Three months last chapter? Well I think I beat that wait… Yeah, I'm alive. I'll talk more after the chapter ends but for now, enjoy the chapter you have been waiting over a year for. And don't worry. The final chapter is coming next week. It's already written. I won't make you all wait a year again.

Disclaimer: I don't own Fairy Tail or Bleach. Shame, it would be great if I did.

Protector Of The Fairies

The Man Named Getsuga

Running past trees, Laxus stopped briefly only when he felt the tapping on his shoulders speed up in urgency. He paused in his stride, carefully looking up at Levy as she gripped onto his back for dear life. "Sorry," he muttered, realised he had been running too fast again. "You alright?"

"I'm fine," she shot back, and to her credit she wasn't showing any signs of discomfort. But she had taken a long time to wake up. Her injuries, while no longer threatening in any way thanks to Wendy, were probably still sore. But he had been impatient, same as her, and really a bit of pain was something Levy had decided to handle if it meant Wendy had more magic freely available to heal those who needed it right now. Still, it probably wasn't too comfortable riding on his back at high speeds, or at least not as comfortable as it might have been when he was purely human. "We're close now. I recognise the area."

"Glad I wasn't the only one." He took off once again, making sure he was going slower this time so to not cause her any unnecessary pain when he inevitably had to jump over roots or take sharp turns in his haste.

Honestly, this wouldn't have been so much trouble if Ichigo had just stayed where he was. He had seen the attack from the distance, recognising it for one only he had the magic power to pull off, and arriving at the scene of the crime had shown there to be nothing left of Yhwach. Not that there had been too much doubt of it though. None of them had been able to sense the man's magical power anymore after that attack, but he had wanted to be sure in case it had been due to him suppressing it and attempting to flee.

Ichigo though… he had gotten a brief glimpse of him, both before they were told to fall back and after when he arrived at the scene of destruction. The form was strange, the feel of his power was different, but it was still him. Standing in an area totally void of anything else, with what looked like a chunk sliced out of the land across where the attack had been fired, had been him. And for a moment their eyes had meet and he had tried to say something.

And then Ichigo had the audacity to just up and vanish in that moment. With not even a word, not even a sound, he had simply sped away faster than he could react to, leaving only dust in his wake. He had wanted to give chase then and there, and almost did. But how long would that have taken? He hadn't had a chance to go back and check on everyone since he started fighting Yhwach again for that last push. Even when told to fall back, he had stayed as close as he could to watch in case he needed to act and was given the chance. He had to make sure everyone was still alright.

So reluctantly he had gone the opposite way, doing his best to at least keep an eye on the magical power he could sense from Ichigo. It was hard to actually pinpoint him with how much energy he was giving off currently, he could be standing right next to him and he might not notice with how much it was disrupting his attempts to locate him, but it at least meant that he was somewhere close by.

Checking on other mages, helping out where he could, shifting rubble away to help create safer areas for people to rest in and begin some attempts of reconstruction, even if just temporary, and constantly checking on those of his guild that were in the worst conditions. None had died, but then that had never been a result of their own power. It was because Yhwach had simply wanted to prove a point on how little most of them could even do against him.

Even now it frustrated him. How after everything they had thrown at him, it had still not been enough. But if it meant that everyone had survived in the end, he could accept such a result. With this, he could only hope that the war would finally come to a complete end.

Of course once things had started to settle down, and when Levy had woken up, he had finally had the time again to go after Ichigo. He had done what he could for the moment and some of the others had insisted he take a break anyway, and Levy had been a bit impatient herself. Twice he caught her trying to sneak away, using makeshift crutches from words that she really shouldn't be using her magic for in her state. But he had understood the urgency as time passed. Perhaps she had sensed it first, or was just better at noticing the subtle changes, but as time had passed, the scope of Ichigo's magical power had begun to shrink.

Neither knew whether this had been a good or a bad thing, but if it was the latter then they could not afford to waste any more time. Following the energy until it became too unreadable had lead them in the direction of the forest, and from there they had no longer needed to focus on tracking his magical power, even if it wouldn't have helped. There was only one place of relevance in this forest that mattered to Ichigo, and one he would surely know that they could find.

Finally, as he pulled past familiar trees and entered a familiar clearing, he saw a sight that he hadn't seen in a long time now. Their old home. It had seen better days. No one had lived there in over seven years. But it was still a familiar sight to him.

Carefully letting Levy down off his back, they both approached it slowly, carefully looking for any signs that their friend was here. The door was left slightly ajar but that could easily have been from a random stranger having broken in here over the years. The stairs creaked as he approached, carefully pulling it open and taking his first step into the familiar abode. And then there he was, sitting at the edge of the room, back placed against the wall, with a book in his hand.

There were a lot of books out now that he noticed, his eyes briefly drifting towards Levy's room and seeing the door open, with a dozen books having fallen out across the floor. One glance towards Levy showed she was visibly having to resist going to try and fix the mess to make sure the books weren't damaged. Probably for the best. There was no knowing how many might have been, what with how many she had stored all over the place.

Focusing on his friend though, he could see the man look up from the book he was holding, golden eyes staring them down as he carefully closed the book and placed it to one side. Seeing him properly now, he still found the form he was looking at odd. Black hair, especially this long, didn't really suit Ichigo as much as his shorter orange hair did. But then it would be hard for anyone to tell this was Ichigo at a glance.

"Sorry," was the first word Ichigo said to them, his eyes flickering to the book briefly. "I needed a bit of time to myself. I was looking around some of the rooms and… Well, Levy you should know better than to pile them to the ceiling. I just opened the door and a dozen piles collapsed. What, was the door the only think keeping them stable?"

"No, that's not what I should be sorry about," Ichigo added, pressing the palm of one of his hands against his head in frustration. "I should have stayed. I know you wanted to say something to me. But my mind… I wanted clarity. I couldn't make sense of anything. It wasn't the right time to talk."

"It's fine," he said, walking over and slotting himself down on the floor. Levy joined him, taking a bit longer as she carefully stepped around some of the books, before using the wall next to Ichigo to rest against, turning her head enough so she could still see him clearly. "I could have chased you at that moment. But I figured if you chose to run at that moment, it was probably for a reason. Well, that and I probably wouldn't have caught up to you," he joked.

"Probably not," Ichigo said back with a smile, letting out a small sigh. "You seem worried. At least I think you do? I recognise those looks."

"I would think you would by this point," Levy joked herself, though as he glanced at her he noticed she was watching Ichigo very closely. "But you're being literal aren't you? You recognise it, not remember it."

"I… I don't know how best to explain it. Or rather I do but…" Groaning in frustration, Ichigo ran his hands down his face. "Perhaps it is best to say it. My memories are… jumbled. They're there, though there's so many of them. From different perspectives, and with so many different emotions attached. I should understand them all, and to a degree I do. But some of these memories are Ichigo's, some of them are of those that are a part of him whether from some spirit or from ones he copied from others, and some of them are Mavis'. And I'm Getsuga."

"You're confused," Ichigo added after a moment. Had it been that obvious he wondered? Getsuga? That was the name of an attack, or rather half the name of one anyway. "I suppose I should start at the beginning. The moment Ichigo died, he was lost. His soul shattered, entirely gone. At least it should have been. But it was still bound to the world, by faint strings that would only grow weaker over time. The bond that linked him to Mavis, the remnants left behind in the form of his Zanpakutou, even together it would all still not be enough. Not until Zeref stepped in."

"Zeref helped?" he asked in disbelief. Levy looked equally as bewildered. The idea that Zeref would help Ichigo of all people was, quite frankly, delusional. So how…?

"I'm not sure completely myself if it was intentional on Ichigo's part," Ichigo, or rather Getsuga, stated. "He was reaching the end of his life. He had the power to kill Zeref. And he merely took away his immortality instead, offering him a chance to live his life unbound by his curse. That was the last act of Ichigo Kurosaki before he perished. One of either kindness… or manipulation. Perhaps even both," Getsuga mused, considering the idea carefully. "Regardless of his overall intention, the memories of back then are difficult to understand as it is with how much he was shattering at that point, he died leaving Zeref in his debt. Mavis at least understood that clearly enough. And for someone like Zeref, who hated Ichigo so much, being 'saved' by him was probably the one thing he could never stand for."

Pausing for a moment, Getsuga glanced up at the ceiling as he appeared to muse over his thoughts. "You know it's hard to understand why Zeref hates Ichigo so much. I don't really hate Zeref myself so it's hard to visual what it's like in turn. But then there is a lot of confliction in these memories. Ichigo hated and pitied him. Mavis's feelings were a lot more complicated, changing so much over time. It's honestly easier to understand the hatred when it's shared when all I have to go off is memories, because at least I can comprehend the rage felt towards someone like Baraggan. But for Zeref, someone I only saw briefly with these eyes, it's hard to fully understand."

"But I digress," Getsuga added after another moment. "Zeref, driven by whatever drives him to act, couldn't stand the way things ended. To live his life in debt to Ichigo for all the decades to come? He was free from one curse but bound by another. But that was one he could free himself from. All he had to do was pay the debt back. The tools already existed. Mavis for the strong bond and connection to seek out the shattered parts of Ichigo's soul, the Zanpakutou to act as the tools for boosting that bond and for acting as reference points to it, and his power to give life to entities."

"You're not a demon though," Levy stated simply, looking up and down Getsuga carefully as if to find evidence that she was wrong. "The demons we've seen and faced, they all feel different. Even Gray is no exception to that. Becoming a demon changes you fundamentally, but while you feel different than before you don't feel like they do. Your magical power, it's… more like…"

"An amalgamation?" Getsuga asked. "I suppose that's right. You see Mavis wasn't just the strongest link to the soul. She was also the foundation to help bring it back." Getsuga paused for a moment, as if to let it sink in for them, before he continued. "She knew Ichigo's soul as well as his Zanpakutou spirits did. She had been bound to it for so long, it was only natural that she understood it. And with how obsessive she was, there was no way there would be a part of it that she did not know. She could gather it all up, but that alone merely gives you a pile of shards. Even if you slot it all back together, it's pointless without healing the cracks."

"And because of that Zeref helped?"

"Yes. Rather than binding a soul to a demon, he changed the process so that it used Mavis herself. In order to help Ichigo's soul heal, she became part of the foundation to do so, to help him in that way as he once did for her, though on a very different scale this time around as you might imagine. And, as you can probably tell from me sitting here, it worked."

"But we saw you as you normally are earlier," he added as he stared at Getsuga in confusion, ignoring the confused look Levy shot him too. Ah yeah, he hadn't mentioned too much of that had he? Though he supposed both had been too focused on meeting Ichigo so it slipped his mind. "Both you and Mavis existed as separate entities. Though Ichigo was…"

"Unstable?" Getsuga laughed slightly. "I suppose that is true. They were both me to start with… I should have finished off Yhwach in the chances I had. I should have done that. But I was a bit too arrogant. I played with him. I took my time, I didn't feel like I was rushed, but I failed to realise that something was wrong. Before I knew it I was gone and they were back. But it was too early. I had been expended too much energy without proper care, and it destabilised myself at a time where I needed to stay composed in order to finish the work Zeref had done in the first place. And because I split apart at that moment, Ichigo was left in an incomplete state. Most wounds might have done nothing to him but that was because at that moment he was pure magic that was binding a soul to the living world in a false body. And naturally, fighting Yhwach meant using up that magic containing him. But you at least know some of this Laxus. That is why you and all the others present were fighting so hard to give him an opportunity to come in contact with Mavis once again."

"And shortly after that you had us retreat."

Getsuga nodded. "It was right before that which is what finished the process. I was named. Before that point… Well, I don't know what I was. I guess I was perhaps a blob of memories and will that was drifting among an immense amount of magic. But once Ichibei named me, I became something else. I became myself. I became Getsuga."

"Can you…" He sighed for a moment, knowing this was going to sound rude to all hell but wanting to know the answer anyway. "Can you turn back into him? Or is this how you will always be?"

"If I was to tell you that I would always be like this, what would you do?"

"I'd adapt," he simply said honestly. "The fact you are alive is a miracle I thought we wouldn't be granted. No matter what form you are in, there isn't any doubt in my mind that we will still be friends. I would stake my own life on it if need be."

"Is that so," muttered Getsuga, glancing towards Levy. "And you?"

"Is that a question that even needs answering?" she responded with a smile. "Of course we'd still be friends. Even if we have to build everything back up from scratch."

"I see. That's nice to know," Getsuga muttered, closing his eyes briefly as he leaned his head back against the wall and smiled. "I can."

"You can what?"

"Exactly what Laxus asked. I can turn back."

"What! Then why talk so dramatically as if you couldn't?"

"Because I was curious," Getsuga replied simply as he opened his eyes again to look at them both. "I… simply wanted to know I guess. See how you might treat me if faced with such news. I won't get many chances like that again I reckon." Getsuga glanced at him momentarily, seeing the look he was sure he was undoubtedly giving Getsuga, and simply smiled again. "Whether I like it or not, I'm splitting apart."

"But you said before-"

"That I split because I became unstable. I know. I've maintained the form for longer than I did then, but this time it's not a matter of expending too much power. Rather it's because this power is slowly but surely forcing itself apart once again, creating two solid containers for it. One for Mavis, one for Ichigo. There won't be a danger of him running off pure magic alone this time if you're worried, or at least I assume that's the case. I honestly couldn't tell you beyond some educated guesses based on Mavis's memories. The end result is the same though. I'll vanish in exchange for the two of them."

"Does that… bother you? Considering you have all their memories…" He didn't know how best to ask any of this, especially when the man before him was saying all of this so calmly. "You'll die."

"I thought you wanted to see Ichigo."

"That's not what I mean and you know it."

"I know," Getsuga said softly. "I think… it's easy to accept. Perhaps this is what that Arrancar felt. The one named Starrk, I was told that he split himself into two. The original did that willingly, and must have accepted becoming two others. In that same vein, I accept becoming Ichigo and Mavis once more. My existence is only a temporary one. Perhaps I will exist again if they need me. Perhaps I won't. But I'll still exist in some form, because it is only through them that I can ever exist."

"In which case, we'll say this before you're gone," Levy stated, pushing herself closer before catching Getsuga by surprise as she wrapped her arms around him tightly. "Thank you for saving us. For saving everyone. Without you, we would all be dead."

"Ah… say it like that and I'm going to get a big head," Getsuga muttered in embarrassment as she slowly released him, setting herself carefully back down. "Yhwach was going to come after me anyway, that was a fact so long as part of my makeup was Lumen Histoire, so-"

"Just accept our thanks," he cut in, moving forward and pulling his friend into a hug of his own. "You probably don't have long left to do so."

"No, I don't," Getsuga admitted. "I probably could have held out for another hour or so but… I've got enough to satisfy me. I can be happy with that." As if he was merely letting go of something, Getsuga let out a sigh and no sooner had he done so had his entire body began to break apart slowly, pieces drifting off. "If you don't mind though, would you do me a favour?"

"What is it?"

"The next time the world is in trouble… Well, those cases are fine. But if you can solve the problem without my help… without Ichigo's help… please do that."

"That's your will isn't it, not his."

"Yeah. But I say that as someone who both has his memories and can witness all he has done, all he has experienced, and can see it from the perspective of an outsider. If there is a problem, Ichigo will help if you ask him to. And he'll never show it but… he'll probably never be able to take it. I think he's had enough fighting for a lifetime. He's given enough. I think it's time for him to start enjoying life again. So make sure he can, alright?"

"You have our word."

"I know I can trust that," Getsuga said back simply. "It has been interesting seeing everything though these eyes. And one day I will again. But for now, I guess I can simply… rest." Getsuga closed his eyes as the last of his body broke apart, the energy that had been unleashed gathering into two distinct piles, one larger than the other, as two new but familiar shapes rapidly formed. And this time he knew it was real at the sight of orange hair."

"Welcome back," he stated softly as the form of Ichigo that he was familiar with fell forward slightly as he fully materialised, Mavis struggling to keep her balance too as she found herself almost tripping over her own feet. "You did you have a nice nap Ichigo?"

"It was unique, I'll give it that", replied the version of Ichigo he was familiar with, the man glancing up and down himself a few times, pulling at his clothes and stretching out his body a bit. "I feel better now though. I wasn't sure what I'd be like near the end."

"You're home though. Whatever form you would have been, we're just glad to have you back."

Protector Of The Fairies

"You're quite quiet," Isshin stated, taking a small puff of the cigarette hanging between his fingers. He took his eyes off the horizon for a moment to glance at his friend, Ryuuken barely acknowledging him as the man continued to stare at the destroyed remains of much of Magnolia. "You not going to say anything? You've waited for this moment for a long time right?"

"I have," Ryuuken admitted after a few more moments of silence. "And, to be perfectly frank, I did not ever imagine seeing this day."

"I hope that doesn't mean you had planned to die."

"Not at all. But as much as I wanted to believe in victory…"

Isshin sighed, letting the cigarette fall away after one last puff from it. "I think I understand. Hearing about Yhwach, and then later seeing what he was capable of, and then knowing he was still stronger than that, it makes it hard to imagine what comes afterwards. Because even if you plan it all out, down to the last detail, a part of you still thinks it won't be enough. It won't let you imagine the days to follow."

"And we are sure this isn't an illusion of some kind? That this peace isn't a trick of his?"

"Ask questions like that and you'll never find peace. It's over Ryuuken. And I hope you'll take that to heart."

"I know," came the man's stoic response. "With this, Kanae's death has finally been avenged. As has Masaki's. With this, I can finally leave this business behind and focus on matters that truly matter."

"You'll be returning back to your clinic then?" he asked, watching Ryuuken slightly as the man began to turn away to leave. "You don't have to rush away so quickly. At least go see your son before you leave.

"Uryuu is fine. He's been fine for many years, and he doesn't need me checking in on him. I can tell everything that I need to know from here, and if he needs anything he can always find me. But right now I have work that must be done. The war is ending, but there are still lives that can be saved." Ryuuken paused briefly as the man glanced back at him. "What about yourself? You aren't bound anymore to the Magic Council, either through duty or threat. So what is next for you?"

"I honestly don't know," he replied back, glancing at the city and the efforts ongoing to repair it. "But this place isn't the only example of chaos out there. Just because the war ends, it doesn't mean everything immediately returns to normal. We've been making do with a war council but once we return to peace the time for that will end. A new magic council will need to be implemented, and new policies and organisations may spring up from that. Our relationship with Alvarez will be tense too. So for the short term, I'll stick it out. Make sure everything is fine. And then I'll leave. Finally enjoy the retirement from that place I started what feels like a lifetime ago."

"I see. Then reach out to me if you need me. Otherwise farewell for now."

Before he even got another word in, Ryuuken had vanished, disappearing off to whatever place needed him more right now he supposed. For a man that didn't like magic, it bothered him how easily it came to Ryuuken. But the man wasn't ever shy about his thoughts on it. To Ryuuken, magic was merely another tool he used to save lives as a doctor. If not for the fact some of the techniques were useful in his operations, he wasn't sure if Ryuuken would have even bothered mastering it all. But when there was someone useful to obtain or learn, Ryuuken wouldn't cut any corners. He was that kind of man. Hopefully Uryuu did see that, no matter how strained the relationship was between that father and son. Ryuuken never seemed like a very warm person but that never meant he didn't care.

Speaking of family, he should hurry to locate his own. Ichigo had disappeared off somewhere, and he wanted to hunt him down before anyone else. Knowing his only son was alive again, it was something he had never thought possible. The fact he had lost Ichigo once was already a shame he knew would never leave him, that he had outlived one of his children, but he could at least smile knowing that he had him back.

As for Karin, he hoped she was doing okay. He could sense her so he wasn't as worried but it would always be a nagging doubt in his mind after a battle like this. Though as things currently stood, the one he was most worried about was Yuzu. He wished he could see her now too but it would take time to return to the camp she was resting in. He would have to do so soon, to let her know what had happened and that it was all over, but he could do so after confirming the safety of her siblings.

"It really is over huh Masaki," he muttered softly to himself. He didn't know what state her soul would be in if he ever saw her again once he died. He hoped it would be able to recover outside of Yhwach's grasp. Time would tell. But at least finally the actions of that man could no longer influence his family's lives.

Peace might not last. He knew from his profession how power and greed could consume people and lead them to commit horrible deeds. But he hoped this long war would keep that kind of darkness at bay for a long time. That the memory of it serve a greater purpose than it merely being the actions of the worst kind of men.

Protector Of The Fairies

"Wakey wakey, rise and shine."

"You don't need to say anything. It's doubtful he can hear you."

"Will the two of you shut up already? The idiot needs his rest."

Familiar voices slowly began to reach the ears of Ouetsu, voices he hadn't expected to hear again. Straining one eye open, he managed to briefly glimpse a rare smile from Mera, pure joy and relief on her face at the sight of any movement from him, before she quickly hide it away under fake annoyance. As if pretending that she didn't care he was fine. Ha. As if he couldn't see the relief and joy under that expression. She never was good at being honest with herself.

Beside her his old friends were less caring about hiding their true feelings. Ichibei had a wide smile across his face, his arms folded and hidden beneath long sleeves, while Warrod was letting out a joyful laugh. "I feel… not dead. That's pretty good right?"

"You were lucky," Warrod said, and he could notice if he strained his eyes that Warrod was doing something with some plants. "Here, eat this. It'll help speed up your recovery."

"It's not bitter is it?" he asked, complying all the same. He honestly felt a lot better than he should be feeling and he could probably thank Warrod for that. Plenty of plants had medical properties, and with magic like his Warrod could easily pull those properties out to the surface, use them to their fullest, and keep him away from death's door. "Yuck. Still as terrible as always. I don't know how you can eat stuff like this on a regular basis."

"Hush now. I don't want you moving around too much. When I found you, you were near death. The burns alone were severe, and it's going to take a long time for them to heal, even with magic. I've done the best I can but-"

"Look, I don't care about how I look much," Ouetsu shot back, throwing up a smile to reassure his friend. "I'm just a man whose only talent is making blades. And considering I'm now living to see another day, I'm looking forward to just wasting away a few more years making some." He paused briefly, a sudden thought crossing his mind. "Wait… we're not immortal now. I wonder if I'll be able to make a better blade because of that. They say great progress comes when one knows their own mortality."

"Who says that?"

"I don't know. Me? If no one has said it yet, it'll claim it." Letting out a small laugh, it turned quickly into a groan when his body responded in pain to his attempts to move it too much. "Ow. Starting to see what you meant about staying still."

"We'll see how long you'll listen. I don't expect much to be honest, though do wait until I'm gone before trying anything too strenuous. Like walking. In fact Mera, you should probably carry him around for a while. Keep him in check too. Personally I'd recommend slinging him over one shoulder."

"What? Mera, you wouldn't would you?" His eyes quickly sought out his zanpakutou spirit but she only shot him an amusing grin in turn. Sighing, he let the matter drop, tilting his head a bit and fighting some of the pain as he managed to get a glimpse of the city of Magnolia in the distance.

It was… standing. That was probably the best he could say about it if he was being honest. The place was an absolute wreck. Large chunks of the nearby forests were missing, over half the city was in pieces, and in some areas it looked like it nothing was left at all.

"I don't sense Yhwach."

"You shouldn't," Ichibei said. "Against all the odds, we won. Yhwach is dead."

"That's good. Some of the last things he said to me was about how we'd gotten his power wrong. How he wanted hope so he could crush it."

"He almost did. We were very lucky."

"I can tell. I was honestly expecting half the city to be gone. To see anything standing is, well… So, who did the quincy king in?"

"That honour belongs to Ichigo."

"Ah, not bad." He paused for a moment, replaying the name over a few times as he made sure he hadn't hear it incorrectly

His face obviously showed his confusion, Ichibei taking pity on him and explaining before he needed to ask. "Ichigo was revived. A combination of Zeref, Mavis, and some zanpakutou pieces if I have all the details correct."

"Anchor points huh."

"You catch on quick."

"Because I can see what they've done, at least in regards to the blades. Not too often one uses the concept of the blade as the wielder and takes it to the extreme."

"Excuse some of us for not realising that's a literally thing your swords can make possible," he heard Warrod mutter, his eyes glancing back towards the man as the man half started a rant on how broken some of his swords ended up being with their powers and premises.

"How about you anyway? How did you get back to Magnolia? You were in Alakitasia. Surely you couldn't have kept pace with Yhwach to reach here."

"No, that I could not do," Warrod admitted. "I had a ride back."

"A ride?" Ouetsu followed Warrod's gaze, properly noticing the giant form of a man in the distance. "Ah, forgot he was around. After Hyberion sent us…" He paused, remembering their fallen comrade for a moment. Later on he'd have to properly honour him for his sacrifice. He risked everything for them. "Well, after he got Ichibei and I out we didn't have time to think on anything but preparing for Yhwach's arrival. And even that went as well as you'd expect.

"It matters little now. The battle is over. And with it, our purpose."

"Two problems from over four hundred years ago plus the greatest problem that hide for an eternity that we were all 'recruited' to fight, all finally dealt with. So we're officially retired is what you're saying? I don't mind that."

"Neither do I," Ichibei replied with a smile. "Thousands of years watching the world, knowing I would likely outlive everyone and everything around me. I've seen civilizations rise and fall, wars fought for petty reasons, and great celebrations be born for heroes of legends. But I don't think I've been a part of this world since my time was stopped and I became eternal. I think I'm going to enjoy however many years I have left."

"I just wish it was more clear cut for me," Warrod said snarky at them. "You two are lucky, you have human bodies. How long does a half human half plant hybrid live for? I'm part tree so am I going to still live as long as one? Or do I only have months or years left before the human part of me gives out?" The man let out a long sigh, before sombrely adding, "Whatever the case though, I suppose I'm fine with it. Outliving my friends was never something I wanted, and not for this long. Being able to see Mavis again made it worth it but I am old. Certainly not as old as you two but as a human still attached to this world, I am tired. I wonder how Precht felt about this when he prolonged his own life. Perhaps it is worth asking and catching up over these next few years. I doubt I'll approve of much of what he's done, but an old friend is still an old friend."

"Keep him out of trouble won't you? The world doesn't need mad men like him running free. But that's not our job to worry about," Ichibei said, and Ouetsu had to strain his head back to see Ichibei staring out at Magnolia. "That will be their job. And then it will be the job of those that follow them. It's time for the past to fully come to an end, so that those living in this age can look towards the future proudly. No matter what follows, it's up to them now. They've proved they can handle it by any means."

Protector Of The Fairies

It wasn't until early the following morning that he finally found himself almost entirely alone. He had been dragged back to the remains of Magnolia, chatting with old friends long into the night as they celebrated the end of the dreadful war. They'd heard from those in talks with August that the remaining forces of Alvarez were in full retreat, that peace was being signed as they speak. With that one action, the last of the four armies was finally gone.

Things might not be fully stable for a while. The demons had been wiped out entirely, unwilling to accept the idea of something like losses when it came to their commands to fight, and the Quincy army had been nothing more than the illusionary force of a single entity. The only force that remained in any capacity was the Hollows, and only because they have some sense of self preservation. While most hollows had been slain, many had scattered into the desert of Hueco Mundo when it became evident that they were going to lose. There would have to be a careful watch kept on those lands for some time, to keep the hollows contained, but even if they gained some kind of leadership they'd never reach the threat they were under Baraggan again.

It was like a weight had finally been lifted from his shoulders. One that had tied him down for so long. He could stop, rest, and not worry about the next threat on a list that had to be dealt with. No more worries on what Zeref's next plan to target him would be. No need to fear on what long running plan Baraggan had in mind. No need to consider whether his own strength would be enough to counter Yhwach. There was none of that left now.

But that also meant he had a lot of apologises to make. Starting with the girl sitting beside him and leaning against him.

Mavis hadn't left his side since they reverted back to themselves from Getsuga. She would barely release her grip on him at times, and even now she had part of his sleeve in a death grip. When that hadn't been possible, she'd flung herself onto his back like she normally did and almost chocked him with how tight her grip was around his neck.

He knew why. And while she wasn't saying it, he remembered too well how their last meeting went before he died. It ended with her crying and him breaking an important promise. A promise to never leave her, one that she saw as her dying with him if the worst was to happen.

It hadn't been something he couldn't accept. He had been walking off to certain death, but he hadn't wanted to drag down anyone else with him. And he knew that would have been the case if she had been there. As vast as her ability to hold magic was, she would not have been able to shield it from Mimihagi. It still would have been stored in a physical container, not a spiritual one. But she would have tried, would have wanted him to share the burden once it was safe to do so.

But doing so would have killed her too. It had killed him, because it was too much magic for one person to hold. Even her, with the capacity to hold so much magic it was seen as limitless, would have an upper limit. And it would always fall short of the full capacity of magic itself.

The safest place for her had been in the vault, a space so saturated in time magic that it would keep her in and away from the battle, and that even when Face neutralised the magic it would still keep her powerless for long enough for her to be unable to interfere and die with him.

Yet now he was here, alive all because of her efforts and inability to accept his passing. And she had yet to say a single word about what went down earlier, instead letting her actions show it instead.

She didn't want to be parted from him again.

"About back then," he started unsurely, getting a small reaction from her as he felt her tilt her head towards him slightly. "At the vault. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have separated us like that."

"You're right, you shouldn't have."

He could make excuses if he wanted. Explain it away. But she knew any justification he would make and he didn't want to try and deflect his guilt like that just to feel better. "I ignored you wishes, because I prioritised my own. I won't regret my actions but I regret that I had to do it, that I had to trample over your feelings, and that I left you with what you feared the most. I'm sorry I did that, and I'm sorry I died."

Mavis was silent for a moment at that, but he could feel her tighten her grip on him. Then finally she spoke, slowly as she dredged up painful memories. "All I thought about in that vault was a desperate need to escape. It was painful. I could sense nothing outside of those walls. I couldn't break free. All I could hope to do was unleash as much power as I could manage and pray it would break the seal in time. And then Face hit."

She hesitated at that, and he could feel her shake a bit at his side. "I knew it was too late at that point. At that point in time the barrier was gone. Wiped out by magical barrier particles. It even affected me, sapping me of my energy. But I had enough to break free at that point if I wished. As powerful as Face is, I have far too much energy for it to negate entirely in one go. But there was no point to it. Even if I hadn't wanted to admit it, I could feel what happened to you through our bond. I could feel the shards that were once whole, and I knew that anything I did at that point was too late. So… I just sat there. Lost and alone, crying in despair."

"When magic returned," she added, "I tried to trick myself into ignoring reality. If magic was back, maybe you were. I didn't want to accept that you might be dead. No, I think I refused to. I frightened Laxus for a bit in some of my delusions. He's a good friend you know. He stopped me from going to the surface in that state, because I'm sure I would have killed someone with my presence with all the magical power I was releasing. He helped drag me back to reality… but there was one thing I couldn't accept. That he said you were dead."

"Logically he was right." Mavis raised her free hand slightly before bringing it to his face, letting it hover over the his eye that he had sacrificed to strengthen their bond. "Your body was gone, your soul shattered. But so long as even a fragment of the bond remained, I couldn't accept your death as reality. So long as we were still linked, even if by a tiny thread, I couldn't accept that you were gone. But I could do nothing to help. Just because I knew you were still there, I didn't mean I knew how to fix things."

"And then Zeref showed up."

"Yeah. For a man who has caused so much pain, he's always been kind in my mind," she stated quietly. "He's cruel, he's harsh, he's selfish, but over half my interactions with him have shown him as the Zeref more similar to those of the past, just a bit more jaded than then. And I know he didn't do this out of kindness for you, I don't think he could ever do something like that, but he did help me. Maybe out of guilt, maybe out of a debt, I honestly don't care why he did it. I was happy to accept his help regardless, since the act of bringing back one who is lost is something he knows all too well. He provided the tools, I provided the guidance, and… well, I got you back. In a weird way at first."

"When we were Getsuga," he assumed. "That form was… strange. I know everything that went down like that, and the fact I wasn't who I am now should bother me. But it didn't feel wrong at that time, and it doesn't feel wrong now."

"That's because we still are Getsuga," Mavis stated. "I was feeling the same in that state. Even separated, we could still reform Getsuga if we so wish. If anything I doubt we can unleash either of our full strength outside of that state, or perhaps it's only in that state that we can achieve the full potential both of us can offer together."

She paused for another moment, bringing her hand back down and looking at it a bit. "I think that's also why I can deal with that pain. You betrayed me. But I understand why. It wasn't out of malice but it still hurt. But if this is the result, I'm not opposed to it."

"You realise that the existence of Getsuga means we're more one entity than two now."

"And that's fine," she shot back. "Zera and the Celestial Spirit King, their bond is strong but she's the perfect example of being forcefully separated from her partner. She waited so long to be reunited with him, and she was prepared to get her hands dirty to be reunited. And she did so in Crocus. Nabura and Wendy meanwhile, they can't be separated any further. Where the body ends and lacrima begins aren't interchangeable anymore due to Nabura's actions to save her, so they will never have to worry about being apart."

"I'm still worried on how that might affect her."

"I was envious of it you know," she countered. "But unlike him, my lacrima was not a small physical item but an entire body. I would always leave a physical presence in the world so I'd never be bound like that. But the idea of separation never occurred to me once. It never occurs to any of us really. We get fixated on our partners, even if Nabura will pretend otherwise."

"But things are different now," she continued with a wide smile. "If we can split and reform Getsuga, it means we're like them. In a different manner mind you but neither my body nor yours is our true form any more. Our true form is Getsuga, we're just the containers for the energy split in two. Even this form means nothing for barriers now."

To prove her words, she disappeared from his one side, the magic that made her up shifting around him until she reformed leaning against his back, her arms slung over his shoulders. Throughout the entire process though, he could still hear her talking in his mind. "You can probably do this too with practice. You were doing it against Yhwach, but back then you were so unstable physically that it would have been done effortlessly. But the point stands that these bodies are merely constructs of magic. They are based on the form of my lacrima in design, they are basically the real deal compared to the physical bodies of other humans, but they are still comprised of magic. They might age, they might get hurt, they might even perish. But we'll always reach the other so long as the other exists. Our bond isn't so easily broken now. If anything you can't ever get rid of me," she added with a wide smile, one he noticed as he turned his head slightly to see her grin.

"So I'm forgiven?"

She disappeared once again, reforming in front of him with her smile still intact. "Of course. I might guilt trip you for a while, but I know you tried to do what you thought was best. I picked you all those years ago because I wanted you, regardless of your flaws, so perhaps part of me always knew this was a risk that would happen. That one day you'd prioritise my life over my desires. But now that we're like this, that's not an option anymore. So long as you're fine being stuck with me, I'll be fine being stuck with you. No walls can separate us, not even death, so long as the other exists. And if we ever were to perish, neither of us will be left behind. You don't need to worry about prioritising my life and I don't need to worry about my fears. Though be wary of weapons targeting magic, they will likely hurt a hell of a lot more than they ever did before. Cost of having a physical body comprised of magic at its core."

"Thank you."

He didn't need to specify which part he was thanking her for. His life, her forgiveness, those two words summoned up all of us as he smiled back at her in turn. He could feel one weigh being lifted from his shoulders, the burden of guilt lessened ever so slightly.

"So," Mavis added teasingly, "Who's next on this list to apologise for? I bet Nozomi's been waiting for hers. You know, after you avoided ever giving her a straight answer."

Ah, and there was the familiar sense of guilt back again.

He wasn't done yet. He still had things to make up for. Things to answer.

But at least right now he could do so. The future was there for them all, and for once he could go into it without worry of what was next to come.

Protector Of The Fairies

Well this is awkward. Last time I made you wait a while. I last updated midway through July last week. I figure half you lot thought I was dead. I was gone so long Covid showed up and consumed most of this year too. I was gone so long Bleach announced a new anime season for the Thousand Year Blood War arc. I was gone so long Burn The Witch finally came out. But I'm here, I'm alive, I'm well.

Why was I gone for so long? I can't really pinpoint a full reason. I've made note of it in the past but my motivation has waned for this story over the last few years. I think when I started work and my schedule shifted, I was never quite able to fall into a routine like I did originally when I started this story, and then time passed as I began to enjoy some of the freedom that came from it. But as this story was not finished, there was always the nagging thought in the back of my mind, and has been for months. I just struggled to find the motivation to continue, yet could not start anything new so long as this remained unfinished right at the finish line.

But what makes things worse is the last chapter. Because this chapter? Could have finished earlier. But then you'd still be waiting for the end. I held out until I could finish that, and that chapter is my apology. It's 50,000 words.

No, you did not read that wrong. That is the chapter you have to look forward to. And for old time's sake, this chapter was released on a Tuesday and the final chapter will be out next week on a Tuesday too. I won't keep you all waiting longer than that. This final week is merely so I can edit and read through the final parts to make sure it's good to go, as the content itself is already written.

As for this chapter anyway, I wrapped things up a bit and got to do some nice scenes with Laxus, Levy and Ichigo along with him apologising to Mavis which flowed well when I was writing it. But the bulk of the conclusion is next chapter, hence the size. I'll be wrapping up so much stuff and I didn't feel like I could cut it down, not when I've used so many characters in this story over the years. So look forward to it.

Anyway, till the next time. I've been Takei. Thanks for reading.