Chapter 1: Natsu Dragneel
Within the ruins of an abandoned building, I leaned against a wall feeling the chill from the cracking plaster. It was cold. With a quick glance around the room, I spotted a blanket on a covered chair. Frowning as I noticed all the holes it held and sighed. There was nothing else in here but me that old blanket and the chair it was dumped upon. This is what I called home. This broken down building that even the rats won't infest. It was kind of sad that this was my home, but, there's not much I could do about that.
The thin glass of the only window in this room, despite missing several panes and few others shattered, protected faithfully from the chill outside. Despite the fact that warmer weather was supposed to be rolling in, the winter kept holding on. I shivered as a heavy wind blew past the window, the broken panes letting the chilled air into the room, casting a cool breeze against my already cold skin. My head throbbing and my shoulders shaking. I had just barely made it into shelter before freezing into a cube of ice. I could see my breath puffing from my breathing, misting out white before fading out again.
I brought my arm up, a faint violet glow lighting the room up dimly as a blue cat phased into view before me. The cat looked at me with worry, its pure white wings fluttering lightly as he moved. "Happy..." He seemed to sense my light distress, hopping into my lap and letting me curl up to him. His warmth being the only that this room held. "I'm sorry, I know I shouldn't summon you in this weather but...just for a little while..."
Happy responded my nuzzling against my shaking hands, "It's fine." I watched him curl up against my chest, a weak smile settling into my features.
When was the last time I even smiled like this...?
It's been years...
When my parents were alive, I smiled freely. Yes, times were hard. Times where my father and mother struggled, but I was happy. That was something I could never deny. My Mother and Father were in love. It was plain to see for anyone who had seen them, their love overcoming all obstacles. Even the fact that Father was a vampire.
Despite how she should have been his prey, he loved her and she him. I was proof of that love. Born of that mutual love that knew no bounds. Born because I was wanted and I was proud of that fact. So very fucking proud.
I bit my lip, tasting a coppery metal taste as my sharpened teeth tore the skin. Masks of memory invading my mind. I held Happy a bit closer and he let out a little mewl of question before seeing my expression.
It wasn't until that time...
It was after the death of Mother that things changed. My Father fell into a deep depression and took his life only a few short weeks after. I was too slow; I could've stopped it.
"I will come join you on the other side!" Father had said, grief clear in his tone, his tears streaking as heavily down his cheeks as the rain did around him.
"Father stop! Please stop...STOP!" I cried.
I had known that they loved one another deeply but for them to leave me behind. The child that they had created together? It seemed as fate had turned everything onto its head as I stood there on the edge of that high cliff that no one, not even a vampire, could survive. Watching with horror as my Father disappeared into the tree line and sharp rocks below.
Why was it so easy for him to leave me behind?
A child barely into his own life as he threw his own away. The grief was already hard enough with Mother's passing. I had grieved with him. But it ran so much more in Father; so much deeper each day. It took all my effort to comfort him despite how I was breaking down myself. I was also breaking inside and he just gave up. He just left me behind. It was because of that that I realized;
I couldn't get close to anyone.
Losing my Mother wasn't something that could be avoided. Especially with her short lifespan as a human. There was nothing anyone could do. She lived a long life, even while giving Father life-force as often as he needed. So when she died, it had been easier knowing that she'd died after living her life to its fullest.
But it seemed my Father was different.
He had an obligation to protect me, his child, as is the responsibility of any parent.
Vampires have pride. My father's clan opposed him for taking a human partner. The very same clan that would never fully accept the child of that forbidden relationship for his mixed blood. I was half human, half vampire. Like a human, I could eat regular meals but it wouldn't keep me sated. I needed the life-force of the living. Yet that hunger was never enough that I had to resort to killing anyone.
So I was stuck in the middle. Not quite human, not quite vampire.
That is who I am. Natsu Dragneel. A fragile bastard child that needed his father's protection. To watch over him until he could stand on his own two feet. Frustration and grief welled within my chest. I didn't resent my parents for leaving, but for them both to have left; it filled me with sorrow.
I wonder, even now, if I ever meant anything to them. The child born of their love but not important enough to make wither stay. Some days I felt as if the world would one day just open up and swallow me whole.
It was painful and I wanted something to hold onto...that is why I summoned Happy.
Beast servants will obey the vampire who calls them forth. They support their master when they feed and can be anything from a small animal to a large ferocious beast. Although I wasn't very strong, I still managed to summon that blue ball of lovable fur. He may have been just a small kitten at the time but even though his ranking was nothing special, I loved him the same. It didn't take long for him to become my emotional support and I became his energy. In order for one to continue a contract with these servants, the master must share their life-force.
Happy was the reason I kept going and the reason I could maintain my strong will. The kitten seemed to always overflow with joy and positivity, flitting around on his white wings. Thus I called him 'Happy'. It may have been a simple name without much thought but that was how I'd felt at the time when I first met that little bundle of adorable, bouncing joy, all I felt was pure happiness. When I had embraced the kitten for the first time, the small warmth was enough to bring me to tears. This world is a harsh mistress. But I had gained something to protect. I swore to meet life head on. Even if the dark tendrils of despair threatened to overtake me at every turn.
I glanced down at the now full grown cat with a sad smile, "Tomorrow, the clan is gathering."
Happy looked up, his big dark eyes watching him, "What's wrong Natsu?"
My smile turned into a sigh as I stroked his soft fur. "I was invited. There's no way for me to skip this one." The clan gathered every few months, the information for such occasions being passes through the beast-servants to their masters. As a distant relative, my presence was allowed. But it still hurt as nothing but curses of 'bastard child' and 'filthy' followed me around at such events. I could only handle so much of the whispering. But the most nerve-wracking was how the twin clan successors looked at him.
Sting Eucliff and Rogue Cheney. The strongest vampires of the mainline. Sting's bright and bouncy personality and Rogue's calm and introvert. Though polar opposites, the two ruled like no other. Both different and the same. Both kind and spiteful. If you were to ask any clan member about what a vampire truly was, the first name to leave their lips would be one of theirs. Although their pasts remain mysterious as no one truly knows who they were before the elders brought them before us.
For me, being shunned by the two was very painful. It was more than a simple yearning for acceptance.
Because I remember that day well.
That time they were kind to me.
As a mixed-blood child; I was closer than a human to a vampire as well as my rate of growth matching the speed of humans. In vampires, who grow slowly, it was normal that, despite their youthful looks, it was common that their age would be well into the triple digits. It must have been so bizarre to see me age as I did. Year by year without much of the strength or abilities one might expect that even a bastard child would have. Whenever Father brought me along in clan meetings, they would always talk behind my back.
"Father, what are they saying?" I remember asking him once. At the time, he had told me that it was nothing for me to worry about. But the tone of voice he used as well as the way his brows would furrow made me think otherwise. When I was young, I didn't understand the complicated and strange words that they'd hurled his way. Despite this, I always knew when they were to talk about me. Even at that age, I knew their name calling wasn't nice. One more than one occasion I had felt like huddling into a corner to cry, a murky sensation gathering around my heart as if someone was holding it in their hand.
Although at that one time, I felt saved. Saved by the cool, deep voice resonating throughout the hall as if cutting through the sickly air. It was that voice that placed a light in my darkness, a small act of kindness in hell. What shocked me further was that it had been Rogue to speak versus his quite talkative counterpart. Many of those gathered also hadn't heard the man speak before then. A occurrence that was very humorous nowadays.
"How embarrassing, since when had our clan dropped so low to sneer at a child behind his back?"
"I-I didn't mean it that way!" The vampire defiantly knew his place. His actions clearly proving that. When I think back to it though, I don't think Rogue was covering for me at the time. He was simply angered that something against his morals was happening right in front of him. But ever since that time, Rogue became somewhat special to me.
He's kind of a hero! Like a prince... I had thought that at the time. My child self was quite the weirdo if I do say so myself; and I do. In the picture books Mother read me before bedtime, whenever something terrible occurred, the prince would always come to save the day. The young me always believed that miracles happened. But now that I am older, I know that these things don't happen and that Rogue isn't a prince. But the yearning remained.I let out a sigh. I was always afraid of the gatherings, but I couldn't let myself become any more so. "Happy...please stay by my side. Always."
"Aye!" This little blue cat's encouragement made him happier than anything.
A week later, he wished he never set foot within that hall.
"So he's still alive after all." Someone had murmured, just loud enough for him to hear. I bit my lip, throwing a glare in the direction I knew it came from. I may not be as strong as them, but I sure as hell could hear them perfectly fine. This harassment was nothing new. I had to keep reminding myself of this, I couldn't let petty words get to me. It would end soon. If I endured, I would be back home with Happy in no time. Then I could return to my daily life.
I told myself this over and over. I couldn't lose to them. I may be alone but I wouldn't let those people who just stood around him and laughed see my weak side.
Just a few hours and I could hold Happy and be away from all this...
Many clan members bring their beast-servants to the gatherings, but most of which were big and ferocious. They would probably think that a little blue cat like Happy was prey for them. I don't care how much that I'd be hurt, I just wanted to keep Happy safe. That blue fur, the was his small ears and nose twitched...Happy was my precious treasure. To protect him as much as he'd helped me through all this, it was the best way to repay him. Perhaps the only way.
When I get home, I'm going to hug Happy over and over...
Everyone around him was keeping their distance, so I edged towards one side of the hall. Countless clan members poured into the hall and their magnificence was overwhelming. The castle that the gathering was being held in was that of the clan leader, once built by the humans. It was beautifully decorated as if it was brand new. My home was the exact opposite. Looking at the hall alone reminded me that an abandoned building seemed like the best he could do. It's not like I wanted to live in luxury, I just wanted someplace warm...that's all I wished for.
"Oh...!" I couldn't tell how much time had passed, but Sting and Rogue had finally appeared from the back of the hall. Following closely behind the two were vampires of high status. Whispers in the crowd said that they were their assistants.
"They're aristocrats born into perfect families."
Aristocrats. Yet the two men looked like gods among men, standing in the center of the stage. Flickering red candles making their features shine, especially their eyes. Just for an instant, it looked as though they turned their eyes my way, ruby and sapphire meeting emerald. But when I blinked, it was as though our eyes never even met. It must have been my imagination. I hung my head slightly in disappointment, but just then I heard Sting's low voice.
"My brethren, thank you all for gathering here." At those simple words the hall was silent. Each and every vampire in the room locking their eyes on the blond so they wouldn't miss a single word. "I am delighted to see that you are all safe, but I have some bad news I must deliver. This is why I gathered you today."
Bad news? It must have a big impact for them to call a gathering. It was Rogue's turn to speak then, stepping forward so all eyes moved onto him.
"Lately, there has been some...unfavorable activity among the humans and we have been looking into it." He paused for a moment, gathering his thoughts before looking around the crowd. "Everyone is aware of the Hunters..."
Everyone nodded, me along with them. While the vampires frowned with disapproval, I had mixed feelings. Avoiding the fate of becoming prey, the Hunters were humans that hunted vampires. Vampires may be stronger and far smarter than humans, but that didn't mean they were invincible. The Hunters know this and use it to their advantage. In turn, they do not lose, even to the highest level vampires.
"It seems that lately, the humans are beginning to get carried away with themselves." Sting continued, "It's troublesome, but victims on our side have been increasing as well."
"How can that be?" A random clan member asked in disbelief. Others soon joined him, voicing their shock among curses towards the humans. But even as the hall stirred, I tried to make myself smaller. Each time someone said 'human' I felt my body tremble. I needed to keep myself together. But the looks of hate were almost enough to make me snap.
My head began to spin, if hostility was able to kill, I'd think it was working. I was overwhelmed, reaching for something to grab onto, just enough to steady myself. But my outreached fingers, when expecting the cool touch of some inanimate object, touched cloth. It took me a moment to realize who I'd touched, almost jumping back in surprise.
"I'm reluctant to do so but he is still one of us...even if he is a bastard." I was caught by the arm, but the positioning made it look as though Sting was holding me like one would a lover. I had thought he would be cold, never shaken by anything, and I assumed that his body temperature would be the same. But in reality, Sting's body was much warmer than my own.
Did he...protect me...
The possibility started to get my hopes up. But I wouldn't be able to stay in these warm arms forever, the surrounding stares were getting worse. My head was pounding with the pure malice behind them. I slipped to my knees, barely looking up to Sting.
"I'm sorry." My voice came out quiet, barely a whisper. "It must not be pleasant to cover for a bastard like me...is it."
Sting looked taken aback for a moment, "You...er...that's right. Our clan is not one that accepts bastards like you." Even though I had brought it up myself, it was still painful to hear my fears confirmed.
Damnit! I'm so stupid, I just wanted to give my thanks properly...
I was filled with regret, my gaze falling back to the floor again. Not noticing when Rogue had made his way over, "It's because you are this way that..." His voice fell short, just pulling me firmly back to my feet by the arm. I cringed in the slight pain it caused, his grip was unexpectedly strong. I had no idea what to do. "You certainly are a bastard but don't you ever think about changing things?"
"What?" Red met olive, "don't you think I would change the people that heated me if I could?" The way he had made it sound as if I were to blame made me feel sad and by the look that passed through Rogue's eyes, he hadn't meant for the words to be that way. My situation was not one that I was in because I wished for it. Why should I be blamed for it? It seemed that Sting and Rogue were like the others. No matter how much I worried or suffered, all they would do was watch. I wouldn't even be surprised if the two looked down upon me along with the rest of the clan.
Rogue probably didn't think I'd talk back to him. Neither did Sting apparently, if the look of surprise he held said anything. With a troubled expression, Rogue gave a soft apology, speaking in a low voice for only me or Sting to hear.
"But don't do anything to stand out anymore." Sting spoke up, "Just sit over there." He pointed to a very comfortable looking arm chair. It was a little separated from everything, but it was placed where it would still be within the men's line of sight as they returned to the stage. It may have been set up for me to begin with. It may have been placed there by someone who wanted nothing to do with me but, I was happy that Sting was, at least he appeared to, thinking of my well-being. It made me regret harsh words to Rogue.
"Thank you and...I'm sorry." I whispered as Sting had turned his back to return to his previous place on stage. Rogue lingered only but a moment longer before following the blond. With the two back on stage, everyone turned their focus onto them. I let out a sigh of relief, holding myself loosely. The places the two had touched felt warm, and I was so happy that I could cry. With just this, I could do my best again tomorrow. I didn't know when the clan would gather next but, I felt the littlest bit of courage to go on until then.
"In hunting, we lose to no one. However," Rogue spoke with urgency, "A pact is necessary." Angry shouts erupted from the hall, buzzing with rage. Vampires are not the only ones that humans fear and call "supernatural".
"It can't be..." A lone voice spoke, the anxious tone causing the rest to fall silent. The fear and dread spreading through the hall in little more than a blink of an eye. Of all the supernatural, Vampires stood the highest, but something was threatening their position. Below them were the Werewolves, who's strength was reliant on the position of the moon since their energy and power came from the moonlight itself. So much so that, even if it was a full moon, if the sky was clouded over, it would be as if it was only a new moon. Weak enough to be humans. It was well known the difference between the two races, the two often clashing with morals. The hate between the races was also. But to me, I considered them to be more affectionate than the Vampires.
"But whether make a pact with them or not remains to be discussed." Sting said, "That is all. You may leave."
I watched the clan members leave, the numbers dwindling into the few stragglers before I made a move to stand. Only a few candles remained lit as well. I stumbled a bit blindly in the darkness as my sight wasn't as great as the other vampires. I made sure to walk slowly, one hand on the wall to guide me.
"Wait, Natsu..." I watched Rogue walk over, candlestick in hand and Sting in tow. I swear the two were never apart.
"Huh?" I shook my head, "Um...what is it?"
"What do you think?" Sting's tone was a bit harsh, but I could understand why.
"About...the werewolves? You're asking for my opinion." It wasn't a question but rather a statement.
"Yes, that's right." Rogue nodded as Sting continued.
"The opinion of a bastard who is supported by werewolves." He growled.
"Sting." Rogue's voice was stern, he placed a hand on Sting's shoulder. "Your opinion is valuable as you have known them on such a personal level."
My eyes widened. Sting may have been rude, but Rogue's kindness was heartbreaking. I could feel tears well up behind my eyes. Whether from confusion or sadness, I didn't want to let them go.
"Come now, answer us." Sting demanded, his agitation growing by the second. "Natsu."
"If...everyone will stay safe, then it would be a good thing," I finally spoke, but that wasn't the answer Sting had been looking for but Rogue, on the other hand, was quite amused. It wasn't as if my affections towards the Werewolf clans wasn't expected. After all, when I had lost my parents, the first one to come to my side and help was my childhood friend, Lisanna. A werewolf.
Vampires and Werewolves have been hostile towards one another from the beginning. A compromise may be unheard of, even unthinkable, but just as Rogue said, there was a time that I was raised by them. Although my mother was a human, they let me live like a normal family. Just because vampires are one way didn't mean that werewolves are the opposite. Yes, the werewolves lived close by. I didn't even know if Father knew that they even were.
It was natural for the clans to hate one another but, Lisanna and her family always smiled and treated him kindly. Even Mira who, thank god, has finally passed that Gothic stage. Even before my parents met, Father did so many things out of the ordinary. Maybe that's why he had so much tolerance. Or maybe it was an act of revenge against the clan who condemned him. But thanks to those actions, once he died, the Strauss family reached out a loving hand to help me when I had been at my lowest.
That's why I knew. I knew if they were asked, the werewolves would come to help. If they were asked for cooperation, they would accept. If these two and others chose the right direction, things would move forward. If everyone could live, this was my answer