“Reporting for duty, sir!” exclaimed Cosette, snapping to attention after she marched into my office. She was wearing some sort of science fiction type military outfit with glowing insignia.
“At ease.” I told her with a smirk.
“Yes, sir!” she exclaimed. “Ready for the briefing?”
“Yes, please. I would love to know from where this charade came.” I told her.
She laughed and said, “Sorry. I couldn’t resist. Dejon and I were requested to fill in the ranks at a sort of LARP. Our commander was desperate for replacements, since a couple members of his crew were out sick.”
“Sounds entertaining. How did things go?” I asked.
“Dejon was stiff as ever, but I must say that actually worked for him. He was a perfectly uptight soldier all night. We each received a commendation for best kept uniforms, by the way, and our commander awarded me with a VIP medal.” she announced. “You’ll be happy to hear that he wanted to make us official members of his crew, even offering immediate promotion if we were to join.”
“Oh? The uniforms weren’t supplied?” I questioned.
Shaking her head, she said, “No. They paid extra for us to bring our own, and Mila fabricated these instead of buying them in town. They’re far more durable and tailored to fit.”
“Did Dejon cheat?” I asked, hoping he didn’t employ his abilities during a LARP.
“Not that I noticed, but I did.” admitted Cosette with a big grin.
“What!?” I asked, shocked that she’d use her abilities in public.
“Don’t worry. No one caught me, even the other vampire. I only cheated because he did. I noticed that he occasionally grew an extra finger to respond faster without moving faster, so I modified my palms to hit keys under them where people couldn’t see.” she explained.
Nodding, I told her “I’ll admit that seems fairly safe and relatively harmless, though I am having trouble picturing this game.”
“Each group acts as part of a fleet. If you win the aerial maneuvers, then your team gets to attempt boarding maneuvers. Dejon desperately needs to learn how to fight. He was terrible at that part, but we did well enough. The commander had me leading the charge by the end. I’d wager the other vampire guessed at our shared nature at that point. He should have if he didn’t.” she mused.
“You kept up with him fine then?” I questioned.
“Kept up with him?” she asked, looking insulted. “I could mop the floor with ten of him. He was obviously fairly young for my kind, and he lacked combat training.”
“Sorry, but you’re younger than me, and I’ve met vampires that are thousands of years old. You’re still quite young for your kind.” I told her.
“You still have no idea how much that letter from Zachary Blood meant to me. I can’t believe you met him!” she exclaimed, grinning at me.
“Don’t forget his brothers. They’d be quite disappointed to be left out.” I teased.
“I know! I’m so jealous that you’ve met them.” she insisted.
“Don’t worry. You’ll have your chance. I believe they’re attending my wedding.” I informed her.
“Are they really!?” she exclaimed, leaning on my desk as she grinned and stared intently at me.
“Aaliyah mentioned they were invited, so I imagine they’ll come.” I assured her.
“What am I going to wear!?” she exclaimed, turning and pacing. Then she stopped and looked at me before saying, “James, thank you! For me, this is like meeting a rockstar. You have no idea how many stories my father told me about them.”
“True.” I told her, nodding.
She laughed and said, “Many. A great many, and he hadn’t even met them personally. I wish my parents could be alive for this. My father would probably worry about me getting dragged into politics, of course, but I know he’d want to meet them as well. The way he spoke about them was riveting.”
“I’m glad to have given you fair warning of their arrival then, but can you understand my confusion in regard to you and this other vampire you met?” I asked.
She looked at me, seeming perplexed herself for a moment, before saying, “Oh. Yes. Sorry. Having been born instead of created, I’m significantly stronger than an average vampire my age. Furthermore, I have Slayer blood. Where Ai and Mai could easily outmatch a newly turned vampire, possibly even one approaching a hundred, I’m already physically their equal.”
“Considering that you always hold back in practice, I’d wager that you’re a little stronger than either of them separately and even better at fighting than I had first guessed.” I stated.
Smiling, she said, “Maybe. A girl deserves her secrets.”
“True, but I would enjoy seeing Joyeuse eventually if you’re ever willing to give that secret up.” I told her as I returned her smile.
She laughed and said, “I slipped, didn’t I.”
“I believe you fooled the twins. Your act was very convincing.” I assured her.
“Still, my father would be disappointed in my lapse. He could be rather strict regarding secrets.” she stated.
“I believe you. From what I’ve heard, Alma’s mother was incredibly strict with her regarding everything.” I shared.
“No doubt. Father wasn’t that strict. He simply wanted to help me perfect everything he knew, so he taught me constantly. I think you would have liked him, honestly.” she told me wistfully.
Smiling again, I said, “Going by you, I’m sure I would have. I hope he’d be happy with your new home.”
“He would. He’d marvel at everything just as I do. This place is amazing, James. Only you could bring such different people together with such success. I’m very grateful that you let me stay here.” she replied, smiling as well.
“You’re welcome as long as I live. Considering that I don’t appear to be aging anymore, that could be a very long time.” I insisted.
She looked at me, seeming shocked. “You’re not aging? Are you certain?” she asked.
“Having taken one of your secrets, I felt I should give one of mine as well. Don’t tell anyone. They’ll notice in time.” I told her.
“Friends forever?” she replied with a grin as she held out her hand.
“Friends forever.” I confirmed, shaking her hand.
“In that case, I’ll show you Joyeuse right now if you have the time.” she offered.
“Certainly. The more of these weapons I see, the more impressed I’ve been with them. I have spent long periods just imagining the skill crafting such weapons would take.” I admitted. Though I had no intention to ever make a weapon myself, I greatly admired the skill needed to craft the ones I’ve seen.
I followed Cosette to her rooms and was immediately taken by the distinct change in decor deeper into her suite. Where her initial furniture was some of Emma’s handiwork, several of the rooms now contained much older furnishings, probably part of her inheritance. Almost to the back, we stopped at a wall that slid open at our approach.
“Mila’s kind enough to watch over my things.” explained Cosette, though there was no need.
I nodded, but I was surprised by the blatant display of wealth. This was a fairly large vault with gold coins covering a quarter of the floor. The weight alone had to be immense, but the floor beneath was obviously designed to support the vault itself. Numerous displays contained jewelry, documents, precious gems, and paintings. Small statues and vases each had their own display. One wall even hosted a large bookshelf filled with old volumes. I smiled when I noticed the copy of Les Misérables that I had given her for Christmas.
“Please excuse the mess. Aaliyah likes to play pirates.” she told me. She then pulled open a large drawer to reveal Joyeuse next to its sheath. As she grasped the handle, the blade illuminated in a crackling, azure light. Noticing my gaze, she told me “Joyeuse produces different types of energy around the blade depending on the wielder’s mood. I imagine the creator wanted the sword to be difficult to defend against beyond its obvious sharpness.”
I nodded my agreement, admiring the delicate details in the blade. Most people would probably need a magnifying glass to notice them. The golden hilt was equally elaborate. Cosette certainly had a weapon worthy of a queen had she wanted the title.