With a Love Sorceress I'll Make My Romance Last!
I held out the golden braid of hair, hoping Mia would take it from me.
“But why can’t you accept thi—!”
Mia brought a finger to my lips, silencing me.
“You’ve helped me so much, Roki,” Mia admitted, her eyes watery. “But this is the same as proposing to me all over again. An elf buying human property is unheard of. You would have to stay here and prove that you’re an elf whenever the deed is questioned. That’s no different than offering to live with me for the rest of my life.” Mia glanced aside, blushing slightly.
The book of Mia’s Language suddenly appeared in my sights, floating just to my left.
‘Mia will never take shortcuts to escape from her burdens.’ The words burned into the page. Part of me already knew this about her. I should have known, but…
“Keep it for now, Roki. Keep it, and trust in me,” Mia added with a grin. “I’m a Faralind. I want to save my family with my own two hands. And maybe someday I’ll be able to accept that braid from you. If you bring it with a ring, and the truth to all your secrets that you promised me.”
I felt a warmth rise to my cheeks. Was she considering my proposal?
Mia then held up the bamboo shoot, grinning. “Until then, if I’m as lucky as I hope, I’m going to save the Faralind name with this silly pest-plant. Alright?”
Leaving the Faralind household in the evening light, I let out a sigh.
Although it had taken the better part of the afternoon, Mia and I did finally manage to create a bamboo soup that was pleasantly bland. It didn’t taste good, but Mia was determined to keep trying. We agreed to meet each afternoon until we had something worth presenting. But after today, we only had four afternoons left until the festival. Would that be enough?
“Maybe I could ask Claire to bring some take-out soup if all else fails? Though, Mia probably wouldn’t like that either.” I kicked at a stone along the path, sighing. “Mia doesn’t like taking shortcuts from her burdens, huh?” I mumbled aloud.
Amamiya always did have a stubborn streak, one that would make her stand up and fight for things when I would usually keep my head down. Part of that was why I fell for her. I never thought her brilliance would haunt me so much.
How was I supposed to help Mia in such a short time, if not for my wealth? Wasn’t that one of the few things I had here?
Suddenly, I felt a set of eyes on me.
From behind a nearby household, Toren unfolded his arms and stepped towards me. The half-beast was a little worse for wear: a bit pale, maybe from that horrible first soup attempt.
“Toren!” I called, noticing his wobbling. “Where have you been? You, uh, should visit Mia. She made some scones that could help your stomach.”
But Toren shook his head. “I’m fine,” he assured. “We’ve got something more important to settle first.”
I watched in surprise as the half-beast put up his fists and lowered his stance. It seemed that despite his stomach upset earlier, he still had enough strength to fight.
“Really?” I ruffled my hair, frowning.
Toren nodded. “I told you we’d settle our score once we found the culprit,” he spat. “So let’s decide this right now. There’s only a few days till the Festival, and I want to ask Mia to the dance afterwards.”
With a sentence like that, I felt like I was back in high school. Was the dance really that important? Was it one of those ‘If you ask your lover to dance, you’ll be with them forever’ kind of superstitions?
Toren raised his claws. “Because the moon’s supposed to bless all the couples that dance by the fire! S-so maybe I have a chance!”
Oh wait. It really was that kind of superstition.
I put up my hands in a sign of peace. “Look, Toren, why don’t you—”
A rush of wind roared past my ear. Toren’s fist just barely missed my face. I blinked. How had he gotten over here so quickly? I froze as Toren stepped away. That punch had been a warning.
It was then that I noticed Toren’s eyes were red and puffy. At first I thought it was just him being sick from the soup. But had he been...crying?
“Just fight me, okay?” Toren asked, almost pleading.
I didn’t want to do this. Toren was a good guy. He’d shown he was trustworthy, reliable. He was my hope for someone to watch out for Mia after I went home. I wanted to consider him my friend.
It was at that moment that a mother and daughter rounded the path, seeing me and Toren in the field.
“Mama,” the little girl said, tugging her mother’s dress and pointing, “why are the town-board-yelling-elf and the seahorse-cat-man fighting?”
I turned a bit red in the cheeks. Toren’s ears folded back in embarrassment.
I swear. One day. I was going to find out who this little girl was and ask her mom to just walk the other way whenever she saw me.
The mother bowed her head and hurried her daughter along, politely saying, “You enjoy your fight now, boys!” before slipping around the corner.
Toren let out a grumble, running his hands over his face. “Oh enough distractions!” he yelled.
And then, the half-beast leapt.
I barely had enough time to step aside. Toren flew past me but quickly recovered, swiveling around to swing a kick at my ribs. His foot hit with surprising force. I struggled to keep myself from falling over and held my side, shocked by the pain. Toren was serious.
It took everything I had just to dodge out of the way. I was clearly outmatched. Toren’s fists would fly overhead, and I’d barely duck down. He’d kick at my legs, and I’d barely jump away in time. Thankfully I’d gotten somewhat used to this elf body. My elven version did have faster reflexes than my human-self, but that only helped me slip away. I didn’t have any way to fight back, and I certainly didn’t have the time to think of a plan! The moment I caught my breath, Toren’s claws would be there!
I kept backing further and further away, slowly getting pushed towards the lake. I felt my foot touch water. For a second, I was distracted looking down at the lake-bed. Toren took that chance to aim a fist at my face. I saw the punch coming, but there was nothing I could do. Panicked, I raised my hands.
“Fireb—” I caught myself.
In that split second, I bit down on my lip.
If I cast Fireball now, that would be like setting off firecrackers in Toren’s face.
I didn’t know what kind of healing magic there was in Farelle, but I did know the warnings that fireworks always had on the side of them.
And I would much rather take a black eye from Toren’s fist, than permanently scar the young man.
So I bit down my spell and closed my eyes tight, ready to get punched into the lake.
Toren’s fist stopped short.
I felt the whoosh of air as it halted in place. Slowly, nervously, I opened one of my eyes.
“I can’t,” Toren mumbled, trembling. “This won’t prove anything. And Mia would probably hate me for doing this.” The half-beast’s voice broke, as he backed away. “Mia would never want us to fight over her. She doesn’t care about things like that. She never did. All that money I gathered, trying to save up so I could stand by her side even though I’m a half-beast...w-what does it matter, if she won’t even accept a lock of hair from an elf?”
Toren clenched his fist, holding back his emotions.
“So you saw that?” I asked, starting to realize what this was all about.
Toren nodded his head. “I was only sick outside for a moment,” he admitted. “When I came back, I heard you and Mia talking and I...I just...I ran away.”
I could see the half-beast take a shaky breath, as he withheld his sadness. Suddenly, Toren took my hand and clapped it in a playful fashion.
“You should be the one to ask her to dance.” Toren said through a forced smile. “If she chooses you, then I don’t mind. If it’s you, Rokkun, I know Mia will be happy.” He then reached out and prodded my chest. “But only if she chooses you. Got it?”
Before I could say anything else, Toren put on a grin. He dashed off before his tears would give him away.
Toren had basically given me his blessing, and Mia was considering my proposal.
It was everything I wanted.
So...why wasn’t I happier about this?