Best Friend For Hire, Entry 365

“Ah!” exclaimed Heloise, almost bumping into me as she exited her room.

Smiling, I said, “Good morning. Mind checking on your siblings? Training starts in fifteen minutes, and I didn’t catch any of you at breakfast.”

“S’excuser. I’ll get them.” she replied before heading back into their area.

As I waited, I heard her waking Babette and possibly kicking Achille. I sighed as I heard a fight break out while Heloise unsuccessfully attempted to get a word out.

“I didn’t wake you! She did!” insisted Achille, speaking French.

“You probably made her!” argued Babette just before something broke.

As they argued, Heloise continued saying, “Shut up, shut up, shut up!”

I decided to knock.

There was the sound of someone being hit again. “Ouch!” exclaimed Achille.

“James! Good morning!” exclaimed Babette in English with a smile after she cracked open the door. The sleeve of her pajamas was torn, her hair was a disaster, and she was missing some skin on her left hand.

“You three have thirteen minutes before I expect you in the gym for this morning’s exercises. If you ask nicely, Emma will probably help mend whatever was broken in there. If she can’t, Mila might assist you.” I informed her.

“Merci! Achille stumbled onto the coffee table.” she replied.

“I did not!” he argued in English. There was the sound of someone being hit, and he yelled “Sois sage!”

As I walked down the hall, I wondered if I should have left them to Mila. She had offered to make sure they arrived on time this morning, but I told her that I’d handle it. These triplets had had a rough life, and there were many bad habits to break between them. I knew their roughhousing was actually playful, but things breaking only emphasized their lack of control. If I hadn’t already seen what they could become, I knew I wouldn’t be so keen on reforming them.

“Get the man-slave!” exclaimed Emma as I entered the gym. The door shut and merged with the surrounding wood as she spoke.

“Nooo! My daddy!” argued Dani, moving to attack her.

Portentia smoothly stepped in front of her and knocked Dani’s kick aside. I almost felt sorry for my daughter, knowing she hadn’t tried fighting Portentia yet. The difference in strength, speed, and sheer determination was immense. My daughter’s skill at magic was her only hope, but she probably wouldn’t use magic soon enough.

Cosette, Brandon, Kayla, and even Iris came at me with Emma as Portentia skillfully maneuvered Dani away from the rest, easily blocking my daughter’s attacks. As I tripped Brandon into Kayla, I used a relatively simple spell to lift Emma from the floor to keep her from manipulating the wood. Meanwhile, Cosette had transformed into a wolf, nipping at my leg. Kayla caught Brandon with her magic and took a decent swing at me. Iris kicked at me from the opposite direction of Kayla’s punch.

Knowing Emma would unravel the spell on her shortly, I gently pulled Kayla forward, tripping her to the floor while spinning to kick Brandon, which allowed Iris’ foot to pass just over my head. At the same time, I created a spell to pull Cosette backward, but she scattered into a crimson mist as the spell attempted to take hold. Brandon blocked my leg and enlarged himself till his clothes were taught to handle the force of it. Kayla rolled with the trip, coming back onto her feet, and Emma landed back on the ground, having unraveled the spell.

The boards around me transformed and “bit” at my feet. Without moving more quickly than my attackers could manage, there was no way to dodge. To my surprise, the boards were actually holding my feet as if they were steel. Not wanting to put in the necessary force to break them, I carefully dipped, dodged, and blocked until I had a moment to touch them, breaking Emma’s magic long enough to flip forward over Iris.

I was quite proud of how well everyone fought over the next couple minutes, and allowed the triplets to gawk for a bit when they arrived, having first watched the doors unseal and open. Then I used a spell to sweep my opponents into a line and said, “Time to get serious, everyone. Don’t want the triplets to get the wrong idea about our exercises.”

“Wh-what happened over there?” asked Heloise with wide eyes as she pointed to where Dani and Portentia were standing.

“Sorry. Portentia tends to cut off her limbs if someone attempts to bind her.” I explained. “I should have warned Dani.”

“You really should have! It’s disgusting, daddy!” she exclaimed with a grin.

“You’re the one who repeated the tactic. Three arms and two legs is a bit much.” I told her.

“B-but… she…” started Achille.

“Yes, she regenerates instantly, never tires, and will hunt you relentlessly if you commit a crime. Best to abide by the law.” I told him with a wink.

He and Heloise nodded almost in sync. Babette seemed to be scrutinizing the limbs.

“Portentia! Again!?” demanded Ai upon seeing the scene. “Emma, you owe us another finish for our doors and floor.”

Emma winked and asked “Where?” A type of finish seemed to grow into the missing spots.

“Fine.” stated Ai. A torrent of water shot past her, scooping the blood and limbs off the floor and carrying them away through the door behind her. “No more missing limbs today.”

Maple ― who had sat back and watched everything with Jemal, Brenna, and Dejon ― shook her head and said, “I don’t know if I will ever really be used to this place.”

“You will in time.” I promised her. Walking over to the triplets, I said, “You three will be working with Raine today.”

Springing over to me from where she had seemed to be napping, Raine said, “B-but… I-I… R-really?”

I nodded and said, “Achille, Babette, and Heloise need to review the basics, and I am quite confident that you have seen enough in your months here to be a capable instructor.“

“B-but they’re… afraid.” argued Raine.

“Am not.” lied Babette.

“I certainly don’t want to make you angry.” stated Achille, gently shoving Babette back protectively with his arm.

Shrugging, Heloise said, “I want to learn. Just seeing you people… Even the kid is incredible.”

“Plus, Raine speaks fluent French and at least fifty other languages. I haven’t checked how many too recently, but she learns at an absurd rate.” I informed them as I patted Raine’s head.

She was blushing, but didn’t argue. I knew she would do well.


Best Friend For Hire, Entry 364

“What are you three doing?” I asked after Babette opened the door.

Heloise and Achille were kneeling on the ground, looking as if they were praying. Knowing this wasn’t a common practice for the descendants of Slayers, I felt more than a little confused.

“Preparing to die.” she told me as I stepped into Achille’s room.

“What? Why?” I questioned, shocked that she had been completely serious.

Looking confused, Heloise asked “You didn’t feel that?”

“Feel what?”

Achille, staring at my eyes from where he was kneeling on the floor, said, “That immense power…”

“Around an hour ago, we all felt like some deity was about to step inside and swat us out of existence.” explained Babette.

“What? No. I was just decorating. There was no deific entity involved. You three need to loosen up. Despite the numerous strong individuals here, no one wants to kill you. You’re safe.” I insisted.

The three silently stared at me.

Babette was the first one to find her voice, saying, “You seriously want us to believe that overwhelming magic was just you decorating?”

“Look outside of your room. The entire mansion and yard is decorated for Mila’s birthday party, which will be starting soon. Please, get ready.” I told them. “Oh. Each of you has a new outfit prepared in your respective closets. I thought you might want to dress up for the party. If not, that’s your choice. Yes, I created them there when I was decorating.”

Honestly, I had simply been too aware of their small wardrobes and added a few things on instinct, but they didn’t need to know my help was accidental in this case.

Achille, who had opened his closet with a spell, pointed and exclaimed “There really is something there! How? I was here the whole time.”

“Raine could have casually waltzed in here, cleaned, redecorated, patted you on the head, and left without you seeing her. Alma or I could have easily slipped the clothes in there with magic without you noticing. There’s a fey who’s virtually undetectable that likes to sneak out of the forest occasionally. She could slip in here without a problem. Emma could ask the wood to move out of the way from the other side of the wall and set your clothes in from there. Cosette… well, she probably would’ve messed with you a bit. The point is that the collective abilities here are fantastic. Since you get to be a part of it, try to enjoy it! We’re having a party. Get ready!”

“Okay, boss. Whatever you say, but… fey, really?” questioned Babette.

“Yes, I’ll make sure to introduce you three tomorrow if you’re interested. Oh. If you haven’t been told yet, don’t go into the forest without me. You’ll die before you make it past the second tree. If Emma’s watching the yard, she’ll save you before you get too close, but the forest is completely off limits without being accompanied. Actually, Mila would probably catch where you were headed first. I’m going to check on the others, so hurry and join us. This should be a fun day!” I exclaimed with a smile.

Leaving the bewildered trio, I jogged over to Dejon’s door and knocked.

“Hi.” he stated from his seat after Mila opened the door for him. He was reading a thick, leather-bound book.

“You did get the memo about the party, correct?” I questioned.

He nodded and said, “I just want to finish this chapter. I should have time, right?”

“No rush.” I promised. “Just thought I’d check to be sure. Partying isn’t mandatory, but I think you could enjoy it. There should be interesting people to meet as well.”

“I’ll join the party. Thank you, James.” he replied, smiling slightly.

“Enjoy your book.” I told him, shutting the door behind me. “Mila, is anyone else seeming to need encouragement?”

“No, master. Jemal has Kayla in hand, Iris is nearly here, and the rest are either ready or nearly there.” she informed me.

“Excellent. Have you decided what to wear yet?” I inquired.

“Spoilers, master.” she teased.

“I’ll take that to mean you have.” I replied with a smile. Then I jogged to the foyer in case any guests appeared. Mila wasn’t allowed to be answering the door at her own party. Noticing that Emma was frozen in the air when I arrived, I looked around to find Aaliyah or Carl.

“Boo!” exclaimed Aaliyah, falling at me from above.

I caught her and said, “So terrifying… so terrifying…”

“As your secretary, I thought I should notify you of a slight error in your thoughts.”

“Oh? What is that?”

“Given that my daughter knows people throughout the universe, I felt the need to expand your house for a day. This isn’t the only main entrance at the moment.”

“Oooh…” I replied, wondering what the current layout would be like. Then, I knew. “Thank you. That will certainly help.”

“I also took the liberty of arranging the extraterrestrial entertainment. I only intended to have you handling Earth from the start. A mommy needs to do her part.” she insisted.

“You’ll get no arguments from me. Any hints at who’s arriving on my end?” I questioned.

“Fiiine. Clients, city officials, et cetera. The usual rabble. Your parents will be here in three minutes. Also, you forgot to warn the new hires not to use magic, but Mila will take care of it for you.” she stated, giving me a look that might seem firm on a less adorable face.

“Oops. Thank you, Aaliyah. You’re still the best secretary ever. Is Mila really interested in having all of these people here?”

Aaliyah shrugged and told me “Not particularly, but having them adds to the support behind laws that will be passed regarding artificial intelligence over the next several decades. A future president will be here, you know.”

“I do now. I’m sure your daughter will make a grand impression.”

Grinning and nodding, Aaliyah said, “I know.” Then she kissed my forehead. “Popping back over to help my daddy get ready. He’s been fussing over the artificial womb, still worried that something might go wrong with it.” she explained with a grin. She winked and vanished.

Time resumed, and I saw that Emma had been dancing.

She noticed me, smiled broadly, and exclaimed “Man-slave! Ready to get this party started!?”

“You know it.” I replied, taking her hand and joining her for a dance. I knew my parents wouldn’t be remotely surprised by me dancing before guests arrived. I probably wouldn’t get much of a chance later.

Right on time, they were there, letting themselves inside. Mother quickly excused herself to go see Dani. Father volunteered to help me man the doors. One of Mila’s bodies arrived minutes later, wearing a beautiful gown fit for a princess.

Father hesitated only a little before saying, “Mila, you look lovely.”

I could see the slight tension leave his shoulders when she smiled and thanked him. Telling Mila apart from Alma could be difficult at a glance.

In under ten minutes, the other guests started arriving. Brandon and Jarod had volunteered to direct parking in place of Mila. Emma had joined the rest of her band on stage in the ballroom half an hour into the party, providing live music that wasn’t quite of this world. I noticed Dani’s influence in the music. Hopefully, they knew a few covers as well. No one would believe the girls had only been practicing a few weeks. With staff from the Intergalactic House of Awesome Sauce filling in as servers, everything progressed smoothly.

An hour into the party, Mila took to the stage with four of her bodies ― each in a different dress ― and welcomed everyone. During her speech, she also reminded everyone that she wasn’t human while emphasizing the importance of her kind in our future. In conclusion, she thanked everyone and encouraged them to enjoy the party.

Throughout the party, I made appearances in the other sections of the house to mingle with the extraterrestrial guests. One of Mila’s bodies made an appearance in each one, wearing attire suitable for the galaxy. Realizing that her first birthday would be represented earlier in certain galaxies than others, I came to the conclusion that I was stepping through time as well. The feeling wasn’t at all new save for the oddity of my house being duplicated, yet connected. By the end of the night, I was simply happy that I managed to find my way back to Earth without asking for help.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 363

“She’s what!?” exclaimed Alma, staring at me in legitimate shock for the first time in years. “Is this a joke?”

I had just returned alone from Chad and Aaliyah’s apartment. He wanted to have a discussion with his daughter alone. I felt for him. There was no winning if he were to attempt arguing. Wanting to tell Alma the news, I had caught her on the second floor, where she was modifying a fashion line to more closely meet our daughter’s tastes.

“No. I just saw the artificial womb myself. You should have seen Chad’s expression when he heard the news.” I replied with a smile.

Mila displayed a picture for us on a nearby mirror.

My wife barely glanced at it before saying, “James, you know who she is. She could have snapped her fingers and had a child, even making the rest of us think whatever she wanted about the birth. I suppose she wanted Chad to be there for her… pregnancy? Do we really call this a pregnancy when the womb is artificial? I suppose she could argue the womb is part of her, since it may well be. Did she at least tell you what will pop out of there?”

“Nope!” exclaimed Aaliyah, appearing beside us. “Wanna meet her!?”

I did. I really did, but I also didn’t. This was Death’s second daughter. Considering her first daughter was spread throughout space and time, this second one would likely be some phenomenally powerful entity as well. I knew with absolute certainty that everything would turn out fine, but I still wasn’t sure if I should get to know what this second daughter would be like ahead of time.

“James, we shouldn’t. We’ll be watching this child grow up, and I’d rather not know how she’ll end up in advance.” insisted Alma.

“As you wish. I would like to at least know if she’ll be human-ish.”

“Yep! She’ll look similar to me! I let Mila pick for herself, and now she looks more like Alma than me. Mariasha’s going to look like her mommy, but taller… eventually.” explained Aaliyah with a grin.

“More or less like your ‘Trixie’ persona then?” I questioned.

“Don’t you get any ideas, buster!” exclaimed Aaliyah as she pointed at me, looking cutely stern.

“Trixie?” asked Alma. “Oh, you’re referring to that time you ‘dated’, aren’t you.”

“They were good and legitimate dates!” insisted Aaliyah.

“Please, even you wouldn’t call them all ‘good’.” I stated.

“Would too! You were there!” she argued.

“She’s got you there, James.” teased Alma.

“Personally, I’m looking forward to having a little sister.” commented Mila. “Maybe she’ll help me babysit mother.”

“Hey! Be nice to your mommy!” complained Aaliyah as she crossed her arms.

“Always, mother, but I don’t want you getting lonely when I’m not babysitting you.” claimed Mila.

Aaliyah stuck her tongue out.

“So am I right about how she’ll look?” I inquired.

“Not entirely. She’ll eventually look like she could be my big sister after a short time of appearing as my younger sister!” exclaimed Aaliyah, grinning proudly.

“Given that your father’s involved, can I safely assume that she’ll be raised on Earth part of the time?” inquired Alma.

Nodding, Aaliyah said, “Yep! Daddy will enjoy seeing her grow! We’re going to have awesome parties, get into fights, and have awesome mother-daughter bonding time!”

“My poor sister… Won’t she learn not to attempt fighting you?” questioned Mila.

“Sure, but that won’t stop her from yelling at me!”

“Oh, mother. You know I’ll have to take her side at times. If she’s yelling at you, you probably deserve it.” stated Mila.

“Maaaaybe.” replied Aaliyah as she looked toward the ceiling.

I had to verify nothing new was up there for my own peace of mind, which made Aaliyah grin at me. Her pranks were lethal at times, though she always restored me afterward.

“What sort of abilities are you giving her?” inquired Alma.

Shrugging, Aaliyah said, “Oh, the usual… She’ll be immortal. Can’t have Mila outliving her little sis. She’ll be intelligent, so she can keep up around here when hanging out.” She looked between us and grinned. “On that note, I also gave her a little strength and speed.” Her grin suddenly seemed sinister as she told us “I might have also thrown in a little… Death.”

“That sounds worrisome.” stated Alma blandly.

“Don’t worry! Only those who attempt to harm her will die instantly. People should know better than to hurt my daughters. Right, Mila?”

“Yes, mother. You’re so terrifying.” replied Mila, perfectly monotone.

“As I recall, that necromancer is still around.” teased Alma with a smile.

“He plays a part in the Lilly Slayer’s growth, so no killing him yet. Don’t worry. I have an entire funland built for him!” exclaimed Aaliyah. “No feeling sorry for him, James. I know your sentiments, but I also know what he has done.”

I nodded, though I still disliked the idea of the hells she made. With a touch of her scythe, anything could simply cease to exist. Wasn’t that enough?

“Will she think of me as a sister, despite our different compositions?” questioned Mila.

“Of course! You shouldn’t doubt your sister before she’s even born!” insisted Aaliyah. Then she frowned and said, “Hey! Having a database on problematic sibling relationships doesn’t mean you two will have issues. Yes, I’ve read your papers on Psychology. No, I won’t play fair.”

“If our children eventually married and had kids, would they be inheriting some of your gifts?” questioned Alma.

I hadn’t even gone anywhere near that possibility yet. Given that Aaliyah’s daughter would surely be remarkable and around the same age as our eldest, I couldn’t deny the possibility of an attraction between the two now that the idea had been brought to light, but I wasn’t ready to be thinking of who my unborn child might marry yet. I wasn’t even ready to think of Dani eventually marrying, assuming she ever did. Her people were so different with regard to relationships.

“Maybe! Mariasha will have compatible genetics, and any children she eventually has will be spectacular, just like Mila’s.” replied Aaliyah.

“I still am annoyed you let me start hacking my own daughter. Did we really need to meet before I had fully considered the possibility of her?” demanded Mila.

Grinning, Aaliyah said, “No, but wasn’t it a little funny? You were both so cute!”

“Oh, mother. Actions like that are why I’m sure to be taking my sister’s side in arguments.” stated Mila.

“Jaaaames, Mila’s being mean to her mommy.” complained Aaliyah.

“Want to spank me for her, master?” asked Mila suggestively.

“Please, leave me out of it.” I told them, shaking my head.

“Mila, my husband always feels I’m being unfairly mad at him when you flirt like that in front of me. You should behave for his sake.” teased Alma.

“So sorry, but please don’t say things mother will take as aiding her. Telling me to behave when she’s making an appearance is too similar to taking her side, especially when we’re arguing.” replied Mila.

“I see your point. My apologies.”

The bantering continued for over an hour before I excused myself. Guests would be arriving for the party soon, and I wanted to make sure everyone else was prepared, though I didn’t doubt most of them would be. I had exceptional friends.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 362

After returning home on Monday, I needed to pop out of time for a few months on business. I felt sorry for Deyanira, knowing she had a class in the morning. Everyone’s sleep scheduled would be off for a bit, at least for those who needed sleep.

When I returned from work, mere minutes had passed for everyone else, but I had something rather important to do. Tuesday was Mila’s birthday, and Aaliyah had asked me to plan the decor, itinerary, and general entertainment. Mila was going to have her first birthday party.

This couldn’t be a quiet affair as Ai and Mai had chosen in France with their husband. This would be the first birthday on Earth for a fully sentient AI capable of managing my business across time and space flawlessly. To make matters more interesting, I had no idea who all had been invited to this party.

I could assume that anyone who would be invited would enjoy whatever I planned, given that Aaliyah already knew what I was planning, but I wanted this to be something particularly memorable for her. What did Mila consider memorable? What would she enjoy?

I felt that the morning arrived all too soon, but I knew I needed to finish the preparations. I jogged down to my least favorite room in the house and activated it after stepping inside. Distractions instantly surrounded me as my consciousness expanded, but I had a job to do.

First, I used the node’s magic to create Mila’s presents from Alma and me ― she had instructed me on what to create via telepathy. Then I created the decorations around my home and yard, having them appear in place. Luckily, Aaliyah reminded me to focus occasionally when distractions caught my attention.

“Not bad, boss-man, sir. Auntie would be proud!” she told me as I did some finishing touches. “That little girl’s parents will be most bewildered.”

I had to search through my recent memories before figuring out what she meant. Oops. A girl had been following a cat across the ledge of her apartment complex and fallen. When I was decorating, I might have tied a group of helium balloons around her waist as she fell.

“Don’t worry. Over a thousand people will mysteriously survive today, but that was meant to be.” she assured me.

Despite her words, I hardly felt reassured. I lacked the control necessary to wield such power safely. I didn’t deserve the option.

“And yet you’re guaranteed to always get it right. Act your age, boss-man, sir. You’re far too old to be worrying about things you can’t control.” she teased.

My head ached, but I gathered the presents with a spell and picked up Aaliyah with one arm. Two steps later, I answered my phone.

“Is Aaliyah with you?” asked Chad.

“Oh, yes. Is something wrong?” I replied.

“A month ago, she built this large machine in her castle. The thing is making a racket, they don’t have a clue what to do.” he explained.

“We’ll be right over.” I told him before hanging up the phone. Turning to her, I asked “Do I want to know?”

Grinning, she shook her head rapidly.

I hurried to the foyer, deposited the presents, and jogged at an all-too-human pace across the park. After briefly greeting the doorman, Aaliyah and I took the elevator upstairs and went into the apartment.

Stepping inside was strange for me, knowing that the last time I was here was in Chad’s future when he died. The beeps and whirring sounds were certainly not there before.

Aaliyah wiggled out of my arms, and ran toward the kitchen.

“Chad, we’re here. Aaliyah’s grabbing something.” I called.

He came out from the castle area and looked relieved. “I was scared that I somehow broke it.”

After walking over to him, I took a peek at the large machine making the noise. “What is it?”

“No idea. I’ve caught her feeding it cake though.” he told me.

“Cake?” I questioned.

“Yep! Cake!” exclaimed Aaliyah, coming up from behind us. She deftly stepped around her father and placed a plate into a hatch on the machine.

Not entirely certain I wanted to know, I still asked “Why does your machine need cake?”

“It doesn’t!” she giddily exclaimed.

“Then why would you waste cake?” questioned her father.

“She wouldn’t.” I flatly stated. “Aaliyah, what is this?”

“An artificial womb!”

My eyes were probably bulging as much as her father’s as my mind raced through the types of creatures I had seen.

“I don’t suppose a litter of puppies are going to come out in a basket…” suggested her father.

“No, silly. I’m having a baby!” she replied.

“What? How?” I questioned, worrying what might come out of this machine.

“You and Alma are having a baby, so why can’t I, boss-man, sir?” she questioned as she stared up at me.

“Aaliyah… you’re twelve.” stated Chad.

“Thirteen next month!”

“I think your father feels that’s a bit young.” I stated, considering how he’d probably feel she was too old if he knew the truth.

“You’re feeding an unborn baby cake!?” I exclaimed when my mind finally processed that part.

“Health report!” exclaimed Aaliyah.

A screen on the machine instantly lit up, displaying all sorts of numbers, and Aaliyah started explaining what each meant in enough detail to leave Chad sighing.

“Congratulations in advance on being a grandfather.” I told him, understanding his discomfort.

Unbeknownst to him, he was probably younger than me now, barely into his thirties. He made the mistake of asking who the father is, which turned into a lesson on writing DNA from scratch. Neither of us were willing to let her go too far on the subject. I looked forward to seeing my wife’s reaction when I told her about this.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 361

By Sunday evening, my group had flown to Northwestern France, landing in a field by permission of Alma’s acquaintance. Finally seeing the exterior of the spacecraft, Jarod couldn’t contain his comments. Ai and Mai were little better, though they were more interested in military application of the technology. Tearing them away to visit Mont-Saint-Michel took some time, but we managed and saw the lights of the island come alive as we crossed the bridge.

Luckily, the view of the place seemed to inspire the group. This last spot for our trip had been my pick, since I really wanted to see the beautiful architecture of the island. Most of the group seemed more keen on visiting another beach when I suggested the idea, but they came around. If I could tell them how many beaches I had seen between thousands of worlds, they might understand my lack of enthusiasm, but only Alma and Dani could share in those experiences.

The group merged with others as we stepped onto Grande Rue, a street lined with restaurants, souvenir shops, and hotels. Stopping periodically as members of the group spotted things they wished to purchase, Alma and I were careful to keep an eye on Dani in case her enthusiasm got the best of her.

Throughout our travels, Dani had seen a plethora of ruins dating back millennia, but she had never seen anything constructed within the past thousand years made of stone until she arrived on Earth. I had on other planets, but Dani hadn’t visited those yet.

Feeling someone trying to contact me, I allowed the telepathy to come through. Instantly I saw visions of Adelmar alone on an island. That man had the worst timing to be losing control, but I nodded to my wife. Telling the others that we would catch up later, I followed Alma to a secluded area where Aaliyah was waiting.

He noticed us immediately and screamed “NO! GET AWAY FROM HERE!”

“Don’t worry, my friend. You can’t hurt us.” I assured him.

Unfortunately, my words had the opposite effect. He lunged at me, jumping over one hundred yards with his fist aimed at my head. Grabbing his arms, I threw him to the ground and wrenched them behind his back. Spells meant to kill me appeared, but Adelmar regained enough composure to release them.

“I’m sorry.” he stated in a strained tone. “James, you should take my cousin and run. “I… argh…” The strain was building in his voice. “can’t stop… the change.”

Smiling, I said, “Don’t worry. I’ve wrestled dragons before.”

“Mother will be happy to see you. She might get rather upset that Dani isn’t with us this time, but I didn’t want my daughter to see you like this.” insisted Alma.

Adelmar’s eyes went wide as Alma showed him where we’d be going. His arms went limp in my grasp, and I felt a rippling under his skin.

Releasing him I jumped back to where my wife stood and watched as Adelmar’s form exploded out into that of a dragon with glistening, pale blue scales.

Aaliyah allowed herself to be seen, though she took the form of Death. Adelmar didn’t seem to care. His head was cocked sideways as he listened to the song of dragons calling to him.

She raised her hand and a gateway appeared over it, showing the world of dragons. His head immediately snapped toward the portal. Then, without a moment’s hesitation, Adelmar leaped through, and we followed.

“Welcome, Adelmar, to your home.” stated the dragon mother in a booming voice before lowering her enormous head to nuzzle him. Turning to the rest of the assembled dragons, she said, “The rest of you be warned: I have granted Adelina permission to coddle this child for his first month. Play nicely.”

At that, many of the dragons took to the sky leaving us behind. A few did stay to watch as Adelina swooped toward us from the East with another dragon I recognized, Arthur.

:Adelina is that really you?: questioned Adelmar telepathically.

“Yes, nephew.” she replied. “Allow me to introduce Arthur. He has volunteered to assist with your reeducation.”

:Reeducation? What do you mean?: questioned Adelmar warily.

“Your family history is chock-full of lies, so they mean to give some clarification on your family’s role on things.” I explained.

Adelmar snarled, but quickly winced as the dragon mother set her claw on top of him. He looked up pitifully as she released him.

:Alma, how have you been coming here? Why didn’t you warn me!?: he inquired.

“Sorry, but I didn’t come here until my honeymoon, during which many years passed for me.”

A vision of Dani when we first met her came to mind, sent to each of us. Then visions of her growing, playing here with the dragons.

Smiling at him, she then said, “I am much older than you now, cousin. James is even older yet.”

Aaliyah, now appearing as a child once more, called up at him “And don’t you dare get grumpy at them. I make them keep secrets. You should be used to it, given how you ran things.”

He swiped at her, but hit one of the giant claws of the dragon mother.

“Child, don’t die on your first day here. No one will bat an eye if she skins you and makes a chair from your corpse.” cautioned the dragon mother.

“Flee in terror, sure, but no eye batting.” teased Arthur with a toothy grin.

The dragon mother shoved him with the back of a claw, knocking him over. She smiled as he righted himself. Then she took a few steps away from us before flying off.

Alma and I spent several long days there, assisting Adelina and Arthur in helping Adelmar acclimate to his new life. Aaliyah messed with him constantly, but I felt she was aiding him in learning anger management. Freshly turned Slayers had years of pent-up rage to release, often taking months.

Arthur was there to ensure Adelina wouldn’t be hurt after we left. She was too close to Adelmar’s age to beat him easily were he to get aggressive, despite more experience as a dragon. Arthur, however, had hundreds of years to his advantage.

After numerous farewells and another visit from the dragon mother, Alma, Aaliyah, and I returned to France, mere minutes after we had left by Earth’s reckoning. Sadly, Adelmar’s son would be far worse for his family than Adelmar had been, but we were prepared.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 360

Achille jumped out of his chair and spun around when he noticed that I had arrived. Seeing her brother jump, Heloise ― the taller, blonde sister ― gaped at me.

The shorter sister with black hair, Babette exclaimed “Whoa! You’re actually here! We had heard you left the city this morning.”

“I did. They really didn’t tell you much about me when you were ordered to kidnap my daughter.” I stated, shaking my head.

“How is she your daughter? Aren’t you around our age?” asserted Achille, though his stance was submissive. He didn’t want to try fighting me.

“Dani is adopted, but she is every bit my daughter.” I assured him with a smile.

“Who is Hyun-woo?” questioned Heloise quietly. “You mentioned him when you released us.”

I sighed, realizing I should have expected that none of the three would know his name. Hyun-woo was someone who had pulled strings from behind the scenes for decades. Even their former boss was probably unaware of who had given the order.

“Hyun-woo was the son of a Slayer from decades back. He had challenged me for my wife’s hand and then instigated the attempted kidnapping of Dani. Removing his hand wasn’t enough of a demonstration for him.” I explained.

“Was?” inquired Babette with wide eyes.

“You removed his hand!?” questioned Heloise, gaping again.

“He passed away yesterday. Sorry for the family’s loss, but this was necessary.” I replied apologetically. Though I didn’t really think myself as part of the Slayer family, I was as far as any of them were concerned, so I tried not to be needlessly offensive.

Three sets of bulging eyes stared at me. Heloise looked frightened. Babette seemed impressed. Achille was looking at each exit and his sisters in turn, as if attempting to find an escape.

“Adelmar didn’t complain to me, so there is no need for you three to worry. I assure you that you’ll all be well-protected while in my employ.” I informed them. Seeing that they didn’t seem reassured, I said, “You were at least told I am married to Alma Pendreigh, weren’t you?”

Blood seemed to leave their faces, and I felt even more sorry for them. None of these three were particularly strong in magic by the standards of my household, but having some magic was enough for them to be forced into service. Their lives had been a series of difficult choices, but they managed to keep their family intact without doing anything too reprehensible.

“Don’t worry.” I stated. “My wife is not seeking revenge for the attempted kidnapping. She honestly thought the attempt was comical to watch, given your extreme lack of training compared with our daughter. Your faces when Raine restrained you were particularly amusing.”

“What is she?” asked Achille.

“Raine? She’s half-werecat and half-demon. I sent her to save you from Dani, since my daughter can be overly rambunctious when she’s having fun.” I explained, refraining from mentioning the more embarrassing instances Dani’s enthusiasm got the better of her. “I apologize for the cracked ribs, but I did see to having the expense covered by your former employer.”

“Demon, really? You have a demon that listens to you!?” demanded Babette.

“She’s actually employed by my company, though I hope you are quick to see that I think of my employees as friends. You all will be included in that friendship if you are willing to work for me. Raine is actually one of the sweetest people you will ever meet. She is a bit shy still, but I imagine you will get to know her during your stay in my home.”

“Do we really have a choice in this?” asked Heloise.

I shrugged and said, “More of a choice than you’re typically given, but I must admit that the alternative isn’t great. Working for me will ensure that you are safe, paid well, and eventually working here in France. Choose not to work for me, and you’ll be left to the good will of the family. I swear to you that none of my household will seek recompense for the little scuffle even if you decide not to join us.”

“If you’re not going to kill us, why did you have us meet you in an abandoned building?” asked Babette.

“This is a recent acquisition. Imagine stairs over here leading into the catacombs beneath us. We can have the front entrance over there, stairs past the box behind you leading to employee housing, and a recreational area in this that half.” I created illusions as I spoke to give an impression of what these things might look like. “I will, of course, give you three preferential treatment on room assignment and renovation suggestions, given that you’ll be the first of my French employees.”

“Why us?” asked Achille, still staring around at the illusions. “Why would you hire the people who were supposed to kidnap your daughter?”

“Waste not, want not?” I teased. “As I see things, you three owe me for saving you from Dani. If you had actually managed to injure someone, you would have seen her angry, which is much more dangerous than when she’s playing around as she was. Furthermore, I know you three have the potential to be truly amazing. You just need someone to give you the right opportunity, and I would be a terrible businessman to let such potential go to waste.“

The triplets looked between one another and the illusions, considering what I told them. I pressed my point by handing each of them a file on themselves. The files showed every last crime they had committed and their finances in the front. From there, details ranged from interests to secrets. However they cared to view what I handed them, they would be able to recognize that I knew far more about them than they would like.

After allowing them to peruse their files for a few minutes, I said, “Yes, I am still wanting to hire you. You can throw your misgivings out and stop worrying about your misdeeds coming to light. I already know. Our background checks at Best Friend For Hire are exceptionally thorough as you can see, and I want you to join us.”

Each of them had questions about how I had attained certain facts in the files, but I brushed their questions aside and insisted there would be plenty of time later to discuss such things. In the end, all three agreed, so I let them know when we would be picking them up. I saw good things in their futures.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 359

“Daddy, please!” begged Dani, her amethyst eyes taking on that pleading look she had mastered through years of begging me for things.

“Be careful. Jemal’s in charge. Call me if there’s any trouble.” I replied, staring them all down.

“You sure about this!?” asked Jemal nervously.

“What? You seemed fine with the idea until you were in charge.” I told him with a smile. “I’m sure you can handle a little shopping with the girls. Have fun!”

“We will!” insisted Maple

My wife and I we’re heading to the Palace of Versailles today. Cosette, Raine, Dejon, Brandon, Deyanira, Brenna, Emma, Aurora, Iris, and the twins were coming with us. Portentia and Maxine made a deal where Portentia would be accompanying Maxine to see another of her friends if Maxine went on patrol tonight. Aaliyah and Mila were off negotiating a deal on behalf of my company to procure some real estate.

Our private tour started in the gardens, much to Emma’s delight. Then we went on to explore the Hameau de la Reine. Despite the sun, Cosette smiled from under her umbrella. She’d drunk her fill this morning, and we had more blood stored for her in a cooler. I had worked a little magic to help redirect sunlight as well, and then created illusions to hide the unnatural shadows. Still, I felt for her, needing such extreme measures to tour her father’s old home.

After arriving in the billiard room, Cosette said, “I wonder what my father would think of this place now. Would he recognize it? The descriptions in his journals are similar, but would he complain about the differences?”

Knowing that Aaliyah would likely allow me to ask the man directly, I was somewhat tempted, but I knew I would feel guilty speaking with Cosette if I did. Being able to talk with the parents she missed so much just wouldn’t be fair.

“I’m sure he would be happy you could see it, whether or not it is quite the same.” replied Alma as she hugged Cosette’s shoulders.

Cosette seemed to tense under her touch for a moment. Though for my wife killing Louis happened decades ago, less than a year had passed for Cosette. I was thankful when she relaxed and leaned against Alma.

We spent a little more time in the village before heading off to the palace. Thanks to Adelmar’s notions of respect, a number of the people attending us in France knew who Cosette was and treated her like royalty here. I doubted any of them spoke with Adelmar regularly, so they were probably frightened of earning his ire should Cosette be displeased.

For her part, Cosette seemed to ignore the gestures, but I was certain she knew with how she started conversations as we approached any of the staff, avoiding any acknowledgement of their bows. She didn’t partake in the refreshments we were brought or respond to any of the meaningful comments of our guide. Some of the staff obviously noticed that she was wearing some of the “missing” crown jewels.

When we reached the second floor of the palace, my phone buzzed. Video footage from a security camera instantly played across the screen as I looked at it. Three people were attempting to capture my daughter, quite unsuccessfully.

“Raine, would you mind tying these three up?” I asked, showing her what was happening.

She was on the screen before I looked up from it.

“Please excuse me. I must inform someone of my sentiments toward kidnapping my family.” I announced. Then I ran out. The moment I was out of sight, Aaliyah transported me across the world.

“Hyun-woo.” I stated, making the man jump and rapidly spin around. “My secretary just informed me that you were behind the attempted kidnapping of my daughter. I’ve decided not to intervene on your behalf, since your family can be exceptionally slow learners. After Adelmar is informed of the situation, Aaliyah will be visiting to discuss the details of your demise. You have under five minutes to make any last arrangements you would like. Goodbye.”

He started casting several spells, but I sidestepped and returned to France, thanking Aaliyah for being so accommodating. Unfortunately, there would be many more moves against me in years to come. I had a very organized list thanks to my secretary. Still, I really didn’t like these matters.

“Sorry I took a bit to catch up.” I announced, stepping up from behind my friends and daughter. “I assure you this won’t happen again today. Please return to shopping while I have a chat with our new friends.”

“F-Friends!? You’re joking, right?” questioned Jemal.

At the same time, Dani said, “Thank you, daddy! Did you see the fight!?”

“Yes, you really need to work on pulling your punches.” I replied with a smirk. She had certainly cracked some ribs.

“Sorry, daddy.” she told me, faking an apologetic expression.

“Raine, they’re still touring Versailles if you want to see the rest.” I told her.

She looked hesitant for a moment, and then disappeared.

“Is this type of thing normal?” inquired Maple, looking worried.

“No, but I’ve got much to discuss with these three.” I told her.

“Come on! Daddy will be fine. Let’s go!” insisted Dani.

“Come on, Jemal.” agreed Kayla as she took his hand.

They’d be fine. After they were a ways off, I walked over to the three attackers and smiled. “Achille, Babette, and Heloise Marceau, correct?”

They looked frightened and surprised.

“I’ll be opening a French branch of my company soon. I need to give you some tests and obviously train you, but I have plans for you to be working for me. Hyun-woo is being dealt with, and your boss will soon be begging me to take you off his hands. I’ve already read through your files, and I think you all have marvelous potential. I’ve texted you where to go, so please be prompt. Tardiness is not a sign of an admirable best friend for hire.”

After I released their bonds with a spell, the trio stood, looking baffled. They’d fit in soon enough.