Disclaimer: Fairy Tail and all associated content belongs to Hiro Mashima.

"Talking"

'Thoughts'

"Attack Names"

Technique/Ability Names

*Flashbacks*

xxxxxxx

Chapter 2: The Path of Solitude

It's been two months since the death of Lisanna and Happy, and the Fairy Tail Guild has pretty much moved on from their deaths, having coped with it in their own special ways. Well, everybody except two people that is…

The Guild was shocked when they saw Mirajane again, for the first time since the funeral. She seemingly underwent a personality overhaul. Gone were the dark colours and the gothic accessories. She now sported a simple maroon dress that reached her ankles with a matching pair of two inch heels. Her platinum coloured hair was left to freely run down her back with her bangs held up in a small front ponytail that would have looked quite silly on anyone else, but she made it work somehow. If her appearance wasn't enough to give people heart attacks, the expression on her face was completely foreign to them. No more was there a smirk of superiority or a cruel tinge to her glare that made most of them fearful for their well-being. In its stead was a warm, welcoming expression than only served to enhance her delicate beauty even further. Not once did she pick a fight with Erza or insult any of the other members. In fact, it was the opposite. As she seemingly took over the barmaid duties, she was always courteous and willing to lend a hand while serving the other members their drinks and food. It was a real strange sight for most of them who became accustomed to the Demon Mirajane over the years.

It was quite unfortunate that it took the death of her sister to bring out this warmer side of her though. Even if she looked fine on the surface, others like the Master and Erza knew that she was still struggling with her internal demons, the metaphorical kind. The guilt still ate away at her heart and if you looked behind the warm eyes that she now sported, you would see the crippling pain that she was hiding away.

Many didn't understand why she was now working as the barmaid instead of doing missions. If fact, she hasn't been on a mission since the 'incident'. What the others didn't know was that Mirajane had lost the ability to wield her magic. Well…lost isn't the apt word to use. More like her state of mind made her unable to fully call upon her magic like she used to. Magic is a fickle thing. It is tied to ones emotions and one's mental fortitude. In Mira's unfortunate case, she had lost complete confidence in not only herself, but her magic as well. That kind of mind-set is crippling to mages. She was subconsciously rejecting her own magic which in turn placed a mental block on her ability to wield it. Even knowing this, it was a difficult thing for one to overcome. Mira, unfortunately, gave up on magic and her need to wield it. Settling for a simple job as a barmaid instead for a steady source of income. The scars that she was forced to endure due to what she perceived as the fault of her magic left her in this state and it would take something drastic if she were to ever regain her ability to use it again.

The other exception was Natsu. For the last two months, he's been taking jobs non-stop and completing them with alarming efficiency. He not only does them with a new found proficiency but he also seemed to curb his more destructive habits. Not to say that there wasn't any collateral damage but he seemed to be slowly lessening the damage he does to his surroundings, much to the Masters delight. He also hasn't been spending any time in the Guild like he used to. The only time people ever see him these days is when he comes in for a mission after which he leaves and isn't seen for days or even sometimes weeks depending on the job and the reward. His personality also seemed to have been overhauled, just like Mirajane.

Whereas before he was warm, energetic and radiated positivity and always up for a Guild brawl or causing mischief…nowadays he was a lot colder and aloof. The murderous glares that he would send those that tried to question him was bone chilling in terms of the wrathful emotions that they contained. He never spoke a word to anyone, not even Master. It was also noticed that he looked a little buffer in terms of his physique, but not overly so. He also walked a lot more fluidly than before, displaying that he had been training his body extensively. He would only come into the Guild, grab a request for approval and leave. It wasn't the most desirable relationship with the Guild and the others were getting worried about him.

Erza tried on a few occasions to get him to open up to them, but the amount of hatred that would burn in his eyes as he silently glowered at her made even the great Titania want to shrink a little into herself. Despite her seemingly confident personality, Erza was a pretty insecure girl beneath all her layers of armour and seeing the way Natsu, whom she considers a friend, glaring at her with such hatred brought up all the horrible nightmares that she locked away about her past where something similar happened with another one of her close friends. She didn't know what she had done to earn the ire of the [Dragon Slayer], but she wanted to help him. To steer him from the path of darkness that she thought he was going down. The problem being that she didn't have the confidence in herself to confront him about the things which she herself was still haunted by, something that he never failed to remind her about. This was especially so after the first time she confronted him a month after Lisanna's death.

*Flashback*

Things were tense in the Guild hall as the eyes of the regular members were nervously glancing at the bar where the scarlet haired swordswoman sat. The scowl on her face and the visible signs of the anger that was bubbling within her made a few cower towards the entrance in case they needed to make a quick escape.

She has been like this for the last two weeks, coming in everyday and sitting at the bar before silently glaring at the door. She stopped taking jobs and didn't leave the Guild until closing. It was obvious that she was waiting for someone and the others figured out who it was easily.

They honestly didn't envy Natsu at this moment. Erza's foul mood only worsened the longer she had to wait where it got to a point that the others were sure she would develop the ability to reduce someone to ashes with her frightening glare alone.

Gray was cursing the Master for being away at the regular meeting at a time like this for he was sure there was blood going to be spilt soon. His only consolation was that it wouldn't be his blood…probably.

Mira was also a bit anxious, not only for Erza's building temper but also at the thought of seeing Natsu again. Even though he was taking jobs, she only got back to the Guild recently having taken over the barmaid duties. She hasn't seen him since she told him of Lisanna and Happy's deaths and she was honestly nervous at seeing him again. Not because she disliked him or anything, more like the opposite.

She was worried about his opinion of her as well as her role in the events of the death of his loved ones. She can still clearly remember the horrible words she said to him when he asked her if he could come along with them on that day. It made her wince when she remembered her cruelty. The sad part was that it wasn't even the first time, or the worst thing that she has said to him. She had a laundry list shameful deeds when it came to others, especially Natsu. She was scared that he would hate her for her actions, not just towards him in the past but also because of Lisanna and Happy's deaths. She wanted to make amends with him. She wanted to atone for her past actions. But most importantly, she wanted to be his friend. That was all she ever wanted from him. Her application left much to be desired and her attitude was completely counter-productive to her aims, but she wanted to be friends with Natsu.

Normally during her interactions with Natsu, her inflated ego would get in the way and she would say something hurtful to get some reaction out of him, but she wasn't that person any longer. Her ego and her pride was all but gone. She had lost everything and hit rock bottom with nothing left to lose. So she would take this opportunity to make up with Natsu and connect with him. This was something that she felt that she had to do, not just for herself, but for Natsu as well. It was especially important as she felt that if there was anyone that understood the pain that he was going through, it would be her. It was unfortunate, but there was a chance they could bond over the death of the ones they loved. Mira wanted to be there for him. She knew that she could never replace Lisanna, no matter how hard she tried, but the very least that she could do was take care of the man that her sister loved so dearly. She wanted to support him, to help him and to be there for him. Even though she had a crush on him, she wasn't sure if there would ever be anything romantic between them. Not just because she used to bully him, but because she was Lisanna's older sister and she didn't want Natsu to feel that she was trying to fill the void left by Lisanna. If anything ever did blossom between them, she would be happy to build upon it. But for now, she was far too broken to try anything. She would settle for being by his side and helping his whenever he needed it. She owed it to Lisanna.

Erza was quietly stewing in her seat. She was waiting for days for the pink (Natsu would argue that it's salmon) haired fire mage to arrive. He was gone for a week when his job clearly wouldn't take more than a day. He didn't give her any notice and he didn't have the courtesy to inform them of whatever activities that he would be involved in that led to him being gone for so long. Needless to say, Erza wasn't a very happy camper right now.

Her worries were compounded by the look she had seen in Natsu's eyes when she last saw him on the day that he took the Vulcan extermination mission. There was a lot of anger, hatred and resentment in his eyes. Something that looked completely out of place on the normally jovial [Dragon Slayer]. She would never say it out loud, but she was afraid. Not of Natsu specifically, but the circumstances that he found himself in and what it could eventually lead to. She had seen something similar in the past. She was still haunted by the nightmares of the day when her entire world crumbled. When her friend and someone that she admired greatly, Jellal, fell into the darkness and let the madness consume him. The vile and evil feeling that Jellal had given off made her skin crawl just thinking about it. She failed to save her friend on that day and as a result, she lost all of the people she had come to care about and was forced to live with the torment that her inaction caused. It was a mistake that she regretted making and one that she vowed that she would never repeat.

Which was why she was fretful about seeing Natsu again. On that day a few weeks ago, she froze from the flashbacks of Jellal that she was having when she saw Natsu and as a result didn't get the chance to confront him. But now she would nip this issue in the bud. She refused to let someone as bright and cheerful as Natsu give in to his dark side. He was meant to burn brightly, like a beacon of hope and courage. She refused to lose another person she cared about to the darkness of this world. She would do everything she could to pull him out of it, even if she had to beat him half to death and drag him out of it. She was a woman on a mission and she refused to accept failure, not again. Never again.

The doors of the Guild slowly creaked open as the elusive [Dragon Slayer] ambled through the doors. He didn't stop to take stock of the situation in the Guild or even greet any of the members. Instead, he just walked over to the request board once again and took his time going through the requests, ignoring everything else.

Mira looked on in concern at seeing this side of him, having not experienced the new attitude of Natsu. As one who was used to feeling the negative emotions of the Demons that she housed, she could practically taste the negativity that was bleeding off Natsu. She cringed at the feelings that she was feeling and was having a hard time properly processing that fact that they belonged to someone who always seemed to be a beacon of positivity. The fact that he seemed to be completely indifferent to everyone else was also quite alarming. She had heard of this happening from the others whenever Natsu came in for a job, but she never thought it would be this bad. It was deeply troubling for the young woman who could do nothing but watch the scene unfold, having vary little confidence to confront him just yet. Especially considering the mood he seemed to be in.

Erza had no such compulsions. As soon as Natsu walked through the door, she was on her feet. Her predatory gaze stalking him as he walked across the room. She was waiting to see if he approached anyone but when it was clear that he had no such intentions, she marched over to him intent on giving him a piece of her mind. As her armoured footsteps drew closer to him, he made no intention of acknowledging her presence which only irked her even further.

As soon as she got within a few feet of him, a golden glow engulfed her right arm as her standard double sided sword appeared in her arm before she pointed it at Natsu, holding it just under his chin. The tension in the Guild hall skyrocketed at the provocative move and there were more than a few nervous murmurs. What worried them even further was that even with a sword to his throat held by the fearsome Titania, Natsu still didn't react in the slightest. The angry twitch of Erza's eyebrow told them that this wasn't going to end well…for Natsu that it.

"Enough of this!" Erza roared angrily as he arm started trembling in rage. "I've had enough of your childishness Natsu! I can understand that you are going through a tough time but that doesn't give you the reason to shut out everyone else! Your nakama are here to help you, but if you constantly walk in here and act like they don't matter then I'm going to have to take drastic actions to remind you of what Fairy Tail is all about." She finished in a threatening tone of voice that sent shivers down the spines of the others, knowing full well the danger of provoking Titania's wrath. Natsu never took his eyes off the request board throughout Erza's little speech nor did he give any indication of reacting which only pissed her off even further. She was going to berate him once again, but as she opened her mouth to speak, Natsu's voice was heard for the first time since the day he was told of Lisanna's death.

"Childishness?" He spoke out in a questioning tone. The dead tone of his gruff voice made a few cringe uncomfortably. Natsu looked at Erza out of the corner of his eyes with such intensity that it almost made her take a step back. "This coming from the person who currently has a sword to the throat of her apparent 'nakama', threatening them to speak instead of asking like a civilised person? I may not be the most educated person around but even I know enough to know that your choice in a conversation opener leaves much to be desired." Natsu stated dryly causing Erza to wince. "Honestly, with 'friends' like you, who needs enemies."

Erza was left gaping at him. Normally Natsu would yield to her whenever she became forceful and cease all forms of resistance. It wasn't just Natsu either, most people in the Guild knew better than to argue with her. Which was why she was unsure of what was currently happening as she was in uncharted territories. She never imagined there would come a day where Natsu would so openly defy her. The fact the there was so much bite in his tone when he said the word 'nakama' and 'friends' left her fearful of his state of mind. Her worries seem to have been well founded in terms of him changing, and not for the better.

"Wha! Natsu! How can you say something like that! We are all nakama here, we always have each other's back. That's the way of Fairy Tail! How dare you imply that we would ever do anything to bring harm to you! I can tolerate your destructive tendencies and even this obsessive need to complete jobs that you seem to have picked up…but I will not allow you to besmirch the honour of Fairy Tail!" She thundered at him angrily as he magic started increasing. Natsu turned to face her this time, wholly ignoring the sword that was still at his throat once again, and he gave her a smile. There was nothing pleasant about it though. It was a vile and sardonic, perfectly projecting his current state of mind. He eyes were the perfect mirrors to his broken soul as they glared hatefully at Erza so much so that she could almost feel the prickly sensations stabbing her skin. It was an uncomfortable and unpleasant experience, one that she would never have imagined that she would be forced to endure by someone like Natsu. It seemed as though they had underestimated how badly losing Lisanna and Happy affected his state of mind.

"Well? What are you waiting for?" Natsu prodded, much to the confusion of the highly emotional Erza. Seeing her look of uncertainty, he decided to elaborate. "Dish out the regular beating. I have places to be and a mission to complete. I don't have time to entertain whatever stupid notion you can up with in that thick head of yours. After all, Erza Scarlet can only solve her problems through violence and beating people into submission, yes? For all of your talk of protecting, causing pain is all you ever seem to be good at." He said scathingly. His remarks his closer to home than he ever realised as Erza had flashbacks to the Tower of Heaven. Of how she was forced to abandon her friends, her family. The sense of hopelessness she had felt was rearing its ugly head once again and she couldn't handle it. "Come to think of it, we aren't that different you and I. We are both similar in that destruction as all we ever seem to be good at." She trembled with unbridled fury as she directed her own glare at Natsu for bringing up such horrible memories. His continuous comments only served to fuel her anger. The other members of the Guild were scrambling to get out of the way, fearful of the bloodbath that they were sure was about to come. "Oh? There's that famous temper. You have a nice glare going on there. I can almost feel your anger. Well, go ahead then…take a swing at me. Don't worry, I won't defend myself. I'm not arrogant enough to believe I stand a chance against you just yet. Would you prefer it if I turned around…that way you could stab me in the back? It would be a nice narrative to go with the situation wouldn't you agree?" He questioned sarcastically as he turned around and offered his back to Erza which took all the wind out of her sails as she looked at him in shock at his insinuations.

Mira gazed sadly at Natsu's back. This wasn't how things were supposed to happen. She couldn't believe how drastically the sweet boy she used to know had changed. Dare she say it…he almost reminded her of herself with his bad attitude. She wanted to speak to him…to open up to him…but she was scared. Looking at how he is now only solidified her fears. She was a coward. This wasn't news to her. She was always running away from her problems. She was always running away from her feelings. That was one part of her that it seemed would never change. For now, she doubted that she would be able to confront him, not with the mood he seems to be in nor with her lacking confidence. She had no choice but to bide her time until she could once again stand tall and shoulder her fears and her burdens with a straight back.

Erza's eyes were wide as she looked at Natsu in horror. She couldn't believe that Natsu of all people would imply that she was the kind of person who would stab him in the back. She may not have been the easiest person to be around but she would never betray any of her friends. The fact that Natsu, whom she considered a close friend, would imply such a thing cut her deeply. He already knew that, so why was he saying such hurtful things. Once again, he probably wasn't aware of it, but his words caused Erza more pain than any physical injury ever could. The fact that her friend looked at her with such hatred in his eyes brought out her deepest rooted fears. She saw the faces of Simon, Millianna, Wally and Shō glaring at her with similar looks in their eyes coupled with the sting of betrayal. Those were her darkest fears. They were what haunted her nightmares. She had abandoned her friends to be alone with a mentally unstable Jellal. Who knew what lies he had fed them and what they must now think of her. Her body shook as her mind was assaulted by these images. She pushed them to the back of her mind though, forcing them away and to be dealt with when she was in the solitude of her room. She focused on trying to reach out to another friend of hers, one that was right in front of her and who seemed to be slowly slipping away into the darkness.

"N-Natsu…" She muttered sadly as she stared at him in disbelief as if seeing a completely different person. "I…I don't know why you are acting this way…but…are we not your family? I know you are going through a tough time right now, I can empathise with that…which is why it's so important that you open up to us. We're your friends, your family…we want to help you get through with what you're dealing with…but we can't if you shut us out…please…Natsu…Let us help you." Erza pleaded almost desperately. The others looked on with bated breath, each with different emotions warring within them.

"Family?" Natsu whispered, getting everyone's attention despite his voice never raising an octave above a whisper. "That's rich coming from you, Scarlet. For all your preaching of 'family' and the bonds of 'nakama'…you seem to do the exact opposite of what you say. For the five years that I've been in this Guild…I haven't seen you bond with anyone. You do everything in your power to keep everyone at arm's length, refusing to let anyone in. You dish out regular beatings to your 'family' for the most minor infractions and seem to revel in a position of authority and control. You come into the Guild every day and sit at the counter eating strawberry cheesecake…alone…without interacting with your supposed family in anyway other than beating them up. When it comes down to it…you're are even more of a loner than I used to be. They say that charity begins at home…so before you start going around preaching to me about 'family' and 'nakama'…perhaps you should shed that suit of armour you constructed around yourself first, you fucking hypocrite." Erza looked stricken at his words, mostly because of the air of truth that they contained. She could see some of the other members looking at each other and murmuring to themselves in agreement at what he said. Erza knew that she couldn't rebuttal as she had no way of denying his statement…because it was the truth. She had deep seeded trust issues and purposely kept to herself to spare herself the pain of betrayal should it ever happen. It wasn't something that she was proud of and she tried to work on it, but it proved too difficult for her to move past her mind's natural reaction. Natsu plucked a request off the board and walked towards the counter, but not before stopping beside Erza. "I'm not sure why you are up in arms about what I do with my time, Scarlet. If anything, I'm taking inspiration from you. You of all people have shown me that there can be strength found on the path of solitude." After saying his piece, he walked towards Mira at the bar leaving Erza frozen on the spot.

"Hello Natsu." She greeted him with a sweet smile, but there was a tinge of nervousness in her voice. Natsu just stared at her before quirking an eyebrow at her seemingly changed personality.

"Mirajane." He nodded blankly before presenting his request for approval. Mira winced at his dead tone of voice and the indifferent look he gave her before she quietly stamped his mission for approval. She tried to gather up the courage to speak to him, but she couldn't and simply wilted under his gaze. Natsu took the request back without saying a word and turned to leave.

"Good luck." Mira wished him quietly, mostly to herself, in a tone that was barely a whisper. What she forgot was that Natsu had enhanced hearing thanks you his magic and heard her as clear as day. He paused for a brief second on his way out, before he twitched briefly and continued his exit. Leaving a stunned and baffled audience in his wake.

*Flashback End*

Gray had tried, on a few occasions, to start a fight with Natsu as they usually would do…but he was completely ignored. Natsu didn't even acknowledge his presence.

Master Makarov as well tried to reach out to the boy, but he was met by stony silence and a blank stare that brought him no closer to helping one of his children. It was even more worrying for the Master as he had felt Natsu's magic skyrocket in those few months. It wasn't just larger but the quality and the potency of it was something to take note of. He wasn't that far off from Erza's level and he would probably surpass her in a few months if he kept improving in the same way.

It was a sorry state of affairs that had seemingly resulted in two of their members switching roles so to speak. With Mirajane stepping into the light and doing her best to make people happy, and Natsu entrenching himself in darkness for his own purposes.

(Scene Change)

Natsu let out a deep breath, which materialised as a misty cloud in front of him due to the cold, as he allowed his magic to flow freely within his body. He was currently standing in a large open expanse of land that was covered in snow and ice. It was quite far up north of Fiore. He had taken a request to exterminate an abnormally large Wyvern for a local town with the reward of 450 000 Jewels. He took the request not only for the large reward and the opportunity to fight a powerful beast, but also for the opportunity to use the extreme conditions of the north to further train his magic. The absolute zero temperatures allowed him to better control and enhance his already powerful [Fire Magic]. It was difficult to train in these harsh conditions, but Natsu welcomed the challenge as he pushed his magic and his body to its absolute limits.

The last two months have been astoundingly productive for him in terms of expanding his power and his knowledge. The first thing he did with the large reserve of Jewels he's had saved up was to hire a proper tutor to teach him how to read and write. It was something that he's always hated being made fun of and a weakness that he wanted to cover immediately. Unsurprisingly, it didn't take him very long to get the hang of it. His rudimentary 'lessons' with Erza along with the fantastic teaching ability of his tutor had him completing his objective in under two weeks. He could now read and write properly which was something that he needed if he wanted to improve his magic. Being a mental discipline, Natsu had always neglected the more intellectual aspects of magic, focusing more on the physical applications which isn't surprising when you consider the type of magic that he uses.

Thanks to his more solid grasp on his literacy skills, he was able to comprehend books about magic more clearly. During his travels over these two months, he has visited many libraries in an effort to expand not only his knowledge but his magical repertoire as well. He has every confidence in his [Dragon Slayer Magic], and is continuously training it and improving his spells, but he wants to have a little more in his arsenal and not just break out his signature magic on every Tom, Dick and Harry he comes across.

It was hard going at first, as despite his better reading skills, Natsu was not an intellectual person. He was a man of action and had high levels of kinaesthesia. He was more adept at 'learning from doing' so to speak. On most occasions, he has to use every ounce of self-control that he has to keep him focused on the text in front of him. Even though his body's natural response was to run off to find an adventure, he knew that this was a necessary evil for him to improve himself. He was tired of being an idiot with no knowledge of the world. He wanted to be better, as a mage and as a person, not just for himself but for Lisanna and Happy as well. He didn't believe much in the afterlife, but after their deaths, he held out hope that it did exist and as such his loved ones were watching over him. It was something that got him through his low points and he resolved himself to make them proud of him.

Eventually, after spending hours upon hours combing through texts, reading became a somewhat ingrained habit for Natsu, similar to eating or sleeping. He absorbed information about the lore of Fiore along with anything he could find about Dragons and [Dragon Slayers]. There wasn't much information to go on, but it was more than he knew before. He focused on expanding his arsenal of [Fire Magic], as well as any supplementary spells that would aid him. [Re-Quip] was one of the first spells that he learnt. It was a relatively simple spell and while he was nowhere near the level of Erza, in terms of mastering it, it was enough for him as he didn't use it for battle but instead for storage and easy access of his items.

There were many different streams of [Fire Magic] that were available as they were some of the most common forms of magic. From the [Purple Flare] that Macao used, to the similar string of magic called [Prominence Fire]. There were cold flames, purifying flames along with a whole rainbow of colours of fire, each with its own attribute. Natsu's interest was piqued greatly at the thought of learning these different forms of his magic. By learning various branches of [Fire Magic] he could become more familiar with the attribute as well as deepen his understanding of fire which could lead to him improving his [Dragon Slayer Magic]. He knew it would take him a while to learn them, but he had time. Besides, he already had an almost expert level grasp on arguably the most difficult type of [Fire Magic] in existence so the others, which can be seen as lesser forms, shouldn't be as difficult for him to learn as it would be for others.

He also set the foundation to revamp his existing [Fire Dragon Slayer] spells. While it wasn't much of a problem before, it occurred to him now that his current arsenal was far too generic in terms of the spells he used. He wanted to put his own spin on the existing spells that he knew and tweak them a bit to suit his personality.

He was still a far way off, in not just reconstructing his [Dragon Slayer Magic] but also mastering new forms of [Fire Magic]. He wasn't too worried though for he knew that it wouldn't take him long to get the hang of it now that he had a solid foundation to work from.

Though he focused heavily in filling the gaps in his education, Natsu never once neglected his physical training. If anything, he amped it up compared to before. He pushed his body to breaking limits and the results were visible. His body was far more toned and musculature was becoming more defined. He could feel his physical strength increasing as well. This was evident on the occasions that he's had to fight on missions. His hits were far more damaging compared to before and he liked it.

Something else that he dedicated his time to, was trying to understand the new magic that he seemingly unlocked. His crimson flames, that's what he called it for he didn't have a name for it yet, were a fascinating thing. They were undoubtedly powerful, on the level of his [Dragon Slayer Magic], but the flames had a different property compared to his normal flames. His [Dragon Slayer Magic] was built for destruction, plain and simple, while the crimson flames on the other hand seemed to 'eat' away at anything that it came into contact with. He didn't fully understand the limits of it yet and he was going mainly on what he observed. The first time he used the flames against those Vulcans, it supposedly evaporated all the liquid within their bodies, turning them into dried up husks. That was mostly to do with his state of mind. He realised quickly that his new magic was tied to his negative emotions and as such they could affect what it did. When he first used it, he wanted to vaporise those Vulcans, he wanted them to suffer…so his flames answered his call and vaporised them from the inside out in a gruesome manner. When he practiced with them later, when his mind was in an arguably more stable state, he realised that he could control the amount of damage his flames did. He could vaporise targets, like he did with those Vulcans. He could burn them regularly. He could also have his flames 'eat' away at whatever they came into contact with, slowly corroding whatever he targets. In this state, it takes up more magic for him to apply as the flames will need to burn for a prolonged period of time to complete their objective. It was pretty draining but he figured that with intense training, he could cut down on the magical cost and the effort that took him to use it. He was sure that there were many more secrets to his new magic and he knew that he would figure the rest out eventually.

The big question though, was how did this magic come about? Natsu was a straightforward person, as such, he never dwelled much on the past and was always looking to move forward. Until recently that is. Now that he spent so much time reflecting…he started asking himself questions that he never cared about before. For example, he never once questioned the fact that his father was an enormous Fire Dragon. It was something that was natural to him and he never cared for anyone that said otherwise. Now that he was thinking more about the reason for Igneel's abandonment of him, he started to wonder who his real parents were. Did they throw him away too? Did he have any siblings? Any cousins? Did he have any friends before he met Igneel? When he thought about these things…he realised that he couldn't remember how he met Igneel. Moreover, he doesn't have any memories before his time with Igneel. He was always just 'with' the Fire Dragon so nothing else mattered to him in that respect. But now, now he became a bit suspicious of the circumstances around himself.

It didn't make much sense to him. Was there something special about him that such a powerful Dragon chose him to be the bearer of his magic? He became suspicious of Igneel's intentions as well as the reason he was abandoned. It made little sense to him and he felt that he was missing something. During his time combing through different libraries, he came across many different texts, including ancient ones. This was an important discovery because he recognised that he could perfectly understand the ancient form of language. That made no sense to him because he remembers what Erza taught him and he knows what his tutor taught him, and none of them taught him how to read the old form their continents language. So how did he know how to read it? When he tried to write in that old form, his hand moved seemingly all on its own as he perfectly wrote his name. It was like the action was deeply engrained into his muscle memory. While he told the Guild that Igneel taught him how to read and write, the more he thought about it, the more he knew that wasn't the case. He couldn't remember Igneel teaching him any literacy skills. Why would a dragon know how to anyway? He knew that someone else taught him, but whenever he forced his mind to think about it, all he got was a blurry image and a faint outline before his head started throbbing painfully.

It was a start though. He never had that sliver of a memory before and he could only think that it was linked to his new magic. Maybe the more he used his magic and the more he understood it, the clearer his visions would become. This revelation was like an oasis to a man dying of thirst for Natsu. He had lost his purpose in life and became something of an empty shell for these last two months. He didn't know where to go and he didn't know what to do. All he could do was take missions and train as hard as he could as that was all he knew how to do. But now…now he had a lead. He had something to grasp at. It may not be the most glamorous, but he found a new purpose. He would uncover the mysteries around himself. He wanted to know more. He wanted to know who he really was and where he came from. He felt it deep within himself. There was something more to him than he was told. A deeper purpose to his life. He was probably grasping at straws at this point, but he was a broken man reaching out for anything that could keep him afloat in this cruel world.

He would continue his training and would continue to increase his strength. For one, he refused to be weak any longer. Another reason was that he felt that the stronger he became, the more paths would open up to him and the more avenues he would have to get the answers he was looking for. For now, he would continue to train and he could continue to complete missions. He short term aim was to become an S-Class Mage. Not only were those missions higher paying, but they also afforded him the opportunity for tougher competition which would help him improve his magic and give him more battle experience. Not to mention, there were more obscure rewards and rare items often attached to S-Class quests. Those could prove vital in his quest to understand himself.

He vowed to continue his hard work and leave Makarov with no choice but to nominate him for the S-Class trials. He knew that the old man would be hesitant about it due to him disassociating himself with most of the Guild, not to mention Erza would argue the same against his nomination. But as it stood, there were no other promising candidates, apart from Cana, that could be put forward. He knew that he could take the girl in a fight so he wasn't too worried about her. Natsu knew though, that regardless of his personal feelings, Makarov would have to nominate him if he met the criteria. It was the way of the Guild and if there was one thing that the old man preached about, it was those stupid traditions of Fairy Tail.

He knew that he had a few more months till the trails and he dedicated himself to intense training and rapid mission completion. Even though he deeply missed Lisanna and Happy and would anything to bring them back if he could, he couldn't argue against the success he's had now that he was alone. For all of Fairy Tail's boasting about family, he had come to realise that they did nothing but hold him back. When he first came to the Guild, he readily bought into their philosophy…and look where it got him. In the five years he's been with them, his progress as a mage had stagnated. He was a [Dragon Slayer], taught by one of the most powerful dragons ever. So why was he weaker than people like Erza and Mirajane? Why did his progress slow down so much? He came to an understanding recently, that the Guild was holding him back. When he saw the kind of progress that he made in only two months of non-stop training, he realised how much time was wasted. If he trained this hard for the last five years instead of goofing off in the Guild hall…would he have already made S-Class by now? Would he have been able to take the emergency S-Class mission instead of Mirajane? Would Lisanna and Happy still be alive? There were so many 'what if's' and Natsu spent a lot of time stewing on those thoughts. It wasn't necessarily healthy, but it didn't stop him from dwelling on the past.

He would use the pain of his losses as fuel to push him forward. He would walk this path of solitude without hesitation for there was nothing else for him in this wretched world.

xxxxxxx

Author Note:

Another chapter out. This one is actually shorter than usual but I didn't deem it necessary to write more as it would just become repetitive. As you have seen, this is mainly an info dump kind of chapter. I wanted to set the stage for Natsu's power and his interactions with the Guild for future arcs.

Natsu: From this chapter, I wanted to point out the erratic nature of his personality. He can be a bit calm and thoughtful but he can also be quite spiteful as well. At this point in time, he's a giant contradiction of emotions and he finds himself a bit lost. His state of mind isn't entirely stable and that shows with personality. He also has a bit of a love/hate relationship with Igneel at this point. But he's still young so he will eventually find his own path…probably in the next chapter or the one after you will see a more complete Natsu.

He will still be a bit of an asshole, but I want to make him an endearing asshole. I know I didn't specifically state it, but it was implied that he will be OOC. His deep hatred and anger will eventually mellow out and he will have a greater control of his emotions for the purpose of better utilising his magic. That isn't to say he will be stoic or anything like that because Natsu is an emotional person by nature. I like to think of him more along the likes of Laxus personality wise, but not as insane ot deliberately cruel. He will taunt and prod people who try to get in his face, mainly Erza, for reactions.

Now, concerning his power level…I stated last chapter the he will be around the level of Laxus when cannon rolls around. As stated by a reviewer, Natsu trained non-stop for a year and got to the level where he easily able to one-shot Bluenote…who Gildarts struggled to beat. Keep in mind that Bluenote had 8 years since that fight against Gildarts to increase his power. So to me, if Natsu put his all into his training, he would be around Laxus's level if not higher during cannon as he has just under two years till then.

Crimson Fire: I extended the explanation of his new magic a bit in this chapter. I still haven't thought of a cool name for it yet, so if you guys can think of anything, give me a PM.

The first effect that I described and the one he used against the Vulcans last chapter was similar to Pakura's Shakuton, from Naruto for those of you that didn't pick up on that.

The second effect that I mentioned, is something that is similar to Barragan's Respira and The Mangekyou Sharingan's Amaterasu. The effects of Natsu's fire is nowhere near as deadly as those two, but the basic premise is there for you to get an idea of what the application of it actually means. In my mind, I can picture the flames lasting longer, like Amaterasu, depending on how much magic Natsu pumps into it and it will 'eat' away at whatever substance it comes across, similar to Respira but not as instantaneous.

I have a few more effects in mind, but again, if you guys have any ideas, feel free to PM me.

Just to clarify, his crimson flames isn't his Curse. Think of it as similar to a mutation born from his body due to his unique dual nature of being an Etherious born from a human that can still use magic. A portion of his magic was influenced by his demonic nature and it mutated it to have similar properties to his Curse.

Mirajane's lack of magic: While it was never explicitly stated in cannon, I think the reason I used above cuts pretty close to why she couldn't use her magic. To me, it's similar to Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei during the Nine Schools Competition where one of the competitors lost her ability to lose magic because of a moment of fear and despair causing her to lose faith in her magic.

Erza: I included a perspective for Erza in this chapter but I'm not sure how well I wrote her. This is going to be a bit of a rant up ahead, so if you're an Erza fan, this might upset you.

When I first got into Fairy Tail, I quite enjoyed Erza's character. She was powerful and outspoken while still managing to be cute and quirky. The thing that Fairy Tail does better than any other series is that they have absolutely badass women. When you think of Erza, Mira, Ultear, Kagura, Minerva, Brandish, Dimaria, Irene etc. They are all powerful, sexy and dangerous. Erza started off the same to me, and I thought that her interactions with Natsu were the best. Those two had the best chemistry, far better than Natsu and Lucy, and they seemed to be on course to be the cannon ship, at least to my mind.

And then the Tower of Heaven happened.

Erza's past was a horrible one and it helped make her a character that can be easily sympathised with. The ending of the arc with Natsu dragging her from, seemingly, the clutches of death had me thinking that those two ending up together were a foregone conclusion. But for some reason, Erza ending up having some kind of deep, fangirlish, Sakura-like obsession with Jellal. I mean, I don't mind Jellal as a character. I don't even mind him getting his redemption. But for him and Erza to end up as a cannon ship makes zero sense to me.

I mean, this was the same guy that forced her to abandon her friends to slavery, kept her in a state of mental torture for 8 years and turned her closest friends against her. Not to mention, he planned on using her as a sacrifice to 'revive' Zeref. Now…I know some people will point out that he was being controlled by Ultear…but I refuse to believe that!

It had been stated on many occasions that Jellal is an extremely powerful mage. One of the most powerful in Fiore. He was a Wizard Saint when cannon started where he was about the age of 19. Ultear, for as powerful as she was…she was only around the level of Erza, maybe a tad stronger and it was proven that Jellal easily outstripped Erza in power. So I refuse to believe that Ultear had the ability to fully control Jellal's actions. To me, she probably use some possession magic initially just to give him that nudge in the direction that she needed him to go. As he got older and surpassed her power, I doubt she could influence him and control his every action with magic. Sure, she stayed around him and probably manipulated event to suit her needs, but at that point, I think that Jellal would have been in full control of himself. To me, he lost himself in his own darkness and insanity. He fell prey to his own delusions and made the decisions he did with full understanding of their consequences. Ultear opened the door for him, but he was the one that walked through. That's why, I firmly believe that he was in full control of himself during the Tower of Heaven arc. Maybe some of you see it differently, if so, please feel free to share your opinion with me.

Which is why I simply despise the Erza x Jellal pairing. She became so fixated on him that it took away from her character. She basically became like Juvia is for Gray, except there was no comedic value. I can't understand instantly forgiving someone just because they lost their memory. It doesn't take away from all their crimes committed in the past. To me, it made Erza look weak and desperate. I don't know, maybe I'm looking too deeply into it.

Anyway, apart from the fact the she was so fixated on Jellal…I hated the way Hiro turned Erza into a Dues ex Machina character. I mean, I'm all for powerful women…but Erza was absolutely fucking ridiculous!

She beat Minerva with a broken leg. A broken fucking leg! How was she even standing? Why was her second origin something that had to be activated by command when everyone else just had larger containers? That to me was an ass-pull. If that wasn't enough…she destroyed a meteor…a motherfucking meteor…from arguably the most powerful woman in the world…with a single swing of her sword when every bone in her body was broken…what the fuck! How?! How is that even possible?! How did she stop both Gray and Natsu's attacks, when they were both pretty powerful at that point with Natsu tapping into his E.N.D power, without sustaining any damage?

To me…her character became too unbelievable and too OP when she had no right to be. I don't mind her being more powerful than others, but at least make it believable. She just became a ridiculous side-show to me and I couldn't take her seriously anymore.

Anyway, this rant was something I just had to get off my chest. Concerning my story, Erza will have a somewhat important role in events as she will be looking to 'save' Natsu. As I stated in this chapter, she can see parallels between Jellal and Natsu and she wants to save him from himself before it's too late. She will be getting in his way a lot, and he will be getting on her nerves for his own amusement…so look forward to that.

Anyway, I'm not sure whether I should do the S-Class trails next chapter or skip straight to cannon. I don't really have motivation to do the trails as I don't have any ideas for it. The best I can come up with is doing a maze similar to the third task of the Tri-Wizard Tournament. If you guys want to see him go through the trials, let me know or else I will just skip to cannon.

When I say cannon, it doesn't mean meeting Lucy either. I will probably start from the Phantom Lord arc as I want to get into some Juvia action.

I know I will skip a lot of the beginning arcs, but they aren't that important to me. Erza will be the one who brings Lucy to Fairy Tail, because she was hunting Natsu and Bora was using his alias. You can put the rest of the beginning arc together in your mind.

Concerning Natsu's alias…I need to think of a new one. Salamander makes no sense to me because Salamander's cant breath fire and that's like Natsu's trademark move. I was thinking Crimson Dragon/Demon or something along those lines. Please give suggestions.

That's it for me…Thank you for taking the time to read this chapter and look forward to more in the future. Please leave your reviews as I look forward to hearing what you guys think.

Lionheart021 out!