Back at it again with Chapter 3!
I'd like to thank everyone who has favorited and followed thus far, as well as thank DragonHunter320 and azzyofhyperdeath for their kind reviews. I'm glad to see you're enjoying this story so far, especially since now we're approaching the end of what can effectively be considered the prologue.
I'd also like to give special thanks to chaosphoenix123 for helping me with this chapter. Be sure to check out some of his stuff when you get the chance, as he also makes some great Romeo content.
With all that out of the way, on to the chapter!
End of the End of the Beginning - Beta Emergence
X784β 12. 16. 03:26:11AM
Magic Council Fiore Branch;
Night shift duty was the worst.
That was the sentiment held by one of the many nameless Council grunts meant to watch over and govern the use of magic in Fiore. Well, he did have a name; Iyr, if you were curious. A humble Amphibinoid ('Or "frog person" to some of the more culturally insensitive around here,' he grunted, 'What? Do they think our species doesn't have a name or something?') trying to make ends meet for his tadpoles at home. But as far as the larger machinations surrounding him were concerned, he was but another cog in the machine.
Probably why he, along with his many other amphibious cohorts, were given such a menial job. They were meant to watch over a series of monitors and radar systems, all wired to detect any unusual gatherings of magic power around Fiore. But though he complained about it, it really wasn't that bad. A little boring and tedious at times, since rarely anything ever happened that was worth raising the alarm about. Sometimes they were lucky enough to see some potential world-ending events, like that whole Nirvana thing or that Tower of Heaven incident a while back. But for the most part, it was just sitting by a few screens, watching nothing.
That is, of course, unless you end up drawing the short straw and have to watch over... the southeastern sector.
And guess who drew that short straw this week?
Iyr groaned just thinking about it. That sector could hardly go a day without some kind of incident. It's gotten to the point where the Rune Knights working in that sector (as well as the poor Amphibinoids looking over it from Era) had to be on constant alert, ready to move out at a moment's notice.
He remembered meeting a Knight who worked in that sector once, a sweet young woman from the Hargeon district. The two bumped into each other after she got through what seemed to be a rather rough evaluation of her squadron, and he offered to get her some coffee. Little did he know that the coffee shop he took her to would end up catching a small fire in the kitchen.
He swore that the second that fire alarm went off, she stood up from her seat, whipped out her Knight-Administrated Magic Staff, and bolted out the door while cursing the name, "FAIRY TAIL!" She made it about three blocks before she realized her mistake.
Thinking about that made him feel like his job wasn't as bad as he initially made it out. Sure, having to pay constant attention to a stupid monitor (especially now since there was apparently some secret agent in the area he had to keep an eye on) was more than a little straining, but at least he wasn't actually the one having to deal with it. He just had to press a quick keyboard shortcut, deploying a few Knights to the area, and his job was done.
Though the more he thought about it, the more he realized this being the nightshift may actually be his saving grace. After all, he may have been watching a guild of destructive assholes, but they at least seemed to be a guild of destructive assholes who sleep!
And as an Amphibinoid who needed sleep, that was good enough for him. It's not like there had been much activity this night anyway. Catching a few 'z's wouldn't hurt anyone.
Iyr kicked his flippers up on the control pane, letting out a yawn as his eyes blinked to a close. No, it wouldn't hurt anyone if he just… got… some sleep…
"LEVEL 10 THREAT DETECTED! LEVEL 10 THREAT DETECTED!"
His eyes shot open. All around him, alarms blared and red lights flashed. His fingers instinctively scrambled over to the 'Ctrl-F-T' keys until he saw that this was something else entirely.
And when he realized what it was, his jaw dropped.
Mercurius Royal Palace, Crocus;
"A large spike in magic power, centered on the inland side of Hargeon," the large, buff man read aloud from the document. Nearly his whole body was clad in armor except his head, revealing his dark skin and wavy black hair with thick sideburns connected into a matching beard. "At around three-thirty-two AM, the Magic Council's radar system detected a level of magic power equivalent to half of Etherion. However, just as quickly as it appeared, it vanished. There is also no obvious destruction resulting from the magic spike, making tracking its exact point of origin extremely difficult."
"But it also means none of the citizens in the area have been hurt that we know of," the preteen girl replied. Her jade hair and pajamas were both disheveled, evidence of her slumber that had been disturbed moments before. But make no mistake; with the serious and alert look in her eyes, she was completely awake.
She stared down into the communication lacrima at her bedside. "However, that doesn't mean there were no casualties. Alert the Royal Guardsmen in the area, and tell them to be on the lookout for suspicious individuals and any more magic spikes."
"Your father is already on it, Princess," the bearded man assured from his end of the communication link.
Hisui nodded. "Then tell me, Arcadios…" She stood up from her bed. Her size and physical strength had nothing on the man in front of her, but the action still caused him to step back. "Why did you have to wake me up to tell me this, and through my personal comm line no less? If my father is already taking action, couldn't it have waited until morning?"
Arcadios gulped. "Well, Princess, there is reason to believe this incident could aid in that project you informed me about a few months ago…"
"Which one?" The princess asked innocently, putting a finger to her chin and pretending to be deep in thought, "Could it be the one you called 'ludicrous?'" She crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow.
The man sighed, but his face hardened back up soon after. "It may not be so ludicrous after all…"
It was truly amazing what stuff you could find in the garbage. Romeo knew this already, having taken more than a few old pieces of equipment from the Academy's dumpsters to use for his Eclipse Gate. But really, the stuff people would just throw away?
He'd initially just gone to grab some clothing, which he did to great success. He'd managed to snag a pair of green sweatpants, a grey t-shirt, a red jacket, and a pair of brown work boots. Most of the garments were torn or carrying a few obvious stains, and the hoodie and sweatpants were a little loose on him, but otherwise, they felt like something he'd wear to the arcade whenever he went with Chelia.
His face drooped, and his heart felt a slight pain. But he shook his head and ignored the feeling.
Apart from the clothing, he'd found a few other interesting treasures amongst the trash. Some outdated game consoles, a few games to go with them, old lacrima appliances, and a cool lighter.
None of it was of any use to him for obvious reasons, but he did decide to pocket the lighter. The Gate must've drained his magic pretty thoroughly since he was having trouble starting a flame on his own, so he had to use some mild pyromancy to get whatever he could out of the lighter's remaining fire lacrima. His hands hovered over the small flame, growing it to about the size of a tennis ball so he could use it for a makeshift heat and light source.
This was probably the only lucky thing to happen on this date. For everything else was pretty much going to shit.
Now, don't get him wrong. Him being one of, if not the only mage in existence to achieve true time travel was an astounding feat in itself. If he had the time, he'd want to write down his findings and pass them on to someone who could make good use of them. But that was the exact (and admittedly ironic) problem: he was out of time!
And because of that, Romeo could safely say his plan was completely shot. Thanks to his so-called "partner" messing everything up, he had been completely off-target for the place and time he was supposed to land in.
His initial plan involved him taking the body of his younger self. By connecting to his younger self's magic container, he could effectively create a "link" across time to allow for stable backward time travel ('Something Zeref himself even struggled with,' he grinned). And since he figured his body would be converted into magic to power the Gate, he'd use the connected magic containers to fuse his consciousness with his younger self's.
This was all meant to happen several weeks ago, sometime around when Makarov first announced the whole S-Class Trial deal. He'd land somewhere around that time and warn everyone of the dangers to come. And to confirm his story and that he really was from the future, he'd expose Mest for the lying asshole he was. Once that happened, their false memories would vanish, and they'd all realize he knew something he shouldn't and hopefully believe everything he said.
And if that failed, he'd simply have to go on faith that his family would believe him.
But from there, it was just a matter of warning them all of the coming danger of Grimoire Heart and Acnologia. The ideal would be that no one goes to Tenrou period, but knowing his friends, that wasn't likely. So he figured he'd warn them and the Magic Council too so they could all prepare for when the Baram Alliance member and Black Dragon do appear. And hopefully, with that preparation, they'd come out victorious.
After that, the future would be changed, and he along with it. His most likely guess was that he'd just cease to be outright, though there was the possibility of his consciousness melding with his younger form permanently, allowing him to relive the years he'd lost with his friends...
But now he could just completely fucking forget that! Because not only did he land in the wrong fucking city, but it was also the day they were set to leave for Tenrou!
Warning his friends now would only mean they'd rush even quicker to their deaths. He loved his family, truly, but he was well aware of how reckless and borderline suicidal they could be at times. If they learned about Grimoire Heart and Acnologia, they'd do everything in their power to stop them, even knowing they couldn't win. Hell, they might be even more eager to stop them than they were in the original timeline with his forewarning, believing they could somehow ambush a literal force of nature.
The fire mage stomped along the pavement of the city's sidewalks, his eyes sharpened on the path ahead. He took a sharp breath in before letting it all out. Rage was good for Fire Magic, but not delicate operations such as this.
At the very least, he has a few hours, which means a few hours to come up with a new plan and put it into action. Some of it he'd have to use to trek to Hargeon's docks as he was doing now, since Magnolia was now out of the question and it was now his best bet for preventing the S-Class group from leaving.
And looking at the flame in his hand, he figured he had just the idea.
X784ɑ 12. 16. 07:44:21AM
The S-Class Trial participants had all gathered around the ship destined to lead one of them to greatness. Makarov and the other S-Class mages of the guild had already done a full sweep of the ship, meaning they'd be all set to depart in fifteen minutes. In the meantime, the various mages were all chatting and loading their stuff onto the boat, their hearts all racing in what would undoubtedly be a life-altering Trial.
"Alright, Happy," cheered Natsu, raising his fists in the air, "When we get there, I'm gonna do all the fighting! But I'll need you to help me navigate around the island. You'll be my eyes in the sky, pal!"
"Aye, sir!" the blue Exceed nodded.
A young boy came rushing at the pink-haired Dragon Slayer. He was only about six, with dark purple hair and a Fairy Tail mark emblazoned on his shirt.
"Oi, Romeo!" Natsu knelt down. "You come to see us off?"
"I came to see you off, Natsu-nii!" the boy nodded, "I know you'll make S-Class for sure!"
"He wouldn't sit still all morning," Macao stated, following shortly behind his son. He was hunched over as he walked, periodically letting out small yawns. "I had to keep reminding him you wouldn't even be meeting here now."
Natsu grinned. He reached out and ruffled the boy's hair. "Well, no worries! I'm gonna make S-Class for sure!" He jammed his thumb into his chest.
A snort, followed by a chuckle, sounded in the air. "Yeah right, Flame Brain."
The Fire Dragon Slayer's facial expression did a complete one-eighty. He stood back up and spun around, eyes and fists burning at his rival. "Oh yeah, Popsicle? Like I'd ever lose to you!"
"You do just about every day!" Gray grinned.
"HA! Prove it!"
"Alright!" The Ice-Make Mage smirked, positioning his hands to summon one of his creations.
Natsu grinned, sucking in a sharp intake of breath.
"No fighting!" Erza declared, reeling back both her fists from knocking the prospective Trial-goers' lights out, "Especially not so close to the ship we're renting." She turned to the flame mage, sticking a finger into his chest. "Natsu, you were pointing right at it! You could've burned the whole thing down!"
X784β 12. 16. 07:36:43AM
The memory warmed Romeo's heart. It was the last time he ever spoke to his idol, the last time he got to see that mop of spiky pink hair and hear that cheerful voice. But very soon, that would no longer be the case. The new version of him existing in this timeline will get to learn magic alongside his hero!
(Granted, he's not too sure on the viability of learning Dragon Slayer Magic from a non-dragon, so his new self may still need to go the route of Rainbow Flames.)
All that needed to happen was for this plan to work. He'll admit it's not the greatest plan he's ever come up with. But if all went the way he hoped, his hero would be saving him yet again!
All of the S-Class mages that resided in Fairy Tail at this time were already there. Erza, Mira, Gildarts, and Master Makarov. He gasped upon seeing them again, though he already knew they'd be there. Still, the fact that he was seeing them once again made him want to run out there and hug them. Speak to them. Have proof that they're really real.
But they weren't "real" yet, he had to remind himself. Not really. Not yet. Right now, it was more like they were a re-run of a show he'd already seen before. And unless he acted now, their finale would be coming very soon.
Besides, though he was ecstatic to see them again, their presence still presented a huge problem for him. Namely that if any of them caught him, his whole plan was toast. Erza was especially a problem here, since his whole plan hinged on her not being there when Natsu and Gray have their fight.
Luckily, he knew just how to lure her away.
He pulled out his lighter, igniting the flame and expanding it to roughly the size of a soccer ball. Pouring a little more magic into it, the color shifted from its standard orange to more of a bright yellow. Normally, he reserved his Yellow Flare for creating foul-smelling stink bombs, but that didn't mean it didn't have other applications.
A sweet aroma wafted in the air. He'd specifically chosen a hiding spot from which the S-Class group would be downwind of him, meaning that the scent was bound to reach them fairly quickly.
And sure enough, it did. Like a meerkat popping its head from a hole, Erza's head jutted around in a rapid search for the smell's origin.
"That fragrance," she spoke, getting the attention of the other S-Class Mages. She took in a deep whiff of air before her eyes started glowing like a child's. "Why, that has to be the sweetest-smelling strawberry cake I've ever smelt!"
Mira tilted her head, taking a small sniff as well. "Oh, yeah. That does smell kind of good." She smiled a sickly-sweet smile. "Too bad you can't have any, Erza. Since we're about to leave for the Trial and all."
Erza glared. "Please! I'll be there and back in no time at all!"
"You sure about that? Your armor already weighs you down as-is." The Demon grinned. "Do you really want to throw some extra weight on top of that?"
"Now, now, settle down," Makarov interjected. He turned to the Requip Mage. "You sure you'll be able to make it back here quickly?"
The redhead slammed her fist over her heart. "Of course!" she hollered, "Given the direction that the scent is coming from, it has to be from Bertucci's. I can get there and back in less than ten minutes with my Flight Armor."
The old man sighed. "Very well. But do hurry."
Erza nodded. "Thank you, Master!"
A bright light shimmered around her body. When it faded, her normal attire had been replaced with a rather revealing cheetah-patterned armor, making all the boys in the premises (Romeo included) blush when looking at it. "I'm off!" she said as she flew down the road.
Romeo immediately dispersed his scented flame. Tucking himself further into the alley to not be seen, he watched the redhead rush by. With this, his plan should fall into place. His younger self will be here in a few moments, prompting Natsu to gloat, Gray to antagonize him, and then Natsu to accidentally destroy the ship set to take them to Tenrou.
It was a rental ship, which he knew Makarov had to get a hold of weeks in advance. With it gone, it'll delay the Trials to far beyond Grimoire Heart's attack and Acnologia's appearance.
He wasn't too fond of letting the enemy succeed in whatever plans they're concocting, but for now, it seemed like it'd have to be a necessary evil. Fairy Tail won't stop them now, but he was sure their downfall was inevitable.
The boy peered back out of the alley. All he had to do was let things take their course from here, and all should be set right.
He watched as more long-lost faces approached the ship. Natsu and Happy were talking, Elfman and Evergreen were bickering like an old married couple, Freed and Bickslow were looking on in pity, Levy was formulating a victory strategy while Gajeel wasn't listening, Loke was helping an already naked Gray find his clothes, Juvia and Lisanna were watching the whole fiasco, and Lucy was off to the side comforting Cana. Aside from the Card Mage's unusual demeanor, the sight brought a sense of nostalgia to Romeo. He felt a missing piece of himself fall back into place as the corners of his lips twitched upwards.
But that feeling was crushed the moment that he appeared.
The traitor himself, and the one Romeo liked to believe was the inciting incident for all of this mess. Doranbolt may not have been the ones to cause the S-Class group's deaths, but he and his damned Magic Council were certainly the ones to leave them all to die. What Romeo wouldn't give to go punch the lying bastard in the face and expose him for the fraud he is. But once again, he had to restrain himself. Especially considering if the Rune Knight found out Romeo knew his true identity, he may just take it upon himself to erase the boy's memories, and who knows what other memories could go as well.
No, interacting with the Memory Mage in any way was too high a risk. His memories were far too valuable to him, and he refused to let that asshole tamper with them again.
Romeo let out a fiery breath. 'Stick to the plan at all costs,' he told himself, 'Nothing can get in the way.'
Just then, a head of blue hair caught his eye. It took him a second, but he soon realized the person he was looking at was Wendy Marvell, that new (chronologically speaking) girl who'd only been in the guild for a few months. She looked different, somehow. Cuter, maybe? Livelier than he remembered?
But if it were something like that, why did it hurt to look at her? Like just seeing her put an ache in his heart.
Maybe it wasn't because of a change in her, but rather, a change in him. He was the same age as her now; he'd lived just as much life as she had to this point, if just a little more. So the fact that he knew her life could be ending in a matter of days put pain in his chest like he couldn't believe.
He tightened his fist. His plan will work. It was only a matter of moments now.
"Alright, Happy," Romeo heard Natsu's voice call, "You know the plan! When we get out there, I'm doing the fighting! But I'll need you to scout the island for me? Can you do that, pal!"
"Aye sir!" the blue cat cheered.
Romeo's head cocked to the side. 'That's… not what he said last time. Did I remember it wrong?' He shook his head. 'No, no. I remember it clearly. He tells Happy, "You'll be my eyes in the sky" before he responds, "Aye sir!"' His eyes scanned the surrounding harbor. 'And then I come to see them off.'
Charcoal orbs darted around the area his younger self and father should be arriving from. Yet as he continued searching, not a soul could be seen approaching the dock.
Worry started to set in. His fingers tapped rapidly against the brick of the building he hid behind. Was it possible his mere presence in the past has already caused unforeseen deviations to the original timeline? He'd taken into account every other variable in this little equation, but the one he seems to have forgotten to account for was himself. His knowledge of the past may as well be for naught now. If the original chain of events that took place here has already been broken, then he may as well be working with the same amount of foresight as a man in the present trying to predict the future.
"Gods dammit!" he whisper-screamed, slamming his fist into the building before quickly recoiling. The boy half-expected his flames to be shielding the punch as normal, so when he found himself without them, he also found that punching an ordinary fist into a solid brick wall fucking HURT!
Letting out a huff of air, Romeo looked over the injured hand. He definitely didn't break it, but he still cut up his fingers pretty bad, and there would definitely be some bruising.
Sighing, he stretched it out to his side. "Chelia, do you mi… oh…" Both his hand and face dropped in realization. Grunting again, his head jerked back forward. "Right. Nevermind."
The fire mage clenched his fists. He'd come this far, and there was no way he was going to back down now! If he couldn't get the ship to be destroyed, then he'd destroy it himself!
He never planned to stay, anyway.
Grabbing the lighter, he snuck toward the ship. Time was the enemy at the moment; he had no doubts Erza was already on her way back and would definitely spot him out in the open. The S-Class group would also spot him easily if he just walked up to them. They'd catch him, make him spill what he knows, and the fools would run right off to their deaths.
Romeo stepped over to the edge of the docks. If just waltzing over on land wouldn't cut it, he'd have to go by water. He was a few peers down from where the ship was docked, so it wouldn't be too difficult a swim.
He dove straight into the waters. Having lived near the coastline his whole life, he was a decent enough swimmer to remain underwater undetected. If he needed air, he'd simply surface beneath one of the piers before diving right back under.
He could've given himself some air by creating a Purple Flare: Bubble around his head. Purple flames were water-resistant, and since the lighter he was using was powered by lacrima, it would work somewhat under the sea. The only issue with that idea was that, while theoretically possible, even with his now-limited magic, it would still be a pain in the ass to accomplish. Plus, he wanted to save his magic for when the real show began.
Besides, it was unnecessary. The boy made it all the way to the dock the Tenrou group's ship was parked on without needing to surface once, only coming up for air under there because he knew he'd need it for this final stretch.
That, and he wanted to hear his friend's voices one last time. He prayed the new Romeo who took his place would be happy with the time he would have with them, laughing, growing, and becoming an even better mage than he was.
His hands shook beneath the water. With that bittersweet thought in mind, he dove back under.
The boy kept swimming downward until he reached the bottom of the ship, where he pulled out his lighter. Flicking it open, he focused all his magic on the created spark to keep it alive and bend it to his will. Said spark grew and grew, turning green in the process as the flames melted away at the bottom of the ship. Romeo made sure to spread them around a little, intending to use them to create a new entrance into the ship. Sure, just making a hole in the ship would sink it easily, but that would only delay his friend's for a day if Juvia and Laki had anything to say about it; no, he wouldn't be satisfied until this boat has been completely and utterly destroyed.
After weakening the wood enough, Romeo started punching his way through. Splinters embedded themselves in his fingers, but the ship's boards eventually gave way to his efforts. It didn't take long for him to make a hole big enough for him to climb through. Putting away the lighter, he grabbed the edges of the ship's "new entrance" and pulled himself in.
Finally inside, he looked down to admire his handiwork. The hole he made was already starting to leak in a decent amount of water, but it wouldn't be near quick enough for what he needed. He needed to incinerate this ship quickly.
And while his trusty little lighter would certainly help, the conniving Fire Mage had a much bigger idea in mind.
The boy made his way through the ship. He knew that boats like these, meant for long voyages, held heating and cooling lacrima that could control the entire ship's temperature, even the outside. Not the latter lacrima wasn't something he cared much for, but the former he could certainly work with.
He opened the door to the temperature control room. In front of him stood a large machine with red and blue lacrima embedded into it, sending out gentle waves of magical energy to regulate the ship's climate.
Focusing his own magic onto the red lacrima, Romeo felt the ship's temperature steadily rising. Sweat beaded on his forehead as he drew out all of the power held within the crystal. He could hear the boat creaking already, parts of it catching flame and burning away at the interior. Romeo latched onto those flames as well, turning them an acidic green and growing them even more.
Smoke filled the cabin. The boy's forehead was now drenched, and he could feel his body growing woozy. A terrible cough ripped at his throat, forcing him down onto his knees as he tried to remain focused. Loud thuds and cracks rang out above his head, a sign that his flames were doing their job and tearing this dreaded vessel apart. Through blurry vision, he saw his flames approaching him.
Romeo could feel it. He didn't fully understand it, but he could tell; the world he had come from would be no more. With this, his friends' lives would continue on. Scratchy, dry chuckles echoed were nearly smothered by the roar of flames as tears leaked out of his eyes.
The flames were closer now. Any second now, be it by his own hands or the hands of time, he'd be no more. But his friends were now safe, and that's all that mattered.
That was all that mattered, wasn't it?
So then why did he feel such an emptiness over it?
The laughter came to a halt. The boy's body swayed greatly before collapsing onto the floor of the ship. He was to the point where he could barely keep his eyes open anymore. All he could do was make vain, raspy attempts for breath.
More cracks and groans screeched through the ship's halls. Romeo felt the wood beneath him grow unstable, and before his flames could reach him, the floor gave way. Next thing he knew, his whole body had been submerged in water, sinking to the depths.
You ever just kill your protagonist to end your prologue?
Nah, just kidding. That happens next chapter.
Thank you all so much for reading! I hope you enjoyed it. If you did, please be sure to follow, favorite, and review! Hope to see you all next time!