I am so, so, so sorry this is coming about fifteen days after Christmas ended. I had originally intended to publish it on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve, but I couldn't get to do that. I do have two good reasons why it didn't happen the way I wanted it to. First I had finished up a lot of important stuff I needed to do and I was rather tired, so I didn't get much work done on this for a few days. Secondly, there was something else that had to be done which was going to take a while—up until today, which was when I finished what I needed to do for it—so I didn't have too much time to finish before the Christmas deadline I set for myself. I had plans to make the story longer, but I didn't want to make you all wait any longer for it (rhetorically speaking, when would you want to read this: now, or Christmas 2013?). I wanted to get this done and over with and I've changed the title of the story, finished writing it yesterday, and I edited it today, so now it's ready to be published.
Yes, that means I'll be publishing this right now. It's been over a year—two if you're counting this past Christmas—since I first started writing this, and I wanted to actually have something ready for Christmas. Unfortunately, due writer's block during December a couple or so years ago and the important stuff this past December, it's now going to have to be a late Christmas present.
That's right, this one-shot is my gift to you all for simply reading my work and taking the time to review it. I truly appreciate your support and for sticking with me over the past few years or so. It means so much to me.
To be honest, there's actually also another reason why I want to publish this now. You may recall how I had mentioned I had an important project to do by a specific deadline back in I Can't Go Into A Woodshop of my I Can't one-shot collection. Well, that project is now close to completion and it shall be published soon—it'll probably be up tomorrow if I finish editing the author's notes. Once the project is up, I shall return to my old schedule of working on one major project (currently my Amnesia-Fire Emblem crossover) each week until completion, with I Can't each Saturday and another Ange/Asmodeus one-shot every Sunday. If I do manage to get the one project up tomorrow, I can get to work on the next one-shot for I Can't this Saturday.
And for those of you who are wondering what the project is, it's actually going to be a huge Fanfiction project for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. It'll also be the first major crossover story I've attempted since the failed Stakes of Purgatory series. The prologue and the first chapter are done; I just have to edit my author's notes for them and then they'll be up. Feel free to read and review it if you want.
And that's about it. I'll wrap things up here.
I hope you enjoy reading this story as much as I've enjoyed writing it.
And I know this is pretty late, but Merry Christmas.
Disclaimer: I don't own Umineko no Naku Koro ni; it's owned by 007Expansion.
It was the twenty-fourth of December. The time was around nine thirty. Everything was ready and in its proper place. The tree was up and the decorations had all been hung around the house.
Tomorrow would be Christmas, a holiday Ange had always looked forward to back when she was a little girl. She could remember all the times when she celebrated by decorating the tree with so many ornaments that it became nearly impossible to see the branches and decking the halls with many more just like them and by throwing several Christmas parties and going to others held by other relatives of the family or friends.
On Christmas Eve she would always try to stay up late so she could see Santa, an impossible feat given that she would eventually become sleepy and drift off to slumber. In the mornings she was at first surprised to have woken up in her bed, then ecstatic at the idea of Santa carrying her up to bed. After rushing downstairs to see what jolly old St. Nick had left for her, she would find her older brother already down there, sleeping in a chair near the tree. She'd wake him up and he'd wish her a merry Christmas then show her the empty plate that once held cookies and the empty glass which had once been filled with milk. That was all the proof Ange had needed to know that Santa came.
But now her older brother, along with her parents and the rest of her family, were dead. They had all died on Rokkenjima Island, save for Eva, who had died in the hospital after Ange had graduated from high school.
During that time of her life when she was alone without any family—she stopped considering Eva as part of her family, even though she was her aunt—and friends, she stopped believing in Santa Claus. It was partly because she had grown up and learned there was no such thing as Santa, but also because she didn't have anybody to celebrate Christmas with. She wasn't invited to parties just as she didn't hold them herself, and nobody bought presents for her just as she didn't buy for anyone.
That had all changed now that she had the Stakes of Purgatory as friends. When she had first met the Stakes, she had so much fun hanging out with them by playing games, watching movies, and by doing other fun activities.
Then she destroyed them with the anti-magic after arriving at the conclusion that magic was useless and didn't exist once she couldn't take being bullied by those girls at St. Lucia's. That was mainly because the Stakes couldn't do anything since the anti-magic toxin at the school was very strong and also because Ange had to be willing to go through with her desire to kill the bullies.
Several months later after her graduation she was heading to Rokkenjima Island, where most of her whole family was slaughtered, to make peace with her cousin, Maria, whom she had also sent away after having a falling out with her and Sakutaro too. On the way there, she summoned the little lion boy and the Stakes of Purgatory to apologize for the fight they got into.
With that in the past, Ange chose to move on and press forward in her life. With her aunt, Kasumi, and her aunt's henchmen now a pile of burnt ashes buried on the island, the young witch made the decision to live life the way she wanted to.
She wasn't going to look for the truth behind her family's deaths anymore. Finding it would only bring more pain, yet she knew that she'd still be hurting if she didn't look in the first place. What kept her from searching was what her big brother and her parents had always told her so long ago. They'd say she would have to eventually move on after a tragedy had happened, to no longer be miserable by dwelling on the past. Plus the Stakes talked to her about her older brother was going up against Beatrice in her games and that he was alright, even if their former master did tease him constantly. That was of great help to Ange in easing her worries, despite the fact that her older brother was now in Purgatory with the rest of their family.
And so, a few months after her encounter with Kasumi on the island and after Sakutaro had been reunited with Maria, Ange was now spending her days with the Stakes. They had so much fun together just like the good old days when they first met months ago.
They were the reason why she celebrated Christmas once more.
While she was now lying in bed, reading a book before she went to sleep, Ange looked out the window and gazed upon the snow falling from the sky. A small, faint smile alighted on her face as she felt so happy to celebrate her most favorite holiday of all once more, knowing that she could once again look forward to Christmas morning.
Closing her eyes as she turned away from the window, she returned her attention to her book once more.
It had been a long day, so she decided to retire to bed earlier tonight so she could wake up early to wish the Stakes a merry Christmas.
Taking a breath of fresh air, Ange closed her book after finishing a chapter in it and placed it on the nightstand by her bed. She turned her lamp off and turned on her side, still smiling as she went to sleep, grateful for the peaceful moments she had shared with the Stakes…
The sudden sound of crying and her name being shouted out jolted her out of the lovely dream she had begun to have as her bedroom door was suddenly thrown open. In ran a bundle of pigtails and the crying girl they were attached to, burrowing under the covers of the bed. After turning her lamp back on, Ange lifted the covers up to see Asmodeus, the Stake of Lust, all curled up into a ball underneath them while lying against the witch, her eyes covered by her fists as she bawled nonstop.
Immediately Ange became very worried for the young Stake. Even though they weren't related, she still shared a special sisterly bond with Asmodeus. The young Stake was so close to her that she was practically like her own little sister, so Ange couldn't just lay there and do nothing while the poor girl was crying. She had to find out what the problem was so she could make it all better for Asmodeus.
"What's wrong, Asmo?" she asked out of concern as she gently pulled the young Stake closer to embrace her in a hug. "Why are you crying? Did something happen?"
Asmodeus sniffled and choked out a sob, clinging to Ange's camisole for comfort. "M-my...s-sisters all said…t-there's no s-such…thing as S-Santa Claus…t-that he doesn't…exist…a-and they t-told me…I-I was a-a…baby and a-a c-child…for b-believing in him…"
Ange felt stung by what the older Stakes had said as she listened to Asmodeus' words. Even though she knew that what they said was true, they still had no right to ruin their youngest sister's dreams and expectations.
It was really mean of them to do that. Asmodeus was their younger sister so it was their duty as older sisters to be the best siblings she had. Unfortunately, they all saw her as nothing more than a useless burden they didn't want to shoulder. That explained why she was always left out of the loop when they did something together, not bothering to even tell her about it and see if she wanted to join them.
The only person who actually cared about the young Stake, the sole person who loved her and doted on her like an actual sister, was Ange. As such, she was the only person who could help her feel better by telling Asmodeus what she wanted to hear to confirm that her sisters were wrong, despite the fact they were right.
"That's not true, Asmo; Santa Claus is real."
Asmodeus looked up at Ange through her teary eyes. "T-Then why hasn't he come yet?"
"Because Japan isn't the only place in the world he goes to," Ange explained while rubbing the Stake's back. "He has a lot of presents to deliver to children all over the whole world."
Asmodeus stared at her through tear filled eyes. "R-Really…"
Ange smiled warmly in return. "Really."
The comfort she offered seemed to be working since Asmodeus stopped crying, but she was still sniffling sadly.
They both just stared at each other for a few moments as the Stake of Lust slowly calmed down. "Then when will he get here?" she asked while wiping away her tears with the sleeve of her nightgown.
"Soon, while we're all asleep."
Asmodeus frowned, looking a little disappointed when she heard that. "But I want to see him."
Somehow, Ange wasn't surprised. "You'd like to see Santa?" she asked, even though she already that the young Stake was going to say…
"Yes! Yes! I want to meet Santa! I want to see what he's like! Then I can get proof to show my sisters he is real!"
Ange closed her eyes and laughed. "Well, what are you doing waiting up here? The tree and the stockings aren't in here, you know."
The smile on Asmodeus' face grew so wide that it could practically fit an orange inside. "Oh yes, that's right! I have to wait downstairs! Santa will be there!" She almost flew off the bed and ran out of the room as fast as she had run in a few minutes before, but Ange quickly took her wrist before she left.
"You're not forgetting about me, are you?" Ange playfully asked as she also got up. "I'd like to meet Santa too."
Asmodeus' smile grew even wider. "No, of course not, Ange! Not at all!"
If there was one thing Ange loved about Christmas, it was getting to spend it with somebody who was precious to her, people she cherished more than her most treasured material possessions. In the past that had been her older brother and her parents, but with the three of them gone she now had the Stakes of Purgatory.
They were the best friends she ever had and she enjoyed the time she spent with them. Every day was an adventure and they always had so much fun even when doing the same old stuff over and over again when they weren't doing housework or when Ange wasn't writing a short story for a magazine she frequently contributed to. Sometimes they'd do something special for a change of pace, like go see a movie or travel out of town for a while to visit one of the many wonders of Japan.
As she was just about done making a couple cups of hot chocolate for herself and Asmodeus, Ange cast a quick glance out into the den where the Stake of Lust was happily bouncing about excitedly. Seeing how happy she was, Ange couldn't help but giggle as she watched her little sister prance about the room.
Asmodeus just looked so adorable as she jumped around the den, her pigtails bouncing up and down with her.
It wasn't really fair to play favorites when one had a large group of friends like the Stakes, but considering the circumstances, Ange favored Asmodeus over her sisters because of their sisterly bond.
When the drinks were finished, the witch brought them over to a little table by the couch and set them down on the wooden surface while listening to the Stake's cheers of joy.
"Oh, I hope Santa gets here soon! He'll come and give us more presents! We'll take a group photo together! He'll show us his reindeer and maybe give us a ride in his sleigh and he could even take us to the North Pole to see all the little elves who help him make the presents!" Asmodeus exclaimed before bounding over to Ange. "Doesn't that sound like fun, Ange?!"
Ange closed her eyes and laughed as she sat down on the couch before pulling Asmodeus onto her lap. "Aren't you forgetting something again, Asmo?" she asked playfully while handing the young Stake her hot chocolate before taking her own.
"Ooh, ooh, what, what?" the Stake of Lust excitedly squeaked after taking a sip of her drink.
"We can build lots of snowmen and make many snow angels at the North Pole," Ange said as she took a sip of her own hot chocolate, "and construct igloos, go ice skating, and perhaps even do a bit of ice fishing."
"Oh!" Asmodeus' eyes sparkled as they widened. "Of course, we simply must do all that! It'll be so much fun, right, Ange?!"
"Yes," Ange giggled as she smiled, taking another sip of hot chocolate, "I'm really looking forward to meeting Santa." Her smile grew wider when she opened her eyes and immediately started laughing.
"What's so funny?" Asmodeus asked with a confused look on her face while cocking her head to the side.
"You've got a creamy moustache," Ange said, pointing at the Stake's face to show her the cream underneath her nose. "I probably gave you a bit of extra cream, so that might explain how you got your whiskers," she joked.
"Maybe so," Asmodeus agreed as she dipped her finger into the cream, "but you don't have one."
"That's because I didn't put any cream in mine."
"Well, perhaps you should've," the young Stake said, brushing her finger in between Ange's nose and upper lip to give the witch her own creamy moustache before they both began to giggle.
Settling down, the two of them turned their attention to the Christmas tree in the center of the room and watched as the little electric train ran around the base of it. Just sitting here with Asmodeus reminded Ange of her childhood when she and her brother used to watch the train going around the tree on Christmas Eve. The quiet night, the snow falling from the sky outside, the warm fireplace helping them get nice and cozy, the ornaments hanging from the tree's many branches, the train chugging the other cars behind it—everything was just so peacefully tranquil.
Ange really enjoyed spending nights like this with her family when she was a little girl. Although she was grown up and her whole family was gone, these nights never changed. Perhaps they stayed the same regardless of who she spent them with. It didn't matter whether she was with her family or her friends—she loved them all so dearly and would do anything to make them happy. Maybe that was why she felt the same way now, just like when she was a little girl.
"So, Asmo," Ange inquired, wiping the cream off her face with a tissue, "what's your New Year's resolution going to be?"
Gratefully accepting another tissue from the witch, Asmodeus thought about her answer while wiping her own face to clear it of cream. To be frank, it hadn't really crossed her mind because she'd been so preoccupied with Christmas. This was the first time she and her sisters had ever celebrated the holiday and they were really looking forward to experiencing it firsthand.
The older Stakes did handle themselves with as much composure as they normally had, but they loosened up a bit this month since Christmas was a time of good cheer. The younger Stakes, on the other hand, were easily excitable because they were looking forward to Christmas Day when they could give out the presents they got for each other and receive gifts from their sisters.
But Asmodeus was more excited than all of her older sisters combined. Her newfound delight stemmed not just from feelings of love for her sisters or Ange or the joy of Christmas and spending the holiday with them together, but also from one of her favorite cartoons in which the characters all got to meet Santa Claus. She'd really been looking forward to seeing him ever since she watched today's episode and counted the hours remaining until he arrived.
This was one of the best days of her life. It was a huge blow to Asmodeus' feelings when her sisters flat-out denied Santa's existence in a belligerent manner earlier that night, but she felt much better now once Ange informed her that he was real, even when the young witch didn't believe in him herself. Her usual smile was back and her cheerful attitude returned so fast it was almost like she was never upset in the first place. What cheered her up were Ange's kind words and her gentle smile as she spoke to Asmodeus about why Santa hadn't come to their house yet. What made the young Stake even happier was that Ange came down with her so the two of them could see jolly old St. Nick together.
Ange was happy too, but not because she wanted to see Santa herself. Well, it was partly the reason because deep down she knew she'd begun to believe in his existence, but rather, she enjoyed spending time with Asmodeus—not as a friend, but as her big sister. Ange felt it was her duty to make Asmodeus happy and help her feel safe in a secure environment. Nothing made her happier than to see her little sister smile. Being the older sister meant she'd need to work hard and do anything to make that happen for Asmodeus' sake, but that was okay since it was what Ange wanted to do.
In response to her big sister's question, Asmodeus just took another sip of hot chocolate as she shrugged. "I don't know, why? What's a New Year's resolution?"
"It's a pledge you make at the end of every year," Ange began to explain, "to try and do something the following year as a sort of goal. For example, I'm going to try and write at least one short story a month—perhaps even two or three depending on when I finish them and how long I intend for them to be."
"Wow…" Asmodeus looked up at Ange in amazement, "That's so cool!"
Ange smiled as she blushed in embarrassment. "Well, it's not much of a big deal, really, and it's certainly not too special. I mean, I've been thinking of doing an anthology lately instead of just submitting my work to a magazine. I don't know how different it'll be from simply contributing what I've written so far, but I'm willing to give it a shot and see how it goes."
"Come on, Ange, what are you talking about?" Asmodeus gently chided in a cheerful manner. "You're a great writer. I think your stories are awesome! Besides, how different can putting your work together in a single book be?"
"Well, I know I've got to search for a company that would help edit the work and publish it, but I'm sure there's a lot more to it than that," Ange answered, looking up at the ceiling while giving her plan more thought. "Now that I think about, I might have to choose something different as my resolution if it doesn't look like it'll work out."
"Don't give up that easily, Ange!" Asmodeus offered her words of encouragement. "You can't throw away something like that so soon without having even tried it yet."
"I'm well aware of that, but so far I've had no luck in finding a publisher who'd have time to read my work," Ange said while finishing up her hot chocolate before setting the empty cup down on the table. "I will keep looking, but I think I might stick to the magazine for a while until I locate a publisher."
"Then why don't we do the publishing ourselves?" the Stake of Lust suggested. "We can write everything out and start our own magazine."
"I think you're getting a little ahead of yourself, Asmo," the witch gently chided. "Writing all those short stories and publishing them on our own is going to be a lot of hard work, so I'd rather not spend too much time on a project like."
"Oh…" Asmodeus tipped her head down in disappointment, "I see. I'm sorry."
"It's okay, Asmo," Ange embraced her little sister in a hug to cheer her up, "I'm not mad at you. You don't need to apologize for something like that. It's a good idea, and I do appreciate your advice. It's just that I don't know if we can pull something like that off by ourselves."
"Really?" the young Stake looked up at her big sister through wide eyes, "You don't think it's stupid?"
"Of course not," Ange smiled warmly, "why would I believe such a thing?"
"Because everybody always says I come up with the stupidest ideas and they never value what I have to say," Asmodeus explained as she started to cry a little. "N-nobody ever listens to me a-and they don't want to be around me. T-they don't care about what I think and they believe I'm stupid."
Ange's smile went away, turning into a melancholic frown as she listened to Asmodeus' concerns. She was aware the young Stake's older sisters didn't want to deal with her, nor did they take the initiative to invite her to partake in whatever they did together. They only let her participate when Ange got mad at them; though they kept reverting back to their original conduct a little while after the witch forced them to apologize to their youngest sister. Honestly, some days Ange considered sending them back to Purgatory for good so she could give Asmodeus the familial love she needed. She really was a much better sister than they were.
Yet what surprised Ange was how Asmodeus seemed to be referring to not just her sisters, but everyone else she knew. That included the witches, sorcerers, great demons, and even Ange's own brother, Battler, and Asmodeus' former master, Beatrice.
To be frank, Ange did expect her aunt Eva's witch form to be more evil than her human form and she had heard from the Stakes about what her aunt—or Eva-Beatrice, as her aunt's witch form preferred to be called—had put them through when she was the Golden Witch. That knowledge only served to reinforce Ange's commitment to be a white witch. Although, when Ange once asked them how they managed to put up with Eva-Beatrice, the older Stakes all replied they were there for each other and provided ways to cheer each other up.
The only problem with their narrative was that Asmodeus claimed she was always left out, that they didn't even bother to cheer her up or even defend her when Eva-Beatrice tortured her. And that was a valid claim by all means, since her sisters said they did stand up for one another when they were bullied by Ange's aunt, but didn't do the same for Asmodeus because they didn't want to submit themselves to anymore torture. To put the rotten cherry on top, they just—conveniently—"forgot" about her when they helped one another feel better. They only gave up that information after Ange demanded it from them in a threatening tone of voice.
That was why Ange willingly took it upon herself to be Asmodeus' big sister. She did all sorts of fun things with her and took her out into the city to see some interesting attractions more frequently than with the other Stakes. In fact, Ange was beginning to consider letting Asmodeus move into her room so they could share a room together and even sleep in the same bed as sisters. Although she was sure many girls didn't do that with their own sisters, she thought at least some of them did something like that.
Such a thought was enough to make Ange really happy about being able to show somebody the same kindness only a sibling could provide. She did have around six years of experience in that regard by having a big brother who loved her. She looked up to him because he was everything someone expected from an older sibling: kind, strong, fun to be around, understanding, caring, and loving.
All those qualities were what constituted a big brother, and Ange swore she would possess every one of them in her role as Asmodeus' older sister. Battler never failed to live up to her expectations when he was her older brother, so Ange would ensure she wouldn't fail Asmodeus either. No matter what, she would be the best big sister Asmodeus ever had, and now it was time to prove it again as she had done so many times before.
"That's not true, Asmo," Ange said as she began to gently stroke the young Stake's face. "I don't think you or your ideas are stupid. I care about your input and I want to hear your opinions. I don't know what I'd do without you in my life."
"Ange…" Asmodeus whispered softly, yet loud enough for Ange to hear her.
"I love you so much, Asmo," Ange declared, smiling while moving her hands up to the Stake's cheeks. "I know you and I aren't from the same family, but I truly wish we were. You're the best little sister I ever had—the only little sister I ever want."
Asmodeus stared at her big sister for several moments until a smile gradually spread across her face. "I love you too, Ange," she giggled as she closed her eyes. Opening them a second later when she felt something against her forehead, she watched as Ange finished parting a few strands of her hair to give her a tender kiss on her forehead. This only made the Stake of Lust blush a little, her smile turning a tad silly as she cuddled up against the witch before giving her a little peck on the cheek. Ange giggled as she blushed a little herself, pressing her cheek up against Asmodeus' so they could snuggle together.
"Anyway," the young Stake spoke up a minute later, "what is a New Year's resolution again?"
"A vow to do something next year that you make at the end of this year," Ange answered, continuing to embrace Asmodeus in a hug. "Have you figured out what you want to do?"
Asmodeus nodded eagerly.
"Alright, let's hear it," Ange prodded the Stake to share her resolution.
"Okay!" Asmodeus chirped excitedly. "I vow," she pointed at Ange, "to be your assistant!"
"My assistant?" Ange looked at the Stake of Lust in confusion.
Asmodeus nodded several times. "Yep! I want to write stories with you!"
"You mean collaborate on them with me?" Ange asked, cocking her head slightly to the side.
"Yeah, that's it!" Asmodeus clapped her hands together. "I want to collaborate with you!"
Ange merely closed her eyes and smiled to show her gratitude. She was so lucky to have such a sweet, adorable, little sister like Asmodeus. "That's quite a nice resolution you have there. I must say, I'm flattered you want to write stories with me."
Asmodeus giggled sheepishly as she scratched the back of her neck. "Eh heh, well, you've done so much for me that it'd be unfair if I didn't do something in return."
"But you've already given me more than I could ask for, Asmo," Ange said, patting the young Stake on the head. "You and your sisters were there in my time of need and I was there in yours. In all the time I've spent with you all, you're the only person I've ever grown close enough to be a sister. I would rather be related to you than any of your sisters." Parting Asmodeus' hair again, Ange gave her another kiss on her forehead as a gesture of loving affection.
Asmodeus giggled again. "Thank you, Ange."
"You're very welcome, Asmo." Blinking for a brief moment, Ange opened her eyes and watched as her little sister yawned. "What's wrong? Are you tired?"
"T-tired…" Asmodeus rapidly blinked multiple times, desperate to keep them open. "N-no, I'm not…I need to stay awake so I can meet Santa…I can't fall asleep without seeing him…I…" Her voice slowly decreased in volume until it was nothing more than a mere whisper, and then it died out as the young Stake fell asleep against Ange's chest.
Ange just looked at her for a few seconds and then gave Asmodeus a third kiss on her forehead. "Good night, Asmo; sweet dreams," she whispered softly so she wouldn't wake the Stake of Lust.
Hugging her against her chest, the young witch mulled over whether or not she should carry Asmodeus back to bed. She considered letting the Stake spend the night in her room so she could snuggle with her partly because it was Christmas Eve, but mostly because she was Asmodeus' big sister and wanted to cuddle with her more. But if she chose either option, Asmodeus wouldn't get to meet Santa Claus.
It wasn't much of a dilemma. Ange knew she could just stay downstairs with her while she slept and watch over her, but then she'd have to think of something to tell her when she woke up in the morning. She could say "Santa Claus was here, but he didn't want to disturb you," or something along those lines to try and please her, but just lying to her was wrong.
Santa Claus didn't exist. He was a myth, a fabrication. A tale woven to please little children and let them know they'd get what they wanted for Christmas if they were good. It was believable, sure, but in the end it was only a story.
Yet Ange still felt guilty about lying to Asmodeus—more so if she told her the truth by breaking it to her gently, unlike her cruel sisters. She had to do something to try and prove Santa Claus was real when he came to their house.
And then it hit her.
Gently placing Asmodeus on the couch, being careful not to wake her, Ange then tiptoed back up to her room as quietly as she could. Going inside, she went to her closet and pulled out a video camera with a rechargeable battery and a blank tape which had two days' worth of film on it. If she plugged this into one of the outlets down in the den, she could keep it running all night and have it pointed at the tree. It certainly wouldn't catch Santa in the act, but at least she was making the effort to please Asmodeus.
Heading back downstairs, she went back into the den and headed over to the outlet in the corner of the room furthest to the tree. Here, she could keep the camera plugged in and pointed right at the tree and the fireplace since Santa always came down the chimney.
With a small smile on her face, Ange plugged in the camera and put the tape in before turning it on and finally pressing a button to start recording. Now that it was working, Ange looked back to the tree and watched it for a few moments before going back to the couch. Gazing upon her little sister as she slept, Ange shrugged at the thought of sleeping there with her.
And why not? It certainly didn't matter whether or not they were both asleep in their beds. They could've slept down here and it likely wouldn't have made much of a difference.
So Ange just plucked Asmodeus up and carried her like a bride over to the recliner. Sitting down on it, Ange pulled the lever to bring the footrest up and then reached over to the couch next to her to grab a pillow for herself and a blanket to cover themselves with. Putting it behind her head after putting the blanket around themselves, she maneuvered Asmodeus up a bit so the young Stake could rest her head against the pillow too. Leaning back to tilt the chair into a sloping position, Ange parted Asmodeus' hair one final time to kiss her forehead again.
"Good night, Asmo. I love you."
With that, Ange closed her eyes and fell asleep too, snuggling against Asmodeus for comfort while in the presence of the Christmas tree as the grandfather clocked ticked away.
It must've been at least around six in the morning when Asmodeus gradually blinked her eyes, slowly opening them wider every few seconds. By the time she was fully awake her head had already lifted up as she drowsily took in her surroundings. Yawning, she turned to see that she was lying next to Ange in the recliner, the young witch having snuggled up against her. Surmising that Ange chose to cuddle with her as they slept, the Stake of Lust looked around the room and was sort of surprised at how the two of them were still in the den.
A smile spread across her face when her eyes caught a glimpse of the grandfather clock just by the door to the dining room and it grew even bigger to the point where she was beaming full of joy.
It was Christmas morning!
Santa Claus had been here!
Hopping off the recliner, Asmodeus ran to the tree, gasping in delight as she saw there were more presents under it than the night before. That certainly was proof Santa came to their house—unless her sisters simply brought down gifts they had been hiding in their rooms.
Although Asmodeus was aware they could've done this, the thought of all those presents being delivered by the one and only Santa Claus was just too good to deny. Plus she didn't really entertain the latter thought for even more than a split second.
"Ange! Ange, Ange!" she called out as she rushed back to wake her big sister. "Look, look!" Gently, but not too hard, Asmodeus shook the witch until she was fully awake.
"What is it, Asmo?" Ange asked, yawning while she sat up.
"The Christmas tree!" Asmodeus chirped, pointing to the tree. "Look, Ange, there are more presents under the tree!"
"There are?" Ange looked confused for a brief moment until she looked over to where the tree was and saw a pile of presents slightly bigger than before. "Oh, there are! Do you know what that means, Asmo?" she asked, closing her eyes with a wide smile on her face as she turned back to the excited Stake next to her.
"Santa was here! Santa was here!" Asmodeus bounced about and twirled around the chair happily, her pigtails bouncing up and down in sync with her. Her ecstasy didn't last long though, since a minute later she was already looking down at the floor sadly. "But I didn't get to see him…"
Lowering her eyelids slightly, Ange's smile grew smaller as she stood up. "Don't worry, Asmo," she said, placing her hand on the young Stake's shoulder to provide her with comfort, "I ensured there'd be a way for you to see that he exists."
"Wait, you did?!" Asmodeus' smile returned, her voice sparkling full of charm as she looked up at Ange. "How?! How?!"
"Come here, I'll show you."
Following Ange over to the corner of the room, Asmodeus heard her gasp and quickly stepped to her side to see what had happened. "Is something wrong, Ange? Why do you look so surprised?"
Ange pointed over to where she had plugged in the camera and Asmodeus followed her gaze.
There, on a little table just right in the corner, by a medium sized dresser, was the camera Ange had set up the night before. The power was off, the tape had been removed from it, and the cord had been pulled out of the outlet and was all wrapped up.
The two of them stared at the camera for several moments.
Ange was sure one or more of Asmodeus' sisters had come down to do this, but they all had been asleep when she got it from her closet. Furthermore, Belphegor had frequently been sleeping in ever since the day Ange told her it was alright to sleep a little late in the morning, so it couldn't have been the Stake of Sloth. Leviathan could also be eliminated as a suspect since she also slept in. Nor could it have been Beelzebub, since Ange forbid her from having late midnight snacks. It was impossible for it to have been Satan because the Stake of Wrath would've yelled at Asmodeus for believing in Santa. Lucifer wouldn't have done it either since she preferred to get as much sleep as she could so she'd be able to deal with Mammon and Beelzebub whenever they got in trouble. Even Mammon couldn't have done it because she didn't want to do anything that would get her in a serious amount of trouble—she'd already been grounded ten times since they arrived home after Ange dealt with her aunt, Kasumi, on Rokkenjima Island, eleven if counting the one time at St. Lucia's.
So who could've turned off the camera, unplugged it, and take the tape out from it?
Although Ange was seriously confused, she couldn't have been more baffled than Asmodeus.
"Um, Ange?" Asmodeus inquired, finally averting her gaze from the camera and setting her eyes back on her big sister. "Why's there a camera here? What's with it?"
"I…" Ange started to speak, but it was a tad hard for her to find the words to try explaining this. She could tell Asmodeus why the camera was there, yet that was about as much as she could do right now. "I had brought it down so I could try to catch Santa on film," she explained, actually beginning to believe old St. Nick really did exist, "since I thought he might arrive while we're asleep, and I had set it up…but it seems somebody pulled the plug on that idea." Ange didn't expect to use a pun to describe this, but it seemed like the only way to get the idea across clearly.
"Who do you suppose could've done it?" Asmodeus asked, understanding that Ange wasn't trying to be funny. "My sisters?"
Ange shook her head. "No it couldn't have been them, and I doubt someone broke in because we would've heard the person smash a window or break down one of the doors."
"What about the chimney?" Asmodeus suggested, a small smile spreading across her face. "If so, then that means Santa did come!"
"I don't know," Ange said as she turned to look at the young Stake. "We would definitely hear someone coming down it. Besides, even if it were Santa, I'm sure he'd make some noise coming down."
"Then who could it have been?" Asmodeus asked out of confusion while cocking her head to the side.
"Ho ho ho!"
Suddenly they heard somebody laugh loudly behind them and whirled around to confront whoever was there…
…but nobody was there.
The den didn't look much different than when they woke up minutes ago, except for one tiny change that had been made behind their backs…
The window between the tree and the display cabinet with all the little antique trinkets Ange's mother used to collect in it was open. Cold air blew through it as if welcomed by the sudden invitation it was given.
Ange and Asmodeus didn't have time to consider the consequences of what might happen if they investigated the phenomenon, nor did they question how the window opened on its own or who could've done it. They both just ran over and grabbed the windowsill while they leaned forward to look outside…
…and gasped when they saw a big red sleigh just a few feet away with nine reindeer in front of it to pull it along its way. And there, sitting in the sleigh…
…was a plump old man with a big white beard dressed all in red.
Ange and Asmodeus couldn't help but stare at him as he folded up what looked like a very long piece of paper. Asmodeus couldn't believe who it was she was actually seeing. Ange, on the other hand, couldn't believe she was actually watching the man himself.
But…he was supposed to be a fairy tale…wasn't he?
He couldn't possibly be real.
It couldn't be him.
It just couldn't possibly be him.
It had to be someone else dressed up like that.
It couldn't be…Santa…could it?
All of a sudden the man reached into a huge sack right next to him after pocketing the paper, pulling out a couple of presents and then turning to face them. Smiling, he cocked his head to the side and winked, handing the presents out for them to take.
Ange and Asmodeus didn't know what else to do, other than to accept the presents. Taking them, they tipped their heads down to look at what they received to see their names written on a couple of tags attached to the presents…and Santa's name was on them too.
"Here," the man said, turning to Ange while holding out another Christmas gift for them to take, "this one's for the both of you."
"O-oh, thank you, sir." Ange bowed to show her gratitude, even though her facial expression still clearly expressed how utterly baffled she was.
"One more thing," he added, now turning to Asmodeus with a fourth one in his hand. "This one's not from me, but I thought you might want to see who it's from."
Asmodeus also bowed graciously as she accepted the gift from him, still amazed that she and Ange were actually looking at him, having a conversation with him…getting to meet him face to face. "O-of course, thank you, sir."
"My pleasure," he nodded. "I'd recommend you open this one," he pointed at the one he just gave her, "immediately after I leave so you two can see me take off."
Take off? Wait, he was actually going to fly? But how?
Reindeer couldn't fly—it was ridiculous. There was no way he could take off into the sky simply by giving them the order to mush.
Then again, this morning apparently seemed to be full of surprises, because at once the man took the reins in his hands and gently pulled on them. The reindeer began to gallop several feet forward…
…and then suddenly lifted up into the air as if they were going up a ramp.
Ange and Asmodeus watched in amazement as the man and his reindeer went up higher and higher until they were nothing more than a shadow in front of the moon. Their eyes widened as they watched him climb, their mouths agape in astonishment. Soon their bewildered looks went from shock to ecstasy as they both smiled widely.
All the while the man laughed heartily as he slowly disappeared into the night sky.
"Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas! Ho ho ho!"
His laugh could be heard for miles on end and it rang out throughout the early minutes of the morning when the sun was just beginning to rise.
The girls continued to remain there for several more minutes, silently watching as Santa Claus soon vanished among the clouds, either to return straight to the North Pole or to deliver whatever Christmas presents were left. When he was no more, they both turned to look at one another and smiled, laughing happily as they closed the window.
"Wow…" Asmodeus was still in awe even after he had left. In her excitement the Stake's voice started to trail off till she found the words to express her joy. "I…I…I saw him. I met him." She sighed happily. "Oh, it's a dream come true!"
"I'll say," Ange agreed, embracing the Stake of Lust in a tight hug. "I have to admit, I actually stopped believing in him when I grew older, but to see him in person, to have the chance to interact with him…" She sighed as well. "Ahh…that was an experience of a lifetime."
"It's too good to be true!" Asmodeus chirped, her voice sparkling with extra charm as she pulled away from the young witch and pranced about the den. "I can't wait until my sisters hear about this! I've got to tell them Santa Claus is real after all!" Bounding back to Ange as her big sister was heading over to her, the young Stake threw her arms around her. "You're my witness, Ange! You're on my side in this!"
"Aren't I always on your side?" Ange giggled, returning the hug. "Come on, Asmo, you know I'd be more than happy to help you prove Santa's existence to them. They might not believe we have spoken with him directly, but I'm sure they'll have to accept the truth once they see we've got more gifts."
"Oh, yeah, that reminds me!" Asmodeus let go of Ange and held up the present Santa handed over to her before he took off. "Santa told me to see who this one was from."
Ange smiled, immediately recognizing the gift straight away. However, she kept that to herself so Asmodeus could read the nametag. "Well, why don't you see who'd want you to have it. Don't keep me waiting in the dark; I'd like to know who this person is as much as you do."
"All righty then!" Asmodeus' eyes were wide open and she had a huge smile on her face as she turned over the present so she could see the tag. "Let's see…it's addressed to me, from…" She looked up at Ange through eyes wide with sparkly joy. "You gave this to me, Ange…this is your gift."
Ange nodded. "Yep, indeed. That's certainly my gift to you, Asmo. Why don't you go ahead and open it now?"
"Right now?" the Stake of Lust asked, uncertain it was the proper time to start opening presents. "But shouldn't the others be down here too? I mean, they should also check out their gifts too."
"Don't worry; we'll wait for them before we open any more, okay?" Ange placed her hand on Asmodeus' shoulder and winked. "I know they might raise a small fuss—well, I know Leviathan would—but they shouldn't complain too much. Besides, it's just one present, and I'd really like for you to open it right away."
"Um, okay," Asmodeus looked down at the Christmas gift, "if you say so." She began to unwrap it, ripping the wrapping paper into shreds until the top of the small box concealed by it was visible. Pulling off the lid, Asmodeus gasped in delight while showing what was inside to Ange. "Turtledove hairclips…" Her voice was soft as she spoke those last two words, indicating she loved her present very much.
"Take a look, there's two pairs here," Ange pointed at them and took a pair out so she could clip them to the Stake's hair. "One for you and one for me. I thought this would be a really nice present for us to share, so I decided to purchase them since I knew we both liked them when we went to that one jewelry store in the city," Ange explained as she finished with her little sister's pair and got started on her own. "See, they look pretty, don't they?" she asked after leading the young Stake over to the mirror.
"Oh, yes, they most certainly do!" Asmodeus exclaimed, throwing her arms around Ange again to embrace her in another hug while giving her a soft kiss on her cheek. "Oh thank you, Ange! Thank you, thank you, thank you!" Standing on tip toes, she reached her head up to give her favorite big sister a kiss on her cheek. "Merry Christmas, Ange!"
Ange laughed. "You're very welcome," she said before kissing Asmodeus on the forehead. "Merry Christmas, Asmo!"