We began the next part of the ceremonies. Unlike Meihua’s wedding where there was still a few things to complete beforehand, I already had most things done, including all the seating set up. The only thing that was left was the food.
I had asked for the animals to be slaughtered off the property, if only for Chunky’s sake. There were pigs in this batch, and I didn’t know how he would react. Better safe than sorry. I didn’t want my boy becoming sad. There would be a lot of food, courtesy of the Lord Magistrate. Really, the guy was practically bankrolling the entire wedding feast.
I’d have to get him something to thank him.
The air was still nice and warm, lucky for us, as we were going to be outside all day. But some customs I wasn’t too fond of, considering Meiling and I were going to be stuck on the pavilion for hours. At least we had cushions, but we were to be available at all times.
The bed was brought out from one of the carts, along with the sheets and mattress. Meihua was the one who carried the first piece in, but the rest was carried by Hu Li and Xiulan. It was rather lucky our cultivator friend was there, actually, otherwise it would have taken a team of women to get anything up the stairs. It was a big and sturdy thing, and some of the pillars were too heavy for pregnant Meihua to even try to lift.
I still thought it was weird that the women had to set up the bed. I just really hoped they wouldn’t be checking for blood later. I didn’t remember anything like that from Meihua’s wedding, so we were probably safe from that indignity.
While they were doing that, Meiling and I were treated to a drink.
And then, we were on to the less awkward part of the gift giving tradition. Maybe because this was something I was a bit more familiar with, giving somebody something on their wedding was just something that was done. There was a little bit of squabbling over who got to give us gifts first. It seemed to be between Meihua, Tingfeng and Xiulan. Meihua and Tingfeng were surprisingly standing up to the cultivator, the quite pregnant woman had her arms crossed, and wasn’t budging an inch on her spot. Xiulan actually looked mildly impressed.
“Jin…” Meiling whispered from beside me, “Why do you have that giant rock beside our house?”
“You remember the rock we had our first kiss on?” I asked back.
“Yes? Why--” Her eyes widened as she realised what I was implying. Her jaw dropped, and she looked quickly back and forth between me and the rock.
She opened her mouth to say something, and no words came out. She tried again, and there was nothing. Finally she got out “..you took the rock we first kissed on?”
Meiling’s face went through several stages. Shock, disbelief, confusion, and finally settled on the “what the hell, Jin” face.
“What the hells, Jin?” She asked, her lips quirking into a smile.
“I like that rock. It's a nice rock. There's also a place in the woods not far from here that has trees in the same arrangement. No need to go out to Verdant Hill to sit on my favourite rock~”
Her face screwed up. We were technically supposed to be calm and dignified here, but she couldn’t help it. She clapped her hand over her mouth as her shoulders heaved with mirth.
Finally, she managed to get control of herself.
“But Jin, if you took the rock here, what are we going to sit on during our trips to Verdant Hill?” She asked, with a faux serious voice.
That was actually a good question. We needed our special rock.
“I’ll find another rock for it. I like this one, and want it here.” I told her.
We both burst into giggles at the sheer absurdity of what I had done. But my Meimei had a fond smile on her face at my antics..
The squabbling over who got to give gifts when seemed to have ended, and surprisingly Meihua and Tingfeng seemed to have won.
“Brother Jin!” Tingfeng called, approaching us. “Some scrolls on mechanical engineering, as I said I would find for you. On water-wheels.”
“Thank you, Brother Tingfeng.” Some people might say it's sad that people from a thousand years “behind” me would be better at this kind of stuff, but hell, I didn’t study it. I just needed how the damn gears went together properly.
Meiling got a silver knife from Meihua. Apparently some medicinal herbs worked better when cut with silver, which was another one of those blatantly magical things that still for some reason caught me off guard.
Xiulan got second place. She eagerly came up, and bowed, proceeding to empty her cart so better present her gifts. “Master Jin, I hope that any of these will please you.” She said. “A Ten Poison Resistance herb. Three peach trees, and two of apple, from the palace gardens of Grass Sea City. The skulls of a Four Poison Serpent, a Reaper Wolf, and the shell of a Wrecker Ball.”
That… was just a big-ass armadillo shell. With spikes, because why not? Honestly, I didn’t know what to do with those.
“A plow.” She said with a flourish, taking off the cover of her bundle. I had to stifle a laugh. I wasn’t expecting that back. Or for Xiulan to take my joke seriously. She too had a knowing smile on. “And these.. These are from a merchant whose life I saved. I mentioned going to a wedding, and he gave me these to give as a gift.”
Xiulan grabbed a bag, and pulled out a lumpy almost sphere.
“He called them earth apples, from Yellow Rock Plateau.”
My eyes focused completely on one of the best wedding gifts I could ever get.
She seemed surprised by my sudden focus on the potato. ”Thank you, Xiulan, those will be very important.”
She stared in incomprehension at the humble spud. “As you say, Master Jin!” She said with a bow, and handed over the precious cargo to me. “This one will reflect upon her fortune!”
The gift-giving continued. Brother Che gave us a set of knives, forged himself. From the big cleavers, to smaller daggers, they all gleamed, and had been forged with passion. The Xong family gave a few really nice leather bags, and a new bow. Uncle Bao, several scrolls on windmills, and another medical scroll. The Feast was the Magistrate’s gift, and a whispered, “I hope our relationship continues. Should you need anything, I am at your service.”
Other things were far more humble. A nice straw hat from one of the villagers. A few small storage containers. Cloth for when we had children. Some even just had rice, or a carved pendant for Meiling.
I appreciated all of them, and thanked each person who came up. I was actually starting to get a little emotional at the gifts. It was... humbling. It was touching. These people were earnestly wishing me well.
They meant it.
I was so very glad that I left the Sect, and came here.
And then.. And then it was time. Meihua came to collect Meiling, as I walked to the altar, and stood alone for several minutes, as Meihua rebraided Meiling’s hair, and wrapped a shawl around her shoulders.
I’m glad that there isn’t much speaking involved for us, because I didn’t trust my voice.
First, we served tea to Xian. Normally, we would be serving tea to our fathers, and grandfathers...but Jin Rou’s gramps was off somewhere, and everybody else was already gone.There was only Xian.
We mostly just listened to the priest, and bowed when instructed.
There was no staring into each other’s eyes. There was no “i do” or kiss.
We bowed three times towards the west, and then it was over.
We were married.
Big D let out a triumphant cry, his voice echoing over the hills as we stood, our fingers entwined. Meiling stared up at me, her face flushed red, and a radiant smile on her face.
Fuck it, theres gonna be a kiss.
The crowd cheered and hollered as I claimed my prize. Meiling didn’t hesitate to kiss back.
Now, originally, we were supposed to be escorted immediately to the marriage bed, but as the last male of my line, I also had to entertain my guests. So tradition was broken with, thankfully, and I got to enjoy the first night of my own wedding party.
Meimei and I were attached by the hip, and leaning against each other. Our fingers were entwined, and she was holding onto my arm like she thought I was going to disappear.
All around us, family and friends partied. Children chased Chunky through the tables, or threw things for Washy to catch. Peppa was sitting with Xian, my father saying something to her. Big D was on the roof, Rizzo on his back. His eyes were closed, and he looked at peace. Tigger was also on the roof, having a staring contest with Xiulan.
There was some music, but... There needed to be a bit more entertainment.
“Yun Ren!” I called, and he paused from where he was, holding the recording crystal. I gestured for it, and he nodded, pleased.
Really, it was more like a digital camera and a projector than anything. It even had a search function. I fiddled with it, and… Holy crap, Yun Ren took a lot of pictures.
I pressed some of my Qi into it. Haha, time for the wedding slideshow! It would even have my pipa in the background! The banjo like instrument actually sounded pretty good playing one of my favourites. I would never see any Ghibli movies again… but the music stayed with me.
There was a lull, as everybody realised what was going on, turning to look at the pictures projected into the air. Some of them were my own. Chunky and Gou Ren playing hockey. Big D silhouetted against the moon. Washy in his lair. But most were Yun Ren’s. Meiling and Xian smiling at eachother. The people of Hong Yaowu shouting something. Xiulan, a pancake hanging out of her mouth. The girl shouted with outrage at that one, and I started laughing.
Yun Ren’s pictures were good. Really good. He had an eye for this sort of thing. I almost wished I could print them out and hang them up.
Eventually, it ended. Yun Ren was smiling proudly. “You like ‘em?” he asked hopefully.
I handed him back the recording crystal. “Wedding isn’t over yet.” I told him. His eyes brightened, and he eagerly took the recording crystal back.
But all things end.
We were escorted to the marriage bed. I would have liked to enjoy the party a bit more, but apparently our “duties” were a bit too important.
The leering grins of the people around us told me that we were about to have a “fun” time. Apparently it was customary to make fun of the couple when they were in the room together. At least for family and friends.
“Look at them, trying to get started outside already!” Yao Che bellowed. “That eager are you both?”
Xian sighed, “Ah, where have I gone wrong, to raise such a lustful daughter?”
“Ah, I have a second gift for you, sister.” Meihua said, handing Meiling a scroll.
I caught the title, ‘The Bedroom Arts’ “I’ve read this one already.” Meimei deadpanned, her face a bit red as she shoved the scroll behind her. Meihua made an exaggerated scandalised gasp.
“Jin, be careful not to break her, okay?” Meihua teased. “And remember what I told you to do with your hips, Meimei, men love that.”
“Oh, trust me, there's no chance of him breaking her.” Che ribbed, remembering one of the statues.
Meiling was spectacularly unimpressed, as we both got the cups connected by red string.
Yun Ren’s eyes narrowed, and he leered as he handed me the recording crystal. “Make sure you make a good memory, alright? We can use this as proof that Meimei is a woman, and not a boy pretending!”
Meimei nearly spat out the wine we took, and whipped her head around to glare.
There was laughter and jeering, as we were poked at. It was a pretty lame tradition, but it was kind of funny.
Soon enough, the teasing tapered off, and all that was left was the sounds of people enjoying themselves outside.
“My son.. My daughter… I wish you good fortune.” Xian told us, a soft smile on his face. Meihua kissed Meimei on the forehead. Che slapped a hand onto my back. The Xong brothers nodded. The door shut with an odd finality.
We were alone, sitting on the bed.
We both flopped backwards, our heads side by side.
“...It barely feels real.” Meiling murmured.
“Quite a whirlwind romance, huh?” I asked, amused.
She giggled, and rolled over onto her side, entwining her fingers with mine. “What was that you whispered, at the altar?” she asked me.
Ah, she caught that? I cleared my throat. “An oath. To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.”
Meiling’s eyes widened. “I never took you for a poet.” She mused to me.
“I’m just copying somebody else. I’m no wordsmith.” I replied.
Meiling hummed. “To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.” She agreed.
Our lips met. She tasted a bit like wine, and a bit sweet.
Meimei pulled at my arm, and I rolled so she was beneath me. My hand brushed her hair out of her face, and rested on her cheek.
Nervousness, Excitement, arousal. She bit her lip as she looked up at me.
She grabbed the back of my head and pulled me down into her embrace.
Bi De sat, under the light of the Crescent Moon. Today had been a good day. Sister Ri Zu had returned to them. The people had given the Great Master proper supplication. He had taken the Great Healing Sage into his household. His radiance was magnified ten-fold with the Great Master’s “bow tie”.
But most importantly of all, the land was well, and truly awake. Instead of being turned inwards, he could feel the energy flowing, the land’s attention ghosting over flowers, and into trees. It was warm, and inquisitive.
He stood sentinel, gazing out under the sublime beauty of Fa Ram, when he felt the energy of His Great Master stir.
Oh, he thought, oh my. Sister Ri Zu squeaked from on top of his back. Tigu started, looking around in confusion.
The Qi of two separate beings mingled. The lesser was not snuffed out. The greater was undiminished. Both were calm, kind, and gentle. Nurturing.
The energy of the land shuddered, as another connected to it. The trees seemed to perk up. The grass waved in an invisible breeze. Yin joined Yang.
The land sighed in contented wholeness.
Two hearts beat at the same time. Two souls pulsed to the same rhythm. Yet both were unique. Working together, for a goal beyond his understanding. Bi De observed the changes in the world, and was content.