Chapter 23:

With a Love Sorceress, Undercooked Bamboo will be (Slightly) Toxic

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

How exactly…did things end up like this?

I stood in the kitchen of the Faralind household, holding up a paring knife.

Next to me, Mia was eagerly washing the dirt from a basket of bamboo shoots. She looked at me with a smile. She wore a beige linen dress today, topped with a white apron. In the light of the afternoon, the sight of us cooking together should have been the picture of a cute young couple.

...but for some reason Toren was there too.

The half-beast was also wearing an apron: particularly one a little too small for him, with a heart-shape embroidered on the front.

Mia nodded as Toren brought her more bamboo shoots to wash. “Thank you Toren-nii,” she grinned. “And sorry you have to borrow my old apron. But since you’re the one digging up the bam-boo shoots, I didn’t want you to ruin your clothes.”

Toren waved his hands cheerily, letting her know it wasn’t a problem.

Mia pursed her lips. “I’m surprised though,” she mumbled. “I only invited Roki over this afternoon to teach me these elven recipes. You really didn’t have to help us, Toren-nii.”

Toren gave her a smile and brought a fist to his chest, happy to serve. Then, he shot a glare at me behind Mia’s back.

Toren didn’t have to say a word. I could clearly hear the half-beast’s thoughts: ‘I’m not leaving you alone with Mia! Not a chance!’ He growled and hissed in my direction.

...I wasn’t ever going to be able to ask Mia on a second date with him around, was I?

But maybe that wasn’t a bad thing. I’d asked Madam Claire to send me back to Earth after the Painted Moon Festival. It was better to let go of my feelings for Mia now, since I wasn’t planning on staying here.

Then Toren stuck out his tongue at me.

I returned Toren’s childish behavior with a thinly-veiled threat. “You do realize I’m the one with the knife, here?” I smiled and chopped through a slice of bamboo.

Toren held up his claws, raising an eyebrow as if to say, ‘You want to try me?’

Mia hefted up the basket of cleaned bamboo shoots. “Thank you both so much for being here, really,” she passed the basket to me. “Let’s follow this recipe Miss Bradleton worked so hard to translate!”

Diffused by Mia’s interjection, Toren and I both backed down. There was nothing we could do in the face of Mia’s smile.

It had been a few days since my tense conversation with Madam Claire. I was still thinking about what it meant to be a World Breaker, or why Claire had become one. Yet every time I tried to ask about it, Claire would avoid the topic and pester me about Mia instead. Somewhere in there, I mentioned that Mia was interested in learning to cook bamboo shoots. Madam Claire told me that was a splendid idea.

“Cooking is a perfect way for you to get closer!” Claire decided. She then summoned me a whole cookbook of bamboo recipes, and sent me on my way.

Whenever I tried to tell Claire that I was considering giving up on Mia, the Love Sorceress just wouldn’t hear of it. In fact, Claire wouldn’t talk to me much at all lately. She barely showed her face around the village, and I had to use my opal-like stone to reach her. Even then, she’d only talk to me through her bird familiar.

I know Claire didn’t want to get involved with my fate any further...but was she really planning to leave things like this?

“Claire…” I murmured without thinking.

“Hmm?” Mia tilted her head. “Roki? Did you say something?”

When I looked up, I saw Mia’s concerned gaze — then I noticed Toren’s sharp eyes watching me. I forgot the half-beast had such good hearing! He was probably wondering why I was murmuring another woman’s name in front of Mia.

“Uh, yes, Claire! That’s Miss Bradleton’s first name!” I quickly lied. “Just thanking her for translating the recipe from elvish. Let’s do this!”


Mia presented the bamboo soup with a cheer, “Done!”

I took a small sip of our creation.

“Bitter!” I cried, holding back tears. “T-that is so insanely bitter! Where did we go wrong?”

I looked over the recipe from Madam Claire. Sure, we might have substituted a few ingredients...okay, a lot of ingredients. But how was I supposed to know Farelle’s equivalent for all these spices? Plus we only had a wood-burning oven — no electrical appliances, no timers to let me know when things were done. And it’s not like I could trust the mushrooms here, so I decided to use a potato-like plant instead and…

In the end, we didn’t follow the recipe at all. With my Microwave Oven Degree in cooking, I shouldn’t have been surprised.

Toren sniffed the soup tentatively. “It can’t be that bad!” the half-beast declared. “Mia made it after all.”

Mia’s eyes went wide. “Toren-nii! That’s the first time I’ve heard you talk!”

The half-beast immediately blushed, realizing what he’d done. To hide his embarrassment, he took the bowl of soup and downed it.

“Oh no,” I murmured, watching as Toren’s face turned a shade of purple.

The half-beast, as daintily as he could, covered his mouth. Then, holding back tears, he dashed outside.

“Toren-nii!” Mia shouted after him, but the cat boy had already zoomed off. Mia took a sniff of the offensive soup and immediately backed away. “Roki,” she sniffled, “it’s not supposed to smell like that is it?”

I shook my head, defeated. I should have listened to my grandparents when they told me I needed to learn to cook if I wanted to live on my own. But microwave curry was just so tasty…

Mia rolled up her sleeves. “Well I’ll just have to try again! Maybe boil the bam-boo shoots longer, like this other recipe recommends,” she determined.

Before she set off on her second cooking attempt, Mia knelt down and brought over a tray from a lower kitchen cabinet. She rested this on the dining room table, nudging it closer.

“I was hoping to save these till later,” Mia admitted sheepishly. She revealed a platter of baked scones. “But you might want one now to get rid of the taste,” she laughed.

Tentatively, I tried one of the lumpy scones, astonished by the taste of cinnamon mixed with the dough. It was pleasantly warm, and reminded me of autumn. It was also a blessing after that horribly bitter soup.

“When did you make these?” I reached for another. They were mild, but surprisingly tasty.

Mia turned a little pink in the ears. “This morning. I was hoping they would cheer us all up. Maybe they’ll help Toren too when he gets back,” she chuckled. “You seemed a little down these last few days, Roki. And I haven’t exactly been in the best mood myself, so that’s...that’s why I thought this would be a good thing.”

Mia was still dealing with her disagreement with her father. She’d been putting on a strong face, but I could tell it was bothering her.

“No luck talking to your dad then?” I asked, sensing her sadness.

Mia turned away, focusing on the next set of bamboo shoots. Her silence was answer enough.

She chopped away at the bamboo fiber. “If I can just figure out this bam-boo!” Mia grumbled, her knife fighting through the tough, raw plant. “I know my dad will realize! We can stand our own against the Dukes that want to buy this property.”

I watched her struggling backside, wishing I could do something. There had to be a way I could help her before I left. I only really had one idea, and I knew Mia wouldn’t like it — but in this short moment while Toren was away, I decided to give it a try.

I stood up and walked towards the counter, grabbing a pair of kitchen shears.

“Roki?” Mia murmured. “What are you doing?”

I reached up to my hair, finding the one blonde braid that had been there since I first awoke in this world. It was a small lock of hair, but I knew how much it would be worth.

I cut it off.

“I’ll buy your household,” I declared, offering the braid of hair to her. “Put the deed in my name. Then, none of the nobles will say anything, right? They can’t go against an elf.”

Mia’s blue eyes went wide, her mouth hanging open as she stared at the golden hair. Numbly, she put down the bamboo in her hands, too shocked for words.

Then, after a silent moment, she pushed the hair back towards me.

“I can’t, Roki,” she smiled. “This is the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for me, but I can’t.”