July 8, X784
Virgo was content with who she was and what she did. She didn’t think anything of it, really. She simply was.
However, things were odd whenever she wasn’t—wasn’t employed, that is. She could amuse herself in the spirit realm for intervals, but it got boring after a while. The celestial spirit realm was her home, but strangely enough, it was not where she was happiest. She liked the physical realm far better; it was solid, like the earth. It had earth. Virgo had a high tolerance for that realm, and because of it, she liked it better. Or did she like it and thus had a high tolerance for it? It didn’t matter.
She grew bored without stimulation. Virgo disliked the periods of time between masters, because she was stuck at home without any tasks to do. Sometimes that time was short and bearable; sometimes, it lasted forever. (Or what felt like forever, at least.) Other spirits had different opinions on this subject, but Virgo wasn’t bothered by that. Her own opinion was that any master was better than none; she was not picky like the others.
Okay, maybe she preferred some types to others. Any master that required things of her was better than a master that didn’t want much of anything. Collectors were her bane—those who wanted to keep a key on a shelf and wait. The last time, maybe some hundred years ago, Virgo figured out how to remove herself from the dusty shelf as soon as the collector’s contract expired, lest her key rust there. Moving around one’s own key was very difficult, but with enough resolve, anything was possible.
She watched idly as the army collected her master Everlue—previous master, now. Semi-permanent incapacitation was just as inconvenient as death for a spirit’s summoner, and thus, it became one of the common stipulations in a contract. Virgo rarely bothered with contracts, so she generally just left it at the base recommendation.
Everlue was taken away, and her key appeared at her feet. She could feel Everlue’s magic leave, resulting in a pressure that dragged her back towards the spirit realm. Her gate closed, and she was back home with the tell-tale feeling of missing a tether back. Well, a normal tether. The key itself was technically a tether, though it was much more difficult to follow—unless one knew the intricacies of the earth, and travel through.
Virgo was anxious to move her key, but she decided to wait and see if the army did anything with it—or if anybody did, for that matter. She was accustomed to handling it now to save her bores of the interim, but Virgo also appreciated the randomness of fate.
Nobody touched her key. After long enough, she figured nobody would; so, Virgo reached through the gate that should have existed, and she forced her way through.
Celestials could not summon themselves. Technically speaking. However, they had their own power, and it was simple to use that power to open the gate on their side. Perhaps the sensation of doing so was not “pleasant” but it was negligible. It was more difficult when there wasn’t another side to the gate at all, unfortunately. While a spirit’s key existed as the gate itself, without a summoner, it was less like a door, and more like a narrow tunnel.
Virgo was good with tunnels.
She forced her way through, despite the great pressure that resumed the moment she entered the physical realm. She ignored it. The pressure increased. She imagined the sensation was like not being able to breathe—should she ever have needed to breathe in the first place. She understood why other spirits did not like it, but to her, pain was just another form of stimulation.
Virgo picked up the key; this was the hard part. It burned in her palm and rejected her handling, accelerating the process started by her being in the physical realm of her own volition. Normally, in these situations, Virgo would simply take her key to a populated place—like the middle of a city or a magic shop. Anywhere that would increase her chance of getting a new master. This was the first time she already had a person in mind.
The girl who fought against her previous master was also a celestial spirit mage. More than that, she was a mage who already had several Zodiac keys. It had been a long time since they were all held by the same summoner, and even then, it was usually only briefly. Typically, it meant that the summoner was powerful, and more magic meant more time being summoned, on Earthland. She also knew, from what little interaction she had with them, that her fellow Zodiacs enjoyed this girl—even Aquarius, sour though she was about it, and that was rarer than being in the same place at the same time. Virgo didn’t care much about their opinions, but it did make her curious.
It was a shame that the girl left. Often celestial spirit mages would take the keys off of opponents they defeated, but the girl didn’t, for whatever reason. It was annoying, but Virgo supposed it meant she wasn’t the greedy sort. Virgo also had no idea where she was. She did know that she was with a dragon slayer, however; those were rare enough that Virgo was more confident tracking him than the girl. It was like looking for a dragon, except smaller. It helped that the earth absorbed residual magic and that she could sort through it from her tunnels. Not to mention that the purer the elemental magic, the more it resonated with the earth—and no elemental magic was purer than that of a dragon. It also helped that the dragon slayer had been silly enough to come with her as she hopped through the celestial spirit realm, so his magic was easily noticeable to her.
Virgo took the key, dived into the earth, and she moved.
She followed the trail of dragon slayer magic, and eventually, it led her to a forest. The ground was so soaked with elemental dragon magic, that she wouldn’t have been surprised if an entire dragon lived here. Virgo found a house, which was the only thing around, so she figured that was her best lead.
Virgo knocked on the door twice. She thought about just leaving the key, but if it was the wrong place, then her key could be lost for ages. Maybe she should just go inside and check.
The door opened, but it was a different dragon slayer on the other side. She couldn’t immediately place the element, but he had that dense aura of terrestrial magic about him that labeled him as a dragon slayer; that, and he had those funny eyes.
“Umm… Can I help you?” he asked. His slitted violet eyes scanned her body, lingering briefly at her hands. “Are…you okay?”
‘Okay?’ What a funny question. She wasn’t sure how to answer it, because strictly speaking, her body was being pulled apart, which was not ‘normal,’ but she expected that. “I’m looking for a fire dragon slayer. Does he live here?”
The dragon slayer in the doorway gave her an odd look. “…he does,” he replied warily. “Who are you?”
“Yo! Erik!” a new voice called. “Who’s that?”
The voice’s head popped around the corner of the stairs at the back of the room behind the doorway. He had wild black hair and metal piercings on his face. It was another dragon slayer, and one with an element that resonated closely with hers.
“I’m Virgo,” she introduced with a small bow. “I’m a celestial spirit.”
The dragon slayers’ eyebrows rose in sync.
Virgo wasn’t sure if they were more wary or concerned—whatever the difference was. She wasn’t surprised about their caution though, because dragons and dragon slayers alike practically went extinct some few hundred years ago. The last slayers she had seen was… What was it again? Oh! The gate-thing they opened a while back—those kids that came through were dragon slayers, right? How long ago had that been? Virgo wasn’t sure, but it might have been recent. That would be a funny coincidence, if they were the same ones, wouldn’t it?
Oh well. That was a pointless train of thought. The burning sensation in her chest and in her hand was getting worse—she might be going delirious now. Delirium was less acceptable than pain, because she couldn’t pay attention to anything.
Virgo would have preferred to make sure her key would definitely go to a holder—in this case, that girl—but even she had to admit she was running out of time. Besides, they did say the fire dragon slayer lived here, and this was where she had tracked him. How many fire dragon slayers could there possibly be?
“I wanted him to give this to the celestial spirit mage that was with him,” she explained, reaching out and pressing the key into the first one’s hands. “I would like to make a contract with her.”
The burning sensation lessened greatly when she released the key. It didn’t go away entirely, for she was still in the physical realm without a completed gate, but it was manageable now. However, the numb feeling in her hands and legs told her that if she stayed any longer, the punishment would be too great, even for her.
“Thank you,” she said with another quick bow. “I must be going now.”
She finally stopped fighting back against the natural flow, and Virgo let herself be sucked back into the celestial spirit realm.
Virgo hoped that they could get her key to the girl quickly—and that the girl would want to make a contract with her. If neither of those things happened, she wasn’t sure what else she would do. There was nothing for her in her home realm.
Unfortunately, she couldn’t force her way back through this quickly. Virgo had to simply wait.
It was a shame that she hated waiting.
Gajeel and Erik watched the girl literally vanish into the air in a puff of magic in bewildered silence. It didn’t seem like standard teleportation magic… She just dissolved.
“What…” Erik started.
“…the fuck?” Gajeel finished for him.
Gajeel was hella’ confused about everything that just happened, only noticing that there was some stranger at their door after Erik did, but Erik looked just as confused as he felt—which was strange, because Erik didn’t get confused easily with these things.
For one thing, they lived in the middle of an uninhabited forest, so they didn’t get visitors regularly. Aside from people who came over often, it was only a handful of guildmates and a really persistent girl scout that somehow made her way out here a few times. So, for a random non-human to show up was a little disconcerting.
What did she say she was? A celestial spirit? And she was asking for Natsu because… “Wait, celestial spirits are the people that Lucy works with. She summons them from another world or something. Assuming she was telling the truth.”
Erik took his eyes off of the key he was turning over in his hand and looked at Gajeel. “She was. I think. And Lucy… that’s the new girl Natsu went on a job with, right? She’s a celestial spirit mage?”
“Yeah, that’s what she called it. She used keys, too—had a ring of ‘em.” Gajeel didn’t know much about how her magic worked, but he did see the fish lady that she summoned to drown everybody, so he supposed that was the ‘celestial spirit.’ The whole concept was weird to him, because instead of regular magic, it was making friends with some race of magic people (Gajeel was too busy drowning to pay attention to exactly what the fish lady was besides a fish lady) and asking them for help. It seemed overly complicated. Maybe it was just a popularity contest, and people like that Virgo chick would seek out mages to work with because they wanted to, but this one messed up and found Natsu instead.
Oh well. If nothing suspicious was going on, then it wasn’t his problem.
“Wait, what do ya’ mean ‘you think’ she was telling the truth?” The words had registered a bit late, but that was probably an important detail.
“Everything she said was honest,” Erik replied, “and she didn’t seem to have any malicious intent. But she was…in pain. Except she didn’t really consider it pain. It was hard to tell, because she wasn’t really thinking about it. I did gather that this—” He held up the key. “—was hurting her, somehow. They key doesn’t do anything to me though…”
Gajeel shrugged. “Maybe because her biology was different?” he guessed. He really had no idea. It sucked that the process was painful for them, but surely the celestial spirits had a good reason to go from mage to mage like they were looking for a job, so Gajeel wouldn’t question it too much.
Besides, Erik would question it enough for the both of them if something was going on.
He leaned back and glanced at the clock above the door. They should probably get going soon if they were going to make it to Rosario before nightfall. Levy said that the job requester wanted them there at the crack of dawn, and Shorty wasn’t good at being up in the middle of the night if it wasn’t for reading.
Gajeel would have found Blondie himself to give her the key, but he wasn’t sure if there was time. Well, technically, it was Natsu’s and Happy’s problem anyway.
“Come on, we should get going,” he said, knocking Erik in the shoulder to knock him out of his overthinking mode.
As for the key… “YO! HAPPY!”
Erik jumped like a startled cat. “Dude!” he chastised, rubbing his ear. He was just being dramatic though; Gajeel wasn’t that loud. Besides, yelling was more efficient.
Natsu wasn’t in the house, but Happy was. He popped his head around the corner of the steps, hovering. “What?”
Gajeel took the key from Erik and threw it to Happy, who caught it between both paws. “Some celestial spirit named Virgo came by saying something about wanting a contract with Blondie. Could you give that to her? We’re heading out now. We’ll be back in a day or two!”
Satisfied that Happy was informed, Gajeel grabbed Erik by the back of his coat and started guiding him through the door.
“Wait, you dumbass! Our bags.”