Chapter 2: The Fairies of Magnolia
I'm blown away by the positivity with which this has been received.
I'm pretty sure this is the first story I've ever attempted to write that has been followed by more than sixty people in a single day. That may not sound like a lot in the grand scheme of things compared to the following "Bloodstained Souls" has garnered over the years, but I am still incredibly impressed nonetheless.
Thank you all so much for your support.
I will address several reviews in the ending A/N.
Let's jump right in, shall we?
(Magnolia Train Station, Fiore)
The train ride from Hargeon to Magnolia took roughly four days.
It was a mostly pleasant experience, with the only real downside being the revelation of Natsu's severely crippling motion sickness. Although the Dragon Slayer much too nauseous to hold any form of meaningful conversation, Ichigo had been content to converse with Lucy and Happy for the duration of the trip.
However, as soon as they stopped moving…
"I'M ALIVE AGAIN!" Natsu shouted exuberantly, stepping off the train and onto the loading platform. Exhaling a bright plume of fire from his mouth, he immediately drew the attention of several concerned passersby.
"Knock it off," Ichigo rebuked curtly, cuffing the Dragon Slayer upside the head before he could burn down the entire train station. Slinging his rucksack over his right shoulder, he looked around to appraise their new surroundings. It wasn't exactly anything grand, but the station was certainly more well-kept that the one back in Hargeon.
"There's definitely something to be said for his enthusiasm," Lucy said amusedly, pulling a bright pink suitcase along behind her. "I had no idea someone could get so sick just from riding a train."
"That's Natsu for ya!" Happy commented, perched on Ichigo's shoulder. "And it isn't just trains. He gets nauseous whenever he gets on any kind of moving vehicle."
"Lucky us," the orange-head mumbled.
With that, the group set off for the Fairy Tail guild hall. Upon entering the town of Magnolia itself, Ichigo immediately took note of just how large the city actually was. It wasn't as big as Crocus by any stretch of the imagination, but it was still definitely bigger than most of the other towns he'd seen while traveling across Fiore.
Though they didn't exactly get a proper tour, Happy still pointed out various landmarks and important buildings as they moved along, such as the incredibly impressive Kardia Cathedral. It was absolutely massive compared to the other structures surrounding it, and the overall design was highly reminiscent of a traditional gothic cathedral from Earth. By ordinary human standards, it was a marvel of architecture.
Lucy listened attentively, and Ichigo also absorbed the information with genuine interest.
With Natsu at the head of the pack, their quartet quickly moved past the cathedral and down an adjacent street, crossing a bridge overhanging a river that seemed to cut through the entire town. There were a few people rowing through the water in small boats as they passed by, with several waving in greeting.
After a few more minutes of walking through the somewhat crowded streets, they finally reached the Fairy Tail guild hall. The white building was situated on a cliff overlooking a large lake, which Happy helpfully informed them was called Lake Scilliora. The guild hall was tall — though not as tall as Kardia Cathedral — and strongly resembled an oversized pagoda. There appeared to be three main floors, with each floor being smaller than the one directly below it and sitting on the latter's roof. Each roof also bore a great resemblance to those of an actual pagoda, being made up of extremely long, arched tiles lined up one after the other and possessing simple curved protrusions jutting upwards on the building's angles.
On the highest roof, topping the summit of the building, sat a simple round and pointed dome, highly reminiscent of those seen on Arabian buildings. The roof below the one with the dome —the middle one — housed a large banner with the Fairy Tail symbol on it, held up by a pair of vertical poles.
The building's large entrance was once again Arabian in design, with its shape also being reminiscent of that of the dome at the summit. Above the main doors, the guild's name was proudly displayed on a plaque, furtherly decorated with stylized hearts and a pair of carved fairy silhouettes.
"Wow…." Lucy breathed. "I never thought I'd be standing here."
"Neither did I," Ichigo remarked sarcastically.
Looking towards him, Lucy's awed expression turned bland. "Shush. You don't even want to join the guild at all. You don't count."
"Not yet!" Natsu proclaimed enthusiastically, kicking down the front doors. "WE MADE IT BACK ALIVE!"
A near-deafening chorus of greetings answered the Dragon Slayer's proclamation.
"Natsu, good to see ya!"
"How ya been?"
"Happy! Did you keep that idiot out of trouble?"
Various members of the guild raised their drinks into the air, happily toasting the return of their friends.
Ichigo hadn't been in a room with so many people in… well... he honestly couldn't remember.
The interior of the main floor was visually similar to a large lunch hall, and appeared to be mainly made of wood, possessing a parquet floor and a mezzanine held up by wooden beams overlooking it. Several long benches and the related wooden tables stretched across the length of the room, and a bar was positioned against the far wall.
Slightly inclining his head, Ichigo looked towards the upper floors. Though he couldn't make out all of the intricate details, he surmised that they were likely visually similar to the main one.
A loud crash suddenly caught his attention, and Ichigo blinked in surprise upon realizing that Natsu had spontaneously attacked a buck-toothed wizard who'd been sitting at one of the tables.
"That information about the salamander was a lie, wasn't it?" the Dragon Slayer demanded angrily, flames spewing from his mouth. "You sent me on a wild goose chase!"
"How was I supposed to know?!" the man retorted, leaping up from the debris of the destroyed table. "I just told you some of the rumors that've been going around! It isn't my fault that they were wrong!"
"Yes, it is!"
"You wanna fight?!"
Ichigo felt like his braincells were dying.
Evidently, Lucy felt the same way. "They're crazy… they're absolutely crazy…"
"What was your fist clue?" he retorted sarcastically.
In only a few moments, the fistfight between Natsu and the buck-toothed guy had escalated into a full brawl with the entire guild. Tables crashed against walls, bodies were flung into the air, and magic explosions rocked the very foundations of the building.
"This is insanity," Ichigo remarked.
"Nah," Happy giggled, still perched on his shoulder. "This is just Fairy Tail."
"Does this happen often?" Lucy mumbled nervously.
"Um… hmm, let me think a sec… yeah, pretty much."
The blonde groaned, shoulders slouching dejectedly. "Just my luck. I finally get to be in the Fairy Tail guild, but all of the members are complete nut jobs…"
Arching a brow as he continued to watch the surrounding chaos ensue, Ichigo gradually noticed several particular individuals who stood out amongst the crowd. From what he could sense, they each possessed magic power that was roughly comparable to the Reiryoku of a low-level Shinigami. It wasn't much compared to the likes of any Captains or Lieutenants, but they were still impressive nonetheless.
The first was a young man with spiky black hair, who seemed roughly his own age. The first thing Ichigo noticed about him was that he was completely shirtless; the only clothing he wore was a pair of dark pants held in place by a simple belt. Other than that, a silver chain necklace hung around his neck. The Fairy Tail guild mark was tattooed on his right pectoral.
Turning his gaze towards the bar, Ichigo appraised the second person who'd caught his attention.
Much as he hated to admit it, the first thing he noticed was her ample bust, which was barely contained by a light blue bikini top. She was tall and slim, with mid-length brown hair that fell over her shoulders. She possessed large eyes of a similar color, with long eyelashes framing them. Her lower half was covered — thankfully — by a pair of dark red capri pants, along with a pair of heeled sandals. The Fairy Tail guild mark was tattooed on the lower left part of her abdomen, right above her hips.
Ichigo's jaw actually fell open when the woman suddenly lifted a large barrel of alcohol over her head and began to drink straight from it. Not even Kyoraku had been so heavy with his drinking…
Shaking his head, he turned to the next individual.
The large, white-haired man nearly rivaled Kenpachi in height. Large and muscular, he had tanned skin and dark eyes set into an angular face with no visible eyebrows. Amusingly enough, the outfit he wore was nearly identical to the high-school uniforms stereotypically worn by fictional Japanese thugs. Completing the ensemble was a simple rope belt and a pair of wooden sandals. The Fairy Tail guild mark was stamped on the left side of his neck.
The man stepped forward to join the brawl, but was quickly thrown across the room by a fierce kick to the underside of his chin, courtesy of Natsu.
Ichigo turned again, and his bemused expression immediately shifted into a scowl.
The person currently in his line of sight was a young man of average height, distinguished by relatively delicate facial features and a mop of orange hair not too dissimilar to his own. He wore a green coat with a wide collar, accented by spiky, brownish-white fur trimming lining the edges of the hood. Under that was a light red shirt covered in many flower-like patterns, along with black pants and white sneakers. His Fairy Tail guild mark was nowhere to be seen, likely covered by his clothing.
Ichigo didn't typically judge people by their physical appearance, but he already didn't like the guy. His entire demeanor practically screamed 'playboy,' which was further supported by the two women sitting on either side of him with their arms lovingly draped over his chest.
"What the hell is with these people?" he snorted.
"Tell me about it," Lucy said. "Is there not a single serious wizard here…?"
"Oh? Do we have a pair of newcomers?" a sweet, feminine voice sudden spoke up.
Ichigo and Lucy both turned to see who had addressed them, who was quickly revealed to be a very beautiful young woman. She had long, white hair which curled slightly at the ends, with two bangs framing her face and reaching down to her chest; her hairstyle's most distinctive trait was the short, upward ponytail made up of the bangs that likely would covered her forehead otherwise. She had large blue eyes and a curvy, voluptuous body.
Her attire consisted of a sleeveless, ankle-length maroon dress with a pleated skirt. The chest area — not that Ichigo was looking there specifically — was adorned by a pink bow, with similarly colored trimmings framing her neckline.
"M-Mirajane?!" Lucy exclaimed. "Is it really you?!"
"Who?" Ichigo asked. He flinched back involuntarily when Lucy almost immediately rounded on him with a disbelieving glint in her eyes.
"Are you kidding me?!" she shouted, dropping the handle of her suitcase to throw her arms out to the side. "How have you not heard of Mirajane Strauss?! She's almost always featured in Sorcerer Weekly!"
"I don't really read that kind of stuff…"
Mirajane giggled pleasantly. "My goodness, I didn't realize you were a fan. Are you here to join Fairy Tail?"
"Absolutely!" Lucy replied.
"Eh…" Ichigo trailed off, scratching at the bristles along his jawline. Damn, he really needed to shave, didn't he? "I still haven't decided yet. Say, shouldn't someone stop this before the entire building is destroyed?"
"This happens all the time," Mirajane answered casually. "Best to just let them tire themselves out." Not even a moment after the words were spoken, a ceramic plate flew out of nowhere and shattered against the side of the white-haired girl's head, sending her crumbling to the floor like a stack of wet cardboard.
"Mirajane!" Lucy exclaimed worriedly.
"Oh, to hell with this…" Ichigo scowled, dropping his rucksack to the floor. Summoning barely a fraction of his Reiryoku, he raised his Spiritual Pressure just enough to create a visible aura of rippling blue energy around himself. The resulting wave of power coursed through the air and brought the chaos in the guild hall to an absolute standstill, and everyone collectively turned to look at him in shock.
"KNOCK IT OFF!" he shouted, ensuring they could all hear him. "You're freaking adults, aren't you? Act like it!"
"Who the hell are you supposed to be?" the shirtless boy retorted, holding Natsu by the front of his scarf. "You aren't in our guild. Why the heck should we listen to you?"
"Because I'll kick your ass if you don't."
The threat was emphasized by a further increase in his Reiatsu.
The shirtless boy promptly shut his mouth.
Hushed whispers echoed around the room, but Ichigo managed to overhear a few.
"Who does he think he is?"
"He kinda reminds me of Erza…"
A sudden quake rattled the building, and Ichigo looked up just in time to see a gigantic figure leap down from the second floor of the guild hall. Landing with a loud crash, the figure — facial features obscured by dark shadows — rose to their full height and released a mighty bellow. "Listen to him, you fools! You should all be ashamed of yourselves!"
"Holy crap, a giant!" Lucy shouted fearfully.
"No kidding," Ichigo retorted plainly.
"Now then,"the aforementioned giant boomed, "what's this I hear about new recruits?" A dense burst of steam suddenly engulfed the giant's figure, and Ichigo watched in mild surprise as the colossus began to shrink. As he did so, the shadows obscuring his features gradually receded, revealing him to be nothing more than a little old man who barely stood three feet tall.
He had wrinkled skin and thin white hair, with a matching mustache covering his upper lip. He wore an orange jacket with light blue cuffs, with a white shirt underneath that bore the Fairy Tail emblem on the chest. He also wore orange shorts and brown shoes, which curled upward at the tips. Atop his head, he wore an orange and blue striped hat that resembled that of a jester.
"He's so tiny!" Lucy exclaimed.
Mirajane, having regained consciousness rather quickly, rose to her feet and calmly approached the elderly man. "Master, you were here all along? Why didn't you say anything?"
"I was caught up in a bit of paperwork," he replied, mustache drooping downward. "Damn Magic Council, always giving me too much work to do… but forget those blowhards." Turning his gaze towards Ichigo and Lucy, he looked them over curiously. "Who are these two?"
Lucy immediately stepped forward, bending down to offer a polite handshake. "Hello, my name is Lucy Heartfilia, and I'm a Celestial Mage. It's an honor to meet you."
"A pleasure to meet you, miss Lucy. My name is Makarov Dreyar, and I am the Master of this fine guild," the little man — Makarov — chuckled at her blatant enthusiasm. The guild master's attention quickly shifted towards Ichigo himself. "And you, my boy? That was quite an impressive show you just put on. There are only a few people who can make this bunch of hooligans behave themselves."
"My name Ichigo Kurosaki. I use Requip Magic." It was a complete lie, but the nature of Requip Magic was similar enough to his actual abilities that no one would ever think to ask twice if he was telling the truth. Requip Mages were able to store various weapons and equipment in a pocket dimension and summon them back to their person whenever necessary, which was essentially what he did with Zangetsu. And if anyone ever asked why his clothes changed when he activated his powers, he could simply claim it as being part of a unique technique.
"That so…? Well, am I correct in hearing that you've come to join us?"
Ichigo jerked a thumb in Lucy's direction. "She has. I'm still on the fence."
Makarov raised a brow, clasping his hands behind his back. "Oh? And why is that? Do you have other aspirations you hope to meet?"
"Not really. I just hadn't planned on ever joining a magic guild. I've been traveling the country for the past three months, and I've just been trying to see where the road takes me."
"And what if it has led you here?" Makarov replied. Ichigo opened his mouth to answer, but the elderly man raised a hand to silence him. "This world works in mysterious ways. I find it hard to believe that we are all just wandering about aimlessly for the duration of our lives. We make our own choices, but we all have a destiny. Just something to think about."
Not very subtle, was he?
Ichigo repressed the urge to roll his eyes. "I'll think about it."
"You do that," Makarov said, before turning back to Lucy. "Well my dear, I'm sure Mirajane would be happy to give you your guild mark. Welcome to Fairy Tail!"
The blonde looked like she might cry.
Ichigo was truly happy for her, but he still didn't quite understand why joining a guild was such a big deal to so many people. Sure, wizards who were part of one could legally take on jobs without having to worry too much about the Magic Council's stupid rules, but that was about it. It was a job.
Lucy went with Mirajane to receive her guild stamp, which left him alone with Makarov.
"So, where will you go now?" the little man inquired.
"I'd planned on staying in Magnolia for a day or two before heading to Oshibana. Not really sure after that. Why do you ask?"
Talk about unsubtle…
Luckily, he was spared from any further questions by the sudden interference of Natsu, who rather rudely forced his way into the orange-head's personal space. "Alright Ichigo, let's go! Me and you!"
"Don't pretend like you don't know what I'm talking about! Show me what you've got! Right here, right now!"
"You want to fight me…?"
Blinking at the Dragon Slayer's declaration, Ichigo raised a brow. "What exactly are you suggesting?"
"Duh. We have to see who's the strongest!" Natsu snorted, as if it were completely obvious.
Rolling his eyes, Ichigo looked down to Makarov, who was watching the exchange with a rather amused expression. "He won't leave me alone until I agree, will he?"
The guild master shook his head.
Sighing, Ichigo turned back to Natsu, who was practically vibrating with barley-contained excitement. "Alright, I'll give you a quick fight. But only on three conditions…"
A wide grin took up residence on the Dragon Slayer's face.
"First, we have to take things outside. I don't want to cause any unnecessary damage to your guild hall by accident. Second, if anyone gets seriously injured, we stop the fight immediately. And finally, regardless of who wins or loses, I'm not going to fight you again. Got it?"
Natsu's excitement diminished a bit at the last condition, but it didn't take very long for him to perk back up again.
"Are you sure about this?" Makarov asked. "You don't have to fight him if you really don't want to."
"I'm sure," Ichigo replied, looking back to Natsu. He didn't expect much of a challenge, but he still wasn't about to turn down an opportunity to loosen his muscles. "I haven't had a decent spar since leaving home. If Natsu wants a fight so badly, I'll give him one."
"Alright, man. You got yourself a deal!" the Dragon Slayer proclaimed.
Most of the other wizards in the guild hall —having overheard the conversation — began to talk amongst themselves and rise from their seats. Evidently, they were curious to see who would emerge victorious. Not one to waste any time, Ichigo once again flared his Reiryoku. Briefly obscuring himself behind a curtain of Spiritual Energy, he called upon his powers. His ordinary clothes were quickly replaced by his Shihakushō, and Zangetsu appeared in his right hand in Shikai form.
Resting the enormous blade over his shoulders, he turned away from Natsu and began walking towards the main entrance. From what he could tell, the gap in power between the Dragon Slayer and himself was fairly large. That said, Natsu's magic power wasn't weak by any means. Far from it, in fact. He would likely be able to give more than a few ordinary Shinigami a genuine run for their money, but the simple fact remained that Ichigo had yet to encounter a native to Earthland who could hold their own against him in an actual fight.
Honestly, it was a bit disappointing.
He greatly appreciated the relative peace that he'd been able to enjoy since Yhwach's defeat, but he was still a warrior at heart. He craved challenges. He craved opportunities to improve himself. As it stood, there were only a few individuals in Soul Society who could soundly defeat him, and they were an entire universe away.
Following a suggestion voiced by Makarov, the two combatants followed the elderly wizard to the open clearing behind the guild hall on the cliff overlooking the lake. There was more than enough room for both Ichigo and Natsu to move around freely without fear of causing any damage. More importantly, there was plenty of room for the spectators to get out of the way if they needed to.
"Alright!" Natsu grinned excitedly. The Dragon Slayer raised his fists, which were instantaneously engulfed in bright orange flames. "You ready?"
"Are you?" Ichigo shot back, holding his Zanpakutō at his side. "You can still walk away if you want."
"You kidding me? I've got a fire in my belly that's raging to get out!" The Dragon Slayer leaped forward, flames intensifying as he did so. "Fire Dragon: Iron Fist!"
Grinning ever so slightly, Ichigo relaxed his stance and leaned to the side, allowing Natsu's right fist to sail harmlessly through the air several inches from his face. The Dragon Slayer's fire was hot, but it still felt like a gentle breeze compared to the intensity of Ryūjin Jakka. Natsu clearly hadn't expected him to dodge so effortlessly, and Ichigo capitalized on his opponent's momentary surprise to slam the blunt end of his Zanpakutō into the younger boy's stomach.
Several wizards in the crowd murmured loudly, voicing their surprise as the fire-breather was sent flying across the clearing.
"Wow, that was fast!"
"I guess he can back up that tough talk after all."
"Fifty jewels on the new guy!"
"I'll take that bet!"
Ichigo smiled. Not even a minute into the spar, and he was already having fun. Though it was true he couldn't risk unleashing his full power, going through the motions of combat was still entertaining.
Landing on his feet, Natsu quickly readopted a competitive grin. "Not bad. That all you got?"
"You gonna stand there and talk, or come here and find out?"
In lieu of responding, Natsu took a deep breath and puffed out his cheeks. "Fire Dragon: Roar!"
A jet of fire erupted from the Dragon Slayer's mouth, illuminating the area in a bright orange glow. As the flames edged closer, Ichigo raised Zangetsu overhead and slashed downward, generating a gust of wind that collided with the inferno head-on. The fire was blown out, and Ichigo finally decided to go on the offensive. Sinking into a crouched stance, he lunged forward and immediately crossed the entire distance between himself and Natsu using Shunpo.
Zangetsu carved through the air, but Natsu managed to roll under the blade just in time. However, Ichigo caught him in the ribs with a powerful kick that propelled the pink-haired wizard off the ground and high into the air. Utilizing Shunpo once again, Ichigo followed after his opponent and grabbed the disoriented Dragon Slayer by the ankle.
With a shout, he then hurled Natsu at the ground.
A loud 'boom' reverberated through the area as the wizard's body collided with the earth, forming a crater roughly seven meters in diameter.
Ichigo winced, mildly berating himself. Maybe he was being just a bit too rough with the poor kid. At his current strength, he could probably kill Natsu on accident if he wasn't careful. Allowing himself to gently descend through the air, Ichigo prepared to help his sparring partner to his feet. To his surprise, however, the Dragon Slayer still seemed more than capable of standing on his own. There were a few dark bruises blossoming across his torso, but other than that he still seemed to be in top fighting shape.
Wiping a bit of blood from his split upper lip, Natsu grinned like a man who'd just been told he'd won the million-dollar jackpot. "Dude, you're awesome! I haven't had a fight like this in months!"
Ichigo blinked. Apparently Natsu could take far more punishment than he'd realized.
The pink-haired wizard exhaled another powerful torrent of fire in his direction, which he quickly dodged by twisting his body out of the way. Swinging Zangetsu in a downward diagonal arc, he generated another blast of pressurized air that blew the flames back in the fire-breather's direction. It came as no real surprise to see that Natsu was apparently invulnerable to his own attack, so Ichigo dashed forward and lashed out with his right foot.
To his credit, Natsu managed to evade the kick by the skin of his teeth.
Even more surprisingly, the Dragon Slayer was actually able to graze the underside of Ichigo's ribcage with a flaming fist. Granted, the orange-head still wasn't even trying very hard, but he hadn't even expected to take a hit at all. He would happily give credit where it was due, and Natsu had just earned it.
"Not bad at all," Ichigo smirked.
"Heh! Same to you!" Producing two large streams of fire that engulfed his forearms, Natsu rushed forward and swung his arms in a circular motion. Ichigo remained motionless, allowing himself to take the full force of the attack as Natsu slammed both of his open palms against his chest. "Fire Dragon: Wing Attack!"
The resulting impact generated a powerful explosion, ripping large chunks of rock from the ground and throwing them into the air. A shockwave tore through the area, kicking up a dense cloud of dust that was propelled outward and into the crowd of spectators.
Ichigo skidded back along the ground for a few meters, but he remained completely unharmed. The front of his Shihakushō was lightly scorched, but it hadn't taken any substantial damage either. Natsu was definitely powerful, but he lacked proper technique. That said, the Dragon Slayer might very well prove to be a decent challenge one day if he was given proper training and discipline.
"The hell are you made of?" the pink-haired wizard asked. His excitement had finally disappeared, and was replaced with visible frustration. Ichigo couldn't really blame him. Natsu was a brawler, and that kind of fighting style didn't really match up well against someone with a sword unless they were horribly inexperienced. It also probably didn't help much that Ichigo had taken far more powerful hits during his tenure as a Substitute Shinigami.
A brutally honest truth, but a truth all the same.
"You can still forfeit if you want," Ichigo offered, leaning Zangetsu against his shoulder. "You fought a good fight, and I won't fault you for recognizing when to back down."
Natsu's frustrated grimace morphed into a competitive smirk. "You kiddin' me? Give up?! Now I have a completely new level to reach! You don't even look hurt; I think you might be even stronger than Erza! If I ever wanna beat you, I've gotta keep pushing myself!"
That right there.
Those words marked the spirit of a true warrior.
According to what he'd been told by his father shortly after arriving in Earthland, Magic Power and Spiritual Energy were basically two sides of the same coin. They both came from the same source, which technically meant all wizards technically had the potential to eventually reach the level of Lieutenant and Captain-class Shinigami if they were willing to push themselves past the brink of exhaustion every single day. Of course, Souls had significantly longer lifespans than normal humans, so that wasn't likely to happen.
Eighty years of training couldn't really compare to eight hundred.
In spite of that, Ichigo had a feeling that Natsu could become a worthy opponent if he applied himself correctly. The Dragon Slayer would likely never be able to truly match him in power, but that was probably for the best. The hot-headed wizard definitely didn't need the strength of someone like Kenpachi Zaraki.
Returning his focus to the spar, Ichigo rushed forward. He would admit that he was having quite a bit of fun, but he supposed it was time to bring things to an end. He actually had an interesting idea of how to do so, and it didn't even involve using any of his powers.
Natsu prepared to meet his charge head-on, but Ichigo utilized Shunpo to suddenly reappear behind the Dragon Slayer. Grabbing Natsu by the back of his waistcoat, he leapt into the air high above the ground. Once they were about a hundred feet up, he created a Reishi platform beneath his feet and began to spin the Dragon Slayer around in a circle.
The best way to defeat an opponent was to exploit their weaknesses, and Natsu had a big one.
Around and around they went, faster and faster with each rotation. After nearly a full minute and a half of moving at blinding speeds, Ichigo decided that Natsu had probably learned his lesson. Gradually coming to a halt, he descended back to towards the ground with the Dragon Slayer in tow. Gently landing on his feet, he released his sparring partner.
Natsu immediately face-planted into the dirt.
"I hope you remember our agreement. No more challenging me to fights."
"Mhrgh…" came the muffled reply.
On the sidelines, Makarov stepped forth. "This fight is now over! The winner is Ichigo Kurosaki!"
Satisfied, Ichigo sheathed Zangetsu along his back. Turning towards the crowd of Fairy Tail wizards, he genuinely expected most of them to be angry with him for roughing up their friend. After all, he was a complete stranger. However, much to his surprise, the crowd quickly erupted into thunderous applause. He was immediately swarmed by men and women offering their praise, receiving jovial pats on the back and congratulatory handshakes.
"Wow, that was impressive!"
"I haven't seen Natsu get trounced like that in a while!"
"You really know your way around that sword!"
"It never gets old seeing charcoal-breath get his butt whooped!"
The camaraderie in the air was nearly palpable, and Ichigo could only accept the praise with a light smile. The crowd of wizards parted to let their guild Master through, and Makarov fixed him with what could only be described as a very 'grandfatherly' expression. "That was very impressive, my boy. Not many people would think to use Natsu's motion sickness against him. Seems you have quite a bit of brains to go along with that substantial magic power."
"When you've been fighting as long as I have, you learn to think outside the box."
Makarov raised a bushy eyebrow at the comment, but didn't press any further.
With the sparring match over and done with, everyone seemed ready to return to the guild hall. Swept along by the crowd of Fairy Tail wizards, Ichigo followed them back into the main building. Several more individuals offered him their congratulations, but mostly everyone quickly returned to whatever it was they'd been doing before.
Not really sure what to do with himself, Ichigo walked across the main room — pausing briefly to retrieve his rucksack — and made himself comfortable at the bar. A quick dismissal of his Spiritual Energy changed him back into his ordinary clothes, and the orange-head began to debate his next course of action. The sun was still high in the sky, but he really needed to start looking for an inn to spend the night in.
He didn't exactly have a schedule to keep, but Magnolia Town wasn't his final destination. He'd only ever planned on passing through to rest and potentially grab some more supplies for the road. When the sun rose, he would be on his way to Oshibana.
The Fairy Tail guild was certainly interesting, but he didn't really think it was the place for him.
Lucy, Natsu, and Happy would undoubtedly be disappointed with his decision, but he didn't really feel like he belonged here. Being around so many people wasn't really his thing in the first place, and if he was being honest with himself, he wasn't exactly ready to form any lasting attachments with any of the people of Earthland. Sooner rather than later, he hoped to eventually return to Karakura Town with his family. Making a plethora of friends while he was here would likely only complicate his resolve to go home.
Better to keep his distance.
His father certainly didn't agree, but it wasn't really any of the old man's business.
"You're not from around here, are you?"
The question halted his train of thought, and Ichigo looked up into a large pair of brown eyes. They were attached to the skimpily-dressed young woman who he'd watched chug an entire barrel of alcohol earlier. She had a pretty smile on her face, and held a mug of what could only be more booze in each hand. Apparently, she wanted to make conversation.
"You could say that," Ichigo replied cautiously, watching as she plopped down on the barstool next to his own. "My family is from Crocus."
"The capital, huh? Ever seen the king?"
"No. Is there something I can help you with?"
"What? Can't a girl just be friendly?" she shot back, setting one of the mugs in front of him.
"Sure, but I don't drink…"
"No time like the present to start."
Ichgio wasn't normally one to succumb to peer pressure. However, if taking a sip would make the brunette leave him alone, he would happily oblige. Taking the mug and raising it to his lips, he allowed the smallest bit of beer to spill down his throat. It burned going down, but he could at least tolerate it. After all, he'd been force-fed sake plenty of times by Rangiku.
Only coughing twice, he placed the mug back down on the countertop. "Hrrk… satisfied?"
"For now. I'm Cana, by the way. Cana Alberona."
"Hm. Yeah, I heard you talking with Makarov. You don't plan on joining Fairy Tail, do you?" Her question didn't sound overly judgmental, which came as a relief.
"Joining a guild has never been one of my top priorities."
"Why does everyone keep asking me that…?"
Cana raised a brow, briefly indulging in her own drink. "Does it really come as a surprise? Most people who can use magic join a guild as soon as possible. Their skills make it easy to take on well-paying jobs that most normal people can't handle. From what I can tell, you have a lot of magic power, so it's a bit surprising to hear that you don't want to make a living with it."
He supposed that was fair. "I just… I have other plans. Officially joining a guild would only complicate things."
"Suit yourself," Cana shrugged, throwing her head back to guzzle down more booze. Bringing the mug away from her lips with a satisfied sigh, she fixed him with a critical eye. "So… got a girlfriend back home?"
"Hm. A boyfriend?"
"Really? Hmm. You're pretty cute despite the scowl."
The scowl in question deepened.
Electing to ignore Cana's laughter, Ichigo turned away from the brunette and attempted to continue thinking of a plan. However, it seemed personal time wasn't a concept that existed within the walls of the Fairy Tail guild hall. With Cana seated on the barstool to his right, Lucy quickly appeared to take the empty one to his left. Emerging from a storage room behind the bar alongside Mirajane, the blonde sat down and thrust her right hand into his face.
"Ichigo, look! I finally got my stamp! I'm officially a member of the Fairy Tail guild!"
Exhaling nasally, Ichigo propped his elbow up on the bar and rested his chin against his knuckles. "That's great. I'm truly happy for you."
"So… have you givenany more thought to joining the guild?" she asked.
"Oh yes," Mirajane piped up from behind the bar, cleaning out a glass with a small piece of cloth. "It's always so nice to have new members."
"Sorry ladies," Cana interrupted before he could voice his own response. "Seems tall, orange, and moody here still isn't interested in becoming part of a guild. Too bad, huh?"
"Oh…" Lucy said, her excitement visibly fading. "I thought you wanted to be able to accept job requests?"
"I do," Ichigo sighed. "But I just don't think I'm a good fit for any particular guild. The Magic Council will probably continue to give me hell, but I'm better off working alone in the long run."
"That's too bad," Mirajane said. She sounded genuinely disappointed, but there was no judgement in her tone. "I could tell Natsu was really looking forward to working with you. Take as much time as you need, but it might be best for you to leave before he realizes you don't actually intend to join."
She was probably right.
Natsu was a good guy, but he didn't seem like the kind of person who accepted things for what they were. Sometimes, the world just didn't work the way people wanted it to. But if Natsu wanted something to happen, he would likely fight for it until he finally got what he wanted. His determination was truly something to be admired, but you couldn't always force the world and the people in it to conform to the way you wanted things to be.
Sighing, Ichigo rose from his seat.
Time to find a place to sleep.
However, a sudden crash stopped him in his tracks. Turning his gaze towards the opposite end of the hall, the orange-head blinked in surprise as he watched Makarov — seated atop one of the many tables in the building — take a punch to the face from a very young child who barely looked five-years-old. The guild master's head snapped back, but he didn't move an inch otherwise. The boy, on the other hand, immediately turned and ran towards the main doors to the guild hall with tears streaking down his face.
"The hell was that about?"
"That was Romeo," Mirajane spoke up. "His father Macao accepted a job request about a week ago, and no one has heard from him since then. Master Makarov has been adamant that Macao is strong enough to take care of himself, but everyone can tell that he's beginning to get worried."
"Was the job a dangerous one?" Lucy inquired.
"It wasn't supposed to be. The request asked for a trained wizard to get rid of a Vulcan, and they aren't usually very much trouble to deal with."
Listening quietly, Ichigo watched as Romeo exited the building. The boy had every right to be upset. Vulcans could definitely be annoying in large numbers, but they weren't much of a threat when they were alone. In fact, most wizards could handle them with barely any effort at all. If Macao had been tasked with exterminating a single Vulcan, he definitely should have returned to the guild days ago.
For him to take nearly a week…
It didn't take a genius to realize that something unexpected must have gone wrong. If Macao didn't return within the next day or two, he likely wouldn't be coming back at all.
Another crash pulled his attention away from the entryway and towards the opposite end of the hall. His eyes quickly landed on Natsu, who had evidently recovered from their fight. Several scorched chunks of splintered wood lay at the Dragon Slayer's feet, and Ichigo watched as the fire-breather marched across the guild hall and rather forcefully shoved his way out the main doors.
"He's going after Macao," Cana observed, taking another swig of booze.
"It wouldn't surprise me," Mirajane nodded in agreement.
"Why is that?" Lucy asked.
"When Natsu was a little boy, his own father went missing," Mirajane explained solemnly. "The only person who really knows the details of what happened is Natsu himself, and all he's told us is that one day his father was there, and the next he simply wasn't. I don't want to assume that he was abandoned, but…"
Suddenly, things were starting to make more sense.
Based on his limited experience with the guild, Ichigo had been quick to assume that everyone in Fairy Tail was just plain crazy. The only normal people he'd met so far had been Mirajane and Lucy, and the latter had only just joined. He had never actually stopped to consider that some of the wizards might be carrying deep, emotional scars. Natsu seemed likely a typically carefree person, but that obviously didn't mean he didn't have his own set of personal burdens.
Ichigo was all too familiar with losing a loved one…
It changed you.
The change wasn't always incredibly noticeable, but it still changed you nonetheless. Some people became filled with rage, while others simply became hollow shells of whoever they'd once been. The death of his mother had impacted him greatly, and he knew he would always carry a bit of guilt with him no matter where he went.
No one deserved to feel that way.
Especially not a child.
If he could prevent Romeo from experiencing that same pain, didn't he have a moral obligation to do so? The answer was plainly obvious, and his next decision came quite easily.
After all, Oshibana would still be in the same place when he got back.
I'm not completely satisfied with this chapter.
But, to be honest, we're still in the introductory phase.
I was having trouble getting the ending the way I really wanted it, but I think it's finally good enough. If you weren't able to tell, Ichigo has decided to help Natsu with rescuing Macao. The beginning of the next chapter will hopefully clarify some things, such as Lucy's own involvement.
I actually finished the majority of this chapter last week, but some personal business came up that left me far too stressed to even think about working on any of my stories. I'm feeling much better now, but I just wanted to make all of you aware of what was going on.
Now then, I said I would address several questions in the beginning A/N, so let's go ahead and get that out of the way. Please keep in mind that I am open to constructive arguments. Don't just tell me I'm wrong before refusing to elaborate any further.
Strap in, because this might be long…
-Is this story's version of Ichigo from the TYBW?: Yes, it is. Some people have already expressed their concerns that Ichigo will be much too powerful for any opponent in the Fairy Tail universe, but there are actually a few individuals who I feel could take him out. I personally think characters like Ankhseram and the Celestial Spirit King are definitely stronger than TYBW Ichigo.
Some of you might disagree with this, but keep in mind that although we don't know much about Ankhersam just yet, the Celestial Spirit King's strength is potentially limitless, whereas Ichigo definitely has an upper limit. Granted, the King's combat capabilities in the human world are dependent on the current strength level of the Celestial Wizard that summons him, so we never actually saw him at his best during the war with Tartaros. When Lucy summoned him, she was already tired and weak, and the outcome would have undoubtedly been much different had she been in top shape.
"But AlucardsBro, didn't Mard Geer fight the Celestial Spirit King to a stalemate?" Again, based off what we've actually seen, the CSK was not at full strength during the Tartatos War.
Hell, now that I think about it, Makarov could possibly defeat Ichigo with Fairy Law if he had enough time to cast it and considered him an enemy. "But AlucardsBro, Fairy Law wasn't able to defeat one of the Spriggan Twelve, remember?" This is true, but that is only because Makarov exceeded the limitations placed on his body by the spell. He was already a very old man, and Fairy Law takes away a bit of the caster's life span with each target, and Makarov casted it on an army of 800,000+ soldiers. Even then, he didn't actually manage to eradicate all of these soldiers, even though it goes without saying that his power was undoubtedly greater than their own.
Am I saying that Makarov is stronger than TYBW Ichigo? Absolutely not, but he still has the potential to defeat him provided the situation is optimal. However, given Ichigo's current level of power, Fairy Law would likely end up being a suicide move if used against him.
-Will any Fairy Tail villain be able to challenge Ichigo?: Of course. This story would be incredibly boring otherwise. I won't reveal how just yet, but I already have multiple plans that will enable several antagonists to pose a genuine threat to Ichigo. And yes, I already know some people will likely accuse me of changing Fairy Tail's canon to suit my own needs, but this is a fanfiction. I won't be nerfing Ichigo, but some Fairy Tail characters will be receiving power boosts that I will explain at a later date.
And as a gentle reminder for all of you hardcore Bleach fans who may have forgotten, Ichigo did NOT kill Yhwach by himself using pure skill. He had help from several of his allies, and the only reason Yhwach was even defeated at all was because Uryu managed to infect him with Still Silver and briefly nullify The Almighty. Ichigo is inarguably powerful, but I personally don't think he should be placed on the same level as Yhwach.
Even after Ichigo had achieved his true Bankai and combined all of his genetically inherited abilities, Yhwach still danced circles around him.
-Will I be giving Yuzu and Karin powers?: Maybe. I will neither confirm or deny anything at this point. This is only the second chapter, after all.
-Who will Ichigo be paired with?: Do you really think I'll tell you this early in the story? However, with that said, I've been giving this subject some thought. As you all know, stories develop and evolve over time, and things don't always turn out the way an author thought they might in the beginning. I say this because Ichigo might actually end up with more than one girl. I'm still not sure about that just yet, but we'll have to see as the story continues. However, know that if I do end up pairing Ichigo with more than one girl, the maximum number will be three.
A lot of people really downplay just how impressive a lot of the feats shown in Fairy Tail are. I mean, quite a few main characters are shown casually dodging lighting-speed attacks and blowing up mountains on a regular basis. Natsu alone has avoided attacks from Laxus and Sting, and both of them have abilities that operate on the spectrum of light. This certainly isn't comparable to the Hohō and Shunpo displayed by Shinigami, which allows for instantaneous movement, but being able to dodge lighting — which moves at a speed of 270,000 mph — still says a lot about reaction time.
And yeah, I know dodging lighting is a pretty common anime feat, but still.
With all of that said, I would like to try something with you all.
Comparing character feats from two different series can be hard, especially when you know that someone will Inevitably end up getting offended. That said, I would like for you guys to tell me what you think the closest matchups would be between the characters of Fairy Tail and Bleach. Consider the respective fighting strengths and personal abilities of each combatant.
Could Gray Fullbuster defeat Chad?
Could Laxus Dreyar defeat Renji?
Keep in mind that as far as my personal story is concerned, Magic Power and Spiritual Energy are basically the same thing. They are simply called different things on different planets. So, could Gildart's Crush Magic work on Kyōraku's games? Could Acnologia feed off of Spiritual Energy if it basically comes from the same source as Magic Power?
I'd just like to hear your thoughts.