Hargeon had the reputation of being one of the most beautiful old towns in Fiore, and it only took that very moment for Meredy to realize it, as she glanced at the public park which could be seen from where she stood.
Being on-the-go for almost eight straight years already, she did not really have the opportunity to stop by and marvel at the beauty of infrastructures since she had much more important things to focus on—one, their primary mission of eradicating dark guilds and two, avoiding the presence of Magic Council members.
"Heh, funny that you think that, pinky, considering he's talking to one of them," Erik interjected, breaking her thoughts. Meredy wasn't even surprised and simply rolled her eyes. "Well, a former council member, but still one."
"Jellal was a former council member too, you know," she said back, leaning against the tree which partly shielded her from public view. The dragon slayer across her simply shrugged, resting his back on the crates of assorted fruits that were gathered outside the building that Jellal was currently in.
Her eyes wandered off to the window where she caught a glimpse of some familiar blue locks, who she knew was in deep conversation with the owner of the building. She actually had doubts regarding their plan, but she trusted Jellal well enough, especially after she revealed her decision some days ago.
The baby, she decided, would be allowed to stay—or rather, grow within her. After child birth, she honestly did not have any concrete plans yet, but she knew she would not dispose of the baby.
Weeks prior, Sorano had informed her of the existence of a well-known underground facility that specialized in those kind of stuff. The process was said to be physically excruciating, yet it did the job. Shame washed over her features when she realized that she considered saying yes. Yes, because it was the easier way out. Because that way, everything would simply be back to normal.
But no. She simply could not. It was not because of the pain, because pain was far from an issue for her.
Not when that very night, when she was pondering on Sorano's proposition, a familiar magenta glow appeared on her wrist, and she felt a heart beating other than her own. She immediately sat up from her cot and frantically scanned her sleeping guild mates, because who would make her subconsciously cast a Sensory Link with?
Her hand, the one with the link, dropped down her lap, and she gazed at it, glowing just in front of her belly.
Realization struck. And she cried. Cried so much that it startled Sawyer, who was on watch that night. Soon, everyone had huddled near her, puzzled with her sudden burst of emotions, and she found herself in the warm embrace of Richard, who was patting her back soothingly.
The morning after that night, she announced her answer, that yes, she would keep the baby, an answer that was probably least shocking for her almost-family. After a bit of deliberation, they had decided that Sorano, Sawyer, Macbeth, and Richard would leave for the west, in search of the dark guild they were originally tracking, while she, Jellal, and Erik would go east, on the way to Hargeon.
They had considered going to Magnolia, where Meredy—and perhaps Jellal—knew she'd had a place to stay, especially knowing that her friend Juvia was there. However, it was Meredy who thought that it wasn't the best idea. She dreaded to be a burden to them, especially since she was already in debt to the water mage, and asked Jellal if they had any other options.
Which was what brought her to the outdoor storage area of a well-known restaurant in town, currently owned by a former colleague of Jellal the time he had been "Siegrain."
The door at the back of the building opened, revealing a short old man with prominent eyebrows, sporting a chef's hat with brightly-colored "8-island" text. He was followed closely behind by her guild mate, who briefly flashed a rare smile.
Yajima briefly regarded Erik, who was unmoving from his spot and merely glanced back, no greetings whatsoever. So typical of him. He then turned to Meredy, causing her to stammer a bit. She was surprised when he looked at her cordially. "You must be Meredy. I have…heard of you."
Meredy gave an awkward smile, looking away. Of course he knew of her…of them. They were former members of the guilds under the Balam Alliance and probably among the top of the wanted list of the council. Her pictures were probably plastered all over the bulletin boards of Era; granted, it was probably her picture when she was in her teens, but it was still her.
Yajima said nothing else and simply invited them to come inside. The old man gestured for her to sit down as the two men stood behind her.
Jellal's plan, it turned out, had gone smoothly, which Meredy learned at the end of the day was totally not what Jellal had been expecting. She knew Jellal was not in good terms with Yajima especially with his stunts regarding the Etherion, but after some discussion, the old man had agreed to provide lodgings for Meredy in the course of her pregnancy. In the condition that she would help out in his restaurant.
Meredy briskly turned her head towards Jellal in silent protest, because what the heck did she know about meal preparation and kitchen work?! But Jellal simply nodded his head, silently telling her that she actually had no choice in the matter. Meredy slumped back in defeat.
As soon as things were settled already—such as clarifications from Yajima that yes, they may visit Meredy for some time, but no, they could NOT hold meetings in his restaurant, Jellal approached the old man, thanking him. The man said nothing verbally, yet his gaze was on Jellal, who, after some seconds, nodded back at him. Meredy presumed that they spoke privately in their thoughts.
"I'm leaving you in charge for the intel in this town," Jellal mentioned, walking towards the exit as he started pulling out his hood, "If you find something, or need anything, we could still exchange information via telepathy, if it permits, or via communications lacrima."
Meredy pursed her lips together, nodding.
"If you don't have anything else to say, then—"
She briskly tackled him into a hug, interrupting his words and shifting his base of support.
"Thank you, Jellal," she whispered, burying her head in his clothes, "Really…"
She heard him huff a breath out, patting her head gently. Beside them, she heard an amused snort from Erik. She could already imagine the smirk on his face, but she ignored him.
Holding her hands together, she watched the two of them disappear in the crowds of people, convincing herself that everything would turn out fine. Unknowingly, the heart beat from before had synced with hers once more.