With a big yawn and bleary eyes, Aaliyah offered to come along. Though I fully believed in her abilities having seen how the twins reacted to mention of her profession, I didn’t want to be the reason this tiny girl killed. I carried her off to bed, tucked her in, and kissed her head, possibly for the last time. I was certain that I lacked Alma’s expertise and doubted either of the twins could match her after seeing Aaliyah teach them about magic. My tiny secretary’s profound knowledge of seemingly everything armed us far better than we would have been, and Alma wouldn’t be facing any of us one-on-one. Emma was bringing large bags filled with seeds, so she would have countless plants under her power. The twins planned to bring enormous volumes of water to the area and help drown out whatever fires Alma created. I was to help counter Alma’s magic to the best of my ability, which was probably the weakest point of the plan. I knew that every spell I managed to stop would help, but every spell Alma managed to cast could harm someone I cared about. As we prepared to depart, I kept trying to reassure myself that there was no way anyone could keep up with four combatants, but doubt remained.
Brandon, Brenna, and Jarod insisted on coming along but assured us that they’d remain in Mila with all her weapons ready to fire should Alma attempt to flee. I hoped against hope that they kept their word and stayed safe. Jarod’s skill at combat was completely astounding for his short period of practice, but he had as much chance against a skilled magic user as an ant had against a boot. Brandon and Brenna were learning well, but they both had very long ways to go, especially Brandon who showed no signs of being able to use magic at all. Thinking of them, I realized more than ever that I needed to return alive. At eighteen, who has a will and testament? I certainly didn’t make one. There was nothing saying what would happen to my business and belongings should I die. I hadn’t asked specifics from Brandon or Brenna, but I had the impression from them that their lives were pretty rough before they came under my employ. I didn’t want them to suffer more if I failed. I knew Jarod would be alright. He was brilliant and had supportive parents. Jarod… Looking from him in the the passenger seat to Brandon, Emma, and Brenna in back, everyone seemed caught up in their own thoughts as Mila drove us.
I quickly wrote an email to Aaliyah on my phone. That girl obviously had an unbelievable understanding of the law, and could surely make this work as a last will if I didn’t come back. If I died, I wanted Jarod and Aaliyah to take over the company. They always got along and could surely make the business prosper. Aaliyah already did more for Best Friend For Hire than I ever managed. As for my personal effects, I wanted my parents to distribute those as they saw fit, knowing they’d probably want at least something of mine. I did my best to hold back tears, not wanting the others to see me cry, but I felt like a horrible son. If I died, they would never know that I was fighting to save people. Jarod could tell them, but how would they believe in a world of magic I kept hidden from them? He couldn’t demonstrate it. If the twins or Emma were alive, I doubted they’d be willing, not wanting to endanger my parents with such knowledge. Alma hadn’t even left bodies of her victims. There was only ever ash, missing persons reports, and occasionally an identifiable possession. Would my parents even be able to accept that I was dead with so little evidence? Would they even know? If everyone stuck to their training, I would just become a missing person with no body to be found.
I pulled myself together as best as I could, and started running through spells in my head. I could redirect and move heat. I knew how to create some reactive spells, such as causing a surface to burst into flame if touched using a variation of light spells I learned. There were numerous things I could seek out with magic if needed. Creating telekinetic effects was definitely in my repertoire, having shattered cement with a werelion’s body once. The spells I knew to manipulate and create light were numerous now, which could be useful in attempting to temporarily blind Alma. There were numerous ways I could manipulate water, though I looked feeble and harmless next to the twins in that area. While using such spells, I could see if Alma knew anything about physical combat to distract her further. I doubt there were too many people in the world who trained as vigorously as the twins in martial arts combined with magic, and I was a fair degree more confident in my body than in my magic. Where I had been fairly competent in Tai Chi, I was now far more competent as a mixed martial artist, though I still wouldn’t want to face Jarod. The lethal fighting style he was learning intimidated me with its brutal efficiency.
“Let’s watch something relaxing, like Die Hard, when this is over,” said Jarod as he playfully punched my arm. I gave my dear friend a smile and told him “We might have to make the snacks ourselves. I doubt Marco will still be awake.” He smiled, but I could tell he was worried. I helped Emma as she crawled past Brenna to get out. “Are you ready for this, man-slave?” she asked while pulling the large bags of seeds from the trunk. I nodded and replied “You bet. I’ll try to make sure your hair doesn’t get ruined.” She gave an attempt at a serious look, which was completely ruined by her grin, as she said, “You better, or Aaliyah will kill you for letting her hard work go to waste.” I must have grimaced because she was looking at me inquisitively. Poor Emma didn’t know our tiny friend was an assassin. “Imagine how the bookkeeping would suffer if I earned her ire.” I told her with the best smile I could manage. She laughed, and I grabbed two bags of seeds to help her out. After shutting the trunk, I noticed the twins were back from scouting for Alma. Mai was telling Jarod “and if there’s one scratch on our bikes, we’ll be blaming you.” I chuckled and asked if they were ready. They nodded, and the four of us started walking the two blocks toward the warehouse.
I gained focus on the residual energy in the air as we walked and kept an eye out for trouble, but we arrived undisturbed. The twins set to work taking care of the large enchantments Aaliyah warned might be over the area, and I followed Emma’s instructions to dump the seeds into a pile. Then she slipped off her sandals and stepped into the pile. Greenery quickly enveloped her, and layers of bark formed armor around her. Catching more movement at my feet, I looked down to see the thousands of seeds intertwining as various plants grew out of them. Then the mass started moving outward, walking across the ground with roots and slithering with vines. Before long, a thick mass of foot-high plants encircled the building. Emma and I waited in silence for the twins to arrive, but I was worrying each minute. What if they failed to dispel the enchantments? What if Alma had slipped out when we were on our way here? We were wearing communicators as we had when we went to hunt Luke, but the twins demanded that we remained silent until they were finished, saying this would be extremely taxing.
“We did it!” exclaimed the twins, nearly giggling. I let out a breath I hadn’t realized I was holding. “There was actually less than the twerp had considered, but not by much,” said Ai. “We’ll be starting on the building’s wards shortly. Get ready to enter.” commanded Mai. I patted the bark surrounding Emma’s shoulder and told everyone “Stay safe.” Then I headed around the building to a backdoor. If the twins spell worked as it should, the wards around the entire building would be unraveling quickly. Sure enough, they did, recurring patterns quickly unraveling as the twins’ spell spread across the wall. I looked up to see how their water magic was working and found enough water to flood the entire building. I had seen the twins detour a stream before, but a flying lake was another magnitude of power. Perhaps Alma was the one who didn’t stand a chance. When the signal was given, I casted a spell to create silence around the door handle, and another to wrench out the lock. I didn’t hear a thing, so Alma shouldn’t either. I created a spell of silence around my feet, one of shadows around my body, and entered the building, carefully sticking to the shadows as I maneuvered around pallets of wrapped goods on the ground.
What happened to whoever worked here? I doubted any company abandoned a building stocked with merchandise, so how was she staying here? Did she claim the building recently after slaughtering everyone? I found myself quickly worrying about the possibility of walking across ash on the ground. “We see her. She’s laying on a sleeping bag while reading by a light spell on the ground.” whispered the twins in unison. I quietly replied “I don’t see her yet. Give me a moment.” My heart was beating fast as I crept around pallets looking for a light. Soon those enchanting, violet eyes would see no more, and the world would be marginally safer. There was light ahead. I moved closer and closer, careful not to disturb anything. When I saw her, my breath caught in my throat. She quickly stood, and spun toward me, her long, auburn hair whipping around her body. I could see her brilliant eyes staring into mine and the small smile playing on her lips. “I am happy to finally see you again, James. Sorry for the circumstances.” she told me, seeming completely sincere. “As am I,” I said, watching a stream of water flying toward her back. In moments, this would finally be over.