"Are you ready?" came Mutton's voice through the darkness.
A moment later, the snapping of fingers rang out. On cue, all of the lights were illuminated as one, lighting up the beautifully decorated interior of the establishment.
Vincent's eyes accustomed themselves to the light. Booth seats were on either side of him. Stood in front of them were Jonny, Erica and Toby. Vincent stood at the end of the aisle. Mutton stood behind him. A plaster was stuck to his cheek, cotton stuffed up his nose to staunch the flow of blood, and cracks ran through his sunglasses, but he looked comparatively well. He was a being that transcended humanity, after all.
Mutton cleared his throat, taking the mic, and began to speak.
"Sorry to have kept you waiting. The bride is about to make her entrance."
On the other side to Vincent, the lights around the bar's entrance grew even brighter and Catherine, clad in a wedding dress, drew into view. The snow white fabric complemented her blonde hair.
The pathway between the booths had been transformed into an aisle. She was unaccompanied. They didn't think they could simply ask an inhuman being to fill the role usually played by the bride's father.
She appeared to giggle, then began to walk silently. His friends welcomed her with applause. Catherine came to a stop beside Vincent. She looked up and grinned at him, then spontaneously linked arms with him. Toby whistled and excitedly said things like, "You look good together!" The others, too, called out congratulatory words. They turned back to look at each other.
"If you would all please raise your glasses." Mutton looked around at all of their faces. Vincent and Catherine, too, were handed champagne glasses. "Let us pray for their eternal happiness." Mutton raised his own glass high in the air and boomed, "Cheers!"
Clear sounds echoed around. Vincent and Catherine put their glasses together and looked into each other's eyes, and cheerful music began to play inside the bar. Mutton must have prepared it.
She drank enough to dampen her lips, then took the glass away from her mouth.
"I've never heard of a human and a demon getting married before."
"But we got the go-ahead, right?"
At Vincent's words, Catherine blushed and averted her eyes. "Yeah..."
"This way, you two."
Guided by Mutton, they moved to seats for the bride and groom. As Vincent sat down, he heard a grumbled complaint from behind him.
"Goodness me. To think I even have to do all of this..."
"I beat you. This is the least you should be doing." He craned his head and looked up at the "King of Sheep".
"It is no trouble, but still..."
"But still what?"
The morning after he had escaped from the final nightmare, Vincent had awoken safe and sound in his own bed. After that, he had headed straight for the bar. It hadn't opened yet, but after knocking on the door several times Mutton had come out, swaying and covered in wounds.
Vincent had been on alert momentarily, but there was no need. Mutton quickly let Vincent inside, guiding him to a booth and listening to his demands once more. Then, he realised that Catherine was sitting beside him.
Vincent told her how he felt. That he was in love with her. That he wanted to marry her.
At first she was surprised and hesitant, but finally agreed. She even said that she had wanted the same thing. And now, here they were.
"What an absurd thing to say. This woman has been coming and going between dreams since time immemorial, doing wicked deeds to humans. If you continue to involve yourself with her... the blame will not rest on my shoulders."
"Could you not talk like that right in front of me?" Catherine complained. Vincent put his arm around her and told her not to worry about it.
"I'll take responsibility," Vincent said to Mutton. "You have nothin' to worry about."
"If that is so, then I have nothing further to say on the matter."
"Yo, congrats." Orlando strolled over. He held the same bottle as always in his hand. It didn't seem to have been his first. "What a shock, though. I'd heard she was cute, but I didn't think she was this cute."
"I know, right?"
Vincent smiled in response. Looking somehow fidgety, Catherine sat next to him wearing a forced smile. Was she embarrassed by the sudden praise? No, that wasn't it.
Then, Vincent remembered. Orlando had been having the nightmares, too. That meant that he might have also been seduced by Catherine. Orlando must never have dreamt that she would end up being the Catherine right before his eyes, though. Still with his eyes locked on Vincent's, he jerked his chin towards Catherine.
"You'd better make her happy, ya hear?"
"Yeah, I will."
"And no cheatin', either."
"That's not funny, you ass."
"I'm soooo jealous!" Toby pushed past Orlando, brandishing a mug of beer. He already seemed to be fairly drunk. "It's not fair. Or, God is unfair... Compared to you, I..."
"Hey. I'll keep you company whenever you want." Erica poked her face over Toby's shoulder, wrapping her arms around him.
"E-Erica..." Tears of joy filled Toby's eyes.
"Maybe it's about time I started searching for my own soulmate." Jonny had showed up by their side, too. Erica raised an eyebrow.
"What about your current girlfriend?"
"I broke up with her. Speaking of..." Jonny looked straight at Vincent. "I actually asked Katherine if she'd go out with me."
"W-what!?" Orlando exaggeratedly threw himself backwards.
"For real!?" Toby was dumbfounded, too.
Vincent couldn't help but look to his side. Catherine shrugged her shoulders as if to say that she had no idea.
"Yeah. Not that Catherine." Jonny gave him a wry smile. "She's single, so what does it matter if I confess to her?"
"So that's how it was..."
So it was Vincent's former girlfriend that Jonny was talking about after all. That meant that he had been in love with Katherine all this time. He felt apologetic towards Jonny. He had asked his advice on so many things to do with his girlfriend, not having any idea how he felt.
"Moron," Jonny said in a carefree tone, playing it down. "I just happened to see her around town and asked her to see what would happen."
"So, how'd it go?" Erica asked with keen interest.
"She turned me down. I knew she would, though. She said she doesn't feel like dating any guys for a while."
"She seemed to be doing really good. She's working hard, and looks like she's found herself a new purpose."
Hearing this seemed to lessen the burden on his shoulders ever so slightly. Vincent felt apologetic towards Katherine, too. Without having any true convictions about his feelings, he had dragged out their relationship. Then he had cheated, giving her a direct opportunity to talk about breaking up.
"Looks like breaking up with the last guy was the right thing to do," Jonny said in jest.
"You're not wrong," Orlando concurred, holding up his bottle.
Vincent agreed with them, too. However convenient it was for him, he was sure that Katherine would find the right man for her. Even if all of this hadn't happened, she would still have broken up with Vincent one day, anyway.
Thinking this over, he suddenly realised something. Jonny and Orlando hadn't touched upon the fact that Vincent was Katherine's 'last guy', but Catherine must have figured it out long ago. There was a high possibility that she had known all along. Vincent timidly looked over at her, but she was paying no particular attention, having her drink refilled by Mutton.
"It's okay. That was ages ago," she said, noticing Vincent's stare. "They're all nice guys."
"Yeah. Yeah, they are."
They continued drinking, being rowdy, and even dancing a little. A drunken Erica ordered Mutton around. Vincent still couldn't understand their power relationship in the slightest.
"Sorry, everyone," Vincent cut in at a suitable time, taking Catherine's hand and addressing them all. "We're gonna be off now. We leave tonight."
"Your honeymoon? How nice," Erica said enviously, narrowing her eyes.
"Where the hell'd you find that kinda cash, anyway?"
Orlando didn't seem satisfied. Vincent indicated Mutton with his thumb.
"I borrowed it from that old guy."
He had asked him when they met here, at the bar, after he had escaped from the nightmare. He had said no initially, of course, but had reluctantly agreed after being doggedly pursued with, "You said you'd grant any wish, right? Then you won't mind making me a billionaire. You only have to loan it to me."
"It's not like I told him to give it to me. I'm gonna pay it back."
"Oh, you are, are you?" Mutton looked at him dubiously.
"I am! That's what this is funding. Call it investing in myself."
"So, anyway. We'll be off now."
Vincent stood up, linking arms with Catherine once more. She waved her free hand, smiling innocently.
The boarding gate at the spaceport was crowded with a sharply-dressed elderly couple, a middle-aged man who looked like the president of a small company and his companion, a youth who seemed like he might have amassed a sizable fortune in the cyber industry, as well as others. Vincent and Catherine stood out in terms of their age and dress, but you could say that about everyone there, really.
One side of the building was made entirely of glass. A spacecraft was moored at the dock ahead, undergoing preparations. It was fairly gigantic, but smaller than the Mutton from the nightmare. On the other side of the dock was space.
Vincent put his arm around Catherine's shoulders, looking outside. Countless stars twinkled, but he couldn't perceive their depth. They seemed like a few bright points drawn on a pitch black screen. She leaned her head, resting it against Vincent's shoulder.
"Hey. I still can't really believe it."
"Are you really sure about this?" Catherine challenged, but he could see a hint of anxiety in her eyes. "I'm not a human, you know? Aren't you scared?"
"A bit. But we'll get by."
Vincent had overcome incredible trials to reunite with Catherine. Whether she tried to kill him or he was attacked by a demon, one way or another he would cope.
"I've already prepared myself."
"Prepared?" She fluttered her long eyelashes, staring up at him.
Vincent nodded. "Before, I was worried about all kinds of things like life and the future, so I let a lot of things pass me by. But after meeting you, I feel like I can get through it."
"What are you saying?"
She seemed uneasy. Maybe it was because Vincent was behaving unusually. Come to think of it, she had always been the one taking the initiative in their conversations.
"I'm not saying it's gonna be plain sailing or anything. The world is built on perseverance and self-sacrifice, after all. Everyone holds themselves back and goes along with the crowd. I was the same way. I guess it was because I was scared. Because I was scared of the things I said earlier."
Vincent went on. "But I realised that I didn't want to live like that. Living freely isn't easy. Everything's your own responsibility, and there are no guarantees. There's so much to worry about. It ended up making me do horrible shit, like have those nightmares. But I still don't wanna go back to living like a sheep."
Catherine's mouth hung open vacantly, staring up at Vincent like a child who'd been shown a magic trick. Soon noticing the silence, she hurriedly replied, "Y-yeah. I wanna live freely with you."
An announcement played over the speakers, the electronic notice board over the boarding gate changing. It was time to board. The passengers around them stood up, beginning to gather their hand luggage. Catherine glanced over the queue, speaking hesitantly.
"But living with me means..."
"I know. I don't mind not being human anymore."
Catherine's eyes widened. Perhaps she hadn't anticipated that his response would go so far.
"I told you, right? I'm prepared."
The line of passengers was swallowed up by the boarding gate. Vincent moved away from Catherine for a moment, then scooped up her hands and covered them with his.
"It might be scary, but let me ask you again. I want you. Be with me, Catherine."
Her line of sight wandered around in space, but eventually she settled down and gave a slight nod.
Her ears and nape reddened, the corners of her mouth spontaneously curving upwards. Her eyes downcast, Vincent lifted her chin and softly brought her startled lips against his.