She was the Titania, yet Erza honestly had no clue about the age-old riddle of Fairy Tail, whether or not fairies truly had tails. So when she saw missions that seemed to hint at fairies, she snatched them up fast.
This time, she took her team with her. If she actually saw a fairy, she needed someone around to confirm it.
The woods were dark at night, and in no time she lost track of their group.
"Gray? Natsu? Happy? Lucy? Sheesh, where are those people, running off and getting lost so easily? It was only a giant spider."
A twig cracked in the distance, and she turned fast with her hand on the pummel of her sword. The trees seemed to loom around her. She thought she saw a sinister gleam of eyes within some bushes. She squinted at it, but the woods were too dark to see.
She had her sword out in an instant and held it to the person's throat.
"Whoa, easy," Gray laughed, holding his hands up. "Just me."
Erza scoffed at his laughing and sheathed her sword. "I thought you ran away with the others."
"I didn't run away. I ran after Lucy. Big difference. I know she hates spiders, so I thought she'd react the worst. I didn't expect Natsu to shriek and run away like that too."
They continued to walk through the forest. "So you're chasing after Lucy again, huh?"
He blushed a little. "It's not like that. There's someone else I like."
"Finally confessing those feelings you have for Juvia?"
"Ugh! No, not her. Forget it. I just figured Lucy might need help."
"Lucy is stronger than you think," Erza said, shoving aside some bushes. Ahead was a faint track where the moss and underbrush parted and a thin line of dirt could be seen. "Ah, a trail. Perhaps it'll lead us somewhere. Better than wandering aimlessly. I trust Natsu can sniff us out. He'll rejoin us eventually."
They continued quietly along a barely-used path. Erza gazed up, watching the moon drifting through the leaves. Nocturnal birds hooted in the trees. At night, forests transform into something mystical.
"Look at that," Gray pointed. "There's light up ahead."
They entered a clearing, and it was as if the sun had come out only in that area. The entire clearing was bright and golden. The air was warmer and scented with flowers. Erza saw something fluttering around.
"They're real!" Erza said in a low, breathy whisper.
Gray glanced over in confusion. "Huh?"
One glowing golden fairy flew up close, inspected the two of them, giggled in a high pitch sound, and flitted away.
"Fairies?" Gray asked in amazement. "Impossible!"
"They have tails," Erza smiled in awe. "They really do have tails!"
They walked deeper into the clearing, mindful of large mushrooms that were houses for the tiny tailed creatures. They came to a knoll and sat together as they watched the fairies zipping around.
"So this is why you took this mission," Gray realized as they watched the fairies flying to and fro. "I thought it sounded like an odd fit for you."
"I heard rumors about fairies living in this forest. I've been searching for proof since I became S-class."
"And you finally found them," Gray said with a smile to her.
Her eyes shined over at him with an inner joy unlike anything Gray had ever seen from the armored girl. "I found them, and I have someone who can say I'm not lying."
Gray chuckled softly and took her hand. "No one would think the Titania would lie about something like this." He began to lean in closer. "The guild trusts you. We admire you. We...love you. I..."
"Gray?" she interrupted in a panic. Erza pulled back a little as Gray kept leaning closer. So, he liked someone but not Lucy or Juvia, eh? Erza was stunned but not too surprised that he actually had feelings for her. Still, they were teammates, she had known him since they were children...hell, they had taken baths together! This was so sudden!
Then from amidst the shadows, a small man stepped out dressed all in green. He cleared his throat and politely looked away from them. Erza pulled away fast with stiff posture and a blush to her cheeks. Gray leaned back up and grumbled something foul. The tiny man toddled closer to them, adjusted his glasses, and nodded in satisfaction.
"You're the ones I saw earlier ago. You two must be mages, no?" he said in a lilting rhyme.
"You're an elf," Erza realized. "You were the thing that was staring at me earlier."
"Inspecting you, to tell it true. Seeing if you had some magic to you. Since you wear the mark of the tailed fairy, you may enter our grove and need not be wary." He waved around at the golden sphere of peace. "Welcome to Fairy Sanctuary!"
The elf pulled out a pipe and began to play. The fairies danced, flittering through the air with grace. The music of the fairies left Erza and Gray swaying from side to side in tempo with the tune. Their voices were gentle and gave off a magic of their own.
Gray and Erza looked at each other in amazement, then laughed at the tiny troupe of aerial dancers. Gray watched Erza's face beaming in the golden light. When she turned to look at him, her face looked like an excited child rather than the Queen of Fairies. Gray's arms wrapped around her, and he embraced her fully. This time Erza didn't mind at all.
Finally the elf stopped his music. "I am Krumpholumpikan. Call me Krum, you can."
"Krum?" Erza inquired. "Then you're the one who hired us."
"Ah, that's why you have the Fairy's mark. It was hard to see in the dark. Fairy Tail mages I hired indeed. The only mages I trust when I have a need. I had planned to meet you disguised as a man, but now you've seen my secret so there goes that plan. But fear not, brave mages, that's perfectly fine. Friends of fairies are friends of mine."
"Friends!" the fairies chirped in unison.
Suddenly, a terrifying roar rumbled through the forest. The fairies scattered and hurried into their mushroom homes.
"That is the reason I asked you to come here," the elf said, staring to the sky. "The terror of these forests brings the fairies fear. Man has chopped down too many trees. They spoil the ground, the skies, the seas. Animals have no homes or pad. The Spirit of the Woods has grown mad."
"Spirit of the Woods?" asked Erza, not looking concerned.
A dark shadow loomed up over the edges of the trees, taller than a mountain. Gray cringed and drew back in horror.
"We're to fight that?" he shouted.
"Oh no! No indeed," the elf snapped. "It is not fighting that I need. There is no fighting this holy force. She rules all of this forest, of course. She gives us strength, magic to fly. Without her, all magic in this forest would die. Me, the fairies, unicorns too. And you mages, yes, it'd affect even you."
"What do we do?" asked Erza.
"Speak to her with words aimed to soothe. That is your only possible move. Her anger is toward humans alone, so it must be humans to approach her throne."
"Talk with that monstrous creature?" Grays shouted in disbelief. "There's no way..."
"Understood," Erza said, nodding without hesitation.
"Kyaaaa!" Lucy suddenly ran into the clearing. "Whoa! Erza, Gray? Thank goodness I found you. That huge thing appeared and...um...is that an elf?" She tilted her head as she looked at the tiny man in green.
Erza rose and stepped forward. "Gray, stay with Lucy. Krum, do you have any way for me to get high enough to speak to the Spirit of the Woods face to face?"
"Ah, the nutshell carriage is the way to go. For you, I need to resize it though." He pointed to a walnut shell and six flies harnessed to the nut. "Grow!" he shouted, and the shell and flies became huge.
Lucy pulled away and grabbed hold of Gray. "First giant spiders, now giant flies?"
He rolled his eyes at how girlishly scared she was acting. Erza never showed fear. He admired that in her.
Erza climbed into the jumbo nutshell, and the enlarged flies flew into the air. As they all watched Erza fly up into the night, the elf spoke.
"I recognize by her flaming hair, she is the one called Titania the fair. An apt name for one so brave and good. Perhaps she has the power to appease the Spirit of the Wood. But only for a short time, I fear. It is you humans who must chnge your gear. She and spirits like her rule Earthland. The Spirit of the Woods will settle her score with those who offend her hand. Only by returning to a life of peace will the great Mother once more be at ease. To live with nature, not struggle so. Man indeed has need to grow."
Suddenly lightning bolts shot out of the massive form. Erza returned to the grove and stepped out of the nutshell.
"She only destroyed some foul creatures cutting down the trees to feed fires for their furnaces, making weapons. However, if these woods are not protected, she'll return upon the midsummer."
"We'll inform the surrounding villages," Gray promised.
"She also asked me to deal with a certain fire-breathing maniac who set a portion of the forest on fire."
Lucy rubbed out a headache. "That idiot!"
A fairy peeked its head out. "All safe?"
The elf pulled out his pipe. "All safe, my friends, it's all right. Let's say farewell, thank you, goodnight, to the Queen of Fairy Tail and those of the fairy mark. Let our loving light chase away the dark."
Krum played, and the fairies danced all around Erza, Gray, and Lucy. Gray wrapped an arm around Erza, and this time she leaned into him. They shared a smile, then watched as Lucy called out Plue, and the tiny white dog danced along with the fairies.