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One Sentance, One Word, One Key (Redux)

Chapter Text

That night, I was woken up by my dad bumping my chest with his snout. I sat up and rubbed my eyes as I looked at the fire-breathing dragon. “Dad, I was sleeping.” I mumbled.

“I know Natsu,” said the deep and rumbly voice of my dad, “I told you yesterday that we needed to go somewhere to get you and the others a surprise, remember?”

“Can’t we go later? It’s still dark out.”

“And we have to cross most of the continent by midnight tomorrow night. If we don’t leave now, we’ll be late.”

“Alright,” I grumbled, climbing on top of him, “but I’m sleeping on you.”

The dragon king chuckled at that, before spreading his wings and lifting himself up into the air. We soared through the air as I laid against one of my dad’s scales and went back to sleep.

When I woke up, we were still flying. We flew the entire day, stopping occasionally to get food or to let me relieve myself in some bushes. It was late night when we arrived, and by that time I had fallen back to sleep. My dad took him off of me before waking me up. I looked around and saw that we were on top of a small mountain with a pair of large ornate metal doors, with everyone I’d ever met surrounding me.

“Took you long enough to get here, Sakura” teased the dark-haired boy my age, Gajeel, “Me and Metalicana got here at sundown.”

“You wanna go, Metalhead?” I yelled.

“Guys, don’t fight,” Wendy, a girl with short hair that was blue as the sea, who seemed to be holding back a flood with her almond eyes.

“It’s alright,” Gajeel said, “Don’t cry, we won’t fight.”

“Yeah, don’t worry about that,” I agreed.

“But Gajeel would totally destroy Natsu if they did fight,” said a younger dark-haired boy, Rogue. He’d always been a bit of a fanboy for Gajeel.

“Yeah right,” said Sting, a blonde haired boy the same age as Rogue and Wendy, and my fanboy, “Natsu could just melt anything Gajeel makes! He’s super strong!”

“Boys,” said Anna, a blonde woman, and the only adult human I’ve ever met.

“Sorry ma’am,” said the younger boys in unison.

“It’s alright,” she said, “but please behave yourself. We’re about to tell you about the surprise.”

“Really!?” we all said.

“Yes,” said Igneel, “We’re going on a trip to somewhere we’ve never been before.”

“But I thought you said you’ve been all over the world?” asked Sting.

“Err, I have,” said Weisslogia, the all-white dragon that raised Sting, “but over time places change, and I--”

“Don’t beat around the bush,” interrupted a man I didn’t recognize. He had short dark hair and was dressed in a dark tunic and a white sash. “You’re going into the future to go and fight Acnologia.”

“Anna who’s he?” asked Wendy.

“Children,” she said, a smile that even to my ten-year old mind looked forced and unpleasant, “this is Zeref.”

“Isn’t he an evil wizard?” Rogue asked, moving closer to his father.

“If by evil you mean broke the laws of reality in a series of attempts to bring my dead brother back to life, only to get cursed into killing everything that comes within twenty feet while being unable to die myself evil, then yes,” said Zeref.

“You’ve also created demons that have killed hundreds,” said Grandeeney.

“All of them were prototypes for Natsu,” said Zeref, “and I would be more thankful to the person who’s instrumental in the death of your mortal enemy.”

“Prototypes for me?” I said, “Am I a demon?”

“Yes and no,” Zeref said, “You are a demon, but unlike all the others, you aren’t just a book, but also the corpse of my younger brother.”

“So then you’re my brother?” I asked, “or my, creator? I don’t understand.”

“I don’t expect you to,” Zeref said.

“Natsu,” said Igneel, “It is true that you are a demon, but that doesn’t make you a bad person.”

“So you knew!?” I yelled, “Why didn’t you tell me!”

“Natsu, when should he have told you?” asked Zeref, “When you first met? You would have run away thinking that you could defend yourself. How about after you met the others? He would have robbed you of the only peers you would have until tonight.”

“You!” I asked Zeref, “Do we have any other family?”

“Our entire village was destroyed by bad dragons some eighty years ago,” Zeref said, “the only reason I survived was because I was playing in the woods at the time. You were the only corpse that wasn’t turned to ash by the dragons.”

“I, err, gah!” I grunted “Forget it! How are you going to help us take on Acnologia? Is it something to do with me being a demon?”

“It only has the most tangential things to do with you being a demon,” Zeref said “If you ever take off that scarf that Anna made for you, he’ll come after you as fast as he can. If you want to fight him, feel free to take it of, but otherwise keep it on as often as you can. As for how I’m helping you fight him, one of my earlier attempts to bring you back was the Eclipse Gate.” He placed his hands on the doors, “They let people travel through time. They were a spectacular failure, and can only send things forward in time, and even then only if the gate is opened by a celestial mage at the exact time, give or take a few minutes, that you set it to in the past, or else whatever you send will seace to exist. For what we need them to do, however, they’ll do nicely. Do you recall the three fates that befall all dragon slayers?”

“We get really angry and want to fight all the time,” said Wendy, “we go crazy from our senses being too strong for us to handle, or we turn into dragons, right?”

“Very good Wendy!” said Anna, “Do you remember what Grandeeney said about the first two?”

“We started training so young that they won’t happen to us,” said Wendy, “And I think she said that she’d found a way to stop us from turning into dragons. But what does that have to do with sending us into the future?”

“The spell that we need to cast to make the antibodies that will prevent you from becoming dragons takes up a lot of magic over a several years long period,” said Igneel, “Far too much of a burden to place on this world without being noticed.”

“Lucky for us,” said Zeref, “The amount of magic in the world has steadily been increasing as time has gone on, so we’re going to send you far enough into the future that we can cast the spell without worrying about it.”

“Wait,” said Wendy, “Grandeeney taught me that our bodies only make antibodies to fight sicknesses that we already have. How are we going to make the antibodies if we don’t have any dragon in us?”

At this, the dragons began to shuffle around, until the iron dragon, Metalicana, said “That’s actually a part of the spell that we didn’t want to tell you until now. I hate to say this, but there really isn’t any other option: we’re going to have our souls reside in your bodies while you make the antibodies.”

“But what will happen to you?” I asked.

“Their bodies will die,” Zeref said matter-of-factly.

“What?!” me and the other dragon slayers yelled before devolving into a screaming mass, trying to persuade the dragons to not cast the spell.

“Look what you did!” yelled Anna, “Did you have to tell them that?”

“They didn’t let me finish,” Zeref said, “Their bodies will die, but their souls will still be with you at all times. Plus, Anna here will be joining you in the future. Also, Natsu, I have something I want to tell you before you go.”

I wiped my tears away as I turned to the dark wizard and said, “What is it?”

“My demons call themselves Etherious, the name I gave them while I was working on them. They also believe that you are their leader, who they’re calling ‘Master END’. END is actually your demon name, it stands for Etherious Natsu Dragneel.”

Zeref pulled out a pocket watch and checked it before saying, “Elven fifty-eight everyone, do it now.”

Anna sighed before pulling out the ring of solid gold keys she kept with her at all times. Igneel looked down at me before saying “Remember, we’ll be with you wherever you go.”

“Do you have to do this though?” I asked, hugging him tightly.

“Yes Natsu,” he said, starting to glow, “The truth is, because you’re a demon, if you start turning into a dragon, you’ll die. I couldn’t live with myself if that happened.”

“Ok,” I said, tears streaming down my face as I hugged the ancient dragon with all my might. The glow around him grew brighter before I felt a warm tingling sensation envelope me. As the glow faded, the tingling went away. My father’s body began to grow cold, and I knew the deed was done. I wanted to stay there, embracing my father for as long as I could, but I saw a bright light come from behind me, and I knew that my time was over.

I tried to be strong for younger slayers as I turned around to see the Eclipse gates opened. Wendy, Sting, and Rogue were all crying at the feet of their parent’s corps, no, their bodies. I looked over at Gajeel, and saw the emotionless expression that told me he had used that spell that shut off his emotions. I never understood why it would be useful, but I guess now would be the best time to use it. We nodded, and I walked over to Sting. I patted him on the back, and he tried to look like he wasn’t as destroyed by the death of the only parent he’d ever known as he was. It didn’t really work, but he did get up from Weisslogia. I saw that Gajeel had managed to get Rogue up as well, and was currently holding a screaming Wendy.

Anna handed the keys to Zeref as we walked through the gate, and into a world completely foreign to us.

Chapter Text

I had decided I’d died and gone to Hell. That was the only way I could think of to explain what was happening to me. One moment the big top is on fire and I’m trying to get people out, the next I’m in a damp room with a cloth over my head and people torturing me while yelling at me to “repent,” or whatever.

I don’t know how many times they had repeated the routine. It would start with my arms and legs tied to a cold metal table, my back facing up. From there, the demons would whip me over, and over, and over, and over again, until I passed out from blood loss. When I would wake up, I would be sitting against a wall with some other children while the demons whipped another one. When the last kid passed out, they’d start throwing kids into a vat of salt water so cold I was surprised it didn’t freeze.

The entire time, the demons would laugh like madmen and yell at us to repent, but never tell me what I was repenting for. Eventually, they’d tell us to get out of the water. Come in to soon, and they’d kill you again. Take too long coming in though, and they kill you anyway. After that, we’d be thrown in our cells until the beatings would start up again.

I had nearly lost all hope of being able to escape, even for a moment, when it happened. I was being whipped, when suddenly I heard an explosion. It shook the table, and based on the loud banging sound also knocked over the demons. I pulled on my bonds, and realized that the shaking had loosened them enough for me to slip out of them. I decided to take the risk. I mean, what’s the worst thing that could happen, they kill me?

I sliped my hands out of their bonds, before using a trick I’d learned from one of the contortionists at the circus to dislocate my ankles. I slipped them out as I pulled the cloth from around my eyes.

I sat on a metal table that looked wildly out of place in the dungeon room it occupied. To one side there was the salt water pool, on the other there was a bunch of torture devices. A bunch of kids were already laying against the wall. There were five men in robes laying on the ground around me.

“He’s escaping!” called one of the men, “Get him!”

“Don’t look him in the eye!” yelled another, lunging in my direction.

Before I’d died, I could have easily dodged the attack, but as it was I barely stepped aside when he dove past me. I stumbled and fell on my butt when I did. He looked around the room, probably trying to look over top of me, but I looked him dead in the eye, and he went stiff.

“He got Kenny!” yelled one of the other men in robes.

“That bastard!” said the fifth, grabbing a blade off of the wall and charging me. I threw my hands out in front of me as I shut my eyes tight. I heard a wet squelch and felt something hit my face, but I felt fine. I didn’t hurt at all. I opened my eyes to see what had happened, and saw that, right there before me stood the man I had looked in the eye, with the spear of the other man poking out his back.

He fell to his knees, pulling the spear out of the attacker’s loosened grip. I looked up and stared him dead in the eyes, and the attacker went stiff. I steeled myself, and asked my new puppet “How do I get out of here?”

The puppet lifted his hand and pointed down a hallway I hadn’t noticed before and said “Down that hall, go up the stairs. Elevator is the third and fourth doors on your left. Press the up arrow, then the button with a G on it. Door is on your right.”

“You’re not making it that far you son of a bitch!” yelled another, charging at me with a sword in hand and his head down.

I stumbled back for a moment. There was no way I’d make it out of here if I didn’t stop him, but there was no way I could win a fight against him. Suddenly, the man with the spear lunged forward to block the sword with his chest while the man who died turned his to face the attacker and shot a lime green laser from his mouth into the man’s stomach.

The man fell to the floor as he cried out in agony, throwing his sword dropped his sword as he fell to the floor and cried out in agony. In his pain, he looked up and directly into my eyes. He went stiff, and blood and guts started to gush from the wound for about a minute or two, while I just stood there in complete shock. As the blood stopped, the man’s face paled.

The final two men got to their feet. On reflex, both of the men who had died under my control turned their heads to face their former companions and shot them with green bolts of energy. One was struck in the shoulder so hard his arm fell off as a part of his chest was blown off. The other was hit in the neck so hard his head was severed, and flew through the air, landing at my feet.

I looked the head in the eyes. While the face went stiff, the eyes still had a light behind them for a moment. After that moment, however, the light went out, leaving behind only the head of a dead man.

The last man, however, was still alive. “You fucktard,” he swore, gritting his teeth, “We were trying to escape! Why’d you have to kill us?”

“You, you’re not dead yet,” I stammered.

“How the FUCK am I supposed to live when I’m missing some of my lungs?” he said, “Never mind, I don’t even think you know. Just do me one favor before I die.”

“What?” I asked

“When you look someone in the eye, and they die,” he said, “You control their soul for the rest of your life. I’m fucking terrified of the afterlife, so I want you to control my soul for me, got it?”

“What?” I said, my eyes growing wide.

“To late!” said the man, looking me in the eye as the light left his.

I fell to my knees and buried my face in my hands.

“Ha,” I heard escape from my mouth, “haha, hahahaha!” I ran my hands through my patchy blue hair as I said “I’m a murderer. I killed them. It was me. I really am a monster.”

“No…” I heard, muttered from over by the wall. I looked over and saw two children, one boy, one girl, both blindfolded, sitting up.

“They’re the monsters,” said the boy, “You saved us.”

“Don’t beat yourself up over it,” the girl said, “They tortured you, didn’t they?”

“Yeah,” I said, standing up, “yeah, sorry. Hold on, are you guys tied down?”

“Yes,” said the boy, “you mind cutting me out?”

“Sure thing,” I said, going over there with my reanimated corpses. I willed them to shoot the rope, and they did. I helped them stand as I said, “Let’s get out of here.”

They removed their blindfolds and nodded as we headed for the exit. We didn’t make eye contact with each other, but we had little issue getting out of the facility. Before we got to the exit, the boy tapped me on the shoulder

“Two things,” he said, “First, we haven’t seen the sun in a while. If we look at it directly, we might go blind. Cover your eyes with your hands and only let some of the light get through your fingers, that should help. Also, you should ditch the corpses. Maybe you can put the souls in something else.

“There are some rocks over there,” the girl said, pointing, “Do you think that’ll work?”

“I don’t see why not,” I said. I willed the souls to leave their bodies, or what was left of them anyway, and go into the rocks. Little green balls of energy left the cadavers and flew into some nearby pebbles, which began to float as the bodies dropped to the ground.

“I should get out of here soon,” I said, “The police should arrive, and my magic is probably not going over well with them.”

“I’m sticking with you,” said the girl.

“Likewise,” said the boy, “my names Freed, yours?”

I laughed heartily for the first time since arriving here. “You’re names Freed, and you just got freed. Sorry, I just thought that was funny, and I really needed a laugh. Names Bickslow, by the way.”

“You stick your tongue out when you laugh,” said the girl, “That’s weird.”

“I stick my tongue out a lot, princess,” I said, “I’m an ex-carny. We’re quirky.”

“Ok,” she said, “I’m Evergreen, by the way.”

“Yet I’m the one with green hair,” said Freed, “Now if I recall correctly when I was brought in, there’s a train station not too far from here that has a sunglasses stand nearby.”

“Then why are we still here?” I asked, “Let’s go!”

“Go! Go!” chanted the flying pebbles in a high pitch voice.

“That’s creepy,” Evergreen said.

“They’re human souls living in rocks,” I said, “What did you expect?”

Chapter Text

This job should be a cake walk, I thought to myself, walking off the train. The only real issue was the lump of nerves I my throat. I looked down at my wrist. Only a few minutes left until the first one hit zero. I walked out of the station and looked around. It could be any of these people.

I shook my head to clear away my thoughts. I had a job to do. I needed to find that Geese guy, and could look around after that was dealt with. I walked quickly to the town hall. I told the receptionist who I was and why I was there, and they gave me a tip on where I could find him. East side of town.

As I headed over to the bandit hideout, I looked down at my wrist, not even realizing I had done it. By it’s count I only had a few seconds before I’d meet my first soulmate. Well, looks like our first date is me beating the shit out of a bandit. Not ideal, but I’ve heard of worse meetings.

I looked up and saw that I’d found my way back to the train station. The massive crowd told me that another train must have arrived recently. I walked over to the fountain at the center of the square and sat down before rolling up my sleeve again. Thirty seconds. I ran my hands through my spikey blonde hair to calm my nerves, to no effect.

I was distracted from my thoughts by a series of gunshots from behind me. I stood up and looked at the origin, electricity crackling all across my body as I ran at whoever had fired. I saw five balls of green energy coming from where I had heard the gunshots. They were all around a boy in raged clothing and sparse blue hair and a blue stick figure tattooed on his face.

As I looked at his glowing green eyes, all the color in the world faded out, leaving behind only green. All of my senses became muted to be much weaker than it was before I’d gotten my dragon slayer lacrima. I felt my numbed legs come to a stop as my lightning stopped crackling. The only thing that remained unchanged was the boy with spotty blue hair.

“Shit!” he said, his voice a thunderous roar in my muted mind.

A girl standing next to him, her dress in similar condition, said something that sounded like “What happened?”, but it was hard to tell with how muted everything was.

“My rocks exploded,” said the boy, “Then this guy came running and he looked me in the eye!”

“Have you figured out how to fix him?” asked another boy who was looking away from them both.

“No,” said the blue haired boy, “That book from the library only told me what I was doing. The only clue on how to stop it was that you can be forced out when your timer runs out.”

The boy who was looking away looked at his wrist. “In that case,” he said, “We’re either incredibly lucky, or I’m about to make a fool of myself.”

He turned around and looked me dead in the eye. His were pits of blackness, but as he looked at me I felt the effects of the magic fading, and saw that they were actually just a very dark purple.

“Ugh” I groaned, “That gave me a massive headache. What was it? My names Laxus by the way.”

“Well that worked,” chuckled the boy with blue hair, looking away, “But it’s a type of soul magic. From what I’ve figured out it’s illegal to learn, but some people just develop it. That’s how the tattoo showed up. It be red if I’d learned it.

“Yeah, great,” said the boy with purple eyes, looking away from me, “So I’m Freed. What are you doing in town?”

“I came here on a job to find a bandit,” I explained, “Then I got distracted by the gunshots.”

“Those weren’t gunshots,” said the blue haired boy, “I just put these babies into some rocks a few days ago. They can only stay like that for a few hours at a time before the rocks explode.”

“Hey guys!” yelled the girl, keeping her gaze to her feet, “We’re in public! The rocks might have scared away everyone for a little while, but there’s no way the guards aren’t on their way now.”

“Right,” said Freed, “We need to find somewhere to hide, at least for a little while.”

“Well my job needs me to head east anyway,” I pointed out, “so lets go that way.”

“Alright,” said the others as we ran over to where I had been told the bandits had been.

“So,” I said, “I didn’t catch your names.”

“Bickslow,” said the blue haired boy.

“Evergreen,” said the girl.

“And I’m Geese,” said a man walking out in front of us. He was only my age, maybe a little older, but he already had the bulbous nose of a drunk, and he was holding a very large knife. “You lot look like you’ve got some money, mind giving me some? Or all of it?”

“Thanks for saving me time,” I said, lightning coursing over my body, “I’m from Fairy Tail, and I’m here to bring you in.”

“Fuck!” said the mugger, running down the alley way.

I sent a bolt of lightning after him, but he leapt up the side of the building as soon as I shot it, getting well out of the way. He let out a whistle as he ran along the rooftops, and suddenly a bunch of thugs came out of the buildings and started to attack us.

“Shit, can you guys take care of yourselves?” I asked.

“Not sure about them,” said Bickslow, “But I’ve killed with these babies!”

The pebbles that he had put the souls in sent bolts of green energy out at several of the thugs. They hit their target’s hands and thighs, disarming and incapacitating them.

“He’s not the only one who can fight,” said Freed, picking up one of the swords the bandits had dropped. He began dueling with one of them as soon as he’d picked up the sword, and was finished with him almost as fast.

“I can’t fight,” said Evergreen, “I can still help though!”

“It’s alright,” I said, “If you can’t fight just fall back!” suddenly all of the bandits I was looking at turned to stone. I turned around and looked at the top of Evergreen’s head.

“I said I can help,” was the only explanation she gave, “Now get that Geese guy!”

“Right,” I said, chasing after Geese.

He had already gotten a good way away by the time I had started chasing him. I had lost sight of him, and there was no way I could hit what I couldn’t see. Luckily, he knew this, and thought that he was dealing with a regular human. I smirked at the thought. One major good side of having one of my kidneys replaced with lacrima by my sociopath of a father was that it gave me better senses.

I closed my eyes and listened. Ahead of me was a dumpster, with some cardboard next to it. I easily sidestepped it as I heard Freed and the others fighting the bandits. Up above, maybe ten meters in front of me, running along the rooftops was what could only be my quarry. I felt my body tingle as it turned into electricity.

Soaring through the air as a lightning bolt, I easily caught up with Goose. I turned back to normal while I was overtop him, and let gravity do most of the work as I grabbed his head and slammed it onto the shingles. He slid down a small way before I lifted him back up and felt his pulse. Still alive, just unconscious. That’s good.

I looked back at where the fight had been, and while most of it was blocked by building, I didn’t see green flashes, which either meant Bickslow’s bolts weren’t as bright as I thought, or they were done. I ran across the roof to see which was the case. Below me stood about twenty wounded bandits laying on the ground, with a few statues of their companions in various poses around them. Freed and the others were about to head up the alleyway, and for some reason Bickslow had put on a helmet one of the bandits must have been wearing.

“That went well,” I said. Freed and Bickslow looked up at me, and I threw my hands up over my eyes “Bickslow, your eyes!”

“It’s fine!” he said, “this helmet is so big it covers my eyes with it’s shadow.”

“You sure? I have super senses.”

“Really?” Freed said.

“I’m a dragon slayer,” I said, “All my senses are stronger than normal.”

“Then you might want to not look,” said Bickslow, “Just in case.”

I turned back into lightning and jumped down, carrying Goose with me. Turning back to normal, I asked “You called the town guards?”

“We fled the square to try and get away from them,” said Evergreen, “and now you want us to talk to them?”

“That was mostly because the guards were coming to stop someone from shooting at people,” I said, “Here they’re trying to arrest criminals that we’ve already apprehended. They’ll be much nicer this way. Oh, Ever, you can turn them back to normal, right?”

“I wouldn’t have done that if I couldn’t,” she said, “I won’t until the guards arrive though.”

“Good,” I said, “I’ll go tell the mayor where these guys are, you stay here.”

“Um,” Bickslow said, “One problem with that: we seem incredibly sketchy, and will probably get arrested if the guard shows up before you get back. Ever should go, she might seem a bit weird, but she doesn’t have black eyes or talking rocks floating around her.”

“That’s actually a good point,” I said, “Any objections?”

“Where is the mayor’s house?” Ever asked.

I gave her the directions and sent her off. She arrived a little while later with the guard. They arrested the bandits, and we collected the bounties on all of their heads. Most of it was spent there though, getting them a change of clothes and Ever fixed with glasses. Then we bought train tickets to Magnolia.

“You guys sure you’re fine moving to Magnolia?” I asked as we boarded.

“Our families gave us to a bunch of evil child torturers,” Freed said, “We don’t give a damn about them.”

“Far enough,” I said, “and if it’s any concelation, most of us have pretty fucked up families.”

“I’m an orphan who was adopted by carnies,” said Bickslow, “those carnies would later give me over to my torturers and make me think I died. I think I’ve got you beat.”

“My dad cut out my kidney and replaced it with a rock,” I said, “And while I was in the hospital recovering, he beat my mom to death. Might not be actual torture, but I still got pretty fucked up by that.”

“That is pretty fucked up,” Freed said, “was he thrown in prision?”

“Yeah,” I said, “But he’s on track to get out on good behavior in a few years. Can we talk about something else?”

“Sure,” said Ever, but the conversation just sort of remained silent for most of the trip. The only discussion we had was after Bickslow’s rocks exploded again, at which we got him to try putting the souls into crumbs from sandwhichs we’d gotten.

“Souls spend entire lifetimes in organic bodies,” Freed said, “maybe they’ll handle it better than the rocks.”

“And even if they don’t they’ll at least blow up quieter,” I muttered.

The crumbs actually lasted almost a month as the soul’s host, but at that point they were so moldy they fell apart. At that point, the three of them had joined Fairy Tail and were on a job with me near a tropical resort, so we decided to get a little wooden totem pole, cut it into four pieces, and have him put the souls in there.

Chapter Text

I wondered through the snowy forest, the sun high above me as the cold sapped at my strength. I’d been walking for at least a few months, but I could only tell by the passing of the seasons. It seemed like summer when I’d escaped that hellhole, but now it was winter. I needed to find somewhere to rest and make a fire, I was beginning to lose feeling in my toes.

I got to the top of a hill and saw a clearing. In the clearing, I saw a group of people. Two boys about my age, one with dark hair, one with silver, both in their boxers. They seemed to be talking to a woman with short dark hair. Something about that woman seemed familiar, so I got closer to take a better look.

I was just about to enter the clearing when I recognized her.

“Ma-MAMA!” I yelled, stumbling forward.

The three of them all turned to look at me, and my mother’s eyes grew wide. “Ultear?!” she said, running toward me.

We hugged each other as hard as we could. I cried as Mama said “You’re alive, you’re alive god dammit. I’m so sorry I left you with those bastards, but they said you died, and I didn’t know they were lying to me. I’m so sorry Ultear.”

“Ur, is this your daughter?” asked the silver haired boy.

“She’s got a daughter!?” the dark haired one said.

Mama laughed for a moment before loosening her grip on me as she whipped her eyes and turned to look at the boys. “Yes Gray, I do. Boys, this is Ultear, my daughter. When she was born, she was sick, so I sent her to some doctors to try and have her get better, but they told me she died a few years back.”

I buried my face in Mama’s chest and said “Those doctors were bad people. They hurt me, and all the other kids they had. They cut me up and took something out of me, then put something else in me. I don’t know why, but it hurt me so much.”

Mama looked scared for a moment before hugging me again as she brushed my hair back. “It’s alright,” she said, “They’ll never get you again. Boys, we’re done for the day, lets head back.”

Together, the four of us all headed to the cottage that Mama was living in. She took me into my old room, where she got me some clothes before heading to the bathroom. She started to fill up the tub when I asked “Mama, why do you have clothes for me if you thought I’d died?”

Mama said “They’re actually hand me downs from when I was about your age. I didn’t have the heart to throw them out when you were kidnapped because I was mourning you. Anyway, Ultear, you said that they cut you and took something?

I lifted up my shirt enough to show her the small scar on my stomach. “They took out something that looked like a bean and put in a green crystal.”

“Alright,” Mama said, “after they did that, could you do anything special? Anything you couldn’t before?”

“I could make things older or younger at will,” I said, “That’s how I broke out, I made the building really old and had it fall apart. It doesn’t work on people though.”

Mama’s mouth held open for a moment before she left, saying “You take a bath, I’m going to go and try to find out what that magic is.”

“Ok!” I said, “And can I have lunch when I’m done? I haven’t eaten in a while.”

“I’ll get you something then,” Mama said, closing the door behind her.

After I got out of the bath, got dressed, and went into the kitchen, where I saw the boys eating sandwiches.

“Yours is on the counter,” said the dark-haired boy.

“Thank you,” I said. I grabbed the sandwich and sat at the table before asking “So, Mama told you my name, but I don’t know yours.”

“Oh, I’m Gray,” said the dark-haired boy.

“I’m Lyon,” said the silver-haired boy, “We’re your mom’s students.”

“What is she teaching you?” I asked.

“Ice-make Magic,” Lyon said, “She’s one of the best ice-mages in the Brago!”

“Is that the country we’re in now?” I asked, “I’m sorry, I’ve spent most of my life in a prison, so I don’t know a lot about the world.”

“Oh, yeah, sorry,” said Lyon.

“But then how did you remember your mom?” asked Gray.

“She’s the only adult I’ve seen who didn’t cover her face,” I replied, “Plus, I saw her last six years ago. She hasn’t changed that much.”

“That’s good,” said Mama, walking into the room, “Ultear, I’ve found what happened to you. They took out your kidney and replaced it with a special lacrima that gave you the ability to use a type of lost magic called Time Arc.”

“That’s awesome!” said Lyon, “Time magic sounds so cool!”

“I only know the basics though,” I mumbled, “it’s not that impressive.”

“Well if you can use it,” Mama said, “I don’t have any problem with getting you some books on the magic that you can learn from.”

“Ok,” I said, “But I also wanna learn your magic, if that’s alright.”

“Of course,” Mama said.

“But she’d be holding us back!” said Lyon, “She doesn’t even know the basics yet!”

I waved my hand in the air in front of Lyon’s chair, and the metal screws holding it together rusted to dust, causing him to fall out.

“Hey! What was that for?” Lyon said before thrusting out his hand and saying “Ice-Make: Eagle!”

A bunch of little birds made of ice came out of nowhere and flew at me. A wave of my hand evaporated them.

“Both of you stop!” Mama yelled, “Lyon, she’s learning Ice-Make from me. You can still learn how at your own pace, but I don’t want you to get angry when you clearly haven’t learned the basics. You need to use both hands, or else the ice will be unbalanced.”

“As for you young lady,” Mama said, turning to me, “I don’t want you picking a fight with Lyon or Gray! Especially if it winds up breaking the furniture!”

“It’s alright Mama,” I said, waving my hand at the pile of wood that used to be Lyon’s chair as it magically fixed itself.

Mama sighed before saying, “Alright, everyone, we should get back to training.”

“Ok!” the three of us all said in unison.

I began my training in Ice-Make that day. I easily got a hold of the basics, and managed to catch up to the boys in just a month or so. It was after that month that our life together was ruined.

We had gone into town to shop when we passed some travelers in the street. One of them said “Did you hear about Butzbach?”

“They’ve got a demon problem right?” the other replied.

“Not just any demon,” the third said, “I heard it’s Deliora!”

“Rip,” said the first traveler, “They’re dead.”

When we got back home, Gray disappeared into his room for a few hours. When he came back, he had a backpack and left, saying “Thanks, Ur, but I’ve got to go beat Deliora.”

“What!” she yelled, “Stop! You can’t defeat Deliora! You’re not good enough yet, Gray!”

“Shut it,” Gray said, “You don’t know anything.”

I grabbed Gray’s arm and said “Gray no!”

He roughly pulled his arm out of my grasp as he said “I’m gonna avenge my mom and dad! Don’t try and stop me!”

“Leave now and I’m expelling you!” Mama yelled.

“Fine by me!” Gray said, leaving, “If I die I’m blaming you for not teaching me stronger magic!”

As Gray ran out into the woods, Lyon and I stood there, staring at Mama dumbfounded.

“What are we gonna do?” Lyon asked.

“We can’t just let him run off and fight Deliora!” I said, “We have to go after him!”

“I’m not planning on it,” Mama said, “Go get your stuff. We’re going after him.”

“He’ll just run away again if we try and bring him back,” Lyon said.

“That’s why we’re going to let him try and fight it,” Mama said, “then, when he’s being beaten, we’ll grab him and escape.”

“Are you sure that’ll work?” I asked.

Mama smiled “Of course I am, I’ve got you. You’re getting pretty good at Time Arc, and since Deliora isn’t human, you should be able to use your magic on him.”

“Alright.” I said, my face going serious as I went to grab my things to chase after my brother.

Oh how foolish we were.

We followed after Gray for a day, making sure to stay far enough away that he couldn’t find us. He ran into the giant scaly monster just after sunset. It was attacking a city, and by the looks of it had been for some time. It was mostly in ruins.

Gray sent some ice javelins at the beast, which barely managed to get the monster’s attention. Deliora lazily swatted a building at Gray.

“Look out!” I yelled, stepping out from the piece of rubble I had been behind as I held my hand out and aged the building to dust.

“Ultear?!” Gray yelled, “What are you doing here!”

“I just saved your life you dummy!” I yelled back, “Some thanks would be nice!”

“Well now that he knows we’re here,” Lyon said, stepping out from the rubble pile, “We might as well try and help! Ice-Make: Eagles!”

As the ice birds flew through the air, Deliora turned to face us. They found their mark on his eyes, and he let out a yell of pain.

“Nice shot!” I said.

“Lyon too?” Gray said, “Is Ur with you?!”

“Ice-Make: Rose Garden,” said Mama, stepping out from the rubble. A giant rose bush erupted out from the ground, surrounding Deliora’s feet. “This is actually going a lot better than I thought it would.”

“Why are you people here!?” Gray yelled, “This is my fight!”

Deliora let out a roar as he lifted his foot, shattering the ice as he grabbed another building and threw it at us. Another wave of my hand reassembled the ruins we were standing in, blocking it.

“That’s twice now I’ve saved your life,” I said, “Still want us to leave?”

“No, I’m good,” gray said, stumbling back.

“Alright then,” I said.

“You still want to fight this thing?” Mama asked.

“I’m not leaving until it’s dead,” Gray said, “Even if you do.”

“You’re stupid,” I said, aging a hole in the wall, “Let’s go.”

Just as I said that, a blast of energy tore the building to pieces. At the other end was the scaly mouth of a very pissed off Deliora.

“Ice-Make: Floor!” Gray said, freezing the ground at Deliora’s feet, “Try knocking him over!”

“Ice-Make: Snow Dragon!” Lyon yelled, sending a wyrm made of snow at the demon, who smashed it out of the air before it could even make contact.

“Ice-Make: Bloom!” I shouted, and two flowers of razor sharp ice bloomed at Deliora’s feet, shattering as they touched it’s thick hide.

“Ice-Make: Ice Volcano!” Mama yelled as she smacked the ground, tearing the ground and launching huge chunks of ice into the air and into Deliora’s legs, bringing him to his knees.

“Yes!” I cried, throwing my hands up in the air, “We’re winning!”

My celebrations were stopped when Deliora decided to throw another building at us, which he then shattered with his laser blast, creating a smoke screen that blanked over us.

“Shit!” Mama swore, “Kids, get out of the cloud the way we came! We can’t let Deliora hit us when we leave!”

“Ice-Make: Geyser,” I heard Gray mutter, launching chunks of ice out into the air, dispersing the cloud enough to see through.

“Or do that,” I said. I looked up to see that Deliora had taken the time we were confused from the smoke screen to get right up on top of us.

He brought his fist down on top of us as I heard Mama yell “Ice Make: Yggdrasil!”

A massive pillar of ice erupted out from the ground, shattering the ground we stood on. It blocked the blow from Deliora as it grew higher and higher, reaching so high up into the sky I couldn’t stretch my head back far enough to see the top. I looked over and saw that Deliora had been knocked back a little and was now struggling to find his footing on the frozen ground. I was about to hit him and knock him over when the pillar turned into a tree, sprouting hundreds upon hundreds of branches as thick as I was tall, many of which launched directly into Deliora’s stomach and face, making him lose what little balance he had found as he stumbled forward and into the cold embrace of the branches. Those branches then grew leaves of ice with razor sharp thorns. Those leaves looked sharp enough to cut through flesh like butter, and were dense enough that a normal person would be reduced to mincemeat.

Unfortunately, Deliora was not a person, let alone a normal person. He placed his giant hands directly into the tree and hefted himself up. With a mighty push, he uprooted the Ice Yggdrasil and threw it to the side before turning around and leaving, as if he’d forgotten we were there.

“Dammit,” Mama panted, “He’s too strong.”

“Ur,” I heard Gray say, “Your leg.”

I looked over at Mama, and saw that her right leg had been replaced with an ice copy.

“It’s gone,” she said “Don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of Deliora, just grab Lyon and run.”

“Lyon?” I asked, looking over at where he had last been to find he had been knocked unconscious in the scuffle.

“Ultear, don’t you understand what she’s asking us?” Gray said, tears beginning to well up in his eyes, “She’s gonna fight that monster herself.”

“N-no,” I said, running over to cry my mother’s feet, “You can’t! You’ll die! I just got you back, I can’t lose you again.”

“It’s alright,” Mama said, patting me on the head.

“Yeah,” Lyon said, standing up, “Ur’s the strongest mage there is. There’s no way you can’t beat this thing, right?”

“I told you before,” Mama said, “I’m not the strongest. You head to the west half of the country and you’ll find tons of mages stronger than me.”

“No,” Lyon said, “that can’t be right. You’re the strongest there is. That’s why I became your pupil. So I could surpass you.”

“If you aren’t going to take this seriously,” Lyon said as he took a wide stance and crossed one arm over the other, his lower palm toward the sky, the upper to the ground, “Then I will.”

“Lyon where the hell did you learn that spell!” Mama yelled.

“You didn’t teach me any strong magics,” he explained as the air around him grew colder, “so I looked through your books and found this, Iced Shell.”

“You didn’t read the end of the spell did you!” Mama said, “anyone who uses that spell-“

A blast of cold air knocked Mama off her feet, and made Deliora look over at us again.

“Dammit!” Mama said, looking over at the monster, “It noticed us again!” She looked over at Lyon and put her hand on the ground, saying “Don’t you that spell!” as ice crystals came from the ground and encased Lyon in a ball of ice.

“Ur!” Gray said, “What are you doing!”

“He can’t use it,” Mama panted, “Iced Shell…is a suicide move.”

My hand flew to cover my mouth.

“Lyon’s right though,” Mama said, “It’s the only way to beat Deliora. Never thought he’d do it first though.”

“First?” Gray said.

“You don’t mean-” I said as Mama took the same pose as Lyon had.

“I won’t let you kill my daughter you monster!” she yelled, flinging her arms behind her as she continued, “Iced Shell!”

“Mama!” I cried as bolts of white energy flew from her and struck Deliora, who began to freeze over.

Gray and I ran to Mama’s side as her body turned white and began to crack as more and more energy rushed off of her and onto Deliora. “Your body,” I said.

“I told you,” she said, “Iced Shell ruins the caster’s body. It’s a spell that changes the caster’s body to ice for all eternity.”

I felt my knees give out from under me as I fell. “No,” I said, my voice barely loud enough for me to hear over the rushing wind.

“Would you two please do me a favor?” Mama said as Gray screamed, telling her to stop. “Please take Lyon with you. I want you to go explore the world. Find a mage stronger than me. Become stronger mages than me. Don’t try to turn me back though, then it’d be a waste for me to turn into ice.”

“No, please,” Gray cried, holding onto her leg, “I’ll listen to whatever you have to say, just don’t die.”

I saw Mama smile as she turned to us and said “That’s fine, this won’t kill me. I’ll live eternally as ice.”

That was the last thing she said before she dissolved away and became energy, which enveloped Deliora in a ball of ice.

Gray and I cried ourselves to sleep that night.

When we woke up, I thawed Lyon out.

“What?” he said, looking around, “Where’s Ur?!”

Gray began “Sh-”

“She’s the ice covering Deliora,” I said, curled up by a small wall.

“She used Iced Shell?” Lyon asked.

I stood up and slapped him across the face.

“You knew what that spell did and you still tried to use it?!” I yelled, “Why!?”

“I-I wanted to be a stronger mage than her,” Lyon said.

I pulled up his wrist. “Does this mean nothing to you!?”

“But the book said that I’d still be alive,” Lyon said, “I thought it’d leave some of my body behind to live.”

I pointed at the ice. “Then what does that mean?” I asked

Lyon squinted at where I was pointed, and his eyes went wide. “Is that?”

“Yes,” I said, “My mom’s timer. There's no body left, just the ice. Now shut up and walk. Her final wish when she became ice was for us to see the rest of the world. Become stronger mages than her.”

My brothers just nodded in agreement as we walked away from the ruins. Before I followed, I took one look at the name in the ice. The name of my father. I hope I’d meet him someday, this Gildarts.

Chapter Text

After a few days of walking, Ultear, Lyon and I managed to find a town that wasn’t destroyed. We’d gotten on the first train out of the station, just wanting to get away, not really having a destination in mind. Before the train departed, an old man barely taller than me came into our cabin.

“Are you three here by yourself?” he asked.

“Yeah, I suppose so,” said Ultear, “feel free to take a seat.”

He sat on the bench across from us as the train began to head out. We sat in silence for a while before he coughed and said, “You three look like you haven’t had a good meal in some time. How would you like me to get you lunch?”

“We’d like that very much,” said Ultear, “Lyon, flag the food trolley down.”

“Already on it,” Lyon said, standing up.

At that moment, there was a loud crash as the train car shook violently. We were all thrown from our seats to the floor. I groaned as I sat up and said, “What the hell was that?”

“I don’t know,” said Ultear, “You check out, I’m going to make sure that the old guy’s ok.”

“Don’t worry,” said the old man, “I’m alright.”

The far door flung open, and a bunch of people in weird uniforms came through. The one in front said “I apologize about the lack of subtly. We are the Five Bridge Family.”

The same man extended his arm out as the old man flew through the air toward them. “Councilor Torch Endegar, I presume?” they said, “We have a little favor to ask of you. Perhaps you’d be willing to accompany us into town?”

“A dark guild?” the old man said, “What are you after?”

“You are a member of the council, are you not?” said the one holding the old man in the air, “What more, you’re also the warden of the mage prison Black Vox.”

“Wait, Five Bridge Family?!” Torch said, “You want me to release Drum Bee!”

“That’s right,” they said.

“Well don’t be ridiculous!” Torch said, “There’s no way I’d do that. Drum is a dangerous criminal charged with countless murders and simply spitting on the entire guild system. We don’t plan on ever letting him see the light of day again!”

The man holding Torch pulled a blade from his long cloak “Please do not misunderstand me sir. This is not a request. It was an ultimatum.”

I almost ran up and kicked him in the face, but Ultear held me back, pointing outside. “They’ve got to have a getaway car,” she whispered, “As long as we don’t get noticed, we should be able to hitch a ride.”

“Ice-Make: Clone,” we whispered, creating three ice sculptures that were identical to us in all but color. So long as no one looked our way, this should do the trick.

“Well then,” said the one holding Torch, pointing the blade outside the window as a large magical car appeared from thin air, “Why don’t you lead the way to Black Vox.”

All of the members of Five Bridge Family left the train car, and we followed behind, trying to stay out of sight. As they got in the car, we snuck around to the back and climbed onto the side. It rumbled as it began to glow as it flew up into the sky and away from the train.

“I can’t believe that worked,” Ultear sighed.

“It probably only did because their attention was diverted,” Lyon pointed out.

“We should probably try and find a way into the cabin,” I said.

“Are you serious?” Lyon whisper-shouted, “That’s suicide! They see us and we’re dead. We stay out here until they land, then we can get the old man.”

“We won’t have to wait long,” Ultear said, pointing. Following where she was pointing, I saw a massive black box floating in the sky. Around it floated smaller cubes, though they were still as large as the car we were riding in. Across the center of the smaller cubes was a crystal band. “That must be Black Vox.”

As my siblings and I stared on in awe, one of the smaller cubes floated over and spoke with a robotic voice “Unidentified craft approaching! Who goes there!” There was a buzzing noise as it seemed the cube scanned the car.

From the front, we heard Torch call out “Don’t do it! These guys are planning to free Drum!” The smaller cube gave no reply, if it even heard him in the first place. All it did was float away.

Now unhindered, the car flew to the top of the Black Vox. It began to descend into the floor, revealing a seemingly endless void. Littering throughout it was countless gray cubes about the size of my room back at Ur’s place. In the center was a metal cube many times larger than the car, which landed on it. From the cube’s floor came several men in sagging jump suits with cloths covering their mouths. In the center of this group was a man with a spikey ball of hair holding a thin metallic staff with a square near the top.

The men from the train came out as my siblings and I climbed off the car. The man with the staff said to the one holding Torch “If we hand over Drum, will you release Warden Torch to us?”

“Yes,” said the man holding Torch, “You have my word.”

“Don’t do it Grog!” Torch yelled.

The man with the staff paused before saying, “Warden Torch, you are like a father to me, so please, forgive me.” With that, he nodded at one of the men behind him, who pulled out a glass tablet. After tapping a few times on the tablet, one of the boxes came flying toward the cube. It landed in between the criminals and the jailors as it came apart at the edges to reveal that a tall man wearing a curious mix of leather and metal clothing sat in the center. This man stood up and held out his hand, which one of the criminals filled with a spear as tall as the man.

The man’s voice was deep and gruff as he said, “You’ve done well, my children.”

“Drum!” yelled Torch before being contorted by the psychic powers of the criminal.

“Drum is free,” said the man with the staff, “now hold up your end of the deal. Return Torch to us and leave immediately.”

“No,” said Drum.

“What?!” said the man with the staff.

“I said no,” Drum continued. He turned to face the man with the staff as he went on, “We’re not leaving here. As of this moment, Black Vox is my guild hall!”

Everyone was visibly startled by that.

“Black Vox is an elite, first class prison by all accounts,” Drum explained, “On top of its incredible defenses, it has its own military force. In other words, its an impregnable fortress. Now the only question is: which of us will be the ones chased out of here?”

“so that was your plan!” yelled the man with the staff.

“However, my son is a man of his word,” Drum said, snapping his fingers. Torch was dropped to the ground as Drum said, “We will be returning Torch,” he spun his spear around and pointed it at Torch’s neck, “as a corpse that is!”

As Drum plunged his spear down, Ultear said “Fast Forward!” and the spear suddenly rusted to dust.

“Ice-Make: Lion!” Lyon said, popping out from behind the car. An ice lion materialized in front of him and tackled Drum. While this was happening, I tackled Torch out of the way of the criminals.

“What!?” said both Drum and Torch.

“You crooks shouldn’t over look children when you try to kidnap the man who promised to pay for their meal,” Lyon said.

Ultear hit him in the back of the head saying, “Lyon! That makes us sound like assholes! We’re doing this because it’s the right thing to do, not because he promised us food!”

Ultear’s stomach rumbled.

“It makes no difference to me,” said Drum, tossing the lion over the side of the cube. “We’ll kill you all soon enough.”

One of Drum’s underlings lifted their arm, and one of the jailors came flying forward. He dropped a tablet, which Drum caught.

“The controller!” said the man with the staff.

“For now,” said Drum, tapping on the tablet, “Let’s start with this!

All of the hundreds of boxes opened up, revealing a menagerie of countless rough looking criminals. Drum turned to face them, yelling out “All you upstanding criminals! As of this moment, you can once again taste freedom! So, what do you think!? Will you come and repay this generous favor?! Come! Join me in slaughtering every one of these filthy jailers!”

The crooks answered with thunderous applause.

“Father,” said one of the Five Bridge Family members, “with the prisoners joining us, it’ll be more than enough to eliminate all of them. Especially those magical brats.”

“Are you sure about that?!” I said, jumping onto Drum’s back, and freezing it with a touch of my hand. Drum sent out a shock wave that sent me flying.

“Ice-Make: Slide!” Ultear said, creating a slide that changed my momentum and put me safely on my feet beside her. “Don’t go attacking the giant criminal like an idiot! He could have killed you!”

In an instant, Drum was on top of us and slammed his hand down, pinning us to the ground.

“Guys!” Lyon called out.

Drum snarled overtop of us, “I don’t need your suggestions, girl.”

“Evil bastard,” I said.

“Lyon, help the jailers,” Ultear said, “We’ll handle him.”

Lyon scrambled away as Drum said, “You must be an idiot if you think you can take me on.” Drum pressed even harder on the both of us and we heard the sound of combat behind of. I couldn’t tell who was winning, but I was inclined to believe that one member of the family when they said they’d be able to win. Desperate to give them a chance, I bit down on Drum’s hand. Hard. I tasted the rich copper tang of his blood.

Drum’s only reaction was to open his eyes a little before he lifted us up by our heads and said “Just who the hell are you anyway? You’re just some runts who’ve got nothing more than a lunch ticket riding on this, why go to such lengths to oppose me? You’ve probably got a few screws loose and a death wish. If that’s the case, I’d be happy to oblige you.”

He began to constrict out heads and I smirked. “Don’t think Ice-Make Mages are out if we can still move our arms.” I put my fist in my hand and yelled as loud as I could “Ice-Make: Lance!”

My ice lance launched forward and buried itself in Drum’s side. The impact was enough that he dropped me and Ultear, who immediately yelled “Ice-Make: Rosen Krone!” Before the ice roses could hit Drum, however, he held out his hand. A blast of force tore through the air and shattered them, sending the two of us flying backwards.

“I commend you brats,” Drum said, “You’re pretty good fighters for your age. I wouldn’t want to run into you when you got older. Which is precisely why I’m ending you both now.”

Drum held out both hands, and the air around us began to vibrate.

“Force magic, huh? That’s a nice party trick you’ve got there,” said one of the prisoners, who appeared beside Drum. He wore a long dark cloak, had long auburn hair, and an unkempt beard. “To bad for you it’s a simpler form of Crash Magic.” The prisoner held out his hand as a grid of white light enveloped Drum. There was a flash, and Drum fell to his knees.

Drum looked up at the criminal who had struck him. His eyes were full of rage, until they looked at the man’s face, when they went wide with shock. “You’re Gildarts of the West!” he yelled, terror filling his voice.

“Gildarts?” Ultear said.

“Oh, so you’ve heard of me?” the criminal said, extending his hand. “Now why don’t you take a nice little nap?” Another flash, and Drum fell over.

“He’s not dead,” Gildarts said, “just unconscious. Now, you people still want to fight?”

“We-we submit,” Torch said.

“Not you,” Gildarts said, “the convicts.”

Several of the criminals got on their knees and put their heads behind their head. “That’s more like it,” Gildarts said, turning to the Five Bridge Family members as he wound up his fist, “Anyway, I sorta made a promise that I would wipe the floor with you guys.”

Gildarts punched the air, and the shockwave it sent knocked all of the Five Bridge Family members into the air, all of them unconscious.

“So,” said Gildarts, “if you jailers look at my record you’ll see that the crime I was put here for was dining and dashing. Now I don’t know about you guys, but I’m pretty sure that stopping a prison break almost single handedly is sufficient community service to let me leave.”

“O-of course!” said Torch, “You’re free. Go, do what you’d like, just please leave.”

“Not until you feed these nice young people,” Gildarts said, “You did promise them a meal.”

“Right!” Torch said, “Grog! Get lunch ready for our saviors!”

“Right away sir!” said the man with the staff. He tapped the staff on the ground twice, and a stairwell leading deeper into the cube appeared.

Chapter Text

After we had gotten our lunch, Gildarts joined us in our travels.

“What are you doing?” Lyon asked, “Why are you following us?”

“First of all, I have a job this way,” Gildarts said, “But also, I saw you kids use Ice-Make magic, and the girl used a spell that reminded me of someone. You wouldn’t happen to know a woman by the name of Ur, would you?”

Mine and Lyon’s eyes went wide as we looked at Ultear. She gave us a glare that said she’d be doing the talking. “Yes, she was our mentor.”

“Was?” Gildarts said, a hint of what seemed like fear on the edge of his voice. “What happened? I don’t imagine she’d let you go so young.”

“We had a run in with the demon Deliora,” Ultear explained, “He was too strong, so she had to use Iced Shell to beat it.”

Gildarts stopped walking for a moment. His lips went thin as he felt up his face. He pulled out his wrist and looked at it. “Where is she?” Gildarts asked solemnly.

Ultear was quiet for a moment, but then she said, “Mama is in the ruins of Butzbach.”

Gildarts’ head snapped up to look at Ultear. “Mama? As in, Ur was your mom?” Ultear nodded. Gildarts moved his arms forward for a moment before crossing them. “You’re Ultear, aren’t you?”

Tears began welling up in Ultear’s eyes as she nodded.

“I know you don’t know me,” Gildarts said, “but do you mind if I-” However he was going to finish his sentence, Ultear turned around and hugged him as tears began streaming down her face.

“Please be my dad,” Ultear cried. Gildarts stood there for a moment, seemingly unsure what to do, but at last he returned the hug as he tried to stop Ultear’s crying.

Once she had stopped, Gildarts said “I’m sorry, but I spend a lot of time traveling for work, so I won’t be able to be a good dad. What I can do, however, is bring you guys to the guild I’m a part of.”

“Guys?” Lyon said, “As in plural?”

“You were adopted by Ur,” Gildarts said, “I’m her husband, so legally I’m your adopted father.”

“Don’t expect me to call you dad,” I said.

“I would never,” Gildarts said, “Though I would like to know how the battle with Deliora went down?” Gildarts asked.

“It’s my fault,” I said.

“What?” Gildarts said, looking at me.

“The monster killed my parents,” I said, “so I went to try and kill it. It didn’t work, and I would have died if all the others hadn’t shown up. Ur used some big tree to stop an attack, and then she used Iced Shell.”

Gildarts’ closed his eyes and tightened his mouth until I couldn’t see his lips. He pressed his fist into the bridge of his nose as he was silent for a moment. After that, he lowered his fist and said, “You’re wrong, it’s not your fault. She tried to stop you, but you still went. From there, she could have stayed behind, but she didn’t. She made her choice. Also, kid, you have some serious balls to say you’re the one who killed my wife. I respect you trying to take the responsibility. Now, can you tell me more about that tree spell? What was its name?”

“Ice Make: Yggdrasill,” Lyon said, “It made a big tree, and knocked me out for a minute when she cast it.”

“Oh, that spell,” Gildarts said, “It was her strongest attack. The person closest to her when she casts it gets knocked out for a second, and whoever touches the tree loses all memory regarding the caster. The cost being, she’s got maybe a few minutes left before she gets turned to ice. If she cast that, she must have felt there was no other way.”

We walked on in quiet for a long while. No one said anything for about an hour, at which point, Ultear asked “hey, dad, how did you and mama meet?”

Gildarts paused before answering. “I had taken a job up in the north, where your mama lived. It was a simple monster hunt. I found the beast easy enough, and the fight was even easier. Your mama finished it all in a single blow, before I’d even registered that she was there. She’d wrapped it in ice roses, and immediately hopped off to go scold some kids. They ran off, and that thing’s friend showed up. I one shot it before asking her to have coffee. It’s not the most romantic way to meet your soulmate, but I’ve seen worse.”

“You said you were in a guild, right?” I said, “I imagine so.”

“It’s getting late,” Gildarts said, “We should set up camp.”

“Alright,” I said.

Ur tossed her pocket full of the charcoal from our last fire onto the ground before using her Time Arc to turn it back into several logs.

“You’d be surprised by how useful this magic is,” she said, “I’m honestly surprised it was lost.”

Gildarts snapped his fingers, and a flash of white ignited a roaring flame over the wood. “I feel the same for Crash Magic. I’m the last person using it, as far as I know. Though I do sometimes accidentally break walls, so I can get why it’s a pretty rare magic.”

“Tomorrow we’re heading to a town called Mone,” Gildarts explained, pulling out a sleeping bag. “Once there, we need to beat a monster named Unicor so we can cross the river and get to the next town. Once there, the guild I’m apart of is just a train ride away.”

“That sounds easy enough,” Ultear said, curling up on the ground around the fire.

“Which means something terrible is going to happen,” Lyon said.

“I mean, Ultear and my timers will be going off around then,” I said.

Gildarts smiled at that, “Oh, so I get to meet my children in law, that’ll be fun.”

“Please don’t kill them,” I said, curling up next to Ultear.

“Wait, do you guys not have sleeping bags?” Gildarts asked.

“This is the first time we’ve had to go camping overnight,” Lyon said, “Even with Ur our training sessions never went too far into the night.”

“In that case,” Gildarts said, tossing his sleeping bag to us, “use that. It should be able to at least mostly cover you three as a blanket.”

It wound up being just barely enough for the three of us, and while we didn’t sleep comfortably, it was much better than it would have been if we hadn’t had the sleeping bag. We got up early the next day, and arrived at Mone shortly after lunch.

“Let’s go fight Unicor!” Lyon said.

“Not yet,” Gildarts said, “Only a fool goes into a fight not knowing what they’re facing. I’m going to get us a hotel room so you guys can relax while I go scope out Unicor.”

“Sweet!” Ultear said, “I’ve never been to a hotel!”

“Really?”

“I spent most of my life in a prison,” she said, “I haven’t even been out for a year now. I spent six months getting from there to Mama’s house, and spent a few learning magic from her. Now we’re here.”

“Oh,” Gildarts said, “where is the prison?”

“In some desert somewhere, I don’t know where,” Ultear said, “Now hurry up and get the hotel room. I wanna see it!”

“Alright, alright,” Gildarts said, being pulled along by the much smaller girl.

After getting us a room at a hotel, Gildarts tossed us a key and left us to go and scope out Unicor. We decided to take showers while we waited, and after that we got so bored waiting we took a nap. When we woke up, Gildarts still wasn’t back and it was around dinner time.

“Why don’t we go and find somewhere to eat?” Ultear asked, “My dad left us some money for food.”

“Alright,” Lyon said, stretching, “let’s go.”

After getting some pizza, we were on our way back to the room when we heard a crash down an alley beside a warehouse. We looked in the crash’s direction to see a dirty girl around our age having fallen, being yelled at by a man with a hairdo that made his head look like a radish.

“Damn it,” he said, “Why are you always so slow? I told you at noon to take these empty bottles back to the bar! Gods what a useless brat.” He slammed the door as he went back in.

The girl dusted herself off and mumbled something as she got up. She grabbed a crate with wine bottles in it as we walked in. “We’ll give you a hand,” I said, picking up two of the crates. Lyon grabbed the other two and we walked. “Where are we going?” I asked.

“Just follow me,” the girl said, and we did. She took us to a high-end bar a few streets down, where we dropped off the bottles.

“Thank you for the help,” she said, doing a short bow, “I’m Marry, and you?”

“I’m Ultear, these are my brothers Gray and Lyon,” Ultear said.

“You don’t look alike,” Marry said.

“We’re adopted,” Lyon and I said in unison.

“Oh,” Marry said.

“By the way,” Ultear said, “You were mumbling something, what was it?”

“Oh, it was nothing,” Marry said, “just some magic words that my sister taught me to say when times get rough. All I have to do is recite them and good things will happen. Like when I said them, and then you guys showed up!”

“So then, you work back at that bar?” I asked.

“Yeah, why do you ask?” Marry answered.

“It’s not exactly the kind of place a kid should work,” I said.

“It’s ok,” she said, her smile spreading from ear to ear, “I’ve got my sister with me!”

“She works there to?” Lyon said.

“Yup! My sister and I were bought by the mayor!” Marry said, smiling.

The air cooled suddenly. “And where is the mayor?” Ultear asked, a malicious smile spreading across her face.

“He owns the bar we just dropped the wine off at,” Marry said, an instant before a man came flying out of the window we were talking in front of. I looked in and saw Gildarts standing in the middle of the room, with a woman trying to get out from under his arm.

“Dad!” Ultear yelled, “That’s rude! Let her go!”

“That’s my sister!” Marry called.

“Never mind, your good!” Ultear said.

“This woman’s coming with me,” Gildarts said, not even reacting to the commotion by the window.

“What the hell are you trying to pull?” said a short, fat, bald man in a suit. “If you don’t hand her back this instant, you’ll be in deep shit.”

Gildarts made a dash for the window he’d just broken as the short man yelled at a bunch of other men in suits “Grab him! Don’t let him get away!” They began running after him as Gildarts ran out the window.

“Amelie!” Marry yelled.

“Oh nice, you’ve already met her sister, that saves me some time,” Gildarts said, grabbing hold of the four of us, “We’re getting the hell out of here!” Gildarts’ legs started glowing white as he ran away so fast the cobblestones he stepped on exploded.

“Dad, explain what’s going on!” Ultear yelled over the explosions.

“He’s helping us,” said Amelie. “He’s getting me and Marry out of town so that we don’t have to live as slaves to the mafia.”

“So that was the don?” Lyon asked.

“Yep,” Gildarts said, “and the mayor of the town.”

“What?!” me and my siblings said in unison.

“Happens more often than you’d think,” Gildarts said, “Anyway, we need to beat Unicor now, I can deal with the mayor later.”

“Then we’re going to the docks?” Lyon asked.

“Yep,” Gildarts said.

“Then you might want to take a short cut,” Lyon continued, looking behind us, “We’re being chased by the mayor, and he’s gaining on us pretty fast.”

I turned around to see what he was talking about, and sure enough, the mayor was riding a big man in a bib who was running on all fours. They’d managed to get close enough to hear the mayor yelling “You think you can just take my property whenever you want?! You lousy schmuck!”

“Fast Forward,” Ultear said, pointing her hand at a tree on the side of the road. It grew taller, had all its leaves fall off, and then fell over onto the road, hitting the man in the bib hard enough to send the don flying onto the concrete.

“Don’t insult my dad,” Ultear muttered, turning back around.

“That’s my girl!” Gildarts said as we arrived at the port. He stopped running and let us down when we got to one of the ships.

One of the sailors came up and said to us “I take it you’re the mages that are here to take on Unicor?”

“Yep!” Gildarts said, smiling, “and in case you hadn’t noticed from my entrance, I’m in a bit of a hurry, so if you wouldn’t mind getting us the heck out of here, that would be appreciated.”

“Sure thing,” said the sailor, “but didn’t you say only three kids and yourself? Are the other two with you?”

“Of course!” Gildarts said, walking up to the ship. Amelie looked like she was about to say something, but before she could, Gildarts said “C’mon, lets go.”

As the boat sailed away, Marry, my siblings and I all went to one side to look over the edge and feel the wind in our hair. It felt nice.

We were about halfway across the river when the ship was skewered by a big black spike that erupted out of the water.

“What the hell?!” I yelled.

“It’s Unicor!” cried one of the sailors.

“Why didn’t anyone tell me it was this big?” Gildarts wondered aloud, completely calm. He turned to the rest of the ship as he yelled “He’s about to go under! Everyone get close!”

We all scrambled to get closer to him when the ship began to slowly get closer to the surface. In a flash, Gildarts had grabbed hold of as many people as he could carry, even biting onto my jacket to carry me. Almost at that same time, the spike went back under the water, leaving the ship to crumble to pieces.

“Hang on!” I said, pulling myself free from Gildarts’ mouth as he fell to the water. I made the hand sign for Ice Make as I said “Ice-Make: Floor,” freezing enough of the water for us to stand on. Gildarts landed on it and released the people he had grabbed.

“Not bad,” Gildarts said, “Now, where is that monster?”

We all got very quiet for a moment. In the distance, we could hear the sound of an engine. Looking at the source, we saw the mayor and the man with the bib in a motorboat, driving toward us.

“Damn it,” I said, “They just don’t know when to quit do they?”

The mayor let out a malicious cackle before yelling “I’ll be taking my property back now, you thieving mage! Milk-boy, go!” The man in the bib let out a primal roar as he leapt out of the boat and onto the ice.

“Damn it, we’ve got our hands full already,” Gildarts said, “And I still haven’t recovered fully from running.”

“Don’t worry dad,” Ultear said, “We’ll handle Unicor, you get the big baby.”

“Ultear, are you sure?” Gildarts asked.

“We’ve got ice magic,” Lyon said, “and that things stuck in the water. This’ll be a cake walk.”

“If we could even see the damned thing,” I said looking into the dark river. At that moment, Milk boy missed punching Gildarts, and his fist hit the ice. The impact was enough to split the ice, sending me into the water. I managed to take a breath before I took the plunge, and in my startled state, I looked around me. Down at the bottom of the river, I saw a massive tadpole-like creature with a big black horn and a dozen eyes that looked like they were as big as I was. Each one of those eyes were looking dead at me.

I felt the water around me change directions, going back the way it came, and the pressure it exerted on me launched me back onto the ice, next to Ultear. “I saw Unicor,” I said.

“Sure, don’t thank the time mage for saving your soggy ass,” Ultear sassed.

“Language young lady!” Gildarts yelled, punching Milk-boy into the air, and into Unicor’s open maw.

“Holy crap!” Lyon yelled, “What is that!”

“That is why I said I saw Unicor before thanking you,” I said.

“I get that now,” Ultear said before placing her fist in her palm. “Ice-Make: Rosen Krone!” she shouted, creating ice roses that wrapped around Unicor.

Once the monster was wrapped up, Lyon placed his fist in his palm and yelled “Ice-Make: Snow Dragon!” The massive wyrm that came from his fist launched itself at the water monster’s horn, latching on with its teeth.

Seeing the opputunity, I focused all of my magic into my next spell as I yelled “Ice-Make: Hammer!” creating a massive hammer of ice above Unicor, which smashed into the beast with enough force that its’ horn was ripped from its’ head into the jaws of the snow dragon. It also wound up shattering the ice roses, making Unicor bleed profusely.

Ultear saw the blood and thrust her hand at where the beast had disappeared under the water, yelling “Fast Forward!” It took a moment, but the blood gushing up from under the water sped up to a torrent, only for it to come to an abrupt halt and have Unicor float to the top of the water.

Exhausted from pumping all of our magic into the final spells we cast, my siblings and I all slumped onto the ice floor I had created. I laid back and looked around to see that Gildarts was off getting the motorboat from the mayor while Marry and her sister came over to us.

“Are you alright?” Marry asked.

“We’re fine,” I panted, “We’re just resting after using up all our magic.”

“Which was a stupid move!” Gildarts called, smiling as he tied up the mayor, “You could have taken down Unicor with any one of those final attacks, you didn’t need to go overboard like that!”

“But it looked cool,” Lyon panted.

“But if looking cool is your main objective,” Gildarts said, heading over to us, “You’ll get you and everyone around you seriously hurt one day. Go for efficiency, not spectacle.” Gildarts carried me and my siblings onto the motorboat while Marry and her sister walked on board. From there, we towed Unicor’s corpse over to the far side of the river. When we got there, we turned both the monster and the mayor over to the military that was waiting there, unable to get to the other side to arrest the mayor because of Unicor.

We got a room in the first motel we found and stayed the night. “Why don’t we just go across the river again and sleep in the room we’ve already paid for?” I asked Gildarts.

“We just got the head of the mafia in that town arrested,” Gildarts explained, “It’s not safe to sleep in that town anymore, at least not for a while.”

“Um,” Amelie said, shifting awkwardly, “I don’t want to intrude, but if you don’t mind getting us a room? We don’t have any money.”

Gildarts looked at her with a confused smile before saying “Of course, it’s late and you were slaves just a few hours ago. We’re getting the two of you your own room.”

“Really!” Marry said, her mouth open wide by a smile. Gildarts patted her on the head before handing Amelie the key.

“We’re leaving at nine tomorrow morning,” Gildarts said, heading up to his room, “You can come with us or not, I’m fine with either. That said, if you’re not out by noon, you’ll have to pay for another night.”

Chapter Text

When we walked out the next morning, Amelie and Marry were waiting outside for us. We traveled together a short distance, until we got to a fork in the road. “Well then, this is where we part ways,” Marry said.

“Yup,” Gray said, nodding.

“Thank you again for rescuing us,” Amelie said, “We’d never have made it out of that town if it wasn’t for you.”

“Don’t mention it,” Dad said, “Hope you guys have a nice life.”

“Where are you guys heading?” Marry asked.

“Magnolia,” I said.

“That’s really far,” Amelie said, “You’ll need to get a train.”

“It’s not that far,” Dad said, “I’ve walked it before.”

“It be a three-week trip!” Amelie said, “And there are mountains on the way!”

“Dad,” I said, “You might be able to make it, but we should take the train.”

Dad looked at his wallet and put his hand over his mouth as he averted his eyes. “Well, in that case, we’ll have to figure something out.”

At that moment, a piece of golden fluff floated down from the sky into Amelie’s hand. She looked at it and her eyes went wide. She quickly walked into the nearby shrubbery. “Where are you going?” I asked. We all followed her and saw that she was looking at a field of plants with golden fluff similar to what had landed in Amelie’s hand.

“Amazing,” Amelie said, her jaw slack and eyes wide.

“An entire field of gold cotton,” Dad said, kneeling down and picking up a piece of the golden fluff. “We can use this stuff to pay for the train.”

“It’s just some yellow fluff,” Lyon said, “How are we going to use this to pay for the train?”

“This ‘yellow fluff’ is incredibly rare,” Dad explained, “Sell it to the right person, and you can get up to two, maybe even three times its weight in gold.”

“Two or three!?” Gray said, reaching out to grab a handful of the golden cotton when Dad stopped him.

“Any amount of moisture is enough to ruin the cotton,” he said, pulling a bag out of his pocket, “Be careful.”

“But I can turn them back with my magic,” I said, “so it shouldn’t be too much of an issue.”

“True, but that doesn’t mean you should be careless,” Dad said as he started plucking the golden cotton. We all helped him, and in no time we had picked every piece of the golden cotton, filling the bag up until it was the size of a basketball. “So, girls, I hate to do this to you,” Dad said, holding the cotton.

“No, it’s alright,” Amelie said, “You need all the cotton if you’re going to get train tickets for the four of you.”

“Are you sure?” Lyon said, “If what Gildarts said is true, we should be able to have a little left over.”

Gray and I showed him our timers before saying “No we won’t,” in unison.

“Oh,” was all he said.

“You’re going to meet your soulmates soon?” Mary said.

“I’ve got three hours left,” I said.

“I’ve got even less,” Gray pointed out, “Plus, if I remember correctly, the nearest town is about two-and-a-half hours walk from here.”

“Then we should get going!” Dad said.

We started walking, but Mary seemed upset. We were only about three meters away when she said, “Do you guys think we’ll ever meet again?”

Gray turned around and gave a big smile as he said “Yeah! I’m sure we’ll meet again someday!”

“Ok!” Mary said, “I’m looking forward to it!”

“Oh, does someone have a crush?” I teased quietly, “I might have to tell your soulmate.”

Gray just shoved me a little before saying “Like hell.”

We walked the rest of the way to the town with the train station, a little place called Foss. We were on our way to the fabric store when Gray nervously looked at his wrist. “Oh, guys,” he said, looking around, “I’m down to seconds.”

“Ok,” Dad said, “There’s a fountain, let’s go stand over there.”

“Alright,” Gray said, nervously speed walking to the fountain before sitting down and looking around.

I looked down at my own wrist and read my timer. Gray and I had done the math, once he found his soulmate, I’d have about ten seconds before I found mine. Meaning he’d be meeting his in five. That was when the formerly clear skies opened up and became an absolute downpour. I wasn’t bothered, having had to walk through worse on my way from the prison, but Gray stood up and made an umbrella out of ice. A girl sitting on the opposite side of the fountain from him turned to look at him, probably startled by the sudden cold of the ice, and their eyes met.

I smiled as I looked down at my wrist, now it was my turn. We walked over to a nearby table with an umbrella to meet Gray’s soulmate.

“Hello, my name is Juvia, it’s a pleasure to meet you,” she said. She had a dark blue coat on, a matching hat, and was holding a pink umbrella with hearts on it. She was fairly pretty, and had long blue hair that ended in a single curl that went the whole way along her head.

Dad was about to introduce us when a boy a little older than me suddenly appeared outside the umbrella looking at me. He wore an ill-fitting dress shirt with strips and suspenders. He was holding a green bag with a spiral pattern etched across it.

“I’m Doronbo,” he said, rolling up his sleeve to show that his timer read, in black script, Ultear.

“I’m Ultear,” I said, my heart beginning to race.

“And I’m Gildarts,” Dad said, a smile spreading across his face, but not quite reaching his eyes, “Ultear’s father, user of Crash magic, and the strongest man in the west” He placed his hand on Doronbo’s shoulder before he continued “It would do you well to remember that.”

“Y-yes sir,” Doronbo stammered.

“Dad, leave him alone,” I said, “Now, Doronbo, I’m not from here, would you mind showing me where the fabric store is? Alone?” I shot a look at my father.

“Why don’t you wait until the rain lets up a little before you go?” Dad said.

“Oh, that’s my fault,” Juvia said, waving her hand in the air as the rain stopped, “I caused the rain after I lost a gift I had for Gray.”

“You didn’t need to get me anything,” Gray said.

“Gag me with a spoon!” Lyon said, walking away, “I’ll be back here in like, half an hour. That’ll leave you guys plenty of time to be lovey dovey.”

“That’s a good idea,” Dad said as he glared at Doronbo, “You can take my daughter to the fabric shop, just be back in thirty minutes, ok?”

“Yes sir,” Doronbo said as I took his hand and lead him away.

“Very good,” Dad said, handing me the bag of golden cotton.

“Don’t let him fool you,” I said, “He’s just being overly protective after abandoning me and my mom for ten years.”

“Really?” Doronbo said, “That’s harsh. So, were those your brothers?”

“Adopted, but yeah. By the way, your name is fairly long, do you have a nickname I could use?”

“My coworkers call, or it be called now, Doro.”

“Coworkers? You’re like, twelve, where do you work?”

“Oh, you know, around,” He said, wringing his neck.

“Doro,” I said, chilling the air as I glared at him, “What is your job?”

“Let’s get a little farther away from your dad, ok?”

I narrowed my eyes as we walked a little faster. Once we were firmly away from my dad, I stopped talking and said, “Now answer my question.”

“Don’t say it to loud,” he whispered, “but I’m a thief.”

“Really?” I said, continuing to walk, “but you said you had coworkers. I thought thieves worked alone?”

“There was a thieves’ guild in the town until a little while ago. We went on a heist, and I wound up getting the entire guild caught.”

“What happened?”

“I got scared and ran. It’s not my best moment.”

“Well my siblings and I are going to join a wizard guild. So long as you promise not to steal from us, you should be able to join.”

“One problem with that: I can’t use magic.”

“Then how did you teleport when we met?”

Doro pulled a small jar of pills out of his pocket. “I used these,” he explained, “I eat one of these, and I start moving and perceiving everything a lot faster. In one second of real time, I live through thirty seconds.”

I exhaled sharply out my nose as I smiled, “That’s funny, you’ve got drugs that mess with your time, and I’m a time mage.”

“Really?” Doro asked, “I thought time magic was lost.”

“It is, some evil doctors put a lacrima that let me use it where I used to have a kidney. That drug doesn’t hurt you though, does it?”

“It does, but not much. I’m just at risk of heart problems when I get older. And what happened to the doctors?”

“They’re probably dead,” I shrugged, “Once they gave me Time Arc I destroyed their base and freed all the other children there. We were all there because of our dangerous magics, and we were tortured, so I don’t expect them all to have lived.”

“Oh,” Doro said, his face paling, “You didn’t kill anyone, did you?”

“Not that I saw. I just made the building crumble into ruins while they were still inside.”

“Hey look the fabric store!” Doro said, quickly walking into the store. “I take it you’re supposed to sell that bag?”

“Yep,” I said, “Where do I do it?”

Doro looked around for a moment before raising his bag up and shaking it. A woman nodded before slipping behind a door.

Doro gave me a thumbs up and said, “Follow me.” We went into the room the lady had disappeared behind to see a small table with two chairs at it.

“I see you’ve brought someone with you,” the lady said, sitting down in one of the chairs. “I take it she’s your soulmate?”

“Oh how’d you know?” Doro said jovially, “It’s not like I dolled myself up or anything.”

“Can it smartass,” said the woman, “Just sit down and show me what you’ve got.”

“Ultear, you get the chair, I’ll stand,” Doro said.

“It’s fine,” I said, handing him the bag before palming my fist, “Ice-Make: Chair.” A chair made of ice appeared beside the empty chair. I pulled it out and sat in it.

“You’re a mage,” the woman said, a slight edge in her voice, “wonderful.”

“Isn’t it?” Doro said, taking a seat. He placed the bag of golden cotton on the table. Opening up the bag, his eyes widened slightly for a moment before they returned to normal. He stuck his hand in and pulled out a small piece of the golden cotton. “So, this entire bag is full of golden cotton. How much for it?”

“The entire bag?” scoffed the woman, “Like hell.”

Doro tilted the bag to show her its contents. “Are you sure about that?”

“It’s clearly a forgery,” the woman said, “There’s no way you found that much.”

“May I prove it to you?” I asked.

“By all means,” the woman said.

I took a small piece of the cotton out of the bag and touched it to the back of my chair where I had been resting my back. It had already started to melt, and so the cotton turned black on contact. “There, it’s real,” I said, placing the piece of fluff on the table.”

“Are you insane?!” Doro said, “You ruined part of the merchandise!”

“I can fix it easily,” I said, pointing my palm at the ruined fluff, “Watch. Rewind.” The fluff turned back to its former golden color instantly. Seeing this, Doro relaxes as the woman’s eyebrows rose.

“Two times its weight in gold,” she said.

“Four times,” Doro said.

“You’re insane if you think it’s worth that much,” she said, “Two and a quarter.”

“Four and I don’t tell the cops about your underworld dealings,” Doro said.

The woman smiled and let out a small chuckle, “But then you’d be arrested a long side me.”

“Not if I tell them via letter,” Doro said, “and I skip town.”

“Alright, but four times is still too much. How about three?”

“And three quarters,” Doro added.

“I can’t go higher than three.”

“I’ll take it,” Doro said, shrugging, “but I’ll have to report you to the guards.”

The woman paused for a moment to consider her options. When she finally spoke again, she said “I’ll give you three and one third. That is the most I can do for you.”

“Alright,” Doro said, “Let’s get this thing weighed.”

Doro grabbed the bag of cotton and walked over to the counter and poured the cotton onto a scale. The woman fiddled with some weights, pointed out the number to Doro, then put it in a different bag as she said, “Gold or jewel?”

“Jewel,” Doro replied.

The woman nodded and handed Doro some money. As Doro walked out, I followed, and the woman called out “Don’t forget to get rid of the chair!”

“Right!” I said, holding out my palm at the chair I’d made. “Rewind,” I said, winking the ice chair out of existence.

As we left, Doro looked at his watch. “We’ve still got some time before you’ve got to be back, want me to show you around?”

“If by ‘show me around’ you mean ‘go return all the stolen stuff you’ve got’, then yes,” I said.

Doro blinked a few times before asking me “Wait what?”

“You said you were a thief,” I said, “I want you to return all the stuff you stole and still have.”

“Do you have any idea how crazy an idea that is?” Doro said, “I’ve been working almost all day!”

“I don’t care you’re going to go and return as much of it as you can in the time limit or I’m telling my dad you’re a thief.”

Doro’s face paled for a moment. “You wouldn’t,” he said.

I crossed my arms and raised my eyebrow while I just looked at him. He floundered for a moment before finally throwing his hands up and yelling “Fine!” before taking his swirled bag and opening it up. Inside was a pile of purses, wallets, boxes, and other things that looked like they might be of some value. It was hard to tell from where I was standing, but the pile looked like it was bigger than the bag could have physically held if it wasn’t enchanted.

“You know, for someone who can’t use magic, you’ve got a lot of magic gear on you.”

“So does everyone else who wants to make it in the thieving business,” Doro grumbled as he pulled out a wallet, “Now help me find who this belongs to.”

Fifteen minutes later we had returned most of the stuff Doro had stolen. We would have returned more, but we would’ve been late to the deadline my dad had made for us. We arrived at the table we had left right at the half-hour mark, while I was holding the only gift we had yet to return, and Doro held the last wallet.

“What you got there?” Lyon asked.

“Err, we found a thief in an alley way,” Doro lied, “Ultear got rid of him, and we were trying to return what he stole. These were the last things.”

Dad narrowed his eyes as he glared into Doro. He stayed in his seat as he said, “I know what that bag does, and I know about the drugs. Don’t bother lying to me again, it won’t work.”

“What?” Lyon said, “How did you lie to him?”

Doro buried his face in his palms and said “I’m the thief. She blackmailed me into returning all the stuff I stole today.”

At that moment, Juvia must have rounded a corner or something, because she shouted, “You found my gift!” and came running up to grab the box out of my hand. “Where did you find it?” she asked.

“Doronbo stole it,” Lyon said.

“Lyon!” I snapped, “Don’t do that!”

“Why not?” Lyon asked, “He wasn’t going to come clean about it.”

I gestured at Doro, who was now encased in a bubble of water bigger than he was.

“Don’t steal stuff from me,” Juvia said, looking at Doro with a dark soulless glare, her hand outstretched.

“Rewind,” I said, placing my hand on the edge of the water, which winked out of existence.

“Are all of you mages?” he said between coughs.

“Yep,” Gray said, “So, Juvia, what was the gift you wanted to give me?”

“Oh, yes!” Juvia said, all of her anger suddenly disappearing. She opened the box Doro had stolen from her to reveal a silver necklace with a sword pendant. In the pendant’s hilt was a small blue gem of some kind.

“I didn’t know anything about you,” Juvia stammered, “but I thought the necklace looked nice, so I got it for you.”

“Thank you,” Gray said as he pulled it out of the box. The chain looked to be too long for him, but he put it on anyway. “I like it.”

“Now about that wallet you’re holding,” Dad said, standing up, “Does it have any ID in it?”

“All it’s got is a picture of a blonde girl in a pink dress,” I said, “and a business card for someone named ‘Jude Heartfillia’. We would have called the number on it, but we don’t have a communication lacrima.”

“Oh man,” Dad said, “We really need to return that wallet than. I saw a hotel not too far from here, they should have a communication lacrima we can use.”

“Alright,” I said. We all went to the hotel, where Dad made a call to the number on the business card. It turned out that Mr. Heartfillia was staying at the hotel we were standing in, so we turned the wallet into the hotel staff and left. From there, all six of us boarded a train on a one-way trip to Magnolia and the Fairy Tail Guild.

Chapter Text

Jellal ran out of the cell door, but I grabbed his wrist. “Simon let go!” He yelled.

“Just promise me one thing,” I said, “I need you both to come back safe, please.”

“Of course,” Jellal said, “I wouldn’t let anything happen to Erza.”

“I know that, but what about you?” starting to hold back tears, “I know you’ll do anything to bring Erza back, but that’s the problem. Please, don’t get yourself hurt.”

Jellal paused for a moment, but then he said, “I promise.” I let go of his hand, and he ran. As soon as he rounded the corner and was out of my sight, I slinked down the wall and looked at my wrists. Erza’s name was slightly faded, but Jellal’s was still as bright as his hair. I stared at them, and hoped that the only change in color would be Erza’s name suddenly getting bright again.

Uncle Rob came and sat by me. He didn’t say anything, but his presence was enough to calm me down a little. Milliana sat beside me and tried to make it look like she wasn’t staring at my wrists. I could hear Wally begin to pace around the room while Sho sat in the corner and muttered to himself how this was all his fault. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that he was wrong.

After what seemed like ages, Jellal’s name began to fade slightly. I gasped loud enough that everyone in the room turned to look at me. This was the only sound in the room for some time.

Finally, after an even longer eternity, I heard the rattling of chains. I bolted up and ran to the door to see Erza was hobbling up the spiral path of the cells toward us. When she got to us, I hugged her as tight as I could, tears beginning to stream down my cheek. “Oh thank goodness you’re safe!” I cried.

“Where’s Jellal?” Milliana asked timidly, “He said he’d come back with you.”

Erza was silent. I looked at my wrist. It was more faded than before, but it was still there, at least.

Sho began to cry a little, then sniffle, only to yell as loud as his little lungs would let him, “I WANNA GO HOME!!”

“What’s that racket?” called one of the guards as he ran over to the door of the cell. He took one look at Sho and yelled “Calm down brat or else I’ll cut your tongue out!”

Wally, Uncle Rob, and I began to try and get Sho to calm down, while Erza stood off to one side, pressing her hands to her ears and shaking. We tried to get him to stop, but the guards were shouting and it wasn’t working. Before Sho had calmed down, his cries were overshadowed by a primal roar that ripped through the air.

Everyone in the cell turned to see what had made the yell, and I was shocked to see that Erza had charged one of the guards. She’d managed to headbutt him so hard that he’d bit down on his tongue, severing it. Reflexively, he dropped his spear to cover his mouth. Erza grabbed this spear and shoved it through his stomach, then removed it and slashed open the gut of another one of the guards, spilling his intestines out onto the floor.

The second guard stumbled away, spilling more of his guts out onto the floor, as he yelled as loud as he could “IT’S A REVOLT! THE SLAVES ARE REVOLTING!”

Erza turned around to face us. Her clothes were now splattered with blood, some even coming from her forehead. The most startling thing, however, was that they must have plucked her right eye out while they were torturing her, leaving behind the eye socket, which hadn’t stayed empty for long. It was already filled back up with blood, most of it dry, but enough was still wet that it looked like she was crying tears of blood. Also caked into the wound was a thin layer of dirt, and if I wasn’t imagining it, maggots.

Standing tall, despite the blood, or perhaps because of it, Erza said to us, “We won’t get home by obeying them or running away. We have to fight! We need to stand up, and take our freedom with our own hands!”

We paused for a moment, put off by the little girl with the rotting eye. I regret to say that Wally was the first to act. He stood up and grabbed a sword from the belt of the man who’d lost his stomach, and joined Erza by the door. After that, the rest of the slaves in the cell as we followed suit. We charged out from the cell and saw a group of the guards charging us with weapons drawn. “Millie,” I said, “I want you to look over their bodies and find the keys, ok?”

“Yes!” Milliana nodded.

“Good,” I said, holding up my new sword, “We’ll need the extra man power.”

We charged the guards and attacked with a wild ferocity. We had no training or experience, just pure rage and hunger for survival, but I’d be damned if I wasn’t going to try my hardest to win. I ran forward, and just before I came within range of the spear in front of me, I jumped up and to the side, kicking one of the cultists in the face, startling him and knocking him over into the blade of another cultist. I grabbed the now dead cultist’s sword and slashed his killer in the face, then turned to another and cut open his chest. I saw a man try and bring his spear down on me, but I knocked it away, and he lost his balance and fell over the edge of the path.

“They’re pushovers!” I yelled, “They might have weapons, but they don’t know how to use them.”

“And thanks to all the manual labor, we’re stronger than they are,” shouted Wally.

“And we out number them!” shouted a slave that I didn’t see but sounded like he was an adult.

I have no idea how long we fought, or how many men I killed, but we managed to fight our way out of the slave quarters before we really had any significant problems. At that point some of the cultists started wearing armor, though because of how hastily they put it on it wasn’t entirely efficient. It just took a child-sized slave with a well-placed blade to turn them into eunuchs, where they’d drop to their knees in pain and get their throats slit. at which point they’d be dead in a few seconds. This is even easier than it sounds since most of the slaves actually were children. Once the armored cultists were taken care of, we’d try and drag them away from the front lines so that our fighters could have some armor.

After that, we cleared a few rooms, almost reaching the torture rooms that Erza said Jellal was in. At that point, Erza and I had fallen back from the front lines to regain our strengths. Erza was acting as our defacto leader, so she was the only child with armor. She’d also dropped her spear in favor of a sword, and held a barrel lid in her other hand as a shield. I had recently plucked a greatsword off of a corpse, giving me the only one in the child portion of the army.

“The torture chambers are just up ahead,” Erza said to Uncle Rob, “If we can free the slaves there, we should have enough forces to escape.”

“But then we wouldn’t have enough men to cover our fronts,” Uncle Rob said, “Something would have to give.”

“We’re aware of this,” I said, “This is why we told that blonde woman to get everyone out of the slave quarters. Once she gets back, we’re abandoning them and pressing forward.”

“I see,” Uncle Rob said, “but if we’re going to the torture chambers, I think it would be best if we went by the medical bay. We’d be able to get enough supplies to heal them somewhat.”

“I would love to,” Erza said, covering her right eye, “but that’s too far out of our way, we should just try and make a bee-line for the docks at that point.”

“We’d never make it,” Uncle Rob said, “They’d cut us off at their mess hall.”

“Not if we-” I was cut off by a blast of magic hitting me in the left side of my face. I flew back a few meters and landed face first on the dirt. Everything was fuzzy, but I heard what seemed like people yelling to retreat as bolts of magic flew from the enemy line at us. Erza seemed to try and stop them from retreating, and I tried to support her by turning over. Just as I did that, a bolt of magic flew out at her, and the impact sent up a dust cloud to cover her.

“No!” I yelled, my head still spinning, my left eye burning in pain. I stumbled to my feet, fueled by nothing but rage. Wally was at my side, probably trying to prevent me, but one look was all it took to get him to stop. I looked over at the cultists and let out a war cry as I charged them, reaching out for a weapon. I found one, but it felt cold and prickly. I think the thought that I was getting numb from blood loss crossed my mind, but I didn’t care. I grabbed the weapon and swung it at the cultists.

A shadowy tendril launched forward across the room and cut a half dozen of the cultists in half. With a flick of my wrist, the tendril slashed through the room, decimating the enemy forces. At the same time, the weapons that the slaves had dropped soared through the air and embed themselves in the cultists. In an instant, all of the cultists were either mincemeat or pincushions.

Once I was sure I was safe, I let my shadows go while I looked behind me to see who had controlled the weapons. There, standing beside the fallen body of Uncle Rob was the red-haired form of Erza, my soulmate. I stumbled over and hugged her, tears streaming down my face. “I thought I’d lost you. That bolt, you were covered in the dust cloud.”

“I’m safe,” she said, “Uncle Rob blocked it for me.”

“May he find happiness in whatever is beyond this life,” I said, looking at his body. It had a large red tattoo that looked like a very decorative helmet on his back. He used to say it was a fairy, but if that was true, then the artist took some serious liberties.

I wiped my eyes and addressed the slave army, saying “Alright, everyone. Slight change of plans. We’ll split into two groups. Erza will take the children, I’ll take the adults. Erza’s group will go and free the torture chambers, mine will get the med bay. From there we’ll go to the mess hall, then to the dock. From there, we’re all on our own. Everyone get that?” There was a wave of nodding and people agreeing, and after a moment I said “Alright, then let’s go!”

We split off as I had instructed, and as the adrenaline began to drain, I felt the impact of that magic bolt. Based on the pain, and the fact I couldn’t see out my left eye, I guessed that I’d lost an eye and probably needed some medical treatment. I touched my hand to my face and felt blood. I just hoped that I’d be able to be healed after the cultists were defeated.

In what would have taken us hours, if not days, if we didn’t have magic now took us a few minutes. We ran to the med bay, I used my shadow to slaughter all the cultists, we raided the place, we gathered up the slaves being held there, and we left. Then we repeated the process in the mess hall. After that we went to the dock and started healing up my face and any other wounds that the adults had.

A few minutes passed, and Erza and the other children came back. We tended their wounds, then started figuring out where everyone was going. I walked over to Jellal and Erza while this was happening. “Jellal are you ok?” I asked.

“Yeah, they just gave me a few lashings,” he said, smiling as Milliana bound up his torso.

I smacked him in the back of the head, saying “Then that’s for scaring me like that!”

“Oh don’t be too hard on him,” Wally said, “You know yourself that there was no way he was going to do any different.”

“I know, that’s exactly why I’m trying to get him to stop doing this.”

“Hey, Simon,” Erza said, having the hardened blood removed from her eye socket by Sho, “I can’t look, but how’s your face? You got hit by that magic…”

“I lost my eye somewhere along the way,” I said, “Beside that the wounds aren’t that bad. I’ll have a scar over my eye, but that’s fine.”

“You did get treatment for it, right?” Erza asked.

“Half his face is covered in bandages,” Jellal said, “I’d say so.”

“I thought you said you weren’t that badly hurt!” Erza said, turning her head slightly, only to be forced to face the front by Sho.

“It’s not that bad,” I said, “my wound is just near the side of my face, so it’s hard to cover it with a bandage.”

“Oh, well we should still get it checked out by actual doctors,” Sho said.

“Hey,” said a girl about my age with short white hair. I think I remember saving her in the Med bay, “I don’t mean to interrupt, but me and the kids who you saved in the med bay wanted to say thanks.”

I looked and saw that she had brought with her four boys that I remember from the med bay. One had dark purple hair and red eyes, another had a black buzzcut and a large nose, a third had dark hair with white streaks in it. The fourth boy had curly brown hair, and since he was a bit chubby, I could tell he hadn’t been here long. Wally and the chubby kid locked eyes and they started hugging.

“I thought your timer wasn’t going off until you were older?” Millie said.

“He’s not my soulmate,” Wally said, tearing up as he spoke, “This is my brother Richard.”

“Whelp, guess you’re coming with us,” Jellal said, standing up.

“Coming with you?” Richard said.

“There was a man that lived in the same cell as us,” Jellal explained, “he died in the revolt saving Erza. That was actually what awoke her and Simon’s magic. Since he was a wizard guild, I was thinking we should join them. Let them know about Rob, and get someone who could teach us about magic.”

“Do you think we could learn magic?” the white-haired girl asked.

“I don’t see why not,” Jellal said, “but you’d have to travel with us.”

“Obviously,” said the big-nosed boy, “So are we all going?”

“I don’t see why not,” said the black-haired boy, “but introductions are in order. I’m Macbeth.”

“I’m Sorano,” the white-haired girl said.

“I’m Sawyer,” the big nosed boy said.

“Uh,” said the purple haired boy, looking at his wrist, “hold on. My timer’s almost out.” He started looking around and walked a small way away. He must not have been watching where he was going because he tripped and fell. He caught himself before he fell all the way, but then he sat down, picked something off the ground, and buried his face in his palm. “This is humiliating,” he muttered before turning back to us. “Well, I’m Erik,” he said, holding out a small purple snake, “and this is my soulmate, a snake named,” he checked his wrist, “Kinana.”

“So it’s platonic,” I shrugged, “so what? Anyway, we should probably go and find someone who knows where Uncle Rob’s guild is. He called it Fairy Tail, right?”

“Fairy Tail?” said one of the adults nearby, a man with the sagging skin of someone who was fat before they arrived here, “You looking to join them?”

“Yeah!” Milliana said, “Do you know where they are?”

“They’re based in a town called Magnolia,” the man explained, “You can find it on the east coast of the country Fiore. I actually have some family that leaves near there, I can take you there if you want.”

“Yes please!” Milliana said.

Chapter Text

When the light of the Eclipse Gates faded, I found myself standing in what I assumed was the inside of a castle. It was dark, the only light being a few torches on the wall and the glow of Eclipse. In the room with me and the other dragon slayers were two adults. A woman who looked a lot like Anna, and a shorter person with a mustache who, though I’d never seen one, I assumed was a man. Both were dressed very well, though Anna’s look alike was dressed better.

“Children?” the man muttered under his breath, clearly astonished by what had just happened.

“Pardon me,” I asked him, “what year is it?”

“Its 777,” he said.

“So we really did travel 400 years into the future,” Gajeel deadpanned, his emotions still shut off. “Who are you?”

“I am Toma Fiore,” the man said, “I’m the king of this country.”

“And I am Layla Heartfillia,” said Anna’s look alike, “What are your names?”

Gajeel pointed robotically to each of us in turn, saying “Gajeel, Wendy, Natsu, Rogue, Sting.”

“I am Anna Heartfillia,” Anna said, stepping up behind us, “Your ancestor.”

The two women looked at each other. I looked to see how similar to each other they were, and the only significant difference was that Anna looked older, with maybe a rounder face. Beyond that, they looked the same, face wise.

“I was expecting less of a family resemblance,” Anna said.

“Royalty tends to inbreed,” Layla said, “and when you can summon gods, you tend to become royalty. We only became common folk under my grandfather’s rule, when he bent his knee to the king of Fiore.”

“I am now the head regent,” the king explained, “and I’m not quite sure what is going on, could someone explain?”

“We know dragon slayer magic, and needed more magic in the air to stop us from turning into dragons,” Gajeel explained in his emotionless voice, “there’s more magic here, so we came into the future.”

“Dragon slayer magic?” the king said, “Can you please show me?”

“They could,” Anna said, “but their parents passed a few minutes ago for us, so their feeling very emotional right now. We can show you in the morning.”

“Oh I didn’t realize,” the king said, “please let me show you to the guest room.”

The king lead us up out of the room we were in and into the main palace. Up some more steps we found some rooms. We each got our own, and while most of us will never mention it, we all cried ourselves to sleep that night. I even thought I heard Anna, though it might have been Wendy, who was between us.

The next morning, we had breakfast with the king. It was actually his lunch, but we’d just gotten up. During this meal, the king asked, “So, if you wouldn’t mind, I would like to see some of this dragon slayer magic.”

I looked up and let out a Fire Dragon’s Roar, creating a pillar of fire straight up in the air that started from my mouth. After a moment, I stopped and looked at the king and said, “Is that enough?”

He paused for a moment to compose himself. After that, he said, “That was quite enough, thank you. Is there any chance you could teach some of my soldiers this magic?”

“Only dragons can teach this magic to humans,” Anna explained, “The basic fundamentals cannot even be explained in language.”

“Then how did they learn it?” asked the princess, a green haired girl that looked about Wendy’s age.

“Grandine said that she had to feed us a drop of their blood,” Wendy said, “she picked her paw and fed me some.”

“Then there must be some other way of learning the magic,” the king said, “there are records of dragon slayer mages from after the last dragon passed.”

“When a dragon passes,” Anna said, “they leave behind a lacrima where their heart used to be. These lacrima are probably why. I don’t know how they do it however.”

The king nodded in understanding and said, “Alright. Now, Mrs. Heartfillia, we discussed you taking your relative and her charges back with you to your manor. We have what we need from them, you may take them.”

“thank you, your highness,” Layla said, getting up with a bow, “I will go get a carriage, and we will leave once they have finished with their meal.”

We finished eating in silence, and then left in a weird cart that was pulled by a pair of horses. As soon as it started moving, I started to feel nauseous. “Are you alright?” asked Layla.

“Dragon slayers get motion sick very easily when they’re proficient enough in their magic,” Anna said. “Wendy, don’t you know a spell to releave it?”

“Yes!” Wendy said, making little fists by her face. She pointed her hands at me, her palms outstreatched and glowing green. I immedietly felt a lot better. “Grandine said that Toria gets weaker the more times I use it on a person, so be careful.”

“Ok,” I said, “So as little travel as possible, got it.”

“Or just learn to deal with it,” Gajeel said, “That’s also an option.”

“You wanna go?!” I said, standing up and igniting my fists.

“Not here!” Anna and Layla yelled in unison. Anna picked me up while Layla said, “this carriage is wooden! If you start fighting here, you’d burn it up. If you have to fight, wait until we get to my house, alright?”

“Ok,” I said, pointing at Gajeel, “but then you’re getting it.” While I pointed, the sleeve of my shirt went up a little and I saw something on my arm. Pulling up my sleeve, I saw that it was a bunch of numbers that seemed to be a part of my skin. They were the same color as my hair, and were counting down. “Uh, what is this?” I asked Layla.

“Oh, that’s right,” she said, “those are new. About seventy years ago, the amount of magic that existed started to increase a lot faster than before, and a few years later those timers appeared on people’s skin. Through trial and error, we found out that they count down to people meeting their soulmates.” She pulled up her wrist to show the word Jude written in gold letters on her arm before continuing, “Once the timer hits zero, you’ve made eye contact with your soulmate, and the numbers change to their name. The numbers usually match your hair color, and the name matches theirs.”

“Oh,” I said, “What do the different numbers mean? I get that the last two mean seconds, but what about beyond that?”

“From left to right, it goes years, months, days, hours, minutes, seconds,” Layla explained, “And when there’s less than a year left, the year marker goes away. Same with the rest.” She pulled a small booklet of paper out of her bag, saying “I have a calender, if you’d like to find out the date.”

“Oh, speaking of that, what is todays date?” Anna asked, rolling up her sleeve to see her timer.

“July eighth,” Layla said, looking at Anna’s wrist. She looked uncomfortable, then she said, “Looks like you’ll meet yours on September sixth, maybe seventh, 792.”

“When I’m fifty-three,” Anna muttered, “at least I’ve already got a family.”

I looked at my own wrist, though it just read 4:32:43. “Uh, Layla, how long until we get to your house?” I asked.

“A few hours, why?” I showed her my wrist. Her eyes grew wide as she looked at my wrist, then at me. She pulled out a pocket watch and flipped through her note pad. Comparing the two with my wrist, she nodded her head for a moment before looking at me and saying “I think I know who your soulmate is. My daughter Lucy, will be meeting her soulmate at the same time as you. It’s also likely you’ll be in the same place, but I can’t be certain.”

“Ok,” I said, sitting down and musing about what I’d just learned.

“Uh, when am I meeting mine?” Wendy asked, showing Layla her arm. I looked, and it read 13:11:30::01:23:54.

Layla looked down at her watch and notepad, did some mental math, and said “About three pm, July third, 791. Its actually normal for a person to meet their soulmate when they were in their late teens, early twenties, so don’t worry.”

Gajeel looked at his wrist, and while he didn’t say anything, his eyes widened slightly. While he was putting his sleeve back, I looked at his timer. 7:14::03:42:09. Doing some math, I figured he’d meet his soulmate in April. I didn’t notice if Sting and Rogue even looked at theirs.

We rode the carriage back to a town named Magnolia that Layla said was a few minutes-walk from her manor. At that point, Layla pulled the visor between the and the driver back and said to the man, “Drop us off at Lover’s Plaza, my husband will handle it from there.”

“Yes ma’am” he said, taking a turn.

“Lover’s square?” Anna asked as Layla closed the visor.

“Once people realized what the timers meant,” Layla explained, “it didn’t take long for every town to have an unofficial place to meet your soulmate. In this town, it’s the square in front of the church, and we call it Lover’s Plaza. My husband has already brought our daughter there, and I’d agreed to meet them there.”

“Alright,” Anna said, looking out the window at the town. Since the town was so close to Layla’s house, Anna had probably been here before. She was probably remembering how the town used to be, though her face was blank, so I couldn’t tell how she was feeling. I’d never even been in a city before, so I had no idea what she was supposed to feel. Between that and my timer having less than a minute left, I was nervously fidgeting in my seat.

When we arrived at Lover’s Plaza, it was in front of the largest building I’d ever seen. It had gray stone walls and a green roof. At its four corners were towers that were almost as tall as Igneel’s wingspan, and the actual building was big enough to fit him in and still let him move around. The plaza itself was sparsely populated, only about a dozen people, mostly around the edges or the fountain in the middle. The people at the fountain were almost all looking at their wrists, while the people at the edges either kept walking or looked at the fountain.

Layla put her hand on my shoulder, saying “Go to the fountain. When your timer only has two seconds on it, look up and around you.”

I nodded and ran to the fountain. I heard Layla and the others walk over to one side of the plaza, where she started talking to a man. He was probably her husband, but I didn’t look. I sat down on the edge of the fountain and looked at my wrist. It read :01 and I stumbled back, startled by the short time left. I fell into the fountain, making a big splash. I could already hear Gajeel laughing from across the square before I’d even broken the surface.

When I got my head back above water, I saw a girl with long blonde hair and brown eyes looking at me. She offered her hand to pull me up while she said, “My name’s Lucy Heartfillia, what’s yours?”

“Natsu Dragneel,” I said, taking her hand, and pulling myself up. She let go when I stood up, then I had a thought. If this girl really was my soulmate, I’d already made a fool of myself, so I might fix it by showing off a little. I did a handstand on the edge of the fountain, then pushed myself up off it, giving me enough air-time to do half of a flip and land on my feet.

“Nice save, flamebrain,” Gajeel said to me, across the plaza. I only heard it as good as I did because of my super-human hearing.

“My parents are over there, if you want help drying off,” Lucy said, pointing to the edge of the plaza.

“I don’t need help,” I said, stepping away from the fountain as I lit my hand on fire. “I can dry off all on my own,” I continued, letting the fire cover every part of my body, though not burning me. All of the adults in the plaza looked up at me in fear, and I let the fire extinguish. I was still a little damp, but it wasn’t worth being stared at like a freak to finish. Lucy lead me over to where her parents were, and I wasn’t surprised to find I’d already met them. There was one man I hadn’t met that was standing with them, however. He was a tall man with balding blonde hair and mustache, who wore a well-kept brown suit. “Hello there,” he said, “I am Lucy’s father, Jude. I believe you’ve already met my wife.”

“Yes sir,” I said, “I’m Natsu. How much do you know about me?”

“Only that you are one of the five dragon slayer children,” he said, “all that Anna recorded was that there would be five of you, as well as what your elements were. I saw earlier that you were the fire-slayer.”

“Mmhmm,” I nodded, “Though there’s something else I want to tell you, just not where other people can hear us.”

“All right,” he said, “I’ve actually made reservations for us at a nearby restaurant. Why don’t you tell me about it over dinner?”

Chapter Text

Jude lead us around the corner to the restaurant he’d made reservations at, where we were lead to a back room and given our menus. We sat down and he asked me, “So what was it you wanted to tell me, Natsu?”

“Before we were sent to the future,” I said, “there was a man named Zeref who helped us get here. Do you know what happened to him?”

Jude and Layla just looked at me for a second, then at Anna. She shifted uncomfortably under their eyes, then said “Zeref might have been responsible for making the eclipse gates. He also might have only let us use them because he needed us for something.”

“Which is?” Layla asked.

“He said Natsu was his baby brother,” the blue haired girl said, “and that Natsu was a demon meant to kill him.”

Jude was furious as he calmly put his menu down, placed his elbows on the table, knit his fingers together, and rested his forehead on his hands. He was quiet for a moment, then calmly said, “That’s good to know. Thank you for telling me, Wendy was it? So, Anna, tell me; when will Zeref be coming to find him?”

“He’s not likely to try,” Anna said, “He knows that Natsu isn’t strong enough to do anything against him, so he’s probably going to let Natsu and everyone else be for a few years at least. Though if I know anything about him, he’s just going to wait and hope Natsu finds him.”

“That’s good,” Jude said, his knuckles going white.

“I wasn’t finished,” Anna said, “Zeref might not look for Natsu, but there is another who already is. He’s a lot more dangerous than Zeref, but as long as Natsu keeps his scarf on he can’t find them. His name is Acnologia.”

Jude and Layla’s eyes went wide and they bent over like they’d been hit in the stomach.

“It gets better,” Anna said, “Zeref made more demons. They formed a group and were calling themselves Tartarus. They don’t know it, but they consider Natsu their leader. There’s no way to stop them from finding him, we just have to hope that they don’t find him.”

Jude buried his face in his hands, saying “Is there anything else?”

“Nothing that you need to worry about,” she said, and Jude sighed in relief.

“Alright,” Layla said, “so what are we going to do with them? Jude and I had discussed having them join the company, but that’s not going to happen with everyone looking for Natsu.”

“How ‘bout I go out there and fight them!” I said, punching at the air.

“Absoultely not,” Jude said, “That is too dangerous.”

“But what about when we’re older?” Lucy said, “They could join a guild and train to be stronger. You said we had a few years before Zeref started looking for them, right?”

“Whats a guild?” Gajeel asked.

“They’re a group of magical bounty hunters,” Lucy said, “They go on jobs, fight people, and collect money. You could get a lot stronger if you join one, and you could look for everyone else. Theres even a guild in this town!”

“Alright,” I said, getting up from his chair, “I’m joining the guild. Where is it?”

“Hold it,” Anna said, “We don’t know much about this new world. I’m not letting any of you join any guilds until we know more about it.”

“Aw come on,” I said, “All we need to know is how to hit stuff, where to go for the job, and read the jobs.”

“Its been four hundred years,” Layla pointed out, “I have no skill in combat, but I don’t think strategy would stay the same for that long.”

“And we didn’t know anything about the human world when we left,” Gajeel said, “What makes you think we know anything about this time?”

“Plus you have no idea how much anything costs,” Jude said, “You’ll get ripped off in a second if you go out now.”

“Not to mention that I was one of the most educated people of our time,” Anna said, holding up a menu, “and I only recognize maybe half the letters.”

“So no,” Gajeel said, “we can’t join a guild yet.”

“Though I would gladly teach you everything you need to join,” Layla said, “though I’m not going to be much good at teaching you how to fight.”

“That’s an easy enough problem to fix,” Anna said, “can you summon Leo and Taurous at the same time? It takes a lot of magic power, but if you can, they’d be the best people to teach them how to fight.”

“I’m sorry,” Layla said, “even if I have enough magic for that, my contract let me. I can only summon Leo on Tuesdays, and Taurus on Fridays. Eclipse was a special case.”

“I understand,” Anna said, “But like you said, you can summon angels. We can use them to teach the kids how to fight.”

“Can I be a mage?” asked Lucy.

“You don’t know any magic?” I asked.

“No,” Lucy said, “Daddy can’t use magic, and Mommy uses holder type magic, so I can’t use it without one of her keys.”

“I actually see no reason why you shouldn’t learn magic,” Layla said, “but you’ll have to start with silver keys.”

“Ok!” Lucy said, getting up from her seat and hoping around a little, “I can’t wait to learn magic!”

“But you’re not joning a mage guild,” Jude said, “I don’t want you getting hurt.”

I thought it was a little hypocritical that he’d let Wendy, who was a lot younger than Lucy, join the mage guild, but I kept that thought to myself. “So about the menu,” I said, looking it over, “Anna’s right, this looks weird. None of the letters look right.”

“Oh, I’ll help you,” Lucy said, coming oer and describing the menu for me. The other slayers were all listening in, and we all ordered once Lucy had finished.

Once the food arrived, we ate, though the Heartfillias looked uncomfortable watching us. “Is something wrong,” I said, taking a bite out of a ham.

“I knew you were raised by dragons,” Anna said, tearing a piece of meat with her hands, “but I didn’t think your manners would be this poor.”

“You’re not much better,” Layla said quietly.

“Manners change over time,” Anna said as she took a drink, “I was being perfectly civil by my standards.”

“Alright,” Jude said, “so the curriculum so far consists of etiquette, geography, economics, tactics, history, and English. Anything I’m missing?”

Anna pointed at Jude with her glass, then said, “We didn’t have enough time to teach them their times tables.”

Jude nodded and said, “So we’re adding math.” We spent the rest of the meal being told by Jude, Layla, and Lucy how to eat properly. The fork was the hardest part for us to wrap our heads around, but we were at least a little better by the end of the meal when Jude called for the check. Once he’d payed, we walked back to their house. It was really big, and I might have been more impressed if I hadn’t seen two more that were bigger than it during the day. We each got our own room, and we were too tired at that point to cry before we fell asleep. Our new lives would begin tomorrow.

Chapter Text

I stood in the doorway to mine and Laxus’ room and rapped loudly against it as I said “Time to get up sleepyhead. Todays the day.”

He moaned loudly before grunting “Five more minutes.”

I placed a few electric protection runes on my clothes as I went over and poked him in his guild mark. Like clockwork, he sat upright and assumed the fetal position, letting out a weak blast of electricity in all directions. It’s not enough to hurt, but without my runes I’d look like a toddler’s rendition of a tree for the next half hour.

“Aaaagh,” he yelped, “I’m up, what is it?”

“Check your wrist,” I said, tossing him a shirt, “You said you wanted to head out of town to meet them, right?”

“Oh, yeah,” he said, shoving his muscular arms through their sleeves, “Family tradition, meet your soulmate while on a job. Have you already picked it out?”

“Bickslow wanted to pick it, so I let him. Ever’s still getting ready, but breakfast is on the table already. Eggs, sausage, and pineapple juice.”

“You kinky little shit,” Laxus said, smiling.

Laxus had just finished breakfast when Bickslow came back with a job. We just had to take care of a demon living in Nightshade village. Didn’t seem that difficult. Laxus and I for crowd control, Ever to finish the thing off, and Bickslow would provide support in case it could possess people. Should only take us about five minutes. Then we could be heralded as the people who saved the town in front of our soulmates.

When we arrived, there was a bunch of people gathered around one of the houses. I asked Bickslow, “Didn’t the flier say the demon was in the church?”

Bickslow pulled out the flier with the job description on it and read it over. “Yeah, something must have happened.”

“It is a living thing,” Ever said, “It probably went hunting.”

“More likely it possessed someone,” Laxus said, “Lets go check it out.” He started heading to the crowd, and we followed suit. When we got there, the crowd was brandishing torches and pitchforks, shouting obscenities at a small house. We tried to get the crowds attention, but they didn’t respond. Trying to get them to stop, Laxus looked up and fired off a Thunder Roar. That got all their attention.

“Alright,” he barked, “we’re mages from Fairy Tail. We took the job to take care of the demon. Where is it, and what can you tell us about it?”

“It’s in there!” said one of the townsfolk, pointing at the house, “It took the form of a girl and has convinced her siblings it’s her!”

“How did the creature behave before taking the girl’s form?” I asked, calm as I could.

“It would sit in the church,” said another townsfolk, this one holding a torch, “and if we didn’t give it someone to eat once a week, it would hunt down about a half dozen of us!”

“How did it hunt?” I asked, trying to understand how a demon who hunted humans would hide as a little girl.

“It would come flying from the church like a bat from Hell, shooting lasers and balls of death energy at us until it caught us. From there, it’d grab hold of our heads and squish ‘em like a grape.”

Now truly perplexed I asked, “Has it shown shapeshifting powers before now?”

“It had three forms, I think. A pink one with an alligator tail, a blue scaly bird-man, and a giant blue man.”

“Was that all?” I asked. The townsfolk said that was all, and so I whispered to Laxus, “There is no reason for the demon to take the form of a human, let alone a girl. Something else is going on here, what can you hear in the hut?”

“One person is crying, holding something, another is walking to the window,” he whispered back. Just as he said it, the window opened to show a girl, about ten years old, with a white pixie cut, leaning out of it. She had tears welling up in her big blue eyes as she looked out at the crowd.

She saw us and, probably assuming we were the ones who had stopped the mob, said “Would you please help us? Somethings wrong with my sister.”

Bickslow’s eyes glowed green as he looked at the mob and said “Of course we’ll help you. But the rest of the town should leave us alone to work, alright?” Before anyone could even answer, he went into the building. I sighed, mentally chastising him for threatening the people paying us. Regardless, the rest of us followed him in.

The house was very small, little more than a shack. It had everything a person could need to live, with an additional bed, all compacted into just a little more space than my room back in Magnolia. On one of the beds sat the girl from the window, still at the windowsill. Between the beds sat two children, a boy and girl, a little older than the window girl, all three with the same white hair. The brother was in a blue suit, whipping his eyes of the tears he had been crying just a few minutes prior. Sitting beside him sat his elder sister, with long wavy white hair, wearing a dark and tattered cloak that obscured what she looked like.

“Hello, my name’s Bickslow,” he said to the girl by the windowsill, “I’m your soulmate.”

“I’m Lisanna,” the girl said, getting up and standing next to him.

Her siblings now looking up at Bickslow and the rest of our group. I noticed that the older sister had the same blue eyes, though they looked at me with a gaze I recognized all too well. She had the same look I had after escaping the mad doctors, the look of someone who saw no reason to keep going. I silently swore to do what I had too to get that look out of her eyes.

“Alright,” I said, clapping my hands together, “So what happened to make the townsfolk think you were a demon?”

“The town needed the next sacrifice, and we needed money,” the elder sister deadpanned, “I offered myself up if the village took care of my siblings. I go into the church, the demon gets close, grabs hold of my arm, there’s a flash, and I wake up with this.” Her cloak shifted as she rose her arm up. It was leathery and withered to the point it looked like a dead tree, with several large blisters filled with a purple puss. The arm was also much longer than it should have been, with the hand and fingers being longer still.

“That doesn’t look good,” Ever said, “hey Bickslow, can you see anything weird about it?”

“Let me check,” Bickslow said taking off his helm, “Don’t look me in the eye until I say you can, ok?”

“Why?” Lisanna asked.

“I have a magic in my eyes that of I look at someone in the eye, I can control their soul,” Bickslow said, slowly walking closer to the elder sister with his eyes closed, “Nobody looking?”

“You’re good,” the sister said, covering her brother’s eyes with her other, non-demonic hand. Bickslow opened his eyes and looked at her arm for a moment before putting his helmet back on.

“You can open your eyes now,” he said, calling his babies closer, “As for what happened, I think you used some magic as a self-defense mechanism, and you absorbed the demon’s soul and stuffed it inside you.”

“That can happen?” the brother asked.

“I’ve never seen it myself,” Bickslow explained, “but there’s a type of magic similar to the one I use called Take-Over. You take the soul of what is usually an animal, and put it inside your body. People usually put the soul in stasis, but they can also wake it up, somewhat, and transform into the animal.”

“So, I’m possessed?” the elder sister asked.

“In the same way that I’m stabbed by my rapier,” I said, gesturing to the rapier that was sheathed at my hip, “In truth, if the souls used for Take-Over follow the same rules as with Bickslow’s seith magic, then you’re even safer. Someone could come up, grab my sword, and then cut me with it, or I could do it myself. With souls, give them a few hours and they lose all memories and signs of what they were.”

“Not all of them,” Bickslow pointed out, “The smarter and more magical the animal, the stronger lasers I can make with seith magic. Not sure how that correlates to Take-Over though.”

“My grandpa would probably know how,” Laxus said, “And he’d gladly help his granddaughter-in-law.”

“What?” the elder sister said, clearly not expecting the news. Laxus held up his wrist and showed her his timer. There, in the middle of his forearm, where my name was on the other half, in white lettering, was the name Mira. I pulled up my sleeve to show her the same.

I saw that the brother was pulling up his sleeve. He took a look, then said “Are you Evergreen?”

“Most people call me Ever,” she said, “And you’re Elfman?” He nodded. “Erza owes me twenty jewel, she didn’t believe me that the four of us would get siblings.”

“Who’s Erza?” Elfman asked.

“Erza Fernandez,” I said, “Also known as Titania.”

“Oh,” Elfman said, “How did she get that nickname?”

Bickslow snickered before he said, “She’s only 13 and she’s already in a C-cup.”

“And how do you know this?” I asked, my eyes stinging as they turned dark.

“Hold your horses,” he said, his babies flying out in front of him, “Lyon just payed me twenty-five bucks to find out. I sent a baby into one of her bras when she wasn’t looking and found out that way. Point is, she’s young, and already pretty well endowed.”

“Anyway,” Laxus said, “Come with us and we’ll get my grandpa to teach you how to control your magic, alright?”

“Can we come with you?” Lisanna asked, “I don’t wanna live here anymore.”

“We live an hour away,” I pointed out, “Knowing this, we’d already prepared rooms for you guys in case we could talk you into moving closer to Magnolia. Now all we have to do is try and get you to join our wizard guild.”

“But we don’t know any magic,” Elfman pointed out, “How could we join?”

“By learning magic,” all the mages said in unison.

“But how are we going to get you guys out of here?” I wondered aloud.

Bickslow, ever the font of wisdom, kicked the door down and yelled at the mob “WE’RE TAKING THEM AND WE’RE LEAVING! ANY QUESTIONS!?”

I buried my face in my palm so fast I hurt myself.

The mob didn’t respond, but we didn’t stick around for long. We were on the first train out of there, and an hour later were back in Magnolia. Makarov told us Bickslow’s diagnosis was correct, and Mira was able to turn her arm back to normal after only a few days of training. Her siblings also learned Take Over magic, and so all three joined Fairy Tail, and began working alongside their soulmates.

Chapter Text

It was late April and I was quickly devouring my dinner, hoping to fill up the pit under my stomach. I was chewing so fast that the crunching of the iron covered Lisanna’s approach, and I nearly fell out of my seat when she said “How’d your job go? I haven’t seen Natsu since you got back.”

“It was easy enough,” I said, noticing Bickslow’s wooden dolls start flying faster when she mentioned Natsu, “We just had to beat a tree monster, and one of us has fire magic. We would have been back sooner but we found some big eggs in the woods after the job, and the others have been taking care of them all day.”

“Define big,” Bickslow asked, taking a seat beside Lisanna.

“They go up to Wendy’s forehead,” I explained, “and they’ve got about the same dimensions as a chicken egg.”

“That’s a big egg,” Lisanna said, “What do you think’s inside of them?”

“They smell like a dragon,” I explained, “but there wasn’t any other trace of the smell around them.”

Lisanna’s jaw dropped, and Bickslow laughed like the madman he was. “So you think it’s a dragon? Didn’t you see the last of them?”

“What’s your point?” I growled. He stuck his tongue back in his mouth at that.

“What kind of dragon are they?” Lisanna asked, “Do you know?”

“The eggs do smell like a dragon,” I said, “but its unlike any type I’ve ever seen. It was too, how do I put this, fluffy I guess. Point is the others are at our house making nests for them.”

“And why haven’t you joined?” Mira asked, sliding me a glass of water. I slid up my sleeve. “Oh crap,” she said, “you gotta go. You’re down to seconds.”

“What!?” I looked over at my wrist. Of all the days to wear long sleeves! I hurried out, saying “Put it on my tab!” as I closed the door.

I ran down the street in hopes of getting to Lover’s Plaza. I’d barely made it a block before someone decided to open a door straight into my face. The unexpected impact made me fall straight on my butt while it slammed on whoever tried to open the door. I heard them fall over as well, and then groan. I checked my wrist. Fate works in mysterious way.

I got up and opened the door to see a girl about my age. She was wearing an orange dress, which clashed well with her messy blue hair. She rubbed her forehead as she looked up at me with her brown eyes.

“Sorry about that,” I said, holding my hand out.

“No, its my fault,” she said, grabbing my arm as she pulled herself up. “I’m Levy.”

“Gajeel,” I said, smiling. “I’m a mage at Fairy Tail.”

“Really?” she said, “I haven’t seen you around.”

“I’ve only been a member for a few days now,” I explained.

“Oh, that explains it,” She said, “So where were you going?”

“Lover’s Plaza, and you?”

“I’m actually on a job right now. It’s a fetch quest. Do you want to come with?”

“Sure. What are we getting and where are we getting it?”

We spent the rest of the night doing her job. After that, I walked her home. She lived in Fairy Hills, a big girls-only dorm for Fairy Tail that was on the edge of town. Why it was allowed to exist with that obvious sexist limit, and why there wasn’t one for guys I don’t know.

She invited me in and lead me up to her room. On the way up, I noticed that the place wasn’t much compared to the palace or the Heartfilia’s house, but it was still very nice. I could only find flaws with the wooden floors and paintings on the walls because of my superhuman senses, and even then they just let me hear the faintest of squeaking, and see the brush strokes. The rooms seemed pretty big, at least based on how far apart the doors were spaced, and from how many windows were on the outside the probably got plenty of sunlight. I saw from the outside that the residents were given complete control of what their room looked like, or every room was a painted different color on purpose, and the residents were just allowed to nail things on their wall. The whole place smelled pretty clean with only a hint of mildew, which I probably could only smell because of my superhuman smell.

We finally got to Levy’s room and she fumbled with some keys before opening it up. It was pretty big, with ornate carvings at the corner of the walls and ceilings. The beige walls were hidden behind large bookshelves that were stacked full of books. Over in the corner sat an unmade bed with some books stacked up on the floor nearby.

“Do you want tea?” Levy asked, walking over to her desk, where she had a pitcher.

“No thanks,” I said, “to bitter.”

“You can sweeten it,” Levy said, her finger glowing as she wrote “water” above the pitcher. The letters glowed in the air for a moment before turning into water and filling it up.

“I’ve got super senses,” I explained, “side effect of my magic.”

She cocked her head to the side and said, “What type of magic has that side effect?”

I smirked, “Have you heard about those kids who just joined? The ones with dragon slayer magic?” My arm turned to an iron pillar as I spoke. “I’m one of ‘em.”

Her jaw dropped. “You’re a dragon slayer?! That’s awesome! How did you learn it? Do you know any dragons? Are there any still around? Did they teach it to you? Do you speak draconic?’

“Hold on,” I said, stopping her from rambling on, “Let me answer before you start asking any more questions. Yes, I know draconic. I learned it and my magic because I was adopted by an iron dragon after my human parents either died or left me in the woods. I never learned which, and I don’t care. My dad found me and taught me all this before he passed away seven months ago by how I experienced it, but four-hundred years ago by how the rest of the world did. The reason for the big difference between them is because an evil suicidal wizard sent me and my siblings hundreds of years into the future so we didn’t turn into dragons.”

“Oh,” she said, “that’s unfortunate. I don’t know how to help you with your mourning, but feel free to come to me if you’ve got any problems. And if you don’t mind, can you teach me?”

“You can’t use dragon slayer magic unless you’ve drank dragon blood,” I said, but she waved her hands, dismissing it.

“Not your magic,” she said, “I wanna learn to speak draconic. No other human can, and I want to.”

“Oh,” I said. “Sure. It’ll be a little difficult, since humans can barely make the sounds of the alphabet, but I can teach you if you want.”

“Great! Lets start tomorrow. I’d say we should start now, but its getting late, and you’re not allowed to stay the night. Dumb policies.”

“I mean—” I shrugged— “I’ve got a house just outside of town with an empty bedroom. This might be a little foreward, but when my siblings and I built the house, we made that room just in case you, as my soulmate, might need it.”

“Your siblings live there as well, right?”

“Yes, though one of my brothers will sometimes spend a few nights at his girlfriend’s house. That still leaves three people though.”

“Ok,” she said, “but I’ll need to move my stuff.”

“I’ll help you with that,” I said, “but are you sure about this? Its no bother if you don’t want to, we can just use the room for extra storage.”

“Its fine,” she said, “I actually can’t pay for this months rent, which needs to be paid next week. We can move my stuff tomorrow, but if you’re going to start teaching me draconic tonight, then I should move in tonight, just for convince.”

“Ok,” I said, suddenly questioning how fast we were moving as well as every decision I’d ever made in my life, “then we should, go?”

Levy grabbed some things off her desk and snapped her fingers, causing the water in the pitcher to disappear. “Lead the way,” she said, walking out past me. As she did, I got hit with a hint of the putrid smell of stress sweat, which smells like regular sweat, but worse, and tends to relax me for whatever reason. Probably because it lets me know I’m not the only one anxious about what’s going on.

It was that smell that actually let me lead her to my house. I tried to get Levy prepped for the introductions before we got there, but she was still over run by the over excitable sky slayer. Wendy ran over to us so fast we felt the wind blow past us when she stopped, her legs still glowing slightly. She began to barrage Levy with questions, but I shut her up by lifting her off the ground by the back of her collar.

“Wait until the others are here,” I said, the draconic words sliding off my tongue like a boulder down a mountain, “She’s not going to repeat herself.”

“Yes, sir,” Wendy said in the same tongue. I let her go and she scampered off.

“Um,” Levy said, “Was that draconic?”

“I think it helps me be more assertive,” I said, slipping back into English, “Come on, I’ll show you your room.”

I started giving her lessons in Draconic that night. She took to it much better than I thought she would. While she couldn’t say a single word of it, she was recognizing the letters after only a week, and knew what they sounded like in two. She’d even gotten her head around the sentence structure after only a month. Two months after she’d moved in, she’d finally managed to say her first word of Draconic, blue.

Before I could congratulate her, however, we were interrupted by the sound of an eggshell cracking. We were practicing in the hatchery next to the eggs and I pointed to the one with the blue flame pattern on it to try and get her to say it. It took her a few tries, but she managed to say it properly, and then the eggs started hatching. I yelled for the others to get in here, and they came running.

The egg shells cracked, and small pieces chipped off. They began to shake, and then they split open to reveal balls of light the same color as the flames on their eggs. The lights floated up to the ceiling, then flashed brightly to reveal that, under the light, they were kittens.

We were all a little shocked by this, but were more impressed by the fact the cats had small white wings on their back, even though only one of them had white fur. The others were green, dark red, and light blue. They all lazily floated down to the ground, landing in a heap by their shells and falling asleep, their wings dissolving into blips of light.

“Well they’re not dragons,” Lucy said, having joined Fairy Tail just a few days ago.

“But look at ‘em!” Wendy said, picking up the white one, “They’re so adorable. Can we keep them?”

“We were planning on keeping them to begin with,” Natsu said, “Though now we need to get new food for them. Do you think we could just get a mother cat?”

“She’s not likely to let them feed from her,” Levy pointed out, “I think we should just get them milk for now, it shouldn’t be hard to figure out how to turn it into different types of milk. It’s a common farming spell.”

“Why?” Wendy asked.

“Goats cost less to maintain than cows,” I reasoned, “but cow milk can be sold for more money. It probably started so someone could have their cake and eat it too.”

“You’re close,” Levy corrected, “It’s mostly used for that today, yes, but originally it was so cow milk could be fed to human babies if the mother couldn’t provide milk.”

“Losing healing magic was a big blow,” I heard Lucy say under her breath. She still hadn’t quite learned the extent of our super hearing, so she didn’t know that she might as well have shouted it for all the good it would do.

“But what did we agree was going to be their names?” Sting asked.

Levy pulled a piece of paper out of her notebook and read it. “Can you guys tell their gender?” she asked.

“The white one’s a girl,” Natsu said, sniffing the kittens, “the others are all boys.”

“How can you tell that based on smell?” I asked.

“Girls smell sweeter,” he explained.

“Well that means her name is Carla,” Levy said, “the others are Happy, Frosche, and Lector. How do you want to decide it?”

“Frosche always sounded like an ice cream to me,” Lucy said, “so why not the green one?”

“And the blue one is smiling in his sleep,” Wendy said, “He should be Happy.”

I saw the color of the fur on Carla’s and Happy’s front leg change colors, and looked closer to investigate. I looked at Natsu to confirm what I saw, and he nodded in confirmation. “I forget,” I asked “did any rational species have timer, or was it just humans?”

“It was any rational race,” Lucy said, “why?”

“Carla and Happy are going to have kittens when they grow up,” Natsu said, carefully showing her Happy’s front leg. There, in white lettering, was the word Carla. I checked Lector’s and Frosche’s timers, and was shocked by what I saw. Their timers read 123:5:19::11:42:41 and 253:3:7::21:23:25 respectively.

I told the others about the massive amount of time on their timers and we agreed, these weren’t normal kittens by any stretch of the imagination. The only question was what were they

Chapter Text

“Oh this place brings me back,” Ultear said, looking out over the river. “I wonder what they did with Unicor’s body.”

“Knowing this place,” I said, my eyes glued to the deep, dark waves, “They probably just let it rot in the river.”

Doro shoved me so hard I nearly fell into the water. Turning around, I saw him smirk with his blood-shot eyes. “Lighten up man,” he said, “you’re down to the last day.”

I glared at him for a moment before I went back to staring at the water, my hand now wringing my timer. We arrived at the other side and headed to where the job flyer said to meet the employer. It was at a bar, and when we told the employees what we were here for, he ushered us into a back room. There, sitting at a desk, was an old man who seemed familiar for some reason. Doro and the man locked eyes the moment they were both in the room. Doro froze, while the man stood up and shouted, “YOU! You dare to show your face in this town again?! I thought I was clear last time; if I saw you again, you’d be sleeping with Unicor! Give me one reason why I shouldn’t kill you right n-” before he could finish he was encased in ice.

Ultear dropped out of the Ice-Make stance and looked at Doro, who meekly raised his hands in the air. “He used to be my boss,” he explained, “He’s the one I got thrown in jail after I botched the job.”

“Ok,” Ultear said, evaporating the ice around the man’s head, “You try and hurt Dorobo and you’ll regret it, ok? Now what’s the job?”

The old man’s eyes went wide and stuttered, “Y-you’re that b-b-brat! Who k-k-killed Unic-c-cor!”

“He’s hypothermic,” Juvia said, “Let him out.”

“Only because that stuttering annoys the fuck outta me,” Ultear said, dissipating the rest of the ice.

“Wait,” Gray said, “are you that mayor from the last time we were here? Around ten years ago?”

“Err,” the old man bit his lip, “That’s not important right now! What’s important is that I defaulted on my security payments to a dark guild, and they’re coming to destroy the town some-time today. I’ve alerted the military, but they said they can’t make it until tonight. I need you to get us to last that long. Can you do that for us?”

Doro placed his hands on the desk and leaned forward, smiling as he said, “Give me one reason why I shouldn’t just let them kill you?” The old guy looked like he was about to piss himself in terror, until Doro started laughing. “Psh, ahahaha! I can’t believe you actually fell for that! You know I can’t even stand the sight of blood. Yeah, we’ll help. Just pay us double or I’ll rat you out to the police.”

“Will do,” the man squeeked.

“Wonderful, we’ve got ourselves a deal,” Doro said, pulling out a pen and paper, which he scribbled something on and handed to the man, saying “Just sign on the dotted line.” The man signed the paper, barely reading it over before handing it back.

“I’ve got no way of knowing when or where they will attack,” the man said.

“That’s fine,” Ultear said, “I didn’t expect you to.”

We went back outside and made our way to the edge of town. When we got there, three people were approaching. One was pale with a dark mullet and heavy-set gut. Next to him was a man with long blonde hair and a smile that reminded me to much of Bickslow. The third man had dark brown skin and hair, including a goatee. My siblings and I looked at each other, and casually prepared for if it turned south.

The blonde must have noticed us get ready, because he began to cackle. “Looks like they’re expecting us!” he said, holding out his hands, “Why don’t we get started then?”

“ICE-MAKE: SHIELD!” shouted Gray, and a spiral of ice shards crackled into existance in front of us.
“Fire god’s explosive flame!” the blonde said, punching the air. A torrent of black flames launched at us, exploding the shield into shards like needles.

“ICE-MAKE: SNOW DRAGON!” I said, thrusting my hand forward as the wyrm charged the dark mages. The dark skinned man extened his hand and said something, I didn’t catch, before the dragon was consumed in an explosion. It was still mostly intact, until a wave of smaller explosions tore through the air, turning it inside out.

“These children are not worth my time,” he said, stepping off the path and onto the grass, “I will go on a head.” I saw Dorobo pop a pill and disappear as the dark-skinned man flew backwards several meters. His companions eyes grew wide as they turned to look at him, and the pale man stumbled as Dorobo appeared, kicking him in the stomach.

“Shit!” Doro swore as the pale man grabbed his shoulders. The pale man brought his head back, and was about to bring it forward when a bubble of water appeared around his head. Startled, his grip loosened enough for Doro to slip out.

“You little bitch!” the blonde man said, charging at Juvia in a ball of black flames, “I’ll show you!”

“Restore,” Ultear said, glaring at the blonde. His flames winked out of existance, and he fell at her feet.

“Lyon.” Gray said, “You, me, black guy.” I nodded, and we charged the dark-skinned man, who was only just now recovering from Doro’s kick. Gray took the stance and yelled, “ICE-MAKE: CANNON!” as an icey-bazooka poofed over his shoulder. A rocket shot forward and flew at the dark-skinned man.

“ICE-MAKE: EAGLE!” I yelled, sending a dozen birds of ice flying just behind the rocket. The man tried to explode them again, but they struck him before he could. It didn’t seem to do much damage, but his clothes were tattered. He also looked rather angry, as he thrust his arms forward. Roots leapt out of the ground and charged at us. “Ice-Make: Lion!” I said, creating an icey cat to block the attack.

The roots wrapped around it hard enough to shatter my lion into pieces before a chain of explosions burst down them. The force of the blast made me lose my footing on the slick ice, and I fell on my ass. A jolt of pain told me I probably just bruised my tail bone, but I ignored it as I slid out of the way of even more vines. I slammed my right hand on them, freezing them as they exploded. I heard my bones break over the sound of the esplosion, and I bit my tongue to try and stifle my yell. The coppery taste of blood filled my mouth.

I was out of the fight. I can’t make ice without my good hand. I looked around, trying to find a different way to help.

Ultear was fighting the blonde guy, and was doing pretty well. Neither one could land a hit on the other. He’d melt her ice, she’d rewind his fire. Their fight would probably be over if she could use both types of magic at once.

Juvia was fighting the big guy, who was messing with a doll of some kind. Doro seemed to be making the same movements as the doll, so Juvia was having to block his attacks, while trying not to hurt him.

Gray was on his back foot, but he wasn’t going to go down just yet. I showed him my hand, and he nodded. I snuck up on the big guy and kicked him in the ass. It didn’t do much damage, but he was startled and turned to face me. This gave Juvia the perfect opportunity to hit his hand with a blast of water, knocking the doll out of his hand. Doro was now free enough to pop a pill and disappear. Whatever Doro did made the big guy let out a high pitched squeal and double over, clutching his manhood.

At the same time, the blonde’s arm flew up, making him miss an attack that would have blocked an Ice Bloom. The petals cut into his limbs, preventing him from moving long enough for Ultear to run up and freeze him in a block of ice.

With the other two taken care of, we all turned our attention to the black guy. He had managed to do a serious number on Gray, who was now sprawled out on his back, but he was looking a little worse for wear himself.

“Water Nebula!” Juvia shouted, sending two collums of water at the man. He couldn’t get out of the way in time, and was sent flying back.

“Ice-Make: Rosen Maiden!” Ultear said, creating an ice rose bush that wrapped around the man, imprisoning him.

Drawn by the explosions, the town guard showed up. “Perfect timing!” Doro yelled, “We’ve already finished.”

The big guy had recovered enough that he was able to throw a pair of dolls. Whatever his magic was, it sent his companions, still in their icey prisions, flying. When the dolls hit the ground, the mages hit with enough force to break them out of their bindings. They scrambled to their feet and tried to run back, but the big guy sent out a blast of fire, burning the dolls as he yelled, “Run you idiots! We can’t take on these many guards! Run and tell master we failed! Blame me if you want, just go!”

The two paused for a moment, then the black one grabbed the blonde’s shoulder and they disappeared into the grass.

The big guy was arrested, and I was brought to the hospital for my arm. They gave me a cast, which the mayor gladly paid for using some of the reward money. After I got out of the operating room with my cast, I checked my timer.

30:15

I showed it to the others, and said “I’m going for a walk. Don’t follow.”

“Ok,” said Juvia, “Have a good time.”

I walked down the street for a while. I eventually came across a big church, and while it wasn’t as big as Kardia Cathedrail, it was still fairly big. I decided to look around and see what it was like. It was almost night time, so there weren’t a lot of people around. There was, however, a little girl by one of the pillars. She had short pink hair, wore a sweater and red ear muffs. She was looking at her timer, so I checked mine. Only one second left.

“Excuse me, miss,” I said as her eyes darted up to look at me, “How old are you?”

“I’m eight,” she replied, “and my name’s Meredy, what’s yours?”

“Lyon, I’m sixteen. Are your parents around?”

“Uhm,” Meredy said, looking away as she kicked the dirt, “They are, but we can’t see them.”

I looked up at the church. It probably had a cemetery around the other side. I got on my knee to look Meredy in the eye. “I’m a member of a mage guild,” I explained, “If you want, you can join.”

“Really?” she said, smiling as she hugged me, “Thank you so much!”

“Oof,” I grunted, “Watch the arm, I just broke it.”

“Sorry!” she said, springing back.

“Its alright,” I said, standing up, “Come on, let me introduce you to my siblings.”

Chapter Text

“Rents due in two weeks,” I said, slumping into my seat at the guild hall. “We need to take a job if we’re gonna make it.”

“I did just become an S-Class mage,” Mira pointed out, “Why don’t we celebrate by taking an S-class quest.”

“If we do that,” Freed said, not taking his eyes off his book, “I think we should take one of the easier ones. People tend to get cocky when they get recognition.”

“Alright,” Mira said, “so how ‘bout you pick it out.”

“Because I already have,” Laxus said, placing a job flyer on the table in front of us, “fairly simple job. There’s a monster they’re calling the Beast, and they want us to kill it. It’s only about an hours train ride from here.”

“Alright, I’ll get the others,” Mira said before leaving.

The trip there was uneventful. We asked around the town where the Beast was, and it were pointed in the direction of a nearby mountain. “Now how are we gonna get up there?” I wondered aloud. I turned around to see the girls had grown wings, and Bickslow was now standing on his babies.

“Right, you guys can fly,” I said, “I guess its just you and me, Laxus.”

“Lightning body,” he said, turning his arm into a bolt of lightning, “I might not be as natural at it as Juvia’s water, but its still enough to fly.”

“Remind me to find a beast with wings next time we get the opportunity,” I said, “Mira, you strong enough to carry me up there?”

“Hold on,” she said before being bathed in yellow light. When the light dimmed, she’d swapped from her base Satan Soul into her Satan Soul: Halphas. This form was a steely gray with feathered wings on the back. “Now I can,” she said, her voice ever so slightly hoarser from the transformation. She lifted me up and we flew up to the top of the mountain. Laxus was faster by a wide margin, so he went a head to scout out the area.

When we got up there, the mountain was rocky and barren. We landed quietly and waited for Laxus to return. He got back in a few minutes, striking down with a resounding boom, spraying gravel almost into our faces.

“Could you make any more noise?” Ever quipped.

Laxus was about to respond when a roar ripped through the air and what sounded like a behemoth running at us. We shot Laxus a look before scattering, hoping the Beast didn’t have any ranged attacks.

I vaulted over the rock we had hid behind as I yelled “Beast Soul: Stone Bull!”, feeling the tingle of my magic as I turned into an earthenware minotaur and charged at the beast. It was a hulking monster twice my height, covered in deep red fur and green scales, two yellow horns erupting from either side of its long white mane like tumors.

I charged the Beast, ducking out of the way of its claw before punching it in the side. The blow was enough to tear throw a tree, but the Beast didn’t seem to budge. I fell back, having pissed it off enough that all its attention was on me.

“Ever! Glasses!” I yelled, side stepping another swipe.

“I’d get the rest of you!” she yelled back, sending a barrage of light bolts into its side. It roared in pain and turned at her, dropping its guard as it did. I punched it square in the gut, staggering it a little.

“Aim for the stomach!” I heard freed yell, “That seems to be its weak spot!” He was writing runes in the air as he spoke, and with a flick of his sword the purple words hit the Beast’s back.

It tried to throw another punch at me, but this time it was slow enough that I managed to get a hit on its elbow strong enough it almost hit himself in the shoulder.

Before it could bring its arm back around to hit me, Laxus hit it in the side of the head with a fist-shaped lightning bolt, with the combined momentum making it lose its footing and scramble to not fall over.

It looked like he was about to when a blast of pink energy came from the way the Beast was falling and knocked it back up. I would have given Mira a look if it hadn’t also spat out a bit of blood while regaining its footing.

It turned and tried to run at Mira, giving me the opportunity to grab hold of its mane and pull it the other direction. I heard Bickslow and Mira let loose on its stomach, though that didn’t last long because the Beast roared in pain so loud the world seemed to go out of focus and everything was spinning. I felt a pressure on my head and saw the colors of the blurs change, only to then feel my face be smashed into the ground over and over again. There was a flash of yellow and the Beast flung me back the same way Ever had been standing. I ate more gravel before I couldn’t manage to keep the spell active and I turned back to my human form.

I laid on the ground for a few seconds, waiting for the world to stop spinning.

When I managed to stand, I looked around to get a scope of the fight. Lisanna was up in the Beast’s face, dodging out of the way of its blows while taking what shots she could. She was mostly acting as a distraction though, as the others took shots at the Beast, trying to hit the gash in its stomach.

“You ok?” Ever asked, helping me to stand.

“Yeah,” I said, rubbing my head, “My ears still rung a little, but it’s nothing.” I looked over to Laxus and yelled “Hey! Laxus!”

“Thunder bull?” he yelled back.

“Beast Soul: Iron Bull!” I yelled, turning into a cast iron minotaur. I charged at the Beast and impaled my horns in its guts. Laxus roared, sending a massive lightning bolt at me. It connected, sending the charge throughout my body and into the Beast, frying it.

The beast didn’t even scream. It just stood there, taking the electricity. When it stopped, I slumped over and fell to my knees. I knew that I was going to eat more gravel if I didn’t move, but it was all I could do to keep myself transformed. I looked up at the Beast, and it looked down at me. Our breath was heavy, and he was bleeding from the charred holes my horns had cut into his side.

The Beast fell to its knees with a thunderous slam, then fell forward over top of me. I felt his heartbeat through his scales. It was slowing down. Thu-thump, thu-thump. Thu-thump. Thu-thum.

It was over. The Beast was dead. I turned back into a human as I placed my hand on his back. “Take-Over,” I sighed, yellow light coming from the Beast’s hide. I felt the swelling power of the Beast’s soul going into my body. As it happened, I felt the pressure of the Beast’s corpse get lighter and lighter as it disappeared. When it finally finished, the fuzzy feeling of absorbing the soul still lingered.

I felt myself get up, and the fuzzy feeling get worse as I transformed into the Beast. Evergreen said something, but I didn’t hear her. I felt my arm sluggishly raise up, as if to smack her, but suddenly the sun was setting and Evergreen wasn’t there anymore. I saw myself bring my arm back down, swinging at the air with enough force the gravel beneath my feet shifted. I looked around and saw that Evergreen and the rest were all standing by a rock behind me. I felt my feet shift and move me toward them in a brisk run. I hit an invisible wall between us and fell back a little. I felt my arm fly forward and scratch at the air, hitting this invisible wall.

I felt my claws try and strike at whatever was blocking my path for what felt like hours. It only stopped because I passed out from exhausting my magic. When I came to, I was laying in my bed back at Magnolia. Ever was sitting next to me, sleeping, using my chest as a pillow. I smiled, silently thanking freed for his runes.

Chapter Text

“Anything good?” I asked Levy, who was looking at the job board.

“Nothing that would interest you,” she said before pointing to one of the flyers, “but this job seems like it be fun.”

I looked at the flyer. It had a picture of a sleezy looking fat dude in a suit twirling his mustache. He was apparently named Duke Everlue, and a big enough pervert to warrant three synonyms saying it. The job seemed simple enough, just go in, steal a book from this guy, and destroy it.

“You just want to watch as we beat that sleezeball to a pulp, don’t you?”

“No! The duke lives in the same town my favorite author used to, and I’ve been meaning to visit it.”

“Ok, how much is the reward?” I looked at the bottom of the flyer and saw the reward was 200 thousand jewel. “That much for that little work? What’s up with this?”

“There’s probably some personal reason for it. Shall we take it?”

“I’ll get the others, you tell Mira we’re taking the job.”

“Got it.”

Romeo walked up to where Master was sitting and asked, “Is my daddy back yet?” I could smell tears welling up in his eyes as he continued, “He said he’d be back in three days, but its been a week.”

“Macao’s job was on mount Hakobe, wasn’t it?” I asked Levy.

“That’s only forty minutes out of our way,” she replied, handing me the flyer.

“Please go look for him!” Romeo cried, “I’m really worried something bad has happened!”

I walked over and patted him on the head, saying “Don’t worry kid, me and my team will get your dad back.” I showed Master the flyer, “By the way we’re taking this job.”

“Ok,” master said, “his job was to deal with some Vulcans, so be careful.”

“You think some overgrown monkeys will give us trouble?” I scoffed, “He’ll be back before sunset.”

We got on the train and went to the nearest trainstop to mount Hakobe, where we got a carriage to take us up the mountain. It started snowing at some point, and it got so bad that the carriage driver said that he couldn’t continue up before he kicked us out.

“I-its cold!” Lucy yelled as she got out.

I engulfed myself in fire as I said, “There’s this wonderful invention, they’re called pants.”

“Would you mind smacking him for me?” Lucy asked Gajeel, moving to be closer to me.

I chuckled a little, but started heading up the mountain. I lead the way, partially because I was glowing, and therefore the easiest to see, but also because my senses were the strongest out of the entire guild. If anyone was going to notice the Vulcans before they attacked, it’d be me.

After a few minutes of walking, there was a rumble sound at the top of the mountain that was loud enough that even Levy and Lucy noticed it. I stood still and dimmed my fire to the point where it was just barely ignited.

“Rogue,” Gajeel said, nodding his head up at the source. The boy nodded in agreement before falling into his shadow and darting away. They’d gotten only a few meters away when a giant gorilla dropped down on us.

“It’s a Vulcan!” Happy yelled as he and the other cats sprouted wings and flew up into the air.

“Yeah, no shit.” Gajeel said, sending his iron pole at it. The Vulcan batted it away before grabbing Lucy and running away, saying “Human woman!” all lovey dovey.

“Damn it!” I said, “I can’t get a good shot!”

“Cats! Fly!” Gajeel barked, pointing first to Frosche, then to his back. The cats got the message and grabbed onto our shoulders and flew after the Vulcan. Rogue and Wendy didn’t have cats to carry them, so Rogue fell into his shadow and chased after them, while Wendy did something with the wind currents that let her sort of fly, but nowhere near as well as the cats.

We flew after the Vulcan and arrived at a cave high up on the mountain. When we got there, the Vulcan threw Lucy into the middle of the room and began to chant “women” over and over like an idiot. I felt a sadistic glee as I charged forward with my Fire Dragon’s Iron Fist and punched the bastard in the face. The beast stumbled back and looked really pissed. He was about to charge me when Lucy summoned her bull spirit, Taurus, who buried his axe deep in the Vulcan’s shoulder.

“No!” Levy yelled, “Vulcans use Take Over! That thing is possessing Macao!”

“We can heal him after,” I said, kicking the Vulcan in the gut, “but don’t kill it, ok Taurus?”

“Moo! I’m sorry, I should have known,” the spirit replied, turning his axe to smack the Vulcan in the face with its flat side. This was enough to knock it onto the icey ground, where Gajeel hit him with his pole and sent him sliding into the wall. This was enough to knock the beast out. It shimmered with light similar to what Elfman produces when he transforms, and then shrunk down into a very beat up looking Macao. Wendy healed him, and we got him down to the train station where he went back to Magnolia, and we continued on to the Daybreak job.

Chapter Text

We arrived at Shirotsume town two hours after dealing with Macao. It was a nice little Hamlet out in the boonies, just the kind of place that a famous person might move to so they can avoid their fame. Or the kind of place that criminals flock to for its lax guard patrols.

“I took Levy here for her birthday a few years back,” I said, “from what I recall, the big houses were over that way. Anyone who’d be able to pay a hundred k for a book is probably going to be rich enough for a big house.”

“Can we get some food first?” Flame brain said, still a little green from the ride over here, “I lost my breakfast on the ride here.”

“We should go and meet the client first,” Levy said, “After that, we’ll need to scope out where the book is being held, and that doesn’t require all of us. Gajeel and I can get food while the rest of you scope it out, ok?”

“Alright,” Natsu said, “but let’s hurry.”

We went to the upper-class district and found where we were the client lived. It was a big white house with blue trimming. The front door had an ornately carved dragon head that served as the knocker.

“Ugh,” Sting groaned, seeing the knocker. “Why is it that whenever we see art of a dragon it’s got something to do with greed or wealth or something? Weisslogia didn’t have any use for human money.”

“How do you know the dragon means wealth?” Lucy asked.

“The house smells like silver,” Natsu said, “the owner is probably a banker.”

I sniffed the air. Sure enough, there was a faint trace of silver in the air. There was no way I’d have noticed it if they hadn’t said anything though. That’s what I get for having the least superhuman senses of the group.

“Oh,” Lucy said, “but to answer your question Sting, after you went through Eclipse, dragons were quickly assumed to be myths, and like everything to do with the old gods, the church villainized them. It probably wasn’t that hard to turn them into symbols of wealth and greed, considering how you said there were some that could breathe gems and precious metals into existence.”

“Damn-” Sting began, but I cut him off. “Finish that sentence and we might all die,” I barked. It shut him up just as we got to the door. I knocked, and one of those metal windows people put on doors so they can see who’s outside opened up to reveal a pair of narrow eyes with wrinkles surrounding them.

“Hello,” Levy said, “we’re from Fairy Tail. We’d like to talk about the-” “SHH!!” the eyes interrupted, “please be quiet! Could you please enter from the back door, please?”

“O-ok?” Levy said, not a single one of us understanding what was going on. Regardless, we did as we were told, though a little on edge, and went to the back door. A woman with gray hairs beginning to outnumber her brown came and let us in. She lead us to a parlor, where the gray-haired man who’s eyes we had spoken to at the door sat pouring tea.

“I’m terribly sorry about my behavior at the door,” he said, “I’m Kaby Melon, the one who sent you here on the job. The woman who let you in is my wife. Please, take a seat.” He gestured to the love seat across the table from him. Levy and Lucy took a seat, as did the cats. The slayers and myself took a defensive position with Natsu and I on either side of the couch, Sting and Rogue behind us, and Wendy between them.

“Feel free to relax,” Kaby said, leaning back and sipping a cup of tea, “I was only short with you at the door because of how close we are to where the book is. Duke Everlue is my next door neighbor, and he has the one and only copy of a book called Day Break, which I want you to destroy. I took a risk in making this a guild job, so I’ve been a tad paranoid that he might find out.”

“You’re oftly relaxed for someone who’s paranoid,” Natsu said.

“As one is when they are in the safe and comfort of their own home,” Kaby retorted, “but do we have a deal?”

“So, to be clear,” I said, walking back and forth, turning to face Kaby for a moment whenever I make a point, “you want us to sneak into the home of the local nobility, steal one of their possessions, and bring it back here so that we can destroy it in front of you.”

“Almost,” Kaby said, “but not quite. I don’t want that book to come onto my property. I know a spell that will let me know if you’re lying just by looking you in the eyes, and will use that to ensure that you’ve done the job. If you destroy the book, you’ll get two million jewel. Fail, or bring it onto the property, and you won’t get anything out of me.”

“Two million!” cried the younger slayers and cats.

“Oh, you didn’t know about the increase?” mused Kaby.

“No we did not,” I said, “and since you’re now providing ten times as much, I wanna know why before we start.”

“This entire job is very personal for me,” Kaby said, a look of pensive regret passing over him for a moment as he continued. “That book is an abomination, it needs to be destroyed.”

Sting ran out of the room, yelling, “Alright! Let’s go burn a book! Two million!” This, of course, lead to Rogue, Lector, and Frosch to follow him. It took more will power than Lucy appeared to have to not burry my face in my hand. I excused myself and left, confident that if Kaby decided to pull a fast one and attack us, Natsu, Lucy, and Wendy would be able to defend themselves, as well as Levy and the cats.

I walked quickly out the backdoor, following after the children. I caught up quickly and berated them for leaving before the deal was finished up, just in time for the others to get back. We left the mansion and went to a barbeque joint not too far away. We got our food and sat in the back, where no one would over hear our conversation.

“So, what’s the plan?” Sting asked before taking a bite of his ribs.

“First, I want to address something I noticed,” Lucy whispered, “Kaby lied to us. He said he knew magic, but you guys say he’s a banker. The banks are all government facilities, and by law no one who practices magic is allowed to work for the government outside of the guards.”

“He also smelled way off from what a banker should smell like,” Natsu said, “he smelled like dirt, old books, and chopped vegetables. Not a hint of silver on him. I’d wager he actually sells books, probably used.”

“And the house isn’t even a decade old,” Wendy said, “There wasn’t any mildew in the basement.”

“The joys of working with bloodhounds,” Levy muttered, taking a sip of her drink as a shadowy hand reached out from under the table and tipped it until she almost spilled it all over herself. She puts her cup down and glares at Rogue as the hand darts back under the table.

“Remember,” I reminded her, “superhuman hearing and dislike of being called animals.”

“Right, right, sorry,” she apologized, wiping her mouth. “So, what are we going to do? He’s still paying us for the job.”

“Yes,” Natsu said, “but he gave us an easy way to not get paid.”

“What are you talking about?” Sting asked, “why wouldn’t we want to get paid?”

“Because Kaby smells very poor,” Natsu explained. “He smells like chopped vegetables, which means he spends a lot of time around cooking food. He can’t be a cook however, or even cook often when he’s home, because he smells to much like books, which don’t pass their scent on as well, so he’d have to spend a lot of time around them. I’d guess that he lives in a one room cottage, with the stove and bed only a few meters away, and that he sells books for a living. Book stores don’t pay well, but they pay more than is needed to get a better apartment. He probably spent a good portion of his life saving up as much as he could to pay for this job. We take that payment, and his life is going to get better, but we don’t, and he gets to keep that two mil. He’s old enough at this point that, if we take it, he’s never going to be able to get that much again. He’d die in poverty. We don’t take it, and he dies in lower middle class.”

We were quiet for a moment.

“What? To dark?”

“I mean you’re right,” Lucy said, “but you didn’t have to say it like that.”

“So, we’re in agreeance then?” I asked, “take the book to him?”

The others nodded in agreement before we left. We paid on the way out, then headed over to the duke’s manor. We were within sight of the front gate, but still concealed by the shadow of the trees, when I had a thought.

“Hey, Lucy. Your family is an economic powerhouse descended from nobility, right? Is there any way you’d be able to walk in and grab the book?”

“Two reasons,” she said, “First: I’m a mage, and everyone knows this, so I can’t have any political power. Second: I’ve spent the past six years in a wizard guild. In that time, my dad’s already started teaching someone else how to take over the business. All I’m good for economically and politically is a few hundred mil, and even that’s not for a few years.”

“Ok, just a thought,” I said. “Cats, try getting a bird’s eye view. Humans, we’re going to check the perimeter and see where their weak spots are. Redfoxes, and Rogue go left, Dragneels, Sting, and Wendy go right. Meet in the middle around back. Cats come to us when we call you or half an hour has passed, whichever comes first. You guys all have watches?” They all nodded. “Good, let’s go.”

After the half hour had passed, we grouped back up where we said we would. The manor was set up more like a castle than an actual home. Before you got inside, you’d have to get past a wall made of meter thick stone. From there, you’d then have to get across the yard, which smells so much like metal that its either booby trapped or has a really ornate and needlessly complex sprinkler system. From what we could tell, the safest way in was probably the attic window. It was to high up and too far away from anything that would’ve let people climb up, so there wouldn’t be any need to booby trap it.

The cats carried most of us up, though Rogue slipped Sting into his shadow and Wendy did her sky walking technique up to the window. We carefully opened the window and snuck in. The room was full of a bunch of random crap, so it must have been a storage room. Something caught Happy’s eye, and he darted off to pick it up. He turned around and said, “Hey guys! Lookie here!”, now wearing a human skull as a helmet.

“Charming,” I said, my skin beginning to harden to iron as I thought about how that thing got up here, “put that thing back where you got it and let’s go. Where did you see the library?”

“There was a tall blocky section of the manor down the hall,” Carla said, “It’s either the library or his personal church.”

I nodded and opened the door, being careful not to let it creak as I looked. The coast was clear, and we walked out. We headed down the hall when Wendy asked, “Couldn’t we just ask someone?”

“Only if you want us to get caught,” Sting responded before I could. Rogue continued, saying “And we don’t want that, since this is technically illegal.”

“Aye,” Happy said, going up a head with the other cats. Frosch opened a door and snuck his head in. He looked back and said, “It’s the library.”

I nodded and we went in. It was well lit by lanterns throughout the room, with bookshelves lining the walls, and a few more rows on either side of an expensive looking wooden table. I’d guess mahogany, though I’m not a carpenter.

“Start looking,” I said, barely loud enough for Lucy and Levy to hear, “We don’t know how long until someone comes.”

We started looking throughout the room, with Natsu going to the back wall with Happy. He pulled a book out and took one look at it and said, “Found it!”

“What?” Levy said, “Already?”

“Yeah,” Natsu said, tossing her the book, “Only gold book on the shelf. You’d think he’d try and hide it better.”

Levy looked at the cover and saw the author. “Kemu Zaleon wrote this?!”

“What?!” Lucy said coming closer to look. “I thought we’d read all his stuff.”

“Must be unpublished,” Levy said.

“Uh,” Wendy began, pointing questionably at the pair. Natsu and I both said, “He’s their favorite author,” in unison.

“But that opens up more questions,” I continued, “Why does Kaby want this destroyed? And what’s it even doing here?”

“This is his hometown,” Natsu said, “It would make sense that if he died and got his crap taken from him when he died that it would end up in the local noble’s house.”

“And maybe Kaby knew him and really didn’t like him?” Wendy said, shrugging.

The ground began to bump up and crack, saying “Boyoyoyoyoyo. That would make sense, if Kemu hadn’t died thirty years ago!” A short and fat man in a suit and blonde toupee popped up out of the ground as he spoke. “No one but me remembers that old hack!”

“Everyone get back!” I said, turning my arm to an iron pillar.

The man landed on the table, breaking it to pieces as he throws his arms into the air, saying, “Hold it! What are you after?”

“Just this book,” Natsu said, “that’s all. We can take it and leave here just fine.”

“That worthless garbage? Really? Very well.”

“So we can take it?” Wendy asked.

“No, that’s still my property, I’m keeping it.” The man clapped his hands together as he called, “Come, Vanish Brothers!”

On his command, two of the book shelves slid open to reveal a passage way. In the passage stood two men. “Good afternoon,” said one of them. He had a long braid, a couple of tattoos on his face, and a massive frying pan. “These guys are from Fairy Tail,” said the other. He was taller and more muscular, with wild hair.

“Rogue,” I whispered, “grab the book and run in your shadow. Now.” Rogue nodded almost imperceptibly before falling into his shadow. A dark hand darted out from the shadow and grabbed the book out of Levy’s hands before it darted away.

“What the heck?” the shorter vanish brother said, looking at the shadow for a moment. In that instant, my Iron Pillar hit his cheek with enough force to break bones. He fell over, unconscious.

“Sir Everlue,” said the taller, “I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to drop your job. I hope you can understand.” He picked up his companion, slung his frying pan over his shoulder, and went to walk out.

“You idiots!” the short man said, pulling out a gun. “I paid you to do a job! You’re not leaving here unless it’s done! Now go after that shadow!”

Natsu burst into flames as I cast Scales of the Iron Dragon, making me look like a monster. The others took the hint and started showing off their magic. Sting was whipping up beams of white light while Wendy was enveloped in winds. Lucy was holding one of her golden keys and making it glow, and Levy wrote “FIRF” in the air, with her glowing finger at the bottom of the second F, ready to turn it into an E.

“You know what?” the short man said nervously, “I don’t even really care for the book. You can go ahead and take it. Just please don’t destroy my possessions.”

“No promises,” Sting said, stopping the light show.

We walked out the front door, pleasantly surprised that we weren’t attacked. Rogue was waiting for us by the tree line, where we explained what happened. We headed over to the library, where Levy and Lucy took turns reading Daybreak.

“There’s something up with this book,” Lucy said, taking her gale reading glasses off after reading it. “The grammar and punctuation looks like a child wrote this. No published author would make this many mistakes.”

“I thought so to,” Levy said, taking the book back. “I would have tried to figure out what was wrong, but you hadn’t read it yet.” As she said this, Levy took her light pen out of her bag and started writing runes on the cover. A magic circle appeared on the book, which Levy froze with another set of runes. She put her gale force reading glasses back on and examined the circle for a moment before nodding in understanding.

“Good thing we already agreed to fail the job,” she said. “We need to get this to Kaby.”

We did just that, returning to the house Kaby claimed was his own. We gave him the book back, and he looked at us aghast. “I told you specifically that I never wanted to see that book again! Why did you bring it here?”

“Cool your jets bro,” I said, “We already know that you’re lying to us. This house belongs to a banker friend of yours, probably. You’re a book salesman.”

“A fitting position, considering your family history,” Levy said. “Kemu Zaleon was just a pen name for your father, Zekua Melon. He was a skilled writer and rune mage who was taken by Everlue and forced to write Daybreak.” Levy erased a rune she had written in ether on the cover, and the title letters began to move and rearrange themselves to read “Dear Kaby”. The book then flipped open and all the letters started flying out and rearranging themselves. “Your father was actually one of the most gifted writers of his time. He wrote a novel, then used magic to rearrange the letters so that they’d become a new story.”

As the letters stopped rearranging themselves, Levy handed the book to Kaby, saying, “In here you’ll find enough evidence to make Everlue never see the sun again.”

“And since we royally screwed up your request,” Natsu explained, “we can’t take the payment.”

“Have a nice day,” I said, following the rest of my team out the back door.

Chapter Text

After two hours of a hellish train ride, we arrived back at Magnolia. Once we got back to the guild hall, Levy went up to Mira, who was behind the bar making drinks. She told the barmaid how our job went, and explaining why we wouldn’t be able to pay the guild it’s cut of the money.

While that was happening, Gajeel and the kids went up to the board to look at what other jobs there were. Lucy and I were left in charge of the cats, and decided to take a seat at a table so my stomach would stop turning.

It was at that moment when the front door flew opened as Erza walked in, wearing her yellow Giant Armor for when she needed to do a lot of heavy lifting, such as the ornately bejeweled horn she was carrying that was bigger than she was. Behind her stood her husbands, Simon and Jellal. Simon wore a tunic with a sash embroidered with symbols of shadow magic, while Jellal wore a large blue cloak. All three of them had the same red tattoo over their right eyes, though Simon had a scar over his left.
The trio walked to the middle of the bar before Erza put the horn down and flashed into a skirt and blouse, saying “We’re back. Where’s the master?”

“My old man’s at a regular meeting,” Laxus called out, leaning on the second floor banister. “What do you need?”

“We found a dark guild,” Jellal said, “It’s called Eisenwald. They’re after an artifact made by Zeref.”

The bar shifted to put as much distance between me and my fellow slayers and everyone else. The only sound in the hall was the cooking food.

“What’s it called?” I asked, standing up.

“They called it Lullaby.” Simon said, “They found it in a cave near Foxglove. We heard them talk about it in a bar, but didn’t know what it was at the time.”

“That’s fine,” Gajeel said, walking back out the door with the rest of the team. “Tell the old man that we’ll take care of it.”

Jellal suddenly appeared before him in a flash. “Not without us you’re not,” he said, “You knuckleheads cause to much collateral damage when left alone. If you do that in Foxglove you might wreck the train tracks. Then it’ll take master days t get back, and we’d have to pay the several million jewel fine.”

“Shit you right,” I said, “That would be pretty bad.”

“Alright,” Lucy said, “but give me some time to look up what this Lullaby thing can do. We don’t want to walk into a trap.”

“I thought Levy was the team researcher,” Erza said.

“Not with Zeref,” Lucy said, “I probably know more about him than any other light wizard.”

“Do we even want to know?” Jellal asked.

The entirty of team Dragon Tail said in unison, “No.” Then we went back to our house and started researching Lullaby.

“Based on the name, there are only two ways I can see why he’d make it,” I said, “suicide or wiping my prototypes memories of where he was.”

“He’s got the curse of contradictions,” Lucy said, pulling out her Key to the Southern Cross, “He might have made it to keep people away from him so he didn’t kill them.” The end of the key began to glow silver as she said, “Open, Gate of the Southern Cross: Crux.” In a flash of light, an old man with gray skin, a large mustache, and a head shaped like a cross appeared in front of her.

“Hello lady Lucy,” the spirit said, “What can I do for you today?”

“Crux, what can you tell me about Lullaby? It’s one of Zeref’s creations.”

“One moment, please.” His head lowered and a large snot bubble appeared from his nose. To an on looker, it would look like he’d just gone to sleep, but he was actually astral projecting back to the spirit world to look through all his library to try and find out what he could about Lullaby. While that was happening, Lucy went through the four hundred years of notes on Zeref she got from her mom as a wedding gift. “I’ll check in artifacts,” she said to Levy, “You check and see if it’s in spells.”

“I’ll see if it’s under Etherious,” I said, “If it was used to wipe their memories, there’s probably a mention of it somewhere.”

“I take it this’ll take a while,” Gajeel said, “so I’m gonna go start dinner. Kids, don’t hurt each other more than Wendy can heal.”

“We won’t,” they said in unison, before going back to their rooms. I turned my attention to the section on my prototypes. This was the most extensive list of every type of demon that Zeref had ever made in the entire world. If it wasn’t here, it didn’t have anything to do with them. On a whim, I decided to look and see if it was one of the demons. I pulled out the book on demons starting with L and flipped to the LU section. Flipping through the pages, I was surprised to find it.

“Uh, guys, I found it.” I said. “He’s a demon. Wooden flute with an etherious form that’s a giant monster. Its got telepathy, which It rarely uses. Anything that hears the flute play will die. Same thing in the etherious form, but then it has lungs it can use to play itself.”

“Well on the bright side,” Lucy said, chewing on her lip, “if its made of wood it should be easy enough to defeat. Plus, if it uses sound to do it, then we just need to make a few cuts to prevent it from doing anything.”

“Plus, if we can get it while its still just a flute it we wouldn’t even need magic to break it,” I said, “it says that it’s only about two or three millimeters thick along most of it’s length, and its made of hemlock.”

“Give me a second,” Levy said, using her magic to do math in the air. “That means it’ll take only twenty-four kilograms of force to break. You’d think he’d have made it out of a harder material.”

“Twenty-four kilograms?” I asked.

“It takes eleven to break an egg,” Levy said.

“Really? Wow.” I said, “Well, that just means that this is going to be the easiest demon we’ve fought so far.

The next day, we met up with the Fernandezes at the train station. We explained what we’d found out before we boarded. While I was trying to keep my breakfast down, Levy went up and explained what we were doing to one of the conductors. They passed the info up and an alert came over the intercom. “Attention passengers. Due to unforeseen circumstances, we will not be able to depart from Foxglove station until further notice. We will be arriving there on time, but will be unable to depart. Thank you for your patience.”

Everyone in the car started to complain, but settled down soon enough. When we got to Foxglove, my motion sickness was bad enough that Wendy had to heal me so I could walk. We left the car and saw a bunch of people standing around being searched by the guards. One of them was a pale man in dirty white clothes. His long black hair was held back in a ponytail, so he looked like an emo pineapple. He had a burlap bag slung over his shoulder, and giving the guards a lot more trouble with searching him then the rest. He got shoved back by one of the guards, and I heard something move around in his pack. I looked at Wendy, and she nodded in confirmation. He had something in there made of wood that was about the right size to be Lullaby.

We approached him, flashing our guild marks to the guards to get past. The man with the bag looked at us and ran away. “Why do they always run?” I asked, smirking at a guard. “Don’t worry, we’ve got this.” I ran after the man, the other slayers coming with me. Rogue dropped down into his shadow as Wendy took to the skies, giving both more mobility. They darted off to try and seal off any exits the man might have tried to take, leaving me, Sting, and Gajeel to chase after him. Sting couldn’t keep up with us, we all knew this, so he sent out bursts of white light that would steer the man away from the heavily populated areas and into somewhere we could use our roars freely. Gajeel and I just had to stay after him and apply enough pressure to keep him running and hopefully tire him out. We’d done this same thing so often that even without looking I could tell that Lucy had summoned Gemini to copy the guy so they could search through his stuff and make sure he was who we needed.

What we didn’t expect was for Jellal to fly forward in a cloak of light and grab him by the collar, lifting him up into the air before landing back at the station.

“That works,” I said, flabbergasted.

“Saves time and repair charges,” Jellal said, putting the man down.

“I’m not complaining,” I said, “just feeling a little off is all. Anyway, inspect his bag, he’s got something that might be what we’re looking for in it.”

Before anyone could investigate his pack, however, the man fell into his shadow and darted into the train, which pulled away before we could register what had happened.

“Fuck.” I said. “None of you have a vehicle, and the demon experts can’t catch up to the train at this point.”

“Where is the nearest place we can rent Magic ATVs?” Erza yelled at the crowd. A man piped up and pointed at a nearby building with a bunch of ATVs parked outside. “Thank you. We’ll be taking one now, paying for it later, when we’re not dealing with a demon of the books of Zeref.”

“Better make that two,” Simon said, “We can’t all fit in one.”

“Right!” Erza said, climbing into the driver’s seat of the nearest ATV and clamping on the magic pump.

“I’ll drive the second one,” Gajeel said, “Now lets go.”

With that, we drove after the train.