|“||It's my solemn vow... the suffering I've caused will not repeat in the current era. I will be neutral and isolated, a friend or foe to no one. That said... if the current era should give way to a new one... there's a chance I will take on a far more active role. I had hoped you would destroy me before then... Natsu.||„|
|~ Zeref Dragneel|
Zeref Dragneel, more commonly known by his first name Zeref or title Lord Zeref is one of two main antagonists of the manga/anime series Fairy Tail alongside Acnologia. He was considered one of the strongest and most evil wizards in the series as he possessed incredibly deadly and destructive Magic Power. He first appeared as a self-hating reclusive youth who could not control his powers and was later revealed to be the estranged older brother of Natsu Dragneel, father of August and creator of Larcade Dragneel along with most of the Demons in the series as a whole. He was also the former lover and illegitimate husband of Mavis Vermilion, First Guild Master of the titular organization Fairy Tail.
Despite being hundreds of years old, Zeref himself has the appearance of a young man. He wears a high-collared red (black in the anime) and tan robe with gold trimmings nearly identical to the one worn by Rogue Cheney with a flowing white toga draped around his torso over his right shoulder. He has short black hair, dark eyes and abnormally sharp canines. He also has a pendant around his neck where he keeps a childhood picture of Natsu and himself. As Emperor Spriggan, leader and founder of the Alvarez Empire he dons a regal and formal version of his usual attire consisting of a white toga lined with golden strings and markings at the edges; underneath this he has a black robe with metal-ringed cuffs reminiscent of those sported by Gajeel Redfox.
When emotionally unbalanced or unveiling his true powers, Zeref's irises become dark red and gain black rings around their pupils giving him a much more menacing appearance.
Zeref was said to have been the darkest, most evil black wizard in the history of the Magic World as he mastered the Black Arts of Magic Power and created many Demons, some of which still continued to wreak havoc in the present. However, the truth behind the most infamous of the black wizards was surprisingly far from what had been described in the past.
In the modern era, Zeref sought to isolate himself and was very calm, sincere, trustworthy, straightforward, optimistic and conflicted. He wished to die to atone for all the sins he committed and would commit in the future. He showed concern for others when he warned them not to come near him, knowing they would most likely perish if they did. He was also somewhat emotionally fragile and vulnerable as seen when he realized his younger brother Natsu was not ready to eliminate him yet and broke down in tears. Zeref often killed others without any prior incentive and/or knowledge. Despite Zeref's overall capability for many great evils, he was actually a much more tragic character; this extended to the point that while Natsu's opinions on his defeat being necessary didn't change at all after learning the truth behind their relationship and Zeref's then-unexplained familiarity with the Dragon Slayer, his brother seemed to genuinely pity him enough to tell him (if rather angrily) exactly how he was wrong when it came to his own views of happiness.
Zeref had a clear-cut disdain for the "cultists who longed for [his] resurrection", viewing them as "desperate fanatics" with unamusement and spite likely due to seeing those followers (in the loosest sense of the word) as a majority of the negative histories and legacies he left behind before deciding to return and also held similar regards, if not lower for the vast tales told about him, apparently having kept tabs on the Magic World even while inactive as he was visibly appalled with former student and Fairy Tail Second Guild Master Precht Gaebolg and his new Guild Grimoire Heart for taking the stories about how he had already died and the "Keys" to awaken him by unlocking his "Seal" very seriously to the point of considering it a holy script, deeming said legends antiquated fiction and even calling it all "a lie that an old fool put stock in".
Regardless of this, Zeref was vindictive and antagonistic as he would punish those he believed or already knew beforehand to be evil. This was shown when he ruthlessly slaughtered Master Precht, now known as Master Hades, whom he correctly thought to have willingly performed or authorized a number of unforgivable sins and horrific atrocities. As a result of the immortality and agelessness that enabled his extended lifespan, Zeref developed a misanthropic loathing for humanity and its repeated idiosyncrasies of hatred, evil and conflict. When confronted by Mavis' spirit, he stated to her his own plans for the world and how he would bring everything as he came to know it crashing down.
After he was defeated for the first time by Natsu, Zeref contemplated his actions and looked solemn as Mavis hit him repeatedly for his own sins, expressing that he deserved Mavis's hate for him. As he finally started to die, he showed some remorse for his past and wished he could have made amends with his younger brother.
At some point in the distant past, stated to be around 400 years ago Zeref witnessed the deaths of many people in the conflicts of the Magic World. Around this time, he also became cursed and unintentionally took the lives of those around him. Zeref was described as having alighted in an ancient land, mastered Black Magic, given birth to tens of thousands of Demons and thrown the world into chaos. However, according to Mard Geer Tartaros, Zeref cursed himself for becoming immortal, desiring to die and eventually creating the Etherious to kill him with the demon E.N.D. as his final masterpiece.
In actuality, Zeref was orphaned after Dragons killed his parents and younger brother Natsu which led to him becoming a student at the Mildian Magic Academy where he researched the connections between life, death and Magic Power to revive his brother. After creating things such as the R-System and Eclipse Gate he was expelled from the Academy for breaching the sacred teachings of the God Ankhseram. However, he was cursed by the power of Ankhseram itself and killed everyone around him with his newfound unwanted curse of contradiction. After this, Zeref wished to die and wandered around, creating the Etherious in the hopes they would end his existence but instead turned to reviving his brother, having kept his body preserved as an Etherious thus fulfilling the goal of bringing his brother back and creating something that could and would kill him: E.N.D., or Etherious Natsu Dragneel.
Sometime later, Zeref encountered the Fire Dragon King Igneel and the two became friends with Igneel offering to raise Natsu himself and teach him Dragon Slayer Magic. Zeref allowed this after Igneel revealed his dragon comrades' plans of defeating Acnologia which would involve using the Dragon Soul Seal to enter the bodies of five chosen human Dragon Slayers and traveling with them to the future. Zeref helped the Dragons with this by going through with his plans of building the Eclipse Gate and having Celestial Wizard Anna Heartfilia open the gate and her family open it in the future.
Zeref lived for at least 400 years awaiting Natsu's arrival, always holding the belief he would be able to destroy him.
Fairy Tail Zero
In X686, Zeref walked through Hargeon Town and brushed past a younger Mavis Vermilion and Precht Gaebolg.
Sometime later, Zeref was found taking a bath in the Western Forest near Magnolia by Mavis. He was surprised that someone would want to leave, noting it was a "bad habit" of his own and unwillingly used his Magic which robbed the forest of its life force, Mavis quickly recognizing it as Ankhseram Black Magic. Zeref was surprised and commended Mavis' knowledge, telling her to not feel bad for him. Nevertheless, he felt joy about his conversation with the girl but was also worried about himself unwittingly killing her which he never wanted to do to anyone. Mavis then cast an illusion of wildlife which initially startled Zeref because of his lack of control over his powers, but after Mavis explained to him the nature of her own Magic he was happy at the notion and thanked her sincerely. After this, Zeref agreed to teach Mavis and her companions Magic, having noted to Precht in particular that he had an affinity for several different kinds of Magic. After having taught them Magic, Zeref left to seclude himself once more but was happy he made friends.
Ten years later, Zeref encountered Mavis again and in this encounter he gave her his name to which she was shocked that he was the infamous black wizard. She told him regardless of the rumors about him. Zeref then learned Mavis used Law and after examining her which confirmed it he informed her she had become cursed and immortal like him which she refused to believe and ran off in tears.
A year later, he found Mavis in the forest disheveled and hungry but still alive due to her curse. She begged for him to kill her but he said he couldn't as she could not do the same to him and related to her situation by telling her how immortality drove him mad and he created the Etherious to kill him but doubted they could do so. He then told her he was building a country where his people won't die from his curse due to him seeing them as his pawns. Zeref soon stated he was doing it out of enjoyment as it was like a game and could prepare them for war but assured her he detested war and expanding his country wasn't enjoyable either. Mavis noted that Zeref contradicted himself as his curse began to afflict him as he stated he wanted to see his brother but his head started to hurt from the thoughts and he said the world would reject him but Mavis stated she wouldn't do the same and they would find a way to break it together. He embraced her having found someone to love after centuries before they shared a kiss which placed Mavis in a comatose state to Zeref's dismay.
He took her seemingly lifeless body to Fairy Tail where he encountered Precht asking if he was alone; after confirming he was the Acting Master in Mavis's absence Zeref coldly threw her body down. Shocked, Precht grabbed Mavis asking her to wake up but Zeref told him she wouldn't do so ever again and internally berated himself for falling in love; Precht asked him his name which he gave as Zeref but took it back by saying if Mavis was a fairy he must be a spriggan. He bade Mavis goodnight before returning to his empire where nobody would die because of his powers. Eventually, Zeref learned of Mavis's body being in a non-living yet non-dead state which created the Lumen Histoire, or Fairy Heart, an eternal magic he sought to obtain for his own purposes especially since he discovered the Time Lapse which he sealed off until he had Fairy Heart to be able to use the Neo Eclipse to reset time.
Later, Zeref encountered Irene Belserion and was amazed at seeing a real dragon before realizing she was a human. In a flash, he enchanted her back to her normal form but responded to her elation that she was only a human physically but still physiologically a dragon, though she cast off his words.
At another point, Zeref wandered around and encountered a young boy who resembled Mavis (unaware it was his and Mavis's son). He decided to make the nameless child his subordinate and gave him the name August after the month in which he met Mavis; he remarked the child reminded him of her.
During one of his stays in Alvarez, he showed a curious younger Invel Yura the pendant he wore that held a picture of himself and his younger brother as children. Eventually, Zeref found himself on the secluded Tenrou Island, which was ironically also the place of Mavis' birth and false grave, hoping to stay completely cut off from humanity.
The Dark Guild Eisenwald gained possession of the infamous magical flute Lullaby. Erigor explained that Lullaby had apparently once been used for casting Death Curses until Zeref remade it as "Demon Flute" capable of killing all who listened to its song. Fortunately, a team of wizards from Fairy Tail ruined their plans and defeated the demon hidden within the flute, leaving it to be taken into the custody of the Magic Council located at Era.
Tenrou Island arc
On Tenrou Island, Zeref lays peacefully, asleep, on the ground. When night descends, he is attacked by a pack of wolves. Their efforts to kill the black wizard are in vain as he releases a wave of his Death Magic, killing not only the wolves but much of the surrounding ecosystem. Zeref then apologized and wallowed in misery, wishing to meet Natsu soon. Later, Carla had a vision and saw that Zeref would somehow be involved in Fairy Tail's S-Class Wizard Promotion Trial. During the trial, he ran into Elfman and Evergreen, warning them to stay away from him as his Magic was beginning to run rampant. However, when the wave was released Natsu arrives and saved his comrades from the deathly black wave. Zeref was shocked to see Natsu, saying that he had "grown" but Natsu said that he didn't recognize him. When he told the Fairy Tail wizards he had been expecting Natsu's arrival, Natsu misinterpreted the statement as a challenge and rushed towards Zeref, landing a fierce blow to his face. Zeref was unfazed by the punch and stood up, disappointed in Natsu for not being ready to kill him causing him to shed tears of frustration. Zeref then unintentionally released another wave of Death Magic but Natsu's scarf absorbed the blast, saving the lives of everyone present. Zeref then proceeded to make his escape but Grimoire Heart was alerted to his presence and sought to hunt him down. Zeref later rested next to a tree and claimed that the world continued to reject him before crying once more. Later, Zeref was said to be in a "state of slumber". Shortly thereafter, the battle between Fairy Tail and Grimoire Heart began causing Zeref to wonder if another war was going to take place.
He then crosses paths with Ultear Milkovich and comments how sad it is for Grimoire Heart to have managed to anger him. After Zeref asks Ultear if it is power they want, Ultear claims that she wants his entire existence, but Zeref states that he has no intention of assisting them or having anything to do with those in the current era, and that he doesn't want to witness wars or the death of innocent people. Zeref then tells Ultear to stop the attack and leave the island at once, repeating that he is angry, visibly terrifying her with his power. Rustyrose states to Elfman and Evergreen that when they acquire Zeref the current Magic world will end and a new one will begin, an Ultimate Magic World, where those that don't possess Magic will suffer and die; the other Grimoire Heart members say similar things. Zeref himself, however, is powerless against Ultear in his sleeping state and is defeated by her, being warned to not underestimate her as she is the eldest of the Seven Kin of Purgatory. Ultear then says that they have the key which will awaken him; Zeref begs Ultear to stop, but she ignores him and revels in her victory. As Zeref lies unconscious, Ultear holds onto him tightly, stating that he now belongs to her and that he will become the King of the Ultimate Magic World.
While he is still unconscious, he is seen being dragged around by Ultear, and later by Meredy, who ends up heading to the "escape point". While on their way there, they are chased by a persistent Juvia Lockser, who received orders from Gray to keep track of Zeref. The trio is later confronted by Zancrow, who attacks the two girls, and tries to take Zeref back to the airship. Zeref, at this point, stirs, speaking one word: the name of Acnologia, and briefly awakened. Zeref and Zancrow then locked eyes and Zeref released a wave of Magic directly at the Grimoire Heart wizard, instantly killing him and knocking out Meredy and Juvia.
After Zeref casts his spell, he regains control of himself and apologizes to Zancrow for having killed him, closing the former Dark Mage's eyelids in sorrow. He expresses his relief that both Meredy and Juvia survived and then walks away. As he walks, he states that he had no reason to come to this era, and that, to anyone, he is neither enemy nor ally. Zeref then adds that if the current era is about to end, that he may awaken once more, and wishes for Natsu to kill him before that time occurs.
At the end of the war, an enraged Zeref sneaks aboard the Grimoire Heart airship and confronts the remainder of the Seven Kin of Purgatory, including their Guild Master, Hades, about the horror they have brought upon the world. While there, Zeref reveals that he was never "asleep", but, rather, he was always "awake". He also reveals that when he understands the weight of human life, his cursed body will eliminate his surroundings; but when he forgets about it, he is able to fully control his Death Magic. He blames Grimoire Heart for the summoning of Acnologia, claiming that it will now end the current era. He then tells the group to repent for their unforgivable sins and casts Death Pillar on Hades. The power of the spell causes huge damage to the airship and slays Hades, sending him plummeting to the sea. Zeref then senses something and wonders if it's Acnologia. While looking down at Tenrou Island, he ponders if it is time for the island's destruction as an enormous winged beast emerges from the clouds.
After Acnologia, the "Black Dragon of the Apocalypse" starts destroying Tenrou Island and attacking the Fairy Tail members, Zeref senses the Dragon Slayer Wendy Marvell's attempts at communicating with the Dragon. Zeref states that Acnologia sees humans as little more than insects, and adds that no dominant being would bother communicating with a lesser life form. Zeref then realizes that mankind will, once again, be embarking on a long, arduous journey, and bids Natsu farewell. As the airship continues to fly onward, Zeref witnesses Acnologia destroying Tenrou Island and shuts his eyes, tearfully stating that Natsu's journey has ended.
Grand Magic Games arc
Zeref is stated to still be at large with the Magic Council trying unsuccessfully to track him down. He is later mentioned by Arcadios, who claims that Zeref was the one who turned Acnologia into a Dragon. Arcadios says he is preparing something called the Eclipse Project which requires Yukino Agria and Lucy Heartfilia's Golden Zodiac Keys. Arcadios intends to use Lucy and Yukino's Celestial Spirit Magic to travel back in time and kill Zeref before he can transform Acnologia into a Dragon and he can be immortal.
As Fairy Tail celebrates their victory in the Grand Magic Games after returning to Magnolia, Zeref sits, deep in thought in the nearby forest; Obra runs up his shoulder. Zeref then senses Mavis behind him and states that even though he cannot see nor hear her, he can sense her presence. With a smile on his face, Zeref repeats Mavis' statement that they were close to one another seven years ago, and answers that he has decided on where he is going to die when she asks him so. Zeref states that he's lived for centuries and has seen the rise and fall of different ages, and that he's seen the cycle of hatred continue on and give rise to new evil and conflict between people but adds he's looking forward to the new age that will end all this.
With his attitude growing more solemn by the minute, Zeref looks down and asks Mavis how many times people have repeated the mistakes of the past, but is told that despite that, humans will continue to live on. Zeref, however, counters this statement by explaining that if humans continue to repeat mistakes, then they aren't really living and that he is no longer anything that man can come to love. Now removing himself from the ground, Zeref tells Mavis that he has reached a conclusion about humanity: if the world continues to reject him, then he shall reject the world; Mavis tells him that Fairy Tail will be its salvation. Bowing his head, the Black Wizard tells the deceased First Guild Master this will be his gift to humanity, thereby allowing them to start anew. Zeref then tells Mavis that he will not start a war but, rather, will simply cause a one-sided annihilation of humanity of which no human soul will survive, earning him a glare from Mavis, who tells him that Fairy Tail will be the one who will stop him, and he will be the one to be destroyed. Destroying the forest with his Magic, Zeref smiles and internally concludes that his and Natsu's final battle is drawing near.
Zeref later appears at Tartaros' headquarters. As Natsu is cleaning out the troops of Tartaros, his enemies are suddenly stopped in midair and Natsu finds himself standing in front of Zeref. The Dark Mage smiles, noting that he expected Natsu to come this far and then states that Tartaros is Zeref's bookshelf: where all of his "books" reside. Zeref continues by explaining that he wasn't the one to establish Tartaros, but rather, it is a guild made by the Demons that he created, namely their master, E.N.D. Natsu catches on to the name of the Demon, noting it to be the one that Igneel wanted to kill, but Zeref corrects him, stating that the Dragon couldn't do so. Natsu then takes out the Heat Blade, claiming that he will be the one to defeat E.N.D. to inherit his father's will. However, his attack is deflected by the aura surrounding Zeref, cutting the blade in half. Zeref then encourages Natsu, however, he also warns him that E.N.D. is the strongest Demon he created and that he, too, will face the decision of whether to let the Demon live or to kill it. The Dark Mage gets ready to leave, leading Natsu to protest. Zeref explains that he cannot show himself in front of Tartaros as they have gone through so much trouble to find him; just appearing would be a "killjoy". Bidding farewell, Zeref notes that only Natsu or E.N.D. will be able to destroy him, vanishing shortly afterward.
Sometime later, he retrieved the book of E.N.D. right out of Gray's hand, while the Ice mage and Natsu were arguing about destroying E.N.D., claiming that it is very important to him. Zeref praised Mard Geer Tartaros for his attempt to revive E.N.D. But when Mard states that he can realize what the Dark Mage wished for, Zeref turned Mard into a book and burns it. Zeref then tells Natsu that he wanted to finish their fight today, but can't since Acnologia was in the way. Before vanishing with the book of E.N.D. in his hand, he warns Natsu that if he can survive this desperate situation, he will give him even more despair. Later, in a dark room, Zeref remarks that Natsu has to try and overtake him, calling the Dragon Slayer "Etherious Natsu Dragneel".
Zeref, with E.N.D.'s book beside him, wakes up from a dream about his time in the Mildian Magic Academy and addresses the book as Natsu, explaining that the once had a younger brother that died several years after birth, which resulted in him beginning his research into the connection between life, death and Magic. He then begins to reminisce about his creation of the R-System and the Eclipse Gate, both of which ultimately lead to his expulsion from the Mildian Magic Academy and his obtaining of the curse of contradiction from the deity Ankhseram, which killed all his fellow students and teachers. Zeref continues to monologue, citing his immortality as being his key to continuing his research, which ultimately led to the creation of the Etherious in the hopes that they would be able to end him, and the revival of his dead brother Natsu as an Etherious. Zeref then ceases talking with Natsu's tome, citing that he must go meet "someone".
Zeref then travels some distance, ending up near a cave in a remote mountain range, where he greets a human figure sitting on a rock, assuming the human appearance is his preferred form before sarcastically asking if his cut severed arm was healing and addressing the man as Acnologia. Zeref is immediately questioned by the sitting Acnologia as to what he wants and Zeref notes Acnologia destruction but causes very little of it, citing that he could rule the whole world if he wanted to, but does not, calling his motives unclear. Zeref then tells Acnologia that he will not side with him or against him, but rather that he will simply kill him alongside everyone else, and ponders that Acnologia has been waiting for someone to give him a true challenge; Zeref tells Acnologia that he will be the challenger he desires, provided he waits for the impending clash between humanity, Dragon and immortal which causes Acnologia to smile.
Alvarez Empire arc
Zeref returns to Alvarez Empire after a year of absence, cheered by his subjects coming out to meet him. As he approaches Makarov and Yazir, the latter notes his youth as being "envious", while the former is visibly shocked by him being the Emperor Spriggan of Albareth.
He is greeted by Invel Yura and asks him to gather the rest of the Spriggan 12. As they converse, Dimaria Yesta and Ajeel Ramal appear and Invel chastises them for the manner in which they speak to Zeref. At that moment, August walks in asking Zeref about Ragnarok, to which Zeref replies that Ragnarok is called the Dragon King Festival in Ishgar. Yajeel then enters the palace and greets the Emperor, but backs away as he remembers the effects of Zeref's curse. He introduces Makarov to him and says that he is seeking an audience with the emperor. Makarov and Zeref then converse privately about the Dragon King Festival, Fairy Heart, and Albareth Empire's origin. Afterward, Zeref subdues an angry Makarov before noting he is grateful to him and thanks Makarov for raising Natsu and prepares to kill him, but at that moment, Mest appears and teleports himself and Makarov away. Through this, Zeref learns of Natsu's presence in Alakitasia and smiles.
Zeref is later seen at a meeting with the Spriggan 12 where he states that the time has finally come to begin the invasion of Ishgar. He proceeds to ask if God Serena has any objections, to which the former Wizard Saint replies that he has none. Wahl Icht then reproaches Zeref for his selfish motive of trying to recover his former lover's body, but is told that Fairy Heart is a Magic and that Zeref's main motive is the annihilation of Ishgar. Ajeel then says that Zeref should leave the mission to him, however Zeref declines and states that he can't just leave it to Ajeel alone. Zeref continues and says it has more meaning to go on an all-out offensive with all their armies. Zeref ends by stating that the Dragon King Festival Begins and gives this Spriggan 12 the order to begin advancing their troops. Later, as Zeref marches with his troops towards Magnolia, Invel informs him that the two Spriggan in charge of the first assault, Ajeel and Brandish μ, have both been eliminated. Zeref, still smiling, says that it is to expected and that he would be disappointed if Mavis and her guild couldn't at least manage to handle an attack of such force. While Yajeel grieves over his grandson Ajeel's supposed death and Invel remarks on the fact that not just one, but two Spriggan were killed, Zeref shuts them off, telling the two that neither Brandish or Ajeel is actually dead and that therein lies the enemy's weakness. Eventually, Invel makes Zeref aware of the fact that Natsu is heading straight for their location, causing the Black Mage to grin in a vicious manner. Zeref watches as the Fire Dragon Slayer takes out a portion of his army before warping into the fray himself to face the Fairy Tail Mage.
As the brothers stare each other down, Zeref tells Invel to have the army retreat several kilometers to the west, as he is the only one that can deal with Natsu, something to which Invel complies. He then taunts Natsu very briefly, but expresses shock upon seeing a draconian tattoo on Natsu's right arm; after sensing the Magic Power and heat created from the tattoo, Zeref is repeatedly beaten around by Natsu, even having his very Magic burned away by the other Dragneel's fire. Zeref, however, manages to find an opening and the fight momentarily becomes equal, until Zeref learns from Natsu that the power he has is the finite remainder of Igneel's Magic Power left inside him. Understanding that the power comes from the dead, and that such a power may truly be able to kill him, Zeref thanks those who helped him get to where he is today as Natsu enters Fire Dragon King Mode and unleashes what he hopes to be the final blow.
Zeref ultimately survives the blast, albeit heavily wounded and praises Natsu for having attained the strength to kill him. Before he dies, Zeref resolves to tell his foe everything, and finally reveals that he is Natsu's older brother to the latter's shock. Zeref goes on by revealing that Natsu and their parents died 400 years ago during a Dragon attack, resulting in Zeref creating the Etherious and succeeding in reviving his dead younger brother as E.N.D. Hearing that Natsu doesn't believe anything he is saying, rebutting Zeref's claims with statements he has heard elsewhere, Zeref reveals that Igneel couldn't kill Natsu because he loved him too much, and that Mard Geer was the one who created Tartaros after finding E.N.D.'s tome by accident, using the book as a rallying point to unify the Etherious under a common cause, though he does cite Natsu as an unintended assistant in the creation of Tartaros. When Natsu still doesn't believe, Zeref shoots a hole through E.N.D.'s tome to inflict pain unto Natsu, thus proving their link and his story.
Citing that Natsu was hard to handle initially, Zeref explains that Igneel was a friend of his and resolved to take Natsu under his wing and teach him Dragon Slayer Magic, as well as groom him and use him to travel 400 years to the future (via the Eclipse Gate) by hiding inside Natsu's body to recover enough Ethernano to kill Acnologia. Zeref continues on, revealing that four other pacifistic Dragons contributed to the plan and that five orphans were selected, them being Natsu, Gajeel Redfox, Wendy, Sting, and Rogue and that they are all children from 400 years ago who were sent through the Eclipse Gate, which was opened by the Celestial Spirit Mages Anna (of the past) and Layla Heartfilia (of the future). It is then that Zeref tells Natsu that July 7, X777 wasn't the day Igneel and the other Dragons disappeared, it was really the day they all arrived in the future. He then expresses his sorrow, however, at the pain he had to go through while waiting for the 400 years to pass so he could see Natsu again. Zeref is then approached for the kill by an irritated Natsu but says that when he dies, Natsu will die too, for he is his creation. Natsu voices his lack of care for his death as Zeref remarks this is his only chance to stop him but the dragon slayer is stopped by Happy and whisked away back to the guild. With Natsu now gone and Igneel's power faded, Zeref tearfully states that Natsu has lost his one and only chance to kill him, and bids his brother farewell.
His brother now gone, Zeref is approached by Invel as his wounds instantly heal and he exclaims that no one can stop him and he has any reason to hesitate. After declaring for Invel to get their troops moving again, he tells his chief of staff to produce him clothes more fitting for an emperor. In his new outfit, Zeref receives a report regarding the standing of their army. Hearing that 5 of the Spriggan 12 have been defeated, Zeref only smirks knowing one of them was Acnologia's doing, before threatening to crush Natsu and Mavis. As he and his army start marching towards Fairy Tail Guild, he soon notices the change in the quality of the land's Magic and correctly pinpoints the reason for that to be Irene Belserion, worried about her intentions.
As light covers all of Fiore, he is shocked about the spell being cast called Universe One, a magic that causes all of Fiore to be reconstructed with the intention to put him near the Fairy Heart, as he explains to Mavis after she finds him sitting in an empty guild hall. He then notes it's been 100 years since they have met like this, however, before their discussion can continue Mavis's body is frozen by Invel. After Zeref expresses his disagreement, Invel then decides to control Mavis mind instead. Zeref then takes her to show her guild's predicament: His army and the Spriggan 12 themselves, their Emperor wondering if Mavis' comrades can break through. Having noticed the 12 great Magic, Zeref points out Larcade Dragneel to be his trump card against Acnologia and proceeds to ask Irene to take Fairy Heart from Mavis, praising her ability in this kind of Magic. Wondering if Fairy Tail dares to approach this impenetrable battle formation, Zeref promises no tomorrow to his enemies.
As the war rages on, Zeref watches Irene attempt to remove Fairy Heart asking how long it will take as he expresses distaste at seeing her in such a state. Irene tells him that if wishes to defeat Acnologia he would need to rid himself of that soft nature to which he agrees and walks before briefly staring at Mavis. He later looks out the window noticing the blizzard caused by Invel.
He soon returns to tell Irene to briefly stop the extraction so he could speak to Mavis one last time though Irene tells him it is a foolish decision he stands by it. However, it turns out this was an illusion created by Mavis's magic as the real Zeref shows up to tell Irene this. It is too late as it Mavis created an illusion of herself as well to escape and Zeref remarks on how proficient she is and orders Irene to go after her which the latter gladly obliges to.
After Makarov's casting of Fairy Law eradicates half his troops, Zeref asks Irene the status of the remnants which Irene states while the Spriggan 12 were unaffected, their troops' numbers have been reduced to seventy and eighty percent. Zeref praises Makarov for his use of the spell he taught Mavis so many years ago.
Much later, Zeref sits affected by Larcade's magic and sensing that his army is most likely being affected he telepathically contacts Larcade to stop. He later sits solemnly as he senses Larcade's defeat at the hands of Sting.
After Irene's death, Zeref notices a light which indicates the effects of Universe One have worn off and remarks the world is returning to normal. He remains in the guild and is approached by Gray who he admits he is surprised to see as Laxus or Jellal were his first guesses and muses an apology to his brother Natsu for what will happen.
Zeref and Gray stare each other down as the black mage immediately identifies Gray as one of Natsu's closest friends and reveals his knowledge of Gray's tragic past. Gray is surprised Zeref knew of him before the latter goes on by revealing he is aware of Lucy, Happy, Erza, Wendy, and Gajeel as one must know of their enemy.
Zeref then tells Natsu he is experiencing a new emotion which he can't tell is due to his curse or his own emotion but admits he is enjoying himself. When Natsu is overcome by a sensation, Zeref notices this and is surprised to see it was caused by Larcade who calls out to him. Larcade then tells Zeref that while Natsu is flustered, he should hurry and kill him to be rid of his influence and revels in the chance to kill Natsu but his actions only anger Zeref. Infuriated, Zeref blasts a hole through Larcade telling not to interrupt the fight.
When the wounded Larcade asks why he attacked him while calling him father, Zeref coldly stomps on Larcade's wound stating he has no son and states Larcade is an Etherious who was one of his many attempts at reviving Natsu and since he came out the best he was given the name "Dragneel" as a reward. Zeref then expresses his anger at Larcade for interrupting the fight between him and Natsu as he was finally enjoying himself before he calls Larcade a failure and kicks him away. Natsu tells him to stop as Zeref tells him they should restart their fight. Before they could do so, Larcade writhes on the ground in pain still calling Zeref "Father" as the latter tells Larcade that he is nothing but demon he created from a book. He blasts Larcade once more telling him to get out of his sight, as he slowly dies Larcade calls Zeref "father" before he is disintegrated. Disgusted by this, Natsu asks Zeref how could do so to his own comrade as Zeref states Larcade wasn't his comrade or child before he receives a punch from Natsu for his actions.
Zeref reflects on his past stating that he tried to find happiness but was not allowed to have it as his curse forbids it. This causes Natsu to grab him and yell that he is to make his own happiness in order to have a family. He tells Zeref that if he will claim he doesn't have a family any bond they shared was gone before finally acknowledging and referring to Zeref as his older brother. Slightly speechless at Natsu's words, Zeref shrugs it off by remarking on the possibility of their bond to which Natsu states it is emotion as Zeref agrees calling Natsu E.N.D.
The fight continues with Zeref binding Natsu and revealing his goal of using Mavis's power to harness Neo Eclipse to reset time and undo all his actions which would possibly erase the current world. Mavis steps in and gives Zeref a final chance to stop everything. Zeref grabs Mavis and explains to her and Natsu that he needs the power of Fairy Heart to stop Acnologia from destroying the world and to erase his own mistakes. He states that, if he does not have Fairy Heart, Acnologia will bring ruin to Earth while using Zeref and Mavis as immortal chew-toys for eternity. He begins absorbing the power of Fairy Heart from a screaming Mavis and plans to reset the world back to before he was immortal and undo everything he's done to a point where everyone will be much happier in the new timeline.
Before Mavis passes out, she reminds him that this is the world where they met and his victory means that they will never know each other. Zeref agrees and says that it will be his one and only regret in the new world before dropping her to the ground and stating that he has cut off any lingering affection for her. Enraged, Natsu runs to Mavis but Zeref tells him that she is not dead but has lost too much magic and won't be able to stand. Natsu prepares to attack him once again but is stunned by an explosion of light as Zeref finally uses Fairy Heart to become the White Wizard of infinite power.
Natsu resumes his fight with the now-White Wizard, yelling that he will destroy him, however, Zeref reminds him that he failed to do it before. Natsu's final attack destroys Zeref's body and obliterates the Guild Hall, and he apologizes to Makarov for destroying it again, but Zeref rewinds time and repairs himself easily, and he ends the fight by punching a hole through Natsu's chest. As he lets Natsu fall, he says that he needn't apologize to Makarov, who is already dead and bids Natsu farewell.
Zeref opens the ravines of time in the door of Fairy Tail and smiles he prepares to leave an unconscious Mavis and a dying Natsu behind once and for all by crossing through the Neo-Eclipse door, until Natsu's injuries heal thanks to Lucy rewriting the book of E.N.D. and he takes on a surprised Zeref one final time, this time evenly matching the power of Fairy Heart. Mavis regains consciousness and tries to sit up as she watches the finale unfold.
Eventually, Natsu begins far surpassing Zeref at long last and his arm starts burning up as he delivers one final incredible strike to the White Wizard. Zeref realizes that Natsu is powered by the flames of his own wild emotions for everyone in his Guild family and is sent crashing into the floor.
Zeref tries to stand and realizes that, for the first time in his entire existence, even though he still has Fairy Heart, his body cannot move an inch. He feels disbelief that he may truly be dying and reasons with himself that this doesn't necessarily mean death for him, and he will surely recover in a little while.
However, his hair returns from white to black and Fairy Heart's power presumably leaves him. Mavis finally stands up and Natsu asks her to finish it for him, and she agrees. Natsu says that he's tired and he wants to see the faces of Happy and the others soon before leaving Zeref with "Later, Big Bro" and walking off.
Zeref is left lying immobile on the floor and says Mavis' name as she walks over and looks down upon him. He expresses his amazement at how he cannot move and actually lost to Natsu but says that it doesn't matter as he will regenerate in a few minutes. Mavis says that she feels both hate and love for him and, that the same time she wants to erase him from the world, she also doesn't want to. He taught her and her friends magic and was indirectly responsible for the formation of Fairy Tail. However, he's also caused suffering in everyone and even got Makarov killed.
Mavis realizes that her "death" happened because she didn't believe the love they shared, and it backfired on her. Now that she does believe in it, she screams again that she hates him (he only smiles and agrees that she should) and wants him gone but at the same time loves him and wants to be with him forever. Zeref thanks Mavis for granting him one final understanding - that Love can overcome the Curse of Contradictions entirely.
At last, she kisses him, he returns it, and both finally lose their immortality. A white beam of light absorbs both of them and begins to transport them to the afterlife. At first, Zeref is upset that she is coming with him but realizes that it is her wish for them to leave together. With the Ankhseram Curse erased for good, the Black Wizard and the First Guild Master of Fairy Tail both disappeared into the light.
After Zeref and Mavis disappeared the only thing remaining was Zeref's pendant containing the picture of Natsu and himself.
As a result of his death, Natsu seemingly disappeared as well due to the link between him and Zeref. Unfortunately, Natsu turned out to still be alive as he, along with the other remaining Dragon Slayers were taken by an empowered Acnologia into his domain of time while the dragon's body, separated from his soul remained in the real world causing havoc but also freeing a weakened Anna and Ichiya from the time domain.
After the final battle against Acnologia is over both Zeref and Mavis are reincarnated as regular civilians, a reporter and writer named Arios and Mio attending a celebration party of Lucy's book award while befriending and dating each other, also wanting to get Lucy's autograph at the same time.
Powers and Abilities
- Black Arts (黒い魔法, Kuroi Mahō): Zeref was able to master all forms of Dark Magic at a very early age and brought countless Demons to life. His Magic Power was enormous; so enormous, in fact, that he could not consciously control it at all times, though whether this was always the case is unknown. Zeref's lack of control over his Black Arts abilities seemed to come from his emotional state; he stated that when he cared about the lives of others or the world around him his Magic became uncontrollable and randomly burst outward usually killing, if not severely injuring all around him but when he no longer cared about anything, he gained complete control over his Magic and projected an image of the ruthless and cold-hearted Zeref spoken of in legend.
- Ankhseram Black Magic (アンクセラムの黒魔法, Ankuseramu no Kuro Mahō): It was a Black Art that allowed Zeref to kill any living thing he desired. This Magic seemed to be uncontrollable at times causing it to come forth randomly and kill anything within a certain radius. However, when Zeref forgot the value of and no longer cared about life in general, he could fully control this Magic. Certain Magic Items could protect people from the effects of Ankhseram's power such as Natsu Dragneel's scarf. This Magic also appeared, contrary to the nature of the Black Arts unable to be learned as Zeref only gained this curse-like Magic by upsetting the ancient God Ankhseram, who apparently bestowed these powers upon Zeref due to his making light of the Magic connections between life, death and people in his race to bring his brother back. The only known side effects of this Magic were immortality and the inability to physically age.
- Death Predation: Use of this spell created a dark wave that killed everything in the user's immediate vicinity.
- Death Orb: A spell that, when used destroyed everything in its path.
- Death Pillar: Zeref swipes both of his arms in a circular motion until the bottom of his hands meets. The hand on top has the index and middle fingers pointing upwards while the other hand has the little and index fingers pointing downwards. While doing this, he is surrounded by a dark aura. This spell creates a huge vertical explosion and its blast radius is seemingly controllable. It was used to kill Precht Gaebolg, then known as Master Hades.
- Stygian Blast Circle: Zeref gathered flame-like dark matter in his palm and struck his target with a powerful attack.
- Restriction Orb Magic: Zeref was able to use an unknown Black Art to encase an individual in an orb of energy. It was easily potent enough to render Makarov Dreyar, one of the most powerful wizards and one of the recognized as a member of the Ten Wizard Saints on the continent of Ishgar completely helpless.
- Black Tentacles: Zeref was able to emit black tentacles of dark energy strong enough to keep Natsu at bay for a prolonged period of time.
- Living Magic (生活魔法, Seikatsu Mahō): Zeref was capable of using this ancient, long-forgotten form of Lost Magic that breathed life into an object. Some of Zeref's creations were sentient and sought to further his former, as-of-yet unknown evil desires. As he was their creator, Zeref could easily kill any of them apart from E.N.D. as E.N.D. was made specifically to kill him instead.
- Deliora (デリオラ, Deriora): One of Zeref's (possibly earlier) creations, Deliora was a monstrous Demon that attacked icy villages in the North, killing many people including Silver Fullbuster and leaving his near-infant son Gray Fullbuster orphaned. Deliora was then imprisoned in a block of ice by the Ice Magic wizard, Ultear Milkovich's mother and Gray's mentor Ur, though virtually at the cost of her own life due to her use of Iced Shell, an Ice-Make Magic Spell that turned the caster themselves into ice. Lyon Vastia, one of Ur's former students and Gray's former childhood friend tried to unfreeze it so he could kill the Demon for good himself and surpass his late teacher; however, after years of being imprisoned in Ur's living ice the Demon's life force was greatly reduced; so much, in fact that it died simply upon being released.
- Lullaby (ララバイ, Rarabai): An ironically-named flute that transformed into a giant Demon at will. Whoever heard Lullaby's song (aside from the caster) would immediately die. Erigor, supposed leader of the Eisenwald Dark Guild hoped to use it to murder the Legal Guild Masters at one of their meetings. As Kageyama ultimately failed to carry out the mission, Lullaby turned into its true Demon form to feast upon the souls of those present. However, Natsu, Gray and Erza Scarlet were able to defeat the Demon flute. It was later confiscated and landed in the Magic Council's possession.
- E.N.D. (ＥＮＤ, イーエヌディー, Ī Enu Dī) or Etherious Natsu Dragneel (エーテリアス・ナツ・ドラグニル, Ēteriasu Natsu Doraguniru): The strongest of his Demons and true Master of Tartaros, originally his younger brother Natsu whom Zeref resurrected and was said to be able to kill the immortal black wizard.
- Nemesis (裏魔法・天罰, ネメシス, Nemishisu): This spell creates Demons from rubble. It can create an entire army of Demons with just a few random materials. This spell was used by Precht Gaebolg while battling his former Guild Fairy Tail; he learned it from Volume 4, Verse 20 of one of the Books of Zeref.
- Tartaros (冥府の門, タルタロス, Tarutarosu): It was said that all of Tartaros' members were almost solely Demons he created.
- Mard Geer Tartaros(マルド・ギール・タルタロス, Marudo Gīru Tarutarosu): One of his strongest Demons and the co-founder of Tartaros.
- Bloodman (ブラッドマン, Buraddoman): One of the members of the Spriggan 12 who wields all the Curses possessed by the Nine Demon Gates and their leader Mard Geer.
- Larcade Dragneel (ラーケイド・ドラグニル, Rākeido Doraguniru): One of his most powerful Demons that was an early creation of E.N.D. and a member of the Spriggan 12 who holds Zeref as his father.
- Immobilization Magic: A Black Art of Zeref's that allows him to freeze time for all except those he specifically chooses to remain mobile. After casting this Magic, the surrounding area and all those affected by the Magic appear inverted in color, whilst those unaffected remain as they are.
- Teleportation Magic: Zeref is able to use teleportation magic, disappearing into a black orb and reappearing elsewhere.
- Law (ロウ Rō): Although he was never shown to use it, Zeref was the one who taught this supreme type of Black Magic to Mavis in order for her to fight for her friends. Unfortunately, the use of this Magic (which became a precursor to the spell Fairy Law and its equivalent Grimoire Law) caused Mavis to share Zeref's curse of virtual immortality.
- Fire Magic (火の魔法, Hi no Mahō): Like his younger brother Natsu, Zeref was shown to be capable of using this type of Magic. It allowed him to control and manipulate fire. He used it to burn Mard Geer's tome.
- Telepathy (念話 Terepashī): Zeref has shown to be capable of using this Magic, contacting Larcade through the use of this Magic in order to cease his Magic.
- Enchantment (付加術, Fukajutsu): Zeref has been shown to be a very capable enchanter, being the one who morphed Irene's dragonized form into the physique of a human as she, an incredible enchanter, could not even do it herself.
- Fairy Heart Transformation: Zeref, after activating the Magic of Fairy Heart accesses a mode that he himself calls "surpassing a God of time and space". In this form, he becomes fully white overall with an intricate clothing design as well as wings. Due to Fairy Heart's infinite Magic Power, he is able to control time and space, as when Natsu blew him back with a powerful attack he reformed his being as well as the area that was destroyed with ease.
- Divine Magic Power: Having completely absorbed the source of unlimited Magic Power, Zeref's power has become so immense that it completely transcends normal human comprehension to the point of instantly elevating it to that of a Divinity.
- Time Magic (時の魔法, Toki no Mahō): After accessing Fairy Heart's power, Zeref was said to have control over time, shown by reversing the debris of the destroyed part of the guild when attacked by Natsu.
- Neo Eclipse (ネオ・エクリプス, Neo Ekuripusu): With the power of Fairy Heart and the Space Between Time, Zeref is able to merge both Magics into one, to create this Magic. With it he can relive life again, destroying the current world while the new one replaces it. Neo Eclipse was in the form a door (by walking through it will induce the magic) as Zeref merged it with Fairy Tail's guild door.
- Immense Durability: Zeref is extraordinarily physically durable and resilient, partially due to his Immortality, as he was able to take a punch from Natsu Dragneel (no visible marks were left), and return to his feet, completely unfazed. In his altercations with Natsu, none of Natsu's attacks, while damaging him, were able to cause him pain and only when powered by Igneel's power was Natsu able to do so. Even then, Natsu needed to put all of his power into his attacks to do so and Zeref survived still.
- Expert Sensor: Zeref was able to sense Acnologia approaching Tenrou Island from quite a fair distance, as well as talk to Mavis Vermilion despite not being able to see or hear her.
- Immortality: Approximately 400 years ago, Zeref successfully attained immortality which was a byproduct of him being cursed by the Black Magic of the God Ankhseram. In addition, he was also physically unaging.
- High-Speed Regeneration: Owing to his status as an immortal, if Zeref has gone at least a short amount of time with receiving damage occurring in successive intervals, his wounds heal without a trace.
- Expert Teacher: Zeref is shown to be a highly capable magic instructor, being the one who taught Mavis and Fairy Tail's founding members, how to first use magic, made more impressive by the high level of skill and power these individuals who demonstrate later in life.
- Master Hand-to-Hand Combatant: Zeref proved to be extremely skilled in martial arts as he could easily fight Natsu despite the latter being a very proficient fighter himself and was able to gain the upper hand at times, even going as far as to mock his brother for the reduction of power compared to their previous encounter.
- Immense Magic Power: Zeref holds extreme levels of magical power as he was considered to be the most powerful wizard of all time, known and feared by all. Zeref's magical power can be exerted into a purple or black aura capable of easily intimidating Grimoire Heart members Precht, Rustyrose and Kain Hikaru, all extremely powerful wizards in their own rights. As a testament to his power, he was able to fight evenly against Natsu using Igneel's power although he was gradually overwhelmed and effortlessly overpowered Makarov Dreyar, one of the most powerful wizards in Ishigar and was only prevented from killing him by Mest Gryder's interference. According to Jellal, the only known mage with power equaling his own is Touka, while it seems that only Acnologia and the Five Dragon Gods hold superior power over him.
|“||Long ago, 400 years to be exact, I witnessed countless human conflicts and the devastation they wrought. But then... one day, as if by a miracle, I learned the true value and glory of life. I gained peace and serenity. However, since that fateful day, the more I valued life, the more this cursed body of mine would steal the souls of those around me. If I'm to stop taking people's souls, I must forget how to appreciate the sanctity of human life. This burden... is a wretched one indeed.||„|
|~ Zeref Dragneel vaguely explaining his origins to Second Master Precht Gaebolg.|
|“||This shall be my gift to no one, Mavis. A brand new world purified and sweet... (First Master Mavis: I assume that there will be fighting?) Not quite. More like a one-sided annihilation. Not a man, woman or child shall be spared.||„|
|~ Zeref showing his more wicked side to First Master Mavis Vermilion.|
|“||Close. Spriggan is the name of an ugly little Fairy.||„|
|~ Zeref to Third Master Makarov Dreyar.|
|“||I'm sorry. It's not as though I want to steal anyone's life... but the world rejects me. I want to see you soon, Natsu.||„|
|~ Zeref to his surroundings.|
|“||I see... so you people are the Apple of Discord here. It's sad, how you've managed to anger me.||„|
|~ Zeref to Ultear Milkovich.|
|“||(Rustyrose: Who goes there?!) (Kain: Show yourself!) It's people like you who made me what I am today... (Kain and Rustyrose gasp and look on in shock) ...and your wicked thoughts that have summoned Acnologia. (Second Master Precht also shows surprise) This day shall forever mark the end of the current era... it can no longer be stopped. This miserable world will come to an end here and now! (Second Master Precht: Lord Zeref!)||„|
|~ Zeref approaching Second Master Precht, Kain Hikaru and Rustyrose.|
|“||(Rustyrose: No! What did you do to our master!?) (Kain: He's... dead as a doornail... oh god.) Death is too good for you... may you suffer in the afterlife!||„|
|~ Zeref to Second Master Precht after killing him with Kain and Rustyrose commenting as they watch helplessly.|
|“||I've lived for many centuries and watched the rise and fall of different ages. People hate and evil causes conflict, but I'm looking forward to a new age that will purify all of this. How many times has this happened...where people make the same mistakes over and over again?||„|
|~ Zeref to Mavis.|
|“||If this world continues to reject me, then I shall reject the world.||„|
|~ Zeref to First Master Mavis.|
|“||The real Dragon King Festival is about to start. Black Wizard, the Dragon King, and you humans. It is time to decide who will survive.||„|
|~ Zeref to Third Master Makarov.|
|“||My name is Zeref Dragneel. I am your older brother. Natsu.||„|
|~ Zeref to Natsu Dragneel in their first real fight.|
|“||Could this too be caused by the curse of contradictions...? Or is it my own emotions? I'm not entirely sure.||„|
|~ Zeref to Natsu.|
|“||All my doubts have been cleared. Natsu... Mavis... I'll paint over your very existence with the darkest of black!||„|
|~ Zeref Dragneel during the Alvarez Empire's invasion of Fiore.|
|“||This belongs to me. I'll be taking it back, now. It's really important, you know.||„|
|~ Zeref reclaiming the book of E.N.D. from Gray Fullbuster.|
|“||You don't need to apologize to Makarov. He's already dead. I hope you two meet in heaven. Goodbye, Natsu.||„|
|~ Zeref to Natsu.|