Over a week passed, and everyone seemed to get back to our typical rhythm without too much problem, though we continued speaking of the convention often. I still caught Jarod looking at Aaliyah with obvious sadness in his eyes from time-to-time, but I could understand that well. Despite the difference in our age, Aaliyah was a dear friend to both of us. The idea of someone hurting her was painful to consider. Yet, if she ever wished to speak with me about it, I was certain she would, thinking back about how she decided to reveal her profession to me. I still could hardly believe what I had seen. Her speed was absolutely incredible. I couldn’t begin to understand how machines could allow for it, but I didn’t doubt the validity of what Jarod had read. We both were probably just missing something. Aaliyah was alway so many steps ahead that missing the clues she dropped often turned out to be part of her plan. I wasn’t worried about where her bread crumbs would lead, because I trusted her, my utterly adorable friend.
For today, Aaliyah scheduled Portentia and me to work together, which seemed odd at first. I would have thought another guy would be more appropriate for helping an elderly couple pack and load boxes and furniture, but Portentia truly was incredibly strong. I ended up being the one to help with the packing of more fragile items, like the crystal stemware, since Portentia seemed exceptionally inexperienced. She didn’t even think to pack anything between the glasses when she had started. Watching a girl lift heavy boxes while I packed made me feel incredibly guilty, but I doubted Portentia could even experience back pain if she healed so fast. The water she brought with her in a backpack seemed there for show, since I was the only one drinking any. I really could accomplish so much more in a day if I needed as little sleep as her or Alma. When everything was packed, we delivered the truck for the auction as instructed. The couple was apparently wanting to start anew in Europe, so they decided to put most of their belongings up for auction. The idea of giving up so many things that were sure to hold memories seemed odd to me, but I didn’t question them about it.
I treated Portentia to dinner at a burger joint she picked out after Mila did a search of the area for us. I still had trouble wrapping my head around the idea of feeling hungry and never needing to eat. I believed Portentia was telling the truth, but I felt not listening to my stomach’s demands for food was akin to torture. Over dinner, she taught me a few things in sign language like “money” and “I’m full.”, but I doubted how much I would remember. I planned on practicing them later though, sincerely wanting to learn. Alma’s lessons each night left me too exhausted for much, which really made finding time for my company’s training tutorials tough. Still, I was making good progress. Alma’s smiles when I did well were very rewarding. On the other hand, the word “again” was becoming quite painful to hear. My collection of bruises from the martial arts seemed quite extensive, even with her holding back tremendously. Any mistake in form was met with a punishing blow. Failures with spells often led to lectures on what I almost caused. Less dangerous ones were allowed to commence, such as when I created a small explosion that destroyed a nearby vase. Always, she would tell me “again”, even if I already felt like dropping from physical or mental exhaustion. Even in success, I was met with “again” until she was satisfied that I could succeed every time.
My thoughts came back to the moment as Portentia said, “Aaliyah didn’t let me keep my costume from the convention, by the way. She told me that she knew what I would do with it, and mentioned how many people probably saw me on video feeds. I was really feeling down about it until I got back to my room and found this.” Portentia rolled up her sweater’s sleeve slightly, revealing part of a red sleeve underneath it. “Want to see the whole thing sometime? It looks a lot like the other costume, including my symbol, but this one’s thin enough to wear under baggy clothes easily. It’s still armored though, not that I need protection. I’m sure Aaliyah made it for me, but I haven’t gotten a chance to thank her without Alma around. That girl really bugs me. She could save sooo many people with her abilities, but she’s like… not even interested. She wouldn’t even let me go patrol at night when we were at the convention. Who does she think she is? She’s not my boss, but fighting her won’t get me anywhere. I broke my fist when she let me punch her.” I could understand that all too well. Under her incredibly soft skin, Alma’s muscles were like steel. I discovered during my training that Alma utilized magic to maintain her position against blows her light mass couldn’t stop. She had explained that unlike a human, her strength, speed, and stamina came from her innate magic.
I was glad Portentia waited till we were alone, walking down the sidewalk, before she said any of this. Though most people would probably come to completely inaccurate conclusions if they overheard her, I didn’t want to take chances. Portentia was a great student now that she was actually trying to learn. She did have some trouble holding herself back though. No one that trained with my other employees regularly could keep up with her speed, but I knew she was trying to emulate the twins and Alma, keeping pace with her opponents to develop her skill. Portentia wasn’t ready to fight though. An encounter with a werelion would leave a bloody mess similar to when I met her. I felt a pain in my chest when I remembered Regina, her head rent open by the werelion’s claw. I realized Portentia was staring at me, probably waiting for a reply. “Sorry. Alma was probably concerned over you getting in trouble, and we both knew she could handle anything that came up in the hotel.” I told her. Portentia rolled her eyes and said, “Yeah, but would she?” I wasn’t sure. “I really do think she has a kind heart.” I replied, trying to convince myself as well as Portentia.
There was an explosion, and I found myself on the ground with Portentia on top of me. She said something, but I couldn’t hear over the ringing in my ears. I saw her glance around before tugging her shirt over her head and dropping her pants to reveal the skin-tight outfit beneath. She pulled a mask out of her backpack followed by a cape and gloves. Then she put a hood over her hair and ran off. I struggled to my feet. I had hit the ground hard, even with Portentia holding me. I hated to think what her hand must’ve looked like smashed between my head and the concrete. When I got to my feet, Portentia came flying out of the building, hitting the wall across the street. The blood splatter left on the wall made my stomach reel. I was shocked to see Portentia stand up a second later rushing back across the street. Stepping out to meet her was an enormous man in some sort of white, armored suit and helmet. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I realized he was wearing a gold-trimmed, white cape. I felt like I had stepped into a comic book. He turned his head my direction for a moment before swinging a giant fist at Portentia. She ducked his punch and kicked at him, her leg bouncing ineffectually off the suit.
The man rose into the air, hovered for a moment, and then flew off. The force of his suit’s propulsion had thrown Portentia back, but she was standing again before I got to her, staring after the man with an angry set to her jaw. “Is everyone alright?” she asked, looking around. I hadn’t even noticed the other people gathering around. Not receiving an answer, she said, “Get an ambulance. There are injured people inside.” Then she ran off with impressive speed, her cape flapping behind her. I helped check on the people inside and answered questions from the police when they arrived. When I finally was free, I called Mila to pick me up. I hoped Portentia didn’t get in trouble. Several people had commented about “the woman in red”. Mila pulled up, so I hopped inside, jumping as a red arm reached out to grab Portentia’s bag. “I really need to get some sort of fancy gizmos for combat. I couldn’t do anything to that guy.” complained Portentia as she pulled her sweater back on. “I hope no one gets the wrong idea. With that guy in white while you’re in black and red, you know who looks more like the villain here.” I told her, half-jokingly. “Oh, please. He clearly blew out the side of a building and escaped with something. I, on the other hand, wasn’t holding anything.” she replied, obviously upset that he got away.
I asked Mila to drive us home, so I could stay turned to talk with Portentia. She crawled up into the passenger seat after she finished changing. “How do you like the new suit?” she asked. “From what I saw, it looked pretty incredible. I like the mix of red and black.” I replied, still not entirely approving of Portentia’s vigilante hobby. “It’s super cute, right!? I love how the black lines look like cracks. These gloves have some sort of armor in the fingers. Hitting that suit didn’t even hurt.” she told me with a grin. We continued talking about what happened all the way back to the house, but I was really wanting to tell Jarod about it myself. He already admitted to accidentally helping Maxine with a suit, so what if there was some guy he had helped as well. I was shocked that such a thing already existed in the world. Unfortunately, Jarod was back at his parents’ when I arrived. He had been spending so much time here lately that I felt like he was living with all of us. Maybe he would change his mind eventually. For now, I was stuck waiting until the next time I caught him to tell him what I saw. I knew Jarod. He wouldn’t want to talk about this over the phone. Unless more sightings of the man in the suit started appearing around town, there wasn’t a rush. As I listened to the twins complain about him leaving, I was certain Jarod would be over again soon.