Best Friend For Hire, Entry 361

By Sunday evening, my group had flown to Northwestern France, landing in a field by permission of Alma’s acquaintance. Finally seeing the exterior of the spacecraft, Jarod couldn’t contain his comments. Ai and Mai were little better, though they were more interested in military application of the technology. Tearing them away to visit Mont-Saint-Michel took some time, but we managed and saw the lights of the island come alive as we crossed the bridge.

Luckily, the view of the place seemed to inspire the group. This last spot for our trip had been my pick, since I really wanted to see the beautiful architecture of the island. Most of the group seemed more keen on visiting another beach when I suggested the idea, but they came around. If I could tell them how many beaches I had seen between thousands of worlds, they might understand my lack of enthusiasm, but only Alma and Dani could share in those experiences.

The group merged with others as we stepped onto Grande Rue, a street lined with restaurants, souvenir shops, and hotels. Stopping periodically as members of the group spotted things they wished to purchase, Alma and I were careful to keep an eye on Dani in case her enthusiasm got the best of her.

Throughout our travels, Dani had seen a plethora of ruins dating back millennia, but she had never seen anything constructed within the past thousand years made of stone until she arrived on Earth. I had on other planets, but Dani hadn’t visited those yet.

Feeling someone trying to contact me, I allowed the telepathy to come through. Instantly I saw visions of Adelmar alone on an island. That man had the worst timing to be losing control, but I nodded to my wife. Telling the others that we would catch up later, I followed Alma to a secluded area where Aaliyah was waiting.

He noticed us immediately and screamed “NO! GET AWAY FROM HERE!”

“Don’t worry, my friend. You can’t hurt us.” I assured him.

Unfortunately, my words had the opposite effect. He lunged at me, jumping over one hundred yards with his fist aimed at my head. Grabbing his arms, I threw him to the ground and wrenched them behind his back. Spells meant to kill me appeared, but Adelmar regained enough composure to release them.

“I’m sorry.” he stated in a strained tone. “James, you should take my cousin and run. “I… argh…” The strain was building in his voice. “can’t stop… the change.”

Smiling, I said, “Don’t worry. I’ve wrestled dragons before.”

“Mother will be happy to see you. She might get rather upset that Dani isn’t with us this time, but I didn’t want my daughter to see you like this.” insisted Alma.

Adelmar’s eyes went wide as Alma showed him where we’d be going. His arms went limp in my grasp, and I felt a rippling under his skin.

Releasing him I jumped back to where my wife stood and watched as Adelmar’s form exploded out into that of a dragon with glistening, pale blue scales.

Aaliyah allowed herself to be seen, though she took the form of Death. Adelmar didn’t seem to care. His head was cocked sideways as he listened to the song of dragons calling to him.

She raised her hand and a gateway appeared over it, showing the world of dragons. His head immediately snapped toward the portal. Then, without a moment’s hesitation, Adelmar leaped through, and we followed.

“Welcome, Adelmar, to your home.” stated the dragon mother in a booming voice before lowering her enormous head to nuzzle him. Turning to the rest of the assembled dragons, she said, “The rest of you be warned: I have granted Adelina permission to coddle this child for his first month. Play nicely.”

At that, many of the dragons took to the sky leaving us behind. A few did stay to watch as Adelina swooped toward us from the East with another dragon I recognized, Arthur.

:Adelina is that really you?: questioned Adelmar telepathically.

“Yes, nephew.” she replied. “Allow me to introduce Arthur. He has volunteered to assist with your reeducation.”

:Reeducation? What do you mean?: questioned Adelmar warily.

“Your family history is chock-full of lies, so they mean to give some clarification on your family’s role on things.” I explained.

Adelmar snarled, but quickly winced as the dragon mother set her claw on top of him. He looked up pitifully as she released him.

:Alma, how have you been coming here? Why didn’t you warn me!?: he inquired.

“Sorry, but I didn’t come here until my honeymoon, during which many years passed for me.”

A vision of Dani when we first met her came to mind, sent to each of us. Then visions of her growing, playing here with the dragons.

Smiling at him, she then said, “I am much older than you now, cousin. James is even older yet.”

Aaliyah, now appearing as a child once more, called up at him “And don’t you dare get grumpy at them. I make them keep secrets. You should be used to it, given how you ran things.”

He swiped at her, but hit one of the giant claws of the dragon mother.

“Child, don’t die on your first day here. No one will bat an eye if she skins you and makes a chair from your corpse.” cautioned the dragon mother.

“Flee in terror, sure, but no eye batting.” teased Arthur with a toothy grin.

The dragon mother shoved him with the back of a claw, knocking him over. She smiled as he righted himself. Then she took a few steps away from us before flying off.

Alma and I spent several long days there, assisting Adelina and Arthur in helping Adelmar acclimate to his new life. Aaliyah messed with him constantly, but I felt she was aiding him in learning anger management. Freshly turned Slayers had years of pent-up rage to release, often taking months.

Arthur was there to ensure Adelina wouldn’t be hurt after we left. She was too close to Adelmar’s age to beat him easily were he to get aggressive, despite more experience as a dragon. Arthur, however, had hundreds of years to his advantage.

After numerous farewells and another visit from the dragon mother, Alma, Aaliyah, and I returned to France, mere minutes after we had left by Earth’s reckoning. Sadly, Adelmar’s son would be far worse for his family than Adelmar had been, but we were prepared.

Advertisements

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 360

Achille jumped out of his chair and spun around when he noticed that I had arrived. Seeing her brother jump, Heloise ― the taller, blonde sister ― gaped at me.

The shorter sister with black hair, Babette exclaimed “Whoa! You’re actually here! We had heard you left the city this morning.”

“I did. They really didn’t tell you much about me when you were ordered to kidnap my daughter.” I stated, shaking my head.

“How is she your daughter? Aren’t you around our age?” asserted Achille, though his stance was submissive. He didn’t want to try fighting me.

“Dani is adopted, but she is every bit my daughter.” I assured him with a smile.

“Who is Hyun-woo?” questioned Heloise quietly. “You mentioned him when you released us.”

I sighed, realizing I should have expected that none of the three would know his name. Hyun-woo was someone who had pulled strings from behind the scenes for decades. Even their former boss was probably unaware of who had given the order.

“Hyun-woo was the son of a Slayer from decades back. He had challenged me for my wife’s hand and then instigated the attempted kidnapping of Dani. Removing his hand wasn’t enough of a demonstration for him.” I explained.

“Was?” inquired Babette with wide eyes.

“You removed his hand!?” questioned Heloise, gaping again.

“He passed away yesterday. Sorry for the family’s loss, but this was necessary.” I replied apologetically. Though I didn’t really think myself as part of the Slayer family, I was as far as any of them were concerned, so I tried not to be needlessly offensive.

Three sets of bulging eyes stared at me. Heloise looked frightened. Babette seemed impressed. Achille was looking at each exit and his sisters in turn, as if attempting to find an escape.

“Adelmar didn’t complain to me, so there is no need for you three to worry. I assure you that you’ll all be well-protected while in my employ.” I informed them. Seeing that they didn’t seem reassured, I said, “You were at least told I am married to Alma Pendreigh, weren’t you?”

Blood seemed to leave their faces, and I felt even more sorry for them. None of these three were particularly strong in magic by the standards of my household, but having some magic was enough for them to be forced into service. Their lives had been a series of difficult choices, but they managed to keep their family intact without doing anything too reprehensible.

“Don’t worry.” I stated. “My wife is not seeking revenge for the attempted kidnapping. She honestly thought the attempt was comical to watch, given your extreme lack of training compared with our daughter. Your faces when Raine restrained you were particularly amusing.”

“What is she?” asked Achille.

“Raine? She’s half-werecat and half-demon. I sent her to save you from Dani, since my daughter can be overly rambunctious when she’s having fun.” I explained, refraining from mentioning the more embarrassing instances Dani’s enthusiasm got the better of her. “I apologize for the cracked ribs, but I did see to having the expense covered by your former employer.”

“Demon, really? You have a demon that listens to you!?” demanded Babette.

“She’s actually employed by my company, though I hope you are quick to see that I think of my employees as friends. You all will be included in that friendship if you are willing to work for me. Raine is actually one of the sweetest people you will ever meet. She is a bit shy still, but I imagine you will get to know her during your stay in my home.”

“Do we really have a choice in this?” asked Heloise.

I shrugged and said, “More of a choice than you’re typically given, but I must admit that the alternative isn’t great. Working for me will ensure that you are safe, paid well, and eventually working here in France. Choose not to work for me, and you’ll be left to the good will of the family. I swear to you that none of my household will seek recompense for the little scuffle even if you decide not to join us.”

“If you’re not going to kill us, why did you have us meet you in an abandoned building?” asked Babette.

“This is a recent acquisition. Imagine stairs over here leading into the catacombs beneath us. We can have the front entrance over there, stairs past the box behind you leading to employee housing, and a recreational area in this that half.” I created illusions as I spoke to give an impression of what these things might look like. “I will, of course, give you three preferential treatment on room assignment and renovation suggestions, given that you’ll be the first of my French employees.”

“Why us?” asked Achille, still staring around at the illusions. “Why would you hire the people who were supposed to kidnap your daughter?”

“Waste not, want not?” I teased. “As I see things, you three owe me for saving you from Dani. If you had actually managed to injure someone, you would have seen her angry, which is much more dangerous than when she’s playing around as she was. Furthermore, I know you three have the potential to be truly amazing. You just need someone to give you the right opportunity, and I would be a terrible businessman to let such potential go to waste.“

The triplets looked between one another and the illusions, considering what I told them. I pressed my point by handing each of them a file on themselves. The files showed every last crime they had committed and their finances in the front. From there, details ranged from interests to secrets. However they cared to view what I handed them, they would be able to recognize that I knew far more about them than they would like.

After allowing them to peruse their files for a few minutes, I said, “Yes, I am still wanting to hire you. You can throw your misgivings out and stop worrying about your misdeeds coming to light. I already know. Our background checks at Best Friend For Hire are exceptionally thorough as you can see, and I want you to join us.”

Each of them had questions about how I had attained certain facts in the files, but I brushed their questions aside and insisted there would be plenty of time later to discuss such things. In the end, all three agreed, so I let them know when we would be picking them up. I saw good things in their futures.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 359

“Daddy, please!” begged Dani, her amethyst eyes taking on that pleading look she had mastered through years of begging me for things.

“Be careful. Jemal’s in charge. Call me if there’s any trouble.” I replied, staring them all down.

“You sure about this!?” asked Jemal nervously.

“What? You seemed fine with the idea until you were in charge.” I told him with a smile. “I’m sure you can handle a little shopping with the girls. Have fun!”

“We will!” insisted Maple

My wife and I we’re heading to the Palace of Versailles today. Cosette, Raine, Dejon, Brandon, Deyanira, Brenna, Emma, Aurora, Iris, and the twins were coming with us. Portentia and Maxine made a deal where Portentia would be accompanying Maxine to see another of her friends if Maxine went on patrol tonight. Aaliyah and Mila were off negotiating a deal on behalf of my company to procure some real estate.

Our private tour started in the gardens, much to Emma’s delight. Then we went on to explore the Hameau de la Reine. Despite the sun, Cosette smiled from under her umbrella. She’d drunk her fill this morning, and we had more blood stored for her in a cooler. I had worked a little magic to help redirect sunlight as well, and then created illusions to hide the unnatural shadows. Still, I felt for her, needing such extreme measures to tour her father’s old home.

After arriving in the billiard room, Cosette said, “I wonder what my father would think of this place now. Would he recognize it? The descriptions in his journals are similar, but would he complain about the differences?”

Knowing that Aaliyah would likely allow me to ask the man directly, I was somewhat tempted, but I knew I would feel guilty speaking with Cosette if I did. Being able to talk with the parents she missed so much just wouldn’t be fair.

“I’m sure he would be happy you could see it, whether or not it is quite the same.” replied Alma as she hugged Cosette’s shoulders.

Cosette seemed to tense under her touch for a moment. Though for my wife killing Louis happened decades ago, less than a year had passed for Cosette. I was thankful when she relaxed and leaned against Alma.

We spent a little more time in the village before heading off to the palace. Thanks to Adelmar’s notions of respect, a number of the people attending us in France knew who Cosette was and treated her like royalty here. I doubted any of them spoke with Adelmar regularly, so they were probably frightened of earning his ire should Cosette be displeased.

For her part, Cosette seemed to ignore the gestures, but I was certain she knew with how she started conversations as we approached any of the staff, avoiding any acknowledgement of their bows. She didn’t partake in the refreshments we were brought or respond to any of the meaningful comments of our guide. Some of the staff obviously noticed that she was wearing some of the “missing” crown jewels.

When we reached the second floor of the palace, my phone buzzed. Video footage from a security camera instantly played across the screen as I looked at it. Three people were attempting to capture my daughter, quite unsuccessfully.

“Raine, would you mind tying these three up?” I asked, showing her what was happening.

She was on the screen before I looked up from it.

“Please excuse me. I must inform someone of my sentiments toward kidnapping my family.” I announced. Then I ran out. The moment I was out of sight, Aaliyah transported me across the world.

“Hyun-woo.” I stated, making the man jump and rapidly spin around. “My secretary just informed me that you were behind the attempted kidnapping of my daughter. I’ve decided not to intervene on your behalf, since your family can be exceptionally slow learners. After Adelmar is informed of the situation, Aaliyah will be visiting to discuss the details of your demise. You have under five minutes to make any last arrangements you would like. Goodbye.”

He started casting several spells, but I sidestepped and returned to France, thanking Aaliyah for being so accommodating. Unfortunately, there would be many more moves against me in years to come. I had a very organized list thanks to my secretary. Still, I really didn’t like these matters.

“Sorry I took a bit to catch up.” I announced, stepping up from behind my friends and daughter. “I assure you this won’t happen again today. Please return to shopping while I have a chat with our new friends.”

“F-Friends!? You’re joking, right?” questioned Jemal.

At the same time, Dani said, “Thank you, daddy! Did you see the fight!?”

“Yes, you really need to work on pulling your punches.” I replied with a smirk. She had certainly cracked some ribs.

“Sorry, daddy.” she told me, faking an apologetic expression.

“Raine, they’re still touring Versailles if you want to see the rest.” I told her.

She looked hesitant for a moment, and then disappeared.

“Is this type of thing normal?” inquired Maple, looking worried.

“No, but I’ve got much to discuss with these three.” I told her.

“Come on! Daddy will be fine. Let’s go!” insisted Dani.

“Come on, Jemal.” agreed Kayla as she took his hand.

They’d be fine. After they were a ways off, I walked over to the three attackers and smiled. “Achille, Babette, and Heloise Marceau, correct?”

They looked frightened and surprised.

“I’ll be opening a French branch of my company soon. I need to give you some tests and obviously train you, but I have plans for you to be working for me. Hyun-woo is being dealt with, and your boss will soon be begging me to take you off his hands. I’ve already read through your files, and I think you all have marvelous potential. I’ve texted you where to go, so please be prompt. Tardiness is not a sign of an admirable best friend for hire.”

After I released their bonds with a spell, the trio stood, looking baffled. They’d fit in soon enough.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 358

Our first stop Friday morning, after an early breakfast, was a trip to the Louvre. We met one of Alma’s associates at the Porte des Lions entrance before the museum was open for the days’ crowds. Before long, we were admiring paintings such as the Mona Lisa. Aaliyah pointed out a couple fakes and told what she “heard” happened, leaving our guide a bit disgruntled unfortunately.

Throughout the tour, Alma made remarks about her family in relation to various works. The twins were quite obviously shocked about some of the failures Alma mentioned, but Cosette was obviously delighted about the honesty. Maple and Iris were openly shocked by many of the tales, having been unaware at how much Alma’s family had manipulated the world.

I had already known many of the tales, and I knew many others that couldn’t be mentioned to her, tales of John Smith and his exploits. I also knew some of Aaliyah’s tales which were certainly not to be repeated. I did, however, share some stories of Egypt I learned from the eldest vampires when I recognized a depiction of them.

My daughter seemed to enjoy the tales immensely. She had waited for so many years to come to Earth and hear more about our lives. Growing up, she had to face the stark contrast between how I was seen in her galaxy and how she saw me as her father, but she always knew her parents’ story was larger still. Alma’s mother had spoken often of Earth and her family here. To this day, I was still known for more deeds than I had accomplished yet. Time travel really did complicate events.

Next we ate lunch before we ventured into the catacombs beneath Paris. Cosette was quick to point out that what we saw was partly due to her father’s reign, since he was the ruler here at the time the catacombs became ossuaries. She teased about knowing a few hidden areas from her father’s journal.

Jarod, Brandon, and Kayla were enthusiastic about the idea of watching horror movies in the catacombs after hearing the story of police discovering a secret theater in 2004. Emma seemed torn between the arguments of such an act being destructive given that they altered a historical landmark and comments about how perfect the setting was.

I suggested taking a walk to enjoy some of the famous architecture throughout Paris when we left the catacombs, but only Raine, Alma, Marco, Dejon, and Emma seemed interested. Jarod and Aurora were dragged off by the twins to do more shopping with Brenna. Brandon and Deyanira wanted some alone time. Maple, Iris, Jemal, Kayla, Dani, and Mila went to another museum. Portentia gave into Maxine’s request to visit an acquaintance of hers. Cosette had a meeting with some vampires in a different section of catacombs.

After arriving at the concert in the late evening, we split into two groups. Some had asked for general admission, wanting to get as close to the stage as possible. The rest of us were quite satisfied sitting without anyone shoving us.

Dani had been interested in being on the floor, but I was worried over how the flood of emotions would affect her judgement and convinced her to sit with me. She really didn’t complain too much, singing along from between Alma and me.

The concert went on for hours, giving us quite the show. Afterwards, we went to a restaurant owned by a friend of Marco for a late dinner. I got the impression this friend of his, Ines Couture, was attempting to show off with the lavish display of food. She was quite attractive in an outfit that was clearly new, and she obviously enjoyed her work. She seemed romantically interested in Marco, but he didn’t really seem to notice. Of course, he might know of the interest but not how to turn her down. Nonetheless, I wasn’t certain why he didn’t seem more interested in her.

My group made our way back to the hotel after dinner, still talking about the concert and Paris in general. Most of the group quickly went to bed that night, leaving the rest of us to another night of Pathfinder. Well, Portentia insisted on going out again, talking about a number of criminals she had caught the previous night.

Where we had left off, our adventurers had stopped a plot from an evil mummy who was attempting to gain control of a city, but we found evidence of a larger scheme. The mummy was just a minion of some stronger being who was enacting a plan to control the nation.

Finding only vague evidence to corroborate this plot, we set off to a larger city in the North where the greatest library of the nation was kept. Soon after reaching the library we were interrupted by powerful zombies crawling their way up through the floor. Raine was mortified when a couple zombies she had set on fire barreled into the bookshelves, setting them ablaze. The fight grew intense as Raine’s sorceress battled the flames while we battled undead.

Our research appeared to be permanently halted until Cosette made a Perception check to find a clue in the charred mess. Before following the clue, we first attempted to follow the tunnels in which the zombies had traveled to us.

After numerous turns and even more plot twists, the sun began to rise in the real world. Our game had to take rest, but we were all looking forward to the next night where we would get to play again. Mila certainly knew how to tell a tale.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 357

After landing, most of the group left to check in at our hotel. My wife and I went to partake in a late, secret dinner with the British Ambassador, French Prime Minister, and French President. Jarod would be stuck attending his own meeting if Duncan had asked anything of the twins.

Unfortunately, I grew quite used to meetings such as this during my honeymoon. Alma didn’t even have to chide me for missteps anymore. I was, however, quite happy that in this meeting my wife was considered the honored guest, so I had little to do other than make polite conversation while she conducted business.

By the dinner’s conclusion, I could tell that my wife had quite enough of this meeting. Not long after returning home, she had confessed to growing rather accustomed with her lack of family work on our honeymoon. Now that we both knew more about the bigger plan, her family’s interests seemed rather petty, though they did have a role to play.

When we arrived at the hotel, those of the group who were planning to sleep had already excused themselves to try, given that midnight had passed. I did hope Dani managed to get some rest, but I doubted that she would fall asleep soon unless there were more people feeling sleepy than excited in the area.

Not feeling keen on trying the Paris nightlife at present, Alma and I decided to join Cosette, Raine, and even Maxine in a Pathfinder RPG adventure ran by Mila. Portentia was already out patrolling the city, looking for criminals. Even on vacation, she wanted to protect people more than anything.

I decided to roll up a Halfling Gunslinger who dual-wielded pistols, thinking the daring desperado would be intriguing alternate persona. I gave him a background where he had worked as a smith’s apprentice, was forced into a shootout with crooked soldiers, and had been on the run ever since.

Alma favored an Elven Arcanist, claiming she couldn’t abide a world where she lacked magic. She wrote a backstory around mine, speaking of a one-sided love with a lawless Halfling who had saved her from miscreants on the road where they met.

I did warn her that I might fail to role-play someone who wasn’t in love with her, but she argued that my Halfling was too concerned with survival to be easily caught up in a meaningful relationship.

Cosette was playing a Dhampir Rogue who specialized in hunting vampires. The Dhampir was born with fangs and a thirst for blood, but desperately fought her desires with her lust for revenge as she grew older. She happened upon the Halfling and Elf one night when she was on a hunt and asked them to help save a town.

“A Tiefling Paladin?” inquired Cosette with a smirk. “Is that even legal?”

Smiling, Mila said, “There’s no rule against it.”

“A redeemed villain is my calling.” insisted Maxine. “He’ll gladly fight the darkness alongside your character. In fact, if no one is against it, my character could start already in the town ready to face the undead horde.”

“Who said there is a horde?” questioned Cosette. “Vampires can be brilliant strategists, carefully taking what they need while manipulating the masses.”

“Are you certain? I’ve seen them portrayed as bloodthirsty monsters unable to resist the urge to feed.” replied Maxine with a smile as she pulled her collar down to further expose her neck.

“In Pathfinder RPG, they tend to be in control of themselves and others, but you’ll have to see how this plays out.” explained Mila. “Everyone ready?”

“No. How am I supposed to heal people at level one?” asked Maxine.

Mila shrugged and said, “Typically, you’d heal out of combat with rest and healer kits, given that none of you have a class that can use Divine magic yet. As part of your backstory, we’ll say Tina the Terrible found a partially used Wand of Cure Light Wounds. The wand has twenty charges left.”

“You named your Paladin ‘Tina the Terrible’?” questioned Cosette.

“Yes. She’s often misunderstood due to a low Wisdom and ranks in Intimidate. I plan for her to fail her Sense Motive checks regularly, jump to conclusions, and intimidate people into behaving.”

Grinning, Cosette told her “Okay. That does sound terrible. What are you playing, Raine?”

“C-Catfolk Sorceress with a ch-cheetah. B-bio… loaded.” she told us, pointing to the headsets.

“This thing’s a novel.” complained Maxine.

“I must say that it’s very well-written and gives an excellent sense of the character.” asserted Alma.

I couldn’t argue with either of them and wondered how long Raine spent writing it. Given an interface that could keep up with her, I could see Raine writing a full novel in under one second. I considered eventually writing one to see what I could manage.

The group met Raine’s character at the edge of the city, sweet talking the guards into allowing her cheetah to enter. From there, gossip led us to Tina the Terrible, who was already jailed as a lunatic due to her methods and rants about an undead overlord corrupting the city.

Playing Pathfinder RPG through the VR gear was pretty immersive. Mila easily handled acting as the numerous citizens to bring them to life while modifying the scenario based on our actions. Even Maxine’s “accidental” bar brawl became part of what tipped us off about undead in the room. I would have to thank Maple later for getting us started.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 356

Over a week on Earth passed since Maple joined my company.  I wasn’t certain how many years I spent in business during that time, and was happier in my ignorance.  I had decided to do additional work off-planet ahead of time, so I wouldn’t be taking time away during this trip.

 

Maple was far from being a competent fighter, but I had faith the enhancement suit would keep her safe enough if trouble arose.  Her room had been furnished, she was adjusting to her new schedule, and her course work was progressing nicely enough. Her first Pathfinder game with Mila would be underway soon, and I looked forward to hearing about it.  Maple was at her liveliest when talking about role-playing games. She had gushed about her guild’s reactions to her new job as they responded that day, though she did keep the new Ancient Tribes of Earth event a secret.

 

Dani, Kayla, and Iris were making great progress with their new guild, at some cost to my guild.  The trio had Mila helping them pick out likely candidates, which gave them quite an advantage. Mila’s assessments for everyone’s capabilities and usefulness to the new guild were, unsurprisingly, extremely accurate from what I saw.  In a single week, the trio had poached over one hundred players. The advancement would likely lessen while those three were on this trip.

 

The excitement in my limo was palpable as we arrived at the airport.  The other two limousines weren’t far behind. I stepped out, offered a hand to my wife and waited.  Mila would protest if I attempted to help with luggage. Jarod, Ai, Mai, Cosette, and Aurora had ridden with us.  Jared had convinced Aurora’s parents that this trip would be a unique opportunity for her to see more of the world in a safe environment.  He, Mila, and Portentia were going to take turns chaperoning her, so I was confident things would go well.

 

“Why aren’t you hurrying?” questioned Iris as she joined us.  “We still have to make our way through security before our flight.”

 

“Don’t worry.  We’ll be heading to an exclusive wing, and security won’t bother us.” I assured her.  “My wife and I have a great deal of experience flying.”

 

Alma smiled knowingly.  Before our honeymoon, her experience flying and had vastly outstripped mine.  She still had more experience flying on Earth than I did, but Earth wasn’t the only planet with annoying security practices.  Of course, Alma never actually bothered to fly commercially even before our honeymoon, so she might not even be aware of what passing through security here was like.

 

“Daddy!  We may starve to death before we even arrive at this rate.  Traffic is sooo slow.” complained Dani.

 

Alma and I may have spoiled her a bit much, but the smile she gave me even as she complained made me not really care.

 

“Wow.  Do you two really only have one bag?” asked Brandon, eyeing the bag severely.

 

Alma laughed and said, “We’re planning on shopping.  This may surprise you, but I have been to France before.  I know of a few stores in Paris that I find entirely lovely, so we’ll just buy what we want to wear there.  Our luggage contains gifts for family. James and I will be expected to pay our respects before roaming the country.  Jarod, Ai, and Mai probably should as well.”

 

“Mind showing me some of these stores?” asked Brenna with barely contained excitement.

 

Cosette looked eager too.

 

“I probably already know them and can show you if she’s too busy.” stated Maxine.  She was wearing a wig and sunglasses at the moment.

 

“Don’t try to escape me.” warned Portentia.

 

“Of course not, cretin.  I’ll enjoy watching you suffer as we shop.” replied Maxine with a warm smile.

 

“How will you even afford anything?” demanded Portentia.

 

Maxine’s smile turned smug as she said, “I’m owed favors around the world.  Mila allowed me to call one.”

 

“James!  Did you hear that?” asked Portentia indignantly.

 

“Mila wouldn’t allow anything criminal on her watch, and Maxine’s been well behaved.  I think we can afford to trust her intent here. She knows not to cause trouble.” I assured her, glancing at Maxine as I said the last part.

 

“Fine.” stated Portentia grumpily.

 

Maple had watched the exchange warily.  She was rather shocked when she met Maxine and was informed of Maxine’s criminal history.  Her dubiousness toward Maxine’s abilities was amusing up until Portentia’s demonstration, slicing a finger off during lunch with a steak knife.  Maple, unfortunately, didn’t finish her lunch even after confirming that Portentia still had ten fingers, excluding the one that was the floor. Alma had gently chided Portentia over the timing, but only briefly.

 

With everyone gathered, Alma led us into the private wing and onto our “aircraft”.  I enjoyed watching as eyes bulged in shock. Alma and I had grown a bit attached to our spaceship, so she had a modified ramp constructed for use at this airport.  There were numerous questions, of course, but I explained that Aaliyah and Mila had modified this craft with classified components. Then I apologized for being unable to accommodate them with answers.

 

“Are you sure it’s safe?” asked Maple.

 

Jarod laughed and said, “I trust her tech more than anything else on the planet.  Just don’t try to disassemble anything.”

 

“Why isn’t she with us?  I thought she was meeting us at the airport.” commented Iris as she looked around.

 

Mila frowned and said, “She’ll meet us in France.  Mother likes taking commercial flights to annoy customs.  Her flight left hours ago. I’m on it, unfortunately. Please follow me.  We’ll have a brief tour before take off. The master has graciously allowed use of the bedrooms if you wish to nap, since he and Alma will be on the bridge.  The kitchen is out-of-service, unfortunately, but Marco came prepared with drink and snacks.”

 

The kitchen wasn’t actually out-of-service, but the technology in there was blatantly alien.  Even Dani was impressed by it when she had learned enough to understand it, and she had still found the controls odd.  Aaliyah had advised us to keep it locked. The rest of the ship could be passed off as extraordinarily advanced without any obviously alien features.  I’d have to sit and listen to Jaord theorize after this trip.
Before long, we were in the air.  Nearly half the group would be trying Pathfinder with Mila.  The rest would probably read, talk, or play Ancient Tribes of Earth.  Since Alma was keeping our craft in the atmosphere, they still had hours to kill.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 355

“Auntie! The planet!? Really!?” asked Dani, practically bouncing in her chair.

“Possibly!” replied Aaliyah excitedly. “If you look at your guild menu, you’ll find that you’re infiltrating The Garde and an officer of Hagen’s Rising. How much of the planet is conquered largely depends on your ability to recruit, but I have faith in you three.”

“I’ll join!” exclaimed Cosette. “I can probably convince many of my clan members to join as well.”

“And thus Aaliyah’s evil plot to dismantle my guild works flawlessly.” I teased.

“But I’m your daughter! You’ll never lose me!” insisted Dani. “How much of the guild are we allowed to take?”

“The game is on, my love. Best hurry before we stop your infiltration.” replied Alma.

“We’ll probably give you a couple days head start, since we learned of your infiltration outside of the game. I’m simply trying to be fair, mind you, not giving my daughter unjust leeway.” I told her. “As for the rest of you, let’s keep this secret among us and see what happens. I’m interested in seeing how this infiltration thing works.”

Aaliyah grinned and opened her mouth, but frowned when I shook my head. “Fiiine! No spoilers.”

“Raine, will you help me travel there before you get too far away?” asked Cosette.

Raine nodded.

“I feel so conflicted right now. I really want to tell my guild about this, but I missed part of the story and don’t want to lose my job.” stated Maple.

“Who are you!?” asked Dani after backflipping over her chair and turning to face Maple.

“You’re pink!” exclaimed Maple.

“You can see!” teased Dani.

“I-I love your hair.” replied Maple, looking startled as Dani stepped closer to her.

“I don’t bite.” promised Dani, stepping even closer.

“Even if she asks?” inquired Cosette from her chair.

“Maple Apple Wood, I’m James’ wife, Alma, and this is our daughter, Dani.” explained Alma as she stepped forward and wrapped an arm around Dani. Then she pointed and said, “The one with black hair who’s going to stop standing on her seat is Kayla, Jemal’s sister. Iris is the one with the ponytail over there. Mind waving Iris?” She waited as Iris stood and waved with a grin. “Thank you. Raine, mind coming over and greeting Maple instead of trying to hide in your seat?”

“Is s-she allergic to c-cats?”

“I’m not.” replied Maple, looking confused.

“No need to turn into one.” stated Alma.

“She’s a shapechanger?” asked Maple, sounding amazed

“She’s part werecat.” replied Alma.

“What’s the other part?” questioned Maple, oblivious to Raine standing nervously to her side now.

“D-Demon.” whispered Raine.

Maple jumped. “How did you…? Weren’t you over there!?” asked Maple, pointing to where Alma had looked when talking to Raine.

“I-I win r-races.”

“You’ll only ever see Raine move if she allows you to see her. She could vacation in Okinawa daily and keep up with her work here each day with ease.” I told Maple.

Raine’s mouth hung open as she stared at me. Then she said, “M-Mila… map! I c-can visit Japan!”

Alma quickly said, “Hold on! You’ll want money. The twins have some Japanese currency on hand, so you can exchange with them if you don’t want to try exchanging there. You might want to learn the language if you haven’t. The twins will also want you to deliver a gift for their family, since you’ll be in the country. If you deliver the gift, I’ll have Izumi prepare some currency for you to pick up.”

“You’re planning on running to Japan… You know it’s an island, right?” asked Maple.

“Raine can fly. She also could run on water if she felt like it. No one really wants to see what she could do to the sea if she swam there.” replied Alma.

“I c-can swim without d-disturbing the water.” insisted Raine.

“That’s not really swimming, Raine. You’re pretending to swim while flying through the water as energy.” I replied.

“R-Really!?” she exclaimed.

“Aaliyah’s done tests.” I assured her.

Aaliyah nodded with a grin.

“Will you get me a souvenir!?” exclaimed Kayla.

“Kayla! Don’t force Raine to get you stuff.” scolded Jemal.

“I d-don’t mind.” replied Raine.

“I’ll give you souvenir money too.” stated Alma.

“Th-this is okay?” questioned Raine, looking at me for approval.

I nodded and said, “I don’t dictate your free time. If you want to travel, feel free. Just don’t be late for work, and please make some time for us. You’ll be missed if you’re gone too much.”

Raine hugged me, so I patted her head.

“Did you see that? She teleported.” claimed Maple.

“She’s just fast.” replied Alma, smiling when Raine hugged her free side.

“You’ll get used to this place in no time.” called Iris. “Just expect miracles daily. My poor dad asked Best Friend For Hire to join his baseball league. Imagine the shock he’s in for.”

“Oh… will I be expected to play?” asked Maple.

“Only if you want to participate. Don’t worry. We’ll get some practice in ahead of time. I’m thinking of giving everyone who participates a bonus this year.” I assured her.

“Daddy, will I get to play? What’s baseball?” asked Dani.

“Ask Mila later.” I told her. “I’ll check with Mr. Storm about whether or not you’d be allowed to participate. Kayla seems interested as well.”

“Thank you, James!” exclaimed Kayla. “Jemal will have to bat for me if I can’t.”

Smiling at her, Jemal said, “I probably can’t bat as well as you.”

“We should add a penalty.” suggested Cosette with a wicked grin. “I get a snack for every missed swing.”

“And what if you miss?” I asked.

“I’ll drop dead from shock unless you or Alma are pitching. Raine would be nice to me.” she claimed.

“A-Always nice.” agreed Raine, hugging Cosette.

“I’ll just have to convince Raine that getting you to push yourself is good for you. I like the idea of her pitching. Her fastball will be incredible.” I teased.

“P-Pitching!?” asked Raine in alarm.

Nodding, I said, “You do fantastic with clients, but you need to grow more accustomed to the spotlight. I’m sure you can manage keeping your pitches down to a hundred miles per hour. We’ll practice.”

“My poor dad…” mumbled Iris.

“The poor league. Plenty of professionals can miss a ball that fast.” corrected Alma with a smile.

I shrugged and said, “We’ll have fun.”