Again I woke to “Hmm?” being played, but there was something different about it. All I could say with certainty was that the song somehow became even more beautiful. I smiled as I listened to the sweet sound, only to open my eyes when I felt something poking my nose. “Boss-man, sir, are you awake yet? I see you smiling.” came Aaliyah’s voice as she poked my nose with her fingertip while leaning over me. I playfully tried to bite her finger, which startled her enough that she screamed, fell backwards, and burst into giggles. Then I rolled over and started tickling her. “Never surrender!” cried Aaliyah between giggles as she futilely tried to push my arms away. When I ceased my attack, I asked “So what’s on the agenda today, little princess?” She sighed and started crawling toward the other side of my bed, probably going for her glasses. I quickly lifted her up before she could reach the bag which surely laid there. She continued stretching toward her bag, so I told her “Alas, but I find that my schedule is simply out of reach today. I might just have to stay in bed, mourning the loss of order in my life.” At that, Aaliyah crossed her arms and said, “Mila, please bring up the boss-man’s schedule for today and tell him to be nice.”
The still-disconcerting visual so similar to Alma appeared on the large mirror, wearing secretary glasses. I found the sight disturbingly attractive even as she drawled on about what I needed to do today. I still felt tired. Looking past Mila’s avatar, I found that I had barely slept two hours since I went to bed last. No wonder I was still feeling tired. Still I brought this lack of sleep on myself, first by staying up too late and then by helping the twins fight that monster when they woke me. I had under half an hour before I was scheduled to be training Brandon and Brenna in martial arts, not that I really felt fit to be a trainer. I had been considered the top student in my Tai Chi class only because Regina would often hold back too much, and though I spent over four years in training, Emma, who couldn’t remotely keep up with Ai or Mai, had made me feel like a martial arts novice the first time we sparred. At least I was able to hold my own against Emma now, despite her still being quicker. I was always able to pick things up fairly quickly, but I simply did not believe that I was capable of matching the twins. On the other hand, who would really want a teacher that no longer learned?
I quickly changed my clothes in the restroom, lifted Aaliyah onto my back, and jogged to the kitchen. To my surprise, Marco wasn’t there, though there were two covered plates set out with names by them. Perhaps Marco was forgetting Aaliyah’s size, because he had given her as much food as me. “Hey! Boss-man, sir, I’m a growing girl!” complained Aaliyah as I dished half her food onto my plate. She was so very good at looking put-upon, but I knew better than to trust that angelic face in these matters. “I haven’t forgotten that incident in your father’s car after someone just had to have an adult spaghetti.” I told her. She gaped at me and said with wide-eyes, “But boss-man, sir, I’m twelve now! I was only eleven then!” I laughed and said, “Nice try, but I’d rather not have you lose your breakfast while we’re in the gym. If you were really that starving, you’d be eating already.” She stuck her tongue at me, grinned, and said, “But it just tastes so good, boss-man, sir!” I smiled and replied, “It’s even better when it’s stolen!” Faster than a striking snake, she impaled one of my sausage links on her fork and took a bite before saying, “You’re right! It really does, boss-man, sir!” I scooted away from her with my left arm guarding my plate after she started eyeing another piece of sausage.
After scarfing down breakfast, I quickly walked to the gym, carrying a pink backpack as Aaliyah skipped beside me. Brandon and Brenna were both laying on the ground, looking as exhausted as I felt. “Is it even legal for you to change schedules around daily without more notice?” inquired Brandon. As I looked to Aaliyah, who had somehow gotten her secretary glasses from the bag I carried, she said, “Yep! Due to the nature of the work, I researched the laws of every state and multiple countries to verify that there were legal ways to make spontaneous adjustments when necessary. You didn’t complain at all about the change on Monday.” Brandon took on an incredulous look and said, “Well, yeah. It was gaming.” Brenna then interjected, saying, “Wait. Why would you look at the laws of other countries? Are there traveling jobs?” I looked down at Aaliyah, who was just smiling up at me, before I admitted “Well, I honestly hadn’t considered that much yet, but I like the idea of eventually having international clientele, beyond the twins I mean. Say if they had relatives who would like to hire one of us for an occasion. Due to the expense, I wouldn’t plan on that unless the business grows substantially though. If we ever fill this building up, I’ll probably just extend to other parts of the state next.”
Brenna looked disappointed by my answer. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who liked the idea of traveling, so I suggested “Maybe Aaliyah and I can work out a company vacation to Europe at some point if everyone’s interested.” That brightened Brenna’s expression considerably, but Brandon asked “Now that you mention everyone, why are we the only ones with a gym class?” I explained “Emma is only paid as a gardener, not as a Best Friend, and she’s very proficient at fighting as you’ve seen. The twins just rent a wing. They don’t actually work for the company at all. Marco is the cook, but he does know how to handle himself as well.” Brandon then inquired, “Okay, but what about Jarod? You already said he can’t do magical hibbity bibbity. Doesn’t he need this more than me?” I wasn’t certain how advanced Jarod was at this point. Before I could make a reply, Aaliyah cheerfully stated, “Jarod’s not allowed to spar at this point. He could accidentally kill someone by reflex. Don’t worry though. He’s getting there.” Brandon and Brenna just gawked at her, and I feared that I wasn’t doing any better. What was she teaching him!?
Once I had Brandon and Brenna moving, things went fairly well, though Brandon obviously wasn’t too into the exercises. Hopefully, he would learn. Perhaps he would get more serious the day Brenna is able to beat him in a fist fight if not sooner. Aaliyah just sat back and watched, wearing her secretary glasses the whole time. After our time was up, I told Brandon he was free to go unless he had changed his mind about trying to learn magic. He hadn’t. Brenna and I once again worked at simple light spells and then discussed some more complicated possibilities with light, which led me to demonstrate the spell for checking if someone moved through an area. I first had her swear not to try the spell until she was guided through it and pointedly said that wouldn’t be soon. Then Mila turned off the lights, and I encompassed the dark room with the spell. I walked around, leaving glowing footprints in my wake. Aaliyah started drawing on the wall, first a sun with shades and then other things. Brenna stood motionless at first, but carefully started moving about when Aaliyah began drawing. By the tiny footprints of light, I saw Aaliyah run to Brenna and drag her to the wall, wanting someone to draw with her as she expounded upon how cool the spell was. I ended up sitting and watching as the pictures appeared. I treasured the times when magic brought joy instead of pain. There was too much of the latter in the world.