Best Friend For Hire, Entry 336

“James!” exclaimed Jarod before looking up to see how many of us were on the lift. “And more visitors!”

“Sorry to intrude, but we knew Dani would love to see your lab and needs her suit to keep up around here.” explained Alma. “Aurora works this late?”

“Occasionally, though not frequently. Don’t worry. Her parents are informed.” he explained.

“I wasn’t worried, just surprised.” she replied.

Aurora was piecing together the prototype vehicle… or just napping inside of it. I couldn’t really tell from this angle, since I couldn’t see her head.

“Aurora? Oh! I remember!” exclaimed Dani leaning precariously over the lift’s edge to try looking at her.

My little fairy friend flew down there and started circling the vehicle.

Smiling up at us, Jarod told her “I loved your painting earlier, Dani. Sorry that I didn’t stick around longer, but I wanted to get some more work done.”

“Where did Ai and Mai go?” inquired Dani, jumping off the lift before it reached the bottom, using a spell to slow her descent, and glancing around. “I thought they’d be with you.”

“They’re probably doing their own work. Alma likes to keep them busy.” he replied, shrugging.

“Mom? Why!?” asked Dani as she spun to look at Alma and jumped over to her as we touched down.

“Dani, you know that civilizations need workers to continue developing.” stated Alma as she brushed back some of Dani’s hair from her face.

“But they’re so happy around him!” exclaimed Dani, practically pouting.

“And I’m happy when I’m with them, but they don’t really enjoy watching me work and can be a bit distracting.” insisted Jarod.

“But… but…” started Dani before stepping closer to Emma, staring into her eyes. “What’s wrong? I know what you’re feeling… that you sense what I feel as well. Don’t you think they’re better when they’re together?”

Emma looked shocked, actually stepping back slightly and looking away.

Cosette stepped up between them and said, “What do you feel from me?”

“Amusement, among other things. You’re hiding something.” stated Dani, reaching up to place her hand on Cosette’s face. “Daddy! She’s cold!” exclaimed Dani as she glanced at me.

“Didn’t notice earlier?” I inquired.

“No, we never touched till now. She’s too fast.” complained Dani.

“What..!?” exclaimed Cosette, quickly stepping away from Dani.

“Dani, behave.” stated Alma.

“But… I was just…” she started, but then said, “Fiiine.”

“What were you doing to me?” questioned Cosette.

“Showing you what I feel.” pouted Dani.

“You can do that?” inquired Jarod. When she nodded, he asked “Mind showing me?”

Dani grinned and so did Jarod.

“What sort of range do you have for… whatever you call that?” he inquired.

Dani shrugged

“Several hundred feet at least. You should try hide-and-seek with her.” suggested Alma

“I wouldn’t stand a chance against either of you.” he admitted.

“Still could be fun to try. There’s nothing wrong with practicing stealth.” claimed Cosette as she eyed Dani curiously.

“Sure. I’d like a couple weeks to prepare first. I have a few things I’d like to test out.” replied Jarod.

“I don’t suppose we can add ‘no gizmos’ to the rules.” teased Emma, though she was still watching Dani as well.

I hoped she was doing as I asked, trying to observe my daughter before becoming attached. Her discomfort seemed to indicate she was.

Dani spun around and attempted to hug Aurora, who had wandered up behind her, but Aurora stepped out of the way too quickly, grabbing one of Dani’s arms and examining it. The little fairy had followed Aurora and started doing circles around both of them.

“Daddy, I need my suit!” complained Dani. Then she slowly reached over and touched Aurora’s golden brown hair, grinning when Aurora didn’t move this time.

“Yes, but you need to go over designs with your mom first.” I told her.

“Designs? Planning a modification without me?” inquired Jarod.

“No, you’re here.” I teased. “Alma and I have been talking about the possibility of reducing the suit’s bulk by decreasing the synthetic muscle mass. If I’ve successfully fine-tuned my spells for it, there shouldn’t be too much of a drop off compared with the enhancement currently provided.”

“I’ve honestly wondered if the suit’s even needed or if most of the work is done by your spells.” admitted Jarod.

“My spells enhance what’s there first and foremost. Unfortunately, flesh can’t hold the enchantment, or I’d be able to use this directly on people. I did add spell layers which should further enhance the muscles of the suit’s wearer as well as general durability of the wearer’s skin, muscles, and bones, but there still will be a net loss compared with what the enchantment would do on the current suit design until you come up with even more incredible fibers.” I explained, having already seen what the suits will eventually become.

“I would have thought the spells used to add the morphic quality on my suit could be used to reinforce muscles as used. The effect seems to be rapid enough.” suggested Cosette.

I smiled at her as several of the others stared.

“What?” she asked. “I study and pay attention.”

“I’m actually going to be using something of that nature on Dani’s suit.” I promised.

Cosette nodded, not seeming surprised.

“Dani, let’s start looking over possible designs.” stated Alma, pulling Dani away from Aurora, who had moved onto examining Dani’s hair.

I didn’t know what Alma conveyed to Aurora with her telepathic ability, but Aurora seemed to understand, meandering back toward the vehicle prototype.

“I still am not used to the idea of you being called ‘daddy’. Might take a few weeks.” suggested Jarod after stepping closer to us. “Do I get to tell my parents?”

“Of course. We’re not going to hide her, though we are going to disguise her in public.” I explained.

Smiling, he inquired, “Don’t think the pink skin will go over well?”

“She’d certainly draw attention.” I agreed.

“What’s on your belt?” he then inquired.

“Pardon?” I inquired, confused at first. Realizing what he meant, I said, “Oh. Well, Excalibur draws attention as well, so I started using an illusion over it.” I hardly even thought about carrying it anymore. “How did you notice?’

“I wasn’t even aware that you decided to take the sword on your honeymoon. The way you move gives away that something’s there. You turn or step around people now as if you’re keeping them from hitting something.” he explained.

“Ah. At least I no longer rest my hand on it. That was a bit awkward for a while.” I admitted. “Care to show me the designs for this new project of yours?”

He grinned again and said, “Sure thing! I was hoping you’d be willing to work out a spell to power it.”

“Happily, though you won’t be able to market them with a magical power source.” I stated, curious what his plan was.

“I know, but I still haven’t found a solid solution yet. Aaliyah keeps telling me to give myself time, but impatience has been winning out lately.” he explained.

“Why not take advantage of Maxine’s knowledge?” suggested Cosette.

Nodding and smiling, Emma said, “Portentia and Mila seem to be keeping her out of trouble.”

“Has she inquired about making a new optical device yet?” I questioned.

“No. I really don’t want to work with her on principle, but she’s brilliant. I know discussing designs with her could be nice if she was forthcoming about her achievements.” he told me.

“She’s probably planning on waiting us out still, but I can try to persuade her if you aren’t opposed to giving her a chance. I’d like to believe she can change.” I assured him, already knowing she would change eventually.

He nodded, so I made a mental note to talk with her again soon. In my travels, I saw part of this world’s future, a future without strife for those who stayed behind, and Maxine was one of those who remained here. Things would work out.


Best Friend For Hire, Entry 335

“What’s up, man-slave?” inquired Emma as she stepped into my office, glancing around. “This looks incredible.”

My parents had left shortly after mother finished her painting. Surprisingly, they accepted a ride from Mila, who also drove father’s car back for him.

“Mila certainly knows how to choose interesting landscape.” I replied with a smile. Mila contained an incredible amount of information from my travels. “Please, take a seat.”

“Is something wrong?” inquired Emma, nervously poking what appeared to be a rock with a chair carved into it.

Nodding, I said, “Yes, Emma. Doom is upon us. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to save this world. You must cross the inescapable labyrinth, attain the heart of the world, feed it to the nearest creature you find, and then do five jumping jacks while singing Never Gonna Give You Up.”

“Man-slave, you suck.” she replied, crossing her arms and plopping into the chair she had been poking.

I laughed and told her “Sorry. I couldn’t resist.”

“So do I have some incredibly awkward job coming?” she asked, lounging backward.

“Oh. No. I just wanted to give you a warning.” I replied with a shrug.

Sitting up in surprise, she inquired “Like a formal ‘don’t do it again’ job warning?”

“No. This isn’t precisely work related. I wanted to warn you not to get too attached to Dani.” I explained. Seeing her slump, I quickly told her “I’m not saying you can’t date her if you really want or anything of the sort. I’m concerned that she might hurt you on accident. Dani is from a very, very different culture, one that doesn’t practice monogamy… or the idea of personal space, for that matter. She’ll follow her emotions wherever they go if her good sense doesn’t catch her in time.”

Emma frowned, not looking particularly convinced as she watched the little fairy napping on my desk.

“I know this isn’t the easiest thing to hear, but please trust me enough to guard yourself for a while. Make observations and come to your own conclusions. I’ll be taking Dani into the forest soon, and I would very much like for you to join us if you’re willing.” I told her.

“Are you nervous?” she asked.

“Of course. I don’t want you to get hurt.” I told her.

“You don’t really seem nervous. Something’s changed about you.” she told me.

“Marriage can have strange effects on people” I replied with a smile.

She nodded and asked “What do you think will happen with Dani in the forest?”

“She’s going to be swept up in the emotions of the fey. You know how overwhelming they can be for people. Imagine getting a double dose of their emotions. Dani’s empathic abilities are an inborn magical trait that she cannot shut off. If she gets too caught up in what the fey are feeling, she might start projecting her own emotions on them as well. Things could get out of hand very, very quick.” I insisted.

“Can’t you do anything to stop it?” inquired Emma. “I know you’re way ahead of me in magical knowledge these days.”

I shrugged and said, “I’m capable of dampening what she feels or even cutting off her sense entirely with spells, but I promised not to do that to her again. She was quite clear that it’s far worse than being blinded or deafened to her.”

“Really?” asked Emma, seeming dubious.

“She connects with others through their emotions and is accustomed to that just being part of her.” I insisted.

“I mean, the idea makes sense. I can kinda empathize, given how I feel when communicating as the fey do, but I’ve never wanted that feeling all the time.” she replied.

“If you’ll join us, I’d suggest using that ability on Dani while we’re in the forest. You’ll see.” I assured her.

“Sure, man-slave. I’ll join you. First, I’ve gotta ask how Dani convinced Alma to let her wear that outfit.” she insisted.

“That’s modest by her people’s tastes, though I’m sure my parents will be asking me about it and others later. You can just ask Alma yourself.” I replied.

“Will your wifey be joining us?” inquired Emma with a grin.

I laughed, pointed to the doorway where Alma stood, and said, “Really, just ask.”

Emma jumped and looked.

Rolling her eyes, Alma told me “James, you’re terrible. Let’s be off. Dani is already out back.”

I shrugged and followed her with Emma in tow. When we arrived outside, Cosette and Dani were doing tricks on the zoomies that would make the average human feel alarmed.

“You’re not trying to lure my daughter away for a bite, are you?” I teased.

“What’s wrong with a bite in the moonlight?” inquired Cosette, grinning at me with elongated fangs.

“I would very much appreciate having Dani intact when she first meets the rest of the fey.” stated Alma.

“But I can have a bite afterward?” teased Cosette.

At the same time, Dani asked “Where’s my little friend?”

“She’ll be along soon, I’m sure. Are you joining us, Cosette?” I inquired.

“Of course. I’m intrigued.” she insisted.

I nodded and led the way with Dani and Cosette flying circles around us. We were nearly there before my little fairy friend caught up with us, complaining that I didn’t carry her with me.

“Let’s leave the zoomies out here.” I stated.

Dani sighed dramatically before saying, “Yes, daddy.”

“What happened with Kayla?” inquired Alma.

“Jemal came to get her. She apparently hadn’t finished her homework today.” explained Dani. “He’s really umm…” she started, moving her hands all over while wiggling her fingers.

“Fidgety?” suggested Alma.

“Yes! Fidgety. He seemed to like me though.” she replied, casually hugging Emma after stepping off the zoomie.

Emma grinned at first, but the grin faded as she looked at me. Cosette came around to Emma’s other side and draped her arm over Emma’s shoulders as she leaned into her.

Spotting some of the fey already lurking near the edge for the forest, I said, “Well, here we go.”

Stepping into the forest, I heard Dani gasp. Her planet was filled with residual energy, but not like this. They used far too much of it and produced far less per person.

“Emma, is that you!?” exclaimed Dani.

Emma nodded, smiling as Dani hugged her.

“That’s so cool! I knew mom could do it, but I didn’t realize you could too!” exclaimed Dani.

Dani’s grin widened as she stared around. Numerous fey were coming to greet us. Flying, tunneling, rolling, and skipping, they were eager as ever.

“What’s wrong?” asked Dani, practically bouncing as she watched Emma stiffen slightly.

“Nothing. I just need a moment. Wasn’t quite ready for all of them.” claimed Emma before glancing at me.

I hugged my wife as the fey surrounded us. Dani, however, was already engulfed in their glee, chasing after one who looked like a small, rolling stone. As the minutes ticked by, her energy only seemed to grow. I quickly retrieved her when one of the fey started kissing her hand.

“Daddy, why!?” exclaimed Dani when I set her down a ways out from the forest. “They’re so… so…”

“Passionate?” I inquired.

“Maybe!” exclaimed Dani, obviously not understanding the word.

Alma was quick to join us, and Dani started calming down.

“That was interesting.” commented Cosette as she came towards us with Emma. “I never expected to see anyone receive half as much attention from them as you, James.”

“Dani has a way with people.” I told her.

“Magical way?” she suggested.

“More chemical, though I suspect her magic plays a part.” replied Alma as she hugged our daughter.

“Chemical!?” inquired Emma.

“Potent pheromones.” I explained. “She exudes a large variety.”

Dani stuck her tongue at me. “I hate that explanation. Can’t I just be likable?”

I laughed and said, “Sorry, but many here have inquiring minds.”

Cosette, who was nodding, obviously did. I wondered if she actually felt any of the effects from my daughter. I would guess not, given her biology, but there was always a chance.

“Let’s go see if Jarod’s in his lab. We need to get Dani’s enhancement suit started, and my wife will surely want to help debate the style.” I announced.

I already knew he would be, since Mila had shown me a little of his latest experiment. Jarod, Mila, and Aurora were building a sort of flying vehicle. Mila had seen enough on other planets that she could easily give numerous pointers, but I doubted she would be too forthcoming with alien technology. Dani, however, might get a bit enthusiastic.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 333

“James, dear!” exclaimed mother as she moved to embrace me.

“Don’t forget our new daughter-in-law.” stated father. He looked surprised as Alma stepped up and hugged him, but he still hugged her back.

“Of course not.” replied mother, letting go of me to hug Alma too. “How was the honeymoon? Did you two have fun?”

“Quite eventful. You’d be amazed how much we can accomplish in two weeks.” I told them.

Father laughed and said, “Not really, not with how incredibly fast you two are.”

“I’m pregnant.” stated Alma, stepping toward me.

My parents stared at her incredulously for a moment.

“Isn’t it a bit too soon to tell?” suggested mother.

“Alma’s not quite human, so things work a bit differently. I assure you that she is.” I told her.

Father hesitated a bit longer before saying, “Well, I always did want to be a grandfather.”

“Congratulations to you both!” exclaimed mother. “Do the others know yet?”

“Sorry, but your son couldn’t keep it a surprise till you got here.” claimed Alma, smiling up at me.

I shrugged and told my parents “Sorry. I’m a bit excited.” Waving them onward, I said, “Come in, please. We have something to show you.”

“Another surprise?” asked father.

I nodded.

“I’m sure it’s not as surprising as this.” claimed mother, smiling at me. “Any idea when the baby will be due with the umm… differences?”

“December, we think.” replied Alma, before winking up at me.

“Are you planning on finding out if it’s a boy or a girl? That seems pretty common these days.” suggested father.

“Probably.” I told him. “We figure that’ll give us more time to come up with a name.”

“If you have a boy, are you going to carry on the tradition?” inquired father, following us toward the ballroom.

“That seems quite likely. I like how easily the name would pass in my country too.” explained Alma.

“What if you have a girl?” questioned mother. “I’ll gladly help with names.”

“We already decided on Dani for our first girl.” teased Alma as she loudly emphasized the name.

“Oh? Is there a story behind this?” inquired mother, her eyes opening wide as Dani came running into the room.

“Mom, are these them!?” exclaimed Dani, putting her hands together and grinning like she just got the most exciting present.

“Dani, meet my parents.” I told her. Then to my parents I said, “This is our adopted daughter, Dani Lyshaa Somerset.”

“Uh… b-but…” started father, stopping as he stared at me.

I caught Cosette grinning from the ballroom doorway as Dani ran up and hugged both of my parents at the same time. Father, still looking shocked, patted her back as he looked down at mother.

Switching to her native tongue, Dani let go of them and asked “Why aren’t they happy?”

“English in front of your grandparents.” ordered Alma.

“What uh language is that?” asked father.

“Oh, that’s from Dani’s home. The circumstances were a bit unusual, but she’s part of the family now.” I told him.

“Dani, I love your hair and umm skin.” stated mother, reaching to touch Dani’s head but hesitating.

Dani pressed her head into mother’s hand as she exclaimed “It’s all natural, except the tips!”

“Is she… uh… similar to the ones in your forest?” asked father.

“No, she’s not a fey, but she does sense the emotions of those around her.” I explained.

“The fey! I forgot about them. When can I meet them!?” exclaimed Dani, staring up at me.

“Let’s plan on tonight for most of them. You’ll meet one sooner.” I promised, creating a burst of light above the forest with a spell. “Just don’t let her know how long we’ve been back, since she’ll be disappointed that I didn’t come see her first thing. For now, let’s head to the dining room. Marco’s probably done preparing dinner by now.”

“Almost, master. We’re putting the finishing touches on at the moment.” announced Mila over the speakers.

“Perfect.” I replied as I started walking to the dining room.

Alma looped her arm around mine and said, “I have missed his cooking. This will be a treat.”

“Marco’s cooking is always a treat.” agreed father as he and mother followed with Dani between them. “Dani, how old are you?” he asked.

“Almost fifteen.” she told him with a grin.

“When’s your birthday?” asked mother.

“Uh…” she mumbled, looking thoughtful.

Alma glanced back and said, “April nineteenth.”

“That’s the one!” exclaimed Dani.

“How long have you been studying English? You’re doing quite well.” stated mother.

“I’m not too sure.” she replied with a shrug.

When my little fairy friend came flying toward us, I glanced back to watch my daughter’s reaction. Her look of wonder was priceless, especially when my little friend started showing us all of her adventures in the forest.

“Daddy, she’s adorable! I want to ride on the umm… the squirrel!” she exclaimed. “I want to ride on a squirrel. I guess they’re pretty small for her to ride them like that, but wasn’t that awesome!?”

I pursed my lips as my little friend started paying more attention to my daughter. Dani was getting more and more excited as the fey talked to her. I had expected her to get a double dose of their emotions, since she’d be feeling it with her own abilities as well as in the fairy’s projections, but I hoped the forest wouldn’t overwhelm her when we visited there.

“I’m still not accustomed to feeling that. What did you think, Dani?” asked mother.

“Oh, mom’s shown me things like that before, so I’m used to it.” she replied, sounding much calmer than I would have expected.

Perhaps Alma was intervening for Dani, projecting her own calm into Dani’s mind.

“Will the others be joining us?” asked mother.

“You can count on it, the ones who are here at least.” I assured her. “A couple are out on jobs. Jemal and Kayla should return soon. He’s probably picking her up from her friend’s or on his way back with her already. The ones here are just giving us a few minutes privacy while you get to know Dani a little.”

Mila had given me a rundown of everyone’s schedule on the way here from the airport. We had flown home in Alma’s plane just to give Dani the experience of how flight is here. Given how advanced her home planet is compared to ours, most things on this planet were going to seem pretty low tech.

“Isn’t it amazing how pretty all of daddy and mom’s friends are!?” exclaimed Dani.

Father laughed and said, “I couldn’t agree more. My wife and I would feel remiss in our apparel were we to leave home in anything too casual for a visit here.”

“You’re quite beautiful too, Dani.” insisted mother.

“Thank you, grandmother!” replied Dani with another grin.

Pursing her lips for a moment, mother said, “That will take some acclimation. I wasn’t expecting to be a grandmother this morning.”

“Son, why does she call you ‘daddy’ while calling Alma ‘mom’ and now my wife ‘grandmother’?” inquired father.

“I blame Aaliyah. She insisted that Dani go with ‘daddy’ for me. Alma wasn’t about to be called ‘mommy’ but she didn’t want to have things sound too formal when I’m ‘daddy’.” I explained.

Piping in, Dani said, “And they thought ‘grandfather’ and ‘grandmother’ seemed right for you two.”

Father nodded and said, “I suppose.”

“You three already seem so casual together. If you’ll pardon my asking, Dani, but wasn’t being adopted by someone as young as… as these two… a bit odd?” inquired mother.

Dani grinned and told her “I feel like I’ve been with them for years.”

“But they’re really not too much older than you.” stated father.

I gave Dani a warning glance and shook my head when she looked like she was going to reply.

Taking father’s hand in both of hers, Alma said, “Getting used to the idea of me dating your son took a while too, but families can come about in the strangest of ways. Please trust us on this.”

He looked surprised by her, but he nodded. “Life in this household will never be normal. I have come to terms with it. I think marriage suits you.”

She smiled and told him “It really does.”

“Let’s all take this end again.” I suggested, walking to the northern end of the table as I explained to my little friend that we were eating soon.

She excitedly projected all of her favorite foods into my head, complete with aromas, taste, textures, and her feelings on them.

Dani wistfully announced “I want some of everything.”

“She really is remarkable. I should show you some of the paintings she’s inspired if you ever visit.” suggested mother.

“Daddy’s told me that you paint! I’d love to see your work.” insisted Dani.

“You should paint together.” suggested Alma. “Dani has talent and has been well trained in the arts.”

“Really? I’d love to paint with her.” replied mother.

“Please forgive her if she cheats at times.” I warned.

“What do you mean, dear?” asked mother.

“Daddy, it’s not cheating!” insisted Dani.

“Dani has a gift for magic and uses it when painting.” explained Alma.

I smiled, feeling my wife’s explanation was a bit of an understatement, but mother would see soon enough. That conversation ended there when my friends started coming into the room, since greetings were exchanged. Still, I felt things were progressing nicely.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 332

As Mila drove the limo down my driveway, Dani was practically bouncing in her seat, looking around at everything with obvious excitement. I hoped she was ready for this; I hoped I was ready for this. Explaining how Alma and I went on a honeymoon for two weeks and came back with a daughter who appeared to be near our age ― a girl with taffy-colored skin and cobalt blue hair tipped in black dye ― would be a bit of a shocking tale, even in my household. We all had agreed not to give a full account though. We couldn’t, at least not yet.

“Is that really the house? It’s huge!” exclaimed Dani after Alma gave her a nod.

“Your father and I will be occupying the second and third floor of the center part. We’re letting you have your way with my old wing in the West.” explained Alma, pointing toward the wing.

Grinning, Dani asked “And the first floor is for everyone, right?”

“Sure is.” I told her, smiling.

When I left here, I wasn’t that many years older than Dani. I couldn’t even guess my age now. Aaliyah offered to tell me, but I had told her not to make me feel old. As far as most people on this planet knew, I was still nineteen, and I needed to act the part as best as I could.

Dani led the way to the doors, practically running the moment the car stopped. Alma and I followed behind her, taking things slowly. We had spent the last two weeks on our island, attempting to finish acclimating Dani to the world, since Aaliyah didn’t want to “spoil our fun” with a more efficient course. Things would work out one way or another. Our lives were guaranteed to go well for many years.

“Z-, er… daddy, what’s with all these umm…” started Dani, spinning as she looked around.

“Engravings. They’re telling a story about a wonderful woman.” I explained, almost through the door.

“Who are you?” called Emma from down the hall as she jogged toward Dani.

I was about to reply when I felt someone tug my shirt from behind me.

“D-daddy?” asked Raine, staring up at me with wide eyes.

Adjusting to her speed again would take some time. She let me grab her shoulders, lift her, and deposit her inside next to my daughter.

“You must be Emma!” exclaimed Dani as she hugged Emma and gave her a kiss. “I’ve heard so much about you!”

Emma smiled and blushed as she inquired “Good things?”

“Emma, Raine… meet Dani.” I told them, releasing Raine from my grip.

Dani turned at Raine’s name, exclaiming “You’re the fluffy one!”

Raine was shaking slightly as Dani hugged her and kissed her forehead, but that was to be expected.

“Y-you… sm-smell good.” mumbled Raine.

“Guys, James and Alma are back, and they brought someone new!” exclaimed Brenna from the ballroom doorway.

“Sooo fluffy!” exclaimed Dani, still hugging Raine and playing with her hair.

Alma and I stepped out of the way as Mila brought our luggage inside. Portentia, Maxine, and Cosette were coming out of the ballroom behind Brenna. I spotted Jarod, Ai, and Mai coming down the hall, so Mila apparently notified them as well.

“Dani, don’t upset Raine.” cautioned Alma.

“Sorry, mom. I’m just excited!” she exclaimed as she released Raine from her embrace. “Raine’s hair is spectacular. Of course, so is yours, Emma!”

Dani couldn’t smile without it seeming flirtatious, and I would need to warn Emma before she got her hopes up too high. I didn’t care if the two had some sort of relationship eventually, but I wasn’t going to have Emma’s hopes crushed by Dani’s nature. Dani’s entire species was beautiful, empathic, capable of magic, and completely incapable of monogamy. The concept was far too alien for them to really believe. We knew quite well from our brief visits to their world and our attempts to get the idea through to Dani. Like the fey in my forest, they were a species of whim and strong emotions, though Dani’s species could show remarkable focus when passion drove them to a task.

I quickly grabbed Dani before she went around hugging every last one of them. Then I said, “Everyone, this is Dani Lyshaa Somerset. Alma and I adopted her while we were away.”

“Adopted!? Isn’t she around our age?” asked Jarod.

“Yes, but adopting her was the easiest way to get her into the country. Aaliyah assured me that all of the paperwork has been pushed through already, so she’s officially our child. Please help her as she acclimates to things around here and tell me if she gets into too much trouble.” I explained, doing my best not to smirk at the looks of shock.

If they knew how many years Alma and I spent raising Dani, they would really be in for a shock, but that was a story I would never share with everyone here, despite how much they might enjoy being regaled by our adventures.

“Can I be there when you tell your parents?” inquired Cosette with a smile.

“They’ll be here this evening, so any of you who aren’t working might be around.” I replied. “One last announcement that my parents will soon be privy to as well…”

Everyone looked at me expectantly, so I glanced at Alma to see if she wanted the honors.

“James, really… I thought we’d tell your parents first.” she stated, shaking her head and rolling her eyes. Then she sighed and said, “Fine. I suppose they might as well find out first. I’m pregnant.”

Following shouts of shock, several of them quickly congratulated us. Alma and I thanked everyone, happy to be home. The baby had certainly been a shock when Aaliyah informed us that the time was coming for us to return home. We declined letting her tell us the precise date of birth or gender, preferring the surprise, but we actually did know the month. Alma was already four months pregnant and starting to show slightly, but she had another eight and a half to go.

Dani was practically bouncing under my hand. She couldn’t be expected to contain her excitement when feeling the excitement of everyone around her. I let her go, knowing that I couldn’t contain her enthusiasm.

She hugged Brenna, kissing her cheek as Brenna turned her head. Then she looked over to Maxine for a moment before rushing her.

“Daddy, is this the criminal!?” exclaimed Dani as she hugged Maxine.

“Yes, so you should be careful around her.” warned Portentia, looking confused as Dani pulled her into the hug.

“And you’re Portentia. Your skin is sooo beautiful.” she insisted.

“Lady Pendreigh…” started Mai.

“Girls, just call me Alma. I’m married. Let’s drop titles and formalities while at home.” insisted Alma.

Ai and Mai stared at her in wide-eyed shock, glancing at one another in obvious bewilderment.

“A-Alma…” started Ai.

“Not to be rude, but…” continued Mai as she eyed Dani.

“What’s with my skin?” asked Dani, interrupting them.

“And hair.” stated the twins.

“All natural! Be jam.” replied Dani, releasing Portentia and Maxine to approach them.

“Jelly.” I corrected.

At the same time, Alma said, “Jealous.”

“Pleased to meet you all. Mom told me not to kiss you because you’re married.” explained Dani as she held out a hand to each of them while standing all too close to Jarod.

He took a step back between Ai and Mai, reaching a hand between them when Dani went to shake his hand.

Smirking, Alma said, “I actually warned you against kissing people at random, since many will find it confusing and even disturbing, married couples especially.”

“But they’re all so pretty…” complained Dani.

“Behave.” I chided. “Let’s get you set for playing that game I’ve been telling you about before my parents arrive.”

“Yes!” she exclaimed, hugging my arm as I showed her into the ballroom with several of my friends in tow.

I wasn’t certain how well she’d be able to sit still at the moment, but the others might calm down enough to help Dani calm down with a bit of gaming. Introducing my daughter to my parents was going to be interesting enough without her feeling rambunctious.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 328

“I was putting in place the enchantment to help you three and others blend in with my guests. Sorry if I startled you.” I replied to Papak.

“And what are you insinuating?” asked Alma as she stepped around me to glare at Papak.

He grinned.

“You can come out, Raine. They’re fine.” I called, having felt her presence in the bushes.

Papak moved to grab the tiny kitten from the bushes, but found himself clutching air. “Illusion?” he asked.

“No. Half-demon. She’s that fast.” I replied.

“Half-demon?” inquired Vito, finally joining us. “Yes. I remember Ariadne mentioning her.”

“My brother didn’t mean to startle you, Raine. Would you mind joining us?” asked Zachary.

I suddenly felt her pressed behind me, shaking slightly. The poor girl was all nerves about today.

“Raine, this is Vito, Papak, and Zachary, eldest of the vampires. Gentlemen, this is Raine.” I announced, gesturing to each in turn.

“We would never try to hurt a friend of James.” stated Papak as the giant man leaned to look around me.

“Raine, please don’t cling to my fiancée on our wedding day. Rumors will spread.” suggested Alma as she gently guided Raine out from behind me.

“You’re a pretty one, aren’t you.” cooed Vito, possibly admiring Raine’s dress.

Seeing Raine out from under her hoodie was quite rare. I hoped no one attempted to get too friendly with her during the reception. The poor girl might forget herself and run. She probably was trying to work up her courage by wearing it already.

As he spoke, Aaliyah appeared behind him with Ariadne, winking and vanishing a moment later.

“Vito, are you hitting on this child?” inquired Ariadne as she stepped up behind him.

“No. I was merely acknowledging that she is pretty. I expected a demon’s spawn to be more like Papak.” he replied, gesturing to his brother for emphasis.

“What are you trying to say?” asked Papak as he lifted his brother in one hand. Then he pointed at Raine and asked “Why’s she shaking?”

“S-sorry.” mumbled Raine in a whisper. Her position suddenly shifted.

“What!? I… I… I…” started Cosette, staring around wildly.

“Gentleman, this is Cosette Bourbon. She obviously knows who you three are.” I explained.

“Cosette! Lovely to make your acquaintance.” stated Zachary as he held out his hand in greeting.

I gently took Cosette’s arm and guided her into action. She continued without me.

“I’m… I’m sorry. Mila told me you were here, and I was attempting to figure out how to greet you. I’ve heard so much about you.” she explained, sounding and looking more confident as she spoke.

“Y-your win-window was… open.” mumbled Raine.

“Well, I’m glad I was dressed.” she teased as she turned. Then she guided Raine to stand next to her, denying the girl cover once more. “I love your dress, but why are you wearing it already?”

“I… W-well…” mumbled Raine as she fidgeted and stared at the ground. “P-practice.”

Papak barked a laugh and said, “I know the feeling! Takes me ages to find something I’m comfortable wearing.”

“And he literally means ages. The man is never in touch with the times.” remarked Vito with a smug smile, despite his position.

Papak blew a raspberry at Vito, but then he finally set his brother down. I felt Papak’s suit looked surprisingly fashionable considering the man’s odd proportions.

“Thank you. Ladies, meeting you all is a pleasure, even you, Lady Pendreigh.” stated Vito with a bow.

“I’m surprised you three could attend with how rarely you get out.” she replied.

“Rarely? Aren’t you told that we devour people by the hundreds each night?’ teased Vito.

“Hundreds?” asked Papak. “That hardly sounds dramatic. You’d find hundreds in a single block these days.”

“In a single building with some of the taller ones.” corrected Zachary.

“Fine, but Vito should have said thousands!” insisted Papak.

“Yes-yes, I see your point.” snapped Vito.

“You do get out then?” inquired Alma looking at them with her typical unreadable face.

“Well, I like to go jogging each morning, personally.” replied Papak with a grin.

I smirked, picturing him out for a jog and casually waving at people. Though he was typically squatting, Papak was probably twice my height when he fully stood.

Alma, however, rolled her eyes and said, “Jogging must be a great workout for you.”

“If James isn’t opposed, I wouldn’t mind letting you try giving me some pointers for exercise. I’ve heard you’re a pretty decent fighter.” suggested Papak.

“B-be nice.” stated Raine as she looked up at him.

Papak smile as he said, “I am! I was just offering. Care to try yourself? I must admit I’m curious how strong you are.”

“Please, Raine. That would be most entertaining.” insisted Alma.

“No. Please, don’t.” pleaded Cosette as she gently grabbed Raine’s arm.

“J-James?” asked Raine, looking up at me.

“I don’t want this place devastated, so I expect you to guard everything you throw him at if you choose to accept.” I replied.

“She’s that good, huh?” asked Papak, rubbing his chin.

“No. Her technique is still terrible, but her natural aptitude is far beyond me. I doubt even you saw her fetch Cosette.” admitted Alma with a smile.

“True. She’s easily faster than me.” he replied, looking even more uncertain.

“She could toss him straight up.” suggested Vito, a slight smile playing at his lips.

“Maybe the three of us together should try? We haven’t faced a demon for many years.” suggested Papak.

“I’m not inclined to try.” replied Zachary, holding his hands aloft as if to ward him from the thought.

“I must concur. Though I do remember the spells we’ve used in the past, she seems much stronger, judging by her speed.” mused Vito. “I still think you should try, dear brother, to keep your honor intact after issuing such a challenge.”

“Children, behave.” ordered Ariadne. “James, I would like your permission to enter the forest with these three before your other guests arrive. They’ve been itching to see my family ever since I told them of the survivors.”

“Sure. Let’s head there now then.” I replied. “Sorry, Raine. No tossing Papak yet.”

She nodded. I guided everyone into the forest and let the vampires see the fey once more. A couple thousand years apart meant nothing to the fey. Their feelings were as bright and vibrant as ever, greeting the brothers warmly, though they seemed more excited by Ariadne’s return. I hoped to share such joys many more times this day when my wedding truly began.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 327

“Boss-man, sir, how are you feeling?” asked Aaliyah as she stepped into my office.

“Excited and a bit nervous. Alma won’t be too forgiving if I make any mistakes.” I told her.

“You’d be surprised at how forgiving she can be where you’re concerned.” insisted Aaliyah.

“Perhaps. What brings you here this early in the morning?” I inquired, noticing the time.

Nodding happily, she said, “Your first guests will be arriving shortly, and there are still some last minute preparations to make.”

I almost asked who would be arriving before dawn, but I could easily imagine the vampire envoy wanting to miss the sun. How were we going to keep them in the shade?

“That’s part of the preparations you must make, boss-man, sir. You need to prepare the magic to protect your guests.” she told me, obviously reading my mind again.

I shrugged and said, “Oh. Sure. Mind showing me which spell or spells?”

Aaliyah smiled, flipped over my desk, and landed seated on my lap. Then she pointed to a spell on the screen that hadn’t been there a moment before.

I zoomed in, hoping to get a better idea of what needed to be done, but zooming in several times still left the image looking like some incandescent, crystalline structure. When I was finally close enough to make out the individual parts, the spell seemed enormous in the way skyscrapers felt from the ground, but stretching multiple directions.

“I can’t do this.” I told her, thinking of how much energy I’d be utilizing at once.

“There’s plenty in the forest.” she replied.

“Fair enough, but I still couldn’t control all of it precisely enough. This too big. Isn’t there a simpler way?” I asked, looking through more and more of the spell.

“Sure, if you want to spend a day casting and maintaining spells, but you were too busy for doing that sort of prep, even if Alma had helped.” she told me.

“I like when you call her ‘Alma’ instead of ‘Alpy’.” I admitted. “You must have some sort of plan. What is it?”

“You know.” she told me.

“No. I’m not using that thing again.” I replied instantly when I realized to what she was referring.

“You are, boss-man, sir, because you don’t want to ruin the wedding. This is necessary, and you aren’t the type to shirk your responsibilities, especially not to your guests on your wedding day.” she told me.

“Why don’t you do this for me? I’m actually fairly certain that you could.” I told her.

She grinned at me and said, “Easily. Effortlessly, but I will not. Unless you’re commanding me…?” She looked at me with wide-eyed curiosity and a small smile as her mouth hung partly open.

I frowned. She always seemed too happy about the idea of me giving her orders, and her giddiness made me nervous. She spoke about rending time and rewriting the world with childlike innocence that only made the malevolence of the deed more prevalent in my mind. I didn’t understand the ramifications of having Death cast the spell herself and thus could not command her to do it, even if she’d listen.

“I always listen, boss-man, sir.” she told me, hugging me.

I shuddered, thinking about what I was to do. I needed to control myself better than last time, not let my mind wander. I needed to keep from seeing Aaliyah again and really focus on the task at hand.

“You’ll manage.” she assured me, still hugging me.

I scooped her up with one arm as I stood and walked to the stairs. I descended and continued down the hall, stopping when a shadow detached itself from the entrance to Alma’s wing. I felt Alma’s magic and realized that was her.

“What?” she asked. “Seeing the bride on her wedding day is bad luck.”

I nodded. “Need something?” I inquired.

“Just you. You’re not running off, are you?” she questioned, a bit of worry creeping into her voice.

“No. Of course not.” I told her, sounding more terse than I intended. “Sorry. I need to do a very difficult enchantment, so our guests won’t take issue with one another.”

The disapproval in her voice was obvious as she said, “Adelmar will want to know the full extent of what you do, since he’ll be attending.”

I hesitated as I considered what I was doing again. Aaliyah had warned me of the side effect of using that room. Hoping that she might get Carl to alter time again, I looked to her, only to find her shaking her head.

“If you don’t mind standing in the wedding area, you can easily watch and report.” stated Aaliyah with a smile for Alma.

“Really? James, is that true?” she asked. “You’ll let me see?”

Nodding, I said, “Sorry in advance. I’ll be using a great deal of energy, so your protections will be taxed.”

“Yes, I suppose I should gather the household to protect them as well.” she commented.

“There’s no need to wake them. You’ll see.” I told her glumly. As I considered her words again, I found myself smiling. Protecting the household from my gifts would probably seem easy to me while using that room, even while performing such a difficult enchantment. On the other hand, I’d be using the room for longer than necessary that way and might affect them more than if I just took care of the enchantment and stopped.

“James, what’s bothering you?” she asked.

I wanted to tell her, but was I allowed? We weren’t married quite yet.

“Don’t worry! James is just going to do something marvelous, but he’s struggling with his Jamesness again.” stated Aaliyah.

I sighed. Then I told Alma “You’ll see what’s bothering me shortly. Try not to worry. I’m certain this will help our wedding go smoothly.”

“James, what are you doing, really? I’ve never seen you like this, especially not regarding a spell.” she stated.

I laughed wryly, thinking of how this must seem to her. “The spell isn’t what bothers me, being mostly illusion. What bothers me is how I need to cast it.” I told her. “Hurry outside. I want to get this over with.”

She hesitated for a moment before running off. I didn’t want her to wait long, but I couldn’t help walking at a slower, more human speed. I really didn’t want to do this. My step quickened as I thought of Alma waiting out there expectantly. I was taking too long. She could be patient, but she shouldn’t need to be, not today. Aaliyah hopped out from my arm just before I was inside the room.

“How will I know the spell?” I asked her.

“You’ll know.” she replied.

I stared at her, hesitating again. She looked so tiny, so fragile. Things could be so different than what they seemed. What was the greater purpose in having me do this? I forced myself to look at the wall and push thoughts of Aaliyah out of my head as I connected. I found the spell instantly, still shown on the screen in my room. Casting it was equally fast, and I forced myself to disconnect, trying to ignore my senses as I felt the world at beyond once more.

I took a deep breath simply for the feel of the air in my lungs, the feel of being more human once more. As briefly as I had used the room this time, I knew I had done other things beyond my intended goal, even though I wasn’t precisely sure what.

“Well, people will be ‘inexplicably’ happier today all over the world, so that’s a good thing, right?” she asked.

“Is it?” I questioned, wondering if some negative effect could come from it.

“You better go see Alma. She’s entirely flabbergasted and wouldn’t even appreciate how fun that word is right now.” stated Aaliyah, vanishing before the last word was even spoken.

I hurried out to my fiancée and easily found the deeper shadow in the night.

“James? Did you feel that!?” she exclaimed, embracing me as she asked.

“Sorry. I didn’t really know what to say to warn you properly.” I admitted.

“That was you?” she asked, holding my arms as she looked up at me.

I looked away as I said, “You just cancelled out your spell.”

“Enough with superstitions for now. Was that really you? There was a surge of energy, and then…” she stopped speaking as she hugged me again.

“And then what?” I asked her.

“I felt suddenly alone, very alone.” she told me.

“Sorry.” I replied.

“Don’t be. I feel happy, honestly. I see why you didn’t want me to bother the others. I couldn’t have protected them from that. The loneliness was just odd, as if something beautiful vanished from this world. I’m fine. How did you do… whatever you did?” she asked.

I kissed her head and said, “I’ll explain after the wedding.”

“What am I supposed to tell Adelmar about this?” she asked.

“Just tell him that we put in place an enchantment which will keep guests from seeing one another as what they really are, so everyone will feel more comfortable.” I explained.

She nodded, but then said, “He’ll probably have felt that, you know.”

“Yes. Everyone with magical potential on the planet just felt it.” I told her, hating the thought.

“Then how did you…” she started, stopping before finishing.

“Yes, time was…” I stopped and moved Alma behind me as I accelerated my body and mind. Something was coming. I relaxed, smiling as I saw Vito, Papak, and Zachary come into view.

Vito stopped at the edge of my yard, staring around cautiously, but his brothers rushed to me.

“James! Did you feel that?” asked Zachary after he stopped a few feet from me.

Papak’s enormous nose sniffed the air as he said, “What are you two doing out here on your wedding day? Getting a head start?”

I felt Alma’s magic pulse within her and hoped she’d stay calm. Though I was certain to be in for a long day, I wanted this to be a pleasant one as well.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 324

Alma’s birthday was a success, though remarkably low-key. I knew the party would be low-key, but I thought low-key for her would involve a much larger number of guests, considering the piles of gifts that were sent throughout the day. Even with all of our friends gathered, the room she had picked seemed spacious ― she had insisted on having the party in her wing, probably to keep us from going overboard with the decorations.

Today, the other birthday girl was returning home. I had caught a little of Portentia’s exploits on the news. Mila was being rather tight-lipped about what all happened, claiming that Portentia insisted on telling me everything herself, which I couldn’t doubt. Portentia loved talking about her adventures when she felt safe to do so. When we returned home, we were going to have a welcome home slash belated birthday party for her, mainly as an excuse to give her the presents from everyone.

For Alma, I had handcrafted a large necklace out of platinum and gems that Aaliyah had procured for me. She seemed to like it well enough. Alma and I ended up designing a new backpack for Portentia with concealed compartments for her superhero costume. When inserted properly, the costume would just seem like padding. To be honest, Alma had done most of the design work. I merely made an enchantment on the backpack to help protect it and improve the concealment aspects.

Well, there was also a little spell that helped people ignore the backpack existed. I had tested it on Brandon, who tripped over the backpack repeatedly without realizing why he was tripping. I did explain to him what was happening afterward. He playfully hit me. I probably deserved worse for putting him through the ordeal, but I was happy the enchantment worked properly. With his enhancement suit worn, he was able to notice the backpack just fine, so the suit’s enchantment was working as well.

Noticing Alma frowning, I asked “What’s wrong?”

She pursed her lips before stating “I don’t know that you’ll approve of Portentia’s souvenir.”

“Souvenir?” I inquired. Did Portentia bring back part of Maxine’s armor again? “Oh. I see.” I stated when Portentia rounded the corner with Maxine in tow. She was wearing one of Portentia’s hoodies with the hood up and white-rimmed sunglasses, but that was obviously her. I stepped out of the limousine to greet them.

“James!” exclaimed Portentia, running over to me and giving me a hug.

Maxine, who had been holding onto Portentia’s arm, stayed where she was. “Hello again, James.” she told me.

“Why isn’t she in prison awaiting trial?” I asked, mouthing the words.

Mila had stepped out and taken their luggage cart to the limousine’s trunk.

“Can I keep her?” asked Portentia in a whisper.

“What!?” I replied, not expecting Portentia to say that of all things.

“James, let’s discuss this in the car.” called Alma.

She was right. There had already been enough people periodically watching for who’d step out of the limousine. I didn’t want anyone to realize Maxine was with us, though no one should be looking for her here.

“Lady Pendreigh, I should have known you’d be here as well.” stated Maxine.

I stepped back into the vehicle to sit by Alma and waited as Portentia guided Maxine into the other side. What had happened to Maxine’s glasses or even her cane?

Once they were situated, I asked “What’s this about?”, pointing to Maxine.

“I don’t believe I can age, so prison would raise numerous questions.” stated Maxine.

Oh, yes. She was apparently like Portentia.

“You’re colder than normal.” observed Alma.

“Portentia confiscated all of my tech. I assured her that some of it was perfectly harmless, but she doesn’t trust me.” explained Maxine.

“No one trusts you.” argued Portentia.

“Camila does. You know they don’t really have enough evidence against her to keep her very long. My lawyers will see to it.” stated Maxine.

“Even a year apart will do you two some good. Besides, you only have one lawyer left practicing in that area. We did our research.” insisted Portentia.

“Oh, yes. The mysterious ‘we’ again. I can’t imagine that James supplies your intel.” commented Maxine.

Grinning at the blind girl, Portentia said, “No, he’s my sidekick at times.”

As the two continued to bicker, I considered what to do. They were right about Maxine being in prison if she bothered staying very long. If she truly shared Portentia’s abilities, I had no doubt that she’d break out long before people could notice her lack of aging. Even if she didn’t, Maxine was intelligent enough to earn Jarod’s grudging respect, and guards would probably underestimate a blind girl even after hearing about her criminal career. Mila, however, could watch Maxine’s every move continuously.

“You could seal her away in your vault, James.” suggested Alma. “Even I couldn’t escape it for a very long time if I ever did manage to figure out those bloody enchantments.”

“Coarse as ever.” muttered Maxine with a small smile.

“I wouldn’t want any of my collection damaged when Maxine grew bored.” I replied.

“Maybe I should keep her under my personal supervision.” teased Alma.

At least, I was hoping she was teasing.

“Oh, yes. That would be marvelous. I’m sure neither of us would grow bored, even when you’re old and gray.” replied Maxine.

“Funny, but I don’t seem to age either. We’ll have a very long relationship.” stated Alma.

Maxine scowled as she said, “This is the most insufferable run of bad luck in all of history.”

“Maxine’s used to being lucky. Very lucky. I think… we may be opposites in that regard.” commented Portentia.

“Do things really go wrong for Portentia all the time?” asked Maxine. “Some of the stories she told me seem highly improbable.”

“No. Portentia’s learned to be meticulous in many areas to avoid problems in advance.” I argued, thinking of how careful she’s grown with her gear.

“I help too, master.” stated Mila.

Maxine tilted her head, facing her ear toward Mila as she said, “That voice… you’re the mysterious informant.”

“I’m the one who crippled your communication throughout the city and performed the DDoS attacks against you.” happily replied Mila. “You are a skilled techie for a near-human. Mother found your attempts to fight me adorable.”

“And who’s your mother?” she asked.

“Aaliyah T. Sypher.” stated Mila.

“What? That child!?” exclaimed Maxine.

“I’m an artificial intelligence designed by Aaliyah to assist James in all his needs. The master allows me enough free time to aid in other endeavors as well.” explained Mila.

“What? You’re a machine?” inquired Maxine, sounding mystified by the notion.

“You’re hearing my voice from an android body that was a joint project between mother, Jarod, and me. The upgraded versions will be deployed in the near future. When we arrive, you should thank Jarod for his part in your machines.” teased Mila.

“I suspected he was the one after I saw some of his car designs. He’s very gifted.” replied Maxine.

“He also designed the physical part of Calamity’s enhancement suit. The master handled the magical end.” explained Mila.

Smiling, Maxine said, “Camila would love to learn from you, James. She was quite confused by how Portentia seemed to ignore her spells.”

“I’ve seen Camila’s attempt at spells. She lacks the capacity to even understand James’ enchantment, much less cast it.” argued Alma.

“Disappointing, but understandable. The little escape trick James pulled on me was extraordinary by itself.” she insisted.

I didn’t bother telling her how simple that was. As well-meaning as I felt Maxine was, I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the idea of her staying in my home. I was half-tempted to see if Aaliyah would take her off planet, but I worried what mischief she’d cause unobserved. Using sign language, I informed Mila that I wanted Maxine’s quarters to be as far removed as possible from the others. Whether or not she’d be confined to them would depend on how well Maxine behaved. Mila would need to be physically with her at all times, just in case.