“Mother,” Futaba ground her teeth, “you’re not listening to me.”
Futaba’s mother continued to flit about the house, humming delightedly to herself, straightening a flower arrangement here and hanging another lantern there.
“I am not marrying him!” Futaba insisted vehemently.
Futaba’s mother assessed the table, which was heaping obscenely with celebratory food, and then checked her watch. “I should just have time to make another three dishes,” she announced happily and practically skipped back into the kitchen.
“Mother!” Futaba stalked after her.
Futaba’s mother was already chopping vegetables at such an alarming rate that it seemed probable that that was where Futaba had inherited her skills with swordsmanship. “I just can’t believe it!” her mother exclaimed.
“He’s only ten-years-old!” Futaba insisted.
“My hopeless tomboy of a daughter!”
“He keeps sending me bugs!”
“Engaged at long last!”
“He’s insane!” Futaba finally practically roared.
“To a prince!” Futaba’s mother practically squealed at the last.
“You’re not listening to me,” Futaba repeated for what must have been the thousandth time since that morning.
“Get out the nice tea set, will you, dear?” Futaba’s mother was doing that disturbing humming again. “It’s not every day my future son-in-law comes over for dinner for the first time, after all.”
Needless to say, the nice tea set ended up in shards all over the kitchen floor.
“Oh, god.” Futaba put her head in her hands and tried not to cry (or laugh) at her predicament. She wasn’t sure which.
Atop a ladybug roughly the size of a small house, Othello waved at her enthusiastically.
“Oh, god,” Futaba repeated for good measure.
Encouragingly, though, Futaba’s father looked a bit put off as well. “Hmm, a bit of an individualist is he?” he said skeptically.
Sudden hope flared in Futaba’s chest. If her father refused to allow the marriage, she could get back to her normal life and… A plan formed in her mind. “More like he’s out of his fucking mind,” Futaba instantly attempted to nurture her father’s doubt.
Othello pulled on the reins and halted the giant ladybug directly in front of their house. It was actually larger than their house and blocked the entire street. With a gleeful smile, Othello slid down the side of its back.
Futaba’s father raised a disbelieving eyebrow at him.
Othello was wearing what appeared to be a chartreuse dinner jacket with bright-purple polka dots, leather chaps, and an opera hat covered with purple pansies. Actually, he didn’t just appear to be wearing that; he was wearing it.
“Hiya, pops!” Othello said cheerfully and smacked Futaba’s father across the back.
Futaba’s father doubled over at the force of the blow, and he coughed a couple times.
Futaba nearly breathed a sigh of relief. There was no way now that her father would…
Futaba’s father stood, still wheezing a bit. “Welcome to the family, your highness,” he said with what appeared to be a genuine smile.
Othello beamed back at him, and then Futaba’s mother came out and was fussing all over Othello, calling him “such a handsome boy” and talking about what an honor it was to meet her son-in-law.
In desperation, Futaba took advantage of the distraction to whisper in her father’s ear. “How can you agree to this?” she demanded. “Do you see what he’s wearing?”
“Yes, well…” Her father turned to her. “You should see some of the things I wore before your mother straightened me out.” He chuckled to himself.
Futaba gaped at him.
“The boy clearly just needs a wife.” Futaba’s father patted her on the shoulder. “He could use a level-headed influence in his life.” He followed Futaba’s mother and Othello into the house.
Futaba stood, fists clenched and eye twitching, in front of their house.
Finally, with a scream of primordial rage, she cried out, “I don’t know anything about fashion!” which, ironically, was the least of her complaints at that point.
The giant ladybug, with Othello no longer there to steer it, proceeded to flatten two of their neighbor’s houses.
“So, have you picked out your wedding dress yet?”
“Have you ever even worn a dress before?”
“You’re not going to wear your uniform, are you?”
Futaba twitched. “What’s wrong with my uniform?” she demanded.
Gino gave her a skeptical look. “Well, it’s not really very ladylike for the blushing bride-to-be, is it?”
“Shut up,” Futaba repeated.
“Besides, I need to get a picture of you in a dress to show around to all the Seiryu troops.”
“It’s not every day we get to see our general dressed up like an actual woman,” Gino continued to tease her mercilessly.
“You think this is funny?” Futaba demanded.
“Yes,” Gino smiled.
“I only met the kid last week!”
“I think it’s hilarious, in fact.”
“We’ve fought in how many battles together, and this is all the sympathy I get?” Futaba bemoaned.
“There, there.” Gino patted her shoulder in an entirely patronizing way.
Futaba glared at him.
“So, were you planning on wearing your uniform to your wedding?” he snickered.
“I hate you,” Futaba said with a groan of despair.
Futaba couldn’t get over the feeling that she was the butt of some cosmic joke. Any second now, someone was going to pull down the curtain, everyone would yell surprise, have a good laugh, and then Futaba could get back to her life.
With only two days left until the wedding, no one had pulled down the curtain yet.
Futaba was finally forced to face the fact that everyone else really had gone temporarily insane, and if she didn’t do something fast, she was actually going to get married.
So she did something that she knew was a bad idea but was her last recourse; she went to King Oz.
“I mean no offense, your majesty,” she said on bent knee, “but at the very least shouldn’t the ceremony be delayed until your son is of age?”
“This is useful to me,” Oz said thoughtfully.
“In six-or-so years’ time, a marriage of this type would be more prudent.”
“Othello finally has a weakness. This can be exploited. It can be used to bend him, break him,” Oz said gleefully.
“It’s not even legal at this point!” Futaba said desperately.
“Yes,” Oz said contentedly, “my foolish son is in the palm of my hand now.”
“Have you even heard what I’ve said?” Futaba snapped more than really was healthy in Oz’s presence.
Fortunately, he was in too good a mood at the thought of tormenting his sons to care. “I’m the king, and if I say it’s legal, it’s legal,” he said in a way that sounded as if it was meant to be reassuring.
Futaba blinked up at him.
“It’s legal,” he clarified.
Futaba resisted the urge to bang her head against the floor.
“Look,” Futaba said, arms crossed over her chest and the most no-nonsense expression she had on her face, “if you’re really serious about this, can’t we at least do it properly?”
Othello ducked under one of the claws of the praying mantis that was roughly the same height he was. He danced around it in a boxer’s stance. “We are doing it properly, babe. I got your father’s permission and everything.”
Futaba’s eye twitched. “You’re only ten!”
Othello side-stepped another blow from the praying mantis and used his momentum to deliver a punch to its head. “But if I wait any longer, someone else will snatch up a hot babe like you.” The praying mantis fell back to the ground, defeated.
“Are you out of your mind?” Futaba demanded. “We can’t get married!”
Othello lifted the giant praying mantis over his head in victory. “Sure, we can. The wedding’s all set for tomorrow and everything.”
“This is ridiculous!”
“You’re the one who lost our battle. That means you have to marry me. Don’t think about trying to run away, either. I would just catch you.”
Othello gave her a thoughtful look. “Here.” He chucked the giant, unconscious mantis at her. “Have this as a wedding present.”
Futaba fumbled under the giant bug. “What on earth is wrong with you?” she demanded. “At least give me flowers like a normal person!”
Othello blinked. “You don’t seem like the type that would be into flowers,” he said simply.
Futaba was left speechless by that, because technically it was true.
“Look,” Othello said, sounding almost serious for a moment. And then something caught his eye: “That is the biggest dragonfly I’ve ever seen!” His eyes glazed over, and he ran off into the distance.
In Futaba’s arms, the giant praying mantis began to struggle.
“You and me both,” Futaba told it wearily and let it go.
In the end, an engagement to Othello Farrell was like a force of nature. It couldn’t be fought; it just had to be weathered. Futaba had risen through the ranks of the demon army, defeated the mightiest foes Hell had to offer, and come out unscathed. The entire world had always been against her, a female general who barely even acknowledged that she was female at all, but she had always stood strong and triumphed.
That was pretty much how she survived the wedding, too, and the celebrations afterward.
That night, as Othello lay in bed with his eyes closed and a self-satisfied smile on his face and Futaba barricaded herself in the corner with her sword in defense of her virtue, Othello finally said, “You still don’t get why I asked you to marry me, do you?”
“Well,” Futaba said in disbelief, “no. Obviously not.”
“It must seem strange to you. A kid proposing and all that.”
“Er…” It seemed so unlikely by this point that anyone would notice the obvious that Futaba didn’t quite know what to do with this sudden burst of sanity.
“I knew the moment I saw you, though,” Othello said, stretching out further on the bed like a contented cat, completely unconcerned that Futaba was wielding a deadly weapon only feet away. “You and I are alike. So there was no point in waiting.”
“No point?” Futaba’s eye began twitching again.
“You play by your own rules, same as me,” Othello said. “You don’t care that you don’t look the way a woman is supposed to or that you’re not supposed to like fighting the way you do. You don’t care what people think of you at all. You just do what you do because you like doing it.”
Futaba’s grip on the sword relaxed a bit. “I suppose,” she conceded, although her own militaristic tendencies really didn’t come close to the unconventionality of everything Othello did, in her mind.
“And neither of us could stand to marry someone weaker than we are. We had no choice but to get married, really,” Othello concluded happily.
“You’re still a ten-year-old kid,” Futaba said wearily.
“Age changes,” Othello waved that aside. “The fact that you and me, babe, will never back down, cave in, or stop fighting till our dying breath? That’ll never change.”
“Maybe,” Futaba conceded hesitantly. It sounded too good to be true, in all honesty. In Hell, nothing good was ever true, and anything that was never latest. Anyone who tried was a fool. But then, Othello was clearly that and more.
“So you just keep doing what you’re doing, and I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, and the only difference is that neither of us will be alone in it anymore,” Othello concluded.
“That sounds…almost reasonable.” Futaba waited for the other shoe to drop.
Futaba had known it was coming.
“You’re cool with bugs, right?” Othello looked up at her earnestly.
“Er…” Futaba blinked. “They’re…cool?”
Othello grinned a toothy smile. “Then this marriage will work out just fine.”
Futaba shook her head and dropped her sword. “You’re something else,” she conceded with a small smile. Even with everything else stacked against them, Othello could at least do that, and maybe that was the only thing that really mattered, here and now.
“Come over here, and I’ll show you just how much,” Othello leered.
“Separate bedrooms until you’re older,” Futaba demanded.
Othello pouted. “You’re no fun.”
“Damn straight,” Futaba agreed, although for the first time she as starting to see the humor of the whole situation.
“Does that mean, then,” Othello began thoughtfully, “that if you’re not going to put out, I can call in a hooker instead?”
Futaba beaned him in the head with a pillow. “Not,” she informed him with a growl, “on our wedding night!”
It was the beginning of a beautiful marriage, indeed.