Lucy and the others sat at the Fairy Tail Pub sipping out of mugs recanting stories from the battle to their daily lives. Lucy sat in a booth with Erza, Wendy, Juvia Levy and Cana. The blonde had to admit that she admired Cana's tenacity and how she took charge after the attack. Makarov even recognized it and promoted her to the position of Lieutenant of the City Guard. Normally women weren't able to hold such positions, but Cana had certainly earned it. Lucy already knew it, but there was definitely something very special about the girl.
Cana drunkenly gulped down her mug of ale before raising it high in the air. Kinanna saw the brunette from across the room as she sighed happily and walked on over to the booth.
"Would you like another Cana?" she asked already knowing the answer.
"You know it," Cana replied with a wink.
Kinana chuckled shaking her head. She grabbed the mug and returned to the bar. Mira leaned over the counter talking to her younger sister as she watched Kinana approach. Evergreen sat next to Lisanna, stirring her tea with a spoon as she gazed at the liquid with in. She didn't appear to distressed, nor did she appear happy. She was lost within her own thoughts.
Mira was beginning to show as her stomach bulged behind her apron and dress. Despite being further into her pregnancy she still wanted to stay at the pub with everyone else. She loved her friends, and she loved them even more with all their support they have given her since they found out about her situation. Her only worries came when she thought of Laxus and whether or not he was ever going to come home. But deep down inside of her she knew that he was going to make it. The man was far too stubborn to die even if he was fatally wounded.
"Cana, don't you think you've had enough?" Mira called out to the other girl as soon as Kinana placed the mug on the counter. "It's barely past noon and you've already had four pints as it is. I think you should take a break."
"Come on" she hiccupped, "I'm not even buzzed."
"Give her some time," Mira said as she took the mug from Kinana. "She can have some when she sobers up a bit."
"Oh come on Mira I—"
Cana began to complain but she stopped when the sound of bells rang from around the city. Everyone in the pub perked up and leapt to their feet before running to the exit. Lucy watched them leave along with the other girls at the booth. Cana sagged her head over the table. Lucy couldn't tell if the other was disappointed because she wasn't going to get her next drink or that the bells meant something bad. But from everyone else's reaction they didn't seem all that bad.
The bells sounded similar to the ones that they had heard when the Mila fleet was invading, but these were slightly different. They a bit higher in pitch, like church bells.
"What is it?" Wendy asked as she leaned across the table and poked Cana's elbow.
"It's the town bells," Cana whimpered. "It means that the armies have returned from the war."
"Returned from the war?" Lucy exclaimed as now she was filled with excitement. "That means that it's over? We have to go, now!"
Lucy grabbed Levy's hand and yanked the small maiden from her seat.
"Lucy!" Levy cried as she felt like her arm was about to be torn off.
Lucy dragged Levy to the exit and out the door. Erza sighed, shaking her head. She grabbed Wendy's hand and led the young girl out with everyone. Cana watched them all go as she slumped in her seat. Mira walked over with Lissana and Evergreen.
"Come on Cana," Mira said as she motioned for the brunette to follow her. "You can drink when you get back. It would be far more special for you to do it with your father anyways."
"But I want it now," Cana mumbled.
"Come on," Mira giggled rolling her eyes.
Outside Lucy could see the crowds were gathering as Levy trailed behind her along with Juvia. Lucy came to a stop as soon as she hit a wall of people. Erza and Wendy shortly joined the rest of them as Lucy stood by, jumping into the air desperately looking for a path to take through the large mob. She couldn't even tell how close she was to the main gates of the city all the buildings looked the same and people were crowding along the rooftops as well.
Lucy sighed but she decided that it was best for her to just shove her way to the front. It wouldn't be easy, but at least she knew which direction she was going to have to travel. Just go in the direction that everyone is facing.
Levy trailed behind her as did the other girls. Lucy had to shove and squeeze her way through but eventually she popped out of the crowd and into the street. She was pretty far from the gate, but most of the soldiers had already marched inward. She frantically looked around for a familiar pink haired teen amongst the rows of armor and metal.
Then she spotted him, off in the distance in the middle of the parade of soldiers. He rode on a horse alongside Jellal and Gajeel. Gildarts rode behind them with Laxus. Bob was there as well, only he chose to walk beside the horses. He was not one that would ride. But he also didn't want to serve as a distraction from those who earned the right to be praised.
Natsu and the other men wore glistening armor that flickered in the sunlight. They shine so brightly it was almost blinding to look at. They had white capes that hung along their shoulders and swords with ivory handles at their sides. Where they had acquired such items Lucy couldn't guess, nor did she care. She bolted down the rows of people towards the youth.
Natsu sensed something off in the distance when he saw the young blonde running towards him. He didn't wait before he leapt off of his horse and ran towards her. Streaming with tears Lucy jumped into his arms as he spun her around happily in the air. He continued to hold her up as she pulled his head into hers and kissed him passionately. When they broke away Natsu pulled her in and embraced her with a tight hug.
She continued to sob into his shoulder as he kissed her on the side of the cheek. Erza walked up to them, with Wendy and Juvia by her side. Jellal galloped up to his small group of friends before jumping off his horse as well. Erza approached him with a smile on her lips.
"My Lord," Erza said bowing her head.
"Oh shut up," Jellal said as he grabbed her by the hips and pulled her in for a kiss. She giggled and wrapped her arms around his neck as she pulled him in.
Wendy blushed and buried her head into Levy's hip as the small maiden turned away. She was also blushing as the whole scene became a bit embarrassing to watch. Then again, it wasn't out of the ordinary since many of the soldiers broke out of formation to go and hug their families and kiss their wives. Not that it made the scene any less awkward.
"What are these idiots up to now?" Gajeel grunted walking up to them.
"Oh, hello Gajeel," Levy greeted with a slight blush.
"Yeah, hello," he grumbled. The small girl looked away disappointed.
"Come on Gajeel," Bob said, sneaking up behind the youth. He teased Gajeel by running his finger up and down the teen's shoulder. Gajeel stepped away, shuttering. "Be nice to her."
Gajeel leered at Bob but the fat man wasn't breaking his own stare. He nudged Gajeel motioning his head towards Levy. Gajeel arched an eyebrow. Bob nudged him even harder jerking his head towards Levy that much harder. But Gajeel wouldn't budge.
"Now you listen here sweety," Bob whispered as he grabbed Gajeel by the collar and pulled him closer. "I like this sentimental crap. Now you're going to be kissing someone. Either it's going to be that sweet girl there or me. You choose which one."
Gajeel's face went beet red as he turned to face Levy. The girl stared at him with puzzled eyes. Yep, the choice was not only easy it was pretty obvious. Gajeel reached over and grabbed Levy by the hips and pulled her in.
"Gajeel what are you—"
She was cut off when Gajeel pressed his lips against hers. Her eyes went wide as he pulled her in. He broke away after a second as the small girl still blushed madly, her face as crimson as a ruby. She was shocked, and it was the first time she had ever seen Gajeel look embarrassed. She didn't wait another second before she grabbed his cheeks and pulled him in for another kiss.
Juvia looked around hoping to find the man she was looking for. Gildarts caught her from the corner of his eye. He walked over to the young girl and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.
"Are you okay there, Juvia?" Gildarts asked concerned.
"I can't find the man I'm looking for," the girl sighed.
"Yes," she replied blushing slightly.
"Well I got a letter from him saying that they've struck a deal with the Ocrecion Seis organization down in Mila. When they're done with their job there they should return. It won't be more than a few more days at the most. Don't worry he'll be fine."
Juvia rubbed her eyes, looking up at Gildarts with a soft smile. "Thank you," she muttered.
"Now we have to move on to the important things," he said breaking away from Juvia. He stood in front of the small group of friends before beaming up at the passing soldiers. They looked at him with earnest. "I'm all for everyone getting all lovey dovy," Gildarts bellowed out as he walked back to the rest of the soldiers, "but that was a long walk back from the country and I think these men are thirsty! Break ou the ale!" The men replied with cheers of joy. "To the pubs!" The men cheered even louder this time.
Gildarts didn't have to say another word before the remaining town guards came pouring into the streets with barrels of ale hitched to wagons. Gildarts was the first to arrive at the barrels and grabbed a mug. The men watched him impatiently as he held up the mug.
Natsu finally placed Lucy on the ground before he kissed her one last time. The blonde placed a hand on the youth's cheek as the two peered into one another's eyes. They smiled before Natsu brought her back in and they watched Gildarts and the other festivities. Gajeel and Levy joined them along with Jellal and Erza. They eagerly watched as the men gathered around the barrels eagerly awaiting their drinks.
"Laxus! Come here! You too Jellal!" Gildarts bellowed out holding up the mug. The young captain peered up at him from his horse as the men called for him to join the old mercenary. He held up his hand rejecting the offer, but Freed and Bickslow pushed him forward. "Come on now, Laxus! Have a drink with your mates."
Jellal looked down at Erza who smiled and nodded, giving him permission to join in. The men called out to Laxus to go up to the wagons with Gildarts. They were more enthusiastic about their drinks than they were for the toast. Freed and Bickslow continued to push him forward to the point that the young captain gave in. He stepped up to the wagon along with Jellal as the three men stood together in front of the entire city.
Jellal looked down at Erza and he motioned for her to come and join him. He nodded to Wendy, signaling that he wanted Erza to bring the little girl as well. Erza shook her head, but she plucked Wendy up and walked to the front of the wagon. She wasn't going to get up there and join them, so she stood just under Jellal where she planned on waiting for him after the festivities had ended.
Laxus waited for Gildarts to deliver his speech so they could drink up and move on. He was ready to see his family and ready to just go home. It had been along time since he had slept in his own bed with his wife and there was nothing else that mattered to him more at that moment than to see Mira. He thought of her, imagining her greeting him with her pregnant belly. The way she would light up and her smile would erase all the stress of war.
Jellal was also growing curious as to why Gildarts was waiting, but then he saw it. Makarov was there in the crowd and Gildarts beckoned the old man to join them in their toast and celebration. Unlike his grandson, Makarov was more than willing to stand up before the people of Magnolia. He scurried his way up to the wagon and there Jellal and Laxus helped lifting him up so he was standing next to the three men.
Natsu watched with his arms around Lucy. Gajeel did the same with Levy as the two of them blushed like mad.
"Hey," Natsu said as he nudged Gajeel. The black haired Draconian looked up at him with nervous eyes. "Don't worry, about Levy. You'll get used to it."
"This is just . . ." he hesitated. "This is just not normal for me."
"What having a woman in your arms? Perhaps you'd be more comfortable with Bob?" Natsu teased.
"Don't even joke about that!" Gajeel snapped.
"Speech!" Bob cried as soon as he saw Makarov reach for a mug.
"Speech!" All the men cheered eagerly awaiting their drinks.
"It's great to see so many of you come out today to celebrate the well deserved victory our boys have fought for. The sacrifices you've made for them, and they made for you, are something that we should all appreciate and cherish. We can never repay the debt to those who made the ultimate sacrifice out on the battlefield to ensure the protection and freedom of our nations. But let us not neglect the heroic actions of our peoples here, in Magnolia who staved of the Mila invasion."
"Invasion?" Natsu blurted out as he looked down at Lucy.
"It's a long story," she giggled happily. She lifted her finger up to Natsu's lips to prevent him from speaking. "But hush now, I want to hear the rest of the speech."
"We've lost a lot of good men, a lot of good people. There are those that we will never forget, those that were taken from us in this war, friends and family, in a conflict they wanted no part of. To our heroes and heroines welcome home!" Makarov shouted raising his mug. "And finally, to the victorious dead we salute you!"
"Hail the victorious dead!" Gildarts cried raising his mug.
"Hail the victorious dead!" Everyone shouted in unison.
"Now let's celebrate!" Gildarts bellowed as he swung his mug down and shattered the spigot of the barrel. Beer came pouring out as he placed his mug underneath and raised it to his lips. Another cry of cheers echoed through the city as people rushed over celebrate.
Jellal laughed, as he filled up his own mug and leapt down from the wagon in front of Erza. He held the mug up to his lips and took a sip before handing it over to her. Erza took it with a smirk and had a sip of her own. She looked down at Wendy kneeling down to hand the girl the mug for a sip of her own. The girl took it and stared at it with a hesitant gaze. Jellal nodded as she took her own sip, but spat it out as soon as it had touched her tongue. Erza and Jellal laughed before the young nobleman took the mug back.
Jellal knelt down on his own knee and took Erza's hand in his. She looked at him in shock and excitement. Her heart began to race in her chest, to the point it felt like it was going to burst through her ribcage. "I'm sorry for doing this here, but I'm just too eager to wait," Jellal chuckled. "I know I don't have a ring or anything—"
"Yes!" Erza blurted out.
"I didn't even get the chance to ask you yet," Jellal laughed.
"My answer is still yes you idiot," Erza said as she picked him up by the cheeks and brought his lips to hers.
When Jellal broke away he looked down at Wendy who had turned away. Her own face was flushed with embarrassment, as she didn't want to watch the two adults kiss.
"And as for you, young Wendy," the girl looked up at him with earnest eyes. "I know you've lost your home, and your family," Wendy lowered her head in sorrow, but Jellal lifted it with delicate fingers, "but I want you to always think that you have a home with us. We may not be old enough to be your parents, but I think that it would be okay for us to raise you like a little sister."
"You mean it!" the girl cried happily. Both Jellal and Erza nodded their heads in agreement. "Thank you!" Wendy cried as she leapt into Jellal's arms and all three of them hugged together.
"Cana! Cana!" Gidlarts bellowed as he spotted his daughter in the crowd and leapt down. "Come here and have a celebratory drink wit your father!"
The brunette sighed as she watched her father approach by pushing and weaving his way through the crowd of people. When he arrived he handed her the mug. She stared at it before looking up at him with a skeptical gaze. He nudged it forward and with a sigh she took it. She took a sip, it was warm but refreshing.
'Thanks," she muttered before handing the cup back to her father.
She dropped it as her father came in and wrapped his hands around her in a tight hug. Tears were streaming down his face as the brunette was both bewildered and confused.
"It's so good to see you," he said clenching even tighter. "I missed you, more than you know. I'm sorry that I wasn't always a good father to you growing up, but I want to be one now. Please forgive me and give me another chance."
"Dad?" Cana sighed as she wrapped her arms around him as well. "I missed you too."
Laxus had a drink with his grandfather before he too left the wagon and entered the crowd. He walked down the streets, past the rows and columns of people towards the Fairy Tail Pub. When he arrived he saw that there was no one inside. He let out a deep breath before he walked across the floor to the bar and sat upon a stool.
"I figured you would have come back here," he heard a feminine voice say from behind. He knew who that voice belonged to as he looked to see Mira standing at the pub's entrance. "You were always one to prefer the company of himself than a large crowd."
"You do know me well," Laxus chuckled as he jumped off his stool and walked over to greet his wife. The embraced in the middle of the pub as the blond captain kissed her on the forehead. He moved his hand down to her pregnant belly and rubbed his hand over it.
"Who told you?" Mira asked with a happy giggle.
"Jellal and Gildarts," he replied.
"Well, that's the last time I trust them with a secret," she sighed, burying her head into her husband's chest. "I'm so happy that you came back."
"I had to," he said gently stroking her hair. "I couldn't leave you alone in this world with our child. My father wasn't there for me growing up, and I'll be damned if I'm not going to be there for mine."
"I know you will," she said before kissing him. "Welcome home."
Erik's eyes flickered open as he let out a loud groan. His eyes were blurry and his vision blinded by a bright light. He could feel himself lying in a bed, but where exactly? The ceiling was comprised of stone so he had to be inside of a building somewhere. But which building and in what city? He was amongst the wounded on the way back to Magnolia last he remembered.
His body was still wrapped in bandages and he had a searing pain radiate through his torso. His head used to throb from the injuries, but now the pain had settled. He could still feel the itchy fabric of the bandage covering most of his head.
As he tried to recollect what had happened he felt the soft touch of a small hand press up against the side of his cheek. He looked over to see Kinana sitting over him.
"Kinana?" He whispered in disbelief. He held her hand in his as he placed his other hand upon her cheek. "Where am I? What are you doing here?"
"You're in the hospital back in Magnolia," she replied with a gentle smile. "I asked Gildarts what had happened to you after I couldn't find you at the returning ceremony." A flicker of sorrow over took her with a single tear running down her cheek. "I had feared the worst. I thought you had died in battle, but Gildarts told me that you were inured, but alive. I rushed over here as fast as I could to see you again."
"Kinana," Erik said as he wiped her tear away with his thumb. "Everything is going to be okay now. I promise. I promise that no one is ever going to come and harm you again."
"I know," she smiled. "And don't worry, I'm going to look after you now."
Erik cringed as he sat up.
"No please, don't strain yourself," Kinana said placing a hand on him in an attempt to lower him back to his bed.
Erik grabbed her wrist and pulled her on top of him. Now she was sitting on his lap as their eyes met. Erik did not say another word before he grabbed the girl by the back of the neck and pulled her in for a kiss. He had missed her so much, and thought that this might all be just a dream. That or he did die out on the battlefield and now he was in his own little heaven. It didn't matter, if it was a dream than he prayed that he would never walk from such a pleasant slumber. If he was dead, even better.
"Don't ever leave me again," she whispered into his ear.
"I promise I will never leave you again," he whispered back, rubbing his hand against her cheek. Then he pulled her in for another kiss.
After the festivities, Makarov sat in his private study along with Bob. The two old men sat at a table across from one another sipping tea out of teacups. Bob squished his blubbery body in the leather cushions making himself comfortable.
"Well, it seems like everyone is having a good time," Bob chortled as he sipped his tea.
"Well, they've certainly earned it," Makarov replied. "This city hasn't had anything to celebrate or be joyous about in a long, long time. I hope it lasts."
"Only time will tell, but considering the devastating results of the war, I say that it's safe to assume that we'll have peace for quite awhile," Bob said.
"I certainly hope you are right old friend," Makarov said. "I have to admit that I'm happy to see you after such a long time."
"Not since out magic days," Bob said. "Remember, back when we were young and naïve?"
"So I guess now we have an even bigger problem to resolve."
"What to do about the Book of Zeref," Bob finished for his old friend. He pulled the book out of his cloak and placed it on the table.
Makarov stared at the book as he leaned against his arm. "The book is too dangerous to be kept intact. We be better off destroying it and preventing it from ever being used to conjure dark magic ever again."
"I've already tried," Bob said. "Zeref was always one to insure that his assets were well protected. Even post mortem."
"So then, what do we do about this?" Makarov asked.
"I propose that we send the book to Draconia, to Igneel."
"Natsu's father?" Makarov asked a bit surprised.
"Yes," Bob nodded his head. "Unfortunately, even after Ancologia's death the Draconians have not returned to their human states. I doubt they ever will without the assistance of magic, and I'm too old to use that kind of power now. Also, the barrier that kept them imprisoned has shattered. However, it seems that the dragons have become content with staying in their own borders."
"We are both too old for that kind of magic now," Makarov sighed. "As long as there is peace I don't see the dragons becoming too much of a threat. But going back to the book, you think it would best be served in Igneel's possession? May I ask why you believe this?"
"Nobody would think to look for the book there," Bob said as he grabbed the tome and tucked it back into his cloak. "Plus they would have to go through a country filled with dragons if they ever desired to get their hands on it."
"And nobody must know that this conversation ever happened," Makarov said. "This is a secret that we must take to our graves, less we doom the world to another Zeref or Ancologia."
"I agree," Bob said as he took his cup and raised it. "To secrets."