Chapter 29:

With a Love Sorceress, I’ll Paint the Moon

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

“Forget me?” Madam Claire blinked. “Jun, are you…” She took a small sniff of the air. “...are you drunk?”

I let her go from my embrace.

“A little,” I frowned. “It’s only just hitting me now.”

Now that you’re here. Now that I know you’re safe.’

Madam Claire sighed. “If that’s all, then I’m heading back to—”

I grabbed her wrist.

“Don’t go,” I pleaded. “You’re a part of this too.”

The Love Sorceress gazed my hand, torn. “Jun, I really can’t. Who knows what will happen to your future if I get more involved?”

“Tanabata!” I suddenly shouted.

Claire blinked. “Pardon?” She tilted her head, purple witch hat following.

“Treat this like the Tanabata holiday! It’s the one day when the stars across the sky can meet! Or something like that!”

Claire shook her head. “Jun, we’re not on Earth. Farelle doesn’t have Tana—”

“I’ll grab a stalk of bamboo and find a piece of paper to wrap wishes around it! That’s Tanabata, right?” I declared, blearily remembering the main wish-making part of the holiday.

Claire hesitated, then was unable to withhold her laughter.

God I loved it when she smiled.

“You want me to celebrate with you that badly?” Madam Claire smirked.

She flicked her wrist, and her usual outfit turned into a purple cocktail dress: ruffled on the ends, and with a cut along the side of the skirt. She put one hand on her hip, then held up a single finger.

“Fine,” she agreed. “One evening, Jun. One Tanabata.”

I was stunned for a moment, at a loss for words. Then I grabbed her hand. Just for one night, I wanted this dream to never end.

Emerging from the forest, I saw that Toren had arrived, presumably finished with his task of helping Mister Faralind home. The half-beast was now standing next to Mia, trying his best to talk to her, but failing. Toren’s expression rose as he saw me approach. Mia followed his gaze.

“Roki, you brought Miss Bradleton!” Mia called.

Anxiously, I glanced towards Claire. “You remember her now?”

“How could I forget?” Mia smiled. “She lives across the street!”

I must have looked extremely baffled, because Claire leaned over to me and whispered, “They’ll remember so long as I’m here. But once I’m gone, fate will make their memories fade.”

“What about me?” I whispered back worriedly. “Will I forget you too?”

Madam Claire held a wistful smile. “Maybe. I brought you across dimensions, so who can say?”

Without thinking, I took Claire’s hand and held it tighter.

Seeing me holding Claire’s hand, Mia chuckled. “Do you two want to be partners for the folk dance? That’s so nice of you Roki, to support an older widow!”

“Old?” I scoffed at the word, putting on airs. “Why, compared to a grand elf like myself, all of you humans look like children! She’s not old at all!” Remembering myself, I cleared my throat. “I was just worried, Mia, that the villagers might start to whisper about our proposal again if we only danced with each other. So Miss Bradleton agreed to join me for the, uh, folk dance.”

Inwardly I started to sweat. What exactly was the ‘folk dance’?

Mia nodded. “That’s true, if we dance together too much, we might undo all our hard work. So, I guess…” Her eyes nervously darted towards Toren. “...I’ll need a different partner?”

Toren turned to stone on the spot.

I sighed and brought over a round of drinks from a nearby table. I pat Toren encouragingly on the shoulder.

“Dance with her,” I said under my breath as I passed him a mug. “It’s alright.”

Toren’s ears shot up in shock. He looked at me as if asking, ‘You sure?’

When I nodded, the half-beast downed the ale and wiped off his mouth, trying to psyche himself up.

I turned my attention towards Claire, astonished to find that she had gathered a small crowd. She’d started chugging a large flagon of ale, and the villagers watched on with amazement. Little Old Miss Bradleton slammed the empty flagon on the table to a chorus of cheers.

“If we’re celebrating Tanabata, Jun,” Madam Claire grinned with a flush to her cheeks, “then we’re celebrating!”

I had a sinking feeling that Mia was going to be the only one sober by the time the night was over.

But I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

The musicians struck up again, this time in a galloping tune. Their hands clapped together, faster and faster, as everyone got up to dance. Boots tapped against the ground, meeting the fast-paced beat.

I looked at Claire, nervous. “Do you know this dance?”

“Do I?!” Claire took my hands. “We used to dance this every summer when I was a little girl! Follow me!” She held an evil glint in her eyes. “Also. I just enchanted your shoes.”

“Enchanted my what—”

My feet took off without me. I slid to the left, stomped my foot, and then Claire followed suit. Everyone moved in time, seeming to know the steps by heart. Each movement fell on beat, as Claire and I circled around each other. I had no idea what was happening, but I didn’t care. Claire was smiling. Our hands met and she spun under my arms. The quick tempo of the song matched the thundering beat of my heart.

One, two, three, four — we clapped our hands, then stepped apart. Confused, I looked around and realized this was a part of the dance where you were supposed to change partners. I guessed I would trade with Toren and Mia, who were next to us.

But due to a slight mix-up in our footsteps, I somehow found myself dancing with Toren, while Claire ended up with Mia.

Claire let out the biggest laugh seeing me and Toren awkwardly together. I blushed.

“S-Shut up!” I called to her over the music. Claire just gave me a thumbs up and proceeded to happily dance with Mia.

Toren wrapped his arm through my elbow and spun me around. Frustratingly, he was a far better dancer than myself.

“Of course the half-beast is a good dancer,” I grumbled as we took hands.

“You know!” Toren shouted to me, his cheeks a bit red from the alcohol. He squinted and looked at my face closer. “If this whole thing with Mia doesn’t work out for either of us, Rokkun. I never told you, but, you are really rather rich and pretty—”

And I twirled the drunk cat boy back towards his original dance partner before that sentence could go any further.

Claire returned to me, cackling like mad. We clapped our hands and spun around.

“You did that on purpose!” I said to her.

“Maybe!” she laughed back.

Yet somehow, seeing that mischievous excitement in her eyes, I couldn’t stop smiling.

The song went on, and we clapped our hands and stomped our feet around the bonfire. Everything seemed to fade into the music. When I brought Claire close, the pain in my chest disappeared. This was all I needed: right here — this music, this beat, and her smile.

As the song slowed, I leaned over and whispered an idea in Claire’s ear.

“What?!” she shouted. “But they’d be terrified of magic!”

Human magic, sure,” I grinned. “But not elf magic! That’s what you told me, right? C’mon, no festival is complete without it!”

“Oooh!” Claire huffed, stomping her heel to the last beat rather angrily. “Alright! Let’s do this!”

A trumpet note cried out, and the song ended. Everyone was a bit breathless from the fast-paced dance, but the mood was festive and electric.

I cupped my hands around my mouth and shouted, “Rivasvale!” Their sights turned to me. “As an elf, I have magic!”

They let out a soft murmur, wondering what was about to happen.

I pointed my hands towards the night sky. “I can do things like this!” I took in a breath. “Fireball!!”

My sad little fireworks traveled upwards and exploded into a colorful burst of sparks. The villagers clapped with amusement.

“But,” I grinned, “I can also do that much bigger! Bright enough to light up the whole sky! And even paint the moon, like in the old days! Would you like to see it?”

There was a thread of nervousness from the crowd, but Toren suddenly jumped up and down, waving his hands excitedly.

“Oh! Oh me! I’d like to see it!” he grinned.

Following along, Mia also voiced her consent. And slowly, all of Rivasvale became excited for the prospect of seeing the Painted Moon for the first time in hundreds of years.

Seeing their smiling faces, I turned towards Claire.

“You ready?” I asked.

Claire took my hand and nodded. “Ready.”

We raised our palms to the sky. In unison, Claire and I shouted: “Fireball!”

Giant fireworks rose to the stars, summoned by Claire’s magic, exploding in a rainbow of colors. They covered all of Rivasvale in flashes of light, while the full moon overhead took on the illusion of painted glass. I turned to watch, absolutely in awe of Claire’s magic. Some of the villagers wept, praising the elves and magic of years past, amazed by the sight of a true painted moon.

“It’s beautiful,” I whispered to Claire, holding her hand close to mine. “Even with all the firework shows I ever watched on Earth, this is just...something more.”

Seeing the moon and clouds covered in a multitude of colors, I almost didn’t believe it. It really was like she had painted the sky.

Claire held a playful grin. “I told you,” she whispered, leaning against my shoulder. “If we’re going to celebrate, let’s celebrate.”