Titania and The Hunter
Chapter 75: Cloaks and Iron Daggers
Another update for April! Yay! Sometimes I hate when this time comes around! Other times I love it! This one might be a bit of a mix.
I'm still planning for the next big arc, but I wanted some setup and fun beforehand, so I made these chapters. I'm hoping you'll enjoy them, but I also know the last one I post will probably get a mixed reception.
But anyway, gotta keep going! Probably take a long deserved break in May. But until then-
On with the show!
He ducked away so no one would notice him. Once he was sure he was clear of any nosy tag-along or perpetrators, he reached into his pocket and recovered the crumbled-up paper ball. He raised it to his eye level and watched it perfectly unfurl to the shape of a small paper doll. It hovered in his palm without making a peep before a voice oozed out of it…
("Gajeel-chan…I need your assistance.")
Wendy and Carla sat out in the forest and watched with their complete attention as Naruto stood before them. Even though this was technically her training session, Wendy didn't want to do anything but watch her friend during his practice.
He raised the water balloon in his hand and started focusing his chakra in his palm. The balloon started to wriggle around and flatten before some bumps started appearing along the surface of the balloon. The balloon seemed to struggle and writhe in his hand before settling back down. It seemed whatever moment Naruto had gained was starting to dull-
"Shit!" His other hand whipped up and started to palm the balloon's bumps before they could settle back down. The sound of water sloshing around intensely inside the balloon grew more and more noticeable before it finally popped. Naruto's hand was soaked with water and he let out a sigh of disappointment when it was done, "Dammit."
He heard emphatic clapping and looked over to see Wendy cheering him on, "Way to go, Naruto-San! You managed to pop it."
"Meh, I could pop it already before this. What I wanted to do was pop it using just one hand." He said with a grumble as he looked between his hands, "The other me could create this attack with just one hand, and in the instructions, it says to use both just as a starting point before managing to do it with just one."
"Well, you have only been practicing this technique for a few days while he had it since childhood." Carla pointed out, "Maybe it's better to take it slow and go at your own pace."
"Yeah I get that…" Naruto frowned, "But I just know that if he knew I was having trouble with it he'd be smiling and laughing at me. And something about seeing his smug face just pisses me off."
Carla blinked a few times, "You mean your face?"
"Oh…y-yeah, I guess."
"Should we be worried about you?" Carla genuinely asked, "I feel like we should be concerned for you."
The blond Mage frowned, "You know, I thought you were nicer after coming back from Edolas…but I might just be wrong."
"You must be."
"Naruto-San, do you need me to heal your hands? They were quite badly hurt when you were testing this out the first few times."
Wendy had to help after the first few days of Naruto's training. The scroll had warned him that doing this training would stress his chakra network in ways it had never been pushed before. He had still managed pretty well but his hands had cramped up and bruised quite badly. Luckily Wendy was there to administer treatment so that he didn't have to worry about any debilitating damage.
"No, I think I should be fine. The damage isn't as bad anymore now that I'm getting the hang of it. Ugh, but should I keep trying? It's annoying me that I'm not getting that part-"
"Naruto-San," He looked up as Wendy stood over him with a firm pout on her face, "Didn't you tell me to pace myself while I was training? Not to go too hard and be too down on myself if I couldn't get something immediately?" She smiled, "And what are you doing?"
The older Mage sighed, "I need to practice what I preach." He nodded, "Thanks Wendy, I'll take things slow. Maybe look over the second part even if I'm not at 100% with the first."
"I said that earlier but whatever." Carla bitterly noted with a grumble before looking aside, "Oh, Erza? What are you doing here?"
The armored redhead stepped up into the clearing and garnered their attention. Naruto quickly picked himself up while Wendy greeted her older friend with a smile, "Erza-San, good morning! Did you come to train with us?"
"No, sorry Wendy. I came to tell you all to come to the guild. We have a new member joining and I think it's only right that we're there to greet her."
"A new member?" Wendy beamed with join, "I don't have to be the newest rookie? Hooray!"
"You're going to be the senior now, so you should go greet them properly." Erza said with a smile as she watched the young Dragon Slayer make her way to the guild with her Exceed partner exhaustively following after her.
"New member?" Naruto asked, "I didn't think anyone would join so suddenly."
"They're…kind of a special case." Erza muttered as she grabbed his sleeve and pulled him along, "I'll explain on the way to the guild."
"So this is Fairy Tail?" The purple-haired woman in bright green attire said as she looked around in amazement, "It's so cool!" She turned back to Mirajane and Makarov, "And you'll let me stay here?"
"Yep," The old Mage gave a firm nod, "We've quite a few loud and rowdy kids to serve here, and it's become clear Mira shouldn't have to handle it all on her own. I know it might be a lot to ask but is it alright if we ask you to help serve them and get their orders out?"
"Of course!" The bubbly girl nodded while palming her bicep, "I might not be able to use magic but I promise to help our however I can!" The new girl looked over as she saw people enter through the front entrance, "Hi there! Welcome to Fairy Tail!"
"Oh, are you the new member we heard about?" Wendy greeted the older woman with a big smile, "My name is Wendy, and this is my partner Carla! It's nice to meet you!"
"Nice to meet you too! My name's Kinana!" The purple-haired newbie welcomed the young Mage before she looked up at the blond man that had entered, "And you must be another member too, right? I'm Kinana. Who might you be?"
Naruto stared at the girl in silent confusion before offering his hand, "I'm Naruto."
"It's nice to meet you, Naruto-San!" Kinana tightly held his hand as she shook it, "I hope we can get along!"
"Kinana-San, do you need some help navigating the guild? If you do I would be more than willing to show you around. I've only been here a few weeks myself but anything I can do to help, I will." Wendy offered to the older girl.
"Thank you so much. I could use the help. I don't wanna get lost."
As Wendy and Carla went to show the new arrival around the guild, Naruto watched her walk away in stunned disbelief. He rubbed his chin and covered his mouth for a moment before leaning towards Erza, "Her?"
"That girl was-"
"And she doesn't remember being Cobra's snake?"
"Well, she says she doesn't remember anything before waking up in the Rune Knights Anti-Curse ward. She doesn't show any obvious reaction to the name Cubellios, Oración Seis, Cobra, or Fairy Tail. And she doesn't seem to recognize me from when she poisoned me." Erza shrugged, "So either she is a remarkably skilled liar manipulating us into believing she is an innocent girl for some nefarious purpose, or she doesn't remember."
The blond Mage could only stare in shock as the girl that had once been the animal partner of one of the most fearsome Dark Mages in Fiore walked along with a pep in her step as she followed Wendy around the guild and said hi to everyone. He walked over to the counter in a daze and sat by with Makarov and Mirajane.
Makarov looked over at his two S-Class Mages, "So what are your impressions of Kinana? She seems like a pretty earnest young lady, doesn't she?"
"Why is she here?" Naruto asked, "Not to sound mean but why would they dump the former pet of the Oración Seis on us?"
"She was under a very complex transformation curse for many years. I think even since she was a child." Mira answered, "It took Wakaba, Macao, and myself with guidance from some Rune Knight specialists before we finally freed her. And once we did we realized she had no identity or memories she could recall, even from her changed state." The barmaid looked over at the innocent woman introducing herself to everybody, "So between letting her out into a world alone and without any guidance, I thought it would be better if she came here."
"That's kind of you, Mira, and I would be happy to offer her a place here in Fairy Tail if that's what she wants…" Erza looked at the others, "But it concerns me that the Magic Council would hand over a member of the Oración Seis - even an unwitting one - without so much as a peep or an argument."
"You think they have something planned?"
Makarov sighed, "Well we can't exactly put it past them. Considering all the trouble and damage we cause, and how often we're in their line of sight, I'm sure they're always looking for a chance to throw the book at us. And now that the Magic Council has changed and we don't have Yama-chan speaking on our behalf, we probably don't have much goodwill at that table. I wouldn't be surprised if the Magic Council has some plan in mind-"
"Good afternoon, everyone."
"Hello Mest," Makarov and the others greeted the former pupil of Mystogan before returning to their conversation, "So keep your eyes opening for anything."
"Gajeel-kun, where are you off to?"
"Gotta take care of some business." The Iron Dragon Slayer responded sourly while making his way towards the exit, "Be back whenever."
"Gajeel," Lily called out to his partner, "If you are going somewhere, allow me to accompany you."
"No need, I'm only going to be gone for a few hours."
Makarov called out, "Hey Gajeel, where ya goin'~?"
"God, can everyone get off my sack? I'm going out! What's the big deal?!"
"Hmm…" Makarov hummed before, "Okay."
"Good. Then I'll be off-"
"Naruto, go with him."
"It's always good for friends to travel together!" Makarov said cheerfully with a smile, "And you two have become pretty close friends recently."
"FUCK YOU WE HAVE NOT!"
"That sounds like friendship to me."
"Look! I just have to go out! I don't need tagalongs or buddies or idiots to follow me!" Gajeel seethed his answer out, "I'm leaving right now and that's it!"
"You heard Jiji," Naruto frowned, "He wanted me to come and no complaints are gonna make me disobey his request."
"And Juvia is your friend, Gajeel-kun!" The Water Mage passionately stated, "Juvia wants to make sure you're safe and not making any stupid mistakes that will certainly get you killed."
"Alright, you two I kinda understand, even if it pisses me off. But what's with Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Fuckstain over there!"
Natsu grinned, "You got in trouble and I wanted to laugh!"
"Aye sir!" Happy cheered.
"GUH!" Gajeel exclaimed and threw his hands up in annoyance before stomping through the train station, "Whatever! Who gives a shit anymore! Look, if you jackasses are gonna come, just don't screw anything up, okay?!"
"What is it you need to do there?" Lily asked by his side, "It doesn't look like this was a formal request you got from the board."
"It ain't. I'm just doing a favor."
"A favor? F-For a friend?!" The other Fairies gasped in shock, "Gajeel-kun! Juvia didn't know you had friends outside the guild!"
"You barely have any friends inside the guild!"
"Fuck. Off. All of you." Gajeel groused before stopping by the platform, "Hey Salamander, you seriously coming along?"
"You bet." Natsu snickered, "Why? Gonna be embarrassed when I see these nonexistent friends of yours?"
"No~…" Gajeel grinned viciously, "Just that we're going a long way."
The train slowly came to a stop at their platform as Natsu paled in horror.
"Which means we're gonna have to take a trip!"
"No. No! NO!"
Naruto and Juvia shared a look, "You'd think he'd have realized when we arrived at the damn train station."
"Natsu-San was having too much fun poking fun."
"Yeah, I know already. Shut up, you wimpy idiot." Naruto groaned with Natsu's arm slung over his shoulder as he dragged the half-dead, groaning Dragon Slayer off the train car, "God, you'd think your stomach would've toughened up and gotten used to it after all the travel you've been through."
"T-Too much," He grumbled, "Y-You're shaking me too much."
"But I'm not a vehicle! And you don't get sick with Happy! How - screw it." He dropped Natsu in the street and looked up at Happy as he floated over them, "Keep an eye on him, Happy. I feel like he makes up these problems just for attention sometimes."
"Natsu does love the attention!" He quickly saluted the S-Class Mage, "Aye sir! I'll keep an eye on him."
Naruto walked up and stood by Gajeel, Juvia, and Lily's sides as they faced the center of the town, "Hydrangea, huh? Should've figured your favor would bring you here."
Unlike Magnolia or Hargeon, Hydrangea didn't look like it was trying to keep up appearances or impress anyone stopping by. It wore its truth on its sleeve, and the truth was that if you weren't strong enough to handle this place then it would eat you up and spit you out. The streets were dirty and the lights were blocked out by the buildings and structures. And the smell was enough to cause people to run back if the shady folks walking the streets and eyeing them along didn't.
Juvia grimaced, "Juvia is getting some bad feelings from this place. It feels like the kind of places Phantom Lord used to do business in a long time ago."
"That was your guild before Fairy Tail, right?" Lily asked, "What business do you have here, Gajeel?"
"Eating up some scrap metal." The Dragon Slayer said, "Some of the junk here is a quality meal and I don't wanna miss the chance to gorge myself." He looked back at their odd looks and shrugged, "Told you it was a waste of time."
The other Fairies grumbled out some complaints and walked past him. As Gajeel stayed back, he pulled out his paper doll and let it float over his hand. He looked up and spotted a second identical paper doll floating over a building before diving away.
Yeah, this was the place.
"Man, this place seems so cool! Tough guys to fight around every corner! A fire here and there to eat! And it looks like we can cause damage without getting into trouble! This town is perfect for us!"
"N-Natsu-San, none of those things are good to find in a town you live in," Juvia noted with a sweat drop as they continued to make their way through the streets. Every step they took was being watched by the unscrupulous local populace, probably sizing them up as intruders in their town. Juvia squirmed, "Juvia does not like being watched like this."
"I don't think you need to worry, Juvia," Naruto noted as he looked around, "None of these guys look especially tough so we don't have to worry about our safety."
"Oh, that was never a concern, Naruto-San." Juvia floundered and covered her face, "Juvia is worried that they might be having illicit and inappropriate thoughts. And only Gray-sama should be having those kinds of thoughts about Juvia." The blue-haired Mage mumbled, "Oh, why don't you, Gray-sama? Juvia can't keep count of how many times she has thought of you like that."
Lily floated by Naruto's side, drops of sweat running down both their cheeks, "She's – um – quite the character, isn't she?"
"I have to think Gray did something to mess with her head." Naruto whispered back, "Because I cannot honestly think of any other reason she would be like this."
Gajeel kept stomping ahead, ignoring their discussions, and trying to focus only on the reason he was here. His eyes panned over and up to the roofs of the buildings he walked by as he kept a close eye on the paper doll floating by and leading him in the direction of his target. Ivan's Shikigami made sure to keep pace with them as they walked along. Simply giving him a direction to move in and not yet anything specific for him to do.
He was starting to feel like a fucking idiot without an aim or even a destination in mind. Was he just gonna keep stomping around until the goddamn paper doll gave a sign? He might as well be walking around while holding his dick with all the good it was-
He felt a tug on his shoulder as some gutsy thief picked him as his mark and snatched his bag while rushing off in a mad dash.
He didn't get far as Gajeel just stretched out a metal pillar from his arm and slammed it into the back of the thief so hard he hit the ground in an instant.
Naruto clicked his teeth, "Poor bastard. Picked the worst one of us to rob."
"He did?" Juvia questioned innocently, "But if he tried to rob Natsu-San he would have been burned. And you would have punched him into the ground, Naruto-San. And Juvia would have possibly drowned him."
Naruto shrugged, "Well you raise a good point. Just if any of us did it that'd be the end of it. But with Gajeel…"The whiskered blond nodded ahead, "There's the follow-up."
"You little shit!" The Iron Dragon Slayer cursed the wannabe thief as he grabbed his collar and lifted him off the ground. The piercing-covered Mage fumed in anger, "What the hell were you thinking?! What made you think I was the guy to target when you got three pussies right here that were much easier targets?!" He ignored their indignant glares, "Well?!"
"I-I'm sorry, man!" The thief cried out, "You just seemed like the guy to rob!"
Gajeel was nearly foaming at the mouth in anger. First, he was called out here, then he had to drag around an unwanted retinue, and now he was being picked as the loser to try and steal from. Gajeel was about to bury this guy into the pavement…
Before he saw the paper doll in his peripheral started to dance and move around. Not just pointlessly float on leading them in a single direction.
Gajeel looked back down at the thief he had captured. And while the man continued to act like a terrified and sniveling coward having gotten caught in the act…when he looked up at Gajeel again, it was with eyes much colder and harder than they had been moments ago.
Gajeel put the pieces together and nodded, "Okay, so you're a thief, right? Do you steal stuff? You part of a gang?"
The thief continued to convincingly feign fear, "Y-Yeah, that's right."
"Why don't you show me where you guys are working from?"
The man's eye glinted in the shadow, "I-If you say so."
"Hey Gajeel, don't you think this is a bit much?" Lily questioned as he followed after the Dragon Slayer, "I mean I understand your frustration with the thief but going after an entire crew of them seems like you're looking for trouble."
"Lily, I don't need you second-guessing me right now! If you got a problem with this, go back and keep the other chuckle-fucks entertained!" Gajeel said with some bite as he continued to push the thief forward and lead them to the location of the thieves' den based in this town. Natsu, Happy, Juvia, and Naruto didn't see a need to agitate the local trouble and decided to stay behind near the train. So now only Gajeel and Lily were left to follow this sketchy freak to his base.
"Well, I'm your partner now, so picking and choosing when I stick by your side and help isn't a choice anymore." Lily countered. The black Exceed stared at his partner's back as they walked along and felt a question stir in his mind, "Gajeel, is something going on?"
"What are you talking about?"
"You're being uncharacteristically cagey about this whole thing. I thought you'd just beat up this thief and be on your way, but instead, you're quite committed to seeing this through." Lily said, "Plus, you said you had to come down here for urgent business, but you've put off everything to take care of this. What's going on?"
Gajeel didn't act or respond in any way. Neither did the thief he was leading ahead of him. But he felt it and knew the man in front of him was staying acutely aware of their conversation and whatever might be said between them. This might as well have been a test with how perfectly it was being set up.
Gajeel sighed, "Look, that was a lie, alright. This place is a shithole and I don't have to take care of any business here. But I can get into a fight or trouble here without caring about reputation or consequence or anything." The Iron Dragon Slayer groaned, "I used to come down here and unwind or start trouble when I was in Phantom Lord. And now in Fairy Tail, I gotta be so damn careful about how my actions reflect on the guild. But here I can just cut loose."
"You came down here just to get into trouble?" Lily inquired. As Gajeel just shrugged in response the Exceed sighed, "You are quite the strange man. Although I shouldn't expect anything else from the man who convinced me to partner up."
Lily seemed to accept the answer, and from what he could tell the Faux Thief was satisfied with the excuse he made. Gajeel let out a small exhale of relief before he felt the thief in his grasp slow to a stop.
In front of them was an old and dilapidated building covered in tags and graffiti. It was clear that while the rest of the town was bad, this section and the buildings here were the worst. These were probably the designated bases of operation for the gangs and worst criminals the town had to offer.
"We're here," The Faux Thief muttered, "Inside there are all the crooks and thieves of the town. They meet up here, exchange info and leads, and bring their spoils to get cut."
That last tidbit was of particular interest to Gajeel. If Ivan and his agent were leading him here of all places and mentioning that…it meant there was something inside that the thieves were keeping.
Gajeel tossed the faker aside with a glare, "Get out of here. Don't let me see your face again." He ran away and Gajeel cracked his knuckles, "Lily, you don't have to jump in. This is just me trying to unwind."
"Well, I do have experience raiding bases and putting criminals down." Lily landed by Gajeel's side in his original, muscular form, "And if you need this to unwind and feel better, I'm more than willing to help out."
Gajeel smirked deviously as he cracked his knuckles, "Then let's have some fun." He casually strolled up to the door and gently rapped his knuckles on the wood, "Knock, knock."
He then slammed his metallic foot in the center of it and sent the giant door flying off its hinges inside. As the doors skidded and bounced off the ground, all the thieves and crooks turned to look in their direction. Gajeel walked in confidently through the dust kicked up and looked around, "Hey, wanted to ask you guys-"
Knives sailed through the air toward his vital areas. But the criminals were surprised when they harmlessly bounced off his chest like he was wearing armor while he caught one in his mouth. As if taking a bite out of a kebab, Gajeel chewed on the weapon and looked back at Pantherlily, "I guess they seem pretty quick to fight too."
"Well, I guess that makes me feel a little less bad about picking a fight."
Gajeel looked at the cloth-covered hilt he had bitten down to and shook his head. He hated cleaning his teeth of scarves or ribbons or any other cloth crap people always wrapped his snacks in. He tossed the last of it aside as one arm became covered in scales and the other became sharp like a blade.
All the hardened, terrifying criminals suddenly looked very afraid of what they were seeing.
"HAHA!" Gajeel rushed into the fray and started bashing everyone away and decimating everything in his path. The building floor was quickly being reduced to bits and pieces under Gajeel's mad dash of destruction as people were sent flying and screaming in every direction.
As Gajeel wailed at everyone in his path, Lily floated up to the higher level and watched the pandemonium from above. The black Exceed walked along, the sounds of Gajeel's maniacal laughter and furious screaming from the criminals drowned everything out as he focused on the spoils and stolen treasures strewn around the wall. Looked like they kept certain stolen items like treasures pinned to the wall with names and amounts for Jewels they were able to pawn things off for.
No doubt some of these thefts were on the more violent and bloody side. But still, they hung them up like they were points of pride to be admired.
A bottle of alcohol shattered against the back of his skull as a pair of thieves attacked him from behind, "TAKE THAT, YA BASTARD!"
Lily slowly turned around, completely unfazed by the full bottle that had shattered against his skull. The thieves that came to attack him suddenly floundered, and the thief with the broken bottle in his hand gulped, "T-That was supposed to knock you out."
They went sailing off the second floor and screamed all the way down until they landed atop some of their friends. Gajeel shifted his hands back and looked at all the beaten crooks he had defeated, "Man, I was expecting you guys to be more of a challenge. If this is all you have to offer-"
"ENOUGH!" Gajeel and Lily paused in their rampaging and looked over to the source of the yell. A large man, with several facial scars and black wrappings covering his arms and legs, emerged. His eyes narrowed on Gajeel and then looked up at Lily, "I'm putting an end to this raid."
Gajeel smirked, dropping the thief in his hand as he sensed some powerful magic coming off the big guy, "Well maybe you'll put up a better fight than the rest of these guys." He dusted off his hands and looked the large thief over, "And who are you supposed to be?"
"The strongest, most feared man in these parts. Someone you will realize it was a mistake to anger." He slowly walked forward, "When I steal something from anyone in this town, that's when they realize they need to cut their losses. And when you get on my bad side, you regret every choice that ever leads you to me. They call me-"
"FIRE DRAGON'S ROAR!"
A giant pillar of fire burned through the wood and rushed into the building. Everyone watching stared with wide eyes at the sudden fire rush before it came to an end. And the giant, scar-faced criminal stood covered in soot and ash. He quietly coughed and moaned, "Ow." He fell flat on his face and lay there, "Right at the end of the intro. That's just cruel."
"Oh!" Natsu stood at the freshly burned hole in the wall and looked around, "There are tons of guys fighting in here! None of them look too strong but a fight's a fight!"
"Natsu, no! That's mean." Happy chided his partner, "It's not good to pick on people so much weaker than you. How would you feel if Erza or Naruto or Gildarts walked up to you and said they were just in the mood for a fight?"
"I'd fight 'em!" Natsu said with a grin before he blinked and registered what Happy said, "Hey! Are you saying my fighting them is like them picking on the weak?! Do you think I'm weaker than them?!"
"Do you think you're not?" Naruto piped in as he stepped up beside the burning hole, "I mean c'mon Natsu; there's moxie and then there's just being brain-dead stubborn."
"You don't get to say anyone else is too stubborn!"
"Oh?! Do you think I'm more stubborn than you?! Are you stupid!"
"Can we please focus on the fight?" Juvia politely asked as she peeked in, "Gajeel-kun, were you starting trouble again?"
She frowned and eyed the Dragon Slayer skeptically.
Gajeel kicked a piece of wood by his feet, "I mean I guess. But they still deserve it."
"Oh, then it's okay." Juvia shrugged with a smile before looking at Naruto and Natsu, "Shall we join in?"
"Sure, why not?"
The Fairy Mages all showed varying looks of excitement and glee as they rushed in to do what they do best; brawl and cause mayhem.
And during it all, Gajeel slipped away and snuck into the basement, where the thieves kept their most recent spoils. Jewelry and art pieces and everything even remotely enough to skim some cash off.
But none of it mattered.
Gajeel spotted the little Shikigami floating towards the back of the room and made his way over. He reached the back of the room and spotted several large cargo boxes stacked atop and beside each other. No markers or labels or anything. But if Ivan's intel was right…
He grabbed one box and carefully tilted it over, looking underneath and seeing the black marker of a raven being surrounded by its tail. He smirked and lowered it back down, "Looks like we found it." His finger shifted into a tiny crowbar and he slipped it under the top, "Now let's see-"
He looked up at the paper doll, "What? You don't want me to check if the contents are still inside?"
("That won't be necessary. I have confirmation that the cargo was stolen on its way to our base, but they haven't been opened yet. So please leave them be.")
Gajeel eyed the paper doll and looked down at the box. He pulled his finger back, "Feels like you trust me to get it back, but not enough to let me see. Am I just your gofer now?"
("All in good time, Gajeel-chan.")
"Gajeel!" The Iron Dragon Slayer flinched and looked back as he heard Naruto's voice. The whiskered S-Class Mage appeared around the corner and spotted him, "There you are. We're all done fighting upstairs. What are you doing here?"
"Checking out all the stuff they stole." Gajeel patted the box, "Doesn't look like there are any labels to this junk. Hard to find who it all belongs to."
"Yeah, no kidding." Naruto picked up a golden scepter and inspected it before shrugging and tossing it aside, "Crazy to think this is a thief guild's horde or something." He spotted the boxes behind Gajeel and grabbed one of them, "What even is all this stuff?"
"HEY!" Gajeel's fist lashed out and knocked Naruto's head aside, sending the blond stumbling back before he could get a peek, "You can't go poking your nose in other people's belongings!"
"Ah, fucker!" Naruto rubbed his cheek and glared at Gajeel, "Fine, whatever, just get back upstairs whenever you're done creeping down here, you freak!"
Gajeel watched Naruto storm off before he was in the horde room by himself. He spared a look back to the Shikigami that had hidden away and sighed in relief.
"There! That should be everything." He grunted as he dropped the last box on the ground by the Faux Thief that had been waiting outside for the drop to occur. He glared at the man as the Shikigami floated at his side, "You didn't think to just sneak in and steal these things back? Are you just a thief for the show?"
("He never would have been able to pull this off without your help, Gajeel-chan. We're so thankful to have you on our side.")
"Yeah, and we'll always need a pack mule to move our shit." The Faux Thief said with a chuckle as he patted the boxes, "So now that you're done why don't you go meet up with your pals and - GAH!"
He gagged as a metallic hand tightened around his collar and dragged him forward. Gajeel scowled at the startled man in his grasp, "Let me make this clear; I'm not your servant, slave, or bitch. I'm not some thug you call to do your bitch work and I ain't no pack mule to carry your shit. I'm helping you because I want to get back at Fairy Tail, and you and yours should remember that before you push your fucking luck again."
He tossed the Faux Thief back into the boxes and marched away, "If you need me for something fucking important, you know where to find me."
The Iron Dragon Slayer disappeared and left the thief and the paper doll behind with the cargo boxes. The thief smiled before his skin started to lose color and peel off from his body. His form disappeared into a swarm of paper dolls that spread away from the center and revealed a new face inside.
An older man with a sharp chin and beard. He was Ivan Dreyar, son of Makarov Dreyar and guild master to the only independent Dark Guild in Fiore, Raven Tail. He raised his hand and let his Shikigami float over his knuckles, "I promise we'll have fun soon, Gajeel-chan. In due time."
They were finally on the train home to Magnolia as Gajeel walked back into the car after visiting the toilet. He walked over to the seats and saw Juvia and Happy sitting together with Natsu laid out across the seats and groaning, "Where are Hunter and Lily?"
"Naruto-San is still quite miffed that you hit him for no reason even though he came to check on you, Gajeel-kun." Juvia pouted, "That wasn't very nice of you."
"Oh come on! The bastard has it coming! Plus we beat the hell out of each other all the time back at the guild! It's a pastime!"
"Yeah, but that's just for fun. You were being a jerk, Gajeel." Happy said with a paw pointed at him, "Lily already went ahead to apologize. You should too."
Gajeel groaned and shook his head as he headed out of the car to find Naruto. As he stepped out and found the whiskered blond and his Exceed partner standing between the connection of two cars, he closed the door behind him. He stepped forward, "I checked. No Shikigami on me. We're good."
"Alright," Naruto nodded, "That punch do anything to sell you to them?"
"I guess. Me putting my foot down too probably makes them see I wanna take this seriously."
"And the cargo?" Lily asked, "Did you find out what was inside those boxes?"
"They were too cagey." Gajeel shook his head, "Still don't trust me enough to bring me in on any of their plans and dealings. Hell, that location I gave the Master might not even be their base of operations anymore."
"Well, there's no helping that." Naruto shrugged, "This is a dangerous situation you're in the middle of. I think even Jiji would prefer you play it on the safe side when dealing with his son."
"Probably why he sent Juvia, Natsu, and Happy with you. To play up the subterfuge angle and make it seem like you don't want them around."
"Yeah well, a little warning would've been nice." Gajeel leaned back against the railing and let the wind of the train car run over him, "I don't know what that guy has planned for the guild, but we can't let him have his way."
There was a silent vow of agreement between all three of them as they kept outside the train car and let the rushing landscape pass by.
"Ivan Dreyar is Jiji's son." Naruto muttered, more to himself but loud enough for Gajeel and Lily to hear him, "He got kicked out of the guild a long time ago. I never knew him, but Jiji seemed heartbroken that it happened, and Laxus was always bitter that his father got kicked out. I knew he did something bad that endangered Fairy Tail, and probably all of us. But if he's Jiji's son…how could he think about wrecking the guild his father loves and cherishes so much?" Naruto hypothetically asked, "It doesn't make sense to me."
Gajeel shrugged, "I mean you say that…but we kinda experienced the whole thing again with Laxus, right?"
Naruto opened his mouth before slowly closing it. He knew at the end of the day Laxus loved Fairy Tail and wanted it to show all the strength and respect he thought it deserved. But that twisted way of thinking had only isolated him and brought pain to Makarov in the process.
Naruto rested his elbows on the rail and clasped his hands together, "I thought of everyone in the guild as my family. And when I see Mira with Lisana and Eflman…or Macao and Romeo…or Mahiro and Koyuki - even me and Erza with them too - I feel like I kind of understand what it means to be a family. To be surrounded by love and acceptance. And that should be what all families are like, right?" He pressed his thumbs together, "So how…how can a family fall apart like Jiji's?"
"Asking the wrong guy." Gajeel bluntly answered, "I ain't ever had a family. And the only father I had disappeared with the rest of the dragons 7 years ago. But growing up trying to make it on my own before finding Phantom Lord, I can promise you; families ain't all glitz and glamor and love."
"When I was a Commander, there were many times when we had to bring dead soldiers back from raids or battle." Lily added while floating by the door, "When we told them of the loss of a child, it was almost always the same reaction. Even if we heard that they argued or fought or even resented their parents, in the end, those same parents would be devastated by the loss of that child. But when I remember Prince Jellal disappearing to this world and announced dead in Edolas, I think back to the king." Lily shook his head, "The feeling I got from him was never that soul-crushing, unbearable loss of a child. It was more simply an annoyance. Annoyance that the next of his line would no longer be able to carry his work."
Naruto let out a mirthless chuckle, "So it's no clearer even in another world, huh?"
"I think…it depends on the people." Lily mused, "I'm sure everyone has that image of what a perfect and loving family is like. I'm sure Fairy Tail is what many of us had in mind for what a family should be like. But at the end of the day, a family is made up of people. And whether they're fathers or mothers or sons or daughters…some people are built to share and spread love, and some just aren't."
With that somber note, the conversation between the three ended. They stood in relative silence and let the many sounds of the train fill the air. Gajeel and Lily made their way back into the car as Naruto lingered outside…
Trying not to let his thoughts travel to the family photo in his possession.
("I have the Lacrima ready for you. Sorry about the delay but I wanted to use the chance to test a fledgling member of ours.")
"As long as you can deliver it without more time wasted then I don't care what it was for." The eyepatch-wearing man said while lounging back on his throne. He stared into the communication Lacrima connected to Raven Tail's guild master, "And they're up to the specifications I gave you?"
("Those were some difficult materials you asked me to implement, but I think I got them working. Where on Earthland did you get them from?")
"Some workings with Tartarus. And we'll leave it at that." Hades stated, "We've been in the experimental phase for long enough, and now we can take a chance with the more meaningful subjects."
("This certainly sounds like a big endeavor. Mind me asking what you and your people have planned?")
Hades remained quiet, staring down at the magical image his people had taken about the location of their target.
An island with a giant tree in the middle of it.
"Going back home, it seems."
########Omake: On The Outside 2########
"Wow, such a pretty hill!"
"This is a mountain, Millianna-chan. If you walk around Fiore a little longer I'm sure you'll see more of them."
"Thanks so much, Ichiya-San!" The bubbly cat-lover said with a smile as they hiked up the trail towards the mountains and forest, "And thanks again for showing the way!"
"Of course!" The manly man said with a flick of his hair and pose as they walked along, "Master Bob made it clear this was a special occasion. And any friends of Erza-San and Naruto-kun are friends of ours."
"So Naruto stayed up here learning how to use magic for a year after he got off the island." Simon asked as he and Wally made sure Shō didn't fall behind on his new leg, "I'm surprised he didn't run back to find Erza as quickly as possible."
"From what I've heard, he needed to learn how to use his magic so that some terrible event that happened before didn't happen again. I believe he just wanted to become stronger before he set out on his journey."
They all arrived at the top of the trail and saw an old, fallen-apart cabin on the far end of it. Inside the remains of the cabin was a large nest of Wyverns, calling out to each other and making noise.
"Oh my," Ichiya walked up beside the Heaven refugees and looked at the strange sight, "Looks like they moved in after all these years. A nest for the little ones to be born and grow."
"O-Oh." Shō disappointment was evident in his voice as she nodded, "Well, it has been years since he passed. We shouldn't be surprised that-"
The wind suddenly picked up and the humans were startled as a large shadow flew over them and then came to a halt. They looked up and saw a fully grown Wyvern land on the ground and stare at them. Its most striking features were the myriad of scars around its missing eye.
Simon quickly prepared to defend and Wally almost reached for his gun as they waited for whatever happened next.
But the Wyvern sniffed at the air before looking down at them again. It twisted around and retreated…
To show them a gravestone kept just outside the nest with the name Rob etched into it.
Their breath caught at the sight of the grave marker and they looked back up at the adult Wyvern. It merely lowered its head and did nothing as they approached closer.
Millianna and Shō stepped up, looking down at the grave with forlorn expressions as Simon and Wally followed behind them. They all came to a stop and looked at the grave solemnly.
Ichiya turned around and bowed his head as he allowed them a moment of privacy to lay their respects. And as the parfum of shedding tears reached his nose, he didn't feel a need to say anything.
Man, I love throwing Gajeel at anybody. It's just an unending experience of snark and anger and throwing barbs.
So I wanted this to expound on something from the Edolas arc. Naruto finally knows that he had a family, and he can't help but let his thoughts linger on them. He's trying to take what Mira advised him about, that he's here because there was love between all of them even if he didn't know it. And now taking what he sees with Ivan, about a family built on love that still somehow falls apart. That families don't follow the same cut and paste form of love and acceptance. What he sees in Fairy Tail might not be the same for everyone. And what that could possibly mean for him…
I'm hoping that way, way down the road this can come up again in a meaningful way. But until then…
Thank You and Bye