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Fan Fic / Cross Ange: The Knight of Hilda

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There are other worlds besides the ones we know. This is the story of one such alternate world.

In a world that is both familiar yet alien, mankind has evolved the ability to harness a power known as the Light of Mana. Empowered and connected by its energy, mankind longs for nothing and enjoys a peace and prosperity once thought inobtainable.

But not all are able to reap the benefits of Mana. Within this perfect society, a minority of girls are born with the power to break the Light of Mana. Referred to as "Norma," these mutations are regarded by the public with fear and revulsion, leading them to be isolated in containment facilities. One of these is the Penal colony of Arzenal where Norma are forced to pilot humanoid battle machines called Para-mail against transdimensional invaders known as the DRAGONs. One such Norma was Angelise Ikaruga Misurugi (aka Ange), a former Imperial Princess whose unknown status as a Norma was publicly unveiled during her 16th birthday, leading her to be stripped of her title and thrown to the wolves. Receiving an encoded message from her younger sister Slyvia begging for help, Ange managed to escape Arzenal alongside her longtime maid Momoka (who followed her to Arzenal to continue serving her) and another Norma named Hilda who like Ange desired to reunite with her lost family. Unfortunately, tragedy awaited both of them. The message from Sylvia turned out to be a trap by Ange's older brother to eliminate her and Hilda discovered that her mother had born a second child to replace her. One which could use Mana.

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It is here that the timeline diverges. Heartbroken and despairing, Hilda is attacked by a group of human police when a mysterious figure comes to her aid. Giving his name only as "Rio", Hilda's rescuer is a member of an outlaw group called the Network who unlike the rest of humanity, have rejected the prejudice of the Norma, seeking to free them. But who exactly is Rio? And what changes will the presence of him and his allies make upon the world of Cross Ange?

A separate bonus chapter including M-rated material was posted alongside chapter 29 in August 2019.

Read it here.

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This fic provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Being his enemy, Rio finds Inspector Emma's growing infatuation for his Captain Algren persona as anywhere from an inconvenience to an annoyance. Especially when he and the others return to the Mana Earth and she drunkenly comes on to him.
  • Abusive Parents: Rio reveals during his heart to heart with Hilda in chapter 19 his parents were neglectful of him growing up which is why he bonded so strongly with Sarah and her parents. Then, after Sarah's status as a Norma was revealed along with Rio's role in hiding it, he was essentially banished to a boarding school so that his parents wouldn't have to live with the shame of what he did.
  • The Ace: As an agent, Rio has been trained in a number of fields in order to fulfill whatever task the Network leadership assigns him. As a result; he's a capable combatant, an expert in covert movement, a gifted actor and master of disguise, and has even been trained in Para-mail flight and combat.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Although she was never a villainous character, Hilda is depicted as being more heroic and selfless than in the canon series due to her storyline following a different path following Rio's rescue of her from the Mana police (meeting humans who are genuinely sympathetic to Norma, seeing Ange incarcerated by her family, partaking in Ange's rescue, being less antagonistic towards Tusk as they're not competitors for Ange's affections, choosing to return to Arzenal of her own volition after seeing Rio getting punished by his allies for going against orders, being part of the journey to the DRAGONs' world, as well as her growing feelings for Rio).
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    • Jasmine and the rest of Jill's inner circle who are more likely to draw the line with Jill's more morally objectionable acts.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Jill is willing to cross lines she may or may not have been willing to in the canon series such as reorganizing Aurora's security into her personal gang of enforcers, being prepared to kill Momoka immediately if Ange doesn't follow her orders, and even threatening to do the same to Tusk next. Somewhat justified in that in this version, Aurora's crew is a mixture of not only Norma but members of the Network, requiring a more iron grip on her role as commander in order to fulfill her goal of revenge against Embryo.
  • All-Loving Hero: Rio was able to overcome humanity's prejudice against the Norma pretty much on his own due to two incidents in his childhood: 1) seeing the reactions of disgust and hatred by a group of adults towards a Norma baby 2) meeting and befriending a Norma named Sarah who was eventually found out and shipped off to Arzenal.
  • Almost Kiss: Following their heart to heart in chapter 19, Rio attempts to kiss Hilda until Naga and Kaname show up to ruin the mood. He tries again during the DRAGONs' celebration for Ange saving their city only to be denied once more when Hilda notices that Salamandinay is confronting Ange about her choice to return to their world.
  • Amazon Chaser: Rio admits to Hilda during their heart to heart in chapter 19 that despite her at times temperamental nature, it's also what draws him to her. That and her Hidden Heart of Gold.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: When it becomes painfully clear Rio never saw her as anything more than a friend, Salia desperately offers to "prove" her feelings are real if he'll just return them. And when that doesn't work, she literally jumps him.
  • Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: As payback for Rio helping her save Ange as well as compensation for nearly getting him killed at the safehouse, Hilda reluctantly offers to have sex with him. To her surprise, Rio is too chivalrous to take advantage of her.
  • Artificial Human: It's revealed during a flashback in chapter 28 that Dark is a composite clone of Embryo's original followers.
  • Ascended Fanboy: As a boy, Rio's favorite show was the anime Rio Starr Space Outlaw, which is from where he later took his codename after becoming a full fledged Network Agent.
  • Badass Grandpa: Boss (aka Blitz) the leader of the network is in his 50's yet can still kick ass like in his prime. During Julio's assault on Arzenal, Boss pilots a custom para-mail armed with a Chain Gun Of Doom and nearly defeats Dark's Baretta in single combat.
  • Badass in Distress: Rio has a tendency to get in over his head which nearly always requires Hilda to rescue him.
  • Battle Butler: Embryo's vassal Dark is more than just his personal assassin and envoy, he also makes a delightful cup of chamomile tea.
  • Battle Couple: Kamaitachi and Kat of the Wildpack. Also Hilda and Rio though to a lesser extent due to the two of them fighting on different parts of a battle.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted. Hilda's wounds from her assault at the hands of the police are so prominent that when passing through Misurugi, Rio has to cover them with a makeup kit to avoid attracting undue attention. They do seem to heal at a rate faster than canon (possibly due to receiving actual medical care and enduring more comfortable conditions than canon) and nearly vanish by the time she returns to Arzenal.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me
    • When Hilda joins Ange and Tusk's rebellion against Jill, she does so not only to protect Rio but to to pay Momoka back for the food she made when Hilda and Ange were incarcerated.
    • Though he realizes Ersha plans to defect following Embryo's refusal to revive the schoolkids a second time, Dark doesn't alert his master to this as Ersha had earlier given him medical care for a slight injury despite knowing that he could heal it with his Mana, most likely the first act of genuine kindness he had ever received.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Maggie seems to develop this with Vulture of the Network after he joins the Aurora's crew with them frequently bickering over Vulture's insistence on smoking in the confined space of the ship. Lampshaded by Rosalie and Hilda:
    Rosalie: They've been going at it ever since they got on board.
    Hilda: Maybe they should just get a room already.
  • Berserker Tears: Hilda sheds some when Rio initially refuses to let her run off to save Ange:
    Rio: Look I get it. You want to help your friend but...
    Hilda: She's not my friend! I hate that bitch! She's spoiled, arrogant, and thinks the whole world revolves around her. She hogs every kill, never thinks of anyone but herself, and it was because of her that Zola died. She didn't even say she was sorry.
    Rio: If that's the case then why are you so desperate to help her?
    Hilda: (cue tears of anger and frustration) Because we're Norma! You humans took everything from me. My home, my mother, everything! You threw me into Arzenal where I had to fight every day just to survive. And when I finally managed to get out...it was because of Ange. And now she's going to die and not even her own family cares! Just because she's a Norma...like me. (Hilda leans back against a wall and slumps to the ground) But what do you care? You're a human. You have no idea what it's like to be powerless.
    • Salia herself sheds some in chapter 16 when she explains to Rio her frustration at not being able to pilot Villkiss despite all of her training and hard work.
  • Beta Couple: Subverted. Despite being the focus of the fic, Rio and Hilda's relationship is still treated in narrative as being secondary to Ange and Tusk.
  • Betty and Veronica: Salia as the Betty to Hilda's Veronica and Rio's Archie.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Rio and Hilda are this throughout the story:
    • Rio:
      • Saves Hilda from the cops sent to recapture her
      • Saves her from being raped by the cops recruited by Dark during the attack on their safehouse
      • Saves Hilda and Momoka from a Schooner during their attack on Arzenal
      • Saves a group of Arzenal's children from another Schooner
      • Saves Jasmine and the Armorers when Kaname attacks the main hanger with her Hekiryu
    • Hilda:
      • When Rio is overpowered by Dark, Hilda manages a sneak attack that incapacitates Dark long enough for Rio to land the final blow.
      • Both her and Rio give fire support when Tusk crashes his vehicle during Ange's rescue
      • Upon hearing Rio is fighting one of the Ryu-shin-ki without a machine of his own, Hilda races back to base, slashing her way through an entire flock of Schooners before charging into the hanger and attacking Kaname with enough ferocity to drive her away, even taking one of Hekiryugo's arms off with a freeze bullet.
      • With Rio pinned down by Julio's soldiers, Hilda flies in and fires a salvo from her Para-mail's assault rifle, giving him cover to run to the launch strip's end where he leaps off in time for her to catch him on the back of her seat.
    • The Network becomes this for the Norma when they arrive in their command ship to help fight off Julio's invasion.
    • Kat and Kamaitachi during Salamandinay's attack on the Dawn Pillar after the three Ryuu-shin-ki are trapped in a dense ball of Embryo's drones.
  • Big Brother Mentor: In addition to his relationship with Hilda, Rio serves as this to Ange, attempting to help guide her to the right path.
  • Big Damn Kiss: Following two failed attempts in the DRAGONs' Earth, Rio finally gives one to Hilda before the two of them engage in a little Pre-Climax Climax.
  • Big Good: The DRAGONs' leader Aura has a far larger role in this story than the canon series, speaking to Rio through dreams and trying to guide him. It's later revealed that after they rejected Embryo's world, she altered his and the other Network members' genetic makeup to use the same type of energy as her people.
  • Bi the Way: Hilda is more open to relationships with men in this story then canon where she was only slightly bi. She still has an attraction to women but her growing feelings for Rio are a result of both emotional bonding and sexual attraction.
  • Black Comedy Rape: Rio nearly finds himself on the receiving end of this following the DRAGONs' assault by a group of Norma who are a little TOO friendly. He also narrowly escapes the same fate as Tusk at the hands of Dr. Gecko and her lab assistants upon their arrival in the True Earth.
    • Averted in chapter 16 when Salia throws herself on Rio in a desperate bid to make him return her feelings for him.
  • Bomb Throwing Anarchist: Rio admits to Hilda in chapter 19 that he nearly became this after his search for Sarah failed to turn up any leads. The reason he didn't is because Blitz recruited him into the Network and taught him to channel his anger and pain into something more positive.
  • Bridal Carry: Rio carries Hilda this way three times over the course of the story:
    • After he saves her from her assault at the hands of the police.
    • During the ambush by the Diamond Rose Knights after their return to the World of Mana and Rio's Susano'o manages to catch Hilda's crippled Glaive.
    • When he and Hilda finally consummate their relationship prior to the final battle with Embryo.
  • Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: Inverted with Rio as the gentle boy to Hilda's brooding girl.
  • But Not Too Bi: Despite not having any real attraction to him, Rosalie admits during Rio's period disguised as Captain Algren that she WAS curious about what sex with a man would be like. Then in chapter 24, she admits to Hilda that she tried Sex for Solace with one of the Network members following Chris's betrayal and Hilda's disappearance after the attack on Arzenal, though she claims that she prefers relationships with other Norma.
  • The Cameo: While exploring the ruins of the True Earth, Hilda and Vivian see what they think is a figure in a duster and Stetson. Though they later decide it was a hallucination, a figure strongly suggested to be Roland Deschain of The Dark Tower watches them from a nearby alley.
  • Char Clone: Dark, Embryo's vassal who has fair hair (white), a mysterious past, and is the arch-rival of the protagonist (Rio). It's later revealed that he's a LITERAL clone created by Embryo.
  • Chick Magnet: Downplayed. After Rio's identity is revealed following the DRAGONs' assault on Arzenal, the fact that he was lying to them about who he was coupled with the long felt persecution by humans results in most of the Norma still hesitant to trust him. However, he does gain his fair share of female admirers including Hilda (his eventual Love Interest), Salia (the Betty to Hilda's Veronica), Ersha (after seeing how nice he is to the children of Arzenal) the three Bridge Bunnies (for helping them during the attack), Irma and Tanya (prior to their Face–Heel Turn) Inspector Bronson (a case of Loves My Alter Ego) and Maggie (though she's more of The Tease for her own amusement). He also becomes a Mr.Fanservice to the Arzenal residents during his time posing as Capt. Algren.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Spider of the Network's Wild Pack crew is a Casanova Wannabe who hits on every girl he sees but like the rest of them is dedicated to protecting Norma from being persecuted.
  • Clark Kenting: In addition to using makeup to cover her wounds from the police, Rio has Hilda change her hairstyle from twin tails to a single ponytail to avoid being recognized while traveling through Misurugi. When Hilda expresses doubt about it working, Rio lampshades it by saying:
    Rio: Little things can make a big difference. You'd be surprised what I've gotten away with using just a pair of glasses and my winning smile.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Hilda glues herself to Rio's side during their time in the DRAGONs' Earth due to Dr. Gecko's desire to have both him and Tusk as "research subjects". She also gets visibly annoyed whenever other Norma try to make a move on him.
    • Chris shows signs of this when she fears Rosalie is going to dump her so she could try to have sex with Rio while he was posing as Capt. Algren.
    • Kat when Salamandinay and her subordinates form an alliance with Aura and Kaname expresses interest in Kamaitachi.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Rio won't hesitate to fight dirty in a life or death situation, favoring ambush tactics with shock and awe. During the assault on Arzenal, he and the Norma work together to use the architecture of the base to establish traps and kill boxes for the enemy soldiers. Later, when Jill tries to run off to fight Embryo on her own, after Tusk uses his grapnel to snag her arm, Rio throws a wrench into her leg wound to immobilize her long enough for Rosalie and Hilda to grab her.
  • Co-Dragons: Salia and Dark.
  • Cooldown Hug: Rio gives one to Hilda when she expresses her shame and disgust over the things she had to do to survive Arzenal.
  • Cool Old Guy: In addition to being a Badass Grandpa and a Reasonable Authority Figure, Boss works behind the scenes to maintain the integrity of Libertus despite having his power limited by Jill. He also has several moments when he gives fatherly advice to Hilda.
  • Covert Pervert: As she becomes more and more infatuated with Rio's Captain Algren persona, Inspector Emma begins to have gradually more risqué fantasies, including one where she cooks him a steak wearing nothing but an apron.
    • Salia, after Rio accidentally catches her cosplaying, takes up a new method of stress relief, writing erotic fanfiction based on her favorite magical girl manga with self inserts of herself as the heroine and Rio as a Tuxedo Kamen expy.
  • Crazy Survivalist: The Network is this by the World of Mana's standards, rejecting the use of the Light of Mana for only when necessary and living as both the Norma or Ancient Folk do.
  • Cruel Mercy: Cornered by Dark and Embryo during the assault on Arzenal, Embryo announces that Rio has been a thorn in his side for too long but neither can he ignore that he owes Rio for rescuing Ange. In the end, he decides that since Rio doesn't appreciate his gift of the Light of Mana, he strips it from him so that Rio can spend the rest of his life powerless. As it turns out Aura had other plans.
  • The Cynic: In the early chapters of the story, Rio's altruism comes as such a shock to the more jaded Hilda that she's left feeling confused and unsure how to respond.
  • Damsel in Distress: Hilda is rescued twice in the early chapters.
    • Damsel out of Distress: After being pinned to a tree by one of Dark's restraints, Hilda manages to pry herself loose in time to distract Dark enough for Rio to land the winning blow.
  • David vs. Goliath: Kaname and Naga have expanded roles in the DRAGONs' assault on Arzenal, with Naga eliminating the defensive artillery while Kaname launches an attack on the main hanger where she encounters Rio who fights her Hekiryugo using a combination of assault weapons and his Mana. Despite putting up a valiant fight, Rio's energy is soon depleted and he suffers two broken ribs before Hilda comes to his rescue.
  • Dead Person Conversation: Following the consummation of her relationship with Rio in the bonus chapter, Hilda has a dream where Zola pays her a visit and wishes her luck in the coming battle as well as to live the life she and all the other Norma who died because of Embryo couldn't.
  • Death Seeker: In her grief and shame following the deaths of the Embryo Academy kids, Ersha defects to Aurora hoping Jill will execute her in accordance with Arzenal rules regarding traitors. Rio however, with some help from Vivian and Cynthia, is able to convince her she can do more to atone by living in a way that honors the kids' memory.
  • December–December Romance: Boss and Jasmine had an intimate relationship during the days of the first Libertus and they rekindle their romance after Arzenal and the Network restore their alliance.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Part of Hilda's character growth is her eventual warming up to Rio as they move from friends to comrades to mutual romantic feelings.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Rio crosses this when Jasmine takes him to meet with his long lost friend Sarah and he finds out that she had been killed in a DRAGON incursion years earlier.
  • Does Not Like Men: In the early chapters, Hilda retains her distrust and revulsion towards men. However, as the story progresses, Rio's kindness and chivalry helps her see not all men are untrustworthy and is a major contribution to her character growth.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Played for laughs. Following his fight with Akame and her Hekiryugo, Hilda stays by Rio's side until he wakes up...just so she can clobber him with a bedpan.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Averted with Salia and Rio. When Salia jumps him, Rio is not turned on and is understandably angry with her. The story does however paint her in a sympathetic light due to Salia being under emotional distress from the realization Jill had lied to her about her potential to pilot Villkiss.
  • The Dragon: Dark, an OC created to be Embryo's vassal. In addition to his hand to hand skill he also pilots a custom Para-mail called Bareta (named after Italian firearms company Beretta) whose output rivals that of a Ragna-mail thanks to being augmented by Dark's own Mana.
  • Dude, he's like, in a coma: Averted. While Rio is under anesthetic during the DRAGONs' treatment of his broken arm, Hilda watches over him and, thinking back to their Almost Kiss the night before, leans down to him but hesitates at the last moment. Ultimately, she decides not to as it would be meaningless if Rio wasn't awake to share the moment with her.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Inspector Schwartz, the Token Good Teammate of the police recruited by Dark to track down Rio and Hilda, stops his fellow officers from raping Hilda, citing that even a Norma doesn't deserve that.
    • Flashbacks used to build character depth with Zola showed that she wouldn't make a pass at anyone younger than fifteen. Nor did she ever make a move on Ersha due to the two of them being childhood friends.
  • Expy:
    • According to the author, Boss, the leader of the Network, was modelled after old Joseph Joestar from Stardust Crusaders (in chapter 26 he uses his Mana to manipulate strands of wires similar to Joseph's Hermit Purple). He even says that his pick to voice him would be Richard Epcar.
    • Gila, the caretaker of Susano'o was modelled after Yomiko Readman of Read or Die.
    • Two original mechas created for the story, the Bareta and the Susano'o, had their designs based on the Master and Unicorn Gundams respectfully.
  • Five-Man Band:
  • Fix Fic: The fic is a response to the lack of Mana users who are either likable or capable. The Network also serves as a group of Mana users who are not only both but additionally break the absolutist stance that nearly all Mana users hate Norma. It has taken inspiration from many different homegrown states that fought their own oppressive regimes.
  • Friend to All Children: Following the DRAGONs' assault and the reveal of his true identity, Rio helps repair one of the schoolchildren's plush and later entertains another group with some Mana based card tricks. As he tells Ersha, he had to become this as more often then not, Human parents who do want to protect their Norma children aren't willing to make the sacrifices necessary to go with them so Network agents have to be able to convince any child they conduct that they can be trusted.
  • The Gadfly: Maggie's potential to troll people is expanded upon in this fic, with Inspector Bronson being a favorite target of hers. She also seems to enjoy getting Rio flustered by flirting with him.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Rio and Hilda in chapter 29, shown in detail in the separate bonus chapter.
  • Groin Attack: After learning of Ange's imprisonment and imminent execution in chapter 3, Hilda attempts to run off and save her only for Rio to hold her back. When an attempt at seducing him doesn't work, Hilda drives her knee into his crotch before knocking him out with a fireplace poker.
    • Later, on Tusk's island following Ange's rescue, when Spider makes a pass at her, Hilda grabs Spider by the crotch and threatens to neuter him if he doesn't knock it off.
  • Ham and Cheese: Invoked in-universe. Rio has a tendency to spout over the top dialogue to relieve tension in moments of stress.
  • Handicapped Badass: The entire Network. In order to prevent Embryo from hacking their minds the human members of the Network implant themselves with devices call M-jammers at the base of their spinal cord which blocks the Light of Mana from their central nervous system but not from their peripheral. As a result, they have greatly reduced Mana reserves than normal humans as well being limited to Mana's physical applications (physical enhancement, shield generation, healing) requiring them to conserve it by supplementing their energy with weaponry, tactics, and combat training.
    • Double invoked with Rio during Julio's attack on Arzenal when he finds himself cornered by both Dark and Embryo, the latter of whom in an act of Cruel Mercy strips him of Mana entirely (downgrading him to Badass Normal) before Dark breaks his right arm. Fortunately, after arriving in the True Earth, the =DRAGONs are able to use their medical technology to heal his limb.
  • Heroes Prefer Redheads: Rio and Hilda. Rio also seems to get more flustered around Maggie, though this may have more to do with the fact that she's a much more aggressive flirt than the other Norma.
  • Heroic BSoD: After seeing Rio getting beaten by the Wild Pack for going off script to help her save Ange, Hilda tries to intervene until Tusk stops her, saying that Rio knew this would happen and that they have to let him make it up to his comrades. The realization that he knowingly helped her despite knowing the consequences without demanding anything from her in return leaves Hilda completely shocked and shames her into returning to Arzenal before he can get into any further trouble on her behalf.
    • Rio later experiences one of his own when Jasmine shows him Sarah's grave and he realizes everything he did to find her was for nothing.
  • Honor Before Reason: Seeing how desperate Hilda is to save Ange from her execution reminds Rio how powerless he felt when he couldn't save his friend Sarah from being taken. And so against his better judgement, he takes her up to Misurugi and intervenes in Tusk and the Wild Pack's operation to rescue Ange, knowing full well the consequences he'll face for doing so.
    • Later, after learning that the Network plans to return the girls to Arzenal rather than escorting them to safety like he originally promised, Rio refuses to comply, even after learning that Ange can pilot Villkiss since it would mean breaking his word. It's only after Ange and Hilda both agree to return of their own choice that Rio finally relents.
    • Deconstructed in chapter 28 when Rio and Momoka track Tusk down to a local hospital where he was admitted following his attempt to cover Ange's escape from Embryo. Having promised Hilda he wouldn't take any more of the Dracunium pills than advised, Rio is forced to make a Sadistic Choice between saving Tusk and breaking his word. Subverted in that his hesitance isn't so much from pride but out of fear of causing her pain.
  • Hidden Depths: Hilda is shown to have a talent for cooking, a reference to the PS Vita game where one of the potential storylines involves the player character Naomi developing a relationship with Hilda, the end of which shows Hilda happily cooking a meal for the two of them
    • Zola in flashbacks is shown to be a Cool Big Sis figure in her youth to the younger kids as well as a close friend of Sarah, the Norma befriended by Rio as a boy. Her death became the Freudian Excuse for Zola's hedonism as she came to the realization her life as a Norma had no value in the eyes of the world so she might as well enjoy herself as much as she could before the inevitable.
  • His Heart Will Go On: Upon seeing that his friend Sarah had died years earlier, Rio falls into despair until two things pull him back 1) a message left to him by Sarah that she entrusted to Jasmine 2) Hearing Hilda sing the lullaby her mother used to sing for her (Hilda had been egged on by Ange until her pride couldn't take it anymore).
  • I Was Just Passing Through: After rescuing Ange from the gallows, Hilda claims this as her reason for helping her:
    Ange: Hey Hilda?
    Hilda: What?
    Ange: Thanks.
    Hilda: Well you looked so pathetic I couldn't help feeling sorry for you. And I guess I did owe you anyway for helping me escape Arzenal.
  • The Infiltration: To keep the human authorities from stumbling upon Libertus, following Ange's rescue and the return of both her and Hilda to Arzenal, the Network kidnaps the officer sent to investigate Arzenal while Rio posses as his replacement; Captain Joseph Algren, under the pretense of keeping Bronson occupied.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Faced with the fact that his friend Sarah had been killed years earlier and confronted with Jill's less than sympathetic attitude, Rio snaps and tries to deck her only for Jill to dodge and knock the wind out of him first before giving him a piece of her mind:
    Jill: What did you think was going to happen? Did you really think you could just fly in here like some hero and carry her off? You and your friends, you say you want to protect the Norma but you don't know a damn thing. Take a good look around. This is what it means to be a Norma. Why aren't you getting furious over their deaths? And what about Lisa? Have you already forgotten about her? Or do Norma only matter if you know them? All that talk and you don't give a damn about any of them. And now, because of your selfishness, you've endangered Libertus itself. The Inspector may be naïve but she isn't stupid. The minute she lays eyes on you she will know that something is wrong. I should have known better than to trust the Network. You failed us just like you did before.
  • La Résistance: The Network, a group of Mana users who have learned the truth about both Norma and the world and seek to protect them from being exploited. According to notes by the author, he based them on the real life Bialski Partisans, a Jewish resistance group that fought the Nazis in what is now western Belarus.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: After Ange activates Villkiss's Uriel mode, Jill orders her inner circle to not reveal this to Rio, not wanting to involve the Network anymore than they already are. She fails to include Hilda however who reveals it to him in a private conversation.
    • Averted with Ange and Rio. Despite his frustration with Ange not wanting anything to do with Libertus, Rio realizes that Embryo will come for her sooner or later and tells her about Villkiss's true potential.
  • Loves My Alter Ego: Rio's identity of Capt. Joseph Algren was tailor made by Network Intelligence to appeal to Bronson's ideal of the perfect soldier and gentleman. It works a little too well as Bronson quickly becomes infatuated with him.
  • Male Gaze: During Boss's attempt to overthrow Jill, while he still finds her nagging about his smoking annoying, Vulture can't help noticing Maggie's Sexy Walk.
    • Rio finds himself gazing down Maggie's cleavage on more than one occasion
  • Manly Tears: Rio sheds these twice in the chapter where he learns that his friend Sarah died in battle years earlier. First after watching a video message she left for him, and second after hearing Hilda sing and he finds the resolve to continue fighting.
  • Mid-Season Upgrade: During Embryo's testing of the dimensional merger, Rio discovers that Aura had given him the ability to draw on the same energy as the DRAGONs when he helps Hilda and Vivian free Vivian's mother from under an Iaria mount. He also receives from Salamandinay a mecha of his own, the Susano'o, which was the original prototype for the Ragna-mail.
    • Hilda's Glaive is also upgraded by the DRAGONs with a more powerful and efficient power core and a beam gun to replace her old assault rifle.
  • Mr. Fanservice: During his time posing as Capt. Algren, Rio becomes this for the Arzenal residents with photos of him replacing Perolina memorabilia as the hot new collectors' item.
  • My Greatest Failure: Rio has never forgiven himself for not being able to keep his Norma friend Sarah from being taken by the authorities.
    • For the majority of the Network, being unable to participate in the first Libertus is this for them.
  • Never Live It Down: Invoked in-universe. Prior to the first Libertus, the Network's primary base of Zion was attacked by the authorities and their militia nearly wiped out. After relocating, the leadership was faced with a choice of either sending what was left to fight alongside Arzenal and the Ancient Folk or not participating in order to protect their noncombatants. Rather than leave the ones taken under their care without protection, the Network opted not to participate, a fact Jill has never forgiven them for.
  • Never Mess with Granny: During the DRAGONs' assault, Jasmine picks off Schooners with a sniper rifle then backs up Rio against Kaname's Hekiryugo with a pump action grenade launcher. She later pulls a gun on Jill and threatens to shoot her when Jill takes Momoka hostage.
  • Nice Hat: While out exploring the ruins of the True Earth, Hilda finds a Stetson in the window of a derelict shop which she gives to Rio.
  • Noble Bigot: Inspector Schwartz whom Dark recruits to help him track down Hilda and Rio. Although he shares society's views on Norma, he doesn't hesitate to try and stop his fellow officers from trying to rape Hilda. He also shows disgust at the lengths Julio goes to humiliate and torture Ange during her execution. It's later revealed he himself has a daughter and as a parent, he sympathizes with how the King and Queen of Misurugi tried to protect Ange.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Against orders, Rio's sympathy for Hilda overrides his sense of duty and takes her up to Misurugi where the two of them intervene in Tusk and the Wild Pack's rescue of Ange. Though it ends well, once safely away, the Wild Pack proceeds to beat the crap out of him for going off script. Boss himself later contacts Rio and says that if he didn't have another mission lined up he'd have Rio dragged back to HQ and locked in the stockade for a month.
    • Averted with Inspector Schwarz who, after letting Rio and Hilda escape in gratitude for Rio sparing his life, is able to keep his superiors from finding out what he did.
  • Not So Different: Shortly after being rescued by Rio, Hilda learns that Ange had been captured. Seeing Ange in a prison cell, having been betrayed by her family as Hilda had been drives home how similar they are and motivates Hilda to try and rescue her.
  • Only Sane Person: Jasmine who like in canon is not afraid to call out Jill on her more jerkass moments but realizes that Libertus can't succeed without the Network's help.
    • Rio when he and the others (Ange, Tusk, and Hilda) cross over into the true earth; assuming a leadership position among their group and doing his best to keep Ange's more impulsive tendencies under control.
  • Papa Wolf: While fighting his way through Julio's death squads, Rhino rescues one of the Arzenal schoolkids and escorts her to the Aurora. He later becomes her pseudo-guardian in place of Ersha and the two work together in the ship's launch bay since Rhino is too big to fit in a Para-mail cockpit and her smaller hands help him fit in places he can't.
  • Pet the Dog: After Julio's attack, Jill picked up the survivors from the Network ship that was sunk by Dark's Baretta and allowed them to serve alongside the Norma since the number of wounded left them shorthanded. She does however demand that they turn over all their weaponry while on board along with the condition that they leave if she ever told them to.
  • Posthumous Character: Zola has an expanded role in the story via flashbacks and a Dead Person Conversation with Hilda.
  • Power Trio: The governing tribunal of the Network:
  • Quantity Versus Quality: The Network is badly outnumbered compared to the more fanatical majority of the Mana populace. But their training, practice with Mana as a military tool, and ability to function without it more than makes up for it. A handful can easily take down hordes of Mana soldiers and weapons, with even their Imperial Guards being barely better than a band of mercenaries with zero combat experience.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Using his Mana and a loose string from his shirt, Rio performs some makeshift stitchwork on one of the schoolchildren's plush after it was damaged in the DRAGONs' attack.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Boss, who joins the leadership of Libertus after the exodus from Arzenal. Unfortunately, Jill takes efforts to limit his and the Network's influence, confiscating their weapons and reorganizing the Aurora's security division into her personal enforcers, forcing Boss to work behind the scenes to try and maintain the integrity of Libertus as any misstep could tip the balance in Jill's favor.
  • The Resenter: It's suggested during his conversation with Ersha in chapter 28 that the reason Dark despises Rio so much is that he's envious of how Rio and the rest of the Network broke free of the mold Embryo created for them and made their own fate.
  • Sadistic Choice: When Rio and Momoka save Tusk from the hospital where he was taken following his attempt to cover Ange's escape from Embryo, the Light of Mana suddenly fails and forces Rio to chose either to break the promise he made to Hilda not to take more of the Dracunium pills which power his Light of Aura than advised or allow Tusk to die. Luckily, Momoka proposes a Third Option.
  • Secret Keeper: His first day posing as Captain Algren, Rio stumbles upon Salia during one of her cosplay sessions while touring Arzenal with the Inspector. Not wanting to attract undue attention, Rio promises not to tell her secret if Salia keeps his.
  • Sex for Solace: In chapter 24, Rosalie tries to seduce Hilda (in contrast to the canon series where Hilda tries to seduce Ange). She also admits she tried it with one of their Network allies while Hilda was in the True Earth but ultimately prefers Norma.
  • Shipper on Deck: Quick to pick up on Hilda's feelings for Rio, Vivian becomes their biggest supporter. As does both Rio's ex-girlfriend and comrade Kat and Vivian's mother.
  • Ship Tease: Vulture and Maggie. Also Dark and Ersha.
  • Shoot the Dog: Rio admits to Hilda that he's done things he's not proud of (like killing fellow humans) yet did so in order to protect innocent Norma from being victimized.
  • Shout-Out: During Ange's first encounter with Salamandinay, images of their past lives/alternate universe versions are described as rotating around a "Dark Tower" that serves as the axis of the vision.
    • Several characters, locations, and vessels are named after characters from the various Gundam series.
    • Chaplain, the head of Network intelligence, is a possible reference to Deacon from Fallout 4 as both are members of a covert organization dedicated to helping an oppressed minority and have codenames derived from clerical titles.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: During their rescue of Ange from Embryo, Vivian offers to double team with Rio against Dark. When Dark accuses Rio of being too much of a coward to fight him alone, Rio counters that he doesn't fight alongside the Norma of Arzenal because of cowardice, rather they fight alongside him because they're friends.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Vulture of the Network is rarely seen without a cigarette in his mouth.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: One of the children killed during Julio's assault on Arzenal (whom the author gives the name of Cynthia), revived by Embryo, and then killed again during the dogfight over Misurugi palace; is spared her first death when she's rescued by Rhino and evacuated aboard the Aurora. Moved by Rio's words from earlier, she decides to stay on board the Aurora and is assigned to help the Armorers.
  • Super Prototype: To hopefully develop an alliance with the Network, Salamandinay in chapter 22 gives Rio a mecha the [DRAGONs have named Susano'o; the original prototype for the Ragna-mail that Embryo left behind when he originally emigrated from the True Earth and which the DRAGONs used to reverse engineer the Ryu-shinn-ki. Subverted in that while it's powerful, it's also bulkier than a true Ragna-mail while it's main weapon was originally deemed impractical for extended combat. It's also far less agile than a true Ragna-mail.
  • Team Mom: Vivian's mother Lamia imagines herself as this when Vivian promises to return and introduce her to the rest of her friends, having learned from Hilda of the abuse and persecution Norma endure even from their own families.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: Because he tried to stop his fellow officers from raping Hilda, Schwartz was spared by Rio. As a result, when he sees them drive off, even though it goes against everything he stands for as a police officer, he allows them to escape since Rio's mercy allowed him to return home to his family.
  • Token Good Teammate: Although Inspector Schwartz has no problem pursuing an escaped Norma, he draws the line at rape regardless of who it is. Later, while watching Ange's attempted execution, he finds himself disgusted with the way Julio tries to humiliate and torture Ange and expresses relief when she is rescued. It's revealed he himself has a daughter and the realization that she would have been exiled if she were born a Norma leads him to begin questioning the morality of the world he's been living in.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Flashbacks show that Zola and Rio's friend Sarah developed this dynamic during their youth in Arzenal.
  • Violently Protective Girlfriend:
    • Hilda quickly becomes this as she and Rio grow closer:
      • During the DRAGONs' attack on Arzenal, after hearing he was fighting Kaname's unit without a machine of his own, Hilda races back to Arzenal, slashing her way through an entire flock of Schooners and tackling into Kaname's Hekiryugo; even managing to take its arm off with a freeze bullet before chasing it out of the hanger.
      • After arriving at the DRAGONs' village and learning the truth about why they've been fighting, Hilda throws a glass jar at Naga, barely missing her head, when Naga labels Rio as being no different from the other Mana using humans.
      • During the ambush by the Diamond Rose Knights following their return to the World of Mana, Hilda takes aim at Irma when the latter threatens Rio for insulting Embryo.
      • Pulls a gun on members of Aurora's security when they try to arrest Rio on falsified charges from Jill.
    • Kat when she and Kamaitachi arrive to aide Salamandinay in Chapter 27. Irma tries to attack him from above and Kat throws her Razor's hatchet into her Ragna-mail's shoulder, immobilizing it.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Rio is one of the few people who will consistantly call out Ange on her more selfish behavior such as her refusal to join Libertus.
    • After he finds her following her attempted suicide run against Embryo, Momoka gives one to Rio when she sees he killed the four cops that found her though she retracts it when Rio points out that they had identified her which would compromise their ability to rescue Tusk.
  • "World of Cardboard" Speech: During his fight with Kaname in the Arzenal hanger, Rio is battered, bloody, and barely able to stand yet refuses to quit despite Kaname's insistence that he can't win:
    Rio: (holding out Sarah's bracelet) You see this? This was my friend's. One of your monsters killed her.
    Kaname: (aboard her Hekiryugo) So you seek revenge? How pitiful. To throw away your life for such petty reasons.
    Rio: (clutching the bracelet to his chest) I couldn't save her. Not when she was taken. Not when she died. In the end I couldn't do a damn thing for her. Jill was right. I don't know a damn thing. There were so many graves I couldn't count them all. And the rest of the world doesn't even care. Just because they're Norma. But not anymore. I don't know who you are or what you want. And I don't give a damn either. You hear me? As long as I'm standing I won't let you kill anyone else!
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Aura gives such a speech to Rio the morning prior to the DRAGONs' attack on Arzenal:
    Aura: I have been watching you and those like you for a long time. Despite being his creation, you have broken free of his logic and embraced your own. You reject the empty prosperity and false peace he offers in exchange for a life of suffering and conflict. Because of that, you were able to hear me when others could not.
    Rio: So then, you're his enemy too? But if so then why don't you help us? Why aren't you fighting him?
    Aura: He has bound me and left me unable to do so. Even appearing to you in this form strains the limits of my power. And now, my children are coming. And when they do, they will slaughter all who stand in their way. You must show them the truth. That your kind have the potential to be more than his dolls. That you are greater than even you know.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Although generally a nice guy, Rio does have limits as to what he's willing to put up with. After rescuing Hilda from the police, she mistakes him for an enemy and attacks him, forcing him to put her in a choke hold until she calms down. He also threatens to knock her out when she won't allow him to treat her wounds from the police. Later, he nearly punches Jill twice although both times he was under emotional distress which Jill was far from sympathetic towards (first when confronted with the fact his friend Sarah had died years before he arrived to save her, and then again after witnessing the pit of burning DRAGON carcasses.)
  • Would Hurt a Child: Upon arriving at Ange's execution, Hilda nearly shoots Sylvia after watching her whip Ange. Rio however, manages to hold her back, saying that giving away their position this early would only work against them.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: As to be expected, the rest of humanity views the Network as a gang of degenerate terrorists. To their credit, the Network doesn't try to overly justify their actions and does take steps to minimize collateral damage, only using lethal force against armed combatants.
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