Anatomy of Betrayal
Mystogan/Erza Knightwalker fanfiction
"I surrender! I surrender!" a blue-haired boy cried out laughingly even as the red-haired girl wrestled him to the ground, twisting his arms behind his back and pressing her knee into his spine.
"I'm disappointed in you," the girl declared, secure in her victory. "This is the third time this morning I beat you."
The boy turned his head and grinned at her.
"You mean the third time I let you beat me."
The boy suddenly arched his back, dislodging her and then he tackled her with a war cry, their positions now reversed.
"I win!" he crowed. The girl growled.
"You have three seconds to let me go. One. Two. Three."
"Three," he finished with her, released her arms and started sprinting away, ignoring her cries of "Coward!". They chased each other for some time, laughing and shouting until they collapsed to the ground, still grinning madly. Their breathing finally calm, the boy twisted his head to look at the girl.
"Say, Erza. Have you ever thought about what you are going to do when you grow up?"
"A little," Erza admitted, rolling on her stomach and plucking a blade of grass.
"Well?" the boy prompted.
"I'm going to join the army and become the best warrior in the kingdom."
"Yup," she nodded and then she put the grass to her mouth, whistling on it. "I will have a strong armor and a powerful weapon and a Legyon of my own. And I'll be an officer and everyone will respect me."
The boy stared upwards, his eyes slightly envious.
"That sounds nice."
Erza frowned and then reached over, punching him in the shoulder.
"I don't know why you complain, Your Highness," she emphasized the title. "You are a Prince, Jellal, you'll become a King when you grow up. That's about the only thing that could be better than a warrior."
"But I don't want to change," Jellal protested. "Look at my Father. He doesn't even care anymore what I do, as long as I keep up with my classes. He is in the meetings all day long. And last night I heard we are going into a war again. If that's what it takes to be a King, then I don't want to be one."
Erza smacked him upside the head this time.
"Dummy! A King does more than sitting at the meetings or declaring wars. A King takes care of the country, making laws to protect his people and to make their lives better. He is responsible for them. You love Edolas, don't you?" Jellal nodded and Erza grinned. "See, that's all you need to be a good King."
"Hmm," he stared at her and then sat up, pulling her along. "Let's make a deal Erza."
"Yes," he looked into her eyes, the eyes of his best friend in the whole world. "I will do everything in my power to become a good King and you will do your best in your training so that you can help me with ruling the kingdom as my second-in-command."
"You mean I'll get to be your right-hand-man?" she asked for confirmation. Jellal nodded and a grin spread across her face. "We'll make Edolas into the best country in the world."
"You can bet on that. With the two of us together, there's nothing that can stop us. It's a promise."
"It's a promise," she repeated.
They clasped their hands firmly, sealing the deal. Nothing would stop them. Nothing would ever separate them. Best friends forever.
Jellal jerked awake from his slumber. The dream, or rather the memory, was almost ten years old. Though, it was not surprising that it came to haunt him right then. He glanced out the window, noticing that the waxing moon moved very little and Jellal estimated that he had gone to a bed barely an hour ago.
It had been a long day. Coming back to his homeland after seven years' absence, preparing to give up his life in order to establish a new king in his stead and then having to take up a responsibility to rule a nation that had just been dealt a debilitating blow would tire out anyone. And there was so much to do after the reverse Anima had closed. Recalling the army, ordering a ceasefire between Fairy Tail and Edolas forces and trying to make some sense of all of the changes that had happened over his absence.
At least nobody had disputed his claim to the throne. His features were distinct enough that some people would recognize him after all that time without any trouble. His father had been in no state to protest either. Most of the councillors and commanders had already taken a vow of obedience to their new king and the preparation for a coronation was in full swing. And throughout it all, he had searched for that one face, listened for that one voice only to be disappointed.
Erza had ignored him. Not completely, she couldn't afford that, but she had sent a note saying she was recovering from her injuries and was at the moment unable to see him. To his surprise, no one doubted it, though several people expressed wonder that someone had been able to match the Fairy Hunter in combat. Putting together all of the tidbits he had overheard, Jellal got a pretty accurate picture of the person that Erza had become.
Competent. Driven. Unfailingly loyal. Dedicated to her cause. A superior fighter.
Distant. Cruel. Merciless. Relentless in reaching her goals. A cold-blooded bitch.
Jellal stood up from his bed and went towards the window, thinking that some air would do him good. The rustling of the curtains was his only warning as a cold steel pressed against his neck and a female figure melted out of the shadows. He could barely see her outline but he recognized her immediately.
"Erza," he whispered and the pressure on his neck increased.
"Quiet!" she ordered as she kept her spear pointed at him. "Sit down!"
He obeyed out of shock, still unsure how she came to be in his room when she was supposed to be recovering from her fight. He couldn't see her well but she seemed to move without pain. Then again, it meant nothing. For all he knew, she was just stubborn enough to ignore her pain in order to... to do whatever she had come to do.
"Is it safe for you to move around?" he asked before he could stop himself. She gave a short bark of laughter.
"Why should you care, Your Highness?"
She moved to the table, keeping her eyes on him all the time, and lit a small lamp. The light let him see that she was quite bruised but otherwise looked unharmed.
"I worried about you when I heard you were injured. We used to-"
"Exactly," she cut him off. "We used to be friends. That's in the past. What I'm here for concerns the future."
"What are you here for then, Erza?" he asked. She seemed to want to talk. Good, it might give him time to figure out how to deal with the new her. It was clear to him that the woman standing in front of him was no longer his childhood friend.
"I'm here to decide whether I execute you or not," she replied coldly, still keeping a wary distance between them. Jellal stared. Execute him? What for? He wasn't even aware he said it aloud until she snorted.
"You have the nerve to ask? You are a traitor, Your Highness. You betrayed your country, you were an accomplice of known criminals, you obstructed their persecution... Shall I go on?"
"Then why do it like this?" Jellal gestured at the empty room. "Why not make it a public trial? Wouldn't that satisfy you more?"
Erza shook her head. It seemed she had decided to keep her hair short, he noted absentmindedly.
"It wouldn't work. You have bewitched the people. They seem all too willing to forgive you. You are their hero and heroes can't do anything wrong," her mouth twisted in disgust. "They wouldn't care about justice at all."
"And you do?" he decided to challenge her. She was so different from the young girl he had remembered that he wasn't sure he even knew her anymore.
"It's the only thing I care about. Edolas deserves better than a traitor on its throne."
"I didn't betray Edolas, Erza," Jellal said firmly. "I wanted to save it from itself."
For a moment he thought she would lunge at him in fury as she let her weapon fall to the ground.
"How dare you?" she hissed, trembling in a barely restrained anger. "You dare to sit there and pretend you did nothing wrong? You dare to claim you cared? Then why the fuck did you leave?" her voice rose sharply at the last word. "Why did you throw it all away and disappear for seven years without even having the decency to say goodbye? You ARE a traitor, Jellal. You broke our promise! You left me behind to pick up the pieces and you have the nerve to claim it was for the good of the country?" she broke off, breathing heavily. "I should kill you right now. No one would suspect anything. An untended wound from your mock fight with Dragneel could be blamed for your death."
Jellal's eyes widened in surprise.
"Mock fight?" he repeated. How could she know? No one else seemed to suspect anything.
"Please, don't insult my intelligence," Erza seemed to calm down slightly. "I was the one who arrested him and his companions in the first place. They were a part of Earthland Fairy Tail. The Fairy Tail whose side you took. It wasn't hard to put the pieces together. I'm just surprised nobody else caught on."
"So am I," he admitted quietly and felt a small triumph at catching her off-guard with his remark.
"It doesn't matter now," she said at last. "I'm going to give you a chance to defend yourself. If you manage to give me good reasons for your actions, I will let you live. If not..." she shrugged.
"What's the point, Erza? You are already convinced I'm the worst scum on the earth. Nothing I will say can convince you."
She looked away for a moment.
"Part of me still remembers," she confessed quietly. "That part will make me listen."
Jellal took a deep breath. He didn't doubt she was serious. If he didn't defend himself, she would end his life. Then again, wasn't it what he had wanted before? He had planned to give his life in penance for his actions. Panther Lily had refused to kill him, though. But Erza didn't seem to have the same problem. It still left the question of who would succeed him. And then he realized that the answer literally stared him in the face. It crossed his mind that Natsu would be disappointed in him but he would never know.
"I won't defend myself," he announced firmly and Erza's eyes widened in shock. "You are right. I'm a traitor. I left, thinking I knew best. I put a lot of people in danger unnecessarily. I deserve to die," he stood up and took a step closer to her. "So do it, Erza. You have the most right of all people I know."
She stared at him wordlessly. And then something flashed in her eyes and she stepped forward. Jellal kept looking in her eyes. She lifted her right hand and she slapped him so hard he stumbled back.
"Coward!" she spat. "You really don't care at all, do you?"
Jellal touched his cheek. He didn't expect that. Why did she seem even more angry than before?
"I don't understand," he said. "What do you want from me, Erza?"
"I want you to take up your responsibilities. I want you to stop running away. I want you to live up to our promise," she was no longer shouting. Her voice sounded almost broken. "Apparently, I want what you cannot give."
She turned away from him, her form rigid and unmoving.
"It hurt," she whispered. "It hurt a lot that you would leave without saying anything. It hurt that you would think I wasn't strong enough to help you. I waited for a year, Jellal. One fucking year, always finding some reason to hang around the Anima room, hoping that you would come back. And when you did, the first thing you asked was why I dared to point my weapon at you?" she whirled around and stalked towards him. "Well, let me make it clear to you. I dared to point my weapon at the Prince of Edolas because I no longer considered him a Prince. You tossed it all away - your heritage, your loyalty, your friendship with me," she emphasized each point by poking his chest with a finger. "I came tonight to give you one last chance and you tossed away that as well. I thought I would be able to serve you if you could convince me you were right. Or at least that you thought you were right. But I was wrong."
She took a deep breath and then squared her shoulders.
"It's over, Jellal. I'll have my resignation from the army delivered the first thing in the morning. I won't be seeing you again. Good bye."
She stooped down to gather her weapon, not once looking back at him. And Jellal realized that unless he did something fast, she would truly walk out of his life forever. He had been wrong before. His childhood friend was there after all. She was there and she had been hurt by him several times over and he should be making it up to her.
"Erza!" he caught her arm before she took a single step to the window. She struck out at him in reflex but he was expecting it and blocked her easily. Taking a gentle but firm hold of her wrist, he spinned her around to face him. "I'm sorry, Erza. I'm truly sorry. I didn't realize just how much I hurt you with my actions. I..." her face was unmovable. Words would have no effect on her. He could talk for hours and it would make no difference. It was time for a drastic action.
Pulling her closer, he lowered his head and before he could change his mind or she figure out what he planned to do, he kissed her. It was just a gentle brush of his lips across hers but as she still didn't react, he did it once more, keeping the contact longer and firmer. Still nothing. He released her wrist and put his hand behind her neck, tilting her head to fit better against him.
"Please, Erza," he whispered against her lips and she finally broke down. She pressed herself against him and her mouth moved across his. And Edolas tilted off its axis once more. She was responding to him, with all of the pent-up feelings and desperation inside of her. He wasn't even aware of the slight pain as she tugged at his hair harshly. He was barely conscious of the fact his arms were firmly anchored around her waist, keeping her close to him. He just knew that she wouldn't be leaving him after all, that she would stay with him, she would be there to help him.
"I need you, Erza," he got out in between the kisses. "I need you to keep me on the right path. Promise me you'll stay. Please."
She pulled away at that, regarding him solemnly before giving him a short, concise nod.
And everything was right with the world.