“You’re that girl!” exclaimed Deyanira just after she entered the room. She had slept in one of the guest rooms shortly after getting clean clothes.
“Good evening! Welcome to our home.” replied Portentia without looking away from the game. She had been playing ever since this morning’s training, which Brandon had slept through.
“Were you able to sleep well?” I asked, standing to face her.
“Huh..? Yes. Thank you.” replied Deyanira. “Is Brandon around? Your A.I., Mila… she said to come in here.”
“Brandon should be back soon. He had a quick job at eleven.” I explained.
“Wow. He must not have slept much.” she stated.
“James! I’m all finished!” exclaimed Kayla, running into the room before I could respond.
“Mila, how did she do?” I asked.
“Perfectly satisfactory.” she replied.
“Good job, Kayla.” I told her, holding my hand out.
She gave me a high five and said, “My old school didn’t have nearly as many tests. I feel like I’ve taken a bijillion and I just got here!”
“Seems that you’re handling the new routine wonderfully.” I told her. “Besides, we needed to know how much you knew before we could teach you, right?”
“I guess so. Can I play now?” she asked.
“Were you supposed to do anything for Jemal today?” I inquired.
“Yep. All done.” she lied.
“You still haven’t picked up your room.” stated Mila.
“Tattletale!” exclaimed Kayla before sticking her tongue out at a wall.
“You probably should do that first.” I told her.
“But Jemal’s studying, and I don’t want to bother him.” she replied.
At very least, she felt she was being honest, so I said, “Okay, but don’t blame me if he yells at you later.”
“I won’t!” she replied before running to take a seat and start playing.
“I am so confused right now. Are you her teacher or something?” asked Deyanira.
“No. In a sense, Mila is, but the courses are really about being self-taught.” I explained.
Shaking her head, Deyanira said, “You can’t be self-taught at her age. Doesn’t she go to a real school?”
“The Institute of Autodidacticism is quite well renowned, I assure you.” I informed her.
“The what?” she asked.
“Mila, how is the institute ranked worldwide?” I asked.
“The very best, of course. You know Adelmar wouldn’t tolerate his family utilizing something second-rate, though I doubt he’s fully aware of how greatly improved our versions are.” she replied.
“There you have it. Kayla’s receiving the very best possible education through college.” I stated.
“Through college? Shouldn’t she play with kids her own age?” asked Deyanira.
“Jemal’s going to let me visit my friends this weekend!” exclaimed Kayla.
“Ah… I see. So does Brandon attend the institute thing?” inquired Deyanira.
“Courses are available to everyone, and I expect my friends to learn a certain amount just to expand the types of work they can do.” I explained.
“This place is so weird.” she stated.
“I like to think it’s fun enough for everyone. At very least, I haven’t had complaints yet.” I told her.
“Because it’s awesome!” exclaimed Kayla.
Deyanira watched as Kayla played Ancient Tribes of Earth for a bit, and then she stepped over to where Portentia was playing and watched her. I got back to my game while casually observing what she was doing. Everyone knew to behave while we had company, but I couldn’t be certain Deyanira was as human as she appeared.
“So… what’s your relationship with Brandon?” asked Deyanira. “What? Why’s what I’m saying being posted on the game?”
“I’m deaf.” stated Portentia. “Mila transcribes what’s said around me, so I don’t miss if someone’s talking to me. It’s not really going into the game, I think.”
“Oh. Sorry. I was just surprised.” she replied.
“As for Brandon, he wanted a wingman, so I went along.” explained Portentia.
“You’re not supposed to abandon your friend as a wingman.” argued Deyanira.
Portentia then said, “I had… work.”
“You people take jobs that late?” asked Deyanira.
“Some of us do. You could say I’m a Nite Owl.” replied Portentia with a smirk.
I doubted that Deyanira would catch the Watchmen reference, but I had to roll my eyes at the joke.
“So.. about Brandon…” started Deyanira.
“Nope. Not interested. I think I intimidate him a bit.” stated Portentia.
“Huh?” she asked.
“I can beat him up.” explained Portentia with a shrug.
“No way. He’s pretty big… and strong.” argued Deyanira.
I chimed in, saying, “Everyone here learns martial arts. Portentia’s very advanced.”
“Is that self-taught too?” asked Deyanira, sounding dubious.
“No. I teach them.” I replied.
“I… see.” she muttered.
Smiling, I turned and told her “I’m sure Brandon demonstrated that he knew how to handle himself when the brawl broke out. I was surprised he got injured.”
“That… was sorta my fault.” she admitted.
“Oh?” I asked.
“I sorta hit him with my drink after he got pushed into me.” she explained sheepishly.
“And then you went home with him?” I asked incredulously.
“I felt guilty!” she exclaimed. “All he did was smile and apologize after I hit him. Then he helped get some people out of there while acting as a wall. It was kinda cool.”
“I think you liiiiike him.” teased Kayla, now looking over her seat.
“Maybe. Did you call dibs or something?” asked Deyanira.
“Eww… no. That’s gross.” replied Kayla before ducking back behind the seat.
“Gross? Isn’t that a bit harsh?” asked Deyanira.
“No. It’s Brandon.” stated Kayla.
I laughed and said, “I might have to tell the others to watch what they say around you.”
“Aww… but James…” pouted Kayla.
“Fine, I’ll just blame Emma.” I teased.
“Emma’s… the one with the multi-colored hair?” asked Deyanira.
“Yes. She’s out doing some carpentry today.” I replied.
“Carpentry? She doesn’t look like a carpenter.” she stated.
“No, but she’s the best, better than me in fact. I do believe I mentioned that we fulfill a variety of needs here.” I told her.
She nodded and said, “Yes, but… I don’t know. I feel like I’m missing something. Before I just thought I was tired, but…”
“Baby, I’m back!” exclaimed Brandon as he stepped into the house.
“Baby!?” exclaimed Deyanira. “Are you married!?”
“She’s still here!?” he exclaimed, sounding panicked.
I could see why. He had shifted his size a bit for today’s job. He shrank back down enough before she rounded the corner that I doubted she’d notice.
“Are you married or something?” asked Deyanira.
“What!? No.” he assured her.
“Then who are you calling ‘baby’?” she demanded.
“Umm… you?” he asked.
“He actually just does that sort of stuff frequently.” I called.
“You can’t just say things like that!” exclaimed Deyanira, hitting him in the arm.
“Why not? I’m glad to be home. I was working, you know.” he stated.
“So? You didn’t leave a note for me or anything. What would you have done if I just left?” she demanded.
“Called?” he asked.
“You don’t have my number.” she stated.
Mila quickly informed her “Actually, we do. I performed a full background check on you when you entered the premises.”
“What!? I didn’t agree to that.” she stated.
“No, but as a law student, you are probably well aware that you don’t need to agree to anything for someone to perform a background check. Given that you may seek to enter into some sort of relationship with Brandon, I felt looking into you was in the best interest of the company as well as Brandon. We wouldn’t want him bringing home a dubious person, would we?” explained Mila.
Deyanira didn’t seem to know how to take what was being said.
“Uh… sorry about that.” stated Brandon.
She hit him without looking at him, but now was looking thoughtful.
“Get anything good?” asked Deyanira.
“Yes. Apollo is quite adorable. Your mother uploads videos of him frequently.” replied Mila.
“She does love that dog.” agreed Deyanira, still looking thoughtful.
“How well do you know the law?” asked Deyanira.
Mila sounded amused as she said, “Enough to know that your current textbooks have a number of errors. I sent out erratas to your professors and the publishers to review as a courtesy.”
“Quiz me for my next test, and I’ll forgive you.” offered Deyanira.
“Agreed, though I really don’t believe you’re as offended as you’re acting.” replied Mila.
Deyanira laughed and said, “A good lawyer has to be able to act. Looks like I need some work.”
“So does this mean you want to come back here?” asked Brandon.
“No. I’m assuming a fancy A.I. can quiz me from anywhere. She has my number. I still might though if you buy me breakfast.” she told him.
“I’m hungry too, but… umm.. mind eating here?” he asked.
“You cook?” she asked, sounding surprised.
“A little, but Marco’s the man. You’ve gotta try his cooking before you go.” insisted Brandon, as he guided her towards the kitchen.
If things actually did evolve between those two, Deyanira would need to find out about magic. After a bit of consideration, I decided to talk with Alma about how she deals with such things. She might be able to provide some pointers before I had a group discussion. Things were always evolving, but I wanted to guide this evolution in my home if I could manage.