Chapter 3:

With a Love Sorceress, I’ll Get In Over My Head

With a Love Sorceress I'll Make My Romance Last!

A scenic painting: a glistening lake, a warm breeze, and the rustling of trees in a quaint village. In the foreground of this portrait stood two people — myself, and the young woman staring at me. We stood in the yard of her household, surrounded by daisies and marigolds.

Down on one knee, I asked her, “Amamiya, will you marry me?”

It should have been wonderful moment; magical, a culmination of romance and sweetness.

This was a dream, after all.

But then, Amamiya pulled away from my hand, dumbfounded.

“What?” Her voice was high-pitched in surprise. She blinked, then made an even louder exclamation in her shock.

Finally prompted into action, Amamiya’s father jumped to his feet. He scurried closer, and pulled Amamiya aside.

“Mia!” The father said in a hushed whisper, cupping his hand and talking to her ear. “He’s an elf! An elf!”

“I know dad,” she whispered back. “But what’s an elf doing in our village? They’re supposed to stay in their sanctuary for hundreds of years!”

Her father shook his head. “That doesn’t matter. He wants to marry you! Marriage! Think of the money.”

The man glanced at me, and I felt a shiver. From the way the man’s eyes glinted with greed, I could just feel his thoughts. He looked at my hair, and I immediately knew he would shave my head clean as a monk in order to sell those golden locks.

“Dad!” Amamiya objected again, louder this time. “Think about me, your daughter. I’m not marrying some strange elf I’ve never met.”

The father spared one more glance at the potential wealth of my hair, then let out a long sigh. He placed himself firmly in front of me.

“I don’t know who this ‘Amamiya’ is that you’re looking for,” the father began, “but you’ve got the wrong person. My daughter’s name is Mia.”

“Mia?” I asked, confused. This dream wasn’t going where I expected.

“She’s Mia Faralind, and I’m Toma Faralind,” he clarified. “There’s no Amamiya here.”

For just one moment, I considered the idea that maybe this wasn’t a dream.

If this was real, and I really was in some kind of parallel world...then this version of Amamiya didn’t know me at all, and I had just proposed to her out of nowhere.

“Oh, I, uh.” I started spewing random half-sentences.

A condescending ‘tut-tut-tut’ came from across the yard. Madam Claire flicked her wrist and the wooden fence gate opened instantly before her. She still wore her swaying purple robes, and her comically over-sized witch hat. Yet, for a moment she truly seemed mystical enough to be a sorceress.

Yet, her hazel eyes were glaring at me, one hand upon her waist in disdain.

“Mister Hiroyuki,” she called grumpily, marching forward and grabbing me by my (now very sensitive) elf ears. I let out a shout as I was pulled aside.

Mia’s father tried to intervene. “Miss Bradleton! What a surprise! Is it, uh, alright to treat an elf that way?”

Madam Claire put on a perfectly amicable smile. “Oh don’t worry, I know this particular elf. Let me talk to him for a moment and I’ll get this sorted out. Good day to you both.”

Claire then left them speechless as she dragged me away by my (ever-more-painful) ear. We rounded a corner, passed another home front, then came to an abandoned tool shed. Claire pulled open the door and hoisted me inside, then followed after.

I rubbed my reddening ear, coughing from the layer of dust we kicked up.

Altogether confused, I turned towards Madam Claire. “So is your name Miss Bradleton in this dream-world then?” I ventured.

“Dream-world? Mister Hiroyuki, this isn’t a dream. The world of Farelle is real. Here, humans don’t trust sorceresses, and they’re certainly wary around elves.” She reached out and prodded one of my ears to emphasize her point. “That’s why I use a magical disguise.”

Claire snapped her fingers and spun around, and suddenly appeared like a middle-aged woman. Her hair was brown and tied in a bun, while her clothes were made of beige linens like all the other villagers. “I use a bit of magic to make everyone in Farelle think I am Miss Bradleton, a kindly neighbor of theirs.”

Madam Claire then snapped her fingers again, and she returned to her normal, majestic appearance.

I felt embarrassment grow in my chest. “You could have warned me this was real sooner!”

“I tried to,” Madam Claire let out a breath, holding her forehead. “But you ran off before I could stop you.”

A bit ashamed, I realized she was right.

Madam Claire folded her arms, then opened one of her eyes. “However, I’ll admit, I am partially to blame,” she said in a softer tone. “I thought having you wake up near Mia would help you believe that this really was another world — but I didn’t think you’d assume it was a dream instead.”

I winced. “Sorry.”

Claire shook her head. “Let’s go back to my hut, then I can explain things.”

Without waiting for my response, Madam Claire deftly pulled open the shed door, stepped through it, and then...vanished. I stared at the doorway, wondering where she had gone. All I could see was the sunny afternoon outside. I reached forward. As soon as my hand passed over the threshold of the doorway, my fingers disappeared. I yelled and pulled back, glad to find to find my hand still whole.

“Is there a portal there or something?” I wondered, frightened.

Then, suddenly, Madam Claire’s slender wrist appeared. Her floating hand grabbed my shirt by the collar and pulled me through.

Shouting, I tumbled through the invisible portal. The sun flashed in my eyes for a moment, then, I fell against a hard floor. Gaining my bearings, I looked around.

I was in a dim room similar to the ‘office’ where I first met Madam Claire — except now, the space was larger and the walls were rounded at the edges. Colorful tassels hung from the ceiling, interspersed with floating candles and draping cloth. A maroon carpet sprawled over the floor and ornate Victorian furniture filled the room. Despite how I felt like I’d somehow transported to a mystical European mansion, what made me most confused was the chill. The air had a cool dryness to it, as though I was in a cave. Nervously, I stepped towards one of the windows and pulled back the heavy curtain.

What awaited me was not the summer afternoon I expected, but a swirling emptiness: a void spread out in all directions, with twinkles of unknown sparks in the distance. I instantly stepped back in horror.

“Is it that frightening?” Madam Claire inquired, glancing into the darkness. “I’ve become so used to it, I’d forgotten.”

“Where are we?” I asked nervously. “And who are you really?”

My initial excitement over this being some dream-trance was wearing off. Now nervousness hung in my stomach, realizing I was in another world entirely, brought here by this mysterious woman that I barely knew — a woman who had magic strong enough to turn me into an elf.

If this wasn’t a dream, I was in trouble.

Madam Claire smiled, her eyes narrowing. “We are at my hut, which exists between worlds. A dimensionless space, if you would.”

“Okay, dimensionless, great, got it,” I nodded, not understanding any of it. I ran my hands over my face in exasperation, but then noticed that my hands were back to being my hands. I was wearing my own work suit. I pulled down a strand of my bangs: my hair was black again!

Seeing this, Madam Claire chuckled. “While you’re in a dimensionless space, my transformation spells won’t work. You’ll be your true self again.”

While I was glad I hadn’t permanently become an elf, I didn’t let this momentary victory distract me.

“Still,” I mumbled, distraught. “What is going on? Aren’t you supposed to be some kind of person that gives love advice? My coworker Ohta said you helped him and his wife get together. He never mentioned any actual magic like this!” I gestured to the floating candles above, starting to panic.

“Ohta, hmm?” Claire mused on the name, tapping her lip. “Ohta, Ohta…” She scrunched her forehead, trying to remember. Her face brightened. “Oh! Yes! The Ohtas! Hanako and Masaru. How are they doing after their marriage?”

I sighed. “Did you transport them to another world too?”

“Definitely not!” Claire laughed. “The wife, Hanako, came to me for help.”

Claire summoned her hand-mirror again, and offered it to me. Within its reflection, I saw a young girl, presumably Hanako, step into Claire’s office.

“Hanako asked me to help her meet this wonderful man she’d spoken to on the train,” Claire explained. As she spoke, the mirror showed a flash of Masaru and Hanako riding in a train car together. “I checked their stars, and saw they were a close match for each other.”

“And then you used your magic to make them fall in love?” I assumed.

Claire shook her head. “Magic cannot make people fall in love, Mister Hiroyuki. Trust me, love spells never end well.” She then tapped on the mirror again, and it showed a coffee shop. “I just needed to create an opportunity for them to meet. Hanako had a coffee shop where she liked to study. All I needed to do was make Masaru stop by, and Hanako would have her chance.”

“So then you used your magic to teleport him there?” I guessed again.

“No,” Claire laughed. “I sent him advertisements. Every website he visited suddenly had a banner for the coffee shop. Every television show would play the shop’s jingle during the break. Eventually, aggravated by all the ads, he went to the café and Hanako did the rest on her own.”

“Wait wait wait,” I held up a hand, “you mean that Ohta got suggested ads while I got transported to another world?”

Madam Claire let out a grin. “What can I say? Mister Hiroyuki, your stars are a far more challenging case.”