The bandit stood over the pink haired teen, both of them glaring fiercely at each other. Natsu slowly picked himself up, the spot of the blow throbbing in pain. He winced as he finally managed to get to his feet, the bandit staring him down with his arms folded across his chest. Once Natsu was on his feet the bandit snickered at him, taking a step back and readying himself.
Natsu didn't say a word as he rushed straight towards his opponent at full speed. Once he was in a few meters of his opponent he could hear the sound of Gildart's words echoing through his memory. "Don't rush your opponent head on without a plan. They will just use your force against you, if they're well trained enough." Natsu realized that he had completely neglected the words of his mentor. But by the time thought about it, he realized that it was too late. The bandit ducked his shoulder causing Natsu tumble over him as he was grabbed and thrown to the dirt.
Natsu allowed himself to roll across rocks and grass as he saw the bandit rushing towards him this time. Natsu took his own stance as he shot in for the legs tackling the assailant by the legs. The bandit sprawled on him, wrapping his arm around Natsu's neck as Natsu drove him backwards until his feet slid to a stop. Natsu was stunned for a moment, never before had any opponent managed to thwart any of his tackles before, except for Gildarts. The bandit took then lifted Natsu up and began to knee the pink teen in the chest repeatedly before throwing Natsu down to the ground again.
As soon as Natsu regained his composure the bandit kicked the pink haired teen square in the nose, causing blood to burst forth like a facet as he tumbled backwards. Blood oozed from his broken nose, soaking both his face and shirt. He simply wiped it away as he tried to pull himself back up to his feet. He noticed that his vision had begun to go blurry. For a moment it appeared as though the teen standing before him was swaying. He couldn't keep his feet and his legs gave way from underneath him, allowing him to face plant into the dirt.
Soon he could sense that there was a hand reaching down for him. Before he could react he was pulled up by his hair, letting out a hollow shrill. He took a couple of deep breaths, his vision still blurry. He could see the long black hair and metal piercings smirking there in front of him before he was struck with a blow to the cheek and knocked back down to the ground. He coughed violently as he felt himself being pulled up by the hair once more. Again he was struck with a punch to the cheek and knocked back down. His head was throbbing as he could feel blood from a fresh wound trickle down his chin.
"This is the Dragon of Konvern?" the bandit spat as he kicked Natsu in the gut. The boy wailed in pain, grasping at the spot where he was struck. He just coughed some more and each and every breath he took only seemed to cause him more pain. "Nothing but a weak dog who has not mastered his own strength. Pathetic. What a disgrace. And here you are serving you own people's enemies like some worthless dog." He kicked Natsu with a furious leg, causing the boy to wail out even more pain.
Natsu bowled over feeling all the air escape from his lungs. They burned like he had never felt them burn before. He felt so nauseated and in pain. His head was becoming light, his jaw throbbing and the blood still oozing from his gaping wounds. The bandit sighed in disappointment as he stood over the battered and beaten boy. For Natsu, it felt like the pain was radiating though his entire body, his blood boiling and his muscles going weak. He placed a shaky hand underneath him as he rose back up to his feet. He shook his head, cursing himself under his breath. How could he forget his lessons so easily?
This opponent was none like he had ever faced before. He was strong, agile and quick. Every other opponent he was forced to fight were normal humans. Sure their blows could hurt him, but this man was different. He had an immense amount of strength and he could hurt the boy unlike anyone before could. Gildarts was the only man Natsu had ever fought that could have brought him to his knees. But this man was different.
But just then Natsu could feel a burning sensation in his gut. It was like the one that he had felt when he transformed into a best, but this time it was more extreme, like the time he blacked out and had lost himself. He took a deep breath as all the pain in his body just seemed to melt away. Even the blood that was gushing from his wounds had ceased. His eyes were becoming a slightly deeper amber, with a hint of red, and the white of his eyes going black.
The bandit watched him with skeptical eyes, figuring that Natsu was attempting one last desperate attempt to keep on fighting. He just laughed as he stepped in to throw one more punch. Natsu took a deep breath, watching as it seemed that the bandit's hand was moving slowly, as though through water. He didn't just see it, but he could feel it. His eyes focused in as the fist was inching towards him, a twitch moved through his body as though taking control over it's own movements. In the blink of an eye Natsu reached up and grabbed the bandit's fist mid-strike, clenching down hard. The bandit was a bit shocked to see that Natsu had caught him so easily, and even more so as he felt the bones in his knuckles crack. He yelled out in pain as he fell to a knee.
He took a couple of deep breaths to relive some of the pain his was feeling in his hand. When h peered back up at the pink haired teen, Natsu simply clenched down harder causing the boy to let out another wail. The bandit sucked in air through his nostrils as he glared at Natsu, his eyes full of rage. He tried to stand back to his feet, but Natsu applied more pressure onto the bandit's wrist as he could have sworn that bones had cracked. The bandit howler as he grasped at Natsu's arm prying at his hand in a desperate attempt to break the boy's grip. Natsu just stood there firm in his stance, and unmoving.
Natsu smirked as he applied even more pressure causing the bandit to cry out in pain as he fell to his free elbow. The bandit winced summoning all the power he could as he leapt to his feet and upper cut the pink haired boy just hard enough that the grip on his arm was broken.
Once freed the bandit took a few steps backwards clenching his arm. It throbbed in a bright pink, the hand feeling numb. He shook it hoping to relieve some of the pain, but it was useless. He panted hard, glaring up at Natsu with infuriated eyes s the pink haired teen seemed unfazed by the blow. He simply rubbed his chin, smirking all the while.
The bandit growled rushing at Natsu with a fist raised high. Natsu could feel it coming, just like before. It all seemed to slow down, as he could see each and every one of the boy's movements coming towards him. He stood there firm until the bandit was within a step of the pink haired teen before Natsu instinctively spun around letting the swing pass on by his body. He then continued his spin raising his own fist and back handing the black hair teen in the back of the head. He struck him so hard that the other boy just face planted down into the dirt skidding along the rocks and grass.
The bandit shook his head free lifting himself up off the ground as Natsu took a couple of steps closer to him. Meanwhile, Iwan watched with keen interest as the two young teenage boys fought. He had never before seen such a battle. He had seen skilled warriors before, but nothing like the two dragons before him. There was some sick satisfaction he got as he watched the two of them pummel one another, seeing the blood and wounds. He kept his interest in the fight, but his attention was drawn away as he heard the sounds of loud groans. As Iwan turned to see where the source of the noise, he spotted Arcadios hunched over on the ground near the fire pit.
Iwan sighed to himself riding closer to the knight, but he made sure to keep his eyes on the two teens. He did not want to miss a single moment of this. Once his horse stepped next to the aching knight he peered down to see Arcadios was still on his knees breathing deeply. Arcadios had removed the arrow from his shoulder, blood oozed from the wound soaking his armor.
"How are you holding up?" Iwan asked him raising an eyebrow.
"I am fine my Lord," Arcadios grunted as he looked up at the noble. "It's nothing more than a minor wound so there is no need to worry about me. How is the boy holding up?"
Iwan looked over to see walking towards the bandit. "Better," Iwan said nodding his head. "Can you stand?"
"Yes, I think so," Arcadios moaned as he got to a knee only to collapse back to the ground.
"Why don't you rest a while longer, Sir Arcadios?" Iwan suggested. "You are in no shape to push yourself any further. For now the danger has ceased, and the boy seems like he can handle it from here."
The bandit roared as he leapt up from the ground. He was seething now, his face going red from frustration and anger. He wondered just how Natsu could have recovered so easily. What happened to him? He was defeated only moments ago, but now he seemed like he was a completely different person?
He turned around and swung his fist at Natsu who just ducked. The bandit proceeded to throw in another punch with his other hand, which Natsu just dodged by stepping nonchalantly to the side. Again the bandit threw punch after punch as Natsu easily ducked, side-stepped and avoided each and every time tiring out the other teen. The bandit began to grow frustrated as he continued to throw his arms in a frantic manner, as Natsu just dodged each and every on coming blow.
The bandit bent over gasping for breath as he could feel himself becoming tired. He threw in another punch, but it was weak and slow, Natsu brushed it away with a soft swipe of the hand. He then threw an uppercut, colliding his fist with the lower jaw of his opponent, hurdling the other teen into the air as fell hard onto his back. The black haired teen growled as he rolled back onto his feet. In a flash Natsu ran up and kicked the bandit hard in the side of the head knocking him over as blood squirted from a gash that formed just above his brow.
The bandit returned to his knees as he glowered at Natsu, blood spewing from his lips. He wiped it away as he now felt a burning sensation in the pit of his gut. Something unlike he had ever felt before, it didn't hurt, it felt natural as he could feel it consume his body. Natsu saw something interesting, the whites of the bandits eyes turned black with the lenses turning a deep amber yellow. They became just like the pink haired teen as it appeared that all wounds ceased bleeding and the bandit had lost all pain in his body as he stood up.
The two of them stared at one another before they both made a mad dash at each other. The bandit swung for a high punch, which Natsu ducked under, while in motion Natsu swung his own leg up for a kicked only to have it blocked by the bandit. The two of them fought each one throwing punch after punch, kick after kick only for the other to deflect or dodge it. It was all streamed together one after the other, neither one of them seemed to be giving way.
Arcadios watched, still on his hands and knees with Iwan. He was stunned to see them move in such swift movements he could barely keep track on who was moving and who was dodging. It was all one big blur to him. He took a deep breath and with a loud yell he lifted himself back up to his feet, grabbing Iwan's saddle in order to keep himself upright.
Natsu finally managed to lay a blow, directly in the gut of his opponent causing him to bend over as Natsu proceeded to grab him by the head and punched the bandit square on the jaw. Natsu reached in to grasp the bandit, but the bandit broke away jumping back a couple of steps before he inhaled a deep breath and belched out roaring flames. Natsu shielded himself with his arms, but the top half of his body was consumed by the fire.
"Natsu!" Arcadios cried as he watched the flames sear around the top half of the boy's frame. But as soon as the flames ceased, his eyes went wide in sheer shock as he saw the pink haired teen standing there with charcoaled fragments of his shirt drifting off in the breeze while the rest of his body remained completely unscathed.
"A dragon cannot be hurt by fire," Iwan cried in sheer joy. He was incredibly happy to see this type of display. Arcadios looked up at him seeing a wide smirk across the noble's slips before gazing back down at the two fighting teens.
The bandit growled as he saw Natsu was completely unhurt. He ran in one last time claw waving. Natsu took the opportunity to step aside, grabbing the bandits wrist and hurtling the bandit into a tree. Natsu continued his attack, while the bandit was a bit gazed. He slashed his claw across the other teen's face opening up a gaping wound, however it seemed that no blood was pouring out of it. But that didn't stop him. Natsu then kneed the bandit in the gut before grabbing his head and head-butting him in the nose to which the bandit's head collided with the tree.
Exhausted the black haired teen fell over in a slump. He panted heavily as his head was hunched over. Natsu stood over him waiting for the other teen to stand back up, but he didn't. The bandit just grumped as he peered back up at Natsu. It seemed like he was all but done with the fight. His eyes reverted back to their natural form. It was after he had gone back to normal that he stood up. He struggled at first, his body trembling.
Natsu waited for him to get to his feet before he swung a punch in and knocked the bandit out cold. Natsu stared at the now motionless bandit, but soon found his returning to normal as all the pain in his body erupted within him at once. Natsu let out a loud scream as he fell to his knees, both from the sheer pain that overcame him and for his victory. He took a couple of deep breaths before he fell down to his back, grinning widely.
Natsu laid there on his back as he heard he sound of horse hooves approach. He couldn't move, his body ached too much and blood began to leak out from new wounds he didn't even realize he received during the fight. He had trouble breathing, each breath feeling like it was going to burst open his lungs, but he just continued to suck in the sweet, reviving gas. He lost himself in his victory wanting nothing more than to relish the moment.
"Congratulations my young lad," Iwan complimented as he looked down at Natsu from a top his horse, "you won a splendid victory."
"Th-thanks," Natsu moaned still smirking widely.
Acradios stumbled towards the two of them, still hunched over. The wound from where the arrow struck him was gushed a lot of blood causing his head to go light. He pressed his hand over applying pressure. He panted each and every breath. He pulled out his sword and made his way over to the unconscious bandit. He took a step closer to him and stopped. While peering down he raised his sword into the air and was ready strike down the final blow.
"Sir Arcadios," Iwan said stopping the knight before he could stab the bandit, "stay your hand. I think the young man is defeated. He doesn't need to be killed right now."
"Then what would you ask me to do my Lord?" Arcadios asked as he lowered his blade.
"Let's take the young bandit with us," Iwan said. "I think it would be more beneficial to us if we were to keep him alive."
"I think that he is too dangerous to keep alive my Lord," Arcadios retorted. "He can breath fire, and he has claws. He's a beast—" he stopped himself as he looked down at Natsu. Arcadios thought about what he said as soon regretted it. "He's just too dangerous to keep alive."
"I don't think we need to worry," Iwan told him. "I think our Dragon of Konvern here is more than capable of handling him."
Arcadios bowed his head as he walked over. He tapped the bandit with his foot to insure that he was truly out. After confirming that the bandit was in no position to fight back he picked him up and dragged his motionless body to one of the horses. He wheezed in pain with each and every step, his eyes flickering back at Iwan seeing the noble made no attempt to help him. Once he got the bandit to the horse he tied the bandits hands and feet.
Natsu still laid on the ground immobile. After Arcadios had finished tying up the bandit he made his way over to Natsu. He offered the slave boy a hand, but Natsu was too weak to even move his arm. Arcadios sighed as he reached down and helped pick the boy up. Natsu winced and exhaled a breath of pain as he did so. Arcadios wrapped his arm around the boy's shoulders and carried him over to Iwan's horse.
"Is the boy incapable of riding his own horse?" Iwan asked raising an eyebrow.
"He isn't even capable of lifting an arm, let alone ride a horse," Arcadios grumbled.
Iwan sighed rolling his eyes as he helped Arcadios lift the boy up onto his own horse.
"What are we to do about the rest of the horses?" Iwan asked as he peered back.
Only three other horses remained after the others were either killed in combat or ran away. Bodies littered the terrain, while blood soaked the grass and dirt.
"Nothing," Arcadios sighed. "We have neither the time, nor the strength to gather them all together."
The sight of all his men lying there dead brought a tear to Arcadios' eye, but he could not dwell on it. He limped over to where they lay wishing that he could give them a proper burial. But at the same time he knew that he could not waste any more time. His wound was too grave and with Natsu in his condition needed medical help. Not to mention the bandit.
He bowed his head paying respect to the fallen before he returned to his own horse and hopped on. Natsu on the other hand rested his head against the Iwan's back, the blood staining the noble's robe. He managed to move, but he was barely able to turn his head back to the trees back to where he remembered seeing the cloaked man. But he was nowhere to be seen. Natsu sighed closing his eyes letting himself fall asleep.
After a long trip the group made their way back to the castle. When the four of them arrived back at the main gate, Iwan nudged Natsu from his sleep. Upon waking up the boy could still feel his body ache terribly but at least he was able to move at this point. Once he sat up he cringed, grabbing at his abdominals as they burned with immense pain.
"Are you all right, boy?" Iwan asked as he turned back to the boy.
"Yeah," Natsu mumbled under his breath. "I'll be fine, my Lord."
Natsu turned over to see Arcadios riding hunched over on his horse. The bandit rested on the back but he was still unconscious.
It was nightfall by the time the four of them arrived back at the town square. Arcadios and Iwan rode their horses through the town until they came upon the castle walls. Once they entered the castle grounds they came to a stop. Two guards helped Arcadios from his horse as they took him inside the castle to receive medical attention.
When Iwan leapt down from his own horse as a servant rushed over to grab the reigns. When Iwan had moved Natsu had lost all the support that had kept him upright as he slid and fell to the ground hard. He groaned in pain as a couple of guards snickered at him.
"Someone help the boy," Iwan ordered. "And send for the king."
Two slaves reached down and picked the boy back up to his feet only to have him fall down again. They exchanged laughs as they picked him up again, only this time one of the slaves stood there to hold him up. As soon as he was on his feet the king, followed by Lucy, Levy and several other nobles walked up to them.
"Good evening Lord Iwan, how did your mission go?" King Jude asked as he walked up and hugged Iwan.
"It was successful my Lord," Iwan answered. "But at a dear price. We lost many good men this day. But I am thankful that we had Natsu there. Without him I fear that Arcadios and myself would have been slain that day."
"Well it's good to see that the time we invested in the slave has come to pay dividens," King Jude said patting the nobleman on the shoulder.
Natsu took a deep breath, but he still couldn't uphold himself without the help of the other slave. He gazed up long enough to see Princess Lucy standing there beside her father, a look of horror on her face. He wondered what it was that could have startled the young lady. Lucy's eyes went wide as she saw the half naked boy with his blood stained face, open wounds that were still leaking some blood and bruised covered body. She wanted to rush over to him, but she knew she couldn't.
"And what do we have here?" King Jude said gesturing towards the tied up bandit.
"One of the bandits my Lord," Iwan answered.
He motioned for one of the slaves to take the young man down. Once they had cut one of the ropes, the bandit fell to the ground in a loud thump. The black haired teen moaned as he rolled on the ground. Natsu found himself growing more enraged as he watched the king strike the bandit. He wanted to hate the other teen for what he did, but there was still some compassion. He realized that the boy was just like him, a Draconan who was also a beast.
"I see, a prisoner. Why bother sparing him anyways?" King Jude asked.
"Because this boy is special my Lord," Iwan said eagerly. "You see this boy is a Draconan, but not just any Draconan. For you see this boy is exactly like our young Natsu here."
"So he can transform into a beast as well?" King Jude asked raising an eyebrow.
Natsu twitched as he heard the king speak, yet those words stung him. Even though he grew up hearing it from people he could never get used to it. He tried to keep it hidden from the populous but people still remembered that day from so many years ago. He knew that the king was speaking of Natsu directly, but the words still stung nonetheless.
"Yes, my Lord," Iwan answered. "This boy can transform himself: claws, eyes, and scales. It was quite a sight to see as two children of dragons fought one another in a duel to the death.
"I did not know that there were other Draconans like our slave," King Jude said as he walked over and peered over the teenaged boy. "How could this have happened?"
"I do not know my Lord," Iwan answered. "But I'm sure that we can ask the boy once he comes too."
"Wake up boy," King Jude demanded as he kicked bandit's side.
The young man coughed violently as he flinched under the blow. The bandit rolled over in pain. Natsu grimaced as he saw the king strike the severely injured teen.
"Now stand up," the king ordered. But the bandit did not. He couldn't his body was in too much pain. Though he didn't have to, two servants walked over and lifted him up so that he was facing the king. "What is your name?" King Jude asked once the boy was lifted up.
"Gajeel," he muttered.
At that point everyone could see his battered and bruised face. He was not better than Natsu, except for the large gash that went from cheek to cheek. Some of the nobles were turned away by his grotesque appearance.
"I see, and you were the one who attacked my daughter and killed my men?" King Jude asked sternly.
"No," he grumbled. "I don't remember attacking any women. But yeah, I was the one that slaughtered you men." He smirked at the king but was slapped hard across the face.
"You think that's funny?" King Jude snarled.
"Hilarious," the bandit snickered.
"Well, we'll just see how long you laugh after a few lashings put you back in your place," King Jude sneered. "Take him down to the dungeons."
Natsu watched as the slaves dragged the bandit away. Gajeel couldn't fight back. He was in too much pain. He sagged his head as the nobles stood aside letting the slaves by pass. As he was carried away he passed by one person in particular, a small young teenaged girl with long blue hair. For a split second the boy peered up as their two eyes met.
The girl stared at him with a bleak expression. She could see his eyes full of pain, anger and anguish. She felt sympathetic for him though she had no idea who he was. She could see how defeated he was, the scars of his fight still eminent and the humiliation he must have felt being seen in such a state in front of all these people. She knew that he was a bandit, and that meant that he was a low life who had pillage and killed people, but she couldn't help but feel sorry.
Once that split second was over they continued to lug him away before he disappeared behind a doorway that led down to the dungeons.
"And as for you young slave," King Jude said walking over to Natsu. "It seems that you really pulled through in the end. Now, return to your quarters."
"Father," Lucy interjected. "Don't you think that slave should be treated for his wounds? He does look rather fatigued and wounded."
"What?" King Jude asked raising an eyebrow. "And waste the doctors time on a slave? Lucy I would think you would have more sense than that. Our doctor's time is too valuable to waste on a slave. Escort him back to his quarters. I expect him to be up and ready for his duties tomorrow."
"My Lord if I may," Iwan said trying to interject.
"No, you may not," King Jude snipped.
Natsu felt himself being pulled away by the other two slaves, his feet dragging against the dirt. Though there was something in him that compelled him to stand up right as he shook the other two slaves off. It wasn't the most well thought out plan as he legs gave way underneath him once again as he collapsed once more. A chuckle of laughter echoed from the crowd of nobles, as Lucy looked on in worry. She wanted to comfort him, but knew she could not. Natsu struggled, swiping away the hands of the other slaves as he finally managed to lift himself back to his feet.
"My lord," Natsu interjected. He had no idea why he was speaking out of term, but he felt obliged. "Please, I cannot even stand let alone work. I ask that you relieve me of my duties for just one day."
"What did you say?" King Jude growled. "You dare skip out on your responsibilities? You have no say in the matter slave. If you cannot work, you will be thrown in jail with the other scum. Or is it that you feel compelled to follow your fellow beast down below?"
"Then send me down," Natsu spat. "Because I will not work tomorrow."
"Very well," King Jude sighed. "Guards, escort this filth down to the dungeons as well."
Two guards bowed their heads as they complied. They grabbed Natsu under the arms and carried him off in the same direction as Gajeel. King Jude glared at him as he watched the pink haired teen lugged away. Lucy wanted to interject, but Natsu shook his head at her. He knew that it was something he had to do. There were so many questions, and there was no other way he was going to get the opportunity.