Finally, after several days Arcadios arrived at Jude's villa. How long he had actually traveled he did not know. Most of the time he spent either galloping or walking beside his horse when it was tiered. He barely took any rest except when the urge of sleep was overwhelming and only stopped to buy enough food to snack on during the moments that he was walking beside his horse. He hadn't had a full meal since he had left Magnolia, but none of that was important now.
He burst through the doors of the country home as servants stared at him in disbelief. His armor was covered in grime and filth from the laborious travel and his face was pale and his eyes hung low due to lack of sleep. He walked with a strain in his legs, which he soon began to feel ever since he had come so close to his destination. He wasted no time though as he ordered one of the servants to tell him where the king was. They pointed upstairs saying that the old king resided in his study as he was going through plans with one of his guards.
Arcadios rushed upwards despite the pleas from the servants for him to rest and nourish himself, and the concerns that that they had. Time was of the essence and now that he was so close he could not waste another moment. Not for himself since the princess was already in a dire state.
When he arrived at the chamber door he was relieved to see that it was open as the king sat behind a large table with a large piece of parchment lay out in front of him. He eyed it carefully as the other guards leaned over him.
"My Lord!" Arcadios cried out as he limped through the threshold. "I must speak with you. It is of most importance."
Jude looked up with a skeptical and annoyed glare. The other guards gazed with worry and bewilderment as they saw their commanding officer. Jude nodded his head and waved his hands to dismiss the other guards. "And close the door on your way out!" He called after them as the last guard left. The man nodded his head and shut the carved mahogany doors behind him.
"So," Jude said as he stood up, "what seems to be the problem?"
"Its your daughter, Princess Lucy, sire," Arcadios said thorough panted breath. "She is awfully sick. Struck by the dark wizard's magic I believe."
"Oh," Jude said raising an eyebrow. "And how would you know of this?" Jude bit his lip as he casually walked around the corner of the table. Arcadios watched him with a careful eye, feeling like he was prey in the predator's vision. "Better yet, how do you know that she was struck ill by dark magic?" Jude leered at Arcadios with a skeptical and menacing eye.
"I am sorry sire," Arcadios sighed, "but I overheard your conversation with the dark wizard. Out of concern I rushed to find the princess and see if she was alright, to make sure that she was not killed."
"Well, I did not know that some of my private conversations were permitted for you to listen to," Jude grunted. "Especially when it comes to dealing with certain men with regards to my family! You had no authority, no approval, no right to listen in on such an important conversation! You may be one of my highest ranked guards but this sort of disobedience cannot be tolerated!"
"She is dying!" Arcadios barked. Jude was awestruck by the knight's sudden outburst. He had never seen Arcadios become angry with him. "Your daughter, who you have sold to the devil, now lies sick and dying in her bed. Your daughter who you have cursed is now the victim of dark magic and may never recover all because of your greed and pride. You threw your own daughter to the wolves, and for what? A chance to get back some stupid crown! Are you telling me that the value of your daughter is so meaningless that you would doom her to die?"
"How dare you speak to me in such a manner!" Jude roared as he stormed over to Arcadios. "I am your king!"
"AND SHE IS YOUR DAUGHTER!" Arcadios cried back as he leaned in closer to Jude's face. The old king was horrified and stunned as he recoiled under Arcadios' ferocious glare. The knight was seething, his face as red as the burning passion of anger and hatred that coursed through his veins. "You leave her on her death bed for nothing! What kind of man can even call himself a man if he could do such a horrible thing to his own daughter?! You are no more a king than the servants downstairs. You no longer rule over a kingdom, nor a realm of any kind. You are a shadow of a former king, and even more so, a shadow of a man."
"Careful Acradios," Jude hissed, "such words are punishable by death!"
"And why should I fear you any longer?" Acradios growled. "You are not a king worth serving. Not only are you not a king, but you are not even a man worth serving." Arcadios ripped off his cape and threw it on the ground at Jude's feet. He then turned around to leave. "I don't care what you do to me, but you should do whatever it takes to save your daughter's life. If the gods be truly just they would never smile down at such a deplorable man as yourself.
"Arcadios?" Jude called out after him. "ARCADIOS!" But the knight did not stop.
He barged through the chamber door and swiftly rushed down the stairs. The eyes of his comrades and servants alike stared at him as he angrily glided through the hallways. No one dared stop him, nor did they dare utter a word. He did not say anything in turn, for there was nothing more for him to say. What was done was done, and his hatred for such a despicable man grew.
He glided to the front door, shouting, "This man is not a king! He is a coward and a traitor! He dooms his own daughter to death for his own personal gain! The princess whom we raised and loved is now sick and dying because of him! Because of his deal with the devil himself! May he rot in this villa before he ever sets his ass on a throne again!" With that Arcadios slammed the door shut and left. The servants were wide eyed and filled with fear. Mumblings about Arcadios' words suddenly spread through the chambers.
"Is it true?" one maid gasped. "Is Princess Lucy really dying?"
"No, can't be. The king wouldn't do something that horrible— or would he?"
Jude did not know what to make of what had just transpired before him. He could see how clearly upset Arcadios was, but he hadn't thought much about it. The other guards stood outside in the hallway and looked in to see how their king was doing. They lingered there in the doorway, not one of them brave to enter. They muttered amongst themselves what they should do.
"Get out!" Jude exclaimed as he slumped over the table. The guards looked on confused. "I said GET OUT!" Jude roared this time. Without wasting another minute the guards fled down the hall. Jude stomped over to the door and slammed it shut as he walked back to his chair. He sagged down in it, rubbing his head as an aching pain began to radiate. He was annoyed and angry. He began to think about Arcadios' words about what happened to Lucy.
For a several minutes he sat in silence as the same scene of Arcadios screaming at him, "SHE IS YOUR DAUGHTER!" played in his head over and over. A strong sense of guilt began to surge through his gut, as he thought about Lucy dead. The sudden thought struck him with horror and nausea.
"So, what seems to be troubling you, Master Jude?" A voice croaked behind him. Jude went stiff as a dark shadow emerged from behind him and took a seat on the table. "Don't tell me that you've become ill? I certainly hope not."
"What are you doing here?" Jude sighed, an emotion mixed with fear and annoyance. "I did not summon you." He looked up at the dark figure who lingered in front of him.
"No, but you did," the dark cloaked figure said as he folded his arms across his chest. "You summoned me the moment your knight stormed out of here after disrespecting you. So, what do you want me to curse him with plague and boils? Do you want me to make his suffer unbearable torment until he dies? I mean there are a lot of procedures I could conduct that would be animating."
"No," Jude grumbled. "I don't need you to do anything of the sort." He wanted to tell the figure to leave, but he was beginning to feel bothered. He never expected Lucy to get hurt, though maybe he was lying to himself.
Ever since he had made that deal with this man, creature, devil he had felt remorse. He lied to himself believing that no harm would come of her, at least not unless he actually did get his throne back. But he never expected that the dark wizard would ever actually follow through with his word. He did it so soon; he never would have expected that it would happen like this.
"My daughter," Jude sighed. "I want to see my daughter."
"Daughter?" the dark figure asked. "Why? Did you not criticize her for being filth that soiled the family name? What would spur such a sudden change of heart?"
"I doesn't matter what I said before, I want to see my daughter now," Jude growled.
"Well, I won't take you to see her if that's what you're asking," the figure said as he stood up. "But as you know—"
"All magic comes with a price," Jude interrupted. "What would it be?"
"Well its just something simple so I can imagine that it should be nothing more than some basic monetary payment," the figure said.
"Fine," Jude sighed. "Take whatever jewelry from my treasury that you want and it's all yours."
"Very well, something like that should be more than suitable for such a task," the figure said. "I only do tasks that require suitable payment for my endeavors but I guess since you're already a client," he took a deep breathe, "and because I think this has something to do with the deal we've already struck earlier I guess that I can fulfill such a simple task.
He walked to the other side of the table and waved his hands over it. Instantly the parchment that was resting on it was consumed by a d dark field of mist before it became solid like a screen. Jude looked at it intently as he as he leaned forward in his chair. The darkness faded away as an image of Lucy lying sick in her bed appeared. Jude's eyes went wide as he saw that his daughter was lying unconscious but was still suffering from a fever. She was breathing heavily as her skin was pale and her body wet with sweat.
"What have you done?" Jude said horrified.
"It's not what I've done, but what you have done," the figure said as he paced around the table. "I'm just taking my payment for what you owe me. I am going to fulfill my end of the bargain if you are willing to hold up your end."
"This is not what I asked for," Jude rebuked.
"It is exactly what I asked for," the shadow snapped back.
"Put an end to this, NOW!" Jude barked.
"No," the shadow mused. "The payment is being made for the task you asked for."
"Task?" Jude spat. "What task have you completed?"
"You clearly don't understand the severity of the situation do you, your Majesty," the shadow cackled. "You're getting your throne back because I've already arranged it to happen."
"How?" Jude said perplexed.
"I have other clients that I have made deals with that agreed to let it happen," the shadow said twiddling his fingers. "Your throne will be yours shortly once this war is over, and the new King Duke and his forces win. Only after that will you be allowed to return to your throne. Which should be very, very soon."
"And then Lucy will die?"
"That's part of the deal," the shadow shrugged.
"Then I take it back," Jude said. "I take back the deal."
"Why not?" Jude demanded.
"Once the deal has been made there is no going back on it," the shadow answered as the image of Lucy faded away as the screen it was on turned into dark mist.
"Please," Jude begged, "tell me what I have to do to reverse this."
"I will make amends to the deal for a price," the shadow said. Jude got an uneasy feeling as he knew that the shadow was scheming something dreadful.
"What?" Jude asked. He knew that the answer would not be something he would want to hear, but he would do anything to save his daughter.
He couldn't believe she had endured so much. The anger that once filled his heart had vanished now as only compassion and love for Lucy returned. He didn't understand her decision, and to be honest he was still upset about the choices she made, but he couldn't let her die. He knew that it was part of the deal when he made it, but the dark one had tricked him. He had taken advantage of Jude's anger and frustration. He wanted to drown it out as a nightmare, and he didn't want to admit that it was ultimately his hand that would strike down his daughter. She was the only thing he had left in the world.
"The only way this could be amended is if someone else were willing to take her place," the shadow answered. "And since she is royal, only royal blood in turn would suffice."
"You want me to take her place?" Jude asked. The image of Lucy lying sick in bed was the only thing he could see.
"Yes, and not only that," the shadow said as he stared straight at Jude, "but a Heartfilia will never again sit on the throne of Konvern. That is the deal."
"Very well," Jude sighed as he fell back into his seat. "Spare my daughter."
"A testament of love," the shadow said nodding his head. "Very well, I never would have expected this from you, but people are full of surprises aren't they?"
Jude closed his eyes as just as he saw shadow wave his hand. A moment went by in silence before suddenly he felt a great pain strike his chest and a searing heat over take him. He cried out in pain as he collapsed to the floor, clenching his chest. Beads of sweat poured from his forehead, soaking him and the carpet beneath him. His throat felt like it had sealed up as his eyes widened from the pain.
The shadow knelt in front of him as Jude struggled to breath. He could see his dark cloak waving just in front of his eyes.
"A noble sacrifice," the shadow sighed. "Goodbye, Jude Heartfilia. Perhaps we can make some more deals in the next life."
With that the shadow vanished. Jude could hear the prater of footsteps just as the door busted open as the guards came storming in. Jude was still lying on the floor struggling to breath as the pain in his chest became too much for him to bear. It felt as though his heart wanted to burst through his chest and explode. His muscles began to cramp as his body twitched uncontrollably.
"My Lord!" One of the guards shouted as he rushed to Jude's side.
"Help! Someone find a doctor and bring us some water!" Another guard shouted as the group of them lifted the king up to his feet.
The guards managed to carry the king to his bed and lay him down as some servants brought water and rags. They placed moist rags on Jude's forehead and tried to cool him down with the water. The king could not open his mouth enough to take a sip though now his throat was burning and his fever grew even hotter. Like his insides were roasting inside on oven.
Jude felt his eyes grew heavy as the image of Lucy flashed in his mind. That was all he could think of. He was doing this for her. He wondered if she could ever forgive him for what he had done. If she would ever know that it was he who was responsible for what happened to her. He wished he could tell her how sorry he was, for everything. He wasn't there to save her, to protect her, or to nurture her when she needed him the most. He felt like a failure as a father, and having seen her suffer he remembered his love for her. If there was one thing he could do, anything that he could to do fix this, this would have to be it. Only he wished to see her one last time to say goodbye.
He remembered his wife when she was pregnant with the girl and how excited the two of them as they anticipated the birth of their first child. He had hoped to have plenty more, but then the funeral happened. He had lost his wife, his queen and the one woman he loved most in this world. But he had Lucy, sweet, innocent baby Lucy. He remembered watching her take her first steps, down in her bedroom when she was just a toddler. How excited he had felt and how much he wished his wife were there to see that moment. Though he knew that she must have been watching from somewhere.
Jude remembered how she grew up and how he had neglected her. How he was always too busy for her and how he had never taken too much of an interest in her life. When she was just a girl she always craved his attention, but all he did was push her away, telling her that he was always too busy. The only time they ever seemed to spend together was when he traveled with her to find her a suitable husband. Even then most of his time was spent with the other nobles and Iwan, that backstabbing traitor. Perhaps he had been the one to push Lucy into the arms of her lover.
He hoped she was happy, he hoped that she would be able to live her life out now the way she wanted to. He had no regret for making this choice, it was one of the only few decisions that he didn't regret at this moment. This was the one thing that he could give Lucy, and ironically it was because of him that she was in the situation in the first place. Now he could feel his body becoming weaker as his consciousness began to fade.
"Lucy," Jude gasped one last time as his eyes shut, never to open again.
"Hmm," Lucy groaned as she sat up in her bed. She let out a loud yawn as she stretched out her back. "That was a good nap!" She shouted happily as she looked around her room. The sun was up and it was just a bit past mid-day. "How long was I asleep?"
She smelt something funny as she wondered what it could be. She held up her arm and sniffed under her armpit. She coughed and grew gagged as she realized that it was her that smelt was horribly. She needed a bath desperately. She felt her necklace rest against her bosom as she began to rub it with her hand.
She peered out her window as she remembered a black-cloaked figure that had stood at the foot of the bed. Who was that man? Was it all a dream? She remembered him standing there staring at her. It had to be a dream, at least it felt like it was. She couldn't remember anything apart from that moment.
"Lucy?" she heard Wendy say as the small girl stood in her doorway. "Lucy are you . . . you're awake?" Lucy began to grow confused as she stunned expression on the child's face.
"Of course?" Lucy said raising an eyebrow. "Why wouldn't I be?"
"Lucy!" The girl shouted as she ran across the room and leapt onto the blonde. Tears were streaming out of her eyes as she rubbed her face into the older girl's chest. "I'm so happy to see you're alright!"
Lucy was shocked to see Wendy so upset as she combed the little girl's hair with her hand in an attempt to soothe her. She was flabbergasted that the girl would be so emotional. She had never seen her like this before and though she was touched that the girl cared about her, but at the same time she wondered what could have happened that caused her to be so emotional. Wendy acted as though Lucy had been incapacitated for a very long time. She had only been taking a nap for a few hours, at the most. At least, that's what she thought.
Lucy continued to stroke the young girl's hair as another familiar face began to wander over. "In the name of the gods!" Levy cried as she covered her mouth with her hands.
"Levy, I think there's something wrong with Wendy," Lucy said as she smiled gently.
"Lucy!" Levy exclaimed as she too rushed over to the girl's bedside with tears in her eyes. Now Lucy was even more confused as she smiled awkwardly at her friends as Wendy finally lifted her head from the blonde's bosom.
"What's going on? I was only taking a nap. You two act as though I was on death's door," Lucy said perplexed.
"Lucy?" This time it was Levy's turn to be the one confused. "Don't you remember?"
"Remember what?" Lucy asked tilting her head. She received bewildered stares from the other two girls.
"Lucy, you were sick, gravely sick, for the past couple of weeks," Levy answered. Lucy eyes went wide as she doubted what Levy was telling her, but seeing Wendy nod along convinced her that her friend must be telling the truth. "You have been lying in bed near unconsciousness the entire time, we thought you were going to pass away any day now.
"Really?" Lucy gasped. "You can't be serious."
"Do you remember anything?" Levy asked.
"I remember that Natsu and the others had left to go fight in the war," Lucy began as she thought hard to remember something, anything. "I was on the balcony thinking and then all of a sudden I got tired. After that— it's all a blur." She shook her head.
"Well the important thing is that you're alright now," Levy said placing a hand on Lucy's shoulder.
"What's with all the commotion?" Erza asked as she walked into the room. Lucy watched as the redhead was just as surprised as all the other girls had been when they had entered the room and seen the blonde. Only Erza was not one to get as sentimental as the other her counterparts. "Lucy! It's good to see that you're finally awake!"
Lucy was wrong. She never expected Erza of all people to get emotional, but Erza ran over to the girl's bedside and embraced her in a tight hug. Lucy felt as though he lungs were begin compressed and the air squeezed from her. She struggled to breath as she attempted to pry herself away.
"Well, well, well, would you look at that," Jellal chuckled.
'Oh no,' Lucy thought to herself as she looked through straining eyes to see Jellal standing at the foot of her bed. She hoped that he wouldn't jump in and try hug her as well. She didn't know if she could take anymore. Not that she didn't mind the love and attention, it was just so much in such a short period of time. To her relief, Jellal remained perfectly still as he seemed to take more pleasure in observing than participating.
Erza finally broke away as she looked at Lucy with gleeful eyes. It was then that she remembered that Jellal had supposedly left to go off to war. Did that mean that it was all over? That Natsu was back in Magnolia as well? If he was then where was he when she woke up?
"What did I miss?" Lucy asked. "Jellal, aren't you supposed to be off fighting in the war? What happened? Where is Natsu?"
"A situation happened where I was detained before the march off to battle and could not proceed any further," Jellal answered. Lucy just raised an eyebrow as she did not understand what he was saying.
"He got himself arrested by Gran Doma and thrown in jail," Erza sighed as she spoke for the young noble. "It had to do with him being the former Hand to Duke."
Well that answered that question, but the girls still wanted to know what happened to Natsu.
"From what I understand Natsu and Gajeel broke away from the army and rode south," Jellal continued. "Why the two of them left, I cannot tell you."
"I know why," Lucy sighed as she smiled to herself.
"Well we don't have to worry about those two, they are more than capable of handling themselves," Jellal sighed. "Now come all of you, I'm sure that Lucy would like to rest up."
"I've been resting for the past couple weeks, apparently," Lucy mumbled as she swung her legs over the bedside. "I've done enough resting for now."
As she tried to stand up but her legs buckled underneath her as Levy and Erza caught her before she collapsed.
"Careful," Erza instructed as she and Levy both held the blonde up. "You've been bed ridden with illness for a long time now. It's going to take some time before you can walk about again."
"Fine," Lucy sighed as the two girls laid her back in her bed. "Can you at least bring me a pen and parchment?"
"Of course," Levy said as she ran out of the bedroom.
"Lucy, what on Earth do you need those for?" Jellal asked with a raised eyebrow.
"I have to write a friend a letter," Lucy answered.
"Who?" Erza asked. Both she and Jellal looked at each other with similar confused stares.
"Someone from my old home that can connect me to Natsu," Lucy told him.