The next day Natsu was woken up by the splash of freezing cold water once more. Only this time when he was stirred awake he was surprised to see three guards and Arcadios standing over him. Once the pink haired teen was awake Acradios motioned for the other guards to step forward. Natsu didn't have a chance to react as he found himself tied up and restrained in chains before being dragged away from his cell.
Gajeel was in no different of a situation as he too was woken up by frigid water tossed on him. Before he even had a chance to react, a number of prison guards pounced on him and kept him pinned down before another set of guards strapped Gajeel to the wall. The boy tugged at the chains around his wrist, flailing to break free. Aracdios watched the process from the next cell before gazing back to watch as Natsu was taken away before exiting the pink haired teen's cell and slamming the door shut behind him. A loud screech wailed from the bars as the door was closed.
"Hey!" Gajeel yelled as he struggled with his own chains. He was still in a bit of shock as he was perplexed by what had just happened. "What's going on? Why the hell are you tying me up?"
"King's orders," Arcadios told him bluntly. "He's afraid that you'll try to break out and escape today. And that is something he cannot afford to happen at the moment."
"And what makes this day so special?" Gajeel snorted leering threateningly at Arcadios.
"Not that it's any of your business," Arcadios sneered, "but King Duke was spotted entering Konvern's borders yesterday, and he and his company should be arriving at the castle soon. So he can't afford to have you messing things up for him and his family."
"Oh, perish the thought," Gajeel said sarcastically rolling his eyes. "Why would you think I ever want to do anything to jeopardize the king's special day?"
"Keep your jokes to yourself, bandit," Arcadios growled. "Or I will cut out your tongue."
"Why don't you come over and try it?" Gajeel sneered as he snorted flames from his nostrils.
Arcadios ignored him and continued to make his way up the corridor. Meanwhile, Natsu didn't understand why the guards were being so forceful with him since he wasn't really resisting. When he finally left the darkness of he dungeon and out into the morning daylight, he was tossed to the ground as the guards simply walked away. Arcadios was not far behind as he stepped up next to the young teen, hand on sword.
'What gives?" Natsu growled rubbing the back of his head as he stood up.
His body was feeling better than it did the other day. His muscles didn't ache all that bad, there was still some stiffness but it wasn't enough to hinder him. He was able to move a lot more efficiently. He stretched his back out and the one thing he was happy about was the smell of fresh air and the chance to escape from the rotten stench from down below.
"His Majesty has requested you prepare yourself for the arrival of Princess Lucy's future suitor, King Duke," Arcadios told him. "So I would recommend you take to your quarters and remained there for the rest of the day until called upon. Is that clear?"
"Yes sir," Natsu said nodding his head.
Arcadios returned the nod, and after he had finished he made his way back up to the castle steps. Natsu was a little hesitant, remembering that Gajeel was still down in the dungeon depths. He would have to find a way to get him out when he had the chance, but for now he knew that he would just have to remain quite and listen to his orders. He made his way down the pathway towards the slave chambers that resided near the back of the town, out of sight so most people didn't have to see them. It was original a stable for horses, but they moved them to a better built facility outside the walls.
As Natsu made his way to his quarters he was intercepted by a familiar face.
"Natsu, my boy," he heard Iwan say his name as the noble appeared from a group of guards that he was talking to.
The noble made his way over to the boy, leaving the guards alone for the moment. Natsu could see the look of disgust they each had for him. They scowled gripping their weapons tightly waiting for any opportunity they may have to strike the young boy. Natsu just leered back at them, though he made sure that he didn't say anything to provoke them. It didn't matter if Iwan was around or not, the guards would take the chance to beat him and throw him back in the dungeons if had the chance to.
"Lord Iwan," Natsu greeted the noble with a bow of the head. "To what do I owe the honor?"
"No need for formalities my dear boy," Iwna said wrapping an arm around the teen boy's shoulders. "I was just hoping that you were okay after spending a night in those awful dungeons. The king can be so cruel sometimes I know. And I tried to tell him. I said, 'My Lord, if not for Natsu than Arcadios and I would have been dead out there in those woods like all the others, may the gods keep their souls safe.'"
"It was no problem my Lord," Natsu said trying to reassure him. "It was only for a night. I have endured far worse before and this was nothing."
"Yes, but in your condition no less," Iwan said concerned, gazing at the boy with worried eyes. "Natsu, you've always been a special boy. To me, you are like a son, regardless of our different classes. I have watched both you and Princess Lucy grow up into fine young people. And now, in just a few days she's going to get married to King Duke and unite the two kingdoms. And Jean-Luc, being the good man that he is, says that he will carry out his alliance with King Jude on to the next king. A very mighty force is about to be forged my boy."
Natsu sighed as he realized the truth of the matter. In a few days time Lucy would be married, and probably move to some other castle far away and he would never see her again. The idea of it made him sick to his stomach, but he ultimately realized that it was her choice. He was even more worried now that he heard King Duke was early on his arrival. He had hoped that he had more time to convince Lucy to leave with him before the wedding. Now with Gajeel, he hoped that would persuade her decision.
Iwan watched the young teen carefully. His eyes seeing that Natsu was full of worry and confusion. He let a sly smile creep upon his face as he understood Natsu's current strife. He said nothing, but rather patted the boy on the back and offered him a friendly smile.
"You know," Iwan whispered as the two of them continued to walk; he peered around to make sure nobody was within ear shot of them, "if you ever got the nerve to run away from this life of slavery, the best time to do it would be during the wedding. The guards would be distracted by the crowds and everyone else's focus will be on the bride and groom all day. They would never even realize you'd be missing until you were already outside of the kingdom.
Natsu's eyes went wide as he peered back up at the older noble. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. Was Iwan serious right now? Was he really telling a slave to run away? He knew the man was kind, but to even suggest the thought would be considered criminal.
"Anyways," Iwan laughed rubbing Natsu's shoulder, "you get yourself to your quarters and prepare for the ceremony. King Duke will be here any hour now and we need to look our best for our future king."
"Yes sir," Natsu nodded his head as he sprinted off down the pathway. Iwan watched him as he ran away, smirking widely to himself.
As Natsu ran down the town square towards the blacksmith's shop. When he was older the blacksmith allowed him to live in a small shed behind the shop, rather than have him live in the slave quarters. He was okay with it, it was after all his own private room. It was only just a bed and a nightstand, and most of the space was used to store tools and cleaning supplies. It wasn't much, but it was far better than anything he's ever had before.
As he made his way down the town square something caught his attention. When walking passed people he often let his dragon senses take over so he could listen to people better. He would just hear gossip, and sometimes rumors about what was going on in the castle or other places around the kingdom. Since nobody would ever talk to him, it was a way of him to get to know the current events of the town.
As Natsu walked on down the street most of the talk he heard was about King Duke and his arrival. The future plans of the kingdom, and how people were oh so excited for the upcoming wedding. But as Natsu passed by a butcher's shop there was one thing that he heard the peaked his interest.
"Did you 'ear? They found two more dragon children," an elderly woman whispered to one of her friends.
Natsu's pace began to slow as he listened to what they were saying, but he pretended to keep walking to make sure they didn't notice.
"Yeah, apparently they were some boys from the south I hear. Lord Jean-Luc brought them here as a gift to he princess and her fiancé. They say that they're just like that monster child that the king let's roam around," the other woman said.
"I hear they be very dangerous," the first woman whispered. "That's why they gone and locked them up in the tower. Says it's a way of keeping them from causing too much trouble they did."
"Who did?" the other woman said doubtfully. Her voice cracked and shrill. It hurt his ears to even hear her speak.
"The gentleman of the guard," the first woman sneered. "He said that they moved the two boys up in the tower to make sure they didn't cause a ruckus before the princess's wedding,"
Natsu was shocked by the news. He couldn't believe that they had found two more people like him. It was too much to process in his head at the current moment. He made an immediate dash towards the blacksmith's shop to get ready. But not for the ceremony.
It was just a little passed noon when King Duke and his company had already arrived at the main gates of Konvern. Once King's Duke had bypassed through the town gate he was greeted by the eruption of thunderous applause and cheers as townsfolk lined the streets ready to greet him. Some people waved banners and flags, everyone there itching to get closer to see their new king. Guards cleared a path down the center of the main rode to let him and his company pass through. They stood there with polished armor with their glistening spears outstretched in front of them.
Children sat in the windows and on the rooftops to get a glimpse of their new king. Some threw confetti while others through flowers and petals of pink and red roses. Like rain it poured down on King Duke as he rode his horse through the streets with his nobles by his side. He simply smiled and waved as he strode on by doing his best to remain majestic.
Jellal rode in from behind, Erza riding right next to him. No sooner had the two of them passed through the gate that they were intercepted by two of the towns guard.
"Excuse me sir," one of the guards said as he stepped right in front of Jellal causing the young noble to stop his horse, "I have to inform you that you'll have to leave your servant behind here at the gate until the ceremony concludes. You on the other hand are free to continue moving forward."
"Servant?" Jellal scoffed in offense, leering at the guard in anger. "I'll have you know sir knight, but this woman is not my servant. She is my wife."
"Really?" the guard gasped in disbelief shaking his head.
The guards weren't the only ones surprised to hear Jellal declare Erza to be his wife. Erza herself was a taken back as well, as she stared at him with wide eyes of disbelief. But she quickly composed herself raising her head high attempting to look the part, though she knew it would be hard to sell considering she was still dressed a poor servant girl. She hoped it would work but she wasn't completely sold.
The two guards exchanged looks of disbelief before peering up at Jellal. He could see that there their eyes were skeptical and full of doubt, but he didn't let that sway him. He just glared at them with fierce glares slightly kicking his horse for it to go forward. He was growing agitated now, but deep down in the recesses in his mind he hoped that he was going to sell it. Not so much for him, but he wanted Erza to be there with him.
"Fine," the guard sighed in defeat. He shook his head still staring at Jellal in disbelief hoping to catch the young man lying, but Jellal still did not break his character. "You both may go," he finally said as he and the other guard stepped aside to let the two of them pass.
"Thank you," Jellal said bowing his head as he and Erza rode down the path way trying to catch up with the others in the company. Erza gazed back seeing the two guards watching her with a fierce scowl. She just smiled as she offered them a small wave before turning back to the blue haired noble.
"Your wife?" she questioned skeptically.
"What?" Jellal chuckled. "We're in a foreign land surrounded by foreign people. You can't be too careful when you're a man in my position. So as my guard I need you by my person at all times to protect me, and not stuck hanging around the servants."
"Well I wish you would have chosen to disguise me as your wife instead of some stupid servant girl," she muttered. "You could have saved me the trouble of having to wear these awful rags."
"Are you still complaining? You rally are acting like my wife now aren't you?" Jellal laughed only to be slapped hard across the shoulder by Erza. He continued to laugh despite the sinister glare that was radiating from the red heads eyes.
It wasn't long before the two of them caught up to King Duke's company and passed through the castle gates. There standing at the front door was King Jude, dressed in his finest robes with all his nobles, apart from Jean-Luc who was standing on by his side. On his other side stood princess Lucy who was wearing a long white silk gown with white roses laying across her bosom and a red rose tucked behind her ear.
From afar Natsu watched the ceremony from the rooftop of the blacksmith's, standing behind a few children to keep himself somewhat hidden from any potential guards. While everyone kept their focus on King Duke and his company, Natsu made a dash towards the castle, using his dragon legs to leap from rooftop to rooftop until he finally came upon the castle walls. He was careful to do it as subtly as possible so that he would continue to go unnoticed. The only people that began to grow interested were a few kids that watched him from their seats, but as long as it wasn't guards, Natsu was okay.
Before he climbed he took a quick glance to make sure nobody was looking. But as he did his eyes fell down to the front gate where he saw Lucy standing there in her frosty white gown, glowing in the afternoon sun. For Natsu to say she was beautiful was an understatement, she was stunning. He had to stop and admire her for a moment, feeling his heart race in his chest. It was then, in that moment, that Lucy turned her head a bit, seeing the pink haired teen watching her from afar. She smiled at him for a bit before she returned her attention back to the ceremony.
Natsu shook his head out of his trance before peering back up to the top of the wall. He sighed to himself gazing back at Lucy for one last time before he used his claws to begin climbing. He sunk his claws deep into the stone, finding any crack or crevice that he could stick his talons in. He looked down to see that nobody had noticed him climbing, and once he made sure the coast was clear he continued to climb up.
Once he scaled the wall and reached the top of the wall he peered to either side to insure that there were no guards walking by. Form the corner of his eyes he saw that there were two men standing at attention overlooking the edge. They talked amongst themselves, but their eyes were completely focused on the parade down below. Natsu seized the opportunity to quietly leapt over the wall, landing gently on his feet, before make a scurry towards the open hallway door that led to the tower.
He quietly made his way up the stairwell, being cautious not to alert any guards that may be patrolling. He heard the muffle sounds of two voices as he ascended further upwards. Quickly and quietly he jumped to the wall, and with his claws climbed to the ceiling, where he remained until he saw the two guards approaching. The clanking of their armored boots on the stone floor echoed through the stairwell, until they bypassed underneath him and continued to make their way down.
Natsu let go of ceiling and quietly fell to his feet. He stumbled forwards, forgetting that he was still on steps for the moment. He managed to catch himself on the tower wall before he completely toppled over. After making sure that nobody had heard him, he dashed the rest of the way up the tower until he finally reached the top door.
Once there he pressed his ear to the door, seeing if he could hear any noises within. There was a small chime of metal on metal inside the room and some muffed sounds, that Natsu could swear might have been the voice of two people talking. But he couldn't be too sure. He took a deep breath and was willing to risk it. Gently he opened the door. Though it screeched slightly as he did. He took a deep breath knowing that whoever was in there most certainly would have heard him, but he had to know if the rumors were true.
He opened the door and stepped inside to see two teenaged boys chained against the wall. The two them leered at him with ferocious eyes snorting fire through two metal mouth guards that were chained to their mouths. Natsu walked over and slouched down in front of them, removing the mouth guards from them. But no sooner had he taken off the one for the blonde haired teen that his entire head was consumed by flame.
"Wow," Natsu coughed as he wiped away some of the remaining smoke, "is that anyway to greet a fellow Dracnoan?"
The other two teens eyes went wide as they saw the boy was unfazed by the blast of flames.
"Who are you?" the blonde one growled.
"You say you're a Draconan? What are you doing here?" the dark haired one asked.
"Natsu," he said as he slouched back. He lifted up his arm to show them the tattoo. The two of them exchanged glances of surprise as they too lifted up their arms to show that they too had similar tattoos.
"So, you have the tattoo as well," the blonde said gruffly as he leaned back against the wall. "I guess we are similar."
"What the failed attempt to burn my face wasn't already a dead give away?" Natsu said furrowing his brows. "So what are you're names?"
"I'm Sting," the blonde answered.
"Rogue," the black haired one answered.
The tension seemed to have melt away from them as Natsu could see that the other two Draconans appeared to become more comfortable with him. They eased back into their bodies as they slouched their backs against the walls. They took a couple of deep breaths, they still didn't trust this new pink haired teen. Natsu didn't blame them, he couldn't really say that he trusted them either, regardless of whether they were Draconans. He could say that he didn't trust Gajeel at all either, but he knew that he might need his help when the time comes, and hopefully he could say the same about these two.
"Where did you two come from?" Natsu asked as he rested a forearm on his knee.
"We hail from the south," Rogue told him. Natsu could see that this boy in particular was keeping a close eye on him.
"Originally we were being trained to become gladiators," Sting continued. "Since we were little we were had been trained at gladiator schools. Once we became old enough they decided to take us to the games out west. As we were traveling we came up with a plan to break free. One night we escaped and made our way up north."
"Several other slaves broke out with us too," Rogue told him. "After they found out we had escaped our owners sent a large group of mercenaries after us."
"They couldn't afford to lose two of their most valuable assets," Sting interrupted with a laugh. Rogue glared at him with a disapproving scowl, a little irritated that his story was disrupted by the other boy. Sting just ignored him as Rogue continued his story.
"Anyways, as I was saying," Sting continued on. "We were eventually surrounding by our attackers. Long story short, we had our fight, all of the other slaves apart from ourselves were killed, but we were fortunate to have been able to walk away. But then we were ambushed by Jean-Luc's men."
"Apparently," Sting interrupted again, "they had heard about us when the word got out about our escape."
"Our fight had happened in his country's land. It wasn't that much of a surprise that we were eventually captured by his men," Rogue said shrugging. "We were then taken to the dungeons—"
"Where we broke out once or twice, only to be recaptured," Sting interrupted for a third time. He could see that Rogue was becoming a little more agitated by his partner.
"Then we were dragged here as offerings to King Jude and his daughter for her wedding day," Rogue finished.
"So what's your story?" Sting asked. Natsu just grinned widely at them.
Meanwhile down at the front of the castle gates King Duke had finally reached the foot of King Jude before he jumped down from his horse and walked up to greet the older king. Duke had a wide grin as he turned around to continue waving at the crowd as he approached Jude and Lucy. He just basked in admiration as rose petals continued to flutter down upon them like rain. Finally after having his fill of being worshipped he turned around to the other royals.
"King Jude," King Duke said as he properly bowed his head at the older king. "It's a pleasure to finally meet you. And this must be Princess Lucy," he said eyeing the blonde haired girl. Lucy nodded her head politely as she watched King Duke approach her father.
The man was tall, at least a head taller than her. The rumors of him being handsome were true, his long raven hair was slick backwards, his scruff beard neatly trimmed. He had dark eyes like the pits of olives that were subtle, yet defined. He wore fine polished armor with a long cobalt blue cape outlined with gold. The symbol of his nation embroidered on the back of it, as he frolicked delicately in the breeze.
"King Duke," King Jude said gladly embracing the young lord with a hug, "it is an honor to have you."
"The honor is all mine," King Duke said grinning widely. He then proceeded to move over towards Lucy, taking her hand in his as he bent down and kissed the back of hand. "Princess Lucy, the rumors of your beauty were understated. You are far more beauty than gossip give you credit for."
The young blonde's face turned a deep crimson red as she felt herself becoming a little flustered by the king's words. Her mouth went agape as she thought of what to say. King Duke chuckled as he watched, turning to Jude with a dubious eye.
"Lucy?" King Jude said sternly as he nudged her. "What do you have to say?"
"Thank you, my Lord," she stuttered as she bowed her head still a little flushed. "Your words are too kind."
Erza sighed rolling her eyes as she watched King Duke and the others. Jellal just chuckled at her, but was received by a dissatisfied scowl. That didn't stop the young noble from enjoying himself.
"They sure do make a cute couple don't they?" Jellal said as he watched King Duke and the others making their way inside the castle.
"Yeah right," Erza mumbled.
"Well my dear," Jellal said as he jumped down from his horse and offered Erza his arm, "shall we?"
Erza smiled sarcastically at him as she leapt down from her horse. She took Jellal's arm as the two of them followed the rest of the company into the castle. The two of them were the last ones to enter. They received looks of confusion and bewilderment from the guards as the two of them walked together. Some of the guards were hesitant as they watched them pass, realizing that Jellal was a nobleman.
The two of them made their way inside the castle where the festivities were about to start. King Duke and King Jude took their seats at the head of the table, Jean-Luc sitting to King Jude's right as Lucy sat next to King Duke. The young king taking the young blonde's hand in his. Already the two of them seemed to be getting along pretty well, but Jellal decided not to join them at the table.
"Jellal," Erza told him as she took a step backwards, "I'm not sure if I should be here right now?"
"Yeah, you're probably right," Jellal said with a deep breath. "Why don't we wonder around the town? These banquets were never something I really enjoyed and honestly, I could stand to miss Duke boast about himself for the next couple of hours."
"I guess," Erza admitted.
"So my Lady," Jellal said grinning widely at her, "can I buy you a drink?"