It had been a day since Lucy had returned home with her father from another country. Just like she had done so before, she met with the prince of the land. This time it was chubby boy with a snout nose. The worse part for her was that the prince was six years older than her, and he looked down at her for being a child. She hated him because he was condescending and rude. But nonetheless her father told her to play nice as he talked to the other king. It would have been more fun if the boy didn't insist on trying to shoot an apple off of her head.
Now that she was back home she could forget about him and all the other princes she had met. At least for the moment before she was forced away once again to go to another land to see another prince. She sat in her room, a rather large one with a huge bed covered in plethora of colored blankets and pillows. A red silk curtain hung around it with a matching tapestry above. Her window overlooked the back of the castle, just behind the wall, where she could see two guards at attention, was a line of trees. But where she really wanted to go was just beyond that tree line where a lake resided.
Today she just wanted to visit the lake, or go wonder around for a bit. She decided that she would ask her father if it were okay for her to go out. Of course not alone, she would need a guard to escort her, but she had hoped that her father maybe able to join her. She made her way from her room down the castle corridors to where she expected to find her father.
She came upon a bulky door that led to her father's study. She knocked on the door before hearing her father call out for her to go inside.
"Father?" Lucy said as she opened the door.
When she poked her head inside she could see her father sitting at a table with two nobles standing on either side of them. One she recognized as Iwan, the other was a rotund noble with long curly black hair. Apart from her father and the nobles, Arcadios stood in the corner near huge window that resided behind her father. King Jude peered up from his desk and eyes focused on the young girl.
"What is it, Lucy?" he asked.
Lucy bowed her head as she stepped inside and closed the door behind her. The young girl approached the table where her father and the other men were talking. Once again she bowed her head as she stopped just feet away from him. She was a little nervous, seeing her father was not too thrilled at her presence. Iwan offered her a smile, which helped quell her nerves, but the other man seemed to be a bit annoyed by her.
"I was hoping that you and I could go to the lake today," she said softly gazing at her father sweetly.
"Lucy," the king mumbled as he brought his palm to his face in agitation. "I'm very busy today. I don't have time to waste at the lake."
"Oh, okay," she sighed. "I'm sorry to have bothered you."
"Now hold on a second," Iwan interjected. "If my Lady wants to go to the lake I think that she should be able to. Arcadios," he said to the knight, "why don't you escort the lady to the lake for the afternoon?"
Arcadios was pretty surprised to hear his name mentioned. He looked over at Iwan and than back to the king. Iwan gazed at him and nodded his head, motioning for him to agree with what he said. But when he gazed at the king he could see the king scowling at him.
"I'm sorry princess," the knight apologized, "but unfortunately as head of the guard I must be with your father at all times. If he were to go with you to the lake I would be more than happy to escort you."
"There it's settled," King Jude said. Lucy bowed her head and turned to leave but was stopped.
"Come now your Majesty," Iwan interrupted. "The girl has been more than well behaved on all the travels you've taken her on. I think she's done more than enough to earn a day at the lake."
"How would you know that she was well behaved?" King Jude asked. "You were not even there."
"Well you haven't complained about her behavior once yet your majesty," Iwan chuckled. "That tends to mean that the princess was well behaved."
King Jude did not like his answer. "The girl should be up in her room conducting herself in the ways best suited for a princess," he grumbled.
"The girl has done more than her fair share of reading though your majesty, and she can't keep her cooped up in the castle all day. I don't see why a guard can't be spared to escort her the lake that is just outside the castle walls," Iwan said.
"I am confident that Sir Arcadios just said that he could not escort my daughter to the lakes as he is obliged to follow his other duties," King Jude retorted.
"There are other options," Iwan interjected. "Obviously if you want her to be well protected, how about sending her with someone that can protect. What about that slave boy, Natsu? He could protect her, and not to mention he is the same age. He could be a suitable playmate for a girl her age."
"I would not dare leave my daughter alone with that beast of a boy," King Jude growled. "If you were not such a dear friend and close advisor to me Iwan I would have Sir Arcadios cut out your tongue here and now for insolence."
"What if Gildarts were to go with them?" Iwan asked. He just ignored the king's threat. "He is in the arena right now with the slave boy. I'm sure he would have no problem going with them to the lake. He doesn't have much work to do today."
"This discussion will end here and now," King Jude said slamming his fist on the table. "Gildarts is a man for hire, he is not to be trusted with such a task as taking care of a princess. Now like I said this discussion is over. Lucy return to your room and read, or practice your harp, or something."
"Very well," she said bowing her head again. "I'm sorry for disturbing you." She turned around to leave, disappointed by her father's rejection.
"Well then at least allow me to escort the young lady out," Iwan said as he stepped up next to the young girl. "Allow me, my Lady."
The two of them began to leave the room, Iwan making sure that he was with the girl every stride of the way. King Jude watch with displeasure but he didn't say anything further. He turned his attention back to his work while the other noble read over his shoulder. Arcadios watched the princess and Iwan leave the room, not feeling too comfortable having the two of them together.
Once outside the door Lucy turned to bow to Iwan and thank him for walking her out of her father's study, but when she turned to face him she noticed he was not looking at her.
"Guard," Iwan called out to a guard at the other end of the hall. The guard listened and immediately made his way over to Ivan. Lucy was confused by what was happening so she decided to follow Iwan.
"Yes, my Lord?" the guard asked as he walked up to Iwan.
"Princess Lucy wishes to go to the lake," Iwan began, "however her father is very busy at the moment, as is Sir Arcadios. So I want you to take her down to the arena and instruct Master Gildarts that he and his protégé are to escort her. Is that clear?" Lucy was a bit taken back by Iwan's lie to the guard. Nobody ever crossed her father's orders.
"Did the king permit this?" the guard asked skeptically. "I mean to have the princess alone with the slave boy?"
"She won't be alone," Iwan corrected him. "They'll be with Master Gildarts who is more than capable to handle the Natsu boy."
"Yes but did the king permit her to go?" the guard asked.
"Do you dare question me?" Iwan asked glaring at the guard.
"No," the guard said panicking, "of course not my Lord. I'll get on that right away. Please come with me my Lady," the guard said bowing to Lucy. Without waiting for her he turned around to leave.
"But my Lord Iwan," the girl said confused, "didn't my father say I wasn't allowed to go to the lake?"
"My Lady, I won't tell if you don't," he said winking at her with a wide grin.
The young girl nodded her head, unable to hide the thrilled expression on her face as she sprinted after the guard. She was a bit far behind him as he was halfway down the stone stairs. Iwan chuckled as he watched her leave just before he turned back to the study.
"Natsu make sure you keep your hands up to protect your face at all times," Gildarts instructed as he faced Natsu in a fighting stance. The boy kept his arms up in front of him as Gildarts threw a punch in a slow motion to demonstrate the technique.
"Master Gildarts," the guard called out as he entered the arena. Princess Lucy followed right behind him.
Gildarts and Natsu came to an abrupt stop as the turned to face the guard. The two of them were equally surprised to see Princess Lucy with the guard. More so that she would actually be there by herself without a proper escort. Natsu stared at her in disbelief, he couldn't believe that the princess herself was there in the arena.
"Yes what is it?" Gildarts answered as he whipped some sweat off of his brow.
Natsu's eyes fell on the princess as she stood just behind the guard in her snow white silk dress. Her hair hung down along her shoulder like pouring honey, all tied together with that same blue ribbon he saw on her before. She turned to him, their eyes meeting once again as she smiled sweetly at him. She bit her lip before looking down at the ground and back up at him. The sight of which made his heart beat exponentially in his chest.
"His Majesty, the king, has instructed that you and your pupil take the princess to the lake just beyond the castle walls," the guard told him.
"Really?" Gildarts exhaled with a deep breath. "My pupil and I are in the midst of training. Can't it wait until we're done?"
"No, the princess has requested to go at once," the guard said. "So you and the slave will accompany her to the lake. You will watch over her, and you will fulfill any and all tasks she demands of you."
"I see," Gildarts said rubbing his chin. "And you're sure this is what the king asked?"
"Of course sir," the guard said sounding offended.
"It just seems strange to me that the king would want us to take the princess out to the lake, during our time of training, rather than let one of his personal guards do it," Gildarts said between breaths.
"These are the king's orders," the guard quipped. "You are to take the princess to the lake. You are to watch over her and you are to do as she commands at all times. If anything is to happen to her it will be your head Master Clive."
"Yeah I would assume so," Gildarts snorted. "I hope you're correct, cause if you're not and the king finds out," Gildarts laughed shaking his head, "then I'm afraid it's going to be your head. By the way what was your name again?"
"That is all," the guard said in a panic as he rushed to leave. Lucy watched as the guard left before turning back and smiling at Gildarts and Natsu.
"I'm sorry to interrupt," she apologized bowing her head, "if you wish to finish your training I'll be more than happy to wait."
"Don't worry about it my Lady," Gildarts said smiling at her. "Natsu and I can finish here for today. It's not like the boy is making much progress anyways."
"Hey," Natsu snapped as his face began to flush a bright pink.
"I'm just kidding," Gildarts teased as he walked over to his chair to pick up his things. "We can work on some of the techniques when we go to the lake. If that's okay with you my Lady."
"Of course," Lucy said modestly. "I would love to see some of what you're working on." She turned and smiled at Natsu who felt himself blush a little bit more. He averted his eyes from her gaze, but when he looked back up he saw that she was still looking at him.
"Well of course my Lady," Gildarts said. "I would be more than happy to humiliate Natsu in front of such a lovely lady as yourself."
Lucy giggled at the remark as Natsu just glared back at him. Gildarts just winked at him but that didn't suffice. Natsu wanted to tackle the older man but he knew that he couldn't do it. That and he didn't want to embarrass himself in front of the princess.
"Well then come along you two," Gildarts told them as he made his way out of the arena.
Gildarts led the three of them out of the castle gates. Lucy and Natsu both walked behind him next to one another. There was an awkward exchange of glances between the two of them, but neither one of them was willing to say anything. Natsu wanted to speak to her, but he felt that he couldn't. As a slave, to speak to the princess was something that wasn't prohibited unless given permission. Lucy on the other hand was a bit shy biting her lip as she contemplated something to say.
As they walked through the back gate and entered into a small forest area. They walked down a dirt pathway that was completely shrouded by pine and maple trees. There were squirrels running on the ground as well as a few blue birds and oriels leapt from branch to branch of each tree. The only sounds that could be heard was the rustle of the leaves in the wind and the chirps of the birds.
"So my Lady," Gildarts said as they made their way down the path. "Where is this lake?"
"It's just a little further on the left of the fork," Lucy answered. "So Natsu," she said smiling at the boy, "have you ever been to the lake?"
Natsu gazed back at her as his face began to flush a bright pink. "No, my Lady," he said shaking his head.
"Really?" she asked puzzled. "Why not?"
"I just haven't been able to," Natsu told her averting her eyes.
"Well you're going to love it," Lucy said excitedly as she nearly jumped on him. "It's really pretty and there's fish, like really pretty fish and you can feed them and there's an apple tree that was planted there that has the best apples in the world."
Natsu watched the young girl jump around frantically as she grasped his arm. He had no reaction to it, as he could see her grinning madly at him. He had never seen someone so excited before in his short life, and it was very peculiar to see the princess of all people acting so energetic. Natsu looked up to Gildarts who couldn't help but contain his laughter.
When they came upon the fork Lucy grabbed Natsu by the hand and dragged him down the path leading towards the lake. He could feel his senses flaring up as his vision began to slow down. He wondered why his sense were acting up at that moment, but he could see the girl move in slow motion. He could see every strand of hair and lace in her dress move. He could feel her tugging him, and he offered no resistance to her pull.
The two of them ran past Gildarts who just watched as they rushed ahead of them. He smiled to himself and decided to keep on walking not feeling the need to catch up. Perhaps it was better to let the children have their fun and not bug them. It was uncanny though he had to admit, to see a princess playing around with a slave boy.
Natsu let Lucy drag him all the way until they began to make their way down a grassy hill. There at the bottom was the lake, a crystal blue surface surrounded by pussy willows and pine trees. A variety of wildflowers grew along the outskirts of the lake's surface ranging from baby blues, to sunshine yellows and crimson reds. Amongst them were lavender plants that grew untamed by the hands of man. On the other side was a tall apple tree that stood triumphant over all with flowers in full bloom. The pink blossoms swayed peacefully in the wind as petals fell and landed on the still waters of the lake.
Natsu was surprised to see such a lovely place. He had never seen a lake before, or any flowers that grew in nature. The only ones that he had ever seen were picked and sold in the market place. He never got the chance to smell one, let alone hold one. He wondered what they smelt like. They must have been nice, since the ladies of the town seemed to love them so.
"Isn't it lovely?" Lucy giggled as she pulled Natsu towards the water. "Come on let's go see the fish."
"My Lady?" Natsu tried to say before he was rushed down to the water's edge.
"See look," Lucy said pointing. Natsu was amazed at how clear the water was. He cold see the bottom with no problem. He saw as algae sat in the mud as some rather large trout swam up and nibbled on it. "They're rainbow trout," Lucy said definitively. She smiled proudly at herself for her knowledge.
"Can you eat them?" Natsu asked as he knelt down to get a closer look. He could feel his stomach growling as he glared at them.
"No," Lucy said dramatically as she slapped him on the shoulder. Natsu could sense her hand coming towards his back but he made no attempt to move. He let her hand brush against back. The strike didn't hurt him at all, in fact it could have been no more than a bump for him. "You're not supposed to eat them," she said. "You can feed them if you want."
"With what?" Natsu asked blinking. "What do fish eat?"
Lucy pursed her lips together as she thought about it. "You know I don't really know. Master Gildarts do you know what fish like to eat?" Lucy asked turning around to face him.
Gildarts leaned up against a pussy willow tree with his arms folded across his chest as he watched the two kids. He couldn't help but smile at them, but he just simply shook his head and shrugged. "No, sorry my Lady, I don't know what fish eat. Perhaps they eat bread, but I'm not sure."
"Really? Do you have any?" Lucy asked excitedly clasping her hands together as she hoped that he would say yes. To her disappointment Gildarts simply shook his head no. Lucy sighed as she squatted next to Natsu. "Well I guess we can just look at them."
"Are you sure we can't eat them?" Natsu asked as he reached out to grab them. Lucy snatched his hand and pulled his hand away. The motion startled the fish and caused them to swim away.
"No," Lucy whined as she watched the fish swim away. "Now look, you scared them away."
"I'm sorry," Natsu apologized holding his head down.
"Don't worry about it," she said smiling at him. She grabbed his hand again as she stood up. Natsu began to become a little annoyed with having his hand grabbed so much, but he didn't complain.
Lucy pulled him along once more. The boy nearly tripped over his feat as she dragged him through the brush of flowers towards the apple tree. Natsu wondered where she was taking him this time, but he understood once she stopped underneath the apple tree.
"Come on," she beckoned as she tried to leap up to the branch nearest to the ground, but she wasn't able to jump high enough. She tried again, but once more she came up short. She didn't give up and continued to jump up, extending her hand each time for the branch.
"What are you doing?" Natsu asked as he watched her. His eyes followed the young girl's body as she continued to jump up and down.
"I'm trying," she said as she jumped up again, "to climb the tree."
She landed on her feet and breathed out a deep breath of annoyance. Natsu walked up beside her peering up at the branch. Lucy gazed at him with a quizzical look. Natsu grinned widely at her as he bent his knees and hurdled himself up into the air and managed to grasp the branch with ease. He quickly pulled himself up as he peered down at the young blonde full of self admiration.
"That's not fair," Lucy pouted. "I can't jump that high."
"Well then let me help you," Natsu said as he leapt down next to the young blonde.
"What are you—" Lucy began to say but cut herself off as she let out a loud shriek. To her bewilderment Natsu bent down and lifted her up from her hind quarters causing the girl's face to glow a deep scarlet red. "What are you doing?" she cried again.
"Lifting you up so you can grab the branch," Natsu told her as he pushed her even further. He didn't understand why she was acting so frantic. He was helping her reach the branch. "Didn't you want help?"
Lucy immediately grabbed the branch and perched herself up on it. She was still blushing like mad resting her hand on her hindquarters. Nobody had ever touched her before, or at least not in that way. She knew that it was supposed to be considered inappropriate.
"I didn't ask for help," Lucy snapped at him. "I could have made it just fine on my own."
"Yeah sure you would've," Natsu sighed rolling his eyebrows.
He bent down again, this time he felt that same burning in the pit of his stomach that he did on the day of his fight in front of the main gate. Only this time it spread down to his legs and without a second though he jumped so high he almost flew over the branch, but managed to grab it on his way back down and pull himself up onto it.
"You know you're not supposed to touch a lady like that," Lucy said scolding him. Her face was still a deep scarlet.
"Like what?" Natsu asked her confused. "All I did was lift you up onto the branch. How was that bad?"
"Because you touched me in an inappropriate place," she quipped.
"What inappropriate place?" Natsu asked her innocently. He turned his head in confusion as he blinked at her a couple of times.
"You're a fool," she quipped turning away from him in anger.
Natsu was at a complete loss now. He turned to Gildarts who was still leaning on the same tree watching them from afar. He could see the old man laughing pretty hard and that only made Natsu all the more confused. He gazed at Gildarts wanting him to tell him what he did wrong. The old man just shook his head and shrugged. Natsu glowered at the man knowing that Gildarts was just toying with him.
"Well why did you want to climb the tree in the first place?" Natsu asked her hoping to break the tension. "There isn't any fruit up here to eat. At least for now anyways."
"What is it with you and wanting to eat everything?" Lucy snipped at him.
"Cause I'm hungry," the boy said. "I don't get to eat a lot of food."
"Why?" Lucy asked.
"Dunno," Natsu surged. "They don't feed me a lot. I get a bowl of porridge everyday so I guess that's okay."
"Well why don't you just go get more food?" Lucy asked.
"I can't," Natsu told her shaking his head.
"Well if you're hungry than you should go get more food to eat," Lucy instructed him. "That's only common sense."
"But I can't," Natsu told her.
"Well then you're an idiot," Lucy sighed rolling her eyes. "If you want more food you just go out and buy it."
Natsu stared at her and wanted to continue the argument but he just furrowed his eyebrows and decided against it. He stood up and started climbing some more. Lucy watched him as she too stood up and wanted to follow him, but because of her dress she was unable to go any further. Natsu continued to make his way up to the top of tree.
"What's wrong my Lady?" Natsu teased from as he climbed slightly higher. "Are you unable to go any further?"
Lucy scowled at him as she tried to reach another branch, but her dress prevented her from lifting herself up. Natsu smirked at her as he crouched on the last remaining branch that he could crouch on. He was almost at the top, but not quite there since the branches had become thinner.
"Give me another boost," Lucy cried out to him, pouting all the while.
"I'm sorry but I thought it was inappropriate for me to touch you there?" Natsu taunted.
Lucy glared at him as she looked around to see if there was something she could use to help her climb up. The sight of Natsu's smug smirk began to make her angry as she reached over and grabbed onto a smaller branch, but she accidentally tore it off.
"Natsu," they heard Gildarts call out his name. Natsu saw the man shaking his head at him telling him to stop mocking the princess.
While his eyes were diverted Lucy tossed the branch up at him. Without a second though Natsu could sense it coming and instinctively moved to avoid it. Unfortunately he moved too fast and didn't realize he had moved beyond the limits of the branch he was sitting on. Before he knew it he plummeted down from the tree and landed hard in the frigid lake water.
Lucy burst out into laughter as Natsu struggled to pick himself up. He sat up right, the fall didn't hurt as much as he had expected. The water wasn't too deep and he landed in the shallows. He was able to sit upright as he glowered at the blonde girl in the tree as she continue to laugh at him. He attempted to splash her, but she was too far up and the water just barely managed to make it back onto the shore.
Natsu picked himself up out of the water. Lucy was still in a fit of laughter as she pointed down at Natsu.
"Oh you think that's funny?" Natsu said smirking.
"Oh yes I do," Lucy said mockingly as she brushed her hair to the side.
"Well then I'll show you," Natsu said as he began to rush up to the tree.
"What are you doing?" Lucy asked as Natsu charged at the tree.
As soon as Natsu leapt up to the branch Lucy jumped down and began to run away. She couldn't help but laugh as Natsu began to chase her through the flowers. The two children couldn't help but smile as Natsu ran after her. Eventually he caught up to her, embracing her in a strong bear hug and falling to his back. The two of them continued to laugh uncontrollably as they rolled on the ground.
Eventually their rolling came to a stop as Lucy managed to wrangle herself on top of Natsu, she could hardly breath she was laughing so hard. They continued to laugh together as Lucy's face was buried in Natsu's wet chest. When she pulled herself up she was still giggling. She smiled down at him as their eyes locked onto one another's. Natsu could feel his heart beating like made as he peered into her eyes. He could feel the blood rushing to his face, as Lucy could feel hers growing slightly pink as well. She coughed as she picked herself up off of him looking away a little embarrassed.
"Well it looks like my dress is all dirty now," she said biting her lip.
"Sorry, my Lady," Natsu said bowing his head. He felt a little embarrassed to see that her dress was now wet with dirt spots and grass.
"Do you want to go try and catch some fish?" Lucy asked him, hoping to break the tension. "And no not to eat," Lucy said before Natsu could even ask.
"Yeah," Natsu said nodding his head smiling widely.
"Okay come on," Lucy said grabbing his hand as the two of them ran back to the lake.