It was back when they were thirteen; back in the spring, during a time where King Jude was visiting Junellle. Lucy was left alone for the next couple of weeks. She didn't mind, it meant that she would have the opportunity to spend more time with Natsu. And just like they always did, the two of them were busy playing by the lake and climbing up the tree. Though after a couple hours of horseplay, the two of them sat down by the bank of the lake.
Natsu had noticed that the girl seemed to be growing a bit shy around him lately. Unknown to him, Lucy was beginning to grow more and more fond of him. Though when she was younger there was something about Natsu that attracted her to the boy, but now she was beginning to get feelings for him. At first she thought them to just be concern for their friendship, and though she tried to deny it, she was ultimately falling in love with him.
As they sat by the lake as Natsu munched on some apples that Gildarts had brought over with him for the day. Though Gildarts was busy taking a nap under the tree. Lucy nibbled on hers as she watched Natsu out of the corner of her eye, as the boy practically engulfed his snack. Natsu remained completely oblivious to the fact that Lucy was watching him intently.
Natsu took in a deep breath before he fell back into the grass. He closed his eyes, letting his face soak up the sun. Lucy peered down at him as she hugged her knees to her chest. She decided to lie down as well, only she rested her head on the pink haired boy's shoulder. Natsu looked down at her through an open eye, a bit confused by her gesture. He could feel his face blush as he watch the blonde girl snuggled up to him.
Lucy found herself falling asleep to the rhythm of Natsu's heartbeat as she lay on his chest. She found it strange that it provided her some comfort and soothed her. Slowly her eyelids became heavy as she started to dream about the two of them sitting there by the lake, their hands interlocked. She looked out onto the water, as the two of them sat there, isolated in their own world. She did not know what over took her, but the girl found herself leaning forward, and closer and closer her lips were just about to touch his when she was suddenly stirred awake.
She shot up hastily, recollecting where she was. She was still in a daze as she looked around. As her vision began to clear she soon realized that she was still by the lake, Natsu lying down next to her. The slave boy had also fallen asleep, and had rolled over to his side facing her. It was his sudden movement that had roused her awake, but she didn't mind. She couldn't have been asleep for more than a few minutes anyways.
"Natsu," Lucy said softly.
The boy didn't respond, he was still fast asleep in his own little dream world. Lucy just smiled to herself, thinking about how cute the boy looked. She shook her head telling herself she shouldn't think of such nonsense, even if she did find herself infatuated with him.
She thought back to her dream, about how the two of them were so close to kissing. The thought of it made her face blush a bright shade of cerise. She giggled to herself as she began imagining what it would be like if the two of them actually did kiss. She had never kissed a boy before, at least not one romantically or one the lips. She wondered what it would be like. She wondered if it would be like in the stories she read about where the hero and the damsel exchanged passionate kisses of love. Then she began to wonder if Natsu had ever been kissed. It was unlikely, the boy was a slave after all, but how could she know? Curiosity overtook her as she wanted to find out.
"Natsu," Lucy said, making sure to keep her voice down so as not to wake Gildarts. However, the boy remained unstirred. "Natsu," Lucy said a little bit louder, but made sure not to speak to loud. "Natsu," she said once more as she shook the boy's shoulder.
"Yeah?" Natsu groaned still half asleep.
"I have a question I want to ask you," Lucy told him.
"Can't it wait?" Natsu moaned as she turned away from her.
"Please?" Lucy pleaded.
Natsu figured that the sooner he answered her question the sooner he could go back to sleep. "Okay, what is it?" he asked, still lying on his side with his eyes closed.
"Have you . . ." she hesitated biting her lip, "have you ever kissed someone?"
"What?" Natsu asked shooting up, though he was still half asleep. He rubbed his eyes as he peered back at the girl. "What's a kiss? Does it hurt?"
"No," Lucy giggled. "A kiss is when two people who really like each other do something together."
"What do they do?" Natsu asked, a bit intrigued, but still sleepily.
"They touch their lips together," Lucy told him.
"What?!" Natsu cried. "That's disgusting. Why would people do something like that?"
"Because it's romantic," Lucy glowered.
"Sounds sick to me," Natsu said rolling over to his side.
"So, have you ever kissed someone before?" Lucy asked again.
"What? No," Natsu said shaking his head. He found himself blushing a bit in his cheeks as she hugged his legs to his chest. "I've never kissed anyone before. Why do you ask?"
"No reason in particular," Lucy said faintly as she looked back out onto the lake. She could see two ducks, one male the other female, swimming together in the center of the water. She looked down giggling to herself. "Is there someone you would want to kiss?" She looked back up at him with a seductive eye.
Natsu thought about the question for a moment, though he wondered what would poses people to do something so revolting. He really did not know how to answer it. He thought he had seen people in the town do something like that, men and woman. He always thought it was some weird customary greeting. He began to wonder what it would be like to kiss someone, the idea of it made his shutter.
He looked back to Lucy, her cheeks flushed as she stared at him with puppy dog eyes. Natsu could feel his heart race as he imagined himself kissing her. The idea didn't appear all that bad, and he had to admit he was starting to find some weird attraction to the girl now. Something he had never really felt before, as he could feel a stinging warmth that rushed from his heart up to his own cheeks. He couldn't believe how cute Lucy looked in that one moment.
"Well, maybe there is," he said staring into her mesmerizing chocolate eyes.
Lucy leaned in closer to him, her eyes falling onto Natsu's lips. Just like in her dream, something was drawing her closer. The boy found himself retracting away from her, but at the same time he wanted to move in closer as well. Both their hearts raced at an immense speed Natsu, even in training Natsu had never experienced such a rush. Lucy closed her eyes moving closer and closer until she found her lips touching Natsu's.
The boy's eyes went wide as he realized what was happening. The touch of Lucy's soft lips against his sent a shutter up his spine. It was wet, but sweet as he felt something click within him. Lucy felt it too, she had never kissed someone before, but for her it felt just right. She couldn't explain it, but she liked it and wanted more. Natsu's heart may have been racing, but he found his eyes closing as he pushed in to deepen the kiss before Lucy broke away, leaving the two of them gasping for air. Her face was a deep scarlet red as she looked away from him, a silly smile on her face as she giggled to herself. Natsu stared at her blankly, still feeling her touch.
"Lucy?" Natsu said quietly.
"Yeah?" Lucy giggled.
"Can we do that again?" Natsu asked.
Lucy bit her lip, blushing frantically. "Sure," she said nodding her head as she leaned back in for another.
A week had gone by: a week of pure misery and biliousness for Natsu and Gajeel. It didn't matter how long they were out at sea, the two of them never seemed to get used to the travel. The boys spent most of their time in bed, hardly managing to eat any food. Jellal was just as stuck as the other two boys, most of his time was spent occupying the cabin watching over them. Though most other times he stretched his legs on deck or when he went to dine with the crew.
It was early in the morning when Cobra made his way down into the low cabins where Natsu, Gajeel and Jellal were sleeping. He banged on the side of the wall yelling a good morning to them to stir them awake. Gajeel groaned as he fell back asleep while Natsu seemed to be unmoved by the sudden commotion. However, Jellal nearly fell out of his cot as he blinked his eyes open, rubbing them to regain consciousness.
"What is it?" Jellal moaned as his head fell back on to his pillow.
"We just spotted Nivit," Cobra said grinning. "Time for you boys to rise and shine. We should be making port within the hour."
"That's good," Jellal yawned as he fell back to sleep.
Cobra frowned as he stared at the three of them. He folded his arms across his chest glowering before he moved over to their cots. He peered down at the now unconscious Jellal before he grabbed the side of his bed and flipped him over to the ground.
Jellal let out a loud cry as he hit the wooden floor with a loud thump. "Hey!" he yelled at Cobra as the young man made his way over to Gajeel and Natsu's cot and did the same. Gajeel roared in anger as he face planted onto the floor, lifting his head up in anger. Natsu on the other hand still lay motionless, snoring loudly as he was unshaken.
"Get moving," Cobra said as he walked out of the cabin.
Jellal sighed as he sluggishly stood back up. Every muscle in his body was still asleep as he forced his way back up to his feet. He made his way up to the deck, where he saw Cobra standing near the front of the ship talking to another crewman. His new friend seemed to be a bit hostile towards the sailor, but that was no surprise to Jellal. Cobra had been a bit stern with his men since the first day of the voyage, but none of them appeared to get all that angry with his behavior.
A heavy fog blanketed the surface of the sea, and nearly consumed the ship itself. Though it wasn't thick enough that distorted the entire view. Jellal could see the outline of the city just in front of him; a wall of trees enclosed cliffs of brown rock further in land. There was a beach that lined the bay while large, jagged rocks outlined the sides of the bay. Within the confines of the cliff there was a large river that led further into the land, surrounded by trees. Though they had to go up a large river to the city.
Jellal made his way over to Cobra, still a bit shaky from being unable to wake up. As he walked over Cobra dismissed the crewman and leaned forward onto the railing. "Hey," Jellal said as he walked up behind Cobra. "So, how much longer until we reach the city?"
"I already told you, about an hour," Cobra sighed scratching the back of his head.
"Oh yeah, forgot," Jellal exhaled deeply as he joined Cobra on the railing. "Man it's taken far too long for us to get here. I'm just glad we finally made it."
"What about your friends?" Cobra asked.
"Oh, trust me, Natsu will be the most happy of any of us to have reached Nivit," Jellal told him.
"Why's that?" Cobra asked smirking. "Let me guess; a woman right?"
"Yeah, something like that," Jellal chuckled. "But isn't it always though?"
"Ah yes," Cobra sighed, "women make us men do some pretty stupid things sometimes, don't they?" He rubbed the top of his forehead chuckling to himself. "Maybe that's why I do what I do. I don't know." He shook his head taking in a deep breath.
"I understand that feeling all too well," Jellal told him.
The two of them stood their in silence, only the sound of men working and the gentle caress of the sea and the gawk of seagulls flying in the air could be heard. The smell of sea air filled Jellal's lungs, and though he had been on the ship for the week he never really enjoyed it until that moment, and now all for not. The sea breeze brought a cold sensation through his spine causing him to shiver in place. Though it was chilly it still brought him some ease.
"So, any special ladies in your life my friend?" Cobra asked, finally breaking the silence. He turned to Jellal raising an eyebrow at him.
Jellal laughed to himself nervously as he scratched the back of his head. Cobra was eyeing him carefully. The image of Erza flashed in his mind, causing him to smile to himself. It was in that moment that a sharp stinging pain radiated through his heart as he began to realize just how much he missed Erza.
"Yeah, I guess you can say that. What about you?" Jellal asked.
Cobra took a deep breath as he stood upright. "Her name is Kinana, or was. I don't' even know anymore. But not a day goes by when I don't think about her. Her wonderful smile, her compassionate gaze and gentle touch. If it weren't for her, I don't know," he shrugged, "I probably be dead by now. All I know is that I have to find her, no matter the cost."
"Even your soul?" Jellal asked him.
Jellal realized he had blurted out what he had been thinking. Considering the men Cobra worked for, the business that he was running, and the fact that it was men under his orders that tried to snatch and take away the girls, he at first looked at his young counter part as a soulless bastard. It was only in the week that he got to know Cobra that he discovered the young man was not as bad as he appeared. A desperate man in a desperate situation trying to find someone he cared about. Though to Jellal, it meant that Cobra had already sold his soul in the process.
Cobra glowered at Jellal with a cold stare, but it soon faded to a melancholy sigh. "She is my soul," Cobra said softly. An answer Jellal had not been expecting from a man such as Cobra.
"You know I never would have taken you for a romantic, Cobra," Jellal teased, as Cobra slapped Jellal's shoulder.
"Don't think me weak for a second, Mystogon," Cobra threatened. "You may be my friend now, but cross me and I will have no problem slitting your throat and leaving you to the buzzards."
"Of course not, wouldn't dream of it," Jellal answered.
Meanwhile, down in the cabin Gajeel was busy trying to get what sleep he could in his cot, but the brightness of the sun leaking in from the windows on top with Natsu's snoring stopped him. Though he was too tired to even move. The only thing going through his mind was how the hell Natsu could lie there, on the hard wood and still be asleep.
"Hm, Lucy," Natsu murmured in his sleep. "Taste so good."
"Idiot," Gajeel shook his head before collapsing on the ground. He still hadn't gotten over his seasickness yet. It seemed that the only way he or Natsu could escape it was in their sleep. He made his way over to the sleeping teenager before grumpily kicking Natsu in the side.
"Hey!" Natsu cried as he was sprung awake. "What'd you do that for?" He leapt to his feet as he shoved his face his face into Gajeel's, growling at the other Draconan.
"To get you up you idiot," Gajeel grumbled staggering away from Natsu. "We're about to arrive at Nivit."
"Yeah well I—" Natsu couldn't finished as he collapsed to the ground, nauseated. "Well, the sooner we get onto the land the better."
It wasn't long before the ship finally made it's way into port. Both Natsu and Gajeel jumped from the hull of the ship down onto the dock before the planks were laid out. Jellal stood next to Cobra, sighing in annoyance to himself as he watched the two stand up, finally complacent to be back on something that wasn't moving. Natsu inhaled a breath of fresh air as it seemed all the nausea just melted away. Gajeel felt the same as the two of them began to stretch their legs after staying cramped up on that ship for so long.
"It seems like they've gotten better all of a sudden," Cobra said watching the two Draconans skeptically.
"Yep," Jellal sighed shaking his head. A couple of men tied the ship to the dock as a plank was lowered allowing for the crew to make their way off. "Thanks again for the lift," Jellal thanked him as the two of them walked down the plank to the boardwalk. "Perhaps our paths may cross again some day."
"I hope that as well Mystogon," Cobra said extending his hand. Jellal took it in his as the two men parted ways.
Unlike Mila, Nivit was completely different. There were trees, ivy, and brush that covered the brick and stone buildings. The city itself was enveloped in the wild woods. The buildings themselves were designed with a native, tribal design with wooden roofs. The local people of Nivit were tanned skinned with dark hair and eyes. For the most part they wore leather tribal attire, some of them had tattoos and face paint.
Though the majority of the people that stayed around the docks were clearly not from the city. Most people came into the city to barter and trade, and unlike the locals, most of them had paler skin and wore the standard attire of their homelands. Though deeper into the city is where most of the locals resided and kept to their own business if they weren't visiting the market.
Natsu and Gajeel followed Jellal as he led them through the city until they came upon a large round building that was covered in ivory near the heart of the city. Trees, wildflowers and bushes lined a flagstone pathway to the large chestnut door. Standing in front of it were two armed guards, holding long pikes. They wore standard Nivit battle attire, which was nothing more than long tanned leather pants, a vest of beads and war paint on their faces, but they still remained stern at their post.
As Jellal walked up to them, the two of them clanged their pikes together, barring the young noble from the door.
"What is your business here?" one of the guards asked.
"The Lord of Nivit does not have time for some commoners, as he is vey busy and his time valuable. So state your business or get lost," the second guard said.
"I am Jellal Fernandez of Junelle, son of Faust former Hand to the King," Jellal told them.
The two guards exchanged glances of doubt as the first guard stepped forward. "You expect us to believe that you are Jellal Fernandez," the first guard said skeptically. "You look like nothing more than common street trash. How about you get out of here before we get violent?"
Jellal looked down realizing that he was not dressed in any elegant outfit, that would distinguish himself from the common folk.
"Listen, please," Jellal told him.
"Get lost," the guard snarled shoving Jellal away with his pike.
"Hey," Natsu shouted as he stepped between Natsu and the guard.
"Get lost boy or I'll have you gutted," the guard threatened.
Natsu felt a strong heat consume him as he could feel the same rush over take him as the guard appeared to moving in slow motion. The man was moving the pike up in the air ready to strike the young Draconan. Without flinching Natsu grabbed the end of the pike and shoved the guard back, hard into the door as the man toppled over. The second guard rushed forward, enraged by the boy's sudden outburst as he drew his pike up.
Natsu did not move to avoid the oncoming blow. There was no need for him to as Gajeel stepped in the way as he grabbed the spear head with his hand. The guard blinked at him, startled by the Draconan boys abrupt appearance, but more so by Gajeel being unfazed by grasping the blade. Gajeel smirked as he flung the man over to the side and into the bushes.
The first guard cried out to the other guards as a swarm of guards in similar uniforms came running onto the scene. Natsu and Gajeel could feel themselves overwhelmed as their hands formed into a claw while scales outlined their bodies. The guards surrounded the three of them with their weapons extended. Natsu and Gajeel eyed them carefully, while Jellal tried to hold the two of them back.
The guards moved in closer, as the guards slowly trudged towards them. Natsu and Gajeel were just about to prepare for combat before a loud, ragged voice shouted for the guards to stop.
The men stared at one another bewildered, but they complied to their order as the retracted their weapons, but they would not budge. Natsu found his eyes wondering around wandering what it was that stopped the guards from advancing. He could feel the heat of his body recede into his body as he returned back to normal, just like Gajeel.
Jellal pushed them aside as Natsu noticed a small, old man walking towards them. He was a frail old man with long gray eyebrows and beard that seemed to connect to one another. He had dark eyes that looked as though they were chiseled over a firm stone nose. He wore a head dress of purple feathers with red tips and a marking on his forehead.
"I am Roubaul," he said introducing himself. "Leader of Nivit. Who are you boys and why do you come to my country causing trouble?"
"Lord Roubaul," Jellal said stepping forward. "I am Jellal Fernandez of Junelle. We are here because—"
Jellal was cut off as Roubaul held up his hand. "Jellal?" the old man said as he eyed the young noble carefully. He stepped closer to the young man to get a better look. He was only about half the young man's size but he still stood with a firm stature. "Jellal!" the man cried happily as he embraced the young noble in a hug. "It's been far too long."
Natsu and Gajeel were as equally bewildered as the other guards as everyone stared in confusion. The only ones that didn't seem baffled were Jellal and the old man, who were too busy showing their friendship towards one another to mind the rest of the crowd. Natsu looked over at Gajeel as the black haired Draconan just shrugged at him. Natsu began to wonder how these two knew each other and where they had met before. He would make sure to have Jellal explain everything to him later.
"Come, come," Roubaul beckoned, as he motioned the boys to follow him. The guards were still as confused as they were when Robaul first showed up but he just smiled and waved them off. "It's okay everyone, they're friends," he said as the three of them walked through the entryway.
The three boys followed Robaul down a large corridor made of stone. It was unique in that it was decorated with wooden pillars that were carved with spiral shapes and fake leaves. Along the stone walls hung tribal paintings of weird designs of multiple colors and of various places in nature. Torches lit the way, providing most of the light inside, but for Natsu it was straggly dark, with almost no widows. After walking down the hallway they finally entered into a chamber with a large wooden chair where the Lord of Nivit took his seat. The old man grabbed a mug of ale at a table that was standing near the chair.
Natsu found it interesting that it was already set up yet there were no servants or slaves around. It was eerie to be standing in there yet there were torch lights that hung along similar wooden pillars around the encircled perimeter, there was a sun roof above them that allowed the room to be filled with natural light. What stuck out to Natsu even more was the lack of guards present to protect their lord. The four of them were alone in that wide chamber.
"So, Jellal, what brings you back to Nivit?" Robaul asked taking a sip of beer.
"My Lord," Jellal said stepping forward. "While I was in Konvern with King Duke, I overheard a plan between him and the former right hand of King Jude talking about a potential invasion of Nivit."
"I figured that they would do something like that, is there any time frame as to when they will invade?" Robaul asked.
"My Lord, they're planning to invade as soon as Duke's armies arrive in Konvern, which they might already have," Jellal told him. "Though they say that they plan on invading due to capture a Draconan child that lives here in Nivit. My Lord do you know of such a child?"
"This is disturbing," Robaul sighed as he rubbed his chin. "I do know of such a child. But my people will defend her. We are protected here in Nivit. Our walls are tall and thick, and our soldiers well trained. We may be a peaceful people, but we are just as well trained as any other army in the land."
"Where is this child?" Jellal asked. "My Lord, that child is in danger. Without help you cannot withstand a full frontal attack by King Duke."
"Wendy!" Robaul shouted.
Jellal and the others waited as they heard the pitter-patter of footsteps echoing from one of the side hallways. They turned to watch as a young twelve-year-old girl appeared from the hallway. She was an adorable little girl with long cobalt blue hair and gleaming dark eyes. She had a soft, sweet gentle smile that dazzled like the first, blooming flowers of spring. She wore a long yellow and white stripped sundress that delicate blanketed her bony frame. She came to an abrupt stop as soon as she was in view and spotted the three strangers standing in front of Robaul.
"Jellal?" she said as she stared at the young man. "Jellal!" she cried as she ran over and jumped into young man's arms. He snuggled her head into the young noble's chest as he spun her around, the two of them giggling with excitement.
"Did I miss something?" Gajeel grumbled.
"Apparently the two of them know one another," Natsu said baffled.
"My, how much you've grown," Jellal said as he placed the girl. "How have you been Wendy?"
"I've been great!" Wendy said with a beaming smile. "It's wonderful to see you again!" It was in that moment she remembered that she was not alone with Jellal. She looked back at Natsu and Gajeel recoiling behind the young noble, as her smile faded into a shy pout, as she recoiled behind Jellal under the gaze of the two other boys. "Who are your friends?" she said in a hushed tone.
"Wendy, these men are Natsu and Gajeel. They're friends of mine," Jellal told her reassuringly.
"Natsu?" the girl said in a quiet voice. "Natsu!" she said again more excitedly as she ran over to the pink haired teen. Her eyes flashed in amazement as she stared up at Natsu making the boy a bit uneasy. "You mean Natsu, the Dragon of Konvern? I heard about you, you're a Draconan too right?"
"I am," Natsu chuckled with pride as he leaned over to show her the tattoo on his forearm. The girl's face lit up as she lifted her own arm up to reveal that she had a similar marking on her arm as well. "And so is Gajeel." He pointed at the other Draconan, but Gajeel seemed not to care so much. He just wanted to finish their business and find something to eat.
"Really?" the girl said excitedly. "I didn't know that there were others."
"Wendy," Robault told her. "Why don't you go play with Natsu and Gajeel while I talk to Jellal about something, okay?"
"Yes Master," the girl said as she took Natsu's hand and dragged him away. However, Gajeel did not follow, instead he made his way back to the exit.
"Where are you going?" Jellal called out to him.
"To the nearest tavern," Gajeel shouted back. "I ain't playing with no little girl like some kind of nanny. Come get me when your business is done. In the meantime I'm going to get something to eat and drink."
Jellal sighed as he let Gajeel go. He turned back to Robault who appeared to be incredibly distraught. "Jellal, this news is indeed disturbing. I think we need to discuss the best course of action regarding Wendy."
"I agree sir," Jellal said, nodding his head. "I have traveled a very long distance to see you, and we have much to discuss."