“Wait, they seriously denied your visa application?” Amanda’s hands slapped onto the table in shock.
“Yeah! Apparently saving the whole country isn’t good enough, I gotta have proof of income,” Akko grumbled. “I already have like three shows lined up for the month after I graduate! The third one’s paying me five hundred pounds!” She slumped down onto the table with a huff. “So now I gotta cancel my income source cause I can’t prove I have an income source. Amazing.”
“That really sucks,” Lotte put an arm around Akko’s shoulder, who leaned into the hug even as Diana squeezed her hand. The rest of the group offered vaguely sympathetic pats or words of comfort. Even Sucy.
“Thanks guys,” Akko mumbled from under the impromptu pile of affection. “I just…” Akko squeezed Diana’s hand tighter, tears already starting to spill. “I was already gonna miss everyone so much, and now who knows how long it’ll be before I get to see you all again.”
Akko lifted her eyes, gazing into Diana’s through brimming tears. “And like, OK I hope none of the rest of you are too offended when I say this,” Akko sniffed once, then twice, before completely losing her battle against her already failing composure, her voice breaking into a sob as she buried her face in Diana’s shoulder. “I’m gonna miss you so damn much Diana.”
The group moved away as one as Diana brought her arm to wrap around Akko’s shoulder, pulling her closer and stroking her back gently. “We’ll get through this,” Diana whispered into Akko’s hair. “I know we will.”
Akko could feel her frustration surging. She knew everyone was awkwardly staring at each other while she cried into her girlfriend’s shoulder but it was just so unfair! And she didn’t know how she was gonna fix it!
“And, like, we were gonna live together when you went off to uni,” Akko choked through more sobs. “And I was really excited it was gonna be so sweet and I was gonna practice magic all day and wait for you to come home and then give you cuddles and kisses and then you could come see my shows on weekends when you weren’t too busy with studying and, and…” Akko was just bawling now, wasn’t she. “And we could go visit everyone together during the holidays and I was gonna be so. Damn. Happy.”
Diana was crying now too. Akko could feel the tears landing on her head. Could feel the way she squeezed Akko just a little tighter. Could feel the way her breathing came quicker, shallower, the way it did when she was really really angry.
“Alright,” Amanda said, “so we’re in agreement that this is complete bullshit, yeah?” So let’s put our heads together and figure out what we can do about it!”
Akko pulled her head away from Diana’s shoulder as her friends all perked up at once, united in their goal of helping her out. What had she ever done to deserve them?
“One of our families could adopt her?” Hannah suggested, gesturing between herself and Barbara. “Not sure Akko’s parents would appreciate, but that’s an option, right?”
Diana shook her head. “Not when she’s already eighteen, and especially not when she already has legal guardians as you said.”
“We could ask one of the professors if they could ‘hire’ Akko as an apprentice?” Lotte suggested. “I think Professor DuNord would do it, and it’d give her proof of income, right?”
“Need to be able to prove I’d be earning at least eighteen grand a year,” Akko said, offering a rueful smile. “I think we all know there’s no way this place pays Chariot enough for her to have that kinda money lying around.”
“You could just pay her back after?” Sucy said.
“Which would be fraud, and likely found out immediately,” Diana said with a sigh.
Find a job? Constanze wrote on her board.
“That’s the plan right now,” Akko said. “But it’ll take a while and there’s uh, still not that many good jobs when your only qualification is being a witch.”
“I’m sure there’s some PR or marketing companies who’d love to have the saviour of magic on board,” Barbara pointed out.
“Yeah, that’s an option I guess.” Akko sighed. “Selling out before my career’s even begun, gotta love capitalism.”
At least that one got a chuckle from the group. “Even still it’s kinda crap and means I’m stuck in the job cause if I lose it then I get deported, and my bosses all know that,” Akko grumbled. “Never mind how much of a mess it’ll be trying to apply for jobs in England when I’m still living in Japan and trying to find work and do shows there too y’know?”
The heavy atmosphere had returned. They’d come up with a plan, sure, but there was hardly a sense of relief to accompany it. She was well and truly screwed.
“What if…” Diana started, and Akko could already feel her beginning to tense. “This is, perhaps a bold idea, but… well…”
Nothing on this good Earth could have possibly prepared Akko for what came out of Diana’s mouth next.
“I could… try to get you a spousal visa?”
Akko’s brain ceased to function.
“Spouse???” Akko yelled.
“I… admit that I had wanted to wait a few more years at least before formally asking you to be my bride, Akko.” Diana was flushed crimson, struggling to meet Akko’s eyes as she spoke. “But if doing so now will help keep us together… then I do believe it would make me quite happy.”
Akko opened her mouth. A high pitched squeal came out. She closed her mouth again.
“If you would prefer, we could have this be a… small affair. Only with close friends and family, perhaps?” Diana was leaving pauses and stuttering and generally about as far removed from her usual calm demeanour as possible. “And we could save the, ah, actual bells-and-whistles wedding, as it were, for such a time as we both would have been more amenable to the idea of being married, yes?”
“I, uh, yeah?” Akko nodded and shrugged at the same time. “Yeah sounds good. Yep. Yep yep yep that sounds great and good and are you asking me to marry you!?”
“I… suppose that I am,” Diana said, her eyes widening as if only now realising the full implications. She suddenly shifted away from Akko, releasing her as she dropped to one knee. “Unfortunately I don’t have a ring at present, but needs must.”
Diana raised her eyes to Akko’s, gazing at her with the overwhelming intensity and care that Akko had come to love so well. “Atsuko Kagari, will you do me the honour of—”
“Why are you doing this in the cafeteria!?” Akko screamed.
As it turned out, there were slightly more formalities to the process of getting married than one’s bride-to-be kneeling on the floor of a school cafeteria.
Firstly, they had to find an officiant willing to marry them before the school term ended and Akko’s study visa expired.
Fortunately, there was one very willing candidate on hand.
“When and how did you even get ordained?” Akko demanded.
“You can do it online now,” Amanda shrugged. “They send you a certificate and everything, only cost me like forty pounds.”
“The wonders of the internet never cease to amaze,” Diana said, setting a tray with several cups of tea down on the Blue Dorm table. “Dare I ask why you decided to do so?”
“Thought it’d be funny,” Amanda said, to a chorus of chuckles around the table. “And figured maybe I could help out some gays in need sometime? So I reckon it all worked out for the best.”
“If I might request that you please dress at least somewhat respectably,” Diana asked, politely but firmly.
“If you think I would officiate my dear bro Akko’s wedding in anything other than the sharpest and freshest suit ever crafted by womankind, then you’ve officially lost it, Dish.” Amanda smirked.
“To be clear, if you refer to me as Dish at any point during the wedding I will, quite literally, curse you and your entire bloodline into oblivion,” Diana said evenly.
“See that just makes me want to do it even more, do you have any idea how much I hate my folks?” Amanda asked.
“I just think we need to stop talking about Amanda’s bloodline too much around those two.” Sucy shot a sharp grin towards Hannah and Barbara, who had both been biting their lips ever since the mention of Amanda’s suit.
Amanda very slowly turned their smirk around to Diana’s future bridesmaids. They raised a single eyebrow. “That so?”
“Why did I ever think that getting your assistance would be a good idea?” Diana asked to the room at large.
“We went to the circus, we got clowns,” Akko commiserated with her fiancée.
“As for the visa qualifications, there are still a few steps we have to take, aside from the… marriage… aspect,” Diana said, completely failing to hide the soft glow of her cheeks at a particular word in that sentence.
“Firstly, we still need to show a shared proof of income above the required threshold, which means I will need to ascend to family head at the next possible opportunity,” she explained. “Fortunately, the next Venusian eclipse is only a few months away, and in the meantime we should be able to use the savings I became entitled to on my eighteenth birthday to qualify, but it is a tentative position and one I hope we can rectify sooner rather than later.”
Akko nodded. “So we’ll already be married by then, right?”
Diana stilled. “Akko, I know this is all a formality but… would you be willing to accompany me to the succession ritual, as my wife?”
Oh, Akko was crying. Again. “Yeah. Yeah I think I’d like that a lot. Gotta meet the in-laws at some point, right?”
Diana laughed gently. “I expect that Beatrix will be delighted to see you again, darling.”
“I hope so,” Akko said, fidgeting a little. “Not gonna lie it was already nerve-wracking enough last time when I was just some interloper who had kinda maybe just developed a huge crush on you like five minutes before meeting your great-great-great-great-great-grandma.”
Diana snorted loudly. “Now I think back on it, the experience did feel rather similar to when I first met your parents.”
“Hey at least my family didn’t have a curse saying they’d kill you if I—” Akko stopped short. “Wait a sec. Wasn’t the whole deal that if a non-Cavendish messed with the ceremony then they’d get cursed? So why was I OK?”
Diana paused. “I suppose the obvious answer is that you were assisting, not interfering, but…” She raised her eyes to Akko’s, smiling at her gently. “I believe I prefer the interpretation that she was simply a few steps ahead of me in welcoming you to the family.”
“I think I like that idea a lot too,” Akko said quietly, leaning in for a soft kiss.
“Wait, I have to live at the Manor over the Summer!?” Akko wilted.
“Unfortunately, yes,” Diana said. “It was difficult enough managing to convince immigration control that our being at Luna Nova together for the last three years counted as cohabitation.”
“With how often Akko stayed in this dorm? Should’ve been a breeze.” Hannah commented with a knowing smirk.
“…Be that as it may,” Diana said with a gentle cough, “continuing to live together for the foreseeable future will likely aid with the visa checks.” She gave Akko a reassuring smile. “Hopefully we can move out well before my university term starts, but being as I don’t have my results yet I don’t know where I will—”
“Diana, we all know you’re gonna get the grades for literally any uni in the world,” Akko cut her off with a roll of her eyes.
Diana rolled her eyes back, a small smile forming on her face. “Once we know for sure where I’m going, we can try to find a flat nearby as soon as possible, alright dear?” She reached out, gently caressing Akko’s shoulder. “Believe me, I do not wish for either of us to spend any more time around Aunt Daryl than is strictly necessary.”
Akko nodded, leaning into Diana’s touch, resting her cheek against that soft, comforting hand. “Does she know about… all this?”
“Does she… approve?”
Diana was silent for a moment. “I made it clear that any comments on the matter would not be tolerated.”
“So she doesn’t,” Akko said.
“I don’t care,” Diana replied.
Akko sighed. “I do,” she said in a small voice. “I know it’s dumb, cause she’s awful and she’s awful to you and I love you but… I want your family to like me.”
“Can’t always get what you want, I guess,” Amanda said.
“I dunno,” Akko said, her smile returning, “I have got the world’s most amazing fiancée after all. Everything else just kinda feels like cherries on top after that.”
“It’s not too bad, right?” Akko asked, looking furtively between the gathered crowd.
Amanda swallowed thickly.
Hannah and Barbara looked to one another then back to Akko with wide eyes.
Lotte opened her mouth, then shut it again, flushing a little.
“I think what they wanna say is, yeah you look hot.” Sucy shrugged.
The rest of the group nodded as one.
“I think,” Hannah started, “that if you wear that dress on your wedding day, you will quite literally cause Diana to have a heart attack.”
Akko paled. “Ack! Is it too far? I can try a different one!”
“No!” Amanda said significantly too quickly. “No I, uh, I think it’s good.”
“Yeah shut up right now you look perfect what the hell,” Barbara said in disbelief.
“Alright,” Akko scratched the back of her neck, her movements feeling a little clumsy with the sheer amount of material she was wearing. “How… how much does it cost?”
“You don’t need to know,” Hannah said simply.
“Right.” Akko looked around again. “I mean, are you all sure this isn’t too much? It’s not a real wedding, right?”
“Are you telling me you don’t wanna see Diana in a wedding dress?” Amanda asked.
Akko paused. Her eyes widened. She stared into the distance for a moment. A long moment. She suddenly remembered to shut her mouth with a snap.
“Yeah. Oh.” Barbara smirked.
“Alright, first things first we do synthetic and synthetic only here,” said the goblin propped up at a tiny desk covered in papers and tools and boxes upon boxes of gemstones. “If you want blood diamonds, you can go some place else.”
“That’s why I’m here, David,” Akko said, a determined look to her eyes. “I know all about the exploitation of minotaurs—and human workers too—in the gem mining industry, and the same people who warned me about that recommended you.”
“Is that so?” David asked, a curious look forming on his face. “Not what I expected from the bride-to-be of the landed gentry, at any rate. So, Akko, any specifics or just ‘a nice ring?’”
“Um, I’d like the gems to be sapphires?” Akko said. “Blue’s her favourite colour. And, um, it suits her eyes…”
“Can do, can do,” he jotted that down. “Anything else?”
“Do you do engravings?” Akko asked.
“Did Davinci paint?” David grinned, showing teeth. “Did Michaelangelo sculpt? Did Gaudi design cathedrals!? Yes, Akko. I do bloody engravings.”
“OK, OK, I get it,” Akko laughed. “In that case uh, can I get the Big Dipper engraved on the outside?”
He chuckled. “Makes sense, should be no problem.”
“And for the inside…” Akko handed over a sheet, painstakingly inscribed with a few Japanese characters.
“What’s it say, if you don’t mind my asking?” David slipped the sheet inside his notebook.
Akko took a deep breath.
“My believing heart is yours.”
“We’re keeping our names, right?” Akko asked one evening, as the two of them snuggled together on the couch in the Blue Dorm, Hannah and Barbara not due back from Blytonbury for another hour or two at least.
“I had assumed so, yes,” Diana said, gently stroking her fingers through Akko’s hair in a way that made her want to just shut her eyes and enjoy this sensation for the rest of her life. “We can always change in future, of course. Perhaps as and when we do the real thing…”
Akko felt Diana’s fingers still in her hair, and twisted her head to look at her, gazing at her beloved through splayed fingers.
Naturally, Akko’s eyes couldn’t help but lock onto the engagement ring on Diana’s finger.
Diana closed her hand.
“Am I going too far?” Diana asked quietly.
“What d’you mean?” Akko asked, reaching up and lowering Diana’s hand to look towards her downcast eyes.
“With… the wedding, and everything,” Diana whispered. “It’s… not real. Not supposed to be anyway. And yet despite that…” She turned her eyes towards the ring glinting on her finger. “Akko, do you feel pressured?”
“No, Diana,” Akko assured her, “not even slightly. I know it’s not real too.”
Why did her voice catch at that.
“Do you… want it to be?” Diana asked.
Akko paused. “I have no idea,” she whispered. “I know that I love you. I know that I wanna be with you for as long as you’ll have me. And I know that I’m actually pretty excited by the whole wedding dress and ring and living with you and getting to call you my wife and everything…”
Akko took a shallow breath, turning her gaze away. “But I dunno if I’m ready to get married.”
“I’m not sure either,” Diana admitted. “I am only nineteen.”
“I’m not getting cold feet or anything,” Akko said quickly. “I mean, we gotta do it for my visa anyway right?”
“Of course. But then… the dresses, and the plans, and… Akko I’m wearing my mother’s engagement ring,” Diana said, her eyes still locked on it. “It seemed so obvious at the time? I love you. And there’s no doubt in my mind that I love you every bit as much as my mother loved my father when she wore this ring, but it still feels… somehow excessive.”
“Oh yeah about that, you know my parents are demanding to pay for your ring?” Akko said. “The actual wedding ring I mean. Got pretty worked up about it. Said they had to at least contribute this much. And I know it wasn’t cheap, and I kinda didn’t think about it til afterwards but like… why? Why go to all that effort now and not for the real thing later, y’know?”
“That’s… what I’ve been struggling with too,” Diana acknowledged, turning her gaze back to Akko. “Darling, I feel like the two of us may have become a little caught up in the moment.”
“Yeah, I guess,” Akko said. She raised her head, a small grin breaking out on her face as she looked up at Diana. “Isn’t that just like us though?”
Diana laughed softly. “I suppose it is, my love.”
“And I mean, it is gonna be fun, right? And we can still do the proper wedding when we feel ready for it, y’know?” Akko said, taking Diana’s hand, running her fingers over the ring. “No reason we can’t just enjoy both, right?”
“Rather expensive entertainment, don’t you think?” Diana quirked an eyebrow.
“I’m not paying.” Akko shrugged. “In fact I distinctly remember you telling me that I would be getting a nice wedding dress—or suit if I preferred—and you would be paying for it, and there would be consequences if I tried to find any way around you paying for it.” Akko smirked up at her fiancée.
“Ah. Yes I… did say that, didn’t I?” Diana started fidgeting with her fingers, only for Akko to close her hand more tightly over Diana’s, leaning in for a firm kiss that lasted a little longer than it needed to.
“Diana, I’m not mad at you at all,” Akko said, her lips so close she could almost feel them ghosting over Diana’s as she spoke. “I got caught up in this thing too. And honestly? It’s been a blast. A blast, Diana. Just like everything else.” She gave Diana another kiss, because why not?
“Akko, these past two years have brought me happiness I had never expected to know again for as long as I lived.” Diana was so close that the tiny tears in her eyes were all Akko could see. “I would love nothing more than to spend so many more by your side, darling.”
Akko grinned. “Isn’t that just what marriage is, anyway?”
“You might be oversimplifying a little, dear,” Diana arched an eyebrow, before nuzzling her head against Akko’s with a soft smile. “Thank you.”
“Any time, oh darling fiancée of mine.” Akko shut her eyes, stroking Diana’s hand and allowing herself to be lost in the bliss of the moment.
“I’m still not entirely used to you calling me that,” Diana whispered.
“Well the good news is, you won’t have to get used to it,” Akko whispered back. “Cause as of next week, I won’t be calling you anything except my beloved wife for the rest of my life.”
“I… think I would like that quite a lot, my dear fiancée,” Diana responded.
Akko had to kiss her. It was the only way to hide the squeal that nearly came from her chest, after all.