8. Same Day Same Problems
Jason sat impatiently in his director's chair, tapping his foot against the wooden stool incessantly. Thirty minutes have passed since he sent his two star Fairy Tail models off to get pampered and prepared for their next shot. However, this amount of time was standard, the least amount, actually, when getting ready for different sets, but it was too long for Jason.
I mean, who could blame him.
When you're working with two of the best wizards in the known popular magic world, a certain amount of boiling passion bubbles within you as time goes on; he was also pretty sure he had ADD, but that's a story for a different time. Going back on track, for the past few days that his models have gotten ready, they've been in and out of their dressing rooms faster than most of his clients, though, that may be due to the fact that Natsu and Erza aren't snobby, stuck-up, I'm-better-than-you, type of people. So, in reality, Jason had no right to complain about the time it took them to get ready, especially since this photoshoot would be the most costly and daring one they've done so far.
He went to every expense to have this one be the most dramatized scene all week, as Jason planned to have this one be the cover photo to draw people's attention, but it would first have to go through administration in order for his dream to come true. That means both he and his team will have to work there hardest on the first theme of the day if they want it to be worth something.
Jason called for his temp to go fetch him a cup of "Magicaide" as he continued to sit impatiently for his stars to arrive. Once the drink came, Jason cooly thanked him and sat back into his comfortable chair. It wasn't until he took a sip of his drink that Jason recognized a large figure walkout from the side curtains and enter his field of view as the liquid almost flew from his mouth. Jason saw a miniature dragon with pink hair on top of its head walk toward him in a wobbly fashion, but it took a while for the signals to click.
'Wait a second, I don't remember ordering a cool baby wyvern- that would cost too much. I did pay for a cool dragon suit for Natsu to be- Oh… OOOOHHH!'
"OH MY GOD! My money was cooly spent!" Jason praised himself along with his team. Never in his wildest dreams could he have imagined this turning out so well, "Natsu, you look amazing!"
The person in the dragon suit, now identified as Natsu, scoffed at his remark and wagged his long tail, "This is stupid, I look ridiculous. It was trouble enough just to put it on, now I hafta deal with this suit cutting off blood circulation where it's most need
"No need to fuss, Natsu. Once Erza comes back with her cool costume we'll get this thing rolling." Jason got off his chair walked around to pat Natsu on his spikey back. Natsu had a hard time crossing his arms in denial because of the stubby material and reluctantly ended with a deep shrug of his shoulders. Once more, he looked at his costume and wondered how they would make such a fake-looking outfit look like a dragon. By his standards, this costume was a mockery to a Dragon's Images- and trust him, knew a thing or two about Dragons- seeing as he lived with one for a majority of life.
"When exactly is she gonna get here?"
"I don't know? When she's finished I guess." Jason walked over to a counter and took one last sip of his drink before setting it down, "Why do you need to know?"
"It's nothing really. I just thought the sooner we start, ya know?" 'Like hell it's nothing!? I'm so confused! So anxious! So paranoid! And so… so sweaty in this suit! I don't know what I'm going to do! Apparently, I'm in love with Erza!' "Son of a Dragon!" he whispered angrily.
"Hmm, what'd you say? Was it something cool?"
"Ah, nah, still nothing."
"Really? Anyway, back with the cool Titania Scarlet, once she gets here-"
"What about Titania Scarlet?" A very sturdy voice entered their ears from behind as Jason looked over Natsu's shoulder and gasped.
"S-soo-soo c-cool-l..." He drifted off in a daze. Natsu found it weird how his face suddenly melted into a state of admiration, but then his nose picked up a dazzling scent.
Before he even turned around, Natsu said, "Erza?" As more of a deterrent than anything else. And when an answer didn't come, Natsu waddled around to face an amazing sight. A Knight a shining armor stood before him with her hands on her hips. For some reason, it seemed as though a slight gleam of light radiated off of Erza's body as well, like a halo. She was wearing the heavy suit of armor like everyday clothing and the sword and shield resting on her back. Natsu noticed something strange as well; for a brief moment, he could have sworn he saw her blush madly at first, but then he realized she was wearing a thin layer a makeup with deep red lipstick and light purple eyeliner. And finally, Natsu saw that her hair was done in a thick rope braid laying in the front on top of her right shoulder.
He didn't know how long he was standing there beside Jason, but he knew it was longer than it needed to be. His gaping expression was fixed to his regular cheerful self, his smile shining toward Erza. However, Natsu still couldn't get over the fact of how beautiful and strong she looked in her outfit. These acknowledgments didn't help the fact that he might be infatuated with his best friend, which is weird, right? It has to be! There's no way Erza could feel this way- so awkward and gushy and weighted inside- absolute Dragon shit!
Meanwhile, in Erza's head… She was basically thinking the same thing. Same questions, same dilemma, same rejections.
When she first saw Natsu in his costume, the first thoughts in her head were, "cute" and "hilarious", but she knew Natsu would fervently deny the cute part. After all, he was a "big bad hardcore Dragonslayer"! A dragonslayer, she might add, with the heart and soul of a child. Erza knew Jason and Natsu didn't notice her coming toward them so she decided to surprise them, but when she called, Jason turned around immediately and looked at her with stars in his eyes. But Natsu, he stalled for a while until he finally turned to look at her; it dawned on her only after Natsu wasn't speaking, but Erza came to the conclusion that he was checking her out- for an extended amount of time, too. It wasn't like she was unsettled by this, but this is Natsu for goodness' sake. Sure, she knew Natsu sneaked in a gaze or two at women, but this was something different, he stared at her with a level of attention and interest that she only saw in his eyes when he was about to fight. Which posed the question: did he want to fight her? Now?
"Wow, E-erza… you look f-fantastic. Like, uh, some type of dope monster slayer not a "you're gorgeous" type of fantastic, ya know?" Totally crashed and burned, Natsu. Way to go.'
Erza chuckled in her hands as she walked up to the two awestruck men. 'Did Angela really do that well?'
"Thanks for the compliment Natsu, despite how it was intended to be," Once she stood close enough to him, Erza jabbed at his shoulder and laughed even more, "You don't look too bad yourself with that cheesy dragon costume on!"
Natsu had his own try at Erza, but when he punched her armor, his hand immediately turned red hot with pain, "What the hell, Erza!? You should know I'm sensitive about this thing! I'm a Dragonslayer after all- this is practically ruining my heritage!"
After Erza calmed down from her high of laughter, she began to do the same for Natsu by combing her fingers through his exposed hair, "Yeah, I guess you're right. I shouldn't have laughed… as much as I did at least."
Witnessing the two act up like children beside him, Jason couldn't hold in a fond smile at their odd chemistry together- which followed with some devious thoughts. 'Once this cool magazine issue comes out, then the whole world will know. At first, I thought it was the cool Mirajane Strauss, but now I know this goes deeper. It might be a cool love triangle! Actually, I think that's going a bit too far. NEVERTHELESS!' Jason, in his own "Jasony" way, shook with anticipation at what could unfold beneath his surveillance. He was lucky he hired someone to stalk them on their night out; he has some hardcore physical evidence of the tension between the two mages.
Realizing he was wasting precious daylight, Jason collected himself and recalled his staff and models to his side, "Okay, my cool People! This is it! The most expensive shoot yet! We cannot afford any uncool failures today! Whatever my cool Fairy Tail models need, they will get it immediately, got it!? Now let's get this cool thing started!" A small round of claps and cheers made them all hyped and excited to perform their jobs, especially Erza. She was practically shaking in her armor.
After the people left for their duties, Jason walked up to Natsu and Erza to began the explanation of their current set up, "Obviously, we've already established the cool Knight vs Dragon concept before you guys left for makeup. I'm going to tell you what I want to be cooly portraying. Basically, A cool Dragon has been hoarding gold and precious valuables in his cave from which he has taken from a nearby castle- that's you Natsu. And Erza, you're the cool valiant Knight who Volunteers to face the Dragon and take back the treasures in the cave, got it?"
The two nodded their heads in acknowledgment, fully understanding what Jason was trying to say: Natsu was the bad guy, Erza the good guy. Pretty simple. In Natsu's case, this was going to be simpler than ever, he loves being the bad guy! He and Happy even have their own monikers as the Demon Lord Dragneel and his partner, the Malevolent Exceed!
'Mwuhahahaha! Demon Lord Dragneel is back- I mean, Evil Dragon king Natsu! Hahaha!' His face contorted into a nasty grin as his tail began to wiggle from his eradicate movements. Once the bright lights flashed on the scenery, Natsu left his vivid imagination and realized Erza had already left to go on stage. Not wanting to be outshined by his red-headed partner, Natsu ran on the stage past Erza and Jason's Director and hastily climbed on top of the man-constructed cave.
Although Jason never instructed him to do so, somehow Natsu figured out where he was supposed to be without being told, almost like he wanted to become a villain… Which, yes, he very much enjoyed his role as the "Dragon King" Natsu. Erza, slightly shocked at how versatile Natsu was, despite being confined in that wonky costume, prepped herself for the photo by shaking off any distracting or uneasy thoughts racing through her mind. Right now, she was in knight mode, nothing more, nothing less.
Both of them were now awaiting instructions from Jason, who, just got into his high-seated director's chair holding his lacrima-powered megaphone, "ALRIGHT PEOPLE! YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO! Erza, I want that determined, steadfast attitude you show against tyrants! Remember, you have a village to protect! And Natsu!... Uh, yeah, just keep doing that! COOL! LIGHTS, CAMERA! ACTION!" On Jason's cue, a hissing noise came from behind the drawn curtains at both ends of the stage. With it, a thick fog started to emerge and engulfed the tiled floor in a gray cloud. The overhead lights dimmed until they were barely visible while floodlights coming from offstage highlighted convex angles of the materials and made a stark contrast with the dark crevasses in the background. The cameramen and women were ready and started flashing bright flickers of white light onto their star mages, and while they were photographing every detail, Natsu went to work on his favorite thing to do- one of his favorite things to do, I mean.
Lighting things on fire.
He took in a deep breath and out came a decently sized stream of flames. The sudden heat and sound startled Jason a bit but he quickly fixed himself and marveled at the living flamethrower. His fiery breath was just big enough to look menacing but not large enough to burn the whole place down. But, of course, Jason was not an idiot and paid some cheap water mages to stand by in case anything went south really quick.
But just as he deviated his attention from the fire, Jason noticed something uncool about Erza: her mind seemed distracted by something and it was written all over her face. Instead of his super amazonian warrior, he got a slightly confused, partially driven young adult. Immediately, he had to cut off the scene. "CUT! CUT!" he raised his arms in an X-shaped. Natsu immediately cut off his breath and the fire was put out quickly leaving only a small puff of smoke escaping his mouth. Jason, looked around to make sure people were paying attention, 'cause some uncool things were happening right now, specifically with Erza.
"Listen, people, I can't call you 'cool' if you don't live up to your standards! It's not so cool when you're given a very important job, and all you give is an uncool 50 percent of effort." Jason, despite scolding his crewmates and coworkers, had a very pouty look on his face. He was mad, yes, but his anger was that of a slightly inconvenienced toddler. However, this tiny spark of irritation came from Erza. She had her pose down to the "T", her body language was electrifying, everything she was doing was practically the best anyone could ask for… but, Jason saw through that perfect camouflage.
It was in the eyes, usually, everything is. A person's true attitude, nature, and even their lives can be discovered just by studying a person's eyes. And for Erza, he knew something was bugging her; something that restrained her from giving it her all. Basically, she was thinking about something else, and he had a good clue about what, or rather who, it was. Jason knew this would be a great time to use his fantastic and uplifting coaching to get Erza's mindset on track and on point. Lifting his megaphone up to his mouth, he took in one large breath, "And Erza! My main problem is with you today! Surprisingly uncool! I don't care what's bugging you, I just need your focus on the here and now! Whatever's troubling you can be resolved, but you committed yourself to do the best you could here! Don't forget: every cool person here is counting on you to make this a success, even Natsu!"
Utterly shocked by the outburst from Jason, Erza's mind went a thousand miles per hour to comprehend everything she was told by him. Yes, he was right about her mind wandering to other thoughts, but how could he have known? Was she that obvious to the naked eye? No, there's no way any normal person would have caught her act- it must have been Jason's trained director's eye. She's heard that before he was a director, he spent countless years as a photographer when they were stuck on Tenrou.
Once her main confusion was out of the way, her thoughts finally moved on to the things Jason had said to her. Apparently, the people here needed her to make this project a success, which makes sense seeing as thousands of Jewels were spent on the production of this issue of the magazine. But what really hit her was the last thing he said… "Even Natsu?" she whispered as her eyes drifted back and forth from Jason on his high director's seat and Natsu squatting on the makeshift cave. Her interests peeked once she realized what Jason said might be true. Natsu was doing his best during this photoshoot- he was actually trying, and at the same time, he was having fun. Maybe, if she had the same attitude as Natsu, she could make him happy. Maybe, just maybe… she could hear him congratulate her.
With the emergence of this new thought came a rush of exhilaration and anticipation. Perplexed by this onslaught of dopamine, Erza stopped to think, again. This type of excitement only came when she was fighting; much like Natsu, she had an itch for fighting strong opponents, but for some reason, that same instinct turned on without notice. Now, Erza wasn't stupid, nor did she ever doubt her gut, she was just extremely stubborn and resilient and that pended with this case too. She had connected all the dots and straightened her thoughts and she knew that the catalyst for her sudden irregular behavior was due to the thought of Natsu. But as I've said before, Erza was stubborn and resilient. She acknowledged that Natsu was part of the cause but won't admit he was the center of it. After all, she still needed time to figure out her feelings and stuff. It's not easy for her to even think she has such, such… petty and frivolous emotions.
Erza locked eyes with Jason, while her mind wandered off to places she could experience. Her stoic, non-blinking face stayed on Jason for longer than he liked so he went to the proactive choice.
"Erza! Hey, Erza! Snap out of it! This isn't cool, man! It's actually kinda creeping me out in an uncool type of way!" Jason's uncouth and annoying yelps broke Erza out of her entranced state and brought her back into reality. Jason saw the slight shock that lingered on her, but that quickly went away once she knew what was happening again. Somehow, for some reason, Jason could feel Erza oozing out that familiar titanic presence she usually gave off when he first met her. He knew Erza "Titania" Scarlet was back, and it was all thanks to his amazing coaching skills!
"Natsu!" Erza yelled across the set, "I'm sorry for causing you such trouble!"
"Huh, what're you-"
"I know you were looking forward to this specific photoshoot, but I was ruining the experience for you!"
"What're you talking about!? I don't even ca-"
"No! Don't try to justify my actions to make me feel better! I've seen the error of my ways and I'll make it up to you!"
"That doesn't make any sense!? Where is this coming from!?" Natsu was becoming slightly worried by ho Erza was acting toward him. When she gets like this, she has a false sense of justice she thinks needs to be fulfilled, but that always ends in someone getting hurt. And now, that someone looks a lot like a familiar Dragonslayer, "Hey Erza, why don't you just calm down and-"
"Jason! Roll the cameras! I know you'll like this!" Erza brashly commanded, "And Natsu, be prepared!" She yelled as the giant sword she held at her waist rose to her face along with a prepared shield.
"H-hey, just think about this! You don't have anything to prove by doing this, Erza!" Natsu shook in his flimsy dragon suit while setting himself in a fighting position. Jason decided to do what the fiery red-head to told him to do and told his camera crew to get to work.
This was gonna be good.
"Yes, I do!" Erza jumped high in the air gathering a trail of fog behind as she began to drop right ontop of Natsu. Realizing this wasn't going to de-escalate, Natsu decided to go along with it. If she wanted to fight, he'll give her a fight. At least for once, he can say that the collateral damage didn't start because of him. He quickly jumped and rolled off the fake cave as Erza landed and swung her sword at his previous position causing the cave to collapse and fall apart. Natsu took his chance and attacked her with the distortion in the air with a large fireball escaping his mouth. Erza didn't even turn around as she slammed her large shield in the ground deflected the fireball to the sides of her. A gust of hot air hit her face while a hard mass hit her shield with an echoing sound. Repeatedly, the noise was heard as Natsu punched against the decorated shield with Erza under it.
Deciding that enough was enough, she stomped hard into the ground and tackled Natsu with the shield in hand as he got blown back into the ground. Erza used the opportunity to sweep the sword on the ground the hit Natsu but he countered with a flaming kick while he laid on the floor. Next, Natsu flipped back and blew another hot stream of fire toward her while erza went on the defensive again. With her shield protecting her, she decided on a new tactic. She peeked over her shield and chucked her huge sword toward the fire-breathing Natsu while he jumped away from getting his head chopped off. Erza then threw her shield like a disk and aimed for Natsu while he was in the air, effectively knocking him in the stomach. He crashed down hard and took the time to fill his lungs with air again so he could breathe. Erza didn't wait for Natsu to get up as she ran gungho toward him with her armor clanking on the wooden floor.
Natsu saw this and rolled away from her crashing foot breaking the floor. Quickly, he got up and regained his strength as he lit his first on fire while Erza picked up her shield and charged him as he did her. Right before they collided, Jason yelled, "CUT!"
To which Natsu replied, "What! What the hell was that!? We were finally getting to the good part!"
"Well, first, I'm pretty sure we have all of the cool shots we need and secondly, I don't want the two of you breaking down a cool place we're renting. It costs an uncool fortune!"
"Okay, but you're not gonna ask me to pay right? 'Cause she's the one who started it." Natsu childishly pointed at Erza while she started to get defensive.
"I was just doing what Jason told me. He wanted a battle-ready Fairy Queen, so I gave him just that." She countered plainly, They both looked at Jason accusingly while he looked shocked- I mean, why wouldn't he be!? He's getting blamed for instigating a fight he had nothing to do with.
"You know what? I don't care- I got these super cool photos to back me up! You two cool stars, getting changed and ready for the next one! We're on a roll!"
Natsu and Erza didn't complain one bit about being sent to their changing rooms. Both of them were covered in dust and dirt, and most importantly, sweat. It felt extremely uncomfortable when they weren't in their usual attire. And so, the two mages walked their separate ways, glancing back at each other with large smiles on their faces, admiring one another's attributes. Little did they know, today was the start of something dangerously new.