Chapter Ten: A Happily Ever After, After All

An elderly priest looked over his holy book by candlelight. His weary eyes traced over the words which had been familiar to him for so long…

Without warning, his church doors swung open, making the old priest nearly tip the candle over. He looked up, stunned to see a group walk in, although it wasn't the holy day. A young woman with closely cropped hair was heading the company, her arm intertwined with that of a very handsome young man.

"How nice to see you, Father Nyashi."

The old man blinked once, and then twice. His eyes widened with recognition.

"Haru?! Where have you been?! We've been worried sick about you!"

When did she cut her hair?! She giggled as all the men but the one at her side sat down in the pews. Even a crow was gripping the back of a pew, his little dark eyes bright with happiness.

"Oh, here, there, and everywhere. Father Nyashi, I have a request of you."

"Name it, dear girl."

She beamed, and tightened her grip on the golden man at her side.

"Marry us."

The old priest stared.

"But… your fiancé…"

"I am her fiancé," the man said pointedly, pouring a small handful of golden coins on the pedestal next to the churchmen. "Please, Father; we're in a bit of a hurry."

The priest stared at the bride, who was dressed in black from head to toe, while her groom was dressed in a gray that could easily be mistaken for white. Something was off here.

"What about your father? Won't he want to be here?"

Haru's eyes turned glacial.

"What he wants doesn't matter anymore. Please, just marry us."

The churchman sighed, but turned his book to the right page. He looked over the congregation, a little disappointed to see maybe ten men present. There were many people that would have loved to see the count's daughter married, especially to one she was obviously smitten with. He sighed, but then coughed, to get his vocal chords to work.

"What is your name, my son?"

"Baron Humbert von Gikkingen," the tawny man answered, although his eyes were locked on his bride. The priest laughed.

"Oh, good gracious. Very well; we are gathered here today, to witness the union between this young couple. Know ye now that what will now pass in these walls will forever impact your lives, and the vows you now take will be binding and true. Baron Humbert von Gikkingen, do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, for as long as you both shall live?"

"I will," Baron said softly, silently wishing that the good friar would pick up the pace a bit. Haru smiled warmly at him, knowing and sharing the same wish.

"Haru Yoshioka, do you take this man as your husband, to obey and honor him in all aspects of life, for as long as you both shall live?"

"I do," Haru said, already moving her way closer to Baron's arms. He laughed warmly, and slipped a wedding band onto her finger as the priest looked on.

"If there are any among you that know why these two should not be wed, speak now, or forever hold your peace."

A particularly fat man got out of his seat, and unsheathed his sword. He glared down the aisle, just daring anyone to protest. Satisfied that none would, he sheathed his sword, and settled back into his seat. Baron glared at him, but Muta only gave a 'better safe than sorry' shrug. The priest coughed again.

"I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride."

Without any hesitation, the golden man swept the bride into his arms, and kissed her so passionately that the old friar actually blushed scarlet.

'Kids these days…'


The Count Yoshioka wrung his hands again; wishing that he knew what had happened. The Cat King hadn't stopped by the manor since what was supposed to be his wedding day to the count's daughter, and the monarch had sworn to inform the man, when Haru was found.

A small page boy knocked on the side of the door nervously, and bowed respectfully when the count looked at him.

"Begging your grace's pardon; a letter for you from the baron von Gikkingen."

The old man blinked dumbly, and nearly jumped on the boy in order to get at the letter. What had gone wrong? He had thought that the Cat Princess had taken care of him!

The finely dressed nobleman tore open the letter, and started reading.


Dear Count Yoshioka;

I have recently been given several reasons to believe that you had no intention of honoring the agreement you had made with my father. Moreover, I am most displeased that you had tried to marry my bride to an older suitor, just because he dangled gold in front of your eyes, and that you were too dishonorable to even tell me the truth, or to return the bride price that had been paid years ago.

But you needn't worry about me turning you over to your king or mine, for the broken bargain. Haru is now my happily wedded wife, who is not shedding a single tear over the fact that I have no intention of ever letting you near her again. She is a wonderful woman, whose many talents should be encouraged, not hidden. She's also disowned you, since she doesn't want anything to do with back-stabbers.

As to her happiness, I will make it my personal mission for the rest of my days. We have every intention of having a happy life together without your disgusting interference. If, by chance, you feel that I have wronged you, feel free to drop by our manor to discuss it. I'll keep my swords sharpened for your arrival.


Baron Humbert von Gikkingen


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