Synopsis: The chapter opens with Lucy noting exactly where Fairy Tail's headquarters is before mentioning that she's found a place to rent that, while expensive, is in a convenient location for her. As Lucy gets out of a comfortable bath and looks over how nice her apartment is, she is stunned when she returns to her room to find Natsu and Happy there, eating her food. She kicks them both and demands to know why they're there, to which Natsu simply explains that Mirajane told him and he wanted to come visit her, despite Lucy's repeated pleas for him to leave. Natsu picks up some papers off of Lucy's desk which she immediately takes back and again demands he leave.
In the end, Lucy makes them both a cup of tea in an attempt to get them to leave afterwards, but Natsu wants to see all of the 'key guys' that Lucy has. She declines saying that it consumes a lot of magic, but she does show him the six keys she has. She explains that there are silver keys that anyone can buy, of which she has Horologium the clock (whom we saw in chapter 2), Crux the Southern Cross, and Lyra the Lyre. On top of that there are much rarer golden keys that open the gates of the Ecliptic Zodiac. Her three from that group are Taurus the Bull (whom we saw in chapter 3), Aquarius the Water Bearer (whom we saw in chapter 1), and Cancer the Crab.
After showing off her six keys, Lucy finally remembers that she hasn't made a contract with the last key that she bought back in Harujion - Nicola the Canis Minor. She agrees to show them how a Stellar Spirit Mage makes a contract, which Happy wonders if it involves blood seals (which Natsu mistakenly hears as 'butt seals'). Instead of seals however, Lucy holds the key out into the air before her and says a chant, eventually summoning Nicola who is revealed to be a small, weird snowman looking creature (that may look familiar if you've ever seen a certain anime or read it's manga). Lucy and Happy think it's a dud, but Lucy thinks it's cute and says that while this summon doesn't use much magic, it's a popular spirit. Lucy then makes a contract with Nicola, who responds to her with various 'puuun' sounds. The contract consists of agreeing what days she may summon the creature, which she explains as being an 'unbreakable promise' between the Mage and Spirit.
Lucy decides that she needs to give it a name other than it's usual 'Nicola' title, and decides to call it Plue. Plue suddenly starts doing various gestures, and Natsu is somehow able to understand what it's saying. Natsu admits that back with the Balkan, he hadn't been sure if Lucy should come along, but her summons had proven helpful, and she seems to be a good person, so he agrees to Plue's idea - they should form a team. Happy explains that though everyone in the guild are friends, they often make teams that travel together, so that difficult requests will go more smoothly. Lucy agrees to join Natsu and Happy's team, and Natsu says he's already got a mission for them.
Looking over the assignment, Lucy reads that all they need to do is go get a book from the Duke of Evaroo's mansion and they'll get 200,000 jewels. The catch however is that the Duke is a pervert and a womanizer, and he's currently seeking to hire a blonde maid, and Lucy can't help but wonder if Natsu planned it this way all along, while Happy suggests that she practice by calling him 'Master'.
Back at the guild headquarters, a woman is looking for the Evaroo Mansion job listing, but Mirajane says that Natsu and Lucy have already taken it. Makarov tells Levi (the woman) that perhaps it's best she didn't go, saying that the job just became a little troublesome. Mirajane asks if it was cancelled, but Makarov says the reward was just raised to two million jewels. Everyone in the guild freaks out, many saying they just missed a great job, while Gray overhears this and thinks that things are getting interesting.
On a carriage that's taking them to Shirotsume Town where the Duke is, Lucy takes pleasure in Natsu's usual transportation trauma, while Happy still insists she should practice calling him 'Master'.
Thoughts: This chapter opens up with a nice bit of location stuff, telling us exactly where the town Fairy Tail headquarters is located in is, as well as stuff like there's a church nearby Fairy Tail - which I can't help but wonder is a joke towards the traditional 'rivalry' between those types of organizations. It's all fairly interesting stuff, but I really hope it's not crucial to remember, as I'm really bad with this sort of stuff.
We get some nice token fan-service of Lucy when she's in the tub, rather tastefully done though. Nowadays you can't get away with near as much in a shonen title, compared to the full chest shots in older titles like Dragon Ball. Not that I'm complaining or anything, mind you. ...Moving on, I have noticed that so far, everything in these early chapters has been told from Lucy's point-of-view rather than Natsu's, so maybe she's more of the lead character than he is? It's an odd situation.
Speaking of Dragon Ball, I definitely do get some Goku and Bulma vibes from Lucy and Natsu's interactions. It's hard to say if Natsu has any interest in girls at all so far, but he certainly lacks a lot of social graces just like our old monkey boy did, and constantly gets punished for it.
A lot of Lucy's 'talking to herself' moments in the earlier chapters did have a hint of diary writing to them, and after Natsu grabbed some papers off of the desk, I'm wondering if that's what it was after all.
Once we get into the whole explanation of Lucy's keys, I was enthralled, as this is what I'd been wondering about from the beginning. Everyone else's magic that we've seen so far seems to stem from themselves somehow, but Lucy's seems to operate on an entirely different principle, so I was looking forward to seeing how it worked. I wasn't disappointed either, but I am wondering if we'll ever get an even more in-depth look at it all. I mean, I still have a lot of questions left over about them. If anyone can buy those silver ones at the store, does that mean there are multiples of the same summons? If not, what happens if two people try to summon the same creature at once? Maybe that's what the time agreements in the contracts are about, to make sure nothing overlaps. And does somebody make these keys, or have they always existed somewhere? Maybe just the golden ones do, and the silver ones were made based off of those? And either way, do the creatures exist without the keys, or were they created when the keys were? So much stuff that I still really want an explanation for!
I'll admit, I chuckled at the 'butt seals' comment, but mostly because it blindsided me because at that moment, I had been wondering if it involved blood seals just like Happy wondered. That is a traditional 'summoning' aspect in a lot of stories with magic, and it could have been done without being too morbid here - just say, her having to prick her finger first, or something - but I'm glad that we've gone a more original route here.
And enter Plue, excellent. If you thought the name sounded familiar, see if you've ever seen any of an anime called 'Rave Master'. It was based upon a manga called simply 'Rave' I believe, by Mashima long before he would do Fairy Tail, and Plue is - sort-of - a returning character from that manga. I'm not really sure on the mechanics of how connected the two series would be because of this as I only had a passing interest in Rave Master, but I still got a smile when I saw Plue. I remember liking the guy, and it's clear that his arrival is meant to be a treat for fans of Mashima's prior series, and I always love that kind of stuff.
Since I'm half agreeing with Lucy that Natsu had planned making her join him all along, I'm not really sure if I buy him understanding what Plue was saying. He seems earnest enough about it, as does Happy, but it is a little questionable. That and I have to call into question how useful Lucy actually was during the whole Balkan material, but eh - I already considered her a part of Natsu's 'team' anyway.
As we head into the next storyline, I'm really interested to see what will happen in it, especially with how much higher that reward just shot up. I don't think it's going to be easy though, since Makarov described the change as 'troublesome', but then had a big smirk on his face.
I was dead-on with my prediction last time, that we would see another summon out of Lucy, and it was exactly the one I'd been waiting to see ever since I started reading the manga. Looking ahead to what might be coming next chapter...I'm thinking we actually won't see another summon just yet, I'm thinking Mashima might want to start varying it up a little bit. We may see one of the previous summons however, and we will probably see a new one either the chapter after the next one, or the one after that. I'm also predicting that by the end of this little adventure, the gang's not going to have the two million berries due to some mistake or another - probably Natsu blowing everything up along the way.