One Month Later


And so, here I stand at the altar, wearing the best tuxedo I could afford, sweating in the summer heat, trying not to start tapping my feet in panic.

Did I mention that I have a bad habit of getting stressed under pressure?

Actually, getting the ceremony together wasn't nearly as hard as I'd thought it would be. Our old friend Hiroyasu Ueda helped Chi and me find several chapels that perform wedding ceremonies between humans and persocoms. Apparently, it's becoming more and more common these days - not that there aren't about a hundred reporters sitting in the back pews, waiting to make our marriage into tonight's leading news story.

Shinbo and Takako helped us find a really good catering service in town, so the reception should be a night to remember. Chi and I even took a few dance classes to get ready, so hopefully, I won't turn our wedding night into a disaster by tripping onto the wedding cake.

Chi and her mother have also been busy picking out her bridal gown, but neither of them has told me a thing about it. Not that I'm really worried; Chi's so beautiful that she'd probably make a brown paper bag look good.

As I stand here waiting for Chi, I look around at all the people who've come. I guess I never really thought about just how many friends we have; there's Shimbo, our best man, and Takako, of course, and the Uedas, all up in the front row. Even Minoru and Yuzuki Kokobunji came out - another couple who are probably going to tie the knot as soon as Minoru's old enough. We also invited some of my classmates from college and a few of my new co-workers, along with some of Chi's customers-slash-friends from Tirol. Chi's mother, Miss Hibiya, is also sitting up front, wearing a strange kind of smile. As though she's keeping a secret ...

And, of course, there's my own family.

Dad managed to rent a pretty good tux, but even so, you can still practically smell the odor of hay and cow manure rolling off the guy.

Mom came wearing a red dress with white floral designs. At the moment, she's leaning up against Dad, and I feel like I could melt from the warm smiles the two of them are giving me.

Aki is here too, of course. Lately, I hear he's been talking about attending college when he's old enough, and Dad's actually being pretty supportive. I guess he's learned that, sometimes, you just have to let people follow their own hearts.

Suddenly, the organ starts up: the Bridal March.

I take a deep breath. Okay, Motosuwa, this is it. Don't panic; you've rehearsed this enough times. There's nothing to worry about. Just smile - not that that's hard to do when Chi's around - and say the right words when the priest asks.

And here she comes ...

If it could, I think my jaw would be on the floor right now. The woman in the beautiful white wedding dress must be Chi - I would recognize those deep amber eyes, ankle-length golden hair, and pink-and-white persocom ears anywhere.

And yet ...

Chi is different.

She's taller, for one thing. As she walks up, I can see that she's just a few inches shorter than I am now, and it's not just the high-heeled shoes she's wearing. Her features are still the same as always, but somehow more ... mature, I guess. Her entire figure has changed, from the petite, childlike form she had when we first met to that of a full-figured, athletic young woman.

Some things Chi knows that Mama can fix, especially if Chi and Hideki get married ...

Oh my God ...

How did this happen? How did Chi go from the tiny, sixteen-year-old girl she was just this afternoon to a young woman who looks as old as I am?

I've always told Chi that I'm more than happy with her just the way she's always been. I didn't think Chi would want to have her body changed just to suit other peoples' ideals of beauty. And really, how can you improve on perfection?

Well, somehow, Chi and her mother found a way.

"Wedding dress", my tailored pants! So that's why they were spending so much time over at the "bridal shop" ...

Our eyes meet, and she smiles that same innocent, radiant smile she's always had. Whether she looks sixteen or twenty-three, that's the face of the Chi I fell in love with!

I can feel it as my face catches up with my heart, switching from shock to pure joy. Chi, you did all of this for me ... ?

Her pace quickens, and if she weren't wearing those heels and trailing a ton of white lace behind her, I have no doubt that she would fly right off off the chapel floor and wrap her arms around my neck. And, of course, I'd hug her right back, even before we say our vows.

I took Chi to be my wife a long time ago.

I'm just glad she doesn't mind being married to a clueless, awkward guy like me.

"I do."

Huh? What did she just say? GAAAHH! Chi just said her vow, and I was so distracted I barely noticed! And now the priest is asking me all these questions!

I can feel my heart hammering in my chest. Sweat pours down my face as I try to remember the words we've rehearsed so many times. Ohmygodohmygodohmygod...

Then I see the warm, knowing smile Chi is giving me. Hideki, I know those eyes. Are you stressing again?

I take a deep breath, then shrug, giving her a sheepish grin. Sorry, Chi. I guess I still have a few things to work on.

What's that? Do I take this woman to be my lawfully wedded wife?

I look at Chi, the woman who has stayed by my side for four long years, through prep school, college, and so many crises you'd have to run a weekly anime series for two years just to show the highlights.

How could I not?

"I do."


The Beginning