Guys I love you. Desperately so.
Even though Mirajane wasn't allowed to leave the castle, she found that she really didn't want to. Despite being surrounded by the stone walls, the amount of freedom the castle gave her was more than she'd ever had in her entire life. The invisible servants, although she couldn't see them, were the kindest of people and the grounds outside were magnificent to explore.
But the one thing Mira enjoyed the most about her unexpected and newfound life was the master of the castle, Lord Justine. Despite his strange, scaly appearance, he was every bit a noble gentleman and Mirajane wasn't frightened of him one bit.
There was a library in castle, one filled with many magnificent books that Freed was often found in. After a bit of nosiness and prying, she found which books he liked the best – he had a preference for plays by Shakespeare. It was in the library that Freed spent most of his time, there or in the courtyards practicing his swordplay. Or else he would disappear for hours on end, to a place Mirajane could only guess was the West Wing – the one place in the castle she was not allowed to enter.
But although her curiosity was strong, there were too many other wonders of the castle for the West Wing to matter much.
It was one day while she was watching him in the courtyards, leaning against the cracked stone wall and reading a play that Freed had picked out when she decided to ask him. "Freed, why am I not allowed in the West Wing?"
He paused, rapier hovering in the air. "It isn't that you aren't allowed," he said finally. Mira raised her eyebrows as he continued the movements. "I would just rather you didn't. There are many things there a fine lady such as yourself was not meant to witness."
Mira scoffed lightly. Freed finally looked over at her. "You disagree?"
"I am not a fine lady, Freed," she smiled sweetly at him. "Just a simple townsgirl."
He shook his head, dark, moss-green hair swaying. "You are anything but simple, Lady Mirajane."
Mira snapped the book closed. Hopping down from the stone wall, she brushed off her skirts and stepped onto the courtyard floor. Freed smiled slightly at her. "Bored with my friend Shakespeare already?"
"Not at all!" Mira laughed. "The Tempest is lovely. I may be falling in love with Ferdinand."
"Then why put it down?"
Mira leaned forward. "Teach me how to fence."
Freed started. "Fence?"
"Yes!" She clapped her hands. "I've always wanted to learn, and you're the best I've ever seen at it. Come on! Teach me!" She tugged on his arm.
Freed laughed. "Well then, all right. First off, the stance."
They spent the entire afternoon there in the courtyard. Unbeknownst to them, they were being watched by invisible eyes.
Later that night, as Mirajane was having her hair combed – it was always strange to watch strands of it float in the air in the mirror – Lucy began to tease her. "You and Lord Justine looked awfully close today."
Mira started, whipping her head around. "You saw?"
"We all saw," Levy piped up. "Gajeel says you two looked awfully touchy-feely."
"The one who makes all Freed's swords," Lucy sighed. "And the secret love of Levy's life."
A thought that had been worming its way into the back of Mira's mind for a few days made its way off her lips. "Why are you all invisible?"
There was silence. For a moment, Mirajane was afraid she'd offended them. But then, Lucy spoke. "We are all under a curse," she said softly.
"A curse?" Mira perked up in interest. "What kind?"
"The worst kind." Lucy's voice was dark. "It did not only curse the master to be a beast, but the entire household to be invisible and the castle to fall into disrepair..."
Mirajane sat up. "So Freed wasn't always like that?"
"Oh, no." Bisca's voice joined the conversation. "He was once an incredibly handsome man, you know. But he was cruel and selfish, and treated others without respect."
"Really?" Mirajane was confused. "But he's so chivalrous!"
"Now he is," Levy added. "He learned his lesson quite well when his own family drove him out."
"Oh, dear," Mirajane sniffed. "That's horrid. Isn't there any way for the curse to be broken?"
"There is," Bisca started.
"But we can't tell you," Lucy cut in quickly. "It's part of the curse."
Mirajane settled back into her seat. Poor Freed...to have been driven out by his own family... but then, didn't she know the exact feeling?
"You care for him, don't you?" Lucy noted. Mira felt her face flush.
"W-well, yes, I do. I mean, he's been nothing but kind to me, and-"
Lucy laughed. "No need to explain. I saw you in the courtyard, remember?"
After Mirajane had been at the castle for a month, they decided to hold a party. Even though Freed and Mirajane were the only ones seen, there were good times held by all on the dance floor – especially as Mira and Freed kept running into people.
"Oh!" Mira gasped, falling over. "Oh, I'm so sorry Lucy!"
"Actually that was me," Bisca snickered. Freed, too was chuckling. "Why, Lord Justine, that's the first time I've heard you laugh since – well, you know."
Freed extended his arm down to Mira. She grasped it, allowing him to pull her to her feet. "It's the ballgown," she explained sheepishly. "I am not used to so much fabric."
"It's a stunning ballgown," he said. She looked down, blushing with pleasure. It really was, yards of golden cloth and shining jewels. Freed himself looked dashing enough, with a blue coat edged on gold and his hair tied neatly at the back. Despite the scaliness of his skin, horns and glowing eyes, he looked almost handsome.
Taking his hand in her own, she very gently began to dance. Freed, as always, looked startled that she didn't pull away from his claws. But he melted into her arms, and soon they were whirling away across the floor looking for all the world like a king and queen.
Later that night, Freed asked her, "Are you happy here?"
"Well, of course I am!" Mira looked astounded. "Why on Earth wouldn't I be?" her face fell. "It's wonderful here, really... there I just one thing..."
"What is that?"
"My family." She looked up at him. "In leaving home, I left my two siblings in the care of my father. I just wish if I could know if they were all right."
He touched her cheek. "There is a way."
He led her to the West Wing. Mirajane followed him in wonder up the stairs, into the dark tower filled with cobwebs and broken glass. "What on Earth happened here?"
"This is where I spent most of my time after the curse first hit," he explained. "I was so angry then." He took something off the table, holding it out to her. It was a small, handheld mirror. "This was my only way to see out."
She took it with shaking hands. "Is it..."
Mira stared into the mirror. Speaking directly to it, she said with a shaking voice, "I'd like to see my family, please."
All at once, the mirror flared to life, emitting a green light. Mira jumped back, nearly dropping it. Freed's hands circled around hers, catching it before it slipped. "Th-thank you," she mumbled, eyes focused on the mirror's depths.
Now through the glass, she could see her siblings sitting on a plush carpet. But despite the beautiful decorations of the mansion, both Elfman and Lisanna were lying on the floor, pale and sweating and looking very, very sick.
Mirajane gasped, shoving the mirror back into Freed's chest. Her eyes were wide, and she was shaking all over. "Father," she whispered hoarsely. "What have you done?"
"What is it?" Freed asked urgently. Mira shook her head frantically.
"He...he's done something, he's neglecting them...oh, all this time, I've been so happy and they've suffering!" She began to pace back and forth. "How long has this been going on? How sick are they? Does he even-"
Freed grabbed her arm. "Mirajane, stop."
She looked at him, finally stopping. His gaze was piercing and fierce. "You have to go to them."
"Go. I release you." He dropped her arm. "I shouldn't have kept you here for so long. It was selfish of me."
Mirajane grabbed his arm, lacing her fingers through his. Freed gave a visible shudder. "It wasn't selfish. I wanted to stay."
"But your family needed you. They always have."
She sniffed. Mirajane didn't want to leave. She really, truly loved it here, in this dilapidated old castle with snarky, invisible servants. And if it had been any other thing, she would not have stepped foot outside the door. But...
"Thank you," she said quietly. "Thank you for understanding how much they need me."
Picking up her skirts, she ran to the door of the West Wing. As she ran, she tossed back over her shoulder, "I'll come back! I promise, Freed!"
And then she was gone.
Mirajane raced through the forest, slipping on all the mud and melted snow. Landing on her knees, she cursed as the mud stained her ballgown. In her rush to leave the castle, she hadn't bothered to change or find a proper mode of transportation. The only thing on her mind was getting back to her siblings.
It was as if she had shifted into some demon mode. Her hair flew out behind her as she ran like the wind, never once tiring and eventually gaining her footing on more solid ground. A roar ripped itself from her lungs as the village came into view, and she picked up her speed like a madwoman.
She crashed through the gate of the fancy mansion her father had bought, ignoring the cries of the servants and gardeners. Upon reaching the heavy oak front door, she found it locked and barred shut. Angrily, she threw herself at it continuously until it went flying off its hinges.
Other housemaids screamed in alarm at the terrifying, figure in the doorway. Chest heaving, Mirajane stumbled into the unfamiliar house. She tracked mud all the way up the stairs, the where one of the doors had been sealed shut and labelled 'contaminated.'
"No, you can't go in there!" One of the servants cried, reaching for her. Mirajane pushed him off savagely, growling. Raising one foot, she began kicking at the door until it splintered inward.
Finally inside the room, Mirajane approached the two shivering heaps on the floor. The demonic rage that had overtaken her filtered away, leaving her with nothing but a sickening worry for Elfman and Lisanna. She knelt beside them, placing a hand on their foreheads. Instantly, she knew exactly what was wrong with them, and how to fix it.
When Lisanna opened her eyes, it was to Mirajane wringing out a cold cloth on the bedside table. She blinked blearily, groaning. "Mira? What are you doing here?"
Immediately Mirajane was at her side, brushing back her hair and cooing. "Are you all right? How do you feel?"
"Much better," Lisanna mumbled, blinking rapidly. "How's Elfman?"
Mira gestured to his steadily rising and falling chest. "He woke up a while ago. Napping now."
"What happened?" Lisanna asked, sitting up. "Wait – Mira! It's you! How did you escape the beast?"
She shook her head lightly. "I didn't escape, he let me go."
Lisanna furrowed her brows. "He let...you go?"
I saw in the mirror that you two were sick. He let me come and take care of you."
"But-" Lisanna sat up even straighter. "You can't possibly mean you're going back?"
"Of course I am," Mira said mildly. I left before I could tell Freed something very important."
Elfman, having apparently woke up, joined the conversation. "Who is Freed?"
"The man Father had the nerve to call a beast," Mirajane muttered irritably. "Speaking of whom, where is he? I have some harsh words directly for him."
"What do you mean?"
"Don't you two get it?" Mirajane cried suddenly, causing the other two to jump back in surprise. You didn't just get sick; you got food poisoning! That man we all called Father has turned on us all, because he believes us to be burdens!" She stomped her foot, nearly tearing her hair out in anger. "He wanted me to take your place and go to Freed's instead of you, Lisanna! He thought he could deal with you two, but apparently he decided he couldn't because he poisoned your food! It was only thanks to Freed that I even knew you were sick!"
Elfman and Lisanna were staring at her, white-faced. "Oh, Mira," her sister whispered. "I'm so sorry."
She shook her head vehemently. "No, don't you be. He's the one who has to be sorry."
"No, that's not it." Elfman had his head in his hands. "Father left yesterday morning. He said...he was going on a quest to bring you home."
Mira gaped. "Wh...what?"
"He said he's going to kill the beast."
Freed did not bother to look up as the door to the West Wing swung open. After spending so many years together, he knew exactly who is was, and addressed them before they could speak. "What is it, Bixlow?"
"Freed, listen. You have to snap out of this funk you're in, there's a guy at the castle gates and he doesn't look too happy."
"That happens a lot. We don't have a gardener."
"No! I mean – we know this guy! It's the dude who sold out his daughter!"
Freed's head snapped up. "What?" Then his eyes widened. "Bixlow, behind you!"
Mirajane's father grinned triumphantly as he stuck his sword forward into what was seemingly thin air. But the sickening squelch and Bixlow's cries of pain landed heavy on Freed's pointed ears. "Thank you, beast," the man snarled. "You've saved me so much trouble!"
With a roar, Freed launched himself forward, pinning the man to the wall by his throat. "Bastard!" He snarled. "How dare you!"
The man grinned, wheezing through Freed's grip. "I've come to kill you, wretched creature."
"Why? It can't be because of your daughter! I let her go!"
The man began to laugh. "Did you, now? You must have truly cared about her. She's like her mother that way."
Freed tightened his grip. "Then why are you here?"
"Simple," the man choked. "You have wealth, and I want it. Too bad about Mirajane, though. I'll have to dispose of her when I get back. Again."
It was enough to anger Freed into losing his control and focus, therefore allowing the man an opportunity to bring up his sword. With a shout of victory, he plunged it deep into Freed's stomach.
The beast stumbled away, clutching at his wound. His ears buzzed, and he fell to his knees. Couching wretchedly, he saw black blood spatter the carpeting.
Mirajane's father massaged his neck, swing his sword around. "Time for a little payback," he announced cruelly, approaching Freed's fallen form. He raised the blade above his exposed neck, while Freed struggled to raise his head.
Both men started visibly. Mirajane stood in the doorway, chest heaving, hair frazzled, and looking every bit like she'd slipped back into demon form. "You," her father snarled. "How dare you!"
Mira said no words, merely darted across the room and punched her father out of the way. He stumbled back, ankles catching on something invisible and falling over. Bixlow gave a groan, and Freed felt another rush of relief. His friend was still alive.
Mira knelt in front of him, tears dripping from her eyes. "Freed, I'm so sorry," she whispered, voice cracking. "This is all my fault, I never should have left."
"No," he shook his head, dizzying himself. "I'm simply happy you're here."
Mirajane choked back a sob. "Please don't die," she whimpered. "Promise me you won't die. Not yet." He coughed, and her voice became louder. "Promise!"
"I promise," he mumbled, before slipping into unconsciousness. Mira let out a sob that sounded more like a scream.
"Foolish girl," her father slurred, dragging himself to his feet. "He's only a monster."
"He's not the monster, Father, you are!" Mirajane roared, all traces of the sweet girl she usually was gone. Reaching down, she pulled Freed's rapier from its sheath.
"Are you really going to fight me?" He asked incredulously. He didn't answer, merely threw herself forward in a flurry of attacks that had her father's grin fading within seconds.
He growled as she pushed forward, causing him to step back and back until his hit the window. He grabbed her wrist, swinging her around so the glass shattered. Mira shouted in agony, flailing as his grip around her wrist tightened like iron, and the ground beneath her feet disappeared as she dangled from the tower window.
"Good," he laughed at her. "I'm glad you came back. I'll have an easier time getting rid of you!"
"Why don't you love us, Father?" Mirajane asked him. Her voice had gone soft, and she looked at him with large, sad eyes. He faltered.
"I do love you," he answered unsteadily. "But I love myself more. Don't you see? That's the only way to be strong in this world."
Mirajane shook her head. "No, Father, you're wrong. Love makes you strong, yes, but it's your feelings for those you love that make you stronger."
"What do you know about strength?" he pulled her in close. "You speak about love making you strong, Mirajane Strauss, and yet here you are, about to be killed by me. You are weak!"
She gave him one last, long, sad look. "It appears nothing can save you," she murmured. "Father, I want you to know, I am truly, deeply sorry."
Mira brought her feet up, pushing against the stone wall while pulling down the arm that her father had. Jerked forward, he toppled over the windowsill, losing his footing completely. Mirajane threw up her free arm, just barely catching the windowsill and screaming as the broken glass cut through her palms.
Her father plummeted out of the tower, falling to his death with a long loud shriek that lasted until he disappeared into the fog below. Mira closed her eyes, tears flowing down her cheeks as she heard him all the way down.
Arm shaking, she struggled to hold on to the windowsill. Mira tried to pull herself up, but she had lost too much strength. Her fingers were slipping as it was.
Suddenly, something warm closed around her wrist and she started in surprise when she saw nothing there. But the angry, feminine voice made her cry out in joy.
The snarky maid pulled her up and into the tower with surprising strength. "Yeah yeah, don't mention it," she shot. "I didn't do it because I cared, or anything."
Mira smiled gratefully in her voice's general direction. A groan from Freed, however, had the smile slipping from her face as she ran to his fallen figure.
"No, Freed, you promised," she hissed. "You promised me you wouldn't die, okay? You have to keep that promise!"
Two more people appeared at the door. "Elfman! Lisanna!" Mirajane said thickly. "What are you doing?"
"We followed you," he said simply. "Sorry we aren't as fast as you."
She bit her lip. Turning once again to Freed, she pushed a lock of green hair away from his dark face. "Freed, listen to me. I have to tell you something, okay?"
He shifted. "Uhn...no, Mirajane, listen..."
"No, you listen!" She hissed fiercely. "You cannot die, not here, and not now, because... because you haven't taught me to fence yet! There are still so many things I have to learn...and you have to wait until I'm finished The Tempest! You have to hear my review, and..." her voice broke. "You can't die because I haven't told you I love you yet! So don't die! Okay?"
Silence. Elman hugged Lisanna as Mirajane's quiet sobs filled the room.
Lightning filled the sky, cracking across the tower and making everyone scream. Mira threw herself over Freed's body protectively as a bolt came right through the window, landing on the carpet. She shielded her eyes, and when she brought her hand away, Mira gasped.
There was a man standing in the middle of the room, glowing and crackling like lightning itself. He raised a jagged eyebrow at the scene, speaking in a deep, echoing voice. "So. he finally did it, eh?"
"Who are you?" Mira demanded, jumping to her feet. Evergreen shushed her.
"Don't! That's the evil wizard who cursed us!"
He sighed, fixing his eyes to exactly where she stood, as though he could see right through her invisibility. "Just because I rejected you, Ever, doesn't make me evil."
"Yes it does!"
"And Freed." He turned to the still man. "Poor guy. He really didn't deserve such an awful curse. Heat of the moment, ya know? Anyway," he hefted the fur cloak on his shoulders. "You can't undo a curse once you start it, but what were the terms of curse-breaking?" He pulled a scroll from nowhere, checking through all the points. "Fall in love with a maiden, check...make her love you back, check...before the final petal on that rose wilts. Oh, wait, I forgot to even give him a rose to begin with."
The man rolled the scroll shut. "Well, that's all there is to it, then. The curse on this castle and all its inhabitants is broken."
A bright, blinding, searing light overtook the castle. Mirajane once again covered her eyes, but not before she saw Freed's body lifting into the air.
When the light dimmed, the castle was as bright as day, while the sun beamed outside. Evergreen was standing completely visible, and Bixlow was both visible and healed completely. He pulled off his helmet, staring incredulously at the reflection. "Holy," he said. All throughout the castle, cries of joy could be heard as invisible servants were returned to their natural state.
And standing in the middle of the room was a man Mirajane didn't recognize.
He was tall, slim, and pale, all devastatingly handsome features in her eyes. His hair was bright, grassy green, and it gleamed like silk beside the glowing wizard. He wore a red overcoat that Mirajane recognized as Freed's, but...it couldn't possibly be him.
The man looked down at his hands in wonder. "I'm me again," he said in Freed's voice. Looking up to Mirajane, she saw very familiar eyes. "Mirajane! I'm me!"
"You're you!" was all she could say, and threw herself into his embrace. "Moreover, you're alive, you dummy!" Pulling away, she kissed him so fiercely on the lips everyone else in the room looked away.
Freed looked at the wizard once she pulled away. "Laxus..."
He held up his hands. "I know, I know. No need to thank me."
"He wasn't going to thank you!"
"Shut up, Ever."
There was a great banquet in the dining hall, one that Laxus did not attend but simply waved goodbye before disappearing out of the tower in lightning bolt form. But everyone else gathered around, servants and lords alike, tossing around food with abandon and breaking out into several food fights.
It was decided that Elfman and Lisanna would stay in the castle with Mirajane, and she was overjoyed to see them both hitting it off with Evergreen and Bixlow. Mira was also reunited with her handmaidens, all of whom she embraced tightly. She then watched as Lucy, Levy, and Bisca rejoin their lovers, smiles on even some of the hardest of faces.
At one point, Freed stood up to make a speech about how very sorry he was for everything; but was instantly booed down and thrown food at, because he shouldn't be apologizing for Laxus being a jerk.
And as for Freed and Mirajane, well, what else is there to say about them but that they lived happily ever after?
Mira closed the book quietly, placing in gently on the bedside table so as to not wake the sleeping children. They looked like angels in bed – well, Mary Jane and Hugo did, at least. Fern had inherited her father's green hair, and her mother's sleeping habits; meaning she sprawled over the bed and snored quite loudly.
Slipping out of their bedroom, Mira closed the door and turned around to come face-to-chest with her husband. Grinning up at him, she tugged on a strand of his long hair. "You get taller every time I see you."
"Nonsense," he smiled gently down at her. "You see me at least thirty times a day and usually more, if I got taller every time I'd be out in the atmosphere by now."
"You and your logic," she teased, and he kissed her gently.
"I heard the story you told them tonight."
"Do you really think of me as a beast?" he said mockingly. She tilted her head.
"Well, if you consider the first time we really had a full-length conversation you tried to kill my brother..."
He swept her up into his arms, carrying her bridal style towards the bedroom. She laughed quietly, lacing her hands behind his neck. "I love you, Freed, beastly side and all."
"I love you, too, Mirajane Justine."
Again, not edited because this needed to be posted ASAP. I couldn't leave you guys for one more second! Considering this is my last day of school and now I face two weeks of exams! (Ack!)
I mentioned before how much I love you all, but I'll try and drive the point home a little harder. I love you all! Really! Each and every one of you who followed, fave'd, reviewed, even just clicked and read it once! I'll never really be able to fully make you understand unless I track you all down and send you a million long-stemmed red roses and ice sculptures and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates buuuut I'm too lazy to do that so I'll just give you all big, sloppy kisses through the screen. MWAH~!
Now I suppose this is goodbye...unless I randomly decide one day to write up a bonus chapter or two. It's not entirely out of the question...
But for now I will leave you with all my love and a simple, once again, thank you.