It was several years ago, back when Jellal was only a fourteen year old. He was just outside the small village of Rosemary, out in one of the farm fields. Erza stood opposite him with a wooden sword in hand. Jellal pointed his own sword in her direction as he stood on guard. They had had been there since early in the morning and already the sun was only an hour or two from setting. He was tired, Erza was as well, but she refused to cease training.
Jellal waited for her as Erza lunged towards him, swinging her sword as he stepped to the side and parried it. She spun around veering her weapon back towards him as he easily parried it away again. The redhead was panting as she attempted to tackle Jellal but he tripped her with his own feet, causing the young girl to fall flat.
"Maybe we should call it a day?" Jellal suggested through a couple of deep breaths. Sweat beaded up and ran down his forehead and cheek. He was tired and he was the one who had experience in sword fighting.
"I'm not done yet," Erza grumbled as she picked herself back up. Jellal had to admit the girl had determination, even if he thought she was being a little too stubborn. She held out her sword as she stood in her stance.
Jellal sighed and rolled his eyes. He shrugged to himself; it wasn't like he was the one lying face down in the dirt.
As Erza readied herself for another attack she stopped when the sound of horse hooves. A carriage pulled up beside them. Jellal knew exactly who it was, but Erza raised a brow in intrigue. She walked up beside the young man as the door opened up to reveal a young teenaged Duke sitting inside.
"Jellal!" Duke called out. "Come here, I need to speak with you."
Jellal acknowledge with a nod of his head.
"Well, I hope that I shall see you again, my Lady," Jellal said jokingly as he handed Erza the wooden sword. She rolled her eyes at him as the youth hoped and sauntered over to the carriage. Erza ran up and slapped him on the back of the shoulder just as he had turned it to her. The two of them exchanged glances and smiles just as Jellal said, "Goodbye."
Jellal entered the carriage and closed the door. He looked out the window and saw Erza standing there waving at him just as the carriage drove off.
"Why do you waste your time with peasants Jellal?" Duke sighed annoyed.
"I'm a man of the people, my Lord," Jellal replied with a smirk. "Just like my father, and just like your father was as well."
"My father did what he needed to do to keep the people happy. He didn't spend his time teaching them to use a sword," Duke retorted. But slowly a wry smirk crept upon his lips. "But then again, I think I can see the true reason to why you spend so much time with that girl."
"Come on Jellal, you don't think I don't notice the way you look at her?" Duke said pretending to sound half offended. "I will admit that she is indeed cute, but you should be more focused on finding a girl more," he tried to think of the right word, "of your own class. It's not like you can marry a peasant. I mean, if you want her to be your mistress one day that I can understand. But there are still women of much better class available for that too. And I can't have my future Hand doing such things."
"I think you misunderstand our relationship Duke," Jellal chuckled, but still a light blush crept up upon his cheeks. He turned his head away and averted his eyes out the window hoping Duke did not notice. "I have no interest in the girl apart from friendship. It's like my father said, a man who is loved by the people will never face adversity."
"Now why don't I believe you?" Duke laughed. He could see Jellal turn an even deeper shade of red. "I'm trusting you to be my Hand you know that right? At the moment that I take the throne you will be there by my side."
Jellal let out a deep breath as he gazed over at his friend. The young prince smiled a wide toothy grin. He flicked his eyebrows jokingly signaling that he knew Jellal had felt a bit embarrassed by his accusations.
"There are other men better suited job than me," Jellal said. "Maybe one day I can serve by your side as you want, but at the present moment I am too young. Even if you don't take the throne for another few years I'll still be far too young to serve as your closest advisor."
"Jellal, I need someone with wisdom by my side. And I need someone I can trust with my life. Someone who won't steer me wrong and can help guide me into becoming a better ruler. And I know that person is you. I think you underestimate you own character."
Duke leaned forward and pointed his finger at him sternly. He looked serious by he kept his smirk.
"You need someone who's experienced and knows the politics as well as the ethics. You need someone who can pass on knowledge and teach you. The Hand isn't just a friend or advisor, they are also a teacher." Jellal replied with a grave demeanor.
"See that's what I mean by wisdom," Duke said cocking his head back and laughing heartedly. "You're father stood by my father's side and helped him while he ruled. And the country was never governed better, at least not until you and I take control. Now it is our turn to lead Junelle, and I want you there by my side as you should be."
"Well, I'll think about it," Jellal laughed. It was a big decision, one that the young noble could not take lightly. Yes, to be completely honest he cherished the idea of obtaining such a high rank at such a young age, but at the same time the idea of having so much responsibility frightened him. "Honestly, I will be happy to serve on your council, but the Hand is a big position. It's not just the king's friend. If I serve as the Hand that means that I might have to disagree with you and even advise you to go against the things you want."
"Well that's why I need you there," Duke laughed. "You have to keep me in check and make sure I don't do anything stupid or abuse my position of power."
"You know I have to trust that you won't do that," Jellal sighed. "But I will definitely give it some thought."
The two sat there in silence for a brief moment, both sets of eyes were focused outside of the window and the countryside that lied beyond. Jellal felt the ricochet of the wheels bobbing back and forth on the dirt road. It brought some peace to the young man as he meditated on the option of becoming the Hand. On one hand it was a great opportunity for him to climb to such a high ranking position within the court, but on the other he was going to be handed a tremendous amount of responsibility.
Duke finally broke the silence when he spoke. "Well when the day comes for you to make your decision, I hope you make the right one."
Jellal chuckled to himself, leaning his head back and closing his eyes. He could feel himself slowly drifting off to sleep.
"When that day comes," he muttered in a hushed voice, "I will do what I know to be right. The decision will not just be for me, but for the two of us. Just know that my decision might not be solely because I do or don't want to accept it."
"And how will you know if it's the right decision or not?"
"I'll know," Jellal said with a deep breathe. "I will definitely know."
The memory faded away as Jellal was brought back to attention as he heard a fist slam against a table. He sat at a table in the Officer's tent along with Laxus, Gildarts, Natsu, Gajeel and the other Draconian boys.
Natsu was lost in his own thoughts, as Laxus continued speaking and instructing the group about how they should move forward, the pink haired youth thought about the story his father had told him. Natsu had one thing on his mind, and one thing only, to find Ancologia. Igneel told him that Angologia might be found in the Tower of Heaven.
Igneel told him that the Tower of Heaven was built several centuries ago by a long lost group of people. It was known far and wide as a monument that touched the clouds and it resided somewhere far out in the ocean. Why it was built, Igneel could not tell him, but what he did know was that the tower became a haven for the dark arts. People no longer traveled there out of fear that there were still dark sorcerers residing there, or that it was still possessed by some dark magic. Dark wizards used it for many years before they were wiped out, and now Igneel believed that the tower must be the place that Ancologia was laying dormant.
Natsu did not know how to get there, nor did he have any idea of what direction to travel. Obviously he had never heard of the tower, but when he asked Jellal about it the noble told him that it was no wise to speak of such a place. Jellal had heard of it as well, but he was just as ignorant of the subject as Natsu. Most people did not discuss the tower, nor was there ever a reason to. Like most people, when Jellal had found out about the tower he just heard the myths and legends, and that he should always avoid it. It never concerned him after that point. After all the tower was nothing more than an abandoned building out in the middle of the ocean.
Natsu's ears perked when he heard Laxus speak.
"I have sent Freed and Brixlow to retrieve whatever allied troops they can find around the area. They have three days before the army returns to Magnolia," Laxus said.
"And what about you?" Gildarts asked.
"Ivan is still out there," Laxus sighed. "I will take a small regiment to go and search for him. As long as he is still alive this conflict cannot come to an end."
"Ivan is defeated and he has no where to return to. Konvern was destroyed, Junelle has no army and I don't see how he could escape to any other city outside of Mila," Arcadios interjected. "He should be easy to find if we send out of a few messenger pigeons asking if anyone has seen him."
"I wouldn't underestimate Ivan so easily," Laxus said. "He has more connections than you know and a lot of friends in some very high places."
"Yeah, but seeing as how he's already pissed off everyone else he's come in contact with," Gajeel muttered sounding bored and uninterested. "I'm sure it won't be too difficult to find him."
Laxus took a deep breath in annoyance. "As I said, Ivan is not one to be underestimated. He knows how to maneuver and manipulate his way out situations. He probably still has friends down in Mila, and even more ties throughout the continent that we don't know about. Our priority is to find him as soon as we possibly can. As long as he is alive, this war cannot come to an end."
"I think you give your father too much credit Laxus," Gildarts said. "Ivan has far more enemies than he did allies. I know, I've met plenty of them when I stayed I Konvern. His closest friend in Mila was Zero and that man is lying dead on the battlefield as we speak. With Zero dead, there's really no one else down there that he can find solace in."
The argument continued on for another half hour before Laxus declared a solution. Sting and Rogue were to track down and find Ivan and bring him back to Magnolia to be tried. Sting and Rogue accepted it half heartedly. The mission wasn't dangerous or over strenuous. They agreed to do so as long as they received some sort of compensation for their involvement. Laxus agreed and told them that he would compensate them justly when they returned.
Once that was decided Natsu stood to his feet and turned to leave.
"Natsu where are you going?" Laxus demanded.
"I have something I need to do," he replied.
"Natsu! Natsu!" Laxus called out to him. "Natsu get back here!"
Jellal, Gildarts and Gajeel all stood up and followed after the pink haired youth. Jellal was the first one to reach Natsu. He reached to place his hand on the boy's shoulder but Natsu sensed it coming and swiftly avoided it by stepping to the side. Jellal nearly tripped over his own feet.
"Natsu where are you going?" Gildarts demanded as he brushed the flaps of the tent entrance aside.
"To the Tower of Heaven, I have someone I need to find there," he replied with a grunt. He began to stretch his arms, rotating his shoulders, itching for a fight. The pit of his stomach burned with a passionate lust for a fight along with the sensation of transforming.
"Natsu do you even know where the Tower of Heaven is?" Gildarts asked.
"The man who betrayed our people and turned them into dragons," Gajeel answered before Natsu had the chance to speak. "Natsu wants to find him and kill him."
"Don't you?" Natsu hissed leering at Gajeel with a betrayed eye.
"The man is a powerful dark wizard," Gajeel replied nonchalantly with a shrug. "There is no chance that we can defeat him, and even if we did what would be the point?"
"To pay him back for what he did to our people! To our friends and family! What are you a coward?"
"Don't call me a coward!" Gajeel roared as he walked over and seized Natsu by his collar. "I want that bastard dead as much as you do, but even with our powers we can't beat him. You think you're not the first one to try? My father told me of times when Ancologia returned to Draconia, just to gloat about his power. He's slain the dragons himself, just for sport. If he's able to do that than what chance do we have? Sure we can turn into dragons but that won't make a difference. We can't stand up to dark magic."
"You can't, but I can," Natsu said ripping Gajeel's hand away. "You see this scarf?" He held the piece of fabric up to them. "My father told me that this scarf will protect me from dark magic. It won't matter what he does if I'm invulnerable to his power."
"And you believe him?" Gajeel asked.
"Of course I do," Natsu sneered. "Don't you trust your father?" Gajeel lowered his eyes half guilty, realizing that Natsu was right. Had his father given him such a trinket and told him that it would protect him, he too would have trusted his word. "This isn't just the man that betrayed my people," Natsu continued. "This man is also responsible for starting the Dragon Wars that led to the deaths to the gods know how many. Do you expect me to just stand aside and let such a man get away with these horrible deeds?"
"Do you even know where the Tower of Heaven is?" Jellal asked. "You're not even sure that the man you're looking for is even there. You could just be going off on a wild goose chase."
"Then I go on the chase, no matter how long it takes. But I will find Ancologia," Natsu said determined.
"And what of Lucy?" Jellal said softly as he stepped forward. "What will you do about her? She's waiting for you back in Magnolia. What happens if you don't return home?"
Natsu looked down, his heart filled with guilt. He closed his eyes, Lucy's gleaming smile flooded his mind. He could see her standing on her balcony in Magnolia overlooking the city just waiting for him to come back. He pinned to hold her in his arms once again. There was nothing in this world that would make him happier. But this was something that he had to do. This was something that he was obligated to do.
"I still have to do this," Natsu uttered. "I have to."
"Then you're going to need someone that can guide you there," Arcadios said as he and the others walked out of the tent. "I know where that dreadful tower lies. I can take you there."
"I want in too," Grey said as he stepped forward. "I already missed most of battle already because of you. I didn't get suited up just to sit back and do nothing."
Natsu glared at Grey in agitation and rejection. It was bad enough that Grey was sent to hunt down the two Draconians now he wanted to tag along on this? Natsu wasn't going to have it.
"I guess you weren't here when Natsu mentioned that the enemy he is tracking down is a dark wizard," Gildarts said.
"Well in the very least I can watch Natsu die in an interesting way," Grey said coldly, leering at Natsu.
"I know where the Tower is," Lyon said stepping forward. "If Grey's going than so am I."
"Why?" Grey asked.
"Like I'm going to let you go off and help kill a dark wizard just so you can say you're better than me," Lyon announced.
"This isn't about you, you bastard," Grey growled as he shoved his face in front of Lyon's.
The two appeared as though a fight was about to break out between them. Even Natsu stepped in to get a piece of the action. It was stopped when Gildarts and Arcadios pulled the them apart.
"No one is going to the Tower of Heaven," Laxus shouted as he pushed his way to the front. "We have far more pressing matters than to chase after some ghost."
"He's not a ghost!" Natsu retorted. Now it was Laxus' turn to glower at Natsu.
"If you're not sure the man you're seeking is even there than you have no reason to go searching for him," Laxus stated. "There are far more important matters to attend to than your personal grudge."
"Maybe it's not important to you, but it is to me," Natsu sneered. "I'm going, and I don't care if I have to scour the entire ocean for the tower, I will find it."
Laxus made a move towards Natsu, but was pulled back by Arcadios. The old knight smiled lightly as he shook his head, signaling to Laxus that this wasn't an argument he was going to win.
"As I said, I know the whereabouts of this tower," he said facing Natsu. "I will guide you there if you'll let me."
Laxus opened his mouth as though he were about to shout at the two of them, but decided against it. "Fine," he grumbled in defeat. "If you're so desperate to go chase after ghosts, than fine. But you're on your own. When you're done, return to Magnolia and we'll discuss what to do next. I hope you don't expect us to lend you a ship or anything."
"That won't be a problem," Natsu snickered.
"Well then I'm coming too," Gajeel grunted as he stepped forward.
"Weren't you talking about how dangerous it was, and that we were probably going to get killed?" Natsu said quizzically.
"Yeah, but if you're committed to it, than I guess I don't have a choice," Gajeel grumbled. "I've stuck by your side since the two of us have left Konvern. If this is the bastard that really betrayed our people, and if that scarf is what you say it is, than I'll help you kill the bastard. But don't expect me to go in all heroic and save your ass. I'll leave you to fry the moment things start to get rough."
Natsu grinned, but Gajeel simply rolled his eyes. It was getting too sentimental for him. He didn't care if Natsu lived or died, but he would like the opportunity to kill Ancologia. If Natsu's scarf was what he said it was, than they would never get the opportunity again. That was if the opportunity wasn't a failure that got them killed anyways.
Natsu had been right, and Gajeel knew it. He knew that the boy had overcome everything so far, and what was this compared to the months they had spent traversing the continent together? If they could defeat entire armies together, why not this dark wizard?
"I'll go too," Jellal spoke up. "I can't leave these two alone for a second. The last time I did they turned into dragons."
"So will I," Gildarts said as he walked up and placed a hand on Natsu's shoulder. "If it will help bring an end to this nightmare, than I'm willing to go through with it."
"No," Natsu said as he took a step back. "This is something we need to do on our own. This is our quarrel, and ours' alone." He looked at Sting and Rogue.
"Natsu's right," Laxus interjected. "If it is a dark wizard than you and Jellal will only get in their ways, and probably get yourselves killed. Let the Draconians handle their own business. And besides, I need you two to keep what army we have left together. The same goes for you two as well," Laxus turned to face Grey and Lyon. "You'll only get in the way." Both Grey and Lyon were just about to argue when Laxus quickly interrupted them, "That's an order."
"Fine," Grey scoffed. "Next time."
"Sure," Natsu said as he turned to leave the camp. Gajeel walked beside them while Arcadios followed the both of them.
Natsu stopped as he noticed that Sting and Rogue weren't coming with them. He looked back to see the other two Draconians still standing by the front of the tent. He threw up his hands as both he and Gajeel gazed upon them looks of confusion and concern.
"Aren't you coming?" Natsu called back.
"Nah, you take care of Ancologia and we'll get that bastard Ivan," Sting shouted back.
"Make sure you bring him back alive!" Natsu said gravely. "He and I have some unsettled business."
"Will do," Rogue said with a thumbs up.
"Well if I can't go hunting for dark wizards than can I at least tag along with these two to get Ivan?" Grey asked Laxus.
"Same," Lyon said.
"Fine," Laxus grunted rubbing his forehead in annoyance. When he opened his eyes he noticed that Arcadios was right behind the two Draconians. "Arcadios! Where are you going? I already told you that this was the Draconians business. You'll just get in the way."
"They need someone to show them the way," the old knight replied. "Besides, I'm just tagging along to show them where to go. An old knight like me can't possibly stand his own against a dark wizard." He grinned widely, his hand brandishing the hilt of his sword. "And besides, I was a knight of Konvern, which means that I don't take orders from you Captain!"
"Fair enough," Laxus said smiling back.
Once they were safely out of the campsite, Natsu and Gajeel through off the robes they were wearing and transformed. Natsu handed Arcadios his scarf as the knight stood off in a distance. He didn't know what the transformation would be like, but he wanted to keep space between him and the two dragons. Once Natsu and Gajeel had finished, Arcadios climbed up Natsu's leg, still carrying the boy's scarf and hopped onto the dragon's back.
As they flew off Arcadios gripped Natsu's mane tightly, the sheer force and pressure would have been enough to send him flying had he not held firm. The air was cold, and brittle. It had been a long time since he felt so vivacious. He sucked in the fresh breeze through his nostrils until his lungs were filled. It reminded him of that night so many years ago when he rode with Jude into Draconia. A night that he now lamented severely. He had never told Natsu of that night, nor the sin of what he had done.
Once they were up in the air and the dragons could soar smoothly through the rippling winds Ancologia told Natsu to head west. The dragon nodded as the two lifted their wings and glided in the direction of Arcadio's suggested. The rush of wind blew past them. It was an icy chill, but for Natsu and Gajeel they could not feel a thing on their scales, however, they felt thrilled with the ability to fly.
They flew for an hour in silence. Nothing but the wind whipping past them. It was peaceful and it gave Aracadios the chance to think. He pondered whether or not he should admit what he had done. How would Natsu receive it? He wondered if he should just keep his mouth shut. But then again, if this was the last time he ever saw or spoke to Natsu again, he wanted to do it with a clear conscious.
"Natsu," Arcadios sighed. The dragon did not hear him. "Natsu," the knight said louder. Natsu perked up. "There's something I have to tell you."