"I had no reason to come to this age. I'm not an ally to anyone. I'm not an enemy to anyone. But still, if an age is about to end right now... I might awaken once again."
Zeref Dragneel (ゼレフ・ドラグニル Zerefu Doraguniru) is considered to be the strongest, most evil Mage of all time, who possesses extremely dangerous, and powerful Magic. He is the founder and current Emperor of the Alvarez Empire, under the alias of Emperor Spriggan (皇帝スプリガン Kōtei Supurigan), the older brother of Natsu Dragneel and the father to Larcade Dragneel.
Despite being hundreds of years old, Zeref has the appearance of a young man. He wears high-collared red (black in the anime) and tan robes with gold trim, along with a large, flowing white toga draped around his torso. He has short black hair, dark eyes, and abnormally sharp canines. He also wears a pendant, where he keeps a childhood picture of Natsu and himself. When Zeref returned to the Alvarez Empire, he changed his wardrobe to a black and white outfit.
In the modern era, Zeref seeks to isolate himself and is very calm, sincere, and conflicted. He wishes to die to atone for all the sins he has committed, and may commit in the future. He shows concern for others when he warns them not to come near him, knowing that they would die if they did. He is also somewhat emotionally fragile, as when he realizes that Natsu is not ready to kill him yet, he breaks down in tears. Zeref often kills with no prior incentive or knowledge.
In spite of all this, Zeref is very vindictive, and will punish those who he believes to be evil. This was shown when he ruthlessly killed Hades, whom he thinks has committed a number of unforgivable sins. As a result of his immortal life, Zeref has developed a misanthropic loathing for humanity and its repeated idiosyncrasies of hatred, evil, and conflict.
Nevertheless, Zeref is also shown to be a man of the people as the Emperor of Alvarez, and is shown to display good will and friendliness towards his generals and subjects, which is also reflected in their opinion of him, sincerely cheering and welcoming him as he returns to the capital after a long absence. Zeref also compared running the Empire akin to playing a strategy game, making the Curse of Contradictions' symptoms go away while at it, because the people he commands, he treats merely as pawns.
Orphaned after Dragons killed his parents and his little brother, Natsu, an extremely young Zeref became a student at the Mildian Magic Academy, where he researched the connections between life, death and Magic to revive his brother. After creating things such as the R-System and the Eclipse Gate, he was expelled from the academy for breaching the sacred teachings of Ankhseram, however he was cursed by Ankhseram and then 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 that they would kill him, but instead turned to reviving his dead brother, having preserved his body, as an Etherious, thus fulfilling his goal of bringing his brother back and creating something that could kill him: E.N.D.; Etherious Natsu Dragneel.
One day while out gathering herbs, Zeref stumbled across the Fire Dragon King Igneel, who unlike many other Dragons at the time was not opposed to associating with humans, and after acquainting with one another, the Dragon agreed to teach Natsu Dragon Slayer Magic and raise him. Zeref then became aware of the plan hatched by Igneel, Metalicana, Grandeeney, Weisslogia and Skiadrum to use the Dragon Soul Technique to seal their damaged souls inside young Dragon Slayers that they have raised and travel to the future, where the Ethernano-dense air would help them recover enough to kill Acnologia. Zeref helped them do so, and had the Celestial Spirit Mage Anna Heartfilia open the Eclipse Gate to the future, while also four hundred years later having Layla Heartfilia open another version of the Gate to connect the two time periods, allowing the Dragon Slayers chosen (Natsu, Gajeel, Wendy, Sting and Rogue) to arrive in the future on July 7, X777.
Ultimately, the true tale of events became distorted with time, resulting in legends surrounding the now-dubbed Black Wizard. The stories stated that at some point in the distant past, around 400 years ago, Zeref witnessed the deaths of many people. Around this time, he also became cursed, and unintentionally took the lives of all 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.
At least a century ago, Zeref founded what later shaped itself to become the Alvarez Empire, which united 730 guilds of Alakitasia by martial force, but he rarely dabbles in politics unless necessary, preferring to stay beyond the capital, or even the empire itself, while his ministers and generals do the majority of the work.
Sometime later, Zeref is found taking a bath in Western Forest near Magnolia by Mavis Vermilion. 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, which Mavis quickly recognized as Ankhseram Black Magic. Zeref was surprised and commended Mavis' knowledge, and told 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 Magic, he was happy at the notion and thanked her sincerely. After this, Zeref agreed to teach Mavis and her companions Magic (while keeping a safe distance much to Warrod's chagrin), 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, happy that he made friends.
Six years later, in X696, Zeref happened upon Mavis one more time. In spite of his attempts to remind the girl of his Curse, she ran to Zeref to give him a hug, thanking him for what he had done for them. Zeref then revealed his true identity, shocking Mavis, however, she was unable to believe the rumors surrounding the Black Wizard's name. After a short discussion, Zeref learnt that Mavis had used Law, soon realizing that she had stopped growing. He identified that as the Curse of Ankhseram and when Mavis argued against this, Zeref noted that there had been no casualties yet because of the war era. As Mavis ran away, in tears, Zeref thought to himself that she had the potential to "walk alongside him".
Zeref then undertook a search for Mavis; after one year he found her alone and starving, but remarked that no matter what she did, she would not die. He was then begged to kill her, but refused on the grounds that he couldn't even if he wanted to. He explained that in the beginning, immortality drove him mad and that even now he wants to die, but tried to comfort her by saying that they have time to do whatever they feel, citing his creation of the Etherious to kill himself and his building of a nation as ways to pass time. He went even further, saying that over in his nation, he is the emperor and Ankhseram's Curse doesn't affect anyone there, as they are nothing more than pawns to him; Mavis questioned his reason to build a nation, and he explained that it's preparation for battle, which he stated he hates, though he added that he only lives to die and that he wants to see his brother, though such thoughts began to hurt his head. Zeref was then embraced by Mavis, finding solace in her ability to understand him and her words about trying to break the Curse of Contradiction. He then began to shed tears when exclaimed that they would find a way together, and realizing that he fell in love with Mavis, he kissed her, but Ankhseram's Curse stole away just about all of Mavis' life force while she was in his arms.
Zeref then brought Mavis back to Magnolia and threw her on the ground in front of the onlooking Precht, claiming that he only came to return her body. Over the top of Precht's exclamation, Zeref merely stated that Mavis, whom he referred to as a "thing", no longer moved, even adding to Precht's worry by saying that she will never wake up. As he walked away and bade her goodnight, Precht asked who he was, and he answered that he was the Black Wizard Zeref. He then rebutted his statement, claiming that if Mavis was a fairy, then he was a spriggan. Broken, Zeref resolved to simply go back to Alakitasia to continue building his empire, where none of those that he considers pawns will die to him, regretting that he ever fell in love. Zeref then eventually learned of Mavis' non-living yet non-dead state that created Eternal Magic—Fairy Heart—and resolved to acquire it for his own purposes.
In the course of his travels following this event, Zeref roamed a mountain range and stumbled upon a Dragon Irene. Thinking of her as rare initially, Zeref quickly realized that she was actually human and, in the blink of an eye, enchanted her back to her original form. In response to her elation, Zeref informed her that the change was aesthetic only, and that for all intents and purposes, she still physiologically remained a Dragon.
Some time later, during one of his stays in Vistarion, Zeref revealed to Invel what he had been carrying inside the pendant around his neck: a picture of Natsu and himself during their childhood days. Some time after that, however, Zeref eventually found himself on the secluded Tenrou Island, hoping to stay completely cut off from humanity.
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 Dark Mage are, however, in vain, as he releases a wave of Magic, killing not only the wolves, but much of the surrounding ecosystem. Zeref then apologizes and wallows in misery, wishing to meet Natsu soon. Later, Carla has a vision, and sees that Zeref will somehow be involved in the S-Class Mage Promotion Trial.
During the trial, he runs into Elfman and Evergreen and warns them to stay away from him, as his Magic is beginning to run rampant. However, when the wave is released, Natsu arrives and saves his fellow comrades from the deathly black wave. Zeref is then shocked to see his brother Natsu, saying that he has "grown", but Natsu says that he doesn't recognize the Dark Mage. When he tells the Fairy Tail Mages that he has been expecting Natsu's arrival, Natsu misinterprets the statement as a declaration of challenge and rushes towards Zeref, landing a fierce blow to his face.
Zeref is unfazed by the punch and stands up, disappointed that Natsu is not ready to kill him, causing him to shed tears of frustration. Zeref then unintentionally releases another wave of his Magic, but Natsu's scarf absorbs the blast, saving the lives of everyone present. Zeref then proceeds to make his escape, however, Grimoire Heart is now aware of his presence, and seeks to hunt him down. Zeref then rests next to a tree and claims that the world continues to reject him, before crying once more.
He then crosses paths with Ultear, 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, who received orders from Gray to keep track of Zeref. The trio are 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 ("Acnologia"), and awakes. Zeref and Zancrow then lock eyes, and Zeref releases a wave of Magic at the Grimoire Heart Mage, 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 terrible 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 a spell 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 Wendy'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, stating, tearfully, 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 before 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 Vermilion 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 but 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 "kill-joy". Bidding farewell, Zeref notes that only Natsu or E.N.D. will be able to reach him, vanishing shortly afterwards.
Some time later, Zeref reappears to interrupt the argument between Natsu and Gray on who takes the book of E.N.D. He summons the very book to his hand, claiming that it is something very important that belongs to him. Zeref then praises Mard Geer for his attempts to revive E.N.D and when Mard states that he can realize what Zeref wishes for, the Dark Mage turns his Demon into a book, burning it subsequently. Zeref then tells Natsu that he wanted to finish their fight today, but Acnologia got in the way. He states that if Natsu can survive this desperate situation, he will give him even more despair. Afterwards, he vanishes yet again, taking E.N.D. with him as well. Later, at an unknown place, Zeref ominously 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 he 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 book, 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, sarcastically mocking his lack of an arm and assuming human is his preferred form; Zeref is immediately questioned by the sitting Acnologia as to what he wants, however Zeref tells Acnologia that he desires 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.
Alvarez Empire arc
Zeref returns to the Alvarez Empire after a year of absence, cheered on by his subjects coming out to meet him and revealing himself to be Emperor Spriggan. At the palace, he is greeted by Invel, and Zeref asks him to gather the rest of the Spriggan 12. As they converse, Dimaria and Ajeel appear and Invel chastises them for the manner in which they speak to Zeref. At that moment, August walks in asking Zeref if he found his answer to Ragnarok, to which Zeref replies that in Ishgar Ragnarok is called the Dragon King Festival. Yajeel then enters the palace and greets the emperor, but backs away as he remembers the effects of Zeref's curse. Yajeel introduces Makarov to him and says that he is seeking an audience with the emperor. As the others leave, Makarov and Zeref then converse privately about the Dragon King Festival, Fairy Heart, and Alvarez Empire's origin. Afterwards, Zeref 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. After Natsu and the rest of Fairy Tail successfully escape, Zeref thinks to himself that "it" finally begins.
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. Wall Eehto 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; 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 with 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, 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 are 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 reveals that he, Zeref, is his older brother, and that Natsu and their parents died four hundred 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.
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 four hundred 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 four other orphans, also from four hundred years ago, were selected, them being Gajeel, Wendy, Sting and Rogue; the five orphans were then sent through Eclipse, 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 the day they all arrived in the future; he expresses his sorrow at the pain he had to go through while waiting for the four hundred years to pass. Zeref is then approached for the kill, but says that when he dies, Natsu will die too, for he is his creation, but despite Natsu's lack of care for his death, he is stopped by Happy and whisked away back to the guild. His brother now gone and Igneel's power faded, Zeref states that Natsu has lost his one and only chance to kill him, and bids him farewell.
With Natsu now gone, Zeref's wounds heal very rapidly as he exclaims that no one can stop him now and that he no longer has any reason to hesitate. After declaring for Invel to get their troops moving again, he tells his chief of staff to procure him clothes for fitting for an emperor. Some time later, in his new outfit, Zeref receives a report from Invel regarding the standing of their army. Hearing that 5 of the Spriggan 12 have been defeated, Zeref only smirks, threatening Natsu and Mavis as he and his army start marching towards the Fairy Tail Guild. However, he soon notices the change in the quality of the land's Magic and correctly pinpoints the reason for that to be Irene, worried about her intentions. As light covers all of Fiore, Zeref is shocked to see Irene using Universe One, a Magic that causes all of Fiore to be reconstructed with the intention to put Zeref near Fairy Heart, as Zeref explains to Mavis after she finds him sitting in an empty guild hall.
Zeref then notes that it's been 100 years since the two of them met like this, but before their discussion can continue, Mavis' body is frozen by Invel. After Zeref expresses his disagreement, Invel decides to control Mavis' mind instead and Zeref takes the girl to show her the guild's predicament: the building surrounded by the armies and Spriggan 12 themselves, with their emperor wondering if Mavis' comrades can break through. Having noticed the twelve's great Magic, Mavis watches in shock as Zeref points out Larcade to be the trump card against Acnologia and proceeds asking 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.
While the battle rages on, Zeref watches Irene's efforts to extract the Magic from Mavis, asking whether it will take much longer, as he expresses his distaste for Mavis suffering like that. Irene points out that having such feelings will not help him to defeat Acnologia and Zeref eventually agrees with her logic, deciding to leave the guild hall afterwards. Before he can do so, he looks through the window, noticing the ongoing blizzard caused by Invel.
Later, Zeref arrives and asks Irene to stop the process of extraction briefly, expressing his wish to talk to Mavis for the last time. As Irene comments on foolishness of such decision, Zeref stands by his words regardless. It is before it turns out that it was all an illusion, as remarked by the real Zeref himself, explaining how Mavis is proficient at the usage of Illusion Magic. As such, Zeref orders Irene to pursue Mavis immediately, the latter gladly obliging. After Makarov's casting of Fairy Law, Zeref asks Irene what the status of their troops are; he learns their numbers have been reduced by seventy to eighty percent. Zeref proceeds to praise Makarov for his use of the Magic that he taught to Mavis, and also learns that the Spriggan 12 were unaffected by the Fairy Magic. Zeref goes back into the guildhall, where he sits afflicted by Larcade's Magic. Sensing that his troops are being affected by it as well, Zeref telepathically contacts Larcade and tells him to cease his actions at once. A bit later, Zeref appears somber after he senses his son's defeat.
Some time after this, as it occurs, Zeref notes that the light around him indicates that Universe One is being undone, and that Fiore is returning to its original shape. In the reconstructed Magnolia, Zeref remains inside the guild, and is soon approached by Gray; he expresses surprise at the fact that Gray was the first one to reach him, citing Jellal or Laxus as his first guesses. Zeref then tells Gray that he has put himself in a situation that cause Natsu the most grief.
Zeref dives right in by identifying Gray, and offering information on him and many of Natsu's other friends, citing that information is crucial in war. Upon being asked what he is truly after, Zeref says that it is Fairy Heart, explaining that it is needed to defeat Acnologia. Gray calls Zeref's words lies; Zeref says they are true, but adds that his plans are not so lackluster, and that defeating Acnologia is merely the final step. He tells Gray his true plan, which leaves him astounded, remarking that Fairy Heart is indeed powerful to accomplish his objective; Zeref says that he told Gray that he revealed his plans because he will die before Natsu arrives, and that Natsu's true power will then awaken. Hearing Gray state that he'll be the one defeated, Zeref reminds Gray that he is immortal, but states that should he somehow die, then Natsu will as well. The Black Wizard is then surprised to hear that Gray knows Natsu is E.N.D., but repeats his brother's fate should he fall. However, Zeref is surprised when Gray reveals that he will imprison him with Iced Shell, and then becomes aghast when Gray shows that he has added the Lost Attribute to it to create the even stronger Lost Iced Shell at the cost of the world's memories of him.
Zeref wonders where Gray could have learned how to apply a Lost Attribute, and his warnings of the cost of using a Lost Attribute do not deter Gray, who begins the casting of Lost Iced Shell. As he is being frozen solid, Zeref notes that the Magic will merely imprison him and will someday melt, something which Gray shrugs off as a temporary win for Fairy Tail. Though he is nearly frozen, Natsu arrives and stops Gray from finishing the spell, which frees Zeref. After his and Gray's exchange, when Gray is worried about Natsu's fate if he wins, Zeref chimes, reminding Natsu that he will die regardless of the outcome, remarking that destiny is cruel. Natsu challenges Zeref to battle once more, saying that he'll burn destiny; Zeref finds his brother's sentiments humorous because he is a man who accepted his destiny because he had no other choice, as destiny is absolute.
Magic and Abilities
Black Arts (黒魔法 Kuro 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 is enormous; so enormous, in fact, that he cannot consciously control his own Magic, though whether this was always the case is unknown. Zeref's lack of control over his Black Arts seems to come from his emotional state. He, himself, has stated that when he cares of the lives of others, his Magic becomes uncontrollable and randomly bursts outward, killing all those around him, but, when he no longer cares about others, he gains complete control over his Magic, and becomes the ruthless, cold-hearted Zeref spoken of in legend.
- Ankhseram Black Magic (アンクセラムの黒魔術 Ankuseramu no Kuro Majutsu): It is a Black Art that allows Zeref to kill any living thing he desires. This Magic seems to be uncontrollable at times, causing it to burst out randomly, killing anything within a certain radius around him. However, when Zeref forgets the value of, and no longer cares about, a human life, he can fully control this Magic. Certain Magic Items can protect people from Ankhseram Black Magic, such as Natsu Dragneel's scarf. This Magic also appears, 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 this upon Zeref due to his making light of the connections between life, death and people in his race to bring his brother back to life. The side effect of this Magic is immortality and the inability to age.
- Death Pillar: Zeref swipes both of his arms in a circular motion until the bottom of his hands meet. 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 it's blast radius is seemingly controllable. It was used to kill Hades. (Unnamed)
- Living Magic (生活魔法 Seikatsu Mahō): A very ancient, long-forgotten form of Magic that breathes life into an object. Some of Zeref's creations are sentient, and seek to further Zeref's former, as-of-yet unknown, evil desires. Most of the beings that Zeref created were Demons.
- Deliora (デリオラ Deriora): One of Zeref's many creations, Deliora was a monstrous Demon that attacked the icy villages in the North. Deliora was imprisoned in a block of ice by Ur. Lyon Vastia tried to unfreeze it so he could kill the Demon, however, after years of being imprisoned in Ur's ice, the Demon's life force was greatly reduced, so much, in fact, that simply upon being released from the ice, it died.
- Lullaby (ララバイ Rarabai): A flute that can transform into a giant Demon. Whoever hears Lullaby's song (aside from the caster) will die. Erigor hoped to use this to kill the Guild Masters at their meeting. As Kageyama failed to carry out the mission, Lullaby transformed into its Demon form to feast upon souls. However, Natsu Dragneel, Gray Fullbuster, and Erza Scarlet were able to defeat the Demon flute. It currently is in the Magic Council's possession.
- E.N.D. (ＥＮＤ 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, thought to be able to kill the immortal Zeref.
- Nemesis (天罰 Nemishisu): This spell creates Demons from rubble. It can create an entire army of Demons with just a few rocks. This spell was used by Hades while battling Fairy Tail. Hades learned this spell from Volume 4 Verse 20 of one of the Books of Zeref.
- Tartaros (冥府の門 Tarutarosu): Zeref stated that all of Tartaros' members are 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 founder of Tartaros.
- 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. (Unnamed)
Enhanced Durability: Zeref is quite physically durable, as he was able to take a punch from Natsu Dragneel (no visible marks were left), and return to his feet, completely unfazed.
Immortality: Approximately 400 years ago, Zeref successfully attained immortality, which is revealed to be a byproduct of him being cursed by the God Ankhseram with Ankhseram Black Magic. In addition, he is also 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.
Battles & Events
- The 400 Year Plan
- Zeref Dragneel vs. Ultear Milkovich
- Conflict on Grimoire Heart's Airship
- Natsu Dragneel vs. Zeref Dragneel
Appearances in Other Media
Fairy Tail: Zeref's Awakening
- (To his surroundings) "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."
- (To Ultear Milkovich) "I see... so you people are the Apple of Discord here. It's sad, how you've managed to anger me."
- (To himself) "I had no reason to come to this age. I'm not an ally to anyone. I'm not an enemy to anyone. But still, if an age is about to end right now... I might awaken once again."
- (To Hades, Kain Hikaru and Rustyrose) "It is people like you who carved me into existence. It is wicked thoughts like yours that summoned Acnologia, heralding the end of this age. No one can stop it now. The world will be finished here." 
- (To Hades) "Trash that doesn't even know it's trash deserves to fall into the abyss."
- (To Mavis Vermilion) "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?"
- (To Mavis Vermilion) "If this world continues to reject me, then I shall reject the world."
- (To Makarov Dreyar) "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."
|Imperial Family||Larcade Dragneel • Spriggan|
|Spriggan 12||Ajeel Ramal • August • Bloodman • Brandish μ • Dimaria Yesta • God Serena • Invel Yura • Irene Belserion • Jacob Lessio • Larcade Dragneel • Neinhart • Wall Eehto|
|Brandish Squad||Brandish μ • Marin Hollow|
|Wall Squad||Wall Eehto|
|Ajeel Squad||Ajeel Ramal • Bakel • Kareem|
|Dimaria Squad||Dimaria Yesta|
|Neinhart Squad||Four Heraldry Knights • Neinhart|
|Irene Squad||Heine Lunasea • Irene Belserion • Juliet Sun|
|Deceased||Bloodman • God Serena • Irene Belserion • Wall Eehto|