Author's note: So here we are, at chapter seven. I'd like to apologize to my dear readers for the unreasonable delay, but hey, at least I was able to finish this faster than the previous chapter.
Additionally, after reading the reviews and thinking for a long time, I decided that it is best for me not to focus on polls and matters such as pairings because quite frankly, this story became a lot harder for me to write. This story focuses on Shirou, the change that he will bring, and his interaction with the other casts. That is why I request that you dear readers put up with my previous blunder and continue to enjoy this story.
I already planned two endings for this story, but it's still quite far ahead so there's no need to consider that now. Anyways, I already had some of the more important events planned ahead, but there are still blanks that I need to fill. Therefore there are some moments where I think as I write.
Changes will be made; the Fairy Tail canon plot will be altered in several parts. That's all I'm going to say for now. Since I neglected answering your comments in the previous chapter, I'll do it now.
00219: Yes, it is true that Crane Wing Three Realm was a fatal blow that managed to take one of Berserker's lives and defeat Saber Alter. I considered that maybe it was a mistake for me to let Shirou reveal that move quite early in the game, but what he was trying to do was to directly measure what Mages like Gildarts were capable off. He didn't necessarily try to 'kill' him, but rather incapacitate his prosthetic arm and leg. If Shirou was really going all out, even Gildarts would die. I can't deny that this story took some inspiration from gabe's HoS for me to write, but I'd admit that some of the earlier chapters were a bit too forced and questionable. I didn't really mean to say that he 'stole' the cooking recipes of the people of Earthland, but rather he tried to learn their ways of cooking and modify his cooking style if necessary. He is after all, cooking for the whole Guild. Generally, I see Shirou as the kind of good guy who can't see the good of the things he did. His confusion towards the horde of women in Magnolia is because he believed it was natural to help people in need and there was no reason for them to like him in anyway. He wasn't able to answer Cana's request for a date because… well you wouldn't be able to do so if someone ten (or twenty, if you consider him aging) years below you, right? There will be times when Shirou gets flustered around the women around him, but we haven't reached that part yet.
REQUIEMCROSS: Ea, definitely not. But it is possible for him to trace Caliburn. You won't see him using UBW for quite some time though.
NightAngel0Ex: True, but Arc of Embodiment is exclusive for the people of Earthland. When Shirou projects something, he recreates everything in it including the history behind its making and the experience of its users. It was also stated that the Arc of Embodiment has certain limits into it. Not to mention the people of Earthland don't know that Shirou's ability is actually 'materializing the object in his mind'. Not to mention his Structural Grasping and his UBW lets him retain the exact copy in his head. No matter how powerful the projected object is, if the image is flawed then it will never reach similar levels to the original one.
shikyoseinen: Yes, that will be in the later part of the stories. I agree that it won't be a pleasant one.
Anonymous guest: Well, I'll try to update more often but like they say, education comes first D:
Anon (A passing breeze): I agree that maybe I do have a bit of an obsession when it came to the protag that I favor, and I very much agree with you that those are definitely not what makes Shirou a great character. Your opinion is welcomed, and I'll try to avoid doing so in the future. You are correct in saying I mistook The Dead and the Dead Apostles though, many thanks for that.
firehelm: No. I'm sorry to disappoint you, but it was not. I don't think it was mentioned (Someone correct me otherwise) when Gildarts had actually took off for his 100-Year Job, but by the time he got back and Shirou came into the equation, he had already lost his limbs and a good chunk of his body. The 100-Year Job Shirou took was a different one.
baritonemufasa: Well, good luck to you on that. I am glad I was able to encourage you in doing your own fic.
The Unheeded: That was a common mistake made by me. I fixed it.
Our Skill. Flawless and Firm: I'm actually still considering those. As I said before, there are times when I think as I write.
Garoil: Yes, Shirou is not dumb just a bit thick on the head. Servants do not age, that's the way it will be for Shirou and his time in Fairy Tail. I can't say that I dislike harem, because a good number of story I know has harem moments in it and I actually liked them. Rin may or may not come into the equation, but it's leaning more towards the latter.
Anon (Will): Here is the continuation of the chapter. You will see if your request gets fulfilled or not in this one.
TheAceol: I always hated that part in me that lacked confidence. I really do. But that's just what makes human unique I guess.
Eberhardt: It was not implied when Gildarts actually met Acnologia. In this story, he met Acnologia before he met Shirou.
Bearzerker: Even without that kind of status, he is still considered overpowered. He doesn't need that kind of status to be badass.
Anon(someone): Well, I won't say anything about Erza route or Harem route or anything like that. But what I can tell you is that just because he's in on a continent rich with mana, he won't be able to pull of spamming UBW and all that. The mechanics is not that simple.
Again, I remind you that this story is not dead and I fixed yet another major mistake that I made is chapter one. Shirou's death was not caused by 'thousands of Dead Apostles' but 'thousands of The Dead accompanied by several Dead Apostles'. Damn, I really should do my homework better.
Chapter edited by PhantasyPen. Credits to him for tidying up this chapter.
Anyhow, on with the story!
[Chapter 7][Change, a Brother who Swore to Protect]
The sun had long since reached its zenith. The intense heat radiated from its giant body stimulated a rapid rise in temperature. Magnolia, as such, was not left out by its inanimate cruelty. Civilians, exhausted and fatigued by their piling work, were forced to advance their schedule under the harsh weather. It was at times like these that any sane individual would prefer to shut them self in and relax until the blazing heat died down, but this rule does not apply when the person in question was a full-time, experienced Mage from a well-known Guild. Intrinsically, a certain white-haired Mage from Fairy Tail, widely known as the strongest Guild in Fiore, was forced to endure the abrasive reality that she had a job to do at this particular day.
It was summer, and Mira cursed the heavens for having to endure this torture for months to come.
X782, July 13th
"Aaaahhhh… it's too hot…"
A small groan escaped her lips, sweat pouring down from her head to toe. She bent her body, resting her head on the round wooden table and let out a pensive sigh.
'Urgh… why does it have to be today…?'
A single line of thought crossed her mind as she idly stared at the Guild's interior. The rest of the members weren't that much different from her either. The searing heat must have gotten into their heads and drained their spirit as well. Some were idly sitting with their heads cocked backwards, silently muttering their own complaints. Others were gone, presumably taking the day off until more favorable weather conditions suitable for working popped out.
"Why did Elfman have to take the job today of all times?"
Unless the person in question was a masochist or an idiot, they wouldn't even bother taking a look at the mission board at this time of day. It wasn't as if she was being a lazy bum while her brother did all the work; on the contrary, she was glad that her brother who used to be so timid and submissive began to assert initiative in his career as a Mage.
'Although this is probably going a bit over-the-top.'
Four long years had passed since the day Emiya Shirou - the person who used to act as a sort of mentor to her, her siblings, and her peers - set off for the 100-Year Job.
A very intriguing man with a unique personality and a strong sense of duty; that was her impression of the knight in red.
Prior before she and her siblings joined Fairy Tail, they had learnt of his name for quite some time. The name Emiya Shirou was publicly known in Fiore, as the only Fairy Tail Mage that always finished a client's request without any unneeded casualties and beyond the expected time of completion.
At first, she was curious about the man, she wondered of the kind of person Emiya Shirou really was. After all, who wouldn't be when the man in discussion was said to undertake several missions in the same day and finished all of them the day after?
News spread, then his face made an appearance in the Sorcerer Magazine. Astonished as she was when she had learnt that one of the strongest Mages in Fiore was an avid cook with the makings of a great house-husband, she was more interested in the vague details about his Magic. Radically, his abilities greatly resembled Requip more than anything else, but she knew that it was not the case. Mira had seen her fair share of Requip practitioners and by the way they described his ability it was somehow... different in comparison.
But then again, her area of expertise was not within that category, so she supposed it was a bit foolish to make any uncertain assumptions.
It was a bit irrelevant in this case, but when her ears caught news that the man had gotten himself a fan club consisting of young to middle aged women, she had tentatively believed him to be an incorrigible womanizer. It was a hypothetical guess, after all, the first thing to remember about men these days is that you don't pass up the chance to get yourself a nice, big harem of beautiful ladies.
Unbelievably enough, the thought soon turned to rubble the day she got acquainted with him, a few days after Elfman, Lisanna, and herself had decided to follow the old man (Makarov) and joined Fairy Tail. Emiya Shirou was rarely loitering around in the Guild lounge, even on weekends. Unlike the two middle-aged men proclaiming themselves as Shirou's 'best friends' (Clearly, Macao and Wakaba), Emiya Shirou never spent his time drinking and chattering about till day's end. The time he did snatch a time of temporary break, he'd use it in the kitchen, discourse with the older members (Macao and Wakaba, again), or to bond with the younger Mages of Fairy Tail. Then again, 'babysit' was perhaps a more fitting description in his case.
He wasn't the meddlesome kind either. The day she first had a talk with him was the precise day the Strauss siblings came into Fairy Tail's doors. It wasn't much of a talk in any way; the man merely came towards the three and welcomed them with a small smile. Never once he inquired them with sticky, personal questions that would generate an awkward atmosphere. Rather, he immediately barreled towards what she presumed was the kitchen –since it was somehow magically fortified for some reason – and prepared what they could definitely call a small, nice banquet.
Lisanna seemed somewhat taken by the man, and Elfman approached him knowing full well of his reputation and title. She was a bit hesitant at first, but Mira approved of Shirou's tutelage to help Elfman become more adept in combat. Of course, this was under the condition that she herself was allowed to join and observe his and Lisanna's development. Although Lisanna's participation was unexpected, she gave her approval as long as she listened and stayed out of harm's way.
It was then she gained the chance to talk to him more often. Their conversation was nothing borderline serious or grieving, but rather light and refreshing in its own right. It was mostly about what they did for the day or cooking as the main discussion. Appearances may have been deceiving, but she was somewhat interested in the culinary arts herself. Elfman was a good cook, so she as the eldest sister had no reason to avoid learning how to make a good dish.
Nobody could match Emiya Shirou when it came to cooking however, and her taste buds experienced that particular fact first-hand. Well, nobody that she knew of anyway.
Then came the day she noticed several looks the older women in the Guild were giving him. She didn't miss the longing sigh and wistful looks some of the women in public gave when they saw his figure too.
There came the realization upon her womanly (What, just because she's a bit tomboyish doesn't make her a male) soul that Emiya Shirou was without a doubt, denser than multiple layers of rock combined. Well… it could be that he was turning a blind-eye on them, but where was the fun in that?
She made it a habit to tease anyone that interested her. Shirou was not free from her atypical tendencies either.
When she pointed out that several women were looking at him with strange looks, the man pinched the bridge of his nose while muttering what she interpreted as "I don't even care anymore" and didn't even spare a small glance towards the indicated onlookers.
That day was probably the exact moment she realized how much fun it was to tease the red knight.
'Hm, might as well play around a bit before the heat gets any worse.'
Bringing herself to her feet, she silently made her way towards two downtrodden figures, their eyes unfocused and their bodies perched on a long, wooden chair. She leapt in their direction, and shortly after she found her feet on top of two unfortunate heads.
"Hrngh!" Two cries of pain simultaneously rang out; the once lifeless bodies began to stir under the oppressive weight and pressure.
"What the-! Oh… it's just Mira," Macao, as if his strings were cut loose, slumped down onto the wooden board once more, ignoring the increasing pain in his cranium.
"Whaaaaat? That's it? You two should be happier that a young, beautiful girl like me would spare my time seeing you old geezers," she jubilantly pointed out, not making any signs to remove herself anytime soon.
This might come off a bit weird from anyone's perspective, but she always had fun teasing the two older members of Fairy Tail, sitting on their backs, stomping their heads altogether, and scaring them out of their wits by threatening them with their wives – A bit idiotic, but effective nonetheless.
No, she wasn't being an evil bully, it was merely her way of showing friendliness and goodwill, but of course, the satisfaction that came never really did compare when it was Shirou she was dealing with. She was expecting them to retaliate by denying being called 'old geezers', but what she got was something else.
"Come on, Mira-chan… don't you think it's a bit too hot for this? I mean, anyone would feel a bit under the weather under this torrid condition," the pompadour-wearing Wakaba weakly dissented, not excessively bothered at the usual occurrence.
"Tch, you guys are no fun," she clicked her tongue indignantly at the bland response. Unexpected, but it seemed that even these two weren't able to cope with the heat.
Hopping off the two men's heads, Mira dusted off her black tights and seated herself next to the two men, the grin gone from her lower face and replaced by a small frown. The next second, her head registered the fact that the temperature wasn't getting any lower and her body just kept on pouring even more sweat.
"Aaaahhhhhhh! It's too damn hot! Someone give me a block of ice or someth- wait, that's it!" Her protest was brought to an abrupt halt as a brilliant idea popped into her mind.
Her eyes roamed at every single corner of the lounge, until it stopped dead on at a shirtless, dark-haired young man with the Fairy Tail mark on his right chest area. He looked genuinely conflicted, his eyes piercing at the hard, wooden board as if his life depended on it.
Said man's body shivered at the call, a cold chill ran through his back ten times over. He tardily turned half of his body and flinched in response.
Gray exclaimed in surprise, terror and dread filled his expression. He hurriedly threw a facade and seemed to hope that she wouldn't notice.
Sadly enough, she did.
"Ara? You sound like you're not excited to see me, Gray. This onee-san feels saddened," Mira quipped with a teasing tone, hoping to elicit another reaction from the ice-user.
"A-Ahahaha… that's not true. So, what do you want, Mira?" He inquired her as he diverted his attention from the mission board.
It was somewhat hilarious to her that Natsu and Gray seemed to have this odd sense of fear towards her and Erza. Erza she could understand recalling as she was the one who enacted physical punishment towards him and Natsu every single time they started a quarrel, but her? She was practically an angel in human clothing.
"Well, I was thinking since you are an Ice Mage and this heat won't get rid of itself anytime soon, you'll be helping me cool off with that nice, cold, magic of yours?" She added with a cheery, cold smile, something that intimidated the ice-user considerably.
"Why do I have t-"
"You'll do as I say… right?" The chilling smile intensified to a degree where cold sweat began to drizzle down his naked back.
And Gray, despite his large pride as an Ice-Mage, knew that if he refused this request (or order, depending on how you see it), it wouldn't end well for him. He sighed and accepted his fate for the day. That is, following Mira around for the whole day until she allowed his freedom.
"Oh, and put some clothing on while you're at it," she half ordered as she turned her back and walked towards the exit.
Gray could only curse his luck for being too indecisive when it came to picking a good job.
"…So, where are we going?"
The two, having forced their way under the intense heat and light, strolled down the streets with small amounts of sweat pouring down their bodies. The usually bustling streets of Magnolia were quiet and tranquilized under the harsh weather, something that rarely happened. Merchants and shopkeepers alike were troubled by the lack of customers and had to close down their businesses for the day.
"We're heading for Erza's place of course," Mira replied casually as she put a popsicle in her mouth.
"Ehh? Why?" A bewildered look replaced his deadpan expression as he mouthed his surprise.
Mira brushed away his surprise and merely continued on sucking on her cold, nice popsicle.
"Well, aren't you curious on what his home looks like? Besides, this is a good chance for me to provoke Erza again~"
Since Shirou rarely stayed in his apartment due to the large amounts of missions he had going for himself, Mira and the others didn't have the excuse nor the reason to visit his place. Now that he was gone however, and with the knowledge that Erza chose to stay in his place, she had more than enough reason and interest to impose.
"…You are evil, you know that?" He deadpanned.
"I don't know what you're talking about…" She smirked in response. "Ah, give me more popsicle, Gray."
Silently muttering his curses, he complied with her request. He was glad however, that Natsu and the others weren't there to look at his pitiful state. He wouldn't hear the end of it otherwise.
A couple of minutes later, they arrived.
"So this is where he lived…" Mira silently analyzed the surrounding terrace. It was nothing special; it looked pretty much like the interiors of a simple apartment. But then again, Shirou was always a person that focused on practicality more than anything else.
They knocked on the door in front of them and waited. The door opened, revealing a girl in silver armor and a blue skirt with long, crimson hair.
"Mira… and Gray? What are you two doing here?" Asked said girl, Erza, as she furrowed her brow in curiosity.
"Well, no good reason, me and Gray here are just visiting a good friend of ours… right, Gray?" She explained in a playful manner as she directed a smile towards Ice Mage.
Which held the message: 'You better play along or else.'
And Gray received that piece of message a bit too well.
"R-right. We were just coming to visit, ahahahaha…" He confirmed with a nervous laugh, trying to push down his irrational fear towards the two women before him. He really wished Natsu could take his place right now. He really did.
Erza heaved a sigh and relented. "Well, I suppose you two should come in. Be careful not to touch anything important though," she informed them as she marched back towards the depths of the room.
As the two stepped inside, a different voice rang out.
"Mira? Gray? Why are you two here?"
At the corner of the room was a girl with mid-back length brown hair wearing a light blue bikini top and a pair of Capri pants. The girl eyed the two with genuine curiosity as she hold a cup of tea with her hands.
Gray cursed his luck. He really should have just taken a random job out of the mission board and gone out of town for the whole day.
"So… you got degraded from being a perverted exhibitionist Ice Mage into a perverted exhibitionist popsicle dispenser, huh?" Cana chuckled as she gave Gray a pitying look.
"S-shut up! What are you doing here anyways?!" He loudly exclaimed with an annoyed look on his face.
"Me? Well I've got nothing to do and since the weather is too hot I don't feel like doing any jobs for the day. Then Shirou's home came to mind and I decided to pay a visit for old time's sake," She deliberately informed as she leaned back onto the nearest sofa.
Unlike Gray and Mira, Cana had often visited Shirou's apartment before he took off for his 100-year job. However, after said man's absence for so long she had stopped visiting knowing that there was no good reason to and she needed to start focusing on taking jobs and missions. Her reason in doing so was leaning more towards nostalgia rather than anything else.
"But still, this place sure hasn't changed one bit…" Cana muttered as she analyzed the interior of the room bit by bit.
The room was pretty much in the same condition before Shirou was gone. The furnishings, decorative ornaments, and everything else hadn't changed in the least. The mere exception was the number of doors inside the room. Aside from the guest, kitchen, bed, and bathroom, there were about six other doors that she did not recall having been there before.
"Sorry for the wait. I prepared some tea for you two," Erza came out of the kitchen and served two cups of tea onto the guest table.
Gray let out a terrified expression as he eyed the drink in front of him. It had been public knowledge to Fairy Tail that Erza, as talented as she was with swords and weapons alike, had no talent when it comes to cooking. The last time she tried to cook it ended up with a fifth of the Guild's Lounge exploding into chunks of wood and metal. Of course, comparing real-time cooking with serving a cup of tea was a bit too much, but still Gray couldn't help but be a little cautious.
He didn't want to end up dead after all.
"…You were thinking of something rude just now, didn't you?" As if reading his mind, a thick mark appeared on Erza's forehead.
"W-w-what are you talking about? I definitely wasn't thinking of anything rude like how everything you cook turns into smolder and ashes within seconds! Ahahahaha…" He stuttered instantaneously without much thought, before realizing that he had just poured oil into the flames.
"Oh? You've certainly become a braver person, Gray… should we test that bravery outside?" A cold smile adorned her face as a sword materialized within her right hand and pointed towards the Ice Mage.
Fortunately for Gray, just as he was about to run for his dear life, Cana came to his rescue.
"You don't need to worry about the tea, Gray. It's actually quite good," Cana said as she brought the cup of tea to her lips and took a sip.
Giving the brown-haired girl a strange look, Gray observed the drink before taking a sip himself.
"Wow… this is pretty good," taking a quick sip, he briskly commented.
"Right? Erza may be a lame cook but she's actually pretty good at making tea," Cana quipped as she gave out a small laugh.
It was just a light guess, but Gray believed that living together with someone that can cook a heavenly feast within an hour probably gave her a tip or two in making a good tea.
"Seriously… if you three don't have anything to do but laze around in here, then I suggest you do it at your own home," taking a seat on the nearest couch, Erza commented. A long spear with a very large blade and decorated circle attached to its shaft materialized on her lap before she took out a cleaning paper and began wiping the base of the blade.
"Now, now, don't sweat the small details. Come to think of it, why didn't you change place after Shirou left, Erza? Living in Fairy Hills is much more convenient you know, since the renting cost isn't that much higher there."
Fairy Hills, Fairy Tail's female dormitory where the majority of its members live. The monthly rent is about a hundred thousand jewels, but compared to this place it is considerably more spacious and its location is somewhat closer to the Guild's building. When Shirou left Magnolia, many believed that Erza would eventually move out for a more convenient living arrangement, the fact that she hadn't brought forth many questions to many Fairy Tail members.
The room was filled with silence for several seconds. Turning the blade of her spear and resting its sharp steel on her right shoulder, Erza calmly replied with a small smile, "Of course I didn't. I've been living here for longer than five years now. How could I leave just like that?"
That's right; Erza Scarlet had been living in this place with Shirou ever since that fateful day. There was no way she could ever abandon it without a very justified reason. This place held a lot of precious memories for her; memories that could never be replaced.
Gray, and especially Cana, understood the expression behind her face. After Shirou had left, the Guild's atmosphere had turned bland for several days. It had turned back to normal after a few days passed, but Erza - while she may not show it herself - seemed to take his departure the hardest out of all of the Guild members. It was probably best that they do not delve any further.
"I wonder where he is right now…" Gray wondered, gazing at the wooden table in front of them. "I still have a score to settle with him after all," he exclaimed with toothy grin as he tightened his hand into a fist.
"Hmph, you wouldn't even last five minutes against him the way you are right now," snickering at her fellow Guild member, Erza focused her attention back to her maintaining the spear leaning on her torso.
"I've got to agree with that one, you and Natsu never hit him even once when we used to spar. Alone that is," Cana added her two cents as she took a more relaxed position on the sofa.
True to her words, not a single one of them was able to land a clean hit on, or even scratch, Shirou back when they used to train with him. Even when they teamed up against him the best they could do was put a small burn on his red cloak or barely catch him off-guard with unforeseen tricks, which never really did produce much of a result. But then again, they were still young and their abilities as Mages were not as polished as they were today.
"Shut up! I'll surprise him by the time he returns and defeat him! You can count on it," standing up from his seat, Gray crossed both arms and gave the two a confident look.
"Yeah, yeah. Keep on talking…" waving her hands back and forth, Cana suddenly realized that they were missing a single person. "Come to think of it, where did Mira wander off to?"
Three pair of eyes turned in search of a certain white-haired tomboy, but then their eyes were dead set to a door that was supposed to be closed.
"That's… the bedroom, right?"
Within the blink of an eye, Erza stood up, leaving her spear on the couch, and dashed towards the half-opened room. With a loud banging sound, the door fully opened, revealing…
"Uwaaa… this is some kinky stuff…"
Sitting in a cross-legged position on the floor with a slightly flushed look on her face was the eldest of the Strauss siblings. Lying beside her were stacks of small books with leather covers, some half opened and some turned open upside down.
What was more surprising were the titles written on some of the books.
'Knights of Lust', 'A Valkyrie's Temptation', 'A Sword Maiden's Romance', and countless others with outstandingly explicit names.
In short, they screamed smutty and erotic novels.
Cana gave out an astonished look while Gray looked like he had just seen something he really shouldn't have.
Flipping the books page by page, Mira's eyes continued to widen further and further.
"W-w-w-w-wha…" her body trembling uncontrollably with rage and embarrassment and her cheeks red, the owner of said books slowly raised her finger at the sight of her secrecy exposed.
"WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?!" With a deafening shout, the red-head ran over and swiped the book out of the eldest Strauss' hands.
"Eh? Ah, it's just Erza. Don't worry, no matter what type of hobbies you have, you will always be my one and only rival…" Straightening herself up and patting the trembling figure on her shoulder covered armor with a barely contained smirk, she whispered in a small voice, "Although I never could have imagined that you were into bondage and that kind of stuff…"
The ringing of metal echoed across the room.
"O-oi, don't you think that this is a bit excessive…?" Abruptly halting the edge of a sword from reaching her head with her open palms, the pig-tailed girl thanked the heavens for her abnormal reaction time.
"Die and go to hell."
"Umm… Gray, Cana, a little help here?"
Hearing no response, she slid her attention to the two only to see both diverting their heads while whistling nonchalantly.
"…Maybe I shouldn't have done that. My arms feel stiff now," Mira mumbled in protest, creating a crackling sound from loosening her joints.
"It's your fault, Mira-nee. You always try to pick a fight with Erza at any possible chance."
Letting her little sister chastise her infantile behavior when it comes to her contender, the eldest Strauss merely patted her little sister on the head with a laugh. They stood underneath a large tree, using the silhouette of the tree to block the intense sunlight.
"It's her fault for being too much fun to mess with. By the way, where's Elfman? We're supposed to meet up here before two in the after-"
Just as she was about to finish her sentence, a familiar voice caught their attention.
A figure with spiky white hair, wearing a dark-blue jacket and pants of similar color, ran over to the two. With the sound of his floppy geta sandals getting louder, his figure towered over the two girls.
"Sorry, did I make you two wait too long?" With an apologizing tone, he rubbed the back of his head sheepishly.
"Mou… Elf-nii is too slow!" Pouting cutely, Lisanna rebuked her elder brother. Putting on her lecturing pose, she continued, "Listen here, if we take too long in this mission, the client will be mad at us and there will be a cut in the promised pay! We don't want that to happen, do we?"
"Urgh…" Elfman, being weak against his sister's attack, could only relent himself to her berating words.
"Well, whatever. Let's debrief our mission first before heading straight in. Our next mission is to capture or dispose of a dangerous creature sighted in the Waas Forest right behind the Hakobe Mountains. I recall they named the creature as 'The Beast'. They say that its strength is capable of lifting a boulder with a single hand, and its viciously aggressive nature entitles it as the 'King of monsters'. This is an S-Ranked mission, so don't get careless, you two," placing her hand to her waist, she measuredly informed the two.
Normally, it is not possible to take S-Ranked missions unless the Mage involved is an eligible S-Class Mage. But exceptions are there; if a group of Mages decided to form a team led by an S-Class Mage, then it is possible to do so. The Strauss siblings, who formed a team of their own, were more than qualified to undertake the mission due to Mira who already passed the S-Class Mage Promotion Trial. However, unlike Mira, Elfman and Lisanna had no experience when it came to S-Ranked missions. It was their first time as a team to undertake a job with that particular level of difficulty.
"Oh! What are you guys doing here?!" Suddenly, a blur that fell out of nowhere broke the siblings away from their concentration. It was revealed as a young man with light pink-colored hair wearing a sleeveless gold-trimmed waist coat and white knee-length trousers. Accompanying him on his right shoulder was a creature resembling a small blue cat with miniature wings.
"Natsu, I think they're about to go for a mission," the blue cat, Happy, voiced his opinion.
The pink-haired Dragon Slayer brightened up even more hearing that. "Seriously?! Can I come?"
Watching the enthusiastic expression on his face, Mira actually found it quite difficult to refuse his request. "Hmm, I'm not sure... this is an S-Ranked mission after all."
"An S-Ranked Mission?! Do you hear that Happy?!"
"Please let us come with you guys!" Joining both hands into a begging gesture, he lowered and hung his head down. Happy who was sitting on his shoulder up till now copied the exact same motion.
In response, her little sister was hyped up and looked as if she nearly jumped in joy. "He can come! He can come! Besides, it's more fun and safer this way right, Mira-nee?"
Ah, that's right. She nearly forgot about her little sister's crush to the Fire Dragon Slayer. It was actually cute to see her adorable little sister getting along with Natsu, blushing when he wasn't looking. They even often played husband and wife a few years back.
Covering her mouth in silent contemplation, Mira directed her attention towards her brother. "What do you think, Elfman?"
Considering her brother's nature, she half-expected him to turn down his request without much thought. Mira had always known that her brother was prideful and had always refused help from others because he didn't want to burden anyone important to him. His inability to do a complete full-body take-over helped to solidify that fact. Even though his personality had undergone a complete 180 degree change on the outside, his inner nature still remained the same. Because her brother refused to be called weak, he trained, shed his timid nature, and strived to improve. Because her brother refused to be called weak, she anticipated that he would refuse Natsu's request to come and help them in this mission. Because she had full understanding of her brother's nature, she was surprised by the response that he gave.
"Let him come. It will be safer with the five of us and it will be good experience for Natsu as well. Besides…" He raised his right hand, before clenching it into a fist. "A real man knows that the safety of his sisters is much more important than some selfish desire."
She stared at her brother for some time, before a satisfied smirk replaced her look. Slapping her brother's broad back, she motioned for the others to follow. "Well, I guess that's that. Let's go, we have a big monster waiting for us to kick its ass."
"Yosh! Me and Happy will bring down that monster by ourselves, won't we, Happy?"
"Aye!" The cat energetically raised his paw in affirmation.
"Natsu… you'll have to listen to onee-chan's orders, alright?" Lisanna rebuked the Dragon Slayer as she walked beside him.
"Watch me, Natsu. I'll show you how to fight like a real man!" Elfman declared as he raised and pumped a fist.
As they walked to their destination, Mira glanced at her brother's wide back and a small smile crept up her face. "You really have become stronger, Elfman…"
Lifting her head towards the sky, she slowly covered her eyes with her hand. "And it's all because of him, huh?"
As her mind drifted to the knight in red, she snickered as if an interesting idea came to her head.
'I wonder where he is right now…'
She really couldn't wait to tell him of Erza's secret hobby and the stuff she had been reading. Just imagining the scene perked up her desire to laugh. Both he and Erza really were the best people to mess around with.
'You better come back soon, Shirou. Or I'll mess around with the kitchen you love oh so dearly.'
It took them a full day to reach their destination. As it was practically impossible to get there in a short time by walking, they had to use a transport carriage employed by merchants that frequently stopped by Magnolia. It had taken them a little bit longer since Natsu was rendered out cold from the long journey and they had to drag him all the way to their present location.
"…Natsu, are you okay?" Mira was supporting the still motion sick Dragon Slayer with her right shoulder as she asked him out of concern.
"Urp… I feel like puking my guts out…" Covering his mouth with one hand, he tried to suppress his nauseous head.
Natsu always was bad with transportation. Every single time he was forced to ride any type of transportation, he was reduced to a poor state unable to do anything until he gets off the transporting vehicle.
…A pretty sad excuse of a weakness if Mira could say so herself. But of course, she never really figured if such a weakness like that was a trait from being a Dragon Slayer or just a weird quirk of Natsu's. She had never met any Dragon Slayers other than him, after all.
"Well, you can take a rest if you want, Natsu, but we'll leave you behind and finish this mission without you," she pointed out, her taunting smile dispelling any signs the Dragon Slayer had from being motion sick.
"Not a chance! Let's go, Happy!"
Natsu, with Happy flying close behind, raced into the dark, umbrageous forest, not even noticing the weird atmosphere that ran throughout the whole surroundings.
The three glanced at the retreating figure of the pink-haired Dragon Slayer, and sighed simultaneously.
"I wonder… if we'll be okay?"
"Something's not right here…" Analytically scanning their surroundings, Mira voiced her discomfort.
"You noticed it too, nee-chan?" Nodding in agreement, her brother glanced upwards. "They say that this creature is frequently active when it's dark. But so far we haven't encountered anything at all."
They had been walking for quite some time now. After catching up with Natsu, their priority was to stick together and stay vigilant for any unexpected outcomes. However, they who had been circling around the forest's perimeters for hours had found nothing.
That was indeed the worst part; they had found absolutely nothing.
Waas Forest, while not well-known in some parts of Fiore, was a place infested with violent creatures. Vulcans, highly aggressive carnivorous animals, and there were even recent sightings of several wyverns here.
It was too quiet.
By the looks of it, the inhabitants of the forest seemed to have fled from a greater source of danger.
"Natsu… I don't like the atmosphere here…" The usually energetic Happy tugged lightly at the Dragon Slayer's scarf and cautiously surveyed the muted surroundings.
"Yeah… I've got a bad feeling about this place…" A drop of sweat ran down Natsu's face as an unpleasant smell filled his nose.
"…!" All of a sudden, his body jerked in surprise and more sweat rained down his body.
The others, noticing his uncanny reaction, voiced their concern. "Natsu? What's wrong?"
However, before they could say anything more, he dashed deeper into the forest, cutting off any disturbing branches and ivies with his hands.
Natsu Dragneel was a Dragon Slayer with a keen sense of smell and superior senses. His ability to detect any type of danger was by far, superior compared to a large portion of Fairy Tail Guild members. Therefore without saying a word, the Strauss siblings glanced at each other before nodding and followed the direction in which Natsu marched into, bracing themselves for whatever danger that may come to them.
"What… the hell is this?" Staring wide-eyed at the sight before his eyes, Natsu could only mumble in shock.
"Oi, Natsu!" Elfman called out, running over to the pink-haired Dragon Slayer and catching him by the shoulder. Before he could say anything else, he stopped dead track as his blood ran cold.
Animal corpses, no longer identifiable by any means, lay on the forest grounds. Flesh and skin scattered in an atrocious mess, blood stains spread over from one tree to another. Large trees cut down from its base, some reduced to mere splinters. Huge claw marks littered the tree trunks fortunate enough to escape the destruction that wallowed over the place.
Soon enough Mira and Lisanna caught up with them and their eyes met the gory scenario.
"What… happened here?" Trembling, Lisanna covered her mouth with her hands. Slowly, she stepped backwards and clung to her brother.
"Whatever it was, it's nearby. It looks like we've got the answer to our questions right here…" Walking towards the pile of corpses, she crouched and examined the useless lumps of meat and bones. "This is no ordinary monster we're dealing with."
Then, a sudden roar reverberated. Birds flew in panic, the flapping of wings continued for several seconds.
The ground shook, large stomping noises continued to heighten their sense of wariness. Whatever it was, it knew they were there.
It knew they had stumbled into its territory.
Elfman protectively motioned for his little sister to hide behind him, but she shook her head in denial and stood right beside him, eyes determined. Although a bit hesitant, he yielded to her desire and readied his posture as well. The Fire Dragon Slayer had long since ignited his fists with his flames and looked about ready to spring into action. But…
"No, this is bad…"
Mira knew they were in a bad position. She was an S-Class Mage; she had repetitively been pushed back into similar situations. She had no doubts that they would be able to subdue the beast with their current manpower, but they were within the monster's territory, and the forest was not illuminated enough to provide them with the necessary foothold to stand their grounds.
"We need to fall back, hurry!"
She ran and motioned for her team to follow. They complied without a word and chased after her. Nevertheless, the shaking of the ground and the roars of frenzy became more and more prominent by the second.
"It's chasing after us!" Happy, watching behind Natsu's back, informed the retreating group.
"Oi, Mira! Where are you taking us!?" Natsu all but shouted at the group's leader.
"Just follow me and don't look back! We don't have time for questions, Natsu!"
They continued to run, bypassing any obstacles and cutting them down as necessary. After what seemed like minutes, they finally reached a large open area blocked by a dead-end from a large rocky cliff.
"It's a dead end!"
"Mira-nee, what should we do?" Her eyes glistening with worry, her little sister asked in small panic.
"No, this is perfect. We'll fight off that thing here," she announced, dispelling her sister's anxiousness; she loosened her ribbon and let her long, white hair flow down.
Moonlight shone down upon the area, driving away the shadows and dissipating the darkness. Slowly, the rocking of the ground slowed, and a group of small trees tumbled down.
A large beast, roughly four to five times a normal human's size. With a thick, white mane behind its back, its huge torso supported horn-like protrusions sprouting from its shoulders. Its ears were pointed and on its forehead was a pair of stripped horns pointing to the sky. Its legs are that of large, dark hooves, its canine teeth pointed and its claws slick with wet blood. Its face was marred with a stitched scar crossing down its right eye.
Standing with its two hooves was 'The Beast', called by many as the King of monsters.
Eyeing them with its bloodshot eyes, it let loose a feral growl.
With a single chant, a blast of magical energy surrounded the eldest Strauss. Covered with blinding light for but a single second, her appearance changed considerably. With her right eye bearing a light zigzag marking, similar symbols appeared over her right breasts and both of her bare thighs. Her eyes became darker and her eyelashes grew. Her teeth became canine sharp and her ears extended backwards with pointed edges. Her forearms covered with scales and fin-like protrusions, metallic claws replaced her hands. Lastly, she grew a stocky tail covered with what seemed like numerous amount of scales all the way to its tip. Her clothing changed into a more daring, dark, skimpy one-piece suit accompanied with a pair of high-heeled thigh-high boots.
"Elfman! Natsu! Lisanna! Prepare yourselves!" Growing a pair of bat-like wings, she hovered to the sky. Carefully studying her enemy, Mira noticed that the monster was about to make its move. Carrying its large hooves, it sprinted towards the remaining group members still on the ground.
With a single call, Elfman took action and ran towards the marching monster. Extending his right arm towards it, he called out, "Beast Arm: Iron Bull!"
His right arm, transformed into that of large beast's arm composed of metal, punched through the air between them and intercepted the monster's clawed hand. They stood still for a second, before the monster tried to swipe him with its unoccupied arm.
"Natsu! Lisanna!" He shouted for the two, leaping backwards and avoiding the blow from connecting with his body. Two blurs passed by him and sprung towards the beast.
"Animal Soul: Tigress!" Lisanna cried, her form changing into that of a humanoid werecat, feline ears, whiskers, nose, and a tail grew from her body. Her clothing changed into that of a two-piece bikini with tiger-skin patterns, and her hands turned into feline-like pads on the surface of her palms and sharp claws at her fingertips. Reaching the monster's open side, she mustered her strength and slashed her claws at its torso.
Continuing their attack pattern, Natsu slid on the ground and appeared right below the monster's body, before igniting his feet with flames and kicking the monster underneath his chin.
"Fire Dragon's Claw!"
The blow was strong, nowhere enough to send the huge monster flying, but more than sufficient to send it several steps back.
"I'm not done yet! Fire Dragon's Crushing Fang!" He ran, bright flames enveloping his arms, he swept the entirety of its explosive power towards the monster.
'The Beast roared in anger, blocking the flames with its arms crossed. Ignoring the burning pain, it pushed the flames back and forced them to extinguish. The second after, it tried to charge towards the group again with open claws.
"Like I'd let you! Demon Blast!" Conjuring a large ball of dark energy, she shot her hands forward and let loose a stream of dark purple energy towards the monster. It blocked the attack, albeit after being severely pushed back by the onslaught of magical energy. After several seconds, the attack dissipated, revealing the monster down on one leg.
It charged again, but they were prepared for it this time. For some time, they were able to dodge its attacks and reiterate their attack pattern. Their attacks were having the desired effect on the beast, but it also heightened the level of enmity it had towards the group.
Mira knew that the longer they carried along with the fight, the higher the risk their lives would be in danger.
After all, a beast is most dangerous when it is cornered.
Letting loose a roar louder than it had before, the monster grabbed hold of a tree by its trunk, and easily uprooted it with both hands. With speed that she didn't expect, the beast threw the object like a javelin in her direction.
Clucking her tongue in annoyance, she deftly dodged the incoming tree and shot small blasts of darkness magic towards the monster. However, she was caught by surprise as it began to dodge and charged towards Elfman and the others with double the speed it possessed before.
Not expecting the sudden burst of speed, Elfman tried to block its incoming attack with his metallic beast right arm. But the sudden increase in speed also seemed to affect its strength, doubling the amount from what it had before. Elfman was sent to the ground instantly, cracking the ground underneath him.
"Elfman!" The Fire Dragon Slayer leapt at the monster in an attempt to help his friend, his flaming fist already held high. Unfortunately, the monster was faster than him and it managed to send Natsu flying before he could land any hits.
"Natsu!" Happy came down from the sky and attended to the Dragon Slayer, making sure he was alright.
"Elf-nii! Hang in there!" This time coming from behind, Lisanna attempted to deliver a blow to its head. Yet it was for naught, as the monster's instinct allowed it to intercept the attack and catch the youngest Strauss by her body in order to violently send her rocketing towards the stone cliff.
Her body turned limp as she fell and hit the ground, fighting hard to keep her consciousness intact.
Mira turned her had towards her downed little sister with worry, but that was a mistake.
She didn't realize the looming shadow behind her. 'The Beast' was behind her vulnerable back.
It had reached a height of 25 feet with a single jump.
Accompanied with a brutish roar fitting for a monster, it tore through her wings and delivered a sharp hook to her body, sending her crashing down towards the earth at terrifying speed.
"…Gah!" Coughing out blood from the excessive force, Mira winced in pain as she struggled to stand back up.
She had messed up. She should've used her strongest attack back then, even disregarding that they didn't have enough space for such an attack. As expected from a monster listed in an S-Rank mission, its power was nothing to scoff at.
Still, she was able to bring herself back to her feet. Mirajane Strauss had her pride as an S-Class Mage, after all. Just because it crippled her ability to fly and broke a couple of her ribs didn't mean she would go down that easily.
"Oi, Natsu! How long are you planning to sit there?!" She roared back into the distance.
"Damn, that hurt! How dare you do that to Elfman and Lisanna!" Although a bit bruised, Natsu was still in a fairly good condition. His incredible endurance was one of the things that made him unique. A single clean blow to the body by a rampaging monster was nowhere near enough to incapacitate him.
"I… can still fight!" A familiar voice, belonging to Lisanna, reached her ears. She managed to support her balance and stood her ground, although it was clear that she was in no condition for further combat.
"Nee-chan…" Although his right arm was in a bad condition Elfman seemed to be able to continue.
They were still in a very bad position though. She didn't know if she had enough Magic Power reserves to defeat the monster, and both Natsu and Elfman couldn't possibly tank its blows for a long time.
They were starting to run out of options.
"Nee-chan! Let me Take-over 'The Beast'!"
There was still a possible solution. Elfman and his Take-over Magic, Beast Soul, could absorb 'The Beast' into himself. But it was a dangerous gamble. Take-over Magic wasn't supposed to be used on a conscious being, or else the minds of the person 'taking over' and the one being 'took over' will clash and will result in the weaker mind obliterated. She couldn't possibly allow her brother to take that risk.
"Nee-chan! Please… it's the only way," his voice, half pleading and determined, reached her ears.
It was true; perhaps it was the most viable option they had. She just had to take that risk and believed that her brother would prevail.
"Goddammit… you better win, or else!"
Seeing his older sister's acceptance, he nodded and smiled. "Yeah!"
"Natsu, with me!" Motioning for the Dragon Slayer to follow her, she ran towards the frenzied monster at full speed.
The two ran circling the monster, its blood-thirsty eyes kept in contact with its two targets. It moved first, leaping towards Natsu with a raised giant fist. Natsu's nimble nature and quick reflexes however, were sufficient enough to avoid the attack the attack completely and leave the monster vulnerable for attacks. The attack missed and instead hit the ground, plunging its arm under the soil.
"Fire Dragon's Brilliant Flame!" Slapping both of his ignited hands together, he garnered his magical power and formed large fireball before throwing it onto the monster's back.
As it continued to roar in pain, Mira took the chance to initiate her own attack. She ran towards it, jumped, grabbed the monster by its horns, and sent it tumbling down with an overhead kick. Her muscle power, while in Satan Soul form, was strong enough to push down any enemy given her large Magic Power capacity.
Her shout was the last signal he needed. With a battle cry, he ran towards the temporarily downed monster and reached out his right hand towards it. At that moment, bright light enveloped the area, momentarily blinding Mira and her group.
And within the next second, Elfman was gone.
To be more accurate, he was inside 'The Beast' with the attempt to assimilate his and the monster's power.
A light breeze blew as the field was filled with momentary silence.
'The Beast' showed no signs of any movements. But it was temporary; soon, its body rose from the ground and it held its head with its penetrating claws. As if its head was assaulted by sharp pain, it repetitively let out roars of fury while uncontrollably twisting its upper body.
Time passed. Cold sweat poured down their faces as 'The Beast' abruptly ceased its actions.
Their hope was for naught as 'The Beast' shifted its blood-thirsty eyes towards Natsu and slammed its clawed fist into his gut. Blood splattered from his mouth as the Dragon Slayer was sent rolling towards the cliff.
"Natsu!" Happy cried out in worry, once again flying towards his hurled friend.
'The Beast' was unrelenting. It drove towards Mira, its greatest threat, with its fast-paced legs. She didn't know if it was just her or her imagination, but the monster was even faster than it was before. All she could do was to block the incoming attack; with her wings crippled, it wasn't possible to dodge.
Her body was swatted aside by its giant claw and she was sent hurling against a tree. She cried out in pain as her back painfully slammed the wooden surface. In a single attack, the monster dislocated her left shoulder. She tried to fix her left shoulder joint, but as she realized the direction it was slowly marching to, her eyes were filled with horror.
It was slowly marching towards Lisanna who was no longer in a good condition to fight.
Was it impossible after all? Were they going to die like this?
No, she couldn't accept that. Rather, she could never allow such a thing to happen. She still had things to settle with Erza, and she hadn't repaid her debt towards her Guild Master for his generous offer towards her and her siblings.
"You idiot!" She practically screamed at it.
"You swore to protect us! You said it yourself that you would do anything to protect your sisters!" Perhaps it was just a desperate attempt to stop her brother, but she didn't care. She couldn't let her brother hurt the sisters that he promised to protect with his life.
"You felt inferior to us because you were unable to do a full body take-over unlike the both of us, and yet you still try harder than the both of us combined! You cursed your body for only being able to transform your right arm, and yet you still did your best to protect me and Lisanna from harm! You despise being called weak, so you trained with the rest of us to overcome that weakness! So how could you lose to some mere monster?!"
'The Beast' did not stop. Its growls became more feral as it came closer to Lisanna.
Perhaps it was just her naivety or even an innocent delusion, but her little sister refused to believe that her brother's mind had lost a fight against 'The Beast'.
"Elf-nii…" The youngest Strauss, barely being able to stand up, she spread open her arms and looked up towards her brother with teary eyes. "Let's go home, Elf-nii."
It lifted its giant arm, its blood-thirsty eyes unwavering.
As if in total acceptance, the youngest Strauss closed her eyes. It swung down its arm.
"What would Shirou say to you if he saw you like this?!"
The sands of time seemed to slow down for the group. Seconds turned into minutes, minutes into hours, and hours into days. But the attack never came.
Barely inches from impacting the youngest Strauss' body, the arm seemingly froze.
Her words had an effect. Ah, that was correct. Elfman, who had been training with the others with Emiya Shirou as their mentor, looked up at the man with admiration. To him, who wasn't born with a natural inborn talent like some of them, becoming a Mage of Shirou's level was his goal.
Perhaps, Shirou's name was able to remind him of the reason why he wanted to become strong in the beginning.
"Natsu, now!" It was the last signal.
A fulminant blur of pink launched itself towards the immobilized monster. Natsu pulled forth his remaining Magical Power reserves and slid forward, right between the monster and Lisanna.
"Dragon Slayer's Secret Art…"
Swiping both arms, he unleashed a powerful, torrent of flames incomparable to the ones he had let loose until now.
"Crimson Lotus: Exploding Flame Blade!"
The flames spun, barraging its target and throwing 'The Beast' lunging 15 feet towards the sky. It fell, creating a small crater on the ground, and laid still.
It was over. 'The Beast' showed no signs of moving, and it would only be a matter of time before Elfman took control over the monster's power.
Natsu slumped down and leaned over beside Lisanna, gasping his breath irregularly. That last attack probably took a lot out of him, considering that it was his strongest, finishing attack. Mira was sure that if she was forced to endure such an attack, the force behind it would be enough to knock her unconscious. That was just a testament of how powerful Natsu and his Dragon Slayer Magic was.
But of course, he still had a lot to learn before he could reach the ranks of S-Class Mages.
There was a faint rumbling noise. Pebbles and small stones were starting to hail down the cliff. It only took Mira a moment to register what was about to happen.
Cracks formed on the ledge of the rocky cliff as the group began to sense a small tremor.
"Above you, Natsu! Lisanna!"
A gigantic boulder fell; it rolled from the narrow inclination of the cliff and gravitated towards the weakened duo. Due to the intense fight they were having, they did not realize the impact it had to their surroundings. It was likely that all the shaking and vibration they caused were the reason this was happening now.
"Natsu, watch out!" The small blue cat tried to warn the pink-haired Dragon Slayer, but it was for naught.
"Shit, I can't move!" Natsu cursed
He had overexerted his power reserves. That was most likely the reason why he was unable to initiate any movement now. Lisanna was too weak to avoid the incoming projectile as well.
Mira tried to get herself back to her feet, but the sharp pain from her shoulder prevented her from doing so. As she was forced to watch her little sister and friend's fate, she almost cried out in desperation.
Right on the spur of the moment, she saw something move. It was fast, and it managed to reach the paralyzed pair before it was too late.
It protectively spread out its back over the two fallen figure and held the giant rock at bay.
"…Elf-nii? Is that really you?" Sprawling her hands on the wet dirt, Lisanna watched 'The Beast' with hopeful eyes.
Yet, it was not a maddened roar, or a growl that met her. Instead, they were the protective eyes and the sound of her brother's voice.
"Yeah. I'm back, Lisanna," reassuring his little sister that it really was him; he threw the boulder out of the way and hugged her limp body gently. She returned the embrace, shedding a single tear as she smiled at her elder brother.
Natsu watched the scene with a big grin and Happy came to pick him up soon after.
Mira panted a sigh of relief, knowing that they were finally out of danger.
"You idiot… always making everyone worried…" she muttered abjectly in a small voice. She lifted her head and gazed towards the stars.
'I guess I owe him one again, don't I?'
That night, Natsu and the Strauss siblings were able to complete their mission and return to Magnolia the day after. There were injuries, but they managed to stay alive. That day would forever be engraved in their minds.
X782, July 15th
"…M...st…" A static buzzing sounded, a faint image starting to form on a clear, transparent crystal ball.
"Ma…r…? Master? Can you hear me?" The static cleared up, revealing a figure with white-hair wearing black armor with faint, intricate silver lines. He sat on a rock, a small campfire lit beside him.
"Yes, I can hear you just fine, Shirou."
Makarov, lifting the Lacrima with one hand, gave a questioning look at the red knight. "But this is sudden even for you, Shirou. Why call now of all times?"
After he had left, Shirou didn't contact the Guild for years. Their connection through the contract managed to convince the Guild Master that he was fine, but he couldn't initiate contact with his Servant through verbal means as his Servant did not own a Communication Lacrima Crystal but rather projected it at his convenience. It was a smart thing to do, really, considering that owning one means that he would have to endure calls from the members of the Guild and other parties that are interested to exchange words with him.
Considering his rather exuberant Guild mates and the popularity he had gained throughout the years, it was a bad idea to hold one during his long mission.
"Ah, I apologize. The connection here is rather bad and I hadn't been able to find the right opportunity to contact you, Master," he gave him an excusatory look before continuing. "…How are Erza and the others?"
"You would be surprised, but Erza and Mira already passed the S-Class Mage Promotion Trial a few years ago."
His Servant narrowed his eyes and smiled proudly at the piece of information, and didn't seem to be as astonished as he thought he would be.
He continued, "Erza has been rather active with her job ever since you were gone. Only a year after you left and she already passed the exam with flying colors."
"Oh? As expected of her, she always was dedicated to her duties," nodding in approval, the red knight threw a dry branch into the camp fire.
Although he didn't seem to realize that he was the cause of her dedication. His Servant really was dense in this type of matter.
"Mira… she and her siblings seemed to have taken an S-Rank mission just two days ago," Makarov pointed out as he played with his white moustache.
Seeing his Servant's enquiring look, he went on, "They were somehow able to finish the mission, but the four of them were injured and must be hospitalized for a couple of days."
For a moment, his Servant's expression turned wavered. "…Were the injuries fatal?"
"It may take a while for them to recover, but they didn't suffer anything permanent. On the other hand, Elfman seemed to have finally been able to perform a full body take-over after clearing this mission."
"I see…" He smiled again, his mind drifted elsewhere for an instant. "So he finally did it…" He mumbled in a silent tone, albeit his Master was still able to catch on to what he said.
"Although I heard that the mission was a close one. If Natsu hadn't come with them I fear that something terrible would have happened," Makarov added, scratching the back of his old head.
"True, it was a wise decision on their part to take Natsu with them. Those kids work best when they are together, after all."
"Hmm… and you don't think you had anything to do as to why they were able to take Natsu with them? I know for a fact that Elfman used to be quite stubborn when it comes to getting help from anyone other than his siblings."
The red knight chuckled and shook his head in denial. "Of course not. The things that he did and the choices that he made were all entirely up to him. The best I did for him was teaching him the basics of combat and how to handle his opponents. The rest were all up to him."
The old Guild Master laughed heartily for a moment, but proceeded nonetheless. "Both Natsu and Gray have a lot of potential to become S-Class Mages, but they are still too immature to bear that kind of responsibility. Cana looked ready, but she also still has some ways to go before reaching Erza and Mira's level."
"Yes, I can imagine that quite well. Speaking of Cana, is Gildarts still in Magnolia?" His Servant inquired, his eyes never leaving its focus.
"No, he left the town for another long-term mission a year after you went away. He said if he found you on his way he would probably take you out on a drink or something like that."
"Ah…" His eyes shifting downwards, the white-haired Servant looked as if he was deep in thought. The following few seconds though, he immediately broke away his thought process and began asking more questions. "Did anything else important happen?"
The cheery atmosphere disappeared as Makarov's face twisted into a grim look. "You, of course, remembered of the time when I banished Ivan from the Guild?"
Shirou nodded, a faint look of distaste replaced his demeanor.
Ivan Dreyar, his one and only son who he exiled from Fairy Tail. Although gifted with power, the man attained a cruel and abrasive personality. The way he looked down on every other Guild member made him particularly hated despite being the son of the Master of Fairy Tail. He and Shirou, especially, did not get along well.
Ivan was crazed with power, and would stop at nothing to gain more. For instance, he even planted a Dragon Lacrima into his own son, ignoring the fact that Laxus was not born with a particularly strong body. But that was not the reason why he decided to banish his son. No matter how twisted or evil his son had become, they were still family and Makarov was never one to abandon familial love.
Ivan Dreyar desired Fairy Tail's secrets, and managed to learn one of its most sensitive pieces of information, therefore endangering Fairy Tail, Makarov had to excommunicate him and denounced his family rights. He had no other choice, even if his own grandson had to hate him for not telling him anything.
"It seems that he's back… and he established a Guild by the name of 'Raven's Tail'. There hasn't been any direct confirmation, but rumors state that it's operating as a Dark Guild. To make things worse its base of operations is currently unknown."
Listening intensely towards his Master, Shirou nodded in confirmation, getting what the former was trying to say. "I'll see what I can do, Master."
Emiya Shirou, his Servant, had more experience involving matters with Dark Guilds than any of the Fairy Tail members combined. Not even Gildarts, who had traveled across Earthland throughout his years, could compare. Be it by his order or by Shirou's own freewill, the Servant Archer took down a lot of branches in the Dark Guild factions. Although he wasn't able to destroy any of the major Dark Guilds such as the ones in the Balam Alliance, he still managed to cripple a considerable amount of their plans.
A testament of how powerful Servants really are.
That was also the reason why the Magic Council seemed really eager to recruit him into their ranks, something that naturally, Makarov and Shirou never agreed to.
Makarov sighed at their predicament, but nonetheless changed the topic. "That aside, how is your mission progressing, Shirou?"
"Well enough, I suppose. It took me some time to dig the necessary information, but I believe I'm making enough progress." Throwing another branch of firewood, he informed.
A 100-Year Job could never be compared with a single S-Rank mission. There was no direct measure to its level of difficulty, but just as its name implies, not a single soul managed to complete it within a century. As it was, the sole person who managed to take the burden and returned to tell the tale was Gildarts.
If he could recall the job description correctly, then Shirou should be somewhere in the middle of the country Sin, located on a peninsula on the southern part of the continent.
Eradicating the undead and its source.
"...I don't think we can continue this conversation any longer, Master. The magical relay here is getting unstable."
Static once again began to form, although the image projected from the Lacrima was still discernable.
"Are you sure you don't want to see them?" Makarov furrowed a brow as he asked his Servant. "I think everybody here wants to meet you after so long."
The white-haired Servant chuckled in a good nature, but otherwise remained impervious. "No, there's no need for that." He stood up, and his red-cloak materialized into existence. "I will eventually return. Or do you really doubt me that much, Master?" He gave his Master a challenging smirk.
"Of course! I can't let you go free and handle those kids myself!"
They shared a good laugh at that, but the static became worse and the image started to become blurry.
"I bid you a good night then, Master."
After a single nod from Makarov, the Lacrima reverted back into its original state.
Letting the projected Lacrima fade from existence, Shirou extinguished the fireplace and headed towards his destination.
Fiore had a lot of circumstances inside it. Thievery, evil Dark Guilds trying to overthrow the rule of Magic Council and ruin the society, dangerous creatures going ballistic near towns or villages, murder, and various others Shirou could not list due to its abundance.
Guilds, a place where Mages gather, were created in order to solve these issues. A good number of Legal Guilds in Fiore were able to solve the problems through taking the job request system applied to the Guild management system by the Magic Council. Whereas Mages try to solve the emerging issues, the Magic Council was able to fill the remaining gap and preserve the serenity in said country.
However, in this country, where he was at right now, there was no such thing.
Total public disorder.
Poverty, ruin, economic downfall; there was no doubt that this country was falling apart.
About half of the towns in this part of the continent were about to fall apart, with a few already deserted by their people.
The number of Guilds active in this land could be counted with both hands. Even Dark Guilds, which people would expect to amass in such a place, were nowhere to be seen. In such a country, the number of rogue mages exceeded the amount of Mages from the Legal Guilds added together.
In Sin, people were living in fear.
It was said to happen because of a plague; a curse from the Black Warlock.
Reanimation of the dead.
It wasn't the sort of situation where lifeless bodies rose from their graves and bit people on the flesh before spreading the disease and triggering a zombie apocalypse type of situation like in those movies he and Rin once watched.
On the contrary, this 'plague' never seemed to spread any further than the borders separating Sin and its neighboring country.
Additionally, their bodies never seemed to deteriorate, and the heavily damaged bodies remained stagnant despite being lifeless. Instead, their bodies turned pale, and were altered in gruesome ways. Some of the corpses' arms were deformed into that of a deformed blade with bulging purple veins, while some seemed to form razor sharp claws that could turn wood into shreds.
Someone or something was preserving their bodies, and controlling them.
That was the conclusion Shirou took after observing the situation for months.
These corpses remained active both at day and night, and their common behavior was to attack and kill any living human in their sight, ignoring everything else in sight.
Their movements were sluggish, but their strength was about twice a regular human. There were two ways to kill them: either damage their brain enough, or severely damage the bodies.
Doing so would eliminate the connection between them and whoever was behind this.
Shirou had handled the cases of walking undead before. Taking care of Dead Apostles was a part of his job before he was summoned into this world, but these corpses were nowhere near the level of a Dead Apostle. These dead bodies did not possess the superior reflexes and its physical capabilities were way underneath the Dead Apostles. At best, their strength was only comparable to a below-average The Dead.
Alone, a regular Mage could easily take down ten or twenty of them with ease. A person like Gildarts could possibly handle hundreds of them without breaking a sweat.
But what made them terrifying on the people's eyes were their rapidly increasing numbers and impressive endurance.
When they managed to kill a single individual, the target would immediately turn within a matter of minutes.
One fourth of the country's population had dropped since longer than a century ago, killed by the undead.
Their numbers were reaching hundreds of thousands, but they spread over the lands unorganized. The Magic Council had sent soldiers and Mages in order to help the situation, but their morale was low and the best they could manage was to keep off the undead from entering the remaining towns. For more than a century, the Magic Council supervised the safety of the civilians and kept them safe from harm. But the number of deployed soldiers and Mages were dwindling, either from fear of dying or death by the undeads' assaults.
The number of Mages in Earthland was approximately ten percent of its overall population. A majority of the soldiers sent by the Magic Council did not possess any Magical Power or the capacity to even perform minor Magic. They were normal people, trying their hardest to protect the people with their lives.
No matter how much Shirou desired it, he couldn't be at more than one place at the same time.
He had seen his share of failures.
And every single one of them left a bitter taste in his mouth.
But he could only look forward.
No matter how many of them he killed, they never stopped coming. It was an endless onslaught with no clear conclusion.
But he had found a lead. After investigating for so long, he had found the source of this country's endless nightmares.
The presence was faint, it was of no wonder the people of this land was unable to detect the source. Even him, who always had been sensitive when it came to detecting the perturbing presence of spells, had trouble sensing the nauseating atmosphere.
In front of him was a large stone gate with intrinsic and complex symbols. As he stepped closer, he could feel the sickening sensation becoming stronger.
Pushing open the gate with both hands, the cave was filled with a rough, opening sound. When a gap revealed itself, a large blast of wind passed through him.
It was dark. The only source of light was the moonlight that shone down through the small crevices on the cave's ceiling. It was illuminated enough for Shirou to clearly see the path.
A one-way stone path that looked fairly unstable.
Carefully examining the interior of the cave while walking down the narrow path, he sensed that the revolting presence was near.
Then, there was a voice.
"hUmAN… nO… SpIRiT! hOW diD yOu fInD THiS pLaCE?"
Its sound was distorted, unlike that of a human voice.
A gigantic figure appeared, hidden in the veils of darkness. Azure light flickered from its eyes all the way to its lower boundaries. The light glow from its body illuminated the darkness, revealing something that made him widen his eyes in pure undiluted surprise.
Or rather, what remained from its decaying body.
An elongated skull with razor sharp jaws, connected by jagged spines all the way to its tail bones, the tip of its tail had a knife like structure, and its immense claws were covered with whitish tissues the whole way to the underside of its skeletal structure. Its ribcage, held together by some black membrane, held an ephemeral glow that illumed by the seconds. Its wings soared open, some of the tissues that held its structure together filled with holes.
Truly it held the gaunt appearance of what seemed to be a former majestic being.
Shirou's expression stiffened as he tried to take his situation into account. He opened his mouth and carefully chose his words, "It took me a long time to discover this place. Of course, you did well hiding this place for more than a hundred years. Without collecting information from the libraries all over this dying country and my ability to sense unearthly magical presences, there would be no chance for me to identify your domain. After all, the people of this land do not fully know the concept of a Bounded Field. Not to mention an especially strong one at that."
"yOu... aRE nO oRdINAry SPiRiT. wHAt IS A bOdY FrOm tHE ThRONe oF heROeS dOiNg hERe?!"It roared in fury, its gargantuan claws crushing the edge of the pillar that supported its body.
As expected of a member of the Transcendent Kind, even in death its intelligence never once left them.
Dragons are, at the least in his own world, a legendary non-human creature found in legends and fantasies. They existed all the way back since even before the Age of Gods, and their name was far-famed in the world of thaumaturgy. They are the pinnacle of the Phantasmal Species, and seeing even a single one of them is considered a miracle in the world of Magi.
Shirou never expected having to deal with a former member of Phantasmal Species' finest.
"…nO mAtTer. THerE iS nO nEeD fOR FrIVOloUs TaLK."
Spreading its wings to its full brilliance, it soared under the cracked ceilings and let loose a blood-curdling roar, shattering the upper walls of the cave and letting the brilliance of the moon into their view.
Shirou would be lying if he said he was not intimidated at the very least. His opponent was a former being that was closest to Gaia herself, how could he not be?
It was simply the fact that he was a Servant and he had duties he had to fulfill that prevented him from backing down.
"bY tHe WiIl oF ZeReF, I, ZiLVa, sHaLl SEnD yOu bACk To WHeRE YOu bELoNG!"
Emiya Shirou was a Heroic Spirit, called down from the Throne of Heroes by Zeref, the Black Warlock, and was anchored to this world through unknown means.
Summoned as Servant Archer, no regular Mage or Magus could even hope to scratch him. Conventional weapons would always be rendered useless against a Servant, and while his Magical Resistance was only D in rank, the numerous battle experiences he sustained and the number of weapons he has at his disposal gave him an edge towards any type of battle.
Furthermore, this being had just revealed that Zeref was the one responsible for its current state.
For his promise and his purpose, he could not lose. For the people of this land and the lives they had given up for it, he could not fail them.
And most of all…
They were waiting for him. He promised his Master he would return safely.
The ground quaked, and the wailing of soulless bodies surrounded him. Tracing the yin and yang blades, he brandished both blades to his sides, his determination unwavering.
He would not lose. So long as he walked on his path of swords.
"So, the gears of the events had finally been set up…"
He leaned down the soft plains, watching the endless clouds with hollow eyes. For the first time in many centuries, he smiled.
"I hope you can exceed my expectations… Archer."
End of Chapter
Author's note continued: As I said before, changes will be made. Shirou's involvement on canon changes does not necessarily involve his direct involvement. His influence over the kids is enough to alter some parts of the original plot.
Lisanna was saved, Elfman was able to control his full body take-over, and that means Mira will not experience a drastic personality change.
In canon plotline, her change was triggered by 'the loss of someone closest to her'. I think this is obvious enough as in Edolas, the alternate Mira's personality was the same with the original one. So expect a tougher Mira who loves to prank on Shirou and Erza in the future. Her appearance will not be the same as canon after the original timeline starts. If anyone is interested, the picture to her new look (not owned by me, obviously) is comparable to the link I put up on the bottom of my profile.
And the last part about the undead was completely original. Since the events in the Fairy Tail series until now had been focused in Fiore, and the author of Fairy Tail manga claimed that he named the other countries on the continent beside Fiore at random, he wasn't planning to delve much into any country beside Fiore.
Hey, if a talking fish and a talking cat exist, then why not something similar to the undead in nasuverse? 100-Year Jobs have never been explained clearly in the Fairy Tail series after all besides being extremely dangerous and no one has been able to finish it for more than a century.
I guess that's enough ranting from me for now. My studies are biting me in the ass, and this year is my most important study year. I'll write when possible, and I praise the Gods for freeing me from that horrid MMORPG that stopped me from writing for more than two months.
Thank you for reading, please review on the way back, constructive criticisms are always welcomed, and have a good day.
Goodbye for now.