Tear of Lycoris

"Meredy, no!" But it was too late. Meredy looked up, looking like a deer in the headlights, her hand on the crimson crystal. She barely had time to react as the crystal started to glow. Jellal jumped forward, shielding her with his own body, just as the light encompassed the entire room.

Ultear's head jerked up as she felt the massive burst of magic coming from the other end of the mansion. Her breath caught in fear. Jellal and Meredy!

She dropped the unconscious dark guild member and dashed off. She burst into the room Jellal and Meredy was investigating in, expecting to see the room destroyed. She paused in surprise as she took in the room. It was as untouched as any other rooms in the mansion.

There was a podium in the center of the room, looking extremely out of place in what seemed to be a study room. Sitting innocuously on the podium was a white, tear-shaped crystal on a navy blue cushion. And lying a few feet away from the podium was her two comrades.

"Meredy, Jellal!" she exclaimed, skidding to a stop beside the two bodies. Jellal was curled up slightly around Meredy in a protective manner, clutching her close to his chest. Meredy twitched slightly when she heard Ultear's voice, her eyes fluttering slightly.

"Ul?" she moaned, squinting up at her in disorientation. She squirmed out of Jellal's grip, rubbing her head. "W-What happened?"

Ultear smacked her out of her confusion. "That's my line! What happened here?"

"T-That crystal... when I touched it, it started to glow. And there was – was this light..." Meredy frowned, looking up at the podium. "Eh? W-Why is it white?"

"What do you mean?" Ultear asked in concern. She glanced down at the unconscious Jellal, dark hair scattered messily over his face. She brushed back his hair, biting her lip in worry.

"That crystal... it was red in colour, before... before it started glowing." Meredy whispered.

But Ultear wasn't really listening to her. She was staring at the pair of lumps on the top of Jellal's head, which she had originally mistook for his hair as it was the same colour. She touched them hesitantly, jaw dropping when it twitched in response. It was a... pair of cat ears?

Erza sighed softly as her team entered the guild. Another ruined mission. This time, she couldn't even reprimand Natsu and Gray since she had contributed to the damages.

"Just the person I'm looking for. Erza!" Makarov said cheerfully, approaching her. "There's someone here you might like to see."

"What do you me..." she trailed off as she spotted the two women standing behind the Master. Meredy grinned sheepishly, waving at her. Standing next to her was Ultear, who smiled when their eyes met.

"Ultear? Meredy? What are you two doing here?" Lucy frowned, her eyes unconsciously flicking around for their third missing member.

"If you're looking for Jellal, he's in the infirmary." Ultear said, gesturing to the closed door behind her. Erza's suspicion rose at the mysterious smile on her face.

"Infirmary? He's not hurt, is he?" Natsu asked, looking alarmed. He blinked in confusion as Meredy giggled in response.

"No, no, he's not hurt. Well, not really. It's better if you go see him to understand what I mean." Ultear shrugged, hiding a smile.

Erza scowled even deeper. Just what was these two trying to hide? Just what's wrong with Jellal? She shoved Natsu aside and marched towards the infirmary. Without even bothering to knock, she threw the door open.

"Jellal?" she called out tentatively. The infirmary was actually just a small room with only two beds. Out of the two beds, the only one occupied was the furthest from the door, the one next to the window. Erza slowly approached the bed. The soft shuffling alerted her to Jellal's conscious state, but just why was he hiding under the blanket?

"Jellal?" she repeated, this time softer as she sat down slowly on the edge of the bed.

The figure moved slightly and she heard a very soft whisper coming from under the blanket. "Go away, Erza."

She twitched in irritation, but managed to stop herself in time from giving in to her short temper. She wasn't about to risk injuring Jellal any further just because she couldn't control her own temper.

"No," she answered. "What's going on, Jellal?"

Jellal seemed to curl in even more to himself. "Go. Away."

Her anger melted away, replaced by an unnerving worry. "No, I'm not going away. Now, tell me what's wrong!"

She grabbed what seemed to be Jellal's arm. Perhaps she has overestimated her strength, or perhaps Jellal was caught off guard, because she pulled him hard enough that he went toppling off the bed, dragging her down with him. She heard him hit the floor with a painful thud and tried to stop herself from landing on him. She threw out her hands, trying to halt her fall. Her knees hurt when they slammed against the floor, and if she hadn't been wearing gauntlets, her palms would definitely hurt as well.

"Ow." She winced. "Are you alright, Jellal–"

Her eyes widened in shock. Jellal turned bright red in embarrassment, avoiding her eyes. Erza had to rub her eyes a few times before she was sure she wasn't looking at a hallucination.

"A-Are those c-cat ears?" she stammered. Just as she mentioned it, one of the furry ears twitched. As if she was hypnotized, she took off her gauntlet and reached out to touch it. The fur in between her fingers was real. And they were unexpectedly soft.

Just then, her idiotic team burst into the infirmary. Obviously, they were eavesdropping from the outside, judging from Lucy's guilty expression.

"Stop!" Jellal yelled, shoving her off him. "G-Get out!"

His pale cheeks were red from shame and he looked on the verge of breaking down. Taking pity on him, Erza turned to the three – four, actually, if you count Happy – standing at the doorway with shocked expressions.

"Out." She commanded with a terrifying aura. Natsu and Gray turned white with fear and promptly ran out. Lucy's feet was frozen to the ground, and only with Happy's urgings, managed to move and closed the door behind her.

"Jellal?" the redhead called out, her voice becoming gentler. Jellal looked up, looking distressed and panicked. The long, slender, dark blue tail poking out from under his coat swung from side to side in agitation.

"E-Erza..." he whispered, sounding very miserable.

Her heart melted and she was beside him in an instant. While the situation might seem extremely adorable and funny, the look on Jellal's face was enough to eradicate any humour in her. She grabbed him and held him close to her chest. Jellal burrowed in her embrace, quivering slightly as she hummed in an off-key tune to calm him down.

"A long time ago, there lived a lord and his retainer. The lord's wife was a woman named Lycoris, and she was the most beautiful woman in the whole kingdom. But the lord was merely using her family's wealth and beauty, and subjected her to cruelties. She was forbidden to step out of her room and would cry helplessly each day. And the retainer would always go to her and wipe her tears away. Enchanted at first by her beauty, he eventually fell in love with her kindness. But a retainer and lady could never be together, because of their differing status. One day, the lord had grown tired of the lady and gave the order to kill her. His master's orders were absolute, but the retainer was unable to kill his most beloved. So they exchanged a promise. 'We'll escape together. I will return to you the next time the sakura falls.' However, the lord found out about his retainer's betrayal and had him killed. The lady, unknowing of her lover's demise, waited. She waited without fail for her lover to come meet her. She waited, even as her hair greyed and her health diminished, and when she died, she died with a tear for her lover that never came. That tear formed into the red crystal known as the Tear of Lycoris." When Levy finally put down the book, her listening audience was silent with sorrow and grief for the couple in the story.

"That lord is a bastard." Natsu announced, glowering. "Where is he? I want to punch him!"

Lucy rolled her eyes and surreptitiously wiped the tears away from her eyes. "Don't be stupid, Natsu. He's just a character in the story, and even if he's real, he's probably already dead."

"From what it's written here," Levy interjected, frowning slightly as she continued skimming through the pages. "The Tear of Lycoris's magical proprieties are still rather mysterious, but researchers believe that the gem is able to lead its user to his destined path."

"And what has that got to do with Jellal having cat ears and tail?" Gray asked sceptically.

Levy closed the book, shrugging. "I don't know. The book didn't say much about how the Tear of Lycoris works, much less how to undo its magic."

"The crystal was red before, right?" Makarov inquired, picking up the gem. He lifted the crystal above his eyes, tilting it side to side. It was quite big, fitting perfectly in his palm, and when he closed his fist over the crystal, it felt curiously warm against his skin.

"Yes," Meredy nodded. "After I touched it, it started glowing before a bright light knocked me out. When I woke up, the crystal has turned colourless."

"Was Jellal touching the crystal?" Makarov asked, putting down the crystal.

Meredy shook her head. "No, he shielded me from the light instead."

"So it was the light that... well, turned Jellal." Lucy summarized shrewdly. "Levy-chan, you said that the crystal leads its user to his destined path, am I right? Maybe Jellal just needs to find his destiny to be able to revert back?"

"With cat ears and tail?" Happy interrupted, tilting his head to the side. Lucy flushed and deflated, sinking in her seat.

"Well, whatever the reason is, Jellal can't go out looking like that!" Ultear sighed. "It's bad enough that he's a fugitive, it'll be even harder for him to blend in with those ears on the top of his head!"

"But Jellal looks cute with them, doesn't he?" Meredy snickered.

Ultear gave her an exasperated look. "That's not the point!"

"For the time being, perhaps Jellal can stay with us?" Makarov interrupted gently. "After all, if you want me to fix the crystal, I need him near too to understand how the thing works."

"You'll allow him to stay?" Ultear asked, looking a tad relieved. "Thank you! I'll leave him in your care then, Master Makarov."

"Wait," Meredy suddenly spoke up. "If Jellal's staying, I want to stay too!"

She winced as Ultear whacked her upside the head. "Don't be ridiculous! We still need to track down those Ouroboros guys to find out where they got the crystal! Because of your carelessness, they managed to get away!"

She seized Meredy's ear and dragged her out of the guild, reprimanding her the entire way.

"Ultear... she's kind of scary, isn't she?" Lucy sweatdropped.

Makarov chuckled and stood up, picking up the crystal. "Well, I best get going. Perhaps Porlyusica might know a little bit more about the magic of this gem. I'll leave Jellal in your care, Erza."

"Y-Yes, Master." Erza replied. She watched the tiny, old mage walked out of the guild, the gem safe in his pocket. She looked back, staring at the ajar door of the infirmary. Now what?

There are legends that said that when a person sees someone that they may never meet again, lycorises, also called red spider lilies, would bloom along the path, thus the reason for the lady's name.