Welp this is a year late. Luckily for you I was stuck with no internet, no television and no video games for 16 hours straight recently. If it weren't for that it would hava taken another 2 or 3 months to get this out. Anyway, time to conclude this thing.
Tenrou was a den for interesting little situations but, honestly, I'd be lying if I said this whole thing with Natsu wasn't just myself stalling for time as I tried to figure out how to best put into words my encounter with the dark mage himself: Zeref. The moment that I laid my eyes on him, my brain didn't even have time to process anything, all I could hear in my head were squeals of delight. Joshua had waited for that moment. He had waited for so long and had been positively dying to see how this encounter would fare. I was with Elfman and Evergreen at the time. It was an unfortunate coincidence that the black wizard happened to wander around where we were. I have no idea what the odds of that happening were but I'd be lying if I said I didn't think Joshua had something to do with it.
Speaking of the bastard, he wasn't too far away anymore. Coming into view was a desolate little village, run down and worn by the years of decay. Nobody had lived within it for the longest time. I'd hazard a guess that anyone that ever tried found themselves having too little time left to live to regret the decision. Sighing lightly, I headed into the area to start my search. Wherever his hideout was, it wouldn't be too hard to find at this point. A light breeze had taken over, my hair batting my forehead and my braid gently swaying along with them. We were getting close to the end of the day. Unwilling to burn the last rays of the sun, I started looking into every house. They all reeked of his scent so, unfortunately, I couldn't trust my nose to guide me to him.
Anyway, back to Zeref. Understandably the man wanted us away from him as soon as we tried striking a conversation. It went like a blur in my head. As soon as I could feel that the black wizard was starting to suffer from his curse, my instinctive reaction had been to push away both Elfman and Evergreen away. Stunned for a moment from my roughness in shoving them away, they had little time to get back on their feet and try to rescue me. It was also at this time that Natsu had appeared, deciding to play the hero as he always did. Much like the other two, however, he was too late and the both of us were engulfed in the curse. Thanks to his scarf, Natsu was able to survive without any worry. For me it was an entirely different ball park. Put simply, I had closed my eyes, bracing myself for the inevitable pain but, much to my shock, it never came. I was in the middle of the storm, unscathed and confused. I had looked around. Sure enough, the plant life around us was withering away, the curse was in full effect and yet nothing came to assault me. I opened my mouth to talk. A terrible idea as it turned out because the curse decided to lodge itself. It was forcing itself in and everyone could hear my muffled screams of terror at the situation. All eyes were on me as the curse dissipated slowly, absorbed by myself. I had fallen on my knees, my eyes bulged and looking everywhere, still just as scared. I hugged myself, trying to calm myself down. I made little progress though as something within me shattered. Not a bone or a cartilage, the lacrima that had contained the aspects of dragon slaying within my magic broke apart, overwhelmed by this newfound energy. The shards tore through my inside causing a fair share of internal bleeding. My initial screams were then replaced by ungraceful screeches of agony as I rolled on the ground, breathing heavily and trying to handle the pain. A losing battle.
I remember that conversation I had with Natsu back in the day when we went shopping together. We had taken some time to consider what I would have to eat to replenish my magic like any other slayer. The pure essence of death, after all, seemed like something farfetched to find. Turns out someone in this world, in the end, fit the criteria for what I could eat. I would've hoped it was someone other than Zeref to be honest with you.
It was around this time that I started hearing something else coming from the back of my mind. No doubt about it. It was a man's jubilation. Joshua was absolutely pleased to see how this had turned out. I didn't have time to talk to him any longer however as I lost consciousness at long last at that moment. I only woke up again 7 years later, after our entire group had been assaulted by Acnologia.
A building collapsed as I was inspecting it. The very foundation had been quite frail so it didn't come as much of a surprise. I covered my face with my arms as I waited for the dusty bricks to finish crashing down on me. A lot of them broke on contact, their integrity having been weakened by the years. It didn't really hurt but it did slow me down for a moment. It's like the very village was trying to keep me away from him at this point. If I was a superstitious woman I'd call this a bad omen. Instead I just cursed Joshua's choice of habitation. A bit of dust got in my nose causing me to sneeze violently. A cloud of dirt hovered around me. The destruction of the Lacrima had been quite the toll on my body in the immediate movement and, of course, a detriment to my dragon slaying that simply disappeared altogether but some of the modifications that it had forced upon me had stayed. The most notable of the bunch were actually my senses. It's a well-known fact at this point that a slayer has better senses than the average human. When I lost my powers I thought so too would I lose these enhanced senses but it turns out that this wasn't an alteration made by the magic, more so an alteration to my body directly by the magic at first meaning it morphed and increased my senses upon first being given to me but magic was no longer required afterwards to keep them. I'd call it ruthlessly convenient all things considered. Almost like some divine presence had toyed with reality to the point of confusing magic and anatomy. Would that have been Joshua I wonder? Well, in any case, I was happy I still had them. The cloud finally dissipated into the atmosphere and I made a few leaps over the rubble to continue the search.
Upon waking up I was less concerned with what had happened to the world and more concerned about why exactly Laxus was with us all of a sudden. I didn't remember him being invited at the island and yet my brother stood there proudly among our ranks. It took a lot of explaining from Gramps, Erza, Natsu and Lucy to get me up to speed on everything that happened on Tenrou while I was out. Taking their word for it I begrudgingly approached my brother and offered him my gratitude for saving the people that I care about. A confession that he merely replied to with a smirk and a light punch to my elbow. Everything from before, water under the bridge it seemed. As much as I wanted to be angry at him for revealing my secrets, even I couldn't deny the positive effect that they ended up having in my life in a way. Sure, the moment had been very difficult and I had lost my surrogate father's trust for a while but at least now I could live easily knowing that I had nothing more to keep from them… or at least nothing that anyone would be willing to believe.
Laxus had a change of heart as it seemed. Maybe he had come to respect Fairy Tail once more for all the good we did or perhaps he just wanted to protect us. The fact remained that he had saved my life once more. Even when exiled, my brother still took care of me in his own little way. It was a special relation we had I have to say. I'm glad he's like this still. I wouldn't change my brother for the world.
When we got back to Magnolia we saw the sorry state that Fairy Tail lived under now. The old gang that we had left behind in the city had to regroup by themselves and continue our legacy after our sudden disappearance. Sadly, it turned out these shoes were too big for them to fill and the average respect for our guild had plummeted to the ground. Now we were little more than nobodies that ate the crumbs of the larger guilds to stay alive. As much as it angered me, I was more concerned with Joshua himself. I wanted some explanation as to why he had been so ecstastic back then when we had met Zeref. I wanted to know just what exactly had been going through his mind to be so delighted at my suffering. Getting that answer out of him proved to be… well, impossible. No matter how much I pressed him on the matter he never flinched or hesitated for a second when making an excuse. Seems like he didn't want me to know the whole truth at that moment. I was furious at him then but, in hindsight, I can sort of understand why he acted the way he did. With me having recently lost my ability to slay dragons, my magic was morphing within my body to adapt to the change. I had to spend most of my time keeping it in check so that no energy would be exuded from within me, endangering the people close to me. If I was to let go for a moment, Joshua explained that the magic would simply leave my body. Having lost the main catalyst for it, the Lacrima, I wasn't used to chanelling magic using my own body, meaning I had to imbue it by myself or else I'd lose the ability to be a mage. If I had been aware of the grand scheme of things back then I most likely would've given up on these powers right then and there. After all, they were the reason I had to go and kill Joshua now. I sighed lightly, bowing my head forward and slowing my walk. This was not the kind of reminiscing that I wanted to do. I should really focus on something a bit more positive for myself.
To restore the honor of the Fairy Tail guild, Macao proposed that we take part of the greatest tournament that had graced Magnolia in the recent years: The Grand Magic Games. It was a creation by the royalty it seemed to determine which guild within Fiore was the most powerful one and it seemed like this tournament was the reason we had such a bad wrap. It was unanimously decided that we would compete in the tournament meaning we had 3 months in order to prepare for the event. Erza, Lucy, Natsu and Gray left by themselves in order to train together. I turned down their offer to accompany them due to the current issues that I had with my magic. It took me about a week after the gang had left to finally be back in full control of my magic. Although there were still occasional times that it was let it loose without my consent, the situation was still much more manageable and I could always predict when these times would happen for me to steer clear of people. Sometimes I really wished I had a magic that was a bit more convenient. Why can something that sounds as absurdly powerful as Death magic be such a liability most of the time? Why couldn't I get something a bit more useful and less dangerous like water magic or something? Another sigh escaped my lips and I restarted my walk, tattling the walls of the rundown houses as I looked inside for the man.
Once these powers were under control I could spend some time training to prepare myself and I couldn't find a better partner to do something like this than my very own brother. After we had so violently shattered the ties between us, we had a lot of catching up to do if we expected to properly work as a team during the tournament. I spent the rest of the months we had with my brother mostly talking and sparring. We couldn't really help each other's dragon slaying anymore so this was the best alternative that we had. Bickslow, Evergreen and Freed occasionally joined us in this time. The five of us would sometimes go out in town and enjoy each other's company. During this training, I learned just how much the gap was widening between myself and Laxus. Much like back in the day when I sparred with Erza, I couldn't come anywhere close to Laxus's level and despite the fact he had to hold back to not injure me too seriously, I could still tell he was improving just as quickly as myself throughout these months if not faster. I always thought I had some inherent talent with magic but seeing my brother go had me doubt that belief.
Two months into this training, we were called by Gramps. As it turns out, he was creating the teams for the tournament. Natsu and company would be a group while Laxus, Mirajane, Gajeel, myself and, most surprising, Mystogan would be another one. A common eyebrow was raised upon hearing the name Mystogan. We thought that he had left the guild, and for those in the know, that he was back in Edolas. It didn't come to mind at all that it was actually Jellal until the guy actually spelled it out to me. Once that team had been created, the five of us spent some time together. We figured if we were able to build up some chemistry between us then we'd be a better unit in the long run. I already had a good friendship with Mirajane and, of course, the ties between my brother and I were slowly healing back into shape. The problem lied within both Gajeel and Mystogan… or I should say Jellal, I suppose. Gajeel and I had talked very little after the guild war incident and how he had beaten me to a pulp to seemingly vent out stress. When he had joined the guild, she shot each other some passive glances but never really did directly interact. I'll always see this outburst was morally reprehensible and, at the time, I wanted to take the moral high ground in this situation, unwilling to apologize for anything I had done. Surprisingly however, Gajeel begrudgingly agreed to this fact and formerly apologized to me for the mistake. It was under his breath and forced out but an apology was an apology. I wanted to question him on what exactly was going through his mind at the time but figured I shouldn't invade on his privacy, especially in such a touchy subject. Point is, I was still alive, Gajeel was working to atone for it. Although there would be some animosity between us, we both tried to look past it for the time being to focus on recovering the guild's former glory. As for Jellal, my anger towards him was more due to what he had done to Erza than what he had done to me. In the grand scheme of things, the man had never really threatened me directly. Thankfully, I hadn't worry too much about it. Of course, Gramps was fully aware of his identity and he trusted him. Under the circumstances, I felt much safer doing the same. Perhaps he had been reformed just like Gajeel. There was word of him having been possessed in the past but to this day I have very little knowledge on the matter.
Finally, the Grand Magic Games were upon us. The qualifiers ended up being a bizarre labyrinth. Thankfully, Laxus, Gajeel and Jellal were all quite clever and figured out the solution to this maze and solved it at an insane pace, leaving Mirajane and myself to tag behind like little more than baggage at the time.
The ground cracked under me. I lost my balance and my shoulder scraped the wall, the initial movement making my head crash into the same wall. I had been standing on some rotten wooden planks that gave under my weight. I clicked my tongue and forced my foot out of the hole. Suddenly, a damp smell overtook me. I inspected the wood a bit closer and realized that it was indeed a door. Crouching next to it, I searched for the handle to open it but it seemed long gone. I groaned lightly and got back on my feet. In another swift move, I lifted a leg and smashed another part of the wood. I repeated the motion until the hole that had been cracked was big enough for me to pass through. Sure enough, there was a flight of stairs leading underground. With a neutral expression, I went down said stairs, tattling the humid wall on the way down. This seemed shady enough to be where I needed to go.
The tournament itself worked on a point system. Throughout the next week we would have several events that would allow us to increase the amount we had. The first event was a glorified game of hide and seek. I was elected from our group as one of the members that would take part in this competition. It became apparent quickly enough that Gray was being directly targeted by one of the other participants for this event. Thus, the two of us worked together in order to not have Fairy Tail end in dead last already. Even if I was unwilling to lose to my friend, I had to work in a team there.
We still ended up in last place since, as it turns out, my magic was absolutely terrible in this event and my scent wasn't enough to carry me through it. I sighed in anger at the poor display. It felt like another time I just embarrassed myself but at least my team had the decency to not make any comments on the matter.
Afterwards there were more general battles. Jellal was picked for our team and the man had to go against Jura Neekis, one of the Wizard Saints. There was some drama during the battle itself but it nonetheless ended in the victory of Jura.
As the tournament went on, we heard more and more shady rumors surrounding the reasons why this entire spectacle had been created in the first place. Of course, everyone in the guild ended up wanting to deal with this issue. Naturally, I agreed with them. I mostly went along with the train when people where talking about this. I didn't really have much of an opinion at first but the more we heard about it, the more I wanted to actually deal with the issue personally. That topic became increasingly prevalent in our guild as the days went on, eventually culminating on an assault on the main castle in order to rescue some of our friends. We were separated into two different groups. Natsu, Mirajane, Wendy, Panther Lily, Carla and Happy. The group were to get hold of Lucy and Yukino that had been taken prisoner in order to prevent the royal army from going back in time… or something along these lines. I can't say I really understood all the finer details of what had been going on behind the scenes. The point is, we just needed to keep the crowd entertained within the actual tournament as the other group was busy with their mission. Therefore, Erza, Gray, Laxus, Gajeel and myself were part of the team for the final part of the tournament. Mavis, which I guess I had failed to mention up to this point, huh, had created a plan for us to have a surefire victory in the final round. As the days went on, Fairy Tail had gone from the lowest rank team in the tournament from the highest with one bombastic performance after another. If we could preserve that lead then we'd have an assured victory.
Each of us had an assigned role. The first guild master had calculated approximative locations for every enemy in the final battle royale that would be the sixth day event. Laxus, Gajeel, Gray and Erza had been dispatched at the most relevant points and I was to scour the city in a preset path to deal with the leftovers and provide support if necessary. It would likely require us to be perfectly in sync and left very little room for error but I'd like to believe the five of us were a reliable bunch to play the hand we had been dealt just right. We had to choose a leader, which would be Laxus and we were launched in the battle. At first, it was ordered we stayed at our beginning area for every enemy to get into place then, upon Laxus's signal, we all scattered towards our respective objectives. As requested, I acted more like a scavenger during a part of the event, picking fights against the winners that had been weakened to secure some easy points for our guild. Gray got into a fight with Lyon while I forced Sherria away from the two. Although I couldn't quite best her in a fight of endurance, a solid moment of overpowering her was all I needed for the tournament organizers to give me the win. Once this little skirmish had been settled and headed towards Gajeel's area to see how he was doing. Satisfied with his apparent dominance on his part, I then moved on to Erza who had been locked in a battle against not only Minerva but also Kagura. Seeing how the two of them had seemingly been so dominant, I figured I should jump in and provide a bit of assistance.
The next moment I woke up, I was under a collapsed pillar. I shook my head, a massive headache overtaking me. Well… woke up is a bit extreme. I scanned the area around me to try and understand what happened and figured Kagura had moved next to me upon spotting me and knocked me head first into a pillar that was close by, stunning me. It was so fast I hadn't caught it at all. And Erza had been fighting against someone like that, huh? I got back on my feet, staggering a bit on my feet but eventually regaining my composure. My friend was looking down at the Mermaid Heel ace as they talked about events in their past. I muttered something under my breath at that moment without really thinking much about it. Something about having a distant memory of Erza being captured to save Kagura. Seems like there were still some details in my subconscious that I hadn't been giving too much thought to. The red-haired girl heard my voice and saw me. She had a neutral expression on as I assumed she was wondering if I was alright. A nod later and she went back to looking at Kagura. I stood behind, letting them talk this entire thing for themselves. It's not really a conversation I belonged in anyway. Unfortunately, it was cut short by Minerva who proceeded to stab Kagura, claiming the points for her defeat for herself. She then revealed Miliana, one of Erza's friends. Turns out she had spent some time torturing the girl for the hell of it. It angered Erza beyond belief, understandably so. Sadly, she had just finished her fight with Kagura, leaving her with little energy to continue the battle so I simply had to tag her out for the time being. Once she had regained enough strength we could likely end the fight together.
The fight began with Minerva conjuring an odd laser careening straight towards me. The sheer speed of it left me surprised enough to take it head on, clasping my hands ahead of me to minimize the strength of the toll on me and eventually swatting it away. Once I did, Minerva had already vanished from where she once stood, teleporting close to me to strike at me. Her hand appeared before anything else, trying to get a grip on my face, likely to fire another attack at point blank. Thankfully, the attack was slow and predictable enough for me to sidestep it, take a hold of Minerva's wrist and in one smooth movement, tear the mage away from her alternate reality. Keeping my grip strong on the woman, I then readied some of my own magic in my right hand to deal my own first blow. Taking the opportunity that I had created, I swung at the black-haired vixen. Sadly, she also had ample time to twist and turn away from the simple punch and try to pry free of my grasp on her which I still managed to hold. She clicked her tongue in discontent, ordering me to let go. I answered her with a small smirk and tried swinging at her again to no avail. In response, she charged another one of her lasers in her free hand which resulted the same way as the first one. If I was to stall, I figured making a complete stalemate of a situation was the ideal solution. All I had to do was keep this little game going a while longer and I could finish her off with Erza. It might not have made for good entertainment for the games but it got the job done and I can't exactly say I had done anything that particularly impressed the crowd through the tournament. It was probably why I never had them chant for me. I much rather have efficient strategies than to try and show off just for our guild to lose points as a result. I wanted to win, not woo people into liking me. Besides, ever since I had stopped playing the little farce I called the Fairy Reaper, the general public interest in me had died down tremendously. Can't really say that's too surprising.
Minerva was muttering something under her breath. Not particularly interested in listening to her incessant rambling, and likely scathing insults, I looked at the three other women that were present close to us. Miliana was terribly injured. It looked like scars from being whipped repeatedly, that or slow incisions made with a sword that we were intentionally left shallow. Whatever the case was, she'd probably have these scars for the rest of her life. We had to get her to a hospital as soon as the tournament was over, that much was for sure. Then again, the same could be said about Kagura who seemed to have passed out by then. The stab had gone cleanly through her body and her blood would have been everywhere were it not for Erza cauterizing the wound with her flame empress armor then wrapping a few pieces of the Mermaid Heel ace's shirt around it. Both sleeves had gone into that makeshift bandage. It looked crude but the bleeding stopped so I couldn't exactly complain. Erza herself had caught her breath and was now staring intently at the two poor souls, rage simmering in her eyes. An angry Erza had always been one of the scariest things to come across. Once she was able to fight again she'd definitely destroy Minerva like she deserved.
Speaking of, the cruel mistress had finally finished muttering. I looked back at her to be confronted with a sickening grin that sent shivers down my spine. Erza screamed something about the ground at me and I looked down to see a giant magic circle had formed underneath us. Might not have been insults she was throwing around after all. I attempted to force the two of us away from the circle but Minerva stood her ground, shooting a magical chain into the ground to stay firmly planted where she was. Seeing no other out in the immediate moment, I let go of the Sabertooth mage to run out of it but it was her turn to wrap her hand around my wrist. I looked around a moment, panicking. Even if I didn't know what was going to happen to me, I wasn't daft enough to think I could take it and continue fighting without a hitch. Erza was still too tired to do anything and no one else in our guild was there to help. I bit on my lower lip and tried to headbutt Minerva to stun her. The mage took the hit easily, seemingly uncaring and kept her grip strong. What was I to do then? It's at this point that I let my panic show on my face and my efforts to pry free redoubled much to the pleasure of Minerva. I thought for a moment that I was going to die right then and there.
And that's all it took for my magic to take over.
Seemingly out of nowhere, a surge of magic surrounded the two of us like a cloud. We were both engulfed in a thick black fog reminiscent of one of my old slayer abilities. Minerva began coughing and wheezing. Her grip finally relented and I wasted no time in running as far away from the circle as I could. The ground surrounding Minerva exploded upwards as a gigantic ray blinded everyone's vision. I was dazed for a moment, trying to understand what just happened. It took me a few seconds to realize I had lost control of my magic again. In any case, it seemed to have weakened the vixen considerably. I looked back at Erza who was standing back up. The simmering rage had morphed into unyielding ire towards the Sabertooth mage and she rejoined the fight to settle the score with her. With superb finesse, Erza put an end to Minerva and the fight was won.
My friend helped me back up but her frown remained ever so present on her face. I thought she was mad at me for losing control again however it seemed she was, in fact, angry about my comment when I woke up from my earlier daze after being thrown into the pillar. She wanted to know how come I knew something like that when she had never once shared it with me. Once again, I was stuck with a conundrum. I wanted to come up with an excuse but Erza knew better. If anyone would be aware whether or not I was lying it would be her. Plus, I had sworn to myself to stop trying to lie my way out of every problem I got myself involved with. Problem was: coming clean and admitting my past would probably anger her even more. Something that far-fetched would never be true. I looked away in shame as the silence lingered on between the two of us. The heavy atmosphere making it that much harder to try and confess.
I stuttered on my words a moment. What exactly could I say to her? Her inquisitive glare showed I couldn't indefinitely stall for time. Erza would get an answer out of me whether I liked it or not. I took a deep breath and attempted to confess. I told Erza that I knew about Natsu, Lucy, Gray and, of course, herself since before I had met them. I explained I knew about Phantom Lord as well as how I knew about my father and even Laxus's betrayal of the guild. As for the reason why I knew this, I couldn't exactly go around declaring I was from another world so I stuck as closely to the truth as possible and told her about Joshua. I declared he had been with me since my birth, always tagging along, always observing everything I did. He fed me information about the world and in exchange I was to do as he said. It was because of this I had prior knowledge of the future as well as extended knowledge of everyone's past. I also omitted to mention anything about the dragon within the slayers' bodies as I feared it might have them grow pragmatic to their goals in life. It was... a lot to take in at once. The redhead's eyes were bulging in disbelief. As uncanny and far-fetched as this all sounded, I had said everything with such certainty without ever faltering that my friend let it slide. I implored her not to talk about it to the others as we had other, more important things to do at the moment like winning the tournament and she agreed. With the both of us being pretty tired, we headed back towards the city where a flare had been shot up high in the sky, our final confrontation of the tournament. Our team reunited before Sting, the final member of Sabertooth left standing. The sight of us, however, was apparently enough to concede before the battle. He could have probably taken us all on but to him, this was way more than a matter of strength. He was fighting an ideal, a dream that he had stopped hoping for. Faced with the harsh reality of his failures, he bowed before our team, or more precisely, before our guild, and gave us the win.
The victors of the tournament were Fairy Tail.
The damp staircase that led underground seemed unending. I had been walking down these steps for longer than I cared to admit. What exactly was so dangerous that it had to be hidden so deeply underground? I chuckled to myself. That was a dumb question. I already knew the answer. After all, any holder of the curse should have been hidden away from humanity. They were a plague that needed to be cleansed. Exposing them to the world was the most foolish thing anyone could have ever done. Joshua knew that, of course he did. He wasn't a cruel man when it came down to it. He just wanted peace without causing anyone in the world any issues. That's one of the reasons why he had taken me from my world to transfer it here. I had never been chosen. This had never been predestined. In a world of infinite worlds there are as many logical endings as there are stars in the infinite skies spreading over the universes. Joshua had waited and waited and waited. Monkeys on a typewriter are always bound to eventually get it right.
The staircase finally ended revealing an open space that reeked of his scent. I was close. In a few minutes, everything would be over.
We had very little time to celebrate our victory, however. As the Games drew to a close, so too did the plan to defeat Zeref before he ever became a threat. The plan backfired, sadly, and instead of using time travel to our advantage, it became a signal of impending demise. Dragons poured out of the gate, assaulting us from 10000 years in the past with all their might. Against such daunting foes, the rivalry between the guild of the past weeks all but vanished in some flash. We were in Crocus, after all. The royal family needed protecting and a simple army could never go against a dragon, let alone several of them. It became our collective goal to defeat them and protect our capital. Of course, the dragon slayers went to face the beasts directly. Everyone else was relegated to watching from the sidelines for a time until a slew of draconic soldiers fell from the sky. The guilds were divided in several small groups to deal with the smaller threats.
I'll be honest, my memory of the following fight is confusing, even to myself. For some reason, whenever I think about the battle, I always believe I tried to go and help Natsu deal with his dragon and getting stabbed cleanly through the chest as a result by another mage that had seemingly sided with the dragon. Despite this thought, I know the truth to be simply that I stayed on the ground to try and fend off the annoying critters that I still could do damage to. Thankfully, the gate was eventually destroyed in the battle, forcing the dragons and their little underlings back in the timeline they belonged in. It was hard to declare the battle won at the end of the day but at the very least the casualties were at a minimum thanks to our efforts.
With this impromptu battle out of the way, it was time to celebrate our victory in a grand ball at the royal palace. I went there wearing a red dress that exposed and a pair of golden hearings Erza had given me on my birthday. My blond hair was tied in a bunch and my guild mark was barely noticeable under my fairly transparent gloves. I remember that ball fondly as one of the few times I fully embraced my femininity. It was a special feeling accentuated even more by the pleasant compliments I had been given once there. I loved these moments. There weren't anything at stakes and we could all sit down and have a laugh. Although Erza eventually cornered me to talk about what I had told her after the fight with Minerva, the conversation was amiable and I could safely say I didn't know anymore Erza might have wanted to keep a secret. It would simply be a mutual secret we'd keep for each other. A promise that we kept to this day.
We were given some time to relax before the inevitable attack of Tartarus...
"You finally made it, Kiera..." A weak voice declared, every word reverberating on the walls, making me turn harshly on my left. It seemed the time for reminiscing was over at long last.
Before me was a frail man, skeletal even. He most likely hadn't eaten in weeks if not months. His lack of fat was also accentuated by severe atrophy as no muscle in his body seemed to have been getting much use. His clothes were torn revealing his poor state. His hair was long and a mixture of salt and pepper, the year seemingly having taken a toll on their well-being. His eyes were grey and cold... So cold, devoid of life even. So that was how long the wait had been...
"I'm sorry to have kept you waiting so long, Joshua." I said neutrally walking towards him to stand closer. "You look so much worse than I ever thought you would. I thought the curse would have kept your youth through the years."
A pathetic chuckle escaped his lips. "I'm like this because of you, Kiera. Your very existence has been stripping this curse away from me. I couldn't be more thankful of that. I had a chance to experience it... How it felt to age, to grow old and watch over the person I cared for. The curse is the only reason I'm still alive."
I nodded, somber. "How many times had you tried to create someone capable of destroying the curse?"
"Hundreds of times..." He answered. "But either they weren't strong enough or they failed to make it half as far as you did. I thought people from your world were all worthless." He shook his head, the bones of his neck cracking. "I'm glad to have been so wrong."
"Why people from another world? I'm sure it would've been easier to just have someone of this world to experiment on."
"It would have." He concurred. "But when someone from this world is used, their story sounds much more plausible. Who actually knows the limits of magic? It wasn't inconceivable for the people here that such a thing would happen. It was likely they'd trace the source of these incidents and would come to attack me. I thought doing it the way I did would endanger the least amount of people. In the grand scheme of things, I think I was right all along."
I remained silent for a long time, unsure what to say. It was a lot to take in for me. Joshua was almost gone at this point, I could practically see the wrinkles form on his face. "So your curse is almost gone... You need me to give you the final push so you can finally pass away like you always do wanted." I lowered my head, my visage going through a cavalcade of emotions before I found my next words. "What's gonna happen to me after you're gone?" I asked. I still had so much to do, so much to see. I didn't want to go back to my world anymore.
"My magic forced you into this body but it had nothing to do with your continued existence here. Even if I wanted to, I couldn't send you back anymore. I'm afraid you'll be living the rest of your days within this very body. I daresay I did a fine job with it. Wouldn't you agree?"
This peeked my curiosity. "What are you talking about?"
"Ivan Dreyar was never to have a daughter. Your mother would be pregnant but an infection during that pregnancy was to kill both the child and the woman. I kept her alive long enough to give birth and give you this body that was never meant to be."
I smiled lightly at the revelation. "I'm sorry for messing up your creation so bad if that's the case." I joked to try and alleviate the atmosphere. It elicited a smirk from the man. I sighed lightly. "I guess we should stop beating around the bush then..." I said as I prepared my magic. Joshua looked at me with anticipation. "I... I hope you enjoyed your time with us. I certainly did enjoy the one I spent with you."
He nodded and closed his eyes, his smile lingering. I breathed in deeply and swung my hand at him, effortlessly piercing the skin and his heart. His hands clasped my arms weakly and the centuries old man breathed his last.
A manifestation of the curse left his body and dissipated without a trace. I retracted my hand and fell to the ground, staring up at the ceiling. It really was over now.
My magic flared to life once more without my consent then again then again. I scrunched my eyebrows and looked at my hands. Did the guilt of murder make me lose control?
No that wasn't it. It was something far worse, something insidious. Joshua's final secret that he had taken to the grave. I should have been mad. I should have been angered beyond words and yet nothing but a serene calmness possessed me.
Joshua hadn't destroyed the curse, he had transferred it to another vessel to pass away calmly. My magic had been an extension of the curse and the stronger I grew, the more it took over. I had been played like a fiddle to the bitter end.
I had the curse of Ankhseram.
"Come on out Natsu. I know you've been following me."
On queue, the mage came out of the shadows, a serious expression on his face.
"Is it true?" He asked me.
I nodded, looking at the ground next to the corpse. "The curse is everlasting, immortal. Unless someone has been made for the purpose of destroying it, no one can ever defeat it, including myself."
"So you do have it..."
I sat on the ground and looked towards Natsu.
"I'm glad you came. Can I make one last request to you? I want you to tell everyone I loved them."
The slayer nodded and approached me. It was my time to close my eyes. I guess I had a good run.
In the end, a threat is a threat and family is family. I promised to myself years ago I would do everything to protect the one I cared for. I will keep that promise to the bitter end and do anything.