The Knight and the Hunter
Summary: Axel, Erza's younger brother, fell out of their boat as they escaped Jellal and the Tower of Heaven as children. Erza thought he was dead. They reunite, but Axel isn't the kind-hearted little boy he once was...
Natsu's fist's caught fire an instant before he screamed something nobody could make out and launched himself toward Laxus, who effortlessly caught Natsu's arm and threw him to the side.
"REQUIP!" Axel and Erza both shouted as they ran toward Laxus.
"Lightning Empress Armor!" Erza shouted as she glowed bright white for a moment before wearing an ornate white armor with yellow accents.
"Shadow King Robes!" Axel yelled, his hunting clothes vanishing to be replaced by pitch black short robes covered by a leather chestpiece.
The siblings attacked in sync, Erza thrusting her newly requipped spear toward Laxus' chest while Axel swept at his legs with the Blitz Pike.
But Laxus was, unsurprisingly, lightning fast. He hopped over Axel's blow and caught Erza's spear with a single hand. A wicked grin covered Laxus' face as he pumped magical electricity down Erza's weapon. Laxus laughed as he continued to filter lightning through Erza's own weapon and block Axel's furious blows with his other hand.
But when Natsu jumped behind him and punched him in the back of the head, screaming, "Fire Dragon's Iron Fist!" Laxus stopped laughing. After all, it is hard to laugh when your face is smashed into the floor.
Laxus leapt to his feet, lightning shooting off him in all directions. Axel realized all Natsu accomplished with that, beyond freeing Erza from her electric stasis, was piss off Laxus Dreyar.
But Natsu would not let Laxus breathe. The Fire Dragon Slayer was enraged. That was plain to see. "Fire Dragon's Talon!" Natsu shouted as he kicked at Laxus, who caught the blow nearly effortlessly.
Laxus immediately threw Natsu toward the charging Erza, sending them both to the floor of the cathedral. The lightning wizard charged up his magic and shot a bolt of lightning at the tangled pair.
Fortunately, Axel got there first with the Blitz Pike.
"That thing is really starting to piss me off!" Laxus growled.
"What's wrong, Laxus?" Axel taunted with a smug look on his face as Natsu and Erza picked themselves off the ground. "Are you not used to your magic being ineffective? Powerless?"
Several veins became visible as Laxus' face turned red. "I'll show you powerless, worm!" Laxus screamed, throwing lightning bolt after lightning bolt at Axel.
Natsu and Erza could only watch in awe as Axel caught each and every building-crushing bolt on the Blitz Pike, Laxus only becoming more enraged. Axel was pleased to see the sweat dripping off Laxus' brow from the effort of so much magic.
"It's no use, Laxus," Axel taunted again, a nearly sadistic grin decorating his face. "This pike has taken greater blows from greater foes. Your magic is just too weak." Axel's voice dropped to just above a whisper, but Laxus still heard, as Axel intended.
"WEAK?!" Laxus roared, lightning gathering on his massive arms. "RAGING BOLT!"
"MOVE, AXEL!" Erza screamed, knowing the devastating power of this spell.
But Axel ignored his sister, and caught the powerful lightning spell on his spear. He realized his mistake a moment too late. The Blitz Pike, which Axel previously thought immune to all lightning, exploded from the incredible torrent of electric power coursing through it, sending the hunter flying through the air and slamming him against the stone wall of the cathedral.
He knew fear for the first time in a long time as he barely managed to roll away from Laxus' follow up attacks. "Fool! Weakling!" Laxus cried, a maniacal look in his eyes as he aimed fatal blow after fatal blow at Axel, who now only managed to dull the blows by rolling off them. "Learn your place!"
Natsu and Erza did not waste a second. The entire time they tried to force the enraged Laxus away from Axel before he killed him, but Laxus dodged every attack they made while continuing his assault on the hunter.
Finally, Natsu landed a blow on Laxus, giving Axel enough room to breathe. The hunter quickly tapped into his armor's incredible speed, seemingly jumping in and out of the nearby shadows. "Requip! Apollon Recurve!" Axel yelled, grabbing the golden bow in his shaking hands.
Axel launched a storm of arrows at Laxus, always dancing out of range when the lightning wizard turned to him, and delivering brutal blows to every joint and weak point he could when Natsu and Erza had his attention.
For their part, Natsu and Erza were managing to deliver several savage strikes to the nearly invincible Laxus as some connecting arrows slowed him down slightly. The combination of all three's attacks began to slow the lightning wizard down, but only by little. Every successful attack Laxus made still had devastating effect, sending whoever was dealt the blow flying.
The rune board flashed brightly, announcing that the Thunder Palace spell had only three minutes until activation.
Erza grit her teeth as she lunged at Laxus. "Stop this madness, Laxus!" she demanded.
"I don't take orders from you, or anyone! I won't stop! Not until I am the master of Fairy Tail!" Laxus yelled.
"Idiot!" Axel yelled. "Even if Makarov wanted to give into your blackmail, he couldn't!"
"If you think I actually believe for a half second that gramps is actually that sick, you're a bigger idiot than I thought," Laxus growled.
"We have to stop the spell," Erza breathed.
Natsu pounded his fist, a look of fierce determination on his face. "You two go and deal with that. I'll take care of Laxus," he said with resolve. There was not even a shred of doubt on the Dragon Slayer's face.
"Are you insane?!" Axel demanded as he continued his barrage of arrows. "The three of us are barely beginning to wear this monster down! One person can't handle him!"
Before Natsu could reply, Erza spoke up: "Axel, if anyone can do this, it's Natsu." Axel heard the implicit trust in Erza's voice as she spoke. "I believe in him."
"Whether you believe in him or not is worth nothing," Axel said, his eyes narrowing slightly at the Fire Dragon Slayer, "but right now the Thunder Palace has to be stopped." The hunter immediately disengaged from Laxus, firing a smoke bomb arrow at the mage's feet.
"Erza, don't die," Natsu said as the siblings left Cardia Cathedral. "You either, Alex."
"We won't die," Erza said. "You stay alive too."
"My name is Axel," Axel grumbled.
"Whatever," Natsu said, waving Axel off as he faced Laxus down.
Erza and Axel rounded the corner, and Axel took a long look at the Thunder Palace around the town.
"That is a lot more lacrima than I thought there were," Axel commented. Erza noticed her brother was favoring his right leg slightly as he walked. Axel was injured. Not all that surprising really.
"There are three hundred of them," Erza said. "Requip! Heaven's Wheel Armor!"
"This is gonna suck," Axel grunted as he straightened himself. "Requip! Shredder Bow!" a gray steel bow with the limbs split down the middle appeared in his hand. When Axel saw his sister's look, he said, "This bow takes the number of arrows I fire and magically produces ten times that amount. I can guide the arrows in flight. It's what I used against you when I trapped you." Axel strung fifteen arrows on the large bow.
Erza stared at her brother for an instant before shaking her head. "Swords! Lend me your strength!" she cried as she summoned one hundred and fifty of her swords to fill the air around her one by one, taking her brother's arrow count and realizing he meant to split the thunder lacrima evenly between the two of them.
"I might not be able to handle this much magic after fighting that monster," Axel said as he pulled back his bowstring carefully. "This bow is tough on me when I'm rested at times."
"Fairy Tail mages don't quit," came Erza's iron-willed response.
Axel smiled slightly as he glanced at his sister. When Erza launched her blades into the sky, Axel released his volley. The arrows quickly replicated in midair and Axel guided each arrow to a lacrima, despite the incredible magical drain he felt just from firing the arrows.
Within the same second, all of Erza's swords and Axel's arrows struck the thunder lacrima hanging in the sky. Axel fell to his knees from the strain, and it was all Erza could do to remain on her feet.
Then the Organic Link Magic kicked in.
The siblings screamed as the lightning intended to destroy an entire town coursed through their veins, nearly killing them in their magically drained, vulnerable state.
Once she finally recovered her breath, Erza breathed out, "That was reckless."
Axel barked out a bitter laugh. "Reckless? That was outright idiotic, my dear sister," he groaned out. "Don't ask me to do that ever again," he breathed before losing consciousness.
Erza turned her head to look at her brother, a soft smile on her face. "His face still looks peaceful when he sleeps. Maybe there is something left of my innocent little brother," she whisper-wished.
Roaring across the town, several bolts of lightning arced from the cathedral before a bright light engulfed the entire town. Erza's eyes widened when she realized what the light was: Fairy Law, Master Makarov's legendary spell. Somehow Laxus had learned it.
Slowly closing her eyes, Erza let fall a few tears as the light burned through her eyelids. Then she felt the same warmth she did when the master used the spell on Master Jose Porla, and Erza realized that even though Laxus cast the spell with the intent to erase his enemies, she and Axel were still breathing.
A soft smile spread across Erza's face. For all his actions, Laxus' heart betrayed his true feelings about Fairy Tail. He still cared for them. He did not see them as his enemies. Not really. Laxus was still a Fairy Tail Mage at heart.
The quiet of the late day only lasted a few more moments before crashing thunder, clashing metal, and roaring fire shattered the silence. Erza craned her neck toward the cathedral, trying to catch a glimpse. There was nothing to be seen apart from the occasional burst of magic through the roof for several moments.
Then she saw Natsu and Laxus duking it out on the roof of the building. The fight was horribly one-sided: Laxus was brutalizing Natsu. But, true to form, Natsu kept getting back up.
Laxus cast a spell, and Erza could feel the surge of magic power and a slight tingle of electricity from where she lay. Natsu could not hope to dodge, he could hardly manage standing.
Before the powerful spell could connect, however, Gajeel used himself as a lightning rod to protect Natsu, to Erza's shock and pleasant surprise.
Apparently, this motivated and energized Natsu.
Fire spell followed fire spell as the Fire Dragon Slayer unleashed a piece of the power Erza witnessed at the Tower of Heaven, sending Laxus reeling and rendering him incapable of retaliation. Erza recognized one of Natsu's most powerful spells, Crimson Lotus: Exploding Flame Blade, as the Dragon Slayer cast it, finishing off the fearsome Laxus Dreyar.
Turning her head from the scene, Erza sighed and smiled softly after watching her beloved nakama prove victorious once again in a fight she knew she could never have won. She turned her gaze upon her brother, wondering if and silently hoping that he could be the little boy from before. She knew it was impossible. Even if Axel had not fallen from the boat, he would not have been a carefree little boy forever.
Gray and Lucy ran toward the downed Erza and Axel, breathing that they finally found them. Gray silently noted the numerous electric burn marks on both of the siblings and Axel's unconscious state.
"What happened?" Lucy asked, kneeling down near the injured pair.
"We were fighting against Laxus with Natsu. He roughed us up pretty bad, but he got Axel worse than he got me. Axel underestimated Laxus and paid for it. There's no telling how much damage Laxus managed through the Blitz Pike," Erza explained as Gray helped her sit up.
"Wait, Laxus hurt Axel through the Blitz Pike?" Lucy asked. "I thought Axel said he hunted a lightning elemental with that thing?"
"He did," Erza said, "but Laxus didn't just hurt him through the pike, he overloaded the pike and blew it up."
Lucy's eyes widened when she heard this. "How is that possible?"
"I don't know," Erza replied.
"Laxus is a monster, plain and simple," Gray said. "I can't believe the Dragon Slayers beat him."
Erza nodded her head. "Anyway, we fought Laxus for a while before leaving Natsu to fight him alone while we went to take out the Thunder Palace before it could activate. I think the magic fatigue alone could have knocked Axel out, but after the lightning struck he was only awake for a brief moment before he fell asleep," Erza said.
"Is Axel going to be alright?" Lucy asked.
"I think that he'll be okay," Erza sighed, looking at her brother for a second. "He used a lot of magic fighting Laxus, and there is no telling how much energy he lost when the Blitz Pike was destroyed."
"And then he helped take out the Thunder Palace," Gray muttered, impressed by Axel.
"He used this bow that magically replicates the arrows he fires from it. Even before the Organic Link Magic kicked in, Axel fell to his knees."
"We better get the both of you to the guild," Gray said as he and Lucy helped Erza up.
"I can walk now," Erza said.
Gray squatted down near Axel and slung him over his shoulder to carry to the guild, waking Axel up in the process.
The hunter groaned before saying, "Let me down."
The Ice-Make Wizard obliged, and Axel managed to stand for a moment before stumbling a bit. Lucy quickly ducked under his arm to offer him support.
"I can manage on my own, Lucy," Axel croaked out, in spite of his injuries.
"Forgive me, Elfman, but being macho is incredibly stupid," Lucy said. "Taking out the Thunder Palace and fighting Laxus is more than enough tough guy for one day, or even two or three weeks. And that isn't counting your fight with Evergreen."
Axel let Lucy help him.
As the four of them walked in the guild, they spied Laxus walking out sporting some fresh bandages.
"He doesn't look happy that he lost to Natsu and Gajeel," Lucy commented after Laxus was out of earshot.
Gray and Erza nodded their heads in agreement as Axel craned his neck to look at Laxus as he walked away. "We should check on Master Makarov," Erza said.
"It's not like we would be going out of our way," Axel said wryly. "We need patching up ourselves."
"I know that," Erza said, eyes narrowing dangerously. Gray shied away from what he considered Evil Erza, but Axel just met his sister's gaze.
"That look doesn't work on me," Axel said.
His sister's eyes only narrowed further, and even began to glow slightly red from her magic.
As they made their way toward the infirmary, Erza spotted Gajeel and Natsu hobbling out of it. Gajeel was having a harder time due to a cast on his right leg. Axel spied Erza's soft smile when her eyes fell on Natsu, and silently vowed to get revenge for her teasing earlier.
Then he remembered who he was leaning on and, despite every effort, turned slightly red, all the while hoping that his sister failed to notice or decided not to comment if she did.
Axel stayed quiet as he got patched up and Erza asked how Makarov was doing. Porlyusica insisted that the old man was doing better several times before Erza finally agreed to leave, but only because the medicine woman said Makarov needed rest, and she was disturbing it.
After quite a bit of effort on both his and Lucy's part, Axel managed to get his recently bandaged body sitting down at one of the tables in the great hall. Axel had difficulty paying attention to what everyone was saying, likely because the painkillers he was given were making him drowsy.
Eventually, Lucy realized something and cried out, "After all this I won't have the money to pay my rent this month." The blond woman whined a bit more.
That is, until Erza, with a devious smile, suggested that, "Maybe you could go on a job with Axel. I'm sure he wouldn't mind." Said hunter quickly and painfully yanked his hood up to hide his mortification at his sister's brazen words.
Lucy immediately perked up, and turned to the hooded man across the table. "Would you really be okay with that? Are you going on a job soon?" she asked excitedly.
Clearing his throat, Axel hoarsely said, "I don't need to work right now. I've got money of my own. However, I'm heading to Crocus soon to meet with somebody and tell her some bad news. I suppose if you found a job near there I would be up for it." Sweat beaded on his forehead, but he doubted anyone could see it.
"Crocus? The capital city?" Lucy asked.
"Yea, Crocus," Axel confirmed, nodding his head. "Ever been?"
"No, I haven't," Lucy said.
"That's surprising," Gray said. "I would have figured your father would have had business there."
"He did, but he rarely took me with him," Lucy said. "Do you have a job in mind?" she asked, turning back to Axel.
"I haven't looked at the board yet," Axel aid with a shrug. "I've been too busy fighting." The hunter chuckled a bit. "You should see if you can find a mission in the area. I'd help, but I'm not all that mobile at the moment."
"That's fine," Lucy said before hopping from her seat. "Hey, I think this is the first job I've picked on my own," she mused as she walked off.
Erza opened her mouth to speak, but was cut off by Juvia appearing and snatching Gray away from the table, much to his chagrin and protest. Axel gaped at the bizarre display, looking to Erza for an explanation. His sister just shook her head.
"There's no telling with Juvia," she said. "When are you leaving?"
Axel shrugged slightly, and immediately regretted it as pain shot across his shoulders. "As soon as possible," he said. "I'll get over the magic fatigue quickly. That's the big thing."
"What about your injuries?" Erza asked, eyes narrowing slightly.
"I've fought with worse. Only a few bruises. My armor softened most of the really bad blows, and I know how to take a hit anyway," Axel brushed off. Erza reached across the table and poked Axel's chest, eliciting a slight hiss of pain.
"Yea, really," Axel said.
"Either way," Erza said, "you should stay to participate in the Fantasia parade."
"I'm not interested," Axel said.
"Well, I'm not all that big on being seen by a lot of people, in case the hood wasn't enough of a hint," Axel grumbled.
"That isn't a good enough reason," Erza said, crossing her arms and smiling. If that was the first thing that came to mind, her little brother had almost no legitimate excuse to refuse to take part.
"Uh, I don't have a float to ride on," Axel added.
"I'll happily share my own," Erza said, her smirk widening. "People would eat up having my little brother on the float with me."
For a moment, Axel struggled to come up with another excuse before finally throwing out in desperation, "I don't have anything to wear."
Erza blinked at her brother several times before bursting into gut-busting laughter, despite the intense pain it caused. "That is the single most desperate and girly excuse you could have made!"
Axel bowed his head, further obscuring his embarrassed face under his hood. "It's true," he muttered. "I'm a hunter, and my armors reflect that. They're understated and simple, by and large. It's hard to sneak around in an armor that glistens." Of course, Axel did have a few specialty armors that broke this trend, but Erza did not know that.
Erza was about to respond when Lucy walked back up, proudly presenting a job flyer to Axel. Leaning forward slightly, Axel read the flyer. "Track down the source of a strange fog and bizarre, apparently mutated animals in Juniper Town. Reward is two hundred thousand Jewel." Axel glanced up at Lucy.
"Juniper is a few train stops before Crocus," Lucy said. "Is that close enough?"
"Yea, that should be fine," Axel said. "Why this job?"
"Well, I love a good mystery, and it pays enough to cover my rent after being split two ways," Lucy said.
"Good enough for me," Axel said, already wondering what could be going on in Juniper. Something about this seemed intriguing, in the way that engaged his hunting senses.
"We can leave after the parade," Lucy said. "Mira said that would be fine. Most of Fiore doesn't expect the jobs taken on by Fairy Tail mages to be completed until after Fantasia is over."
Erza saw her moment to strike. "Axel here is trying to get out of participating in Fantasia," she said, a wicked smirk on her face. Axel turned his head and glared at his sister. "That's right, you're trapped now," Erza thought.
"WHAT?!" Lucy screamed, grabbing everyone's attention for a moment. Blushing, Lucy quickly sat down. "Fantasia is famous! Everyone tries to see it at least once! You have to do it with everyone! It's a part of being in Fairy Tail!"
"But I've never done anything like be in a parade before," Axel defended, realizing how trapped he was.
"So? Neither have I, and that doesn't matter!" Lucy said insistently. "I'm excited to get to be a part of it. You have to do it!"
Erza laughed a bit to herself as she saw Axel waver, break, and then sigh.
"Fine," he relented. "I'll be a part of the damn parade."
"Great," Erza said with a triumphant smirk on her face. "Meet me here in the morning so we can figure out what you will do." Erza then got up and walked out of the guild, headed home for the day.
"What have I done?" Axel asks himself.
"Erza is weird," Lucy says. "She always shows out at Fantasia, from what I hear, but when we did this acting job, she had horrible stage fright." Axel just shrugged.
"Do you have any advice on this thing?" Axel asked her.
Lucy thought for a moment before saying, "You probably need to show off your magic some."
"Um," Lucy hummed for a second. "Act like you are trying to intimidate someone so you don't have to fight them, but without looking scary."
"Did you hear yourself just now?" Axel asked with a chuckle. "That is a complete contradiction. How can someone intimidate someone without being scary?
"Hey! I couldn't think of another way to phrase it," Lucy whined. Axel chuckled a bit more.
"It's fine," he said. "I think I understand, kind of." He felt a bit more comfortable talking with Lucy now, though whether that was a result of his sister leaving or him just getting used to being around the beautiful blond mage.
For several moments, neither of them said anything. Then a devilish smirk appeared on Lucy's face before she said, "So, tell me about this girl you're meeting in Crocus. Is she cute?"
Axel shrugged before Lucy's words really sank in and he understood what she said. "Uh, uh," he stuttered. "I mean, I guess she's kind of cute, but Kagura is just an old friend from my village. Honestly, I'm not even sure she likes guys."
"Oh," Lucy said. She made some sort of face, but Axel had no idea of what to make of it. Was she relieved, or disappointed, or what? "Then I guess Erza would probably know this Kagura girl too, huh?"
"Only vaguely," Axel said. "Erza managed to save Kagura from being abducted by the cultists."
"So then what is this bad news you are telling her?" Lucy asked, tilting her head to the side slightly and propping her head on her hand.
"Well, from what Erza told me, you should already know," Axel said, confusing Lucy. After allowing himself a sigh, Axel explained. "You remember Simon from the Tower of Heaven? He is Kagura's older brother, and she has been looking for him, hoping he managed to get away from that place. It took me forever to convince her not to go there herself."
"Oh," Lucy said. "I get it. Wait, how did you convince Kagura not to go?"
Axel frowned slightly. "I have a few nasty scars from my time there. Fortunately, most of my scars are physical. Some people got mental scars that they will probably never shake."
"Oh," Lucy said. "I'm sorry for asking."
"It's not a problem," Axel said, brushing it off. "Everyone says girls like scars anyway."
"It depends on the scar," Lucy mused to herself. Axel smirked as her eyes went vacant for a moment. He waved his hand in front of her face for a moment. "Huh? Oh, sorry."
"It's fine," Axel said. "Stop apologizing. Besides, I can't get rid of the scars, so there's no sense moping over them."
"I guess," Lucy said. She seemed to be considering something for a moment, but could not make up her mind.
"If you're thinking of asking something, ask," Axel said.
"Alright," Lucy said. "Well, uh... Is it true?"
"Is what true?"
"What everyone said you did to Evergreen," Lucy clarified. "I haven't seen her yet."
Axel's jaw tightened slightly before he sighed. "What is everybody saying I did?" he asked, wanting to make sure they weren't being too dramatic. Not that there was much to elaborate on.
"They say that you tortured Evergreen within an inch of her life to get her to release us," Lucy said quietly.
Axel rubbed his forehead, but decided there was no point in lying. He threw his hood off his head, just to make sure Lucy could see the truth in his eyes. "They're telling the truth," he said simply.
Lucy swallowed unconsciously before asking, "Why did you go that far? I'm sure you could have done less to her to get the same result."
"Evergreen is lucky," Axel muttered. "Normally, I'll go farther for smaller offenses. Much farther." His words were quiet, soft-spoken, but they hit Lucy like a ton of brick when she realized the implication: he had killed before. The blond mage unwittingly shied away a bit.
"Does that mean you've killed people before?" Lucy whispered for confirmation.
Axel just looked her dead in the eyes. His gaze was made of steel, daring her to pass judgement on him. Lucy visibly gulped at the intense look in his pale golden eyes.
Suddenly, Axel forced himself to stand up. "I'm sorry if I frightened you," he said. "I'll see you later." The hunter began to limp toward the guild doors without stumbling, though not without effort.
"I'm sorry," Lucy quickly said. "I just couldn't wrap my head around it is all."
"I'll still go on the job with you," Axel grumbled, thinking Lucy was trying to salvage her chance of making her rent. As he walked away, he ground his teeth slightly, thinking he was definitely an idiot. He should not have been so blunt.
Lucy stayed still, watching him walk out the guild's doors. Then she shook her head and ran out after him.
Axel had made it out of the gates by the time Lucy caught up to him. Axel glanced at her as he plodded forward. "Why are you following me?" he asked.
"I'm really sorry," Lucy said. "I didn't want to upset you at all. I know that it has to be hard to deal with having blood staining your hands."
Axel did not respond immediately, focusing on putting one foot in front of the other, but refusing help from Lucy, claiming he was better now and this would help him recover. Lucy had her doubts, but she kept quiet.
"The first few blood stains bother you a lot," Axel finally said. "But once the only thing on your hands is red, another drop or two does nothing."
Lucy firmly shook her head. "Every drop weighs on the soul. Don't kid yourself," she said.
After glancing at Lucy, Axel corrected her, saying, "No, it tears at the soul until there is nothing left to tear apart."
Lucy immediately understood what Axel was implying, and realizes how badly he is hurting, even if he did not know himself. "Listen, however many people you've killed–"
"Forty-three," Axel cut her off.
Lucy blinked. "What?"
"Forty-three," Axel repeated. "I've ended forty-three people."
Lucy silently mouthed the number in shock. Then she looked up and realized that the path to Axel's hotel led them to the front of her home. "Um, this is my place," Lucy said, gesturing at her apartment. "Would you like to come in?" she asked, surprising Axel. For a moment, he was tempted to accept the invitation, but then he thought she was merely being polite and declined.
The blond woman frowned slightly at the slightly taller man before offering him a genuine smile. On a whim, or perhaps an instinct, she stepped forward and gave Axel a hug, which he was too shocked to return immediately.
"Despite what you think," Lucy said as Axel hesitantly returned the hug, "you do still have a soul. You love for your sister is proof of that; someone without a soul cannot truly love another person."
Lucy then released him and stepped back from the blue-haired man, studying his frozen face. Axel quickly pulled his hood back up and, after clearing his throat, said, "Thank you, Lucy. Have a good night,."
"Good night, Axel," Lucy said with a gentle smile, "I'll see you tomorrow."
Axel waved as he walked away, headed for his hotel room. His thoughts were clouded due to Lucy's words just then and Erza's words before they confronted Laxus earlier in the day. Erza said that love offered strength the likes of which nothing else could compare. That bugged him slightly, but what Lucy said about his soul touched him deeply.
Before he knew it, Axel was falling into the bed in his hotel room. He still could not wrap his head around what the two women had said. It was like an itch he could not scratch. Axel had problems believing what they said, but a part of him knew all along that this was the case. That voice had just been drowned out before. Now it was gaining traction, and a few silent tears leaked from Axel's eyes as he entertained the possibility.
Sleep eluded him for hours, but once he found it, he slept through the night. Axel had not slept through the night in years, and he hardly believed he really did it when he woke.
Axel requipped into one of his simple hunting outfits and left the hotel, mumbling good morning to the innkeeper on his way out. He stared at his shoes for the first few steps in the morning light, but eventually turned his gaze forward, looking at the path ahead of him.
As he passed by Lucy's house, he spied her looking out her window. He smiled when she waved at him, and promptly returned the wave before continuing on to the guild.
By the time he was close to the gates, Axel saw everyone bustling about, making final preparations and being generally excited. Erza grabbed his attention and gestured for him to come over to the float she was sitting on. Axel pulled himself up, grunting through his sore muscles and bruises.
"I guess this one is yours?" he asked.
His sister shook her head. "No, this float is our float," Erza corrected.
"Excellent," Axel deadpanned. "You know I still have no idea what I should be doing, right?"
"You really don't have to do all that much," Erza said, rolling her eyes. "All I'm really doing is using my telekinesis to make my swords dance. Of course, that may change depending on what you end up doing."
"Do you have any ideas?" Axel asked.
"Axel," Erza said with a chuckle, "it isn't complicated. Just get up there, show off some of your magic, and smile. I know the third part might seem unreasonable, but it's not optional."
"Oh, shut up," Axel said. "I can smile. I just don't do it all that often."
"You should probably wear one of your flashier armors, though," Erza mused before hopping off the float and gesturing for Axel to follow her inside the guild.
"Which of your armors are you going to be wearing?" Axel asked.
"I will wear my Heaven's Wheel Armor for most, if not all, of the parade. It makes telekinesis with my swords a bit easier," Erza said.
"And its impressive, to say the least," Axel grunted.
"Show me some armors that you think might work," Erza ordered. Axel rolled his eyes at her insistence, but obliged.
"Requip! Scout Armor!" he said. After the flash of light settled down, he was wearing the armor he wore when he was dealing with Evergreen.
"Is that blood?" Erza asked.
"Probably," Axel said with a shrug. Erza glared at him.
"Are you being serious? This is an armor you might wear?" she asked.
"Believe it or not, this is one of my more showy armors," Axel drawled. Erza arched an eyebrow.
"Well, it might work, if nothing else will do," Erza grumbled. "Show me another one."
"Fine," Axel grunted. "Requip! Raptor Armor!" A sleek, metallic armor with a helmet resembling a hawk or eagle replaced the Scout Armor. The armor seemed fairly streamlined and had stylized feathers decorating parts of it.
"That is a huge improvement," Erza immediately commented. "What's this for anyway?"
"Hunting gryphons and wyverns. I can fly for a little bit with this, and it increases my speed enough to be able to keep pace with them if I have to, but only for a little bit," Axel explained.
"I see," Erza said. "I like that one. When did you hunt gryphons or wyverns?"
"Every now and then I get a job to deal with a gryphon that's causing problems," Axel said. "The only Wyvern I hunted was a smaller beast that got forced from his mountain home by a much bigger beast. He was causing a town some problems. Damien said he wouldn't help me unless I was about to die. That was the first time he sent me to do something on my own, crazy bastard."
"He sounds fun," Erza said.
"Damien was a slightly less cruel slave-driver than the people in the tower," Axel joked. "But he ate the same horrible food I had to eat, until I learned to cook, and he taught me how to use my magic, so I've got no complaints."
"I'm sorry that he's gone," Erza said before getting back on track. "Anyway, I like that Raptor Armor, but let's see one more."
"Sure," Axel grumbled, "wear out the invalid."
"You are nowhere close to being an invalid," Erza argued. "I would have given that to you yesterday, but not now."
"Whatever, big sister," Axel said sarcastically. "Requip! Olympic Armor!" The Raptor armor disappeared and was replaced by an armor with ancient designs that consisted of a golden breastplate over a white tunic. There were no pauldrons, only bracers, guarding his arms, and his legs were covered by armored boots and a thick studded fauld. A graven image of the sun sat in the middle of the breastplate.
"Wow," Erza said. "I thought you said you had no flashy armor?"
"Yea," Axel said, rubbing the back of his head, "I lied."
"What does that armor have to do with hunting?" Erza questioned as she tapped the chestpiece.
"Absolutely nothing," Axel answered. Erza gave him a look that told him to explain. "This is an armor Damien gave to me, along with this: Requip! Apollon Recurve!" The golden bow Axel used against Evergreen and Laxus appeared in his right hand. "The bow is powerful in its own right, but when combined with the armor, well... Damien told me it was classified as War Armor. He never explained where he got it, he just said it was old. It's one of the few armors he gave me. I found or made the rest."
"You made some of your armors?" Erza asked, lifting an eyebrow.
"Yea, a couple of bows too, though none of them are exceptional. I'm not the best enchanter. I had to learn that on my own," Axel said.
"Why make my own stuff?" Axel asked. Erza nodded. "When you are in the middle of nowhere with little or no money, you learn to do things on your own."
"Fair enough," Erza said. "I would say you could use either the Raptor Armor or the Olympic Armor, or both, if you want to requip during the parade. Some variety could be good."
"Alright, so what do I do on the float?" Axel asked.
"You're an excellent shot with the bow," Erza said with a shrug. "Do some skill shots or something. Of course, we may decide to do something spontaneous later."
Axel went around with Erza to help get several things in order before they settled down to rest before the show would start.
Suddenly, all conversation in the guild stopped as the door opened. Axel turned to see Laxus walking in, and resisted the urge to growl. The lightning wizard announced that he wanted to speak with his grandfather, and several people objected. But his sister stood up and told everyone to let Laxus through. Before Laxus could keep going, Natsu jumped in front of him and said something that was muted by the bandages on his face. Axel was not paying attention though.
He got up and began taking a different route to the infirmary to avoid drawing attention. Erza grabbed his shoulder. "Where are you going?" she asked.
"I'm not going to stop him from speaking with the master," Axel promised. "But I don't trust him either."
"You think he might hurt his own grandfather?" Erza demanded.
"Would you have thought he would hold an entire town hostage?" Axel countered. Erza stayed quiet.
Axel made his way to the infirmary. Laxus was already inside speaking with his grandfather. Axel leaned against the wall next to the door and listened to make sure Laxus did not do something stupid. In truth, Axel did not care in the slightest that Laxus wanted the guild to be stronger, as he claimed. However, he was somewhat shocked when Makarov excommunicated his own grandson from the guild. Of course, Laxus certainly violated the rules, but Axel did not expect Makarov to be so hard on his own blood. Axel could not help but smile a bit when Laxus told Makarov to take care of himself.
When Laxus walked out, he immediately turned to stare at Axel. Axel met his gaze for several long seconds. "I don't trust you," Axel began, "but I do respect you."
"Why's that?" Laxus asked.
"It's hard to accept punishment so well," Axel said. "I underestimated you during our fight, and if Erza and Natsu weren't there, you would've killed me. Not a small feat."
"You want an apology?" Laxus asked.
"No," Axel said, shaking his head. "I would have done the same if I were in your place." They stared at each other for several more moments. Axel was looking in Laxus' eyes for something in particular.
"Be careful out there," Axel finally said, both to his and Laxus' surprise. "I'll keep my ear to the ground about you."
"Is that a warning?" Laxus growled.
"No," Axel insisted. "It's me trying to look out for a nakama."
"I'm not your nakama. Not anymore," Laxus said.
"I've done my share of crimes," Axel said, "and I think we are more similar than anyone else in the guild. We both have a long road to go before we get ourselves together. I realized it yesterday, as I'm sure you did." Laxus turned his head as he thought about that.
"If you're trying to change," Laxus said, "then Fairy Tail is the place to be. I would start by apologizing to Ever."
"I know," Axel said. "I'm letting the blood dry first."
"Don't let the wound fester," Laxus warned. "See ya."
"Take care of yourself," Axel said. "Keep your ear to the ground. This bunch will get into trouble again soon enough. I have a feeling they will need you."
Laxus nodded his head and walked away. Axel watched him for a moment before looking in on Makarov. He spotted the master's tears, and left him in peace.
Axel and Erza stood on their float with the lights of the Fantasia parade glistening all around them. The people in the crowd cheered as the Fairy Tail floats passed by. Axel used his arrow magic to set off small fireworks in the sky above them as Erza's swords glided through the air. The siblings engaged in mock battle once, with a roaring reception from the crowd.
Without a doubt, the hunter was glad Erza and Lucy convinced him to participate. Erza nudged him from his thoughts and thrust her hand into the air, her finger and thumb extended: Laxus' symbol. His sister had told him that it meant, "Even if I can't see you, I will always be looking out for you." Every other member of the guild proudly displayed Laxus' symbol, and Axel quickly joined them.
He was almost certain he spotted Laxus' hulking form walking away, and, unless he was mistaken, Laxus was crying.
The next morning, Erza was seeing Axel and Lucy off at the train station. The two ladies chatted for a bit as Axel went to get the tickets.
After Axel returned and gave Lucy her train ticket to Juniper, Erza grabbed his shoulder and pulled him aside.
"Mind yourself with Lucy," she warned, "but have fun."
"I am a perfect gentleman, thank you very much," Axel said. Erza gave him a look. "When I want to be," he added. Then he grinned maliciously.
"But you had best stop thinking about it and make a move on that fire-brained Dragon Slayer," Axel whispered, turning the tables on his sister. "That guy is too thick-headed to take a hint. You'll have to be blunt."
"Why do you think I like Natsu?" Erza asked. Her face was perfectly calm. She was not blushing or squirming at all. And the stone face is what proved to Axel that he was right. Erza was guarding herself very well.
"By their very nature, hunters are observant," Axel said with a smirk. "And you need to stop lying to yourself."
The conductor saved Axel from his sister's retribution. Axel and Lucy boarded the train quickly, bidding Erza goodbye.
As the train began to pull away from the station, Lucy asked Axel, "What did you do to get Erza so flustered?"
"Her guard must have fallen when I stopped looking," Axel mused before he chuckled. "I told her she needed to make her move on Natsu already."
Lucy's jaw dropped. "Are you sure about them?"
"Absolutely," Axel said.
Lucy let herself fall to the back of her seat, "I thought something was weird with those two, but I had no idea what it was."
Neither party spoke for a moment as the landscape rushed by, but Axel broke the silence to ask an important question. "Lucy?"
"Do you really think it's true?"
"What are you talking about? Erza and Natsu?" Lucy asked.
"No," Axel said, "what you said the other night about my soul."
Lucy straightened up in her seat and nodded. "I meant and believed every word of it," she said, looking dead in Axel's eyes. "You still have a soul."
Axel thought on that for a second. "Okay, thanks," he said before pulling his hood over his head to shield his eyes so he could sleep through the long ride.
AN: Hey there, guys! Thanks for reading! Be sure to tell me what you thought about this chapter. I really want to hear from you.
I also wanted to tell you about the Twitter page I made for my fanfiction. I've been posting updates on my current progress with my stories so you can know exactly why I haven't posted my next chapter yet.. Check me out on Twitter TheZeroDragon. The link to the page is on my profile, if that is easier for you. Hit me up! I'd love to hear from you!
And Happy Easter! Enjoy your candy!