Chapter 4: Circumstances
(A/N: This is a message to all of those who have read the following chapters: "Burn it to the ground, Substitute Soul Reaper!", "Never Meant to Belong" and "The True Meaning of Responsibility". I have rewritten the entire story from scratch – therefore the original three chapters are all brand new and have been updated along with this chapter. You must read the first three chapters again in order to understand what the new plot is all about. I apologise for the inconvenience – I assure you that you won't be disappointed.
For the new readers who have been aware of this since the very beginning, please enjoy the fourth chapter.)
I do not own Bleach or Fairy Tail. HAS YET TO BE BETA-READ.
"Hey, Satoshi! Don't run too far ahead of us!"
"Ha, seriously, that boy…"
"But he's our boy, honey."
"Yeah… you're right about that."
It was another day of work for Mummy and Daddy. He wanted to see what it was like. Mummy and Daddy seemed hesitant to let him come along at first, but they gave in.
Mummy and Daddy were really good at puppet magic. Satoshi wanted to learn it too. They were performing on the streets to get money. It was a festival day in the city, so performers from all over Bosco came to demonstrate what they can do.
Mummy and Daddy didn't get a whole lot of people watching their puppets. It was unfair, because Mummy and Daddy were the best wizards ever. But everyone wanted to see the fire people and the ice people and the sword people. It wasn't fair.
Satoshi got really good at puppet magic really quickly. Mummy and Daddy were proud and let him perform with them. Mummy and Daddy helped correct Satoshi on certain techniques. Satoshi was happy because Mummy and Daddy were happy to perform with their only son.
But no-one wanted to see them perform. It wasn't fair.
Years later, Satoshi had mastered puppet magic, far exceeding even his own parents. He was starting to learn how to move puppets without moving his hands. It was difficult, but Satoshi seemed to understand it just fine. It wouldn't be long before he got it down.
Mum and Dad were looking pretty sick. They didn't perform as often as they used to, so it was up to Satoshi to get the money for them to live.
But hardly anyone paid him. How cruel and unfair.
18 years old. His parents died of serious illnesses two years ago now. It wasn't their faults, it was everyone else's. Satoshi had been getting by as best as he could. It was everyone else's fault.
Satoshi had tried his best to survive by performing puppet shows without ever moving his hands. It was everyone else's fault. But when that didn't work anymore, he tried getting jobs while living on the street – but it was way too difficult to stay clean and live in the alleyways in the vast city. It was everyone else's fault.
A couple of years later, he had used puppet magic on a person for the very first time. It worked like a charm. It was so easy to make the arsehole do what Satoshi wanted, that if he knew how to do this when he was a child, he would've done it sooner without second thought.
And so began the slow process of taking control of everyone in the city. It took him about six months – after all, everyone in the city meant the children as well – but it worked with little difficulty.
It was always everyone else's faults that he had to live miserably for so long.
Now 20 years old, Satoshi had long before given up on work and performing puppet shows for the ungrateful bastards in this city. It was their faults – it was because of them that his parents were killed; if they paid attention to the puppet shows his family performed and actually paid, then maybe his parents wouldn't have stressed themselves out trying to raise their son, and as a result, die from psychological illnesses and starvation. No-one but he could understand the pain he went through, watching his parents wither away, trying to do what they loved.
So by controlling the citizens in the city, he could make them hate wizards as much as he did.
Yes, it was every other wizard's fault. If it weren't for their flashy fire or ice, then his parents would still be alive. No-one had the right to tell him otherwise, or to tell him that what he was doing was wrong. Because he wasn't wrong – he was the righteous one here.
That man who figured out Satoshi's plans was in the wrong. So he killed him. No-one would've been able to survive a fall like that–
Satoshi was kicked in the face and went spiralling into a gargoyle, smashing it into dozens of pieces as he fell to the ground.
That was pretty close. For a second there, Jellal thought he was done for. But luckily he didn't stay in shock for long. The mannequin was easy to break apart anyway.
He landed on the gargoyle. Now he had to keep his awareness levels high. That wizard could be anywhere right now, and Jellal didn't really feel like being caught by surprise a second time. So where was he? Where was the one pulling all the strings?
"I must say, you surprised me."
His leg was kicked, forcing him to bend his knee while the puppeteer put Jellal into a headlock. He tried to break the arm away, but it was too secure to break out of. His breath was shortening.
"I should've suspected that you could fly – otherwise reaching the top of this tower would've been impossible for you."
"But . . . how…?" Jellal strained to say, his breaths growing shorter. "I thought you–"
"Can only use puppet magic? Don't be ridiculous. If I only used puppet magic, I never would've been able to reach the top of this tower either." He squeezed tighter. At this rate, Jellal was going to run out of oxygen and fall unconscious. "I can also use wind magic. It's not much, but it gets the job done."
Jellal went limp, and his arms dropped down to his side.
Letting go, the wizard kicked him off the gargoyle, down into the streets below, resulting in his death.
Heh, he fell for it… "Meteor!"
Now flying and thinking clearly, Jellal fired off several golden beams into the tower and the gargoyle, most likely to have hit his opponent. Dust and debris formed from the attack. "You're naïve! If you really wanted to finish me off, you should've snapped my neck instead of letting go and kicking me off the tower!"
The puppet wizard emerged out of the smoke above and was levitating with wind magic. He didn't look happy.
"What's wrong? Are you at a loss for words?" he taunted.
"I wouldn't get too cocky if I were you."
Jellal was grabbed from behind. Damn, another mannequin…
Suddenly, Jellal was trapped by a dozen more of the blank dolls. He couldn't move.
The puppet wizard flew over to Jellal and met him at eye-level. "If you do, you're going to make a mistake." Suddenly, Jellal felt the mannequins moving. And in the next instant, he and the dolls were flung down below and straight into a building.
What an arrogant wizard. He thought he could outsmart Satoshi that easily? Only a fool would think that.
Satoshi flew down to the building he flung the blue-haired man into, and had to admit, he did a wonderful job with the scenery. The entire wall on this house's second floor was completely demolished. There was so much dust in the room that Satoshi couldn't see anything inside. Maybe this would teach that smug prick a lesson.
But then Satoshi saw movement. It was a lone figure in the dust, walking, holding its side. It was the blue-haired man.
"I must say," said Satoshi, "you're quite sturdy – more so than I thought."
His opponent emerged from the dust, and he couldn't help but laugh at the sight in front of him. The poor bastard had one of the mannequin's arms impale his left side. So that was why he was hunched over. And was that blood dripping down his forehead? The man even had so many cuts on his shirt that Satoshi could see his bleeding skin. And his pants were torn at half-a-dozen places.
The man broke off most of the mannequin's arm that was stuck inside of him before saying, "When I'm done with you, you're going to regret the day you were born…"
He chuckled. "So defiant. I like it. My name is Satoshi Muramoto. Remember it, because it will be the last name you'll hear before your end."
Surprisingly, the man in front of Satoshi also chuckled. "Well now, I guess it would be rude of me not to introduce myself now that you told me your name." Satoshi didn't understand, but when his foe looked up, he had the biggest grin on his face and a look in his eyes underneath the blood dripping from his forehead. "My name is Jellal. That's all you need to know."
"Jellal, huh? I'll make sure to mark that on your tombstone."
"Don't forget to leave flowers."
Satoshi beckoned him forward. "Come, Jellal. Let's enjoy our little squabble a bit more, shall we?"
"Yeah... let's. Meteor!" Glowing gold, Jellal charged forward.
"To get to her you're gonna have to go through me!"
"And now, I will plunge you into infinite darkness, dragon slayer!"
"It's my fault that you're involved in this mess. The least I can do is protect you!"
"Squad 5 Lieutenant of the Thirteen Court Guard Squads, Momo Hinamori. I'm a soul reaper."
"I'm not a soul reaper, or whatever you call it. I'm Natsu Dragneel: son of Igneel, friend of Lucy, Gray, Erza and Happy. And most importantly… I am a Fairy Tail wizard!"
A brown-haired man with glasses appeared. "You have been a most excellent experiment, ryoka: Natsu Dragneel."
He awoke with a startle. The sky above was dark. Night-time. His head felt a little light. He sat up. Looked around (he was on a roof). Saw the hooded soul reaper.
The person took off her hood.
"You're . . . a woman…"
The hooded soul reaper, the very same one Natsu had been looking for since the Tower of Heaven incident, had long raven-black hair, and a fairly long fringe that reached down to the halfway point of her nose. For some reason, she was running her fingers through it and pulling the fringe down over her blue eyes. Her facial features looked sharp, yet Natsu got the feeling it would be soft to the touch. And of course, she was taller than he was (assumingly, since Natsu was sitting right now).
"It looks like you're finally awake, soul reaper." Her voice was smooth, and almost sounded like Erza in Natsu's opinion.
"Where am I?" he asked.
"You're still in the city where your friends are. I assume you're not injured."
Wait a second, why did she care? Natsu got up to his feet, generating fire in his hands. "Whaddaya doing here? Who are you?!"
She sighed while pulling her fringe down with her fingers. "My name is Kagami Akashingo. I'm a soul reaper who was abandoned by the Thirteen Court Guard Squads."
Natsu remembered hearing that name before; the thirteen whatever guard squids. Wasn't it Momo who said that as well? Speaking of whom… "Where's Momo?"
"Safe with me."
"I don't believe you."
"Fine, do what you wish."
She disappeared in an instant.
Wait, that was the same thing that Hollow used–
He felt a blade pressed up against his throat, and Natsu felt for a split second his flames sizzle out. "W-What the…?!"
"That's a shame, I thought your reflexes were a bit quicker than that," said Kagami as she pulled the sword away and walked around him. Now she was standing in front of him. "Tell me, soul reaper, what is your name?"
Name…? That was one hell of a question to ask right after almost cutting his head off. "N-Natsu; Natsu Dragneel."
"Dragneel, huh?" She turned on a dime and walked a few metres out, holding her sword in her left hand out to her side. Natsu could see that the handle was black, and the guard was a light blue, shaped like a diamond. She turned to face him again. "Draw your zanpakuto, Dragneel."
"Your sword. Unsheathe it."
"Hey, why the hell should I listen to you?! You're the one responsible for all of this! You probably erased everyone's memories in this city as well!"
His last comment made Kagami smirk wickedly, before she pulled her fringe down with her fingers (why did she keep doing that?). "Oh, am I now? You think I was the one who made you like this? You think I erased everyone's memories? If that's what you think . . ." She held her sun-park-toe (or whatever she called it) out in front of her, the blade's tip pointing at the dragon slayer. ". . . then attack me with your zanpakuto, Dragneel."
"Screw you!" He ignited his fists with fire. "I can fight you any way I want!" He dashed forward. She wasn't going to be able to dodge this one. "FIRE DRAGON'S IRON–"
Before he knew it, he was on his back, his arm held down and outstretched onto the concrete by Kagami's right hand. And her sword was held right over his elbow joint.
"Do you want to lose an arm?"
He didn't respond.
"I'll only say this one more time: Draw your sword."
Damn, she was serious about this. How the hell did she flip him over so easily? She moved so quickly that Natsu couldn't even counterattack.
"You're probably wondering how I threw you to the ground so easily. It's simple – what I just did was something I was taught back when I was training to become a soul reaper. We call it Hakuda: close-quarter combat."
"Hakuda… huh…" He was still in a little bit of a daze. Not that anyone could blame him.
Kagami withdrew her sword and stood up before walking back a few metres, giving him space. "Now then, where were we?"
Looked like he was going to have to go along with it… He stood up and pulled out his sword, and was surprised to find it a lot heavier than he remembered as he held it out in front of him. When he fought that Hollow back at the Tower of Heaven, his sword was pretty light – he could swing it without much difficulty. But now it was difficult to keep it out in front of him. He wasn't that scared of Kagami, was he?
"When was the last time you ate something?" she asked.
What a strange question… "Uh… about a week ago, I guess?"
She sighed, and pulled her fringe down with her fingers. "This is going to be tricky…" she muttered before she looked at him. "Give me a second." She disappeared with that stupid trick everyone except him could use. A few seconds later she came back with what looked like a sandwich wrapped in gladwrap. "Hurry up and eat this." She chucked it at him, and he caught it with his spare hand.
His eyes beamed at the sandwich, and his mouth started to build up too much saliva. Some of it flowed out of his mouth. "Wow, thanks!" He sat down, dropping the sword, and pulled the sandwich out of the plastic containing it.
Kagami sighed again. "Hopefully he doesn't ask for more food…"
Damn it… he was losing way too much blood… At this rate, he was–
He went barrelling into another building, and ended up coming out the other end of it and smashed his back against the pavement in the street. His head felt like it was going to fall off, and the blood on his face made it hard to see clearly. His arms could barely move, and his legs were just about asleep. And his side was losing too much blood. That stupid mannequin really got him in a bad spot when he crashed into that building half an hour ago. If he removed the rest of the arm now, he would bleed to death in a matter of minutes.
Satoshi landed a couple of metres in front of him, smiling smugly as if he won the match before it even began. "We've been going at each other for quite a while. I'm surprised you've lasted this long with an injury as serious as that." He was referring to the mannequin's arm. "Tell me: What drives you? Why are you still fighting? What motivates you to get up in the morning and think, 'I'm going to beat the crap out of someone today'?"
Images of his friends flashed in his mind, but he put them aside. He had to concentrate on staying conscious. "It's none of your business…"
"Oh, but you made it my business when you interfered with my plan." Satoshi slowly began to walk over to him. "So I'll ask you again, just in case you didn't hear me the first time: Why are you doing all of this?"
He wasn't going to tell this bastard anything. Jellal had no reason to tell him.
"I see. So that's your response." Using wind magic, Satoshi brought over a pitchfork from somewhere outside of Jellal's vision. When the apprentice looked right, he saw a heap of people collapsed on the ground. They didn't seem to be dead.
Satoshi grabbed the pitchfork and held it over Jellal's throat. It looked like this was where it was going to end. Jellal didn't have the strength to fight back. If the pitchfork didn't kill him, blood loss was going to. He was done for – he had to accept it.
But he didn't want to die. Not now. He only just started his apprenticeship, for one thing. He wanted to make things right again. He wanted to see his friends. He wanted to see Erza…
"Die." He pulled the pitchfork back, and–
Someone tackled Satoshi to the ground. Red hair went past Jellal's vision. No, he had to be hallucinating or something. It couldn't have been her. It was completely ludicrous. People only showed up at this point in fiction.
"I will not let you kill Jellal!"
He recognised that voice anywhere. It appeared that it was true after all. Erza had come to save him. But when did she get here?
He passed out before he could think about it.
Why was he here? No, she knew the answer already. What she really wondered was: What was he doing? That reckless idiot – he could've been killed.
Jellal was lucky that Erza, who had re-quipped her armour back to her standard set, came to save him in the nick of time. And more fortunately, she and everyone else in Fairy Tail (and Juvia) were awake as well, so they could take him somewhere safe and try to keep him from bleeding to death.
"Gray, go help Jellal! He's critically injured!" As soon as she said that, the man who attacked her friend pushed her off of him. She got up and re-quipped one of her Heaven's Wheel Armour's swords. She pointed it at the cloaked man, who got up onto his feet, scowling. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Gray and Juvia take Jellal away, carrying him carefully. Good, he was going to be fine.
"Who are you?" the man in front of her asked coldly.
"Erza Scarlet of Fairy Tail," she answered. "I'm going to make you know your place."
"Know my place? Hilarious, did you quote that from some book you read, Titania?"
So it looked like even this guy knew her. That saved complications, at least. "Whether or not I quoted from something doesn't matter. What matters is that I'm not kidding about what I said."
The man laughed. "As expected of a Fairy Tail wizard – when you make a promise, you're obliged to follow through with it. Very well then…" He held his pitchfork with both hands. "Let's see how I fare against you in armed combat."
Did this man realise what he was saying? Erza was one of the best weapon users in Fiore, if not the best. Whoever this person was, he didn't look like he'd been trained with weapons in his entire life. A complete amateur.
But, if he was serious about this… "If that is what you wish, then I will entertain your challenge. Come."
He charged forward with a thrust. Easy enough to parry. Stepping forward and to the right, she cut the pitchfork in two and held the blade up against her foe's throat. "Do you yield?"
He smirked. "Not quite." Suddenly another pitchfork flew into his hand and he tried to stab Erza in the stomach.
But she jumped back too quickly for him to do any damage. "So you can use wind magic."
"Ahh, you're quite sharp. Yes, I can use a little bit of it."
"I see." What was he trying to achieve by fighting on the same level as her? He was clearly outmatched – even if he could hit her, he wouldn't be able to do a lot of damage anyway. So what was he planning?
"Here I come." He rushed forward to stab her again. Erza side-stepped, letting him run past her, and bashed the butt of her sword into his neck, causing him to fall flat on his face.
"Are you sure you don't want to try something else? You can't beat me like this," said Erza.
He didn't respond.
"Hey, you're not unconscious, are you?" She bent down and flipped him over, only for him to reach out and pull her face close to his. There was a crazed look in his eyes, and a magic circle lit up in his irises.
Without warning, control over her body became increasingly difficult. What had he done to her? Why couldn't she move on her own?
He chuckled before he let go of Erza and got up to his feet. "My plan worked! I now have control over one of Fairy Tail's most powerful wizards!" His chuckle became full-blown maniacal laughter.
So that was his plan all along. He intended for Erza to lower her guard after she was confident enough to beat him in weapon combat, and when he was down, was waiting for her to see if he was conscious. And then he would use whatever spell he had up his sleeve on her.
She'd been played for a fool. He got her good.
"Now then, my puppet, let us kill all of your friends, shall we–"
Something got him. Erza collapsed onto her knees. Whatever hold he had on her had disappeared somehow. A letter fell in front of her. It was addressed to Guild Master Makarov.
"What the hell…?" Erza looked up, and the sight shocked her to the core of her being.
The man in front of her went pale in the face. His eyes, full of shock and confusion, looked down to see the red scythe sticking out of his chest, where his heart would be. Blood was pouring like a waterfall onto the ground. Erza could get a good look at what he wore underneath – a plain white shirt with black sweatpants. Only now, his clothes were stained with his blood.
Erza was reminded of Simon's death. And the blood that poured all over the tower's floor. She was speechless. Who did this? Who was wielding the scythe?
The man had blood pouring out of his mouth as he tried to speak. "W-What… How…? But I . . . can't die here… I don't . . . want to… Mum… Dad… I…"
His head drooped forward, and his hands went limp.
The scythe was pulled out of his body, leaving him to collapse onto the ground.
Erza could see the assailant's face clear as day.
The scythe was swept across, letting the blood splatter against the ground, staining it.
Erza immediately stood up–
–and was impaled through the stomach.
How could she not react in time? How was the assailant so fast? Erza couldn't even–
Blood spurted out of her mouth, and she fell backwards after the scythe was pulled out of her stomach. Her armour bounced off the concrete below her. Her vision was fading.
Was she . . . dying?
No, that had to be impossible, right? Wasn't she Erza Scarlet, the strongest woman in Fairy Tail? But then, what was happening to her? Why was she on the ground, lying in a pool of her own blood?
She had to stop the bleeding somehow… but her arms were heavy. She couldn't move.
Well… I guess this is it, then… So this is how I die. No large-scale explosion, no climactic fight… Just a fade-out.
He was still too weak. Even after she literally fed him about forty different kinds of sandwiches to replenish his spiritual energy, he was still not good enough. It seemed to her that training Dragneel would be a bit more difficult than Kagami thought. Not that she expected the training to be short and easy in the first place…
His swings were sloppy, completely amateurish – he had no idea what he was doing with his zanpakuto. Sure, his hand-to-hand fighting was excellent, but Hakuda alone wasn't going to defeat Sosuke when the time was right. He needed more training. And being a substitute wasn't going to suffice.
Maybe it was a good thing that Hinamori–
"Take this!" Dragneel swung his blade down from above, but she countered it with little effort. The recoil was so strong for the young substitute that his guard was exposed. So she used it to her advantage by moving forward, grabbing the boy's forearm with her free right hand, and then yanked it forward and downward while taking a step in front of her, sending the boy down into a ground with a hard thump. If she didn't hold back, his shoulder would've been dislocated.
"Again," she said, before letting go of his arm, getting back up to her feet and pulling her fringe down with her fingers.
Dragneel got back up onto his feet, swapping his zanpakuto into his left hand, his shoulder probably a little sore. If there was one thing the boy had, it was potential. He didn't seem to notice this, but whenever he used his magic, he had more than red flames. Tiny licks of his fire turned blue, like spirit energy. This was interesting, to say the least – hopefully he would be able to use this to its fullest potential when the time called for it.
Yelling a typical battle cry, Dragneel swung with all his might from the ground up, trying to uppercut her blade and break her defence. But seeing how she knew this, she used Flash Step and allowed him to swing to the highest point.
But when she reappeared in front of him, intending to aim her blade at his throat from underneath his arms, she didn't expect this: "FIRE DRAGON'S ROAR!"
Out of reflex, Kagami covered her face. But his spell pushed her back several metres, and she landed on her side. She had to admit, that was smart of him – he probably intentionally used his zanpakuto for most of the fight so that he could use his Roar.
Speaking of which…
"Ha! How'd ya like that!?" the boy said, proud of his achievement.
She got up to her feet, never taking her eyes off of him. "I see, so you're a dragon slayer."
"Damn right I am! Igneel was the one who taught me how to use magic, and I'm gonna use it to beat you!"
She pulled her fringe down with her fingers, hiding her smirk with her forearm. "You have to be the cockiest soul reaper I have ever met. You think that because you surprised me once it ensures your victory?"
In a single instant, she used Flash Step and reappeared several metres behind the dragon slayer. Her zanpakuto was held out to her side.
And spontaneously, the entire top half of Dragneel's Shihakusho was shredded into little pieces, baring his entire upper body. She couldn't see his face, but Kagami could tell that the substitute was shocked at her speed and preciseness. What she did seemed ridiculous, but the last thing she wanted to do was seriously injure him. Kagami still had a use for him.
"Don't you get it now?" she asked him. "I am leagues above you, Dragneel. What I did to you just then was a small indication of what I'm capable of. I think it would be wise of you to not underestimate any of your opponents, myself included."
He didn't respond for some reason.
"Have I made myself clear?"
"Tell me something: Why are you doing all this?" Dragneel asked.
"What do you mean?" She already knew the answer to his question, but she wanted to see if he could figure it out.
"First you take Momo, Jellal, and my body. Then I find you in Bosco. Then you challenge me to a fight after feeding me." Kagami heard his sword bounce off the ground. He must have dropped it. "What you're doing isn't making any sense. What's your deal, seriously? It's bugging the crap outta me!"
"Do you want to know?"
She smiled. "Alright then. What I'm doing is–"
A voice came from down below in the street. It was a woman's.
"Wait, that was Lucy just now…" Dragneel muttered. Kagami heard him pick up his sword and run over to see what was going on.
She stayed behind. She already knew what was about to unfold. It was going according to her plan, after all.
What happened? Why did Lucy scream Erza's name? Did something happen to her? But how? This was Erza they were talking about, the strongest woman in Fairy Tail. If something happened to her, then…
Natsu jumped down from the building he was on top of and landed hard on the ground. In front of him were Gajeel and Happy, both of whom looked shocked. Gray and Juvia were with some guy whose blood stained his clothes, but for some reason they weren't paying attention to him. Natsu found Lucy on her knees ten metres to his left, next to…
The sight he had just seen was the most horrifying thing he had ever laid eyes on in his entire life. Lucy was crying, holding Erza's upper body off the ground. Erza didn't move. Her arm was flat on the ground, seemingly lifeless.
"E-Erza…?" His voice felt distant, far away. Was he dreaming? Why wasn't she moving? Surely she . . . wasn't dead, was she?
There was someone standing over the two of them, holding a red scythe by her side. She was wearing a tattered grey cloak, the inside a dark purple. Her skin was pale, cold, and almost dead. And her face… Her eyes didn't even look like normal eyes. They were so grey and dark, Natsu thought that he was staring into a black void. The hairstyle was indistinguishable.
It was Momo.
And she somehow landed a strike on Erza.
"W-Why…" Tears started to well up in his eyes. "How…" They spilled down his cheeks and onto the ground. "This isn't possible…"
"Holy shit…" Gajeel muttered while Happy bawled his eyes out. "This is unreal…"
It was not possible. No, it was impossible. Erza would never die like this. Not now.
He thought he stood back up on his feet with his sword in hand. He also thought a sudden surge of power unleashed itself from within him. He thought his dragon slayer flames burned intensely in the night. He thought he was glaring fiercely at Momo.
He thought, as he launched himself at her, both of their weapons clashing, he screamed, "WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU DONE, MOMO!?"
He thought he did all of this – in fact, he did do this – but his mind was lost elsewhere.
Kagami heard the dragon slayer scream at the top of his lungs, and was impressed by the increase in the dragon slayer's power. So right now, she was watching the boy and Miss Hinamori engage in a rather out-of-control fight. All sense of reason the boy had was lost within his anger and the power he emitted. She almost was tempted to intervene and stop the fight.
But she restrained herself. This was his fight. His responsibility. If he couldn't defeat the Squad 5 lieutenant even in his current state, then Kagami would have no choice but to finish Hinamori off.
"After all, my intervention is a last resort for this plan. I intend to have Dragneel give Hinamori her soul reaper powers back, forcing out that Hollow and purifying it at the same time. If I'm going to train the dragon slayer into becoming a soul reaper, he must no longer be a substitute. His powers are too limited in his current state.
"After that, we can begin the process of turning him into a full-fledged soul reaper. But first . . ."
She glanced over at her apprentice and the scarlet-haired woman, who was probably the one named Erza. And close by to the two women was a third body. She didn't know who it was, but that was the least of her concerns.
". . . I need to make sure no-one crucial to the plan dies on me."
Natsu was swinging uncontrollably. Every attack he made, as a result, was countered by Momo's scythe. But he didn't care. So much rage was inside him that he didn't care what happened to him.
You idiot… You idiot… "HOW COULD YOOOOOUUUUUUU!?"
He swung his sword again and again, trying with all his might to land a hit on Momo. Those eyes… Those goddamn, dead eyes…
"How can you look at me with a face like THAT!?" He swung downwards, large amounts of fire excreting from his swing, tearing up the rest of the street with so such force that the ground shook slightly. "Why did you do it!? Why did you do that to ERZA!?" He swung horizontally, flames spewing out again, engulfing Momo along with a dozen buildings or more.
"She didn't do anything to you! And yet you think you can kill her!?" He sprinted at top speed, and collided against her scythe with his sword. Screaming at the top of his lungs, he kept sprinting, pushing her back and destroying the ground underneath them. "What the hell is wrong with you!?"
His eyes burned ferociously through the intense flames he was excreting. It was almost as if you were staring into the soul of a real life dragon. "FIRE DRAGON'S ROAR!"
The gigantic flame breath completely engulfed Momo, pushing her up and into the building behind her. The entire top front half of said building was completely destroyed; incinerated; burned to ashes by Natsu's immense power. She landed on the building behind what remained of the first one.
The dragon slayer jumped high into the air, and landed in close proximity to Momo. Tears were still in his eyes despite their intense glow. He was furious. No-one was going to be able to tell him otherwise.
He glanced behind him, saying nothing.
Kagami said, "Before you continue to fight Miss Hinamori, ask yourself this: Does she really seem like the kind of person to want to kill your friends?"
Why was she asking him this?
"Think about it. In order to defeat that Hollow at the tower, she willingly gave you her soul reaper powers. I don't think she did that on a whim, or because she was plotting against you and your friends. This sudden change in her behaviour doesn't seem right, does it?"
Now that Kagami mentioned it…
"Exactly. Right this very moment, a Hollow has taken over her body and is using it against her will. There is only one way for you to stop it."
Natsu wondered what that was exactly. Hopefully he didn't have to kill Momo in order to free her.
As if reading his mind, she answered, "You must give her powers back to her. All of it. None of it can be salvaged for yourself."
"If you don't, however, I will have no choice but to kill Hinamori, along with the Hollow." Kagami drew her sword from the inside of her right sleeve, and held her sword out to her side. "So what will you do?"
The rational part of his mind finally came back to him. Kagami was right. It wasn't like he thought about the reasoning behind Momo's actions. If he killed her without knowing the cause of all of this, he would never forgive himself. Neither would his guild.
Nor his friends.
His eyes stopped glowing, and his flames dispersed completely. "You're right. I'll save Momo."
Kagami sheathed her blade. "Good." She turned to leave. "Oh, and by the way…" She looked over her shoulder. "Your friend is going to be fine. I haven't finished healing her yet, but I at least stopped the bleeding. She'll live." And then Kagami was gone.
Natsu released a breath he didn't realise he was holding. He was glad, at least. Erza was going to be fine. Now he could fight without anything holding him back. Although, he did wonder: How is everyone else dealing with Kagami? But he pushed that aside for later.
He glanced back in front of him, and saw that Momo was up on her feet, ready to fight. He was going to need some sort of plan. If he wanted to save her, he had to make sure he didn't kill her by complete accident. And if he did kill her…
No, he refused to think about that. He was going to succeed, or die trying. "Momo. I swear I'm gonna save you. I'll use everything within my power to meet that end. And . . . I'm sorry for attacking you like before."
He readied his sword, holding it with both hands out in front of him. "Thanks for the gift. But it's time for me to return it to you now."
Momo ran forward, scythe held at her side. Moving at a blinding speed, Natsu almost didn't block her horizontal strike. The force nearly overwhelmed him completely; he had to take a step back to hold his balance.
Natsu held his sword firm, giving him a little bit of time to cast a spell. "FIRE DRAGON'S ROAR!" The flames engulfed Momo, but even he knew better. Sensing her coming from behind, aiming to decapitate him, the dragon slayer ducked low, missing the scythe by the strands of his hair, and prepared a spinning leg sweep. "FIRE DRAGON'S TALONS!" Now induced with flame, Natsu's foot swept Momo off the ground, leaving a small trail of fire where he attacked. It was a successful hit – Natsu had this in the bag.
Out of nowhere, however, Momo spun while her body was literally sideways in the air, sending her scythe sailing over her body, and into Natsu's right collarbone. Blood poured all over his bare chest and abs.
Natsu screamed in agony, the pain completely unbearable. He'd never felt pain like this in his entire life, and he'd been in a lot of fights before this one. He had to pull it out, now. He couldn't stand it for even a second.
Holding his sword in his right hand, and setting his left hand on fire, he screamed at the top of his lungs, and punched the blade of the scythe so hard that it snapped in two, with the tip still inside his body. Shards exploded all over the ground as both soul reapers retreated from each other. Natsu's vision went slightly blurry.
This was real. What he was feeling was all too real. He felt pain. Real, unadulterated, pain. If he pulled out the piece still stuck in his collarbone, he feared he would faint. And also, now he couldn't use his right hand too often – too much movement would make his injury worse.
But at least Momo couldn't use her scythe anymore.
…Or so he initially thought.
Suddenly, Momo's scythe started to fix itself. The blade was being reconstructed by what looked like black energy, which Natsu assumed could only come from her. Gee, that always helped, didn't it? Now what? Momo clearly had the upper hand in fighting with weapons, and she could fix her scythe no matter how many times it broke. What kind of crazy world did she come from, anyway?
Damn it… this was going to be a lot tougher than he thought.
Momo didn't give him enough time to think, as she blitzed forward with another horizontal strike. He blocked it with his sword in his only fully functional hand, but the force behind the swing sent him flying off the building and down to the ground below. He recovered in mid-air and stabbed his sword into the building to keep him from falling. That was close. If he didn't have at least one arm to work with, then falling would've been the last thing he ever did.
Momo appeared to him in the most unfair way. She was directly behind him, standing on the air with whatever special skill she had to do that. "Oh come on, that's crap! I can't do that, and I'm a soul reaper too–" Shit!
She swung her scythe to try and decapitate him, but luckily, he let go of his weapon out of instinct and dropped once again. He fuelled his feet with fire, propelling him upwards. "FIRE DRAGON'S WING ATTACK!"
His two flame whips destroyed a part of the building his sword was stuck in, and they also hit Momo, luckily enough for him, and she went crashing into the ground below, a cloud of dust forming momentarily. Natsu launched himself at the dust cloud, knowing better than to conclude that Momo was finished.
And he was right. Not only was she in a fighting stance, she looked as if the dragon slayer's attack didn't do anything. But as soon as she started moving her legs, Natsu saw for a split second that she was limping.
Right before she disappeared and kicked him in the back. Hard. He fell straight into the pavement, leaving a crater three times his size in his wake. The blade that was still stuck in his collarbone pushed in deeper. Blood poured out and onto the ground as he got up on his knees.
"Damn…" he muttered, before he coughed out blood. "My kidney felt like it exploded…"
This was unbelievable. Natsu was an A-Class Fairy Tail wizard, and he assumed that he had what it took to become S-Class. His arse was being handed to him on a platter. If he didn't let Momo have the chance to get a few good hits on him, Natsu would have the upper hand right now. What was wrong with him? What was holding him back? Was it his soul reaper powers? Was it his magic? Something wasn't at its fullest potential here, and if he didn't figure out what it was and how to fix it, Natsu was going to lose.
Or worse, end up dead.
"Is Erza going to be alright?" asked the blonde girl.
"Your friend is going to be fine," said Kagami. "I'm certain of it. Just give her some rest and she'll be able to walk again."
"Now that that's out of the way…"
As expected. Kagami wasn't trusted by everyone in Dragneel's group. The one with the long black hair and bolts in his face was holding her in the air by her throat. His grip, while not powerful enough to break through her spiritual pressure, was quite firm and strong.
"G-Gajeel!" exclaimed the blonde.
"What are you doing?!" asked the strange blue cat with wings.
But he ignored both of them. "Who are you? Answer me, or else I'll mess up that pretty little face of yours."
Kagami glared at him slightly. "My name is Kagami. I'm a soul reaper."
"Wait," said the wizard without a shirt on, "you're like Natsu?"
"Correction: Dragneel is like me, not the other way around. I've been a soul reaper for longer than any of you have been alive."
"Pah!" spat the one named Gajeel. "You certainly don't look it. Now tell me what the hell's going on. I don't know about everyone else, but I'm pretty frickin' lost right now. All this shit about soul reapers is driving me crazy."
"Very well," said Kagami. "Put me down and I'll tell you the situation."
He glared at her for a moment . . . "Tch…" . . . before he let go and she landed on her feet.
Running her fingers through her fringe, she began, "Currently, Dragneel is trying to save the woman who gave him his soul reaper powers. The only way to do that is to transfer his powers back to her. He received his powers at the Tower of Heaven while trying to defeat a Hollow."
"Okay, what's with this 'Hollow' crap?" Gajeel asked, agitated. "None of this is still making sense right now."
Kagami sighed. This was going to take some time. Time she didn't necessarily have, unless she wanted Dragneel to be at a disadvantage. She could sense the battle from where she was standing – the boy was losing. Soon enough, his spiritual signature was going to fade out. Unless . . .
. . . he was able to figure out how to release the rest of his power inside of him.
Dodge left . . . then right . . . then– "FIRE DRAGON'S IRON FIST!"
She disappeared again. This was really starting to piss him off. He had to finish this before he bled to death.
She came up behind him again.
"FIRE DRAGON'S TALONS!"
Finally, he got another hit in. But she caught his leg and raised her scythe high above her head. She brought it down–
"FIRE DRAGON'S ROAR!"
That made her let go, and even better, she couldn't dodge his attack. Finally, he was starting to get the upper hand–
She emerged from the flames, and Natsu saw for a split second that some of her clothing was burnt away. He saw this, right before she belted him across the face with the not-so-deadly end of her weapon. He went spiralling across the street and bounced off the pavement at least seven times, before he halted to a stop.
Just as he thought this was the end for him, something snapped.
It wasn't a bone or anything like that. No, it was something deep down inside his body. He couldn't explain it, but . . . he felt stronger. He felt like his magic and his soul were . . . united. It didn't make a whole lot of sense to him, but hell, at this point, he'd take anything that could help him win this.
The ground below him shook. Violently. His dragon slayer magic set itself off without Natsu commanding it. Curiously, the colours of the flames were . . . different. Instead of just the typical red flames, there was another coloured flame as well. It was blue. And both the red and blue flames seemed to blend with each other without a problem.
This is . . . just like those other times…
Whatever was happening, Natsu felt like he could finally fight at full strength. "No holding back now…" He got up to his feet, his energy renewed. And when he looked at the stab wound he was dealt with earlier, he noticed that the bleeding stopped. Or at least, it slowed down significantly.
This brought a smirk to his face, as he looked in the direction Momo was in. "I don't know what's going on exactly, but I reckon now's the time I start fighting back!" He slammed his fists together as he spoke that last word. And with it, his flames ceased momentarily, right before his fists were dipped in blue and red flames. "Heh. I got a fire in my belly!"
Kagami sensed the change. It looked like he succeeded. And, strangely enough, everyone else could feel it too. Dragneel was stronger than she gave credit for, if his second increase in spiritual pressure tonight was anything to go by.
"What was that just now?" asked the flying blue cat.
"It was Dragneel."
"Wait, that was Natsu?" said the blonde, surprised. "What did he do?"
"He completely blended his dragon slayer magic with his soul reaper powers together, making him stronger than ever before," said Kagami, smirking, while she pulled her fringe down with her fingers.
"But how? Is that even possible?" the half-naked boy asked.
"It is," she confirmed. "Because Dragneel was a dragon slayer before he became a soul reaper, it took some time for both powers to settle down within his soul. It only took him longer to do this than it should, because the soul reaper powers he's using aren't his to begin with."
"So what, now he's stronger than all of us?" Gajeel asked, clearly annoyed.
"Well, now that his powers are united, it is possible; yes."
"Wow," gasped the flying cat. "That's Natsu for you, always finding some way to become stronger."
"What a pain in the arse…" murmured Gajeel, folding his arms.
"So what will happen now?" the girl standing next to the half-naked man asked.
"It's quite simple, really," said Kagami. "Now, we wait until Dragneel wins."
"FIRE DRAGON'S . . ." He breathed in, and then... ". . . ROAR!"
An eruption of blue and red fire shot out of his mouth. The attack was so large that it reached the same height as the surrounding buildings. If Momo was going to dodge, she'd have to go to the side and attack him there.
And he guessed correctly. Momo appeared to his left after his Dragon's Roar ceased. She swung her scythe vertically.
"Nice try," he said as he sidestepped the attack, "but you're not gonna get me this time!" He lunged forward . . . "FIRE DRAGON'S IRON FIST!" . . . and socked her in the face with his good hand. The force behind the punch was enough to send Momo sailing into a building behind her.
"Okay, now it's time I finish this." He remembered where his sword was. If he was right, it should be on the ground right after he used Fire Dragon's Wing Attack. He did hit the building as well as Momo, after all.
He began sprinting to retrieve his sword. He didn't have a lot of time before Momo recovered and came up with a vengeance. So, he might as well move as fast as he could before that happened. Almost there… There it was. The blade was stuck in the concrete, so he would have to pull it out.
And so did Momo.
With his left hand on the blade, Natsu was impaled in the stomach by Momo's scythe. She was crouched in a stance to his right.
"D-Damn…" Blood filled his mouth, tiny droplets spilling out. He tried to swallow, but the pain was too much, so he spat it all out instead, staining the pavement and his arm.
He couldn't fail now… could he? He was so close to saving her, wasn't he? So then why . . . did this happen to him?
"I-I . . ." He tightened his grip around his sword's handle. ". . . can't . . . die here…!" With all the strength he could muster, he yanked his sword out of the ground in one go. "I made a promise…" He strained to turn his head towards Momo. "I promised . . . that I was going to save you…"
Gathering everything he could into his right arm, he raised it high above his head, ignoring the exploding pain in his collarbone and stomach, and brought his fist down on the scythe, snapping the whole thing into two pieces. Before Momo moved away, he reached out and yanked her hair before he slammed her into the ground. Yes, he was being unnecessarily rough, but he didn't care. He was dying, damn it.
He stood on her stomach, and with one final declaration . . . "I PROMIIIIIIIIIIIIIISED!" . . . he plunged the sword into her chest.
Momo's mouth gaped open, and after a second passed, her body shook violently as the Hollow tried to escape from her body. It twisted and curled, screeching loudly as it did so. Natsu thought his ears were going to explode.
And then, the entire surrounding area was engulfed in a blue light, as Natsu Dragneel, Fairy Tail's fire dragon slayer, had passed his soul reaper powers back to its original owner.
Everyone… take care…
"That light…" the cat said, almost speechless.
"It's beautiful," said the blonde.
The half-naked wizard asked the question that was on everyone's minds . . . "So did he win?"
. . . except for Kagami's.
Yes, obviously the dragon slayer had won the battle, but that wasn't what concerned her right now. No, right now, she was worried about the boy himself. Right before he gave Hinamori her powers back, Kagami felt his spiritual pressure fade exponentially quickly. That only really meant one thing.
To see if her worry was indeed true, she used Flash Step to arrive at the scene of the battle. And sure enough, she was correct, much to her displeasure. Lying there on the ground was Miss Hinamori, who was now wearing her soul reaper uniform once again – she was going to be fine – and next to her, lying on his right side, facing Kagami, was Dragneel.
Dying. Or perhaps, already dead.
"Shit…" she whispered. It was rare for her to ever swear, but right now, this called for it.
She rushed over to him. If he died on her now, then what was the point in all of this? Who else was going to help in stopping Sosuke? She could not let this happen. She wasn't going to go through the process of creating another soul reaper now. Not after all that happened here. Dragneel was a worthy candidate – him dying now would be senseless.
She made it to him, and checked his pulse.
Erza opened her eyes.
It was still night-time. Wait… if it was night-time, then…
She slowly started to move.
It was Lucy. Thank goodness, she was alright.
"Lucy, how is . . . everyone?"
"We're fine, Erza," Gray answered. "We're all safe and sound."
"What about Natsu?" she asked as she began to sit up.
"Careful, you shouldn't rush yourself," said Lucy.
"I'll be fine. I don't know how, but my stomach doesn't hurt as much as it should." Indeed, that was odd. Who healed her? She didn't remember anyone she knew who had healing magic. Not here in Bosco, anyway. But that was beside the point. "So where's Natsu?"
"We don't know yet," said Gajeel. "He went off to battle this 'Momo' girl, and by the looks of it, he won. I think."
"Wait, he fought against her?"
"He'll be fine, Erza," Happy assured, standing next to her. "This is Natsu we're talking about. He won't die on us now. Neither will you."
"I'm afraid you might have to retract that statement at the moment, cat."
"Holy crap!" exclaimed Gajeel, shock written all over his face.
Gray gasped. "N-No way…!"
"By god…!" said Juvia, covering her mouth with her hand.
Both Lucy and Happy looked in front of them as well, their skin going pale, and became very, very quiet.
Then Erza looked ahead, and saw the sight in front of her.
The hooded woman was standing there. And in her arms, was Natsu. Half of his clothes were destroyed, gone. And in the middle of his body, was half a scythe, directly impaled into him, along with what looked like another piece of the blade stuck in his collarbone. And there was a lot of blood on him. Simon's final moment flashed before her eyes.
"Ah–!" Erza's eyes widened. No… It can't be… He . . . just can't be! Tears formed in her eyes.
It wasn't possible. She refused to believe it. Not Natsu. Anyone but Natsu. He couldn't be dead. There was no way…
End of Chapter 4
(A/N: I'll let you all speak for yourselves.)