Chapter 28:

With a Love Sorceress, I’ll Ask for This Dance

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

As the full moon climbed further overhead, the proud farmers held their baskets to the sky. Finally, the last parade entrant rounded the corner: a young girl with a circle of flowers upon her head. She held her tribute proudly.

“For all of Rivasvale,” she said with her tiny voice. “I present this last tribute to the moon!”

I let out an unbidden gasp as I recognized her.

The girl turned upon hearing me. “Town-board yelling elf!” she pointed, then waved. “Look at me! I’m in the parade!”

The mother quickly guided her daughter towards the fountain, telling her to put her basket with all the others. All the while, I covered my face in embarrassment.

Mia turned to me, surprised. “You know the mayor’s daughter?” she asked.

“I...don’t want to talk about it,” I mumbled.

The parade concluded with one more cheer for the moon, and then the musicians went wild. People filled the streets as the farming families descended upon the village. Toren and I followed Mia and her father as we went around the stalls. We sampled pieces of roasted sweet corn, tried grilled sticks of chicken, then bit our teeth into caramel-dipped cherries. Mia and her father caught up with old friends, striking conversations here and there. Whenever someone would get a little too interested in the sale of their lands, Toren would casually walk by and clear his throat, and put a swift end to that.

It seemed no one particularly wanted to test the temper of a half-beast. After my fight with Toren a few days ago, I couldn’t blame them.

A few noble families brought entertainment for the evening: hiring jugglers and street performers to fill the hours. One such performer brought out a kite-like creation, which he dipped into a soapy liquid, then flew over the village. Iridescent bubbles billowed from the kite’s circular edges, descending over the town like snow. Children giggled and chased after the bubbles, trying to pop them.

A certain half-beast also got side-tracked chasing down a bubble or two.

But eventually the children began to yawn, and so did the visiting nobles. Slowly, people began to trickle out of the road, as guests returned to their caravans. The summer days were long, and the nighttime festival pushed the people. Soon, the guests were settled into their camping spots, quietly discussing the evening and getting ready for bed.

But the locals of Rivasvale stayed awake.

They had one more event before the night was over.


“To another successful Festival!” the mayor cried.

The villagers raised their mugs and cheered. I joined along, unsure what to expect when I took a swig of the drink. Pleasantly, the taste was similar to beer — perhaps a watered-down and more dirt-like version of beer, but beer nonetheless.

The townspeople of Rivasvale had gathered outside the village, sitting on logs around a wide, open field. Mugs of ale were passed around, and kegs sat freely upon the tables.

I held up my mug. “To the festival!” I grinned, then proceeded to drink the whole thing.

One of the villagers noticed my empty cup and poured me a refill. I wasn’t about to turn down generosity like that, so I happily drank another. They filled it again. I’d have to watch myself, because this event could become rowdy really fast with refills like that.

In the middle of the field, a piece of timber was thrown onto a large stack of wood. Then, the festival planner held up a red crystal in her hand.

“To the magic of years past! We celebrate the closing of the Festival!” she said with a smile.

She hit the crystal against the logs. The crystal sparked with a small flame, and she used this to light the coals. As the fire started to take, the planner stepped away. We all watched in awe as the bonfire lit up the night.

The stars twinkled above us, and the bonfire’s smoke billowed upwards to reach them.

The constellations made me think of Madam Claire.

Was she watching this from her hut?


“Roki?” Mia asked from my side. “Is something the matter?”

“No, no!” I replied. “Just, uh, wondering if Toren is back yet from taking your father home.”

Mia stifled a laugh. “My dad wanted to stay awake so badly, but he was exhausted. This last week has been hard on all of us.”

“What about you?” I asked. “Are you alright, Mia?”

She glanced to me with her blue eyes, seeming to shimmer in the fire’s light. “I’ll be fine! I wouldn’t miss the bonfire dance for anything!”

Right. The dance.

I downed my third ale.

Why was I so nervous? Was it the dancing that bothered me?

Or was it because of this ache in my chest that just wouldn’t go away?

The musicians gathered on wooden stools, bringing out their flutes and drums. I heard the strumming of a guitar, and a smile came to my face. The familiar instrument somehow felt closer to home.

A slow ballad filled the air.

“May I have this dance?” Mia asked, offering me her hand.

With only a slight hesitation, I took her hand into mine.

Joining the other couples, I brought Mia towards the bonfire. The slow tempo gave me a chance to look at the other dancers. Thankfully, there wasn’t some complex waltz I needed to know. The villagers were treating this casually, and everyone moved at their own pace.

I held Mia’s hands and swayed back and forth, slowly leading her around the bonfire.

Was Madam Claire watching this too?

“Roki,” Mia called. I turned towards her. “Finally, you looked at me.”

I panicked. I’d been so caught up in my thoughts, I’d ignored Mia entirely!

“Don’t look so frightened,” Mia eased with a chuckle. “It’s fine. You’re not used to human dances, right?”

A silence fell between us. Her hands were in mine. We were dancing together. And yet…

Mia smiled softly. “You’ve been so kind to me, Roki,” she whispered. “All of this feels like a dream: overcoming the curse, selling the orchard. You know, I still can’t believe you were willing to stay up all those nights to watch the trees by yourself!”

“By myself?” I repeated, confused. “Miss Bradleton was with me.”

Mia paused in her steps.

“Miss Bradleton? The name sounds familiar, but who was that again?”

I felt my heart go cold. “Miss Bradleton was the one that translated the bamboo recipes, remember?”

“Oh,” Mia murmured. “Was that what happened?”

Just before the festival, Claire warned me that the townspeople would start to forget her, but I didn’t believe that was possible. Until now.

How could Mia forget?

“Still,” Mia continued, returning to the dance. “Thank you, Roki. For everything.”

The song came to a swell in the music. I twirled Mia around then brought her into my arms, mimicking what I saw the other dancers do. Mia was so close. Her face was right near mine. I could feel her heartbeat.

And yet, both of us smiled pleasantly to each other, and nothing more. There was no blush. Mia’s heartbeat was steady.

The song came to a close.

The crowd applauded and shouted encouragement towards the couples, letting out playful whistles. But it all felt so far away to my ears.

“I’m so sorry Mia,” I murmured. “I’ll be right back. There’s...someone who should be celebrating with us.”

I bowed my head deeply, then made a dash for the nearby trees.

Alone by the fire, Mia held a small smile.

“There he goes,” Mia whispered with a chuckle, “off to commune with the trees again.”

Maybe it was the alcohol making me irrational, but this overwhelming tightness in my chest just wouldn’t go away. It was frantic, relentless: telling me that if I didn’t do something now, I might be the one to forget Madam Claire next.

I stumbled into the trees and pulled out the opal-like stone from my pocket. I tapped on it. When no response came, I smacked it frantically against a tree trunk instead.

Claire’s bird familiar finally appeared. “Roki! Roki what is it?”

“Madam Claire!” I cried, happy just to hear her voice. “Claire, please, please…” I couldn’t finish my sentence. Please don’t disappear.’

Her bird form dissipated, and my breath stopped.

Then, I saw a shimmer in the darkness. Madam Claire stepped out from one of her portals. She reached towards me and grabbed my shoulders.

“Are you alright?!” she asked, frightened. “I only looked away from the festival for a moment! Jun, are you hurt?”

Seeing her so close to me, I suddenly wrapped my arms around her and pulled her into a hug.

“J-J-Jun?!” Claire stuttered, shocked.

She was warm. She was here. She was real.

“You’re a part of this world too, Madam Claire, no matter what the stars say,” I whispered. “And I never want to forget you.”