Chapter 18:

With a Love Sorceress, I’ll Solve the Crime (Sort of?)

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

Toren kicked his boots, his tabby-colored tail flicking back and forth in a nervous motion.

The moon was well on its way to being full, and its light filled the orchard. Under that pale moonlight, surrounded by the glowing shimmer of the trees, Toren’s hunched posture stared at the ground.

“Toren, you know who’s behind this?” I asked. “You didn’t hear my conversation with Clai—” I caught myself and cleared my throat. “With Miss Bradleton this morning, did you?”

“Eh?” Toren blinked. “I mean, I heard a little, but you guys were just talking about stars or something.”

I let out a relieved breath. “So you don’t suspect us?”

“No, I mean, you two are weird and I don’t know what’s going on between you, but I don’t suspect you,” Toren chuckled, then glanced aside. “It was something else that happened yesterday...”

I felt excited. This might be it! “Tell me, then we’ll go wake up Mia and Mister Faralind and let them know!”

The half-beast looked conflicted. “That’s just it,” he mumbled. His yellow eyes flicked towards mine. “I can’t tell you.”

“I know we’re rivals, Toren,” I grumbled, “but this is the best lead we have so far. Why can’t you tell me? Aren’t we all on the same side here?”

“You have to answer something for me first,” the half-beast murmured, leaning his back against one of the fruit trees. “Why do you want to marry Mia?”

Toren asked the question casually, but I knew he expected a real answer.

“Because I...I love her?” The answer sounded weak even to my own ears. Did I love her? I clenched my fist and tried again. “No, that’s — that’s not really right. I got her involved in rumors with my proposal, so I want to fix that.” More quietly, another answer arose in my heart. “And, I guess, I’m also trying to make up for a mistake I made in the past; a mistake with someone who looked really similar to Mia…”

Toren turned his head to the side. “So you want to fix some old mistake?”

I held my forehead, grumbling. “I don’t know! Maybe? I want to help Mia, believe me when I say that! That’s all I really know at this point.” I fell to a whisper. “Even if I don’t spend my life with her, I want to leave this village knowing I didn’t accidentally make Mia’s life worse just by being here.”

Toren was quiet, observing my reaction. Finally, the cat boy let out a sudden shout and reached forward, shaking my shoulders back and forth excessively.

“Why are you so nice?” Toren bemoaned. “Stop it! I’m supposed to hate you! You’re supposed to be an evil elf here to steal Mia away! Be more evil! Evil Roki!”

Somehow in the middle of being shaken like an exercise weight, I started laughing.

“I’m sorry I’m not more evil,” I spoke through my laughter. Toren let me go. I remembered why I was here, and why I was even doing all this. “Mia asked me to stay, and I want to help her. It’s as simple as that,” I said resolutely, maybe finally realizing the answer for myself.

Toren pouted and slammed his fist against one of the nearby trees. Or rather, he tried to, but he stopped himself short so he wouldn’t hurt the bark.

“How can you say that so easily?” Toren mumbled. “H-how can you talk to Mia? I mean, you’ve seen me. I totally freeze up!”

I let out a slow exhale of breath. “I’ve had a lot of help,” I admitted.

I wouldn’t be able to say these things if it wasn’t for Claire. Her advice taught me so much these last few days, both about Mia...and about myself. Looking back on this morning, I still couldn’t believe what I’d said to her.

I’d have to thank Claire when she came back, and apologize to her properly.

Toren let out an exasperated noise and looked at me seriously with his cat-like eyes. “Fine, fine! Alright, Rokkun, we’ve got to work together. Because I can’t tell Mia who it is.” The half-beast clenched his hand tightly. “S-so maybe you can tell her for me.”

His cat-like eyes were nervous as he whispered:

“Because...I’m pretty sure it’s her own father.”


The rooster crowed early, right before the first light of dawn, just as Mister Faralind made his way downstairs for his morning tea. He was still rubbing the sleep from his eyes, when he noticed two people sitting at his dining room table.

Namely: myself and Toren. We sat there, waiting for him, our eyes baggy from our lack of sleep. We stayed up all night trying to figure out the how and the why, and what we should do. But in the end, all we decided was that we needed to confront the man himself.

Thus in our (slightly neurotic, very sleep-deprived) state, we waited at the table.

“Ah-hah!” Toren shouted as Mister Faralind neared. “The culprit approaches! Spill the beans, old man!”

I took one glance at Toren. “Spill the beans?” I muttered, shaking my head.

The farmer stared at us, baffled. “Good morning, you two. Did you find something?”

“Yeah!” Toren continued. “I heard you spraying something onto the trees yesterday. And then when I went to look, I saw you tending to them as usual...except that those were the exact trees that were poisoned!” The half-beast folded his arms, proud of himself. “I bet you didn’t think anyone was watching! But I’m real stealthy.”

I watched Mister Faralind, judging his reaction. The man tried to hide it at first, keeping up his confused act. Then, he faltered: a guilty look passing across his brow, before he finally let out a sad breath and took a seat at the table. He folded his hands together and had a hardened expression.

“I knew it would probably come to this,” Mister Faralind admitted. “With all Mia was trying to do, I should have just left the crops alone this year.”

“We just want to know why, Mister Faralind,” I asked, pleadingly. “You’re the one that has the most to lose here. You’re destroying your own crops — destroying your money, your reputation. Why would you do that?”

The older gentleman was rigid, before answering. “Because I don’t mind losing those things, if it keeps Mia safe.”


I grit my teeth, refusing to accept that answer. “But Mia loves this place! She wants to see the orchard flourish, and get rid of the awful rumors.”

“It’s those same rumors that are keeping us from harm,” Mister Faralind replied. “You boys don’t understand, the King’s men wanted to arrest me after what happened to my brother. They said I didn’t deserve to live here, since I was under suspicion. But they never could prove anything, and the situation just kept looking worse — like they might take me away, and leave Mia by herself. She wouldn’t have anyone to stand up for her then. What could one girl do against the nearby Dukes that wanted this land?” He gripped his hand against the tablecloth. “So I...I started a rumor that we were cursed, and poisoned the plants. That way they would think it was punishment from the beyond. That way no one would want these orchards, or try to take us from here.”

He sadly stood, padding over to the stove so he could make his tea. His hands fumbled as he tried to ignite the wooden bellows.

“What I didn’t expect...was that Mia would love this place so much,” Mister Faralind mumbled. “I thought after a year or two, we would move away and put this behind us. But she just kept wanting to stay. And so...I just kept ruining the plants, because I didn’t know what else to do.” He let out a long sigh. “I didn’t want her to live in her family’s shadow for the rest of her life.” The older man glanced towards me. “That’s why I’m supportive of you. If Mia marries into an elven family, she’d get away from this.”

I could see that look in Mister Faralind’s eyes. He was pleading for me to keep his secret, and in exchange he would support my marriage of Mia. But I shook my head.

“It’s time you stopped this, Mister Faralind,” I gently replied. “You and Mia aren’t alone anymore.”

I shoved Toren forward encouragingly. The half-beast was nervous, but he gathered himself and said, “T-that’s right! I’ll protect Mia for the rest of my life! I’ll never let anyone take her home from her! Right, Rokkun? That sounded cool, right?”

I held back the urge to palm my face. At least Toren had the right sentiment.

I turned back to Mister Faralind, who had gone a bit pale. I think he knew what I was about to say.

“It’s time you told Mia the truth.”