We Are Young

24 Jun 2015
Part 1 of We Are Young

They’re teenagers, they’re young and they can worry about love and life.

A collection of character and relationship-centric, interrelated stories about some students of Fairy Gakuen.

Teen (13+)
Chapters: 23
Words: 377,513

We Are Young

Chapter 21
Good Riddance


…aka “Principal Makarov Gives Counsel”

Chapter Notes:

You know when they say that the saddest thing about high school setting animes are when they’re all about to graduate and will leave their kouhai behind or go separate ways? YEAH.

Everyone is in here. Well, almost everyone, at least. It’s got the kids. And Makarov. I don’t really think of this as Makarov’s chapter so much as it’s the children’s. It’s not written as ‘fluidly’ as the others — it’s like a cut-and paste collage of conversations between Makarov and his students, the kids with their best friends… Not as long as the other ones, but long enough to put it everything I wanted to write down for this. I think the previous chapter also shared plenty of Makarov anyway.

Makarov’s always been superdad to these kids, and I liked the concept of him making sure that each and every one of them has proper plans for when they leave the nest. And dang, did this chapter take me back to when I was graduating myself. Haha! It’s hard, you know, making future plans. Let’s see how these kids deal with their own challenges and stuff.

Another note: I took the name of ‘Magarett Town’ from the scanlations of the latest chapters. Basically it’s the hometown of Lamia Scale, just like the hometown of Fairy Tail is Magnolia. 😀

Enjoy reading~!

Track 21: Good Riddance
…aka “Principal Makarov Gives Counsel”

So take the photographs, and still frames in your mind
Hang it on a shelf in good health and good time.”
— Green Day


When the tenth student of the day entered his office, Makarov was ready with an answer to the question that every other student has asked him so far.“Come in, Laki-chan. Have a seat.” he greeted. “And before you ask, yes — I am feeling fine now. I went here kicking and screaming against Laxus and Erza, but Porlyusica gave her ‘go’ signal so I can assure you , I am in fact allowed to be working again.”

The lavender-haired teenager blinked at him behind her glasses as she sat down on the chair across him. Then after a bit, she chuckled.

Makarov smiled. “Were you going to ask? The others did, so I’m starting to think I should put up a sign on the door: THE PRINCIPAL IS OKAY. Or some such.”

Laki laughed lightly. “I was going to ask, sir.” she confirmed, then adjusted her glasses and smiled back. “But I know very well that you’re fine. Physically. I was more concerned about… the recent events.”

She seemed uncertain, but honestly concerned. At this, Makarov simply shook his head, his smile fading a bit before returning. Laki was the tenth student of the day, but the first of what he considered was the ‘inner circle’, the students closest to his family mostly by their closeness to either Laxus or Erza.

So while the other students simply asked him how he was doing: barely two days after being released from the hospital and already going to work, of course Laki would be the only one so far brave enough to ask him concernedly about his son’s arrest, just the day prior.

It was all over the news: the authorities cracking Ivan Dreyar and Raven’s hideout. Of course, the police and the media had also made sure that the Dreyar family themselves weren’t involved in the syndicate. It was just Ivan, who may as well be considered estranged for years now.

“I’m sorry…” Laki said, noting the old man’s silence. “I shouldn’t be intruding. It’s family—”

“No, child. You’re family to us by now, you know that. I appreciate you asking.” Makarov assured her. “We’re doing fine.”

“That’s all I need.” the girl said. “My parents got worried, that I go to school here… but I told them there’s no way Erza or the school are involved. Besides, what can they do? Worse thing is that they pull me out just weeks before graduation.”

Makarov nodded, chuckling. Laki has always been a clever and perceptive one, and as compassionate as she is sensitive. “Laxus and Erza are strong kids. I myself have long since prepared for this. Ivan is not a child anymore. He should face the consequences of his actions. Thanks again, for being considerate, Laki-chan. Erza’s lucky to have friends like you.”

Laki simply smiled and nodded.

“Now,” Makarov said, finally looking down at the stack of papers on his desk. “I believe we have future plans to discuss.”

It was typical of schools to discuss the career plans of their graduating students, but it was usually done by their homeroom teachers. FairyGaku is no exception, but in this school, Makarov takes a whole week off his usual paperwork to have a good discussion with the graduating students themselves. He liked being part-time principal and part-time guidance counselor. It was not that he didn’t trust his teaching staff. It was just that he wanted to talk to the kids himself. He wanted them to hear his well-wishes and advice addressed to them directly. He wanted it to be a personal message from one approachable, trustworthy, HUMAN mentor to a student about to go their own way, rather than a speech from a distant man on a podium to a whole crowd of uncertain young individuals.

No heart attack was going to change that tradition, he had decided when he asked Porlyusica for advice on when he could go back to work.

And now here he was, on his tenth student and quite thankful that his friend had vetoed his return to his office.

“I would say that your career form surprised me quite a bit.” Makarov remarked, raising an eyebrow. “I’ve never encountered a student who passed the Fiore U. exams and put that university as a second choice.”

The student looked down, squirming a bit. “I know, sir… It is quite weird, I guess.”

“Your first choice is a local college? Here in Magnolia?”


“And you want to study… carpentry and woodcrafts. This is your family business, am I right?”

“That’s correct, sir.”

“Why the local college, then? I think they have architecture course, and among the many stuff you’ll learn from that is carpentry.” the man trailed off, knowing that by now, the student wanted to speak up. He has dealt with enough kids to know when to stop talking and simply listen.

“Yes, they do have one.” Laki started, choosing her words carefully. “And that’s great, of course. I looked it up. They have quite an extensive major in carpentry, too… But things at home… I… I’ve always been told that I can easily take a… you know, um… something ‘grander’. Like, medicine or accounting or… science courses.”

Makarov had to agree to that. “With your academic standings, dear, I have to say you’ll do well in any course.”

“Yes, but… the thing is, the family business… it’s been around since forever. But my parents are not really enthusiastic about it, they’re always talking about how it’s a dying business and they don’t really say it directly but, I think they’re expecting me to leave it behind. Like, just start a different career… It’s like they don’t want me to try helping out, but—”

“—but you love the family business, and you don’t want it shut down?”

The girl nodded. “Yes! I want to work for it, do my best to help it… flourish again… And I’m worried that… that if I go to Fiore U., they’ll expect me to take a ‘better’ course than ‘just carpentry’… They’d think that my admission to a university would be a waste if I don’t take a ‘better’ course… Plus, if I’m always away, I won’t be there to convince them to keep the business going if they ever decide to let it go.”

“I understand, child. You want to avoid too high expectations and to stay near something you want to keep safe. The local college is indeed a convenient choice.”

The girl simply looked down. “…Still though, I can’t help but feel I’m letting a big opportunity pass if I don’t take the Fiore U. offer…”

“True. Have you talked this out with your parents yet?”

“They know that I applied for both the university and the local college… I gave an excuse that the local college is a backup. Since the Fiore U. exams are tough and all… I’m not the only one who did that, anyway. But now they know that I passed both and they expect me to take the better choice… They didn’t even ask… It’s just so obvious because… I mean, it’s Fiore U. Who would pass that up? I just couldn’t tell them that… I’m worried about going away…”

“And the course they expect you to take in Fiore U.?”

“I told them I’m still deciding… but the shortlist is some engineering or business course. I’m good at math…”

“Alright. So you haven’t brought up that you want to study architecture at least?”

The student shook her head. “They know that I have little woodcraft projects and they know I’m good at it. Just… I’ve always kept them in the workshop and they just see it as nothing but a hobby.”

“But if you can go to Fiore U. and take up that major in carpentry without having to worry about your parents wanting to shut the business down for good, would you go to Fiore U.?”

“Of course! Not selling the local college short, but… I know how important reputation is, sir. Fiore U. is… just getting in, it’s already a privelege…”

Makarov nodded in agreement. Laki has always been an independent student with an exteremely logical mind. It helped her excel in academics, but she was also exteremely creative… “Laki-chan, I don’t know if we would have another chance to talk this properly again, but I am going to suggest something…”

She gave him her full attention. “Yes, sir?”

“Try to make a deal… a sort of compromise with your parents. Tell them what you really want to study in Fiore U. Try to… ‘sell’ your plan. Tell them that you want to take architecture and major on carpentry, and if everything goes as planned, you’ll have a degree from a great university and if you can build your name from that, you can take the business’ name with you. You say they’ve always talked about how it’s a dying business, but have you ever told them that it can be saved?”

Laki shook her head. “…I want to save it, though.”

“Then tell them that. Ask them to hold off on closing down, just until you finish university and come back to work on it. But own up to your deal, too. If the plan goes wrong, are you ready to let them close up shop?”

“If there’s no other choice.” She smiled sadly. “If that happens, I’ll probably end up trying to get a job from the big-shot companies, but at least I can still practice my… art. But it’s better than nothing… and I can build from that, right?”

“Yes, you can. So… just open up a bit on your folks. Challenge them, if you will.” Makarov said. “If you show them that you’re working as hard as you can to get that degree with flying colors, they should try their best to keep the business standing just long enough for you to take over and change things. Apply what you’ve learned. No parent wants to waste something their child worked hard for.”

The student was silent for a while, mulling over the principal’s suggestion. She has always been an obedient daughter, not at all experienced in setting ultimatums with her parents because it simply wasn’t needed… But then Makarov knew that Laki was also one of the most straightforward and honest of the kids. “I’ll… I’ll try.” she finally said. “Thank you for the… advice, principal.”

“That’s nothing, child. It’s what I do.” Makarov said. “You go back and tell me how it turns out… If you need any help, you know where to find me.”

“Yes, sir.” Laki said, and this time, Makarov noted the hint of excitement and determination in the girl’s voice.

She’ll succeed, he knew that. He believed in that.

It looked like Laki actually had put up the ‘THE PRINCIPAL IS OKAY (he appreciates the concern very much but seriously he’s doing fine so you may stop asking. he swears he’s fine and healthy now.)’ sign outside the door, so most of the following students had stopped asking the principal about his health.Max was the thirteenth student, and he entered with a small smirk on his face. “Aw, c’mon principal. Y’know you’re loved when basically everyone’s concerned enough to ask how you’re feeling, right?”Makarov took that as a compliment and an expression of the student’s concern, so he returned it with his own. “Well, child. You know that you can just skip university and college, and start up your own business AND SUCCEED — you’re that good, right?”

The student laughed as he plopped himself on the chair across the old man. “You’re a flatterer, sir. I’m not that good.”

“You can’t say that, Max.” the principal said with a small shake of his head. “You got into Fiore U. Only the best get in.”

It was true, too. Max wasn’t a stellar honor student, sportsman or artist, but he was their best entrepreneur. All fundraisers and activities were wildly successful in his term as student council treasurer.

“I barely did!” he replied with a weary sigh. “All my scores are just ‘okay’, barely passin’. Except the maths. I’m good at maths.”

“That, you are. You still got in, though — that’s something. So any other issues? Doubts?” Makarov asked conversationally. Another thing he liked about Max was, like Natsu, he was always so casual about things, very comfortable to talk to, no matter what age you were. “Negative thoughts I can help you expel so you’ll only have positive ones when I send you off today?”

“Nah, it’s all great, boss sir.” the young man said. “I’m excited. And a bit nervous. Heard that most business students in F.U. are… err, y’know, kids of big companies. Like Lucy.”

“You like Lucy-chan enough.”

“Lucy’s one of us, and is an awesome gal. But she told me that some of ’em can be big snobs. Not all, though, she kinda emphasized that.”

Makarov shrugged. “You of all people should know that this is an advantage for you.”

“Advantage? Can’t see why, they’re rich kids from rich families. I came from nothin’-… Well, not really nothin’. Just… my family’s… well, we’re kinda… ordinary.”

“Exactly.” Makarov explained patiently. No matter how clever and resourceful a student is, there is still room for learning. “Those other students may already have a ready place for them after they finish their degree. This is one thing Lucy-chan worries about, but that’s just between us two. But you? You’re free, you get choices. And connections, just by being there. And what better way to gather choices than to be well-connected?”

Max looked down, thinking. “Well-connected…”

Makarov simply looked at the student with a knowing smile. “Chin up a bit, boy. You’re a good businessman. You should know how to maintain your assets.”

The young man broke into a smirk, shaking his head. “Yeah. I should.”

By the end of the short session, before exiting the room, Max looked back and called, “Uh, principal?”


“I’ll buy you a drink. One day. When I close my first business deal.”

People had often asked Makarov why he was so determined to see his students off, one by one. This is why. His age might fail him when it comes to remembering these little promises through the years, but when that day comes, he would no doubt recall that one afternoon on his office, and the confident, hopeful, excited student that looked forward to a great future ahead of him.

“I’ll look forward to that, son.”

Warren has always been the shy, withdrawn one.“Psychology.” Makarov read out loud from the career form. “For this, you’d have to speak up a bit.”The student sighed, but looked determined. “I think… I think I can speak up more if I knew what to say, really, so… I think I’ll get better once I study some…”

Sometimes, the student wouldn’t need a big shove, or a life-changing advice.

“Do you think I can really learn, principal? Get better? Because… because I really want to do this, and—”

“You’ll learn a lot of things, Warren. What’s important right now is that you’re willing to learn those things.” Makarov said firmly. “And you haven’t realized it yet, but you’ve got something very important that would make you very good at what you want to do.”

There are times when you see that they’re genuinely trying their best, and they just need a little push, a small encouragement to let them know they’re going the right way.

“You’re one of the best listeners I know, and that alone should already speak volumes. Gain some new skills, son — but don’t lose that one.”

Sometimes these sessions were short and to-the-point, but Makarov knew that he had done his part. He wouldn’t let a child go if they weren’t prepared to walk alone, after all. Sometimes they don’t look like it… but some people are stronger than they look.

And then sometimes, there were kids who knew exactly what they were doing, and how to do it.“Fiore U. My, I have some bright students all leaving at the same time, for the same university.”Mystogan chuckled. “I see it as a huge comfort to everyone… to not be a total lonely stranger on a brand new place.”

“True. I’d worry if only one of my kids were to go there. But a majority of you are sticking together, and I think that’s for the best.” Makarov looked at the young man and nodded. “Your brother is in Sorciere, and you are here, yet you still both end up in the same university.”

“He said the same thing, actually. Jellal thinks that it was effortless for me to pass exams and secure a scholarship, while he had to go on an elite school to get his own.”

“Sorciere just puts a lot of pressure on their best students.” Makarov explained. “Why did you choose FairyGaku in the first place, Mystogan-kun? You seem to be the quieter half of the twins, and we all know that this school is as loud as it comes.”

The young man simply shrugged. “I guess I thought that Sorciere is a bit too… formal. I prefer solitude, but I also want to be comfortable while at it. I… I guess…” he paused for a while, looking down before smiling a little bashful smile. “I guess I prefer white noise over total silence, if that makes sense to you, sir.”

“It does.” Makarov said, expression pleased. “So… History?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You just want to read some more, do you?” the old man chided.

He was answered with a guilty smile.

“Good luck, then. With reading. History, and all that.”

“Thanks, sir. For lending me your time.”

“Thank you, too. For choosing the white noise. You haven’t been here long, but we hope that we’ve made you feel at home.”

“It’s one of the best choices I’ve made, principal.”

As Mystogan was leaving the school proper, he saw Wendy and Romeo by the school gates. Wendy waved enthusiastically at him, while Romeo simply raised a hand in greeting. Still several paces away, Mysto saw the boy say something to Wendy before tapping her shoulder and then running off.“What was that about?” he asked as his sister clung to his arm and they started to walk home. Romeo had already disappeared down the street.“Romeo-kun didn’t want me to wait alone, so he kept me company.” Wendy answered, letting her brother take her bag to carry it for her. “He had to run to get to The Dragon, though… he said they need an extra waiter.”

“That’s very nice of him, to wait with you.” Mystogan commented, looking down at the girl. She was now very far from the shy girl she was when they arrived. She was still mostly quiet, but now she was cheerful and confident. “Why were you waiting for me? You don’t want to go home alone?”

“Mm-hm, I just want to walk home with Mysto-nii.” she said with a smile. “While I still can.”

Mystogan chuckled. It was a privelege to have his school right next to his sister’s. He could look after her more, and he could easily accompany her like this. “While you still can?”

“You’re graduating soon, and going away.” Wendy replied, with a small pout this time that lasted for all of two seconds before it disappeared. She was a mature girl for her age. She wouldn’t throw tantrums just because her big brothers were ‘leaving her behind’ in Magnolia, no. Instead, she gave him a cheeky grin and said, “Make friends in uni, okay, Mysto-nii?”

“You’re telling me that?” he asked, grunning back. “Little Miss I’m-Happy-with-Charle-and-Romeo-kun-and-Chelia-chan?” The last part, he said in a slightly raised pitch in a mock attempt to imitate his sister’s voice.

“I don’t sound like that! I have other friends now too!” she complained, annoyed, but not enough to let go of his arm and stomp away like a typical teenage girl would. “If Jellal-nii was here, he’ll be nicer to me!”

Jellal and Mysto both doted on Wendy, and while they can both be really sweet brothers, it was Mysto who had the guts to tease their little sister. He was the brother who pulled affectionately on her pigtails. Jellal was always too afraid to upset Wendy. Mysto often thought that his twin is just underestimating how witty and biting their sister can be if she tried. Jellal was completely missing the fun of witnessing their sister’s hidden sass come to the surface.

“Why don’t you walk with him, then?” Mysto huffed.

“His school’s far…” the girl replied, looking down now. “The other students are… kinda… intimidating.”

This time, he looked down at his little sister with a comforting smile as he offered, “What if I go with you?”

“Hm?” she asked, blinking up at him. “Go where?”

“Jellal has student council chores after school. If we start heading there now, we can catch him by the gates.”

They stopped walking.

Wendy broke into an excited grin. “We’re gonna wait for him?”

“Yeah.” he shrugged easily. ‘Let’s go walk good old Jellybeans home.’ — and as an afterthought, he added, “While we still can.”

Wendy giggled, and together the two of them turned and headed for their brother’s school.

It would be quite a long way home from Sorciere, but all that will do is give them both more time to team up and tease Jellal — and that, they agreed, was a great plan.

Days like this would soon be hard to come by.

It was just another afternoon at The Strauss’. The crowd was just starting to settle in as Cana set down two tall glasses of lemonade on the bar, sending a small smirk at her friends. “I heard you guys had your discussion with the principal today.”

Both Max and Warren nodded. Max was the one to reply. “Yeah. You?”

The brunette shook her head as she wiped the bar top. “Not yet. How’s it? ’Cause you two don’t often go here.”

“What? We do.” Max raised an eyebrow. “You just don’t notice us ’cause we’re not troublemakers.”

“Huuuuh, but you’re sitting up front and center today.” Cana replied. “But seriously. Lemonade? Am I the only one around here who orders booze?”

“Nah, you’re the only one ’round here who orders booze THIS EARLY.” Warren said with a chuckle. “The discussion’s great, Cana. No need to fuss.”

“What, you guys are boring!” She looked disappointed. “Mira warned me that my friends might go mushy. She said the Raijinshuu became mushy way back when. All four of them!”

Warren blinked. “You were worried that we’ll be… sad?”

“No. Not worried. And not sad. Mushy. Which I’d find funny. But gah, both of y’all too straight-laced to go all drama king on me anyway.” the barmaid shrugged.

Max laughed, then he placed an offer: “Wanna bet on who’ll get mushy?”

“Jet and Droy. Lucy. Erza. Juvia. Maybe Al and Bis.”

“Same. But I betcha Al and Bis will take it well — and Gajeel’s gonna cave. He’s a sentimental dude. And Mysto, ’cause the dude’s a big marshmallow.”

“No way.”

“How much are we bettin’?”

Warren just rolled his eyes as the two exchanged predictions on who among their friends would be sentimental by the time graduation rolls in…

Then another voice joined in. “Seriously, guys — we better work on the ongoing bet first before starting another one.” The three turned and greeted Laki cheerfully as she sat beside Warren. “But yeah, I guess Natsu and Lucy are just messin’ with us by now.”

“Hey, girl.” Cana greeted. “You had your discussion too?”

“Yep.” the bespectacled teen smiled. “T’was… helpful, I guess.”

“Great. What’re you having?” the brunette asked.

Laki answered with a cheerful, “Liquid courage, please!”

Cana laughed, while the boys looked at their friend disbelievingly and exclaimed, “YOU’RE DRINKING?!”

Laki joined Cana’s laughter at Max and Warren’s reactions, before Cana finally explained, “Guys, Laki’s liquid courage is mango juice. Calm your tits.”

She was still sniggering as she left to fix the order, ruffling a surprised Kinana’s hair on her way.

Laki finally stopped laughing at her friends when Warren and Max both groaned indignantly. “You guys seriously thought I’m gonna go drink alcohol before I go talk to my parents?”

Max sipped on his lemonade before asking, “Talk to ’em ’bout what?”

“I’ll go tell them not to close the business down because I want to work on it when I get my degree.” she explained, looking down at her clasped hands. It felt a bit awkward to just blurt it all out. “Architecture at Fiore U.”

“Wait, I thought you said you can’t go to F.U. ’cause of reasons?” Max said, surprised but pleased. A grin was already starting to form on his face. Warren was also gaping. They have all already offered Laki their sympathies when she too-sadly told them that she won’t take the university’s offer despite earning her place by passing the entrance exams with flying colors.

“Well, that’s what I hope to fix by talking to my folks.” she simply answered, not able to suppress an excited, hopeful smile. “The principal convinced me to go for it.”

“That’s great.” Warren said, exchanging a happy look with Max before giving Laki’s shoulder an encouraging squeeze.

“What is?” Cana asked, back from the other side of the bar with a glass of fresh mango juice.

Max answered quickly. “She’s going to Fiore U. The principal talked her to it.”

“Really?!” the brunette exclaimed happily. “That’s awesome!”

The other girl snorted, but couldn’t hide her amusement. “C’mon guys, I still have to talk to my mom and dad-!”

Cana shook that off. “Whatever, go drink up your liquid courage, girl! I knew it — you’re destined for greatness or something!”

Laki laughed. “Stop it, you!”

“A toast?” Max offered, raising his glass. “To our future architect!”

Laki rolled her eyes, but raised her own glass anyway. “Don’t jinx it.”

The toast was between two lemonades, one mango juice and an empty glass, but it was promising.

On the second day, there was a torn piece of paper stuck under the sign that Laki had posted in the principal’s office door: ‘AW C’MON OLD MAN. WE JUST CARE.’ Makarov simply chuckled and shook his head, not bothering to remove the note as he thought of who had most likely put that there. The shortlist was Natsu, Natsu and… err… yeah, it was most likely Natsu.Makarov had heard many concerns and worries from his students. Some of the kids were worried about their own capabilities, if they can pull off the career path they chose, or if they can stay in their university or college of choice.Some kids, though, were more worried about the family and friends they were going to be leaving behind — after all, sometimes these same friends were not just simple companions. Some were leaning shoulders, known protectors… Comfort zones.

Levy’s session was scheduled that afternoon, and the blunette giggled when she saw little scrawls of short messages beside the huge ‘WE JUST CARE’ sign. Some scribbles of ‘yeah, principal!’ and ‘rest a little!’ were written by other students who had been in the office or had passed by.Shaking that off and making a mental note to maybe add her own message later, she entered the room.“Good afternoon, sir.” she greeted cheerfully as she sat across the old man, who greeted her just as pleasantly.

“Levy-chan. A sight for sore eyes. I’ve been talking to awkward teenage boys all day.” Makarov grinned. “Now I know you lot are still busy with other stuff, so let’s get started here… Now where is that paper?”

Levy smiled softly as she supplied the contents of her career form. “I put in Literature for my course, principal. First choice is Fiore U. and second is—”

“Yes, yes, another bright mind who breezed through the exams.” Makarov nodded, extremely proud of his ‘kids’. “I don’t think you have any qualms against your first choice of school, though.”

The girl shook her head. “I’m very lucky I got in without any problems, and my family is very supportive about my degree. I mean, I’ve always loved books and stories so I think this came as no surprise.”

“True. You were head of the library club last year, weren’t you?” Makarov asked.

“Yes, sir. That really helped with my application. I didn’t exactly score the best in the math and science areas…”

“Of course. Their literature program’s very elaborate and I figure they have very high standards. Have you prepared yourself for that, child?”

Levy nodded worriedly. “I think I can work for it.” then she breathed and repeated more firmly. “No, um, I CAN work for it.”

Ever hard-working and determined, Makarov thought. “I guess you’re all set and ready to go, then?”

“All set, yes.” Levy answered, now her expression was slowly turning to a slightly hesitant one. “All ready? I don’t really know. I’m really excited, but… it’s my first time living away from home. I’ve always been here in Magnolia. So, I’m kinda nervous.”

Makarov chuckled, looking at the girl fumbling with her hands.

“I’m feeling homesick already!” Levy laughed uneasily. “But I think it won’t be so bad… It’s not final yet, but Lu-chan said her dad’s letting her get a room in the university dorms, and I think I’ll most likely be there too. And I think Erza’s also considering that option?”

“That’s right. As you said, Levy-chan. You girls are strong, and independent. It shouldn’t be so bad.”

“That’s what Laxus told us, too.” Levy remarked. “He said we’ll do great, something about us being responsible… He gave some really useful advice, and told us we can reach out to him anytime we need him. It was very nice of him.”

“Strangely nice of him. It’s about time some of Freed’s niceness rubbed off on him.” the old man said with a sigh. “I see you’re doing great, Levy-chan. I know you’ll do great in the future too. Anything else?”

The girl nodded, sighing. “Jet and Droy.”

“Ah.” He should have known. Of course.

“It just won’t be the same without them. I won’t be the same without them.”

“That,” the principal started, taking on his tone when giving sage advice. “…is something you kids would have to sort out by yourselves. But I trust there are no hard feelings?”

“O-Oh, of course not! No hard feelings at all. They’re happy for me! And I for them, and… and, err, we’ve all agreed that we’ll go and choose as best as we can, anyway.” she explained quickly. “It’s just, I dunno, I think I’ll miss them the most. I’ve got Lu-chan and Erza to get me by if I get homesick, but… yeah. Jet and Droy.”

Makarov understood her. For as long as he had known these kids, Levy, Jet and Droy’s little team has always been inseperable. “You’ll work it out, like always. You should go and enjoy your remaining stay here, Levy-chan. And for the record, I do think that not even this kind of distance will change things between the three of you. I’ve known you kids long enough.”

This comforted Levy very much, and she simply nodded. “Thank you, sir.”

As Makarov had expected, the other two of the trio were just as torn, even though they had fully settled on their separate ways and had accepted that it was for the best.

Jet, who had been accepted to study in an specialized college for IT courses, had also landed himself an athletic scholarship for his commendable performance in the track team. It suited him very much. He was always interested in the information technology industry, and he will still get to do his other passion: running.

Makarov was glad that the kids knew what they wanted to do, and had taken initiative to secure their own paths.

“It’s all good. I’m lucky I’ve got a purpose and I know it.” Jet said, bashful, before he scratched his head. “Though I think I’ll still be kinda lost with Levy and Droy. I… err, we’ve been together ever since, is all.”

And, Makarov added inwardly, Jet has always been the brave one of the three — their protector. He wondered if this was what Jet was worried about, so he asked, “Are you worried that Levy and Droy would have no one to look out for them?”

Knowing how protective Jet was, Makarov was surprised when the young man shook his head and said, “No, not at all.”

The old man blinked.

“They’re both strong. I kinda learned that the hard way. They’re not-… They can look after themselves now and all that. I know it’s, uh, weird, but… I trust that they don’t need me anymore.”

Makarov nodded slowly, absorbing all that was being told before him.

“It’s just that…” Jet trailed off, and struggled a bit before finding the most appropriate words. “I’ll miss them. It’s… that. Yeah.”

The principal looked down, chuckling. The sentiment was so simple, so… earnest. “I see.”

And he didn’t question it anymore.

Droy was to study Botany in a college on the next city. It was well-known for its agriculture and environmentalist courses, and Droy’s own parents have studied there themselves. Some highly-respected friends and acquaintances were professors, and Droy’s parents were enthusiastic that their son can look up to these teachers and mentors. Droy agreed with them, and also quite clearly had a positive outlook on someday being able to help out in their family business.

As the third piece of the trio, Makarov also expected it when the young man admitted that he will miss Levy and Jet the most.Like the other two, he answered so simply that there was no questioning him, either.But he also added, “I think it will make us stronger, though. And, uh, not just individually. I mean, yeah, um… we’ll be used to being separate now, but… I dunno, I think that’ll just make it more… special… if we manage to keep our, err, friendship… intact. I’m sorry, I’m gettin’ so cheesy, haha…” the young man trailed off with a nervous laugh.

Makarov simply shook his head. “It’s okay, son. You’re right.”

These children never fail to surprise him.

Levy made sure to add her own touch in the principal’s office door before she left school. It was an orange post-it with her neat handwriting showcasing a simple message: ‘Thanks for the hard work, principal!’She jumped slightly when someone behind her said, “Nice.” and she simply sighed when she saw who it was. Jet reached out past her to add his own message, in the same post-it: ‘What she said.’“Now I gotta do it too.” Droy sighed, catching Levy’s attention. In the note, he added: ‘Same!’

“D’you think he’ll know it’s us?” Levy asked.

“If you keep talking like that, I will.” came the principal’s familiar voice from inside the office, and the three stiffened as the door knob started to turn, before they scrambled among themselves and dashed down the school halls and out of sight.

They only stopped running when they were out the school gates, laughing breathlessly. They’ve never ran as hard as that in ages — it has always been Natsu, Gray and the others after they’ve done some mischief or prank of some sort, or if they teased Erza or Lucy too much and the girls got fed up.

“I swear I just burned the snack I just ate.” Droy panted.

“Good, you lost some o’ that weight.” Jet replied, breathing more steadily, already recovering. It was a perk of being a runner.

“Why were we running away?” Levy asked, also panting as she straightened her uniform and ran a hand to bring some semblance of order on her hair.

They looked at her, and all three of them realized that they didn’t know why they ran away in the first place. It wasn’t like Makarov chastised the students who left their own messages… In fact, he looked like he was glad to be receiving the notes…

For a moment, they fell silent in embarrassment, and then they broke down laughing again and how silly they’ve been, having acted like little kids who were about to get caught red-handed in mischief. Back there, they just fumbled and worried and then grabbed each other and ran.

Just like old times.

Still laughing themselves silly, the three began the trek home.

And then there were the students who will be leaving ‘more-than-friends’ behind.Really special people. Unrequited first loves. Unresolved mutual crushes. Boyfriends or girlfriends…Makarov has always had difficulty dealing with majority these students. Some of them were so ready to make the big decisions just for their sweethearts — to turn down the best offer and settle for something mediocre simply to ‘maintain the relationship’ or ‘stay close together’, some had even decided to take up a course they really don’t want just to impress. And then, those who didn’t settle for less were just plain fraught with worry: ‘what if they find someone else because i’m so far away?’ and sometimes proceed on a long rant about how to keep a long distance relationship.

He has had long talks with these children, sometimes even calling their alleged ‘significant other’ in to explain the weight of the decisions they were making. He never tried to tell them that they were ‘taking the relationship too seriously’ as he knew that approach was inappropriate and would very well lead the kids to distance themselves. He always respected their feelings… but Gods it was hard to convince them not to (for lack of better words) drag each other down and diminish their individual potentials.

But sometimes — and Makarov loved these ‘sometimes’ — it was a motivator. He’d known young couples who were able to get in the same prestigious university because they were so determined on a future together…

And there was also Bisca and Alzack.

He knew he would never regret how he fully supported the young couple’s friends when they were setting those two up… and it was one of the best decisions he had ever made.

Bisca was ambitious, determined, and most of all — she had never let anything hold her down. As Makarov looked down at the young woman’s career form, it looks like she is still as independent.

“A course on Criminology, and on Fiore University.” he said, as if presenting a prize with a flourish. She was, after all, one of their absolute brightest. “You don’t hold back, do you, dear?”

Bisca blushed pink but nodded humbly. “I’ve decided on it, sir. I hope I can follow through. But my mom’s worried, see… After all, being a cop… it’s how we lost dad.”

Bisca’s father had been a very attentive and hands-on father… and when Bisca was a little girl, he often got her engaged in different sports and physical activities. He was one of Bisca’s early influences for her skill and interest in archery, volleyball and even those shooting video games. He was a member of the police force before he died in action.

“I understand your mother’s worries, child. This is a heavy career path, but I can’t say that I’m all too surprised. You’ve always been the action girl of the group, after all.” Makarov said. Bisca was kind and sweet but she has never given the impression of a fragile girl. She exuded an aura of toughness, much like Cana and Erza, but much smoother around the edges.

Makarov then looked down again at the form. The answers have been written so neatly, in sure strokes. “This is not just to… let’s say, finish what your father started, is it? It’s a great endeavor, to want to follow an honorable man’s footsteps, but not when you are simply pressured to do so.”

“It’s what I want to do. It’s not just to try and understand my late dad, sir. It’s also… I’ve seen what he used to do. And, well, I’m still seeing what they do. Gildarts is quite an example… He reminds me of dad most days. And I want to do what they do, too.”

“That’s all I need to hear.” Makarov said, the sides of his eyes wrinkling as he smiled. “And I know that you will do brilliantly, my dear. You’ve always been outstanding.”

The young woman nodded gratefully.

“Another question, though…”

“Yes, principal?”

“Are you and Alzack going to be alright?”

She very easily answered, “Oh, we’ll be fine.”

It was Alzack that surprised him more, he had to admit.“They think I’m too meek. Too gentle, or that I’m doing it to hold on to Bis.” the young man admitted, frowning deeply. Alzack’s issue with his skills didn’t surprise Makarov — it was his honesty that did it. “I swear to you, sir — I’m… I’m more than that.”But the principal simply nodded as he looked at the document in his hands. The same course as Bisca. Criminology, albeit on the local college and not in the prestigious university.

“I know what others say… it’s like I’m trying too hard to impress Bisca but I fell short. Some of my relatives think that way already…”

“And are you? Doing it simply for Bisca-chan?”

“No!” Alzack said, a little too firmly. “I’m proud of her, getting top marks, a scholarship for her archery, and she’s made up with auntie on her decision. She’s going to be great at it, like always. But my choice — it’s something I decided for myself, and not because I’m scared of what Bisca might think of me. I know I sometimes have these self-esteem issues, but I know better than to force myself to change my dream.”

And Makarov believed that, because as he looked at the career form, the boy’s handwriting bore the same determined certainty… no shakes or wobbles of a young man forcing himself to take a path to be someone he isn’t.

That was exactly what Makarov said: “I believe you, Alzack-kun. And I’m proud that you have made this decision, even though it came as a surprise, because I’m familiar with your, as you said, silent disposition.”

“I understand that, sir. But I do want this, for myself.” Alzack said, all patience and determined calm. “I know it’s not like me, and maybe Bisca did have something to do with it… Sometimes she tells me stories of her father, and that made me more aware of the police’s work, not to mention Gildarts is always a friendly face around here…

“And I’ve never felt something special with me. I’m not great at sports like the others; I’m not smart, I’m not a writer or a businessman, or even a teacher… It’s just, to find out what I actually want to do, I tried to see myself being those things… and it all seems wrong. But for some reason, doing some volunteer work with Gildarts around the police station last summer… I thought I could do it. I could see myself in the future helping other people the same way he does. And I know that I’m not brave enough, or strong enough, talented enough… But isn’t that what I’m going to learn? So… So I just thought — why not go with it?

“So I did, and when I told other people about my plans, they simply think I don’t have it in me. But I know that I am willing to work for it. I just… don’t know how to prove them wrong.”

Makarov has heard enough. This is precisely why he did these one-on-one things. He gets the privelege to tell each of the students the best advice that he could: “My boy,” the old man started, a subdued smile on his face. “You will never get anywhere, just standing around and worrying about what they think. You start by actually doing it. Move. If you don’t show them, they will not see.”

The teacher let his student mull over his words before speaking again.

“And for starters, you already have a believer. Right here.”

That afternoon, as Makarov stood on the school gates, about to go home, he saw the young couple standing side by side on the nearby police booth. They were engaged in an animated conversation with Gildarts.

They must have told him, because the cop had a proud glint in his eye as he reached out both hands and ruffled the teens’ hair, as if they were still little children who enthusiastically told him that one day, they will be an awesome hero police officer like him.

The two didn’t brush him off as typical teenagers would have done. They simply looked at each other and laughed, their fingers twined.

Again, sometimes — and Makarov loved these ‘sometimes’ — the typically reckless young couples actually make good, sensible choices, and the principal will find himself impressed.

And then Makarov remembered the next pair to worry about.“Since mother and father will both continue to work abroad, Juvia will still be living alone. Mother has already made arrangements for the flat here in Magnolia. We will be moving to a small house in Magarett and Juvia will be on her own again, but it is easier than having to maintain the Magnolia flat and finding a separate one in Magarett Town just to have somewhere to stay in close to school…”“I see your point.” Makarov replied, nodding in understanding at the young woman’s explanation. “Although it is too bad that you will be moving away, Juvia-chan. We will miss you around.”

“Juvia will miss Magnolia as well.” the blunette smiled. “Juvia has had many homes, but Magnolia will always be Juvia’s favorite. Oh, but Magarett is only a train ride away, so Juvia can always visit!”

She was brimming with positivity, Makarov noted, which is a far cry from the distressed teenager who asked him back then (her eyes guilty and nervous and even ashamed) if she could transfer to FairyGaku after the events with Phantom. He could see why she was so happy, anyway — she got into a well-known art university of her choice with a program in applied crafts and design. It would surely boost her already great talent for various handmade trinkets. Her were parents in full support of her choice even though it was very far from their successful career in medicine.

“Of course you can.” Makarov couldn’t help but smile back. “Will you be alright out there? The others are all going to Fiore U. together, and you’re the only student I’ve talked to who will be going to the art school so far…”

At that, the girl looked down at her lap and squirmed shyly, a blush on her face. “Juvia… Juvia thinks Juvia will be okay. Gray-sama will also be there, after all…”

Makarov blinked. He would’ve known that, surely! He had gone through all of the papers beforehand-… Ah. Yes, he did read them all, except the ones that came in late.

Gray had turned his form in at the last minute.

Now he had some questions. “You decided on this because Gray will be going there?”

She was still looking down, but this time she risked a short glance up and smiled a bit. “N-No, umm… Gray-sama said that… he’s going there because Juvia is.”

At that, the old man had to stop and stare for a bit.

“…And, and that makes Juvia very happy.” she said in a soft voice.

Makarov mulled this over. Yes, he thought that Gray studying art as well was a great choice… He would prefer to have the young man hone his skills, than to take a more ‘practical’ route just because he was independent and he had to find a quicker, easier way to support himself. Gray was an artist, and Makarov knew that the boy would do good to be given an opportunity to maximize his potential, than to waste away working on jobs that he only did to survive. He was a hardworking young man and he deserved the chance…

However, he didn’t expect him to do it for Juvia. Not that Makarov doubted Gray’s affections for the blunette, but…

As Juvia looked at the principal’s expression, she blinked and then hurriedly continued, “O-Oh, but G-Gray-sama said he really wants to go study art too! At first Juvia felt guilty-… Juvia was being selfish, making plans without thinking of Gray-sama at all, but Gray-sama said that it was great, and then… then he surprised Juvia by saying that he’s going to the same university…”

“…Oh.” Makarov said, in a bemused tone. “Gray did that, eh?”

“Yes! Juvia is very lucky that Gray-sama will go with Juvia!”

“You are.” the old man nodded. “Very lucky indeed, my dear.”

She smiled again. With that sweet, bright smile, Makarov wouldn’t blame Gray for wanting to keep it that way.

“You turned this paper in at the last minute.” Makarov started with that. “Why?”“I still needed to ask for help.” Gray answered earnestly, arms crossed across his chest as he settled back comfortably on the chair. He had been in the office many times, most of those times were when he was in trouble with Natsu and Elfman or whatever… So when he’s not being scolded, he felt very much at ease.Makarov continued. “The art university in Magarett City, and applied arts and design. I always knew you had talent, and always worried that you might not pursue your passion.”

Gray scratched the back of his head, letting a small smile betray him. “Well, I… uh. I had several people give me a bit of a push.”

“And these people are…?”

Gray breathed in before starting to explain. “Ultear. She helped me ask our relatives for a bit of support, just to start off… I told ’em I’ll try to get a scholarship, and that I’ll take whatever jobs I can to earn my own money. Just-… I needed some funds and I know I’ve always refused their support, but I thought it’s high time I accepted their offer to help out. After all, I… I’ve decided I wanted to make art, like Ur did.

“Then there’s Lyon. Helped me gather a portfolio to submit. Lamia’s in that town, and he’s a first year in the uni. So he knows what’s what and who’s who. Also told me that one of his mates is graduatin’ soon, so they’ll have space in their flat and I can move in, y’know, split rent, save up. I won’t say it to his face but he’s been a great help…

“And, err, Cana. Stole that form just to cross out my second and third choices ‘cause she’s insistin’ that the only acceptable one is to go with art, since that’s what I really want. And I caved in. Let her convince me to go for it.”

Makarov looked at the young man reverently. Gray has grown so much from the cold, stoic kid that he used to be. He used to do everything alone, to insist that he can always handle himself. It was a trait he embraced after his parents and then his guardian died.

But now, not only has he admitted that he can’t do things alone… but he was also openly acknowleding the people who lent him a hand.

It was a testament to how he had matured enough to swallow his pride and had learned to ask for help.

And then, there was one last question.

“And Juvia-chan?”

Gray sighed. “We got lucky that we’re going to the same school, I guess. She’s… she’s determined. I never even knew that she was already making plans. Back then she would’ve asked my permission first to do anything, but all of a sudden she’s on her own feet. I dunno. I mean, it was nice when she was all about me even when she overdid it a little bit, ’cause I did feel better knowing someone cares about me. And it was nice, helping her and looking after her too. I dunno how I didn’t notice it when we’re always together but she kinda… I think she outgrew me.” — the young man chuckled.

“Outgrew you?”

“Yeah? I guess I should be upset that she didn’t talk things out with me, where she wants to go, what she wants to do, but… she’s done it. I didn’t expect her to make her decisions all for me — dude I don’t want that, she’s free — but I didn’t expect her to come up with it all by herself either. But she did, and I can’t help but… be proud of her. ’Cause now she’s just… out there. She… knew herself, and was actually thinking of just herself for once. And that’s awesome ’cause that’s what I was always worried about. That I might hold her back. That she might not care for herself enough ’cause she loves others too much. I dunno, it’s crazy, I don’t usually think — even talk — about these stuff.”

The old man chuckled. “You do now.” He was right. Take a few years away, and Makarov was sure he’d be sitting across a young man who just looked at him and grumbled the briefest statements under his breath. He didn’t know who made Gray this… open, but he could guess that it was a team effort. The years together with his friends changed him.

And as for Juvia — well, Makarov didn’t notice either. But leave it to Gray to exceed some expectations. Yes, at many ways Juvia did mature a lot without any of them noticing. She was indeed more grounded and independent than ever. Maybe they didn’t realize that because unlike most people, she didn’t lose her expressiveness and affectionate demeanor. Very few can grow up and still be as sweet, caring and cheerful as she is. Lastly, very few people can learn how to love themselves but never love others any less.

“I do now.” Gray continued. “It’s just… when I had Ulter and Lyon help me look for colleges, there were tons out there… and my savings, our relatives and stuff… we can afford only very few of ’em. So I was kind of prepping myself to… what, let Juvia go? That. I thought it’s okay, we’ll just have to keep in touch like she does with her parents. Then… then I saw that the school in Magarett’s on the list. So I decided — I’ll go there. Juvia is-… Juvia’s done a lot of things for me, and it was high time I returned the gesture.”

Of all the students Makarov had thought would do it for a sweetheart, he didn’t expect it to be Gray. But he wouldn’t hold it against the young man, now. He knew that Juvia would just be one of many reasons.

“I’ll go there ’cause I knew that even when she’s happy to talk with her parents every day over the phone, she still misses them. ’Cause I don’t want her to be alone again. And because Lyon’s on the same university. And no, I don’t doubt her ability to wipe the floor with that idiot’s face if he tried anything stupid — I really just want to be there to watch her do it.” Gray chuckled.

Makarov couldn’t help but laugh with that.

“But mostly it’s because going there I’m getting a shot to work on my art and at the same time I can stay close to one person I care very much about, and I don’t ever get chances like that. I’ve had to work hard with my own two hands for everything in my life so far, I know when something good happens and I know better than to lose something ’cause I didn’t grab the chance when it presented itself.”

Makarov stared at his student for a moment with an unreadable expression on his face. Gray, realizing everything he had said out in the open so far, avoided the old man’s eyes and looking down silently at the floor.

After several moments of silence, Makarov breathed heavily before saying, “Juvia-chan didn’t outgrow you, Gray.”

The raven-head looked up and blinked, curious.

“Both of you have matured just as much, it just happened differently — because you’re different people, and that happens. It’s good that you grew up as different people. And I’m proud that you grew with each other but never lost yourselves in the process, because sometimes that happens too.”

Some students sacrifice their individuality just for the sake of togetherness, Makarov knew. That’s what he always feared. But these two… well, for lack of better words, Makarov was just content that they grew up — and they grew up well.

Gray was still thinking about everything Makarov had said in their discussion as he walked in the campus to go to his part-time job. When he was heading to the school gates though, he noticed something odd.Cana was standing there, waiting for someone.That someone was probably him, because when she saw his coming, she raised an arm, waved and shouted, “Hurry up, loser! I can’t wait all afternoon!”

Gray raised an eyebrow. Why was she waiting for him anyway? Nevertheless, he just relented and turned his relaxed walk into a jog.

“I thought you’re going home early since it’s your day off. What’re you still doing here?” he asked as he stopped in front of her.

The brunette shrugged as she answered him. “I did go home early, but I had to go back ’cause — waitaminute — guess what I found in our mailbox?”

Gray watched as she got out a slightly-crumpled-but-still-acceptable envelope from her wallet and waved it to his face. He grabbed the letter and was about to complain about his roommate not getting to the point right away but stopped when he saw the seal and return address.

“Is this…?”

“Why’re you askin’ me, icepick? You should know! I can’t wait for you to finish your shift at the bakery, I’m too excited.”

He looked at her, expression uncertain, and she stared back. Cana fell silent as well. She was just as nervous as he was.

After a bout of silence, Cana chuckled nervously and gave him an awkward push. “Go open it, man! I ran all the way from home, y’know.”

Gray scoffed. “Liar, the bike’s right behind you.”

“Fine, I biked all the day from home and your shirt’s missing.” the brunette rolled her eyes.

“Ugh, dammit—”

Cana cut him off before he could go back to look for his abandoned clothes. “That’s not important — OPEN THE LETTER!”

He sighed, then they exchanged another look, and right there, just standing in front of each other by the gates of Fairy Gakuen, Gray carefully tore the envelope open. If she noticed that his hand was shaking, Cana didn’t point it out. She was biting her lip and watching impatiently, tapping one foot as she watched him take two pieces of folded paper out. Gray unfolded the letter and silently read the contents.

“What’s it say?” Cana asked, all too hurriedly, but Gray didn’t budge as he continued reading the letter to the end of the first page. Then, he flipped to the second page but only scanned it before glancing at his best friend, then he switched back to the first page again and read it for the second time. “Gray, you’re killing me here—”

“I got in.”

Cana looked at him, mouth in a small ‘o’.

Gray didn’t care that his voice shook slightly, and he looked at the brunette’s stunned face. “I got in. The portfolio’s good, and they’re offering me a scholarship for it. I won’t have to pay for the school fees s’long as I keep up my performance and-… I-… uh, I’m in.”

He still stood there dumbly even when Cana squealed and glomped at him, wrapping her arms around his neck as she screamed about how he was a lucky bastard and how she knew he could do it and laughing at how he ever thought there was a chance that he wouldn’t even get in and—

And before Gray knew it, he was laughing with her and letting her say whatever the hell she wanted — and he had returned her hug, wrapping his arms around her waist, the papers still clasped in his hands as they happily hopped in place together.

He laughed it off when she dropped a big sloppy kiss on his cheek and hugged him again, screaming that he was “SUCH A GREAT LITTLE FUCKING GENIUS ARRRGGGHHH I’M SO PROUD OF YOU!” right in his ear and he just buried his face in her brown hair agreeing with her for once…

That was when they were interrupted by a familiar voice nearby.

“Gray-sama? Cana-san?” came from Juvia, watching them in confusion. Beside her, Bisca was also watching, her expression being that of curiosity. The two were obviously from swim club practice.

“JUVIA!” Cana squealed, and Gray had barely let her go before she was bounding towards the blunette and shaking her. “Gray’s in! He actually got in because he’s a marvelous artistic schmuck and he got the scholarship and all! He’ll be going with you, it’s settled now!”

Juvia blinked repeatedly, trying to digest the news, and as it dawned on her, she stared at Gray with wide eyes. Bisca was faster to react to Cana’s announcement as she practically sprinted towards Gray and grabbed the letter from his hands.

All the while, Gray just stood in place awkwardly, chuckling uncertainly as Bisca read through the letter and slapped him on the shoulder as she absorbed the contents.

“Congratulations. You deserve this.” she said, pulling him into a quick hug and sending a genuinely happy smile. Then, she stepped back to make way for Juvia.

“GRAY-SAMAAAAA!” came the tell-tale scream.

This time, Gray was more prepared as he caught his girlfriend in his arms and laughed as she hugged him tightly. If he had a shirt on, she would’ve clung to it.


“Yeah, I’m happy too.” Gray said, laughing wholeheartedly this time, ignoring Cana and Bisca who were giggling together.

Juvia was struggling at what to say next, hands clenched into fists as she stammered, “J-Juvia-…errr-… Gray-sama did… so well and-… ahhhhhh, Juvia d-d-doesn’t know what to say—”

Without thinking about it, he had leaned down and given her a soft kiss on her lips. Just a fleeting one, before leaning away again and smiling wordlessly.

Juvia fell silent and looked at him, her cheeks putting Erza’s hair to shame…

Then she teared up, hands finding their way to her face. “G-G-Gray-saaaamaaaaa-!”

It was all out sobbing. And wailing.

Gray gaped, while Cana cracked up and Bisca tried to stifle her laughter as she accused, “Gray, look at what you did!”

“Aw, c’mon waterworks!” Gray whined, while Juvia just sobbed in her hands, and later into Gray’s bare chest as he just awkwardly pulled her against him, rubbing her back and telling her to stop crying, it’s not like someone died…

Bisca giggled to herself as she watched them, then her giggles turned into laughter as Cana launched herself at the couple and hugged them both, screaming “NOW GET MARRIED ALREADY, SHEESH! NOW I’M CRYING TOO!”

“And then… and then she said, ‘I don’t always ask, but will you help me a bit?’ and I just… I dunno, principal, I wanted to cry ’cause finally, yeah? Finally.”Makarov shook his head in amusement as Gildarts drawled on, half-drunk and sobbing into his beer as he told his story. It was a pleasant afternoon in The Strauss’, and a more pleasant encounter for both men. They rarely had time to catch up these days. “She said that, Cana-chan did?”The cop nodded, pouting like a child. “I mean s’what I was always worried about us ‘cause. ’Cause sometimes I feel like Cana-chan hates me that’s why she won’t accept me help. I… I offered to buy groceries and she just gave up on stoppin’ me with that, but the others, she just says ‘no’, just no… she didn’t want to live wit’ me even when it’s all free and I told her Gray can move in too if she’s worried ‘bout leavin’ him-… ohhhh bless you, Kinana-chan.” that last one he addressed to Kinana as the girl served him another glass of beer with a pleasant smile. After that, he continued, “Then she didn’t want me givin’ her allowance or pocket money or school fees. Says everytime I dun’ have to be responsible for ’er ’cause tha’s not why she told me I’m her dad…”

Gildarts groaned heavily, earning a curious look from Mirajane from the other side of the bar, but Makarov raised a hand to indicate that everything was alright.


“She did, huh.”

“D’you think Cana-chan really loves me now, principal?”

The old man chuckled, while Gildarts laughed giddily. “Ah, this is why she thinks you’re a silly old man, boy.”

Gildarts frowned slightly. Boy? Really, no matter how old they all are, they will always be young boys and girls to the old’uns. It was usually Porlyusica, but Yajima-san and Principal Makarov were just the same. “Why d’ya say so?”

“I say so because you’re being too much of a doting father on a daughter who’s used to being independent.” Makarov explained calmly, taking a sip of his tea. Porlyusica and Erza would kill him if he drank alcohol just right after being released from the hospital… and even if he could hide it from them, it wasn’t like he could convince Mira to serve him some in the first place.

“S’just… I could do tons of stuff for ’er!”

“Well, she wants to make sure that when you do something for her, she can give it back. That’s how Cana-chan is.”

“She doesn’t hafta give back, we’re fam’ly!”

“I know, I know. But that’s unimportant now, right? You told me yourself, Cana-chan finally came to you. Maybe you’ve shown her that she can depend on you a bit now.”

“Ahhhh, I’m so happy.” Gildarts sighed dreamily.

And Makarov smiled and nodded, as he always did, patting the man’s shoulder to congratulate him on the big achievement, and remembering his discussion with Cana earlier that day.

“I say, I half-expected you to work full time as soon as you graduate, Cana-chan.” Makarov remarked lightly. “No offense, dear. It’s just… for as long as I’ve known you, you’ve always been the girl with a job. No matter how hard things got, you always had something to do with your hands. That’s all.”“No offense taken, sir.” Cana said with an easy reassuring grin and a shrug. “I considered that, you know. My first choice was to just work. Really. I just thought, with Gray goin’ away, there’s no way I’ll be able to hold the fort on my own without going full time.”“Ah, so you’ve talked this out with him.”

“Gray’s been my life-partner, I know, weird.” the brunette rolled her eyes, a fond little smile on her face. “And yeah, it’s just not gonna be the same without him, but he’s going where he needs to be, and I’m happy for ’im.”

“So what made you change your mind, then?”

She breathed heavily, looked down for a bit and then met the old man’s gaze. “Gildarts.”

“Your father.”

After all this time, it was like she was still not used to that fact being acknowledged by everyone. It took her a while to nod. “My father, yeah.”

“You know, Gray went to his family for assistance too, right?” Makarov said, familiar with the situation of the two teenagers. They were both orphans who were used to getting by on their own. They had distant relatives to help, but as much as possible, they try not to use that option. Maybe it was part pride and part shame… But perhaps it was all to do with how losing their prior guardians taught the both of them that being independent would save them from the pain of losing any those parental or mentor figures again.

“Yes. He’s got big dreams, that one. And he went to Ultear, and to Lyon to ask for help and I know him — he wouldn’t do that unless he really wants something so bad… and he almost never did. So… so I said ‘to hell with it’ and grabbed the ‘college fund’ jar and gave it to him. All of it.

“Maybe I’ve gone crazy ‘cause I know both of us have been dropping cash on that jar and we’ve always agreed that we’ll split it evenly but I just… he needs that more than me, y’know? He needs art materials and he’s moving and we still ain’t sure if he’s really gonna get that scholarship… so on the off chance he doesn’t, he’ll need more cash for school fees… and he just stood there and asked me ’What about you?’ and for a bit I didn’t know, I just said ‘What about me?’ and he was like ‘WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU GONNA DO WITH YOUR LIFE How am I supposed to leave you here when I dunno what your plans are’ because he cares about me too, I know that. And then it just clicked. And I told him ‘I have Gildarts, loser.’

“And then that was that, and now I have to really ‘have Gildarts’ ’cause if I take that back, he won’t accept the stupid jar. And he needs the stupid jar.”

The principal stared at the young woman after she finished her little story.

“So… you have Gildarts.”

Cana snorted. “Gildarts is happy letting me have him. I dunno why. I’m a sucky daughter.”

“Don’t say that.”

“I’m an 18 year-old alcoholic with a potty mouth, who can’t walk in peace on the sidewalk ‘cause perverts always ask ’how much for a night, baby?’, sucky grades and an overall bad reputation.”

The principal shook his head firmly. “You’re an 18 year-old self-supporting teenager with decent jobs and a long list of satisfied and happy employers, who still manages to make time for school. You’ve got great friends who think you’re equally great, and a heart of gold.”

“But a sucky daughter.”

“Not that I’ve heard of. You held off from telling Gildarts about your relation for so long because you want to be ‘decent’ enough to be known as his daughter because you didn’t want him to be ashamed. That’s one daughter who… doesn’t suck.”

“And I failed in even that. So I… push him away, even now.”

“Where did you fail in that, dear?”

“I’m not this sweet, ideal daughter he’ll be proud to show off—”

“You can’t be that, Cana-chan. You’re tough because you’ve gone through rough times, and that alone should make him proud of you. And for the record, last time we went drinking, I explicitly remember Gildarts telling Macao that ‘my daughter can outdrink everyone on this bar, you losers!’ — so I think you’re very much mistaken with the no-showing-off part, my girl.”

She was silent for a while before she shook her head and chuckled under her breath. “I know. I just don’t understand how he could accept me that fast.”

Makarov smiled reassuringly. “That’s because there’s no part of you that shouldn’t be accepted. That’s just how parents are.”

Cana smiled sadly. “Mom’s been gone too long for me to really remember how parents are.”

“Well, you have your father now.”

“Yeah.” she nodded. And this time, it came out easier. “My father.”

“So… you finally accepted his offer?”

“I think it would do us good.” Cana said. “I’m being paranoid, like, what if when I start living with him he’ll get tired of me and actually hate me? But that’s just my nerves. Maybe. So yeah, I think it’ll be nice to… move in. I mean, he’s been alone too long in that house, and gods it’s a dumpsite. I dunno how he could live in it. So yeah maybe I can help him clean it up and… and maybe bring some warmth to it. Y’know, he always eats dinner alone except when he takes me to eat out, or when I invite him to come over ’cause Juvia’s cooking… and his breakfast is just instant noodles every single freaking day, he’s gonna die early at that rate! His closet is a mess, the attic’s… a whole new civilization of dust bunnies. He’s always going on about stocking up our cupboard but his own is always empty.

“For months now, he’s looked over me and Gray and I… I dunno, I think I’ve had enough. I always tell him that I don’t want him helping because I can’t return his help, and he always goes, ‘i don’t need you to help me back, you’re my daughter’ — well, guess what, I’ll rub it in his face that I can.”

Makarov laughed at that part. These kids and their pride…

“I’ll terrorize his house to order and he’ll regret ever inviting me to live with him because everything will be SHINING CLEAN HE’LL GO BLIND. And he wouldn’t be able to get rid of me ’cause GUESS WHAT, this is payback for him bringing in three bags of groceries to our flat like every other day like there’s so much food that I even gained an extra inch on my absolutely perfect waistline how dare he.”

“Go do that, Cana-chan.”

She finally stopped, just smiling back at the old man before sighing. “I hope it works out. Geez, I’m more nervous about moving in with my own dad, than starting college.”

“It will work out. Pray tell, this was probably what your mother wanted for both of you.”

Cana nodded, leaning back on the chair, musing. “Everything’s gonna change, yeah?”

Makarov looked at his student carefully. Cana was now no longer that shy, uncertain girl she used to be, but sometimes that little scared child still comes to the surface. No matter how toughened-by-the-times she was, Cana was still a young woman, with her own fears and worries.

And that’s what he was here for, to assure kids like her that everything will be alright. “It’s part of growing up, dear.”

“Y’know, it’s like, being used to walking on your own and getting one leg cut off? That’s what all this is like for me. Gray’s my other leg.” she said, as if it was a confession. In a way, it was — it opened up just how hard it all really was for her. “And then I try to get up, and what I do to keep standing is hop on my remainin’ foot. For a while I just focus so hard on using that foot. I’m not used to it but I’ve decided that it’s the only way. I’m so fixated on hopping that I don’t realize that there’s a crutch, just standing nearby. Waiting to be used. I’ll eventually get tired hopping around and maybe, most probably, I’ll fall. But there’s the crutch. I just have to be brave enough to reach out and take it and lean on it and… trust it. I just have to trust that it can carry me.”

“…and do you think it can?”

“We’ll see.” Cana said softly. “I hope so. That’s what a crutch is for, anyway.”

She knew it, really. You wouldn’t have to ask a crutch to support you, you just lean on it and it does its job.

There was her, hopping around uncertainly on the verge of falling. Then there was Gildarts, simply waiting for her to let him help. They’ve been working on being a father and a daughter for months now… Just a father and a daughter, two separate people, not yet a unit.

But Cana also knew that somewhere just within their grasp was a little family of two, just waiting patiently to be.

It was about damn time.

Time to hop over and take the crutch.

“So…” Makarov finally spoke again. “A hotel and restaurant management course at Magnolia College?”

“Yep.” the brunette answered, an excited glint in her eyes. “I want to start up my very own bar, someday.”

“I look forward to that.”

“When it finally happens, just come over. Drink’s on me.”

In speaking of young ladies and their fathers, though…As soon as Lucy had settled on the chair, the principal began speaking.“I believe I am sitting across the future CEO of the Heartfilia Konzern?”

The young woman, now very much accustomed to compliments like that, simply smiled good-naturedly and nodded. “I guess so, sir.”

It did not come as a surprise when Makarov read the student’s career form. Fiore University — of course Lucy passed with flying colors — and taking up a business management course. It was just as expected of a girl of her background.

“Is this really what you want, though?”

“I know I always complain, but I’ve kinda resigned to it.” The blonde simply sighed. “Dad’s been preparing me for it my whole life, plus I have grown to be quite competent. Both my parents built the company from scratch, and I want to respect their legacy and keep it safe.”

Makarov expected as much. Lucy was cheerful and carefree, but she had an outstanding sense of duty and responsibility. “Will you be happy with this, Lucy-chan? I know you have… other aspirations.”

“Maybe.” Lucy shrugged. “Maybe someday I’ll learn to love it as much as mom and dad did. As for the other aspirations… well, no one can stop me from having hobbies, right?”

“You’re content with these hobbies staying as hobbies?”

“I just… It’s not like there are other choices, right? I’m an only child. A sole heir. Very dramatic.” the blonde continued, trying to sound cheerful now. “If I wouldn’t do it, who will? I’ve accepted it, principal—”

“But given a choice—”

“I want to write.” came the quick answer, as if it was a secret that was tired of hiding. “Stories. Novels. Hardly fitting for the Heartfilia heiress, I know. That’s why I said I’ll just do it as a hobby. I can manage that, really. I think I’ll be content… Enough to be happy, hopefully…”

“Lucy-chan.” the old man started, looking straight into the girl’s chocolate-colored eyes. “Is there anything we — I — can do to convince you to try out for what you really want?”

“It’s been decided. I can always try asking my dad to reconsider, but even I know that I am the only candidate.” Lucy just shook her head, looking back at the principal’s gaze. She had an air of a young woman who had resigned to her fate, but at the same time, was willing to do her best. “I’ll be happy enough someday to work an office job in one of the best companies in Fiore, while writing stories on the side. I can be happy with that.”

He let her go after a while, for the first time somehow feeling that he failed, even though the girl had clearly stated that she was content — that she would be content, and with that, happy.

He wanted to say that sometimes, ‘content’ was different from ‘happy’.

But Makarov knew that Lucy already knew that.

The discussion went on. Lucy explained how she’ll settle, that she would be staying in the dorms, preferably with Levy or Erza, that her father is freeing her of the bodyguards and most of her responsibilities so she can make the most of her stay in the university…

After all that, as Lucy was standing up to leave, Makarov wished he could do more.

So he wished her luck. When the student was that certain, that firm about her decision to settle for second best and to simply do what was expected of her, he knew that he couldn’t anything… but wish them luck.

Maybe ‘luck’ would involve finally grabbing the better — the best — choice, barring fears, expectations and no-choice situations.

“Thanks, sir. I’ll need it.” Lucy said, with that bright smile of hers that assured him that she was grateful for his guidance, and maybe… maybe he was able to help, just a bit.

Lucy was about to head for her part-time job at the bookstore, but she saw a familiar figure, standing by an equally familiar car, waiting for her by the school gates.Loke raised a hand in greeting. As she got closer, she blinked up at him. “I’ve got work.”“I already fixed that. I dropped by to tell that you have urgent family matters to attend to for this afternoon.” the bodyguard explained, voice even. Lucy couldn’t tell if there was something wrong or not.

So she asked, “Why? Is something wrong at the house?” as Loke held the passenger seat door open for her. She got in even before he answered.

“Your dad’s home and he told me to pick you up. He wants to talk to you.”

“Oh God, what did I do now?”

Loke laughed as he got in his seat and started the car, then looked at her with a reassuring smile. “Relax, maybe it’s good news.”

“Or maybe some rich ball attendee didn’t like my thank-you card. Or one of ’em discovered that I gave the big white kitty plushie to Wendy. Who knows.”

“Or it could be good news.” Loke chimed in, trying to keep the mood positive.

“Stop it, you have a tendency to repeat your point when you know it’s unconvincing.” Lucy grumbled, pouting.

Loke snorted half-heartedly. His mistress knew him too well. But despite knowing it was practically useless (and maybe just to tease her a bit) he said again, “Maybe. It’s good news.”

Lucy looked at her bodyguard pointedly. That was his cue to stop. Simply rolling her eyes and letting out a small smile of her own, she said, “I appreciate the thought, though. Really. Just drive and let’s get this over with.”

She was greeted cheerfully by the house staff, as always. Even Capricorn was relaxed when he greeted her, so Lucy allowed herself to get a bit of her hopes up. Capricorn visibly tensed whenever he knew that his young miss was in for a scolding from the master of the house. Lucy had to trust the positive aura of everyone, and the fact that she really was sure she had done nothing wrong, to get her by as she headed for her father’s office.As she entered the study, she saw that her father was busy over some paperwork. Jude Heartfilia took a short look at his daughter closing the doors carefully before he turned back to the documents in the table.“Lucy.”

“Hi, dad.” The blonde smiled, a habit even when she knew her father wasn’t looking at her anymore.

What her father said next took her by surprise.

“That’s a big jacket.”

She stiffened, involuntarily looking down at herself. “I… um, err…”


Sometimes, she hated that on the rare times her father looked — really looked — he always noticed all the little details.

Because she had forgotten that she was still wearing Natsu’s cozy old track team varsity jacket.

Lucy answered all too quickly. “It’s a friend’s. From the track team.”

“A boy?” Jude asked, tone curious as he raised an eyebrow and looked up at his daughter.

The young woman instantly stood straight, tucking her hands behind her so she wouldn’t see her wringing her fingers nervously. “Y-Yeah… It’s nothing to worry about, dad. Not like we’re… dating or something like that, it’s, uhhhh, a long story. Stupid story. He’s a friend. A good friend. You shouldn’t bother, really!”

And again, to her surprise, the man let the subject drop. “If you say so.”

Lucy just stared.

“I’m not going to keep you here for long. I am quite busy. And you might want to get back to your apartment, although everyone will insist that you at least stay for dinner.”

Lucy shrugged slightly. “I… Sure, I will.”

“I’ve given Capricorn the task of making arrangements for your stay in university. He is going through the dorms now to find a suitable place for you. I trust that he knows what you’d like, so you don’t have to worry about me forcing you to stay in those luxury units, as I know you would.”

“Um, I would really prefer something practical—”

“And he said that you’ve suggested to share a room with your friends. Who are these friends?”

“Um, two of my friends, actually. Well, only one’s sure as of now — Levy. Um, Levy McGarden. She’s in my class, and um, class representative. She’ll be taking literature. She’s really smart. And the other one’s Erza, although she’s still unsure… She’s— um, the principal is her guardian. She’s the top student of the school and also council president. She’s kinda famous for um, topping mock exams and winning kendo tournaments…” Lucy trailed off, enumerating her friends’ selling points. She knew that her father would not let her room with just ‘anyone’. “They’re both good friends of mine, and um, it’ll be a lot of help. Like it’s safer, and more comfortable if… we stay together?”

For all her eloquence, Lucy still stammered in front of her dad. She hoped that she was able to deliver her point, even though she tripped over her own words.

“Very well, I’ll have Capricorn consider that. Maybe have him talk to their guardians to make arrangements.”

Lucy blinked. Why was it all coming in too easy? “…Really?”

“As for the other miscellaneous school forms, I agreed with Capricorn that you would handle that yourself.”

“Um, okay.”

Why was her father being so… agreeable?

Something must be up.

“Additionally, your flat. I am pretty sure you yourself think that the logical step here is to end your lease as soon as you move in to the dorms. Capricorn and Loke will help you move your things when you do so.”

“Got it.” — she’ll miss that flat, but at the same time, she would have no reason to keep it when she starts university.

“As soon as you’re settled in at the dormitories, Loke will be discharged.”

“What? You’re firing him-?”

“I’ve already notified him of this, and by now he should have canvassed for another job.”

“But he’s my—”

“You will no longer have a bodyguard. Isn’t that what you’ve always wanted?”

“I-… yes, but—”

“Loke is an adult, you do not have to worry about him. He assured me that he has… connections, to help him out. He’s a freelancer and as such, should be flexible enough to cope with these situations.”

Lucy simply looked down. Loke had never told her about this. Yes, she always wanted to be free of bodyguards because she just felt chained and shackled in their company, but Loke was different. Loke was… more than a bodyguard, he was like a guardian — and most importantly, a friend.

But her thoughts were interrupted as Jude started speaking again. “That’s about all of it; just one last thing.”

The blonde looked up. All of the prior items seemed to be good news for her (well, the part with Loke was half-good, half-bad but that’s just her) — so maybe this last thing was the catch.

“You did well passing the Fiore University exams.”

Lucy didn’t speak. She knew that the man wasn’t finished.

As Jude continued, he put down his pen and papers and leaned back on his chair to look at his daughter directly. “Capricorn has informed me that you will be majoring in business management, as is proper for the heiress to the Heartfilia Konzern. You did well with that, as well, taking initiative to decide the proper course.”

So that was that, Lucy thought. ‘Yeah, dad — just rub it in that I’m doing all this to meet your expectations, because who else would?’

“But I just want to remind you that it’s neither I nor our butler who would be filling in and submitting those university enrollment forms.”

Wait, what?

“It would be you, and as Capricorn and I are both busy enough, we wouldn’t have time to check up on those.” Jude stated simply, in an even tone of voice. And then he picked his pen up again and returned to his paperwork. “You’re an intelligent and talented young woman, Lucy — but above that, you work hard. If you try, you can do more than what you’ve set out to do.”

It was vague, and Lucy was still trying to process the words when her father said, “Enjoy your dinner.” cutting through her thoughts.

She automatically replied, “S-Sure. Thanks… dad.” and then left the room.

Dinner was quiet, as Lucy mulled over all the changes that were about to happen… about all the stuff that her father told her about…It was on the car ride home, with Loke humming under his breath as he drove towards her flat, that it all dawned on Lucy.“Oh-… Oh my God. Stop the car!”

The bodyguard just thanked all the gods he knew that the street was empty save for their car and he was able to pull the brakes quickly.

“Lucy?” he asked, peering worriedly at his mistress. “What’s wrong, love?”

She looked at him, disbelief written all over her expression. “I’m not taking business management.”


“Wait, I am. I am taking business because I have to, but I-… he told me I can do what I want.”

The bodyguard furrowed his brows and blinked, confused. “…Um, Lucy?”

“Dad practically told me to pick whatever the blazing hell I want.” she breathed, hardly believing what she just said. “That’s what he meant by all that. Right?”

“So… no business course anymore-?”

“No, I’m still going with the business course.” Lucy said, waving his suggestion off as if it was the silliest thing he ever asked. Then slowly, as if she was practicing how to pronounce the words properly, she looked at her companion and added, “As a major.”

They looked at each other for a moment, until Loke finally finished fitting the gears together and all he was able to mutter was “Oh.”

Lucy smiled excitedly. “D’you get me?”

The bodyguard smiled back. “You’re getting a minor?”

She had an answer long before the question came. “Nope, let’s go all out. Go for a double major.”

“Business and creative writing?”

“What d’you think?”

“I think it’s crazy.”


“You should totally do it.” Loke chuckled, starting the car again.

And Lucy simply nodded. “Best. Bodyguard. Ever.”

“Your form says right here, ‘I’m just gonna work at the dragon because it’s fun’ — and that’s that.”Natsu grinned toothily at the old man across him, who eyed him with a wary expression. “Yeah, that’s that.”Makarov sighed, rubbed his temples and then sighed again, before he asked, “That’s really all?”

“That’s totally all, gramps.” the cheer didn’t wear off.

“No other plans? No dreams of doing something else, going somewhere far away, being someone else?”


“You love the restaurant?”

“’Course I do.”

“You want to work full time here, you’re ready to stay in Magnolia at The Fire Dragon all day, what, cooking?”


“You can see yourself working there for the next few months or years, no exciting things happening, no explosions, just cooking and serving and maybe doing some minor inventory or management stuff?”

Natsu seemed to give that part some thought, rubbing his chin and pouting as he took all of five seconds to muse before declaring, “Uh-huh.”

“And you can see yourself happy with this for the next few months or years, and when you think of your friends out there in college or university, you won’t sulk and think ‘i wish i was somewhere else’, yeah?”


“And give it five, ten years, you can see yourself still at the Dragon, a bit older, still working, maybe standing side-by-side with your father and managing the place?”

“Mmmm… yeah, kinda.”

“And as you see yourself in that future, you’re still grinning and happy and you still love the Dragon just as much, maybe even more?”

“Yeah, totes.”

“And Igneel is alright with all of this?”

“You bet he is!”

“You don’t think of this as just the easy way out, something to do because you can’t think of anything else or you’re not confident that you can do whatever you actually want to do?”

The boy almost looked offended. “No way.”

Makarov sighed again, this time slowly, then she piled the young man’s form away with the other students’. “That’s it, then. I’ve heard enough. Get out of my office.”

Natsu blinked, then asked “Uh, what was that? We’re done?”


“But we just started!”

Makarov raised his hands in defeat. “There’s nothing more to talk about. You say what’s exactly in your head and you’ve told me that you’re happy and you’ve decided — and you’re sure. I say I don’t see how I can help you further because you seem to have got it all covered.

“I understand that not all grand, big, mind-blowing plans involve going into the big city, getting an impressive degree and starting a fruitful career. Sometimes, it’s day after fulfilling day of work in a place you love and care about, and being happy about the simple and little things in life. And if you waver or you need additional guidance, which I don’t think will happen in the near future, you know exactly where to find me.”

Natsu just stared. Makarov said all of that in one breath and it sounded really complicated but for some reason, Natsu thinks it’s actually very simple.

‘You’ve decided what you’re going to do with your life. I’m happy for you. Now go do it.’

Whatever, it was probably both simple and complicated and Natsu just won’t dwell too much about how that worked.

“So off you go now, lad.” Makarov said, waving him off.

“O-oh… okay?”

“Good luck. Enjoy.”

It’s when his advice is down to just those three words that Makarov really knew how great things were about to start.

“Wait. Wait, you’re tellin’ me that ‘stead of studying just one thing, you’re goin’ for two? One for your dad, one for you? At the same time?”Igneel looked over at where his son was perched by the counter, eating his dinner with his phone pressed to his ear. Natsu had not bothered to take his apron off on his break.“Luigi, that’s insane!” — a pause. ‘Yeah, crazyhead! THAT’S WHY YOU SHOULD DO IT!’ — and another pause as Natsu sniggered at something that Lucy must have said. “You sure your dad’s in on it? Uhhh, who, me?”

Igneel looked away when his son glanced at him, turning back to observe the late evening crowd of the restaurant but still keeping an ear on the side of the conversation he was privy to.

“You know me. You saw me write that form-… what, that was serious! The old man accepted it, yo. Hey, he really did! He just told me ‘good luck and enjoy’ so yeah. WHY WON’TCHA BELIEVE ME?”

Then a large group of customers filed inside the restaurant. One of the waiters greeted them cheerfully and ushered them to one of the family tables. Another waiter helped him arrange tables together to accommodate the group as Igneel mentally counted at least thirteen heads (not counting the small children just yet). He sent Natsu a look, who was listening to his best friend on the phone while mouthing numbers as he counted the group. Natsu looked back at his father and raised a hand, mouthing ‘I’m on it!’

Natsu spoke to the phone quickly. “Oi, Lucy, uhhh, hate to leave you right now but this big crowd just came in and I hafta finish my dinner quick so I can go help at the kitchen. Talk t’you tomorrow. Hang up now. Bye!”

“Five minutes?” Igneel asked, patting down his shirt, getting ready to entertain the guests himself. He might have competent hosts, waiters and waitresses, but oftentimes he preferred to be on the floor himself.

Natsu was already gobbling down the rest of his dinner as he replied, “Fif-minish, ya!” — it even came with a thumbs up.

He finished eating and deposited his plate to the dishwashers before heading for the kitchen.

“Yo people, we got a party out there!” he announced as he stepped in, tying his apron tightly behind him. Several heads snapped up and some idle hands stretched and prepared for activity. “Thirteen adults and ‘bout five, six kids. Dad’s takin’ their orders, they look like first-timers so we better prepare the best sellers. Start takin’ out the extra pans!”

Despite the kitchen staff all being older than him, they easily followed his lead. Some of them might be full-time employees, but Natsu had been working in the restaurant longer than most of them. He might not be a professional (yet), but he knew the place and how things worked just as much (or even better) than some of them.

Macao was already off duty — most days whenever Natsu was around to stay until closing time, the head cook could relax a bit and even go home early. He was comfortable leaving Natsu in charge for the rest of the night. It was a good thing, too. Not many people noticed, but Romeo and Macao seemed to be getting along better these days.

The orders came in shortly as the kitchen staff were preparing their pots and pans. The kitchen bustled with activity, intent on delivering their best to what looked like their last crowd for the night.

To everyone’s surprise, in the middle of cooking the main course, their boss stepped in the kitchen himself, wearing his own apron.

“How’s it goin’?” Igneel’s asked loudly, with the voice of a leader as he called for attention.

Everyone hurriedly gave their own updates, although in an organized order as was the common practice in their kitchen. It was a big crowd and several different dishes were needed all at once, so all hands on deck were occupied. After assessing the situation, he went from person to person in the kitchen, giving out a remark or two, adding extra condiments or stopping them from putting in too much, handing over a spice to add to a mixture, advising on the amount of ingredients to add or the size of vegetables being sliced or even the way a young trainee was stirring, and taste-testing some sauces and half-finished dishes.

As Natsu listened in and nodded as his father also commented on his work on one of the restaurant’s original dishes, he simply thought ‘What better classroom is there than here?’

He was getting live useful comments while working hands-on, and picking up useful critique… Some people would say that he was just goofing around or he was just following what was taught to him, helping a family business because they need an extra hand, but he knew better.

Others would think he’s keeping his world small, but they simply didn’t understand. He was learning new things every time, never running out of things to learn every day.

As Igneel stood beside his son with his own equipment and started on a new dish, Natsu stopped his work for a bit to watch. He deduced what his father was making just as the man got out the ingredients.

“Dad, turnip cake?”

“Yup.” the man nodded.

Natsu raised an eyebrow. “Didn’t hear that with the orders.”

“It’s on the house.” Igneel said, glancing at his son and grinning. “Complimentary. They’re a big bunch. One family and the grandparents are celebratin’ their 50th year together.”

The student whistled. “Whoa, 50. That’s neat.”

“I know. So I told ’em the side dish is my treat. If you finish early with that, help me out here, yeah? I’ll need at least three plates of these.”

“And the sauce. Your special?”

“Yeah. I’ll make the sauce. S’why I need ’ya to help me out, so I can work on the sauce.”

Natsu nodded, “Got it.” and instantly carried on his task.

Father and son proceeded to focus on their own dishes, expertly working on a recipe that they were both extremely familiar with.

After several minutes of silence, Igneel spoke up. “Hey, Natsu.”


“Lucy-chan and the others are goin’ to university, yeah? You really don’t mind stayin’ here?”

“Nope.” Natsu answered easily. “You don’t mind me stayin’ here, though, right?”

“Not really.” Igneel shrugged, trying to act nonchalant. “I just thought it’s kinda funny, and makes me feel old, knowing you and some o’ your friends like Laki-chan, and Droy and Lucy-chan are all preppin’ to take over the family business. Y’know, you with this ol’ place, Laki-chan and Droy on their own, and Lucy-chan with that big empire of her dad’s. Though how you get there are completely different stuff. They’re gonna go study a lot out there, and you’re gonna stay and learn right here.”

“Yeah.” Natsu agreed, a little smile forming on his face. “Yeah, s’kinda weird, huh.”

Igneel only nodded.

“Hey, dad.”


“You’re not… disappointed or anythin’… aren’t ya? ‘Bout all this? Me stayin’, not having any other big life plans?”

The man scoffed, looking at his son for a bit. “You think I think so”

Natsu shrugged. “S’just, I dunno, when I told you ‘bout it, you just said ’yeah okay great’ and that’s that. Nothin’ else.”

“You didn’t like that I just agreed with your decision?”

“No, ’course not. But. Yeah, you didn’t say anything… else.” Natsu trailed off, now almost finished with the dish assigned to him.

“What d’you want me to say?” Igneel asked.

Natsu had no answer to that. What did he want his father to say, anyway? He had no idea, really. Maybe he expected there to be some kind of… longer, deep conversations? Some elaborate speech about adulthood of some sort? Like, they have very many things to say about his future and plans and shit… Wasn’t that always the way with grown-ups? Responsibility stuff and all that? But oddly today, Igneel and even Makarov had surprisingly few things to say…

“Y’know, I’m proud of ‘ya.” the man said, eyes trained on his work, while Natsu looked at him. “And really happy too, ’cause I’m very lucky to have you wanting this job, ’cause I couldn’t see meself handin’ this restaurant off to anyone else.”

Natsu stopped moving, just staring down at his work, his hands seemingly paralyzed.

“Now,” Igneel continued. “If you wanna talk about disappointments, I’ll say I’m startin’ now, ’cause you’re gonna ruin that fish. The recipe said simmer, not toast, boy.”

Natsu snapped back to reality as he looked at his cooking and quickly withdrew the pan from the fire. “Oh, shi-… It’s your fault, old man!”

Igneel laughed. “What, me?”

“Yeah, ‘cause you were bein’ cheesy!” the boy scowled, grabbing a serving plate and setting the dish neatly in it before sending it to the servers.

“I’m bein’ a good dad.” Igneel correctly sternly. “Now, off you go. Two more plates of turnip cake. Chop chop!.”

“Hai, hai.” Natsu rolled his eyes, body moving on its own to follow the order. And then, with a silly grin, he added, “Boss.”

Igneel just chuckled and shook his head, not regretting a word out of his mouth that night.

He really was a proud dad, through and through.

By the last day of the discussions, the principal’s office door was filled with notes, post-its and well-meaning messages. It was like a dedication collage of sorts, and Erza as strict as she was couldn’t find it in her to track down the perpetrators and accuse them of vandalism. After all, the principal himself was treating it as some kind of present from the students.They can always talk about her plans at home, but Makarov didn’t exempt Erza from the sessions in his office. She knocked before entering, greeted by the principal’s smile.“Take a seat, my dear. There you go.”

Erza adjusted her glasses and waited as her guardian shuffled through the papers in his desk. He knew very well what the contents of her career form was, so she assumed her was just doing the routine filing of paperwork.

“So here we are.” Makarov started.

Erza nodded, smiling earnestly. “Here we are.”

“I am both happy and sad that this day has come. My little girl all grown up and leaving the nest.” the man mused, sighing. “Ah, I am getting sentimental. Really though, Erza-chan. I am proud that you’ve come this far.”

“You’re my family.” the red-head replied softly. “I’m just grateful for having you and… and all this. If you didn’t keep me in, I don’t know what could have happened to me.”

“You would have succeeded elsewhere, dear. You’ve always been strong and smart, even as a young girl. But I’m lucky and it’s been a privelege to take you in and watch you grown under my wing. Really.”

The young woman simply nodded quietly.

“So, topping the Fiore U. entrance exams. And taking a major in Law and a minor in Economics. I’m sure you’ll do brilliantly, as always.”

“Thanks, master. I… I really couldn’t have done it without you.”

“Within a few years, I’ll have an engineer and then a lawyer in the house. At least, if Laxus keeps being nice to finish his degree.”

“He’s on track.” Erza shrugged.

“A miracle that he still is. Thank heavens for small wonders.” the old man rolled his eyes. “Anyway, back to you, dear. I just want to tell you that you don’t have to overexert yourself.”

Erza blinked. “Overexert, sir?”

“You know, I feel like your determination to get a full scholarship and your… passing remarks about getting a part-time job on top of that… I feel as if that may stem from something else. Would you care to share? I know you, lass — and I know when you’re fretting about something.”

The student sighed, looking down at her hands folded neatly on her lap. “I just… I just don’t want to trouble you any further.”

“Trouble me?” the old man seemed to be confused. “About what?”

“You’ve helped me out so much and you’ve been with me every step of the way. I don’t know how to repay you for everything you’ve done for me… Gave me a home, family, friends… It’s just, there’s already Laxus studying there. So I don’t want to add to that. You’ve done more than enough, so as much as possible I don’t want to burden you—”

“Burden? My dear, you are never a burden—”

“I know how expensive the university fees are. So I’m going to work hard to keep the scholarship—”

“I know you will, my dear. That’s indeed a big help, and I’ll be more than happy to just let you focus on your studies. But this talk about working as well—”

“For allowance, for… some pocket money, so you wouldn’t have to worry about giving me that…—”

“You don’t have to. We can still afford it, Erza. I’m not opposed to your getting a part-time job, but don’t you for one second think that you should prioritize that just so I wouldn’t have to provide you with what you need. I always will. I’ll try my best to give you—”

“And that’s what I’m worried about, master.” Erza said, then quickly apologized. “I’m sorry for interrupting, but I-… I just, it’s all too much. I’ll be studying on the university, and granted, we wouldn’t have to pay for fees, but you’re just sending me off like that. I’ll go there, study, you’ll give me money for my needs, pay for my stay on the dorms… that’s just not right…”

“What’s not right with it, dear? That’s what Laxus does, too. And we’ve always managed. We pay for some of his fees and his allowance, he has the occasional gig for his band, he either stays with his friends or goes home here—”

“Exactly! Right now, he’s practically living with Freed, and then you’ll send me away, too. It’s like… like leaving you all alone. I don’t want to do that. Maybe I shouldn’t go live in the dorms after all… What if… what if there’s another emergency? If you get sick, who would take care of you? You can’t possible do all the chores all by yourself. I feel… I feel responsible. I’ve always been with you to help out and now I just don’t feel like… leaving.”

Makarov looked at his ward, a gentle fatherly expression on his face as he sighed. “Laxus goes home sometimes.”

“Laxus couldn’t even buy the right kind of sugar.”

“He’ll learn.” Makarov said simply. “And I’ll manage. What we just want for you is to not worry about anything and focus on studying.”

“You’ve done so much for me—”

“—and if you’re worried about that, you can repay us when you’ve finished your degree. There’s no greater happiness for a parent than seeing their child successful and happy.”

Erza frowned. “…I guess I just… felt too much like you’re sending me away and providing for everything while you’ll be left alone. And I couldn’t bear that.”

“Oh, believe me, I’ll have to get used to having both of you absent most times.” Makarov chuckled, shaking his head. “But we’ll manage, yes? We’ve been through worse.”

She nodded tentatively.

“We’ll manage, just like we always have, dear.”

When she got home, she was surprised to find the lights on. Makarov told her that he will be out for dinner at Yajima-san’s with a couple of old friends who wanted to check up on how he was doing. So coming to the only other option, she concluded that Laxus must be home.She was right. There he was, standing by the sink and washing the dishes that she and Makarov used that morning before they both rushed to get to the school on time.“Tadaima.” she called out, taking off her shoes and then her blazer.

“Okaeri.” came the grunt of a reply from the blonde, not bothering to look up from his chore.

“Master said he’ll have dinner at Yajima-san’s.” Erza explained, setting her things down and looking around. Laxus’ bag of extra clothes was dumped unceremoniously by the staircase. He must be planning to stay for days. Or maybe just to do his laundry.

“He got a date?” Laxus chided.

Erza simply chuckled. “Bob-san and Porlyusica-san. I’m going to cook dinner. Any requests?”

“Nah, surprise me.” was all he said.

The red-head went upstairs to change out of her uniform, then returned to the kitchen to find Laxus pouring over what looked like his homework on the counter. He was typing away at his laptop, textbook on one side and a notebook on the other, filled with several equations, scribbles and blueprints or whatever he called them.

She started preparing dinner for two wordlessly. As she was chopping some meat, her companion spoke up.

“Gramps told me you’re hesitatin’ about the dorms.”

Erza sighed. “I’m just worried about leaving him here by himself—”

Laxus glanced at her before turning back to his laptop. “You don’t have to. You go home on weekends, I’ll hold the fort weekdays. Just focus on uni.”

She raised an eyebrow, then closed her eyes and breathed heavily. Laxus rarely stayed at home and legitimately hated household chores. Him volunteering is certainly out of character… “Did Master ask you to—”

“No. It’s just me. Seriously, you people don’t trust me enough ‘round here.” he groaned. “’Course we can’t leave the old man alone, genius. I’ve got my bike and I can travel easy. You should go stay in the dorms. Easier to get around campus and you won’t waste time traveling that you could spend studyin’. I’ve always known we’d have to adjust when you go to uni, you know.”

Erza looked at him. “You and Master said the same things. To just focus and… not worry.”

“Yeah, ‘cause you’re gonna waste that big brain of yours if you keep worryin’ about the little things.” Laxus said, looking back at her. “And you know what, we should just give ourselves time and space to cope. We’ll work it out as we go along. We’ll tweak stuff on the way. So stop fussing over it.”

The red-head looked down blankly. “I can’t help it.”

“Just… don’t let us hold you back.” the blonde said, sighing heavily. “Do that for us at least, ’cause we don’t want to be the family that stopped you from doing your own thing.”

It took her a while to answer, but when she did so, she did it with an amused smile. “You sounded like an actual big brother just then.”

He simply scoffed and looked away. “Shut up.”

That night, she cooked his favorite meal.

Maybe they’ll be okay after all.

And then came the last student. It was someone Makarov saved for last because he thought he wanted to give the young man some extra time and space.He assumed this because the career form that this student submitted was a blank one.Gajeel Redfox first came to him more than a year ago trailing silently after his best friend, Juvia, who apologized to Makarov for everything they have done to harm FairyGaku and any of its students. It was Juvia who bowed deeply, but Gajeel himself was looking down at the ground, which was the best gesture of apology he could muster at the time. He had been sure of his steps, simply following the shy blunette, five steps behind. You would think that he would look lost, but he didn’t. Gajeel knew that right there was exactly were he should be, looking after Juvia’s back, ready to grab her if anyone rejected or hurt her. A protective kind of proximity.

Then Juvia asked if she could enroll in FairyGaku, because while it seemed like the worst idea on the face of the planet to enroll in a school you previously openly attacked, there was something about Makarov’s forgiving smile that told her that she can join them, if she wanted to.

Makarov had said yes, and then asked Gajeel if he wanted to join his best friend.

“No.” came the answer, and it took Juvia a whole other week of trying to convince him, until finally Makarov paid a visit to her flat, simply to check up on her.

He was not surprised to find Gajeel there, and then he requested a private conversation.

In the end, he managed to convince the raven-head to go to FairyGaku. Makarov felt a little guilty using Gajeel’s protectiveness for Juvia as a bargaining chip, but he coudln’t take that back now. He was also thankful of Levy’s kindness (and everyone’s, for that matter), because despite everything that had happened, they were willing to give Gajeel a second chance.

Over just a few months, Gajeel has changed to a still-rough-but-now-friendlier face. The others have also accepted him, as if the Phantom incident never happened at all.

But while Gajeel was always sure of himself, right now as he sat on the chair across the principal, he looked lost.

“So I don’t suppose that you’ll be following Juvia-chan all the way to Magarett.” Makarov started off with a light-hearted air. “If you were, I’m sure she would have mentioned it. She was very excited.”

“Nah.” Gajeel snorted, playing along but not meeting the old man’s eyes. “As much as I wanna watch her dump that other persistent Ice Princess all over again, I’m not gonna be a third wheel. Let her have her time alone with Frosty.”

“Not worried so much?”

“If he breaks her heart, I’ll break his face. Or maybe more than his face. But Juvi can do that herself. So no, not worried.”

Makarov nodded. “You’re staying here while she goes, then? Finally parting ways?”

“I’ve bothered her enough.” Gajeel simply said. “‘Bout time she stopped lookin’ after me like I’m a lost pup.”

The old man sighed heavily, leaning back against his chair. This made Gajeel look up at him. To the young man’s eyes, the principal looked tired. That didn’t surprise him so much. He was the last session after all. There must have been harder conversations.

“Why do you kids always go so hard on yourselves when people just want to help?”

Gajeel just stared, while Makarov sighed again. It has been a recurring theme with these children.

“Cana, Gray, even Erza… now you.” Makarov said. “You are so set in the notion that everything should be repaid as soon as possible.”

“It’s ’cause that’s how things are, right?” Gajeel asked roughly.

“That’s not always the case, Gajeel. Some people—”

Gajeel scoffed. “Don’t go mushy on me and tell me that ‘ask and you shall receive’ crap, old man. I’m not one of those kids who’re treated like kids until one day we’re given one sheet of paper sayin’ we’ve finished reading all of these books and answerin’ all of these test questions: congratulations, you’re an adult. Now go out there, you’re on your own now. I’ve been on my own even before that.”

Makarov looked at him, expression stern. “You know that’s not true.”

“I’ve been on my own since I left my sucky old man. Times were tough, even when Metallicana was bein’ kind, which was like once in a blue moon. I was only gettin’ by ’cause of what little my dad left me with, and the cash that my mother sends me regularly so she won’t have to look after me. ’Cause who wants a son like me, right? Then there’s Juvia and I-… I don’t know, she’s just there.”

“You can’t repay all those people all at once, Gajeel.”

“I’ve repaid my dad by not killin’ him right then and there when he was hurting me and my sister. But I’m gonna be done with high school and I have to stop askin’ from my mother. ‘Cause at this point, at my age? She shouldn’t be feelin’ obligated-…” he trailed off, then groaned. “Fact is, I have to start payin’ her back for her trouble, and I’ll start by not makin’ her give me stuff in the first place. I can start by tellin’ her ‘you can stop now I can do this on my own now.’ And Juvia. Specially Juvia — ’cause I have no fucking idea what I did to deserve her but she’s there anyway.”

“Why do you think that as much as possible you should avoid owing people? Even ones who give expecting nothing in return? Your mother — she may feel distant but if she didn’t sincerely care about you, she would have stopped sending you money to support you. And like it or not, Juvia-chan wouldn’t stick around for you if she doesn’t think that you’re worth it. If they wanted you to pay her back, they would have said so. Believe me.”

“She’s always been too kind, that’s all—”

“How about your friends?”

“They’re all too kind and trustin’, the bunch of ’em—”

“Remember what we talked about, a few months ago?”

Gajeel paused, looking at the man. “We talk every other week—”

“Just right after an assault by members of Phantom gang involving you, Levy-chan, Juvia-chan and the other girls?”

Gajeel had wanted to forget that. “…Yeah, what about it?”

“Do you remember what I asked you then?”

“You asked what’re my plans after graduation, I told ‘ya I haven’t thought ’bout it and I got no family to help me consider anythin’ anyway.”

“And then what did I say after that?”

“You said that…” the student’s eyes fell to his lap. “You’re my family now.”

“And I remember telling you that this is not out of pity, that we all truly care, and if I can help you in any way, I will.”

The raven-head nodded, staying silent.

“I can’t help you if I don’t know what it is that you really need help with.” Makarov explained patiently. “I’d think that you’d have thought about this since then.”

“I have.”

“So… barring anything to do with repaying debts or not becoming a life-long charity case or whatever you think your priority is. Will you tell me what you really want to do?”

Gajeel finally sighed, then shrugged. “I still don’t know.” and before Makarov could click his tongue in pity or insist that the teen was still hiding his answer, Gajeel added: “I’m not lying. I tried, I know it’s pathetic—”

“I won’t hold it against you. I would never.” Makarov cut him off firmly. “There’s nothing wrong with not knowing what you want to do yet, Gajeel. You’re young, and… and well, you’ve been through things, you’re still coping, and this is understandable.”

“I just… I know I don’t want to stand by, I have to do something. Juvia’s leavin’, Lucy is too, I’ll have no place to stay in, so I’ll prob’ly use whatever cash I got left to move in the cheapest place I could find, then get whatever job I could just to get by.”

Makarov nodded encouragingly. “That’s reasonable. Keep going…”

“I don’t really know what I wanna do just yet so college is outta the question and I think it’s better that way for now, ’cause I don’t have the money to pay for it anyway. But I’m pretty sturdy and I think I can get a job somewhere, so if I get one, I’m good. Will try to not bother my mother. Then… then when I’m stable maybe I can think of what I wanna do—”

“So your future plan isn’t really blank, Gajeel-kun.” Makarov said, smiling a bit.

“What, it is!”

“Not. It doesn’t have to be ‘get this degree’ or ‘start this big company’ or ‘be a great doctor-engineer-president-astronaut’, Gajeel. For one, I think ‘get a house and a job’ is a pretty solid answer in itself already. If your first plan is to think of a good plan, that’s great.”

Gajeel scoffed. “Yer just sayin’ that, old man.”

“I’m not.” the principal insisted. “You have a very reasonable plan here, you just don’t think it’s good enough.”

“’Cause it isn’t—”

“I know some students who want to be something but don’t believe they can do it so they settle for less. I know some students who’ll be starting a whole four-year degree not because they really want it but because they think that’s how they could meet everyone’s expectations. I know some students who didn’t know what they really want to be, and picked something random or convenient from a list just to meet a deadline.” Makarov shook his head pityingly at the thought of those children. “Yet here you are. You may not know what you really want, but you have a good plan until you find out for yourself. And I think that’s better than diving headfirst into something you’ll regret.”

Gajeel fell silent as he thought about the old man’s words.

“Believe me, child. If I could convince other students to do things that way, if I could get them to stop for a while, maybe take the time to find themselves first and stop rushing, I would do it in a heartbeat.”

The young man shook his head slowly, saying in a low voice. “You think… you think I can face the others and just say that?”

“Say what?”

“Oh, I dunno, maybe approach Salamander and tell ’im, hey I have no idea what I really wanna do with my fucking life so for now I’m just gonna live in a closet and get the first job I can find, maybe I’ll think of something while at it?”

“If you really think that your friends would react badly to that — to you taking your time to decide — then you should reevaluate your choice of friends, boy.”

Gajeel nodded silently. If he thought about it, which of his friends would possibly criticize him for his… was it a choice? Decision? He’ll still with ‘plan’. Which of them would laugh or scold or at worst, not believe him if he told them?

Juvia? No, Juvia would smile, accept it all and possibly hover. Natsu, Gray, the other guys? Nah, they’ll probably just say ’okay, man. if that’s how you roll. Lucy, with her always clear vision of inheriting a company or an obvious dream of being a writer? She’ll just smile and wish him luck. Ambitious Erza, with her penchant for responsibility and maturity? She would probably act all-knowing but reasonable, like her guardian. Levy? No, she wouldn’t — not with her immaculate understanding nature…

What the fuck was he gettin’ so worked up and worried for.

Maybe it was the weeks-before-graduation nerves that’s got him freaking out.

Because for all his complaining and his insistense that he really didn’t know what he wanted, he still couldn’t quite believe that he was actually graduating.

It was almost too good to be true, really. A good school, great friends, an adult whose words he can hold onto if he still had any doubts, safety, and now a reassurance that he was just as good as anyone else. He didn’t know how he deserved all this but there they were, anyway. Working out, for now.

Neither student nor principal spoke for a while, until Makarov started to neatly pile the papers before him.

“So have you looked for a place yet?”

“A bit. I survived months on end on just Juvi’s couch and a cupboard. I’ll be good with a small room s’long as it has its own bathroom. Why’d you ask?”

The old man smiled. “I have just the place.”

The lights were switched off from where Juvia was sitting on her couch, tapping away at her phone. She smiled down at an online group conversation between her friends. Lucy has just announced that she was ‘allowed’ to take up creative writing after all, and the message thread was filled with various congratulations and well-wishes. Displayed on the TV was a paused movie.“Here ’ya go.” came a rough voice from behind her. The blunette turned to accept the canned soda that Gajeel was offering.“Thanks, Gajeel-kun.” she replied happily as Gajeel sat on the couch beside her, his own soda in one hand and a bowl of popcorn on the other. Juvia grabbed the remote control nearby. “Should Juvia play the movie now?”

Gajeel leaned comfortably on the couch. “Not if you’re still busy with that. What’s everyone yellin’ ’bout, still Bunnygirl’s writing thing?”

“Yep. Everyone’s really happy.” Juvia said, then put her phone down and pressed the ‘play’ button on the remote. She inched closer to her companion to get some popcorn as their movie started.

Juvia’s mother had gone back to France that afternoon. Her parents will be back in time for her high school graduation and to help her move to Magarett, but for the meantime they were intent on having some work done.

It was Juvia’s first night alone for a few weeks, and Gajeel was all-too happy to accompany her again. He wouldn’t admit it out loud, but he missed their movie nights.

As the opening credits started, Gajeel spoke. “She should follow through with that. I read her story. T’was good.”

“Gajeel-kun did?” Juvia blinked, looking at her companion.

“Yeah, one time she left it lyin’ around. Though she didn’t like it.” he sniggered. “Lemme tell you though, Salamander and Frosty didn’t leave me alone until I told ’em what I read. Turns out they like it and want updates. Your boyfriend’s a sap.”

Juvia pouted. “There’s nothing wrong with Gray-sama liking a romance novel!”

Gajeel snorted, then seeing as the movie itself has started, he just said “Whatever.” and she smiled softly as she hugged a throwpillow and made herself comfortable curled up against him.

“How many times have we watched this fucking movie, man?” he sighed.

“This is the first time.” Juvia said, raising an eyebrow.

“I thought you said we’re watching the one with the dying and singing girl?”

“Juvia said dying girl, no singing, and in this one, the boy is dying too.”


“Juvia and Gajeel-kun has watched ‘A Walk to Remember’ five times already, since Gajeel-kun asked.”

“So this one’s different?”

“Juvia bets Gajeel-kun will still cry.”

“Fuck no I don’t cry.”

By the middle of the movie, Juvia had leaned against her companion and Gajeel consciously draped an arm around her shoulders, bowl of popcorn balanced in his lap.

Towards the end, Juvia was openly sobbing, while eating her feelings. She had abandoned the throwpillow and was hugging the popcorn bowl to herself.

Between muffled sobs, he made out something like, “He gave her a forever within a numbered days, Gajeel-kun!”


“B-B-But-… IT’S SO SAD!”

She felt him hugging her back as she cried loudly against him. “Stop crying.”

“Is Gajeel-kun cryi—”

“I’m not—”

The blunette was about to look up but Gajeel’s big hand patted her head and kept her face buried on his chest. “Gajeel-kun-!”

“Don’t look. I’m crying.”

He was.

As the movie’s end credits rolled, Juvia set the popcorn aside on the coffee table, finally pulled away and inched away a bit to give her best friend some space. Gajeel put his empty soda can away and grabbed the box of tissues nearby. He took some tissues before handing the box to Juvia. The credits were still rolling as they came back to themselves.

Gajeel swore that he will never watch another sucky tearjerker movie with her again (he doesn’t really mean it anyway, so she just ignored him). He was cut off when Juvia, giggling, laid her head on his lap, cozily.

He looked at her once before his eyes looked heavenwards in exasperation.

“Gajeel-kuuuuun…” the girl called out softly, yawning.

Gajeel couldn’t resist but yawn as well. “Whaaaaaaaat?”

There was a hesistant pause before she continued, “Juvia told mom.”

“Told your mom what?” he asked, not really getting what his flatmate was talking about.


He looked at her. She was lying on her side, avoiding his eyes as she poked distractedly on a little rip on his pants. “…What everything?”

“Everything. Phantom. Gajeel-kun. How Juvia was lonely, and it was bad, but some of it was good. How Juvia was involved in the attack on FairyGaku, how Juvia was attacked just this year… How Gajeel-kun protected Juvia as much as he could both times…” she glanced at him, the looked away again.

His voice was grim as he asked, “How did she take it?” — because maybe that was why Juvia’s mother went back and left again. Maybe they fought and she didn’t want to stay anymore, or something like that. For someone to keep something as big as that from their parents…

“Mom cried. She was sad that Juvia kept all this from her. Maybe a bit angry, even… Worried, too.” the girl sighed, her voice a mere whisper. “Juvia said sorry. A lot of sorries. But it turned out okay. Juvia made sure to explain everything… And to let mom know that everything’s fine now… Mom was happy to know that it’s all over and she knows Juvia’s friends now too. She said they’re good friends.”

“They are.” Gajeel agreed quietly.

For all that FairyGaku gave them, Gajeel was most grateful of all that it gave Juvia the friends that she deserved. Girls like Lucy, Levy, Cana and Erza who were loyal, kind and trustworthy… Guys like Natsu, Jet, Droy and Max who wouldn’t make fun of her quirks and would never take advantage of her. Gray, who was a surprisingly competent boyfriend. Even those older sibling figures like Laxus and Mira… And Makarov, who was a great stand-in parent. Over the weeks, if Juvia’s mom have really met those people, she would have little to worry about for her daughter anymore. She was finally with the people who would treat her right.

“Specially Gajeel-kun, she said.”

He blinked. “No way she said that.”

“She did.” Juvia insisted, smiling up at him. “Mom wanted to go meet Gajeel-kun, but Gajeel-kun still had a discussion with the pricipal, mom had a flight. She said Gajeel-kun should come over for dinner when mom and dad get back.”

“I’ll ruin it.”

“Gajeel-kun is just saying that.” she said, tone final.

He huffed. Maybe Juvia’s mother was like her daughter. Too kind. Too trusting.

“Juvia will miss Gajeel-kun when Juvia leaves. Does Gajeel-kun have plans now?”

He sighed, thinking for a moment on how to answer, then finally he shrugged. “The same. Find somewhere to stay and get a job.”

She nodded, easily accepting his answer. He wasn’t surprised. “Then Gajeel-kun will go from there?”

He nodded.

“What did the principal say?”

“He thought t’was a reasonable plan. I still think it sucks.”

“Gajeel-kun should listen to the principal.” Juvia scolded lightly. “It is a nice plan. Better than no plans at all.”

“Why’s everyone saying that?”

“Gajeel-kun is too hard on himself.” the girl said simply, reaching out to poke her companion’s cheek playfully. He didn’t swat her hand away and just frowned at her. She giggled. “Juvia knows Gajeel-kun will do well. How about guitar? Gajeel-kun likes guitar.”

“My guitar has cobwebs on it and I dunno if it still works.”

“Juvia will help clean. If it’s not working anymore, Gajeel-kun can save up and buy one!”

“I’ll think about it.” he said, humoring her. When she just nodded contentedly, he looked at her, allowing a softer expression on his face. “Hey, you. Take care out there, alright? ‘Ya forget to lock the doors before sleepin’ and you talk to strangers just ‘cause they ask nicely. Humming while walking home and not watchin’ your back. Leaving your stuff in places. Be more careful. And if Icebutt’s being a jerk, tell him outright. Punch him. You punch good. Actually, if people are bein’ rude to you, punch them. Or kick them, you kick good too.”

She giggled. “Juvia is not violent!”

“Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t defend yourself, idiot.” Gajeel rolled his eyes. “Seriously.”

“Okay.” Juvia finally nodded. “Juvia will take care. But Gajeel-kun, too. Juvia will call Gajeel-kun everyday until Juvia is sure that Gajeel-kun is eating properly and sleeping properly and resting well and… and um, and not being grumpy at everyone!”

“I can do that without you tellin’ me.”

“Not always! Gajeel-kun needs reminders!”

“You don’t hafta worry ‘bout me, I’m just gonna stay here. You need more worryin’ about, goin’ away and all—”

He stopped when he saw her frowning up at him stubbornly.


“Gajeel-kun always tells Juvia that Juvia worries too much about others but Gajeel-kun does, too.” she pointed out. “So let Juvia worry or Juvia will tell Gray-sama that Gajeel-kun cries whenever he hears ‘Only Hope’.”

He snorted. “You wouldn’t.”

“Juvia would.”

He stopped. She was serious. “Fine, fine. Call whenever you want. I’ll just lie, tell ’ya I just ate dinner when I haven’t eaten lunch yet—”

“Gajeel-kuuuuun!” she was legitimately about to cry.

“I’m kidding, I’m kidding!”

Juvia beamed, then just laid there contentedly as the last of the movie credits disappeared on the screen.

“Hey.” Gajeel said after a while of silence. “The old man offered me somethin’, you know. Told him I was still thinkin’ bout it, but it… it kinda seemed like a fair deal.”

“What is it?” Juvia asked curiously.

“He told me since Erza’s gonna stay in the dorms at uni and Laxus… err, stays with his band I think, the old man’ll be alone in their house more often than not. So… so he was sayin’ he could clean up a spare room or the attic, lemme stay over so he’ll have company and some help ‘round the house. He said it’ll be a nice thing ’cause then Erza and Laxus would stop worryin’ ’bout him, and I’ll have somewhere to stay for free.”

“That’s great!” Juvia said, sitting up so she can look at her best friend properly. “Gajeel-kun should accept it!”

He shrugged awkwardly. “I don’t want to freeload anymore.”

Juvia frowned. “The Principal just wants to help.”

“He’s helped us enough, don’tcha think?” he looked back at her. “I mean, lettin’ us enroll. Forgivin’ us — forgivin’ me when I didn’t even ask. Lookin’ after us since then, like we’re actually his kids, like the others who’ve been there from he start.”

The girl looked down and nodded. “That’s right, but—”

“See? I can’t just burst in there like I’m actually his family—”

“But Gajeel-kun could help the principal that way!” Juvia reasoned out. “The principal needs someone around the house since Erza and Laxus-san will be away and if Gajeel-kun really wants to thank the principal for lookin’ after us, at least Gajeel-kun could help look after the principal too.”

He considered it. It made sense. If it wast just helping the old man carry stuff around, clean the house, buy groceries, wash dishes and cook food… he can do that, given that he will be staying under the same roof as well. He was sure it would cast Erza’s and Laxus’ worries away if they knew their guardian had company… Besides, as much as Gajeel didn’t want to admit it, it would be like finally having with a parent again… and that made him oddly happy despite his track record with disappointing parental figures.

“Don’t you think… I’m getting too good of a deal? Free food and lodging just to help an old man out?”

Juvia shrugged. “Ask him for rent, then.”

“He won’t give in.”

“Tell the principal Gajeel-kun won’t stay unless he has to pay something at least. Juvia bets the principal will charge at least the bare minimum.”

He looked at his roommate. Juvia cocked her head to the side and blinked.

Despite himself, Gajeel raised a fist in offering. “You’re brilliant, you are.”

Juvia simply smiled and bumped her own fist against her best friend’s. “What would Gajeel-kun do without Juvia?”

“I dunno, probably die cold, hungry and miserable in the gutter long ago.”

Gajeel finally found himself agreeing to the old man. His future plans may not be as ambitious and may lack some great direction, but it was solid start.

Juvia had tucked herself to his side again, grabbing the remote control. He asked, “So… another movie?”

“Does Gajeel-kun want to watch Frozen again?”

“Do you know how hard Beer Queen laughed at me ’cause I was humming that Love Door-… Open Door song?”

Love is An Open Door?”

“Yeah? So no. FUCK NO.”

She sniffed, then pouted and looked away.

Gajeel rolled his eyes. “Fine. Bring it on.”

“Make the best of this test, and don’t ask why.
It’s not a question, but a lesson learned in time.
It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right.
I hope you had the time of your life.”
— Green Day

Chapter Notes:

I had several drafts of this chapter and some of the kids have completely different career choices then. I went with my guts and stuff. If you’ve read “Laxus Tries to Deal with Kids”, my other fic, you’ll probably notice that it was basically a practice-slash-change-of-pace thingy while writing this chapter, so both derive from each other a bit. Anyways, I hope you enjoyed this quite shorter-than-usual chapter.

And if you didn’t get it, Gajeel and Juvia were watching A Fault In Our Stars. I’m sorry, my sister and her guy friend was watching that movie (and both sobbing) upon time of writing.

And finally, next chapter is the last one! Well, the last one, and then there’s an epilogue but yeah so officially the last proper chapter…

The moment we’ve all been waiting for~

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