In The Name of Lynch

-Chapter 03: San San Kudo-

Kiyone Fujito pulled Ai Xing's hair back into a small cap while Kiyone's sister, Yuki, made certain that the ceremonial bridal wig was in excellent condition.

The wig looked almost exactly like the Xing family's traditional bridal wig which had been passed from mother to daughter for many generations. The one difference the hair color, which has the same color as Ai's own hair.

The wedding was not to be a completely traditional Japanese wedding as the groom was of British descent and it was to take place in London, but Ai had insisted on two things; that she be dressed in a traditional shiromuku and that the vows be followed by the traditional Shinto sake ceremony.

Kei Xing, Ai's mother, stepped into the room. She was dressed in the traditional garments worn by a Japanese mother of the bride and had a tearful smile on her face.

"I have so many things I wanted to tell you, that I waited for this day to tell you. But now that the day has come, I'm not sure if I should say what I have held onto for so long."

"If it's important, then you should not delay," Ai told her. "No matter how much you think it might hurt. For the happiness of this day will get me through any miserable thought."

Kei smiled, sadly. "Your father and I have always loved you, Ai. And we've always been proud of you."

"You can skip the adoption announcement, okaachan," Ai told her. "I figured that out when I was five."

"You were born here in London," Kei told her daughter, "your true father's name was Bryce Lynch. He used to work at Network 23. Ask your future father-in-law about him after the wedding."

"How could you know his name if it was a closed adoption?" Ai asked, politely.

"It was only closed on the mother's side."

"Mother's side? What about Bryce's side? Or didn't he care enough to be involved in the matter?"

A knock on the door brought the matter to an abrupt halt, bringing Ai's mind back to the wedding at hand. She set aside her agitation and fixed a smile onto her face, though a touch of sadness could now be seen lurking just behind the joy in her eyes.

As Jack had his background at Network 23, it had been agreed that the ceremony would take place in the Network's Vu Age Church and be held by it's priestess, Vanna Carter.

Vanna herself had been the one to knock on the door of the bride's dressing room. She had arrived moments earlier, but had been intrigued by the conversation she had overheard and had paused to listen.

"You're a priest," she had chastised herself. Following it immediately by "I'm also a woman."

She wondered if she should mention what she'd heard to her husband when she got home that night. Bryce had been Edison's best friend before the plague had forced the brilliant teenager into permanent cryosleep and his mind into the realms of Artificial Intelligence. Jack stood at the altar of the Vu-Age Church. The altar was ringed with white, blue, and yellow flowers; roses, mums, and baby's breath. Atop it stood three sake cups piled one atop the other, large, medium and small from bottom to top along with a traditional pot of sake, ready for the San San Kudo ceremony that would follow the Western-style vows.

Looking out at his guests, he could see his father smiling up at him. Among other guests present were Edison Carter, Theora Stephens and her husband Ted, Ms. Lauren who was currently Head of Network 23, Sylvia Jones who was Jack's controller and Theora's niece.

Looking above them, at the two monitors that overlooked the room, Jack saw that Max Headroom and Cat 9, the network's two artificial intelligences, had also attended. Max was dressed in a casual tan top with a white carnation in the lapel while Cat 9 wore an Alice blue top with a sprig of lavender.

As the music began, all eyes turned to Ai Xing.

Over her shiromuku she wore an ornate red and gold uchikake, while her wig was covered by a white tsunokakushi.

Ai glided down the aisle, accompanied by her mother and father and two bridesmaids, all of whom wore traditional Japanese clothing. Her eyes, glittering with the unshed tears of joy, were only on Jack, just as his were only on her.

It seemed like a wonderful dream to Ai Xing. The vows heard through a haze of happiness as she was so focused on the man she was marrying. Her own voice seemed more melodious to her, as though joy had turned simple words to a song that needed no accompaniment save that of the voice of her groom.

After they had both exchanged rings, Ai and Jack took three sips of sake, each and apiece, from the three cups from top to bottom. To Ai, who was not a stranger to sake as it had been served at many of Zik Zak's more formal functions, it seemed as though the finest rice had been used to make what had been poured into the wedding cups. As she took her last sip, she thought she heard a young voice breathing a sigh of contentment. Though she kept her head low, as was traditional for the San San Kudo, her eyes looked briefly up at the screen which held the younger of the two intelligences and almost dropped the sake cup.

Cat 9 had her eyes.

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