"Fire Dragon's Iron Fist!" Natsu shouted as he charged towards Max. Max smiled at Natsu and crouched down, placing both hands on the ground.
Natsu took one more step forward, his eyes widening as his foot got stuck into the ground. He looked down and saw the ground beneath him had been turned into sand.
"What the hell! I'm stuck!" Natsu exclaimed.
With a swipe of his right hand, Max sent a wave of sand at Natsu, hitting him across the chest and launching him out of the sand. Natsu's body was flung away, tumbling across the empty lot as the other people watched in awe.
Natsu fell onto his back, but quickly stood back up on his feet and looked at Max who had a cocky smirk on his face.
"That's all you got?" Max taunted.
"Alright! No more messin around!" Natsu shouted as he flared his magic, a fiery aura engulfing his body. "I'm all fired up!"
Natsu jumped up high into the air with his arms out on each side and his hands engulfed in flames.
"Fire Dragon's Brilliant Flame!"
Natsu brought his hands together, combining the two flames into one massive mass of flames that was launched straight at Max.
Max raised his arms up, causing a huge wave of sand to appear in front of him. The flames crashed right into the sand, causing an explosion that shook the sturdy wall of sand.
From the side of the wall Natsu leaped out, throwing a fiery fist at Max. Max quickly ducked underneath the fist, retaliating with an uppercut to the dragon slayer's chin launching him into the air and following up with a spinning kick and sending him back again. As Natsu went flying, Max raised his right hand up and small, condensed balls of sand began forming in front of him.
Dozens of tiny bullet sized balls of sand flew at Natsu, pelting him all over his body. Natsu grit his teeth in pain as he was bombarded and fell to the ground.
"Max got...really strong!" Wendy exclaimed.
"That's really Max?!" Lucy questioned.
"You know, after you guys disappeared, our guild was really down in the dumps." Max said as he watched Natsu slowly trying to stand back up.
"But we watched as despite the state of our guild, Meliodas wouldn't stop doing missions for us. He would grab multiple at a time and leave, only to come back the next day and grab more. While we were all sitting down on our asses moping, he was picking up the slack for us. We couldn't stand to watch Meliodas carry the burden of the guild on his shoulders as he had his own trouble to worry about. So we all got off our asses and started working harder than ever. All of you guys who went to Tenrou were really talented mages...compared to us left here at the guild...we didn't have that raw talent you guys had. But we got through it all. With hard work! And because of that, we kept our guild in the top five." Max continued as Natsu finished getting back up.
"That story of yours...really got me fired up. I'm glad you guys have been working hard when we were gone!" Natsu said with a wide grin. "But…"
Flames erupted from beneath Natsu's feet and he launched straight forward into Max.
"I'm still not losin to you!"
As Natsu launched towards Max, his arms ignited, fully covered in flames. He made a swirling motion with his arms just as he got closer.
Max's eyes widened as he felt Natsu's magic surge higher. He put his arms up and sand began to rise in front of him.
Natsu swung his arms and spun around once more as he collided straight into the wall that Max had made.
"Dragon Slayer Secret Art! Crimson Lotus Exploding Flame Blade!"
A torrent of flames engulfed the wall of sand, creating a chain of multiple explosions soon after. Max soon found himself covered in flames as he was blown far backward by the explosion. The other members of the guild watching raised their arms up over their faces as a huge gust of hot wind blew over them.
Natsu stood panting heavily, standing above a mound of sand that was once the wall Max put up. Further away from Natsu, Max was lying on the ground.
"Natsu, don't you think that was a bit much?" Lucy questioned.
"Nah! He's really strong now so I had to give it all I had!" Natsu said with a grin. Natsu's grin immediately vanished as he saw Max jump up from his position. He had light burns on his body and there were bits of sand floating around him.
"Man, I would have been toasted if I didn't shield myself. That was pretty strong." Max said as he brushed off some sand from his clothes.
"N-no way! He took that head on!" Lucy exclaimed.
"Alright! You did your ultimate move. Now I'll try mine out!" Max responded as he widened his stance.
"Bring it on!" Natsu shouted as fire began to shoot out from the bottom of his feet. He launched himself forward towards Max, the fire from the soles of his feet expanding to the rest of his body.
"Fire Dragon's Sword Horn!"
From behind Max, a huge serpentine dragon made of sand formed. Natsu's eyes widened as he saw the huge dragon behind Max launch straight at him.
Natsu collided head first into the sand dragon, causing a huge explosion of both flames and sand. Natsu's body was shortly seen flying high in the air and landing on the ground. His body rolled over, stopping just short of Lucy and Wendy. The two of them stared in shock at Natsu.
"H-he's out cold?!" Lucy remarked.
"Heh. Looks like I went a bit too far. He seemed pretty fired up so I thought I could hold back a little less." Max commented as he walked towards Wendy and Lucy.
"Woah...you beat Natsu!" Nab commented.
"Way to go Max!" Vijiteer said as he gave Max a high five.
"So you guys got this much stronger in seven years…" Wendy said as she looked at the unconscious Natsu.
A few hours later
Lucy, Natsu, and Wendy walked back into the guild hall, with Natsu tilting his head to the right and hitting the side of it.
"Dammit! I think I still have sand in my ears!" Natsu shouted as he kept hitting the side of his head.
"Oh, what's going on here?" Lucy asked as she noticed a crowd of people gathered around a specific table with Makarov standing on top of it.
"Have you ever heard of the Grand Magic Games?" Gray asked as Natsu, Lucy, and Wendy joined the group.
"No. What's that?" Wendy questioned back.
"The Grand Magic Games are a series of events held in Crocus once a year to determine the best guild in Fiore. They first started in X787." Macao answered. "They're starting again on July 1st."
"So I guess guild rankings aren't solely determined by the amount and quality of jobs done, but also these Grand Magic Games then." Erza commented.
"That would be correct." Macao said. "The first one we participated in we managed to get Third Place but the others we've gotten fourth and fifth place."
"Did Meliodas participate in any of these?" Wendy asked.
"Yeah, the first one where we got third place." Max responded.
"Wait, you're saying there are guilds out there that Meliodas can't beat?!" Natsu shouted. "How strong are these guys?!"
"Well, it's not entirely about strength." Alzack added in. "I think we could have secured first place but...Meliodas sort of got played dirty."
"I'll be honest, I think we wouldn't even have placed in the top 6 in that first one if Meliodas wasn't there with us." Max shrugged.
"As you all know right now, Fairy Tail is not the top guild in Fiore like we used to be." Makarov stated. "However! Now that we're back, I think it's about time we take our top spot back!"
"Yeah! I'm all fired up!" Natsu exclaimed.
"But Natsu, you lost really badly to Max." Happy pointed out.
"Well if you guys are planning on going, I think I'll sit this one out." Max said, much to everyone's surprise.
"You're not participating this year?" Macao asked.
"I think I want to see how the old Fairy Tail does compared to us. That is if they got what it takes." Max said with a grin as he looked at Natsu.
"You just watch! I'm going to train super hard in the next three months and I'll get us back to the top! I'll surpass both you and Meliodas!" Natsu shouted.
"Surpass me? Sure I'd like to see you try." Max retorted. "But...Meliodas is a whole different story."
"I know Meliodas is strong, but just how strong is he now?" Wendy asked.
"I can't say for sure since it's been years since I last saw him. But he's leagues above anyone else I've seen. He already declined joining the Ten Wizard Saints, but I hear some council people say Meliodas is practically the "Secret Fifth God of Ishgar" or whatever that means." Max said. The other members looked at each other, confused about the term but Makarov immediately raised an eyebrow.
"That doesn't matter to me! I'll still surpass him! Just watch!" Natsu shouted as he turned around and began walking towards the guild hall entrance.
"Happy! Let's go! We're going to train like we never trained before!" Natsu exclaimed.
"Aye Sir!" Happy shouted as he flew after Natsu.
May 1st, X791
Meliodas walked through the bustling streets of Choros city. The roads of the city were made of stone and painted a light maroon color, with the buildings around it being painted a light grey with darker Maroon roofs. The city had a festive atmosphere, all thanks to the yearly "Dance Festival" that occurs once a year. Fireworks shot into the evening sky that was still slightly red from the setting sun. Along the sides of the main roads were many shop stands selling various dancing themed items such as dancing shoes, lacrima powered music players, and books on how to dance.
As Meliodas continued walking down the busy street, he could hear the chatter of civilians nearby.
"Hey did you hear that the famous dancer Resha is going to be here?!" One citizen exclaimed.
"Woah really? That's so cool! I hope I get to meet her!"
"I heard she once stopped a rampaging demon by dancing!"
"Dancing to stop a rampaging demon? That's ridiculous!"
"Yeah, Resha's cool and all, but you're all forgetting about Shuda the Ballet King! Now that's a performance I want to see!"
Meliodas continued walking down the street and approached the main square where a massive stage was set up in the center and people were beginning to gather around. Suddenly, a familiar man dressed in white robes teleported right in front of him.
"Doranbolt?" Meliodas questioned.
"Man, you're hard to find." Doranbolt said as he looked around, trying to catch his breath. "One day you're in Desierto and now all of a sudden you're in Choros City in Minstrel. Anyway, I have important news for you from the council."
Doran caught his breath and a smile formed on his face.
"Your friends that were caught on Tenrou Island are back!"
Meliodas' eyes widened and he opened his mouth, but not a word came out. A small smile began forming with his lips and tears began forming in his eyes.
May 2nd X791
"I know the guild's still pretty lively, but it feels so quiet now compared to when they came back huh…" Macao commented as he sat next to Makarov at the bar.
"Indeed." Makarov said as he took a sip of his drink. He turned around in his seat and faced the rest of the guild hall. He took another sip of his drink as he looked towards the guild entrance. Suddenly, he started coughing wildly as his drink went down the wrong pipe.
"Master what-" Macao immediately looked towards where Makarov was looking and saw a familiar figure walking into the guild, looking around.
"Well, well, well. This place hasn't changed too much since I was last here." Meliodas commented.
"Meliodas!" Both Macao and Makarov shouted as they ran towards him.
"W-what Meliodas is here?" Wakaba questioned as he peered over towards the entrance as he sat at one of the tables.
"Woah, you're back!" Max shouted as he ran over to the entrance. Other guild members began to catch on and stared at the guild hall entrance.
"Yo!" Meliodas said as he looked at everyone. He looked at Makarov and smiled. "Welcome back Master! Or...is it just Makarov now?"
"I-I returned the title of guild master to Makarov." Macao said. "You're looking at the sixth guild master of Fairy Tail."
"Sixth?" Meliodas asked. "You mean fifth right?"
"Err...Gildarts was the fifth...for less than an hour." Makarov sighed.
"Sounds just like him!" Meliodas said with a grin as he looked at Makarov. Makarov immediately fell to his knees and looked down at the ground.
"Meliodas...all you've done for the guild while I was away…" Makarov looked back up at Meliodas with tears in his eyes. "Thank you."
"That's what family does right?" Meliodas said as he extended a hand out to Makarov.
"Uwahh! Come here my child!" Makarov cried out as he jumped up and was about to hug Meliodas. "Y-You've grown so much and-"
"WAIT! YOU HAVEN'T GROWN AT ALL?!" Makarov shouted as he gawked at Meliodas.
"Guess I just haven't hit my growth spurt yet huh…" Meliodas commented, amused by Makarov's shocked reaction.
"Did you notice this Macao?!" Makarov asked.
"Yeah when he was last here, I asked him about it, but all he did was call me an old geezer." Macao said as he shook his head.
"So where's everyone else?" Meliodas asked, looking around the guild hall at the various faces, some recognizable others not so much.
"They all went to train for the upcoming Grand Magic Games. They're trying to make up for the last seven years they lost and bring Fairy Tail back to the top again." Max answered.
"Meliodas. You should participate in the Grand Magic Games." Makarov said.
"I don't know...I mean the one I participated in X787 was fun and all, but since I'm in Fiore, I'll probably stick around the council for a bit. I have a few questions for them." Meliodas replied. "When are these Grand Magic Games happening?"
"July 1st." Makarov answered.
"Oh. Well then. I guess I can join in. It'll give me a chance to fight alongside everyone again like old times." Meliodas said with a smile.
"Then once your business is finished, I'll see you at Crocus on June 30th." Makarov responded with a wide grin.
The conversation in Choros City is a Rave Master reference.