Disclaimer: Howl's Moving Castle doesn't belong to me. Its original version belongs to Diana Wynne Jones and the movie version belongs to Hayao Miyasaki.
Note: This story is based on Miyasaki's movie and doesn't have any connection with the original book.
By Eiko Makimachi
Chapter 1: An invitation.
"Howl! Time to wake up!"
That was the first thing Howl heard before falling from his bed with a loud sound. The second thing was Markl complaining about something related to his breakfast. It was another normal day on the wizard's life and, like everyday, he was the last one to wake up.
Changing his clothes, Howl went downstairs to see what was going on there. He was so sleepy that he completely forgot that his raven hair was messed up. But that was just a detail that the wizard knew the others wouldn't mind.
Prepared to say a "Good morning everyone", the young man looked to the fireplace, where Calcifer usually stays when he is inside the castle. However, he didn't saw Sophie cooking, Markl and Grandma eating, Calcifer complaining nor Heen trying to save a piece of bacon for himself. Actually, he did saw all those things, but there were two differences. Firstly, Sophie wasn't cooking, she was in front of the door. Secondly, there was one more person in this scene. Someone that Howl didn't really know if he liked or not.
"Oh my, hello, Mr. Jenkins." Said Prince Justin, former Kabu head.
Howl just didn't say anything. He wished he had brushed his hair now, because the last thing he wanted was Prince Justin looking to the great wizard Howell Jenkins with sleepy face and messed hair.
Sophie turned back and said a quick "hi" to him. Sophie and Howl hadn't married yet, but Howl was planning on asking her hand soon. In fact, everyone thought they were a cute couple. Now that the war was over, the wizard decided it was safe enough for him to go out, although Sophie said that she would never let him walk alone in the streets, specially at the capital city. When Howl asked her why, the young woman just smiled and said "I don't want to loose you again".
But then, back to Prince Justin, Howl wondered why the prince was there. He knew that the old kabu head was still in love with his dear Sophie, and that's why he didn't know if he liked him or not. Even if Sophie was the prince's true love, Howl knew that she was his true love too, and he wouldn't let anyone steal her from him.
"I'm so sorry for waking you up, Mr. Howl." Continued the prince. "But I would like to invite you two for a commemoration at the royal palace. I has been one month since the end of the war, and the king decided that there is going to be a ball next week to commemorate the end of the war."
Before Howl could say anything, Sophie replied. "It will be a pleasure to go, Kabu."
Prince Justin smile. He kissed Sophie's hand. "I am glad that you accepted my invitation, dear Sophie. I must go now, but I shall see you again in the ball."
The prince left the moving castle, leaving a cheerful Sophie and a really shocked Howl looking at the place where he was some minutes ago. Calcifer was laughing from his fireplace and Markl was helping Granma with the dishes.
After some minutes of silence, Howl finally spoke. "Sophie, there is one problem about this ball."
"A problem?" asked Sophie, looking to him.
"Yes, a big problem." Said Howl.
Calcifer stopped laughing. "Sophie, didn't Howl told you that?"
Sophie, more confused than ever, looked to Howl, who was almost melting like the day when his hair changed from blond to red, then from red to black.
"What haven't you told me, Howell Jenkins!" asked Sophie.
Howl looked to his love with child-like eyes.
"Sophie, I don't know how to dance!"
"Wait, you... don't know how to.. dance?" asked Sophie, astonished, trying not to laugh.
The wizard sat down on the floor and curled himself into a ball. It was a cute scene, a young man acting like a poor child who is afraid of darkness.
"It's not funny..." he managed to say.
"But... Howl, from all the things... you don't know how to dance?" exclaimed Sophie.
"Howl had been so busy with magic and war that the last time he tried to dance was when he was only 8 years old I think." Said Calcifer.
Howl was still curled in a corner, avoiding eye contact with everyone. Markl tried to cheer him up, saying that a man should never hide from his problems. But then Grandma reminded everyone that deep inside Howl was just as childish as Markl, sometimes even more childish.
"Aw, Howl, that's the only problem you have?" said Sophie, hugging the wizard softly. "Come on, stand up!"
"Will you... will you stop... laughing at me?" murmured Howl shyly.
"Well, if you continue acting like a baby, I can't promise anything." Said Sophie.
The wizard pouted. " Sophie!"
"Just kidding!" She smiled to him, helping him to stand up.
"But... Sophie, how do you want me to go with you to that prince's ball? Are you sure that kabu head didn't do that on purpose so he could dance with you?"
Sophie laughed again. "Howl, how could Kabu know about that? I mean, only Calcifer and Markl knew that."
"Madam Sulliman knows it too. She could tell Kabu about that." Murmured him.
Sophie always forgot that Madam Sulliman, the royal wizard, was Howl's teacher and former master. She never liked the old woman since the day she met her disguised as Howl's mother. The girl looked to Heen, who was jumping happily, trying to catch a ball that Markl was holding. How could have Heen lived all this time with Madam Sulliman was a mystery to Sophie.
"I don't think your teacher would spend her time telling Kabu things about you." Said Sophie.
Deep inside, Howl thought that Madam Sulliman would love to tell the others something that could embarrass him. Although he was her best student, he knew that his contract with Calcifer was something against his teacher's ideals, and since then he bet she started to dislike him.
"Let's forget about Kabu and Madam Sulliman. If we have only one week to learn it, then it's better to start now!" Sophie exclaimed.
"Learn what?" asked a curious Howl.
"Dancing, of course, Howl!" she answered, grabbing Howl towards the magic door. She switched the color-coded switch so they could go to Howl's childhood home. The great field was like a colorful carpet with flowers and butterflies, it was the perfect place for them to dance.
Howl, still confused about the sudden decision of the girl, looked as they passed by the door and reached the flowered field. Suddenly, he felt Sophie grabbing one of his hands.
"So, let's try learning to correct position, okay?" she said, putting one arm on his shoulder and grabbing his other hand. "You put that hand around my waist. Yes, that's right, Howl."
Sophie guided him slowly, noticing that Howl didn't know if he had to look down to see if his feet were correctly positioned or to Sophie. She giggled.
"Howl, you can look down for now, but you must try dancing looking at me, not to the ground."
"Ah... but... Sophie... that's too hard!" said Howl. "I'm going to step on your own foot if I don't look down, I'm sure of it."
"No, you won't. If you are able to walk with me in the middle of the sky without looking down you must be able to dance too!" she said, grabbing his chin and forcing him to look at her directly.
They started again to dance slowly. Howl didn't step on Sophie's feet anytime, but he surely was having difficulties at following her while dancing. But he was trying hard, she knew it, because soon he managed to follow some steps.
"That's it, Howl! You did it!" Sophie shouted. She was so happy that the wizard managed to learn some steps that she glomped him. Howl, caught by surprise, lost his balance and fell forward.
Covered with flower petals on his hair, he looked to Sophie, who was giggling. He couldn't help but smile and laugh together, while they made their way back to the moving castle.
Looking to the dark sky of night, Madam Sulliman was drinking her tea when suddenly a young boy with short straight blond hair and blue eyes announced the presence of Prince Justin.
The servant, who was the exact copy of Howl when he was a child, left, leaving the prince and the wizard alone.
"So, have you invited that girl and Howl?" she asked calmly.
"Yes, I did." The prince replied.
"Did you know that Howl doesn't know how to dance?" the wizard asked.
The prince opened his mouth to answer, but closed it again. He didn't know that! He always thought that wizards could do anything, with their magic and all.
Madam Sulliman smiled. "That's your chance to dance with that girl again."
Prince Justin smiled a little at the thought of dancing with his beloved Sophie. But he was afraid of Howl's anger and he didn't want to turn into a scarecrow again. Even so, it wasn't fair with Howl, he knew that the eccentric wizard was in love with Sophie too.
"I know that you are still in love with that girl. Maybe you can gain her heart in this ball." Sulliman spoke again.
"Howl is just a child trapped inside an adult body. Sophie will be happier with you, a true gentleman, rather then with my stupid apprentice."
The young man considered her words. He couldn't deny that he never liked the fact that Sophie was living inside a magic castle with a weird wizard, an ex-witch, a fire demon, a boy and a dog. If it were another girl, he knew that she would never live in a place like that.
"No, I can't do that. She loves him." The prince finally said.
"You can change people's opinion."
"Again, it's not fair. Besides, Howl will transform me into a scarecrow again if I steal Sophie from him." He finished, leaving Madam Sulliman alone.
The great wizard stood up. One of her servants appeared again, helping the old woman to make her way to bed.
"I'm surrounded by fools, don't you think, my dear?" she asked to her servant.
The blond boy just said. "Yes, Madam."
Author's note: Forgive me for any OCC. This chapter was quite short,I'll try to put more action on the next chapter. I don't have any beta reader for now, so any spelling, typing and grammar mistakes, sorry. I did made some spell checking, but it can have some mistakes that I didn't find while doing it. I'm having problems with uploader, it's "eating" the space I did between the title and this author note.