A.N. Welcome to the (hopefully) long-awaited sequel continuing Vale's adventures with the rest of Fairy Tail. For any new readers, I'll start by saying there's no need to read the previous work. Since the prequel mainly covers the time period during the seven years when the Tenrou team went missing, most of the events will be summarized over the next few chapters. This will be the first time the main character will get involved with the canon storyline, so relax and enjoy the upcoming chaos.
The Grand Magic Games.
It was an event held in the capital of Fiore, Crocus, over the course of several days during the beginning of the month of July. The event was a competition for participating wizards to compete as representatives of their guild. Every major guild in the country would be participating in the games, with the winning team gaining the title of being the strongest guild in all of Fiore. Given the participants, the games were a massive event that drew countless attention from everyone.
Of course, there were some guilds that have decided not to participate in the past. One such case was the guild, Fairy Tail, due to the lack of powerful members needed to compete against the other teams. As a consequence of their absence, their reputation over the past few years has waned somewhat.
However, this year was going to be different.
Because of the return of most of their veteran members, many were expecting this year's games to be more exciting compared to previous years. Despite the passing of time, Fairy Tail had endured countless struggles as they awaited the return of their former members.
The only issue was that the period they spent missing has made most of their members weak in comparison to the wizards of the modern era. To catch up in strength with everyone else, they needed to once again train to reach new heights in their magic.
Thus, they needed a benchmark.
Amongst the members that joined Fairy Tail during their absence, there were several members that showed remarkable strength and ability due to the adventures they had during the past seven years. Despite their youth, they were some of the strongest combatants in the entire guild.
Together, they were the next generation of Fairy Tail wizards.
Chapter 1: Those That Waited
The Palace of Flowers and Light, Mercurius.
It was the castle of the king of Fiore and was located in a lake in the center of Fiore's capital city, Crocus. An extremely large and tall building, the palace was one of the most visible elements in the valley, towering above all other nearby buildings with its size. Benefiting its status as the residence of the royal family, it was to be expected that the people living in the castle town would view the royal quarters as a forbidden area, only accessible to nobility and those tasked with working for them.
Inside, waiting with an air of composure, was the crown princess Hisui E. Fiore, a young woman burdened with the duties of her position.
Sitting at a table, she wore a short dress that had her back and parts at the side of the skirt exposed. Her arms were covered with long gloves, and to top it off, she was adorned with various kinds of jewelry. It was, in a sense, her usual formal attire. Even for a simple meeting, this was the bare minimum that she was required to wear for her role. Abiding by the minor rules surrounding etiquette, it was an acceptable appearance for welcoming a guest.
The doors opened, and one of her servants led a man inside. A familiar face she hadn't seen in a long time greeted her, and Hisui let out an uncharacteristically carefree smile.
"How have you been?" Hisui spoke first. "I've heard that you've been busy recently with the return of Fairy Tail."
"Yes, I've been well." The visitor was Jude Heartfilia, formerly the owner of the Heartfilia Konzern. "As expected, word of the return of the main members of Fairy Tail has spread across the country. Their recent celebration especially has helped them regain some of their former reputation as troublemakers. Why I hear that some of the local businesses are petitioning to issue a ban on the sale of alcohol to any members of their guild."
"I suppose damaging several buildings and starting two public fights would be enough of a reason to do so." She giggled. "Still, their unique brand of chaos is something that we've been missing for a while now."
"If you say so." Jude smiled. "I've been speaking with my daughter again recently. To see her in such an environment… well, the old me would have been horrified by the company she was keeping. But now, I'm just glad to see that she is finally happy."
Lucy Heartfilia. The royal family has always had a close relationship with the Heartfilia family, and Hisui was well aware of how hard the past few years have been for her long-time friend. To hear the father speak of getting along with his daughter, it warmed her heart to know that he was finally allowing himself to be happy again after so many years of grief.
"If I recall, she has not aged during the seven years she went missing, correct? I suppose that would mean that we're about the same age now"
"Truly? When you get to my age, time seems to pass by without you realizing it. It feels like yesterday that I recall engaging in conversation with an adorable little girl who used to call me Uncle."
Hisui froze. "I-I-I have n-no idea what you're talking about. Surely you're just imagining things in your old age. Such a way of speaking to a princess is more than enough to count as slander."
"Ah, I see." She noticed a twinkle in his eye as he spoke. "My mistake, it seems that I must be thinking of someone else. I only thought that it would be nice to reminisce about old memories, but it seems that you would prefer to leave things in the past."
"Mgh! Why do I feel like you've gotten bolder as time passed?"
"Heh," Jude chuckled. "Maybe it's because I've learned to live with the people. Compared to the nobles and the rich, there are fewer pretenses when engaging with one another. Though, my skills at detecting half-truths and double meanings have yet to deteriorate thanks to my work as a merchant."
He had lost his beloved family, his home and properties, his status as the owner of one of the largest businesses—everything. When the Heartfilia Konzern was bought out by the Junelle Corporation, the Heartfilia family was stripped of its status as a powerful name. For Jude, who was still dumbfounded by his fall from grace at the time, nobles whose names he barely knew fought over what little wealth had not already been seized to pay off his debts before throwing him to the side.
Saying that he had been humbled was putting it lightly. However, he did not allow himself to wallow in despair. Any other man would have lamented his fortunes and even taken his own life, but he still had his knowledge and talents as a capable businessman. Going back to his roots, he discarded his previous mannerisms and made sure to learn from his mistakes.
Now that he was in a comfortable enough position to relax, Jude was reaching out to the connections he used to have in the past for the first time in years. Repairing his relationship with his daughter was one of them, and meeting with the crown princess was also part of this.
Although, it wasn't as if he only came to exchange pleasantries.
"Well, we've derailed from the original topic by quite a bit. Since I'm sure you're busy with other matters after this, I should get right to the point."
Seeing him get serious, Hisui straightened her back. "The enemy managed to sneak past the border, correct?"
"Indeed." Jude nodded. "As you may know, I've been managing businesses based in port cities that trade with Alakitasia. When your father asked for a favor to keep an eye out for any spies infiltrating the country, I made sure to work closely with the Rune Knights to keep an eye on any suspicious individuals. However, due to recent events, the lack of security personnel has made it difficult to enforce this security system, and I regret to inform you that a few intruders have managed to get past our defenses."
It was inevitable that something like this would happen. Due to the upcoming Grand Magic Games, the city of Crocus was tasked with hosting the countless general attendees coming to watch the events. However, any large-scale congregations would mean that a sufficiently adequate security system would be needed to uphold public order. In this case, that would be the Rune Knights. Since there weren't enough people in Crocus alone, an order to transfer members from other parts of the country to the capital was issued several weeks ago.
"Yesterday, I received word about an alteration with two stowaways on a merchant ship. The stowaways managed to fend off several dozen guards as they made their escape, using powerful magic that has been reported to be on par with some of our country's most powerful wizards."
"Stowaways… just to make sure, the ship they used to travel here. Did you make sure that the merchants on board weren't colluding with them?"
"Yes. The workers were quite baffled that there were people unaccounted for onboard while they were traveling and were quite cooperative during our investigation. In fact, they were so helpful that they were even able to give us the names of the two stowaways."
"Pardon?" Hisui gave him a confused look. "If they didn't know about the stowaways, how do they know their names?"
"It seems that the two stowaways have quite a reputation," Jude answered. "Both of them are famous operatives from the Alvarez Empire. Their names are Heine Lunasea and Juliet Sun, supposedly members of the Irene Squad."
Irene Squad. The name tickled at her thoughts until she realized where she heard that term from. It was in one of the reports of notable enemies to keep an eye on submitted by Warrod Seqquen.
"Do you know what their objective is?"
"We're not sure. Most likely, the two of them are planning to sneak into Crocus during the Grand Magic Games to observe how powerful the wizards of our country are. Any information on the current state of our strongest fighters will be valuable if they ever decide to start another invasion."
Before the princess had even come of age, the Alvarez Empire had attempted to invade Fiore in the year X781. The kingdom had sent a military expedition to meet the enemy, but although they did their best to oppose the invading army, things turned for the worse once their generals joined the fray.
The imperial army, consisting of thousands of soldiers, was wiped out by a mere handful of wizards. If not for the decision to call upon the aid of wizards from various guilds, the Alvarez army would have made it to the capital in a matter of days. But just as the kingdom's loss seemed inevitable, the Magic Council managed to display the might of Etherion to deter their foes and somehow put an end to the conflict.
"However," Jude hesitated. "I do have another idea as to why they are here. Although, I've yet to find sufficient support to build on my theory…"
"Even so, I would like to hear it."
"Very well. One of the newest members of Fairy Tail is an enchanter that goes by the name of Vale Endoyle. An immigrant from the Western Continent, he is also apparently the son of Irene herself."
"Are you suggesting that the two are after him?"
"Warrod Seqquen vouches for him," Jude stated. "Meaning that it is unlikely that the boy himself is working with the two of them. Still, there is no denying that a connection exists between Vale and the two operatives…"
"Is that a fact?" Hisui mused. "But it is also possible that even one of the Four Emperors of Ishgar could be fooled by him. I've noticed that you referred to the boy familiarly using his name. Are you perhaps close with him?"
"And if I am?"
"Oh, it surprises me that you've made acquaintances with a member of the guild that you used to hate in the past. I don't suppose the influence of your daughter is causing you to hide any information from me, right?"
Both of them said nothing. A tense silence fell over the room, so thick that you could cut it with a knife. Still, neither broke their gaze from the other. Both of them were honed veterans at such talks, and past experiences told them that it was better to take a moment to think of their next step first before they made another play.
Hisui smiled as she spoke first. "Am I wrong to assume that Fairy Tail will be joining this year's games?"
"No," Jude replied. "I understand that the magic competition is hosted by the country to welcome all participants. I cannot see a future where Fairy Tail would choose not to attend."
"If the two Alvarez operatives happen to be unaware of that boy's location, it is possible that they may accidentally reveal themselves while seeking him out. Although we cannot monitor his movements from afar, surely we can keep an eye on his actions once he steps foot in Crocus."
It appeared that the princess had grown since the last time he had seen her. No longer was she the young girl who was still learning the basics of court politics. "Of course." He faked a smile. "If that is what you believe would be best, then I have nothing to say against it."
While it was true that he believed that Vale wasn't a spy, the likelihood that those two operatives from Alvarez knew him was high. Knowing what Fairy Tail's luck was like, Jude figured that there was a high possibility that those two operatives would eventually chance upon the guild during their travels. After all, there was no doubt in his mind that those two operatives were trouble.
And Fairy Tail always attracted trouble.
One of Vale's least favorite things about missions was how everything could go immediately wrong at a moment's notice. Of course, most of the time it was due to the fault of him or his teammates, especially when they were careless or missed a minor detail. In those cases, it usually resulted in his team fighting their way out of whatever mess they created.
Then there were the times when the universe just decided to make things difficult for them.
"What the heck are these things?" Vale shouted. He ducked as a giant and colorful fish flew right through where his head used to be. Its mouth snapped shut loudly, drops of saliva landing on Vale's hair as it used its wings to glide safely away before he could retaliate.
Rousing his magic, a burst of flames came from Romeo's hands as he warded off several more fish from attacking him. Using that chance, he answered Vale's question. "Hane-Sakana," he replied. "Although, these ones are a bit bigger than usual for their species."
"Really?" Zera's voice was dripping with sarcasm. "What a surprise! You mean to tell me that the giant flying fish trying to eat us aren't normally this large?" Black flames engulfed a group of fish that flew too close to her. "It's too bad that we aren't fighting the regular-sized killer flying fish then. Because that would have been much more fun!"
To his left, Vale heard dozens of monsters flapping their wings. Controlling his magic power, he lashed out with a long metal wire as it flew through the air, taking out numerous enemies all at once. The fish screeched horribly as they died, their bodies falling to the ground seconds later.
But numbers were not on their side. Even as he took out dozens of them, hundreds more filled the sky as more flew down to avenge their fallen comrades. Vale was forced to jump aside and roll out of the way, his mind desperately thinking of ways to turn the situation around.
A moment later, his eyes widened as an idea came to him.
"Enchant Type," Vale declared. "Boost Attack Attribute."
After casting his spell, his entire body was covered in a red aura as he used an enchantment to power himself up. Letting out a loud cry, he swung the metal wire in his hand in a wide arc, destroying the ground before him and throwing up debris and dust straight into the air.
With their wings no longer working, countless bodies fell as Vale's action caused the Hane-Sakana to lose their ability to remain in the air. And yet, their flopping bodies still struggled as they began moving toward his direction with eyes filled with anger.
"Romeo," Vale yelled. "Round them all up for one final blow!"
"Got it," Romeo replied. "Hell Flame Dragon's Binding Chains!"
Purple flames shaped themselves into large shackles as they wrapped around the crowd of fish in a tight net. Unlike regular fire, the chains made of magic had a physical force to them as the captured foes struggled to escape. Trapped and unable to move, it was the perfect opportunity to attack.
"Take it from here, Zera!" Romeo shouted.
She nodded, her body emitting a powerful magical presence as she prepared her next move. Zera's brown hair turned yellow as she switched to her Zancrow form—giving her the powers and magic of her mentor—and gathered a ball of black flames above her palm.
"Eat this!" Throwing it forward, she gave out a roar. "Fire God's Explosive Flame!"
A large explosion enveloped the area, taking out all of the confined enemies together. Their bodies burnt to a crisp as Zera unleashed her full might, not bothering to hold back. From the side, both boys watched with wide eyes as she began cackling maniacally after witnessing this scene of destruction.
"Burn, burn, burn!" Zera laughed. "Burn to ash and blow away into the wind like the trash you are! You shall rue the day you decided to hinder our path!"
"I think you've gone a little overboard," Vale finished lamely. He stared at the barren wasteland before him—previously a lush green field until Zera decided to raze everything to the ground. The smell of smoke was thick in the air, and Vale held in the urge to start coughing. Next to him, Romeo wasn't doing much better, despite being a fire-user, and was warily keeping an eye on any remaining flames.
"Oh!" Zera finally realized how she looked, and her cheeks flushed in embarrassment. "Sorry, I think my magic is starting to affect me more than I thought. Usually, I have better control of my emotions, but occasionally my personality gets a bit weird if I use this form too much." She slowly exhaled, and her hair returned to normal.
Sometimes, I wonder how much our team contributes to global warming, Vale thought. Even though he wasn't a direct contributor like the others, his role in their group was to support his teammates by increasing the power of their magic. That meant that he was also at fault, if only by proxy. Just from these two pyromaniacs, I think they caused the world's temperature to go up by a few degrees.
Letting out a heavy sigh, he found a clean spot on the ground and sat down. Even though he just finished fighting, his appearance was still relatively neat other than a few streaks of dirt on his clothes. A quick wave of his hand fixed that as he used his magic to clean his clothes with a small wash of his magic power. Less of an application of his Enchantment magic and more of a useful trick he learned to stay clean during missions.
"Geez, this was supposed to be a simple errand…" he muttered to himself.
He was a wizard of Fairy Tail, Vale Endoyle. Still only at the tender age of thirteen, he was one of the youngest members of his guild, even though he had been a member for over five years now. Recently, the people on the streets have been referring to him as the "Enchanter of Fairy Tail" or even the "Enchanted Fairy", although Vale's reaction to hearing these names was to bury his face into his hands in embarrassment.
Vale was currently on a job with his teammates, Romeo and Zera, that took them outside of town for a few days. The request itself was a simple one, defeating a single Dark Wizard that was causing trouble in the countryside. After subjugating him and delivering the man to the Rune Knights, they were on their way to return to their guild when they were ambushed by a horde of flying creatures that appeared out of nowhere.
Well, he thought to himself. I can understand why Zera was annoyed earlier. After all, she probably had plans to hang out with Mavis later today.
Two weeks have passed since the main members of Fairy Tail returned from Tenrou Island after being missing for seven years. The excitement from their return had somewhat calmed down for the moment, with everyone else getting used to their presence again. This adjustment period was difficult for everyone involved, but things were slowly returning to normal.
Except a new problem has arisen. With their abrupt return, most of the formerly missing members were broke due to having been gone for seven years. And until recently, the members of the guild that remained while everyone else disappeared had been experiencing difficulties due to debt and the guild's drop in reputation. Compared to before, the current Fairy Tail was in dire financial straits.
That was why every member was being encouraged to go on as many jobs as they could. And while the three of them were better off than most of their guildmates, a proposal was recently introduced to Vale and Zera about refurbishing Fairy Tail's second headquarters into a dormitory for their members to live in.
At first, the projected timeline for this idea meant that it would take several weeks to implement, even with the use of magic. But once word got out about this plan, there was an unexpected push for an increase in development speed. Especially from those that were currently homeless due to primarily living in apartments previously. Most of their destitute members were forced to rely on the goodwill of friends and family to get by, crashing at their place until they could meet ends need. So the hope that a shared living space specifically catered towards Fairy Tail members was something that many found looking forward to, eventually leading to their current situation.
"The bounty should help with contributing to the budget," Romeo commented as he took a seat next to Vale. "Dad still feels guilty about having members fund a guild expense. He thinks that it's his fault that our old debts are forcing us to struggle for cash and that it should be his responsibility to take care of everything."
"He's not the only one who wants to help rebuild Fairy Tail," Zera pointed out. "Did he think that all the rowdy wizards in our guild would sit back and goof off in this type of situation? Honestly, they would be bored out of their minds if they had nothing to do. It's better to direct their energy elsewhere while the more level-headed individuals take care of things back home."
With both Makarov and Mavis there to help things out, there was no need to fear that things would get worse. Although, it seemed that Guild Master Macao was troubled by the fact that he was technically in charge of such capable individuals.
Not that Vale could relate since he was never once forced into a position of responsibility in either this life or his previous one. He was a normal person born from another world called Earth in his past life. Having died early at an age when he was still attending university, there was little in terms of life experience that he could use to help him thrive in his new life. If not for the fact that he had been born under unusual circumstances, plus the fact that he recognized this world as the setting of a series he once loved previously, then maybe he would have lived a fairly normal life in this fantasy world. Instead, Vale made use of his foreknowledge to influence the lives of those he grew to care for in this new life of his.
Romeo, having been his first friend when he joined the guild, grew stronger while adventuring with Vale until he eventually earned the opportunity to gain new abilities and become a Hell Flame Dragon Slayer. Not only has he had five years to hone his new skills, but he also experimented with combining his previous multi-colored Fire magic with his new slayer magic.
Zera, once an apparition trapped in the old headquarters of Fairy Tail, eventually found a way to materialize into a physical body by possessing a reanimated Zancrow created using Arc of Embodiment magic. Due to that, she has also awakened her abilities as a Fire God Slayer under the tutelage of the wizard whose body she took over.
Not to mention the rest of the people he met since coming to Fiore. Max, Bisca, Alzack, Nab, Sherria, Porlyusica, Ichiya, Hibiki, Eve, Ren, Jura, Jude, Warrod, and Flare. These past five years have not been wasted, making close friends and going on various adventures during his time here.
Of course, there were some secrets he had to keep from the others about his history. His past before Fairy Tail was something he kept tightly under wraps for good reason.
"There's no use complaining about it," Vale sighed. "This isn't a problem that can be solved in a short amount of time. Let's head back for now and see what the rest of the guild has gone up to while we were gone."
"Ugh, I could use a shower when I get home." Romeo stood up.
"Agreed," Zera said. "I can smell you from all the way over here."
"How am I the gross one? You're the one who reeks of sweat!"
"Once we get into town, we should be able to take care of that." Vale tried playing mediator between the two of them. "I think I speak for the rest of us when I say that we all deserve a break."
Both of them seemed to calm down at that, and Vale sighed. Seriously, sometimes it was like he was forced to play the role of the adult in their group. Even though he was technically a kid as well, putting aside the confusion of counting mental and biological age. On that line of thought, Zera was technically over a hundred years old as well, and it was clear to everyone that she was anything but an adult.
It was slightly annoying, but also strangely endearing how they acted around him. Proof that despite their experience, they were still children in the end. Thinking back, it was hard to recall if he had ever acted like that when he was younger.
"Hi, you're pretty. May I have some of your hair?"
He stumbled forward as the old memory came to mind.
"Are you okay, Vale?"
"Y-Yeah, just remembered something embarrassing."
Well, at least he grew out of that phase fairly quickly. Or at least, he assumed that was the case. Making a mental note to himself, he made sure to later ask some of the older guild members what they thought of him when he first joined the guild. Hopefully, hearing their opinion of him when he was younger wouldn't cause him too much humiliation.
Eventually, the three of them left to resume their journey. As Zera moved forward, Romeo trailed off behind until he was walking next to Vale. "By the way," he suddenly spoke. "I've been meaning to bring this up for a while now…"
"What is it?" Vale asked.
For some reason, it sounded like Romeo was at a loss for words. "You know how I'm a dragon slayer, meaning that my senses are a lot sharper than they used to be?"
Something about his tone caught him off guard. He paused for a moment to face Romeo, who was giving him a strange look. The look on the other boy's face told him that this was probably going to be a difficult conversation. "Yeah…" Vale said uncertainly. "Where are you going with this?"
"It's just…" Romeo hesitated. "Alright, I'll be blunt. Why do you smell a lot like Erza?"
"Ah?" Vale froze, wide-eyed. It was obvious that somebody would bring up the topic eventually with how weird he had been acting the past few days. But faced with the question, he wasn't sure what to say. "What do you mean?"
"Oh, come on!" Romeo rolled his eyes. "I'm not the only one that noticed. You do realize that there are three other dragon slayers in the guild, right? The others don't really know you, which is why I'm guessing they haven't confronted you about it yet. Either that or Erza herself warned them off from asking you."
Erza had…? Knowing how Natsu acted, that was most likely the case since Vale doubted that the dragon slayer had a subtle bone in his body. Not that he knew for certain whether Erza did tell them off, but it made more sense than Vale's theory that the rest of the guild were simply too busy due to their debts to play ball with the newbies.
In a sense, it was obvious that Romeo would be the first one to confront him about this.
"Like hell it is," Romeo returned. "You can't stop glancing at her."
He knew better than to try and convince Romeo that he was just imagining things, but Vale wished that the other boy would just drop the topic. But before he could say anything else, Zera's voice came from further ahead of them.
"Guys, there's a wagon up ahead. Let's see if we can ask for a ride to the city."
Thank the heavens. Romeo looked like he wanted to say more, but Vale just gave him a look that meant they would talk about this later. Seeing that, Romeo begrudgingly nodded before picking up the pace to catch up with Zera.
Sighing to himself, Vale wondered what he was going to tell his teammate later. This wasn't a topic that he thought he would be discussing today, but it appeared that Romeo wasn't going to be satisfied until he heard the full story.
Time passed quickly.
The rest of the trip to Magnolia was uneventful, at least if you didn't count the various bouts of bickering between Romeo and Zera. Vale felt a rush of relief wash over him once he finally caught sight of the guild headquarters. The thought of being free of his teammates for the rest of the day was a beautiful one.
"Welp, looks like we're done." He took a step. "Nice hanging out with you tw—"
Unfortunately, his plan to escape failed. A firm grip on his arm made Vale look up to see that it was Romeo holding onto him. The hand didn't budge even when he tugged away, and Vale knew that there was no getting out of this one.
Romeo hauled him off while their teammate was distracted. Zera was busy chatting with the other members of the guild, and nobody noticed as the two boys left the area and moved to a small room. The door closed behind them with a click, and Romeo turned to face him with an expecting look. To Vale, it was similar to the look an official would give a person they were interrogating.
"No…?" His response was filled with uncertainty, and Vale cringed when Romeo gave him a stern look. "Alright, fine. But if I tell you what's going on, do you promise not to tell anyone else? And I mean no one, not even your dad or Zera. I don't want to make this a big deal."
Even though he replied casually, Vale knew that Romeo would keep quiet unless told otherwise. Not that Vale thought it was a big secret or anything, so it should be fine telling him.
"You remember what I told you about how I was born?"
"Yeah," Romeo replied. "Something about your mother not giving birth to you, and instead, she grabbed your soul and placed it into a homunculus body. That talk stood out to me because you followed up that explanation by saying that you didn't have a belly button."
"That's right." Vale nodded. "But technically, I'm still related to her biologically due to how she made my body. The thing is, I'm not the only child she has."
"From the flow of the conversation, I'm guessing that you're talking about Erza?" Romeo's eyes widened when he saw Vale bob his head. "Wait, so you're telling me that Erza is your sister?"
"Half-sister," Vale clarified. "Mom never mentions anything about her, but I've heard stories from some of her associates. From appearances alone, I can tell that Erza is definitely related to my mother."
"So what's the problem?" Romeo eyed him. "Do you feel guilty that you grew up under your mom's care while Erza was left to fend for herself? Not to be rude, but that would be a pretty stupid thing to worry about. I doubt Erza cares about being abandoned as a baby, and you've always told me stories about how your mom was a bit crazy."
"But how am I supposed to talk to her?" Vale's face revealed exactly how much he was freaking out. "I mean, do I just go up to her and introduce myself? Hello there, I'm your brother and the son of the woman who abandoned you when you were young. Wanna be friends and paint our nails and try on clothes and talk about cute boys together? There isn't exactly a manual for this kind of situation."
"Exactly what kind of impression do you have of Erza in your head…?"
"What would you do in my place?"
"I mean…" Romeo's words trailed off meaningfully. "I'd probably look outside and see how the other pair of reunited long-lost relatives are acting."
Vale blinked. He opened his mouth, then closed it before turning around and opening the door a small crack to do exactly that. The moment he did so, the two boys caught sight of the pair they were looking for.
"Get away from me, old man!" Cana yelled with her palm pressed against Gildarts' face. "Watch those hands! Stop being so grabby all the time!"
"Aww, don't you want some affection from your daddy?"
"Call yourself that again, and I'll send you flying!"
"That's my girl!"
Closing the door, Vale gave Romeo a look. "I doubt our relationship will end up like theirs. But you do make a point that there is a precedent. Either way, I'll figure out the right moment to speak with her. Until then, can you please leave it to me?"
"Seems like a bad idea to put it off."
"I'm not putting it off, I'm prepping the moment."
"If you say so." Romeo rolled his eyes. "Just warn me ahead of time when you plan on doing the big reveal. Once the secret gets out, I expect the entire guild to hear about it by the end of the day. And knowing them, that means we'll either throw a huge party or somehow end up in a huge brawl over the news."
"Can't long-lost siblings reunite in peace without causing a commotion?"
"If you seriously think that, you're in the wrong guild."
In the end, Romeo backed off as he expected. Still, Vale had to admit that the other boy had a point. Even though he wasn't that close to Cana, asking her for advice was an option that he could explore. If anyone could relate to the mental gymnastics running through his head, she would be the best person to consult.
You would think that five years would be enough for him to mentally prepare to meet his sister. Obviously, things were a lot more complicated than that. Oh sure, he could fight monsters and criminals as well as any other wizard. But face to face with Erza, all confidence seemed to leave his body. Since family was an important concept to him, Vale wanted to make a good first impression on her before he did anything drastic.
For now, his plan was to treat her like any other person until they grew close enough that Vale figured it was time. Once they reach that point, he could do the big reveal and hope that his nerves wouldn't get the better of him and activate his fight or flight response so that he would run away before hearing her answer. After all, he sincerely doubted that he would be able to successfully run away from Erza if it came down to it.
Even if the idea was tempting.
He sighed. "And it's not just her either. Pretty sure I've been avoiding all of the Tenrou members lately."
Not like he did it on purpose, but that was expected when suddenly being introduced to a large number of strangers all of a sudden. Two weeks was barely enough for him to recall most of their names, let alone have one-on-one conversations with any of them.
An arm settled around his shoulders. "What's with the long face?"
He answered without looking. "I'm contemplating whether to disband our triplicity in favor of joining Team Natsu."
"Sheesh, don't even joke about that." Zera removed her arm and smiled at him. "Though, what's with you and Romeo? He clammed up when I tried asking what you two were talking about."
"Shouldn't that clue you in on the fact that it's a secret?"
"That just makes me even more curious."
"And what makes you think I'll talk when Romeo won't?"
"You're not as stubborn as him."
"I'll tell you later." Vale didn't bother clarifying exactly how much later he meant. "Anyway, why aren't you bothering Mavis? Normally, you two would be together after a mission."
"She's having a meeting with the Third right now," Zera replied with a frown. "Even though neither of them is the guild master, both still have certain responsibilities that keep them busy. I didn't even get a chance to say hi to her before she was whisked away to another room."
Vale didn't know what to say to that. Since he was only a regular member, Vale didn't really think much about the effort put into running a guild. But hearing that the First was involved did catch his interest. He knew that Mavis was making more appearances due to Zera's presence, but this was the first that he learned that she was getting involved in guild affairs.
A feeling of warmth came from behind him, and Vale couldn't help but shiver. "Please tell me that Zancrow isn't behind me."
"He's not, you're just imagining it." Zera rolled her eyes. "Seriously, isn't it weird that you're afraid of ghosts when I'm your friend? Zancrow can't exactly hurt you without a physical body."
"It just freaks me out." Despite her words, Vale took a step away from the direction he thought he sensed him. "Even if you think he's some nice guy because of that weird mentor-student relationship you have with him, I can still remember the time he tried killing both me and Romeo."
And it wasn't like the guy bothered to apologize for that either, not even after five years had passed. The fact that he had no physical body and thus couldn't interact with anyone other than Zera only made it worse for Vale due to his fear of ghosts. Knowing that there was a murderous spirit always hanging around did wonders for him the first few weeks he learned about his existence.
Zera's attempts to have the former Grimoire Heart wizard interact with the other members of the guild hadn't gone well either. The blond spirit made no attempts at being cordial, and he took advantage of the fact that he was a spirit to deny any chance of having to talk with anybody else other than Zera. It was even worse now that the Tenrou members returned, with most of their experiences with Grimoire Heart still fresh on their minds due to time dilation. Especially since Natsu had been trying to have Zera somehow convince Zancrow into having a rematch with him.
Speaking of which…
From the corner of his eye, Vale could spot the dragon slayer wizard feasting on a variety of multi-colored flames while he guffawed with delight. Feeding him was Romeo as he continued to grin while using his magic, and cheering them on in the background was Happy.
The part of him that knew Natsu's real identity called out, but Vale did his best to suppress that instinct. Meeting the main character didn't change things for Vale, but it did instill a sense of caution in him regarding the older teen.
"Did you hear about what happened in Edolas?"
Suddenly caught off guard, it took a moment for Vale to focus back on Zera. "Huh? What do you mean?"
"I heard from one of them that they apparently met a parallel counterpart of yours. The Edolas version of you helped them out while they were there, so they technically already met you if you think about it."
"They met a version of me?"
"Yup. If you want to know more, you can ask one of them about it. I think one of the Exceeds will know more though since I heard that your Edolas version was also an Exceed for some strange reason."
"Oh." What was he supposed to say after learning something like that? "That's cool."
She sighed. "Look, I've already given you a topic that you can discuss with them. I'm not sure why you're so nervous around the Tenrou members, but you can't avoid them forever. Sooner or later, you'll have to get to know them eventually. It's already annoying watching you acting like this, so man up and befriend them already."
Was that what she was trying to do?
"I know." Zera clapped her hands together. "Why not go take on a job request with them and work together? This way, you can mingle with the returnees while Romeo and I do our own thing."
"Hey, Wendy!" My eyes widened as Zera called out to a pigtailed girl nearby. "Wanna do a mission with Vale? I heard how you and the others need money, and Vale knows a couple of easy jobs that you all can do together."
The other girl blinked in surprise. "Really?"
"Yup." Zera ignored the look I was giving her while she continued to talk. "Vale works best with a team due to his magic, so you guys can take him along to see how well your magic improves while he's with you."
"I can ask Natsu or Erza if they would be fine with that," Wendy said. "But that sounds great. Having another Enchanter on the team would be amazing, and I'm interested in comparing notes with my own support spells."
"Well, what do you know?" Zera pushed me forward. "Vale, why don't you have a nice talk with Wendy here about how your magic works? I'm sure there's a lot the two of you can talk about."
What the hell, Zera?
"Nice to meet you." Wendy bowed. "We haven't talked much, but my name is Wendy. If it's not a bother, I would love it if we could get to know one another."
Vale froze. There was no doubt that Zera had put on the spot, and refusing here would make him feel guilty.
"Erm, sure? I'm fine with that."
"Hey, what's going on?" Suddenly, Natsu was right next to them. "Oh, hey! So you're finally talking with us? Looks like Romeo was right, you just needed a little push."
"What's going on?" Appearing out of nowhere was a half-naked man. "Done gorging yourself already?"
"Gray, we're going out for a mission!"
"Is that so?" Vale froze when he noticed Erza appear. "Very well then, I believe that this will make a perfect opportunity for us to train. With how far our strength has lagged in comparison to the average wizard, we should do our best to improve ourselves."
"Are we going somewhere?" And now, Lucy was here as well. "If we're planning on going on a training trip, why not go somewhere where we can relax? With all that has happened lately, I'd like it if we could take a break for once."
Vale felt like he was being ignored as everyone around him continued to speak.
"Yeah! Fight hard, play harder!"
"That's not how the saying goes, idiot…"
"What'd you say?!"
"Geez, stop making a ruckus you two…"
"Natsu, your body is making the air warm!"
And somehow, this was the moment when Vale finally got introduced to the old members of Fairy Tail.
For any old readers, I'd like to mention that I'll be adding some changes to the previous format. Nothing noteworthy, but still something to point out. Otherwise, things will be similar to the last version. I'll post new updates on SpaceBattles in the form of multiple parts and post the full chapter on this site.
I'll try to keep a regular update schedule despite my crippling school workload. As more chapters come out, I'll slowly introduce more changes to the story caused by Vale's influence. It won't just be a carbon copy of the canon storyline, so you don't have to worry about that.