June 4, X782
“Come on, Lisanna, we’re going on a job.”
Natsu couldn’t help but to deflate a little at the words. It was a nice day out, and even though they weren’t doing anything but fish on the lake, he was enjoying the time with his two friends.
Especially since Mirajane had been trying to go on more jobs with her siblings since she became S-Class. Maybe she realized that it was better to spend time with her little siblings than constantly trying to achieve more power? Although Lisanna didn’t seem thrilled to go on jobs with her all the time, so maybe not. Natsu tried to stay out of it though, because he hated to think that he would get in the way of their family just because he was a demon.
“But guys,” Lisanna rebutted with a frown, “it’s our day off. And the fish are biting!”
“An S-Class job is more exciting than fishing,” Mirajane laughed, hands on her hips.
She was right, of course, but he could smell Happy’s disappointment already. He had been looking forward to fishing for a while, and Erik was finally out on a job when the three of them weren’t, so they could go to the house and cook them to their heart’s content. Even Happy was curious about what Lisanna meant about trying to bake it in stuff instead of just eating it, and Happy was weird and ate things raw. Oh well, there would be another time.
But Lisanna was still frowning. “You didn’t ask me earlier. I made plans.”
“It’ll be a manly job though!” Elfman interjected, holding the job flyer up. “An emergency monster-hunt to take down the ‘Beast.’ With all of us, it’ll be over before the next fish bites.”
“It’s good experience for the both of you to be able to utilize your magic,” Mirajane continued. “I know you can do it, and with me around, it’ll be a cinch.”
An S-Class monster fight did sound fun. If it weren’t Lisanna’s siblings, Natsu would be tempted to want to tag along, because there was something exciting about taking on giant beasts. However, Natsu didn’t want to be in range of Mirajane when she was seriously using magic, and it would only be awkward. He wouldn’t put Lisanna in that position. Maybe when Acnologia got back, he could convince him to take him on a job like that. Sometimes Acno would bring them with him so they could punch things too, and then he would swoop in if anything ever got serious.
Natsu snapped his head back to the conversation, surprised by what he heard. Mirajane and Elfman looked shocked too. Lisanna was upset. Her arms were crossed, and she had that smell about her, and Natsu knew she was serious. Because Lisanna was patient—amazingly, baffling patient in ways Natsu couldn’t begin to understand—and now she was mad. It was a little scary, even though Lisanna hadn’t moved from her position and her lips were only in a tight line.
Mirajane blinked rapidly, and for a moment she didn’t even look scary. “I’m sorry, you…”
“I said no,” Lisanna repeated, just as firm. “You can’t expect me to pick up everything and go on jobs with you. You two can handle it just fine without me, I’m sure.”
“But—” Elfman started.
“No. I’ll go on a job with you when you can ask nicely and ahead of time. I went anyways the last time, and the time before that, but I’m tired. If you need a third, ask somebody else.”
The siblings stared at each other silently for a moment. Natsu couldn’t help but to watch, awed by the transaction, and a little confused all the same. Had something happened? Were they in a fight? Natsu couldn’t tell because they weren’t saying anything, and they weren’t literally fighting, but the worst fights between family tended to be silent. It was one of the things that made it so terrible to deal with.
Eventually, Mirajane and Elfman turned and left with an awkward “goodbye.” Lisanna didn’t move until they were gone and Natsu could only barely hear them shuffling along the forest path. She slumped her shoulders forward and breathed out.
Natsu and Happy shared a glance, and he could tell that Happy was as oblivious as he was. So Natsu asked, “Are you okay?”
Lisanna smiled, but it didn’t look quite right. “I’m fine, Natsu. I’m sorry you had to see that.”
Something was definitely happening, but Natsu didn’t know what. He doubted that there was anything he could do about it except cheer Lisanna up, but there was one thing he had to make sure about.
“You can go on a job with your siblings if you want. You don’t have to stay because of me.” Natsu really didn’t want to be the reason other people weren’t spending time with their families. That just felt wrong. He didn’t think Lisanna would do that, but the exchange had been odd. There had many tense encounters between them in the past, but Natsu assumed that they were uncomfortable because of him, not because of anything else, but now he wasn’t sure.
“No, no, Natsu it’s not because of that,” Lisanna explained, waving her hands in front of her. She sighed. “You go on jobs with your siblings all the time, but they never force you to go, right? O-or expect that you’re always going to drop everything last minute.”
Natsu blinked at the question. Did they? “I think Sting and Rogue made me be their body shield a few times, does that count?”
“But they ask you. Ahead of time. And your older brothers never just decide that you’re going on a job,” she continued, and Natsu finally understood where she was going with her line of questioning.
Oh. He never thought about it that way. It was true. With the exception of whenever Acno decided it was ‘training day’ (which nobody was exempt from), which they did get a warning for, it was always phrased as a question. Normally Natsu always went, because why not, but now that he thought about it, he did pass on some of those boring quests Wendy and Rogue wanted to do, mostly because he knew that they could easily convince Erik or Acno if they really didn’t want to be alone, because those quests just involved reading things and waiting around, and that wasn’t Natsu’s strong suit. Gajeel and Erik rarely asked, because they mostly did those sneaky quests and Natsu was better at direct combat. Sometimes they would do something more fun and invite him along, and sometimes Natsu was the one that wanted the company, and he would ask whoever was home at the time.
Even though they were his family, and they did stuff together a lot, they weren’t a team like Shadow Gear or Thunderstorm. They still did their own stuff and went on jobs with friends or by themselves, depending on the mood. Now that Lisanna mentioned it, it was true that it was rare that he ever got to go on a job with her, because she was often on one with her older siblings. He never thought much of it, because they were family so of course they were spending time together, but if Natsu had to go on those sit-at-a-bar-for-six-hours-and-find-a-thief quests all the time, he would rather be fishing too.
It was still sad that Lisanna wasn’t enjoying jobs with her siblings, and that they didn’t notice that she wasn’t wanting to go, but he understood, because Mirajane could be scary. He knew Lisanna still loved her, and Elfman, because of course she would. Natsu knew that nothing could ever really make family abandon each other, even if things got…complicated.
“Whoa! I got something!” Happy squeaked excitedly, and both he and Lisanna turned their attention toward him.
“It sounds big,” Natsu informed him with a grin, because it was flopping a ton underneath the water.
He stole one more glance to Lisanna, making sure she was doing better. She was starting to relax again, which was good, so Natsu took her by the arm with a smile. “Come on, we can’t let Happy do better than us!”
At his great relief, her resulting smile was brighter this time. “Right!”
The past day was one of the nicest Lisanna had in a while, and she felt guilty for it.
She continued to spend with the day with Natsu and Happy, and it was great. They fished, they cooked, and Natsu didn’t even set anything on fire. (Not that anyone let him do anything but ignite the stove, but still.) They watched one of those cheesy comedy lacrima-films and fell asleep on the couch, and even when she noticed in the middle of the night, she stayed because the couch was just as comfortable as the spare bed, and Happy was using her leg as a pillow so there was no need to move. It was nice. Relaxing. And best of all, she was with her two best friends.
It’s not that Lisanna didn’t want to spend time with Elf and Mira. She did, really, but she was just…tired. Tired of getting dragged along, tired of fruitlessly trying to convince her older siblings that not everything needed to end in a fight, and ultimately, tired of having to keep her mouth shut because she knew she couldn’t convince them. Not without jeopardizing the secrets of others, perhaps, but Lisanna hated to think that she would have to slap them with the truth in order for them to see. Even then, there was a part of her that was afraid that they still wouldn’t understand, and Lisanna didn’t know what she would do if she was ever in that kind of confrontation.
Because Mira and Elf wanted to become stronger. Lisanna didn’t fault them for that: every mage wanted to improve themselves, and that was a good thing. However, it seemed like it was their one goal, and everything they did was for that goal, and Lisanna couldn’t keep up.
No. That was a lie. She could keep up, but she didn’t want to. Lisanna knew that they meant well, that they were good people, but no gentle prodding could really persuade them that taking over the souls of demons and beasts wasn’t for the best. It was hard when they were right in the fact that most jobs that they went on involving those kinds of people meant that they were hurting somebody but… Lisanna couldn’t say that she was comfortable with it.
She couldn’t say much, though, because she had once thought like that as well. She thought that it was no different than the circle of life, and simply taking their magic so they couldn’t use it to hurt anybody. All three of them were predisposed toward the magic, and that wasn’t a bad thing. Perhaps Lisanna had been naïve to think that absorbing animals was the same as what her siblings did, but knowing that Natsu was demon, and remembering that time she got to go on a job with Acnologia and Natsu and they came across a family of weretigers and they had the nicest kids, made the difference clear.
Even then, Lisanna knew that there were boundaries. Acno had been the first one to ask her, when he was helping her along with some of the dragonlings with identifying smells, if animal souls stayed intact when she absorbed them and if she had their memory of scents, and Lisanna hadn’t known how to answer. She had to ask him more, and though the dragon admittedly didn’t know much about take-over magic, what he did know troubled her. Souls lingered. Souls were the essence of what a person was, and even if it was stripped to nothing but magic, there was personality in souls that ether did not have. Discussing the topic over with Bickslow solidified their understanding of their magic, and Lisanna was left with the realization that that was why take-over magic sometimes backfired: either the user’s soul subdued the absorbed soul, or it was the other way around.
Everything died eventually, but it was such a sad way to die.
Since then, every time Lisanna took over a new animal, she did so carefully, and she did so sparingly, like a hunter would in a forest he wanted to keep thriving. If the soul kicked back, she let it go. It only happened once, with a crow that burned in her chest until she released it to the sky, but she wanted to be a good resting spot for the creatures she made a part of her. It was so hard to tell if the animals were still inside of her, or if they faded long ago, and she didn’t know if Mira and Elf experienced similar sensations. Lisanna believed that the cat was still whole, because she felt something stir inside her whenever she called upon it. When she tried to release the cat, however, nothing happened, so Lisanna also held onto hope that take-overs could be mutual without the soul losing itself completely. Better yet, if Lisanna could spend enough time with the creature, such as benign animals, to simply take in its essence instead of its soul, she would. Lisanna wasn’t sure she could say the same for Mira and Elf. Elfman used to just imbibe upon creatures for his beast arm, but he was getting more restless about full take-overs because they were ‘stronger,’ although he hadn’t successfully accomplished one yet. She was secretly glad for it.
Her siblings seemed fine, for the most part, but after the realizations and theories made by her and Bickslow, both trying to glean from Acnologia in order to learn about the magic they happened to be born with, Lisanna noticed the changes. Mirajane obtained a cruel edge, and she wasn’t ashamed of her actions no matter what they were, and Elfman became obsessed with a concept he never could quite describe other than being ‘manly.’ They were subtle changes, and perhaps they really were a resulting of how they were growing up and seeing the world, but Lisanna couldn’t help but to wonder if those souls in them were still intact, or if they squirmed until they faded, or if they left more than magic behind.
Once, and only once, did Lisanna ask. She asked Mira if a demon ever fought being absorbed, and she replied, with complete nonchalance, “all the time.”
Lisanna was afraid to ask again. She didn’t want to know more about Mirajane if it was bad. It was the reason why she knew Natsu hated hearing about tales of Zeref; it was hurtful if it was false or misconstrued, but it was worse if it was true.
Maybe she should be better about explaining it to them. She didn’t have to sell out Natsu, or Bickslow, or Acnologia, or anybody—she could just present it as things she learned, or maybe just things she worried about. Lisanna knew that her siblings were good people, but they were so stubborn about protecting her, or getting stronger, that it was hard to get through to them, but maybe if she was more straightforward, she could. She hated confrontation, but she hated not doing anything when she knew better more.
All of those thoughts and feelings were mitigated, however, by her worry. It was almost noon, and they weren’t back yet. Nobody in the guild had seen them come in, and she hadn’t seen them herself. Elfman was so sure it was going to be a fast mission, and it really was nearby, too. Mira wasn’t the type to sight-see while on a job, or even stick around, and the only reasons she could think of for those two not completing a monster-hunt job quickly were all bad.
They wanted her to come with them. Maybe they really did think all three of them were necessary to beat it. Did they go in underpowered? Underprepared? Did they overestimate something? She was always the one making them be careful, to think twice, because they were always so focused on protecting her, their little sister, that they didn’t look out for themselves. She thought that maybe they would if she wasn’t there to coddle, but maybe she was the one overestimating them and their self-preservation.
Maybe she should go. Even if nothing was wrong, she could apologize, because she knew she acted coldly without them knowing the entirety of it. She was upset that they dragged her around, especially when she knew that the dragonlings functioned just as well and they weren’t clingy and they were honest, but there was so much more to it, and it was her fault too.
That could come later, though. Now she just needed to lay eyes on them, because something just felt…wrong.
“I’m going to check on them,” she declared, startling Natsu.
“My siblings. They’ve been gone too long now, and… And I just need to make sure they’re doing okay. The quest did seem hard, and it was a new one, so nobody had probably attempted it yet.” Now that she was speaking, the worry started to spill out of her. “What if they got hurt? Or if they’re in over their head? They’re too stubborn to turn back but they could need back-up, and—”
“Hey, if you’re worried, we can go,” Natsu replied, interrupting the stream of consciousness that was about to vomit from her mouth.
She looked over at Natsu and saw his dark eyes were somber, which was a rare and almost intimidating look on him, and he was standing too. Oh no, she hadn’t— she hadn’t meant to involve Natsu in this. It was her problem and her fault for not going with them in the first place, and she knew that Natsu was scared of Mirajane, and she never wanted to put her best friend in a bad spot like that.
“You don’t have to,” she insisted. “Besides, it could be nothing, but—”
She wasn’t surprised when he shook his head. “Family is important,” he said, and somehow everything held more weight when Natsu was the one being serious, and it wasn’t just her worrying. “Besides, they’re my guildmates too. Let’s go.”
Happy, too, nodded with a straight face. “Aye.”
Lisanna couldn’t help but to smile, even though the paranoia and negative feelings were still writhing in her chest. Family was important, but what would she do without her friends?
“Thank you.” She wrapped both of them in a hug and she meant it. “I know where it is. It’ll be faster if we fly.”
Natsu’s wings were as large as Mirajane’s, if not larger. Lisanna always loved seeing them, all red and leathery, even though there were so few opportunities for Natsu to use them outside of isolated practice and traveling. He was getting better at it, too, even if he wasn’t as fast as Lisanna’s kite wings.
Even still, it didn’t take them long to fly over the western forest and to the foot of the mountains.
There was no need to guess where to go, because they could see it from above the trees.
Without a word, they dived. Natsu undid the partial transformation mid-air and Happy caught him seamlessly. Lisanna summoned her kite eyes as well, looking for movement just like Acnologia suggested. She spotted a blur of white and angled her body towards it without thought.
“There’s Mirajane!” Natsu shouted with a point, directing Happy and making her focus in on what she saw.
It was Mirajane, and she was alone. The unease that Lisanna had been battling rose exponentially, especially when she saw the state that Mira was in when they got closer. She can’t remember the last time she saw her at anything but her best, and now it looked like she could barely stand.
Her sister whipped her head in their direction when she called, eyes wide and growing wider. “Lisanna?! Natsu? What the hell are you doing here?!”
“We came to help,” Lisanna replied quickly, instantly perturbed by her sister’s panic. Mirajane never panicked. Never so openly. Something was really wrong. “Where’s Elf?”
And that’s when Lisanna knew. Mira’s face was enough, and her heart simultaneously dropped to her stomach and lodged itself in her throat.
Mirajane feebly pointed to the screaming beast rampaging through the trees. “H-he tried a full take-over, but he— it didn’t—” Mira gasped for breath. “I-it was too much, and now it’s—it’s been so long, and I-I don’t know if he’s still…”
“That’s Elfman?” Natsu asked, eyes wide and voice sharp. “I can’t— I can’t smell him.”
Mira sucked in a sob.
Lisanna focused. Her gut was a raging pool of fear and anxiety, but she had to be strong. Someone had to be the calm and rational one, and that was a position Lisanna was used to. She didn’t know how long Elfman had been taken over, or how volatile and desperate the soul he took was, but she had to have faith that her brother was strong too.
She took a slow step forward, tilting her head to make eye contact with the blank and raging eyes of the beast. “Hey Elf,” Lisanna started, keeping her voice calm. She hoped that the beast fighting for her brother’s body did not smell her fear, because she knew she reeked of it, just as Mirajane smelled of desperation.
She ignored Mira’s cry and Natsu’s yelp behind her. “It’s your little sister, Lisanna. What’s the matter, Elf? Did you forget Mira, too?”
The beast growled, moving his head downward. He didn’t attack, so Lisanna latched onto hope and continued. At this point, she just needed to draw out Elfman’s soul before it was lost or irrevocably changed. She tried not to think about the what ifs. There was no way of knowing how long it had been, or how long Elf had been struggling against the take-over he attempted. She wasn’t Bickslow, who could see souls, or Erik, who could hear them; there was no way of knowing if it was too late or not. All she had was hope.
“There’s no way you would forget us, right big brother? Because we love you very much.”
Her heart clenched and her voice cracked at the last line, especially as the beast before her continued to look at her without recognition. She needed Elfman to hear that, because otherwise… Otherwise the last thing she ever said to him was telling him no and cutting him off. Telling him to leave her alone.
The beast roared, only an echo of her brother’s voice in, and he raised himself to full height. Lisanna stood her ground in front of her sister and braced herself. “Let’s go home, okay?”
For a brief, agonizing moment, the beast paused, his arm in the air. Lisanna could hope, and she could pray, but in the end, a part of her was already expecting the swing.
A force knocked into her and they went tumbling underneath the legs of the beast that was not Elfman. Natsu half grunted and half gasped, and Lisanna didn’t need to have his sense of smell to know that he was hit.
She rolled over him and braced her arms against the ground as she transformed her back into a tortoise’s shell as the beast’s clawed foot raked over them. Lisanna bit back a scream as she could feel the shell crack; defense was never her strong suit, but she would try to maintain it to protect her family.
The beast screamed again, sounding less and less like her brother and more like a scared and enraged animal. His clawed hand swung down, but Natsu thrust his fist out from around her and blasted fire in a concentrated stream. It hit the beast’s hand and he pulled it back with a hiss.
She dropped the shell and switched to the wings and feet of a kite as Natsu pulled himself to his feet. Her back hurt, but it would be fine; she was better at dodging and attacking from behind, and Natsu was better at pulling attention to himself and hitting harder.
But this was still her brother. At the very least, it was his body, and she pulled up instead of digging her talons into his neck because that was her brother.
He was also the creature that was trying to rampage toward the town and who was gunning for her older sister, who looked like she could hardly move, much less use magic. The creature that hurt Natsu—had hurt her—and who was still trying to do both of those things. Who charged through Natsu’s flames and towards them despite Mirajane’s pleas. The creature that was— That used to be her brother.
Lisanna screamed. Tears blurred her eyesight as the dam within her cracked and spilled, as she twisted her body and landed an attack on the creature’s face, tearing into his eye and knocking him back away from Natsu and Mirajane. She screamed as she hurt her brother to protect her sister and best friend.
She screamed as the beast’s reflexes were as fast as her own and a clawed hand swiped her out of the air.
The air was knocked from her lungs and her magic fell away from her body, leaving her limp and struggling to correct herself mid-air. But she couldn’t. Lisanna hit the ground and her sight sputtered. Everything hurt, but she could fix this. She could get up, if only she could move. She had to. Natsu had been hurt, and Mirajane was out of magic, and they both were still fighting. She could still fight. She had to. This was her fault. If she had warned them better, if she had been there, if she had been a better sister, maybe this wouldn’t have happened at all.
Lisanna tried to suck in a breath but she couldn’t. The pain froze her chest and spotted her vision. For a moment, Lisanna thought she was going to black out.
But everything faded to white instead.
Mirajane knew what it was like to feel helpless. She hated it. She hated it so much, having felt it every second of her life since their parents died and she couldn’t do enough to care for her little siblings. When she was stuck as a demon and they were despised for it and she couldn’t do a single thing but run.
Mirajane had vowed never to feel helpless again. She got stronger, she held her head up high, and she never looked back.
But she would take it all back, and she would feel every second of her past uselessness again if she could take back the clock thirty seconds and never have to see her sister die in front of her eyes.
But she couldn’t. She couldn’t, and the sight burned into her like a brand of her own futility: the sight of the beast that took over Elfman hitting Lisanna so hard that her very body started to dissolve into the air as she was flung, blood and magic spilling out of her. And Mirajane knew, even though every bone in her body pleaded for it not to be, that it was fatal.
Natsu screamed too. She knew he saw it, and he wasn’t able to take the subsequent hit tearing in their direction with the same readiness he should have had. The hit that was clearly meant for her batted Natsu into the ground, and when the monster raised his claw again, Natsu didn’t move.
Mirajane couldn’t move either. It was like she was trapped in a nightmare, and the world itself was suffocating her. Her dwindling magic, lack of sleep, and sheer stupidity were chains that held her down and she was too weak to break them, and her family was paying the price.
No. They paid it.
She was the worst older sister anyone could ever have.
She killed them. She killed her little siblings with her own ineptitude.
The damn beast that started it all marched toward her, living off of her little brother, and Mirajane would have let it kill her. She deserved it.
However, she made eye contact with Happy, and her heart stuttered back to life. The cat was fruitlessly hovering over Natsu’s body, too small to protect him and unable to wake him up, and when he looked at her, he looked every bit like the five-year-old he was. Lisanna loved that cat. Just as she loved Natsu, and everybody in the guild, and everybody and everything in the world because she was a good person. Mirajane saw Happy trying, saw him pleading with her to be the S-Class mage she was supposed to be, and she saw Natsu breathing.
There were still people alive, and a town behind her, but there wouldn’t be if she let this thing run free.
Mirajane might not have been a good person, but she would take responsibility.
Her exhaustion didn’t matter. She reached into the depths of her magic reserves, scraping every last drop, even if it came from her blood, and she grabbed it.
Soul extinctor ripped from her hands and into the beast. It screamed, and so did she. Mirajane dropped to her knees as the monster fell on its back, and she stared at it through her tears, numbly hoping to see the beastly body dissolve back into her brother.
Mirajane collapsed, the last of her strength dedicated to her sobs. She had hoped—foolishly hoped—that if she embraced the monster inside of her then it wouldn’t hurt anybody. Then she could control it. But all she did was drag her brother into a battle they weren’t prepared for and push her sister away in ways that Mirajane didn’t know, day after day. Mirajane was never able to apologize to her. Lisanna probably died thinking that she didn’t care, while Lisanna cared too much. She never should have come after them, even though Mirajane knew that Lisanna was right, because she wouldn’t have been able to stop the beast in the state she was in, just like Mirajane couldn’t stop it from taking over her baby brother.
And she couldn’t stop her baby sister from getting killed by it.
“All things die someday,” Lisanna once said, with wisdom beyond her years. Mirajane knew it was how Lisanna coped with the loss of their parents, and how she viewed life as precious even when they were just monsters and demons.
All things died, but her little siblings shouldn’t have died before she did. It should have been her.
Lisanna often asked about what happened if a soul died. Mirajane never knew the answer, so she always brushed it off, but now, she wished that she had listened to Lisanna more. Because something inside of Mirajane died that day too, even though she was still breathing.
Beloved sister, dear friend
October 21, X767 – June 5, X782
Beloved brother, courageous
March 16, X766 – June 5, X782