“What’s all this?” I asked, finding a number of people standing in my entryway. I heard them well before I saw them, but I hadn’t been expecting anyone this morning.
Thankfully, my little fairy friend had sensed them and turned invisible.
Mila curtsied and said, “Courtesy callers with gifts for Lady Pendreigh, master.”
The assembled group stopped what they were doing and bowed to me after seeing Mila curtsey.
I wanted to tell them that was hardly necessary, but I knew Alma wouldn’t approve. If they were here with gifts for her birthday, they were probably part of her family.
“Am I supposed to bow to you?” asked Iris.
“Please don’t.” I told her. “You are very welcome to attend the party tonight if you wish. My fiancée’s celebrating her birthday today with a surprisingly small party. Apparently, she’s accustomed to only celebrating once every four years, but I’m not letting her get away with that here.”
“What? Why so rarely?” inquired Iris.
“She was born on the twenty-ninth and had a most peculiar mother.” I explained, hoping my voice was soft enough not to be heard by those assembled in the hall. “Unfortunately, the other birthday girl is currently out of town on a job, or we’d be celebrating with her as well.”
“I’ll be relaying everything to her tonight.” stated Mila with a smile.
Nodding, I said, “Still won’t quite be the same, but I’m sure she’ll appreciate it.”
Walking into the ballroom behind me, Iris asked “Do people normally work on their birthday here? I can if needed. I just usually celebrate with my family.”
“Everyone’s free to take their birthday off. Most do. Portentia’s current assignment is like a gift to herself, really. You’ll never meet someone more motivated than she is. She’ll quite literally work ceaselessly, never stopping for food or rest, until she’s accomplished a goal if she really wants something done.” I replied.
“That’s not healthy.” insisted Iris, looking concerned.
“Portentia’s incapable of sleeping and doesn’t need sustenance, so she’s very different in that regard.” I assured her.
“Iris’ father is interested in having Best Friend For Hire join in his company’s baseball league, so Iris may be feeling concerned over us competing.” stated Mila.
“What? How did you know about that?” asked Iris.
“Your father sent an email to us a few minutes ago.” she replied.
“Please tell him that we’ll accept. We’ll get some practice in restraint. That’ll be for this summer, correct?” I asked.
“Yes, master.” replied Mila.
“Are you sure that’s a good idea? Dad’s really competitive, and um… you… this place… Isn’t that unfair?” suggested Iris.
“Incredibly. They probably won’t ask us again next year, but we’ll happily oblige this year. Making new friends is part of what we do here, but I assure you that all of us have practice at holding back. I’m not honestly sure what would even happen if I hit a ball with all I’ve got.” I told her.
“Neither the ball nor the bat would survive impact, master.” insisted Mila.
“Ha. Imagine Raine going all out.” I teased.
“That would be quite catastrophic for the surroundings.” agreed Mila.
“Going to warn your father?” I asked Iris.
She shook her head and said, “He wouldn’t believe me even if I tried. I still can’t believe what I saw just this morning.”
“I do hope you enjoy working for us, even if there’s an adjustment period. Oh, I should mention that the party tonight will be informal, so there’s no need to dress up for it.” I told her.
Nodding as she looked around, she asked “You use this for video games?”
“Yes. Ancient Tribes of Earth, mostly. Ready to give it a try?” I asked.
“I guess.” she replied, not all that enthusiastic.
“We could do something else if you’d prefer.” I suggested. “Emma told me that you seemed to like the zoomies. Kayla was going to join you, but her brother made her get back to work before you were finished with the paperwork. Whatever the case, you’ll be paid for your time today no matter how we spend it.”
“Well, shouldn’t I be studying or something. Mila had said there was a great deal to learn.” she replied.
“There is.” insisted Mila.
“No doubt, but I can’t believe you haven’t tried this. Mila’s mother made it.” I explained.
“Her mother?” inquired Iris.
“Aaliyah Sypher, my secretary, is also the president of Global Princess Entertainment, the company which made this game.” I explained.
“She’ll be thirteen this year.” stated Mila, though there was a faint hint of mirth in her voice.
“Your secretary is thirteen!?” asked Iris in disbelief.
“She looks far younger. You’ll see.” I replied, amused by her continued incredulity.
When two of the large mirrors lit up with the game’s loading screen, Iris’ expression changed again, looking more surprised than anything.
“A thirteen-year-old made this?” she inquired.
“I believe she was twelve at release. She might have been eleven when she started working on it. Hard to say.” I told her.
“Very.” agreed Mila. “Mother enjoys confusing people with her age. If you don’t mind, I can import your information for account creation directly from our company database.”
“Uh… sure.” stated Iris.
Smiling and motioning toward one of the screens, Mila said, “There you are. Simply input your account name and password.”
“What about payment?” she asked, scrolling up to the greyed-out fields.
“Free subscription is one of the perks you have as an employee of Best Friend For Hire.” explained Mila.
“So it’s not taken out of my pay?” inquired Iris.
“Of course not. The master would be devastated if mother secretly charged employees.” insisted Mila.
Iris nodded and confirmed her information. Then she started the character creation process with Mila’s help. Mila demonstrated the incredible amount of detail allowed through the plethora of sliders in character customization by creating an avatar that looked like herself and then one that looked like Iris.
“Make me taller!” exclaimed Iris with a grin.
Mila obliged, and then said, “You can also be any of these other species.” She went through the benefits of each for Iris and listed off what everyone in the company played as well as other options.
“So what do you actually do in the game?” asked Iris.
“Socialize, adventure, and try to save the world from evil.” I told her.
“Other than saving the world, can’t you do that stuff in real life instead?” she asked.
“The master is quite capable of saving the world in real life.” insisted Mila.
Iris looked incredulous again as she said, “Then that’s even less reason to do it in a game.”
“But in the game, you don’t have to worry about the ramifications of your actions as much. If someone dies here, they can be resurrected. In the real world, consequences are far more permanent.” I explained.
Mila seemed amused as she looked at me with a smile. I really didn’t want to consider what she might be thinking.
“Fine, I’ll try it.” stated Iris. After some more time spent with Mila on character creation, she asked “What should I name her?”
“Have a favorite name?” I questioned.
“Trixie.” she stated as she typed the name. “These keyboards are so strange.”
“Mother will be disappointed that you didn’t go through the chair tutorial, but no one does the entire thing.” replied Mila. “Mother is, however, flattered by your name choice. Her middle name is Trixibelle.”
“Oh. That’s cool.” stated Iris. Catching on to what was said, she looked up and asked “Did you already tell her?”
“Of course. We talk continuously most days.” replied Mila with a smile.
I invited Iris to my guild immediately and showed her some of the basics with Mila’s help as I took care of guild business. She seemed to be enjoying the game well enough, especially after some of the others came to join us. We only played a couple hours before she took a break to start the introductory tutorials for my company, but I couldn’t well argue against her inclination to work. I just hoped she was starting to feel comfortable here.