"Do we really have to do this?" Ez muttered anxiously to his partner, Arthur, as they walked through a long dark corridor.
Arthur nodded, "Yes, Churme's orders. We have an escaped prisoner and a madman running around out there," he gestured towards the wide window next to them that overlooked the forest of Wyvere. "And there's a good chance they'll be back."
Ez shuddered, "Exactly why we shouldn't be doing this. You saw what that guy did to..."he gulped, " We don't stand a chance!"
Arthur paused and turned and looked at Ez then sighed, "Look I get what you're feeling...but what are the odds we'll run into them? I mean..." Arthur gestured around them, "This place is huge and we're nowhere near the entrance. I'm sure we'll be fine"
Just as he said that, they heard a soft thump behind them followed by a chilling voice:
"Oho...confident are you?"
Arthur and Ez jumped whirling around to see a woman clad in silver armor and scarlet hair holding a giant spear easily in one hand.
Ez's own meager javelin shook in his hands and he shot a desperate glance at Arthur.
The woman smirked, she obviously knew the odds were in her favor, "Now how about you two put those sticks down and cooperate, eh?"
Arthur and Ez exchange a glance.
"Wouldn't want anyone to get hurt." the woman added with a slight smirk as she nonchalantly twirled her weapon in her hand.
"Alright now you two stay there." Erza commanded as she locked the two guards they'd come across in a nearby guest room then dusted off her hands, "That was easy enough." she said with a satisfied sigh to her companion behind her.
Lufu, who'd been waiting in the secret passage they'd used to get into the mansion up until now, shrugged, "We got lucky. Now let's keep moving. We got a lot of ground to cover."
Erza nodded and followed her down the hallway, "What's really lucky is that there was even a secret passage into this place" she observed.
Lufu shrugged again, "This place is old, I'd be more surprised if there wasn't one."
"Right..." Erza trailed off, not sure what to say next. When Lufu didn't offer a response she cleared her throat and glanced out the window next to them.
I hope everything's okay with the others.
Lucy shifted her weight nervously and tightened her grip on the sword-like weapon she had strapped onto her belt.
I really, really hope this works.
Lucy strode up to the entrance of the mansion and saw that it had been hastily barricaded. She cleared her throat as she reached the entrance and craned her neck to see if there was anyone on the other side, "U-um...hello?" she called out.
She thought she saw a flicker of movement in a window before a gruff voice answered, "Whose there?"
Lucy jumped, heart hammering. We are so screwed. But she still managed to squeak out a response "I'm...I mean I was part of the patrols that were sent out." she called, trying to keep her voice steady unsuccessfully.
"C'mon Luce," Natsu's voice whispered next to her. "You really gotta sell it." And she could hear Gajeel grunting in agreement.
Lucy's eyebrow twitched with annoyance.
"Hurry Lu-chan...I don't know how much longer the charms will last..." Levy added nervously and Lucy thought she saw a flicker of light out of the corner of her eyes. Levy was right, they probably didn't have much time.
"I know, I know." she muttered as the voice called back, "You are? Did you find them?"
Lucy started then cleared her throat, summoning up as much bravado as she could, "Yes! Uh..they're down by the river, the rest of my patrol is fighting them off as we speak and we need reinforcements!"
There was a pause, "Alright, wait a minute." then she saw a piece of the wall next to the door slide away, Lucy's eyes widened. Another secret entrance? How many does this place have. She wondered if Lufu knew about that one too.
Armored guards rushed out of the gaping hole and Lucy stiffened despite herself. Calm down Lucy! She thought to herself trying to relax the best she could, I look like one of them, they have no reason to suspect me.
The leader of the group strode up to her, noticing that her arm was in a makeshift sling, "You should go see a healer inside to take care of that wound . We'll head down to the river to help your squad."
"Of course. Thank you." Lucy said as she pretended to grimace with pain as she thankfully nodded and started limping to the entrance.
"Alright men let's go!" she heard the leader shout as they started down the path towards the river.
She hurried to the secret entrance, praying none of the remaining guards would hear the quiet footsteps behind her. Just to be sure she coughed as she passed them.
Then she felt a heavy hand fall on her shoulder, she squeaked and turned to come face to face with one of the guards.
"Healers are on the second floor Sister." he informed her with an almost dopey grin. Behind her she could hear someone sigh with relief.
"U-uh sure. I'll get right on it," she coughed again and staggered inside and involuntarily gasped a little. The mansion reminded her a bit of her own, only instead of being pristine and well kept, the walls and floors were smudged with soot and blood.
Not to mention the pile of dead bodies in the corner. She swallowed thickly and continued on her way towards the main staircase ignoring the smell. Once she was out of sight of the guards, she sighed with relief and straightened up.
"Glad that's over, this outfit is so itchy," she grumbled, pushing the image of the fallen guards out of her mind, as she rubbed at the cloak she'd been wearing. I can't believe that actually worked.
At the same time as she spoke there was a brief flash of light to her left as her friends slowly faded into view. Each one removing the small charms off their hands. "Whew," Levy sighed and leaned against the wall, "I can't believe that actually worked."
"You and me both," Lucy replied with a small smile.
After they'd regrouped, the team had come up with a plan of attack. Lufu and Erza, Team A, would take a shortcut to the roof through a secret passageway. Once they got to the roof, they would jump straight into the fray and try to weaken their forces. While the enemy was distracted by the warrioresses, Team B, which was Gajeel, Natsu, Levy, and herself, would join in, hopefully catching them off guard, and take out as many of the enemy soldiers as they could. While that was going on, Lucy, Natsu, Gajeel, and Levy would try to find some way to shut down the magic circle.
But the main problem had been finding a way to get them in. Luckily, a group of soldiers from the cult had come along, obviously searching for them. They were small fry and were taken care of within minutes. Then, while searching the leader of the group, they'd found a series of rare, and mostly illegal, charms in the leader's pouch. Then Erza came up with a plan involving the charms and one of the captured soldier's outfits...
Natsu grinned and held his hand up for a high five, "Way to go Luce! You really had them going there!" Lucy half heartedly patted his hand.
Gajeel on the other hand, grunted and folded his arms over his chest, "I don't like all this sneaking around."
"Well it's better than trying to fight our way through," Levy replied, to which Gajeel rolled his eyes. Lucy looked at the Iron Dragonslayer....he was acting exactly like his old self, as if nothing had ever happened...
Natsu yawned, interrupting her thoughts, and stretched his arms, "We should probably get going. The sooner we get to the top the better."
Lucy nodded as Gajeel turned to Levy, "Need a lift?" he offered, gesturing to her bandaged ankle. They had patched it up the best they could but it was probably for the best if Levy kept off of it as much as possible.
"Sure," Levy sighed, pouting slightly, and Gajeel picked her up and helped her clamber up on his back. "Comfy?" he teased and it was Levy's turn to roll her eyes.
Lucy on the other hand, tensed when she saw the giant Dragon Slayer so close to her tiny friend but forced herself to relax.
He acting normal...but how much of it really is just an act? the image of him about to slaughter those travelers from before came to mind. Downstairs was probably his handiwork too.
Of course Levy didn't know that.
"What happened down there?" Levy shuddered, as if she could read her mind, "It looked like they got torn apart."
Natsu and Lucy exchanged a glance while Gajeel stiffened. Lucy thought, for a brief second, she saw regret in his eyes before they went blank with...fear?
Lucy cleared her throat, "Maybe a demon got loose?" she said, nervously running her fingers through her hair.
Levy turned to look at her, "Huh? What do you mean?" she furrowed her brow.
"I mean they've probably summoned demons before now. They could've been keeping them somewhere else in the mansion and..." Lucy trailed off lamely. She didn't even know why she was covering the Iron Dragon Slayer's ass...it's not like he'd ever really been that nice to her but...
"Oh..." Levy started tapping her chin thoughtfully, "That makes sense, when the portal opened...at least that's what I'm assuming caused that explosion from before." She cringed, "...it could've gotten loose. And it's probably still running around here..."
Gajeel looked at Lucy with surprised which slowly faded into gratitude. Natsu on the other hand, raised an eyebrow. His eyes said he didn't approve of her lying but to her relief he didn't say anything.
Now isn't the time for confessions. Lucy thought then looked at her friend's trusting eyes, strengthening her resolve, But if he doesn't tell her the truth by the time we get back to the guild...I will.
"We'll just be careful." Gajeel answered her in a flat tone.
Levy...who still hadn't quite put the two and two together, nodded, "Alright..." she frowned a little, "I guess there really isn't much we can do..."
"Yeah..." Gajeel muttered, scratching at his wrist.
"Agreed." Lucy added trying to lighten the mood, pulling off the itchy cloak to reveal the light armor that she'd borrowed and took her arm out of the fake sling. "We need to get going....we are on a time limit here."
From there Natsu and Gajeel took the lead as they began their silent trek through the mansion, with Lucy bringing up the rear. Surprisingly they didn't run into any guards on their way up...Maybe Erza and Lufu already got to the top? Lucy wondered as a part of her hoped that the worst was over.
That hope was shattered when she heard a childlike giggling behind her.
"There you are."