Natsu collapsed to the ground in exhaustion. He felt like he was only a breath away from death. Every breath brought new vivacity, but incredible pain at the same time. Natsu laid flat relishing his victory, dropping the heart on the ground next to him. It was over. It was finally over and but none of it seemed real. Natsu grinned to himself, thinking of Lucy, Jellal and the others back home and how he could see them again.
From the hole in the wall, the sunrise began to percolate through, illuminating the room with natural light as the flames from the torches and chandelier faded. Natsu could feel the warm rays upon his cheeks, as he breathed in the fresh air. It had taken one night, but to the youth it felt like it must have been over a year. All that waiting, enduring the hardships of his adventures had came to an end. For now, there was no more vengeance, no desire to keep fighting. It was over, and he could only smile widely to himself.
He looked back over at Ancologia, as the wizard laid motionless. The white blaze of his eyes had faded and now they were nothing more than empty abysmal sockets in his skull. His skin was withering away, and though Natsu had only just killed him, his corpse looked like he had been dead for days. The gaping hole in his chest was exposed and now black. It was like he was peering into utter darkness, but that did not matter now.
Natsu looked over the body to see if he could spot Gajeel. The black haired youth was twitching and groaning as he wiggled on the floor. Natsu continued to smile as he soaked in the son. The blood that covered his body was beginning to harden, but he didn't mind. It was time for a good old rest.
"Hey Gajeel!" he called out.
"What?" the black haired youth moaned.
"How are you doing?"
"I have a fucking hole in my chest, and I think I lost over half the blood in my body. I'm doing fantastic!" He could hear the sarcasm in Gajeel's voice and snickered. Time to rest.
He had managed to make it to Mila without being detected. Ivan had arrived in Mila and now he sought the help of Zero's associates. Hopefully they would be able to get him on a ship and sail him out of the country. He had some friends and connections overseas. He would call in some favors and when it was all done he might return but he doubted it.
"You did well boy," Natsu heard a voice say. He immediately sat up, but the pain seared through him causing him to fall back down again. "Take it easy boy, you've done enough."
Natsu looked up to see Bob was standing over him. He was wearing his blacksmith's garb and his same old friendly smile that he always did.
"Bob?" Natsu asked quizzically. Maybe he lost too much blood and now he was hallucinating, or perhaps he went unconscious without realizing it. "What are you doing here?"
"I came here to make sure that you were okay, and from the looks of things," his eyes wandered up and down the boys naked body, "it looks like I was wrong in my assumption. You're on the fringe of death; nothing short of a miracle that you're still alive. Would you like some assistance?"
"Sure, but don't stress yourself," Natsu chuckled. He cringed in pain. "But there isn't much you can do."
"On the contrary," Bob giggled pressing his hands to Natsu's chest.
The youth saw the spark of a pinkish hue light up in Bob's palm as a comforting warmth coursed through his body. He felt most of his pain melt away and some of his wounds began to seal. Though the pain left his body he could still feel that some of his bones were cracked and broken. Bob continued for a few minutes before pulling his hands away.
Natsu opened his eyes in awe feeling as though his body had almost healed. There were still some tender and sore spots, but other than that he was still able to move about. He raised his arm and bent it back and forth, with only a little pain. Bob had helped but he hadn't alleviated all of the pain.
"Now if you'll excuse me, I shall attend to the other boy. I'll return to you in a moment," Bob said as he stood up and walked away.
Natsu was still busy moving his body around. He stood up, still naked, grabbed his piece of the scarf and followed after Bob. His old friend knelt down beside his comrade and rubbed his hands together.
"Natsu sweetie," Bob giggled, "as much as admire your lovely physique, would you mind covering yourself up a bit? Your little sausage is nice, but it's hard to focus with it dangling about."
Natsu looked down and covered himself with the little piece of fabric. He stood by and watched as Bob placed his hands on Gajeel.
"Who the fuck are you? And why in the seven hells are you trying to touch me?" Gajeel yelled.
"Quit whining you baby," Natsu teased. "Bob here is going to help you."
"Define help," Gajeel barked, recoiling away from Bob's hand. "Keep your hands above the waist there creampuff."
"Ooh, such definition," Bob said. "And don't worry honey, you're not my type."
"Good," Gajeel grumbled. Then he jerked his head up looking offended. "What in the seven hells do you mean I'm not your type? Are you saying I'm not good enough for you?"
"Why are you offended?" Natsu asked skeptically. "Didn't you tell him that you wanted him to keep his hands above the waist?"
"It's still insulting!" Gajeel retorted.
"Hush now boy, I'm trying to concentrate," Bob said softly as he placed his hands on Gajeel and healed him.
Gajeel was a bit surprised that he had recovered somewhat, but like Natsu he hadn't healed completely. He sat up and stretched a bit, the black hole in his chest had sealed itself, however most of the blood was still there. He took a couple of deep breaths before rising to his feet.
"Bob," Natsu said when the old man had finished, "I didn't know that you used magic."
"Oh many years ago," Bob sighed. He looked at Natsu with melancholy eyes. "Many years ago when I was young, and handsome. I dabbled in magic, but I stopped before I lost my mind."
"Why'd you stop?" Gajeel asked stretching out his back. He caught Bob admiring a certain feature. The black haired youth grabbed the other half of Natsu's scarf and covered himself with it.
Bob giggled like a little girl before answering. "I quit along with many of the other wizards, like Robert and Makarov, long ago. I saw what it was doing to others and I decided I wanted no part in it. But I figured I could spare you some healing magic so you wouldn't die."
"How come you never mentioned it before?" Natsu asked.
"As I said, I stopped practicing," Bob said smiling. "Well that and I used some transportation to get myself here." He looked around the chamber with a sorrowful gaze. "Never thought I step foot in the Tower of Heaven again. Never wanted to."
"Well you know you were more than welcome to have joined in the fight at any time," Gajeel grumbled.
"Repeating myself for a third time, I stopped the practice," Bob replied sternly. "The only help I could give you was to heal you. Apart from that, I had to stand by and wait. I'm sorry, I would have if I could have, but I would have only gotten in your way."
"Thanks Bob," Natsu said placing a hand on the fat man shoulder. "It does mean a lot that you came anyways. We'd probably be dead if it weren't for you."
"Oh come now, you know I would do anything to help my sweet boy," Bob said with a blush. Natsu felt a bit awkward as he took a couple steps away from the fat man. "Well, now I think we should get you boys cleaned up and get you on home."
"Home?" Gajeel said disgruntled. "Where's that exactly?"
"Why, Magnolia of course!" Bob said cheerfully. "We'll return Natsu to Lucy and you to that little maiden of yours, Levy."
"Levy is not my maiden!" Gajeel exclaimed.
"Oh hush now you," Bob said waving his hand. "You two would make such a cute couple. And besides, she's too good for you anyways. You should thank the gods that such a sweet, kind, pretty, adorable, smart, sophisticated, elegant, young girl would have any interest in you."
Gajeel just scoffed and rolled his. He caught Natsu leaning over flickering his eyebrows at him. The sight only caused Gajeel to grow that much more agitated with the pink haired youth. Gajeel raised his fist up half ready for a fight, but Natsu just snickered at him, causing the black haired youth to become that much more frustrated.
"Now," Bob said rubbing his hands together. Interrupting the feud before it even began. "I think it's time we got you two back to Jellal and the others. But you're in no condition to transform into dragons, and what magic power I've had has all but dispersed."
"You're useless!" Gajeel cried.
"Oh sweety if you want to go and get a private room I can show you just how useful I can be," he said with a wink. Gajeel's face went red as he backed away as Bob approached him, poking Gajeel in the chest with his finger. "I can see you're already eagerly heading over there now aren't you? Not that that's necessary since you're already half way there Mr. Nudykins." Natsu fell over laughing as Gajeel glowered at him. Natsu didn't care, he was enjoying every second of this and he didn't want it to stop.
"How about you shut up!" Gajeel roared.
"Okay, okay, I'm sorry," Natsu snickered through puffed cheeks. "Mr. Nudykins." He burst out into even more hysterical laughter.
"I'll kill you! You're as naked as I am!"
Gajeel leapt at Natsu as the pink haired youth ran away. He was laughing too hard to put up a fight at that moment.
"Oh boys, boys!" Bob called after them. "I don't have any magic left to heal you if you hurt yourselves so please be careful!"
"I'm going to kill— My back!" Gajeel cried.
"See what I mean," Bob whined. "Where did you hurt your back? Can you still move your hips?"
"Why are you worried about that part of my body?!"
Jellal, Gildarts and Laxus sat in the officer's tent. Most of the soldiers who had deserted had returned. Now they were left to organize what they had left. Gildarts understood now why Makarov wanted Jellal in charge. The boy may be young but he was able to organize and keep everyone in line. Far better than Gildarts or Laxus could. Laxus commanded respect and authority, but people normally listened to him because of his rank, but with Jellal, the men gravitated towards him.
What really made the men respect Jellal was how he advocated against punishing the deserts. Their actions were forgiven and instead they carried on as though nothing happened.
Jellal stood out in the field commanding the officers to organize their troops back into their platoons and battalions. As he was shouting orders in order to prepare them for their journey home he heard the sound of flapping wings off in the distance.
Jellal looked up to see a chrome dragon and a red dragon flying towards them. The men began to shout out in panic and horror, but he quelled them. The officers did the same. The men were confused, but they watched as Jellal walked towards the direction of the beasts. And then, they landed, nearly blowing the noblemen with gusts of wind.
"Natsu! Gajeel!" he shouted out joyfully waving his arms in the arms in celebration. Gildarts and Laxus emerged from the tent and came running in towards the two dragons.
Natsu and Gajeel reverted back to their human forms just as Bob hopped off the back of the red dragon.
"Bob?" Gildarts said pleasantly surprised. "What are you doing here?"
"I seem to keep getting asked that question everywhere I go now," Bob giggled.
"Well are you honestly confused as to why that is?" Gildarts chortled. "And you two," he said eyeing Natsu and Gajeel. "Why are you two always naked?"
"To show your soldiers what real men truly look like," Natsu replied happily. Jellal ran over and placed his hands on the boy's shoulders.
"Someone get these two something to cover themselves with!" Jellal called out. There were a couple soldiers that replied as a group ran towards the armory. "So, did you finish it?"
"It's over," Natsu replied with a happy grin. "The traitor is dead. Now me and my people are finally free!"
"Then that means we should celebrate!" Gildarts exclaimed patting Laxus on the back. The young captain looked more annoyed than he did happy. "Break out the ale!"
The men cheered upon hearing his order. Gildarts ran over to the men with his arms high in the air. Everyone cheered as they followed him to the supply tent.
"We don't have any ale!" Laxus shouted. "Gildarts? Gildarts! Gildarts we don't have any ale! Gildarts!" He went running after the old mercenary.
Natsu, Jellal, Gajeel and Bob watched the young captain scurry after the men, only to get lost in the crowd. They all shared a hearty laugh, but it came to an end when Jellal turned back to Natsu.
"How did you do? You've been gone for a couple of days," he said.
"Bob healed us, apparently he never told me about how he had the ability to use magic," Natsu said pointing at the fat man with his thumb. He smirked as Bob pretended to be embarrassed. "Even though he healed most of our serious wounds, we couldn't turn into dragons because of or internal injuries and he was too rusty to heal us completely. So, we waited at the tower for a few days before we flew back last night."
"Well the important thing is you're here now and we can all return home."
"And what about Ivan?" Natsu asked sternly. "Did they catch him? Not yet. We received a raven that they were still tracking him down. Don't worry, I'm sure they'll find him. It's only a matter of time."
"I hope you're right,"Natsu said. "I hope you're right."
"Don't worry about it," Jellal said as he wrapped his arms around both Natsu and Gajeel, leading them towards the tent. "Let's just go home."
Ivan hid himself behind in the veil of his shaggy cloak as he moved into the city. He did his best to blend into the crowd, which wasn't so hard since everyone was dressed as frayed as he was. He weaved through the city streets as he searched for Midnight. He knew where Zero's headquarters was located, but now that Zero was dead he didn't know if he would have the same relationship with Zero's company that he used. Either way, he had to find Midnight.
He scoured through the city until he came to Zero's old headquarters. Out front stood a set of guards; private guards not the city's guards. They wore light tan armor with the Orecion Seis logo imprinted on their breast plates. There were about four of them, two sat on barrels near the door drinking from a wine sack while the other two were standing on the other side talking. Their weapons, pikes, were rested up against the wall, even though none of them really paid any attention to what was going on.
Back when Zero was still in control this type of behavior would not have been tolerated. But, Zero was gone and now they looked like they were just becoming lazy. He sighed, shaking his head and moved towards the door. There was no other way around them; he had to go through the door if he wanted to talk to Midnight.
As Ivan approached one of the guards who was standing spotted him. He grabbed his pike and walked up towards the nobleman.
"All right mate, that's far enough," he said holding up his hand. Ivan came to a stop. He kept his face hidden behind the veil of his hood. "You lost, or do you have business with Orecion Seis?" the guard asked. Ivan saw the other guards had reached for their weapons, but they held onto them with a lackluster grip.
"I need to speak to Midnight," Ivan replied. "I have business I need to discuss with him."
"And what, pray tell, business is that?"
"That is between me and Midnight," Ivan snapped. "He is the only one I need to talk to."
"Is that right?" the guard said poking the inside of his cheek with his tongue. "I wonder what it is that could be so important that some lowly peasant could ever garner the interest of Lord Midnight. Well, if it's so secret, how come Lord Midnight did not inform us of such an important messenger? How come he isn't expecting you then huh? Go on, tell me why not."
"Fine!" Ivan growled as he threw down his hood. "Tell him Lord Ivan wishes to speak to him. I was a friend of his father, Zero. Tell him that what I need to talk to him about is of grave importance."
"Lord Ivan?" the guard asked as his eyes ran up and down Ivan's body. "You don't look like any lord I ever seen. Then again I ain't seen too many lords in my day."
"Just go get him you fool!" Ivan snapped as he threw his hood back up over his face. "He'll know who I am."
The guard stared at him skeptically before turning back to his comrades. He motioned his head for one of them to go and fetch their master. One of the men sitting on the barrels nudged the man next to him who was reluctant at first, but with an annoyed sigh he leapt off the barrels and entered the building.
Ivan was growing impatient as he looked around to make sure nobody was watching them. He drew the attention of some bystanders, but other than that people just ignored him. He was fidgety, the guards watching him carefully, still with a skeptical glimmer. That was what began to annoy the noble the most. He hated how these low life, pitiful mercenaries looked at him as though he was the awkward one. He was a king damn it. He would teach these Cretans some respect, some day, but for now he was just going to have to be patient.
The door opened as Ivan snapped to attention. The guard returned, sticking his head out. He said nothing but only nodded his head.
"All right then," the first guard said stepping aside. "After you, me Lord" he said joking with a bow. The others snickered at the motion. Ivan just grunted and rolled his eyes.
"It's about time," he grumbled.
He entered into the building as the other guard stood in front of him.
"Follow me," he said.
"I know where I'm going you idiot," Ivan growled as he pushed the man to the side and walked on past him. "This isn't the first time I've been here, and I promise that the next time I come around I won't be so nice."
"Hey! You can't just go storming off like that! Hey! Get back here you!"
The guard shouted, but Ivan just strutted down the hall and up a stairway until he came to the door he was looking for. He placed his hand on the knob and shoved his way through, the guard still shouting after him. Ivan just closed the door and locked it behind him. He let out a deep breath and turned around to see Midnight sitting at a desk at the far end of the room peering over some papers. It seemed that the outburst hadn't distracted him from his work.
Behind Midnight stood a large painting of Zero holding a staff with a large skull on top. The skull had a headdress with numerous feathers, that well with the fur coat that Zero was wearing. He stared with those same demented red eyes he always had. The sight of it would make any normal man cringe, however, Ivan was not a normal man.
"Midnight," Ivan said joyfully, though he tried to hide the disdain he had for the youth in his voice. He held up his arms and walked toward the young man as though he were looking to hug him. "How nice to see you again! How have you been? I'm sorry about what happened to your father."
Midnight continued to leer at his paperwork, but picked up a mug and drank from it.
"What is it that you want Ivan?" he asked placing the cup down. He looked up with an annoyed glare.
"Well, I came to see how you were fairing," he lied. "I know that losing a family member can be such a—"
"Ah cut the shit will you," Midnight sighed annoyed. He chuckled at the failed attempt and the dumbfounded look on Ivan's face. Though the old noble shouldn't have been too surprised by the reaction. "Why are you really here?"
"I need a favor," Ivan said as he continued to walk over. He placed his hands down and took a seat in a chair on the other side of the desk. He faced Midnight, crossing his legs and throwing back his cape in an elegant manner. Just because he looked like a commoner didn't mean he had to act like one.
"Favor? You? Aren't you king now, Ivan?" Midnight asked as he placed his elbows on the desktop and lingered over them. "Why don't you just ask your subjects for help? I mean, you are the ruler of Konvern, Junelle and over half the continent now aren't you? I am sure there is someone in your vast kingdom capable of helping you in your time of need."
Ivan glowered at the youth's taunting smile. And though he would like to put the little brat in his place, he knew that this was still the only person that could help him. So, for now, he would tolerate the disrespect.
"My dear boy, your father and I were such close friends—"
"No, more like business associates," Midnight said leaning back in his chair. "As I recall you had a deal with my father, and it seems that your little transaction led to his death. Now I'm in charge and I don't quite have the same relationship, or business interest with as my father did."
"Oh my dear child," Ivan said with a friendly chuckle, "your father and I were in fact friends. We fought together, and we were going to rule together, side by side. Now that he's gone, all of my promises now fall to you. Now you are the next in line to be my Steward and Hand. And you know Hands are always meant to help the ones they serve."
"I don't serve you Ivan," Midnight hissed through grinning lips. "I never have. And no, my father's associates are not mine. Orecion Seis is mine and I will govern the organization as I deem fit."
"Well then please, do as you wish," Ivan said gently. "But I do have one favor to ask you, for old time's sake. Then I'll never be around to bother you again." He waved his hand and laughed heartedly. He kept up his grin even though he could see the sly smirk still present on Midnight's lips.
"I need a ship, to get out of Fiore," Ivan said leaning forward. "Do this one little favor for me and I'm gone forever."
"That's all you want? A ride out of Fiore?"
"Yep, that's all."
"Very well Ivan, I'm sure that we can figure out a way to get you out of Mila, permanently," Midnight chortled.
"Oh, my dear sweet boy, thank you," Ivan said joyfully as he stood up. He reached out his hand and took Midnight's, shaking it vigorously.
"All right, come one in," Midnight shouted standing up.
Ivan cocked an eyebrow when he heard the door bust open. Gray, Lyon, Sting and Rogue entered all of them wearing wide grins on their lips. Gray twirled a chain around his fingers as he looked at Ivan with a smug expression. Ivan's face went pale and his heart sank in his chest.
"B-b-but I thought you said—" he stuttered.
"I said I would get you out of Mila permanently," Midnight said snidely. "I never told you I was going to do it by ship."
"You little shit!" Ivan spat. "You dare betray me, your father would never—"
"My father never like, nor trust you Ivan," Midnight interrupted as he leaned over the desk. "He knew that you had every intention of betraying him and killing him, and he had the same plans for you. However, you were just able to get him first. Other than that, my father never trusted or liked you."
"You sniveling little brat!" Ivan roared. "How dare you betray me! Who do you think you are?"
"It's over Ivan," Grey said walking over with the chain in hand. "Just come peacefully and this will all be over soon."
Ivan sighed in defeat and held up his hands. There was nothing he could do now and he knew it. Grey slapped the chains around Ivan's wrist and pulled him away.
Gray carried him away as Sting and Rogue followed closely behind. Lyon was the last to leave, but just before he closed the door behind him he turned to face Midnight.
"Thank you," he said.
"Don't thank me," Midnight replied. "Just make sure you take that piece of shit to Magnolia and see that he gets the trial he's owed." Lyon was about to close the door. "And one more thing," the white haired knight stopped. "I have a message for a man named Cobra, but you might know him as Erik. If you see him please deliver this letter to him."
Midnight walked over and handed Lyon the piece of parchment. The knight took it and bowed his head.
"It will be delivered," Lyon said and left.