Chapter 27:

With a Love Sorceress, We’ll Threaten with Bamboo Diplomacy

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

The nobles watched the scene with held breaths, while the Rivasvale mayor began to nervously sweat in his seat. The festival had gone quiet, and the townspeople clamored to find out what was going on.

The festival planner tentatively shuffled forward.

“Duke Elvett,” the planner called softly. “If everything is fine with the tribute, may we continue the parade?”

“Not until I say so,” the Duke frowned, putting down the star-shaped berry. He projected his voice so everyone could hear. “This offering is superb, and yet the Faralinds have not been able to give tribute for years! How could you possibly turn your rotted fields into this?”

Mia flinched from the loudness of the Duke’s voice. Yet, instead of talking back to him directly, Mia spun around and addressed the visitors instead. She raised her hands and spoke with as much strength as she could.

“Hear me, honored guests!” Mia smiled. “I am from the Faralind family: a name I’m sure you know from the stories!”

The crowd murmured in curiosity, starting to wonder if this was a part of the event.

The Duke clicked his tongue from being ignored. “Look, girl—” he began, but Mia shouted over him.

“My uncle was a great scholar before he passed!” Mia announced. “He wanted to make our trees even better, but he left his formulas unfinished. In their incomplete state, the fruit withered and died. But finally, my father figured out the notes and brought back our trees better than before!”

Mia picked up her tribute basket and held it high for all to see. The blue fruits shimmered in the candlelight.

Duke Elvett stepped forward, growing more irritated by the second. “Rivasvale is in my domain,” he clarified. “Should your lands have worth, then the taxes, along with the investigation of arson—”

“However!” Mia yelled over the Duke again. “I am sure you have all also heard the rumor about an elf proposing to me!”

I could see a vein pulse through the Duke’s temple as he was interrupted. He grit down on his teeth and tried to withhold his anger. The Duke couldn’t lose his temper in front of this crowd; not when other guests of his same status were in attendance.

Toren stepped forward and held out a covered basket in his arms.

Mia pulled the covering cloth aside to reveal her second tribute.

“Behold!” she cried. “The elven plant known as bam-boo! A delicacy from the Forests of the Rising Sun!”

The crowd let out a collective gasp as they saw the colorful offering. Within the basket was a gathering of the most vibrant bamboo shoots we could find, accompanied by bright green stalks of the plant. Clay bowls of soup sat in the center, bundled like eggs in a nest to prevent them from spilling. Mia gently grasped one of these bowls and took a small sip of it, to prove it wasn’t poisoned, then offered it to the Duke.

The Duke took a sniff and his eyes went wide. He tried to hide his reaction, but we’d already seen it. From where I stood in the crowd, I smirked.

Mia and I had managed to make a decent soup, but I’ll admit, there was a secret ingredient: a bottle of chili-garlic sauce from the grocery, courtesy of Madam Claire.

I presented the sauce to Mia, pretending it was from my hometown. It took our soup from the bland standards of this world’s cooking, into a burst of flavor from my modern day.

Thank you, mass produced sauce companies,’ I silently thought to myself, clenching my fist.

Mia passed the bowls of bamboo soup to the highest ranking nobles, then gave one to the Rivasvale mayor. Though the nobles were hesitant, the mayor took a taste.

“Amazing!” The mayor cried, immediately gulping down the rest of the soup. “I’ve never tasted anything like it! Elven food!”

The other nobles, and even Duke Elvett, were then pressured into trying the soup. Not all of them liked it as much as the mayor, but they agreed that it was a flavor they’d never experienced before. Some went back for a second sip, and a third.

“Bam-boo grows wild in our eastern fields,” Mia explained. “The Moronically Sage Elf, Sir Jun Roki over there,” Mia gestured to me in the crowd, “proposed to buy the land because of this elven crop.”

Suddenly, all eyes were on me. I straightened my necktie and stuck up my nose, trying to look the part of a haughty elf. I winced from the ‘moronically sage’ part. Mia must have heard that title from the villagers.

Duke Elvett angrily threw his bowl back into the tribute basket.

“So that elf didn’t propose to marry you, but proposed to buy the land?!” His face was growing redder by the minute.

“Why, yes,” Mia said with an innocent little smile. “And you wouldn’t try to do anything to a trade deal involving an elf, would you, Duke Elvett?”

The Duke looked practically livid. Next to me, I had to hold back Mia’s father from running to his daughter’s side. We just needed to get through this. We just needed one more push.

Mia reached for one last thing in the basket.

“Sir Roki even taught me how to make this!” She held aloft the contraption. “The shishi-doink!”

The crowd let out an ‘ooooh’ of amazement, and I suddenly felt like I was on a TV sales ad.

The creation was, perhaps, one of the worst shishi-odoshis ever made — considering I built it from memory alone and only used tools from this world. But Mia held it proudly.

“It’s an elven tool that scares wildlife from eating your plants! It works with any flowing water!”

Duke Elvett had about enough of these games. “What is the point of interrupting our ceremony with all this?” he complained.

“The point, Duke Elvett,” Mia spoke with a vengeance, “is that that elf,” Mia pointed to me, “offered a lock of his hair to buy my land, and I turned him down.”

Those words finally held weight. The nobles went dead silent.

Mia continued assuredly, “With bam-boo on the property, I believe my land is worth even more than that.” She paused. “Thus, the Faralind family is currently considering counter offers.”

The nobles leapt at the opportunity. Duke Elvett was immediately shoved aside by the Duchess of Sivan, who began frantically offering prices in gold coins.

“All offers will go through my bodyguard after the festival!” Mia proclaimed, calming the group.

When the Dukes and Duchesses began to question ‘Bodyguard?’ Mia waved towards Toren.

The half-beast bowed and stepped in front of Mia with purpose. His smile was dark as his cat-like eyes glared at Duke Elvett. Toren held up his hand in greeting, showing off his sharpened claws.

“Any who wish to deal with the Faralind family shall speak to me first,” Toren grinned.

Some of the nobles backed away, realizing they couldn’t easily haggle with the sweet-looking Mia.

Mia clapped her hands, taking control of the conversation. “I will begin accepting offer letters a week from today. Until then, let us continue the festival!”

Mia made eye contact with the mayor and the festival planner, nodding. The two blinked, then jumped into action. The festival planner rallied the musicians to start playing again. The mayor called the next farm to offer tribute. Slowly, the ruckus died down and the nobles returned to their places, still abuzz with the prospect of buying the Faralind property.

The Duchess of Sivan even ‘accidentally’ spilled the remainder of her bamboo soup on Duke Elvett’s white coat as she scurried for her seat.

Watching the parade go on, Mia’s father was near tears next to me.

“Incredible,” he whispered, “I never imagined she could stand up to them like this.”

Quietly, I responded, “Mia was always a brilliant business woman. Even across worlds.”

Mister Faralind was still in disbelief. He turned towards me. “Were you the one that convinced her to sell the orchards, Sir Roki?”

I shook my head.

“Mia realized it wasn’t safe to stay here,” I answered. “She decided she would rather sell the land for a high price in a public way, so that the Dukes and Duchesses couldn’t interfere—”

“And so we can move on,” Mia interjected.

She had escaped from the nobles and found us in the crowd. Mia was shaking, maybe the stress of her speech finally hitting her.

Mia held a weak smile. “You were right, dad, about one thing. I don’t want us to live under the shadow of our family for the rest of our lives. So this was my answer.” She brushed back tears. “Let’s sell the orchard. With the money, we can buy a house anywhere in the Kingdom. So long as we’re together, isn’t that all that matters?”

Her father was speechless. Tears fell from his eyes. Mia reached forward, a little hesitant, but then gave him a hug.

The parade music covered their quiet sobs, as flowers swirled through the festive air.