Light Casts a Shadow -Part 2-
On top of a writing desk, sitting in a small earthen cup, laid a beautifully handicrafted letter encased in a small envelope. The apartment became less darkened as it emitted a soft glowing light.
Speckles of shining orbs flowed out of the letter and swirled around the room. They split into tinier, azure balls of lights and slowly filled the dark atmosphere like miniature stars. Yukino stopped crying and froze at the sight of the glowing spectacle. She unconsciously touched one of the orbs floating next to her and flinched when it dissolved into the air.
The lights bobbed up and down in the air in two parallel lines, constructing a path towards a plain old writing desk. Confused and a bit surprised, Yukino followed the lights in front of her with her eyes until it suddenly stopped at the glowing letter on the desk. All of her sorrow briefly forgotten for now; she stepped closer and examined the strange object.
She was hesitant at first, and her heart was racing, but curiosity won her over. She opened the envelope to unlock its mysteries.
It was a voice: pure, dreamy, feminine… and soft.
And energy, unlike any she had felt before, flowed through her as she held onto the letter.
Unknown fragments and tiny tidbits started flowing into her head. She saw a collection of memories of a beautiful girl writing letters about her countless adventures at the guild and worries about a little boy, over several months, all in an instant.
Yukino was at a loss for words. "What is this…?"
The writing desk suddenly shook uncontrollably. A myriad of glowing letters burst out of the drawers and swarmed around her. They encased Yukino in a rotating wall of papers before a pillar of light came crashing down on top of her.
A piercing scream escaped from her mouth, surprise and horror, as everything in the apartment vanished.
And all was dark…
It was… quiet.
Yukino slowly forced herself back onto her feet, struggling to take in her surroundings.
Everything around her was white, but she could make out a huge grandiose mansion in the distance.
"Where… am I?"
"The very core of these heartfelt letters."
It was that voice again! Yukino spun around, only to see a very odd sight.
A little girl with short blonde hair, a small pink dress, warm brown eyes and a happy smile. She could only be around 6 or 7 years old, but her eyes shone with the intelligence of the universe.
The little girl giggled.
"Who… or what are you?" Yukino asked, a little bit startled.
The little girl giggled again, "You could say I am a part of Lucy's soul. The most pure part of the body, represented by the most pure and innocent incarnation of her memories. In this case, Lucy, when she was six, before her mother died."
"…Soul?" Yukino was dumbfounded. "So then… you're an angel?"
"Angel? You sure are funny~!" The little girl laughed, "I'm only a small fragment of Lucy Heartfilia's soul. The very essence of purity formed by the strong emotions left in the letters to her deceased mother." The little girl shook her head, "All her memories, joy, lament and emotions in these letters, those are all me. I am Lucy, but I am not."
Yukino only nodded, too amazed for words.
"…You see, the real reason why I brought you here is to ask for your help." The little girl smiled sadly. "In almost all of her letters, Lucy would always ask her mother to watch over Sting and protect him. Lucy's main concern is for Sting to come back home safely, but right now, even as we speak, Sting is in terrible danger."
Yukino's awe quickly faded. Her spine chilled when she recalled Sting's broken state, but what really pulled at her heartstrings was how she couldn't do a single thing to help him. Never before had she ever felt so useless. This was just a lot to take in…
"Sting is in terrible danger?" She asked nervously.
"From Lucy's memory, Sting is a very warm-hearted person, always thinking of others before himself. In reality, he is the White Dragon Slayer… but sometimes even the brightest light can cast the darkest shadow."
"What… do you mean?"
The soul girl waved her hands in the air and a small crystal ball formed in front of her. It floated towards Yukino.
Heavy emotions ran through Yukino's head, yet she could make out the item in the orb. The item, that thing… it was a boy sitting alone in solitude, his lifeless eyes peering straight into the endless dark void. It took her several seconds to realize that she was staring at Sting.
"A large cloud has cast a shadow over his heart." The soul girl explained, "He has already become trapped in the belief that he must never find happiness… but soon the darkness will make him close his heart to the world." The soul girl closed her eyes, "In other words… he will wither away to nothing."
Yukino understood what the soul girl was trying to tell her, but she shook her head at it. This was just a lot to take in. No matter how hard she tried to wish it all away, the expression on her face wasn't one of someone telling a joke.
"Isn't there anything we can do!?" Yukino pleaded, "There has to be some way to save him! Things just can't end like this!"
"…There is a way." A small ball of light formed from the girl's hands. "This will be able to save him, but it will come with a price too great… This is the only solution that I have been able to come up with; however, the choice will be yours to make."
Yukino looked at the ball of light with a tiny sense of hope, "What is it?"
"This is known as a Dragon Lacrima. When absorbed by the body, the bearer will gain incredible power and magic taught by the dragons themselves. However, when used on an already existing dragon slayer, it will further increase his combat capabilities and unlock his inner potential."
"Um… what's so wrong about it?" She pondered, "Won't Sting-sama only benefit from this—?" Yukino froze when she noticed the soul girl's incredibly sad expression. Tears welled up in the girl's eyes.
"This is a very special kind of Dragon Lacrima."
She further explained, trying to hold back her tears.
"The Dragon Lacrima will _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ all of his _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _.
He won't _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ in the end…
It will be as if _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ had never _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _.
If Sting uses this, he will surely be saved."
Yukino fell to her knees in despair. No words could come out of her mouth. All of her hope quickly diminished… What do I do? What should I do!?
He was the first person to call her a friend, and yet… she couldn't do a single thing to help him after all this time. Now she's given the chance to save him, but would this really be the right thing to do? To remove something so precious, how could she do that…?
It's true that this will make Sting go back to normal, but she won't be able to look at him the same way ever again.
One choice will make her a traitor and the other will lead to his own self-destruction.
After all this time, Sting had always been the one protecting her. But this time, she won't be the one hiding, afraid to stand up for herself. Even if he does end up hating her in the end—this time, she will be the one to protect him!
"I WON'T LET HIM DIE!"
The little girl smiled as she extended her hands towards the ball of light.
Yukino watched as the glow of the magic enveloped the small ball of light. She waited patiently as the light started to expand within each passing second. Yukino smiled to herself, With this, Sting-sama will be saved…
Something was wrong.
Yukino suddenly yelled in horror, "What… what are you doing!?"
A little girl with short blonde hair, a small pink dress, warm brown eyes and a happy smile. She could only be around 6 or 7 years old, but she was missing an arm and both of her legs were fading away. As she extended her palm towards the ball of light with her remaining arm, she was becoming slightly transparent.
The little girl happily smiled.
"I'm using the remainder of this soul's energy to create the Dragon Lacrima."
"B-but what's going to happen to you!?" Yukino cried. "You have to stop this! I don't want to sacrifice anyone! There has to be another way—" She tried pulling her arm away from the ball of light, but her hands went right through her arm.
The little girl giggled.
"Remember what I said earlier?" She laughed, "I am Lucy, but I am not… I am a subconscious formed by the strong emotions left in the letters to her deceased mother. I'm just a teeny-weeny fragment of her soul, much like a tiny shard of broken glass."
"…..I—" Yukino sniffled.
Everything under her stomach had disappeared, absorbed by the ball of light. Her face was just beginning to fade away; yet, she kept on smiling.
The little girl brought her hand onto the side of Yukino's face, "You are a very kind girl with a noble heart… so please don't let your kindness interfere with your judgment. With this, Sting will finally be able to return home safely! You have to watch over Sting and protect him."
"I… I promise!"
The little girl gave a thumbs up and showed Yukino the warmest, brightest smile she could muster…
As she finally faded away completely, the ball of light materialized and fell to the ground with a clink. Yukino gazed at the glowing orb in front of her for what seemed like an eternity.
You should smile. That's the last thing you can show to the people you love.
Her mind was completely blank. The only word that surfaced in her head was, "Why?"
Why did she do this?
Why did all of this have to happen to her?
Why did she have to keep experiencing the same thing over and over again!?
Various emotions swirled around her head as she crouched on the ground. The shaking in her body would't stop. She was about to commit a taboo. To use this girl's sacrifice to save another's life—why must a criminal like her feel this guilt? The glowing orb held so much responsibility, but this was her the last chance to save Sting.
As she picked up the White Dragon Lacrima, an incredibly warm presence washed away the heavy emotions, catching her attention. Time seemed to slow down as she saw a strikingly beautiful woman standing before her. Yukino's eyes widened. It was the same little girl from before, only this time she was older and looked the exact same from the picture in the apartment. Grown-up Lucy smiled gently before enveloping her in the warm glow of magic and fading away in a flash of light.
A tear started trickling down Yukino's cheek. She's okay… She smiled. That soul girl showed herself to Yukino show that everything was alright—that everything was going to be okay. She was so relieved that an uncontrollable amount of tears flowed out from her eyes.
"She's an angel…"
A massive crowd broke the atmosphere and shoved their way out of the train, quickly filling the station. Yukino caressed the glowing orb and slipped it into her pocket, until a hand pressed onto her shoulder.
Rogue recovered from his motion sickness; however, the current sight of her made him pale. With the tears rolling down her face, she looked like a lost child trying to find her parents.
A sudden realization hit Yukino.
"Are you okay?" Sting asked with a concerned look.
I… came back.
Yukino stared at the two dragon slayers in utter shock.
More tears streamed out of her eyes, "Sting-sama!"
Sting was caught completely off-guard when Yukino suddenly crashed into him and embraced him into a tight hug. He was overwhelmed by her tears and didn't know what to say, but he sensed the uneasiness that inflicted Yukino. He gently patted her back, listening to her heartwrenching sobs.
"Y-you're back to normal… I-I'm so glad you're okay!"
Sting was puzzled, Normal? Was he really that bad on the train? He really couldn't remember anything because he partially blacked out, but did he really do something so unforgiveable to make Yukino this upset? Damn, my motionsickness.
He looked at Rogue for help, but he turned out to be even more confused than he was. Rogue tried to grasp the current situation, but he noticed the passerbys giving them very strange looks. Sting watched as Rogue slowly inched away from him with an extremely awkward smile.
Tch. Sting glared at his fleeing partner, Dammit Rogue… Don't pretend you don't know us!
It seemed that Yukino had a considerably scary experience, but she was still trembling a bit and hadn't calmed down. Because of that, he took her to a nearby café and they sat there to calm her down.
"I'm sorry…" She said quietly.
"Nah, I should be the one apologizing. Sorry for worrying you!" He scratched the back of his neck. "…I really can't remember what I did on the train, but I'm sure whatever Rogue did was way worse."
"Oi…" Rogue grabbed the neckline of his shirt with a vein popping out of his forehead. "What did you say?"
"Haha, you wanna fight?" The two butted heads against each other.
Yukino stopped crying and laughed warmly at the scene, which made of the two of them stop. She wiped her tears away, "Welcome back, Sting-sama!"
Yukino always had this charm that made Sting treat her like a little sister. Like an older brother, he can't bear seeing her cry. Sting and Rogue smiled at each other. Their usual antics made her go back to normal. After they finished eating, Rogue paid the tab using their rewards from the Tsuin Taiga. Well, now that she was all cheery again, it was time for Sting to get a little more serious. After coming this far, he still had something to do.
Sting stared deeply into the heart of the city.
"Home…" Sting said with a refreshed smile on his face, "I'm finally back."
"We're finally going to join Fairy Tail!"
The mention of Fairy Tail made her stumble backwards in shock. A flashback of the recent events whittled before her eyes.
His broken state.
The White Dragon Lacrima…
They absolutely cannot go to that guild! Yukino felt a warm glow radiating inside the pocket of her dress. The White Dragon Lacrima. That's right… Heavy emotons swarmed through her head as Yukino reached for the orb, This will surely save him...
Sting and Rogue were heading towards the guild, until they noticed Yukino standing alone, back on the street. The upper half of her face was hidden by the shadows covering her hair.
She slowly approached Sting with a smile plastered on her face, which didn't reach the eyes.
"Is there something wrong?" Sting asked.
He could still sense that something was troubling her greatly. She hasn't been herself recently, ever since they came to Magnolia. This morning, she was so excited about joining Fairy Tail, but now…
Yukino took out a mysterious glowing white orb. Inside it was the symbol of a dragon in a swirling pattern of light.
Rogue suddenly rushed forward and inspected the lacrima. He frantically looked at Sting, who had a dumbfounded expression.
"You know what this is?" Sting asked.
"This is a Dragon Lacrima!" Rogue explained, "They're incredible rare and enhance your dragon slayer magic. The power you get is extraordinary and you'll be able to unleash your full potential. I know it from experience…"
"You have one too?!"
"I had one implanted in me when I was taken in by my family…" He looked at her suspiciously, "How did Yukino manage to get this?"
Yukino ignored Rogue's questioning gaze and stared at the ground.
"…Sting-sama." She murmured. "Do you want to become stronger?"
"Well, yeah, but—"
Yukino desperately shoved the lacrima in front of his face. Sting barely avoided it by a hair's length.
"Whoa! W-Wait!" He dodged as she kept thrusting the shining orb towards him.
"If you want to become stronger then… please absorb the White Dragon Lacrima! Please take it! You have to take it! This will make Sting-sama much stronger—so please take it! You need to take this! If you don't, then you'll…"
"Yukino, stop it!" Sting dodged the thrusts while grabbing her arm, only to look at her in shock. Her face was streaming with tears and she was shaking harder than ever before.
"—please…" Yukino pleaded.
Something was bothering Yukino this whole time. It was only then that Sting realized that after all this time, she was worrying about him. If it's something like this then…
"…Okay," He said while taking the orb, "…I trust you."
Yukino flinched as Sting held the the White Dragon Lacrima out in front of him. He took a deep breath and embraced the shining orb. The warm glow of its magic enveloped around Sting as it went right inside his chest. In an intense rush, he remembered movements he never learned, and abilities he never had. He forgot things he knew and learned what had been lost in time.
As Sting slowly discovered the extent of his newly enhanced powers and abilities, Yukino whispered inaudibly with sorrow in her eyes, "I'm sorry…"
All of his emotions burst, "What the hell happened!?"
After Yukino finished giving Sting the lacrima, she planned to watch over him carefully from now on and protect him, just as she promised. They went to Fairy Tail like they planned and she made sure to act and do everything the exact same way she did before, just to be safe.
They already passed the point where Macao was just about to give Sting the guild stamp, until he asked why he wanted to join the guild. When Sting mentioned Natsu's name, the whole guild went quiet and bursted into tears, just like last time. Even though it was still heart-wrenching to see this whole scene again, Yukino did a mental sigh of relief, Nothing wrong so far…
Macao's face morphed into a painful expression when wondering what he should tell him. After a long silence passed and everyone's breaths were still caught in their throats, Macao managed to force himself to look at Sting straight in the eye.
"-I'm sorry." He choked out as he proceeded to tell him the truth.
This was the part Yukino dreaded.
"I see…" Sting murmured, "So Natsu-san is dead…"
After this, Sting is supposed to run out of the guild and Yukino and Rogue chase after him… but what happened next was completely out of Yukino's expectations.
"Hahahaha Ahahahahahaha!" Sting started laughing hysterically. "HahahaHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"
Everyone in the guild hall stared at him.
"What…?" Macao gawked.
"…What a joke! He told me that he used his magic to protect his friends… but the best part is that he couldn't even protect himself!" Sting held his stomach to keep himself from laughing, "I can't believe I actually looked up to a flaming idiot like him!"
"S..Stop it!" Romeo cried, "Stop saying bad stuff about Natsu!"
"Do you wanna know the truth, Shorty?" His face darkened, "…Natsu is just a poor excuse of a wizard who let stupid things like friendship and trust get in his way. He was a pathetic failure."
With those words, the entire guild's attitude changed. Most of the members hurled themselves at Sting in pure anger for the honor of their loved ones.
"What did you say!? This brat!"
"It looks like he won't take back what he said unless he feels some pain!"
It's time to test out my new power, Sting smirked. While he was thinking, one guy came and aimed a punch towards him.
So Slow! Sting laughed to himself. His movement could be seen completely. Sting had thoroughly trained himself every day with intense training, and the Lacrima only multiplied his hard work. When he recalled the gruesome training he endured all these months, to the point he had a distant look on his face, the fist came closer to him.
While he avoided the fist that came punching down, he grabbed his arm and swept his leg. As he did that, the guy turned, rotated in midair, and crashed on his head without any resistance.
Holy crap, he didn't die, did he?
The remaining guild members who saw this became even more outraged, and finally resorted to using magic.
Sting provoked them, "Come at me!"
Sting-sama…Yukino watched the scene in a daze. No. He's much different…
She finally understood what she meant by 'watch over Sting and protect him'. How ironic was this? She helplessly watched Sting easily crush the guild that his main goal in life was to join. Rogue could only shake his head at the one-sided beating. Dragon Lacrimas were frightening things. Before long, Sting stood before a pile of bodies, without using any of his spells.
"I don't need to waste magic on weaklings…" Sting said arrogantly. "Let's go."
"—Agh- W-wait a moment." Macao choked up some blood. "Your name—Sting Eucliffe. I-I remember it now!"
Sting looked at him, slightly curious. "What is it old man?"
"You… Are you that child—The one that Lucy kept searching for? -Ugh- D..Did you know that before the incident… Lucy never once stopped looking for you? She searched for you on her quests and asked all around if anyone knew about your whereabouts..." He hoped his words would reach the boy, "Are... Are you him?"
The creature in front of him was a young, wild beast. Everything about that poor, innocent boy was gone. The miasmic embrace of his eyes sent a chill down his spine… "Who the hell is Lucy?"