The tension was on the rise. This strange doppelganger of Natsu seemed to have them all on edge. All innocent bystanders seemed to sense something was happening and moved away from the area. But the reddened eyes of E.N.D. were fixated on Natsu as if he was his objective. He shifted his gaze to the four empresses and looked like he was sizing them up. Not impressed, he turned back to the dragon slayer.
"A wandering mage?" Natsu repeated his previous statement. His eye ran up and down his gray and yellow attire. He seemed to have a similar taste to Natsu. "Ok, mage. Why are you following me?" Natsu asked curiously. He couldn't really get a read on the guy. But his resemblance was nearly spot on. Turn his hair salmon-colored, no one would be the wiser.
"Before I get to that...you up for a fight?" His stone-cold face remained while the dark clouds crept over the innocent little town.
"A fight?" Natsu blinked.
"Yeah. Rest assured, I won't kill you. I know you've had a rough week. But depending on what I see, I may beat you within an inch of your life." He halfheartedly assured. Though to be honest, that brought next to no comfort.
"Well, just hold on a second." Ultear stepped forth with confusion written all on her face. "We have a very important matter to attend to, and as you said, he had gone through a very dangerous ordeal recently, and he just finished fighting one of my S class mages."
"...?" E.N.D. raised a brow and turned back to the line up behind them. "...those four?" His tone took an annoyed turn. "Those four bitches are S class?" He shook his head in disbelief.
"They are." Ultear crossed her arms and was now feeling defensive. "Who is this guy? He looks and sounds just like Natsu."
"...okay then." E.N.D. grabbed his shoulder and cracked the soreness from his neck. "I'll fight one of them, and THEN I'll fight you. That way we'll be even." This was just becoming tedious for E.N.D. His objective was Natsu, not his entourage. "Seems like a perfect handicap for you."
"We don't have time to fool around with you, stranger. The train station is going to leave any second no-" Ultear protested.
"Oh, you didn't hear? They're having some issues with the control mechanisms. Could be a little while before they can safely get it running again" E.N.D. informed her.
"What?" Ultear stopped crossing her arms and suddenly realized this guy was not gonna let them go that easily.
"Make no mistake. I'm not asking." He stated as a flash of lightning lit up the sky. "Now, which one of you four is it gonna be?" He urged them to hurry up.
"Okay then," Mira smirked and stepped forth. "You wanna eat a knuckle sandwich that badly? I'll have to teach you not to dis the Four Empresses of Mermaid Heel, punk." She cracked her knuckles as she stepped forth. "I was rarin' for some entertainment anyway."
"Mira, hold up a second." Erza wanted to stop her from trouncing the guy. "He's just trying to goad us."
"You're the one who's always talking about how we carry ourselves with dignity and respect. Well, this guy is spitting on us. Don't stop me, tin can." Mira then had black and purple energy surging out from under her. The whole town shook slightly from her magic power. "Satan Soul!" Her body flashed several times and she let out her Satan Soul, transforming her into her demonic appearance. "Normally I would fight you with no Take-Over, but you seem pretty confident in yourself, yes?" She smiled a little and it was her turn to make light of E.N.D.
"Take-Over, huh?" E.N.D. said simply, as he put a hand to his chin. "The world is known for being cruel and unfair, girly. If you take me lightly for so much as a second, I'll put you down." He coldly stated as if it were written in stone. "Half baked power like yours is nothing short of pitiful." Mira had vein run up her head from that remark.
"You bastard...my power has gotten me this far and protected everything I love and care about. I HAVE NO REASON TO BELIEVE THAT IT'S INFERIOR!" Mira screamed as she burst forth and was about to knock him to the high heavens.
"Heh." E.N.D. then suddenly stood sideways to her and took his hands outside his pockets, right before a strong hit from her fist rang out and made an explosion engulfing them in a black cloud. Everyone covered their eyes and were surprised she hit him with a destructive strike.
"She actually ponded him into the street!" Ultear coughed and waved the dust out of her face.
"I can't feel the other magic power! Did she really...?" Erza couldn't see that well because of the smog, but she could definitely tell that impact did some major damage.
"Over the top. Does she not know to not get caught up in your enemy's words?" Kagura sighed. Every time Mira gets pissed off she just smashes the man till he stops moving. Ignoring his calls for surrender and mercy. But, such things earned her The Demon reputation she was known for.
"Hmph. Retribution is only logical if you disrespect Mermaid Heel. He should have kept his mouth shut." Minerva snorted and crossed her arms.
"Holy shit..." Natsu could only say at what he saw.
"I'm sure she didn't hit him...TERRIBLY hard. But he was asking for i-" Ultear was a bit on the fence about it, but all those nasty things he was saying didn't really garner sympathy from her.
"MIRA!" Natsu worriedly shouted as he rushed over towards the smoke.
"Huh, Natsu?" Erza was confused about why he was calling out her name as if she was hurt.
"Hm?" Minerva was curious as well. It was the quickest end to any big-mouthed male she had ever seen.
Mira did finish him, didn't she?
"...N...N...No...t...p...osss...i..." A weakened whimper of defeat whispered out, as the smoke cleared the scene, and what everyone saw was the most shocking, and horrific development.
"Mira!?" Everyone froze at the visual of Mira, who was no longer in her Satan Soul, but lying pathetically on the ground as she curled into a ball and had a cauterized stab wound going in her gut, and going out her back.
"Yeah? How's that working out for you?" E.N.D. retorted as he pushed her over with his foot and stared at her as if she were just nothing. Mira glared coldly up at him, even if she felt the pain in and out her body. "It's because you clutch to naive shit like that, it is why you're weak, bitch." He slowly glanced up toward Natsu. "So you can stick that notion where the sun doesn't shine." E.N.D. stepped over Mira and walked towards Natsu.
"You shithead." Natsu furrowed his eyes at E.N.D.
"Relax, I missed her vitals. If I really wanted her dead, I'd have sliced her wiiiide open." He held up two fingers that crackled with black, orangish lightning. "But it'd be a shame to lose a pretty face like that." He chuckled darkly. "Okay, now that I've had a "strenuous" battle with one of the most "powerful" wizards in this dollhouse, we can get started," E.N.D said before he stopped ten feet from Natsu.
"You...bastard...get over here...!" Mira cringed and slowly stood back up with defiance. "I'm not...done yet." She growled and held her side and panted.
"Stay down, girly. I don't just go handing out one-way tickets to the afterlife to every smartmouth I've come across." E.N.D. stopped smiling and a bored look shadowed over his face. "But, if you're prepared to die a senseless death, then I don't mind granting it." He glanced back at Mira and his hand slowly clenched.
"Enough! Mira, get over here! I need to check your wounds!" Ultear ordered the demoness to stop being stubborn for once in her life. If she was reeling from just a single wound, Ultear dared not to think of what would happen if she came at him again.
"It's...mmgh, just a scratch." She tried to feign.
"Mira." Natsu suddenly spoke.
"Huh?" She looked to Natsu curiously.
"There are still hundreds of fights you're going to win in the future. So, I'm asking you just this once, please let this one go. This guy..." Natsu summoned his sword and narrowed his eyes. "..is very dangerous."
"...?!" Mira was wide-eyed. She'd never seen Natsu this tense before. Normally he'd be supportive of her and always giving her a one up, but the situation seemed very unpredictable.
"He said very dangerous. THAT is not good." Ultear noted his choice of words. "Erza, get Mira. NOW." She urged.
"Has he ever said that about an opponent before?" Erza said as she went to go help Mira up.
"No." Kagura gripped her sword tighter and her blood boiled at the sight of her injured guildmate.
"You look nervous. Are you nervous?" E.N.D. tilted his head and slowly began pacing in a circle with Natsu also doing the same.
"Depends," Natsu replied as the clouds overshadowed them.
"Whether or not your stronger than me."
"Yeah, I suppose that's valid." E.N.D. snorted. "You know, gotta admit, I wasn't planning on showing myself to you. Not like this anyway." E.N.D. put his hands in his pockets. "But, right now, I ain't gotta choice. He's watching you, you know? Waiting to see what you'll do."
"Who?" Natsu asked curiously.
"No one you need to concern yourself with." E.N.D. just shrugged.
"Okay then. How do you know me?" Natsu had a billion questions to ask this guy, but that was the most prominent.
"Let's just say, we're literally cut from the same cloth, you and I." E.N.D. answered ominously. "Fate just dealt you and me a shitty hand starting out."
"Pft, you're telling me." Natsu looked at E.N.D. with slight disgust, but he one hundred percent agreed with that statement. "Who are you?"
"Call me, E.N.D." He introduced himself.
"E.N.D.? Interesting name."
"Yeah, my brother didn't have much naming sense." E.N.D. sighed. "But you never get to pick how you start off in this world." He then took his hands out and stood still. He then used re-quip magic and summoned a black sword handle. It had a red core in its center and an oval-shaped handguard that was serrated like a buzzsaw. He then whipped it to his side and an unstable beam of orange lightning with a black outline came out and extended up to about the same length as Natsu's sword. But the shape looked similar to a scimitar with a serrated edge. "Only how you get to live it."
"Is that a molding blade?" Erza seemed to recognize the weapon E.N.D. was wielding.
"What's a molding blade?" Ultear turned to her for an answer.
"It's a sword grip with a lacrima affixed into it. As its name suggests, it can take up whatever forms of weaponry that the user can imagine." Erza briefly explained.
"Do you use one?" Mira asked as she let Ultear try to use ice and wrapping to numb the pain.
"No. They're prone to malfunction, and sometimes explode if the user accidentally puts more magic into it than the lacrima can handle. Less efficient than just a blade that is built with lacrima infused into the metal." She shook her head.
"Your move, hotshot." E.N.D. motioned him to come at him."Oh wait, that's right.." E.N.D. suddenly realized. "You don't make the first move, right?" E.N.D. smirked slightly and then took one step forward and leaned forth. As his foot planted firmly into the ground, he shot forth in a blink of speed and slashed upward, and a loud clang was heard as Natsu got blown back into the air, from blocking the strike of his sword. Natsu's eyes widened. And Everybody was equally shocked at his speed.
"He's strong!" Natsu was not expecting a hit with that amount of strength. E.N.D. awaited for Natsu to land back to the ground and lowered his curved blade of lightning. "He hits as hard as me!"
"So as you have mentally surmised, I can hit about as hard as you, if not harder." E.N.D. sarcastically put while he slowly walked towards Natsu. "If that woke you up a bit, then try to take this seriously. Cause mark my words..." E.N.D. stopped and poised his sword at Natsu. "I will cut you down." He then raised his other arm in front of him and pulled his sword back, as if he was aiming it. "Estoc," E.N.D. uttered and the blade suddenly burst forth and extended all the way to Natsu, about to stab him in the shoulder. Natsu barely deflected the thin piercing bolt of electricity, observing it go far past his shoulder. The piercing shape of lightning flashed out of existence and returned back to the jagged scimitar that E.N.D. used previously. "You handled that okay." He scoffed and lowered his sword.
"His weapon changed form in an instant!" Ultear exclaimed after putting Mira's arm over her shoulder.
"Not only that, it has long-range capabilities as well," Kagura noted after witnessing it.
"Okay, pal. Try this on for size." Natsu assumed his Iai pose and held it for a moment. "Azure Cleaver!" He drew his sword upward and a long, firey, energy blade whipped out toward E.N.D. from the ground Natsu was standing to the devil's position.
"Claymore." E.N.D. held his everchanging weapon hilt above his head and a long, thick double-edged sword formed and he slammed it down with one hand at the incoming shockwave, canceling it out with a large explosion. The smoke cleared and he was miraculously unharmed. He then held his sword grip backhanded. "Dao." A single-edged blade that curved at the end came out, and then he charged Natsu. Natsu blocked an incoming strike and held his ground. E.N.D. was slashing diagonally along with a flurry of kicks and thrust attacks while pushing Natsu back. Natsu blocked and deflected as best he could at the relentless barrage of strikes, but right as E.N.D. had his blade locked with Natsu, he whipped his sword around in a circular motion and left Natsu wide open to a spinning kick that knocked Natsu to the ground. E.N.D. twirled his sword around and stabbed at Natsu's head. Natsu was on the ground, no longer holding his scabbard, but the broad end of his dragon arms, holding back the pointed edge of E.N.D.'s lighting blade.
"He's trying to kill me!" Natsu surmised from the amount of strength E.N.D. was putting into his stab.
"Oh, ho ho ho, so ever close." E.N.D. shook his head and got a ghastly laugh out of it as he stared deep into Natsu's eyes. It was like the devil himself was just having fun at another's expense. "That all ya got, punk?"
"Get the hell off me you, prick!" Natsu managed to shift E.N.D.'s sword off to the side of his head, sticking it into the ground. He then kicked E.N.D. in the gut knocking him to the ground.
"Agh!" E.N.D. yelped but smiled anyway. And then swung his legs back and sprang back onto his feet, the same time Natsu did. From the observer's point of view, they matched each other's movement and reaction when they stood looking at each other.
"...!?" Natsu was surprised to be looking E.N.D. in the eyes.
"What's up?" E.N.D. tilted his head and mocked Natsu.
"It's like fighting a reflection." Mira groaned.
"I'll say. It's like they're twins or something. Kind of creepy to be honest." Ultear could almost barely tell who was pressuring who. The two were so similar to each other that it looked like they were fighting a mirror.
"You're quick-witted. Almost made that ugly eye of yours permanently damaged." E.N.D. said and the lighting vanished from his blade. He then made it disappear from sight and stood attentively at Natsu. Natsu sheathed his blade and got prepared to use another fast draw of his sword.
"I thought you said you weren't trying to kill me?!" Natsu barked. "You almost took out my eye!" E.N.D. didn't see what he was whining about.
"Don't worry, my friend. Eyeballs grow back." He assured with a serious look.
"Bastard-?!" Natsu was about to unleash another attack, but before he could pull his sword all the way out, he felt it get pushed back in. E.N.D. instantly closed the distance and had his palm on Natsu's pommel. He then grabbed Natsu's sword and thrust his other palm out at Natsu blasting him backward. Natsu slid along the ground, still on his feet, but E.N.D. had disarmed him. E.N.D. then flashed past him and the next thing Natsu knew, he was being chocked by his own scabbard while E.N.D. strangled him from behind. "Ggggghhhh!" Natsu was having a hard time stopping E.N.D. His arm strength was crazy strong.
"You're nothing," E.N.D. uttered in his ear while still choking Natsu by his own sword. "Just like Venigon. You're becoming a monster, that the world will always despise."
"...!?" Natsu paused briefly at E.N.D.'s words. The name Venigon echoed in his ear for what seemed like an eternity. His disbelief was written on his face clear as day. Hearing someone other than him say his foster father's name was the biggest shock he's had ever since the azure dragon died years ago. "Vallith did you a favor and got rid of that deadweight. But you can't just let it go, can you?" E.N.D. sounded annoyed, as he coldly put words into Natsu's ear through his gritted teeth. "What's the point of this little revenge mission? It's about as pointless as your will to live."
"Shut up...!" Natsu gritted his teeth.
"Just stop lying to yourself. You're never going to be what Venigon wanted, and he never saw you as anything other than a means to an end."
"Embrace what you desire. It's your life. NOT HIS!" E.N.D. held him tighter.
"I SAID..." Natsu then smacked E.N.D.'s faced with the back of his head, making him stumble. "SHUT..." Natsu then elbowed E.N.D. in the stomach.
"THE FUCK..." Natsu swung his right fist at E.N.D.'s jaw.
"UUUUUP!" Natsu then kicked E.N.D.'s stomach so hard a circular ring of wind appeared and broke out into a shockwave that knocked E.N.D. back a ways away. E.N.D. let go of Natsu's sword and slid to a stop on his back. He was motionless for a moment before feeling like the liquid contents of his stomach move upward.
"..plahgh-!" E.N.D. coughed up saliva, and slowly got back up. "Fuuuuuck...I feel like I coughed up my kidney."
"Natsu..." Ultear was worried for him along with everyone else. To see him snap like that was not common. He let out such a violent outburst, it was like that time Zancrow nearly killed him. But the trigger this time seemed to be whatever E.N.D. was trying to rile him up with. "Natsu, are you okay?" Ultear called out to Natsu.
"(Pant)...(pant)...(pant)..." Natsu was holding onto his neck and trying to get his breathing under control, as he gasped for air.
"Hahahahahahahaha, oooh, he's far from okay." E.N.D. chuckled while walking back to him "He's so pissed off, I bet he doesn't even know why." E.N.D. cracked a smirk. "Well, I'll tell you why. It's because your purpose was decided for you."
"That's not true!" Natsu pointed at E.N.D. angrily. His eyes about as red as his doppelganger.
"But it is true." E.N.D. crossed his arms and an annoyed expression curled into his face. "I know exactly what you feel. As if they were my own thoughts. They hang over my head like a wet blanket everyday. You feel confused and angry, and depressed, and it's annoying as hell!" E.N.D. complained as if it were inconveniencing him. "Ever since you came across that fucking dragon, your life has been one depressing mess after another! But it's only because you choose to bury yourself in guilt, that it affects the people around you. That's why they all die. Because you don't fight for them because you're too busy holding on to a fake parent that wanted nothing more than to turn you into a weapon."
"...!" Natsu gasped.
"How can you say that when you haven't even seen what Natsu's been through?!" Ultear stomped forth and defended him.
"Oh, I've seen it. I've seen everything since the day he was brought into this world." E.N.D. did not back down in the slightest. "His only saving grace is he's really good at ending life than he is at saving it. Because that is what he was trained to do. And that is all he ever will know." E.N.D. stated firmly.
"If you knew, why didn't you step in?" Ultear demanded an answer. "If you were there at the beginning like you claim, why didn't you stop all those terrible things that happened to him!?"
"Well, It made him stronger, didn't it?" E.N.D. snorted and smiled. "He seems to be doing well if he's got someone like you keeping him company." E.N.D. snickered. "Okay then. I've had my fun. You didn't go nuts and try to maim anyone in sight." E.N.D. nodded toward Natsu.
"Hm?" Natsu grunted.
"I was seeing if your more...devilish side came out to play as it did with Rabbit over there." He pointed to Kagura which made her frown. "But you got that squared away, so I guess you'll be fine for now. "
"Wait, so all that bullshit was a test?" Natsu furrowed his eyes at E.N.D.
"You catch on quick. If you gave in again, I'd have to put you down." E.N.D. commended his obvious response. "Now, the reason I came here was to warn you." He dusted himself off.
"Warn me? About what?"
"That haughty bitch Nevan. She's being hunted by some exorcist mages, and they may turn up sooner or later to give you a hard time." E.N.D. quickly explained. "They call themselves Order of Winter."
"Order of...wait." Natsu thought back before he came back to Mermaid Heel. He recalled two guys saying they were looking for the fire devil herself, but had no luck.
"Ah, so they already visited you." E.N.D. nodded. "Those guys don't really go out that much, except only to hunt down impurities and demons. The fact they found you means that they have a suspicion that you know where Nevan is."
"What's he talking about?" Ultear turned to Natsu for an answer.
"Before I ran into you at Mindy's place, I got held up for a second by some armored fella asking about Nevan. Specifically her soul." Natsu answered while recalling the strange encounter.
"Only devil slayers can capture demons. They normally travel in pairs though." E.N.D. thought that didn't sound right.
"His buddy was hanging back and tailing me when I got back from the Ash Lands," Natsu replied.
"Who tipped them off about that though?" Ultear was now very curious. What did these shady church members want with Natsu and Nevan?
"Anywho, I just needed to make sure you were back in shape, and not putting on airs when you were fighting one of these bitches." He mocked the members of Mermaid Heel. "But, damn, amazon woman over there is weaker than shit."
"WHO YOU CALLING AN AMAZON, YOU-eergh!" Mira was about to give him a piece of her mind, but she was still in pain from his previous attack. "You think I'll just let this emo bastard get away with-
"Look sweet cheeks, when you step up to fight, I don't give a fuck if you're a woman or a man. You wanted a fight, don't resent me if I kill you. I'm not like cherry boy over here and let everyone use me as a pink haired punching bag." E.N.D. shrugged at her protest. "You need to learn some manners or something. You can't just throw a fist at every problem you come across, because the problem might be bigger than you, a-m-a-z-o-n." He deadpanned at Mira.
"He has a point." Kagura deadpanned.
"WHO'S SIDE ARE YOU ON?!" Mira glared daggers at Kagura.
"That being said, I'd suggest you watch your back. Not everybody likes the idea of the One-Eyed Dragon walking around with the Witch Queen of the Underworld in his back pocket." He sounded like he was wrapping up."If you can't keep that devil safe, I'm coming back for it." E.N.D. finished and began to walk away. "Later, dipshits."
"Hold it," Natsu ordered him.
"Hm?" E.N.D. glanced back at him with his hands in his pockets.
"...I recognize that lighting anywhere. I didn't think he trained someone." Natsu could more or less figure out who this was. He'd never mistake that lightning's ghastly appearance when it struck. "I thought he hated humans. Why would he train you?"
"...hehe, well you're wrong about two things, bucko." E.N.D. chuckled amusedly. "One, He never hated humans. He was rather fond of them, actually. And two..." He smiled with a toothy grin and wide-eyed look. "I ain't no human."
"Not human?" Natsu narrowed his eyes.
"Yeah. Just like you."
"Huh?" Natsu was confused.
"I think I gave you enough to work with. I'll be taking my leave here. Had too much fun, we should do this again sometime." He seemed satisfied.
"Next time are you gonna actually fight me for real?" Natsu asked. E.N.D. stopped smiling and he was enveloped in electricity. He then appeared a mere foot from Natsu, and the two just stared into the other's eye. Natsu didn't even budge, even if E.N.D. displayed his immense speed.
"When did-?!" Kagura was baffled at the speed he moved. She blinked and the next thing she knew, he was in Natsu's face.
"Who knows?" E.N.D. replied. "Maybe if I'm in a better mood, I'll tell you some more about Venigon and Vallith, eh?" He offered.
"Can't wait." Natsu sarcastically said.
"Try not to get killed~." E.N.D. teased and then disappeared in a flash of light and a boom of thunder. When he did, the rain started pouring harder.
"What a freak." Mira shook her head. "Agh, damn it!" She clenched the wound on her.
"..." Ultear looked worriedly at Natsu as he walked over and picked up his sword and stopped.
"..." Natsu was very deep in thought, ignoring the downpour that moved people off the streets and back into the buildings, waiting for the storm to pass.
"Let's just say, we're literally cut from the same cloth, you and I."
"Just like Venigon, you're becoming a monster the world will despise."
"Ever since you came across that fucking dragon, your life has been one depressing mess after the other."
"Well, I'll tell ya why, it's because your purpose was decided for you."
"Natsu." Ultear shook him for a second and he snapped out of whatever world he was in.
"We're going back inside, to treat Mira. I think we're gonna have to hold off on visiting the council for today." Ultear suggested.
"Yeah...yeah. She takes priority." Natsu shook his head and swallowed. He began walking back to the guildhall.
"Are you okay? He didn't hurt you that bad, did he?" The time wizard was concerned for his well being. As well as his emotional state.
"No. He just..." Natsu facepalmed slowly and after wiping the rain out of his eyes, they returned to their gentle, yet firm green and grey color. "I need some time to process this."
"Of course. I prefer you resting than out and about right now anyway." She smiled and put her arm around him and escorted him back into the guild.
Much later, Mermaid Heel...
Natsu was sitting in the dining area once again, and it was after lunchtime and the rain would not let up. He was sitting back on a couch in front of a coffee table and his lifeless gaze just kept replaying everything that E.N.D. said. Trying to figure out what was his role in this.
"Well, you'll be happy to hear that Mira is not in any danger. Though she was swearing vengeance...mostly swearing, and planning on going out and finding that evil twin of yours after Meredy numbed the pain. Apparently, she's going to start training herself once she's able to." Ultear came over with some tea in a large mug. She offered it to him and he looked back at it with hesitation. "I didn't put anything in it." Ultear rolled her eyes.
"At this point, I wouldn't really care what you give me." Natsu sighed and took it gratefully. Ultear sat down next to him and took a sip as well.
"Let the record show he gave his "permission"." Ultear crossed her legs and scooted closer till they were touching elbows.
"You know what I meant." Natsu shook his head and drank some more. He rested his mug on the table and sighed as he sat back against the couch cushion. It was a few moments before one of them spoke, and Natsu was the first. "What are you doing down here?"
"Well, it's times like these that make me curious about what really goes on inside your head. I mean, after that whole debacle outside, I was concerned you might ha-"
"Just ask me, Ultear." Natsu didn't want her to beat around the bush and just be straight with him.
"Vallith. He's the dragon that killed Venigon, right?"
"Yeah." Natsu swiftly answered.
"And this, E.N.D. individual...do you think he's related to him somehow?" She slowly caressed the lip of her mug.
"Almost certain." Natsu shrugged. "He didn't deny it. And his lightning matched the color. He's been trained to use Storm Dragon Slayer Magic. And the way he fought...I couldn't hold him back."
"..." Ultear listened.
"I've fought stronger opponents before. It's tough, but this guy was unbelievably strong. He kicked my ass, Ultear." He seemed to display slight inferiority to E.N.D. He had Natsu on the ropes, and he could tell that E.N.D. didn't give his all.
"I beg to differ. You got in a few jabs of your own." She tried to cheer him up.
"He let me. When I was hitting him, he was smiling the whole time. He had no shortness of breath, he didn't defend, and just tried to goad me into giving in to my anger." Natsu replayed every moment he felt his punches connect. "You saw how fast he was. He could have dodged it, I KNOW he could have." Natsu was positive he was not wrong about him. "Right before Mira hit him, I think he shot a blade of lightning into her right before her blow connected. It was fast, but I got a glimpse of it." He thought back to the moment Mira was about to hit him but ended up being the one on the ground instead.
"He also looked just like you too. AND had your voice. You sure you don't have an evil twin running around out there?"
"You think he's the evil one?' Natsu turned to her in doubt.
"Stop that." She flicked his forehead. "Any talk of you being the bad guy is prohibited in my building." She sternly put to him.
"Yes ma'am." Natsu complied and half-heartedly responded.
"Indeed. Your actions hold honor and virtue. Not heinous acts of domination and pride." Ikaruga responded behind him. The swordswoman joined them and sat on the opposite end of Natsu. "Additionally, I believe you would not go to such lengths in a friendly duel amongst those you care for." She smiled warmly.
"Your words are always so much more refined and soothing than mine, Ikaruga." Ultear sighed and smiled in defeat.
"Give yourself some credit where it is due, Master. Words are just a reflection of the heart. Where the words come from, is more important than the words themselves." She nodded and sipped a cup of tea that she revealed from her large sleeve. "I apologize for not being at your side when the time came. I thought you were well on your way before Minerva informed me of the commotion outside.
"I was perfectly fine. I had all four of my best, and Natsu there to keep me safe. Though, it would seem his target was Natsu." Ultear didn't really see it as much as a big deal for her welfare. "I should have told her to not do it. She might have died." Ultear frowned and bowed her head. "I just thought since she was in her element it would ha-"
"You can't predict everything Ultear." Natsu stopped her from blaming herself. "That guy was not normal. And even if he was, she would have still tried to go for it."
"She's stubborn." Ultear sighed loudly.
"True." Natsu Nodded. "But she stood up for the guild and didn't back down. Even after she got hurt, that determination was still there." Natsu assured her. "You got to respect that much at least."
"...hmph." Ultear smiled and cheered up a little.
"So what shall be on your agenda now? Do plan to still visit the council today?" Ikaruga asked curiously.
"Well..." Ultear shrugged a little as she contemplated.
"My mate." Treya suddenly called out as she entered the hall and seemed to be nearly out of breath. Her grey eyes fell upon Natsu's direction and she marched over to him rather quickly.
"Treya?" Natsu stood up attentively. She seemed to be in a hurry, which was odd, considering most of the time she was very easygoing.
"Is everything alright? I noticed quite a bit of battle damage right outside the building." She quickly asked him.
"Just some freak that nearly kicked my shit in. He's long gone though." Natsu briefly explained. "What's wrong? You look like you just ran a lap."
"That matter I needed your assistance with. I need to leave as soon as possible." She quickly explained. "If you still are able to assist me, now is the time." She seemed desperate from the urge in her tone.
"Out of the frying pan and into the fire." Natsu uttered under his breath. "We'll check out the council later, Ultear. I promised Treya I'd give her a hand with something." He explained briefly.
"A hand with something? Are you sure you're okay? You just got done fighting two-" Ultear got up and wanted to double-check with him.
"I'm fine. I'm not hurt. Besides, this is important." Natsu answered firmly. "You stay here and keep an eye on Mira. I'll be back after I finish helping Treya." Natsu assured her. "Let's go." He nodded at Treya and they began to quickly walk towards the entrance.
"Natsu!" Ultear quickly said.
"What?" Natsu stopped and turned to her.
"Whatever you're doing, wherever it is...be careful." She wholeheartedly requested.
"Worry not. This errand will not take long." Treya answered Ultear with a firm tone. "Let us go. I wasted more time than I wanted." She quickly began heading out the door.
"I'll be back. I promise." Natsu nodded to Ultear and turned away and followed after Treya. Ultear sighed deeply as Ikaruga came to her side.
"Now I'm even more worried." Ultear dreaded letting him go again. There was just no stopping him whenever he got in one place.
"Shall I..?" Ikaruga offered to go with.
"No. As much as I hate that girl, she's more capable of protecting him than me. Plus, she would never put him in danger." She let out a sigh. "He'll be back. I know it." She smiled halfway.
"If you believe so, then it will happen." Ikaruga smiled while placed a comforting hand on her master's shoulder.
"I'm just worried she might try to one-up me," Ultear grunted and bit her fingernail.
"Mhmhmhmhmhm~." Ikaruga could only giggle at Ultear's assumption.
3 hours later...
The rain had subsided, but the clouds still blanketed the dark skies as the evening rolled in. Natsu and Treya were on a train bound for the area of interest that Treya was taking Natsu. There were almost no passengers, save for the two slayers themselves.
"We're almost there," Treya said as she looked out the window.
"Anything I need to know before we get off?" Natsu asked from the opposite end of her.
"There are currently a group of about fifty or fewer pirates invading the mansion's surrounding area. I managed to deal with a large portion before I came back, but I had a feeling they would send in a second wave after they returned to their fleet."
"FLEET?" Natsu's eyes widened slightly. "I thought they only had one ship?"
"About half a dozen from Flynn's navy docked up near the shore in the neighboring town. They're resupplying there for the time being, but, news of their numbers dwindling will certainly not go unanswered." The green-haired slayer sighed slightly.
"So we hit the fleet after we push them back?" Natsu assumed.
"Eventually. But as it stands right now, first securing the mansion is a must. Then figuring out my mother's objective." She put a hand to her chin.
"Well, one thing at a time." Natsu sighed and sat back. "Anything I should know about your mother before I meet her? Cause if what you've told me about your family's business is true, I don't wanna be constantly glancing over my shoulder." Natsu could only speculate.
"..." Treya tightened her hands together and closed her legs after thinking about it. "My mother is..." She seemed to have difficulty speaking on the matter. She then reaffirmed herself and took a deep breath. "She's a professional. Merciless. Fearless, and..." Treya seemed to recall her mother's ice-cold gaze that seemed to pierce her like a shard of glass. "...she scares me." She lowered her head and just stared at the floor.
"..." Natsu was silent, with a serious look on his face.
"It may sound ridiculous, but everything I've done pales in comparison to that woman." Treya went on. "The first time I looked into my mother's eyes, I could not see myself in them. Every day was living in a constant state of wondering if she would cast me aside."
"Hold on, young lady."
"Is that a piece of lint?"
"We can't have you go out like that."
"Oh, do not pay it much mind. Your sight may fail you at times like these, but mine doesn't. A lady must be very attentive to her appearance."
"There. What would you do if I was not here?"
"You'd be amazed by how much of a fuss a single piece of lint on a dress causes at these parties. They believe it cheapens its values, or it is signs of wear and tear, or perhaps just the only thing you swore to never wear in public."
"Something so easily disposed of. Hmhmhm, Ridicules, no? I'd just throw it out to save the trouble of constantly making sure it was presentable. What do you think, young lady?"
"I-I agree, m-mother."
"Why do you look, frightened child? It's just lint."
"But despite my feelings on the matter...I..." Treya swallowed and her hands shook slightly.
"I get the picture." Natsu could pretty much guess what the mother and daughter relationship was like for her. "It's...complicated."
"...yes." Treya nodded slowly.
"Is it just her?"
"No. My aunt is also there."
"Just the two of them? Holding off that entire force?" Natsu raised his brow in astonishment.
"I believe they have help. But...I am unsure as from whom." She shifted her grey eyes to her side. "It has been years since I left my...her, my mate. I...mmgh." She seemed to be slightly anxious from the thought of seeing her mother again. Whether she could face her again was another matter entirely.
"Let's just focus on one thing at a time. Cause regardless of what happens, I got your back." He assured her firmly. She slowly glanced up and nodded slowly.
"I appreciate it."
After disembarking, the two dragon slayers made their way out of the small town they arrived at and made their way towards the mansion that Treya spoke of. They had just barely made it into the forest and Natsu was extremely mindful of his surroundings. The trees were about as thick as building supports, and were so tall they drowned out almost all light. It was very eerie compared to most forests he had been to. The moss had overrun a lot of the ground, rocks, and trees, making a soft bed to anything that looked to take a rest on its soft, spongy vegetation. It was very easy to get lost if you had no idea where you were going. But one thing that remained consistent was the level ground that they walked. Almost as flat as a floor.
"If you were looking to hide a building, this'd be the place." Natsu could already feel his sense of direction getting thrown off.
"Mm." Treya said as she kept a steady pace. She seemed to know exactly where she was going. "No matter how many years go by...this sense of returning through the woods. I wonder how many times I've passed through here." She reminisced about the familiarity of her surroundings. "Countless times I've tread these woods. Whether it was training, or finishing a mission, I'd always walk back this way." She said aloud as her eyes just scanned the mossy forest floor. As if she walked in her own shadow when she was a child, just watching the ground aimlessly, but not losing her sense of direction.
"Your old stomping grounds, eh?"
"Something like that," Treya said before she rested her hand on one of her long daggers. She then stopped and her eyes turned pink. "My mate." She seemed tense all of a sudden.
"Yeah, they aren't that good," Natsu nodded, and he summoned his sword. "Get down," Natsu said sternly, and Treya fell to one knee. He then slashed around him and sheathed his blade. The trees around them split, and a lot of people came falling out of them.
"Gyaahgh!" One of them cried out and tried to scramble back up.
"Damn it! That bitch is still-! Wait, that's not her!" One of them suddenly realized after looking closely at Treya. They all were dressed in pirate-like clothes, but they all wore blue bandanas with a crying skull on them.
"Who's that guy with her?!" Another one was equally confused.
"About 13 of 'em, I'd say." Natsu wagered as he slowly panned his head around them. They were all armed with swords and daggers, and they surrounded them quickly.
"If they made it this far in..." Treya drew both her Dorraijin, and twirled them around her hands, and held one of them backhanded and the other normally.
"Go on ahead," Natsu told her.
"I do not wish for you to needlessly shed blood for me."
"Treya, I'm past the point of no return. I'll kill them all, and I'll be right behind you." He furrowed and coldly put.
"Head straight after me. It should be in a view in a clearing." She didn't waste time. She then dashed forth towards one of the pirates.
"DIE YA CUN-" He said right before Treya took his head off in one swipe of her blacked dagger. She then jumped into the trees, disappearing from sight, as the headless corpse hit the ground.
"Damn it, she got away!" One of them cursed.
"Kill this pink-haired cyclops! We gotta meet up with the others at that damn house!" He pointed his cutlass at Natsu and ordered them all to swarm him. Natsu looked at them all as time slowed. He sighed and then got into a quickdraw stance.
"Never a dull moment." He said before popping his sword out with his thumb.
Sorry about the late update! This went through so many rewrites, I was clawing me eyes out. But, I finally decided on this version. I wrote twelve versions, before hitting backspace harder than a step father's belt, because it just didn't seem like my style, and I didn't want to turn this into a cliche, as you see in hundreds of these stories. Or maybe it is, who knows? Anyway, I'm still fine, I see your comments and I appreciate the concern. I gotta update my other stories now, cause I haven't touched those in a long time. Look forward to my next update!