October 20, X775
Now that Laxus was fourteen, he was accustomed to going on jobs by himself. It was nice to have the time alone, none of the older guild members hovering, or worse, getting in his way. They meant well, sure, but Laxus was quickly learning how to handle lightning magic, and he was well aware of how wide-spread and dangerous it could be. It was easier for him if there was no one around that he had to look out for, no matter how helpful the scrub thought they were being.
It was one of the reasons Laxus preferred fighting jobs, like monster hunting. There were always plenty of those out there, but sometimes, Laxus had to branch out if he wanted to be able to leave on a job to somewhere.
The job posting was weird, but they often were. Cecilia Town Haunted. Mage wanted to remove evil spirits. It was likely something else entirely, because just because magic was common, it didn’t mean that the majority of people understood it. It was a newer commission, but relatively low in pay, so Laxus doubted the issue was as serious as they made it sound. They were probably extra spooked because of the upcoming Pumpkin Dance Festival and jumped at the first weird magic in the area.
Whatever the reason, Laxus didn’t care. His only purpose here was to complete the job, no matter what caused the problem in the first place. It was just unfortunate that, having no real information on where to start, he had to talk to the townspeople anyway.
“It was terrible,” the woman repeated for what must have been the fourth time. She was the master of the textile guild the town was built around, and the one who posted the job. “The—the looms they… Oh my, it’s just too terrible to relive.”
Laxus just sighed as the woman had to compose herself yet again. At this rate, he was either going to have to grab an inn and start in the morning or start once the sun was already down. Which, depending on what the hell was happening, either might be a viable option.
“Sorry, dear,” she continued, fanning her face with her hand. “I’m better now.” She took a deep breath. “It was late the other night. I was coming in to close things up, and the loom— why, no one was there. Th-the loom was just… moving all on its own! In these…slow, choppy movements, and there was fabric floating through it. And—and a knife! A knife came floating towards me, so I— I did the sensible thing and ran. Locked myself in the closet.” Another deep, stuttering breath. “Th-the worst part, when I finally mustered the nerve to return… Oh! It’s just so terrible!”
“What happened?” he prompted tiredly.
“The loom was destroyed! Oh, my great grand-mama’s loom, reduced to such a poor state. The room was in shambles too. I’m—I’m afraid those dreaded demon spirits have finally done it, and they’ve become set on ruining this town for the Pumpkin Dance Festival!”
Great. He was right: senseless superstition. Even he knew all that stuff was just legend and folktale. “How do you know it wasn’t telekinetic magic?”
“But…what about the voices then?”
“The voices?” She rambled a lot, but Laxus didn’t remember that.
“Oh, dear, it was terrible! While those objects were possessed, they were laughing this— this deranged little giggle, and oh! I can’t think about it anymore! Please, please help us expel these demons!”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever.”
Ultimately, he decided to start right away. The guildmaster already arranged for a place for him to sleep, but the whole ordeal left Laxus with the need to fight something to release his pent-up energy.
This was probably just some punk with cheap magic trying to scare the town into giving them money, or something equally as dumb as that. Whatever. Laxus was better than most mages, even if solely for the fact that lightning magic was really useful in a fight, so he wasn’t worried. If—on the very small chance—this job got more difficult to handle, he could either come back with someone else, or simply leave the job to another mage entirely. Not that that had to happen, because Laxus was building a good track record for himself.
He busied himself with poking around the town now that most of the people were settled indoors for the night. It was usually nighttime that shenanigans happened anyway, because these kinds of people were cowardly by default, being the types to avoid joining guilds and doing legal, honest work. For what? Money? Power? It didn’t make sense to Laxus, because he could get those same things without excommunicating himself from society. (He still didn’t understand why his dad did all those…things… just to end up worse than how he started.)
Anyway. He had a job to do.
Hours passed, but nothing happened. He was considering giving up for the night when he heard it—giggling.
It was faint and distant, and Laxus was starting to think he imagined it when there was nothing nearby, but he finally tracked it down to the other side of the town.
Laxus blamed his tiredness, and the fact that the woman got it in his head, but the laughing was creepy. It echoed off the surfaces in a hollow way, seemingly floating but without any substance. It was hard to place where it was coming from, because he swore, it moved as he did. Finally, when Laxus swerved into an alley, he saw a glimpse of a floating object.
“Hide! Hide!” said the same voice that giggled. No—voices. They were close to each other but coming from multiple sources.
It could have been indicative of it really being spirits, or, someone was definitely screwing with them. Laxus chose not to think too hard of the consequences of either possibility so he dove blindly for the source of one of the voices from around the corner.
He grabbed onto a wiggling broken shovel.
“Uh oh!” the shovel squeaked.
What the actual hell?
As Laxus stared at the squirming inanimate object, mind blank, something thin and blunt rammed into the back of his head. Only because it caught him off guard, it startled him enough to lose his grip on the shovel. Both of the broken halves of the shovel flew away, darting around the corner and into the sky.
“Damnit!” Laxus scrambled to catch up. He wasn’t about to be bested by some stupid shovel. It didn’t matter whether it was a cowardly mage or real demons at this point, Laxus was invested, and he would beat that thing.
The pieces’ ability of flight made things difficult, but Laxus was agile. He jumped up the walls and vaulted over the roofs, using electricity to boost his movements when he needed the boost. He almost lost them a few times, but even in the dark, he could see their movement against the sky.
However, just when one piece was almost in his reach again, a bucket slammed over his face. “Gah!” The sudden intrusion made him lose his footing, but Laxus was launching the offending object off with a burst of magic a second later—just for a fucking chair to come flying out of no where and trip him.
Laxus pushed himself off the ground, intent on kicking the chair, and then the shovel came diving back. He dodged the metal end and nearly crashed into the chair again. It didn’t help that the whole time, the objects were giggling again.
“Screw it!” Laxus summoned lightning around him and knocked the objects back, splintering the wood and causing half of the shovel and the chair to fall.
Then the knife came.
He had thought the woman was exaggerating, but holy damn that was a big knife. It was metal and unhindered by his electricity, too, so Laxus had no choice but to run for it and get better cover. The knife took two stabs at him—literally—before it lost interest and flew off with the other items.
It was tempting to shoot them out of the sky, eradicating the rest of the possessed or magic-controlled objects altogether. However, now that he was focused on tracking them and not catching them, he noticed that they were leaving the premise of the town. Being a mage was part magic power, part heart, and part plain intelligence—that was one thing Laxus learned himself through simple observation. The first two aspects were something Fairy Tail excelled at; the last? Not so much. But Laxus wouldn’t he held down by any standard, even of his own people.
So Laxus switched gears and followed the floating objects, keeping just enough distance to ensure that he wouldn’t lose them. Hopefully, the little bastards would lead him to either the main bastard controlling them, or to their goal. Maybe both.
The lady had been convinced it was evil spirits or demons, out to destroy whatever legacy they had in their town’s Pumpkin Dance Festival, or whatever. It was mostly just superstition, anyway. However, it was odd enough that Laxus didn’t discount it. He knew demons were real, though they were usually much more of a problem than floating pieces of junk that liked to mock people. Still, Laxus kept the guildmaster’s theory in mind as he followed the remaining objects to the fields.
They didn’t enter them, though. They approached the ripe pumpkins and then veered left, past the edge of the farmland. For a moment, he was afraid the little bastards knew he was tailing him and were trying to lose him in the woods, but before they got deep, they approached some shed.
It looked like it could have been an old storage bin, abandoned due to age and lack of size. It was already rotting, and it couldn’t have been big enough to hold more than one person.
“Help!” one of the voices squeaked.
“Sorry,” whispered another.
The third grunted, sounding displeased even in its ethereal voice. He bet it was the knife.
A new voice joined them. “What happened? Oh, poor babies. Here, uh, have the blanket, and you…can have the doorknob? Sorry, I know it’s not cool.”
It was a real voice, and not a strange disembodied one. A guy, but he couldn’t have been any older than Laxus, and it sounded shaky and weak.
There was something else going on here. Laxus approached with caution, unsure if it was going to be a fight or something different. In hindsight, maybe he should have been more cautious—or gentler—because he scared the occupant of the old shed more than the other way around.
All Laxus saw was a flash of green eyes shining in the dark, and then nothing.
Laxus was standing next to the field again.
He had no idea how he got here, or how much time had passed. There was the faint feeling that for a moment, his limbs weren’t his own.
Had…had he been possessed? The hunch was strong, and he wished it wasn’t. The thought alone made Laxus uncomfortable, and the lingering fuzziness of his body and mind made him nauseous. However, if his body had been hijacked, then whoever did it—the owner of the green eyes, most likely—was either terrible at it, or he hadn’t meant to hurt him, because he was only a few dozen feet away and he was intact. It was still the same shade of dark outside, so he doubted he was out long.
Laxus turned back towards the site of the incident and ran. This time, he was ready for anything, wary of repeating whatever the hell just happened, but unwilling to let the culprit get away.
He got a head start, but Laxus was faster. The other boy wasn’t quiet as he stumbled through the woods, so finding him wasn’t a problem either. It also wouldn’t have been a problem to strike him down from behind, stopping him in his tracks while also making the first move. As it was, however, Laxus had good night vision. Whether it was just due to some natural prowess, or the way his eyes sometimes shifted and changed, was moot—all that mattered then was that Laxus could make out the kid’s shape, and the way he stumbled, floating objects in tow.
“Wait!” he called instead. “I won’t hurt you!”
Laxus’ job was to handle the mystery of the supposedly haunted town, and while his specialty was fighting, even Laxus knew that it wasn’t the answer to every problem and every job. He may not be good at the alternative, but Laxus was willing to try.
The boy paused, turning halfway to him but freezing before he turned around completely. He had close-shaven dark hair and was as tall as Laxus was yet half the size, easily noticeable by the fact that he was only wearing some oversized shirt or nightgown. There was enough moonlight to make out marks on his legs and arms, though it was hard to tell if they were scrapes or streaks of dirt. Maybe both.
The shovel head and knife were there, pointed at Laxus with what could only be described as ready to strike. A rusty doorknob, a badly knit blanket, and a tin can floated around the boy protectively.
Laxus took a tentative step forward, stopping again when the boy tensed, and the knife hovered closer. Now that he has gotten this far, he wasn’t sure what to do, so he stumbled through an awkward apology. “I didn’t mean to scare you. Sorry.”
He had meant to apprehend whoever was responsible for the so-called haunting, but that wasn’t actually part of his job. Besides, that lady had been an idiot, and it was possible that the “haunting” was benign. The creepy objects were bastards and rude, but they didn’t actually hurt anybody. (The knife tried though.)
Laxus could leave. He could say his job was done, collect the reward, and let the boy run to wherever. But he was rooted to the spot on the forest floor, unwilling to leave. He didn’t know how, and he didn’t know why, but this random boy obviously needed help.
“What do you want from me then?” the boy asked. His voice was even but hesitant.
He blurted out the main thing on the forefront of his mind. “You look like shit.”
The boy laughed. It almost sounded deranged, but it also could have been a genuine attempt thwarted by exhaustion. “Yeah no kidding. I feel like it too, thanks for asking.” He tilted his head, but still didn’t look at Laxus. “Any other observations, Captain Obvious, or should I head off now before the pitchforks come out?”
“Pitchforks?” Laxus repeated, before shaking his head. “What? No.” Ugh! What the hell was he supposed to do? This wasn’t something he was used to, and every time his gramps took someone in, it was generally at the guild and with very little words—and they weren’t half-starved.
Whatever. He might as well get to the point, because Laxus didn’t want the boy to die. What kind of mage would he be if he didn’t try and help? “If you’re not planning on stabbing me or anyone else, you could come back to the town instead of freezing your ass off out here. Your floating blanket won’t do any good if it starts raining.”
“Raining?” the objects echoed, though the knife echoed “stabbing” instead.
“Shush, you,” the boy said with a wave of his hand. “And you, are you nuts? They’ll definitely try to stab me if I go into town. I’m surprised you’re not tryna’ zap me right now, Lightning Fingers.”
“And why would I do that?”
The boy was incredulous enough to almost turn to Laxus fully, but another flash of green and he was snapping his head back in another direction. “Um, because I’m a freak of nature? I took over your body? I stole stuff? Oh, the souls in the objects? Those freak people out. I can keep going.”
Frankly, Laxus was unimpressed. “That’s it? You just sound like a normal homeless kid to me.”
“Uh, what part of ‘I can control human souls’ didn’t you get?” the boy pressed. “Honestly, normal people get mad over that one.”
“You didn’t hurt me though. And no one in the town got hurt either, even if your knife scared the shit out of the boss-lady.”
“Poppo,” the boy chastised. “We talked about this.”
The knife sagged in the air.
Huh. He had them named…
“But dude, seriously, are you nuts? Or are you messing with me? You got, like, a really bright soul so I doubt you’re trying to murder me, but still. Probably crazy.”
“You’re one to talk,” Laxus couldn’t help but to reply. His soul was really bright? What the hell?
The boy only laughed. “We’re not talking about me.”
“Yeah, we are. Now, are you going to come with me or not? I have a room at the inn, and food that isn’t raw pumpkins, unless you’re happy out here. I’m not going to turn you in, or anything.”
The boy continued to stare at him from the corner of his eye, body stiff and unsure. “You—” he started. “Why?”
It was a good question, one Laxus wasn’t sure he knew the answer to. The world was a suck-ish place, and people tended to look out for themselves. It was easier to sometimes, lest you be disappointed when others can’t or won’t help you. However, people also did shitty things, especially to each other—even to the people they were supposed to care for. It was a lesson Laxus learned nearly a year ago when he looked through his dad’s stuff, and a lesson he kept learning the more he observed the world. Even his guild, who tried to help others in their own way, while doing their own jobs, sometimes caused more problems than they solved them.
Personally, Laxus was grateful for the people who could help random strangers without rhyme or reason, and without any need for recompense. It proved that they were strong enough to carry themselves and others. Besides, Laxus always knew that he wouldn’t even be alive if it weren’t for that doctor-guy who decided to intervene for a kid he didn’t know. If he hadn’t died that night, then his dad might have come for him later.
He shrugged. Laxus didn’t have any complicated reason: he just wanted to be the best person he could.
Laxus watched the boy eat the apple he had packed for himself with grateful fervor. He had his jerky too, because he needed it, though either it was too hard on his stomach or it tasted weird, because it had been with more resignation than excitement. He still thanked him for it, though.
The majority of the town was asleep and tucked away when they returned, so there was no trouble, even with a half-dressed kid and his floating minions. Still, it was a shame it was so late, because Laxus would have gotten more food otherwise.
“What’s your name, anyway?” the boy asked, glancing at him for a second before looking down at the apple core.
Oh shit, that was something people opened with, wasn’t it? Oh well. “Laxus,” he replied. “Laxus Dreyar.”
“I’m Bickslow,” he responded with a grin. “And that’s Pappa, Peppe, Pippi, Puppu, and Poppo,” he continued, pointing to the blanket, the can, the shovel head, the doorknob, and the knife in sequence. “At least those are the names I gave them, but they like them, so it counts.”
Bickslow was perched on the side of one of the chairs like it was the normal way to sit in one. The balance was impressive, though it might have helped that he was barefoot—a fact Laxus only noticed later. Actually, how he stood on those things with how beat up they looked was the real question. The boy still wouldn't look at him directly, but he could see the makings of some black mark on his face, and curly marks on the corner of his eyes, when he would glance over at Laxus quickly before turning away again. It was odd, but it wasn't his first time around somebody who was self-conscious. Bickslow as a whole looked awful. He was right about the cuts and bruises and stains, but there were scars all over too, ranging from cuts and tears to what Laxus could only guess were burns. Bad ones, too. Laxus tried not to focus on it, but the fact that all he had was a tattered light blue oversized shirt made it too easy.
Laxus was figuring out how to voice his concern over the matter when Bickslow continued. “So you use magic, right? But you look all normal—well, aside from the bright soul, but is that a side effect? I’ll get back to you on that one. Where’re from?”
There was something else underlying the question, something beyond curiosity, that Laxus couldn’t quite place. It was like he was surprised by Laxus’ very existence. “I’m a Fairy Tail mage, from Magnolia. It’s a mage guild.”
“Riiight, those do exist,” he responded, like they were some esoteric thing. “With normal magic and stuff.”
“Nobody in Fairy Tail is normal,” Laxus scoffed. “But we’re legal, if that’s what you mean.”
Bickslow nodded, but said nothing, which Laxus could already tell by the hour max he’s spent with the kid that it was out of character. Laxus could already tell that he could use magic of some sort, based on the weird stint that happened on their first encounter, but he wasn’t bringing it up, so Laxus wouldn’t either.
“There’s a shower in here too,” he said instead, unsure what else to do to be helpful. “They might be too big, but you can have my change of clothes. I can wear this. Unless you have some stash somewhere else.”
“If I had anything but this, I wouldn’t be wearing it,” Bickslow quipped back, pinching the offending article with a frown. “Seriously, they had no style.”
The implications of his comment felt uncomfortable, but it wasn’t something Laxus could easily place. He watched as Bickslow slipped into the bathroom after dismounting the chair in a back somersault, his floating objects following him in—except for the blanket, which wouldn't fair well inside. The blanket—Pappa, he believed Bickslow called it—draped itself miserably across the bed.
Laxus couldn’t help but feel out of his depth here, but that was a feeling he was used to, and muscling past it always worked before. He’d cross each bridge when he got there. For now, he would get the strange and talkative in a stable place. Then, he would make sure there were no immediate threats; the suggestion that people have hunted Bickslow before left a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach.
The circumstance surrounding him was unsettling by itself. He was obviously running from something, though Laxus had no clue as to how long nor why. Bickslow didn’t seem like a bad guy, though. Sure, those floating things of his messed with him, but they didn’t hurt him, and neither did Bickslow when given the chance. And, disregarding magic, Bickslow looked like he would lose to anyone in a fist fight, considering his condition.
He didn’t make it far into his musings before Bickslow was inching out of the bathroom, objects in tow. Laxus was right in assuming that his clothes would be too baggy for him, despite them being the same height. Which was worrying, because Laxus really wasn’t that big.
Now that his hair was clean, Laxus could see that his hair was black, but with blue tufts starting to grow in uneven places. He could also see the scars on his arms more clearly.
The blanket tackled him as soon as he emerged, to which he laughed and accepted the head rub.
“It moped the entire time you were in there,” Laxus commented lightly. “They all seem pretty attached to you.”
“Yeah,” Bickslow laughed, though perhaps a little nervously this time. “The babies do like to hang around. They can’t go too far anyway though, otherwise my magic won’t reach. I don’t know what’ll happen if that happens, but I don’t want to know.”
So, it was his magic, then. They had a lot of personality to be a simply telekinetic thing though, and they were always active. “What are they, anyway?”
It he wasn’t nervous before, he definitely was now. “Um, well, they’re kinda’… souls? But they’re totally cool with me doing this. Isn’t that right, babies?”
“Right!” they echoed.
Huh. So that’s why they talked. Laxus knew that Chico chick did something with ghosts, and she could talk to them, but he never saw if anyone could or not. Maybe it was the way Bickslow’s magic worked. He could see why it would freak out people, but it wasn’t like dealing with ghosts was anything new—just rare.
Wait, then what was that thing he did to Laxus, then? “Is it a ghost thing, or something else? I think you totally got me earlier, but I’m not dead.”
“O-oh, right. Sorry about that. You startled me and I accidentally hijacked you by instinct, but it was useful to get away, so I kept it. The babies are kind of like ghosts, I think, but I can kinda control anything with eye contact. Human, th-that is. Well, obviously I don’t need eye contact for the people that are just souls, and they lose that stuff anyway, and I just move them from thing to thing, and I can get them to follow me if they’re being difficult, like Poppo usually is, but they normally do that stuff natural even without me saying anything, though they might have impressed on me more than I know, so uh, I don’t know.”
Bickslow’s rambling wasn’t precisely helpful, but it did ring familiar enough. “Is it a type of seith magic?” he asked.
Laxus didn’t know much about it, but he knew Nab used seith magic, though he only saw it with animals.
“Yeah, that’s what they called it,” he replied with a note of surprise. Another mention of the elusive ‘they’ had Laxus once again wondering if there was someone out there to beat up, but he was distracted by another revelation.
“Is that why you won’t look at me? Because you accidentally took control of my body?”
Bickslow’s shoulders slumped. “Yeah. I do that through my eyes, but they’re kinda tricky to control. Being able to see all the time is weird enough, but I don’t know how to make eye contact and not mind-zap people. Sorry.”
“Hey, I’m no stranger to not being able to control my magic all the time. I get that.” It was especially bad right after the lacrima got put in his body, and lightning would discharge from him randomly. The main thing now was the weird side effects it would play on his eyes and teeth and other body parts when he wasn’t paying attention.
“Really?” Bickslow asked, sneaking a look upward at him.
“Yeah. I got a bunch of magic shoved in me at once when I was a kid, so I was oozing lightning everywhere. I fried a lot of utility lacrimas and lights, and even shocked people.” It was the fast version of what happened, but still more than he usually told people—which was to say, Laxus brought up what happened as little as humanly possible. Most people didn’t get it when he had tried anyway, his gramps included. But Bickslow looked like he had it rougher than he did, and after being privy to this kid in his low state, it was only fair that he should have a glimpse at Laxus’.
Bickslow winced sympathetically. “That sucks.”
They sat in a beat of silence. Laxus made himself comfortable in the chair, leaving the bed to Bickslow. Laxus usually slept somewhat curled up anyway, at least once he hit his growth spurt. He would be fine. However, there was enough on his mind that made it difficult to sleep at all.
There was one, or maybe two, more things he wanted to settle with Bickslow first.
“Is anyone after you?” he asked, knowing the topic serious.
Bickslow had to think about it. “I’m not sure, but I don’t think so. Not now, anyway.”
It didn’t sound great, but it was doable. “Got a place to go?”
“Ha, no.” That answer was immediate.
“Fairy Tail accepts all mages, you know. Even kids. There’s dorms there that a lot of us stay in.”
“I thought we established that my magic was weird, though. What would a guild want with me?”
Laxus shrugged. “Magic shouldn’t be an issue. If it was, I’d fist-fight the guildmaster myself. It only matters if you wanna be in there and do good jobs.”
It was left at that, that night. Come morning, after Laxus had to spend an irritating amount of time convincing the guildmaster lady that the town wasn’t haunted anymore, he left Cecilia Town.
Bickslow kept tagging along, unsure of where to go in the meantime. So, he ended up going all the way to Fairy Tail.
He was a member before that day ended.