(along with part of Conchobhar's Wedding, adapted from thread format)
Always a Groom's Man...
"Yes, and no," Morrigan replied calmly. "He had one formal wedding ceremony with Lien Hua this morning in Aleriand, and he will have another here with Xin Le Hua as soon as they arrive, but the commitment feast will not begin until tonight."
Akuma looked puzzled, her anger briefly halted. A rather effeminate looking male with long black hair and loosely wearing a woman's kimono languidly spoke, interested in what Morrigan had said. "Wedding ceremony? What sort of ceremony? I suppose it will take place here. Exactly what will go on?"
"Well, Takumi," Morrigan began, "It's an old western ceremony performed by a priest, whom I will be summoning soon." She walked through the room outlining what would take place, and indirectly showing the servants where to put things. "After everyone is seated the groom, Conchobhar, will come out here with the best man and his groom's men and stand over here..."
"That means us!" said an overly muscled red oni. "We are Conchobhar's men!"
"Speak for yourself, Ryoga" said Akuma flaunting her feminine assets.
"Hmmm..." said Morrigan. "I wasn't really thinking of all of you, but that would be a logical choice. Very well, you men will fill the part of best man, and the groom's men."
"And everyone knows that I'm the best man!" said a yokai that resembled a child.
"In your dreams, Ichiban!" said Akuma. A thin weaselly yokai and one with spiked blue hair and face tattoos, along with the oni, Ryoga, seemed ready to start a battle with the kid over who was the best man.
"No fighting!" ordered Morrigan. "We'll do this by height. Ryoga is the tallest so he will be the best man. Then the order of the groom's men will be Takumi, Chikara..." The weaselly one showed his sharp teeth in a grin. "Kenka..." The spike haired one frowned. "And then Ichiban."
"That would make four groom's men," said the effeminate Takumi, "a rather unlucky number."
"Let him be unlucky," snipped Akuma. "Conchobhar always says he doesn't believe in luck."
"Why not have Ekibyo be a groom's man?" said Ichiban pointing to an anorexic, emo looking woman, with very short black hair and almost no figure. "If you're going to make Takumi wear men's clothing, why not her?"
"Very well," sighed Morrigan, "Ekibyo will be the third groom's man, and I suppose Akuma will want to be the maid of honor."
"Of course!" said Akuma. "What will I have to do?"
"You come in after the bride's maids and just before the bride over there," said Morrigan, "and stand next to her over here, like the best man."
"Oooohh! Let me pick out the bride's maids" said Akuma wickedly. Morrigan looked at her sideways. "Oh don't worry. They will all be very nice girls and pretty too, all good friends of Conchobhar. They won't spoil the ceremony at all."
"Very well," said Morrigan, against her better judgment, "but they must be here in an hour to get their dresses fitted, and if I don't like them I will replace them!"
"How many do you need?" said Akuma turning to go.
"The same number as the groom's men, five," replied Morrigan.
"They'll be here," said Akuma, walking out the door.
Morrigan sent the other members of Conchobhar's team to get fitted for tuxedos and finished her preparations. She hoped everything would go smoothly, but then this was Demon World, not Aleriand.
They traced the same route through Daraku's transformed tunnels as they had before, then flying to Enma's palace they landed in the courtyard. All of the parents who had been there the previous day to recieve their kidnapped children back were gone, but the courtyard was not empty. It had a huge, intricate, series of circles drawn on it and it looked as if Morrigan and members of the Unseelie Court had just finished dancing in it. "You're just here in time!" she said. "I told you that you would see someone else you might have missed..." She activated the circle.
Lights rapidly raced around the circle in the order in which the fays had danced it. When the great circle of circles had been completely traced with light, a beam shot up from the perimeter encompassing the whole area. In the center of the beam the dimensions began to warp, creating an effect that was hard on the eyes. When the dimensions coalesced the lights faded, leaving a black figure standing in the center. The person was wearing black shoes and a black cloak, and the upper parts were completely shielded and hidden by a large raven black pair of wings.
"Dark Angel!" called Morrigan gently. "There is no need to fear. Your brother can not reach you here in this realm. You have friends here, and are welcome!"
The wings parted cautiously to reveal a familiar face and form.
"Father Asa!" said Lien Hua.
The white hair had been cut short, and somewhat spiky on top, and he sported a goatee. The square glasses were gone, and he wore contacts that made his eyes look green. The rest of him was the same, the cross, the clothes, and when he folded his wings, even the hump on his back. In each arm he cradled a baby, one wrapped in pink, one wrapped in blue. "Liebchen?!" he said in surprise. "Tejas!" he exclaimed seeing who else was in the ornate carriage.
"Father Asa?!" Tejas said. "It's nice to see you again."
All of DG90 except Libra got out- she was trying to get the rice that had pelted them out of her hair.
Lien Hua also got out of the carriage, followed by Conchobhar who left his ornate hat on the seat.
"It is nice to see all of you too," said Father Asa. He would have gone over to shake their hands, but his own were full of babies.
"May I hold them?" said Morrigan reaching out for the babies. Her eyes were full of motherly tenderness, and a little nostalgia. These babies may not have sported horns or bright red skin, but for some reason they reminded her of Conchobhar when he was an infant.
Father Asa looked at her rather defensively, sheltering the two infants. "It's all right, Father," said Lien Hua. "She is one of the Great Fairies I told you about. This is Morrigan."
He slowly relinquished the babies to Morrigan. "So then, you are the one responsible for bringing me back to Locura," he said. "I assume dat dis is Locura."
"An isolated part of Locura," said Morrigan gently holding the babies and cooing to them. "This is Demon World, and though I did bring you here, it was because of Lien Hua's marriage to my son that you were brought. I want you to perform the wedding for Xin Le Hua."
He raised an eyebrow at the name "Demon World" but was pleased and amazed at the news of Lien Hua's marriage. "So, liebchen," he said going over and taking her hand. "Are you married already now? Is he what you had hoped for?"
"Yes, we were married this morning," she said softly, suddenly blushing as she looked over at Conchobhar. "I-I think he is." Conchobhar scratched his head messing up his shaggy black hair and grinned.
Father Asa looked him over, but wasn't very critical. You couldn't exactly judge a person by their looks. "And what does Xin Le Hua think?" he asked. Lien Hua's face clouded over. "I see," he said. "We will haf to talk."
"Are you the father of these children?" asked Morrigan.
"Adoptive father," said Father Asa. "They are my brother's offspring."
"I thought you might be related," she said. "They have your bloodline."
"Your brother's children?!" Lien Hua said in shock.
"Yes," replied the priest. "I often keep in touch with an organization dat tracks and fights against the Fourth Reich, my brother's organization. Dis organization approached me for help in taking a secret lab dat belonged to my brother. We had just fought each other on another planet, and my brother was away healing his wounds. It turned out dat the lab was trying to reproduce the Ubermensch Project, by which my brother and I were made, using DNA material from my brother and from his most ardent follower and top general."
"Diexlindet Eckhart, the nobody that attacked the church?" asked Lien Hua.
"Yes," said Father Asa. "Many unborn children suffered and died in dat lab before they developed these two. Then they began producing many more, but when we found these unborn ones the people from the organization began ruthlessly killing them, and all of the lab workers too. I could not stop them without haffing to kill the whole organization, they were dat adamant about destroying all of my brother's offspring. They even destroyed every note or record of the experiments. Only these two survived, taken from the lab by a worker who no longer believed in my brother's ideals, and couldn't bear to see these two suffer. The boy, designated as Pluto145 was to be trained as a ruthless killer like my brother, and the girl, Venus145 was to be used for breeding purposes, as if she were some animal. The lab worker made sure the babies came to me for safe keeping, and then went into hiding. I gave the babies the names Patrick and Valentine, after the saints, and obtained adoption papers for them. I also gave them the names David and Hadassah to use if I haf to disguise them. I think dat my time caring for Samuel helped me open my heart to become a father to these two helpless ones. I do not know why dat 'angel' took Samuel from me before I left Locura. It is not good to bounce a child from care giver to care giver like dat. I only hope dat Samuel has a good home now." He looked fondly at the two infants.
"Tejas," he said urgently. "No one from your group must ever say anything about dis. If my brother were to hear dat you know of the Dark Angel, or where I am, there will be much bloodshed. Likewise, if anyone knows dat some of my brother's offspring survived."
"You have our word!" Tejas replied.
"Misinformation is one of my specialties." Sakura said.
Libra arrived. "Sorry I'm... H-hi, Father A-asa..." She said, just noticing him.
"Good," he said.
"Poor things," said Morrigan looking down at the blue eyed infants. Then she kissed each one on the forehead. "May your enemies never defeat you, and you always be victorious. Gun robh dion air t-ionmhas. (May what you treasure be secure.) Gum biodh rath le do thurus. (May your quest be fruitful.)"
"A blessing?" asked Father Asa.
"Yes," said Morrigan, "and a powerful one. May I take care of them for awhile?"
"So," chuckled Father Asa, "my children haf a fairy godmother, like in the old tales. You seem well suited to care for them, and I will be busy, so please do. If you don't mind I haf a few things to discuss with the bride in private," he said in a serious tone.
Morrigan directed one of the servants to show Father Asa a place where he could talk to Xin Le Hua in private. "Conchobhar," she said to her son, "your team showed up and wanted to take part in the wedding. I've made Ryoga the best man, and Takumi, Chikara, Ekibyo, Kenka, and Ichiban groom's men. I know that Ekibyo is female, but four is an unlucky number and they insisted."
"Actually Ekibyo might look good in men's clothes. Come to think of it I've never seen Takumi wear men's clothes," laughed Conchobhar. "This will be interesting!" Then he had a sobering thought. "What about Akuma? Is she in this?"
"Yes, I made her the maid of honor. She even volunteered to pick some bride's maids," Said Morrigan. "I must say I was surprised to see that she picked such nice and attractive girls."
"What girls?" said Conchobhar suspiciously.
"An ameonna (rain woman) named Taki, Yanagi the kodama (tree spirit), Naoru the kitsune, Mikazuki the necomusume, and a yosei named Shinju," said his mother. Conchobhar put his hand over his face and groaned. "I take it that you knew all of these women, intimately," she said. "It looks like you are going to have to own up to your past mistakes now. I have to say, even if I do disapprove of your past actions, with the exception of Akuma you had good taste. If only you had curbed your appetite... Any way, you had better go see to your men and get your clothes changed for the wedding."
Conchobhar went inside, along with the four daimyo. Servants began unpacking the oxcart and taking things inside, though they left the DG90's luggage beside them. When the carriages and the oxcart were empty they took them to the stables to unhitch, clean, and put away, and to take care of the horses and oxen.
Morrigan turned to Tejas. "Your group would probably like to freshen up too," she said. She instructed another servant to show them to their rooms. "I will send someone for you when the wedding is ready to begin."
Tejas looked a bit distracted and restless. "Oh? Thanks..." he said.
Morrigan noticed Tejas's restlessness as the DG90 went to their rooms. Something was bothering him. Perhaps she would ask him after the wedding. He seemed to always be worrying over something, and yet none of this would have been possible without him. Would he ever realize how much this small act of faithful friendship meant to the world? "It is likely that he has saved Locura, but he doesn't even know it," she softly said as she went back and finished her preparations for the wedding.
Father Asa sat in a comfortable little office with Lien Hua, and talked about the events that had passed since they had parted, and especially he questioned her about Conchobhar and the events that lead to her wedding. Then he asked to speak to Xin Le Hua. The two girls switched places and Xin Le Hua sat in front of him.
"So, how do you feel about marrying Conchobhar?" he asked.
"It is what I must do," she said coldly. "I have promised to be his wife."
Father Asa shook his head. "A wife must love and support her husband, to become one with him in heart and body and purpose. Are you prepared to do that? Can you love him?"
"Isn't it enough that I serve and obey him?" she said. "I don't love him. You ask too much of me."
"No, I don't," said Father Asa sincerely. "God is Love. All creatures made of God bear some imprint of His character, none more so than those created in His image, those with eternal souls. What's more, those created male and female haf a special bond of love dat shows the world the unity dat exists within God Himself. Love is our natural inclination. If one does not love it is because he has shut off the flow within himself, and locked it away, whether of fear, or hate, or hurt. Maybe you say, 'I am a nobody. Nobodies haf no hearts and no feelings, so how can I love?' Yet I know dat you love Lien Hua, and would give your life for her. You even haf a love for Tejas, though tempered with the knowledge dat he can not be yours. If you choose to forgive and haf compassion for someone, love will follow, as water from a spring. Even if it is not strong at first, it will grow, as long as you do not harden your heart against dat person. Why haf you closed your heart to Conchobhar? What has he done to you? Or is it dat you haf been disappointed in the past and are afraid to love?"
Xin Le Hua remained silent. His words had hit so close to the mark, yet she refused to accept them.
Father Asa sighed. "Liebchen," he said softly but firmly. "If you can not forgive, and will not try to love him, I will not marry you two."
"You would cast me in the role of an adulteress!" she said angrily.
"No," he said. "You will retreat into your own sphere." He remembered the day his brother, his best and only friend, was taken from the womb and how he hid from the cold steel and rubber coated hands, behind the folds of flesh sealing himself away from his brother's piercing cries. "You will seal yourself away from her feelings and memories and keep yourself as a completely separate person, for her sake. She has chosen to love Conchobhar, and already her love is beginning to grow. You will not poison it with your hate, not if you care for her at all. If you can not make yourself a part of the growing love between them, you must separate yourself from them as much as is possible. If not, you will destroy Lien Hua's happiness."
Xin Le Hua looked down. She went over her own memories and Lien Hua's. How could she separate herself from the sweetness of her somebody's life? The thought was almost as painful as the original separation at Festung, but Father Asa was right. Lien Hua was coming to love Conchobhar, and why not. He was kind, compassionate, and willing to die for her. Yes, and he had been willing to die for her, Xin Le Hua the Nobody, too. She saw in Lien Hua's memory how he had desperately fought to reach her and protect her when she had been knocked out in the battle, and their enemies had kicked aside her darksaber and bound her. Sure, when they had first met he had fought her to coerce her into silence, but not as ruthlessly as he could have, and the kiss was gentle and sincere. Of course he'd had a lot of practice kissing all of those other girls, even sleeping with them! How could she forget that! But he had changed so after entering the Temple. He seemed honestly repentant when he had apologized to her... She felt something furry rubbing against her legs. It was the invisible sunekosuri he had given her, Daifuku. She herself had been forgiven by Libra, whom she had wronged, and the DG90, not to mention being accepted by God himself when she felt abandoned by the world. It was only right that she should forgive Conchobhar. "Oh God," she silently prayed, "help me forgive him, help me love him!" Tears began to trickle down her cheeks, and her breath caught as she spoke. "I will love him, Father Asa. I promise, I will learn to love him."
Father Asa gently squeezed her hand. "Then I am sure dat you will," he said kindly. There was a knock at the door and a servant asked if Xin Le Hua was ready to put on her gown. "You had better go along now and get dressed for your wedding," he said. She stood and thanked him, then calling Daifuku into her shadow she walked out. "Now to talk to the groom," said Father Asa getting up and going to the door.
Conchobhar walked into the room he had been directed to and saw everyone dressed in tuxedos. "What the heck are you guys wearing!" he said.
"You're one to talk," said Takumi, looking ungodly handsome in his black tuxedo with his hair pulled back in a ponytail and a few strands escaping over his face. "You're the one wearing a red monkey suit."
"There's one for you, over there," said Ekibyo in her usual monotone, pointing to the specially tailored suit hanging up. She actually looked pretty good in the tuxedo. Its masculine lines hid her thin figure well and actually made her look more healthy. Conchobhar had to admit, as strange as the clothing was, it did look good on everyone, even little Ichiban. That is it looked good on everyone but Kenka and Ryoga. Kenka's blue spiked hair and face tattoos, and Ryoga's bulky frame and red skin and horns just didn't go well with the refined tuxedos. Conchobhar hoped he'd look better in his. At least black was already his color.
Conchobhar stripped off the wedding garments from before, then put on the tuxedo and polished his black hooves. At least his mother knew better than to make him wear shoes. The tailor checked him over to see if any alterations were needed. They were all ready and waiting when Father Asa entered.
"If I may haf a few words with the groom..." he said.
"Sure, father," said Conchobhar. "Go ahead."
"I haf spoken to the bride, Xin Le Hua," said Father Asa, "and she is agreeable to the match..."
"Is she really?" said Conchobhar concerned. "I was afraid that she would still be angry, and even more so when she met the bride's maids." Father Asa raised a questioning eyebrow. "They are all old lovers," Conchobhar admitted.
His team mates winced and Kenka let out a whistle. Chikara said, "Akuma really got you this time!" with a rather sadistic look on his weaselly face. "She is a mazoku," said Takumi, "what do you expect?"
Father Asa sighed. "Then she will haf to put her decision to forgive you to the test. Dat being the case, I ask you about your own intentions toward Lien Hua and Xin Le Hua. What kind of life do you intend to give them?"
"What kind of life?" Conchobhar scratched his head. "I'm going to be an ambassador, so I suppose there will be a lot of traveling... I really don't know! Things have changed so quickly." He was really at a loss as to what to say. "I only know that whatever happens I will do my best to protect both of them, and see to it that they do not suffer. I know I have been selfish in the past, but I've changed. I love both of them very much and I want to do what's best for them."
"I suppose dat is all dat I can expect at dis point," said Father Asa. "I will perform your wedding."
"Thank you, father," said Conchobhar. "I know your blessing is important to both of them."
"So, you're the priest who will officiate?" asked Takumi.
"Yes," said Father Asa, "I am."
"Are these your priestly garments that you will wear at this wedding?" he said with a look of distaste on his pretty face, but the way he touched Father Asa's shoulder would have give any man the creeps, only it was the priest's hidden wings that he felt. Conchobhar gave Takumi a look that said "back off".
"They are not traditional for weddings and such, but they are what I have," said Father Asa apologetically.
"But this hideous coat is only for the purpose of hiding something," said Takumi peeling the coat from Father Asa's shoulders, catching him unawares, and revealing his wings.
"Takumi!" warned Conchobhar.
"You look much better without it," said Takumi, pulling it completely off and dropping it on the floor. "You have such beautiful wings." He reached out and stroked the glossy black feathers.
"Takumi," growled Conchobhar, "I swear, if you don't stop right now I will punch your face in! And I don't care how much blood gets on your clothes!"
Takumi backed off laughing. "I can see why Akuma wants you, Conchobhar. You are so fun to tease. I won't touch your priest anymore. Besides, he's not really my type. Seriously though," he said to Father Asa, "loose the coat, you look much better without it. You're not among humans so no one will think it odd of you to have wings."
"I'm sorry, father," said Conchobhar picking up the coat and handing it to him.
"I haf seen worse," said Father Asa, "and your friend does haf a point. The coat is ugly."
At that point they were called to the hall where the wedding was to be held.
Meanwhile, Xin Le Hua had gone to dress for the wedding and found herself in the company of some very beautiful yokai girls. They were wearing gold ankle length dresses with gold lace shoulders and matching shoes. The one that looked more like a devil woman with a single horn on her forehead seemed ill at ease in a dress so simple and wholesome. "Well, well," she said snidely, "here comes Conchobhar's one true love."
"Akuma, that's not polite." said a beautiful cat girl with long black hair, ears, and tail sticking out the back of her skirt. She had liquid brown eyes and a silver moon on her forehead. "You may be Conchobhar's close second in the Dark Tournaments, but that gives you no right to torment his future wife, especially in the house of Enma." She turned to Xin Le Hua and bowed. "It is very good to meet you. I am Mikazuki. This is Taki," she gestured to a girl with a full figure and long flowing, silvery blue, hair and blue eyes, "and Yanagi," a girl with leafy green hair and shy violet eyes, "Naoru," a fox girl with honey gold hair, ears, and tails (three of them), and slanted dark eyes, "Shinju," a yosei about two thirds her height with gossamer wings, green eyes and pink hair, "and you've met Akuma already." All of the girls bowed politely and tried to smile and welcome her, but some seemed a little sad. "Let me help you with your dress," said Mikazuki.
The dress was on a stand, layers of pearl studded silk, lace, and satin like icing on a cake or a dreamy cloud trailing on the floor behind. The girls helped Xin Le Hua into her dress while Akuma stewed. "All of you are so helpful, why don't you help her out by telling her what Conchobhar likes in bed. I'm sure she'd like to know so she can please him," said Akuma.
Xin Le Hua grew cold. She looked at all of the faces of the beautiful girls, Conchobhar's girls, and felt betrayed. Tears ran down some of the girls' faces. Naoru saw the look on her face. "Yes, we may have been his for a short time," said the kitsune, "but we were not enough. He chose you, not one of us, or any of the others you might meet. What is important is that he will be happy with you." The kitsune's words were meant to console, but they went straight to her heart like a knife. "What makes you think he will be faithful to her?" said Akuma. "When he sees another pretty face, he'll just go after it."
"Why are you doing this Akuma?" said Mikazuki. "Are you so jealous that Conchobhar did not marry you that you must make his future wife miserable too?"
"Me, want to be his wife?" Akuma said with shock. "Ha! I would never marry anyone, least of all him. I wouldn't be caught dead as someone's wife! That's a job for weaklings."
"Weaklings like Morrigan?" said Naoru quietly.
Akuma left the room in a huff. The girls breathed a sigh of relief. "That was a dangerous game, Naoru," said Mikazuki. "If we had not been in Enma's house, she might have killed us."
"Akuma promised she would not harm us if we came with her," said Naoru calmly, "and Akuma does keep her promises, when she makes them." Naoru turned to Xin Le Hua. "You are not very happy to see us, I'm sure, and you are probably very angry with Conchobhar. I know, I was," she closed her eyes for a moment. "Whatever you decide to do about this wedding, do not let Akuma influence you. What you do is for you, and for him, and no one else."
"Conchobhar has changed," said Xin Le Hua after thinking for a moment, "and I chose to forgive him for his past."
A knock came at the door telling them it was time. The girls went to put the tiara crowned veil on her when Conchobhar himself came in. "I know I'm not supposed to see you in your wedding dress," he said to her. "It's supposed to be bad luck or something, but I think it would be worse luck if I forgot to do this." He took up a brush and brushed her hair, making a simple crown like plait of the side pieces, leaving the rest long and flowing. Then he placed the veil within the crown of her hair. He looked longingly into her face. "The first kiss I took, but the second will be rightfully given at the end of this wedding. Thank you for forgiving me." Then he left. The girls went to take their places. When Akuma came to join them she looked subdued, and it looked to Xin Le Hua as if she had been crying.
A messenger came for Tejas and the DG90 to tell them that it was time for the wedding.
Tejas and DG90 came.
Libra was quick to notice what was wrong with Tejas, even though he was hiding it better now.
Tejas was directed to stand by Xin Le Hua outside the hall and hold her arm, while the rest of the DG90 was escorted inside to sit in the front row on the bride's side. The four daimyo were also seated on the bride's side, behind the DG90, along with other dignitaries and elders. The groom's side seemed to be filled with other fighters, and significant fans of the Dark Tournaments.
Tejas did as instructed. His grip slipping a few times. Kojiro whispered to Richard, "Man, Conchobhar has a lot of fans..." and Richard covered his mouth for a second, as if he was saying: "Shut up."
Morrigan, who was seated in the front row of the groom's side with Enma holding the infant twins, looked around at the seated guests and gave a nod. Hauntingly beautiful music filled the flower bedecked hall from a large pipe organ that had been assembled piece by piece in the front of the hall. It was loaned to Morrigan by Lord Kyuketsuki, who was seated behind her with his son, Ketsueki, and his son's companion, Yorutsubasa. Not only was Lord Kyuketsuki an avid supporter of the Dark Tournaments, but was eternally grateful for the safe return of his son. As the music started the lighting in the room changed, lending an air of fantasy to the room.
Father Asa entered from the side. For the first time ever in a church setting, he allowed his wings freedom, unfettered by the constraints of his coat. He had also removed the colored contacts that disguised his eyes, letting their natural golden brown color show. He stood in the center front like a dark angel, with a pocket Bible in his hand.
Next came Conchobhar. His glossy feathered black wings and dragon's tail adding a strange elegance to his black tuxedo. After him came Ryoga, Takumi, Chikara, Ekibyo, Kenka, and finally little Ichiban. Ryoga stood a little apart from the others, closer to Conchobhar. The tuxedo wearing warriors showed surprising patience in standing so still. A few cheers, quickly muted by their neighbors, went up from some of the less refined fans at the appearance of the group.
When the groom's men took their places at the front, two garuda guards opened the doors at the back of the hall. Taki the ameonna began walking up the white and gold carpet that ran up the center of the hall, holding a bouquet of white lotus flowers and pale pink orchids. Her silvery blue hair and golden silk dress fluttered a bit as she walked. Many of the male yokai frankly, but silently, ogled her full figure. After her came the kodama, Yanagi, her leafy green hair hanging down gracefully like her willow namesake. Then came Naoru the kitsune, looking refined and elegant, and after her Mikazuki the necomusume. Finally little Shinju the yosei walked lightly down the carpet, fluttering her wings nervously and holding the bouquet tightly as if she was afraid to drop it. After Shinju came Akuma. She seemed rather calm and subdued as she took her place opposite Ryoga, near where the bride would stand. It was as if she were resigned to the events that were taking place. Several of the fans quietly pumped their fists in victory and she gave her signature wickedly alluring smile.
When Akuma had taken her place a brightly colored ho-o, similar to a phoenix flew dramatically into the room scattering flower petals along the carpet with it's aerobatics before landing in front of Akuma and transforming into a little girl about five years old. After her a small blue and green water dragon flew in, matching the ho-o's complicated flight, while carrying a small white cushion with the wedding rings tied to it in his mouth. He landed in front of Ryoga and transformed into a boy of about the same age as the girl. The music changed with the entrance of the two children to a more triumphant piece. Then Xin Le Hua entered the hall, walking slowly down the petal strewn carpet. Her left arm was tucked around Tejas's, and her right held an elegant bouquet of red roses, golden lotus blossoms, and orchids of various different colors, wrapped and tied with white and gold silk. It all felt so surreal to her, the music, the lights, walking down the carpet on Tejas's arm. Was it fitting or ironic that the man she had once had feelings for, and still did to some extent, was literally giving her away to another, one who she barely knew, and who she had just recently decided to forgive? The music reached it's conclusion as she came to Conchobhar, and letting go of Tejas's arm, she took his, transferring the bouquet to her left arm. She was almost afraid to look in his eyes.
The last notes of the music died away and Father Asa began to speak. "Dearly beloved: we are gathered together in the sight of God, and in the face of dis company, to join together dis man and dis woman in holy matrimony; which is commended of the apostle Paul to be honorable among all people: and therefore is not by any to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, and in the fear of God. Into dis holy estate, these two persons now come to be joined. If anyone can show just cause why they may not be lawfully joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter forever hold his peace."
Conchobhar and the bride's maids held their breath in fear that Akuma would spoil things, but everything was silent.
"Who gives dis woman to be married to dis man?" said Father Asa.
Tejas and company remained silent.
Father Asa gave a cough and repeated himself, loudly. "Who gives dis woman to be married to dis man?" he said looking hard at Tejas standing next to Xin Le Hua.
"...! The DG90 and I..." He said, then sat with the rest of DG90.
When Tejas was seated everyone turned to face Father Asa. He opened his Bible and read Genesis 2:18-25, about man's loneliness and the creation of woman leading to the first marriage. He skipped the hymn and went on with the readings, as he doubted that the yokai would know any hymns and he wasn't sure how long he could keep their attention. He read Ephesians 5:22-33, about wives submitting to their husbands and husbands loving their wives sacrificially like Christ loved the church, and about the mystery of becoming one flesh. Then he read Matthew 19:4-12, about Jesus's teachings about marriage and celibacy outside of marriage. He finished by preaching a short sermon expounding on the texts he had just read, teaching about God's intentions for sex and marriage.
After a brief pause he addressed the groom. "Conchobhar, haf you come of your own free will to give yourself in marriage to Xin Le Hua, and also by extension to her somebody Lien Hua?"
"I have," said Conchobhar in all sincerity.
"Will you take dis woman as your wedded wife, to live together after God's ordinance, in the holy estate of matrimony; and will you love her, comfort her, honor, and keep her and also her somebody, in sickness and health; and, forsaking all others, keep only unto her, so long as you both shall live?"
"I will," said Conchobhar, "both of them."
"Will you accept children from God with love, and bring them up according to the law of God and His Church?"
"I will," said Conchobhar.
Then Father Asa addressed the bride. "Xin Le Hua, haf you come of your own free will to give yourself in marriage to Conchobhar?"
"Yes, I have," said Xin Le Hua looking up. It was her decision. She had chosen for herself.
"Will you take dis man as your wedded husband, to live together after God's ordinance, in the holy estate of matrimony; and will you obey him and serve him, love, honor, and keep him, in sickness and health; and, forsaking all others, keep only unto him, so long as you both shall live?"
"I will," she said. Then she added, "Lien Hua says she will too," even though she didn't need to. She thought he should know how her somebody felt too.
"Will you accept children from God with love, and bring them up according to the law of God and His Church?"
"We will," said Xin Le Hua.
Father Asa told Xin Le Hua to give her bouquet to Akuma, and then placed her right hand in Conchobhar's right hand, instructing them to each repeat after him.
Father Asa had Conchobhar repeat, "I Conchobhar Comhghall, son of Enma, take you, Xin Le Hua Fu, to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge you my troth."
Father Asa had Xin Le Hua repeat, "I Xin Le Hua Fu, take you, Conchobhar Comhghall, son of Enma, to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey, till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge you my troth."
"May I haf the rings?" said Father Asa. Ryoga took the rings from the dragon boy's pillow and handed them to Conchobhar, who handed them to Father Asa. They were gold bands of intricate celtic knot work, symbolizing eternity, similar to ones common at Irish weddings. As he gave a prayer of blessing over them they glowed faintly. He raised a questioning eyebrow to Morrigan, who gave him and enigmatic smile in return. Well, since it was her son, and she had put so much work into the wedding, it was highly unlikely that whatever magic she put into the rings would do any harm.
He said, "The wedding ring is a symbol of marriage in dat the purity of gold symbolizes the purity of wedded love, each for the other, and the unending circle symbolizes the unending vows which you haf taken, which may be broken honorably in the sight of God only by death. As a token of your vows, you will give and receive the rings."
Father Asa handed the smaller ring to Conchobhar and told him to put it on the fourth finger of Xin Le Hua's left hand and repeat after him, "As a pledge and in token of the vows made between us, with this ring I wed you: In the name of the Father, the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."
Then Father Asa handed the larger ring to Xin Le Hua and told her to put it on the fourth finger of Conchobhar's left hand and repeat after him, "As a pledge and in token of the vows made between us, with this ring I wed you: In the name of the Father, the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."
"Let us pray," said Father Asa raising his hands. "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven; Give us dis day our daily bread: And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; And lead us not into temptation; But deliver us from evil; For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen."
"Oh eternal God, Creator and Preserver of all kinds, Giver of all spiritual grace, the Author of everlasting life; send Your blessing upon these Your servants, dis man and dis woman, whom we bless in Your name; dat they, living faithfully together, may surely perform and keep the vow and covenant between them made, whereof these rings given and received is a token and pledge, and may ever remain in perfect love and peace together, and live according to Your laws; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
Speaking to the crowd he said," Those dat God has joined together, let no one put asunder!"
"For as much as Conchobhar and Xin Le Hua have consented together in holy wedlock, and haf witnessed the same before God and dis company, and thereto haf given and pledged their troth, each to the other, and haf declared the same by giving and receiving a ring, and by joining hands; I pronounce dat they are husband and wife, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."
Then he said to Conchobhar, "You may kiss the bride."
At last Conchobhar took Xin Le Hua in his arms and brushing aside the veil kissed her gently but passionately, as he promised. The crowd went wild with shouts, whistles, and cat calls, along with a few lewd comments.
When they finished kissing, Father Asa raised his wings extremely quick, making a sonic crack that caused some pain to his wings as well as a few ears, to get the crowd's attention. When the crowd became quiet he had Xin Le Hua and Conchobhar kneel, and placing his hands on their heads. He blessed them. "God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost, bless, preserve, and keep you with all spiritual benediction and grace; dat you may live together in dis life, and dat in the world to come you haf life everlasting. Amen."
He had Xin Le Hua and Conchobhar stand and face the crowd, dispensing with further formalities in this setting he said, "You may now go in peace."
Akuma gave Xin Le Hua back her bouquet and the music began again, with a lively yet still haunting piece. Conchobhar took Xin Le Hua's arm and walked her back down the white and gold, petal strewn carpet, and out the doors at the back. Following them Ryoga took Akuma's reluctant arm and led her down the carpet. The dragon boy and ho-o girl transformed and flew in every direction but a straight line following them in a fantastic display of color. Then the elegant Takumi took the arm of the shapely Taki, causing many looks of envy, and followed. Then came the weaselly Chikara and willowy Yanagi, Ekibyo and the stately kitsune Naoru, spiky Kenka and Mikazuki the necomusume, and finally Ichiban who was a full head and shoulders smaller than the little yosei Shinju.
After they left the hall the garuda bowed to Tejas and the DG90, and to Morrigan and Enma, and waited for them to exit before allowing the next row of guests to exit. Father Asa left through the side door that he had come in.
As Morrigan exited with the DG90 she stopped Tejas and asked him what was bothering him.
"I don't know... I just have this feeling that something bad may be happening right now..." Tejas replied.
"If you wish I could show you the events taking place in the world of Locura. Perhaps that would ease your mind," said Morrigan.
"Thank you..." Tejas said.
She handed the babies to Enma, asking him if he could take them to Father Asa. Leaving the guests she took Tejas to another room, one that was guarded, showed him a huge mirror. At her touch the surface shimmered and showed various locations in the world above.
She showed the Pokemon Islands and various locations in North and South Erinaceous. Surprisingly there was no violent activity at all. The world seemed unusually calm and peaceful. There were even children playing soccer in Battlefield Park, though the Cafe was completely devoid of all activity with most of the nobodies gone. She showed the Beast Islands and things there were also calm. She then showed South Vulpes and North Vulpes. Everything there seemed calm too. Then she came to the areas around the Crater Desert and the Astra River.
In the Astra village a battle was raging between the ryumen knights and a huge blood dragon of KHAOS. A unit of 500 was decimated except for the general, but even he was hit hard and ended up in the river.
"!! No! This can't be happening!" Tejas said. This isn't good... that corrupted Dragon must be put to rest... he thought.
Morrigan sighed. "I should not keep you here, you should go." She touched the mirror and it returned to normal and she headed out of the room. "Fortunately Okami is here for the wedding. We can get there much faster with her help."
Morrigan held out her arm and a raven appeared out of nowhere and landed on it. She whispered something unintelligible to it and it took off again, vanishing quickly. Then she walked out the door and spoke to the guard. "Go quickly and find Okami. Tell her I need eleven of her largest, fastest yama-inu in the courtyard now, it's an emergency, and get one of the servants to pack up all of the DG90's things for transport on the wolves." Then she strode down the hall to the banquet room, expecting Tejas to follow. People were milling about when she entered. "Get your group together," she told Tejas, as she went over to Xin Le Hua and Conchobhar. "Xin Le Hua, I'm afraid that Tejas has to go back to Locura. There is an emergency, and you will have to go to open the gates of Aleriand for him."
"I'm going with her," said Conchobhar.
"I thought you would," said Morrigan waiting just long enough to explain to Enma, and for Tejas to gather his group. "Let's get going!"
Tejas gathered his group, feeling massive guilt for not being able to stay. "Before I go, I wish to bid Xin Le Hua and Lien Hua Farewell..." Tejas said when he saw Morrigan.
"No need to," said Morrigan leading them out the door. "She is going with you for now. Your ship won't be able to leave Aleriand unless Xin Le Hua opens the gate for you. You can say goodbye then."
They left the building through the front doors leading to the courtyard. The courtyard still had the markings from earlier, but there was also a group of eleven wolves the size of small horses. Some servant oni were tying the DG90's belongings on the backs of the wolves, who were not liking it very much. A couple of wolves snapped at the oni but backed off when a woman growled at them. The woman had long white hair tied back, and dark feral eyes. She wore a kimono with a winter forest print, fluffy white fur trim around the neck, and a red and gold obi. She also had a red and gold flame shaped hair ornament worn near her forehead and red markings on her cheeks like slashes.
"Thank you for the use of your wolves, Okami," said Morrigan to the woman.
"I always pay my debts," said the woman in a voice halfway between a howl and a growl.
"All right everyone, get on the backs of the wolves," said Morrigan, "and hold tightly to fur on their necks. They are fast and agile, and will stop and start suddenly without warning you. I hope you girls won't have too much trouble with your dresses," she said swinging her leg over the back of a large gray wolf. The long slits in her qipao left her legs bare all the way to the thighs. Conchobhar lifted Xen Le Hua onto the back of a white wolf, her wedding dress spreading over the wolf's back like a fluffy cloud, before mounting a black and gray wolf himself.
((I don't think Libra and Annette wouldhave much trouble if their skirts are full enough, but Sakura would have to hike up her kimono showing a good bit of leg.))
Morrigan gave a series of yips and barks. The wolves listened carefully. When she finished they gathered close together so that they pressed in on each other. Morrigan reached out with her left hand and touched the wolf next to her, then she closed her eyes and touched her forehead with the first fingers of her right hand. They vanished from that spot and reappeared in the clearing outside of the new western gate (Daraku's old fortress). As soon as they appeared the wolves took off running at great speed, loping through the iron doors that already stood open, through the open gateway to the Aleriand side and on through the dwarven tunnels to the clearing on other side. The trip through those tunnels took at least a half an hour before. Now it only took ten minutes. Once they exited the dwarven tunnels they suddenly stopped and huddled together again. Morrigan again used instant transmission and they found themselves in the landing field of Huang Jin An. The first snow of the season was falling and the Dragonwing II was all ready to go. The engines were warmed up. The men were ready, and Alex was already on board. Aoibheann was waiting on the deck with Emperor Chang An. Conchobhar dismounted, and taking Xin Le Hua in his arms he flew up to the deck with her. As Tejas dismounted Morrigan handed him a small glass ball filled with some kind of golden liquid.
"This will aid you in reaching your destination quickly," said Morrigan. "Once your airship has cleared Aleriand's gates, and those like Xin Le Hua and the Emperor are no longer on your ship, smash this ball on the deck of the ship and state the destination you want to arrive at, 'Astra Village', and the ship and everything on it will be instantly transmitted to that location."
"Thank you very much..." Tejas said. "It was nice seeing everyone again." Tejas and company then boarded the airship.
Aoibheann, Emperor Chang An, Conchobhar, and Xin Le Hua waited on the deck for the ship to take off. Ming was curled up out of sight behind some gear.
All of DG90 except Tejas were now on the deck, Tejas was in the command room... for the moment. "Alright crew! We're leaving!" He commanded. The Dragonwing II began to take flight, and Tejas rejoined those on deck.
Morrigan looked towards the departing ship and blessed Tejas and the DG90 "Gun robh dion air t-ionmhas. (May what you treasure be secure.) Gum biodh rath le do thurus. (May your quest be fruitful.)"
The ship went back the way it had originally come, with sun behind them a little lower in the west shining through gaps in the cloud cover and snow, though there were still a few hours until sunset. It was very cold. Conchobhar put his arm and wing around Xin Le Hua to keep her warm. Aoibheann used her power to warm up the air on deck.
"I suppose we shall not see you again, ever," Xin Le Hua said to Tejas.
"I'm afraid so..." Tejas said. "It is painful to do this... but it must be done. I will miss you all."
"It is a shame we must leave..." Sakura said.
"I understand," she said. "I hope... I hope things go well for you."
Libra was staring at the horizon.
They traveled in silence for a while. Soon the shimmering wall of light appeared. Xin Le Hua softly said, "Valhalla," and the golden keyblade appeared in her hand. She pointed the keyblade in the direction of the the wall. A beam of light shot out as before and a huge keyhole appeared on the wall. She twisted the keyblade and there was a click. The keyhole and beam of light vanished, and the wall of shimmering light divided in two. Ahead of them was the western coast of Okawa and the Tahgla tropics, and the tail end of the Pokemon Islands.
At that moment Ming came out. He went over to Xin Le Hua and spoke. ~I don't belong in Aleriand, or Demon World. I really want to stay with you and Lien Hua, but I know I will only be in the way. The only thing I could do here was play with your baby brother and sister, but even that kept them from learning to become human when they should have. It was a big trouble for your mother. I belong in those islands, with my own kind,~ he said looking toward the islands. ~Good bye. Maybe I shall see you again someday.~ With that he slithered over the side and dove into the water, swimming strongly towards the Pokemon Islands.
"We don't have much time," said Aoibheann, as they passed through the gap in the wall.
The emperor said, "I can not find words to thank you for what you have done for my daughter. As a small token you will find several chests of gold and jewels in the hold of your ship. I believe they might be of some use to you in the outside world." Then he turned into a great dragon and hovered over the deck for a moment, so Aoibheann could climb on his back, before taking off.
Conchobhar picked Xin Le Hua up in his arms. "Good bye, and Aru bless you," he said lifting off and flying above the deck. "And thanks!"
"Good bye!" called Xin Le Hua.
The four of them flew back inside the gate. Tejas and the others saw her point the keyblade at the gap, the key hole appear, and the gap close. Then Aleriand vanished completely.
A tear dripped from Tejas's eye.
"Good bye... everyone..." He said.
Farewell... Agni thought.
Xin Le Hua put the keyblade away as Conchobhar flew her back to Huang Jin An. Conchobhar held her tight and used his spirit power to keep her warm in the wind and the falling snow. He could also feel her crying. They landed by the wolves and mounted up. The wolves no longer had their burdens as Tejas's group had taken the bundles with them. The members of the DG90 had actually gained several new sets of clothing and such during their stay.
Morrigan transmitted herself and her son and his bride, along with the eleven wolves, to the entrance of the dwarven tunnels and they rode through them. They came through the gate and rode down the road and out of the great iron doors where they stopped to be transmitted back to the palace courtyard where Okami was waiting. The whole trip, including the flight to and from the wall, took less than an hour. Conchobhar helped Xin Le Hua dismount, and Okami sent the wolves away.