Chapter Twenty-Eight

The sun was high in the partially cloudy sky as its brilliant rays came down unimpeded into the Fairy Tail construction site. The building was definitely well along on its way, a testament to the ingenuity of the mages considering that none of them were trained carpenters. At the moment, everyone was taking a break to get some food, a drink, or to check out the Job Board. Standing by the bar, Natsu and Gray had matching expressions of bewilderment as they looked at Loke.

"So let me get this straight. You're actually a Celestial Spirit?" Natsu asked as he tilted his head to the right.

"Yeah," Loke answered with a short nod and an embarrassed smile as Natsu started circling around him to look for a clue he had missed before.

"I never noticed at all." Gray said as he crossed his arms over his shirtless torso, his sword pendant necklace shifting with his movement, and Happy nodded his head. To his credit, Gray was at least wearing a pair of black pants and black shoes rather than walking around only in his boxers.

"Aye."

"Hold on, this doesn't make sense." Natsu said as he finally stopped to stand directly in front of Loke, who cocked his right eyebrow at him questioningly. "You're not a cow or a horse or anything else like that." He said and Loke blinked before he let out a quick chuckle.

"You've seen Virgo, right?" Loke asked and Natsu nodded his head. "Well, she looks like a normal person." He said but Natsu shook his head.

"No, she also turns into a gorilla." The Dragon Slayer argued with a set expression on his face.

"Ah..." Loke was caught off guard for a moment before he remembered Virgo's quirk. "I guess you have a point." He admitted with an uncertain smile and Natsu nodded his head.

"Loke's actually the Lion Celestial Spirit." Lucy said from a nearby chair at the bar. Today, Lucy had decided to wear a yellow tank-top with a low neckline and a white, strapless undershirt. She also had on short, denim jeans with her key ring on its usual belt and a pair of brown, knee-high boots.

"Lion?" Natsu asked as he locked up in an over the top reaction.

"Isn't that a grown-up cat?" Happy demanded as he sprouted his white wings to hover in front of Loke.

"That's right." The Lion replied with an amused grin and Happy quickly perched on his right shoulder with a content smile.

"No it isn't!" Lucy quickly denied while Loke reached up to pet Happy and gave a short chuckle.

Gray suddenly leaned forward with a concerned expression and crossed his arms over his chest. "Hey, are you sure you're in a good enough shape to be here right now?" After hearing how Loke had nearly faded into oblivion, he didn't want his fellow Guildmate pushing himself too hard.

Loke looked over at Gray and offered a nod with a reassuring grin in reply. "I'm not quite in peak condition yet, but I wanted to come by and give one last hello as a member of Fairy Tail." He said, which got him looks of surprise from Natsu, Gray, and Happy. "Don't worry, it's not like I'm gone forever." He said with a quick laugh before he motioned to Lucy. "Whenever Lucy's in trouble, her knight in shining armor will quickly show up to save the day." Loke said with a gentle smile and Lucy averted her eyes as a small blush came to her.

"He lllllllooooves you." Happy said as he appeared next to her and she immediately shot him a glare.

"Don't talk like that." Lucy said irritably before she looked up in surprise as Loke walked up next to her.

"Now then," He said before he picked her up bridal style and her eyes bulged in shock. "Let's go and talk about our future together." The Lion said as he carried her away with a charming smile.

"Hey, what the-? Put me down!" Lucy demanded as she flailed with an embarrassed blush on her face.

"Man, Lucy's so lucky." Natsu said with a disheartened sigh. "I want a Spirit, too." He said with a small shake of his head.

"What kind?" Happy asked curiously, for this was the first time he had ever heard Natsu mention something like that.

"A dragon, obviously!" Natsu declared with a feral smile then went into a quick flurry of shadow boxing. "I'm the Fire Dragon Slayer, but I don't have anything to test my magic out on." He said and Happy's jaw dropped as he looked at Natsu in shock. Gray, in comparison, just shook his head in resignation at the response, not even surprised by Natsu's declaration.

Lucy, however, was not as quiet in her reaction as she jumped out from Loke's arms. "You don't summon Celestial Spirits to fight them!" She snapped at Natsu, who immediately stopped his punching to look over at her in surprise.

"That's right, there's much better things to do." Loke cut in smoothly as he leaned in towards Lucy. "Like talking about love." He said with a suave smile and Lucy immediately brought up Loke's Key.

"You should go now." The blonde said and Loke blinked in surprise. "You're not at full health, remember?" She asked with concern in her eyes and Loke paused for a moment before he smiled at her.

"Hold on, real quick." Loke said as he reached into his jacket pocket and Lucy's expression became curious. "Here you go." He said as he held out three yellow and gold tickets.

"What are these?" Lucy asked while the other three came in to each grab a ticket, Happy flying up to perch on Natsu's shoulder.

"They're tickets to a hotel." Loke said with a small grin of anticipation. "After what you did for me, this is-"

"Akane Resort?!" All four yelled at the same time as their eyes bulged in shock and Loke's grin became a full-blown smile while he watched their reactions. Lucy hugged the ticket to her chest and wiggled in place as she gave out incoherent squeals of delight. Natsu went into a little dance of joy as he roared happily while Happy clung to his shoulder with tears of bliss rolling down his face. Gray was far more reserved, content to just look at the ticket with a surprised grin as he put his right hand on his hip before he shook his head in amazement.

Loke was hardly surprised by their delight at the tickets, in fact he was happy about their reactions. Boasting a five-star hotel, beautiful beaches with crystal blue water, one of the largest amusement parks in the country, Akane Resort was easily the number one hot spot in all of Fiore. Of course, the price for each ticket reflected that, but Loke was hardly in need of jewels anymore so he had no qualms going all out for his friends. It's the least I owe you, Lucy. He thought before he cleared his throat to get their attention. "I already gave Link and Erza their tickets." Loke said and a mischievous smirk appeared on his face for a moment. Just the sight of Link actually being dumbfounded would have been well worth the price. He admitted with an internal chuckle.

"What are you all doing?" A familiar voice demanded and the four lucky recipients followed Loke's gaze behind them to see Erza dressed in a blue, one-piece swimsuit and a straw, wide-brimmed hat on her head with her wagon of suitcases ready to go behind her. Next to her stood Link, dressed in his usual attire and looking at the four with a questioning expression. "You'd better hurry if you don't want to be left behind." Erza stated firmly and while Gray and Lucy started to sputter in shock, Natsu quickly took off to grab his things at a fast sprint.


Akane Resort

"I can't believe it..." Lucy said as she walked on to the white sand beach in a pure white, floral pattern bikini, her hair up in pigtails. "I'm actually at Akane Resort!" She cheered before Natsu appeared behind her and threw an arm over her shoulders.

The Dragon Slayer was in a pair of orange swim trunks that had a black flame pattern on its left leg; a yellow border separating the two colors. He also wore a pair of black wristbands and had his white scale scarf wrapped around his forehead as a large headband. "So let's go!" Natsu said with a laugh as the other four walked up. Erza had a pure black bikini on that left her blue Fairy Tail mark exposed her left arm, Gray wore a pair of ice blue trunks with dark blue stripes going up the sides, Happy had donned a pair of yellow trunks, and Link wore a pair of deep blue trunks.

Lucy blinked at him in surprise before she giggled happily and nodded her head. "You're right. Let's enjoy this!" She declared and Happy jumped into the air.

"Aye!" He shouted and the six of them ran to the ocean with wide smiles on their faces.

Link was the first one to reach the water and immediately jumped high in the air into a graceful swan dive fifteen feet out. His momentum propelled him another ten feet forward, his body travelling a couple of inches under the surface of the water, before he broke the surface and jumped up ten feet in a manner more befitting a creature of the ocean. He seemed to shine as the sun hit the water droplets that fell from him, an image that lasted only a few seconds before he dived back into the water and disappeared from view momentarily before he came back up to tread water.

Just as he wiped the water from his eyes, Erza broke the surface and pushed him back under the water with a playful smile. He immediately slipped free from her grasp and came up a few feet away with a powerful splash at the redhead. Erza shook the water from her eyes, the action causing her hair to splatter against her face and neck, and soon a splash fight between the two ensued. A few seconds later the splash fight erupted into a full war as Natsu, Gray, and Lucy, albeit a bit nervously, joined in with Happy flying overhead and looking for openings for splash-and-fly attacks.

After the splash war ended, in which Lucy was surprised to find her life hadn't been endangered even once, they all split off to have fun.

Natsu and Happy followed Lucy as she went to rent a giant rainbow-colored fish to ride through the clear water. "Hey, that looks like fun!" Natsu said with a wide smile as Lucy got ready to mount the fish. "Come on, gimme a ride as well." He said and Lucy sighed before she paused as a mischievous glint came to her eyes.

"Sure thing, just give me a second." She said and Natsu nodded his head eagerly. A couple of minutes later, Lucy let out a loud cheer as the fish jumped through the waves with a purple raft tied to it. "Isn't this great?" She called back to Natsu as they sped through the water.

"Brrfff..." Natsu groaned out as he barely hung on to the raft. "Make it... stop..." He barely got out before he put his hand over his mouth.

"What?" Lucy asked as she looked back in mock confusion. "Go faster?" She asked and Natsu struggled to raise his head to glare at her before he dropped back down on his stomach. "You got it, Natsu!" She said with a laugh and did a whipping motion with the reins that caused the fish to put on a new burst of speed.

"I think Lucy knows you want to stop." Happy remarked as he flew alongside the raft before he carefully landed in. "Faster, Lucy!" He called out with a laugh and Natsu gave a whimper of complaint.

Gray looked up from the beach as the three sped by in the water and let out a sigh. "It's like they're children." He said before he returned his attention to the ornate sand castle he was building. Already at least four feet high, Gray was still in the process of completing its seven towers as he took a moment to draw some graceful lines along its base. Four of the towers were each set at a corner of the sand castle with three set near the center in a straight line; the center one rising a few inches above the other two. Unbeknownst to him, a certain Water Mage watched from behind a nearby tree, dressed in a dark blue bikini with pink polka dots; showing off a very curvaceous figure normally hidden under her conservative clothing.

Link and Erza were currently locked in an intense battle on the sand, both of them moving back and forth quickly in reaction to the other. At least a dozen people had started to gather around to watch them in growing amazement at their quick movements and agility. "Hard to believe they're only playing volleyball, isn't it?" One brunette in a red bikini asked her friend, a blonde in a blue one-piece swimsuit, and got a nod of agreement from her. The two long time partners were indeed going all out in a simple one on one volleyball match, short of using their magic, and the crowd was starting to get larger to watch them go at it.

"Hey..." The blonde suddenly said as a blush started to form on her face. "Isn't that Link?" She asked and the brunette blinked in surprise before she studied him more closely. Others were also beginning to recognize not only Link, but Erza as well, and it wasn't long before the crowd was split cheering for one or the other.

The rest of the day was spent with all of them either having fun in the sand or in the water, whether they were all together, by themselves, or in small groups. It wasn't until the sun started to set that they went back to their suites to relax and prepare for more fun after the sun went down.

Erza gave a sigh of contentment as she walked from her room to her private balcony, a feature every suite shared, and lazily sank down on a beach chair to enjoy the remaining rays of sun. As she closed her eyes, she went through all the fun of the day with a tired smile on her face. Today... really was fun. She thought as she slowly started to doze. Natsu even almost got one over on Link. A small chuckle escaped her as the image of Natsu running in the ocean to shore with Link's trunks in the air flashed through her mind. It hadn't taken Link long to retrieve them, of course, but the look of surprise and then a hint of panic on his face was one she would remember for a long time. Truly, today really was... a blast... Was her final thought as she finally drifted off to sleep.

"Erza..." A voice from her past said, a young boy talking to her gently and with understanding. "In this world..." He said before trailing off and her eyes tightened in anticipated fear, though she did not awaken.

"Faster, you dogs!" A loud, angry voice rang out from a tall man in a loose, blue body-suit, a maroon jacket with gray lining and tied with a yellow sash, and a white mask that covered the top half of his face with a dragon figure drawn in the center. "I said faster!" He roared from on top of a raised platform as he lashed out with a whip, drawing a cry of pain.

Below him, dozens of people dressed in rags slaved away as they dragged huge stone blocks across the floor. The people were old, middle-aged, and young, both male and female, and all of them looked equally undernourished as well as overworked as they struggled with all their might to continue moving about their assigned tasks. It hardly mattered, as the taskmaster on the platform continued to whip any of them with impunity, not even caring whether they were actually slowing down or not. Cries of pain echoed throughout the site, a construction site that appeared for a large building, as the ground was scattered with a mixture of sweat, blood, and tears that the dry stone hungrily soaked up.

In the midst of this travesty, a young girl with short, scarlet hair watched it all with brown eyes filled with fear and confusion. Tears slowly formed as the cries of pain intermingled with the cry of anger and crack of a whip, and she finally scrunched down while she covered her ears with her hands.

"There is no such thing as freedom!" The voice turned from gentle and understanding to evil and spiteful.

Erza gasped as she lurched up into an upright sitting position, her body soaked in sweat, and she quickly looked down with fear in her eyes to see she was back at Akane Resort, dressed in her black bikini, and fully grown. A dream... just a dream. She told herself as she tried to bring the shaking under control, something that took a couple of minutes despite her reassurances it was just a dream. Once she got her body under control, she quickly got up and went back in her room; closing the glass door firmly behind her as if to shut out her dream.

As Erza walked further into the room, she passed by a large vanity mirror and stopped as she noticed her reflection. She looked at herself for a few seconds before she smiled and ran her hands up through her hair, flicking it back, before she placed her hands on her bare shoulders. She held that pose for several seconds before she closed her eyes as her smile became a wry smirk and her hands dropped from her shoulders.

"How come you're almost always in armor?"

Erza's eyes snapped open as the question echoed in her mind, something Link had asked her just a couple of days before he had been chosen to participate in the S-Class Promotion Trial.


Three And A Half Years Ago

Night was descending as Link finished lighting a campfire when he asked his question and Erza blinked in shock at the question. After several long moments she shook her head, which sent her scarlet pony tail in a short bounce, while Link silently sat down across from her and waited patiently for her to answer. "What?" Erza asked as she looked at Link in surprise. He remained quiet, however, and eventually Erza sighed as she looked to the side. "I... feel safer with it on." She admitted and this time it was Link who blinked in surprise as his ears twitched twice at her answer.

"But you even wear it in the Guild Hall." Link said and Erza's eyes tightened in response. The blonde mage was silent for several moments as he regarded her before he sighed and looked down at the ground. "Is it for the body... or the heart?" He asked and immediately Erza's eyes snapped over to him with an intense glare. He was silent as he felt her glare for several long moments before he simply nodded his head. "Erza... just remember that armor can hinder as well as protect." Link said before he got up to jump on to a tree branch and lowered his cap over his eyes.


Link... I still don't understand it... She thought as she opened her eyes to stare into her confused expression. What were you trying to say? Erza wondered as she brought her right hand up to lightly place it over her heart. What's so wrong... with burying a bad past? She asked as her eyes became tinged with a deep sadness. The redhead closed her eyes to focus her thoughts to the fun she was currently having with everyone, but they only remained closed for a couple of seconds before they snapped open again. I almost forgot... She thought before she brought her right hand away from her chest and Requipped a green leather book to her left hand, the same book she had asked Link about before Loke had gone missing. The adventures he went through in Hyrule... the painful memories I always thought he was burying... Erza paused for a moment as she slowly reached out with her free hand to open the cover. He's trusting me with-

"Erza, are you in there?!" Lucy suddenly called outside of her door and Erza jumped a little in surprise before Ex-Equipping the book as the door opened. "Good, you're here." Lucy said with a wide smile as she walked in wearing a slinky red dress and matching high heels. Low cut to show an ample amount of her cleavage, the dress also had a long slit on the right side that went up to her hip and allowed a clear view of her shapely leg. Around her neck she tied a red ribbon in the same shade of her dress and had a similar ribbon that held her blonde hair up in its usual style. "You won't believe it, this place also has its own casino in the basement." She said and Erza blinked in mild surprise. "Natsu, Happy, and Gray are already down there." Lucy said and then paused as Erza gave a smirk of amusement.

"A casino, huh?" The redhead asked before she closed her eyes and Ex-Exquipped her bikini and Requipped an equally slinky purple dress with red rose patterns on the chest area. The dress had a long slit on the left side that allowed freedom of movement, allowed a wonderful view of a shapely leg, and came with a pair of long, white satin gloves. During the transformation her hair had also been done up in a high bun and Erza walked towards Lucy on purple high heels. "Natsu, Happy, and Gray, you say?" Erza asked and Lucy nodded her head. "What about Link?"

"Well, I stopped by his room on the way up but he didn't answer." Lucy said before she offered a bright smile. "I thought he might be sleeping, so I... hey, Erza?" The blonde looked over in confusion as Erza simply walked by her into the hall. "Where are you-?"

"Going to get Link, obviously." Erza said as she walked down the hallway and Lucy blinked before she shut the door and hurried after her. Today is not a day to dwell on the past... She told herself firmly before a small, content smile came to her. Today is for the present and nothing else. She determined as Lucy got up beside her.

Lucy was still visibly uncertain when they stopped at the door to Link's room, but Erza showed no such hesitation as she opened the unlocked door and walked in. The second Lucy followed her in she immediately locked up in shock as her face became bright red and gave a squeak of surprise before she quickly spun around.

Link froze where he had walked out of the bathroom before his head cocked to the side with a questioning expression as he put his white towel over his shoulder, which became the only cloth on his body. Beads of water still dripped from his blonde hair and ran down his toned body from the shower he had just gotten out of. In contrast to Lucy, he seemed unfazed by his state of undress in front of the two women.

"I figured that's why you didn't answer Lucy earlier." Erza remarked with a tolerant smile and Link blinked before he turned his gaze to Lucy, who peaked back over her shoulder before she quickly looked forward again. "Come on, there's a casino in the basement of the resort everyone will be at." She said and Link paused for a moment before he crossed his arms over his chest as he arched his right eyebrow up. "Well, there's nothing wrong with dressing up once in a while, is there?" She asked with a challenging smile and Link's expression soured slightly for an instant before it cleared again.

"Umm... Link... could you wrap the towel around your waist?" Lucy cut in and Link's ears twitched a couple of times as he blinked in confusion.

After a few seconds he reached up to grab the towel and tied it around his waist. "Done." He said and Lucy took another peek back and sighed in relief before she turned around to face him.

"Natsu, Gray, and Happy are already down there." The Stellar Spirit Mage said and Erza stepped forward and cleared her throat.

"Since this is a casino at a high-class resort, make sure to wear your tuxedo." She said and Link nodded his head with a sigh. He had already picked up on her meaning, but he held out the hope she wouldn't say it point-blank so he could plead ignorance. Erza's smirk told him she knew the source of his sigh, to which he offered a small shrug.

"Wait a minute!" Lucy cut in with a surprised expression and both of them looked at her curiously. "Link, you actually have a tuxedo?" She asked and Link nodded his head after a short pause, the action causing some more water to drip from his hair. Lucy continued to look at him in surprise for several seconds before she shook her head in amazement. "I have to see it to believe it." She said and Erza laughed softly into her hand.

"It did take some convincing to get him to buy one." The redhead admitted and Lucy giggled at his sigh of resignation. Link brought both hands up in a shooing motion to get them out of his room, and the two amused women moved to comply. "We'll see you downstairs later." Erza said as she started to close the door and Link replied with a grin and another shooing motion.


Akane Resort Casino

Bright lights stationed in multiple locations around the massive underground casino lit up every corner and effectively removed almost every shadow from the building. If that wasn't enough, small stars of light floated around to further highlight the ornate and beautifully designed gambling area; which was a riot of bright blues, greens, and an excess of purple. With the imaginative design of the different gambling areas, some ranging to the excessive machines to the more traditional tables and booths. A giant snowman statue with a blue round penguin head and an orbiting double helix around it dominated one wall; the words "AKANE RESORT" printed in bold yellow words in the red mouth. There was even a couple of rodeo machines that tested a person's ability to stay on as long as possible. For the finisher on how over-the-top the building was, part of a roller coaster from the amusement park also ran through the upper levels. The sounds of happy screaming added to the bustle of the place as a tram sped in on the track while everyone else inside the casino went about and enjoyed themselves as they either tried to earn some extra income or just enjoyed the challenge of beating the odds.

Natsu, dressed in his usual attire, and Happy were standing in front of a machine with a large bowl filled with different numbered and colored balls positioned on top of a large machine. The machine had several brightly colored buttons that had numbers that corresponded to each of the balls that swirled inside the large bowl. The Fire Dragon Slayer watched the balls for a few seconds as they swirled around before he brought his right hand up over his head. "Seventeen!" He roared as he brought his hand down to hit the button labeled seventeen again and again. "Come on, seventeen!" He yelled out again as Happy brought his paws up.

"Come on, seventeen!" He echoed vehemently as the display in front of them, which featured three stationary balls representing the numbers chosen, cycled quickly through the different numbers before they started to slow down. Finally, the display they needed to win started to stop scrolling and eventually landed on seventeen.

"All righ- WHAT?!" They both started to celebrate before screaming in disbelief as the number suddenly changed to sixteen.

"Seventeen! Seventeen!" Natsu roared as he resumed hitting the button again and again. "Go back to seventeen!" He demanded angrily as he kept wailing on the button.

"Seventeen!" Happy protested as he pointed angrily at the machine.

"S-sir!" One of the Akane resort staff members called out as he walked up nervously. The man had wavy brown hair and was dressed in black slacks, shoes, and sleeveless vest over a white, long-sleeved shirt. "Please don't do that." He requested and Natsu spun around with tears of anger running from his eyes.

"But it stopped on seventeen for a second!" He protested as he pointed at the machine with his left hand. "That's not fair!" He declared as his right hand clenched into a fist.

"Sev. En. TEEN!" Happy roared as his paws flailed about angrily.

The staff member watched them for a few seconds before he slumped with a tired sigh. "You don't have to cry about it..." He said before he turned around with a shake of his head. Some people just don't understand that if you gamble you can lose as well as win. He lamented, for these two were hardly the first wailers of the day.

Gray shook his head as he heard the two of them from a nearby craps table as he rolled a pair of dice in his hands. The Ice-Make mage was dressed in a pair of black slacks, shoes, with a red, long-sleeved button up shirt and a black tie to finish up his attire. "Those two are hopeless." He said with a sigh that was a mixture of resignation and amusement. Gray got ready to let loose with the dice when someone stepped up next to him, prompting him to look up curiously. His hands shot open, freeing the dice, as his eyes widened in surprise when he recognized who it was.

"Gray-sama." A smiling Juvia said as she looked with sparkling blue eyes and a blush on her face. "Juvia is here." The Water Mage wore a ritzy blue dress that barely covered more than her bikini had earlier. In addition, she also wore a golden Fairy Tail necklace large enough to cover roughly half of her chest.

"Damn this cheating machine!" Natsu continued to complain as he glared up at the gambling device. "I'll teach it to pull something like that." He declared as fire erupted around his right hand.

The staff member turned around at the sound and his eyes went wide in alarm. "S-sir! Please calm down!" He pleaded in a useless attempt to calm the Dragon Slayer down, and the man feared that very soon an explosion would soon follow.

"Hahahaha... what a child." A deep voice said mockingly and Natsu immediately looked over with a sound of surprised anger. "Gambling is a place for adults... for dandies. Do you understand?" The man continued and Natsu's eyes, as well as Happy's, nearly flew from their sockets when they saw who was talking so condescendingly to him.

"Block man!" Natsu and Happy yelled in shock.

The man did indeed appear to be made of blocks, with everything about him looking like squares or rectangles; including his fingers. Dressed in a dark suit with a white undershirt and red tie, as well grey shoes custom-made to support his odd physique, the man also wore a mulberry fedora, black shades, and a white scarf draped loosely over his shoulders. What could be seen of his black hair under the fedora matched his body, set at perfect ninety-degree angles around his face, although his five clock shadow, something that covered half of his face, ended in a dome at the bridge of his nose. He was currently sitting on a chair, which was an odd sight as his legs appeared to completely separate where knees would normally be, hanging on only by a thin line. "Listen closely, boy." The block man continued as turned to face Natsu. "There are only two paths a man can travel." He said as he brought up to fingers to emphasize his point and Natsu looked at him curiously. "He can either live on in a dandy fashion..." The block man trailed off before an evil smirk came to him as his legs shimmered momentarily.

In that same instant, Natsu found himself bound by dozens of small blue blocks firmly against the gambling machine he had been about to lose his temper on. "What the?" The Dragon Slayer yelled in surprise as he looked one arm then the other.

"Natsu!" Happy called out as he flew over and tried to pry the blocks away from his friend.

"Or..." The block man continued as he brought his right arm up while it shimmered. Once the light cleared, the arm was now a polygon-shaped rifle with the barrel pointed directly at Natsu. "He can roll over and die." He said and a square-shaped laser sight shot out to land in the middle of Natsu's forehead.


Gray and Juvia were sitting at a small bar with drinks in front of them, both of them unaware of Natsu's plight. "So, what have you been up to?" Gray asked as he sipped on a dark purple drink. Once it had become obvious she didn't mean to attack him, the Ice Mage had no qualms about pocketing his current winnings and taking a break. A smart gambler didn't count on a winning streak to last forever, after all. More than that, he was curious to see what the former Phantom Lord mage wanted with him.

"Ever since Phantom Lord was disbanded, Juvia has been working as an Independent Mage." Juvia said, her own purple drink sitting ignored in front of her. "However... Juvia would like to join another Guild." She said as she looked down at her drink and squirmed anxiously.

Gray looked at her for a few seconds before he shook his head and took a sip of his drink with an amused grin. "Let me guess..." He said before he took another sip then put his drink down. "You'd like to join Fairy Tail, right?" With his tone, it could be taken as either a statement or a question, but considering the medallion she was wearing it seemed a forgone conclusion what Guild she wanted to join.

"Yes!" Juvia said emphatically as she looked up at Gray with a pleading expression in her blue eyes. "More than anything!" She continued as she leaned toward him.

"H-hold on a second!" Gray said as he put up his right hand to stop her. "First of all, that's not up to me, Master Makarov has to make that call." He firmly said and Juvia nodded her head. "Honestly, after your part in Phantom Lord's attack, I don't know if even the old man will be okay with you joining." The Ice Mage admitted with a shake of his head and immediately leaned back as Juvia thrust closer to him, her eyes burning with determination.

"Juvia will do anything!" She exclaimed and Gray put up both hands as he loked at her nervously.

"I believe you!" Gray said and Juvia paused as she looked at him. "I just want you to know that even with my word, Master still might not agree, that's all." He explained and Juvia blinked in surprise at his words before a bright smile spread across her face.

"Gray Fullbuster." A tall figure behind them said in a deep, commanding voice and the two mages both immediately looked over at him. The man wore a pair of loose dark grey pants, a dark grey long sleeve that only covered his left arm, and a light blue wide strip of cloth decorated with halberd head insignias that started from his right shoulder and went across his chest to his left waist, where it was tucked in by a white cloth that also acted as a belt. A white turban wrapped around the top of his head covered all but a few stray brown hairs, and a metal jaw covering lent him a menacing air, something the eye-patch over his left eye did nothing to soften. All of these combined with a physique to rival Elfman's in both height and muscle structure immediately put Gray on guard.

Before Gray could say anything, the man's right eye glowed for a second and the bar immediately exploded. People screamed in surprise and fear as they were caught up in the shockwave or close enough to witness its sudden destruction. The sound of both explosion and screams was muffled by the large parade going on outside, combined with the fireworks and roller coaster running through the upper portions of the casino.

Gray sat up with a grunt of pain before a groan from Juvia got his attention. He looked over to see her still prone amidst the destroyed bar and his eyes went wide with concern. "Juvia!" He called out before he remembered the man and quickly glared over at him. "Why you... Who the hell are you?" He demanded of the impassive giant.

"Where is Erza?" The tall man asked and Gray blinked in surprise at the question.

"What?" Gray asked as he looked at the block man at the question, unsure he had heard the request properly. What does he want with Erza?


At another table, Erza was playing poker while Lucy watched in amazement as the redhead put down a straight flush, ace high. "Incredible, Erza!" The blonde exclaimed as she watched Erza's stack of winnings grow.

"I'm on a roll, today." Erza said with her confident smirk. "I don't think I can lose to anyone." She said and the dealer gave a defeated sigh, for she truly seemed to be on a hot streak that didn't seem to be losing momentum.

"Dealer change." The dealer heard and looked back to see a dark skinned man with spiky blonde hair in the Akane Resort uniform.

"Y-yeah." He said with a quick bow and made good his escape. "Good luck with the redheaded one." He whispered on his way past his relief and got a smile from him.

"Don't worry, I've got a good feeling." The blonde replied with a smirk that brought attention to the 5-shaped tattoo near his chin and a chain earring with a diamond at the end.

"The opponent doesn't matter, I'll still win." Erza said and Lucy winked at her.

"Yup!" She agreed brightly while the new dealer took his position at the table.

"In that case..." The dealer said as he brought out a deck from his pocket and sent them through a weave shuffle, ending with sending the cards flying from one hand to other with a two foot gap between them. "How about we play a special game?" He asked and Erza blinked in surprise at the offer before she looked down as the dealer dealt out five cards, face up. When she looked down at the cards, her eyes went wide as they were not standard cards, but instead each held a single letter.

D-E-A-T-H

"It's a game where you don't play with coins... but instead your life." The dealer said before he leaned forward. "Erza-nee-san." He finished with an evil smirk and Erza quickly looked up, where her eyes went wide with shock.

"Sh... Sho..." She stammered out as she stared at the blonde.

Sho's smirk widened as he brought his hands up in a mock shrug. "It's been quite a while, hasn't it, Nee-san?" He asked and Lucy looked between the two curiously.

"Nee-san?" She asked before she noticed the look of panic in Erza's eyes.

"You were... safe?" The redhead slowly asked and Sho's eyes flared momentarily with an evil light.

"Safe?" He asked quietly and Erza shrank back from the question.

"I mean... um..." She stammered out and Lucy reached out to grab her shoulder.

"Erza..." She said gently, trying to figure out what was going on.


Gray shot to his feet and got into a ready stance, though he stopped himself short of bringing his hands up for Ice-Make. "What was that?" He asked as his hands clenched into fists.

"Where is Erza?" The giant asked as he impassively stood there.

"Why the hell would I tell you that?" Gray demanded and the giant's eye narrowed slightly.

"Very well." He said as his impassive voice took an edge and Gray immediately brought his hands up. Before they could exchange blows, water gushed together between them and formed into the blue haired Water Mage, who immediately thrust her arms out to each side.

"You will not harm Gray-sama." Juvia stated firmly as she glared at the giant and Gray blinked in surprise and took a step towards her. "Gray-sama, you need to go and find Erza." She said before he could say anything but Gray gave no indication he was going to leave. "She's obviously the target here, so she's in danger." Juvia continued and Gray grit his teeth before he nodded his head.

"What?" The giant suddenly said as he brought his right index and middle fingers to his head. "You've already found her?" He asked the air then nodded his head as Juvia and Gray's eyes widened in alarm. "Very well, I'll finish things up here." He said then brought his hand down and returned his attention to Juvia and Gray. "It appears I no longer need you." The giant said before his eye glowed again and the entire casino was covered in an impenetrable darkness.

"What's this?" Gray asked as he tried to see anything around him. The Ice Mage could hear Juvia nearby him making similar sounds of confusion and knew that this was a widespread spell, not just something focusing on him. Damnit, where is that basta-

"Yami Setsuna." He heard from behind him and quickly looked back to see more darkness. A second later he barely heard Juvia's scream of pain over his own as they were hit by a giant explosion.


Natsu looked around as he futilely attempted to see through the darkness that had suddenly surrounded him. "What the hell is going on?!" He yelled in frustration as he renewed his efforts at breaking free of the blocks. "I can't see a thing!" He called out desperately while the block man watched in amusement.

"Natsu, where are you?" Happy called out as he groped around blindly.

"I'm here!" Natsu immediately replied then hesitated as he stopped struggling for a moment. "But... where is here?" He asked before he heard a dark chuckle from the block man.

"Good night, boy." The block man said, for he had heard the same report that the giant had received.

Natsu growled at the condescending words as he resumed his struggle. "Don't give me that, you-!" The sound of a gunshot cut off the pink haired mage and Happy's eyes went wide as he turned around, but his friend's voice didn't resume.

"Natsu..." Happy slowly said before he felt a block-like hand grab the back of his neck.


Erza and Lucy both looked around uncertainly in the darkness as they tried to figure out what had happened when the sound of a gunshot made Lucy lock up. "A gunshot?" She said nervously before they both closed their eyes as the light suddenly returned, momentarily blinding them. When they could both see again, they immediately looked for Sho only to find him gone.

"Sho! Where are you?" Erza called out as she looked around warily.

"Hmmm? I'm right behind you, Nee-san." They heard and immediately both turned around to see Sho standing there with that same sadistic grin in place before he spread his hands out. Cards fell from his open hands in a random wave to pile around him on the ground, cards that held imprisoned citizens that all looked around in varying stages of shock and fear while half of them were currently banging against the surface of the cards in an attempt to break free.

"That's..." Erza said as her eyes widened in shock, which combined with her previous shaken state to leave her unable to act as she normally would.

"They're trapped in the cards." Lucy exclaimed as she took a step back as her left arm came up in an instinctive gesture of defense.

"Help me!"

"Get me out of here!"

"Please let me go!"

Sho gave a dark chuckle as he offered a small bow to their shocked expressions before standing up and returned his attention to Erza. "Curious?" He asked mockingly and Erza blinked as she somewhat recovered from her daze upon seeing his ability.

"Magic..." The Requip Mage said softly and Sho grinned in agreement.

"That's right, I can do it now as well, Nee-san." He said as he put his hands on his hips. "Impressed?" Sho asked as he cocked his head slightly to the right, his tone holding a trace of a desire to hear her say yes.

The tone was lost on Erza, who was still reeling from seeing the other blonde. "How... what have you-?"

"Nya." A feminine voice cut in and a light brown whip that ended in a cat's paw shot out from behind them to entangle Lucy. It grabbed her wrists and forced them together as it pulled them up over her head, trapping her elbows with her head between them as if in a vice while the whip twirled down to entrap her legs. To finish it off, the end that had tied to her wrists shot down to connect to her entwined ankles, effectively cutting off all mobility.

"Lucy!" Erza called out as the blonde gave a short scream of surprise that was cut off with a grunt when she was suddenly pulled back.

The blonde stopped when she hit a counter, where a rather unusual looking woman who held the other end of the cat paw whip was sitting. With light brown skin and hair that was a couple of shades lighter, she had moderate curves in a short pink dress with a light pink bow and a ruffle bottom that reached to mid-thigh with a few blue paw print designs on the middle. Over that she wore a long-sleeved bright yellow jacket with a few black lines that barely reached to her midriff left open, which showed off a black choker with a bell attached to it. Thigh high stockings covered her legs, which went down to a pair black shoes. As if her clothes weren't unusual enough, her hair was designed into a pair of cat ears with the remainder of going down into a double ponytail held by indigo bands. Her face had four red whisker-like tattoos and her nose was that of a feline, as well as her light brown eyes. "Super strong, right?" She asked with a perky smile as she brought one hand up in an imitation of a cat. "Meow, meow!"

"Millianna!" Erza's shock was fully returning as she stared at the catgirl. "You... you can use magic as well?" She asked and Millianna responded with a nod of her head.

"How have you been, Er-chan?" The brunette asked and Erza swallowed before she mentally shook herself.

"Milliana, please release Lucy! She's my nakama!" Erza pleaded but the cat woman just cocked her head at her curiously.

"Nakama?" She asked as she brought a finger to her lips in confusion. "I thought we were your nakama, nya." Milliana said and Erza blinked before she looked down with uncertain eyes.

They were... nakama? Lucy wondered in surprise as she fought against the pain of the constricting whip.

"We were, weren't we?" Sho asked and Erza took an unconscious step away as brought her right hand up to grip her left arm. "Or at least we were... before you betrayed us, Nee-san." He added as his eyes took on a malicious gleam and Erza closed her eyes in pain against his accusation. Instead of pushing further, though, Sho just calmly put his hands in his pockets as he let her stew.

"Don't abuse Erza so much, Sho." A deep voice suddenly said and Sho cocked his head in annoyance before the block man that had shot Natsu slowly digitized next to him. So perfect was his position that his left arm appeared over the blonde's shoulders, who returned his ire to Erza. "A man who's a dandy should keep his emotions in check." He lightly scolded and Sho offered a small sigh.

Lucy's eyes went wide in complete shock as she saw this new arrival. "What a blockhead?!" She screamed before she wobbled as she almost unbalanced herself and almost fell to the ground while Erza's eyes showed the same surprise at his appearance.

The block man turned his attention from Sho to Erza and offered her a smile and a thumbs-up. "Long time no see." He said with a nod of his head. "You grew yourself a pretty hot body there, Erza." He complimented but Erza just continued to look at him in surprise.

After a few more moments, her eyes cleared with a hint of recognition. "Are you... Wally?" She asked uncertainly, for the kid she remembered only very basically resembled the man before her.

"I suppose it's not surprising you don't recognize me." Wally said with a self-deprecating chuckle and a small shake of his head before he tipped his hat. "Back then, when I was called, "Mad Dog Wally", I was a lot more... rough around the edges." He said with a bright smile and Lucy's eye twitched at the joke while even Sho offered a small sigh at it.

Erza straightened her stance as she let go of her arm as she started to regain her presence once again. "You also use magic?" She asked, but was unprepared for the answer she got.

"You shouldn't be surprised." Another male voice said and Erza immediately locked up and swallowed. "Once you get the hang of it..." The voice trailed off as a dark mist appeared behind her before the giant that had attacked Gray and Juvia appeared from the darkness. "Once you get the hang of it, anyone can use magic." He said as the dark mist disappeared from around him. "Isn't that right, Erza?" He asked as he looked down at her impassively.

Erza moved away from the giant while she turned to face him and her eyes tightened painfully. "Simon..." The redhead said as she looked up at the large Darkness Mage and barely noticed when Milliana pushed Lucy to the ground.

Lucy grunted with the impact before she looked up at Erza in confusion. "Erza, who are these people, and why does that guy call you nee-san?" She asked and the Requip Mage looked at them all before she looked away and down at the ground.

"I'm... not really Sho's sister." Erza said slowly as memories of her past continued to batter her. After a few seconds, she brought her shame-filled gaze back up to the four mages as they stood there waiting; Sho with a smile that was comprised both pleasure and scorn, Wally and Milliana with genuine smiles, and Simon just stood in the back with the same impassive expression he'd had since the beginning. "I was their nakama before I joined Fairy Tail." She confirmed and Lucy's eyes widened in disbelief.

"But... haven't you been in Fairy Tail since a long time ago?" Lucy asked in confusion before she winced in pain. "Happy said you and Link have been partners for eight years." She continued but Erza remained silent as her eyes tightened.

After a few more seconds of silence, Erza looked over at Lucy with a shallow gulp. "Like I said, this was before that." She said and the Stellar Spirit Mage's eyes widened in surprise. "What do you four want?" The redhead asked calmly as she looked back at them and Sho blinked before he shook his head in mock sorrow.

"Nee-san, is that really the way you greet us after all this time?" He asked and Erza's eyes flinched again as she took a step back.

"W-well, I... I mean..." Erza stammered uncertainly and Sho chuckled darkly at her.

"Enough, Sho." Simon said as he put one massive hand on the blonde's shoulder, who looked up at him in annoyance but subsided. "Erza, we've come to take you back." He said and Erza's eyes widened in an expression of base fear for a moment before she quickly regained control.

After only a second of deliberation, she glanced back at Lucy then looked forward again. "Please, let go of Lucy." Erza said but Milliana just cocked her head with a curious, "Nya?" while Sho shook his head in amusement.

"I don't think you understand something, Erza." Wally said as he pointed his right finger at Lucy with a confident smirk on his face. "Unless you do what we say..." He trailed off as his arm shimmered and then disappeared, leaving him lacking an arm.

"No, don't- ung!" Erza started to scream in a panic before she was cut off as Wally's arm materialized behind her in rifle form and shot her in the back.

"Erza!" Lucy screamed as her eyes widened in horror while Erza collapsed to the ground. "Erza!" She screamed once more as she hit the ground in an unmoving heap while Wally's rifle returned to his arm.

"You only tranquilized her, right?" Sho asked while Simon calmly walked up to the prone Requip Mage and crouched down to pick her up bridal style.

"Of course, I know-" Wally cut himself off as the sound of a large door flying off its hinges turned them all around to see Link running through the now door-less opening that had been the casino's main entrance. The Maharathi came to a stop as he took in the sight before him and his eyes narrowed while his ears went straight back. "Well, what do we have here?" Wally asked as he pointed his rifle at him while hope shone in Lucy's eyes. "Get out of the way, pretty boy." He taunted as the square laser appeared between the blonde's eyes, for Link was now in a dark green formal tuxedo tailored to him with a blue undershirt and a red rose pinned over his heart. His usually wild blonde hair was combed straight at the middle to the left and the right, and Milliana blinked in surprise as a small blush came to her face.

"You guys are in for it now." Lucy said with a confident smile as Link stood his ground at the threat and Wally's eyes narrowed. "You'd better give up now, because once Gray and Natsu get here, you'll be done." She said but a dark chuckle from Wally made her smile shrink a little.

"Those two were the ones who were in for it." Wally said and Lucy's eyes went in surprise. "I took care of the pink-haired brat, and Simon here took out Gray." He explained and Lucy's jaw dropped.

"N-no way... you guys took out both of them?" She stammered out as Link's ears flicked a couple of times.

Link's face showed no hesitation of fighting though as he took a step forward and pointed at them with his left hand. "Release Lucy and Erza and you won't be harmed." He said and though Simon's eye narrowed slightly at his tone, the other three seemed to find his words amusing.

"I've heard your strong, Maharathi Link." Sho said as he slouched forward with his hands in his pockets, emphasizing the word Maharathi with a mocking tone. "But we've taken down three of your Guild's strongest mages with hardly any effort." He said and Lucy gulped as she realized the truth to his words. "Do you really think you stand a chance?!" He yelled out the last word as his hands shot out of his pockets to send a barrage of a dozen razor-sharp poker cards

"Link!" Lucy screamed even as Link brought his hands up and Requipped a staff that he immediately put it into a defensive spin that deflected all the cards without so much as putting a scratch on Link's tuxedo. The Maharathi did a final twirl before he slammed one end against the ground and sent out a small shockwave that reached all the way to Sho, Milliana, Simon, Wally, and Lucy. The blonde's eyes widened in surprise at Link's display before a small smile appeared on her face that only wavered slightly through another wince of pain and as the others got into stances more suited for battle.

Sho summoned more cards to his hands and crossed his arms over his chest to bring his hands up by his face while he lowered his center of gravity.

Wally's smirk disappeared as he brought one leg back to better balance against any recoil.

Milliana summoned more of her cat-paw whip to her hands and pulled it fully tense between them as she also brought a leg back in preparation to send it flying out at Link.

Simon slowly went to one knee to put Erza down to free his hands and paused for a moment as he looked down at her unconscious form before he stood straight again. "You will not stop us from completing our objective." He stated firmly before his eye glowed and plunged the casino into darkness once again.


Into the Past: True Strength

Deep in the forests surrounding Magnolia, a fifteen year old Link jumped through the trees at a high rate, occasionally dropping down to check the ground before jumping back up to move among the trees. With his green Kokiri attire and skilled movements, it was almost impossible for anyone to spot him but for those moments he dropped down. As he sped along the branches, he replayed the conversation that now sent him to what he was sure to be an explosive conversation.

"Link!" Lisanna called out as Link walked in to the Guild Hall and the green clad mage immediately looked over at her curiously. "Can I ask a favor from you?" She asked and the blonde cocked his head curiously at her. "I know you're waiting for Erza to get back from her first solo S-Class Job, but this shouldn't take very long... hopefully." She said before she looked over as Elfman walked up to them.

"Lisanna... are you sure that this is a good idea?" The larger mage asked and Lisanna nodded her head confidently.

At this point, however, Link started to look uncertain as he looked between the two. He was starting to get a bad feeling he knew what the favor Lisanna was about to ask, and if it involved the person he thought it did he was definitely on Elfman's side. "It's about Mira-nee." Lisanna said and Link's ears twitched. "She's still... upset that Erza got the better of her in the S-Class Promotion Trial two weeks ago." She started but Link had already taken a step back and put both hands up. "She's not listening to us, but she respects you, so-" Lisanna stopped when she saw the look of surprise in Link's eyes. "Mira-nee respected you ever since... your thirteenth birthday." She said and Elfman nodded his head when Link blinked his eyes at the surprising news.

"Nee-chan isn't very good with expressing herself sometimes, but that's why she became so intent on fighting you since then." Elfman said before he looked at his younger sister uncertainly. "But still, I don't know if it's a good idea to send him to talk to her about this." He said but Lisanna shook her head in disagreement.

"Mira-nee hasn't listened to either of us, maybe Link will have a better chance." She said as she returned her attention to Link with a hopeful expression. Link still looked uncertain about it, but in the end he nodded his head in agreement. "Great!" Lisanna said happily before she grabbed his arm. "You'll find her at her training spot. I'll show you where it is on a map." She said cheerfully as she pulled him to the bar.

Link came to a stop as a massive explosion took place forty feet ahead of him and waited for a few seconds as more smaller explosions followed. Sounds like Mirajane is really going all out. He thought and contemplated staying hidden to get closer but dismissed it. If what Lisanna said is correct, she's on edge enough to sense me and take exception. He decided and dropped down to finish the final distance on the ground.

A few minutes later Link slammed through an old oak tree, the impact making him cough up some blood, before he flipped in the air to land on his feet. The instant he landed on his feet he dashed forward to jump on the falling tree and ride it down back into the clearing he had just been expelled from, and almost a second later jumped up to avoid a blast of Darkness Magic and retaliated with a dozen red orbs that went flying at Satan Soul Mirajane. The Take Over Mage flew a weaving pattern in between them, but Link suddenly clenched his left fist and all the orbs detonated in ten-foot wide explosions that completely consumed her.

Link disappeared in a flash of green and reappeared on the ground, waiting for the explosion to die down. As the smoke cleared, a dark purple sphere could be seen and the blonde blinked in surprise while Mirajane brought in her extended clawed hands with a smirk. "Not bad, huh?" She asked as she flexed her hands before she changed back to normal as the sphere disappeared. "Now then, what do you want?" Mirajane asked with a frown as she glared at Link, who hesitated before he rubbed the back of his head.

"Lisanna asked me to talk to you." He replied honestly and Mirajane's eyes narrowed in irritation. "She said you were still taking not advancing ha-"

"I'm not." Mirajane said shortly as she crossed her arms over her chest. "And even if I were, it has nothing to do with you. I told Lisanna to leave it alone, so I'll just tell you to piss off." She said crassly as she continued to glare at him and Link looked down at his boots for a few seconds before he sighed.

"So it is bothering you." He said and Mirajane blinked in surprise, she could get just about any of the adults in the Guild to back down when she was truly angry, even that hothead Natsu had learned to back off after a while, but he appeared unbothered by her ire. "Lisanna and Elfman are worried about you." Link continued in his quiet voice, pausing for a moment before his voice took a subtle edge to it. "One shouldn't dismiss the concerns of those close to them." He finished and Mirajane looked at him in blank surprise. "I helped you field test your Kurai Ippin, at least let me try to understand why it bothers you." Link said in a calmer voice and Mirajane's eyes narrowed before she sighed.

A few minutes later the two of them sat before a large lake, Mirajane for once as silent as Link as she waited for him to question her. She should've known better than to outlast Link in not speaking, though, and after several minutes the Take Over Mage made a small sound of annoyance before she looked over at the Requip Mage. "Aren't you gonna ask me why it bothers me?" She demanded and Link blinked before he looked over at her with a confused expression.

"I already did." The blonde said and Mirajane's left eye twitched for a few seconds before she sighed.

"How is it an idiot like you became an S-Class before Erza, let alone me?" Mirajane asked as she looked out across the lake and Link's eyes widened a centimeter as he thought he understood. "Before coming to this Guild, I was stronger than anyone and anything my siblings and I encountered." She said as her eyes gained a distant look. "I figured the Guild Master would be stronger than me and even some of the adults, but I fully expected to dominate anyone even a few years older than me. It even seemed that way at first when Gray took on my challenge... but then..." The white haired mage cut herself off with a shake of her head.

"Erza was standing even with you, and then I used Nayru's Love to stop your attacks from connecting with each other." Link finished for her and Mirajane shot him a glare before she paused and sighed.

"That did annoy me at first, but after a couple of days... it was actually kind of nice having someone that could stand up to me." She admitted with a small smile. "At first, I thought for a while that you were just a tag-a-long for Erza." Mirajane said and Link looked at her curiously. "I know you blocked that first attack, but after that you just kind of stayed out of the way whenever we went at it." She said and then offered a shrug. "She was also the one that would usually pick out Jobs and when there was an argument you almost always capitulated." The Take Over Mage explained and Link's ears twitched twice as his confusion somewhat cleared at her explanation. "But the time you got drunk, I saw just how powerful you really were... even Erza seemed a little hesitant to go up against you when you weren't holding back." She said and Link's ears drooped as he looked away with a hint of an embarrassed blush. "I still find it hard to believe even now... someone who could stand toe to toe with me uncertain about both of us going up against one person." Mirajane said before she glanced over at him. "Why was that?" She asked and the blonde mage hesitated for a moment before he looked over at her.

"Promise you won't tell Erza this." Link said and Mirajane waited for a moment before she nodded her head. "When I... first joined Fairy Tail, I chose demon subjugation as my first Job." He said with only a minor hesitation and Mirajane's eyes widened in surprise, to which he just nodded his head. "That was everyone's response as well." He said then paused before he looked down. "Master was... not happy with me and, though Erza offered to go with me as well, threatened to kick me out of the Guild unless I put the Job back." Link said and scratched his cheek. "I was walking out when Erza attacked me." He said after a minute of silence and Mirajane's eyes went wide in shock. "Her intent was to beat me down so that I would be unable to do the Job, and as a lesson for disobeying Master." He said and Mirajane paused before she slowly nodded.

"That... actually sounds about right for her." She admitted before she narrowed her eyes at him. "However, what you did doesn't sound like you at all." Mirajane said suspiciously and Link hesitated as his blush deepened.

"I was a bit more stubborn about helping others then." He said and that actually made Mirajane stare at him in complete and blank shock as she tried to wrap her head around that fact. Link was silent for a little bit as his blush lessened before he continued his story. "As I got ready to defend myself, Master interrupted and put forward a deal. 'If you can match Erza in combat, the two of you may be able to complete the Job.'" The blonde paused for a moment until Mirajane cleared her throat impatiently, bringing him back to the present. "I agreed, and the two of us prepared to fight. Erza readied her saber, while I kept my sword in its sheath and shield on my back." He said and at that Mirajane's eyes narrowed slightly. "Erza believed that if she used a thrust I would jump on her blade as I did with Gray's arm when he tried to punch me, so decided to go with a left diagonal strike. I saw through her intent and, with a small shift, blocked the attack with my shield and nearly defeated her with Din's Fire." Link said and Mirajane blinked several times in surprise as she regarded him with a new respect. "Master stopped us before we continued with swordplay... but Erza is still touchy whenever that's brought up." He said and Mirajane was silent before she burst into loud laughter, taking Link aback.

"You know... if it wasn't... for my promise... I would get on her... case... about her getting on my case... to let you getting drunk go..." She managed to get out between spurts of laughter and Link's eyes flashed with alarm. It took a few more minutes of laughter before Mirajane regained control, but when she did she waved her hand in dismissal. "Like I said, I made a promise." She said, to which Link nodded his head in thanks. The white haired mage was silent for a while as her smile slowly shrank to a contemplative expression. "I was just shown that I'm not the strongest... that even when I'm given the chance to become an S-Class, I lose out to someone else." She said and Link looked over at her for a few seconds before he looked forward again.

"Which makes it possible that you're not strong enough to protect your family against any threat." Link said and Mirajane blinked before she snapped a glare over at him. "So you push yourself harder and harder for more power to protect your family... a family you're pushing to the side to get that power." He said and her eyes widened in surprise at his words and the sudden edge to them. "That must be Lisanna's concern... I'm not sure why." Link said and Mirajane's surprise shifted between what appeared to him, to her thinking, that she was becoming power hungry to not being concerned about it. "You're already one of the strongest mages in Fairy Tail and you know it, despite your current doubts." He said before he turned to look at Mirajane. "Strength does not come from winning." The Requip Mage said solemnly and Mirajane's brow crinkled in confusion. "When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender... that is strength." He said as his blue eyes burned brightly with an inner fire that Mirajane had never really seen before and subconsciously moved away from him a little. The blonde suddenly blinked as his ears twitched and he quickly looked back to the lake, the fire dying down to its usual twinkle.

Mirajane was silent for a couple of minutes as she digested Link's surprising words before a small smirk came to her. "Well, this is getting a bit too sentimental for me to take seriously, so I think I'll just head home." She said as she got up and stretched, which caused her chest to jut out impressively. "See you later." She offered as she walked away from Link, who looked back at her and nodded his head. "Oh, and one more thing." Mirajane said as she stopped to look back at him. "You still owe me a one on one fight." She said as she put her right hand on her hip and Link looked at her silently as he waited for her terms before sighing. "So after I become an S-Class next year, I'll show you what happens when you mess with a Demon." The Take Over Mage said with a smirk and Link blinked as his ears twitched before he offered a small smile and nod in return.


Yami Setsuna - Dark Moment

Kurai Ippin - Dark Gem


So... I hope this chapter was somewhat worth the wait, but I was revising some of my earlier chapters, got in my head an idea for another story that wouldn't leave me alone unless I got the prologue out of the way, and got transferred from one base to another so had to move. Would like to thank my beta reader, Vandenbz, for looking over my work so quickly.

Have a poll up for letting Lisanna survive and coming up with a small Into the Past for some tweaks that would make it more reasonable, in my opinion, anyways, for her to not only have lived but why only she was absorbed into Edolas. So far it seems like she will, but I'll wait till the next chapter is almost done to know for certain.

Hope everyone enjoyed the chapter.

Till next time.