A/N: Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! Not a whole lot to say other than the next chapter will be up in time for Christmas of 2020.
So, read, review, and most importantly, enjoy!
Shockwaves ripped through the sky above and around Malba, scattering clouds and frightening the citizens of Fiore down below as six saiyans exchanged blows at a ferocious pace. Even the wizards fighting against the remaining forces of the Avatar cult were wary of the power on display above them.
Gorun righted himself while wiping blood off his cheek as he came floating back-to-back with his cousin, who was squaring off against her own masked opponent. "You having fun yet?" he grunted as he felt his divine energies repairing his body.
"More than I've had since I came to this world," Azura laughed hoarsely, sounding just as winded as he did. "Bardock may be a geezer, but he's still got some good moves."
"And our great-great grandfather certainly doesn't hold any punches, either," Gorun muttered as he eyed the masked saiyan with a cape.
"What?!" Azura cried as she glanced over her shoulder. "You get to fight the King of all Saiyans?! That's wrong on so many levels!"
"Them being here is what's wrong," Gorun growled as he reached for a small vial that he always kept tucked away in his sash. "But if you really want to trade, I have no issue with it."
"Much as I would love to, I'd love to finish my fight with Bardock more," Azura replied while Gorun unstopped the vial with his teeth, spitting out the cork while a glowing purple liquid sparkled in the container. "You seen Reycel?"
"I'm willing to be that she has her own problems right now," he answered before he tipped the vial back and drank the cold contents. His body shuddered as a new power coursed through his limbs, and a maroon red magic circle spawned under his feet.
"Hang on, what are you doing?" Azura asked as she gathered energy in her right hand, keeping a close eye on Bardock as he streaked toward them with a Tyrant Lance in hand.
"Liquid Moon Drip," he answered, his voice becoming more bestial as fur covered his body and his hair grew into a wild and shaggy mane while his tail lashed violently back and forth. "Makes it possible for me to go Super Saiyan 4 during the day."
"Portable blutz waves?" Azura asked, sounding impressed for once. "Nice." Then she was gone, zipping out of the way of Bardock's latest attack while conjuring a Spirit Sword in preparation for a counterstrike.
Gorun let out a ferocious snarl as King Vegeta fired a Gallick Gun at him, the rage of the Oozaru fueling a lust for violence that saw to him driving his shoulder into the ki waves, bulldozing right through the attack that would have put most warriors in the dirt. It stung a little, but it was no struggle to make his way up to the masked king and punch him squarely in the face. This wasn't enough to break the mask, of course, but it did cause Vegeta the Third to recoil and cease his projection.
Before he could recover his balance, however, Gorun pressed the attack with vicious intent. He delivered a multitude of punches that would have shattered mountains and pulverized the remaining rubble as the full nature of saiyan savagery was employed against his enemy. King Vegeta had been keeping him on the defensive in his god form, but it was a completely different ballpark now. The masked saiyan could hardly keep up with the sudden reversal of fortune, and it wasn't long before his descendant had him in a chokehold, his purple eyes glittering with furious malice as he began to mercilessly strangle his opponent.
Gorun had actually avoided using the primordial form since his battle with Mard Geer a year ago, having instead wanted to get more acclimated to using god ki so that when he needed greater strength, Super Saiyan Rosé would allow him to retain a greater clarity of mind than if he ascended with mortal power. However, the advanced form was still incredibly exhausting for him to use, and given that he and his cousin had made the mistake of showing off earlier, his energy reserves had already taken a serious hit for the day. He needed to conserve his stamina in the event that more Time Breakers showed up, or that the masked Saiyans were holding back in their fight against them. Since his opponent could clearly handle a beat down on his level, Gorun decided to abandon mental restraint and make full use of his violent heritage in order to try and end his fight quickly.
So it was that he barely noticed the change in landscape that put the two of them miles away from Malba, amid the peaks of the mountains overlooking the small city. Their traded blows sent shockwaves through the air that knocked snow and ice off the crests, starting small avalanches that cascaded down as King Vegeta and Son Gorun continued their round of fisticuffs. However, as soon as they were far enough away from the city to avoid causing it any major damage, something else in Gorun's attacks started to change.
The masked king quickly found himself at a loss for how to block, dodge, or even anticipate where the next strike was going to come from, because every few seconds, Gorun's energy signature would completely vanish along with his body, only to reappear a split second after another blow had been struck. King Vegeta couldn't actually express any anger in his current state, but Gorun was sure that whatever part of his awareness still existed had to be fuming with confusion as to what was now happening to him.
"I'll bet your masters never prepared you for someone like me," the bestial saiyan taunted his ancestor as he finally came to a stop, hovering about twenty yards away from the other man. "Then again, I don't see how they could have- after all, no one like me has existed before, and only one that is yet to come ever will… And despite her own frightening prowess, she never got a chance to learn from the master." He knew that he was bragging to an unresponsive audience, but it still felt good to the young man to be able to preen just a little, to take pride in the fact that he had finally found a way to make his own path to power, away from those that had gone before him.
The spells that had been given to him for study by his future self had contained magic unique to his capabilities, though Rachel had also learned them once he had understood their properties. Even his renowned mother would not be able to learn these techniques, as her kai genes had remained largely dormant throughout her life, unlike her son and granddaughter. The spells etched into his wedding ring showed him how to make use of the kai genes that he had been given to begin learning the fundamentals of temporal magic, without the need of a ring or a time machine. He couldn't make great leaps through time on a whim like his grandmother could, but he had now practiced enough that he could pass between seconds of time, either forwards or backwards as he chose. This was not enough to cause harm to the timeline itself, so he held no reservations about using the magic to gain an advantage against an opponent like the King of all Saiyans.
The magic was harder to control with his mortal ki, but he made it work well enough to allow him to leap forward in time and lay his enemies flat before they even knew what was happening to them. In his god and Rosé forms, he was able to more easily make consecutive jumps, as well as reversing the flow of time in the case of being injured so that he could avoid blows before they even came. It was much more exhausting to use the magic that way, but it was incredibly effective, even in sparring matches with his daughter, who had been his toughest challenger to date.
With a cocky grin that bared sharpened incisors, Gorun made a beckoning motion toward the king and asked, "Do you wanna keep pressing your luck, old man? Or will you do the smart thing and run back to your master with your tail between your legs?" King Vegeta's only response was to power up again, causing his descendant's smile to widen even further. "Excellent."
Genora growled angrily as painful pressure was applied to both of her arms, threatening to pop them out of joint. Bardock had managed to get her in a full nelson after stunning her with a Riot Javelin, and now she was wracking her brains for a way to escape his crushing grip. "You're gonna need a lot more than a senzu bean to fix what I'm gonna do to you when I get out of this, old man," she grunted. She knew that the masked saiyan had a lot more experience than she did, but Genora had always prided herself on her ability to anticipate the movements of her opponents, even the ones that she had never faced before.
If I hadn't wasted time playing with Kaidon earlier, using Super Saiyan Blue would be a snap, she thought with a flash of annoyance. She couldn't use the form for very long, given the limited training that she had been able to get with using her divine energies. Holding Super Saiyan god was no longer a struggle, but the intense concentration needed to evolve the power was still too great to be good for anything other than short fights or a surprise attack. With how well Bardock was holding his own against the red light of divinity, Genora needed to think of something unexpected, and fast, or else she might well end up with a mask of her own and be made to serve the whims of the Time Breakers.
That thought angered her more than just about anything, and for a moment, she lost control of herself. "Get off of me, you old relic!" she snarled as she managed to get an arm free and then slam a vicious elbow into Bardock's kidney's, causing his grip to slacken just a fraction. Genora used this to yank on his tail, further disorienting him as she whirled him around her before punching him in the mask, sending him recoiling once more. However, she did not let go of him when he tried to make a retreat, instead keeping a steel grip on his tail and using it to yank him back towards her so that she could strike him again. She repeated this several times, until blood began to run down the inside of face armor and fell out onto his clothes.
What is this stupid mask made out of?! she thought in frustration. She was sure that the mask should have broken by now, but it wasn't even cracked yet. I'll bet that this is Fu's handiwork. The mischievous demon was incredibly clever, and he was very good at putting his intellect to work in frustrating the efforts of the Time Patrol whenever they sought to stop his machinations. A seemingly indestructible mask seemed like exactly the kind of thing that he would come up with, which worried Genora for a number of reasons.
Here's to hoping we don't end up having to fight him without some kind of help from the Time Patrol themselves, she thought as she finally let Bardock go after delivering an axe kick to his head that put him in a crater in the ground. As she gathered the energy she needed, she silently added, It'd be a fun match, but without knowing what he- or whoever sent these guys here- is trying to accomplish, we could end up making things even worse, depending on how we stopped them. Not for the first time, and certainly not the last, she cursed her cousin's selfish decision to leave and create a new timeline with a whole new set of problems for the Time Patrol to solve.
Just as Bardock was starting to stir in the rubble, she unleashed her Kamehameha at him, hoping to put him out of the fight for a while. Instead, before the attack even hit the ground, his power signature vanished completely, and Genora knew what that meant.
As the countryside lit up with the brilliant blue light of the resulting explosion, Genora cursed angrily while dropping out of the goddess form, having been severely drained of power. Jumped to another time, she groused as she scowled at the place where he had been. Her only consolation was that she was certain that they would see each other again. And next time, I'll be ready.
Rachel too had assumed the primordial Super Saiyan form, but because she had hundreds of years' worth of practicing in it, keeping her sanity was no issue for her. It was also the only thing keeping Cumber from turning her into paste with a single blow. His strength was on par with Acnologia, though Cumber did not possess the dragon's resistance to magic energy. However, the evil Saiyan was being augmented by Time Breaker energy, making him powerful enough to trade blows with her on pretty much equal terms, a first for the ancient youth.
For the first few millennia of her life, her mother had been able to keep up with her in terms of power despite her weak origins, a result of her countless years spent by the side of her husband, a Hakaishin. However, as she began to reach her adolescent years, Rachel quickly outgrew Kinana in terms of power and skill, and so it had been a very long time since she fought someone on equal ground. No one in Earthland was her peer in terms of strength, not even her father or Azura. The only reasons for her losses was the drain that her Hakaishin powers demanded of her body, and even then, using the Super Saiyan Destroyer form had invariably allowed her to win against the likes of the Tartaros Gates and Acnologia, a creature resistant to all manners of magic. So the fact that she hadn't been able to sweep Cumber aside was surprising, to say the least.
"The ancient Saiyan race is really something else," she grunted as she caught the huge man's fist and twisted the joint painfully before kicking at his shoulder, finally scoring a solid blow as she completely dislocated his arm from the socket. The huge man bellowed in pain and tried to grab at her with his uninjured hand, but the girl was too nimble to be caught by the handicapped giant.
Zipping around behind his back, she drew her fist back and shouted, "Chaos Javelin!" She leaped through the time that Cumber had to muster his defenses and arrived in the instant that allowed her to slam a large spear of energy that broke skin and sent him streaking toward the ground faster than a comet. Just before he hit the earth, however, his power level vanished and the man himself disappeared.
Rachel scowled and released her transformation as she thought, That guy must be with the people that Father and Aunt Azura used to work against. She extended her senses around her and uttered a soft curse as she realized that there were still two magic energy signatures that were similar to the Saiyan that she had just battled.
Concentrating on the closest one, she engaged instant transmission and vanished from the air.
Cana slowly got to her feet as she continued to feel the ground rumbling beneath her aching body. "Ow…" she groaned. What happened? He wasn't that strong a minute ago. She had moved to engage the summoned battle-god, Ikusa-Tsunagi, but had been taken aback when his power level suddenly spiked and left her as a mass of bruises on the destroyed forest floor while he continued to lumber toward Malba. Despite the extent of her injuries, she had managed to stay in her Super Saiyan form, something that she had gotten quite good at after fighting Gorun often enough.
The card mage forced herself to get up and ignore the pain as she started to float above the ruined landscape, knowing that if she didn't take a stand, the only thing standing between the deity and the city were her other guild mates. They're all strong, but not strong enough to handle whatever this thing has become, she thought as she reached into her pouch for a pair of tarot cards. Truthfully, she doubted that she was strong enough to handle it, either, but she could tell that the other Saiyans were all busy with their own targets, now that her senses were returning to her. I guess the fake Saiyan is gonna have to do for these people, she thought as she flew toward the small city, where her sensitive ears were picking up on the cries of frightened people.
As she zoomed past her quarry to place herself between the battle god and the innocent people, Cana was unsurprised to see Kinana already in the air, a grim look on her delicate features. "Sorry I took so long," she apologized. "He got really strong all of a sudden."
"I saw," Gorun's wife nodded as the armored figure began to raise his sword above his head, as if intending to cleave the city with a single strike. "What do we do?"
"Can you pull off a times ten?"
"Not for long."
"Combine that with your strongest attack, we only get one shot," Cana warned her as she hurled her magic cards at Ikusa-Tsunagi, each one flying to strike him in the armpits, where ice crystals exploded into existence and crusted on his armor, slowing his downward swing a bit.
This gave the girls both just enough time to power up to maximum and unleash two of their most potent techniques at the menace.
Kinana's aura flared scarlet before she spawned a black-purple magic circle in front of her outstretched hands and then cried out, "Revenge Flash!" Dark energy shot out of the circle, like a smaller, deep violet version of Gorun's Final Flash. It struck the deity in the face, even as Cana's power quickly followed.
"Three-layer magic circle! Sweeping Wind! Explosive Flame!" A funnel of wind and fire spewed forth at her command as the corresponding cards orbited her body, even as she thrust her hands forth with a blue light shining between them. "Kamehameha!" The combined elements of magic hit their target hard enough to send him stumbling back several paces, but it didn't knock him out like they had been hoping.
"Ah!" Kinana cried out as she clutched at her chest in agony, the aura of the Kaioken vanishing instantly. "Sorry…! I can't do anymore…"
She must have overdone it, Cana thought worriedly. The former barmaid had grown in her ability to use the magic enhancement over the last year, but she still had a bodily limit. Out loud, she said, "Don't worry about it, just get to safety. You've bought me enough time that I can finish this. Go find Wendy and have her heal you."
"Sorry," Kinana wheezed again as she began to descend rapidly.
Cana couldn't afford to pay any attention to her at that moment, though. Ikusa-Tsunagi was getting ready to come at her again with another swing from his monster sword, and she doubted her ability to survive a second strike from the weapon. Taking a deep breath to try and calm her racing heart, she raised her right fist toward the sky and began a new incantation. "Gather! O river of light, guided by fairies! Shine now, that I may vanquish the wicked!" Her right arm blazed with the light of Fairy Tail's second sacred spell, causing the skies above them to echo the luminance of the celestial bodies normally hidden by the glare of the sun.
Keeping her gaze focused on her enemy, she brought her fist down like a hammer as she cried out, "Fairy GLITTER!" The light of the stars crashed down upon the battle god, hiding him from view for several moments, and bathing the countryside in a blinding display of power. However, because her senses had been finely honed, Cana could tell that she wasn't quite finished with her battle just yet.
He's blinded, she grinned painfully as her body protested her efforts. Time for the finale!
Her fingers plucked at another tarot card that she quickly levitated above her right hand, where more energy gathered at her command, surrounding the card and whirling at a high speed. "Summoned Lightning…" she said breathlessly as she drew her hand back, even as Ikusa-Tsunagi emerged from the glowing dust cloud. "Kienzan!" The electrified disk whizzed toward the angry deity, who attempted to counter the attack with his feared blade.
Cana's attack sheared straight through the monstrous weapon and proceeded to remove the battle-god's head from his neck, sending his body crashing over backwards before it quickly crumbled to dust. As it did, a dark mist seemed to rise up from the remains, though even that too, faded away in the light of risen sun.
Only then did Cana allow herself to feel the extent of her wounds and thus lower herself to the ground, collapsing with exhaustion and pain as she released the power of the Super Saiyan. "I miss my beer…" she groaned as she rolled onto her back, her head and back pounding with an aching pain.
Her last sight was Lucino running toward her, accompanied by the thought, I hope Gorun and Azura saw that…
Gorun let out a vicious roar as he axe-kicked Vegeta hard enough that the armor protecting his back cracked, and blood leaked out from behind the mask. "Say goodbye, your majesty!" he screamed crazily as his tail lashed back and forth behind him. "No one will be able to find what's left of you, in any timeline, when I'm finished here!" His bloodlust was out of control, and it was all he could do to remember his sense of his individual self- not that it was doing the masked monarch any favors.
Gorun had already thrashed him, completely and utterly. Even most A-rank Time Patrol members would have been dead three times over from the beating that the young man had delivered, and he was still going strong. The only thing that remained unharmed at this point was the Time Breaker mask that Vegeta wore, which infuriated Gorun even more, for reasons that he couldn't explain, even if he were so inclined.
Finally fed up with his inability to destroy the mind-controlling device, he conjured an emerald-colored blade on his arm and drew back his hand so that he could stab the king in the nape of his neck. Just before he could deliver the blow, however, he was tackled by someone from the side- someone strong enough to outmuscle him and dissipate the energy blade simultaneously.
"Dad!" Rachel grunted as she pinned his arms to his sides. "Get it… together!"
Gorun's primordial awareness did not take kindly to that. "Get off me!" he shouted angrily. "He's going to get away unless I kill him! Ragh!"
Rachel let out a grunt of disappointment before she drew back a fist and slugged her father square in the gut, followed by a knee to his face that nearly rendered him unconscious. He sagged in her grip as his body returned to its normal state while he let out a barely audible groan.
"Better now?" she asked him. His only response was to wheeze piteously, so she told him, "Relax, Auntie Azura is gonna try to capture him. We figured that we would need him alive for questioning."
Since he couldn't seem to form a response with his words, Gorun raised a shaky thumbs-up over his head as he tried to recover both his breath and any scraps of dignity that he had left after realizing that he had just been flattened by his own daughter. However, it wasn't long before his head swam and he passed out of conscious thought.
He woke up in the infirmary of the Fairy Tail guild hall, which made him feel about five different levels of confused until he saw Kinana sitting by his bedside with a worried look on her face. "Hey," she said tenderly as she held his hand. "How are you feeling?"
"Ugh…" he answered painfully as his bruises throbbed. "My great-great grandfather fights pretty well for a guy who's supposed to be dead. On top of that, our daughter has a good arm on her."
"She told me about what happened," his wife said softly, causing him to cringe in anticipation of the admonishment he was no doubt in for. However, all Kinana did was squeeze his hand gently and say, "I guess I understand why you avoid using that power if you can help it."
"Did I…?" Gorun hesitated, but he managed to ask her, "Did I hurt anyone other than Vegeta? I wasn't really paying attention while I was fighting him."
"The only ones seriously injured were you and Cana," Kinana told him, causing his eyes to widen with fear. Seeing this, she quickly added, "It wasn't you. That battle god that Avatar summoned managed to hit her pretty hard, but she was able to get back up and finish the fight. I helped her to drive it away from Malba, and she finished it off. Wendy had to heal me from overusing the Kaioken, but I'm okay, now."
"I'm glad you are," Gorun said with a sigh of relief. "Where's Cana, now? I shouldn't have sent her to fight that thing…"
"You couldn't have known that Time Breakers were going to show up," Kinana reminded him. "Wendy's healing her in the other room right now, and she'll be along to treat you soon. Unfortunately, Azura wasn't able to capture King Vegeta." The news wasn't unexpected, but it was still disappointing to the young saiyan.
Gorun frowned as he recalled that he had detected several distorted energy signatures before he had tangled with Vegeta, which led to him asking, "How many Time Breakers were there? I counted three." As disturbed as he was at his own latent viciousness, he knew that the matter of the masked saiyans needed to be addressed as soon as possible, so he chose to focus on that for the time being.
"Just three, all of them saiyans," his wife told him as she helped him get into a sitting position before he could strain his abused muscles. "You fought Vegeta and Bardock, but Rachel wound up fighting someone called 'Cumber'. I didn't remember him from any of your stories, but Azura seemed a little shaken up about it." As Gorun froze in place, Kinana murmured, "That bad?"
"Goku and Vegeta from the Time Patrol weren't able to beat him, even as Super Saiyan 4 Vegito," he muttered. "I can't be certain that this Cumber is from the same timeline, or that he's that strong yet, but whatever the case is, he's no joke. The fact that any of you remember his presence tells me that the Time Patrol won't be interfering in this matter, which also worries me."
"What do you mean?"
"Normally when Time Breakers show up, the Time Patrol counters their presence quickly enough for the timeline to heal itself, leaving the occupants with no memory of either parties' presence," he reminded her. "If we're remembering them being here at all, then that means that we're on our own when it comes to fighting them. Grandma warned me that it would be up to Azura and I to defend this timeline from these kinds of dangers, but… Yeesh, Cumber would be bad enough on his own, but Vegeta and Bardock, too? Not to mention I don't even know why they're here, or which Time Breaker they could be serving…"
"Do you think that they want to interfere with the war with Alvarez that's coming?" Kinana guessed, which got Gorun to nodding pretty quickly.
"Makes sense," he replied as he put his chin in his fingers. "There's a lot of magic energy that's going to be tossed back and forth in a conflict between us, if our Intel concerning Alvarez's wizards is anything to go by. If they cause extra trouble, then that's more power for them to collect and further their own ambitions- whoever 'they' are." He paused again for a moment before he asked, "What does Azura think of all this?"
"I'm not sure," Kinana admitted. "She went to Crocus with Mirajane to deliver her report about Avatar to the Magic Council. They'll probably be back in a few hours, but I didn't get much of a chance to talk to her about it before they left."
"Got it," Gorun nodded before he leaned against his wife's body, smiling as her arms wrapped around his head and shoulders. "Thank you, Kinana."
"Standing by my side through craziness that no one should have to endure, especially when more than half of it is my fault," he sighed as she stroked his lengthy black locks.
"You're worth it," she assured him with a kiss on his head that made his smile widen a little more. He was completely smitten with his wife, and he felt no shame in the fact- something that some of the other members of Fairy Tail sometimes found annoying, but who was going to tell off a wizard that could blow up a planet with a thought?
His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a light knocking at the door, which saw to him sitting up straight with Kinana's help. "Come in," she called over.
"Hey, guys," Wendy said as she walked in with Cana in tow. The card mage looked none the worse for her battle with Ikusa-Tsunagi, which filled Gorun with relief.
"I'm glad to see you're okay," he told both girls, which got them smiling at him.
"I cut it a little close, but now I can add 'god slayer' to my résumé," Cana chuckled as Wendy sat next to him and began to put her sky magic to work. "Gotta say though, him getting stronger out of nowhere was not a good surprise."
"You're telling me," Gorun cringed with sympathy. "I'm sorry you had to go through that. I never imagined that the Time Breakers would move directly against us like this. Ever since my mother defeated Towa and Mira, they've tended to try and keep a lower profile. This is an old ballgame they're playing. Question is, why would they risk the notice of the Time Patrol now, after they've had years to build up their strength?"
"That's what I need you guys to find out," said a familiar voice that preceded a flash of light that heralded three figures that startled the wizards in the room.
"Grandma?" Gorun asked as the glow faded to reveal the Supreme Kai of Time and two of her agents. "And-? Why are you two here? Not that I'm complaining, of course."
"We're technically here on assignment," said Future Lucy as she folded her arms in front of her with a grim look. "Things aren't looking good for this timeline, so we wanted to help out as much as we could."
"I thought that messing with this timeline was forbidden for you guys," Kinana said as Levy favored her with a tired smile. "Conflicting interests and all that."
"The circumstances have changed," Chronoa said gravely. "The Time Breakers can move more freely in this temporal stream because it was born of a partially corrupted egg, which makes it harder for me to tell what's going on inside it, and adjust things accordingly. It's why I've allowed Gorun and Azura to remain here, as guardians of the future, whatever it may become. I've even permitted Rachel to stay since I knew that the two of them wouldn't be enough on their own, even with Fairy Tail to back them. Now I realize that you'll need more help still, but I can't afford to keep losing my patrollers to a timeline that shouldn't technically exist in the first place. Lucy and Levy have served me well in the Time Patrol, so I've decided to allow them to come back here."
"That can't be the only reason," Gorun said with a slight frown as he regarded the small goddess curiously. "What's at stake here, Grandma? You wouldn't break your own rules so lightly unless it was something already risky."
"This timeline is on the verge of collapse," Chronoa stated bluntly, causing most of the present wizards to react in fear.
"Collapse?!" Wendy squawked.
"Does that mean that we're gonna vanish, even after all we've been through?" Cana demanded.
"Isn't there something that we can do?" Kinana asked worriedly.
"All of you, calm down!" Chronoa said as she jumped up onto Gorun's bed while raising her hands in gestures of silence. "I'm here because I don't want this reality to fade away, okay? I want each of you to have a chance to be happy, but if you can't save yourselves, this timeline won't just be corrupted, it will unravel completely, and the resulting distortion will send ripples throughout the other timelines, creating more than one opportunity for the Demon Realm to be resurrected."
"So… why aren't you sending more Time Patrollers to help us?" Cana demanded hotly. "This sounds like it's more than just our problem."
"It's actually really not," Gorun said flatly, already knowing where this conversation was heading. "Grandma could actually fix this issue in a snap, but she hasn't yet because doing so would undo everything that I've done over the last few years."
"What are you talking about?"
"If she takes the book of Beginning to End and erases our branch of the timelines, the problem will never manifest itself in the first place," he explained. "Because the initial problem was created by yours' truly, and not by the magic of a demon, it wouldn't be hard for her to fix. The only reason she hasn't yet is because she's decided to give us a chance to correct the flow of time ourselves, which would allow us to continue existing as we are."
"So, if I understand this correctly, the deal is that if we manage to defeat the Time Breakers, our timeline will be safe from destruction by the unravelling of time itself," Kinana said slowly. "But if we fail, she'll have to erase what we've done in order to save the other timelines from corruption that would bring back the demon race in force."
"That's pretty much it in a nutshell," Future Levy confirmed grimly. "People weren't exactly lining up to take part in a mission that could end with their erasure from time, so Lu and I decided to apply for the mission ourselves. The way we see it, if we were never really supposed to exist in the first place, then this is a win-win for the Time Patrol. We win, we get to stay in a paradoxical timeline. We lose, and we go 'poof', like we should have a long time ago."
"Wait, if you win…?" Gorun repeated as he locked eyes with his grandmother. "You're letting them stay here?" The other girls in the room all exchanged looks of excited surprise, though no one said anything, in the event that they had drawn the wrong conclusions.
"Like I said, they've done good work for the Time Patrol," the little kai shrugged. "And they're right about the state of their existence. Far as I'm concerned, they can do a lot more good than harm to this timeline, and they've earned the right to choose their own destinies."
"Then I only have one question left."
"You wanna know what the mission is?" she guessed, to which he nodded. Sighing heavily, she said, "One of Demigra's minions from the past escaped to this era on accident during my initial war with his master. From what I've been able to gather, this demon 'Vajra' is trying to stack the upcoming war with Alvarez in favor of the invaders by killing off or trying to corrupt key fighters from your side with masks."
"Yeah, they've invented some new kind of control mask that we weren't able to break, not even with divine magic," Gorun told her as he remembered his battle with Vegeta again. "I've never seen anything take that much of a beating and come through unscathed."
"We know, and I've been researching them," Future Levy informed him. "But without a sample, there's only so much I can do other than speculate."
"We'll get back to that later," Gorun muttered, his eyebrows drawn together as his mind began to race along patterns that he hadn't used in years as he tried to recall what he knew about Demigra's network of minions. "What do we know about this 'Vajra' person?"
"Just the name," Chronoa said, surprising him. "He's been working for Demigra ever since he tried to take over the Time Nest the first time, but I've never met him. He seems to be in charge of Demigra's contingency plans, because every time I think I've gotten rid of him for good, he finds some way to come back, and that's the only time I hear this guy's name mentioned by the Time Breakers."
"You can't look him up in the Book?" Gorun asked, surprised.
"He's good at manipulating time, whoever he is," Chronoa said in a frustrated tone. "Even your mom and dad haven't been able to get close to him, and they've been trying for years, now."
"So what makes you think that we can take him out?" Cana asked as she crossed her arms in front of her.
"I honestly don't," the little kai told them seriously. "The only thing you can hope to do is foil his plans before he moves in directly. If Vajra makes an appearance himself, well…" Chronoa grimaced again before saying, "The one time an agent got close to him, all we got back was his head with the crest of Demigra carved into his face. He was one of our best operatives, and a good friend of Trunks'." The others cringed at the brutal image, Wendy even looking like she might be sick. Seeing their reactions, the ruler of time nodded and said, "Good to see you understand the severity of what you're dealing with. Set this timeline back on course, and hope that Vajra doesn't show. If he does, I'll ask for another set of volunteers, but other than that, you're on your own."
"Thank you, Grandma," Gorun said with a seated bow. "This is a lot better than us just being blindsided. We'll make the most of this."
"See that you do," she said as she floated over and patted him affectionately on the head. Turning to Kinana, she added, "Take good care of him, okay?"
"I will," the former barmaid answered with a smile.
Now Chronoa turned to look at Levy and Lucy, who both stood at attention. "For your years of exemplary service in the Time Patrol, Lucy Heartfelia and Levy McGarden, you are hereby granted retirement to the time period of your choosing. Thank you for all of your hard work in defending time."
"It was our pleasure to serve," Future Levy said as she bowed to their now-former master.
"Thanks for giving us a chance, Supreme Kai of Time," Future Lucy added. "And thank you for showing us mercy by allowing us to come back here."
"You are welcome, ladies," Chronoa said as she began to glow and float closer to the ceiling. "I'll be checking back in once you've sent Vajra's forces packing." With a flash of green light, she was gone, leaving the six wizards behind with a wide mix of feelings coursing through them.
"So…" Future Lucy said as she looked at Gorun. "How do you think we should break it to the others that we're sticking around for good this time?"
Gorun and Kinana looked at one another before they both answered, "Welcome back party."
"Well, that went about how I expected." Fu readjusted his glasses as he gazed at a sleeping Bardock, who was encapsulated in a healing tank next to two others just like it. "Looks like the plan is a go, then."
"Good," replied the being known only as 'Vajra'. Their eyes scanned the monitors on Fu's desk before muttering, "Yes, it seems that our little experiment with Omega Animus proved quite useful in terms of data collections. These versions of Azura and Gorun are, in fact, weaker than the ones that Cumber fought in the alternate timeline."
"What about the Time Patrollers that Conton just sent in?" Fu asked as he moved closer to his computers. "Should we worry about them?"
Vajra snorted incredulously at that. "They are of no consequence," they chortled. "One is a celestial wizard with a bit of power, and the other is little more than a grade school teacher. Even Nappa could kill them."
"What about Raditz?" Fu giggled, causing Vajra's face to darken. "Don't tell me that a couple of human wizards could actually beat a Saiyan warrior?"
"You're not funny," they told the demon. "And don't think I didn't notice you siphoning power into the Ikusa-Tsunagi. I told you, my energy transfers are meant for the Saiyans only."
"Aw, come on!" Fu complained. "It was too good of an opportunity to- urk!" He was suddenly cut off as Vajra snatched him up by the windpipe and slammed him into the wall, black-red energy emanating from their body as they glared up at the choking Time Breaker.
"I said…" Vajra hissed, "my power is for the Saiyans only. Remember, you make my plans more convenient, but you are not a necessity for them. Your experiments exist only because I allow them to. You are not here to appease your curiosity or to further your own desires. You work for me, little devil, and the sooner you understand that, the less hurting will be involved for you."
Fu cringed as he felt his ki being infected by Vajra's influence, threatening to distort his sense of reality if he could not escape their grip. Vajra gazed up at him with bored, blood-red eyes before saying, "I'm beginning to wonder if it might not be better to put a mask on you, boy. As I said, your intellect and equipment are helpful, but your ego is such a nuisance that I do wish to be rid of it… one way or another."
Fu's eyes bugged out, and he tried to shake his head negatively, but he was only able to just barely move. Still, it seemed that Vajra got the message, because they dropped him to the floor with the words, "Make sure that the saiyans are ready to go in three hours. I've got somewhere to be."
Fu coughed and gasped as he tried to recover air into his lungs while also using his own skills in the arcane arts to dispel the infectious energy from his body. He glared at Vajra's back as they exited the hideout, his pride bridling in response to the humiliation that he had been subjected to for months now, with no signs of it stopping. You just watch yourself, Vajra, he thought as he coughed again. I owe the Time Patrol some grief, but I might just forget about that long enough to let them know what's coming their way…
Gorun: Who the hell is Vajra, that they can keep Fu in line like that?!
Mataras: Please- do you really think that he won't find some way out of his current arrangement if he can help it?
Azura: I certainly wouldn't put it past him. I'm just more concerned with the trouble that he will undoubtedly be causing us in the near future.
Gorun: Yeah, what's with that? So far you've only used threats presented to us by Earthland alone. Why bring in the Time Breakers all of a sudden?
Mataras: To put it bluntly, Earthland no longer has any challenges that you could not defeat, sans Acnologia, and that would simply be due to his obscene resistance to magic of all types. If I don't bring in other challenges at this point, then there's no way to make the readers sweat a little.
Azura: Why would they sweat? You've arranged it so that even people who would have died have been saved by Kaidon's efforts. You're not about to start killing people off now.
Gorun: What are you planning?
Mataras: Look at the time! Have a Happy Thanksgiving everybody! Best wishes to you and yours' this holiday season!
Azura: No! Get back here, now!
Gorun: Why do you even bother? He's already gone.
Azura: I like the excuse to yell.
Gorun: We're saiyans. Since when do we need an excuse to empty our lungs?