Mest was not the one to tell Fairy Tail about the deaths of the Tenrou Team, but he might as well have been. The magic council sent the guild official reports of what happened, but they were cold, purely analytical. The guild wasn’t quite sure how to handle the news, and it sure as hell didn’t feel real.
Honestly, Mest wasn’t even sure it was real. Nothing seemed real, after his memories were so jumbled up. The council claimed he was one of them, that his name was Doranbolt, and that he’d never been anything more than their spy, worming his way into Fairy Tail’s ranks to find some evidence that could finally get certain members arrested, or even something that could get their status as a guild revoked.
But the thing was… certain memories were still fuzzy, still corroded, and he was sure that the Master of Fairy Tail had the answers, the true answers, regarding who he was, what his missions had been.
But now Makarov was dead. And Mest would never know.
So what else was there to do but accept the council’s word? He wasn’t sure he could ever truly work for them, even after he’d uncovered his own memories of doing so. How could he, when they had left Fairy Tail to be butchered like that? Of course, there was no way they could have defeated Acnologia, but perhaps they could have helped his guild (not his guild? How was he supposed to know) escape.
It’s not like it mattered now, though. They were all dead, and no one could do a damn thing.
Finally, a few weeks after the incident, after he’d had some time to get his thoughts in order (and mind you, they were still jumbled as hell, just slightly less jumbled), Mest forced himself to return to Magnolia, to provide what closure and information he could for the guild.
Bisca and Macao were the first ones to talk to him when he arrived, walking him into the back office before the rest of the guild could bombard him with questions.
“Is it true?” Bisca demanded as soon as she closed the door. “Or is the council bullshitting us so that we’ll leave them out there for dead?”
Mest sighed and hung his head. “It’s true. I… I saw it with my own eyes.”
He watched as Bisca’s last shred of hope was torn away. Her eyes widened and filled with tears, and a choked sob escaped her as she fell against the wall.
Macao just sighed, like he’d been expecting the worst. “I see.”
“The island’s gone,” Mest said, completely monotone, like he was just reporting facts, not sealing the guild’s fate. “There’s no way they’re still alive. Of course, the council hasn’t declared them officially dead, mostly because of the lack of bodies. But… it’s all a formality.”
Bisca’s sobbing only grew louder.
“Erza is dead.”
Jellal had no idea what to do with the words. He’d known something was wrong the past couple weeks. Erza and all of her friends were still gone, despite her promise that they would only be gone for a few days, but no one would answer his questions when he asked about them.
But today, the green haired sniper woman came to talk to him. He knew it was bad before she opened her mouth, but he never thought…
“No…” he said. “There’s no way. Erza wouldn’t… she wouldn’t die.”
Bisca’s eyes hardened. “Shut up. There’s no use in denying it. She’s gone. She’s never coming back. She was torn apart by a damned dragon, and so was every other member that went out to Tenrou. I’m only telling you so you’ll stop asking about it.”
The weight of her words crashed into him. Gone. Never coming back. Jellal would never see her again. Would never see the only person who seemed to care for him ever again.
He didn’t remember crying. He was sure he had, at some point in his life, but he didn’t remember it.
So it was an odd feeling when the tears began to stream down his face.
Bisca, and pretty much every other member of the guild sailed out to Tenrou. She didn’t know what they were looking for. Mest said the island was gone, like it had never even existed in the first place. If the island was gone, there wouldn’t be any bodies. They’d either vanished with the island, had been completely obliterated by the dragon, or had been claimed by the ocean.
No matter what, it wasn’t like they were ever going to find them.
And they didn’t. The ships reached Tenrou’s coordinates, and there was nothing. Absolutely fucking nothing.
She leaned against the ship’s railing, desperately trying not to cry again.
Alzack approached her, and gently laid his hand on her shoulder. But even he didn’t have the words to comfort her.
No one had any comforting words.
Their Master was gone, so was every single member that had been raised by the guild, and their most powerful.
Erza’s gone. The woman who had brought Bisca to Fairy Tail, rescued her from a miserable life of thieving and hustling.
What the hell were they supposed to do now?
Romeo watched as the guild began to fall apart. Even as young as he was, he knew it was bad.
Job requests became few and far between, and the ones they got never paid well. Public faith in their guild had dwindled after their wizards either didn’t take the difficult jobs, or couldn’t complete them if they attempted them. So they ran out of money. If something didn’t happen soon, it was likely they might lose the guildhall.
His father became the new Master, and though they all respected him, knew that he was doing his best, it just… it just wasn’t right.
Romeo told his father as much one night.
He merely sighed and agreed.
Mest became an even worse alcoholic than Cana. He spent every last dime he had on booze, and Romeo couldn’t even remember the last time he’d seen the man sober. The other members all said it was guilt, but even at that age, Romeo thought it was pathetic. Why couldn’t he get up and help them? Obviously he was close with the magic council, couldn’t they do something?
The other members weren’t much better. Their coping mechanisms might not have been quite that unhealthy, but they all adopted them.
It didn’t help, that no matter what they seemed to do, the guild continued to splinter around them.
Without the Tenrou Team, there was simply nothing holding them together anymore.
A year passed, and Jellal was still in Fairy Tail’s basement. There had been a few conversations about handing him over to the magic council, or hell, even just letting him go, because why should they give a damn about what happened to him?
But ultimately, no decision was ever made.
So he stayed in his cell, content to wither away to nothing. Without Erza, there was nothing to live for. No one cared about him, and he didn’t remember anyone else to care about either. He might as well just vanish.
Meredy woke up to Ultear crying.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“You know, they died because of us,” she said as she tried to wipe the tears away, though it was obvious Meredy had already noticed them.
She crawled out of her bed to move over to Ultear’s, to wrap her arm around her and try to comfort her.
“You know… I really hate you sometimes,” Ultear said as she nestled into Meredy’s hold.
Meredy frowned, feeling that the words might be sincere. “And why is that?”
“You made me care,” she said. “Used to, I wouldn’t have given a damn that all those wizards died, let alone felt bad, thought that it was our fault, but now…” She took a shuddering breath. “They didn’t deserve to die like that. They just didn’t. They were strong, and sincere, and actually had something to live for.”
Meredy nodded, and ran her hands through Ultear’s hair. They’d made progress in the past year, but it was going to take longer than that to undo everything that Grimiore Heart did to them. “We’ll just have to find something else to live for, too.”
The door to his cell creaked open, and Jellal opened an eye, wondering which Fairy Tail mage could possibly be interested in talking to him at this ungodly hour.
But it wasn’t a Fairy Tail mage.
A woman with dark hair held her hand out. “Come with us, Jellal.”
The pink haired woman behind her nodded, and smiled.
He had no idea who they were, but what point was there in staying with Fairy Tail anymore?
Jellal took her hand.
Bisca couldn’t say that she cared when Jellal vanished. Actually, she didn’t think a single member did, considering how not a single one of them tried to find him again.
Honestly, she was a little surprised it had taken him this long to leave. He’d been perfectly capable of it. Hell, most of the time, they didn’t even bother locking his cell anymore.
And Jellal wasn’t the only one to leave. Mest withdrew from the guild, before leaving Magnolia. He came by every now and then, always looking worse than the last time, but the gaps between visits grew larger and larger.
Bisca couldn’t say she cared about that either.
She sighed, and leaned against the bar, glancing around the guildhall. They only had a few more days, before they were evicted, unable to make payments on the building. Fuck, they could barely scrape by and pay their taxes anymore.
“We won’t even have our damn guildhall anymore,” she hissed.
“So you’re finally going to do it?” Mest asked.
Lahar sighed. “It should have been done a long time ago.”
Mest nodded, and turned back to his paperwork. He didn’t officially work for the council anymore, but Lahar refused to let him just live his life and self destruct on his own time, so he asked him to help out quite often. “Good.”
Maybe officially declaring the Tenrou Team dead would help Fairy Tail move on, escape the ties of their past, because the guild wouldn’t survive if they kept trying to exist as they once had.
“I can’t believe it’s been three years,” Lahar said. “Back then, I never thought I’d see the day that that guild wasn’t a daily nuisance to deal with.” He signed another document. “I kind of miss it.”
Mest glanced up. “Oh?”
Lahar chuckled. “Don’t tell anyone I said that.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it.” Lahar was one of the only members of the magic council that seemed to show any remorse over what happened to the Fairy Tail mages, and as such, was the only member that Mest associated with at all anymore.
“I know you still don’t quite understand your connection to the guild,” Lahar said. “But ever since it was created, that guild has just refused to stay down. It’s one of the oldest in Fiore. I’m sure they’ll bounce back eventually, and they can probably help you figure it out.”
Sting didn’t read the newspaper. There wasn’t much of a point, but sometimes Rogue liked to pick up a copy. He claimed it was good to stay educated on modern events.
Sting had no idea why. They were living out in the damn woods, rarely interacting with civilization, but he wasn’t going to give his brother grief over it.
But something was different about today’s paper.
FIORE’S MOST POWERFUL GUILD OFFICIALLY DECLARED DEAD
Of course, Sting knew what the paper was referencing. Not even he and Rogue lived that far under a rock. Everyone had heard about the team of exceptionally powerful wizards that had been mercilessly slaughtered by a dragon.
But that had been years ago, hadn’t it? Why were they just now declaring them dead?
Rogue gasped, and the paper crinkled in his fingers.
“What?” Sting asked.
“I never knew their names,” Rogue muttered. “Never bothered to learn who they were. Who gave a damn who was in that guild, you know?”
“Yeah, so? I never cared either,” Sting said.
Rogue pulled the paper away from his face, his eyes wide. He handed the paper to Sting. “Read the names.”
Sting frowned, but complied, confused about what could possibly have Rogue so shaken.
The Guildmaster, Makarov Dreyar. Gildarts Clive. Mirajane Strauss. Erza Scarlet. Gray Fullbuster.
A rage of feelings unfurled in Sting’s chest, sadness, and rage, and confusion, and hurt.
Natsu Dragneel. Gajeel Redfox. Wendy Marvell.
How had they never realized they had been a part of that guild!? “They’re dead?” he choked.
Rogue didn’t reply, just looked away, probably to hide the tears building in his eyes. The tears that Sting pretended not to notice.
The memorials were pathetic, but it wasn’t like they could afford anything better. Handmade crosses, with their names messily carved into them.
Bisca kneeled next to Erza’s. “So you’ve been officially dead for a month now. Crazy, huh? Technically you lived to be twenty-four.”
The sad, little cross didn’t answer.
“Alzack and I finally told the guild we were expecting,” she said. “I’m hoping for a girl.”
Still, the cross was silent.
“I know we were never close,” she continued. “You had everyone else. But I always admired you, and I never felt like I could thank you enough for bringing me to the guild.” She ran her fingers across Erza’s name. “I hope you’re all having a good time, wherever you’re at. Terrorizing the gods, wreaking havoc on the afterlife, because what else would you lot be doing?” She sighed and bowed her head. “Miss you guys. It’s just not the same without you.”
“Crime Sorciere, huh?” Meredy asked. “That’s pretty kickass.”
Jellal chuckled. “Yeah, a little.”
Ultear looked up from the notebook she was sketching ideas for the guildmark in. “You’re both fucking crazy.”
Meredy laughed as she poked at the fire with a stick, adjusting the logs. “You’re still here, aren’t you?”
Ultear scoffed. “I have to be. Who knows what kind of trouble you two would be getting into without me.” And she completely believed it. If it weren’t for her, Meredy and Jellal would already be kicking down dark guilds’ doors, with no plan or regard for their own survival.
Jellal tipped his head back to look at the starry sky. “You think they’d be proud of us?”
Ultear didn’t bother answering. She wasn’t doing this for the Fairy Tail mages. She was doing this for herself.
(Maybe she did want to live a little more like Gray, make her mother proud if she could, but she’d never admit it).
But she knew Jellal still clung to Erza, even though she’d used magic to coax his memories into returning. Erza was a solid foundation to him, someone who had always been there, and someone who he looked up to, aspired to be like, aspired to impress.
She didn’t completely understand it, but as she glanced over at Meredy, she thought she might have a pretty decent idea of what it felt like. “Well it’s not like we can exactly fill out the paperwork for this,” Ultear said. “It’s as official as it’s ever going to get.”
Meredy grinned. “Finally part of a guild again. What do you think, Jellal? Isn’t it great?”
At first he didn’t answer, then he nodded. “I like it. Crime Sorciere.”
Mavis hadn’t expected the spell to last that long, but nothing could be done about it. Perhaps the increased stasis period was because of how much power had to be used for it to protect them from the dragon’s attack.
Seven years was a hefty price to pay for the magic, but she couldn’t be surprised.
Magic flickered around her as the island began to appear once more, wreathed in that golden light.
“Alright, everyone,” she said as she clasped her hands. “It’s time to get back to work. Everyone’s waited long enough.”