Back at the Fairy Tale Pub the atmosphere had drastically changed. Most of the men had been taken off to war, including Mira's brother Elfman. The young hostess had been vexed ever since they marched off to war. Both her husband and brother had gone off, and she worried that she might never see either of them again. She was thankful that her friends and family were there to comfort her during that time, as she was there to comfort them in turn. Her younger sister Lisanna was the most anxious, but she and her sister-in-law Evergreen often sought solace in one another and with Mira. Now the tavern seemed empty when it was once full of cheer and good friends.
Mira had noticed that Kinana had also changed. She had become despondent even before the men went off to war. Mira had asked her what was troubling her young barmaid, but unfortunately the girl wouldn't tell her. Mira wanted Kinana to know that she was there for her is she needed comfort, but the girl kept herself isolated. It was easier now, since there were very few patrons to the pub. Though Kinana wasn't the only one who had changed. The ambassador from the south, Juvia, who had often frequented the pub with Grey was just as devastated, often lamenting whether or not her 'lover' was ever going to return. Mira took some pleasure that her sister had often comforted Juvia as much as she comforted the other girls. At a time like this, everyone needed one another.
What was worse for Mira was knowing Lucy had fallen gravely ill and had been so ever since the men had left. Mira worried about her, and often visited the young blonde with Cana, Lissana and Juvia. They wanted to make sure that everything was okay with the girl, but she didn't ever seem to get better. They brought her food, beer, whatever they could to help her, but most of the time the girl was still far too ill to see them for extended periods of time.
Mira rubbed a mug as she stared out at the vacant pub. She sighed as she remembered how exuberant the place used to be. The laughter and happiness had all but faded. Kinana was busy wiping tables, as was Lisanna, or at least she pretended to as she was just talking to Juvia. Cana was slouched over a half empty mug of beer as she was as depressed as anyone else. She hadn't said much of anything since the war started and in one fell swoop she drained the mug; her third of the day.
"Do you want a refill?" Mira asked as she walked over to take the mug from the girl.
"Yeah," Cana said smacking her lips. "You might as well, Mira." She drummed on the counter as she leaned back. She waited eagerly as Mira set another mug down in front of her. Without wasting a second the brunette picked that one up and downed it in one sitting. "Another!" she demanded as she slammed the mug down on the counter.
"Cana," Mira whispered in a concern murmur. "Are you okay?"
"Okay? Of course I'm okay! Why wouldn't I be?" the girl slurred. "Give me another beer."
"I don't think I should," Mira sighed. "You already seem like you're losing your grip. I think you should take a break."
"You know I'm capable of holding my liquor," Cana elided.
"Not when you're acting so depressed," the white haired girl retorted as she took the mug away and placed it behind the counter. "You're not in any state to be drinking so much. Clearly you're upset."
"Upset?" the girl laughed in a drunken stupor. "Why would I be upset? Huh? It's not like anyone that I care about went off to the war. I mean, I haven't seen my father in years when I was growing up and now, after so many years of being alone I finally reunited with him and the two of us moved to Magnolia to live in peace; but guess what? Now my father is sent off to war there's the chance that I might never see him again, but what do I have to be upset about?" She began to sob.
Mira had never seen Mira so depressed before. Tears flowed down from her eyes soaking her cheeks.
"Cana," Mira sighed.
"I'm sorry," Cana sniffed. "It's not your fault, it's just that—"
Mira cut her off with her finger. She quickly made her way around the counter to give the brunette a hug. Cana was a bit taken back, but she pulled Mira in for a tighter feel. Cana could feel something extra between her and Mira that made her wonder. She pulled away, sniffing as she wiped her tears thanking her for the hug.
"We're all going through troubling times," Mira told her. "And you know that we're all here for you. We've always been. You're apart of our family now; both you and your father."
"Thanks Mira," Cana sighed.
She was still upset about everything but Mira's words provided her some comfort. She didn't think that she would miss her father this much, but growing up she never had the chance to get to know her father. Now, after all this time she was finally reunited with him and a war erupts. She never thought that she would grow this concerned for him, but she was. She didn't want to lose him now after years of looking and being apart. She wanted him to be a part of her life and she wanted to be a part of his life in turn.
Mira took the brunette's hand in hers as she rubbed it in an attempt to calm the girl down. Cana sniffed as she wiped the tears from her cheek. Mira could understand, knowing that her own family had also gone off and there was the chance that she would never see them again. She dreaded the idea that either her husband or brother could not return home. She hadn't told anyone, but what made her really concerned was the thought that neither of them were going to return home from the war.
"Is everything okay?" Lisanna asked with a concerned flicker in her eye. Cana and Mira both looked up to see the younger girl standing behind Cana with Juvia.
"Yeah," Cana murmured as she shielded her face from the other two women. She didn't want to be seen in such a state. Mira sighed as a light smile crossed her lips. Cana was a strong woman, and she hated ever appearing weak. It must run in her family.
Lisanna placed her arm around Cana's shoulder as she hugged the brunette, doing her best to provide her with some comfort. Juvia hugged the brunette the moment Lisanna broke away. Mira had that to be thankful for at least. However, Mira noticed something that caused her to be a little uneasy. Cana seemed to be staring at the white haired girl's boobs through Lisanna and Juvia's arms. Mira simply thought that it was Cana being strange as she always was. She turned around to go back to work but she was pulled back as Cana grasped her wrist.
"Mira," she said eyeing the other girl carefully.
"Yes?" Mira asked blinking in confusion. Her eyes went wide as Cana placed her hands on the girl's breast. "Cana! What are you doing?!" Mira cried in bewilderment as she took a step back. She wasn't the only one who was full of dumbfounded confusion by Cana's actions; both Lisanna and Juvia were just as baffled. They stared at one another before they looked at the brunette.
"Your breasts have gotten bigger haven't they?" Cana said squeezing them before she removed her hands. It hurt a bit as Cana wasn't all too gentle with Mira's delicate body parts. "Either they've grown or they've become swollen."
"What?" Mira stuttered as her face turned a bright pink. She examined them herself fearing that something was wrong. At least she hoped nothing was wrong. She bit her lip as Lisanna walked over and grasped her sister's bosom for herself. "Lisanna!" Mira cried as she pulled away from her younger sister wondering what in the seven hells her sister was doing. She knew that Cana had become a bad influence on her.
"Huh? They do feel bigger," Lisanna said interested as she placed her hands on her hips. She puffed as she cocked on eyebrow at her sister.
"Here let me see," Juvia said as she stepped up.
"No!" Mira cried as she backed away, clasping her bosom and shielding them from any other hands that could possibly lurking about.
"Mira?" Cana asked as she leaned closer to the young bar maid. "When was the last time you . . . you know?" Cana said as she eyed one of Mira's other private regions. Only this one was a bit lower.
"What?" Mira asked as she gulped.
"When was the last time you bled? You know, had that time of the month?" Cana asked as she pointed at Mira's groin.
Mira's face went scarlet red as she knew exactly what Cana was insinuating. Her heart raced in her chest as she realized that she hadn't thought about it. With the war going on she hadn't paid any attention to herself. Now that she thought about it, it had been a while. Perhaps too long. But she hadn't felt any different since then either. Maybe she was just a bit late, but then again it had been a lot longer than that.
"It's been a while," she gulped. "You don't think—"
"Mira, I pretty confident you're pregnant," Cana laughed.
"In the name of the Gods!" Lisanna cheered as she and Juvia both gasped. Tears of joy swelled in the younger sister's eye as she leaped onto her sister and wrapped her arms around her sister "Congratulations!"
"Congratulations Mira," Juvia cried out as she wanted to offer Mira a hug of her own, but Lisanna had clung on to her sister rather tight. Mira blushed as she became a bit flustered by the whole situation as Kinana came rushing over.
"Mira are you really pregnant?" Kinana asked as she beamed with joy.
Mira was now crimson with embarrassment. She didn't like having everyone circle around her as she immediately became the center of attention. Lisanna finally released her grip around her sister as the two looked directly into one another's eyes. Mira had never seen her younger sibling so happy in a long, long time. Lisanna placed her hand on her older sister's cheek before she kissed on the forehead and stepped away.
"Wait until Lucy and the others hear about this," Cana giggled as she went to take a drink from her mug only to realize it was still empty.
Mira held up her hands and pushed her way from the others as she rushed to the back. It still hadn't settled that she might be pregnant. She wasn't certain at the moment, but for now she just needed some time to collect herself. She ran into the back as the other girls watched her leave. She closed the door behind her panting heavily as she placed her hand over her heart. Her mind was abuzz with thoughts and anxiety. She had no idea she was pregnant, and at such a troubling time.
She began to cry as she fell to her knees. She didn't know if she was full of joy or sorrow. What was she going to do? She couldn't be pregnant now, not during the war. What if Laxus didn't come back? How was she going to raise this child on her own? How could this happen? But then again maybe she wasn't pregnant. Maybe there was another reason for why she hadn't experienced her time of the month and everything else. Maybe it was stress? That had to be it. She was just stressed by from work, Laxus and the war.
She sat by herself as she tried regain her composure. After a good half hour she took a deep breath and began to feel better. She opened the door to hear the clamor of everyone else in the tavern discussing Mira's potential pregnancy. She could see that everyone was full of joy as they talked about how exciting the news was. Mira could see a glimmer of happiness in her younger sister's eyes as she thought that maybe this wasn't such a bad situation after all. In the end, it seemed to provide everyone with some happiness in such a terrible time.
Ivan hoped that the plan he had concocted with the man Brain had sent to him would work. If it didn't, then all his other plans would surely crumble, all because of Duke's incompetence. Now Ivan found himself traveling alone on the road back south somewhere he would be safe. He did not know if he could trust such an assassin, but if Brain sent him than he must be good. At least, he hoped he could still trust Brain. Now, matters were more complicated than they ever needed to be. He was slowly losing his grip on controlling everything, and he cursed the generals who convinced Duke not to listen to him as much as the young king had been doing so long ago.
Ivan noticed that the roads were barren these days. Even burglars and bandits weren't festering the country roads as they used to. Ivan guessed war had its positives. Though he did not know how much longer he would have to transverse these dirt paths. Every day that passed was another day the Magnolian and her allied forces were slowly gaining the upper hand. It had only been a couple days since Ivan had fled from his encounter with the assassin.
He continued to ride along down the road through the countryside. He had no idea how much longer he had to travel before he reached Mila, or Konvern, but he knew he had to get there quickly. He had to get back to Duke, not because he needed the young king, but because he needed to be there beside the young king to coerce him into better battle plans. There was no way they were going to survive like this, and the generals that scorned him knew it just as much as he did. But he needed to be the one to give the king council, not the others. If he wasn't able to do that than his plan would never work.
Meanwhile back at the Magnolian camp, Gildarts stood around a circular table with the other commanders. There was some debate as to what they were going to do next. Gran Doma argued that the army should move west, towards the shore to blockade any potential naval threats that could bring supplies or re-enforcements to the front for the Junelle alliance. He wanted to stop the Mila navy before they could interfere in any of the affairs. Force Duke's armies to take them straight on. Most of the men they were fighting against were already beginning to grow weary and discomforted without the presence of their leader. Gran Doma proclaimed that the opposing army's morale was diminishing and they needed to make the final blow. Others argued that they splinter their own forces, divide the army into two and use each of the larger forces to take out the smaller factions of Duke's army.
"What do you think Laxus?" Gildarts whispered over to the younger captain.
"It doesn't matter what I think," Laxus replied. "I have my orders and I have to carry them out, same as you."
"Aye, but don't you have an opinion on the matter?" Gildarts continued. He was tired of listening to the other men squabble. Duke's armies were already reuniting and they had received word that Duke and Mila had come to an agreement. Now the Mila navy and forces were on Duke's side. They moral for their opponents was low, but now it had risen once more. "We all do. Personally I don't want us to fraction our army like Duke did. That should only be used as a last resort to finish off an opponent."
"We're outnumbered though," Laxus said shaking his head. "We don't have the forces large enough to take out the entire Junelle army, and with Mila now involved it's even worse. We should take out what forces we can when we can and try to even the odds a bit."
"See there you go," Gildarts chuckled. "Now you're getting it. This is how we deal with these matters. You'll learn soon enough just how boring these political meetings can be." He stopped and thought for a moment while the other commanders bickered about what they should do. Gran Doma had slammed his fist down as though he had ended the debate, ordering them to go along with his plan. Though there were other old men who were just as persistent as the general, and all of them still had some disagreement. "By the way, have you heard any word from Macao or Wakaba?"
"You mean about Natsu and Gajeel?" Laxus asked.
"Yeah? Have they found them yet?" Gildarts asked.
"I haven't heard anything. Their last report was a week ago and they said they were following the other two southeast. Where do you think they were headed?"
"My guess," Gildarts sighed, "Draconia."
"What? The land of dragons! Why on Earth would they go there?" Laxus said perplexed.
"I don't know," Gildarts shrugged. "Probably because they had some business to attend to. I don't know Natsu's thoughts."
"Yes but he was your protégé," Laxus insisted. "You should know him better than anybody."
"Aye, but the boy has a mind of his own. He is as stubborn as an ass, and as dumb as one too." Gildarts began to think of Lucy lamenting the girl chose to spend the rest of her life with a knucklehead like Natsu. But the two of them loved one another, and that was more than what most people had these days. "But he has heart. He wouldn't do anything unless he was sure that it would help."
"Well, let us hope you are right old man," Laxus sighed.
"I know I am," he said.
"Excuse me Master Gildarts, Master Laxus," a young squire said as he rushed up to them.
"Yes Romeo," Gildarts said as he peered down at the young boy.
"A letter for you just arrived," Romeo told them. "It's from my father and Wakaba."
"Oh, I see," Gildarts said as he looked over at Laxus. "Well we might as well see what they've written."
"Gildarts," Laxus called after him as he grabbed Gildarts by the shoulder before he could leave the group. "The meeting."
"Laxus, they're going to decide what to doand the only we have to do is follow through with the orders. This is a personal matter, one that includes your own men. I think that it is better that we attend to this matter and leave the old men to quarrel amongst themselves." Gildarts smiled as he followed Romeo. "And besides, I could use a drink." He winked at the blonde captain as a sly smirk crossed his lips.
"But Gildarts!" Laxus called after him but the old man had already wondered out of the crowd. "That negligent fool," Laxus sighed as he followed after him. He knew Gildarts wasn't one to bother with these kinds of meetings but he still had to be present for them even he didn't want to be. "Gildarts!" Laxus called after him as too left the group.
"Laxus I already told you—"
He didn't have time to finish before a loud eruption could be heard as a shockwave of force hurled Laxus forward. As soon as it hit Laxus Gildarts spun around and shielded the young squire from the shockwave as both of them were thrown backwards by the blast. A searing heat ran through Laxus' back as the young captain was knocked unconscious. Gildarts could feel his arms burning but it wasn't too bad. His vision was blurry as faint blurs of men seemed to be running towards an orange and red blur that was right in front of him. He looked down to see if Romeo was okay, as his vision began to slowly come back he saw that Romeo had a few scrapes and bruises, but nothing terrible.
Gildarts tried to get to his feet, but his body was stiff and his muscles felt as though they were hurtled into a stone wall. Gildarts heard faint murmurs that he guessed were men shouting all around him but his ears did nothing but ring. His head was throbbing as nausea began to over take him. He held back the urge to vomit as he waited for his muscles to start working again. Just then another faint blur fell right in front of him, but he couldn't make out exactly what or who it was. He blinked a couple of times that he recognized some familiar white hair. The voice was still quelled behind the loud ringing in his ears but he knew that it had to be none other than Lyon.
"mwuh uh ck-a" he heard the voice say.
"What?" Gildarts shouted as the ringing began to die down.
"'re 'ou 'a" he heard Lyon say again.
"What?" Gidlarts shouted, this time his ears began to clear up.
"Are you okay?" Lyon said for a third time as Gildart's sight and hearing finally came back to him.
"I'm fine," Gildarts said as he staggered as he struggled to stand up. Lyon caught Gildarts by the arm as he helped the injured old man back up to his feet. "Thank you."
Gildarts saw that there was a blaze in front of him where the table where the commanders just had their meeting. Dozens of soldiers and guards were rushing towards the flames; many of them carrying buckets of water and blankets to quell the fire as best they could. Officers shouted out orders and instructing the men as best they could, but Gildarts could see that the men were still in panic. Other officers tried to keep back others as many of the men watched in horror as an orange glow overtook the landscape. Gildarts looked around as he saw that everything was just chaos. A searing pain ripped through his abdomen as he nearly toppled over but was caught by Lyon. Gildarts leaned on Lyon as the younger knight did his best to keep the old man upright.
"I got you," Lyon said as he lifted Gildarts back up.
"No," Gildarts said pushing the young knight away. "Take care of Romeo."
"But what about you?" Lyon asked.
"I'll be fine," Gildarts grunted. "Take care of the boy."
Gildarts motioned Lyon towards Romeo who was sitting on the ground. The boy lifted his hand to the left side of his face as a small trickle of blood oozed through his fingertips. When he removed his hand there was a small wound just above his left eye but nothing serious. Lyon nodded his head as he walked over to the young boy. He bent down and asked the boy if he was alright. Romeo nodded his head as Lyon helped pick the boy back up to his feet. Romeo seemed to be just fine apart from the scrape and a few bruises.
Gildarts didn't waste another moment before he approached Laxus. He saw the young captain laying on the ground, unconscious, as a group of soldiers were already tending to him. Apart from his armor and cape being slightly burned, Laxus appeared to be fine. Gildarts sighed as he thought he should just let the soldiers take care of him for now. Others who were within the vicinity of the blast were being taken to the hospital tents; at least those who were still mostly in one piece. Gildarts could here their cries as those who were unfortunate enough to still be conscious.
Gildarts slowly limped over towards the flames as he watched as dozens of men tried to douse the fire with the buckets of water and blankets. Gildarts recognized one young officer that was calling out instructions as he stood near the fire. It was Mest, the young lieutenant who had been in Gran Doma's company. Fortunately he managed to escape the blast with less severe injuries. The right side of his face was gushing blood and there were several black marks along his neck and arms, as parts of his armor had been blasted off of his body, but for the most part he was in decent health.
"Mest!" Gildarts called out to the young officer as he staggered over to the young man.
"Sir," Mest said as he saluted the old commander. "I have my men taking the injured to the hospital tents and every other hand trying to put out this fire." He looked back at the flames; many of the bodies of the dead were still being roasted within the orange blaze.
"How many dead?" Gildarts asked as he nearly toppled over himself.
"Anyone who was standing near the table was instantly killed sir," Mest told him. Gildarts noticed that it was far more painful for Mest to deliver the news than the actual injuries he sustained during the blast. He was in tears, but he did his best to hold them back. Gildarts had to admit that it was an honorable trait that Mest could keep himself composed during such a crisis.
"And Gran-Doma?" Gildarts asked. But he already knew the answer.
"Dead sir," Mest sighed. The blast threw his body several meters, and practically ripped it to shreds. All the other council members are dead as well. What should we do now?"
"What you've been doing," Gildarts sighed. "We cannot fix this situation. We have to treat the wounded and put these flames out. Whoever is next in command is going to have to figure out what we should do."
"Sir," Mest sighed, "you are the next in the chain of command."