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Lost Blue Anthology

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Levy woke in a wall to wall stew of books cluttered untidily upon shelves that went all the way up the wooden ceiling. She was home, in her town, in her guild, in her bed.

How strange. To her, only a week had passed since she went abroad with her guildmates to compete for the title of S-class mage on Tenrou Island… while for those who remained behind seven long years had passed without a word or a sign that they were still alive and well.

Levy turned in her sheets... And was met with Jet’s sleeping, snoring face. The sight of him jerked her completely awake. For a drowsy moment, the young man asleep next to her looked nothing like the slim boy that she knew ever since childhood, before she took in fully the awkward way his mouth was hanging open, curled up in a lazy smile even in his slumber and the little bubble of mucus that had formed from his flared nostrils.

Jet was curled protectively around her without touching her body. Levy smiled, turning around again; sprawled upon soft cushions and pillows placed on the floor, Droy was sleeping soundly, his body now too massive to fit in her bed, otherwise she knew he would be lying down by her side just like Jet.

Droy was definitely snoring softer and slower than jet, although his mouth hung upen too, and a rivulet of saliva was trickling down his double chin.

The blue-haired script mage snorted at the sight, remembering the many nights she had spent curled up between the two of them in a pillow fort in their bed, keeping the shadows away. Levy’s smile, however, fell when she glanced at the massive size of her friend and at the fat jingling through his loose clothes. Only a week ago he used to be so thin and proud.

Seven years ago, not seven days ago. A voice chided her in the back of her head. Her heart sank. Jet and Droy had always been tall, the very same height by inch, although, that was where their resemblance stopped; Jet was fairer of skin where Droy’s was tanned. The speed mage’s hair were blazing red, where his friend’s were black and shiny as coal. Jet had always been a bean pole, rather slim and narrow of hips as was common for a speed mage, but during these years he had built some muscles on his chest and arms as well as his corded, long legs. Droy, who had been broader of shoulder and physically stronger than his counterpart, now was fat and slow and awkward when he moved.

When she first got a sight of them when she had woken up on the forest floor of Tenrou Island, Levy couldn’t quite explain to herself why her friends looked so aged and so different. Only after they locked her in a long bone-crunching hug and cried all of their tears she finally came to know the painful truth.

Dismissing those thoughts, Levy Mcgarden sat upright and stretched her arms above her head, stifling a yawn. She leaped down her bed and carefully padded around the large body still asleep on the floor, directed towards the small bathroom.

Once she closed the door behind her, all alone, Levy had to face another painful truth caused by her seven-year-absence. One she could not ignore any longer...

“Damn.” She breathed as she repeatedly opened and closed the faucet of her sink.

She had been gone seven years, therefore, no rent was paid for her apartment in Fairy Hills. No rent, no power. No power, no water.

Sighing, Levy pulled closed the plug of the sink and raised her index and middle finger;

“Solid Script: Water!”

Deftly, she wrote the letters in the space above the sink, watching the pale yellow light erupting from her fingertips and forming the said word of her spellcasting in liquid and clear letters before she guided the jet of water to pour down into the empty basin. Satisfied with her solution, Levy proceeded to wash her face with the cool water, rubbing her fingers around her ears and around her eyes, washing the sleep away.

She was mulling over whether or not dispose of the old toothpaste and bar of soap when she heard movements in the other room.

“Levy!” Jet’s concerned voice called suddenly, and instantly Levy perceived an increase of his magic energy, gathering his power to perform one of his usual sprint spells. All she could do was bracing herself, expecting to hear the familiar sound of a crack of a whip. She knew better, by know that once Jet was ready to bolt no magic spell was quick enough to stop him.

Levy held onto the sink tightly when she heard the sound of feet tripping and a strange, loud thud of a body hitting something squishy. The sound of grunts and groans echoed through the closed door of the bathroom.

“Uh!? What the hell, man! Get off me!”

“You fat lard! Get out of my way!”

“Calm down, Jet! What’s wrong?!”

“Levy’s gone!”

Again?!”

“You mean you didn’t see her?!”

“And you, then?! You were sleeping in the bed with her!”

“Guys!” Levy called opening the door, “Don’t worry, I’m her-”

Even before she could finish her sentence, Levy found herself crushed between Jet and Droy, holding her tightly in their arms, “Oh, Levy!” they cried in unison.

“We thought we lost you... Again!” Droy sniffed.

“Gosh, Lev. You had us worried sick!” Jet joined.

Levy hugged them back. She knew that they couldn’t still quite shake away the grief of the last seven years, but she was there now, they were together, and Team Shadow Gear was reunited. They stayed there, locked in their embrace for a long moment, until she felt the pressure of their sentiments crushing her ribs.

“Guys...can’t...breathe..! ”

“Sorry!” they mumbled as they disentangled themselves from her and placed her back onto the ground. They looked at her with shiny, tender eyes and her heart sank again. Though it wasn’t her fault, she couldn’t bear to have caused such grief to her most beloved friends.

“Sorry boys, I just realized there’s no water, but if you need a shower I can just as easily use a spe-” Levy trailed off when she noticed the sullen expressions of her friends and the awkward way they played with their fingers and looked at their feet.

“Boys? What’s wrong?”

“N-nothing... It’s just that...” Droy begun hesitantly, flushing pink.

“Go on.”

“It’s just that we had just spent the night together, and we even slept in the same bed!” Jet managed to spit out, speaking fast, as he always did when he was nervous or upset. His cheeks were burning red.

Levy tossed her head back and broke into a soft laughter, “That’s what you were embarrassed about? Truly?”

In response they only reddened brighter.

“You- you see, Levy... It’s been seven years, and although you are still as pretty and young as when you left for Tenrou... We aren’t...” Droy explained.

Jet gave a sigh, “We are seven years older than you, now...” he made a quick calculation with his fingers, “... Which means we are both twenty five years old while you are still eighteen.”

“Eighteen and an half.” Levy corrected.

“Same thing. You’re still a teenager.”

“And underage, too.” Droy added.

If Levy had managed not to roll her eyes at the sight of Jet doing a simple sum counting on his fingers, she couldn’t help but pinch the bridge of her nose, now, “Droy, being a teenager and being underage it’s the very same thing.”

“Aw, Levy is correcting us like in the good old days! How I missed it!” Droy moaned.

“Actually, she was correcting only you, bro.”

“Don’t even get me started on you, Jet.” Levy brushed a blue wayward strand of hair behind one ear, “Anyway, what it has to do with us? We have always slept in the same bed during jobs and quests, ever since we were little. I mean... We are still friends, right?”

“Yes, yes! Of course, we’re still friends!” Jet exclaimed promptly.

“We never stopped loving you, Lev.” Droy added fiercely, “It’s just...that now that we are older we don’t want you to think that we would try to lean in on you like some pervs or some wackos. We would never-”

It was their turn to be locked within her embrace. Levy stepped forward, leaping up, and as soon as Droy opened his arms to catch her she spread hers to wrap around his neck, catching Jet’s too. “You could be a hundred years old,” she said burying her head between theirs, “You could be thousands miles away, but you will always be my friends.”

Levy breathed the last words out, because her eyes had begun to swim, but soon she felt her breath knocked out of her body as the boys were newly crushing her with their hug.

 “Boys!”

 

 

For three days the guild celebrated the return of their lost friends to Fairy Tail. Three days and three nights of absolute chaos and joy, where all their guild mates turned out to cheer and brawl and booze.

As the celebration came to an end, however, Levy had realized that seven years of absence had their consequences on the lives she and the rest of Tenrou Island’s team had left back in Magnolia.

First there was the matter of the rent of the apartments that Levy and the girls had left unpaid for the best part of a decade. So, as a newly reunited Shadow Gear sorely made their way back to Fairy Tail Guild’s female dormitory, Jet and Droy explained to her that after the Tenrou Team had disappeared, the rest of of the guild had found it difficult to apply for quests as Master Makarov, the entire Fairy Tail’s S-class, and a good part of the Guild’s most valid members had vanished into thin air.

Subsequently, their founds ran thin as they expended all they had into the research to find their missing friends. Jet and Droy told Levy how they tried to persuade Fairy Hills’ landlord not to dispose of the books and precious texts Levy kept in her apartment, paying him a little storage sum every now and then.

Later, that night, when they crashed at her place as if the years had not passed, levy was gobsmacked to find her book-hoard still in one place and rather untouched by time.

“We kept it as clean as we could,” Droy had explained almost apologetic, “But as the jobs became harder to find and the money was getting low, Jet and I found it difficult to stop by and take care of your library.”

“Although, we cannot guarantee for your clothes and the rest of your stuff.” Jet told her.

Levy had broke into tears and thanked her friends with all her heart, apologizing for all the pain she had caused and all they been through and finally telling her two closest and oldest friends all that happened since the day she left for Tenrou Island, until all three of them fell asleep in each other’s arms.

 

 

“I still can’t believe Master Makarov decided to call off the S-class trial.” Jet said.

“We all had been exhausted. The many Battles we fought with the members of Grimoire Heart had left us completely drained of all our magic energy, and then... Then came Acnologia...” something trembled deep inside of her as Levy remembered the awe and the fear as she had gaped at the great black dragon.

Jet and Droy noticed her sudden sullen expression and exchanged a look. Silently, they agreed to change the subject, “So, Gildarts was Cana’s secret pop all along, huh? Surely I didn’t see that coming.” Jet breathed.

“You bet he didn’t.” Levy had been just as nonplussed as the others when she had caught winds of Cana’s story. She had been close to the older girl ever since childhood, but she also knew that the tarot mage was one to keep her cards close to her chest... In more than one way.

What about Laxus?” Droy wanted to know, “Now that he’s back with you guys in Magnolia, do you think gramps will let him stay in Fairy Tail?”

“I don’t know,” Levy admitted, “One thing is certain, though. With the amount of jewels Fairy Tail owns to Twilight Ogre, everyone will be called to play their part to restore the guild to its former glory.”

Droy instantly beamed up, “Yes! Shadow Gear is back again!”

“And this time,” Jet joined, “Droy and I promise you that we will do everything to make you an S-class, at last!”

“Huh?”

“Once this ordeal with Twilight Ogre is over, Master Makarov will have to reconsider resuming the S-class trial,” the speed mage smirked, “And this time, we’ll help you get what you deserve: being an S-class wizard.”

Levy lowered her eyes to her folded hands in her lap, “... Did you truly believed I could’ve become an S-class?”

Once again, Jet and Droy exchanged a look, “Well, of course, Lev! Right, Droy?”

“Without a shadow of a doubt!”

“After all, isn’t it what that Metal-head thinks as well...?” Jet made a face, “Since he had been so bent on getting you on Tenrou with him... ” he then added through gritted teeth, “... Whatever the heck were his reasons...”

Levy’s heart fluttered in her chest as she remembered his words;

I’ll make ya bigger than you’re ever been, little girl.’

She quickly rearranged her smiles and stood from the bed, “Ahem, let’s not talk about Gajeel...”

She could feel the boys behind her tense up at her words. They had never been overly fond of the Iron Dragon Slayer, and they had their reasons.

“Lev...”

Levy spoke clearly, “First, let’s see which one of my clothes had passed the test of time. Then, I’ll need to talk with Ruchio to solve the little trouble with the power and water,” she pushed her blue locks away from her face, “Then of course, I’ll need to discuss with him of the little problem of the overdue amount of money I owe him for my rent, although I’m sure the girls who live here have all the same issue. And last, but not least; there’s the trouble with my stuff...” Levy wound a cerulean lock around her finger, pondering, “In order to pay the rent, I’ll have to apply to as many jobs as possible... Translation jobs will do for a while, but I’ll like to apply for some quests as well, if there are some available, but most importantly, I’m in dire need of a shower.”

She turned around to face her friends and found the boys gaping at her with awe, “Aye, aye, Ma’am!” they exclaimed in unison.

“That mind of hers is already going like a train, how I missed it, Jet!”

“Now that Shadows Gear is reunited, it feels as if no time had passed, Droy!”

The plant mage stood with little difficulty to his feet, “You can have a shower at our place, or nice calming bath, if you prefer. You deserve one, Lev.” He made his way towards the door, “See if you and Jet can get something out of your closet, while I’ll go get the car. Meet you outside in ten!” and without further words, he closed the door behind him.

Levy turned expectantly towards the speed mage, “Jet...”

Jet blinked and looked down at her, “Uhm, yes, Levy?”

“Now that we are alone...”

A blush crept up his neck, “Y-yes..?”

“Can you please tell me what happened to Droy? Why had he gotten so fat? Is he ill?”

Jet made a choked noise.

“What is it? Are you ill too?” she queried, giving him a look.

“Ahh... No, no. Nothing like that, Lev.” Jet hunched in his shoulders a rubbed a hand on the back of his neck, sighing he said, “I’m not really supposed to talk about it. Droy made me promise not to tell you anything, if we’d ever found you...”

“Jet...” Levy whispered softly, “It’s me.” She reminded him.

Jet reddened, “Oh, alright. But you gotta tell him you forced me to spit it out, alright? You remember how... Oh... Sorry. ‘You know how he is’. Not remember...” he looked pained for a moment.

“I’ll speak to him.” Levy promised, encouraging him to go on.

Jet took a long breath, “ The truth is... Droy begun gaining weight when you went missing, Levy.”

Her eyes widened, but her face remained unmoving as she listened to her teammate.

“You know Droy, he has always been tender at heart, and I swear, I’m not saying this to make you feel bad, it’s not your fault what happened....but since you have gone missing along with the others, Droy had fallen into depression.”

“Oh, Droy!”

“He begun to eat out of sadness and despair, sometimes even refusing jobs in order to spend more time dining at the guildhall,” Jet went on, “I tried to convince him to apply to more jobs with me. I even sent him off to some quests along with the Connells to keep him busy, to keep him interested.”

“For some time it worked, in part, and as our lives went on I managed to be by his side as we led some resemblance of a normal youth here in Magnolia... But as hope of finding you and the others begun to thin I begun to lose hope too...”

“Dont!” Levy cried suddenly.

“Lev...”

“Don’t you ever, ever lose hope! It would wound me greatly to know that the people I love the most had lost hope in themselves, because I believe in you, I believe in you, Jet, and I believe in Droy...”

Levy’s eyes begun to swim, but Jet’s arms were fast around her, “You’re here, now.” He reassured her, “You’re back. You’re alive. What happened in these last seven years doesn’t really matter anymore, and Droy will tell you the same.” He hugged her tight before he let her go, “Now, wipe those tears, won’t you? If Droy sees you like this he’ll open the faucets too and I’ll have two sobbings messes to take care of.”

She gave him a bright smile, wiping away her tears, “You are right. Now, help me find something to wear that had been not consumed by the termites.”

Together, they set about to look into her closet for something wearable, but managed to retrieve only mismatched underwear, a pair of high-waisted blue jeans and her favorite pair of converse all-star; the yellow ones.

They were still rummaging through her worn out clothes and dust motes, looking for something that resembled a shirt or a blouse, when a loud and rather funny sound of a horn came from outside the window.

“What was that?” Levy asked, cocking her head to one side.

Jet smirked, “Our ride is here.”

“Our ride? Wait, didn’t Droy said something about a car, earlier?”

“Yeah! Wait until you see her, she’s the most beautiful car you’ll ever see! C’mon, let’s not make Droy wait.”

Quickly, Levy grabbed her leather bag and shoved all the clean change she had found inside it. Making sure her Light Pen and her Gale force reading glasses where still in there, she grabbed some now-yellow-paged notebooks – still reporting her last entry from seven years ago – from her dusty desk and slipped her feet into her yellow converse.

“Ready.” she announced, tying her cerulean locks in a ponytail with her yellow hair-scarf.

Jet looked at her up and down, obviously taking in her disheveled state and bursted out laughing, “Are you really going outside looking like that?”

Levy looked down at herself; she was still wearing the lavander button-up shirt Jet had given her to use as a pajama the night before. It fit her body quite nicely, but it was long enough to cover her behind and a good part of her upper thighs, and she had to roll up the long sleeves several times until she was comfortable with the result. A messy ponytail and her yellow converse completed the outfit and Levy was sure she looked as if she was about to take the most shameful walk of shame ever.

She put her hands on her hips and advanced towards door, “I’ll change once we’ll get to your place, and I’ll have to shower anyway.” Levy moved to grab the door handle, “Are coming with me or not? I thought you didn’t want to make Droy wait-”

In less than a blink of an eye, Jet came up behind her, wrapping an arm around her waist, lifting her up from the ground. His other hand came up to cradle her head and keep her neck still – for the whiplash – Levy realized before Jet leaned in to whisper in her ear,

“Oh, Lev, you know I’m always in a rush.”

His magic energy increased instantly and Levy could feel the static electricity rising in the air around them as Jet prepared to bolt... They were standing outside Fairy Hills in less than a blink of an eye. Levy looked around her and she was no more in her apartment, but in the front yard of Fairy Tail’s female dormitory.

It was still early, and the morning had a certain chill to it. Above, the sky was clear and the sun was shining bright. Droy was waiting for them, sitting inside a rather peculiar vehicle.

“Oh, now that’s quite a snappy chariot!” Levy breathed, delighted.

The four wheels SE-plug car was a model she had never seen before – the design of the self- energy magic vehicles surely had improved during the last seven years – the chariot in question was of a blue so intense it almost made Levy’s eyes water. Painted white flames whipped from its sides, outlined in golden paint. The fenders in the back were cut in the same fashion as the ‘fairy-tail’ of their guild’s insigna, boarded with wisps of pearly white paint. The tires were all matching white walls.

As all the four-wheels magic vehicles, where the hood and the engine were supposed to be, there was the half-covered driver’s seat and the wheel connected to the small device that converted the magic energy of the pilot in fuel. The covered passenger seats’ booth looked big to fit at least five passengers, excluding the driver. It looked sturdy enough to resist rough bumpy rides and powerful enough to be driven at a great speed.

It looker astounding... and rather costly. Levy knew very well how much the guys wanted one of these snappy champs. She recalled them talking about it, just the other day... Well, not just the other day.

Levy walked closer to the flashy car, gaping at it in fascination. Droy greeted her honking the horn. The sound was loud and rather comical, sure something only the two of them could come up with.

“I can’t believe you actually got one of these! It must have been very expensive!”

“An arm and a leg,” Droy admitted, “But to be honest, we only had to pay for repaint the insigna on the sides and to change the horn.” He said with an air of swag.

Levy did not understand, “How so?”

“Oh, it’s a good story; We had been saving for quite sometime, now,” the plant mage told her, “But still, when we went to purchase one of these, the salesman would only give us a second hand car. Although he had been kind enough to make us a good discount for it, we still weren’t satisfied.”

“Although, we had no joice but take the car, believing we couldn’t find a better deal than that. And for a while that old rattletrap did her duty.” Jet added as he opened the car door and gestured for her to hop inside.

“Until, someday, on our way to a job in Hargeon, we ride up right by some nasty fellows of Twilight Ogre riding on this baby right here.” Droy told her through the partition, stroking the glossy black wheel lovingly. He tied the SE-plug around his wrist – having it momentarily removed to avoid a waste of magic energy – instantly the engine turned on in a powerful roar and they drove off down Fairy Hills, heading toward the town.

“So, they looked over at us, recognizing our guild-mark, talking shit and everything,” Jet went on, “it turns out they had took on the same job that we were heading to. At that point, Droy and I were ready to call it quits and let them take the job, as if we didn’t had enough beef with those sucker already, until this guy looked over to us and proposes a bet; a race to the port. The team that gets to the client first takes the job and the car...”

Jet let that last part of the story hung in the air, a smug grin spreading across his face. Levy herself found it hard to repress her own smile, “Let me guess, they didn’t see it coming, right?”

“Literally!” Droy snorted glancing briefly at them sitting in the booth behind him as he drove, “Jet only had to slap the SE-plug on and that old crock almost took on flying, leaving those idiots in a blazing trail behind us!”

Jet stretched out across his seat, crossing his arms behind his head, he lazily said, “Too bad the car was going too fast to see the look on their faces.”

The smile he gave her was full of swag and impish boy’s pride. Levy smiled back and turned to glance at Droy through the lowered partition. He was holding the wheel with one hand, whilst his right arm was leaning against the seat back. Levy reached out and squeezed his shoulder fondly. Droy inclined his head briefly at the touch, keeping his eyes on the road, he bent his forearm and placed his hand on hers. Seven years might have changed her most beloved friends in appearance, but deep down they remained the boys she adored.

From his seat, Jet observed the exchange of touches between her and Droy, “Hey Turtle! Who let you on the road today? Speed up, won’t you?” he boomed suddenly clearly irritated.

“Hey, chill out, man! I want Levy to learn the quickest road to our place! She doesn’t know we rented an apartment uptown!”

“Well, this isn’t some cruisin’ for bruisin’ so you better hit that gas pedal, quick! Unless you wanna stop this thing and let me take the wheel?”

“Gimme a break, Jet! I’m not getting another ticket ‘cause of your need for speed!”

“Enough!” Levy bellowed, cutting them off, “Stop that right now or I swear I’ll take the wheel and stop this car right on tracks!”

“Droy started it!” Jet moaned.

“You stared it, Idiot!” Droy complained.

“I don’t care who started it, I’ll finish it!”

The boys did not replied to that, and for a while they remained quiet as they drove through the streets of Magnolia until Jet decided he was not done, yet.

“How do you exactly plan to stop the car, anyway, Lev?” he remarked with smug in his voice.

“Yeah, what are you gonna do? Snatch the SE-plug off my wrist?” Droy joined.

The speed mage chuckled at that, “Yeah, and I don’t remember you being a good driver. The heck we’re gonna let you drive our baby!”

“And to be honest, Levy, I rather risk another ticket than have you crash the car into a wall or something.”

“Ah! Droy’s right! Sorry, Lev, but there’s nothing you can do to stop this car.”

Levy had heard enough. Though older they might have become, Jet and Droy will always be Jet and Droy... And sometimes Jet and Droy were just too much. They were seven years older than her now, true, but they still acted like children, and sometimes children had to learn the hard way...

As the boys kept laughing and taunting, Levy silently raised her index and middle, her magic energy already rushing through her fingertips, making a swift move with her writing, she exclaimed,

“Solid Script: Halt!”

 

 

It was past midday when Shadow Gear finally made their way toward the new guild hall. After the rise of Twilight Ogre, Fairy Tail had to pack arms and armors and move into the southern part of Magnolia, not far from the coast, closer to Fairy Hills.

“We can’t promise you anything, Lev. Lately the jobs are low.” Jet told her.

“Although, now that you and the others are back, gramps will do anything to get Fairy Tail back on track.” Droy said.

“I’ll take whatever is available,” Levy replied climbing up the path, “Even the cheap ones. Now it’s not the time to be picky.”

During their ride back, Levy tormented herself thinking how much work she’ll have to get done before she could carry on with the life she had led so far. She didn’t even want to think about the amount of Jewels she needed to earn to fulfill this goal.

The rent of her apartment had to be the first thing on her bucket list, but as she went up the path toward the Guildhall she thought it twice; the high-waisted blue jeans she had retrieved from her closet were still in one piece, but she looked messy and far too cozy in the light blue button-up shirt she had borrowed from Jet, her hair still tied up with her yellow scarf. It was an outfit that would have looked pretty to take a walk downtown, but not to go on quests. She had taken a hot shower and eaten a fulfilling breakfast and the speed mage had lent her some more hand-me-down shirts that would serve for a week, at best. No, she definitely needed new clothes.

As they approached the battered building, Levy felt her heart flutter. After their misadventure on Tenrou Island, they berely made it out alive and only to find their guild and their friends in distress and disarray, and so many dangers still lay ahead.

Levy pushed the door open... And as soon as she stepped inside, a glass bottle went flying across the hall, shattering as it hit the hard wood beside her head.

Nani?!”

She blinked at the scene unfolding before her. Not far from the entrance, the two Strauss sisters were occupied handling a rather beastly Elfman. Kinana, Wakaba and Macao were making sure no one got in the way of take over wizard. The rest of their guild-mates were sitting at the tables all around them, while Mirajane and Lisanna were by their brother’s side, pleading with him.

“Big brother, please calm down!” Lisanna attempted, but Elfman looked already too far gone for reason. He was sweating heavily, trying to keep his beast under control, his nostrils flaring as he snorted, fuming with rage.

“I can’t stand it! As a man, I won’t allow it!” he bellowed for all the guild to hear as he paced up and down like a literal beast in a cage as his two sisters occasionally leaped in his way to keep him from rampage.

“It has already happened and there’s nothing we can do about it, Elf. ” Mirajane told him sweetly, hiding her concern behind her smile.

Levy had been so intent listening that she didn’t see Jet and Droy coming up beside her as they heard the sound of glass shattering, “What the heck is going on here?!”

Droy glanced at the broken bottle by her feet, “Elfman, have you lost your mind?! You almost hit Levy!”

That caught the attention of the small group around the furious wizard. Mirajane turned to look at Levy, her big blue eyes wide with worry and alarm, “I’m so sorry, Levy! Are you hurt?”

“No, I’m fine.” Levy made her way towards them, edging around the shattered glass on the floor, “What happened?”

She got the answer from Cana, sitting at the table beside them, “The big manly man had just found out that their cottage out of town had been sold off to auction two years ago.” The tarot mage told her carelessly, already nursing her breakfast in a shot of whiskey.

Two years ago?!” Elfman roared, “Me and my sisters were living there until just the other day!”

Macao threw his hands in the air, giving up, “You can’t just let it sink into that big, thick head, can you? It’s been seven years!”

“I don’t care! It’s my house! And as the man of the house I can’t let it stand!” Elfman boomed as he tried to get past Mira, but dodging the last moment, pacing back towards Lisanna.

“Yeah, because us girls are having a blast, right?!” Cana raged suddenly, half turning on her bench toward Elfman, “I had a laugh when I walked back into my apartment in Fairy Hills and the damn power was off! I couldn’t see a thing!”

“Except the bottom of a bottle.” Wakaba commented, taking a long inhale from his pipe.

Cana slammed a fist onto the hard-wood table, “You shut it, you old bag!”

Levy stepped up, “Alright, so it’s plain to see that all us are having trouble with our rents and the seven-year-absence, right?” she spoke up, trying to distract her guild-mates from starting a fight.

“Oh, Levy-chan!” a familiar high-pitched voice moaned miserably, “You have no idea!”

Levy turned to it. At the far end of the hall, the members of Team Natsu – as their guild-mates playfully called them – were sitting together at their table, each displaying a particular scowl on their faces; Natsu sat with his legs on the table and his arms crossed behind his head. His dark eyes looking at nothing in particular. He looked relaxed, almost lazy, in way Levy had never seen him before. Considering how fuming Elfman was, it was a wonder that the fire dragon slayer had not yet gotten all steamed up.

Grey looked lazy, too. Grim and thoughtful as always. He was resting his chin on his elbow, contemplative and shirtless – Levy swore he was wearing a shirt when she had first looked their way – Erza sat with her arms crossed against her chest. A rather dissapointed pout graced her lips that almost made the red-haired warrior look as young as Wendy seated by. The sky dragon slayer sat with a foot tucked beneath her, holding Carla in her lap. Wendy looked more bored than lazy, but how could she blame her? This whole ordeal had brought the whole guild down to its knees, in more ways than one. Although, Wendy did not looked as miserable as Lucy did, bent onto the table, her cheek resting dully against the wood, and Happy... Happy was just, well, Happy; contently nibbling on a fish.

Levy walked over to the table, “Lucy, what’s the matter?”

Lucy raised her head from the table, to look up at her, a small smile curled her lips, “Levy- chan, it’s too much to pay. Can’t do it. Not without working... No jobs...”

Levy gave her friend a sympathetic smile and turned expectantly toward the blue feline, “She’s talking about the overdue amount of money she owes to her landlady.” The cat replied cheerfully, which made Lucy look duller.

“It’s okay, love,” Levy attempted, reaching out to stroke the blonde’s hair fondly. Levy had a half a mind to suggest Lucy to try and ask for a lent of money from her wealthy father, but those thoughts never reached her lips. Something in Lucy’s brown eyes told her that there’s was something about this situation that troubled her greatly, and besides, it wasn’t her business to tell her to approach a father that she didn’t want to do anything about with.

“We’re all in this together,” Levy said instead, “I’m sure once you’ve took on a job or two, you’ll earn enough to pay your landlady at least a sum for the troubles?”

“Aye, aye! She can only dream of it! Lucy has to pay 5,880,000 Jewels for her overdue rent.” Happy exclaimed.

Levy was gobsmacked, “That’s an arm and a leg!’

Lucy nodded, still bent onto the table, “No discounts.”

Happy spread out his swing and took the air, flying above their heads, “The landlady also took some of Lucy’s clothes. Fair enough, since they are so large they could easily fit that fat, old lady.”

Lucy grimaced at the flying feline, “Just because you’re cat, it doesn’t mean you have to be so catty, you know?!”

Erza stood abruptly from her chair, “That’s enough.” Her voice was soft and calm, “These last seven years had left Fairy Tail exhausted both emotionally and financially; there are not enough requests for jobs to provide work to its members...” her voice dropped mournfully, “... And the town had changed so much...”

Happy flew down, landing gently onto Levy’s head, popping down his little blue head to look into her eyes, “She’s upset because the cake shop that sold her favorite strawberry-cake had closed down five years ago.” He told, answering her unspoken question.

That explained the mournful look, “I see. That’s tough.” She said sympathetically. As quickly as he had landed, the blue exceed took the air again, flying away.

The requip mage made her way across the hall, “I shall meet with some members of Lamia Scale and Blue Pegasus with the Master, today. They had been so kind as to recommend our newly restored guild to some of their best clients in order to keep our proverbial ship afloat and solve our economical issues once and for all.”

“Levy,” Erza turned to look at her, “As official head girl of Fairy Hills dormitory, I should be the one dealing with the problem of power in our apartments, but I’m too busy attending the Master.” She touched her shoulder, “Can I trust you with it?”

Levy squared her shoulders, “Yes, of course.”

Erza smiled, pleased by her answer, “I talked to Ruchio this morning and he agreed to turn the power back at the apartments in exchange of a little sum until we could resume taking on more serious quests. Please, see that he does and make sure the other girls know it as well.”

“Surely.” She nodded as she fell in step beside Erza as she marched towards the entrance.

“Oh, and Levy, do try to catch up on more jobs you can apply to. Don’t let yourself fall behind.”

“Yes, I know that,” Levy stopped in her tracks watching the older girl strode foward. Eventually Erza noticed the script mage was no longer walking along side her and turned around, “I will not fall behind.” Levy said a little more harshly than she intended.

Erza regarded her a moment and smiled, “I know you won’t.” Without further words, the S-class turned on her heels and stepped out of the hall.

Levy went to sit between Jet and Droy, letting her bag drop flatly on the floor next to the table with a knot in her stomach. What had Erza meant with that? Droy caught her attention waving a paper cup filled to the brim with hot black coffe in front of her, she took it gratefully, wrapping her hands around it, warming her fingers. Taking a look around the hall, she noticed that Elfman had cooled down a bit. He was now sitting on one of the benches along with his sisters.

“I don’t really blame him, you know?” Levy told no one in particular, “At least us girls have still all our apartments. It must be terrible to come back home at last and find that you no longer have a roof above your head.”

“Well, what did he expect?” a melodic voice behind them said. The sound of high heeled shoes tapping on the hard-wood floor as she approached, “After all, it’s been seven years.”

Evergreen walked up to their table with the rest of the Thunder God Tribe coming up right behind her – Laxus wasn’t with them. As always the self-proclaimed fairy made a stunning picture, always looking fancy and immaculate compared to her tribe, although, Levy had to admit that Bixlow and Freed always stood out the most in their colorful, excessive gartments.

Evergreen regarded them through the tick lens of her specks. She then, glanced up at the Strauss siblings across the hall adjusting the glasses more carefully on her nose, “Apparently the real men doesn’t take a no for an answer,” she took out her colorful fan and opened it gracefully, bringing it up to cover her mouth as if to stifle a giggle, “Not even when is plain that he can’t do anything about it. No more than the rest of us.”

Bixlow walked up beside her and wrapped one arm around Evergreen’s shoulders, wagging out his tongue in that creepy way of his, “Oh, well, Ever, you can always invite our dear Elfman to stay at your place? Betcha you can make him feel at home, huh?” he retorded slyly.

Evergreen disentangled abruptly from his grasp and hit him across his face with her closed fan, but the sieth mage only erupted in a wicked laugh.

At their table, Cana rolled her eyes as she observed the tribe through the brim of her glass as she took a drink, “Oh, yes, what an idea! Ruchio had shut down the power in every apartment that was rented by the girls who left for Tenrou Island, and everything is covered in dust and spiderwebs. Not really the time for a slumber party.”

“I was actually surprised that my key still fit in the lock,” Levy admitted. She turned to smile at her teammates, “But luckily Jet and Droy have saved all the books I kept in my room, but the rest of my stuff is pretty much rotten. Although, why Ruchio didn’t decide to dispose of our belongings is a mystery to me.”

“I wish he did, though.” The tarot mage snorted, brushing her fingers through her long, glossy, brown locks, “my makeup had gone wasted and all my clothes stink,” she looked at Levy up and down with a careful eye, noticing her borrowed clothes, “Ah, I see you have the same problem, baby doll, but at least you have your two beloved loverboys to watch your back.” She winked playfully at the three of them.

Levy gave her a smile in return, more grateful than embarrassed, not really paying too much attention at the boys blushing at each side of her.

“Anyway, doll, Jet and Droy are sweet, but you can’t keep walking around in ‘boyfriend’s clothes. ’ ” she smiled when she took in Jet and Droy’s irritated faces, “Sorry boys, but Lev can’t just keep wearing your crap, she needs girl’s clothes. And never mind how much you guys enjoy seeing your precious babe rocking your stuff.”

Jet rolled his eyes at her, leaning back in his chair and crossing his arms across his chest, “Yeah, whatever. Glad to see you remained the same, Cana.”

Cana raised her glass to him as to propose a toast, “you too, bolt. You guys may look older, but you remained the same annoying kids we love and hate.” She said washing down her drink in one gulp.

Jet grimaced at Cana and turned away, glancing up at the members of the Thunder God Tribe still standing beside their table, “What about you, guys? How are you dealing with this seven-year-absence mess?”

Freed regarded the speed mage almost boredly, “The Thunder God Tribe always keeps their heads held high even in the most difficult situations.” The rune wizard declared solemnly.

“Yeah, you’re tough guys,” Jet replied, “but even the mighty wizards of the Thunder God Tribe has to admit that Fairy Tail had seen better times.”

Freed narrowed his eyes at him, “And whose fault is that? We had been trapped on an island that had sunk beneath the waves and slept for the best part of a decade, and when we woke up, we found our guild turned into a laughing stock, victim to the whims of lesser packs of wizard that somehow have the nerve, the audacity to proclaim themselves guilds.”

Jet stood abruptly from his seat, quick enough even without using his magic, “You must be still dreaming if you think you can say whatever you want because your boss is back in town, huh? Well, since you don’t remember, let me remind you that we were the ones you got your asses out of that wretched island, and the ones that kept this ship afloat for seven long years, while you were taking a nap!”

“Jet...” Levy pleaded standing from her seat.

Jet did not listen. The speed mage grabbed the rune wizard by his long red coat, faces only inches away. Jet’s brown eyes went dark and Levy perceived an increase of his magic energy as the air around them became static with electricity.

“Let me tell tou something, fancy pants, you have no idea what we had been through these past seven years, and you’re right, those sons of bitches of Twilight Ogre have done what they damn pleased with us, but if you think we’re gonna take it from you and the rest of your freak show, you’re gonna be greatly disappointed!”

Freed remained unmoving, even as the taller man loomed threatening over him. Behind him, his tribe had tensed up at the change in the air. Bixlow had a sly grin on his face that made Levy feel a strange unease in her stomach. His sieth eyes glowing green even through the sallet of his mask. Evergreen looked calm enough, until Levy noticed one swift hand coming up to rest on the slats of her glasses. One single flourish and it would mean the end of all of them, she knew it. She had experienced her stone-hard stare on her own skin.

Even the others prepared to bolt; Droy stood so fast from he seat - when he too, perceived his friend’s increase of magic energy – that he almost flipped over the table with his now large belly. All around them, the others had already caught wind of what was going on, gathering closer to get a better view of the little show. Reedus had even taken out his sketchbook, his pencil poised as if it were a weapon.

“Dammit, you youngsters!” Macao bursted suddenly, slamming a fist onto the table, “Jet, young man, calm down before you do something you’re going to regret.”

“He’s right, Jet,” Levy went up beside her friend, touching the arm that held Freed in a tight grip, and gave it a squeeze, gentle, but firm, “Its not worth it.”

Freed’s blue eye – the one not concealed by his long green hair – turned to her, regarding her with intent. Jet turned to look at her, too. His anger was beginning to dissipate. He’s hurt. Levy realized. Freed’s harsh words had cut through deeply, and he was trying to make up for it with rage.

“Listen to your team leader, Jet,” the rune wizard said calmly. Both Levy and Jet turned to look at him. “Levy is right and Makao, too... Let’s not start something you’re going to regret.”

Jet’s grip on Freed tighetened instantly. He leaned closer to his face, touching his forehead with his in a challenging manner, “All I know is I’ll regret not punching you in the face, fancy pants!”

“Don’t!” Levy tugged violently on Jet’s arm, to no avail.

Around them, the small crowd had begun to murmur. During these lost years many Wizards had left Fairy Tail to join other guilds, so just a dozen of their companions were there when the team from Tenrou returned. Right now, Fairy Tail counted less than forty active members in their ranks, and all of them were gathered together, in that moment. Levy couldn’t quite hear what they were saying, but some of them were attempting to cool down the two opponents.

“Both of you, stop it. You’re acting like children,” Cana’s voice cut through the murmurs, “We’ve just spent three days brawling to celebrate our return, haven’t you had enough?”

“You know, someone never seem to understand when enough is enough.” Freed’s voice had a hint of boredom to it, which only brought more blood to colour up Jet’s sharp features.

“I’ll show you how I had enough!”

“Then stop it, both of you!” a Familiar voice commanded suddenly.

“Laxus!” the entire crowd breathed as one, astounded.

The leader of the Thunder God Tribe advanced towards the three of them, the small crowd parted and closed up again as he passed. The thunder dragon slayer came to stand in front of the trio. He looked up and down at Freed, Jet and Levy, “This is Fairy Tail, not a kindergarten. Enough with it already.”

Jet reluctantly let go of Freed. The rune wizard stepped back, smothering down his coat. He made an annoyed expression, “Considering the manners, someone should really give a thought about going back in kindergarten.”

Levy shot him an hard look, “Don’t be petty, Freed,” she said, raising one arm to stop Jet from going again, “It doesn’t suit a mage who has such regard for manners.”

Freed gave her a look, as if finally acknowledging her presence. Levy stubbornly held his gaze, determined to stand her ground. Laxus crossed his arms against his chest, glancing between the two of them with an air of exasperation.

“If you two are done?”

Freed was the first to break eye-contact to regard his leader. The rune wizard shifted his gaze between them and his tribe, unsure of letting it go.

Levy heard Jet chuckle behind her, “Go, daddy’s calling.”

She squeezed her friend’s arm tight, pleading with him to stop...Too late. That was the last drop. A flash of steel was everything she saw as Freed took out his blade. But it was slow, too slow... By the time he had his weapon in his hand, Jet had already bolted into his direction. He sprinted right into the rune wizard, sending the both of them rolling down across the hall, crashing through the bar counter, sending splinters and broken bottles to fly in every direction.

And then, it was chaos.

If there was one thing true to say about Fairy Tail’s wizards, was that they never backed out of a fight... Not even amongst each others. Levy didn’t quite see who exactly had started to throw the chairs, but of one thing she was sure; Elfman did not liked it. He didn’t liked it one bit. The Strauss man started to throw punches at everything that moved in his direction – thankfully, maintaining his human form.

Instinctively, she turned towards her other teammate; Droy had followed his friend’s example and was now going up against Bixlow, attempting to get rid of his totems – his babies - with his magic vines.

Soon the hall erupted in shouts and curses to accompany the sounds of crashed tables an broken bottles – which pissed off Cana, who begun to throw her fireworks cards in every direction. Icy blasts crystalizing through the ground announced that Gray had joined the party, but where is...

That thought never took proper shape as Levy quickly leaped aside to avoid a chair that had been thrown into her direction. Dropping down on her belly, crawling on all four, she made her way across the battlefield, occasionally sweeping aside the splinters and pieces of shattered glass that covered the wooden planks of the floor, trying to get as far away from the brawl as possible. Fighting just for fun was never her style, but growing up in Fairy Tail, Levy soon learned that skirmish like these were almost a tradition.

She found cover behind a table that had been flipped over during the fight, until Max and Warren came rolling down beside her, struggling with each other in a cloud of sand. Max aimed a punch at Warren’s face, but the telepath easily got his cue and managed to avoid the hit. Levy dropped on her stomach, covering her face with her arms to protect her eyes from Max’s sand cloud and rolled away from the two, hoping Warren would read her train of thoughts and hear her intentions to be let free to continue her escape.

This new, battered, one-story guildhall was a lot smaller than the one they were residing at before leaving for Tenrou, and there were fewer places to hide during shenanigans like these. As quickly as she could, Levy crawled all the way towards the bar, dangerously close to the thick of the fight, but the was no helping for it, now. If she attempted to reach the door she would surely be swept up into the brawl.

Once she reached the booth of the bar, Levy quickly got to her feet and reached out one arm to use as leverage as she pushed herself up and leaped behind the counter. She wasn’t alone. To her delight, she found Lucy sitting on the ground with her chin rested on her knees beside her, taking shelter from the fight.

“Lucy!”

“Levy!”

“You come here often?” Levy said playfully, recalling Lucy’s sullen expression of earlier, hoping to bring a smile on her friend’s face.

Lucy giggled, “Regular costumer,” she joked, looking more hip, “Do you think they will be done soon?” she asked sighing.

“Hard to tell,” Levy said, raising herself on her knees to take a peek from behind the counter, “You know, them. They could do this all day, but where is - ”

“NOW I’M GETTING ALL FIRED UP!”

Natsu’s cry roared throughout the all, making the other wizards stop and stare as the fire dragon slayer leaped in the air out of nowhere, falling down to crash right into the tick of the fight as his bright, red flames whipped all around him.

“Oh,” Levy breathed, “Well, there he is. I was starting to wonder why he hadn’t showed up, yet.”

“Yes, I knew he would step right into it, sooner or later.” Lucy sighed again, mimicking Levy’s pose.

Levy gave her a look, “You alright, Lu?”

“Yes,” the blonde said, giving her a smile, “It’s just...a lot.”

Point taken. “You know, I could tell you that everything will be alright in the end, but in the meantime, if you need someone to talk to or only distract yourself with, I want you to know that you can count on me.” She winked at her in comfort.

To Levy’s delight, Lucy beamed up instantly, “I know, Levy-chan. Thank you... WATCH OUT!”

Their sisterly support moment was ruined when a chair had been thrown into their direction. They ducked just in time as it went flying beyond the counter to crash right into the wall. The two girls held onto each other protectively, burying their heads into each other’s shoulder to avoid the splinters.

“Guh!” Lucy moaned as she brushed away the splinters from her long, blonde strands, “They’re Barbarians!”

Levy blew a cerulean lock away from her face, “No. The Barbarians would raid to conquer. They’re just utter tossers.”

The other girl laughed aloud. “Still. We have to get out of here.” She offered as she carefully took another peek beyond the counter.

“I agree,” Levy took a peek too, “With some luck, we could reach the door, if we crawl.”

“We’ll have to avoid Natsu...”

“And try not to slip on Grey’s ice.”

“And there’s Elfman too. And that orange blur I glimpsed darting around is probably Jet, if I’m not wrong?”

Levy’s sighed, “Don’t you even name him, he started this mess in the first place. And, as always, Droy was quick to join his party.”

“Well, Natsu is surely doing his best to help with the celebrations.” Lucy added, almost apologetic.

The two girls shared a look, “Our best friends are idiots!” they said in unison, bursting into laughter.

Once they were done, Levy said, “It’s now or never, Lu. They’re not showing any intention to stop any time sooner.”

“Wait. We’ll have more chances if we go separately.”

“You’re right, I’ll go first.”

“See you outside.”

Levy gathered herself, preparing to jump, “Good luck.”

“You too, girl!”

In one quick leap, Levy flew beyond the counter. She closed herself in a tight ball and went lightly to roll onto the floor in a somersault. She dropped back on all four, crawling up to take shelter under a table that had been miraculously spared by the commotion. Levy crawled all the way under it as quickly as she could, not really seeing where she was going. When she came out on the other end of the table, pushing herself to her feet, her head hit something round and prominent.

What the crap!?

Levy backed backwards, falling on the ground, she raised her head and suppressed a gasp of surprise.

Gajeel stood right in front of her, gritting his sharp teeth as his hands came to hold... Onto his groin, where she had accidentally headbutted him. She had just headbutted Gajeel in the cojones.

“Gajeel!”

The iron dragon slayer opend his red eyes to look down at her, “What the – Shrimp! What are ya doing!?”

“I’m sorry!” she mumbled, getting to her feet, “I didn’t know where I was going.”

His red eyes narrowed, “Ya betcha!” his hands were still holding his groin, rubbing the edge where his thighs met his aching genitals.

Levy turned her head away, flushing in embarrassment. That must have hurt. With the corner of her eye, she glimpsed another chair being thrown into their direction, aiming directly at Gajeel’s head.

“Gajeel, behind you!”

She cried alarmed, but the iron dragon slayer had already gotten himself turned. His right arm transformed into an iron club, smashing through the wood as it met the flying chair, destroying it in a storm of splinters.

Once again, Levy covered her face with arms, “Good Lord! Aren’t they running out of chairs, yet!” she yelled annoyed at the wizards fighting all around them.

Gajeel turned to look at her with his sharp, red eyes, “Ya better get outta here, kid. Short stuff like you are easy targets for these morons.”

Levy pouted. She didn’t even realized he had been in the Guildhall this whole time. What right did he had to order her about? Surely, being her partner during the S-class trial didn’t give him any.

She put her hands on her hips, “Do you think I haven’t been in a brawl before? I’ve been through skirmish like these ever since I was little.”

Gajeel’s lips curled up in an amused smirk, showing his sharp fangs, “Yer still little. Whatever, do as you want, but don’t tell me I didn’t warned ya.”

Yet, another chair was thrown at them, but this time, Levy was ready. Golden sparks erupted from her fingertips as her magic energy rushed through her left hand. Raising her index and middle, she made a quick spell.

“Solid Scrip: Shield!”

The spoken word of her spellcasting formed in front of her, in shining silver letters, artfully shaped in the form of a round, convex shield.

She raised her shield above her head, just as the chair came falling down on her. Instead of shattering into splinters, the chair remained locked within the shield-shaped letters – a charming quality that this particular spell provided her. Levy pushed with all her strength, slamming the chair away, sending it to crash somewhere across the hall, away from her face.

When she lowered her shield, Levy caught sight Warren standing not far from her. The sheepish look on his face confirmed her that the telepath had been the one to open fire against her and his wide eyes showed that he deeply regretted it. And if not, he would.

Levy shot him a hard stare, “You throw another piece of forniture at my face, you’re really gonna regret it.” She warned in a calm voice, completely aware of the fact that if the telepath couldn’t hear her above the commotion, he would certainly read her thoughts.

Warren had caught her message. He inclined his head apologetic, “Sorry, Levy.” He apologized, his voice ringing in her mind as his thoughts-sharing spell paid a quick visit inside her head, before he turned on his heels and disappeared into the fight.

Levy turned to Gajeel, who had appently witnessed the whole scene, heedles of the fight still unfurling around them. He gave a shrug, “Whatever, like I said, do what you want. I don’t care.”

In that moment, Pantherlily came flying down beside his dragon slayer, “This guild is always so noisy.” The black exceed commented in his incredibly deep voice. His eyes found her, “Oh, hello, Levy. What are you doing amongst these morons?”

Levy sighed, “You’re Gajeel’s cat, indeed.”

Gajeel raised the pierced line of his eyebrow at her, “And what’s that supposed to mean?!”

Lily floated up beside her, ignoring Gajeel, “You should get out of here before one of these fellas decides to take it on you, Levy.”

Levy had almost forgotten that getting out of the Guildhall had been her intention all along. “I lost count of how many chairs had been thrown at my face, an average Monday, really.”

“Especially since it was one of yer clowns who had opened the dances in the first place.” Gajeel commented, morphing the iron club back into his arm.

Heat rushed to her face as if somehow it were her fault, “You’re the one to talk, Gajeel?”

The iron dragon slayer towered above her, crossing his arms against his chest. The cordes of his muscles rippling beneath his bronze skin, “I’ll ask ya again, what is that supposed to mean, shrimp?!”

Levy straighted her spine, her hands on her hips, “It means, that that is rich coming from you. Weren’t you the one always looking for a fight?” she said boldly reminding him of Tenrou Island; when he had told her fair and square that all he had wanted was a chance to engage a fight with Natsu or Erza.

Gajeel’s eyes narrowed, his red gaze as heavy as a touch, “Then, if ya despise brawls so much, why are ya still here, shrimp?”

“What are you talking about? This has nothing to with me, Gajeel, you-”

“Levy, look out!” Pantherlily cried suddenly.

She felt a powerful heat wave washing her body from behind. By the time she had gotten herself turned, the flames were already too close. A long mane of black hair and glowing red eyes were everything she saw before a pair of long, cold claws grabbed her and Levy found herself held in a tight grip that pushed her body against something hard and cold.

They went rolling onto the floor and when they finally stopped, Levy landed with her back against the wooden planks of the floor. She opened her eyes, above her, Gajeel’s body was completely covered in iron scales. Their legs had tangled together during their stumble. One of his knee rested between her legs. His clawed hands were on each sides of her head to keep himself from crashing her beneath his weight.

“Gajeel... You... Alright..?” Levy panted, breathless from the impact with the floor.

Gajeel opened his eyes to look down at her. His long, spiky, black hair fell like a curtain around them. The iron dragon’s jaw was set from the struggle. He grimaced, displaying his elongated, sharp fangs.

“Didn’t I tell ya to get outta here, shrimp?!” he gritted out.

He’s alright, indeed! Levy was about to open her mouth to retort when suddenly, Natsu appeared out of nowhere, leaping down from the air, landing right on top of Gajeel’s back with great force. Gajeel’arms gave out from the impact and his muscular iron-scaled body crashed her beneath his weight, knocking the air out the both of them in loud groans.

“NOW I’M REALLY ALL FIRED UP!” the fire dragon slayer shouted triumphantly above them. Bright tongues of fire erupting from his mouth.

“I’m... Going... To... Kill... Salamander...Ah...” Gajeel’ voice came out tick, muffled against her collarbone. His head had fallen on the crock of her neck when his body slammed down on hers.

Levy was flushed and breathless, her body pressed up against Gajeel’s, crashed beneath the weight of not one, but two dragon slayers, no less, and yet, somehow, she found the strength to speak.

“Oh, Gajeel... That’s how you know we’re back home. No matter how many years may have passed, Fairy Tail will always be Fairy Tail.”

 

Chapter Text

As the requests for jobs continued to remain dangerously low, despite the kind recommendations to several good-paying clients the guilds of Blue Pegasus, and Lamia Scale had provided to help get Fairy Tail back on its feet, the fact that some of its notoriously prickly members had recently tore down their own Guildhall during one of their infamous brawls, didn’t helped their cause at all.

Needless to say that when the Master Makarov stepped into the scattered wooden planks uprooted from the ground and thrown into every direction, he had been immensely displeased, to use a kinder expression.

This new Guildhall, closer to the coast, was a lot smaller than the one they used to reside at before the Tenrou accident. Smaller, uglier and far more battered. the ceilings were lowerer, and the walls were not nearly as sturdy as to handle the destructive magic of three powerful dragon slayers, one extremely touchy beast-soul take-over mage, his devilish demon-soul take-over mage sister, a dramatic, arrogant ice-make wizard and several others easily pricked mages.

The Master Makarov was already fuming at the sole thought of the reparations costs. Laki, as always, provided the solution. The eccentric wood-make mage with a defty move had raised the walls back, reassembled the ceilings and swept away all the splinters, restoring the one-story building all the way back down to its foundations.

Laki’s gift was costly, though. Restoring a whole building, small as it may have been, had put a lot of strain on the wood-make mage. Master Makarov had nearly choked. Along with the newly-wed, trigger-happy requip wizards, Laki had become one of the most powerful mages of Fairy Tail – during their seven-year-absence – and together, the three of them were the ones who had provided the sole source of money to their guild, the only remaining Fairy Tail’s wizards trusted enough by the clients to complete quests. Laki needed all the magic energy she could summon to take on jobs. And the gods in the sky only knew how desperate Fairy Tail was for requests.

“Are you going to make that pout the entire night?” Droy moaned apologetic.

“You know? You look more beautiful when you smile, Lev.” Jet attempted mellifluous, which only irritated her more.

“Shut up. Can’t you see that I’m busy?” Levy replied not raising her eyes from her notes. Her chin propped on her hand as she quickly translated the hieroglyphs and scribbled down their translated meaning.

For an entire week Levy had been translating ancient glyphs and rare texts, taking greedily every request available. Nonetheless, translations jobs were cheap, and even if she had made it a point of pride not to be picky during these hard times, Levy couldn’t help herself but feel as a bird in a cage. Only two weeks – seven years – ago, she had left to compete on Tenrou Island to become as S-class wizard, and now, she felt as if she had been dragged back to the starting point.

She briefly raised her eyes from her work to look at her teammates sitting across the table. Jet sat hunched in shoulders, resting his elbows on the wooden table, gazing off in boredom. Droy, on the other hand, busied himself wolfing down the biggest hamburger with fries she had ever seen.

Levy had not yet gathered the courage to tell Jet and Droy that she had resigned her right to compete for the title of S-class wizard. Of course, they knew that the Tenrou Team had joined forces to battle against the wizards of Grimoire Heart and that the exam and been subsequently called off. But she knew her friends were counting on her to succeed, and she didn’t wanted to betray their trust telling them she had given up, even if the Master had agreed to resume the trial, before Acnologia came down from the skies.

Jet’s bored huff diverted her from her thoughts, “Are you gonna be mad at us for long, Lev? I told you I was sorry.”

“If you’re feeling guilty, why don’t you get up and go say that to Laki?” she retorted, focusing back on her work, “She’s the only one here that deserves an apology.”

Jet gave a sigh, “And what about the others, huh? I wasn’t the only one in that brawl.”

“No, you only started it.” Levy replied sarcastically. Eyes still intent on her work.

The speed mage groaned, “That smart mouth of Justine started it, and Natsu finished it!” he said defensively.

“Listen, Jet,” Levy put down her pen and raised her head to meet his eyes, “I know how you feel, believe me... And Freed was asking for it. I don’t pretend to know what you guys have been through in these past seven years...”

She reached out her hands towards him and he instantly reached back, placid his in her hold, “... But we’re together, now.” She told him, reminding him of his own words, “And Fairy Tail needs us.”

She turned towards Droy, let go of one of Jet’s hands and grabbed one of his, squeezing tight, “All of us. And, when this financial ordeal will be over, once an for all, we’ll brawl and booze until we pass out on the floor together, like we used to. It’s a promise.” She vowed, smiling at her friends

Jet and Droy smiled back at her, “Promise.”

“Are you still mad at us, though?” Droy asked tentatively.

She let go of their ends to resume her translations, “I’m not mad, I’m just tired...” she admitted, “... All these hieroglyphs and ancient inscriptions can become a little overwhelming sometimes.”

The sudden silence told her that the boys at the other side of the table were sharing a look. Rarely Levy admitted the fatigue of a task, and whenever she did, Jet and Droy would get that look on their faces – even now that they were men grown – a look that proved that they were thinking, and that wasn’t usually a good sign.

“Would you like another coffe, Levy? I can get it for you!” Jet offered, growing restless in his seat.

“How about a hand massage? You must be sore after writing for hours!” Droy tempted her.

Oh, how she would have welcomed a massage to ease the numbness of her fingers, her arms were all pins and needles, too, and a cup of hot black coffee would give her the boost she needed to finish her work... But she declined gently all the same.

She knew that when the boys started doting on her, aiming to satisfy her every whim, she would never hear the end of it. Although, she was glad that the friendship and respect between them remained untouched by time, Levy had hoped that the years would dissipate their feelings for her. One part of her, though, knew that the flame of love the two friends shared had not doused, but ignited again when Shadow Gear reunited, at last.

Levy knew that if she’d allow Jet and Droy to spoil her, it would do her no good. And no good to them, either. The two were the best of friends, loyal to each other to the bone, but whenever it came to win her heart, they both suddenly became extremely competitive, always ending up arguing and fighting. And Levy often found herself picking up the pieces, afterwards.

No. She couldn’t deal with it, now. And she still had a lot of work to do.

Levy gave them a bright smile, “Thank you, guys, but I still got a lot to catch on and I need to focus.”

Thankfully, the two got her cue, “Alright, Blue.” Jet said stretching his arms above his head. He stood out from his seat, patting Droy’s back fondly, “C’mon, man, let’s go get the car.”

Droy stood with little difficulty from the table, “Yeah. Bye, Lev, see you in the morning. Goodnight.”

“You too, guys!” Levy replied absently, already engrossed by a particular difficult passage of her text.

“On the way home, can we stop to get some sushi, Jet?”

“Oh, c’mon, man! You just swallowed down a giant hamburger, you bottomless pit!”

“Gimme a break! I work out every day and I need food to keep my strength!”

Their voices faded as the two advenced further across the hall, towards the entrance, until she heard the door close and only faint murmurs were to be heard around the room.

It was getting dark outside and the guildhall was almost empty. Many of her comrades had already returned home. Those who lingered at the tables remained to nurse a solitary drink or play a turn at cards up until late.

Usually, Fairy Tail’s building never remained open late at night, but the lack of requests and the recent ordeals with Twilight Ogre after their return required all hands on deck, and the Master decided that the guildhall should remain open in case of emergency or for those in need of shelter.

Surely, Levy welcomed the shelter and the peace it provided. She made a quick break to the bar to get her cup of coffee. Black and scorching hot as she liked it. She sat at the counter wrapping her hands around the hot paper cup, warming her fingers. As she enjoyed her hot drink, Levy watched Mirajane behind the bar, bossing Kinana about as the two girls rearranged the shelves and cheeked the inventory list of the goods.

Macao walked up to the counter to order a glass of whiskey and stopped by to talk with the blue-haired script mage. They chatted happily for a while and the recently-nominated non-official Master of Fairy Tail told her how happy he was now that Levy had returned home with the others and that the guild wasn’t the same without them. Levy smiled and told him that he looked well, and that the mustache he sported made him look very handsome. Conbolt beamed up at the praise, clearly pleased, and told her that he had been very surprised and glad that Levy had been selected to compete for the title of S-class wizard.

Levy sulked at little at the comment, but quickly rearranged her smiles and changed the subject, asking about Romeo’s progress as Fairy Tail’s most recent Rookie. Macao quickly soaked in the praise, telling her how proud he was of his little boy.

When she walked back at her table, ready to resume her work, Levy stretched her arms above her head like a cat and rummaged in her leather bag for the pair of Gale-force reading glasses Lucy had kindly borrowed her since Levy’s own pair were shattered when her bag had been swept up during the brawl.

With the help of the enchanted glasses and the coffee still running hot through her sistem, Levy completed the final difficult paragraphs, raising her heard only to heed Mira as she waved her goodnight and left to return to Fairy Hills – where she and her siblings were currently staying until they would find another place to live in.

Levy meticulously scribbled the last translated hieroglyphs and carefully corrected her notes until she was satisfied with the result. Only then she removed her glasses and closed the book with a loud thud.

In that exact same moment, the doors opened suddenly and Gajeel strode in with Pantherlily flying up beside him. Levy had seen him hanging out at the Guildhall, these past few days. Sitting by himself, as he always did since he had joined Fairy Tail. Only chatting with Lily or Juvia, or drinking at the bar, but she had never seen him come at the Guildhall this late at night.

Gajeel crossed the hall directed towards the bar, until he came up beside her table and he turned to look at her with his crimson eyes. Levy didn’t realized that the hall had emptied completely while she was working, leaving only her and Kinana behind the bar counter, busy with her night shift.

After the last brawl, Levy hadn’t really talked much with the Iron Dragon Slayer. Having paired up on Tenrou Island actually brought the two of them closer... As it usually happened for teammates. Especially with what they had been through. Having been ambushed by the wizards of Grimoire Heart hadn’t allowed them to get to know each others much, but... One part of her wanted to know more about the Iron Dragon Slayer.

On Tenrou Island he had saved her life, protecting her from Yamazu and Kawazu, almost getting himself killed in the process. He had also shielded her with his own body so many times she had begun to lose count.

As soon as she saw him, an idea blossomed in her mind. Before the S-class trial, when he all but self-proclaimed himself her companion, he vowed he would make her bigger. Levy very much wanted to see if he would stay true to his words.

“Well, what a surprise! What are you guys doing here so late?” she asked them curiously. It was almost midnight

Gajeel looked at her, “Came for the poison, shrimp. And to check that damn board for some jobs. ” his eyes then, fell upon the pile of books and folded papers stacked on the table in front of her, “Workin’ hard, short stuff?”

“Yes,” Levy breathed, satisfied with herself and pleasantly sore from her work, “I just completed this job.”

Pantherlily floated down to her, landing onto the table. The black-furred exceed checked her translated hieroglyphs, “You are amazing, little script mage. So much work completed in such short time, that’s astounding.”

“It’s nothing, really.”Levy brushed a blue strand of hair behind one ear, blushing at the compliment. “Are you two planning to go on a quest?”

“Nah. Requestes are low, these days. Apparently, no one needs help with punching some punks in the face, but at least this place is open ‘till late, and I can booze without the usual morons around to nag me.”

Without other words, Gajeel turned around, striding towards the bar. Lily took the air, flying up behind his dragon slayer. Levy quickly gathered up her stuff, carefully putting everything away in her bag before she hung it at her shoulder and followed them up to the bar.

Gajeel sat down on one of the stools. He gave a sturdy rap on the wooden counter with his knuckles to catch Kinana’s attention. The girl came quickly from behind the booth to take Gajeel’s order.

Levy sat down beside him, placing her bag down on the floor next to her stool. Kinana turned expectantly towards her. Levy didn’t really want anything, but she needed a reason to linger at the counter with Gajeel.

“Oh, I’ll take what he takes, Kinana, thank you.”

The purple-haired girl made a face, “A tankard of beer and a bowl of screws?”

Levy gave a dry giggle, “No, only the beer, thank you.”

The barmaid nodded and dissapered behind the booth to attend their orders. Levy turned towards the dragon slayer: Lily was sitting on the counter right beside Gajeel with his little paws crossed against his small chest.

“So...how are you doing?” she began tentatively. It was always a good idea to start a conversation as politely as possible.

Gajeel gave her a look. His studded, muscular forearms were leaning on the wooden planks of the counter. Old scars marred his right arm. their whitened lines, a stark contrast against the bronze skin.

“Overworked and underpaid.” He replied casually.

She laughed softly at his answer, “Ah, don’t tell me!”

After, they both fell in a sudden silence.

Awkward. Was she really that clumsy with her words when she didn’t had a book in her hands?

Although, Gajeel had just said that he was overworked... The requests were low these days, everyone knew that. So, he was taking some jobs somewhere, somehow. Levy remembered some rumors that have been circulating around the guild for sometime, now. She had caught winds of some voices saying that the iron dragon slayer was dealing in some shady business, but she had just ignored them.

In that moment, Kinana reappeared, bringing a tray with their orders. The barmaid placed their drinks on the counter in front of them, serving Gajeel his bowl of screws. She had also brought a plate of sliced kiwis for Pantherlily. The little, black exceed wiggled his little round ears at the sight of his favorite fruit and begun to nibble on the green slices contently.

“Well...” she attempted again, once Kinana was back behind the booth, “... If you aren’t busy at the moment – ”

Levy stopped in her tracks when she glanced up, and saw Gajeel’s elongated sharp fangs as he gnawed at the screws as if they were chips

The pierced lines above his eyes narrowed at her, “So? Spit it out, shortie.” He prompted through gritted teeth as he chewed on the metal.

“Yes!” Levy exclaimed recovering from the haze, “If you aren’t busy at the moment, I was wondering if... If you and Pantherlily would like to join me on a quest, sometimes?”

Pantherlily raised his little black ears, alert at her words. One slice of kiwi, posed above his mouth before he could nibble on it. Gajeel’s jaw set as he stopped to chew on his metallic snack. One screw stuck out of his teeth as if it were a toothpick.

“So?” Levy prompted expectantly, “What do you think?”

“I think it’s not a good idea, shrimp.” Gajeel said at last, swallowing his last screw and setting the empty bowl aside. He grabbed his tankard and took a massive gulp of beer.

“But... Why?”

“Yes, Gajeel, why?” Lily echoed.

“After all, we had already paired up during the S-class trial.”

Gajeel gritted his teeth, setting his empty tankard on the counter. He wiped his mouth with the heel of his gloved hand, “That was a one time thing, kiddo.”

Levy sulked. Maybe all he had really wanted was just a chance to go against Natsu and Erza, after all.

Lily gave her a sympathetic look as he noticed her sudden change of mood, “Wait, Gajeel. Levy’s idea is not bad at all.”

The Iron Dragon Slayer rolled his eyes, growling in the back of his throat, “Dammned feline! Cats and shrimps Aren’t suppose to band up, y’know?”

With that, he slid a hand into his pocket and flicked a couple of coins on the counter as a tip for Kinana. Then, he was up and about, charging towards the door, not even stopping to cheek the request board, as he had first intended to do.

Levy leaped out of her barstool, grabbing her bag from the ground, fastening it hard across her shoulders as she trailed behind him, “Wait, Gajeel – ”

Gajeel squared his shoulders. His long mane of black hair fell in spikes down his muscular back, “Would ya quit chirping yer tune and get lost, already?”

“I - I thought you told me not to leave your side again!”

That made him stop in his tracks, his back still turned to her. Levy stopped as well, standing a few feet behind him.

The dragon slayer erupted in sonorous laughter. He finally turned to her, a wicked smirk graced his lips, displaying his sharp teeth, “And I also told ya that ya need to get stronger in order to get my attention, didn’t I, short stuff?” his voice was low as the rolling of a rumble.

Levy swallowed hard. Wordless.

Gajeel’s eyes became hooded as he regarded her carefully. His slitted, dark red gaze trailed over her face, “Y’know what, shrimp? Forget it. Let’s call it a night, won’tcha?” He turned away and strode towards the entrance, “I don’t have time to deal with ya.”

Pantherlily flew down beside her, shifting his gaze between the blue-haired script mage and the iron dragon slayer, “I’m sorry, Levy. Goodnight.” The exceed gave her one last look and winged up to follow his partner.

The sound of Gajeel’s leather boots on the wooden planks of the floor echoed throughout the empty hall, until she heard the sound of the door closing shut.

Levy stood in the middle of the room, disheartened. She shifted her bag more comfortably across her shoulder. She didn’t want to go home. Besides, she hadn’t submitted her completed work back to her client, yet.

She turned on her heels and walked back towards the bar, tossing her bag onto the floor in a violent fit of rage. Behind the counter, Kinana winced at her gesture, almost dropping the tray of empty glasses she was carrying.

“Sorry, Kinana.” Levy mumbled, sliding back onto her bar stool.

The bar maid shot her a sympathetic look. She saw everything, of course. There was no one else in the Guildhall at that hour. So, she must have heard, too.

Levy leaned her elbows on the counter, propping her chin on her hands, pouting at the untouched tankard of beer in front of her.

“Stupid Gajeel... I don’t even like beer!”

She furiously grabbed the tankard of beer and drank it down in one, long gulp by the sole power of will and a good dose of her own stubbornness. Levy twisted her lips at the bitter taste, pushing aside the empty tankard.

Before she could forget about it, she called Kinana at the counter and handed her the black leather-bound notebook with her translated hieroglyphs. She asked the girl to contact her client and submit the completed work.

The door of the back of the bar opened suddenly, pale yellow light slanted through the door frame, basking the wooden planks on the floor in warm glow. A small silhouette took a step towards them... And ended up stumbling foward, falling belly-flat against the ground with a loud thud.

Levy and Kinana watched perplexed as the small figure awkwardly got to her feet, rubbing her sleepy dark eyes. Her white exceed padded by her ankles, regarding the two girls with an air of indifference.

“I fell asleep on the bags of flour,” Wendy said, almost apologetic coming up towards them, “I smelled Gajeel’s scent earlier, but I was too sleepy to wake up.”

“You didn’t miss a thing,” Carla retorted as she flew up to land on the counter between Levy and Kinana. The white kitten wiggled up her pink nose, “That dragon stinks.”

“Wendy, what are you doing here at this hour?” Levy asked the young dragon slayer.

“She came here earlier this evening to cheek the request board,” Kinana explained, “Mirajane told her that she could wait in the back, next to the communication Lacrima to wait for an eventual client to submit a request, but...”

“Mira said it was alright.” Wendy said a little embarrassed, “The requests on the board were already taken and the others were all busy with their own tasks, and Mira said I could keep an eye on the communication Lacrima, so I would’ve been the first to receive any eventual delivery. ” Her dark eyes were filled with worry, “I need to work to pay my rent or I’ll lose my apartment in Fairy Hills.”

Carla turned her head away, “Don’t sulk, Wendy.”

Levy understood. She remembered being a little girl in a famous guild, having to work hard even at an early age to provide for herself. And she was sure that when Mirajane watched Wendy come to her for help, all she saw was a younger Lisanna before she was lost and found again and didn’t have it in her tender heart to deny her.

Levy smiled at the sky dragon slayer, then turned and shot Kinana a knowing look. The girl got her cue, “I’ll go in the back to contact your your client, Levy. I’ll leave you to it.” She disappeared through the door Wendy came in, closing it shut behind her.

“How about we go together back in Fairy Hills and get some sleep? Then, tomorrow, the boys and I could drive you and Carla here early, so you will be the first to check the board and choose the requests you prefer, umm? ” Levy told her sweetly leaning on her elbows to regard the younger girl beyond the counter.

To her delight, Wendy smiled up at her. Her dark eyes became larger, “Really, Levy?”

“Really, Wendy.”

The door of the back opened again, abruptly. Kinana came rushing back in, her eyes wide. She was holding a paper in her hand, “The-the communication Lacrima j-just delivered a resuest!” the barmaid blurted out, gobsmacked.

“What kind of request?!” Levy, Wendy and Carla almost yelled in unison at the girl’s face.

“I-I can’t believe it! A request so important after all this time...”

“What is it, Kinana?” Levy was beginning to grow restless with curiosity.

“Look for yourself.” Kinana held out the paper for her inspection.

Levy took the flyer from the girl’s fingers and her breath almost caught in her throat.

 

WANTED!!!

Skilled wizard(s) to retrieve the stolen artifact, ‘The Book of Fay’. Aim to reward the reclamation of the precious cargo and the successful capture of the thief, dead or alive. More instructions will follow after the application.

REWARD!

4,000,000 Jewels

 

Levy read the request a second time out loud for the girls to ear, her own voice thick. A cold shiver running down her spine.

“That’s worth a lot of money.” Wendy breathed, looking at Carla.

For a moment, Levy thought she didn’t read correctly, “This-this... This is not ranked as an S-class mission, is it, Kinana?”

“It isn’t.” The barmaid admitted. “The first real big request ever delivered to Fairy Tail in- in years!”

“Well, it must be one of clients Blue Pegasus and Lamia Scale recommended us to?”

Kinana gave her a perplexed look, “Levy... Read what’s written down underneath the reward. Read who the client is.”

Levy lowered her eyes on the flyer again, scanning the paper for what she had not noticed before, and her breath came out in a gasp, “The Magic Council?!”

Wendy and Carla both gasped themselves. Wendy reached out her hands to take the flyer from her fingers. Levy absently gave it to her, letting her having a better look at it, not taking her eyes away from Kinana.

“A request with a mighty reward delivered by the Magic Council itself. ” She pondered, pushing a blue lock behind one ear.

“This is the first important request delivered to Fairy Tail ever since before you girls and the rest of the Tenrou Team returned. Surely, the council believes that Master Makarov would send someone-”

“I’ll take it.” Levy declared boldly.

“What?!” The three exclaimed in unison.

“I said, I’ll take the job.”

Levy’s head had begun to spin since she had first read the flyer. She blamed it to the fumes of that awful beer, the fatigue of her translations and the coffe of earlier still circulating in her sistem, but suddenly her mind was clear. A quest to retrieve a stolen ancient book. It was practically calling her to claim it.

This could be her chance.

A chance to prove herself as she could not during the S-class trial, and this time, she would not step down.

Kinana smiled forcefully, “Are you sure, Levy? Maybe we should wait till morning to hear what Master Makarov has to say about this? Giving the importance of this quest, maybe it should be taken by someone like Erza or Laxus or some others?”

Levy gave her a look, “And Why? This quest is not ranked as an S-class mission, you said it yourself. It is within my rights to claim this task. ” her eyes narrowed at Kinana’s face, “If you see it fit, of course?”

The bar maid looked stricken, “I-I did not meant to-”

Levy would not let her finish, “If you could be so kind as to submit to the council my application, Kinana...” she looked at the young dragon slayer beyond the counter, “...Our applications,” she corrected herself, “And we’ll be on our way.”

Kinana nodded, pink in her cheeks, and quickly disappeared behind the back of the bar booth to attend the communication Lacrima.

Wendy’s dark eyes had shot up as Levy spoke, “You want us to come with you, Levy?”

“The day you joined Fairy Tail,”Levy told her smiling, “I promised you that someday Shadow Gear would take you and Carla with us on a mission,” she winked at her in complicity, “Now, I can finally keep my promise. What do you say, are you coming?”

Carla spread out her wings and came up to float right in front of Levy’s face, “It could be dangerous, Levy. Need I remind you who are we dealing with? You have been in Fairy Tail longer than Wendy, you should know better than us that the Magic Council isn’t exactly overly fond of Fairy Tail guild. I don’t want to let Wendy face such a risk, we don’t know what we might head into.”

Levy smiled at the sassy, concerned kitten, “We’ll never know if we don’t take this chance.”

The white exceed wiggled up her pink nose, “A chance to get us killed.”

Levy shot her a determined look, “I’ll protect you and Wendy with all my magic, as if you were part of my own team.” she vowed, turning to Wendy, “And when we’ll succeed, we’ll share the reward fifty-fifty like true teammates.”

Carla regarded her seriously, “You really believe we’ll manage to complete this quest, don’t you?”

A boldness she had never knew must have took hold of her, somehow, for she responded, “We will.”

“The flyer says that the meeting place is located in Worth Woodsea.” Wendy said reading the paper still in her hands, “I know that forest. It’s where Team Natsu had deafeated Nirvana.” She smiled up at Levy, “When do we leave?”

“Tonight. There are nocturnal rides that leave the train station untill three in the morning. We’ll stop by Fairy Hills to pack up and then, we’re off, alright?”

Wendy nodded, “Alright!”

Above their heads, Carla was floating, looking down at the two girls with her small white paws crossed against her chest. She sighed, rolling her eyes, “This little blue fairy is going to get us in some serious troubles, I can feel it.”

 

 

 

 

Together, the unlikely trio jumped on the last ride of the night, with their bags on their shoulders, and great trepidation. They took the train directed to north, towards Worth Woodsea. As the two girls and the white exceed retired to rest in their cabin and get some hours of sleep, Levy tried to ignore the knot that had tightened in her tummy.

Back in the guildhall, she had been so bold claiming the quest for herself and Wendy, and now, every whistle of the train seemed to rattle right down to her bones.

Levy was beginning to ask herself if she had made right decision. Carla was right, one single misstep could mean troubles for their guild. As if they weren’t already in bad blood with the council. This results of this quest could really put them between the devil and the deep blue sea.

Levy shook her head, annoyed with herself, remembering how she had felt on Tenrou Island, when she had resigned the S-class trial. She had thought to feel relieved not having to compete, after all her and her friends had been through, but instead her heart felt heavier, deep in regret.

She knew she would regret not taking this chance for the rest of her days if she stepped down now.

Levy thought of the look Kinana had on her face as Levy had claimed the request for herself; doubtful and skeptical, ill-hidden beneath a forced smile. Thought of Erza’s strange words the day of the brawl, and how their true meaning matched Kinana’s perfectly. And finally, thought of Gajeel’s harsh rejection.

Brooding over it had ignated a flame of determination that burned deep inside her belly, loosening the knot of fear in her tummy. No. She would not step down again. And, if her confidence would get weak, she would pretend it. She’ll grith her teeth and bite the bullet, this time.

 

 

An high-pitched whistle woke her up abruptly.

Levy sat up cross-legged in the little bunk she was sharing with Wendy and Carla. Stretching up, she lifted the heavy brown curtain to look through the little window.

It must have been early noon. Beside her, Wendy was still sleeping soundly. Carla was curled up against her belly. Levy was surprised that the sky dragon slayer had not woke up at the sound of the whistle, considering her sensitive hearing. She must’ve been still tired after taking a restless nap on those bags of flour.

Levy put a gentle hand of Wendy’s shoulder ad shook her awake, “It’s past midday, Wendy. We should have a bit of lunch before we arrive at our destination.”

Wendy rose quickly, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. Her deep blue hair tumbled on her shoulders, looking almost black in the dim light of the cabin.

Carla woke, too. The white exceed stretched her paws and arched her back like a common cat before she rose in her usual upright position.

“You should have not overslept, Wendy.” The kit said, hopping down the bunk.

Wendy yawned, “How much before we’ll arrive?”

“Three hours or so,” Levy said sliding her arms into her denim bomber jacket, “With some luck, we’ll be there before sundown.”

Together, they headed into the dining car. It was past midday, but the restaurant was buzzing with the low mutters of the passengers. So, Levy, ever analytic and with a book ready in her hands whenever the occasion called for it – and every occasion called for it – took the opportunity to do some researchs before their arrival.

It didn’t took her long to become engrossed as she turned the pages, pouring every informations she could assimilate. As always, when she had a book in her hands, the world fell away and time became an abstract concept.

“My, my. Doesn’t she know that reading while eating it is extremely bad taste?” Levy heard Carla comment flatly beyond the leather bound cover of her book.

“Um, Levy maybe you should...” Wendy’s voice begun.

“Yes, yes.” Levy said not even glancing up from the page, “I’m almost done, I’ll put the book down when the food arrives.”

“The food arrived fives minutes ago.” Carla informed impatiently.

“Oh?” Levy raised her eyes from the book, and found the plate of garlic buttered chicken and broccoli and cheddar baked potatoes waiting patiently for her, along with a caraffe of ice-cold lemonade.

“I’m sorry, girls! I was looking for something that could be helpful.” Levy said forking her chicken.

“Have you found anything interesting about the artifact we have to retrieve, this Book of Fay?” Wendy asked, already attending her own plate.

“Not much.” Levy admitted around her morsel, “But what I found is very interesting; this precious text is supposed to be over four hundred years old and, apparently, it is said to contain ancient and powerful spells that no one had yet managed to decipher.”

“And pray, who is this Fay girl supposed to be?” Carla asked with the air of faint indifference she usually sported.

Levy laughed, “Fay is not a girl’s name, Carla.” She explained, “You see, it’s just another word for fairies.”

Fairies?” the dragon slayer and her exceed said in unison.

“Yes. Apparently, the book in question is presumed to have been written by the fairies.”

Wendy’s dark eyes became larger with genuine interest, while Carla rolled hers in annoyance, “Oh, Fairy Tail’s wizards journeying to retrieve a book written by fairies, how quite.”

Levy gazed off into the window. The train had neared a small town that gave way to immense fields and great forests. her heart swelled.

She couldn’t hide to herself the ferment and the trepidation she was feeling in that moment. An ancient book presumably written by fairies over four hundred years ago, bearing many secrets waiting to be unfolded...

She felt as giddy and excited as she did when her name has been called to compete for the title of S-class wizard on Tenrou Island.

On Tenrou Island... When she had been too disheartened to compete for the title of S-class mage. When she had been too weak to fight the wizards of Grimoire Heart and fled, running for help, leaving Gajeel behind to fight alone.

No wonder he didn’t want anything to do with her.

She glanced away from the window to keep an eye on Wendy. The young dragon slayer was attending her plate contently, a flush of pleasure dusted her cheeks, bringing out the deep blue of her long hair.

Her Troia spell had allowed her to sleep peacefully and eat her lunch without feeling the need to gag, but Levy knew her spell was temporary and if continuously used, it could become useless. She just hoped it would last long enough, and that her motion sickness would not leave Wendy too sick, but the younger girl was demonstrating an astounding level of stamina in her spell casting. Levy wondered if this pesky trait was common for all the dragon slayers or if it was something she had taken from Natsu by proxies, as she heard the girl usually claim.

Levy knew very well that Wendy and Carla had already been on quests far more dangerous than this. She heard the tales of their adventure on Edolas, and when her and the rest of Team Natsu had defeated Nirvana in the very same forest of Worth Woodsea, subsequently joining Fairy Tail guild. And, of course, she had seen with her own eyes the battle of Tenrou Island, witnessing the might of a living dragon first hand.

She wasn’t a dragon slayer. She didn’t have incredible powers like Wendy, Gajeel, Natsu or Laxus. She didn’t have the strength of Erza or the might of a beast, or a demon like Mirajane and Elfman. Didn’t have eye-magic like Freed, Bickslow, and Evergreen. Couldn’t control the forces of nature like Gray or Juvia, nor did she have celestial keys to summon spirits to fight for her like Lucy. And, never she received one of the three Great Magics of the Fairy Tail guild like Cana did, when she unsealed Fairy Glitter from Mavis’ tomb.

But it was her this time who stepped up and seized the chance to become stronger.

“So, you want my attention, is that it, you half pint? Well, in that case, all you gotta do is get strong enough to actually be a challenge to me.”

Stupid Gajeel... If you had lingered longer at the bar with me, instead of fleeing the Guildhall, rejecting my offer, you could’ve been here, now, journeying with me and Wendy.

Shaking her head, dismissing those thoughts, Levy lifted her gaze and found Wendy staring at her

For a long, dreadful moment Levy thought the worst. Maybe she was just being silly. There was no way she could actually be able to read her thoughts.

“W-what is it, Wendy? Are you feeling sick?” she asked tentatively.

Wendy made a face, “Not really. I was wondering...”

Levy smiled, relieved. As always, her thoughts ran wild, imagining things that were undoubtedly imaginary.

“... Why didn’t you asked Gajeel to come with you on this quest instead of me?”

Damn. So, she can read mind. “W-what?!”

The sky dragon slayer heard the alarmed tone in her voice and lowered her eyes on her plate, suddenly embarrassed, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to pry, but when I caught Gajeel’s scent in the Guildhall, last night, I thought that you two were hanging out together. And since you paired up on Tenrou Island, I just assumed that you were more likely to ask him to come with you instead of me. I must have misunderstood, I’m sorry!”

“Wendy, Wendy, Wendy, don’t worry!” Levy said hastily, relieved by her confession. At least she couldn’t read her thoughts.

“You were not prying at all, and you didn’t misunderstood.” She confessed, “In fact, I did asked Gajeel to team up, mind you, before the communication Lacrima delivered the Magic Council’s request, but he refused.”

Wendy blinked, “And why wouldn’t he team up?”

“Well...” Levy took a sip of lemonade, “He said... He was busy.” unless Wendy was actually able to read minds, she wouldn’t know that was not the entire truth.

“Oh, for goodness sake, Wendy.” Carla spoke up, suddenly, turning to Levy, “She meant that she was wondering If you would’ve prefered having that metal-head with you in this quest instead of her, because she feel like you asked us to join your out of compassion.”

“Carla!” Wendy cried.

“Eh?! This is truly how you feel, Wendy?”

The sky dragon slayer only nodded. The deep blue strands of her fringe casting shadows on her face.

“Well, don’t.” Levy said. The girl lifted her head to look at her, “Remember, this quest is yours as much as it is mine. You have been so patient waiting for a request on your own, you deserve to be here.”

Wendy rubbed her arm shyly, “You know? I wouldn’t have take it if you haven’t asked me to join you. I don’t like to go on missions on my own.”

Carla huffed, “And what am I? A keychain?”

Wendy looked stricken, “Of course not! I’m sorry Carla!”

Levy gave a dry laugh watching the two. She didn’t yet quite realized what kind of bond they had, but they seemed to be comfortable with each other. She couldn’t even imagine what it would be like having an exceed as a guardian. Especially one as cold as Carla. She heard that the white exceed had the ability to see the future. Levy wondered if she could also see how harsh she was, sometimes.

“Well,” Levy said, pushing aside her empty plates and picking up her books. She stood from the table, “We should return to our cabin and gather our things. Maybe lay down a bit, it won’t be long before we’ll arrive in Worth Woodsea.”

When she turned to look at her two new teammates, she found both Carla and Wendy staring at her.

“What is it, girls?”

“It’s just...” Wendy begun.

Carla sighed, “What kind of point are your trying to make dressing up like that, Levy?” she said looking up and down at her.

Levy didn’t need to look down at herself; With her own wardrobe still in disarray, Bisca had been so kind in landing Levy and the other girls some of her hand-me-downs. It has been a little embarrassing at first, because some of the clothes of the trigger-happy – now wife and mother – equipe mage fit quite baggy on her chest, but finally, Levy opted for some high-waisted blue jeans, a big brown leather belt, a pretty lace-sleeved white blouse and a big, bulky denim bomber jacket with a wool collar. One of her many signature bandana’s, a creamy colored one, was tied around her neck like a foulard. To complete the outfit; a pair of cowboy’s leather boots, and good old cowboy’s hat. Levy didn’t really know what to do with it, but when Bisca had given it to her, she didn’t really feel like saying no.

Levy flashed a cheerful smile at her two teammates and playfully tugged the brim of the hat, “Well, Carla, my point is that we’ll have to stand out amongst the crowd if we want our illustrious clients to spot us.”

 

 

They arrived in Worth Woodsea just before dark. The sun was setting in a welter of crimson beyond the endless forest, making the trees appear black against the the bleeding wound of the twilight.

With their bags on the shoulders, Levy and Wendy looked around the station with careful eyes, Carla winging up above them, in search for their client. They were sure the Magic Council would have sent an envoy to greet them. As the train approached its destination, the two girls waited in trepid anticipation, not knowing what would await them once arrived.

A knot thightened in her tummy, and Levy felt the same strange sensation of the night before. She looked at Wendy and prayed that the dragon slayer would not notice her unease.

Suddenly, a hand touched her shoulder and Levy had to refrain herself from jumping at the contact.

She turned around, standing behind her there was the Magic Council’s envoy. Three men, clad with the long, white coats bearing the blue symbol of the Magic Council sewed on their shoulders. They looked young... Boys barely grown.

The one who touched her shoulder couldn’t have been older than twenty. He had a mop of fiery red curls he kept tied in a ponytail and a peach-fuzz of the same blazing colour graced his chin. His skin was fair, dusted with faint freckles. He was stocky and broad of shoulders, and his long, neat white cloak made him appear taller than he really was.

“Oi, Excuse me, miss,” Blue eyes looked into her face intently as he took in the three of them. “Yer not by any chance the wizards of Fairy Tail, are you?” he said, grinning.

His accent placed him in the Scottish Highlands, but his braggart tone prickled her unease away. Levy squared her shoulders, “We are, sirs. At your service.”

A second guy came foward, “Good evening, and thank you for coming.” he greeted, in a politer way than his companion. He was taller and slimmer than the first one, his short, dark brown hair fell in spikes onto his forehead and his slightly tilted dark eyes betrayed his oriental origins.

“I trust you had a good trip. I’m Lieutenant Tsubasa Leroy.” He gestured towards the red-head, “This is Lieutenant Brock Dearg.”

Lieutenant Dearg raised one hand to salute them.

“And this is Lieutenant Erik Soren.” Lieutenant Leroy told, ragarding his other companion. The boy stood a little farther from them with his arms crossed against his chest and scowl on his face. A scowl that didn’t quite matched his round, pink cherubim features. He had beautiful blond hair that brushed his shoulders in soft curls and big blue eyes. Although, he was only a few inches shorter than the other two, he looked painfully younger, as long as she was concerned, he could’ve been the same age as Wendy.

Levy couldn’t help, but feel a twinge of disappointment. This was what the powerful Magic Council had sent as an envoy? Three boys, not yet out of pubescence in long, white coats? She had a strange feeling about this.

“Nice to meet you,” Levy said softly, “I’m Levy Mcgarden and these are Wendy Marvell and Carla.”

Wendy walked up beside her, “Good evening.”

Lieutenant Soren leaned foward to take a better look at Carla, twisting his plump, pink lips into a rather girlish pout, “Is that little kitty a wizard too?”

“I don’t know, are you a little boy or a little girl?” Carla replied, serving him a thrust of her own.

Lieutenant Soren’s angelic features darkened, “What did you say, you tuna breath?!”

“Up, up, up, up, up!” Lieutenant Dearg grabbed him by the collar of his coat, “Easy, lad. These lasses and their kit are our employees.”

He was just trying to cool down his companion, but there was something in his tone that Levy simply couldn’t stand. Wendy must’ve perceived it, too. She lurched foward and quickly picked up Carla in her arms. The exceed was hissing in her grasp, but did not tried to flee.

Lieutenant Leroy gave Levy a sheepish smile as he came to stand between the other two, “I’m afraid we have already started with the wrong foot.” He turned to the girls, “How about we take your bags and get going. Our camp is set in the woods. Once we’ll arrive we will fill you in on your mission and then you can get some proper rest. You must be tired from your trip.” He moved to take Levy’s bag, “Here. Allow me...”

Levy fastened her bag on her shoulders quickly but casually, “We can manage, thank you.” her voice was soft, but decise.

Lieutenant Tsubasa looked stricken. “Please. I feel embarrassed for my companion’s behavior, how about we start over?”

Levy nodded and started making her way outside the station, “Of course, Liutenant Leroy, but you know the saying; there’s never a second chance to make a first impression.”

 

 

For nearly two hours they drove through the woods directed towards the Liutenants’ camp. Shadows begun to fall tick as they ventured into the depth of the forest.

Lieutenant Tsubasa Leroy was behind the wheel of their SE – plug vehicle with lieutenant Dearg riding beside him in the passenger’s seat, while brooding Erik Soren was riding in the back with Levy, Wendy and Carla.

For almost the entire length of their ride, the six remained in absolute silence, until Carla wiggled up her nose, keeping a careful eye on lieutenant Soren, sitting with his arms crossed against his chest in front of her and Wendy.

“Regarding the importance of this quest, why the Magic Council has decided to send you boys to take care of the matter.” She offered flatly.

Lieutenant Soren visibly grimaced at the comment, but his older companions brushed it off with an amused laugh.

Levy spoke up, “Carla only meant that you all look so...”

Brock turned to grin at her, “Handsome?”

“Young.” And low-ranked, too. Levy saw no grades sewn on their coats.

“Carla is right,” Tsubasa explained, “Regarding the historical importance of the stolen text, the Magic Council decided against a useless expense of resources that would have only caught unwanted attention upon the retrieving expedition, so the high spheres saw fit to send a small team of mere lieutenants to take care of the situation.”

Levy could see Brock’s wry smile through the rearview mirror, “ ‘Specially cause we are the lads who were supposed to guard the bloody book.”

The two girls and the exceed shared a look. “It’s not common for the Magic Council to commission a quest to the guilds.” Levy said, “What made you turn to Fairy Tail for help?”

Tsubasa glanced up at her through the rearview window, “When the book got stolen, the Magic Council decided to send us, initially, to attempt to fix our mistakes, but we failed to catch the thief and retrieve the manufact, several times. Our superior wanted none of that, so, they urged us to find us a solution, providing us a considerable amount of Jewels to clean our mess once and for all.”

“And that’s were you Fairy Tail’s wizards fit into this.” Erik said, speaking for the first time since they left their station.

“Tsubasa came up with the idea to ask Fairy Tail for help, using the money as a reward”. Brock said.

Their explanation fit into place, but there was something strange Levy couldn’t quite get her fingers around, “So, the Magic Council has given you carte blanche?”

Brock turned to look at her, “Cards what?”

Carte blanche.” Levy told him, “Complete freedom to act as you wish.”

Lieutenant Dearg gave her a look, “Aye, I guess.”

“If I may ask, how did the book got stolen?” Wendy wanted to know.

Lieutenant Leroy tightened the grip on the wheel, “It got stolen because of me.”

The two girls and the exceed looked at each other. Levy was about to open her mouth to ask the dark-haired lieutenant what he meant, when she spied a hut in a clearing beyond the trees.

The two-story shelter hugged the stretch of plain green where it gave way to tall bushes and the trees beyond. The lower story was made of grey stone, the upper of split log. It reminded Levy of the tiny, little dens described in the thousands of fairy tales books she devoured as a child.

The Lieutenants set a quick campfire outside the hut. The night was cool, but the black sky above was dripping with stars.

As the three boys set about to cook a sup for dinner, Levy went straight to the point, “You said the book got stolen because of you,” She said, turning to Tsubasa, “What happened?”

Lieutenant Leroy sighed, “We were set task to translate the ancient text for the Council’s division of preservation of the heritage of magical artifact.” He explained as he filled a bowl with hot soup. “There were four of us... Until our companion betrayed us.”

Levy turned to look at Wendy and Carla. she was sure they were seeing on her own face the same shock she was seeing in their eyes.

“You mean to say that your companion is the thief who stole the book from the Council?”

“One night,” Tsubasa went on, “I was patrolling the chamber in which the Book of Fay was kept, until I saw an eerie light coming out from underneath the gate, and then, there was an explosion... I blacked out and didn’t see the thief, but when I ragained conscience the book was gone and our fourth companion was nowhere to be found.”

A shiver ran down Levy’s spine as she remembered what was written on the flyer. Dead or alive. “You put a bounty on your own companion? You are prepared to have him killed? That’s absurd!”

“His name is Lazlo Slade.” Brock told them, “He was the head translator, until tha wretched book turned him numpty.”

Tsubasa tightened his grip on the spoon, “He did not turned ‘numpty’, Brock, he betrayed us, fair and square!” he shouted.

Brock gave him a look, “Ye dinnae know that! Ye dinnae know what he could’ve found in tha bloody book!”

“What are you saying?” Carla asked, twitching her whiskers, “He got cursed translating the book?”

Brock sighed, “He must’ve found something in those pages that changed him. All those runes and inscriptions and shite are feared to be very ancient spells and enchantments of great power.”

Levy gave him a look, “You do realize that we can’t afford to leave anything by chance, do you? You should know better than us that there can be awful consequences for wizards who use their magic for murder.”

Tsubasa passed the bowls of hot soup around. He straightened up to look at her, “Of course we do. We would never demand you to do anything like that, but... We ought to be prepared for the unimaginable. Lazlo may leave us no choice.”

Levy felt ice cold fingers touching her spine at the sole thought. A knot tightened in her tummy, she did not fancy the look in lieutenant Leroy’s eyes.

She turned to look at Wendy. The dragon slayer shot her an unsure glance before she spoke up, “Are you really sure Lazlo is the responsable of the explosion? You said you have already tried to retrieve the book, surely you must have seen something?”

Brock gave a dry laugh, “That’s the point! None of us saw a bloody thing!” he sat leaning his forearms on his tights as he regarded the younger girl, “After the night of the robbery, we couldn’t find nor the book or Lazlo, that’s true, but... We followed a track that brought us here, in Worth Woodsea, until we found a castle in the middle of the bloody woods.

“A castle?” Wendy queried. “I have been in these woods before, I don’t remember there ever been a castle.”

“Aye, that’s the catch! We checked ever’y map, no settlement whatsoever was ever marked... And yet, there it stood! A big, ol’ bloody castle!”

“You said you were following a track,” Levy asked, “Was it some sort of magic energy? Was it the book’s?”

“Yes,” Tsubasa replied, “It was definitely the book’s. After the night of the explosion, our Lacrimas caught a trail of very powerful magic energy that brought us to the castle. Further, the trail’s goes cold.”

“And what’s inside?”

“That’s the best part.” Lieutenant Soren said, grinning. For a moment, Levy thought she glimpsed a flicker of an elongated canine, “There’s absolutely nothing in there.”

“Nothing?!” Levy, Wendy and Carla cried in unison.

“Nothing, but empty halls and stairs that leads to nowhere.”

“Which is amazing considering that from the outside it looks like a one-story building.” Tsubasa told.

Wendy turned to look at her, “Levy, do you think it could be...”

“An inescapable dimension magic, Yes.” She pondered, pushing her blue locks away from her face, “How did you managed to get out?”

The three lieutenants shared a look. In mutual consent, Erik and Brock agreed to leave the explanations to Lieutenant Leroy. Tsubasa sighed, “We kept wandering down the halls, climbing and descending stairs, and opening doors, until we found ourselves outside again, back in front of the gates.”

The two girls and the exceed gasped as one.

“Have you tried to enter again?” Wendy wanted to know.

“Until our legs gave out.” Erik replied.

Tsubasa looked at Levy, “We gave up, at some point. After we reported what was happening back to the Magic Council, we prepared to attempt again. When we returned to the hot spot, the castle was gone.”

“Gone?!” the three of Fairy Tail gasped.

Brock raised his head from his bowl of soup, “Oh, Aye? Dinnae we mentioned it, yet? Apparently, the bloody thing walks!” he cried, mock-cheerful.

“Well, we don’t really know if it walks,” Tsubasa replied, “But we surely know it vanishes and reappears wherever and whenever it pleases.”

“How do you know where and when it would reappear?”

“The magic energy.” Tsubasa told her, “Every day, our Lacrimas track down a new magic trail and we follow it to the hot spot when we attempt to enter, again, and again, and again. To no avail.”

 

 

Carla winged up back and forth in the dim and steamy bath-chamber of the hut. Her little white face darkened by a scowl, tilted brown eyes thoughtful.

“I don’t like it.” She said, “It’s strange. This all situation it’s strange!”

Below her, deep in the embrace of scalding hot water of the wooden tub, Levy was floating underneath the surface. Carla’s voice was distant to her and the shapes of the world above, blurred.

Levy resurfaced, pushing her wet locks away from her face. She picked up the comb and worked out the snags.

“Carla is right.” She said absently as she fussed with her hair.

Wendy was scrubbing her arm in the wooden tub beside hers. The younger girl turned to look at her. Night-sky blue hair floated in strands above the surface of the water.

The exceed flying above them crossed her paws against her chest and huffed, “Finally! Would you consider to write that down?”

“Do you have a bad feeling too, Levy?” Wendy asked.

“I... I don’t know. This all situation is... Shady.” She blinked, eyes stinging after being underneath the scalding hot water for long. “I feel like we shouldn’t trust the lieutenants.”

Wendy nodded, “Lieutenant Dearg is coarse.”

“Yes, he’s rather dense, and lieutenant Soren has a bad temper.”

“He smells funny too. Like forests and wilderness.”

“And Tsubasa was so... Cold.” Even in the hot dampness of the bath, Levy shivered. “I don’t like the way he spoke about his companion, Lazlo Slade.”

“He’s seems convinced that this Lieutenant Slade is the thief,” Carla said floating down to land on the floor, “But his other companions believe that he was cursed by the book, somehow.”

Wendy lowered her dark eyes on the water of her tub. She pushed the damp blue-night strands behind her ears, “It could be.”

“I hope so, too.” But deep down, Levy was still troubled by the words written on the flyer. Dead or alive.

“But I believe,” she said, setting aside the comb and picking up the brush to scrub her skin clean, “That when Lieutenant Tsubasa Leroy sent the request to Fairy Tail he already had his mind made up.”

Wendy stiffened, “What are you saying, Levy? Do you think he meant to kill his companion all along?”

She shook her head, “I’m saying... Tsubasa Leroy seems eager to go to great lengths to retrieve the stolen book.”

“But why would he do something like that?! Even his own companions aren’t really sure of what had happened to the book!”

Carla scoffed, “Don’t be silly, Wendy. Don’t forget who are we dealing with.”

“Even if something is white, once a Council member says it’s black, then it becomes black.” Levy recited in a sing-song voice. Quoting the infamous say known throughout all the guilds of Fiore.

“We ought to be careful around them, even if they look friendly. Remember what happened with Mest, Wendy. You also witnessed the influence and the power of the Magic Council with your own eyes in this very same forest.”

“Yes, I remember. But why would three Lieutenants of the Magic Council go as far as to have one of their own killed?”

“They’re young, eager, and low-ranked. Lieutenant Leroy said that the book and Lazlo Slade disappeared the night he was on patrol. Surely, he fears the consequences he would suffer and the judgement of his peers, if he fails to return the manufact to the council. He’s determined to do anything in his power to accomplish his goal.” Exactly like I am. Levy thought as she scrubbed.

Wendy sighed. Her cheeks were flushed from the steam and small droplets of perspiration beaded her forehead. “I don’t want to kill anybody.”

“We’re not going to.” Levy exclaimed standing up and stepping out of the tub. Water dripped down her legs and pooled underneath her feet.

Her skin was flushed, glowing pink, and her cerulean locks felt damp and cool curling on her shoulders. Wendy lifted her gaze to look at her. Levy didn’t mind. Many a times she had been bare to the sight of the other girls; in the common bath chamber of Fairy Hills’s female dormitory, or in the hot springs. But never before she had been naked around Wendy, and when the sky dragon slayer’s eyes fell on the silver lines of the scars running down her hip, Levy quickly grabbed the towel and wrapped it around her offended body.

“We’re going to find the castle,” she went on, “we’re going to retrieve the book and catch the thief and entrust him to the Magic Council, nothing more, nothing less.”

 

 

The next morning, Levy rose early. The morning was chilly and when she stepped outside, sliding her arms into her denim bomber jacket, she found Wendy and Carla already up. Beside them, young, blond Erik Soren was cooking some eggs in a frying pan above the camp fire.

Lieutenant Brock Dearg was sitting on a log with one leg up, his broad shoulders slouching, and his head bent on what Levy recognized as a crosswords magazine. Lieutenant Tsubasa Leroy was nowhere to be seen.

“Good morning! I must have overslept.” She said apologetic as the small group raised their heads to heed her.

Wendy smiled as Levy came to sit beside her, “You were reading till late.”

“Yes, it’s an habit of mine.”

“Alright, lasses,” Brock called suddenly cheeking his magazine, “Ten letters word. Synonym. Something along the words of... huge, colossal... Ye got somethin’ for me?”

Gargantuan.” Levy answered without hesitation.

Brock arched a brow, “Ye sure, Levy?”

She gave him a look as she stood to get her breakfast, “Give it a shot.”

The red-haired lieutenant gave her a skeptical glance as he used his pencil to scratch his head. Finally, he gave a shrug and bent to write her answer down.

Levy couldn’t repress a satisfied smirk curling up her lips as she took in Brock’s blue eyes widen in surprise as he realized her answer was correct.

“Woah! Yer pure dead brilliant, Levy!” he cried as he shot her an amazed look, “How did ye know?”

“I know.” She replied simply, then stopped in her tracks and turned towards him to offer him a smug smile, “Oh, and by the way, that magazine is wrong; Gargantuan is an adjective and not a synonym.”

Brock gave a low whistle as she turned, “Wow, yer somethin’ else.”

Levy’s heart fluttered recalling hearing those exact same words from a certain iron dragon slayer. Gajeel had told her that the day of the Battle of Fairy Tail, when she undone Freed’s restrictions to allow him and Natsu to go and stop Laxus.

How strange. With all that happened since that day, her mind recalled words so briefly spoken in the eye of a hurricane.

Levy shook her head and took the plates of eggs from Erik, the boy gave her an half smile and turned to attend his own breakfast. He looked calm and more relaxed than the day before. She brought the plate to Wendy, who had clearly seen the scene of earlier. Smiling, she leaned foward to speak up, “Levy is an amazing Solid Script mage, lieutenant Dearg, and there’s no word she doesn’t know the meaning of.”

“A Solid Script mage, is that it?” A voice said behind her.

Levy turned towards it. Lieutenant Leroy stood in his long, neat, white coat, bottoned up to the collar. He had a leather briefcase under one arm, and glasses resting on his nose. His dark hair were slicked back, giving him a pristine look.

“Good morning lieutenant Leroy.”

“Good morning to you, Levy, and please, call me Tsubasa. ” He glanced behind her shoulders, “Good morning Wendy. Carla.”

Wendy called her greetings cheerfully, but no reply came from Carla. Tsubasa looked back at her, “So, did I heard correctly? Are you a Solid Script mage, Levy?”

“Yes, I am.”

His dark eyes narrowed at her, inspecting her closely, as if pondering.

Brock came up beside him, “Lookin’ fancy, Tsubasa. Are ye going to the station?”

Leroy blinked, “Ah, yes. I’m afraid I’ll have to take the car. The Council wants our reports.”

“Ah, I don’t envy ye.”

He turned back to Levy, a sheepish half smile on his face, “I’m sorry you’ll have to walk into the woods to get to the hot spot. But I’ll entrust you girls to Brock and Erik, if there’s something you need to know, you may ask them. I better get going. May you have better luck on this mission than we had.” Without further words he turned on his polished heels and walked towards the car.

Levy and Brock watched the vehicle disappear into the trees. When it was gone, they turned to look at each other briefly and walked back to the others.

“Why did he seemed to be so interested in the fact that I am a Solid Script mage?” Levy blurted out. She couldn’t help but think of the way Tsubasa looked at her...

Brock grimaced, “Oh, aye. Well, you see, Lazlo is a Solid Script mage as well.”

Levy stirred, “Is he, truly? That’s why he was in charge with the translation of the text?” She had never truly met another Solid Script mage, except for Yomazu.

“Aye, he was good, but he had been bent on that bloody book for over two months, and he didn’t even managed to translate twenty pages.”

That pricked Levy’s interest, “Was it that hard to decipher?”

Brock gave a shrug, “Wouldn’t know, Levy. Never even seen tha bloody thing. Erik and I were only there to patrol. Only Tsubasa and Lazlo were permitted to study it.”

Her eyes widened, “So, out of the four of you, only Tsubasa and Lazlo had access to the book?”

“Aye, just the two o’ them, and our superiors, of course. The captains came down there from time to time tha cheek on the work, ye know? To make it look like they were interested, but Erik and I would only see ‘em come and go.” He grinned at her, “Maybe Tsubasa thinks that a pretty, wee Solid Script mage would fix this mess, aye? All our magic couldn’t.”

“What kind of magic do you guys use?”

Brock grinned, “Erik? Show ‘em.”

The blond boy promptly got to his feet at the cue and extended his right arm, “Animal Soul: Lynx!” there was flash of pale blue light, and suddenly, Erik’s arm was replaced by a grey lynx’s paw. His ears took the shapes of a cat’s and his teeth had elongated visibly.

Wendy gasped, “Oh, you’re an Animal Soul Take Over wizard!”

Erik turned to grin at her, “Amazing, right?”

“Some of our friends back in Fairy Tail are Take Over wizards too!”

Brock turned to smile at the young dragon slayer, “Aye, we know! I don’t miss an issue of the Sorcerer’s Magazine ever since that Mirajane lass had showed up. And, ye think I never heard of Beast Arm Elfman? That lad’s real man!”

Levy laughed, “And what about you, Brock?”

The red-haired smirked, “Oh, yer gonna like tha...” he extended his right arm and closed his fist, “Element Soul: Rock!” in a flash of orange light, his arms had completely turned in a cluster of solid red stone. “What do ye think, wee lass?”

Levy gasped, astounded, “E-element Soul? I never heard of that kind of Take Over magic before!”

Wendy stood to take a peek, “Me neither!”

Levy gaped, “How... How?!”

Brock smirked, “When I was just a wee bairn, I had a very good magic teacher and all his lessons had rewarded me with this. My special magic ability granted me me place amongst the Magic Council’s ranks. ” He flexed his rock-like muscles, displaying his transformation, “What do ye think, huh? Pure dead brilliant?”

Levy and Wendy could only nod in assent, but Carla tossed her head, unimpressed.

“And what kind of magic does Lieutenant Tsubasa uses? Wendy wanted to know.

“Oh, he uses illusion magic.”

Levy blinked, “Illusion magic?”

“Aye. His father is a captain of the Council’s Detention Enforcement Unit. And he dreams to become one as well. Do ye see why retrieve the book is so important to him?”

“I understand. He blames himself thinking he had a failed his duty to guard the book and wants to make up for it doing everything in his power to get it back.” Heaven’s her witness, she felt that way too.

“Aye. He may look like someone shoved a broom up his arse, sometimes but he’s a good egg, and deserves more than he is given credit for.” with that, Brock stood from his log, buttoning up his coat, “Now ye Fairy Tail wizard, be good lasses and finish her breakfast. Yer need energy for the walk into the woods, and our Lacrimas had tracked down a new trail just this morning. The castle awaits ye.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Gajeel could hear the frantic mutters inside the Guildhall even before they came up in front of the doors. Lily heard them, too.

The black cat winged up beside him, “They sure are pretty noisy so early in the morning.”

Gajeel grimaced, “They’re fucking crazy.”

He pushed the door open and strode inside, Lily flying up behind him. It seemed all the morons of the guild had gathered together to flap their gums and booze even this early in the morning. The hall seemed bursting with the crowd, gathered all around that Kinana girl near the bar. Apparently, whatever she was chanting about must have been quite the leak to keep them all on their toes.

Gajeel strode past the murmurs, heedless of their gossips. His ears would catch winds of it soon enough, anyway. Claiming a table in a darkened corner, he sat down giving the back to the others, and picked each voice from the crowd.

“I still can’t believe they left in the middle of the night, ” That old fart with the perv mustache was saying.

“And to galavant where, precisely? Our fairy blue and the small child went abroad off somewhere we don’t know?” the four-eyed, funny-talking lumberjill asked.

“What had made them leave so late at night? They should’ve thought it twice. A request like that was not to be taken lightly,” Bunny Girl whined.

“Why would the Council send a request to the guilds, anyway?” the ashtray with the pipe and the ridiculous hair asked.

“During these last seven years they never bothered with us, not even when we had troubles with the wizards of Twilight Ogre, ” The cowgirl said, next to her hubby.

“Kinana said the reward was a lot of money,” the little boy conbolt told, “I think they have been clever to seize the chance and take off,”

“They should’ve been more astute.” Titania declared, “They should’ve waited until morning to speak with the master and decide what to do on the matter!”

That hot-head Salamander had tongues of fire coming out of his mouth, “What were they thinking, huh?! I should’ve gone instead of them! NOW I’M GETTING ALL FIRED UP!”

“Shut it, Natsu! what happened at Galuna Island hadn’t taught you anything?!” Ice boy glared.

“Grey-Sama is always so wise!” Juvia moaned all sweet, “Juvia totally agrees with him!”

Pyro was not of the same mind, though, “Do you want a piece of me, ice cube?!”

“And if I did, what are you gonna do about it, Dragon boy?!”

Before the two morons could get more worked up about it, Titania stepped up between them, “Quit it! We have already enough to think about without you two starting another useless fight! Our main dilemma is to track them down and bring all the three of them back to the guild.”

Lily was floating above him, watching the scene with careful eyes, “What’s it all about? What are they saying?”

“Haven’t you heard?” Mirajane said turning towards them, “Late last night the communication Lacrima delivered a request... From the Magic Council.”

Gajeel’s eyes widened in surprise, “Are you kidding me?!”

Lily floated down beside her, “Since when the Magic Council sends requests to the guilds?”

“Kinana called early this morning, as soon as she finished her night shift,” She sighed, “The fact is, someone was already there at that hour to claim the quest before she could call Master Makarov to take care of the matter.”

“Who did? Who claimed the quest?” Lily asked.

“You see, it was Le-“

Before she could utter another word, a sharp cry came from the two clowns; the ginger grasshopper and the fatty with the plant ponytail were sobbing together in a corner and Gajeel understood.

“I can’t believe Levy left in the middle of the night without us!” that fat-ass Droy sobbed grossly.

“What had even happened?! When we left her, last night she was working on her translations, as usual – and now--now she’s gone?! Again!” the ginger speedster Jet hissed through gritted teeth.

Gajeel stiffened.

Pantherlily looked down at him, “You know what? Mirajane seems busy, I’ll go get you something. You want a bowl of screws? I’ll get you a bowl of screws. Are you hungry? I’m starving.”and with that, the cat darted into the air winging up at the bar, clearly eager to hear more about the gossip other than to get breakfast.

Damn cat.

Although, Gajeel would never admit it out loud, but he wanted to hear more, too. Something in his mind had clicked when Laki said ‘fairy blue’ and he immediately knew something was off. Gajeel’s eyes had searched the hall, expecting to find a mop of blue hair fluffing out from behind the cover of a book, but the shrimp was nowhere to be seen.

“Kinana,”the Titania roared, “Tell us what happened.”

The purple-haired barmaid had all eyes on her. “W-when the request was delivered only Levy and Wendy were there at that hour. ” The girl said, cowering a little at Titania’s commanding tone.

“Why was Wendy there, though?” Bunny girl asked.

Mirajane stepped up, “She came to the Guildhall late in the evening to cheek the request board, but the jobs were all already taken, so I allowed her to sit by the communication Lacrima to wait for a delivery,” the she-devil explained, “When I left she was still waiting.”

“She fell asleep in the back,” Kinana went on, “I was about to submit Levy’s latest completed work back to her client, while she offered to walk Wendy and Carla back to Fairy Hills. That’s when the Magic Council’s request was delivered, and they accepted the task.”

Gajeel cursed through gritted teeth. Dammit, shrimp! What are ya up to? He felt a twinge guilt rising in his guts, thinking how harshly he turned away from her, the night before, like an asshole. He bit the guilt back down as The hall rang to the sounds of murmurs and mutters.

“Levy went on a mission so important all of her own, taking Wendy and Carla instead of us!” Jet blurted out.

“We are supposed to be a team!” Droy whined, “Why did she do that?! We would have followed her everywhere!”

“Cut it off with your whining, both of you!”Elfman warned, “It’s not manly! Maybe she had finally had enough of you two and decided she was better off with a dragon slayer.”

Gajeel felt something rising in his guts again, but it was not guilt, this time. It was realization. If had stayed with her, last night, accepting her propose to team up, he would have been with her, now.

Pantherlily came flying back to him, slipping past Elfman and Nab. He was carrying a bowl of Kiwis and another with shining, tasty screws for him. When the black cat floated down onto the table, his sharp feline eyes told him that he was thinking the same thing.

“How to blame her?” the cat smirked, pushing the bowl of screws towards him, “She must have thought that some dragon slayers are better than others.”

“Sharrap!” Gajeel glared at the cat and tossed a handful of screws into his mouth, chewing hard into the metal.

“It doesn’t sound quite like Levy, though...” Cana pondered, swirling her whiskey shot.

“Well,” The fancy pants with the sword sighed, “That was rather below the belt. Especially from Levy. She claimed the mission for herself and took off into the black of the night, leaving her own teammates behind. Rather out of character of her, indeed.”

The sieth freak wagged out his tongue, “Fancy that! The request she claimed had a reward worthy of an S-class mission! Quite the fox that script mage.” His creepy dolls swarmed about him, “Fox! Fox! Fox!” they echoed.

“Fox? Get her!” the fairy with the stone-cold stare cried, waving her fan close to her face, “I think her silly and stupid.”

“You’re harsh, Ever.”Bickslow moaned. His dolls floated above him, “Harsh! Harsh! Harsh!” they cried.

Cana glared at the woman, “Levy’s not stupid, nor silly!”

“I’m just saying. Why would she leave on the middle of the night, taking the little girl and her cat with her? as if throwing a fit.” She waved her fan back and forth, “I mean, could she even do that? A request delivered from the Magic Council with such a mighty reward would have been ranked as an S-class mission, surely?”

“It wasn’t,” Kinana spoke up, “It was ranked as an ordinary type wizard mission.” The barmaid lowered her eyes, “I couldn’t exactly stop her from claiming the job.”

“You should have.” Titania stated.

The purple-haired girl shyed away, “S-she was determined. You see... Levy seemed t-troubled...”

“Troubled?”

“Y-yeah.”

That caught the attention of the clowns. Jet and Droy looked up at the barmaid, “What do you mean?” they cried in unison.

“Well... She...” Gajeel had a bad feeling about it as Kinana’s eyes searched the hall. Once she found him, he squared up in a silent threat. Keep your mouth shut, Barmaid. He told her with his gaze and the girl turned away shyly, “She had asked Gajeel to partner up and he refused.”

Shit.

“What?!” The crowd gasped in unison.

Fucking snitch. It was Gajeel’s turn to have all eyes on him, now. He squared his shoulders and tossed some more screws into his mouth in a lazy manner. “What, you morons?”

Levy’s loverboys turned towards him, dark in the face, “You punk! What did you say to Levy?!”

Gajeel gave a shrug, “I have no idea what are ya talkin’ about. I didn’t told her nothin’.” He lied, “She asked me and my cat to partner up and I refused. No big deal.”

The two clowns stood in front of him, looming over his table, as if they could actually be a threat to the iron dragon slayer, “Why would she even ask to partner up with you of all people, anyway?!”

Gajeel couldn’t repress a smirk. Oh, it burns, doesn’t it, loverboys? “That’s none of your business, guys.”

Jet’s face went red, while Droy’s turned pale. “None of our business?!” the fatty chocked out.

Jet slammed his hands on the table, leaning his head down to look closely at Gajeel’s face. “Levy’s our team leader, whatever you metal-head said to her is our business indeed!”

“Too bad,” Gajeel stood, towering above the speed mage. Jet stood just an inch shy of six feet tall, while Gajeel stood one inch prouder than that, but he made that inch count for ten, squaring his shoulders. “Shrimp doesn’t seem to feel this way about you two morons,” He smirked wickedly, displaying his sharp fangs, “Since she took off into the night, taking the little girl and her kitty-cat instead of you.”

Jet and Droy stared. They were angry, oh yeah, he could almost smell it. Angry with the jealous rage of two men in love. Something possessive and greedy settled in his guts and Gajeel suddenly wanted to rub it in that their precious girl had ran after him, close to begging him to be her partner. He bet he could really get them worked up, then... He bit back the instinct. Gajeel was many things, but never once he had felt the need to stoop so low just to gloat with tools such as these guys. What the heck is wrong with me? Why am I getting so bent out of shape, for?

Gajeel’s hand ghosted at his pocket, feeling the hard bump inside it and bit off his tongue.

Pantherlily came flying up beside him. “Now you struck a nerve, Gajeel.” The black cat whispered, as if reading his thoughts. Gajeel growled and turned away from the two guys.

“Hey, don’t you think you can back off, now, you screw-loose!” Salamander shouted.

Gajeel growled again, newly prickled and turned around to face the other dragon slayer, “Like I give a damn what ya think, hot head!”

“Oh, wonderful, here we go!” Cana spat, rolling her eyes, grabbing her whiskey glasses, careful not to spill them before getting away from the two dragon slayers.

“So? What did you tell Levy to get her to leave in the middle of the night?! Spit it out, rust-bucket!”

 “Are ya thick, ya flames for brains?! I said I told her nothin’!” Gajeel shouted, hoping the barmaid would dare not tattle some more. Then the crowd would buzz more than it was already buzzing.

“Enough! Both of you!” Titania rumbled, coming up towards them, “It’s useless mulling over whenever or not Levy, Wendy and Carla left in a fit. We must find them and bring them back. Let’s not forget they’re dealing with the Council. We cannot let them go through with this.” She turned towards the barmaid, “Kinana, do you know where they were directed to?”

The girl shook her head, “I don’t know where they were supposed to meet the clients. Levy sent me to deliver their application before they could tell. When I got back, they were already gone and took the flyer with them.”

“That won’t do,” Erza pondered, “Should we contact the Council to find out where they had gotten to, we might run the risk of compromising them, and the reputation of our guild would be in danger. No. We ought to track them down by ourselves before something goes amiss.”

“No.” A voice called amongst the crowd. “No one is going to interfere with Levy’s quest.”

Gajeel did not heard him coming. The old man slipped through the wizards assembled around the bar, coming up towards them. “We would stay here and wait for them to come back, after they’ll have accomplished their mission.”

“But Master, the Council--”

Makarov raised a wrinkled hand, “The Council is the Council, I know, Erza. But Levy was entitled to claim the quest as her own, and to bring with her whomever she wanted.” He glanced up between Gajeel, Jet, and Droy as he said that, and the three men turned their heads away in resignation. “We have no right to meddle in her decisions.”

“But gramps--” Salamander begun.

“Oh, you shut up, Natsu.”

Bunny girl walked closer to the master, looking fit to cry, “But Master, it isn’t like Levy to leave like that,” She whined, “Maybe she didn’t even realized what she had gotten herself into!”

Makarov gave her a look, “C’mon, Lucy. I know my Levy and you do, too. Most likely she knows more than you did, girl, when you left for Galuna Island with Natsu, don’t you think, umm?”

Bunny girl blushed to the tips of her ears and retreated in shame, “Yeah, you got a point...”

Makarov sighed, “Amongst all my children, Levy is surely the one who has yet to prove herself,” He declared for all the guild to hear. “True, she might have left in a haste, given the circumstances, but I don’t blame her, and neither you should. Don’t mistake her sudden decision for poor judgment. I personally think this as a step forward for her, and I wish her and Wendy a successful return.”

“So, do you trust she’ll accomplish the mission, Master?” Freed wanted to know.

“With all my heart.”

“Yes!” Jet nodded vehemently, wiping his tears, “We trust her too! It doesn’t matter Levy didn’t brought us with her, we trust her completely!”

“Yeah!” Droy agreed, “Levy’s brave and clever, she and Wendy will manage! She would never give up or step down from a fight!”

Oh. Gajeel turned away, sitting back down at his table, giving his back to the others. So you haven’t told ‘em, yet, have you, shrimp? They’ve been boasting ‘bout you, they’ve been sighing ‘bout you and you haven’t told them that you have given up the S-class trial for good? That’s not nice, short stuff.

He looked around the hall, and judging by the looks the others shared as the two clowns gloated endlessly about their precious Blue, it seemed like they knew better than to ‘fess up and spill the uncomfortable truth. Gajeel sighed and tossed some more screws into his his mouth, crunching loudly. Well, he wasn’t gonna break it to them, either. That was shortie’s business. If she didn’t want to tell the truth to her own teammates, he had no business meddling with it. If she wanted to leave on her own in the middle of the night, taking the little girl and her kit with her, fine. It ain’t his problem.

‘I – I thought you told me not to leave your side again!’

Dammit. The guilt was back and there was no way to bite the bugger back down, now. That shrimp sure knew how to cause lots of troubles for someone so small. Man, he was really getting bent out of shape over nothing.

Gajeel slammed a fist onto the table, almost making Lily drop his slice of kiwi, “Pack up, we’re leaving.”

Lil tilted his head to one side, “huh? Where to?”

“Whenever that half pint went. We’re gonna find her, and the little girl, too.”

“Oh? Is that so, huh? Haven’t you heard what Master Makarov had just said?”

“Like I give a damn. I want to get to that small fry before she gets herself in some serious troubles.”

Lily smirked, his whiskers twitching, “Sorry to burst your bubble, Gajeel, but may I remind you, you rejected that opportunity just last night?”

Gajeel gritted his teeth, “Listen, cat...”

“Why did you do that, by the way?” he wanted to know, “You behaved like an asshole. I don’t remember you acting so coarse when you so boldly proclaimed yourself Levy’s companion for the S-class trial...”

“I-I just changed my damn mind, alright?!”

“...No to mention protecting her almost to death...”

“It-it isn’t--”

“... But of course, the mighty Iron dragon slayer has no time to deal with tiny script mages, right?”

Gajeel growled, “Listen, Lil, I told ya what the deal was between me and the shrimp when you joined the guild, didn’t I?”

The cat’s muzzle went serious, “You did,” he acknowledged, “that’s why I don’t understand what’s the catch?”

“Well the catch is...” his hand went at his pocket where that thing was still in there, but he jerked it away before Lily could notice, “... I-I can’t tell ya, that’s the catch!”

“Ah, ” Lily spat, “You can’t tell me a great many things...”

Gajeel hissed. His business with Master Makarov and his little game of double play with Master Ivan was getting too shady even for him, and Gajeel was starting to have an hard time keeping it on the down low. But this was another matter entirely, and he couldn’t just spit it out, damn him!

“I’ll tell ya, Lil,” he promised, “I’ll tell ya when the time is right, I swear.”

The black exceed regarded him seriously, “Alright. But I have to tell you; what makes you think Levy will want to see you if you go after her, now?”

Gajeel arched a pierced brow, “What do ya mean?”

“I mean, after your behavior, last night – whatever were your reasons – I wouldn’t be surprised if she’d hit you in the face with her bag if you’d showed up, now. “

“Oh, you would like that, wouldn’t you, cat?” he rasped.

“I’d love it!” Lily replied, “Not only that, I’d tip my hat to her if she did, and of course, if I had a hat.”

Gajeel rolled his eyes, “Yeah, yeah, tough luck on that. She won’t have the chance to hit me when I’ll toss her over my shoulder and bind her wrists and ankles with iron. Even if I have to drag her back to the guild.”

Lily gave him a sidelong look, “Is that so, Gajeel?”

“What?”

“I never thought with your sensitive dragon ears you would be so deaf. So you really didn’t hear a word the Master said?”Lily smirked, “Or it might be you are just thick.”

“Oi..."

Lily sighed, “So you really don’t see it, do you? Levy doesn’t want anyone to bring her back. Why do you think she left in the middle of the night? As Cana said, it isn’t like her to act the way she did. Probably she was concerned about the reaction of the others, and judging by all that was said earlier, she was right. And you!” the exceed pointed an accusing claw at him, “Would be no better if you go after her, now.”

“Times are tough. It’s not safe for the shrimp to meddle with the Council’s business.” Gajeel tossed a handful of screws into his mouth, chewing hard, “Idiot! What was she thinking?!”

Pantherlily rolled his eyes, “It didn’t even crossed your mind that she might have left so suddenly, not even saying where she was directed to, because of you?”

Gajeel’s eyes narrowed at the cat, “Huh?! What are ya talking about?”

Lily sighed, exasperated, “You know? I’m not like you, Gajeel. I talk to the people around here, and I hear what they have to say. Rumour has it, You were there to save Levy in multiple occasions... Probably you don’t know because you were pretty beaten up at the time, but on Tenrou Levy had fought tooth and nail to protect you. And last night, when she asked you to team up, I think she was trying to prove her value to herself and to you.” The exceed shot him a look, “but you rejected her, like an asshole.”

Gajeel growled at him, turning his head away, gnawing on his screws. Damn cat.

“So, don’t you see?” Lily went on, “She left without a word of warning because she wants to succeed all of her own and if you go after her, now you’ll undermine her efforts and hurt her. I know you’re feeling guilty—don’t you even try to deny it. You’re feeling guilty and you know it! That’s why if you want to make things right with her you’ll have to stay and wait for her and Wendy to come back from their mission. Even if you’re worried sick.”

The dragon slayer grunted, “What are ya sayin’? I’m not worried -- I... I’m not worried.” He repeated vehemently. His hand went to ghost at his pocket, touching the cold, hard weight inside. I’m just confused.

 

                                                          _____________________________________

 

 

 

 

 

“The translations of the book of Fay are reported to go no further than twenty pages. At least, that’s what lieutenant Brock said. I suppose it is a different text to decipher. I wonder if I could do that. I bet I could that!” Levy was rambling on and on since Wendy had the idea of asking her if she was excited about having the task of retrieving such an ancient and rare book.

“How do we turn her off?” Carla whispered in her ear as she rolled her eyes at the Solid Script mage lost in her reverie.

Wendy sighed, huffing out a laugh, “Ah! Levy’s always been enthusiastic and upbeat, especially when there’s talk of books.”

For nearly one hour the three of them had been walking in the woods in the direction Brock and Erik had pointed them to, searching for the hot spot where the castle was predicted to appear.

“I don’t like these woods,” Carla said sniffing the air as she floated up above them, “They smell funny.”

Wendy smelled them, too. It was a sharp scent. Similar to the one of rotting flowers that left one wonder how blooms so perfumed could ever smell so foul.

“It’s probably the magic trail Brock was talking about earlier.” Levy said turning and giving them a careless smile. She was walking foward down the path. Her big brown eyes alert as a fawn’s, looking for the hot spot in the woods.

Levy smelled too. Wendy pondered. Everyone smelled of something. Everyone felt emotions and every emotion had a scent. She could sniff a great variety of emotions on the blue-haired script mage; excitement, curiosity, fear, anger, uncertainty and a great surge of something Wendy’s couldn’t quite place. Not really an emotion, but more like a wish, a desire.

It was something that was quite new to sniff on Levy, who usually smelt of happiness and lust for life and a certain mischief that was quite becoming on her, not counting her own scent. If every emotion had a smell, then every individual had their own separate scent. Lucy smelled of flowers, of daisies and roses. Natsu smelled like the crackling of a fire, with a heavy hint of smoke, but also like something clean and fresh like summer wind. Erza smelled of strawberry, much to her delight when Wendy had confessed it to the equipe mage. Gray’s scent was sharp and brisk, like the stillness in the cold air before snow. Carla, Happy and Lily smelled pretty much the same - though she would never tell her own exceed or else! – like powder and sugar, a sweet, comforting smell. Gajeel smelled of metal, of course. But also something more earthy like sandalwood... And his usual metallic scent carried in a hint of – well yes, something metallic indeed – a bit of blood. Levy had a fruity scent of grapefruit and oranges, but also of that lovely smell of old books in old libraries.

“What does it smell like? Is it redolent? ” Levy asked, , snapping Wendy away from her own reverie.

“What? – Oh, yes. Like rotting flowers.” Sometimes Wendy would forget that only the exceeds and the dragon slayers were able to sniff the scents of magic.

“Listen, Levy,” Wendy begun uncertainly, “How are we going to find the book? Tsubasa and Brock said they inspected every hall of the castle without finding it. How could it be different for us? I have already been trapped in an inescapable dimension with Natsu, and we couldn’t get out, no matter how much we tried.”

“It will be different, because it’s not an inescapable dimension.” Levy replied.

“What?” Wendy lifted her eyes to look at her. The Solid Script mage walked foward, keeping her eyes intent on the path, “How?”

“The lieutenants told us that whenever they attempted to search the castle they went from hall to hall, climbing and descending until they found themselves back outside the gates. Now, if lieutenant Laszlo Slade is currently in possession of the Book of Fay, then most likely this kind of concealment magic is his own doing. And this seemingly abandoned castle seems to me some sort of dimensional maze. Built for the purpose of keeping intruders away instead of keeping them trapped.”

“A dimensional maze, you say?” Carla asked, “How can you be sure?”

Levy laughed softly, a little sheepish, “Well, I had brought some books with me, and when the lieutenants told us what they saw I did a little research.”

Carla rolled her eyes, “That’s what you were reading, staying up so late last night?”

“Yeah, I couldn’t help myself.”

“Why? If he was cursed?” Wendy wanted to know.

Levy turned to look at her, “I’m afraid the more we find out about it, the more Tsubasa’s suspicions seem to be well-founded. Every turn up of this quest seem to lead to the conclusion that Laszlo must have found something in the book that he valued much and decided to flee with it.”

Wendy sulked, “So, he really is a traitor, then.”

Carla floated down beside Wendy, “Then why build a magical castle in the middle of the forest?”

A thoughtful frown puckered Levy’s forehead, “... I – I suppose... I suppose he found himself tracked down by his own companions and decided to use the spells contained in the book to avoid capture... He must have found himself cornered and decided to resume his work on the book to find some more spells to escape, at last. Surely, having the castle disappear and reappear at different times and in different places had given him some time to avoid being located.”

Carla’s eyes narrowed at the script mage, “You seem sure of your deduction. What made you think of that?”

Levy turned back towards the path, eyes sightlessly fixed on the trees beyond. but Wendy saw she was looking so much foward. Inside her own mind. “He’s a Solid Script mage like me, isn’t he?” she said at last, “If I were in his shoes, I would have done the same thing.”

Wendy and Carla shared a look. That was a curious thing to hear coming from Levy.

They walked deeper into the woods, walking down the path Brock had indicated for them to follow, trying to locate the castle. The faint smell of rotting flowers was becoming more potent and sharp in her nostrils.

“We are close, I can smell it.” Carla said.

“It won’t be long, now.” Levy nodded. She was walking a few feet ahead of them while Wendy and Carla trailed behind.

“She’s still wearing that hat.” The white exceed whispered, glancing at Levy’s cowgirl clothes up and down.

Wendy gave a soft shaky laugh, “Yeah, I suppose Bisca got a little too carried away with her hand-me-downs.”

“I see, but what’s with the hat, though? She didn’t had to wear it.”

“I suppose she didn’t want to disappoint Bisca,” She gave a shrug, “I think she looks cute.”

Carla frowned, “I think she looks silly.”

The sky dragon slayer and her exceed followed the Script mage down deeper into the undergrowth, dodging low branches and ankles deep into the tall grass. Levy led the way walking ahead of them, while Wendy was having a little trouble with the hem of her dress caught in a thorny bush. She was fussing with the fabric, careful not to tear it when Carla suddenly went still in the air above her.

“Wendy...”

“One moment, Carla. I got stuck.”

“Wendy, I...”

Wendy released her dress from the thorns and dusted off the skirt, looking up at her exceed, “Done. What is it, Carla... Carla!”

The white exceed was floating mid-air, barely flapping her wings to keep herself up. Her tilted brown eyes staring sightlessly ahead.

“Carla! Are you having a vision?” when the kit did not answer, Wendy reached out and picked her from the air, “Carla, please. What is it? Answer me, please!”

Carla blinked, eyes still hazy. She turned to look at Wendy, “It’s Levy...”

“Levy? What did you see? What is going to happen to Levy?”

The white exceed blinked again, scowling thoughtfully, “I don’t know... All I could see was Levy surrounded by a glow of light. It was so bright, so blinding I-I couldn’t see a thing! It almost felt like a wash of holy light.”

Wendy’s brow furrowed in confusion, “Holy Light? Could you not see anything else?”

Carla shook her little white head and turned to look at her in the eyes, “I think something terrible is going to happen to Levy.”

“There you are! I thought you might have gotten lost.” Levy said suddenly coming up from behind a tree, “C’mon now, we’re not far – wait, what’s the matter?” she asked, taking in the two’s perplexed expressions.

Wendy blinked, “ Ah! We were just... We were-“

“We were just trying to get Wendy’s dress out of thorns,” Carla said promptly, giving her a knowing look, “Seriously Wendy! How bothersome.”

“Yes!”Wendy nodded vehemently, recovering from her haze, “I got stuck.”

Levy smiled a little uncertainly, clearly puzzling over why Wendy should apologize for getting stuck in a bush, “Well, then. Let’s go.”

She turned on her heels and disappeared beyond a tree. Wendy and Carla shared a look and followed. They ventured even deeper into the forest. The scent of rotting flowers was now overwhelming, but all Wendy could think about was Carla’s vision. A shiver went down her spine. She was troubled, she didn’t want anything bad to happen to Levy, but she knew that Carla’s premonitions were always correct, as they had been on Tenrou Island.

“Hey, Levy,” she called uncertainly, “ I-I was wondering... how does your magic work exactly? You write a word – every word you want and it just appears in front of you?”

Levy turned to her, eyes bright and a flush of pleasure on her cheeks, “Oh, well, yes! Partly. Of course my magic, as anyone’s else, has its own limits and rules.” She explained, clearly pleased by Wendy’s question, “For example, should I conjure a spell for ‘water’ or ‘fire’ or ‘iron’ they would appear in the shape I want them to appear, but there are more intricate spells for Solid Script magic that are more powerful and battle-oriented than my own magic.”

“For example?”

“For example; when on Tenrou Island Gajeel and I were ambushed by Yomazu, an Orient Script mage, and his partner. Thanks to his peculiar magic, he was able to conjure spells written in Japanese characters that had multiple meanings, therefore, his attacks were more powerful.”

“And what about your peculiarities? Is there... Is there something that you can’t do with your magic?” Wendy asked, keeping her voice steady while Carla above her was scowling and warningly mouthing the word ‘no’.

If Levy was surprised by the sudden question she hid it well, “Of course my magic allows me to conjure up every word I write, but it does have its limits. You see, if I were to write the word ‘heal’ it wouldn’t have any affect because I don’t have healing properties magic like you do, Wendy. While instead, I could use my spell for protection like with my shield spell or my guard spell. Another example is, should I find myself in front of a locked door, I could use fire to burn it down or a ram to shatter it into splinters, but I couldn’t just write the word ‘key’ to open it, because I wouldn’t possibly know the shape of the actual key, you see?”

“Yes, I think I understand.” Wendy said, fiddling awkwardly with her fingers, “Would you be able to conjure a spell for... Let’s just say a glow of light?”

Levy turned, “glow of light?”

Suddenly, the air around them became more heavy, the scent of rotting flowers, now was a stench in Wendy’s flared nostrils, more potent than a drug. A crack of a thunder coming from the soil underneath their feet was everything they saw before a beam of purple light blinded them and forced them to cover their eyes... When they opened them again, there it stood, ancient and in ruin, with no windows, nor towers to be seen, coiled like a sleeping grey dragon, where before there were only trees and the endless forest beyond.

“W-where... Where did it came from?” Wendy breathed, gaping in awe at the stone castle.

“Well, it was as the lieutenants told us,” Levy said, “It appears wherever and whenever it pleases.”

“At least it doesn’t walk.” Carla commented.

Levy eyed the front gate, the only apparent entrance of the castle. “So, here we are, at last,” She turned to her and Carla with a glint of determination in her big brown eyes, “Are you ready?”

Wendy put a starch in her spine, “I am.”

Carla winged up between the two girls, “I have a bad feeling about this.”

“What are you saying, Carla? We came all this way.”

“I’m not saying we should turn around and give up, Wendy. I’m just saying... We ought to be careful.”

Levy nodded, “We will. Now. Let’s go.”

When they reached the threshold, together, they pushed the door open and stepped inside. The gate closed shut behind them with a loud thud that made the two girls almost jump in surprise. They found themselves in an anteroom of stone walls. The light was dim, as if the sun was slanting through the windows, which was odd, since there were no windows to be seen from the outside. On each wall there were three different doors, waiting to be opened.

“Now what?” Wendy asked, looking at Levy, “Should we chose one door each?”

Levy stared at the three closed door in front of them. Forehead puckered in a thoughtful scowl and lips slightly parted, “I... I don’t know,” She said, “Probably we’ll have more chances. Tsubasa and the others told us they went through every door and climbed and descended every stair, despite the fact the castle has no towers nor apparent second floor. This maze must follow a precise logic, and if I’m right...”

Levy extended her right arm, rising her index and middle finger. Golden sparks of her magic energy erupted from her fingertips, she called, “Solid Script: Markings!” A luminous path apperead in front of them, in a pattern of encircled V’s followed by glowing periods. “This path will keep track of our movements, so we will be able to retrace our step as we go further and locate each other around the castle.”

“Now,” Carla spoke up, “Which door do we chose?”

Without hesitation Levy pointed a finger, “I’ll take the one in the middle.”

Wendy nodded, “I’ll pick the one on the left.”

Carla scowled, “We are picking the one on the left.”

“Carla, there are three doors, we have to split.”

“I don’t like it,” her exceed said vehemently, “Didn’t I just warned you? we ought to be careful, I’m not leaving you alone.”

“Carla...” Wendy pleaded, “Please, if only one of us has a chance to find the book we have to risk it.”

The white kit wriggled up her nose, “Fine,” she unfolded her soft white wings and took the air, “But if something looks fishy, I’ll get back for you and we are leaving this maze immediately!” she flew towards the ramaining door, the one on the right, “Are you two coming or not? Today, girls!” without hesitation, Carla went through.

Wendy and Levy shared a look, and went after her. With one last glance at the Solid Script mage, Wendy disappeared beyond the door on the left, closing it behind her.

 

 

 

                                                      _______________________________________

 

 

Beyond the door in the middle, Levy found another room exactly like the one she just came from, with the same stone walls and the same three doors. Levy looked down, her spell was unchanged, her glowing path was trailing behind her. Again, she went through the middle one, wondering if Wendy and Carla were coming across the same doors as they followed their own route. Did they choose to go through the same door, or are they picking a different one? Thrice she went through the middle door and thrice she found herself in the very same room, until, the fourth time Levy came upon the three doors, there was a stair on the left, leading up.

“Mmmm...” she hummed, musing to herself as she tapped a finger on her chin. She glanced between the three doors and the steps, until she made her choice. From the outside this castle looks like a one-story building, why would it have stairs?

Through the middle she went, again, and again, and again, and again, and again. She found more steps going up and going down, but Levy ignored them all and continued through the middle door. She thought of Wendy and Carla; had they met stairs as well on their path? Did they climbed up? Did they climbed down? Levy hoped they were alright. Maybe splitting up had been a mistake, maybe the white exceed should have had remained with her dragon slayer. Levy went through halls wide and narrow, luminous and dim, but she always choose the middle door. Her magic path trailed behind her like the tail of a comet, hot and glowing on her heels. Stepping into yet another middle door, Levy found herself in a room of nothing but darkness, darkness.

Panic gripped at her throat like an iron chain. This one is different. She thought as she stepped into the blackness of it. Levy had always been afraid of the dark, ever since she was a kid. How many nights she had woken up frightened by a terrible nightmare, crawling up in bed with Jet and Droy and they always wordlessly and sleepily snuggled up to her, and together, all three of them curled about each other like a litter of kittens. She glanced behind her shoulders, the golden brightness of her magic markings was still following her, allowing her a little glowing relief as she advanced blindly, shivering and stumbling into the darkness. The hall went on and on, grey shadows danced in her vision as her eyes adjusted to the black emptiness, casting soft, veiled shades. The deeper Levy ventured, the sharper became the grey shades of the rows of stone columns of the walls and arcaded ceiling , and she noticed that the sudden dimness became brighter and brighter every trembling step she took, until it revealed a long corridor. At the end of it, stood a a shapeless silhouette, advancing slowly into her direction.

Levy stopped in her tracks, frozen in place. Her heart in her throat, beating like a drum. The distant figure stopped too.

“... Wendy?” she called tentatively, voice feebler than a whisper.

No answer. The figure kept standing still at the other side of the long corridor, too far away from her to recognize a face.

Hesitantly, Levy lifted an arm and started waving at the blurred shape, exhaling an audible gasp when the figure started waving too, and again it stilled as Levy stilled with her arm up. She dropped it to her side, and the figure followed suit. Intrigued, she advanced further, squeezing her eyes to get a a better look – it wasn’t quite so bright for her to distinguish a tangible shape. The silhouette moved too, striding foward towards her. As she got closer and closer, Levy glimpsed a flurry of short blue hair... Her own hair!

A mirror? Why would there be a mirror in a dimensional maze? Releasing a shaky huff, Levy strode foward, staring at her own reflection as she advanced further. The mirror seemed to be so far, but as Levy walked on, she perceived a slight raise on the the floor beneath her feet, and suddenly, she was all the way across the long hall, in front of the mirror, her reflection staring back at her.

“Forced perspective,” she said out loud, “That’s more likely for a dimensional maze.” Glancing around, taking in more of her surroundings, Levy noticed that the number of stone columns had considerably diminished as she went on, creating an optical illusion of a corridor so much longer than it really was.

“Architecture magic,” Levy said, touching the cold glass of the mirror, where her and her reflections’s fingers met, divided by the transparent surface, “Intricate spell, but why bother building up a room like that in a concealing dimension?” She kept touching the glass tentatively, feeling for a secret door, a passage, something. Her reflection stared back at her in her fumbling, but as she looked closer... Something was wrong.

Her reflection stared at her with her brown eyes. Those were her hair, yes. Cerulean short locks flurred tousled on her head... The image in the mirror was not wearing Bisca’s hat...All her clothes were wrong!

Her reflection was wearing white trousers short to her knees, a yellow bikini and a blue vest. On her bare stomach, painted in leaking black, there was the insignia of Phantom Lord guild. Her image in the glass stared with hard eyes, suddenly, she reached out a hand breaking through the mirror, closing her hand around Levy’s throat before she could scream.

“Don’t you remember, Levy?” the reflection snarled with her own voice as she brought her face close to hers, squeezing her neck hard. Mirror Levy crawled out of the glass, “Have you forgotten?” she screeched, her lips prim as her body became a constellation of bruises and scratches. A wound opened above her brow, ruby gems spilled red down her eyes, her cheeks, as if she was weeping blood. Claw marks opened down her hip to her right leg, soaking her white trousers, dripping blood down her knees. Levy watched in horror, unable to scream nor breath as her twisted reflection gripped her neck firmly, choking the air out of her. Her hands jerked up, trying to pull free from her image’s grasp. Her fingers closed around her wrist and found it bound in iron clasps, as were the forearms and the shoulders of her counterpart. What kind of sorcery is this?

“No – “ Levy managed to choke out before her reflection gripped at her throat more firmly, bringing down the bloody mask of her face close to hers, her very same face.

“Do you want to cry for help? Isn’t it what you always do? That night... And the night he did this to us, to our friends. And again, on Tenrou... You are so weak,” Mirror Levy spat, “Always crying for help.”

Levy squirmed, trying with all her strength to pull free, to force open the fingers at her throat, scratching and pinching at the closed hand, “No!” she squealed pulling free enough to speak, “That’s past – it doesn’t matter anymore! Gajeel...”

“Gajeel!” the twisted reflection mocked as she squeezed her neck again, “See? You can’t help it, you’re too weak,” her fingers closed more firmly, clawing at the soft flesh of her throat, drawing blood, “Well, go ahead – cry for help! Cry for your iron dragon! But ask yourself this – when he comes, is he the savior or the threat?”

“Noooo!” Levy convulsed, digging her fingers hard into the closed hand at her throat, precious air coming out of her in short, choked pants.

“Have you forgotten, Levy?” the twisted reflection snarled, “Have you forgotten what it feels like to be crucified?”

Hot tears ran down her eyes, her cheeks. Levy lowered one hand, catching a firm hold on the satch fastened across her shoulder and slammed it down hard the arm holding her, braking free of the hand at her throat. She stumbled backwards, hitting briefly the floor before she kicked back to her feet, turning away, running back from where she came, running and painting and coughing and crying in darkness until she found the door again and flung herself through.

Levy slammed the door closed, pressing herself on it, falling down to her knees, trying to catch her breath. One hand crept at her neck, trying to feel the damage, but when she touched it, she didn’t feel dampness. Retreating her fingers, she saw no blood. There weren’t any bruises on her neck, and her breath came out on a steady rhythm. What kind of magic is this? Was it an illusion?

A hand touched her shoulder and Levy screamed. Wendy’s hands closed around her shoulders, soothing her, “Shh, it’s alright, Levy. It’s us.”

Carla was floating above the dragon slayers head, “Are you alright, Levy? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

“Look at her, Carla. She’s terrified. Levy, what happened? What did you see?”

“Wendy,” Levy breathed, stilling, “What... How did you find me?”

Wendy glanced briefly beneath Levy’s feet where her glowing path had stopped, “Coming through one of the doors we found your glowing markings, we followed until they brought us to you.”

“How did you managed to find each other?”

Wendy blushed and ducked her head, she then, glanced up at her exceed. Carla looked down at the two girls below, crossing her little white paws against her chest, “What? Did you seriously thought I was going to leave Wendy alone? Fat chance!”

“Carla!”

“No, it’s fine, Wendy,” Levy said, trying to suppress a shiver, “I’m glad you are together, splitting up was a bad idea.”

Carla observed her closely, “You saw something.” It wasn’t a question.

Levy hesitated. How to explain what she had just seen? She wasn’t even sure of what she really saw in that room. “Nothing,” she breathed at last, “It was just a dark corridor. Pitch black. I have always been afraid of the dark, ever since I was a kid...it bring back bad memories.” It wasn’t entirely a lie, but Levy agreed to herself that confessing a childish fear to the younger girl was less scary than try to explain what she saw at the other side of the door behind her back.

Wendy regarded her a moment, looking at her face with deep, big brown eyes, her nostrils flared softly and Levy realized she was sniffing her. Could dragon slayers smell the stench of lies? Wendy, then, nodded solemnly, looking so much older than her twelve years. “We are together, now,” she extended a hand and helped her to her feet, “no more splitting up. “

Levy nodded, grateful. The two mages and the exceed looked around; they were in a circular room, closed doors all around them and not a clue of which one to pick.

“Which one do we choose, now?” Carla wanted to know, landing of her dragon slayer’s head. Her soft, feathery wings folded at her sides.

Levy twirled, glancing around, all the doors looked exactly the same, ever since they stepped into the castle, “Have you found something, walking through the maze?”

Wendy shook her head, “Only closed doors.”

Carla shrugged, “Only Wendy.”

“No sign of the book, then,” Levy sighed, “nor of the thief.”

“And I’ll like to keep it that way, thank you very much.” Carla commented, tossing her head.

“Do you think Laszlo Slade is lurking around here?” Wendy asked, “If he casted the spell that built this place, why he still hadn’t come for us? He should know that we are coming.”

The exceed’s dark eyes narrowed, her wings flapped at her sides, “I consider it lucky that he still hasn’t found us, Wendy. We are also furtunate that the maze hasn’t brought all they way back outside yet, as it happened to the lieutenants. Don’t be ungrateful and don’t press our luck.”

The sky dragon lifted her head to regard her kit, “But Carla, how do we hope to find the Book of Fay if we can’t get the thief to find us?”

Levy pondered that a moment, “Not if we find him first!” she turned towards The dragon slayer and the exceed’s confused faces, “Wendy, can you smell any scent that could indicate us which door to pick?”

Wendy tilted her head to one side, pondering. She lifted her chin, her nostrils flared softly as she sniffed the air, “The smell of rotting flowers I smelt earlier is still very potent,” she told, “it must be because if the great amount of magic energy expended to built the castle, it’s almost overwhelming. I couldn’t even smell your scent as we where trying to locate you, earlier. If it hadn’t been for your markings – “ she stilled suddenly, turning towards a door behind her, “ – Wait, I smell something!”

“What is it?” asked Carla, shifting down into Wendy’s shoulder, her soft white tail curling in anticipation.

“It’s like...” Wendy bugun, sniffling closer to the door, “... A smell of old perched papers, but it’s faint.”

“The book!” Levy and Carla said in unison.

“That must be the right door!” Levy said, edgind closer to Wendy. She reached out a hand to the doorknob to pull it open...

Three soft knocks came from behind the door.

Levy froze in place, her hand poised. Behind, Wendy and Carla exhaled audible gasps, “What was that?” the dragon slayer questioned allarmed.

“A knock? Someone was knocking.” Levy didn’t dare move.

Another rap, three distinctive knocks.

Levy stirred, startled, her hand falling at her side. She retreated backwards until she felt Wendy’s little hands wrapping around her arm, “There’s someone behind that door!”

“Could it be the thief?” asked Carla, twitching her whiskers.

The Script mage stared at the closed door, horrified. She hoped it was the thief, for nothing in the world she wished to see that thing again...

Another sturdy rap, lauder and more frantic.

The three shuddered as one. Gulping, Levy edged shoulder to shoulder with the younger girl. Wendy’s fingers squeezed firmly in her arm, “Let’s choose another door.” The sky dragon slayer prompted, pulling at her arm.

Levy’s feet moved on her own accord, advancing towards the door, ignoring Wendy’s pleas to get back. Her body stiffened as she reached out her hand again, rigid fingers touched the doorknob. She held her breath, to win the fear as she pulled the door open all at once... There was nothing behind it. Nothing but an endless gallery basked in darkness. She stared frozen into the pitch black depth and then slammed the door shut before her mind would trick her into glimpsing strange shadows into the dark.

“There’s nothing there,” she panted, exhaling her breath, stepping back close to Wendy, “There’s absolutely nothing in there!”

Carla flapped her wings, “Then, who was knocking?”

One loud thump came from a door behind their back, making the two girls jump and cry and the exceed’s fur stand up all the way down her spine. The door shook, the hinges screeched, as if someone were trying to break through. Levy yelped, it was the same door she came from when she escaped from that thing. Suddenly, there was a sound of loud banging and the doorknob wriggled alarmingly. Someone or something was trying to get in.

“What is going on!?” Wendy cried.

“We have to get out of here,” Levy said, “We – “

There was a strange sound of banging within the walls, banging and scratching, and suddenly, all the other doors were thumping too, shooking and screeching horribly.

“We are trapped!” Carla said, her white tail furred up.

“Now!” Levy cried, “We have to get out, now!” grabbing Wendy’s hand, she made a run for it towards the nearest door. It kept shooking when she tried to push it open, but otherwise it remaid solid closed. Levy kept push and push, but it still didn’t move.

“It’s locked!” Wendy called behind her, “We should try another one!”

Levy pushed with all her strength until it dawned on her suddenly; the door shook from the other side... She had to pull! Levy pulled at the doorknob and the door opened in a screech. Eyes closed, she flung herself through, stumbling, falling to her knees. Catching her breath, her heart beating like a drum, she lifted her head and opened her eyes. The hall was wider than the others, no more of grey stone, but lavish and red and empty. No more doors to open or stairs to climb or descend. In the middle, stood a carved lectern of red wood.

“It can’t be it...”

Levy quickly got back to her feet and sprinted towards the lectern. The Book of Fay was a big tome, leather-bound and with cracked yellow pages, closed to her sight. The inscription upon the cover was unreadable to her, but it did not meant that she wouldn’t be able to decipher what was written inside.

“So, this it,” Levy breathed excitedly, taking a firm hold on the big tome, it was heavier than she had imagined, “This is it! We found it! We found the Book of Fay, we have accomplished our quest, Wendy, Carla! We can go back to the guild, we can pay our rents! Take a look at that, Wendy – “ Levy turned, and found herself alone in the hall, “ – Wendy? Carla?”

Levy glanced up, at the far end of the hall, the door was closed, she didn’t remember closing it behind her as she stepped through, and of Wendy and Carla there was no sign. A shiver went down her spine. They were right behind her, right? She remembered holding Wendy’s hand as she tried to push the door open...

‘It’s locked! We should try another one!’

No.

Levy put the book under her arm, taking a solid hold on it as she leaped back towards the door. She needed to find her friends and quickly. Before whatever she saw in the darkened corridor could find them, or worse. With some luck, they could have taken the right turn and the maze could have brought them all the way back outside, as it had happened to the lieutenants. Levy grabbed the doorknob, remembering at the last moment to push, this time, and not pull. She pushed the door open and froze in place.

A young boy with pale azure hair, almost white walked inside towards her, eyeing her curiously, “so soon? You are not supposed to be here, yet...”

Levy retreated backwards, ‘supposed to be...?’

The boy walked closer, “My, my, what an awful thing to do, to enter uninvited when the host is not home,” he extended his left hand, raising his middle and index, “Solid Script: storm!”

In one deft move, he wrote the spell, conjuring a potent wind that hurled Levy across the room, knocking over the wooden lectern as she went to roll down onto the floor. Levy was flat on her stomach, the book went flying out of her hands, landing with a loud thud on the ground. She raised her head and reached out towards it...

The boy with the pale azure hair walked slowly between Levy and the book, blocking the way. He looked down at her, tilting his head to one side as he regarded her with curiosity, “My, my, you found your way through my maze so quickly,” he said as he squatted in front of her, leaning on his elbows, “Your first attempt and you’re already here! I bet he wasn’t expecting it...”

Levy looked up at him, “He..?”

“Can’t wait to see his face when I’m telling him, My, my!” he glanced behind his shoulder, where the book was laying on the floor, “Oh? You want that, blue girl? Would you like to read it? I did! My, my the things that are written inside... Too bad you won’t be here to read them...” he was short of stature – Levy noticed, now that she could take him in better – closer to her own height. He was wearing a long, white coat of the Magic Council, similar to the other lieutenants’, but his was dirty, a worn out rag, torn at the edges. But the strangest thing about him were his eyes, one was brown, the other, pale blue.

“You’re lieutenant Laszlo Slade, aren’t you?” Levy panted.

“In the flesh! And you... .” Laszlo extended his left arm, raising his middle and index fingersz, “... You are Levy Mcgarden.”

Levy’s head shoot up, incredulous, “How – How...”

Laszlo smiled, silver beams erupting from his fingertips, “Solid Script: push!”

He wrote his spell quickly, too quick. She never heard that formula before. The word took shape in bright letters, turning into giant glowing hands, and she watched dumbstruck as they slammed down her body, unceremoniously shoving her away, sending her to roll accros the hall, until she landed with an undignified thump on the floor. More stunned than hurt, she rolled to her side, pushing herself on one elbow.

“What kind of kind of script is that? I never heard of that spell before.”

It was not a question directed towards her opponent but more of a worded thought, and yet Laszlo answered all the same, “The Book of Fay,” he told her, “Is a powerful tool and all mine. Even you could benefit from it, I think... My, my, but you won’t just have your chance, “He reached out his left hand, “Solid Script: fire!”

“Solid Script: water!”

The swift burning heatwave and the steady jet of water met halfway, destroying each other in a hissing kiss that raised a cloud of vapor, raising up to the ceiling. Levy raised a her, golden sparks erupting from her fingertips as she stood there, waiting, squinting her eyes to see through the fog. Laszlo took shape out if so suddenly, she ramained stunned for a moment. He leaped in the air above her.

“Solid Script: push!”

Not those hands again... “Solid script: bullets!” Levy waved her arms and the word took shape in the air, turning into bright energy pellets fired in full force towards her rival in a golden shower. When the smoke from her magic bullets dissipated, Levy’s breath caught in her throat, “No...” she breathed, gobsmacked. She was sure she had it him. He shouldn’t have had the time to conjure up his spell. Laszlo took shape out of smoke, his raised barrier protected him from the hit. He advanced towards her as a gleam of silver glittered upon the word ‘shield’ of his spell casting, before it went up in a puff of smoke, revealing the Solid Script mage’s face. He looked untouched by her bullets, but his left sleeve was torn and his arm was bleeding. He raised it, examining the damage with curiosity. Of all the things, he started crying. Tears falling quickly down his checks like raindrops.

“My, my, what an awful thing to do, blue girl,” he moaned wetly, “But you are a Solid Script mage like me, and I might even forgive you for hurting me.”

Levy gritted her teeth. Somehow, seeing another Script mage conjure one of her most effective spells so quickly angered her deeply. She raised her hand again, her magic already erupting from her fingertips in golden sparks, “You won’t forgive me after this! Solid Script: sword!” she wrote the spell as quickly as she could and instantly, the word took shape in glowing blue letters before she hurled them to slice towards her opponent.

“Solid Script: shield!”

Laszlo’s barrier took shape, again, swiftly, glimmering sliver before her sword could hit him. The blade ramained trapped within the spell, frozen in place. Levy froze too. She knew what came after... Laszlo pushed his weight on the shield, hurling the trapped blade towards her, Levy quickly leaped aside before it could slice her in half. The blade did not miss, though. It splitted Bisca’s cowgirl hat in two, not before it left a cold kiss on her right shoulder. Levy was on her knees, her left hand reaching up... The heavy fabric of her denim bomber jacket was ripped, as was the blouse underneath. She felt the sting of pain before the gems of blood spilled free, soaking up the heavy fabric. Levy squeezed her eyes shut and breathed through the pain, praying that the slice had not cut though her muscles.

“A sword against a shield? Fitting.” Laszlo commented as he walked up towards her slowly. Her wrote a word in the air in glowy white letters, “Solid Script: holy blade!” conjuring up his spell , he tilted his head to one side regarding her closely and Levy watched shocked as the words took shape of a long sword with a glowing pale blade.

“Holy blade..?” Levy breathed. The pain biting mercilessly into her damaged shoulder. Could it be... “Holy magic? How– how’s that possible..?!”

Laszlo looked at her with his head cocked to one side. His mismatched eye gleamed as tears still streamed down his cheeks. “C’mon!” he prompted cheerfully, as if encouraging a child, “Summon your own sword! No more of those silly slices. Then, it’ll be a proper duel.”

Levy could only stare, wordless.

The other Script mage looked disappointed, “No, huh? My, my, the things I learned from that book! My magic had never been more powerful. I might let you borrow it, if you asked me nicely, sharing is caring, but you’re an awful blue girl and a poor Solid Script mage. You are no match for me.” He raised his sword, the blade glowed threateningly above her head, “Any last words?”

With the corner of her eye, Levy notice a movement to her left. Bewildered, incredulous she swallowed hard, her throat was dry, “Yes, actually,” she said, tensing up, ready to bolt, “has anyone ever told you not to bring a sword to a claw fight?!”

“Sky Dragon’s claw!”

Wendy came out of nowhere, leaping in the air above Laszlo, swinging her feet, unleashing a powerful wind. Laszlo got caught in the blow. He flew backwards, landing with a loud thud onto the floor.

Wendy rushed towards her, helping her up, “you alright, Levy? Are you hurt?”

Levy held her injuried arm, “Wendy.. Where did you come from? You weren’t behind me...”

“You weren’t behind us,” Carla retorted as she floated down towards her.

“My, my, Dragon magic, huh?” Laszlo exclaimed at the other side of the hall as he quickly got to his feet, dusting off his torn coat, “it seems you fairies are far more interesting than I was first promised.”

“Than you were first promised?” Wendy echoed, “What do you mean?”

Laszlo only smiled, tears still hot in his eyes. He put a starch in his spine, but Levy could see plainly that Wendy’s attack had shaken him up pretty bad.

“Levy, is that...?”

“Yes, Wendy. That’s Laszlo Slade. That’s the thief.”

“And the book?” Carla asked, not even sparing a glance at their opponent, “Did you found the book?”

“I got it until he attacked me. It went onto the floor, somewhere... “

“Wendy, I’ll take the book,” Carla said narrowing her dark eyes at the other Solid Script mage, “You two take care of him.” In the blink of an eye, she winged up above them, as Wendy stalked the ground, ready to bolt.

 “Watch out!” Levy warned helplessly, her shoulder hurt so bad, “He wields powerful magic! The likes of which I have never seen before!”

“Got it!” Carla called as she flapped her wings down, grabbing the heavy, thick tome in her paws, “I got the book!”

Laszlo’s head snapped towards the exceed, “I won’t let you take it...”

Wendy charged again, “Sky dragon’s wave wind!” she swinged her hands, conjuring up a tornado that sent the Script mage to fly across the hall and crush violently into the wall, ending down on the floor again. The sky dragon slayer made a run for it, charging again, leaping in the air to attack once more... Laszlo was still flat on the ground... Suddenly he reached out his hand...

“No!” Levy cried already extending her right arm, heedless of sting of pain that penetred deep in her flesh, “Solid Script: guard-“

Too slow.

“Solid Script: bindings!” Laszlo hurled his spell into the air, the shining silver letters took the shape of chains as they invested Wendy, binding her tightly. The sky dragon slayer growled in pain as her unmoving, blocked body fell down onto the ground.

“Wendy!” Carla cried as she winged up in full force towards their rival, “You-“

“Solid Script: bindings!” the chain took shape again, claiming the white exceed as she launched herself against the lieutenant. She too, was Trapped. The book went flying from her paws, falling open onto the floor. Levy moved. Laszlo still had the sword in hand, he turned towards her, raising the blade... The weapon took the air, hurling itself at her face.

She stopped in her tracks and conjured up her spell as quick as she could, “Solid Script: fire!”

Laszlo was ready, waiting for her, “Solid Script: water!”

They went like that on and on. When Levy waved her hands to conjure up her golden bullets, Lazlo was right after her, swinging his to conjure up a wind. And so on and on. If she wrote for iron, he scribbled for lighting. Levy drafted for wood, he conjured up fire. Levy was panting and flushed. The sting of pain closed like jaws around her wound and bit down hard. She was beginning to feel drained, her magic energy was failing her, and the blood already soaked up her right sleeve, leaving her arm feeling numb. She faltered, catching her breath... And Laszlo went for her. He charged, his holy blade still in his hands, raised, poised to strike her down...

“Solid Script: shield!” her barrier took shape just as the sword fell down on her, but it did not remained trapped within her shield as she had hoped. The weapon, know free of its master’s hold, kept slashing on its own, as if moved by phantom strings. It thrusted repeatedly against the solid barrier with great force, until Levy was forced down on her knees.

“I don’t understand!” she panted keeping up her shield raised with all her strength, pushing herself up on one knee, “What kind of Solid Script magic is this?!

Laszlo advanced slowly towards the book, “Holy Script,” he told as he glanced down at Wendy and Carla chained up on the floor, “You clearly know about it, but you seem surprised I’m able to wield it. My, my, that’s rude, blue girl,” he bent down and picked up the opened book, turning the pages lazily, “You have no idea what kind of spells are written within these pages, have you? Too bad you won’t have a chance to find out.” He said shakily. His stamina was impressive, but he had bruised on his face and the wound on his arm was still bleeding, soaking up his left sleeve, now completely red.

Levy held onto her shield, trying to push her weight on her woobly knees, as the sword kept slashing into her barrier, “You are a lieutenant of the Magic Council!” she shouted at him, her breath coming out in short pants, “Why are you doing this?!”

Laszlo gave her an incredulous look, “Do you seriously think I’m gonna tell you? My, my, you’re not only weak, you’re also stupid...” he sobbed, tears streaming down his eyes.

The pale sword fell down one last time, shattering her shield. Levy’s knees gave out from the impact and she found herself flat on her back. When she opened her eyes the glowing blade was pointed at her face, poised to strike. It never struck, though. The weapon came hurling back towards Laszlo’s extended hand, as he picked it up from the air. The boy stayed where he was, the book of Fay opened in his right hand, and the sword gripped in his left. He watched her with an unreadable expression on his face.

“Yes, you are so weak,” he said flatly, “Another Solid Script mage like me, at last, but so weak... Not only I can see that... I – I can almost feel your weakness as if it were my own!” he breathed, “My, my, that’s so messed up... You think you are weak yourself and that’s overwhelming...” he glanced briefly behind him, where Wendy and Carla were still thrashing and writhing and panting on the floor, struggling with their bindings, to no avail. “You know?” the mage with the mismatched eyes said as he turned back at Levy, “It was a curious feeling, seeing your face... I felt almost like looking in a mirror... And you’re the first other Solid Script mage I have ever met in my life, even if a poor match compared to me. So, you see, I feel pity for you... Would that I could teach you, show what is written within these pages. Spell written by fairies to turn even the weakest of mages into the most powerful of sorcers,” He tilted his head to one side, as if pondering, “Yes, maybe I can do something for you. Maybe I should just get rid of your two friends here, before I get rid of you.” He turned again towards the dragon slayer and the exceed, “You’re no threat to me all beaten up like that... Weakling.”

Levy opened her mouth to scream, but it came out as a whimper as her wounded shoulder pulsed in pain. The smell of her own blood, soaking up her right sleeve, hit her nostrils, overwhelming her and making her want to gag. She winced, and pushed herself back up, trying to ignore the stab of pain in her shoulder. It was her fault. It was all her fault. If only she had listened to Wendy. If only she didn’t had to take a peak in that stupid book, they would have fled, accomplishing their mission... If only Gajeel were here. Why aren’t you here with me, now? Stupid Gajeel! Can’t you see I’m doing all this to prove myself to you? You said you would have made me bigger... Now watch me.

Levy stood, shakily and breathless. She looked up, Laszo was advancing towards Wendy, his glowing holy blade tight in his grip, “Hey!” she shouted. Laszlo’s head snapped back towards her, “you’re not the only one who can use holy magic, lieutenant!”

“My, my! You still have strength to stand – what are you doing!?”

Levy spread out her arms, writing fast. The ground trembled beneath her feet. With her last remaining magic, she wrote the letters of her spellcasting with a shaking hand, knowing this enchantment would drain her up completely. It was her last chance. The word took shape into the air in bright white letters, generating a shining beam of white light, “Solid Script: Shine!” with all her power, Levy hauled the jet of light towards her enemy, surrounding him in tongues of holy fire. The light invested him in a hot, molten wave, basking the entire hall in white brightness, and then... And then all became darkness.

 

 

“Levy...?”

The sound of her own name echoed distant in her ears. She was floating, floating in darkness. Levy blinked and the world took shape again. She was no longer floating, her body felt rigid, numb.

“Levy,” Wendy’s sweet face hovered above hers, “are you alright?”

As if to answer, a vawe of relief washed her from head to toe like a soft breeze, taking the pain away. She turned her head and saw that Wendy had her palm pressed into her abdomen, irradiating her with her healing spell. “I am, now,” she whimpered sitting up, her head spun, “We have to go... The book... “Levy jerked up, almost stumbling, but the sky dragon slayer caught hold on her good arm.

“Careful, now, “ she said soothingly, “lay back down, I’m almost done.”

“No,” Levy cried, weakly pulling away, “don’t waste your magic energy on me.”

Carla floated above her, “Don’t be silly, Levy,” the white exceed scolded, “let Wendy finish her spell and don’t complain!”

Levy felt dizzy, “How... How did you got free of the bindings?”

“Laszlo’s spell vanished when you hit him,” Wendy explained, “It felt as if... As if your enchantement washed away his magic,” she shot a look at her exceed, “in a wave of holy light.”

“As you did in my vision,” Carla said, “I didn’t know you could use holy magic, Levy.”

“I cannot,” Levy admitted, catching her breath, “not without putting a strain on my magic energy. I was never able to cast that spell without passing out... Your vision? You saw me in one of your vision?”

Carla wriggled her pink nose, turning her head away, “Don’t flatter yourself, I have many visions about all the wizards of the guild.”

“Please lay back down, “ Wendy pleaded, her voice full of concern, “I’m almost done, you’ll feel better in no time flat.”

“There’s no time!” Levy’s eyes scanned the room, “Laszlo... Where is Laszlo Slade?”

Wendy looked beyond her shoulder, “He’s there, unmoving.”

A shiver went down her spine as she stared at the unresponsive body on the floor, “Is he dead?”

“No. He passed out, too.”

“We have to go. We have to take the book and leave! If he wakes... His magic... The spells he learned from the book are very powerful, and if I’m right, he could-“

The door suddenly opened. A tall figure in a long, bottoned up, white coat strode towards her, “How? How did you found your way through?” the boy with the dark hair asked.

Levy blinked, “Lieutenant... Leroy? What are you doing here?”

Tsubasa rushed towards them, “I followed the glowing path on the floor, it led me here.”his dark eyes stared, “Are you hurt? Did you found the book? Where’s Laszlo?” his eyes searched the room, locking on the body on the floor, “dammit! Is he dead?”

“No,” Wendy told him, holding Levy with her arm, “He’s just unconscious. Levy neutralized him, and the book – “

“The book!” Tsubasa abruptly sprinted past them. He bent down, picking up the open text, dusting off the pages, “Thank goodness! It’s all in one piece.”

Levy pulled away from Wendy and limply walked over the lieutenant, “Give me the book, Tsubasa. We will personally entrust it to the Magic Council. You take care of your prisoner.”

Tsubasa shot her a look, jerking the book away in one stiff motion, “Thank you, Miss Mcgarden, but Fairy Tail’s services are no longer required. You and your team have accomplished your mission splendidly. A mighty rewards awaits you, but I’ll be taking over the matter myself, now.”

“Give me the book. ” Levy repeated stubbornly.

“Levy...”

“You know? Laszlo said something curious, earlier, “ she told him, “He spoke of someone... someone who would have been surprised to see we have found our way through the magic maze so quickly... As were you. He.... He knew my name!”

“What are you talking about?”

“Laszlo, said we were more interesting that he was first promised, as he already knew we were coming... But he couldn’t know the Council had sent for Fairy Tail ... Unless someone told him. Did you tell him, Tsubasa?”

Tsubasa’s dark eyes narrowed at her face, “Levy... you don’t know what you’re saying-“

“Why are you here, lieutenant? Weren’t you supposed to submit your reports to the Magic Council?”

Tsubasa seized her right arm, squeezing tight, sending a sharp pulse of pain through her wound, “Now, you listen to me! You pathetic-“

“Sky dragon’s roar!” Wendy’s hurricane spell hauled him across the hall, sending him to stumble onto the floor.

“Wendy...” the dragon slayer’s hands closed around her good arm, catching Levy before she could fall, gently, but firmly. She had a strong grip for her size and age, a dragon’s grip. For a moment, Levy thought of the iron grip of another dragon slayer.

“It was him! It was him all along!” Levy blurted out, “Him and Laszlo. Remember, he uses illusion magic, this castle must be his own making.” She whimpered as pain stung her shoulder.

Carla floated above their heads, “Here we go again. That healing spell doesn’t sound too bad now, does it?”

“Everything makes sense, now,” Wendy said, “But why? Why would he do something like that?”

“Forgive me,” Levy panted, wincing. When Tsubasa grabbed her arm, the pull made the wound on her shoulder weep again, “I dragged you here... I got you two into this mess. It’s all my fault.”

“You don’t have to apologize, Levy. You figured out his game. Now, hold onto me, we have to get out of here.”

Levy jerked, “The book... We can’t leave the book...”

“How dare you!”Tsubasa cried suddenly. Somehow, he had gotten back to his feet, now advancing menacingly towards them, “you dared attacking me?! Me?! A lieutenant of the Magic Council! You shall be brought in court for this!” his glasses had busted and his slacked dark hair was messed up. He raised his hands, his magic energy already buzzing from his fingertips, conjuring up his spell. The purple beam invested them, Wendy held Levy firmly, all they could do was close their eyes and brace themselves for the blow...

Out of nowhere, strong arms caught her safely pressing her hard against a muscled chest, rolling them out the way just before Tsubasa’s spell could hit them, knocking them both on their knees. Levy held on tightly, locked within solid arms. Ignoring the sharp sting in her shoulder, she leaned in further into the solid, reassuring press of her savior, fisting her hands into his clothing. Levy pressed her forehead into his chest, releasing a shuddering breath, before she lifted her head and opened her eyes to look at him.

“Gajeel...”

Lieutenant Brock Dearg smiled down at her, bright blue eyes looked at her instead of slitted dark red’s, “No, this is Brock. Sorry to disappoint ye.”

Levy stared, caught in a haze. Something cold and heavy settled in her heart before it dropped miserably. Her head felt dizzy, her mind, a whirlwind of emotions; she was relieved to be in safe arms, and upset that those arms weren’t the ones she wanted wrapped around her. Embarrassed, ashamed that her own heart went out like that in a worded plea, Levy pulled away sharply, but Brock’s strong grip was solidly closed around her body, and he pulled her right back close to his chest.

“Easy, lass. Yer bleeding.”

Levy squirmed, “Wendy, where’s Wendy? Tsubasa attacked, and then-“

“Don’t whine, Levy!” Carla’s scolding voice came from above them. Levy lifted her head, and found the exceed flapping her soft white wings frantically as she was carrying Wendy by the collar of her dress like some stor with a baby in tow. She winged down, depositing her dragon slayer on the floor.

“Lieutenant Dearg!” Tsubasa’s voice shouted, high pitched. He pointed an accusing finger at her and Wendy, “Arrest these fairy-scum and that wretched cat, too! They will be brought to the magic court, Fairy Tail guild will answer for this – “

Crack.

The heavy iron handcuffs closed around Tsubasa’s wrists like metal jaws around a prey. He went falling on his knees, stunned and whimpering. He stared at the bindings, magic bindings, Levy knew. Now, he was powerless. A shadow moved behind him, she swore she could glimpse gleaming eyes in the dark. Finally, the figure stepped into the light. Sharp feline teeth grimaced and a long, soft grey tail curled and uncurled in anticipation.

“Dammit, Tsubasa,” Erik Soren snarled with his angelic face, “You screwed up this time.”

Brock gently deposited Levy on the floor, careful not to press on her wound. Wendy quickly rushed to her side, inspecting her shoulder, trying to peer at the damage through her heavy blood-soaked clothes. Brock stood and shed of his long white coat, “Here,” he said as he donned it on her shoulder, “press it gently, it should stop the blood.”

Tsubasa stared, his face a mask of rage and bewilderment, “Dearg! Soren! What the hell are you doing?! You should be handcuffing those little bitches, not me! The Council will hear of this!”

“Aye, aye, they’ll hear alright! We received a call from the communication Lacrima, the bosses were wondering why you haven’t yet submitted your last report. Fancy that! Just after you said you were heading to the station. So, were have you been in the last few hours, lieutenant Leroy?”

Tsubasa was on his knees, struggling with his bindings. His hair was all tangled, his glasses busted, some the bottoms of his coat had been lost somewhere in his stumble, and sweat was dripping down his forehead. He gaped open-mouthed at his comrade, mumbling incoherently. “You – I... Came here!” he finally cried.

“And why were you here, huh?” Brock asked, “To land a hand to an old friend?”

Tsubasa did not answer. He shifted his gaze to Levy, pointing an accusing finger towards her in a clang of chains, “She tried to take the book from me! She accused me of consorting with slade!”

“Slade spoke of someone,” Levy said as Wendy knelt by her side, pressing Brock’s white coat on the wound on her shoulder, “Someone who had promised us to him. He knew my name.”

“He knew your name?”

“Yes,” said Wendy, taking her parts, “Levy said the same earlier, just before Tsubasa grabbed her.”

“No!” Tsubasa screamed. He turned to his comrades, “She was accusing me, Dearg! And that little girl attecked me first!”

The red-haired lieutenant looked from Levy to his comrade; she bleeding and him sobbing and made his decision, “You’ll tell that to the Council when we’ll bring you to the high court to explain this mess,” he said, “So you’ll have a chance to explain to them why you had lied about submitting your report and how we have found you attacking employees you personally hired to retrieve the book.” He turned to Erik, “Take him back to the car, and make sure he doesn’t escape. Use more Magic-blocking chains if he resists.”

“With pleasure.” Liutenant Soren seized Tsubasa by the shoulders and yanked him to his feet with much more strength that a young boy had any right to have. Leroy squirmed and cried and struggled with his bindings as Erik shoved him foward.

“No, no, no, no, no, no, no! This was my mission! This was my chance! I was the one who should’ve retrieved the book! It was Slade, not me! Nooo!”

Dearg made a face, “And gag him!”

Erik and Tsubasa disappeared through the door, slamming it shut behind them. Levy waited for the cries and the sound of clanging chains to die down before she spoke, “What will happen to him?”

Brock exhaled a breath as he walked closer to her and Wendy, he looked thoughtful, “Dunno. I didn’t see that one coming. This whole bussines is fishy, though. I couldn’t believe it when the Council contacted us, and even more when Erik and I found the car parked in front of this bloody place. He sure has a lot to answer to.”

Carla landed on Wendy’s head, paws on her hips and white wings unfolded protectively around the young girl, “What about us?”

“Is it true that ye attacked Tsubasa?”

Levy spoke up, clutching the now red-stained coat around her shoulders, “Wendy’s not to blame. She went against Tsubasa, but only to protect me when he seized my arm. If there’s someone who must answer for this, it’s me.” She hushed Wendy when the girl tried to protest, “I’ll stand in front of the Magic Council if I must. But, please Wendy and Carla did nothing but protect me. They shouldn’t be held accountable for my deeds, nor should Fairy Tail. Please I’ll tell the Council what happened, I’ll tell you what you saw and what Laszlo said...”

“That won’t be necessary.” Brock said gently.

“What?” the three of them asked in unison.

Brock grinned and flicked up a pair of magic handcuffs from his pockets. He swirled them around his finger as he moved towards Laszlo’s unmoving body, “The Council doesn’t like gossips,” he said as knelt down and moved Laszlo’s arms behind his back and clicked the cuffs closed around his numb wrists, “They already didn’t fancy much the idea of one of their low-ranked members to go and steal one of the most powerful artifact they ever collected, no more than they will fancy hear that not only one, but two of them might be involved in the burglary. And when Erik and I will report how we found Tsubasa attacking you; wizards he himself had employed tha clean his own screw ups,” he gestured to the traitor lieutenant before him, “And I suspect our sleepin’ beauty here as a thing or two tha explain, too – The council will leave ye be in hope tha save the face.”

Levy glanced at Wendy and Carla, exchanging a silent assent. She looked across the hall; the Book of Fay lay there, forgotten on the floor, open to the sight and so very close. If only she could’ve had a chance to take it before Laszlo had walked In. If only she’d had a chance to turn those pages...

“What about the book?” she asked fretfully.

“What about it?” Brock shrugged, “It has been retrieved, thanks to ye three Fairy Tail lasses. It can finally go back home, and so will you,” He took the unconscious body of Laszlo Slade in his arms and smiled broadly at the three of them, “Up, up! Let’s get out of tha bloody place. You have a mighty reward waitin’ for ye, Levy Mcgarden.”

 

 

                                                           ______________________________________

 

 

 

It had been five days. Hardly a concerning amount of time for a quest, a job or a task to be accomplished professionally, but the entire guild had sulked in an impatient wait. The request were still low, and there was nothing to be done in the Guildhall, waiting for the Script mage, the sky dragon slayer and the white exceed to come back, expect for drinking until dropping and play a turn at cards or a roll at dice at the tables. Despite that, the guild grew more restless with every passing hour without any news from the girls. Then again, five days where nothing; jobs like this could easily take weeks, even months. The worry was that neither Levy nor Wendy had reached out to them to let them know they were alright, and none of those who stood waiting for their return had any idea of where they might be headed to.

It was a risk, meddling with the powerful Magic Council always was. And Fairy Tail was never held in high regard.

Gajeel sat at the bar, his back turned, pressed against the counter. His elbows resting on the solid wood, and his arms hanging loosely as he swirled brown-brewed beer in his tankard. He raised it to his lips and took a long gulp, drowning his nose in the foam to suppress the other smells.

The Guildhall stank. His highened dragon nose picked up all the uneasiness and restlessness of his comrades as they waddled about in the hall. Gajeel set his tankard aside on the counter behind him and focused his attention back to the crowd assembled at the tables. Warren’s magic ability allowed him to read minds, but a dragon slayer could read body lenguage by using his senses. And judging by the potent smell of sweat and the coiled anticipation in their tense muscles as they raised their glasses to their lips or tossed their dices as they played, every single Fairy Tail wizard was thinking about Levy, Wendy and Carla and wondered when they would have come back from their formidable mission.

Not only Gajeel could smell and see that. He could hear that, too. The most insufferable cries came obviously from the two clowns – shrimp’s loverboys – sitting at a nearby table. They had showed up early every morning and left very late at night in the last five frustrating days, waiting for news, for a sign. Sobbing, eating, and drinking, and droning on and on about their precious Levy, waiting patiently for her to come back like loyal pups.

Everyone else was already done with their cheesy crap, and the frustration of sitting around all day doing nothing but wait was beginning to rise in the air as thick as a fog. The most miserable of the bunch were certainly the heroes of the guild, all clenching fists and gritting teeth obviously concerned for the little girl and her kit, as if letting their brat out of their sights for a couple of days was just too upsetting for them to bear. Seriously, Gajeel couldn’t see what the fuss was about. Wendy was a dragon slayer, a young one, merely an hatchling, but a dragon nonetheless. And her sassy kit was a feisty one, probably she was better off on her own than with those losers who had all but adopted her, accepting her as a member of their team since her very first day in Fairy Tail. Wendy and Carla were probably fine.

Titania looked calm and collected, but her dark eyes were pondering. Ice boy was sulkie as always and bunny girl was as fussy and hysterical as she was about everything in that irritating way of hers. The most fuming of the lot was Salamander, who looked already all worked up. Gajeel only hoped that hot head wouldn’t put it in his mind to start shit for no reason, he really couldn’t handle his crap, now.

That annoying twist in his guts didn’t let him be since he learned that shrimp had took off with the little girl and her kit. Lily liked to call it guilt and Gajeel liked to bellow that it wasn’t and slouch in his shoulders, brooding and gnawing on screws. More than once in the last few days he caught himself standing up his table where he had been sitting, waiting as the others, with his mind made up, ready to go and find shorty, shake her rough by her shoulders until all the nasty ideas of running off on her own would get out that big brain of hers and f drag her back to the guild.

Actually, Lily had to restrain him from doing that a time or two. The threat was always the same; Shrimp might as well told him to fuck off if he ever showed up in on her during her important mission. For a moment Gajeel was tempted. The idea of shortie puffing up her cheeks, putting her little hands on her hips, flipping him off was just too amusing. It brought a grin to his mouth only thinking about it. And yet, somehow, he knew it would be the matter of a moment and shrimp’s wrath would dissipate into silent resentment if he really dared to go and track her down.

But that was what he wanted, wasn’t it? Half pint was better off not bothering with him again, and end up suffering him from a distance as all the other guild’s morons did. It would have been a win – win situation for all of them; the two clowns would have shrimp all to themselves after seven long years of blue balls, short stuff would be let be, Fairy Tail would carry on with its rockus, troublesome shenanigans and Gajeel would be no more bothered by all this drama and free to be left alone as he always had been.

Then why the sole thought of it hurt more than Metallicana’s iron jaws?

Thinking about it only tightened the twisted knot in his guts, shoving him into the same bottomless pit of frustrating, restless wait as the morons all around him, almost making Gajeel lose completely his appetite.

Almost.

It lasted only a couple of days, really. A couple of days spent in self – imposed fast, waiting for his stomach to let him be, gritting his teeth and punching every tree of the training field, until he chopped them down cutting them in perfectly simmetrical logs. Funny thing was, he didn’t even had a fireplace!

Lily helped too; when he was not busy watching him with a smug smile beneath his whiskers as he nibbled at some kiwis, the exceed would decided he had had enough, turning into his battle mode and stalking the training ground. By night they were two bloody, bruised messes, swimming in their own sweat, panting, sore, but a lot more lighthearted.

It had helped him clear his mind, to get the whole damn thing out of his system, for a while. By the third day, his iron guts seemed to work just as fine as they always did before this whole business screwed up his stomach. Gajeel found himself hungry as he never remembered being. He started by devouring all the screws stored in the bar, until Kinana found him hiding in the storage room in the back booth, feral and growling with piece of metal between his sharp fangs and fled shrieking.

Served her right, after ratting his business to the whole guild. And why would they care if he gnawed all the screws? They were keeping them for him, were they not? Who else in Fairy Tail ate metal? But once he was done with his screws, Gajeel begun to chew on the cutlery of the bar, until Kinana called forth Mirajane and she made him stop.

Maybe he was feeling guilty, after all. Oh, he had felt guilty, he had smelled the stench of it on his skin many times since he joined Fairy Tail.... Especially when it came to shortie. He had thought he had even up his dept when he offered her his help with the S-class trial, no one could have imagined that once on Tenrou Island everything would have ended dripping down the drain.

His ears suddenly picked up the sound of a choked sob. Gajeel turned, not far from the bar Jet and Droy were nursing their broken heart in a shot of whiskey. Cana was sitting with them, pouring and listening to their pitiful whines. She had sobered up enough to pay careful attention to the two clowns, when everyone else would’ve needed more alcohol, and that was surprising from the drunkard. Gajeel eyed the trio a moment, he tsked and turned away, rolling on his stool to face the counter, he picked up his tankard and brought it to his lips.

 “Aw, why are you looking so blue, Gajeel-kun?”

Gajeel looked down and saw a pair of deep blue eyes floating in his tankard like some egg yolks, ogling at him. Gajeel cursed and tossed his tankark away beyond the counter, where it came pouring on the floor. Juvia took shape out of a column of water.

“That was rude, Gajeel-kun. Juvia is not a water balloon.”

“Rude?!” Gajeel retorted, grossed out. He spat, wiping his mouth on the heel of his gloved hand, “Crap, Juvia! How long have you been in there?! I drank you!”

“You did not drink Juvia. Juvia slipped in your drink when you were turned.”

“So thoughtful,” Gajeel said rolling on his stool, giving his back to his old comrade, “What do ya want, anyway?”

“Juvia wants to talk with Gajeel-kun,” Juvia edged the bar counter and came up beside him, sitting down on the stool next to him, “Gajeel-kun seems rather blue this days, Juvia thinks. Or rather...” she trailed off, urging Gajeel tu turn to her.

“... Rather blue-less.”

Gajeel groaned, “Piss off, rains for brains. I’m not in the mood. It was my wretched cat who told ya to come and nag me?”

“Pantherlily is with Mirajane,” Juvia said, “And no, he did not tell Juvia anything... Nor to anyone, for that matter.”

Gajeel looked at her, arching the pierced line of his eyebrow, a blatant look.

“It was Kinana,” the weird water entity told, “Kinana told Juvia and the others what happened between Gajeel-kun and Levy-Sama, that night – “ When Gajeel growled deep in his chest, Juvia waved her hands frantically in front of him, “ - Don’t be mad at Kinana-chan! Erza-Sama urged her, Juvia knows. Kinana-chan was very frightened.”

Frightened.” Gajeel tsked.

“Well, Erza-Sama is very frightening,”

“I’m too. That little barmaid ought to remember that. She shoulda know better than to tattle some more about my own damn business!”

“Believe Juvia, Gajeel-kun, you are, but... Erza-Sama is more.”

Gajeel rolled his eyes, “If ya on the hunt for some juicy gossip, go ahead, be my guest! That she-devil and my bloody cat will be more than happy to fill you in. Or you can always join your darling ice boy’s club, as long as you piss off and leave me be.”

Juvia frowned. An eerie, purple veil rose to her cheeks. There’s wasn’t a single drop of blood in those clammy veins of hers, Gajeel knew. That was the only resemblance of a blush her human form could come up with, “Juvia does not tattle... Well, not much, but... Juvia was surprised and wanted to talk with Gajeel-kun.”

The iron dragon slayer grimaced at the water entity, “Surprised, huh? Well, ya not the only one, all these idiots here were when that little, wretched barmaid with the aubergine hair leaked the scoop that shrimp asked me to team up, “ he nodded at where Jet and Droy were sitting with Cana, “And the two morons at that table keep blaming me for sending their precious sweetheart on the run.”

“Juvia wasn’t surprised because Levy-Sama asked Gajeel to team up,” she said giving him a knowing look, “Juvia was surprised because Gajeel-kun said no.”

“I work alone,” Gajeel said casually, shifting in his stool, slouching a little. The twist in his guts was coming back, trying his bowels into knots, “Always did. You know that, rains for brains. And shrimp does too, I told her that. Nothing personal.”

“Nothing personal, Gajeel-kun says. “ that look again, “Juvia remembers, truly... But Gajeel-kun seems to have forgotten that Juvia was a guild mate of Gajeel-kun back when he was still Black Steel.”

“So?”

“So, it’s just like Gajeel-kun said. Gajeel-kun works alone, always did. Gajeel-kun and Juvia were S-class in Phantom Lord. Juvia was with the Element Four, the most powerful wizards of the guild, and yet Black Steel Gajeel worked alone... Until he joined Fairy Tail and Juvia saw Gajeel-kun offer his help for the first time to Levy-Sama, when he paired up with her on Tenrou Island.”

“I teamed up with Lily when I got back from Edolas,” Gajeel pointed out.

“Pantherlily is an exceed,” Juvia explained, “Gajeel-kun is a dragon slayer, and every dragon slayer has an exceed for a companion, it seems.”

“Except lighting prick,”Gajeel grinned. Laxus may have not been raised by a true dragon, like it had been for him, Salamander and the little girl, but was a Slayer nonetheless. In might if not in heart, and Gajeel took pleasure in the fact the he was not the Fairy Tail dragon slayer apart from the others.

Juvia made a face, “Now Gajeel-kun is changing subject, Juvia knows. Pantherlily is another different matter from Levy-Sama, and Gajeel-kun knows it.”

“You know what the deal is between shrimp and I, Do ya?” That was the same thing he said to Lily. Damn, why everyone in this goddamn guild kept making a fuss about it? They all knew their story. Juvia more than anyone, and that thing still in his pocket did too. As soon as he remembered about it, he felt it’s accusing weight, the coldness of it against his leg.

“Juvia does,” Juvia said, her dark blue eyes suddenly serious, “And Juvia also knows that it is the same deal for Jet and Droy,” She turned to look were the two clowns were sitting with Cana, “and for Reedus and Lucy-Chan as well... Something with Levy-Sama is different.”

It wasn’t a question, “Look, I don’t need ya clammy nose in my business, alright?” he snapped, “Nor I need ya to sum me up all my debts, I can keep count of them on my own, thank you very much. And if ya remember me when we were in Phantom Lord, then why ya surprised that I told off the half pint, rains for brains?”

Juvia’s lips twitched visibly. She would even dare to smile at him, if he weren’t pinning her with his iron-hard red stare. The same stare he turned to his low-ranked Phantom Lord cronies, back in the days when he was called Black Steel Gajeel. To her credit, it never worked on Juvia, but Juvia had been an S-class in Phantom Lord, a mage of his own equal.

“Because Gajeel-kun saved Levy-Sama’s life,” the water entity said at last, “Many a times, Juvia knows; The day Gajeel-kun joined Fairy Tail was the same day when Laxus almost struck Levy-Sama, and Gajeel-kun took the blow. Then again, in the Cathedral, during the Battle of Fairy Tail, and Once more on Tenrou Island. There, Gajeel-kun. Has Juvia been clear?”

“Like water,” Gajeel said, gritting his teeth, “How do ya know? You weren’t there, and I never told ya.”

“Gajeel-kun never would!” Juvia giggled, “Levy-Sama told Cana-chan, who told Lucy-chan, who told Mira-Sama, who told Juvia.”

“Juvia doesn’t tattle, My ass!” Gajeel spat, grabbing his tankard and taking a long gulp, hoping no clammy-juvia-water was still in there, “Anyway, why do ya care?” he snapped more harshly than he intended. He didn’t liked the Idea of the others knowing those informations about him. Juvia more than anyone. Phantom Lord or no, he and Juvia had their own fair share of bad times, and those times had brought them close together. Actually, he remembered she had clinged to him like a clam during those first cruel days in their not-so-light former guild. Gajeel just hoped she wouldn’t put some weird ideas in that water brain of hers...

Juvia looked at him a moment, then, shifted her gaze back to the table where Shortie’s loverboys were sitting. They seemed to have calmed down and were carelessly chatting with Cana over the brim of their glasses of whiskey, “You know, Gajeel-kun? Makao told Juvia that those seven years had been cruel for Jet and Droy especially.” She told him not looking away from the trio, “Makao had his son with him, and Wakaba and Reedus. Bisca and Alzack got married and a had a baby, Nab, Warren and were all there. Laki and Kinana became close friends. On Tenrou the Strauss siblings were all together, as were the tribe – they had even reunited with Laxus, who reconciled with Master. Lucy, Natsu and the others were all together, and Cana had finally confessed to Gildarts that she is his daughter,” Juvia ducked her head shyly and that lilac colour appeared newly on her pale, bloodless cheeks, “Juvia was close to her darling Grey...” she shook her head and focused back on the trio, “But Levy was gone and Jet and Droy were sad and lost without her...”

Gajeel stared. He knew that, of course. In the last few days since shrimp ditched them, the two morons had been crying and sobbing, drinking and gushing about their precious girl, glaring a Gajeel across the tables from time to time. Also they stank; the stench of love lust, , worry, sadness, anger, hope, hatred and cheap whiskey was all over them. Gajeel smelled, heard and saw. Most likely, they resented him for snatching their girl away from their grasp, during the S-class trial. Seven long years have passed, though to Gajeel and the others only seemed the matters of a few days, while those who remained behind mourned and grieved their loss.

As if those two needed another reason to hate him. Beaten and humiliated, robbed of the chance to partner up with their favorite girl, and be deprived of her for long, lonely seven years. And now, she was gone from their sight once again because big, bad Gajeel had told her ‘No’.

Oh, yes. They loathed him.

Gajeel was not to blame for all of it, though. Shrimp played her part as well; Gajeel had brought Jet and Droy on their kness the day he loomed over Shortie’s small frame, letting his long shadow fall on her, crossed his arms over his chest and announced her – not asked her – that he was going to lend her a hand and partner up with her in the trial. A mercy, really, for the three of them; as those two clowns could have had any chance against the other candidates, much less with Erza, Mirajane and Gildarts. Besides, only one of them was allowed to go with her, anyway, and Shrimp would have been forced to choose between them, and one of the two rivals to give up the girl for good. In Gajeel view, he spared them three broken hearts and a lot of broken bones. No. Shrimp needed someone stronger. She needed a dragon. She needed him.

Jet and Droy stared with their mouths hanging open, shrimp herself was stunned at the offer. She had begun to mumble excuses and sigh, saying she was too weak. And Gajeel could not bear it. He had expected for her to resist him, that she would never accept him as her companion and that he would have needed to bully her into it, pinning her with an iron hard stare, scaring her, even. So he grabbed her by the gem of her dress and picked her up as he would with a kitten. She was so light. He shook her a little, he would have no weak talking if he was going to perform this service. And when he told he was going to chance that, told her he would have made her bigger, she changed her attitude completely. He let go of her and she had turned facing him and put her hands on her hips, and it had been his turn to be stunned when she had looked at him right in the eyes and told him a sharp, and definitive ‘Deal’.

“What if it were Juvia who remained behind, waiting seven long years without her darling Grey?!” Juvia moaned, looking wistfully at the table where ice boy was sitting with the rest of his team. Brooding and sulkie – Gajeel could have sworn he was wearing most of his clothes the first time he looked over at his table. “Oh, Juvia couldn’t take it! Juvia’s heart would be broken without her darling Grey!”

Gajeel looked at Juvia; her big, deep blue eyes had softened, and the lilac blush was rising sharply in her cheeks, making her look livid. It was not a pretty sight, but the languid look in her eyes, the way they sparkled, and the soft smile on her pale lips gave her an eerie beauty that she had never had back in Phantom Lord.

Geez. She was in trouble.

In the last years Juvia had dated a fair number of morons and scum-bags, some whom he had personally sent on the run, not before he thrashed them up a bit, but this time the weird water entity really got it bad for the ice boy.

She turned to him, her deep blue eyes had gotten larger, “Juvia had found her darling Grey in Fairy Tail... But Gajeel-kun is always so lonely... And when Juvia saw how different Gajeel-kun is when he is with Levy-Sama, Juvia thought – ow!”

Gajeel grabbed her chin, squeezing her checks close together, hushing her, “Listen, rains for brains, as I told ya; I don’t need ya clammy nose in my business, alright? If ya say another word of whatever ya were thinking in that bubble head of yours I’m gonna flush ya down the toilet.”

Juvia turned into a shapeless column of water, slipping out of his grasp. She moved in a jet of water, coming to pour at the other side of him, shaping back into her human form, “Gajeel-kun is rough with Juvia.” She massaged her cheeks.

“I used to be worse than that, believe me.” Gajeel wiped his hand on his trousers, “Consider yourself warned, Juvia.”

Juvia made a face, “Juvia definitely doesn’t want to be flushed down the toilet, but can juvia say something to Gajeel-kun without Gajeel-kun getting mad at Juvia?”

Gajeel rolled his eyes, “So, shoot.”

The water entity hesitated, apparently looking for the right words to use, “It seems to Juvia that Gajeel-kun is different with Levy-Sama because Levy-Sama never confronted Gajeel-Kun... To be sure, never confronted him about the night he –“

Whatever she had meant to say next never left her lips as the door of the Guildhall suddenly burst open and all the heads turned to stare. Shrimp walked in, followed by the little girl close behind, her kit was floating above their heads. Levy was wearing black clothes too big for her small size, but her right shoulder was completely wrapped in bandages from neck to elbow. Shrimp stood in the threshold, all eyes on her. For a moment she looked stricken, as if she knew she was doing wrong, but as she looked over her fellow wizards gathered around the Guildhall, staring at Her and Wendy, an innocent smile curled on her lips, and she parted them to say loud and clear, “Sorry we left in a hurry, and that it’s been a while without news,” she looked over at Wendy and the little girl smiled as Levy raised her hand, she was holding a paper, a check, “But we had a mighty reward to collect.”

The hall erupted into shouts and cheers. So ya did it, shrimp. Gajeel thought as he watched Jet and Droy rushing up the threshold, picking up their girl in their arms and lifted her up into the the air. His ears rang at the sound of her laughter.