"What do you mean you saw Sting and Rogue?" Natsu blurted out.
"Sh," Gajeel silenced him peering back towards Jellal and Wendy to make sure that they did not over hear the pink haired teen. When he was sure that neither of them had heard anything he continued telling his story to Natsu. "They came to me at the break of dawn this morning. They didn't have much time to talk but what they did tell me was that after they had escaped they set out west hoping to find a safe haven to hide out for a while. Rogue told me that they were getting into a bit of trouble along the way and before they knew it they were being pursued by Magnolia guards and soldiers from some of the western countries.
"Apparently, they were hiding out in Nirvit for a bit when they spotted us getting off a ship. Since then they were following us, when they saw the Magnolian patrol go by. According to Sting, the two of them are going to double back east and head straight for Draconia."
"What do they plan to do in Draconia?" Natsu asked. "Aren't the dragons still there?"
"That's exactly the reason, at least I guess. Nobody travels there because of the dragons, and seeing as how they're sons of dragons, just like us, they think that they'll be able to stay there without much danger," Gajeel answered.
"Well, I guess that means they won't be of any help to us now," Natsu sighed annoyed as he rubbed his hand through his hair.
"We don't know that for sure," Gajeel grumbled. "But at least we know where they're going to be in case we ever need them."
It wasn't long before Jellal and Wendy had finished taking their drink at the river and returned to where the other boys were standing. Jellal furled his eyebrows as the two of them looked a bit suspicious. Jellal stared at them for a brief moment, his eyes darting from one boy to the other. He was about to speak up on the matter but was quickly interrupted as the young Wendy stepped up and asked Natsu if they had anything to eat. Of course Jellal knew that they had packed some food in preparation for their travel, however he didn't have time before Natsu made his way to the river.
Natsu told her not to worry as he walked away. Jellal was going to tell him about their rations, but he was curious about what Natsu was doing. Without removing any of his armor, he plunged into the water, disappearing beneath the surface. The girl began to panic as she ran over to the bank, only to see the pink haired teen reemerge with a large trout in hand. The young girl giggled and clapped her hands as Natsu tossed her the fish. For a moment it scared her as she let out a loud scream as the wailing fish fluttered about on the ground.
Natsu laughed as the girl fell to her hands and knees trying to grasp at the fish, only to have it leap out of her hands every time. She began to grow agitated as a eerie sense began to fester in Natsu. It was only for a brief moment, one that stunned the boy where he stood. The young girl in a fit of annoyance roared a small flicker of flame that burned the fish to a charcoal black before leaving it motionless.
Wendy's eyes went up in shock and horror as she fell down backwards onto the wet grass. She scooted away from the dead fish in a frantic attempt to create some distance between her and the animal she had just charred. She began to breath quick breaths of panic as Natsu jumped out of the water and rushed to her side. He could see just how terrified the young girl was as tears swelled up in her eyes. Natsu was not the only one making a mad dash for the young girl, as Jellal had also begun to rush towards her, sliding on his knees through the grass to her side. Gajeel on the other hand, took his time as he strolled over, not really bothered by the girl's sudden shock.
Tears cascaded down her cheeks, soaking her soft pale skin as Jellal wrapped his arms around her and pulled her in close. She latched onto his arm, crying into his sleeve as the young noble started to gently brush her hair, doing whatever he could to sooth the young girl. Though his eyes stared over to Natsu who had knelt down in front of Wendy, whipping away the fresh tears that were falling down her now drenched face.
"What happened?" Jellal asked quietly as he could feel Wendy tuck her legs in underneath him.
"She breathed fire for the first time," Natsu told him. "I was just as frightened as she was the first time I did it as well. It's not something that we can do easily. For me it took years of practice before I was able to control it."
"I'm a monster," the young girl whimpered as the tears had stopped running.
"No you're not," Natsu scoffed. "You're just like Gajeel and me; a Draconan child who was born of dragons. It's nothing to be ashamed of, it just makes you special."
"Really?" Wendy said blinking at Natsu. "So, I'm not a monster?"
"Of course not," Jellal said quietly, smiling at her.
"Dumb girl is just overreacting," Gajeel scoffed. "She breaths fire like the rest of us. You think that she would have learned her own abilities by now."
Jellal flashed Gajeel a menacing glare as he could feel Wendy slump in his arms. Gajeel's words only made her feel worse about herself now. Even Natsu was unappeased by Gajeel's sudden outburst.
"Leave her alone," Natsu growled as he stood up and walked so that he was face to face with Gajeel, "don't you remember how hard it was for you when you first found out you could breath fire?"
"It wasn't hard for me," Gajeel snorted as he walked over to the river, shoving Natsu to the side. "I knew what I was and I accepted it. I didn't cry like a weakling because I was afraid of my own powers. I embraced them. The girl just needs to learn to take control over her own emotions."
"How about you leave her alone!" Jellal snapped. "Don't chastise her, she's still young and she's still learning. How about you just keep your thoughts to yourself from now on?"
"Fine," Gajeel sighed as he slumped to the ground. "It's not like I care what you idiots do."
Natsu and the others just ignored the other teen as the pink haired teen plotted a seat down next to Wendy. The girl had calmed down by now, though she still had a bit of terror present in her eyes. She was no longer crying, her tears had all but gone dry, now she just sulked in Jellal's arms as the young noble continued to hold onto her tightly, continuing to stroke her hair. Her moist eyes turned to Natsu as the young teen tilted his head in curiosity at her.
"Natsu?" she asked in a soft melancholy tone.
"Yeah?" the teen asked as he scooted closer to her.
"Can you teach me how to control the fire?" Wendy asked as she stared at him with pleading eyes.
"Of course," Natsu said grinning widely at her.
"Really?" the girl said energetically as her eyes beamed wide. "You'll actually teach me?"
"Yeah, of course," Natsu told her. "We can start right now if you want," he said as he jumped up to his feet.
"Yeah!" the girl cheered as she broke Jellal's grip leaping to her own feet.
The young noble chuckled to himself as he saw how energetic the young girl had become. He had to admit that he was happy to see that she wasn't depressed anymore, but the change in attitude was so drastic he was still stunned by it. He just shook his head as he watched the two of them get hyper about their training just before Natsu started his instruction. He just made his way over to the edge of the wood so he could get a better view of the road.
As Jellal sat there watching them for a good hour he could hear the trotter of horse hooves in the distance. "Natsu, Wendy!" Jellal shouted out to them, causing the two Draconans to come to an abrupt stop. "Someone's coming."
Without another word Natsu grabbed Wendy's hand and rushed further into the wood where he placed her behind a tree. He held up a finger telling her to be quiet. The young girl bit her lip as she nodded her head. She knelt down behind a bush as she turned her eyes over to where Jellal was standing. Gajeel on the other hand stood up and walked over to where Jellal was standing, leaning up against a tree folding his arms across his chest.
As the noise drew closer Jellal could see a fait two figures off in the distance, both of whom were riding on horseback. On one horse there was a familiar face, one that belonged to the same slave trader they met back in Mile, the other was a young woman with long blue hair and eyes. She had pale skin and had a cute face. She wore a long light blue blouse and white skirt. In her hand she held a light blue umbrella with even darker blue hearts etched on.
As they came riding up along the trail as Jellal contemplated whether or not he should go up and say something. Though it didn't matter as Gajeel stepped out from the brush and walked up to them.
"Gajeel," Jellal snapped, only to be ignored by the other man, "Gajeel!"
"Juvia," Gajeel called out as the two horseback riders looked at him.
Natsu snuck his way up to Jellal as he and the noble exchanged looks of confusion. "What's he doing?" Natsu whispered as the two of them kept themselves hidden.
"I don't know," Jellal moaned. "He's always doing something stupid."
"Yeah, I know," Natsu sighed.
"Gajeel," he heard the girl say his name as she blinked at him as the two horses came to a stop. "Gajeel! What are you doing out here? I thought you were imprisoned back in Konvern!"
"Nah," Gajeel answered as he shook his head. "I managed to escape a while back. So, what are you doing out here?"
"We're on our way to Magnolia," Cobra answered cutting off the girl before she had a chance to speak. "And hello to you too by the way. It's good to see you walking around instead of being bedridden." Gajeel just scoffed at him as he folded his arms across his chest. "By the way," Cobra continued, "Where are your comrades; Natu and Mystogon?"
"Oh, them? They're hiding off in the forest back there," Gajeel said pointing behind him.
"Gajeel," Jellal moaned as he face palmed himself. "Well no use now," Jellal sighed as he stood up and walked out. As Natsu stood up Jellal whispered to him, "Make sure they don't find out about Wendy okay?"
"Got ya," Natsu said nodding his head.
"Cobra!" Jellal yelled out to them as he waved his hand. "It's a surprise to see you out here."
"The feeling is mutual," Cobra shouted back. "If you don't mind me asking, what brings you out here?"
"We're on our way to Magnolia," Jellal answered. "What about you?"
"The same," Cobra answered. "What's your business if you don't mind me asking."
"Well that is something that I'm going to have to keep to myself for now," Jellal told him.
"I see," Cobra said nodding his head. "Well me an my companion are heading up that way ourselves. Perhaps you would care to join us?"
"Well, we were traveling on our own, and we don't want to slow you down," Jellal chuckled.
"Nonsense, I insist," Cobra said persistently. "Besides, having no one to talk to but this woman for the rest of the way is going to drive me to insanity."
Jellal found himself in a bind, knowing that Cobra would be persistent in his request. He knew he couldn't' do anything that would put Wendy at risk, but at the same time he didn't want to appear suspicious. He just went with his gut and regretfully declined Cobra's offer.
"It's no bother," Juvia insisted. "Besides it will give Gajeel and I a chance to catch up."
"No, we got our own thing to do," Jellal told him.
"Like what?" Cobra asked.
"We're escorting some punk kid to Magnolia," Gajeel answered.
"Gajeel!" Jellal snapped, shaking his head.
Cobra burst out into laughter. "You got stuck doing a babysitting job? I can see why you're so hell bent on keeping the job a secret, eh Mystogon? Well that's no problem with me, and I know Juvia here is a sweetheart for children to. So, come my friend, no more excuses."
"Okay," Jellal sighed in defeat, "looks like we don't have a choice." He turned to wave at Natsu to come on over, but not before he scowled at Gajeel. The other teen just shrugged it off as he went to retrieve the horses.
Back in Magnolia, Lucy was making her way to the Fairy Tail Pub as she walked down the cobblestone streets of the city. It was about mid-day, and though she didn't expect most of her new friends to be there she figured she could spend the time with Mirajane and Kiana. Admittedly she would much rather stay back at the house where she could continue practicing her writing, but at the moment she suffered terrible writer's block. Perhaps some fresh air and conversation would help her in her dilemma.
As she strutted through the city she began to get an eerie sensation resonated through her spine that sent a tingling sensation all throughout her back. She didn't know what it was that was causing the sensation, but as she peered around she thought she spotted something moving behind her, but when she turned around to get a better look, she noticed there was nothing there. She thought that perhaps it had been her imagination, or maybe it was a stray cat. She decided to just keep on walking anyways.
As she made her way past a few more buildings the sensation had hit her again, this time she spun around as fast as she could. This time she could have sworn she saw the wave of a black cloak disappear behind one of the ally ways she had just past. She wasn't too certain but she could feel her heart racing like made in the pit of her chest. She didn't waste another moment as she began to make a run for it. She didn't know if the pub would be the safest place, but at least she wouldn't be alone.
That's when she heard the sound of running footsteps behind her. This time she peered over her shoulder to see that there was no one following her. She wondered if perhaps she was acting too paranoid, but she wasn't about to let her guard down. She bolted straight for the pub doors and once there she flung them open and slammed them shut behind her as she looked for a lock. Once she found it she latched the door close before turning back around taking a deep breath to calm her nerves.
"Lucy?" she heard a young feminine voice say her name.
Lucy squeaked as she opened her eyes to see Kiana standing next to her, a look of worry in the girl's eyes. Lucy was still in the midst of taking deep breaths as she did her best to put on a fake smile for the girl. She noticed that Kiana was not the only one that appeared worried, she could see Mira at the other end of the pub, behind the bar staring at her with just as much concern. Fortunately, nobody else in the pub paid much attention for they were too indulged in their own drinks to care.
"Oh, hi Kiana," Lucy said doing her best to keep her fake smile on. Though she knew that after her little episode it was going to be hard to convince the purple haired girl that everything was okay. "What are you doing?"
"What am I doing?" the girl asked blinking in confusion. "Are you okay? Did something happen?"
"What? No, of course not," Lucy lied, but she soon found herself growing terribly uncomfortable lying to the other girl. "Well actually," she sighed, "I was on my way here when I could have sworn I was being followed."
"Really?" the girl said as she stared at the pub door. "Well, you'll be safe here," she said as she took Lucy by the hand and led the girl to the bar. Lucy looked back to see one of the other guests in the pub made their way over and unlatched the door. After he opened it Lucy could see that there was no one behind her, but it still didn't quell her already fast beating heart.
"What's wrong?" Mira asked as soon as Kiana plumped Lucy down in front of her.
"Lucy thought someone was following her out in the street," Kiana told her. "The poor girl is still shaking."
"Here," Mira said as she poured Lucy a drink of water. "Drink this. It's not much but it should help you settle down a bit."
Lucy took it and chug the entire mug in one fell swoop before gasping for air afterwards. Mira poured her another drink, as she handed it to her she told, "This time sip it. It's better if you take it slow."
Lucy took heed of her advice as she began to sip on her drink. It was cool and refreshing, though it was strange at the same time. There was something about it that made it sweet, or at least sweeter than most other water she had grown accustomed to drinking. She hadn't even noticed it the first time, but she stared ominously at her drink.
"Thank you," Lucy said calmly as she took another sip.
"You know you're more than welcome to stay her as long as you want," Mira told her. She rested her palm on top of Lucy's, smiling brightly at her.
Not long after Erza and Levy both walked through the pub door and made their way up to the bar when Erza spotted the blonde. They made a brisk movement, Erza sliding into a seat next to her. Levy walked up to Kiana who was still standing next to Lucy. She was curious as to what was going on only to notice the tremor in the blonde.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"Somebody was following Lucy out in the streets earlier," Kiana told her.
"I'm not even sure if I was being followed," Lucy said innocently. "I just got freaked out over nothing."
"Nonsense," Erza answered grimly. "I told you that I should be by your side at all times. I was sworn to protect you, but you continue to send me off on errands and other useless tasks. You should let me stay by your side at all times, I've told you this time and time again, but you absolutely refuse to listen."
Lucy had to admit Erza had a point, but she liked her own privacy too. Erza wasn't terrible to be around, but the girl just needed her space and Erza could just be too clingy. She often sent the redhead out with Levy in order to get some time to herself. But at the moment she wished that she had Erza by her side; at least that way she would feel safer.
"Leave her alone Erza," Levy interjected. "Even I can understand when Lucy needs time to herself. Maybe she was followed, maybe she wasn't, but for now we'll stay with her until she feels better."
"Of course we'll stay by her side, that's our job remember?" Erza said scowling.
"Oh relax," Mira interjected into the other girls' argument. "What's done is done, Lucy is fine and the last thing we need to do is bicker amongst ourselves. So for now, how about everyone have a nice cool glass of something to drink and get along?"
"Fine," Erza grimaced as she sat down and held out her hand for a mug.
When if began to get later in the afternoon some of Lucy's other friends began to show up. Lucy had forgotten her troubles as she conversed with all the familiar faces: Elfman, Lissana, and even Gray showed up, but kept to himself as he usually did. Finally it got late enough that Lucy and the others decided to head home. The young girl had forgotten about what had happened to her earlier as she and the other girls made their way home.
Once again Lucy found that same eerie feeling fluctuate through her as she found herself stopping to look around. Erza noticed, as did Levy as they watched the blonde stare out into the distance behind them.
"Lucy?" Levy asked as she began to grow worried. "Lucy?"
"What?" Lucy said as she snapped back to attention. She noticed the two of them staring at her. "I'm sorry," she apologized. "I had that same feeling that I had from before."
"It's okay," Levy said as she stepped up and placed her hand on the other girl's shoulder. "I know you're worried, but don't, you have me and Erza here. You'll be fine."
"I know," Lucy sighed as she smiled at the other girl. "Thank you Levy."
As they continued to walk Lucy could still feel that tingly sensation flow through her. She noticed her pace began to slow down as she could have sworn that she heard footsteps behind them. She stopped again as she felt her heart freeze in place, as she twirled her head around this time catching a black cloaked figure standing behind her. The man stopped in place, his face shrouded by shadow, and though she could not see his eyes she could feel his glare on her.
"Lucy?" Erza asked as she spun around to see the same figure as the blonde. Without a second of hesitation she rushed forward and shoved the blonde girl behind her as she unsheathed her sword.
"Get behind me Miss Lucy," Levy said as she too took a stance in front of the blonde girl.
"Levy," Erza said as she held up her sword.
"Yeah?" the small girl said as she kept her eyes on the man in front of her.
"Take the princess and get out of here," Erza ordered. "I'll handle this."
"Are you sure?" Levy asked.
"Do it," Erza ordered, glaring back at them.
"Okay," Levy said nodding her head. She grabbed Lucy's arm as the two of them began to run away. Lucy resisted at first as she looked back at Erza. "She'll be fine Miss Lucy," Levy said reassuringly as she pulled her away.
"All right," Lucy said as she followed the smaller girl. Though before she left she took one last glance back at Erza. "Take care of yourself Erza," Lucy shouted before she finally left.
"Who are you?" Erza barked as she glared at the cloaked man.
The man didn't say a single word, but Erza saw a sword slide out of one of the man's sleeves as he made a dash at her. Erza stood her ground as the man came barreling down on her, flinging his sword down. The redhead parried it to the side before swinging her own blade at the cloaked figure's neck. The man flung his head back as the tip of the blade just clipped the base of his own hood.
He jumped back, his feet sliding across the cobblestone. He said nothing as he rushed in again swinging his blade only to have it deflected by Erza's own sword. She stepped in, shoving her shoulder into the man's chest knocking him down. She flung her sword down only to have the man roll out of the way as her blade collided with the ground.
The man attempted to trip the girl with his feet, but Erza jumped up to avoid it. After dodging the attempted blow Erza kicked the man in the gut, causing his hood to fall down revealing his snake like eyes and pale skin. He rolled to his stomach and got back to his feet. Again he raised his sword in the air, bringing it down upon Erza who held up her own sword to block it. With her own strength she threw the man back causing him to stumble backwards. Erza than head butted him just before she took her sword and ran the man through.
Kurohebi gasped for air as his eyes fell down to his gut as he could see the blade being covered in blood. Erza glowered at him before she ripped her blade out of Kurohebi's gut causing him to collapse to the ground to his knees. He gasped for air as he peered back up at Erza while the redhead stood over him, her blade still held upright. Kurohebi did not say another word before he finally fell down into a puddle of his own blood and lay there motionless.
Erza eyed him carefully, kicking the blade away from the hand of her opponent. She kept her blade pointed at the body before she could hear the clamor of footsteps rushing towards her. At the lead was Gray, followed by a group of Magnolian guards, Gray had his own sword held outright.
When he finally came upon Erza he saw her sword pointed at the motionless Kurohebi, blood still dripping off the edge of the blade. The redhead glared back up at them, taking deep breaths. Once Gray saw that there was no issue he sheathed his own sword and walked over to the body. He knelt down, placing his fingers on the man's neck, the other guards kept their own weapons extended as they encircled Erza. The girl kept her eyes on them as Gray stood back up.
"He's still alive," Gray said as he looked up at Erza, "barely. Take him to the hospital. If he survives than we'll question what his motives were."
A couple of the guards picked the body up and carried it away. Erza stood there still breathing deeply. Gray looked at her, "Come on Erza, let's get you cleaned up."
"No," the redhead said shaking her head as she whipped her blade. "I have to get back to Lucy and Levy and see if they're okay."
"You're the one that just got into a fight," Gray told her. "I'm sure they're fine. Go on, I'll go find them and take care of them." The girl eyed him skeptically. "I'm not going to do anything brash," he sighed. "I'm just going to go and make sure that they're okay. You've all been through a lot tonight." The redhead placed her hands on her hips, not convinced by the boy's words.
"Well, how about I go" a feminine voice asked as Cana approached them, Gildarts by her side.
"You?" Erza spat. "You're even worse."
"Please," Cana giggled, "you know that you guys enjoyed my company the last time."
Erza blushed a fierce crimson red, as a sly smirk crept across Cana's lips. Both Gildarts and Gray were both equally confused as the older man found his eyes wondering from his daughter to the redhead. He sighed shaking his head. He wondered what kind of mischief his daughter had gotten herself into. From the look on Erza's face, it probably was something that he was better off not knowing.
"I'll go," Gildarts grunted. "I've known Lucy since she was a little girl. You can trust me to take care of her for you."
"You I can, her on the other hand," Erza said glowering at Cana. The brunette just grinned a wide, toothy grin.
Without another word Erza left with Gray as the two of them heading towards the main Magnolian headquarters together. Gildarts and Cana watched the two of them leave before the older man scolded his daughter.
"What?" the brunette asked staring blankly at her father.
"What did you do?" he sighed.
"I don't know what you're talking about?" Cana said innocently before walking towards Lucy's home.
"What am I going to do with that girl?" Gildarts sighed to himself before he followed her.