"Not guilty," Topps murmured.
"What was that?" asked Tria, wanting to be sure that she heard what she thought she had just heard.
"Not guilty," Topps repeated a little more loudly so his wife could hear him, "And tell Mr. and Mrs. Longneck that it was wrong of us to forbid interspecies relationships."
Tria was extremely surprised to hear such words coming from her husband. He was never one to say such things when it came to the subject of interspecies relationships. He had truly realized the error of his ways, and he was willing to take it all back to regain the respect that he had lost.
"Do you really mean that?" the purple Threehorn asked gently.
"Yes, Tria," answered Topps as he looked at Tria sorrowfully, "My mind has been changed. Nobody deserves banishment. I would like them all to stay … for the sake of Cera … and for the entire Great Valley."
"Topsy, … you really are kind and generous after all," gasped Tria softly.
Topps simply looked down as his cheeks blushed in the slightest.
"Please have Mr. Longneck announce our decision, though. I don't think they'll accept it if it came from me," begged Topps.
"Of course, I will," replied Tria, and she kissed her husband and rejoined Littlefoot's anxious grandparents.
"What did he say?" Grandpa Longneck whispered to her.
"He said, 'not guilty'," Tria answered, "He is taking back everything he said. He has decided to completely lift the banishments, … and he also said that forbidding interspecies relationships was wrong."
"Did he really?" gasped Grandma Longneck, "That is a big surprise. I would never have imagined such things coming from him, given the way he is."
"Chomper has shown Topps the error of his ways, and he now regrets accepting the Threehorn traditions so seriously for many years," informed Tria, "He is willing to change the law regarding interspecies relationships in the Great Valley … for the sake of our children."
The Longnecks stared at each other for what felt like hours, contemplating on what they had just heard. They were so shocked to hear that Topps had had a change of heart and was suddenly accepting interspecies relationships. This was a completely new side to the Threehorn that no one had ever seen before, and they knew that it would change the Great Valley forever.
"So, … is his decision final?" asked Grandpa Longneck.
"My decision is final," Topps answered quietly as he slowly approached the Longnecks, "You should make the announcement, though, Mr. Longneck. It would sound more sincere coming from you than it would from me after what I've done. Nobody would believe me if I said it out loud."
Grandpa Longneck nodded his head in acceptance, and he turned to face the large crowd.
Ducky and Petrie had grabbed each other's hands again and shut their eyes with the hope that they would get to stay in their beloved home, along with their families and their closest friends.
"Citizens of the Great Valley, … we have made our final decision," Grandpa Longneck announced, and he cleared his throat to give out the verdict, "Mr. Threehorn, Tria, and my wife … hereby declare that Ducky the Swimmer and Petrie the Flyer …"
Ducky and Petrie held their breaths as they prepared for what could be their moment of triumph or their moment of heartbreak. Their families were also holding their breaths, although they hadn't closed their eyes. They were all staring at Grandpa Longneck as he prepared to announce the verdict. Littlefoot panted anxiously as he hoped his grandfather would side with them. Chomper and Ruby could only gulp nervously, as did Cera as she stood next to her parents and baby sister.
"… are … not guilty."
Everyone gasped in shock and stared at Grandpa Longneck in stunned silence. Ducky and Petrie felt their hearts leaping with surprise as they heard those words.
"He say, 'not guilty'!? We allowed to stay!?" thought Petrie.
"Y-y-yo-you mean?" Ducky stuttered as she looked up at Grandpa Longneck.
"The Great Valley is accepting of your interspecies relationship, Ducky and Petrie, … and we therefore will allow you to remain in the Great Valley, along with your families, and the same for Chomper and Ruby," Littlefoot's grandfather spoke with a smile.
Ducky and Petrie gasped and smiled at each other with pure joy. They could not believe what they had just heard. Only a few moments ago, it seemed certain that they had lost and were to face a lifetime of exile, but after a powerful speech from Chomper, everything had turned around. They had won. The Great Valley had accepted their love, and they would forever have the valley as their beloved home.
"YES!" Petrie screamed as he jumped into Ducky's arms and wrapped his wings around her back, "WE WIN, DUCKY!"
"We won, Petrie! We won! Yep, yep, yep!" Ducky shouted triumphantly as she returned Petrie's embrace, and the two tearfully kissed each other for everyone to see before sharing such adorable laughs.
On the sideline, Ducky and Petrie's siblings, including Spike, were screaming with joy, and their mothers were smiling tearfully and triumphantly. They were so overjoyed to be staying in the valley, but they were especially happy for Ducky and Petrie for having avoided banishment because of their love for each other. They had gained the support of everyone in the valley, and now their interspecies love was being greatly accepted.
Littlefoot, Cera, Chomper and Ruby all smiled at each other as they shared the happiness with the two lovers and their families.
"Furthermore," Grandpa Longneck spoke up, forcing Ducky and Petrie's siblings back into silence, "Interspecies relationships … will no longer be forbidden in the Great Valley. From this day forth, love between dinosaurs of different species will be greatly encouraged."
This prompted Chomper and Ruby to hug and kiss each other happily, while Ducky and Petrie smothered and smooched each other tightly, refusing to let go of one another after everything they had been through. Even though they had won, the Swimmer and Flyer still couldn't help but feel like they needed each other more than ever, and now that they were free to do it for as long as their hearts were pleased, they felt like rewarding themselves for earning their right to stay in the valley and contributing to the abolishment of the ban on interspecies relationships.
Those in the front row of the jury watched Ducky and Petrie with smiles on their faces. They could only agree that the two hatchlings looked so adorable together, and it felt right that they had fallen in love.
"They are such a cute couple," said a Longneck in the front row, "Let's hope they stay together for a long time."
As the others in the front row nodded in agreement, Ducky and Petrie were suddenly mobbed by their siblings. Spike playfully licked Ducky's cheek and earned some giggles from her, while Petrie was hugged by many of his siblings. A few seconds later, their mothers came to the rescue.
"Okay, kids. Give them some space," said Mama Flyer, and her children reluctantly stepped away from Petrie to allow him to breathe.
"Children, could you please allow Ducky some room to breathe?" Mama Swimmer spoke to her children, and the Swimmer hatchings pulled away from Ducky so she could sit up and regain her breathing stability.
Before long, Littlefoot, Cera, Chomper and Ruby ran up to Ducky, Petrie and Spike, and all seven hatchlings engaged in a group hug that lasted for several seconds before high-fiving each other with a victory cheer.
"I've said it before and I'll say it again," said Littlefoot, "Now we will always be together."
"You got that right, Littlefoot!" agreed Petrie with a giggle.
"Can I have your attention for a moment, kids?" called Grandpa Longneck.
The Gang turned to Littlefoot's grandfather, and the elder Longneck cleared his throat and spoke up …
"We are very happy that you seven will always be together, and as for Ducky and Petrie, we hope your relationship will grow to new heights once you reach your Time of Great Growing. Maybe someday, you will live a wonderful life together."
"And we wish the same for Chomper and Ruby as well, now that we've learned about that," added Grandma Longneck.
"Thank you, Grandpa Longneck," smiled Ducky.
"You're very welcome, Ducky," replied Grandpa Longneck, and he shifted his gaze to the jury, "And now that we have reached our final decision, and everything has come to a resolution, I hereby announce that this hearing is therefore concluded. You may all return to your homes now if you wish."
Hardly a second later, the dinosaurs in the jury began to leave the Rock Circle one-by-one, while the Gang of Seven resumed their happy celebration in front of their families. This had become such a happy moment for them that they didn't want to stop celebrating. They would forevermore live in their beloved Great Valley, and Ducky and Petrie would love each other forevermore, no matter what would happen. The future looked very bright for everyone in the Gang, indeed.
Finally, the stress was gone. The dreadfulness was all over, and the Gang of Seven could not have been more relieved than ever that it was nothing but happiness ahead for all of them in the Great Valley. Ducky and Petrie were allowed to resume their interspecies relationship, as were Chomper and Ruby. They were the only underage dinosaurs who would be in an interspecies relationship for now, though. Although interspecies relationships were no longer banned in the Great Valley, the adults had decided that dinosaurs could only get into an interspecies relationship after they reached their Time of Great Growing. Furthermore, Topps still felt uncomfortable about the idea of Cera potentially getting into an interspecies relationship, but there was little he would be able to do about it once she grew up.
Once the hearing was over and everyone had returned to their homes, the Gang had met up in their usual meeting place. They were all panting with relief that the dread was gone, and they were all here to stay in their beloved Great Valley.
Within moments, Ducky and Petrie both embraced Chomper with happy tears of relief streaming down their faces. They felt so grateful to him for standing up to Topps and turning the tables in their favor so that they would avoid banishment. They wondered if they would ever be able to thank their Sharptooth friend enough.
"Oh, thank you, Chomper!" Petrie cried, "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"
"You saved all our lives, Chomper! Yep, yep, yep!" Ducky sobbed happily, "How could we ever thank you enough!?"
Chomper shyly grinned and blushed as Ruby rubbed his back.
"It was nothing, really," he said sheepishly, "I had wanted to say something about it for quite some time, and I'm glad I did."
"That was a very brave thing you did back there, Chomper," said Littlefoot.
"I never thought that anyone would be able to stand up to my dad the way you did and show everyone what he's always been," said Cera, feeling quite impressed, "Serves him right."
"Cera, … I'm sorry that I called your dad such rotten names in front of everyone," Chomper apologized.
"There's no need to apologize," replied Cera, "Somebody had to tell him off for what he tried to do. He had to have some sense put into him sooner or later."
Chomper simply chuckled at the Threehorn's remark, and Ducky and Petrie broke away from the Sharptooth and hugged each other tightly.
"We are here to stay, Petrie," Ducky said to her boyfriend, "The Great Valley will be our home forever, and we will get to pamper each other with our love wherever we want and whenever we want."
"Yep, yep, yep!" replied Petrie, and everyone laughed, "Me never can resist saying that anymore!"
"I love hearing my 'yep, yep, yep' from you, too, my love," chuckled Ducky.
"Me love you, Ducky, … forever and always," said Petrie with a bright smile as he fixed his eyes on Ducky's.
"I love you, too, Petrie, … forever and always," replied Ducky, returning the smile with a cute one of her own.
Not wanting to wait any longer after everything they had just been through, the Swimmer and Flyer engaged in a passionate kiss, with Ducky's bill playfully pulling Petrie's beak in, and they smiled cutely as they moaned in pleasure with muffled voices. The rest of the Gang watched the lovers smooching each other, and they found it so adorable that they smiled and choked back tears.
"Aww," some of them whispered.
After several minutes, Ducky and Petrie pulled their mouths away from each other and panted for air.
"Me so happy to be with you, Ducky," said Petrie, "Me hope we stay together forever."
"I am so happy to be with you, too, Petrie, and I hope we stay together forever, too," replied Ducky.
The two lovers kissed each other's faces for their friends to see, and Spike playfully licked Ducky's cheek, earning a cute giggle from her.
"I feel kinda thirsty," said Littlefoot, "Who wants to go to the river and get a drink?"
"I'm in," said Chomper, "I really hurt my throat in that hearing and I think some water will help it feel better."
"Count me in, too," nodded Petrie.
"Me three," added Ducky.
"Let's go!" said Ruby.
With some playful laughs, the Gang of Seven all set off together towards the river for a much-needed drink. They all had smiles plastered on their faces, knowing that today would mark the start of a new chapter in their young lives, with many more adventures ... and lots of love!
Whew! I finally got all the painful stuff out of the way! I feel like I deserve a medal for everything I've been through while I was writing this story! I want to give thanks to everyone who has supported me during the time I've been writing this story. I couldn't have managed it without any of you!
I'll be back with an epilogue that will close the story and take care of some loose ends. See you then! ;)