July 18, X778
“Just admit it, Laxus—you took a wrong turn. Again.”
“And what if I meant to come to this town?”
“Nah, he’s totally lost.”
“That’s what you boys get for never taking the train like civilized people.”
“Wandering around is pretty fun, though. Right Lux?”
“…both of you are insufferable.”
Laxus dragged his face against his hands, wondering what he did to deserve this. This was supposed to be a quiet job. Just him, the countryside of Fiore, and a group of shitty thieves he was going to beat the snot out of. A normal day.
Bickslow was a normal tag-a-long on these things, but Evergreen was new. Ever since he helped the girl with that job in the beginning of the year, she kept trying go on more jobs with him, even though she judged him for half of the things he did. It didn’t help that Bickslow found her nagging (at his expense) amusing and encouraged it. Laxus was glad that she got along with Bickslow, but his own sanity seemed to be the price.
Evergreen huffed. She had this amazing ability to act inconvenienced, when, in fact, she was the inconveniencer. “Fine. But if you insist on taking the long way back to Magnolia, then I’m taking a rest stop here.”
Well, that was one way to get her off of his back. “Don’t take too long,” he called after her. She made a shooing motion at him from behind her back, which might have just been her equivalent of flipping him off. He wasn’t sure.
“Food’s not a bad idea, since we listened to you for some reason and came this direction,” Bickslow piped up. “I think I’mma grab me something too.”
“Yeah, well, you guys can stop listening to me anytime you want,” Laxus grumbled. It was an honest mistake. It wasn’t his fault that Fiore had road signs at least a hundred years old and they changed road names all the time. He thought ‘Arbor Road’ was just the old name for ‘Harbor Road’ but apparently not.
“It’s more fun this way,” Bickslow informed him, cheeky as ever. He didn’t know what else he expected.
“Then stop complaining—wait.” Laxus cut himself off, suddenly wanting to focus on the noise that cut in through the usual ambience of a town. It was hard to tell, but there might have been yelling. And definitely a scream, which was unsettling in itself. “Do you hear that? It sounds like a fight.”
Bickslow quieted and looked around, before shaking his head. “I don’t have your weird dragon ears, dude, but I can check it out,” he replied. “Babies?”
At his command, the souls flew outwards in all different directions. Laxus knew that Bickslow’s babies would be better at tracking down the source of the noise than he would without physically going there. It was probably nothing, but Evergreen was somewhere, and he would feel bad if the kid got into trouble on his watch. (Even if she hadn’t really been invited in the first place.)
The loud sounds died down soon after he picked up on them. He was probably worrying over nothing. Things happened in towns. It could be innocuous. Those stupid, shitty invisible thieves must have just set him on edge.
Unfortunately, it looked like his paranoia was founded when Bickslow inhaled sharply and grimaced.
“What is it?” he asked, fearing the answer. He couldn’t hear anything anymore—not from here—so he was relying on the sight of the babies.
“East district, in a pub—there’s some sort of guild or gang there, that just had a fight.” Bickslow paused, looking over to him even though Laxus knew he was seeing through one of his babies’ eyes. “They have one of our guildmates.”
“What?! Is Evergreen—?!”
“It’s not her,” Bickslow said quickly. “It’s that new teen dude.” He paused, tilting his head. “I think they’re just gloating right now, so we have time.”
Well shit. Maybe it was a good thing he got lost and ended up here. “Send someone to go get Evergreen,” Laxus decided, “and let’s go.”
“Peppe is on it.”
They hurried to the east district. Normally, Laxus wasn’t one to get involved in other people’s quests or affairs, but he made an exception if they were obviously out of their depth. No one should be babied unnecessarily, but everyone should live to see tomorrow. Why be a guild at all if people didn’t lend a hand every once in a while? It was all about circumstance, and right now, it seemed that circumstance was dictating that his guildmate needed help. It was simple as that.
With Bickslow knowing the way, and Laxus listening out for further signs of incident, it didn’t take long to get there. He knew the place was full of hostiles, and he knew that they hurt his guild mate. That was enough for him.
Laxus kicked down the door, lightning gathering at his ankle. The door slammed across the room, into the bar, and all eyes were on him. Good. They looked like a bunch of thugs to him, though maybe a few of them had magic. He saw a green haired kid on the ground, and a blue-gray haired man standing above him; something about the man registered as a threat to Laxus, as if his very scent carried something odd and dark about it, and the way he was dressed made him stand out among the others. The leader, probably.
Every last one of them were distracted by his entrance like the doofuses they were, however, and that gave him all the time he needed to show these punks what a mage could really do.
As four of his babies flew towards the kid on the floor, Laxus summoned his magic. Lightning was fast, and it traveled easily; with Bickslow working to shield their guildmate, Laxus indiscriminately filled the entire pub with lightning, seizing every thug before they had the chance to make the first move.
Half of them passed out without any further moves made against them. How pathetic. The other half weren’t faring much better. When Laxus stopped electrocuting the floor and moved in, many of the lunging thugs were slow and uncoordinated, leading Laxus to be able to strike each person before they could get a shot at him. Laxus was fast, and lightning made his punches strong; they never stood a chance.
He was sure that between their surprise entry, his combat-oriented magic and Bickslow’s support, and the thugs’ tired stupidity, he could have finished the fight within thirty seconds. However, it turned that there was at least one competent fighter among them.
Laxus barely registered the word before his muscles tightened and his nerves were set on fire. He didn’t the feel the impact of any spell, but his entire body—head to toe—seized and ached like he had been shot by his own lightning.
He turned towards where the voice had come from to see the grayish-haired man with two fingers outstretched, his eyes black and pupils glowing purple.
Bickslow had moved the kid to the side, and now he had his babies circling in front of the guy and charging up an attack.
The man swiveled his outstretched arm in his direction, and swiftly used his fingers to write in the air. “Blind.” The words flew through the air and slapped Bickslow in the face, causing him to stagger back and croak in surprise.
The man smiled smugly. “There’s always a reason when a mage protects their eyes.”
Damn script magic! Laxus gritted his teeth and pushed through. He had never seen this kind of script magic at work before, but he knew a little bit about it because of Levy, so he knew it was literal. This was just pain, not injury, and it would not stop him—it wasn’t as bad as being fried by a lacrima anyway.
He dug his heel into the floorboard and filled his calf with lightning magic. The man may be clever with his magic, but now that Laxus knew what he was doing, he wasn’t going to give him the time to write. Laxus propelled himself forward, strengthening his forearm in turn with lightning magic and allowing the excess to crackle around him; he socked the man in the jaw, hard enough to send him flying backwards into the wall.
“Wha—?!” the man choked, weird purple eyes wide and fading to a black and yellow. (Which was still weird, but okay.) He braced himself against the wall like he was about to try something, but Laxus jumped out of the way just in time for the soul strike from Bickslow’s babies to finish charging and fire. The energy from the beam slammed the man deeper in the wall. Just because he was blinded, it didn’t mean his souls were.
Laxus was hoping that the script mage was squishy and would go down after the back-to-back heavy attacks, but suddenly, a gray arm was reaching out of Bickslow’s attack. Bastard was tankier than he thought. His vision was started to get spotty from the constant barrage on his nervous system, but Laxus readied his magic for another attack anyways, hoping to finally take him down.
Bickslow’s attack was barely over before Laxus chucked a halberd into the mage’s midsection, taking him from the wall to straight through the bar. Frustrated with his resilience, he sent another arc of lightning crashing after for good measure.
The dust hadn’t settled yet, but the tension in his muscles and nerves vanished, so he must finally be down. He breathed a sigh of relief now that his chest was constricting, and he saw Bickslow raise his head and look around, so his sight was probably back too.
“Figured you two would find a mess as soon as I left you,” Evergreen said from the doorway, announcing her presence as she stepped cautiously over the debris and bodies. Peppe was floating by her head, but once she made it to them, the doll joined the others with a chirp.
“Hey, this wasn’t our fault,” Bickslow retorted. “It just happened.”
She made a noise of doubt in the back of her throat. However, before she could say something sassy at their expense, a soft groan from the floor elicited their attention.
The green-haired kid from Fairy Tail rose abruptly, eyes wide in the expectation of a fight, only to stare dumbly when he made eye contact with the three of them. Oh shit, the kid; Laxus had almost forgotten him when the fight got intense. It was hard enough to function with the pain spell, much less pay attention to his surroundings properly. At least he was okay now. He looked a little roughed up but not overly so, so Laxus would guess that he was affected by the asshat with the script magic.
The dude was one of the newer members, though Laxus couldn’t remember when he joined. It might have been before Evergreen, even, but Laxus never had much of a reason to talk to him, though he recognized him from the guild hall, though the kid wasn’t there often. He was a teenager, though Laxus had no clue how old he actually was. He had long green hair and a slender face, but he was short. It was hard to tell if he was a pipsqueak like Evergreen, or just not done growing.
“You okay?” Laxus asked. “We were in town and noticed you getting beat up.”
At that, the kid bowed his head. “It was my shortcoming. I truly apologize,” he said tightly and miserably.
Laxus was taken back by the formality. Sure, he got hit by the script mage and was incapacitated, but the group as a whole was worthless enough that he was sure to handle it when he recovered. He did get his ass handed to him, but this wasn’t the type of job someone should take solo unless they were sure of themselves. He was alive now, though, so this was just a point moving forward. Though he didn’t need to act so pathetic right now; it was just uncomfortable, and it’s not like Laxus was going to beat him over the head for it. (He had enough of that, it would seem.)
Luckily, Bickslow was better at this kind of stuff than he was, so he was able to jump in faster. “Easy dude, don’t sweat it that much. It was just lucky you got guildmates around, yeah?” Bickslow placated with his signature smile. “It’s Freed, right?”
Of course Bix knew his name. He knew everybody, somehow, even if he had never spoken to them a day in their lives. Laxus wasn’t unconvinced that these things weren’t written on their souls or something, even though Bickslow swore it wasn’t.
“Yes, it is,” Freed replied, looking startled to be known. Guess he was one of the ones Bickslow just noticed. “And you’re all from Fairy Tail, too, correct?”
“You know it,” Evergreen chirped with a wink.
Now that the awkward introduction was out of the way, Laxus moved on to the next item. “Are you hurt?” he asked. Laxus couldn’t smell any blood or burns, but that didn’t mean that there wasn’t something else.
But Freed shook his head. “No, I am alright. I was just hit with an unconscious rune.” He grimaced, blue eye shifting over to where the man lay in the broken counter.
Evergreen winced. “That sounds powerful,” she sympathized.
It did. He didn’t use the same trick on them, so either he expelled too much power on the first, or he couldn’t use the same script—or rune, as Freed called it. Laxus didn’t know that much about that kind of magic, so how was he to know?
Laxus followed Freed’s gaze to the incapacitated rune mage. Huh. His arms were half morphed into some furry gray form and there were claws on his hands. The transformation didn’t look complete, and normally that kind of magic was negated when a mage was knocked out. Laxus would question whether or not he was truly unconscious if it weren’t for the fact that the scripts stopped. Oh well. It wasn’t his job anyway.
“What happened?” Laxus asked next. This, he was somewhat curious about.
Slowly, Freed pulled his gaze from the mage. There seemed to be some connection between the two that Laxus couldn’t quite place. Unless the kid was just that bothered by being beat, but that didn’t explain the weird…familiarity.
“It was a job,” Freed explained to no one’s surprise. “This pub acts as a hideout of sorts for a group of thieves. The job was to retrieve from them the client’s stolen heirloom. However, when I was scoping out the place…” He grimaced, gaze flitting to the fallen mage briefly. “I was thrown off guard and taken down as a result. I suppose I failed.”
Wow, he was really beating himself up, huh? He seemed shaken up over the matter, so it made sense, but the kid was dramatic. “No,” Laxus countered. “You said the job was to retrieve the heirloom, right? You can still do that, can’t you?”
Freed stared dumbly. “But you were the one who defeated the thieves. You deserve the credit.”
“That has nothing to do with your job,” he pressed, shaking his head. Damn, kid was dense. “So go finish your job. We were just looking out for you, that’s all. It’s what guildmates do.”
Laxus was beginning to suspect that Freed was younger than he originally guessed by the way he was looking at Laxus like the world finally made sense. It’s not like Laxus did much of anything, though—just beat up some thugs.
He cleared his throat. “Well, uh, we’ll get going and leave you to it, unless you need anything else?” Laxus eyed the mage. “We can send for someone to handle that one, if you think it’s necessary.” He may just be a thief, but as a mage, the Rune Knights would handle him, and he obviously did something to freak Freed out.
To his surprise, Freed shook his head quickly. “No, that’s not necessarily. He’s a useless vagabond, but not that dangerous.”
“If you say so,” Evergreen remarked with a shrug. “Anyways, I left as soon as I ordered thanks to you, so I’m going to go back and get my food.”
“Ooh, is the food any good? I’m starving,” Bickslow added. Before he knew it, the two of them had scurried off, and Laxus numbly realized that he had no idea where they were going.
Despite his statement on the matter, Freed was still eyeing the script mage as he proceeded to pick around the debris, observing the counter. Laxus knocked him pretty hard, so he probably wasn’t getting up anytime soon, but he understood the concern. It was one of the reasons he was hovering still despite what he said.
It was also the weird…smell. Laxus couldn’t place it, and he had a feeling it was part of the “dragon slayer” thing that no one else was bothered by, so he was left to figure it out on his own. The man just seemed familiar, somehow, though Laxus didn’t remember ever fighting someone like him before. It was weird.
It wasn’t until he noticed Freed writing a purple rune on a back wall that it clicked. The smell was all right here. They looked different, but it was same smell—the same way that the Strauss siblings kinda smelled the same. Coupled with the way Freed seemed equally nervous and apathetic.
Yeah, Laxus could recognize that anywhere; he knew what it was like to have a shitty family member. Even though it was their fault, the proximity to them couldn’t help but make you feel either responsible or victimized. Maybe both, depending. It sucked.
He didn’t want to leave Freed alone, even if it wasn’t likely that the guy would wake up, but he didn’t want to intrude either, so he just hung by the door until Freed found the thing he was looking for.
Satisfied that nothing else happened, Laxus shoved his hands in his pockets and began to leave, knowing he was going to have to figure out where the other two went. However, he couldn’t help but to stop and look over his shoulder at Freed again, who was still acting skittish. Yes, it sucked having to deal with family when they were making a fool of themselves, but it must suck worse when they were still alive.
“He’s not your problem either, you know,” he said finally. “He makes his choices, and you make yours.”
It was a terrible pep talk, but it was something. It bothered Laxus to think that his guildmate was having to go through something like that.
He would leave him to go finish his job, though. Laxus had hovered enough. He needed to go find Evergreen and Bickslow now.