Even in a monster-friendly realm such as Zipangu, Mamono and their husbands actually getting married in a formal wedding ceremony with family of the groom in attendance was a fairly recent development. However, some species of monster girls were more than happy to embrace the practice- this was especially true of ones that had already enjoyed pretty good relations with humans to start with. Even if Shimo wasn't marrying into a fairly influential family who's patriarch was a retired commander in the Emperor's Guard, she likely still would've insisted on a formal wedding ceremony.
The actual wedding ceremony between Shimo and her fiancée Hiro took place in a shrine in the center of town and was limited to the immediate family of the bride and groom, but the guests would accompany Hiro, Shimo, Yuki, Lady Husui and Hiro's parents to a spacious banquet hall that abutted a creek within easy walking distance from the shrine.
As it turns out, I met had met Shimo's husband before. He was in fact a captain in the town guard and took a statement from me one night after I had unsuccessfully attempted to break up a drunken brawl at the izakaya and had gotten a few bruises and cuts for my trouble several months ago.
Shimo emerged from the temple in a red kimono and a red hood while Hiro was wearing immaculately polished ceremonial armored gauntlets and shoulder pads over a formal guard uniform as the gathered guests began applauding and throwing confetti and streamers. Yuki was next to her sister in a dark grey off-the-shoulder kimono top and pleated dress. She leaned in and said something to Shimo before her reserved and aloof big sister threw her arms around Yuki, giving her a big hug and beaming ear-to-ear. Lady Husui then said something to the two of them before the bride and the Ryu embraced, making their way to the banquet hall. After scanning the crowd for a moment, Yuki spotted me and waved before began making her way over.
On the day of her sister's wedding, the timid lamia appeared much more confident, assured and animated. I was pretty sure I made a number of the males in attendance jealous as Yukihebi made her way up to me before she reached out and clasped my hands.
"Thank you so much for coming...You look great, Hanta-kun!" she beamed as she wiped her eyes. Feeling a little bolder than usual, I slipped my arms around her torso and hugged her tightly, enjoying the warm swell of her bosom and her almost infectious giddiness. "What a great day...I'm so happy for onee-san! Everything just turned out so beautifully..."
"Hey now- You're looking pretty good yourself there, Yukihebi." I said, cupping her cheek as I wiped away a tear. The pretty albino lamia was trying to hold back tears of joy. "So I take it everybody's going to the banquet hall now?"
She nodded and the two of us made our way with the rest of the crowd. My gift for the couple was an envelope with five silver taels- not a huge amount, but pretty generous given my limited resources at the time. Although the wedding ceremony itself was an intimate Zipanguese affair limited to the immediate family, the guest list for the reception numbered in the hundreds and featured some western style touches including ornately decorated cards identifying where each guest would sit, a buffet and an open bar. Out of the all the guests present, the only other guest I recognized was Inken.
Shimo re-emerged in a white gown with an opaque hood while Hiro was still in his dress uniform minus the polished armor plates. The wedding party was seated at a long rectangular table towards the front of the decorated hall while most of the guests were seated at round tables before the bride and groom. On the other end of the room was what looked like a massive drum with several smaller drums left seemingly unattended around it- the evening's entertainment would be Zipanguese taiko group that would get underway later on.
With all the guests gathered, Hiro's father started things off with a toast- a bit long-winded on the part of the proud papa, but everyone present was willing to indulge the host on such a momentous occasion.
After the father of the groom's speech, it was Lady Husui's turn. The elegant Ryu said that she had known both the bride and groom for most of their lives, but she had become like a mother to Shimohebi. After regaling the assembled guests with a few embarrassing anecdotes concerning Shimo at the temple, she none too subtly urged the bride and groom to get working on making her an honorary grandmother. That got a good chuckle from those of us in the dining hall as Shimo tried in vain to shiled her face with her right hand.
It was then Yukihebi's turn to deliver a toast- the same nervous and shy lamia that had a difficult time making eye contact or completing a sentence in my presence. With all eyes on her, she hesitantly got up an looked around the banquet hall. Letting out a nervous, involuntary giggle, Yuki began to speak.
"Umm...hello. My name is Yukihebi and I'm the sister of the bride." she started out timidly. "You'll have to excuse me....I'm not very experienced with speaking before so many people, but I just wanted to say how happy I am to be here and how happy I am for my sister and her new husband. Shimo and Hiro couldn't have asked for a better day for their wedding, and I'd like to thank all of you for coming out today."
I noticed her eyes were looking at me before scanning the crowd. She still seemed a little apprehensive, but it wasn't reflected in her voice.
"Shimo has always been there for me. Even though we seem to be complete opposites, I couldn't have asked for a better big sister when I was growing up- always watching out for me even though we sometimes caused all kinds of trouble for Husui-sama." She clasped her hand on the Ryu's shoulder as Lady Husui nodded her head in agreement while looking up at Yuki. She then leaned over to address the bride and groom while still speaking loud enough for the rest of the crowd to hear.
"Hiro...I just wanted to say that I know that Shimo is going to be as good a wife to you as she's been a sister for me..." she said, her voice faltering for a moment.
Thinking she was finished, a small smattering of applause began to ripple through the crowd but tapered off as she attempted to continue.
"Now...now..." she said as the applause tapered off. She was looking squarely at me when she resumed speaking. "Now I know many of you here have already met Shimo at some point. And I'm sure she made an impression. And...I know that onee-san can seem like she's bossy or overbearing at times, but that's her way of showing that she cares. If you're important to her, then things like manners and tact can wait....none of those things have ever impeded Onee-san's direct and honest nature." she turned so that she was facing the groom, raising a glass.
"So Hiro.....just so you know, it's when Shimo's all calm and polite that you really have to be on your guard."
The groom nodded and mouthed "Hai!" as he returned Yuki's toast- indicating he already found out in some way. Yuki's line earned a hearty chuckle from the audience before the full-throated applause resumed while she quietly returned to her seat.
While the father of the groom along with Husui and Yukihebi addressed the crowd, a buffet with specialty dishes from all across Zipangu was quietly set up by the caterers on the other end of the hall.
While my first instinct was to make a bee-line for the delectable-smelling dishes now available at the buffet, I instead decided to make my way towards Yukihebi to compliment her on her impromptu speech. However, as I approached, I noticed a somewhat squat man in a kimono talking to Yukihebi. Judging from her body language, Yuki didn't appear to comfortable talking to him, and it had nothing to do with her inherent bashfulness. The man was a few years younger than me, but appeared to be a few years older than Yukihebi. As I got closer, I could hear snippets of the conversation.
".....that was so many years ago, you know? That was just my way of showing I liked someone." the man said.
"You have to admit, that's a rather strange way of showing that you like somebody." Yuki said.
"Yeah..." the man said sheepishly "But we were young and I didn't know any better. Besides....you know...peer pressure..."
"If I like someone, I usually try and do something nice for them like make them lunch or visit them at work or leave little notes of encouragement...." Yuki replied brusquely. "Not something like what you and your friends did...."
"Again...I'm sorry about-" the man continued.
"Ah! Hanta-kun! There you are..." Yuki cut him off.
"Miss Yukihebi..." I said as she clasped my arm. "Hey- that was a nice toast to the bride and groom just now."
"Really? Oh...I was so nervous." she said.
"It showed a little..." I said. "But that didn't hold you back, did it?"
"No...I guess it didn't."
"Want to grab a bite to eat?" I ask her.
"I'd love to..." she turned to the squat man in the kimono. "It was nice talking to you, but I should get going."
"Who was that?" I asked as we made our way to the buffet, more curious than jealous or upset, although there might've been traces of that in my voice, too.
"It was a long time ago, but I knew him as one of the boys from the village when I was little...." she said. It seemed as though that she didn't want to say any more on the subject and I didn't feel like pressing the issue, especially when Yuki already had so much else going on.
Instead of entrees, the buffet featured smaller rolls, platters and appetizers from across the island. I tried something from one of the southern prefectures that was a fried dumpling filled with an egg-rich batter, peppers and octopus meat.
"This looks so good....!" I marveled out loud as I sampled one of the dumplings "Almost as good as your bento, Miss Yukihebi."
"You really think my bento is better, Hanta-kun?" she asked, not quite able to stifle a proud smile.
"Of course....presentation is everything." I said as I pulled a small bundle out of the breast pocket of my suit.
"Are those....?" Yuki began to ask in a somewhat exasperated tone..
"Yep.. fork and knife."
I was going to facetiously offer to whittle her a pair when I became aware of a persistent drumming along with Yukihebi and everyone else who was standing in line in line. It almost sounded like rain drumming along the rooftop, except it was too rhythmic and after listening carefully seemed to be coming from inside the building. After a cursory scan on the banquet hall, I could see that there was now a troupe of men with bandanas in black robes at the drums- it was the taiko troupe, they apparently had been there for the past few minutes, starting out softly and increasing the volume of their drumbeats so that only now did anyone notice them. After a few moments, they seemed satisfied they had everyone's attention and seemed to let up, only to start banging their drumsticks together in unison and shout in cadence before a particularly burly man began assaulting the large drum with a pair of drumsticks- each about the size of a small log.
Over the din of the drums, I heard two voices speaking up.
" Sugoi! Husui-sama wasn't kidding, so many bachelors here today! Think any of those drummers are single, Kori-san!?"
"I......I don't know, Fuyu..."
Standing next to us were two more shirohebi maidens from the Ryu's shrine. Both of them were wearing their customary miko outfit with the white kimono top and red pleated skirts.
"Hey you two..." Yuki beamed when she saw the latest visitors. "Glad you could make it out today...."
"Husui-sama let us finish up early" The slender one called Kori said.
"She seemed really keen to point out that this place would be crawling with eligible human men, so she didn't really have to twist my arm!" the shorter, more boisterous one known as Fuyu said exuberantly before Kori gently elbowed her. Taking the hint, Fuyu continued "And we might as well congratulate the happy bride while we're here, huh?"
"You look nice, Yuki..." Kori said to Yuki, barely audible over the beating drums.
"So....Yuki-san..." Fuyu said as she shifted her gaze between me and Yukihebi. "Even though I had to nag you and tease you, aren't you glad you asked.....?"
A smile crept across Yukihebi's face as she quietly nodded.
"Good!" she chuckled as she playfully smacked Yuki's back before turning to the shirohebi she arrived with. "Oi! Fuyu....I'm hungry! Let's see what's at the buffet..."
"Fuyu-chan! We're not here just to feed your face!" Kori called out, clearly irritated with her companion, although the other shirohebi had already taken off. Turning to us, the slender lamia looked at me and Yuki before she politely bowed. "It was good seeing you- I hope the two of you have a nice evening..."
Throughout the night, Shimo would often pull Yuki aside over the din of the drums to meet some of the guests and well-wishers who had showed up. I kept myself busy with a few more trips to the buffet, gravitating towards the tonteki pork dish they had available. I also spent a few minutes shooting the breeze with Inken and his wife before deciding to head outside for a little bit of fresh air. Instead of heading to the front, I found a side door that led to a small, open green space between the building and the creek dotted with some willow trees. I took one of the little trays set aside for guests that had a little jug of sake, a small kettle of tea along with various spices and condiments before making myself comfortable under one of the willow trees.
Once there, I just relaxed and took in the sounds of the taikos drums and the drummers occasionally chanting in cadence while looking up at the full moon with its light filtered through the leaves and branches of the willow.
I didn't doze off so much as lose track of time. I'm not sure how much time had elapsed, but the wedding party was still underway, drummers and all. Standing before me was Yukihebi, who had managed to break away from her sister for a little bit.
"I'm sorry this has been taking so long." she apologized, as though she had any control of the duration of her sister's wedding ceremony.
"It's all right....I mean it's your sister's wedding and ideally a once-in-a-lifetime event. I'm usually no good at this sort of thing." I sighed. Truth be told, I was somewhat used to slightly more boisterous gatherings.
"Thank you for accompanying me today.....A-are you doing anything right now?" she bowed her head slightly.
I patted the ground next to me. "I was just watching the world go by. It would be nice if you could join me..."
Yukihebi looked a bit confused before she made her way over next to me under the willow tree.
She seemed apprehensive that I wanted to leave, but the truth of the matter was I thought it was quite pleasant where I was under the willow tree, sipping sake while watching the calm waters of the river drift by lazily in the full moon light with the noise of the wedding party in the background. All that seemed to be missing was her.
"Miss Yukihebi- I was wondering about something."
"What is it, Hanta-kun?" she asked as she got down next to me, her back to the tree as well.
"You said earlier that I had an aura of misfortune to me...."
The cute, busty shirohebi nodded. "Mm-hmm..."
"But I can't figure it out- how could I possibly have an aura of misfortune after meeting someone like you?"
She grabbed my right arm and put her head on my shoulder. "Oh Hanta-kun...that's so very sweet of you. When you're ready, I could help you restore some of your memories. I stand by my offer."
I slowly pour another glass of sake, offering her a sip. She politely declined. "You're too kind, Miss Yukihebi. I may take you up on that someday, but not right now." I say, vaguely remembering the Ryu's warning.
"Is there anything I can do for you?" she asked sweetly.
"Well....." I said with a wry grin as I downed the remaining sake in the glass. "I've been feeling a bit warm lately. I'm afraid I might be coming down with a fever, Nurse Yukihebi".
Her eyes widened a bit before she realized I was teasing her. Instead of blushing or fidgeting, like I've come to expect from the shy serpent girl, a wry grin was on her face as she was eyeing me while cupping my chin with her right hand.
"Oh my....looks as though I'll have to take your temperature, Hanta-Kun". she smiled as she gently pressed her forehead against mine.
"Why, Hanta-kun...." she mock gasped. "You're burning up! First, we'll need to get rid of some of this restrictive clothing..." her hands found her way to my sides as she began helping me out of my shirt."
"Of course...." I say absently as I wiggle out of my shirt, losing myself in the shirohebi's newfound boldness.
Yukihebi then gently placed her hand on my bare chest. "This can't be good- your heart is beating so very fast, dear." She softly cupped my chin and continued in an earnest voice that indicated she had dropped the naughty nurse act for now. "I've been wanting to do this since the first night you were at the temple."
The beautiful serpent girl softly kissed me on the lips and then positioned herself so that her lower body almost tenderly coiled around me, gently pinning my left arm to my side. I looked up to see her face gazing down upon me, framed by her cascading silver hair. Her red irises no longer bothered concealing her yearning as her face was backlit by the full moon. I could see that her serpentine half was partially obscured by the latticework of shadows from the willow tree we were under.
"This is how our kind shows that we like someone..." she eagerly murmured. Her serpentine half felt cool and almost smooth against my flesh. "But...but I didn't want to do this while you were still out....I wanted you to be awake for this, so I could look into your eyes.....those beautiful blue eyes...and feel your warmth against me....and let you know how good it made me feel."
"M....Miss Yukihebi...." is all I can stammer as I gaze into her eyes. Considering the dire warnings I had gotten about Mamono in general and lamia in particular resorting to spells, deception, abduction and rape to ensnare a man, I was genuinely touched that Yukihebi waited for me to regain consciousness instead of taking advantage of me.
"I-I've never really done anything like this before. Do you like how that feels, dear?"
"I didn't think it could feel this good..." I can only whisper in quiet amazement.
"Do....do you think I'm beautiful?" she asked.
I had no pithy or eloquent answer to her inquiry as I simply nodded. Apparently I needed to be close to death in order to channel my inner poet for the serpent girl.
"I can't tell you how badly I wanted to do this with you when I was tending to you at the temple...." I felt her shift a little as she gently draped her arms around my shoulder. She was slowly squirming ever so slightly upward so that my face was right in front of her chest while still keeping me in her coils. For a moment, her hands were no longer on my shoulders and before I knew it, the upper half of Yukihebi's robe slid open, fully revealing her gigantic breasts in all their moonlit glory right in front of my face.
I finally managed to find my voice, despite starting to nuzzle the serpent-girl's massive tits. "Oh my, nurse Yukihebi. I do believe this might actually make my fever burn even hotter now..."
"You talk too much, dear." she said as her hands found the back of my head and she pressed my face into her soft, alabaster breasts.
To my surprise, I began to struggle in the serpent girl's grasp. I didn't necessarily want to break free, but I thought of something that I absolutely HAD to try out while the normally timid serpent girl was feeling this bold and amorous.
"Ah....Yuki...." I almost moaned as I began thrashing in her grip. She seemed a bit confused as she loosened up her grip on me slightly while still keeping her body coiled around me. She was most likely wondering if I had second thoughts or if she had taken things too far.
I managed to free my right arm, but instead of using it to try and extract myself from her grip, I blindly reached out for the tray next to us that contained the bottle of sake and kettle of tea. I felt around for a smaller jar in the moonlight and shadows as the confused-looking shirohebi was contemplating whether or not to release me.
Instead, the beautiful serpent girl gasped and squeezed around me a little tighter the moment she felt something cool and sticky spill across her right breast. Guests of the wedding were served a small kettle of tea that came with some sugar, various spices and a little jar of honey. Remembering that I still had all of the honey, I figured the sweet nectar on my tray would be better served being smeared across the beautiful shirohebi's soft assets since she was feeling so bold.
"Nnngh...what are you.....?" her query was cut off as she let out a sharp squeal. My tongue began to work its way across the nectar trickling down her right breast as she began constricting.
"Oh my, nurse Yukihebi." I teased as I pawed at her right breast. "Your heart is racing and you're so very hot. Are you coming down with a fever as well?"
"You naughty boy..." the albino snake-girl almost panted as she began to slowly rock her hips up and down against me while sliding her arms around my shoulder. "This is my good robe.....if you're going to make such a mess, then you might as well make it worth my while and pay attention to both of them." For emphasis, she began pivoting her right shoulder, which thrust her otherwise untouched left breast closer to my face.
"Well....if you insist...." I said as I leaned in and gently clamped my teeth on her now-erect left nipple.
"Ah!" she gasped as she arched her back and began squeezing me a little tighter. "So sensetive...don't.....ah....don't forget the honey....nngh...Hanta-kun." she ordered before my tongue resumed its assault on the reamining honey on her right breast.
"I didn't hear you say 'please'..." I said slyly before clamping my teeth on her sticky-sweet right nipple.
For a moment, Yukihebi said nothing as she gazed into my eyes and I briefly relented in my assault on her right breast. Then- as if to prove her normally docile demanor didn't automatically translate to submissive- she constricted tight enough to pin my left arm back to my side and make it a little difficult for me to breathe before relaxing her grip slightly.
"Oh pretty please, Hanta-kun." she said with a wicked grin that more or less said I'm in charge now.
"A....as you wish, Miss Yukihebi." I said, surprised at how meek I sounded.
I gingerly brought around my right arm and tilted the small jar so that the remaining honey was now drizzling onto the shirohebi's left breast. She was no longer caught off guard by this like she was when I first started pouring it on her right breast and instead let out a satisfied giggle as the cool nectar began to trickle down her cream-hued right tit.
As I eagerly started lapping up at the honey on her left breast while using my free hand to squeeze and grope her still moist and sticky right breast, I felt something snaking its way up my right thigh.
"You naughty boy- you've made nurse Yukihebi cross." she playfully scolded as she began stroking my crotch with her tail. "You know visiting hours are over, but you thought you could smuggle in that big serpent in your pants."
"But nurse Yukihebi..... I think he really wants to meet you."
"Oh....I imagine he does." she grinned as she constricted a little tighter, but not quite tight enough to cut off my breathing any further. "But he needs to be patient. First things first...." she said as her hands gripped the back of my head and shoved it into her chest once again
"Mmm....close your eyes dear. I want to try something...." she said suddenly.
Even if I objected, I wasn't in much of a position to do anything about it. Her tail gently coiled around my neck before slithering further up along my face so that the very tip was draped across my eyes, making certain I didn't peek.
"It's a surprise." she cooed. "Now, tilt your head back a little and open your mouth...."
Offering no resistance whatsoever, I obediently did as she said, trying my best not to shudder or betray any of the anticipation I was feeling. Even if she didn't realize it, the meek, gentle serpent girl was proving to be a surprisingly capable domme.
As she held something ceramic up to my lips, I felt a slight pressure on my neck as her coils squeezed gently. "Now be careful not to swallow, dear."
"Ngg-hgnhh" I tried saying in the affirmative, but it could've just as easily been interpreted as whimpering or helpess moaning. When nothing happened right away, I could only try and wonder and anticipate what Yukihebi had in store for me.
I finally found out when something cool and sticky drizzled onto my tongue. The busty shirohebi was pouring the remaining honey from my jar into my mouth, gently constricting my neck to discourage me from swallowing the nectar.
"Easy now......" she said reassuringly as she slowly removed her tail from across my eyes. "Easy.......almost there."
"There we go..." she said as she tossed aside the little jar. "Now...remember to breathe through your nose, dear."
That was easier said than done, because what she ended up doing next literally took my breath away. Yukihebi gently put her lips to mine and started to kiss me deeply, with her tongue gently probing the honey-coated interior of my mouth. I attempted to use my tongue to reciprocate and probe the interior of the amorous lamia's mouth, but I found myself quickly overwhelmed. As her fingers tightened her grip on the back of my head and her coils tighten and pin my arms to my side, the pale lamia begins using her forked tongue to vigorously pull honey from my mouth into hers, never breaking the kiss. Like a piston or a jackhammer, she quickly and repeatedly flicks her tongue against the roof of my mouth, causing me to involuntarily whimper.
After what seems like an eternity- a warm, hazy eternity- I let out a prolonged moan- almost disapointed as Yukihebi slowly breaks the kiss. A trail of honey and saliva dangles between our lips before finally twanging back hanging from my agape mouth as she pulls away from me.
"Mmm...so sweet..." Yuki says as she wiped the corners of her mouth with the back of her hand.
"You messy boy...nurse Yukihebi will have to clean up after you." she almost panted as she began licking some of the saliva-coated honey that had dribbled on my exposed chest.
I fully intended to call out "Don't stop, Yukihebi!" but as soon as I tried moving my tongue, I got a reminder that the albino lamia had only removed about half of the honey from my mouth. Instead, Yukihebi heard me groan and whimper as her tail gently constricted and released around my neck.
"Aww...." she whispered seductively. " Did Yukihebi's kisses make you come?" The urge to say "No. but give it 10 more seconds" was strong. but even if my words weren't cut off by the nectar Yukihebi poured into my mouth, the frisky serpent girl resumed her intoxicating kiss.
Suddenly, her eyes widened in shock as she was looking at me.....no....she was looking past me. Yukihebi abruptly pulled away from my lips, a trail of saliva and honey spilling from her mouth and linking to mine before she hastily wiped it away with the back of her hand. Uttering a startled yelp, the amorous snake-girl tried closing her gown before she suddenly bolted away, making her way up the willow tree behind me. I didn't actually see her streak past me and up the tree, but I heard something rustling in the branches behind me.
Still in a haze, I turned around to see what put such a scare into Yukihebi. Standing in the immediately behind us was Shimo and Lady Hisui.
"Oh my....it seems as though Yuki's come out of her shell." Lady Hisui smirked demurely with a finger to her lips.
Lady Shimohebi looked less amused. My first instinct was to try and tell the two Wait! I can explain.... but I was still dizzy from the inside of my mouth getting coated with honey and then enthusiastically tongue-fucked by the pale lamia. There was also the matter of a not-insignificant amount of honey still in my mouth that physically prevented me from speaking, no matter how eloquent I thought my words might've been.
As Shimo wordlessly slithered up to me in her wedding dress, I resolved that I might as well take my beating from her like a man. Instead, she looked up at the trembling limb of the willow tree.
"Yuki-chan? Please straighten yourself up and head back inside with our guests." she calmly said to the willow tree.
"Of course....onee-san." Yukihebi replied meekly.
Realizing there was still way too much honey swirling around in my mouth, I reluctantly spat the remaining nectar out on the ground. I sighed as I realized that was less nectar for me to lick off of Yukihebi's body or for her to sensually extract from my mouth with her tongue.
"Ah....." I almost gasped as I finally was able to inhale through my mouth. "Ah......Say....Miss Yukihebi? You don't happen to know where my shirt is, do you?" I ask. A moment later, the shirt Yukihebi helped me out of fluttered from down from the tree like a falling leaf in autumn.
"Lady Shimo.....I....I can explain..." I said to Yuki's sister as she slithered back down from the tree. "I was drinking and got carried away and...."
"Are you going to tell me you drunkenly attempted to force yourself on my sister?" she asked calmly, the incredulity clear in her voice. Despite Yukihebi's slender, alluring upper body, her serpentine lower half put her at a nearly two to one size advantage over me. "You could be drinking entire barrels of sake and that wouldn't adequately explain why Yuki was the one who was draped all over you."
Yuki paused a few feet away, looking as though she had something to say. However, before she could do anything, Lady Hisui spoke up.
"Let's go, Yukihebi."
For some reason, I felt apprehensive watching the albino serpent-girl who nursed me back to health make her way back inside. It seemed as though either Lady Hisui or Shimo would've been well within their rights to forbid her from seeing me again.
"H-how long were you there....?" I hesitantly asked Shimo.
"Long enough to get a few ideas for my honeymoon."
"I...I'm sorry...." I stammered.
"How would you describe your relationship with my sister?" she asked bluntly.
"Honestly....?" I sighed. "It's kind of complicated. I was scared at first and wanted to run away. Then I happened across Lady Hisui, and she told me how your sister nursed me back to health....."
"She had always been fond of looking after strays." Shimo observed wryly.
"The thing is, I was unconscious for much of the time I was in your sister's care, but Lady Husui said she'd hold my hand, talk to me, sing lullabies and even read to me when I was injured. But I don't remember any of it...."
She simply nodded, prompting me to continue.
"So...." I began to say. "I wanted to see more of the Yukihebi that Lady Hisui told me about. Compassionate, tender, nurturing......a little shy and awkward." Given the exposure of both of our bodies to honey and the compromising position Shimohebi and the Ryu found us in, I decided to avoid the adjective 'sweet'.
"Well, it's only been a few weeks but she is everything Lady Hisui described."
"Let me tell you a story, Hanta-chan." Shimo paused, seemingly lost in thought before speaking up after a few moments. "Picture a little shirohebi orphan girl- a lost and confused little girl who had almost everything taken from her at an early age. She and her big sister are taken in by a kindly Mamono and are given shelter at the Ryu's temple. One day, the little orphan girl noticed a boy from the village following her when she was running errands for the Ryu. She's very timid and withdrawn, so she's not sure what to make of this. The boy finally approaches her in the village square and says that he's been poisoned by a youkai and is very ill, and the only cure is a kiss from a pretty shirohebi. So naturally, the little shirohebi girl thinks she's the ony one who can help him and gives the village boy a kiss on the cheek. As soon as he does, the village boy laughs in her face and tells her he can now collect ten copper pieces from each of his friends because he bet them he could get a kiss from the 'gross white snake girl'....."
"Oh, it gets better." Shimo cut me off. "The boy's friends were all there to point and laugh at her. They even threw eggs at her and said things like Look out- there goes your babies! in front of everyone in the town square."
"That's fucked up...." I say absently.
"The little shirohebi girl- let's call her Yuki- comes home in tears and covered with egg. Yuki's big sister decides right then and there that she won't let another piece of trash from the village hurt the sweet little shirohebi ever again. So you can understand why Yuki's big sister would have serious misgivings about finding her intertwined with one of the slovenly human drunkards from the village."
"Lady Shimo-" I begin to say. That was harsh, but not unjustified.
"Tell me, Hanta-chan. Will you stagger off the the village tavern and tell all your degenerate drinking buddies about the gross white snake girl who was all over you just now?"
It dawned on me that the squat man who was trying to chat up Yuki earlier was one of those village boys who bullied her as a little girl. There didn't seem to be any familial resemblance to Hiro, so my guess was he was one of the ones throwing eggs at her while she ran off crying. I said nothing for a moment as I looked up at light of the stars and full moon filtered through the branches of the willow tree above us.
"Believe it or not, Lady Shimo- I already told some of my drinking buddies about Miss Yukihebi. If anything, they seem amazed that an ordinary, boozy layabout is on the receiving end of so much affection from such a kind and beautiful creature."
"They have a saying in the western lands: In wine, there is truth. Perhaps your inebriated compatriots at the tavern are more prescient than you think."
"As far as I'm concerned, your little sister is a beautiful guardian angel I never expected to have. It's like I told Lady Ryu- I'm a drinker. I have a quick temper and little to no impulse control. Any of the tavern's serving ladies will tell you that I'm a lecher and a compulsive gambler....for all I know, my memory loss could be the result of prolonged blackouts from drinking." I sighed, belatedly realizing this was probably not the best way to persuade the disapproving sister. "These are things I haven't concealed from Miss Yuki and that didn't stop her from inviting me to tonight's wedding as her date."
As I look back at the bride, I'm not surprised to see her sizing me up with her eyes. "I have my flaws and vices, Lady Shimo- I'm well aware of that. But I could never do something like what those boys did to Miss Yuki when she was little."
"Yuki seems quite taken with you, Hanta-chan. Take great care- her heart is in your hands."
"Just as my life was in her hands...." I reminded her.
Shimo gave me a nod. "Fair point. Now that I'm married, I won't always be there to watch over Yuki. I think she can take care of herself, but she still has a lot to learn. However...."
"She may not look it, but she's quite proficient with the naginata, too."
"Is that a fact?" Truth be told, I found that tidbit rather intriguing after the play swordfight we had while picking berries.Clearly she was holding back. After a moment's pause, I turned to the bride. "Hey...whatever happened to that boy- The little shit who conned her out of her first kiss?" I asked her.
To my surprise, Shimo demurely blushed and giggled as she placed the sleeve of her gown to her lips.
"Why Hanta-kun- you look fit to be tied, although it's a few years too late for you to defend her honor." she teased "About that boy, though....Funny story- I managed to track him down and rough him up pretty good a few days later. He went crying to his big brother. However, his big brother knew enough that most Shirohebi were quite slow to anger and correctly deduced that I most likely had been provoked. When word from the other villagers reached big brother about what his brother did to Yuki, he dragged the little brat out by the ear all the way to Lady Ryu's temple and made him apologize to Yuki.....such a strong sense of justice." Shimo began fanning herself as she turned an even deeper shade of crimson.
"And that was the first time I laid eyes my beloved husband, Hiro...." she said as she continued fanning herself.
"Lucky dog. Funny how these things work out, isn't it?"
"Indeed. Oh...and Hanta-chan?"
"Do clean yourself up so you can rejoin us inside." she motioned to the hall where she and Lady Ryu had emerged from. "But take your time, Giri no otouto....I wouldn't want our guests to see me coming in blushing like this while you return looking so disheveled. My darling Hiro might get the wrong idea." she added with a mischievous grin.
I nodded, belatedly aware that Yukihebi's sister just referred to me as 'Brother in Law' as she slithered back inside.
Nobody seemed to notice my absence, so little attention was paid when I re-entered the banquet hall. The crowd has thinned out a little, although the taiko troupe was still going strong. After milling around for a few minutes, I sat down at the empty table that still had my name card affixed. Almost as soon as I sat down, I felt a claw on my shoulder. I turned around and saw the Ryu looking down at me.
"Yukihebi and I must return to the temple now, Hanta-chan, but she wanted me to give you this." Lady Husui hands me a small slip of paper folded over.
My heart sank. Despite the rather concillatory tone that our conversation ended on, Lady Husui and Shimo forbade Yuki from ever seeing me again. I was sure that's what the contents of the note would say.
Almost reluctantly, I open it up to see a hand-scrawled doodle of a snake in a nurse's cap with hearts on either side. There was a cartoon voice bubble above the snake that read Nurse Yukihebi requests that you make an appointment for a follow-up exam, Hanta-kun!.
Fairly certain that my face is starting to turn crimson, I look up to see Yukihebi watching me from halfway across the banquet hall as Lady Hisui rejoins her. Well aware that I'd just read her note, the albino snake girl coyly waves at me before playfully sticking out her tongue as she departs with the Ryu.
I can only fidget nervously, imagining what else the busty shirohebi's tongue was capable of- if only we hadn't been interrupted. It dawns on me that I'm holding in my hand an invitation to find out. As I get ready to tuck the note my pocket, I see that there's more handwriting under my thumb.
P.S. You're blushing!
Laughing as I put the note away, I can only marvel at how the crafty little viper seems to know me all too well after only a few weeks.
"Maybe....." I sigh to no one in particular as I pocket the note. Maybe bachelorhood is overrated after all.