Before you continue to read the new chapter, please spare a moment to mentally thank my beta reader, who has been a huge help to me with the chapter. Thank you soooooo much!
Laxus was strangely at odds with himself. It was the day the council mage was scheduled to arrive. Which was why he, Lucy and the Laytons were currently sitting in the great lounge together and waiting for said mage.
On the bright side, that meant the mission was almost done with and he wouldn't have to suffer Layton's presence for much longer.
On the not so bright side, that meant the mission was almost done with and his one on one time with Pixie was nearing its end. Not only did he feel they had been able to clear up all the misconceptions that had stood between them (and without ever voicing one!), but he had grown very fond of the younger girl in the last two days.
It was almost ridiculous how close the two had grown in such a short amount of time. From her being skittish and insecure in his presence and him feeling guilty and frustrated in hers, to sharing parts of their pasts and secrets with each other that no one else knew about.
The S-class mage looked to his left, where Lucy was sitting beside him on the lavish couch. The younger girl once again had little Nanami on her lap and was making silly faces at the small child. Nanami was laughing and babbling, eating up the attention she was currently being showered with by the celestial spirit wizard. Watching her like this, Laxus felt a fierce protectiveness surge inside of him. He never wanted to see the blonde girl sad or hurt.
Which brought him to the very dark side of the equation. Now that the conclusion of their mission was drawing near, their actual reason for being here was crawling up on him in a most displeasing way. If everything went according to plan, the second generation dragon slayer would have no reason to worry. But if anything went wrong with the sealing ceremony, things could get incredibly dangerous very fast.
Layton had so far been unable to provide them with any information about the demon that was sealed within the books pages. Right now Laxus was hoping that the council sent mage would be able to shed some light on this situation. Knowing what kind of threat he might have to face would certainly ease his nerves just a bit.
However, even with all the information anyone could provide about the demon, he decidedly did not want Pixie anywhere near the crossfire.
He had played with the idea of simply telling her to stay with and guard the mother and daughter during the ceremony. Mr Layton, the prick, had insisted on being present, to make sure his precious book didn't receive any damage. His wife and daughter, however, would be in another part of the mansion. But Laxus had a feeling that stashing Lucy in a safe place wouldn't go over well with her. His protective thoughts came to a halt when Lance entered the room.
"Master Layton, Mistress Layton, the wizard of the council has arrived with the book."
Mr Layton stood up from his seat, clapping his hands together. "Excellent. Send them in please."
The head butler bowed low and turned around to do as he was told. Laxus stood from the couch as well. He wanted to know what he would be facing already and the council mage was the one person that could tell him. Thankfully, it didn't take long for Lance to return with the wizard in tow. The second generation dragon slayer scrutinized the new arrival with a careful eye.
The man looked to be about Laxus age and height, but had a slighter build than the S-class mage. Shoulder length brown hair, neither handsome nor particularly ugly. Apart from the clothes that showed his status as a council member, there was nothing outstanding about the guy.
Laxus tried to get a feel for the kind of magic the man wielded, but the moment the council mage stepped close enough to introduce himself, an evil and malevolent aura nearly overwhelmed his senses. Judging from Lucy's gasp beside him, she could feel it too.
/Damn, this demon must be pretty strong if we can feel him even through the book. Now I really don't want Pixie anywhere near it./
The man carrying said book had meanwhile reached Mr. Layton and shook his hand.
"Good day Sir. I believe you are the fine man who has laid claim upon this book. My name is Leonard Leonard, of the Folkshire Leonards."
While Laxus mentally snorted over the ridiculous name, Layton took it all in stride.
"Quite right. I am Hubert Cornelius Layton, the master of this house. Thank you for safeguarding my property and bringing it here. As you can see, I have followed the Council's instructions and hired an S-class wizard to oversee the procedure."
At this Mr. Layton gestured over to Laxus, who was standing only a few feet away from them. A friendly smile adorned Mr. Leonard's face as he strode forward to greet the other mages in the room.
"Ah yes, of course. I have been looking forward to meeting one of the few famous S-Class wizards this fine land has to offer."
He shook Laxus' hand and politely nodded his head to Lucy, who still held little Nanami in her arms. Laxus used the proximity to get a good look of the book that was the catalyst of all this trouble. The malicious aura he had felt before was even more prominent now that the mage holding the evil thing was so close. The book itself looked nothing special. Just like any other ordinary book you might find in a store. The title confused him though. 'The great manifest of the even greater Sir Imibus Weimar'. What was up with that? The lightning dragon slayer was abruptly ripped out of his thoughts when he was suddenly nose to nose with the other man. He narrowed his eyes.
"Is there a problem?"
He had asked that in a tone that left no doubt that this wasn't actually a question, but a warning to back the fuck off. Laxus didn't like his personal space being invaded by anyone. There were few exceptions, of which Lucy was a recent addition, but some guy that he had met for all of thirty seconds did definitely not fall under those. Thankfully, the council mage heeded the subtle warning and took a step back. Much to Laxus annoyance however, the guy was still eying him closely and he had yet to let go of the handshake.
"So, you are the S-class wizard. May I ask for your name?"
The blond contemplated just breaking the other wizards hand in order for him to let go, but that action might have some unpleasant repercussions. So, hoping the man would let go of his hand already and gain some more distance if the introductions were done and over with, Laxus bit out the words sharply.
"I'm Laxus Dreyar. This is my partner, Lucy Heartfilia. We are from the Fairy Tail guild."
There was something greatly disturbing about the way the other mage continued looking him up and down.
/He reminds me of Freed. Just more creepy./
"My, my, what an outstanding example of magical and physical power you represent, Mr Dreyar. So it is correct what they say, S-class mages truly are worthy of admiration."
Laxus eyebrow started twitching. /What the hell is wrong with that guy? If he doesn't let go of my hand I WILL crush his fingers, consequences be dammed!/
Fortunately for the council mage, Lucy chose that moment to come to the rescue.
"So Mr. Leonard... I'm sorry I mean no disrespect, but is that your last name or your first?"
As if only now remembering that there were other people in the room as well, the man looked to Lucy and finally, much to Laxus relief, let go of the prolonged handshake.
"It is both, actually. Do not worry, you are not the first one to wonder about that. I believe it is quite uncommon to have the same first as last name. Now, what was your question, young lady?"
Lucy smiled at the man. Aside from the uncomfortable aura that was wrapped around him due to the demon possessing book, the council mage seemed friendly enough. She hitched Nanami a little higher on her hips and stood up.
"Can you tell us anything about the demon sealed in this book?"
The man's eyes practically lit up at that. "But of course! You know, Demonology has always been a highly interesting subject to me. They are terribly intriguing creatures indeed and this particular demon is undeniably one of a kind, so I'm more than happy to sate your thirst for knowledge."
Though that was hardly the reason why Lucy had inquired about the sealed demon, she did admire his obvious passion for his field of work.
"You see, the demon has wandered these lands for many decades and was known under many names. The most common and fear inducing one though was 'Drazsur', which is old Lyran for 'The one who devours souls'. A fitting description, although not completely accurate."
Lucy's eyes widened slightly as Mr Leonard mentioned the dead language. Lyran was an ancient language that no one really knew how to pronounce anymore. It was still around, mostly in historical texts and very old magic spells, but only few people remained who could even read the language, and they became rarer as the years progressed. Lucy herself knew only a few words, as the language had been part of her cultural studies. If the demon had been known under a Lyran name, then he must be very old indeed. Wanting to learn more about the demon, she focused her attention back on Mr. Leonard. There was a strange look in his eyes as he seemingly stared at nothing. When, after almost a minute, he still hadn't picked his story back up, Lucy took a careful step closer.
"Mr. Leonard? Is everything…alright?"
He quickly fixed his gaze back on hers. "Why, yes, of course. Why wouldn't it be?"
The pretty celestial spirit mage raised an eyebrow at the man who acted like he hadn't just been staring into space for no reason.
/Oh well, it's not like he is the strangest guy I have come across since joining Fairy Tail./
"You said the meaning of the demons name wasn't completely accurate. Does that mean he didn't devour souls?"
"Oh, no, he most certainly did. But to just call him a devourer of souls would not do him justice! Any lower demon could feast on human souls. Drazsur took it to a whole new level. In fact, he made it into a form of art."
Leonard's eyes began to sparkle as he launched further into his explanation. "You see, first of all Drazsur's preferred victims were wizards. He only preyed on the weak, non-magical humans if nothing more worthy was in his reach."
Lucy nervously distanced herself and Nanami from the council mage again. He was a little too eager in praising this evil demon for her taste.
/Still, not the strangest person I have met since joining Fairy Tail./
Leonard never noticed her careful step backwards and just kept talking. "And when he found a wizard to his liking, he wouldn't just kill them and eat their essence. Such simplistic actions were beneath him. He would first take possession of them. Get inside their minds and control them."
Laxus cut in there, curious. "Control them? You mean this demon is able to possess another living body?"
"Not just their body, but their whole being. Once Drazsur had entered their bodies, he knew everything about them. Their memories, their feelings, their magic. It was all his. And he used his acquired shell freely. He would use the wizard's guise for days, sometimes weeks, and commit the most heinous of crimes. He would use their memories and feelings against them, killing their loved ones with their own two hands to torture their conscious minds into submission."
While Lucy looked horrified at the wizard, clutching Nanami to her, Laxus addressed the Mr. Leonard once more.
"Why would he need to? Why not just devour the souls of the bodies he possessed right after? Wouldn't possessing them for such a long time increase the chances of being discovered by other mages?"
The man nodded, looking almost sad. "It was indeed a great risk to remain in the borrowed bodies. Unfortunately, Drazsur had no choice in the matter. Though a powerful demon, he had a debilitating weakness. You see, he had no solid form of his own and was therefore dependent of the shells he possessed to live. The human soul was his sustenance, the source that kept him alive and powerful enough to possess another person. But as soon as the soul was devoured, the body would die and wither away. That meant that before devouring the soul of the body he inhabited, he needed to be in reach of his next victim."
Lucy was beginning to put the pieces together. "So that was why he preferred to prey on wizards. With their magical abilities he was strong enough to fight off those that were on to him and search out his next victim."
Leonard gave her a smile, like he was proud that she was able to understand the demons mindset.
"Quite right. The stronger the person he possessed was, the longer he was able to hold onto his temporary shell. Had he just devoured normal human souls, he would have had to change bodies far more frequently than he did with wizards, and would have left a very obvious trail in his wake for the hunters of his kind to follow."
"Wasn't it just as obvious for him to use the mages he possessed and rain havoc with their power? I would believe a wizard who suddenly snaps and kills the people around him would be a dead giveaway." Laxus inquired.
"Partly. Again, Drazsur had no choice but to, as you put it, 'rain havoc' with the wizard's powers and kill those close to him. Where the soul of a normal human was child's play to consume, a magical being like a wizard needed a little more effort. A wizard's soul is empowered by their magic and as long as their will was strong, it wasn't possible for Drazsur to devour their soul, no matter that he held complete control over them. Which is why they had to be broken. And what better way to break someone, than to make him the murderer of his loved ones? Drazsur was able to imitate the person he had possessed perfectly and was very discreet about his torture of the soul within. And, as stated before, even if a hunter found him out, with a strong enough wizard under his control, the demon stood a good chance of defeating them."
Lucy had come to stand next to Laxus, hoping to gain some comfort from the closeness as the topic of conversation had turned out to be very upsetting to her.
"How did they manage to seal him then? You make it sound like he was invincible." /And like you are his number one fan! Though I guess I have no room to pass judgment, seeing how I always get totally caught up in raving about literature and all. But at least the authors I fangirl about aren't responsible for mass slaughter. Oh well, he is still not the strangest person I have met since joining Fairy Tail. I wonder if that is a good or a bad thing./
While Lucy still contemplated her thoughts, Leonard answered her question with a small sigh.
"Almost. In the end, it came down to pure luck. Drazsur was inhabiting the body of a female wizard at the time, when he came upon another, more powerful wizard. Sir Imibus Weimar was his name. The other wizard had taken a liking to Drazsur's female host, which made it easy for him to lure Weimar to a secluded place in order to switch bodies. Drazsur's downfall came in the fact that he was only able to measure a wizard's power, not their type of magic. You see, Sir Weimar was a Seith mage. That is a wizard who-"
Laxus interrupted rather rudely. "We are very aware of what a Seith mage can do."
Like he needed anyone telling him about the abilities of one of his teammates. He also wanted to speed Leonard's explanation up a bit, sensing how uncomfortable Lucy was with the topic. He laid a hand on her shoulder and rubbed it reassuringly.
Though visibly unhappy at being interrupted, the council mage went on. "Going on then, Weimar was able to redirect Drazsur's attempt to take possession of his body and instead trapped him in his journal, which he had on him all the time. He was a rather pompous man with the delusion that anyone would care for the things he wrote down in it and believed himself to one day go down in history. Well, I guess he did, being the one to put an end to one of the greatest demons of that time. Sir Weimar's magic, and therefore his seal was quite strong back then, but over the many years, it has weakened. As I'm pretty sure both of you can feel." He shot a look to both Fairy Tail mages, who simply nodded, then went on. "Right now it would probably be enough to just open the book at the right page to release the demon. We were incredibly fortunate that you found it before anything disastrous could happen, Mr. Layton."
He nodded his head in an appreciative gesture to Mr. Layton, who had almost been forgotten during the long explanation. Now that the attention was once again on him, however, Layton wasted no time.
"Quite right, then maybe we should now proceed to the sealing ceremony. As interesting as this little history lesson has been, I would like to add my book to the library before a soul eating demon breaks out of it."
"Of course Mr. Layton. Please, lead the way."
While the two men started for the room where the ceremony would take place, Laxus watched as Lucy went over to hand the little girl to her mother, giving her friend some final instructions not to leave the room until one of them came back to give the all-clear. After everything they had just learned about this demon, he really didn't want Lucy near it.
"You know, Lucy, maybe you should-" He didn't get any farther.
"Nope. I'm coming with you."
"You don't even know what I was going to say!"
But the younger girl just shook her head and started in the direction Leonard and Layton had exited the room
"You were going to tell me to stay with Celia and Nanami. That's not gonna happen. We are here because I wanted to take this mission, so I'm going to help in any way I can. Even if all that means is getting Celia's husband to safety should anything go wrong."
When it looked like Laxus was going to try another argument, Lucy stopped walking and smiled at him.
"I know you are just worrying about me, and I appreciate the concern. But I know nothing bad is going to happen to me or anyone else here. You won't let it."
And with that she just went out of the door. Laxus wanted to be frustrated with having lost the argument, but that was rather hard, seeing as he was so fucking proud that Lucy had such trust in him.
/Damn Pixie, that was cheating./
He smiled, then followed after her.
Back in Magnolia, the youngest Strauss sibling had just dragged her pink headed childhood friend into the back room of the guild and closed the door behind them.
"Alright Natsu, just what is going on here?"
Natsu gave the slightly shorter girl in front of him an annoyed glare.
"Nothing is going on! Apart from you ruining my chances to find out where Laxus took Lucy! The setup was perfect, why did you have to stop me? Those jerks aren't going to fall for the same trick twice – well, maybe the icy bastard – and now what am I gonna do to get the mission log book?!"
He was pacing, frustrated with the turn of events. Lisanna shook her head, sighing and just as frustrated with her best friends' behavior.
"Why do you need to go after Lucy so badly anyway?"
The fire dragon slayer looked at the white haired girl as if she had just asked him why he liked fire so much.
"Because she is my partner, duh. We are supposed to do missions together!"
"So? Happy is your partner as well, right? Yet you didn't mind when he went on that mission with Wendy and Erza."
"That's different! He had Erza with them to take care of anything too dangerous! Lucy is out there on an S-class mission!"
"And Lucy has Laxus there with her. Do you honestly think he would let her get hurt?"
"Of course not! Laxus wouldn't do something like that! Why would you say that?!"
"Then do you think Lucy can't take care of herself?"
Now Natsu looked actually offended. "The hell! Lucy is plenty strong! And smart! And whoever says otherwise is a moron!"
The discussion had been getting more and more heated, both friends agitated by what was being said.
"So if you believe in Lucy's ability to take care of herself and trust that Laxus will keep her safe if need be, then why in Mavis' name do you insist on going after them?!"
"I DON'T KNOW!"
Shocked at Natsu's shouted reply, Lisanna stood stock still and watched the young man pace a little more in front of her, in an obvious effort to regain some calm.
"I don't know. I just... I feel like..." He was running both of his hands through his hair, frustrated with being unable to voice something he didn't understand himself.
Lisanna looked closely at her longtime friend. "You feel what?"
She had grown up with Natsu and knew better than most that the fire maniac could be quite perceptive. It was one of the reasons why she knew that he was planning something when Natsu came over to their table and sold her brother that story about his 'little manhood'.
Natsu might be a little more... simple minded when it came to certain things than others his age, but Lisanna knew that her childhood friend was not as dense or innocent as many perceived him to be. He grew up in a guild full of perverts, he would have had to be brain damaged to not know what innuendo was. So yes, Natsu could be quite perceptive when he wanted to be, but sometimes one had to poke around and prod him a bit for him to get to the bottom of things. Especially when it concerned his own feelings.
"I don't know... like, it's not enough!"
She took a step closer to the still pacing dragon slayer. "What is not enough?"
And as if he was finally fed up with keeping all the insanely contradicting thoughts that had been going through his head for far too long now, it all came out in one big, convoluted mass.
"Lucy! She is my best friend, and my partner, and her bed is the best, and going on missions with her is the greatest, but it's not enough! It feels like... I don't know... Like I need to be closer... WE need to be closer. But we are already close! I break into her apartment all the time – and yeah, sure, she yells at me for that, but she never locks her window -, and she cooks for Happy and me – she isn't as good as Mira, but I still like it. And so what if she screams like a banshee and kicks me out of her bed every morning, I know she likes it when I sleep with her because she always crawls closer to me in her sleep! And sometimes she drags me to go shopping with her and carry her bags as a punishment for 'invading her privacy' and it's boring as hell waiting for her to find some fancy dress that's probably gonna get shredded in our next mission, but even though it's boring, I don't mind one bit. And yet I still feel like it's not enough and like there should be more and now she is gone on some crazy mission with the stupid lightning freak and its driving me fucking nuts!"
The youngest take over mage looked at her friend with wide eyes.
/Wow, that must have been festering inside of him for quite a while. It's a wonder he hasn't accidentally burned down the whole guild with how confused he is. I think he knows what it is that he wants 'more' on a subconscious level, he just hasn't been able to consciously understand it yet. Well, I think I know how to help him/
Natsu was actually breathing hard, as if finally letting everything out had been physically taxing. Lisanna found one of the crates in which her sister kept some of the more expensive wines (cleverly declared as strawberry juice so that the resident drunk doesn't get her hands on it) and sat down on it.
She patted the space beside her for Natsu to sit down, which, after taking a few deep breaths, he did. They were quiet for a few seconds, before Lisanna began to speak.
"Do you remember when we took care of Happy's egg?" Natsu smiled at the memory.
"Yeah. You transformed into this giant bunny thing and made a cave for us."
"We used to go there every day, playing house. You the father, our unborn baby, and me as the mother. Back then I actually though this would one day become reality that I would be your bride when we grew up."
At that Natsu looked decidedly uncomfortable. "Erm, Lisanna, you know-"
"Relax." She laughed. "I said 'back then'. We were just kids, you were my closest friend and I was pretty much hopped up on all the fairy tales Mira used to read to me about first loves and soul mates and princes and princesses who were destined for each other."
Natsu looked at her stunned. "Mira told you those kind of stories? I mean the Mira from before? I mean THAT Mira?!"
She grinned at him. "Quite the shocker, isn't it? My sister has always had a soft spot for romance. Back then it was her best guarded secret."
Natsu still couldn't believe it. The demon Mirajane, a closet romance-lunatic even before her change after her younger sisters 'death'. If only he had known back then, the pranks he could have played on her. Before he could think too deeply about those, Lisanna got back to the previous topic.
"Anyway, even though I imagined us as a couple when I was a kid, I never felt the least bit attracted to you."
"Wow, Lisanna, thanks a lot. Way to tell a guy he is ugly." He pouted.
"Don't give me that. I'm not saying you aren't attractive, I just have never felt attracted to you. I mean, I watched you pee into old Mr. Gatee's petunias, for Mavis sake! I wanted to marry you, but I never pictured kissing you, or other intimate gestures between couples. It just felt, weird, you know?"
"Yeah." Natsu could absolutely agree on that one. Of course he thought Lisanna to be a pretty girl, but he had never seen her in a sexual aspect. Thinking of it right now was awkward as hell. Lisanna just nodded.
"Right. I loved you as my best friend, I still do. I just never loved you as anything more. It took me some time to understand that for the relationship I had set my sights on for the both of us, physical attraction has to play a part as well. The person you love, the one you want to spend the rest of your live with, build a family with that has to be someone you want to touch, and kiss and do many more things with."
Natsu was getting uncomfortable again. This was not the kind of topic he had ever pictured himself having with his childhood friend.
/This must be what it feels like having 'the talk' with your parents or siblings. And I thought the time Macao sat me down with Gray to tell us about the flowers and bees was awkward./
He suddenly realized that Lisanna was looking right at him.
"So, Natsu, tell me. Have you ever thought about doing those things with Lucy?"
He had never in his life felt so hot. His face was burning, as well as the rest of his body.
He had seen her naked before, on several occasions even. Some had been accidental, others... not so much.
He had liked it. Seeing her like that, thinking of her like that, it left a warm, pleasant, but at the same time, thrilling feeling within him.
He had touched her, too. That one time, when the dragons had attacked during the GMG's. When he had covered up her breasts for her. Her naked, warm, soft, big breasts. It was such a short lived contact, before she had kicked him away. Still, he now knew the feeling of her slightly erect nipple against his calloused hand. He had done it again in his dreams that he could hardly remember the next morning, but that suddenly came back to him now. Touched her like that.
Who knows what would have happened if the situation back then hadn't been so dire? If imminent death and destruction hadn't been at the forefront of their minds.
Kissing Lucy. He hadn't done that yet. And now that he thought about it, actually and consciously thought about it, he wanted to. Really much. Very, very much.
Was that it? Was that the 'more' he wanted? Was that what wasn't enough?
Lisanna answered his unasked question in the next moment.
"I think it's not that you need to be closer to Lucy in the sense of following after her and Laxus. I think you want to be closer in another way. What do you think?"
He looked at her for a long time, clarity fighting its way through all his convoluted thoughts and feelings until he could finally formulate a response.
"I think I'm in love with her."
to be continued...
I finally, FINALLY, have found a fanfic I can recommend for you. It's 'Breaking the 4th Wall of Cliche' by halliegirl. The fic actually deals with the problem I continually bitch about. The dreaded, way too overdone, just-can't-understand-why-people-like-it,: 'Lucy get's kicked out of Team Natsu' issue. I was weeping tears of joy when I read it, because so many things that sooooooooo bug me finally get the treatment they deserve. If things went my way, the characters in the fanfic could even be much more cruel about their critique on the awful, painful, good-god-how-I-hate-it: 'Lucy gets kicked out of Team Natsu' issue. There are nights when I dream about controlling the world and banning this type of fiction from the face of the earth. sigh. Such sweet dreams.