Best Friend For Hire, Entry 291

“Master, this will increase my efficiency dramatically!” exclaimed Mila.

“Well, more bodies does tend to have that effect.” I replied, leaning against the wall. I was still feeling shaken by the experience. The memories were too much, giving me a momentary headache if I thought too much about them.

“You didn’t increase the number of bodies, master, only the speed. Are you feeling okay?” asked Mila.

“I’ll be fine. I hadn’t realized you had four bodies.” I told her.

“I don’t, master. Only two, unless you’re including the cars, but I am not seeing any difference in those.

What? I know I enchanted four… I cringed away from the memory. As effortless as enchanting those bodies had been, thinking of all I had done was too much right now. There were four though.

Aaliyah winked at me, grinning.

I wondered what she was thinking, but knew I couldn’t take it. The memory of seeing more of her was far too much for me; her mind would be even beyond what I saw. A thought occurred to me as Mila danced around her mother with incredible speed and grace. Maybe I enchanted future bodies as well. Aaliyah knew I didn’t want to use that room again, so she might have saved me some future effort. When Mila did want more bodies, she wouldn’t want them left without enchantments after growing accustomed to the increased abilities of her current ones.

“I think I’m going to try on my own suit.” I announced, wanting something to take my mind off what had happened.

“Sorry, boss-man, sir.” replied Aaliyah.

“I’ll be fine. I know you mean well.” I assured her.

“About your suit.” she stated.

I stared at her blankly, not sure what she meant. I enchanted one for myself as well. I knew precisely where the suit was and moved to grab it. As my hand touched the fabric, things clicked. I sighed.

“I can’t use it, can I.” I told her.

“Well, you can wear it.” she replied.

Nodding glumly, I said, “But the enchantment is worthless on me. My own magic will counter it.”

“I’m sorry, boss-man, sir.” she stated again before coming over to hug me.

Mila hugged me as well. “Now I feel bad for complaining about not getting an upgrade. Had I known you couldn’t, I’d have been less pouty.” she told me.

“I’m glad I was I able to help you, Mila. No need to feel bad.” I told her, though I was greatly disappointed. The gap between Alma and I would be rather large when she wore hers. “I guess I could use Carnwennan to destroy this.”

“Boss-man, sir, that’d be quite wasteful.” stated Aaliyah, sounding disappointed that I’d suggest such a thing.

“No one is my size, so this’ll just take up space. We can’t exactly resize it.” I argued. “Oh. I suppose Brandon could resize himself to fit.”

Aaliyah flicked the suit, causing its shape to ripple and shrink. “Boss-man, sir! This suit’s perfectly sized for Aurora!”

“I guess the suit could be resized, but how is giving Aurora a suit wise? Wouldn’t that cause issues when she’s at home?” I asked.

“Not if she’s only allowed to wear it here.” replied Aaliyah. “You won’t have to worry about her stripping this way, since the suit will keep her comfortable.”

That truly would be a tremendous advantage. Ai and Mai would certainly have less to complain about when they did find out about Jarod’s lab assistant. “Point conceded.” I told her.

“Another option would be to give the suit to our sleepy friend there. I could totally do fairy size.” suggested Aaliyah.

I looked at the tiny fairy resting on a workbench and felt she was perfectly fine as she was. Having her be any more dangerous could be extremely hazardous to others. Looking back to Aaliyah, I said, “No, I think Aurora will enjoy it more. They fey don’t really seem to enjoy clothing.”

Aaliyah shrugged and grinned as Mila took the resized suit over to Aurora. There was a bit of an exchange between the two, and I quickly turned around as Aurora started to strip. The girl had no sense of modesty at all.

“She was easily convinced.” I mumbled.

Aaliyah giggled and said, “Aurora’s been wanting one, silly. She really is observant, boss-man, sir.”

I supposed the girl would take interest in what else was being done down here, considering the sorts of things Jarod normally did, but I didn’t think Aurora and a semi-thick suit meshed well without knowing what all it did.

“You’re focusing on the wrong train of thought, boss-man, sir.” suggested Aaliyah.

I took a moment to consider before saying, “She really does just want to fit in?” I had also been considering how much quicker she’d be able to complete her project, wondering if I could get Brandon’s suit to adjust to his abilities in some way, and pondering what Alma might be doing.

Nodding, Aaliyah said, “I can also point you in the right direction to improve Brandon’s next suit, but I’ll tell you upfront that letting the Slayers learn about magic to transform matter is a bad idea.”

I could think of far too many ways they might abuse such magic if they learned of it, so I couldn’t argue. “I don’t really see them finding out the specifics of how to accomplish it.” I admitted.

“They won’t, but that’s another spell you should hold off on showing Alma till after you’re married.” she insisted.

“Do you have some insane prenuptial agreement written up?” I asked.

“Of course, boss-man, sir!” she exclaimed with a grin.

I found myself briefly hugged by Aurora before she ran back to her station and started moving her arms around very quickly. She seemed to have mastered the gesture interface already.

Aaliyah informed me “Hers is custom, of course, as is her schooling. Aurora will end up living here eventually.”

“What? Is something going to happen to her parents?” I asked.

:They die in a car crash and Aurora is hospitalized on a family vacation.: she replied.

I took a moment to realize that Aaliyah hadn’t spoken aloud. Aurora was staring over at us now.

:The suit enhanced her hearing as well due to those spells you added, and she can’t know in advance.: explained Aaliyah.

:Won’t you save them?: I asked. I knew she could.

:That’s their time, boss-man, sir.: she stated.

I knew by her tone there was no arguing. When Aaliyah said someone’s time was up, nothing I said could change her mind. :Doesn’t she have other family?: I asked.

:Yes, but she wouldn’t be happy with them.: she insisted. :She’ll have all the family and friends she’ll ever want here. You bring so many people together.:

:I’d argue that you do, and I am just blessed by it.: I told her.

She smiled and said, :If you hadn’t saved me, I wouldn’t have helped you find them. I can show you how many people you’d personally have found and saved then. There would still be many, boss-man, sir. In all the realms of what could have been possible, you were always magnificent.:

I laughed and gave her a hug. I made far too many mistakes to really be that amazing, especially without her help, but no one could compare with my tiny secretary.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 290

“Oh. I should have asked if Aurora was down here.” I muttered. Between jobs and spending some time with my friends, I had managed to get two more suits enchanted over the past couple days. I came down into Jarod’s lab to work on another.

“I was going to warn you, master, but mother told me not to say anything.” explained Mila.

“What?” I blurted. Why would Aaliyah… I grinned as I watched Aurora float off the ground on the latest test model of the flying contraption. “I see.”

“Oh?” inquired Mila.

“I just realized I want to enchant more than the suits. Would you be able to apply the battery compartment adjustment you planned for the suits to those flying devices?” I asked.

“You’ll have to adjust your spells for the different power requirements.” she warned. “But yes, although Aurora will probably want to make adjustments on the rest of the design to take advantage of the lighter weight.”

“I suppose I can wait. Mind running the idea by Jarod before you get her on it?” I inquired.

“I wouldn’t proceed any other way, master.” she replied. “After his approval, I’ll try to get Aurora to work on the new design. If she’s not comfortable with the change, I’ll make the adjustments myself.”

Nodding, I said, “Just let me know the specs when you have them, so I can work the spells out. Oh! Tell me if you want to cheat a little with the propulsion. I can do some fancy stuff with air now.”

“If Ai and Mai get mad, I’m laying full blame on you.” stated Mila.

“Why would they be mad? I think they’ll enjoy these.” I insisted.

“Master, the honeymoon’s started.” replied Mila.

“Oh. That’s great! You could postpone telling Jarod until he’s back.” I told her.

“I believe Jarod will want to know about your idea immediately, so I’m not deleting the message from his phone.” she replied.

“Are you upset about something?” I asked.

“Why would you think that, master?” she inquired.

I sighed and said, “If I’ve done something to offend you, I really have no clue what. Please tell me.”

“Oh, master. I was just hoping you’d offer to give me an upgrade as well.” she admitted.

“Huh? What do you mean?” I asked.

“My bodies use similar muscle structures to the suits, so enchanting them for me shouldn’t be difficult, though certain adjustments to the bodies and the spells would be necessary, I’m sure.” she explained.

“Ah. Sure. I can get working on that when Aurora’s finished. I don’t really want to get enough energy while she’s here, due to the side effect.” I told her.

“You’d make my baby girl wait for such a silly reason?” complained Aaliyah, now staring up at me.

Mila picked her up and said, “Yes, mother… Not only did he fail to consider that I might want to benefit from his work as well, but he wants me to wait for an indefinite future.”

“Oh, please. You both know why.” I told them.

“Who does he think is protecting Aurora from his magic when she’s away from here?” inquired Aaliyah.

“I don’t know, mother.” replied Mila.

True. Was Aurora simply not affected by me for some reason?

“Oh, boss-man, sir, Aurora’s been affected by your enchantment since before you met her. Alma wasn’t too far off when she suggested half the state was affected when you worked on the suits.” claimed Aaliyah.

“She doesn’t really pay attention to me.” I stated.

“Sure, she does. Remember when she saved you from being electrocuted?” asked Aaliyah.

“The imaginary electricity, sure.” I replied.

Grinning, Aaliyah explained “She’s always watching you when you’re around, but she has no idea how to express her feelings. She really, really likes you even though you don’t talk with her.”

“Well, glad I have a new reason to feel guilty.” I mumbled. I really didn’t know how to communicate with Aurora.

“Wow. Under a second, and you already thought of one. Brilliant!” exclaimed Aaliyah.

“I don’t really think it’s that good of an idea.” I insisted.

“What?” asked Mila.

“He realized he could relay messages through our friend there.” explained Aaliyah as she pointed at the little fairy.

I almost asked when she got down here, but Aaliyah probably brought her. I never meant for Aurora to see her. If Aurora actually noticed, she gave no sign of it.

“That could work. Otherwise, I could probably relay things for you, master.” stated Mila.

“Onto upgrading my baby!” exclaimed Aaliyah as she hugged Mila.

“I don’t even know where to begin yet.” I admitted.

“I’m already fabricating materials for mother to install on my bodies, master” stated Mila.

“Just study the wall there, boss-man, sir.” ordered Aaliyah.

I didn’t recognize a number of the spells being displayed and saw no explanation for how they worked. This wasn’t going to be easy considering these spells were even more complicated than what I had used for the suits.

“You’ll manage, boss-man, sir. Have some faith in yourself! If you really want an explanation, there’s a full course now available. Jarod had based Mila’s skeleton off my grandfather’s designs, so some of the enhancements will be affecting that instead of ‘human’ flesh. The other adjustments for her muscles are more similar to what you did to the suits, but I tweaked things a bit.” explained Aaliyah.

I nodded and started committing everything to memory. Aaliyah had also made adjustments to the spell I designed. I wasn’t completely certain, but I believed she streamlined the spell a bit more for me. I took a while to realize I was being hugged and nearly jumped to find Aurora was the one doing the hugging.

“Told ya.” stated Aaliyah as she used some device on Mila’s skin to reseal it.

Before I figured out what I should do, Aurora wandered off back to her work area.

“Are you certain she wasn’t simply feeling cold again?” suggested Mila. “She does that with me often.”

“She was cold, but she also picked James. No, she didn’t pick him because he seemed less busy, staring at the wall.” replied Aaliyah.

“As you say, mother.” stated Mila.

“We’re all set, so let’s go!” exclaimed Aaliyah.

“Go?” I asked.

“Yep. You’re going to enchant four bodies for Mila and the rest of the suits at once.” claimed Aaliyah.

“I can’t. Doing a single suit’s a struggle, and a single body’s even more complicated.” I argued.

“First off, you don’t really struggle enchanting a suit. That’s just concentrating, boss-man, sir. Furthermore, you’re going to do it all at once.” insisted Aaliyah as she stepped onto the lift.

I didn’t see how I could possibly live up to her expectations, but I couldn’t win an argument with her either. Somehow, this was going to work. I stepped onto the lift, turned around as it started rising, and realized Mila wasn’t following. My little friend was frozen mid-flight. between us.

Before I could jump off, Aaliyah grabbed my hand and said, “She doesn’t need to be there, boss-man, sir.”

I nodded dumbly, feeling more and more confused. As I followed Aaliyah back into my house, I spotted Brandon grinning in the hall. I was tempted to take a picture of him as we passed, so I could show him his goofy expression later. I could always claim Mila took it.

“Mila’s going to love that one! She’ll actually take it, so you won’t even have to lie!” exclaimed Aaliyah.

“We’re not going to the forest?” I asked, feeling even more surprised.

“No need. In a sense, the forest will be coming to you.” she stated.

That wasn’t an entirely pleasant notion. Aaliyah led me through the house and down into a passageway beyond a hidden door. I remembered these stairs. I once thought Jarod died down here. The eerily glowing room was entirely made of stone. Countless engravings covered the sphere.

Aaliyah quickly assured me “Not countless, boss-man, sir. You could easily count them if you took the time.”

“True, but I doubt I’ll ever bother. Why are we here?” I asked.

“First, a precaution. If you ever use the room with someone other than me inside, you’ll kill them instantly, so you probably want to make sure to seal it first thing.” she informed me with a grin.

“Lovely.” I replied sarcastically. “How do I seal it?”

“Open your mind to the room like you would to the fey, boss-man, sir.” she told me.

The idea sounded odd, but I did as she instructed. The door instantly closed. I could feel my entire mansion. I knew where everyone was, though I wouldn’t say I was seeing them. I was just aware. I was aware of the army of “dolls” who did the cleaning. I was similarly aware of Marco’s cooking in the kitchen. I wondered if this was how Emma felt her plants, since I felt as if every blade of grass in my yard was a part of me. The energy of the forest moved at my whim, and I could feel every last fey. I didn’t realize quite how many there were. I hadn’t met them all yet.

My vault sat below the forest. I hadn’t known quite where before. There was so much energy around it, but not the type I could use. This was something else, like a white star burning under the forest.

“You could put a star out with that, but I wouldn’t recommend it.” whispered Aaliyah, directly into my mind.

I felt so tiny as I focused on her. She stretched on and on past the farthest stars.

“Look away, James. You’ll go mad.” she ordered.

I instantly did. Part of me yearned to keep looking, but the presence of her voice in my mind was overwhelming. I felt like I could touch planets. If I thought about any given one, I grew more and more aware of it. Many were lifeless, but I found ones that weren’t and saw beings like I had never imagined.

“Focus, boss-man, sir. You know why you’re here.” stated Aaliyah.

“But there’s something odd nearby. I don’t know how to describe it, but I can sense the thing throughout the world. Throughout many worlds… so very many worlds.” I told her.

“That’s the Intergalactic House of Awesome Sauce.” she informed me. You can eat later, boss-man, sir. Focus.”

I resisted the urge to look at the thousands of interesting things I was sensing. I found the suits. I found Mila’s bodies. Enchanting them was easy. Practically effortless. I suddenly felt scared. I shouldn’t have this kind of power.

I was on the ground, trembling. I heard the sphere’s door slide open. Aaliyah knelt beside me and hugged me. “How long have I been in here?” I asked.

“To most everyone else, no time has passed, but you experienced nearly an hour. You got a bit lost for a while there.” she replied.

“Aaliyah, can you destroy this thing?” I asked.

“Of course, but why would I?” she inquired.

“I shouldn’t have that kind of power, Aaliyah. What if someone else figured out how to use this? It’s so simple… terrifyingly simple.” I warned her.

Squeezing me tighter, she said, “Don’t worry, boss-man, sir. No one else can use it. Well, I mean… I could if I really wanted, but…”

“You don’t need it.” I whispered. Even remembering what I felt when I focused on Aaliyah started to make my head ache. “Is there no end to you?”

“To me? That’d be boring. Besides, everywhere needs a little Death!” she exclaimed, winking and smiling cheesily as she pointed her fingers at me.

“Will you destroy this?” I asked again.

“Of course not. You’ll want to use it again someday.” she insisted.

“That’s what frightens me. I felt like I could do anything.” I told her.

“But you can’t. You can do some really amazing things once you get the hang of it though.” she replied.

“I don’t want to get the hang of it, Aaliyah.” I argued.

“No, but you will. You’ll never enjoy it, boss-man, sir, but you’ll use it to save people. Another thing you should know is that you’ll get attention when you use it. Everyone capable of using magic throughout the world would have sensed what you did if they could feel anything right now. Now let’s get back to see how my baby girl likes her upgrade!” exclaimed Aaliyah, lifting up her arms to be carried.

I picked her up and started to move. I was still trembling, but the shaking subsided as I walked. Aaliyah had frightened me before in many different ways, but never so intimately. I was scared of myself.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 289

“Do you know what the point of this is?” I asked.

“The seisen, or holy war, is a traditional part of Slayer weddings in Japan. The first time a Slayer chose his bride from Japan, he had admired the samurai and wanted to be further entertained by them, so all who opposed the wedding were to send their best warriors to face him.” explained Alma.

“What about that makes it a holy war?” I asked.

“He was whispered to be an evil demon even before the wedding, and he fought against many armies before the proceedings.” she replied.

“Then why would anyone accept such an invitation?” I inquired.

“Some were honor-bound. Most weren’t even warned of what they’d be facing. The ‘invitations’ came as warnings of a threat, requests for aid, and various other ruses. The bride’s father was too terrified to refuse. His own men had been slaughtered when he tried removing the Slayer from his lands. Thousands of samurai died. Since then, a ceremony came into being which romanticized the occasion by having the groom go through the numerous steps that my forebear took before his wedding.” she informed me.

I frowned, wondering if there were any stories of the Slayers where they had been decent people. Aaliyah’s giggles did nothing to belie my suspicion that there weren’t such stories

“Relax, James. No one has died during this display since that day, not that anyone’s gone through with the full ceremony in hundreds of years to my knowledge, but Izumi wouldn’t risk Jarod dying at this point. I’m sure he won’t even be fighting that many people, and he doesn’t even seem fatigued from his earlier trials.” claimed Alma.

I felt there was some doubt in her statement, as if she questioned its validity as well. When ten men dressed in ceremonial-looking armor hustled onto the stage carrying hoko yari, I wasn’t remotely relieved by the sheen of their blades. The weapons looked far too sharp for a mock battle.

Jarod, however, looked completely calm, standing boldly with his arms at his sides. Why didn’t he wear muramasa? Was he not allowed a weapon? The men pointed their polearms at Jarod as they started to approach. As they stabbed at him in unison, he fell back onto his hands and kicked the polearms up and away from him just below their blades. Then he flipped backward, landing on his feet again.

The men, undaunted, started to circle him. Jarod rushed one, dodged the thrust of the man’s polearm, snapped off the blade, and held it at the man’s throat before he could react. As Jarod pulled the blade away, the man bowed and walked off the stage. Surprisingly, Jarod was holding back his newfound speed.

The other nine seemed more wary now, slowly approaching in a tighter formation. With a blade in hand, Jarod moved straight at them. As the first one started to attack, Jarod knocked the weapon aside and quickly slid into the gap between it and the nearest polearm. He stopped short of stabbing the second man’s chest while simultaneously kicking the back of the first man’s knee. After a tiny pause, he maneuvered the weapon back at the first man’s throat. He then flipped over an attack from a third man, kicked him to the ground and stabbed at a fourth. The other half quickly followed suit.

I was faster and stronger than Jarod even with the enhancement he now had, but I doubted I’d ever consider myself as dangerous. Where I would have knocked men down repeatedly until they stopped fighting, Jarod quite clearly would have killed these men had he followed through with his attacks.

Before the last two men had even left the stage, five more stepped onto it, drawing swords immediately. As they charged Jarod, I was certain one of them wasn’t human. He was too graceful, too at ease. Jarod dodged the first attack, disarmed the man and sliced open the front of his armor while twisting the sword around to block two attacks. A faint line of blood could be seen through the severed armor, but the wound didn’t look deep to me.

Jarod then stepped over a blade aimed at his leg as he pushed the attackers back. He slipped around one and brought the hilt of his sword into the man’s head. The second attacker took another swing, but his wrist connected hard against the back of Jarod’s sword, breaking bone.

The remaining two advanced, but Jarod made a slashing motion across the two injured men as if he was finishing them off. He didn’t hesitate as he pushed the right man’s blade into the attack of the left one’s and stopped short of stabbing through the first man. I then realized that Jarod had also noticed which of his opponents was strongest. He had purposely been picking off his weaker opponents first.

The last attacker pulled a tantō from his belt as he spun around his comrade, aiming the knife at Jarod’s waist as his sword came for Jarod’s head. The tantō was moving faster than I believed a human was able to stab while the sword moved at a more believable pace. I winced as Jarod used the arm of the man he stopped short of stabbing to block the tantō while slamming the back of his blade up into the attacker’s wrist.

As another attack came with the tantō, Jarod twisted the man’s arm, broke it, and grabbed the tantō out of the air. He continued under the man’s arm, tripping him and falling with him while moving the dagger to the back of the man’s throat.

Unlike the others, the man didn’t bow and retreat after he stood; he attacked again, kicking at Jarod with inhuman speed. Without hesitation, Jarod stabbed the tantō into the back of the man’s ankle while stepping forward and thrusting his sword through the man’s stomach. I grimaced as the man yelled out in pain and fell.

Without another glance at the man, Jarod left the weapons in him and walked to the edge of the stage. After a bow, Jarod proceeded off, following a path away from where I could see.

“I would consider that a decisive victory.” stated Alma.

“Is that man going to die?” I asked.

Alma quickly assured me “No, of course not. Those are skilled physicians rushing to him.”

At the same time, Aaliyah said, “Yes, but not today!”

As thankful as I was that Jarod hadn’t killed anyone, I didn’t feel inclined to watch him fight again if anyone was foolish enough to force him into one. Watching my best friend cold-heartedly injure others was unpleasant at best. I couldn’t deny the efficiency of his method, but I could take no pleasure in the sight of anyone injured.

“James, relax. They’ll all be fine.” insisted Alma.

“Sorry. I will never understand why things have to be so brutal with your family.” I admitted.

“I would hardly call this brutal, especially compared to that one.” she argued, pointing at Aaliyah.

Aaliyah grinned in a most adorable fashion as she said, “I’m brutal!”

“But what’s the point?” I asked.

“You’re right. My family should go back to playing chess with the lives of others, pitting army versus army to decide a victor.” teased Alma.

“Not funny. Aren’t there enough resources for people to live peacefully?” I suggested.

Alma frowned and seemed to be considering how to answer.

“This has to happen, boss-man, sir. I promise to show you why relatively soon.” replied Aaliyah.

“Are you admitting to scheming against my family?” asked Alma.

“No. I simply know which Slayer’s plan this is. Everything will happen as it should.” insisted Aaliyah.

Alma looked troubled by the statement, but I really didn’t get any of it. What sort of person would think this is necessary and why would Aaliyah agree? Would I ever really understand?

Aaliyah tugged my sleeve and smiled again when I looked at her. Then she said, “Yes, boss-man, sir. Yes, you will.”

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 288

“Boo.” I stated as Jarod walked into the room.

He didn’t seem surprised at all. Smiling, he said, “I’m still not married yet according to Izumi. Technically, you’re not supposed to be in here, by the way.”

“Aaliyah mentioned it, but I have another wedding present for you.” I told him.

“Ah.” he said as his eyes scanned the room. “Mila had mentioned that you wanted to do some work on my suit.”

I knew he spotted the suit already with how he kept glancing over in its direction. Nodding, I asked “Have time to try it?”

He hesitated a moment, but then he jogged over to it, saying, “You know I’m making time! What did you modify?”

“Nothing much, though you might consider modifying your power source plans. I believe I have you covered. I did a significant amount of research, created a new spell, and then ended up modifying it slightly after a bit of testing with Alma. I’m sure there will be more changes in the future, but I assure you that I’m off to a good start.” I told him.

“Whoa. Dude! I can tell. I really can tell. I felt like your speech slowed down by the end. This is incredible!” he exclaimed, speaking rapidly. “I’m talking really fast right now, aren’t I.”

I nodded.

“How did you get used to speaking slowly so quickly? How do you even know how slowly to speak?” he asked.

“You can gauge off general chatter if you’re worried about it. Listen to some music or watch part of a slow. You’ll probably need some practice, honestly. I think I was gifted a natural instinct for it with my change.” I admitted.

“Ah. That’s convenient.” he stated as he jumped, rolled, and sprang back to his feet. “You made some sort of sound-dampening spell for this, didn’t you?”

“Yes. I felt a quiet step wouldn’t hurt.” I told him. I then threw fire at him, smirking as shock came to his face.

“Whoa! What was that?” he asked.

“I did some variants off what Mila had suggested and found a few spells I liked better.” I replied.

“How long will this last?” he asked. The worry in his voice was obvious.

“I believe the suit will stay enchanted indefinitely as long as you wear it frequently. If left in one place too long, it might well absorb all the energy in the area and eventually run out. I’d occasionally wear it into my forest if I were you.” I told him.

“Mila said you wanted extra suits made. Why the backups then?” he asked.

“Oh. Sorry. Not backups. If you don’t mind, I’d like everyone in my company to get one. Then we’d be able to do more testing and protect our friends.” I explained.

“I suppose that does make sense. I’m cool with it.” he stated. “I don’t know how much this’ll be able to help some of them.”

Smiling, I said, “Alma was my guinea pig. I should also mention that I might be able to provide a similar spell to power your larger suit.”

Jarod’s mouth was hanging open as he stared at me. “Alma was your test subject? She was enhanced by this? I admit the speed is far more than I expected from my design, but I don’t see how she could’ve benefited.”

“I came across these spells meant to enhance the subject’s overall structure, granting heightened strength, speed, and durability. I tweaked them a bit and used one set to enhance the suit itself and another to enhance the wearer. Then I put in some spells to regulate both sets, supplying more energy where needed.” I explained. “Things seem to work as intended.”

Jarod barked a laugh and said, “Yeah. I’d say so.”

I watched as he balanced on one hand, pushed off the ground, and caught himself on a single finger. He seemed to be getting far more of a boost from the suit than Alma had. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jarod was as fast as the twins now. With his skills, he’d be more than a match for either of them, despite their years of training.

“I still can’t believe how fast you learn.” I admitted.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Martial arts, engineering, languages, acrobatics, and everything else seem natural to you.” I stated.

“Please. Even before your change, you learned just as fast when you actually applied yourself.” he claimed.

Strangely, he actually seemed to believe it. “No, I don’t think so. When we first started learning from Emma, I had a huge lead on you with martial arts. You weren’t even in shape for it at the time. Within months, you were deadly.” I argued.

Jarod shrugged and said, “I learned martial arts from the assassin. I don’t know of anyone beating my trainer at anything, including teaching methods.”

No, no one ever beats Death. “You’re still remarkable. How many people make millions off an engine design they thought up in high school?” I teased.

“Yeah, well… I did get help selling the design.” he replied with a smirk.

“True, but you’re still very good.” I stated.

“Still not as good as your timing. I’m supposed to face off against a few people in a ceremonial battle soon. Knowing Izumi, she’ll have some of her best in play this time.” he informed me.

“She can’t still be trying to oppose your marriage. That’d be crazy.” I stated in disbelief.

“Not openly, but she can hardly be blamed if there’s an accident. Her family would never accept someone who allows an accident to get in their way.” he replied.

“I… see.” I told him, not feeling very pleased about the situation.

“When does your flight leave?” he inquired.

“As soon as I leave here.” I claimed. I couldn’t tell him how I actually got here.

“Gotta love private jets… I don’t really know when I’ll be back yet. Ai and Mai might have some convoluted scheme in place for our honeymoon.” he stated.

I smiled and said, “Don’t worry about it. I assure you that our home will still be there when you return. Tell me if Izumi gives you too much trouble.”

“I’ll tell her you said that.” he teased.

Jarod started putting some ceremonial-looking outfit over his suit.

“Are you sure they won’t disqualify you somehow if you’re wearing that?” I asked.

“Is it visibly magical?” he inquired.

“Well, no.” I told him.

“Good. No one can be mad about me wearing some high-tech thermal underwear. I’m only human.” he claimed with a grin.

I was certain Alma would be able to help him sort out any mess that came from this, but I didn’t really think wearing the suit would be considered acceptable. On the other hand, the suit might save his life if Izumi really was planning something.

“How do I look?” he asked.

“I actually like the outfit, but seeing you in anything other than a t-shirt and jeans is a bit strange.” I teased.

“Yeah-yeah. I start wearing suits, and you’re still not happy. I put on a ceremonial garment, and you tell me I look strange. Some friend you are.” he replied sarcastically. He sighed when a distant bell rang. “I need to be off. I’ll make sure to tell you how it goes!”

“Good luck!” I told him. “Oh, and you might want to slow down a bit”

He looked at me in confusion for a moment before saying, “Ah. Yeah. Thanks.”

I probably should’ve warned him about still talking too fast, but I was certain he’d catch on as quickly as he did with everything else. I stood and found myself back at home in my study with Aaliyah sitting on the desk.

“He seemed happy.” she told me.

I nodded and said, “Thank you for the lift.”

“I’ll start having to charge you massages. What if I pull a muscle!” she exclaimed.

“I somehow doubt that’s an issue for you.” I replied.

“Are you joking? I can pull all the muscles, boss-man, sir.” she insisted.

“No doubt, but I don’t believe you pull anything you don’t want to be pulled.” I told her.

She shrugged and said, “I should at least charge you cake.”

“As many as you want.” I replied.

“Yippee!!!” she exclaimed, jumping off the desk and hugging me.

“Jarod’s going to be fine, isn’t he?” I asked.

Smiling up at me, she said, “Don’t worry, boss-man, sir. He’ll put on quite a performance. Mila! Bring up a video feed for your mommy!”

“As you wish, mother.” replied Mila.

The room changed to display a stage. Around us appeared to be stadium style seating made from interlocking stones and tiny wooden planks that served as a long, curved bench. Izumi and Duncan sat to my left with a few people I didn’t recognize under an elaborate canopy. Numerous others were seated throughout the area, quietly chatting between their groups.

“Popcorn?” offered Aaliyah, holding up a bucket filled with it.

“Have anything to drink?” I asked.

She sighed and gestured to my desk with her head. Three large drinks sat there.

“Are you drinking two?” I asked.

“Alpy, I’m sorry. I guess James isn’t inviting you.” stated Aaliyah.

“James! How could you forget your fiancée?” teased Alma from where she now stood beside Aaliyah.

“Oh. Sorry.” I told her, surprised that she had no complaints about being brought here from wherever she had been.

She grabbed my arm, pulled me down, and kissed my cheek before stealing the popcorn bucket from my hand.

“Forgiven for now.” she declared. “Was Jarod happy about his suit?”

“Extremely.” I assured her.

“He’s wearing it still, isn’t he.” she stated.

“Yes. Will that be a problem?” I asked.

“No, but this will be most amusing.” she replied with a smile.

Extra seats rose from my floor to accommodate everyone, and we all sat back to watch. This would be interesting.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 286

After making sure Raine’s meteorite was safely deposited at her shop, I logged out of the game and headed up to my office, thinking I should do some studying before my next job. There was always more to learn. Currently, I was learning more about physics, hoping to better understand some of Jarod’s work. Not being able to communicate with his own best friend would have to grow tiring, though I supposed Ai and Mai probably could follow his explanations.

“Mila, do you know if the three are officially wed yet?” I asked.

“No, master. Izumi insisted on one of the longer wedding ceremonies. Both sides are still performing marriage rites.” she replied.

“Ah. Thank you. Is Aurora going to be here today?” I asked.

“Yes, master. She didn’t want to leave yesterday, so she’ll probably come soon.” she explained.

Nodding, I said, “Maybe I should pop in at some point. Well, I suppose she can’t feel alone with you there. I guess I’m still getting accustomed to the idea of Jarod having an assistant other than you.”

“Don’t worry, master. Aurora might not even acknowledge if you were there. She gets caught up in her work.” suggested Mila. “However, I do expect her to complete the next phase of her work today, so we’ll be doing some testing if you want to watch.”

“Oh. Sure. That could be fun. Is she still working on the flying thing?” I asked.

“Yes, master. You should be able to step on the unit and fly for a short period.” she replied.

“Excellent! That sounds like fun. Mind informing Alma when you have a completion estimate? She might enjoy this as well.” I hoped.

“I’ll be sure to construct an extra unit after Jarod approves the testing. There is a chance he’ll delay the test, wanting to try it himself first.” she informed me.

“Yes… I wouldn’t really blame him.” I stated, feeling glum at the thought. If I had worked on such a design, I surely wouldn’t want someone else getting to try it first. On the other hand, Jarod might be too enthused about seeing how well it worked to want to wait. Alma and I were safe test subjects, given how much less prone we were to injury.

I had some experience with falling just from training sessions with Alma, having been knocked into the air on multiple occasions. If I wanted, I could simply walk down a few hundred feet on spells. Of course, falling that far didn’t seem to be a problem as long as I had sufficient energy.

I started my studies, despite still feeling distracted. I wasn’t at a point that I could even understand the specifics on how Jarod’s contraption worked, despite having seen some blueprints. I remembered them well. Some of the notes were still gibberish to me.

I paused the program after a while as my little fairy friend flew into the room and perched upon my shoulder. Something was wrong… I remembered practically everything these days, yet I felt like I was forgetting something, something important… I blinked as some of the sluggish memories from before my change entered my mind. I remembered first telling Jarod about my extra abilities as we chatted. My little friend was there? No. Wait. She was trying to find me and Alma called to tell me. We were…

“Mila! I never finished studying spells for Jarod’s suit!” I exclaimed.

“You did some work with Alma on his behalf.” she mentioned.

“Yes, but we didn’t really get anywhere. Mila, you said you have a database of spells, correct?” I asked.

“Of course, master.” she replied.

“I’m betting Jarod’s also refined his tech some more. Feel up to explaining how his suit works in great detail?” I asked.

“Gladly, master. Jarod cleared you for complete access to the project. I will warn you that I have already considered the spells in my database at great length and can point you toward the most likely candidates, but I don’t believe we can accomplish what Jarod really wants.” she stated.

“Oh? Why’s that?” I asked.

“The spells won’t last. Even with optimum materials for enchanting, such as silver according to Slayer research, the enchantments need maintenance which he cannot perform. Jarod wants the power to stand on his own in this world of magic and monsters. Relying on someone’s aid, even yours, would not suit him.” she explained.

I barked a laugh before saying, “I think he underestimates how reliant I am on others. I need all of you.”

Mila’s voice sounded as if she were smiling as she said, “I know, master.”

I switched gears and started studying. The more of Jarod’s suit Mila explained, the more impressed I was by it. The synthetic muscles alone were absolutely incredible, but he also made new types of flexible armoring that was layered throughout the muscles, new variations on sensory technology, and reactive chemical compounds that I would’ve thought were outside his fields.

Jarod was a millionaire by his own hand for good reason. Despite more wealth, I had achieved so much less. I was going to do this for him. There was a way. I knew several of the weapons that achieved this.

I started with the spells that Mila suggested, though I had to ask why a few of them were in the mix. She explained, patient as ever even as I veered away from her choices onto others.

“Does everyone have access to this?” I asked several hours later. I read extremely quickly these days, and I had barely skimmed the surface of the database.

“No, master. Only you, mother, and I can access the full database. I’ve been warned that there are spells here which the Slayers must never see, so be cautious about using any of the spells from here in front of others.” she suggested.

By “others”, she surely meant Alma. Ai and Mai would be quite hard-pressed to catch my spellcasting these days if I didn’t take it very slow for them. Always secrets…

“Don’t worry, boss-man, sir. You can share with Alpy soon after you’re married.” stated Aaliyah, now sitting on my desk as she poked my little friend.

I sighed and said, “I don’t suppose you’ll tell me how to pull this off.”

“Well, you could rip the soul out of a fey, bind it to the suit, and use it for a power source. There are spells of that nature in here.” she playfully replied.

“No, thank you.” I stated, not amused by the idea.

“Everything you need to figure this out is in here.” she told me, tapping my chest.

“Think with my heart, not with my head?” I questioned, amused by the notion.

“I never said anything about your heart, boss-man, sir. Besides, who said I was only touching your body?” she asked.

I suddenly had a sickening feeling as she grabbed me. I had double vision. No. What. I was seeing myself. Everything looked wrong from one set of eyes. I was in two places? I watched my body slump over. I stared at the tiny girl who held me outside of my own body. Was she taking me? She smiled and rolled her eyes.

I sat up, staring around wildly. Aaliyah was gone. My little fairy friend was yelling at me inside my head the moment I let her in. She had been dreaming when she was rudely awoken. I apologized as I tried to make sense of what just happened. A cold chill swept over me, causing my little friend to yell some more.

“Master, what happened!?” demanded Mila.

“Huh?” I dumbly asked.

“You fell forward and seemed to be dying.” she stated, sounding concerned.

“Your mother was… instructing me.” I told her, not feeling comfortable with anything more accusatory at the moment. Aaliyah had casually ripped my soul from my body. If Mila didn’t see that, was I seeing Aaliyah as a spirit the entire time?

I sat there enjoying the feel of my lungs for a time as I contemplated what she was trying to tell me. As frightful as the experience was, this was mild compared to what I experienced when I first saw Aaliyah as Death. She wasn’t suggesting that I use my own spirit to enhance Jarod’s suit, so what was she meaning?

When I saw myself slumping forward. Energy was seeping out from my body. Does my spirit contain the energy there? Several things came together in my mind. Most importantly, I needed to find a way to manipulate residual energy with magic. If I could make a spell that could make a spell instead of simply triggering one, I’d also be able to make a spell that pulled energy from around the wearer. Jarod would be able to walk through my forest to recharge his suit whenever he wanted. I could contain the energy similar to how the Slayers already made enchantments.

I considered trying to use the containment spells as a basis for manipulating the energy, but they seemed cumbersome, roundabout. The spells I knew for feeding energy simply weren’t efficient enough to last. I needed more direct control if this was to be efficient. Well, I did have an enormous database and an idea for what I was looking now. This was a place to start.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 285

I had forgotten how vile the lands looked when a demon inhabited them. I was only human when last I fought one, and my eyes surely did not pick up on all the minute details. Even knowing Aaliyah as well as I did now, I was deeply impressed by what she created. The idea of even brushing up the sickly looking foliage was unpleasant, and I could imagine the faint odor of death all too well, having faced a real life necromancer.

I could barely see Raine with how she had pushed farther and farther into her chair. Cosette was still all cheer, untouched by any horrors in her past. I worried about Raine. I would never forget her cowering, hiding under a table from the screams of Mai and being surprised that the screaming wasn’t in her head. I never asked her why, why would she think that the screams weren’t real. Was she plagued by the voices of another place?

“Yes, she is.” stated Aaliyah.

Things were frozen again as Aaliyah casually lounged across my lap, resting her head on the arm of my chair.

“What is she hearing?” I asked.

“She feels the suffering of a god and the cries of his demons, so full of rage and despair that they have no concept of happiness or beauty.” she casually explained in a sing-song voice.

“Have you been there, where they are?” I asked.

She laughed and said, “Of course I’m there, silly. Even demons die.”

“Can you do something to help Raine?” I questioned.

“I have. I brought her to you. You’re doing wonderfully, boss-man, sir.” she claimed.

Shaking my head, I said, “Ha. There’s so little I can do for anyone. I’m just lucky Cosette isn’t holding a grudge against me for trying to keep knowledge of her parents’ deaths from her.”

“You’re right about one thing: Cosette doesn’t hold a grudge against you, not even a little one. I wouldn’t call it luck though. You’re just too charming, boss-man, sir.” she teased. “You do help people, all the time. The ‘little’ you do helps in big ways.”

I looked down into those big, blue eyes of hers. She was too adorable. “Why do you choose to look as you do?” I asked.

“Prefer me like this?” she teased, suddenly older and wearing far too little.

“As much as I enjoyed your company as Trix, no.” I firmly told her.

She reverted back to the tiny girl in her mismatched clothes much to my relief. Then she said, “I was born, I grew, and I became a cyborg. You remember. This is me. I’m my daddy’s little girl.”

“And so many other things.” I stated.

Sitting up, she poked my nose, looked me in the eye, and said, “But always my daddy’s little girl. He needs me, boss-man, sir.”

“What do you think of this area?” I asked, nodding toward the game.

“It’s gross!” exclaimed Cosette, sounding quite giddy.

Aaliyah was gone. Things were moving again.

“T-the animals are m-missing.” stated Raine.

“Ah. Yeah. They’ve probably been warped and are now following the demon, wherever he is.” I told them.

“Is he as cute as Raine?” teased Cosette.

I chuckled and said, “No, not even close. He’s quite horrific to behold.”

“That’s good. I don’t think I could summon up the will to attack Raine, except for hugs.” claimed Cosette.

“Att-attack hugs are qui-quite vi-vicious.” mumbled Raine, but she sounded like she was smiling.

“Oh, you know it!” exclaimed Cosette, just before leaping out of her seat at Raine.

There was much giggling, so I did my best to defend their characters.

“You’re lucky she didn’t pull the smithing hammer like she did on that goblin.” I teased.

“She uses the frying pan on me. Doesn’t hurt nearly as much.” claimed Cosette.

Giggling more, Raine said, “M-makes a n-nice sound.” She abruptly went silent.

I looked over at her in concern, realizing a moment later that she was hearing something. There was movement around us.

“C-Cosette! En-enemies!” exclaimed Raine in a loud whisper.

Cosette hopped into her seat with casual grace, instantly on the move as she landed. Without a word, all of us started sneaking along. We couldn’t talk. Talking in real life would carry through into the game and alert our foes. I made my character cast one of his few utility spells, further muffling the sounds of our passage. I wished I had powerful illusion magic at the moment. I might be able to incinerate the bears, but there was a chance the demon had granted these ones high fire resistance.

Raine’s character uncorked some sort of vial and dropped liquid behind us. Text appeared on my screen describing a pungent stench. I hoped she knew what she was doing. I caught sight of giant, mutated bears a couple times over the next couple minutes, but we continued avoiding them, not wanting to alert their master of our presence. He might well remember me.

The front doors of my home swung open, and I heard someone enter. Portentia was home. I could tell by her footsteps.

“Oh wow. Where are you, guys?” she asked shortly after walking into the room.

I turned to her, explaining briefly in sign language. The game had voice recognition along with other features to ignore extraneous sound, so Portentia’s voice shouldn’t alert enemies, though mine would.

I rapidly signed to my screen, asking Mila to explain in more depth. She was always watching. I should’ve thought of asking her sooner. Another of the large mirrors lit up, showing Mila’s avatar signing away.

More minutes stretched by before the bears finally wandered off. Cosette breathed out loudly before saying, “I never thought I’d feel so tense playing a game.”

Portentia laughed and said, “The game is pretty awesome. I never thought I’d get into a video game till I started. Looks like you guys are too far away for me to catch up.”

“Oh. Go to the guild hall. You can use the traveling stone to come straight to us.” I suggested.

“Nice!” she exclaimed. “I’ll be right there!”

Glancing at the time, I said, “You’re home early.”

“Quiet night. Captured a mugger, but that’s it.” explained Portentia.

I just nodded. A single mugger would be a quiet night for her. Feeling relatively safe where we were, we waited for Portentia to join us. Once she arrived, the four of us continued toward where the meteor had landed.

“Meteors can be pretty small. How are we going to find it?” asked Portentia.

“Cr-crater.” stated Raine.

“Yeah. I guess that makes sense if it’s a big one.” replied Portentia.

“I think we’re almost there.” asserted Cosette. “We’ll show you!”

I stopped, catching something out of the corner of my eye. I turned to look and saw the enormous demon walking toward the same place as us.

“Guys, we need to run.” I insisted.

“Noooo!” whined Raine.

I could see that she had turned to face it as well.

“Gather around, and I’ll use the stone.” I told them.

“No!” exclaimed Raine. Her character was shoving her backpack at mine, offering a trade.

“What!?” I asked.

“G-get my m-mats. I-I’ll show him a r-real d-demon.” stated Raine.

I accepted the trade and opened my mouth to talk her out of it, but she was gone. Her character was far, far faster than mine. I couldn’t believe how quickly she was gone.

“Let’s go!” I exclaimed, running toward the meteor site.

Portentia and Cosette followed. We weren’t even halfway there when the sky became even darker. I could see spells flying from the demon and explosions even after. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing on Raine’s screen.

The raid boss who wiped over twenty thousand people was getting hit by garden tools, smithing tools, kitchen tools, and a number of things I didn’t even recognize. The damage was laughable compared with its health but impressive for a single person. No doubt she had enchanted every last implement.

I hadn’t doubted that Raine’s reaction time was far beyond what any character could manage, but the way her character moved was really bizarre. She had strange sidesteps that moved her great distances nearly instantly, allowing her to avoid area of effect attacks that I could never dodge. She had some sort of instant duck move that allowed her to dive under swings at her head with ease. There was some roll move she used that ended in her character raising its arms as if presenting something.

“James, that’s a tree!” exclaimed Cosette.

Oops. I hoped I hadn’t been running into the tree for long. Bit distracted. Incredibly, Raine was still alive when we finally reached the crater where the meteor had landed, though the demon had called in its minions for reinforcements.

“Raine, can you make it to us?” I asked.

“J-just g-go.” she ordered.

I told the other two to hug the meteorite

“It’s too heavy to come with us. Give me a sec.” stated Cosette. She used a spell to boost our strength.

“U-use a p-potion too. In m-my b-bag.” muttered Raine.

I did as she said, passing out strength potions. I needed to get Raine to make me a new bag. Hers was vastly larger, mostly filled with crafting materials, but also holding potions, elixirs, and tools. Still, we were lucky Portentia came home. Cosette and I wouldn’t have been able to carry the meteorite without her, despite the boosts. Only items carriable by the group being transported could be taken along.

“I think that’ll do it. Hug the stone.” I ordered.

Nothing happened. I quickly typed in guild chat asking who online had the stone from our guild hall. I really should’ve given the guild a heads up several minutes ago.

“No, I’m not mad. I’m in a hurry. Nekopawpaw’s soloing a raid boss. We found the last of the demons, and I need to get her mats to safety.” I explained in guild chat.

That was the first time I saw guild chat stop moving for any length. There were several seconds with no response at all. Then chat erupted back to normal with several people saying they were “on it”, and many more asking if I was messing with them.

“Hey, Mila, could you put Raine’s fight on the guild’s magic mirror?” I asked.

“No, master, but I can instruct you how to scry with it.” she replied.

“Good enough. Let’s do this.” I told her.

Several of the nearby guildies were already staring at the meteorite, but Cosette and Portentia were guarding it.

In guild chat, I typed “No one goes near the meteorite, or you’ll earn Nekopawpaw’s ire. I’m putting what that entails on the magic mirror for any who doubt me.”

I was pretty sure most people in the area had hurried over, since the hall was filling quickly. Guild chat was alive with talk about our prized crafter facing off against a demon.

“J-James, I-I’m almost… almost out of p-potions.” stated Raine.

“I wondered what you were using to heal. I would’ve given you mine had I known you needed some.” I told her.

“I’ve u-used several h-hundred.” she mumbled.

Ouch. That was expensive.

“Think you can run away?” I asked.

“I-I… only had o-one speed p-potion, b-but I-I can… try.” she told me, weaving through enemies to dodge a giant fist.

The demon had killed countless of its own minions just trying to kill Raine. The thing was lucky her character couldn’t keep up with her in real life. Watching her bonking heads with hammers, pans, and other non-combat implements was somewhat comical as she took off.

“You’re heading the wrong way.” I mentioned.

“N-no. I d-don’t want it… f-following me h-home.” she stammered.

I guess that made sense. I had no idea how far this thing would try following her now. I’d muster our army, but there simply weren’t enough of us on at the moment to kill it. Most of our guild wouldn’t even be awake.

“What have you guys been doing?” asked Alma just after running into the room.

I nonchalantly told her “Raine’s been demonstrating how to solo a demon.”

“I hardly believed the messages I was receiving, but seeing her… what are those moves?” she asked.

Nearly at the edge of the demon’s horde with it on her tail, Raine started explaining where various things she was using were obtained. The strange roll maneuver she had was “Present the Dish.” from cooking. “Check the Oven” and “Stove Dash” were also from cooking.

As she continued, every last move came from one type of crafting or another, but her crafting skills were far higher than even my combat skills, granting her huge boosts to the effectiveness of the moves.

“For someone who abhors violence, you certainly understand it.” stated Alma.

“W-why else would I ab-abhor it.” replied Raine.

I chuckled even as Alma rolled her eyes.

Cosette and Portentia were both standing by Raine, watching her screen and cheering her on.

Several tense minutes later, Raine was still running, but the demon was too fast. Luckily, all of its horde was left behind, allowing her to dodge more easily.

“You should’ve stayed behind for her.” stated Alma, gripping my hand.

“Then the meteorite couldn’t have gone through.” I told her.

“Oh. I see.” she replied. “We could go meet her.”

“Even if everyone drops what they’re doing and comes to join us, do you think we’d stand a chance?” I asked.

She sighed and said, “No, we would not.”

“I-it’s okay. W-we have m-my mats!” exclaimed Raine.

“You mean that I have your mats!” teased Cosette, trying to laugh villainously.

“Don’t worry, Raine. I wouldn’t let Cosette steal from you.” stated Portentia.

Cosette lunged at Portentia, who easily dodged.

“James! Help! My food is avoiding me!” exclaimed Cosette, fangs now evident in her mouth.

I caught Alma’s mouth twitch while I started laughing.

“Shh… y-you’re startling Pufflewink.” warned Raine.

A quick blast of energy partially caught Nekopawpaw, damaging her again.

“A-all out.” muttered Raine. Then she turned and attacked the demon with a giant frying pan. “B-bad demon.”

“It’s..” I started, hardly believing the stars now floating around the demon’s head.

“You dazed it! Run!” exclaimed Alma, gripping the back of Raine’s chair.

Mila then said, “Wow. There’s a less than one percent chance of that move ever effecting this demon at your current skill level. If you dive into the cave northwest of you, the demon won’t be able to follow.”

“There’s a cave?” I asked.

“Oops. Mother’s going to yell at me for giving away spoilers.” claimed Mila.

Raine hadn’t hesitated at all. She quickly veered northwest and took off into the cave, using some sort of charm to create light as she hurried deeper. When she looked back, the demon was clawing at the entrance, ripping it apart and causing part of the cave to collapse.

Guild chat was still busy with people talking about what just happened. People were cheering her on.

“What!? You’re logging off there?” demanded Alma, upon seeing Raine hit the logout button.

“I-I w-work soon.” she mumbled.

“Oh. I can try distracting your boss if you like, so you can call in sick.” offered Alma.

“Th-thank you, but I-I’ll be okay. We g-got it!” she exclaimed.

“I’ll see that the meteorite makes it to your shop.” I told her.

She got up, thanked everyone again, and headed off toward her room.

“I must say that I am most impressed.” stated Alma.

“Think you could really distract me?” I teased.

She rolled her eyes before staring up into mine and saying, “You, my darling, are quite easily distracted.”

I had to admit that I felt distracted already.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 283

“Pufflewink? What are you doing here?” I asked, bending down to pet the small, black kitten.

She nuzzled my hand briefly and then started walking away.

Where was Raine? She rarely let Pufflewink out of her sight. She would even take the kitten with her on jobs when possible, but I didn’t see her anywhere.

Pufflewink had stopped and looked up at me. My little fairy friend darted over to Pufflewink, and a vision entered my mind of me following the kitten. Who was I to argue with a fairy? Well, I did frequently, but not today! Pufflewink actually did start walking again once I took a couple steps behind her.

I quickly looked to the side, thinking I saw something there, but the curtains in the room we were passing were moving in the breeze from the vent. I really wasn’t good at taking things slow anymore. There were numerous times when I’d find myself partially distracted in the middle of listening to someone and had to take a moment to register what was just said.

Exceptional eyesight being a detriment at times was not something I ever would have considered before my change, but I could get distracted by a missed stitch in someone’s shirt that I vaguely noticed before focusing on it. When away from home, I could get startled by dust in the air if something seemed to be blowing toward me. The fighting over the last couple months had left its mark on me.

Pufflewink was obviously burdened by a sense of distraction as well. She’d happily march several feet with her tail flicking in the air, and then suddenly pounce at my little fairy friend, who easily dodged the kitten.

I pictured my little friend straddling the kitten, riding her like a mount. A confused feeling came to me along with an image of the fairy flying through the air. I tried again, trying to impart a sense of happiness with the thought. More confusion. This time I tried showing how happy I would be at seeing the little fairy with a kitten mount. No luck. The faint smell of food from this evening’s meal lingered near the kitchen, which gave me an idea. I pictured the fairy being fed if she were on the kitten, since I had never seen my little friend without appetite.

She finally granted my wish! I darted into the kitchen, grabbed some bacon, and used a spell to start cooking the bacon in air. My attempt at even cooking was blasted by a laser from my little friend, scorching part of the meat. Poor Pufflewink jumped at the flash of light, but my little friend easily soothed her, promising her bacon as well. Great. Now I felt bad. Raine had taught me that bacon wasn’t good for cats, though she’d eat plenty even in her kitten form. Poor Pufflewink would have to be denied.

“Mila, please say you’re recording this.” I stated.

“Of course, master. Mother, Lady Pendreigh, Cosette, and Raine are already watching.” she replied.

“Tell your mother it’s past her bedtime. Chad wouldn’t approve.” I teased.

“Quite right, master.” agreed Mila. “Mother wishes for me to inform you that she does what she wants. She hashtagged the response, reiterating that she does what she wants. There are also a very large number of GIFs attached if you wish to view them. Mother will surely complain if you don’t, but I warn you that the substantial sum would even take you a good minute to view in their entirety.”

I laughed, causing the pair before me to look back. An image came to mind of my little friend being fed, so I used a spell to feed her the burnt part first. Pufflewink’s attempts to catch the bacon were anticipated, but quite amusing to watch with a fairy on her back.

“Uh oh… Master…” started Mila.

Too late. Raine jumped through the air as a kitten, eating the rest of the bacon mid-leap before darting away.

“I should’ve known I was teasing two kittens.” I laughed.

Raine had proven capable of smelling food cooking from any part of the house. After she became more familiar with Marco’s dishes, she was even able to tell us what he was cooking. without Mila’s help.

My little friend flew off the kitten and up to my face, demanding to know why her bacon was gone. I pictured Raine’s theft in my mind, trying to leave out my sense of amusement by it. Raine had been moving slowly for her, but my little friend probably only caught a blur at best. The tiny fairy crossed her arms and mounted the kitten again, much to my delight. She projected an image of charging after Raine, but there was a question to it, asking for Raine’s location.

“Mila, where’s Raine?” I asked.

Pufflewink charged ahead.

“In the ballroom, master. Pufflewink knows. She was sent to fetch you.” explained Mila.

“Raine sent Pufflewink to fetch me?” I questioned, surprised by what I was hearing.

“She speaks cat, master. You’ve seen it.” replied Mila.

“Well, yes, but why wouldn’t she just ask you to call me or come find me herself?” I asked.

“Master, we’re speaking of Raine. You can’t really expect her motivations to be like most.” she stated.

“Fair point.” I acknowledged.

Though Raine was reasonably acclimated to living here now, she still was hesitant when speaking with most of us. Luckily, the jobs she took for my company all had shining reviews, though they were a bit more scarce than average.

I took off to the ballroom, dodging past Pufflewink on my way. Cosette and Raine were playing Ancient Tribes of Earth together. Raine, back to human, sank into her chair upon my arrival.

“I-I… I w-wanted Pufflewink t-to h-have an… an adventure.” she mumbled.

Oh. Right. She probably heard Mila and me speaking. Raine’s senses were beyond me by a very considerable margin.

“That’s fine. I was just surprised is all.” I assured her. “So what’s up?”

“Raine and I saw a meteor fall and thought you might help us go check the crash site.” explained Cosette.

“I suppose I can play for a bit. Why are we interested in a meteor?” I asked.

“M-materials.” muttered Raine.

“According to an old book she found, meteors occasionally bring rare ores to the world. She might be able to make some fancy weapons, armor, or jewelry from it!” exclaimed Cosette.

Cosette focused on healing magic in Ancient Tribes of Earth, but she had some combat skills as well. Her character, Madeleine, was a blonde halfling vampire whose face seemed to be modeled after Cosette’s own. Being part of the small vampire clan within our guild seemed to amuse her greatly, but I didn’t really see the appeal. Vampires had to use their magic or magic items to protect themselves from the sun during daylight hours and had penalized stats in bright light. They were pretty lethal in the dark, especially at night.

Given that Raine’s character still didn’t have any combat-related skills, I could see why the two wanted help. Alma was surely working, like always, and Portentia was probably out patrolling the city. There were plenty of guildmates on even this late, but many of them would probably be begging for Raine to craft something for them in exchange for help. She was still our best craftsman by far.

“Quest accepted.” I told them, sitting down as Mila logged me into the game. There was nothing quite like adventure to pass a night.