A screeching roar echoed through the valley that caused the fighting to stop. All eyes turned to the sky where they saw four dragons flying towards the battlefield. Jellal's heart stopped. At that moment everyone forgot about the war, and who they were fighting. At that moment every man on the battle field stood stunned as they watched the four enormous beasts flying towards them.
While the archer was addled Jellal took the opportunity to pull the arrow out of his knee. He winced as the tip slid from the bloody wound. He immediately ripped off a piece of the tunic he was wearing under his armor and wrapped it around the gash. He spun around to see Duke was still standing there mystified as every other man. He snapped out of it as when he saw Jellal standing back to his feet. Though he didn't know how to react, he rushed over and grabbed his sword. The silence was finally broken when Duke shouted out orders.
"Archers! Prepare to fire!" The men gawked at him with uncertainty. "Did I stutter? Do you plan on just standing there while those things burn and eat you alive? Get your arrows up and prepare to shoot those things!" He flinched as his wound throbbed.
The archers did as they were told as they stumbled to with their arrows. Jellal grabbed his sword and limped over towards Duke. He may have been injured but he wasn't about to give Duke an opportunity to escape.
The dragons drew closer. One was a scarlet red, as bright as the almandine with a pink mane. Another one was silver, almost as though the body was carved of chrome. The third had a body that was as black as the darkest night; its outline was like a blot of pure darkness in the sky. The fourth and final dragon had a body that was a pure white, with scales like moonstone. They roared with such ferocity that it shook the earth beneath the soldiers. Within minutes they had ascended upon the field of battle.
"FIRE!" Duke bellowed. He noticed that Jellal was wobbling towards him. He reached down and plucked up his sword.
The archers raised their arrows and let loose the strings. The arrows flew like pelts of hail, but the dragons easily maneuvered through them. A couple managed to hit them on the chest, but they bounced off harmless from the dragon's hide. The black and white dragons sailed down from both sides, respiring a flood of flames that consumed all the archers. The men shrieked in freight and agony for a mere second before they were engulfed in flames. What was left of their charred bodies toppled to the ground as flecks of ash blew in the wind.
"Retreat!" Duke heard his general shout. "Fall back to the camp!"
This order was one that the men obeyed without hesitation as they scattered away. The red dragon landed just behind Jellal. The young noble turned around and stared at the enormous beast. Its eyes glistened with a bright amber light, and it had a slit of black in the middle. Its head lowered towards Jellal as he faltered backwards. The dragon growled as its eyes turned to Duke. The young king shuttered in place. He attempted to run but his injury caused him to limp as he winced with each step. The dragon flapped its wings, causing a gust that blew Jellal backwards as the beast leapt over him towards Duke. It landed with a thump that caused Duke to topple into the grass.
The other dragons flew into the air, running down any of the Junelle soldiers they could fine. They picked up men with their large talons, or crushed them with their teeth. Every soldier on the battlefield fled for his life. Fighting a war was one thing, but dragons were a different danger all together. There was no way that common soldiers could slay them. For men it was run away or face certain death. There was no inbetween.
Gildarts tried to rally what men he could, but many of them had fled back to the camp. Most of them were weighed down from armor and exhaustion, but they ran as swiftly as their legs could carry them. Gildarts himself was bloody, some of it his own, most of it not. His armor was hacked and torn. Large cuts in his armor revealed deep wounds he had sustained in battle. His hair was dripping wet from sweat and blood. The Allied archers frantically shot arrows, but to no avail. Those that did not miss ended up bouncing off or shattering upon the scales. But one thing intrigued him about the beasts; the dragons were not attacking the Allied soldiers the way they had Junelle. It was almost like they were specifically targeting their enemies.
"Gildarts!" Arcadios called as he ran up to the old mercenary. "Gildarts what should we do? I was not prepared to fight dragons."
Gildarts took in a deep breath, same as Arcadios, but he said nothing. He looked around and spotted Laxus at the other end of the field. The captain was trying to gather soldiers together, but most of the men were too concerned with running away.
Gildarts nudged the knight as he motioned for him to follow as they ran towards Laxus. When they arrived Laxus breathed a sigh of relief. The dragons were still flying above them, howling into the sky. Occasionally, when they spotted a group Junelle soldiers they flew over and rained their fire down upon the unfortunate men.
"What's going on?" Laxus said. He did not feel the urge to run any longer. He too noticed that the dragons were not attacking them or any of the Allied soldiers. "Why are they only attacking Junelle soldiers?"
"I think they're on our side," Gildarts answered as he slid his sword into his sheath. By now most of the soldiers had fled the battlefield. "Hold your fire!" Gildarts bellowed at the few Allied archers that remained. They gawked at him in disbelief. "Trust me, Gildarts said. They're not here for us. Look."
The men peered around noticing that the dragons were indeed not attacking them. They looked back at Gildarts as he nodded his head. They threw down their bows and wondered over to their commanding officers.
Duke stared at the dragon in horror as it lurched towards him. Its eyes were focused on him as it began to open its mouth, revealing rows of sharp teeth. Just before the beast chomped down on him a spear was hurled from afar, striking the dragon in the eye. The beast howled in pain as Duke's general galloped up to his lord. He reached out his hand as Duke grasped it. He pulled Duke onto the horse before he whipped the reigns and began to gallop towards the forest. Jellal watched them go as the beast shook the spear out of its eyes and peered around to see where its prey had gone. When it couldn't spot the king it returned its glare to Jellal. The young noble attempted to crawl away but within a couple of steps the beast was upon him.
"Jellal!" Grey shouted as he slid off the dragon's neck.
"Grey?" Jellal said shocked to see that Gray had ridden the creature. "What in the seven hells?"
"Don't worry, the dragons are on our side," he said as ran over and lifted Jellal back to his feet.
"What do you mean, 'on our side?'" Jellal asked.
"It's Natsu and the others," Grey told him.
Just then Makarov also slid off the dragon's back and tumbled onto the grass. Wakaba did the same but landed on top of his comrade. Jellal was in disbelief, but there they were. He heard the loud cry of a panicking horse that had been blown over after the red dragon had landed. Jellal rushed towards it as the horse struggled to lift itself up. Its hooves slipped on mudd and blood. It wasn't too far off when Jellal reached it and helped it to its feet.
"Jellal? Jellal!" Gray shouted as followed after him. "What are you doing?"
"Here, help me on," he said as he grasped the saddle. His leg still hurt from the arrow he had taken earlier.
"Where are you going?" Gray asked as he lifted his friend onto the steed.
"To finish this war, once and for all," Jellal answered as he whipped the reigns and rode off.
Gray watched him go, but returned to Makarov and Wakaba. The red dragon growled as it launched back into the air. The gust of wind blew Gray and the others onto the ground. Gray shouted a couple of curses at the beast, but it merely snickered as it took flight.
Ivan cursed to himself as he rummaged through the main officer's tent back at the Junelle camp. "Dragons?" he muttered. "Where did the dragons come from? I thought they couldn't leave Draconia. Now all of a sudden there's four! Those stupid beasts just ruined my plans."
Just then the flaps of the tent flung open as Duke limped inside with the general following behind.
"Ivan?" Duke spat. "What in the seven hells are you doing here?"
"My Lord," Ivan said perplexed. "I am so happy to see you're alive. But you're injured, you should—"
"Shut up!" Duke barked. "You fucking coward. You ran away from the battlefield and left me to die. I should have your head."
"My Lord every man ran away from the battlefield as soon as the dragons arrived. I was not the only one that fled," Ivan retorted.
"Never mind," Duke groaned as he wobbled over to the table. "General go fetch me a nurse to attend to my wounds. We don't have much longer before we should leave. Only the gods know whether or not those dragons are going to come after us."
"Yes my Lord," the general replied before he left.
"You look pretty clean for a man who just ran away from battle," Duke uttered as he lay down on the table. "What did you do the entire time? Did you just stand behind and watch?"
"I was leading the Calvary my Lord," Ivan told him.
"You're nothing but a liar Ivan," Duke hissed. "Why don't you actually do something useful and bring me something to drink."
Ivan scowled, but did as he was told. He walked over to another table in the tent where a pitcher of wine sat. He poured the drink into one of the cups available before walking over and handing it to Duke.
The young king began to gulp it down before spitting it out. "Wine? You idiot! Don't you see me bleeding to death here? I am losing large amounts of blood and you bring me wine? What kind of idiot are you? Go fetch me water you fool."
Ivan glowered at him, but he took the cup and returned to the table. If he wasn't certain that the general would return he would kill the young man himself. He found a pitcher containing water and poured it into the cup instead. He walked back over and handed it to Duke he ripped the cup from his hand and downed it in one gulp.
"Another," he ordered. "I should find a better Hand than you Ivan. You've done nothing but cause me problems. If I live through this, I'm finding a replacement for you."
Ivan glared over his shoulder, a knife lay on the table in front of him. He reached down and lifted it up. He wanted more than anything to stab the king now. As he motioned over towards Duke the flaps of the tent opened up as the general entered escorting two young nurses. Ivan hid the knife behind his back and smiled a fake smile.
"Tend to the king," the general ordered. The two young nurses did as they were told. "I will go see if I can find any of the other officers around the camp," he told Duke.
"Very well," Duke mumbled as he lay back. "Ivan," Duke snapped. "You can leave too, I no longer have any need for you."
"Very good sire," Ivan said as he turned to leave.
"I am serious about what I said."
"Yes sire," Ivan said before he left.
Duke rested as the nurses washed and bandaged his wounds. They began to remove pieces of his armor in order to clean the wounds properly. Just as they were about to finish Jellal staggered into the tent.
The battle was over, but the dragons were still flying in circles around the field. Gildarts, Arcadios and Laxus stood in the middle of the field watching along with the handful of archers that had stayed behind. Wakaba, Macao and Grey made their way over. The field was still smoking from the fire of the dragon's flames as dead bodies and severely injured soldiers from both sides lay in the blood soaked grass. Soldiers from both armies had all but left leaving them as the only living men left on the field.
Once everyone had assembled together the red dragon landed in front of them, nearly knocking him over with strong gusts of wind. The other dragons followed shortly after. Slowly, each of the dragons reverted back to their human forms. They groaned loudly as their bodies shrank as the talons retracted into the fingers. Their fangs eroded away, forming into standard human teeth. The eyes withered down and returned to their original colors. With last howl they had fully regressed to their human forms.
"Hey guys," Natsu greeted them with a wide grin.
"Hello Natsu," Gildarts said. "Good to see you. But . . . uhm . . ."
All of them avoided looking at the Darconians.
"What?" Natsu asked.
"You want to put on some clothes?" Gilarts asked.
"Oh," Natsu said as he, and the other Draconians, peered down to see they were as naked as the day they were born. "Nah, I'm good."
"Well we're not," Gray sighed annoyed.
"Like you're one to talk," Laxus muttered.
"What does that mean?" Gray growled.
"You know," Laxus replied.
"Well we would love to," Gajeel answered. "But where do you suppose we will find these clothes?"
"Come on, you guys have nothing to be shy about, it's not something you haven't seen before," Sting said waving his hips.
"And with that I am done," Rogue grumbled. "But Gajeel has a point; where do you expect us to find clothes."
"Take a look around," Gildarts said holding out his arms. "There's plenty of armor to go around. That's if you don't mind a little blood."
"Here at least put this on," Wakaba said handing Natsu his scarf.
"Fine," Natsu sighed as he wrapped it around his neck.
"That's not exactly what I had in mind," Wakaba groaned.
"Try to find something to hide your shame," Macao said agitatedly.
"Shame, there's nothing here to be ashamed of," Gjaeel teased as it was his turn to wave his hips about.
"Enough fooling about," Laxus snapped. "We have enough work ahead of us and we don't have any time to waste standing here. You men," he said addressing the archers, "go back to the camp and see if you can find any nurses or soldiers to help with the wounded."
"Yes sir," one of the archers said as they jogged back towards the Ally's camp.
"Now, let's find you boys something to wear," Gildarts said as he walked up Natsu. He placed a hand on his young protégé's shoulder.
Natsu and the others took some tunics off the cleanest bodies. It wasn't much but at least they weren't bareback any longer. As they walked through the field Natsu heard a body moan loudly as a figure moved in the grass. He rushed over to it only to discover that the moans belonged to a familiar face.
"Cobra?" Natsu said as he turned the young man over. "Cobra?"
Cobra was covered in blood. His face was drenched with the red liquid that leaked from his nose. His torso was soaked and he was weak and nimble.
"Huh, Natsu?" he breathed through a sigh of disbelief. "What are you doing here?"
"Saving your life apparently," Natsu said as he threw Eric's arm over his shoulder and lifted him up. Natsu looked to see Zero's now dead body lying next to him in the grass.
"I got him," Eric laughed proudly. "I got the son of a bitch."
"Jellal?" Duke said baffled. "What are you doing here?"
"I think you and I need to talk," Jellal answered.
Duke nodded his head. "Leave," he instructed the nurses. They looked at him in disbelief. "Leave," he ordered more aggressively. They bowed heir heads as they walked towards the exit. They stopped in front of Jellal, and looked at him. He took a step to the side to let them pass. They were hesitant at first, peering back at Duke as he nodded his head.
Jellal limped over and grabbed a chair and he slumped down next to Duke. Duke handed him his cup of water. The nurses had filled it just before they had left. Jellal nodded his head in thanks as he accepted it. He gulped it down, streams of water leaked from the corners of his mouth. He gasped for air as he set the cup down on the table. That was the most refreshing drink he ever swallowed. Duke groaned out loud as he sat up.
"So, I'm guessing you're here because you want me to surrender?" Duke chortled. "After today . . . well, I just don't know what's going to happen next. At least not anymore." He paused for a brief moment. "Hey, you remember back when we were kids, and you and I went riding out north in the mountains? You know, that camping trip we went on when we were ten? We decided to race down the slope on our way to the village and I fell off my horse? "
"Yeah, you broke your arm," Jellal replied. Duke held up his broken limb. The two of them laughed.
"Yeah, that was a long time ago. But it's strange, I still have that memory fresh in my mind, and yet it seems like it was a lifetime ago."
"It was. Back then I was the one who had to bandage your arm," Jellal said. "Back then things were easier."
"Yeah," Duke muttered. "Things were simpler back then; no wars, no political feuds, and no worries. What happened?"
"You became king," Jellal answered. "And you became a monster." Duke glowered up at him. "Duke, you got greedy. You usurped Jude, betrayed Lucy and started the war. Everything that's happened was of your own doing."
Duke exhaled deeply. "Why did you betray me Jellal? I thought you were my friend."
"I was your friend, and you were the one that betrayed me," Jellal replied. "You tried to have me killed."
"Because you betrayed me," Duke grumbled. "You decided to work together with that slave boy to free that treacherous wench. What was her name?"
"Lucy," Jellal hissed. "You went mad. You didn't leave me any other choice."
"I did what I had to do," Duke stated. "Ivan said—"
"Ivan?" Jellal interrupted. "Ivan is a deceiver. He's probably been planning on betraying you this entire time. But you choose to side with him and turn on me. I am sorry Duke, but you left me no other choice."
"Hey, do you mind grabbing me another drink?" Duke asked.
Jellal grabbed the cup as he stood up and walked over to the table.
"So, whatever happened between you and that peasant girl?" Duke asked. "You know, the one with the red hair?"
"She's in Magnolia, with Lucy. She serves as Lucy's guard." Jellal answered as he poured the cup of wine.
"A woman guard! Well, I would say that is strange, but I just saw four dragons incinerate half my army. After today, there's nothing that wouldn't be that unbelievable."
Jellal hobbled back and handed Duke the cup. The young king thanked him as he took it. "Growing up you were always my closest friend. Now, you and I just tried to kill one another. Amazing how times have changed." He took a sip of the wine. There was a silent pause between the two of them. "So, what happens now?"
Jellal pulled a knife out of a sheaf on his belt. He stood up and drove it into Duke's chest.
"Jellal?" Duke cried horrified. "Why?"
"Because you're still a threat to the world. And as long as you're still alive, there can be no peace," he said driving the knife deeper. "Don't you see? You have to die. The gods know I don't want to, but I have to."
"But I don't want to die," Duke wept. "Jellal, I don't want to die." He fell back on the table, the knife still embedded in his chest. "I don't want to die."
"I'm so sorry," Jellal sobbed. "I didn't have any other choice."
"I don't want to die Jellal," Duke whimpered as he coughed up blood. "I don't want to die."
Jellal stood over his old friend, trying to fight back his own set of tears but they flooded down his cheeks. There was nothing more he could say or do. He stood by and watched as his old friend died before him.
"I don't want to die," Duke wept again, though now more softly. The energy had all but drained from his body. His face had grown pale and his eyes shimmered in sorrow. "I don't want to . . ." There were no more words beyond that. Duke went silent as his hands dropped to the side and the light in his eyes faded. Jellal bent over him, crying fiercely. His tears dropped upon Duke's breast.
"I'm sorry," Jellal said. "I am sorry Duke. I wish it had never come to this. I wish none of this ever had to happen. Goodbye my old friend."
He looked down at the motionless Duke. Jellal placed his hands on the former king's face and closed his eyelids. He took a deep breath, nausea had overtaken him. Jellal did not know how long he stood there but his attention came back when he heard the flaps of the tent entrance. He slowly turned his head to see Duke's general standing behind him. His eyes wandered from Jellal to the now deceased king.
"Are you going to kill me now, Azuma?" Jellal asked.
Azuma pulled his sword from his sheath and raised it. "I have no other choice. You killed my king."
"I'm in no shape to fight you Azuma, and I know you have to do what you have to do. I'm not going to fight you. I did what I needed to do."
Azuma took a step towards him, but as he approached a sword was driven into his back and out his chest. He shivered as his sword dropped from his grip as he collapsed to his knees. With one last cough of blood, Azuma fell to the side dead. Jellal was stunned, but he was even more astonished when he saw that it was Ivan who was standing behind where Azuma had stood.
"Sorry about that, didn't mean to startle you," Ivan said cheerfully as he stepped over Azuma's corpse. "I saw you enter the camp and I decided to eavesdrop on your little conversation. Tragic stuff."
"What do you want Ivan?" Jellal demanded.
"I just wanted to come to a truce," he said. "Let's just say I saved your life so now you owe me a favor."
"I owe you nothing," Jellal hissed. "You murdered Azuma in cold blood. Your own friend and ally."
"Relax, I never really liked him anyways," Ivan joked. "You did me a favor, so I thought I return it. But I could have just as easily let Azuma kill you if you wanted."
"I would have much rather died at the hands of Azuma than ever owe you a favor."
"Well, I saved your life now you can help save mine. I'm going to be leaving for a while, and I have to ask you not to follow me."
"That's my business," Ivan said scratching his fingertips. "Goodbye my young friend. Remember, I saved your life."
With that he turned around and left.