Chapter 35:

I will Not Forget

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

“Wait wait wait,” I interjected, waving my hands, “I’m going to die?”

Madam Claire wrapped her arms behind her back, her expression falling.

“Technically, Jun, you’re already supposed to be dead,” she whispered. “You were fated to die on Earth last night; on the night of the Painted Moon Festival.”

Last night? Last night?

My mind spun. I grabbed the collar of my shirt, amazed that I was still here.

Was that why Claire was so worried when I drunkenly asked her to join the party?

Jun, are you alright?! I only looked away for a moment! Are you hurt?”

Those were the first words she said before I hugged her. I hadn’t even noticed.

She stayed with me the entire night. She made me sit next to her and watch the sunrise.

...the sunrise I was never supposed to see.

I glanced towards Claire’s ethereal image. “I know this is a magical recording, but can I ask you a question?”

“Sure,” Claire nodded, “I thought you might be curious, so I included a few responses.” She then laughed. “Just don’t ask me anything too off-topic, like, what’s the square root of nine or something.”

I couldn’t resist. “So...what’s the square root of ni—”

Claire’s image frowned. “It’s three, Jun. Three,” she grumbled. “And I told you not to ask.”

Of course she included a response for that.

I cleared my throat and focused. “So, Claire, you and I met a year ago — right before I went on my first date with Amamiya,” I mumbled, “and you saw my future.”

“I saw your future and tried to change it,” Claire groaned. “But I could only interfere so much. If I got too involved, I would disrupt fate and make your future impossible to predict.”

The background behind us swirled, replaced with a busy nighttime street. Ohta and I stumbled along the sidewalk drunkenly, when Ohta slipped. I watched as ‘Jun’ panicked and shoved him, right as the approaching car swerved. The scene froze in time: Jun staring at the car, Ohta falling to safety, and the driver slamming on the breaks.

Claire stepped forward, running her hand along the hood of the car.

“The reason you and Ohta were out that night,” Claire murmured, “was to commiserate about being single.”

That detail struck me as odd.

“Commiserate about being single?” I questioned. “But Ohta’s married.”

Claire glanced towards me with a smirk. “He is now,” she giggled. “To change your future, Jun, I arranged for Masaru Ohta to meet his wife, Hanako. I had no idea they’d get married so quickly, my goal was just to make sure Ohta wouldn’t be single.” She let out a small sigh. “But sadly, it didn’t change your fate.”

The illusion behind us blurred. Ohta wasn’t there anymore, and the car switched from a personal vehicle to a delivery truck. But even with the change in scenario, the truck still veered towards Jun.

“I tried so many things,” Claire murmured. “I altered so many romances. I nudged so many fates. But no matter what I did…”

The scene flashed through different accidents. In one, I saw myself trip off a bridge. In another, I was a witness to a robbery. Claire shook her head, dashing the images away. She couldn’t bare to see them.

“Your future wouldn’t change,” Claire spoke sadly. “And if I tried to change your relationship with Amamiya, your accident just happened sooner. So I desperately fought against the days, altering everyone around you.”

“Wait.” I held up a hand. “So you’re the reason everyone in my friend circle suddenly started falling in love and getting happily married?” My eyebrow twitched. “Everyone except me?”

Claire sheepishly poked her fingers together. “...Sorry about that.”

Somehow, Claire prerecording an apology for that exact question made the situation hurt even worse.

The background behind us shifted again. I saw myself sitting at the bus stop, staring at Madam Claire’s purple website. I read the words: ‘Are you told you don’t know how to listen?’

“The days were running out,” Claire frowned, “so I decided to take matters into my own hands. I sought across the universes for a parallel version of Amamiya: anything to give you a reason to stay in an alternate dimension long enough to avoid your own demise. And I happened to find her...”

The vision showed Mia, in her overalls and sun hat, reaching for one of her star-shaped fruits in the sunny fields.

“ my own home world.” Claire gazed towards Mia wistfully. “I couldn’t help but feel like someone arranged for this to happen. Yet, I didn’t have any other choice. I was out of time. I tore you from your world, Jun, and brought you to Farelle. In doing so, I defied fate again. I broke the world’s order. But I didn’t care. It meant you would live. It meant, for once, I would help a parallel version of Janus.”

Claire turned her hazel eyes towards me. They were glassy, as she withheld tears.

“You aren’t Janus,” Claire mumbled, “I know that. Just like Mia isn’t Amamiya. Your stars and spirit might be similar to his, but you’re yourself — you are Jun Hiroyuki. I had to remind myself of that over and over. Just like Janus had his lover, you already had your heart set on Amamiya. I was going to help you see your romance through. Even if it meant I’d have to pay for the crime of breaking fate yet again.”

“But Claire!” I interrupted, trying to hold her ghost-like hands. “It isn’t Mia I love, it’s you! It’s you!!”

For once, the magical recording didn’t have a reply.

Claire’s image stared through me, smiling blankly.

“And now you want to go home,” Claire continued as though she hadn’t heard me. “Trying for a 32% chance at romance always was a bad idea. I know I should have suggested something else, but I just needed you to make it through the Festival. I just needed a few days.”

Claire snapped her fingers. The world around us turned white again: bright and empty. She also now held something in her hands.

Madam Claire clasped a leather chain around my neck. I looked down, and saw that the necklace had a pendant: it was made of glass and shaped like a star, with nebulous liquid inside.

I shook the pendant, watching as the glittery liquid swirled like a galaxy.

“I made this for you,” Claire explained, “to keep you safe on Earth. The pendant is imbued with my magic. With this, even with your normal stars, you’ll always walk slightly outside the tapestry of fate. That way, the world can’t try to get rid of you again,” she chuckled. “Wouldn’t want all my hard work to go to waste, now would I?”

I held the pendant tightly.

“Claire, I don’t want to go back,” I told her. “I want to find you. Where are you?”

She didn’t answer.

“Claire—” I called.

“Sayonara, Jun,” she whispered. “I know you’ll forget about me one day. But for a little while, I wanted you to know Clarisina. I wanted you to know the tale of the Love Sorceress Claire: the girl who keeps making so many mistakes.” A tear ran down her cheek. “For her sake...please have a good life.”

Desperately, I grasped for her, as the illusion faded.

I blinked, and I was back in Claire’s empty hut. The envelope burst into flames and crumbled to dust. But I felt a weight around my neck.

The necklace and pendant were still there. They were real. I clutched the glass pendant.

I wasn’t going to forget. I wasn’t going to give up.

And I wasn’t going to let this be goodbye.

There had to be a way to find Madam Claire.

I searched all around the hut, hoping for clues, but there was nothing. No more letters, no more hidden Tanabata papers. It was just me and the silence. Eventually, the chill of the void started to make me shiver.

The only thing that was left was to try the door; the purple door. Despite how everything else in Claire’s hut had been stripped of its color, the door was still as purple as ever.

Did that mean she wanted me to open it?

Nervously, I turned the handle. It creaked as I pulled it aside.

Then, some force shoved me from behind, and I fell through the opening.

I was met by a rush of air. The smell of gasoline coated the inside of my mouth, as the oiliness of street foods joined in the odor. Cell phones rang, car horns blared. The crosswalk lights changed from red to green. High-heels clicked and sneakers thudded as they marched across the pavement. Sky scrapers reached overhead to meet the gray skies.

My knees gave out, as I fell to the sidewalk.


I was back on Earth.

And the purple door vanished behind me.