The forest was filled with energy, and I was somewhat surprised how easily I could pull it to me. As I gathered more and more, some of the fey surrounded me. To my surprise, none of them approached very close. Something seemed off with them, their eyes having a sort of glazed look. I’d need to tell Aaliyah in case something was wrong. First, I needed to settle things with the twins. Jarod sent me a text, saying the twins wanted to use their gym for our duel, hardly the Cosette-friendly place I had wanted. Needing to be absolutely certain I wouldn’t run out, I tried giving myself a little more energy. A couple minutes passed. My body wasn’t absorbing energy very quickly now, so I figured I must have enough. I ran to the house, not wanting to keep the girls waiting.

“JAMES! What are you thinking!?” demanded Alma the moment I arrived outside the twins’ wing.

Wondering why she was so upset, I explained “I just want everyone to get along. Accepting Ai and Mai’s challenge seemed the most expedient way. Since I didn’t want to run out of energy like I did earlier, I went to the forest to gather some. Did I miss something? I wasn’t gone long.”

She softly hit my chest with the bottom of her fist as she said, “You lovable idiot. I… No. Ugh…” She backed away from me and clenched her fists. “James, you… you…”

She almost seemed to be fighting to be angry, as if she wanted to be mad at me. I really didn’t understand her at times, not anymore than I understood what the spells she had been creating did. The others were approaching. Several sets of arms wrapped around me from behind, and I heard Cosette sigh happily.

“What is going on…? Oh.” I stated, realizing what I had done. I hadn’t considered what my natural magic was like now. Apparently, I still had that spell which forced people to like me. I wished Aaliyah’s potion would’ve cured me of it.

“Finally caught on, have you?” demanded Alma as she unleashed her spell on everyone around us.

I nodded and gazed in wonder as enormous amounts of residual energy flowed from Alma to those gathered. Gently taking arms off me, I saw Cosette, Brenna, Emma, and Aaliyah had all hugged me, though I was sure Aaliyah had done so just for show.

Everything suddenly froze, even the magic flowing from Alma.

“You’d be surprised boss-man, sir.” claimed Aaliyah with a wink.

“Umm…” I started, and then decided I best not reply, realizing that the energy was moving again. “Let’s see if the twins will allow Cosette to come in for this.”

“She’s coming.” declared Alma, taking Cosette by the hand and marching through the door without so much as a knock.

“You seem… different… today, boss. Something happen?” asked Brandon.

“Different? How so?” I asked, curious as to what he noticed.

“Whoa… James. Are you glowing?” asked Jarod, spotting me from the hall.

“What?” I asked, looking into the nearest mirror. I didn’t appear to be glowing.

After walking to me, Jarod cupped his hands over my arm and peered into them. Then he said, “I dunno, but you’re just…”

“Exactly!” exclaimed Brandon.

“It’s a bit hard to describe. You seem really visible.” appended Jarod.

“That’s it! He really does.” agreed Brandon with a nod.

Then Emma said, “Jarod’s right. Whatever you’ve done today, you’re looking sharp, man-slave.”

“I think she means bright.” corrected Aaliyah with a giggle.

“Yeah, that too.” admitted Emma.

Portentia hadn’t said a word. She was just staring at me as if in a daze. Wishing I would’ve thought things through a bit more, I turned to head inside only to find Ai and Mai running out at me.

“James!” they exclaimed.

“We’re sorry.” claimed Ai.

“We didn’t mean to get in a fight with you.” added Mai.

“We’ll let Cosette practice here.” they stated together.

Ai begged “Just… don’t be mad at us.”

“Umm… I wasn’t exactly mad. She’s a nice girl and deserves a chance is all. Plus, your gym is more convenient for everyone.” I explained.

“Thank you!” they both exclaimed, hugging me.

“Just get in here and let’s get this over with.” demanded Alma as she glared daggers at the twins.

I wanted to learn whatever spell Alma was using to track everyone’s movements. Residual energy was flowing into a spell on the twins as well as the others still, even around corners. I was careful not to touch any of it as I followed the twins into the gym.

“We don’t really need to fight him, Lady Pendreigh.” stated Ai.

“We’re fine with Cosette practicing here with James.” replied Mai.

There was still some venom to how she said Cosette’s name.

“You two got us all into this, so you’re going to follow through with the duel. The only reason you’re being so agreeable is James’ magic being a bit strong today.” stated Alma. “James, try not to hurt them too much.”

“Hurt us?” demanded Ai.

“As if.” stated Mai.

“Don’t you dare hold back at all.” warned Alma.

The twins just rolled their eyes. I dislodged myself from the girls once more, since they were being a bit too friendly, Portentia included now. I felt Alma was going a bit far when she made a spell to restrain everyone else though.

“Ready when you are.” I told the twins, after reaching the gym’s center.

They ran at me together, kicking at my sides. Dodging was so easy now. I stepped backward, grabbed their ankles, and pulled them into one another. Their dumbfounded expressions were priceless.

Ai tried sweeping out my feet, so I slid my foot under her leg and flipped her over with it, catching Mai’s punch and pushing her back at the same time. When they tried to attack with magic, I grabbed the energy, pulling it into me. They made the spell entirely too slowly.

“What!? How!?” they demanded.

“I told you two not to hold back.” stated Alma, though a small smile was present on her face.

The others looked shocked as well. I wasn’t sure how I was going to explain this to them.

“Hmm… Maybe you should just pretend nothing happened.” suggested Aaliyah, casually walking straight through Alma’s restraining spell.

Everything was frozen again, but I spotted Carl this time. He was sitting in a lawn chair, eating popcorn.

“Oh! We could do a play and act out an awesome adventure where you rescue me from a tower, and I reward you with a kiss!” exclaimed Aaliyah with a grin.

“I don’t really feel anyone would buy that. Plus, that could be a bit awkward given how you look.” I told her.

Aaliyah appeared shocked as she said, “I was talking about kissing your hand, boss-man, sir! What were you thinking!?”

I knew she was messing with me, especially when she suddenly looked like Trix but was wearing a princess outfit of all-too-sheer fabric. I quickly spun around, but she was already standing there, back to her normal self.

“I suppose we could just tell them I made you drink something made from my leftover chemistry experiments.” she suggested.

“What did I drink?” I asked.

Grinning, she told me “A super awesome potion, duh!”

Suddenly, I found my body moved back to where I had been, and Aaliyah was pretending to be restrained again.

The twins were bringing water into the fight. I could feel their magic now, just like how I could feel Alma’s. I knocked them both to the ground with a spell, and was impressed how their water magic remained firm. As the twins stood, numerous streams of water entered the room, shooting at me with surprising speed. Dodging was entertaining now. Remembering what I had seen Alma do during our fight, I made a sort of telekinetic wall for me to jump off of mid-air, allowing me to change direction and backflip over several streams. At the same time, I continued interrupting any spell they attempted with residual energy.

I realized I had missed one of the streams when a spell shot out of my body, causing a stream of water to drop to the floor before it could hit my shoulder.

“That’s not possible!” exclaimed the twins.

They had been growing more frustrated as I had dodged their attacks and foiled their spells. Now they stared at me with a mix of confusion and frustration.

“Having to submit during a fight is considered embarrassing in our family. You really shouldn’t go quite so easy on them, James.” claimed Alma.

Then Ai said, “No.”

“We’ll admit defeat.” agreed Mai.

“What happened to you?” they asked together.

As I was deciding how to respond, Alma released the others. As they approached me, they all started talking at once.

“That was incredible!” exclaimed Emma.

“How did you move that fast?” asked Jarod.

“Does this mean I don’t have to hold back when we’re training now?” inquired Portentia.

Smiling, Brandon said, “I’ve been waiting to see someone show those two up. Great show, man!”

“I want to learn that spell to stop their magic.” stated Brenna.

“Sorry, but I really don’t think I can learn any of that.” admitted Cosette.

“Maybe we should have cake and ice cream for lunch.” suggested Aaliyah.

I supposed ignorance at the moment just kept me from needing to lie. The magic potion of unknown origins seemed like a pretty good response right now, but would that really make things any less complicated?

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