After returning from Edolas, Makarov starts the Annual S-Class Mage Promotion Trial and announces Natsu as one of the eight participants. Natsu chooses Happy as his partner and the two join the other participants and their partners on the ship towards Tenrou Island. Makarov later explains the rules of the "Power and Luck" trial and Natsu and Happy race with their guild mates in order to be the first one to choose a path.
Natsu and Happy arrive at the island to see that four of the eight paths have already been taken and blocked. Natsu decides to choose the E-Path, thinking that Erza is waiting in that path. Happy is confused with Natsu's choice but Natsu tells him that he just wants to defeat Erza.
As they walk through the path, Natsu begins to shout for Erza to come out. Happy is still skeptical that Erza is in that path but Natsu insists, saying that E Path is for Erza Path. Suddenly, the two see Gildarts walking out of the shadows. Happy loses hope, thinking that there journey is over but Natsu smiles at Gildarts, preparing to clash with Fairy Tail's Strongest S-Class Mage.
Natsu immediately charges at Gildarts. Gildarts and Happy try to stop him since Gildarts is known to be able to obliterate opponents when he is not mentally prepared. Natsu charges anyway and attacks with a Fire Dragon's Iron Fist that Gildarts manages to stop with his bare hands. Gildarts then attacks with his Magic, causing Happy to think that Natsu has been blown to pieces. However, Natsu appears from above and, with his body covered in flames, attacks Gildarts but Gildarts manages to crush the ground, saving himself from Natsu's attack. Natsu doesn't give up and continues to attack Gildarts with his fists covered in flames. Gildarts manages to defend himself and attack Natsu at the same time. Natsu tries to retaliate but Gildarts is able to stop his attacks. Happy watches, seeing Natsu's face, serious yet smiling. Natsu then attacks with a Fire Dragon's Roar that Gildarts manages to destroy with his Crush. However, Gildarts accidentally used his Magic on Natsu too and Natsu vanishes. Happy begins to cry, thinking that Natsu is dead, but Gildarts tells him that he probably isn't dead since it's not that kind of Magic.
Suddenly, multiple mini-Natsus fall from the sky, much to Happy's surprise. Gildarts tells Happy that Natsu will be back to normal later but informs them that they have failed the test. However, the mini-Natsus awaken, telling Gildarts that they have not given up and to not underestimate them. The mini-Natsus charge, thinking that Gildarts' Magic backfired on him. Gildarts is dumbfounded, since it is the first time that an opponent dares to fight him in that state. The mini-Natsus charge at Gildarts and Gildarts pulls out his cape and defeats multiple of them at the same time. However, the other mini-Natsus continue to attack, attacking him with their mini-Fire Dragon Slayer Magic simultaneously. Annoyed, Gildarts returns Natsu to normal and Natsu immediately attacks him with his Crimson Lotus: Exploding Flame Blade, causing an explosion.
As the smoke clears, Natsu is overjoyed when he saw that he was able to make Gildarts move from his original position. Gildarts is impressed with Natsu, and tells him that he can let him pass after seeing his power. Hearing this, Natsu immediately refuses, saying that there is no point in becoming an S-Class Mage if he fails to defeat Gildarts. Gildarts smiles at him and begins to get serious, saying that Natsu still has something to learn in order to be an S-Class Mage. He then releases a massive amount of Magic Power, causing the ground to shatter. Natsu is surprised with Gildarts' actions and tries to attack him but begins to tremble even before he can land a punch. Natsu drops to his knees and admits defeat while Happy watches him, his eyes sparkling with tears.
Gildarts smiles at him and approaches him, impressed that Natsu is one of the few people who has the courage to re-sheath their blades. Gildarts tells Natsu that fear is not evil, but it is a way to know one's weakness. He tells Natsu that if he knew his own weakness, he can become stronger as well as kinder. These traits, according to Gildarts, are necessary for one to achieve the level of an S-Class Mage. After telling this to Natsu, Gildarts tells him that he passed. Natsu can't believe what he is hearing and Gildarts tells him to go, saying that an even more gruelling test awaits him. Gildarts tells Natsu to have confidence since he can do it. He also promises Natsu that he will fight him anytime but for now, he still needs to go and become an S-Class Mage.
- Fairy Tail Manga: Chapter 201, Pages 12-16
- Fairy Tail Manga: Chapter 203, Pages 2-17
- Fairy Tail Manga: Chapter 204, Pages 16-19
- Fairy Tail Manga: Chapter 205, Pages 8-17
- Fairy Tail Manga: Chapter 205, Pages 17-19
- Fairy Tail Manga: Chapter 206, Pages 2-6
- Fairy Tail Manga: Chapter 206, Pages 6-16
- Fairy Tail Manga: Chapter 206, Pages 16-20