“Hmm.” Hildreth smiled dreamily. “I wonder what we look like to the paying customers. Do we look like we’re dirty dancing?”
“Not too likely.” Elsie said. “There’d be a lot more hooting and hollering if we did.”
“Well, that is true.” His stomach growled.
She released him. “I guess we should go and—-”
“EAT FOOD!” He pumped his fist. “YES!”
She laughed. “You crazy idiot.”
“What? Like you aren’t starving after posing for 500,000 pictures?”
“Nice try, Mayhew. But I know for a fact that it was 19,323,442 pictures.” She smiled. “I counted.”
He gaped. “Ahh, you are so epic.”
She laughed and led him back to their table.
Hildreth nearly burst into tears of happiness when he saw that their meal was bacon wrapped chicken and deep-fried potato wedges with lemon and thyme seasoned vegetables. There wasn’t a single slice or cube of tofu in sight. “Elsie baby, I love you so much.”
She smiled. “You didn’t really think I’d make this a meat-free meal, did you?”
He thought it over. “No, but it was a possibility. A horrifying and depressing possibility.” He picked up his knife and fork and was more than ready to dig in.
Master Shinowa put his hand on Hildreth’s arms. “In moment, Mayhew.”
Hildreth opened his mouth to object.
“In small moment. Speech first comes.”
“Speech, huh? Okay! How about I tell them ‘Thank you all for coming. Let’s eat food!”
Master Shinowa chuckled. “Not speech, Mayhew. Not at all speech.”
Hildreth leaned forward to look around his master. “Hey, Shiro. What do you say? Can I just tell everyone to eat up and thank you for coming?”
Kaneshiro raised his hands in surrender and laughed. “I’m not going against my big brother. What he says goes.”
“Darn.” Hildreth reluctantly set his fork and knife on his plate. He had a small thought of popping a potato wedge in his mouth and munching on it as he spoke.
Elsie would kill me. Or I would wind up choking on it and killing myself. What a tragedy that would be!
Master Shinowa stood and tapped his spoon against his crystal glass.
The crowd’s conversation fizzled into a dull roar into scattered murmurs into silence as they waited for him to speak.
Jeff set his guitar across his lap and waited.
“It is much honor to be today here with you, friends and family of Mayhew and Vanxing.” He smiled. “Ah, but Vansing is no more Vansing. Vansing is become Mayhew.” He directed his smile at the newlyweds. “As I knew and hoped for, Vansing is become Mayhew and Mayhew has happiness.” He focused on Hildreth. “Many deserved happiness. I am pride of you, Mayhew. Pride of you as former student, as hunter, as man. You are grown. You still do learn.”
Hildreth stood and bowed to him. “It has been a great honor to have you as my master and as my friend.”
Master Shinowa spread his hands on Hildreth’s head. “May your ancestors smile for you, Mayhew, today and for alldays.”
Elsie rose from her seat and moved Hildreth’s chair out of the way. She stood beside her new husband.
Master Shinowa lowered his hands.
Hildreth stood and smiled lovingly at her. “Els.”
“Thank you, Master Shinowa, for all of your advice and wisdom.” she said. “You encouraged me to confront Ambrose and to figure out what I really wanted. You gave Hildreth the courage he needed to propose to me. And when Hildreth left me to train with you, it made me realize how much he meant to me. That time apart changed everything between him and me for the better. Just as our lives would be different if Ambrose had never shown up at my front door, our lives would be completely different if you had never been in our lives.” She bowed to him. “Thank you, Master.”
“My dear Vansing become Mayhew.” He spread his hands on top of her head. “May your ancestors’ joy become yours and his alldays. May their love live inside your hearts for alldays. May many children come your way and become your most pride.”
Master Shinowa uncovered her head.
“And may happiness be always yours. But not happiness grabbed and snatched. Happiness that is held and cared for like new hatched chicken. Hold happiness soft and kind and gentle. Love Mayhew. Love Vansing become Mayhew.”
Hildreth and Elsie said in unison, “I will, Master.”
“Much good.” His eyes twinkled merrily. “Now, food.”
Hildreth pumped his fist. “Yes!”
The crowd applauded.
“Hey!” Elsie’s Uncle Pierre called out. “Why don’t you go on and just kiss that girl already?”
Hildreth laughed. “Sounds like an awesome idea to me.” He turned to Elsie.
She grabbed his lapels and pulled him into a kiss.
Everyone applauded again and Uncle Pierre yelled, “Wooo-hoooo! Now, that’s a kiss!”