Signing Raine’s paperwork was being done in the extended version where Aaliyah gave summaries of each part and had Raine sign individually. After waiting patiently for them to get through it all, I was quite thankful that Aaliyah gave me the short version for things, otherwise I might be signing paperwork for a large part of every day. On the other hand, my little fairy friend seemed perfectly content to fly around my head, telling me about the forest and how I should spend more time there. She didn’t seem to understand my amusement at seeing Raine nearly nod off several times throughout Aaliyah’s explanations, and I really didn’t know how to explain my sympathies to her.
“All set, boss-man, sir! I’m going to get back home. Still much to do!” exclaimed Aaliyah.
“Much to do?” I asked.
“Yes, boss-man, sir! Much to do!” she insisted, hurrying out the door after quickly giving me a hug.
“Well, I suppose a tour is in order.” I announced after a moment’s consideration on what to do next.
Aaliyah and I had taken Raine back into the house and up to my office to do paperwork, which gave me a chance to duck out and switch shirts. The bullet holes were a bit much for my taste. I’d be very impressed if Raine could find her way back to her room even if she saw the mansion’s layout. I missed Mila. She never would let someone get lost.
Raine didn’t reply. Actually, she seemed to be sleeping with her head on my desk.
I gently shook her and asked, “How would you like a tour?”
“That… that sounds… nice.” muttered Raine, still half-asleep.
My little fairy friend showed me a route in my head to get back to the forest, so I tried again to explain what a tour was to her. She didn’t really seem to get it.
“Well, I’m not going to bother showing you the rest of this floor, since I don’t really make much use of it. Maybe one day I will, but I generally like to spend most of my time on the ground floor. At any rate, the second and third floors are my private domain. The ground floor of the main building is open to everyone, save for the kitchen, which is Marco’s. I imagine he’ll be more concerned about things getting back to their proper place now that Mila’s gone.” I explained.
“Who… who’s Mila?” asked Raine.
I could only see the lower part of her face, since she pulled the hood back up when she stood. I told her, “Mila was a friend. She was in charge of the house and my cars.”
Nodding, Raine said, “But… I mean… how? Umm… Not how did she d-die, but…” She went silent, mustering the energy to ask something. “Aaliyah had said ‘sti-still dead’. Can she bring someone back?”
I was certain Aaliyah hadn’t stuttered, but I needed to clear this up before Raine’s hopes could get too high. I could easily imagine that she hoped Aaliyah could bring someone back. “Mila was an artificial intelligence created by Aaliyah. Her hardware was recently destroyed when we fought a necromancer, so Aaliyah’s rebuilding her, at least I think she’s rebuilding Mila. I hope.”
Raine visibly slumped as she said, “Oh.”
I gently patted her shoulder as I said, “Sorry. Not even the princess can bring someone back to life. We didn’t mean to get your h-”
“The princess!” exclaimed Raine. “I d-didn’t get… I… her autograph.” she pouted.
“Oh.” I chuckled. “Don’t worry. You’ll get plenty of chances now that you’re working here. Aaliyah lives nearby, so she’s often around.”
Raine leaned against me suddenly. I could’ve dodged, dodging many things was easy for me now, but I really didn’t want to hurt her feelings or let her fall if she happened to be collapsing.
“Are you okay?” I asked. Receiving no answer, I said, “Raine?”
“Hmm?” she asked.
“Umm.. are you okay?” I asked again.
She looked up at me for a moment with her head tilted to the side before saying, “Waaarm.”
Then she fell back against me.
“Umm.. Raine? I’m also your boss now, and I do have a girlfriend. Might we keep some space and get on with the tour?” I asked.
“Hmm? Oh. S-sorry. I haven’t had… had… my n-nap. Groggy.” she told me.
“If you’d like to sleep first, that’s fine. There really is no rush. You’ll have to complete the basic training course before you can start going on assignments, How are you about getting up in the morning? I know Aaliyah mentioned it, but there’s martial arts training most every morning. Can you use magic? I try to teach some spells every day as well to those who can participate.” I informed her.
“N-no, thank you.” she replied.
“Self-defense is mandatory given how dangerous the world is. As best friends, we need to be able to protect ourselves and our clients.” I insisted.
She looked up at me in shock, finally looking awake again as she said, “F-fighting is… is… r-required? I’ll… g-get my…”
Interrupting, I quickly assured her “No-no. You don’t have to fight. You simply need to learn how to defend yourself in case something happens while you’re out with a client. Just come to the morning workouts. They can be fun, I promise.”
“O-okay.” she replied.
I really couldn’t imagine this girl defending anything, but I did want her to at least learn how to defend herself. Maybe we could give her a more positive outlook on self-defense with a bit of work.
I managed to get Raine following me back down the stairs. As we reached the 2nd floor, I told her, “The upper floor of the wing past this door is rented by Cosette. How do you feel about vampires?”
“She’s… she’s… v-vampire? Really!?” asked Raine.
I nodded and said, “Yes. She recently lost her parents as well, so she started working here for me.”
“S-some vampires are… are nice. M-mom said they c-can be at least. P-parents? Is s-she… young?” asked Raine.
Not wanting to give away too many specifics, I said, “Around our age. She’s-” I stopped as the door opened.
Raine jumped behind me, clinging to my shirt. Cosette paused in her doorway to look at us.
“James, do you have a cat now?” she asked. “Who’s behind you?”
“Nice timing. Cosette, this is Raine. Raine, Cosette. Raine just joined Best Friend For Hire, and I’m about to give her a tour.” I explained.
Curtsying slightly, Cosette said, “I see. Meeting you is a pleasure, Raine.”
“H-hello.” whispered Raine. “J-James told me… t-that you’re… vampire. I-I’m… kitty.”
“Are you? That’s adorable!” exclaimed Cosette, though she looked at me inquisitively.
“Yes. ‘Werecat’ is apparently the term.” I told her.
“Interesting. Would you mind showing me sometime? I mostly have avoided therianthropes, so getting to know one would be quite fun, really.” suggested Cosette.
I felt the magic as Raine changed this time, and what I believed I felt was confirmed as Cosette’s smile grew. Raine, now a small cat, rubbed up against my leg as she gazed up at Cosette.
“You are so cute!” exclaimed Cosette, as she kneeled down. “Can I hold you?”
Raine hesitated but nodded after a moment. I stood there, watching them and thinking again at how strange the world was. Though very quick as a human, Raine would otherwise pass for one easily. With how she nuzzled Cosette as a cat, I could easily see her passing for a housecat with ease. I had seen a number of therianthropes before, but I never really had tried to picture what life was like when seeming to have a great deal in common with two different species. Did some of her kind live as pets? There was so much to learn.