He was standing there, making a map of the mages' positions on the battlefield. His fingers slid along the transparent keys, marking each guild in a different color and the enemy in black. It would be too much for him to use his telepathy to link himself with everyone again, so he would have to settle for this. He glanced at the plump woman from the corner of his eye as she watched him work, her hands fumbling as she tried to be inconspicuous. He was used to women finding him attractive, but he wasn't used to not charming them in return. He smirked at the thought, his fingers deftly sliding around the space in front of him as he attempted to catch some of what Makarov was telling Mirajane.

Something had happened after he had pushed himself to exhaustion. His last memory was of her angrily staring at him. Right before she punched him. His jaw had healed, but the memory remained. But now, the Mirajane he was unobtrusively watching was a beautiful, strong woman like any he had ever known. And that thought made him want her more.

He knew she cared about him, but Mirajane cared about everyone that walked through her guild's doors. She was a mother at heart, especially since the loss of her sister, Lisanna. He flirted with her, sure, and she returned his advances with demure blushes that only Mirajane could master. He had only truly cared for one other woman in his life, and that woman had not returned his affections. Karen had only cared for herself and, in the end, her selfish carelessness had led to her demise.

With Mira, though, his feelings were different. They were genuinely from his heart, which now belonged to someone other than himself.

Hibiki Lates was a smitten man, through and through.

"Hibiki!" the woman's voice cut through Makarov's discussion with the nearby mages.

He continued to send Makarov's instructed communications to the intended individuals, ignoring the newcomer. He noted that more mages were making their way toward Makarov, as if he were their savior. He noticed that Mirajane occasionally cast a few looks his way, though he was sure it was out of concern for his well-being, much to his disappointment. She was always doting and motherly—the last things he wanted in a woman.

Before all of this, of course.

Hibiki's attention was nearly drawn away by Natsu's arguments. The dragon slayer had been one of the first mages to appear, forcefully pushing the others away so he could crush Makarov in a strong hug. The two had argued with one another, leading Makarov to punch the pink-haired man, which only served for another round of hugs. Hibiki just didn't comprehend the dynamics of their guild.

He nearly jumped as the woman's strong hand gripped his should forcefully. She spun him to meet her eyes. He was surprised by how she looked; her hair dirty and singed. Her face was puffy and her eyes pink from what he could only guess was her crying. His eyes grazed over the dark bruises on her neck and her split lip before his gaze flickered back to her eyes, which were filled with anger and determination. He knew that she had a goal, and her intent was to use him to get to whatever means she was plotting.

"Where is that monster?" Cana's eyes narrowed. For a moment, he nearly thought she had lost her mind.

"I'm not sure what you're referring to..." he paused, waiting for the explanation he knew she would offer.

She shook his shoulders with such fervor his teeth rattled. "You can find him—the one bringing back the dead!" Her grip was strong and he nearly winced from the pressure.

His breath whistled as he took in what she was saying. Necromancy was black magic. Why did he not feel surprised by that thought? "Someone was reviving the dead?"

Cana licked her cracked lips, nodding solemnly. "I need to find him. I want to kill him."

Hibiki studied her for a moment; he could feel the intense emotion emanating from her. He knew her bloodlust all-too-well. He had shared that same feeling toward Angel when he discovered she had killed Karen. "I can't find someone I'm not familiar with—my magic doesn't work like that—"

"She's a tracer," the dark-haired woman interrupted, pointing to the middle-aged fat woman with the shiny pink cheeks. The latter jumped at the reference, her eyes looking over Hibiki approvingly. She fiddled with her pudgy hands nervously, awaiting his response.

So that's' why… He straightened, bowing his head slightly, "Fine. Show me. I can create coordinates and lead you there."

Cana smiled sadistically as she took a step backward. The chubby mage squawked with glee, and was all too forceful in shoving her sweaty, hot palms on either side of Hibiki's face—which he was certain was entirely unnecessary. He did all he could to keep from cringing at the moisture he felt coating his face from her sticky hands. In moments, he had the picture in his mind, mildly impressed with the tracer's magic. He quickly pulled away, his fingers sliding over the transparent keys as he mapped out the mage he had in mind. He thought Cana would be quite let down in her expectations of whom she was seeking. A blinking marker appeared before them, and he sensed Cana anxiously shifting on her feet. He could see another black mark nearby, as well as a golden one—indicating a Fairy Tail mage. He pushed his thought aside.

"Ready for me to upload?" he asked her, glancing at her one last time. Her eyes were nearly lifeless as she studied him, only responding with a quiet, curt nod. "I'll put an image in your head. You'll be able to find this, erm, mage by instinct. Your feet will take you to the coordinates I plug into your brain."

Cana sighed her relief and appreciation. Her features were still pale and drawn, and he knew that whatever had prompted this witch hunt must have been devastating to her. He was all too glad he hadn't been on the field for that debacle. The list of deceased loved ones he would have been traumatized at seeing was much too long. With one last look, he quickly relayed the intel to Cana. Her back stiffened at the shock of the uploaded information, and she gasped at the alien feeling.

Her expression suddenly reflected her determination, and her color returned after he had completed the transaction. She blinked at him, "That was kind of...cool."

Hibiki said nothing, watching her intently. He breathed slowly through his nostrils, giving only a brief nod of his head as he tried to hide the tremble of his fingers. Cana patted her chest as if to check for something, looking satisfied when she located it. She had briefly looked at the others, as if debating on saying something. She had chosen not to, instead breaking into a full sprint.

Hibiki quickly recovered his wits. It had only been a glimpse

And, yet, he couldn't be sure…..but he thought he knew what she had planned.

It wasn't something he could put into words, but occasionally when he used his magic to place things into other peoples' minds, he found that he could catch small flickers of their thoughts, emotions, or memories. He thought he had experienced this with Cana's mind, only moments before. He ignored the tracer that was watching him, hopeful he would speak to her. His mind was preoccupied with the revelation of what he had seen. He had no real way of knowing if he was correct in his suspicion, but he had to tell someone. He honed in on the golden yellow orb on the map before him. It'd have to do.

Because, if he was correct...

...if he was correct, what Cana was planning was suicide.

Gildarts...listen to me...

And he would have, too, if he wasn't being strangled by how own shadow. He'd be damned if Hibiki hadn't interrupted his thoughts one too many times that day, already. Though, this was the first time it was directed at him, personally.

He gasped, his mind racing for a spell or attack that would free him from his opponent. How such a mage had come between him and the necromancer was beyond him. Yet, there he was, his life slowly be drained as he played the helpless, exhausted victim.

He saw the spindly man's frame through slitted lids and bleary eyes. His enemy was pale with greasy black locks parted in the middle. His aquiline nose was much too large for his face, and his decaying teeth fit him all-too-well.

No! his mind told him after he received the transmitted message. No, she can't!

With an unknown strength, Gildarts pushed himself to his knees. He noticed his hands—the same hands that had only recently attempted to kill Cornelia—a thought that lanced his heart. The necromancer would pay for what had transpired, both for his own deed and the havoc it wreaked on Cornelia's daughter, Cana.

No, Gildarts Clive was not going to die yet.

He sucked air through his lips as he felt the whisperless form retract its cold claws from around his neck. The flesh pulsated as the blood flow returned.

"Damn that sun!" he gasped to himself. He knew it was a matter of seconds until the Shadow Manipulating mage would counter once again.

"Shadows are mystical entities, are they not?" the man's high-pitched voice was both musical and chilling.

"Screw you," Gildarts growled as he glanced at the necromancer—who was half the dark mage's size and standing cross-armed and disinterested in the battle.

He was certain he fractured his right tibia and that the necromancer was responsible for the damage to his body. He had used his signature attack on the shadow mage, only to find that he, too, shared in that pain. Given his already-waning endurance, he would not be able to survive that same result many more times. Worse, even, was that he didn't know how that was even possible. It was as if the necromancer was using some sort of reflecting magic on her teammate. No, that wasn't right…..because he, too, suffered from each attack as did Gildarts, though lately he seemed to tolerate any damage he dealt. He would need to figure this out sooner rather than later if he intended to survive.

"We overlook—no, underestimate—them," the Shadow Mage cooed waspishly.

"Look, man, I don't really give a shit, so shut the hell up!" Gildarts bellowed, becoming angrier as the rest of Hibiki's silent message played in his head. His eyes roved around for signs of Cana.

He suddenly felt as if he were going to vomit—like there were butterflies in his stomach that were moving at a much more rapid pace. His skin grew cold and clammy and his heart thudded in his chest.

"You shoullllld," his opponent smiled, nodding his head toward Gildarts' shadow. He watched as his enemy's own dark inkiness took over his own, slowly stretching it.

With each tug of his shadow, the feeling in Gildarts' stomach was growing more forceful. The chest pressure continued to grow, and his legs suddenly gave out on him. He dropped to his knees, his hands shooting out to prevent him from falling on his face—the same hands that had taken so many lives…..

He watched his shadow stretch and spread. If he squinted, he swore he saw the tiny fabric making up his shadow tearing ever-so-slightly.

"What the-?" he coughed, his chest suddenly tight. It felt as if an elephant was sitting atop him. If he died now, no one would be there to protect her…..

"You don't realize how important your shadow is to your being!" the spidery mage chuckled. Gildarts said nothing, his mind racing as it, too, was tugged in a million directions. "A person without a shadow is a soulless being! You can't exist!"

The implications of what was happening struck Gildarts, whose head shot up in surprise. His shadow was nearly stretched to where the thin man was standing. What dark magic is this?

Bright light momentarily blinded him, and the sound of an explosion was hidden in that sudden, glaring burst. He could sense her presence before he could see her. He was suddenly aware that her attack had hit its mark, as the crushing sensation was alleviated, and he felt free.

"What a waste of my effort," she growled, arms crossed over her chest. Her cards were splayed between her fingers as she stood next to him. She glanced at him from the corner of her eye as she murmured, "You couldn't have possibly allowed him to overtake you so easily."

"You don't know their capabilities." he grunted defensively, his hand over his left chest.

He sucked in fresh air and attempted to stand. Cana was at his side, helping him to his feet. His eyes quickly scanned the area in front of him. He could see one mage on the ground, his mouth gaping and eyes staring lifelessly at them. Blood pooled around his neck, where a large open wound exposed his severed windpipe to the air. But, there was only one mage there…

"I promised Lucy I'd kill that good for nothing necromancer," Cana spat proudly as Gildarts temporarily leaned on her.

"Shit." His eyes grew wide as realization washed over him, "He's the wrong one!"

"What are you babbling about, old man?" Cana cocked her head, confused.

Gildarts' expression was a mixture of concern and agitation as his head whipped around and his eyes surveyed that area. He had been the one to release Cana from Cornelia's grip. The young woman had fled, too hysterical to face her dead mother. It had been Gildarts who had dealt her a swift twist of his wrists, incapacitating her. His tears had flowed freely as Lucy's spell released her, though not before she had whispered into his ear that final, devastating confession.

"He wasn't the necromancer!" he told her, spinning around erratically. He grabbed Cana with a yell, whirling to pull her away from whatever immediate danger he had spotted.

She felt her blood run cold as she saw the shining blades of yellow light. She could hear Gildarts grunt as well as the thudding she could only describe as tearing, punctured flesh.

"Gildarts!" she screamed at him, recognizing that he had shielded her from the attack.

His face was contorted from pain, and blood was oozing from the corner of his mouth. She pushed away from him, her mind reeling with the knowledge that she had not thoroughly studied her opponents. She hadn't succeeded in eliminating the true necromancer.

Gildarts mumbled something as he dropped to his knees. The earth shook from the impact, and he caught himself with his hands. "Dammit."

"Are you OK?" her voice was shrill as her hands danced over his shoulders and chin. Her cards fluttered to the ground in her panic.

"Watch out, will ya? I can't protect you forever," he coughed, blood and spittle spattering on the ground. He grabbed her cards, shoving them into her chest, a protective expression on his face. He murmured something to her, and she looked at him with furrowed brows, nodding her understanding.

Cana's eyes slid past his shoulders, searching for her enemy. Moments ago, she had been ecstatic she was about to face the man that was bringing their deceased loved ones to life in a despicable and forbidden manner. Now, she was completely shocked to see that her opponent was nothing more than...than-

A little girl? Confusion transformed into relief. This shouldn't be too hard.

"She's stronger than you know," Gildarts warned as he struggled to get to his feet. He wiped his mouth, his teeth stained crimson. That look on her face was all too triumphant. He knew better.

"I made a promise to my friend." Cana's eyes were on the pink-haired opponent "I can do this. Trust me."

She stepped away from Gildarts, eyeing the short girl with the headband. She seemed far too young to use such brutal tactics. The girl studied her with a steely gaze and sordid smile that nearly terrified Cana. The wind whipped up around her as her fingers shot blue blades of light toward her. Cana dodged the first one, throwing exploding honing cards. One made contact with the necromancer's blade, exploding on contact. Another magical blade managed to sneak through her cards defense, leaving her with too little time to move. The blue magic sliced through her left hand. Cana howled in pain as she realized her little finger had been completely amputated. She thought she saw a yellow light shoot toward Gildarts.

"No you don't!" she yelled through grit teeth as more cards followed her first barrage. This time they honed in on the young girl, their explosions a melody.

Smoke billowed up as Cana ripped her shirt and used it to staunch the bleeding in her hand by creating a tourniquet. She pulled the ends with her teeth, gasping in pain as she tried to avert her gaze. She saw Gildarts body convulse from some invisible attack, and she stared at him wide-eyed. He collapsed from blood loss and she saw the black mark on his wrist. She quickly sprinted to where he had fallen, doing her best to drag him to his feet.

"That's all you have? Silly cards aren't enough to hurt me," the girl smoothly replied as she appeared out of the smoke. "Oh, you've discovered my Sensory Link."

Cana was breathing heavily at Gildarts' side as he pushed her away weakly. "Don't let it stop you, Cana. I'm already a goner."

"No…" she weakly replied, "I didn't know! I'm sorry."

"You heard me, girl," he commanded her.

"How touching, a father daughter moment," the pink-haired girl cooed. "Your emotions are sickening, such is the weakness of Fairy Tail—"

"Bitch!" Cana hissed, straightening, "You think you can get away with your black magic? I'll kill you before this day is over!"

The girl smirked, "Meredy. That's the name that will be on your lips when you die. I'll let you watch me kill him first." She pointed at Gildarts, the black mark erasing from his wrist.

"Hmph." Cana flicked a card between her fingers, glad that she no longer had to hold back, "You fell for it."

Meredy's eyes widened slightly as she recognized her folly. Cana's earlier attack had been merely a ruse, and she had fallen into it. Green lightning arose from the cards she had laid on the ground moments before, now all directed at her enemy. The chaos of the lightning strikes hid her opponent from Cana's vision as she crossed her arms over her chest and watched the spectacle cautiously.

"Cana, I need to tell you something!" Gildarts called to her, still hunched on his knees. His brow was knit with concern, as if he was uncertain time was on their side.

"Here," Cana held out a pill to him. "Take this, one of the healers gave it to me. I've been holding onto it, but I don't need it."

Gildarts looked at the pill, his eyelids flickering wide as he reached up and pulled Cana to the ground. Once again, the blue blades flew past them as Gildarts rolled on top of the woman. Cana heard a thud and stifled a scream as she saw a bloodied arm fall to the ground beside her. Gildarts gasped in pain, but offered nothing more to signify the extent of his injury.

Cana peered past him. She was surprised to find that Meredy's injuries were not as severe as she had anticipated. Despite his earlier plan, Gildarts had been right: she was not to be underestimated. The man spouted a string of profanities as Cana climbed to her feet. His complexion was pale and she knew that he wouldn't survive much longer with his injuries. Given the strength of her opponent, Cana recognized that she needed to end this battle now.

"Here. You need this. Thank you," she murmured as she shoved the pill into his open palm. "I'm sorry, Gildarts."

He looked at her, confused, though she wasn't certain if it were from shock or her words. She didn't wait for clarification as she shoved the card into his chest. "Sleep."

His eyes closed and his head slumped over. The spell would only be short-lived, so she could do as she had intended from the beginning. She looked at Meredy as she pulled one of the two cards from her vest pocket. Part of her had hoped she wouldn't need the attack.

The girl was seething as she stared at her, chest heaving and body riddled with gashes. Blood was running from her forehead and into her eye. Still, she watched Cana murderously. The dark-haired woman paid her no mind. She knew what she had to do.

"People always underestimate the power of my cards," she called as she strode toward Meredy, eyes narrowed and card tucked between her fingertips. She could feel the other one safely tucked in her pocket against her breast. "I am just as guilty of it. But not this time."

With a yell, Cana hurtled toward her opponent. Meredy repeated her earlier attack, but Cana used one of her cards to shield her from the attack. She continued her course, and the pink-haired girl's eyes grew wide as she realized that Cana had managed to bypass her attack, her hand slamming into Meredy's chest. Cana stepped back, chest heaving and tears streaming down her face as she jumped back. The pink-haired girl stared at her before looking at the card blazing on her chest.

"Shinigami Card," Cana gasped between breaths. "Death God, Angel of Death, Black Mark…what you will." Meredy's face paled, but she said nothing. Cana continued, "This magic is just as despicable as yours, but I can't let you live after what you did. I'm sorry."

"No," the girl whispered, eyes bulging.

Cana smirked, triumphant. "A Shinigami Card won't work if it is one card alone. And there are only two in this world. They are extremely rare. But the user must sacrifice her life to take another's. An 'eye for an eye'." She glanced at Gildarts, who was laying on his side, back to her. "I'm sorry, Gildarts," she whispered, "But I won't hear what you have to tell me." She looked at Meredy. "I, alone, hold both of those cards. Luck was not on your side."

A dark form rose in front of Meredy, unbending to stand taller than any human—even Gildarts. It was grotesque with a long horn protruding from its forehead, deep set eyes, sharp teeth, and talons for fingernails. Its limbs protruded at odd angles from its naked, gnarled body. Meredy jumped back, her defensive magic doing nothing to the creature's body. Cana couldn't help but feel sorry for her. She reached into her pocket to pull out the card's twin as Meredy fought to remove the card from where it was attached to her chest. She was screaming, her eyes flooding with tears as she tore at her chest.

"It's a shinigami," Cana told her softly, "It's been in my possession for nearly a decade."

The creature howled a sickening cry. Chains grew from its back, curling skyward and launching at Meredy. She tried to dodge them in vain.

"Ultear!" Meredy screamed. "Ultear! Help me!"

"She can't save you. You're going to hell. Where you belong," Cana's voice warbled as she licked her lips in attempt to stave off the nausea.

Meredy's body convulsed as the spirit chains penetrated her, causing no physical damage. They pulsated as her arms shot out to her sides. The shinigami sank into the ground.

Cana took a deep, steadying breath as she awaited her turn. She looked down at the card between her fingers and her body grew cold. No!

"I'm sorry, girl," he called out. She whirled around to find Gildarts facing her, chains in his back and wrapped around his arm and legs as well.

"No!" she screamed as Meredy's tortured yells tore through the air, some for Ultear, but most out of fear of the unknown. "How?" she moaned, suddenly recognizing his opportunity. "Why would you do that?"

"Hibiki told me what you had planned," he told her, half-smile on his face as tears rimmed his eyes. "I switched the cards, I'm sorry. I have to protect you, Cana...that's what dads are for, right?"

She stood before him, face pale as she saw the card glowing on his chest. "I don't understand! Are you losing your mind?"

"Cornelia," he croaked. She saw the chains slowly retracting and knew that it was the shinigami claiming his soul.

She sobbed into her hands, falling on the ground next to Gildarts. "That was my mother's name."

"It was my wife's name as well. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever met. I loved her so much," he told her, eyes closing and voice hoarse. A tear slipped down his cheek, "She left me, about 19 years ago..." He looked at her with such intensity when he opened his eyes, "I had no idea she was pregnant."

Cana's face grew white with realization. "No! You can't mean—"

He smiled softly, his hand reaching out to touch her face, "I never knew I had a daughter. Until she told me before the spell was broken."

"My father!" she threw her arms around his neck as she sobbed into his shoulder.

"And now I'm leaving you, too," he sighed, his body growing colder by the second. Meredy's screams were becoming less frequent.

"You shouldn't have saved me! I don't want to live without you!" she could feel the hysteria edging its way into her being. She pulled back, looking at him through teary eyes. His face was ashen and hollow as he slowly shared Meredy's fate.

He touched her cheek, wiping away a falling tear, "It's OK. If I am going to die, I'm happy that I could choose to die protecting my...daughter."

His own tears fell freely as she hugged him tightly.

"My…father," she sobbed. "Daddy."

"Daddy," he repeated softly, a chuckle in his voice as he returned her embrace. She could feel his strength leaving him. "Thank you, Cana."

Meredy's yells had ceased entirely and Gildarts body quickly chilled as he sighed one last time and slumped over her shoulder. She held him more closely, crying into him as she refused to face his demise. She knew he was gone, but she couldn't bring herself to accept it.

She stayed like that for some time, crying into his soiled cloak until she had nothing left to cry and her self-pity was exhausted.

She had kept her promise to find and destroy the necromancer. She had lost her most prized possessions in the process. Gildarts had sacrificed himself to save her life.

Because Gildarts was her father.

She would not let his sacrifice be in vain.

She slowly lowered him to the ground, pulling her palm across his face and closing his eyes. She could feel the moisture on his eyelashes, and she looked closely at him. He appeared peaceful, a small smile on his lips. She pushed his reddish locks from his forehead, studying his features. Her hair gleamed auburn in the summer's sun.

Just like her father's.

Her lips were full.

Just like her father's.

And her will was unbreakable.

Just like her father's.

"Goodbye, Dad," she whispered to him as she stood, using her forearm to wipe her face. She toyed with finding Hibiki and breaking his jaw, but she knew that it would have been unfair for her to have died, leaving Gildarts with the knowledge of what Cornelia had shared. "I won't let you down. I promise, old man."

Lucy was angrily pacing as Adie spoke with the Wisterians. She didn't like that she felt isolated from the conversation. Or perhaps what she didn't like, moreover, was that the conversation was about her.

The Allied Forces were pushing forward, and overtaking the enemy. Despite this, Lucy had a feeling it was only a matter of time before Ultear made her appearance. The only thing was, no one knew what it'd take for her to do so.

"You're only job is to protect her," Adie pointed toward Lucy as the Wisterian mayor nodded in understanding. "She's was able to summon me…."

Lucy shook her head, grumbling under her breath. "I hadn't tried to summon her! I don't even know how I did it!" She suddenly looked down at the key in her hands. "Oh shit."

She looked up at Adie, who was staring at her, eyes a mixture of amusement, regret, and annoyance. Suddenly her hand shot out, "Let me see your dagger."

Lucy raised an eyebrow, but handed the dagger to her friend. Adie took the weapon in her thin fingers, holding it to the light. She turned it over, looking intrigued. The mayor peered at it too, his eyes darting between the dagger and the key in Lucy's hands.

"Do you think..." he started.

Adie tsked under her breath, quickly handing the dagger back to Lucy and muttering, "Freya."

Lucy looked between them, saying nothing. She ran her fingers along the key. "What if I gave it back?"

Adie whirled around and looked at her, incredulous. "What is wrong with you?"

"Huh?" Lucy's mouth fell open. "I-I'm offering you your key back. It'd be yours! You wouldn't have to feel obligated!"

Adie's mouth opened and closed, and she squeezed her eyes shut as the mayor remained silent. After a moment, she finally spoke. "I do not have a say in this matter. It is not about what I want or don't want. It's about you, Lucy. Don't you see it? You are the missing piece of the puzzle. This is your destiny."

Lucy's eyes widened. "I didn't ask for this."

"Does anyone, ever?" the demi-spirit shot back. "Do you think I asked to be half human, half spirit? To be a commodity? To be a weap—" She threw up her hands in frustration. "Dammit!"

"I know your sister is important to you," Lucy offered. "We will find her. No one will use you as a weapon, Adie. I promise."

Pale eyes studied her for a moment, and Lucy could see them soften. The spirit mage looked at the mayor, the haunting question already dancing on her tongue. "I have a question for you."

He raised his eyebrows in expectation. Lucy glanced at Erza, who was now speaking with Makarov and Porlyusica as Jellal chimed in from time-to-time. She still remembered the half-smile on the old wizard's face when he saw that Erza had let Jellal live. It was a smile of relief that his dear Erza was allowed that little piece of happiness. He hadn't liked keeping that secret from her, but telling her could have resulted in Jellal's death at Ultear's hands.

"You mentioned losing some of your townspeople at some point..." Lucy ventured "Do you know where they were taken?"

He answered with a shake of his head.

"Does your bloodline predetermine that your ability is to requip and become ridiculously good fighters?" Lucy's eyes darted to Erza. The concept had been bothering her since the start of the battle, and she had noticed the man's preoccupation with Fairy Tail's strongest female mage. She figured now was as good of time as any to broach the subject.

The mayor followed her gaze, his expression solemn. "I've wondered the same thing as you, lass. Not just anyone can wear our Heart Kreuz armor."

"I figured Barsky's armor and his pact with the village was exclusive," Lucy agreed. "Only the Wisterians can wield it."

"Aye," the man agreed.

"I can see the resemblance, more to your wife and your son," her voice choked off as she realized what she had insinuated. The mayor said nothing, prompting Lucy to continue, "Will you tell her?"

Again, he remained silent, his eyes drifting to his wife, where the rested for some time. "She was devastated when they took our eldest from us. She's never been the same..." His jaw clenched. "Eruza," he murmured to himself. "That was our daughter's name."

It was quite the coincidence, Lucy thought as she stared at her hands, "It's not my place to say anything. But she should know."

The mayor sighed sadly, looking over his people. "I think there are more important feats to be bested now….perhaps if the time is right."

Lucy wanted to offer more encouragement, but she understood. The pieces of the puzzle were slowly coming together, as if it was all supposed to come to this. She chewed her lip, eyes darting toward Natsu. They were all here…where they were supposed to be.

The ground suddenly shook violently, and she tumbled into Adie. The periphery of the battlefield was slowly torn apart as a dark entity settled onto the earth as it appeared from the parting clouds. The ship was three times that of Christina, and it exuded a power so great that Lucy's teeth chattered. Smoke billowed around it, slowly clearing. In its midst, a handful of dark shadows became visible. People. Mages. Perhaps spirits.

"Who's that?" someone called out, followed by the murmurs of the mages around them.

Lucy could see Nani and her clan staring at the newcomers, and her attention flickered to Makarov and Jellal, who were both wearing somber expressions. Lucy inhaled deeply as she met Adie's gaze. The pale-haired woman's expression confirmed what Lucy already suspected and felt deep in her core.

Ultear, with the help of other mages and invariably spirits, had joined the fight.

The final battle was about to begin.


And so it begins. Shit's about to get real O_o

Thank you all so very much for the continued encouragement. Please read & review. It keeps me grounded ^_^

Disclaimer: I do not own FT. I only take cred for the OCs.