Chapter 1: Burn it to the ground, Substitute Soul Reaper!
(A/N: If you're reading this for the first time, then not only did I intrigue you with this crossover, but you also would not know that the first three chapters are now rewritten. One of my friends who reviewed this story made me realise that what I wrote wasn't as good as I originally thought.
So I decided to change that by making this better! Better pacing, better characterisation, better narrative structure – all of the important things that make a story good.
I owe thanks to Greatkingrat88 for inspiring me to re-evaluate my story.)
I do not own Bleach or Fairy Tail. Borrowed dialogue from episodes 40 and 41 are accredited to FUNimation. HAS YET TO BE BETA-READ.
"He's aiming . . ." Erza muttered. ". . . at the tower…!"
Natsu landed on the ground, smirking. That'd teach Jellal to make Erza suffer. If anyone even so much as thought about hurting one of his friends, he was gonna make them pay. No matter what the cost.
However, one problem remained.
He was exhausted. He had been fighting different opponents all day, and his magic was slowly depleting to almost useless levels. Pretty soon Jellal would overpower him.
Heh, let him try.
"Now I'm angry," Jellal growled, obviously furious. "I didn't spend years building this Tower just to have some punk tear it down! I won't let you!"
So what? It was only a tower. No… No, that wasn't true. It was more than a tower. It was the source of Erza's torment and heartache.
Holding his stomach and standing up, Natsu said through breathes, "Tough break, pal. But you can't say I didn't warn ya! I told you destroyin' stuff is . . . one of my specialties."
Man he was tired. He wanted to take a good long nap after all of this. But to do that, he would have to win; have to teach Jellal a lesson. Snap him out of whatever was controlling him. He'd force him to snap out of it. And the best remedy for that was a good ol' teeth-smashing punch.
Natsu was at least good at that.
"I'LL MAKE YOU PAY!" He threw his arms above his head; his hands crossed over each other. A golden magic circle with a star in the middle appeared, and then disappeared, wildly kicking up wind, forcing Natsu to cover his face with his arms.
This magic was sickening. It was dark, and it was evil – it was like Death himself had taken the form of a black hole. "Whoa, what weird's going on with this magic!? It's making me feel sick…!"
He didn't like this – not one bit.
He thought he heard Erza shout that whatever spell Jellal was using would kill the dragon slayer. Well, that was a reasonable assumption in his opinion. That spell felt like it was made to kill. How could he stop it, when he hardly had enough strength to stay standing?
"And now, I will plunge you into infinite darkness, dragon slayer!"
"DON'T DO IT!"
Out of the blue, Erza appeared in front of Natsu. What the hell was she doing? She could get killed doing this!
"UNLESS YOU WANT TO KILL ME TOO!"
It looked like Jellal heard her, because he seemed to hesitate for a moment. The spell ceased, but Jellal didn't change his posture much.
"You don't want to lose your sacrifice to Zeref, do you?" Erza asked sternly.
Jellal admitted, "That would be a problem. The ceremony requires the body of a wizard comparable in strength to one of the Ten Wizard Saints." Jellal's eyes were shielded by his hair as he continued. "However . . . I can find a suitable replacement. You're not the only one who fits that bill."
Erza flinched, having not thought of that.
"I'll worry about that AFTER I KILL BOTH OF YOU!" That bastard. He re-casted the spell as soon as he said that.
No time to think about that now. He had to make sure Erza got out of the way before it was too late. "Watch out – what are you doing!?"
Natsu couldn't see Erza smile while she said to him, "It's my fault that you're involved in this mess. The least I can do is protect you!"
"GET OUT OF THE WAY!"
"Heavenly Body Magic…"
Ah damn it! Too late!
But the attack never came. The next thing Natsu and Erza knew, Jellal was underneath someone's foot. No, it wasn't a someone; more like a something. Whatever it was, it was not human. It was some sort of gorilla with a strange prehistoric white mask for a head, almost bird-like. And its wings were attached to its large bulky arms. But what struck Natsu as weird was the hole in this thing's chest.
Where the hell did it come from?
Earlier, at the Soul Society…
"Captain Aizen, you wanted to see me?" said Momo, arriving at the door like an obedient dog.
Good. She was right on time; 10:50 at night. Obedience certainly had its perks.
"Ah Momo, good. I see you got my message," Sosuke said suavely. "I have a special mission for you."
"I assume you know of the Dangai Precipice World, so I will cut to the chase. I got Head Captain Yamamoto's permission to send you to another world to investigate a sudden surge of Hollows having been detected there. I trust that you can handle this."
"Hollows invading another world? Doesn't that call for suspicious activity?"
He knew she would ask this. Of course, it was obvious: how was it that Hollows gained access to another world? Fortunately, only Sosuke Aizen knew the answer to that question.
He lied, "I assume a powerful Hollow opened a Garganta in a specific spot that connected them to the Dangai. It can't be helped."
"I see. So that explains it."
No, it didn't, really. It was the most ridiculous lie he had told in a while. Hollows could not just open up a random Garganta and somehow enter the Dangai. You would have to configure the Dangai first in order to connect the two worlds. Manually, to add to the difficulty.
Unless, of course, you died and went through to the Soul Society. But souls always got easy passage.
"Can I trust you to do this for me? As you can tell, I'm quite busy."
"Oh! Well of course Captain!" She bowed. "I promise to do this as efficiently as possible!"
"I have faith that you will do just that for me, Momo. Meet me at Soukyoku Hill in forty-five minutes. I will fill you in on the details when you arrive."
She raised her head and smiled. "Thank you, Captain!"
So easy to manipulate. It was all going according to plan.
"What the . . . hell…?" Erza muttered, unable to comprehend what was in front of her.
She could tell that Jellal was knocked out by this thing when it landed on top of him. He didn't seem to move a muscle. She would worry about him later. Right now she had to figure out what was going on.
This thing, whatever it was, started talking. "Well this is interesting. You two look like you can see me."
Natsu was stunned. "I-It can talk…!?" She had to sympathise with him there. She couldn't believe this either. Nothing in all of Earthland looked like this creature – something of this appearance was too surreal. And to add on top of that, it could talk?
"Yeah I can talk, big deal," the white-masked gorilla-thing replied, a filter evident in his voice, most likely because of that gigantic mask he was wearing. "What, never seen a Hollow before in your life?"
Hollow? What was that?
No matter. She would get answers later. She dropped her arms to her side and demanded, "Who are you and where did you come from?"
The 'Hollow' just laughed. "Who am I? Who am I? Oh now this is just grand! I get to eat all of you and you won't know what happened to you!" And then he laughed again before stepping off of Jellal's unconscious body. "Let's start with you first, missy."
The beast disappeared in an instant, and before she knew it, something stood in front of her before she could blink. But it wasn't a single figure like she first processed.
There were now two figures.
And she knew one of them.
Her heart sank.
There was a large person in front of her. He looked as if he stood seven-feet tall. His arms were huge, and his body structure indicated he had been exercising for a long time.
She almost refused to believe this sight. She almost wished this was someone else – someone she didn't know or care for or anything. Please, not him…
"S-Sim…on…" she managed to say before a tear escaped her.
Yes, it was true. Simon had saved her. But as a result, that thing – or Hollow, or whatever – bit down on Simon's upper body and his arms. Blood dripped onto the ground, staining the blue crystal with red. Oh god, there was so much red… There was so much blood…
"Er…za…" she heard him mutter.
She was going to respond; try to talk to him before–
The Hollow swallowed Simon whole.
Simon was dead.
Erza gasped. More fresh tears streamed from her working eye. He's gone… Simon is… She sobbed. She dropped to her knees. He's dead…!
Momo was really looking forward to this. She hadn't visited another world in like, what, a few decades ago now? How exciting! She didn't know about this 'Earthland' place, but it sounded fun.
And her captain asked her to do this…
Oh no, she wasn't letting her crush get in the way here; she had a job to do. As a Soul Reaper, one was required to act professionally while on assignments. As much as she wanted to have fun, she had to act responsibly, or else her life would be in jeopardy before she knew it.
She arrived at the execution ground in forty-five minutes, just like Captain Aizen told her to. She believed in always arriving right on time – never too early, never too late. It made Aizen happy when she did that, so she'd been doing it ever since.
There he was, standing at the edge of the hill with his Squad 5 haori billowing in the cold wind of the night; his eyes locked onto her like a hawk. It sent shivers up her spine when he gave that look. It was . . . almost tantalising.
She almost skipped along over to the man with the glasses. "I made it Captain!" But she had to be professional, so she stood at attention.
He smiled. Oh wow, it was such a good smile… "Wonderful, Momo," he said in response. "Allow me to tell you what's going to happen from here on."
"The process is quite easy," he started. "What you will do is enter through a specially designed Garganta developed by Squad 12 that will lead you through to the Dangai. From there, a portal – also thanks to the 12th Squad – will open, and once you go through it, you will arrive in Earthland."
"Forgive me Captain, but why use a Garganta instead of a Senkaimon?"
"It is because Captain Kurotsuchi asked me a favour when I asked for permission to send you on this mission during one of the captains' meetings," he answered without skipping a beat. "From what he told me, what I can tell you is that he's experimenting with different methods of transportation for Soul Reapers to possibly use in the future."
"Right, Captain. Please tell me what to do when I arrive in Earthland."
"Excellent to see you so prepared for this mission. I'm impressed, Momo."
She loved it when her captain said her name. It always gave her this warm feeling in her chest, and it made her happy. "Thank you, Captain Aizen!"
"Now, before I tell you what you have to do, you have to understand how Earthland works."
"In Earthland, there are no soul reapers. No, in Earthland there are wizards – or mages; it doesn't matter what they're called, seeing as how they mean the same thing. These wizards populate several countries, but the one I'm sending you to is known as Fiore. Fiore – and all these other countries as well – have what are known as guilds, which wizards can sign up to and become a member, and go on missions to earn money."
"That's amazing," she said. "I never knew other worlds could work like that."
"There's more. There are two types of guilds: Official guilds, and dark guilds."
She asked, "What's a dark guild?"
"Dark guilds are illegal guilds that take jobs deemed unacceptable by what is known as the Magic Council. The Magic Council works a little bit like the Thirteen Court Guard Squads, in that they are overall the ones in charge of the magic world."
"Is there anything else you would wish to ask, Lieutenant?"
She thought about it. Overall she pretty much knew everything that needed to be addressed. So with a confident shake of the head, she answered, "No Captain, what you told me will suffice."
He nodded. "In that case, let us not waste time." Momo did not know what he pulled out of his pocket, but whatever button he pushed on it, a Garganta opened up behind him. "I'll tell you one final detail: The Dangai has been manipulated to give you safe access to Earthland. You won't end up in any other world. As you know, I already told you this. However, you are very likely going to arrive in the middle of a battlefield. Remain cautious; a Hollow may be there at this very moment.
"You have one week to find and eradicate any Hollows you find. Extensions will not be possible. If there are still Hollows in Earthland, return to the Soul Society and give me a detailed report; do not stay just to complete the mission." He moved to the side of the Garganta. "Am I understood?"
"Yes, Captain." Yes, she was determined – determined to make her captain proud of what she was going to accomplish for him. Steeling herself, calming her nerves, she strolled into the Garganta, and arrived in the Dangai Precipice World.
The Cleaner appeared to be stationery. That was good. It would prevent complications. She scanned the area briefly before she found what she was looking for.
It looked like a door – a door that was embedded into the wall of the Dangai. It seemed to be made of what would be considered the most expensive wood available in the Soul Society. Redwood? Whatever the case, it wasn't important.
Putting the unnecessary thought behind her, she moved towards the door. And when she reached it, she stopped to think.
What was going to happen? What kind of people was she going to meet in Earthland? What kind of dangers was she going to have to endure while she worked to complete her job? Hopefully, she thought as she turned the doorknob, nothing will go wrong.
She opened the door. And in she walked, unaware of the trap she was lured into.
He was pissed. No, maybe that wasn't quite the right phrase to describe how angry he was. Actually, here was a word he almost never used, but knew of anyway: Livid. He was livid. This thing – a Hollow, he remembered it saying – just ate Erza's friend. Now, this Hollow could've done a lot of things in place of what happened. He could've smacked Erza and him around. He could've pushed Simon aside like nothing. He could've turned on Jellal. He could've done anything.
But to actually eat Erza's childhood friend whole? Right in front of both of them?
"You…" Fists shaking. Magic power rising. Vision becoming blinded by rage. He didn't care. "You…" Fire engulfed his hands. This bastard was so dead. "HOW DARE YOOOOUUUUUUU!"
He leapt high into the air and charged. This punch was going to smash that skull to pieces. He was going to make the son of a bitch pay for this. He was going to–
His target disappeared, and before he knew it, a large blow to his ribs sent him flying into a crystallised pillar. His back impacted so hard that he gagged and coughed up blood. He hit the ground with a thud.
What just . . . happened? He was confused. He swore he had that monster right in his sights. So how the hell did it outmanoeuvre him like that? It was almost like the Hollow teleported.
"Natsu! Are you alright?" Erza. Great, he went and made her worry about him right in the middle of her crying.
He tried to get up; tried to ignore the pain. But that guy really hit him hard. What was worse was that he got a pressure point in Natsu's ribs, so it felt like a bomb went off in his stomach when the bastard hit him. Damn it.
The Hollow laughed again. "What a joke! Is that really all you got?"
Shut up. You ain't seen nothing yet…!
"You know, you interest me, pest. I think I'll play with you for a little bit before I eat you."
Did he really just call him a pest?
He forced himself back up onto his feet, charging his flames into his fists. "TAKE…" He bolted, pulled his fist back and brought it back in front of him. "THIS!"
He finally hit the bastard in the centre of the mask. But something was wrong. Very wrong.
When he did hit the mask, his flames ceased to exist. How did that work? What was worse, he didn't even leave a scratch on the thing's head.
"Nice try, but a punch like that won't break through my hierro. Not to mention I have a natural resistance to flames of any kind."
It was after the Hollow said that that Natsu started panicking, before he was whacked on top of the head and down into the ground face-first.
What the hell was happening to him? Was he losing? But how? Where was his strength; his amazing power?
The Hollow laughed again as he stomped his foot on top of Natsu's head. Again. And again. And again.
"Well? Are you gonna do something about this?! Are you gonna save the day, save the girl, save everyone? How about it, pest? What's the verdict?!"
"GET AWAY FROM HIM!"
"What did you say to me, bit–"
Suddenly, the Hollow's foot wasn't on Natsu anymore, and he heard a crashing noise not far to his left. He lifted his head and turned towards the direction of the sound, and he saw now that the Hollow's leg was stabbed right through by one of Erza's swords.
He looked to his right, and sure enough, Erza was standing on her two legs with a sword in her hand. He recognised it as the one from her Heaven's Wheel Armour.
Thank goodness she was fighting back, at least.
He heard her growling under her breath. "I will not . . . let you take one more person away from me!" She glared, but it wasn't just any glare.
This was the glare that scared him the most: the glare that showed she was serious. And when she was serious, you'd better watch out.
The Hollow, Natsu saw when he started getting back up on his feet, pulled out her sword from his leg. "Stupid bitch, you're ruining my fun!"
She said nothing in response, and that scared Natsu even more. He could tell it was starting to unnerve the Hollow as well.
"W-Well?" That confirmed it. "Are you gonna say something?"
She started walking forward, her hair covering her eyes.
"S-Stay away…! I mean it!" The monster started stepping back.
But she ignored him. She kept walking.
Then, Natsu did the unthinkable. He had no idea what caused him to do this, but he did it anyway. With his head hung low, arm stretched out to his right, he stood in front of Erza and blocked her path, halting her.
"Move, Natsu," she said harshly, not looking up.
"Why?" she asked calmly. Oh god, now she was calm...
But he stood firm. "Because I'm the one who's going to kick his arse. Now stand back." Oh shit, he just talked back at her! He had to be going crazy.
Very slowly, she stated, "You wouldn't dare."
"You're too weak Erza. Leave him to me." Then again, he wasn't feeling 100% either…
She walked up to his arm and stopped, almost touching it. "I will make that monster pay for killing Simon."
"Killing him won't bring Simon back…"
"I'm aware of that!" she snapped, a tear escaping her. "But still, I–"
Their attention shifted to the Hollow, and the last thing they saw was a green beam of light–
–before a young woman in black robes appeared in front of the two wizards, wielding a weird sword. She successfully cleaved the light in half with it.
"What the hell!?" the Hollow exclaimed, sounding confused.
Smoke and dust formed around the area, blinding Natsu a little bit. But he had a distinct view of whoever was in front of him and Erza. Her hair was tied up, and short. The black robes billowed in the wind that was ventilating the tower. And that sword…
Where did she get one that looked like that?
"Hey…" he muttered, almost not believing what he was witnessing. "Who are you?"
Almost like she was a trained solider in the Rune Knights, Natsu heard her reply, "Squad 5 Lieutenant of the Thirteen Court Guard Squads, Momo Hinamori. I'm a soul reaper."
"Damn it!" the Hollow exasperated loudly. "I was told soul reapers didn't exist in this world!"
Soul reapers…? Didn't exist in this world…? All of this mumbo-jumbo was making Natsu's head spin.
"You there, Hollow," Momo called out, aiming her blade at the creature. "Who sent you here and why? What's your purpose for invading another world?"
"Like I'll tell some dumb soul reaper like you!"
"Very well then." She addressed Natsu and Erza, not facing them. "You two, which one of you can still fight? I know it isn't the both of you."
"I can," said Erza, walking past Natsu's arm.
But then, instead of standing upright, she winced and fell to one knee. She was still hurt.
"I see," the lieutenant said, still not turning back to look. "You, the one with pink hair."
He wasn't expecting her to speak to him then, so he stuttered, "Y-Yeah?"
"Can you still fight? I'm going to need some assistance."
"This Hollow is stronger than I am; I can't fight him by myself, especially since I'm a lieutenant. My power has been restricted by eighty percent. I need someone to even out the fight a bit." And for the first time since arriving, Natsu got a good look at Momo's face. It was very professional; almost looked like she had been training for a good number of years in the army. "So I'll ask again: Can you still fight?"
He saw the look in her eyes, and this just made him smirk. "I was born to fight." He smashed his fists together and set them alight, pumping himself up for another round. "Let's do this!"
She smiled a little. "Let's."
He moved next to her, eager to get this show on the road. "Alright, now I'm all fired up!"
The Hollow glared at the two of them. Not that Natsu gave a damn. He was going to have some fun. If he could keep fighting, that is. "Do you two really think you can take me on? What a freaking riot…"
Out of nowhere, Natsu felt a humongous pressure drop on him. He didn't necessarily collapse, but it was a little difficult standing up straight. He wasn't exactly used to this.
But he noticed Momo was struggling against the pressure a bit more than he was. If what she said was true – that this guy over there was stronger than her – then wherever they came from was probably all about whoever had the most power, therefore it was the deciding factor.
And that was fine by him.
Stomping his foot and propelling himself, Natsu went for the first strike. "You're going down!"
"I think you're in way over your head, pest." The Hollow used that disappearing trick again. But Natsu guessed the creature's destination correctly, and turned behind him and punched him in the mask hard enough to leave a noticeable crack. The Hollow went flying, and Momo used this opportunity to attack with her sword.
She swung downward with considerable force, sending the Hollow crashing back down into the ground, smashing up debris into the air. By then, Erza had moved away from the battle. Good.
Natsu smashed his fists together. "Eat this! FIRE DRAGON'S…" Bringing his fists up to his mouth, he finished, "ROAR!"
A large stream of flame came out of Natsu's mouth in the Hollow's general direction. Momo moved away as the beast became incinerated.
Heh, got him!
"I thought I told you . . ." Something approached from behind Natsu. Damn it, he escaped–
Huge hands grabbed him by the throat and flung him back, sending him flying out of the tower.
". . . flames do not work on me!"
"NATSU!" Erza cried out.
He felt almost suspended in mid-air. His life flashed before his eyes. Igneel, Lisanna, Fairy Tail, and–
Momo grabbed him, suspending him in the air. Her sword was sheathed.
Natsu breathed out. That was too close for comfort. He looked up. "Thanks Momo."
She smiled a little. "No problem."
He suddenly had an idea. "Hey, you can do that teleporting thing like that guy, right?"
"Well, sort of; it's not exactly the same. Why do you ask?"
"Let me whisper it into your ear, just in case he can hear us."
She nodded and raised him up close. From there, Natsu whispered his plan into her ear. He noticed that the more he talked, the more Momo started to nod and agree. "You got that?"
She nodded one final time. "Yes, let's do it."
He smirked deviously. "Alright then."
She dropped Natsu and caught him by the ankles. "You ready?"
"Always!" he replied.
Momo started to swing him round and round.
"What the hell are they doing?" the Hollow asked, not liking this turn of events, yet he watched on regardless.
She swung faster. And faster. And faster. And faster. And–
She released his ankles, and he went flying straight towards the Hollow.
"Oh, so you think a head-on attack is going to work on me? Try me then!"
"You're the boss!" he mocked.
And just like he planned, Momo used that teleporting thing to appear right in front of the Hollow, and then stabbed him in the chest with her sword. He screeched in pain. Served him right for eating Simon.
Putting all of his power into his fist, he reeled it back. "THIS IS FOR SIMON!"
He closed the distance, and punched the Hollow right in the middle of his face, cracking the white mask enough that there was now a huge jagged line in the centre from top to bottom. With the considerable amount of force behind Natsu's punch, the Hollow went flying into a pillar, forcing Momo to pull out her sword before losing it.
Natsu looked at her. He couldn't help but smile. "Guess it worked, didn't it?"
But when he saw the look on her face, he instantly found out that something was wrong. But he had no idea what. What's wrong? Why is she–
He got his answer when a beam of green light nailed him in the chest and body.
I'm . . . floating…
But then, what am I floating in? Breathe in–
Huh… I'm in the ocean. I recognise this horrible taste anywhere. Ha… So this is where it ends for me…
Slowly, he opened his eyes just a little bit. Yes, only a little.
He could see a blue light in the distance. The Tower of Heaven…
He almost forgot.
Oh yeah, Erza's still in that tower… I have to . . . help her… I have to . . . save her…
But then, he saw something else. Funny. He thought he was the only one in the sea right now. Who was that? Who was blinding him, taking away his only source of light?
But then he recognised the black robes.
Momo…? Man, how long have I been out for? How did she get defeated too?
He barely saw her open her eyes. They looked defeated. But then, as the two of them locked their gazes on each other, Natsu thought he saw a glimmer of hope reflected in her face. Does she have an idea?
She held her blade out in front of her. What…?
He didn't know what to do. Was she going to kill him? Well, he was sort of already beating her to it. So what was her plan?
Whatever. If he had to die, then so be it. He couldn't protect his friends. He couldn't stop Jellal. He couldn't help Erza.
He let everyone down, in the end.
Momo ran her blade through his chest.
"My name is Rukia…; Rukia Kuchiki."
"And my name is Ichigo Kurosaki."
The zanpakuto was plunged into his body.
Power was pulsing within him. So much power… It made him feel great. He felt like he could take on anything. Oho man, he almost declared to himself that he would.
That aside, he had to help Erza. Had to stop Jellal. Had to stop the bastard who made Erza cry by eating her childhood friend. He was going to do it.
And he started off by launching himself high into the air, holding Momo and his body as well, with help from his fire. Higher and higher into the air, he closed the distance so quickly he went a little above his intended spot, and crashed through the tower to get back down to it. As soon as he did that, he felt his hair plastered to his forehead. Must be the water.
With Momo in his arms, his body laying down somewhere else, and his well-being crouching on the ground, Natsu instinctively reached for whatever was on his back. He grabbed what felt like a sword.
Oh hell yes.
He drew the sword out of his new sheathe and let the blade's tip touch the ground. He looked at it.
It was thick, and fairly long. But Natsu could guess that it wasn't longer than his body – probably if he stood up it would reach down to the top of his calf muscle. The guard was black, and the handle was what looked like a sort of brownish bronze colour.
Glaring back up and seeing the look on Erza's and the Hollow's faces (well, eyes in the latter's case – seeing as how his face was a cracked mask) made him smirk.
"Im…possible…" the Hollow muttered. "How? How is it that you're a soul reaper!?"
"Natsu…" Erza whispered, almost crying tears of joy that he was still alive.
Slowly, he placed Momo on the ground before standing up. Stepping over her, he swapped his sword into his other hand.
Thank you, Momo. I'll stop this guy in one go. "Now then," said Natsu, still smirking, "where were we?"
The Hollow was speechless, unable to say anything. He certainly wasn't expecting this. Then again, Natsu didn't expect this either.
It was around this time that the dragon slayer started to question his actions. Was he about to kill something? Sure he killed animals for food back when he was a kid – how else was he going to survive back then? – but this was different. He wasn't going to eat the Hollow.
So he had to make a choice: injure the Hollow so that it would either go away or get taken into prison later on by the magic council (that was usually the common outcome during his missions), or he would commit murder for the first time in his life.
Murder was against the Fairy Tail code of conduct. Killing someone would result in immediate expulsion from the guild. Actually, it was illegal for any guild to kill someone outside of self-defence. So what was all this then? It certainly didn't look like Natsu was fighting for his life.
But, if he didn't kill the Hollow, the chances of it escaping were high. And if it escaped… then Erza and his friends would be in danger again. He couldn't let that happen. Besides, this thing killed Simon. And the Hollow didn't come from Earthland – that much was certain. So who was going to notice it ever existed anyway? The council wasn't going to – not unless they somehow came up with weird surveillance thingies and sent them all over the world, which even Natsu knew was impossible.
That was all he needed to justify what he was about to do.
"D-Ah-Uh-D-Tch–" the Hollow stuttered, before he gave up trying to say anything and fired that green beam again.
Please, like that attack was going to hurt him now. To show that he was back and stronger than before, Natsu grabbed his sword with both hands and cleaved the beam in two. Easy as pie.
"But how!? There's no way! YOU CAN'T POSSIBLY BE A SOUL REAPER!"
Natsu threw the blade from the long distance into the Hollow's mask. It was a direct hit; right in the centre.
"I'm not a soul reaper, or whatever you call it," he called out. "I'm Natsu Dragneel: son of Igneel, friend of Lucy, Gray, Erza and Happy. And most importantly . . ." He raised his hand high into the air – palm facing behind him, thumb and index finger sticking out. Proudly, he finished, ". . . I am a Fairy Tail wizard!"
And with that, the Hollow exploded in a brilliant shower of light, the sword falling to the ground.
It was over. Simon could now rest in peace. Erza could now move on. Jellal could–
Oh crap, he forgot! Jellal was still at large!
He glanced behind him. But something was . . . off.
Where was he; where was Jellal?
He glanced around the entire floor of the tower, looking for any sign of blue hair, or a tattoo, or anything. But he couldn't find him.
It was like he vanished.
Wait a sec, what if that bastard ate Jellal too?
There was one way to find out.
"Erza, where's Jellal?"
"What? He isn't there?"
"You mean you didn't see him leave!?"
Erza shook her head. "I was so distracted by the fight that I didn't see him wake up again."
This was weird. An unconscious person couldn't just get up and leave while unconscious. Even if someone could do that, they wouldn't get very far. From where they were, they would just fall off the tower and into the water.
But he didn't see Jellal down there with him.
Natsu said the only thing that came to mind.
"What the hell's going on…?"
"Momo, you naïve fool. You would follow every order I give you without question. However, it's because of your undying loyalty that my plan will work."
Sosuke liked to muse with himself once in a while. And it was at Soukyoku Hill after his Lieutenant left that he decided to entertain his mind.
She was so naïve. Kurotsuchi wanting to use a Garganta as another mode of transportation? Well, that was true, at least. The mad scientist was always looking for some sort of ridiculous experiment to try out. Just about everything he said about Earthland was true as well. However, that wasn't what made Momo so naïve.
No, what made her naïve was that she didn't catch on to the first thing he said about Earthland: There were no soul reapers.
Then again, she wasn't the only one.
For you see, there actually is another soul reaper in Earthland. This one had been trapped there for decades. However, hardly anyone remembers this one, because I personally removed any trace of this soul reaper from the records. After all, this person was once my closest friend when I awoke in the Rukon District 500 years ago. However, in order for my plan to work, I had to remove all traces of those affiliated with my past.
No-one who once knew me must be here… Not even K–
He closed the Garganta quickly. "Hmm?" He turned to see who addressed him.
Ah, it was Captain of Squad 10, Toshiro Hitsugaya. What was he doing here in the middle of the night?
The unimaginable happened. Roars. Cries. Shrieks. Hundreds. Thousands. Tens of thousands.
God, there was so much pressure that it was shaking the very tower. Whatever this was, Natsu didn't like it. In fact, he was terrified of this turn of events. He was shaking as well. His legs were quivering so much that he thought he couldn't stand up anymore.
But he had to get out of here. He had to get Erza out of here. Had to get Momo out of here. Had to get his body as well–
But when he glanced at his body, he noticed someone holding it. But it wasn't Momo. No, Momo didn't wear a black cloak that covered her face, not like this person. She wasn't that tall either. But this person… This person was holding Momo and Natsu's body.
What the hell was this person doing? How did it even get here?
"Hey!" Natsu yelled. "What the hell are you doing!?"
It spoke, but the voice wasn't distinct. It was modulated; encrypted. He couldn't tell if it was male or female. "Bosco."
"Meet me at Bosco – east of Fiore. If you want your body back, you'll have to find me there."
"Why the hell should I believe what you say!? Give me my body back you thief!"
"Like I said: If you want your body back, find me at Bosco." The mysterious person disappeared with Momo and his body.
"H-Hey! Come back here!"
"Natsu, let's go."
He turned right after noticing she was standing next to him. "Erza?"
He saw the look on her face. She was sad, but Natsu could tell she meant what she said. "We can't stay here. Those Hollows – I assume that's what's causing this place to shake – are going to destroy the tower any second now."
"But that guy stole my body; and my scarf was still there! I have to go get it!"
"That will have to wait," she said sternly. "Right now we need to get out of here or else we're going to die."
"NOW, NATSU!" she snapped loudly.
He hated to admit it, but she was right. They had to get out of here. The tower was going to collapse from the Hollows soon. If Natsu and Erza got caught up in this, then…
He sighed as he went to go pick up his sword. "Alright, let's go."
And so they did. The two of them began sprinting as fast as they could. They were both aching, but it was either pain or death. They could live with pain, but their friends could not live with their deaths.
They cared too much to do that.
Suddenly the tower started shaking even more violently, but it wasn't because of the Hollows outside. Blue beams of light began to shoot out of the lacrima. This was bad; the tower was going to explode. If Natsu and Erza didn't get out of here now, they were goners.
Wasting no time, they kept on running, dodging debris along the way. How were they going to get out of here? There was no evident exit anywhere. They could jump out of the tower and fall into the water, but the explosion would still get them. And if Natsu died now, that was it for him. Erza would be more fortunate, seeing as how she wasn't a soul right now.
But they kept going. They were bound to find an exit somewhere.
"Natsu, can you perhaps smell out an exit?" Erza asked while they kept running.
"If you can smell the sea water then we can follow that scent until we possibly reach the bottom of the tower."
He nodded. "Good idea." He closed his eyes while running.
Hang on, something was strange. Why was his vision a bit clearer than it should be? Did he really close his eyes? He must have, because when he turned to face Erza, he only saw some sort of silhouette, with a blue flame in the centre of her.
Was it because he wasn't in his body? Might as well be that, if anything.
He sniffed the air for any sign of water. Two sniffs… Three sniffs… Four...
Nothing. The lacrima was throwing off his nose. What was he going to do now?
No… No, there was still a way out of this. There had to be. Must be.
"Erza." He opened his eyes again.
"It's no use; I can't find an exit."
She bowed her head. "I see." She looked back up again. "Well then, I guess it's time we do this the traditional way."
"If you can't find an exit…" She mustered all of her power to summon her large sword for her Purgatory Armour. She leapt at a wall and completely obliterated it. "…then make your own!"
Dang. That was Erza for you.
She landed and looked back. "Let's go!"
He nodded. "Right!"
The Tower of Heaven exploded. Approximately 22,000 Hollows had entered Earthland. 20,000 of them were obliterated by the tower's explosion. Most of those that remained returned back to their homeland. The home of Fairy Tail was lucky this time.
But, that was going to change soon. No-one knew when, but whatever events were going to occur, it was going to change Earthland forever.
Whether or not it would be for the better or for the worse, was based on whose side you were on.
It was then that Natsu and Erza were found lying on the beach by their friends.
They were taken back to the hotel nearby, while along the way they questioned where Natsu got the change of clothes, and where he got the sword from.
They also wondered how they survived the explosion.
Unfortunately, no-one will ever be able to figure out how Natsu and Erza were still alive. But they concluded that they didn't need to. They were just glad the two of them came back in one piece.
"Why hello, Captain Histugaya. What can I do for you?"
"Why do I find you opening and closing a Garganta here at Soukyoku Hill?"
Figured. Of course he saw what happened earlier.
Sosuke answered, "The answer is quite simple, really. Captain Kurotsuchi asked us a favour at the captains' meeting to test whether or not soul reapers can use Gargantas instead of Senkaimons as a mode of transportation. Do you not remember how I volunteered to do that for him?"
"I remember that perfectly," he snapped while he crossed his hands over to inside his sleeves. "What I want to know is why you sent a seated officer through that Garganta instead of an unseated officer. Anyone assigned to a squad cannot just leave their post without proper permission. You were aware of that, correct?"
Well, that was obvious. Why else did he have to go through the trouble asking the head captain for permission to send one of his officers out into another world? Luckily, the head captain didn't bother to learn who was to be sent. Even if he did, Kyoka Suigetsu would've done solved that problem. "I assure you that I did indeed get proper clearance from Head Captain Yamamoto before I sent this officer through that Garganta you saw earlier."
"Mind telling me who this officer is exactly, Sosuke?" he spat, dropping the 'Captain' title intentionally.
"That is strictly confidential, as the head captain will tell you. Both of us agreed to not disclose information about this operation."
"Why? What is so important that you have to keep it secret from the Thirteen Court Guard Squads?"
"I'm telling you now that it doesn't concern you, Captain Hitsugaya. What I do is none of your business, much as what you do is none of my business. Try to understand that."
The young captain sighed. "Fine. But if I ever see you doing anything even remotely suspicious again, I'm turning you in. I hope you understand why."
With that, Captain Hitsugaya left with a single Flash Step.
It looks like Kyoka Suigetsu worked. He didn't know that I sent Momo through the Garganta; he only knew it was a seated officer based on the level of spiritual power she had. It looks like this'll be easier than I thought.
Toshiro Hitsugaya. Your concern for Momo makes it all the more difficult to convince you that my façade is 'me'. Although, it may prove to be interesting in the future.
Darkness. Nothing but darkness. And silence. It was . . . peaceful, in a sense.
Slowly, he started to wake up. The first thing he saw was a strange ceiling. Where was he?
He could hear voices. They weren't terribly loud, but the noise did hurt his ears a little bit.
His vision cleared, his hearing sharpened, and soon he found himself sitting up on what felt like a bed inside a hotel room.
He turned left and saw a blue cat with a bag on his back standing next to him.
"Happy…?" Natsu muttered. "Hey, where am I–"
"Oh Natsu, I was so scared!" Happy leaped into a hug, crying. "I thought you were gone for good!"
He could feel the warmth from the blue cat on top of his bandages. Good, that meant he wasn't dead after all. He really thought he was done for back there at the tower.
Speaking of which–
"What was that tear in the sky earlier, Natsu?"
To his right was Gray, sitting in a chair on the other side of the room. Erza was on another bed that was the same as Natsu's, but she hadn't woken up yet by the looks of things.
"Yeah," said Lucy, next to Gray, "and what happened to your clothes?"
Natsu flinched, and looked down at his body.
Of course, he forgot about what happened for a moment there. Thankfully Lucy reminded him.
There was no use hiding the truth from everyone in the room, but where…?
"Where's everyone else?" Natsu asked, namely mentioning the card dude, the cat girl and Block-Head.
Happy answered, letting go of Natsu and standing on the bed again. "They decided to wait outside until Erza can speak to them. Juvia is outside making sure that tear in the sky doesn't catch us off-guard."
"Oh… Okay…" He didn't want to be in Erza's shoes right now. She would have to explain to them what happened to Simon and Jellal. That meant having to explain the deal with these Hollows and that mysterious guy in the cloak.
Ugh, the thought of what happened was starting to make his head spin again. It was all too confusing.
"Well Natsu?" said Gray, growing impatient. "What happened at the tower?"
He took a deep breath. "It's a bit complicated, but…"
A lone figure was moving swiftly through the night, brushing past tree branches with nothing but the sound of a whisper. This figure was incredibly fast, despite carrying three people at the same time under its arms. This being was not tired, but a quick rest would do the trick tonight.
After all, the four bodies moving under the full moon had to be in Bosco by no later than tomorrow at the very least.
It was merely coincidence – no, maybe it was fate – that this figure happened upon that blue tower tonight, even though the goal in mind was a simple stroll of Fiore to see if any trouble occurred. Maybe it was fate that there was a Garganta that opened up right then and there. Maybe it was fate to see two Gargantas open up, but a Soul Reaper came out instead of another Hollow. Which begged the question: Why no Senkaimon? Was the Soul Society trying out new methods of transportation?
Probably, but that wasn't important.
No, what was important was what happened not too long after the first Hollow arrived.
This person could figure out what happened based on the shifting of spiritual pressure. Almost none of it was coming out of this lieutenant. And based on the appearance of that boy alone, it was obvious that there was a substitute soul reaper now on the loose.
Wonder what the Soul Society would do about that once they find out.
And the second important thing to happen was the last Garganta that opened before the big tower exploded. There were thousands of those Hollows. Never before had this person seen so many Hollows emerge all in one location at the same time. Wasn't even sure they all could've been purified by this person alone.
So, right as soon as those Hollows appeared, the mysterious hooded figure made its move.
It was going to be a test for the substitute. Or at least, that was the improvised plan now that things turned out this way. Who knew? Maybe this boy would prove useful in the future.
He could even stop Sosuke if he grew powerful enough. That was stretching the possibility, however.
Sosuke… How long had it been since the two of them last met? About seventy-five years ago, maybe? Not too long after he got Kisuke Urahara – this person's captain at the time – exiled from the Soul Society for something completely out of his character to do? The only one capable of using all of those captains and lieutenants as lab rats was Sosuke, and only a small amount of people would believe that.
Thankfully, Kisuke saw that his fifth seat had some sort of connection with the lieutenant of Squad 5 at the time, and tried something that could prove useful in case things changed for the worst: Teach his fifth seat some ideas he had in mind.
The things the fifth seat learned ranged from building a training ground, to Substitute Soul Reapers and many different hypotheses he had in mind about them, and also to a device called the Hougyoku. It was complicated to understand, but it could be summarised as a wish-maker, according to the man who created it.
In all likelihood, Sosuke was probably after that device. For what reason was not known to this person.
But what was indeed a fact was that Sosuke threw his closest friend away to further his own ambitions. He threw away the only person who knew of his origins as much as the man himself did. After all, they died together when they were children about half a millennia ago. But ever since that one incident…
No. Don't think about it. That was not Sosuke. Not the Sosuke that this former fifth seat of Squad 12, Soul Reaper Ka–
Amidst the Flash Steps, the lieutenant in the soul reaper's arm stirred awake, confused, and unaware of where she was or where she was going.
"Where . . . am I? What's . . . going on?"
Oh damn it, this wasn't good.
The soul reaper stopped in front of a lake in the middle of the forest, and placed the pink-haired boy's body and the blue-haired man down on the ground. The lieutenant was also set down close to the others.
Taking a few steps back, the soul reaper spoke. "It appears you're awake, Lieutenant." The person knew of this girl's rank thanks to the armband she wore.
The young lieutenant sat up, still a little drowsy. "You… Who . . . are you?"
Can I trust her to keep my identity a secret? Would it help in the long run? Or should I lie instead? The soul reaper pondered all of these questions before coming to a decision in no time flat.
Kisuke would think it's a good idea just in case. Besides, I need her trust and cooperation. She is Sosuke's lieutenant after all.
That was when the soul reaper took off the hood.
The lieutenant's eyes widened. "You're a . . ."
"So basically," Gray said, "you encountered some strange thing with a mask that called itself a 'Hollow', and it ate Simon – killing him, a girl wearing some weird black robes like the kind you're wearing now and wielding a sword like the one we found next to you on the beach also appeared, you and her fought this 'Hollow', he sent you skyrocketing down into the ocean, the girl stabbed you, now you're wearing her clothes, holding her sword, defeated the 'Hollow', and last but not least, your body, her, and Jellal – who was unconscious from earlier – were taken away by this weird dude in a cloak who said to meet him at Bosco if you wanted your body back.
"Am I right?"
"Yeah, that about sums it up."
There was a strange kind of silence in the hotel room at that moment. Natsu couldn't put his finger on what kind of silence it was, but he didn't feel particularly comfortable sitting in it.
"That . . . is the craziest story I have ever heard," Gray concluded.
"But I'm telling you it's the truth!"
Happy intervened. "He has to be; he's not smart enough to come up with something outrageous like that if he was lying!"
"Hey!" Natsu whined.
"Happy's right, Gray," said Lucy. "He can't possibly come up with this by himself."
Gray sighed. "Yeah, I guess you're right. But how can we still trust what he says?"
"Gray, aren't you being a little unfair?" Happy questioned.
"Hey, I'm only saying this because everything that has happened today hasn't exactly been very normal."
"Natsu is speaking the truth."
Everyone turned their attention to Erza's bed. She was finally awake, and covered in a few bandages. She was still wearing the same clothing she had on when she fought Jellal.
Lucy was surprised, but glad to see her alive and well. "Erza…!"
"So then . . . everything he said really happened, huh?"
Erza nodded. "That's right, Gray. Although I can't confirm for myself if Natsu really got those clothes by getting stabbed. However, I can trust what he said based on everything else he and I witnessed."
Gray closed his eyes. "I see…"
"It's hard to absorb it all, isn't it?" said Happy, likely speaking Gray's mind.
He nodded. "That's why I was sceptical until now."
Erza started getting up from her bed.
"Uh, wait a sec Erza, are you okay?" Natsu asked.
"I'll be fine," she assured. "I have to go see my friends." She made her way to leave the room–
"Are you going to tell them what I told Gray and Lucy?"
She stopped for a moment in front of the door. At first she didn't say anything, but then…
"I don't have any other choice," she answered. "They have to know how Simon died… After all, Jellal isn't to blame for this; I don't want them to hate him for something he didn't do." She opened the door and left, not speaking another word.
Silence fell upon the wizards in the room once more. And again, it made Natsu uncomfortable. But how could he break it? There wasn't exactly a whole lot to talk about anymore. Maybe a party?
Screw it. Now wasn't the right time.
How about Fairy Tail? What was he going to tell them? Should he discuss it with the others? Would they understand?
But before he spoke, he felt something strange surrounding him. Like a kind of pressure. The sensation almost frightened him – it was too sudden for him to cope with.
Wait a sec… This is…
"Wonder what Fairy Tail will think of this…" Gray muttered–
"GET DOWN NOW!" Natsu screamed, before the window exploded in a brilliant shower of glass, spraying all over the carpet and his friends as they ducked down. Lucy screamed, Happy hid, Gray asked what the hell was going on.
A roar reverberated in the room. And then, suddenly, a Hollow rushed inside and shoved Natsu straight through the wall next to the door and out into the corridor. Debris was everywhere, dust was blinding him, and the smell of death filled his nostrils.
That was when he realised that the Hollow was standing on top of him, mouth hanging over his face.
"What the hell…?"
That was all he could say before the Hollow opened its large mouth.
End of Chapter 1
(A/N: And there's the cliff-hanger. I'm quite fond of using one for some reason…
Anyway, please review and tell me what you thought. For those who have read the story before the rewrite, please do not spoil who the hooded person is, because that hasn't changed. But, at least I offered a bit more of this person's back-story, so it should satisfy those of you looking for more than what I originally presented to you before this.
And if you reviewed all of the chapters before this, and you want to review this chapter again, then just send me a PM talking about what you thought. And if you haven't, then what are you waiting for? Review now!)