21 Mar 2016

Juvia came to the big city to get a spot in a prestigious dance company. But not everything goes as planned as she meets a ragtag crew of performers struggling to make ends meet, shooting for an opportunity to show the world what they have to offer.

Teen (13+)
Chapters: 17
Words: 117,566


Chapter 16
We Are Giants

Chapter Notes:

Holy crap, it’s the big finish.

Okay, quick notes before I let y’all go and read the thing:
— Who ELSE should I put as judges, really?
— I am NOT good with group names.


( “Feels like you’re standing there so small…
Just the space between the stars.
Don’t be afraid to risk it all, ’cause we are, we are —”)
We Are Giants
— Lindsey Stirling feat. Dia Frampton


“Oi, kid. S’almost closing time.” Gajeel called out, hastily knocking on the backroom door. He left Rogue in there sorting some new stocks, and the teen hasn’t left the room since.

Rogue called back, “Just finishing up, Gajeel-san.”

“Hurry it up, then.”

The man did his routine rounds of the shop, making sure everything was in order, tidying up some bits and pieces, ensuring the display stands and the cash register were all locked up properly.

When he finished, he saw that Rogue was also packing up. “You finished everything? That was a lot more than the usual stuff we get.”

Rogue nodded.

“Good job, kid. I’ll tell boss to give you some extra on your next pay.”

This time Rogue let out a small smile. “There’s really no need… I’m okay with my usual pay.”

“Eh, he’s only got two of us now putting up with his lame shop. He really should give a raise.”

Rogue shrugged. As expected, he was hesitant at the prospect of asking for more money, but he knew he couldn’t stop his senior employee if he tried anyway.

They closed up shop together, Gajeel keeping the keys secure in his bag. They close up early during weekdays, but it was early Friday night so there were already a lot of people up and about.

As they walked down the sidewalk side by side, Gajeel noticed something different with his companion.

Ah. There it was.

He asked, “Your boyfriend didn’t come pick you up today?” — because for the past few weeks, that’s been the routine between the boys and Gajeel had gotten used to it himself.

Rogue answered, “He’s injured, so I just told him to wait for me at the bus stop.”

Gajeel blinked. “What the hell happened?”

“He fell while skateboarding with his friends last night.” Rogue explained, but didn’t sound too upset. “It’s not that bad. His arm’s in a sling but he says it’ll heal in a few days. Then he can break it again.”

At this, the man couldn’t help but snigger. “You’re not worried at all, huh.”

The boy shrugged again. “He breaks something every week. I just gave up.”

“Hey, you told me you can watch over the shop tomorrow while I’m out. You still up for that?”

“Of course. Sting’s injured, not bed-ridden.” then after a beat, Rogue rolled his eyes. “Yet.”

They had both stopped by an intersection. Gajeel was headed for the other direction, while Rogue was supposed to cross the road… where Sting, patched up and being as hyper as always, was already jumping and waving at them happily with his uninjured arm.

“I’m no doctor, but I think he should stop jumping like that.” Gajeel commented dryly.

Rogue sighed before he looked up at his senior employee. “I’ll be at the shop early tomorrow then.”

Gajeel nodded, but his brows were furrowed. “You sure you can handle it alone? ’Till late?”

“Don’t worry about it.” Rogue smiled. “Good luck with the contest tomorrow, Gajeel-san. Juvia-san, too.”

“You can tell ’er that yerself, she said she’ll drop by.” the man grinned, then finally waved his young companion off. The stoplight was red now. “Go ahead, before your boyfriend breaks his other arm.”

He watched as Rogue squeezed in the crowd of people crossing the road. Sting welcomed him with a one-armed hug and a quick stolen kiss, then Rogue began scolding the blonde… probably for moving around too much while in recovery.

The two bickered as they walked towards the bus stop, and Gajeel went on his way home.

When Levy came to the rooftop with her laptop in her arms, about half of the dance crew were still practicing.

On one side was Max assisting Bisca and Alzack on a pretty complicated lift, Warren giving Wendy some tips for the hip-hop parts, and Natsu and Erza helping Romeo out for a break-dance move. Some of the others were sitting around and taking a break.

Gray and Juvia, for one, were looking especially exhausted. Gray was lying on the floor on his back while Juvia sat beside him, both of them still slightly catching their breath.

“Um, you two okay?” Levy asked.

Gray gave her a thumbs-up and Juvia smiled. “Just practiced the whole routine, Levy-san.”

“Oh, wow.” the tapper laughed. “Nailed it down yet?”

“I think so.” Gray grunted. “Why do we have to solo, man?”

Levy shrugged back. “You told Erza it’s a great idea.”

“I didn’t know I’ll be the one dancing it.” the raven-head complained, then looked at his girlfriend. “Juvia’s got it down pat, though.”

Juvia shook her head. “It’s a really long and difficult routine. It’s Juvia’s first time.”

“She’s on her first time and still looks better than me. Didn’t realize my contemporary was that rusty until Erza pulled out the damn choreo.” Gray snorted, before looking at Levy. “How ’bout you, got your part ready?”

“Yep! But it won’t hurt to practice some more.” Levy said. “Can’t screw up tomorrow, yeah?”

Both of them nodded. It was the night before the contest, and while everyone wanted to polish the performance even more, they knew that they shouldn’t push themselves too hard. They needed to get a good night’s rest.

“Anyways, you gotta get up, Gray. We’re starting the call. You come along too, Juvia-chan!” Levy said, walking away from the couple and towards the others, calling for attention.

Juvia looked at Gray in question as he got up. “Call?”

“We’re gonna video call the old man. You up for it?”

“Mr. Dreyar?” Juvia asked. When Gray nodded, she blushed and looked down. “J-Juvia looks like a mess! And— and Juvia hasn’t been introduced—”

“That’s kind of the point of you joining us, so we can introduce you?” Gray raised an eyebrow. When she started fussing over her hair, he said, “C’mon, we all look like crap, we’ve been dancing almost all day.”

The others had already stopped practicing and were mostly huddled together behind Levy and her laptop as she started up the video call.

Juvia stayed close beside Gray as they joined the huddle, just in time to see several people join the video conference.

“There we go!” came from Lucy. She and Cana joined from Cana’s flat uptown. They were staying there for the night after a dinner with some of the old ‘Glitter’ cast and staff. Gildarts and Loke were both in the back just lounging in the couch.

“Hey, guys.” Mest greeted. He was in his office. Behind him, they could see a bespectacled man sitting on a separate desk and busy working on some papers. Juvia remembered him as Mest’s partner Lahar, he dropped by on the night of the party at Era shortly to give them his regards.

“This thing on?” was from Laxus, who decided he’ll just join the call from the laptop in his studio. Laxus and Mira were sitting in front of the laptop, while in the background, Bixlow and Freed were still tinkering with something in the table. “Huh. Looks crowded up there—”

He was cut off when they heard a loud bang from behind them, and the others watched as Laxus and Mira turned around to see Bixlow and Freed busy trying to put off some flames from whatever they were working on.

“What happened?!” Mira asked.

“Whoo boy, it went boom!” Bixlow answered cheerfully, clapping his hands.

“What are you making, exactly?” Cana asked. Behind her and Lucy, Gildarts and Loke had both moved closer, also peering curiously.

“Your outfits for tomorrow.” Freed said, trying to fan off the smoke from their experiment. “I’m so sorry about your shirt, Jet — good thing we have a spare.”

“WHAT?!” came from everyone in the rooftop.

“Is it… safe?” Levy asked.

Bixlow shrugged. “Well, other than the small explosion, it’s pretty safe.”

“It’s an explosion.” Laxus pointed out.

“That’s kinda hardcore, but I ain’t wearing anythin’ that explodes, man.” came from Natsu, echoing the thoughts of his friends.

“Don’t worry, we’ve got this.” Freed assured them. “It won’t explode anymore, I promise.”

“Maybe just electrocute you a bit.” Bixlow added not-so-helpfully.

The response were variations of “Nope!” and ‘No way!’ and “Not getting anywhere near that!”

Then another panel popped up in the screen. “Live, from the second floor!” came Lisanna’s cheerful voice as she joined via her phone. Behind her, Evergreen and Elfman were busy making dinner, but took a moment to wave at the others.

As for the rest of them, they were all crowded together in one window, waiting.

Finally, the last window appeared, and there was a very fatherly-looking old man sitting comfortably on a couch, smiling at them. Juvia noted the family resemblance between the man and Laxus: spiky hair, sharp features, the eyebrows… But the old man had a friendlier, gentler expression as well.

She watched as the others happily greeted the man differently: ranging from very casual greetings of “Hey, gramps!” and ‘What’s up, old man?’ to more formal and polite ones like “Good evening, Mr. Dreyar.” and “It’s nice to see you, sir!”

But for all the difference in their greetings, they all had one thing in common: they were genuinely very happy to see the man.

The reply was a full, happy laugh, and Makarov seemed to study his screen closer before speaking. “Well, looks like everyone turned up, hm?”

“Yep!” Natsu replied. “We’re all here. Complete set.”

“Huh. It’s good to see you’re all healthy.” Makarov nodded, pleased with what he saw of his ‘children’. “Well, what do we have here-… Is that Elfman? Cooking?”

“Don’t worry, Ever will make sure Elf-nii-chan makes something edible.” Lisanna laughed.

“I’ve got this, sir.” Evergreen assured the man, her smile amused, meanwhile Elfman just stammered out a flustered “R-Real men can cook!”

“Just don’t burn down the house.” the old man sighed. “And Mest, you’re still at work?”

Mest chuckled sheepishly. “W-Well, it’s a nightclub, so…”

“Ah, yes I always forget! Cana-chan and Lucy-chan, you both look dressed up… Oh. Hello, Gildarts! Been a while, old friend!”

Juvia felt a bit like an outsider as the man proceeded to address them individually then. She didn’t expect him to do so — but it looked like it was true that he knew them all personally and had a bond with each and every one of them.

“Were you on a month-long night schedule again, Warren? Stay healthy, alright?”

“Jet, Droy, sale season is about to start, good luck on your jobs…”

“Levy-chan, I read the article you wrote for that one blog. It was wonderful, dear—”

“I got those vouchers you sent me, Max, thanks—”

“Laki-chan, you grew your hair out again, eh? Lisanna-chan, too… Is school going well?”

“Romeo! You shot up! What, are you taller than your dad now? And is that little Wendy-chan? Well, I’ll be…”

“Alzack and Bisca, any dates for the wedding yet?”

“I hope you’re doing well, Mira-chan. These kids won’t last a week without you…”

“Bixlow, any new projects?”

“Everything going well for you, Erza? I saw your photos with Jellal-kun in the recital, you two looked wonderful together.”

“Hello, Laxus — I see you’re still grumpy. Slight less grumpy, though, so… Freed, thank you for keeping my grandson in check.”

“Natsu, I heard you’re actually on your sixth month on this job? Is that a record?”

Juvia knew now why the Guild treated each other like family so easily, why caring about each other was so natural. It was because they had someone to introduce them to how it was done: how to look out for each other, be interested in each other’s lives, and provide mutual and constant support for everyone in their ups and downs.

The questions were simple, but she could feel the honest warmth and caring from the old man’s inquiries and from the others’ answers. ‘This.’ Juvia thought. ‘This is how a family’s supposed to be.’

The woman snapped out of her reverie when she heard the man call out to Gray.

“I heard you lost your job? You punched a client? Isn’t that more Natsu’s style?” (This was followed by a “Heeeyyy!” from Natsu.)

Gray scratched his head. “Well, it’s a bit complicated—”

But the old man just shook his head and shrugged nonchalantly. “Nah, m’sure you can find a better employer. If they won’t stick out for you when you’re on the right side, they’re not worth workin’ for, son.”

At this, Gray chuckled and nodded. “You’re always right, gramps.”

“Hmmm… and I also heard you got a special someone?”

“Oh. Yeah. Um, right, she’s right here, actually.”

Juvia blinked as the others shifted so she can get a better place among their little huddle. She felt Levy pull her close as Gray rested his hands on her shoulders. “Meet Juvia.”

“Ah! Juvia-chan!” Makarov smiled brightly. “Well, what a pretty young lady, I should say—”

And before Juvia could speak, the others have already started talking as well, not just the ones in the rooftop with her, but also the ones from the other calls.

“You got yerself ’nother kid, old man.” was from Gildarts.

“She’s a great dancer!” Lisanna, waving a ladle around. “Like, super brilliant!”

“Killer cookies!” Natsu cheered.

“TOO NICE FOR GRAY, REALLY.” Cana said, throwing her hands up in defeat.

“She’s totally getting into Rainfall, too!” Laki added.

“And we’re totally keeping her. She’s staying forever.” Bixlow said, looking towards his companions — Mira, Laxus and Freed all nodded solemnly.

Mest chuckled. “I think you guys should let her speak.”

“Thank you, Mest.” Makarov said, shaking his head, amused. “Hello, Juvia-chan. It’s nice to meet you.”

Juvia blushed as he bowed slightly. “It’s nice to meet you as well, Dreyar-sama!”

“Nah, you may call me grandpa, just like the others.” the old man shrugged. “I see they’re all very fond of you. You should come with them the next time they visit.”


Then Makarov asked, “So when are you moving in?”

That triggered another round of cheering again — with loud questions of “Really, you’re moving in?!” and “Yeah, Gray, make it happen!”

The call ended just before dinner was ready, but not before Makarov wished the Guild good luck on the dance battle.

“This is it, I know you’ve all worked hard for this. Get a good rest tonight and do your best tomorrow.”

As he received several nods and appreciative replies, he shook his head and clicked his tongue.

“Tsk tsk tsk. This old man can’t hear you…”

With that, there was a loud, dutiful chorus of “YES, SIR!” from his children, and the old man simply laughed heartily.

“That’s the spirit! No holding back on anything, alright? Don’t worry ’bout what they’ll say or think — just give it all you’ve got!”


Gajeel got the call late that night. He answered quickly, not wanting Juvia to wake up. She was already fast asleep in the mattress next to his.

He yawned before he answered, “Hello?”

“Hey, um, I’m sorry, I must’ve woken you up.”

He blinked. “Levy?”


“Wusswrong?” he drawled, rubbing his eyes and looking at the wall clock. “It’s 1 AM.”

“I know… sorry. I just… I dunno, I can’t sleep?”

He managed a small huff. “Heh. What’s this, pre-performance jitters?”


“Never heard of a tapper gettin’ cold feet.”

He heard her sigh miserably. “I know, right? It’s stupid.”

“What’re you worried ‘bout, I know you got everythin’ nailed down. I watch you guys practice. Tomorrow, you got costumes and everythin’. It’ll look badass.”

She was quiet for a while, and at first he thought she fell asleep. Then, she said, “I was just listening to the mix… y’know, the one we’ll use for tomorrow. It’s really good. Scratch that, it’s superb.”

“Yeah.” — now he’s just confused. “I thought that was the whole point of making a custom arrangement and workin’ on that mix for days? So it’ll be awesome?”

“It’s just… I’m opening the performance. And I don’t know, I was just listening to it and suddenly I thought, what if I mess up?”

“Hold up, what if YOU mess up?”


“You made the arrangement with me, shorty. And you were the one who came up with the tap routine. Which is awesome, everyone says so.”

“Still! What if I blank out and miss a beat, or what if I fail and my percussion won’t sync with your rhythm and Cana’s vocals? Your arrangement will go to waste, and it’ll be my fault.”

He sighed heavily, running a hand through his hair. “Levy.”


He realized that he didn’t call her by her name often, and maybe she gets surprised every time he does. He shook the thoughts off quickly, like always. “You should go to sleep.”



“You know, just… maybe sorry in advance if I end up messing up your great arrangement, ’cause you did it for us for free and helped us a lot and—”

“I’m serious, go to sleep. You’re being paranoid. You’re not gonna mess up tomorrow. You know the routine by heart. And y’know what, that arrangement? It’s a duet. And I don’t mean a vocal one. You said it, I’m rhythm, and you’re percussion. So if you skip a beat, just listen to the music and respond to it. That guitar, it’s just me.”

She was quiet again, but this time he can practically see her gathering herself up and nodding. “Y-Yeah. It’s you.”

“So… y’know, harmonize with… me?”


“Not okay, that sounded terrible. Cheesy. Forget the harmonize part. But, like, the instrument version of it. Whatever. You know what I mean.”

There it was — she giggled. “I know what you mean. I can… I can just improvise. Recover, right?”

“Yeah, ’cause if you stop, they’ll know you messed up. Make it look like it’s all part of the plan.”

“Sir, yes, sir.”

“Stop that.”

She laughed this time, and he didn’t know why, but it sounded like victory. “Thanks, Gajeel. I’m sorry for waking you up for this. Ugh, I feel so silly.”

“Don’t mention it.” he replied, then after a beat, he added: “I’m serious. Don’t mention it. Your friends will have a field day, they’ll think we’re goin’ out or something.”

To his surprise, she said, “Oh, that’s not too bad.”



“What did you… say?”

“Nothing!” she laughed again, this time determinedly fake — “I said nothing! Boy, I am so sleepy now! See you tomorrow, Gajeel! Good night, sweet dreams!”

And she hung up.

Gajeel laid back down on his mattress and stared at the ceiling blankly.

‘Holy shit, she’s killing me.’

Gajeel and Juvia opened up the record shop together that Saturday morning. Rogue arrived thirty minutes in, just as he promised.

Gajeel left Rogue with instructions and quick reminders (the discount for this brand is ending today, just give the player in the corner a good smack if it acts up, always double-check that one display stand because the lock is falling apart, etc.)…

And it was then that Sting also arrived, smiling brightly as always.

“Should you be here?” Gajeel asked, squinting at the blonde.

“I’ll be good, sempai. I promise.” Sting said, even making a show of crossing his heart. “It’s boring at home and Rogue’s alone here all day, so I’ll help!”

“Just so you know, if you break something of yours in here, you’re not covered by Rogue’s employee health insurance.”

Sting rolled his eyes and nodded. “Hai, hai…”

Meanwhile, a very confused Rogue asked, “We have employee health insurance?”

Gajeel snorted. “We don’t.”


“Did I mention this shop sucks?”

Both boys replied, “Everyday.”

“Right. Here you go.” Gajeel said, finally handing Rogue the store keys. “No fooling around in the backroom. I eat in that table.”

Rogue blushed brightly and stammered an embarrassed “G-G-GAJEEL-SAN I WOULD N-NEVER—”, while Sting just sniggered and asked, “What about the couch?”

The man only looked back, unimpressed. “Want me to break your other arm, kid?”

The ‘kid’ simply pouted and looked away. “Noted.”

“Gajeel-kun, are we going?” Juvia chimed in. She went out for a while to grab some coffee.

“Yep. We don’t wanna be late.” Gajeel said, grabbing his bag. He stood by the entrance as Juvia also gathered her things.

“Sting-kun, what happened to your arm?” she asked, stopping in front of the boys, who were just starting up the cash register.

“Too much awesome.” the blonde answered sheepishly.

Rogue didn’t bother covering up the truth, though. “He fell while skateboarding.”

“Oh… Get well soon, okay?” the woman said, patting the teen on the head.

Sting nodded cheerfully. “Roger! Good luck with the dance battle, Juvia-nee-chan!”

Rogue also smiled. “We’ll be cheering on from here.”

Juvia blinked. “Here?”

“We got the link for the livestream.” Sting answered. “So we can watch you dance! And listen to sempai’s mix!”

Juvia smiled at both boys, visibly touched. “Thank you! Juvia will do her best!”

The teens waved as Juvia and Gajeel finally left the shop, but not before sweating nervously when Gajeel narrowed his eyes at them and made the terrifying ‘I’m watching you’ gesture.

They were able to relax a few minutes later, and after looking around boredly at the empty shop, Sting took his phone out.

“Hey, a new cat came over a while ago, I think it’s still around.”

That got Rogue’s attention. “Really?”

“Yup. It’s got a moustache.”

Seriously, though. Gajeel didn’t have to worry about them fooling around, they were busy enough collecting cats.

“Alright, everyone in the van, now! Let’s get this thing on the road.” Gray called out, standing beside the van that Mest graciously lent them. He looked towards Elfman in the driver’s seat, and the man just nodded. He was ready.

Evergreen, Freed and Bixlow piled inside Laxus’ car, along with some equipment they would be using in the performance.

Max was the designated driver on the other car, already having Laki, Lisanna, Bisca and Alzack with him.

The rest trooped excitedly inside the van, leaving Erza and Gray for last. The two did a quick head count.

“Uh, we’re missing one.” Gray said.

“Did you exclude Cana and Lucy?” Erza blinked, peering at the others in the van again.

“Yeah, I know they’re going later, so I didn’t count ’em in.”

Then they heard someone from inside the van say, “Wendy’s not here yet.”

“Where’s Wendy?” Gray asked.

“I’m over here!” Wendy called out, lingering near the garage entrance. She had her phone pressed to her ear and she sent the two a pleading look. “Give a minute?”

Erza and Gray only exchanged a short look — maybe the girl was talking to her parents. Erza simply nodded before getting in the van, while Gray waited patiently.

Wendy returned to her call. “S-Sorry for that, Chelia-chan… Um, how did you get my number?”

“I asked Romeo a while ago over Facebook. I told him to give it only if it’s okay with you, and he said it’s fine… Is it?” Chelia replied, her voice sweet and cheerful from the other end of the call.

“Oh, it’s fine! It’s-… I don’t mind!”

“Okay! I might be keeping you, so, um, I just wanted to wish you luck! My cousin actually asked me if I want to go watch, but I got a recording today and we couldn’t reschedule… It’s actually a cover of the song you were dancing to last week, y’know, Sparks? ’Cause I couldn’t get it off my head ever since…” Chelia laughed sheepishly.

Wendy could hardly muster up a reply. “Really? I’m… excited to hear it…”

“I’m dedicating this cover to you and your friends, then! I love what you guys do, so… I’ll make sure to catch the livestream later. Anyways, I know you guys will be fantastic, so… best of luck!”

“Thank you, Chelia-chan… This means… a whole lot to me.” Wendy said, smiling down at her feet. She thought of what else to say but as much as she was on cloud nine right now, the others were patiently waiting for her. “So… thanks. Really. I gotta go now—”

“Oh, sure! No probs. We’re starting here too. And uh… maybe when we’re not so busy anymore, we can go out together sometime? Hang out and stuff?”

“I… I’d love that.” Wendy thought it was a miracle that she was actually keeping her calm.

“Sweet!” Chelia cheered. “Alright, go be awesome now! Bye, Wendy! Kisses!”

Wendy bit her lip before replying. “Bye, Chelia-chan.”

After that, she wasted no time to join the others and hop in the van, smile wide as she sat next to Romeo and Natsu. They were looking at her with teasing smiles, and for a second, she thought she’d pretend to be angry. But then she decided that she owed them one, so she just sheepishly smiled back, humoring the two when they both asked for high-fives.

Gray was the last one to get in the van, closing the door behind him. “Everyone’s in.”

From the passenger seat, Erza smiled before saying “Alright, team! Let’s do this!”

The van was filled with cheers as they hit the road.

The place was a small dome-shaped arena packed full with people already enthusiastically cheering. The music was almost deafening, and the lights were erratic, flashing in random patterns as the show was about to start. There were cameras everywhere, and technical crew left and right. There was a raised platform right beside it for the event hosts.

The stage was a wide, circular one in the center of the venue, various lights and speakers surrounding it. On one side was the booth for the sounds, lights and system controls. The house DJ was busy live mixing for the audience.

On another side was a table with three chairs for the judges who needed no introduction for the people in the entertainment industry of Fiore. Ichiya Kotobuki was a big-time talent manager. He was known for his eccentric expressions and methods, but nonetheless brought countless celebrities and artists to fame. Jura Neekis was considered a mixing guru, a renowned music producer and technician specializing in rave and dance tracks and remixes. Karen Lilica was a diva of her own right, famous for a good number of modern pop hits, and also known for her explosive concerts.

The main sponsor, offering the prize money and the contract, was a famous talent studio, affiliated with several brands that were always looking for something fresh for their campaigns.

“And our team’s performing last. So… yeah, no pressure.” Laxus mumbled as he carried his laptop and made his way across the crowds with Gajeel, Bixlow and Elfman to coordinate with the technical teams for the special setup in their performance. There was not much restrictions on the sounds, lights and stage effects in the guidelines, and they’ve called beforehand to assure that the organizers have no problem with their custom specs.

They didn’t know what the other teams had in store, but they were quite sure they packed a pretty unique enough presentation for the audience and judges.

“This thing’s really big-time.” Gajeel said, taking a deep breath. He was helping Elfman carry some extra mics and amps.

“I’m starting to get nervous.” Elfman agreed. He wasn’t even performing.

Bixlow, who had his own laptop and a bunch of cables and other gadgets, was more positive. “Don’t worry guys, we got this! We’ve got an awesome trick up our sleeves!”

Laxus narrowed his eyes at the other man. “What, like your little lights that might kill our dancers?”

“Meh. Occupational hazard.” Bixlow shrugged.

Laxus just rolled his eyes and the three of them pushed ahead towards the control station.

Meawhile, among the audience, Cana, Loke and Lucy had found good seats with some company. Jellal, Meredy and Ultear were there to cheer for the Guild.

Meredy was already taking pictures of the event.

“The competition looks tough.” Ultear commented, eyeing some of the dance crews who were already standing by the side of the stage. Beside her, Jellal nodded but stayed determined. He had dropped by the Guild several times during the past week, and he watched some of the rehearsals. He was surprised at some of their unconventional choices and tricks, but he couldn’t wait to see the routine in its polished, final state.

Lucy noticed that Loke was shifting unusually close to her. It was almost like… he was trying to hide behind her.

“Loke, you alright?” she asked, looking at him in concern.

“Yep.” the man answered, but he sounded very nervous. “M-May I borrow your beanie?”

“No way. I like my beanie.” Lucy pouted. She was trying to stay anonymous in the crowd, so she dressed more casually, didn’t put on much makeup and wore a beanie over her twin braids. “Besides, pink would clash against your hair.”

Loke, who was dressed down like her, was wearing dark sunglasses. It usually made him look more dignified, but this time he was downright scared. “Hide me, then? PLEASE?”

“What’s up with you?” Cana raised an eyebrow at him. She had her hair on a messy bun on top of her head and was wearing thick black-framed glasses. “You look freaked out.”

The three of them didn’t have any form of security with them, so they tried to appear as casual as possible. Natsu joked that the three of them were not trying hard enough.

Loke groaned as he answered the question. “I didn’t know Karen was a judge…”

At this, the brunette laughed out loud while the blonde rolled her eyes. “Relax, it’s not she’ll be on the lookout for you in the audience. She’s a judge so she has to keep her eyes on the dancers.”

Cana sniggered. “C’mon, just let him hide. He looks hilarious.”

Lucy sighed before deciding to humor the man. “Fine, I’ll protect you from the horror that is your terrifying ex.”

She laughed when Loke hugged her and exclaimed, “Lucy, you’re my hero!”

“Is that everyone?” Freed asked as he watched Evergreen finish the last of the make up on Natsu. She had painted flames in the side of Natsu’s face down to his neck.

“Yep, this is the last one.” Evergreen answered. Natsu, being Natsu, tried to blow sideways on his newly-painted face experimentally. “No need to blow on it, it won’t come off easily.”

“So you’re tellin’ us that this thing will glow later.” Natsu said.

“Yup. If Bixlow does his job right.” the woman said. She looked at the others, who were already warming up, then nodded at Freed.

Freed breathed deeply. That was it for costume and makeup. They saw the weird looks from the other teams. After all, they didn’t look exactly dressed for the gritty street dancing that seemed to be the running theme this evening.

They were wearing close to what they had on their entry video. Working clothes, but with scarves, jackets and cardigans on top, mostly to hide some tricks up their sleeves.


Oh well, their aim was to be different, anyway.

“Alright, we gotta move now.” Evergreen said, addressing the whole team. “You guys just kick ass, okay?”

“Thanks a lot, Evergreen, Freed!” Mira replied in behalf of the dancers, pulling both of them into a tight hug.

“Anytime, Mira. You know that.” Freed replied as they hugged her back. They left, Evergreen trying to find a good spot to take a video from, and Freed off to see if Laxus or Bixlow need an extra pair of hands.

Natsu turned when he felt a pair of arms wrap around his neck and grinned when he saw Lucy smiling brightly at him. “Hey.”

“Hey.” Lucy greeted back. “I tried to sit still but I couldn’t help myself. So. Yep. I’m here.”

Natsu laughed, wrapping his arms around the blonde’s waist. “You look real cute with that beanie on.”

“I know.” she giggled. “How’re you feeling?”

“I feel like I wanna dance. A lot.”

“Good. It’ll be bad otherwise.” Lucy nodded, satisfied that Natsu was his usual confident self. “I don’t have much time, show’s about to start and I promised Loke he can hide behind me.”

“Loke? Why?”

“The judge is his ex.”

“Ah, yeah…” Natsu sniggered, looking towards the stands and spotting Loke trying to hide behind Meredy this time. “Okay, I feel bad for him.”

“I know.”

“Protect him.”

“I know.”

“And wish me luck.”

Lucy simply smiled up at him before leaning up and giving the man a kiss for luck. Natsu pulled her close against him, returning the gesture.

“This will work, right? It will. Work.” Erza asked as Jellal draped a comforting arm around her. “Right?”

“Of course. I saw you guys at practice. It’s brilliant.” Jellal replied. “And you’ll pull it off.”

“The other teams look really scary.”

The man chuckled as he looked down at his girlfriend. “Erza, believe me, you’re scarier than all of them.”

“You’re just saying that.”

“I’m not.” Jellal assured her. “You can do this.” He pressed his lips on her forehead, and before he can pull away, Erza grabbed his collar and pulled him down to kiss him on the lips.

Cana looked away from the kissing couples and towards Gray. “I’m not kissing you.”

Gray looked at her blankly. “Thanks.”

The brunette smirked. “Kidding, I’m gonna do it anyway. C’mere!”

“WHY?” Gray complained as she kissed his cheek before hugging him tightly and mumbling “Good luck, loser!” to his shoulder. Before he can recover, Cana had proceeded to hug Juvia as well, then went to Wendy, then Lisanna, Mira, Levy, and the list goes on…

As the hosts began to call for the first team, the brunette had successfully finished hugging the life out of the rest of the team. Cana, Lucy and Jellal quickly said their goodbyes to the others before they went back to their seats.

The first team, who called themselves ‘Cerberus’, gave an intense, hard-hitting performance. They seemed to specialize in krumping and breakdance. All their moves looked strong and heavy, the dancers moving in sharp, coordinated, almost military-like precision. Their music was a loud, booming remix with heavy bass.

“Think about it, though.” Cana started, watching the finish. “They’re all pretty much in sync and their moves were on point, but not much agility there.”

“I didn’t see any high jumps.” Loke added. “Plus the whole number is so… aggressive?”

Meredy also said, “Yep. I won’t go near any of ’em. They’re badass, I guess but… too scary-looking?”

The second team was an all-girl group, ‘Mermaid Heel’. They danced a strong routine to a remix of popular girl-power anthems. Their moves were daring, snappy and quick. There were some impressive flips and formations in the routine. They represented female hip-hop dance — famous popstars will no doubt look forward to having this team to dance as backup on their concerts.

“It’s solid, but not enough stunts.” Ultear gave her critique. “People love tricks. It’s a street dance battle, and I’m sure the judges will look for a breakdancer in each team. They didn’t have that.”

The third and fourth teams were downright formidable. They had everything — creative choreography, great presentation and confident members with great energy and audience rapport.

The third group came in, the crew looking suave donning suits and cases — fitting as they were called the ‘Movers’. They had sand for their props, and danced a unique and smooth pop-lock routine to a techno remix of a classical music piece.

The fourth group, the ‘Crocus Dance League’ danced to the latest hit songs and brought a really dynamic piece, enhanced by glow-in-the-dark gloves that emphasized their precise movements. All the members seemed to be capable breakdancers too, their floor rolls, headstands and flips all leaving the audience cheering.

“They have glowing stuff like we do.” Lucy said, frowning worriedly.

“Don’t worry. Whatever Freed, Bixlow and Ever cooked up, it’s better.” Cana assured her.

“You guys dance on their level.” Jellal also provided. “It’s a matter of creativity now.”

“You’re right.” Lucy said. As they listened to the hosts introduce the final team, she exchanged a solemn look with Cana, who reached over to grip her hand. “Here it goes.”

There was uproar from the audience, everyone wondering if all the lights in the venue going out was a technical issue or part of the performance.

When a lone spotlight focused on a raised platform in one side of the stage, the whole place fell silent.

The silence lasted as footsteps were heard, and a lone dancer walked up the short staircase and into the platform. Levy was wearing a black suit jacket on top of a casual flower-printed tank top and high-waisted shorts. She was wearing shiny red tap shoes, and a black fedora hat with an orange flower tucked in it.

As she stood in the center of the platform, she appeared to look around first, then took off her hat and set it in front of her.

She started tapping. Timid, experimental drills, clearly heard throughout the whole arena. She smiled inwardly — the floor microphone they borrowed from one of the dance studios Erza once worked for was working like a charm.

There was a soft general murmur of doubt from the audience as she started, and when it grew louder as she began her quiet tap solo, she put her right foot in a strong stomp — a clear, loud sound surprising the audience enough to silence them again.

After a beat, Levy stomped again, her left foot this time.

Then, Cana’s vocals were heard — just an unacompanied, strong and slow solo:

((Whoa… Another day…))

Levy’s feet moved again, her tapping soft, providing beats to the next line.

((I take your pain away…))

That’s when the clear ring of a guitar solo was heard, and Levy’s tap routine matched it in perfect sync. Gajeel’s arrangement was an instrumental version of the original song — quick rhythmic notes one after the other, making out a melody instantly recognizable to those familiar with the song. It was enhanced by some low bass notes in the arrangement, but the percussions from Levy’s tapping were still the ones heard clearest, providing the main beats of the song.

In the DJ’s booth, Gajeel felt a strong hand clasp his shoulder, and looked beside him to see Laxus grinning. “It’s working.”

The raven-head grinned back. “Yeah.”

“This is your work, y’know. You and Levy make a good team.”

He breathed deeply, eyes directing back to the stage. “…Yeah.”

Levy’s tap moves started getting more complicated and impressive — she put in several twirls, brushes, stomps and claps that only added more variety in the sounds she was making. This added colorful beats to accompany the melody from the guitar, both sounds mixing perfectly together.

The audience held their breath at the unexpected combination giving them quite a unique show, and a reasonable portion of them even started cheering and clapping along with the song.

This what when several people stepped up into the stage, the formation looking random as a bunch of people, all of different appearances, walked in slow motion across the stage with their heads down in front of the platform where Levy was dancing.

It was the picture of a typical afternoon in downtown Crocus — a busy crowd of strangers, a street performer trying to put on a show.

And then without warning, Levy’s routine provided a quick flurry of percussion sounds, and the vocals were heard again, Cana’s voice singing a stylized version of the song’s first verse:

((Some people talk about you, like they know all about you—
When you get down they doubt you—
And when you tipping on the scene, yeah they talkin’ about it-))

The audience let out a pleased gasp when two figures suddenly broke away from the slow-motion scene on the stage. Jet and Droy in their business suits and tap shoes slid smoothly past the others, throwing their suitcases away and they strode towards the staircases on either side of the platform. As they stepped up the stairs, the sounds of their steps added to the percussions in the duet.

((‘Cause they can’t tip all on the scene with you talkin’ about it—
T-T-Talkin’ about it-))

The trio easily fell in sync, dancing a complicated piece on top of the platform together and not missing a beat.

The three went separate ways — Levy front and center, Jet to the left and Droy to the right, and they didn’t stop their tap dancing as they climbed down their respective staircase.

((When you get elevated, they love it or they hate it—
You dance up on them haters, Keep getting funky on the scene-))

The audience cheered loudly as they watched the trio dance up and down the staircases — never missing a beat, each step precise and calculated but still lightning fast. They could hear everything happening.

Levy was focused on twirls and quick steps, Droy with light brushes, and Jet with strong stomps and jumps. This retained the different sounds in their arrangement, while also allowing the three to move separately but still matching the beat. It looked effortless despite the fact that any missed beat will be obvious and a careless step can send them tumbling down the stairs.

Lucy muffled her squeal with her hands. “Oh my gosh, don’t fall don’t fall don’t fall…”

“Who was the insane person who thought ‘hey, let’s tap dance ON STAIRS?’” Loke demanded.

Cana didn’t bother pleading innocent. “Guilty as charged. Hey, they didn’t say no.”

((While they jumpin’ round you,
they tryin’ to take all your dreams—
But you can’t allow it!))

Then several figures moved from the crowd again, and this time as they launched into dynamic movement, the rest slid away in a smooth exit from the stage.

Gray was wearing a jacket on top of his waiter uniform, while Max and Warren were in the business suits they wore from the video. Lisanna, Laki and Erza were wearing cardigans and jackets on top of casual blouses, shorts and boots.

The six fell into formation — a straight line in front of the platform, just in time for the chorus.

((’Cause baby whether you’re high or low-))

They fell in a pop-and-lock hip-hop routine filled with quick arm and leg movements switching with smoother ones to match the song’s melody. It was a polished, controlled performance, all of them moving in unison, their steps precise.

((Whether you’re high or low…
You gotta tip on the tightrope!))

With the responsibility of bringing in the percussions in the arrangement split evenly between them, all three tappers had more freedom of movement. Levy, Jet and Droy were able to match their arm movements to the other six, making their dance a fusion of tap and hip-hop while not looking out of place against the others.

((T-T-Tip on the tightrope!))

This made the audience cheer louder as they finally got the hip-hop routine they were expecting, just with the fresh twist of the tappers.

((Baby, baby, whether you’re high or low—
Baby whether you’re high or low…!))

The formation broke as Erza, Lisanna and Laki all did a quick twirl and then launched into several flips and spins forward, while Gray, Max and Warren slid smoothly on the floor and did several knee rolls before getting back up.

((You got to tip on the tightrope…
Now let me see you do the tightrope!))

Now in two neat diagonal lines, the six continued the choreography for the chorus, rapid and snappy movements punctuated with smooth, slower ones. It was Gray’s touch, upon Erza’s request. His improved style proved a great match to their song choice, which seemed to switch between rap and funk.

((And I’m still tippin’ on it!))

That was when Natsu and Romeo, wearing matching dirty white construction jumpsuits, cut in — both running fast towards the platform, Jet and Droy effectively side-stepping to make way for the two, but not losing rhythm.

There were impressed cheers and shouts when the two then took turns doing complicated floor rolls, headstands, handstands and spins on top of the platform. The stunts were quick and the transitions were seamless.

((See I’m not walkin’ on it, or tryin’ to run around it—
This ain’t no acrobatics, you either follow or you lead, yeah!))

They capped their performance off as they got back to their feet, goofily pretending to be disoriented for a while before both pointed towards the others off the stage again.

Max and Warren had switched to animation steps, their quick but sharp movements matching the tempo of the song. Besides the vocals, guitar and tapping, there were some techno effects slowly blending in the mix. This only highlighted the robotic movements from the two men, which earned them some intrigued whispers and impressed whistles.

((I’m talkin’ about you, I’ll keep on blaming the machine, yeah—
I’m talkin’ about it, T-T-Talkin’ about it…))

Both smoothly stepped aside as Erza, Lisanna and Laki stepped forward from between them, the ladies forming a straight line before falling into a triangle formation as they danced in jazz funk steps.

((I can’t complain about it, I gotta keep my balance—
And just keep dancing on it, we getting funky on the scene!))

This time, they didn’t hold back on their high kicks, spinning leaps and graceful pirouettes. The three moved in complete sync, exuding attitude and confidence as they stepped forward classily, shook their hips and swayed their bodies to the music.

((Yeah you know about it, like a star on the screen
Watch me tip all on it…))

The remix and arrangement had been steadily turning more techno.

By the next chorus, Levy, Jet and Droy had left the music fully on the mix as they left the staircase to join their friends in the stage. Romeo and Natsu jumped down from the platform and followed.

Everyone on the stage danced in chorus again, their sharp hip-hop moves mixed with smoother funk steps.

((Then baby whether I’m high or low…
Baby whether you’re high or low!))

This time it was the guys who did the high flips and spins, while the girls did the heavy, floor-based steps. Then they all moved together again, their formation looking uncoordinated but their movements retaining the sense of unison.

((You gotta tip on the tightrope!
Yeah, t-t-tip on the tightrope…!))

It was then that the remix went full techno, the song transition smooth and seamless. The lights dimmed and changed color from the plain bright white spotlights to erratic strobe-like combinations of red, blue and green.

((Touch, touch…))

The movement in the stage stopped as everyone stood still, heads bowed down again. The audience also fell silent, curious on where the routine was going this time.

((Touch, touch now…))

The whispers of anticipation from the audience just grew when they saw the dancers slowly slipping off their jackets and cardigans, throwing them off the stage. The others rolled their sleeves up, some tied their jumpsuits to their waists and several new members were coming up the stage as well.

There was a bright light for a split-second, and the next thing they knew, the members had all stepped back from the center, forming a large circle on the stage. They were all standing still in various poses, and under the flashing colored lights, the audience were treated to a colorful sight. One side of each dancers’ face, down to their neck, shoulder and arm was painted with glow-in-the-dark neon-colored symbols. Orange fire, red slashes, cyan ice cracks, cool blue water, bright purple veins, green vines, silver robotic lines, pink flowers and yellow stars.

“Evergreen painted all of those in two hours?” Jellal asked.

“Yup.” Cana chuckled. “She’s something else.”

The effect was seamless, the circle looking like a chain of different colors when they all started to move and clap in sync to the song.

((I live for the applause, applause, applause…))

Majority of the audience couldn’t help but join the clapping as a faint spotlight was slowly trained in the empty center of the stage.

Mira was wearing a brilliant red dress and silver heels as she strode forward to step up front and center.

((I live for the applause-plause…
Live for the applause-plause…))

As the tempo of the music increased, she showed them exactly why she still made good money dancing solo to ballroom. Her steps were lively and dynamic, and her charisma was great that even without a partner, she was able to engage her audience with just turns and extensions.

((Live for the way that you cheer and scream for me,
The applause, applause, applause-!))

She finished off her introduction with a split, and was quickly joined by Alzack and Bisca for the chorus. Alzack wore a button-down with rolled-up sleeves, and Bisca had a matching purple dress and black heels.

The routine was fast and the three moved around the stage in an almost impossibly quick pace. Bisca and Mira took turns between dancing in partnerwork with Alzack and stepping away to do a short solo, everything coordinated perfectly, the chemistry between the three of them flawless.

((Give me that thing that I love!
I’ll turn the lights out!))

“I’ve never seen a three-way cha cha before.” Loke admitted. “How is Alzack holding up?”

Both Lucy and Cana shook their head. “Honestly, we don’t know.”

The three also took several beats to dance in chorus, their movements and footwork on-point as they danced the same steps before returning to partnerwork again.

((Put your hands up, make ’em touch, touch!
Make it real loud!))

Mira was a ballroom genius, really. This was her choreogprahy, it was tricky but they pulled it off, just the three of them: Alzack gave Bisca a complicated lift, spinning around and as soon as she slid off him, he was able to turn and catch Mira in his arms, hold her in a smooth dip and then supporting her as she did a flip.

((Give me that thing that I love!
I’ll turn the lights out!))

Meanwhile, the others had also moved to make the scene more dynamic even as they stayed crouching low to keep the attention focused on the ballroom routine. The girls had stepped forward to form a smaller circle, their painted arms highlighting their quick pop-lock moves. Similarly, the guys formed the outer circle. Their movements were smoother, lyrical contemporary gestures.

The effect made it look like a kaleidoscope framing the three dancers.

((Put your hands up, make ’em touch, touch!
Make it real loud!))

Then the spotlight spun around the stage before focusing on everyone. In one swift move, they had changed formation, all of them divided into pairs of one guy and one girl. The transition was instantaneous as the guys did some hip-hop floorwork moves while the girls danced around them, their pirouettes and kicks coordinated gracefully.

((Make it real loud!
Put your hands up, make ’em touch, touch!))

The combined hip-hop and ballroom routine continued, until the girls pulled the guys up and their style transitioned smoothly to jazz with the fluid arm movements and leg extensions.

((Make it real loud!
Put your hands up, make ’em touch, touch!))

As everyone danced in unison again, the remix transitioned to their final song. It was dubstep mixed with guitar and bass instrumentals, and on top of that was a strong, clear violin melody, the notes long and slow.

As the new song started, the dancers’ movements slowed down again as they slowly fell into their next formation. The pairs separated, and they all fell in a random arrangement on the stage again, before all seemingly falling to their knees and lying on the dance floor.

((Feels like you’re standing there so small…
Just the space between the stars.))

Then two dancers rose up fluidly from opposite sides of the stage, arms extended, reaching out towards each other and both their movements slow and smooth.

Juvia wore a plain white dress ending above her knees and dark leggings with a flowing wave pattern that seemed to glow faintly from underneath. Similarly, Gray was wearing his white button-top with the sleeves rolled up, and dark-colored pants. The water and ice patterns in their arms seemed to glow as they danced.

((Don’t be afraid to risk it all…))

There were impressed murmurs from the audience as what looked like a white blinking glow seemed to flow erratically across the stage floor. The stage looked like a small sea of shimmering stars and electric currents as the dancers began swaying to the beat.

“Alright, what did you do?” Laxus finally asked the men beside him.

Freed smirked and said, “Put fiber optics and tiny LED lights under parts of their clothes?”

“And made a quick app so we can control ’em remotely. All in one week.” Bixlow finished, grinning proudly as he pressed keys on his laptop while Freed flipped some switches on the messy-looking gadgets beside him. “That’s not the best part, though. Watch.”

((Cause we are, we are…))

Juvia and Gray started moving around the stage, mirroring each other with fluid twirls, high kicks and graceful extensions. As they did this, the others moved swiftly out of their way, one by one switching into different poses when Juvia or Gray touched them or passed by. The effect was only made more magical as the lights under their clothes turned a different color with each shift.

“Whew. Nothing’s exploding yet.” came Freed’s relieved mumble.

((We are giants, we are giants…
We are giants, we are, we are-))

As the violin sounds and bass beats adjusted to a faster tempo, so did the contemporary dance movements in the stage, and by the time Gray and Juvia met each other in the center, the rest of the dancers had spread out in a neat diamond shaped formation around them.

((We are giants, we are giants…
We are giants, we are, we are!))

In the instrumental break that followed, the two launched into an intricate routine, a fusion of contemporary and hip-hop.

Gray and Juvia were catching and assisting each other as they took turns doing flips and leaps. Juvia’s movements had their usual fluid quality, even as Gray lifted her and spun both of them around before letting her slide down gracefully to transition into effortless floorwork. As she did this, he kicked and leapt from above. Gray’s steps had obvious roots from lyrical hip-hop, and were snappy, quick and precise.

It was a parallel of the song they were dancing to: smooth classic violin sounds layered above modern dubstep beats.

They finished their duet with both of them moving in unison to the same steps, then doing a coordinated pirouette towards one another. For a moment, the audience gasped as it seemed like Juvia was about to fall on the floor while Gray slipped past her, but in the last second, they caught each other’s hands.

The audience cheered loudly at the heart-stopping moment, and the two held the position for a beat before they stood back up and twirled away to get into the next position.

Gray quickly strode away as Juvia stepped forward, falling into a neat line with Lisanna, Laki and Wendy. The girls danced in perfect unison, with contemporary-style flips and turns matched with intricate arm movements.

((Raise your flag; Let your voice be heard,
Put your heart into every word you say…))

Then Natsu and Romeo stepped in front of the girls, both breaking into hard-hitting krump steps before going down with a few stunts on the floor. The others behind them danced hip-hop choreography to match the two.

((All your failures’ a cornerstone…
Build a house with the things you’ve thrown away!))

Max and Warren came in then, and the others switched to slow-motion hip-hop, while the two did a short animation routine. Their robotic movements were a perfect match with the erratic, sci-fi-like neon green glow from under their clothes and from the machine lines painted on their arms and one side of their face.

((Feels like you’re standing there so small…
Just the space between the stars.))

Levy, Jet and Droy joined them in the formation, their moves rooted in hip-hop but accented by their quick footwork.

((Don’t be afraid to risk it all…
Cause we are, we are…))

As Mira, Alzack and Bisca came in, the rough and snappy choreography turned into a smooth and graceful one while they used ballroom gestures and footwork.

((We are giants, we are giants…
We are giants, We are, we are-))

Then finally falling into formation to them were Erza and Gray, who led the team together in an intricate, hard-hitting hip-hop number. It was reminiscent of the finale of their entry video — everyone moving in chorus.

((We are giants, we are giants…
We are giants, we are, we are-))

The final instrumental break kicked in, with intense techno effects and strong violin melodies.

The team smoothly slid into their last formation, this time four rows of four dancers each, forming a perfect square. They weren’t sorted according to any criteria: the first row with Erza, Gray, Levy and Mira; second: Natsu, Bisca, Romeo and Juvia; third: Laki, Wendy, Droy and Lisanna; and lastly Max, Alzack, Jet and Warren.

They were still moving in sync — not missing a beat, their timing precise.

“They’re stepping up to the challenge.” Cana said above the roar of the very impressed audience. Her companions looked at her. “Sending a message.”

“… that they’re not compensating for anything.” Ultear nodded. “They’re just as good as the other teams on the same game. The difference is that they can do more.”

((We are giants, we are giants…
We are giants, we are, we are-))

For this last part of the mix, the steps seamlessly switched between different styles, with not one person looking out of place. The formation soon broke out, with the dancers stepping backwards and sidewards into seemingly random directions. With the controlled chaos, it was hard to notice one person stepping back up to the raised platform.

((We are giants, we are giants…
We are giants, we are! We are!))

There was a flash of light again with the final beat, and when the lights went on to the stage, there was Levy, on her original position in the center of the platform. She was back as the street performer, and the others forming a crowd of people across the stage, but this time with their painted faces, necks and shoulders exposed.

The dancers let their audience take in the picture for a beat, before they all moved to exit casually: ordinary people just passing by the street.

As the audience gave them a loud, roaring applause and a standing ovation, Levy picked her hat up, bowed, put her hat back on, and took her leave.

The audience were cheering different team names as the arena waited for the judges to discuss their verdict. The teams were gathered in small huddles on the side of the stage, all standing tense and nervous.

As Evergreen and Elfman joined them, both holding video cameras, they noted the reactions of their dance crew.

“Holy crap, I totally thought I was gonna fall down those goddamn stairs.” Jet said, panting. Levy was hugging him tightly, her face buried in his chest while she also clung to Droy’s shirt.

“Well, I almost fell from the platform after my handstand.” Romeo breathed out, looking shaken. What just happened, did he actually do that?

Wendy was jumping up and down with Lisanna and Natsu, who were both singing — “We did it! We did it! Hurray!”

Meanwhile Juvia was looking up at Gray, still catching her breath. “Did Juvia mess up? Juvia missed a turn because Juvia couldn’t see properly in the dark but—”

All Gray said was “What are you even talking about.” before pulling her to a tight hug.

“You were EVERYTHING out there.” Erza said, as she smiled proudly and pat Juvia on the back.

Laki had her arm draped on Max’s shoulder as she fistbumped with Warren. “You guys looked like actual robots! And I’m so tired! And I’m soooo happy!”

“I mean, they told me it’ll light up, but I didn’t know it’ll light up like that…” Alzack was telling Bisca as they both picked on their clothes.

Bisca nodded. “I couldn’t even feel anything in here. Freed must’ve done some special sewing thing.”

“I was expecting it to explode anytime while we were dancing.”

Of course, it was Mira who noticed that they had company. “Elf! Ever!” She met her brother with a grateful hug. “Did it work? It didn’t look that much of a mess, did it?”

“It was the best, nee-chan.” Elfman answered.

“Mira, it… it was like magic. Seriously.” Evergreen said, taking the other woman’s hands in hers.

“You made that happen.” Erza said, also hugging the brunette.

“Group hug!” Bixlow said as he crashed against the two and joined in the hug shortly before throwing his hands up in the air. “You guys nailed it! Everything! Was! Fabulous!”

He froze when they all stared at him. Scratching the back of his head sheepishly, he asked, “Uh… yeah? What did I do?”

He laughed when everyone basically shouted at him that the lights were amazing.

Mira and Erza also greeted Freed with a hug, while Gray grinned as Laxus gave him a pat on the back. Their performance wouldn’t be as great without their wonderful tech team.

Juvia and Levy glomped at Gajeel at the same time, and the man blinked and stammered as he pat their heads awkwardly. “W-What the hell’s wrong… with you?”

“Juvia danced in front of a lotta people!” Juvia declared happily. Behind her, everyone cheered.

“I didn’t mess up our duet!” Levy added, also looking thrilled.

Gajeel just sighed and smiled down at them. “Good job, both of you.”

“What do you think?” Mira asked, looking up at Laxus. “Think it’s enough?”

“It doesn’t matter what I think, it’s the judges deciding.” Laxus said. When they all frowned and pouted up at him, he sighed and said, “Well, it was brilliant. No one held back, you gave it everything you’ve got, and it was the best performance you guys have done together so far. The audience loved it. You gave ’em a great show tonight. So… congratulations, I guess. You make the old man proud.”

“How about you?” Freed asked, smiling slyly.

Laxus narrowed his eyes at his boyfriend before looking away and grumbling. “That goes without saying.”

Needless to say, he got teased by the others because “Oooohh, Laxus loves uuuusss!”

Then a hush fell across the arena as the event’s hosts stepped up to the spotlight again, holding an envelope containing the results.

The long introduction was drowned out among the audience chanting team names. Off the stage, the huddled dancers fell silent and grew tenser in both anxiety and anticipation.

“And now, for the moment we’ve all been waiting for. The winner of the Street Dance Battle, taking home our cash prize and a performing contract with our primary sponsor, Royal Productions…! Drumroll, please!”

It must be the longest drumroll the Guild has ever heard.

The host opened the envelope, and a split-second frown crossed his face before he immediately grinned and announced: “Give it up for the Crocus Dance League!”

“Goddammit!” Cana was seething, crossing her arms across her chest as she leaned back in her seat.

Lucy buried her face in her hands, breathing out heavily, while Loke ran a resigned hand through his hair before he wrapped an arm around the blonde.

“Sorry.” Jellal said, looking mournfully at them, then towards the Guild members standing disappointed in the side of the stage as the fourth team came up to claim their prize. He saw Mira hugging Erza consolingly.

“The Guild’s the best, though!” Meredy complained, looking honestly hurt. “I’m not just saying that, they’re really clearly the ones with the most talent!”

Ultear smiled lightly and laid a hand on the teen’s shoulder. Then as she watched the reactions of the crew, she said, “Wait, something’s happening.”

Her companions quickly leaned forward, alert. “What?”

“We did our best.” Freed said, resting his hand on Laxus’s arm gently. “This is not for us, I guess.”

The blonde closed his eyes and breathed deeply, and let Freed pull him in for a hug.

He looked at the rest of the team. Of course they were all upset. Dammit, they all worked so hard for this. Mira was holding Erza, who was trying not to cry. Gajeel stood awkwardly comforting Levy, Jet and Droy. Juvia was pretty much holding her tears in as well as she held on to Gray’s arm. Elfman comforted Lisanna while Natsu was trying to make Wendy laugh. Bixlow and Romeo were unusually silent. Alzack, Max and Warren just stood forlorn while Bisca and Laki smiled sadly at each other, and Evergreen draped her arms across both women’s shoulders.

They did do their best. Sadly, it wasn’t good enough.

It was then that an unfamiliar voice was heard. “Hello, excuse me, may I talk to the leader of the crew?”

They turned to see a young, friendly-looking woman with light green hair, wearing a simple but elegant dress topped with a dark red blazer. Her appearance clearly meant business.

The crew exchanged looks, and after a few seconds, Laxus realized that they were all looking at him expectantly. Freed pulled away from him, giving him a small nudge. The blonde finally gathered himself, cleared his throat as he stepped forward. “It’s me. Laxus Dreyar, who’s asking?”

The woman smiled brightly. “My name is Hisui. I saw your performance, and it was something I’ve never seen before. Now, don’t get offended, but I do think that… the contract for Royal Productions up there that you want? It’s not for you.”

She looked pleased when the others stepped forward, more curious than offended.

“Truth is, I work in Royal Productions. We offered the contract to get a dance crew that will serve as entertainment for the advertising events of our partner products. I don’t think that’s your crew’s forte. I’m not working directly on that department, though. I’m approaching you guys with something slightly different. From what I’ve seen of your number, I think I have something that’s more your speed.”

Hisui kept her poker-face on as Laxus asked, “So what’re you… saying, exactly?”

“We’re starting this project called the ‘Fiore Creative Movement’. The plan is, to tour Fiore, do different, unique performances, and have young people join the free workshops we’ll be conducting. The aim is to encourage more kids to pursue their creative goals.”

She let a soft smile cross her face when she saw their faces light up. She knew, from what little she had seen of them, that they would like the idea.

“Now we need a group of performers to come tour with us, conduct workshops and the like. It’s easy enough to find those… but what we’re really looking for is a crew flexible enough to bring different stuff on the table. We need a group with the right attitude for the project.”

“You think we have this… ‘right attitude’?” Erza asked, stepping up beside Laxus.

“The number you performed just now — it wasn’t a performance.” the woman answered. “It was a statement.”

“You’re offering us to work with you on your project.” Laxus repeated, blinking. Behind him, he knew the others were ecstatic.

“I’m offering you a contract, a sponsored — so paid — tour, and an opportunity to spread your message.” Hisui grinned as she raised a hand and offered him a small slip of paper. “Think about it. Here’s my card. I hope we can meet up soon to discuss this in detail.”

And just like that, she had left, moving smoothly through the crowds of dancers, audiences and tech people moving around off-stage.

Laxus looked down at the card and when he turned to face the others again, he was met with hopeful, excited smiles.

And he knew.

Screw the cash and the prize contract. They got something better.

He grinned, raising the card like a trophy.

“Alright, who’s in?”

Chapter Notes:


I actually don’t know what to put here.

Yes, I wrote the whole dance scene in one sitting but that’s after staring blankly to space and thinking about it for a whole week.

‘Cerberus’ = Quatro Puppy, ‘Mermaid Heel’ already sounds like a dance group name? ‘Movers’ is— ignore that part. Also the Crocus Dance League… ignore them too. Whatevs.. Yes, Karen is evil Beyonce. And yeah, that Hisui IS the Princess Hisui. I mean c’mon, she loves Fairy Tail.

And yes, they didn’t win. But like Laxus said, it’s better.

Dance/Musical Notes:
— The three songs in the mix: Tightrope by Janelle Monae (custom arrangement by Levy, Gajeel and Laxus, vocals by Cana), Applause by Lady Gaga (Laxus was singing this in the showeeeerrr), We Are Giants by Lindsey Stirling because dubtep and violin?!
— Tap-dancing on stairs is seriously awesome though.
— The references and inspirations for the performance are partly inspired by like 10 different dance routines and movies, and the other half is just my personal preference.

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