After spending a couple of weeks marching, Duke's army finally arrived at Nirvit's border. He stopped his army just out front of the walls, making sure to keep enough distance between himself and the archers. The young king was new to combat, so he had no idea how to engage the situation, which is why he turned to his generals and right hand Ivan. The generals told him that he would have to ride out with a small company with a banner man and negotiate with Robaul. Perhaps they could convince him to surrender without resorting to violence. Duke was not too partial to the idea but he reluctantly agreed.
He rode out with his commanding general, Ivan and two soldiers on horseback that carried his country's banners. As they neared the large mahogany gate, the doors slowly opened, allowing the short old Robaul, the young Magnolia captain and two banner men of their own to ride through the gate. Upon Ivan seeing the young blonde captain he couldn't help but smirk to himself though the pleasantries were not exchanged.
"Greetings young king," Robaul grumbled as he brought his horse to a stop. He glared at the young king and his company from behind his bushy eyebrows. "I am Lord Robaul of the Nirvit people. I bid you a good day and ask you what it is that you want with me and my people."
"Lord Robaul," Duke said sternly, doing his best to appear as a man of stature, "it is good to finally meet you."
"Too bad I cannot say the same," Robaul interrupted. "I'm sorry," he apologized as he saw Duke's eyes flare up with annoyance. "Please continue."
"As I was saying Lord Robaul," Duke sneered, "it is an honor to finally meet you. I have heard good things about you and your country. Though unfortunately our greetings could not come under more affable circumstances I was hoping to negotiate with you so as to avoid a war."
"Though you may be young and arrogant young king," Robaul sighed, "you have an army that is far too large for us to resist. I cannot in good conscience allow my people to sub come to bloodshed. And though it hurts my heart dearly I must do what is necessary to protect my people, and because of that I am willing to do whatever it takes to insure peace."
"A wise gesture my Lord," Duke said thoughtfully. "If you promise to lay down your arms and give into my commands I promise that no harm will befall you or your people."
"Very well," Robaul said as he began to turn his horse around. "You may enter so we can negotiate your terms."
The old man began to ride back to the gate, as Duke in turn turned around to go back to his own army, leaving Laxus and Ivan alone. There was an awkward tension between the two of them as Ivan could feel the hateful glare that radiated from Laxus's eyes.
"Well, well, well," Ivan snickered, "if it isn't Laxus Dreyer, grandson of Makrov of Magnolia, and from the looks of it, Captain of the Magnolian Guard. It seems like it has been too long since our last encounter."
Duke's turned a confused and curious glare to his right hand noble as he wondered what the relationship between Ivan and Laxus was.
"Not long enough if you ask me," Laxus grumbled. "Would have been better had this encounter never taken place at all."
"Tell me, Laxus," Ivan said coolly, "how is your grandfather fairing these days?"
"The old man is doing very well these days," Laxus growled. "Much better now that he doesn't have to deal with you anymore. I think that he can only do better as long as he doesn't need to see you."
"That's nice, tell him hello for me the next time you see him," Ivan chuckled.
"That's enough the two of you," Duke snapped. "We don't have time for petty grievances between the two of you. Now, General," he said addressing his commanding officer, "go back to the army and bring in the first brigade to the gate. We march through Nirvit now."
"Yes, my Lord," the general said, bowing his head before he took a flag and began to wave it through the air, causing one of the battalions to begin marching forward.
Ivan noticed that the guards on the towers were more at ease as the large gates began to open. Ivan noticed that there was no resistance awaiting for them, but rather a barren road. Laxus said nothing more to the old noble before he turned his horse around and began to gallop back to the city. Ivan watched as two other horsemen met with Laxus as he was riding through, one with long mossy hair and the other whose head was concealed by a helmet.
Robaul said no more words and instead turned around and followed behind the young captain. Though as soon as he had road through the walls, the gates did not close behind him.
It did not take long for the battalion to reach Duke. He stood in front of them, giving the order that they are to follow him as he led them trough the city, as was custom for a ruler to do with a conquered city. Ivan rode beside him, the echoing sounds of thousands of footsteps behind them.
Later Duke met with Robaul at Robaul's fortress to negotiate terms and to sign a formal declaration of surrender. The young king sat at one end of the table with Ivan and several other advisors while Robaul sat on the otherside with his own men. However, Ivan noticed that Laxus was not there. It didn't surprise him, the young captain may have come to help the city, but ultimately he was not apart of the council, nor was he of high enough ranking to be involved in such proceedings.
After a few negotiations Duke and Robaul were on their way to coming to a deal. The young king and his forces would not bring about any harm to Nirvit or to the people as long as Robaul pledge to not advocate or try to instigate violence to any soldier from Junelle, Konvern or even Jean-Luc's men. Another issue was that Duke and his men would leave a limited number men in Nirvit to oversee the city, but they were not allowed to directly get involved with the people or the city. There would also be a tax and at least a few hundred Nirvit soldiers required to join the military.
When they were finally ready to sign, Duke appeared to be happy with the terms, as did Robaul. But right before Duke actually signed the document Ivan spoke up. "Also, we require that you hand over the Draconan child to us immediately. The one who has been rumored to be one in the same as the Dragon of Konvern."
Robaul's eyes went wide at the request, and for a moment he felt like his heart had stopped beating in its chest. "I have no idea what you are referring to," Robaul answered as his eyes fell down to the table. "There is no such child here in Nirvit."
"Do not lie to us, my Lord," Ivan hissed. "We know that such a child resides within these walls, and we have interests in said child. So, now as part of our arrangement, you are to adhere to those requests that are rational. I would say allowing us to take control of such a threat to our people would dictate within the realm of rationality."
"I am sorry Lord Ivan, but no such child resides in such walls. I am afraid that your request cannot be fulfilled," Robaul answered. Ivan could see the truth in the old man's eyes. He knew that Robaul was not lying, but that only caused him to become a bit infuriated.
"The old lord speaks the truth," a cold, shrivel voice susurrated in Ivan's ears. It was a familiar voice, one that made his blood turn cold. He knew that the body was not there, but the chilling presence was undeniable. "The girl has been sent to Magnolia with Natsu Dragoneel. Well, not it seems that the tides have turned against you for now. So, now the question remains, what will you do?"
"You sent the child away because you knew we were coming didn't you?" Ivan barked.
"Again I don't know what you are talking about," Robaul said through a sly grin. "I know not of what child you are referring to, but please Lord Ivan, if we could get back to the negotiations than we can all move on from this horrid day."
"Horrid to you maybe," Duke chuckled. "But this is my first victory. Hopefully, the first in many to come."
"Hopefully not," Robaul grumbled. "Though it is good to know that we could come to terms without resorting to conflict."
"So tell us, where did you send the child?" Ivan pestered. He knew where the child had gone; he just wanted to hear it come from Robaul. At this point Robaul was growing annoyed with Ivan.
"There is no such child, my Lord," he growled. "Now I am growing ever more annoyed with your behavior."
"My behavior is justified," Ivan grumbled. "My Lord," he said turning to Duke. "How can we trust Robaul when he clearly lies to you in front of your face?"
"How dare you!" Robaul yelled. "You dare come into my country, my home and accuse me of such actions?"
"Well aren't you?" Ivan growled. "How could you be so coherent about lying about such a small issue? If you want to rove your loyalty and commitment to your new lord, than you should at least be honest about such a trivial matter."
"Trivial?" Ivan shouted as he slammed his fist on the table, an action that caused the other Nirvit Guards to become jittery. "Trivial? I think lying on such an issue just proves how un-trivial this situation really is?"
"Robaul, Ivan, the two of you stop this right now!" Duke bellowed as he too stood up.
"You cannot have my daughter Ivan!" Robual finally shouted. The old noble and the others were stunned by Robaul's words, though the old man stood firm as he glowered at them.
No one was able to utter another word as two Nirvit guards charged at the table. Robaul waved his hands in the air to stop them, but they had passed by him without so much as a word. Duke stood up and unsheathed his sword as did his own guards.
"Sto—" Robual tried to shout, but he was silenced as Ivan pulled a dagger from his belt and stuck it in the old man's back. Robual blinked as held a blank stare, his hands slowly creeping up to the spot in the middle of his back, just to the left of his spine. He gasped for air before collapsing to the ground, leaving everyone in the room stunned for a moment.
Enraged the guards shouted as they pounced at Duke and his company. Ivan stood next to the young king as he grabbed Duke by the shoulder and pulled him back as the rest of his own guard retaliated. The clash of steel on steel blistered through the air, the cries of men screaming as one another clashed. Unfortunately for the Nirvit men, Duke's men wore armor that protected them from the Nirvit weapons, while their own were able to cut through their opponents with ease.
Duke was pulled away as he was briskly carried away by Ivan and one of his generals. The other advisors had already quickly made their escape from the room, not bothering to care if their young lord was okay. The young king on the other hand was still a bit startled, but anger consumed him more so than any other emotion.
"Wipe them out!" he cried as he broke free from Ivan and the other guard's grip.
"Wipe them out?" Ivan asked perplexed. "What are you talking about? Wipe out who?"
"Nirvit!" Duke shouted. "I want this city burned to the ground. Wipe out everyone! I haven't made myself clear, anyone who dares oppose me must be made an example of."
"My Lord, don't you think that's a bit . . . rash?" Ivan asked.
"These men tried to kill me Ivan," Duke snapped. "I will not tolerate such behavior."
Duke did not have to relay the order to his general, the commanding officer had already left to deliver the word. Ivan was busy trying to coerce Duke against his previous order, but he could see the young king was set on his decision. As the two of them argued the doors to the fortress burst open as Laxus and two other men came storming into the hallway. Laxus with a sword unsheathed and held up high.
"FATHER!" Laxus roared. "What is the meaning of this?!"
"Father?" Duke said quizzically as he glared at Ivan.
"Laxus," Ivan cursed under his breath as he unsheathed his own sword. He placed a hand on Duke's chest and shoved the young king back.
"How could you?!" Laxus cried. "How could you stand behind such a travesty? I knew you were vile, but this? This is monstrous!"
"I don't know what you're talking about," Ivan shouted back.
"Don't think me a fool old man!" Laxus bellowed as he began to rush down the stone corridor. "How could you violate your truce so soon, so easily? Have you no honor?"
Laxus was coming closer now, his two knights on his heels right behind him. They were in a dead sprint as Ivan held up his sword, embracing for impact. But just then the doors from the conference room burst open as Duke's guards came rushing out; their armor covered in blood, their weapons still out in front of their persons. Upon seeing Laxus and the others they dashed past the two noblemen and clashed their blades with Laxus and his two knights.
Ivan took the moment to grab Duke as they made their way to find another exit. He had no idea where he was going, just had to make sure that he got away from Laxus. They made their way up a stone staircase that led them to the a fortress tower.
Once they had stepped out onto the ledge they could hear the clamor of metal bashing against metal, the screams of women and shouts of men reverberate from down below. Duke's men had already began sacking the city, setting fire to buildings, breaking every window, cart and stand they could find. All the soldiers were busy trying to keep the invaders at bay, but the sudden outburst had caught them off guard and unprepared. They did their best to keep Duke's men at bay as the citizens fled to ships or somewhere they believed to be safe.
Soldiers from the three kingdoms were already mowing down every person that stood in their way. Unfortunately, their numbers were too great and there was no way for the Nirvit soldiers to defend themselves in the open street, especially with an enemy already inside their walls. Soldiers from the three kingdoms were scattered throughout the city, slashing as the streets began to flood with blood of Nirvit people. The shouts of the victims roared, but it was difficult to make out exactly where they were all coming from since fresh smoke filled the city air.
Meanwhile down below in the fortress halls, Laxus yelled as he brought his sword down upon one of Duke's guards, knocking his opponent's blade to the side as the tip of the blade slid into the skull of the man. The body collapsed to the ground as Laxus took a moment to catch his breath. He looked at his two companions as the green haired man continued to fight with two guards at the same time, using a fencing style knocking each of their blades away before finally finding an opening near one of the men's throats and slid his own sword into the soft flesh.
His other companion on the other hand found himself being pinned back as he was fighting two opponents himself, but they were pushing forward. Laxus wasted no time as he leapt to the aid of his guard. He brought down his sword into the back of one of the two men, dragging him down to the floor. However, he had not seen the other guard who came running up from behind. Laxus managed to catch him out of the corner of his eye, but not before the man swung his sword and struck Laxus just above the right hip.
Laxus roared in pain, but struck the man with his elbow before barreling his sword deep into the man's gut. He slid his sword out and collapsed to his knee, grasping at the wound.
"Laxus," the green haired man cried as he slid to his side. The other knight stared down in horror as blood began to ooze through Laxus's fingers.
"Don't worry, it's just a flesh wound, Freed," Laxus wheezed.
"Sir, you are severely injured," Freed said. "Bickslow, help me get him up. We have to get you out of here sir."
"No, we have to find Duke, and my father," Laxus groaned as he stood back up to his feet.
"Sir, you are in no condition to go after anyone," Bickslow said as he and Freed lifted Laxus back up to his feet. "Live to fight another day sir, your grandfather would understand."
"Ivan," Laxus growled under his breath as though it were a curse. But he did not linger nay longer. He obeyed his companion's request as he was brought back up to his feet.
As the company made their way, Natsu began to grow a bit annoyed with traveling with Cobra and the new girl. Apparently Juvia was to go as an advisor for the country of Mila. However, as Jellal had to explain to Natsu and the others in secret, the slave trade had deep connections in politics, which is why she was traveling with Cobra. Cobra was already on his way to Magnolia as per instruction from his bosses, so the two went hand in hand.
Gajeel had explained that through his bandit years he had often come in contact with certain politicians, mainly to try and coerce the highwaymen into bribes that would prevent them from attacking their country's caravans and traders. Juvia serve as an emissary more than her fair share; sometimes it took a beautiful woman to convince hostile men to behave in a more civil manner.
Wendy appeared to get along well with the new girl. It was nice for her to have someone of her own gender she could talk to, but even more so it was a relief to the men because neither one of them really knew how to take care of such a young girl. Though most of the time Wendy pleaded with Natsu to teach her some new dragon techniques to help her become better. Natsu was more than eager, but often had to do it in secret so as not to alert the strangers.
Jellal continued to go by his secret name, Mystagon. Cobra and Juvia would have both discovered his real identity any other way. Natsu and Gajeel didn't mind, though Gajeel spent most of his time on his own, which really was no surprise to anyone. To avoid any other confusion they told Cobra and Juvia that the three of them were just hired as private bodyguards and were just escorting Wendy to her rich father's in Magnolia. Something close to the truth.
They traveled for a few weeks before the company finally arrived at Magnolia. Natsu could see the large stone walls of the city as he nearly rushed towards them in eager haste. At last, after all this time, after months of waiting and traveling, he was finally going to see her again, he was finally going to see Lucy. He wondered how much she had changed.
His thoughts stayed on the young girl until he finally went storming through the gates only to realize that Magnolia, like any city was huge. His eyes went wide as his face dropped. There were miles of cobblestone roads and an endless sea of bronzed buildings. Just at the gate itself he could see a plethora of people wondering about; some standing, others shopping and driving carts. He was amazed by what he saw, even the channel of water that carried people via boats that winded it's way through the city. Where was he going to start?
"Natsu," Jellal called out from behind as he rode up on his horse, Cobra riding behind him carrying Wendy. "Why must you always rush off? Stay with us."
"Sorry," Natsu sighed as he fell down to his rump, "I just got a little overly excited."
"I know," Jellal sighed. "But don't worry, we'll find them. I'm just as excited as you are."
"Oh, that wouldn't have to do with seeing Erza again would it?" Natsu teased.
"Who's Erza?" Wendy squeaked from behind Cobra.
"Mystogan's lover," Gajeel answered nonchalantly.
"She is not," Jellal replied a bit embarrassed. "She's just an old friend of mine."
"Sure she is," Gajeel snickered as strode on by them, Natsu's horse walking behind his own.
They made their way to the center of the city, where they saw a large fortress stand in the heart of the town square. Jellal led the way, but as soon as they had entered the city square Cobra bid them a farewell. "I will see you soon my friends," he said before leaving.
Juvia did not follow, instead she stayed with the others, after all she was there for diplomatic reasons. Cobra on the other hand was still part of a a more than sketchy underground organization who dealt in affairs that were illegal in Magnolia, so it would be best if he did not get involved in the matter.
Wendy was still awestruck by the structure, she had never seen a castle before, and the site of one was amazing for her. Her mouth was agape. Jellal bid farwell to his friend as he led the others to the fortress gate. The others following behind, Natsu's mind on where Lucy could be while Wendy was still awestruck, her eyes wondering over the caste walls and the sheer height of the towers.
They entered through the walls, to their right they saw a barracks filled with men in bronze armor and blue capes. The eyes of the soldiers fell on them as they talked amongst themselves and sat down to eat. What caught their attention and what they were really leering at Jella, Natsu and Gajeel, seeing as they were the ones wearing armor from a foreign country; even if it was Nirvit. Though what was the most peculiar to these soldiers was that none of them appeared to be native Nirvit people, which only made them that much more curious.
Jellal and the others made their way into the fortress, there at the entrance they were greeted by the short lord Markrov. Jellal bowed his head in courtesy as did the others, that was all except Gajeel.
"Welcome to Magnolia," Markrov greeted them with a wide toothy grin. "You must be Jellal, Robaul sent me a message telling me that you were due to arrive here with his daughter."
"Yes, thank you my Lord," Jellal said.
"Ah, enough of that," Makrov spat as he waved the formal gesture off. "Where is the little tyke, I would love to meet her after all this time."
Natsu had noticed that Wendy was half hiding behind his frame. He had forgotten how shy the girl could be, especially when it came to meeting new people. She often stayed away from strangers, but he got a good feeling about this old man. There was a certain spark in his eye and a kind smile on his lips. And seeing as how Jellal had respect for him, he figured that this old man must be someone that he could also trust.
"She's right here," Jellal answered as he stepped aside to allow Makrov to gain a better view of the young girl. Wendy shuttered as she hid further behind Natsu.
"You don't have to be frightened of me Wendy," Makrov said with a laugh. "I know your father, he and I are good friends. You're more than welcome here."
"Nice to meet you," Wendy said as her cheeks shaded to a bright pink. She was still a bit shy, keeping her eyes on the ground as she did a courtesy curtsy.
"No need for that," Markrov laughed, as he walked over to her. The man was so short even Wendy was looking down at him. He placed a caring hand on her shoulder, a gesture that put her at ease. "You are more than welcomed here young Wendy, as are the rest of you," he said to the others in the group. "Please make yourselves at home and stay as long as you like."
"Thank you my Lord," Jellal said bowing his head. He knew that Markrov told him that the formal conducts were unnecessary, but it was just too ingrained in his nature.
"Now all of you, why don't you go take lodging in a nearby hotel, and tell them that I sent you. They should take care of you no problem," Makrov said before turning away to leave.
"Excuse me my Lord," Juvia interjected as she stepped in front of the rest of them. She had a stern look about her face, and a lingering glare just below her brow. "I am Juvia Lockser. I have been sent her on political business from Mila to discuss with you the current events that have been unfolding in the middle of the continent recently."
"Oh, you mean with the young King Duke?" Markrov said as he stopped himself. He stared at the ground, not even peering back over to the young girl. "Yes such matters should and will be discussed, but not at the present moment."
"But Lord Makrov," Juvia interjected, taking a closer step towards the old man.
"I am sorry Miss Lockser," Makrov said holding up a hand. I was only announced of your group's arrival through one of my own guards, but at the current moment I am dealing with much more pressing matters, I hope you understand. I know that what you have to say is important, and do not worry I don't plan to neglect such vital conference. However, you cannot expect me to discuss these matters on a whim, especially after you have just arrived from a long, and weary journey.
"Jellal, you and the others are free to lodge in the hotel. Miss Lockser, I humbly request that you and Miss Wendy spend the evening at a our guest house for important female guests."
"Thank you, my Lord," Jellal said one last time.
"And stop calling me Lord!" Makrov shouted as he ascended the staircase.
"Excuse, Lord Makrov?" Natsu called out to him just before the man was out of sight. He just realized that perhaps this old lord would know where Lucy and the other girls were.
"Honestly," Makrov sighed in annoyance. "How difficult is the concept of, 'don't call me Lord,' is impossible for you young people to understand?"
"I apologize," Natus said sincerely. "But we are looking for some friends of ours. A blonde girl named Lucy, her friend and companion, a short girl with blue hair named Levy, and a red head named Erza. Would you perhaps know their whereabouts?"
"Oh?" Makrov said blinking. "You mean Princess Lucy of Konvern?"
"That's the one," Natsu said through a wide grin.
"I did not know she was expecting any visitors," he said eyeing Natsu. The young pink haired teen did not appear to be somebody that a highclass member of society would associate with, or even call a friend, especially not someone who was in fact a princess of all people. He was curious, no more intrigued on what possible relationship could be hand between the two youngsters. "But they reside in a guest house of noble guests just a couple of blocks up, the very same one I have told Miss Lockser and Wendy to take up residence in." He said as he gave them instructions on how to reach their destination.
Natsu thanked him as the young boy sprinted from the fortress walls. Jellal decided not to yell after him, knowing by now that such an action would be trivial. Gajeel and the others just followed him, and though Jellal did not want to admit it to the others, he was more than excited to see his old personal guard Erza once more. He wondered how she managed to fare in the city. She was probably happy to serve under an actual member of royalty, such an honor was only bestowed to high ranking members of knighthood.
When they came upon the house Natsu slid to a stop just in front of the doorsteps. He nearly tripped over his own feet as he caught himself before falling over. He stared up at the door, everyone else walking up behind him. Even Juvia, the stranger they had met on the road traveled with them, after all this was the place she was instructed to stay during her visit. Though what confused her more than anything was the fact that the man she knew as Mystogan's true identity was in fact Jellal. She began to question why he ha changed it, and at the moment the young lord was not aware of her eyes glaring over at him as he walked with the rest of his company.
"We're here!" Natsu shouted in excitement. "Lucy!" he called out as he barged through the door.
"Natsu!" Juvia shouted before anyone else got the chance. "You can't just barge into somebody's house like that! That's rude." But Natsu didn't listen to her. He was far too excited to see Lucy again.
"Lucy?" he called out as he entered the house.
"Hey?" he heard a voice shout. Only it was not a voice he recognize, and what more it belonged to a young man. "Who the hell are you?" Gray asked as he ran to the front door.
Natsu stared blankly at the young soldier, Gray wore armor and had a sword by his side. The two of them stared one another down. Natsu wondering who this man was, and though the obvious answer would be that he walked into the wrong house, the though never crossed his mind.
"Who the hell are you?" Natsu asked as he began to look around the house, pushing pass Gray.
"I asked you first," Gray said as he grabbed Natsu by the back of his collar and flung him into the wall. "Who the hell do you think you are barging into someone else's house without so much as a knock?"
Natsu glared at him, his nostrils flaring. From afar the others could see the confrontation as Jellal began to panic.
"Shit," Jellal cursed under his breath. "Did the idiot break into the wrong house?" He looked over at the others, Wendy began to grow nervous as she bit the top of fist, Gajeel was more uncaring and instead decided to sit down and watch the fight, but Juvia was entranced. The blue haired girl just stared at Gray as though she were out of breath and all though was lost on her.
"Where's Lucy?" Natsu demanded as he leered at Gray, swinging his arm up as he broke the other boy's grip.
"Who wants to know?" Gray said as he unsheathed his sword.
Natsu found the burning sensation rise within him as his eyes began to slant. Gray lifting up his sword as he saw the deadly gaze in Natsu's eyes. The pink haired boy lunged at him, knocking away the sword as Gray swung and stepped to the side.
"I'll ask you again," Natsu seethed. "Where's Lucy and the others?"
"Like I would tell the likes of you," Gray growled as the two of them clashed once more. Gray driving his sword into Natsu, but Natsu managed to catch it with the palms of his hands and instantly closed the gap between them to the point where their foreheads were just about to touch.
Gray hurled Natsu back as the two of them glared at one another. He could sense someone approaching him from behind, it was Wendy. The tiny girl grabbed him and he could sense the worry that was radiating from her. Something that he had experienced before, and though his body wanted to react naturally by attacking this oncoming body, he resisted it. He could feel himself twitch, he could feel his body wanting nothing more than to desperately move on its own, but he would not have it.
As he felt the girl's tiny arms wrap around his waist Natsu took in a deep breath, trying to muster enough strength to relinquish his powers and let himself return to normal. It was a struggle, but it appeared that Gray was not going to make any sudden movements.
"Natsu? Big brother?" the girl whispered. Natsu sighing he turned around to face Wendy.
"Thanks Wendy," he said grinning widely. "I kind of lost control of myself back there."
"It's okay," the girl said softly. "I know that you just get high spirited every now and then."
"Thanks," Natsu said as he patted her on the top of the head.
"Well now that Pinky has cooled down," Gray said sheathing his sword. "You mind telling me who the hell you people are?"