOU ARE GOING TO PAY!" That caused them to rush into action. Gajeel slung Natsu over his shoulder, while Gray ripped the coat off the girl and threw it at the furious man.

Then he picked her up and ran after the other two. "Why the hell did you steal a coat?!" Nadiya just giggled happily.

Just another day in Magnolia.

AN: So sorry for the delay. Seems i finally broke my streak. The upload schedule is now obsolete and you'll just get a chapter when you get a chapter. I managed it longer than i expected.

Anyways, thanks to my beta and i hope you liked the chapter. It kinda sets the mood for the eventual story arc once the past has caught up the the present.

Also, i wanted to ask if you got any coupling wishes. They won't be the focus but they might get adressed or featured. (i already have decided to keep Gajevy and Elfever cause i like those. And obviously Bisca and Alzack. The rest is free game though)