Chapter 14: S-class examination
Len and Lucy stood among a huge crowd in front of the main stage in the guild house. The stage was covered in curtains to prevent people from seeing what's behind it, "Whoa, what a crowd…" Len muttered.
"It looks like the all the members of the guild are here…" Maya said.
"I wonder what the fuss is all about." Mei muttered.
"No idea." Gajeel commented.
"They say Master's going to make some kind of important announcement." Wendy said.
"Not interested." Carla huffed.
"So finally, the secret will be revealed." Lucy said.
"Juvia's excited…" The rain woman muttered as she stares at you-know-who, "about Gray-sama~!"
"Maybe you should just go home…"
The curtains unveils the three S-class mages and the Master of Fairy Tail standing on the stage, "Master!"
"We've been waiting!"
"Hurry up and make the announcement already!"
"Who would it be this year?-!"
Makarov clears his throat, "Since long ago, this has been Fairy Tail's custom; and now…"
"I hereby announce of the number of participants in the S-class wizard promotion trial!"
"S-class promotion trial?-!" Lucy and Len cried.
"The venue of this year's trial is… Tenroujima(Heavenly Wolf Island). The holy land of our guild."
"What happens in the trials?" Lucy asked.
"Well, it's different every year but…" Max tells them. "The fact that it is tough never changes." Warren continued. "At any rate, whoever passes them becomes a S-class wizard!" Alzack ended shining with glee.
"Hoping to impress Bisca, I see…" Len smirked.
"S-Shut up, Len!" Alzack cried blushing.
"Maa maa, it's so obvious…" Len laughed it off, "So that's why everyone is all busy when I came back… The S-class mages, huh…? I doubt someone like me would make that far."
"Strength… Heart… Soul…" Makarov announced, "I've been watching these values for the past year. This time, there are nine participants:"
"Yosh a!" Natsu cheered.
"You did it, Natsu!" Happy cheered.
"So it's finally my time." Gray smirked.
"Eh? Juvia too?" The rain woman blinked in surprise.
"A Man must only be worthy of S-class!" Elfman grinned.
"Good luck, Elf-niichan!" Lisanna cheered.
Cana doesn't seem that excited about it at all, something Len caught on.
"The one that will take Laxus' place is me." Freed smirked.
"Me, finally…" Levy muttered in joy.
"It's Levy!" Her teammates cheered.
'Mest?' Len wonders, 'Who is that?'
"Eh? Eh?-!" Len cried, "M-Me?-!"
"Len got selected?-!" Maya cried.
"Good for you, Len-san!" Mei cheered.
Len blinked completely confused, "E-Eh…?"
"This time, only one will be selected to pass from among them." Makarov explained, "Get into your best condition within one week's time."
Len's eyebrows starts to frown, he getting a really bad feeling from this test.
"Since there are some newbies here, so I'll explain the rules." Makarov said as Mirajane steps up, "Within a preliminary period of one week, the nine of you are to select one partner." She explains.
"Partner?" Lucy asked.
"That means this is a two-man team battle." Max said. "It'll also test the partners' bonds." Warren said.
"There are two rules to partner selection:" Erza explains, "First, they must be a member of Fairy Tail. Second, they cannot by a S-class mage."
"Which means you can pick Erza, Mirajane or Gildarts." Lily commented.
"Putting Erza Scarlet on a team is a little over-powered…" Maya said, "It's like placing a berserk Len with Dante-san."
"I think I can imagine that…" Mike said.
"Wait, why am I used as an example…?" Len muttered.
"The details of the exam will be revealed after arrival to Tenroujima." Makarov explains, "But this time, Erza will be attempting to block you from proceeding."
"By the way, I'll also be a troublemaker~" Mirajane stated.
"Y-You mean that no one will be S-class unless they can defeat Mira-san or Erza?-!" Lucy cried.
"Well… I'm sure they won't go completely all out…" Max stated. "You understand now that this is hard right?" Warren sighed.
"Enough whining." Glidarts said, "This is a path that all S-class mages have gone down."
"Wait a minute…" Elfman realized.
"It can't be…" Happy jaw-dropped.
"Gildarts is taking part too?-!" Natsu said happily.
"Don't be so happy about it!-!" Gray cried.
"The chosen nine will take their partners with them and gather at Hargeon Port one week from now." Makarov said, "That is all!"
"It looks like this year is going to be tough as well." Gray sighed, five of the chosen nine sat around the same table.
"I'm surprised you all are first-time challengers." Lucy stated, "Especially Len-niisan."
"I'm all fired up! I'm definitely going to become an S-class!" Natsu shouted.
"Nuuu, Man!" Elfman cried, "The road to S-class is becoming further and further!"
"Everyone, do you best~!" Lisanna cheered.
"I still can't believe that I was chosen." Len stated.
"Oh yeah, has everyone chosen a partner already?" Lucy asked.
"I'm definitely going with Happy." Natsu stated.
"That's not fair!" Elfman cried, "If the exam turns out to be a race, he can fly! You'll win for sure!"
"What's the big deal?" Lisanna asked.
"I don't mind." Gray said, "You'll be in trouble when it comes to fighting."
"That's rude, Gray!" Happy said angrily, "I'm gonna make Natsu an S-class mage no matter what!"
"I know you guys are my allies, but this is one thing I can't back down on!" Natsu stated, "Enough standing around! Let's go train!" He ran out of the guild with the blue cat flying behind him.
"Heh…" Lisanna sighed, "In the two years I've been gone, Natsu has come all the way to taking part in the S-class examination. Natsu thinks he'll be able to meet Igneel if he becomes an S-class mage. He got twice the passion of a normal person with regards to the exam."
"Oh, I see." Lucy said, silently cheering the fire dragon slayer on.
"Still, I wonder who I should partner with…" Len muttered.
"Well, the only people you can bond well with are Dante-san, Matt or Mei." Maya stated, "Other than those, you'll just leave them in the dust."
"That's true." Mike laughed, "Maybe you should partner with your sister then."
"No." Len denied, "That's one thing I would not do! She might get hurt!"
"I think she been beaten up quite a lot lately…" Maya muttered.
"That's not the same."
"How is that not the same?-!" Lucy cried, "But even so, I really don't want to fight against Erza and Mirajane-san..."
"Then…" Mike looks at Mei, "That leaves with the Neko-Mei."
"Neko?" Mei tilts her head cutely, her ears twitches. "That surprising suits her…" Maya muttered.
"I-Is that okay…?" Mei stuttered, "I-I don't want to be a burden…"
"Now that I think about, you don't have your fencing sword with you, don't you?" Len stated, "Well, I guess I can lend you one of mine till you get your own." He summons out a light blue long sword with a circle hole in the middle of the guard, "Here, this is one of the normal swords I have with me. Angel Eye."
"Angel Eye…" Mei muttered as she took the sword, her fingers touching Len's palm. The sudden contact causes the blonde to pull back his hand on reflex, his face blushing like a tomato, "A-Ah?"
"I-It's nothing…" Len muttered, "J-Just remember to return it to me."
"I will." Mei nodded.
"Hurry up and confess already!" Mike teased.
"Shut up, lizard!"
"U-Um… Juvia wants to forfeit the exam." Juvia said.
"Eh?-! Why?-!" Wendy cried.
"Because… I want to be… 's partner…"
"What is it?" Gray asked.
"Because… Juvia wants to…"
"I think she wants to be your partner~" Lucy whispers to Gray.
"I knew it! You are after him, Lucy!" Juvia shouted.
"You got it all wrong!" Lucy cried.
"Gray-sama~ Do intent on choosing Lucy to be your partner?-!" The rain lady whined.
"Sorry, but I've already decided on my partner." Gray stated, just as the leader of the zodiac walks up to them, "Long time no see, everyone." Loki greeted.
"Loki!" Elfman cried.
"We made a promise last year." Gray stated.
"Sorry, Lucy, but I'll have to cancel our contract during the exam." Loki apologized, "But you don't have to worry. I opened the gate using my own magic power. So I won't have to use yours."
"Just how selfish of a spirit are you?" Lucy muttered.
"But how will you pass for a member of the guild?" Elfman asked. That caught Loki's attention as he strips off his shirt revealing the green guild mark on his back, "Don't worry. Even though I'm Lucy's spirit, I'm still a member of Fairy Tail. On the pride of the guild, I'll make Gray an S-class mage."
"I'm counting on you, partner." Gray said.
"Leave it to me."
"Since when you two are all buddy-buddy?" Lucy huffed.
"So, this means that you've got to fight me seriously, Juvia." Gray tells the rain woman, "Let's have a heated battle for once in a while."
Juvia flinched at those words, 'H-Heated… Heated Grappling?-!' She blushed redly at the perverted thought.
"Hey hey…" Maya waved dismissively.
"I'll team up with Juvia." Lisanna said, "I'm really good friends with Edolas' Juvia and the Earthland's version is kinda cute."
"Then it's decided!" Lisanna said happily as she grips her hands.
"Could she also after Gray-sama…?" Juvia muttered.
"I doubt it." Len commented, "What kind of imagination you have?"
"Hold on, Lisanna!" Elfman cried, "With you gone, who would be my partner?-!"
"Oh? But there's been someone who's been giving you the hated stare for a while now." Lisanna stated, pointing out Evergreen of the Raijuushuu staring at the take-over mage, or rather glaring is the correct word, "It seems that she's miffed at Freed choosing Bickslow instead of her."
"Evergreen…?" Elfman felt a chill up his spine, his sister looked at him confused, "That's not heated… it's more like the kind of stare to turn me to stone…"
"Stone?" Len asked.
"Evergreen's eyes have the ability to turn anyone staring into her eyes to stone." Lucy explained.
"Petrification ability?" The blonde male said, "Maybe she should change her name to Medusa or something."
"You shouldn't make fun of other people's abilities, Len-niisan."
Len walks back to his apartment, Mei following behind. After all that fuss, the blonde decides to let her stay with him until the exam. As they walk along the street, snow starts falling down from the night skies, "Oh, snow…" Len muttered as he puts his armored hand up in the air, "I didn't know Magnolia has a snowy season…"
"Cold…" Mei shivers in her clothes, which is a white jacket over a black shirt with white skirt and black boots.
The blonde sighs as he took off his winter coat and placed it over her shoulders, "You should update your wardrobe." He muttered. Mei looks at him, her face starts heating up, "Come on, you won't want to catch a cold."
Len carries on with the half-Exceed half-jogging up to him.
One week later, all the chosen nine and their partners arrives on the port, where a boat awaits them to take the soon-to-be S-class mages to Tenroujima. Considering the season of the year, it should be nice and cool, but…
"Hot~!" Lucy whined, her lying on the bench in her white flower-printed bikini, "It should be winter now, so why…?"
"Compared to the deserts in Solien, this is pretty much nothing." Len said in a white shirt with blue jeans and leather sandals sitting on a wooden stool, his right arm in bandage instead of the usual armor, "But still, it's really HOT!"
"I thought you say it is nothing…?" Levy said.
"I think I'm going to melt…" Lucy whined, "I'm going to turn into ice cream and Happy's going to eat me…"
"That sounds yucky…" Happy groaned.
"Well, the winds in this area keep the weather like this all year around." Cana explained.
"It's hot~!" Mei whined, she wearing a red bikini and eating an ice-pop, her cat ears drooped down and her tail lie on her leg, "I can't take it…"
"Wait, where did you get that?" Len asked her.
"In the fridge. It was the last one."
"Juvia, aren't you hot in that?" Lisanna asked the rain woman, who is wearing her usual dark-blue overall.
"No." Juvia said, "But… I had to say…" Her eyes turn into hearts, "Gray-sama's naked body is so hot~!"
"Hoooot~!" Gray groaned, the ice mage stark naked.
"I feel sick…" Natsu groaned swaying side to side threatening to puke all over the place.
"Natsu, please don't come any closer…" Loki said worriedly.
"Wendy… won't cast Troia on me…" Natsu groaned before puking over the boat into the sea.
"Well, she has no choice." Loki said, "She is Mest's partner, after all…"
"I'm sorry, Natsu-san." Wendy apologized.
"You know," Evergreen said fanning herself, "There's no point getting a friendly here since we're going to be enemies later on."
"Hot…is a Man!" Elfman groaned.
"What does that even mean?" She wonders.
"Oh… it's so hot…" Lucy whined, "Len-niisan, can't you use that ice sword of yours to cool us down…?"
"You do know that White Day is not an ice-maker…" Len groaned.
"But it can still create ice, right…?" Lucy said.
"If you want to freeze to death…" Len groaned.
"I think it's better than melting from this heat…" Lucy groaned as she tilts her head back upside down, then she noticed the weird island coming into view.
"Is that?" Len wonders as he walks to the ledge. The other participants are walking towards the ledge as well, "Oh, is that…?" Gray muttered.
The island in front of them became clear, the plot of land in the middle of the sea is as awkward as its name, it is covered in forests with few rocky formations by the sides and the most unique is the large tree-like structure in the middle that seems to supports another smaller island on top.
"That's Tenroujima?-!" Len cried.
"It's huge!" Levy said in awe.
"An island on an island?!" Mei said in awe.
"We're here, Natsu." Happy tells the sick dragon slayer.
"It's said that fairies used to live on this island." Makarov tells them, the old midget standing on the bow of the boat in a Hawaiian shirt and shorts, "And that Fairy Tail's first Master, Mavis Vermilion was put to rest here."
"What's with that outfit?-!" Gray shouted angrily.
"But it's hot~!" The old man said waving a fan.
"You're not the one to talk, naked guy." Len commented.
"Now, I will announce the details of the first exam."
"The First exam?" Wendy asked.
"It's splits into levels every year." Mest explains.
"You see the smoke rising up from the beach?" Makarov explains, pointing out the rising stream of smoke from a coast line, "First head there. There are nine paths there. Only one group can choose and enter each path. And here's what awaits you behind each path." A screen pops out besides him, stating the nine different routes in this order:
1 and 2 heads through a picture of Gildarts
3 and 4 into Battle
5 towards picture of Erza
7 and 8 into battle
9 towards a picture of Mirajane
"Only teams that get through this will clear the first exam."
"What is this?" Mei wonders.
"Considering the routes given, I guess each of the paths is spread out like this." Len stated, "Two of them has to fight Gildarts, two areas where two teams will have to fight each other, one has to fight Erza, one fighting Mirajane and the last one is the quiet route which is the auto pass."
"Oh, quite sharp of you, Len." Makarov smirked, "No wonder Erza recommended you. That's right. It is as Len said. Your goals in this exam are [Power], and [Luck]!"
"I think Lucy will have this in the bag…" Len muttered, "She inherited our mother's luck, after all."
"So logically speaking, only a maximum six teams will pass this exam." Evergreen said.
"I-Impossible!" Elfman cried, "Gildarts and Erza's roads are off limits!"
"I guess Gildarts allows a second team to help out the other one?" Len said.
"So worst case scenario is only three pass…" Levy muttered dejectedly.
"Cool." Gajeel smirked with his elbow on the short girl's head.
"Now, let's begin!" Makarov announced, "Exam start!"
"Aren't we still on the ocean?" Len mentioned.
Natsu seems to get it as Happy grabs onto the fire dragon slayer's back and they starts to flew off, "We can choose our paths first!" He declared, the blue cat giving an "Aye sir!" in respond.
"Ah! You cheater!" Elfman cried.
"Damn you, Natsu!" Gray shouted.
But the dragon slayer was stopped in his tracks as he slams head first into a rune barrier put up by Freed, "Freed, you asshole!" Natsu shouted angrily.
"Oi! Jii-san! Is that really fair?-!" Gray shouted.
"Well, it's not like this is a race…" The old mage stated.
"If we let him go first, he'll cover the entire island in runes!" He added.
"This is irritating!" Len shouted as he summons and slashes Aérialie at the runes, no effect, "Shit, looks like he figured out how I got through his previous barrier…"
"Oh yeah, we still have Levy!" Gray said.
"Yeah! I can re-write this!" Levy said, "But…" She jumps out with Gajeel, "Only for Gajeel and me!"
"Sorry, Lu-chan! Bye bye, everyone!"
"You little…" Natsu growled.
"I've known Freed for a long time, see." Evergreen said as she too re-writes the runes, "I can re-write runes of this caliber." She jumps out with Elfman, "Let's go, Elfman!"
"NOO!" Natsu cried.
"How many minutes left?" Lisanna asked.
"Four more." Juvia said.
"Levy re-wrote that in a single minute?-!" Cana cried.
"Oh, fuck it!" Len shouted angrily as he unleashed Diablo, "I can recover the magic later!"
"Red Demon's Fuming Typhoon!" He spins around with his demonic arm slashing into the air, creating a red tornado that wrecks the entire barrier in a single swipe. "Whoa, amazing!" Gray commented. "He broke the enchantment in a single attempt!" Cana said in awe.
"Let's go, Mei!" Len shouted as he leaps off the boat, Mei following with her Aera magic and caught him by his back, "Cana! You better protect Lucy, alright?-!" The two flew towards the island at high speeds.
"Yosh! Let's go, Lucy!" Cana called out as she and the younger blonde running behind her nodding.
"Let's go, Loki!" Gray called out, the lion spirit urging him to put some pants on.
"Happy!" Natsu called out as the blue cat flew them towards the island at fast speeds, passing Mei and Len with ease. "Ah! Let's go faster, Mei!" Len urged; the cat-girl nodded as they sped up after them.
"Ice-Make, Floor!" Gray froze the surface of the sea as he and his partner slides towards the island.
Lucy and Cana panics when they realized they are in the last place and quickly swims towards the island.
Len and Mei landed on the island by the coastline. The blonde immediately felt immerse magic power radiating from the island itself, like it was giving off the pulses of magic power once in a while. If he were to describe it, it would feel like a warm light that hugs him, comforting him of his past sins.
"Is something wrong, Len-san?" Mei asked him worriedly.
"No, it's nothing." He assures her.
"I-If there's something wrong, you can tell me…" Mei muttered.
"…Thanks, I appreciate it…" Len smiled, "Let's go!"
They arrives at the nine paths, all labeled A to I. A, B, E, F and H route are closed off, meaning someone chose them already. "So more than half of them got here already, huh…?" Len said.
"Which should we…?" Mei asked.
"Sense Radar." Len re-create the radar spell he invented, trying to sense out which among the remaining four paths should he choose. He then find out it was useless as the magic surrounding the island is too strong that it covers up all the others' magical signatures, "Damn… so I have to choose by random, huh…? Mei, can you choose?"
"A-Ah, s-sure…" Mei nodded, "I choose… That one!" She points at G route.
"G? Sure hope it isn't G for Goner…" Len muttered, Mei heard that and pouts angrily at him, "I was kidding!" They enters the cave, the red barrier raise up from behind them
Len walks along the cave, noticing the fireflies on his way in, lighting the place up. Mei twitched her nose and sneezed cutely, rubbing her nose, "I hate this place…" She whined, "It smells like wet soil."
"Well, it is a Cave, after all." Len said.
He then felt a rather large magic energy, the one that covers the island concentrated in a single place. Unknowingly, he followed his senses and arrives small clearing in the caves. He saw what seems to be a tomb. He heard from the Master that the Founder of Fairy Tail is buried on this island, and that got him wondering if this is it. "The tomb…of the First…"
"What is it that you seek, little one?"
Len felt a telepathic sentence sent into his mind. His heart is just felt like it is being opened like a book, one page at a time.
"Oh dear… what a past. Your story is an interesting one."
"Tell me, little one. What is it you seek?"
"I… Forgiveness…" Len mentioned without thinking, "I have done many things that I have regretted in the past. And I want to seek atonement for all I did. Also, I wish to protect the ones I hold close." In his mind, the thoughts of his sister appear, followed by Maya, Mike, Mei and…Erza? Len blinked confused, wondering why Erza's face came to his mind.
"I see… You have many scars… And one really big one in your heart… But little one, you don't have to share the burden alone. You have friends around you, don't you?"
"…I see…" Len smiled, "Thank you, I feel much better." He walks back the way he came, "I hope to see you again, Master Mavis."
"I'm sure we will." Mavis said.
The blonde walks out of the cave, and into Mei who was standing by the entrance, "Where did you go?" She asked. "Counseling." Len replied, leaving a very confused cat-girl with her ears twitching and her tail swaying side to side.