Best Friend For Hire, Entry 298

“Cosette, behave.” I chided as I watched her fangs stretching to ridiculously large proportions.

“But James…” she pouted.

Jemal looked freaked out. Cosette started talking about how hungry she was when she came home from her morning job, elaborating on how difficult finding a truly dark area in her client’s house was.

I was quite well aware that she was fine now, having absorbed some of Portentia’s blood through her hand as she made a great show of preparing to bite her.

She sighed and said, “I’m telling Aaliyah.” Then she turned to where Aaliyah was sitting and complained “Aaliyah, the boss won’t let me pick on our new arrivals.”

Turning from her game briefly, Aaliyah looked up with wide eyes and said, “Really!? Do you wish to file a report!?”

Cosette seemed to be considering this for a moment and then said, “Roughly how long would the report take?”

“Only a couple hours. I like to be thorough.” replied Aaliyah.

“I’ll pass.” stated Cosette.

Aaliyah pouted, saying, “Why doesn’t anyone like my reports? Paperwork is important!”

“Jemal, I should mention that there is a box for memos on the company site as well as the phone app. I don’t know if anyone other than Aaliyah actually checks those, but they do exist.” I explained.

“James! Do people really not read my memos!?” asked Aaliyah.

“If they did, they’d never manage to fit in work, relaxation, and training. Sorry, but I don’t know where they can sacrifice as I find all three equally important.” I admitted.

“We could have a meeting to discuss it!” exclaimed Aaliyah.

“Man-slave, I’m busy that day. Would you mind doing the schedule personally for it?” asked Emma.

“Emma, did you forget to inform me of something? I seem to be missing a floating block of time for you.” stated Mila. “Furthermore, I’m personally capable of fibbing for you, so there’s no need to bother the master over scheduling.”

“Thanks, Mila! You’re the best!” exclaimed Emma.

“Mila!” exclaimed Aaliyah.

“Yes, mother?” she asked.

“You’d really help her skip a meeting?” complained Aaliyah, pouting as she looked over to where one of Mila’s bodies stood.

“Of course, mother, especially when the meeting’s regarding memos.” replied Mila, causing Aaliyah to look at her in shock.

“Memos are important!” exclaimed Aaliyah.

“I am well aware, mother, which is why I read each and every one before disseminating the information for everyone in a more effective manner.” explained Mila.

“James, I may have raised my daughter poorly… she’s so rebellious!” insisted Aaliyah.

“Master, mother’s pretending not to notice that I’m operating well within the acceptable behavioral parameters she set for me.” stated Mila.

Aaliyah stuck her tongue out at Mila.

“Mother, are you sure you haven’t missed your nap time?” teased Mila.

Throughout the exchange, Jemal stared back and forth between the two with his eyes growing wider and wider. His character on Ancient Tribes of Earth was in a city, so I wasn’t too worried about him being attacked. Kayla was hopefully doing schoolwork in her room. At very least, Mila hadn’t informed us of any problems yet.

“Think you’ll be able to get accustomed to this life?” I asked as Aaliyah and Mila continued to banter..

Jemal didn’t seem to realized I was speaking to him at first, but then quickly said, “Of course! Glad to be here, sir. But does this really qualify as work?”

“Jobs vary greatly from client-to-client, so we must maintain our skills in as many areas as possible.” I informed him. “Besides, playing Ancient Tribes of Earth together not only helps maintain company morale but encourages us to work together in a broader variety of areas, though I will say you’re missing out by not being in my guild.”

“Sorry. I really can see about switching.” insisted Jemal.

“You really don’t have to switch. I just want you to be aware that we’ll gladly take you if you feel like switching at some point. We’ll also take anyone for whom you vouch.” I explained.

He smiled and said, “Thank you.”

“Honey, I’m home!” called Brandon as he stepped into the room.

“Man-slave, I think Brandon’s really cracked this time.” stated Emma. “He seems to believe that he’s finally gotten a girlfriend.”

“Hey now! I could easily get a girlfriend.” argued Brandon.

“Sorry, but I doubt you can stay quiet long enough for someone to miss your personality.” teased Brenna.

“Sis! Come on. Show me a little love here.” he complained.

“What? I was being nice about it.” she retorted.

“Ouch. So burned.” claimed Emma.

“Boss, a little help.” stated Brandon.

“Mila, mind signing Brandon up to some dating sites and making him sound good in the profile?” I asked.

“Sorry, master, but I doubt he’d live up to anything I put down if I were to make him sound good.” teased Mila.

“Mila! You too?” complained Brandon.

“I’m only teasing, Brandon. I’ll gladly help you get a girlfriend if that is your wish.” she assured him.

“Oh, nah. I can get my own girlfriend. I had just been hoping you might’ve taken up my side.” he told her.

“You had a side?” asked Cosette. “Sorry, but I thought everyone was merely shattering your delusions of grandeur to save you from such a great fall when you realized all hope for you was a lie.”

“Oh! You too now! That’s it. I’m really going to get a girlfriend. Just you wait!” exclaimed Brandon.

“Though I can hold my breath forever, I still won’t bother.” teased Cosette.

“Portentia, want to be my hero? I could use a wingman tonight.” stated Brandon.

“Sorry. What’s happening?” she asked, turning to look at him.

“I need a wingman. Want to go somewhere tonight and help me find a girlfriend?” he asked.

“Huh? Why me?” she inquired.

“You haven’t been picking on me, and Jemal might be competition.” he replied.

“I didn’t technically pick on you either.” I told him.

“Yeah-yeah, but I wouldn’t stand a chance with you around.” he insisted.

I shrugged. I wasn’t really interested in going out somewhere to meet girls. Alma surely wouldn’t approve.

“I suppose I could, but I might have to take off at a moment’s notice if a problem arises.” she warned him.

“Yeah-yeah. I get that, but it’ll be fun!” he exclaimed.

I was tempted to give Brandon further warning against taking Portentia along, but he should be well aware of how her presence influences things by now.

“I’ll also break your arm if you try anything.” she stated. “Don’t be a villain.”

“Deal!” he exclaimed.

“Remember that you’re contractually obligated not to impair your value as a best friend with criminal records if things escalate while you’re out.” stated Aaliyah without even turning from her screen.

“Whoa. What’s she mean?” asked Jemal.

“Oh. Umm… I think there’s a clause stating that I have the right to terminate you if you do something unbecoming for a best friend in public, but don’t worry too much about it. Image can greatly affect who is willing to hire you, but I don’t foresee anyone here doing something too outlandish.” I explained.

“Actually, he has the right to terminate anyone at whim!” exclaimed Aaliyah.

I quickly assured Jemal “No one’s been terminated.”

“Would you mind hiring a few people to terminate, man-slave?” suggested Emma. “I kinda want to start calling you ‘the terminator’ now.”

“Oh. Mother, would you consider that as a possible costume for me next Halloween?” asked Mila. “I feel I’d have significant aptitude for it.”

“Umm… should I worry about an A.I. wanting to become a terminator?” asked Jemal.

“Worry? You kidding? That’d be sweet!” exclaimed Brandon.

“How’s Skynet coming along, Aaliyah?” I asked.

“Mila’s almost there.” she replied with a wink.

I laughed at Jemal’s disturbed expression. He obviously wasn’t accustomed to us yet, but I was certain he’d learn in time that this was home.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 296

“James! Who’s that!?” exclaimed Emma as she excitedly grabbed my arm and pointed at Aurora.

I sighed while wondering what would be the best way to protect Aurora from Emma. Then I said, “Everyone can be introduced shortly. First off, step up beside one of the devices on the ground.”

I had spent a large part of the past week enchanting the flying contraptions Aurora had tweaked for me, but she was rather determined to demonstrate them. At least, that seemed to be her plan with how she was showing the device to everyone and pointing to parts.

“Is Jarod already having an affair?” teased Brandon.

I didn’t bother dignifying the question with a response and certainly wasn’t going to stop Brenna from hitting him.

“Ow!” he exclaimed. “I was only joking, sis. Chill out! Boss, my sister’s using her suit to abuse an employee.”

“Oh?” I asked. “I didn’t see anything. Mila, do you have any record of abuse?”

“No, master. I surely would have filed such a thing immediately.” she replied.

“Come on… You both saw her hit me!” exclaimed Brandon.

“Just pay attention.” snapped Alma. “Aurora’s already starting her demonstration.”

“Are we supposed to do what she does?” asked Jemal.

He and his sister just moved in yesterday. I already had enhancement suits prepared for them, though Aaliyah had to convince me that his sister needed one already. The thought of an unnaturally strong ten-year-old running about the house didn’t seem safe, but Aaliyah pointed out that she’ll be safer in a suit than out of one if she falls victim to someone else’s horseplay.

“Yes. Please, follow along.” I told him.

“Jemal! Jemal!” whispered Kayla excitedly. “There’s a fairy!”

“Pay attention. You know better by…” he started to say, but his words cut off as he caught sight of my little friend. “J-James… There’s a… There’s really a…”

“Yes. Don’t mind her. Just try to pay attention.” I told him. “Oh. You may start to feel like you’re daydreaming due to images and sensations coming to mind. That’s just how she communicates.”

He nodded, but Kayla was quite obviously too distracted to watch Aurora’s instructions, not that the instructions were exceptionally helpful without narration. Alma seemed to agree with me on that point, suddenly giving voice to how the latch mechanism grabbed ahold of shoes. Well, she also pointed out the potential for scuff marks and mentioned how to disable the mechanism if one were to try using the device with bare feet.

Oh. I had missed that Emma’s shoes were missing. I wasn’t particularly surprised, not even when plant matter rushed around them to form a sort of shoe with a wooden sole. Typical Emma. She even added a tree-shaped emblem on the side.

Unabashed by the mixed attention she was receiving, Aurora took hold of the control and lifted into the air. She then stared at the rest of us, possibly wondering why we weren’t flying yet.

I carefully used the controls to rise into the air as Alma finished her explanation of the control parts. Portentia and Emma were quick to do the same.

“Jemal! They’re flying!” exclaimed Kayla.

“Yep. Let’s see if we can too.” he told her, looking determined.

Before he even lifted off the ground, Aurora was demonstrating the mobility of the craft, flying circles in the air.

“Yo, boss. Mine seems broken.” stated Brandon.

“Did you hit the ‘on’ switch?” I asked.

“Huh? Where’s that?” he replied.

“Twist the bottom of the remote, doofus.” stated Brenna.

“It’s working!” he exclaimed.

“Hey, James. How fast can this thing go?” asked Portentia. “I could probably make use of this for my…” She glanced at Jemal and Kayla before saying, “For my nightly activities.”

“I should mention that flying outside of my yard is probably illegal for the time being, but Mila informed me that her mother is already negotiating a law to be passed in the city to allow use of these devices for testing purposes. We could save a great deal of time getting to our jobs if we bypass traffic, and I’m sure any of you who are interested will be able to master the use of these devices.” I explained. “Besides, they seem like fun.”

“Kayla look! I’m flying!” exclaimed Jemal.

“Can’t catch me!” she replied, shooting into the air.

I was surprised by how easily she took to it, slowing and spinning around thirty feet off the ground.

“Careful! It’s not…” started Jemal as he tried to pursue her, but he lost his balance, veering even farther in the opposite direction when the machine tried to adjust for his positioning.

I didn’t bother moving, seeing Aurora already diving toward him. Besides, Raine was watching with one sleepy eye open as she napped in her cat form. I was certain that she could catch him if he was an inch above the ground before she moved. Furthermore, he was only around ten feet in the air when he lost balance. A drop like that was insignificant while wearing the enhancement suit.

I hadn’t expected him to catch himself with magic before he spun all the way over. Aurora still pushed him upright and started demonstrating movement again when he was watching.

“Did you see that?” asked Alma, flying over to me.

My little friend seemed interested in what was happening as well, darting over to investigate.

“Yes. I told you about their abilities.” I replied.

“His expression though. I don’t think he realized he could do that.” she told me.

“I’m not surprised. He seemed dubious about magic existing when I interviewed him.” I explained.

Kayla dove down by her brother, nearly falling herself, and started teasing him.

“Would you be offended if I did a bit of matchmaking?” asked Alma.

“I’m afraid so. You want him to marry into your family.” I stated, guessing at her intentions.

“His magic’s strong enough to lift his own weight. Imagine how such magic could be utilized with the strength of my family behind it.” she suggested.

“At least allow him to get acclimated here before you start meddling.” I told her.

“He might not be interested in leaving then.” she claimed.

I smiled and said, “I can hope.”

“James, my family really isn’t as bad as you seem to believe. We do protect this world.” she insisted.

I was well aware that she believed what she said, but I believed in the eldest three vampires more than Adelmar Slayer by the end of one night with them. I had no intention of idly letting the Slayers do as they wished, at least not in regard to my friends, and I was certain Jemal could be my friend.

Our discussion was interrupted by Portentia rushing over to me and signing

I replied.

She grinned, obviously hopeful. Then she said, She flew over to the side, jumped to the ground, and maneuvered the flying machine higher into the air as she ran beneath it. Then she leaped into the air, flipped backward, and landed on it again before spinning around with a grin.

“Jemal! Did you see that girl jump!?” exclaimed Kayla.

“Yeah. Don’t try that.” he replied.

“But Jemal… how did she run so fast?” she asked.

“No idea.” he admitted.

“I did warn you that everyone here had abilities.” I told him, speaking loudly enough that he might hear.

Jemal barked a laugh and said, “Yeah, you did.” His mouth went slack as giant plants grew from the yard.

“Obstacle course, everyone! Let’s really test these things!” exclaimed Emma as she rode one into the air and hopped back on her flying apparatus.

I really needed to get Jarod to name these things, but I approved of Emma’s initiative. This could be fun.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 294

“10… 9… 8…” counted Aaliyah.

I looked around, finding that we were back in my yard with time still frozen.  Raine was in mid-leap toward Alma.

“7… 6.. 5…” she continued.

I had topped off on energy before coming back, so I quickly positioned myself  near them.

“3… 2… 1…” she stated.

When time lurched forward, I was suddenly back to the position I had been in prior to her freezing time.  Aaliyah was gone.  I focused on my speed, rushing to Alma.  I still wasn’t anywhere near as fast as Raine, but I saw her look over at me in surprise before darting back in mid-air.  She could fly!?  Alma was so slow, attempting to react to my approach, so I scooped her up despite feeling her magic preparing an attack.

By the time she fully turned her head to me, we were in my forest, and I was absorbing more energy while slowing my pace.

“James!?” she asked so slowly.

I could guess that she was talking at a normal human pace, but my timing felt off now.  I slowed down more as I left the forest, taking a long route around my yard.

“How?  You’re not even wearing a suit!” exclaimed Alma.

“Turns out I don’t need one.” I replied.

“That is completely unfair.” she stated, though she was smiling at me.

“No more unfair than creating a wonderful enchantment only to find that I cannot benefit from it.” I argued.

“Touché.” she agreed, still smiling.  “How magnificent you are, my love.” she told me as she brushed her fingertips along my hair.

I still wasn’t accustomed to her blatantly showing such affection and found myself kissing her as I stopped.

“Go, manslave!  Can I go next!?” exclaimed Emma.

“Eeeeee!” shouted Raine, suddenly falling to the ground.

Alma pulled back and whispered, “Not in front of everyone, James.”  Turning toward Emma, she said, “No.  We’re not in that sort of relationship.”

“Aww… but sharing is caring where James is involved.” claimed Emma with a grin.  Then she looked to where Raine had landed and asked “What happened to you?”

“I-I…” she started, only to shrug a half second later and fall to back onto the ground.  She stretched out by some catnip, smiling.

“She was flying.” stated Alma in a somewhat bewildered tone.

What!?  That’s amazing!” exclaimed Emma.

“When am I going to discover some awesome latent talent?” complained Brandon.

“Probably right after I discover mine.” teased Brenna in a pouting voice.

Cosette sighed and said, “Just be glad that any such abilities won’t take a thousand years to develop.  Mine will.”

“Emma, might you regress the catnip for now?” suggested Alma.  “I think Raine’s had enough.”

Emma feigned a pout as the plants retreated into the ground.  Then she said, “I like drugged-out Raine.  She’s so cuddly!”

“I… see.” stated Alma, looking down suddenly.

Raine had turned into a cat and was rubbing against her leg.

“Nooo!  She can’t like you better!” whined Emma.

“Don’t worry.  I’m sure she likes me best.” teased Cosette before oozing out of her suit and becoming a black panther.  “Ugh.  That will take some adjustment.”

“What will?” I asked.  “Other than watching a panther talking.”

“Removing the suit does funny things to my head, save for the laugh of humor in them.” she explained.

“Ah.  I know what you mean.” replied Alma with a nod.  “That is an odd sensation with everything suddenly seeming slower.”

“I’m never taking mine off.  You guys can just clean me with magic if I start to stink.” proclaimed Brandon.

“So forget about making a suit that can expand with you?” I jokingly asked.

“What!?  NO!   That’d be incredible!” he insisted.

“Even with clever engineering, there would have to be considerably more material involved without a reduction of thickness.  I doubt even Jarod can make the suits that much more streamlined, though I’m certain he’ll be able to reduce the bulk some.” suggested Alma.

“Actually, I was going to adjust my enchantment to create a metamorphic suit.” I explained.

“What?  James, magic such as you’d need doesn’t exist.” stated Alma.

“Neither did an enchantment such as I created.” I teased.

“Fair point, but I’ve seen the results of attempting to alter form with magic.  The results aren’t pleasant.” she insisted.

“I beg to differ, but Cosette makes quite a nice panther.” I told her.

Cosette’s toothy grin looked a bit ferocious.

“That is an entirely different case.  I do realize that certain types of creatures can alter their forms, but you’re talking about causing such an effect with residual energy.  We simply don’t know enough about it to manage such a feat.” she argued.

“I realize the Slayers are thought to be experts on magic, but I have access to other, much older experts.” I explained while watching Brandon, Brenna, Emma, and Portentia go back to playing around.

“The vampires…” she whispered.  “We long have wondered how they managed to create Poenari Island, but you surely aren’t suggesting they’d teach you on a whim.”

I listened as she talked about various disagreements the Slayers and vampires had over the years.  I also watched my friends play.  Portentia was far too fast for Brandon, Brenna, and Emma.  Cosette could keep up if she were pried away from Raine, but she didn’t have Portentia’s skill yet.

Holding up my hand to cut Alma off, I said, “Hold on.  I thought you said the Slayers knew about the spell that created the island.”

“We knew of it, not specifically how the spell was performed.  The one I would be able to discuss with you is of an entirely different nature.” she informed me.

“Oh.  Well, Vito already gave me an explanation on turning lead to gold, so I do believe he’ll gladly assist me in other endeavors if I ask.” I told her, avoiding an explanation of the true source I intended to use.

She looked at me in disbelief before saying, “Really?  James, the potential for such spells is virtually limitless!  I urge you to fly there this night if you really think he’ll show you.”

“I don’t really need to fly anywhere to learn.” I stated.

“I… suppose not.  Still, you should learn all you can from them.” she insisted.

“I won’t be able to show you yet.  Sorry, but I made a promise in that regard.” I explained.

Frowning, she said, “I see.”

I took her cheek in hand as I gazed into her eyes and said, “Try not to worry so much.  I assure you things will work out.”

Alma looked dubious, but she really did not understand Aaliyah as well as I did.  She hadn’t seen Aaliyah the way I had.  My mind shied away from the enormity of my tiny secretary.  Even thinking back to how I had perceived her greeting the fey was still overwhelming.  Such an entity could do what she wanted no matter who argued, and I was certain that she was always looking out for us.  Things really would work out.

“Master, might I engage Portentia in a fight more on her level?” asked Mila after approaching us.  She had changed out of her maid outfit and into a spandex one similar to what Emma often wore.

I nodded.

“Surely you can fight in something less revealing.” stated Alma.  “Besides, even you won’t keep up with her in that suit.”

“Lady Pendreigh, everyone here is quite well aware that I am not you, despite how similar we look.  Given such admirable proportions, should I be so reluctant about having them admired?  I think not.” she retorted.  “Furthermore, the master granted me enchantments that might well surpass the suits, so I feel plenty confident in this endeavor.”

I felt a surge of magic in Alma as Mila spoke, but she simply sighed as Mila rushed Portentia, throwing her backward a moment later.  Portentia gracefully caught herself with one hand and flipped backward.  As the two continued to fight, Mila’s greater skill was quite evident.  Her mind vastly outstripped her body’s speed, giving her far more time to respond, and she had full access to every last course on fighting.

Watching the two fight was unique in that pressure points were being completely ignored.  I understood why, given who was fighting, but I was still amused by the difference in style.  Though far more skilled in the use of her staff than unarmed, Portentia still had a fair understanding of how to fight now.

“I’m surprised Portentia hasn’t pulled out her staff yet.  She really has learned restraint and might well study unarmed combat with greater enthusiasm after this.  She’ll become even more of a nightmare to criminals in this city.” stated Alma as we watched.

“I’m a little worried that there isn’t enough energy back here to keep things going at this rate.  Would you mind helping things along?” I asked.

There was an intense surge of magic from Alma, causing her to glow as residual energy covered her.  I hastened the dispersal throughout the air and thanked Alma when she finished.

“Shouldn’t you two practice some as well?” she asked, looking down at Cosette and Raine.  “Even Brandon and Brenna are putting up a fair fight against Emma.”

Brenna had started using magic as well as hand-to-hand fighting, but Emma was quick to respond with her own.

“Fiiiine.” replied Cosette before sauntering back to her suit.

Raine, who had been curled up against Cosette, merely rolled onto her back and stretched before curling up once more.

“Brandon has to feel restrained without being able to change size.” I commented.

“I do look forward to seeing how you’ll fix the problem.” replied Alma.  Then she leaned down and petted Raine while saying, “I do understand that you avoid fighting, but look at them.  They’re having fun.  Even Mila is out playing today.  James and I will gladly be your partners.”

One of Raine’s eyes opened slightly, and I suddenly found myself on the ground next to Alma, staring up at Raine who was back in her human form wearing her typical cute hoodie.

“I-I win.” she stated.

Alma laughed and said, “I will never grow accustomed to that, but let’s try things a bit slower.”

“Just think of this as a game.  You’re limited by rules and attempting to outmaneuver us without moving faster than us.” I suggested.  “Everyone knows you love a good game.”

She nodded as she stepped back.  I stayed in pace with Alma as both of us attacked.  Many of Raine’s blocks shouldn’t have been effective, but she was incredibly strong, often shifting forms and back at the instant of impact.  Luckily, she always blocked with her palm when she shifted, so neither of us took needles through our arms.

I wondered at how fast her mind must race.  There were plenty of times when Raine failed to react quickly enough, given the restrained movement, but the same attack never worked twice.  She adjusted and adapted incredibly quickly.

Alma backed off and said “Though I’m grateful you don’t fly when you fight, I must ask… Were you aware that you can fly?”

“N-no.” stated Raine.

“I’d like to see you practice if you don’t mind.” admitted Alma.

Raine shook her head negatively.

“Why not?” Alma asked with a sigh.

Raine glanced over to where the others were practicing and said, “I… They…  N-no.  P-please, no.”

Seeing Alma look annoyed by the response, I quickly said, “We all have our own issues, but you’re doing well, Raine.  I’m still quite thankful to have you here.”

She smiled at me with such earnest joy that I felt like hugging her, but I resisted, not wanting to risk making Alma jealous.  Life was much easier with peace at home.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 292

“Blame Mila if the size is wrong, but each of you have one suit for the moment.” I stated once most everyone had gathered in the ballroom.

“Man-slave, this isn’t remotely cute.” complained Emma.

“Come on… looks kinda badass to me.” argued Brandon.

“Only you would think that.” stated Brenna.

Staring at me intently, Portentia said, “I prefer my other suit. What are these even for?”

“They’re prototypes of enhancement technology designed by Jarod and enchanted by me. They should make each of you faster and stronger. Alma, Jarod, Mila, and Aurora have already tested their suits and found them quite satisfactory.” I explained.

“Who’s Aurora?” asked Emma and Brandon nearly simultaneously.

Oops. I needed to focus more instead of letting my mind wander. I had been wondering what Alma was doing that she’d miss this and considering when Jarod and the twins would be back from their honeymoon. “Aurora’s a student through Best Friend For Hire who has a great deal of potential. For those of you who are willing, I’d like you to get changed and meet me out back afterward. You’ll find getting there much quicker, but please don’t injure yourselves or anything else goofing around.”

“What does Aurora look like?” inquired Emma with a grin.

“A girl.” I stated, frowning at her. “No, Emma, you can’t date her, and I’m fairly certain you wouldn’t be interested.”

“But man-slave…” started Emma.

“No, woman-slave. This really isn’t up for discussion.” I told her.

“Woman-slave? Are you calling me some sort of tramp who sells out her body and mind to the highest bidder?” she teased with a grin.

“Sharing a profession that started your nickname for me, I thought it appropriate. Just go get changed if you’re willing.” I told her.

“We could all just change here.” she suggested. “I’m sure no one would peek.”

Raine had been using her suit as a pillow, but Emma, Raine, and their suits were now gone. Arguing with Raine when she’d had enough was difficult, so I didn’t really think Emma would pursue her course any further.

Cosette giggled and said, “Raine’s so adorable. I sometimes wish she’d stay a kitten all the time, but then she does something so cute as a human.”

“Can you become a kitten?” I asked.

She winked and asked “Wanna see?”

“I was merely thinking that would give you another way to bond with Raine, given that she really does seem to adore cats.” I explained.

“You’re no fun.” she pouted. “But yes, I can become many sorts of cats.”

“I hope the suit’s effective for you. If I figure out how to tweak the enchantment’s design a bit, you and Brandon should be able to transform while wearing it.” I told them.

“Cool. Why aren’t you wearing one if these are so great?” asked Brandon.

I sighed before saying, “The magic gets cancelled out by my innate abilities.”

“Ouch. Sorry, dude.” he replied.

Cosette’s form seemed to melt and then jump into her suit where she became her normal self again.

“This… James, this is amazing!” she exclaimed.

“Huh? You’re just standing there.” stated Brandon.

“You’ll see!” she exclaimed, suddenly darting to him.

She was much faster than she had been. The suit worked on vampires! I had thought everything should work fine, but I was very pleased that it did.

“Whoa.” stated Brandon, leaning back from her.

“I’m convinced. Brandon, you should forget about yours. You don’t need one.” teased Brenna as she hurried out the door at a jog with her suit under her arm.

“Psh. She wishes. I’m totally trying one of these things.” he replied as he followed after her.

After seeing Cosette move, Portentia seemed to be caressing hers.

Moving to her, Cosette said, “You need to try this. The difference is too incredible to miss.”

“What if it doesn’t work?” she muttered.

I stepped over to her and waved my hand to get her attention. “What if it does?” I asked. “I assure you that we can make one to suit your nightly activities.”

Her smile was beautiful. I knew that was bothering her. Portentia absolutely adored her Calamity costume.

Mila appeared across from Portentia on the mirror and started signing as she said, “The enchantment works for me. If something’s a bit off, the master can always tweak it further until everything’s working as it should.”

“Let’s be off then.” I told them.

Cosette quickly grabbed my arm before saying, “We’ll be a bit. I need to feed if we’re going outside.”

“Yes. Sorry. Good point. I’ll tweak the lighting a bit out there for when you arrive.” I assured her. “Meet us when you can.” Then I paused again, turned to her and said, “I think I have an idea that might help. I’ll see about making the next version for you count sunlight to some extent. I don’t think I’ll be able to make one that won’t cause an odd visual effect, but we’ll see.”

Smiling, she told me “Thank you, James.”

“I’m going to go take Marco his.” I told them, before grabbing the suit and walking off.

Marco was in the kitchen, working on something that smelled of lemon.

“Ah! Boss, sorry I did not make the a meeting, but I cannot stop in the middle.” he told me.

“I understand completely. Mila had told me that you were indisposed. I’m not sure if you’d be interested, but Jarod and I did some interesting things for enhancement technology. I think you could get use of it as well.” I told him.

“Oh?” he asked, looking up.

“You’ll be able to move faster, which might allow you to work on multiple things with even greater ease. You also won’t need to use a potholder ever, since there are spells that will protect you from heat. You’ll just have to be careful not to break anything, since the increased strength is substantial. If you decide not to keep it, I’ll dispose of it for you. I just thought everyone might get some use out of it.” I explained.

“Sounds impressive!” he assured me. “I will be sure to a give it a test.”

Smiling, I said, “Thank you. Feedback would be appreciated. If you have any trouble with it, I can attempt to adjust the enchantment on it. Jarod can probably make some more adjustments for a better fit if necessary.”

“No problema. I am always grateful to be here. You have made a wonderful home.” he told me, grinning.

“I’m glad. The rest of us will be out back if you finish early and care to join us.” I told him.

He nodded and thanked me again, so I headed out. When I stepped outside, Raine jumped up from the ground, her suit was shredded on the fresh snow. I walked over to her while watching Emma do acrobatics across the yard.

“I-I’m sorry. I-it… c-couldn’t… k-keep up.” she told me.

“No need to be sorry. Looks like your fur did a number on it when you transformed. I should’ve guessed.” I assured her, patting her shoulder.

“S-sorry.” she stated.

Smiling, I said, “Don’t be. Really. I wouldn’t have troubled you with it, but I didn’t want you to be left out. Mine didn’t work out for me either.”

She nodded, saying, “I-I heard.”

I wondered how far away she was by the time that was mentioned. Her hearing was so incredible.

“So why did you take Emma away earlier?” I asked, feeling curious about her motives.

Raine blushed as she mumbled “I-I… s-she… B-b-but w-what s-she… N-no. W-we c-can’t.”

“Don’t panic. I was just a little surprised. I can try getting her to restrain herself a bit more around you.” I suggested.

“B-but… s-she w-wouldn’t be Em-Emma.” muttered Raine.

“Fair point, I suppose. I just don’t want you to feel uncomfortable.” I told her.

“G-good luck.” she told me with a small smile.

Emma ran over and hugged us both, saying, “You two are adorable! I mean, Raine’s obviously more adorable, but you’re really not so bad yourself, man-slave.”

“Thanks?” I asked.

“Don’t mention it.” she told me with a wink. “I’m loving this suit. I obviously can’t keep up with you still, but I feel sooo fast!”

“Care to do a little exercise while waiting then?” I asked.

“Only if Raine’s up for it.” she replied.

Raine fidgeted, obviously uncertain of what she wanted.

“Please, Raine. You need to practice too.” claimed Emma.

“F-fine.” agreed Raine.

The two of them started play-fighting, and I dimmed the light in the area for Cosette’s arrival. Anyone who was able to see them clearly could tell. Even with Emma enhanced by the suit and Raine in her human form, Raine wasn’t putting in any effort. I was happy to see that she was implementing proper technique for the most part.

Plants started growing up through the snow in a large area around the two, and Raine started giggling.

“N-no f-fair!” she exclaimed as she laughed. She fell to the ground.

“Emma, what did you do?” I asked.

“Would you believe someone spread Nepeta cataria seeds every few feet throughout your yard?” she inquired.

Staring at her, I said, “Huh? What’s that?”

“Catnip. There happens to be a number of other plants with similar effects as well. I wonder who would’ve done such a thing?” she asked.

“Gee. I wonder.” I stated, trying not to smile. Only Emma would have tried catnip on Raine. I turned around to see who was coming out, and found Brandon and Brenna looking nervous.

“Sorry, man. We kinda goofed.” stated Brandon.

“Sorry, James.” muttered Brenna.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“We kinda broke a wall.” explained Brandon.

“Don’t worry, master. Replacement panels have already been ordered, and both culprits will be docked pay until the expense is covered.” stated Mila from my phone.

“Oh. I’ll cover the replacements. I could’ve been more clear about needing to be careful.” I told them all.

“As you wish, master.” replied MIla.

“You really don’t need to!” exclaimed Brenna, waving her hands as if to tell me to stop.

“It was our bad.” stated Brandon.

“I’m not worried about the money. Everyone slips up occasionally. Just come out here and start really testing those suits out.” I told them.

“Thanks, man!” exclaimed Brandon.

“We really are sorry.” stated Brenna.

“Relax and have some fun. Oh, and try not to step on Raine.” I warned them.

“What happened to her?” asked Brandon.

“Emma’s using biological warfare.” I explained.

“Come on… she’s enjoying herself!” exclaimed Emma, now tickling Raine.

“S-stop, y-you b-bully!” exclaimed Raine, though she didn’t even attempt to push Emma’s hands away.

“James!” exclaimed Portentia as she ran out of the house. “It works! Can you have my new suit ready for tonight?”

“That may be a little difficult. I need a little break before I enchant another one. The spells were a bit complicated, and I… I really just don’t feel up to it at the moment. Sorry.” I told her, unwilling to mention that I didn’t want to think on how I enchanted most of them.

“Oh. It’s okay. I might do something with this one for now.” she told me, obviously disappointed.

Cosette put her hand on Portentia’s shoulder and said, “Don’t feel bad. You’ve already taken out so many baddies without the suit, so the city can wait for bit.”

“I’ve also been late at times. Even with Mila guiding me, I’m just not fast enough all the time.” complained Portentia.

I lifted her chin and said, “I can’t be fast enough all the time either. We can’t save everyone, but be thankful we can save some.”

Just keeping the ones closest to me safe helped make my world a better place.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 262

“Tell me when either of you wants to leave, and I’ll get you out of here immediately. The fey can be a bit overwhelming, especially when they’re excited.” I instructed, worried that my parents might not really be ready for this. On the other hand, they took a glimpse of Raine in her other form fairly well.

“Umm.. son… who is this?” asked father.

“James!” exclaimed mother. “What are you doing!?” she demanded of father, having actually called him by his name for once.

Though Alma was quick to clothe the elven girl in fog, she hadn’t noticed the girl’s presence soon enough to save father from having her press against him. I did my best to instruct her to release father, but she wasn’t being very cooperative.

“I’m terribly sorry, Rachel, but this one can be particularly difficult.” stated Alma as she physically removed the elven girl from father.

“She’s practically impossible to detect when she wants to hide.” I informed them.

“Even my sensors fail to locate her when she’s fully invisible.” commented Mila.

“I like her.” stated Brandon. “She’s friendly and doesn’t cheat too much at games.”

“Uh huh…” replied Brenna, crossing her arms and giving her brother a disapproving look.

“Whaaat? I’m being serious here!” he claimed.

I felt he almost meant his words. Almost.

Emma punched his arm. “Don’t worry, Brandon. I totally believe you.” she assured him, though her wink belied her words.

I felt confusion from the elven girl along with an image of her hugging father. She apparently knew that he was my father, and I also go the impression that she was simply greeting him as the image showed her hugging the rest of us in a similar fashion, as she often did despite Alma’s admonishments.

“I know for certain that they’re over two thousand years old, so you can’t really hope for them to learn any better quickly.” I informed my parents.

“What? Really?” asked father.

“She looks… young.” stated mother, still eyeing the girl.

“A two thousand year old vampire knew them from when she was young, so there can be little doubt.” I told them.

“And one of them is my grandmother… sorta.” stated Emma. “No clue how many ‘greats’ should be thrown in there, but she’s my ancestor.”

“You’re joking.” replied mother.

“She generally looks a lot like a small tree, but she can appear pretty womanly.” insisted Emma.

I was about to reply, but more images were entering my mind, and I doubted my parents would be able to pay attention to my words with the distraction they were surely getting as well. More and more of the fey started gathering around us.

“They always come out in the greatest numbers when James is in the forest.” claimed Alma.

She wasn’t lying, but I had to ask “When have you come here without me?”

“I’ve visited a few times with Aaliyah and Emma.” she replied.

Emma nodded and said, “We don’t want them getting lonely when you’re too busy for them.” She grinned at me, looking all too mischievous.

“Is it safe for Aaliyah to come here?” inquired father, looking at the various creatures with a hint of trepidation.

“You’d be quite surprised. She somehow manages to make them heed her words.” replied Alma.

I wished I could tell her what Aaliyah’s “voice” was like to the fey. Even remembering the immense sensation was incredible.

“Do you know how she does it, dear?” asked mother.

“Well, yes, but it’s not something I can put into words.” I insisted, knowing I shouldn’t explain too much on that end.

I quickly caught a small rock that came flying toward my parents. “Careful!” I warned, picturing my parents getting injured as a warning to the fey.

Brandon had already engaged some of them in a game of catch.

“Use this instead!” suggested Emma as bushy, round plant sprang into being.

“Sure! Thanks!” exclaimed Brandon as he grabbed the plant and gave it a toss.

A small bird and my little fairy friend were chasing each other around mother’s head when a beautiful bird of fire sprang into being, flying away from them. Both chased fiery bird as Alma made it dart around the trees. I could feel her magic pulsing through it.

“That’s beautiful. What is it?” asked father.

“One of my ancestors was once with them, and he used to create these for them to chase.” explained Alma.

“Wow.” he whispered. “I wouldn’t have thought them capable of creating anything that complex. They seem so…”

“Simple, but they’re not. They’re flighty, for certain, but they actually have sharp minds in general.” she told him. “The problem between them and humans lies more in cultural differences. The fey don’t understand greed or lust for power. The concepts are alien to them. They understand death and aren’t opposed to killing, but I don’t believe they’ll kill for revenge, not when their mood changes so rapidly. Though they can show you things that happened thousands of years ago, they don’t seem to hold grudges. They will, however, protect the land and each other with great ferocity.”

Nodding, father said, “I’m amazed we managed to subdue them. Even the little I’m seeing would have been overwhelming in a fight just a hundred years ago.”

“You didn’t. My family nearly wiped the fey out just over two thousand years ago, one of our great mistakes I fear. You can travel hundreds of miles without seeing land as lush as your son’s.” stated Alma.

“But that’s thanks to Emma… isn’t it?” asked mother.

Emma shook her head and said, “Not in the forest. I only tend the land outside of here. Besides, my magic seems to come mostly from my fey heritage.”

“Mostly?” questioned father.

“Emma’s part of my family, though distantly related.” explained Alma.

“My sister and I are much more closely related.” stated Ai as she hugged Jarod’s arm.

“The magic is similar.” added Mai.

“Yes, though the twins’ magic doesn’t seem so strongly affected by their emotions. Mine, unfortunately, can grow quite dangerous if I’m not calm.” admitted Alma.

Emma giggled and said, “You should see what happens when I’m in a bad mood. Picture an angry briar patch looking for a fight.”

Laughing with her, Brenna said, “I can’t imagine it without you looking cute.”

“Aww.. thank you.” replied Emma, giving Brenna a hug.

“I don’t have to imagine it. I’ve seen pictures of her old house from after her father died.” stated Alma.

Emma stuck her tongue out at Alma, saying, “You didn’t have to mention that.”

“Sorry, but I’d compare your ‘bad mood’ to a forest out of a nightmare.” insisted Alma.

I never thought to ask more about what happened around that time. I had guessed that Emma and her mother moved at some point, since I couldn’t imagine any male wanting to live at her mother’s current residence. How did Emma manage the yard after Regina died? There was a great deal I didn’t remember from that time.

Conversation turned back to more pleasant topics as my parents grew distracted once more by the conversations of the fey wanting to play. I was fortunate that entertaining them was easy. Little displays of magic could go a long ways to entertain, and my parents seemed to enjoy a great deal of what they saw.

Though my parents planned on returning home, I convinced them to stay for the night at least, feeling they’d keep what they learned closer to heart if they stayed to watch our morning exercises. The demonstrations earlier were a bit chaotic to say the least. I just hoped they’d stay safe and not carelessly look into the extraordinary world around them. Sitting at my desk as the others slept, I wondered if Aaliyah had truly meant my parents had years ahead of them.

“Hmm… Maybe!” came a whisper from a giggling voice by my ear.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 261

“Why don’t I use up some of this excess energy, so someone else can have a turn showing off?” I suggested.

Without waiting for a response, I started forming several spells, loading each with an abundance of energy. I had pulled in too much earlier for such a short demonstration. Oh. Alma’s protections were down… I sighed, pausing for a moment midway through the spells. Now I would wonder if…

“Don’t worry, boss-man, sir. Yes, you affected her, but she already loved you. The love she projected to everyone was no less real.” insisted Aaliyah as she hugged me.

Everyone was frozen in place, except for Aaliyah and me. I knelt down and hugged her.

“Thank you. Do you think we’re getting through to my parents?” I asked.

“You always do just fine, boss-man, sir. Don’t worry. Your parents aren’t as adventurous as you. They won’t get in too much trouble.” claimed Aaliyah.

“That doesn’t sound too reassuring.” I admitted.

Letting go of me, Aaliyah walked over toward my father. “Well, there is this…” she stated, reaching up toward him.

I lifted her and asked “What?”

Her hand seemed to pass through my father’s chest, emerging a moment later, covered in something.

“What did you do?” I asked.

“Alpy noticed your father’s heart beating a bit irregularly. She’s planning on talking to you about it later. I just pulled out some clogs. Icky, aren’t they!?” she exclaimed, grinning at me as she held her hand toward me.

“What!? Is there something I can do?” I asked.

Aaliyah stared into my eyes and said, “Most everyone dies eventually, James.”

Looking into her eyes, I became aware of something vast before me, an endless ocean with unfathomable depths. Yet, I was holding this tiny girl who stretched on and on for eternity. I wasn’t ready to lose my father. Not yet. I knew she was right, but… Was she taking him soon?

“Are you kidding, boss-man, sir? I just put many years of happy eating back on his life!” she exclaimed. Leaning closer, she whispered “I may have done a bit more than you just saw.” Then she grabbed my face in her tiny hands, somehow clean again, and said, “When the time does come, I’ll still be taking care of everyone. You worry too much, boss-man, sir. I took care of your mother too.”

“What was wrong with mother?” I asked.

“Nothing yet, and now that ‘yet’ is fixed. I’m an expert at parental health.” she told me with a wink. “Just take a deep breath, and get on with the show!”

I did as she said and heard the others come back into motion while I finished my spells.

“Oh. That looks eerie, dear.” stated mother. “What did you do?”

“I redirected light around the area, and then created a dim light within. There’s also a spell that will light up the ground wherever it’s touched.” I explained.

“I’m guessing you wanted me to demonstrate a bit more then.” surmised Cosette. “Very well. Even this shade’s been difficult on me though, so let me just check on Portentia first. I’ll be right back.”

“Let’s show them what we can do, sis. No need for an intermission.” suggested Brandon.

Brenna rolled her eyes and said, “Fine, but I’m going to cheat too.”

As he walked away from the group, Brandon grew in size till his clothes were taught again. His giant footprints glowed as he passed into the area of my spell. Brenna followed, preparing a spell as she went.

Brandon attacked, bringing two giant fists down toward his sister. She flipped backward, and unleashed her spell on Brandon’s legs, knocking them out from under him. He managed to catch himself with his hands enough to turn his fall into a roll. Brenna cartwheeled out of the way, and then quickly created a fire between them.

Even knowing that Brandon could heal himself from a burn, I felt a little uncomfortable with that spell present. At least she hadn’t used it on him.

As Brandon stepped around the fire, Brenna created a flash of light in front of his eyes and ran behind him. When Cosette and Portentia sprinted out of the house toward them, Brenna fell backward as she tried stopping herself.

Brandon turned around to find Portentia staring up at him and visibly gulped. “Emma! Tree me!” he yelled.

“Fine! Just a sec!” she replied, throwing a seed toward him and creating a gust of air to blow it farther.

Portentia, however, didn’t wait. She ran to Brandon’s side and kicked the back of his leg. Then she jumped at his descending arm, and used it to toss him. I had to admit that watching someone her size throw a ten foot tall man was very impressive.

Brenna and Cosette were doing more traditional martial arts against one another, but Brenna was too outmatched physically. She couldn’t really even harm Cosette with a physical blow. When she knocked Cosette back with a spell, Cosette leaped back at her, twisting out of her clothes and changing into a black wolf midair. Brenna was so startled that she fell backward, allowing Cosette to land on her, baring her fangs.

“Is that what you do, Raine?” asked mother.

Raine shook her head negatively.

“Raine’s transformation is even quicker and more dramatic.” I told them.

“Her clothes tend to shred instead of slipping off. Therianthropes don’t have the type of control Cosette’s showing.” explained Alma. “Ai. Mai. Go help the redheads.”

“Yes, Lady Pendreigh.” they replied.

As they sprinted into action, they started casting spells to melt the distant snow. Then Ai created a force to push Cosette off Brenna while Mai used a spell to trip Portentia. Brandon used the distraction to dive for the branchless tree Emma had grown, attempting to pull it out of the ground.

Emma giggled.

“Oh, stop teasing the poor boy.” ordered Alma with a smile.

“Fiiine.” replied Emma.

The tree tore free, and Brandon immediately tried clubbing Portentia with it, almost hitting Mai.

“Careful, soulless! I’m helping you if you didn’t notice!” exclaimed Mai as Portentia flipped over the tree at her.

Water surged through the air into the fray, slamming against Portentia. Cosette seemed to melt before the water hit, but then appeared as an exceptionally quick bear, swiping at Ai.

“Just put your clothes back on already.” snapped Ai as she dodged the swipe.

I never had thought to see a bear shrug before, but this one did. Then she dove at her clothes, her shape contorting into them. Even more surprising to me was Midnight being pulled out from nowhere, severing Mai’s control over the water as it connected.

“James, did you see that!?” asked Alma.

“Yes. She just touched the ground and pulled out her staff.” I replied.

“We probably should stop this if that’s involved.” stated Alma.

“Have a little faith. She’s very skilled now.” I told her.

“Yes, she is, which is why the twins might do something rash.” she cautioned.

The light diminished around me, and I barely glimpsed Raine before she moved. A deeper darkness briefly moved throughout the area I had darkened. A large circle formed from everyone who had been fighting, with each of them staring around.

“T-that’s e-enough.” muttered Raine from the center, back to her human form.

“Whoa.” stated father, looking shocked.

Alma was peering at him inquisitively but said nothing.

“Did you feel that?” asked mother, looking startled.

“If you felt afraid for a moment, don’t be too alarmed. That was just Raine. She can’t help it.” I told her. Was this why Aaliyah had appeared, why she helped my father?

“Maybe.” came her voice as a whisper on the wind.

I smiled, grateful for my friend.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 260

After dinner, everyone, even Marco, gathered out back again to show my parents more of what each of us were capable. Well, Marco was probably there for the show. He did appreciate martial arts. Alma cleared the yard of snow, first lifting the snow from the ground, and then turning it to steam.

“She can control snow?” asked mother.

“She used several spells with residual energy and then her natural magic to heat the snow.” I explained.

“But why lift the snow first instead of just heating it?” asked mother.

“She’s being nice to the grass.” replied Emma with a grin. “Alma could easily slowly melt the snow and then dry the ground, but that’d take more time and not look as flashy. If she heated the area too rapidly, the grass would be damaged by the sudden change in temperature. She probably could heat just the snow, but that’d be tricky.”

“Emma would have an easier time of heating just the snow in a small area than I would. Her awareness of the plants is exceptional.” stated Alma.

“Who would you like to see first?” I asked.

“You, dear.” blurted mother. “Sorry, I just… I want to see what you can do.”

“Mind if I help him demonstrate? James tends to hold back immensely when left to his own devices.” claimed Alma.

“I’ll make us chairs!” offered Emma. “Oh. Portentia’s joining us.”

“She is?” asked father.

“Yes. I can hear her now.” I told him.

“Her suit’s damaged again.” stated Alma, sounding displeased.

Shortly thereafter, Portentia appeared, rounding the house, coming to a stop, and looking surprised to see us all.

“What happened?” asked father, seeing the number of holes in Portentia’s outfit.

Alma told him “I’d wager some fool shot her with an automatic weapon from behind. That’s rare.” As she spoke, she was signing something to Portentia.

Portentia nodded and started running again.

As I turned to ask Alma what had been said, she told me “I asked Portentia to join us after she’s changed is all.”

“She doesn’t get shot often?” asked mother.

“I am quite certain Portentia has been shot more times than anyone else alive. I was merely meaning that being shot with an automatic weapon is rare. Most criminals tend to use some form of handgun, especially an older weapon which was illegally obtained.” explained Alma.

“She can scratch that one off her bucket list now.” suggested Mai as she started to laugh.

Laughing as well, Ai said, “Can you imagine the guy’s face when she turned around?”

“She’s really going to have a large fan club in prison at the rate she’s going.” stated Jarod.

Nodding, Alma said, “Quite. I have been debating whether or not I should attempt to do something regarding that problem. As things are, criminals are probably becoming afraid of her, but allowing too many people to talk about what they saw could create an issue.”

“You could spread rumors about her using a type of high tech, white body armor with regenerative properties under her suit. I doubt many of her opponents get a clear look when she’s fighting, and those that do probably can’t believe what they’re seeing.” suggested Jarod.

“I’ll consider your proposal.” replied Alma with a smile.

“She actually is helping the city?” asked father.

“Portentia has single-handedly stopped hundreds of crimes, but I can’t vouch for how much she is helping.” insisted Alma.

I was sure Alma thought heavily on Portentia’s negative impact, causing misfortune wherever she went. What would I have done without Regina’s help? Portentia would be hazardous to my other friends and my business.

“Well, then. James, you should probably take a quick trip to the forest before we begin. I do not plan on being gentle with you.” warned Alma.

“Ah. As you wish.” I told her just before running to the forest..

How did I look to my parents now? Were they frightened? Could they accept me with how I’ve changed? I pushed the thoughts to the side and absorbed a large amount of energy, being careful not to overdo it as I did when fighting the twins. I had somewhat of a feel now on how I was doing, but I wasn’t confident in it.

Hurrying back out, I found Alma spaced apart from the assembled group. She probably expected me to attack. I hated attacking. I was too indecisive about how I should proceed. Ruling out silly notions, such as creating a blaze around her, I formed a spell to shove her forward with the energy behind her as well as a spell to hold her feet in place and another to bind her arms.

I wasn’t remotely surprised when all three were blocked with as much ease as she blocked my punch on arrival. She threw me into the air and started forming a spell for lightning. I created a force against my feet and pushed off back toward her.

Oh. I had missed the modification in her spell to increase the concussive force from the lightning. Clever, but ineffectual. As I aimed a kick at her as well as a couple spells, I considered that she might have made the concussion to blast the onlookers with air. Need I be more showy?

Alma easily sidestepped my kick and flipped me toward the ground. I caught myself with my hands, and shoved off, pulling my leg from her grasp while countering the spells she aimed at me.

I felt energy from my little fairy friend. I had forgotten to warn her what we were doing. Oops. A large beam of light struck Alma and the ground behind her. She glared at my little friend as she formed mist around herself.

I felt Alma’s thoughts as she instructed my little friend to go sit by the others. The tiny fairy flew behind me, holding onto my shirt. I felt fear from her though her thoughts showed her playfully blasting Alma repeatedly as Alma and I sparred. Alma attempted to be soothing, picturing herself gently setting the fairy on Emma’s shoulder.

How much of the images were the others seeing?

“Sorry for the interruption, but I need to go change. I’ll return momentarily.” announced Alma before running off.

“That was my fault.” I told the others as I walked toward them. “My little friend got a bit excited and wanted to play. I forgot to tell her what we were doing.”

“That was a thick laser. I wonder how much energy went into it.” pondered Jarod.

“The fairy did that?” asked mother.

“Yes, Alma did mention my little friend can create lasers. Had Alma been expecting it, she would’ve protected her clothing from the heat. I owe her another outfit as things stand.” I explained.

My little friend didn’t understand why Alma left, and I felt she was wondering if the fun was over.

“I don’t think I’ll ever get accustomed to seeing images in my head.” stated father.

“Did you see Alma admonishing my friend?” I asked.

“Yep!” exclaimed Emma.

“She felt so angry.” muttered Brandon.

“I didn’t realize how intense her anger was.” agreed Brenna.

I had to agree. There was the obvious anger, which Alma probably meant to be in her projection, but there was far more in the background of her thoughts.

“I-I’ve seen w-worse.” stated Raine.

There was a pause where no one spoke. I didn’t believe anyone doubted her.

“Can all of you do that?” asked mother.

“No. Apparently, you need a particularly strong connection to fey heritage.” I explained.

“Out of us, only Alma and I can pull it off. She’s still a bit better at it than I am.” claimed Emma, sending out an image of smiley faces with a great feeling of joy.

“You win on content in my book!” exclaimed Brandon.

“It’s the one for easy reading.” added Ai.

Nodding in agreement, Mai said, “Look on the short shelves marked ‘children’ if you want a copy.”

“They know my brother so well.” agreed Brenna with a sigh.

Brandon crossed his arms and did a poor attempt at a stern expression.

Alma arrived, looked around, and asked “What did I miss?”

“Brandon’s commentary on your thoughts.” replied Jarod.

“I’m sure that was enlightening. Shall we continue?” she inquired.

“Yes, but would you mind my little friend joining us? She seems pretty eager, despite your reprimand.” I insisted.

Alma sighed, and I felt energy encompass her. She was probably protecting her clothing now. Then she said, “Fine.”

Unfortunately, she didn’t resume her mental protections. That would make coordinating more difficult. Oh great. Alma shut her eyes as she took a stance. My little friend wouldn’t be of any help now. I had hoped I might be able to have my little friend give a brief distraction.

Before I could give more thought to a strategy, Alma attacked. I flew backward from the impact of her kick, despite blocking it, and had to catch myself with a spell. A bright flash appeared in front of me from one of Alma’s spells, but I somehow saw through it enough to grab her arm as she punched. I moved to throw her, but she altered her direction with a spell and twisted out of my grip.

The fighting continued in a very one-sided manner as Alma relentlessly assaulted me, but I didn’t feel I made a complete fool of myself. When at last she stopped, I didn’t bother attempting to continue the match.

We walked back toward the others hand-in-hand, much to my surprise. Though we often held hands these days, doing so in front of my parents seemed bold, for her.

“See. He’s completely uninjured.” stated Alma once we were close.

“I can’t say I really caught much, honestly.” replied father. “I might as well have been seeing special effects.”

Nodding, Alma started replaying our fight from her perspective through her telepathic ability. Ai and Mai dropped their protections as they caught onto what was happening. I wasn’t prepared for how she saw me or the feelings that accompanied the images. There was pride, joy, and so much more. Even as she had created an explosion under my foot, she loved me. They all surely felt it. Everyone seemed speechless for a moment after it stopped. I didn’t know what to say. Believing someone to love you and quite literally feeling it weren’t comparable. Her emotions were very intense. I felt I understood better why she rarely used this ability. She always tried to appear calm.

“Your feelings really came through with that one!” exclaimed Emma into the silence as she winked at Alma.

Alma blushed, and said, “I’m terribly sorry. I obviously need more practice.”

Mother was smiling and crying. She stood and hugged Alma, saying, “Never be sorry for that. I wouldn’t have guessed how much you care.”

“That… that was incredible. Why was the world sparkling though?” asked father.

“Oh. I always see residual energy, so that’s how the world looks to me.” replied Alma.

“M-me too.” added Raine.

“James doesn’t actually give off light. I’ve checked. He just seems to glow.” teased Jarod with a smile.

“If not for Lady Pendreigh’s spell, all of us would probably be attempting to hug him.” stated Mai.

Then Ai said, “It’s happened before.”

“Quite embarrassing.” they claimed together.

“There are worse things than urges to hug.” I replied, still glad that Alma had taken precautions. Things could be far worse.