Last night, Raine seemed well enough once the gaming began, though she’d respond to us through the game instead of speaking still. I didn’t have much hope for this morning though. Raine just arrived wearing her cat hoodie.
“You probably should take off the hoodie for exercise, since you’re liable to get it dirty.” I warned her.
She didn’t respond, staring at the ground.
“Okay. Let’s have a demonstration, so you can see what you’ll be learning.” I stated. “Emma, mind being the attacker?”
“Sure thing, man-slave!” exclaimed Emma.
“Brandon, good luck.” I told him.
“What!? Why me?” he asked.
I didn’t bother with explanation, since he moved to the center of the gym. Emma walked up to him in an overly dramatic fashion.
“Hey, you. This is my alley. What you doin’ here?” she demanded, apparently impersonating a guy with the gruffness of her voice.
“Umm… walking?” replied Brandon.
“Nevermind. You walked down the wrong alley, punk. Gimme your cash.” stated Emma.
Brandon told her “No. I’ll just be leaving.” Then he started walking past her.
Emma reached for his wrist, and Brandon grabbed her arm, attempting to twist it behind her.
Slamming her free hand into his chest, Emma yelled “KNIFE TO THE HEART!”
“Oh, come on. I would’ve seen it.” claimed Brandon.
“Well, maybe, but you could’ve blocked her arm. I can’t say that was the greatest example. Just have a fair fight, so Raine can see some of what you’ve learned.” I told them.
Grinning at me, Emma said, “You have to admit that I’d be a great thug, man-slave.”
“I’m sure you’d be the most interesting one.” I replied. “Begin.”
Brandon didn’t wait for Emma to turn, lunging at her. She spun under his fist and kicked his side. Brandon’s skin seemed to ripple. Lately, he has been doing some experimenting with getting faster reaction time out of his body.
I explained to Raine “Arguably, Brandon just cheated, since he used magic during the fight. I didn’t actually tell them not to use magic, so I suppose it’s fair game this time. He can alter his physique to a great degree.”
She nodded, but I wasn’t entirely certain she was even watching.
Brandon and Emma continued exchanging blows, but Emma clearly out-classed him by too large of a margin still. I could have put him up against Brenna, but those two didn’t really spar that well. Brandon was, quite obviously, scared to accidentally hurt his sister, so he wouldn’t perform very well against her.
I could have put Emma versus Portentia, but Portentia really didn’t need to be here anymore. She had taken to martial arts with incredible tenacity and a large degree of talent. Emma didn’t stand a chance at this point, not without magic. Even Ai and Mai didn’t want to spar with Portentia, not without Alma demanding it of them. Of course, their refusal was largely because no amount of abuse slowed Portentia down at all. She’d continue until she won.
There was nothing I could really teach her about fighting at this point. Sure, I was still learning from Alma and could occasionally teach her a new trick, but I didn’t feel I outstripped her by enough knowledge to be a good teacher. Alma, thus far, refused to take over for me, probably not wanting Portentia to become too much of a nuisance to her family.
I had no doubts at all that she would pursue anyone she felt was being evil. With her weapon in hand, even those accomplished in magic could be beaten before they realized what happened. Without knowing the weapon, they’d have no reason to believe in something that could slice through spells. Portentia truly was remarkable. Luckily, she didn’t mind helping the others work on their form.
“Well, good enough you two. Would you mind working with Brenna and Portentia today? I’m going to try getting Cosette and Raine in shape.” I announced.
“I-I’m… healthy.” stated Raine.
Laughing, Cosette said, “He means in shape for fighting.”
“B-but… I… I-I can’t.” replied Raine.
“That’s okay. Just think of this as exercise. Repeat it enough, and you’ll be able to block a punch without thinking about it.” I assured her.
“You can go full werekitty on me if you want.” suggested Cosette. “As a vampire, I don’t really have a problem with healing.”
Raine shook her head, saying, “N-no. N-never.”
“No need to worry, Raine. Let’s just work on a basic stance today.” I told her. “You can even keep your hoodie on as long as you can see me well enough.”
Cosette looked amused by the idea.
“Oh, Cosette… I’m so sorry. I just realized that the windows won’t automatically shut now. Did you have any trouble getting here?” I asked her, embarrassed by my oversight.
“I called Aaliyah, and she told me how to shut them.” she informed me.
Relieved, I said, “Excellent. Sorry about that… I should have realized the issue sooner.” I really missed Mila.
We started working on a proper stance, and I explained the advantages of it. After an hour, I didn’t feel like I made any progress with Raine at all. Cosette was ready for more within minutes. She did have over a week of training now, and she caught on very quickly. I wasn’t convinced Raine was really even trying.
Still, I asked “Was that so bad?”
“I-I… g-guess not.” muttered Raine.
Feeling my phone buzz, I pulled it out. Aaliyah had texted me. I still wasn’t accustomed to Mila not being “present” on my phone. There were so many things that she always did in response to me. I hadn’t even realized how little I touched my phone’s screen before.
Looking to Raine, I said, “Aaliyah needs to meet with us about something, Raine. She’s apparently in my office. Mind if I freshen us up with magic real quick, so we can head straight there?”
Raine assented, so I quickly made a few spells to clean us off, not that Raine even worked up a sweat. Still, she seemed to enjoy the feel of the spells, smiling to herself. I had to admit they did tickle.
“Mind asking Aaliyah to stop by my wing after you finish with her?” inquired Cosette.
“Of course not.” I replied. Then I told the others I was heading off.
When Raine and I arrived in my office, Aaliyah was playing with cards at the desk.
“What’s up?” I asked her.
“Well, boss-man, sir, there’s a particular job lined up for you this week that’ll require specialized training, and I think this is a great opportunity to get Raine out there.” announced the tiny girl.
“What? She’s not even been here for a full day yet, so there’s no way she completed the introductory courses yet.” I replied.
“Boss-man, sir, you’re being hired as a magician!” exclaimed Aaliyah.
“I don’t honestly know any decent magic tricks and don’t feel using actual magic would be appropriate.” I told her.
Nodding, she said, “I guessed as much. I made a course you can adapt to perform with Raine! I wrote it ages ago for just such an occasion.”
She was lying about guessing, but that didn’t really surprise me. “How do you propose to get Raine to be comfortable on a stage?” I asked.
“She’ll perform as a cat! Everyone will think she’s an extraordinarily well-trained cat, and she will be!” exclaimed Aaliyah.
“I see. I suppose that might work. Raine? What do you think?” I inquired.
“I-I’ll get… get paid?” she asked.
“Oh. Of course. This is a job after all.” I assured her.
“Good. That’s settled then. I need to be off. The course is already loaded.” stated Aaliyah, as she hopped off my chair where she had been standing.
“Cosette wants to see you before you’re off!” I exclaimed, not wanting her to slip off without knowing.
Aaliyah hugged my leg and hurried out the door. She always seemed to be in a rush lately.
“Au-Autograph.” mumbled Raine to the door.
“Don’t worry. You’ll get one.” I assured her, feeling a bit guilty about not thinking to ask for her. “Mind getting started? I have a few hours free at the moment.”
Alma and I made arrangements for a redo of our date today. Jarod had taken my morning client for me, so this would work out well enough. Raine agreed to starting, and we both took a seat to watch. The “course” started in the completely over-the-top manner I expected from Aaliyah these days. There was an animated demonstration of the whole show followed by step-by-step instructions for each part. I hadn’t realized how intriguing the tricks could still be, not when I could use real magic. This was going to be fun!