Chapter 15: Demon Force Unleashed
They came into another clearing where they saw a large crater in the middle. And in the middle of it, there is a huge crowd of mini-Natsu running towards the guild's strongest S-class mage.
"What's going here?-!" Len cried.
"Ah, Len!" Happy greeted, "You choose this route too?"
"Well, Gildarts have two routes so…" Len muttered, "I must really have chosen the short end of the stick this time… I always have the most rotten of luck…"
He then heard a series of cries, turning back to the fight, he saw Gildarts swiping away hordes and hordes of mini-Natsu. This carry on for like a few seconds, just as some of the mini dragon slayers grabs onto the crash mage's head and starts pulling and hitting like no tomorrow. They even fired off all sorts of fire-based attack at the old mage, effectively burning the middle-aged mage in the face.
"They are actually causing damage…!" Len said in shock.
"They look so cute~!" Mei cooed.
"How so?" Happy asked.
"AH! They are so annoying!" Gildarts groaned, prepping another of his spells, "Go back to normal!" The small Natsus starts to gathering around a single point, until finally the normal Natsu came popping out. The fire dragon slayer sniggered, "Chance!"
"Dragon Slayer Secret Arts!"
"Crimson Lotus: Exploding Flame Blade!"
Natsu brought out a spiral of flames that explodes right at the center. The force was massive, the three audiences stared at shock with the shockwaves blast right at their faces, "What power!" Len cried. Dust clouds littered the area covering their view of the S-class mage, the fire dragon slayer stood ready panting waiting for the result of his attack. But, to their horror, Gildarts stood there with a wrecked mantle, which was used to shield himself from the blast.
"No way!" Happy cried, "That was Natsu at full power! But it didn't work at all?-!"
"No, look at his feet, Happy!" Natsu stated pointing at the grooves on the ground, "Gildarts moved from his original position! Kahahaha! This is the first big step!"
"He moved?" Len muttered, then realized, "Wait... you mean he didn't move at the times you attacked him?-!"
The fire dragon slayer than starts to sway back and forth, "And now Natsu's staggering?-!" Happy cried.
"I'm not!" Natsu said.
"Not how?-!" Len cried.
"That was something, Natsu." Gildarts said, "I deeply understand your power now. Normally, as a test supervisor, I would let you pass now."
"Eh?-! Don't screw with me!" Natsu shouted, "There's no point becoming an S-class mage unless I beat you!"
"…I figured you say that." Gildarts sighed. Len then felt a huge surge in magic power that all the hairs on his body is standing up from fear, "That's why, this time, I'll go all out." Natsu's eyes widen in shock, "There is something left for you to acquire in order to reach the top of the magic world."
A huge burst of magic power erupts from the mage. Len have to brace himself from the large amount of magic power pressing on him. Everyone part of his body is telling him to run, to flee from that monster. 'This feeling! It's like Dante all over again!' He thought in fear. Immediately, the images of Natsu and Mei dead appear in his head.
He was about to let loose his demon form when he saw Natsu starting to run towards the man, but a flinched of the eye towards him stops him in his tracks. His body shook uncontrollably before finally kneeling down in front of him, "I…I lost…" He muttered.
Gildarts smiled, "Wonderful." He said, "I will not blame you for being brave and standing up to me. But those with the courage to re-sheathe their blades are exceptionally rare. Fear is not evil. It is to know your own weakness. If you know your weaknesses, people can become stronger and kinder. That's what's necessary in becoming an S-class mage. Now you know."
That caught Natsu by surprise, "B-But I…"
"Go. Your supervisor said you passed." Gildarts said, "The exam isn't over just yet. Don't forget about Master. Beyond here, there is an even more grueling test waiting. Have confidence. You can do it. From here on out, I'm talking not as a supervisor, but a friend. Powerful magic isn't everything about a man. But I understand your desire to win. This has nothing to do with age or career. I'm the same as you, you know. I don't want to lose."
"I'll fight you again anytime. Now go become an S-class mage, Natsu."
Len was rather stunned at how much wisdom this man held. It was a mix of experience and knowledge, along with that huge amount of power he possesses. He was starting to doubt his chances against him.
"Are you afraid?"
Len heard the all familiar voice of his demonic arm, "Why won't I be? That guy is a freaking monster."
"Ah, yes. But you remember. You are my vessel, my contractor, a Demon Slayer. You're a monster as much as he is. Now go. There's no need to fear."
"When did you became so talkative?" Len thought, "I thought you didn't like humans, Diablo?"
"Don't miss understand, brat!"
"Oi, you there." Gildarts called out, "You're the newbie, right? Len Heartfilia? You know, I don't like bullying the new guys, so how about I just pass you?"
"There's no need." Len said, "Mei, stay here."
The blonde leaps and skids down the crater's slopes to in front of Gildarts, "It would be unfair to those who have passed this point." He said, "I'll fight you."
"I see." Gildarts sighed, "Very well. Come at me with everything you got."
"Planned on it!" Len took a stance with his arms crossed in front of his chest, "Invoke! Demon Force!"
A bright red magic circle with blue outlines appears under his feet, his body glowed dark red with blue glowing aura around him. His form changes completely, turning into the demon form he has complete control of.
"Oh? Take-Over? No, Demon Slayer magic?" Gildarts said, "You must be that Demon Slayer Master told me about."
"Here I come, Gildarts Clive." Len tells him.
Len charges forward in his demonic form and slam his fist straight at the mage, the old man blocked the attack but he was sent flying back by the sheer impact of his punch.
"What power!" He muttered as he lands on his feet. Len charges straight at him again, "Red Demon's…" Red aura surrounds his fist, "Devouring Impact!" He strikes straight at the crash mage. Gildarts raised his hand up at him, with a pulse sends him flying back and skidding on the ground on his back.
"You're strong. Your explosive power on par to Natsu, no, even Erza is paled in comparison." Gildarts said.
"Compliment after I beat you!" Len shouted as he swings his legs around in the circle, lifting himself up into the air with a dropkick aimed at the crash mage's head, the latter blocking the attack with both his arms while crashing the ground into several grids under him, acting like a cushion, but it wasn't enough as his feet was pushed into the ground in small craters around the edge of his foot.
'H-Heavy!' He mentally cried, 'This guy's strength is unreal!'
Gildarts pushes him back, before lands on fours, "Red Demon's…" Len puff-up his cheeks, "ROAR!" The demon roars out a large blue energy blast, unlike the bright blue blast that he fired back in Edolas.
"Guh!" Gildarts released his crash magic, effectively breaking the blasts into a grid of cubes. Len was quick enough to move out of the way in time, avoiding the effect Natsu took on before he charges straight at Gildarts in a roundabout method. "Take this! I only learn this a week ago, but…" Red aura surrounds his body like flames, "Demon Slayer's Secret Arts! Flame Demon: Crimson Fire Rose!"
Len spun around while releasing huge red flames from all his limps, creating a large fire tornado that erupts all around the area, creating a similar effect as Natsu own advanced technique. The demonized human lands in a ready stance, awaiting Gildarts to come out of the dust cloud. But to his amazement, Gildarts was kneeling down panting heavily with his mantle almost completely ruined.
"He did it!" Mei cheered, "Len-san did it!"
"Gildarts is actually panting!" Happy cried.
"Amazing!" Natsu cried, "Is this, a Demon Slayer?-!"
Len's form changes back to a human's, his eyes looking at the panting Gildarts, "So… do I…?" Len muttered.
"Hahaha… HAHAHAHA!" Gildarts laughed heartily, leaving the others dumbfounded, "You pass, Len Heartfilia."
The blonde blinked, before realizing and shouts out in joy. "Len-san passed!" Mei cheered.
"I have to say, this is the first time I dealt with someone of your caliber." The mage continues, "To push me into a corner like that, you sure have some strength in you, kid. Go on, the next test awaits you."
"Thank you, Gildarts-san!" Len thanked him as he and Mei carries on, "Come on, Natsu! We have to go!"
"Let's go, Natsu." Happy urges his friend. The pink-haired boy nodded stiffly and ran after him. Len noticed his depression and slows down to next to him, "It's okay, Natsu." Len assures him, "You can't defeat Gildarts isn't because you are weak. You can still beat him, I can assure you."
"Thanks, but I'm fine." Natsu said as they carry on ahead.
Elsewhere, Mest lay unconscious by the rock for a short while, before regaining consciousness, "Mest-san!" Wendy cried.
"Kuhh… I never think they were this strong…" Mest grunted, "But… in order to succeed my master's legacy, I cannot lose here!" He stood up ready to fight, "Bring it on, Gray, Loki!"
"Um… I think we lost…" Wendy muttered sadly.
"While Mest-san was unconscious, Gray-san went on ahead…"
Mest slumps his shoulders in disappointment, "Ah… This year is a bust too…" He groaned.
"S-Sorry… I couldn't be any help…" Wendy sobs, "I told myself that I was going to work my hardest but…"
"No, it's fine." Mest assures the little dragon slayer, "More importantly, are you hurt anywhere?"
Wendy shook her head, the unknown mage sighs in relief.
Up ahead, Gray and Loki are walking towards the end, "YOSH A! First exam complete!" The ice mage cheered.
"If Natsu or Freed got knocked out here, it'll make the road ahead much smoother." Loki said, "Oh, Cana is a problem too."
"Don't be ridiculous!" Gray said angrily, "You think that that road to becoming an S-class mage would be smooth at all?"
"I know, I know." Loki said, "But I'm still impressed that we managed to actually beat Mest like we did."
"Was that guy always that weak?" Gray said, "It seems that like he was much stronger a long time ago."
"It means we gotten stronger." Loki stated.
"Hm… I can't remember." The ice mage said, "Did I ever fight with him before?"
"Oh! A memory loss joke! Lucy find that attractive." The lion spirit joked.
"If I recalled, Mest went pretty far in the last exam." Gray said.
"That seems to be right."
"Who… was his partner then?"
Loki blinked, thinking for a moment but keep getting a blank, "Huh? Who was it?"
"What's going on? I can't remember at all!" Gray cried, "Seems like memories regarding Mest is a bit hazy."
"Yeah," The zodiac leader agreed, "Whenever I try to remember something about him, they always cut off at some point."
The two guys groaned at the lack of information about the said mage. Before long, they arrive at the end of the road, "Gray! Loki!" A familiar blonde celestial mage greeted them, she wearing a dark-green sling shirt and light green miniskirt, "You made it through the first exam as well."
"Anyway, congratulations." Cana said, the card mage in a white long sleeved shirt with only the collar area buttoned showing her black bra with dark brown pants.
"We sure got lucky on the [Quiet] route." Levy giggles, the book mage in an orange one piece dress and blue cloth around both her elbows.
"How is that lucky?-!" Gajeel shouted in his usual outfit, "I wasn't able to punch anything!"
"I just barely made it…" Len sighed, he wearing a black sleeveless hoodie over his shirt and his sandals changed into white shoes with his armor back on his arm, Happy stood beside him.
"But we managed to pass." Mei said smiling sitting on a large root, her wearing a yellow tube shirt and orange shorts, the Angel Eye in its brown sheath on the side of her shorts.
"These are the only people who managed to pass?-!" Gray cried.
"Natsu…" Loki muttered.
"Is over there." Len tells him, pointing at the solemn dragon slayer.
"Well, is that everyone?" Makarov said as he walks towards them.
"If that's so, then I'll announce the passing teams." The old midget said.
"Cana & Lucy beat Freed & Bickslow in a [Fight] route, and passed!"
"Hm~hm~" Lucy hummed proudly.
"WHAT?-!" Gray cried.
"Natsu & Happy, along with Len & Mei, somehow overcame Gildarts, and passed!"
"We did nothing, though…" Mei said with Happy nodding slightly.
"Levy & Gajeel were lucky enough to pass through the [Quiet] route, and passed!"
Levi gives a victory sign. "You think that is lucky?-!" Gajeel thinks otherwise.
"Gray & Loki beat Mest & Wendy in another [Fight] route, and passed!"
"Oh? Juvia didn't make it?" Gray wonders, resulting in Makarov making a really freaked out face, "W-What's with the face, gramps?!"
"Juvia & Lisanna were unlucky enough to meet her…" The old mage said, "The female knight who doesn't know how to hold back!"
At Route D...
"The End." Erza said in triumph.
"We lost~" The two girls groaned in the background.
"So that leaves Elfman & Evergreen…" Len said.
"But considering the remaining routes, they must have landed on…" Cana and Lucy paled, 'Mirajane…'
"Those poor things…" Levy prayed.
"We would have won, though." Gajeel smirked.
"Hold on a minute!"
A manly voice shouts from the forest, with the said team limping towards them, the larger male being supported by the smaller female, "We beat my sister and made it through!" Elfman declared.
"First exam passed!" Evergreen said.
"What the?-!" Makarov was shocked.
"How did you do it?" Happy asked.
The reaction was unexpected, "I-I can't say that… as a man…" Elfman muttered.
"L-Let's just say we managed to strike her in a split-second opening…" Evergreen adding.
'What did they do?' Lucy and Len thought.
"Ahem! Anyway…" Makarov said, "These five teams have officially passed the first exam. Now, the second exam shall begin."
"Natsu, how much longer are you going to be depressed for?" Happy asked worriedly.
"No… I was just thinking about something."
"Natsu?-! Thinking?-! Something?-!"
"Just how much do you belittle him?" Lucy wonders.
"I'll fight you anytime. Now go, and become an S-class mage Natsu."
The words of Gildarts rings through his mind, "I got it, Gildarts…" He muttered. He stood straight up, "Gray! Cana! Len! Levy! Elfman! I challenge you all to see who can become an S-class mage!"
"You're the only one I can't afford to lose to." Gray smirked.
Cana smirked, silently accepting his challenge.
"Bring it on." Len smirked with one eye closed.
"Me too!" Levy said firmly.
"As a man, I have no choice but to accept that challenge!" Elfman shouted.
Makarov looked at them with approving eyes.
"GAH!-! I'm all fired up now!" Natsu shouted. "Aye sir!" Happy shouted along.
"I'm definitely going to make Cana into an S-class!" Lucy declared.
"Don't expect me to go easy, even on you, Lucy." Loki said.
"I'll make Len-san an S-class mage for sure!" Mei shouted.
"Gihehe, look at that trash howl." Gajeel smirked.
"Real men- GUHOH!"
"Elfman, keep it together- GUFUH!"
"They're not going to last long…" Len muttered at the Elfman & Evergreen team.
"Then I'll be revealing the rules of the second exam." Makarov said, "The goal this time is to find the Fairy Tail's founder, Mavis Vermilion's grave."
"Grave?" Len then recalled the tomb he accidentally walks into, "Could it be…?"
"The time limit is 6 hours. Remember, 6 hours." Makarov walks away as the teams each go their separate ways to find the tomb. Len and Mei were left at the same place, thinking whether to go back into the cave or not, "Well, might as well look around the island…" Len muttered as he walks away, Mei following him.
Elsewhere, Lucy and Cana are running away from a huge lizard-like monster, "What is this?-!" Lucy cried.
"Lucy, hurry!" Cana called her partner; just the lizard took a large bite that the blonde girl just barely managed to avoid.
Another area, Levy and Gajeel are hiding behind a rock, "W-What an island…" Gajeel muttered.
A monster walks past them, looking around.
"I-I might die…" Levy stuttered shaking in fear.
To another part of the island, where Gray and Loki are running away from a horde of bird monsters, "This is nothing if it means I can become an S-class mage!" Gray shouted.
"You sure are acting tough!" Loki commented.
Elsewhere as well, Elfman and Evergreen are getting chased by a large pig monster, "This way, Evergreen!" Elfman commanded.
"Shut up! Don't order me around!" Evergreen shouted back.
"Don't get the way of my exam!" Natsu shouted as he lands a hit to the chin on the long neck monster.
"He was unlucky enough to come up in front of Natsu." Happy sighed as the monster fell down on its back. The fire dragon slayer wipes his sweat with his scarf, "As expected of Natsu! Let's go!"
"Wait, Happy." Natsu ran up to the monster's face and starts pulling and tugging in any way possible, "Tell us where the Founder's Grave is!-!"
"Uwah! He talked to it!"
"I don't know." It said.
"It talked back!!"
"Damn, how are we supposed to search for that thing without a single hint…?" Natsu muttered.
"This might be harder than we thought…" Happy said.
"Oh! That reminds me…" Natsu thought up the unusual shape of the island itself, "This is how it looks like, right?"
"Isn't that top part rather suspicious?" Natsu said.
"Yeah!" Happy nodded.
"Alright! It's a good thing that I'm paired with you, Happy!" Natsu cheered, "Let's go to the top!"
Len walks among the forest, a bit at ease at the tranquility of the atmosphere around him. It was a common feature for him to not get attacked by the beasts, as his aura itself seems to force the monster and other wild beasts to move away him, allowing him to move around the blonde mage to move around with ease, "The forest sure is peaceful today…" He said, feeling the shade and the sun.
"Waa… this place is beautiful~!" Mei said happily, leaping and twirling around.
"It sure is." Len smiled looking at the leaves blocking the sun, "The forests are probably the most calming places I can find… if there is a small lake here, it would be nice."
"But, are you sure we don't have to look for it?" Mei asked while observing a butterfly on a small flower, "The grave."
"I have been to the place already in our route. So I know where it is." Len said carrying on walking as the cat girl chases the small insect around, "This exam is based on intelligence, so I'm sure the Master has left hints in his speeches. Besides, I kind of have an unfair advantage so I'll let them find the grave first."
She lands in front of the flower where the butterfly landed on, "You're really kind, Len-san." Mei said.
"Well, I just don't like having such an advantage…" The blonde then froze in his tracks.
"Len-san?" Mei asked worriedly, "Is something wrong?"
In Len's point of view, he can felt chills going down his spine, 'What is this… this magic…?' The blonde thought, 'This isn't the same magic surrounding the island… It feels… like death…' His hands start shaking in fear, 'Who… who is the owner of such deadly dark magic…?'
"T-This magic power!" Diablo suddenly said out loud for everyone to hear.
"Len-san! Your arm is talking!" Mei cried.
"What's wrong, Diablo?-!" Len cried.
"There's no doubt… it's his!"
"Diablo?" The arm then jerked in one direction, pulling Len along with it, "C-Chotto, Diablo! Where are you taking me?-!" The blonde cried, Mei running after him.
The arm dragged Len throughout the forest, where he saw Elfman and Evergreen standing in front of a black haired man in black robes. Then all of a sudden, a black aura surrounds him, Len getting the same dark feeling as before, "Elfman, Evergreen!" Len cried as he ran towards them.
"Get down!" He heard Natsu cried as the pink-haired teen pushed the two down, just as Len got in front of them with Diablo unleashed. The moment the dark aura caught to him, it dissipates on the contact of his arm, leaving a trail of green grass the tree behind him still full of life. The rest of the area, however, all the plantation is all withered and dead.
The man stood in front of them; widen his eyes in shock, as tears fall down his cheeks, "N-Natsu…"
"Who… Who are you?!" Natsu shouted.
"Natsu, why are you here?-!" Evergreen cried.
"D-Don't surprise me like that…" Elfman said.
"Natsu, you know him?" Len asked.
"No, I don't. Do you?" Natsu said.
"Natsu~! Weren't we going to the top?!" Happy called out as he flew over to their side, "Why did you suddenly dashed off?! Weren't we going to the top?!"
"I don't know what's going on, but I got a really creepy feeling." Natsu said.
"Len-san! Why are you-?" Mei stopped in her tracks, "W-What is…?"
"The trees in the whole area…" Evergreen muttered in shock, "Have withered…" Elfman carried on.
Len look over to the black haired man, or boy since he looks rather young, "Is this, his magic?"
"He doesn't seem to be your average wizard…" Evergreen muttered.
"I don't know who you are, but this is our guild's island!" Natsu shouted, "Don't get in the way of our exam!"
"You've… really grown…"
Len looked at him rather cautious. 'What's going on…? All this while I have been around that guy, my arm have been itching like crazy. Compared to the time with Nirvana, the sensation is ten, no, hundred times worse.' He thought, 'And Diablo, why did you led me here?'
"I've been waiting for you, Natsu."
Not without a warning, Natsu dashed forward and lands a hit to the head at the black haired guy, "He punched him?-!" Evergreen cried. "All of the sudden?-!" Elfman cried.
Len then suddenly leaped forward and sucker-punched the man in the face, "Len too?-!" Elfman cried.
"H-Huh?" Len leaped back, looking at his demon arm, "M-My body just…"
The man somersaulted in the air, landing softly onto the ground.
"I don't know you!" Natsu shouted, "What's your name?"
But for some reason, the boy starts to cry, "Is he crying…?" Happy muttered.
"What a weird guy…" Mei muttered.
Len felt the same dark feeling arising around him, "Everyone, run!" He cried, "That black aura thing is coming again!"
Elfman and Evergreen don't need to hear anymore as they starts to dash for it, just as the black aura erupts from around the boy. Len and Natsu are too close to run for it, the blonde noticing Mei standing frozen in her tracks, "Mei!" Len lunged at the cat girl, covering her body with his own.
"Natsu!" Happy cried.
"Baka! Don't go back!" Elfman shouted grapping Happy around his arm.
The aura disappears, and the smoke slowly clear around them. Len still on top of Mei, who was slowly opening her eyes, "Hm…?" When she saw who's on top of her, "Are you alright, Mei?" Len asked, but the cat girl's eyes widen in shock, "L-Len-san?" The blonde was alright, but have two distinctive differences. One is that his arm is still in Diablo form, another is that his right eye turned red, "Len-san, your eye…"
"My… eye?" Len borrowed Angel Eye and look at his reflection, "Eh? W-What happened to my eye?-! It turned all red!"
"M-Maybe it's the Diablo's issue!" Mei stated, "Maybe when you use your power, your eye turns red?"
Len deactivate Diablo, but his eye still remains red.
"God damn it, what's going on?-!" Len cried, "Oi! Natsu! Are you al- What happened to your muffler?!" The fire dragon slayer's scarf is now all black instead of its normal white scaly design, "That bastard… look what he did to Igneel's muffler…" Natsu growled.
"How are black clothes and black muffler fashion-wise?-!"
"That's your issue?-!" Len cried, "At least yours seems okay. Look at my eye!"
"I-I think it's kind of cool!" Mei stated.
"Ano… what about the exam?" Happy asked.
"With a creepy guy like that slinking around…" Evergreen muttered, "We might have to stop the exam."
"Like hell!" Natsu shouted.
"As a man, I cannot simply relinquish this exam!" Elfman agreed.
The two stared at each other, "I promised Gildarts that I'll become S-class!" Natsu declared.
"And I'm my sister's little brother! I have a right to pass this exam!" Elfman countered.
The two stared at each other competitively, Len not sure to get involve or just walk away, "But still, that guy is really weird. I have a feeling that we might run into him soon." He said.
"But… I don't think he is a bad person." Mei said.
"Me too." Happy agreed.
"You two shock me." Evergreen sighed.
"Let's continue the exam!" Natsu declared.
"Yeah! Let's go, Evergreen!" Elfman shouted.
"Didn't I tell you to not order me around?-!" Evergreen shouted back.
"We better get going too." Len said.
"R-Right!" Mei replied.
Len walks around the rocky areas, nearing the center of the island where the main tree is. He has been trying to call out Diablo for a while, but it wouldn't answer. "Diablo, what's wrong with you? Who is that guy?"
"Len-san, are you okay?" Mei asked worriedly.
"I'm fine…" Len assures her, "Just a bit on edge from that boy's power. There's something about that guy that is bothering me. For some reason, my arm seems to resonate with that guy…" He looked up in the sky, hoping to find an answer falling from the sky. But what he did get was a red signal. "What is…?" He wonders, then remembers the signal flares he asked Erza about.
"Mei, we have to move!" Len tells her as he grabs her hand and dashed into the forest. He then felt an immense magic power that radiating from the somewhere on the island, "What is…?" He then saw the sky starts raining small orange orbs.
"People in balls?" Mei wonders. One of the small ball got close to her and it broke, and a person grew from inside and slashes down at her. Luckily, she moved back in time, avoiding the sword, "P-People just appeared!"
"Wait, that means!" Len realized too late as an army-amount of dark wizards landed in front of them, all bearing the mark of the strongest Dark Guild, "Grimoire Heart?-!" He cried.
"Who's that?" Mei asked worriedly, with her hand on Angel Eye.
"The strongest Dark Guild…" Len muttered, "These guys aren't small fry! Compared to those soldiers in Edolas, they are way stronger! Keep on your toes!"
"Got it!" Mei said drawing Angel Eye, the blue blade shimmering in the sunlight.
The grunts of the strongest Dark Guild came crashing towards them, as Len summons out Motor Knight.
Unknown to him, there is a greater evil coming towards him.