Best Friend For Hire, Entry 369

Just a week after Jarod’s birthday, his parents’ house was fully renovated, so their move was planned for the following week. Knowing in advance, Aaliyah had scheduled an opt-in work day for those willing to help. Mr. and Mrs. Davis were a bit bewildered when most of my crew arrived, despite Jarod’s warning.

“Have you toured the new house yet?” inquired Mai.

“A little. We kept meaning to look around more, but things just haven’t worked out.” replied Mrs. Davis.

“Becky, you simply must see it before we haul everything inside.” insisted Ai. “James, you’ll supervise the rest, won’t you?”

I nodded and said, “Sure thing. Let Jarod explain all of the new bells and whistles while we tidy things up here.”

“I feel like we’re imposing on all of you enough already.” stated Mr. Davis as he worriedly brushed his hand through his hair and looked around.

“No imposition at all.” I assured him. “Everyone here volunteered, so just be grateful that your son has so many friends.”

“One of us really should stay to get all of the boxes labeled.” suggested Becky.

“I’ll label them!” exclaimed Aaliyah with a grin. “I’m an expert labeler, I promise!”

“You’re so sweet.” replied Becky as she bent down to pat Aaliyah’s head.

“She actually is. You’d be amazed how much I’ve learned from her in the past year. Her gaming company alone is worth a fortune, and she constantly puts out patents for crazy inventions.” explained Jarod.

“Plus, she makes money from the Intergalactic House of Awesome Sauce due to some design work she did for them. Really, there’s no need to worry about us. I do know this house fairly well, after all.” I told them.

“Well, your group does seem really organized. I supposed we can be the first off. Here’s a key to lock up.” replied Mr. Davis as he handed me the key.

“Awesome. You’re going to love this!” exclaimed Jarod with a big grin.

Ai and Mai followed him to the Mustang, and he waited for his parents to get on the road before heading off. I smiled and waved, waiting until they rounded the corner to unleash the spell I prepared, shrouding the house and yard in an illusion. Then I signaled my friends to pick up the pace. I couldn’t let Aaliyah spend the whole morning of her birthday working, even though she was probably goofing off on a billion other worlds at the same time.

True to her word, Aaliyah handled the sorting and labeling, telling me what to pack as she labeled where each box should end up. In under ten minutes, everything was packed, and we were on our way.

“You forgot to lock the door.” stated Aaliyah as she shook the key at me.

I rolled my eyes, dispelled the illusion, and used another spell to twist the locks from the inside. “Better?”

She nodded and said, “Yep! Onward!”

When we arrived, Mr. and Mrs. Davis weren’t even done with Jarod’s tour yet, so they were more than a little surprised to see us hauling things into the various rooms.

“How…” started Mr. Davis.

“To make money in my business, we have to be quick and efficient with the simple jobs.” I replied with a wink.

“James has become a bit of a show off.” teased Jarod.

“A bit?” questioned Ai.

“Understatement of the year!” exclaimed Mai, after shaking her head.

“Well, don’t I feel loved. Offer a little help and get picked on.” I complained.

“Oh, we appreciate you.” insisted Mr. Davis as he gawked at Raine and Emma moving their sofa.

“They work out!” exclaimed Aaliyah, who was standing by the door to give each person directions.

“How do you know the floorplan so well?” he questioned.

“Schematics!”

“I owe her the biggest birthday cake this year.” I stated with a smile.

“Oh! Is it your birthday?” asked Mrs. Davis. When Aaliyah nodded, she then inquired “How old are you?”

“Thirteen!” exclaimed Aaliyah.

“Uh…” started Mr. Davis.

“No, really. She’s a teenager.” I assured him as he continued to stare at the under-three-foot-tall girl.

“Let’s get back on track with the tour! I still haven’t shown you the security system.” stated Jarod as he motioned everyone to follow.

Explaining the benefits of Mila’s integration with their home was a big selling point to Jarod’s speech as he told them about the security. He then told them about Mila’s abilities as an assistant allowing her to operate anything connected to the network for them. Ai and Mai were surprisingly helpful, stopping him whenever he went too far on the technical side in his explanations.

“All finished, boss!” exclaimed Brandon with a grin after he found us in the home theater.

“Excellent. Mila should be bringing my car around, so you all can get on with your day.” I told him.

“That was really quick.” stated Mrs. Davis.

“They set some stuff up for you too!” exclaimed Aaliyah.

“I swear they work twice as fast when I’m not looking, which is a bit vexing. Shouldn’t I get to yell at them for slacking?” I mock complained.

Laughing, Mr. Davis said, “You have a great crew, James. Jarod’s told me before that I could call when I’m shorthanded, but…” He shrugged. “I might just do that sometime.”

“I can assure you that Jarod hasn’t lost his touch as a mechanic.” I replied with a grin.

He laughed again. “Yeah, that’s for sure. He tells me a little here and there.”

I shook his hand as well as Mrs. Davis’ as I told them “I best be off as well to get this little one her cake. Her father will be expecting us soon.”

“Thanks again for all of the help, James! We miss having you stop by the house.” stated Mrs. Davis.

“You’re always free to visit us as well, you know. My parents come over fairly regularly, so you could always ride together now that you’re neighbors. They won’t mind.” I replied.

Mr. Davis nodded and said, “I’m sure we’ll be spending more time with your parents. They’re supposed to stop by tomorrow. Said they wanted to give us a little something as a welcome to the neighborhood.”

I smiled and nodded before saying farewell and leaving with Aaliyah. After a stop at the Intergalactic House of Awesome Sauce to view the birthday cake, I went and helped set up for the party. Aaliyah decorated the artificial womb, claiming her daughter needed to look festive too.

The party went roughly the same as the previous year with the Intergalactic House of Awesome Sauce catering and more guests of high society than friends invited. Most of my household made an appearance throughout it, and some stayed till the end. By the end, I felt the day had gone well.

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Best Friend For Hire, Entry 368

Time seemed to pass in the blink of an eye anymore. Kayla’s friends had a wonderful time at the sleepover from what I saw. There certainly was plenty of giggling the few times they were around me. Aaliyah surely instigated some trouble to keep them entertained. The triplets nearly bumbled into the party at one point, but Raine handled them for me at Mila’s behest. Then the days went back to normal for my home. We even managed to fit in a little more baseball practice in the past week.

Today would certainly be an interesting diversion. I had been hired for a kidnapping. I was certain that Jarod wouldn’t mind being kidnapped when he finally reached the party tonight, but I did wonder what all Ai and Mai were planning to do with him until then.

“He’s coming.” whispered Alma as an image in my head.

I acknowledged her and prepared my spell to dim the lights.

“Now!”

I released the spell and moved to watch after verifying my illusory disguise was still active. Jarod was a few steps from his car, briefcase in hand. He had just finished a meeting and thought he’d be joining the twins for a birthday lunch, which would probably take place in an entirely different place than he had planned.

Mila’s dummies ― partially fleshed out cybernetic bodies meant to act as a zombie horde ― were taking quite a beating. Jarod’s suit would be helping him to see, and he was showing his aptitude in a fight all too well. If nothing else was disturbing him, the zombie stench Mila concocted surely was.

Alma, who had joined me to amuse herself, was making sure we wouldn’t be disturbed on this level of the parking garage, but I didn’t want to inconvenience people too much. I created an ice slick under Jarod’s feet, hit him with a strong burst of wind at the same time as a bit of telekinetic force, and created a burst of fire from another direction, hoping he’d think multiple casters were assailing him. I knew none of the spells would do much, reduced by the protections I had made in the suit, but Jarod had rolled perfectly as he fell backward from the telekinesis, coming to his feet and knocking one of the dummies to the side quite fluidly.

Continuing to bombard him with spells of various sorts, I fetched the straight jacket and restraints the twins had provided, certain that Mila would run out of dummies too soon at this rate. I had doubts about whether or not Jarod was even starting to fatigue with the enhancement suit bolstering his stamina. I took control of the bindings with a few spells and sent them around the dummies from different directions, adjusting the spells to ensnare Jarod as he dodged. I could have restrained him more quickly, but doing things too well might tip him off.

Using a spell to alter my voice, I said, “What took so long? Get him in the van.” Then I altered my voice again, saying, “Sorry. He’s… being difficult.” Switching back to the first voice, I tried sounding annoyed as I stated “Just shut up and move.”

Mila obliged, using the dummies to load Jarod into one van before sending them into another. I removed the spell for dimming the lights and gathered up the broken pieces before joining my wife in Jarod’s van. There was damage to numerous vehicles, but all of these had been purchased and placed here for this purpose. They’d be repaired later and used as prizes for a little event my wife was throwing for her employees.

After the van started moving, Alma altered her voice and asked “So who is this guy anyway?”

“No clue. Did you see the way he moved?” I asked.

“Yeah. He’s gotta be someone important.” she agreed.

“Who do you work for?” inquired Jarod, his voice muffled behind the bag on his head.

“Shut up!” exclaimed Alma, shifting her voice to sound masculine and kicking him.

She grinned at me, and I rolled my eyes. This reminded me of the time we kidnapped the ruler of a continental empire to save him from a rival country who had help from an intergalactic mafia.

We rode in silence for a time, save for the sounds I fabricated to replace what was actually outside. With Jarod involved, letting him hear what was actually around him might well let him know where we were. I was hopefully giving him slight vertigo as well, though the suit would be dampening it. Letting him track turns wouldn’t be advisable, but even he would probably be confused in these conditions after an hour. Mila was very good at planning convoluted routes.

Finally arriving at one of my hotels, Alma and I snuck Jarod up to the suite where the twins were waiting. One of them gave him a mock pout, and the other pretended to snicker. Then they both signed that they’d call when ready for the next stage of their plan.

Meanwhile, Alma and I went out on a lunch date.

“I am quite grateful that you never were that twisted in your birthday presents to me.” I told her after we took our seats.

“Really? I was just thinking that I might have let things be too boring.” she suggested.

I shook my head as I reached over and squeezed her hand. “No, my love. I am quite happy without being kidnapped and abused for fun.”

“Excellent. I’d need Aaliyah’s help to create a convincing kidnapping against you, and I would quite likely feel sorry for you after seeing what she’d do.” she teased.

We continued chatting for a while after our meal before getting a call from the twins. This was the riskier part of the plan. Ai and Mai had purchased an old building outside of the city where Jarod would be locked up. The plan was for him to escape, find a way to call for help, and then be taken home for the party where guests would be able to watch a video depicting his outlandish day as an action hero. Alma, Mila, the twins, and I were taking bets on how Jarod would get out of the building. Honestly, I just hoped he’d be able to look back on this birthday with a smile.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 367

“Hi, Jemal. What can I do for you today?” I inquired as he nervously stepped into my office.

“Well, umm… You see… Kayla has these friends she adores, and they really want a sleepover. Here.” he told me, fidgeting.

“Please, sit down. No need to stand. We’re friends.” I assured him.

He nodded and quickly blurted “I know that’s probably out of the question, but I promised Kayla that I’d ask you.”

“Her friends are beginning to have doubts about where she lives?” I inquired on a hunch.

He stared at me with his mouth hanging open, purposefully shut it and shrugged. “Yeah, pretty much. Knowing Kayla, she… well… She might say more than she should at times.”

“If she says what can be publicly known, I wouldn’t be surprised if not everyone believes her.” I pointed out. “Our home isn’t precisely normal.”

“Yeah… that’s true.” he admitted.

“As for the sleepover, I don’t see a problem. Any idea on when?” I asked.

Hesitating, Jemal said, “Umm…”

“Master, I believe tomorrow would work for everyone.” suggested Mila. “None of Kayla’s friends seem to have weekend appointments as far as I can find, and I’ll gladly provide transport with the limousine while chaperoning. Mind if I check with Kayla, Jemal?”

“W-What? Tomorrow? I uhh…” he started. “Don’t I have a couple jobs tomorrow?”

“Yes, which is one of the reasons I offered to provide transport. Here is my suggested schedule.” she informed him, displaying it on the wall.

Jemal would be dropped off for his job. Mila would then pick the girls up from school fifty minutes later, take them shopping for a couple hours, and collect Jemal before returning home for dinner. He’d then take himself for his next job while Mila entertained the girls with a movie in the theater, games, or other options depending on whether or not some of our friends decide to join.

“You know Dani will want to participate if Kayla’s fine with it.” I stated with an amused smile.

Jemal looked from the display to me and said, “I feel like I should be saying something about not letting them snack too much, but I think Marco would be disappointed if there was a party without his cooking.”

“Glad to see that you’ve got a good handle on things here.”

He nodded and said, “Seems fine by me. Are you sure you want to take up time watching them for me?”

“Are you sure you don’t mind a one-year-old watching them?” teased Mila.

“If that bothers you, I could stop in and make sure my daughter’s behaving.” I offered.

Looking a little worried, Jemal said, “Umm… no offense, boss, but is that even a good idea? Wouldn’t they… well…”

“I’m sure my magic wouldn’t bother them nearly as much as Dani’s complaints if I were to pop in.” I assured him.

“Okay, but uh… about the shopping. I doubt their parents would appreciate me asking them to bring money, so got an estimate on how much this will cost me? What type of shopping are you planning?”

“Makeover kits, some clothes, and that sort of thing. Don’t worry. The company’s party budget barely gets touched thanks to our resources, so I’m allocating a little for this.” she explained.

“We have a party budget!?” inquired Jemal in surprise.

“Yes, that was raised to fifty million per year. The party budget is also used to cover company vacations and such, so I really ought to make sure we spend more of it this year. Let me know if there is somewhere you’d like to vacation.” I told him, imagining how he’d react if he knew that wasn’t even a drop in the bucket compared to some of the other planets where my company thrived.

He was already slack-jawed and staring at me.

“I know. Our excursion to France barely touched it. We’ll have to plan at least one long vacation as well as some more little trips.”

“B-but how!?” exclaimed Jemal. “I mean… how can our budget be that big!?”

“Jemal, we receive more than that per month from our holdings in Global Princess Entertainment alone. The shares in the Intergalactic House of Awesome Sauce easily cover the party budget as well. I can assure you that this business is very secure financially.” explained Mila.

“Shouldn’t more of that be going to James?” asked Jemal.

“I have plenty. You’ll be seeing a substantial amount from profit sharing at the end of the year, so smile and enjoy the company benefits.

He nodded and asked “Does everyone know this?”

“Probably not. Alma and I are the only ones who bother reading Mother’s memos regularly, but all employees can easily access financial information concerning them on the company site or by asking me. You should know that I’m always happy to assist if there is any confusion.” insisted Mila.

“I do. I just… Ever wonder how some people manage to fit so much into their days?” he questioned.

I shrugged and said, “Not anymore, but I did before. Life can pull you ten thousand ways at once, so I thought lightening the load would be agreeable for everyone here. Aaliyah and Mila are kind enough to make this possible.”

“I still don’t get how such a tiny girl does so much. Oh. Think she’d want to join the sleepover? She’s like twelve, right?” he asked.

“Thirteen soon. She was already on Kayla’s list.” stated Mila.

Nodding, he said, “Right. She really doesn’t look it.”

“She never will. Aaliyah has a condition that’ll keep her body young forever.” I told him, knowing most of my friends needed to have the same misconception I once had.

“Oh. Wow. That’s… just wow. She’ll look like that when she’s forty?” he inquired.

“Without ever having aching joints or other pains from age. There are certainly perks to her condition.” I replied.

“But… think she’ll be okay without ever experiencing… uh… romance?” he asked.

“I’m certain she’ll be fine.” I assured him. “If you have nothing else to discuss, I probably should get back to work.”

He nodded and said, “Oh. Yeah. Sorry, boss.”

“No trouble. We should have a chat more often. I’ll see about scheduling it if you’d like.” I told him.

“Really? I mean, sure!” he exclaimed with a grin. Then he gave me a wave before stepping out and shutting the door.

I’d like to have a little one-on-one time time with each of my friends regularly. I knew Aaliyah would give me the time. With how much time I spent off world, I felt like I never saw anyone here enough.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 366

“What are these?” questioned Babette as she poked the suit.

“Our baseball uniforms. As part of my company, I was hoping you three would join us in our upcoming games.” I explained with a smile.

“Baseball? Must we?” inquired Heloise.

“I won’t force any of you, but I didn’t want you to feel left out either. Even if you decide not to play, I would like you to join our practices to help the others and adjust to one of our company’s wonderful toys. As I’m sure you noticed during our exercises this morning, we all move above human capacity. While wearing those uniforms, you will as well. The idea today is to practice acting human while also attempting to compete. Oh, and I should mention I’ll be giving a bonus to those who participate.”

“I’ll give this a shot.” replied Achille as he examined the baseball suit. “Bit thick isn’t it?”

“For now. Jarod’s hoping to eventually thin the suit out a bit more. I promise you won’t feel the heat. I’ve improved upon my enchantments a great deal since I designed the original spells.” I promised.

“Can he be on the other team?” questioned Babette with a wicked grin.

“What!? I’m your brother!” exclaimed Achille.

Sighing, Heloise said, “She knows.”

“We’ll decide teams outside. Please remember that as members of my company you are expected to behave admirably. Quarreling in public reflects poorly on all of us.” I warned.

Smiling sweetly, Babette insisted “You’ll never get a bad report about me on the job, but this is your backyard.”

“True. Unfortunately, you all need the practice.” I replied.

“Sorry, James.” apologized Heloise. “We’ll hurry.”

“Thank you. I’m heading out back now.” I stated before jogging off. When I arrived outside, I was met with quite the sight.

Bats grew out of numerous large plants which were rapidly swinging at balls as Raine played pitcher, catcher, and outfielder. Emma had already worked up a sweat, staring intently as she focused to occasionally get a hit. Alma was using spells to control numerous other bats. Cosette, Brandon, Brenna, Jarod, Portentia, the twins, and even Maxine were holding radar guns off to the sides.

“She’s already getting fairly consistent. I wanted to be sure she wouldn’t accidentally pitch through someone before letting someone attempt to bat.” stated Alma as I approached.

“Not working today?” I inquired in surprise.

“No. Godric couldn’t even wait the customary month after his father left to start giving orders. Many of us are to step back while he ‘thoroughly examines our operations’. We knew my role would be dramatically reduced.” she explained, frowning slightly.

I nodded, knowing that she’d miss Adelmar’s presence here. His son wasn’t a pleasant person by Aaliyah’s account, and I didn’t look forward to actually meeting him.

Jemal, Kayla, Iris, Dani, and Maple were playing catch a ways off while riding zoomies. Grayson had given approval for my daughter and Kayla to participate. Given the wording of his reply, he was under the impression they’d be a handicap.

Spotting Dejon, Mila, and Marco coming out together, I walked over to see what they were doing.

“James! I thought I would provide the refreshment while you a practice.” explained Marco as he lifted the lid on a platter of hors d’oeuvres.

“Sounds wonderful. Thank you.” I told him. I almost offered to help carry if there was more, but Mila would surely protest. She was always against me hauling things, seeming to feel that was her job, though she seemed fine with Dejon helping.

Catching my gaze, Marco smiled and said, “I was teaching Dejon a basic tart. He has the sweet tooth.”

“I love tarts.” stated Dejon with a shrug.

“Spend enough time with Marco, and you’ll be making tarts that’ll satisfy anyone.” I told him.

Dejon gave me a small smile and said, “I know.”

I sighed as I heard someone fall down the hall followed by Achille cursing and Babette giggling. I realized Mila had another body somewhere behind the one I could see as she started chiding them. The sound was slightly different than when she used the house’s speakers. I opened the door wider and stared them down as the others moved on with their preparations. Three lowered heads and apologies came through the door.

“The suits take a bit of adjustment, but please be careful. Mila will charge you for any damages you cause.” I warned them.

“Yes, sir.” they replied, nearly in unison.

“Was that a Monet in the hall?” inquired Heloise in the same breath.

“Yes. Good eye. My mother likes to point out any piece she doesn’t recognize from art guides. Getting down a hallway with her was a bit tedious for a while.” I confessed, knowing that the painting in question was a gift to Aaliyah after the artist was already dead.

Babette and Achille were already gaping at Raine’s pitching practice when I turned around.

“Don’t worry. She won’t kill anyone by accident. The ball would probably burn up if she were to pitch with speed by her standards. She’s just practicing to keep the balls around a hundred miles per hour for appearances sake.” I explained. Then, pointing to the zoomies, I said, “Those are another of Jarod’s projects. We’ll be having the outfielders ride them to help make things interesting. If you can manage to keep control while riding those and reducing your speed, keeping appearances while playing an actual game should be relatively easy.”

I then interrupted the various activities and had people gathered to debate teams. There was a bit of fuss over me choosing to be on Raine’s team, but no one else seemed keen on catching for her, despite her spectacular aim. As we played, there were occasional slips, but I didn’t feel most of them were too obvious. A few more practices would probably get us prepared.

“My poor, poor dad.” muttered Iris as Emma covered the field in grass once more.

“He asked for it, didn’t he?” teased Maple.

Iris shrugged.

“The guy couldn’t have known what he was getting into.” insisted Jemal.

Maple shrugged, still smiling.

“Are you sure you don’t want us using a little magic?” inquired Babette.

“Quite certain.” stated Alma, causing Babette to visibly flinch.

“I think we have enough of an advantage already. Should we really be wearing the suits?” questioned Jemal with a concerned look around.

“Yes. This is great practice for everyone to get more accustomed to them in active situations.” I insisted.

“I agree.” mumbled Dejon. “We need to fit in.”

I could see Dani holding back comments as she bounced on her feet. This world was still strange for her in numerous ways. On one hand, our world was considerably lacking in the magic that was so common place on hers. On the other, we had numerous beings who would be seen as wielding incredible power by most standards. For me, this was still home, especially now that my daughter was here.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 365

“Ah!” exclaimed Heloise, almost bumping into me as she exited her room.

Smiling, I said, “Good morning. Mind checking on your siblings? Training starts in fifteen minutes, and I didn’t catch any of you at breakfast.”

“S’excuser. I’ll get them.” she replied before heading back into their area.

As I waited, I heard her waking Babette and possibly kicking Achille. I sighed as I heard a fight break out while Heloise unsuccessfully attempted to get a word out.

“I didn’t wake you! She did!” insisted Achille, speaking French.

“You probably made her!” argued Babette just before something broke.

As they argued, Heloise continued saying, “Shut up, shut up, shut up!”

I decided to knock.

There was the sound of someone being hit again. “Ouch!” exclaimed Achille.

“James! Good morning!” exclaimed Babette in English with a smile after she cracked open the door. The sleeve of her pajamas was torn, her hair was a disaster, and she was missing some skin on her left hand.

“You three have thirteen minutes before I expect you in the gym for this morning’s exercises. If you ask nicely, Emma will probably help mend whatever was broken in there. If she can’t, Mila might assist you.” I informed her.

“Merci! Achille stumbled onto the coffee table.” she replied.

“I did not!” he argued in English. There was the sound of someone being hit, and he yelled “Sois sage!”

As I walked down the hall, I wondered if I should have left them to Mila. She had offered to make sure they arrived on time this morning, but I told her that I’d handle it. These triplets had had a rough life, and there were many bad habits to break between them. I knew their roughhousing was actually playful, but things breaking only emphasized their lack of control. If I hadn’t already seen what they could become, I knew I wouldn’t be so keen on reforming them.

“Get the man-slave!” exclaimed Emma as I entered the gym. The door shut and merged with the surrounding wood as she spoke.

“Nooo! My daddy!” argued Dani, moving to attack her.

Portentia smoothly stepped in front of her and knocked Dani’s kick aside. I almost felt sorry for my daughter, knowing she hadn’t tried fighting Portentia yet. The difference in strength, speed, and sheer determination was immense. My daughter’s skill at magic was her only hope, but she probably wouldn’t use magic soon enough.

Cosette, Brandon, Kayla, and even Iris came at me with Emma as Portentia skillfully maneuvered Dani away from the rest, easily blocking my daughter’s attacks. As I tripped Brandon into Kayla, I used a relatively simple spell to lift Emma from the floor to keep her from manipulating the wood. Meanwhile, Cosette had transformed into a wolf, nipping at my leg. Kayla caught Brandon with her magic and took a decent swing at me. Iris kicked at me from the opposite direction of Kayla’s punch.

Knowing Emma would unravel the spell on her shortly, I gently pulled Kayla forward, tripping her to the floor while spinning to kick Brandon, which allowed Iris’ foot to pass just over my head. At the same time, I created a spell to pull Cosette backward, but she scattered into a crimson mist as the spell attempted to take hold. Brandon blocked my leg and enlarged himself till his clothes were taught to handle the force of it. Kayla rolled with the trip, coming back onto her feet, and Emma landed back on the ground, having unraveled the spell.

The boards around me transformed and “bit” at my feet. Without moving more quickly than my attackers could manage, there was no way to dodge. To my surprise, the boards were actually holding my feet as if they were steel. Not wanting to put in the necessary force to break them, I carefully dipped, dodged, and blocked until I had a moment to touch them, breaking Emma’s magic long enough to flip forward over Iris.

I was quite proud of how well everyone fought over the next couple minutes, and allowed the triplets to gawk for a bit when they arrived, having first watched the doors unseal and open. Then I used a spell to sweep my opponents into a line and said, “Time to get serious, everyone. Don’t want the triplets to get the wrong idea about our exercises.”

“Wh-what happened over there?” asked Heloise with wide eyes as she pointed to where Dani and Portentia were standing.

“Sorry. Portentia tends to cut off her limbs if someone attempts to bind her.” I explained. “I should have warned Dani.”

“You really should have! It’s disgusting, daddy!” she exclaimed with a grin.

“You’re the one who repeated the tactic. Three arms and two legs is a bit much.” I told her.

“B-but… she…” started Achille.

“Yes, she regenerates instantly, never tires, and will hunt you relentlessly if you commit a crime. Best to abide by the law.” I told him with a wink.

He and Heloise nodded almost in sync. Babette seemed to be scrutinizing the limbs.

“Portentia! Again!?” demanded Ai upon seeing the scene. “Emma, you owe us another finish for our doors and floor.”

Emma winked and asked “Where?” A type of finish seemed to grow into the missing spots.

“Fine.” stated Ai. A torrent of water shot past her, scooping the blood and limbs off the floor and carrying them away through the door behind her. “No more missing limbs today.”

Maple ― who had sat back and watched everything with Jemal, Brenna, and Dejon ― shook her head and said, “I don’t know if I will ever really be used to this place.”

“You will in time.” I promised her. Walking over to the triplets, I said, “You three will be working with Raine today.”

Springing over to me from where she had seemed to be napping, Raine said, “B-but… I-I… R-really?”

I nodded and said, “Achille, Babette, and Heloise need to review the basics, and I am quite confident that you have seen enough in your months here to be a capable instructor.“

“B-but they’re… afraid.” argued Raine.

“Am not.” lied Babette.

“I certainly don’t want to make you angry.” stated Achille, gently shoving Babette back protectively with his arm.

Shrugging, Heloise said, “I want to learn. Just seeing you people… Even the kid is incredible.”

“Plus, Raine speaks fluent French and at least fifty other languages. I haven’t checked how many too recently, but she learns at an absurd rate.” I informed them as I patted Raine’s head.

She was blushing, but didn’t argue. I knew she would do well.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 364

“What are you three doing?” I asked after Babette opened the door.

Heloise and Achille were kneeling on the ground, looking as if they were praying. Knowing this wasn’t a common practice for the descendants of Slayers, I felt more than a little confused.

“Preparing to die.” she told me as I stepped into Achille’s room.

“What? Why?” I questioned, shocked that she had been completely serious.

Looking confused, Heloise asked “You didn’t feel that?”

“Feel what?”

Achille, staring at my eyes from where he was kneeling on the floor, said, “That immense power…”

“Around an hour ago, we all felt like some deity was about to step inside and swat us out of existence.” explained Babette.

“What? No. I was just decorating. There was no deific entity involved. You three need to loosen up. Despite the numerous strong individuals here, no one wants to kill you. You’re safe.” I insisted.

The three silently stared at me.

Babette was the first one to find her voice, saying, “You seriously want us to believe that overwhelming magic was just you decorating?”

“Look outside of your room. The entire mansion and yard is decorated for Mila’s birthday party, which will be starting soon. Please, get ready.” I told them. “Oh. Each of you has a new outfit prepared in your respective closets. I thought you might want to dress up for the party. If not, that’s your choice. Yes, I created them there when I was decorating.”

Honestly, I had simply been too aware of their small wardrobes and added a few things on instinct, but they didn’t need to know my help was accidental in this case.

Achille, who had opened his closet with a spell, pointed and exclaimed “There really is something there! How? I was here the whole time.”

“Raine could have casually waltzed in here, cleaned, redecorated, patted you on the head, and left without you seeing her. Alma or I could have easily slipped the clothes in there with magic without you noticing. There’s a fey who’s virtually undetectable that likes to sneak out of the forest occasionally. She could slip in here without a problem. Emma could ask the wood to move out of the way from the other side of the wall and set your clothes in from there. Cosette… well, she probably would’ve messed with you a bit. The point is that the collective abilities here are fantastic. Since you get to be a part of it, try to enjoy it! We’re having a party. Get ready!”

“Okay, boss. Whatever you say, but… fey, really?” questioned Babette.

“Yes, I’ll make sure to introduce you three tomorrow if you’re interested. Oh. If you haven’t been told yet, don’t go into the forest without me. You’ll die before you make it past the second tree. If Emma’s watching the yard, she’ll save you before you get too close, but the forest is completely off limits without being accompanied. Actually, Mila would probably catch where you were headed first. I’m going to check on the others, so hurry and join us. This should be a fun day!” I exclaimed with a smile.

Leaving the bewildered trio, I jogged over to Dejon’s door and knocked.

“Hi.” he stated from his seat after Mila opened the door for him. He was reading a thick, leather-bound book.

“You did get the memo about the party, correct?” I questioned.

He nodded and said, “I just want to finish this chapter. I should have time, right?”

“No rush.” I promised. “Just thought I’d check to be sure. Partying isn’t mandatory, but I think you could enjoy it. There should be interesting people to meet as well.”

“I’ll join the party. Thank you, James.” he replied, smiling slightly.

“Enjoy your book.” I told him, shutting the door behind me. “Mila, is anyone else seeming to need encouragement?”

“No, master. Jemal has Kayla in hand, Iris is nearly here, and the rest are either ready or nearly there.” she informed me.

“Excellent. Have you decided what to wear yet?” I inquired.

“Spoilers, master.” she teased.

“I’ll take that to mean you have.” I replied with a smile. Then I jogged to the foyer in case any guests appeared. Mila wasn’t allowed to be answering the door at her own party. Noticing that Emma was frozen in the air when I arrived, I looked around to find Aaliyah or Carl.

“Boo!” exclaimed Aaliyah, falling at me from above.

I caught her and said, “So terrifying… so terrifying…”

“As your secretary, I thought I should notify you of a slight error in your thoughts.”

“Oh? What is that?”

“Given that my daughter knows people throughout the universe, I felt the need to expand your house for a day. This isn’t the only main entrance at the moment.”

“Oooh…” I replied, wondering what the current layout would be like. Then, I knew. “Thank you. That will certainly help.”

“I also took the liberty of arranging the extraterrestrial entertainment. I only intended to have you handling Earth from the start. A mommy needs to do her part.” she insisted.

“You’ll get no arguments from me. Any hints at who’s arriving on my end?” I questioned.

“Fiiine. Clients, city officials, et cetera. The usual rabble. Your parents will be here in three minutes. Also, you forgot to warn the new hires not to use magic, but Mila will take care of it for you.” she stated, giving me a look that might seem firm on a less adorable face.

“Oops. Thank you, Aaliyah. You’re still the best secretary ever. Is Mila really interested in having all of these people here?”

Aaliyah shrugged and told me “Not particularly, but having them adds to the support behind laws that will be passed regarding artificial intelligence over the next several decades. A future president will be here, you know.”

“I do now. I’m sure your daughter will make a grand impression.”

Grinning and nodding, Aaliyah said, “I know.” Then she kissed my forehead. “Popping back over to help my daddy get ready. He’s been fussing over the artificial womb, still worried that something might go wrong with it.” she explained with a grin. She winked and vanished.

Time resumed, and I saw that Emma had been dancing.

She noticed me, smiled broadly, and exclaimed “Man-slave! Ready to get this party started!?”

“You know it.” I replied, taking her hand and joining her for a dance. I knew my parents wouldn’t be remotely surprised by me dancing before guests arrived. I probably wouldn’t get much of a chance later.

Right on time, they were there, letting themselves inside. Mother quickly excused herself to go see Dani. Father volunteered to help me man the doors. One of Mila’s bodies arrived minutes later, wearing a beautiful gown fit for a princess.

Father hesitated only a little before saying, “Mila, you look lovely.”

I could see the slight tension leave his shoulders when she smiled and thanked him. Telling Mila apart from Alma could be difficult at a glance.

In under ten minutes, the other guests started arriving. Brandon and Jarod had volunteered to direct parking in place of Mila. Emma had joined the rest of her band on stage in the ballroom half an hour into the party, providing live music that wasn’t quite of this world. I noticed Dani’s influence in the music. Hopefully, they knew a few covers as well. No one would believe the girls had only been practicing a few weeks. With staff from the Intergalactic House of Awesome Sauce filling in as servers, everything progressed smoothly.

An hour into the party, Mila took to the stage with four of her bodies ― each in a different dress ― and welcomed everyone. During her speech, she also reminded everyone that she wasn’t human while emphasizing the importance of her kind in our future. In conclusion, she thanked everyone and encouraged them to enjoy the party.

Throughout the party, I made appearances in the other sections of the house to mingle with the extraterrestrial guests. One of Mila’s bodies made an appearance in each one, wearing attire suitable for the galaxy. Realizing that her first birthday would be represented earlier in certain galaxies than others, I came to the conclusion that I was stepping through time as well. The feeling wasn’t at all new save for the oddity of my house being duplicated, yet connected. By the end of the night, I was simply happy that I managed to find my way back to Earth without asking for help.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 363

“She’s what!?” exclaimed Alma, staring at me in legitimate shock for the first time in years. “Is this a joke?”

I had just returned alone from Chad and Aaliyah’s apartment. He wanted to have a discussion with his daughter alone. I felt for him. There was no winning if he were to attempt arguing. Wanting to tell Alma the news, I had caught her on the second floor, where she was modifying a fashion line to more closely meet our daughter’s tastes.

“No. I just saw the artificial womb myself. You should have seen Chad’s expression when he heard the news.” I replied with a smile.

Mila displayed a picture for us on a nearby mirror.

My wife barely glanced at it before saying, “James, you know who she is. She could have snapped her fingers and had a child, even making the rest of us think whatever she wanted about the birth. I suppose she wanted Chad to be there for her… pregnancy? Do we really call this a pregnancy when the womb is artificial? I suppose she could argue the womb is part of her, since it may well be. Did she at least tell you what will pop out of there?”

“Nope!” exclaimed Aaliyah, appearing beside us. “Wanna meet her!?”

I did. I really did, but I also didn’t. This was Death’s second daughter. Considering her first daughter was spread throughout space and time, this second one would likely be some phenomenally powerful entity as well. I knew with absolute certainty that everything would turn out fine, but I still wasn’t sure if I should get to know what this second daughter would be like ahead of time.

“James, we shouldn’t. We’ll be watching this child grow up, and I’d rather not know how she’ll end up in advance.” insisted Alma.

“As you wish. I would like to at least know if she’ll be human-ish.”

“Yep! She’ll look similar to me! I let Mila pick for herself, and now she looks more like Alma than me. Mariasha’s going to look like her mommy, but taller… eventually.” explained Aaliyah with a grin.

“More or less like your ‘Trixie’ persona then?” I questioned.

“Don’t you get any ideas, buster!” exclaimed Aaliyah as she pointed at me, looking cutely stern.

“Trixie?” asked Alma. “Oh, you’re referring to that time you ‘dated’, aren’t you.”

“They were good and legitimate dates!” insisted Aaliyah.

“Please, even you wouldn’t call them all ‘good’.” I stated.

“Would too! You were there!” she argued.

“She’s got you there, James.” teased Alma.

“Personally, I’m looking forward to having a little sister.” commented Mila. “Maybe she’ll help me babysit mother.”

“Hey! Be nice to your mommy!” complained Aaliyah as she crossed her arms.

“Always, mother, but I don’t want you getting lonely when I’m not babysitting you.” claimed Mila.

Aaliyah stuck her tongue out.

“So am I right about how she’ll look?” I inquired.

“Not entirely. She’ll eventually look like she could be my big sister after a short time of appearing as my younger sister!” exclaimed Aaliyah, grinning proudly.

“Given that your father’s involved, can I safely assume that she’ll be raised on Earth part of the time?” inquired Alma.

Nodding, Aaliyah said, “Yep! Daddy will enjoy seeing her grow! We’re going to have awesome parties, get into fights, and have awesome mother-daughter bonding time!”

“My poor sister… Won’t she learn not to attempt fighting you?” questioned Mila.

“Sure, but that won’t stop her from yelling at me!”

“Oh, mother. You know I’ll have to take her side at times. If she’s yelling at you, you probably deserve it.” stated Mila.

“Maaaaybe.” replied Aaliyah as she looked toward the ceiling.

I had to verify nothing new was up there for my own peace of mind, which made Aaliyah grin at me. Her pranks were lethal at times, though she always restored me afterward.

“What sort of abilities are you giving her?” inquired Alma.

Shrugging, Aaliyah said, “Oh, the usual… She’ll be immortal. Can’t have Mila outliving her little sis. She’ll be intelligent, so she can keep up around here when hanging out.” She looked between us and grinned. “On that note, I also gave her a little strength and speed.” Her grin suddenly seemed sinister as she told us “I might have also thrown in a little… Death.”

“That sounds worrisome.” stated Alma blandly.

“Don’t worry! Only those who attempt to harm her will die instantly. People should know better than to hurt my daughters. Right, Mila?”

“Yes, mother. You’re so terrifying.” replied Mila, perfectly monotone.

“As I recall, that necromancer is still around.” teased Alma with a smile.

“He plays a part in the Lilly Slayer’s growth, so no killing him yet. Don’t worry. I have an entire funland built for him!” exclaimed Aaliyah. “No feeling sorry for him, James. I know your sentiments, but I also know what he has done.”

I nodded, though I still disliked the idea of the hells she made. With a touch of her scythe, anything could simply cease to exist. Wasn’t that enough?

“Will she think of me as a sister, despite our different compositions?” questioned Mila.

“Of course! You shouldn’t doubt your sister before she’s even born!” insisted Aaliyah. Then she frowned and said, “Hey! Having a database on problematic sibling relationships doesn’t mean you two will have issues. Yes, I’ve read your papers on Psychology. No, I won’t play fair.”

“If our children eventually married and had kids, would they be inheriting some of your gifts?” questioned Alma.

I hadn’t even gone anywhere near that possibility yet. Given that Aaliyah’s daughter would surely be remarkable and around the same age as our eldest, I couldn’t deny the possibility of an attraction between the two now that the idea had been brought to light, but I wasn’t ready to be thinking of who my unborn child might marry yet. I wasn’t even ready to think of Dani eventually marrying, assuming she ever did. Her people were so different with regard to relationships.

“Maybe! Mariasha will have compatible genetics, and any children she eventually has will be spectacular, just like Mila’s.” replied Aaliyah.

“I still am annoyed you let me start hacking my own daughter. Did we really need to meet before I had fully considered the possibility of her?” demanded Mila.

Grinning, Aaliyah said, “No, but wasn’t it a little funny? You were both so cute!”

“Oh, mother. Actions like that are why I’m sure to be taking my sister’s side in arguments.” stated Mila.

“Jaaaames, Mila’s being mean to her mommy.” complained Aaliyah.

“Want to spank me for her, master?” asked Mila suggestively.

“Please, leave me out of it.” I told them, shaking my head.

“Mila, my husband always feels I’m being unfairly mad at him when you flirt like that in front of me. You should behave for his sake.” teased Alma.

“So sorry, but please don’t say things mother will take as aiding her. Telling me to behave when she’s making an appearance is too similar to taking her side, especially when we’re arguing.” replied Mila.

“I see your point. My apologies.”

The bantering continued for over an hour before I excused myself. Guests would be arriving for the party soon, and I wanted to make sure everyone else was prepared, though I didn’t doubt most of them would be. I had exceptional friends.