The singing and dancing continued for quite some time before Aaliyah announced that dinner was ready. At that point, I showed everyone the way to the dining room. I had a vague idea where it was, but Alma saved me from a wrong turn on the way. Despite the little time she had spent in this part of the house, she seemed to know it perfectly, even pointing out rooms to guests as we passed by them. When we arrived, I was reminded why I never bothered going in here. The room was more of a banquet hall than a dining room with numerous, intricately carved tables of considerable length. Everyone living in my home could eat on one side of a single table with plenty of room to spare. Aaliyah, who had snuck up behind me, started pointing people to their tables as they came inside. As we came to the head table, Alma said, “I hope you don’t mind, but I took the liberty of arranging the seating, though Aaliyah insisted on a couple changes. Oh. I see.” The last part was said as she looked down to a name card near the center of the table. I was surprised Portentia somehow had a card, but Aaliyah very well might have had one printed in the past couple hours. She was always on top of things.
Shortly after everyone was seated, numerous men and women in white uniforms entered, pushing carts. When I asked who they were, Alma explained that she hired help for Marco, for which I was thankful. Feeding this many people had to be stressful for him, so I made a mental note to check how he was doing later and to thank him. The meal truly showed off his talent in the variety of dishes, splendid displays he made of them, and the exquisite taste of each. I honestly wasn’t sure how much he was being paid, but I felt he needed a raise after this. My parents sat across from me at the head table and made numerous comments throughout the meal on how impressed they were. Portentia was sitting next to mother and across from Aaliyah, so I was able to converse with her easily as well. Luckily, she was having a splendid time. I loved my parents. They were so very talented at making people feel welcome. I really hoped Portentia would want to work for me. I didn’t quite get around to asking earlier, but she seemed like she was interested in staying. Maybe I would be able to teach her how to fight, so she wouldn’t get so badly hurt if she felt the need to help someone. The world needed more people with a kind heart. I quickly turned toward Alma when I felt a pain on that side as if someone pinched me. She was smiling beautifully and started talking with me about how talented mother was.
When dinner was over, Aaliyah announced that there was a private showing of a movie tonight, so I showed everyone the way to my theater. Mother was surprised it hadn’t been on the tour she took, but I explained there were a large number of hidden rooms, enough that I hadn’t been in all of them yet. Nothing could have prepared me for what we were watching. Aaliyah had apparently used her Ancient Tribes of Earth model to create a full-length film very loosely depicting my life to this point. Some of my more embarrassing moments were comically depicted for everyone to see, although in a very unrealistic way. I roamed through the world as I grew, like some sort of nobility out to save the peasants. I fought countless types of ferocious beasts, most of which I recognized as a real-life trial. Many seemed so trivial at the time that I barely remembered them even after seeing Aaliyah’s interpretation of them. Aaliyah displayed herself as a pirate ninja princess who had taken over the seas with her father. Within seconds of meeting, she showed me to a castle, and I made it my home. The others living with me now each had sought me out as part of some quest but decided to stay with me after we talked. By the end of the movie, I was a celebrated and loved king on my little island.
I didn’t notice Aaliyah slipping off to the stage until the screen rolled up to reveal her. “Thank you all for coming to celebrate my wonderful boss-man’s birthday! I hope everyone had a wonderful time tonight, but before you leave, my boss-man has a few words he’d like to say! Come on up, boss-man, sir!” she exclaimed. I really wasn’t expecting to give anyone a speech today, but I dutifully made my way to the stage. Why hadn’t she given me any warning? She was beaming at me as I took the stage, so I started off with what came to mind. I thanked her for all of the wonderful things she did including her part in this party. I told everyone that though Aaliyah’s movie was comical I was sincerely thankful for each of their parts in my life, since I couldn’t be the man I was today without all of the help along the way. I wanted each of them to know that their attendance tonight truly meant a great deal to me, so I expressed such as best as I could, pointing out several, such as my parents, individually. Last, but in no way least, I thanked Alma for setting up this event and asked if she would like to say a few words. When Alma took the stage, I took note of how the faces I could see were enraptured by her. I really wasn’t the only one to find her captivating, but I wondered if others felt when they looked upon her like their hearts were trying to beat right out of their chests. I only vaguely heard her words as she spoke, being too caught up in how beautiful her voice was. When she finished, a path illuminated toward the exit, and I slipped off to the elevator with Alma and Aaliyah.
I said my farewells to each person as they came to the door and received numerous hugs and firm handshakes along the way. When I started my day, I never could have known what a wonderful birthday I would have. I didn’t even expect a party this year, since my parents never said anything to me. I hugged them both tight before they left. Last came Chad, lifting up Aaliyah in his arms. I thanked him and told him yet again how amazing his daughter was and how glad I was to have her around. He was all smiles. Aaliyah, looking surprisingly serious, said, “You won’t find a birthday present from me in the pile, boss-man, sir. Instead, I’ve decided to grant you one wish, so you can pick anything you like.” I laughed and told her “That’s easy then. I wish for us to always be friends.” She grinned and said, “That’s a given, boss-man, sir.” Then she left, still waving as her father carried her away. The door barely had shut when Alma asked “Do you even know what you’ve done? Well, of course not, but… Think before you make wishes!” I laughed and told her “I’m surprised you took that seriously. Despite her talents and abilities, she’s not a genie.” I decided a moment after that Aaliyah did seem rather genie-like at times with the things she did for me. Alma didn’t seem convinced at all. “Oh. Sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt, but I was wondering where I could change, assuming you can find my bag. I had it in the car with us, but Mila said it was in my room.” explained Portentia.
I told her “Oh. Sorry. I imagine you’re in the Northwest Wing with Brandon and Brenna.” before looking to a mirror and asking “Mila, would you mind showing us the way?” Mila’s avatar made Alma seem to have an eerie, double reflection. “Oh, master, you know I’ll gladly show you anywhere you want. Please follow me.” replied Mila, her avatar seeming to walk from mirror to mirror away from us. As we walked, I asked Portentia about her willingness to stay here as a best friend for hire in my employ. She agreed after making sure that she’d still be free to patrol at night. I assured her that I would never try to cage her, though I worried about her going out alone when the city held so many supernatural terrors. Still, gunfire and knives didn’t seem to bother her. She had lived this far without me around, so I tried not to worry too much. When Alma asked Portentia about her origins, the story that followed seemed unbelievable. Supposedly, Portentia was born on an exploding plane during a blue moon as a comet passed overhead. The woman who found her decided that she was a miracle child and raised her until she died. There were some problems with an orphanage, so Portentia took to the streets and began her career as a superhero. When we arrived at her room, she said, “Oh… I don’t honestly know how to get out of this.” Rolling her eyes, Alma pushed Portentia into the room. I hoped Portentia was safe alone with her.