For Lucy, one of the best features of the guesthouse had to be the bathroom. A large, porcelain tub sat in the back of the room, atop a couple of steps of marble, with steaming hot water dripping from the faucet of a shower. The rest of the bathroom was adorned with two full body mirrors on both walls, and a porcelain sink with two sinks. On a rack near the tub, and next to the sink, hung fine monogram towels with the letter 'M' stitched onto them. It was big enough to fit at least three people, but for Lucy she was fine just sitting there alone with her thoughts.
She still carried her pennant around her neck, even as she soaked in the bath. She rubbed her fingers across its fine grains thinking back to the day that Natsu had given it to her. She still wondered where he could be, and she hoped that he was okay. She hoped that Jellal had managed to free him from his imprisonment, and that the two of them made it out of Konvern in one piece. She hated not knowing, and she hated that she had no way of communicating with either of them.
She closed her eyes and reminisced for a moment, thinking about the other times she had spent with Natsu on the lake. She blushed a bit to herself as she reflected on their first kiss. It was back at home during the spring, and she and Natsu were at the lake, sitting under the apple tree. It was in full bloom as the petals cascaded from the branches like droplets in the rain. She sat there next to him, her blonde hair tied back with a blue ribbon, her body leaning in closer to Natsu's. The boy's face was flushed with nervous excitement, and just as her lips drew closer, Lucy was stirred awake by a loud knock on the door.
"Miss Lucy," she could hear Erza call from the other side of the door, "is everything alright in there?"
"Y-yes everything is fine," she stuttered as she snapped back to attention.
With out another second to waste, Erza opened the door and stepped inside. Lucy yelped as she ducked down deeper into the water, clasping her arms to hide her breasts. Her face flushed a deep scarlet as she bit her lip and averted her eyes away from the young red head.
"What's wrong?" Erza asked raising an eyebrow at the young blonde. "Why is your face so red?"
"Why are you in here if I'm still taking a bath?" Lucy cried mortified. "Can't you see that I'm naked right now?"
Erza peered at her with a quizzical glare, wondering why the princess was so embarrassed. She couldn't understand it, it's not like it should be uncommon for her to have servants see her naked at the castle. At least that's what Erza thought, but she still couldn't understand why a girl would be so embarrassed by another girl seeing her in such a way?
"Would you get out already?" Lucy yelped.
"Fine, I'll leave," Erza said, "but hurry up and get dressed. I'm planning on taking Levy and you to that Fairy Tail Pub that Gray told us about. I feel like it would do us some good to get out and stretch our legs."
Lucy groaned, but under the harsh flare of Erza's glare, the blonde realized she didn't have much of a choice in the matter. Besides, she would like to see more of the town. There was so much she wanted to explore, to see where the river led, to visit some of the more exquisite restaurants and cafes, and maybe even take a trip to the beach. She had never been there before, and from the stories she's heard and read, it sounded lovely.
After she had gotten dressed, she wore a long, cobalt satin blue sundress that she found in one of the closets in the house. She was surprised to find them fully stocked with fine clothing. She wondered if Magnolia had knew of the girl's arrival though she wouldn't know how. The dress didn't fit her perfectly, but it was pretty close, and with a few minor adjustments, she was able to make it work. Levy wore a satin lavender dress with a puffy shoulder, but Erza wore her same style of clothing she always did.
They made their way down the stone road, greeted with friendly hellos by the town's people as they made their way. Lucy felt a bit perplexed by the generosity they were receiving. Such hospitality was never seen back home in Konvern, but what stood out to her the most was that she couldn't spot a single slave in sight. No matter where she looked, everyone in the town was a simple citizen.
Finally they came upon a large building, made of stone bricks, large windows and large oak door for an entrance. It almost looked like it could have been it's own fortress if it needed to be. The building stood at least three stories tall, long rows of windows, and even had a few bushes situated out under the first row. Above the door, engraved in stone were the words, "FAIRY TAIL," painted in red and gold, with a picture of a fairy like creature above it.
Erza wasted no time as she stepped up to the front door. She turned back at the other two girls before opening it up and stepped inside. Lucy and Levy exchange glances of hesitation, neither of them had even been to a pub before, and they weren't too sure about this time. But they determined that maybe as long as Erza was with the two of them they would be okay.
Once they were inside, Lucy was even more astonished by the luxury of the place. She had always heard that pubs and bars were full of sick, descripted drunks, that were usually havens for vermin and grim. Though this place was just the opposite of what she had been told. There were tiles of blue and white that lined the walls, the high windows allowed the sun's rays to light up the inside, even though there were wooden chandeliers with candles that hung from the roof. Wooden tables scattered around the room, filled with people talking and drinking with one another. At the front of the bar stood an incredibly long bar with shelves stocked with liquor along the back wall.
As Lucy's eyes wondered around the building they eventually fell down upon a man that was sitting at the bar, with long, red greasy hair. He wore a raggedy black cloak with tears on the bottom. She thought the man looked familiar as she glided through the crowd over to the man. Levy and Erza watched as she made her way through the crowd. She saw him take a drink of beer from his pint, as she placed a hand on his shoulder.
"Yeah?" the man grumbled as he placed his mug down on the counter and turned to see Lucy standing behind him. His eyes went wide as he immediately recognized her. "Lucy!?" he cried as he leapt out of his chair and lifted the girl up in his arms.
"Hello Gildarts," Lucy gigged as Gildarts twirled her around in the air.
"Look at how big you've grown," he said as he placed her back down onto her feet, "and into such a beautiful young lady at that." Lucy blushed as she thanked him for the compliment. "Shit, how long has it been? Four years? Wow. So how have you been? What brings you to Magnolia?"
"Didn't you hear about what happened in Konvern?" she asked him.
"No," Gildarts said shaking his head. "I was actually off doing a mission for Makrov the past couple of weeks. I only just got in a few days ago. So is everything all right? How is Natsu by the way? Is he with you?"
Lucy bit her lip as her smile faded to into a frown. Gildarts could see the distraught in the young girl's eyes as he began to grow more concerned. The tension between the two of them finally snapped as Levy and Erza step up behind the young blonde.
"Lucy, who's this?" Erza asked as she eyed Gildarts.
"Oh, Erza?" Lucy said, just realizing at that moment that she had arrived at the pub with Erza and Levy. "This is Gildarts, he's an old mentor, and friend of mine from childhood."
"Nice to meet you ladies," Gildarts said with a wide grin. "Now Lucy, tell me what happened. I want to know everything. Is Natsu okay? What happened in Konvern?"
Lucy proceeded to tell Gildarts the entire story. From her arranged marriage to Duke, to the planned revolt and how Natsu had been imprisoned in the tower. Gildarts listened intently as he absorbed each and every word Lucy spoke. She told him about how she and the others were attacked by bandits on their way to Nivit, only to be saved by Gray and Lyon, and that's how she ended up in Magnolia. When she had finally finished Gildarts simply nodded his head, and took a sip of his beer.
"I don't think you need to worry about Natsu too much," he chuckled. "I'm sure both he and Jellal are fine. Not sure what I can say about you Gajeel friend though. If he's anything like Natsu, he'll make it out just fine. You don't need to worry too much about him," Gildarts said with a smile. "You know him just as well as anyone. That boy is far too stubborn to let some prison hold him."
"You're right," Lucy said offering him a weak grin, though deep down in her heart she couldn't help but worry.
"Gildarts, who are your new friends?" a voice asked from behind the counter.
There standing behind Gildarts was a young woman with long white hair, tied up in the front with a purple ribbon. She had a gentle smile; one that was radiant and friendly. She had dark eyes, and fairly pale skin. She wore a long pink dress, with white apron tied around her waste, as her bosom bulged from a tight torso. She was a bit on the thin side, but not something that would be considered too unhealthy.
"Oh, Mira," Gildarts said. "This is Lucy, an old friend of mine from Konvern. And these are—"
"Erza," the red head interrupted as she stepped forward. She extended her hand to shake the other young woman's. "And this is Levy," she said motioning her head to the small, blue haired girl. "Nice to meet you."
"It's a pleasure," Mira said, still smiling widely. "Any friend of Gildarts is more than welcomed here."
"Thank you," Erza told her.
"Hey, how about I introduce you all to everyone in the pub?" Mira asked as her eyes lit up.
"No that's okay we don't—" Erza tried to say, but she was cut off as Mira ran out from behind the counter, taking Erza and Lucy by the hand and dragging them over to the nearest table. Levy watched a bit worried but she ultimately followed them as well.
Gildart watched from his seat, chuckling to himself as he drank the last of his ale. He was happy to see the young blonde, happier than he had been in long time. He could see the girls were a bit flustered by being rushed off all of a sudden by Mira. As he watched a young woman with long brunette hair, nothing more than a bikini top and long khaki pants, walked over and took a seat right down next to him. She held her own jug of beer out in front of her as she turned her attention to what the old man was looking at.
"Hey there Cana," Gildarts said not taking his eyes off the other girls.
"So, who's your new friends dad?" Cana asked taking a sip of her drink.
"Well, she's not actually a new friend per se," Gildarts told her. "That's Lucy, the little girl from Konvern I told you about."
"That's Lucy?" Cana said in a startled voice. "What's she doing in Magnolia?"
"There was a revolution, her father was exiled, her former fiancé tried to kill her. It's kind of a long story," Gildarts said as he watched Lucy get a bit uncomfortable as Mira introduced her to everyone. He couldn't help but chuckle to himself as he saw just how flustered the girl was getting.
"I see," Cana said, as a sly smile crossed her lips. "So, Princess Lucy is going to be staying with us? This could get interesting."
Gildarts watched her with a skeptical eye. He had seen that smile on her before, and he knew that it meant that she was up to no good. But what it was, he couldn't figure out just yet.
"What are you thinking?" Gildarts asked eyeing his daughter with a skeptical glare.
"Nothing," Cana answered through a sinister giggle, before taking another sip of her beer. "Nothing at all."
"Let me go!" Natsu cried.
His entire entire half of his upper body was tied up in a thick rope as his body was dragged down the dirt road. Gajeel held the other end of the rope, taking a little enjoyment out of the whole experience. Jellal walked next to him, a bit annoyed with the two of them, but more so with Natsu's constant wailing. The hour was late and they didn't even know if they were even on their way back to the inn. The thought of not sleeping in a bed made Jellal all the more weary.
"I said let me go!" Natsu yelled again as he tried to gnaw at the rope.
"Would you keep it down all ready?" Gajeel grumbled. "You're constant whining is starting to get really annoying."
"I have to go save Lucy and the others," Natsu shouted as he finally managed to slip his teeth around part of the rope.
"We told you already," Jellal sighed. "The girls are being taken to Mila, if you want to find them that's going to be the best place to look. And we can head there in the morning after a good nights sleep."
"How can I sleep knowing that Lucy is in the hands of those monsters?" Natsu shouted. "I have to go save her. I won't be able to sleep at night unless I know that Lucy and the others are safe!"
"There's nothing we can do until we get to Mila," Jellal told him. "And they should be there either tomorrow or in a few days. Our best chance is to sit back and wait. Gajeel has already assured us that they should be fine, and untouched, so don't get too worried about it."
"Gajeel's a dumbass," Natsu shouted through a full mouth of rope as he nibbled on his bonds.
Gajeel yanked on the rope, strangling Natsu to the point that he lost his mouth grip in his mouth. Jellal glared at the two of them in annoyance, though he said nothing. He began to feel a little better as the inn came into sight, and the thoughts of a warm bed filled his mind.
The next morning Jellal, Natsu and Gajeel made their way down to Mila. They arrived at the large stone gates, jagged wooden pikes jutted out from near the tops of the walls. Two towers stood on either side of a large wooden gate, with two archers standing in position at each post. Though the gates remained open allowing travelers and traders to come into the city. Natsu could see men with carts of hay and goods making their way into the city from the dirt road that lead to it. Some of the men carried slaves with them, a sight hat angered the young Draconan, but he was stayed Jellal.
Though Natsu shook his head as he remembered his primary objective, and that was to find Lucy. He wondered if one of these scumbags were carrying her with them, though none of them seemed to be traveling with women, much less a young noble girl. Natsu hoped that they would get their answers in the city, he was eager to rush in and start demanding questions, though he knew that he had to be patient.
When he first stepped into the city, his thoughts had transferred to a different spectacle as he took in the sight of the city. The long stretch of buildings were constructed of tan stones, and yellow brick. They were poorly built, the bricks were lopsided, the windows were slanted and the wooden molding around the doors were in the midst of decay. The road was made of brick, but they were so uneven that the carts driving on them ricocheted back and forth.
The people didn't appear tin that much better state than the city itself. Their skin was leathery and covered in dirt, with decaying, yellow teeth, and long strands of greasy hair. Natsu had never been to another city, and though this place was bigger than Konvern, and the buildings were so much different than the stone ones he grew up with. The people were tanner than the ones back at Konvern, than again the city was located on a peninsula, and summer sun was brutal.
Jellal led the two of them down the road, passing by the crowds of people who gathered in front of stores and venues. As Jellal walked further and further into the city, they eventually came to the town market place. Both Natsu and Gajeel had to stop for a moment to take it all in. Natsu could have sworn that there were hundreds of people there, with rows of carts covered in fruit, fish and other goods. There were people dressed in exotic clothing and jewelry, while others wore nothing but rags.
For the first time in his life Natsu saw something he had never thought he would live to see. Just beyond the crowds of people in the market, and all the stands, resided the Mila harbor. Stocked with ships that took port at the docks, while sailors and crewman unloaded. Seagulls flew overhead, cawing as they looked for any food they may be able to pick up. His nostrils filled with the scent of the salty ocean as a cool sea breeze blew past him.
He wanted to see it all, he wanted to run around and observe everything the city had to offer; though he remembered the reason why he was there, and that was first and foremost to find Lucy. As he remembered, that he was looking for Lucy, his eyes immediately darted around the market as he tried to see if he could spot any sign of the blonde girl.
"So, where do we start looking?" Gajeel asked as the three of them came to a stop.
"If they are going to try and sell the girls at a high market value, they would most likely not sell them here in the market, but rather go to upper class area of the city," Jellal answered. "Though first thing's first," he said rubbing his chin, peering back at the two of them, "we need to change your clothes."
"Why? What's wrong with them?" Natsu said as he looked at his ragged brown shirt.
"Cause you look like a slave," Gajeel answered.
"I was a slave," Natsu said raising an eyebrow.
"Either way, we need to get you guys some new clothes, but then again so do I," Jellal said as he realized that his own clothes were tattered and torn.
"So, easy solution. We find some upper class citizens, beat the crap out of them and take their clothes," Gajeel suggested.
"Don't be stupid, that'll never work," Natsu snorted. "We should just rob a shop. It will be easier and faster."
"What is wrong with you two?" Jellal sighed rubbing his forehead. "We should just buy clothes."
"And how do you plan on us paying for these clothes?" Gajeel asked folding his arms across his chest.
Jellal pulled out his small bag of gold coins to see how much money he had left, though he knew that after the night at the inn, he probably didn't even have enough to buy himself a commoner's outfit, let alone enough to purchase enough for all three of them. He sighed to himself as he realized that they were probably right. He put his pouch back into his coat pocket as he told them that they were right, and asked them what they should do.
"Leave it to me," Gajeel said with a sly grin.
Natsu and Jellal stood near the back of the docks, sitting on barrels as they watched sailors carry their cargo back and forth to their ships. Natsu and Jellal waited for Gajeel to bring them a change of clothes, hopefully something that would be suitable to wear. As they sat there, Jellal noticed a particular man that stood out amongst the others in the crowd. He was a tanned skinned man with long spikey chocolate brown hair. He had one distinctive trait about him; a long scar that sealed his right eye shut. He walked by talking to another young man, or woman, or something, Jellal couldn't quite figure it out. All he knew was that the young man was wearing earrings, and had make up on.
The two of them stood near the far end of the docks, in an isolated location. They weren't being too discrete; after all, slave trading was legal in Mila. Jellal could see that the one with makeup and earrings had a furious look in his eyes.
"Cobra, where is you envoy with the noble women you promised me?" the young man asked. "They were due to arrive today, and so far I have yet to see anything from you or them. My father is going to go insane if he doesn't get the luxuries that he was promised. You understand that we already have clients lined up that are waiting patiently for the slave women they were promised?"
"I understand you and your father's frustration, Midnight. I haven't received a pigeon from them since they told me about their cargo, but I did hear from other sources that Magnolia soldiers were seen traveling with three noble looking woman exactly the same as the ones described to me by my convoy. Unfortunately, it seems that they must have been taken by the Magnolia soldiers," Cobra answered.
"Well, my father will not be okay with that, and neither will the men we promised the virgin noble women to," Midnight spat angrily.
"I'm sorry, but if it's true that Magnolian soldiers did take the women, than we can't do anything about it," Cobra told him. "Just explain the situation."
"Explain the situation? Literally thousands of gold coins that could have been in my pocket were just whisked away by Magnolian scum, and you tell me that all I need to do is explain the situation? You should have handled this situation better, we gave the chance to escape your own servitude, but it seems that you Draconans are nothing more than pathetic trash," Midnight hissed. "You had one job, and you couldn't even do something so simple as overseeing a convoy. Maybe my father can overlook this mistake but I doubt it."
"Fine," Cobra grumbled.
With that, Jellal watched as Midnight stormed away leaving Cobra alone near the base of the docks. The other young man growled to himself as he too stormed off, only this time he walked in the direction of the market, disappearing into the crowd. Jeallal made sure to keep an eye on him, but he soon lost track after of him once Cobra had weaved his way into the sea of bodies.
After about a half hour of waiting they spotted the black haired teen as he walked towards them, garnering a new outfit of his very own: a black vest and tan baggy pants. Over his shoulder rested a bag, which they assumed held their new clothes.
"So, what did you get?" Natsu asked as he jumped down from his barrel.
"Here," Gajeel said pulling out a purple vest, and cream-colored pants before handing them over to Natsu. He reached in pulled out a crumpled up blue cloak, white shirt and blue pants for Jellal.
Jellal took them and eyed the clothes skeptically. They weren't robes for a noble, but then again, he was trying to be discrete when traveling. They would do for now, but he hoped that they could fine some better clothes in the future. Natsu seemed a bit excited though, his eyes lit up as he held his brand new attire up in front of his eyes. Right then and there, he almost stripped out of his old clothes and into his new ones, but Jellal caught him just as he was pulling down his pants.
Once the three of them had changed clothes, Jellal told the two of them to find a hotel and meet him back in that spot in a couple of hours. When asked where he was going the boy simply explained that he believed he had a lead to locate where the girls could be, but it was something that he would have to handle alone. He couldn't really trust the two of them to keep their cool in such a delicate situation as this, especially Natsu.
He went the same direction as Cobra, asking some of the people of the stands if they had seen where the young man could have gone. He asked by name, a name that he saw was met with freight and unease. Most people pretended that they didn't know, despite Jellal telling that they were obviously lying. But finally he did meet someone, an elderly merchant, who told him that Cobra liked to drink at a nearby tavern, but that was all he would tell him.
Jellal found the tavern the man was talking about, and he could see that the tavern was what he expected; a run down old place, with moldy floorboards and grimy walls. It was a place for the low lives of the town to hang out and grab a drink. It was one of the places decent folk wouldn't dare enter. Jellal spotted the man he was looking for drinking at the bar, with two empty pints sitting in front of him already as he irritably drained another. Jellal casually walked over and took a seat down next to the other man. Cobra glared at him from the corner of his eye before he returned to his drink.
"Tough day?" Jellal asked as the bartender set down a pint in front of the young noble without him even asking for one.
"What's it to you?" Cobra hissed.
"I can tell, been having a hard day myself," Jellal lied. "I was told that a slave I had ordered and paid for had just been swiped up by some other bidder. Shame too, she was a real beaut, too, probably could have sold her off as some high classy girl to a brothel for some good money, now I got nothing. Man, to think I lost good money because of some bullshit."
"I understand that," Cobra gawked drunkenly. "I just found out that one of my convoys just lost some high class girls. It sucks, this is the first time I finally had the chance to prove myself to my boss, and then those damn Magnolians come and steal them from right underneath me. But it doesn't matter anymore. Not that I want to go discussing my affairs with some stranger, no offense."
"None taken," Jellal said waving it off. "Say, how bout you tell me your story, about these Magnolians, and I buy you another drink. Could cheer me up hearing about how
"Heck, you got yourself a deal there mate," Cobra chuckled, "Well, when I was young I was sold off to be a servant to some family in the upper district. I had worked for them my whole life until recently I was offered a high up position on their bounty staff. I guess you can say I earned their trust, but let's just leave it at that. It's a funny thing though, after finally making it out of servitude, I never thought I see myself as one of the men who sold people back into servitude, even if this was my first time."
"So, what made you change your mind?" Jellal asked. "If you don't mind me asking. Was it money?"
"No," Cobra answered shaking his head. "It's . . . never mind."
"What?" Jellal asked, he was actually a bit intrigued to hear what it was. "Come on, I'll buy you another beer if you tell me."
"I'm just trying to find somebody, an old friend," Cobra answered. "I was hoping that maybe after this one time I would finally get enough money to actually go find her. But, that's all in the past now."
"I see," Jellal said. "And you're confident that it was Magnolian soldiers that took your bounty away?"
"That's what my reconnaissance say," Cobra muttered into his jug. "Those fucking bastards from Magnolia have been taking every opportunity to swipe at our profits!" Cobra shouted as he slammed his mug down on the counter. "Somebody must be telling them inside information about our trade. If I find out who, I'll rip their tongues from their throat and leave 'em bleeding on the ground!" He said menacingly as he glared at Jellal.
"Well then I do not envy that person," Jellal said as he raised his mug.
Makrov wondered through a large white chiseled door, where inside he came upon his study. Standing at the far end of the room, looking out the window at the view of Magnolia stood a young girl with short, shoulder length purple hair and pale skin. She wore a green blouse and a long white skirt. Makrov walked towards her, though his presence did not seem to alert the girl at all.
"Kinana," Makrov said the girl's name quietly. She spun around, with a soft smile across her lips. "It appears that your information about the Oracion Seis's slave trade through the south was correct. Our soldiers just returned home, safe and sound. Needless to say your help in our endevours has been tremendous."
"That's wonderful news, Master," the young girl said. "But please, you saved me from my life of servitude, so it's the least I could do."
"Well, if there's any other information you can tell us, I would be that much more thankful," Makrov said to her.
"I am sorry, Master," Kinana said shaking her head. "That's all I know."
"Well, that's all right," Makrov said smiling widely. "Why don't you get back to the pub, I'm sure Mira could use your help down there. You know how the soldiers can get."
He laughed at the last statement making the girl a bit more cheery as she gazed down at his friendly grin. The young girl giggled as she bowed her head and walked out of the room, thanking him as she left. Makrov watched her as she left before making his way over to the window where she had been waiting for him to hear about what happened.
He stood there for a moment taking in the sight of the city with a deep breath. "Ivan," he said under his breath, "what are you planning?"