Meanwhile, Zhu Hong had brought the little phoenix chick over to his house. He carefully held it with one hand while he closed the door behind him. Before he had even managed to close it completely, the little phoenix already jumped from his hand. Zhu Hong whirled around in a panic, hastily pushing against the door with his back and glancing at the windows to make sure that neither of them was open. Thankfully, he had indeed closed them before he left the house before. He heaved a sigh of relief, glad that he wouldn’t need to rush outside and alarm everyone else. This really … it seemed that taking care of a little phoenix could be quite difficult.
The phoenix didn’t actually intend to run away either. It jumped onto the ground, fluttering its tiny wings to make sure that it wouldn’t crash down. As soon as it landed, the energy around it changed and it turned into the graceful figure of a male youth.
He raised his hands, looking at them with a smile, and then turned back to Zhu Hong, his gaze almost seeming as if he was asking for praise.
Zhu Hong stared at the phoenix, needing a moment to sort his thoughts. He really was pretty. He had a pair of apricot-colored eyes and waist-length, pearl-white hair. It reminded him of how the egg had looked back when he found it. He unwittingly smiled at it and then left his place at the door, stepping closer. He reached out his hands and gingerly took Zhen Zhu’s. “Welcome.”
The little phoenix stared up at his face, his expression crumbling a little. A phoenix could take on an appearance they felt would represent them the best. When he had seen Zhu Hong, he had really liked the way he looked so that was what he thought of when finally being allowed to transform. Now though, he had to find out that there were a lot of differences between them. The most prominent being that Zhu Hong was actually two heads taller than him.
Zhu Hong noticed that his future spouse seemed to be a little out of it. He tilted his head, giving him a questioning look. “What’s the matter?” He reached up and brushed back his hair, only to finally realize that the little one wasn’t wearing any clothes. Well, he probably should have figured. The little phoenix had been brought over immediately after hatching from the egg. Where were his clothes supposed to come from?
He hastily took back his hands and then cleared his throat. “Wait, I’ve prepared your robe for the wedding.” He turned to the side and then grabbed an exquisite box that had been standing on a cupboard at the side of the room. He had kept it right in the first room so he would be able to get it fast. He brought it over to Zhen Zhu and then held it, motioning for him to open the lid.
Zhen Zhu wasn’t quite sure what to do. He looked at the box and then back up at Zhu Hong, and finally pointed at his nose. “For me?” Despite how he looked, his voice was surprisingly hoarse.
Zhu Hong was stunned for a moment until he realized that this little one had just transformed and thus was using his voice for the first time. Thinking of that, he smiled. “Yes, it’s for you.”
Zhen Zhu was happy hearing that. He tried to take the box from Zhu Hong but his future spouse didn’t let go.
“Careful. The box is quite heavy. What’s for you is inside. Just take a look, I’ll hold the box for you in the meantime.”
Zhen Zhu looked up and blinked his eyes in confusion. He fumbled around for a bit but then managed to open the lid.
Zhu Hong grabbed the box with one arm instead and then held the lid up with the other hand so Zhen Zhu could look at the robe inside by himself.
The little phoenix’s eyes widened when he saw the bright colors of the dress. It was actually a shimmering pearl-white with apricot-colored embroidery, similar to how he himself looked. He looked up at Zhu Hong with some surprise, not quite sure what this meant.
Zhu Hong smiled. “Do you like it? I chose the colors based on the shell of your egg. It had a pearl-white base with an apricot-colored pattern on top. I hope that I got the pattern right.” He looked at the wedding robe for a moment before looking back up at Zhen Zhu. His little fiance seemed quite happy with his choice. It seemed that despite the connection they lacked, he had still been able to make him happy. This wasn’t bad. It seemed that their future was up to a good start. “You can take it out. It’s for you to wear for the wedding ceremony.”
Zhen Zhu nodded eagerly and then took out the beautiful robe, unfolding it to get a better look. Because of the memories he had inherited from his clan, he actually knew a bit about the world outside. It was just that these memories that weren’t his couldn’t quite compare to seeing things on his own. He knew what a wedding robe was or a wedding in general even. He had also known that the robes were usually made to resemble the ones who were getting married. But he really wouldn’t have thought that he would have such a beautiful robe. He was quite happy with that.
After looking it over from all sides, he started to unravel the three different layers and then started putting on the innermost one while he gave the other ones back to Zhu Hong. Soon enough, the little phoenix was dressed completely, and looked at Zhu Hong, asking for praise. He couldn’t see himself but he definitely felt very beautiful in this robe. It fit him perfectly as if Zhu Hong had known how he would look back when he had the robe designed.
In fact, Zhu Hong hadn’t had any idea. Before phoenixes hatched and then finally transformed, not even their gender was clear. So he hadn’t quite known if he was supposed to make a robe for a female or for a male one. The difference wasn’t that big save for the fact that the cut was a little bit different. Thankfully, the fabric he had used could accommodate different bodies. It would fit almost any type. Now that Zhen Zhu wore it, it just was a little bit flowier than if he had been bigger.
“You’re looking beautiful. There is also some jewelry. Do you want to wear it?” He motioned inside the box but didn’t move to have Zhen Zhu put it on immediately. While the robe was customary and the jewelry definitely needed to be prepared, not all phoenixes liked wearing it. Their feathers were their greatest beauty. Some felt that jewelry would take away from that and thus weren’t willing to put any on.
Zhen Zhu wasn’t like that at all. He curiously opened the smaller box at the bottom of this one and looked at the set of jewelry that was lying in there, then, he took out one piece after the other. Turning them over in his hands, he finally nodded.
Zhu Hong still smiled at him. This little one wasn’t one for many words it seemed. Or maybe he just needed a bit more time to get used to everything. That would remain to be seen. “Alright. Put it on then. Do you need help with something?”
Zhen Zhu first put on the bracelet that came with the set, and then slowly looked over the rings. There was a set of ten, one for each finger. He hesitated for a moment and then picked one for his left hand, pushing it on his finger and looking at his hands again. He really liked his hands. Although they were smaller than Zhu Hong’s, they were still neat. Happily, he picked out a few ornaments for his hair as well. He knew that these were to be worn with some more complicated hairstyles so he looked at Zhu Hong questioningly.
The dragon motioned over to a table in the next room where two chairs had been prepared, one on each side. “Let’s go over there. I’ll do your hair.” He led him over, grabbing a mirror on the way over, and putting it on the table.
Zhen Zhu immediately grabbed onto it when he sat down, and turned it in all directions, taking a look at his own face. His eyes lit up immediately and he couldn’t help but touch his cheeks, his white eyebrows, and wrap a strand of his hair around his fingers.
Zhu Hong picked up a brush from the side and combed the other side of Zhen Zhu’s hair while giving him a long look through the mirror. “Didn’t I say you were very beautiful? You will definitely make the phoenix clan proud.”
Zhen Zhu nodded and let go of his hair, putting the mirror down again. He turned it so that he could see Zhu Hong, and then just folded his hands in his lap, waiting for his fiance to finish doing his hair. He was really curious how it would look when it was finished.
Zhu Hong took his time in doing Zhen Zhu’s hair. This day would never come again. He wasn’t quite sure how dragons would show that they were really connected with the partner they had chosen but he felt that doing for them what would likely make them happy should be one of those things. Even if it didn’t mean love, it still meant that the relationship could be successful. And looking at Zhen Zhu’s pleased expression right now, he felt that he was on a good way to make this work.
The little phoenix was originally watching how Zhu Hong did his hair but in the end, his gaze slipped a little further and he looked at his future husband’s face instead. Zhu Hong … other than being taller than him, he also seemed quite a bit more mature and had a bit of a rough beauty to him. While Zhen Zhu didn’t begrudge his own looks, he definitely liked how Zhu Hong looked as well. If he could grow a little bit taller and become more like him, he definitely wouldn’t mind. In any case, he just hatched not too long ago. It probably wouldn’t be a problem.
Looking further, he finally couldn’t help but turn around a bit and then pick up one of the vermilion strands of hair that were hanging over Zhu Hong’s shoulder.
His husband looked over and then smiled. “Do you like it?”
Zhen Zhu played around with it for a while and then nodded. “It’s so vibrant. Unlike mine.” He glanced at the mirror, a bit unhappy for a moment. The two of them were quite different.
Zhu Hong just smiled, not thinking that anything was wrong with that. “Your hair color is very refreshing. It’s like a cool morning in the winter or the white clouds floating over the sky, giving you a feeling of the world being unlimited. It’s also really good.”
Zhen Zhu’s expression turned back into a happy one and he nodded. “Yes, it’s quite good.” In fact, this kind of bright red hair probably wouldn’t look good with his eyes anyway. White hair was really good.
Soon enough, Zhu Hong finished with his work and stepped back, motioning for Zhen Zhu to look take a look. “What do you say? Do you like it this way?” Personally, he was quite proud of his handiwork. He had never liked doing any intricate hairstyles for himself and just preferred to let his hair hang free or maybe tie it up at the top when he went out hunting. But he had to admit that Zhen Zhu’s hair was really beautiful.
The white feathers had seemed to sparkle in the sunlight before and even now that they were in a closed room, the pale white hair just had a kind of magic to it. Because of that, he actually hadn’t wanted to hide too much. He had just taken a part of the hair and brushed it up to the top, making it form a small bun at the back of Zhen Zhu’s head, with a few braided strands creating three rings around it. Then he had inserted the jewelry into the small mound. It showcased the length of his hair, but also added a bit of a playful touch to the top.
Zhen Zhu looked at it from all sides and then nodded, making the small gems on the hairpin jiggle. “It’s beautiful. I really like it.” Especially since he felt that this made him look slightly more mature. His face was still looking too young but he could deal with it. After growing a bit more outside of his egg, he would definitely start looking different. After all, he had seen the faces of the Grandelder and the other Elders after he hatched. They definitely all seemed older than him. That couldn’t just be chance. No, it had definitely to do with their age.
Zhu Hong had no idea that his fiance was grappling with his age so much and just nodded. “In that case, are you ready to go over to the temple to hold the ceremony?”
Zhen Zhu nodded and got to his feet as well, stepping next to Zhu Hong.
The memories of the phoenix race told him that this man was his husband that he would spend the rest of his life with. Because of that, he wasn’t shy at all and just treated him as an extension of himself. And if it was himself, then what reason was there to hold anything back?
Zhu Hong smiled and took his hand, leading him to the door and outside of the house. “I hope you’re not nervous.”
Zhen Zhu shook his head. “No, I’m not. Anyway, can you do my hair every day? I really like it this way.” By now, Zhen Zhu’s voice wasn’t as hoarse anymore and he seemed to be speaking more. It seemed he had really just needed a bit of time to get used to this new form.
Zhu Hong looked at him and raised his brows in surprise. “Alright? Well, if you like it, then naturally, I’ll do it whenever I can. Sometimes, I need to go out for missions though. On those days, you’ll have to do it on your own. But I can show you how to if you struggle with it.”
Zhen Zhu nodded, not worried about that. In any case, some days didn’t sound like much. Most likely, it would only be every now and then. He could probably do with looking a bit younger on those days.
Soon enough, the two of them arrived in front of the temple. Zhen Zhu curiously looked up, not bothering about the dragons and phoenixes that were standing around, cheering for them.
Zhu Hong just smiled and let him be. In any case, this was all new to Zhen Zhu. Most of the memories that the phoenixes inherited related to things that directly concerned their race as far as he was aware. This meant that most likely, he didn’t know how most things in the valley of the dragons looked. It was best to give him a bit of time right now.
Inside the temple, Grandelder Lan Jing slightly raised her brows. “Sounds like the two of them are already here.”
Grandelder Zise couldn’t help but give a hum. “It also sounds like our Zhu Hong is taking his sweet time in bringing his fiance in.”
The phoenix just shot him a look. “Why would he need to hurry so much? In any case, giving his future spouse time to orient themselves is quite good. As I said, I have high hopes for them.”
A female Elder couldn’t help but pipe up. “I heard that Elder Bi had raised him?”
Elder Bi had been beaming the whole time and happily nodded when the Elder asked him. “That’s quite right, yes, yes. Unfortunately, the boy’s parents are already gone. His mother died early on and his father was grievously injured later on. I knew him quite well so I promised to take care of his son until he was doing better. Unfortunately, he didn’t make it in the end. Well, I never regretted my decision to help out. Zhu Hong … I think of him like I think of my own children so I think I can judge quite well what type of person he is. And there is only one thing I have to say: You really don’t need to be afraid for your little one. If there’s one dragon in the current generation that I would dare to hand my own phoenix child to for him take care of, it would definitely be Zhu Hong.”
Another one of the Elders couldn’t help but speak up. “I would say you are clearly biased, Elder Bi. Don’t speak this badly about the other youngsters. None of them have done anything wrong.”
Elder Bi chuckled. “Not doing anything wrong is not the same as being better than Zhu Hong.”
The other Elder just rolled his eyes but didn’t say anything. In any case, today was Zhu Hong’s wedding. There really was no reason to say anything bad about him today. He’d just let Elder Bi have this one day.
Outside, Zhen Zhu finally felt like he had seen enough and turned to look at his husband.
The dragon likely squeezed his hand and then motioned towards the gates. “Ready? Let’s go in then.”
Zhen Zhu nodded and the two of them walked over to the gate. Two dragons that had been standing to the side rushed forward and then opened the gate for them so they could pass unhindered.
Zhen Zhu couldn’t help but also take a look around the inside of the temple. His eyes lit up when he saw the markings on the ground and the statue of the dragon god on the other side that overlooked the hall. He had about a thousand questions about this but seeing the Elders of his own clan and the Elders of the dragon clan that they had met up with previously, he just felt like right now wasn’t the right moment to ask even a single one of them.
He felt a bit regretful about that but it was alright. He could still ask Zhu Hong about all of these things when they went home together later on. And he was sure that they would do that. In any case, he understood very well what this wedding was about. It signified the start of their life together. So from now on, they would hardly ever be separated again.
Zhu Hong led him forward and nodded at the Elders.
The expressions of the Grandelder and Elders of the phoenix clan lit up as soon as they saw Zhen Zhu in that beautiful robe. Clearly, his future husband had taken quite the pains to make this possible in just the seven days he had been given.
Usually, an egg would need up to one year after it had been brought back to the phoenix clan after being taken from the mountain. That was more than enough time for the dragons to prepare everything for them. But Zhu Hong … he had only been given so little time. It was almost a miracle that he had been able to make this happen.
Well, they could only hope that he had been just as thorough with everything else that would be needed for his new spouse. But in any case, the robe was something that needed to be ready for today. As for everything else, there was still a bit of leeway. The robe could be worn today and starting from tomorrow, he didn’t necessarily need something just as intricate. No, it would be alright if he just had something simple for the time being. Afterward, there would still be opportunities to get something better after a bit more time had passed and Zhu Hong had had the chance to prepare more.
Still, it would probably be good to take a look at the house. There was no rule that the phoenix clan couldn’t help them out with what they needed. And in a situation like this, they would definitely be happy to do so.
Whether it was Grandelder Lan Jing or the other Elders, they all promised themselves inwardly to bring it up with either Zhu Hong or Elder Bi later on. It was definitely best to not make a big fuss about this. After all, they might sound as if they doubted Zhu Hong’s ability if they something like this.
The dragon-phoenix couple walked to the front of the hall and Zhu Hong helped Zhen Zhu kneel down in front of the statue. Now, it was time for them to get married.