The Return of the Past
'You cannot run from a shadow, you cannot hide from shadow. To be free from a shadow, you must first, delve into the dark.'
"Natsu?" Lucy asked. Natsu's nose perked high in the air as team Natsu traipsed through the damp forest. Being in a rain forest wasn't the highlight of Lucy's day. Nor the fact that Natsu had probably given her dead legs for eternity; once again the dragon slayer had fallen asleep on her lap.
For some reason, it'd become a frequent occurrence. Whenever they went on the train he would flop onto her lap. It didn't bother her, except for the irritating part of it being that he refused to budge. After several hours of riding the train, Natsu had official destroyed Lucy's ability to walk. The stubborn dragon slayer had cut off her circulation to her legs and pins and needles now pricked and tingled from her thighs all the way down to her calves. It was impossible for Lucy to walk two steps without dropping onto the floor. The warm sensation of blood flowing through her legs again soothed her, but the sharp knives stabbing her muscles dampened the feeling. In the end, Natsu -forcefully-carried Lucy as a gesture of apology.
He couldn't help it. It had become natural instinct to seek out Lucy's comfortable lap when in his most vulnerable moments. She was comfy. Also the side effects of his travel sickness seemed far from important on her lap. Lucy, in a strange way, was Natsu's painkiller.
"Natsu~?" Lucy moaned again. Lucy's soft arms gently wrapped around his neck while strong arms held her legs around his waist, her head resting in the gap between his head and his shoulder with exhaustion. Long gold hair spilled down over his sleeveless vest, grazing his damp skin.
Throughout the whole trek in the woods, Natsu had carried the stellar mage on his back. Lucy was tired and so was most of the rest.
Except, predictable Natsu, was not.
Full of energy, he often forgot he was holding the celestial wizard and sprinted at full speed over the damp, moss-covered forest floor, launching over trees and swinging on vines.
Lucy got irritated, but no matter how much she protested the dragon slayer would NOT put her down. All poor Lucy could do was cling on for dear life.
"I smell something..." Natsu's face scrunched up, grimacing at the scent.
"Does Lucy smell that bad?" Happy giggled, stifling a laugh.
A sharp death glare shot his way, shutting up the cat instantly. Lucy was already in a bad mood, annoying her any further would be like signing your death wish.
Natsu's body dipped down. One arm let go of one of Lucy's legs, letting it touch the spongy floor. Soon after, it was followed by the other leg and Lucy removed her arms from his neck.
Natsu's mind was preoccupied with the smell.
Lucy watched his strained glance with a creeping anxiety and nervous jitter summoned by the tension.
Then again, it did every time before the big impact on a mission.
On a normal day, all her friends would take charge and control the situation -including her and her spirits, of course.
However, Natsu was being uncharacteristically cautious. Once again, it disturbed the blond mage.
The dragon slayer slowly began to creep through the woods. Soon followed by the stellar mage and the rest of Team Natsu, they all lurked slowly over large tree roots and under low hanging branches.
It continued like so for about 5 minutes before Natsu ducked without warning behind a waist high bush, dragging Lucy along with him.
Everyone else crept up, keeping their head low behind the shrub top. Peering over the bush slightly the team managed to catch sight of what Natsu had hid from; it was the hideout.
Team Natsu had taken up a job looking for a gang leader. Apparently he had been caught attempting to kidnap an aristocrat's son. The handsome and looked-to-young-to-be-a-dad family head employed them, offering them a wealthy yield.
Fuelled by her greed, Lucy instantly accepted the job without hearing more about it.
And so, Team Natsu had been clambering through this wet, soggy jungle for the hideout that was supposedly within these woods. Apparently, it was. Well at least that was what Lucy was hoping. She had spent too much time inside the jungle. It was humid. She was tired. And she looked down right exhausted. Overall, Lucy was irritable.
A loud roar came from inside the small wooden cabin in the center of the clearing. It wasn't big enough to be classed as a cabin really. It was more like a large shed. Nevertheless, the noise sprung the strongest team in Fairy Tail into action.
Natsu leapt forward with Happy on his tail. Following after was Gray, then Erza, and then Wendy and Carla.
Lucy waited a small while as she watched her team dart in front of her before slowly picking herself up, dusting off her damp camouflage pants, matching her brown tank, as a part of her army-style outfit. The camouflage jacket was also readjusted.
One deep sigh later, she too joined in, following after the team. She decided to take her time as she took a gentle stroll. She really had no reason to jump into the fight; the team could handle something like such with ease. Her head felt heavy from the humid air and her body felt slackened.
From such a small hut, Lucy was outstanded to see how many men poured out of there; it was like a clown car. Dozens upon dozens came shooting out, charging at the invaders. Some were mages, others mere lackeys.
Lucy needed to get her gears together.
After a sharp scolding to herself for being lazy, energy surged up inside her. Leaping forward, she ran to join the fight.
All her team mates had their hands full as Lucy knocked a couple out with her whip, facing the few stray opponents.
Natsu, Gray and Erza faced at least two dozen men each and about another dozen surrounded Wendy and Carla.
The celestial mage did her infamous 'Lucy kick' as her foot sprung forward, catching one man unexpectedly in the neck. He never even saw her coming.
A loud yelp echoed through the fighting grounds. For a brief moment everyone stopped. It was soon over, but everyone still felt distracted by its origins.
"What the hell was that?" Gray exclaimed, sending a right hook into a man who managed to get too close to the ice mage.
"It sounded like someone screaming!" Wendy exclaimed in dismay.
Lucy glanced at her occupied friends. She too was worried by the horrendous screaming echoing from the wooden make-shift house.
Lucy felt an indescribable urge pushing her towards the shed.
"I'll go check it out!" Lucy called, jogging towards the door.
"Wait, Lucy. It's dangerous; you don't know what's in there!" Gray called warning to the continuing celestial mage.
"Don't worry; I can handle it!" She waved, running out of sight.
"Natsu-" Erza called to the pink haired mage.
"I know; I'm on it." Natsu cut her off, sending a flaming fist and almost knocking out all his opponents, so only few remained. He would deal with them in record speed and follow after her.
Lucy pressed her back to the front of the shed, peeping around the corner of the door. Muffled sounds of fighting drew on in the background as Lucy pulled her attention towards the room in front of her.
After making sure no one else was coming, she crawled carefully through the doorway.
With a barren room of only about 50 square foot in size, it was impossible for all those men to fit in there. The only possibility was that there was something else here.
Lucy scanned the plain, grey-painted room. A normal person would have thought the room was empty, but Lucy found her chance to thank heavens for her eye for detail. A faint crack of a 5 by 5 meter square ran along the floor boards.
Lucy crouched down, running her fingers gently over the edges. Inch by inch, she applied a little pressure. If she felt resistance to her push, she moved on.
Finally, she felt lenience from her pressure. With a little more of a push, the square squashed down. A hissing sound was made as it popped back up, opening just enough for gas to spill from the hole. Lucy slipped her fingers between the opening, widening it for herself. A ladder dropped down into a white room with long metal catwalks.
Lucy's boots rang against the metal grating each time she put her foot down. It seemed her attempt of silent stalking had gone void.
Following the oddly long hallway, she moved deeper into the underground crevice.
After what seemed like forever, she found something. A single door sat at the end.
Another screech rang from the door, confirming it was the place she was looking for.
Lucy grimaced at the screaming. She hoped whomever was in there was okay, yet she found herself hesitant to go in. Maybe she should wait for Natsu or Erza to come down...?
But no, they were preoccupied defeating the enemy and getting down to her would take a bit of time. Not to mention the trap door closed after she entered; it would take too much time. And it wasn't like she could go back for them either, since the trap door only opened from the outside. The guards in the shed must have let the soldiers out.
Lucy took a deep breath and closed her eyes. Courage began to swell inside of her. Opening her eyes once more, she glared at the door, pulling her whip into her hands.
In a single flowing movement, she clasped the cold metal handle, swinging the door open so hard it bounced back off the wall as she stormed inside.
A man with long silver hair held a wooden bat in his hand, turned towards a man tied to a metal chair. Bloody, bruised and barely conscious, hope fluttered in his eyes as he caught the stellar mage's face.
"You." Lucy snapped. "Stop this."
The man turned around to see the celestial spirit wizard clasping her whip tightly in a threatening manner. For a second, his face remained stoic before a flash of recognition and fear flickered in his hard silver eyes.
Two men, who Lucy hadn't noticed, launched towards her.
They were stood on either side of the doorway. If Lucy's grand entrance didn't make her noticed, nothing else would have done.
Lucy's mind faltered, not knowing which one to turn to first.
Struggling under her confusion, a harsh snap saved her dilemma. "Stop! Don't touch her!"
Lucy was taken aback. When she looked at where she thought the voice came from, she only came to look at the old veteran man holding the bat. Wrinkles, blemishes and worn eyes watched her frightfully. "Don't lay a single finger on her." He growled. Even with his fearful gaze, a smile tilted his lips. The two men backed away, closer to the old man.
"What is it, sir?" They asked, confusion trailing their tone.
To be honest it was kind of ironic how Lucy's outfit suited them more than it suited her. The big burley men all dressed in black were probably ex-soldiers.
Lucy watched them cautiously. But most of all, her curiosity shook as it was dragged towards the silver-haired fox glaring at her.
"It's little Lucy Heartfilia." He chuckled.
"What?" Lucy growled, unsure to why he knew who she was.
"Don't you remember me, Lucy?" The man smiled lifting his hand to his face.
Lucy glared at him silently.
"Luce!" A voice yelled in the distance. It was close by, but faded as Lucy watched the man run a finger through his soft grey bangs.
"Luce!" The voice drifted further out.
As the bangs moved with the brush of his hand, a long thin scar ran down the side of his face, glistening under the harsh light.
A loud pound crashed inside Lucy's chest and then it stopped. Her stomach turned to iron, her breaths falling short and shallow, eyes wide, her mind frozen. A darkness swirled around Lucy as her consciousness sunk. A lump formed in her throat, causing her breath to falter and the celestial wizard's legs began trembled beneath her body. They gave way and the stellar mage fell to her knees.
"So you do remember." His voice mused in a distant mutter.
"LUCY!" A voice yelled as the man picked up his bat and swung at the figure entering the doorway.
The dragon slayer caught it in his fist with ease, burning it to ashes.
A few moments later they were all knocked out.
Natsu turned to look at Lucy with a calming smile. As he saw his best friend, the smile disappeared. "Luce?" he asked gently, dropping to his knees in front of her. "Luce." he called again, waving his hand in front of her face.
Suddenly, life appeared in her eyes again as she focused on the pink-haired dragon slayer. "Natsu?" she muttered hoarsely through her dry throat.
"You okay?" Natsu asked, his dark eyes intense on her face.
Gathering her wits, she recomposed herself. A small reassuring smile lit her lips as she stood up again to find her knees slightly weak.
"Yeah, I'm fine." She reassured the dragon slayer.
Natsu returned her smile, relieved at her recovery. That state of his friend was beginning to scare him. He'd never seen her look so...lost.
"Good!" Natsu laughed, also standing up.
The thundering thumping of footsteps crashing down the long hallway echoed into the chamber. Team Natsu finally caught up.
Huffing and puffing, they leaned in a big clump against the doorway. "Good; you guys are okay." Erza gave a relieved sigh.
Lucy turned and laughed at the exhausted mages behind her.
Natsu stood closely next to her, acting as a buffer between her and the man on the floor.
With a small nod towards the men, Gray moved past everyone towards them while Lucy smiled and talked to Erza about the trap door.
Gray heaved the grey-haired man to his knees, forming iced cuffs around his wrists. "Lucy..." he mumbled.
A single eye open, looking up at the blonde with a dazed glaze.
Lucy shivered, turning her head to face him. A horrible feeling churned in her stomach as she dreaded what would come when his lips moved. "He's coming for you." he chuckled before falling unconscious once again.
Lucy felt the ice run through her veins as she glared in utter disbelief.
"Lucy?" Natsu caught her slow attention. "Who is 'he'?" Lucy shook her head slowly, her eyes never leaving the unconscious man.
"I don't know." She mumbled, turning her frightened eyes back towards the dragon slayer. "I- I- don't-" Lucy's body quivered, knees trembling.
Natsu felt a horrible ache in his chest. Why did she look so frightened?
Natsu's arms reached out on instinct and pulled Lucy to her chest, wrapping her in a protective hug as he held the absent minded girl. Her arms wrapped tightly around the pink-haired boy as Natsu exchanged worried glances with Erza over her shoulder.
What the hell was going on?