Three weeks had passed since the end of the celebration after Natsu and the others returned to Magnolia. In that time those who had come from different nations returned to their homes. The citizens of the city wanted to rebuild and restore Magnolia to what it was before the war. Though they were at peace, the violence had taken its toll. Days were spent burying the dead and commemorating them in a respectful manner. Most people understood that the wounds from the war will heal into scars that will be forever permanent, but the wounds were healing nonetheless.
Natsu stood on top the balcony overlooking the city with Lucy in his arms. The two watched the sunrise, only the blanket from Lucy's bed to covered their bodies apart from Lucy's dragon pennant. She pressed her back up against his chest and nestled her head against his shoulders while his arms were snuggly wrapped around her delicate frame. Lucy twirled her pennant between her fingertips, watching as the ships in the harbor.
Natsu twitched as he sensed someone approach Lucy's chamber from the outside. He turned his head back just as the sound of knocking on the door could be heard. The two lovers looked as Natsu called for whoever was outside to come in. The young squire Romeo entered with a parchment in hand.
"Lieutenant Natsu, Lord Markarov wishes to see you at the citadel."
"May I ask why?" Lucy interjected before Natsu could speak.
"They got him," Romeo answered. "Lieutenant Grey and Lyon have captured Ivan Dreyer and have just arrived. They're awaiting you and the others at the keep."
"Very good, thank you Romeo," Natsu replied. The young squire bowed his head and closed the door behind him.
Natsu removed himself from the blanket and walked into the room. There he began to get dressed, grabbing his garments and armor.
"Are you really going?" Lucy asked sadly as she watched her lover put on his leather undergarments.
"I have to," he replied. "The Steward of the city has summoned me and I must answer his call. Besides, I have some unfinished business with Ivan."
"Then at least let me help you get dressed," she said walking over.
She continued to keep the blanket around her with one hand while she helped tie the straps of Natsu's uniform. The youth watched her with a smile as she struggled with her knots. He placed his arms around her hips and drew her in. His hand glided up to her cheek as he brushed her honey colored hair. He didn't want to leave her, but he also wanted closure. They kissed goodbye before Natsu left for the citadel.
Ivan entered the keep with his arms and legs bounded in chains. Sting and Rogue walked behind him while Grey and Lyon led him from the front. They had sent a message of their arrival beforehand, to which most of the men had received the news. The City Guard lined the path from the keep's outside gate to the entrance door where Makarov was awaiting them. Ivan smirked as he passed by the rows of angry soldiers who glared at him with eyes of rage and murder. They would get what they wanted shortly enough, Ivan knew that. But they wanted it now, and they wanted to be the ones to exhibit the punishment. Unfortunately, knowing his father, Ivan knew that the old man would never allow street justice.
When they arrived at the steps of the entrance Grey and Lyon stopped. The bowed their heads and stepped to the side as Sting pushed Ivan forward. The old king nearly tripped over his chains as they rustled against his skin. They were tight, to the point that he could feel his skin chaffing, but none of that would matter soon.
"Hello father, it's nice to see you again," Ivan snickered bowing his head.
"Ivan," Makarov said the name as though his tongue had been poisoned. Even though he was standing three steps above his son, he was only about a head taller. "For your grievous crimes against the people of Fiore, and the peace that this continent was had, you will be put to death. Justice will be served, but not before you receive a fair trial."
Ivan let out a burst of laughter. "A fair trial? Oh father the trial would be just for appearance's sake. The only thing we don't know about the outcome is how you will proceed to kill me. Either by hanging or burning at the stake, or maybe have me drowned in the harbor. Maybe even drawn and quartered, but you don't want the children to see such a gruesome display now would you? Would you go lenient on me if I apologized?"
"You think this is a joke! Your atrocities are beyond comprehension or forgiveness!" Makarov barked. "Your actions have led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people!"
"And yet I never once lifted a sword against a single person though I am indirectly responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands. Amazing isn't it?"
"Take him to the dungeon," Makarov ordered. "He can rot there until his trial comes."
"The dungeon?" Ivan grunted. "Is that how they treat kings in Magnolia now?"
"Take him away!" Makarov roared.
After they had taken Ivan to the dungeon Grey returned to the citadel to discuss his next assignment. Lyon agreed to follow up later, but he had a message to deliver a message to a man named Erik in the hospital wing. Sting and Rogue decided to grab a quick drink at a nearby pub. It had been a long journey and the men were craving some refreshment, but for Grey the drinks could wait until later, he wanted to get everything settled with Makarov before he took a break. On his way he saw a woman, a familiar looking girl with long blue hair walking from Makarov's doors.
"Miss Juvia," Grey said bowing his head as he approached. The girl practically jumped in place when she saw the young Lieutenant. "How nice to see you again. I hope you've been well."
"Oh, Master Grey," the girl relied as her face flushed a bright red. She hadn't noticed him approaching, she was lost in her own thoughts. "It's good to see you again. Juvia is very pleased to see you have returned home to us unharmed. It brings Juvia a great deal of joy."
"Really? Why is that?" Grey asked.
"Oh, because . . ." the girl bit her lip. "No reason." Grey smiled and approached the door. Juvia's face grew an even darker shade of red as she felt like her heart had stopped beating. But Juvia was wondering if perhaps after your meeting with Master Makarov you would like . . . Juvia means that if you're not too busy . . ." she was flustered and struggling to say what she needed to say. Grey watched her in curiosity. "Would you like to grab a drink at the Fairy Tail Pub with Juvia after your meeting with Master Makarov?" She finally spat out.
"He would be honored," they heard a booming voice declare.
Juvia and Grey both looked at the entrance to Makarov's study where they saw Gildarts standing in the doorway. He wore silver armor, freshly polished that draped his entire body and a black cloak that dangled off his shoulders. He had a beaming smile, and despite him being cleaned up, he still had the same gruff appearance he always had.
"Wait, Gildarts don't speak for me!" Grey objected.
"That's no way to speak to your commanding officer," Gidlarts said with a beaming grin. Grey's heart sank. "And as your commanding officer I order you to accept this young girl's invitation and go to the pub and have a drink."
"No buts," Gildarts interrupted. "When a young woman invites a man to a drink it is rude to decline the offer. You will accept the offer and you will be on your best behavior. Is that understood?"
"Yes sir," Grey sighed in defeat.
"Miss Juvia, as you were," Gildarts said.
"Oh, yes of course," the girl said nervously. She simply bowed her head and ran down the hall, her face still scarlet.
"Grey, that girl cares a lot about you," Gildarts said as he watched the girl leave. "I think you should give her a chance. There aren't many girls in her position that would ever consider being with a man of your status."
"I know but—"
"No buts," Gildarts said as he walked over and placed his hands on Grey's shoulders. "The love of a good woman is worth more than any gold could buy. There are few men that understand this."
"And how do you know that she's a good woman?" Grey asked skeptically.
"Because she had the courage to ask you for a drink," Gildarts replied. "That and I can see how much she cares about you just by watching the way she looks at you. She's an incredibly gorgeous, vibrant young woman, and you would have to be a complete idiot to ignore her advances. I have made more mistakes in my life than I ever wish to account, but unfortunately I cannot atone for them all. Don't grow up to be like me Grey."
"Yes sir," Grey said bowing his head. "Now get your ass in there. I hear Makarov has plans on promoting you and your other companions."
"Really?" Grey asked.
"Yes. That means you'll be earning enough money to pay for the lady's drinks as well," Gildarts teased, much to Grey's dissatisfaction.
"Are you Erik?" Lyon asked as he approached Erik's bed. The youth was sitting up reading a book when the knight loomed over to him.
"Who's asking?" Erik demanded as he peered over the pages of his novel.
"I'll take that as a yes," Lyon sighed. "I have a message from Midnight to give to you." He handed Erik the letter, and with a bow of the head he quickly walked away.
Erik opened the parchment and read the words inscribed. His eyes went up when he read it. He mouthed the words and he thought it to be a trick, but he recognized Midnight's handwriting and mark. The son of his former master was relinquishing Orecion Seis to him. It appears that the son did not want to follow in his father's footsteps and had arranged an agreement with the Allied forces that he would forfeit his position as long as they did not pursue him.
"So, it's finally over," Erik said leaning back in his bed. "Looks like I can stay here after all." He grinned widely, but that quickly faded. "Shit, that means I'm going to have to get a real job."
Jellal entered Makarov's chamber to a large table crowded with dignitaries from every nation in Fiore. Makarov sat at the head of the table; Laxus, Gildarts, Natsu, Gajeel and Grey stood behind him at attention. All four of them were wearing official armor of Magnolian officers. Natsu looked at Jellal and winked at him, of which Jellal returned with a happy wave of the hand. On either side of the table were representatives from countries of both sides of the war. The middle of the table was stacked with papers as they prepared to negotiate terms of peace and surrender.
"Jellal, come take a seat by me," Makarov called out. Jellal obliged him and walked over and sat himself down just beside Makarov. "Now let's begin the peace talks."
"We will get to that, but first we would like to speak to Master Jellal Fernandez for a moment," one of the Junelle dignitaries said. Jellal looked over at Makarov who nodded his head.
"Very well," Jellal said motioning for the man to continue.
"As you can see Junelle is without a king or a leader to guide her people," the man began. "The people did not trust Duke, and many were adamant about their disapproval of this war. And though you betrayed Duke and Junelle, many of the country's citizens continue to hold you in high regard. In fact, they have openly declared that they would like you to serve as the new king of Junelle if you so desire."
All eyes fell on Jellal as he was a bit taken back by the news.
"However," the man continued, "we are aware of rumors of your recent engagement to a certain, Erza Scarlet. We were told that she comes from a more . . . humble status." Jellal eyed the man carefully. "As you know a king cannot be married to someone of her pedigree, so if you do accept our offer than I must inform that you will have to break off your engagement to this woman." The man stared at Jellal carefully. "I understand that this might be difficult for you—"
"Well I already have my answer," Jellal interrupted. The men stared at him curiously. "The answer is no."
"I don't mean to sound rude sir, but this is sort of opportunity is not something to take lightly."
"I understand," Jellal rebuked. "But my answer is still no."
"Come now, I know you're young—"
"Yet I have witnessed more in my life than you can ever dream of," Jella interrupted again. "My youth has nothing to do with this. You have my answer, and I'm sorry if it disappoints you, but if I cannot be king and married to the woman I love than my answer is simply no."
"So you would throw away the crown for some girl?" Another dignitary spat. Their eyes had turned from curious and confused to frustration and anger.
"She is not just some girl," Jellal stated as he stood to his feet. "I am sorry gentleman, but you will just have to ask someone else to take the crown instead."
Jellal did not give the man the chance to finish. He turned to Makarov, bowed his head and excused himself. As he turned to leave he looked at Natsu from the corner of his eye. The pink haired youth smiled at him and with a wink and nod assured Jellal that he agreed with his decision. But Jellal knew in his heart that his decision was right.
Jellal excused himself. He had no more need of politics, he just wanted to go home and be with his family. The thought caused him to light up as he thought about it. His family.
After the peace talks Natsu walked down the halls towards the dungeons where he found Ivan sitting alone in a cell. The place was dark and musty, there was no light apart from the torches on the wall. The old king sat hunched staring at his chains. There was no books, nothing to keep him entertained as he sat there isolated from the world. He still wore peasant garments, as Natsu had expected. For Natsu it was strange to see a man of such high stature reduced to such a lowly state. But there was no sympathy to be gained.
"Well look at you," Ivan quipped with a hearty laugh.
His eyes wondered up and down the boy's body admiring the armor he as wearing. Natsu was wearing polished silver armor with the head of a dragon embedded on the breastplate. He wore a red cape that fluttered along his back and glowed like solid fire. His scarf was neatly stitched, even though there were still a few blotches of dried blood on it, nestled around his neck. His face clean and shaven, and his hair neatly cut and combed despite its spikey nature.
"Don't you look quite stunning in your fancy armor," Ivan teased. "Did my father give that to you? As a reward for your valor and courage in the face of the war?"
"It was a reward, bestowed upon me along with the position of Lieutenant of the Allied forces," Natsu spat back.
"Well look at you, climbing up the social latter. At this pace you'll probably be a general. It's ironic though, I had always pictured you exactly like this, only with Konvern armor instead of Magnolian. I also thought it would have been me who had given you the armor and not my father. Strange how things worked out."
"You tried to use me as a tool," Natsu growled. "As though I was an instrument of war."
"And the Allied forces didn't?" Ivan quipped. "They did exactly for you what I was going to do. I would have let you have Lucy, I had no need of her, and I would give you a higher rank than Lieutenant, but you chose Jellal over me."
"I chose my friends, and those who I care about," Natsu retorted. "You only wanted to use me for your own personal gain."
"I had to, unlike my father I was not in a position to give you a high rank or anything like that. I did take care of you growing up."
"You still cannot stop lying can you?" Natsu growled. "And what have your lies done? They've led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people! You destroyed my country, my home and my family. You tried to kill Lucy. You betrayed Jude to his death and you were the one that gave Ancologia the Book of Zeref that started all of it!"
"You're right," Ivan said casually. "I was the one that started the Dragon Wars. I was the one that started this war. Do you hear what they're calling it now? The Great Fiore War. Such a ridiculous name," he scoffed. "I did what I did to gain power for myself. Is that what you wanted to hear? Then again, you could always place responsibility on my father. He was a wizard at one point in his life as well. How else do you think I learned about the Book of Zeref?"
"Ancologia told me everything."
"Did he?" Ivan said leaning forward in intrigue. "And when did you talk to Ancologia? When did he confess all of this to you?"
"Right before I ripped his heart out with my own hands," Natsu stated.
"That'll do it," Ivan chuckled. "So he's dead. That would explain his absence during my capture. In a way I'm sad, but also glad. He was a ridiculous fool. The one thing about dark wizards is their love for chaos, and I guess you can say he definitely got what he wanted."
"A war that you started," Natsu spat.
"No, not just that," Ivan said cocking an eyebrow. "Look at Fiore now. All the conquered lands that Duke took he deposed any of the kings. Magnolia doesn't have a king, it's run by my father, a Steward. Most of the country doesn't have a ruler and it's only a matter of time before everyone is at each other's throats once again. And quick question before you decide to go all noble on me, did you happen to reverse the spell on the dragons before you killed him?"
"Ah so he did get what he wanted," Ivan laughed. "You know the only reason he kept them caged up in Draconia was for his own protection right? He knew that with their powers of dragons they could kill him. But he was so obsessed with the beats that he couldn't find it in himself to return them to humans, even though it probably would have protected him. I don't know if I should call it irony or poetic justice that he was killed by his own creation. Either way, he still won in the end."
"Doesn't do him any good being dead," Natsu hissed.
"Maybe not, but he got what he wanted and I got what I wanted. Though not how I imagined it. I was king, I was finally a king after Jellal stabbed that foolish prick Duke in the heart. I was a king and yet I had no throne. Ancologia always kept his promises, but it wasn't always how we wanted them."
"You may be a king, yet here you sit, rotting in a dungeon."
"A site you know all too well right?" Ivan taunted. Natsu glower grew even more ferocious. "Calm down it was only a joke."
"You'll burn for what you've done," Natsu spat. "I just came down here to see you one last time before they tie you to the stake and set you on fire."
"Something your lover should know all too well," Ivan teased again. This time it appeared as though Natsu was going to break down the cell bars and burn the man himself. Ivan let out a booming laugh as he glared back up at Natsu. There was no fear in his heart when it came to the boy, he knew he was already about to die, it was only a matter of time. "If you want to kill me, than just go on and do it already boy. Otherwise tell me why you really came here."
Natsu retracted his hands as he leaned up against the bars. "I came to tell you that the peace treaty has been signed. No one from Junelle asked to take you even though they know you're being kept prisoner here. In fact they offered the crown to Jellal."
"Let me guess, he rejected it." Natsu was a bit surprised by Ivan's answer. "Don't be too shocked. I know that they would never allow a royal to be with a commoner, and I know that Jellal has had feelings for that redheaded woman ever since I saw them arrive at Konvern. The two of you were so close, I can tell that he would choose love over power. It was the same look whenever I saw you and Lucy together. That's why I used it against her to have her removed from the throne so it would be easier for me to ascend to the crown."
"Maybe you should have known better. Power means nothing without love, a lesson you should have learned," Natsu spat.
"Yet that is what makes him and you fools."
"You don't understand anything Ivan."
"I understand politics boy. Something you'll soon come to realize. I know the game, I know how it's played."
"And yet you lost."
"I'm still a king aren't I? On the contrary, I won."
"Keep telling yourself that Ivan; all the way to the pyre. Either way, I came to tell you that peace has been agreed upon. The war will be officially over when you're dead."
"How fitting," Ivan sighed. "I started this war and now it will come to an end with my death. Poetic. My rise and fall from power. This is the final chapter."
"The war may be over Ivan, but this is not the final chapter. This is only the beginning to a new narrative; one that begins with me and Lucy and all of our friends."
"You're right, this is where your story starts my young friend, but this is the final chapter for me and Dragon Wars. Dragon Wars," he snickered. "Oh how I wish I could meet the idiot that came up with such a ridiculous name. Sounds like that person was just being lazy and unimaginative.
"Well then I guess this is goodbye, Ivan," Natsu said as he turned around to leave. "The next time I see you, you'll be burning alive."
"Goodbye my young friend," Ivan sighed. "You know, despite all that I've done and all that I planned on doing I actually really did care about you. I know you might find that hard to believe but it's true."
Natsu stopped as he took one last look at the shaggy old king. He hated to think of him like that. He resented Ivan, he despised him and he had the urge to burn the old man for everything that he has done. But then again he pitied him, seeing him reduced to that state was something that he was both sad and happy to see. He knew why now, it was because he had always looked up to and admired Ivan.
"You know Ivan, "Natsu began, "I pity you." The old king cocked an eyebrow and stared at him quizzically. "I pity you because when you're dead, no one will be sad. No one will miss you and no one will care. I just hope you still think that everything you did was worth it when you walk up and face all the people you've hurt."
Without another word Natsu left. He walked down the hallway out of the dungeons and back up to the city streets. He was tired of all this. He was tired of fighting, he was tired of soldiers, he was tired of politics. He was just going to go home and be with the one person that he needed. Lucy.