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The Keys of Fire

By LoneStorm

Romance / Adventure

Chapter 1

“You don’t have the exclusive issue?  But it came out a week ago!”

The man stuttered apologetically to the teenage blonde in front of him, “S-sorry, Miss!  We ordered them this week, but they haven’t arrived yet.”

Lucy Heartfilia huffed in frustration, but then sighed.  “Sorry, sir.  I don’t mean to be difficult.  I was just really counting on the special Fairy Tail issue…”

“Sorry, Miss.  Maybe if you stay in Hargeon for a few days…”  

Fingering the hidden key ring on her belt in thought, she shrugged and gave off a big smile.  “Yeah, maybe I will.  It’s pretty nice here.”

After bidding him a good day, Lucy wandered out of the bookstore to find a hotel.  Usually she could be found in a bookstore for hours on end, but she knew she may buy up the entire place if she stayed any longer.  She really couldn’t afford that.

It was hard to find small jobs for her to do all over; and everywhere she went she could t find one that paid well enough to keep her in a good place to stay.  Though her father hadn't sent her any money since she ran away a year ago, if he had, Lucy wouldn't have used it.  She was independent of him - completely.

Since her father seemed to share the will of not having her at his house, she could now maybe move onto a new home: The Fairy Tail guild.

The Hargeon Inn was a nice enough place.  It was cheap, had a bath, food, and a comfortable bed, so there was really not much more a seventeen-year-old Lucy could hope for.

She sighed deeply in satisfaction as she sunk into the hot bath with plenty of bubbles.  “Thiiiiiis is what I needed.”

After her bath, she decided it was time for her sight-seeing.  The port of Hargeon was a lively place in the kingdom of Fiore, and Lucy was sure it held many inspirations for her novel.  Down the streets, people bustled about, calling out to sell their wares.  She focused on all the bright sights and colors in the trading town rather than the various catcalls that seemed to follow her from the young men passing by.

In what seemed like a short while, Lucy didn’t notice how fast time had flown.  It was time for dinner already, or, at least, that’s what her stomach told her.

Looking up, she frowned.  The sky said so too.  It was dark already, and the torches lit up in the streets provided an exciting atmosphere to the cobblestone streets.  A violin played somewhere far off, accompanied by the gentle lapping along the port docks.  A slight chill had swept up from the sea, but not enough so that she minded.

She was totally fine with the romantic setting, at least, until she heard the growling down the alleyway.

Freezing in her spot, she looked around.  It was a more deserted area, a small group of beat up homes along the pier of the port.  Soon, the growls were followed by shouts and laughter, and whimpers of pain.  

Lucy’s face contorted in anger.  Slowly, she slid the whip from her belt and through her hand, straining to hear more.  She refused to be a bystander when someone was getting hurt.

When she heard a muffled scream, she could no longer stand it and rushed into the alley.  The sound seemed to be coming from an underground cellar of sorts, and Lucy stealthily opened the door and slipped inside.

Her hand shot up to cover her mouth when she saw what was going on.  It seemed like a gang of some sorts, maybe one of those groups they called ‘dark guilds’, and in the middle was a ring.  There were dogs all over the place, growling and snapping, and Lucy came to the realization that she’d just walked into a dogfighting hideout.  The bigger trouble about this, however, was that they’d shoved someone in the middle of them.  There was a person, cowering as the dogs rushed in for another bite.

Lucy bit her lip, wondering how she could handle them on her own.  There were at least fifteen gang members and one of her.  While she was wicked fast and skilled with her whip, she assumed they were pretty good with their fists, and they no doubt had guns or knives.

But then she heard a scream and more laughter.  She couldn’t help it.  She ran out right in front of the ring and yelled, “Stop this!  I’ll call the police!”  Lucy held out her phone threateningly.  

For a moment they all froze.  At least she had a second to think that she had won, but after that, low chuckles began to reverberate in the cellar.  One of them stepped up closer to her.  He seemed to be the leader, leering down at Lucy.  She didn’t back away.

“Looks like someone came to join our party, huh, boys?”  He gave her a look up and down that she didn’t like, and he added, laughing, “I couldn’t have paid for one like that!”

The other members jeered as the one by her reached out a hand to grab, which she whipped faster than he could see.  He cried out, jumping back and clutching his sliced hand.  The amusement in his eyes lowered into malice.  “You nasty little-”

They surrounded her and before she knew it, she was grabbed around the middle, by the legs and arms, and her belt holding her keys and whip had been thrown off to the side.  She tried to scream, but it didn’t do much good with the hand over her mouth.  Lucy’s eyes widened.  She’d never been so helpless before.  Every part of her shook.  There was no way out...

The leader growled in her ear, “For that, darlin’, we’re going to take you and-”

He was cut off by a screech and a thump behind him as one of his cronies flew across the room by a seemingly invisible force.  All of the lights in the dim room suddenly flashed out, adding to the panic.  The first victim was followed by the cries and smashes of a second and a third.  The whites of their eyes shone bright.  

After the fourth, the one holding her, choked as something wrapped around his neck.  A deep voice that was somehow dangerous and calming all at once murmured, “You’re going to let her go, get down on your stomach, and put your hands where I can see ‘em.”

“A-and why-why would I do that?” the man holding her managed to say through suffocation.

“Because if you don’t, I’ll burn you to a pile of ashes, scumbag.”

Lucy was dropped instantly by her captor, who stuttered out, “N-no, it can’t be…”

Two bursts of fire suddenly shot up in the darkness, highlighting a crazy grin from her apparent savior.  “Here’s where the real party starts.  I’m all fired up now.”

“Guys!” one called out from the ground, somewhere from the left.  “We gotta get outta here!  It’s him!  The Salamander!”

“You aren’t going anywhere!” yelled the ‘Salamander’, and after a clicking sound, the flames doubled, sweeping the ground and then swirling as she barely made out the form of a young man, maybe late teens or early twenties, flipping and twirling as he knocked out every single gang member, using an effective method of lighting them on fire and then punching them out.

Lucy fell to her knees,  still the entire time, only able to see the flashes of mesmerizing fire, hear shouts, kicks, hits, and thumps of bodies hitting the dirt.  She was stuck in place due to fear, wondering if and when she would get attacked too.  The dogs in the ring whimpered, unwilling to get too close to the fire.  All in the matter of a minute, the fighting seemed to have stopped, and the lights simply flicked back on again, revealing the full form of the gang’s attacker.

She wasn’t quite sure whether he would be called hot, cute, beautiful, scary, weird, or just flat out crazy.  Lucy decided on a mixture of all those options.  The first thing she noticed was the startlingly pink hair.  It was stuck up all over in what was a slightly sexy style, though it seemed naturally that way.  A pair of tinted goggles was perched up in his hair, ruffling it up even more.  When she squinted, she made out a dragon shaped, golden earring on his right ear.  He was fairly tall, had broad shoulders, defined muscle, and tanner skin than herself.  His intense dark eyes were surrounded by even darker lashes, highlighted by his big, adorable smile that didn’t seem to match the massive ninja beatdown that he’d just dealt out.

His fashion sense was maybe the weird part.  It wasn’t bad, but… different.  The boy had this scaly white scarf, white, loose pants tucked into tall, buckled, black boots, a black belt, a red backpack, and a black, hooded, sleeveless shirt that clung tight to his skin.  Black gloves that went from his forearm but with bare fingertips were sported on his arms, visible when he took of his slightly smoldering, scarlet jacket and threw it off to the side.

Before she knew it his hand was held out in front of her face.  She blinked, realizing that he was trying to help her up.  Tentatively, Lucy reached out and accepted it, watching his simple smile warily.  The adorableness could be deceiving…

His grip was so firm Lucy squeaked at her crushed hand.  The boy’s hand was so warm it almost scorched as he pulled her up with apparent ease.  Pushing his smoking fingers through his hair that was now tipped with black soot, he grinned all the wider.  “Hi!  I’m Natsu.  What do ya think you were doin’ back there?  Were you sent on this job too from a different guild?  ‘Cause I told them I had it covered alone…”

“N-no,” she stuttered quickly, still rather in shock.  “I-I just heard someone shouting, so I went to check it out…”

He squinted at her, examining, and then began to walk around her in a circle, looking her up and down.  Lucy froze at the scrutinization.  But she came to her wit’s end when he actually stepped behind her and leaned forward to sniff her neck.

She elbowed him hard in the face, sending him stumbling back.  “Get away, you perv!”

“Owww,” Natsu moaned like a little kid, rubbing the spot between his eyes that she’d hit, making a large red mark.  “What was that for, huh?  I thought I just saved you!”

Crossing her arms, Lucy retorted, “That may be, but you can’t just go around sniffing people!”

He actually rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly.  “It’s kinda a habit, I guess.  Sorry, then; no one else seemed to have a problem with it…”

“Oh really?  Did you knock those people out first?”

Natsu frowned.  “Oh, yeah.”

She stared at him blankly, deciding that she may never have met someone this dense in her life.

“So,” he put his hands on his hips.  “If you’re not from a guild, then why did you go after a whole gang by yourself?”

Her cheeks heated.  “I’m not stupid!  I just wanted to see what was going on and I was going to call the cops-”

“What’s your name?  I told you mine.”

Boy, he must be seriously ADHD to move through subjects so quickly, she thought in exasperation.  She was hesitant to tell him her name, due to how she’d just met him a minute ago when he’d beat up about fifteen people in about 30 seconds flat.  But he had saved her, so… “I’m Lucy,” she said eventually, offering a small smile.  “Thanks for saving me.  I should be going…”

He frowned at her.  “At this time a’ night, alone?  I dunno - doesn’t sound like a good idea to me, Luigi.”

“It's Lucy!" she growled at him.  "Well, I guess we should call the police to pick these guys up,” Lucy reasoned, eyeing the gang for the first time since she’d gotten up.  They all seemed completely out cold, sprawled all over.  The dogs were whimpering in the corner, and the person that had been being attacked…

She sighed.  “You knocked out their victim too, didn’t you?”

He looked where she was looking, and then sucked in a breath at the collapsed figure in the ring.  “Oops… forgot about that guy.”

She’d already taken out her phone to dial 911, but Natsu suddenly grabbed it from her.  “No, no, I’ll call them.  I wanna make sure I get my reward, and if you call…”

Raising an eyebrow, she said questioningly, “Your reward?”

“Yeah,” he said slowly, as if she was the dim one.  “I took a job for my guild.  The police need to see that I took these guys out myself to give proof that I finished my job and took out the gang that I was asked to.”

She blinked.  “You must be from one of those ninjitsu guilds, huh?”

He grinned.  “You bet.  The best one.  They call me the Salamander, or the Fire Dragon Slayer.”

“Who does? And how did you do that fire thing?” Lucy asked, trying to remember - she’d heard those names before somewhere… But Natsu had already dialled up the police on his phone and held it to his ear.  She finally noticed a flash of red on his right shoulder, like he had a tattoo there, but he turned away too quickly for her to see it.

After talking shortly to the emergency line staff, he hung up, and then promptly dropped into a sitting position that looked like he was about to meditate, but he didn’t.  Natsu simply smiled at her, sliding off his backpack and unzipping it.  She thought he couldn’t get much weirder, but then she was proven wrong when a bright blue cat leapt out of the backpack and hissed at its owner.

“I’m sorry, buddy!” the cat turned away from him.  Natsu seemed upset as Lucy watched, dumbfounded.  He turned away from his cat grumpily, crossing his arms.  “How else was I supposed to carry you around?”

The cat was busy twining himself around Lucy’s legs, purring.  For some reason, Natsu perked up at this, turning his attention back to Lucy.  “Happy likes you!  See, buddy?  I made you a new friend.”

“You brought along your pet to fight a gang?”

Natsu leaned forward and scooped up ‘Happy’, looking immensely offended.  “Happy isn’t my pet!  He’s my friend!”

“Right… sorry?” she tried, staring at the lonely-old-cat-lady teenager, now ruffling his cat’s head between his ears.

“My gloves,” Natsu said suddenly.

“W-what?”

“You asked how I did the fire thing.”  He held up his wrists proudly.  “Mini-flame throwers with fireproof material gloves.  Made them myself.”

“Oh… That’s… pretty cool,” she admitted as Happy wandered off Natsu’s lap to rub against Lucy’s ankles again.  “Really cool, actually.  You never get burned, though?”

He scoffed.  “What do ya think the fireproof gloves are for?”

“Your fingertips aren’t covered.”

Natsu shrugged.  “It looks cooler that way.”

That’s when the sirens were finally heard, and police burst down into the cellar.

It took way too long to sort that out.

Several interrogations, explanations, and watching police shove bad guys into ambulances, the two teens (and the cat) were allowed to leave, tiredly walking back through the emptying streets of Hargeon.

Lucy heard a distinct rumbling sound and a moan to her right, and realized Natsu was still next to her.  “Soooo, hungry,” he groaned, slumping over.

Biting her lip in contemplation, Lucy eventually gave him a smile, putting her hand on his shoulder.  “C’mon - I haven’t eaten either.  I’ll pay.  You did save me, after all.”

That made the boy brighten considerably, punching the air with renewed energy.  “Yeah!  I’m all fired up now!”


Natsu ate like a hundred cows.

But faster.

And very, very messy.

“Um, you know, if you don’t slow down, you could hurt yourself…” Lucy said weakly, holding up her arms to defend herself from projectile food.

“Naghh,” was his only answer as he shoved a whole tomato in his mouth.

Happy was busy sitting on the back of his owner's booth, not seemingly bothered by Natsu's wild behavior, and eating a fish from his master's plate.

"So... You said you're from a guild, huh?" Lucy began, hoping a conversation would slow him down.

But he was skilled at speaking with a full mouth.  "Uh huh."  He took all the meat off a chicken leg in one bite.

Lucy clasped her hands in front of her, staring dreamily off into the distance.  "I've always wanted to join a guild," she sighed.  

Natsu swallowed, face contorting with the effort.  "Then why haven't you?"

Lucy dropped her cheeks into her hands with a groan.  "I just don't know how to join!  I was hoping for that exclusive issue of Sorcerer Weekly to explain; it was a special issue on the guild I really want to join."

"Well," Natsu said, grinning and pointing to himself, "I dunno about this special guild you wanna join, but mine is the best!"

She offered him a smile.  He was so strange; he was probably from some little guild off in the middle of nowhere.  "What's your guild called?"  They were standing up while Lucy collected her money together to hand to the waitress.

"You might have heard of it," Natsu guessed.  "It's called Fairy Tail!"

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