I don't own anything except the Takahari family, their Dragoon Spirits, Count Draco von Schneider, and Kenji Okamura

Death isn't as long as I thought. That was my first thought when I regained consciousness. Was it all… a dream? I looked around. No, it wasn't… Did we win? I was lying on the ground near a lake, battered but alive. Rose was nearby.

I slowly stood, stunned that I was even still alive. My left arm seemed to be broken, but other than that, I was largely intact. The same could not be said for my equipment; all that remained of Arashi-Jisan was the hilt and a handful fragments strewn about.

I limped over to Rose and helped her to her feet. "You okay?"

"Ian? We're alive?" She seemed as surprised as I was. "You're hurt."

"I'll be all right. Where are we, anyway? I don't remember anywhere in Endiness like this." As I spoke, I opened a pouch on my belt with my good arm and began to splint my left arm with its contents.

"If I'm not mistaken, we're not far from where the Divine Tree was. It's destruction seems to have created that lake." Rose indicated the pieces of tree scattered about. "I think we succeeded."

"Looks that way. But where are the others? Unless we were out of it longer than I thought, they should still be around here somewhere."

Rose was searching the sky. "There they are. Above the crater rim."

I squinted; my eyes still weren't working right. "I see them. Let's see if we can get to them. Can't leave them thinking we're dead."

* * *

It took nearly an hour on foot, but the group appeared to be in no hurry and we were able to reach the crater rim before they left.

"Hey, Ryan! Mind giving me a hand here?"

Ryan looked down and gaped in astonishment. "Ian!? You're alive!?"

"Yeah, I am. Rose, too. Now you guys gonna help us out of here or not?"

"Uh, right." Ryan helped us out of the crater. "How did you get out of there? We all thought you were dead."

"Your guess is as good as mine, Ryan. I haven't the slightest idea how we survived. Even then, we didn't get out unscathed." I indicated my arm.

"I'd better take a look at that…"

"No need, Ryan. Look." I took off the splint, then flexed my arm. No sign of the break.

His eyes widened. "What the… How did you…"

I laughed humorlessly. "Maybe I'll tell you sometime. It doesn't matter now. Let's just get out of here."

"Yeah. Oh," he added, "here's your sword." He handed me Migi-no-te. "It made it out alright."

"Good. Arashi-Jisan was shattered in the explosion." I tucked the old weapon in my belt. "So where are we going from here?"

"Albert suggested we head back to Bale, at least for now."

"Then let's go. Our long quest is over."

* * *

I passed out during the journey back to Bale; I regenerate quickly, but that, combined with our recent trials, meant I was dead tired.

I awoke on a bed in one of the guest rooms in Indels Castle. Albert and Rose were standing near the bed.

"Finally awake, I see," Albert said. "We were beginning to wonder. How do you feel?"

"Like I slept for a week after being hit by a moon." I carefully sat up. "What are you doing here, anyway? Now that we've returned, don't you have affairs of state to manage?"

He shrugged. "Minister Noish is still handling things admirably. Besides, sometimes a friend takes precedence."

I slowly got to my feet. "Get back to work, Albert. I'm fine now."

"If you're sure…"

"Get going, Your Majesty. I'll be alright."

After Albert left, Rose turned to me. "You're sure you're recovered, Ian?"

I grinned. "Yeah, I'm fine. I was just exhausted, that's all. Saving the world will do that to you."

"So where do we go now? To Shirley's Shrine?"

I shook my head. "Not yet. I've a few more things to take care of, one of them right here in the castle." I smiled. "Coming with me?"

"Anywhere."

"Then come on. I need to see Albert in more formal settings."

* * *

By the time we reached the throne room, I was once again in my comfortable old ninja gear, minus Arashi-Jisan itself. In its place, my Masamune was tucked through my belt.

The rest of the group was there, even Miranda, who, by then, I would have expected to have returned to Mille Seseau to resume her duties as First Sacred Sister.

Albert stood as we entered, Rose a step behind me. "Ian! It's good to see you up and around."

I nodded, then knelt before him, drew Migi-no-te, and set it down at his feet. "Your Majesty, I swear fealty to you, and pledge to serve you as you require, until death and beyond."

Though clearly surprised, Albert nodded gravely. "Rise, then, Knight of Serdio. Take your sword."

I stood, tucking the blade back in its scabbard. "How shall I serve you, Your Majesty?"

"Oh, stop being so formal. I get enough of that in Court affairs." Albert's expression indicated that he wasn't too fond of political infighting, either. "Anyway, the best way you can 'serve' me right now is to do what you originally planned. But until the Shrine has been sufficiently restored, I suggest you relax. Feel free to stay in the castle, or travel around, until you're needed once more."

I mock-bowed. "Thank you, Albert. Rose and I will be revisiting the places our long journey took us to, and others that I wasn't around to see, like Seles." I frowned. "Which reminds me. Whatever happened to Hellena Prison?"

Albert grinned. "It seems that your brother gave my weapon's designers the formula for gunpowder before we left for Tiberoa. While we were in Mille Seseau, Noish had several tons of it set in the lower levels of the prison."

"Ouch." That much gunpowder probably blew Hellena sky high. I turned my attention to another matter. "So where are you going, Dart?"

The young mercenary-turned-Red-Eye Dragoon smiled. "Shana and I are returning to Seles to help rebuild. Perhaps we'll see you there."

"I, of course, am staying right here," Lavitz said. "I've been given a second chance to protect my king and country."

We clasped forearms, knight to knight. "Try not to get killed again, eh?"

"Kongol and I are going to Rouge," Haschel said. "It's time I went back, now that I know what happened to Claire."

"I'm going to Lohan with Guaraha," Meru said. "Serdio's an exciting place."

Miranda smiled, for the first time I could recall. "I have to return to Deningrad. My sisters and Queen Theresa must be worried. Oh, Shana," she added, taking something from around her neck. "This should be with you."

As Miranda held out the Dragoon Spirit of the White-Silver Dragon, a bright light filled the room. When it faded, there were two Dragoon Spirits glowing white, the one Miranda was holding, and one the floated over to Shana.

Rose inhaled sharply. "What is this? The Dragoon Spirit has chosen two masters?"

Shana stood still, stunned, as the new Dragoon Spirit came to rest around her neck. "I'm… I'm a Dragoon again?"

"Welcome back, Shana. Congratulations."

* * *

We have gone our separate ways now. Only Albert, Lavitz, Rose, and I remain at the castle, and the two of us will leave soon.

My madcap identical twin and our sister have gone to help with the reconstruction of Shirley's Shrine. By the time Rose and I return, it should be ready.

We may have separated at last, but I feel certain that this will not be the final journey this generation of Dragoons make together. As long as there are people there will be war, and as long as there is war, the Dragoons will be needed.

As Rose and I prepare to set out, I leave this chronicle in the Indels Castle library. And so here ends

The Story of the Diamond Dragoon

Ian Takahari