The familiar sight of Luna Nova appeared on the horizon as Akko and Diana flew down on the shooting star. Faint green lines of energy still hung in the air, stretching across the bright blue sky. Diana shifted nervously on the broom, shifting back and forth on her feet. It had been years since she had physically been at Luna Nova, even the differences that she had observed from the journal were baffling.
“You going to be alright?” Akko squeezed her hand, Diana noticing that she hadn’t let go of her hand since they hovered over the stars together, a steady reminder that she was not alone.
“Probably.” Diana said, a small smile on her face. “It has been a while, but Chariot is on our side, and I believe that I am still enrolled. How are you feeling?”
Akko laughed, rubbing the back of her neck. “Mostly tired.” Diana giggled, Akko laughing along with her. “It has been a long long day. I haven’t slept in like,” Akko counted on one hand giving up after a few cycles, “A long time.”
The two laughed, slowly descending toward the the front lawn. The red and green teams dashed across the lawn, waving their hands in the air in excitement. The shooting star hovered a foot in the air, Akko and Diana taking a small step off and onto the ground. The broom shot off a second after they had stepped off, Akko frantically waving goodbye.
Immediately Akko was tackled by the red and green teams, Diana pulled in by her hand as the six girls quickly pulled her into a hug. She flushed gently trying to reciprocate as the excited questions piled in from each of them. The pile tipped over, all of them tumbling down onto the grass in a large pile. Diana felt herself squished under the pile of bodies, the rumbles of laughter and tangle of limbs making her smile.
She locked eyes with Akko, currently locked in a headlock by Amanda as her hair was ruffled, Lotte giving her a pat on the cheek from where she was trapped under Sucy and Constanze. A wild grin was on her face, Diana’s lips stretching up towards her ears in a matching expression.
These were friends, actual friends; something she hadn’t had for so long. A warmth rose in her chest, throwing her arms around Jasminka and Sucy, joining in the laughter.
“I am glad you girls are excited.” Chariot’s voice said, Akko popping out of the pile of witches as she gave a large grin. Chariot was dressed in her old costume, Croix walking a few steps behind her, an awkward smile on her face.
“We did it!” Akko triumphantly yelled, Chariot laughing.
“You did.” Chariot gestured around, “you all did wonderfully out there girls.” Akko preened, pulling herself free from the pile and twirling around. The rest of the girls slowly untangled themselves, an excited mumbling crossing over all of them as Professor Holbrook approached with a few other teachers.
Professor Finnelan was right behind her, glaring down Croix. Chariot patted her on the back as Croix wilted at the thought of the punishment that she was going to receive.
“Croix!” Finnelan’s voice carried across the front field.
“Oh crap.” Croix muttered, Chariot patting her back before stage whispering to her. “I think you can still run, not too late to try to stay ahead.” Croix snorted, slipping her hand into Chariot’s.
“I think I am done running away.” She said, the tips of Chariot’s ears flushing to match her bright red hair.
Holbrook lifted her hand, silencing Finnelan for a moment as she approached. “It seems you girls had quite an adventure.” The group fidgeted nervously, “And I think I owe each of you a hearty thank you and congratulations.” The other professors gave a soft round of applause, professor Nelson giving a large thumbs up. “Especially you Atsuko, you persevered in the face of hardship again and again, and should be especially proud.” Akko blinked in surprise, scuffing her feet against the ground as a soft blush of embarrassment crossed her cheeks.
“And you young Cavendish.” Diana stiffened as her name was mentioned, Holbrook giving her a reassuring smile. “Would you do me the favor of accompanying me inside, there is much paperwork to fill out, all needed for your continuing enrollment.” Akko flashed Diana a smile, giving her a hand squeeze as she passed.
The walk up to the entry way of Luna Nova was strange, so different from the last time she had done this, the grounds and the people on it radically different. She paused at the thresh-hold, her mouth quirking into a confused expression.
She was back, sure, but… was she ready. She looked over her shoulder, Akko giving her two big thumbs up in support. Diana drew in a deep breath and took her first footsteps into Luna Nova in 95 years, a grin stretching across her face.
Diana shifted on the cushioned chair, the new uniform scratching against her as she tried not to adjust it too much. Sitting across from her on the couch were her two new team-mates; Hannah and Barbara. After Chariot had finally dragged them in from the impromptu part, Diana found herself meeting with Principal Holbrook and conversing about her accommodations. Because she was technically still enrolled, no one considering taking her off of the books even after her mysterious disappearance, she still was technically part of the blue team.
With some deft restructuring, Holbrook made her space in the Blue team dorm, Akko hurriedly offering a bunch of spare supplies and uniforms that she could use. Chariot and Akko had dropped her off to her new dorm five minutes ago, Diana clutching some spare pajamas that Akko had pushed to her. She opened her mouth to start talking, closing it as no words came to mind.
These two were ones that she had heard picking on Akko; but also the ones who made an attempt to try to fix things, if even just a bit. Her upbringing had raised her to try to be polite at all times, but the girls in front of her…
Barbara cleared her throat awkwardly, sticking her hand out as Diana hesitantly took it. Her eyes still darted around the room, taking in the unfamiliar sights. This dorm was much bigger than the red dorm, the high ceilings and separate alcoves for beds so different than the tiny red dorm. She missed the closeness, the packed in bunks and the constant bustle; be it Akko explaining something about Chariot or home, Lotte’s quiet mumblings while she read, or even the cackle of Sucy as she prepared a particularly noxious potion.
“So,” Barbara said, shifting in her seat to sit up straighter, struggling for words to say.
Hannah sighed, rubbing the bridge of her nose, “Okay let’s just cut through this fumbling.” She grumbled before sighing. “We are sorry about being assholes to your girlfriend.”
Diana sputtered, her face growing red as she waved her hands in front of her. “She is not my girlfriend.” She choked out, Hannah growing red in embarrassment.
“That’s what Amanda told me.” She rushed out, Diana floundering for words.
“Why would you listen to Amanda? When would you even talk to her?” Diana buried her head in her new cloths, cursing Amanda for causing such an awkward first in person meeting. The idea of Akko being her girlfriend stuck in her mind; she would run up to her, give her a hug, maybe press her lips against Diana’s temple. She shook her head in her cloths, her hair coming slightly undone from its ponytail.
“We didn’t think that she was going to lie.” Barbara cut in, “We were just trying to figure out how to apologize for our past behavior.” Diana peeked out from behind her clothing, drawn out by curiosity. “We were wrong to treat Akko like that, and Amanda, and everyone else on the red and green teams.”
The clothing barrier lowered, Diana putting her hands back in her lap as Hannah continued. “We, we first kind of thought that with the Samhain, and then with the broom race, and today with the missile.” Hannah swallowed, sighing. “We were raised to think that only the strongest witches from the oldest families were suitable, but a lot of things we learned turned out to be wrong.”
Barbara patted Hannah on the knee, rubbing her leg comfortingly as she scooted in. Diana looked down, chewing on her lip. Their words reminded her of Daryl, of the long lectures about the proper behavior of young witches of a certain standing.
“I can understand that.” She said softly, the Hannah and Barbara letting out matching sighs of relief. “I had a long time to consider everything that I was taught, and people who were there to tell me when I was wrong and being dense.” She smiled slightly, “even if they are ungrateful American pricks.” She mumbled to herself.
“It’s not me you have to apologize to.” Diana spoke back up, both of the girls across from her nodding. “But,” she smiled softly, “Akko is one of the most forgiving people I have ever known. And I think that she and the other’s will understand.”
“Thanks.” Barbara said, smiling as Hannah nodded. “We want to at least try.” She stood up, giving an awkward wave before fleeing to her alcove. Hannah lingered, chewing on her lip.
“If you need anything…” she said, faltering as she flashed an awkward smile to Diana. Diana nodded, Hannah escaping with a relieved look on her face.
Diana flopped back down on the chair, stretching out as she felt her muscles let out tension. Not even a full day back in the world and she already felt worn out. What was she supposed to do for the next few hours? She pulled herself up from the chair, walking over to the bookshelf in the room. She ran her fingers down the spines of the books, searching for one to read.
She stumbled upon a Nightfall book as she searched for something, impulsively pushing it back into place and resting her hand against the books. Maybe something else, something, not as…
She spotted a history book, pulling it out with a relieved sigh as she dropped down onto the chair again, curling up as she opened the book on her lap. This should at least last for a small while, while she figured out exactly how to adjust to a human form.
-There was something that she was missing, something important…-
She waved it off, turning back to her book as she got absorbed in the history. It was a long day she was bound to forget something, she could figure it out tomorrow.
Akko narrowed her eyes, entering into a staring match with her notebook as she tried to decipher the notes from magic runes earlier that day. The text swam, blinking as she tried to clear the sleep from her eyes. “So if I have it right,” she said, “I have to arrange these in like a spiral and they should be easier to read?” she asked, frantically erasing one of the runes and carefully redrawing it.
“Diana?” she called, looking up from her notes to see Diana sitting next to her, her head tilted back as she let out a small snorting snore. Akko smiled, trying to hold back a giggle as she went over and poked Diana gently, a small part of her marveling that she could do this now. She could reach out and touch Diana.
The small push made Diana shrug, trying to throw off the weird feeling that was intruding on her sleep. She tilted to the side, her head landing square on Akko’s shoulder. Akko froze, Diana giving a sigh of contentment as she tried to burrow closer into Akko, causing her cheeks to flare a bright red.
“Hey,” Akko gently shook Diana, “Diana, Diana you fell asleep.” Diana grumbled, wrapping both her arms against Akko’s and resting her head on her neck, pushing herself in as Akko looked around. The courtyard where they had decided to study was blessedly empty, no one around to see the bright red flush that crept up Akko’s face.
She tried to focus back on her notes, the swirls of runes blurring together as all she could focus on was the brush of Diana’s hair against her neck and her soft rhythmic breathing as she slept. She found herself humming gently, managing to get back into her notes as she tried to move as little as possible.
The sun managed to creep across the sky, lengthening the shadows cast across the grass as Akko tried to sit still. The wood from the tree dug into her back as she squirmed, her foot twitching to let out her energy. A sleepy grumble from her side made her toss aside her notes, smiling as Diana sleepily awoke.
“Hey sleepy.” Diana smiled, a sleepy grin across her face before her eyes shot open. She scooted away, a deep red flush on her face as she started to stammer out apologies.
“Oh- oh dear,” Diana fiddled with her hands as her ears turned bright red, “I am so sorry I just, I forgot that I had to sleep last night and your voice is really soothing and I just-” she snapped her mouth shut, gesturing around with her hands before snapping them down into her lap.
A grin stretched on Akko’s face, inwardly squealing about how cute Diana was being. -She thinks my voice is soothing!- She celebrated in her mind.
“Did you not sleep yesterday?” Akko said with concern, scooting closer to Diana.
“I, well, I somewhat forgot.” Diana said, letting out a small laugh. “I had no need for sleep within the journal, and when I was in my new room yesterday I just found myself reading a book and thinking.” She ran her fingers through the grass, smiling at the strange texture against her skin.
“There is so much here to learn and see.” She muttered, plucking a blade of grass and rubbing it between her fingers. “I found myself reading through some of my new school books instead.” She pulled out her wand, the older design so different from from the new telescoping wands. The solid wood ended in a foggy crystal tip, the warping of the wood making it look like several interlocking strands of wood.
“Fiheg.” She waved her wand, green light radiating from the tip. Grass pulled itself from the ground, hovering in mid air before weaving together to form a small chain. Diana gave a flick of her wand, the chain flying through the air to wrap around Akko’s wrist, closing to form a braided bracelet.
Touching the gift Akko smiled, looking up to see the content look on Diana’s face. “It has been so long since I got to do magic just for the sake of magic.” Akko watched as Diana turned the wand over in her hands with a smile. “Ever since I got my wand I loved practicing magic. My mother used to help me practice healing spells when she was wither her patients, and Anna would let me sneak in practicing magic in the kitchens.”
She laughed, Akko feeling her gut flip in her chest. “I would give her flowers in exchange for pastries, and she would count them out to the whole kitchen staff.” Diana felt a tear squeeze out of the corner of her eye, reaching up to wipe it away as she stared at the tear with a sad smile.
“It has been so long since I could think about the world outside of the book. I almost thought that I would never be able to cast magic again, eat or drink or even sleep in this world again.” She looked down, the corners of smile barely turning up.
“Or steal pastries from the kitchens again?” Akko nudged Diana gently with her shoulder, drawing a laugh out of her.
“Or ask for pastries from the kitchen again.” Diana bumped her back, the two giggling slightly before falling into a comfortable silence.
The wind ruffled the tops of the trees, the soft rustling of the leaves filling the courtyard. Diana plucked a few blades of grass, Akko staring at her hand. She was so close, actually here in the world and sitting not even two feet from her. She inched her hand over, placing it on top of Diana’s, causing her to freeze up and look over at Akko.
“You must miss them.” Akko said, interlocking their fingers as her hand covered Diana’s, noting to herself that her hands could completely envelope Diana’s.
“More than the world.” Diana said, staring up at the stars. “I had a long time in the journal, and I thought that with that, and the fact that my mother died before I was cursed, maybe I had been able to move on.” She gave a rueful chuckle, “but being here, being able to actually be here instead of sitting on a musty shelf, talking with the blue team earlier, it all reminded me of them. It makes it more real that I never…”
“I’m sorry.” Akko said, pulling Diana into a hug, closing her eyes as she felt Diana grip onto her shirt. “I don’t know how that would feel, but I know how it can feel sometimes to be alone.” Akko looked up at the stars, “I miss my parents most days, and if it wasn’t for you and my friends then I think I might have gone home a long time ago.” Diana looked up at her, her expression confused as she searched for something on Akko’s face.
“I am glad you chose to stay.” Diana said softly, Akko enraptured by her words, “Without you, none of this would have happened. Not me being free, not the world being saved, nothing.” She sat up, groaning at the stiffness of her muscles, not used to the feeling.
“I don’t care how other people think, to me, you are already the greatest witch there ever was.” Her eyes softened, Akko’s heart racing in her chest. “You are already my hero.”
Akko’s face turned bright red as she buried her face in her hands, mumbling in Japanese as she tried to regain composure. Diana smiled, arching her back and rolling her shoulders as she winced at the soreness. She looked up, Akko already standing, her head turned to the side and a hand outstretched to help Diana up.
“I know it’s not the same,” she said, the setting sun framing her face, “But we can go sneak into the kitchens after dinner and try to steal some pastries. I am sure that Jerry won’t mind.” Diana snorted, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand.
“I never stole them,” she said, mock affronted, “I always paid for them.”
“I was six Akko.”
“An adorable six year old.” Akko shot back, the grin only stretching larger on her face. “Okay so we can go find some flowers and sneak into the kitchen to pay for some pastries. Is that more accurate oh virtuous one?” She bowed mockingly, her hand still outstretched.
The invitation seemed to call to her, a soft reminder to live; she was free, she was here with Akko, and the remains of her Aunt’s voice in the back of her mind could stay well out thank you very much. She reached out, hesitant, slow, pausing right before grabbing Akko’s hand.
“Just this once.” She grinned, watching as Akko’s eyes lit up in joy. She was pulled to her feet, Akko keeping hold of her hand as she dragged her towards the kitchens. Diana chucked to herself, -Oh Akko,- she thought, a wild grin and blush on her face, -I will always take your hand, no matter where it leads.-