It was a gaggle of limbs, shoving, and hair pulling that seemed to have no end in sight. Worse, Shirou found himself trapped at the very bottom of it. Many of the people he'd seen were those that he recognized from the Tower of Heaven. Erza must have gotten word out for everyone to start searching after he'd been taken away by an oversized snowball.

His point of landing after breaking out of the snow must have been seen by everyone who took the opportunity to glance up at the sky.

At this point, Shirou was done with his level of luck, and had grown to just expect anything.

Shirou eventually extricated himself out of the dogpile by inching forward on his elbows, but he was immediately greeted by Archer who'd crawled out next to him.

Archer scoffed at him and made his way out. To begin with, none of the people here had anything to do with him. His siblings were also still waiting for him at home and would probably be worried that he hadn't checked in with them yet. It was enough of a reason to reinforce himself, and walk on out before things got anymore complicated.

Shirou was a different story. He was the person at the center of this whole debacle and couldn't just bring himself to run away from it.

Pushing himself onto his feet after finally getting out of the crowd, he had a moment to breathe in and calm himself. It wouldn't be long before everyone noticed he was no longer dogpiled and eventually sort themselves out.

In the meantime, Shirou glanced to one of the people who'd first noticed him escape and had made their way over.

Again, it was a familiar face.

"Lyon?" Shirou looked at the friend he'd made in Fiore's northernmost territories.

Said friend looked both exasperated and out of breath. There was even a bruise forming on his cheek curtesy of a fuming demoness. At least his situation was better than Gray.

"I knew it was you," Lyon said while rubbing at his cheek. "You did it. You beat the demon and lived to tell the tale. We all thought you died after unleashing whatever magic you used."

Ah, yes. That did happen. Shirou recalled past events. Different from Lyon's perspective though, it wasn't as if he'd chosen not to let them know he was okay. Rather, the confrontation with Deliora led to one thing after another, leaving him to wander his way back to fulfill the promise he'd made to join Fairy Tail with Erza and the others.

Speaking of which, if Lyon was here, then what about the other two?

"What happened to Gray?" Shirou asked, glancing around.

"He's over there as a sacrifice." Lyon pointed mutedly to where he'd dragged Gray and set him down on the other side of the room.

Shirou turned to glance over.

"A red-haired tomato…" Gray looked like his soul was leaving his mouth curtesy of-

"E-Erza," Shirou stammered, watching her begin to stalk over after letting go of the scruff of Gray's neck.

Shirou grew flustered at the severe look she was giving him. If he didn't come up with something, he could tell that she was going to convince herself never to let him out of reach again.

Fortunately, an adult saved the situation by both blowing away the dog pile of excited Tower of Heaven survivors through a wave of ice and stepping between he and Erza.

"You damn brat, we thought you died."

"Ur," Shirou greeted the woman with shoulder-length black hair and wearing nothing but a bra and panties of all things.

"Jacket, you forgot your jacket Ur!" Lyon yelled in embarrassment, tossing over his teacher's coat without even realizing that he himself needed to cover up his top.

Shirou was all too familiar with the dynamic and didn't bat an eye, but Erza stopped dead in her tracks, cheeks tinted red as she threw a sword at Jellal for staring. Shirou already blocked the one thrown at him.

"Well, well, rowdy ain't it?" Gildarts peaked his head into the room followed by Makarov in his wacky orange Guild Master's outfit.

It was only with the arrival of these two that things began to wind down.

As it would turn out, the only reason Ur and the others were here was that they'd remembered that Shirou had once talked about Fairy Tail, and figured that it was as a good of a place to go now that they weren't staying in the north. Shirou's presence here only cemented the idea.

Ur and Makarov broke off into a more private room where they could discuss things while Gildarts oversaw things in the guild hall. By oversaw, Shirou meant drink himself drunk while leaving Shirou to fend for himself.

Gildarts was more sober than anyone thought though as he observed the situation play out. He could tell that the Guild would be having even more new additions, but if there was one thing though.

"If you think, you're I'm letting you out of reach again, you're mistaken!"

The Archer look-alike was quite popular.

Gildarts had never seen Erza that motivated when it wasn't for her cake.


A month passed by quickly before Shirou felt like he was finally getting into a routine. He and Archer would periodically take solo missions and investigate any clues into the events regarding Shadow Servants, but as of late, they had no leads. It was like after their first encounter, they'd gone completely silent.

This made both Shirou and Archer speculate about some organization or individual able to control them, but there was also the suspicion that the appearance of Shadow Servants may have something to do with them. Their appearance in Fiore at the same time was already quite coincidental.

Regardless, with no leads to follow, the two had no choice but to fall into a state of normalcy where the most pressing concern was no longer life jeopardizing, but rather mundane.

"Please?"

Shirou found himself cornered outside of Fairy Tail's guild hall on his way to the city by none other than Mirajane Strauss.

This wasn't their first meeting, and oh boy was that a first meeting, but that was for another time.

It was no secret that Mirajane adored her eldest brother the most, and part of that must have been translating to Shirou as she could never quite look him in the eyes. At the same time though, she didn't seem to have any trouble being open with him despite her tough almost cold attitude to others.

Maybe it was because she viewed Archer as her ideal image of what a man should be? Present Shirou who was basically a non-blood related Archer, and that did funny things for Mirajane as a teenager.

That was this, and this was that, however.

Mirajane clapped her hands together and pleaded with Shirou. This time, she really needed his input after she found out how similar Shirou was with Archer. If Shirou liked something, then deep-down Archer probably would too.

"You're not going to get through to him like that," Shirou's resistance began to wane as he crossed his arms. He grunted. "He's a stubborn bastard."

"Hey!" Being as he looked identical to Archer besides a slight tan and red hair, it still felt kind of weird to get mad at him. Instead, Mirajane settled on annoyed. "That's my brother, and he's the greatest!"

Please. As if.

"At being cynical?" Shirou raised a brow. "What about a smartass?"

"We had a hard life," Mirajane's spirits suddenly dampened. "A-And it was because of me that…Look are you going to help me or not?"

Shirou opened then closed his mouth before falling into silent consideration. Unfortunately for Mirajane, she wasn't the most subtle in strongarming Shirou away for a private talk right in front of the guild hall.

The enforcer came running without question.

"What's going on?" Erza stepped forward in her plated armour, scowling at Mirajane while fretting over Shirou after experiencing Mirajane's barbarism.

"Nothing that concerns you, bitch." Mirajane glowered.

Erza's features twisted. "It does when a boar like you strong arms our friend, right Jellal?"

All heads turned to the person Erza had dragged to accompany her.

"No comment." Jellal said flatly, features carefully neutral.

Erza snapped indignantly at him, but Jellal was already looking away.

Erza and Mirajane never got along, and Jellal wasn't inclined to get involved. However, it was different if it meant helping Shirou extricate himself from this debacle.

Bros and all.

"What's going on anyway?" Jellal signalled to Shirou, bypassing Mirajane and Erza butting heads entirely.

"Archer," Shirou said simply.

"Ah, that makes sense." Jellal nodded in apparent understanding. It wasn't the first time for the Strauss siblings. "What did he do this time?"

Shirou sighed and raised his arms in defeat. "He gave his mission funds to Elfman, Mirajane, and Lisanna without telling them he kept nothing for himself. Mirajane found out."

Jellal blinked dubiously. "But don't you do the same with those from the tower? Sorano says she wants to repay the favour some time. Something about buying a pair of matching clothes, or trying her hand at cooking you lunch or dinner."

Now it was Shirou's turn to become dubious. "She did?" He asked.

"Didn't Erza tell you?" Jellal fired back.

No. No she did not.

If both boys noticed Erza suddenly flinch and trip in the background while confronting Mirajane, the boys assumed that Mirajane just got the upper hand in their squabble.

In any case, this was about Archer.

"You can't say Archer and I are the same. I don't have siblings…and I have friends who'd look out for me." Shirou analyzed. Even without funds, anyone could see that Shirou could just ask a friend, and they'd lend a hand.

What about Archer?

The guild and its members would help him, but Shirou couldn't see Archer stooping himself to do so.

"Hey! I heard that!" Mirajane shoved Erza away at the implication. "My capable older brother is not a loner!"

Jellal ignored Mirajane's outburst and thought it over with Shirou.

"Rob always said that the guild is a family." Jellal said slowly before her earned a nod from Shirou. "We'll help."

For once, Mirajane looked kind of cute when she wasn't cussing at people with her brash attitude.

"T-Thanks."

/-/

The plan was rather simple. Then again, a group of children and preteens were the master minds so it wasn't as if Shirou could have expected anything less. Add the potential for magic into the equation, and honestly all you get is good intentioned chaos.

Shirou had no plans of stopping it.

Mirajane led everyone back to the house Archer had provided for the Strauss siblings. Inside, Lisanna, and Elfman were already waiting, looking just as determined as Mirajane had been.

Together the three did as Jellal had proposed.

Since Archer gave Mirajane and the others all the funds, then he should have nothing to say with how they spend it on him rather than them.

"…" The way Mirajane looked at Jellal after he said this made it seem as if she'd realized Jellal was a magic genius for the first time.

If Shirou knew Archer, he'd be peeved that the resources he'd worked to accumulate for others were wasted on him when he probably wouldn't need it.

Mirajane and Lisanna got to work in going out to buy Archer several new sets of clothes, while bringing Elfman along as a size reference. Meanwhile, Shirou got to cooking while Jellal and Erza began decorating the inside of Archer's house.

Erza had a poor aesthetic sense, leaving much of the organization to Jellal.

If Shirou recalled, Archer had taken another mundane mission that paid well, but wasn't too difficult to accomplish. He would be back by the evening, giving everyone plenty of time.

Mirajane, Elfman, and Lisanna soon returned with bags upon bags of new items. Perhaps in a bid to pay back even a portion of their gratitude to their eldest brother, the three went to great lengths to spend all the money, leaving nothing for Archer to give back to them.

Shirou was inwardly smirking. Archer was going to be annoyed.

More than that, when Archer returned home that night, he'd also realize that Shirou had taken over his kitchen…

How evil.

Nevertheless, Shirou could see through Archer's scowl while Mirajane threatened Archer about daring to leave nothing for himself again.

Mirajane, Elfman, and Lisanna would just do the same thing again.

Archer made an indifferent face, but Shirou wasn't fooled.

Nonchalant as Archer tried to be, there was no hiding the subtle, yet fond tilt of his lips.

Family was something that neither of the two had truly possessed or experienced wholeheartedly before.

There was no need for Archer to cling onto the pessimism of a life he'd already lived as a Counter Guardian or Nameless Hero.

Here, right now in this world, Archer was free.


-Six Years later.

/-/

Many things had changed, but many things had also stayed the same, one of which was Mirajane and Erza. The two still didn't get along, and this was after Shirou tried to mediate. It could have just been because of Shirou's appearance, but Mirajane listened to him while Erza was all uppity and gloating about it.

In any case, Archer was more than willing to let Shirou handle the headaches. He was more focused on other things like continuing the search for traces of Shadow Servants.

Leave it to him to prioritize.

Meanwhile, leave it to Shirou to meddle in the affairs of others.

Last Archer had heard, he was helping Ur with matters of trying to find the organization that took her daughter. It was a cold, cold day in Magnolia when Ur went with Makarov to the Wizard Council and revealed that there was no such organization as the one Ur had entrusted her daughter to be healed to. Deep down she knew it from Shirou already, but confirmation was another story.

She cried the whole night following the news. Lyon and Gray, awkwardly sat by the door frosted closed, looking like fish out of water.

Leave it to Shirou to meddle in that kind of mess when Laxus was already breathing down their necks to compete about determining the strongest in Fairy Tail.

Neither Shirou or he were interested.

Archer snorted, already separating himself from Shirou's affairs and focusing on his own.

In front of Archer was the Guild Mission's board on the second floor of the guild hall. As for why, all S-Class missions were kept here, and he was looking for a suitable one for a specific purpose. In the years that passed, he'd participated in another promotion exam held with Shirou and passed this time by understanding Makarov's prerequisites from the first time.

Still, Archer had notably mellowed out over the years due to the efforts of those around him and the lack of binding constraints that plagued his mind when he was still a Counter Guardian.

A part of him was still pleased, giddy even, that he was now a free man.

The burdens that had been shackled over his shoulders were gone, and in their place…he was grudgingly becoming a family man.

Even the purpose of this mission he was taking up was questionable to the old him. Oh, he could certainly make excuses, but they'd pale to the actual reason.

Taking the mission posting in hand, he returned to the lower floor that doubled as the bar area of the guild hall. It was always rowdy here, and his family members played no small roll in that issue.

"Shut up Natsu, and stay away from my sister!"

That was Mirajane's voice. She was at it again while Erza was gone with Shirou, Jellal, and a team composed of Tower of Heaven members on another Quest. As an S-Rank Shirou had the ability to let lower ranked guild members accompany him. With Erza included in this group after she and Mirajane had recently promoted to S-Class, Makarov saw no problems in them taking a bigger group.

That said, there was still a considerable amount of noise.

When it wasn't Mirajane and Erza bickering, it would only ever be Gray or Mirajane butting heads with another member that joined Fairy Tail early on.

Natsu Dragneel. He had pink hair of all colours, and wore baggy pants and an open vest he claimed was made for him through the hands of a Dragon. Structural Analysis inclined Archer to believe the claim.

From what Archer could remember, Natsu was another child who first arrived in Fairy Tail looking for the Dragon that raised him. Dragons themselves were the epitome of magic and mystery, and the Dragon Slayer Magic Natsu had learned carried a certain heaviness to it.

Latent, but powerful, was Archer's consensus. Whether he believed Natsu was truly raised by this 'Igneel' or got lucky and took the spoils of said Dragon, was still up for debate.

What really mattered was that Lisanna was quite taken with Natsu.

The two of them did everything together from raising an egg they'd found and hatched, to searching every corner of Magnolia for leads on Igneel.

It would have been cute if Mirajane didn't complain to Archer to do something about it every time she saw hearts in Lisanna's eyes as she giggled herself silly.

"But I want to go on an S-Rank mission too!" Natsu whined back, trying to hug onto Mirajane's leg to no appeal.

Natsu and Mirajane were the main cause of all the yelling while other guild members just watched in amusement.

"Then ask Erza you airhead!" Mirajane kicked Natsu away while making a face as she tilted her chin up. "You'll only weigh my eldest brother down."

Ah yes, undue praise. Mirajane never wasted a moment to boast.

Archer pinched the bridge of his nose. This was probably his fault as he'd done his utmost to raise her right. So…Just where did he teach her wrong?

"Big sis, stop being mean! Erza's not even here, and she's biased with Jellal and the others!" Lisanna stood in front of Natsu with her arms raised to her side before forming a big X shape.

"And you're not for Natsu?!" Mirajane was appalled, balking as she took a step back. "Lisanna, who's side are you on?!"

Lisanna's mouth opened and closed at the accusation, a blush creeping up her cheeks as even Natsu grew somewhat shy.

"Sorry Natsu. Not this time," Archer took this moment to intervene, dampening Natsu's spirits while Lisanna leveled her puppy eyes on him.

It wasn't going to work after she'd already lost the baby fat on her cheeks. Besides.

"Elfman, remember?" He reminded, earning several nods from Mirajane and a dejected one from Lisanna.

Of note, Elfman was uncharacteristically determined. His focus was on his own Take Over magic. He didn't even make a sound except for a grateful thanks at Archer's words.

Lisanna strode up to Natsu in consolation while Mirajane jeered.

"Don't worry Natsu," she smiled at him. "We'll be back before you know it. We're still teaching Happy how to talk! Fish is all he's learned to say."

"Your words are wasted Lisanna," Gray chimed in from the side. He was sitting near another guild member named Cana who rolled her eyes.

"What do you mean?" Lisanna blinked.

"Happy's not the only one who needs to be taught how to talk." Gray snorted, suddenly stripping his shirt, leaving only his trunks. Ur would be proud if she wasn't out with Lyon on an errand right now.

Archer saw the tick mark that formed over Natsu's temples. Call him stupid or slow, but Natsu had an uncanny ability to understand when others were picking a fight with him. Predictably, Archer knew what was coming. If anything, the fact Cana chose to move away from Gray was rather telling.

"Lisanna, let's go." Archer called within a backdrop of roaring flames and melting ice.

The guild hall was about to get rowdy again.

Same old same old.


Archer recalled the purpose of this mission. It was for his brother Elfman to come to terms with his full-body Take Over magic as early as possible. Archer was there to guard and intervene in any emergency situations.

The mission itself took them to the edge of ridge where a notorious monster was said to be terrorizing the nearby villages. This was also the monster Elfman had set his eyes on in order to grow stronger both for the guild and personal motivations.

In the end, it was a success.

Spurred by the motivation of being a man and not being a burden on his siblings, Elfman had accomplished his goal with only a tad bit of trouble that caused Archer to subdue him until he got his sanity back. Of course, this tad bit of trouble was a lot worse than what Mirajane, and Lisanna made it out to be, but with Archer around, there was no way Elfman was going to be able to throw his weight.

"Job well done, Elfman," Archer congratulated while dematerializing the numerous Black Keys he'd pinned into Elfman's shadow. These Black Keys were a specific type of Mystic Code utilized by the religious Enforcers of his prior world. They functioned to combat against evil, and immobilize all those whose shadows had been pierced by the blade.

It took numerous copies of said Black Keys to restrain Elfman in his full body Take Over which denoted the strength of the beast Elfman managed to control. This would only be a boon for him in the long term.

Elfman was still lacking in the finer aspects of his magic, but the potential of his full body Take Over could soon let him rival Mirajane's Saten Soul.

At Archer's praise, Elfman beamed, a smirk coming to his lips while puffing himself up like an inflatable. Mirajane snorted in good spirit before elbowing her younger brother.

"Well Elfman? Aren't you forgetting something?" Mirajane hinted at Archer with her eyes, causing Elfman's chest to deflate. Although it had been Elfman's persistency that eventually let him regain clarity of mind, it was thanks to Archer that nothing untoward had happened in the meantime.

"Sorry I lost control," Elfman said, lowering his head. Archer had raised his siblings to be well mannered and polite. It was only Mirajane that broke his conventions by suddenly emerging into a tomboy. "And thanks for coming with us when Mirajane was the one who offered to do it on her own. I know you did this for my sake."

Archer nodded while Mirajane clapped Elfman in the back, causing him to stumble forward.

"As long as you know!" She grinned, as if she was the one being praised. Then again, everyone in Fairy Tail knew how much she adored Archer. The same was true for Elfman and Lisanna. One saw him as the true embodiment of what a man should be, and the other a target to chase after.

Erza secretly labeled them all as bro-cons, much to Jellal's chagrin when she childishly referred to them as Brocon 1, 2, and 3 when Mirajane peeved her enough.

"Don't worry." Elfman swore to himself aloud, looking to Shirou, then to Mirajane. "Lisanna and I will catch up to you both eventually."

Mirajane's lips quirked up, resisting, and failing the urge to headlock Elfman and give him a noogie.

He was acting too cute for her.

"Damn right!" She said while Elfman protested how unmanly this looked. It was worse because he was too weak to break out and looked to Archer for help.

A smirk was all he'd get.

"-And Natsu too!"

Mirajane suddenly sighed, losing some of her enthusiasm while flatly turning towards the youngest happily chirping away nonsense. She let go of Elfman and ran a hand over her face in utter exasperation. Archer thought she was just being too overdramatic.

"…Lisanna, don't ruin the family moment."

"But I'm the mother-" Lisanna pouted, Mirajane hissed, but Lisanna continued. "-Happy's the child, and Natsu's the father, so that makes him family?"

Deep breaths. Steady breaths.

"I thought you grew out of that." Mirajane glowered protectively. Thinking to steal her little sister? Well- not happening! "I'll have to have another 'talk' with Natsu."

Lisanna's pupils dilated recalling the last 'talk,' Mirajane had with Natsu that devolved into a 'spar.' Sometimes Mirajane could be worse than even Erza.

"Sister, no!" Lisanna threw herself on Elfman. "Elf bro help me!"

In this instance, Elfman was not on his little sister's side.

A man should not run from his troubles, but face it head on! Were Elfman's personal thoughts. Outwardly, he kept his silence.

Lisanna backed away, feeling cornered.

"Big bro they're picking on me!" She finally pulled on Archer's sleeve and pointed at a scowling Mirajane and a whistling Elfman.

Archer did not know when he'd gotten used to such interactions, but it had long worn away at his general cynicism. Family antics it was called. It reminded him of how over-the-top Taiga could be in the distant recesses of his memories. However, it was different in that Elfman, Mirajane, and Lisanna weren't surrogate siblings, but actual siblings whom Archer had watched grow up since young.

"Mirajane, respect your sister's decisions," Archer drawled flatly, Lisanna bobbing her head up and down like a yes man while Mirajane was aghast.

"But she doesn't know better!"

"Do you?" Archer raised a brow, but Mirajane's confidence had increased from her recent promotion to S-Rank. By guild ranking, she was on the same level as Archer, but it didn't mean shit apparently.

"…Yes," she squeaked, standing her ground more like a troubled child than the teenager she was.

"Would you like to repeat that?" Archer grew amused while Lisanna whined.

Mirajane buckled. Her idolization of her eldest brother was warring with her personal belief that Natsu was a frog chasing after a swan. He'd at least have to be a dragon first- was what she wanted to say.

"N-No," was the answer stammered out under Archer's stare.

"I thought so," Archer smirked, Lisanna raising her hand for a high-five only for Archer to stare at her too. "You too, you're not a kid anymore."

"Y-Yes. I got it big bro," Lisanna nervously scratched at her cheek, Elfman the only one still raising his head high. Lisanna clicked her tongue and pointed as a result. "Big bro, what about Elfman!"

Archer glanced at Elfman who was looking at Lisanna in betrayal. Those two had always been rather close as the youngest siblings. However, Elfman felt he didn't do anything wrong this time and had nothing to fear. That too was mistaken.

"A man shouldn't be so indecisive. You could have sided with Mirajane or Lisanna, but you chose neither. Sometimes sitting out means you'll miss your opportunities." Archer gave his advice. Although he conveyed another message with his eyes. Silent acknowledgement. "Unless it's between women who may or may not have power over you. Silence is then golden."

Elfman nodded, wisely choosing not to reveal the covert exchange lest their sisters get suspicious. That was a fool's gambit.

"Ha! Serves you right Elf bro!" Lisanna gloated, not knowing that Archer was secretly praising Elfman for his quick wit and not admonishing him.

Slowly, the family soon returned to a companiable silence on their way back from completing their quest.

They were just passing a village a way off from Oak Town, leaving only a couple days of travel left. Mirajane had suggested they take one of those magic powered carts, but Lisanna had convinced everyone by calling it a family outing. If they travelled on foot, they could spend more time with each other, as it was rare for them all to take the same mission due to skill gap.

In hindsight, this might not have been the best decision considering the tentative animosity recently fostered between guilds in Magnolia.

The difference in the past few years was too great. The sudden influx of talents flocking to Fairy Tail from the Tower of Heaven and even Ur and her students from the north heavily pressured their rival guild, Phantom Lord.

This all apparently came to a head during the last Wizard Guild Masters meeting convened near the home ground of the Guild Blue Pegasus.

"Brother," Mirajane suddenly narrowed her eyes as numerous Wizards appeared along the road by a cliff as if they were waiting for them.

Lisanna hid behind Elfman's larger frame and peeked her head out, while Archer realized what was going on by the guild markings of the mages blocking their way.

They were Phantom Lord members.

Skirmishes like this were common so long as a final line wasn't crossed. This was probably just another case of low-level harassment. Guild mission postings were often spread between guilds in a similar area, meaning that the same missions could sometimes be encountered by rival wizard teams. It wasn't unheard of for rival guilds to wait for a mission's conclusion and then steal the proof of completion from the rival team. Most honourable guilds didn't do this, but it would seem the pettiness of Phantom Lord was getting out of hand.

Archer shook his head. He'd already calculated it. This shouldn't take long at all.

None of the people present alerted Archer of anything dangerous.

"I'll take care of the leader." He said before addressing his siblings. "Will the three of you be fine on your own?"

"Damn right." Mirajane was all too quick to meet expectations.

"A Man's Challenge!" Elfman was no better.

"Hmph, leave it to us big bro!" Lisanna was too impressionable and got caught up in the moment. She was never too fond of hurting others to begin with.

Yup. Those were his siblings.

Still, they were strong for their age. He trusted them, more so with Mirajane to help the other two, and the fact that he assessed the enemy side to be harmless. This could even be good practice considering that no one present was from a Dark Guild and would not take things too far either way.

"Don't disappoint me," he smiled wryly at his siblings before taking off.

Soon after, the sounds of clashing magic echoed in Archer's ears, coupled intimately with Mirajane's taunts, Elfman's boisterous laughter, and Lisanna's whining from second-hand embarrassment.

The edges of his lips tugged into a ghost of a smile, but his attention was zeroing in on the largest source of magic on the enemy side.

There.

It was hidden deeper into the shrubs and guarded by stronger mages, but it didn't pose much of a problem for him. None of these people were much of a challenge. Sure, they could prepare their spells and launch their attacks at him, but it meant little if they didn't hit or took too long to cast.

In comparison, the numerous blunted swords Archer traced into the air and fired at Mach speeds left little to the imagination. Unlike the past, Archer had grudgingly shifted away from lethal means, his pessimism and negativity chipped away by the repetition of this world. Only Dark Guilds killed, and Dark Guilds were rather rare to run into, forced to operate in the shadows in small areas that possessed smaller influence lest a Wizard Saint be dispatched.

Accordingly, Archer never ran into a situation in which striking an enemy unconscious wouldn't solve the problem in recent years. It was a direct result of this mellowing out that he'd been promoted to S-Class.

Killing thereby served no purpose other than to attract public scrutiny and condemnation.

What he learned was that it was better to be flashier to deter aggression and promote his image.

Fairy Tail even had professional wizard advertisers that propagated the names of the guild's strongest wizards.

Archer was no exception.

The leader was already panicking at the sight of endless floating steel. For it indicated a huge blunder in just who they were trying to steal from.

"Abort! Abort its one of the Fairy Kings!"

Archer's lips still twitched at the name, but it wasn't his choice to decide, but rather public opinion.

He was just ready to get this over with, and aimed his blunted swords to strike at the temples with just enough force to concuss them into unconsciousness. He'd then alert Magnolia's wizard forces for the clean up.

Compared to his days as a Counter Guardian, everything now was rather boring, and lacked tension when it was clear that even if he lost, he wouldn't be killed.

What an ideal sort of world.

It was no stretch to understand why Shirou was flourishing here.

Still it left a sour taste in Archer's mouth, just thinking about him, so he'd rather not.

Well, it was time to end this. He could sense a storm brewing in the air above, and he'd rather they be back in doors before it pours.

He raised an arm, watching the faces of many including the leader subsequently pale.

However, he suddenly paused, as lighting struck and thunder roared. He was unable to complete the motion as his pupils dilated.

Through the sound of thunder, a scream took away all his leisure, piercing through any inner composure he could muster. Robotically, he turned his head to where his siblings had been, but he couldn't see them through the eerily silent crowd of attackers now standing still on tenterhooks.

It mattered little. His senses were always greater than most.

Three metaphorical flames flickered within the confines of his mind's eye before one abruptly vanished without a trace.

"…"

His body began to move through the attackers, utterly ignoring the leader who orchestrated the entire conflict in front of him.

Archer's reputation as one of the youngest S-Class Mages in Fairy Tail already preceded him.

The Fairy Queen, Titania, Erza Scarlet.

Following the public naming sense and similarity of magics, Archer's title was a certainty.

The Twin Fairy Kings, Oberon, Shirou Strauss and Shirou Emiya.

Archer was one of the ones Makarov had drunkenly bragged about in a Guild Masters meeting where he supposedly got into a confrontation with Jose Porla, Master of Phantom Lord where the conflict between guilds started.

The people before him parted at his approach, until only a woman with a magic circle still hovering over her hands was left in his path. She looked terrified, shivers travelling down her body, and figure curling up on itself. She didn't dare raise her gaze, garbled nothings coming out of her mouth in the form of excuses.

It didn't matter. From the beginning, Archer was looking over her.

"T-That wasn't supposed to kill her," the woman stuttered, voice squealing into a higher pitch the closer Archer came. "S-She just fell down the cliff! I-I didn't do anything else!"

He didn't respond and just shoved past the stammering woman.

The others took this as their cue to flee. Even the ringleader noticed developments, took one look at Archer, cursed, then hastily followed along with the rest.

One by one, they all ran away.

Archer let them all go in his utter daze.

Right now, all that he could focus on was Mirajane as held her hands to her chest and sobbed in anguish. The scream was hers. In his absence, she was the one who watched over the siblings. The ugly scrunching of her features, quivering lips, and bloodshot eyes spoke of a story he didn't want to hear.

Self-blame.

No. Not at all.

It was never her fault.

He was the one that was supposed to protect them.

Elfman roared, falling to the ground where he hollowly sat on his knees, staring up into the darkening sky. Tumultuous rain clouds appeared overhead until it began to drizzle over the entire area.

He was the one that had been their guardian since young.

The cold splatters that pricked at the skin and weighed on the heart hurt far less than the iciness freezing his veins at another failure.

He was their guiding light in their hardship and budding growth.

Archer's features were carefully impassive, neither blaming or accusing, but the sight of such an expression only made Mirajane finally break into another miserable wail, Elfman doing no better.

He had always been their sword and shield.

His eyes scanned the immediate surroundings. Even now, he was still in disbelief. He of all people was a veteran on the battlefield.

His senses hadn't warmed him of any magic build up that could have posed an actual danger to him let alone anyone's life. The most was the onset of the coming storm which disturbed the ambience of the mana above in the writhing tendrils of lightning.

He was the eldest brother.

Once more, the hammers of a forge began to ring.

Slowly, he knelt while Mirajane stared shakily at him.

"B-Brother." Mirajane sobbed. "She's gone…I pulled her up from the cliff, but she floated up and disappeared right in front of me."

He didn't speak. What he focused on was the fact that he could no longer sense the presence of their youngest.

His feet pushed him up. His mouth clacked shut before wordlessly dashing around the surroundings in desperation, confusion, and denial, his actions causing Mirajane and Elfman to choke up in grief.

There was simply nothing to be found.

…Phantom Lord.

There was a ringing in his ears that he couldn't quite describe.

He didn't know what face he was making, but it didn't stop his actions. He stiffly pulled his remaining siblings close, and carried both in his arms as if they were still children. Elfman had yet to reach his growth spurt, and Mirajane had always been rather petite.

They didn't resist, their tears dripping onto him, seeking his warmth through the rain.

It felt empty.

'Big bro! Hehe, Big bro look! I grew!'

The spot of one last sibling cheerily hanging off his neck with her arms, hollowly vacant.

That was the sight of them as they returned to the guild hall, the sound of Makarov's mug of ale clattering to the ground in the silence, all that he could remember in the muted din of his mind. He'd returned back to the scene numerous times, scouring through every inch to no avail.

Before he knew it, days passed until he found himself standing silently in front of a tombstone where Mirajane knelt bawling her eyes out and Elfman held a shaking umbrella over their heads.

She was only fourteen.

Once again with these hands that can never hold anything…

PhaNtoM LoRd…!

.

.

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Fairy Tail declared war.


It's been so loong since this got an update, had to take a moment to remember what I was doing with it, but here you all go. I progressed the story a bit faster as I had nothing left in the early stages, and needed to move the plot along. Hope you enjoyed it!

Thanks for reading, and thanks to my newest patrons: Carrot G, and 10302311!

Next update: To be Announced

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