Disclaimer: Fairy Tail is owned by the Legendary Hiro Mashima.


Ascalon: The Legendary Dragon Slayer

Chapter 8:

The Past That Haunts Us.


...

Silver…

That delicate, lustrous metal…

It was strong, but fragile at the same time. It was the embodiment of purity; an unstained metal which shined far above others. It was magnificent… and it was so beautiful.

But as precious as it was, the gift of silver was a curse that only I had to bear. My fate as a Dragonslayer was a test that I had to endure. The mission I had to finish was a quest I was bound to fail, and the weight of the sword I was tasked to find, was a burden I would never be able to carry.

My name, is Vincent.

Ever since I was little, I had never been special; I was skinny and weak, and my cursed two-toned hair was always in disarray. Back in the old days, I was nearly always dressed in rags; after all, I was an orphan. I grew up with only myself to rely on, feeding on the tiniest bit of scraps I could find, and living in the most dismal and dirtiest of places, for I had no home to return to.

My parents—I knew nothing of them, nor of the reason why they abandoned me. I was alone in this world, and the only hope which I could cling onto was the hope of living. I dreamed, that somewhere out there— somehow, I would be able to make it. I would be able to find happiness, despite the tragic life I was living.

I lived by stealing, it was the only thing I was ever good at, and because of it, I always got into trouble. I was always beaten up… I was always bleeding, inside and out. No one fought for me. No one had my back. This harsh reality dampened my spirit, but never… never did it break my resolve. I worked, and worked; I kept on pushing through, even though the world fought against me.

However, everything changed soon.

In the streets of Midaserith, the capital of Elysia—I was running away from a band of merchants. I passed by the crowded markets, shrugging off the cold stares which were aimed at me—an orphaned boy; a dirty, poor and orphaned boy.

Why though…? Why was I running in the first place?

Well, I was carrying the precious metals the merchants had smuggled.

No—I had stolen them, and as the jewelry jingled and jumped inside my tiny pockets; my feeble strength had started to fail me. After all, I was still five; my skinny arms couldn't hold onto the heavy metal bars I was carrying, and my tiny legs couldn't catch up anymore. My lungs were burning, and they were already coaxing out what was left of the air which kept me conscious.

I looked back, and saw them getting closer. The city guards had been rallied, and everyone… everyone was chasing me. They drew their weapons—axes, pitchforks, sharp sticks, spears and even swords. I thought they were going overboard—I was five goddammit! But to them, that mattered not. What mattered was that I had stolen from them, and I could see it in the reflection of their sharp blades; the pain that I was going to receive after I got caught. I was inexperienced, and stealing was the only way to get the sustenance I needed… I was hungry, and cold.

They couldn't understand… Nobody could.

In desperation, I turned towards the only source of refuge I could find—the Grove of Repose. It was a dangerous forest, and I confirmed this as I watched the guards and pursuers hesitate. My lungs nearly bursting, and my legs passing their limits, I breathed a sigh of relief.

I only got a moment of reprieve.

Because the chase wasn't over, and I had to run again; they stopped hesitating, and resumed their running. I stumbled and fell countless times, letting go of my load, but I didn't return to pick them up. I valued my life, and those precious metals would only burden me if I carried them.

I scratched myself, even twisted my ankle from the pursuit. I had no more options—running away was the only thing in mind.

Finally, I was standing on the edge of a cliff; cornered, with nowhere to run to now. The drop below was a long one, something not even an adult could manage…heck, I couldn't even make out the bottom from where I was standing.

They slowly walked towards me, even though I had completely surrendered the things I had stolen. As I stood there crying, the leader of the merchants slowly inched his way closer.

"Hey kid! Give me my treasure!"

"I don't have—"

"Liar! I can see it! A single piece, but it is precious still!"

Shocked, my hands fumbled towards my left pocket, and I found something—it was a silver ring. I gave it up, throwing it forward for the merchant to catch…

That was when I saw his mouth move—

"Kill him." He ordered.

And the mob moved forward, as a runner tried to catch me…

But he was too late—all of them were.

A gust of wind blew me away, and I was sent crashing into the void below…

In the time of dying, that was when I met her…

Silver… Something swooped from above to catch me, and I stared marvelously at her shining, silver-scaled body.

It was a Dragon. A Silver Dragon.

Argenta raised me, teaching me the lost art of transforming my body into silver. My weak constitution gradually grew firmer, and I finally found the happiness that I had been yearning for. I was finally good at something, and as I spent my days getting stronger, crafting the most beautiful of things I was able to, Argenta watched over me.

In the outskirts of Elysia, hidden by the thick forests devoid of civilization, I lived with my mother.

I finally lived a peaceful life.

But, my peace didn't last long.

July 7, X777—she disappeared without a trace. I was still a kid, I still needed her…Two years were far too short.

But still, as I waited for days, weeks and even months… she never came back.

I was a lone wolf, introverted and antisocial.

Two years later, I drifted all over Elysia, searching for my mother and in my journey, I made my first and only friend.

Wearing torn and dirty clothes, he bumped into me while the authorities chased him—apparently, he too did his fair share of stealing. I didn't know why, but I felt a connection after I saw his pitiful state. I saw the orphan that I was in him, and I resolved to help him.

Unkempt silver hair which was styled to his left, frail and skinny, and a face complete with a rather gloomy but mischievous smile; he was a mysterious guy… And even now, I never really knew what his real name was.

I called him El, and together,

We stole a lot of stuff…

I mean—come on! I was still a poor kid no matter how you looked at me!

We spent our days stealing to fill ourselves up, taking all kinds of shady requests for the sake of money, and helping those who needed it more. Though we instantly became marked because of our petty crimes, we got away every single time. The authorities panicked—the news of two mere children taking things which were worth millions of jewels quickly spread, and looking back…I could only laugh it off, disbelieving how I had managed to come out unscathed during our thieveries.

El was talented with knives—he kept with him different throwing blades, and his skill in it was simply shocking. His aiming and timing were too surreal; hitting only the things he targeted no matter how far it was—I could've sworn it was magic, but he simply said it was a mere hobby of his. He was a jack-of-all trades—Lockpicking, stealing and other stuff, he was like me; a talented thief.

However, the difference between us was apparent—

In the land of Elysia, only a few shone brightly. Unlike the continent from the East; specifically the westernmost countryFiore, Elysia was different, for its atmosphere lacked the abundance of Ether particles, which meant only one thing—Magic was scarce. I had Magic, and El didn't. A year passed by, and our bond grew stronger. Soon, I finally showed him my secret, hoping to impress him…

I showed him that I was a Dragonslayer—a fact that I had hidden since my separation from Argenta.

But he became depressed instead. During nights, when we spent time talking, he would always say these words to me—

"You know… I really wish I could see a Dragon like you… I'm really jealous, you know? A Dragonslayer, huh…? I sure wish to be one…"

After that, he slowly drifted away from me, claiming that he would only hold me back… He told me that'd I'd be better off alone; for a no-good guy like him would only hinder me. Soon after, a suspicious man took an interest in us, and decided to take us in, claiming that we had remarkable skills. El was happy, but I objected to it, claiming that the guy couldn't be trusted…

I knew that something was fishy from the start, but El—

I remembered our fight like it was yesterday.

"What are you saying? Someone's here to adopt us, Vincent!" I could hear him yelling at me with these same words.

"Don't you find him suspicious? Try and think about it—"

"I am! I'm thinking what's best for us!"

"You're only thinking about what's best for you! We got this far just by the two of us, haven't we?"

"…You're saying we don't need help? Why—cause you have Dragonslayer magic, huh?! What about me then?!"

"No, wait. El—"

Our friendship died due that single misunderstanding… And El—he was taken away by that shady character—a middle aged man with a rather handsome face and gray hair…

But I was defiant—I challenged the man in order to open El's eyes, but…

I could still remember the scene; I had been reliving that moment every single time.

When he stretched out his arms, a pair of black, feathery wings as dark as the midnight sky emerged from his back. His entire form, though beautiful… was menacing, but the thing which scared me the most—it was a grey scythe with a design I had never seen before, and its wicked edge had frozen me before I could even put up a fight.

I lost El that day…

Four years passed by and my fame rose, but I was never that powerful. My days as a young mercenary were fruitful, and the people of Elysia started to go to me whenever they wanted something taken care off. I stopped stealing, unless the job called for it. I was talented, skilled, I did the job done…and I knew lost magic, which was a rarity in the continent. But still, I wasn't the best…

Soon, I stumbled upon a conversation I wasn't supposed to hear. The palace had paid for my service as a one-time guard for his majesty—King Tellos, and while I waited for the royalty to get out of his room, my oversensitive ears heard hushed voices inside.

"I thought you called for the gold one?! Why did you assign a young brat as my body guard?!" An angry voice, which I assumed to be Elysia's ruler shook even the doorway.

Okay, I was pissed. But I decided to continue eavesdropping anyway.

"I-I'm sorry, your majesty…B-But you told me to look for a Dragonslayer—I didn't know there were specifics… Speaking of which—Hydra's preparations are ready. Azrael has been taken cared off, and the Slayer Project is finally at the next phase. Your majesty's son—Prince Aloysius has been…donated as a test subject." I heard an old voice rasp, whom I recognized as the king's adviser.

Aloysius—if I heard right, this was the name of the King's son! What the hell—donated?

I was bewildered, but I kept listening.

"Good, good—maybe that brat would finally learn some manners. What about our ties with Fiore's Balam Alliance?"

"…Negotiations are being made, but Grimoire has especially been… interested, I should say."

"Ahh… That one, eh? Good, good… And the royal court in Mercurius?"

"They know not a thing… That Eclipse project of theirs—hahaha, those idiots don't know a thing about the spies inside their palace…"

Azrael…? Hydra, Balam Alliance? What were they talking about? As I strained my ears to listen, the next conversation had me on the edge.

"Hydra, by the way, has caught one. I was rather surprised—I thought they were extinct."

"…Ahh, yes, I've heard. It's on Mt. Tannin, right? That Silver Dragon—"

Silver Dragon.

It was definitely my mother.

I left the palace without a word, and ventured to save Argenta.

"Let her go!" I shouted, as several guards subdued me. I used every ounce of strength I had left in order to fight.

I had finally found her…

But, something was wrong.

Argenta was thrashing wildly inside a golden cage, and several people were doing something to her. Enraged, I finished off my opponents, and ran to save her…but someone stood in my way.

"What are you doing?"

I presumed he was their leader, but I couldn't get a clear view of his face. He was wearing a long hooded robe which covered his entire body, and when I stared at his clothes, I saw something etched on it.

A black Dragon…eating its own tail.

I fought, but I was outclassed. Even with my magic, the man was too powerful. He didn't even use magic to overpower me. But I was sure of something, because when I smelled the air surrounding him—I caught the whiff of a strong scent, a smell similar to mine.

He was a Dragonslayer like me.

As I lay defeated, he told me only a single thing—

"Bring me the sword named Ascalon, and I will let her go."

I knew nothing of it, by I tirelessly searched… wasting away one entire year in the process, but I still had no leads. However, I couldn't go back empty handed, not until I found the sword that I was looking for. I went everywhere; but clearly, the sword was not in Elysia. I secretly journeyed to Fiore, hoping to find answers, and it was there that I heard about him—

The Salamander. A Dragonslayer like myself. I wanted to meet him, to ask for his advice, but I had mission to carry out. Time was of the essence.

Argenta… Argenta needed me…

Finally, I found the answer inside Fiore's lost archives, hidden deep inside its ancient library. As soon as I found out, I journeyed—to the Land of the Exiled. I had gotten past the first guardian, but when I reached the island itself, it was just like before... I spent two years wandering pointlessly inside, hoping to find the sword. I grew stronger each day, with the never-ending battles I had to fight. I got lost time and time again, but I couldn't give up…

And even when I did, it was hopeless—I couldn't get out. There were no exits, and even the entrance itself had vanished. I searched and searched, but I got nowhere… The goal I had set—it was so damn near, it was within arm's reach, but the only thing my hands could catch was the swirling wind of misery.

For two empty years, I drifted away helplessly, searching…and searching. I gradually lost myself—my mind, my memories…

And then one day, I found the answer.

I found him—a guy just like me; searching for the very same sword I was looking for. I followed him into the Crossroads—a place I had been in time and time again… I shook my head, dismayed when I realized that he too was clueless. Disheartened, I merely stared at his unmoving form…until he found the answer.

"So, I have to go where the shadow falls? But it's off the Path!" He yelled dubiously.

The shadows…? Now that I noticed it, I found it odd… The shadow had remained still, despite the constant shifting of the light…

Imagine my surprise, when I found out that he was the Salamander I had looked up to.

Without hesitating, I fought him for the right to claim the sword.


Silver

As the sunlit sky grew darker, the sharp piece of silver which was coming towards him shone with deadly luster. He ducked to avoid it, and as the silver blade sliced the empty space above him, he twisted his body and aimed a fast punch on the younger mage's midsection.

However—

"SILVER DRAGON'S GUARD!"

The Silver Dragonslayer lowered his right arm, and the entirety of it transformed into an intricately designed hexagonal shield, which blocked the incoming assault. The sound of flesh colliding with hard metal ringed on the battleground, as the pink haired mage pulled out his arm as quickly as he had exposed it. He rubbed his fist to get rid of the slight pain, but he couldn't rest yet. The younger mage swiped his free arm and pointed it towards his opponent's face. His pale skin shined for a brief moment, and the fire mage only had time to cock his head to the side—

"SILVER DRAGON'S GIANT CLAYMORE!"

The wind whistled as the attack came, and if he had been even a second late, he knew he was finished. The sharp edge of the opponent's now bladed arm had grazed his cheek; he pushed his feet against the ground and dashed back to get some space between them.

But still, even with his shirt in tatters, he couldn't help but smile. His leather rucksack was not with him, and his pearl necklace hung on his torn, sleeveless shirt—the weariness of its surface showing the evidence of the trials he had faced. The newly acquired black brand—the Ouroboros, below his left shoulder was glistening due to a mixture of sweat and dust. As the renowned Fire Dragonslayer wiped away the trickling blood from his new wound, he smirked; showing the perfectly sharp canines contained inside his dry mouth.

"Ignis probat argentum." He mouthed, grinning at the statement his mind had conceived out of nowhere. He was getting the hang of Draconic speech, but right now—that mattered not.

Natsu Dragneel had been waiting for an opponent like this.

Truly, this guy—Vincent Arguros, was the first guy to actually make him sweat like crazy since his last real fight. The younger mage rode on the rhythm he had been fighting on, and kept his pace so as not to reveal his flaws. Strength wise, Natsu knew that the guy was probably near Sting and Rogue's level; his status as a First-Generation Dragonslayer wasn't just for show after all…But still, the nearly-shirtless mage knew that the kid was nowhere near his level—and he could see why.

…They had been going at it for two hours now, and both sides were still fighting strong. Except—

"Hah…Hah…" The younger Dragonslayer was panting haphazardly, as if the tiredness had finally caught up with him. His transformed hands had returned to their original state, but when he fixed his steely, grey eyes on his opponent, his look told Natsu one thing—

The fight was far from over…

Natsu drew a long sigh, and nursed his hand as he addressed his opponent.

"Give up… You can't beat me~" He voiced out lightly, betraying the seriousness of the entire situation.

"No! I-I can still fight!"

The pinkette sighed again, and placed both hands on his hips.

"Listen kid—I admire your strength. But really, you're no match for me. I haven't been going all out yet, and frankly enough, as much as I'd love fighting with you, you're wasting my time—"

"Shut up! And I'm not a kid, dammit! I'll prove that I'm stronger than you!"

He smirked at the declaration. The kid was like him in many ways: Brash, cocky, impatient and stubborn… but really—he needed to finish this quickly. Now that he knew how to find Ascalon, he really, really wanted to go and find it already, but the brat was making things hard.

While he stood still, contemplating about what to do, the younger mage made his move. He charged towards his opponent, brandishing his now transformed arm wildly.

"SILVER DRAGON'S GIANT CLAYMORE!"

He swung diagonally, but a quick back step evaded his attack. He swung again, this time in a horizontal fashion, however; the Fire mage casually ducked with little effort, and swiped his feet in a circular manner. The low kick caught the impatient kid's feet, and he toppled over, face first—his balance having been disrupted.

Vincent's worn out face crashed against the ground, but he raised it up, spitting out the soil his mouth had swallowed.

"Grgh! Why you—"

His eyes grew, as Natsu raised his right foot overhead, and brought it downwards.

"FIRE DRAGON'S CLAW!"

A cloud of bright orange flames surged from it, and Vincent knew he had to act fast—after all, the attack was aimed at his head. In the nick of time, he had rolled his body away, however—

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!

His body rolled farther than he had expected, due to the force which erupted. An explosion broke out, and after the dust settled, Vincent's unbelieving eyes could see the obscured figure of a pink haired man standing in the middle of a small crater.

"What… the hell…?"

Natsu scratched his head, puzzled at the strength of his attack.

…Yes, they were still fighting on the crossroads, mind you…

And yes, part of the path leading south had been erased by his last spell.

"Hmmm? I guess I put too much power in it. Hey you—" He pointed a finger to the younger mage.

"You should give up… I'm really bad at holding back, you know."

…However—

Vincent quickly got up from his previous position, and stretched his right hand in front of him. He disregarded the older mage's threat, and set off for his next assault.

"SILVER DRAGON'S REVOLVING LANCE!"

A spinning, silver pole emerged from where his hand should've been, and it traveled with amazing speed towards the unmoving fire mage.

"I can't! I won't lose—not here, not now, and not to you!"

…Natsu's shoulders sagged, and he breathed hard to regain his composure. In the blink of an eye, the pole's tip was a meter away from his heart.

And in that mere second, his onyx eyes hardened.

"FIRE DRAGON'S MOLTEN SHELL!"

FWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!

Vincent's mouth was on the verge of falling.

"No…way."

His silver spear… it had melted before it even reached its target. Clad in a thin coat of orange flames, which briefly shadowed the sharp features of the mage's face—Natsu stood still, as the remnants of the approaching silver pole vaporized without hitting him.

And with one breath, he called out the fire which had covered his body. The char on the now burnt ground he was at was the only thing which remained of his devastating technique.

"I told you, I'm not good at holding back…"

The Silver Dragonslayer blinked for a second, trying to confirm what he had seen. After all, it was impossible; sure, silver could be deformed but fire, but to completely erase its existence… that was the first time he had witnessed such a scene.

Unluckily for him, that single second was all it took for the Fire mage to close the small distance between them. Careful not to step away from the small area which served as the intersection of four paths, Natsu swiftly ran forward, where he ended in front of the long-haired teen. He aimed a sharp jab at the opponent's face, but Vincent had been brought back from his musing, and quickly moved his head out of the way. The wind whistled past his ear, and just as he had successfully veered his head off to one side, he saw the attacker's other fist aimed at his unguarded stomach.

"SILVER DRAGON'S SCALES!"

Covering his entire body with shiny, metallic scales, Vincent caught the attack with both of his hands, however—he did not expect the force behind it to be so damn strong.

His whole body was pushed back, as he willed his feet to transform into spikes to get a better grip on the ground. Vincent skidded to a stop after nearly passing the boundary between the path and the forest. The pink haired youth's arm was still outstretched, as his sweaty face traced a smile for the umpteenth time already.

"…Hahaha, you really are like Gajeel… You're pretty damn resilient, but—"

Vincent instinctively rolled forward, as a red magic seal appeared from where had been.

"FIRE DRAGON'S SEARING MAGMA!"

Natsu called loudly, and a large pillar of flames emerged from the ground—but seeing as his attack didn't work, he pulled back his hand, and ran again.

"Crap, if he keeps moving like that, it'll be hard to hit him… He's pretty damn nimble for any of my ranged attacks."

Vincent stood up from his position, and ran to meet the opponent head on. Still covered with silver scales, he exchanged blows with Natsu. A right hook, but it was blocked. Natsu countered with an uppercut, but he pulled his head back swiftly. He twisted his body and aimed a kick to the temple, but the taller mage ducked and aimed a low kick to his shin. Despite the armor he had placed on himself, his body couldn't keep up with the fire mage's relentless and powerful attacks. For minutes, it was a never ending stalemate of hit-and-being-hit tactics. He managed to hit the pinkette's stomach twice, but he too had been hit… for an uncountable number of times.

But Vincent knew that he wouldn't last long; his opponent had started to cover his hands with dangerous and explosive flames, which shook even his bones and damaged everything inside him once they hit. His silver scales were starting to fall off due to the obvious pain he was receiving.

Finally, Vincent suddenly jumped high with both hands above him.

"SILVER DRAGON'S HALBERD!"

Both of his arms morphed into a gigantic axe made of silver; the sharp edge was glinting wickedly due to the sunlight, and the entire thing's size was bigger than his whole body. He brought it downward, but—

"Cool, a shiny axe… but is this it?"

"Wha—"

Natsu didn't bother moving out of the way, and instead, raised a single opened hand to try and catch it.

"Stupid! Do you think you could—" The silver mage yelled in his head; the ludicrous act his opponent was trying to pull was no joke.

The hinges which stopped his jaw from falling had finally been undone, as Vincent Arguros' gaping mouth remained unshut, his eyes having grown wider again due to the impossible feat. His fiery counterpart really did catch it. Natsu's eyes were fixed on the ground, as the young Dragonslayer's body stayed suspended in the air.

"I told you, I'm in a hurry."

CRAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK!

SMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAASH!

…The entire thing broke into pieces.

The thick, silver axe… it had been crushed by a single hand.

The silver mage was seething with anger. He landed with his back facing the tall obelisk which stood in the middle of the Crossroads, and positioned his feet firmly; standing hard and digging deep, he opened his mouth to take in as much air as he could.

Upon seeing this, Natsu also drew back and breathed in; both calling at the same time—

"SILVER DRAGON'S ROAR!"

"FIRE DRAGON'S ROAR!"

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!

…And everything was blown away. The nearby trees had been uprooted, as the clash between fire and shards of silver occurred. The torrent of flames which burst forth from the pink haired mage's mouth was pushing back the swirl of metallic wind coming from the younger mage. Natsu's already torn shirt had been ripped apart by the raging wind which erupted from the impact, and Vincent's two toned hair was flying away madly; the long braid which cascaded on his face becoming undone in the process.

It was a battle of endurance. Who would run out of power first? Who would be the first to weaken?

As the breath attacks collided with each other, Natsu's victory soon became apparent. Vincent had been coaxing out the tiniest bit of air left in his lungs, and the swirling mass of silver shards gradually grew weaker, and weaker…

Finally, the force behind Natsu's roar blew the opponent away; scorching the younger mage and burning most of his fur clothing. Vincent's seemingly weightless body crashed against the tough pillar, where it remained—his shoulders had sagged forward due to the impact, and his now naked torso showed newly received burnt marks on them. His back could only lean on the tall structure for support… for his strength had diminished.

It was over…

…At least, to Natsu.

The victor slowly walked towards the beaten opponent, crouching low so that their eyes were leveled. On the way, he passed by the bag he had dropped prior to the fight, where a short blade was nested inside. He disregarded the object for now, and proceeded towards the younger mage. He stopped a meter away from the unmoving teen, and inspected his beaten form.

…His eyes grew wide as soon as he saw the tattoo on the opponent's chest. It was a brand, identical to his.

"…The Ouroboros. Does this mean that every single person in here's been branded? But why?" Natsu thought, before shaking his head.

"It's over… So—" He started, but his opponent cut in.

"N-No… It is not…"

"You can't put up a good fight now. As much as I want it to continue, you're beat, and you still haven't seen everything—" He reasoned, however…

"I'LL SAY IT'S OVER WHEN IT IS, YOU FUCKER!"

Natsu's reflexes instinctively kicked in, and he jumped back to avoid a spike which had emerged from the ground.

"What the—"

Vincent had fished his pockets, his hands fumbling frantically as he tried to search for something—and when his hands closed tightly; he brought the thing out for Natsu to see.

It was a ring. A silver ring, and with his enhanced vision, he could see Draconic markings on it. They were no more than tiny scribbles, but he could make out one thing—

"…Maledictum."

Natsu's eyes grew wide, as he shouted—

"No—That thing's cursed! Don't you dare—"

GULP.

SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING!

...

When Vincent stood back up, his entire body was emitting a weird light, and silver scales had reappeared on the surface of his skin. His eyes were glowing white, as he moved in a flash of silver.

"Dragon Force."

Natsu muttered two mere words, before he was sent flying up in the air; the now-glowing mage had forced his palm on the surface below him, and a wide, cylindrical pole had emerged from the ground, slamming against the still-surprised mage's body.

Natsu tried to regain the balance he had lost, but—

"SILVER DRAGON'S CRUSHING HAMMER!"

…Vincent reappeared above him, brandishing a giant mallet he had crafted from his arms. The pinkette's eyes widened in surprise; for a moment, it seemed as if the long-haired Dragonslayer's body had turned into liquid silver, and maneuvered itself into the air, where his body magically reappeared.

That didn't matter to Natsu though, even as he crossed both arms to block the incoming attack—he was sent back to the ground in an almighty blow.

BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANG!

CRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAASH!

…The resounding impact of his falling body could be heard from miles, as a new crater appeared; one which lodged the body of a semi-naked Dragonslayer. But despite this, Natsu only had one thing to say.

"…Ouch."

"SILVER DRAGON'S REVOLVING LANCE!"

A dozen projectiles rained from above him, but he simply smirked with arrogance.

The spears pierced the ground… but the fire mage was left untouched. Still airborne, the long-haired teen inspected the sight with his enhanced vision, where he could make out a thin, fiery aura surrounding his opponent's body. Three of his metallic poles had lodged themselves on the hard ground, and the others… they had melted once again.

…If it was even possible, the younger mage snapped yet again.

"GRRAAAAAAAAAAGH!"

In a metallic blur, he rushed downward headfirst, where Natsu had finally managed to get up.

"SALAMANDER!"

Vincent aimed his open palm towards the opponent… whose smile had disappeared from his face.

"SILVER DRAGON'S REVOLVING LANCE!"

…The guy didn't learn. However, Natsu actually sidestepped out of the way, as the metal pole pierced the ground below him. When Vincent had reached the earth, he flipped once, and transformed his arm into a large blade.

"SILVER DRAGON'S GIANT CLAYMORE—"

But when he swung this time, the pinkette didn't make a move to avoid it; instead, he caught the blade in his hand…

And snapped it in half.

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!"

Vincent's body crashed against the ground, where he reeled in pain. He clutched his arm, but luckily—he managed to reform its original shape.

Natsu stared down at his lying figure.

"Why? Why do you try so hard?! What is that sword to you?"

"How can you understand?" Vincent shouted hoarsely, suddenly aiming his foot on the fire mage's face.

A long, flat pole rushed from it, and collided against the opponent's cheek. Natsu held his stance however, and his body remained on the spot.

"Two years! I've searched for it for two goddamn years!" Vincent's body turned into liquid silver, and the entirety of it rushed towards the still Dragonslayer.

"SILVER DRAGON'S ROAR!"

His body reappeared, as a gust of swirling, metallic wind assaulted Natsu at point blank range, and he flew towards the western road; silver shards embedding themselves on his skin.

When the attack died down, Vincent was panting heavily, his eyes fixed on his opponent, who was lying on his back.

…He raised his arm in victory.

…but Natsu stood back up, his face tracing a stoic mask.

"I've suffered! I've endured! And here you are—claiming you have been called. Is there no justice in this world? Shouldn't the hardworking be rewarded?!" Vincent suddenly called aloud, but Natsu's face was still expressionless.

"Like I give a fuck about that… I'm asking you, why are you searching for the sword—"

It happened then.

A pillar of silver light erupted from the similarly colored magic seal which had appeared below the younger mage, its zenith hidden past the distant clouds. He could only stare at awe, from the beauty which the light was giving off.

And when the light died down, Natsu saw Vincent pointing both hands in his direction, as a gigantic seal faced him.

"DRAGONSLAYER SECRET ART—"

He spread out his arms to the side, and at once, the seal disappeared… And the air in front of him started shining mysteriously.

"SERAPHIC LUSTER: THOUSAND LANCE ASSAULT!"

...

…Natsu couldn't run…

He couldn't hide…

He didn't even have time to summon his barrier…

—Because the attack was so sudden, he was caught unprepared. The empty space in front of him suddenly rained with sharp, silver edges from every direction… And every single one of them was coming towards him with blinding speed.

GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

…He couldn't count the number of times he had been pierced, nor the wounds he had received from the assault. Blood was gushing out from different holes in his body…and when everything stopped, his body fell backwards; an enormous amount of blood had spilled on the ground below him, dying it with crimson.

…But Vincent wasn't finished.

"I will find Ascalon! I will save my mother—"

The young Dragonslayer thrust out his palms on the ground, and shouted—

"DRAGONSLAYER SECRET ART—"

The entire area was glowing, but Natsu realized too late—the glow was coming from a large magic seal below…

And—

"SERAPHIC LUSTER: SILVER BLADE IMPALEMENT!"

Silver.

It was everywhere…

On the ground, silver edges akin to the shapes Vincent had produced earlier erupted from every single spot contained by the large magic seal. His body, which had already fallen, had once again been pierced.

…On his arms…

…even on his legs…

…And—

Natsu stared at his stomach, where a large silver blade was protruding; its tip covered with the blood which was keeping him alive.

The light dimmed, as the clouds shifted; concealing the shine from above, and foreshadowing the events that were yet to take place. Storm clouds had taken over the sky, and the brilliance of the sun's radiance was hidden by the gloomy weather. Pretty soon, it would definitely rain…

The silver spikes on the ground had lost their gleam, and the four paths which crossed over towards each other were in ruins…

And lying on one of those paths, was a bloodied pink haired man.

"…I won…?"

Vincent's grey eyes were fixed on the unmoving body of the mighty Salamander. His fists wouldn't stop shaking at the feat he had accomplished, and tears of pure joy were cascading down his pale face. As he turned around, facing the shadowy trail created by the tall obelisk, he started walking slowly… lavishing in the blissful feeling he was in…

"Argenta… Wait for me…" He muttered tearfully.

Vincent Arguros had won the battle…

…or did he…?

"I see…"

He froze in his tracks, as a familiar voice broke his musings.

"Impossible—" He mouthed, wide-eyed, and frantically turned his head back.

But the damaged body had vanished. He searched for something, anything which would confirm his suspicion, and when he turned around—

"Hey."

His heart leaped due to shock.

Natsu Dragneel was standing in front of him, and Vincent could only stare up into the taller man's eyes…into the Salamander's cold eyes. His body was torn beyond repair, and the young Dragonslayer found it difficult to comprehend as to why the man was still moving, despite the damage that he had taken. Silver shards were still lodged on his flesh, and even the open wounds were still gushing out fresh blood.

Until…

SIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIZZZLE.

He backed away slowly, horrified at the spectacle which was occurring in front of him. The shards of silver melted into nothing, and his immeasurable wounds were shutting on their own. The gigantic hole in his stomach was soon reduced to a mere scar.

Natsu rubbed his sore neck as if nothing had happened.

"What—How?!"

And he realized it—the heat had suddenly gone up. The silver spikes which surrounded the entire area were slowly melting into liquid, and the ground itself had started to crack. The fire mage had burned off the wounds on his body… and not even for a single time did he see him wince in pain.

They were right…The Salamander was a monster.

"It's for your parent, isn't it? But still—"

Vincent lashed out before Natsu even finished his statement. A quick jab was coming towards the pinkette's face, but he merely caught in his hand.

"I'm sorry…" He muttered sadly.

FWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSH!

This time, Vincent was smart—he had distanced himself considerably, and the reason was apparent.

"What…?"

A fiery visage of a towering fire dragon had appeared on Natsu's back, as the aforementioned mage covered himself in a torrent of fire, his eyes glowing red…

"I'll show you, why you should just give up… right now."

And suddenly—

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!

CRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAASH!

Thunder roared, its deafening clap drowning the cries of the strong rain which had started to fall. Lightning flashed across the sky, dimly brightening the gloomy atmosphere for a mere second.

Vincent knew he had to be careful; after all, he was covered in metal, and if lightning struck by chance—

CRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAASH!

…He'd definitely regret it.

Yet, despite the rain, his flames refused to die out. Lightning traced the grey skies, and when the thunder roared once more—

CRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAASH!

Lightning struck the Fire Dragonslayer; its blinding aura prompting the younger mage to cover his eyes.

He opened them to see something he had never seen before.

A few feet from him stood Natsu, his still half-naked body drenched in the rain. The Dragon-like shroud had vanished, and a burnt part of the ground was the only evidence which remained of the lightning strike.

But that wasn't it…

SPAAAAAAAAAAAAAARK!

It was the fact that the aforementioned Dragonslayer's body was emitting lightning… lightning and sparks of flames.

"Mode: Lightning Flame Dragonslayer…"

"What? Why are you—"

Vincent blinked once to confirm his vision, but when he opened his eyes—

His sight could only register a yellowish blur, accompanied by an orange flash, before Natsu rematerialized in front of him; and a fist had embedded itself on his bare stomach before he had even realized it.

BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANG!

He was sent flying, as a mixture of fire and lightning burned and electrocuted him at the same time. His still armored body made it especially painful, seeing as he was basically raising a death flag by doing it.

"Hey, did you know? Black told me that silver is the most conductive metal…isn't it?" A mere whisper resounded, as a streak of lightning and fire followed his body, and the pinkette appeared from nowhere, aiming another punch on him.

"LIGHTNING FLAME DRAGON'S IRON FIST!"

He tried to dodge, but the guy was way too fast—

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!

"GRRRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!"

His body embedded itself on a new crater, which was situated on the eastern part of the crossroads. But Natsu wasn't done—He rained punch after punch on the silver-scaled youth; breaking his armor and shaking his will to fight.

"Give up!"

"I—No!" But the younger Dragonslayer was stubborn.

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!

"I said give up!"

"I…"

It went on for some time…

And soon, Natsu could see that it was over. When he stopped his fist from damaging the opponent any further, he could see that the silver mage was simply clinging to the tiniest bit of consciousness he could muster. His fur clothing had disintegrated completely, and his body…it was shivering, but Natsu was sure that it wasn't coming from the sheer cold of the rain.

The taller man stood straight from his position, and walked towards his rucksack. The rain wasn't letting up, and the sky had become even darker.

However—

"I-I can still fight!" Vincent proclaimed, as he tried to stand on his feet, but he was staggering.

Natsu's patience was at breaking point.

ZUZUZUZUZUZUZUZUZUZUZUZUZUZUZUZUZUZUZUZU!

RUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUMBLE!

A large, red magic seal appeared below the weak mage… and another one far above him; this one colored yellow.

Vincent's knees trembled, because the atmosphere became heavy all of a sudden… and the level of animosity from the fire mage had gone up. The man standing in front of him; he couldn't believe it was the same man who was seemingly fighting for the sake of a thrilling battle earlier. He couldn't believe that the smiling man he had fought…had turned into this monster.

…He couldn't stop shaking, and as the seals glowed further, he could almost see what would happen to him—

Lightning above and fire below him… He was dead if he didn't do something, and he knew that even if he would survive, the amount of magic power which the opponent was giving off—the pressure which had started to choke him, was enough to turn his bones into dust.

"Give up… I swear if you don't—I'll kill you." The Salamander threatened one last time, his voice devoid of the tiniest bit of hesitation.

…Those were the finishing words, and the younger mage's knees dropped to the ground; his entire body showing surrender.

"Why…? Why can't I beat you…? What is this…?" Vincent Arguros couldn't stop crying, and as his eyes started to grow hazy, he heard the older mage speak—

"…Fear. You are afraid. You are afraid of losing here, and by doing so, afraid of losing someone precious…" His voice, though cold held gentleness. The astounding pressure was still choking him, but he could feel something else from the man himself...

"I…Why…?"

Natsu Dragneel remembered Gildarts' words, words which had been carved into his heart—and he used the very same words on the younger mage.

"…However, Fear is not evil; it tells you when to stop, it shows you your limits. You are still young, you are not bound by destiny, unlike me… and because of that, the sword is not yours to carry. That burden is mine… mine to shoulder, mine to receive…"

It was…warmth. Despite the cold rain, he could feel something warm closing in and surrounding him.

…But Vincent was persistent.

"N-No! I need to save Argenta! They—" He reasoned one last time, before…

"If I kill you here, can you still save her?! Learn from your mistakes, kid!"

"I…" Vincent reached out, but he lost the feelings in his arms…until his mind conceded and finally closed down.

"Sleep…For a man who has never conquered his fears… can never hope to defeat me."

He was a monster…

I thought I had won. I thought that he had finally been defeated…

Fire... I was never scared of fire. Even with my constitution as a Silver Mage, despite the fact that silver was more conducive than any other metal, I was never scared…

But Natsu Dragneel—he showed me that fire really did test silver. He showed me how powerful he was… He showed me that fire was something to be feared.

But I didn't give in. That piece of silver I had found on the ruins in the north—in the remnants of Aurum, the city of gold… Though I couldn't read the words it withheld, I knew its power—I could sense it.

I knew that if I consumed it, I would finally awaken, just as Argenta had taught me.

But even still, it wasn't enough. He was supposed to have lost—I had used my most powerful of spells to annihilate him, but it was for naught. He stood back up, and melted the silver I had created.

Lightning… I was scared of lightning; after all, I was a walking lightning rod. However, spending two years inside this forsaken land had its merits—I had trained myself to endure the random electrical storms which popped out when I least expected it. I wasn't a masochist, but I endured…

However, that wasn't it.

It was his eyes that scared me… It was his lifeless expression that struck fear into my heart.

And it was the raw power he had been suppressing; the pure, hidden strength he had unleashed that made my will to fight crumble…

Lightning above and fire below me—for the first time since I lost Argenta, since El disappeared… since I was sent into this unfair fate, I was scared. Never had I known that a Dragonslayer was capable of using two, separate elements. It was…downright impossible.

But still, when I looked into those onyx eyes… when he relinquished his threat to kill me, his cold voice ringed inside my ears. And when the thunder boomed, and the lightning struck one last time—I could've sworn his eyes turned crimson for a split second.

He was a monster.

Vincent Arguros opened his eyes to the sound of the heavy rain. The sound of splashing water was everywhere, and he was immediately on alert, confused over one thing: He was perfectly dry. The young mage immediately forced his body to stand up, but the pain kept him from doing what he wanted, so he opted to lessen the fatigue and only brought his torso upward.

With a puzzled look, he searched the area he was in. His eyes landed on the tall obelisk from before, and the four paths were still within view, if it weren't for the damages incurred on the ground.

He was still at the Crossroads, but why was he dry when the rain was dropping so violently? And why was the area itself dry with him? When he looked at the trees which surrounded the intersecting paths that he was in, he could see that they were wet… no, more than wet—they were drenched, and the rain was making itself clear through the puddles beneath their trunks.

"Oh, you're up." Someone proclaimed.

He tried to raise his left arm, but it was harder than he had expected. Another try, and he managed…but he felt his arm become heavier than it used to be. Puzzled, he took a brief glimpse, and—

"I thought I told you that thing was cursed. Man, kids these days don't listen to what other people have to say…"

He immediately snapped his head towards the source of the voice, and found the pink-haired Dragonslayer gnawing on a clean legbone. A large fire was roaring in front of him, but Vincent was stupefied—there was no wood for it to feed on, nor anything else which would serve as its source. It would seem as if the fire had erupted from the ground itself. Roasting on top of the scorching heat was a piece of burnt meat—a bird's, maybe…but it was significantly larger than birds would've been.

He forced himself to think of what mattered—his arm. It was coated with silver, but he couldn't turn it back to how it originally was… as if—It had been turned into pure silver itself, and somehow Vincent knew, that it'd be a very difficult task to reclaim his flesh.

"Hey, what was written on the ring?" Natsu inquired suddenly; he was now indulging himself on another bird leg.

"Wh—ahh… I think it was 'Akipismiya visawauferismiya maledistum' or something." He recalled, and the taller man shook his head.

"accipis mea vis…auferis mea maledictum" Natsu thought.

Finally, the younger teen's mind wandered to his original question. Why was he dry…? And as if on cue, the pink haired mage sighed, and pointed his right index finger up.

"Check it out…" He drawled lazily.

The silver mage looked up, and his mouth dropped for the second time. Spread far above him, was a wide ceiling made up of fire. He didn't notice until now, due to how far it was located…and of course, the feat shocked him yet again.

"…How the heck did you do that?! Dragonslayers don't have to ability to utilize their elements without physical contact!" He cried, disbelieving every single thing.

"…Is that so? I never knew about that…What are you talking about, anyway?" Natsu asked while he scratched his head.

"What? I me—why the hell can you do that?! Dragonslayers can only summon their magic using their bodies! If it's not from our bodies, it's not Dragonslayer magic, isn't it?!"

"…Ahh, I see, I see… Well, I'm no ordinary Dragonslayer you see. I'm actually an ancient, super-powerful one!" Natsu exclaimed, while the injured mage gave him a deadpanned expression.

"Why the hell am I even talking to you…? Wait—"

Vincent noticed that his wounds had been cleaned, and that several bandages had been wrapped over his naked form. He looked towards the only one who could've done it—

"…Why did you save me…?" He asked with a bit of hesitation.

"…Hmmm? Why shouldn't I?"

"But we're enemies! Why—" However, the fire mage shook his head once.

"…Not anymore, were not. I just defeated you, didn't I?" He stated, as if it was obvious.

"Wha—so what?! I'm still going after Ascalon, and you're not stopping me—"

Natsu stood up suddenly, and he casually looked up, a faraway expression etched on his smiling face.

"…Hey kid. What is that sword to you…? You told me it's to save your parent, right?"

Vincent was shocked at the abrupt question, and he tried to dodge it…but he felt as if he needed to tell the more experienced man about it.

"Maybe he'll give up after I tell him…" He hoped.

"Salamander—"

"Call me Natsu, and since I'm an older Dragonslayer than you… I demand you call me senpai!"

"…?"

"Nah, just kidding… So, what is it?"

Vincent told him his entire story, and beneath the cover of a fiery ceiling, two Dragonslayers talked about their pasts… where their solemn chat remained undisturbed, though the rain showered the earth mercilessly.

"You said Grimoire." Natsu voiced out as soon as his younger companion had finished.

"Yeah, what about it…?"

"Nevermind. And Azrael…where the hell did I…? Also, Hydra, huh—is that a guild or something?" He asked instead, forgetting the first matter and shaking off the familiarity of the second. He already had tons of questions in his mind, and he didn't want others to intrude… because his mind wouldn't be able to take in anymore stuff.

"I dunno… But I was sure of one thing—their boss was a Dragonslayer." Vincent confirmed, and Natsu could only nod. Vincent hid the fact about the man's coat of arms—the same symbol which was embedded on his flesh…but he didn't know why.

Natsu was thinking of something else though.

Dragonslayers. Their entire existence was supposed to be a mere myth, like the ones who fashioned them into what they had become—the Ancient Dragons themselves. Hearing this story, the Fire Dragonslayer was now conscious of one thing—the existence of Dragonslayers have become acknowledged.

"…and this Slayer Project…why the hell am I feeling chills down my spine?" He added as an afterthought.

"There's a lot going on with your story. But I'll go with the one I find really odd… How long have you been here?" Natsu asked instead.

"Two years…"

"And you were there when the Dragons disappeared?" Vincent's gloomy look reflected what he was feeling inside. Even with the passage of time, the pink-haired mage could never forget what was probably the most life changing event for him—the disappearance of his "parent". He knew that the teenager in front of him was probably feeling the same.

"July 7, X777." The younger teen muttered sadly.

"How old were you then…?"

"Seven…why, what's wrong with it?" The fire mage opened his palms and started counting his fingers.

"So, if I add up the numbers, you met this El guy two years after, spent one year stealing stuff with him…On a side note—you shouldn't steal stuff. It's bad—"

"I was a poor and hungry kid!" The silver mage exclaimed in an exasperated manner, and his acquaintance raised his arms in apology.

"Fine, fine. I'm not one to judge people, but…Okay, so you were twelve when El disappeared—"

"Ten! I was ten! You really suck at numbers, you know?!" Vincent shot the more experienced mage a disbelieving look; but Natsu simply laughed it off.

"Hahaha, I was kidding… really, I swear!" (Oh, we all know you were, Natsu.)

"Okaaaaaay, so you were fifteen when you entered this land… This is really weird…" He continued from where he left off, but a perplexed look latched itself on his worn out face.

"What is?"

"Well, you just told me that you spent two years inside, so I'm wondering…why do you know me…?" Natsu pointed to himself, but the silver mage answered as if it was obvious.

"Well duh—You're famous!"

"I know, but—my fame vanished after I disappeared with my nakama…seven years ago." Shaking off the claim, his foreboding statement gained the younger mage's curiosity…and dread.

"…Huh? Disappeared…?"

"You haven't heard? That was hot news, really! Well, my point is—if you only came here two years ago, you should've heard about my disappearance… and if you did, then the timeline from your story is totally messed up."

"What…?" Vincent asked with hesitation.

"What was the year when you entered this island…?"

"X784."

"I see… but if I'm right, I entered this island in December, of the year X791. You haven't been here for two years, but seven…" Natsu concluded; his last statement earning the Silver Mage's shock.

"You should go and save your mother." Natsu voiced out sympathetically, after telling his companion about the lapse of time in the Land of the Exiled. The younger Dragonslayer was clutching his head, muttering inaudible things under his breath, but from what Natsu could deduce, he must've been thinking—

"Too long… Seven years—I've been gone for too long!" The man with the two-toned hair had worry written all over his face. Though his body was still in pain, and his arm still in its metallic state; he forced himself to stand up and started pacing around impatiently.

"That's what I've been doing from the start! And I need the sword for that!" He finally arrived at a conclusion, but the pinkette was far from being pleased.

Natsu sighed, before repeating.

"I already told you—you can't have it. As much as I want to help, you simply can't have that thing… It's not because I need it that badly… but—what's important is you get out of this island and go back to Elysia. You need to save your parent with your own hands."

His shoulders sagging and his eyes downcast, Vincent locked his eyes on the senior Dragonslayer, and Natsu could see that the teenager was nearly tearing up.

"I have been searching for a way out. When I found myself giving up, asking what I was doing in the first place…the only answer I could come up with was to go home, and face that trial once more…yet, never have I seen the exit. Even the entrance has vanished…I can't go home; nobody can."

Disheartened, he fell on his back once more; his arms spread on both sides…as he stared at the ceiling of raging fire far above. The rain had been going on for two hours now, and outside—it was already night.

Troubled, the fire mage took a thinking position, muttering things on his own before he nodded with resolution. Vincent warily followed him with his eyes, because the person in question walked over towards his rucksack, and started searching for something within it. He noticed that Natsu was still half-naked like him, wondering why the guy wasn't feeling the extreme cold like him…and realizing that he was a fire mage in the first place. His eyes then flew over to the mark on his back—a golden sun with eight rays spreading in all directions. He simply stared at the tiny, unreadable letters on the older mage's back.

While his thoughts wandered, Natsu on the other hand had found what he had been looking for. He took out one of the century-old scrolls which his bag had concealed, and tossed it towards the eagle-spread mage.

Vincent managed to catch it, but he raised his eyebrows in surprise.

"Wha—What's this?" He asked aloud, and the pinkette smiled wryly.

"It's a way out…" Dubious, he opened it slowly and saw tiny, but neat scribbles on the parchment. There were different roads and legends, meaning it was—

"A map. I—I can't take this." The younger mage hesitated

"Don't worry—I already know how to get there." Natsu added with a grin.

Knowing his density and obliviousness, Vincent shot the fire mage a disbelieving look, but Natsu clicked his tongue in annoyance.

"I may not be the smartest guy, but I did prepare for this trip!"

"But really, I can't…Besides, are you even sure there's a way out? What if this is a—"

Hearing this, the fire mage sighed for the umpteenth time…and slowly walked over towards the bandaged teen.

WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAM!

…Before slapping him on the back of the head with full force.

"WHY THE HELL DID YOU HIT—"

"I'm jealous of you…" Natsu suddenly confessed, halting every thought Vincent had conceived.

"…I'm a Dragonslayer, just like you. My parent left me, just like yours…yet—you know where your parent is. You have the means to get to her—"

"She was captured—" The younger mage cut in, but…

"I know. But if I was in that position, I wouldn't have gone in this journey in the first place. I mean—come on; she was in front of you! I would've fought with every ounce of my strength. I would've saved her there and then."

"You're different! You're strong—you're powerful! But me, I'm—"

"There was a time, when I was as powerless as you…Yes, if I had fought, I might've been defeated just like you… but I would've saved her still, because I'm not alone."

"What do you mean?" Vincent asked, and Natsu looked towards the distant sky, forgetting the fact that he had place a huge barrier of fire to protect them…then he immediately faced his new acquaintance once more.

"My nakama…my friends would fight with me. Together, we'd beat up those guys, no matter how strong they would've been."

Friends.

His heart throbbed, and finally—he could see the real difference between the two of them.

This man—Natsu Dragneel; Vincent knew that he had friends he could count on, people who would support him, who had his back…but him.

"But…I don't have friends." He whispered hoarsely.

…All his life, he had been alone. Argenta was his only refuge, his only real companion.

"Eh—What are you talking about? What about that El guy?" Natsu asked, but he simply shook his head.

"Ever since that incident, I haven't seen nor heard from him. I don't even know if he still thinks of me as his friend." He finished with a dejected look, but Natsu was persistent.

He pointed a finger towards himself.

"What about me?" He asked childishly.

"…hu—HUH?!"

"I'll be your friend!" Natsu offered with a smile.

…He was shocked, to say the least…but—

"I'm not looking for any! What am I—a charity case?!" Vincent yelled, crossing both arms in front of him.

"Oh really—"

"Besides, we just fought! How can you be so casual about this?!" The younger mage asked, and hearing this…Natsu answered straightly.

"…That's why. We just fought, and from that fight…I understood. Though I don't know you well enough to judge you, I know of your anguish…of your burden. I know that you haven't been fighting for your own sake, but for the sake of your parent."

…Vincent simply looked at him, unsure of what to answer…confused over what to do.

And while he was mulling over things, Natsu continued.

"Bonds—they are what keep us alive. My bond with my friends, and your bond with your mother—these bonds are the only things my fire cannot burn… the only things which are as beautiful as the silver you have crafted, and harder than the silver you have tempered. Even your bond with El, though severed…it has never been broken. Though your hearts have been distanced, when you make up—I'm betting millions of jewels that you'll become closer again… That I promise you Vincent, though I'm not as smart as I wish to be, nor do I have that millions of jewels I am betting. Trust me on this one."

For a few minutes, they simply stared at each other… while the rain fell from above, and the fire crackled in the background, silence reigned over the atmosphere.

Finally, Vincent shook his head, convinced.

"…Fine then." He took one last look at the scroll before standing up.

"I think I've rested enough. Thanks for the food…a-and everything else. I need to go now—Argenta's waiting for me." Natsu tossed him another thing—the extra shirt he had kept inside his rucksack; something Black had given him beforehand. (And likewise, something he presumed Black had made from his wool…erm, fur.)

Vincent nodded gratefully; he immediately put it on, before walking towards the northern path—one which led to Sarn—Borealis. But before he started his journey, he turned back one last time.

Natsu was standing with his arms crossed, and an encouraging grin was plastered on his face.

"Salamander—" Vincent called, but the pinkette shook his head.

"It's just Natsu. That name, I have discarded that name since…" He replied vaguely. Taking note of this, the younger mage nodded.

"…You're really gonna go after that sword? I really don't understand anything about it, but from what I've gathered—it's supposed to be strong, right?" Despite the dim lighting, he could see Natsu giving him a "you-searched-for-that-damned-sword-without-knowing-anything-about-it?" look.(In short, a perplexed/ exasperated/ questioning look... whatever that means.)

He dropped the question, and spoke instead—

"I might not be able to win this fight, so when you get out… You'll help me, right?"

Hearing this, the fire mage widened his smile, and pointed to his sword.

"Sure! My sword and my fire will destroy that which obstructs us. Go on and gather people to help you, but if you're willing to wait for me…I promise we'll save Argenta together."

Vincent Arguros returned the gesture with a smile of his own, before his eyes wandered to the sword strapped on the mage's rucksack. It was covered in a white-scaly material, and its blade was hidden from human eyes…But he decided to ask about it another time.

"See you, Natsu." The Silver Dragonslayer turned North, running despite the harsh weather, and smiling with a new found mission; despite the lingering pain in his body.

"Good luck, Vincent."

A few minutes later, the remaining mage had positioned his back against the obelisk. A large wall of fire circled him—and another larger one outside its perimeter. The fiery ceiling was still there, but he had manipulated it; lowering the large mass in order to provide better protection against air-borne attackers.

Thoughts about the sword and his nakama aside—the only other thing that was on his mind was sleep. The layers of protection were a needed precaution in order to have a peaceful rest.

Natsu needed rest...lots of it.


When he opened his eyes, he immediately knew where he was. Craters, blood…and even pools of melted silver surrounded the intersection that he was in. The Crossroads—he was still here, and he knew that he was reliving the last few hours in his mind. He searched for evidence of this, and when he turned around, he saw a beaten Vincent lying face-first on the ground. He moved towards the younger mage, just as he did before… but as soon as he reached the body—it vanished from sight.

Lightning flashed and lit the dim surroundings, and he could still feel the very essence of the lightning he was using in his body…yet.

"Huh?"

His knees dropped without warning, and the lightning which coursed from his body…it faded into nothing. Confused, he tried to call onto it one more time; summoning the foreign element he had embraced since his fight with Grimoire's guild master. He focused inside, and willed the lightning to flow into him once more.

"What the hell? I'm pretty sure I was still full—"

"…!"

Below him, something was glowing…it was getting brighter, and brighter. He looked down to catch a look at the spectacle, and his eyes widened in shock.

The seal of the Eight Rays of Sol, it was glowing white below him. His eyes started getting hazy; his arms and legs, numb. He felt something pulsating inside; first, it was strong…but it gradually grew weaker, and weaker. The Legendary magic which had granted him newfound strength and hope; he felt as if it was taking something away from him, sealing shut what should've been his.

"Seal!" An ancient voice resounded from nowhere; it was one he did not recognize. The voice was not from the one who claimed to be his past. It was a familiar voice; one which brought nostalgia…yet it was also a source of bewilderment.

"Who are you?!" He shouted heavenward, directing his thoughts to the one who spoke.

He tried to summon everything in his body; he would not give in. The lightning his comrade had bestowed upon him; he would not let someone take it. He willed the magic inside to take form, but…

Only his flames had been summoned. The foreign power he had acquired betrayed his commandment.

"What the hell's happening?!" He shouted, and hard footsteps ringed for him to hear. Though the rain's strength accompanied with it the noisy splashing of water, he could hear everything just fine.

"I never knew you kept such power hidden… Lightning and Fire—two elements are never meant to clash."

He knew who it was—it was the Salamander himself. With great difficulty, he turned around to face the man; a man who shared his identity, his powers…and his existence.

"What—" He asked with gritted teeth, his eyes now glaring hard at the newcomer.

As expected, he was dressed just like how he was; a pair of torn pants—the only remnant of his clothes, and a pearl necklace hanging on his neck. He carried nothing with him—but the difference between them was apparent.

The man had crimson eyes; contrary to his black ones, and the thick mane of pink hair which was falling towards the man's back was longer than he would've allowed it.

"The power of lightning, just now…you lost it—no, it has been sealed inside of you."

The Salamander's cold words confirmed his fears.

"What do you mean it's been sealed?! What did you do to it—give it back!" He spat, but the man's face grew darker.

"How ignorant are you?! You bear the seal of the Eight Flames, yet you know nothing of it!"

"I don't give a damn about that! Give me back my lightning!" Natsu demanded, but the man's next words stunned him.

"You know nothing of the Eight Rays…Listen well, young one—for I will tell you this; Legendary Magic are not without consequence. These Magic, they are what defined the world into what it is now—you think such power can be used without payment?"

"I—What the hell are you—"

"Very well…I shall tell you—The reason why the EROS was originally created." The ancient being proclaimed.

"W…What…?"

"The EROS, the foundation of every fire magic in existence—it was originally meant to lock away something, just like the Seven Seals.,, It was created to suppress a force so omnipotent and powerful, it would tear the very fabric of reality, and destroy everything if not used right."

Seeing the blank look on his face, the older mage continued.

"Why do you think you survived those death-infused flames? Any mortal would've died from that, but as soon as you awakened my power, your magic came back…and the death magic inside you disappeared…or did they?"

"What are you—"

"The Eight Flames; bound by the eight promises, seals power. The magic you have acquired through your ability to absorb fire; do you not find it odd when lose the ability to recreate that which you have absorbed?"

"…I don't understand." Natsu blurted out, and the man's eyes hardened.

"Of course you don't—you're an idiot." He was surprised by the reply he got…but more than that, he was horribly pissed.

"I don't need you telling me that! Besides, you're me—so quit making fun of yourself!"

But the Salamander disregarded him, and asked—

"…Tell me, what things have you eaten?"

The younger counterpart was caught off guard by the sudden question… so he hesitated, before answering.

"Fire, Hellfire, Laxus' Lightning, Jellal's flames of re-puke or something…Zancrow's Godslaying flames, Zeref's death magic…Etherion, Fart flames—" He recalled with a doubtful look, but the Salamander halted his thoughts.

"What?!"

"Fart flames?" He repeated, but the man shook his head.

"No, before that!"

"Aah, Etherion…why? If you're me, then surely you know it." He pointed out, but the man was troubled.

"I have been sleeping inside you, and only recently have I awoken. That is why I knew nothing of your lightning, but Etherion…"

Natsu simply knelt there, staring at his older counterpart…until.

"Even hellfire—Atlas, you have already fed me twice… Lightning, and the Flames of rep…Rebuke—why does someone know how to create that?! No, that isn't it… A Godslayer's fire? And quite recently, even the Black Mage's Death Magic…but Etherion…?"

"Hmm? Now that you mention it, I haven't been able …to call on those…" He realized something, and the older man chuckled darkly as soon as he saw the look on the younger mage's face.

"Now you see it. The things you have eaten—naturally, they would appear for you, right? Though I don't know why your Lightning wasn't sealed until now, but I'm sure you know now. By the will of the Legendary Magic, it has stored your true power somewhere out of reach…"

And the younger Natsu remembered Mavis' words back then.

[You can't use yourDragonslayermagic, as long as you can't control the "other magic" which was awakened in you recently. That death magic that you consumed—it would've been impossible for you to live… even now, your body is going out of control. The death magic has started to destroy the traces of magic within you, and if you can't find a way to control it, your body wouldn't be able to control the heat—so I sealed your Dragonslayermagic, all of it.]

"So, that's what she meant… The Death Magic was sealed, because I couldn't control it. My stronger flames had been sealed…but—"

Natsu turned to the older man one last time.

"Will I be able to call them back?"

"That is for you to decide… Break the seals of the Eight Flames; the promises themselves must be severed. As you journey on, unlocking the Seals of the Seven Origins and recovering your memories, do not neglect what matters most—I will tell you again: Your emotions will guide you…your feelings will make you stronger."

But Natsu—he had plenty more to ask.

"How?! When?! Tell me, what must I—" When he looked again, the man had vanished. He turned around to search for him, but he felt the ground becoming softer. He looked down, and saw that he was being dragged below; it was as if quick sand had caught him, and as he struggled to break free, the ground inevitably swallowed him whole.

When he opened his eyes, he realized that he was underwater.

"This was…back when I—"

Everything was tranquil. The watery surface above him was reflecting a noon skylight, and as he felt himself going deeper into the silent waters, he heard voices in his head.

[Now, before you reach the four islands, you'll chance upon a big whirlpool with huge thunderclouds above on your way.] He heard a familiar nagging tone in his mind, and the pinkette could almost swear that it was accompanied by a brief "blaaaaaaaaaaa."

[Ah, I've heard of that… They said it's caused by a huge monster, right?]

It was his conversation with the black goat—Kuroyagi. A conversation they had held the night before he had departed for his journey.

[Hmmm, a monster? I dunno, but I'm pretty sure that something's buried in there…two centuries ago, that abnormality suddenly appeared between Fiore and Elysia, and the strong currents of the maelstrom have been circling the ocean, but never did it leave the boundary of what should've been the lost island—the Land of the Exiled. Anyone who has ever come near it has mysteriously vanished, and thus...it has been avoided for some time now. This has also been the reason why only a few had found or even discovered the land itself]

He could see the scene in his mind. Upon recalling this, he could recall himself scratching his head in confusion…He could still remember the thousands of questions which erupted as soon as Black had finished his statement, and the painful feeling in his head due to the questions themselves.

But why was he shown this scene once more?

"This is the part where…" He thought, and—

[I do think a Legendary Weapon's buried there.]

[Why…?]

[Well, it's just a theory… but the Magic of the weapon might've reacted to another strong force, so in short— there might not be one, but two Legendary Weapons sharing the same space, and since their powers clash with each other, a phenomenon like the whirlpool and the storm clouds occur… but then again, I might be wrong. So tell me, what will you do? At least check it out, since I'm pretty sure you'll come out unscathed.]

[…Hmmm, that would sound nice. It'll be my first big discovery, after I find out Gramp's secret stash of embarrassing photos!]

Everything was a mere blur after that. He could remember himself running towards the goal he had set for himself, and as soon as he saw the storm in front of him—he could hardly believe he was still in Earthland.

He remembered seeing a tall, cloudy pillar; it was a gigantic mass of swirling winds, and it was stirring the very waters themselves violently. He could hardly believe it was still noon; for the grey clouds held dominion over the majestic skies. Thunder resounded consecutively; lightning sparked before hitting the surface of the waters themselves, and blowing away the clouds which obstructed them.

And he remembered…he remembered how he had suddenly been sucked up by the storm. He saw himself falling into the swirling vortex, until the watery grave consumed him.

And he remembered waking up into this tranquil place; just like now. The storm was gone, and the transparent curtain which separated him from the surface was clearly showing a calm and peaceful sky.

"Yes…this is the part, where I found you." He knew what he was going to do now, for he had already witnessed this scene. Natsu willed his body to face the shadowy crevices below, and it was there that he found it.

He could see its hilt sparkling despite the darkness; its entire blade impaled into what he then presumed was solid ground. He could see electricity coursing in the waters, with it as its source. The young mage could even feel the pressure it was emitting; it was far stronger than the pressure the low, watery altitude was giving him.

That silent humming, beckoning him to come closer… Those vibrations which went past his flesh, and shook even the bones inside him—he immediately knew what it was.

A Legend in itself, though he knew nothing of it.

Natsu Dragneel landed in front of the glowing sword, his hands tracing the worn out metal which served as its foundation.

"I thought there were two of these? Where the hell's the other one?!" He thought, and as soon as his flesh felt the cold steel pressing against it, a regal voice erupted out of nowhere.

"Defeat my guardian, and I shall bestow upon you my light."

It was then that he realized that Black—smart as he was, could actually be wrong sometimes…

And stupid as he was—he could actually be right for a change.

The earth trembled; the ground shook. The waters were stirring once more, and a wide raging vortex had surrounded him. The flooring he was on was getting increasingly violent, as if it were alive. All of a sudden, he felt the world turn around; moving and circling underwater, bringing the vortex with it. He held onto the sword for dear life and he saw a pair of yellow orbs appearing in front of him…

"…Oh fuck. I jinxed it." Natsu remembered the shocked words his mind had conceived for him, and he simply gawked at the moving thing which was carrying him.

He was riding on top of something's large head, and a sudden turn prompted him to lose his grip on the sword's hilt. The thing had left him, while it moved endlessly in circles.

His jaw dropped when he saw the thing in clear view.

It had a head which was ten times as big as him, and a large, serpentine body a hundred times longer. A long, flat fin ran across its reptilian spine, and its tail fins were laced with spikes. When it opened its mouth, the fire mage could've sworn that it'd swallow ten of him in a single bite.

But the thing which shocked him the most were the two large fins it used to swim; no—he thought they were fins at first…but upon closer inspection—they was simply too thin, and too membranous.

"Wings…" He muttered.

Now, he couldn't classify this as a large sea serpent. It was something more dangerous; something more ancient…And something which was related to his greatest enemies—Dragons.

Black's lectures were indeed very helpful in times like these.

[…After the Great War, a few surviving Dragons had lost some of their abilities, their limbs, and even their wings. Those whose front legs had vanished together with their ability to speak became known as Wyverns. The ones who had lost their wings—Drakes, and those who lost everything were reduced to no more than mere serpents…But the ones who lost all of their legs and salvaged their wings—they are considered to be the closest to what the Dragons of ancient times were—]

"Wyrms."

Natsu did not expect a two-hundred feet, ancient monster to be guarding the sword. But nevertheless, he bolstered his charge. He summoned his flames underwater, and swam after it. The creature tried to get away, but he managed to catch up after some chasing. Afterwards—he pulled out the sword out from the monster's head, and the deafening clap of thunder exploded in the ocean seafloor.


Natsu forced his eyes open; his whole body shaking as if in a fit. His sharp and painful gasps for air were seemingly affecting the flames he had summoned—the fiery barriers he had made were flickering in an effort to put themselves out, but nevertheless, they kept burning. As he tried to slow down his breathing, calming himself by taking short and quick sips of air…he tried to gather everything which he could still remember.

"…Another dream." His eyes wandered to the surroundings; wary of any incoming attacks, but there were none. Instead, he took note of two things: First, the rain was gone, and a single smell told him that the area was lacking the humidity the downpour should've brought. Second, it was still night time—and he could've sworn that the moon; which was staring right in front of him, had never moved a single inch from when he last gazed at it.

"Why am I not surprised…?" He shook his head to the side, and his hands flew over to the sword which lay beside him. He ran his fingers through its clothed blade, caressing it gently as if it was his very lifeline.

"Why was I shown those recent memories?" The fire mage thought hard, and despite his limited brainpower…tried putting two and two together.

…First, the Salamander had appeared once again, and had told him that he had lost his—

"My Lightning!" Without warning, he stood up and called—

"MODE: LIGHTNING FLAME DRAGONSLAYER!"

…His voice resonated everywhere in the form of echoes, but as soon as he finished shouting—

FWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSH!

…He was dismayed, because the only things which heeded his call were his bright, orange flames. His Lightning—the power Laxus had bestowed upon him to symbolize their trust and camaraderie as guild mates; it had been sealed.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!

Frustrated, the Dragonslayer released his anguish in the form of a punch—something which he aimed at the only thing he could reach; which was the marble obelisk. As soon as his knuckles connected with the durable structure, it shook once, but it was left unscathed and intact. Only, the impatient mage's right hand had immediately started bleeding due to the strong recoil. As fresh blood steadily dripped towards the ground, Natsu contemplated over the recent happenings to him.

"Why are you taking everything away from me…? First, it was my past...then, my life—my guild, my friends…my—Why are you doing this?! I thought you gave me power, but you took everything away from me! Answer me, dammit!" He shouted towards no one…he couldn't aim his anguish at anyone, for he didn't know who to blame.

BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANG!

He smashed his head at the same structure, and like before—his forehead burst, and blood flowed out, yet the obelisk remained as perfect as it was. When the red substance trickled down his face, he nearly lost it.

"I'm sick of this…" Natsu closed his eyes, and pushed away every single thought about his loss. He had to focus. As he gathered his thoughts once more, his grip on the sword became tighter.

"…Just what are you? Why did you appear in my dreams?" He whispered to the sword, but it didn't answer back.

"This is getting nowhere." He gave up, and started packing his things. He burned shut his wounds, and decided to continue his journey. Though it was still dark, he figured he'd have to start running again. Because of the illumination of the bright moon, the shadowy trail which he was supposed to follow was still visible.

His questions could wait, because right now—

"I have to find Ascalon."

"FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!"

And he was back on his feet.

The surroundings were confusing him; as expected, since he literally went off the Path in order to pursue a new one, the island was fighting him—making the entire layout of the sceneries he passed completely incoherent. True, there were fewer monsters compared to when he was running on the proper road, but like before—nothing made complete sense. As soon as he stepped onto the shadow from the tall obelisk, the Path had disappeared, and the only option he had left was to finish what he had started. A few meters after he had started running, the forest had been replaced by another desert. His bare feet were running on hot sand (For the day had once again reappeared)—not that it hurt him or anything. He nearly found himself trapped on another sandy grave, but brushed past it. Once, he had to enter a triangular structure—a pyramid filled with red skeletons which hindered him. He nearly fell on a pit fall with spikes, but with his magic, Natsu passed it unscathed.

Though it seemed that he was lost, the fire mage knew that he was on the right track. The shadowy trail ran ahead of him, even though the obelisk which provided the shade itself was nowhere near him now…That—and he could feel something calling him inside. The feeling which was nagging him wasn't something strong, nor was it something which was too faint to be detected. It was throbbing in him, slowly getting stronger when he got farther…As if constantly reminding him that the thing he was after was really near.

He made it out of the desert without further incident, not bothered by the melting sand or the intense heat.

"As long as it's hot, I'm okay! Heat can't hurt me—" As soon as he stepped away from the area, he regretted saying those last few words.

The cold, northern wind assailed him, and he found himself on top of a sloping mountain path…a snowy, sloping mountain path. Normally, this wouldn't faze the tough Fire Dragonslayer…but—

He had no shirt on. He was barefoot. The only thing which could serve to protect him was his rucksack, and it was carrying things he needed for the journey. Two steps into the knee deep, snow covered ground, and he started shivering.

"What the fuck is this?!" He yelled, blowing off flames in annoyance.

Flames.

"Eh?" He scratched his frost covered hair, and proceeded in covering his entire body with fire.

"Oh yeah, I can always use my flames." He shrugged casually, and ran on.

...

Because of his fight with Vincent, he realized that he hadn't been able to fully recover everything in a single rest. Cautious of his magic supply, he trudged past the snowy mountain, fending off winter wyverns which were two times bigger than the ones he had fought. He soon escaped the cold summit, and all of a sudden, he found himself in another thick forest.

He didn't rest—he wouldn't even think of resting. His mind was only set on one thing—finding Ascalon, and his heart was nearly bursting from the constant throbbing it felt—a signal that he was very close indeed. He didn't know how long he had been running. Before he knew it, it was already midnight again, but he had already lost track of time a long, long time ago.

He caught his breath as soon as he found the river. It was the largest he had seen so far; a wide mouth which guided the fast-flowing waters was situated in front of him. On his left, it was veering off in a sharp turn, and the shadowy trail was running through it.

Without warning, he suddenly remembered the clues from his dream.

"Travel through the river bend.

Follow its course until it ends.

To the lake were the Sirens sing.

To the meadow were battle rings."

He took a deep breath, before he ran once more. Upon crossing the other side, he followed where it was going. As the circular moon shone to give him light, Natsu Dragneel ran faster than he ever had.

He could see the lake from afar, but he immediately knew something was wrong. A sense of nostalgia washed over him—he could recognize the beautiful waters, and the reflection of the moon on its undisturbed surface made everything seem perfect. He remembered the place to be where he had first set his eyes on Durandal—in his dream; clearly, this had been that place…yet—

Smoke was rising from the distance, and when he squinted to get a better look…despite the darkness which reigned over every unturned and exposed corner in the surrounding area, he could clearly see it.

Blood was covering the surface of the tranquil lake.

His adrenaline ran out midway, and as soon as he arrived; Natsu lost the feeling in his legs. His knees dropped to the ground, as a horrifying image painted itself in front of him. Sprawled for him to see were females…bloodied naked females lying in the burnt ground—the Sirens. As soon as Natsu saw them; dense as he was, only one thing entered his mind—they were beautiful. Their pale, humane bodies glistened in the moonlight, and each one of them had long, straight hair—but he had never seen hair as perfect as theirs. Their slender images, coupled with the fact that they were without clothing immediately made him blush. The lake was full of these magnificent creatures—or at least, it had been…because now—

Every single one of them lay dead in front of him. It was their blood which was running towards the beautiful lake, and dyeing it red. Their fallen bodies had been scarred—robbed of their magnificence. Blood ran from countless wounds and burns on different parts of their bodies, and their mouths hung open…the red liquid flowing out from within. Their alluring faces had been dirtied and soiled, and their eyes; eyes which sparkled with different entrancing colors; though opened…were without life.

"N-No…W-What happened here?"

…He held back a sob, because when he saw the carnage which had happened…he remembered.

"Why? Why would you do this, Salamander?!"

"We trusted you! Die, you Monster!"

He saw their burnt bodies in front of him. He saw the remnants of the crimson blaze he had used to annihilate them…and he saw himself in the epicenter of the madness which had happened; his hands were stained with the blood of their innocence, and his sword was right beside him, reflecting the horrific image he had carved with it.

"…Why, Salamander, why?!"

…He could almost see it in his eyes; the ones he had killed in the past, though he knew nothing about them. He knew nothing about what had transpired, and in the midst of it all…he saw the young boy who had looked up to him; his eyes tearing up as he pointed the sharp edge of Durandal towards him.

"…Y-You." Someone called suddenly, and he snapped out of his stupor. Natsu searched for the owner of the voice, and saw a single figure which was still moving—yet she was barely breathing. He immediately rushed over to help her up, seeing the pain and suffering that she was in. The Fire Dragonslayer shook every unnecessary thought that he had conceived, and focused. He took in her features in one glance; noting that she was looking to be only a few years than him, before his eyes landed on her wounds; there were many, but the most eye catching one was made one her side; just below her left breast—it was a wound made by a sharp weapon no doubt, but on the edges of it…were burn marks.

Natsu knelt down and elevated her body to alleviate the bleeding process, but it wasn't stopping. His hands ran towards the giant injury; thoughts of obscenity and malice aside, he warmed up his hands in order to burn shut the wounds, but the Siren was caught unprepared by the sudden act. She hissed loudly due to the pain, and when she turned to his face—

"Y-You…You really do look like him…" Her voice was getting weaker, and weaker.

"Don't speak! I can stop the bleeding!"

He was going to start the operation, but the Siren grabbed his hands with feeble force, and shook her head gently.

"…N-No. Katrice, she's in danger."

He was alarmed.

"The Sirens taught Katrice water healing magic from the island… Sirens are nice…"

The Sirens had found Katrice. She had said so herself, and this would've meant that she was living with them in the island…so—

"…W-When Katrice brought news of a stranger home… it quickly spread throughout the land. A-At first, we were scared, for the man she had described was similar to that… detestable murderer…but Katrice says she believes in him no matter what, and so…I will too." The Siren he was cradling in his arms was taking in quick sips of air, but Natsu—he was still too shocked to even understand what she had stated.

"What happened here?!" He asked with urgency.

"…He arrived…To destroy us, just like the S-Salamander had done. He took Katrice, in order to coax out the truth…" She replied in a low and faint whisper.

"Where—"

"You'll find him…there." She raised her hand with difficulty, and pointed towards a nearby meadow. Immediately, several screams resounded and pierced the veil of the silent night. He was indecisive—the woman was dying in front of him, but Katrice was in danger…

…A choice. He was faced with another choice, and as he closed his eyes to think of the right course of action, he felt something soft pressing on his cheek. He snapped his eyes open in order to see what had happened, and saw the woman blushing, despite the pain she was in.

"P-Please, save Katrice…that man, he wields one of the Legends, and a power similar to that of the Salamander's… I-I have bestowed upon you the Blessing of the Waters, but you have…you have to be careful."

"Blessing of the Waters? What did you do? What will it do?" He asked in a hurry, but the Siren wouldn't say anything, and nothing unordinary was happening to him despite being granted the supposed power.

"Y-You have to hurry." She insisted, her hands on her large wound.

"…But what about you?!" Natsu yelled, but she shook her head one more time.

"…It is too late for me…I—No, my kin have now been judged…because of our crimes. We are getting what we deserve, for aiding the Dragons…four centuries ago."

"But that's—"

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Another scream broke out, one which Natsu recognized too well.

"Katrice!" He yelled, before turning to the woman once more. She was crying, and her look told Natsu that he needed to go.

His eyes tear-strung, he simply looked down, and laid her now-weightless body gently.

"…E-Even though we are strangers, y-you are kind…just like him—no, just like… how he used to be." Her eyes were on the distant moon, and the fire mage somehow knew…that she was talking about the Salamander—his dark past.

He nodded grimly, before saying—

"…I'm saving Katrice."

Natsu was going to rush ahead, but the Siren called for him one last time.

"…W-What is your name?" She croaked.

"My name is Natsu…Natsu Dragneel."

"…I see. So you really are him…"

He looked back one last time only to see a beautiful smile on her pale face, before he ran; full speed towards the sound of the screams.

"…you've changed…once more. Thank Celestia, for bringing us back our Hero."

"Let go of Katrice!" The Water-sprite was struggling from her captive's hold, but the man simply strengthened the grip on her neck.

"…Tell me his name!" He yelled, nearly deafening her, but she simply struggled harder.

"Katrice told you already—Katrice doesn't know!" She insisted, biting the man's arm…but when her teeth dug into his flesh, the man simply laughed sardonically.

"…you can't hurt me, little gir—"

"!"

"FIRE DRAGON'S SEARING MAGMA!"

He dashed back with Katrice in tow, as a tall pillar of orange flames burst from the ground. When the attack faded away, his astounded eyes stared hard at the man who had just arrived.

"Mister!" The Water-sprite called, but the man was still speechless.

"Let her go!" Natsu demanded angrily. His face was devoid of the tiniest bit of reluctance it held earlier, and his entire form was transmitting a single thing—anger. His flames flew unsuppressed from every direction, and as he searched the meadow he had reached—like before, the bodies of dead Sirens littered the area.

…His restraints flew off, and every single bit of anguish he had kept—every single grief, misery, remorse and pent-up stress he had failed to vent off fueled the anger that he had concealed inside him. Fire encompassed the surroundings, sealing every exit in sight.

But as soon as he regained his composure, the man was unfazed. To prove this, he even held his grip on the girl tighter.

"…Salamander. It was you…" His cold words lacked feeling; it was simply apathetic, it held nothing else aside from a sense of loathing. The enraged Dragonslayer took this chance to inspect the man's appearance.

…a dirtied and tattered shirt which was accompanied by loose, baggy pants—which were as torn as the shirt itself. The guy was as tall as him, and his face was carrying a young look similar to his; if it weren't for the scars which ran across its sides. His auburn hair, which was a complete mess, had reached past his shoulders. His bangs obscured one of his eyes, but the one he could see—it was reptilian in nature; it was wide, and it housed a hazel orb which had a vertical slit on it. On his neck, was a faint horizontal scar which seemed to be due to a graze from a sharp sword.

"…He…Why is he so familiar?!" He took a moment to question himself, but now…nothing mattered more than to save the girl.

"I said let her go!" Flames coated both of the pinkette's fists, but the man didn't comply.

"…ha…hahaha…HAHAHAHA!"

He simply…stood there laughing, but Natsu's patience had run out.

"FIRE DRAGON'S IRON FIST!" His voice carried on and pierced the tranquility of the surroundings. The stranger's eyes grew; for the Dragonslayer had vanished from sight and in the next moment—he had been sent flying due to a sudden force which collided against his cheek.

"Mister—" The young girl had been freed from the man's hold, and her pink haired savior had scooped her up before she had even hit the ground. As soon as Natsu held her, he felt tears falling on his bare chest.

"…Everyone…because of Katrice…everyone—" She sobbed, and he simply held her gently.

"Are you alright? Did he hurt you?" Still crying, she slowly shook her head…and when she looked up towards the man's face—

"…Mister…?"

Fear gripped her heart…Because the Fire Dragonslayer's gentle eyes had been replaced by the eyes of an unforgiving monster. His face was morphed into something beyond anger, and Katrice—she wasn't so sure that this man was still the same man she had met before.

"…Katrice, I'm sorry. Please, hide until it's over…" Were his only words; his gentle speech was laced with coldness…and spite. He tossed aside his bag, and focused in front of him.

The young Water sprite hurried off to find a safe spot in the battlefield, and as soon as she did—Natsu rushed over to finish the enemy. The man had finally been able to stand, albeit in an unsteady manner…and when he turned to face the young fire mage—

"FIRE DRAGON'S CLAW!"

…His reaction to the sudden assault was far too slow. Before he knew it, he had been launched into the air—his tattered shirt had disintegrated in the process, and burns had covered his body.

But the Dragonslayer was relentless. In a mere second, he was already in midair himself, readying his next spell.

he was merciless.

"FIRE DRAGON'S WING ATTACK!"

Natsu swiped both arms towards his target, and his flames obeyed. The fire danced and lashed out towards his opponent; who couldn't even regain his balance. His body, which had been sent up in the air, came crashing downwards before he could even comprehend what was happening.

"AAAAAAARGH!"

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!

In the epicenter of a small crater, the man's body lay unmoving…but—

"FIRE DRAGON'S BRILLIANT FLAME!"

The assault wasn't over, because the fire mage had released a gigantic ball of pure, raging fire onto the opponent. As the attack sailed to the ground, illuminating the dark surroundings and gathering with it more speed for a momentous blow, the man finally made his move.

When he opened his mouth and gathered power inside it, Natsu nearly lost his focus…because—

"FIRE DRAGON'S ROAR!"

A torrent of powerful flames spewed out from the attacker's mouth and sent his fireball off course. When the raging fire came his way, Natsu didn't bother doing anything; he simply had gravity do its work, willing his body to fall onto the ground as the blazing heat followed him.

Because—he swallowed them all, and after everything died down—

"…You're a Fire Dragonslayer." The pinkette muttered after filling his stomach and replenishing his energy; his scornful eyes were aimed at the opposition, who was making his way out of the crater. When his feet landed on solid ground once more, he was finally wary of the opponent, even though confusion and disbelief still littered his consciousness.

But the apathetic man in front of him simply replied vaguely.

"…Of course, who do you think taught me this magic?"

He cracked his knuckles as if finally done with his warm up, but Natsu made the first move.

"FIRE DRAGON'S FLAME ELBOW!" Fire boosted his charge, but the man was curious as to why he didn't bother covering his hands with flames. He cocked his head to the side, and Natsu used the momentum to turn his body and aim a kick towards the opponent's midsection.

"This tenacity—will it be a physical battle then? Our flames will simply lock us into a stalemate, but of course you know that, right?! Shall we end this battle with our mere fists—"

"Shut up!"

The man caught his foot, but Natsu spun again and used his other one—landing a clean blow on the man's face. As he staggered backwards, he saw the pinkette summoning fire on his feet and rushing headfirst towards him.

"FIRE DRAGON'S SWORD HORN!"

"Too predictable—" He tried to move out of the way, but when he looked towards his feet, fiery shackles bound his legs to the ground. The cuffs on him were too strong to break, and as he contemplated on how to get away, the opposing force had found his way to his stomach. He was launched into the nearby lake, and the flames which burned him had been doused. He stood up together with the rising steam, but instead of anger…a sick, twisted smile fixed itself on his face.

"…Truly…Even your flames can burn me, and the power of the Eight Rays which you hold…You really are—"

He stopped there. His eyes flew and wandered everywhere, because wherever he looked—

Hundreds…no—thousands of differently sized and shaped blades crafted entirely out of fire were floating in midair…and all were directed towards him.

"I said shut up." Several meters in front of him, Natsu Dragneel was raising his hand. The man opened his mouth in order to shout something, but his voice went unheard.

"DRAGONSLAYER SECRET ART…"

The lake's waters hissed for an uncountable number of times, and thick steam which resulted from the clash between elements rose up alarmingly.

"PROTEUS' BLAZE—THOUSAND SWORD DANCE!"

Every single one of those crafted swords of blazing flames assailed the opponent and skewered him. His body had been punctured in all sorts of places, and fresh blood was gushing out at a shocking rate and pouring into the already bloodied waters…The sight was simply too sickening to even put into words.

"…It's over." Natsu turned back from the merciless sight, and started walking away. He found Katrice hiding behind a large rock; clutching her knees and shaking due to the horrific scene that she had witnessed. When the pinkette tried to go nearer, she scooted farther away in an effort to avoid him.

"…Once again, I'm sorry Katrice…" He stated sadly, but it didn't do him any good. The little girl stayed away, but he already knew why…

"…You…that was—" She rasped, and the only thing Natsu could do was look down.

…He had promised himself never to let his emotions cloud himself, but…it was simply too hard to contain everything inside. When he saw those dead bodies lying lifelessly on the cold ground, his anger had gotten the better of him. The only thing which his mind was screaming was to even everything and end the culprit's life…and the saddest part about it was the fact that his bloodthirsty alter ego had nothing to do with it. It was by his own free will that he charged with his hands poised to take the man down.

His flames…he had used them to take away a life.

…He had promised never to kill. Ever since he knew about his past, no matter how clouded and vague the pieces had been—he knew one thing; he knew that his past had been filled with nothing but sadness and hate. Every single time he dreamed about his memories, they always showed him one thing—bloodshed. He always saw his hands covered by the blood of people he had killed, and his sword stained by the lives it had taken.

How different was he from the Salamander then?

"He was guilty…of killing them." He justified…but his heart was throbbing. He couldn't believe that he had shown this little girl the hidden side of him. Katrice—she had lost her parents and family; this girl's life had been twisted because of his identity as the notorious Salamander of the ancient war, and when she tossed that memory away…she had considered him to be her knew Hero. And know, he had shown her his darker side—that beneath the enigmatic smile he always wore on his face, he was containing the malevolence of a darker being within him.

…What if she found out that he was the Salamander that she had despised? Would she hate him, like everyone did in the past?

"…Mister." Katrice mumbled under her breath, but he was looking up towards the distant skies, lamenting over how his entire existence contradicted itself. He glanced down when he felt a tug on his torn pants, and saw Katrice grabbing hold of his lower body.

"…E-Everyone. Aunt Celia…and e-everybody else. They're gone… w-who will take care of me now?" She had found the courage to approach him once more, and a small smile crept on his face because of that tiny thing.

"…Never…I will never lose myself again." He promised silently, as he drove away the lingering thoughts in his head.

"I thought you were big enough to take care of yourself?" He asked with a chuckle, and the girl puffed her cheeks…but she was still sobbing.

"But, but—"

"I'm just joking kid. I'm still here, aren't I?"

…hearing this, Katrice's eyes grew brighter…and Natsu could see the hope those blue orbs held inside.

Now, he only had to find the sword, and as he started walking again—

"…You've gotten soft." A voice croaked from nowhere.

"!"

Natsu jumped with Katrice in his arms; and he only did it in the nick of time. In front of him, a wide chasm had suddenly appeared the moment he blinked his eyes, and from the look of it—it was made by a single strike from a very powerful magic.

He looked to the side, and found the same man, alive; leaning on something for support—a sword maybe, but Natsu didn't know when or where he had pulled such a thing. His body looked fine; save for the numerous fresh scars which littered his flesh. But, it was the weapon's uncanny appearance which took his attention. It was oddly shaped; but he couldn't even see what it really looked like, because it was wrapped in a white, scaly material—which was mysteriously similar to the one which was covering his own sword.

"You—" The pinkette growled, but the man simply laughed.

"I don't know why you are here…why you are still alive, but finally—I have confirmed that it really is you… And finally, I can have my REVENGE!" He suddenly proclaimed. In a hazy blur, Natsu saw the man raise the sword above his head, and the cloth undid itself—falling to the ground where it lay forgotten.

The fire mage's eyes had widened, as he stood still; startled at the entire thing.

"…No." His voice quivered, but the unexpected was already happening.

The sword, which was as long as his entire arm, and as wide as his body only had a single, curved edge. The blade was connected to the leather bound hilt by a curved, metallic adornment of a halved sun—so it looked like a large knife with four sharp spikes as its guard. Three holes were forming a line near its top, a large ruby was surmounted on the hilt, and glowing Draconic runes were etched on its entire surface—

"Ignes inferni"

…Another Legend, and from the runes themselves, he knew what it could do—

"I will burn you with my sword and my flames, and I will avenge the deaths of my kin!"

All of a sudden, the wind suddenly grew rampant and thrashed violently over the silent meadow, as the man whispered words which were too low for him to hear. When a giant seal appeared above the heavens and shined through the darkness, he saw the light of the morning sun approaching too swiftly and driving away the shadows.

"Flammas Agni."

The man shouted, before crimson flames—the same flames which his other self had been using, surrounded everything in sight.

"Agneyastra!"

Natsu heard the man call once more, and a tall pillar of red light shined and dispelled the darkness of the night.

...


Original moves:

Silver Dragon's Guard—User creates a hexagonal shield used for either blocking attacks or shield bashing opponents, from his arms.

Silver Dragon's Roar—The standard Dragonslayer breath attack; comes in sky, iron, white, shadow, lightning, poison, fire and now silver. (lol)

Silver Dragon's Halberd—User transforms both arms into a gigantic *quote Natsu* "shiny axe", used for… cutting people in half—what else?

Silver Dragon's Revolving Lance—User sends out a long silver pole from either his hands or feet. Similar to Gajeel's Demonic pole, only—this one's sharper. (And shinier of course.)

Silver Dragon's Giant Claymore—Vincent's trademark move. He transforms his limbs into a beautiful—but deadly at the same time, sword.

Silver Dragon's Crushing Hammer—User transforms both hands into a giant hammer. (Damn, getting hit with this would hurt…a lot.)

Dragonslayer Secret Art—Seraphic Luster: Thousand Lance Assault—User summons silver shards which assail the opponent from every direction. Think of it as rain… only, the raindrops attack you endlessly. (And of course, their sharp and shiny too.)

Dragonslayer Secret Art—Seraphic Luster: Silver Blade Impalement—User slams his hands on the ground, and (a lot of) silver weapons emerge from the floor in a set area. If you've seen Shaman King, it's similar to Ren's attack.

Dragonslayer Secret Art—Proteus' Blaze: Thousand Flame Dance—Natsu creates thousands of fire blades and points them in the direction of the enemy. Similar to Vergil of DmC's spiral sword attack. (Wanna know how I came up with the name Proteus' Blaze? I was searching for flower names, cuz I was focusing on something similar to "Crimson Lotus." I found a species of flowers called Protea, and read the etymology in Wikipedia. It says Proteus is supposedly a greek diety which can change shape at will, and I find this fitting since the "Flames of Control" grants Natsu the ability to shapeshift his flames. Neat, huh?)


Translations:

Ignis probat argentum—Fire tests silver.

Maledictum—Curse (actually, it has a lot of different meanings. Trust me, Latin's complicated.)

Accipis mea vis…auferis mea maledictum—(you) Receive my power…(you) obtain my curse.

Borealis—North.

Ignes Inferni—The fires of hell.

Flammas Agni—The Flames of Agni (here, Agni pertains to the fire deity…in literal Latin, it could mean "Lamb", which I think is fitting…cuz if you read about this "Agni", he was supposedly a deity which people sacrificed living beings to, similar to how lambs are being sacrificed in the Bible. Ignore this if you're not interested.)


'Sup?

…Damn, I'm tired. Wanna know what I've been up to? Huh, no? Fine, I'll tell you—first, I watched the entire Gundam 00 series plus the movie…again, cuz the story was so damn good. I finished DMC's 3 and 4…again, cuz both games were just so damn awesome. I'm in the process of completing Oblivion…again, so that I'd be able to start Skyrim. I've done the planning on my next fic, and I'm gonna start writing it now (no, later actually.) I'm beta-reading a story with a lot of words (don't ask), and it was tiring. I've been making covers for my stories, since I…I lost my sketchbook—the one with all the sketches I made for the story. Damn, I'm still so pissed over it, since I hadn't had them scanned. Okay, wait a sec—

*Goes out and vents out frustration*

*Returns* 'kay, now where was I? Ahh yes, I've also been sleeping when I had the chance, neglecting my workout routine and sports…and mulling over negative things due to the sad fact that after finishing school and looking over manga updates, I find out that a lot of my favorite mangas are nearly ending or have already ended—I'm still a teen after all. (If you feel me, nod grimly.) Damn, 2014's a sad year for manga fans. Oh yeah, I'm partially through with Ascalon's cover. The only thing needed is the coloring (something I'm too lazy to do)—you can see it in my deviantart account. (The link's in my profile.)

And yes, and I just realized it's downright impossible to make two of these lengthy chapters in under two weeks with all of my *healthy* activities going on, so sue me. I'm putting the other one up as soon as I'm finished.

The list goes on, and speaking of lists… Nah, nevermind. Lately I've been thinking of making a list for this story, and I'm sure some of you might know what it is. (*coughs* K…uro…yagi *coughs*)

So anyway, just a bit of plot development for this chapter. We find out Vincent's been forced to search for Ascalon, and the Kingdom of Elysia hides all sorts of conspiracies. Fast forward, and the Sirens are found dead. Natsu finds a "familiar" man who was the culprit behind the attacks, holds Katrice hostage, and is revealed to be another Fire Dragonslayer and wielder of the Legendary sword Ageyastra (Agni's supposed weapon in the mythologies)! Who is this man, and what will happen next?! Find out next time!

And right—you don't need to tell me, cuz I'm sure I added questions onto that list once again.

…oh yeah, you guys know what day it is a week from now? *smirks* Be alert, cuz the west wind is a naughty wind after all.

…peace…