“So sunlight isn’t a problem for vampires?” asked father as he looked at Cosette.
“If I stay in the shade, I can be out on sunny days for a time, assuming I’ve fed enough recently.” she replied.
“You really do burn in sunlight?” he asked dubiously.
“In a manner of speaking. Light causes a reaction that makes storing energy difficult, and I have to use far more than normal to fight it. After a point, there wouldn’t be enough of me alive to heal even after arriving inside. My body would just crumble to dust.” she told him.
“I guess we should do all of our shopping while the sun’s up, dear.” suggested mother.
“If a young vampire were after you, that could help, but older ones aren’t very constrained.” stated Alma.
“You see, we get stronger as we age.” added Cosette.
Nodding, Alma said, “There are vampires who’ve seen millennia pass, and I assure you they can be out in the light for significant periods.”
“Then how does one recognize a vampire?” asked father.
“You don’t.” replied Cosette flatly. “Watch this.”
Cosette’s head contorted, swiftly changing her hair and face to match my mother’s. Father stepped backward, obviously startled.
“That’s amazing. Something seems off though.” stated mother as she leaned closer to Cosette.
“Well, I didn’t assume your body.” suggested Cosette, sounding just like mother as she spoke.
“You’re accustomed to seeing a mirror image of your face, so seeing yourself in the flesh tends to look awkward.” explained Alma.
“Really!?” asked Ai and Mai.
Alma glared at them, but they smiled sweetly back at her.
“What else can you do?” questioned father.
“I’m a fair dancer.” teased Cosette as she changed her head back to normal.
“She can heal wounds inflicted by demons.” stated Alma. “She also has some talent for using residual energy for spells.”
Nodding, Cosette said, “I don’t know if I’d go as far as to say ‘talent’, but I am learning. Brenna’s still far ahead of me.”
“Really? I feel like you’re practically caught up.” argued Brenna.
“You’re both doing well.” I assured them.
“What about Portentia? Was there more to her than I saw?” asked father.
“Not really.” I replied.
At the same time, Alma said, “She’s relentless. James, you understate her. Portentia doesn’t need to eat, drink, or sleep, so she might well wear down her foes even if they’re stronger or faster than she is.”
I resisted the urge to smirk when I noticed the twins frowning. They knew firsthand how Portentia could wear someone down. “I imagine Marco’s about done in the kitchen. Why don’t we all go to the gym after dinner for some demonstrations?” I suggested.
“Wouldn’t you prefer demonstrating out back instead, James? The sun will have set low enough that I’m sure Cosette would be fine, and I think your parents would enjoy seeing the forest after you and I spar a little.” encouraged Alma.
“Where the fey are? Didn’t you say they’re dangerous?” asked father, sounding nervous.
Alma said, “They can be. Just be careful around them. We’ll all be there with you.”
“They really are remarkable, but they can be a bit overwhelming.” I warned them.
“Yeah. They all try talking at once, and your head gets a bit fuzzy.” blurted Brandon.
“Ignore my brother. It’s not that bad.” insisted Brenna.
“I wasn’t saying it was bad… just… fuzzy.” argued Brandon.
“They have awesome fashion sense.” cooed Emma as she played with Raine’s paws.
I informed my parents “She means to say that they don’t wear anything at all. The gown you see on my little fairy friend is composed of steam. Alma is maintaining it.”
“Don’t you worry. I’ll make sure they all remain covered.” stated Alma.
Alma would probably be attempting to teach the fey a sense of propriety for years to come. She wasn’t quick to give up, and I appreciated her efforts. Introducing them to new people would be easier with less… cultural differences in the way.
We all continued chatting as we walked to the dining hall. The aromas of Marco’s cooking always delighted me, and the seasoned sea bass on the cart when we entered the room was already teasing my stomach.
“So does Marco use magic when he cooks? Is that his secret?” asked mother.
“What!?” exclaimed Ai.
“Definitely not.” proclaimed Mai. “We’ve assisted him several times now and can assure you that he’s simply that talented.”
“He can’t even use magic.” insisted Ai.
“Save for my brief leave, I’ve watched everything Marco’s ever cooked here. I too can attest to his skill.” added Mila.
Mother looked surprised, so I told her “Marco’s well-traveled and extraordinarily talented in the kitchen, but he really can’t use magic. He’ll gladly tell you where he picked up any given recipe that isn’t his own creation, but I can’t say his stories are always fit for polite company.”
Nodding, Alma said, “I can easily see why you’d believe his food was magic. The arrangements he makes for our meals are truly incredible, and I’ve yet to see him falter.”
“There have been a few minor mishaps, but he is always a professional in regard to his cooking.” commented Mila.
“Raine, won’t you join us as a person?” asked Alma out of the blue.
She still didn’t approve of Raine taking her meals as a kitten.
“I think she’s still sleeping.” whispered Emma.
“I’m still not convinced she’s ever sleeping, at least not how you think.” argued Alma.
“Oh? Why do you say that?” asked mother.
“Body temperatures usually drop when a person’s body gets ready to sleep. Raine’s doesn’t.” stated Alma.
“She does dream though. She’s mentioned nightmares to me before.” I told her.
“Really? I don’t see why her body would need sleep, at least not to such an extraordinary degree.” contemplated Alma.
“She could just be following feline instinct whether she needs sleep or not.” suggested Jarod.
“I’ve considered this, but I haven’t found any information to corroborate the idea from what my family knows of therianthropes.” replied Alma.
“Do you not need sleep?” asked father.
Alma looked to him and said, “Oh, I do sleep for a few hours here and there.”
“As in a few hours every few days. I’m actually following a similar pattern.” I told him.
“Actually, I believe you sleep even less than I do.” argued Alma.
“He does.” stated Mila. “The master’s been accomplishing a great deal more than he ever could before.”
“I still don’t understand what happened to you, son.” stated father.
“I don’t know the specifics myself, but how magic worked in my body was altered to some degree. I’ve been told on multiple occasions that I’m still human.” I assured him. “I can, however, hear Marco leaving the kitchen and coming toward us from here.”
“You hear through walls?” asked mother.
“So do you, if they’re not overly insulated. My hearing’s just a bit more acute than it was.” I told her.
“I wonder if I can hear better if I do this…” pondered Brandon as his ears enlarged. “Nope. Still can’t hear Marco.
“You probably could if you put a bit more thought into it.” encouraged Alma.
“Whoa now. Don’t encourage Brandon to think. He might hurt himself.” claimed Brenna with a laugh.
“Sure, sis. Try to me look bad in front of the boss’ parents.” complained Brandon.
Brenna grinned at him.
Mai then said, “Don’t worry, Brandon.”
“You make yourself look bad plenty without her help.” teased Ai.
“Oh! Raine!” called Emma as Raine jumped out from her arm and bolted for the door.
Alma told her “I think she’ll be back. I believe she’s decided to join us for dinner.”
I was inclined to agree. The moment Raine had rounded the corner, she must’ve transformed. Her footsteps had stopped, and I heard Marco jump.
“Will she be showing us what she can do now?” asked mother.
“Uh… no.” I told her.
“That wouldn’t be too wise.” insisted Alma.
“Raine’s incredible, but she’s too fast to really follow what she’s doing. She’s a bit terrifying to behold, honestly.” admitted Jarod.
“I-I’m s-sorry.” stated Raine from the door.
“No! Don’t be sorry! You’re amazing. Really. I just doubt Mr. and Mrs. Somerset are quite prepared to see your other form.” confided Jarod.
“What precisely does she look like?” asked father, his curiosity winning out.
“From what I gathered, she looked a little different to each of us. Everything in her vicinity appears fluid and turbulent, making it difficult for your brain to process the visual input. There also seems to be a type of magic emanating from her that triggers fright responses.” explained Alma.
Raine then said, “F-for m-me. I f-feel… icky. There’s so much… ang-anger. S-such sorrow.”
“Really? Your emotions change?” asked Alma.
Raine shook her head and told her “N-no… I-I’m me, b-but… there’s also those… those f-feelings.”
“Ah, well… Only feeling you need now is a… the full stomach after you eat!” exclaimed Marco as he entered the room with another cart. “Buon appetito!”