Asta's eyes opened gently, blinking a few times as the sunlight filled his room. He started to sit up when he felt something on his arm.
"Nero?" he mumbled, still partially asleep, as he sat up; Looking down at who was on his bed. It was Noelle, with Nero perched on her head.
Asta jumped up, causing Noelle to fall backward. "NOELLE?!" he shouted, not realizing he was still in his clothes grabbed a pillow to cover himself, his face turning red. "Why are you in my room!?"
Noelle, who had until now been asleep, realized where she was at Asta's screaming. Her face turning bright red as she let out a horrified scream and ran out of Asta's room and towards the women's quarters. Asta hesitated for a brief moment before running and shutting his door with a slam.
Noelle sprinted across the base, not moving around anyone who got in her way. Her face was beet red, Magna stepped out of his room; in front of her and was promptly water blasted into the men's bathroom. After she crossed the barrier into the women's quarter, she reached her room and slammed the door shut.
Both Noelle, and Asta had the same thought "why was my heart pounding so hard?" and didn't leave their rooms until mid-afternoon. Asta left his room first, heading to the men's bath to deal with his dirt and grime from training the previous two days. Noelle did the same a little later, heading towards the women's bath to soak away her emotions.
Asta jumped right into the bath, splashing water onto the floor. He quickly got to cleaning himself, using his boundless energy to get rid of all the grime on his body. "did I not go inside all day? I should be more careful." his thoughts slowly drifting to Noelle. "did she carry me inside to my room? No wonder she was so tired, she must have carried me," he said with a smile.
Noelle shook her head "no; I can't he's.. he's a commoner, and I'm royalty. It wouldn't work, it COULDN'T work." she started washing her face with a cloth. "so why do I want it to work?" she felt her eyes start to well up with tears. "he-he won't even notice me will he?"
Asta stood up and started doing some stretching, his thoughts staying on Noelle. "Maybe I should take her back to Hage village," he thought "then I can introduce her to everyone! The priest, Sister Lily, and all the kids!" He started smiling at the thought. "we can eat nomotatos, and I can show her my training spot! Then I can ask-" he stopped. His lips were freezing at what he was about to say.
And the dam broke for Noelle; she cried silently believing her feelings were empty. Her Siblings voices echoed through her head, "You're nothing but a failure" Solid's voice echoed. "Marrying a commoner? You're pathetic!" Nebra's voice echoed. "First you kill our mother, then you disgrace our name. Disappear you failed excuse for a human." Nozelle said, appearing in the water in front of Noelle. A weight was hitting Noelle in the gut. She tried to scream as what felt like magic dragged her into the bath. An endless abyss beneath her, her families faces laughing and pulling her down.
Asta punched himself, hard. He tried to think straight. "did...did I think that?" he jumped back into the bath, the lukewarm water splashing his face. Floating on his back, he drifted from one end of the bath to the other. "no I couldn't think of that! Sister Lily is the only woman in my heart!" He shouted into the room. "No one could replace Noelle in my h-" he stopped again, his hands slapping his mouth. His heart was burning a hole in his chest; his eyes widened as he realized what he was feeling.
Then, she broke the surface of the bath, coughing, crying and quickly getting back out to dry off and head to her room again.
He jumped out of the bath and grabbed his clothes, dressing as he walked back to his room to deal with the new feelings and weight in his chest.
Noelle barely noticed when Vanessa knocked on her door and came into her room, her head buried in her pillow. "You okay Noelle? You've been in here all day?"
"go away" Noelle mumbled.
"not a chance, something's wrong, and I'm here to help. Charmy's outside if you need someone else to talk with too." Vanessa said, sitting on the side of Noelle's bed, gently touching her hand.
Noelle stifled another cry and raised her head. Her eyes red and bloodshot, and her pillow stained with tears. Without thinking, Vanessa pulled her into a hug.
"What happened, Who do we need to kill?"
"no one, nothing happened," Noelle said, stopping another crying fit as Vanessa rubbed the back of her head. "nothing will happen."
"come on now, something had to have happened to get you like this," Vanessa said, giving Noelle a gentle hug. "you don't have to tell me right now, but I am here to talk too, Have you eaten?"
Noelle shook her head weakly, almost on cue several sheep came in with bread rolls, fruit plates, freshly cooked beef, and cups of juice and water all placed in front of Noelle.
"Eat all you need," Charmy said walking into Noelle's room. "trust me, some food in your tummy, and you'll feel better." Noelle gave a weak smile as she started to eat.
Asta was sitting on his bed, thinking back on his adventures since joining the Black Bulls. Sussey village, the dungeon, the castle town invasion. All of the time, Noelle was at his side. They pushed each other further and further through their battles. His mind drifted to the star awarding ceremony, and how Noelle's family treated her. He clenched his fist, "family shouldn't scare someone like that." He thought, slowly standing up, realizing for the first time today how hungry he was. He walked out the door and started heading to the meal hall. A smile crept its way onto his face "if Noelle's there I'll try talking with her."
However, when he got to the hall, only Finral was there. "Yo Asta! Heard you were out all day yesterday!" waving Asta over for him to come over and sit. Eyeing the food next to Finral, Asta walked over, and without missing a beat, he started eating.
"I mean, I was wondering if you were hungry. No one has seen you all day." Finral said, watching the plate of food disappear.
"Sorry," Asta said, swallowing the last of his food with a grin, grabbing a cup of water "I guess I wiped myself out training with Noelle."
"with Noelle huh?" Finral said, his hand moving in front of his mouth to hide a small grin that appeared. "you two are almost always together, it's almost like you two are dating."
Asta choked on his water, coughing and almost falling out of his chair. "W-what! We aren't together! We're just friends!"
"you're blushing man, and you're sure there isn't something there?" Finral said egging him on.
"No way! Sister Lily is the only one for me!" Asta said proudly. " I've already asked her to marry me!"
Finral's eyebrow raised, "you did? I thought nuns couldn't get married?"
"They can't, but I won't let that stop me!"
Finral frowned, "what was her reaction when you asked? And what did she say?"
"she uh, used her grimoire to flatten me into the dirt and said no."
"and how many times have you asked her?"
"Every day until I took the knight exam."
"...how many times did she react like that?"
Finral's hand met his face. "Asta, I hate to break it to you. But I don't think anything you can do will make her say yes."
"If I become the Wizard king then She'll-" Finral cut him off.
"Asta, I'm serious. I know you don't give up on anything, but I have been on dozens of dates. If you love her, listen to what she is saying." He sighed, "how long have you known her?"
"Since I was just a baby," Asta said with a smile "she kinda helped raise me."
"So she's kind of like your mother then? maybe you're attracted to older women?" Finral said, a bead of sweat forming on his brow. "Damn," he thought, "the plan won't work if he's only into older women."
"My mother? No way! she's the sister of the church, not my mom!"
"No Asta, I mean like, you are... attracted to older women? do you want to date them or something?"
Asta stared at finral for a moment, "No!" he shouted "no way that's not what I meant!" his face getting red "I don't think of sister Lily like that!"
"well, why not describe your ideal partner to me?" Finral said with a smile. "maybe I can tell if you're on the right track pursuing this Nun of yours."
"if you're sure," Asta said, "but the answer will be Sister Lily!" he took a deep breath. "I like girls who are kind and compassionate!"
"Go on," Finral said, "there has to be more than that, what would she look like?"
"well, I think I'd like her to be just a little taller than me!" He said with a grin, "maybe have long hair and soft skin!"
"Jackpot! Time to go for the kill." Finral thought, "what colour would her hair be Asta?" he said with a sly grin.
"Silver!" Asta said almost reflexively, his face turning a light shade of red.
"Well that sounds like Noelle," Finral said, watching Asta's expression change from confident to the single most flustered man on the planet.
"N-Noelle? What makes you say that!" Asta stuttered, "Why would you think I have a thing for her?"
"you, literally just described her," Finral said with a grin. "slightly taller than you, kind, compassionate, fair skin and silver hair. Sounds like Noelle to me."
"She, probably already has someone," Asta said, his voice having a sadder tone to it.
"I wouldn't be so sure, with her magic going out of control for years I've heard some bad rumours about her family and how they treated her," Finral said, a frown taking over his face.
Asta's blush disappeared as well, his fist clenching. "they... I've only seen them once, and they said things I never thought I would hear from family members."
"I won't ask for details, that's for her to tell us when she's ready," Finral said. "she's got her demons, we have to be ready to help her."
Asta nodded in agreement, "You're right, we need to be there for her."
"Looks like we're on the same page," Finral thought "good, now to get back on track with the plan."
"sorry for the mood killer, but, I do think you would be good for her to be around." He adjusted how he was sitting. "We've all seen how much you make her smile, so humour me with this. How would you ask her out on a date?"
"I'd get down on a knee and ask her to marry me," Asta said, almost too fast.
Finral just stared at Asta for a moment, seeing his friends brain freeze at what he had just said. They sat in silence for a moment, until they both burst out laughing.
"I guess old habits will die hard Asta!" Finral said, almost out falling out of his chair from laughter. "though, I think if you did that now she'd faint!"
Asta was still laughing "maybe I should! I think I'd mean it right now!'
"As much as I'd love to be there for the proposal, I don't think it would be smart right now," Finral's laughter slowly stopping.
"what happened?" Asta's laughter also stopping, "did something happen?"
"while you were in your room this afternoon, apparently Noelle was in hers crying over something. I think Vanessa and Charmy are talking with her now." Finral's brow furrowing, "did something happen?"
Asta put his hand on his chin. "The only time we saw each other today was this morning; she was asleep in my room. When I woke up, I think I scared her."
"you'll have to ask her, I think I hear them coming," Finral said at the exact moment the door swung open. Charmy ran in and sat at the nearest table, Vanessa walking in talking to Noelle.
Asta was looking at Noelle, his eyes looking at her with worry. Her eyes looked tired and red, a bit of her make up smudged from crying earlier in the day. Her smile, while genuine was weaker than usual, a light stain of what appeared to be chocolate around her lips. He slowly stood up and gave a small wave to her, which she returned, wiping a few remaining tears and crumbs from her face. He started to walk over to her, the warmest smile he had on his face. "Hey Noelle," he said bowing his head slightly, "I'm sorry for spooking you this morning, thanks for carrying me back to my room."
Noelle's face got a little lighter, "Hmph, it was the least royalty could do for her training partner" A large smile growing on her face. "but next time Dorksta, don't work so hard I have to carry you back!"
The pair laughed, their smiles the warmest they had been all day until Asta broke their laughter.
"I, heard something happened after this morning, are you okay?" He said, still with a smile on his face.
She nodded "thank you for your concern, but I'm fine now."
"is there, anything I can do Noelle?" Asta said, his hand going behind his head awkwardly. "I, feel like it may have been my fault."
She shook her head, "It wasn't your fault Asta, but." She took a deep breathe her face gaining a slight blush. "I-it would make me feel better if maybe, we held hands, just for a bit!" which Asta responded to by gently grabbing her hand.
"Awww," Said the trio of friends already eating the food Charmy's sheep had made, causing Asta and Noelle to let go, both blushing furiously. "No no! It's sweet!" Vanessa said, stifling a giggle.
Finral gave Asta a look, one that said "Don't. Do. It." Asta understood it immediately. Reaching his hand back out for Noelle, which she took with little hesitation.
"You two going to eat or what!" Charmy said, having her sheep fill up plates for both of them. The pair walked over, hand in hand, and started eating. Laughing with their friends, and enjoying an evening with every other Black Bull eventually coming in for dinner. They barely let go of each other through the entire night. With Asta walking with Noelle back to the barrier for the girl's rooms.
Noelle grabbed both of Asta's hands. "I, kind of wish you could come into my room with me." She said, her voice growing a little quieter. "I... think I'd like to tell you what happened today in private."
"If you want to Noelle, I can find a way through the traps," Asta said, a smile growing on his face.
"Oh right, you have that Ki thing the Captain taught you." Noelle said, "I, guess, we can go into my room then? Stay a few feet away from me, so I don't get hurt with you."
Noelle walked through the hallway first, with Asta dodging various traps several feet behind her. She opened the door, and for the first time, Asta saw her room. A fluffy bed with fresh sheets, several shelves, and drawers with a closet, partially open revealing several dresses. A vanity sat across from her bed, a large mirror on it with several brushes Asta didn't recognize the purpose of. Noelle sat on her bed and motioned for Asta to sit with her, which he happily did after closing the door. Her smile fading as she explained what happened in the bathroom, to which Asta immediately held her close. Her crying returned, this time softened by the support of her friends, but still, it was a dry sobbing. After a time Asta said, "You'll show them, you'll prove that you are one of the greatest mages alive."
"Thank you," Noelle said, sniffling some more. "do, do you think you could stay here tonight Asta? I, I don't think I should be alone right now.
Asta nodded, gently wrapping his arm around her and laying down, smiling and holding her throughout the night. Noelle woke at dawn, with Asta still wrapped around her. She never felt so safe in a bed before and nudged him awake. He woke up slowly and smiled before realizing he was still holding her and removing his hands. She rolled to face him, a warm smile on her face, just enough to tell him 'Thank you.' Before nodding for him to leave, which he did quietly, smiling at her as he closed the door and heading to his room.