It was nighttime. A ghastly storm overtook the whole area around the inn that Natsu and his entourage were staying at. They were all sitting at a large table in the dining area and were discussing the chain of events that led to this point. The recent addition to their party, Mero Serene, was going around the table humming an upbeat tune, making sure nobody was left with an empty cup.
"This'll warm ya up in a jiffy! Yoma taught me tea making was a necessary skill when it came to training!" The twin-tailed slayer of night enthusiastically said while pouring a steaming cup for Flare. "Balance of flavor is the same as the nature of magic. How it is seasoned, heated, and mixed~! Mero took a long time to get the recipe right, so I hope you enjoy it~!" She winked.
"Th-thank you." Flare nodded in appreciation. The redhead took it with gratitude.
"Kind of tastes like milk with cinnamon," Callan said after drinking it down faster than everyone else. Though, for him, it was more of a testament to how much he liked it.
"Exquisite." Ikaruga gently placed her lips upon the mug and sipped lightly. Though she was fond of her own brew, she had to give credit where it was due. The eccentric young girl certainly had a knack for the art of tea making.
"..." Treya was silent and drank it calmly. Her expression remained as bland as ever, but the contents of Mero's drink nearly made her lifeless eyes come to life with a slight pink color.
"Much obliged." Natsu nodded as she filled it up. She then put the pot on the table and scooted her chair next to Natsu.
"So, there's 5 of us total, huh? Boy oh boy, I am amazed that I got to meet one of you, let alone 3! Mero is a very lucky lady~!" She giggled with glee while crossing her arms onto the table. "So! we have Ice! Crystal! And Fire! And after I join you, MOONLIGHT!" She declared happily, her raven tails wagged with the delight of traveling with others of the same origin. "So who is number 5 again?" She asked the whole table.
"Some guy named Angelo Viduus. Apparently, Callan says he's the strongest of us all." Natsu turned to the ice dragon slayer.
"Just what I was told. Not sure what his element is though." Callan wiped his nose and cleared his throat. " But I'm gonna fight that guy when we find him! I'd love to really see if he's worthy of being called the strongest!" His toothy grin worked its way to his mouth. Despite the fact that the last Lost Dragon Slayer was the potentially strongest of their kind, that did not deter the ice dragon slayer from wanting to test his strength.
"That sounds awesome!" Mero also was getting thrilled by his enthusiasm. "Maybe he uses lightning! Or maybe he can use the power of the sun! Or-OR, he uses earth! Gosh, Mero's mind just runs rampant with the possibilities!" Mero oddly started glowing with pale energy, as if her body was in synch with her emotions.
"By the way," Natsu spoke up. "Why are you looking for the Moonferry Moth?" The very question was now on everyone's mind the moment he brought it up.
"Ah, yes I suppose I should explain that." Mero cleared her throat and sat down for everyone to listen. "The truth is, is that I'm not looking for it. I've already found it." She clarified.
"Oh?" Callan raised a brow. "Then why are you here?"
"It's a bit of a long story," Mero held up her hand and pale energy that was the same color as the moon showed itself. It warped into a six-winged moth with long and curled at the end antenna. She then leaned on her hands while propping her elbows on the table. The elegant moth of energy fluttered around the table as she talked. "The Moonferry Moth was a long-lost magical creature called an Etherbeast. It first appeared around a century ago, during the time Fiore was getting settled, and mages were popping up all over the continent. With the abundance of magic that flooded the country, more sightings of the Moth were common. It was rare, but over the years as the population increased, so did the sightings of the Moth." She held her hand out and the moth suddenly covered the whole table as everybody watched in awe above them. "It would show up in random places with unexplainable reasons why. News spread like wildfire, and everyone wanted to see if they could catch it, but it only showed up at night once a year and every location that someone who was lucky enough to see it at, was not the same. It was either a large cave, atop a mountain, in the center of a lake, you name it. It continued its usual routine, before Mero's dragon, Yoma Endveil, stumbled across it." She then made the moth split and morphed half of it into a Chinese-style dragon with four antler-looking horns on its head, as the scaled-down moth flew around it.
"Your dragon found it?" Treya repeated.
"Mm. He was fascinated by it, he took to studying it and observing its lifestyle. After I was picked up by him years later, he introduced me to it. Mero was ecstatic when I first saw it. It was the most beautiful creature I've ever laid my own two eyes on..." Mero chuckled when she thought back to when she first encountered it. "I learned how to absorb moonlight from observing and studying it. It was part of my training, so Yoma made me follow it around for the better part of a year. Over time I grew to understand its nature and its flight path."
"I'm assuming that it wasn't just flying around randomly?" Natsu guessed.
"Bingo~!" She winked with a star coming out of her eye. "The moth is actually drawn to large concentrations of raw, untouched lacrima that form and come out of the ground after a year's time. It feeds on the unstable magic inside it, then it goes into hiding to digest it. Then it seeks out more, following the flow of magic in the air. It's kind of a lazy lifestyle for a majestic creature that everyone tagged as an A-class magic creature, but Mero can relate~! Eat, sleep, repeat~!" She flashed her canine in her smile while making a song out of it.
"So where do you fit into this then?" Ikaruga politely asked.
"Remember those uh, bad people I was talking about?" She reminded them.
"The poachers?" Callan answered while crossing his arms.
"Well, they tried to catch it, but they ended up wounding it, and it's currently resting up in that mountain." She pointed out the window as the lightning illuminated the dark peak in the distance. "I make sure nobody bothers her. So she can rest up all safe and sound."
"She?" Flare picked up on that.
"Mm! Yoma named her Val`kreed!"
"Val`kreed?" Ikaruga tilted her head.
"It means Pale Wing." Natsu turned to her and clarified. "It's a Gavil name."
"Ohhh, as expected! You know your stuff~!" Mero smiled brightly. "But anywhooo~, I come back every now and then to check on Val`kreed, to see if she's resting well. But I got sloppy, and some people tried to follow me to her nest."
"Wait, are you saying the Moth lives on that mountain?" Callan was surprised.
"Mmhm! For now anyway. When it takes flight again, it'll go off in search of another large source of magic."
"Is it okay now?" Natsu thought maybe if that was the case with the moth, then shouldn't she be up there protecting it?
"I can sense its power from here. Plus, Mero can use a special type of rune magic." She then lit her finger and wrote a C' with an X over it onto her palm. She then hopped off her chair and wrote the same thing on Flare's arm. The two runes resonated with a glow and then disappeared.
"What did you...?" Flare couldn't see the character on her skin. She scraped at it, but it wasn't covered.
"Okay, now pinch your nose," Mero told Flare.
"Eh? Mmmm...o-okay." Flare complied. She did what she was told, but nothing happened.
"Harder." Mero encouraged.
"Mm-MMMmm~!" Flare then scrunched her nose and pinched even harder.
"W-w-ww-wait~! You don't need to pinch that h-AWCHOO~!" Mero waved fanatically and then suddenly the rune lit up on her palm and she sneezed in reaction to Flare pinching her nose. "Uuuugh~. Re-wease." Mero sniffled slightly and put her finger on her own palm, and the rune on Flare's arm vanished. "As you can see, if anything indicates discomfort to Val`creed, I'll sense it instantly." She wiped her nose and went back to her chair.
"You can tag people and monitor their vitals?" Treya put a hand to her chin. "That would be very handy to know what turns him on." Treya hummed while thinking.
"Forget it." Natsu glared at her.
"I must say though." Mero suddenly popped up closer to Natsu. "You look veeeeery familiar. Particularly that hair." She pointed to the mess of cherry locks on his head. She then began rubbing it. "OO~ it's so soft~!" She was further enthralled. "Do you use anything like shampoo or something?!~ Mero's hair isn't nearly as soft as this~!"
"No?" Natsu felt like she was going to take it with her the further her gentle fingers raked through his salmon-colored locks.
"Heheheheh~!" She then rubbed her cheek against his head and felt in absolute bliss. "You're like a salmon-colored sheep~."
"It's not-wait. Did you say...salmon?" Natsu was about to correct her on reflex, but suddenly he realized something.
She did not say the P-word.
"Mm. It's clearly salmon-colored? Am I wrong?" She stopped rubbing her cheeks on it and then looked to him for a correction.
"..." Natsu's expression was hidden.
"Ch-Cherry hair?..?" Flare was concerned why he suddenly went silent.
"Mero..." He suddenly began to shake.
"Eh? I'm so sorry, I-I-" Mero began bowing and apologizing profusely.
"You're my new best friend from now on~!" He put a hand on her shoulder and had tears of joy running down his closed eyes of approval. He gave her a thumbs up and was absolutely happy with the fact someone got it right for once.
"Yay~!" Mero didn't question it but threw her arms in the air in celebration and an anonymous title appeared above them that read,
*~YOU HAVE ACQUIRED YOUR NEW BEST FRIEND!~*
"He must REALLY hate being misunderstood." Callan was not sure what he was witnessing, but he was glad that Natsu found someone who understood his struggle. No matter how dumb he thought it was.
"Hmph." Treya scoffed. But her jealous eyes soon worked their way to Mero.
"..." Mero then looked back at the green-haired elegance that was Treya with a blank expression.
"..." Treya matched it and the two seemed to in a staring contest.
"Hmmm..." Mero hummed before placing a hand on Natsu. Right as she did, Treya's eyes lit up pink, a slight tinge of annoyance ran up her forehead.
"..." Mero then took her hand off and Treya's eyes turned back to grey.
"...!" Mero then had a look of realization. She then touched Natsu again, which prompted him to raise his brow.
"...!" Treya twitched as her eyes lit up pink.
"..." Mero took her hand off, and they were grey again.
"..." She touched.
"..!" Treya now had a tick mark.
"It's like an on and off switch~!" Mero repeated this process till Treya clenched a piece of the table off out of annoyance. Callan spit out his tea and was doing his best to hide a snort and chuckle. Flare was discreetly giggling within her crimson locks that blocked everyone's view.
"Do you wish to see your insides that badly?" Treya hissed, irritated that she was being mocked by this child of a dragon slayer. Years of grueling assassin training, and this little, puppy-eyed, minx was about to send her over the edge.
"So this is your mate, huh?" She turned back to Natsu with a smile. "Boy, I wonder what that feels like." She had stars in her eyes while gazing upon him. "Say, do you have a limit?!~"
"A limit?" Natsu raised his eyebrow.
"Like, how many potential mates are you considering?" She asked blatantly.
"Huh? I'm not particularly looking for...mates." Natsu stammered and scratched his head. "I haven't really given it much thought."
"Really?" Mero blinked innocently. She then looked around the table and seemed to only be getting a sour look from Treya. "Mero figured miss Treya over there was getting huffy and puffy because I was near you."
"Heh heh, hear that? You're huffy and pu-FUCMMpth!" Callan was then hit with the irritated backhand of Treya, prohibiting him from finishing his sentence.
"Shut it." She uttered coldly.
"Ow! JUST BECAUSE YOU KNOW IT'S TRUE-ergh-my fucking nose! " The dark blue-haired slayer uttered while fixing his crooked nose.
"Did she just break his nose?" Mero tilted her head. Surprised nobody was reacting.
"Miss Duella is very sensitive about her image. She'd crack a man's skull, for having a difference in opinion." Ikaruga quipped.
"I've killed people for far less." Treya glared in the swordswomen's direction.
"How uncouth. You're about as sentient as a blade. Unless you're being used, you have no other charming qualities." She further prompted Treya to give in to her taunting.
"You are saying I lack charm?" Treya had a tick mark form on her emotionless expression.
"Was I not blunt enough? Perhaps a knock to your head will get my point across." Ikaruga giggled.
"I will scalp you, I swear it." Treya vowed. Being taunted in this manner would have prompted a swift and justified end to such insolence. But out of respect for Natsu, she stayed her blade.
"Knock it off, Ikaruga." Natsu was getting fed up with the bladeswoman's constant poking and prodding. Once you got her started she was already on a roll. "Anyways, Treya drank my blood, but I never drank any of hers. Actually, it wasn't much, she kind of just pricked my finger, and the next thing I know she's tasting it. I didn't take any of hers cause I wasn't sure what would happen if I did...thinking back on it..." Natsu was thinking about the sexual advances that she made on him ever since then. It then occurred to him. What if that left, HIM, in a state of lust? "...I'm kind of glad I didn't." He turned away from everyone and was astonished at what would have happened while covering his face in horror.
"Oh, that would do it. Compatibility is a huge drive when doing a blood vow to seal the deal. If you can't separate for any longer than a day...well, that's when...uh..b-b-baby-making is...erm..." Mero suddenly lit up with embarrassment. "Eh heh heh, well, I'm sure you've experienced it on the way over~!" She giggled nervously.
"He hasn't touched me yet." Treya pointed out to her.
"Huh?" The twin-tailed girl tilted her head with simple dots for eyes.
"Yet." She glanced her eyes at Natsu with ominous intent.
"..." Natsu blinked.
"YET." Treya's eyes then glowed red with ill intent.
"WE HEARD YOU THE FIRST TIME!" Natsu angrily said with a blush.
"...Can I try it?" Mero requested.
"He's mine, you little minx." Treya suddenly tried to draw her dagger, with a murderous intent being leaked out of her.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa calm the fuck down!" Frostbite gritted his teeth while keeping her hand off her pommel.
"I don't think that would be a good idea." Natsu swiftly denied. "I don't wanna find out what happens if BOTH of these girls are on me like a pack of wild dogs." He envisioned a drooling hound with demonic eyes, and a small puppy with an innocent expression, yet with glints of foul intent in its eyes being set upon him.
"No fair~! I wanna mate! I wanna mate~!" Mero whined like a child while tugging on his arm. "I may not be a cool beauty, with a large chest like miss Treya, but I know about all the other stuffs~!" She sounded more like a whining little kid in her display.
"You WHAT?!" Natsu was just completely confused about this little girl. She probably was referring to just a special kind of friend, but she was sending some really mixed signals.
"My, my." Ikaruga couldn't help but giggle from the words she uttered.
Treya, however, was far from amused.
"RELEASE ME." Treya got up with her fist raised and was about to jump over the table, but Callan caught her in mid-flight but was struggling to keep her from trying to trounce the little dragon slayer.
"EEERgh! TECHNICALLY YOU'RE NOT WRONG, BUT YOU'RE MISINTERPERTING IT-DRANIGON, TELL THIS BITCH IN HEAT TO SIT STILL!" Callan was getting elbowed in the face while trying to keep her from getting into a fistfight.
"Can't we all just get along...?" Natsu put a knuckle to his head, wishing he could knock himself out.
Later that night...
"You got to set a line or something, man. I am not taking any more shots for you." Frostbite looked at himself in the bathroom mirror and was examining his swollen proportions on his face. Treya had some really sharp strikes when they actually got in.
"I could have handled it. You don't need to hold her back for me." Natsu said while laying back on his bed.
"You have no idea how annoying it is when a woman is jealous." Frostbite growled. "That was more or less for Mero. The last thing we need is for that plank with no emotion to slaughter every female within a ten-mile radius."
"It's not that bad."
"Look me in the eye and say that!" He barked while pointing to his black eye.
"Point taken." Natsu dully said.
"I'mma knock her down a peg when this is over! I swear to the high heavens! PREPARE YOURSELF BITCH! I'M GONNA RAIN HELL DOWN ON YOU LIKE A FUCKING BLIZZARD!"
"Huh?" Natsu glanced over with a confused look.
"FFoooofff. Sorry, it's the stress talking." He let out a deep sigh and fell on the circumference of his bed. "But seriously, I'm amazed you've gone this long without a girlfriend in this line of work." He peeked out from his pillow.
"Why don't you take her?"
"I don't do those types. I got my hands full dealing with my chick back home." He swiftly denied.
"Oh, yeah. You said something about that a while ago." Natsu recalled at one point he brought up. What type of girl was good enough to keep the rowdy slayer of ice in line?
"Her name's Goony. Grew up with her, and we've dated for about oh, 4 years. She's a force of nature, she is." He gave a brief rundown. "She got long, messy white hair, and is built like a tank."
"...that's a vivid description." Natsu thought about insulting his intelligence once more, but he had enough for one day.
"She got a nice body too. But she always has an angry look on her face. Kind of reminds me of my mother." He shuddered thinking of the two side by side.
"So how did it happen?"
"Ma said if I brought some city girl home, she would bury her out in the snow. Plus she was the only other chick my ma ever got along with. Probably why she liked Treya. She got more grit than a fucking wolverine. I swear violent women are everywhere nowadays." He shook his head in disbelief.
"You can say that again." Natsu met a lot of stupidly powerful girls and women growing up, so he knew that better than anyone.
"Anyway's, one day we were taking a load up the mountain...
It was back in the past about four or five years. Frostbite was no older than his early teens and was pulling a cart up the hill with another person. He just had short spiky hair at this point and was a lot smaller. He wore a long red scarf coiled around his neck and a poofy green coat. Next to him, was a girl who was wearing a poofy purple coat, and a black scarf in the same manner frostbite did. She was no taller than he was. Her hair was down to her back, and it was in a curly and unruly mess, but it oddly suited her. Her eyes were a dark red, and her face was a crisp pale color, minus the exception of her rosy cheeks from the cold. But she seemed to sport a constant glare in her face. She did well to hide it in her scarf, but her sharp eyes made it apparent if you stared into them. Frostbite was pulling a large wagon on a sled that had the supplies he needed for the house. How such a small child could perform the feat of a dozen strong men was due to his training with Gromell, his Lost Dragon. He was bored and was pulling it with one hand, while the snow-white girl stuck to his side like glue.
"...hey." She grimaced. It seemed that speaking made her recoil to some extent. As if mustering up the will to actually say something.
"Hm?" The younger Callan shifts his eye to her.
"What's up, Goony?" He asked curiously.
"...you wanna...go out?"
"I... wanna go out with ya." She said while turning to him.
"Seriously?" Frostbite gasped.
"You wanna?" She asked with a glare.
"S-sure." Callan could feel the animosity coming out of her body. "But I thought you said you wouldn't want a guy like me?"
"I...want a guy...like you." She blushed while still glaring.
It was an awkward silence for the two kids as they stared into each other's eyes.
"Uh, you sure you ain't running a fever or something?" He asked before he was tackled to the ground by her. She began hammering on his face while he blocked.
"Jerkwad! I was stressin' 'bout that since yesterday! I...I thought long and hard on it!" She growled.
"Ow! Fer' crying out loud you nut-stop it!" Callan kept his guard up as she mounted and tried to punch him in the eye. "NOW LOOK HERE!" He knocked her off him and stood over her. "Do ya want a boyfriend or not!?"
"No fair! You...can't hit girls!" She stumbly got up and pointed a gloved hand at him.
"You ain't a girl! You're a yeti!" He insulted.
"Take that back!" She gritted her teeth and butted heads with him.
"Make me, powder puff!"
"You should be grateful! I'm offering to be with you for the rest of your life, and...you treat me like a jerkwad!"
"Stop hitting me every time you have a damn problem! Are you a gorilla!?"
"You're going to end up alone for the rest of your life, if...you keep that attitude up!"
"What do you care!?"
"Cause I don't want you...to be alone!"
"YOU DON'T-...what?" Callan was about to retort but suddenly finished processing what she said.
"Drrrrgh! MM!" Goony suddenly was blushing more before she finally had it, and did something most unexpected.
"MM!?" Callan stopped. Despite being strong against the cold, he was frozen with embarrassment.
"MM!" Goony locked lips with him and pushed him into the snow. He let go of the sleigh he was pulling and laid there in the bank of snow with his childhood friend keeping the pressure on. She slowly backed away and some tears were forming in her eyes. Though her glare was as icy as ever, her heart seemed to melt right in front of him. As did his.
"I know your mom...is sick. And your dad is gone. But I'm still here too! Why can't you...see that!?" She growled as tears went down her cheeks.
"I'm gonna stick with you...forever! Forever, ya hear!?" She screamed at him in a passionate display. "So I'll be your lady! And you'll be my man! Got it...jerkwad?!"
"O-okay! Geez, get off me! Huh?" Callan shoved her off and tried to keep a straight face. But then suddenly he turned pale as a ghost when he saw his mother towering behind him.
"CAL." Demon uttered in a cold tone.
"M-ma?" He stuttered in fear. The clouds darkened around her in a menacing display, as if the demon king, or in this case, his bride, had descended. Her flowing dark hair seemed to twitch and curl in an evil display.
"...CONGRATULATIONS, YA LITTLE SHIT!~" She picked him up and held him in the air with next to no effort. "Maybe I'll see some punk ass kids of your own, by the end of all this~!" She smiled with glee, as the tall, heavily coated woman congratulated her son.
"M-MA! P-Put me down! T-T-this is embarrassing!"
SHUT IT YOU PUNK! I MAY NOT HAVE LONG FOR THIS WORLD BUT GOD DAMN IT, ITS GOOD TO KNOW THERE'S ATLEAST SOME GIRL OUT HERE WHO FINDS SOMETHING REMOTELY LIKEABLE ABOUT YOU!" She shouted in his face and began choking her under her arm. She then looked to the girl in question in dead silence.
"...eh?" Gooney tilted her head confusedly.
"...Hmph!" Demon had glints in her eyes and blew steam out her nose. "CALL ME MOTHER, SAMARA!"
"HUH!?" Goony was more or less a nickname for Samara. So, Samara, now about to be picked up by Demon, was completely helpless before her. She threw Callan headfirst into the snow and then scooped up Samara in a similar fashion. For once, the Frostbite family seemed to regain a bit more happiness that they lost in the absence of Callan's long-dead father and Demon's poor health.
End of Flashback...
"How touching." Natsu simply said at the closing of his story.
"She jumped me, and then my mom threw me in a snow ditch!" Callan reminded him.
"Well, it sounds like it worked out in the end." Natsu assumed.
"Yeah, I suppose...I mean, it ain't all bad." He whipped his arm out and sighed. "Should have introduced ya. I'll give ya an intro next time we go up there."
"Meeting the girl that could put up with a bonehead like you? Sign me up." Natsu chuckled.
"Keep talking pussy-whipped." Callan mocked.
"Whatever." Natsu gave up and laid down on his bed.
"C'mon. Yer' telling me you never tried anything with a chick before?" Callan decided to ask him.
"It's easier this way," Natsu replied while putting his hands behind his head.
"Not even entertained the thought?" Callan didn't buy it.
"It's not that I haven't, Frost. It's just..." Natsu remembered all the people he lost along the way in his life. Every time tragedy struck, he wished it would just be him. Why does he always outlive the people that he cared for, when they did nothing that earned them death? "...it's just something I don't deserve." Natsu began to say.
"..." Callan stayed silent while listening.
"I've killed so many people out there and made more enemies than friends... sometimes enemies out of friends. And every time I think I see a hand pull me out of the shit, I just end up pulling them in." His eye was half open. "I don't know how I'm still alive. But I guess Venigon trained me a bit too well." He chuckled at his dark sense of humor.
"Is this about that dragon? I told you I'd help you." Callan, turned around and laid on his back, same as Natsu. "Yeah, I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but I am the bluntest. So, just point me at whoever's giving you shit, I'll knock em' right out of your fucking way." He assured Natsu.
"Come up with that yourself?" Natsu mocked.
"Just now." He admitted.
"...heheh. That was terrible." Natsu chuckled slightly.
"Heh!" Callan smirked.
"Let's just focus on this first," Natsu said and laid on his side.
"Fine by me." Callan hit the lights and the two proceeded to go to sleep.
A few hours later...
"Errrrgh." Natsu held his pillow over his ear from the grinding headache-inducing effects of the ice dragon slayer's snoring. It was probably from Treya smacking his nose, which Natsu was making a mental note to whether or not keep her tied up and wear her as a backpack for the duration of their journey. But right now he was deciding whether to kill Callan in his sleep right now for sawing logs like a congested old man. Then there was Ikaruga. If someone was intentionally trying to piss off anyone, she would rank among the top ten of people. At least Flare was quiet and kind. She was the only one he didn't regret bringing with him. Now Mero was an...interesting character. She was so free spirited and nice, maybe a little too much, but a good person. If it wasn't for the fact she was one of the most powerful mages on the continent, he would view her as a sweet young thing. But then it stuck out to him about how she said he looked familiar. He'd seen hundreds of faces before, and if he met someone like this, he was certain he'd recognize them on the spot.
"(Sigh)." Natsu turned and stared up at the ceiling. He decided to just go outside for a bit to watch the sky until he felt tired enough to the point he didn't even give a shit about Callan's snoring. He sneaked over to the door and discreetly went out. He walked down the hall and turned to the stairs that led down to the lobby. He was about to head out the door before spotting Ikaruga sitting by herself in the corner of the dining area with not but a lamp, and a teacup with a kettle. He raised his brow and went over to check on her. She was looking at her prized sword, which lay unsheathed before her on the table with the scabbard laid next to it. Her usual smile was not present and a bored look was on her face while comfortably hunched over. Her hair was draped back, as if she just got out of the shower.
"Couldn't sleep either huh?" Natsu assumed while coming up behind her. She broke out of whatever trance she was in and her green eyes glanced in his direction.
"Indeed it would seem." She replied in a bored tone. "What roused you from your slumber?" She asked curiously.
"A wannabe gangster." Natsu sighed across from her. "One thing I miss about my solitude." He scoffed.
"I suppose the congested oaf would need his own soundproof room if his every breath echoed throughout the night." She smiled softly, while Natsu sat across from her. "Regretting taking in all us misfits so far?" She crossed her bare legs in front of him.
"Taking you in? " Natsu repeated.
"Kind of an odd gathering, would you not say? A normal person would be outright fed up, or choose to run away." She struck up a conversation and her usual glow of twisted humor was reignited. "Maybe even fearful of what they see." She slowly and gently tugged the bottom of her bathrobe up to reveal more of her legs in a provocative manner.
"Why did you decide to join Fairy Tail, Ikaruga?" Natsu suddenly brought up.
"Would it be believable if I said I wanted to turn over a new leaf?" She tilted her head and smiled mischievously. "I was inspired by the holier than thou act, I felt compelled to strive for a more honest and noble lifestyle." She placed a hand upon her chest as if she was quoting a famous line.
"...ugh." Natsu cringed.
"Hmhmhmhm, heavens forbid. To renounce myself in such a manner, I feel like throwing up my tea." She chuckled. "If you must know, I did simply because of you."
"Now see, that makes no sense to me." Natsu leaned forth and still was confused.
"I find solace in the fact that someone with a body count like yours can still roam around Fiore, and not be treated like filth." She worded. "Whether it's out of fear or respect, I am fascinated by your charisma that sways those to you like moths to flame." She scoffed a bit at the end.
"Maybe I just don't care what people think about me." He shrugged.
"Perhaps getting under your skin is tougher than most, but I wonder if..." She laid her hands on her lap. "Its because of that, you do not seek companions."
"You? Lecturing me on companionship?" Natsu couldn't help but nearly snort at that remark.
"Oh, don't misunderstand. Companions are more or less tools. They do not serve any purpose other than to fulfill a 'role.'"
"I'm guessing your previous guild ain't very big on friendship." Natsu sarcastically assumed.
"Those two dotards were about as useful as a wet paper sword. To be beaten by two young girls, and a little man was outright an embarrassment. But, I give props to you, Dranigon. I was the pinnacle of Death's Head Caucus. But now I see the world is vast." She placed a hand on her wound that he gave her. "Although, this assortment of unique individuals feels more of my cup of tea than the previous affiliations I've had." She smiled as she took a sip.
"If by your cup of tea, you mean constantly provoking a master assassin and scaring a timid girl out of her mind, while constantly poking fun at me and that oaf upstairs...well, I guess all I can say is, welcome to the club." Natsu faked a smile with a sarcastic tone while sitting back and crossing his legs.
"It brings me joy to know you're paying attention to our playful banter." She giggled. "As long as we are on the subject itself..." She stopped crossing her legs and sat forth. "What will you do once you find the last slayer?" She flattened her hands under her chin and propped her head up.
"Don't know yet," Natsu answered truthfully.
"Hm? I figured you were already concocting some grand plan in that shrewd head of yours." She mistakenly assumed.
"You may be shocked, but I just go with the flow in these situations." He deadpanned. "I never planned on Treya wanting to follow me. I never planned on you seeking me out and just tagging along. And I NEVER expected to run into the fourth slayer up here." He clarified. "The only reason I'm here is because I'm curious why my name was on that list before I even was born." He looked out the large windows on the walls showing the whole front end of the inn. He could have sworn he just saw a flash.
"Indeed. An enigma within an enigma." She nodded in agreement. "...hmm?" Something seemed to catch her eye.
"What?" Natsu noticed she seemed to have something on her mind.
"I just...notice you seem to not have your guard up as much with this group, then Fairy Tail." She pointed out to him.
"Really?" Natsu was a bit more attentive.
"Mm. Whereas you restrain yourself when in their presence, I feel like you're more...unhindered when around such colorful characters such as ourselves." Her reasoning behind this sudden conversation seemed to be hidden within her words. "Dare I say you favor this kind of party than pure, innocent children?"
"I'm not sure I like where you're going with this." Natsu suddenly narrowed his brow.
"Am I wrong?" She tilted her head. "Let us use...the oaf for an example."
"Yes, let's." Natsu rolled his eye and sighed heavily.
"From what he has told me of his time with you, he respects your conviction and ability to quell arguments within our group. But, he sees you as someone who does not treat him like a degenerate low life, but, as an equal and dare I say a respected brother of sorts."
"What a chump." Natsu couldn't help but chuckle. "This whole quest was his idea, and he expects me to handle all the internal issues. Yeah, that's exactly how a 'brother' treats me."
"Your tone tells me otherwise." She couldn't help but giggle herself from his sarcasm. "Now, take that ice mage, Gray Fullbuster." She held up her other hand and lowered the other. "He expects you to be a good person at all times but is intent on scolding you when you choose to bear a burden yourself. As if you're expected to share that with them all like you're hoarding more tragedy and emotional baggage than the rest."
"Confiding with people is not a bad thing." Natsu defended.
"Well, have you?" She looked at him with an expectant look.
"They..." Natsu was about to answer but realized he never really tried to reach out, because of something similar to what happened the other day. "...I...they just don't understand." He lowered his head in shame.
"And there is my point." She heard what she wanted to hear him say and was relieved. "Now, miss Erza-"
"I don't want to talk about that." Natsu swiftly stated.
"Just listen." She sounded more serious than normal. "Miss Erza. Now, I have no doubt she has seen her fair share of how wretched and demented the world can be. Even I could feel the weight of a thousand hard-fought battles upon her sword, and that crafty trickster Jellal told me of her past in that tower. She has experienced how cruel people can be, and so she wears a layer of armor around her, and her heart to keep herself safe. She sees herself as a protector of the guild and wishes to keep the bonds they all share from being severed. "
"Buuut...?" Natsu was waiting for the inevitable downside she was building up to. He didn't need to hear this. He understood her position very well.
"But," Ikaruga repeated in a mocking fashion. "She instantly turns on you because of a past innocent love. Whereas you wanted to punish him for the evil acts he committed, and possibly many more, she would rather you forgive and forget, because, seeing the good in someone is enough to give them another chance. After all, it's what the others he wronged and murdered would have wanted." She smirked with her eyes half-open. "And any standing you had with her had dropped faster than a rock cast into the ocean."
"So, I'm the 'rock' in this metaphor?" Natsu deadpanned.
"Well, I certainly don't see them walking by your side, smiling ear-to-ear right now. I figured you needed a respite from trying to keep up a 'good' front." She assumed.
"Uh-huh." Natsu felt a tinge of annoyance about her talking this way about his friends in Fairy Tail, but even he felt something of a tickle of common ground with her line of thinking.
"Now, I sympathize with you."
"Gee, thanks." Natsu scoffed.
"I do not see how someone of that standing can let someone go for a crime unpunished. When I lived with my uncle, it was an eye for an eye. A student once cut the sword hand of a young boy clean off because my uncle passed a compliment to their hard work. A simple phrase. 'You've worked hard. Keep it up.' And then he would go about the day with his usual sword practices. That was simply unacceptable in the eyes of the other student. He was born into a family of swordsmen, that produced geniuses for nearly a century. And my uncle did not even so much as acknowledge his efforts. So he waited until the boy was most vulnerable, alone, and then took his hand. Upon finding out about it, my uncle assembled the entire school, he then called forth the young boy who had his arm cut off, and the student who had done it. He had them raise both their arms forward, and in the blink of an eye, the student who took the sword hand off the young boy, had his hand cut off in a split second." She concluded her story.
"I assume you had a front row seat to all this?"
"But of course. That was the first time I cut flesh and bone." She sighed lightly as she remembered the first blood she had ever drawn that wasn't her own.
"You did it?" Natsu was taken by surprise. He thought the uncle did it.
"Now you know why the students despised me." She smiled a little. "Whenever something went wrong, I was the one who carried out the punishment. I had to do it to those who broke the rules, no matter if my relation to them was in a more friendly, or bitter manner."
"..." Natsu nodded slightly.
"But I digress. Sometimes you must carry out vile acts in place of those who are unable to stain their hands. I believe we are in agreement over that, yes?" She made sure.
"Well, I guess, but-"
"Then you understand why I sympathize, and see them as unfit arbiters for the corrupt. They only accept the good but despise the bad. If you truly accept someone, then your good and bad qualities are nothing. You simply find middle ground and move on. THAT, is what WE have done, Natsu Dranigon. They only want your kindness and none of your cruelty. They want your weakness, but not your strength. They want to live in the light, and fear the dark. They want to have limits, and not be taught lessons. So tell me, who do you truly feel aligned with?" She crossed her arms under her nearly exposed bust and sat back in her seat. Natsu lowered his head slightly and thought deeply before responding.
"I don't align with anyone, Ikaruga. I just think people should own up to their own mistakes, instead of discarding them. At least, that's the only world I've ever known. I was taught by my dragon that everyone is a hypocrite. It's not my place to judge others, because what happens after we pass on is up to whatever is on the other side. Sure, I can get upset, I can hate, I can love. But that's all we can do. I don't even know if I'm still a good, or a bad person. I just do what I feel I should do." He shrugged.
"Such a grey answer. But, an answer nonetheless." Ikaruga nodded lightly. "I think I am ever more curious about you now, than I was several minutes ago, hmhmhm~." She giggled in delight. "I so do enjoy these chats of ours. How long has it been since I spoke to another on personal matters?" She got up and slowly walked around the table and then began slowly massaging his shoulders from behind him. She lowered her head near his ear. "A suggestion if I may?"
"You know what to hate, that is perfectly clear. But why don't you find something you like, for a change?"
"Something I like?" Natsu raised his brow.
"If you really are walking the fine line, what you gravitate toward, instead of it gravitating toward you should clear up whatever doubt is instilled in your head." She whispered as she slowly let off him. She grabbed her sword and bowed before taking her small kettle and cup along with her back to her room. Natsu was left to contemplate her words. A lot of it made sense, which was shocking, considering that she was supposedly the "bad guy", but for some reason it seemed to resonate with his bitterness toward the issue he had with Fairy Tail.
"Maybe I'm just overthinking it, but she has a point. It's not like I'm a saint either, but I condemn evil in almost every form. But...(Sigh). Do I really have a right to pick a side, when I'm just going to die one of these days, forgotten and alone? Once I send Vallith and me to hell, the world is just gonna keep on turning anyway, right? Man, this is so frustrating." He buried his face into his hands and just felt depressed about the whole thing. He didn't want to be put in the position to choose between what was good and evil, right and wrong. It was so much easier when you knew what you did was right or wrong, but when you have to be the one to make the call, you bear the consequences of either side. Was he in the wrong for wanting Jellal dead? Was it right to let villainy go unpunished? Was it really his problem? Did he have any right to voice his opinion? He's gonna die anyway once Vallith appears, at that point, none of it would matter. Fairy Tail would just stick to their beliefs, Jellal would probably be freed eventually and Erza would be happy about that. Gray would be happy, Erza was happy. And Everyone at Fairy Tail would all be happy.
That's all that mattered right?
To be happy.
But Natsu just felt like there was no place for him in that picture. Because if he was the only one who wasn't happy, isn't that wrong? Questions just kept popping into his head. The struggle of knowing he was tied to a tragic fate always seemed to block out whatever was a much, better reality that was in store for him. But as long as that dragon lived, he was never going to be able to find his place in this world.
Because Venigon decided it for him.
"...fuck." Natsu cursed himself.
"Are you okay?" A gentle voice called out to him, and he glanced upward to find Mero just peering from a crouched position right below him. She frowned sadly at his behavior and was feeling bad that he seemed to be shouldering something.
"Why are you sitting alone in the dark?" She questioned innocently.
"I...couldn't sleep. And I wasn't alone. Ikaruga just left a few minutes ago." He cleared his throat and did his best to recompose himself.
"But you're still here."
"Yeah..." Natsu sighed a little.
"..." She just continued to stare at him.
"...?" Natsu locked eyes with her.
"BLEeeeegh~!" She tugged on her face and made a strange expression while sticking her tongue out.
"Pffthkkk!" Natsu couldn't help but snort and hold back a burst of laughter. It was as if his depression and frustration were blown away by that odd, looking face made by the nightfall dragon slayer.
"Much better~!" She grinned with a toothy smile. "If you keep brooding like that, your face will freeze like that. And no one wants a sad face."
"I'm not sad, Mero. Just got a lot on my mind right now." He shook his head in denial.
"Well, if you're up, why don't you come with Mero?" She extended a gloved hand with a bright smile. "I'll listen to you~!" She winked while flashing her canine in her smile. Her bright azure eyes had this strange positivity that just seemed to be unwavering. Natsu gasped quietly. But then smiled warmly at her.
"Thanks." He took her small hand and stood up, then followed her out into the night.
Hey wassup everyone! I'm glad to be able to update again! I'm moving right now, so I haven't had much time to write. Just got the wifi up and running! But, I am still determined to see this through to the end, no matter how long it takes! Anyways, I hope you're all doing okay in this crazy world we live in, and look forward to all your feedback! I got more updates coming, keep your eyes peeled!