They had made it, they had survived a surprise attack from Mereoleona and were now just getting to see the small village they were heading towards. Despite everything, it was still early in the morning for the Clover Kingdom, with Asta grinning as he remembered the morning routine at the church.
First, the father would wake up, prep for morning prayers with the help of Sister Lily. Then he'd make sure the little brats are up and about and get them all fed. Maybe they still were eating tatoes all the time, or the money they sent back had been for better food. Then, they'd make sure laundry was ready and dry, provided no storms happened all of a sudden. His mind wandered a bit as he looked around, Noelle was still fighting off the early morning sleepiness despite their wake up call with Mereoleona, and the gifts were thankfully untouched. He smiled, looking at Noelle again before eagerly looking for his hometown in the distance.
Then his mind wandered again, this time to Lily. His first crush, he had barely thought about her at all over the past weeks. They had only written letters and been around briefly when someone had a bone to pick with Yuno. How would she react, especially when he said the same thing to Noelle as he did to her?
Probably not well, he winced at the memories of being pummeled into the ground whenever he crossed a line. Admittedly, an explanation like he got from Finral would've stopped him even as a small child. The thought about why they never sat him down and explained it to him passed by, at least until he saw Noelle's relaxed smile, that got rid of any anxiety he was hanging on too.
Noelle was admittedly surprised she was so calm. After all, she shouldn't have much to worry about. The family that raised the boy she liked was undoubtedly similar to him, except for his brother Yuno. She fought back a giggle, picturing all of them shouting and being excited over every little thing. Questions were definitely going to be flying her way, considering how a royal fell for a peasant.
They'd try to start by handing out gifts, part of her wondered if they had brought too many. Especially considering how the church was on the smaller side, they may have to spend more time than they planned helping place things inside. Oh well, it wouldn't detract from their plans. Arrive, give out gifts, enjoy a breakfast and then spend time in a relaxing environment. A perfect plan.
Both of them had a feeling something wouldn't go right, but they'd work through it. After all, that's what they had been doing since they met. Even if this was far less dangerous, at least in theory. Kids are unpredictable, and knowing they grew up around Asta meant predictability was not in the cards.
After a few more minutes of flying, Asta peeked around Finral's shoulder and saw the tiny little house he had grown up in. Sister Lily was outside, bringing out the morning laundry to hang dry with Hollo walking after her. They knew he was coming, Orsi feverishly sweeping the front steps as much as he could as they quietly got closer.
Noelle could practically feel Asta's excitement as they got closer, the youngest girl started to wave at the group as she noticed them. They got a little closer, the ground now just under them before Asta slipped off and sprinted towards the fence of his childhood home.
"I'm back!" he shouted as he hopped the fence, Hollo running out from behind Lily and going to his big brother for a hug. The rest of the group touched down just as everyone else ran to meet them, and their jaws dropped at the huge bundles under Magna's broom.
"Wh-What's all this?!" Father Orsi said, trying and failing to keep his voice level. The older man's mind was racing, were these all things the Princess needed to bring with her? Would they have enough room in the church for everything, even if it was just for a day? He looked over to Sister Lily, who had a nervous smile as the two guests for the day waved their escorts off.
"Gifts!" Asta said with a huge smile as he ran back over to carry them to the church. "New clothes, blankets, pillows! Even some cool toys Noelle found!"
'She chose them because we all know your taste,' his family thought, thankful that they were normal stuffed toys like bears and birds Asta was taking out of one of the bags. However, as he was doing this, Hollo had walked over to Noelle, Orsi watching nervously as the toddler tugged on the princess's dress.
"Are you gunna be our new big sister?" he asked innocently, Orsi screaming internally as he watch Noelle turn completely red alongside Asta.
"Hollo, you shouldn't ask rude questions like that," Lily said, the toddler giving a quiet apology as the couple took a moment to collect themselves.
"Well uh," Asta started, letting out a small laugh. "Funny story…"
"You didn't," Nash deadpanned, looking as Asta grinned sheepishly. Everyone catching on right away as to what he meant. "No, it can't have worked."
"Well, he… was very convincing?" Noelle said, starting to giggle remembering how it all started. Asta joining her after a minute of awkward silence and stares from his family. "And… he did it at the right moment."
"It, well, I…" Lily said, trying to find the right words as Hollo and Aruru made happy gasps when they realized what they meant. "Congratulations!"
"We have a new sister!" the youngest two said, grabbing both of their hands and pulling them towards each other. The knights laughed as the rest of the church gave a relieved sigh.
"All right you two," Orsi said, getting the two youngest to stop spinning around Asta and Noelle. "We need to help them get… everything inside."
"Oh! A lot of this stuff isn't just for you!" Asta said, everyone including Noelle looking at him in confusion. "We got it for everyone!"
"But…" Orsi said, cupping his chin. "Everyone's here? Well aside from Yuno."
"No, I mean everyone," Asta said, turning and motioning to the town in the distance. "After all, helping everyone's what I want to do when I become the Wizard King!" Everyone looked at him, his huge grin infectiously spreading to all of them after a moment.
"Well, you have a lot of support," Noelle said, walking over and looking at the small ramshackle village. "Not just from me either."
"Yeah!" Asta said, his family watching as the two knights started laughing about a few things before nervously holding hands. "A lot of people now, it's weird." Noelle looked at him quizzically as he gave her an innocent smile.
'Does he not have support here?' Noelle thought, taking a quick look between the other orphans, caretakers and Asta. 'But that can't be right. They all act so different from my family.' She caught the oldest boy, Nash, looking a bit awkward at Asta's words, the same with the Father of the church.
"Did you not have much support?" she whispered, Asta giving her a grin in response.
"They just supported me differently!" he said, too happy about having some time with his family again to keep his voice down. "Even if it was harsh they were just worried about me, and wanted me to know I had a home here!" Noelle looked at the congregation who had a mix of guilt, embarrassment, and pride on their faces at what he said.
Noelle paused, took a small breath and smiled. It was still different as what she expected, but at least she could see how Asta wound up as he did now. A strange family for a strange person, but it was oddly comforting to the princess. "Good," she continued, giving the entire family a smile.
It didn't last long however as Asta took her by the hand without a word and walked over to the massive pile of things they had brought. He grinned at everyone before somehow managing to pick up the entire load of gifts.
"I'm… gonna go… give these out!" he said, everyone looking at him and sighing as he set off without another word. The bag precariously balanced on his back and somehow, everything stayed inside as he sprinted off, leaving Noelle with the congregation.
"Well um…" Lily said, still wearing a somewhat awkward smile as they could still hear Asta's voice. "M-May we invite you inside, your highness?"
"Of course," she said, the youngest kids running up and taking her towards the church door. The older kids and guardians following close behind as she was hurried into the small building, carrying all the gifts the couple had brought. She knew that being in Hage meant things wouldn't be in the best condition, but admittedly she was stunned at how nice everything inside was.
The benches in the undersized chapel looked almost new, lamps were polished with full size candles in them. And there was still the warmth of a fire in a fireplace to keep them warm throughout the night. Admittedly, Noelle felt like it was closer to a home rather than a church.
"It's lovely," she said, not seeing the large grin from Father Orsi had as the door closed.
"Isn't it!" the older man said, his voice full of pride. "Ever since they both passed the entrance exam, our little church has been getting so many repairs."
"We got new beds too!" Hollo beamed, the toddler tugging Noelle towards one of the rooms near the back. The toddler jumped at the doorknob and gave it a twist, swinging open to a small bedroom with one large bed, presumably for the entire group of orphans. Its frame was rusted in parts, the mattress seemed heavily used, like it had been bought second hand. "We don't have to sleep on the floor anymore!"
'The floor?' Noelle thought as Hollo and Aruru ran to the bed and started bouncing on it happily. 'They… were on the floor all this time?" It was something that had never even been a passing thought in her mind, growing up with a lavish bedspread and warm blankets. Even if she knew it wasn't like that everywhere she at least had thought everyone had a bed to sleep on.
She didn't get any more time to think on that though as Aruru excitedly pulled her over to a sparsely filled bookshelf, Hollo still bouncing happily on the bed as Lily walked in. "We got books too!"
Saying it was sparse was honestly being generous, Noelle saw a total of seven childrens books. One was barely held together with string, another seemed to have some torn pages, the rest aside from one were in similar condition. Aruru happily pulled the nicest book off the shelf and handed it to Noelle. "Asta said this was his favourite when he was small like us!"
'The First Wizard King' was the book, a tale Noelle had grown up being told by the nannies who didn't shun her. The princess smiled, they both grew up hearing the same story, it was a cute coincidence.
"Your majesty, we have breakfast ready." Orsi said, standing incredibly straight in the doorway. Noelle started to respond, but the two younger children spoke up first.
"But we wanna have her read to us!" they both whined, the guardians sighing as Noelle gave them a smile.
"I'm fine with waiting until Asta is back," she said calmly, knowing with how energetic her partner was he'd be back far sooner than anyone would expect. "We can read until then."
"Are you sure your majesty?" Orsi said, a nervous bead of sweat on his brown now. He clearly wasn't used to having people of a higher social standing around and was doing his best to make a good impression.
"I am," Noelle said, giving the older man a smile as she flipped open the cover of the book. Something caught her attention, and nearly made her snort laugh. Instead of the normal picture she expected of a regal mage. Were the scribblings of what she could only assume to be a much younger Asta.
Instead of the first wizard king, spiky hair was drawn on his head, a headband, and something labelled 'Cool Sord' coming out of his hand. Hollo and Aruru started to giggle at how much she was trying not to laugh, before she quickly turned the page, only to bust out laughing. The page was completely doodled over, aside from any of the words, the two youngest kids must've taken after Asta since they were all drawn over for different people.
Noelle wound up laughing instead of reading, the doodles were too adorable to focus on reading the actual story. The toddlers couldn't help but laugh with her, the drawings made what was supposed to be a dramatic, even scary children's story too funny to keep reading. They just looked at the drawings, took out a few different stories, and as carefully as she could, Noelle read those instead.
It didn't take long for the door to open as Asta walked in, the bag of gifts completely empty and his telltale huge smile on his face. "I'm back!" he said, hearing the giggles from Noelle and the two youngest from his old bedroom.
'Good,' he thought, smiling as the laughter continued. 'They're getting along!' He moved towards the door before a small cough got his attention. Nash was looking at him, his brow furrowed, not in annoyance or even anger but curiosity.
"So, uh…" he said, awkwardly looking between one of his oldest brothers. "You really got a princess to like you?"
"Yep!" Asta laughed, Nash looking a little annoyed at the blunt answer. "Don't… really know how but I did!" his younger brother didn't look amused at his answer, and crossed his arms.
"I mean…" he kept going, keeping his voice on the quieter side. "You kept on asking Sister to marry you, what changed?" Asta paused, the question made him stop only for a second before he smiled and sat down on one of the church benches.
"Well uh, a friend had to be really blunt with me," the knight laughed, his little brother looking at him with a quizzical eyebrow still raised. "Even more than Sister's magic."
"What did they drop a house on you?" Nash deadpanned, Asta laughed louder. Both of them missing how any laughter stopped in the room Noelle, Hollo and Aruru were.
"It took a bit of talking too," Asta said, blushing at how naive he was just a few months ago. "But, I guess it was soul searching, even if we got off to a bad start things changed. She's super cool and talented too! Plus, I think she works harder than me to get stronger too."
Neither boy could see it, but Noelle was on the other side of the door, her face getting redder as Asta continued to compliment her. Hollo and Aruru looking at her with beaming grins as they stayed quiet to hear everything Asta had to say. Even if he had said all these things to Noelle in person and to her face, saying them so easily to someone else was getting to her.
"Big sis," Aruru whispered, tugging on the hem of her dress a bit. "Asta wrote about you a lot too!" Noelle went completely red, she knew he had written about her too, she took a deep breath and opened the door.
Asta stopped, and smiled at her, the princess took a few more breaths as she walked up to him and planted a kiss on his cheek. It was his turn to be completely red, his siblings all gasping with how he got kissed like that.
"Dorksta," Noelle said, giving him a smile. "We should eat soon." He nodded, the toddlers almost seeing hearts floating above his head as they walked towards the dining room.
"Dorksta? Well that's a new one!" Recca teased, helping Orsi and Lily bring out the morning meal as Asta kept blushing.
"It's just a nickname, don't be rude, Recca," Lily said, the oldest girl nodding as they started eating the freshly baked biscuits. They had managed to get fresh fruit and even dried meat, leading to a significantly different breakfast than what Asta had grown up with. Noelle knew this too, he had admittedly told her they may be eating tatoes for any meals they had, so it was a wonderful surprise to see that his family was eating better.
"I can't help it!" the oldest girl said, giving a playful look at the couple. "It's too cute to not point out!" The family watched as the couple turned red once again, and both of them attempted to keep straight faces as they ate.
"Seriously? " Nash sighed, unable to hide his own smile. "I thought you'd be used to teasing."
"It's different when it's from you guys!" Asta squeaked, his face completely red as the table burst out laughing, even Noelle. "I thought the letters would keep you from doing this."
"Are you kidding?" Recca laughed, setting her cutlery down to prevent accidentally launching food across the table. "Father couldn't stop singing how proud he was of you!"
"I didn't sing!" Orsi shouted, everyone laughing as he turned completely red. "I was just, enthusiastic about him finding someone!"
"Especially with how much he went after Sister," Nash said, knowing he was gonna push a button or two. "Every day it was asking her to marry him, and then being pounded into the dirt."
That got Noelle's attention, she set her fork down and looked between Asta and the Sister, both of which had embarrassed looks on their faces. 'He was hit?' the mental image of Asta being hit growing up hit frankly too close to home. She decided to address it later, admittedly she hadn't been much better when they first met, but this would be something she'd apologize for later.
"I, see?" she said, trying to hide her discomfort about that little fact about her partner. She tried to keep eating, thankful that the topic changed as the younger kids spoke up.
"Can we see your magic big sis?" both the toddlers said, their plates completely empty despite how much they had been laughing.
"Now now," Lily said, both kids looking between her and Noelle with puppy-dog eyes. "It's still far too early, and you have chores to do."
Seeing that their tactic wasn't working on Sister Lily, they both focused all the sad, innocent, hopeful energy at Noelle. Asta laughed as she did her best to resist their pure gazes. The princess tries to hold her own, before sighing reluctantly.
"All right," she said, confident she could use one of her defensive spells without causing too much flooding. "I will show you before we leave." the two kids cheered, and ran around the table happily.
"Can we see the cool dragon?" Hollo asked tugging on Noelle's dress a bit, the princess almost choking on her water. "Asta said it was really cool!" She blushed and looked between Asta and the younger kids.
"I mean, it's super cool!" the dork knight said, getting a laugh out of the table at Noelle's flustered expression. "We can just go somewhere where it's safe to use!" he paused, just for a moment before his grin grew twice as wide. "But first…"
"But first?" Orsi said, Noelle still too flustered to respond properly. The knight stood up, getting the kids to stop jumping around the princess, took her hand and motioned for the door.
"I wanna show her somewhere really special!" He said, everyone looking confused at them as he helped her stand up, picked her up in his arms, and ran for the door. "We'll be back later!"
"W-W-Wait! Asta!" Orsi shouted, the pair already out of the dining room and moving towards the church door. "...I didn't even get to make tea."
"We can make it later," Lily said, walking to the younger kids to get started with chores. Nash and Recca listened as they could still hear Noelle's surprised yelling as their older brother ran off towards the forest.
"Asta, where are we even going!?" Noelle laughed, Asta's grin relieving any anxiety from the sudden change of pace. He seemingly was running with no issue carrying her, even though she was surprised at how comfortable she was being held as he ran.
"Somewhere special!" he laughed as he slowed down a bit. He had managed to run a lot farther than Noelle thought, as they were already at the trees bordering the small village. "We didn't get a chance last time, but. It's where I trained!"
His training grounds? Noelle knew he had mentioned it before, and as odd as it was they did bond through it. It was probably his idea of a romantic spot. He let her walk after another minute, just so she could enjoy the scenery a bit. Light filtered in through the leaves, letting them enjoy a nice shaded walk as Asta lead the way.
It took a while, but almost out of a fantasy story, the pair found the large clearing Asta used to train before he received his grimoire. Just the right amount of light was breaking through the ceiling of leaves, birds were chirping, and squirrels were running around as the two humans walked into the center. The old stones in the area looked far more weathered than Asta remembered, but it was a good nostalgic feeling.
"It's…" Noelle started, looking through a large gap in the foliage. The small village still visible in the distance, she was even able to make out movement around the church. "...Beautiful."
"It really is!" Asta said, clearing off part of one of the rocks. "It's also quiet too, so I could relax when things got rough."
"I think we all need a place like this," Noelle whispered, walking next to Asta and sitting with him. "Asta, thank you for today."
"For today? But we're barely getting started!" the knight said, Noelle laughed as he gave her the biggest grin. She pulled him into a hug, a tighter one than he expected.
"This… has been the most part of a family I've felt," she said, Asta realizing what she was thankful for and hugged her back. "It's… more wonderful than I could've thought."
"Good!" He said, blushing as Noelle rested her head on his. "We can come here whenever you want too, I know everyone will be happy if we did."
"Then it's a plan," Noelle responded, the clearing falling into a serene silence. They sat there for who knows how long, enjoying the silence and nature. After a while, they went back, Noelle was immediately asked to show off her magic. She obliged, accidentally watering an entire field with some of her spells. But they laughed, enjoyed a picnic lunch, and relaxed on what was going to be the first of many visits. They left, the youngest kids asleep from how much they tired themselves out, said hello to their other family at the Bulls base when Finral warped them back, and quickly went to bed.
They were absolutely looking forward to the future.
Author's note: Thank you all for your patience, this is the final chapter of The Princess and The Demon. I know it took forever for me to do it but i am happy with how i am ending this fanfic. I hope you all enjoyed it.