“Iris, this is Dejon and Jemal. This one who bumped into you yesterday is Kayla. They’re going to be learning some basics with you while the others are practicing some more advanced techniques.” I announced once everyone was gathered for the morning exercises. “I realize that you won’t always be able to attend these classes every morning, since you’re not staying here, but I hope you can at least make your way here four times a week.”
“Sorry, but… I mean… Is martial arts really necessary for the job?” she asked.
Nodding, I said, “We actually have had several clients request sparring partners a few times now, and we’ve also had clients request guest instructors at dojos in the city. Cosette and Dejon were able to demonstrate some of their abilities at a LARP recently.”
Dejon fidgeted, but I pressed onward.
“However, the primary purpose is for you to be able to defend yourself while out on jobs. There may be a time when you feel comfortable defending a client as well, but you are never under any obligation to do so.” I explained.
“Which one’s Cosette?” inquired Iris.
“The one playing with the short blonde with the poofy hair.” I explained.
“P-poofy?” asked Raine, suddenly in front of me.
“You like to tease your hair.” I replied. “Sorry if poofy is not the proper adjective. Your hair is marvelous.”
“Poofy.” she murmured, smiling to herself before running back to Emma.
“Wh-what?” asked Iris.
“Raine’s quite quick.” I informed her.
“Kayla’s quick, incredibly quick.” argued Iris as she pointed at Kayla. Then, pointing to Raine, she exclaimed “She teleported!”
“No, actually. Raine’s heritage is a bit unique, and she’s the last person in this room with whom any sane person would want to pick a fight. She comes here to spar more as an exercise in controlling her gifts than a need to learn how to protect herself. We don’t actually have the faintest idea what Raine’s limits are.” I explained.
“This place is really different. I think of it as a different reality than the rest of the world.” offered Dejon.
Laughing, Jemal said, “He’s kinda right. Kayla and I have been here a month, and this still seems like some sort of dream.”
“Jemal’s all dreamy.” sang Kayla with a grin.
“You know you agree with me.” he stated defensively.
She just kept grinning.
Dejon had seemed annoyed the first couple times Kayla was at practice with him, but he’s loosened up a bit already. Kayla reflexively throwing him with her magic had really caught him off guard a few days ago.
I was about to start the lesson when Iris’ mouth dropped open and was quickly covered by her hand, so I glanced back to see what was happening. I laughed, seeing Cosette act like she was about to bite Raine’s neck with enormous fangs. The technique behind her hold was quite well executed, even though Raine could escape practically effortlessly.
Turning back to Iris, I said, “Yes, there is a vampire living and working here. You’re not racist, are you?”
“Racist?” she questioned, looking like she was too dumbfounded to fully work out how I came to that word.
“You’ll find that most of us here have at least one nonhuman ancestor, including you. Quite likely, your magic stems from a fey some time ago. You’re about to see what I mean. Our little friend will be joining us.” I informed her. “Sorry in advance. This will feel a bit odd.”
“Wh…” she started, not even finishing the word as we suddenly felt what dodging through the leaves of a tree after a bird was like.
My little friend had caught up and rode the bird similar to how she had rode Pufflewink before. The relationship between the fey and the animals was still odd to me. The fey tended to the animals in a fashion, helping the injured and ill, but they would just as quickly kill and eat one with animalistic ferocity. Feeling what she did, no one could question whether or not my little friend enjoyed food of many types.
“That is so cool!” exclaimed Iris before she suddenly went stiff at my little friend’s approach.
“Though you might not always understand their motives, you’ll never doubt how the fey feel. They can also feel surface thoughts of those around them, so something you were thinking about caught our little friend’s attention.” I informed her.
“How could I possibly be descended from her? She’s so tiny.” inquired Iris.
“Don’t be silly. She controls lights.” I teased before telling her “You’re probably descended from a more human-sized fey that manipulates electricity.”
“How many types are there?” asked Dejon. He hadn’t been in the forest yet.
“No clue. Alma would be far more capable of discussing the variety of fey, since she continually updates her catalogue on them for her family’s interests and has read her family’s tales about them.” I replied.
“You should take them into the forest sometime. Kayla and I can’t be the only new people who experienced that.” insisted Jemal.
“Does that mean I can start working here!?” asked Kayla excitedly.
“What? No.” he told her. “You’re too young.”
“But Jemal…” she complained.
“No buts. There are laws and stuff dealing with kids working. Maybe when you’re sixteen if you learn to behave.” he told her.
“James, Jemal’s being mean.” she insisted.
“His word’s the law where you’re concerned.” I informed her.
She sighed and hugged her brother while still pouting.
“Think you can focus while our little friend’s chattering away?” I asked.
Iris shook her head negatively, Dejon gave me a little shrug, and Jemal nodded.
“Let’s try before Alma catches wind of someone slacking. She doesn’t approve of slacking.” I stated.
“Alma’s your fiancée, right? Does she run this place with you?” inquired Iris.
“Yes, she’s my fiancée, but she doesn’t work for Best Friend For Hire, though she did attend a convention with us.
“So why…” she started.
Interrupting her, I said, “Alma is still teaching me martial arts. She’s studied her entire life and has mastered an impressive number of styles. She also assists me in teaching at times, so you might well get her as your instructor one of these mornings. Sorry in advance. She’s a bit strict.”
Kayla laughed and asked “A bit?”
Jemal quickly covered her mouth and said, “She just wants us to do things correctly.”
“Properly.” stated Dejon with a small smile.
“Did Dejon just make a joke!?” exclaimed Emma as she ran over to us.
“Was it painful?” asked Brenna on Emma’s heels.
“Are you feeling okay? We can get you a cot if you want to take a nap.” offered Brandon.
“I knew he could do it!” called Cosette.
“We’re training, so should you be.” I stated, which was enough that they let us be, jogging swiftly back across the room.
“How did they even hear that!?” wondered Iris.
“They’re each wearing suits that enhance their bodies in numerous ways. Kayla was wearing one yesterday, which is why she seemed so fast to you. We’ll make you one if you ever become full time here or even remain part time for an extended period.” I told her.
“Are you making one for me?” asked Dejon.
“Yes, sorry. The suit’s made, but I need to enchant it, which will require Alma’s help. I need some time when we’re both free for an extended period.” I explained.
“Oh. Thank you.” he told me, looking surprised.
“They’re soooo fun, and you can get soooo much more done when wearing them.” insisted Kayla.
Rubbing her head, Jemal told her “Now if you’d commit yourself to your studies more while wearing one, you’d be flying through classes.”
“In her defense, she is actually ahead for her year already.” I replied.
Nodding, he said, “I know, but she’s got so much potential. She could finish college and have a degree by the time her friends finish high school.”
I laughed and said, “I’m sure she will. Not everyone can be as dedicated to studying as you though.”
“I guess. I just want the best for her.” he told me.
“As I keep telling you, everything will be fine. No matter what profession Kayla decides to pursue, we have the resources to help her get there.” I insisted.
“I can be a wizard!?” she exclaimed.
“Not if you don’t study spells with more enthusiasm.” I replied.
“But it’s haaard.” she whined.
“You really aren’t messing with me about magic?” asked Iris.
“Well, here’s a fairy. How much more magical do you want?” I asked, pointing to my little friend. “Perhaps this.” I suggested, using a spell to darken the room, another to create a somewhat strong breeze, and others to write a decree in the air using flaming characters, stating that we should all focus on our training.
As I ended the spell, Iris just nodded, still staring at the air where the decree had been. I was certain that she’d catch on soon enough.