The dragon head prow on the Metalicana began to open. An enormous double length cannon began to protrude. Levy gaped. The most powerful vessel on the great sea indeed.
"Gihihihi! An eight inch calibre cannon with extended rifling for increased accuracy at long range and a double size chamber for extra explosive power! Pick a point in that wall and we're going right through!" He laughed again. "It's so powerful that the screws have to be engaged to counteract the force. We'd bowl over backwards otherwise!"
"That sounds dangerous," Levy noted, surprised at the rising thrill in her heart. Gajeel saw her mouth tug into an involuntary smile and he grinned in return.
"Life's dangerous, Levi! Now, do you see that wall?"
"Gihi! Not for long! FIRE!" Gajeel ignited the cannon and the Metalicana roared. The shell tore free of its jacket, spinning at great rotation as it hurtled towards the wall. The wall of the shell began to crumble, forming a corkscrew of rotating iron shards behind it. The shell didn't hit the wall: it went through in one blow. As it did so, its trailing shrapnel widened the hole made, causing a huge section of wall to collapse in on itself.
"There's our doorway!" Gajeel yelled over the monstrous din of the cannon. "Full power to the screws! We're taking her in!"
Hold on dad, Levy thought. Your little girl will make you proud.
Gajeel steered his small craft expertly through the ruins of the wall until the water was no more. He slammed mooring hooks into the rock face and they began to ascend up the crumbled fortifications. Angry shouts could be heard down the wall high above but Gajeel paid them no mind and pulled Levy forward, into the fortress itself.
It was dark inside. The wall of the volcano had either been hollowed out or had been full of natural openings anyway. Based on the fortifications outside, the former seemed more likely. Levy barely had the time to register the presence of enemies appearing out of the gloom before Gajeel slew them with great swings of his sword.
"Where are we heading?" Levy asked as Gajeel pushed past an opening, picking a path for reasons she couldn't understand.
"Where would you hide the treasure?"
"The very centre of the volcano…I get it," she said, feeling foolish. She squealed as Gajeel vanished from her immediate field of view. A huge body shoved past her, slamming Gajeel into the wall with tremendous force. He had green hair and a muscular exposed torso showing his strength. Still, Gajeel had caught the sword swing on his own blade.
"You're a strong one," Gajeel noted with a twinkle in his eye. "Orga Nanagear, bounty 30'000."
Levy never really saw it. Gajeel pushed off from the wall, shouldering Orga back and in the tiny space that he's opened, slashed his sword in an upward diagonal arc. Orga's head parted from its shoulder and plopped to the floor with depressing silence.
"Oi, you're smart. Remember where we left that head. I want to pick it up on the way out."
"Is this normal to you!? People's heads just coming off?" Levy murmured.
"Just make sure that it isn't yours," he said with a smirk, pressing on down the hallway. Levy couldn't help but notice that he was leading her by the hand, shielding her with his bulk in the narrow corridor. Maybe he was more heroic that he'd ever let on.
The stone caverns eventually gave way to open air. They were in the volcano's caldera now. Across the bowl shaped structure, the Sabretooth pirates had constructed an elaborate series of wooden walkways, many levels high. They were like the spokes of a wheel coming out from the very centre, where a stone pillar rose high into the sky.
"It's gotta be there!" Levy exclaimed, before suddenly noticing the legion of pirates from all around looking up at the pair. "I…I…I…"
"Come on, Levi! Time to quick ass!" Gajeel thundered down the walkway that they were currently on. Levy looked around helplessly and did the only thing she could: stay by his side. She drew her cutlass and pistol and pressed on after him, trying not to think about the insane odds here. She had to leave it all to him, pick her moment to shine.
On the narrow walkway, Sabretooth's numbers counted for nothing. Gajeel's swings cut across the entire width, sending dismembered bodies falling off of the side. Levy's pistol snapped, killing a man who'd been rushing up behind them, hoping that the girl was easier prey. It was certainly true that a concentrated effort would see her overrun. She glanced over at the next walkway and an idea formed.
"Throw me!" She shouted at Gajeel as a lull in the waves of men hit them. He looked at her like she was a bit crazy. She expected him to ask what she meant, but he actually smiled and shrugged. For a second she thought he'd wrenched her shoulder out of joint, but she was hurtling through the air, slamming down on the adjacent walkway, which was empty for the moment. She regathered her wits and clambered down to her goal.
Meanwhile, Gajeel had come across a pair of figures barring his way. His keen eye could see that these two were stronger than the average grunt here. One was blond, a scar marring his features along with his cocky grin. The other might have passed for Gajeel's brother, with his red eyes and black hair.
"Sting Eucliffe and Rogue Cheney, the twin dragons," Gajeel said, sighing and wringing his shoulders. Killing several dozen men had been somewhat tiring. "After you two managed to escape Salamander, you got a total bounty of one point six million. Wanna know which is worth more?"
"Gajeel Redfox, huh? Don't know what business you have here, but you're sorely mistaken if you thinking that you're getting past the Lady, let alone us." Sting glanced over at his partner. "You always wanted to meet this guy, right?"
"Yes. I'm going to kill him, to see if he's stronger than that other Fairy Tail hunter," Rogue replied emotionlessly. In an instant, swords were drawn and the twin dragons were hurtling down the walkway. Gajeel held up a hand.
"What?" Sting replied, visibly annoyed. "Giving up already?"
"No…I just realized the little clever midget had me calling her by her real name. Leviathan, Levi, Levy. Clever girl!" Gajeel chuckled warmly.
"Why you…you mock us?" Sting shouted, surging back in. With a hearty laugh, Gajeel engaged the pair, parrying and slashing with mad fury.
Levy made it to the lower level and grinned. There were dozens of barrels and the smell and black marks made their contents rather obvious.
To use the scientific measure, there was a metric fuckton of it.
She began to cut the ropes that secured them.
"Hey you!" A man shouted angrily behind her. She looked guiltily at him, like a naughty child caught in the act. The puppy dog eyes momentarily disarmed him and she lashed forwards with her sword. He stumbled backwards, narrowly avoiding the blow and drew a pistol.
"You sure about that?" Levy asked with a grin. She was a small target, and there were an awful lot of explosives behind her. The man grinned a triumphant smile.
"I'm a good shot." The finger tightened on the trigger and for a moment Levy thought that it was all over. But then a black blur hit the man in the face and he screamed as Lily' monkey hands clawed at his eyes. Taking her chance, Levy stabbed him through the heart, somewhat unnerved by the enormity of what she'd done.
Her first kill with the sword.
It was oddly thrilling.
Lily made an odd chirrup, his head cocked and Levy smiled.
"I'm fine, thank you Lily! Nice to know that someone in your partnership has brains! Gihi!" She sniggered Gajeel's laugh and began to work on the ropes again. If she could get them all rolling down and explode them at the very base, the cataclysm would be extraordinary. It might collapse all of the walkways.
The ropes cut, the barrels began to roll away from her and impact on the rock below.
She squealed in surprise as a knife slammed into the wood next to her head. She turned to see a woman clad in luxurious furs stride calmly down the walkway towards her. Her features were hooded and cruel. Even Levy had heard the name of the Sabre's leader.
The Lady, Minerva.
Those lips twisted into a cruel smile upon seeing such weakling prey and her hands flickered faster than Levy's eyes could follow. Levy didn't react properly as four more knives flew out and one cut her forearm. She winced. The Lady was coming closer slowly. If her aim was good at this range, how bad would it be as she got closer?
Four more knives were coming but flickers of steel parried them all. Levy was absolutely amazed. Lily had picked up the knives of Minerva's previous throw and was wielding all four at the same time, one in each palm, one clenched in between his teeth and another in his tail.
"Hah! Gajeel sure keeps you around for good reason!" Levy laughed, amused by the absurdity of the situation.
"You dare mock me?" Minerva asked in a smooth, calm voice. "To think I must waste my time with a child and a monkey. How low have we fallen?"
"I may be a child compare to you, but I'm not the fool who has a safe with no key!" Levy smirked.
Minerva suddenly scowled. "And what, my dear, do you mean by that?"
"This treasure is mine! It belongs to me and I am going to take it from you!"
"You…you brat!" Minerva raged. "I will kill you for such insolence!"
Levy had no idea what happened as Minerva crossed the distance between them so fast she simply couldn't keep up. A long elegant katana was in Minerva's hands and Levy just about managed to parry, but her sword skittered out of her hands, along the planking and off of the edge. She threw herself forward and rolled away as Lily distracted Minerva, knives flashing. Weapons thrown, Lily swung up into the higher walkway with his simian agility.
As Minerva returned her focus on Levy, the smaller girl was pointing her pistol squarely at her.
"You silly girl," Minerva said as she dropped into a ready pose. "I can easily deflect that."
"Maybe, but I'm not aiming for you!" Levy dropped her aim, shooting through a gap in the floorboards. Her aim was pretty shoddy and the bullet missed the black powder spill entirely.
Which was good, as it struck rock, creating a tiny spark.
Minerva had no time to register her death as splinters of wood drove into her back driven by great concussive force, the flame engulfing her moments later. Levy managed to get a bit further up the walkway before it overtook her, blackness swarming her senses.
On the higher platform, Gajeel, Sting and Rogue were spared a quick death. The decking splintered and fractured as chunks of debris crashed through. The whole platform began to lean and they skittered over to the left, desperately trying to keep their footing.
Not letting up, Gajeel charged in even in the middle of the apocalypse, knocking Sting clear over the edge with a terrified scream. Rogue had only moments as Fairy Tail's master hunter brought his full attention to bear and he was sent falling too.
Gajeel leapt right after them.
In midair Gajeel drew his two pistols. They both cracked and in the mayhem of the moment he took the time to admire his handiwork as a hole appeared in both dragons' foreheads.
Letting go of his pistols and grabbing his sword, he shoved it into the nearest pillar, arresting the momentum of his fall. The whole structure was still collapsing though, and he leapt again and again, trying to get to the lower ground. Bless the Shrimp's little heart; she had a way with destruction after all!
At last, the whole structure had collapsed. The stone spire in the centre had somehow stood – Gajeel had no idea how – but the human structures had fallen. The caldera was littered by broken wood and mangled bodies. Gajeel glared at any survivors he came across and they all fled like stray dogs.
"OI! SHRIMP!" He called as loudly as he could. It looked like she hadn't made it. He gritted his teeth under shadowed eyes. He didn't care. He didn't care. He didn't…
Lily shrieked, drawing Gajeel's attention. The small monkey was perching on a pile of debris gesturing frantically. Gajeel rushed over and began digging through it. He tried not to show his relief as he found her, battered and bruised but very much alive. The tiny girl had survived by being just small enough not to be crushed, just fitting in the space the wooden planks left for her.
"I…I don't wanna adventure anymore," she mumbled drearily.
"Ah, don't say that!" Gajeel objected as he scooped her up. "Wait 'til you're all fixed up and we'll get you sailing again! And I don't know if you've forgotten, but there's a treasure just over there. Didn't you want it? Oh well, I'll just take it then, since clearly-"
"Alright, alright, just take me over there," she growled good-naturedly. How adorable. Gajeel carried her to the base of the spire, where there was a doorway etched into the rock. There were four holes in its surface and even Gajeel could figure this one out. They placed the coins in the holes and the door ground open, revealing the cavern within. Gajeel marvelled at the artifice. The door itself was metres thick and made of the densest rock he'd ever seen. No wonder the Sabres had failed to breach it.
Gajeel took a moment to light a torch and they descended down dark steps. Eventually it levelled out and there was an enormous cavern. Gajeel held up the torch and was rewarded by the returning gleam of thousands upon thousands of gold coins and gems. He gaped. It was an area larger than a football pitch, completely covered by a thick layer of immense value. It must be worth over a billion gold.
"Is that all?" Levy asked, voice laden with disappointment.
"I…do you not…I mean look at it…there's like…what?"
"Just gold and gems?" Levy was crying, tears gathering at the corners of her eyes. "My father died for gold and gems? Shouldn't it be more? Wasn't there more meaning?"
"I, jeez Shrimp, that's a loaded question," Gajeel replied.
"The greatest treasure on the great sea is pure monetary value? You can have it. I wanted more." Levy turned around and began to ascend up the stairs. Gajeel sighed and threw a sack to Lily, who started filling it. He may be a pirate hunter, but screw it, no one was gonna miss one sack full.
"Hey it's not safe to go up there alone!" Gajeel barked as he went after her. "There may be more pirates left!"
"What do you care?" Levy sniffed, rubbing her eyes. "Your job is done. Or do you plan to arrest me too?"
"Ah Shrimp, I ain't gonna arrest you! I might have a few days ago, but you really helped me here. We took out a giant pirate crew!" He brightened suddenly. "That's what your father did – he sent us here to make the world a better place. With the Sabres gone, there will be less piracy in these parts. You've helped save people's lives."
"Thanks for trying," Levy said bitterly, not turning around. Gajeel stared after her, visibly annoyed. He pursed his lips, thinking.
"Hey! You wanted adventure, right? Is that a good thing to come from this?"
"I can't," she replied miserably. "I'm too little, too weak to be an adventurer. I'm going to go home and live a safe life. Probably gonna be forced into marrying Jet or Droy. Hopefully Jet if Droy keeps putting on weight."
"Or, you could join me," Gajeel offered. Levy stopped and turned around. She'd never looked so confused.
"Hey you're small, sure, but you're pretty smart! I could use someone like you around. Maybe reduce my collateral damage a little!" He looked around at the wreckage Levy had wrought with her black powder idea. "Well, maybe this isn't a good example…"
"Really? You'd want me?" Levy looked amazed.
"Gihi! Ever been to the Everlue islands?"
"They have giant trees there, as big as a lighthouse! And the fruit matches! I once spent a week eating a single banana from there! Then there's the Vegas island. It's got a weird climate. Half of it is blazing desert, the other half freezing tundra!"
"It does sound incredible."
"Then you wanna see it? The world is a giant place, and I've only seen a small bit myself, but my work takes me everywhere. Come with me, we'll set things right with Gramps, and you'll be part of Fairy Tail!"
"Course, if it's all a bit much, I'm sure Mira could use some help in the bar! What do you say; wanna go back home and read your adventure books…or do you wanna live one!?"
"I think I'd like to read," Levy replied with a sheepish smile, "while sailing to my next adventure!"
"Then come on! Time's a wasting!" Gajeel grinned as he picked her up and rushed towards their boat. Lily watched them go with amusement, slipping five gold coins into his waistband. Bananas weren't free, after all.
His master seemed to have changed recently. Big, rough tough Gajeel had had his childhood crushed. It had needed a helping hand to resurface, the monkey thought. This girl brought out his inner child, his inner goodness. She made him see the world as a better place, full of fun rather than death.
The monkey chattered a laugh as he shouldered the bag of riches.
Those two were clearly made for each other!
Well, I hoped you enjoyed my little nautical jaunt. I never intended this one to be a long story, and it's nice to actually wrap one up for a change! I hadn't planned to end this chapter but I felt that what remained was short enough to tack on the end rather than have its own chapter.
But here's the question: I've done pirates and I'm doing medieval. I'm also preparing a 'real world' story, but I doubt that it'll be much good. So…what setting would you like to see for my next story? Samurai Gajeel in feudal Japan and the geisha girl? Some Victorian tale of the lady and the vagabond? A schoolyard setting?
It would probably be a short story rather than another epic jaunt. I have two of those going and it's rather tiring, but GaLe is so great to write!
Well, thank you for reading, whatever the case!