I collapsed into bed, hardly able to move yet again. Aaliyah’s training for the convention was difficult but enjoyable. Any time we started getting down, she would do something to pick us up again. I was very impressed at how quickly Brandon, Brenna, Emma, and Jarod were learning their parts in the dances and songs, considering none of them had experience with this type of dancing. I hadn’t known what to expect from Portentia, but she took to dancing extremely well, far better than I would have guessed possible without being able to hear the music. I was tempted to try the routine with ear plugs one day, just to see if I could pull it off, but there was so little time to learn everything. In addition, Alma’s training left me too tired for goofing off. Every night, I was quitting Ancient Tribes of Earth early to go train. The girl was completely merciless. Any flaw in my martial training was exploited fully, earning me another bruise. She was strong enough that I couldn’t change the position of her arm no matter the hold I attempted, but still as light as one might expect from such a tiny girl. I could pick her off the ground with great ease, but finding out earned me a kick that left me gasping. Completely worn out physically, I didn’t feel like practicing magic right after, but Alma brutally pressed me into my lessons, which seemed even more strenuous than my lessons in martial arts. The rewards in training would probably seem small to most, but when I saw her smile the way she did when I pulled off a spell, I knew euphoria.
Despite the pain, I did enjoying spending time with her. Ai and Mai were often there, training as well while I repeatedly practiced a form. Unlike me, the twins didn’t seem to bruise. At least, there wasn’t any sign of bruising after we finished. The difference in agility, strength, and even mental acuity between the girls and me was enormous. The spells they picked up almost perfectly the first try took me a great deal of study. I hadn’t understood how bright Ai and Mai were until I watched Alma teaching them, but they couldn’t come anywhere close to keeping up with her. The difference was far more obvious in the days of training. Without Aaliyah’s mystery tonic every night, I surely would have collapsed from fatigue. Yet each day I was getting up refreshed, my body only feeling vague memories of the previous day’s fatigue. The others in my employ were getting similar aid from Aaliyah, and I heard them talking about additional instruction through software Aaliyah had written for each. I had to laugh at myself, once again forgetting that Aaliyah was technically in my employ too. Though she never went against my wishes in business matters, she seemed far more the boss than I did most days. I really needed to take after father more. He was exceptional and loved by his employees without the strange magic I exuded. I still wondered over so many things that happened with Aaliyah before my birthday. Was she caught up in my magic as well? Why was someone so… so… powerful doing so much for me?
Then I remembered again that Alma was tremendously powerful too. She was capable of blocking my natural magic to some extent, yet she continually did things for me as well. Even her training, as painful as it was, was probably meant to help me. I felt so attracted to Alma at times, but I wasn’t certain that I would ever be able to understand her. Why would she want to date me? Did she really not understand the great gap between us? Of course, I was becoming increasingly aware of it, and wasn’t any less attracted to her. The problem was that she had all the advantages. I was just a quirky human, while she was… something else. Emma was part fey and didn’t stand a remote chance of keeping up with Alma. I knew there were vampires and therianthropes she killed, witches as well. I never heard of anyone, save for Aaliyah, being a challenge for her. I didn’t really understand what Aaliyah was either. Cybernetic enhancements didn’t fully explain her strength and speed to me, much less her ability to change shape. I always thought girls were a bit confusing, Regina more so than most back in school. Then I found out about magic and that even Regina wasn’t entirely human. Now girls were even more confusing than ever, and the idea of relationships with any had more dynamics than I ever guessed.
Emma would be the easiest for me to date. She was fun and great company, always getting me to laugh. She didn’t seem to have hidden agendas, and though she had her own magnificent magic of enormous power, she was still down to earth, plant jokes aside. Plus, I could actually keep up with her physically. She seemed to be about as strong as me, but I could still beat her in a fight, regularly anymore. Outdoors, she could beat me at whim with magic still. I had no delusions of beating her in a forest. There was still balance there, since I seemed to have the upper hand using residual energy for spells. On the other hand, Emma was now in my employ, a dangerous pool for dating. Brenna was there as well. Beautiful and talented, Brenna seemed so very sweet, and she was constantly improving magically. I laughed at myself again as I thought about how, just two weeks before, I was determined to date someone who wasn’t involved in the supernatural. Seeing myself dating Brenna was harder than seeing myself with Emma simply because Brenna was an employee first. There was more history with Emma involved. I didn’t know what to do with Portentia. I never was so certain a girl was interested in me before, but I also questioned Portentia’s sanity at times. Yes, I admitted that she was superhuman, but calling oneself a superhero seemed a bit much. Yet I admired her commitment to helping people. Her motives seemed entirely pure to me.
Emma told me a while ago that Ai and Mai were interested in me, but I really couldn’t see myself dating them ever, especially not now. More often than not, I saw them looking at Jarod, and I couldn’t imagine him not being interested in them. I needed to talk with him about them sometime and see if I could encourage him if he was interested. How would he choose between Ai and Mai though? Even being able to tell them apart, I couldn’t make any great distinctions between the two. How would one feel if the other were dating Jarod? To my knowledge, no two sisters were ever closer than they were, but I worried that dating could create that chasm between them as it often would in stories. Those two were extremely dangerous, so a feud between them could be catastrophic. Well, Alma would probably intervene before things got so far. I frowned, thinking that Alma might well just find the twins feuding to be good practice for them. If they caused any great damages to the estate, would she cover it? What if someone was injured? Though inexperienced, I was certain that dating wasn’t supposed to be quite so complicated. I wasn’t even able to decide whether or not encouraging my best friend to date was a good idea. What if he felt the gap was too big between him and those girls?
I was too tired to get out of bed and talk with him tonight, but perhaps tomorrow. Well, I doubted I’d really get a chance with the convention starting. With travel, setup, and getting into costumes before the start, I didn’t think there would be too much free time. Maybe I could talk with him about dating after the convention was over, assuming nothing happened in the meantime. Assuming I don’t chicken out before starting the conversation, I might talk with him. Why was I so terrible with girls? Jarod was always able to give an enormous grin and things would be fine. He’d crack a joke and be at ease. I, on the other hand, just felt more uptight when girls were around being all… girly. They were so distracting more often than not that I never quite thought straight around them. I did better during training when I had something else on which to focus, but one-on-one… Thoughts of that night with Trix entered my mind. Things were always different with Aaliyah even when I didn’t know I was speaking with Aaliyah. How good was her impersonation of those other girls? Each was distinctly different, so maybe that was what mattered more. My dates were fake, but the experiences were real for me. I frowned again as I blamed Alma for all of this confusion. I never thought about dating so much before I met her. She truly did make life an adventure, and I was, somewhat begrudgingly, grateful for it. My thoughts continued spinning around her until I fell asleep. The convention was tomorrow.