(7 Years Later)

In the ruins of what had once been the capital city of the Misurugi Empire; a patchwork jumble of wood, metal, and stone structures had been erected in the field and stands of what had once been the Iaria stadium of Ho-o Institute. From across the devastated city, survivors had gathered here on mass at the settlement known as New Angelise. Atop the stadium wall, windmills caught the breeze to generate power for the water pumps built around the stadium's exterior to feed the patches of gardens set around them. From the window of her quarters, in what had once been the Imperial Family's private box, Sylvia kept a vigil on the surrounding area. Scouts and patrols out in the city would send word if any bandits were headed their way but she liked to keep busy. Following the cataclysm which had wrecked the entire world, Sylvia had gathered what survivors she could find and had set about trying to salvage what little she could of civilization. After seven years of hard work, New Angelise had managed to maintain stability when other settlements failed or were wiped out by the many bandit gangs that roamed the wasteland.

"Lady Sylvia," Sakura said. "Your tea is ready." Ever since the palace was abandoned, Sakura had been her closest companion and confidant in the same way Momoka had been for Angelise. Though she wished Sakura would drop the "Lady" title. Her royal rank was just another part of her old life Sylvia had discarded long ago.

"Thank you. Has there been any word from Rosenblum?"

"A caravan just arrived. The report will be sent up once it's been compiled." In addition to Sylvia's own settlement, Misty Rosenblum had managed to establish her own colony in the remnants of the Rosenblum Imperial castle. So far Misty Grounds was the only large community they could find but at least it was something. As she sat down to drink, someone knocked at the door leading to the stairwell.

"Enter," she said. The door opened and in came two people. The first was Constable Schwartz, a former police officer from Endurant who had led a group of survivors up north to Misurugi. Settling with Sylvia's group, Schwartz had become head of settlement security and was in charge not only of law and order but defense against bandit raids. The other person was Hilda, a girl Sylvia's age who had come up with Schwarz alongside her mother. Hilda had become Sylvia's closest friend after Sakura. Especially as her mother's apple pie was one of the few things Sylvia allowed herself to indulge in.

"Ms. Sylvia," Schwartz said, "I came to let you know that we've located the hideout of the bandits who've been harassing our caravans to Banagher. I'm taking out a squad to round them up now."

"Very good," Sylvia nodded. "Please be careful Constable."

"And I wanted to tell you that my mom's orchard has produced some fresh apples. That means hot apple pie tonight. You'll come have some right."

"Of course," Sylvia smiled. "You know I'd never turn that down." Hilda left though Schwartz stayed behind to look at the picture on the wall, a portrait of Angelise that Sylvia had rescued from the castle.

"A lot of people still think of her as the devil," he mused. "But you don't." Sylvia sadly shook her head.

"No," Sylvia said. "My sister doesn't deserve any of that. Even if the world never forgives her I do. And if people disagree with me they're free to leave and strike out on their own." Schwartz frowned and crossed his arms. "Is something wrong Constable."

"Not quite. Just a little hesitant as to whether to tell you or not."

"It's fine Constable. Whatever it is on your mind feel free to say so." Schwartz sighed and looked up at Angelise's portrait.

"It was shortly before the cataclysm," he told her. "A Norma had escaped from confinement and I was part of the squad sent to recapture her. But she had an ally. A human male who protected her. He killed the rest of the squad but spared me."

"Do you know why?"

"While trying to recapture her, some of my men tried to rape the Norma but I stopped them. I couldn't understand that man's reasoning. Why would someone who would so easily kill so many spare my life? But then I understood. I never told you this Miss Sylvia, but I was watching the broadcast of when your sister was to be executed."

"I see."

"The man who helped save your sister. The one who charged the gallows. I'm positive it was the same man I encountered. I think he saw something in this world. Something that was very wrong that he couldn't ignore. Ever since, I've tried to live up to the example he set. To live by my own beliefs rather than what society dictated to be just and moral. I don't know if he's still out there but I hope he survived. Right now, the world needs men like him more than ever." Sylvia stared into her tea without a word. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bring back bad memories."

"It's alright. I suppose I feel the same way. I don't know where my sister went. But I try to live up to the example she set as well. So that I and everyone in Neo-Angelise can stand on our own two feet." Constable Schwartz nodded and left to attend to his mission. Once she was alone, Sylvia stepped up to Angelise's portrait as tears began to fall down her face.

"Wherever you are sister," she wept, "I hope that you're safe and happy. I wish so much that I could tell you how sorry I am...and that I love you."

Ange looked up from the table she was wiping off. Every once in a while she could hear the voice. It almost sounded like Sylvia in a way. "Hey everything alright?" Tusk asked

"Yeah," she nodded. "Just my imagination." Her husband nodded and went back to cleaning the lunch counter. Another day had come to a close at Café Ange. Open for breakfast and lunch, they closed at three o'clock so the two of them could have some time to themselves. And speaking of three o'clock, Ange thought.

"Tusk I'm going to check on Van."

"Okay, I'll finish up in here." Handing him her rag, Ange went into the kitchen where Momoka was heating a bottle of formula for the baby she cradled in her arms.

"Almost ready," she sang as she lifted the bottle out of the pan. A quick dab on her wrist and Momoka nodded in satisfaction at the temperature. "Time for lunch."

"Why don't you let me do that Momoka," Ange suggested.

"Oh don't worry Lady Angelise," her maid assured her. "I can take care of it. After all, you need to finish closing up the café."

"Or you could take my place and help Tusk."

"Mmmm...okay," she sighed. Handing the baby over to Ange, Momoka lightly tickled his cheek. "Bye bye Van. Auntie Momoka will see you later." Istvan, or Van for short, had been born to Tusk and Ange a little over 6 months ago. They had been married for nearly three years when he was conceived as Ange wanted to wait until business had stabilized to the point where she and Tusk could support a family. She was just thankful she had Momoka to help though at times her maid tended to overdo it. I know you love Van Momoka, Ange frowned. But if you keep this up he's going to start thinking you're his mother.

Carrying her son outside, Ange sat down at one of the Cafe's deck tables and gave him his formula. After drinking his fill, Ange burped him and cradled him in the afternoon sunshine. Overhead, a flock of DRAGONs flew by and Ange hummed her mother's song. She couldn't believe it had already been seven years. After the devastation to the DRAGON's city, the entire populace had emigrated to the island of Neo-Arzenal which now hosted a sprawling city across its surface. Some of the more military designed ships of the Network fleet served in the ESDF while the rest had been refurbished into floating residences to help conserve space on the island.

It seems so long ago, she thought, but also so recent. There was once a time when she imagined she would never have anything close to this level of happiness. When she had first arrived at Arzenal, the hopelessness of her situation seemed so great that she wanted to die. I'm glad I didn't, she realized as she looked down at her son. For all the suffering and pain I went through, it was worth it.

"Ange!" someone called. Ange looked up and what did she see but Ersha riding up to the cafe on a motorized scooter. Cynthia rode on the platform mounted on the back and as they stopped, Cynthia helped Ersha stand and step up to the deck, the swell of Ersha's stomach almost bumping the table as she sat down.

"Tusk bring out some tea," she said. The café was technically closed but Ange was always willing to accept her friends should they visit. In the time since Libertus, Ersha had adopted Cynthia, became a schoolteacher, and then married Rhino. And now she was on the verge of giving birth herself. Quite a bit of their friends had paired off since then. Rio and Hilda were married, Kat and Kamaitchi had a son of their own, Boss and Jasmine were enjoying their golden years, Chris and Rosalie had adopted a daughter, and Maggie and Vulture had carried on an on-again/off-again relationship only they kept "taking a break" due to Vulture's falling back into his cigarette habit. Though from what Maggie had told her the last time they spoke, Vulture had gone three months without a cigarette thanks to Gila perfecting that gum of hers so maybe this time they could make it work. "How are you feeling?" Ange asked. Ersha sighed and patted her womb lovingly.

"The morning sickness has gotten better," she admitted. "My back is killing me though. And I have to use the bathroom every five minutes. But I'm excited. Just one more month to go."

"What about you Cynthia?" Ange asked. "Are you excited?"

"You bet!" the child answered. "Papa and I finally finished building the nursery. I can't wait to see them." The door to the café swung open and out came Tusk with a tray on which three glasses of ice tea had been set.

"Wow Ersha," Tusk said as he set the tray down. "You're enormous." Ange immediately shot him a dirty look. Didn't he have any idea how self-conscious women got when they were pregnant?

"Well," Ersha laughed, "I am carrying twins after all."

"We'd better make sure you and them get plenty of good nutrition then. Luckily, I've still got some Sea Snake Soup left. Just hold on and I'll heat some up."

"Uh that's okay," Ersha said. "Don't go to any trouble on my account."

"It's no trouble at all," he assured her. "I'll be right back."

"Hey Tusk," Ange said. "I think Van is ready for his afternoon nap. Since you're already heading inside could you take him up."

"Sure. Come on big guy," Tusk said as he accepted their son. "Let's get you to bed." Once he and Van had vanished inside, Ange gestured for Cynthia to come closer.

"Go inside, get the soup. Momoka will show you where to dump it."

"Got it," Cynthia nodded before she ran off.

"Thank you," Ersha said as sighed in relief. The only ones who really like that swill of his were the DRAGON girls, and Ange was half convinced they only ordered it so they could ogle her husband. "The festa's coming up soon. Are you and Tusk planning to have a booth like last year?" Every year on the anniversary of Libertas, the Freedom Festa was held on the beaches of Neo-Arzenal, just one of the holidays the Norma were able to celebrate after their freedom.

"Yeah but I don't think we'll have any of Hilda's apple pie this time. From what I hear it could be any day now." It was a shame too. Hilda's apple pie was one of their best sellers. And ever since her diagnosis, Rio and Hilda had cut back on exploring the ruins for Salamandinay's research. Instead, Hilda had established an apple orchard while Rio had been given a teaching position at the university. Just like with Tusk, most of his students were the DRAGON girls, a fact that did not go unnoticed by a very annoyed Hilda. Before Ange could say anything else, a sudden screech caught their attention and they looked up so see a Schooner with a dress wrapped around its neck dropping down towards them.

"Oh my," Ersha said. "I wonder what's wrong with Vivian." Their friend landed before them and was just about to transform when Ange stopped her.

"Behind the screen," she reminded her. As Dr. Gecko and Maggie were unable to regenerate her wings and tail for her human form, the only way Vivian could fly was through transformation. So Ange had Tusk install a screened off changing area on the side of the café. Around the corner Vivian disappeared, followed by a pop and a puff of smoke before she came running out wearing the dress wrapped around her Schooner form's neck. In the years since Libertus, Vivian had become captain of the EDF's first squad and had also undergone quite a growth spurt. She was now as tall and well endowed as Ersha. And as she hurried towards them, Ange saw that her breath was heaving and she was trembling with excitement. "Vivian what's going on?"

"Here's a pop quiz," Vivian gasped. "Guess what time it is?"

"You don't mean..." Ersha started to ask.

"Bingo!" Vivian sang. So it was finally time. They'd better get to the hospital before they missed it.

"Tusk," Ange called. "Get Van and bring your skyhook around. It's happening."

Lining up the papers in her hands, Salia, Commander-in-Chief of the ESDF, tapped them on her desk to straighten them out. While Embryo had been defeated, Salia had argued the possibility that another parallel version of him or some other threat was bound to attack sooner or later. Salamandinay had agreed and together, they had received the blessing from Aura to create the Earth Self Defense Force, a joint military force comprised of DRAGONS, Norma, and Humans in the event that another threat emerged. Thankfully, Embryo's Arzenal had most of the utilities that theirs had. Including a deck for launching Para-mail.

"Commander Salia?" Salia looked up and saw Emma standing in the command center's doorway. "I've just finished reviewing the supply list. It looks like the only thing we're running short on is alloy for the Para-mail repairs."

"I'll send word for Salamandinay to put in an order to the Genome clan." Thanks to their gravity powers, the Genome clan were natural miners. Able to sense and filter valuable materials out of the ground without excessively disturbing the landscape. "That will be all for today Emma. I'll see you tomorrow."

"Ma'am," Emma answered with a salute. Thanks to her administrative skills, Emma ran the launch base like clockwork. As she left, Salia turned back to the desk and gently touched the picture of Alektra that Jasmine had saved for her. We're doing alright Alektra, she thought. And so am I. The phone on her desk suddenly rang and Salia picked it up.


"Hey I'm looking for a beautiful lady. Is this her?" Salia gave an annoyed smile.

"Hello Spider. Is your broadcast finished for the day?" Since Libertas, Spider had used his technical expertise to build a radio network with himself as the chief RJ.

"You got it. I picked up some teriyaki chicken from that place you like. I'll keep it warm until you get home."

"Thanks," she said. "I'll see you in a little while." Salia hung up and thought back on how he had become her boyfriend. Spider was the last person she ever thought she would fall for, especially since she had found his constant hitting on her and every other girl to be insufferably obnoxious. But in the years since, Salia had come to learn that real love was nothing like in the manga she used to read. And unlike Embryo, Spider treated her like she mattered. No sooner had she turned back to her paperwork than her phone rang once again. "Yes?"

"Salia!" Ange's voice said. "It's time! Get to the hospital!" The line went dead and Salia shook her head as she dialed a new number. Even after five years, marriage, and motherhood; Ange was just as impatient as ever.

"Spider, make that order to go. It's time."

At the foot of the memorial, two Norma and a little DRAGON girl stood in silent respect. Erected shortly after they arrived in the True Earth, the monument and the graves around it were a testament to those who had died during Libertas; regardless of what race they were. In front of one of the graves, Rosalie and Chris looked down at Marika's headstone. Mary and Nonna had already come by, as had Maggie and Jasmine judging by the flowers laid on Commander Jill's grave. In addition to Marika, the three of them had also laid flowers on Irma and Tanya's graves as well.

"I can't believe it's already been five years," Rosalie said. Chris's lip trembled as she reached forward and gently brushed Marika's tombstone.

"I can never say it enough," she half-sobbed. "I am so sorry for what I did to you. I live every day trying to make up for it." To that end, Chris had joined the ESDF and was now captain of Second Squad. If a new threat ever appeared like Salia predicted, Chris would be the first in battle to protect her friends and family. Feeling a small hand take her own, Chris looked down at the little DRAGON girl who stood between her and Rosalie.

"Mama Chris," the child pleaded. "Please don't be sad." Chris smiled and wiped her eyes.

"I'm okay Fafni." After she and Rosalie married, the two of them had adopted Fafni whose parents had both died in the dimensional merger. It wasn't the weirdest dynamic on Neo-Arzenal. Women, mostly Norma and DRAGONs, greatly outnumbered human males so it wasn't uncommon for a man to have two or even three wives. "Come on. Let's go home. I want to hear the essay you wrote for Ersha." She and Chris took one of Fafni's hands and they walked away together when someone called for them from overhead.

"Rosalie! Chris!"

"It's Auntie Lamia!" Fafnit cried. Vivian's mother landed down before them and Chris could tell by her wide eyes something was up.

"I felt you'd be here. We need to get to the hospital. It's time!"

"Seriously?" Rosalie grinned. "Well then what are we waiting for?"

By the time they had arrived, a small crowd had gathered in front of the hospital. One of the first large buildings built after Libertus, Maggie served as its chief doctor with aide from Dr. Gecko. Van himself had been born here. As Tusk brought down his skyhook, Ange climbed out of the left sidecar with Van while Momoka climbed out of the right with the basket she had thrown together. All around them, Norma, former Network agents, and DRAGONs in their human form mingled together. There were even a few Brigs and Galleons hanging around the grounds. And all of them there to await the news.

"There you are," someone called. Walking towards them was Boss, or Blitz as he referred to be called now, alongside Jasmine who carried a little puppy in her arms. Already an old dog when Libertus occurred, Vulcan had died a few years ago. However, Rio and Hilda's exploration of the ruins had turned up a genetic research lab, the technology of which had allowed Gecko and Gila to clone Vulcan Jr. Boss meanwhile had used his experience as an architect to build their new city while Jasmine had opened a brand new mall. "I almost thought you wouldn't make it," Blitz said

"We wouldn't miss this for the world," Ange said. From out of the crowd, Sala stepped forward with Kaname, Naga, and Lizardia.

"I see you brought some refreshments," Sala pointed out. "I hope you brought one of those bee-el-tees I like." With nothing to do but wait, they all sat down to socialize. Hours passed by however and still no news from inside the hospital.

"The sun's almost down," Ersha pointed out. "I hope everything's okay."

"Ugh I'm so bored," Rosalie groaned.

"Well," Ange grinned. "If you want entertainment I'm sure Salia could always put on another show for us."

"I thought we agreed never to speak of that again," Salia grumbled. During their initial celebration of Libertus, Salia had agreed to perform a penance for how she had acted while working under Embryo. And Ange had convinced them all that she should do an idol concert in magical girl cosplay.

"I don't see why you're still so mad about that," Ange pointed out. "As I remember, half the Network tried to ask you out afterwards." Just then, the hospital entrance opened and Dr. Gila stepped out. All in attendance stood and waited on baited breath for what had happened.

"It's over," she told them. "They're both fine." The entire yard erupted into cheers. Another birth was always a valuable addition.

"Well what are we waiting for?" Kat cried. "Let's get in there!"

"Hold it!" someone called out. Before them, Emma stood before the door to block their way. "The two of them have just been through a very difficult labor and do not need further aggravation. On authority of Commander Salia, I have compiled a list of the first group to be allowed in. When I call your name, please step forward." Ange just shook her head. Some things never changed.

Somone kissed Hilda's forehead as she slowly opened her eyes and saw a familiar face above her. "Rio?" she slurred. Her head felt like it was filled with fog and her body was so tired she was almost numb.

"Hey," Rio told her. "You did great. I'm so proud of you." Proud of what? she wondered. And why did her body feel so light and empty? As her head cleared and she remembered why she was at the hospital, Hilda bolted upright and winced at the ache that spread through her entire body. "Easy," Rio told her as he held her shoulders. "Maggie says you're still in a lot of pain."

"Rio!" she gasped, her panic rising within her. "What happened. Where..."

"Sshhh it's okay," he assured her. "Look." Beside Rio, Maggie and Dr. Gecko appeared. And in Maggie's arms was something that had been swaddled in a hospital blanket. Something that was crying loudly

"Congratulations," Maggie told them. "It's a healthy baby girl." As if in a dream, Hilda accepted the little newborn and cradled it against her breast. She stared down at the wrinkled skin and the tiny head of red hair as the child ceased crying and Hilda couldn't hold back.

"Our daughter," she sobbed. "She's our daughter." Rio gently caressed the little newborn's head as she nestled against Hilda's bosom, seeming to know that she with her parents and was loved.

"She's perfect," he said. Hilda looked up and saw tears were streaming down Rio's face as well. "Absolutely perfect."

"I must say," Dr. Gecko admitted. "It's always fascinating watching human births. I just wish they'd let me document the mating ritual." Someone knocked and they all looked up to see Emma standing in the doorway.

"Excuse me," she said. "But you have some guests. If you feel you're not up to them though I can tell them to come back later." Rio and Hilda looked to each other and nodded.

"I think we can spare a few minutes," he said. Emma nodded and gestured to someone out in the hall. One by one, Tusk and Ange came in with Van and Momoka, Jasmine and Blitz with Vulcan Jr, Rhino with Cynthia and a very pregnant Ersha, Salia and Spider, Vivian with Lamia, and finally Chris and Rosalie with Fafni.

"Oh my goodness," Ersha gasped. "She's lovely."

"She's a real beauty," Blitz nodded. "Just like her mother."

"Have you thought of any names?" Ange asked.

"We've decided to call her Sarah," Hilda answered. "It was because of her that Rio and I met after all."

"Well congratulations," Tusk grinned. "Only 99 more to go."

"Guys it's been seven years!" Rio groaned. "Can we drop it already!" The entire room burst out in laughter as Hilda looked down and nuzzled her cheek against Sarah's head. You'll be safe here, she promised. No one will ever hurt you like I was. And if anyone tries, they're going to answer to me. Hilda looked to her friends, her husband, and finally the little angel asleep in her arms. What was it Rio had said when they first arrived in the DRAGONs' Earth all those years ago? That somewhere in space and time there was a version of her where the two of them never met?

If so I hope you've found happiness, she thought. Because this is mine. And I won't give it up for anything.