These Scars of Mine
The universe is built on the idea of free will and choice. Because man is a being that is both aware of the decisions he makes and the fact that he is making them, he is able to shape his own destiny. Of course, not every decision is going to affect your life. Making the odd sandwich will not change human history. However, deciding whether or not to take that job in another city just might.
Have you ever made a momentous decision in your life and then wonder how your life would be if you had gone in the opposite direction? Perhaps there is another version of you who is living the life you could have been. In this vast universe, anything is possible, right?
Consider Gajeel Redfox and how the events in his life shaped him. The man he became today was because of a choice. When Metalicana disappeared from Gajeel's life, the young boy went looking for him. He searched high and low for the Iron Dragon until he came to a crossroads. It was this crossroads that changed his life.
To the east was the town of Raguna, a fishing town. To the west was Endymion, a textile based city. Now the Gajeel we know went west to Endymion. He did not find Metalicana and became sullen. That sullenness turned into anger. The anger turned to violence. And... well, you know what happens next.
But what might have happened if Gajeel had went to Raguna? How would his life be different? Shall we explore this possibility?
Young Gajeel headed to the town of Raguna searching for Metalicana. He figured it shouldn't be too difficult to find a 10 story, 6 ton dragon in a small town like this, right? He didn't talk to any of the townspeople though. They reeked of something weird. So he avoided them like the plague. Gajeel was sniffing around for the metallic scent of the Iron Dragon when his sensitive ears picked up on something. It was a sound that he had never heard before. So the young boy decided to investigate in the direction of the sound.
An eight year old Levy McGarden was coming back from the marketplace with a brown bag filled with groceries. She had all the ingredients she needed to make soup for her parents. They were pretty sick so the young girl figured that if she made soup for them, they would get better. With a smile on her face, Levy skipped on her way back home.
"Hey, McGarden." She heard a voice call out to her.
She turned around saw two kids she wished weren't there, the town bullies, fourteen year olds Dylan and Arlene. They were kids of the richest people in Raguna, which, of course gave them the right to mess with the other kids. Levy turned back around, hoping that they would just leave her alone if she didn't pay them any mind.
"McGarden." Dylan called out to her again. "Are you ignoring me?"
"Maybe she couldn't hear you." Arlene commented in a snarky undertone. "We should go over to her."
The two walked up to her. Levy didn't want a confrontation with the two bullies so she walked faster. This made Dylan and Arlene walk faster as well. The blue haired girl realized then that they wouldn't leave her alone. So, with the groceries in her small arms, Levy ran away. Dylan and Arlene gave chase.
Young Levy ran down the street as fast as her little legs could take her. With the two bullies chasing her, she turned a corner hoping to lose them. Unfortunately, she ran right into a dead end. With nowhere to go, she turned around and saw Dylan and Arlene blocking the only way in and out. They looked like cats that have cornered a mouse.
"Well, well, well." Arlene snickered. "You're cornered now."
Levy looked positively fearful. She knew that they could be particularly vicious. Her bag of groceries was shaking in her hands.
The two of them stalked towards Levy. The blue haired girl pressed herself up against the wall in fear. She had no idea what they were going to do to her. Dylan smacked the bags of groceries out of her hands. The vegetables, the can of broth, everything clattered onto the ground. Arlene then grabbed the young girl's blue hair. Levy cried out, tears starting to pool in her eyes.
"You know that this is your fault, McGarden." Arlene told Levy as she pulled on the young girl's hair. "You should have listened to Dylan when he called you over in the first place."
"Please let me go, Arlene-san." She cried out.
"Not until you learn some manners." Arlene growled sadistically.
Dylan pushed Levy hard against the wall, causing her head to bang against it. She let out a painful yell.
"Now are you ready to listen?" Dylan laughed cruelly.
Levy cried harder now. Tears started spilling freely from her face. Why were they being mean to her? She didn't do anything to them.
Arlene raised her hand to slap Levy in the face. She closed her eyes so that she wouldn't have to see it. However, the impact didn't happen. Instead, she felt the bully let go of her hair.
Levy opened her eyes a bit and saw that Arlene was no longer in front of her. Her tears stopped immediately as she looked around. Almost immediately, they focused on a young boy with wild spiky black hair. He was standing a bit further away but it looked like his arm was freakishly long. She turned to her side and saw that the boy's extremely long arm pushed Arlene away from her.
"What the heck?" Dylan gasped.
Levy saw the boy's arm retract back into a normal looking arm. The eight year old girl thought that was extremely weird.
"Who the heck are you?" Dylan demanded. He then charged the black haired boy.
IRON DRAGON CLUB
Levy watched as the young boy's arm extended and turned into iron, hitting Dylan square in the chest and throwing him towards the dazed Arlene.
"You're a mage?" Dylan said, coughing violently.
"Let's get out of here." Arlene said.
Dylan nodded. He helped pick up his compatriot and they ran away, leaving a very grateful and confused Levy.
Gajeel looked at the girl he had saved. For the life of him, he couldn't explain why he did it. She wasn't who he was looking for. She was just some girl. She was nothing to him. So why did he feel compelled to save her? Why?
Levy didn't know what was going through the youth's mind. She was just grateful that he came along and saved her. Without thinking, the blue haired girl ran to her savior and hugged him.
"Thank you." She squealed in delight, hugging the black haired boy tight. "Thank you. Thank you. Thank you."
Gajeel was very confused. This girl was the first person who has ever talked to him, the first person to ever touch him like this. Hell, even Metalicana never touched him like this. Now the question is, why is he letting this girl touch him like that?
"Let me go." Gajeel said. He started blushing. However, he made no move to push the girl off of him. It was weird. Why wasn't he pushing her off of him?
Gajeel looked down at the girl who was still hugging him. She was looking up at Gajeel and smiling at him.
"How can I repay you?" Levy asked. Then her face brightened considerably. "Oh, I know. How 'bout I cook for you?"
Gajeel was about to refuse when his stomach answered for him. It was a loud growl that echoed throughout the dead end. The black haired youth blushed.
"Come on." Levy smiled. "I'll take you to my house."
She went to pick up her groceries, putting them back into her bag. She gave another smile to her savoir. "Oh, I never got your name." Levy said. "My name is Levy, Levy McGarden."
Gajeel looked away. He couldn't understand why she was affecting him like this. He had never felt anything like he did now. Why was that?
"Gajeel. Gajeel Redfox." He mumbled.
"Gajeel?" She said questioningly. "What a cute name."
The color drained from Gajeel's face. "C-c-cute?" He stammered. He was not cute. He was not cute at all. He was a boy. Boys aren't cute. They are... well, whatever the opposite of cute was.
Levy grabbed one of Gajeel's hands. "Come on, Gajeel." She said cheerily. "I'll take you to my house. Mommy and daddy would love to see you."
The girl was doing it again, making him feel weird.
He looked away. "Whatever." He snorted. He allowed himself to be led by this girl to her house. If he had looked at his face in a mirror, he would have seen that there was a light pink dusting on it.
Levy's house wasn't anything special. It was a one story building that looked like it could be blown down at any second. She opened the door to her house and motioned Gajeel to follow her. With a shrug of his shoulders, he did so.
"Welcome to my house." Levy greeted when he entered. She pointed to a table with chairs surrounding it. "Please take a seat while I cook."
Gajeel listened to what she said and took a seat at the table. He felt very uncomfortable as he did. He had never been in an indoor setting before. When he was with Metalicana, Gajeel was always outside in an open field. And when the weather got bad, they would take shelter in a cave or under trees but never a house.
With curious interest, Gajeel watched Levy cook. She was a bit too short to reach the countertops so she had to use to a stepstool. She took a knife and cut the vegetables and potatoes. Next, she started deboning the chicken and cutting it into bite-sized pieces. It was interesting to watch her tiny hands fly like that. He had never cooked before. Anything he has ever eaten was because of Metalicana. All the young Dragon Slayer has ever eaten was Iron and the odd wild animal. Then, after the Iron Dragon disappeared, Gajeel had survived on whatever scraps he could find. So this would be his first time eating something like this. He was curious to see how something her food would taste like.
Levy took a large pot and filled it with water from the sink. When it was three-quarters full, she put it on the stove and put the flames on. She poured the can of broth in the pot. When it came to a simmer, the girl put the ingredients into the pot. Afterwards, she joined Gajeel at the table.
"So, Gajeel." She said in a chipper voice. "Where are you from? What are you doing in Raguna? Where are you going? Are you all alone?"
Levy kept firing questions one after the other. Gajeel felt like his head was swimming. When he was with Metalicana, the Iron Dragon only spoke when it was necessary and only what was necessary. This girl... she was so weird. And she was making him feel weird. He couldn't explain it. The Iron Dragon Slayer didn't mind feeling it some more though.
Gajeel explained who he was, his relationship to Metalicana, the Iron Dragon's disappearance, and his subsequent search for him. Levy listened with rapt attention. She had never met anyone as interesting as this young boy. The more he told her, the more her eyes started to sparkle. She was so enthralled by his story that she nearly forgot about the soup until it started to bubble over.
"Oh, the soup!" She gasped. "I almost forgot."
The blue haired girl got up from the table and went to the stove to turn off the flames. Afterwards, she used the stepstool to go into the cabinet and got two bowls. Next she got a ladle and poured the soup into the bowls. She took one bowl and, ever so slowly, walked over towards the table. Levy then gently placed the bowl in front of Gajeel. She repeated the action with her own bowl. The little girl then got some spoons from a drawer. Levy handed one to Gajeel and then she sat at the table.
Gajeel had never seen a spoon before. He clasped the entire handle in his fist instead of holding it in between his fingers
"Have you never used a spoon before?" Levy asked with her big soulful eyes.
Gajeel shook his head no.
"You hold it like this." She said as she demonstrated with her spoon. "Then you do this." She dipped her spoon into the broth.
Gajeel mimicked her motions.
"Now blow on it because it's hot." Levy told him. She blew on her spoon and put it in her mouth.
Gajeel followed suit. However he didn't blow on his food. He just put the food in his mouth. The young Dragon Slayer felt the burn immediately.
"HOT! HOT!" Gajeel yelped as his tongue started to burn.
Levy sighed. "That's why you are suppose to blow on it first." She told him.
Gajeel looked cross at the girl. "How was I suppose to know that?" He yelled at her.
Levy's eyes started to water. Then the tears came. "Wahhh!" She cried as tears streamed down her face. "Gajeel yelled at me."
Gajeel immediately felt this pang in his chest. He didn't like it when Levy cried. It made him feel ... awful. And he didn't want to see them... ever again.
"Sorry, sorry." He apologized. "I'm sorry I snapped at you. Look. I'm going to eat it.
Gajeel took another spoonful. This time he remembered to blow on it. With a bit of trepidation, the black haired boy put the food in his mouth. All of the flavors of the food coated his tongue in awesome deliciousness. It was nothing like he had tasted before. Words couldn't describe it.
"This is good." Gajeel told Levy. He then plowed into the food like it would leave if he didn't finish it quickly.
"Really?" She smiled. "I'm so happy!"
The two ate in comfortable silence. Levy spooned her food while Gajeel wolfed it down. Soon, they were done.
"That was amazing, Levy." Gajeel praised the girl. "I want more."
Levy blushed. She had never had anyone praise her food before. "Thank you." She stammered. "But I've got to feed my parents first. They need it to get better, okay? But you can have whatever's left."
Gajeel nodded vigorously. Whatever got him more of her awesome food was alright by him.
Levy got two more bowls from the cabinet. With the ladle, she poured some soup into the bowls.
"Gajeel, can you grab one of those bowl and follow me into mommy and daddy's bedroom?" She asked.
Gajeel nodded again. With careful hands, he grabbed the bowl and followed Levy towards her parents' bedroom. As he did, his nose picked up a peculiar scent. It was somewhat familiar and not at the same time.
"Mommy, daddy, I'm coming in." Levy called out. With her foot, she pushed the door open.
When she did, the weird scent became stronger. Gajeel was still trying to place where he had smelled something like this as he entered the room.
"Mommy, daddy, I want you to meet my new friend, Gajeel." Levy said cheerfully.
Her parents made no reply. Levy turned on the lights and saw her parents lying on their bed. They made no motion at all. "I've made some soup." She told them. "You need to eat it all so that you can get better."
Her parents still didn't respond. Gajeel looked at her parents with curious interest. No matter what Levy did, her mother and father just lied there. The scent that he smelled earlier was emanating from them. He knew what it was now. Metalicana told him what this was. It was death.
"Levy." Gajeel told the young girl. "Your mommy and daddy are dead."
Levy placed the bowl on the nightstand next to the bed. "Dead?" She asked. "What is dead?"
"Dead is when you go to sleep but don't wake up again." Gajeel told Levy.
"Mommy and daddy aren't dead." She replied. "They are just sick. This soup will make them feel better."
She took the spoon and filled it with food. She put the spoon at her mother's mouth.
"Mommy, you need to open your mouth so that you can eat." Levy pleaded.
"Levy, your mommy's dead." Gajeel said.
Levy turned back around and stamped her tiny foot. "Stop lying." She yelled. "Mommy is just sick. She isn't dead... or whatever." She went back to trying to feed her mother food.
"Levy..." Gajeel said, a bit concerned.
"Mommy, eat." The girl pleaded. "This will make you better." She turned to her father. "Daddy, you need to eat too."
Her father didn't respond either.
"Mommy, daddy." Levy whined. "Please, I want you to get better."
"Levy, your mommy and daddy aren't going to get better." Gajeel yelled at the girl. "They are dead and they are never going to wake up ever again."
Levy dropped the spoon in tears and anger. She stomped over to the Dragon Slayer. "You're lying! Stop lying!" The young girl screamed as the tears streamed down her face. "They are going to get better."
She started pounding her tiny fists in the chest of Gajeel. "Stop lying!" She sobbed. "Stop lying! Stop lying! Stop lying!" She repeated.
Gajeel just took the abuse without a word. On an unconscious level, the young boy figured that Levy knew that her parents weren't going to wake up ever again. But she didn't want to accept it. Now she had no choice but to face reality.
"Stop lying!" Levy said one more time. She stopped hitting Gajeel and cried harder. She put her arms around the youth as she sobbed into his chest.
Gajeel didn't know what to do when Levy wrapped her arms around him. Hesitantly, almost awkwardly, the young boy wrapped his arms around the girl and let her cry until she could cry no more.
Gajeel lifted Levy off of her feet and took her out of her parents' room, closing the door behind them with his feet. He took her back towards the kitchen and into the living room where he saw a couch. He placed the young girl on it. The Dragon Slayer made a move to leave when Levy grabbed his shirt.
Gajeel looked at the young girl currently holding his shirt. His heart lurched seeing how vulnerable she looked. He knew that he should be looking for Metalicana. But something deep inside of him wanted to watch over this blue haired girl. For the life of him, he couldn't explain why he did.
He joined Levy on the couch. It was big enough for two children anyways. So without any thought, the two of them fell asleep on the couch. If the young boy was honest with himself, it was the best sleep he had ever gotten ever since Metalicana left him.
Gajeel could feel the first rays of sunshine on his face. He got up immediately. There was a moment where he was disoriented as to where he was. However, the black haired youth felt tiny hands at his shirt. He looked down and saw Levy cuddling next to him. It felt really weird. Gajeel had never had anyone this close to him. Even Metalicana had kept his distance when they slept. So to have this girl so close to him... weird hardly covered it. He enjoyed this feeling though.
But Gajeel knew he couldn't stay. He had to search for the Iron Dragon. There were so many things that the old bastard had yet to teach him. Carefully disentangling himself from Levy, the young Dragon Slayer softly made his way to the door of the McGarden house.
"Gajeel." He heard a soft whisper. Gajeel turned around and saw Levy now awake, blinking rapidly. "Where are you going?"
Gajeel looked at the girl who opened her home to him. "I have to look for Metalicana." He said. When he did, the black haired youth felt a stab of guilt in his gut. There was a part of him that wanted to stay with Levy. But this wasn't his place. This wasn't his world.
"Let me go with you." Levy pleaded, clasping her hands in supplication. "Please!"
"You can't." He said. "It's dangerous."
"Please!" The blue haired girl begged. "I promise I won't get in the way."
Gajeel sighed. "Levy." He whispered. "Your place is here. Mine's with Metalicana."
"Gajeel, you said my parents aren't going to get better again." She pleaded. "You said they aren't going to wake up anymore. You're my best friend, my only friend. If you go now, I'll be all alone. I don't want to be alone."
Gajeel felt more guilt stabs as Levy pleaded. He felt so bad. She was making him feel bad. He wanted to say no but the words wouldn't form in his mouth.
"I promise that I can be useful." She continued. "I can cook. I can read. So please don't leave me. Please."
Gajeel knew logically that he couldn't take Levy on such a dangerous journey. He knew that she would not be strong enough to undertake it. Plus he had no idea how Metalicana would react to Levy when he did find the Iron Dragon. But the young boy couldn't just abandon Levy. She had no one to care for her now. If he left and something happened to her... well he didn't even want to think of it.
With a deep sigh, Gajeel relented. "Fine." He told her. "You can come."
"Hooray." Levy cheered. "Give me a couple of minutes so I can pack."
"Pack light." The young Dragon Slayer commanded. "We'll be on the road a lot."
"Alright." Levy replied.
In a couple of minutes, Levy was at the door with two backpacks full.
"What the hell?" Gajeel yelled. "I said pack light."
"This is light." Levy explained.
"You have two backpacks." The young boy griped.
"Well, one bag has cooking stuff like the pot, knives and plates. The other has a change of clothes and my favorite book." Levy told him.
Gajeel had to admit that cooking stuff would be useful. Levy couldn't eat iron like he could and her food was would be a nice change of pace from what he had done before he had met her.
"The change of clothes?" Gajeel asked.
"I'm a girl." Levy said, wrinkling her nose at the boy. "I can't go smelling like a boy."
Gajeel took offense to that. "I don't smell." Gajeel roared at her. Discretely, he took a sniff at his armpits. The young boy closed his eyes and wrinkled his own nose. Perhaps he needed to bathe in a lake or something. "Fine, whatever." He said. "Let's go."
Gajeel took the heavier bag and Levy took the lighter one. The two left the McGarden household together. The young girl turned around to take one last look at her house. It was very likely that she would never see it again. Taking a deep breath, Levy followed Gajeel out of the town of Raguna and onto her new life.
Life on the road with Gajeel was very interesting for Levy. He was always moving, always searching for Metalicana. He looked in every woods, every cave, every ditch, and every town. Levy helped him look. She had never seen a dragon before but considering Gajeel's description of him, the young girl couldn't mistake the Iron Dragon for anything else. In Levy's mind, their search for the missing dragon was like an adventure, just like the story in her book that her parents used to read for her. Gajeel was the heroic young lead who braved the odds to be reunited with his long lost friend. Levy was the plucky girl who helps the hero succeed while he protected her from bad guys.
Gajeel had to admit that traveling with Levy was much more enjoyable than traveling by himself. Every day, he had someone to talk to and every night, he had someone to sleep next to. And the girl was useful as well. When it came to eating, Gajeel got the food and Levy cooked it. While they were out in the field, the young boy hunted small animals and gathered edible fruits and vegetables. The blue haired girl would take the food that he had brought and made a great meal out of it. Sure, she could only make soup but Gajeel never tired of it. When they were in a town, Gajeel would have to steal ingredients from local merchants. Because he was a mage and a Dragon Slayer, the boy could easily outrun them. Levy, who was told to hide until he had returned, would wait for his return. It would always work out in the end. Gajeel would get the food and Levy would cook it.
Gajeel was so glad that Levy accompanied him on his journey. She made everything better from her cheery disposition to her sunny smile. Levy taught him many things. She taught him how to read. Though she had little in the way of formal education, the girl had a natural knack for learning and she passed that along to Gajeel. Levy girl made him look forward to every day. In fact, there were days that he forgot that the reason he was on this journey in the first place was to look for Metalicana.
After six months on the road, Gajeel realized that their searching was going nowhere. If they kept aimlessly looking for the Iron Dragon, there was a chance that they would never find Metalicana. They needed more information and a base of operations. That's when Gajeel got the idea to join a guild. It made sense. He was already a mage and Levy was developing magic of her own. If he could join a guild, Gajeel could provide a life for his friend.
It was a bust. Titan Nose didn't want two brats in their guild. Phantom Lord's master, Jose Porla, though he found Gajeel's magic interesting, was convinced that he was way too soft for a guild like his because of the young boy's affection for Levy. Twilight Ogre wanted Gajeel. However, when he asked if his friend could join, the master refused. So the Iron Dragon Slayer left without a second glance.
For two more months, Gajeel and Levy continued their journey for Metalicana and a guild that would accept them. Though they were met with refusal after refusal, this did not deter them in the slightest. In fact, it made them closer than ever. Gajeel and Levy realized they had to stick together and rely on only each other. To tell the truth, they preferred it that way. Plus they were having too much fun to care that they were being rejected. However, all good things must come to an end.
Gajeel and Levy came to the city of Magnolia. The two of them were hungry so the young boy prepared to get some food.
"Levy." Gajeel told his friend and pointed to a set of garbage cans. "I'm going to get the food. Stay here."
"Alright, Gajeel." Levy said. "Be safe." As soon as Levy said that, the sky began to darken and it began to rain. If there were older, they probably would have been unsettled by the sudden precipitation.
Levy hid behind the garbage cans. When she was settled, Gajeel prepared to find some food, leaving her by herself.
While she was waiting for her friend, Levy got a bit impatient. It never took him this long to get some food. Usually by now, she could hear the distinct shouts 'Come back with my food' from the distance. Perhaps something went wrong. She got up from her hiding place. Levy was about to walk over to where Gajeel went when she head footsteps from behind her.
"What's a pretty little girl like you doing hiding behind garbage cans?" A voice said from behind her.
Levy turned around very quickly and saw two men standing behind her with creepy smiles. One was a lanky man with dirty blond hair and two day old stubble on his chin. The other was a heavily built man with a dark tan and a twitchy face. Even an eight year old like her could tell that these men were dangerous. Levy moved to run from them when the lanky man grabbed her tiny wrist.
"Ah, ah, ah." The lanky man clucked his tongue at the girl. "Let's not be too hasty."
"Let me go!" Levy screamed. "Help! Gajeel, help!"
"Come on, little girl." The lanky man told her. "Let's have some fun."
Levy did the only thing she could do in this situation. She bit down hard on the man's hand, drawing blood.
"Fuck!" He cried out, pulling his hand back in pain.
"Gajeel!" Levy yelled at the top of her voice.
The lanky man brought his fist down on Levy's head, immediately knocking her unconscious. Then, he kicked the little girl in the ribs repeatedly.
"You little brat." He raved. "You think you can do that to me?"
IRON DRAGON POLE
The next thing the lanky man felt was something heavy knocking into his cheek. It didn't hurt him as much but it was enough to stun him.
"What the hell?" The lanky man screeched.
Gajeel had arrived. The food that he had collected for them to eat was dropped on the ground, forgotten as he went over to save his friend.
"Levy! Levy!" Gajeel shouted. "Are you okay?"
Gajeel was so focused on Levy that he didn't see the glint of metal being swung at him. The young Dragon Slayer instinctively put his arm in front of his face. He felt the sting of metal cutting his arm, causing a deep gash where he was cut. Gajeel cried out in pain. He saw the blood steadily dripping from his arm. The young boy turned around and saw the burly man wielding a sword dripping with blood.
"You stupid brat." The lanky man roared. "I'll make you pay for that."
Gajeel took a deep breath, collecting magic in his mouth.
IRON DRAGON ROAR
Gajeel fired a whirlwind of metal shards at the face of the lanky man. The man held up his hand.
The man cast a wind spell with his hand, blowing away Gajeel's spell right back at the young boy, hitting his chest. The burly man swung his sword down on the Dragon Slayer. Gajeel brought his other arm to protect himself, causing another deep gash. He cried out in pain as it cut him.
Gajeel realized now that he was hopelessly outmatched by these mages. He was way too weak. There was only one thing he could do. He took Levy on his back and ran away. The two men gave chase. He was so mad with himself. He had made a vow to protect Levy with all of his strength but he couldn't. He blamed himself for Levy's injuries. If only he were stronger...
Gajeel could smell the two guys on their tail. If they were regular guys, he'd be able to outrun them, even with Levy's extra weight. But the two guys were mages. Plus, with the injuries to his arms, he was losing blood and consciousness quickly. He needed to escape but his body was slowing down.
Gajeel's body collapsed in front of a large building with a birdlike symbol on a red flag. Levy's added weight pinned him to the ground. The two guys were right behind him. He could tell. He knew he was done. They were done. But if Gajeel Redfox was going to go out, he would go out protecting Levy.
"You little brat." The lanky man hissed. "Did you think that with your puny powers, you'd be able to beat us?"
Gajeel stared hard at the two guys.
"We are the Jaguar Brothers." The burly man told them. "We are stronger than even an S-class mage. You thought that you could stand on equal footing with us? How stupid."
Gajeel turned his arm into an iron pole. This is where he'll make his last stand.
"I won't let you hurt Levy." Gajeel yelled at the top of his voice.
The two men slowly advanced on Gajeel and the unconscious Levy. This was it, Gajeel thought.
The doors to the building behind Gajeel opened and a short, old man calmly walked out.
"It's late at night and raining." The old man said. "Why is there such a ruckus?"
"Get back inside, old man." The lanky man said.
"Are you going to hurt these kids?" The old man asked. His voice had a razor's edge about it as if he were daring them to say yes.
"I said get the fuck inside." The burly man replied. "Or we'll do the same to you that we are going to do to these brats.
The burly man didn't see it coming. A giant fist came down hard on the sword wielder, smashing him into the pavement.
Gajeel watched in awe at what had happened. This old guy, no bigger than himself, had extended his arm and made his fist grow larger. It was weird. He had never seen anything like this.
"You know, people like you two are bullies." The old man's voice rumbled. Then the lanky man noticed the old man growing larger and larger. "To children, bullies like you look like monsters. So how about I show you bullies what a real monster looks like."
The lanky man could only tremble as the old man grew larger and larger until he stood taller than the building he came from. At that moment, he knew who that old man was. "You're Fairy Tail's Master Makarov." He squeaked, unable to keep the fear from his voice.
"You think that you are going to hurt these kids while I am here?" Makarov asked. "I will show you how wrong you are." The giant raised his large fist as far back as he could. "NOW FLY!" He yelled, punching the two men with enough force to level a building.
Gajeel watched as the two men who had chased him and Levy were punched so hard, they became airborne and flew until they were nothing more than twinkling lights in the distance. His mouth dropped in surprise. Was the old man really that powerful? And if he was, what would he do to him and Levy?
Gajeel turned around and watched as the giant shrank down back to his normal diminutive size. What was going to happen now?
"Are you okay, boy?" Makarov asked, concerned about the injured Gajeel and the unconscious Levy.
Gajeel, while he still had Levy on his back, tried to turn his arm into a metal pole but found he was depleted of both magic and strength to stand. The young boy started hyperventilating as he dropped to his knees, completely exhausted. The last thing he heard before he passed out was the old man calling for people named Macao and Wakaba.
Gajeel opened his eyes suddenly and examine his surrounding. He found that he was in a very soft bed covered by a thin sheet and his head was on top of a pillow. The young boy had no idea where he was. But that wasn't all. He had no idea where Levy was. The Dragon Slayer got out of bed immediately
"Levy!" Gajeel shouted. "Levy! Where are you?"
"You're being too loud." A woman's rough voice echoed in the room.
Gajeel looked around and saw an old woman with pink hair looking very cross with him.
"Humans are so loud." She said in annoyance. "And if you are being so loud, it means your injuries are better. Take off your bandages."
Gajeel looked at her funny until he looked at his arms. They were covered in some weird white cloth. He felt like they were constricting his arms so he ripped them off. What he saw underneath...well it disgusted him.
His arms had an ugly vertical discoloration running down to the inside of it. The contrast in color between his natural skin tone and the discoloration looked so different. It looked awful.
The old woman grabbed his arms and looked at them. "Seems as though you'll have those scars for life." She said. "Considering that you could have died from the blood loss, I guess that you are lucky."
"Scars?" Gajeel whispered. He had never heard that word before but he could already tell that he would never like them. His eyes widened as he remembered his friend. "Where's Levy?" He demanded.
"The girl?" The old woman asked. "She's still unconscious. She has been for the last twenty-four hours."
"Where is she?" Gajeel yelled at the woman. "Where is Levy?"
"Stop yelling, you stupid brat!" The woman roared back. "You are so annoying. I was going to tell you that the girl is still sleeping."
"Oh Porlyusica, you are the one being loud." Someone told her. The two of them looked in the direction and saw Master Makarov smiling at the two.
"Why did you even call me here, Makarov?" The woman known as Porlyusica seethed. "I hate humans."
Gajeel thought that was weird. Why would a human hate another human?
"Young man, would you like to see your friend?" Makarov asked Gajeel. The Dragon Slayer nodded vigorously.
Makarov held out his hand to the boy. Though Gajeel didn't take his hand, he did follow the tiny master to where Levy was. The old man led Gajeel out of the room he was in into... well, it was very hard to describe.
There were guys wrestling with each other. Others were drinking some foul smelling liquid. Still others were laughing and having a very good time. And they were all very loud. Still, Gajeel could tell that they were having fun.
"Do you like it? This is Fairy Tail, Magnolia's premier magic guild." Makarov said with a flourish and a haughty laugh. "Actually it would be even louder but Gildarts took the kids for a beach weekend."
Gajeel looked surprised. Besides Levy, he had never been with other kids. Makarov saw the surprise on his face.
"Oh yeah, they are around your age." He grinned. "And they are mages just like you and your young friend." Makarov looked at the young Dragon Slayer. Gajeel was more concerned about the girl than anything that was going on the guild.
"My apologies." Makarov said. "You want to see your friend."
Gajeel nodded again.
"What's your name, son?" The master asked.
"Gajeel." The young boy replied. "Her name is Levy."
"And why are the two of you traveling alone?" Makarov questioned.
How could Gajeel explain it to the old man without sounding crazy? "I'm looking for someone." He answered. "I've been searching for him for a while."
Gajeel then told the tiny master all about how he found Levy, how she came with him on this journey of his, what they endured up until the point where Makarov found them.
"I see." The master said in contemplation. It was a lot to take in. "But you didn't tell me one thing. Who are you looking for?"
Gajeel sighed. "Metalicana." He explained. "He's an Iron Dragon."
Makarov's eyes widened. "You're a Dragon Slayer?" He said, his voice creeping a couple of octaves higher.
Gajeel was surprised. Not even Levy knew that. She knew that he had trained with a dragon but he had never told her what kind of magic he employed.
"How amazing!" Makarov gasped. "To think that I would see two Dragon Slayers in my lifetime." He saw Gajeel's confused face so the master decided to explain it to him. "One of our kids is a Dragon Slayer as well. He was trained by a fire dragon."
In his travels, Gajeel had never come across another Dragon Slayer. He thought he was the only one. Though it was interesting to think about, Gajeel's mind kept coming back to Levy.
"Can I see her now?" Gajeel asked.
"Of course." Makarov replied. He led Gajeel to a door and opened it.
Inside Gajeel saw his friend. Levy was lying on a bed. She had a weird mask attached to her face. His friend looked so alien to him.
"Levy!" The Dragon Slayer yelled. He was about to remove those wires from Levy when Makarov grabbed Gajeel's hand.
"She needs that breathing tube, Gajeel." Makarov explained. "Levy has a punctured lung. If I had known that, I would have been much more brutal to those guys." He spat, wishing he could hurt those guys some more.
The tiny master looked at Gajeel. The young boy's fist was shaking furiously.
"I'll leave you alone with her." The master said somberly. He left Gajeel alone with his friend.
Gajeel barely registered that Makarov left the room. He slowly walked up to the bed where Levy lied. She looked so much worse up close. The young boy could see purple discolorations on her face from where the guy punched her. Gajeel also saw the same white cloth around her abdomen that he had on his arms.
Gajeel looked at the scars on his arms again. Out of curiosity, he poked it. It hurt like hell. But he deserved it. This was his fault. Levy was in pain because he couldn't protect her. He took her hand. Gajeel could barely feel the warmth from it.
"Gajeel." A voice croaked out to him. He knew that voice anywhere. Gajeel watched at Levy's face. It looked like she was struggling both to open her eyes and to breathe.
"Levy!" Gajeel whispered. "Levy, are you alright?"
"It hurts." She answered. "It hurts everywhere."
Gajeel felt so guilty. He looked at his scars again. Once again, these damn scars of his... He was weak. He was so weak.
"How are you doing?" Levy asked.
Gajeel was shocked. Levy was the one in pain but she was asking if he was okay.
"I'm fine." He answered tersely.
"No, you're not." Levy replied. "I've known you for a while now. I know when you're not telling me the truth."
"I said I'm fine!" He yelled.
"Why won't you tell me the truth?" Levy asked, coughing a bit.
"Because you're hurting worse than me!" Gajeel screamed. "Because it's my fault you're hurt. Because I couldn't protect you. It's all my fault." The young boy could feel something went on his cheeks. He put a hand to his cheek. Tears! These are tears. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
"Where did you get hurt?" Levy asked.
Gajeel let loose a deep sigh. He moved closer to Levy and showed her his scars. She let out a tiny gasp
"Does it hurt?" She asked.
"A little." He admitted.
Levy was silent for a second. "I'm sorry." She apologized. In that moment, Gajeel never felt more guilty in his entire life.
Gajeel stayed by her bedside for a while as Levy slept. He never felt so weak in his entire life. He couldn't protect her and that gnawed on him. Gajeel looked at his scars again. They continually reminded him of his failure.
"I have to get stronger." Gajeel growled. "Stronger than I am today. Stronger than those guys, stronger than the old man, stronger than Metalicana. I have to get stronger so that I can protect Levy...so that she never cries again. I swear I will get stronger."
Gajeel had to get stronger so he could protect Levy from any danger. He needed to find Metalicana and force him to teach him some stronger spells. That way, Levy would never get hurt. But there was no way that she could come with her injury. That's when Gajeel realized that he needed to find a place that was safe for Levy, where she could be protected.
Gajeel Redfox came to the tough decision to leave Levy here. It pained him to do so but it was the only way. He would get stronger and then come back to get her. This he swore.
Gajeel took Levy's hand and squeezed it. "I swear, I'll never let you get hurt again." He told her. The Dragon Slayer took a deep breath and walked out of the room, determination in his eyes.
The young boy was on his way out of the guild when he felt a hand on his shoulder. Gajeel turned around and saw Master Makarov staring at him with a hard look.
"Are you really going to leave, Gajeel?" He asked the boy.
"I have to get stronger, stronger than I am so that Levy will never get hurt again." Gajeel told him.
"You and Levy can join Fairy Tail." Makarov said. "There are many mages who can mentor you."
Gajeel shook his head. "I have to find Metalicana." He told the old man. "He's the only one who can teach me."
"I see." Makarov sighed. "What about Levy?"
A lone tear ran down his cheek. "She can't come." Gajeel whimpered. "I can't protect her with my strength now."
"You know she'll be sad when she realizes you've left her." The old man told him.
Gajeel sighed. He didn't need to be told that she would sad. "Tell Levy that one day, her Iron Dragon will come back to her." He said. "And when I do, I'll never let her get hurt again."
Makarov looked at Gajeel's eyes. They were shining with pure determination. "I see that there's nothing I can say or do that will change your mind about this." He said. Then he snapped his fingers.
As if by magic, Makarov produced a stamp. He took the stamp and put it on Gajeel's right bicep. When he took it off of Gajeel, the young boy could see a symbol in the shape of the symbol he had saw on the guild's door.
"This is the Fairy Tail guild stamp." Makarov told him. "From this moment on, you are a member of Fairy Tail. When you decided you have become stronger, this stamp will lead you back to your friend. And don't worry. We will protect Levy until the time you return."
Gajeel bowed low. "Thank you." He said.
With one last look at the guild who took his friend in, Gajeel heaved a heavy sigh. It was painful, leaving Levy behind. But he had to do this. The young Dragon Slayer turned around and walked off into the distance, knowing that he would one day return. When he did, he would never fail Levy again.
"And that's the story of my friend, Gajeel Redfox." Levy finished her story to her audience of Lucy Heartfilia and Juvia Lockser.
"That's so... I don't even know the words to describe it." Lucy said, tearing up.
"That was such a beautiful story." The water mage sniffled.
Levy responded with a sad smile.
Fast forward ten years. Levy grew up to be an excellent Solid Script mage and S-class candidate. Since joining Fairy Tail, she developed her magic in order to get stronger. Originally, her reason for getting stronger was to rejoin Gajeel and help him on his journey to find Metalicana. However, she grew to love both the guild and the odd but lovable people in it. She stilled looked for her old friend but now with a new purpose. Levy wanted Gajeel to join her in Fairy Tail.
And Levy changed physically as well. While she didn't grow much taller since she last saw Gajeel, her body did develop into a woman. Though she didn't have large breasts like many of her fellow women, her hips were well rounded and drew many men's attention. Even so, the blue haired woman still retained her girlish cuteness. In fact, just last year, she was voted Sorcerer's Weekly Most Adorable Mage. And yet, Levy had never been on a single date. Many men did ask her out on dates but they were rejected very quickly.
"So what happened afterwards?" Lucy asked.
"Well, I cried for days." Levy explained with a sad smile. "I thought that Gajeel had abandoned me. But as I grew older, I understood that him leaving me here was his way of taking care of me. As for my injuries, it took me three months to heal and almost a year to fully recover. When I got completely better, I started training myself to get stronger so that one day, I could rejoin his quest. But I haven't seen or heard from him in years. But one day, I know I'll be reunited with Gajeel."
Lucy and Juvia looked at each other for a bit. Hearing Levy's story made them think that the Solid Script mage may have some deeper feelings for her friend, even after all these years. All of a sudden, the Stellar Spirit mage and the water mage developed creepy smiles.
"You like your friend." They chimed in unison.
"Of course I like Gajeel." Levy said. "He's my oldest friend."
"No, we mean 'like him' like him." Lucy said, wiggling her eyebrows.
On the spot, Levy's face turned redder than a tomato.
"Levy-san is blushing." Juvia said in glee. "Lucy-san and Juvia hit the nail on the head."
"NO!" The petite woman said a little too quickly. "He's my friend and only my friend."
"Then why haven't you had a boyfriend yet?" Lucy asked in a singsong voice. "I mean, guys ask you out at least once a week."
Levy blushed harder. "I'm not really interested in them." She squeaked.
"Because you've already decided in your heart that there is no one better than your friend, Gajeel." Lucy smirked, giving Levy a knowing look.
"Lu-chan, Juvi-chan, stop teasing me." Levy whined cutely. "Just because you two have boyfriends doesn't mean I want one now." They have been pushing that issue ever since the last guy she turned down for a date.
What Lucy and Juvia didn't know (and never would) is that because Gajeel chose to go to Raguna instead of Endymion, their lives were changed as well.
In this world, Master Jose did not recruit Juvia because by that time, he didn't have a guild anymore. Guilds like his tend to revolve around the Guild Ace. The stronger the Ace, the more people want to join that guild. Since he was unable to find someone like Gajeel for his guild to rally behind, Phantom Lord collapsed in on itself. And since she never joined a guild, the water mage fell deeper into depression. It got so bad that she nearly drowned a town in her sorrow. Fortunately for her, help came in the form of Gray Fullbuster. They fought in almost the same manner that we remember. And just like before, Gray was able to freeze the rain and show her the sun and the clear blue sky. Juvia, in this alternate possibility as well, fell in love with her savior. The difference was that the ice mage asked her to join Fairy Tail after their fight, which, of course, she did. A few months later, they started dating.
Lucy, on the other hand, met Natsu in the same way as we know it. And her father paid a guild to try and reclaim her just like before. However, since Phantom Lord didn't exist and no other legal guild was stupid enough to take on Fairy Tail, Jude Heartfilia had to turn to a dark guild. Grendel Claw was a vicious, take no prisoners, guild who specialized in kidnapping and ransom. They hurt many people in Fairy Tail, including Lucy herself. In the end though, Grendel Claw was completely annihilated.
After the fight, Lucy retreated into her apartment. Guilt ate away at her. She reasoned that if she had not come to Fairy Tail, no one would have gotten hurt. But Natsu had told her that Fairy Tail is a guild that looks after their own and that they would have fought for her just as hard even if they had known her situation. Lucy, overwhelmed by emotion, cried into Natsu's chest. And the Fire Dragon Slayer, in his comforting of his friend, got caught up in the moment and accidentally kissed Lucy. That accidental kiss became an intentional kiss and soon after, they became a couple as well.
As Levy was trying to get the girls to stop teasing her, there was a commotion outside of the guild doors. Everyone turned towards it when it busted open. Natsu, Gray and Erza came inside carrying a giant block of ice. Strange enough, the block was screaming profanities.
"Let me go, you bastards." It yelled.
When Levy looked closer, she could see a man was trapped inside. He had very long black hair and piercings on his face. He continued to rave until his eyes locked on Levy's. It was odd, she thought. The man had red eyes. Those eyes... She knew that red was a very rare eye color. In fact, the only other person she knew with red eyes was...
No, that's impossible.
"Is the master upstairs?" Erza asked. "I need to speak to him about this man who dares to wear our guild stamp."
"Fuck you, bitch." The man roared. "Let me out of here."
"Natsu, Gray, carry him upstairs." Erza commanded.
The two mages lifted the man in ice up the stairs to see the master. When they pushed him into the room, Natsu and Gray went downstairs to sit next to their girlfriends. Natsu kissed Lucy on her cheek while Gray wrapped his arm around Juvia's waist.
"Who was that?" Lucy asked.
Natsu shrugged his shoulders. "We only heard reports of a guy with our guild stamp while we were finishing our original mission." He explained. "When we confronted him about it, he attacked us."
"Why would he want to wear Fairy Tail's stamp?" Juvia asked.
"Don't know." Gray said. "Weird thing was that I know he was holding back in our fight. It was almost as if he wanted to get caught."
As Natsu, Gray, Lucy and Juvia continued to talk about that weird guy, Levy was lost in her thoughts. When she saw the man, it was as if something inside her lurched. She couldn't explain why though.
"Levy!" She heard a voice call out to her. Levy turned around and saw Erza standing next to the balcony. "The master wishes to speak to you."
The petite woman cocked her head. "Okay?" She said confusedly. With that, she made her way to Master Makarov's office and let herself in.
Makarov was standing at the door, making a motion as if he was leaving. "Master, you wished to see me?" She asked.
"Not me, this young man." The old man pointed.
Levy saw that the man was now out of the ice block. He was looking at her just as intently as she was to him as if he were studying her. Without any obstructions, she could take a better look. The man stood about a head and a half taller than her and was twice as muscular. The piercings on his eyebrows and face weren't the only ones he had. There were several on his ears and his forearms. The Solid Script mage would have to admit that he was quite attractive in that rough and tumble sort of way. Something inside of her was trying to put a name to this face. Levy could have sworn she had seen this man before.
But what really drew her attention were discolorations on his arms. Without thinking, Levy went over to the dark haired man and grabbed his arms. She ran a finger along his arms, tracing out the discolorations. They looked familiar. In fact, only one other person she knew had scars like these. She looked up to the man's face to those piercing red eyes.
"Gajeel?" She said in a hushed voice as if she were unable to believe who was in front of her.
"Levy." He answered in an equal tone.
Levy immediately wrapped her arms around Gajeel. It was him. He was back. She couldn't help the tears that came from her eyes which stained his shirt. He was back.
"Levy." He said, putting his arms around her shoulders. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry I left you."
Levy shook her head even as it was buried in his chest. "I always knew you'd come back." She had tears that were in between joy and sadness. "I looked everywhere for you. But I always knew. I always believed."
"I'm sorry I couldn't bring you with me." Gajeel apologized. "I'm sorry I couldn't protect you that day. I'm sorry you got injured. I'm... I'm just sorry."
"I understand." Levy said. "I know that you had to look for Metalicana. I know that would have slowed you down."
Gajeel shook his head. "That's not it." He whispered. "That day, I felt so weak. I couldn't protect you. I didn't want to put you in danger so I left you in a place where you would be safe."
Levy looked up to see Gajeel's face. He was staring down at her. "Are you back? Are you going to stay?" She asked.
"Yeah. I'm strong enough to take care of you now." Gajeel said.
Levy smiled. "I'm strong enough to take care of myself now." She said. "But I am glad you are back. How about I show you around?"
"In a bit." Gajeel grinned, flicking her nose. This cause the petite woman to puff her cheeks in annoyance. "But first, I'm hungry. If you don't mind, could you make me some of your amazing soup?"
Levy's eyes widened to the point where her eyebrows receded into her hair. "You remembered." She whispered, smiling as she did.
"Of course." Gajeel chuckled. "Now make with the food."
Levy had a small smile on her face. Even though he was grown up, he was that same boy.
As for Gajeel, he couldn't believe how much Levy had grown. When he was a kid, Levy had the power to make him feel weird without even trying, whether it be a smile, a look or a touch. And even after ten years, she still had the same effect. In fact, now it's even stronger. Judging by the look on Levy's face as she held his hand, she felt the same way.
Levy led Gajeel out of the master's office and past the throng of shocked and happy guildmates to her place. They had a lot to catch up on, almost ten years worth, over a plate of soup. As she did, Gajeel couldn't help but look at his scars, the ones he had endured for Levy. That's when a thought crossed his mind.
Hey Levy. Did you know? When I was a kid, I hated these scars of mine. They reminded me of the time I couldn't protect you. Growing up, these scars reminded me that I had to get stronger so you would never cry again. But now, I look at these scars of mine and look at you now and I can't help but think that these scars are now a badge of honor. Because of these scars, you've become the woman you are today. I'm here with you now, Levy, and I'll be here with you forever. I'm stronger now and I will always protect you.