As Hildreth straightened up, he noticed that Master Shinowa was not wearing a tuxedo. Nor was he wearing his dojo uniform.
Master Shinowa had gone full ceremonial and Hildreth couldn’t even laugh about it. He just stared in amazement and took in all of the details.
The thick, white silk wrap shirt with its carefully arranged tucks and creases.
The matching loose-fitted robe. No buttons. No button holes. It simply hung open.
The narrow tan obi.
The gilded black and gold silk kimono skirt with its well-starched pleats.
To top it all off, his white socks, probably the whitest socks he owned, and his wooden heeled sandals.
And Hildreth was speechless with awe.
Jim-Marie made his appearance, pulling Hildreth back to planet Earth. The boy did an uncertain bow to Hildreth.
“You don’t have to bow to me. I’m not a master.”
Jim-Marie stood. “You are like a master. You deserve my respect.”
Master Shinowa smiled. “Much truth to be told. Have considered offer again?”
Hildreth shook his head. “It would be a good life. I’m not going to knock it out. But it isn’t the life for me. I want to be with Elsie. I love watching her fight. She’s so amazing. I would miss hunting with her too much.”
Master Shinowa nodded. “Offer is there to take. Any time.”
“I know, Master.” Hildreth bowed. “I appreciate it.”
“But no is answer?”
“Yeah.” Hildreth stood up straight. “No is still the answer.”
He smiled again. “I did not expect difference.” He looked past Hildreth to the other hunters. “Go inside. Mayhew and I will join soon.”
They all replied, “Yes, Master.” and headed to the church.
“Uh oh.” Hildreth said. “Am I in trouble?”
“Not trouble.” Master Shinowa laid his hands on his former student’s shoulders. “Are ready for this?”
Hildreth smiled. “Yeah, I am so ready. If I were any readier, I’d be bursting into flames.”
Shinowa laughed. “Much understanding. I too felt same when I married. Any questions?”
“No, Master. You and I have already gone over the most important ones.”
Hildreth took a moment to truly consider his own feelings. “No. I think I should be nervous, but I’m not. This is what I want, Master. I want it so much. I love her. I love my Elsie and I know she loves me. What is there to be nervous about?”
“I could go further into details, but I just want to get inside. I want to stand at the altar rail and wait for her. I know she will come to me. I know she won’t change her mind.” He chuckled softly. “She’s burning as much as I am. Probably a little bit more.” He thought about it. “Okay. A lot more. Point is, I’m not scared. I trust Elsie, Master. I know she won’t go chasing after that dirty vampire. She wants me. Just me. Just as I am, even though I am not him. She wants me.”
“Then, you and I have no questions more to be asked.” Master Shinowa released his shoulders. “Come. It is time for you to wed.”
Hildreth thought about Elsie and his heart fluttered.”Yes, Master.”