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Last Hope - Chapter 4: The Wedding

"When your father asked me to marry you, I was hesitant at first. I didn't know if I could make this work between us. But..."
Veepo, Online Chat Group

Nat: (10:59PM) Ahhh, it's starting!

Haru: (10:59PM) Finally! We've been waiting for so long!

Nat: (11:00PM) Wow! 200 million viewers! That's crazy.

Haru: (11:00PM) The numbers just keep increasing!

Ayu: (11:00PM) Omg, the groom looks so handsome.

Nat: (11:00PM) I know right [Heart eyes emoji]

Kai: (11:01PM) He looks stupid. Just look at that ape-like expression on his face. He doesn't know what he's gotten himself into.

Haru: (11:01PM) Aww, is our little Kai-bō jealous of Killoran Sharugo?

Kai: (11:01PM) Why would I be? He's a pathetic excuse of an agent, making a horrible mistake on live TV for the whole world to witness.

Haru: (11:01PM) Aww, haha. You're definitely jealous. That's cute.

Kai: (11:02PM) STFU. You're annoying.

Nat: (11:02PM) *hugs Oniisan* It's okay. Haru-chan is just teasing you.

Riku: (11:02PM) *slaps Oniisan* Hey.

Nat: (11:02PM) [Shocked face emoji]

Kai: (11:02PM) What was that for?

Riku: (11:02PM) IDK. I just felt like doing that, haha.

Haru: (11:03PM) Good one, Riku.

Ayu: (11:03PM) Oh my! They're having a Christian wedding? I read somewhere they would be having a Shinto wedding.

Nat: (11:03PM) I read that too!

Haru: (11:03PM) Well, that was the original plan, but the idea was scrapped.

Ayu: (11:03PM) Why?

Haru: (11:04PM) Shinto weddings are complicated to plan. It'll take them at least a year to get everything sorted. It's easier to rent a Church, find a pastor and get it over and done with.

Riku: (11:04PM) As if they couldn't insult God any further, they had to stoop even lower. I'm pretty sure that's not a real Church, otherwise all those vamps would combust into flames.

Nat: (11:04PM) Would they really?

Haru: (11:04PM) No. Riku is talking nonsense, as per usual.

Riku: (11:05PM) Oh shut up. No wonder Kai finds you annoying.

Haru: (11:05PM) You're one to talk.

Nat: (11:05PM) Please don't fight... this is supposed to be a special occasion :(

Riku: (11:05PM) Sorry.

Ayu: (11:05PM) That pastor looks so familiar! It's bothering me. I've seen his face before, but I can't remember from where.

Haru: (11:06PM) That's Daichi Azumane. You've probably seen him on the game show, 'Hiroba.' He's the host there.

Ayu: (11:06PM) Wait... so is he an actual pastor?

Haru: (11:06PM) No. I don't think so.

Nat: (11:07PM) According to his Wikipedia, he's a Confucian.

Haru: (11:07PM) Huh, that's interesting.

Ayu: (11:07PM) I can't wait to see the bride! I wonder what her dress will look like.

Nat: (11:07PM) I bet she'll look beautiful.

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Location: St. Pius X Church, Hakone.
Time: 10:58PM, February 16th 2072.


This seems more like a funeral, rather than a wedding ceremony.

That was Sharugo's first thought, as he examined the gloomy and sinister atmosphere of the spacious chapel. It was dark when the guests arrived; gnarled trees hung low over the baronial church, creaking ominously in the howling winds. Each time a new guest entered through the heavy oak door, the creaking of the door would echo around the church, and their footsteps would sound on the cold, stone floor, informing every one of their arrival. The moonlight shone through the stained-glass windows, casting an eerie glow onto the dusty alter, where Sharugo stood, dressed in a black tuxedo, next to the pastor.

11 o'clock. The old church bells rang out, eleven times, into the darkness, sending a flock of pigeons into disarray, cooing and flapping violently away from the aged building. Each slow chime echoed through the cavernous inner hall, reverberating off the ancient stone, bouncing between each red velvet lined pew and finally laying to rest upon the altar.

Chattering filled the church. Amongst the crowd, Sharugo could recognize familiar faces. Tanaka Sensei had a scowl across her wizened face and, when a vampire tried to speak to her, she moved her head in the opposite direction with a scoff. Queen Ambrosia was sitting upright in a front pew, a thin smile across her youthful features, looking beautiful in her blue dress. When she met Sharugo's eyes, her smile expanded. Ryuu Sensei was casually speaking to a group of humans and vampires surrounding him. The old man seemed so calm, which in turn, made Sharugo calm down his own nerves. He had expected one side of the pews to contain humans, and the other half vampires, but he was pleasantly surprised to see the majority of them mingling with each other.

Just then, the doors swung open. Lights switched on. Cameras came into focus. Delicate music played. Everyone stood up from their seats, all eyes focusing on the fierce beauty standing by the entrance with her winter-white wedding dress billowing out. King Leandro was at her side, walking her down the blood-red aisle. With black hair of wool and her head held high, she waltzed on with an effortless saunter. The clicking of her heels added rhythm to the soft music in the background.

Her dark eyes scanned the room with determination when they landed on Sharugo. He felt his stomach stir, recognizing that look that he had come across often during his field of work. That fierce look criminals gave him before they pounced on him with an anticipated attack. She held his stare as she reached the altar, as if she was silently declaring a private war between them. The king must have sensed her pugnacious presence, as he whispered something in her ear, making her roll her eyes, before he took his seat next to his wife. He gave a quick nod and a smile to Sharugo.

Seraphina stood in front of the groom, at a reaching distance. It was the closest they had physically been. This realization made Sharugo nervous all over again. He barely knew this woman, yet he was getting married to her, all in the name of peace. Her dark eyes were still boring into him, glistening with purple undertones. She was reading his face carefully, trying to decipher his thoughts. He felt uncomfortable, not only by the intensity of her stare, but the rest of the eyes that were watching their every move, everyone at church, and everyone at home viewing the live-streams all across the globe.

He decided to break the awkward silence between them. "You look nice."

She seemed unfazed by his unoriginal words. "Tell me something I don't know."

Sharugo's mind went blank. What was he supposed to say now? He was not a sociable nor talkative man, so this little exchange was quite puzzling for him. Fortunately, the pastor began talking.

"DEARLY beloved, we are gathered here today to join together, Hamasaki Naishinnō Denka and Killoran-san in Matrimony..."

During the pastor's rambling, Seraphina kept elaborately yawning, making no attempt to conceal her boredom. Sharugo felt his face getting hotter. It was uncomfortable to watch her, when her body language spoke volumes that she'd rather be somewhere else. Her attitude was transparent, not only to the groom, but to everyone else. King Leandro and Queen Ambrosia had a sour look across their faces, as they glared at their daughter with fury in their pupils. Sharugo felt sick to his stomach. Was she being forced to marry him? Or was she merely tired of the pastor's tedious rambling? He hoped that it was the latter.

From the corner of his eyes, he could feel the cameras zooming into their faces, capturing their expressions. It bothered Sharugo that this footage would be permanently out there and any mistake or slip-up would be recorded, easily accessible to everyone. Sharugo forced his features to remain neutral. He couldn't show any signs of weakness or doubt. Just then, in that hazy moment, behind the cameras, in the center of pews, he noticed someone's coat swaying to the side, and something glistening with a silver sparkle under their armpit.

-BANG!

Immediately, without thinking, Sharugo jumped in front of Seraphina, his 6'5 muscular body shielding her, while his hand was held up to his chest. Smoke was emitting from his hand, covering his face in light-gray fumes. Quickly the smoke cleared and revealed a V-T bullet, which the groom caught in between his fingers like chopsticks. There were gasps and murmurs of confusion amongst the crowd, until someone yelled, "They're getting away!"

A person in a brown trench coat was running down the aisle, heading towards the large oak door. Two security guards, big and burly men, ran after the stranger and captured him, holding him up by his armpits. Swiftly, they escorted him away. Panic and chaos broke out in the church room, as everyone was chatting animatedly, some people were shocked, and some were outraged. Some were grabbing their bags, ready to leave. Others were dashing to the altar, checking to see if the bride and groom were okay.

Everything had happened so quickly that Sharugo was in disbelief. He stared at the red bullet in his hand, which was warm and sizzling, designed to damage a vampire's internal organs. So many questions were racing through his mind, but he couldn't concentrate properly, as people were talking to him, including Ryuu Sensei. He couldn't process a word they were saying over the ringing in his ears.

He observed everyone's reaction, noting that many people were scared, including the pastor who was pale and shaking, except for one individual - Seraphina. She was the only one who was crossing her arms and huffing in clear annoyance.

"Alright, everyone! Settle down!" King Leandro boomed, his voice echoing throughout the church.

"Everything's fine, thanks to Killoran-san. No one's hurt. Please take your seat."

"Shall... shall we continue with the ceremony?" The pastor questioned with uncertainty. He looked at the groom, then at the bride, and back at the groom as if he was witnessing a tennis game.

"Yes. Do continue," the king answered for them.

Everyone returned to their seats and the chattering had died down. There was clear tension in the atmosphere, which was growing thicker by the dark cloud hovering over Seraphina. It was something that Sharugo couldn't ignore. It was evident that she was furious and, in a strange way, he felt that her anger was directed towards him. She looked at him as if he was an evil monster, like he was the one that had pulled the trigger just now. He looked down, avoiding her black stare.

"Well... uh... it's time to exchange vows," the pastor said. He looked at the bride nervously, sensing her fury. He was about to say something else, when she spoke in a quiet, icy voice.

"Wow... I'm getting married... to a human."

She shook her head and laughed, a humorless laugh. It was the type of laugh that made people sit up straighter and be on the alert.

"...And straight after another human tried to kill me."

She laughed again, that cold, unpleasant laugh which sent chills down Sharugo's spine. All too soon, she stopped laughing and everyone was stunned into silence.

"Whoop-di-doo. Best day of my life."

She spat out the last part with a deadpan countenance. The humans and vampires were, once again, muttering amongst themselves with uneasiness. King Leandro wiped away the sweat droplets forming on his forehead. Beside him, the queen was whispering into his ear, seeming to panic. Should they stop this? Was this getting out of hand? He shook his head and tried to reassure his wife that this was the right move and she shouldn't worry.

"Erm... thank you for that," the pastor said, taken aback. He looked at the groom with hopelessness. "And you?"

Sharugo cleared his throat. He needed to do damage control. After everything that happened, everyone was having doubts about this movement. Was this really the brightest idea? How can they hope for peace between the two sides, when chaos was already emerging? Can a human and a vampire really be together, or was this a foolish mistake? Sharugo knew that he needed to clear the tensed ambience and provide everyone with hope.

"When your father asked me to marry you, I was hesitant at first. I didn't know if I could make this work between us. But..."

Seraphina raised a shapely eyebrow. But...?

"I'm determined to put our past behind. For years, I've watched both sides shed blood. I've always wanted humans and vampires to unite together. I wanted us to live in a world where we didn't have to fear or hate each other."

She rolled her eyes. Like that's ever going to happen, she thought.

"It all seemed like wishful thinking at the time, but now it can be our reality. And I'm proud to be a big part of this movement, especially with you, Princess. I couldn't be more honored."

You're so full of shit, she wanted to say. Sharugo looked into her eyes, his brown eyes shining with warmth.

"Your father warned me that you might be challenging, but as it turns out, that made me want you more. I like a good challenge."

Seraphina turned her cheek away, blushing. Will this fool ever shut up?

"No matter what happens, I'm not giving up on you, Princess. I'll do whatever it takes to make you happy and I'll make this nation proud. You have my word."

Sharugo took a deep breath. Talking wasn't his strongest suit and, usually, he wasn't so vocal about his feelings, but he decided to seize this opportunity to remind the public of their cause. It seemed to work, as the crowd began to clap and cheer. The King and Queen of Vampires had a big smile on their faces, joining in with the applauding. Sharugo noticed Ryuu Sensei, who gave him a thumbs up sign. Everyone's reaction calmed him down, but it only added fuel to Seraphina's anger.

After exchanging their rings, the pastor declared, "By the power vested in me and the district of Ashigarashimo, I now pronounce you husband and wife."

Sharugo smiled in relief. Finally.

"You may now kiss the bride."

Instantly, his smile vanished. Never before had Sharugo noticed how time was so much like water; that it could pass slowly, a drop at a time, even freeze, or rush by in a blink. He felt his insides squirm, as he glanced at the crowd, feeling himself shrink under their scrutinizing eyes. This would be it. His first kiss. In front of everyone in this room, in front of all these cameras, with the whole world watching him, kissing a woman that looked like she wanted to murder him. He sneaked a glance at Ryuu Sensei, turning to him for help. The old man gave him a nod, encouraging him to go ahead and do this.

It's just a peck on the lips, Sharugo tried to convince himself. It's not a big deal.

He stepped forward and leaned closer to her face, when Seraphina turned around and walked away, leaving behind a trail of cool air. Gasps echoed throughout the church room. She stomped down the aisle with her fists balled up, ignoring everyone's comments, while she made a beeline for the exit.

King Leandro shot up from his seat. "She's having a bit of a stage fright."

He gave the groom a sheepish smile. "I'm sorry. Please excuse us."

With that, the king made his hasty departure. There was a moment of dreary silence, as curious eyes were fixed on Sharugo. He looked down at his hand, at the red bullet that he was still holding. It had turned as cold as the room.

King Leandro went after his daughter, following her all the way outside. He was greeted by the darkness of the night. The young vampiress was near the porch, when he grabbed her by the arm with his vice-like grip.

"What do you think you're playing at, young lady? You've put on quite a show back there."

Seraphina hissed at him with a scowl across her pretty face. "It's one thing to marry this awful human against my will, it's another thing to expect me to cozy up to him for everyone's perversion."

"Sera-chan!" He barked. "He saved your life and this is how you repay him?"

She rolled her eyes. "Please don't be daft, Father. That was clearly a publicity stunt. How can a human's reflex be spontaneously faster than the speed of a bullet? He was clearly prepared for this."

The king frowned, his forehead wrinkling. "Are you suggesting that Killoran-san planned this attack?"

"Yes, Father. I'm positive he did."

"Why ever would he do such a thing?"

"For a good image, for his own ego, to use this publicity to boost his reputation as an agent," Seraphina said, as she snatched her arm away from his hold.

"There are countless ulterior motives this man has. He cannot be trusted, especially if he's willing to put my life on the line for his personal gain. Do you understand? I refuse to be made a monkey like you."

The king glared at her furiously. "Musume, I am your father. You cannot speak to me like this."

"Normally I would agree, but you've lost my respect from this day forward."

She threw her veil to the ground at his feet, as she walked away, leaving the king hanging his head in shame.
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Published: 3/29/2019
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