When you were a child I bet you were told stories about fairy tales such as Cinderella, Snow White, and Little Red Riding Hood. Magical stories filled with danger, romance, friendship, family, good triumphing over evil. I'm sure you loved hearing those stories as a child and most likely outgrew them once you entered adulthood believing them to be nothing more than a childish fantasy. But what if I told you that all these stories actually happened but not in the way you were told as a child? What if I told you that Cinderella, Snow White, and Little Red Riding Hood actually existed only their names were changed? What if I told you that the evil Queen and the wicked stepmother were the same person? What if I told you that the big bad wolf wasn't as bad as you think? And what if I told you that all of these three stories were all just a part of one great big Tale? If you would like to know the true story of Cinderella, Snow White, and Little Red Riding Hood then you're in for a very special treat. So sit back, relax, and listen as a tell you the story of three maidens: One as pure as gold, one as fair as snow, and one as strong as blood.
Now reader before we begin I must tell you that we will have to go back a couple times to tell a character's story otherwise you won't understand them that well. We will be going back three times since our main focus will be on three main characters. Now then what is that phrase you use before you begin a story? Oh yes now I remember.
Once upon a time a great evil spirit plagued the land and caused mass destruction and chaos wherever it went. This spirit would have no doubt destroyed the world had the good fairies not sealed it away, hidden it from the eyes of man. Until one day that spirit was once again discovered and it began it's evil plan to escape it's prison.
Sometime after the spirit was sealed away there grew a kingdom called Fiore which by now has been forgotten by most but in the beginning it was a well known kingdom which was ruled by a good and wise king but this isn't a story about him. No it's about a young girl who loved her parents very much. Her name was Lucy, she was the daughter of a merchant named Jude and his lovely wife Layla. The very moment she was born Lucy became the most precious treasure her parents ever had. They gave her all they had but she was content with only their love.
"Lucy please stop running. You'll fall and hurt yourself." The pretty blonde woman said as her daughter ran excitedly toward the oak tree.
She and her husband walked hand in hand to the tree carrying a picnic basket and cloth.
"Ha! I beat you there! I win!" Lucy cheered.
"Yes you did. Now settle down and come eat lunch with us dear."
They laid out a cloth and began to enjoy a delicious picnic lunch while sitting somewhere they could feel both the sun's warmth and the cool shade of the tree. After lunch Lucy went to pick a bouquet of wild flowers which she presented to her mother.
"For you Mother." She said.
"Oh Lucy they're beautiful." Layla said inhaling the flower's fragrance.
"Someday I'm going to have my own garden of flowers and fruit and a well and a little house for fairies."
"Fairies?" Her father Jude said.
"Yes. I read in a book that fairies like to stay in gardens so I'm going to a make a little fairy house to put in my garden so they're stay is more comfortable."
"What nonsense. Everyone knows that fairies do not exist."
Layla giggled and lifted Lucy into her lap.
"Your father doesn't believe in magic." She said.
"Well he should." Lucy said.
"You know Lucy you have a fairy godmother."
"Yes and someday when you really need her she'll show up."
"Really Layla must you fill our daughter's head with these silly tales." Jude said.
"But they aren't silly tales Jude."
"Then how come I've never seen these fairies?"
"Well just because you've never seen something doesn't mean it doesn't exist. You've never seen love yet you know it exists."
"Yes but that's an entire different matter."
"I see no difference."
"Oh come here you."
Jude grabbed his wife and daughter, embracing, nuzzling, and tickling them causing the three of them to roll down the hill laughing. Out of all the families in Fiore I don't think one was as nearly as happy and full of love as Lucy's was. Everyday was almost like a holiday filled with neverending laughter. But for some happiness cannot last forever and Lucy's ended much too soon. She was still merely a child when her parents perished in a fire that destroyed her entire home. No one knew how the fire started and many did not care. When Lucy returned from playing with the other children she found her home in ashes, her father and mother barely alive. With her dying breath Layla said these final words to her daughter.
"My dearest child always be good and pious and someday you will be loved and rewarded for all you have suffered. And even when your father and I have descended into heaven we will always be at your side."
In that moment she passed away.
"Mother no! No Mother please don't leave me!" The child begged. She then went to her father's side. "Father please don't go!"
The man could only weakly caress his daughter's cheek.
"I love you." He said with his last breath.
"Father no! Father please come back!"
The other peasants could only look upon her with tears of sorrow and pity as she clung to her dead parents and begged them to somehow come back to life. Eventually the child was forced to except that her parents would never return to earth and bury them. After mourning for three days Lucy went to live with the only living relative she had. Her mother's twin sister Minerva. Now Minerva happened to be the queen of Fiore and it was said that she was the most beautiful woman in the world. So beautiful that the very moment the good King Hector saw her, he asked her to marry him immediately asked her to marry him.
When Lucy saw her aunt for the first time she was surprised to see that she looked nothing like her mother. She was a slim and attractive woman with long glossy black hair that went down to her back and slanted dark eyes with a face that resembled a geisha. She was definitely as lovely as rumors said she was but her beauty was only skin deep and she was a very vain and selfish woman who took an instant dislike of her niece.
"Don't think that just because we're family that you'll be treated like a little princess here." She told her. "From now on you must earn your keep. You shall work as a servant and live in the kitchen. If you do not do as your told or if I hear one complaint you shall be thrown out. Is that understood?"
"Yes Auntie Minerva."
"How dare you address me with such disrespect!" She snapped. "I am queen! You shall refer to me as your majesty or your highness! Nothing else is that clear?"
"Yes your highness."
"Good now get out of my sight. Hmmph. You're almost as annoying as that pesky stepdaughter of mine."
Lucy sighed and went down to the kitchen where she fell asleep weeping by the fireplace.
The next morning Lucy began her job as a sullery maid. Her aunt had decided to have her work for a noble family who's master had two daughters Sorano and Yukino. The sisters were extremely spoiled and the oldest Sorano was especially bratty and mean to poor Lucy.
"Where have you been?" She asked haughtingly when Lucy arrived her room carrying firewood. "I have been chill for half an hour. Hurry up and light a fire and don't touch anything with those dirty hands of yours!"
Little Lucy spent many days working as hard as she could receiving no help or kindness from anyone. She wore only rags and slept by the fireplace in the kitchen which resulted in her face always being covered in ash and cinder. Sorano would always taught her by calling her name's like cinder wench or dirty maid. Her only friends were the mice who would sometimes sneak into the kitchen for table scraps.
One day when the castle was having a ball she found herself sitting at the entrance of the ballroom, hiding in the shadows just to hear the music playing and to smell the delicious food on display. They did feed her but it was never enough and she was always so very hungry. Taking a peak inside she saw a man whom she recognized as King Hector dancing with a little girl around her age. It reminded her of when she used to dance with her father and it brought tears to her eyes.
Lucy was snapped out of her sad thoughts by the sound of a little girl's voice. She saw that looking at her was the little girl she had seen dancing with the king.
"Oh forgive me Miss I was just resting for a moment." Lucy said.
"That's okay. You look tired and hungry. Do you want something to eat? Stay here I'll be right back."
And she was off before Lucy could stop her. She then came back with a little plate of bread and cake.
"Here you go."
"Miss I couldn't."
"Why not? You look like you're starving to death."
"But I'm a servant."
"Servants have to eat too you know."
Lucy was expecting this girl's act of kindness to be some sort of cruel joke. Like that time Sorano had offered her a small cube of sugar only to snatch it away when Lucy reached for it. Giving into her growling belly she slowly reach over to grab a small roll off the plate. She hesitated before taking a bite still not sure if the girl's kindness was sincere. She soon realized that it was and began to help herself to the bread and cake.
"Don't they feed you?" The girl asked.
"Yes but only breadcrust and chicken bones."
"That's awful. My father would never allow such a thing. He's the king you know."
"Your father is the king? Then you must be the princess."
"Why are you being so nice to me?"
"Because isn't that what princesses are supposed to be?"
"Lucy!" Screeched the angry voice of Minerva as she charged over to where the two girls were seated. "What do you think you're doing up here?! You're supposed to be in the kitchen! Do you think I want my geusts to see a dirty serving wench up here?!"
She looked down at the plate of bread and cake Lucy was eating from.
"You little thief! How dare you steal from the table!" She sized Lucy by her arm and prepared to strike her only to be stopped by the other girl grabbing on to Minerva's dress.
"She didn't steal them Stepmother I gave them to her!" The girl objected.
"Why on earth would you do a stupid thing like that?!"
"She looked so hungry I thought maybe she needed something to eat. Oh please don't hurt her Stepmother. If you must punish someone punish me!"
For a moment it looked like Minerva was going to strike the girl but she stopped.
"Come Juvia your father is waiting for us."
She grabbed the girl called Juvia roughly by the arm and pulled her along as she walked back to the ball.
That was the first time Lucy had received any kindness since her parents died and that gave her hope that not all people were cruel and that if she honored her mother's dying words then she would indeed find happiness.
Ten years passed and even though Lucy continued to spend her days as a scullery maid, working in ash and soot while wearing only rags she grew up to be a lovely woman with hair as golden as the sun and eyes that seemed to resemble stardust. Her aunt continued to work her hard and abuse her but it did nothing to tarnish Lucy's sweet disposition and determined spirit.
"Lucy! Where are you?! Yukino and I want our breakfast now!" Sorano screeched for one morning.
"Coming!" Lucy called as she added the finishing touches on their morning meal.
"I specifically said that I wanted four minute eggs! Not four one minute! And where in God's name is our bread?!"
"Sorano please there's no need to yell." Yukino said.
Lucy walked into the dinning room carrying a tray of eggs, bread, and fruit with a teapot and cups. She sat the tray on the table and began to pour the tea.
"What kept you?" Sorano asked.
"Sorry Miss. You said that you wanted duck eggs for breakfast and they're so much harder to find than chicken eggs."
"That's no excuse and look at you, covered in ash and soot. I swear Lucy sometimes I think that you're no different from a pig. After all you're ugly like them, you're dirty like them, and you smell like them."
"I think that was a bit too harsh Sorano." Yukino said. "After all Lucy does sleep by the castle fire place instead of sleeping in a warm bedroom like the rest of us. You know Lucy we do have an extra bedroom that no one uses so perhaps-"
"Be quiet Yukino! She's a servant not a guest! Don't treat her like one! Now Lucy leave and get started on your usual chores."
As usual Lucy worked her fingers to the bone. Cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner, sweeping and scrubbing the floors, waxing the tables, polishing the silver, and washing and mending the clothes. She did each of her chores without complaint and still found ways to be hopeful and happy. Once she finished her chores she returned to the castle but not before visiting the graves of her beloved parents. Some time ago Lucy had found a hazel twig and planted it on her parent's graves. Over the years she had watered it with her many, many tears resulting in a hazel tree growing on their graves. Lucy treasured that tree because she felt that it symbolized the notion that somehow her parents were still with her. After visiting their graves and tending to the tree, Lucy retried to her place in the kitchen where she found her friends the mice waiting for her.
"Hello my little friends. Are you hungry?" She began to feed bits of her bread crust to the hungry mice. Though she knew the mice could not speak she knew that they understood her whenever she talked to them and sometimes all a person needs is someone to listen to them.
Suddenly she heard the sound of glass breaking. She quickly stood up, grabbed a broom that was by the fireplace, and slowly without making a sound walked toward the direction of where the noise had come from. The source of it was a man in a cloak who appeared to be stealing some of the bread.
"Thief! Get out!" She swung her broom and hit the man, knocking him to the kitchen floor and began to hit him repeatedly with it. "How dare you break into the kitchen and steal!"
"I'm sorry! I was only going to take one loaf!" He said.
"Yeah well guess who will face the queen's wrath tomorrow morning when she finds out a thief robbed her? It certainly won't be you I'm sure!"
"Stop that! Ow! I'm sorry! I'm sorry! But I haven't eaten in days and- I'll pay you for it!" He threw a pouch at her feet. She picked it up, looking inside she saw that there were gold coins inside. "There? Satisfied?"
The young man stood up and removed the hood of his cloak showing her his face. He was a very good looking man with a certain charm to him but Lucy was much too angry with at the moment to notice.
"Sir if you can afford to buy bread why did you not buy it from the bakery?" She asked suspiciously.
"Because I'm trying to run away and I don't want anyone to recognize me."
"Are you a criminal?"
"No. I just...Look that gold is enough to pay for the bread and anything else you might need so can we please keep this encounter hush-hush?"
"Thank you. I bid you good night dear lady."
He then ran off out the back door of the kitchen leaving Lucy to wonder who on earth that man was.
What Lucy didn't know was that the man she had just encountered was Natsu the crown prince of Alvarez and he was on the run. You see his older brother, King Zeref was pressuring him to take a bride. But the young prince didn't even want to think of getting married right now. He didn't understand why his brother was so dead set on getting him married. He was the oldest, the first born, which made him the king. Natsu being the second born and youngest would never be king so shouldn't Zeref be more concerned with finding a wife for himself?
He grabbed the nearest horse he could find and made a run for it. But he underestimated his brother's trackers. All too soon Zeref's men found him and brought him back to Alvarez.
"From now on you are restricted to castle grounds." His brother told him.
"So I'm under house arrest? What's next the dudgeon?" Natsu said annoyed.
"I wouldn't have to do this if you would stop running away to another kingdom."
"I wouldn't run away if you would stop trying to get me married! Geez Zeref why are you doing this?"
"You need a wife Natsu and heirs."
"You're the king not me! You should be the one trying to get married!"
"Natsu you don't understand I can't."
"What do you mean you can't?"
Zeref sighed and gave him a look. A look that Natsu recognized as one that said: I have something awful to tell you but I really don't want to. After a moment of silence that seemed to last forever Zeref finally spoke.
"I was hoping to put off telling you this until you were married but I guess that I have no choice but to tell you now."
"Tell me what?"
"I'm dying Natsu."
"Natsu I've been very sick for a long time and soon I will have to go."
"Well why don't we find another physician? Try a different medicine?"
"Natsu I've tried everything. There's no hope for me and when I'm gone you'll have to take my place as the new king. That's why I'm so desperate to get you married."
Natsu couldn't speak. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. His brother was dying? No. No that couldn't be true. It just couldn't be. Natsu was only three years old when his parents died in a shipwreck while they were sailing over seas to attend a business in another kingdom. After their demise Zeref had become king and had spent the last seventeen years running the kingdom while also raising Natsu. Zeref was the only family he had ever known and the thought of living without him scared him. Zeref had been born with extremely weak health which had been getting worse for years. Natsu always suspected that it would eventually lead to Zeref's death he just never thought it would be so soon.
"I've thought about marrying and having a child of my own but I didn't want my wife to be widowed too soon or my child to grow up fatherless. Natsu I know it's not fair of me to ask you this but please, please, I need you to take my place when I'm gone. I need you to become king, find a queen, and produce an heir."
"Alright Zeref." Natsu sighed. "I'll...I'll try. I'll really try."
"Good. Listen to remember King Hector of Fiore?"
"Well his daughter Juvia has just turned seventeen and from what I hear she's grown up to be the most beautiful woman in the world and that she's very kind. I would like you to go to Fiore and meet her. Try to get to know her."
"Funny I was just in Fiore."
"I shall send a message to Queen Minerva informing her of your arrival."
Zeref quickly sent word to the queen.
"Why would I want some spoiled little prince here?" Minerva asked her advisor Rogue.
"Well his brother King Zeref was hoping to arrange for him to marry Princess Juvia."
"Marriage? But she's just a child and I doubt this prince is one himself as well."
"Actually your majesty he is twenty years old, very handsome, strong, very wealthy, and according to Zeref in desperate need of a wife."
"Really?" Minerva said becoming interested but then upset. "Ugh. But he's a prince. Not a king, that marriage will lead to nothing."
"He won't be a prince for much longer."
"What do you mean?"
"From what I've been told King Zeref is dying from illness, once he passes Natsu shall ascend the throne."
"So if I were to marry him I would be queen of two kingdoms."
"You? Marry him? Correct me if I'm wrong your highness but aren't you already married to our king?"
"Yes but Hector has been missing for three months and there's been no trace of him. I've accepted that he's dead and so has everyone else and I've gotten so lonely since his death. I could use another husband."
"But wouldn't the princess make a better choice? After all she is closer to the prince's age."
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"Now don't get upset but don't you think you're just a little, teeny, weeny, tiny bit too old for him?"
"No! I am not! Twenty-nine is not that old!"
"But you're not twenty-nine."
She gave him a death glare.
"Okay I'll be quiet now."
"Good now then tell King Zeref that I would be delighted to have Natsu attend our kingdom and that we'll be holding a ball in his honor."
"Yes. One more grand than ever before."
"But your majesty how exactly do you plan to pay for this? I don't mean to alarm you but you're broke."
"It's called taxing Rogue."
"More taxes? I don't know if that's such a good idea."
"Because the people are starving and some are homeless."
"Since when I have I ever cared for what became of the people?"
"You used to care."
"That was when I was foolish. Now go into the kingdom and squeeze every last penny out those peasants if you have to."
"Yes your majesty."
Word spread quickly about Minerva's ball for the prince. Every noble man and woman in Fiore was invited and they were excited about attending. Especially Sorano and Yukino.
"What do you think Sorano?" Yukino asked. "Should I wear my blue dress or my white one?"
"Go with the blue." Sorano said. "As for me I'm going to buy a new gown that's made from the finest silks."
"You know the queen is paying for this ball by taxing the people." Lucy said.
"So? We can afford to pay."
"But not everyone can. A lot of the people can't even afford a loaf of bread let alone expenses for a ball."
"I do. If you ask me Minerva shouldn't be the queen."
"Careful what you say Lucy." Yukino said. "If you're not careful you might end up in the dungeon."
"Well it's the truth. Ever since King Hector disappeared she's been plunging this kingdom into ruin and I bet this prince is just as bad as she is."
"I would give anything to marry Prince Natsu. He's the most handsome man in the world." Sorano said. "Or so I hear."
"You've never even seen the man and you already wanna marry him? What if he's cruel?"
"He's a prince. I don't care if he's cruel or not."
"You mean you only want to marry him because he's a prince? What about love?"
"You poor naive girl. No woman can afford to marry for love alone these days especially with the kingdom running low on wealth nowadays."
Lucy rolled her eyes and left to go back to the kitchen in the castle. She hated to admit it but deep down she wanted to go to that ball. For as long as she could remember she had always dreamed of going to a real royal ball. But what were the odds of that happening?
Reader I'm going to have to stop the story and go back a little ways because you will soon be meeting the second important character in our story. It all starts seventeen years ago, before King Hector married Minerva he had wife before her named Dianne. She was beautiful and gentle and beloved by all who knew her but no one in all of Fiore loved her more than her husband. King Hector gave her anything she wished or desired, his soul purpose in life was to see her smile always. Queen Dianne loved her husband as much as he loved her and though she did appreciate the wonderful and expensive gifts he gave her there was only one thing she wanted from him. A child to love and care for.
One day Fiore was having the most unusual weather. It was both raining and snowing at the same time. While most people in Fiore weren't too fond of snow and rain, Dianne enjoyed watching it. She found rain and snow to be very beautiful. As she was sitting by her window doing her needlework, watching the snow and rain fall she noticed that in the midst of it all a pink rose was growing in the castle gardens. No one knew how but the rose did not die in that weather, it merely continued to grow. Dianne then said to herself.
"If only I could have a child as blue and deep as the rain, as pink and blush as that rose, and as white and fair as the snow."
Sometime later Queen Dianne gave birth to a baby girl. She had hair and eyes as blue and deep as rain, cheeks as pink and blush as spring roses, and skin as white and fair as snow. They called her Juvia. Sadly however the pain and exhaustion of it all had been too much for the good queen and it wouldn't be long before she would have to say goodbye to her husband and kingdom. King Hector walked into the bed chamber to see his wife laying in bed, barely alive.
"My love." She said weakly.
"Rest my fairest queen." Hector told her while gently grasping her hand.
"Our little one?"
"She's perfect. She's the most beautiful child that's ever been born and the kingdom loves her already."
"Forgive me my dearest husband but I must leave you."
"Juvia...She will need a mother. You must remarry."
"No...No Dianne! I could never do that."
"How can I when you are my one and only love?"
"Hector please for our daughter's sake."
Hector looked into the dying eyes of the love of his life. He couldn't imagine being married to any woman but her. The mere thought seemed impossible but her eyes pleaded with him to do so, so the poor man nodded in agreement.
"Bring her to me." Dianne said turning to the nurse. She nodded and walked to the cradle, picking up the bundle inside. Then with great care she placed the bundle in the queen's arms. She pulled some of the blanket back and smiled weakly when she saw the tiny baby girl with blue hair and eyes, rosy pink cheeks, and snow white skin. "You're so beautiful Juvia. So beautiful that I can't imagine anyone not loving you the minute they see you. I don't know if you'll ever remember these words my little princess but I love you more than you will ever know and as long as you hold love and goodness in your heart I shall always be with you."
With the last of her strength Queen Dianne placed a kiss upon her newborn daughter's tiny head then her arm went limp and eyes fluttered closed as her heart stopped and she breathed her final breath. Hector broke down and clutched his wife's body while sobbing bitterly. The entire kingdom of Fiore was heartbroken by their beloved queen's death but no more so than the king. It was not long before the kingdom's grief turned to joy when they saw how beautiful the little princess was. Juvia was a sweet child who loved her father very much and he loved her. Just as he had done with his wife, he gave the girl whatever she wished and desired though also like her mother before her Juvia never asked for much. Her father's love was enough.
King Hector was very happy with his daughter but he still felt the need to honor his wife's dying wish. So when Juvia was seven years old the king went away on a hunting trip where he met Minerva. Bewitched by her beauty he begged her to marry him and she became his queen but the little princess wasn't to thrilled about getting a new mother. So on the day her father returned from his wedding she hid from him in her secret place, the royal gardens. She always went there whenever she was upset. Soon her father returned and he knew just where to find her.
"I thought you might be here and I must say I was quite disappointed that you didn't come to greet me at the castle doors like you always do." Hector said.
"What's the matter Juvia? Aren't you happy to see me?"
"Yes but why did you bring her?"
"Minerva? She's my wife."
"But why did you marry her? We don't need her. We were getting along just fine."
"I know this is all a big change for you Juvia but believe me this marriage will only make things better."
"Did you marry her because you don't love Mother anymore?"
"Of course not. Juvia I loved your mother more than anything in the world. In fact before she died she told me to remarry because she wanted someone to take care of you when I'm busy."
"But what if she doesn't like me?"
"She'll adore you. Now can you do me a favour and just give her a chance? Please?"
"That's my girl."
Juvia then went with her father to meet her new stepmother.
"Juvia this is Minerva." Hector introduced.
Juvia curtsied politely like she was taught to do from the moment she learned to walk.
"It's a pleasure to meet you." She said respectfully.
Minerva smiled and kneeled down at her.
"I'm so glad to finally meet you." She said kindly. "You're all your father ever talks about."
"You're very lovely."
"That's very kind of you to say. You know Juvia I can understand what you've been through. I lost my mother when I was young too and I hope that you know that I have no intention of taking your mother's place. But most of all I hope that someday you and I can be friends."
Juvia could tell that she was being sincere and smiled back at her. That evening Minerva helped Juvia get ready for bed.
"There we go." She said helping her into her nightgown.
"You're welcome. You know when I was your age the things I liked best were hearing stories and having my hair brushed. Shall I do them for you?"
She grabbed a brush and began to lightly brush Juvia's hair as they sat together on her bed.
"Once upon a time there were two little girls who were sisters. Their mother loved them both very much but she died when they were still just children and their father was a cruel man who favored his first daughter but abused his second."
"Because his first daughter was beautiful but his second daughter was ugly and he hated her for it. The only person who really truly cared for her was her sister. But then one day she found a very special mirror that made her beautiful and after she became beautiful everyone loved her and she married a good man who would always be kind to her."
"Well I'm glad to see that you two are getting along." King Hector said entering the bedroom. Minerva got up from Juvia's bed and went to kiss her husband.
"I'll see you at the banquet." She told him before leaving.
Hector began to tuck Juvia into bed.
"So do you like her?" He asked.
"Good. Oh I almost forgot! I have a little surprise for you." He pulled a gold locket from his coat pocket and hooked it around Juvia's neck. "I gave this to your mother on our wedding day and I think she would have wanted you to have it."
Juvia opened the locket and saw that inside was a miniature portrait of a beautiful woman with blue hair and eyes just like Juvia.
"Mother was so beautiful." Juvia sighed.
"Do you think I'll look like her when I get older?"
"I have no doubt in my mind. Good night Juvia." He kissed her and then left her to sleep.
Minerva seemed to be a very good motherly figure to Juvia and a very devoted wife to Hector. She cared for her people and appeared to be a great queen. However sometimes Minerva would disappear into a secret room where no one was allowed to enter except her. When she came out she was always in a very good mood. One evening little Juvia was feeling extra curious so she decided to spy on her stepmother through the key hole of the door to her secret room.
Inside the room there were mirrors hanging everywhere on the wall and Minerva was dancing around in the middle of the room, gazing at her reflection in each mirror. She then approached one mirror in particular that looked older than all the others. In fact it looked as old as time itself and Juvia didn't know why but she had a bad feeling about that mirror.
"Mirror, mirror on the wall." Minerva spoke. "Who is the fairest of them all?"
And much to Juvia's shock the mirror replied.
"Thou, Queen art the fairest in all the land."
Minerva then smiled and laughed like a happy child. Juvia didn't know her stepmother was so vain. She remembered how her nursemaid had always told her that while it was important to look your best you must never be vain. Still that seemed to be the only flaw Minerva had so Juvia ignored it but she would soon discover that she had many other flaws. It all started when King Hector began getting called to do business in other kingdoms.
"Must you leave again?" Juvia asked Hector as he prepared his horse.
"I'm sorry Juvia, you know I hate leaving you and I would gladly stay but as a king I must do what is best for my people. A true ruler always puts their kingdom and their people before themselves. Never forget that Juvia because one day you will be queen."
"Yes Father. But every time you leave I am so very lonely."
"Minerva will look after and play with you. Won't you my dear?"
"Of course." Minerva smiling. "You needn't worry about us, we'll be fine."
After giving Minerva a kiss and Juvia a hug goodbye, King Hector rode away on his horse.
"I will miss him so." Juvia sighed.
"He'll be back in just a few short months. You'll see." Minerva assured her. "Now why don't you go play in the garden? The roses are in bloom."
"Really? Oh wonderful!"
Juvia excitedly ran downstairs and out the door leading to the royal gardens. From her window, Minerva watched her smell the pink roses, pick apples from the trees, feed the birds, and chase butterflies. Also watching her were some of the castle maids.
"What a pretty child." One of them said.
"And she'll be even more beautiful by the time she's ready to wed." Another said.
"Only seven years old and she already has Queen Dianne's beauty and sweetness."
"King Hector must be so proud."
"Do you suppose that someday she could be more beautiful than the queen?"
"Hush! You musn't say such things! You know how sensitive the queen is about her appearance."
But it was too late. Minerva had already heard them and it wasn't long before the fear that one day the child's beauty would surpass her own was sown into her heart. Minerva became cold and haughty around Juvia. If she ever spoke to her she would snap at her in a voice full of hatred much to Juvia's confusion. Of course whenever King Hector was in the castle she behaved as sweet and motherly as she did before but Hector was always away on royal business so most of the time Juvia was at Minerva's mercy.
"Have I done something wrong Stepmother?" Juvia asked her one day. "Why are you always so angry with me?"
"Juvia it has come to my attention that you're a rather spoiled child! And I think it's time that you learned to be humble. From now on there will be no more playing or going outside! You shall in remain in the palace always and focus on your lessons! And furthermore you won't be getting anymore special gifts like new gowns or jewelry." Her eyes went to Juvia's locket and she snatched it right off her neck. "This is too nice to be worn by a spoiled little brat!"
"Oh please give it back!" Juvia begged. "It was my mother's."
"Well I'm your mother now so this rightfully belongs to me and if you tell your father one word of this I'll deny it and tell him that it's just you being jealous."
"I don't understand. Why are you doing this?"
"Because you may be a little princess in your father's eyes but you're not deserving of the title."
Minerva then left taking the locket. Poor Juvia began to cry. Unknown to the both of them Lucy was scrubbing the floors of the corridor where that room was and she had heard the conversation. As quiet as a mouse she followed Minerva, watching her go into her bedchamber and place the locket into her jewelry box before going to sleep. Once she was sure Minerva was asleep Lucy did something very risky.
She quietly and carefully crept into Minerva's bedchamber. She knew if she was caught by her aunt it would most likely be the end of her but Juvia had been so kind to her the other day by giving her bread and cake from the ball and she felt that this would be the perfect way to repay her. She opened the jewelry box, grabbed the locket, and got out of there as quickly and quietly as possible. She then went Juvia's room and knocked on the door which was soon opened by a tired Juvia.
"Pardon the intrusion Miss." Lucy said. "But I brought you something."
She then held up the locket.
"Oh thank you." She said hugging her. "Thank you so much."
Juvia then quickly realeased her when she felt how cold her body was.
"You feel like ice. Doesn't your bed have a blanket?"
"I don't have a bed. I sleep on the kitchen floor."
"Well no wonder you're so cold. Do you wanna sleep with me in my bed tonight?"
"Won't I get into trouble Miss?"
"No. My stepmother doesn't wake me in the morning and my nurse maids won't mind."
"But my clothes are dirty."
"You can borrow one of my night gowns."
She helped Lucy dress into one of her nightgowns and the two went to bed.
"My mother's dead too you know." Lucy said.
"Do you remember her?" Juvia asked.
"Yes I do."
"I wish I remembered my mother."
"At least you still have your father. Mine's dead like my mother."
"You know they're not really gone."
"What do you mean?"
"My father said that when my mother died she turned into an angel and she'll be watching over me forever."
"Do you think that happened to my parents?"
"Yes I do. My father says that's what happens when parents who love their children die."
"Can I ask you something Miss?"
"Are we friends?"
"Then you wanna know a secret?"
"What you're my first and only friend."
"You wanna know a secret?"
"You're my first and only friend too."
They smiled at each other and fell asleep, happy that they had found a friend. Time passed and as Juvia grew so did her beauty. By the time she was seventeen years old she had grown so beautiful and fair that there was no one in the entire kingdom of Fiore more lovely than her but she wasn't blessed with beauty alone. She also possesed a heart of kindness and love, caring deeply for everyone she knew. Unfortunately her unsurpassed beauty would soon earn her Minerva's jealous wrath.
Juvia hummed to herself as she sat by the window of her bedroom doing her knitting and sewing. It was one of the very few things she could do to occupy herself. Whenever her father went away her stepmother hardly ever let her leave the castle so the young lady had to keep herself busy by knitting, sewing, reading books, and working on her lessons. Her only friends were the birds who would occasionally come to perch on her window sil and Lucy one of the castle servants. However Lucy was always so busy that the two hardly ever saw each other.
"There this one's finished." She said when her knitting was done.
She looked out the window of her room and a smile graced her face when she saw her father arrive on his horse.
She quickly hurried downstairs to the castle entrance.
"I'm so glad that you have returned my dear." Minerva said kissing her husband.
"As am I my queen." Hector said.
King Hector's face lit up like a thousand stars when he saw Juvia running toward him with open arms. He embraced his daughter and spun her around joyfully.
"Oh my little Juvia you're getting so grown up."
"I thought that you weren't going to be able to come."
"Now what kind of father would I be if I were to miss my daughter's seventeenth birthday? Now then today is your special day so we will do whatever you want to do."
"Oh Father can we play in the snow today? Like we used to do when I was younger?"
"Of course my little princess."
Much like her mother before her, Juvia loved the snow and the rain. The whole day she and her father walked together in the falling snow and later took a sleigh ride through the kingdom. In the afternoon Juvia laced up her ice skates and began to skate across the frozen lake while Hector watched her from a distance. It wasn't long before everyone in the kingdom took notice of the young princess and stopped to watch her.
"Princess!" Cried a little girl who walked toward her on to the ice only to slip and fall. Juvia quickly skated over to the little girl and picked her up.
"Are you okay?" She asked.
"Uh-huh." She nodded.
Juvia recognized the little girl as the daughter of the miller Alzack and his wife Bisca. Her name was Asuka. She skated over the edge of the lake where her parents were and handed her to Bisca.
"Are you alright Darlin?" Bisca asked her concerned.
"I'm fine Mommy."
"Asuka you know you're not allowed to walk on the ice. You could have been hurt." Alzack said.
"I'm sorry Daddy I just wanted to give the princess a birthday present."
"You got me a present?" Juvia said.
"It's just a little thanks for giving us the money we needed back when Asuka was sick." Alzack said.
"Happy Birthday your highness." Bisca said.
Asuka handed Juvia a box which she opened. Inside was a white muff with blue ribbon.
"Oh it's beautiful. Thank you so much! I'll keep it with me forever."
"Mommy can I skate with the princess?" Asuka asked.
"I'm sorry Darlin but we don't have any skates." Bisca said.
"Oh that's alright I'll buy her a pair." Juvia said.
"That's not necessary your highness."
She bought Asuka a brand new pair of ice skates and hand in hand the two skated on the forzen lake. Pretty soon all the kingdom's children joined in playing with the princess in the snow. They ice skated, built snowmen, and had a snow ball fight. It was the happiest day of her life. In the evening Juvia returned to her bedroom and sat on the balcony to watch the snowflakes fall in the night sky.
"Miss?" It was Lucy.
"Oh hello Lucy. What brings you buy?"
"Happy Birthday." Her gift was a handkerchief with pink roses, blue rain drops, and white snow flakes embroidered on it. "You told me that before you were born your mother wished for you to be as pink and blush as roses, as blue and deep as rain, and as white and fair as snow so I thought this would be a nice reminder of it. I know it's not much but-"
Juvia only hugged her.
"It's perfect. Thank you so much."
"I have gift for you too."
"But it's not my birthday."
"It was six months ago but I never got a chance to give it to you. Remember how you told me that your father used to read the book Utopia to you every night?"
"Well...Happy Birthday." In her hand she held a brand new copy of the book Utopia. Lucy wasn't sure weather to smile or burst into tears of joy. This was her favorite book as a child and every night before going to sleep her father would always read it to her. Unfortunately the book was destroyed in the fire along with every other possession she owned.
"Oh my! Oh this! Oh how can I ever..." Lucy clutched the book to her chest while smiling and crying tears of joy. "Oh thank you. Thank you so much."
"Do you mind if I interrupt?" Hector asked entering the room.
"Oh no sire I was just leaving." Lucy said curtsing before leaving.
For the longest time the two stood together in room, not saying a word.
"Is something wrong Father?" Juvia asked.
"No it's just that you look so like your mother." He gently pressed his hand to the side of her face.
"Tell me about the first time you saw her?"
"It was many years ago. I was eighteen and I was at a ball where I was supposed to meet the princess my father had arranged for me to marry."
"Were you excited?"
"No I was furious. I didn't want to marry some woman I didn't even know. So at the ball I'm just standing there bored out of my mind when suddenly she appears. The most beautiful woman I've ever seen dressed all in white. I immediately asked her to dance and before I knew it we were both deliriously in love."
"But what about your fiance?"
"Well it turns out the princess I was to marry was in fact your mother and after that night I spent all our time together proving my love for her."
"Father do you think a man will ever love me as you loved Mother?"
"Of course and when the time comes for that man profess his love for you I want you to wear this."
He handed her a medium sized wooden box. Opening it Juvia found an ivory white gown of lace and silk with a pair of silver and silk slippers.
"Your Mother wore this gown and those slippers the first night we met and she had always dreamed of one day having a daughter who would wear them."
"I wish she was here."
"Oh but she is. Do you remember what I told you about what happens to parents when they die?"
"They become angels and watch over their children forever."
"That's right and your mother is always watching over you and she knows that like her you've grown up to be the fairest in all the lands."
The two embraced, feeling each other's love for one another. Unaware that Minerva had walked by the room and heard every word.
"Fairest in all the lands."
The phrase kept repeating itself in her mind for hours and hours without end. Then a few days later King Hector was once again called away on royal business only this time he mysteriously disappeared. The entire kingdom of Fiore searched and searched but they could not find their beloved king. Poor Juvia was devastated but unlike the rest of Fiore she refused to believe that her father was dead and had faith that one day she would find him. As for Minerva, with her husband gone for good she was able to takeover the kingdom completely and Juvia vanished from the eyes of the people who loved her for the queen kept her isolated in her bedroom forbidding her from ever leaving.
Now we return to present time. It's the night of the grand ball and Queen Minerva was doing everything she could to look her best for this occasion.
"You look fabulous your majesty." Rogue said.
"Rogue I haven't even begun to get ready." She said.
"Well if this is how you look before you get ready then I can't imagine how you would look-"
"Shut up Rogue."
"Now if you'll excuse me my treatment is ready."
"Your treatment? Oh no not again. With all due respect your majesty, don't you remember what happened the last time you tried this?"
"That allergic reaction to the bees was a one time thing."
"But do you have to use the wooden corset? You nearly suffocated last time."
"I'll breathe when I'm married again."
And so Minerva began a series of extremely painful and uncomfortable beauty treatments much to the concern of Rogue. Sometimes her obsession with her looks made him very worried for her. Especially when it came before her health. He knew that mirror was to blame. You see Rogue was one of the very few who had heard the legend of the evil spirit trapped in the mirror and he feared that it was slowly but surely corrupting the queen with each passing day. He only hoped that somehow, someway, she could be saved before it was too late.
"She's doing another one of those treatments isn't she?" The maid Cana said.
"What do you think?"
"I think that this time the wooden corset is going to crush her ribs."
"Oooo." He seethed.
"So is it true that she's going to try to marry the prince?"
"But he's twenty and isn't she forty?"
"She'll take it to her grave that she's twenty nine but yes."
"That's not going to end well."
"You think? What's worse is she doesn't take rejection well and she normally takes it out on me."
"That's rough. Wanna go to the tavern and get drunk?"
Now don't worry we haven't forgotten about Lucy. Let's get back to her now. Lucy was sitting by the fire place reading her book Utopia while at the same time remembering all the wonderful times she had back when she was a child. She remembered how before bed her mother would comb her hair and her father would read to her. It would always bring her to tears. After a few hours she put down her book and once again went to visit the graves of her parents. Tonight was Queen Minerva's ball and even though Lucy was irritated with most of the people attending this royal affair she could not help but wonder what it would be like to go there. To dance to the music under the chandeliers, maybe even win the affection of a young man. She sat under the hazel tree and began to fantasize that she was there, wearing a beautiful dress and dancing with a charming gentleman. She never asked for true love but if she had to say who she wanted her true love to be. She would say that she wanted him to be sweet, honest, funny, and understanding. But what were her chances of ever meeting someone like that who could ever love her?
Her friends the mice only looked at her with pity, deep down wishing that they could give her what she desired.
"I wish I could go to the ball." She said. "But that's ridiculous. I mean I would look utterly ridiculous if I showed up there in this old frock. I don't even have a suitable gown."
Suddenly a magnificent gown of spun gold fell from the hazel tree and on to Lucy.
"Oh my goodness!" She gasped. She held up the gown and blinked a few times not sure if she was dreaming or not. "I've never seen such a beautiful dress. I wonder if it fits me."
As soon as she said those words her dirty, ragged frock was instantly replaced with the gown.
"Wow it's just my size! Looks I can go to the ball."
But before she could even move leaves began fall on top of Lucy from the hazel tree and they started to wash away all the dirt, cinder, and Ash from her face while brushing all the tangles out of her blonde hair and styling it up with threads and ribbons of gold. Then a pair of golden slippers were dropped at her feet. They fit Lucy perfectly. Looking at her reflection in the lake nearby Lucy saw that she looked just like a princess.
"Is this real?" She asked herself.
"Yes it is." A voice said.
"Who's there?" Lucy looked around the area but she saw no one except the mice.
"Don't be afraid I'm only here to help you."
"Who are you?"
"My name is Levy and I'm a friend. A friend who for many years has been trying to find a way to help you. I hope you like my gifts."
Lucy looked at the hazel tree.
"Are you the hazel tree?"
"Not exactly. I'm not the tree but I use the tree as a way to give you things that you need. Just simply ask and the tree will provide it."
"Not to sound ungrateful but why didn't you say anything sooner?"
"It's complicated and I promise to explain it later but right now you need to get to the ball."
"Wait you need a horse. If you go by foot you'll ruin your shoes."
"I don't suppose you have a horse up there in that tree?"
"No if you bring me one of those mice I can provide you a suitable steed."
Lucy carefully picked up one of the mice and walked under the hazel tree.
"Now put the mouse down."
Lucy did as she was told. Once again leaves began to fall and when they landed on to the mouse he transformed into a white stallion with a gold saddle and reins.
"Wow! Oh Levy if I could see you I would hug you."
"That's okay, I'm satisfied with your joy. Now get on your horse and go sweep that prince off his feet."
"Oh that's a laugh. Like a prince would even blink an eye at me."
"Lucy there is more to you than you think. You musn't let people like Minerva put you down all your life and you need to see the beauty that shines within yourself."
"You really think so?"
"I know so and so did your mother."
"You knew my mother?"
"She was one of my dearest friends but we can talk about that later because you need to get to the ball now."
"What's the hurry?"
"I'm afraid my magic is limited and it only lasts until midnight."
"At the stroke of twelve everything will be as it was before. I wish I could make it last longer."
"Oh til midnight is more than enough time. Thank you for everything Levy."
Lucy then climbed on top of her horse and rode off to the ball. She was confused about everything that had just happened but she was hoping and praying that this wasn't all just a dream and that in a few moments she would wake up by the fireplace. But it wasn't a dream. It was real. This was real. This was actually happening. She was really going to the ball. She couldn't remember the last time she was this excited for something. She only hoped that the ball would be just as she always dreamed it would be.
The palace ballroom was a magnificent display, decorated with crystal chandeliers and gold hangings, dazzled with a great silvery blaze of light. Exquisite music was played while ladies dressed in rich clothes of muslin and silk dressed with distinguished gentlemen. Queen Minerva wore her finest and richest gown along with her rarest and most sparkling jewels. Many could not help but be taken with her appearance.
"Announcing the arrival of his royal highness, Prince Natsu of Alvarez!" Rogue announced.
When Prince Natsu entered the ballroom all bowed before him respectfully. He then approached the throne where Minerva sat.
"Queen Minerva I would like to thank you for allowing me the pleasure of visiting your lovely kingdom." He said politely.
"My, you're just as handsome as all they say." Minerva said. "Welcome to our kingdom. I hope that the you are pleased with the ball I have prepared in your honor."
"It's very nice but you really didn't have to go through all the trouble."
"Nonsense you are a royal guest therefore it is no trouble at all. Prince Natsu would you honor me with the first dance?"
"I would love to but I'm not much of a dancer and when it comes to these kind of functions I'm more in it for the free food so I'll just stand on the sidelines until it's time to eat."
Natsu knew he was here to meet the Princess Juvia and see if she would make a potential wife and he was all for it until he found out that he would be attending a ball. He always felt so uncomfortable and out of place at royal balls. He couldn't dance and he didn't know the first thing about talking to young ladies. Every time he tried to talk to a pretty girl he would get nervous and say the wrong things. How on Earth was he supposed to find a wife when he couldn't even speak properly to a princess?
Just then a hush fell over the crowd and all eyes turned to the entrance of the ballroom. Curious, Natsu followed everyone's gaze to see what had captured their attention. The young prince could not believe what his eyes beheld. Descending down the stairway was a charming woman dressed head to toe in gold with blonde hair that rivaled the sunshine. The guests were overwhelmed by her radiance but no one more so than Natsu. He had never seen a girl so wonderous and fair. For a moment he thought that she wasn't even human but instead a pretty fairy. Surely this woman must be the Princess Juvia he had heard so much about. But this woman was not Juvia, she was Lucy the palace scullery maid.
When music started to play Lucy stood on top of her toes and hovered gracefully about the room. Every motion displayed more and more the perfect symmetry and elegance of her figure. The expression in her brown eyes beamed and touched the hearts of the spectators. All present were enchanted but especially Natsu. He immediately went to meet her and took her by the hand.
"Hello." He said.
"Hello." She said back.
"Princess Juvia I presume?"
"Oh no you are mistaken I am not a princess."
"Well then you must be a noblewoman."
"I am neither royal or noble your highness."
"Well royal, noble, or not I would be honored if you would join me in filling my stomach?"
"I beg your pardon sire?"
"No wait! That's not what I meant!" He said blushing. "I meant would you join me at the feast for the table? No! I mean would you join me at the table for the feast? I'm sorry it's just that seeing you has made me forget my words. You must think me very foolish."
"No I think it's cute and I would love to join you at the table."
He offered his arm, she accepted it, and he led her over to the table where a fantastic feast was prepared. They along with the other guests dined on delicious food and drank fine wine while talking to one another though Natsu spoke only to Lucy and no one else much to Minerva's jealousy. After dinner the guests began to participate in games such as bowling and wickets.
"Have you ever bowled before?" Natsu asked Lucy.
"Can't say that I have."
"Here let me show you."
He put the ball in her hands while putting his own hands over hers and his arms around her waist. It made her gasp softly and tense up in surprise but then eased up. She had to admit, she never expected the prince to be so funny and sweet and familiar. She didn't know why but there was something about this voice and his face that seemed to tease her memory but she didn't what.
"Have we met before?" She asked him.
"I don't think so because I'm sure that I would remember meeting someone like you."
"You're probably right but still I can't shake the feeling that I've seen you somewhere."
The royal musicians began to play a romantic song, inviting couples to dance with each other.
"May I have this dance?" Natsu asked Lucy.
"It would be my honor." She replied.
Hand in hand they walked to the center of the ballroom. Her free hand went to rest on his shoulder while is went to her back. Without another moment of hesitation the two began to dance. They danced with only each other, never once switching partners. They didn't even look at anyone else and as they danced Natsu became very infatuated with Lucy.
From a distance Minerva watched them and she sneered and nashed her teeth in pure bitterness and envy. Just who was this mystery girl? And how dare she steal her prince. Due to the hazel tree's magic no one recognized Lucy not even Minerva however she did see something in Lucy that frightened her very much. She looked identical to Minerva's sister Layla causing her for a brief moment to fear that somehow the ghost of her dead sister had come back to haunt her. But then she noticed that this mystery woman was much younger than Layla was the last time she had seen her. But who was she? And why did she look like Layla? Suddenly she had another fear. What if this mystery woman's beauty had surpassed her own?
Queen Minerva could not bear the thought of any woman being more beautiful than her. You see while she and Layla were indeed twins they most certainly were not identical twins. Layla was born beautiful but she was born hideous. Their father doted on and favored Layla but he abused Minerva and despised her with every fiber of his being causing her to grow under the belief that if she was not beautiful then no one would ever love her. Imagine her joy when she discovered a magic mirror that had the power to grant her wish of becoming the most beautiful woman in Fiore. But aside from granting her desire for beauty the mirror also held all the knowledge in the world so everyday Minerva would ask it who the fairest woman in all the lands was and it would always answer that she was.
Forgetting her intention of wooing the prince entirely at the moment, she hurried back to her private room and asked the mirror the same question hoping and praying that the answer would not be what she thought it was and it wouldn't however she still wouldn't like it.
"Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?"
And the mirror answered.
"I fear the wrath of your despair.
Were I to name one half so fair."
"There is someone else? Reveal her name!"
"Thou Queen art fair and beauteous to see.
But Juvia is lovelier far than thee!"
"The child?!" She shrieked in terror. "Is this some kind of joke?!"
"My Queen you know I do not jest.
Cheeks pink as the rose, hair blue as rain, skin white as snow.
Rags cannot hide her gentle grace and there is hope in that sweet face."
"How can this be?! How?!"
"If thou Queen cannot bear this fate.
Then perhaps Juvia's life she should take."
"You mean kill her? But I've known her since she was seven years old. I...I could never."
"My Queen you know what I say is true.
The girl is conspiring against you.
She plans to take the throne and make this kingdom her own."
"You're right." She said giving into it's manipulation. "I must be rid of her at once!"
At the end of the dance Natsu and Lucy sneaked away on to the balcony outside to watch the starry night sky.
"Beautiful night isn't it?" Lucy said.
"Oh it's gorgeous." He said looking directly at her while paying no attention to the sky.
"If you don't mind me asking your highness what brings you to Fiore?"
"My brother was hoping to marry me off to Princess Juvia."
"Well that makes sense. After all there is no one more beautiful than her."
"I don't know. I can think of someone more beautiful."
"Well you've never even seen her."
"Don't need to because right now I'm looking at the prettiest girl in the world."
"Surely you don't mean me?"
"And what if I do?"
"Your highness I am flattered by your words but I'm not the kind of woman you think I am."
"What do you mean?"
"What if I told you that I was no one important? That was just some little nobody?"
"That's ridiculous. You are not some nobody."
"You wouldn't say that if you knew who I was."
"I'm sure that I would and I'll prove it to you. Just tell me who you are."
Suddenly Lucy heard the clock chime. Looking at it she saw that it was ten minutes til twelve. Almost midnight. At once Lucy remembered Levy's warning and panicked.
"Oh my goodness!" She gasped.
"What's the matter?" He asked.
"It's almost midnight."
"So it is."
"Goodbye!" She said starting to leave.
"No wait you can't leave yet." He said grabbing her hand.
"No please I must."
"I...I can't explain. Goodbye!" She broke away from him and headed for the ballroom.
"Wait! Come back! Please come back! I don't even know your name how will I find you?"
"I really must go now!"
"But wait! When can I see you again?"
"Please it would be best if you forgot me completely!"
"Thank you for the wonderful evening! I'll never forget this as long as I live!" She called before disappearing into the crowd of dancers.
"No wait! Stop! Please stop!"
Natsu chased after Lucy as she ran away, desperately trying to catch her but found it very hard to keep up with her due to all the other dancers getting in the way. Lucy ran as fast as her legs could go. She ran through the ballroom, up the stairs, down the corridor, and toward the castle doors. As she was going down the flight of stairs at the entrance she tripped and dropped something. In her haste to get away she left it there, got on her horse, and rode off into the night.
By the time Natsu finally got through the sea of guests and made it to where his mystery woman had fled she was no where in sight. Completely vanished, leaving no trace behind. No, no there was something. While Natsu was walking down the stairway something glittering caught his eye. It was a slipper made of pure gold that had been left discarded on the last step.
"I must find that girl." He vowed. "I swear that I will."
From her bedchamber Minerva was spying on Natsu and feeling rather pleased. Perhaps this mystery woman in gold didn't pose as much as a threat as she had feared but right now she had bigger fish to fry. The next morning she summoned Rogue to her chambers for a private chat.
"You wanted to see me your majesty." He said.
"Yes. Rogue would you say that you are my most loyal servant?"
"Yes your majesty."
"Then I have a job for you. I want you to take Juvia into the forest and kill her."
"Kill her?!" Rogue cried not sure that he heard her correctly.
"Yes tell her that I've decided to send her to live among the Magnolia village to humble her then at night when the moon rises take her deep into the forest where no one can hear her scream and feed her to the wolves."
"She is a threat to everything."
"But your majesty the little princess would never harm anyone. Surely there must be some mistake." Rogue protested.
"Silence! My mirror has told me all about that vile girl's hatred of me and her plan to steal the throne! She must be destroyed!"
"I don't trust that mirror your majesty and neither should you."
"Not another word! Do as you are told or suffer!"
"Yes your majesty." He reluctantly agreed.
Juvia was up in her bedroom once again humming to herself while doing her needlework. She stopped when she saw a bluebird fall from the castle roof tops and land on her window sill. She opened the window and gently picked up the fallen bird.
"Poor thing. What's wrong? Did you slip on the ice?" She gently brushed the birds feathers with her fingers. "Oh you'll be alright. Look your sweetheart is over there waiting for you."
She pointed over to the bluebird sitting on the branch of a tree watching them.
"Why don't you go join him?" The bird seemed too frightened to fly again. "Oh don't be afraid. You'll be alright, now go on. Don't keep him waiting."
The bird then leapt from her hand and flew away with her mate. Juvia sighed as she watched the two birds fly away together. Sometimes she wished that she was a bird then she could fly away from this castle she had been isolated in and go somewhere much happier.
"Your highness." Rogue said standing at her door.
"Oh Rogue I didn't see you there."
"The queen has ordered that you go live in the Magnolia village."
"She says it's to teach you humility. Now we must hurry."
"Alright just give me a moment to pack a few things."
She took a suitcase from her wardrobe and filled it with a hairbrush, her needlework and knitting supplies, and some of her clothing. Among them was her mother's gown and slippers. Once her bag was packed she went with Rogue into the forest. By the time they arrived there it was already dark. The sky was so black you couldn't even see the stars. All you could see was the moon.
"Rogue do you think it was wise of us to travel by night fall?"
Rogue didn't answer.
"Rogue did you hear me?"
Still no response.
"Rogue what's going on? Why aren't you speaking to me? Rogue I'm frightened please answer me!"
But he didn't. Then he startled the young woman by grabbing her hands and jerking her through the woods.
"Rogue what are you doing?! Let me go! I want to go home! I order you to take me home!"
"I'm afraid I cannot do that."
"The queen has deemed you a traitor to the crown and now you must be fed to the wolves!"
"What?! Rogue you can't!"
"I have no choice."
"But I've done no wrong Rogue! You know that! Please don't do this!"
Rogue only continued to drag her along while preparing to carry out the Queen's demand only to abandon all thought of it when Juvia looked at him with those blue eyes filled with tears of betrayal. He remembered when she was just a little girl and she had asked him to come play in the royal gardens with her. Suddenly he too began to cry.
"Forgive me!" He wept at her feet. "I beg you your highness! Forgive me for even considering such an evil deed!"
"Is this what happened to my father? Did my stepmother order you to bring him out here and kill him as well?"
"Your father was a good man. He was always very kind to me and while I do not know what became of him I will not murder his child! Run far away from here as fast as you can! Take the route up head! The wolves never go there so you'll be safe but you must never come back! Now run beautiful girl! Run!"
She kissed his cheek and began to run. She ran over sharp stones and through thorns and while wild beasts did run past her they did her no harm. She ran as long as her feet would go until she saw a little cottage. Using the last of her strength she ran to the cottage and knocked on the door. The door had just barely started to open when she passed out on to the forest floor from exhaustion.
Reader once again I am going to have to stop the story and go back a couple of years to introduce you to another character. This story begins in a village located in the heart of the forest called Magnolia. There lived a little girl named Erza who lived only with her grandmother Titania. A sweet but crabby old widow who was very protective of her granddaughter and very knowledgeable about things in the world. However Erza was not like most little girls. For one thing she was born with scarlet red hair that would make the villagers fear her.
You see Magnolia was plagued by wolves and not just any wolves. The curesd race, men who could transform into monsterous beasts who would slaughter anything in their path leaving behind a trail of blood wherever they went. They only came out at night when the moon was full but they were extremely dangerous. They were ten times faster, stronger, and smarter than any regular wolf or man. Now you're probably wondering what this has to do with Erza? Well the villagers had become very paranoid and fearful, believing that the wolves who attacked their village were servants of a witch. They believed that if they could find said witch and kill her then the wolves would leave. If they ever saw Erza's hair then they would think that she was a witch.
Erza's mother, Titania's daughter had also been born with hair as red as blood and when they saw her speaking with a wolf they burned her at the stake. Erza was only a year old at the time and her grandmother had been raising her ever since then, determined to save her granddaughter from the same horrible fate Titania made her a red hooded shawl and told her to always wear it whenever she left the house and to keep her hair hidden in it.
"But Granny won't they figure out my hair is red since my shawl is red?" The nine year old girl asked her grandmother.
"No dear. Your hair blends in with it so it's easier for you to hide it. Besides that shawl is magic."
"It is? What does it do?"
"It prevents you from becoming one of the cursed race."
"The wolves my dear. Many who have survived their attacks have come back marked which in turn makes them become one of those monsters. But should you ever be attacked by those demons while wearing that cloak the won't be able to mark you."
"They can turn other people into wolves?"
"Yes and that in itself is a fate worse than death."
"Why are the wolves after us Granny?"
"Because they're hungry for flesh and blood. And if these damned fools would just let them have their sheep and cattle they wouldn't go after humans so much."
"Did you ever see a wolf kill anyone Granny?"
"Oh yes. I've seen many lives taken by those creatures. I saw one of them take your grandfather, God rest his soul."
"What about my father?"
"Hmmph! I wish one of them had taken your father! The abusive drunk! I told your mother not to marry him but she never listened to me about anything. I'll never forget the day she finally decided to leave him. She showed up on my doorstep one night in tears, battered, bruised, and pregnant. Your father had been beating her since the day they got married and how none of those beatings ever resulted in a miscarriage I'll never know."
"Was Mother an abusive drunk?"
"No my dear but she made choices in life that weren't the best. To be honest she didn't start to straighten out until you were born."
"Did she love me?"
"More than the heavens loved the earth. She was a good mother and on that terrible day when those paranoid, ignorant, murderous, fools came and took her away she begged me to promise that I would always take care of you and keep you safe."
"Why did they kill my mother?"
"Because they thought that she was a witch and that if she died the wolves would stop."
"Granny you said that wolves can turn into men right?"
"So how do you tell them apart from regular men?"
"Look for the signs."
"Well for one thing wolves can't touch silver. It burns their skin so if you see a man doing everything he can not to touch silver then he's either a wolf or weirdo. Another way you can identify them is by paying attention to how fast they run. Those of the cursed race can run faster than both man and beast so if you see a man literally running like the wind he's most likely a wolf. But I think the best way to distinguish them apart from regular men is to look for a tattoo."
"All wolves of the cursed race have a tattoo made from the blood of their victims somewhere on their bodies. Most of them try to keep it hidden, others not so much but if you see a man with a tattoo of blood then he's a wolf."
"What should I do if I ever meet a wolf?"
"Well if you don't wander off into the forest or stay out after dark like I tell you to then that won't be a problem but if God forbid you do encounter a wolf then you must either shoot it with a silver tipped arrow or stab it with a silver blade then the beasts will die instantly."
"Granny how do you know so much about wolves?"
"Because I used to hunt them down when I was younger. What those villagers don't realize that if they want the wolves to stop coming then they need to find and kill the alpha."
"What's the alpha?"
"He's the leader of their pack and the most crafty of them all. For years I hunted him down but I never found him."
Just then there was a knock at the door.
"Erza go to your room now."
The little red haired girl did as she was told and went to her bedroom while her grandmother went to answer the door. The old woman sneered at who was there. It was a hunting party led by the preacher Reverend Hades.
"What do you want?" She asked irritated.
"Widow Titania." Reverend Hades said. "Last night a wolf was spotted around your house."
"I know that. Why do you think I shot him with my crossbow?"
"That's the third wolf this month that's been seen by your house."
"So what's your point?"
"Have you been conspiring with the beasts?"
"If I was then why the hell would I kill them?"
"Don't think you can fool us with that act Titania. For years we've known that you've had some affiliation with them and as leader of this village it is my job to protect the innocent lives who live here."
"You're a fraud Reverend Hades and after what you all did to my daughter, you're no different from the monsters you hunt in my eyes. Now get out of here before I put an arrow through your good eye!"
She slammed the door in his face and locked it. Erza watched from the cracks of her bedroom door as her grandmother slid down to the floor, her heart sick with worry and exhaustion. The poor woman was determined not to lose her granddaughter as she lost her daughter but how would she protect her when they lived in such a dangerous world?
Sometime next week Titania had planned to take a trip to the village to buy a few things unfortunately though she had caught a nasty cold and was too weak to go.
"I could go get it Granny." Erza offered.
"I don't know sweetheart. You've never gone through the forest and to the village by yourself before."
"I'm not so little anymore Granny. I'm nine years old and I know the way."
"Very well." After a coughing into a handkerchief a few times she handed Erza a basket, some money, and a knife with a silver blade. "Go to the village and buy a loaf of bread, some butter, and a pitcher of milk. Stick to the path, don't go into the forest, keep your hair hidden, and come straight home."
"I meant it Erza. I don't want you going into those godforsaken woods and I don't want you staying out after dark. Remember what I told you happens if you go into the forest or stay after dark?"
"Yes Granny. I remember."
"Good also no buying strawberry cake from the bakery! You are to only get bread, butter, and milk."
"And one more thing, stay away from that boy Jellal."
"But Jellal is my friend Granny. Why don't you like him? He's sweet and smart and very fun to be around."
"I don't like you around that boy when I'm not there. If you see him today just say hello and be on your merry way."
"Don't oh Granny me. Your mother started hanging around boys when she was your age and I wasn't cautious enough then. I won't make that mistake twice, you pay him no mind when I'm not there understand?"
"Good girl. I'll see you this afternoon. Behave yourself now and be polite."
Erza then put on her red hooded shawl and walked down the path leading to the village. Magnolia had mixed feelings toward little Erza. Some people were very fearful and suspicious of Erza believing her to be the child of a witch who would one day grow up to be one just like her mother. But others like Reverend Makarov thought that she was a darling child who deserved nothing less than kindness and a friendly face. He had been a dear friend of Titania for years and was one of the few reverends who were against the accusation that her daughter Irene was a witch. He tried to prove her innocence but the majority of the villagers were in Reverend Hades's favor. Though Titania had no blame toward him, Reverend Makarov believed that it was his fault she was burned and every Sunday he would leave flowers at Irene's grave and visit Titania and Erza.
"Good morning Erza." Makarov said when she walked by the church.
"Good morning Reverend Makarov." Erza greeted politely.
"How's your grandmother?"
"She has a cold so I'm going to buy what we need from the market while she rests."
"She's unwell? Well then here take her this." He placed a little glass bottle in her basket. "This is a special tonic I brewed. It should clear her cold right up."
"Thank you Reverend."
"Have a good day Erza, give my regards to your grandmother."
"I will. Thanks again."
When Erza arrived at the market place she went to buy a loaf of bread, some butter, and a pitcher of milk just as her grandmother had instructed her to do. As she started to head home the villagers began to whisper about her.
"Look it's the witch's child." One person whispered.
"There she is wearing that same shawl. You know she never takes it off."
"You know I hear that it was blessed by a priest and it keeps her from using dark magic."
"If you ask me they should have burned that child along with her she devil of a mother."
Erza felt tears prick her eyes as she heard them. She never let it show but it hurt her very much when people said things like that about her and her mother.
"Ow! Hey! What the- Who threw that?!"
Erza and everyone else turned in the direction of the shout that came from the man who made that last insult about Erza. Someone had thrown a stone right in that man's face causing his nose to bleed. Everyone searched for the culprit but they couldn't seem to find him or her.
"Serves him right." A voice behind Erza said.
Turning around she found a boy smiling mischievously behind her while tossing another stone up and down in his hand. He was Jellal the blacksmith's son and the only child in all Magnolia who was Erza's friend. Titania didn't like him and was always warning Erza to stay away from him but he was so kind and friendly toward her, he always made her smile and whenever the other villagers said bad things about her or upset her he would always come to her defense. Yep if there was only one of her grandmother's rules that Erza defied it was "Stay away from Jellal." The one rule she just couldn't obey.
"Are you okay?" He asked her.
"You know that idiot doesn't know what he's talking about. You're not a witch and neither was your mother. Don't ever listen to what they say Erza because it's all lies."
"Thank you Jellal. You're always so nice to me. I wish there was someway I could repay you."
"Well you could let me walk you home."
"Oh I would love to Jellal but my Granny told me to stay away from you."
"I don't get why she doesn't like me. I'm always nice to her, I bring her firewood in the winter, I even let her have some of the wool from my father's sheep."
"I think she does like you she just doesn't like you around me."
"Why? Is she scared that I might try to kiss you?" He teased.
"Kiss me? Why on Earth would you try to kiss me?"
"I don't know. Maybe because you're the prettiest girl in the whole village."
"You think I'm pretty?" She said blushing.
"Yes. You have the prettiest eyes, the prettiest smile, and I bet that you have the prettiest hair too."
Erza covered her face with her hood, to hide both her hair and the blush that continued to spread all over her face.
"You know I've always wanted to see your hair. Can you show me it?"
"Granny says that I must'nt let anyone see my hair."
"I can't say."
"Come on Erza you know you can trust me."
"Jellal I can't let anyone see it."
Hearing this Jellal took her hand and pulled her along.
"Where are we going?" She asked.
He led her off the path and toward the forest.
"Jellal no! We can't go into the forest!" She objected.
"It will only be for a short while. Trust me."
Erza knew that she should never for any reason go into the woods. Her grandmother had warned her since day one not to set so much as one foot into the woods. But she trusted Jellal so she complied. He led her to a big oak tree that was near a creek, where there was plenty of shade and leaves.
"There now we're somewhere no one can see us." He told her. "So can you show me your hair?"
"I'm scared Jellal. I'm scared that once you see it you'll be afraid of me like everyone else is."
"Erza I could never be afraid of you. You're sweet and kind and caring. I can't imagine ever being afraid of you."
Erza took a deep breath then pulled down her hood exposing her red hair. She closed her eyes and prepared to hear Jellal scream and call her a witch. But instead she felt a hand gently stroked her hair and when she opened her eyes she saw Jellal staring at her with eyes full of wonder and amazement.
"You're more beautiful than anything I could have ever imagined."
Little Erza felt her heart swell with joy when she heard Jellal's words. All her life only one person had ever told her that she was beautiful and that was her grandmother but now someone else had said it and it made her so happy.
"You really like my hair?" She asked.
"It's almost as pretty as you. Why do you hide it?"
"Because everyone will think I'm a witch and they'll burn me just as they did to my mother."
"I won't let that happen. I promise you Erza I won't let Reverend Hades or anyone else hurt you."
Erza smiled and hugged Jellal, he hugged her back. The seed of young love was soon planted and if fate was kind it would one day blossom into something stronger and much more wonderful.
"Oh no!" Erza gasped when she saw the sun setting. "It'll be dark soon. I better get home right away."
"You can't go back by yourself. It'll be too dark, stay with me and my family tonight."
"But my Granny will worry."
"My father will ask the Reverend to stop by and tell her where you are."
Though Erza didn't want to impose Jellal's parents didn't mind having her over. They thought that she was a very sweet girl. They had dinner together and Erza slept in Jellal's bed while he slept with his parents. Suddenly in the middle of the night Erza awoke to the sound of screaming and snarling and howling. She got out of bed and started to head for the door only for it to be opened by Jellal who was as white as a ghost.
"Jellal what's happening?" She asked him.
"There are wolves in the house!" He cried. "You have to hide!"
He locked the door to the room and pulled back the rug on the floor to reveal a cellar door. He opened it and quickly shoved Erza in there.
"Jellal what are you doing?"
"Stay down there and don't make a sound until help comes!"
"But what about you? And your parents?"
"My parents are gone and I have to make sure that the wolves don't get you too!"
"Jellal no! You'll be killed!"
"I'll be fine I promise! Now I need you to promise me that no matter what you here you won't come out that cellar or make a single noise until help comes! Promise me!"
He shut the cellar door, covered it back up with the rug, and waited with Erza's knife in his hand as the wolves tried to break the door down. Erza heard the sound of the door breaking followed by Jellal's struggling grunts and more growling and snarling. She wanted so badly to open the cellar door and see what was happening but she was convinced that Jellal would be alright because he had promised her that he would be. The animalistic noises we're horrifying to listen to but what made Erza more afraid was when everything went quiet. For the rest of the night she sat alone in the dark silence, hoping and praying that Jellal was okay. That the next time she saw him he would still have that same smiling face that she always looked forward to was morning when Erza heard Reverend Makarov's voice call.
"Erza? Erza! Erza are you here?"
"I'm down here." She squeaked.
Reverend Makarov followed her voice and found her in the cellar trembling with fear.
"Oh thank God you're still alive." He said relieved. "Are you alright?"
"Where's Jellal?" She asked.
He went silent for the longest time, his eyes filled with grief and sorrow. Erza knew those eyes. Those were the eyes he always made when innocent lives we're cruelly taken. She held her breath as she waited for his answer and she prayed that it was not what she feared.
"I'm very sorry Erza." He said. "But the boy is gone."
"What do you mean he's gone? Where did he go?" But she already knew what he meant and tears we're already forming in his eyes.
"He's gone to join our father in heaven."
"You...You mean he's...No...No! No! No! No he's not dead!"
She started to run away only for Reverend Makarov to grab her and hold her as she burst into tears.
"He's not dead! He can't be dead! He promised me that he would be okay! He promised!"
She wept in the reverend's arms as he tried to comfort her the best way he could. He then took her back to her grandmother. Titania would have scolded her for staying out so late but decided to let it slide after hearing what had happened to her friend. For many days the girl cried miserably finding comfort only in her grandmother's arms. Jellal was her dearest friend, the only person other than her grandmother to see her hair and call her beautiful. The boy who was always there to protect her. Now he was gone.
"Why did they have to kill him Granny?" Erza sobbed.
"Because it's the way they are Erza."
"It's not fair! He didn't do anything wrong!"
"I know but life isn't always fair. Sometimes life can be very cruel."
"I hate them! I hate them! I hate the wolves! I wish that they would all die!"
"You're not the only one in Magnolia who wishes for that."
"Will they ever leave? Will we ever be free of them?"
"Not as long as their alpha lives."
"Then I'll kill him!" She declared. "Someday I'll kill the alpha!"
"You musn't say such things when you're grieving Erza."
"But I will! One day I'll find their alpha and I'll kill him! I'll kill him with my bear hands if I have to! And once he's dead we'll all be free!"
Titania thought these were the words of a little girl blinded by grief but it was actually a vow. A vow Erza was intending to keep. From that moment on she spent her time learning everything she could about the cursed race. Where they went, when they attacked, their strengths and weaknesses. She read as many books and scriptures she could find on the subject. By the time she was fifteen she knew everything about the cursed race but she didn't know how to hunt them down and kill them. So she seeked out the village huntsman.
He was only a year younger than she was but he was the best hunter and tracker that was ever known. He had killed twenty wolves in his lifetime so far and had kept the village safe for quite some time. However he only protected the village because he was paid to by Reverend Hades and Reverend Makarov, needless to say it wasn't out of the goodness of his heart. In fact some would say that he had a heart of ice and no feelings what so ever. He agreed to train Erza for the right price of course and after she gave him a black eye and threatened to break his skull he agreed to do it for free.
Erza was a fast learner and once she reached age nineteen she had become a strong, independent, and gorgeous woman who's goal in life was to track down the alpha of the cursed race and kill him.
"You sure you wanna do this?" The young huntsman asked her. "You're not the only one who's ever gone after him you know?"
"I know Gray but I'm going to be the one to kill him." She said.
"Hate to tell you this Erza but you either won't find him or end up as another carcass on the forest floor. But hey if you want to waist your life or die too soon be my guest."
"Thank you for the training Gray. It means a lot to me."
"Yeah whatever. Now if you'll excuse me I have to get back to work."
Now reader we shall return to where we left off last time. Poor Juvia's stepmother had tried to have her killed but her servant Rogue couldn't find it in his heart to perform such an evil act so he let her live but she was forced to flee into the woods, running for what seemed to be an endless amount of time and when she finally reached some sort of shelter she passed out. She was found by three dwarves although they weren't exactly your typical dwarves. For one thing two of them were a lot taller and bigger and the third was just a child. Their names were Gajeel, Elfman, and Romeo. They were miners who originally mined jewels and gold for King Hector but after he disappeared Queen Minerva had them exiled because they were suspicious of her using witchcraft. Ever since then they had been living in the forest.
Gajeel was the leader. A tough and rather mean dwarf who had a nasty temper but deep down he had a heart of pure gold and a soft spot that he tried his best to keep hidden. Elfman was the strongest of them and often tried to be the most manly but if you want the truth he was actually the most sensitive out all three of them. Finally there was Romeo the youngest of them and probably the only sane man in the group. He was the one who found Juvia that night.
"Gajeel! Elfman! Come quick!" Romeo called when he saw her.
"What is it now Romeo?" Gajeel asked as he and Elfman responded to his call.
"My what a pretty young lady." Elfman said.
"Where the hell did she come from?" Gajeel asked.
"She just knocked on the door and passed out. Do you think she's dead?" Romeo asked.
"She's still breathing you idiot!"
"Look at her dress it's all torn up and she's got scratches on her legs. We should bring her inside."
"No way. Leave her out here."
"A real man wouldn't leave a lady in distress." Elfman protested.
"We don't know who this girl is. She could be a thief or a killer or a witch."
"Does she look like a witch to you?" Romeo said.
"She looks like an angel to me." Elfman said.
"You don't have to look like a witch to be one you know." Gajeel said.
"Come on Gajeel have a heart. We can't just leave her out here she'll freeze to death." Romeo said.
"Or the wolves will get her." Elfman added.
"No! I'm in charge here and I say that we forget we ever saw this girl and go to bed."
"You're such a jerk!" Romeo said going back inside.
"And you're not a real man either." Elfman said following after him.
Gajeel just gave Elfman a growl and went to close the door but stopped when he saw Juvia's body start to move. She was crying. Crying in her sleep while her entire body was shivering from the cold. Gajeel felt guilt tug at his iron heart when he watched the sleeping girl weep and shiver. After a few Huff's of hesitation he picked her up, carried her inside, and tucked her into his bed much to Romeo and Elfman's shock.
"Say one word and you'll both need an iron lung." He told them before going to sleep on the floor.
In the morning Rogue had returned to the castle to find Minerva waiting for him in her chambers.
"Well?" She said. "Is she dead?"
"The wolves tore her to pieces." He lied. "All that remained were scraps of cloth from her dress."
"What a relief." She said as if a huge weight had been lifted off her shoulders much to Rogue's horror.
"Your majesty do you not feel any guilt or regret over what just transpired? An innocent maiden is dead by your order!"
"She wasn't innocent Rogue! She was a wicked girl who would've destroyed the kingdom if she had lived a moment longer! Now that she's dead my kingdom is safe. Now leave me, I must prepare to have lunch with the prince."
But for the first time in his entire life Natsu's mind wasn't on food. All he could think about was Lucy. He didn't even know who she was and yet she was constantly plaguing his thoughts.
"Is something wrong?" Minerva asked him. "You haven't touched your food."
"Sorry your majesty I was just lost in thought." Natsu said.
"You know you were quite the remarkable dancer at the ball last night."
"And it pleases me so that you have come all this way to our kingdom."
"Well you should thank my brother, he arranged the whole thing."
"He'll get my regards. Speaking of your brother I hear that he wants you to marry is that correct?"
"That's good to hear." He placed her hand over his. "Prince Natsu we are both single adults and we are both around the same age."
"I don't think we're the same age." Natsu said pulling his hand away. "Aren't you forty something?"
"I'm twenty nine. Anyway I've recently become very lonely since the passing of my late husband King Hector and you need a wife so I think that it would be fitting if we were to marry."
"Uh...Um...Well I'm flattered but...I'm gonna have to say no. It's nothing personal your majesty but there's someone else."
"I don't know her name but I met her last night at the ball and she was so beautiful and sweet and-"
"You don't even know her name."
"Nevertheless I have decided to marry her. She left a gold shoe behind at the ball and whoever's foot fits it is the one I'm looking for."
"I see... Would you excuse me for a moment."
Minerva got up from her chair and went to her secret room where her magic mirror was. A hour later as Lucy was getting water from the well she was startled by the sudden appearance of her aunt.
"You sneaky little tart! Did you really think that I wouldn't find out?" She said.
"What...What are you talking about?" She stammered.
"I'm talking about your appearance at the ball last night."
"So tell me dearie just what were you doing dancing with my prince?"
"Sneaking in and preying on a poor, unsuspecting young man. Such crimes call for inprisonment, maybe even excecution. But because we're family I'll be merciful just this once." She grabbed Lucy roughly by the chin. "I want you out of this castle. You're no longer allowed to work here. I don't care where you go or what you do stay away from my castle and stay away from my prince! Or you'll be reunited with your parents much sooner than you think!"
Lucy was very frightened by the look in Minerva's eyes. They were mixture of hatred and insanity. Something you see in the eyes of people starting to descend into madness. Minerva released Lucy and returned to the palace leaving the poor girl trembling. She couldn't believe what just happened. She knew her aunt never liked her but she never thought that her aunt would actually threaten her life or try to kill her. Scared and confused Lucy returned to the hazel tree that grew on mother's grave. What was she to do now? Where was she to go from here?
"What's wrong Lucy?" She heard Levy's voice ask.
"Queen Minerva has ordered me to leave the castle and if I return I shall die. But I don't know what to do now. I've worked as a scullery maid ever since I was a child. What else is there for me?"
"Lucy there's something you need to know about me." Levy said. "I'm your fairy godmother."
"You're my what?"
"Your fairy godmother. Years ago when your mother was pregnant with you she asked me to take care of you should anything happen to her and your father."
"If that's true then why didn't you come for me when my parents died?"
"Your aunt knew about me and she saw me as a threat to her power so she in prisoned me. For ten years I tried to find someway to contact you but where she keeps me limits my magic. At last I was able to channel my powers into this hazel tree but only for a limited amount of time."
"Is there anyway I can free you?"
"Your aunt has the key somewhere in her bedchambers. It's golden and has stars engraved on it. When you find it, hold it up to the sky and say magic key golden and sleek lead me to the fairy I seek. Then an astral line will appear in the sky, follow it and it will lead you to me. But don't loose that key, keep it with you always. Once I'm free I promise you'll never suffer again."
"But Levy if I go back to the castle and Minerva catches me she'll kill me."
"If it truly is much too risky then don't do it. If my freedom costs you your life then I would rather be in prisoned for all eternity but remember Lucy, it takes courage to change your life for the best."
That evening Lucy slept on the grass. Her sleep was an uneasy one because she was debating on weather or not she should try to get the key. On one hand she felt that she owed Levy for helping her go to the ball and spend that wonderful night with the prince even if it was brief but on the other hand if she did this then she would be risking her life. It was such a dilemma. Suddenly she awoke to the sound of chopping. When she opened her eyes horror struck her heart. Three men we're chopping down her beloved hazel tree.
"No! Stop! What are you doing?! Spare that tree!"
Lucy got to her feet and ran to stop them only to be restrained by two of the men while the third one continued to chop.
"Sorry young lady but by order of the queen we are to cut down this tree and burn it." One man said.
"No! Please! I beg you! Don't do this! You have no right! You have no right!"
Lucy screamed and cried and desperately tried to break away from the men holding her back. She was hysterical. Not only was that tree the only way she could communicate with Levy but it was also the last connection she had to her parents. From the moment it first sprouted from Jude and Layla's grave soil, she felt as if somehow her parents had returned to her. Whenever she sat under it's shade she could feel their arms around her, holding her like they used to and whenever she heard the wind blowing through it's leaves she felt as if she could hear there voices whispering "We love you Lucy."
Watching tree burn was even worse. The flames weren't even touching her and yet she felt as if they were scorching her body. Then it started to rain and the rain put out the fires, all that remained of the tree were ashes and cinder. Much like the ashes and cinders that always covered her face. She just sat there in the rain looking at the burned remains of her tree. Two of the men had left but the third one called Sting pitied the girl so he stayed behind to shield her from the rain and then he took her back to his house to warm her up.
"I'm truly sorry." He told her. "If it's any consolation I never wanted to cut down that beautiful tree."
Lucy didn't speak. She only sat in chair, staring into the fire burning in his fireplace. After an hour of silence she spoke.
"She wanted the tree destroyed because it made me happy didn't she?"
"Not exactly." Sting said. "She wanted it dead because it grew on her sister's grave and Queen Minerva hates her sister so."
"Why? Why did she hate her?"
"I honestly don't know. Listen I'm going to bed, you're welcome to stay and sleep in my guest room or leave if you'd like. Again I'm very sorry."
Sting went to bed as for Lucy, she could not sleep. She was far too angry, angry at her aunt for such a cruel act. She didn't know why her aunt hated her and her mother so much but this was the final straw. She had taken that woman's abuse for ten years and she might have been able to get over it but destroying that tree was unforgivable. Her anger and determination to change how things were overlapped her fear of death completely and she made it her mission to free Levy. She would not let her aunt ruin someone else's life as she had ruined her own.
The next day after gathering up all her courage Lucy went back to the castle. She waited until noon to go because that's when her stepmother went through her two hour long beauty treatments. She crept up the palace stairs and went into Minerva's bedchamber where she began to frantically look for the key. She checked her jewelry box, her wardrobe, her vanity, but they were no where. At last she found it underneath the queen's mattress. She was just starting to leave when she bumped right into Natsu.
"Hey what are you doing here?"
"Oh please your highness don't tell anyone I'm here! Please I beg of you!"
"Are you stealing from the queen?"
"Yes but it's what you think! Please don't alert the guards! If you do they'll kill me and-"
"Relax I'm not going to tell."
"Oh thank you but why?"
"Well I owe you for not squealing on me when I tried to steal bread from the kitchen."
"That was you?"
"Oh my goodness! I attacked the prince with a broom!"
"Don't worry no hard feelings on that subject. Though if I may ask why are you stealing from the queen?"
"Can we talk about this outside before I'm caught?"
The two of them slipped out of the castle and went back to where Lucy's parents were buried. There she told him the whole story. How Minerva had forced her to work as a slave and abused her every chance she got. She told him about her tree, her fairy godmother, the key, and how Minerva had despicably ordered the tree to be cut down and burned. However she left out the part where she went to the ball and danced with him.
"That's awful." Natsu said after hearing her story. "How could she be so cruel?"
"I don't know but now that I have this I should be able to finally get away from her."
She held up the key toward the sky and then said.
"Magic key golden and sleek, lead me to the fairy I seek."
The key began to glow and an astral line appeared in the sky.
"Now what?" Natsu asked.
"Now I follow that line and find my godmother."
"Hold on a minute to get to wherever that line is you'll have to go through the forest."
"So do you have any idea what's in there? Wolves, witches, trolls, and God knows what else."
"I've heard the stories."
"They're not just stories. They're real! I mean aren't you afraid?"
"It takes courage to change your life for the best."
"Well tell me that you're at least not going in there alone."
"I'm afraid I am."
"But you'll be ripped to shreds or eaten or worse!"
"I appreciate the concern your highness but this doesn't involve you so leave me be."
"Do you even know how to use a sword or a cross bow or any form of weapon?"
"No but I have to do this. I don't really have much of a choice here."
"Then allow me to escort you there."
"No thank you."
"Because I'm not allowed to be around you. In fact I'm not supposed to be speaking to you right now so please leave."
"Wait a second what are you talking about?"
"If you must know my aunt said that I am to stay away from you or I'll be killed."
"What? Why would she do that?"
"I don't know." She lied. "Why do you care? I'm a scullery maid. No one important to someone like you."
"Someone like me?"
"You know. A royal. Last I checked princes couldn't care less if a someone like me was alive or dead."
"What gives you the right to say that? You don't even know me and I'll have you know that I consider every human life just as important as my own."
"Is that right?"
"Yes and if I see a young lady who is doesn't even know how to defend herself is about to go off alone into a forest infested with monsters I'm going to try and protect her."
"Hmm...So I guess chivalry isn't dead. Alright Prince Charming if you insist on coming with me be my guest but don't blame me if the queen gets mad."
"Let her get mad. I don't care what she does."
When Juvia finally woke up she was startled to find two large men and a young boy staring at her.
"Oh dear!" She gasped.
"Sorry for scaring you Miss." Elfman said. "We just wanted to see if you were okay."
"Who are you people?" She asked. "And where am I?"
"Well we're dwarves and you're in our house." Romeo said.
"You're dwarves?" Juvia said confused.
"Yeah is that a problem sweetheart?" Gajeel asked gruffly.
"Oh no it's just that I thought you would be shorter."
"That is a vicious stereotype! I am not short! Do you I look short to you?! No! I don't!" Gajeel said angrily.
"Please don't ever mention that around him again." Romeo whispered to her.
"Look dwarves are not short little men. They are men who are strong enough to break through any material and we can bond with them. That's why most of the time we work in mines. Now that aside who the heck are you and what were you doing running around in the woods last night?"
"Well my name is Juvia and I'm the princess of Fiore or at least I was."
"Oh no a royal. Just what we need. Sorry princess but after what her majesty Queen Minerva did to us we've had enough of your kind. So beat it."
"But if you send me away the queen will kill me."
"I doubt that she would kill her own daughter."
"But I'm not her daughter. I'm her stepdaughter and she doesn't care at all about me. In fact she wanted me to be fed to the wolves."
"That's awful." Romeo said.
"But why would your stepmother want to kill you?" Elfman asked.
"I honestly don't know but I do know that I can't ever go home. So if it wouldn't be too much trouble could I stay here?"
"Does this look like a free room and board to you?" Gajeel asked.
"But I won't stay here for free. I don't have any money to pay you but I could work. I'll cook and clean and sew. I'll help out however I can and I won't complain."
The three dwarves walked off to discuss it for a moment.
"What do you think?" Elfman asked.
"I like her. I think she should stay." Romeo said.
"I don't know." Gajeel said. "What if the queen finds her here and does something to us?"
"If I may, my stepmother thinks I'm dead so she'll never look for me." Juvia said.
"Don't be foolish! You honestly think that she won't somehow discover you're still alive? She's an old witch I tell ya! And she has ways of knowing things."
"Isn't there anything I can do that will convince you to let me stay?"
"Look don't you have your kingly father to look after you?"
"My father's been missing for three months. Everyone in Fiore thinks he's dead but I know he's alive I just have to find him."
She was starting to cry.
"Alright, alright, calm down. Don't start crying. You can stay." Gajeel caved.
"Really? Oh thank you. Thank you so much. I promise I won't be any trouble."
And so it was that Juvia lived with the three dwarves. Every day when they left to work in the mines she would spend the day keeping their house neat and tidy. She swept, dusted, scrubbed the floor, cleaned the dishes, and washed and mended all their clothing. She also cooked meals for them and would even help out in the mines occasionally. Throughout her work she never complained and despite working so hard all the time Juvia only seemed to grow more beautiful. Very soon Elfman, Romeo, and even Gajeel became very fond of her. Of course he would never admit that.
"You sure you don't mind sleeping on the floor?" Romeo asked her. "You can always have my bed."
"No I don't want any of you to have to give up your bed for me and besides sleeping on the floor isn't as bad as you think. I kind of like it."
"Then I guess you won't want this huh?" Gajeel said. He and Elfman had built her brand new bed out of wood which had a mattress, pillow, and quilt.
"You made this for me?" She asked.
"It's just a little something to show our appreciation." Elfman said.
"Oh it's wonderful. Thank you all so much."
She was very happy living with them. But happiness is not always meant to last. All too soon Queen Minerva would discover that Juvia was still alive and she would not be pleased.
"Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?" She asked her mirror.
"One who's beauty thou would spoil,
Grows with heavy toil.
In the forest where three dwarfs dwell,
Is Juvia alive and well."
"You lie! She is dead! Rogue fed her to the wolves!"
" Rogue fell victim to her beauty as most do,
Thou Queen he has betrayed you."
"How dare he! How dare he! He'll pay for this! But I'll deal with him later, right now I need to find someone to kill that brat! But it can't be anyone in the castle, they're all too loyal to her. I need someone who doesn't know her, someone who won't care weather she lives or dies!"
"Someone without a heart?"
"Now you're getting the idea. Know anyone?"
"In the village of Magnolia, lives a huntsman called Gray,
Who can track man or beast both night and day."
"But will he kill Juvia?"
"His soul is bitter and his heart is cold,
He'll kill anything for just the right amount of gold."
"Then he's perfect for the job."
"When she is dead consume her heart and beauty,
Then young and fair forever you shall be."
Gray was indeed a great huntsman with a heart of ice. You see as a young boy he was forced to watch his mother and father be murdered by the people of Magnolia because Reverend Hades accused them of devil worship so the poor boy was then subjected to torture as a way to cleanse his soul or at least that's how the reverend put it. Alone and hurt, they say that he froze his heart to prevent himself from ever being hurt again. Growing up he trained to himself to hunt, track, and fight. He became a strong and brave young man who defended the village of Magnolia from the wolves that is as long as they kept paying him. And he didn't just kill wolves, he had also been hired to kill trolls, criminals, and other forms of threats.
Minerva quickly sent her men to bring him to her. However he was a stubborn and difficult man so needless to say it was a struggle for the guards to bring him to her.
"Get your hands off of me! Before I cut off all your heads with just swipe!" The young huntsman demanded as he was dragged into the throne room and tossed at the queen's feet.
"Are you the huntsman called Gray?" She asked.
"Yeah what's it to you lady?"
"I have a job for you."
"Really? Is that right?" She tossed a satchel on to the floor, when it landed some gold coins spilled out. "That's only a morsel of what you'll get if you do this job for me."
"I need you to go into the forest, track down a young woman, and kill her."
"You want me to kill a woman?"
"Is that an issue?"
"No man, woman, wolf, they're all the same to me. But why do you want to kill her?"
"That is none of your concern. Now will you do it?"
Gray thought for a moment. He had never killed a woman before and he didn't like that Minerva was keeping her reason for wanting this woman dead a secret. But due to the fact the people hired him to kill monsters and criminals he figured this woman probably some kind of witch or something plus he really wanted the gold she was offering him.
"I'll do it."
"Excellent. You shall be rewarded handsomely if you succeed."
"Now what does she look like?"
"She's seventeen years old with blue hair and extremely fair skin. I'm sure she won't be that difficult to diverse from everyone else. Oh and one more thing, once you kill her bring back her heart in this box." She handed him a wooden and jeweled box, dismissed him, and went to her spell room.
"Now then I need to do something about this prince. Obviously wooing him the old fashioned way won't work so I need the love potion. The one I used on the king." She began brewing it up. "Of course it won't really make him love me it will only make him think he loves me but there isn't really a difference between loving someone and thinking that you love someone. Sting!"
"Fetch the prince for me."
"Yes your majesty."
It was a windy day in the woods. Erza was skipping merrily to her grandmother's house with a basket of her medicine for her. Titania once again had caught a nasty cold so Erza had to go see Reverend Makarov to get medicine that would cure her. She was halfway home when suddenly she heard a twig snap. She stopped and looked around to see if anyone was following her. When it seemed like she was alone she continued on her way only to bump right into a man.
"Oh!" She gasped.
"Miss did I startled you? I am sorry." He said politely.
"Oh that's alright. I apologise for bumping into you sir. Now if you'll excuse me I must be on my way."
"Where are you off to young lady?"
"With all due respect sir it's no where that concerns you."
"You know it's dangerous for someone to walk in the woods alone."
"Well you're alone in the woods."
"That's only because I've lost my companions. I say would you mind if I escorted you to wherever you are headed?"
"No thank you."
"Have I insulted you young lady?"
"No but my Granny always said that when you're a young woman you should never go off alone with a man you just met especially when you just met him in the woods."
"Why is that?"
"Well don't you know that they're are wolves around here?"
"Yes but what does that have to do with me?"
"Well these wolves in particular can change into men."
"Oh come now. Don't tell me that you believe those ridiculous wives tales about the cursed race."
"You're new around here aren't you?"
"As a matter of fact I am."
"Well then you should know that both the village and the woods are filled with hunters and woodsmen who believe in the cursed race and kill them on sight. And you should also know that there's one woman in this village who knows everything about the cursed race."
"And would this woman be?"
And before he could stop her Erza grabbed the man's wrist while wearing a silver ring and as soon as the silver band touched him, it burnt his skin. The man howled and broke away from her in fear.
"I got you dirty wolf!"
The man tore off his shirt exposing the tattoo of blood on his shoulder and began to transform into a vicious, blood thirsty wolf. He glared at Erza with his yellow eyes and prepared to lunge for her only for her to pull a cross bow from her basket which was loaded with a silver tipped arrow. She then fired it straight into his chest before he could even think about running away. The wolf let out another howl as he fell down dead.
"Ah the old innocent girl lost in the woods act. Works every time." She said proudly before continuing on home. "Granny I'm back."
"Hello dear how was your day in the village?"
"It was fine. I killed another wolf."
"Another one? That's the twentieth wolf that's stalked you this year. I wonder why on Earth those beasts keep targeting you."
"Erza we need to talk."
"Erza ever since the wolves killed your grandfather I've been saving up money to buy a house in Fiore. I have enough money now and I think now we should move to Fiore and live there."
"Go live in Fiore?"
"It's safer there Erza. There are no wolves or paranoid witch hunters just peasants trying to make a living."
"I'm not going."
"But Erza we would be safe there, you wouldn't have to hide your hair, wolves wouldn't stalk you, and no one would ever look at you like you're some evil thing. Why can't we go live there?"
"I won't leave Magnolia until I kill the alpha."
"Oh Erza please not this again."
"I vowed that one day I would kill the alpha and I intend to keep that vow."
"Erza do you have any idea how many huntsmen have tried to do that? And they've all ended up lying in a ditch somewhere dead! What makes you think you'll be any different?"
"They have to pay for they did this village."
"For what they did to this village or for what they did to Jellal?"
"They killed him Granny! He was just a little boy and they killed him!"
"I know it's horrible! Erza I know how you feel! And I know where you're headed and it's a dark path!"
"You don't know how I feel! You never liked Jellal!"
"I never wanted him to be killed and for your information young lady I know exactly how you feel! You forget that you're not the only one who lost someone to them. Erza they killed the only man I ever loved and I wanted to do the same thing you're doing right now. For years I tried to find the alpha and make him pay for taking my husband but I realized something. Even though I had lost my husband I still had a daughter to take care of. I couldn't just abandon her for my own selfish vengeance and that obsession was probably why your mother was the way she was."
"What do you mean?"
"Your mother was nine when your grandfather died and because I was so obsessed with revenge I was never there for her when she needed me and that allowed her to seek comfort in others. One was Reverend Makarov but others were people who would use her and hurt her."
"Granny you never did tell me the whole story of why the village thought that my mother was a witch and I think it's time you told me."
Titania sighed and after a moment of silence she began to tell her the story.
"She was fifteen years old when she and a bunch of other girls decided to play a joke on the village."
"What was the joke?"
"They were dancing over a fire in front of the church while speaking in tongue to a regular wolf who had a limp. It scared Reverend Hades into a frenzy, it happened at night and all the other girls except your mother were dark haired so Hades was unable to identify them except her because her bright red hair could be seen even in the darkness. The girls pinned the whole thing on her and the village treated her like an outcast. I tried to comfort her but because I was never around her as much as I should have been she didn't believe I really cared, she thought that I was ashamed of her like everyone else. She was nineteen when she ran away with your father and I didn't see her again for five years and when I finally got her back I lost her all over again."
"It was my fault. Maybe if I had been a more attentive and caring mother she would haven't gotten roped into the prank and she'd still be alive today, I don't know but Erza I don't want you to make the same mistakes I did. Please Erza! I've lost my husband and my daughter I can't lose you too! Give up this obsession before it's too late!"
Erza had always seen her grandmother has a strong woman even though she was old but this was the first time she ever saw her looking weak and hurt. It made her feel guilty. True she had suffered greatly when she lost Jellal but her grandmother had suffered through worse. She had lost the love of her life and her only child and now she was desperately trying to hold on to the only family she had left.
"It's time to take your medicine Granny. Come on I'll help you into bed." Erza said helping the old woman to her feet.
Erza decided to take a break from hunting wolves for her grandmother's sake but she was still determined to fullfil her vow. She wouldn't let anyone else go through what she and her grandmother went through. She would not let what those monsters did go un punished.
"Last chance to back out your highness." Lucy said when the horses caring her and Natsu arrived at the entrance of the forest. "You sure you want to go in there with me?"
"Why not? It could be fun." Natsu said.
"If you think I'm doing this purely for enjoyment then you're wrong. This isn't some vacation. There is real danger in there."
"I know, I just hope you know that."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing except you don't look like the type to go marching off into danger."
"And you do Mr. Have everything handed to him on a silver platter?"
"For your information I've been through these woods before."
"You have? But don't royals normally avoid going through places like this."
"Most but I find it thrilling and exciting. Now then are we going in or not?"
For three hours their horses carried them through the woods. When they came up a stream they stopped to let their horses rest and drink for awhile also they stopped because Natsu had become very hungry. He opened his satchel to get some bread he had packed.
"You hungry?" He asked Lucy.
"No thank you." She said.
As he searched for the bread he accidentally dropped something out of his bag. It was the golden slipper he had found at the ball.
"Where did you get this?" Lucy asked him when she saw it.
"I found it on the steps of the palace. It belongs to a beautiful young woman I met at the ball."
"Oh...Was she a princess?"
"She said she wasn't a royal or a noble but if she's a commoner then she's the loveliest commoner I've ever seen."
Lucy blushed and desperately tried to hide it.
"So if I may ask why are you carrying her shoe?"
"Well I don't know her name and I've tried to think of alternate ways to find her but nobody knows who she is. So I've decided to use this slipper to find her."
"How is a slipper going to help you find someone?"
"Simple I plan to have every woman in Fiore try it on and whoever it fits is the girl I'm looking for."
"Yeah but there's one problem with your theory. That slipper could fit any woman."
"I thought about that so I went to see a scholar friend of mine who lives Fiore and also happens to be an expert on magic and he told me that this slipper was made by fairy magic and will only fit the rightful owner."
"Even so why do you want to find this girl?"
"If I tell you you'll laugh at me."
"No I won't."
"Yes you will because it's stupid."
"I won't laugh."
"I want to find her because I...I love her and I think I want to marry her."
Lucy's entire face was now the color of summer cherries.
"Well I'm glad you didn't laugh but why are you so quiet...And red? Whoa are you getting a fever?"
"No I'm fine it's just...You want to marry her? You love her?"
"I think so I'm still a little confused on the whole thing but I'm sure once I see her again I'll be able to know if my feelings are real."
"But you don't even know this woman's name and she ran away from you so how do you know that she wants to see you again?"
"I don't why she ran though I think it might have had something to do with my breath but I felt something with her and I know that she felt it too. That's why- Hey wait a minute how did you know that she ran away from me?"
"I...I...I saw her."
"You saw her?"
"Yes while I was scrubbing the castle stairs."
"Did you get her name? Did you see where she went?"
"No sorry I didn't but if you ask me she seemed very vain and self centered."
"She was not. She was sweet and charming and funny."
"You've only known her for one night. What is she like the first girl you've ever met?"
"No but she's the first girl I've ever met who didn't laugh at me."
"What you mean?"
"In case you haven't noticed I'm not exactly the ideal prince everyone expects me to be. I'm clumsy, I don't know the first thing about running a kingdom, I've never been in one joust, I eat like a pig, and I can't talk to a young lady without getting tongue tied."
"You can talk to me just fine."
"Yeah but that's only because you attacked me with a broom and I realized that you're just as crazy as I am."
"I'm not crazy! Anyone would have done that to you if they didn't know you were the prince!"
"Whatever the point is growing up my brother would try to set me up with various princesses and noblewomen but I would always do something stupid like say the wrong words, trip over my feet, sweat, shake, and they would always laugh at me and say that I was an embarrassment to my family. But she didn't do that. I sweated, I shook, I said stupid stuff and while she did laugh she did it because she thought it was cute. She also likes to play games like bowling and she has a great sense of humor. I love a girl who can laugh."
"Are you saying that none of the girls you've met before this one ever had a sense of humor?"
"Nope. The only time I made them laugh was when they thought I was stupid but she's different. She laughed because she thought I was cute and funny. She actually liked me, the real me even the real me is clumsy, nervous, reckless, and can't even say the proper words needed to address the young lady."
"Wow I never thought you had it so rough with the ladies. I thought they basically threw themselves at you."
"They do but only because I'm rich and handsome. You know you peasants have no idea how lucky you have it."
"Us peasants have it lucky? Excuse me but do you have to sleep on the kitchen floor? Wear rags with holes and tears? Live off a diet of chicken bones and bread crust? Work day in and day out while listening to cruel insults?"
"I admit that is awful but you can change that. You can leave that life behind I can't! I can't ever change my life!"
"Why would you want to change your life? You have everything."
"I don't have freedom. I don't have a choice. I have to get married and eventually become king."
"But your brother is king."
"My brother is dying."
Lucy became silent for a moment before speaking again.
"What do you mean?"
"My brother was born with a disease that will eventually kill him. He's delayed for as long as he can and soon he'll have to go."
"And there's no cure?"
"But surely there must be some cure, he's so young. He can't-"
"He should have been stillborn but by some miracle he lived and by an even greater miracle he managed to live long enough to take care of me and run the kingdom but he can't do both for much longer. That's why I have to get married so I can take his place but you know what sucks the most about being a royal? When you get married you're never a hundred percent sure if the person you married really loves you. Maybe they do or maybe they just did it because they were arranged to or maybe they just want your money and your kingdom. At least when you get married you'll know for sure it's love but me I'll never have that insurance."
Lucy felt sorry for Natsu. It never occurred to her how difficult it was for those of royalty to fall in love. She knew that King Hector and his first wife Queen Dianne were arranged to be married but they very much in love each other. However not all royal marriages ended up like that. Some ended up being completely loveless and unhappy. She couldn't marrying someone she didn't love. But Natsu didn't have that choice and that made it all the more sad for him.
"I see so even though you were born to privilege it comes with obligations and responsibilities."
"It's not your doing."
"Nor yours either I bet. I hope that someday you'll earn the freedom you deserve."
The two then got back on their horses and continued with their journey unaware that they were headed straight for danger.
Gray didn't have any trouble tracking Juvia. From what he had been told she lived up North of the forest just a few miles from the Magnolia village. Arriving there he found foot prints that were that of a young maiden and followed them, soon her tracks mixed with several other kinds of foot prints. Two which belonged to grown men and one that belonged to a young boy. When he reached the end of the trail he found the cottage. He knocked on the door but no one answered leaving him to believe that no one was home.
He was about to find a place where he could hide and wait for them to come home when he heard something in the distance. It was faint but he could make it out. It was a voice, a girl's voice humming. Being as quiet as a mouse he followed the humming and it led him to the edge of a steep hill. At the end of the hill was a river and Juvia was washing clothes in it.
"Let's see she looks about seventeen, blue hair, fair skin. Yep this is her."
She couldn't see him down there because he was hidden by the trees and her back was turned so she wouldn't be able to see his arrow coming. He pulled out his bow and arrow, drew back his arrow on the bow's string, and made his aim. It would be a perfect shot right through her heart and he wouldn't miss. He never missed. He was just about to fire when Juvia turned around and when he saw her face he was startled by her beauty. He knew that he was supposed to kill a woman he just didn't expect her to be so beautiful. He had never seen a woman more beautiful in his entire life and her voice was almost just as lovely.
" The water is wide, I can't cross o'er
And neither have I wings to fly
Give me a boat that can carry two
And we shall sail, my love and I
Oh love is gentle and love is kind
And love's a flower when first it's new
But life grows old and waxes cold
And fades away like morning dew
There is a ship, and she sails the sea
She's loaded deep as deep can be
But not as deep as the love I'm in
I know not how I sink or swim
The water is wide, I can't cross o'er
And neither have I wings to fly
Give me a boat that can carry two
And we shall sail, my love and I."
She had the voice of an angel which was sweeter than any that had ever been sung and he was so shocked by her lovely face and angelic voice that he accidentally shot the arrow while pointing down wind and it caused him to lose his balance and go tumbling down the hill. He landed on his ankle sprianing it in the process while also getting some scratches and bruises during his tumble. When he finally stopped rolling and sliding he tried to stand up only to feel intense pain in his ankle.
"Ah! Oh great I can't walk! Now I'm stuck down here!"
"Oh my goodness! Are you alright?" He turned in the direction of the gasping voice to find Juvia staring at with great concern.
"What are you looking at?" He asked in irritation.
"Sorry if I'm bothering you but I saw you fall down the hill and I was worried that you had hurt yourself so I decided to see if you were okay. Are you hurt?"
"No these bruises and scratches feel great." He said sarcastically.
"You don't have to be rude I'm only trying to help."
"Well I don't need your help now go away."
"You sure you don't need any help?"
"I just said I didn't." He tried to stand up. "Now scram! I can- Ah!"
He fell back down after feeling the pain in his ankle again.
"Oh dear you can't walk can you? Don't worry the house where I live is not far from here."
She took his arm and put it over her shoulders.
"What are you doing?" He asked her.
"I'm taking you back home with me so I can bandage your ankle and clean your wounds."
"Get away from me! I don't need your help! I can take care of myself!"
"Nonsense you can't even stand up, what are you going to stay down here until your ankle's healed? Now come on."
Gray tried to protest but Juvia was a stubborn and persistent woman who managed to convince him to give in and let her help him. She took him back to the cottage where she bandaged his ankle and cleaned his scratches and bruises.
"Ow! That stings!" Gray hissed when she touched his biggest scratch with a wet rag.
"Sorry but I have to clean it otherwise it will get infected." Juvia said. "And if you would hold still it wouldn't sting that bad. Now keep still."
"Oh for heaven's sake you're behaving like a child! I thought you huntsmen would be used to this kind of treatment."
"If you're saying that I should be immune to pain then you are wrong on so many counts."
For the rest of the time Juvia spent tending to his injuries the two didn't speak to each other then suddenly Juvia started laughing.
"What's so funny?" Gray asked.
"Nothing it's just that this reminds me of when I was little and I fell out of an apple tree I was climbing and skinned my knee pretty bad. When my nurse cleaned my wound I was behaving just as silly as you were."
"So may I ask what your name is?"
"Oh what a lovely name. My name is-"
"Juvia we're home!" They heard Romeo call as he, Elfman, and Gajeel walked inside.
"Who's this?" Gajeel asked.
"I'm Gray, I'm just a hunter who fell down a hill while trying to shoot a deer."
"He sprained his ankle so I brought him back here to bandage him up." Juvia said.
"Do you live around here?" Romeo asked.
"I'm just passing through." Gray said.
"So you don't have anywhere to go?"
"Can he stay here?" Juvia asked. "At least until his ankle is better."
"I don't mind." Romeo said.
"Fine by me." Elfman said.
"Now wait just a minute." Gajeel said. "We don't know this guy. We can't just let him stay here, he could be a thief or a murderer and besides where is he gonna sleep?"
"He can have my bed and I'll sleep on the floor." Juvia said.
"A real man wouldn't make a lady give up her bed." Elfman objected.
"He's right. Gray can sleep in my bed and I'll sleep on the floor." Romeo said.
"No how about you and I share a bed Romeo? That way no one has to sleep on the floor." Juvia said.
"Juvia we can't just let this man stay with us." Gajeel said. "He could be dangerous."
"You're too suspicious Gajeel you know that? And besides he can't even walk so how much harm can he do?"
Gajeel looked at Gray. He did look pretty hurt and he did seem like a decent guy but Gajeel had develop a biological alarm if you will and it started going off the minute he first saw Gray. He was very suspicious of the young man and sensed that he was dangerous but he knew that if he sent him away in this condition Juvia would see him as a heartless monster forever.
"Fine he can stay but only til he recovers."
"Wonderful." Juvia said.
"Hey Juvia, Elfman and I were going to catch fish for dinner wanna come?" Romeo asked.
"I'd love to but I have to take care of Gray."
"I'll keep an eye on him." Gajeel said.
"Oh thank you Gajeel."
She hugged him then kissed his cheek and left with Elfman and Romeo. Once they were gone Gajeel decided to have a little chat with Gray.
"Alright listen up pretty boy I believe you when you said that you were just a hunter who got hurt but I don't believe for one minute that it was deer you were hunting. Now if what you say turns out to be true then you have nothing to fear but if my suspicions are correct and you dare try to hurt that girl I'll break you into a million tiny pieces." He said cracking his knuckles.
"Are...Are you her father?"
"Let's just say I'm a guardian and you cannot imagine how much she means to us and all three of us are ready to kill to keep her safe. Just remember that while you're staying here."
Gray found himself in quite a predicament. He knew that this job was probably going to be the hardest one he had ever taken.
Since I gave Lucy the gift of dance I gave Juvia the gift of song. The song she sung was The Water is Wide by Orla Fallon. Since Fairy Tail uses a lot of cetlic music I decided to use cetlic songs.
The next day the dwarfs got ready to go to work at the mines like they normally did. They were a little unsure about leaving Juvia alone with Gray but she was able to convince them that she would be alright on her own.
"You sure you don't want one of us to stay here with you?" Elfman asked.
"I'll be alright you three worry too much." Juvia said.
"And you don't worry enough."
"We just don't want anything to happen to you." Romeo said.
"Nothing is going to happen to me. Now hurry up and eat your breakfast. The porridge is getting cold."
She had made them porridge with rasberries for breakfast which they ate however Gray didn't eat a bite of his meal.
"Aren't you hungry?" Juvia asked him.
"No I'm not."
"Alright but when you do get hungry let me know and I'll make something."
Gray only rolled his eyes and looked at Gajeel, Elfman, and Romeo.
"So you guys are dwarfs right?" He asked.
"Yes." Romeo said.
"Aren't you supposed to be short little men?"
"We're not short!" Gajeel shouted. "It's a stereotype! And if you ever call me short again I'll rip your arms off!"
"Take it easy Gajeel." Elfman said restraining him from attacking Gray who was trying to get as far away from the angry dwarf as possible.
Juvia couldn't help but giggle a little. Sometimes she thought it was kind of funny when Gajeel got angry. Once he calmed down he, Elfman, and Romeo left for work. Juvia began her usual morning chores which included washing the dishes, dusting the windows, and sweeping the floors. She tried to get Gray to eat something but he refused. Around noon she decided to go out and gather berries, nuts, and herbs to use when cooking meals. She was also hoping to find an apple tree because she wanted to make an apple pie as a special treat for the dwarfs.
"I'm going into the forest to gather some things." Juvia told Gray.
"You sure you don't want anything to eat or drink?"
"Alright call if you need anything."
And she went outside taking a basket with her. Shortly after she left a raven flew into the cottage window and started pecking his head.
"Hey! Ow! Cut it out! What the hell?!"
"I thought you said you would kill her!" The Raven screeched in a voice that sounded like Minerva.
"What the- You can talk? What the hell are you?!"
"It's me Gray! Queen Minerva! This Raven is my spy and form of communication. He serves as both my eyes and my mouth and I would like to know why Juvia is still alive?!"
"There was a complication. I hurt my ankle while on the job and now I can't walk."
"Really? This wouldn't be some ploy to delay you from doing your job would it?"
"Look at me! I'm banged up! I'm not backing out I just got hurt! Once I gain the ability to walk again I'll finish the job!"
"You better! Because the last person I assigned to do away with her double crossed me and he'll suffer dearly for it. But it'll be nothing compared to the fate that will befall you if you do same thing! Don't fail me! I'll be watching you!"
The raven then flew off somewhere to perch so it could spy on Gray. Gray wondered why Minerva wanted Juvia dead so badly. She seemed like a very harmless, kind, and sweet young woman. But he figured that everyone had their own reasons for something and normally when someone paid him for a job he didn't question their motives. Until now. He didn't know why but for some reason he wanted to wait a little awhile before killing Juvia for two reasons. One because of his foot and two because he wanted to observe the young maiden and figure out why Minerva wanted him to kill her then bring back her heart.
As for Minerva she decided that it was time to punish Rogue for defying her. She had a very special punishment in store for him.
"You wished to see me your majesty?" Rogue said when he arrived at her chambers after she summoned him.
"You traitor!" She snapped. "How dare you! How dare you! You betrayed me!"
"Your majesty what are you talking about?"
"Don't play innocent with me! I know what you did! I know that you spared Juvia's life!"
Horror and fear struck Rogue in his soul as the realization hit him.
"I told you to kill her! I told you to feed her to the wolves! But you let the brat escape! You disobeyed me! And you decieved me! You miserable, lying, loathsome, underhanded, scum of a boot licker!"
"I'm sorry your majesty but I couldn't do it! How could I? She was so young and innocent! She's never hurt anyone in her entire life and she would never want to! How could you expect me to do such a thing?"
"Well it's clear where your loyalties lie Rogue! But no one double crosses me and gets away with it!"
"Your majesty please I beg you! Have mercy!"
"Mercy? I'm afraid I'm not familiar with that phrase!"
Rogue quickly started running for his life only for Minerva to stretch out her arm and point her finger. In an instant poor Rogue was turned to stone.
"That takes care of him. Now for my dinner with the prince."
She had prepared a drink for him which she slipped the love potion into. Once Natsu drank it he would think that he was in love with her.
"Where is the prince?" Minerva called. "Sting I told you to bring him to the dinning hall."
"I'm sorry your majesty but I've looked everywhere. He's gone." Sting said.
"He's no where in the castle. He's vanished."
"I see. Well don't just stand there! Get out of my face and find him!"
"Yes your majesty."
Minerva then returned to her chambers and summoned her raven. She telepathically told him to find Prince Natsu. The raven left the cottage and went flying in search of Natsu. Soon it located him, looking through the Raven's eyes Minerva saw where he was also but when she saw that he was with Lucy she started boil over with rage and envy.
"I thought I told that wretch to stay away from my prince! Just what is he doing with her?!" She was seething. "That prince is my chance to get richer than I've ever been in my entire life and my pesky little niece thinks that she can just swoop in and steal him from me? Well don't hold your breath sweetie!"
"Send the trolls my queen." The mirror said. "Command them to find her and devour her."
Minerva then opened her spell book of dark magic and witchcraft. She flipped through the pages until she found one that had a spell written on it that would place every troll in the forest under her control.
"Evil trolls this very day." She spoke. "Your queen commands you to obey. Search for a maid with hair of spun gold, rip out her heart, eat her flesh, and tear her apart."
At once all the trolls in the forest felt an increasing and unstoppable hunger for Lucy and began searching for her. And these horrid creatures would not rest until they found her and ate her.
"I'm starving!" Natsu complained.
"Then eat something." Lucy suggested.
"I did but there's no more food."
"You ate a loaf of bread, a wheel of cheese, and two apples in just one hour and you're still hungry? Goodness who would have thought that the prince of Alvarez would be such a hopeless glutton."
"Hey a man's gotta eat."
"But there is such a thing as too much food. Anyway I'm afraid if you want to eat something you'll have to eat roots and berries because that's all there is to eat in a forest."
"Not true I know of a pub somewhere. We can stop and eat there."
"A pub? Aren't those things filled with drunks and bandits?"
"Not all just a few. Don't worry I'll protect you if someone starts to look at you funny."
"No way! I'm not going in a pub! I'm not risking my neck!"
"Believe me Lucy there are a lot more dangerous things in this forest other than drunks and bandits."
"Well take trolls for example. Have you ever seen one?"
"No not really. I don't even know what they actually look like."
"Well let me put it to you this way. They're fat, smelly, stupid, and probably the ugliest things you have ever seen."
"They got fat heads, thick skulls, they pretty much look like a shaved ape."
"Na-Na-Natsu." Lucy stammered while pointing.
"I mean you can't even imagine how ugly those guys look and...And one of them is standing right behind me isn't it?"
Lucy nodded and Natsu turned around to see several trolls licking their chops while gazing at them with eyes of hunger.
"Uh...Hello gentlemen. I...I...I apologise for the rude words I just spoke. I...I didn't mean it honest."
"Looks like it's dinner time boys." The head troll said. "How'd you liked to be eaten? Baked? Boiled?"
"How-How about free range? Ha, ha." Lucy giggled nervously.
"Listen you don't wanna eat us. We're just skin and bones." Natsu said.
"The one with the pink hair is real plump, I say we eat the scrawny blonde as an appetizer and make the fat one the main course."
"Scrawny?!" Lucy said offended.
"Fat?!" Natsu shouted insulted. "Hey listen buddy I'll have you know that I'm not fat! I have muscle not flab!"
"Tie em up!"
Natsu and Lucy tried to fight back but the trolls had them out numbered so they managed to over power them and tie them both up to a nearby tree. Soon they started heating up a giant stew pot.
"I'm too young to be eaten. There are still things I want to do! Places I still want to see!" Natsu said.
"Alright let's not panic." Lucy said. "I'm sure that if we use our heads we can get out of this in one piece. Now our first step is to find a way to get out of these ropes."
"I've got a knife somewhere in my pocket but I can't reach it."
"Maybe I can."
Lucy started to wiggle her hand around while desperately trying to reach Natsu's pocket. Her fingers had managed to grip his knife and pull it out.
"Okay I've got it."
"Now which one should we eat first?" One of the trolls asked.
"Let's start with the blonde. We are under orders to eat her as soon as possible."
"Wait you can't eat her yet!" Natsu protested.
"And why not?"
"Because... Because... Because you haven't removed the poison sack from her body."
"What?" They said.
"What?" Lucy said.
"Just play along." Natsu said. "Uh yeah! You know how some puffer fish carry a poison sack in them? Well some maidens carry poison sacks in them too and if you eat her before you get it out you'll die."
"Oh come on Natsu no one is stupid enough to believe that." Lucy whispered to him.
"Trust me Lucy trolls are dumbest creatures on the planet."
The trolls looked at Lucy skeptically and then started talking with each other.
"Okay we've come to the conclusion that we can't eat her now. But when we get back with a carving knife we'll be able to cut out this poison sack you speak of and then we can eat her."
With that said the trolls ran off to look for a carving knife giving Lucy enough time to cut the ropes.
"Free at last." Lucy said.
"Let's get out of here before they come back." Natsu said.
They had lost their horses after the trolls jumped them so they had to travel by foot the rest of the way. Before long they came upon a pub.
"Here we are." Natsu said. "Let's go inside and grab a bite."
"Uh-uh! I'm not going in there!" Lucy declared.
"Suit yourself. You can just stay out here and watch out for wolves or more trolls."
"You mean you want me to stay out here alone?"
"Umm...Natsu we won't stay long right?"
"Just long enough for me to have some grub and then we'll leave. I promise."
Inside the pub was loaded with plenty of men drinking, cursing, eating, and causing trouble left and right. Lucy clung to Natsu's arm nervously as they walked toward an empty table and she tightened her grip when a lot of the customers began staring at her.
"Natsu they're all looking at me." She whispered.
"Just ignore them. They probably can't remember the last time they saw a young woman that's all."
"That's not really reassuring."
They sat down at an empty table.
"You wait here while I get us some drinks."
Lucy didn't want to be left alone in this place but Natsu was already gone before she could stop him. She closed her eyes immediately tried to think of things that made her happy to calm herself down because right now she was scared out of her wits. Then suddenly the air was filled with music. Cetlic music. Opening her eyes she saw a group of musicians performing to entertain the customers and unknowingly calming her nerves. You see for as long as she could remember Lucy had always possessed a love of music and dance and she was a very gifted dancer.
She closed her eyes again and let the music fill her thoughts and emotions. It took over her body and while acting on instinct alone, she started dancing in the middle of the pub. At first everyone who saw her we're confused by her actions but she danced in such a passionate and elegant way that their confusion was forgotten and they found themselves unable to stop watching and enjoying her performance.
Lucy was in her own private little world at the moment and was completely oblivious to her audience. She jumped and danced on top of tables, twirling, leaping, and soaring through the air as if she could fly. Natsu had just gotten them some drinks when he finally noticed her. He was amazed. He had no idea that Lucy was such a talented dancer. Every movement she made seemed to express some sort of emotion perfectly and she never messed up on any of her moves. She was like a fairy, a fairy he could always dance to perfection no matter what. Natsu had only seen one other person dance like that.
It wasn't until she heard the sound of applause that Lucy opened her eyes and realized what had just happened. Everyone was clapping, cheering, and whistling in awe of her dancing. Feeling embarrassed, Lucy blushed and stepped down from the table she had been dancing on and went to meet Natsu.
"I...I...I left the table. Sorry." She said.
"That's okay and may I just say wow! That was amazing!"
"You! The way you danced up there! Where did you learn that?"
"Oh um well my mother was a really good dancer and I guess that I just inherited it from her."
"Well I gotta tell you that was the best dancing that I have ever seen in my life."
"Yeah. There's only one other person I saw dance like that."
"The girl I met at the ball."
"Oh..." Lucy started to get nervous again. "Did she really dance like that?"
"Yes albeit it was a different style because it was to a different kind of music but the way she moved and the way you move are very similar."
"Oh how nice but I'm sure she was ten times better than me. Heh, heh, oh hey look our food is almost ready. I'm going to go wash up before I eat."
She then hurried off somewhere to was her hands leaving Natsu feeling very suspicious.
"No...No it couldn't be." He thought.
Lucy couldn't possibly be the girl he had danced with at the ball the other night. Could she? She danced an awful lot like the girl from the ball but if Lucy was the one he was seeking wouldn't she have told him that she was the one? After all she knew how important it was to him to find her so why would she keep it a secret if she was the one? He came to the conclusion that though they danced the sane way, Lucy was not the girl he had met at the ball.
Juvia didn't have much luck finding any apples however she did find a briar patch full of black berries. After filling her basket up with as many as she could carry she started to make her way home but was startled by the sound of a twig snapping. She froze and looked around to see if anyone was there. No one seemed to be around except the birds so she figured that it was just her imagination so she tried to head home again only to hear footsteps.
"Is somebody there?"
There was no answer and the footsteps seemed to be getting closer. Getting scared she picked up a real hard and thick tree branch that had fallen on to the ground and positioned it for attack mode. She then quietly and carefully crept to where the source of the footsteps was coming from. It was coming from behind a big tree and when the source came around she let out a scream only to hear another scream and find herself face to face with a woman in a red shawl holding a loaded crossbow.
"Oh thank God you're just a maiden." The woman in the red shawl said when they both stopped screaming. "I thought you were a wolf."
"I thought that you were a bandit." Juvia said dropping the branch in her hand.
"Sorry about the whole sneaking around with the crossbow it's just that I didn't think people ever came around this part of the forest."
"It's alright. If you don't mind me asking what are you doing sneaking around with a crossbow?"
"Well I thought that there was a wolf living around this area and I had come to kill it."
"You're mistaken wolves never come around here or at least that's what I was told."
"Hmmm....I've never seen you before. Who are you?"
"My name is Juvia and you are?"
"Erza. Do you live in the Magnolia village?"
"No. I live in a cottage just up the way from here with my friends. To be honest I've never even been to the Magnolia village."
"Then how do you get food?"
"Well we fish and my friends hunt and I gather nuts, berries, herbs, and roots. We have fresh water and everything else we need."
"What about dairy or bread?"
"I'm afraid the forest doesn't provide those things."
"Why don't you go to the village and buy some of the things you can't find in the forest? Like milk or bread or eggs?"
"Oh I would but I don't know where the village is and I have no money."
"Come with me."
"Where are we going?"
"To the Magnolia village to buy you some stuff."
"But I don't have any money."
"I'll pay for it."
"Oh no I could never ask you to do that."
"Well then don't. I'll just do it to you as a favor."
"Alright but only if you allow me repay you for it one day."
"It's a deal."
Erza and Juvia went to the Magnolia village where Erza bought her some milk, bread, butter, flour, sugar, honey, and eggs. Juvia protested once or twice to Erza that milk and bread would be enough but Erza was a giving person who was always ready to help someone in need. After buying them all the two young women decided to stop, eat some lunch, and talk. Erza told her about her grandmother and her friend Jellal and her determination to find the alpha. Juvia couldn't help but be fascinated by how exciting Erza's life was.
After lunch the two women started back home but along the way Juvia couldn't help but notice that a lot of people the villagers we're living in poverty, starving and freezing while wearing dirty and tattered clothing. Their skin was pale from the cold and their bodies were skinny from lack of food.
"Why do these people live this way?" Juvia asked Erza.
"Oh it's the fault of the queen of Fiore. She taxes everyone in her kingdom nearly everyday to pay for her lavish parties and beauty treatments, not caring that because of that so many people have lost their homes." Erza said.
"This is terrible. Surely King Hector would never allow this."
"No when he reigned we were all living a lot better than this but ever since his death the queen has made it her mission to squeeze every last penny out of the entire kingdom."
"You don't know if the king is dead."
"Well he must be otherwise wouldn't he put a stop to what his wife is doing?"
"Yes but maybe...Maybe something happened. Maybe he was abducted or he's being held hostage somewhere."
"Or maybe he just abandoned us."
"How dare you! My father would never do such a thing!" Juvia said angrily.
Juvia's anger was forgotten and she went silent when she realized that she let it slip that she was the king's daughter.
"Don't tell me that your father is King Hector."
"As a matter of fact he is."
"So does that mean Queen Minerva is your mother?"
"No she's my stepmother. My real mother was Queen Dianne, I don't suppose you remember her."
"I've never even heard of her."
"She was my father's first wife and the queen of Fiore before Minerva. She died almost as soon as I was born, I don't remember her."
"I'm sorry." Erza said. "I never knew my mother either, she died when I was only a year old."
"What about your father?"
"I never knew him either and as far as I know he's still alive but he wasn't exactly a good husband or father. Granny is pretty much the only family I have."
"Did she have any other children?"
"No my mother was her only child."
"What about her husband?"
"He died years ago, long before I was even born. I'm all she has left now and for as long as I can remember she's always been terrified that she'll lose me."
"I know the feeling. My father always feared that he'd lose me even after he remarried."
"If you really are the king's daughter then what are you doing out here? Shouldn't you be in the castle?"
"My stepmother wants to kill me."
"I wish I knew. I really don't understand what happened to her because she used to be so kind and sweet but now she's just awful and I can't believe what she's been doing to my people. If my father knew of this he would be furious."
"With all due respect I'm sure that he's dead."
"I know that's what most people believe but somehow I know that he is still alive and one day he will come back."
"And what if he doesn't? What if he actually does turn out to be dead?"
"If it comes to that then somehow I will stop my stepmother and become the new queen."
"You become the new queen?"
"Technically I am the rightful heir and if my father truly is gone then I should be the one to take his place."
"Good luck with that."
"Oh dear it's getting dark. I better get home. Goodbye Erza! Thank you for everything!"
"You're welcome! Hey be careful getting back home!"
Erza smiled as she watched the girl hurry home. She certainly was a very sweet and beautiful girl but she doubted that really was the king's daughter. Then again it wouldn't surprise her at all if Minerva really did try to kill her even if she was a princess.
"Well I better get home before Granny starts to worry."
But when Erza arrived at her house she found that there was an angry mob waiting for her.
"There she is! There's the witch!" A man pointed out.
And before she knew she was being grabbed, restrained, and brought before Reverend Hades who yanked down the hood of her shawl exposing her long blood red hair.
"Behold her hair which is the color of the devil!" He announced.
"Out of my way! Move aside!" It was Reverend Makarov who was pushing through the crowd to reach Hades and Erza. "Reverend Hades what in God's name is the meaning of this?"
"Reverend Makarov three people have been murdered by wolves in this village and the sister of one victims swears that she saw Erza speaking with the wolves."
"That's a lie!" Erza said.
"Silence witch!" Hades said slapping her. "It is clear that like her mother before her, Erza is a witch in lead with the cursed race and therefore also like her mother she must burn!"
"Reverend Hades this is insane! You're choosing one person's word over another! And we have no proof that she's a witch!"
"I think this hair is all the proof we need!" He said yanking her hair. "Prepare the fire!"
Erza struggled with all her might but she was out numbered and in the end she was dragged away. Reverend Makarov tried to stop them but he too ended up being restrained and dragged off somewhere.
"By morning this evil witch will die and we shall be free." Reverend Hades declared.
The mob cheered excitedly.
"Nooooo!" They heard a voice screech and everyone turned to see Titania rushing out of the house carrying a loaded crossbow only to be knocked down and held back by other villagers. "You can't do this to me! Not again! You monsters! You murders! You're killing an innocent woman! You're killing my grandchild!"
"Hysterical old woman! Lock her up!" Hades ordered.
"You'll pay for this! So help me God you'll pay for this!" She swore. "Somehow, by someone, you'll pay dearly for what you've done!"
Erza used all her strength to struggle and try to break free but even with all her great strength and fighting ability she was no match for twenty men who held her down. Her wrists and ankles were in locked into tight, painful shackles as they chained her to a post that stood on top of a pile of straw. All around her stood people who gave her looks of judgement while in far back she could hear her grandmother and Reverend Makarov screaming from their cells for them to let her go and that they were making a huge mistake. She wondered if this is what it was like when her mother was crucified by these people.
All too soon Reverend Hades approached her carrying a lit torch, his eyes filled with pure contempt yet at the same time it held some form of twisted glee. As if he was excited that she was about to be burned to death. If there was ever any proof that the devil could live in man, Reverend Hades was all the proof you needed. True he claimed to be a man of God but the things he had done would no doubt hurt and enrage the good Lord. He was the very personfication of a wolf in sheep's clothing if ever there was any in all the land in Fiore. But that problem with that was wolves like that wore their sheep suits very well and only a few people could see past his disguise.
"The time has come Erza." He said. "You shall no longer plague our village with your witchcraft however you can save your soul by confessing your sins now."
"I have committed many sins in my life but none of them had anything to do with witchcraft or taking the lives of innocent people." She said.
"Then may God have mercy on your soul."
"I could say the same thing for you. You're lucky these ignorant fools follow you otherwise it would be you about to burn because you're the real monster here."
"Funny those are the exact same words your mother said to me just before I sent her to hell." He said grinning. "And you'll soon be joining her."
When she realized that there was no escape Erza decided to face death with courage and dignity. She wouldn't go out screaming and crying, that would only give the monster pleasure. She would keep silent and pray that her death would be quick and painless and also that her poor grandmother would not suffer from grief.
Finally he lit the straw with his torch. She closed her eyes and tried to picture herself reliving a time where she was most happy. That was back when she was nine, before Jellal had been taken. She and her grandmother had gone on a picnic in the forest with Reverend Makarov and she had managed to convince her to allow Jellal to join them. It was the happiest day of her life because she had spent the whole day with the three people she loved the most. She was so glad that she would die thinking of this instead of how scared she was. There was only one thing about this that brought her joy. At last she would be with Jellal again.
Just then she heard a loud screech followed by a howl. Opening her eyes she saw a wolf come charging through the crowd tossing people in his way aside one by one. His destination was right toward her. Reverend Hades and many other brave men tried to shoot, stab, or capture the beast but it cleverly overpowered them and dodged their weapons with an incredible agility. No doubt he was one of the cursed race but he fought in a way that Erza had never seen in any of the ones she had face.
She watched in horror as the creature lunged for Reverend Hades and began to maul his face and it didn't stop until heard Erza cough from the smoke. It got up from Reverend Hades and continued it's way to her. At last he reached her and their eyes met. He had such big eyes. Such big green eyes that looked fairly human and on one of those eyes she saw a red tattoo of blood.
She didn't know what to do or what to say. At the moment she was chained up to a post while trying to avoid suffocating from smoke and burning from the flames but she was also trying to figure out just what this wolf was planning to do to her.
The wolf then raised his mighty claws as if it was about to give her the killing blow only to instead break the chains and shackles holding her and pull her from the fires. As it happened Erza found herself feeling so very confused. The wolf, one of the cursed race had just saved her life. Was this real? Was this some hallucination she was having just before she died? She didn't know.
The wolf faced her again and once again their eyes met. She had seen the eyes of a wolf who was part of the cursed race many times before but there was something very different about this one's eyes. The eyes she had seen in the others were always filled with hunger, blood lust, greed, insanity, and rage but these eyes were filled with sorrow, shame, misery, regret, guilt, and sadness. There was so much sadness in those eyes, like this poor creature had been through nothing but pain and suffering all his life. For once it actually made her pity a wolf.
However what she found most intriguing was that there was something awfully familiar about those eyes and she knew that she had seen them somewhere before but she just couldn't figure out when and where. She felt like that she was not gazing into the eyes of a wolf but into the eyes of a man she had known once a long time ago.
"What big eyes you have." She said not sure what else to say.
Suddenly the amount of smoke she had inhaled during her time in the fire started to kick in. First she began to cough excessively followed by a dizzy and feverish feeling. She found it harder and harder to stand up, she tried to walk it off but her legs were numb. The world around her was spinning then slowly descending into darkness. She was soon falling toward the ground only to land in a pair of strong arms that held her close and that last thing she remembered before losing consciousness completely was a man's voice saying.
"You're even more beautiful than I remembered."
It wasn't until she felt the morning sun light on her face that Erza finally awoke. She was lying on a cot made of fur blankets inside of a cave. What was going on? This wasn't her house.
"How did I get here?" She thought.
"Granny!" She called out in horse voice. Her hand flew to her neck upon feeling how sore it was when she spoke. "Granny are you here?"
But there was no answer. At once all of yesterday's events came flooding back to her. Reverend Hades had sentenced her to death for supposedly commanding the wolves to kill three people and just before she burned in the flames a wolf had attacked the village and saved her life but everything had gone black after that. She tried to get up but her entire body ached from the chains and the burns of yesterday.
"You're awake and it seems that you have a sore throat."
Erza turned to see a woman wearing a cloak made from the hide of a wolf standing before her while holding a bowl of something hot. She had long white hair and blue eyes and she appeared to be the same age as Erza.
"Who are you?" Erza asked. "And where am I?"
"Try not to speak too much until your throat is heald and don't move so much either." She sat next to Erza and pulled a flask from her sleeve. "Here have some water."
It wasn't until now that Erza finally became aware of how unbearably thirsty she had become. She tried to lean up to reach it but the painful burns prevented her from doing so. So the young woman carefully lifted Erza's head up and carefully poured the water into her mouth. Once she had enough to drink the woman picked up the bowl and stuck a spoon in the bowl.
"This broth should soothe your throat and later I shall rub ointment on your burns."
"I'll answer your questions while you eat."
She then spoon fed her the broth. It was herbal broth that was supposed to work wonders when injested.
"My name is Mirajane." She said. "And I have been instructed to tend to you until your body is finished healing. You were brought here last night by our Alpha."
"Alpha?" Erza thought.
She then spotted the blood tattoo on her left thigh. Intense fear filled her gaze and Mirajane noticed.
"Please don't be afraid you're among friends. Yes we are of the cursed race but we're not like the others. Honest."
Erza began searching for her knife but then felt very sleepy and fell back asleep. You see Mirajane figured that Erza would most likely try to attack her and her pack or leave or do both so she slipped some sleeping medicine into the broth. For the next few days as Erza healed she kept going in and out of consciousness. Whenever she was fully awake the only person she ever saw was Mirajane but sometimes as she was falling asleep she would hear Mirajane talking to a man.
"Is she getting any better?" She heard the man ask.
"Yes, she's a very strong woman but I'm a little concerned over what she'll do once she's recovered. I theorize that she'll most likely try to kill us all."
"I'm sure once we explain things to her it won't be like that."
"I'm not sure if she'll be open to explanations."
"I have faith that she'll listen to me."
"Even though you're the alpha and she's been wanting to put your head on a stick for ten years?"
"Ah-ha! So that man was the alpha." Erza thought.
"But then again you know her better than anyone else here so maybe you have some sort of special bond with her. After all you often call out her name when you're asleep."
"What?!" Erza thought feeling confused and slightly embarrassed. Did this alpha know her?
"How did you know that?" The man asked in a voice that sounded embarrassed.
"Laxus told everyone last night."
"I'm going to bite off his tail for that!"
"You know you really should consider having your own private sleeping area instead of sleeping with all the males. You are our alpha after all."
"It's just a title nothing more." He said. "Mirajane if you don't mind I would like to be alone with her for awhile."
This was it. Erza couldn't believe it. Behind her was the alpha of the cursed race and he was alone with her thinking that she was only sleeping. Across from her she saw her knife with the silver blade, if she could just reach it without being seen then this would all be over. Her revenge, her family's suffering, the village's plague, the fear, the terror, the blood shed, the nightmare. It would all finally be over she just needed to get that knife and put it straight through the monster's heart.
"Erza I can't believe it's really you. After all these years, I was so sure that I would never see you again."
Although she was dead set on reaching her knife she couldn't help but listen to his words and ponder what he meant. He spoke as if they had met before, as if they once knew each other real well, but that was impossible. She had never met the alpha before now so how could he know her?
"You have changed so much since I last saw you. I remember when you were just the sweet little red hooded girl who always had to keep to herself because everyone in Magnolia was afraid that you were some witch's spawn."
Erza was shocked. How on Earth did he know that? True he had just come from raiding her village but surely he hadn't of been there long enough to know about her mother and her childhood.
"It always upset me how much everyone refused to get to know you then they would know what a sweet, caring, brave girl you were." She felt him stroke her hair and she fought the urge to flinch because she couldn't risk letting him know that she was awake.
She heard him stand up and turn his back.Her hand quietly and slowly crept toward her knife which was only a few inches from her.
"I'll never forget the last time I saw you." He continued.
She finally managed to grab the knife and without making a sound she stood up and raised the knife. All it would take was one stab in the back and he would die. She just had to make sure that she got him where his heart was.
"It was the day you finally let me see your beautiful red hair." She froze when he said."You thought that I would run away screaming about witchcraft when I saw it but I didn't. How could I when next to you it was the most beautiful thing in the world? I'll never forget the smile on your face when I told you how lovely your hair was. It's been engraved in my memory permanently and I had hoped that I would keep you smiling like that forever."
Erza dropped the knife in shock. The noise alerted the man that she was awake and he began to turn around. Suddenly everything was in slow motion, Erza's heart was beating in her chest and her thoughts were running wild.
"No! No it can't be! It can't be him! It can't be! This is impossible! He's dead! He's dead and buried! He's gone! He's gone forever and he's never coming back! Never!" She kept screaming those words in her mind over and over again trying to convince herself that what she was daring to hope wasn't true. But then she saw his face.
He was older now and had a tattoo over his eye but she'd know that face anywhere. He had grown so much taller and more handsome but she could tell that he was the same. It was Jellal. Her best friend. The one who was supposed to have been eaten by wolves ten years ago but now he stood here right in front of her a grown man and alive.
"Hello Erza." He said blushing. "How much of that did you hear?"
At the moment Erza couldn't speak because she thought that she must've been dreaming. She found herself walking to him while trembling and she placed a Shakey hand on the side of his face.
"Jellal? Jellal is it really you? Really you?"
"Yes Erza. It's me."
"Oh my God! Oh my God! How the hell is this possible?! You're dead! You were eaten by wolves ten years ago!"
"No Erza that's not what happened."
"That's what everyone said! And your blood! I remember it was all over the floor of your house!"
"That was mostly the blood of my parents. They never found my body Erza nor any real evidence that I was dead."
"But I...I was so sure. I...I can't breathe."
"Erza please just calm down, I know this is all a lot for you to take in but if you would just-"
Erza grabbed her knife and pointed it at him.
"Don't come near me!" She cried.
"What are you?" She asked "You have that tattoo and I heard Mirajane say that you were their alpha so is it true? Are you one of them?"
Jellal hesitated before speaking.
"Yes I am."
She tried to keep a firm grip on her knife but she just couldn't stop shaking. She had just found out that Jellal, her best friend and childhood love was the very thing she despised most.
"Erza please listen to me." Jellal said. "I would never hurt you. Never! I would die before I ever caused you any harm! Believe me this is not what you think. Just please let me explain."
Her gutt told her to just stab him already and be done with all this madness but her heart told her to drop the knife and listen. She chose to listen to her heart.
Song used Ni Na La by Orla Fallon
"Hurry up Juvia we're going to be late!" Gajeel called from the cottage door
"I'm coming!" Juvia said as she finished up brushing her hair.
"Where are you going?" Gray asked her.
"We're going to perform at the Magnolia village."
"Yes Gajeel found a way for us to make money a little quicker. The dwarfs are musicians and I sing a little so we decided that once a week we'll go into the village and perform for money."
"And you're sure that will work?"
"It's worth a shot. Wanna come? It's been a week so I'm sure you can walk without your ankle hurting as much as it used to."
"No thank you I'm not the music type."
"But you'd have a wonderful time I'm sure."
"I said that I'm not interested so leave me alone!" He snapped.
"Oh....I'm sorry." She said looking sad before going outside to leave with the dwarfs.
Juvia didn't mean to upset Gray she just thought that seeing a musical performance would make him feel better. He was always so bitter and cold, she wondered what made him like that.
"Hey Juvia quit staring off into space and help us get ready!" Gajeel said.
They chose to perform in the village square where they laid out a small bowl for people to put their money in and set up their instruments. Gajeel played the fiddle, Elfman played the bodhran, and Romeo played the tin whistle. When the exciting and playful music started to play Juvia began to sing.
"Ta na caorigh ag ithe an gheamhair
Ta an gamhna ag ol an bhainne
Pratai sios gan diolachan
'S duine gan mheabhair
Na raghta abhaile
i Siobhan og
Guna nua uirthi anios on siopa
Breathnaim ar mo ghini oir
'S i a' rince ar an mbord
Leis an phoc ar buile
Nil 'na la, ta na la
Nil 'na la, na ar maidin
Nil 'na la, ta 'na la
Is bean a ra, is i ar fhaga ."
Her voice and the music soon caught the attention of passing villagers. They were amazed by how talented Gajeel, Elfman, and Romeo were with their instruments but what impressed them the most was Juvia's beauty and voice.
"Don't send me out into the dark
The night is cold and I'll be perished
Stay inside with me a while
Is bim ag ol anseo go maidin
Nil 'na la, ta na la
Nil 'na la, na ar maidin
Nil 'na la, ta 'na la
Is bean a ra, is i ar fhaga ."
The village children started to dance in the square while the adults clapped along with the music. Juvia soon found herself dancing with the children while earning a few proud smiles from Gaeel.
Buailim cleamhan ar bhean a leanna
Cuirim gini oir ar an mbord
Is bim ag ol anseo go maidin
Nil 'na la, ta na la
Nil 'na la, na ar maidin
Nil 'na la, ta 'na la
Is bean a ra, is i ar fhaga
Ta mo stocai i dtigh a' leanna
Ta na coiligh go leir ag glaoch
'S b'eigean domsa ' dhul abhaile
Nil 'na la, ta na la
Nil 'na la, na ar maidin
Nil 'na la, ta 'na la
Is bean a ra, is i ar fhaga
Nil 'na la, ta na la
Nil 'na la, na ar maidin
Nil 'na la, ta 'na la
Is bean a ra, is i ar fhaga
Nil 'na la, ta na la
Nil 'na la, na ar maidin
Nil 'na la, ta 'na la
Is bean a ra, is i ar fhaga ."
When the song finished the crowd appluaded them enthusiastically while tossing a fair amount of coins into their bowl. They did a few encore performances which earned them plenty of more money and once all was said and done they began to divide the money up amongst each other.
"I gotta tell ya Juvia that's an impressive set of pipes you've got there." Gajeel said.
"Yeah we never made this much money in entire lives." Romeo said.
"Looks like this weekly performance thing is going to work out after all." Elfman said.
After all the money was counted and divided up they decided to go back home but Juvia wanted to stay behind to do something quick.
"Juvia I don't know if you should be out here alone at night." Gajeel told her.
"I'll be fine don't worry." She told him before hurrying off. "I won't be long I promise!"
"Where on Earth is she going at this hour?"
"Maybe she wanted to buy something?" Elfman suggested.
"Anyone else notice that basket she had with her?" Romeo asked.
"Yeah I wonder what she has in there." Elfman said.
Juvia had gone to the poorest part of the village where homeless, starving people living in poverty were and in her basket were blankets she had sewn by hand using her needlework and buns that she had baked. Recently along with keeping the house clean, cooking meals, and tending to Gray's wounds she had also been sewing warm blankets and baking fresh buns to give to the needy. She handed out each blanket and bun she had brought with her to the people who were cold and hungry, and she gave all her money to those who were sick and couldn't afford medicine.
"I hope this will be enough." Juvia said handing the last of her money to an ailing widow who was also a mother of three.
"This is more than enough." The woman coughed. "God bless you child. Please I don't need all this, I only need enough to afford a doctor."
"Keep it all please. You and your children need it much more than I do."
"You're an angel from heaven my dear. I pray for nothing but good fortune in your life."
She only smiled and walked back home. She wished that she could do more. If only she could find someway to overthrow her stepmother then she would be queen and she can see to it that these people had everything that they needed.
"Well, well, looks like a little mouse has lost her way."
She looked to see a man staring at her. He was older and bigger than she was. He was also very dirty with greasy unkept hair and grime on both his hands and in his finger nails. He flashed her a nasty grin which startled her because his teeth were crooked, pointy and a mix of black and yellow. She quickly tried to leave only for the man to step in front of her and pin her to the wall. His stentch was unbearable and it made her want to gag.
"Are you lost girly?" He asked.
"No I'm not lost. In fact I was going home right now."
"Nah you're much too pretty to live around this gubby dirt hole. I bet you're from some rich family who would pay a fortune to have you back home safe."
"Leave me alone!"
He took hold of her hair and sniffed it.
"You smell nice and I bet you taste nice too."
Then he shoved her to the ground before climbing on top of her and pinning her arms down. His grip was so tight that it made her feel like her wrists were in shakles.
"Get off me!" Juvia demanded while struggling.
"I will once I take a little something."
"Stop! You're hurting me!
He only gave her another one of his twisted grins and started to tear her dress while lowering his face toward her. But just before his filthy mouth could touch her pale neck someone grabbed him roughly by his hair, pressed a dagger to his throat, and jerked him off of her. Juvia expected her savior to be Gajeel but it wasn't, to her surprise it was Gray.
"I do believe that the lady told you to leave her alone now did you suddenly become deaf?" Gray asked the man.
"I...I was just....I was just messing around that's all. I wasn't going to hurt her honest...I...Please let me go! I can't breathe!"
"Hmmm....Maybe I should let you die from suffocation instead of putting dagger in your neck."
"No don't!" Juvia said. "Please! Don't kill him!"
"Why not? He was ready to violate you!"
"He's drunk! It wouldn't be fair!"
Gray wanted nothing more than to kill him but she had a point. Even he didn't think it was right to kill a man who was intoxicated.
"Alright I'll let you live you piece of crap but if you lay so much as one finger on this woman again I'll slit your throat so fast you won't even have time to scream!"
Then he punched the man across his face knocking him out cold. He turned to Juvia who was trembling.
"Are you alright?" He asked.
"Yes but how did you find me?"
"I got bored waiting for you all to come back so I went to see what was taking so long. I saw your little performance, cute but not my style and when you decided to wander off on your own I knew there would be trouble so I followed you. Word of advice Princess don't go off alone at night because that's when the freaks come out."
Juvia only nodded.
"Well let's go home now before Gajeel gets the idea to put a pick axe through my brain when he finds us both gone."
He helped her on to her feet and they went back to the cottage. She felt her gently take his hand, he looked back and saw her blushing.
"Thank you for saving me." Juvia said.
Gray felt his heart skip a beat and quickly looked away from her to hide his growing blush.
"You're welcome." He said gruffly.
"I believe that you have a much warmer side." She said. "I understand if you want to hide that from the world but is it okay if I see it if I promise to keep it a secret?"
He didn't answer and they just kept walking.
Juvia begged Gray not to tell Gajeel and the others about how she was almost assaulted because she knew how protective they were and if they found out about something like this they would never let her go out alone again. Gray told her that he wouldn't tell because he didn't really care much to her relief. When they returned to the cottage the dwarfs decided that now that Gray's foot didn't hurt as much as it used to, he needed to give Romeo back his bed. Juvia made him a cot in the living room for him to sleep on. She had asked Gajeel to make Gray a proper bed but according to him there wasn't enough material.
Gray, Gajeel, Elfman, and Romeo went to bed after dinner but Juvia stayed up just a little bit longer to finish up on her needlework. She was mending up one of Gajeel's shirts because he had torn it while working in the mines the other day. She had just finished it when suddenly she heard a noise that disturbed her. It sounded like whimpering.
She lit a candlestick, stepped out of her room, and quietly crept downstairs into the living room where the noise was coming from. It was Gray. Who appeared to be in a very troubled sleep. He was tossing and turning on his cot while sweating, shaking, and whimpering in his sleep. She walked closer to him and the light of the candlestick allowed her to see him better and she saw two things that surprised her. One was the fact that Gray didn't have a shirt on exposing his very strong and well built chest which made her blush hard but her shyness quickly faded when she saw the second thing that shocked her.
When Gray turned to left in his sleep Juvia saw his back and it was covered in scars. She recognized what kind of scars they were, they were the kind that came from hard lashings and whippings. She put her hand over heart when she saw them and she began to imagine the horrible acts that had been done to Gray that left those scars. She kneeled down and carefully moved her hand toward his back. Her fingers had just barely touched one of his scars when suddenly Gray's hand grabbed her wrist and he sat up awake.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?!" He asked her.
"I'm sorry." She said. "You...You looked like you were having a bad dream so I tried to wake you up. Are you okay?"
He released her hand and then looked away from her. After a moment of silence that seemed to last for much longer Juvia spoke.
"Where did you get those scars on your back?"
He tensed before answering.
"It's none of your business."
"You we're beaten weren't you?" She deduced. "I know those scars, you only get them if you've been whipped and lashed. Someone lashed you with a whip didn't they?"
Once again he looked away from her, tensed up, and was quiet for the longest time. Juvia was just about to leave when he started to speak again.
"I was eight years old when I got them." He said still not facing her. "They said my parents were devils because they took in a man for the night who happened to be a wolf of the cursed race. They forced me to watch my mother and father hang and then they strapped me down and whipped me for hours because they thought it would cleanse my soul. The Reverend said that he was doing God's work but would God really want a man and a woman to die for helping someone? Would God want a child to be tortured because of the paranoia of others? They called my parents devils but they were the real devils."
Gray turned to look at Juvia and he saw that she was crying.
"What's wrong with you?" He asked.
"That's awful." She sobbed. "How could they do that to you? To kill your family and then put you through that kind of torture. I'm never heard of anything so horrible and sad in all my life. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry that they hurt you. No one should have to go through that horror."
She embraced him comfortingly. Gray was stunned. He thought back to the day he had been tortured. As he was strapped down to that platform and suffered beating after beating, he screamed and cried like any other eight year old boy would but when it finally stopped and he had collapsed from the pain he had searched the crowd of people watching him to see if any of them felt any remorse, sympathy, comfort, or compassion for him. If any of them would shed tears for him but none of them wept. They only laughed or gave him looks of disgust or judgement. They didn't care if he lived or died.
But Juvia shed tears for him. She was comforting him. What had happened to him ten years ago had hurt her, she felt compassion for him. But why? Why would she cry for him? Why would she comfort him? Why would she be so kind to him? He felt his heart skip another beat and it worried him.
"Hey it's no big deal." He said gently pushing her away. "I got over it years ago. Listen I'm sorry if I woke you up. It won't happen again now if you'll excuse I think I'm going to get some air before I go back to sleep."
She was about to ask him if that was a good idea but he was already gone.
"Poor guy. I didn't know he had it that bad." Juvia was startled by the sudden appearance of Gajeel.
"Gajeel you scared me. What are you doing up?"
"Same reason you're up. I heard him whimpering and went to see what was up. You got here first so I decided to just watch."
"I can't believe that happened to him. How could anyone be so cruel?"
"They are people out there like that Juvia, it's sucks but it's the truth."
"Seeing him suffering like that hurts my heart. I wish he didn't suffer so."
"Oh no. Juvia don't tell me you're falling for him."
"What?" She said blushing. "What...What would give you that idea?"
"Oh please everytime you're around him your face basically turns into a tomato. I got eyes sister."
"Well I must admit I do feel something but is it really love?"
"I can't tell you that because I don't feel for him like you do thank God. But I wouldn't be so quick to dive into love if I were you."
"Why is that?"
"Because as great as love is it hurts worse than anything else in the world. There's no pain on earth greater."
"Gajeel have you ever been in love before?"
He tensed up and went silent for awhile like Gray did but also like Gray he eventually answered her question.
"Once. It was years ago, before I met Elfman and Romeo. I was living by myself back then because well I'm not exactly that good looking, you'd be surprised how many people mistook me for a troll. Anyway I had been charged with guarding a book of dark magic and witchcraft because everyone was afraid of me, everyone except her. I had it pretty bad. She was as beautiful as a fairy and she actually cared for me."
"What happened to her?"
"After spending a year together we decided to get married. I had mined a special diamond that I was going to propose to her with and I built this cottage so we could live here together. Last time we met she wanted me to give her the book because she said that she had found a safer place for it then told me to meet her at the edge of the kingdom at night but she never came."
"I waited for a month but nothing. She had left me, she used me to get the book. But I should've known better, after all how could anyone love someone as ugly as me?"
"I love you Gajeel." She said hugging him and kissing his cheek. "You're one of my best friends in the whole world and you're not ugly. Not in my eyes."
"Thanks Juvia. I love you too. You're pretty much the little sister I never had."
"It's late. I think we all should go back to bed."
"I hear ya. Goodnight Juvia."
Juvia went back upstairs to her room while Gajeel returned to the room he shared with Elfman and Romeo. Before going to bed he opened one of his private drawers and pulled out a small portrait of of beautiful girl dressed in yellow with short blue hair.
"Oh Levy." He sighed while gently running his fingers down the girl's face in portrait. "Was I really too ugly for you to love?"
Minerva had seen Natsu and Lucy's escape through the eyes of her raven and she was furious.
"Those stupid! Idiotic! Worthless! Trolls! I should have known that they wouldn't be smart enough to get rid of her!"
"If I may ask." Sting said. "Why do you hate Lucy so much? I mean from what I know she never really did anything to you."
"I don't know! Because she's gorgeous! Because she's too stupid to know her place! Because she had the audacity to go after my prince! Because she's just like Layla! Ugh! I hate Layla! And anyone who reminds me of her!"
"Why? I know your father was awful but I thought Layla loved you."
"It was all just an act! She never really loved me! If she did then she wouldn't have taken what should have been mine! Jude was supposed to marry me! That's what our father had arranged! But he married my sister instead! I met him first! I loved him first! But no he wanted my pretty sister!"
"Don't you think it's time you let that go? Okay so he married your sister but you married the king."
"He never loved me! He never stopped loving his first wife even though she was dead! He only married me so he could have someone to play nursemaid to his little brat!"
"I think you need to calm down your majesty."
"And I think you need to leave before I cut off your head!"
Sting gulped then left her alone with only her magic mirror.
"My queen bad news for you fear
For worse trouble is drawing near." The mirror said.
"Oh what now?!"
"Lucy is journeying from one place to another
To seek out her fairy godmother."
"Levy? No fear of that. I had her sealed away years ago."
"Oh how wrong thou be
For Lucy has taken the key."
"What? Impossible!" But when Minerva went to check her hiding spot for the key she found that it was indeed gone. "That little thief!"
"Should they free the fairy called Levy
Then they will find the one weapon which can end me."
"I can only be shattered by the weapon which is of ash and cinder on the outside
But of the purest of all gold on the inside."
"Does this weapon have a name?"
"Alas the weapons name is the only knowledge I have yet to gain."
"This it is doubly urgent that Lucy be destroyed. I'll find someway to kill her before she frees Levy!"
Meanwhile after they're exciting evening at the pub and their dangerous encounter with the trolls, Lucy had come to an important decision.
"I want you to teach me how to fight." She told Natsu.
"From what I've heard you're the greatest swordsman there ever was so I want you to teach me how to sword fight. Can you teach me?"
"Of course but what would a maid need a sword for?"
"You said so yourself that this forest was a dangerous place right? So before we go any further I need to learn how to defend myself."
"That's some smart thinking Lucy but are you sure you can learn? Because I'm not sure if you can."
"It's because I'm a woman isn't it?"
"No it's because your servant and you've probably never even held a sword in your hand before. My brother taught me how to sword fight when I was ten years old. When you're the heir to the throne it's mandatory that you know how to defend yourself and others so it's best that you learn sword fighting as early as possible that way it develops into an instinct."
"I'm not saying you can't learn but I garuntee it will be twice as hard for you as it was for me because unlike you I've grown up learning this stuff."
"But it's possible."
"Difficult but possible."
"Then I'll learn."
"Alright then I'll teach you but just so you know I'm prince and I've been taught since age three never to be violent with a lady so let me know if I'm being too easy."
"Okay now before we start I need to teach you three important lessons. Number one you have to act fast, when you're in a fight with an enemy you don't have time to take a break or take things slowly if you do you die. You always have to be moving because if you keep moving your opponent can't get a good aim or stab you."
"Alright. Act fast."
"Lesson number two you have to master your fear. One of the hardest things you'll ever do is fight while also being afraid but people have been doing it for hundreds of years. I'm not saying you can't be afraid because it's impossible for anyone to go through life without being afraid but you can't let it control you in a fight. If you do you die. When you're up against an opponent and you're scared you have to keep fighting. You can be afraid in a fight but you can't give into your fear. The minute you do that's it your finished, your dead."
"And what's the third one?"
"Don't ever raise your sword for any reason other than to protect. This is the hardest of all because so many people raise their swords in anger or vengeance once they've learned how to use it but's wrong. It's dishonorable and it's evil and it's not why God gave us the ability to use it. Your sword has one purpose and that's to protect. If it's used for any other reason then it's abuse."
"You don't have to worry about me using a sword for that. I'm not angry or vengeful toward anyone."
"Don't say that because you never know if and when it will happen. And if God forbid it does happen to you then you need to know to put the sword down. Vengeance can ruin a person's life so don't ever give in to it."
"Have you ever felt vengeful?"
"Only once. When I was fourteen I found out that my mother and father didn't just die in a shipwreck. One of our advisors turned out to be a spy for a rival kingdom and get paid one of the men aboard to blow the ship so it would kill my parents. I cornered him with my sword, I fought him, and I won by stabbing him in the foot but I wanted him dead so I tried to stab him in the heart while he couldn't even stand but my brother Zeref stopped me. He told me that if I killed him I would be no different from him and that this wasn't what our parents would have wanted."
"So did you let him live?"
"Yes. It took me months to fully understand why it was wrong to kill him but eventually I did."
"Your brother sounds very wise and it seems like he really cares for you."
"He does I mean the guy practically raised me. Our parents died when I was three and we didn't have anyone else so he had to take care of me. He was only eleven but he had to grow up real early. He had to be both a king and a parent, he didn't have time to be a kid."
"I can relate to that."
"My parents died in a fire that burned down our entire home when I was seven. I was made to work in the castle almost immediately. I had to work a job, feed, bathe, and care for myself without any help."
"Didn't you have any other family?"
"I had only Minerva who was my maternal aunt."
"The queen is your aunt?"
"Yes. She's was my mother's faternal twin sister."
"But if that's true then why do you work as a servant?"
"I wish I knew. For some reason my aunt has felt nothing but hate and spite for me which is odd because my mother always spoke of her being kind and sweet. She said that she and Minerva were best friends."
"I guess some people change over time."
"I guess but I just wish I knew why she hated me so much. I mean I barely know her and she already decided that she was going to make my life miserable."
"Ouch. Well now I have another reason not to marry her."
"Wait a minute you were going to marry her?"
"Hell no! But she wanted to marry me! Ugh!"
"But she's like forty something."
"I know. I mean don't get me wrong she looks good for her age but she's old enough to be my mother."
The two laughed and then began their lessons in sword fighting.
It took Erza a few minutes to get a hold of herself before she could let Jellal explain everything to her.
"Tell me Erza what do you know of the cursed race?" Jellal asked her.
"That they are men who change into blood thirsty wolves that devour anything in their path."
"But do you know why that is?" He asked. "Do you know where the cursed race came from? How it was brought into this world?"
"I was always told that it was the work of the devil."
"In a sense it is. You see Erza a long time ago a group of wise men had sealed a great evil away in a mirror but just before the evil spirit was captured he cursed those men to transform into wolf like monsters who need flesh and blood to survive and lose control of themselves whenever they transformed. In their states they unintentionally attacked and killed innocents. When they could find no cure they committed suicide to prevent themselves from harming anyone else but those whom they had attacked had been marked and were infected with the curse and thus came the two kinds of the cursed race."
"What do you mean?"
"Ten years ago when those wolves killed my family they abducted me because their alpha was sterile and needed an heir before he could die so he picked me, marked me, and turned me."
"Oh my God!"
"When I transformed for the first time I lost control and killed an innocent man I don't remember doing it but when I woke up he was dead and his blood was on my hands and in my mouth. The other wolves told me not to be guilty but to be proud. They said that I had become a God, a king over all men, and that I should give into the wolf. But I was disgusted and ashamed and repulsed by what I was and what I had done. I wasn't a god I was a monster! But they forced me to train and learn their ways however two positive things came out of it. I learned how to control myself and I met others like me."
"Others like you?"
"There are two kinds of the cursed race Erza. There are those who consider what they are a gift, they see themselves as gods and more superior than other humans so they give into the wolf and purposely terrorise innocents but then there are others like me who know that this is a curse and see themselves as nothing more than monsters. Demons! Murders! So they try to fight the wolf in them. Once I had mastered control of myself I convinced the others who felt as I did to run away with me to a place where we started our own pack. We do not humans Erza instead we try to control our inner wolf and we also try to find a way to cure ourselves."
"But I thought you craved flesh and blood?"
"Yes we cannot stop our hunger for that but we satisfy it by hunting sheep, pigs, and cattle. We try to avoid humans as much as possible and a lot of us have been forced to leave behind our friends and families to keep them safe."
"How many of you are there?"
"You've already met Mirajane. After her we have Laxus, Kagura, and Loke. We were all once regular human beings until the wolves attacked us and a
lot of us have suffered great tragdey from our curse. Mirajane was forced to leave behind her younger brother and sister after she killed her parents as a child, Laxus once slaughtered an entire village, Kagura killed her own brother Simon, and Loke murdered Aries the woman he loved and was planning to marry. The guilt is unbearable and we've all contemplated suicide."
"Jellal....That's... That's terrible. I...Had no idea it was like that.
"Recently we've discovered a way to finally end this curse and free ourselves."
"What is it? What do you have to do?"
"We must find the mirror that contains the evil spirit who inflicted this curse and break it with the one weapon that can destroy it. But we do not know where the mirror is nor do we know what the weapon is. We've all searched the entire forest for the mirror but it's not here and we dare not search any place beyond the forest because we cannot risk harming others."
"Then I'll find the mirror."
"Erza I don't want to drag you into this. You should just go back to your grandmother and go live in Fiore or Alvarez.'
"No I want to help you!"
"This doesn't involve you!"
"How can you say that when it absolutely does?!"
"What are you talking about?"
"Jellal you saved my life ten years ago. If it weren't for you I would be dead and ever since then I always hated myself for not doing anything to help you that night and that I would never be able to repay you because I thought you were dead. But now that I know you're alive I can make things right."
"Erza you were just a child that night! You couldn't have possibly done anything to help me!"
"You were a just a child too and you managed to save my life! So I'm going to save yours! Somehow I will find that mirror and the weapon needed to destroy it."
"I won't allow you!"
"I'm not asking for your permission!"
"Erza you have no idea what you're getting yourself into! You could be killed!"
"And you knew that could've been killed when that night but you went out of your way to save me anyway!"
"Erza I don't have time to explain why you shouldn't do this! Right now you need to focus on resting and getting better. I'll send Kagura to inform your grandmother that you're still alive and that you'll be back home in just a few days. When you get back I beg you to take your grandmother and leave this God forsaken forest."
"I want to help you Jellal."
"Erza the only reason I brought you here was to save you from that witch hunt and fix your injuries. Nothing else."
"Nothing else?" Erza said suddenly becoming dishearted. "So you didn't bring me here because you wanted to see me again?"
Jellal went silent after that then looked at her in the eyes.
"Of course I wanted to see you again. I wanted to see your face the moment they took me away from you but I couldn't risk getting you killed. I couldn't bear it if I ever did to you what I did to those poor people in the past."
"But you said that you had learned to control it."
"But there's always chance that I could lose control again. Erza you can't imagine how horrifying it would be for me to suddenly black out and wake up with your blood on my hands. If that ever happened I think...I know that I would never be able to live with myself."
"Does that mean I'll never see you again when I go back?"
"I'm afraid so. It's for the best now promise me that when you go back you'll stay away from me."
Erza looked down at her feet then up at her hands and finally at Jellal's face. It seemed to take forever but eventually she said.
Jellal then hugged her while letting out a breath of relief and he left her alone to continue resting. However Erza was not going to give up on Jellal. She would keep her word and stay away from him but she would not just go home and forget about him. No, she was going to save him. As soon as she was well again she was going to search for this mirror and the weapon and once she found them both she would destroy this mirror and end the curse for good.
Gray watched Juvia hang up all the laundry to dry outside. She had just finished hanging them all up when she saw a group of birds perched on a nearby tree.
"Hello there, would you like a treat?"
She stuck her hand in her apron pocket, pulled out a hand full of barley seeds and dried corn, and tossed it out on to the ground. The birds came fluttering down to the ground and began eating up the seeds and corn. Two birds flew into Juvia's hands while a third one perched itself on to her shoulder. She giggled and gave each of the three birds a little kiss.
As Gray watched her from the window he became greatly confused. Juvia was so kind and generous, she acted friendly to everyone she met even the birds, she gave money to the poor, made blankets and bread for the cold and hungry, and played with the local children in the Magnolia village. So Gray wondered why Minerva wanted someone so loving and caring dead?
"The birds seem to like you a lot." He said coming outside.
"Well it helps when you've got food in your hand. Do you want to feed them?"
"No I'll just watch."
"Suit yourself." She continued to toss feed to her feathered friends.
"You're a good singer."
"Thank you. My father says that I have my mother's voice and that she loved to sing."
"Did she ever sing to you?"
"No she never got the chance to. She died giving birth to me."
"Is your father dead too?"
"Everyone says he is but I believe he's still alive. He disappeared on a journey three months ago, no body was found so I have hope that he's still out there."
"Well good luck with that Princess."
"How did you know that I was a princess?"
"You called me princess. How did you know that I was a princess?"
"I...I...I didn't. I just said that in annoyance. Time out are you really a princess?"
"I am Princess Juvia of Fiore, daughter of King Hector and Queen Dianne."
"Yeah right." He said not believing her. "So if you're really a princess then why are you living out with three dwarfs in the woods."
"My stepmother Queen Minerva wanted to kill me so I ran away."
"Why does she want to kill you?"
"I don't know. For now I'm just hiding out here until my father returns."
"I wouldn't hold my breath about your father if he's King Hector Princess."
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"I don't believe he's dead but I don't believe he's coming back."
"I don't understand."
"I think he just ditched the kingdom when things got too difficult."
"Are you saying that my father abandoned me and my kingdom?"
"Wouldn't surprise me in the least."
"How can you be so disrespectful?"
"Easy he wasn't that great of a king."
"You take that back this instant. I command you!"
"You command me? Look here Princess I don't obey any command from anybody! Not from you! And most certainly not your father! And if was such a great king then he wouldn't run away like a coward and leave everyone else here to suffer including his own daughter!"
The very moment Gray finished saying those words he felt the stinging sensation of Juvia's hand slapping his cheek as hard as she could.
"How dare you!" She screamed angrily.
On instinct Gray responded by pressing Juvia against the side of the house but she showed no fear only anger.
"Have you lost your damn mind?!" He asked her.
"No I haven't! And you have no right to say such things! You never even met my father so how would you know what kind of man he was?! My father was a kind, wise, and honorable man who placed the value of his people above everything else! He always said that after me and my mother there was nothing he cared for more! You know why he left on that journey?! Why he was always going away?! It was to stop Alvarez from starting a war! Because Fiore had already been through a war before and it killed countless lives! My father was determined not to let that happen again! You can insult me all you wish I but I will never allow you to insult my father! Never!"
The two of them both became speechless due to her actions. Juvia was surprised by the way she reacted. She had never hit anyone in her entire life and she had never spoken to anyone in that manner ever. She wasn't thinking she was just so angry that someone was speaking of her father in that way especially when they had never even met him that at that moment she didn't care. Gray was also surprised. He didn't think Juvia had it in her to act out in such anger and he most certainly didn't think that she had the gutts to hit him in the face. But what surprised him the most was the fact that he was more impressed than angry with her. He tried to say something to intimidate her but couldn't find the words to say.
"I'm going on a walk." He said.
He stepped away from her and walked away allowing her to go back inside of the cottage. Once inside she looked out the window and when she saw that Gray was gone she ran upstairs to her room, threw herself on to her bed, and started crying hard. She didn't believe that Gray's words were true but hearing them had hurt her so much that she couldn't contain her tears much longer. She was just grateful that neither Gray or the dwarfs we're here to see her like this. Or so she thought.
While the dwarfs were still working in the mines, Gray had gone back to the cottage to get his bow and arrows in case he wanted to shoot something for dinner tonight. He had quietly stepped back into the cottage so Juvia didn't hear him come in and he had just grabbed his bow and arrow when he heard her sobbing. Now the first thing that came to mind was that Gajeel was going to mercilessly beat the crap out of him when he found out about this but then he began to feel something that he hadn't of felt in a long time. Guilt.
He actually felt guilty for what he had said to her. It was so strange, he had never felt guilty about anything since he was eight years old but hearing this woman cry made him feel a pain in his heart and that pain only grew when Juvia didn't say anything to the dwarfs about it and acted like nothing happened. She acted happy and cheerful like she always dud, never giving any indication that she had been hurt and she still treated him respectfully. What the hell was wrong with this woman? Why wasn't she being angry with him like she was before? Why wouldn't she tell Gajeel what he did so he would get his ass kicked?
There was another thing he was confused about. If Juvia really was King Hector's daughter, if she really was the princess of Fiore, and if she had done nothing wrong then why did Queen Minerva want him to kill her? Didn't that crazy woman know how much trouble a person could get into for killing a royal princess if she hasn't committed any crime? If he went through with this and word got out he was done for. Not to mention Juvia had been nothing but kind and sweet to him and everyone else around her. Maybe this was a mistake. Maybe he should have never taken this job. Sure the reward for it was great but was it worth it?
Natsu began teaching Lucy sword fighting as soon as possible but she wasn't a fast learner. According to Natsu didn't move quick enough and wasn't keeping balance with her fighting.
"This is impossible." Lucy said in frustration.
"It's difficult but not impossible." He told her.
"You make it look so easy."
"That's because I have it mastered. Over the years I've learned to fight better than any knight and I've developed the superior senses of a bloodhound."
Just then he tensed up.
"What is it?" Lucy asked.
"Someone's coming." Natsu listened carefully. "Let's see judging by the sound of their footsteps I'd they're human and they're carrying a sword with a blade of silver, a cross bow, and silver tipped arrows."
"How could you possibly know that just by hearing their footsteps?"
"It's a gift. Whoever this person is they sound dangerous so you go hide. I'll take care of them."
Lucy hid behind a tree while Natsu waited for the person to cone closer. Once he heard the footsteps come nearby he jumped on to the person to attack. Lucy didn't see anything however she did hear Natsu screaming and crying out in pain. Concerned, she came out from her hiding spot and went to help him only to find him beaten to a pulp and hog tied with a young woman in a red shawl standing victorious on top of him.
"So thought that you could rob me did you?" She said. "You bandits don't stand a chance against someone like me."
"My goodness! Natsu are you okay?" Lucy gasped.
The poor man was too dizzy and delirious from the many bumps on his head to respond.
"Are you a bandit as well?" The woman asked preparing to attack her.
"No! No! No! You don't understand! We're not bandits! We're just travellers!"
"Then why did this idiot attack me?"
"He thought that you were a thug or something. Please understand, we were previously attacked by trolls."
"Hey Lucy I didn't know you had a twin sister." Natsu slurred. "Aren't you going to introduce me?"
"Is he going to be alright?" Lucy asked the woman.
"He'll regain his senses in about ten to twenty minutes. Now then who are you people?"
"I'm Lucy and the man you just clobbered was Prince Natsu of Alvarez."
"He's a prince?" Erza looked at him skeptically. "He certainly doesn't look the part of Prince Charming."
"Well looks can be decieving."
"You've got that right. When I first saw him I was sure he was some drunk thug from the local pub."
"So um you know who we are but who are you?"
"I'm Erza. I live in the Magnolia village that resides in this forest."
"I've read about that village but isn't it in the other direction?"
"I'm looking for the pub because I want to drill those drunkards for information."
"Information on what?"
"A certain mirror."
"You mean the mirror with the evil spirit trapped inside?"
"How do you know about that?"
"My mother told me stories about it when I was younger."
"Do you know where it is?"
"No. But I don't think anyone at that pub will know. According to my mother only a fairy would be able to find it."
"It was a group of fairies and wise men who sealed the evil spirit in the mirror and the fairies were charged with keeping track of it. So if you want to find it you'd have to talk to a fairy."
"That's easier said than done. Do you know how hard it is to find fairies? They hide from humans and try to avoid them the best they can."
"Well I know how to find one fairy. She's my fairy godmother and she's trapped somewhere but that astral line in the sky should lead me right to her. You could come with us and ask her where the mirror is but why do you want to find it? Don't you know the mirror corrupts whoever uses it?"
"I don't want to use it I want to destroy it. The horrible looking glass has only caused misery and suffering and it must be eliminated before it causes any further harm to anyone."
"What has the mirror done?"
"I'm not aware of all it's damage but it's done something terrible to a number of good people and I've made it my mission to free those people from the suffering that the mirror has inflicted upon them."
"Ugh....My head." Natsu said coming back to his senses. "What happened?"
"You were beaten by a girl." Lucy giggled.
"What?!" Natsu looked at Erza surprised. "You mean you're a woman?! I thought you were some red haired barbarian!"
Erza only punched him in the gutter hard knocking him to the ground.
"So is Prince Charming here your bethrothed or something?" Erza asked.
"Bethrothed?!" Natsu and Lucy gasped while blushing.
"Oh no! No! No! No! No! No way! Uh-uh!" Lucy said nervously.
"She's just a scullery maid I'm escorting!" Natsu said equally nervous. "It's nothing like that! I was just being a gentleman! That's all!"
"Geez a simple no would have sufficed." Erza said. "Anyway Lucy are you positive you don't mind me joining you on your quest?"
"No not at all."
"Wait a minute you invited this crazy chick to come with us?!" Natsu said.
"Of course. She needs help."
"She looks like she's perfectly capable of taking care of herself to me!"
"She needs a fairy's help!"
"Then why doesn't she go find her own fairy?!"
"Hey I thought princes were supposed to help damsels in distresses?"
"Does that damsel look like she's in distress to you?!"
"Hello I'm right here." Erza said.
"Look I started this quest so I say she can come with us and if you have problem with this then you can go back to Fiore and marry Minerva!"
"Oh gross! Don't even joke about that!"
They bickered for hours but in the end Lucy won the argument so Erza was now their newest traveling companion and to repay Lucy for the favor it started to get late Erza killed a bear and served it for dinner. Unfortunately Lucy lost her appetite after watching Natsu and Erza eat their dinner like a pack of ravenous wolves.
"So I guess they didn't have time to teach you table manners in the castle huh?" Lucy asked Natsu.
"What's that supposed to mean? Hey I wanted the liver!" Natsu said when Erza started eating it.
"I killed it so I get to first dibs on everything." Erza said.
"But the liver is the best part!"
"Which is why I should have it!"
"I should have it I'm a prince!"
"And I'm someone who could turn you inside with my eyes closed! Back off!"
She gave him a threatening death glare which frightened him into hiding behind Lucy allowing Erza to finish her meal. Once they had eaten they began to exchange stories about how they ended up here.
"So a young prince is escorting a servant through a dangerous forest and here I thought chivalry was dead." Erza said. "Though your so called prince didn't act so chivalrous toward me. A prince should know better than to attack a lady."
"And in what universe are you a lady?!" Natsu shouted. "I've seen men more feminine!"
"And I've seen drunkards act more gentleman like."
"You're an amazing hunter Erza." Lucy said. "Have you always been able to hunt and fight like that?"
"No. Actually I was trained to hunt and fight by a friend of mine from the village. He was a huntsman who was forced to fend for himself at a young age. He was fourteen and I was fifteen when we started training and he tried to make me pay for lessons so I lopped him on the head to get him to teach me for free. However my grandmother was a wolf slayer in her day so I think some of my fighting technique is also genetic."
"Is this huntsman your boyfriend?"
"Eww. No he's more like the annoying little brother I never wanted and besides he once told me that he froze his heart so that he could never fall in love."
"Metaphorically speaking right?"
"No he literally froze his heart."
"How the hell do you freeze your heart?" Natsu said.
"Our priest Reverend Makarov makes special potions, medicines, and elixirs that are used to help people in the village. He tried to make a potion that would make humans able withstand cold weather but accidentally made a potion that would freeze a person's heart making them cold, bitter, and incapable of feeling emotion. Makarov didn't want to give it to him but he was persistent and once he took it his heart became frozen."
"That's awful. Why would he do that?" Lucy asked.
"I don't know. I guess he didn't want to get his heart broken."
"If you ask me I'd rather have a broken heart than a frozen one."
"So they guy will never feel anything?" Natsu asked. "He'll have a heart of ice forever?"
"I once asked Makarov if there was a curse and apparently only warm tears of love can thaw a frozen heart of hatred."
"Warm tears of love?" Lucy said.
"Makarov says that true love is the most powerful and simple form of magic. It can transcend time or realms, it can break any curse, and it can overcome any evil."
"That's so romantic." Lucy sighed. "I can't wait for when I find my true love."
"They say love hits you when you least expect it." Erza said. "And I have a feeling you're definitely going to be that case."
It had begun to snow the next day so Gray went out into the forest to gather firewood. He had been out there for about an hour when Juvia came to find him.
"I think you have enough wood now so maybe you should come back inside before you catch a cold."
Though her words were kind and considerate, she spoke them in a voice that was filled with a gloomy sadness. Ever since that day when he had said those cruel words about her father she hardly ever spoke to him and when she did it was in the gloomy, sad like voice which lucky for his sake the dwarfs didn't pick up on however he was beside himself with frustration, confusion, and above all guilt. Unbearable guilt over the hurtful words he had spoken toward her.
He had considered apologizing several times but then he would question why he wanted to apologise? Why did he care if he had hurt her feelings or not? He had never cared about other people's feelings before so why was this time different?
"Do you hate me?" Juvia asked him.
"I said do you hate me?"
"Why are you asking me that?"
"Because from the moment I've met you you've spoken to me like all I do is irritate you, you said the most awful things to me the other day, and you haven't apologized so I can't help but think that you must hate me."
"Don't take it personally Princess, I hate everybody."
"Even if you don't know them? Even when they've done nothing to you?"
"Yeah so what's your point?"
"That doesn't make any sense. I mean if you live life like that how are you going to make friends or get close to anyone?"
"Did it ever occur to you that maybe I don't want to get close to anyone? That I'm better off alone?"
"But no one's better off alone."
"I am. I don't make friends, I don't get close, I live alone and avoid people when I can."
"Then why haven't you left yet?"
"Your foot is all better now so if you prefer to be alone then why haven't left yet?"
It didn't occur to Gray til now but she was right. His foot was good as new, he could stand, walk, jump, and run without feeling any pain so why was he still here? And more importantly why hadn't he killed her yet? As he thought about it more he convinced himself that it was because she was the daughter of a king and that if he killed her and word got out he would be executed or worse.
"I'm going back home." She said.
She headed toward the cottage while watching the snow fall. Snow really was a beautiful thing, she understood why her mother had adored it so much for it was so pure, delicate, and fair. She remembered how she used to play in the snow with the children of Fiore, take sleigh rides with her father, and ice skate on frozen lakes.
She was so caught up in her happy winter memories that she didn't notice the nearby patch of ice of the ground and when she stepped on it she slipped and went tumbling down a hill and slid off of the edge of cliff. Luckily she managed to cling to a tree root that stuck out of the ground. At the bottom of the cliff was an ice cold and raging river, if Juvia were to fall it would most likely be the end of her.
"Help!" She screamed holding on to the root for dear life. "Someone please help me!"
She felt her fingers slipping. Gray had heard her screaming and followed her tracks to the cliff.
"Gray please help me! I don't think I can hold on any longer!" She cried.
"Give me your hand!" He bent over a reached out to her, she let of the root with one hand and used it to reach him. It was a great struggle but their hands managed to grab each other. "I got you! Don't worry I won't let you go I promise!"
"Oh hurry! Please hurry!"
He started to pull her up but then he slipped on the ice and sent both of them falling off the cliff. Acting on instinct, Gray pulled Juvia to his chest and shielded her the best he could. Then splash! They landed right in the freezing river. The water was so cold that it felt like a thousand knives stabbing and it was so unbearable that they both lost consciousness. By a miracle they didn't sink or drown instead they floated toward land where they were found and saved.
It wasn't until morning when Juvia woke up and when she did she became aware of two things. One that she was warm and two she was laying on top of a quilt while another covered her. She sat up, opened her eyes, and the first thing she saw was quite unusual. An apple tree. An apple tree growing in this weather? How odd. As her vision adjusted she became more aware of where she was. She was in an incredible garden that was bathed in warm sunlight and thriving with plants. There was the apple tree, a pear tree, a cherry tree, strawberry bushes, blackberry patches, and all sorts of wild flowers. Roses, lillies, violets, daffodils, irises, honeysuckles, carnations, daisies, and many other beautiful flowers. Birds, rabbits, and squirrels were running about instead of hibernating or migrating. It was the most beautiful and extravagant garden she had ever seen. A thousand times better than the royal gardens back at the castle. She thought that surely she must be dreaming because it appeared to be Summer where she was.
"Oh my head." Looking to her side she saw that Gray was lying next to her and starting to wake up. He too became amazed when he saw where they were. "Are we dead?"
"I don't think so."
"Then I must've lost my mind because I'm pretty sure I'm not supposed to be seeing this. Hang on are you seeing the same things I'm seeing?"
"Okay then I'm not going crazy but if we're not dead and I still have my sanity then why is it Summer time right now? Good Lord how long were we out?"
"Half a day." A voice said. They looked over at a table which had three chairs and was set with a table cloth, a vase of flowers, a few dishes, and a tea set. Sitting in one of the three chairs was a little girl with her midnight blue hair tied in pigtails and wearing a yellow sun dress with a white sash. "Glad to see you two are finally awake, would you like some tea? I just finished making it."
"Who are you and where are we?" Juvia asked.
"I'm Wendy and this is my garden. Isn't it pretty?"
"How did we get here?" Gray asked.
"Oh I found you two washed up from the river yesterday and you were both so cold and wet so I brought you to my garden to warm you up."
"How could a little girl like you carry both of us?"
"Well technically I didn't carry you two here, I made you two float over here."
"Oh right you two don't know what I am yet do you? I'm a fairy."
"Correct me if I'm wrong but don't fairies have wings?"
"Yes but I haven't earned mine yet but I will someday. Anyway I figured when you two woke you might be in need of some refreshments so I've prepared some nice hot tea and I've laid out a bowl of strawberries and a plate of tea cakes. Please help yourself."
Gray and Juvia still had some questions for her but they were hungry and thirsty so they decided to have a little snack before continuing with their questions.
Lucy woke up really early the next morning. It was still dark out and the sun had not yet risen. She saw that while Erza was sound asleep Natsu was awake also. He sitting by a fire he had started staring at that golden slipper he always kept with him.
"You're thinking about her again aren't you?" She asked him.
"And what if I am?"
"You really think that you're actually going to find her?"
"I know I'm going to find her."
"What if she doesn't want to be found? What if she only came to that ball to have a fun time. Not seek out a husband or gain your admiration?"
"Maybe you're right. Maybe she doesn't want to be found and maybe she doesn't return my feelings. But I have to find her, I have to know her name, I have to tell her how I feel."
"Are you even sure that you love her? You don't even know her. You can't love someone you don't know."
"Why are you so against my love for her?"
"Because I don't think what you feel for her is real love. Pardon my boldness your highness but I think you're delusional. You need to forget this mystery dream girl and move on to a girl who actually exists."
"Oh now I see what's going on. You're jealous."
"Can't say I blame you for falling for me. I am a dashing prince."
"Ugh! You're more delusional than I thought. As if I would ever have feelings for an arrogant, conceited, spoiled little rich boy like you!"
"Hey you're no picnic either sweet heart! You're bossy, demanding, and difficult! I don't think I've ever met a more insufferable woman!"
"Insufferable?! How dare you!" She took some mud into her hands and flung it into his face. "Honestly how on Earth were you born a prince?! You have no manners, no humility, no respect, and-"
But she was silenced by Natsu throwing mud straight back into her face.
"You had that coming doe eyes." He said.
She only threw more mud at him, soon the two were in an all mud slinging war that went on for hours and eventually their anger was forgotten and they ended up having fun. By the time sun rise had come they were both covered head to toe in mud and dirt. Before continuing with their journey they took separate turns bathing in the spring.
At last they reached the end of the astral line. At the end of it was a large oak tree that had no leaves and looked as if it was ready to wither away and die.
"So end of the line huh?" Natsu said.
"Levy must be around here somewhere." Lucy said.
She began to search around the tree for any indication that could lead her to Levy. She then spotted a marking on the tree that resembled a key hole. She leaned over and placed her fingers on to the mark, as soon as she touched it the gold key in her pocket started glowing. She pulled the key out and looked at the mark on the tree that looked like a key hole. She brought the end of the key toward the mark and to her surprise it went right through it. She stuck the key further in, turned it three times, and the tree opened like a door.
At once something flew out from inside and took the form of a petite but pretty lady with shimmering wings on her back. Her short blue hair was decorated with daisies and she wore a dress that appeared to made from gold and silver leaves. For a moment she stood perfectly still as if she was trying to make sure that she was actually here. She then turned to Lucy, gave her a big smile, and flew in to hug her.
"Oh Lucy look at you!" She cried cheerfully. "I haven't seen you since you were a baby. My how you've grown, you're the image of your dear mother."
"So you're Levy? You're my fairy godmother?" Lucy asked.
"Yes and I can't thank you enough for freeing me. Oh how I've waited for this day. At last it's here. I'm finally free!...Oh no!"
"What is it?"
"Now that I've been freed it's only a matter of time before it finds out."
"It? It who? Or what?"
"I'll explain later but right now we need to go somewhere it's eyes can't see. Hurry now!"
"Wait what about my friends?"
"Oh you didn't come alone?"
"Hi we're friends of hers." Natsu said.
"Excuse me Levy was it? What's going on? Why do you look so frightened?" Erza asked.
"I haven't the time to explain it now. All of you follow me quickly." Levy's wings started to flutter as she levitated off the ground. "Oh I've missed flying so much."
Lucy, Natsu, and Erza followed Levy as she flew toward a cave and inside was a tiny house.
"Alright now everyone in." Levy said.
"You want us to go in there?" Erza said skeptically.
"But it's so small." Lucy said.
"Of course, it makes it harder for that horrid thing to see it that way."
"But aren't we a little too big?" Natsu said. "I mean how are we supposed to get in?"
"Oh sorry! I forgot!" She stuck her hand in her dress pocket and pulled out a handful of gold and silver dust which she blew on to them, causing them to shrink and be transported into the tiny house. She then dropped some of the dust on to herself and came in after them. "There we go. I apologise for it being so snug in here, I normally don't have that many people in here."
The house was very small and it was loaded with mountains and mountains of books.
"There certainly are a lot of books in here." Erza observed.
"It's like you have your own library." Lucy said.
"I'm a bit of book worm." Levy said.
"A bit?" Natsu said.
"So Levy who or what was this it you were referring to?" Lucy asked her.
"The evil spirit in the mirror." Levy said. "It knows everything and it sees everything. There a very few things in this world that are unknown to it and very few places where it's eyes do not see."
"What exactly is this thing? And what does it want?"
"Years ago an evil spirit somehow managed to escape from the depths of hell and enter our world." Levy said. "Twisted, vile, and cruel it was. It's soul purpose was to spread chaos, misery, and despair wherever it went. My fellow fairies and I tried to send it back to hell but fairies can only do good magic so with the help of a group of wise men we we're able to seal the spirit inside of a magic mirror. Unfortunately though the spirit was trapped it still had it's evil powers and could use them to manipulate it's way to freedom."
"How?" Erza asked.
"Your aunt Minerva is a prime example Lucy. Queen Minerva did not always look as she does know. She started out as a hideous creature and her own father despised her with every fiber of his being. But her sister, your mother Layla saw past her repulsive appearance and loved her. They were inseparable those two, always together laughing and playing and Minerva despite looking the way she did was a sweet and caring girl."
"Are we talking about the same Minerva?" Natsu asked.
"Yes. Believe it or not she was once very kind and good."
"Why did she change?" Lucy said.
"It happened on your parents's wedding day. Originally your father had been arranged to marry Minerva, he was the son of a wealthy merchant and she was the daughter of a land owner. The marriage would have led to incredible wealth but your father was smitten with your mother's beauty and his infatuation turned to love so he married her instead. Minerva was devastated, in tears she fled into the forest where she stumbled on to the mirror. The mirror promised to make her the most beautiful woman in the world and it did but it came at an awful price. The mirror will grant you what you desire but once it's power touches you everything you see becomes cold and ugly and you only see the worst in people. As the years passed Minerva grew more beautiful but she also grew to resent and envy her sister, forgetting all the love and compassion Layla had given her. The mirror was slowly but surely darkening her heart, but then the kind and good King Hector married her and her envy was briefly silenced until that day."
"Seventeen years ago a child was born into the world, a child who would one day grow up to be more beautiful than even her. Seven years after the girl's birth, Minerva sensed that another was destined to surpass her and her jealousy was reawakened. She seeked out of forbidden book of dark magic and witchcraft which I was planning to destroy but she caught me, stole the book, and trapped me for ten years."
"What exactly is going to happen to her?"
"As her hatred and jealousy grows so does mirror's control over her. Soon the spirit will be able to escape it's prison and take over her body, using it to once again cause destruction to our world."
"But it can be stopped right?" Natsu said.
"If the mirror is shattered by the only weapon that can destroy it then the spirit will be banished back to hell."
"Okay so what is this weapon?"
"I do not know it's exact name. No one does, all we know about it is that it's of ash and cinder on the outside but of the purest gold on the inside."
"What the hell does that mean?" Natsu asked.
"I don't know. It's a riddle that we've been trying to figure out for years but I do know this. The child is now a woman with beauty that far outshines Minerva and if she successfully kills her then that will complete the mirror's corruption. With each evil act she commits it brings her closer to becoming more than the mirror's puppet and if she carries out that final act it will cement her end and our own as well."
"Who is this woman that she's trying to kill?" Erza asked.
"I don't know her by name, I only know that she has hair as blue rain, cheeks blush as the rose, and skin white as snow."
"Juvia!" Lucy gasped in realization.
"Huh?" Natsu said.
"It's Juvia! She's the one Minerva wants to kill!"
"The princess of Fiore? Are you sure?"
"Yes! Minerva's always been jealous of her! She's the only person she hates more than me! Oh my God we have to find her!"
"I've met her." Erza said. "I know where she is."
"Where is she?"
"Last time I saw her she said she was living in a cottage with three dwarfs."
"We have to get back and find her right away!"
"Not that I'm happy you two nearly drowned but I am glad you ended up here." Wendy said pouring the tea for her guests. "I don't get many visitors except for the animals but they can't really carry on a conversation."
"How come it's summer here?" Juvia asked.
"Because I it's my favorite season so I make it always summertime where I live."
"And you're allowed to do that?" Gray said. "Doesn't that upset the balance of nature or something like that?"
"Only if I do it to the whole world but there's no harm if I do it in my own private home. Humans can't really see or enter a fairy's home without their consent. Technically we're supposed to avoid humans but I hate that rule because it's so lonely to always be in hiding. When I get my wings I'm going to be a fairy godmother, they're the only fairies allowed to have contact with humans."
"Why do fairies have to hide from humans?" Juvia asked.
"No offense but it's in the nature of human beings to be selfish and greedy sometimes so there have been plenty of cases where fairy magic has been abused by humans who give into their selfishness and greed. That's why a law was passed that we stay away from them."
"Then why do you have these fairy godmothers?" Gray said.
"Because not all humans are bad. Some of them are very kind and hard working but are forced to live unhappy lives. Those humans need help, someone to give them the courage to change their lives for the better. Then there are children who have no home, no family, and are alone in the world. That's for fairy godmothers are for. We help and care for good-hearted humans who face off against things that are beyond their control but only if they truly have goodness in their hearts."
"And how do you know if they have goodness?"
"That's easy. We can see into a person's heart."
"No offense but that's creepy!"
"Humans have done far more creepier things than that."
"Where do fairies come from exactly?" Juvia asked.
"Well it all depends. Most of the time magical creatures like fairies and dwarfs come from nature like me but then there are rare cases where magical creatures are born to humans like my friend Lisanna. Her mother, father, and older sister were both human but she was born a fairy and her older brother was born a dwarf."
"How the heck does that happen?" Gray asked confused.
"Well her great, great, great, great, great, great, maternal grandmother was a fairy and her great, great, great, great, great, great, paternal grandfather was a dwarf. So in it's in the genes."
"I didn't think humans, fairies, and dwarfs married outside their species." Juvia said.
"Normally they don't. In fact it's an extremely rare when fairies and dwarfs get married at all."
"Why is that?"
"Well for one thing all dwarfs are male and all fairies are female. They were made that way because they were supposed to have one purpose and that's to serve the earth. The dwarfs are the only creatures strong enough to break through the enchanted soil the holds special diamonds, gold, and silver which can be crushed into fairy dust. So the dwarfs mine for them, crush them into fairy dust, and give it to the fairies who use it to bring goodness and happiness to the world."
"Are all fairies and dwarfs good?"
"We were made to be good and have no selfish desires but even we can be morally corrupt. There have been a few evil dwarfs and dark fairies. There was this one dark fairy who cursed a princess to sleep for a hundred years and then there was this evil dwarf who turned a prince into a bear."
"I thought that they could only do good magic."
"It was like that until an evil spirit wrote down all it's evil spells and potions in a book that it gave to dark hearted humans, fairies, and dwarfs to use. The book disappeared years ago and no one knows where it is, hopefully it was destroyed."
"Wendy! Wendy are you here?"
A pretty fairy dressed in green with glasses walked into the garden. She looked much older than Wendy.
"Oh Hello Evergreen what are you doing here?" Wendy asked her.
"I have some news, don't go out for awhile because a snow storm is coming."
The fairy called Evergreen looked over at Gray and Juvia.
"Wendy who are these humans and why are they here? You know you're not allowed to expose yourself to humans?"
"I know but they fell into the river and when I found them they were both unconscious. I couldn't just leave them out in the cold they would have frozen to death. You can understand that?"
"I guess. So who are they?"
"This is Gray and she's Juvia. Isn't she beautiful?"
Evergreen looked at the two of them skeptically. Her eyes scanning them up and down several times as if she were studying them.
"She's a pretty thing I guess but not nearly as beautiful as I am. The young man is kind of cute but they both look bedraggled. I mean just look at their clothes and their hair. What a sight."
"Hey!" Gray and Juvia said insulted.
"You'll have to forgive Evergreen she's a little on the vain side and she's not really polite." Wendy said. "Evergreen I can't believe how you rude you can be."
"As queen of the fairies I have no need to be polite to anyone least of all humans."
"For the last time Evergreen you're not the queen of the fairies. We don't even have a queen. That human didn't know what he was talking about when he called you that."
"Don't be jealous Wendy."
"I'm not jealous." She rolled her eyes then turned back to Gray and Juvia. "Listen I don't think you two should try to go back home until that snow storm passes."
"A little snow never hurt anyone." Gray said.
"But a lot can kill you handsome." Evergreen said. "And there's definitely a lot coming."
"I'll have two extra bedrooms made up in my house." Wendy said.
"Oh we couldn't impose." Juvia said.
"I insist and besides I like having guests."
"If we must stay then at least allow us to do something in return."
"Us?" Gray said.
"Of course. We don't have any money to pay for board here so we'll make it up with work."
"You don't need to do anything to be allowed to stay here for a few days especially when it's because of a horrible snow storm."
Juvia didn't feel right about staying at someone's house without providing something in return but Wendy assured her that it was no trouble and Wendy was such a wonderful little fairy. She was sweet, thoughtful, and a great conversationist. She and Juvia would talk for hours and hours. Wendy would talk about the other fairies and what they did for fun while Juvia would talk about her life at the castle and living with the dwarfs. After staying for three days, Juvia and Gray decided to repay Wendy for her kindness by helping her work in the garden.
"So are you really a princess?" Wendy asked as she watered the violets and irises.
"Yes I am." Juvia answered while pruning the roses.
"But if you're a princess how do you know how to cook and clean and garden? I thought princesses never did that stuff."
"Yeah I've been wondering that too." Gray said pulling out weeds.
"Growing up my stepmother never allowed me to leave the castle when my father went away so to keep myself busy I asked the servants to teach me how to cook, clean, and tend to the flowers in the royal gardens." Juvia said. "They were the only things keeping me from being bored well that and my needle work. I love to sew and knit also, my mother used to do it alot."
"Well you're doing a wonderful job with the roses." Wendy said. "Thank you both so much for helping out with the garden."
"It's the least we could do after all you've- ouch!" Juvia had pricked her finger on one of the roses's thorns.
"What happened?" Wendy asked.
"It's nothing. I just pricked my finger."
"You didn't just prick it you got a thorn stuck in it." Gray said. "Wendy can you get me a needle?"
"Sure thing." Wendy said going into her house.
"What are you going to do?" Juvia asked.
"I'm going to dig it out."
"Won't that hurt?"
"Yes but do you want it to stay in your finger for good?"
"No but try to be gentle."
"I make no promises Princess but I'll try not to hurt you bad."
Wendy came back with a needle and Gray carefully began using it to try and dig the thorn out. It stung but Juvia didn't complain or cry, she just grit her teeth a couple of times.
"You sure do have a high pain tolerance." Gray said.
"Well it's not like screaming and crying will make the thorn come out faster."
"Okay almost there and...Got it."
She looked down at the red blood starting to drip out of her white skinned finger. Gray firmly but gently pressed a handkerchief on to her wound to stop the bleeding.
"Am I squeezing too hard?" He asked.
"No. Thank you for getting it out. Where did you learn to do that?"
"When I was seven I fell out of a tree and landed in a brair patch. I had thorns all in my hand and my father dug them out of me with one of my mother's needles. It hurt like hell but there was no other way to get em out. Good thing you only got one stuck in there, I had like twelve in my hand."
Juvia laughed a little.
"You have a cute laugh." Gray said not thinking and his hand flew to his mouth as soon as he spoke them. Juvia blushed.
"You think my laugh is cute?"
"Uh...Well uh..." He started to back away from her. "I think all girl laughs are cute cause their girls and uh...Whoa!"
He accidentally walked backwards off the edge of Wendy's fish pond and fell right in. Juvia and Wendy burst out laughing at the young man sitting in the pond dripping wet with a fish flopping on top of his head before it leapt back into the water.
"Are you...giggle...Alright?" Juvia said trying to stop laughing.
"I'm fine." He said in an irritated voice.
After laughing for another minute Juvia grabbed Gray's hand and pulled him out.
"That was the most humiliating moment of my life." Gray said before blowing his wet hair out of his face.
"Oh my goodness. I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard. You're very funny."
"I don't do funny."
"You just did something funny a few seconds ago." She laughed. "Come on I'll get you a towel and dry you off."
They went into Wendy's house to search for a towel. As Wendy watched them she thought to herself.
"What a cute couple."
As the days went by Gray found himself enjoying his time with Juvia and Wendy. Wendy was such a cheerful and sweet kid who was a lot like the little sister he never had and he would never admit it or act like it but he liked spending time with Juvia most of all. She was so kind, caring, and thoughtful and she was always concerned for others, even when she was mad at them. He just couldn't understand how someone could be so kind and good.
"Gray!" She called to him one morning when he was digging holes for planting seeds in Wendy's garden. "Oh Gray I have something for you."
"Let me guess more buns? I told you I don't eat bread that much."
"Oh no it's something much more useful. It's something you can use when the storm clears up and we can leave."
She handed him a little box with ribbon tied around it. He untied the ribbon, opened the box, and found a grey scarf inside.
"Do you like it? I knitted it myself."
"What's this for?"
"Well you always seem so cold when you go outside so I thought that I would make you something to keep you warm."
"That's sweet but you didn't really have to."
"Of course I have to. I always make gifts for my friends."
"Yes. I sewed a new shirt by hand for Gajeel, knitting gloves for Elfman, knitted a hat for Romeo, and embroidered a muff for Wendy. It wouldn't be fair if I didn't make you anything."
"Of course. You didn't think we were?"
"Well I mean...I....I haven't exactly been nice to you."
"True you can be a grouch most of the time but there have been times when you've been very sweet."
"Well you saved my life twice, once from that man who tried to violate me in the village and a second time from drowning, then you helped me get that thorn out of my finger, and most of all you made me laugh harder than I ever had in a long time. I know you try to be cold and mean but deep down I think you're the sweetest, kindest man I have ever met."
Then she took him completely by surprise by hugging him. Gray felt his heart skip a beat and get a warm feeling. After realeasing him she went to back inside to help Wendy with cooking dinner. Gray looked down at the scarf she had given him. No one, no one had ever given him a gift before. At least not in the last ten years. He remembered the last present he had ever gotten. It was his eighth birthday and his parents had been saving up all their extra money to get him a present that year.
You see Gray had been born into a family living in poverty. They lived in a dirty old shack that had holes in the roof, no fire place, and only one bed. He and his mother always slept in the bed while his father slept on the floor, of course his mother always protested that she and her husband should swap off every night but Gray's father didn't believe in making a lady sleep on the cold hard floor especially when she was his wife.
His father named Silver worked as a woodcutter and his mother named Mika worked as a washer woman and they both worked so very hard but no matter how hard they worked it never seemed to be enough. They didn't even have enough money to send Gray to school so his mother had to teach him how to read, write, and do arithmetic. When Gray was six he insisted that he be allowed to help his father chop wood and sell it in the village. He remembered how his mother was all in a panic because she thought that Gray was too young and that he might accidentally chop off his arm or leg but he actually learned how to chop wood real well for his age.
His parents had never been able to afford a birthday present for him but because he had been working so hard to help out for the last three years they were determined to get him a present for his eighth birthday. They had managed to buy him two gifts. One was his very own hunting knife which Silver had bought in secret and it made Mika very upset when he gave it to their son and the second gift was a silver cross on a chain that was supposed to protect whoever wore it from wolves and witchcraft. He was so excited when he received his gifts and after his parents were killed he vowed that he would never take off the cross they gave him and he would keep that hunting knife with him always.
"What's taking so long!" An angry voice squawked startling him out of his memories. It was that crow who served as Minerva's spy. "It's been weeks, your foot is all better, and yet Juvia is still alive! Why is that?"
During all the time he had been spending with Juvia he had completely forgotten that he was supposed to kill her.
"Well there have been complications." He said. "And I haven't found the right moment to do it."
"How about tonight while she's sleeping? You're far from the dwarfs who would beat you to a pulp do there's nothing to stop you! Don't forget the reward you'll receive if you do it and if that doesn't puersasde you to hurry it up then the penalty for if you fail will."
"Uh what exactly are you going to do to me?"
"Don't fail me and you won't have to know."
Gray gulped as he watched the crow fly away. If the penalty was what he feared it was then he needed to kill Juvia tonight but could he really do it? After everything she had done for him? After she had been so kind to him? No. No he couldn't go soft now. Not when his life was on the line. Juvia was just another person he was paid to eliminate and nothing more. So that night when Wendy and Juvia we're asleep, Gray quietly crept into the room where Juvia was sleeping.
She was sound asleep in bed completely unaware that in that moment she could be killed. Gray pulled out his dagger and prepared to plunge it right into her chest but found himself unable to bring the dagger's blade down to strike.
"Just do it!" His thoughts screamed at him. "It shouldn't be this difficult! You've done it before!"
But as he stared at her beautiful sleeping face he couldn't help but think back to how kind, gentle, sweet, and loving she was. To him and everyone else. She was so beautiful and innocent, she had never sought to harm another and was always trying to help others. She was his friend, she had cared for him, she had shed tears for him, and she had called him her friend.
"I can't! I can't do it!" He gasped dropping the dagger. Gray had no idea what had come over him but he just couldn't bring himself to harm Juvia and the mere thought of it terrified him more than anything in the world. "Dear God what has this woman done to me?"
The snow storm that was taking place outside of Wendy's magical home and garden was absolutely brutal. The wind was blowing hard and when it touched you it felt like a million shards of broken glass was cutting your skin and it was so cold that it was hard to see and even breathe. Lucy, Natsu, Erza, and Levy were struggling to get through the storm and reach some form of shelter before they all froze to death. Levy tried to use her magic to create a all area with warmer climate but she had been trapped for so long that it had made some parts of her powers difficult to control. One of the hardest was spells that involved weather and climate change. However she was able to create some warm winter coats for them.
"How much further til we reach the Magnolia village?" Natsu asked.
"Three miles." Erza said.
"We can't keep walking in this blizzard like this. We need to rest for the night." Levy said.
"But where are we supposed to rest?" Erza asked. "We're stranded in the middle of nowhere."
"Hey where's Lucy?" Natsu asked.
It wasn't until now that the friends realized that there was only three of them and that Lucy had mysteriously disappeared.
"She must've gotten lost." Levy said. "We better find her. You two search the ground, I'll try to fly up and look for her from a distance."
Hearing this Erza and Natsu quickly began searching for Lucy and calling out her name. Levy flew up into the sky and looked for her from there though the cold hurt her wings really bad.
"Lucy! Lucy where are you?!" Natsu called out. "Come on Lucy answer me! Damn it I can't see a thing in this blizzard! Lucy!"
He tripped over a rock that he didn't see but that allowed him to see something golden in the snow. It was hair. Natsu quickly crawled over to where the hair was, he brushed away the snow from it and found that it was connected to Lucy who was lying unconscious.
"Lucy!" He quickly got to his feet and placed his ear to her chest. Good she was still breathing. "Come on Lucy wake up! Don't die on me now! Come on!"
He gently shook her and much to his relief she started come to.
"Natsu?" She said dazed and confused.
"Ugh...My whole body hurts. I don't think I can move."
"Can you hold on to my neck?"
"I think so."
Natsu took off his coat and covered her with it then
he lifted her up on to his back and went to meet back with Erza and Levy.
"Guys we need to get Lucy out of this weather or she's a goner." He said.
"I saw a cottage just a little ways from here." Levy said. "We should be there in five minutes."
"Okay. Just hold on Lucy, we'll get you warmed up soon." Natsu told her.
After Gray and Juvia had disappeared, Gajeel, Elfman, and Romeo began frantically looking for them. Unfortunately they couldn't search long because the snow storm started almost right after they came back. They were stuck in their house for quite awhile only leaving to search for them for a little while.
"Where on Earth could they be?" Romeo asked.
"I hope that they're warm wherever they are." Elfman said.
"I never liked the idea of Juvia being left alone with that guy." Gajeel said. "He better not have done anything to her."
They heard a knock at the door. Romeo went to open it hoping that it was Juvia but it wasn't. Instead it was Erza, Natsu, and Lucy.
"Please help us." Erza said. "Our friend here is unconscious and if we don't get her somewhere warm we don't think she'll last much longer."
Though suspicious of strangers, the dwarfs let them in. They laid Lucy in Juvia's bed, covered her with several blankets, and pushed it closer to the fire place where a warm fire was going.
"Thank you for your hospitality." Erza said. "We'll be sure to repay you for it eventually."
"Think nothing of it." Romeo said.
"But what were you doing out in this Godforsaken weather?" Elfman asked.
"Well we were searching for you all actually. That is, are you the three dwarfs who live up North from the Magnolia village?"
"That's us." Romeo said.
"Why are you looking for us?" Gajeel asked.
"Well it's not really you three were looking for. It's Juvia."
"Juvia? What do you want her for?"
"She's in grave danger. Queen Minerva wants to kill her."
"We knew that already but she's gone missing."
"Yes." Romeo said. "A few days ago she went outside to look for a friend of hers who had gone to chop wood. Neither one of them came back."
"Do you suppose that they got lost in the storm?"
"I think Gray abducted her." Gajeel said.
"Gray?" Erza said.
"He's some huntsman she met about two weeks ago, apparently he hurt his foot and she didn't feel right about sending him on his way without helping him. But I never trusted him."
"You needn't worry about that. I know Gray, he's cold and bitter but he'd never hurt an innocent woman. He claims that he doesn't care what happens to people but that's just an act I assure you."
"So what up with the pink haired kid over there? Is he going to be okay?" Gajeel asked pointing toward Natsu.
It wasn't until now that Erza noticed that Natsu hadn't left Lucy's side once. He just there by her bedside, watching and waiting for her to wake up. His black eyes filled with concern and fear, fear for her life.
"He's just worried about her that's all." Erza told them. "Though I wonder when Levy will be back."
"Levy?" Gajeel flinched. "Did you just say Levy?"
"Yes she's Lucy's fairy godmother. She led us to this cottage."
"Where is she?"
"Her wings were becoming frozen and according to her only a warm climate could thaw them out. With the last of the strength she had in her wings, she flew off to see a fairy friend of hers who's always living in a warm climate."
"What does she look like?"
"Short blue hair with daisies in it and she wore a dress made from leaves of gold and silver."
"Oh my God." His voice became more quiet and soft. "After all these years, can it really be her?"
"You know her?" Romeo said.
"You never mentioned a Levy to us before." Elfman said.
"Because I have a reputation that I didn't want ruined and I only told Juvia because it didn't change her view of me."
"Well our view of you won't change." Romeo said.
"Yeah you'll still be a brooding, egotistical jerk to us." Elfman said.
Gajeel gave the two dwarfs a death glare.
"What happened between us is none of your business alright! Now red how come you and those two are trying to find Juvia? Are you trying to protect her or something?"
"Yes." Erza said. "Because if Queen Minerva kills her then we're all doomed."
Erza then began telling the three dwarfs everything Levy had told her. About the mirror and it's plan to corrupt and takeover Minerva and how the corruption would be complete if Minerva successfully killed Juvia.
"When the storm clears we must find her as soon as possible." Erza said.
"But this storm has been going on for three days. Who knows when it will end?" Elfman said.
"We'll just have to wait and pray that the storm will end soon." Erza looked ever at the fireplace and noticed that there was no firewood left to use if the fire started to die down. "I'm going outside to get more fire wood."
"Are you crazy? What if you get lost?" Gajeel asked her.
"I won't go far. Trust me."
They tried to talk her out of it but Erza was a stubborn and determined woman however they were able to convince her to wait until the storm died down. Elfman and Gajeel both offered to go with her but she said that they should just stay behind and keep the fire alive. She left the cottage and began searching for firewood. True to her word, she didn't go far, just close enough to where she found sticks and short logs lying around. As she began to gather them up she had the strangest feeling that someone was watching her. She checked behind herself a couple times to see if anyone was there. When it appeared that she was alone she went back to gathering up the wood only to suddenly feel someone's hand on her shoulder. Startled she punched the owner of the hand right across their face but much to her relief the owner of the hand was Jellal.
"Oh Jellal don't sneak up on me like that." She said.
"What in God's name are you doing out here?" He asked her ignoring the bruise forming on his cheek from where she punched him. "Why aren't you at home with your grandmother?"
"I've recently taken up a mission."
"And what mission is that?"
"It's nothing that concerns you Jellal."
"Erza please tell me you're not doing what I think you're doing."
"And what's that?"
"I've heard through my superior hearing that a red haired woman is seeking to destroy the mirror that contains the evil spirit. Tell me that's not you."
"I'm sorry Jellal but that would be a lie."
"Erza you promised me that you wouldn't get involved."
"No I promised that I would stay away from you, I never promised that I wouldn't help you in any way I can."
"Erza you need to stop this! Go back home to your grandmother! Start a new life with her!"
"Not until I save you!"
"I don't need you to save me! Erza doing this might result in you being killed! Or worse! Doesn't that frighten you?"
"If any of that means that you will be free in the end then no it doesn't! I don't care what happens to me!"
"But I do! Don't you understand that if you die from this then I have no reason to live?!"
Erza became silent as did he and for a brief moment he looked embarrassed. As if he had said too much or revealed some deep dark secret about himself. At last Erza decided to break the silence and speak first.
"What do you mean?"
It took awhile for him to answer but eventually he spoke.
"My parents are dead, my home has been destroyed, and I've been turned into a monster that needs to kill to live! So many times I wanted to kill myself! I have attempted suicide many times but every single time I got close to doing it your face would always flash into my mind and I just couldn't do it! I couldn't kill myself! Not when you were still alive! As I learned to control myself better I began watching you and your grandmother from a safe distance. Seeing you was the only thing that kept me going. The only thing that made my miserable existence worth living was seeing you alive and well. If anything ever happened to you I know that I would never be able to go on living."
Erza was left speechless by Jellal's words. She never knew that he felt that strongly about her.
"I know can't really stop you from doing what you want to do but please Erza, I beg you. Be careful and don't do something that could lead to your demise."
Erza tried to say something but found herself unable to find the right words to speak and all too soon Jellal was gone again.
When Lucy finally awoke she found herself lying in a bed next to a fireplace with a warm fire going. She didn't know how she got there, the last thing she remembered was trying to keep up with Natsu and the others when the snow storm appeared then suddenly she had tripped and fallen down into a world of cold darkness.
"Are you feeling better?" Natsu asked her.
"What happened?" She wondered. "Where am I?"
"You passed out during the storm and you probably would have frozen to death if Levy hadn't of led us to this place."
"Where is Levy?"
"Her wings were starting to freeze so she had to fly off to a warmer climate where they would thaw properly. She said that she would be ba k in just a few short days."
"I've never been so cold in all my life. My body hurt so much that I couldn't even move, I was sure that I was going to die."
"Well looks like it wasn't your time to go doe eyes."
"She's out with the dwarfs looking for your friend Juvia. The storm has settled down now and I think that it will stop very soon."
"Dwarfs? So is this where Juvia has been living?"
"Yeah but apparently she disappeared with Erza's huntsman friend a couple days ago."
"Oh I hope she's not hurt."
"You and the princess seem to be very close."
"We were childhood friends and she was the only person in the whole castle to show me kindness. We bonded over the fact that we had both lost our mothers at a young age and that we had to deal with Minerva's cruelty. Whenever Minerva wasn't trying to work me to death I would come visit her in her bedroom and we would spend hours talking and playing. I remember one time when we were nine she let me try on one of her dresses and some of her jewelry. Quite unorthodox for a princess to let her servant wear her jewels and garments but she didn't care."
"If you don't mind me asking how old are you?"
"Huh most women your age are already married."
"I take that as a compliment. Princess Juvia and I had many things in common but we had totally different dreams. Her dream was to find that one special man he would love her while my dream was to escape my life as a servant and try to create a new, better life for myself."
"So you don't ever want to get married?"
"Because I've never met a single man who's peeked my interest and I've given up believing that there's any man out there for me. And maybe the girl you're chasing feels the same way. Maybe she doesn't want to get married either."
"I'll never know until I find her."
"But what if she's like me? What if she's given up on true love?"
"Maybe she has or maybe she'll find that I'm her true love."
"If you were her true love then she wouldn't have left you. She probably thinks that you're just some spoiled little rich boy who's looking for a trophy wife."
"Well how can she think that about me when she hasn't even gotten to know me? You can't just judge someone like that."
"Why not? People have been judging me for years. They don't even know me and they already decide that I'm not worth the dirt they walk on."
"I didn't think that when I met you."
"What did you think when we met?"
"Well when we first met I thought you were crazy because you attacked me with a broom."
"But I also thought that you were very brave. I didn't think a servant would ever have the gutts to stop a thief from robbing the castle. As I got to know you better I realized you weren't just brave and crazy you were also very kind, caring, smart, and have good taste in literature."
"How did you figure that out?"
"I don't know maybe this helped me." He said holding up her book Utopia in his hand.
"Hey! Don't you know it's rude to go through a lady's things."
"Yes which is why I didn't. It fell out of your bag while I was carrying you and I must say it's an excellent book."
"You've read it."
"Yep nine times."
"Ten. It'smy favorite. My father used to read it to me every night before bed."
"My brother used to read to me. He loved books way more than I did, you know I used to hate books when I was a kid and if it weren't for Zeref then I probably would have grown up illiterate."
"I heard that King Zeref was a very intelligent man."
"He was, still is. He was the best teacher a kid could have."
"So do you not remember your parents?"
"No. I was too little but I hated that I had to grow up without them."
"I know the feeling except I remember my parents though maybe it's not a good thing. You know sometimes I wish I didn't remember them because if I didn't remember them then it wouldn't hurt so much to think about them. Whenever I told Juvia about it she would get so angry at me and tell me that I didn't have any idea how lucky I was."
"And she's right."
"What do you mean? She's the lucky one because she got to grow up with her father."
"But she'll never know her mother. And I'll never know my mother or my father. Her mother died the day she was born and my parents died when I was only three. Sure we had someone to love and look after us growing up but when you hear about how much someone loved you and how happy they would be to see how you've grown up it hurts because you can't remember that person. You remember your parents and how much they loved you but I'll never have that. When you think about your parents what comes to mind? Happy memories? Sad memories? Laughter? Tears? Love? You know what comes to my mind when I think about my parents? A family portrait and that's all. You have no idea how much I would give for just one memory of my parents even it makes me sad."
"Wow I never thought of it like that."
"When I was a boy and Zeref would get sick I would always start crying because I knew that if something ever happened to him then I would be all alone because he's the only family I have. Now he's dying and I know when the day comes I'll really be alone."
"You won't be alone." She said. "You'll have your people and your servants."
"That's not the same as having a real family and the only thing scarier than that is the fact that I have to take his place. For seventeen years my brother ruled as king while I goofed off and did nothing now all of a sudden I have to be king. How can I be a good king when I'm not even a good prince?"
"Who says you're not a good prince?"
"Well look at me. I'm irresponsible, I'm clumsy as an ox, I eat like a pig, I dress like a peasant, I run away from all my problems, everybody says I'm dumb as a mule and that I'm a disgrace to my family name."
She gently grasped his hand.
"You're much better than you realize. True you are rather immature and egotistical but you're not stupid or a disgrace. You're honest and understanding and noble and sweet. I'm sure if you really tried you would be a great king."
"You think so."
"I know so."
"Thanks. That means a lot."
The two looked at the fire place together then back at each other. For awhile they just sat together in silence, staring at each other. As Natsu gazed into her brown eyes he noticed something awfully familiar about them. He had a good feeling that he had seen those eyes somewhere before. He was going to speak his suspicions but found himself leaning in instead. Lucy did the same thing only half aware of what she was doing. Their lips were merely centimeters apart when suddenly the cottage door was opened and they immediately broke away from each other blushing madly.
"Oh good Lucy you're awake." Erza said.
"We got good news." Elfman said.
"Oh...Really...What are they?" Lucy asked while nervously trying to hide her blushing face.
"We have located Juvia and Gray." Erza said. "They were staying in a fairy house and tomorrow when the storm died we shall be going to meet them in the Magnolia village."
"That's...Great." Natsu said with his back turned so they wouldn't see his very red face.
"Is everything okay?"
"Yes." They both answered.
"Did something happen while we were gone?"
"No." They both answered again.
Gajeel, Elfman, and Romeo weren't suspicious but Erza was no fool. She could sense that something had happened however she decided to just play dumb for now and interrogate them about it later.
"So how did you find them?" Lucy asked.
"I found a torn piece of Juvia's dress caught on a branch and a certain wolf friend of mine track down her scent. There was a barrier where she was but we left a message telling them who we were and where to meet us tomorrow."
"And she's not hurt?"
"No she's perfectly safe if she's under the protection of a fairy."
"What a relief. So what time are we going to meet them tomorrow?"
"Great. We'll be ready."
It was in the middle of the night when Levy finally made it to where her friend Wendy lived. With her wings slowly but surely becoming frozen, her only chance to thaw them out without breaking them was to reach a warm climate. Wendy's house and garden that was magically protected from the cold by a warm barrier and atmosphere which would be able to save her wings. When she arrived she passed out but Wendy hadn't gotten up to get some water so she saw her. Wendy quickly levitated Levy into her house and wrapped her up in a warm blanket. It was rather early when Levy came to and her wings couldn't move much but they were thawing out.
"Are you alright Levy?" She asked her when she awoke.
"Yeah just cold."
"I can't believe it's really you. I haven't seen you in years. Where have you been?"
"It's a long story. I'll tell you later."
"What were you doing in that awful storm?"
"I was with a group of friends searching for the princess of Fiore when we got caught in the storm. I managed to get them to a safe and warm cottage but my wings had become frozen so I came here where they could thaw out properly."
"Well you got here just in time. A few seconds later and your wings would have broken off. Why are you looking for the princess of Fiore?"
"Because she's now a prime target of Queen Minerva and if she successfully kills her then Fiore and heaven knows how many other kingdoms will be destroyed."
"The queen has been corrupted by the evil spirit that resides inside the mirror."
"Oh no. But I thought that mirror was lost forever."
"We all did but somehow Minerva managed to get her hands on it and now we must shatter the mirror with the weapon that can destroy it while also doing everything we can to keep the princess safe. If only we knew where she was."
"Good morning Wendy, did you sleep well?" Juvia asked walking into the kitchen.
"What was all the racket you were making last night?" Gray asked following her. "It kept me up."
"Sorry I was helping a friend who was hurt." Wendy said.
Levy looked at Juvia carefully and took notice of her features. Hair blue as rain, cheeks blush as the rose, and skin white as snow.
"Levy is everything alright?" Wendy asked her friend when she noticed her paying close attention to Juvia.
"Excuse me." Levy said to the blue haired and fair skinned maiden. "But what is your name?"
"Are you the princess of Fiore?"
"Well...Yes I am...Or I used to be."
"Juvia you never told me that." Wendy said.
"I guess it slipped my mind."
"Thank goodness I found you." Levy said. "Listen to me you are in grave danger."
"I know. My stepmother the queen wants to kill me but I've got nothing to worry about, she thinks I'm dead."
"Not for long. Sooner or later that magic mirror will tell her you're alive and then she'll go out of her way to kill you."
"How do you know so much about my stepmother? And what magic mirror? And who are you?"
So Levy told Juvia, Gray, and Wendy everything. About the mirror, the evil spirit, Minerva's past, and the horrible fate that would befall both the queen and the kingdom if her desire to take Juvia's life was fullfilled.
"That's awful...I feel so sorry for my stepmother but I don't understand why she wishes to harm me. I've never done anything to her." Juvia said.
"It's out of spite and jealousy because you've grown up to be more beautiful than her."
"Don't be silly Levy I'm no where near as beautiful as Minerva."
"Juvia I don't pay any attention to a woman's appearance but even I know you're ten times prettier than that witch." Gray said.
"Really? You think I'm pretty?" Juvia said smiling and blushing.
"Oh...Uh...Well You...I guess but I don't really care what a woman looks like." Gray said nervously blushing.
"You're lovely enough to be a fairy." Wendy agreed.
"Believe it or not Juvia you were born with surpassing beauty and unfortunately Minerva's vanity refuses to allow any woman to be more beautiful than her." Levy said. "So you must be extra careful."
"Excuse me I hate to interrupt." The four of them were startled by the sudden appearance of Evergreen.
"Where did you come from?" Gray asked.
"The outdoors. I came by to inform you Wendy that a wolf was trying to get through your barrier last night and then left behind this message."
Evergreen handed Wendy the message she found.
"It says here that your friends the dwarfs are looking for you Juvia." Wendy read. "They want you to meet them at the Magnolia village at sun down."
"What about the snow storm?" Juvia said.
"The snow storm is over now so it's safe for you to go meet them." Levy said.
"Not looking like that." Evergreen said pointing toward Juvia's dress.
"What's wrong with how I look?" Juvia asked.
"Yeah Evergreen. She's just going to the Magnolia village." Wendy said.
"I know but did you two forget what day it is? It's the day of the lover's festival."
"Oh my goodness I had forgotten all about that." Wendy said.
"Is it time for that already?" Levy said.
"What the heck is the lover's festival?" Gray asked.
"Every year the couples of the Magnolia village get together in the square to dance, eat, and celebrate their love with a grand festival." Wendy said.
"And every year we fairies go to the festival looking like human women and we bless couples to have romantic love lives that lead to long and happy marriages." Levy said.
"However part of the festival's tradition is that all the ladies must look their best." Evergreen said. "That includes us three and you."
"Oh...I understand that but unfortunately I don't really have anything nice to wear." Juvia said.
"Well lucky for you dear I'm a fairy of beauty and glamour so I can probably provide something suitable for you to wear and make you presentable looking. Come along now ladies we musn't doddle." Evergreen said pushing Juvia along into another room.
"Gray you just wait here until we're all finished. In the meantime help yourself to anything in the fridge." Wendy said.
Due to being magical, fairies could get dress and do their hair in just ten seconds flat so the three of them decided to get Juvia ready first since she was human. Evergreen started first with trying to find her a suitable dress.
"The peasant look is so last year Darling. It's classic fabrics and heavy jewels at the moment." Evergreen told her.
She opened up a wardrobe that was filled with the most beautiful and radiant desses and gowns Juvia had ever seen.
"My heavens." Juvia gasped surprised. "I've never seen so many beautiful dresses. I don't even think the royal dress maker could sew dresses this lovely."
"Of course not. Don't you know that dresses made by fairies are always the most beautiful and extravagant in the world? It's because we make them from fairy dust and the beauty of nature for example." Evergreen pulled out one dress the was as blue as the sky, lined with white ribbon, and violet stitching.
"I made this gown. The fabric was spun from fairy dust and I took some of the sky's blue to color it while also using actual white clouds to make the ribbon and had real violets stitched into the fabric."
"Oh it's beautiful."
"Yes but this one is Wendy's size so it won't do." She pulled out another gown. This one was peridot green with leaf stitching and scented with lime. "No not this one either green is my color."
"They're are so many choices." Juvia said. "I'm not sure if I'll be able to pick one."
"Nonsense we'll find something. Good Lord you have such pale skin but such rosy cheeks. Oh I know just the thing that might work for you." Evergreen went into another room then came back carrying a box. "Levy made this gown a long time ago for a wealthy king who wanted his daughter to wear on the day she would meet her bethrothed. Strangely enough though I found it in the forest."
Evergreen opened the box and pulled out the gown which Juvia recognized immediately.
"My mother's gown! I thought that I had lost this forever."
"This was your mother's?"
"Yes my father gave it to me for my birthday. Levy made this?"
"Yes I did." Levy said. "You must be King Paris's granddaughter. He freed me from a fairy trap once I promised him anything in return. All he wanted was a beautiful gown for his daughter Princess Dianne. It was winter during the time so I used winter elements to make it. I took white from the snow to color it and snowflakes and moonlight to make the thread and ribbon. I made the slippers too from rain drops and ice."
"Oh may I please wear it tonight?" Juvia asked.
"Of course. As long as it fits." Evergreen said.
The gown and slippers were both a perfect fit. Once she was dressed Levy did her hair and make up. Whenever Juvia brushed her hair it would always end up in a tangled mess and it would hurt so much but when Levy brushed it her hair seemed to flow and untangle slowly while Juvia felt no pain.
"You have such lovely hair and it really brings out your eyes. No wonder you're the most beautiful woman in all of Fiore." Levy commented.
"Thank you but you're the most beautiful creature I've ever seen."
"Thank you. Listen you're friends with dwarfs right?"
"Is one of them named Gajeel?"
"Yes how do you know Gajeel?"
"He...He was my sweetheart. Many years ago we were to be married but then Queen Minerva captured me and inprisoned me."
"So that's what happened. Gajeel told me about you and he thinks that you used him and abandoned him."
"Oh no! That's not at all what happened! I love Gajeel! I love him more than anything in the world!"
"Then you should tell him tonight at the festival. Oh he'll be so happy to see you I'm sure."
"I hope so. I hope he can forgive me."
"But there's nothing to forgive. It wasn't your fault. Believe me he'll be overjoyed once he knows the truth. You'll see."
"Levy look what I have!" Wendy hurried in carrying a bouquet of white anemone flowers. "Wouldn't these look wonderful in Juvia's hair?"
"They would. Quick pass me a ribbon and some of those pins." Levy said.
Mirajane gazed at the burning candle in the cave while also looking at a miniature portrait of herself as an eleven year old girl with her parents and her younger siblings. It had been eight years since that horrible day when she murdered her parents and left her brother and sister. She didn't want to leave them all alone like that but she couldn't risk doing to them what she had done to her mother and father. Not to mention she was sure that her brother Elfman and her sister Lisanna would never forgive her for the vile, evil act she had committed.
"Happy 25th Anniversary Mother, Father." She said blowing out the candle. "I don't know if you can hear me but again I pray that you can forgive me for what I did."
She had been keeping track of both her parent's anniversaries and the birthdays of her brother and sister. She knew how old they were and every year she would light a candle, make a wish, and pray for forgiveness.
"So it's their anniversary today huh?" Laxus had come in and sat beside her.
"Yes twenty five years to be exact." She said. "Twenty five years ago they met today at the lover's festival in the village. They were both always so happy on this day."
"Last week was your sister's birthday wasn't it?"
"Yeah she's sixteen now."
"You really miss them don't you?"
"More than anyone will ever know."
"You know you could see them. You're in control now."
"It's too risky and besides I doubt that either bear the sight of me."
"It wasn't your fault you know."
"Yes it was."
"No it wasn't. Listen you, Jellal, and everyone else shouldn't blame yourselves for what you did. You had no control. There was nothing you could do."
"Look who's talking. You still blame yourself for what you did to that village."
"Because it was my fault."
"Laxus you couldn't control yourself anymore than the rest of us could."
"Yeah but when I was transformed that first time I didn't react like you or the others did Mira."
"What do you mean?"
"You all were ashamed and horrified of what you were the minute you found out but me I...I was proud of what I was. I thought it was a gift, I thought it made me better than anyone else in my village and I gave in to the curse. You, Jellal, Kagura, and Loke only killed like one or two people and that's because you resisted the wolf but gave in and because of that I took down an entire village. It wasn't until I tried to kill my grandfather that I finally realized that I was a monster. Maybe if I had fought it like you all did I wouldn't have killed so many people."
"Laxus it doesn't matter how you acted then what matters is that you feel remorse for it and that you're trying to change. You haven't seen your grandfather since the incident have you?"
"No and even though he's a priest I'm sure he can't forgive me."
"Where there's love there's always forgiveness." Kagura said walking in. "That's what my brother Simon always said. I'm sure if your grandfather and your brother and sister love you as much as you love them they'll forgive you. But at least you two and Jellal have someone to go back to if we ever break this curse. Loke and I don't have anybody."
"Where is Loke anyway?" Mirajane asked.
"I thought he was on patrol with Jellal." Laxus said.
"He told me that he was going to scout around the village." Kagura said.
"The Magnolia village?" Mirajane asked.
"Oh no not again!"
"Tell me he didn't." Laxus facepalmed.
"What?" Kagura asked.
"That hound dog is going scouting alright but it's for women! Damn it! Every year that ifioi tries to sneak into the village during the festival to flirt." Laxus groaned. "Why didn't you stop him?!"
"I didn't know today was the lover's festival. We don't typically attend so I don't really keep track of it." Kagura defended.
"You know how much of a womanizer he is! And how reckless he is! We all keep track of the date so we can stop him if he tries to sneak off! What are you stupid?!"
"Don't insult me! It was a mistake!"
"A mistake that could get us in a whole lot of trouble! Can't you use that brain of yours?!"
"At least I have a brain you slobbering mutt!"
"What did you just call me?!"
"Do you need me to repeat myself? Or are you as deaf as you are stupid?"
Laxus snarled, Kagura growled, the two transformed and started fighting each other leading to Mirajane transforming and breaking up the fight.
"That's enough!" She said when she changed back. "We don't have time for this! We need to find Like now!"
"She's right because if he transforms in the village we're screwed big time." Laxus said.
"I'll go tell Jellal to keep an eye out for him then meet up with you later." Kagura said.
With that said the three of them split up with Kagura going to warn Jellal while Laxus and Mirajane headed for the village. Meanwhile back at Minerva's castle the mirror had informed her that Levy had been freed which prompted her to take extreme measures. She didn't want to resort to this but she didn't see any other way. When no one was watching she entered her secret passage way that led to her own private dudgeon where her most dangerous weapon was kept.
Down the long stairway she went with her cheeks burning hot with rage and her eyes green with envy. If this method didn't work then she was sure that she burst in anger though it had never failed her before. When she finally reached her dudgeon she went to the cell that held her only prisoner.
"Hello my Darling have you missed me?" She asked the creature hiding in the shadows. The creature only gave her a subtle growl. "I know, I know, you want me to let you out and I will if you do something for me."
From her sleeve she pulled a torn piece of fabric from one of Natsu's jackets and a torn piece of clothing from one of Lucy's aprons. She held both of them out for the creature to sniff and become familiar with the scent.
"Track down these two, kill the woman but bring me the man and bring him to me alive. Understand? And if anyone gets in your way kill them."
She then released the beast and sent him out to track down his targets. No one knew of this monster except her, the mirror, and the victims she had set it upon. It was a large, fast, strong, and slippery beast that had the eyes of a cat and the ears and nose of a bloodhound. It was a thousand times more dangerous than any wolf of the cursed race and what made it so dangerous was not just it's heightened senses, speed, agility, and strength but also that it obeyed Minerva's every command and never once defyed her. Where this creature came from? No one knows. No one except for Minerva and her mirror. Was it some rare and dangerous new species that she had captured? Did she create it with her witchcraft? Was it another abomination that the mirror made? Or was it something much more?
Song used: Red Is The Rose by Orla Fallon and Tommy Fleming
Gray tapped his fingers impatiently on Wendy's kitchen table while chewing on some mint leaves. The fairies had told him that it wouldn't take them that long to get ready but they had been preparing themselves for almost three hours.
"Geez why do girls take so long to get ready?" He thought.
Then on cue Wendy walked into the kitchen wearing the sky blue dress with white ribbon and the stitching in the shape of violets lined on to the skirt. Her hair was straight and shiny with a violet flower clipped on to the side.
"You look nice." He told her.
After her came Evergreen wearing the peridot green dress complete with a corset that fit her figure to perfection while her hair was in a pony tail and a peridot necklace hung around her neck. Then came Levy wearing a slongsleeved marigold colored gown with a poppy red under skirt underneath it and a matching ribbon head band in her hair. Both Evergreen and Levy had managed to make their wings disappear so no one would recognize them as fairies.
"Not bad ladies." Gray commented. "But where's Juvia?"
"In my bedroom. Come out Juvia." Wendy called.
"I don't know about this. I feel kind of silly." Juvia said.
"Nonsense you look beautiful. Now come on." Levy insisted.
Juvia swallowed nervously and finally entered the kitchen. There she stood wearing her late mother's lace and silken white gown with her silver silk slippers on her feet and her blue hair down in curls with white anemone flowers braided behind her head. Gray felt his heart stop and his stomach drop. Never in his life had he seen anything more beautiful. She looked like an angel and seemed to be surrounded by some heavenly glow that only he could see.
"I'm not really used to wearing this stuff." Juvia said.
"But you're a princess." Evergreen said.
"My stepmother took away all my more extravagant dresses and had me wear more plain ones. She also took away all my make up, perfumes, and jewelry. She even stole my locket once but I got it back."
"Well it's a shame because jewelry and fine gowns look wonderful on you." Levy said. "What do you think Gray?"
But the poor young man was speechless at the moment and could only stand there with mouth a gape while blushing.
"Close your mouth hunter boy you'll catch flies." Evergreen teased.
Gray quickly did as she said and looked away to hide his blush.
"I...I think we should go now."
That made Juvia sad. Truth be told she was actually hoping that he would find her beautiful and the fact that he looked away and said nothing made her think that he didn't like how she looked. They went outside where horses were waiting and rode off to the village. Natsu, Lucy, Erza, and the dwarfs had walked to the village though Erza had seperated from the group to see her grandmother and they sent Gajeel with her in case another witch hunt went after her again. It was sun down by the time they all met up. Elfman and Romeo were relieved to see that Juvia was alive and well and she was happy to see Lucy again.
"I'm so glad you're alright." Lucy said as the two friends embraced.
"You look beautiful."
"Thank you. Levy brought you a gown also."
"Mmm- hmm. Now follow me Lucy and we'll get you ready."
Levy then took her aside to a private area where she could get her ready.
"Now then what dress shall we give you? Same as before? Gold really does suit you." Levy said. "The first gown was made from sunlight and stardust, my finest work yet."
"Actually Levy I wouldn't mind a more simple gown." Lucy said.
"And please don't make me look exactly as I did the night of the ball."
"Because Natsu will recognize me as the girl he danced with."
"So he can't know."
"Because it's... It's complicated I really don't want to talk about it. Just make me plain looking."
"Well I can't do that but I can make you recognizable this time. You look as you did that night but everyone will be able to see it's you."
"Okay but I'll keep my regular shoes this time."
"As you wish."
Levy then used her magic to dress Lucy in the gown of pure gold with her hair in an updo styled with gold ribbons and threads but she let Lucy's flat peasant shoes remain on her feet and didn't use any special magic to hide her identify. When the two maidens walked into the village square all heads turned in amazement. Never in their lives, had any of them seen two young women more beautiful and they couldn't decide which one of them was more lovely.
"What's everyone staring at?" Juvia whispered to Lucy.
"I think they're staring at us." Lucy whispered back.
"Oh dear. I'm not used to everyone paying so much attention to me. Normally whenever there were big events like this Stepmother would keep me locked up in my bedroom."
"I know the feeling, normally I spent events like these in the kitchen."
Romeo and Elfman began to join in the band with playing music. Young men and women started to dance in the square. Several young men were desperately trying to get Lucy and Juvia to dance with them. Wanting to be polite they accepted but some of them proved to be quite the nuisance.
"Won't you honor me with another dance?" One young man who Juvia had danced with said.
"No thank you, I think I'll take a break from dancing if you don't mind." She said.
"Oh surely you could spare one more dance for me." He kissed her hand then started to kiss up her arm much to her disgust.
"Sir this is most improper and I implore you to stop." She said.
But he just ignored her and before his lips could get any closer to her shoulder and face, Gray kicked the man away from her.
"What the hell?!" He shouted irritated.
"Oh sorry about that." Gray said. "It would seem that my leg was having a muscle spasm."
Gray was smiling and chuckling like it was a harmless accident but the man could see him gripping his dagger intensely, ready to strike should he get pushed too far. Understanding the warning the man quickly ran off.
"Hmm...Never took you to be the flirtatious type Juvia."
"I wasn't flirting with him. In fact I didn't really like him all that much."
"But you danced with him."
"Yes but I was only being polite."
"What about those other men you danced with?"
"What about them?"
"Did you like them?"
"I don't know. I barely knew them, as I said before I was only being polite."
"Are you jealous?"
"What?! No! Of course not!"
"It's okay if you are."
"But I'm not! I'm just saying you should be cautious when certain men take a liking to you."
"True but I think-"
"Hey Juvia why don't you sing for us!" Romeo called.
"Oh I don't know."
"Come on. You're the best in all of Fiore."
Juvia sighed but with a smile she agreed. The musicians began to play a soft romantic ballad that was well known by many.
"Come over the hills, my bonnie Irish lad
Come over the hills to your darling
You choose the road love, and I'll make the vow
And I'll be your true love forever." She sang with her beautiful voice as couples started to dance.
"Red is the rose that in yonder garden grows
Fair is the lily of the valley
Clear is the water that flows from the Boyne
But my love is fairer than any."
After singing that verse there was a music break, while waiting for the next verse she just causally walked around. However she was completely startled and taken off guard when the next part of the song was sung by a man's voice.
"It's down by Killarney's green woods that we strayed
The moon and the stars they were shining
The moon shone its rays on her locks of golden hair
She swore she'd be my love forever."
She looked in the direction of where the voice came from and to her surprise it was Gray. He waltzed over to her and continued to sing.
"It's not for the parting that my sister pains
It's not for the grief of my mother
It's all for the loss of my bonnie Irish lass
That my heart is breaking forever."
He had a wonderful singing voice and it sent shivers down Juvia's spine and blush to her cheeks. Another music break was taken. Gray bowed, Juvia curtsied, he offered her his hand, she accepted it, and the two started to waltz just as the other couples did. Throughout the dance the two never broke contact once and they never broke away from each other. Not even when it was time for the next verse which they sang together.
"Red is the rose that in yonder garden grows
Fair is the lily of the valley
Clear is the water that flows from the Boyne
But my love is fairer than any."
Their voices matched together perfectly and the two of them smiled and gazed at each other the whole time.
"Clear is the water that flows from the Boyne
But my love is fairer than any."
As they finished their song they found themselves leaning in closer. Her eyes closed, his were half lidded, and just before their lips could meet they were interrupted by the audience clapping and cheering for them. Gray's face was burning red and he quickly stepped away from her. Juvia only smiled shyly while trying to cover his blush cheeks.
Lucy smiled as she watched Gray and Juvia finish their song and noticed the love blooming between the two. When Juvia went to get a drink to calm her flustered emotions Lucy approached her with a teasing smile.
"So when did it happen?" She asked.
"When did what happen?" Juvia replied.
"When did you fall for hunter boy over there?"
"Whaaaaaat?" Juvia said trying everything she could not to blush. "Don't be silly Lucy I haven't fallen for Gray. We've only known each other for a few weeks and he's not my type and...And...And...Is it that obvious?"
"A blind man could see it. So what do you like about him? I mean anyone can clearly see that he's handsome but what else?"
"Hold on you're not going after him are you? Are we going to change from friends to love rivals?"
"No Juvia you know that I'm not interested in finding true love I'm just curious that's all. So tell me what is he like?"
"He's strong and he's kind and he's gentle. I wouldn't exactly call him a gentleman and when you first meet him he appears to be very cold and hard but once you get to know him you realize that he has a warm and soft side."
"Sounds like you've got it bad."
"Well what about you?"
"What about me?"
"You know you and Prince Natsu."
"What are you talking about? There's nothing between us."
"That's not what Levy told me. She told me about how you two danced at the ball."
"Yes and that's all we did. Dance."
"Why don't you tell him that you're the girl he met at the ball? You know he's in love with you right?
"He's in love with a fantasy girl that doesn't exist. If he were to know the truth he would lose all interest in me."
"Well how do you know that?"
"Because he's a prince and princes don't marry scullery maids. Speaking of which where he is?"
"Pigging out at the buffet table."
"Ugh...You know it's when he does things like that which makes me wonder if he really is a prince."
The two women giggled at her comment then Juvia went to join the village children in a dance. At the buffet table Natsu was scarfing down as much food as possible. He may have been a prince but he had the table manners and the appetite of a pig. He had just finished eating a whole mutton when he finally noticed Lucy.
She looked absouletly stunning in her gown of sunshine gold. At first he thought that it was his mystery girl but he recognized her as Lucy and thought that the resemblance between her and the girl he had danced with was just a coincidence. Just then he saw her start to dance. She danced in the exact same manner as the woman from the ball and the golden dress highlighted her beauty and grace perfectly. She looked like a princess and all who saw her we're amazed and beguiled by her but not nearly as much as Natsu was. Same golden dress, same blonde hair that shines like the sun, same graceful dance movement, same pretty doe brown eyes. It started to come together but there was only one way he could make absouletly sure that his suspicions were correct.
When she finished her dance she went to the table to get something to drink. She had just reached over to grab a cup and fill it with punch when her cup was grabbed by a rather handsome and dashing young man with orange hair and glasses.
"Allow me." He said filling her cup with punch and handing it to her.
"Thank you." She said.
"I've never seen you before. Are you new to the village?"
"In a way. I won't be staying here for that long. Do you live here?"
"No but I come to this festival every year in hopes of meeting someone special."
"My name is Lucy."
"Would you like to dance?"
As Loke and Lucy danced Natsu couldn't help but feel very jealous. The punch in his cup was bubbling and steaming and then he broke his glass cup with his intense grip.
"You okay man?" Gray asked him when he saw his cup break.
"Oh I'm fine." He said. "Excuse me for a moment."
"You dance divinely." Loke told Lucy.
"I noticed that you didn't seem to have a gentleman caller with you this evening. Does that mean you're available?"
"Mind if I cut in?" Natsu interrupted as he gently took Lucy's hand and pulled her away from Loke and into a dance.
"That was rude." She told him. "We were in the middle of a conversation."
"Sorry but I need to talk to you about something."
"Well it's actually more along the lines of a question."
"Okay what's your question?"
"Say there's this mystery woman and a man falls very much in love with her. Now he sees this mystery woman again only this time he doesn't know it's her and she doesn't tell him even though she knows that he loves her. So my question is why would she do that?"
"Uh...Well... Maybe it's because she doesn't feel the same way and doesn't want to hurt his feelings."
"I suppose that is understandable reason but I don't think that's really why she kept it a secret."
"Well what other reason is there?"
"You tell me."
"I...I guess another reason would be that she thinks once he finds out who she really is he'll be ashamed of her and will want nothing to do with her."
"I see and what if he told her that no matter who she was he would still love and accept her?"
"She would probably ask him if he really thought a prince would ever love a scullery maid."
"That's funny because I never said that he was a prince and that she was a maid."
Lucy went silent and blushed beet red when she realized her mistake. How could she have said that? No doubt that he was going to put the pieces together now. He gave her a mischievous smile, got his knee, and pulled the golden slipper from his pocket.
"Could you try this on for me?" He asked.
"What for?" She asked.
"Because I need to know."
Lucy felt very hesitant to honor his wish especially since she knew for sure that she couldn't bear his rejection but his black eyes pleaded with her to comply. So she lifted up the skirt of her gown a little ways, removed one of her flat shoes, and lifted up her foot. He moved the slipper toward her foot. Suddenly a woman's scream broke through the area and all eyes turned to see a large and horrifying chimera beast came charging through the village with incredible speed sending everyone into a fearful frenzy.
"What the hell is that thing?!" Gray shouted.
"It's a chimera!" Evergreen cried hiding.
"That's impossible! They're supposed to be extinct!" Levy said also hiding.
"Well that one doesn't look extinct to me!" Natsu shouted.
"Protect the women and children!" Elfman cried.
Parents grabbed their children, husbands shielded their wives, brave men shot arrows at the chimera and began trying to burn it with torches but the monster seemed to be immune to the arrows and torches. Not to mention it moved incredibly fast with unimaginable strength and agility. Men weren't the only ones trying to fight the creature some wolves were trying to fight it off too but like the humans they didn't stand a chance.
Then the chimera stopped and sniffed the air, it was searching for someone's scent. Lucy's and when it picked it up it came after her full speed. Lucy ran as fast as she could but she couldn't out run the beast. In her haste to get away she tripped and bumped right into Juvia. The two women fell over and were soon cornered by the creature. They were trapped and chimera was ready to strike down and kill them both but suddenly it stopped.
It lowered it's claws and began to stare at Juvia intensely. She became petrified with fear and held her breath as she waited for the monster to attack her but it didn't. It just stood there, staring at her as if it knew her. Her eyes met with the chimera's and she saw that it had tears in it's eyes. It was crying. Why was it crying? She didn't have time to figure out the answer because someone threw a stone at the chimera's face getting it's attention and distracting it long enough for the girls to escape.
"Hey over here you freak of nature!" It was Natsu who had thrown the stone. "Why don't you pick on someone your own size?!"
The chimera responded with a frightening roar and it went after Natsu. Now Natsu was a fast runner but he was no match for the creature's speed. It caught up with him in no time and threw him against a tree knocking him out. It then dragged him away into the forest, disappearing out of sight.
"Natsu!" Lucy screamed.
"You girls okay?" Gray asked her and Juvia.
"We're alright?" Juvia answered.
"It took him! It took Natsu!" Lucy cried.
"What took Natsu?"
"That thing! That monster! Oh God you don't think that it would eat him do you?!"
"I don't know."
"We have to go after them!"
"And do what? You saw that thing! It took out like fifty men and arrows and torches don't do squat to it! Not to mention we don't know where it is."
"You can find it can't you? You're a huntsman! You're supposed to be good at tracking things! So track it down!"
"Alright now just calm down! We need to think about this."
"He's right. Let's go find the others, tell them what happened, and talk this through." Juvia said.
"We don't have time! What if he's dead by the time we find him?! Or worse?!"
"What if we find him and that thing kills us all before we even get a chance to help him!" Gray said. "We can't just go charging after it!"
"I'm sure he'll be alright. Natsu is a very strong man and we will find him. Come on let's go find the others." Juvia told her.
"So is this where the old lady lives?" Gajeel asked Erza when they arrived at Titania's house.
"Yep. Now you wait out here, my grandmother has a thing about strange men."
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"It means that you're strange and I don't want you to frighten my grandmother. Now wait out here and keep quiet."
Erza carefully and quietly opened the door to the house where she found her grandmother lying in bed sleeping but she looked so weak and frail. Erza gently gave the sleeping old woman a gentle nudge.
"Granny? Granny wake up. It's me, Erza."
The old woman opened her eyes and when she saw her granddaughter at her bedside she gave her a weak smile.
"Oh my sweet little Erza is that you?"
"It's me Granny."
"Oh God be praised. I thought that you had suffered the same horrible fate as my dear Irene."
"It's alright Granny. I'm okay."
The two embraced.
"I've missed you so much Granny."
"I've missed you too Erza but where have you been all this time. You had me so worried."
"I promise to explain everything later Granny but now I have to go again."
"Go again? Erza you musn't leave me again. We need to get out of here and find somewhere else to live."
"And we will but for now I have to do something very important."
"Please don't tell me that it's your foolish goal to kill the alpha?"
"No Granny I've given up that goal but I have new one that desperately needs to be accomplished."
"What goal is this?"
"I'll tell you later."
"You'll tell me now young lady! Cough! Cough!"
"Granny please don't upset yourself. Not when you're sick like this."
"I'll upset myself all I want to! I'm a sick old woman who's spent several weeks thinking that her only grandchild was killed only to find out she's alive but she's leaving her again for God knows what purpose! You tell what on earth is going on here?"
"Alright Granny but I don't have time to tell you everything so I'll just cut to the point. I'm trying to save Jellal."
"Jellal? What are you talking about Erza? Jellal has been dead for ten years. He was eaten by wolves!"
"No Granny he's alive. He's been alive all this time and he's in trouble. I have to help him Granny."
"Why Erza? I don't understand any of this."
"It's too complicated to explain now."
"Hate to break up the family reunion Erza." Gajeel said barging into the house. "But I think that we better head back."
"Good God who on earth are you?!" Titania asked startled by the dwarf's sudden appearance.
"Sorry for coming in uninvited ma'am but this is an emergency."
"Gajeel what's wrong?" Erza asked him.
"I heard screaming and a roar coming from the village. I think something is attacking everybody."
"A wolf of the cursed race perhaps?"
"I don't think so. That roar didn't sound like it came from a wolf, I'm not even sure it came from any kind of animal of this forest."
"Then let's hurry back whatever it is it must be dangerous. Let's go."
"Erza what's going on? What's this about?" Titania asked.
"I'm so sorry Granny but there's no time to explain but don't worry I'll be okay."
"Erza please don't go."
"Goodbye Granny I love you. I'll be back as soon as I can I promise."
But her granddaughter did not heed her pleads and left with Gajeel. Titania tried to go after her but she was so old and weak that she just couldn't keep up with them not to mention that she had also become ill so she was forced to return to her house where she tearfully began to pray to God.
"Father in heaven hear my prayer. Please spare my granddaughter and bring her safely back to me. Don't let me lose her as I lost my husband and my daughter. In your name I pray amen."
After coughing a few times she went to take her medicine and tried to get some sleep but was unable to do so for now she had become sick with worry. She would never forget those two days, those horrible days when the two people the most were snatched away from her.
When they arrived at the village there were plenty of houses and shops in shambles and many people who were hurt but none of them were killed. They went around to help injured people to their feet and take them to Reverend Makarov who began trying to heal them though Erza tried to keep out of sight as she wanted to avoid getting captured by another angry mob. The fairies also helped with healing some of the injured but they were careful not to expose themselves as fairies to the humans.
"What did all this?" Gajeel asked Wendy who was banding a little boy's ankle.
"A chimera." She answered.
"A chimera? Aren't those extinct?"
"Apparently one of them is still alive and it kidnapped Prince Natsu. Right now my friend Levy is trying to figure out how one chimera still exists."
"Levy? She's hear? You know Levy? Where is she?"
"Right now she's getting water from the well."
Gajeel was instantly out of the church and heading straight for the nearest well. There she was. As beautiful and mystical as he remembered her. He blinked and rubbed his eyes a few times to make sure that he wasn't dreaming but he wasn't. She was really here.
She recognized his voice the minute she heard it and was so startled that she dropped the bucket of water in her hands. Her body became stiff and she seemed very hesitant to turn around. After about five to ten minutes without moving or speaking Levy finally turned around and faced the dwarf that she had fallen in love with many years ago. Tears stung her eyes when they finally saw him.
"Gajeel? Is it you? Really you? After all these years?"
"Yes it's me."
"Oh Gajeel I've missed you so much."
She stepped forward to embrace him only for him to flinch and step away from her.
"Gajeel? What's wrong?"
"I waited for you. Why didn't you come? You said that we were going to have a life together, you said that you wanted to be with me, I waited for you but you never came."
"It's not what you think Gajeel."
"You used to me to get that book."
"No! That's not true!"
"You only pretended to love me!"
"No! None of that is true! I did love you! I still do! And I wanted to go with you!"
"Then why didn't you?!"
"Because I was captured by Queen Minerva!"
"What are you talking about?"
"I had just left to have that book destroyed when Minerva ran into me during a horse ride in the forest. She demanded that I give her the book but I refused so she cast a spell on me that had me inprisoned in an enchanted tree where I would be unable to escape until I was set free. I tried to use my magic to send some sort of message to you explaining everything to you but tree limited my powers to where I could only do so much. Believe me Gajeel I never stopped thinking about you and I could barely wait for the day when I would finally be set free and see you again."
"You mean to tell me that you had no intention of abandoning me that night?"
"None what do ever. In fact I was so happy that day because I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with the man I loved while taking care of my godchild. I was so heartbroken when Minerva locked me away. I was so scared that I would never see you again."
Gajeel was speechless. He had never felt more foolish in all his life. For ten long years he believed that Levy had never loved him and that she had been using him since the beginning but now he knew the truth. All this time she had been a prisoner who was suffering ten times worse than he ever would. He was ashamed that for ten years he had believed that she would ever do such a horrible thing. The woman he had fallen in love with would never be so cruel. How could he have ever doubted her love for him?
"Forgive me." He said trying to fight the urge to break down in tears. "I'm so ashamed and disgusted with myself. How could I think for all these years that you had done such a thing."
"It's alright Gajeel."
"No it's not. For ten years I thought that you never loved me."
"It's okay really. I'm sure that I would have done the same thing."
"No you wouldn't. You would have still believed I loved you and you would have searched me. I should have searched for you."
But Levy only smiled and embraced her lover.
"Even if you had found me you wouldn't have been able to set me free. I could only be freed by my godchild."
"Still I could've done something. I should've had more faith."
"It's in the past now so let's just forget it ever happened and look toward the future."
"How can you say these things knowing that I didn't have enough faith in you?"
"Because I love you and when you truly love someone you forgive and forget their mistakes."
She then kissed him, he kissed back passionately as they embraced and held each other. From a distance Juvia watched them and smiled, happy that the two had finally been reunited.
Gray had gone out to gather firewood so they could start a fire and boil water which Reverend Makarov needed to wash his hands and clean wounds. He had just picked up the first log when suddenly a voice screeched.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?!"
Startled he dropped the log on his foot.
"Ow!" He shouted clutching his foot. Looking behind himself he saw Minerva's raven perched on a tree branch.
"Why is Juvia still alive?" She asked. "I thought that you were going to kill her."
"Get yourself another assassin lady because I'm through!" Gray replied angrily.
"What did you just say?"
"You heard me! I want out!"
"May I remind you of how much gold you're throwing away over this? I could make you richer than you've ever dreamed of!"
"Keep your bloody gold! I don't want it anymore! Not if it means that I have to kill her to get it!"
"You said that you would kill her!"
"Well I changed my mind!"
"You will not disobey me huntsman! I must have her heart! I must eat it!"
"Eat it?! Oh God! Lady you're more sick and depraved than I thought!"
"You don't understand! I need her heart! If I eat her heart then I shall acquire her loveliness and be beautiful forever!"
"I don't care why you want to eat it! It's still cannibalism and I don't want any part of it!"
"I see then I guess you'll have to suffer the same tragic outcome that be fell Rogue."
"What are you talking about?"
"Rogue was a former servant of mine and I thought that he was my most loyal servant but I was proven wrong because when I ordered him to kill Juvia he defyed me and let her escape! So I turned him to stone and now he's spending the rest of his miserable life as a lawn ornament!"
"So you're gonna turn me to stone?"
"Well I was but now that I think about it I think that's too good for the likes of you! If you don't kill her and bring me her heart then I'll hunt you down and subject you to the same torture you suffered ten years ago! Now what was it you endured again? Oh yes you were strapped down and beaten! But I will make that ten times worse! I'll have you strapped down and beaten daily until you drop dead!"
Gray shuddered at her words and horrible memories of when he was a little boy and Reverend Hades tortured him. The painful and seemingly neverending stings and burns of the whips and torches as they lashed his back repeatedly. The hard and cold shackles that bound his arms and legs leaving them sore and aching. He still had nightmares about that day and he couldn't bear to go through it again for one day let alone everyday for the rest of his life. He couldn't imagine anything more frightening.
"Now do we understand each other?" She said seeing his face turn pale with fear.
Gray only nodded.
"Good. Now I expect you to return the castle tomorrow with Juvia's heart in that box I gave you! If you're not there or if you don't have her heart then you will suffer your greatest pain ever! And I'll know if you did as I said or not! So don't try to be sneaky and play any tricks!"
With that said the raven flew away. For the rest of the day Gray didn't say a word to anyone and at night he couldn't sleep a wink. For the first time in ten years he was afraid. He was very, very afraid. Afraid of what he was going to do. Afraid of what would happen if he didn't do it. It made his skin lose all color and his body tremble. He felt sick, he felt like he was going to throw up. He almost did a couple of times.
The next morning he told Juvia that he knew of a special orchard in the woods where apples would be ripe and ready for picking then said that he would take her there to pick some. Recently Juvia had been wanting to make an apple pie to cheer up those recovering from the chimera attack so she agreed to go with him. Little did she know that there was no orchard and he was taking her to a place in the forest where no one in the village could hear her.
"You know we had apple trees in the castle gardens." Juvia said as they walked together through the forest. "My father and I would pick barrels of them and then we would watch the baker turn them into delicious treats."
"That's... That's nice."
"That's how I learned how to make apple pie. You think all of Reverend Makarov's patients like apple pie?"
"I...I wouldn't know."
"You know I think after we get the apples we should get some milk and sugar then I can make sweet cream to serve with the pie. What do you think?"
"I...I... I don't have much of a sweet tooth so I'm the wrong person to ask about this."
"Are you alright? You look awfully pale and you're shaking a little too. Are you getting sick?"
"No. No I just...I guess it's the weather. It's pretty chilly out here."
"Yes it is. Good thing I brought this." She pulled the scarf she had knitted for him from her satchel, wrapped it around his neck, and tucked the ends into his shirt. "There we go nice and warm."
"Uh...Thanks but I don't need this."
"Nonsense you're not wearing a coat or a shawl like me. You need something warm to wear otherwise you might catch a cold or worse."
He felt guilty wearing that warm, soft scarf that she had made. He didn't deserve to wear it. He deserved to freeze to death or suffer some other kind of cruel punishment for being a cowardly murder.
"How much further til we reach the orchard?" She asked.
"Just a little more ways."
"Oh good then we should make it back by lunch time."
"Could we stop and rest for a minute. My foot is starting to act up a bit."
"Of course. Hey there are some snow drops growing over there. You rest here while I pick a few to take back to the cottage. They would look lovely in the kitchen."
She walked over to the patch of land where the snow drops grew and she started to pick some. While her back was turned Gray unsheathed his dagger and approached her from behind quietly. He raised the dagger up and just before he could bring it down to strike she turned around. When she saw the dagger and where it was positioned she dropped the flowers, let out a small scream, and stepped back in fear.
"What are you doing?" She asked him.
After a moment of silence he answered.
"I'm sorry Juvia but I have to kill you."
"Kill me? But why?"
"I guess you deserve to hear the truth. The queen paid me gold to hunt you down and kill you."
"What? How could you?! I thought that you were my friend! I thought that you cared about me!"
"I don't have a choice!"
"Yes you do! Just say no! Is gold really worth taking my life!"
"It's not just about gold anymore! Look at first I was going to do it but then I changed my mind because you were so nice to me and you helped me but now she's threatening to torture me just like those men did to me when I was a kid! She said that she would strap and beat me everyday until I die! I'm really sorry Juvia! I don't want to do this but I can't go through that again! I just can't!"
Juvia didn't talk or move for the longest time. Then she got down on her knees, closed her eyes, clasped her hands together, and began to pray.
"Dear God please hear me, I'm going to die now so I shall my last prayer to you though I don't why I'm going to die now I know that I cannot leave this world without praying to you. I pray that you forgive all the sins I committed in life, I pray that you bless the people of my kingdom and that you bless my friends the dwarfs, the fairies, Erza, Natsu, Lucy, and my father but most of all I pray that you forgive Gray for taking my life and that you forgive my stepmother for ordering him to do so."
"What the hell are you doing?" Gray asked her.
"I'm praying. I don't think that it would be right of me to die without saying my prayers first."
"But aren't you going to run or beg for your life or scream for help?"
"No. I'm not."
"Why? I'm going to stab you to death right now! Aren't you scared?!"
"Yes I am." She said trying so hard not to cry. "But there is something else that I'm much more scared of."
"And what is that?"
"What my stepmother will do to you if you let me live. You said that she would torture you until you die if you didn't kill me and I couldn't bear it if that happened to you. So it's alright if you kill me."
"Are you crazy?! How can you just sit there and let me kill you?! Why would you do that?!" He shouted.
She only smiled with tears streaming down her cheeks then she stood up and hugged him.
"Because I love you Gray." She said. "I love you too much to let you suffer so it doesn't it matter to me if I live or die, just as long as it mean's you'll be okay."
Gray couldn't believe what he was hearing. This woman loved him so much that she was willing to let him kill her to prevent him from suffering. He never heard of such a thing. Juvia then wept warm tears on to Gray's chest and they thawed out his frozen heart completely allowing him to feel how much she loved him.
"I can't!" He gasped dropping his dagger. "I can't do it! I just can't do it!"
He pushed her away from him.
"Juvia you need to run away from me right now! Go back to the village and never come near me again!"
"But I don't understand I thought that you were-"
"I won't do it! I'll never do it! I'd rather suffer whatever torture that witch plans to inflict on me then kill you!"
"Go home! Please! Just go home and forget that you ever knew me!"
She tried to stop him but he was a much better runner then she was and all too soon he vanished from her sight completely. Alone in the forest Juvia broke down and started to cry.
Gray didn't stop running until he was sure that he had run so far that Juvia wouldn't be able to follow him. He had lost her which meant that she was safe. Now came his next problem, how was he going to trick Minerva into believing that he had killed Juvia? He wandered around the forest trying desperately to think of a plan when suddenly he heard the sound of snorting. He spotted a wild pig digging it's nose into the ground, searching for truffles. A mischievous gleam appeared in his eye as he thought of an idea.
"My, my, my." He thought to himself. "What a surprise that her majesty will be dinning on the heart of a pig for breakfast."
He then shot the pig with an arrow, cut out it's heart, and placed it in the box Minerva gave him. He then returned to the castle where he went to meet Queen Minerva in her bedchamber. He was sweaty and his torso was blood stained from cutting out his prey's heart.
"Judging by you apparel am I to understand that Juvia is dead?"
He handed her the box. She opened it and grinned viciously at the heart inside.
"Excellent. You shall be rewarded handsomely."
"I already told you that I don't want your damn reward anymore!"
"As you wish. So tell me did she suffer? Did she scream? Did she beg for her pathetic life?"
"No she didn't. All she did was pray."
"Yes. She prayed that her friends, her people, and her father be blessed and that you and I be forgiven for taking her life."
Minerva stiffened for a moment.
"She prayed that I be forgiven?"
"So she kept up that innocent little girl facade up until the end did she?"
"What the hell is wrong with you? She puts others before herself and forgives you for having her killed and you still hate her?"
"It's all an act. That compassionate and forgiving nature of hers is all fake."
"It didn't look fake to me. You know not that I don't think that'll change anything she ever had ill feelings toward you. All she ever wanted from you was a mother's love but I guess you're incapable of giving that."
"Silence! You've done your part now get out of my sight before I change my mind about torturing you!"
Gray gave her a death glare then quietly left her chambers. Alone at last, Minerva once again opened the box and looked at the heart inside. Though delighted with what Gray had brought her she couldn't help but picture Juvia praying that God forgive her for ordering her demise.
"That brat doesn't really care for me! She's never really seen me as her mother! She can't be that good! She can't be! No one can be that good!"
She strated grabbing things off of her vanity and started throwing them around the room, shattering and breaking some of them to pieces. After doing this for fifteen minutes she stopped and regained control of herself.
"I must remain calm." She told herself. "I must keep my head."
Once she had calmed herself down she slipped away into her private dudgeon where her newest prisoner was held. Prince Natsu stood in a jail cell with his wrists and ankles bound in shackles.
"Comfortable Princie?" She asked him with a grin.
"Let me out of here!" He demanded while trying to break out his chains.
"In time I will...On our wedding day."
"Me? Marry you? Ha! You're a crazy woman if I ever saw one! I'll never marry you!"
"Why? Because your heart yearns for Lucy? Well that can be easily corrected."
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"Well life is such a delicate state. So easy to end just like that."
"You'd kill your own niece?"
"Why not? I killed my own sister."
"She stood in my way so I got rid of her. Simple as that."
"You vile, twisted, evil woman! I swear if you do anything to Lucy I'll make you suffer!"
"No you won't because once I'm done with you, you won't even remember your beloved Lucy and you willingly agree to become my husband."
"Don't hold your breath witch! I'd rather die than marry someone as horrible as you! I don't understand what King Hector ever saw in you! It's hard to believe someone like him could be ever love someone like you!"
"Fool! King Hector never loved me! He would never love any woman except Dianne! True he wanted a second wife but he would never willingly give his heart to another woman!...At least not without this." She held up a small bottle of liquid.
"What is that?"
"Something that ensured that my darling husband would choose me and don't you worry my sweet prince I won't give it to you until just the right moment."
"I'm not drinking that and you can't make me!"
"You'll find that I get a man do anything I want."
"You won't get me to do anything! And I won't let you hurt Lucy!"
"Just what is about her that's so special? Doe eyed and obedient? A little bland? Why she's just a child."
"And you're just an old lady!"
That earned him a him a slap right across his face.
"Looks like I'll have to cut out that insolent tongue of yours once we're married. I can't have a king so disrespectful and insulting. And I'm not old! I'm twenty nine!"
"Maybe in dog years! And if you must know what makes Lucy so special it's that she's kind, sweet, smart, understanding, and big time beautiful! Which is more than what I can say for you, you blood thirsty harpy!"
"Shut up! How dare you say that anyone is more beautiful than me!"
"You know my brother always said that jealousy was a very ugly thing and he's right. You're a prime example of that phrase."
"Hmmph! So my little niece captures your eye because she's younger and prettier than I am? Is that it? Well just wait until you see me at my best sweet prince. Mark my words, soon you'll become another one of my many, many, admirers."
Natsu only sneered at her then went back to trying to break out of his chains. Minerva walked into her spell room taking the box containing the heart inside with her. She opened her spell book of dark magic and witchcraft then flipped to the page about a spell that would make whoever consumed a heart take on the appearance represented by the creature that the heart belonged to. If she devoured Juvia's heart then she would take on the appearance of beautiful, seventeen year old maiden but it wasn't Juvia's heart she would be eating.
She grabbed a goblet, filled it with dust that would enhance beauty, oils that would retain youth, salts that washed away aging and undesirable physical traits, and finally the heart. The potion boiled, bubbled, and smoked. She brought the goblet to her lips and drank every last drop.
"Now for the spell."
She looked back at the page and read the chant.
"Blood of my enemy give me her power,
Heart of my enemy give me her beauty,
Death of my enemy give me her life!"
With those words said thunder clapped, lighting struck, and smoke wrapped itself around her as the transformation began. Her black hair turned white, her delicate hands became bony with nails long and sharp enough to be talons, her seemingly flawless skin turned wrinkled, her voice became a cackle, her teeth were blackened and yellow, and her face was grotesque with warts. When the transformation was complete all that remained of Queen Minerva was an old hag.
"Now we'll see who the fairest of them all is." She cackled not bothering to look into a mirror to see her new appearance.
Now Minerva's mirror had the power speak the truth but prit alsocould project illusions. To feed Minerva's vanity it always projected an illusion of herself looking young and beautiful instead of her true reflection whenever she looked into it. So when Minerva return to her private room and looked into the mirror she did not see her true reflection as a hideous old hag but instead an image of herself looking more young and beautiful than ever.
"Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all." She asked.
"Juvia is the loveliest beauty to see.
There is none more fair than she."
"You lie! She is dead!" Minerva snapped. "Juvia lies dead in the forest! The huntsman killed her! I ate her heart myself!"
"My queen you have been tricked and betrayed again.
Twas the heart of a pig you received from the huntsman."
"The heart of a pig?!" She screeched.
"You took the beauty of a pig which died on the forest floor.
Fair and beauteous you are no more."
"What?! Show me what I look like!"
With that command given the illusion disappeared and was replaced by the image of an ugly old crone. Minerva let out a scream unlike any that had ever been heard before. It was so loud and frightening that it alerted some of the servants who rushed to her aid. Hearing their footsteps, Minerva slammed the doors and locked them. She couldn't let anyone see her like this.
"Your majesty we heard you scream, are you alright?" Sting asked from behind the door.
"No! I've been robbed!"
"The huntsman Gray! He's robbed me of what I value most! Find him and throw him in the dudgeon immediately!"
"Yes your majesty."
Once she was sure they were gone she went back to her mirror.
"Tell me how can I become beautiful again?" She commanded.
"Once Juvia is truly dead and gone your beauty will be restored."
"Very well but this time I shall kill her myself! And I'll see to it that double-crossing huntsman pays dearly for what he's done!"
It started to rain hard that evening. Thankfully there was no thunder or lighting or strong wind currents. Only rain, rain that just kept pouring down and down and down. Poor Juvia had been heartbroken by what had happened to Gray that she ended up crying herself to sleep under a tree. The leaves and branches kept the heavy rain from falling on her so she only felt little droplets that weren't enough to wake her. Once it had begun to rain her friends became very worried so Gajeel and Erza went to look for her with Jellal following her scent.
"She's somewhere around here." Jellal said. "I can smell her scent."
The three of them searched around the area calling her name. At last Gajeel found her sleeping under the tree.
"Hey Juvia wake up." He said while gently shaking her. "Come on Juvia wake up. You can't sleep here it's raining, you'll get sick."
She woke and Gajeel could tell by the look in her eyes that she had been crying.
"Juvia are you alright? What happened?"
Juvia only burst into tears and threw her arms around Gajeel's neck while sobbing into his shoulder.
"Oh Gray!" She wept.
"What is it? What did he do to you?"
"My stepmother hired him to kill me and...And...And...And-"
She found it hard to breathe and even harder to speak. She was overwhelmed with tears and sobs. Gajeel just hugged the sad young woman and comforted her.
"Why?! Why can't she just stop!"
"There, there you don't have to cry." He said. "I won't let the queen ever hurt you Juvia I promise."
But his kind words didn't stop her weeping so he just scooped her up, took her back home, and tucked her into bed. They later had Reverend Makarov examine her to make sure that she hadn't of gotten sick from being in the rain for so long.
"How is she?" Erza asked when he finished his examination.
"Physically she's alright, she may catch a cold but nothing serious."
"Thank God." Gajeel said.
"But as for her emotional state she's a complete wreck. Poor thing keeps crying in her sleep."
"I'll make her some tea." Levy said.
"I'm gonna kill Gray!" Gajeel declared angrily. "I knew there was something about him I didn't like! The punk came here to kill her!"
"I don't believe that." Erza said.
"That's what Juvia told me."
"There must be some misunderstanding, I know Gray. He would never kill an innocent person."
"Apparently you don't know him as well as you think."
"Actually while I was in there Juvia told me the whole story once she calmed down a bit." Makarov said. "Gray was indeed hired by Minerva to kill her and but he didn't do it. Juvia said that he would rather suffer Minerva's punishment than cause any harm to Juvia."
"And what was his punishment?" Gajeel said.
"She said that his penalty for failure would be that he would suffer the same horrible torture he endured as a child ten years ago and that it would be given to him daily."
"Oh no." Erza cried softly.
"Yes and apparently he would rather go through that than harm Juvia."
"That woman is the devil." Gajeel said. "Why is she so hell-bent on terrorizing Juvia?"
"It's not just Juvia she's victimizing." Levy said. "She's after Lucy too."
"It's all out of jealousy. Envy has always been her biggest flaw and that mirror has a horrible power in making a person's flaws grow stronger. Vanity, greed, and jealousy, all of them grow stronger in Minerva whenever she's around that mirror."
Jellal came in awhile later. He had been asked to try tracking down Natsu but for some reason he couldn't pick up his scent.
"I'm sorry." He told them. "I've searched every area and sniffed as hard as I could but I couldn't pick up his scent anywhere. Wherever that thing dragged him off to it's definitely not anywhere in the forest."
"Where else could it have taken him?" Lucy asked.
"I don't know."
"Well we have to find him!"
"Calm down Lucy." Erza said.
"I can't! Natsu's been abducted by some monster who's taken him to God knows where and doing God knows what to him! I can't just stand here and do nothing!"
"Nobody is saying that you should but we can't afford to be hasty right now. You don't even know where this creature is and even if you do manage to find it what exactly do you plan to do? This creature is incredibly strong and fast."
"But what am I supposed to do?"
"Well first you need to calm down and get a hold of yourself while we think of a plan."
"How long will that take?"
"I can't say."
"That doesn't help!"
"And panicking does? Lucy I know you're afraid and worried for Natsu but I promise you we will find him and save him."
"My aunt did this! I know she did! I don't to how but I know that she's responsible for this! She always destroys anything that makes me happy! I hate her and I can't imagine how such a cruel and vile woman could possibly be related to my mother!"
Poor Lucy, little did she know that her aunt had done far worse things to her than making her a slave and subjecting her to abuse. Ten years ago, just a few months after she had married King Hector, Queen Minerva found herself once again fearful that someone else was more beautiful than her and she feared that person would be her sister.
When she had heard that Layla had a daughter she had hoped that bearing a child had made her tired, ragged, and older looking. So she asked her mirror to show her Layla but much to her disappointment and envy, motherhood had made Layla more beautiful than ever before. She had never been more hateful and jealous in her entire life and the spirit in the looking glass manipulated her into thinking that Layla never truly loved Minerva. That her kindness and love had all been fake and that she secretly took pleasure in her sister's misery. Minerva gave in to the manipulation with ease and using her spell book, she cast a spell that trapped Layla and her husband in their house and set it on fire resulting in it burning to the ground taking Jude and Layla's lives with it. Lucy however had been spared from that fate because she had been outside playing that day.
Because of the mirror's influence and her own foolish jealousy, Minerva had murdered her own sister and brother-in-law and now because of that same mirror and that same jealousy, she was trying to kill her own niece and stepdaughter. If she succeed in killing at least one of them then the mirror would finally have complete and total control over her.
The last thing Gray remembered was going to the local tavern to drink a couple rounds of rum the next thing he knew something hit him hard on the back of his head and everything went black. When he woke up he found himself in a dudgeon cell and his wrists were in shakles. It was so dark where he was, there were no windows and no sunlight coming in, the only light in this area was the light that came from the torches on the walls. He stood up on his feet and tried to break free from his chains.
"Don't waist your strength those chains are enchanted to hold you until I say otherwise." A scratchy voice said.
Suddenly a bony hand with fingers long and sharp enough to be talons lunged through the cell bars and sized Gray by his throat bringing him to where he was face to face with a hideous old hag.
"Ugh! Who the hell are you?!" He asked startled by her awful appearance.
"I guess you wouldn't recognize me now huntsman but I used to be quite a looker!"
"Yes it's me you idiot! Look at what you've done to me!"
"If you ask me it's an improvement. Now you look as ugly on the outside as you do on the inside."
Despite looking as old as dirt, she was strong enough to slam him back into the dudgeon wall.
"Oh man! That's going to leave a bruise!"
"How could you do this to me?!" She screeched.
"You wanted to eat an innocent girl's heart! That's sick and inhumane! No one in their right mind would do that!"
"You've stolen my beauty from me! Now I have nothing!"
"Well you could always pride yourself on something less fleeting than physical beauty."
That earned him a slap across the face.
"What I don't understand is why? I offered you gold, enough riches to set you for life and if that wasn't enough, now you're going to be forced to relive the same torture you went through as a child all because you refused to kill that little brat! You knew the penalty for if you failed and yet you still wouldn't do it! So why? Why would you give up gold and suffer through never ending torture for just one insignificant girl?"
"Torture me all you want you hag! But I'll die before I ever do anything to hurt Juvia!"
Minerva nashed her crooked teeth in anger and frustration. Then a thought entered her mind. After about five minutes of silent thinking she sized Gray by his face and started examining it carefully. Then she realeased him with a smug look forming on her face.
"How did I not see it sooner? I should've pick it up the minute I saw all the signs. The softness in your eyes whenever you saw her, the blush that rises to your cheeks whenever her name is mentioned, it was so obvious that I can't believe it took me this long to notice it."
"Notice what? What the hell are you talking about?"
"Your expression says it all. You're in love with that girl!"
Gray went silent as a shocked expression crossed his face. Was it true? Had he actually fallen in love with Juvia? No. No it wasn't possible. He had never fallen in love with anyone before. After he lost his parents he swore to himself that he would never love again.
"Well, well we are in a quandary are we not?" She said. "I need her dead to remove this curse that you have placed upon me and you need her alive to keep your precious heart happy! Well now I know how I can punish you properly! I'll see to it that you feel pain worse that you have ever felt in your entire life!"
"What are you going to do to me?"
"I'm going to force you to watch the woman you love die."
"You stay away from her you witch! If you harm so much as one hair on her head I'll kill you! You hear me?! I'll kill you!"
Minerva just grinned at him with her blackened teeth then walked off into her spell room.
"And now a special sort of death for one so fair."
She opened her spell book and once again began flipping through the pages. At last she stopped at one page containing a very evil and dark spell. After reading it she began to concoct a deadly poison made from black magic. Then she took an apple, dipped half of it into the poison, and used another spell to dye it. Once she was done she went back to the dudgeon holding a very peculiar looking apple in her hand. One side of the apple was blood red while the other side was snow white.
"What is that?" Gray asked her.
"An apple and it's a very interesting looking one isn't it? It's as white as snow and as red as blood, kind of like the two women in your life. Look one cheek is as white as snow like my wretched stepdaughter and the other cheek is as red as blood just like that scarlet haired woman you know. White as snow, red as blood, white as snow, red as blood. Isn't that funny?"
"Hilarious." He said sarcastically. "What's the point of this?"
"Well you see the snow white side of the apple is perfectly safe and harmless but the blood red side is covered in a deadly poison."
"You're going to force me to eat that aren't you?"
"Oh no this isn't for you hunter boy it's for Juvia. Just one bite with those delicate lips and she'll fall down dead."
"She won't eat that!"
"Oh won't she? Did you forget how much she loves apples? And thanks to your little trick with the pig's heart she won't recognize me when I offer it to her. She'll think I'm just a harmless old peddler woman." Then she scratched his wrist with her talon finger nail.
"Ow!" He hissed in pain.
"The minute tastes my forbidden fruit, her breath will stop, her blood will run cold, to the world she'll be dead and her body will become her tomb and you'll be able to watch the whole thing."
"No...No! No! You can't do this!" He cried grabbing the bars of his cell and trying desperately to pry them open.
"But I can and I will."
She placed the apple in a basket then pulled a tattered cloak over herself before leaving the castle through another one of her secret passage ways. This time she would kill Juvia even if it cost her, her life and it would. She didn't know it but if she successfully killed Juvia then she would pay a terrible price.
"Come on! Break you stupid chain!" Gray demanded as he tried to break the shackles holding him with a rock.
"Don't bother I already tried that."
It wasn't until now that Gray realized that he wasn't alone. Across from him just three cells down was where Natsu was being held.
"Hey I know you. You're the guy who was dragged off by a chimera." Gray said. "I thought you were dead."
"No but if I don't get out of here I'll face fate worse than death."
"Getting married to Minerva."
"I know but don't worry, once I chew off my arm I'll be free as a bird."
"Really? Chew your own arm off? That's what you're going with?"
"You got a better idea? I've tried everything! Smashing them with a rock! Burning them with fire! I even spit on my hand hoping that it would make it slippery enough to slide out."
"Eww! And you're supposed to be a prince?"
"Hey I'm desperate! What would you do if you were being forced to marry this crazy woman?"
"She said the chains were magic and that they would only break when she sys so."
"Hmmmm...I've got it!"
"An idea. She says that she wants to marry you right?"
"So she's gotta let you out sometime right?"
"Okay so here's the plan."
Jellal looked up at the moon. It was a waxing gibbous moon which meant soon it would be full and Jellal found himself dreading the night of when it would arrive. You see the moon was the source of a wolf's strength and power and when the moon was at it's fullest that was when the wolves of the cursed race would be a their most powerful but it would also be when they were dangerously close to losing control. Over the years he had learned to stay in control even during the full moon but it was especially difficult and there were moments when he did lose control. He had been so swept up in what had been happening lately that he almost forgot that a full moon was well on it's way.
"Is everything okay?" He looked behind himself to see Erza standing there.
"I'm fine." He told her.
"You don't look fine. In fact you look very nervous. What's wrong?"
"It's a waxing gibbous moon tonight."
"Yes it is."
"A full moon is expected to rise next week."
"My pack and I need to get as far away from here as possible."
"A full moon is when all wolves are at their most powerful but it is also when they are at the most risk of losing control. When it rises my pack and I are at high risk of losing control and when that happens we have to be extremely cautious because the minute that one or more of us loses control nothing and no one is safe."
"What exactly are you going to do?"
"We're going to leave for a cave that's high up in the mountains and in the evening before moon rise we intend to seal ourselves in that cave until morning."
"Will you return when the full moon phase ends?"
"Jellal when this is all over what do you plan to do?"
"I don't know."
"Once we destroy the mirror and the curse is broken you'll be able to live among people again."
"Yes but I don't know where I'll go. My parents are dead, I have no family. I have no one."
"That's not true. You have me and Reverend Makarov and my grandmother."
"Your grandmother doesn't like me."
"I still think that Granny likes you but she doesn't want me to be close to you."
"She's right. I'm nothing but trouble you know?"
"Well so am I."
"You're not like me Erza. You're loved by someone who's still alive. You can still have a life."
"So can you."
"How can I? I have no job, no means of providing for myself or anyone else."
"I could help you. You could live with me and Granny. We could move to Fiore where you could get a job as a blacksmith."
"Live with you? Are you serious?"
"Yes. I want to help you Jellal, I care about you."
"You can't spend the rest of your life helping me."
"Why not? Why won't you let me help you? Why do you keep trying to push me away like this?"
"Because it's for your own good! I'm wrong for you!"
"I don't care! I lost you once! I'm not losing you again!"
Jellal became silent then looked away from her.
"I have to go."
He started to walk away.
"Wait! Don't go yet!" She said.
"I need to gather my pack together so we can begin our journey toward the mountain."
"Come back here! I'm not done talking to you!"
She went after him, he started running, she ran also to catch up with him. They both went down a steep hill. Erza slipped and started to fall, Jellal caught her but he ended up slipping too and they both went tumbling down the hill. When they finally landed he was on top of her. After a moment of silence Jellal said.
"Funny. This is like that time when we were children and we made a bet to who would get to your grandmother's house first. Do you remember that?"
"Yes. I remember. I chose to follow the path while you took a short cut through the woods. It ended up being a tie."
"I would have gotten there first but when you saw that I was almost there you starting running as fast as you could but you tripped and fell on top of me and we both went down a hill like this one."
"We both had such nasty scrapes and bruises on our arms and legs. Granny was so upset when she saw how dirty and scratched up I was."
"Yeah and she blamed me. I'll never forget the look on her face, she was as red as your shawl. She told me to go away and if I ever went near your house again she would beat me with a switch."
"Granny shouldn't have been so harsh on you."
"I think she had every right to be because back then I really wanted to steal a kiss from you."
Erza blushed and she found herself becoming stunned while taking in his physique, his strong arms, his handsome face, his serious eyes, it was almost overwhelming.
"What big arms you have." She said placing her hand on his right arm.
"All the better to hold you with." He said moving his arms around her waist to lift her toward him.
"What big eyes you have." She said as her brown eyes met his green ones.
"All the better to see you with." He replied.
"What...What big...Teeth you have."
"All the better to kiss you with."
He brushed some of her scarlet hair from her face and brought her face closer to his. Her heart was pounding as was his. She couldn't breathe, she couldn't think, she could only just lie there as he held her and watch him grow closer and closer until at last their lips joined as one. It was her first kiss, she had always been curious about what it would feel like to be kissed by a young man. Her grandmother had always warned her about men and kissing them and she had always been cautious about both subjects but she never dreamed that either would be so wonderful. All too soon his lips broke away from hers. Looking up she saw that his face had embarrassment and instant regret written all over his face.
"I...I...I'm so sorry. I...I don't know what came over me. I-"
But she didn't give him a chance to finish because she immediately grabbed him by his shirt collar and pulled him into another kiss which surprised him at first but then he responded running his fingers through her hair as they kissed. For so many years he had longed to hold Erza and kiss her like this. It was driving his instincts crazy and if he hadn't of developed such a strong will over the past ten years he might have given into his desires and decided to take Erza right then and there.
But he didn't. Instead he just resisted his urges and enjoyed just kissing her. When they broke away for the second time they were both out of breath and flustered.
"Have you been eating berries?" He asked her when he caught his breath.
"Yes." She answered. "Why do you ask?"
"Because your lips are very sweet tasting."
Erza's face was burning hot and red as her fingers went to touch her lips. She wasn't sure what to think. She had never felt like this before.
"What would your grandmother say if she knew about this?" He chuckled.
Erza only smiled while trying to hide her blush.
The next day Jellal and his pack left for the mountains while Lucy, Erza, and the fairies and dwarfs decided to go look for Natsu. They suspected that Minerva was involved with that chimera and since Juvia was her prime target they insisted that she stay behind at the cottage with Elfman looking after her.
"Elfman you pig!" She scolded. "You ate all of my buns! I was going to serve them tonight with dinner."
"Sorry." He said in a voice that sounded like an innocent child.
"Well thanks to you I'll have to make more from scratch." She went to open the cupboard. "Oh dear I'm out of flour."
"I can go to the village and buy you so more."
"It's the least I could do since I ate all the buns."
"Thank you Elfman."
"You're welcome and by the way you're a great cook. I haven't eaten food that good since my sister's cooking."
"I didn't know you had a sister."
"I had two sisters. When we were kids, my parents were always working in the fields so my oldest sister Mirajane would cook breakfast and lunch for me and my younger sister Lisanna. She would also get us dressed, comb our hair, make sure we got all our chores done, and she home schooled us since we couldn't afford to go to school."
"She sounds like a second mother."
"What happened to her and your other sister?"
Elfman stiffened before answering.
"When we were still kids something terrible happened... Something that resulted in our parents getting killed and Mirajane running away. Lisanna and I had to take care of each other after that and when we became adults we split up and decided to look for her. We meet up every few weeks to talk about how things have been going and if we've found her yet. So far we've found no trace of her."
"I'm so sorry. Why did your sister run away?"
"I'd rather not talk about it. Let's just say she blames herself for what happened to our parents and she thought that we would hate her for it. But that's not true at all and if we find her the first thing we're going to do is tell her that it wasn't her fault and that we love her and miss her."
"I hope you find her."
"Not nearly as much as Lisanna and I hope. But I don't want to talk about anymore sad things today. I...I think I'll go get that flour now."
"Do you want to come with me?"
"I would but there's so much I have to do. Sweep the floors, do the laundry, wash the dishes, dust the furniture."
"Okay then but while I'm gone don't let anyone in the house and don't take anything from anyone."
"I'm going to lock the door so you should be safe as long as you don't let anybody in."
"Don't worry I'll be careful."
Elfman then pulled out the house key and locked the door. He then started to make his way to the Magnolia village. He was halfway there when he ran into an old peddler woman. She was dressed in raggedy, old clothing and looked like that she had one foot in the grave. In her hand she carried a basket that was filled with laces, ribbons, combs, and other pretty things that young women wore.
"Excuse me ma'am." He said after bumping into her.
"It's quite alright young man." She said. "Pardon me good sir but I've been walking for sometime and I'm so tired. Do you have a house nearby where I could stop and rest?"
"I do but I can't allow you to stay in my house."
"But it would only be for a moment."
"I understand that but you see there's someone alone at my house and I don't want anything to happen to them."
"But I'm just a poor old farmer's wife. I'd never hurt anyone."
"I can see that you're not that much of a threat but I can't take that risk, besides the door is locked and she wouldn't let you in. I told her not to let any strangers in the house but I'm on my way to the Magnolia village, why don't I escort you to a nearby inn? I'll pay for your room."
"Well aren't you a sweet boy." The old woman then snatched the key off of Elfman's belt and before he could stop her she raised her hand up, pointed her finger at him, and turned him to stone. "But I think I would prefer to stay a cozy little cottage instead of some inn. Thank you for the keys."
Then the old woman hobbled down the trail to where the cottage was. Juvia was in the middle of sweeping the floors when she heard a knock at the door.
"Who is it?" Juvia called without opening the door.
"I'm an old farmer's wife who's been walking for miles and my feet are so sore. May I come in and rest?" A voice croned on the other side.
"I know this must sound very cruel of me but I've been instructed not to let anyone in. I'm sorry."
Just then she heard the sound of the lock clicking and the door was opened by the old woman. Juvia was startled by her hideous appearance.
"Forgive me for startling you my dear." She said.
"I told you that I'm not supposed to let anyone in."
"Well you didn't did you? I let myself in. You see I ran into your little friend earlier and he said that I could rest here if I wanted to, he even gave me the key."
Seeing the key in her bony, wrinkled, old hand, Juvia thought that if Elfman gave this woman permission to rest in their house then there was no harm in letting her inside.
"Alright then come inside and sit down, I'll get you some water."
The crone sat in a chair while Juvia fixed her cup of cold water and served it to her.
"Thank you my pet." She said before taking a few sips from her cup. "I do apologise for just barging in but my poor old feet hurt so much from walking, if I didn't sit down soon I was sure that I would collapse."
"No I should be the one apologizing. It was awful of me to not let you in. I'm sorry."
"That's quite alright, one must always be wary of strangers. Even old ones such as myself."
"Still how much harm could you do?"
"More than you suspect dearie." She mumbled to herself quietly.
"So what brings you to the forest?"
"Oh my husband has been having terrible luck with our farm so I thought that I could help him out by selling pretty things. Would you like to buy something? A pretty little ornament to wear on your dress perhaps? I have lovely belts, dainty laces, and pretty ribbons. Or maybe you would prefer to wear a comb in your beautiful hair. I have ivory combs, silver combs, and golden combs. Take a look."
The old lady opened her basket, allowing Juvia to see all the pretty wears and combs inside.
"Oh they're all beautiful but I'm afraid I don't have any money. I gave all of it to my friend."
"What a pity but since you're such a beautiful and sweet girl I'm going to give you a nice little present."
She then pulled an apple from the basket. It was the most unusual apple that Juvia had ever seen. Half of it was snow white and the other half of it was blood red. It was a pretty apple and it looked extremely ripe too.
"My it looks wonderful." She said.
"It's the prize of our crops." The old peddler woman said.
"Then maybe I shouldn't take it. After all you said that you weren't having much luck on your farm."
"Oh believe me my dear there's plenty more where that came from. Besides I wouldn't feel right about accepting your kindness without giving you some kind of reward."
"I thank you for your generous offer but I can't accept anything from anyone. I was told not to."
"But what harm is there in a little apple? But here, why don't we share it." She took out a knife and cut the apple in two. She handed the red half to Juvia and bit into the white half. "Mmmm... It's delicious. Go on give it a taste."
Seeing that nothing happened to the old woman Juvia took a bite of the red half of the apple. That little bite had just passed through her lips when suddenly she found herself unable to breathe. She felt cold and dizzy, her hand went to her throat, she started coughing and gasping for breath. The old hag grinned wickedly as she watched Juvia struggle in vain to breathe. At last she fell to the floor, her eyes closed, and she breathed her last breath. The hag cackled in her wretched voice before transforming back into the beautiful Minerva.
"Blue as rain, blush as rose, and white as snow." She laughed. "You are dead at last and fair no more!"
Back at her dudgeon Gray suddenly felt a horrible pain inside of his heart.
"Ahhh!" He shouted clutching his chest.
"What's wrong with you?" Natsu asked him.
"I...I don't know." He said. He heard the sound of Minerva laughing and saw a vision of Juvia choking for air before falling down dead.
"Oh no...Oh no...No. No, no, no, no, no! No! No! No!" He kept shouting in horror.
"What is it? What's the matter?" Natsu asked him again in confusion.
Gray didn't respond he only started punching the bars of the cell door and trying to pry them open like mad.
"You witch!" He shouted. "What did you do to her?! What did you do?!"
After a whole day of unsuccessful searching Lucy and her friends decided to head back to the cottage. She was very disappointed and melancholic that they had failed to find Natsu and she was beginning to fear that she had lost him forever.
"You alright?" Erza asked noticing Lucy's discomfort.
"Don't worry Lucy we'll find him. We just have to keep looking."
"But what if we never find him? Or what if by the time we do find him it's too late?"
"Now don't talk like that. You have to keep looking and have hope. You'll never get anywhere if you give up."
"I don't know how much hope I can hold on to. After my parents died, I found it harder and harder to remain hopeful with each passing day. I had promised my mother that I would always have faith no matter what but when you've lived a life like mine, how can you still have faith?"
"I can't answer that but you're not the only person who has trouble with faith. I myself find it hard to do so but my Granny always said that if you don't have hope then you've pretty much given up on living. Hope and faith is what gets us through the toughest time so don't let either of them go Lucy."
"Okay...Thank you Erza."
"Hey take a look at this!" They heard Romeo call.
They followed his voice to find him pointing toward a statue.
"It looks just like Elfman!" He pointed out.
"Wow..." Gajeel said examing it skeptically. "It's got every detail on tact. It even has the birthmark in the right place. Now that's spooky."
"Hang on a second." Evergreen flew over to the statue and placed her ear on it's stone chest. Three seconds later she jumped back in horror. "Oh my God!"
"What? What is it?" Gajeel asked.
"This isn't just some statue of Elfman! It is Elfman!"
"What?!" Gajeel and Romeo gasped in confusion.
"I heard his heart beat! He's alive! And he's been turned to stone!"
"No way!" Gajeel said. He gave Elfman's head a little knock. "Elfman? Is that really you?"
"He can't talk or move." Evergreen said.
"Poor Elfman." Romeo said. "Can any of you fairies change him back?"
"No this was a spell cast by dark magic and fairy magic isn't strong enough to over come it. He'll remain this way until the source of the magic used to cast this spell is destroyed."
"Wait a minute! You said dark magic did this to him right?!" Gajeel cried in realization.
"And the old witch Minerva is the only with access to dark magic as of now so if she's done this to Elfman then that means..."
"Juvia!" Levy gasped. "We have to get back right away!"
The group hurried back to the cottage as fast as they could but it was a futile effort. Once they arrived they found Juvia lying on the floor with no breath or pulse coming from her body.
"Oh no." Lucy gasped in a whisper of horror.
"Lucy take the fairies and get help!" Erza said.
Lucy and the fairies did as they were told while Gajeel, Romeo, and Erza carefully lifted up Juvia's body and tried to revive her. Gajeel gently shook her, Erza gave her face a few soft slaps, they washed her face and undid the laces on her dress, they called out her name.
"Juvia wake up!" Romeo pleaded.
"Juvia can you hear me honey? Say something!" Erza called.
"Come on sweetie don't do this to me! Don't leave us!" Gajeel cried out desperately.
But she would not respond. Soon Lucy and the fairies returned with Reverend Makarov. He tried to revive Juvia the best he could. He used smelling salts, holy water, and a special medicines but none of them worked so the old priest was forced to declare her dead. They mourned her for three days and during those three days it rained hard.
All too soon the time came to lay the maiden to rest. But she was so beautiful even in death that they couldn't bring themselves to bury her in the dark earth. So with help from the fairies, Gajeel and Romeo built a coffin made of ice and Erza and Lucy decorated it with three kinds of flowers. Blue delphiniums, pink roses, and white lillies. They dressed her in her mother's gown, laid her in the coffin, and placed it in a part of the forest where the fairies made it snow always and just lying below the coffin was a gold plack that read that she was the daughter of a king.
Once they had finished setting up her final resting place they began to say their own goodbyes to her.
"You were my best friend Juvia." Lucy sobbed. "And you were the first person to show me compassion after my parents died. I'll never forget that."
She placed her book Utopia next to the coffin and inside that book was the handkerchief that she had given Juvia for her birthday.
"We're sorry that we couldn't protect you princess." Romeo whimpered while trying to stop his tears. "We're so sorry."
"Juvia you were a kind and generous woman who had never sought to harm another yet here you lie." Erza wept. "I swear that I will get justic for you."
"Oh beautiful Princess of Fiore may there be peace on your head and in your heart." Levy said.
They all gazed upon the coffin with tear filled eyes. All except Gajeel who only stood with a stiff face. However when everyone left he stayed behind for just a moment longer and once he was sure that he was alone he broke down in tears. He didn't cry or whimper or sob he just let tears fall silently down his only witness to this was Levy who gently grasped her lover's shoulder.
"It's not fair Levy." He told her. "She had never hurt anybody in her life and now..."
"I know. I know."
At last they left her and the only ones who remained were three birds who had come to weep for her. An owl, a raven, and a dove.
"Mirror, mirror on the wall." Minerva asked her mirror a few days later. "Who is the fairest of them all?"
"Thou, Queen art the fairest in all the land." The mirror answered.
"Finally!" She said. "Now that I have reclaimed the title that it is rightfully mine I can focus on phase two of my plan."
She then went to her dudgeon with the intention of fetching Prince Natsu. She had just stepped into the dudgeon when suddenly Gray's hands lunged through the bars of his cell and sized her by the throat. He tried to strangle her but she quickly called for the guards who managed to pry her from him.
"You witch! You monster! You demon!"
"My aren't we upset." Minerva said after catching her breath. "Tell me huntsman what did it feel like to watch the only woman you ever loved die? How did it feel to watch her struggle for her last breath before she became stone, cold, frozen dead?"
"I'll kill you! I'll kill you! So help me God I'll kill you!" He wanted so badly to break out of his cell and strangle the wicked woman with his bear hands or stab her with his knife or cut her head off with his axe. Either way he wanted her dead.
"Don't worry huntsman, you'll join your lady love soon enough." Minerva said with a smug grin before turning to her men. "I want him executed by morning."
"Yes your majesty." One of the guards said.
"Good now then fetch the prince and prepare him for dinner with me tonight. If all goes well you may have yourselves a new king."
"Yes your majesty." The guard repeated.
She took one last look at Gray and said.
"If you like I could have your body buried in her grave."
Gray just spat in her eye causing her to scream and respond by smacking him hard but the burning sensation of her hand didn't hurt him nearly as much as the pain in his heart. Minerva was right, Gray had never known pain like this. Never. And it was the most horrible pain that he had ever felt in his entire life.
Minerva was feeling very proud of herself. She had successfully rid herself of her pesky stepdaughter and was now going to make Prince Natsu her husband. She sat up in her room applying make up, dressing into her most elegant gown, and putting on her finest jewels. Once she was ready she slipped the love potion into a goblet which she was planning to serve to Natsu.
"Everything is finally coming together." She said. "One sip of this and the prince will be mine forever."
"Be warned my queen all may not be what it seems." The mirror spoke.
"What do you mean?"
"The potion and poison can wound anyone,
But there is a way both can be undone."
"Are you saying that there is a way for the spells and potions I used from that book to be broken? How? What way?"
"A force that originates from the heavens above,
This great power is called true love."
"By a kiss from one who loves with their whole their heart and soul,
Then good shall take it's toll, t he spell will break,
Natsu will be free, and Juvia will wake."
"A kiss from their true love? No fear of that. As we speak Juvia is being buried alive and Natsu won't even remember his true love when I'm done with him."
Once she was finished she sent for the guards to fetch Natsu.
"The queen requests your presence." The guard told Natsu.
He and Gray looked at each other. Now was the time to put their plan into action. As soon as the door to Natsu's cell was opened Natsu began to attack the guards who tried to restrain him and put him in shackles. He jerked the keys out of the guard's hand and tossed it to Gray who unlocked himself. Both men were soon fighting back against the guards. After knocking out all four of them they attempted to make their escape from the castle.
Unfortunately Minerva had seen them escaped and she quickly summoned more guards to recapture them. Natsu and Gray were both strong young men with great fighting skills but even they didn't stand a chance against twenty men.
"There's too many of them!" Gray said.
"You need to get out of here!" Natsu told him.
"What about you?"
"She wants to marry me so she needs me alive but you'll hang if you get caught. She wants you dead! I'll hold them off for as long as I can but you need to go now!"
"Alright but I'll come back with help!"
Natsu grabbed a nearby battering ram and threw it at the guards knocking a lot of them down and while he fought the the ones who remained standing Gray climbed up a rope and escaped out the window. He then nabbed a horse from the stables and rode off toward the forest. The royal archers shot arrows at him but he managed to get away. Poor Natsu wasn't so lucky and ended up getting recaptured and brought to Minerva's bedchamber.
"Leave us." She told her guards.
They did as she was told and the two were left alone.
"Don't bother trying to escape." She told him before snapping her fingers. Suddenly Natsu found himself in chains.
"What are you going to do to me?" He asked her.
"Nothing. I just want to serve you a drink."
She held up the goblet.
"Like hell I'm drinking anything you give me!" He said.
She approached him with the goblet ready. Natsu quickly closed his mouth and turned away. Unfortunately Minerva's response was to hold his nose closed.
"You have to breathe sometime."
Natsu held his breath for as long as he could while trying desperately to break free from Minerva's grip. He had strong lungs but they weren't strong enough to hold out forever. All too soon he opened his mouth to take a breath and Minerva shoved the goblet to his lips forcing every last drop down his throat.
With Juvia presumed killed by her stepmother the fairies realized that it would only be a matter of time before the evil spirit of the mirror was released. They quickly sent out an emergency call to every fairy in Fiore informing them of the terrible news.
"All the fairies should be here within a few days." Levy told them.
"Will all the fairies together be able to help?" Lucy asked.
"I hope so. I really hope so because if not then we're all done for."
"Hey I've got some news." Gajeel said coming back from scouting the area.
"What is it?" Erza asked.
"I just heard some traveling minstrels in the forest say that the queen is getting married."
"Again? To who?" Lucy asked.
As soon as those words were spoken Lucy felt her heart stop and her blood run cold.
"Wha...What?" She said in a whisper.
"But I thought he was dragged off by some monster." Romeo said.
"Yeah but apparently the queen had her men save him from the chimera and he was so grateful to her that he's decided to make her his wife."
"That's... That's not true." Lucy said trembling. "That can't be true."
"I know what I heard. They're to be married by tomorrow evening."
Lucy couldn't breathe. Her world seemed to be crumbling around her. She wanted to scream from the top of her lungs that it wasn't true. That it was all just some horrible lie. Unfortunately she found herself to do so. Tears formed in her eyes and she ran away.
"What's the matter with her?" Gajeel asked confused.
"She loves him you idiot." Levy said.
"It was so obvious."
"Could you really not tell?" Erza asked.
Gajeel only shrugged. Levy and Erza went after her. They found her sitting by the edge of a lake weeping.
"Lucy I'm sure it's not what you think." Levy said.
"I knew it." She sobbed. "I knew it all along. I knew that there was no way he could ever truly love me. I knew it and yet I pet myself believe him when he said that he loved me. I'm such a fool!"
"Don't say such things Lucy." Erza said.
"He said that he loved me! He said that he would love no other! But he lied! He lied!"
"Lucy maybe those minstrels were wrong or maybe Gajeel misheard. I refuse to believe that Natsu would be so cruel."
"I saw the way he looked at you at the festival." Levy said. "That was love. He loves you."
"No he doesn't!" She snapped. "If he did then he wouldn't be marrying my aunt! He thinks I'm nothing!"
"That's not true!" Erza said.
"Yes it is!"
"You know it isn't!"
"I can't take it anymore! The lies! The false hope! It's just too much! My parents and my best friend are dead and the man I love is marrying the woman who made my life hell! I have nothing! And I have no one!"
"Lucy." Levy moved to comfort her but Lucy only flinched away.
"Just leave me alone! Please! I just want to be alone!"
The two looked at Lucy with compassion and understanding. They wanted to stay and comfort her but they abided by her wishes and left her alone. Alone at last, Lucy could only cry.
"I'm sorry Mother." She wept. "I'm sorry Father! I know you wanted me to always be good and have faith but I can't do it anymore! I just can't! How can I when all the people I love have been taken from me? I'm sorry but I have to break my promise to you! I'm sorry! I'm so, so sorry!"
And she continued to cry all through the night.
P.S check out my AU Story Idea.
Gray rode his horse through the forest and didn't stop until at last he reached the dwarves's cottage. Once he arrived he got off his horse and burst into the house, desperately searching for Juvia.
"Juvia! Juvia! Are you here?!" He called. "Juvia answer me please!"
After the vision he had seen, he was scared out of his mind that something terrible had happened to her. During the whole horse ride there and as he searched the house, he hoped and prayed from the bottom of his heart that she was alright.
"Gray?" He looked to see Erza standing in the doorway.
"Erza where's Juvia? Is she alright? Is she hurt?"
"Oh Gray." She sighed. "You don't know do you?"
"Know what? What's happened?"
Erza didn't answer for what seemed to be forever and he could tell by the sad hurt in her eyes what her answer would be however part of him still hoped that he could be wrong. God he hoped that he was wrong.
"Gray she's... She's dead. We don't know what happened, we just came back and found her lying on the floor. She wasn't breathing and she didn't have a pulse, she was gone. I'm so sorry."
Gray couldn't breathe, he felt his heart stop, he thought that he was going to drop down dead right then and there.
"Where is she?" He asked in a voice that was barely above a whisper.
"She's in a coffin far North from here in a place where it will always snow."
"I want to see her."
"I don't think you should-"
"I wanna see her damnit!" He snapped.
"Alright." She complied.
Erza went to find the dwarves and the fairies and she told them that Gray had returned and that he wanted to see Juvia.
"He's not getting anywhere near her!" Gajeel replied angrily when he heard this.
"Now Gajeel that's not fair." Levy said. "We all were allowed to say our goodbyes to her, why shouldn't he be allowed?"
"The queen hired him to kill her!"
"But he didn't! And he was willing to endure torture for the rest of his life if it meant she would live! He loved her just as much as we all did!"
"Probably even more so." Erza added.
"And she loved him! Don't forget that Gajeel! Don't deny him closure!"
Gajeel growled gruffly and went silent. He was still angry at Gray for lying and decieving them all this time. But he couldn't deny that Gray did spare her life and that was a huge risk he was taking. Nor could he deny how much Juvia had loved him.
"Fine but I'll take him up there."
"This wouldn't be some ploy that would allow you to kill him without witnesses would it?" Erza asked suspiciously.
"Tempting offer but no. Trust me he'll come back alive, he may have a black eye and a bleeding nose but he'll come back alive."
Gajeel and Gray began their journey but at the last minute, before they left, Gray remembered that he needed to tell Lucy something important.
"Hey where's Lucy?" Gray asked Wendy.
"She wanted to be alone today. I'm afraid you'll have to wait til you get back to tell her anything because she refuses to listen to anyone."
"Well when she does feel like talking tell her and the others this, tell them that Natsu is still alive and that he's being held prisoner by the queen."
"Well we all know that he's alive but he's not being held prisoner. Last we heard he was getting married to Queen Minerva."
"That's ridiculous. We were locked up in the same dudgeon and all Natsu could talk about was how horrible Minerva was and how much he loved Lucy."
"Are you sure?"
"Believe me I'm sure. If he is marrying that witch then it must be because she slipped him that love potion she was talking about."
"A love potion?" Levy said upon hearing the conversation. "What love potion?"
"Apparently she used one to make King Hector marry her and if I'm not mistaken she's used it on Natsu too."
"If that's true then this changes things." Levy said. "Wendy we must find Lucy and tell her this immediately. We must also make plans to rescue the prince. Come on."
"Good luck on your journey Gray." Wendy told him before following after Levy.
"Shouldn't we stay and help them?" Gajeel suggested.
"Don't worry if Erza is with them on this then they don't need us."
"If you say so."
And off they went. Levy and Wendy went to find Lucy and they told her everything that Gray had told them.
"Are sure that he was telling the truth?" Lucy asked them.
"We fairies have the ability to sense if someone is being dishonest and we didn't sense that Gray was lying at all." Levy said.
"Oh no. Poor Natsu. We have to save him."
"And we will. I've already sent for help from the other fairies and as we speak Erza is summoning her friends of the cursed race."
Every fairy in Fiore along with Jellal and his pack had arrived to offer their assistance. Not just in freeing the prince but also with destroying the mirror. True they did not have the secret weapon but now they couldn't waist time searching for it anymore. Now that the darkness in the queen's heart had grown so much that spirit in the mirror would now be able to takeover her they had to act now. First they would rescue the prince then they would storm the castle and seek out the mirror.
One of the fairies who had come to help was Lisanna, Mirajane's younger sister and when she saw her older sister she thought her heart would burst with joy.
Mirajane ran as soon as she heard her sister's voice call out her name.
"Wait!" Lisanna was determined not to let her sister get away so she flew after her. "Mirajane stop! Why are you running away from me?"
"Stay away from me Lisanna!" She told her.
But Lisanna was a fairy with magical wings so she was able to keep up with Mirajane and using a special fairy trap she was able to catch her in a net. Mirajane tried to free herself but the fairy magic kept her from cutting through the net.
"Oh Mirajane I can't believe it's really you. But where have you been? Elfman and I have been looking for you for years! Do you have any idea how worried we were?"
"You have to let me go Lisanna!"
"No! Why did you run away?"
"You know very well why I ran away! Because I'm a monster! I killed our parents! I made you and Elfman orphans!"
"Mira that wasn't your fault!"
"Yes it was! I killed them! I tore them to pieces and I need to get away from here! I need to get away from you before you end up like them!"
"Mira please! Elfman and I love you! We never once blamed you for what happened to mother and father! You couldn't control yourself!"
"How can you still love me?"
"You're my sister! I love you no matter what."
"But I'm dangerous Lisanna!"
"I don't care! We're family and you don't abandon family no matter what!"
Mirajane was amazed by Lisanna's words. Despite everything she still loved Mirajane and had been looking for her for all these years even though they knew that she was a wolf and that she had killed their parents. When Lisanna finally let Mirajane out of the trap, she threw her arms around her younger sister and started crying.
"I'm sorry." She sobbed. "I'm so sorry!"
"It's okay Mira, we're together again. We're a family again."
"Speaking of which where's Elfman?"
"He lives with the dwarves now. Let's go see him, when he sees you he'll be so happy."
They went to the cottage, both eager to see their brother but when they arrived and asked Romeo to see him they were horrified by what they saw. Elfman was now a statue.
"How did this happen?!" Mirajane asked in horror.
"It was the work of that sorceress Minerva." Romeo told them. "She had come to kill Juvia, Elfman was in the way so she turned him to stone."
"Oh big brother El no!" Lisanna cried throwing her arms around his stone neck.
"How could she do this to him?" Mirajane wept doing the same thing. "Elfman would never harm anyone! Oh my poor little brother! What has she done to you?!"
Romeo watched them cry and felt sympathy for them. The queen had taken away the lives of the people they all loved. Natsu, Juvia, Elfman, all innocent people who the queen had harmed and for no good reason. She truly was a monster and he hoped that his friends would be able to make her pay for all the hurt she had caused.
It took them a day and a half but eventually Gray and Gajeel made it to where Juvia had been left. There she was lying in a coffin of ice, all in white with flowers in her hair and snow flakes dropping on to the lid of the coffin. Gray felt his entire body tremble when he saw her. He didn't want to believe that she was dead but he was looking at her lifeless body right in front of him so he had no choice but to believe it.
"I'll give you a moment alone." Gajeel said before walking off.
Once he was alone Gray slowly made his way toward the coffin.
"So here you are." He said trying so hard to keep the tears forming in his eyes from falling. "You know when they told me that they decided to put you on display instead of burying you I thought that was pretty creepy but now that I'm seeing you like this I can understand why. You don't look dead at all. You look like you're just sleeping."
He was right. She didn't look dead at all. Her face wasn't rotten, her body was no where near decay. Her fair skin was still so radiant and her cheeks were still rosy.
"Oh God why did I leave you alone?!" He cried finally letting his tears fall. He laid his head on the lid of the coffin and did something he hadn't of done since he was eight years old. He cried. The pain in his heart was just too much for him. He couldn't hold his sadness in any longer. He would never forgive himself for leaving her. Never. He convinced himself that if only he hadn't of left her then she would be okay. He should have taken her somewhere far away where Minerva would never find her or be able to hurt her. But he didn't and now she was gone.
The cold of the ice was beginning to make his head hurt so he lifted his head up but that allowed him to get a glimpse of something. He thought that he had seen Juvia's chest rise. Did she just take a breath? Could she still be alive? He had an idea. He knew it was a long shot and it was very unlikely that it would work but he had to try. Picking up his axe he began to cut through the ice and pry open the coffin. He then lifted her body into his arms and began to gently shake her.
"Breathe!" He shouted desperately. "Breathe! Breathe damn it! Breathe!"
But she didn't respond.
"You're going to be alright! You have to be! Because I came for you! Come on Juvia! I know you can hear me! You don't have to speak or move! Just take a breath!" He brought her head to his chest and rocked, his lips brushed against her forehead. "Please! I love you! I have always loved you! So please! I'm begging from the bottom of my heart! Please come back to me!"
He brushed her hair aside from her face. She was so beautiful. He wondered how any woman on this face of the Earth could be so beautiful. It seemed unreal. Not sure what else to do, he leaned down and gently pressed his lips against hers in a soft kiss. He had never kissed a woman before and he always wondered what it would feel like. Now he knew and he may never feel it again. Then all too soon his lips released their hold on hers.
More tears fell from his eyes as he came to the conclusion that he was only giving himself false hope and that Juvia was lost to him forever. Suddenly she started coughing and coughing and coughing until at last a hunk of apple came out of her mouth and she took a deep breath followed by a few shorter breaths. Then she opened her eyes.
"Where am I?" She asked.
"You're here with me." Gray said with relief in his voice.
As soon as she heard him she looked in the direction of where his voice came from and when she saw his smiling face she threw her arms around his neck, crying tears of relief.
"I thought that I would never see you again." She wept. "I thought that my stepmother had tortured you to death."
"It's alright now Juvia." He said hugging her waist and pulling her closer to him. "I'll never leave you alone again and I won't ever let that witch hurt you again either. I promise."
"Alright huntsman you've had your moment." They heard Gajeel say as he walked back. "Now let's go before-"
But he couldn't finish his sentence when he saw them. There was Juvia, alive and in Gray's arms.
"Hello Gajeel." She said smiling at him. "Did you miss me?"
At first he didn't know how to respond. He could only stand there in disbelief. He wasn't sure whether or not he was actually seeing Juvia alive or if his grief over her death had finally driven him mad. Then after another moment of silent shock, he ran and embraced the two of them.
"Of course I missed you!" He said crying tears of joy.
After hugging each other for what seemed like forever they decided to go back and tell everyone the wonderful news. Gray lifted Juvia into a bridal carry then placed her on his horse, the three of them then rode off. During the trip Gajeel and Gray explained all the prior events that had happened before she woke up.
"Oh poor Elfman." She said when she heard about him being turned to stone. "And Natsu! Oh how awful! But my stepmother can't really force him to marry her can she?"
"She did it to your father." Gray said.
"According to her your father refused to love any woman except your mother so she slipped him a love potion."
"I can't believe it. But Father wanted to get remarried. Before my mother died she made him promise to remarry."
"He might have promised that he would marry another woman after she died but he never promised that he would love another woman after she died." Gajeel said. "I remember your mother, I was a teenager when she died and from what I remember your father loved her so much that it seemed impossible that he could love anyone like he loved her. It's doubtful that the man would have even considered remarriage if his first wife hadn't made him promise to."
"Oh Father." Juvia sighed.
"What I don't get is why she wanted King Hector to get re married?" Gray said.
"Father was always busy trying to make peace with Alvarez and Mother was going to leave this world after bringing me into it." Juvia said. "She was afraid that I would be alone and she didn't want me to grow up without a mother's love so before died she begged my father to marry again."
"Yes. I don't remember my mother but I know that she loved me and that she never wanted me or my father to be alone." Juvia wiped a tear from her eye. "So changing the subject, I was wondering did I really die?"
"Well sort of." Gajeel said. "We thought you were dead. You weren't moving and you weren't breathing. Though I wonder how exactly did you come back to life?"
"I...I don't know. The last thing I remember was choking on that apple then everything went dark. Gray how did you wake me up?"
"Oh...Well." His face was bright red and burning hot. "Well I...I...I shook you and you coughed it up."
"That's all?" Gajeel asked suspiciously.
"Then why are you so red?"
"What are you talking about?"
"Your face. When we asked you how you woke her up your face turned as red as an apple."
"My...My face isn't red."
"Yes it is."
"And it's hot too." Juvia said putting her hand to his forehead. "Gray are you running a fever?"
Gray looked away from her and put his hand to his lips. What should he say? He couldn't tell them that he had kissed her. Gajeel would no doubt kill him and Juvia. Well he wasn't sure exactly how she would react but he had a feeling that it wouldn't be pleasant.
"Gray are you alright?" Juvia asked.
"I'm fine." He said tugging on his collar nervously. "Listen it's getting dark so we better hurry."
"We'll go a couple more miles then stop and camp for the night." Gajeel said.
"Agreed." Gray said.
The royal wedding was held at an alter that was outside of the palace. Lots of royal guests were in attendance and there stood Natsu, the groom looking dazed and confused with a foggy and clouded mist in his eyes. Like he wasn't even aware of what was happening right now. Lucy and her friends had managed to sneak in by disguising themselves as servants and guests.
"Alright now when Jellal gives the signal you and Levy grab the prince. Leave the rest to us." Erza whispered to Lucy.
"Okay." She responded.
While her friends were getting ready to put their plan into action Lucy crept over toward Natsu.
"Natsu." She called in a whisper to him to get his attention. "Natsu are you okay?"
He looked at her. Not a single trace of recognition in his eyes.
"Who are you?" He asked her.
"It's me Lucy."
"I don't know a Lucy."
"What are you talking about? We've known each other for weeks. I'm the woman you claim to be in love with."
"You must have me confused with someone else. The woman I love is Queen Minerva, that's why I'm marrying her."
"Natsu you don't love her, you only think you do because you're under a spell. I have to get you away from here." She grabbed his hand.
"Now wait a minute I'm not going anywhere with you. I don't even know you."
"Natsu please. You have to trust me."
"I can't trust you because I have no idea who the hell you are. Now leave me alone. It's my wedding day and if the queen catches me talking to another woman she might get the wrong idea."
He started to walk away from her.
"But Natsu wait!"
WHAM! Before he could go too far Erza hit him over the head with a silver tray, knocking him out.
"Alright he's unconscious now get him out of here while we handle the rest." Erza said.
"Wasn't that a bit extreme?" Lucy asked skeptically.
"Well he wasn't going to come willing, what else were we supposed to do?"
"Now get going."
At once Lucy and the fairies began to carry Natsu's body away. The royal guards tried to stop them but Jellal gave his pack the signal resulting in them changing into their wolf forms and attacking the guards while Erza helped fend them off.
Meanwhile in her chambers Minerva was in quite a mood. She was desperate, desperate to be married. So when the time came to get her ready she had a look of pure irritation.
"Tighter you fool!" She snapped at Cana who was cinching up her corset.
"I'm cinching it as tight as I can."
"Not tight enough for my taste."
"Your majesty you are aware that if I go any tighter you may end up suffocating to death?"
"I'll breathe when I'm married! Now tighter damn it!"
She made sure that she was wearing the most extravagant dress, the most rare and precious jewelry, and had her hair done up in the most elegant style. When she was finished she went to her private room and spent almost an hour admiring herself in her mirrors.
"I most be the most beautiful bride in all the world." She boasted. "Now time for me to get married."
She then glanced over at her magic mirror.
"Oh what the heck. Mirror, mirror on the wall who is the fairest of them all?"
"Thou queen is most fair here tis true,
But Juvia is a thousand times more fair than you." The mirror said.
"What?...WHAT?! LIAR!" She screeched. "She is dead! I killed her myself! How can she still be alive? Nothing could revive her from the poison I gave her!"
"Poison is strong, but love is stronger still,
The huntsman found her over the hill.
With love in his heart and one kiss,
He caused the spell to break and her to wake."
"Curse that huntsman! I should have disposed him when I had the chance!"
Little did she know that Sting and Cana were just outside the door of the room, hearing every word she and the mirror were saying.
"The princess is alive." Cana realized.
"And Minerva tried to kill her." Sting said. "What other treacherous things has she been doing."
"I don't know but I think we should inform the people of this."
Sting nodded at her suggested and they hurried off. Later after Minerva finished her hissy fit she decided to deal with Juvia and Gray later. She then called for her royal carriage which brought her to the alter. But when she arrived she found that everything was in shambles, a huge mess, and the royal guests trembling in fear.
"What the devil happened here?!" She cried.
"Wolves!" One man cowered. "Wolves every where! I had never seen anything like it! One minute they were just regular people and then they changed into vicious, ravenous wolves!"
"A scarlet haired woman who fought like a man took out anyone who opposed her!" A woman shivered.
"Your majesty is this how you run a kingdom?!" One man from the gentry asked angrily. "Last I heard, you said that you found a way to keep the wolves away from this part of the kingdom! Do you realize that we could have been killed?!"
"I think that you are all being just a little melodramatic." Minerva said.
"And I think that maybe you should be dismissed from the throne and that the princess should take your place."
"Well I'm sorry that you feel that way but the princess is dead."
"No she's not!" Sting shouted. "She's alive!"
"Shut your mouth Sting!" She ordered.
"I will not!" He defyed. "Princess Juvia is still alive and the queen tried to kill her!"
"We heard her talking about it!" Cana added.
"They're lying!" Minerva denied. "My stepdaughter is dead. She wondered into the forest and torn apart by wolves! She is dead just like her father! Now let us forget this matter and focus on the wedding! Where is the prince?"
"I'm afraid he's gone your majesty." A servant told her.
"Yes he was stolen."
"Five wolves, a woman in a red shawl, and a blonde maid."
"A blonde maid?" She seethed. "Did this blonde maid have doe brown eyes and extremely petite feet?"
"Yes your majesty."
"Lucy!" She hissed under her breath.
"Your majesty if we find out that you have indeed not only lied to us about the princess but also made an attempt on her life then you will be severely punished." The man from the gentry continued.
But Minerva didn't seem to hear him. She was too busy feeling all the rage and envy bubbling, sizzling, and burning inside of her. Lucy stole Natsu from her. Her niece stole her fiance just like her sister had stolen her fiance twenty years ago. She had finally reached her breaking point. Before anyone could stop her she got in her carriage and ordered to be brought back to the castle then stormed into her chambers. .
"LUCY!" She screamed. "She's just like her mother! Always stealing everything I love! Ruining my happiness! I hate her! I should've killed her when she was a child! I knew...I always knew that she was going to be trouble! Well now I'm going to kill her! I'm going to kill them all!"
In that moment the spirit in the mirror took hold of Minerva and began to enter her body. It was almost free, it just needed to help Minerva grant her desire to destroy Lucy then it's connection to the mirror would finally be broken. Minerva's body would then become the spirit's and it could unleash destruction on to the world just as it had done centuries ago.
Lucy and her friends had taken Natsu back to the cottage where they tied him to a chair and tried to break the spell that Minerva had cast over him.
"For the last time I don't know you people! Will you let me go already?! I have to get married!" Natsu demanded.
"Natsu you're under a spell." Erza said. "You don't love Minerva."
"Yes I do."
"No you don't! Levy can you help me out here?"
"Well there are various ways to break a spell." Levy said. "Sometimes water helps."
With that said they started throwing water in his face. When that failed they took him to Makarov who tried to use different medicines and herbs to break the spell but that didn't work. They tried everything. They made loud noises in his air, threw fairy dust on him, they even hit him in the face a couple of times.
"Snap out of it man!" Laxus said before punching him in the face.
"Um...Do you really think this will break the spell." Lucy said.
"I don't know but this kind of fun for me."
"Okay it's obvious we're getting no where with this so does anybody have any other bright ideas?" Erza asked.
"Maybe leeches would work." Loke said. "It did wonders for me when I had rabies."
"Leeches?!" Natsu shouted.
"We're not putting leeches on him." Lucy said. "Now we have to think of a better way to help him otherwise he'll-"
"Lucy! Erza! Levy! Come quick!" They heard Wendy shout.
"What is it?" Erza asked.
"It's Gray and Gajeel! They're back! And Juvia's with them!"
"What?!" Everyone said in disbelief.
"Yes! She's alive! Come see!"
Everyone ran out of the cottage to where Wendy was and they were shocked and amazed to find that the young fairy was telling the truth. There was Juvia alive and well riding horseback with Gray. The snow white maiden smiled and waved to her friends. The group which consisted of her friends immediately ran toward the horse to greet her, showering her with embraces of relief.
"Oh Juvia is it you? Really you?" Lucy asked as the two friends hugged.
"Yes it's me." Juvia assured her.
"But how?" Erza asked. "You were dead. At least we thought you were."
"I honestly don't know."
"True love's kiss." Levy realized.
"What?" Juvia said.
"The black magic used to poison you should have kept you in a death like state forever. There was nothing in this world that could have been strong enough to revive you. Nothing except a kiss from a man who loved you with his whole heart and soul." Levy explained.
"A kiss from a man saved me?"
"A kiss from a man who loved you." Makarov corrected. "True love is the most powerful magic in the world. There is nothing stronger than pure unselfish love."
"So if it was true love's kiss that saved her right?" Erza asked.
"So who kissed her?"
At once all eyes turned to Gajeel.
"Don't look at me." He said. "I didn't do it. I love Juvia but I didn't kiss her. All I did when I got there was leave Gray alone to say goodbye and...Ohhhh."
With that said everyone's gaze quickly switched on to Gray who's face had turned red all over. Juvia's cheeks were more pink than they ever were in her entire life. Her fingers then went to lightly touch her lips.
"Gray? Did you..." She said in a soft voice.
He remained silent for what seemed to be an eternity before he finally answered her.
"It was just a small kiss." He admitted in embarrassment.
"How romantic." Mirajane sighed.
Just then an idea went off in Levy's head.
"I can't believe I didn't think of this sooner." She said. "Lucy why don't you break the spell on Natsu by giving him true love's kiss?"
"What?" Lucy squeaked.
"Your the prince's one true love meaning your kiss should liberate him from the queen's potion."
"Are you sure that will work? And how do you know that I'm his true love?"
"Fairies know this kind of stuff. He loves you Lucy and I know that you love him. Can't hurt to try?"
"Can I think about this? Alone?"
They left Lucy by herself to think. After thinking it over for ten minutes she gulped nervously then entered the room where Natsu was being held.
"Please tell me that you're here to untie me." He told her.
"I will but I need you to do me a favor first."
"Anything! Just get me out of this!"
"Kiss you?! But I'm engaged to another woman!"
"Just give me one kiss and I promise I'll untie you."
"Why are you doing this to me? I don't know you."
"Yes you do. You know me very well actually."
"I've never seen you before in my life."
"Yes you did. You danced with me at the Queen's ball. You taught me how to bowl and you said that I was the prettiest girl in the world. You saved me from freezing to death and you helped me find my fairy godmother. But most of all you made fall in love with you."
Natsu looked at her like he didn't have the foggiest idea of what she was talking about then after thinking for a minute he said.
"Just one kiss?"
"Alright let's get this over with."
Natsu closed his eyes and reluctantly puckered his lips. Lucy took a deep breath, sat down next to Natsu, then closed her eyes.
"Please work." She begged in a whisper. "Please work."
At long last her lips met his in a simple kiss. Lucy poured all the love in her heart into that kiss. Hoping and praying that it would be enough to bring back the prince she loved. She wasn't sure if this one simple kiss was strong enough, in fact she was sure that it wouldn't work but she had to have faith. She had to try. That simple kiss soon turned passionate because when Lucy started to pull away, Natsu immediately responded. It was her very first kiss and it was everything that she had imagined it to be. When they finally parted she opened her eyes to find Natsu looking at her dazed and confused.
"Lucy? What's going on?"
"Welcome back your highness." She giggled.
"Where was I exactly?"
Lucy only laughed and laughed.
"Uh Lucy why am I tied up?"
"It's a long story. Here I'll untie you."
After she cut him loose she and the others explained to the young prince everything that had happened.
"Can you imagine this poor guy being married to the queen for the rest of his life?" Gajeel said.
"Me? Married to her?" Natsu said in shock. "I don't even like her."
"Well you almost married her." Gray said.
"Yeah they had the whole ceremony planned." Erza added.
"Oh gross. Thanks for saving me."
"Well I think this calls for a celebration." Romeo said. "We just got two friends back so let's break out the music and food."
"Now you're talking! I'm starving!" Natsu said.
Sure enough they entire group began to celebrate Natsu and Juvia's return. Though they were still very melancholic about what had happened to Elfman. But their hopes were lifted once Erza spoke of their plan to storm the castle and destroy the mirror once and for all. True they didn't have the weapon needed to such a thing but they were determined to at least try to destroy it on their own.
As they were all getting ready to rest for the big day a terrible voice screeched out.
"WHERE IS LUCY?!"
All eyes turned to the source of the voice and they were horrified by the figure that stood before her. She stood tall at a height that was almost unreal, her hair was whispy and it seemed to be moving on her own, her skin was scaly and green, her nose long and crooked, her nails long and sharp enough to be mistaken for knives, and her teeth were like a thousand needles. They had never seen a woman more frightening in her entire life.
"Who...or what are you?" Erza asked.
"I see you no longer recognize your queen peasant!"
"Stepmother?" Juvia said trembling.
"Minerva what have you done to yourself?" Lucy asked.
"Oh but it's not what I've done! It's what you've done you wretch! You did this to me!"
"What are you talking about? I've never done anything to you!"
"You have inflicted this curse upon me! You made me into this creature! But once I dispose of you all we be as it was before!"
"She's been taken over by the mirror!" Levy gasped in realization.
"Oh dear! What do we do?" Juvia asked.
"I sense that she's still connected to the mirror and that it's around here somewhere. If we find it and destroy it then it's power will be lost."
Erza pulled out two swords and stood bravely before the deranged sorceress.
"You all go look for that mirror and destroy it! I'll take care of her!" Erza said.
"We can't just leave you to fight her alone!" Natsu said.
"Yes you can! Don't worry I'll be fine! Now go!"
"But-" Lucy objected.
"I said go! Hurry!"
Lucy and her allies quickly fled off to search for the mirror. Erza faced her appointment and positioned herself to attack. Minerva let out a laugh that didn't even sound remotely human before lunging after her. Erza dodged her attacks and swiped her swords at her, managing to strike her skin in the process but she didn't bleed.
"Impressive." Minerva said. "You'll live to regret that but not for long!"
"Why are you doing this?" Erza asked. "Why must you hurt so many people? Why must you harbor such hatred?"
"It was Lucy who filled my heart with such hatred! It's her fault that I've become this hideous creature! Her fault and my sister's!"
"You couldn't be more wrong your majesty! There is only one person to blame for your misfortune and that's yourself! You have let jealousy, greed, and hatred run your life! And now it has made as ugly on the outside as you are on the inside!"
Minerva underestimated how strong and powerful Erza was. She fought like a lioness, never once wavering despite the numerous blows she suffered from her attacks. Minerva wondered how one woman could be so strong and determined without any magical powers.
As they fought Jellal and his pack quickly went to her aid. The wolves came running, they each tackled the horrid woman biting and clawing at her. Erza's blade and the claws and fangs of the wolves clashed with Minerva's skin leaving many cuts and gashes yet she still didn't bleed and she didn't seem to be feeling any pain. She then surprised them by knocking all the wolves away with one swipe causing them to get knocked out then she seized Erza by her neck. Erza struggled to breathe as the evil woman choked her with her talons.
"Struggle all you wish you worthless peasant! In the end you will die!"
Minerva tightened her grip and prepared to snap her neck in just one more squeeze only to let out a screech when something struck her. It was Jellal, the green eyed wolf sank his teeth into her leg and bit her as hard as he could. Blood ran from her leg but not red blood, a deep, tarry black stuff. It oozed on to the ground and the pain of it was so bad that Minerva dropped Erza. She then grabbed Jellal by his throat, yanked him off of her leg and threw him with all her great strength. He crashed against a large stone resulting in him being too hurt to move and allowing Minerva to plunge her talons into his chest.
When she was finished with him she saw that Erza was lying motionless on the ground and believed her to be dead so she left her there but Erza had only lost consciousness. When Erza came to she saw her dear wolf companion lying on the ground, bleeding from his chest.
"Jellal!" Erza screamed in horror.
She rushed to the wolf's side and gently laid his head in her lap. He whimpered and panted from the pain.
"Hold on." She told him. "You'll be alright."
The poor wolf could only stare at her. She took off her shawl and tried to use it to stop the bleeding coming from his chest.
"Stay strong Jellal. Just stay strong."
She desperately tried to do everything she could to save him. She couldn't lose him. Not again. She had just got him back. After ten years of mourning him and blaming herself for his supposed death, she had finally found him alive and she had hoped that maybe she could free him from his curse and when this was over maybe, just maybe they could have a life together. Just two of them and her grandmother. It wouldn't be much but they would have been happy.
"Please don't cry Erza." She looked down to see that Jellal had transformed back into his human form and looked weaker and was in more pain than in his wolf form. "Don't cry Erza. I hate it when you cry."
It wasn't until he weakly raised his hand up to wipe the tears from her cheeks that she was indeed crying. Crying a flood of tears that were dropping on to his face.
"You always look more beautiful when you're smiling." His voice sounded so very weak yet at the same time it sounded like it was fighting to stay stronger.
"I'll get help." She told him.
"No." His hand grasped her arm gently. "Stay with me."
"But look at you. You need help! I have to get Makarov!"
"It won't make any difference. If you go now then by the time you get back I'll be gone. I want your face to be the last thing I see before I go."
"No! Don't say that! Don't you dare say things like that! You're not going to die! You hear me?! You're not going to die!"
"Her nails were like five daggers stabbing into my body. They punctured so many places...I don't think that... There's any hope for me."
"No. I refuse to let you die. I won't let you die! Not after we found each other! I lost you once! I won't lose you again!"
Jellal pressed his hand to the side of her face, she held it there.
"You never could bring yourself to give up on anyone could you?" He sighed. "Seeing you again after all these years was the happiest moment of my life. I loved you, I have always loved you, ever since we were kids and I never once thought that you were a horrible witch. So many people said so many horrible things about you but I never believed any of them. From the very moment I saw you I knew what kind of person you were. I knew that you were brave and kind and smart and so...So beautiful."
"Jellal...I...I love you too. I loved you back then and I love you now."
"Oh Erza...That...Makes me so...Happy."
She felt his hand go limp and saw his eyes close. Erza buried her face into his chest and began to sob bitterly against him. Her heart once again shattered by the loss of her true love.
Lucy and her friends searched the entire area for the mirror but they couldn't seem to locate.
"Where could it be?" Lucy said.
"We've been looking everywhere and there's no sign of that damn looking glass anywhere." Gajeel said.
"Well we can't give up." Juvia said. "We have to keep searching."
"She's right I don't know how long Erza can keep that...Thing busy." Natsu said.
"Not long enough!"
They all jumped back when they heard Minerva's wretched voice. Pure hatred was in her eyes and blood was dripping from her finger nails. She shifted her gaze over to Lucy.
"Come to Auntie Minerva." She said with a twisted, sickening grin that was plastered all over her face. Then as fast as a serpent she slithered across the ground, snatched Lucy by her shoulder, and dragged her away.
"Lucy!" Levy screamed.
"Bring her back you witch!" Natsu demanded.
They started to go after her when they heard the sound of fingers snapping and out of the nowhere the chimera appeared.
"Oh no not this thing again!" Gray cried.
"Out of the way ugly!" Gajeel said cracking his knuckles.
The chimera roared in his face and with one swing it sent him flying into a tree.
"Gajeel!" Levy and Juvia screamed.
It started to go after Natsu. He was a very fast runner but that beast was faster. It managed to trip him up with his tail but before it could strike Gray swung his axe at it, though due size differences it only gave him a cut but it was enough to get his attention.
"Hey! Over here!" He called waving his arms up.
The chimera snarled and darted after Gray as fast as lighting. Before running off he shouted:
"Natsu you get Lucy! The rest of you search for that mirror! I'll handle this guy!"
The chimera chased Gray through the forest. Eventually the creature had him corned at the edge of a cliff. Gray pulled his axe from his belt and started to swing it. He managed to hit it plenty of times but the worst it did was give a few scratches. Claws and fangs clashed with the axe blade and in the midst of it the chimera managed to knock the axe down the cliff. Gray then went for his hunting knife but the beast hit him with his tail, throwing him back and causing him to drop his knife.
Gray clutched his side in pain but still found the strength to stand up and run. Unfortunately he tripped on a stone and got his foot caught in some thorns. He desperately tried to free his foot from them but there wasn't enough time.
"Oh crap!" He said as the chimera closed in on him.
"Leave him alone!" A voice demanded.
Gray and the chimera then turned there gaze over to Juvia who stood with his knife in her hand.
"If you hurt him I swear I'll stab you!" She swore pointing the knife.
"Juvia run!" Gray told her.
"Juvia it will kill you! Run! Get out of here!"
"I said no! I'm not leaving you!"
The chimera let out a mighty roar and lunged for Juvia. She fell back and started to back up in fear. But wait she couldn't just freeze up and let this thing kill her. If she did then it would kill Gray and the other people she loved. No. No she wouldn't let fear keep her from protecting the ones she loved. She got up and stood bravely on her feet, staring down at the chimera.
"I'm not going to run from you!" She declared. "If you're going to attack me then do it! But I won't run away! I swear won't! If you attack me then I'll just fight back! Because I refuse to let you hurt the people I care about!"
"Juvia are you insane!" Gray shouted. "This thing can tear you apart! Aren't you scared?!"
"I'm terrified beyond belief! But I will not let my fear stop me from protecting my people, my friends, and the man I love! Because their lives mean more to me than my own and I'll risk everything to protect them!"
She spoke like a true queen. Brave and self sacrificing, willing to do whatever it takes to protect and serve those she cared for. The chimera was taken a back by her words and it seemed to be frozen in shock. It was distracted which meant that it was the perfect moment for Juvia to take it down.
"Kill it Juvia!" Gray told her. "Stab him in the heart!"
Juvia raised the knife and aimed for the beast's chest but found herself troubled by something. The chimera had tears in it's eyes again. It was crying. Why was it crying? What was it that was making this creature so sad? Her eyes then noticed the chain around it's neck. It was glowing and the chimera flinched each time it glowed. Was it hurting him? Was that how Minerva controlled it? By hurting it?
Acting on instinct Juvia didn't stab the chimera with the hunting knife. Instead she cut the chain around it's neck. Once the chain fell to the ground there was a flashing light and the chimera started to shrink while changing shape. When the light cleared the creature was gone and all that remained was a brown haired man lying on the ground with a beard wearing armor.
"Okay not what I had in mind but not bad." Gray said. "But uh...Who's this guy?"
Juvia dropping the knife in shock when she saw the man and her entire body started to tremble.
She kneeled down at the man's side. At the sound of her voice the man opened his eyes and looked up at Juvia. Seeing her there in that white gown, made him think that he had died and was now being reunited with his deceased wife.
"Dianne?" He guessed.
"No Father. It's Juvia." She corrected as tears filled her eyes.
"Juvia?" He sat up and looked at her. Then he threw his arms around her in an embrace. "Oh my beautiful little princess, is it really you?"
"Yes Father it's me."
"Oh my...I feel like I just woke up from a bad dream."
"Oh Father! I knew you were still alive! I just knew it!"
"I don't understand what happened to me. The last thing I remember was coming home from Alvarez when Minerva put some chain around my neck then everything went dark. Am I dead?"
"No Father. You're very much alive. Thank God."
"Excuse me I hate to interrupt this touching reunion." Gray said. "But I'm a little tied up in thorns here so could one of you throw me my knife?"
"Oh sorry Gray."
Juvia picked up Gray's knife and handed it to him then helped him cut his way out of the thorns.
"Are you okay?" She asked him.
"I'm fine. I got a thorn or two in my leg but I can dig it out with a needle."
"Juvia who is this young man?" Her father asked.
"Father this is Gray, he's a very brave huntsman who's risked everything for me."
"So you're King Hector, I guess we now know where you've been all this time." Gray said.
"I'm just so confused about what's happened. Where are we anyway? And where's Minerva?"
"I'll explain everything later right now I'm just so happy to see you!"
"I'm happy to see you too."
She hugged her father again then she went to hug Gray.
"Thank you." She told him.
"For what?" He said confused.
"For helping me bring back my father and for saving my life so many times. You're my hero."
Gray blushed a little.
"You're welcome but hey you did most of the saving your old man part. If you ask me your as brave as you are beautiful." He smiled. She smiled back.
"Darling is this man a suitor of yours?" Hector asked. "Well he is good looking but he lacks regal bearing."
"Father!" Juvia blushed hard.
"Oh dear lord." Gray said desperately trying to hide his red face.
As Lucy was being dragged away by her aunt she was horrified to watch as Levy and the other fairies tried help her only to be thrown aside by Minerva who then trapped them in a barrier. If they dared try to escape then the barrier who burn them and she couldn't bear to watch them scream and cry out in pain as they felt the burning sensation. Gajeel and Romeo had been knocked out cold and Natsu, Gray, and Juvia had been seperated from the group. She wasn't sure what had happened to Erza and the wolves but they were no where to be seen.
Lucy was then thrown across the ground and crashed into a tree. It caused a gash to appear on her side. She stood up and used the tree for support.
"I just don't understand why you refuse to die." Minerva said in her inhumane voice. "Every time you take a breath it's like a knife through my heart."
"You have no heart!" Lucy exclaimed.
"Oh I'm afraid it's not that simple. But in a sense I suppose you are right. I had a heart once but it was destroyed, it was destroyed the very instant I saw you."
"Why? Why do you hate me so much? What did I ever do to you?"
"You took everything I ever wanted Layla! It's because of you that our father never loved me! And Father's love wasn't enough for you! You just had to steal my fiance's love too! You were always so nice to me Layla but I know deep down that you never truly loved me!"
"My name is Lucy! And I have done nothing to earn your hatred of me! And I don't think my mother did anything to earn it!"
"I hate you! I hate you so much Layla! I'll see you dead yet! Curse you and your pretty little face!"
Minerva struck Lucy and once again threw her across the ground. She suffered one beating after another, she felt as if her bones were breaking and cracking. She wasn't just going to kill Lucy, she was going to make her suffer first by subjecting her to physical torture. Poor Lucy didn't what to do. She was on her own here but then again she was used to it. Still she couldn't give up. If she did then the kingdom, her friends, Natsu, it was all over for them.
She saw something sparkling in the distance. It was a mirror. The mirror, the source of Minerva's power. She had to get to it. She had to destroy it. Gathering up her strength she stood up and limped toward it.
"Oh no you don't!"
Minerva yanked Lucy by the hair and pulled her over to the mirror. After giving her another twisted grin she started to run her talon like nails down Lucy's cheek, tearing through her skin and drawing blood, leaving a nasty scratch there. Lucy screamed.
"There that's better." Minerva said feeling very pleased.
"Let go of me! Stop!" Lucy pleaded.
"You are nothing Layla! You hear me?! Nothing! You think just because you were born pretty you get to have everything! You don't deserve it! You should have stayed dead! You should have let that fire I sent to kill you!"
"The fire you sent? You...You started that fire? You killed my parents?"
Lucy felt her entire body throb in pain from her aunt's attacks. This woman was torturing her physically and emotionally. This evil woman was responsible for the deaths of her mother and father and now she was going to kill her. This was the end. The end of her, the end of all.
Lucy started to bring her talons toward Lucy's chest to give her the killing blow a sword was plunged into her back. It was Natsu.
"Put her down you witch from hell!" He shouted.
"You don't know when to give up do you sweet prince?"
Natsu pulled the sword from Minerva's back and took another plunge at her arm resulting her in dropping Lucy. He then grabbed Lucy and pulled her to safety.
"I'll kill you!" She screamed. "I'll kill you all- Ah! Something is wrong! What... What's happening to me?"
She let out a blood curdling scream. Natsu and Lucy her body morph and change. Her skin turned to glass and she became faceless, soon she didn't even look like Minerva.
"At last! I can move again!" The monstrosity said in an unfamiliar yet terrifying voice. "The foolish woman! She was so easy to manipulate!"
"Manipulate?" Lucy said. "What are you talking about?"
"Minerva always was a vain and jealous woman but she had a good heart until she found me. I gave her what she wanted, beauty and power but even though she was beautiful and married to a king she still felt like no one ever loved her. I guess that's what happens when you have a father who abused you from day one! Either way she was a perfect puppet all had to do was feed her envy and wrath and turn her against the people she loved. Her sister, her husband, her stepdaughter. It was so easy!"
"You monster!" Lucy screamed. "How could you do that?"
"That's sick!" Natsu shouted.
"You humans are so typical! You are selfish and you only care for your own needs and desires! That's why you're so easy to manipulate! No human ever really loved anyone!"
"You're wrong!" Natsu defended. "It's true that humans are selfish but there are some of us who value the lives of others more than our own. Everyone you've had Minerva terrorize has loved someone so much that they put that person before themselves! And you hate that don't you? Because love is the only thing more powerful than you!"
Natsu swung his sword at him but it did nothing.
"Fool! Nothing can destroy me! But I'll destroy you! Both of you!"
He moved to crush them. Natsu held Lucy and sheiled her from his blow but much to his shock he couldn't touch them.
"What?! What is this?"
He tried again but still he couldn't touch them. A gold light suddenly started to aluminate around Lucy's body. The mirror monster stepped back in fear.
"No! It can't be!"
"Lucy what's wrong?" Natsu asked her.
"I don't know." She said.
Lucy turned to the mirror. It was glowing which meant that maybe the spirit was still connected to it. She stuck her hand inside Natsu's coat pocket, pulled out the golden slipper inside, and headed for the wretched looking glass.
"No! I won't let you!"
The great evil lunged to crush her only to be struck by Natsu's sword.
"Don't you lay a hand on her!" He snarled.
Using all her strength Lucy threw the slipper at the mirror, shattering it into a million pieces. The evil spirit let out a wail of terror and agony before exploding in a bolt off gold light and sending shards of mirror falling. Natsu quickly threw his arms around Lucy and sheltered her from the falling shards.
"Are you okay?" He asked her once they had all fallen.
"I think so. Thanks for saving me."
"Hey that's what princes do right?"
They looked to see what remained of the evil spirit. It was a woman. A homely, ugly woman though she was not nearly as hideous as she was in her previous form. At once Lucy realized who she was. She was Minerva. The real Minerva. The Minerva who existed before the mirror's power. Her body was broken and damaged, fatally injured beyond repair.
"What have I done?" She said in a weak voice laced with shame and regret. "It's all clear to me now. I never hated my sister and I never hated my niece or my stepdaughter either. The only person I ever truly hated was myself."
"Minerva?" Lucy said walking closer to her.
"Lucy..." She breathed. "Forgive me. Forgive me for all the torture I put you through. The real reason I treated you so horribly was because you reminded me so much of Layla and how deep down I truly loved her. And she loved me. She was the only person who ever really loved me and I...I killed her."
Tears were in her eyes.
"I killed the one person who truly loved me. I am truly a monster."
"Lucy! Natsu!" Juvia, Gray, and the others were running to their aid. "Are you okay?"
"We're fine." Lucy said.
"Juvia." Minerva coughed. Though she didn't look like herself anymore, Juvia recognized her voice. "I am so sorry for what I did to you and your father. You both gave me nothing but kindness and only made your lives miserable. I don't expect any of you to forgive me for all the hurt I've caused but still I beg your forgiveness."
"I forgive you Auntie Minerva." Lucy said.
"Me too Stepmother." Juvia said.
Minerva's eyes grew dark.
"Layla...Layla is here. Hello sister....She says that she still loves me...She says that it's time to go home....I'm happy. For the first time in my life I'm actually happy."
Those were her last words before she died. Minerva had done horrible things. Horrible and unforgivable things yet her niece and stepdaughter, the two people she made suffer the most found it in their hearts to forgive her. Because deep down they knew that she was always hurting worse than any of them.
Erza closed her eyes, laid herself on Jellal's chest, and wept over his body. She couldn't remember the last time she had ever cried so much in her entire life. How she prayed from the bottom of her heart that this was all just a nightmare and that she would wake up to find that her childhood love was still alive. But she knew all too well that this wasn't a dream and that she had lost Jellal forever.
Suddenly she felt a hand gently stroking her hair. Her eyes snapped open. Was she imagining things or was she really feeling it? She dared to lift her head up and she found herself staring into a pair of green eyes.
"Je...Jellal?" She said trembling.
"Hi Erza." He smiled.
"You're... You're alive! Oh thank God!"
She threw her arms around Jellal's neck and they embraced. She then kissed him as passionately as she could which took him completely by surprise but he responded by kissing back. When their lips parted Erza let out a small gasp of surprise.
"What is it?" He asked her.
"Your tattoo... It's gone."
He put his hand over his eye and then went to look at his reflection in the water of a nearby river. He carefully moved his hand from his eye and found that the blood tattoo, the symbol of his curse was gone. He then turned to Erza and gave her the biggest smile that she had ever seen him give.
"I'm free." He said. "I'm free! I'm free Erza!"
He took her in his arms and spun her around laughing and crying with joy.
With the mirror destroyed all of the damage it had caused was undone. The curse upon the cursed race was lifted, Jellal's injuries which were inflicted on him while Minerva was connected to the mirror were healed, Rogue and Elfman were freed from their stone prisons, and Minerva was finally at peace. It was all over.
Once they had buried Minerva and held a service for her, King Hector requested to speak with the Lucy, Natsu, Gray, Erza, Jellal, the fairies, the dwarves, and Jellal's pack to come to the palace to discuss something.
"Because of you all my kingdom was saved from a great evil. A great evil that had taken over my wife, trapped me in the body of a monster, and threatened the life of my daughter." He said. "I am forever in your debt and I will grant you any reward that you desire."
"Thank you your majesty." Jellal said. "But all my pack and I want is to live peacefully in the village of Magnolia. But if it's not too much to ask could you arrange for us to find work there?"
"It shall be done and you noble dwarves, I cannot think of a reward grand enough for the men who protected and cared for my daughter. But perhaps if you told me I might be able to."
"We don't need anything." Elfman said. "I have all I need right here."
He took his sisters Mirajane and Lisanna into his arms and hugged them lovingly.
"Speak for yourself." Gajeel said. "All I want is a suitable house built for me to live in and start a family with the woman I love."
"Oh Gajeel." Levy kissed his cheek.
"I'll have my best workers build you the finest house imaginable." Hector said. "Dear fairies what would you all like?"
"We fairies need no reward." Levy said.
"That's right it's our job to help people." Wendy said.
"I see. Now Erza is it?"
"Yes sire." The scarlet haired woman said.
"What shall your reward be?"
"Nothing your highness. All I ever wanted was to save Jellal from his curse. His freedom is my reward."
"You all have been very humble with your requests. I admire humility still you all shall be considered friends and allies of the royal family from now on." He then turned to Juvia. "And you my beautiful daughter who fought with the courage and kindness of a queen, what should I give you."
"Oh Father having you back is the only thing I want. I'm so happy." She said embracing him.
"I believe that you deserve more Juvia."
"No Father. I'm content with having you in my life again."
"Very well. Now then huntsman I hear that you ask a high price for your services. For saving the life of my daughter and only child I'll see to it that you have a king's fortune."
"Uh... Thank you sir but there's only one thing I want from you and I'm afraid that you won't give it to me." Gray said.
"Well what is it that you wish?"
"Um...Well before I answer that could I have some privacy?"
Hector dismissed everyone else from the room so he and Gray could talk privately.
"We are alone so tell me what you want." He said.
"I...Uh...I...Um...I...I...I'm scared that you might get angry and possibly cut off my tongue."
"Come now there's no harm in asking."
"Okay...I...If you'll pardon me for being so bold...I...I would like to have your daughter's hand in marriage."
"You want to marry my daughter?"
"No huh? Oh well. I knew it was a long shot. Thank you for your time."
"Now wait a minute I haven't even given you an answer yet."
"Oh...Right....So what's your answer?"
"First you need to answer one question and it must be the truth and only the truth."
"Why do you want marry my daughter?"
"Well your highness it's like this. When I was eight years old my entire family was destroyed right before my eyes and on that day I swore that I would never love anyone again. For ten years I believed that the world was dark and cold and that there was no love in it. When I met Juvia I was amazed by how kind and selfless she was, she cared so much for other people it was like she couldn't be selfish even if she wanted to and I...I fell in love with her. I tried not to, God knows I tried but in the end she thawed my frozen heart and now all I want is to protect her and cherish her for the rest of my life."
"Hmmm..." Hector thought for a moment. "I am impressed. I always pictured my daughter marrying a prince or someone of nobility who would love her and put her before everything else in his life. Obviously you're not a prince or of noble birth but from what she's told me I can see that you are a man who loves and cares for her just as much as I do. Maybe even more so."
"So is that a yes?"
"I believe so but in all honesty it's my daughter's decision. So what do you say Darling?"
Gray's entire face turned blood red when he turned around to see Juvia standing in the door way, smiling with tears in her eyes.
"Uh...How...How long have you been standing there?" He said tugging on his shirt collar.
"Just long enough." She sniffed.
"Oh...Okay...Well uh...Oh boy...Um...Juvia."
"I...I love you. I love you more than my own life and I never...Never thought that I would love anyone so much. But I do and so I guess I have only one more thing to say...Will you marry me-"
She ran threw herself into his arms and kissed his lips, sending him falling to the floor.
"Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes!" She then started kissing his face all over.
"Wow you must really love me huh?" He said trying to keep his face from turning any redder.
"I'll make preparations for the wedding as soon as I can." Hector said. "My blessings on you both."
Natsu and Lucy were the last two people Hector talked to about rewarding.
"So Prince Natsu what shall I reward you with?" He asked him.
"Your highness there only two things I want. One is something that you can give me and the other something that you can't give me."
"Well what is it that I can give you?"
"Peace between our two kingdoms, I've spoken to my brother and he's agreed to sign a treaty which ensures eternal peace between Alvarez and Fiore. I hope that you will sign it also."
"It would be my pleasure."
"Now Miss Lucy as the true savior of our kingdom and most devoted companion to my daughter what can I give you?"
But Lucy wasn't there. She had left.
"Lucy?" Natsu started looking for her. "Lucy!"
But she was gone. Just like that night at the ball.
Lucy was happy that the mirror had been destroyed and that her aunt had finally found peace but she was still very sad. She knew what Natsu was planning to do once this was all over but she didn't want him to do it. He was the heir to the throne of Alvarez and his bride to be should be a princess or a woman of nobility. Not some orphaned peasant girl. She loved him, she loved him so much but she had nothing to offer him except her love and love alone is not enough for the crown prince of Alvarez. She thought that it would be best that if she just disappeared from the prince's life and let him fall in love with his true bride whoever she may be.
As soon as she could, she began looking for work again. She ended up working as a permanent maid for Sorano and Yukino. She had to admit it wasn't as bad as before. Sorano was still rude to her but Yukino often spoke up for her and she even allowed her to stay in an extra bedroom they had. They paid her quite well and she found herself becoming friends. She would have been perfectly content living life as their maid but fate had something better in mind for her.
"Good people of Fiore." She heard Rogue announce while she was out shopping for groceries. "I bring you wonderful news. Our beloved Princess Juvia, the fairest woman in all the lands is to wed."
The crowd of peasants cheered excitedly.
"The man she is to marry is not of noble birth but it is of noble spirit and he risked his life to save our princess thus earning his majesty's blessing. By order of King Hector all are invited to the wedding which is one moon away. He has also taken the liberty of inviting King Zeref and Prince Natsu of Alvarez to the event as well."
"How romantic the princess is getting married." Yukino sighed.
"But it's to a commoner." Sorano said.
"I think that's more romantic because she's choosing to marry for love instead of wealth or stature."
"I'm surprised that her father is actually allowing her to marry a huntsman." Lucy said. "I thought royals were forbidden to marry commoners regardless if they loved each other or not."
"I guess her father was so grateful to that huntsman for saving her that he overlooked it." Yukino said.
"If you ask me she's making a horrible mistake." Sorano said.
"So does that mean you won't attend the wedding?"
"Of course I'll attend. This is the biggest event of the season. I hear they're actually inviting fairies to be the bridesmaids."
"Oh with the fairies there I'm sure the princess and her true love will be given a blessing and have a long and happy marriage."
"Yes and the fairies are also going to be making the wedding gown while some dwarves will mine for diamonds to be used for the rings."
"I know but they chose some scarlet haired peasant girl to be the maid of honor. How odd. Wouldn't it be more grand to have a fairy be the maid of honor?"
"Who knows? Will you be coming to the wedding Lucy?" Yukino asked.
"I...I don't know." Lucy sighed.
Lucy wanted to be there for Juvia but she feared running into Natsu at the ceremony and she couldn't bear the thought of rejecting him again. She had decided to never see him again but the next day a carriage appeared at the manor and a polite knock was at the door. Yukino chose to answer it and to the surprise of both her and her sister it was Prince Natsu.
"Your majesty, to what do we owe this honorable visit to?" Sorano said.
"I hear that you've recently hired a maid with blonde hair. I wish to speak with her." He said.
"Has she done something to offend you my lord? If so she will be punished."
"No. She has done nothing of the sort."
Lucy was then brought before the young prince. When she saw it was him she wanted nothing more than to run away and hide but he wasn't going to let her go anywhere until he got some answers.
"I've been looking everywhere for you." He told her.
"Have you now?" She said.
"Care to explain why you disappeared without a trace a few weeks ago?" He asked.
"I needed to find work somewhere." She told him.
"Is that right? You know the king wanted to reward you for saving his kingdom."
"I am grateful for the offer but there is nothing I want from him."
"Uh-huh. So Gray and Juvia are getting married."
"So I've heard."
"She's awfully upset that you're not around to help her plan the wedding. According to her when you were children you promised to help her plan her wedding if she ever got married."
"I didn't think she would remember that promise. It was such a long time ago."
"Will you at least attend the wedding?"
"She'll be very disappointed if you don't."
"Is that why you came here? To make sure that I would be at the wedding?"
"No. I came here because I was hoping that you could tell me who the owner of this remarkable shoe is." Natsu presented the golden shoe to her.
"It belongs to a peasant your highness."
"A peasant that I happen to be in love with."
"Natsu you're a prince. You should marry a woman who's worthy of you. A princess."
"I can't marry a princess because I don't love a princess. I love a maid. A maid with blonde hair and doe brown eyes."
"Why? Why me? What can you possibly see in me?"
"Let's see. I see courage, I see intelligence, I see kindness, I see loyalty, and of course I see beauty. To be honest I see the most amazing woman that I've ever met. A woman who likes everything about me even my stupid quirks. A woman I want to love, honor, and cherish as my wife and the only way I'll stop my pursuit of her is if she tells me that she doesn't love me as much as I love her. So tell me do you love me as much as I love you?"
Lucy felt her eyes swell with tears.
"Yes. Yes I do." She admitted. "But I'm afraid. I'm afraid that you're making a mistake by choosing me. That I...I don't deserve you. That you would be better off choosing someone else."
"That will never happen. Don't you understand how I feel? I wed you or no one." He sat her down on a chair and kneeled down before her. "So I have to ask you Lucy. Will you be my wife?"
He then gently slid the golden shoe on to her foot. It was a perfect fit. Lucy smiled as tears of joy streamed down her face. She couldn't remember the last time she had felt joy like this. Was this real? Oh she hoped to God that this was real. She prayed that it wasn't a dream.
"Yes." She nodded. "I will."
She then embraced and kissed the prince that she loved. After that he brought her back with him to the palace to announce the good news to their friends and to help with the wedding. Juvia suggested that it be a double wedding with Natsu and Lucy getting married along with her and Gray. Lucy thought that it was a wonderful idea. Later when Zeref arrived in Fiore Natsu told him everything.
"So you've finally chosen a bride." Zeref said. "Wonderful. So who is she? What's her name? Is she a princess?"
"No. She's not. She's a maid."
"A maid? So no blue blood?"
"Well... It's about time we got some new blood in our family."
"You mean you're okay with this?"
"I'm just happy that you're finally getting married. Now all I have to worry about is that if I'll live long enough to see my brother marry and become king."
The brothers hugged each other. Happy and excited about the future.
For a whole month the people of Fiore planned the double wedding of Prince Natsu and Lady Lucy and Sir Gray and Princess Juvia. The fairies were in charge of making the wedding dresses while the dwarves were assigned to mine for diamonds beautiful enough to be used for the rings.
Finally the big day arrived. All the church-bells were ringing, and the heralds rode through the streets, and proclaimed the approaching nuptials. Perfumed oil was burning in costly silver lamps on all the altars. The priests were swinging their censers, while the brides eagerly awaited for the wedding march to begin.
"Can you believe this is actually happening?" Lucy asked Juvia.
"No I can't." She said. "My heart fluttering, I feel like this is all a dream and in a few seconds I'm going to wake up in my bed."
Juvia smiled then noticed a tear sliding down Lucy's cheek.
"Hey what's wrong?"
"Nothing. I just wish that my parents were here."
"I know what you mean, I would give anything for my mother to be here." She said gripping the pendent of her locket.
"It's so strange. I never wanted to get married and yet here I am. About to walk down the isle to marry the prince of Alvarez. It's just so crazy...Crazy and wonderful."
"For me today is the happiest day in my entire life. I have my father back and I'm marrying the man I love."
"Yeah. Today's the happiest day of my life too and I couldn't think of a better friend to share it with."
The two held each other's hands comfortingly and supportively. They had come so far from those two sad little girls who had been suffering abuse. At last they would find happiness.
At the alter stood their bridegrooms who were looking especially handsome. Natsu was wearing a royal red suit with a velvet robe and on his head was his father's crown which had previously be worn by his brother but would now been worn by him. Gray's attire wasn't as extravagant but it was well suited for the occasion. He wore a blue jacket with white pants and black boots.
At last the wedding march started. Erza was the maid of honor for both brides so she went down the isle first leading the other two bridesmaids Evergreen and Lisanna with her. Then came Romeo the ring bearer followed by little Asuka the flower girl.
Last but certainly not least came the brides. Lucy wore a really elegant looking gown made from spun gold with a hoop underskirt and supplied by gold and cream colored lacing. The gown was complicated by a velvet cream colored robe which was being carried by Levy. On her head was a majestic crown studded with five jewels. It was the crown that had belonged to Natsu's mother, the former queen of Alvarez and it was tradition that the future queen wear it on her wedding day.
Juvia's gown was made from the petals of white roses. Hand beaded and embroidered silk, laced up on the sides. The softest and prettiest lace in all the world was used to make the gown and it had little handmade two toned silk roses gently placed in the crevices. The veil she wore was ethereal silk and chiffon veil adorned with pearl strands and pearl drops. The gown possesed a train of lace which was carried by Wendy.
The entire kingdom was taken aback. There never were two more beautiful brides. They took their places at the alter by the two men they were going to marry. The brides and bridegrooms joined their hands, said their vows, and received the bishop's blessing. Once they were pronounced husband and wife, Natsu and Gray kissed their brides and all who witnessed it cheered happily.
A marvelous feast was then held followed by festive music and everyone dancing cheerfully. Both couples recieved wonderful wedding gifts and had a fantastic time celebrating their marriage. At the end of the ceremony Natsu and Lucy departed on a ship to Alvarez with Zeref to begin their new lives together while Gray and Juvia left for their honeymoon at the Summer palace in a carriage. Before leaving both brides tossed their bouquets, Levy caught Lucy's and Erza caught Juvia's. It wouldn't be long before Gajeel and Jellal found themselves becoming married men.
They lived peacefully in the Magnolia village with no more fear of wolves or persecution from the villagers. Titania was thrilled have her granddaughter home and safe and she came to accept Jellal as her grandson in law. Gajeel and Levy moved in a lovely house together and were finally living the life they had always dreamed of living.
Time passed, Zeref eventually died of his illness and Natsu took his place as king with Lucy as his queen. Juvia succeeded her father and became queen of Fiore with Gray as her king. Now there were many who objected to the idea of a maid being queen and a huntsman being king but their objections were overruled. Both couples were wonderful rulers of their kingdoms, both were wise, fair, kind, and generous. The royal couples found each other falling more and more in love and that great love soon lead to children. Lucy bore a son while Juvia gave birth to a daughter and one day those two children would unite the kingdoms of Alvarez and Fiore but that is another story for another time.
So ends our story. A tale that combines three tales which have been well known throughout the years. Probably not what you were expecting and I know it differs greatly from the stories you've heard but it pretty much had everything that is needed to tell a good story. I hope you found this fairy tale just as enjoyable as all the other ones you've read before this. Now how do you end a story like this again? What's that phrase? I forget sometimes. Let me think, it's on the tip of my tongue. Oh yes now I remember and I'm sure you all know this phrase very well.
And they all lived...
Happily Ever After.
Chapter 59: Why I wrote this
Just a little tid bit about why I wrote this fic.
For as long as I can remember I have always loved fairy tales. My father would read them to me and my sister when we were younger and my mother would buy VHS tapes of Disney movies based off of those fairy tales. I loved the Disney adaptions but as I got older I started to look into the origins of the tales and found that they were not as sweet as I remember them however I still enjoyed them. My personal favorites being Cinderella, Snow White, a Little Red Ridding Hood, Beauty and the Beast, and Rapunzel.
I chose to use Cinderella, Snow White, and Little Red Ridding Hood for this because I could empathize with the main characters in the stories. Now I didn't have an evil stepmother or wicked stepsisters or a wolf stalking me but like the main characters I was around people who would constantly try to put me down and hurt me, take advantage of me, and make me feel like I wasn't anything special and I never knew why they did it. My mother always said it was because of jealousy but I don't know what they were jealous of. I wasn't really pretty or popular or exciting. In fact I think the only thing special about me was my brain.
Stories like Cinderella and Snow White taught me to be patient and to have hope especially when things are at it's worst and that the best way to look beautiful is to be kind, selfless, and hard working. Stories like Little Red Ridding Hood taught me to be wary of certain people and to understand how important it is to listen to my parents and grandparents because they love me and only want the best for me.
They also taught me that there is a different kind of strength that a woman can use without having to fight like a man. It's the strength of faith and love, and for some women like myself that's all the strength they need.
I'm nineteen and I still love fairy tales to this day and if I ever have children I hope to one day be able to tell them these stories and help them understand the lessons they teach. And why I chose to weave my retellings into Fairy Tail? Well it's because it's called Fairy Tail. Take away the I in tail and add an E and you get Fairy Tale. For me it was a no brainier. Anyway I'm glad you read this fic and I hope you enjoyed it.
Chapter 60: A Possible Sequel
This is a possible future sequel to the fic Tale of Tales which combines the three stories Jack and The Beanstalk, Sleeping Beauty, and Hansel and Gretel.
Cole/Igneel - Jack: A poor boy who was abandoned in the forest when he was two years old. He was found and adopted by Sting and Yukino and lived with them in Fiore. When he learns that he's adopted he goes in search of his birth parents. His search leads him to the kingdom of Alvarez which is being enslaved by the evil giant Mard Geer who lives in a castle in the sky. He discovers that one of the many treasures he's stolen is a harp that knows everything. He decides to slay the giant and use the harp to find out who his parents are. Little does he realize that he is actually Prince Igneel the long lost son of King Natsu and Queen Lucy.
Sylvia - Brair Rose: King Gray and Queen Juvia's daughter, the princess of Fiore. As a baby she was cursed by the evil witch Kyoka to one day prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and sleep forever or until she is kissed by her true love. Her parents love her very much but due to the curse they are very protective of her. Like her mother, Sylvia was born with surpassing beauty but she also posses an adventurous spirit and wants some excitement in her life so she joins Cole on his journey to slay the giant Mard Geer.
Kai and Elise - Hansel and Gretel: The twin son and daughter of Jellal and Erza. As children they loved to eat sweets and play in the forest but things changed when the witch Kyoka began to kidnap children from the Magnolia village and kill them. After their mother disappears while saving them the from the witch, the twins choose to become professional witch hunters and protect the children of their village while searching for their mother. Kai is very quick to act while his sister prefers to think things through.
Romeo - The Peddler: A dwarf who know longer works in the diamond mines but instead travels around selling merchandise. He tends to be a con artist sometimes but means well. He acts as a big brother mentor to Cole and he helps him find the magic beans that lead him to Mard Here's castle. He frequently bickers with Wendy but deep down he's secretly in love with her.
Wendy - The Good Fairy: A rookie fairy godmother who has a little trouble with her magic but is very powerful. She is the one who changes the curse on Sylvia to cause her eternal sleep and to be broken by true love's kiss. She is then assigned to watch over Sylvia as her fairy godmother.
Mard Geer - The Giant: A greedy and an evil giant who terrorizes any land he comes in contact with and steals any valuable thing that exists in the land. When he invades the kingdom of Alvarez he enslaves it's people and imprisons the former rulers of the kingdom. Everyone is terrified of Mard Geer, everyone except King Natsu and Cole. While Natsu tries to rally an army against the monsterous giant Cole and his friends set out to slay him and restore peace to the kingdom.
Kyoka - The Witch: Mard Geer's sister, a wicked witch who once tried to takeover Fiore but was defeated and banished by King Hector. Years later she gets her revenge by cursing his newborn granddaughter to die should she ever prick her finger on a spindle. When she learns that her curse c was changed to only cause eternal sleep and can only be broken by true love's kiss she kidnaps Prince Igneel (Who Princess Sylvia was engaged to at birth) and leaves him to die. She later begins trying to restore her power by stealing the lives of children from the Magnolia village.
I don't know it will be up or if I'll write it.
P.S what's your favorite fairy tale?