Jim-Marie watched the crowd slowly peter out.
They’re all leaving now.
He looked up at Master Shinowa.
We’ll be leaving too. We’ll have to walk through them again. So many people.
He scanned the room and found Hildreth standing around as Elsie hugged some other woman.
I’ll get through it, though. I walk through them. I’ll walk through my fears. I must walk through my fears. I must overcome them.
If I want to be anything like Hildreth, I will overcome them.
Jim-Marie snapped to attention as Master Shinowa stood and stretched. He stood quickly as well.
Master Shinowa smiled at him. “You have readiness to go home?”
“Yes, Master.” He glanced back at Hildreth, but a whole family troupe tromped in the way.
“You have wish to have speak with Mayhews first.”
Jim-Marie nodded. “I don’t know when I’ll see Hildreth again. I want to say bye to him.” He looked back at his master. “May I?”
A bright smile spread across the young boy’s face. “Thank you, Master!” He ran over to Hildreth. He hugged the taller hunter without thought or hesitation.
Hildreth affectionately patted his head. “Stay out of trouble.”
Jim-Marie released him. “I will.”
Hildreth smiled. “And if he throws you during training, be sure to tuck your body before you hit the ground. I know it always seems to happen too fast to even think.” He chuckled. “I have so been there. But tucking your body will minimize the aches and pains later.”
“I’ll try my best, Mayhew.”
He patted his head again. “I know you will.” He knelt on one knee to get down to Jim-Marie’s level. “I know you can do this. It will be hard. It will be a lot of aching joints and sore backs and ‘What was I even thinking?’ nights. But I know you can get through the training. I know you can become a hunter. The best hunter of your generation.”
All of Jim-Marie’s self doubts turned into turquoise butterflies and flew away. “I will not disappoint you.”
Hildreth stood as Master Shinowa and Kaneshiro came over. He and Elsie bowed to their master.
“Parker, go to car with Kaneshiro.”
“Yes, Master.” Jim-Marie said.
“I will be shortly there.”
Jim-Marie gave Hildreth another hug before leaving with Master Shinowa’s brother.
“Thank you again for coming, Master.” Elsie said. “It meant a lot to both of us.”
The master did a slight head bow. “It was much a pleasure. Elsie Mayhew, I had much thought during meal.”
“Master?” she asked.
“Your father is no more present with the living. He is gone on to ancestors’ hall.”
Elsie stiffened. “Yes, Master. My father is dead.”
“Much sorrow for that. Much sorrow for Elsie Mayhew not having father-daughter dance at wedding.”
Elsie shrugged — a very stiff shrug. “It is what it is.”
“Is much truth.” He bowed to her. “I am not Vansing father. Is also much truth.” He looked up at her with a mischievous grin. “But I dance.” He held out his hand to her.
She took it without question. “And I will dance with you.”
Master Shinowa led Elsie to the front of the room. Jeff stood and gave him an expectant look. Master Shinowa nodded. Jeff nodded back and returned to his seat and guitar.
Elsie smiled. “What was that all about?”
Jeff messed around on his guitar a bit.
The left over guests had a collective hunch that something was about to happen. So, they all sat down to watch.
Master Shinowa grinned. “As said I, I had much thought through meal.”
Jeff launched into Frank Sinatra’s rendition of “I Wish You Love.”
“Farsigh gave much thought too.”
Elsie smiled as she put the pieces together. “So, you two plotted this out?”
He laughed. “Much plotted.”
Master Shinowa took her into his arms and they danced. Nothing too fancy. Nothing too showy. Just a simple father-daughter dance.