Chapter 25: Obvious Hints.

It was almost funny.

All those thousands of people whose deaths lay upon his hands, their blood turned to ashes as it trickled down his fingers, their bones snapping and cracking in the intense heat of his rage, their corpses burned, their towns ruined, their families laid to waste and slaughtered, they were the only ones who would get no justice.

There was those who refused to come forwards as well, and there were more than a few of them, those who hadn't even responded to the councils call, they would never get their just deserts.

But every single merchant, business owner, hell everyone who owned, lived in, or had a stake in any building, property or possession that he had destroyed would get every Jewel they were owed.

Scrap 'almost funny', it was downright hilarious.

The irreplaceable lives he had claimed were forgotten, but the replaceable money was given all the attention it didn't need.

Of course it was done justly by the guild masters called to the trial, every claim was assessed, more than a didn't at least imprison him for all the property damage, because there was enough, but guessed Ultear or Arachne had pulled something on the sly.

Natsu didn't know how to feel about that.

It was an odd feeling, he had had a path to walk, straight to the guillotine, and now it had been taken away, and while to most people not getting executed would've been a source of relief, it wasn't really for Natsu. It was like his purpose was gone and now he had to decide what to do, again.

And so here he was, strolling down a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, his feet leading him wherever they were wont to go, his wrists red and raw from the manacles they had kept him in, his eyes crusted with sleep from the tediously long trial that had only today ended. It had taken four days for the whole mess to be sorted out, it was so boring that Natsu couldn't even sleep through it all, and he had tried, hard.

And in case anyone was wondering how you tried 'hard' to get to sleep, your slammed your head against something solid until unconsciousness finally greeted you with open arms and a warm welcoming smile.

It never did.

So on top of everything else, Natsu's head hurt like hell.

The question remained thought 'Where did he go from here?'

On the one hand he could hunt down the Blistering Trio and do whatever the fuck they wanted, party, burn, chill, dance, whatever. On the other hand he could hunt down Erza and spend the rest of his life shadowing her footsteps like a lost puppy...

Putting it that was, the choice was obvious, in fact there wasn't even any real choice between them.

Erza all the way.

His steady pace came to an abrupt halt at a boulder by the side of the road, and he leaned again it, sighing softly "So?" he looked to his side, beyond the boulder, at the woman sat there waiting "What do you want Arachne?"

Her amused giggles greeted his ears while her teasing smile greeted his eyes "Is that anyway to talk to the woman who manage to save you from certain death?"

Natsu said nothing, but shot her a half glare.

"What? Don't tell me you wanted to die Natsu-chan?" Arachne sat there, in a handsome green leather armchair, by the side of the dirt road in the middle of nowhere leading to god only knows where coming from somewhere no one cared about. It was highly unlikely that this meeting was a coincidence, and as Arachne omnipotence was formidable though not perfect, coincidences rarely occurred without her planning for them. When they involved her personally at least, or especially perhaps.

He just scoffed.

"But if you died" Arachne tilted her head cutely "Then who would protect dear Erza-chan? Hmm?"

In an instant he was on her, but he didn't choke her, or punch her, he did nothing more than grasp her chin gently and tilted her head up to look at him "Arachne, don't tease me on that subject."

"Oh? Is it as sore as Ghost, or is it something else entirely?"

"Remember what I told you last time" he reminded her calmly, Arachne was almost impressed at the sheer lack of emotion in his words. Usually he was all fire and rage and hatred and burning, but this was... in comparison, it was just plain pathetic.

"Fine, fine" she acquiesced "I won't tease you" she smiled teasingly "On that subject at least."

Natsu sighed.

"So?" her green eyes flashed with mischief and amusement "What are you going to do now Natty? Where will you go, what will you do, why will you do it? Come on, I want to know the answers to these questions. It's killing me."


She smiled "Almost."

"Pity" he sounded genuinely disappointed.

She stuck out her tongue.

"Why don't you tell me, Mrs I Know Absolutely Fucking Everything?" he said, turning it back on her "Tell me Arachne, what am I going to do now?"

"Ms, Natsu, not Mrs."

"You're old enough to a Mrs" he quipped.

"You shouldn't make jests about a woman's age Natsu-chan" Arachne waggled her finger "They get touchy about that subject. You see, how can I leave you alone in your vague attempts to pursue a romantic relationship when you're are so utterly inept at even tact, never mind actual romance!" Natsu only raised an eyebrow, which made her pout "You know... you could always forget about her... and become mine" her voice was soft, seductive, and oh so dangerous.

"Yeah, that's never going to happen" Natsu said, chuckling all the while "I've seen the marks on Tess, there is no way I'm getting involved in that kind of shit, Arachne. I don't particularly like pain, and I don't like it when people like the pain I'm giving to them. It becomes pointless you see."

She pouted as she ran her fingers down her cheek, then trailed lower, following the line of her neck, down past the see through sheer fabric that covered her cleavage, over the dark spider webbed patterned material to where the material split to reveal her pale calf and thigh. The long black gloves that went from her knuckles to halfway up her upper arm hid more skin. In all honestly this was probably one of the most 'decent' outfits Natsu had seen her in.

She had this tendency of wear little in the way of clothes when greeting him.

"What do you want, Arachne?" he asked again, any amusement gone from his tone, he was now serious and cold.

Which only made her pout harder "You don't wanna play with me, Natty? Ah, I'm so said" she bemoaned her cruel fate, for a moment, before putting a cruel smile back on her face "So tell me, how exactly is the unemployed former dark mage going to pay off his rather considerable debt?"

He shrugged "It'll work out."

"Oh, I'm sure it will" she stood, a few steps covering the small distance between them, and trailed her fingers along his collar bone, looking up into his eyes "How about I give you a hand though?"

"That" Natsu grabbed her hand and pushed it back to her chest "will depend entirely on where you want said hand."

"You know where I want it" she breathed "Unfortunately that will have to wait" she sat back down "Come here" before beckoning him over "Let me get a good look at you."

"What are you my grandma now?" Natsu asked irritably "Well I guess you're old enough to be."

"What was that?" Arachne asked darkly "I could've sworn you just said something."

"I said you're old enough to be my grandma" he said to her, deadpan "Are you going deaf now? Must be your age I guess."

She twitched "Come here... please?"

Natsu sighed and leaned forwards, so that she could 'get a good look' at him.

Her fingers grasped his chin gently, moving over his cheek, flicking his nose lightly, tracing his lips, tugging on his earlobe, before finally just resting on the side of his face, her eyes locked with his "Well would you look at that" she mused quietly "All that fire, all that rage, all that anger... it's all gone. Oh, Natsu, has the monster in you finally been tamed?"

He said nothing.

"By her, yes? Erza Scarlet" Arachne looked away "I'm almost jealous. Correction, I am jealous. How I wish I was the one to tame you."

Natsu scoffed "You'd stick a collar on me."

"Yes, and lead you around by a leash" she added.

"Arachne" Natsu moved closer, so that his nose and hers touched "What do you want?"

She sighed sombrely "Did you know that the Fantasia Parade is happening in Magnolia tomorrow?" Natsu raised his eyebrow. Magnolia, that was... "And it just so happens that I have a meeting arranged with a... certain someone in town that day. However... I don't like parades, so I really don't want to go and I'd be ever so grateful if my favourite little fire dragon would do it for me."

Natsu stared at her flatly.

"It's what you were going to do, no? Now that you're all tame, you will of course run after your master like a lost puppy" his brow furrowed, his eyes darkened. She just smiled "Am I wrong, Natsu?"

"No" Natsu said, backing off and turning away "What do you want me to say to this... someone?"

"Tell him..." Arachne pondered it a moment, playing with the sheer fabric over her cleavage "Tell him I have a certain desires that only he can fulfil. And tell him..." she bit her lip, then smiled "Tell him, 'The Lady in Red is dancing with Him', yes, tell him that."

"The lady in red?" Natsu raised an eyebrow.

"Yes" she confirmed with a smile.

"Right, so what does this guy look like?"

Arachne blinked "Um..." she toyed with a lock of her flawlessly straight black hair "Look for a smartly dressed man, you'll know him when you see him, I assure you."

"Right" Natsu turned and walked away.

"Natsu" she said teasingly "What about your payment?" she reminded "Don't tell me you're so eager to get to your master's side that you forgot about it?"

He had had enough with the master and dog jokes... only he doubted they were jokes. Worst still he couldn't even refute them, without lying his ass off "How much?"

"Let's see... a hundred thousand Jewels seem fair?"


And with that he left.

Arachne giggled "So eager to reach her, hmm?" her smile slowly fell.

The last time she had seen him Natsu's eyes were full of fire and rage. He was a monster screaming at the world, a single thing could set him off and all would be death and burning... and now he was a monster caged, tied down by affection and 'love', of all things. His eyes were dull, smouldering embers that while nice to look at, lacked the majestic glory and brutal horror of a wildfire.

He had been so... so beautiful, now he was just a husk.

"Ah well" she said, suddenly cheerful "Time to head home" she stood and began walking away, leaving the chair behind. She looked back at Natsu's back in the distance "Enjoy yourself, my cute little fire dragon, because soon enough a firestorm will engulf you... or you will cause one. Either way, fun for me!"

And with that said she faced forwards and began her trek home.


You know that feeling, when you arrive late to a party and everyone else is already drunk, and you feel kinda left out, like you don't really belong?

Natsu was having a similar feeling walking the occasionally wrecked streets of Magnolia. What the hell had happened was beyond him, he was just looking for a 'smartly dressed man' on the orders of some psychotic bitch, yep, there was absolutely no other reason as to why he was here in Magnolia, the home town of Fairy Tail, the guild of Erza Scarlet.

Nope, no other reason at all.

He couldn't even make that sound like the truth in his head.

He looked up, shielding his eyes from the sun. Those glowing ball things up in the sky were bothering him, glowing ball things in the sky were never a good thing unless they were your glowing ball things flying in the sky, and those weren't, obviously as he'd just arrived and he didn't have any glowing ball things anyway.

Natsu kinda wished he had some glowing ball things.

Still he was on the lookout for the 'smartly dressed man' right now, no time for anything else, so unless a certain fiery red caught his eyes he would continue looking until he was done... then he'd actively start searching.

And as luck would have it Natsu would run into the person he was searching for very soon, in fact it would take only five, four, three...

"Whoops, sorry about that."

Fuck! Damn timing.

"That's alright" the person Natsu had walked into said politely, offering him a kind smile. Natsu paused at the man's appearance, it wasn't every day you saw someone walking around in a top hat after all, it wasn't every other day that you saw someone who could actually pull of the top hat look while looking like not a complete idiot either.

The man was rather smartly dressed, wearing a tailed dress coat, a waistcoat and dress trousers, all in black of course, a pure white shirt, and a black tie. Along with his black top hat, he was shiny black shoes and had a long, black cane in his hand. Combining this with his golden yellow eyes, and the fact that Arachne had told Natsu that he'd know him when he saw him, Natsu decided that this was definitely the guy... probably.

"Um, I don't suppose you know a psycho spider bitch named Arachne..." Natsu tilted his head "Do you?"

The man twitched "Her again... damn it, what does she want this time?"

Natsu shrugged "How should I know?"

"Well given that you know her and you know me, I can devise that you were sent here by her, since she always gets someone else to do her dirty work. And therefore you know something of what she wants from me, and the sooner I do whatever it is she wants the sooner I can get back to doing what I love."

"What's that?" the pink haired dragon slayer didn't even bother pausing to wonder why he cared. He didn't, not at all.

"I dunno" the stranger shrugged "Not being around 'her' I guess."

"That's a fair enough hobby" and one he could relate to. He really hated that woman.

The smartly dressed man nodded.

"So who are you?"

"Me? Oh, my name is..." they were cut off by an explosion in a nearby street that drew both of their attentions, momentarily "Where were we again?" the still nameless man asked.

"Arachne has a job for you... I think that's what she meant" Natsu said, completely forgetting his question in favour of what he did in fact remember. It was so much easier to remember stuff you remember as oppose to stuff you've forgot "She said to say 'The Lady in Red is dancing with Him'... whatever the hell that means."

"The Lady in Red in dancing with Him?" the smartly dressed stranger frowned "I get the feeling that that means something very obvious that anyone should get no matter how stupid..." his face fell "I don't get it."

"Me either" Natsu... didn't really reassure him, because Natsu was also an idiot, so really they were just two idiots.

The stranger pouted "This is so like 'her'. Calls out of the blue, expects me to drop whatever I'm doing to immediately come to her beck and call, and currently what I'm doing is avoiding her like the plague, and gives me some vague clue and lets me piece it together all by myself with little in the way of guidance of assistance."

"Man... that sucks" at least Natsu's job were simple, but it sounded like Arachne was a grade-A bitch to this guy, while she was just a grade-C bitch to Natsu. It made him wonder why.

"Arachne... that damnable woman, how I'd love to get five minutes alone with her... well I've had five minutes alone with her but I mean five minutes where I actually bother to do something like punch her in the face, rip off her legs, smash apart her skull, rip out her stomach and hang her with her own fucking digestive track!" there was a dark glint in the man's yellows eyes, and his canine teeth seemed to become more prominent as his violent rant continued.

"I know the feeling" Natsu... reassured him... again, not really reassuring. They were just both psychotic and incredibly violent, or maybe Arachne was the sort of woman you just ended up brutally hating whether you wanted to or not. To Natsu she was at least.

The stranger glanced at Natsu, a smile spreading over his face "What's your name kid?"

"Natsu, Natsu Dragneel" Natsu gave him a thumbs up to spice up his bland introduction.

"Natsu Dragneel huh..." the man's smile widened "I like you."


"You are most welcome" the stranger tipped his hat to the young dragon slayer "Now, I must go deal with the temperate bitch, so I shall bid you adieu, which means goodbye."

"Oh... thanks" if the man hadn't explained Natsu wouldn't have had a clue what was going on, so it was very nice to him.

"Ta-ta then..." the man said finally "That also means goodbye."

"Gotcha, bye bye" Natsu waved as the stranger first chuckled then turned on his heel and walked away down the slightly rubble filled street "Now then" Natsu frowned "What else was I doing?"

The smartly dressed stranger glanced back, his yellow eyes immediately analysing the confused boy stood in the street "What an amusing boy" a cruel smirk played about his lisp "How very, very amusing indeed" he chuckled darkly, foreshadowing future events in an incredibly obvious way that had not the slightest hint of subtly because subtly hinting at something is incredibly difficult without making it extremely hard for anyone to realise what you're hinting at.

But while this terribly important portending occurrence was going on Natsu was still trying to figure out what the hell he was doing here.

Wherever here was.


When a large icy sword stabs into the ground in front of you, just as you're about to enter a cathedral, you know it's either a message from god that he really doesn't want you around right now, or it's Gray Fullbuster out for your life.

Unless you don't believe in/care about god, or don't know/remember who Gray Fullbuster is. Natsu Dragneel had both of those attributes, if they could even be called that, but he reacted in a manner one might expected when a large icy sword stabs into the ground in front of you.

"That's a large icy sword" he stated... the bleeding obvious, but it was still a statement.

"Salamander" Gray Fullbuster was on his last legs, scrapes and wounds covered his entire body and he was barely holding himself upright, but when Warren told him what he had saw, when Warren told him that Salamander had entered Magnolia, Gray couldn't just stand back. He had to come here, he had to stop him before he reached Erza.

How exactly Warren knew what Salamander looked like was a long series of events that would greatly detract from the drama of the present moment, so suffice to say that someone had told him at some point... yeah.

'Who the hell is this guy?' was the thought currently going through Salamander, i.e. Natsu's, mind as he stared at the dark haired youth. He got the strange feeling they'd met before "Um... I'm not sure what exactly you..." Natsu was cut off by ice dagger flying at him.

Smacking them out of the air with a fiery fist was easy, they weren't even worth blocking but he did it anyway, as otherwise they would've stabbed into him, which would've been painful, which isn't nice. Taking a hold of the dark haired youth's neck and holding him up in the air in a choke hold was equally easy.

Keeping him there was a bit more difficult as humans weren't exactly light, especially fully grown ones, and holding one up in the air with just one hand while applying the necessary pressure to choke them was not as easy a task as one might assume.

"So... who are you exactly?" Natsu asked, scratching the back of his head while he choked the life out of Gray.

Gray, who was choking and therefore obviously couldn't respond, merely glared at the pink haired teen.

"Oh, right, I'm choking you aren't I?" he let the boy drop "Sorry about that... So who are you?"

Gray coughed and glared up at him "The names Gray Fullbuster" he stood "And if you think I'll let you get at Erza you're..."

"I'm wrong?" Natsu smiled "Am I? Hehe, I wonder" he smile showed off his sharp canines "Am I really wrong, Gray-chan?"

Gray formed a hand sigh to channel his magic "I won't let you hurt her, Salamander."

"Hurt her?" Natsu blinked "I don't really wanna do that though."

"Eh?" Gray blinked stupidly, well not actually stupidly because although Salamander had sort of saved Erza, which made him not a complete arsehole, he had made several attempts to burn Erza to death, which made him an arsehole, and had almost succeeded, which made him something of a bigger arsehole.

So in Gray's eyes Salamander was still something an enemy, and a rather big one, and because Gray was unaware of certain other events that as well as being ignorant as to the thoughts in Salamander's head, he wasn't stupid he just didn't know and, because he didn't know, was confused.

So really Gray blinked confusedly, not stupidly.

"Yeah, not really interested in hurting Erza right now" Natsu told him "I'm bored of that, in fact it got boring a while ago. Eventually it got to be like beating a dead horse... pointless... I wonder where I learned that phrase from. Hmm..." he scratched his chin "Probably Alastor, he was always one for the weird phrases... or was that Charmain... huh?" Natsu frowned, genuinely confused.

Maybe it was both of them?

Gray twitched "Are you going to pay any attention to the matter at hand?"

"No, I'm pretty bored of it already to be honest. It's not really interesting to me right now, so I have to go off on these tangents otherwise its gets really boring and I end up killing everyone. So it's pretty important that I constantly deviate from the point..." Natsu smiled "Also I used big words. Praise me!"

"Um... Well done?" Gray frowned. 'What the hell was he doing?' was a question he was asking himself at that moment.

Natsu beamed, as in a bright smile, not some kind of fiery laser beam that destroyed stuff, the boring kind of beam.

"A-anyway, what are you doing here then?" Gray asked, still standing in Salamander's way.

"Um… going to church?"

The look Gray gave him was not amused… which Natsu found rather amusing to be honest.

"Look, Ice-boy, I'm here for fun. Not for murder, death, annihilation or holocaust. Just fun" Natsu grinned "So let me pass, into there, where Erza is, and it won't have to become about murder, death, annihilation and or holocaust. Or keeping standing there…" his grin widened "Your choice, but make it quickly. I have little patience at the moment."

Gray's hair shadowed his eyes as he thought about it. He couldn't stop Salamander, he had fought a good number of his own guild, been beaten by Bickslow, and was on his last legs. Salamander on the other hand looked like he still had several sets of legs held in reserve… though hopefully not literally, though given his occupation it wasn't impossible.

"Why should I trust you?" Gray asked, looking up at the dark mage "You saved her once, but all those other times you tried to kill her. So why the hell should I let you pass?"

Natsu shrugged "Because I say so?" he offered half-heartedly, knowing it wouldn't be good enough, which was aggravating. If he beat up this ice mage, which probably wouldn't take more than a tap given the look of him, then Erza was going to be really pissed off with him, and that was not what Salamander wanted.

What did he want?

Well not even he was sure of that, but he didn't want Erza to be angry with him, that much he did know.

"Tell you what, those ball thingies up there, they're going to destroy the town aren't they?"

"How did you…"

"I have a good nose. Destructive lightning magic has a distinct scent… I hate lightning magic, there was that one lightning bastard who I didn't get to satisfactorily kill. The fucker had to go and commit suicide before I murder him, arsehole. Um… what was I saying? Oh yeah, lightning ball things, so they contain lightning magic" Natsu grinned "So if I blow them up, thus saving your town, will you trust me then?"


Natsu didn't want to find out, and instead turned his head skywards "FIRE DRAGON'S ROAR!"

Fire consumed the sky, spreading out across the blue expanse like clouds, roaring burning clouds, dying the entire town a burnt orange in its light.

Salamander ended the stream of flame and looked down at Gray "Good enough?"

"You do realise that destroying them hits you with the force of the lightning magic… right?" Gray asked deadpan.

"Huh?" in an instant lightning struck him, over and over again. Gray was sent flying back from the force of it and hit the archway around the cathedral door. When it finally ended a blackened patch of dirt remained, as well as a rather worse for wear Salamander "Well fuck" Natsu coughed "Wasn't expecting that."

He looked at Gray, smiling when he noticed the ice mage was unconscious.

"So I guess you'll let me in now, huh?" he stepped passed the teen and pushed the cathedral doors open.

A dark grin sat upon his face.







Well, that was that. See you whenever the fuck I have another chapter which will be sometime... god only knows when, and he isn't telling me shit (as usual).