It was a forbidden love. It was a tale of star crossed lovers, worthy of ballads and songs. It was a story that would be passed down through generation after generation.
It was the story of Joost and Kuwei.
They met on a hot summer night. Kerch summers were rarely hot, and the humidity made it all worse. Joost had recently been fired from his job as a Stadwatch Officer. Stupid purple vest. He thought, taking it off both out of spite and to comply with the weather. He was sitting on a stool inside the Crow Club. It wasn’t his usual spot, but Joost knew the area.
Tonight he would drink his problems away, he decided, and ordered another refill. As Joost started to feel the effects of the alcohol, he noticed somebody walk up to him. He glared.
“Retvenko.” He addressed the taller man coolly. His ex.
“Joost.” Retvenko’s accent curled around the words. He’d always hated the way his name sounded coming from him. “I didn't expect to see you here tonight. Still pining after Anya?”
Joost huffed. “No, I’ve been over it for months. Besides, she happens to prefer tall Fjerdan girls rather than short Kerch men.”
Retvenko laughed a bit. “I happen to prefer those type of men.” He leaned close to Joost’s ear, his breath smelling like whiskey.
“Back off.” Joost elbowed him. Retvenko stepped back a bit, before grabbing Joost’s sleeve instead. Joost’s blood was practically boiling at this point.
“Hey.” He heard a stranger’s voice chime in. Joost turned in surprise. He had a bit of an accent, the Shu boy who had butted in. “The man said to back off.”
And thus, as the night went on, Joost began to learn more about the mysterious Shu boy. His name was Kuwei, and he had just returned to Kerch from Ravka. He was Grisha, Joost only learned much, much later.
“Joost…” Kuwei tried, putting a hand on his shoulder. They’d been going out for a few months now.
“We can’t be together, Kuwei.”
“Why not? You know I don't care what other's think. I never have. You shouldn’t either. We’re outcasts, Jo.”
“My parents. They hate Grisha. They’d never…”
“So? I love you. It doesn’t matter what your parents think.”
“Who would even come to the wedding?”
As it turned out, there were many people who came to the wedding. There were Joosts’ friends from the Stadwatch, and Anya. There were the Dregs. And there were Kuwei’s friends from Ravka.
“Congratulations!” Adrik had patted Kuwei on the back, and soon even Kaz had given his congrats. Anya, the maid of honor, was in charge of decorating, and eventually passed out into a very surprised Inej’s arms from stress. And then, Wylan had given his speech (him being Kuwei’s best man).
He held up his wine glass awkwardly, and cleared his throat. Instantly, the whole room quieted. Wylan began to speak.
“In my life, I’ve seen many people fall in and out of love. I mean, I’ve fallen in love myself.” Jesper gave a wink in his husband’s direction. “But nothing I’ve seen could compare to Joost and Kuwei. When you look at them.” His bright blue eyes filled with happy tears as he looked at his best friend and his fiancé. “You can tell that love is real.”
There was applause. Kuwei was moved to tears. It was time for the ceremony.
The Apparat was dressed in his priests’ robes. Yes, he had indeed come all the way from Ravka, Adrik and Leoni dragging him along. Nina was giving him dirty looks the entire ceremony.
“Kuwei Yul-Bo, do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband?”
“And do you, Joost Van Poel, take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband?”
“Does anybody have any objections?” The Apparat looked upon the long room absentmindedly, not expecting anybody to say anything.
Retvenko stood up. Joost glared, and Kuwei looked like he was about to punch a hole in the wall.
“Joost,” Retvenko began. “I have loved you since we were eighteen.”
“No.” Joost’s scowl deepened. “You like the idea of me. Please proceed with the ceremony.”
The Apparat nodded. “You may now kiss the groom.”
Applause erupted through the room. Neither man felt like they had ever been happier.