The prison in Magnolia's barracks was not as dark, grimy or drafty as Jellal would have thought. In fact, it appeared rather new. The tile was clean, even though it was unpolished it was still better than stone and dirt. The bars were not rusty yet, still had some glimmer in them, even though that looked like it was about to wear off soon. The cells were a bit on the small side, but what could he really suspect, it was a prison after all. At least the mattress he was forced to sleep on wasn't filthy. At the very least he wasn't going to leave with some putrid disease, if he ever managed to get out.
A faint ray of sunlight shined through the window that resided near the tall ceiling of the cell. Though there was some torchlight. Jellal sat quietly on his bed thinking about Erza, wandering if she knew where he was at. She probably didn't. She probably thought he was off at war with the soldiers, which is where he was supposed to be had he not been arrested. He hoped she didn't find out and start to worry about him, that's the last thing he would want.
Residing in the cell next to him was Cobra. The young slave trader, or currently former slaver trader. There was a concrete wall that separated the two of them. Cobra only knew that Jellal was there since he had to pass by his cell when the guards dragged him in. The other man sat on his bed as well, but the one benefit he had was that now he was able to talk with someone. It was difficult being locked up alone without communicating with another person.
"Hey, Mystogan," Cobra called his name. Jellal did not answer at first. It wasn't until Cobra shouted his name a several times that he realized that he had met Cobra under the guise of a different persona.
"Finally," Cobra scoffed. "What are you deaf?"
"Just lost in thought." It was sort of true, he had been thinking about Erza the entire time.
"Whatever," Cobra grunted as he shook his head. "So, they caught you too huh?"
"Yeah, something like that."
"You ever find that girl you were looking for? What was her name? Erza?" Cobra asked as he stared up at the beaming rays of light that shined through the metal bars of his window.
"Yeah," Jellal shouted. "Did you ever find that traitor you were looking for?" Jellal winced as he didn't realize he hadn't meant to ask that question. He didn't want to know. It was none of his business, but more so it was because he didn't want to hear about a poor guy who had his throat slit for at least doing something right. He cringed as he waited to hear the answer, pleading to the gods that Cobra would answer with a no.
"Yeah I did," Cobra replied. Jellal shut his eyes hoping that would be the end of it. "But it wasn't what I expected. I just . . . couldn't go through with it. I couldn't kill her."
Now Jellal was curious. He knew that he should just let the conversation die right then and there, but he was interested in hearing what Cobra had to say. Especially since now he knew that there was a girl involved. What could it be? Was it because she was a woman and Cobra had a high code of honor that he wouldn't harm a woman? It was a common code among most thieves from what he knew. Even the criminal underworld had their own codes they went by. Though from what he understood, this was a job Cobra had to do no matter who it was. Which is what led Jellal to believe there must be some deep rooted relationship between Cobra and the snitch.
"You want to talk about it?" Jellal asked.
"It's kind of a long story," Cobra answered.
"Well it's not like I'm going anywhere," Jellal laughed. Cobra chuckled to himself as well. The other man was right, but it was kind of a private story. Then again, he felt like he could trust Mystogan enough. He had already proven to be a good friend already.
"Well where do I begin?"
It was several years ago, back when Erik was just a lad, no more than seven years young. Back during a time when he still went by his born name. Even though he was a boy, already he was a slave. He traveled with a company of other slaves, some old some young, in one of several carts lined with metal cages carried dozens of crammed slaves within their bars. Erik was fortunately stuck in one of the back carriages along with other children and young teens. Among them was a young girl around the same age with incredibly short purple hair and soft green eyes. She was frightened. Much like everyone else within the confines of the cage, but she was shaking more vigorously than the others. Crying uncontrollably that Erik was beginning to grow annoyed.
Erik sat beside her as he could feel her trembling. Even with the carts rocking along the rocky dirt path it was her nervous shaking that caused the most vibrations to the young boy. He turned to look at her, a grimace in his face, leering down at the girl with his frustrations. However, she did not see his gaze as she sobbed into her knees. Just then the cart's wheel rode over a crack in the road, causing the young girl to collide with the passenger sitting next to her, causing her to fall over into Erik's lap.
"Hey!" the boy snapped.
She looked up at him with her wet, weary eyes. Her cheeks soaked in her own tears. He stared down into the young girls eyes, as they were interlocked for a brief moment. Suddenly all the anger and frustration seemed to erode away as he looked at her with sympathy and compassion.
"Sorry," she muttered as she picked herself up and sat back in her spot.
"Are you okay?" Erik asked her without really thinking about what he should say.
She looked at him with a baffled gaze before sulking back into her knees. Erik sighed as he slowly placed an arm around her shoulder. As his hand touched her shoulder she looked up at him with those same teary eyes. He looked down at her a blush crossed his cheeks as the girl was just even more confused. They sat like that for several moments before she finally stared back at her knees as she felt peculiar.
"Sorry," he said as he retracted his arm and faced forward. The two of them sat there awkwardly. The rigorous road caused the two of them to keep bumping into one another. Each time the two collided Erik apologized.
"Don't be," the girl whimpered wiping a tear from her eye.
"We should be arriving soon," a voice from outside the carts shouted. "Finally! I could use some good ale," shouted another.
"I don't want to go!" The girl cried. "I want to go home!"
"I do too," Erik said as he placed an arm around her. The girl continued to sob uncontrollably, and the boy couldn't help but feel distraught. "Listen," he said as he took in a deep breath, "Don't worry, I'll watch over you. And I'll find a way to get you back home."
She looked up him with a glimmer of hope in her eye. He didn't know why he said that to her. He felt ridiculous the moment he had said that to her, but the sight of that hope in her eye, it made him believe that he meant it. What compelled him to utter those words he did not know, but now he felt like he had made an obligation. He didn't even know this girl, by the seven hells, he didn't know any of these people. Most were just scrawny, fragile men who were dragged from some a variety of countries from across the sea. All of them dragged to the same old place to suffer the same old fate.
Eventually the cart arrived inside Mila's market. The slaves were dragged out one after the other by their chains. Erik looked around while they other slaves were being pulled out as he saw that the rest of the market went about their day, as though nothing out of the ordinary was happening. Than again, nothing out of the ordinary was happening for the citizens of Mila.
Erik found himself pulled out from the cart and fell down hard onto the stone road. "Get up!" One of the overseers shouted as he yanked the boy to his feet. Once Erik was up on his feet the man slapped him across the face.
"Leave him alone," the small girl said a she leapt down to see if Erik was okay. The boy glared up at the overseer.
"What'd you say bitch?" He spat. He reached his hand up to slap the girl, but as his hand came down Erik pushed her aside and took the blow. Erik then proceeded to kick the overseer in the groin. He was so enraged that he hadn't realized what he had done. "You little shit!" the man growled. He raised his arm to strike the boy one more time. Before he could bring his hand down an elderly man with a long white beard grasped it mid-air.
"Now, now, now," the old slave sighed with a gentle smile. "There's no need to get all angry. The boy is just a child I think it's best if you forgive and forget."
"Shut it old man!" the overseer yelled as he punched him in the jaw. "Now for you," he said glaring down at Erik.
The boy leered back up at him as the overseer slapped him across the cheek. The boy stumbled backwards. He saw that the overseer had his attention on the young girl. She coward back as the other slaves watched on in terror. Without a second thought he lunged at the man, smacking him in the shin with his cuffs. The man yelled in pain as he collapsed to one knee. The boy then swung his chains and slapped the man hard across his cheek with his chains. Blood spewed from his mouth as he fell to the ground.
By now all eyes were on Erik as he stood over the man panting. Other overseers and traders were barreling down at him. He stood his ground as he swung his chains out at the closest man. The chains miss as the boy nearly toppled over. The men stood back as he continued to swing them in a frenzy, each and every direction, even where nobody was even approaching him. The girl looked on, frightened. The old man from before placed an hand on her shoulder. She looked up to see his eyes staring intently at the scene.
"Is he going to be alright?" she asked him.
"I don't know," the man told her honestly.
Erik kept lashing out at them. One overseer leapt at him, just as Erik was swinging the chain backwards, striking the man in the face. The boy slowly found himself growing tired as he suddenly fell to his knees. He flung his chains, though they pretty much flopped. One overseer tackled him from behind as he pinned him to the ground.
"Enough!" A voice shouted. A tall dark skinned man with long white strolled over to where the young boy was held down. Despite everything Erik still struggled, but had the man's knee pinned into his back. Erik looked up at him; the man's body was oddly tattooed with blue stripes as his black eyes, and a sly smirk peered down at the boy. "I like this boy's spirit," he laughed. "What's your name?"
"Erik," he said as he shoved the man off of him. "My name is Erik."
"Master Brain this boy—"
"This boy managed to make a fool of all you worthless bastards in the middle of the market!" The white haired man spat. He lifted his arms to show how everyone in the market, as well as the other slaves were watching. "A boy, in chains no less, managed to take out two overseers! Now what kind of image does that set for this organization? What kind of image does that set up for the other slaves?
He began to walk around as the other slaves shuddered away from him. He was a giant of a man, towering over everyone else. No one dared to even cross him as the overseers looked away in shame. His voice was loud, and his dark eyes pierced through everyone he glared at.
"Orecion Seis is not a group of bandits!" He barked. "We are the Six Demons! The world fears our name, and rightly so. If we show weakness than our whole system will crumble."
He walked back over to the young boy.
"You heard me," Brain glowered at the overseer. "Release him."
The man did as he was told as he unlocked the chains of Erik's cuffs. The boy rubbed his wrists a bit stunned. He still leered up at the towering man before him.
"Welcome to the fold," Brain said as he turned to walk away. "This boy is now one of my own personal projects. He shows resilient and has a certain air about him that I like. He is not to be touched or harmed in anyways is that clear?" The overseers nodded their heads.
"Wait!" Erik shouted after him. Brain turned around with a peculiar gaze. "The girl," Erik said as he pointed at the young purple haired girl near the old man behind him, "she comes too. Or I don't go."
Brain gazed at the small girl as she coward behind the old man.
"Very well. I'll let you keep your little," he thought about it for a moment, "pet. Now come along, we've got work to do."
An overseer approached the girl, she recoiled but the man grabbed her chain and yanked her closer. He scowled as she did her best to avoid eye contact as he unlocked her cuffs. Once the chains had fallen off she rushed over to Erik as the boy stood waiting for her.
"Thank you," she said softly as she gazed at the boy with thankful eyes.
"Boy!" Brain called out to him.
"We should go," he said as he took her hand.
"I'm Kinana by the way," the girl told him as the two walked through the crowd. Erik looked back at her and for the first time he saw her smile.
"After that I was put in a group of six other kids, all slaves brought in and hand selected by Brain himself," Cobra said finishing the story.
"Why?" Jellal asked.
"To be the new Orecion Seis," Cobra answered. "Handcrafted to continue Brain and his boss's work. Each of us were given codenames. Mine was Cobra, obviously," he chuckled. "What better way to break the spirits of slaves than to use the very people who could spark rebellion and turning them into the very people who oppress others?"
"And what happened to Kinana?" Jellal asked.
"Kinana was never a fighter. We were all allowed to have our own kinds of 'pets' as Brain referred to them. Kinana was mine. But I always considered her my partner and only friend. The rest of Orecion Seis was just made up of the slimiest people that would sooner sell you and their own grandmothers out for a piece of copper if the opportunity presented itself." Cobra took a deep breath. "Now that I've finally found her I don't know what to think or do anymore. Everything I've done, I did to protect her. That promise I made to her, I still mean it and I still want to hold onto it."
"I see," Jellal sighed. "So, now you've finally found her what are you going to do?"
"I honestly don't know," Cobra sighed.
Just then they heard the screech of the large prison door open up as Makarov entered. He walked up to Jellal's cell, followed by two guards. Jellal gazed at him from his bed a bit curious why the old man's presence.
"Let him go," Makarov told the guards as he motioned his head towards the lock.
"What?" Jellal said perplexed. "I've only been here for a day? Why are you releasing me now?"
"Gran Doma may be the commander of the alliance, but this is my city, and this is my barracks and I give the orders over who gets arrested. Besides, he's no longer here to object anyways," Makarov told him.
"I honestly thought I would have been in here longer," Jellal admitted as he stood up.
"Well unfortunately your friends have already taken off for the war," Makarov told him. "Though I doubt that you'll be wanting to join them considering the actions of Gran Doma."
"Well, it's convenient that you were able to release me so soon," Jellal told him as he exited the cell.
"Not really," Makarov answered. "Gran Doma knew about your presence and he is such a stubborn old man that, even when I pleaded with him not to do it, he went on and arrested you anyways. He's just over worried about the situation with the war he has completely lost touch with reality."
"Well thank you again my Lord," Jellal said bowing his head. "But I have a favor to ask of you."
"And what would that be?" Makarov asked cocking an eyebrow.
Jellal looked over at Cobra who was still sitting on his bed.
"Can you free my friend as well?" he asked.
Makarov took a deep breath as he peered at Cobra through the jail cell.
"I don't know," the old man answered. "He is a member of Orecion Seis and our enemy. I cannot simply just let him go. That is something that goes beyond even me. And even as a steward I would still be tried for treason for allowing a man such as him to go free. I'm sorry, but it's just not within my power to let him go."
"Forget it," Cobra sighed. "Just get out of here while you can."
"But . . ."
"I'll be fine," Cobra smirked. "It's not like I've been a prisoner before."
"I'm sorry Cobra," Jellal sighed. He was shoved from behind by a impatient guard. "I'll take care of Kinana until you get out. You have my word." He called out the last sentence as he was pushed toward the exit.
"Thank you," Cobra exhaled as he lay back in his bed.
Lucy laid in her bed finally having been able to fall asleep peacefully since she was first struck with the fever. Though she was asleep she was still a bit restless, as her body continued to twitch. Levy sat over her, rubbing her forehead with a cold, damp towel. The girl's fever had gown down but she was still a bit too hot. It had been a few days since Lucy had fallen ill and she didn't seem to get any better no matter what they seemed to do. No matter what kind of medicine they gave her nothing worked.
"How is she?" Erza asked as she walked in with a tray of food for Levy.
"She's asleep," Levy sighed. "She doesn't seem to be getting any better."
"I know," Erza said as she set the tray of food on the nightstand. "I don't know what to do."
"We just have to wait," Levy told her.
"I sent a message to Gildarts explaining the situation. Hopefully, he can let Natsu know what's happening." Erza placed her hands on her hips.
"Natsu—" Lucy whispered in her sleep. Levy stared down at her as a thin metal lining twinkled around her neck. Levy reached down as she pulled out a small dragon pennant from underneath the girl's blanket. She stared at it before letting it fall back down upon Lucy's breast. "Natsu," the girl breathed again. She began to convulse uncontrollably as Lucy pinned her to the bed.
"Is she okay?" Erza asked worried as Lucy finally settled down.
"It's this disease," Levy whispered. "I don't know what's happening to her."
"Natsu," Lucy whispered the boy's name again as she finally calmed down.
In the far reaches of the south, just outside of Mila, Duke and his commanders were meeting with the governing body of Mila. A group of old men, including one particularly tall man with tan skin and dark eyes were among them. Unlike the other delegates he was not dressed in formal attire, or at least not in robes that would dictate him being a delegate. Duke wondered who this man was exactly, but he knew what he was doing there, and that was to persuade Mila to give him access to their navy.
He didn't like Ivan prying into everything that he was doing. He seemed to be the one making all the commands, telling the young king what he should and shouldn't do. His other commanders thought that Ivan was a bit too persuasive even though he was in fact the Hand of the King. He noticed that even his closest commanders were a bit wary of the noble. He was so quick to betray Jude they thought it be no different if the circumstances arose again. Perhaps that's why he felt it necessary for him to handle this affair on his own, to remind everyone that he was the one who was in charge.
They sat inside a tent in between the actual city itself and a small little village. The peasants were cautious not to stir up any trouble as the soldiers and guards that rode with the young king had ridden in. They were quiet, like field mice and they stayed out of sight whenever they could. Though chores had to be done, and regardless, soldiers always took the time to harass one of the village girls.
Duke couldn't blame them for wanting to have the proceedings outside of Mila, since he did bring the majority of his forces with him. His commanders told him it was a risk getting involved with Mila in the first place. They and Junelle had never been in good relations and the only reason Mila seemed to agree to this meeting was that they had a common enemy, Magnolia. Truth be told Duke did not know how long this alliance would last, and he did not know if he was going to get exactly what he needed from them, but he needed those ships. Magnolia had a navy and the alliances were able to do easy trade with the nations he hadn't conquered yet.
He had been recently told about the counter attack from Magnolia and the alliance up north and how Ivan's forces were annihilated. Now the navy was moving into the ports of other cities and towns they had recently conquered in the past month and laying siege to the small forces he had left to watch over them. His commanders never wished to tell him this, but it was a silly move. And Ivan himself was infuriated by Duke's actions of dividing the forces. He did it to rebel against Ivan, for always telling him what to do, only now does he realize how stupid it was of him in the first place. At least he should have waited until they had support. But it didn't matter, Duke still commanded the larger force. If he defeated the allied countries in one battle than the war could be won.
"Good day King Duke," one of the councilors said. There were ten in all. They sat around a round mahogany table with goblets of wine and papers of proposals each had written. All except the dark skinned, white haired man. He just sat back with a sly smirk on his face as he looked like he was there to merely observe the proceedings instead of participate.
"And a good day to you councilor," Duke greeted. His men stood behind him. "I think we should go through this meeting quickly. No offense to any of you fine gentlemen, but I have other, very urgent matters to attend to."
"So I've heard," the dark skinned man said.
"Excuse me sir?" one of Duke's commanders spat. "How dare you address the king in such a manner!"
"Relax," Duke said waving the man down. "May I ask you are sir?"
"My name is Brain," the dark skinned man answered. "I'm the head of the Orecion Seis organization."