Title: Our Family
Notes: WELP. I never said I was good at endings. :/ I was actually planning to skip the battle scene and go straight to the epilogue, but ended up writing it anyway…? I'm not sure what was going on with this chapter. I kept rewriting parts of it, and it. just. wouldn't. end. Final notes at the end.
10. We will always be family
They would win.
It went without saying, in a way. Four wizards on the level of the Ten Saints would not lose to one demon, no matter how much destruction it had wrought.
But even from a distance, it was truly a fight to witness.
Gray couldn't stop himself from cringing when Deliora roared, the sheer pressure of it rolling over the landscape and the watching group. Just like in his memories, a blast of devastating power gathered in its maw — the demon's most powerful attack, which could carve through an entire city.
Squeezing his hand, Ultear whispered that it would be alright.
A pale blue light shone, and a tangle of ice vines wrapped around Deliora's entire body, halting its attack. It took the demon only moments to break the ice bindings, but the distraction was enough. A massive hand slammed into Deliora's jaw, and an equally large giant of a man — with Makarov's familiar mustache — shoved the demon back.
By comparison, Gildarts's tiny figure darting along Makarov's arm and leaping at Deliora was barely visible. Only the light of his powerful Crash magic marked when he collided with the demon, with enough force to dent its armored chest.
But Gildarts was used to opponents that were humans or monsters, which faltered or became afraid or were destroyed entirely under his magic. Deliora neither hesitated nor paused. Reaching out, it grabbed him in one huge fist and flung him away.
The children watching from afar cringed as Gildarts crashed into a half-collapsed building and flew out the other side, though Warrod only frowned faintly. He knew a wizard of Gildarts's caliber could survive that kind of damage, but it was also liable to put him out of the battle.
A giant icy flower suddenly bloomed, catching Gildarts before he could fly further and breaking his fall. It broke into glittering dust a moment later as it deposited Gildarts among the ruins, trying to catch his bearings.
Meanwhile, the battle had continued. In retaliation for his guild member, Makarov tried to slug Deliora again, but the demon caught his fist and crushed it between its claws. As Makarov cursed, dropping to one knee, Deliora opened its jaw wide again, building up another attack while keeping Makarov pinned in place. Even as he shrank back to his normal size to get free, he knew he wouldn't be able to move in time.
But just as Deliora was about to unleash its roar, the ground beneath its feet suddenly cracked open and collapsed, trapping the demon up to its waist. The blast of its attack went astray as it tipped over, cutting through the sky instead.
Gesturing sharply, Jura tried to raise a pillar of earth to immobilize Deliora's other arm as well. However, he had overextended himself — the earth was too weak to hold Deliora, and the demon smashed it easily, throwing rubble across the battlefield and nearly crushing Jura himself.
The momentary distraction was enough for Ul to rejoin the battle. Instead of trying to entangle the demon's entire body again, she wrapped her ice around only its upper arm and made the same sharp gesture as at the Bureau — strangle, the vines pulling tight like a garrote. Their long, sharp thorns sliced into the demon's flesh and cut cleanly through.
Deliora roared in rage and pain as its arm was separated from its body and fell among the ruins with a heavy thud. It flailed wildly, destroying what few buildings remained around it, and Ul vanished from sight in the clouds of dust and flying rubble.
It tried to summon another demonic breath attack, but by this point, the wizards had learned its patterns and abilities. Ul's ice vines snapped out again, this time wrapping around its head and tying its jaw shut before it could open.
"Way to go, Master Ul!" Lyon cheered under his breath. Next to him, Gray gripped Ultear's hand hard, unable to look away or even blink.
Unnoticed by the children, Warrod nodded slowly. "It's done," he predicted. "This will be the final blow."
Before Deliora could recover, a pillar of earth rocketed toward it. It didn't quite reach — instead, it launched Gildarts, riding on top of it, toward the demon, his Crash magic already shining. He hit in the same spot as before, but this time the attack was stronger, strong enough to completely cave the demon's massive chest and tear through to the other side.
There was a moment of still silence as Deliora — one armed, a gaping hole in its torso — began to topple. As it hit the ground, a shock wave swept outward over the ruins of Brago and finally over the watching group.
"They did it… They did it!" Lyon burst out, tearing his eyes away and spinning toward the others. "Did you see that? Master Ul is amazing!"
Ultear nodded slowly, also turning, but her attention was on Gray. He was still staring, transfixed, at the ruins of the city and Deliora's still body. Finally, his shoulders hitched, and he blinked, as if coming out of a daze.
He swallowed heavily, his eyes growing wet. "...Yeah," Gray whispered. "They… they won."
Ducking his head, he began to cry, even as Ultear and then Lyon wrapped him in a tight, warm embrace. It was finally over. Deliora's darkness and his nightmares were gone.
It wasn't a clean victory, they found out once they reached the ruins. Makarov was alternatively nursing his crushed hand and his back, muttering about being too old for this. Jura and Gildarts had both been knocked around and were bleeding from numerous wounds, and Gildarts seemed to have at least a minor concussion, given the way he couldn't seem to stay standing without swaying.
The worst off was Ul. She had kept on fighting, so it was a shock to realize that, somewhere in the battle, she had lost her leg. Everything below her right knee had been torn off completely.
"M-Master Ul…" Gray stammered, staring at her in shock and horror.
"Oh, that? Don't worry about it," Ul said casually. He stumbled over to her side when she beckoned him over, but Ul just ruffled his hair with an easy smile. "I froze the wound to stop the bleeding, and I can make myself an ice prosthetic easily — that's what I did in the battle. To a Molding wizard, this is nothing."
Slumped against a chunk of destroyed wall nearby, Gildarts snorted. "You're one scary lady," he reaffirmed. "I'll aim to have that kind of cavalier attitude if I ever lose a limb."
"She's definitely taking it better than I did! Good thing it grew back!" Warrod laughed, wiggling the fingers of one hand — presumably the one he'd lost… and regrown… at some point. As the others stared at him blankly, he added, "Ah... that was a joke."
"Well, we all made it out alive, and if this is the worst of the damage, I'll count our blessings," Ul judged. She absently petted Gray, who was clinging to her for once of his volition. Every mention of how dangerous the battle had been made him tighten his hold, as if he was only now realizing that he could have lost his new family to the demon as well.
At least the other two seemed to be holding up better, if only because they weren't so personally involved. Lyon looked downright cheerful, awed by the magic he'd been able to witness, and Ultear's worried expression eased with a smile from her mother.
"Indeed. The Black Wizard's demons are truly fearsome. I had not realized the battle would be this close," Jura said pensively. "I thought with four wizards on the level of the Saints, it would be an easy victory. I was too arrogant."
"Heh, thanks for that," Gildarts smirked a little at being grouped with the ten wizards acknowledged by the Magic Council itself.
Finally pushing away from Ul, Gray turned to face the other wizards. "Th-thank you," he mumbled, blushing and refusing to meet anyone's eyes. "You all didn't have any reason to help, but you still risked your lives… So, um, thanks…"
Ul sighed, unsure whether to be proud he'd thought to thank them or to scold him for doing it in such a backwards way.
Still, no one took offense at Gray's awkward phrasing. If anything, it was cute in its own way, as was the way Gray wrinkled his nose when Gildarts ruffled his hair. "Don't worry about it, kid," he said. "I wouldn't want to be the kind of wizard that just stands aside and ignores something like this. Don't grow up to be like that either, and we'll call it even."
This time, Gray looked up and met his gaze squarely. "I promise," he said. "I'll become a great wizard and protect everyone."
While the adults chuckled, Lyon and Ultear exchanged a look and a nod, making the same promise silently. All three of them would become great wizards — and do their teacher proud.
"—And the way you stopped its attack was brilliant too! You're so amazing, Master Ul!"
It didn't take long for Lyon to shake away the serious, solemn atmosphere and fully embrace his excitement. It was probably for the best — Gray and Ultear both nodded in agreement as they listened to his gushing, letting themselves be distracted from their previous fear and lingering worry over Ul.
"I always knew you're the strongest, Master Ul, but now I'm absolutely sure! I'm definitely going to become as a great a wizard as you someday! No, I'll become even stronger!" Lyon went on, beaming.
"As your teacher, that would definitely make me happy to see. But there are many wizards stronger than I am," Ul corrected him, again. "You saw, right? The guilds and the Council out west are full of powerful people."
"I suppose… I didn't think they'd be that strong," Lyon allowed. "But Master Ul is still the best!"
Ul couldn't help feeling a little pleased at his praise and the way Gray and Ultear agreed easily, but her natural inclination was to continue to decline. She didn't want them to grow up with unreasonable expectations toward her. Overconfidence bred carelessness and blindness, her old master used to say.
Seeing her about to protest again, Gildarts guffawed and said, "Just accept it! I'm willing to give you the spotlight on this one — as long as you cover my bar tab."
"I'm pretty sure you can get free drinks in any pub in Isvan, if you mention you helped defeat Deliora," Ul said.
"Oh-ho? That sounds interesting," Warrod said. "I was going to head back, now that things are settled here and report to the Council, but if it's free drinks… there's no reason to rush, right?" He laughed loudly.
'You didn't do anything! You just watched!' several of those gathered thought in tandem. No one bothered voicing it though.
"Well, you have a point," Makarov agreed, stroking his mustache. "It would be a shame to head home without even seeing a bit of the country… and I'm not sure my old bones are up to the trip back yet."
"Sounds like a party! Where's the nearest bar?" Gildarts asked.
"Don't you have a concussion? You shouldn't drink," Ul said.
"Spoken like a true mom," Gildarts waved away her concern. "I'm a big boy. I drank with worse injuries before. This is nothing!"
"He's serious," Makarov said dryly, then cracked a grin. "We know how to party at Fairy Tail! Will you join us? It wouldn't be the same without the hero of the hour."
"I'll decline this time," Ul said. "Honestly, I just want to stop by a hospital and then find a bed to fall into." Her magic had recovered enough for her to form an ice leg, and she tested it gingerly, pushing herself to her feet. It seemed to hold in to a satisfactory degree.
As Gildarts and Makarov tried to convince Jura to join them, despite his stalwart protests, she turned to Warrod instead. "Would you mind dropping us off before all of you head off?" she asked.
Warrod regarded her with a surprisingly shrewd look. "Certainly," he said, "but you know there's something we need to discuss first. You probably guessed, but I didn't come here just to watch. Rather, I came to observe. Even with young Jura, there is still an open position among the Ten Wizard Saints. The Council is considering extending that offer to you again."
"Again?" Ul shook her head. "I turned them down last time, and my answer hasn't changed."
"Are you sure? We both know the Council has little reach out here in the east," Warrod said. "If you become Isvan's Wizard Saint, there is a lot you could do for this land."
He was certainly good at finding what motivated people — perhaps it came with age. Hadn't Ul thought the same thing? That if only Isvan hadn't been so far removed from Era, something would have been done much sooner. That if Deliora had appeared in the west, it would have never been allowed free reign for so long.
Of course, even a Wizard Saint like Makarov couldn't always spur the Council itself into action, but hadn't he been able to gather other powerful wizards to assist him all the same? As a Wizard Saint, for Isvan, she could…
Ul shook her head again, sharply. "I can't," she said. "You're right — I love this land. I want to protect it. But I have something more important than that."
"Your students," Warrod guessed. He sighed, conceding. "If it was just one, I'd say that Wizard Saints in the past have managed an apprentice… but three children is a full time occupation no matter how you look at it."
"That's right. There's still too much I have to teach them," Ul said. "Thank you for understanding."
Behind her, Ul's students exchanged several looks — an entire silent conversation. Gray frowned, Ultear bit her lip, Lyon raised his eyebrow dubiously. They glanced at Ul, then back to each other. The boys shared a challenging look, while Ultear looked unsure. Finally, they seemed to come to a decision.
"Well, they won't be kids forever!" Warrod said, waving away her thanks. "So keep the offer in mind."
"Then we'll be heading back—"
"Hold on," Gray said suddenly. "I'm… I'm not going with you."
Ul stared at him in surprise. "Why?" she wondered. Did he not want to learn magic anymore? His reason for starting was gone now, but he had seemed to truly enjoy studying Ice Make, and he'd seemed happy to be with them not long ago.
"I want to become a strong wizard. And… Ul, you said we've already got the basics of Ice Make down," Gray said slowly. "But there's a lot about magic we don't know. Like those people who helped us… We'd never see magic like that in just Isvan. I want to see more of the world, what kinds of magic there are, what kinds of people use it. So I'm going to go west and join a guild — like the ones those people belong to."
"I… did say that," Ul allowed. "You've got the fundamentals down, so it's more about developing your own style now. But… are you sure this is what you want? Gray, you'll always have a place with us. You will always be my student."
Flushing at her words, Gray squirmed and looked away. "I'm sure," he mumbled. "I'm gonna join a guild and become a real wizard. And you can do what you need to, with the Council and stuff, too."
'...Ah,' Ul realized. 'So that's what it is.'
She stifled a fond sigh. It was cute that he wanted to do what was best for her, but he had it backwards. It wasn't like being a Wizard Saint mattered that much — they, her children, were far more important. Staying with them was no sacrifice or hardship.
"Gray…" Ul began.
"Master Ul!" Lyon spoke up. "I-I'm not going back either! You're amazing, Master Ul! B-but I'm going to surpass you! So, so I can't always be following you — I have to find my own way!"
He puffed up, as if trying to seem larger, but the way his lip wobbled unhappily undermined his determined expression — he didn't actually want to leave his beloved master, but he also didn't want to hold her back.
"I… see," Ul said. Lyon, too?
She glanced at Ultear, but her daughter just shook her head. "I'll stay with Mother," she said quietly, reaching up to take Ul's hand. "I still have a lot to learn, right?"
If it was one student, then even a Wizard Saint could manage it, after all. It was just that three were too many to shoulder an additional burden of responsibility.
Ul glanced at Warrod in surprise when the other wizard laid a hand on her shoulder. "It seems like your students have grown more than you realized," he noted. "If they're so determined, it wouldn't be right to hold them back. Joining a guild… it teaches you so many things." There was nostalgia in his voice as he remembered his own guild, so long ago.
She hesitated. She didn't really want to let them go — they were still so young. But they were right too. She'd taught them as much as they truly needed, and a wizard would never grow if they did not push their limits. She'd thought it before too, that she couldn't coddle them out of her own worries and fears.
Gray and Lyon looked at her with determination — even though Lyon appeared to be a moment away from breaking out in tears. Watching silently, Ultear also waited for her reply.
"A guild… I suppose there's a lot you could learn from that," Ul admitted, almost unwillingly. "If you join a guild... I'll allow it. I will acknowledge that you've become full-fledged wizards."
"Master Ul!" the boys both exclaimed, grinning. Shifting awkwardly and refusing to meet Ul's eyes, Gray added, "...We'll still definitely practice Ice Make. I mean, we'll always be your students… right?"
"Right," Ul agreed, smiling fondly. "Just because we won't be living together doesn't mean we won't see each other anymore."
"Oh, you don't know?" Warrod said. "Wizards in different guilds aren't allowed to talk to each other except in battle! You have to ensure guild loyalty, you know!"
"Whaaat?!" Gray and Lyon fell for it completely.
Ultear nodded seriously. "I guess we'll have to duel a lot," she mused, not seeming too perturbed.
"That's a joke," Ul said flatly. 'Or it better be…'
"Right, just a joke!" Warrod agreed, laughing. He was the only one.
"So even if we're in different places and in different guilds, we're still going to be a family, no matter what," Ul stated firmly. "And there better not be any dueling. At least, not often. I'll be watching your progress, so don't slack off in your training. And I want to meet these guilds you'll be joining before I agree! It's easy to fall in with the wrong crowd—"
Ul trailed off as the kids started snickering. It took her a moment to figure out the reason — she had really started to sound like a mom fussing over her kids... which she was, to be fair.
"Oh, really," she huffed, not truly angry. "I'm serious, you know."
"Okay, let's go," Gray said, already turning and striding away determinedly. "I'm going to ask those guys if I can join their guild. It's called Fairy Tail, right?"
A guild that had people like that, who would do something just because it was right, had to be a good place.
"The same guild as Gildarts? I don't know if I like the thought of you picking up his stupid habits..."
"W-wait, you already decided? Then I'll go with the other Saint guy! We'll see whose guild is better!"
"Gray, your coat…!"
The voices of his family followed him, and Gray smiled. There was no need to be afraid, not of monsters or demons or darkness, because they weren't alone. No matter where their paths took them, they would always be together, and stronger for it.
End notes: Haha, sorry. That was kinda pathetic, wasn't it?
Anyway, a couple of things. First, I totally acknowledge that four people against Deliora is total overkill. Even if we charitably assume Deliora is at the upper end of the Etherious power scale (which we really don't know, it could be one of the weaker demons), most of the Nine Demon Gates went down to tag teams of two at most, more often to one person plus an assist. Even if we assume Gildarts was weaker ten years back, he still could match the likes of Gajeel/Levy or Natsu/Lucy, I'd say. And Ul is assumed to also be very strong. I expect they could have taken Deliora between them with no casualties, but the more the merrier, I guess.
Second, there are obviously a few plot threads left hanging. The biggest would be Brain, plus Hades and the Tower of Heaven. If I were to do a second arc, that's what I'd focus on. (I don't think that Tower of Heaven would have necessarily gone better for the slave rebellion without Ultear. It's pretty likely that Hades or someone else would have taken her place and used a different method to keep the Tower going, which could have led to an even worse outcome for Erza and company.)
(Given the theme of "ice family," I guess the other thing to hit up would be Silver, but I honestly have no idea how that would work or what everyone's reactions would be.)
Anyway, thank you for sticking with me to the end! Special thanks to The Keeper of Worlds, dragonball256, darkworkangel, and Neceros, who were there from the start and hung in there for every chapter!
Thank you all!