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 285

I had forgotten how vile the lands looked when a demon inhabited them. I was only human when last I fought one, and my eyes surely did not pick up on all the minute details. Even knowing Aaliyah as well as I did now, I was deeply impressed by what she created. The idea of even brushing up the sickly looking foliage was unpleasant, and I could imagine the faint odor of death all too well, having faced a real life necromancer.

I could barely see Raine with how she had pushed farther and farther into her chair. Cosette was still all cheer, untouched by any horrors in her past. I worried about Raine. I would never forget her cowering, hiding under a table from the screams of Mai and being surprised that the screaming wasn’t in her head. I never asked her why, why would she think that the screams weren’t real. Was she plagued by the voices of another place?

“Yes, she is.” stated Aaliyah.

Things were frozen again as Aaliyah casually lounged across my lap, resting her head on the arm of my chair.

“What is she hearing?” I asked.

“She feels the suffering of a god and the cries of his demons, so full of rage and despair that they have no concept of happiness or beauty.” she casually explained in a sing-song voice.

“Have you been there, where they are?” I asked.

She laughed and said, “Of course I’m there, silly. Even demons die.”

“Can you do something to help Raine?” I questioned.

“I have. I brought her to you. You’re doing wonderfully, boss-man, sir.” she claimed.

Shaking my head, I said, “Ha. There’s so little I can do for anyone. I’m just lucky Cosette isn’t holding a grudge against me for trying to keep knowledge of her parents’ deaths from her.”

“You’re right about one thing: Cosette doesn’t hold a grudge against you, not even a little one. I wouldn’t call it luck though. You’re just too charming, boss-man, sir.” she teased. “You do help people, all the time. The ‘little’ you do helps in big ways.”

I looked down into those big, blue eyes of hers. She was too adorable. “Why do you choose to look as you do?” I asked.

“Prefer me like this?” she teased, suddenly older and wearing far too little.

“As much as I enjoyed your company as Trix, no.” I firmly told her.

She reverted back to the tiny girl in her mismatched clothes much to my relief. Then she said, “I was born, I grew, and I became a cyborg. You remember. This is me. I’m my daddy’s little girl.”

“And so many other things.” I stated.

Sitting up, she poked my nose, looked me in the eye, and said, “But always my daddy’s little girl. He needs me, boss-man, sir.”

“What do you think of this area?” I asked, nodding toward the game.

“It’s gross!” exclaimed Cosette, sounding quite giddy.

Aaliyah was gone. Things were moving again.

“T-the animals are m-missing.” stated Raine.

“Ah. Yeah. They’ve probably been warped and are now following the demon, wherever he is.” I told them.

“Is he as cute as Raine?” teased Cosette.

I chuckled and said, “No, not even close. He’s quite horrific to behold.”

“That’s good. I don’t think I could summon up the will to attack Raine, except for hugs.” claimed Cosette.

“Att-attack hugs are qui-quite vi-vicious.” mumbled Raine, but she sounded like she was smiling.

“Oh, you know it!” exclaimed Cosette, just before leaping out of her seat at Raine.

There was much giggling, so I did my best to defend their characters.

“You’re lucky she didn’t pull the smithing hammer like she did on that goblin.” I teased.

“She uses the frying pan on me. Doesn’t hurt nearly as much.” claimed Cosette.

Giggling more, Raine said, “M-makes a n-nice sound.” She abruptly went silent.

I looked over at her in concern, realizing a moment later that she was hearing something. There was movement around us.

“C-Cosette! En-enemies!” exclaimed Raine in a loud whisper.

Cosette hopped into her seat with casual grace, instantly on the move as she landed. Without a word, all of us started sneaking along. We couldn’t talk. Talking in real life would carry through into the game and alert our foes. I made my character cast one of his few utility spells, further muffling the sounds of our passage. I wished I had powerful illusion magic at the moment. I might be able to incinerate the bears, but there was a chance the demon had granted these ones high fire resistance.

Raine’s character uncorked some sort of vial and dropped liquid behind us. Text appeared on my screen describing a pungent stench. I hoped she knew what she was doing. I caught sight of giant, mutated bears a couple times over the next couple minutes, but we continued avoiding them, not wanting to alert their master of our presence. He might well remember me.

The front doors of my home swung open, and I heard someone enter. Portentia was home. I could tell by her footsteps.

“Oh wow. Where are you, guys?” she asked shortly after walking into the room.

I turned to her, explaining briefly in sign language. The game had voice recognition along with other features to ignore extraneous sound, so Portentia’s voice shouldn’t alert enemies, though mine would.

I rapidly signed to my screen, asking Mila to explain in more depth. She was always watching. I should’ve thought of asking her sooner. Another of the large mirrors lit up, showing Mila’s avatar signing away.

More minutes stretched by before the bears finally wandered off. Cosette breathed out loudly before saying, “I never thought I’d feel so tense playing a game.”

Portentia laughed and said, “The game is pretty awesome. I never thought I’d get into a video game till I started. Looks like you guys are too far away for me to catch up.”

“Oh. Go to the guild hall. You can use the traveling stone to come straight to us.” I suggested.

“Nice!” she exclaimed. “I’ll be right there!”

Glancing at the time, I said, “You’re home early.”

“Quiet night. Captured a mugger, but that’s it.” explained Portentia.

I just nodded. A single mugger would be a quiet night for her. Feeling relatively safe where we were, we waited for Portentia to join us. Once she arrived, the four of us continued toward where the meteor had landed.

“Meteors can be pretty small. How are we going to find it?” asked Portentia.

“Cr-crater.” stated Raine.

“Yeah. I guess that makes sense if it’s a big one.” replied Portentia.

“I think we’re almost there.” asserted Cosette. “We’ll show you!”

I stopped, catching something out of the corner of my eye. I turned to look and saw the enormous demon walking toward the same place as us.

“Guys, we need to run.” I insisted.

“Noooo!” whined Raine.

I could see that she had turned to face it as well.

“Gather around, and I’ll use the stone.” I told them.

“No!” exclaimed Raine. Her character was shoving her backpack at mine, offering a trade.

“What!?” I asked.

“G-get my m-mats. I-I’ll show him a r-real d-demon.” stated Raine.

I accepted the trade and opened my mouth to talk her out of it, but she was gone. Her character was far, far faster than mine. I couldn’t believe how quickly she was gone.

“Let’s go!” I exclaimed, running toward the meteor site.

Portentia and Cosette followed. We weren’t even halfway there when the sky became even darker. I could see spells flying from the demon and explosions even after. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing on Raine’s screen.

The raid boss who wiped over twenty thousand people was getting hit by garden tools, smithing tools, kitchen tools, and a number of things I didn’t even recognize. The damage was laughable compared with its health but impressive for a single person. No doubt she had enchanted every last implement.

I hadn’t doubted that Raine’s reaction time was far beyond what any character could manage, but the way her character moved was really bizarre. She had strange sidesteps that moved her great distances nearly instantly, allowing her to avoid area of effect attacks that I could never dodge. She had some sort of instant duck move that allowed her to dive under swings at her head with ease. There was some roll move she used that ended in her character raising its arms as if presenting something.

“James, that’s a tree!” exclaimed Cosette.

Oops. I hoped I hadn’t been running into the tree for long. Bit distracted. Incredibly, Raine was still alive when we finally reached the crater where the meteor had landed, though the demon had called in its minions for reinforcements.

“Raine, can you make it to us?” I asked.

“J-just g-go.” she ordered.

I told the other two to hug the meteorite

“It’s too heavy to come with us. Give me a sec.” stated Cosette. She used a spell to boost our strength.

“U-use a p-potion too. In m-my b-bag.” muttered Raine.

I did as she said, passing out strength potions. I needed to get Raine to make me a new bag. Hers was vastly larger, mostly filled with crafting materials, but also holding potions, elixirs, and tools. Still, we were lucky Portentia came home. Cosette and I wouldn’t have been able to carry the meteorite without her, despite the boosts. Only items carriable by the group being transported could be taken along.

“I think that’ll do it. Hug the stone.” I ordered.

Nothing happened. I quickly typed in guild chat asking who online had the stone from our guild hall. I really should’ve given the guild a heads up several minutes ago.

“No, I’m not mad. I’m in a hurry. Nekopawpaw’s soloing a raid boss. We found the last of the demons, and I need to get her mats to safety.” I explained in guild chat.

That was the first time I saw guild chat stop moving for any length. There were several seconds with no response at all. Then chat erupted back to normal with several people saying they were “on it”, and many more asking if I was messing with them.

“Hey, Mila, could you put Raine’s fight on the guild’s magic mirror?” I asked.

“No, master, but I can instruct you how to scry with it.” she replied.

“Good enough. Let’s do this.” I told her.

Several of the nearby guildies were already staring at the meteorite, but Cosette and Portentia were guarding it.

In guild chat, I typed “No one goes near the meteorite, or you’ll earn Nekopawpaw’s ire. I’m putting what that entails on the magic mirror for any who doubt me.”

I was pretty sure most people in the area had hurried over, since the hall was filling quickly. Guild chat was alive with talk about our prized crafter facing off against a demon.

“J-James, I-I’m almost… almost out of p-potions.” stated Raine.

“I wondered what you were using to heal. I would’ve given you mine had I known you needed some.” I told her.

“I’ve u-used several h-hundred.” she mumbled.

Ouch. That was expensive.

“Think you can run away?” I asked.

“I-I… only had o-one speed p-potion, b-but I-I can… try.” she told me, weaving through enemies to dodge a giant fist.

The demon had killed countless of its own minions just trying to kill Raine. The thing was lucky her character couldn’t keep up with her in real life. Watching her bonking heads with hammers, pans, and other non-combat implements was somewhat comical as she took off.

“You’re heading the wrong way.” I mentioned.

“N-no. I d-don’t want it… f-following me h-home.” she stammered.

I guess that made sense. I had no idea how far this thing would try following her now. I’d muster our army, but there simply weren’t enough of us on at the moment to kill it. Most of our guild wouldn’t even be awake.

“What have you guys been doing?” asked Alma just after running into the room.

I nonchalantly told her “Raine’s been demonstrating how to solo a demon.”

“I hardly believed the messages I was receiving, but seeing her… what are those moves?” she asked.

Nearly at the edge of the demon’s horde with it on her tail, Raine started explaining where various things she was using were obtained. The strange roll maneuver she had was “Present the Dish.” from cooking. “Check the Oven” and “Stove Dash” were also from cooking.

As she continued, every last move came from one type of crafting or another, but her crafting skills were far higher than even my combat skills, granting her huge boosts to the effectiveness of the moves.

“For someone who abhors violence, you certainly understand it.” stated Alma.

“W-why else would I ab-abhor it.” replied Raine.

I chuckled even as Alma rolled her eyes.

Cosette and Portentia were both standing by Raine, watching her screen and cheering her on.

Several tense minutes later, Raine was still running, but the demon was too fast. Luckily, all of its horde was left behind, allowing her to dodge more easily.

“You should’ve stayed behind for her.” stated Alma, gripping my hand.

“Then the meteorite couldn’t have gone through.” I told her.

“Oh. I see.” she replied. “We could go meet her.”

“Even if everyone drops what they’re doing and comes to join us, do you think we’d stand a chance?” I asked.

She sighed and said, “No, we would not.”

“I-it’s okay. W-we have m-my mats!” exclaimed Raine.

“You mean that I have your mats!” teased Cosette, trying to laugh villainously.

“Don’t worry, Raine. I wouldn’t let Cosette steal from you.” stated Portentia.

Cosette lunged at Portentia, who easily dodged.

“James! Help! My food is avoiding me!” exclaimed Cosette, fangs now evident in her mouth.

I caught Alma’s mouth twitch while I started laughing.

“Shh… y-you’re startling Pufflewink.” warned Raine.

A quick blast of energy partially caught Nekopawpaw, damaging her again.

“A-all out.” muttered Raine. Then she turned and attacked the demon with a giant frying pan. “B-bad demon.”

“It’s..” I started, hardly believing the stars now floating around the demon’s head.

“You dazed it! Run!” exclaimed Alma, gripping the back of Raine’s chair.

Mila then said, “Wow. There’s a less than one percent chance of that move ever effecting this demon at your current skill level. If you dive into the cave northwest of you, the demon won’t be able to follow.”

“There’s a cave?” I asked.

“Oops. Mother’s going to yell at me for giving away spoilers.” claimed Mila.

Raine hadn’t hesitated at all. She quickly veered northwest and took off into the cave, using some sort of charm to create light as she hurried deeper. When she looked back, the demon was clawing at the entrance, ripping it apart and causing part of the cave to collapse.

Guild chat was still busy with people talking about what just happened. People were cheering her on.

“What!? You’re logging off there?” demanded Alma, upon seeing Raine hit the logout button.

“I-I w-work soon.” she mumbled.

“Oh. I can try distracting your boss if you like, so you can call in sick.” offered Alma.

“Th-thank you, but I-I’ll be okay. We g-got it!” she exclaimed.

“I’ll see that the meteorite makes it to your shop.” I told her.

She got up, thanked everyone again, and headed off toward her room.

“I must say that I am most impressed.” stated Alma.

“Think you could really distract me?” I teased.

She rolled her eyes before staring up into mine and saying, “You, my darling, are quite easily distracted.”

I had to admit that I felt distracted already.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 282

I looked cool. I knew I looked cool, but the tightness of the suit wasn’t remotely comfortable, and I couldn’t really claim to look heroic. My suit was straight black. The material was textured with the center of my chest having an emblem that matched Calamity’s. “The Shade of Calamity” was the agreed upon name between my friends. The name was meant to further demonstrate that I was just a sidekick, since I shouldn’t be outshining the hero herself.

I was using magic to bend light around me inconsistently, creating dark areas in deeper darkness over the whole suit. Alma had helped me tailor the spell to cover the cape well, since my initial attempt was less than perfect. In a darkened room, I’d practically be invisible. In the light, I looked as an ever-shifting shadow free of any person projecting me. Due to how the light was being shifted, I didn’t actually cast my own shadow, which I thought was pretty neat.

“James, I see him.” stated Portentia.

“I’m coming.” I replied.

Both of our suits had a large number of electronics built into them, letting Mila track all sorts of information as well as project speech onto Portentia’s eyepieces. I didn’t even realize Mila was helping in Portentia’s crime-fighting until tonight. With Mila’s aid, Portentia was able to find out where crime was happening in real time, greatly increasing the number of crimes she stopped per day.

The only reason Portentia used her ticket tonight was because she had confronted a “supervillain” last night after Jarod’s reception. The man was stronger and faster than her, able to elude her easily. Oddly, her account of the encounters made no mention of the man attempting to fight her. He just broke free of her grip and ran repeatedly.

I crouched next to Portentia on the second floor balcony of the abandoned church. Then I touched her shoulder to make sure she knew I was there. A faint, red circle surrounded a man’s head through my suit’s lenses.

“That’s him?” I asked in a whisper.

She nodded.

The man was overweight, possibly in his mid-fifties. His balding head had a mix of brown and grey hair. His suit was surprisingly immaculate, save for being a bit large on him.

“What has this guy done?” I asked.

“Watch, master.” stated Mila.

The lenses of my suit illuminated with poor quality video, probably from a security camera. The man grabbed a woman as she was passing an alley, pulling her into it. The poor quality of the video made me question whether this was the same man, but the clothes and recognizable features were very similar if not identical.

“They might have known each other.” I suggested.

“All I found was her phone and one of her shoes.” replied Portentia.

“Who’s the other guy?” I asked.

“Michael T. Williams, a petty thief with a large rap sheet.” replied Mila, displaying his convictions for me.

“Fine-fine. Shall we jump down and greet them then?” I asked.

Portentia grinned and jumped.

“You again? I told you to leave me alone!” exclaimed the balding man.

I jumped behind them.

“Hey! I haven’t done anything!” exclaimed Michael.

“Today.” stated Portentia. Then she pointed to the balding man and said, “You still haven’t told me what happened to that woman?”

“What woman?” he replied with an amused tone.

“Marla Allen.” she told him.

“You keep following me, and I’m going to have to hurt you, Calamity.” he claimed. “Yes, I’ve heard about you.”

I grabbed his shoulder and said, “Just don’t.” The distortion provided by the suit was pretty neat sounding.

The man sneered and seemed to melt under my grasp. I clutched his wrist, but his body might as well have been a thick goo. I quickly created a spell Alma had shown me for dealing with slippery vampires, hoping it’d work as I tried to grab him a few more times. Releasing the spell, I took a step back and watched the man float into the air. His eyes went wide and he made a few attempts to force his way out, but there wasn’t a way without magic as long as I could maintain the spell.

“What are you people!?” exclaimed Michael.

“Superheroes, Michael T. Williams. We know where you live. Don’t go back to crime. We’ll know.” stated Portentia. Then she motioned for him to leave.

He ran quickly, stumbling over debris in his haste.

The balding man was still fighting to break free, but the spell reacted to motion, creating a telekinetic force to oppose any movement that would break its boundaries. Against humans, the spell was dangerous, potentially cutting them off from air. Fortunately, this man didn’t seem very human.

“Are you a vampire?” I asked.

He glared at me.

“If you’re not, I don’t want you to suffocate.” I told him.

“I’m not then. Release me.” he replied, obviously lying.

“We can’t hand him over to the police.” I stated.

Portentia nodded but said, “We can’t let him go either if he’s a murderer.” She sounded determined.

“Master, a phone just turned on, possibly inside him.” stated Mila. “He attempted to call a John Smith, probably an alias.”

“Who are you calling?” asked Portentia. “Your boss?”

Shock was quite evident on the man’s face.

“I’m sorry, but this is probably the worst city for whatever endeavors you hope to accomplish.” I told him.

Portentia stepped between the man and me and started signing <Should we turn him over to Alma?  She’ll just kill him.  I haven’t actually caught an older, bad vampire before.  You’re sure he is one, right?>

I nodded. :Aaliyah, is this man a murderer?: I asked in my head.

:Oh, he’s killed people, boss-man, sir, but he always believes in his reasons. He came to town planning to avenge his boss, his friend, whom Alma had killed.: she replied.

Back and forth they went. Slayers killed vampires, vampires killed the family of the Slayers.

“Call Zachary Blood.” I stated.

“Who’s that?” asked Portentia.

I smiled and said, “He knows. His new jailor.”

“Jailor? What’s this? Are you in town?” asked Zachary.

“No, but I was hoping you could speak to a vampire for me about coming to visit you. He murdered someone, upset the local superhero, and is going to get himself killed at this rate.” I explained.

“Oh, I see. Thank you. Please, put him on.” stated Zachary.

“Mila, can you add him to the call?” I asked.

“Of course, master.” she replied.

“Hello?” asked the man, his voice quivering.

The conversation was brief, but I simply let the man go afterward.

“That’s it? Why wouldn’t he run?” demanded Portentia.

“He won’t. He gave his word to one of the eldest vampires in the world, someone I believe he respects.” I told her.

“But…” started Portentia.

I interrupted her, saying, “I trust him. Trust me on this. He won’t cause any more trouble.”

“Fine, but there are still some bad guys out there. Is Mila showing you the gunfire near the docks?” asked Portentia.

“Let’s go stop a gang fight.” I told her, lifting her and running.

With my help, Portentia made a new personal record for crimes stopped in a night. The gang members were fortunately human and easily subdued. We left them for the police and ambulance after a bit of first aid and plenty of duct tape. Mila was great at leaving “tips from Calamity” through anonymous texts, calls, and emails, which she did repeatedly as we stopped a number of smaller crimes before the sun rose. Overall, I felt good about the night.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 281

I felt a touch guilty in the morning when so many people headed groggily to the airport. We had been up fairly late, playing Ancient Tribes of Earth together. Our visiting guildmates loved seeing the setup we used after the ballroom had been cleared of the wedding supplies. I hoped the lack of sleep didn’t cause them issues as they headed home.

Jarod and the twins departed as well, already leaving for Japan. I was certain Ai and Mai would take advantage of his sleep-deprived state in some way, but he wouldn’t mind. He married them after all. Well, I didn’t really know if this counted for marrying both yet or not. Only one went through the ceremony as a bride so far, but with minds linked as theirs were, they both would have experienced it. The idea still seemed a bit odd to me. I didn’t really think I’d like experiencing multiple bodies, but that was all they knew.

“James, are you ready?” asked Alma as she stepped into my office.

“Ready?” I asked.

“We need to start planning our wedding.” she stated.

“Here you are, Alpy!” exclaimed Aaliyah as she ducked around her and handed her paperwork.

“What are these?” asked Alma, already looking through them. “Oh.”

“Yep. All the paperwork you need to sign as well as a few for your father. Everything’s booked and ready to go.” stated Aaliyah.

“Wait. What? You picked a date for us?” I asked, feeling a bit startled. I did want to marry Alma, but was I really ready to be a husband? I hadn’t been ready to become a fiancée just yesterday. I could feel Alma’s magic boiling within her hidden away from most as her temper was hidden behind the impassive expression she bore.

“Aren’t you getting a little presumptuous?” demanded Alma, her temper coming through in her tone.

“Want to fight about it?” offered Aaliyah, cracking her neck and knuckles simultaneously as she turned to Alma.

For a moment, I thought Alma might try, but good sense apparently won out. Fighting Death would always be a terrible plan.

After a long pause where Alma stared down Aaliyah, she said, “Did you even bother considering how much I’ll have to rearrange make this date work?”

Nodding, Aaliyah said, “Yep! I started preparations for you months ago. You’ll find the day and following week surprisingly clear, the perfect day for a wedding.”

“What? That’s preposterous. How could you possibly have known that…” started Alma, before being interrupted.

Aaliyah spoke over her, saying, “If you really want to know the variables that could be considered in determining that exact date from the moment I started preparations, you’ll need to clear your schedule for the next month. I assure you that you’ll give up trying to follow along by that time.”

“James! Help me here. You simply cannot be okay with this.” insisted Alma.

“What’s the date?” I asked.

“March twenty-third.” snapped Alma.

“Oh, look. My schedule’s free.” I told her, not bothering to actually check. I knew Aaliyah would have taken care of whatever was needed.

She sighed and stated “You’re incorrigible. You’ve let her control your life for too long.”

“No, I simply trust her to know what’s best far better than I’d ever manage. We traveled in time yesterday to make Jarod’s wedding. How often do you think Aaliyah takes advantage of Carl’s abilities? I imagine that Aaliyah’s already seen our wedding.” I told her.

Aaliyah nodded enthusiastically and asked “Want spoilers!?”

“No!” exclaimed Alma, though her anger was subsiding.

“She’s tempted to ask for a peek.” teased Aaliyah.

“I most certainly am not!” snapped Alma as she blushed.

“Oh, Alpy… I said you were tempted, not that you’d give in to your temptation.” explained Aaliyah, reaching up to pat her arm.

“There’s that as well.” I stated. “Knowing what everyone is thinking has to make planning easier.”

“James, she cannot possibly know what everyone is thinking. There are far too many people in this world.” she told me.

“No spoilers, boss-man, sir.” stated Aaliyah.

I had been thinking about the other worlds I had visited, considering if Aaliyah could read each civilization’s thoughts. Wait… spoilers… did that mean Alma would see them eventually? I would love to share them with her.

“Spoilers? What do you mean?” demanded Alma.

“Spoilers!” exclaimed Aaliyah. “I know a great guy who has trouble resisting spoilers. You wouldn’t believe in him either, Alpy! He’s a time traveler.”

“Lovely. Another one.” stated Alma with a frown.

“Oh, no. He’s not like Carl. He’s just a youngin’. Wonderful person though.” claimed Aaliyah.

“Great. Now she’s coming. I really was hoping she was heading elsewhere.” muttered Alma.

“Who?” I asked.

“Portentia, boss-man, sir. She wants to use a ticket tonight.” explained Aaliyah.

“Oh. Do I have plans?” I asked.

“Yes, master. Mother scheduled you to be out with Portentia tonight, so you have plans with her.” Mila stated over the speakers.

I had no clue where her bodies were at the moment. I hadn’t seen her since she brought me tea a bit ago.

“She’s cooking with Marco and instructing Aurora.” replied Aaliyah.

“Correct!” exclaimed Mila.

“Aurora? Is that Jarod’s lab assistant?” asked Alma.

“Also correct!” exclaimed Mila.

“I still haven’t met her. Jarod had mentioned her to me a while ago. He apparently thought I might be concerned about a girl frequenting the garage. Surely, he knows I trust him by now.” stated Alma.

Knowing Jarod, he probably figured out that Alma had some means of sensing people. I wasn’t surprised that he’d be a step ahead of any assumptions Alma might make, but how would Alma take Aurora’s tendency to remove her clothing?

Alma then went on to say, “I’m quite interested in meeting her at some point. Anyone Jarod would accept as a lab assistant simply must be fascinating.”

I wasn’t certain Alma would approve.

“She’s quite fantastic, I assure you.” insisted Mila.

“Oh. You’re busy.” stated Portentia disappointedly from the doorway.

I waved for her come in and said, “I have a moment. What do you need?”

“I was just wondering if tonight would work for you to be my sidekick. I wanted to use one of my tickets.” she told me.

“Sounds wonderful.” I assured her.

“Thank you! Mila’s fabricating a costume for you.” she informed me.

“Oh, this I simply must see. Shall we all head to Jarod’s lab?” inquired Alma.

I quickly tried coming up with an excuse not to go there, since I wasn’t inclined to have Alma meet Aurora when Jarod wasn’t around.

“Only if we get to force James into his costume! I want to see it!” exclaimed Aaliyah.

Well, maybe things would work out.

She winked at me.

Standing, I said, “Fine-fine. Let’s go.”

We all headed down to the lab under the garage, and I was quite thankful that Aurora was fully dressed for the moment, though I wondered if Mila somehow managed to get her that way in preparation for our arrival. If Aurora noticed us, she made no sign of it.

“How old is she?” asked Alma.

At nearly the same moment, Portentia inquired “Who is she?”

“She’s sixteen.” stated Mila. At the same time, she signed

While the group of us coming down the lift didn’t catch Aurora’s attention, Mila signing did. The girl started making hand motions herself, though nothing that had meaning to me. At that point, Mila turned her to face us. Aurora’s only reaction was to tilt her head as if trying to figure out what we were.

Smiling, Alma said, “Hello, Aurora. I’m Lady Alma Lucy Pendreigh V.”

No reaction.

Portentia introduced herself as well.

Aaliyah held up a paper, but I couldn’t see what was on it.

Aurora walked over to her, picked her up, and went back to working on something.

“Did Jarod mention that Aurora’s not socially adept yet?” I asked.

“No, but I guessed as much” replied Alma.

“Is something wrong with her?” asked Portentia, sounding concerned.

“I wouldn’t say anything was wrong, but she is different.” I told her. “She’s an autistic savant who Jarod says has remarkable potential.”

Alma, who had walked over to where Aurora was working, said, “I’m inclined to agree.”

“Oh?” I asked.

“Do you see what Aaliyah drew?” she asked.

I looked and said, “Some sort of schematic.”

“Aurora understood it at a glance and is implementing the design into her own work already, some sort of propulsion system going by the arrangement of the fans.” stated Alma.

“Correct!” exclaimed Mila. “Aurora’s helping Jarod design a lightweight flight system. Mother just pushed things forward a bit with her suggested revision to the power control circuit.”

“Couldn’t you do this even faster?” asked Alma.

“I certainly could do some of it faster, but Aurora’s also here to learn.” replied Mila.

As she talked, Aurora walked over to me, seeming to examine me. Then she grabbed the front of my shirt and walked back to where she was working, pulling me along. She let go the moment we were back at her computer, so she could move the mouse with her free hand.

“Does she want me to see something?” I asked.

Aaliyah looked up at me and said, “Nope. You were in the wrong place is all. She didn’t want you electrocuted.”

“Huh? By what?” I asked.

“She’s picturing a very large version of the machine in the room.” explained Aaliyah.

“Master, your suit’s finished!” exclaimed Mila.

I wasn’t honestly looking forward to tonight’s excursion, but looking like a superhero might be fun. Things could be worse.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 265

“Enough of this. Quiet.” commanded Izumi in Japanese, looking between her daughters. She seemed to ignore Jarod entirely.

Speaking in English, Alma stated “I don’t believe the master of this house understands Japanese.”

“Actually, I do now.” I commented in Japanese. Then, in English, I said, “But I would prefer if we all were to stick with English while around my staff. I believe introductions are in order.”

A smile had flickered across Alma’s face. Was she pleased that I learned Japanese or that I insisted on introducing my friends?

“I believe you already know Mary Wilson. This is her daughter, Emma.” I explained, placing a hand on Emma’s shoulder.

She performed a small curtsy, and Izumi nodded in reply.

“Emma tends to the grounds with her magic, and I can assure you that you’ll find our vegetables exemplary if you dine with us this evening.” I insisted. Noticing my little fairy friend entering the hall, I went on to say, “I regret to say that the forest is off limits without first signing a contract. I’ve been informed trespassers meet an untimely demise, but feel free to negotiate with my secretary, Aaliyah T. Sypher, if you wish.”

Izumi paled slightly at the mention of Aaliyah’s name. Did she quarrel with her before, or was she simply informed of Aaliyah’s other names? Duncan certainly had seemed informed, so I would imagine his mother was. His sisters, on the other hand, merely knew Aaliyah as an assassin.

I heard Aaliyah’s voice, as if she whispered in my ear, “She’s seen Death, boss-man, sir.”

“That… will not be necessary.” stated Izumi. Her tension seemed to turn to fascination as she caught sight of my little friend.

“Ah. This little one’s a dear friend of mine. Unfortunately, she seems a bit perturbed, having been left behind in my office. Meeting the rest of the fey truly is an interesting experience, so please do consider the contract. Adelmar seemed to enjoy the experience.” I confessed, though I was mentally trying to appease my little friend.

“Oh, my cousin most certainly would recommend the experience.” insisted Alma.

“I will certainly consider your suggestion.” replied Izumi.

My little friend took a seat on my shoulder, leaning against my neck. She seemed happy enough to behave, so I moved onto Marco, saying, “This is Marco Rossi, our phenomenal chef. I have yet to find a meal he doesn’t create exquisitely in a multitude of variations.”

“Too kind. Too kind.” insisted Marco as he smiled.

I then stepped behind Cosette and said, “This lovely lady is named Cosette. She’s fairly new to my company, but she is showing tremendous promise.”

“Enough promise that she was offered France, though she has yet to accept.” interjected Alma.

Izumi’s head jerked to look at Alma with her eyes wide before turning to take a longer look at Cosette.

“Well, I am just as happy to keep her here.” I declared as I stepped over by Portentia. Signing as I spoke, I said, “Portentia has been with my company since September, and she has proven to be quite gifted as a best friend in my company.”

“Her skills with a staff and unarmed combat are very formidable. I can attest that you would be most impressed with a demonstration.” added Alma.

“This would interest me.” replied Izumi with a nod.

As she spoke, Portentia signed to me, saying, “You know sign language now?”

“I’m sure that can be arranged.” I told them, as I signed to Portentia, saying, “Sorry for the delay.”

“You’re amazing.” she insisted. “I could have taught you if you had asked.”

“Sorry. Bit late now.” I replied. Noticing Izumi watching our hands, I quickly said aloud, “My apologies. Portentia is deaf, so I was translating and grew distracted.”

Izumi told me “No offense taken.”

“Next is Brandon. He joined my company last June with his sister, but I believe she’s out on a job at the moment.” I explained.

“Sure is, boss. I’m pretty amazing too, by the way. Check this out!” exclaimed Brandon as his arm tripled in size.

Izumi seemed less than impressed.

“He and his sister have different talents, but they’re both valued friends here.” I assured her. “Jarod has been my best friend practically since we met and joined my company soon after Aaliyah. She personally taught him how to fight, as Duncan surely mentioned, and he has great expertise in numerous fields. He easily could have retired already if he was a much lazier sort.”

Jarod grinned ear to ear and kept his arms around Ai and Mai while saying, “Thanks, man.”

Izumi didn’t seem to being paying attention, watching my little fairy friend instead.

“Allow me to introduce Mila.” stated Alma, gesturing toward her. “Though she could easily pass for my sister, you surely realize I’m an only child. Mila is quite possibly the most accomplished and capable maid you’ll ever find, Adelmar’s staff included. Being multiple places at once certainly has advantages.”

“Thank you, Lady Pendreigh.” replied Mila as she curtsied. “Your kindness is always appreciated.”

“Multiple places at once?” inquired Izumi.

“I’m an artificial lifeform. Duncan’s description of me was quite inadequate, I’m sure, but I didn’t have this body when he was here.” explained Mila. Then her voice came from the walls as she said, “I am quite capable of running the house, cars, and numerous other devices without the slightest stress. In fact, my current hardware is sufficient to quite easily electronically isolate your country without the slightest lag in any of my duties, so you can imagine how difficult swatting a company is for me.”

Was Mila threatening her? I could understand the temptation when dealing with Alma’s family, but that seemed a bit extreme.

“Thank you, Mila. I am certain she’s not exaggerating even slightly, Mrs. Drache, considering the things I’ve witnessed.” warned Alma. “We try to stay on Mila’s good side.”

“I would not have even known you were artificial.” stated Izumi. Turning to me, she asked “Who constructed this android?”

I motioned to Jarod.

He told her “Mila and I did a large amount of the design and construction, but Aaliyah took care of her skin, eyes, and hair.”

“You had some great insights for hair growth.” argued Mila.

Jarod shrugged, but Izumi looked surprised.

“Jarod has his own lab under the garage here, since he’s also kind enough to do some mechanic work for everyone. His engine design is absolutely incredible.” I informed her.

“Yeah. The boss got Jarod to hook up my sis and me for our birthdays. Our cars are amazing!” exclaimed Brandon.

“I don’t want you to merely take our word on Jarod’s accomplishments, of course, so I’ve arranged a little demonstration for you if you’ll be kind enough to follow us into the east wing.” stated Alma as she motioned toward Ai and Mai’s domain.

“I would not doubt your word, of course, but I will gladly accompany you.” replied Izumi, though she didn’t seem remotely glad.

In fact, I would say she was halfway lying on the second part.

“Marco, would you mind serving us tea there?” asked Alma.

He winked at her and headed toward the kitchen. As she started walking, Izumi followed at her side. Ai and Jarod walked behind them, but Mai started chatting with Mila, surprisingly, coming behind the rest of us as we walked.

“What did you think of James’ latest fight?” asked Alma on the way.

“Impressive.” stated Izumi. “I would not have thought to see a fight such as that.”

“What’d ya do, boss?” asked Brandon. “You punch some guy’s face off?”

“What!? No. I didn’t strike him at all. There wasn’t really any fighting, precisely. Walis Shiqatafatu demonstrated his prowess at magic, and I suggested he surrender, which he did.” I replied.

Brandon guffawed and said, “Oh man… I bet he was shocked.”

“Quite.” stated Alma, turning her head to speak to us.

“I’m sure James would grant you a friendly sparring session if you get in the mood.” suggested Alma.

“No.” blurted Izumi. “Thank you, but I must decline.”

“James, you’re planning on expanding your company to Japan one day, aren’t you?” inquired Alma.

“I’m open to the possibility, yes.” I replied.

“If he and I were to wed, he’d have the right to challenge for his pick of land there. Do you think anyone would oppose him?” she asked Izumi.

The woman didn’t respond, but I noticed her stiffen slightly. Was going this far really necessary? I couldn’t imagine myself purposefully entering into that sort of dispute if my chances with Alma weren’t at stake. I could only assume that Mai discussing wedding dress designs with Mila was also part of Alma’s ploy, since the twins were definitely not that attached to Mila. I’d wager Izumi’s hearing was even better than the twins’.

Once we arrived, Alma said, “Please excuse me for a moment while I get changed. Emma, would you mind providing some seating for us while I’m away?”

Alma ran toward her wing without waiting for a reply.

“Oh… Well, I didn’t bring any seeds with me. Care if I ruin a bit of your varnish?” asked Emma, looking to Ai.

Ai rolled her eyes and pulled chopsticks out of her hair, causing her bun to come apart. Then she said, “Let’s see what you can do with bamboo.”

“Hmm… I’ve a few ideas.” claimed Emma with a grin. The chopsticks rapidly grew into chairs for each of us as well as a table. Giant leaves formed over layers of smaller leaves, creating cushions over the chairs. “Should be cozy!” exclaimed Emma as she hopped on one. “Don’t worry. I made super thick cuticles over the leaves, so nothing should stain your clothes.”

Though similar in structure, there were distinct differences in the frames compared with Emma’s usual work, as if she wanted to highlight the type of wood used.

“Your thoughtfulness is appreciated. My son had spoken well of you, but seeing your gift in person is a delight.” stated Izumi.

“I’m honored to be of service to my friends’ mother.” replied Emma. “That’s what we do here at Best Friend For Hire: take care of our friends.”

“These look quite comfortable. Thank you, Emma.” commented Alma after arriving a moment later, now wearing a form-fitting outfit covered in some sort of armored plates.

I vaguely remembered seeing that outfit before. Given the blurriness to the memory, it was from before my change.

“Shall we begin?” she asked with a smile.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 256

“Son, what happend to you?” asked father when he finally spoke.

“Well, I learned that I was capable of doing magic shortly before I graduated. Regina and I were practicing together.” I admitted.

“What!? Regina knew about this?” asked mother, shock evident in her voice.

“I found out she was capable of using magic when we attended Prom, though I suspected as much a little sooner.” I explained.

“But son… how did you find out that you were a… magic user?” inquired father.

I glanced at Alma, and she merely nodded at me. I hoped this meant she agreed that Emma wouldn’t mind. I then said, “Emma tested Jarod and me after demonstrating her own abilities.”

“Emma is on this as well?” asked mother.

“Everyone who works for me knows about magic, though not all of them can use it.” I replied.

“I refuse to believe there can be that many people throwing spells around. Everyone would know about it.” stated father.

“There has always been a fear in such people that they would be persecuted if they should show their power. I assure you the fear is quite valid.” stated Alma.

I wondered how valid the fear would be if her family stopped being the persecutors, but I told my parents “Even if they would be accepted by most of the world, there’s a group that actively seeks out the more dangerous types of people you’d deem to be supernatural. Draw too much attention, and they will intervene.”

“Back up a minute. You said Jarod could do magic, right?” asked father.

“No. Emma tested him, but he can’t do a thing with residual energy, much to his chagrin.” I replied.

“Residual energy?” he inquired.

“There are different types of magic. The type I use takes leftover energy from different types of magic and forms it into spells.” I informed him.

“So you can only do magic when someone else is casting spells around you?” he asked.

“Well, no. There’s a great deal of energy in the world. A great deal more is available throughout this house now that I’m not living here. I was born a bit unusual in that my body will actually absorb the energy and create a potent spell around me.” I informed them, glancing at mother as well.

Father looked dubious as he asked “What sort of spell?”

“James emits a type of enchantment that causes those in his vicinity to be endeared to him.” stated Alma. “I took notice of him primarily because of it.”

My parents were looking at one another wordlessly, and mother gripped father’s hand.

“Trust me, the news came as a bit of a shock to me as well. I inadvertently affect everyone and don’t have a reasonable way to stop it.” I told them.

“There is a way though?” asked mother.

“Well, yes, to an extent. If I want to walk around completely defenseless, I could.” I replied.

“James would be in grave danger if that were to happen, so he doesn’t really have a choice.” affirmed Alma.

“James, dear, how did Regina… how did she… die?” asked mother.

“She was killed by a werelion. Regina died saving my life.” I told her.

“A werelion!?” demanded father.

“Yes. You’ve surely heard myths about werewolves. Think of a similar creature related to lions instead of wolves.” replied Alma. “There are many types of therianthropes.”

“Son, you can’t possibly expect me to believe this.” asserted father.

“You’ve seen some of what I can do. Is there really no room for werewolves and werelions? What about vampires? I know a couple. I can introduce you if you like, assuming they don’t mind. Would you like to meet a fairy? My little friend spends a great deal of time around me.” I informed him.

“James… what were you doing near such a creature?” inquired mother.

“Luke, my trackmate, was one of many werelions. He killed Nathan at school in a fit of rage, and I came across them. We hadn’t known there were so many… We wouldn’t have stumbled into their trap if we had.” I insisted.

“I’m sorry, son, but why would you pursue such a creature? What were you planning on doing? Kill him?” asked father.

“If necessary. We couldn’t exactly tell the police.” I replied.

“Son, did you…” he started to ask.

“No. I’ve never killed anyone.” I assured him.

“Then they’re still out there?” asked mother, looking worried.

“No. They’re dead. The entire group is dead.” I stated.

“What?” asked father.

I felt Aaliyah would stop me if she felt this was too much, so I went ahead and said, “This will probably be the hardest thing for you to accept, but Death is real, scythe and all. I had nightmares for that entire month after seeing her. When Regina fell, Death appeared. She lifted her scythe, and they were gone. There weren’t even bodies left.”

Nodding, mother said, “I remember you being out of touch… I just thought you were taking Regina’s death hard.”

“I really was, but the nightmares were beyond the death of a friend. You don’t ever want to know how terrifying Death is.” I insisted.

“Son, people often have terrible dreams after the death of a loved one. I know you don’t want to hear this, but you probably imagined it.” he claimed.

“He didn’t imagine anything. Even I…” started Alma, stopping herself partway as if she didn’t want to continue. She was shaking as she forced herself to speak again. “Even I am terrified of her. Meeting her was the single worst moment of my life. There are accounts of people literally dying of fright just from seeing her. Do not take this so lightly.”

I could see the wheels turning behind my father’s eyes as he looked at Alma. I was shocked she said that much. Father, on the other hand, didn’t have a clue of what Alma was capable. Yet, he seemed to sense something. I knew he had always found her imposing, maybe that was enough to make her admission hit home.

“I’m sorry, son, but this is hard to accept.” stated father.

I was glad he was trying, but he would have even more difficulty if I admitted to walking on alien worlds and meeting other intelligent life in the universe. Even Alma would probably balk at that statement. There were so many secrets.

“With you being so fast, how could the werelions best you? Are they equally fast?” asked father.

“Oh. I wasn’t actually this fast when I faced them. I doubt they could even scratch me now.” I confided.

“They couldn’t. You took fifty caliber rounds with ease.” stated Alma.

“What!? You were shot?” demanded father.

“Yes, actually. I can’t say that was a pleasant experience, but the injury didn’t last.” I assured him.

Rolling her eyes, Alma said, “The bullets didn’t even pierce his skin. I’d hardly say you were injured, James.”

“Well, I did feel a little bruised at first.” I argued.

“James, dear, why would someone shoot you?” asked mother.

“Oh… umm…” I hesitated, dozens of explanations racing through my mind.

“There are people who don’t want to see James and me be wed, so they’re protesting. The abduction attempt against you was also a result of this.” explained Alma.

Father and mother both looked shocked by the statement.

“As you are aware, I am Lady Alma Lucy Pendreigh V of the United Kingdom, but my estates and influence stretch well beyond my country’s borders. In marrying me, your son will gain lands, titles, and influence, making him the envy of any other potential suitors. They don’t take such things lightly.” she insisted.

“You’re… engaged?” asked mother, somehow picking that as the most relevant point.

“Well, no. Her family has some unique customs, but there is a strong possibility of that happening in the near future.” I admitted.

“Be sure to tell us when you are, but isn’t this rushing things a bit?” asked father.

I felt a bit shocked. Even father was moving onto that when confronted with his son being superhuman?

“The laws of her family are a bit rigid, father, and you and mother should know that I will most definitely tell you when the time comes. I feel that we’re avoiding the point here. If, by some twist of fate, you happen to come across something you feel to be supernatural, don’t investigate. Your lives depend on it.” I insisted.

“Investigate? Why would we do such a thing?” inquired mother, brushing the thought aside with her hand.

“Mother, you attempted to touch the first magic you saw.” I replied.

“James, dear, it was just a light.” she told me.

Feeling slightly annoyed, I told her “I feel I’ve demonstrated that things aren’t always what they seem. Since finding out about magic, I’ve seen minotaurs and zombies right here in the city. Though the minotaurs stood out, the zombies were disguised in illusions that made them pass as living people. I’d be incredibly impressed if you’d recognize a vampire. You can’t trust things to be safe based simply on what you see.”

“What would you have us do, son? Are we supposed to be scared of everything? I’ve lived here for my entire life without encountering anything like what you’ve described.” he told me.

“Before even being trained in magic, Regina could alter luck to her favor. Did you ever find it strange that she won at so many board games?” I asked.

“You won just as many, dear.” insisted mother.

“Regina did a great deal for me without me knowing.” I told her.

Portentia stepped closer to my parents, smiled, and said, “You don’t have to be scared. Just be careful. Though there aren’t any other superheroes to my knowledge, many of the creatures out there aren’t so bad. Your son’s always just a call away, and I try to look out for everyone. Feel free to call me as well if you need help.”

I put my hand on her shoulder to get her attention, and told her “Thank you.”

Things weren’t going as smoothly as I hoped, but I had plenty of support. Maybe the others would want to help get the message across as well.

Best Friend For Hire, Entry 254

“When did you find time to learn Chinese?” asked Alma after I arrived at Adelmar’s estate for dinner.

“Well, I have a very fluent secretary who made me take the time.” I admitted.

“Ah. She can be pushy, can’t she? Congratulations on your victory. I am astounded that he submitted so easily.” commented Alma.

Nodding, I said, “I’m thankful he did. I really didn’t…”

“Want to hurt him? He was only a pawn, but he does have his uses. Welcome to my home, James Michael Somerset III.” stated Adelmar from the balcony above us in a voice that boomed throughout the room. He started casually walking down one of the two curving sets of stairs down from the balcony as he said, “Your fight was terribly dull. I completely agreed when you said the man wasn’t capable of real battle, at least not on your level, but your use of his spells was simply marvelous, James. I wish you could have felt the awe from a couple of witnesses as I did. They were…” Adelmar stopped, glaring down at me as my phone was ringing.

“Sorry. I apparently forgot to mute my phone.” I told him, quickly pulling it out. I paused from muting it, wondering why mother was calling.

“Yes, yes. I see that your mother’s calling. You’ll hate me if you don’t take that call, so get on with it. I’m sure she wants to regale you with details of the attack against her.” stated Adelmar, looking somewhat angry.

I stared at him in shock as the phone rang some more. Mother was attacked!? I quickly answered the phone.

“James! Your father and I… well, I’ll tell you in person. Can you come over?” she started.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“Yes. Well, no… I’m not injured. Really. A certain superhero you know saved us.” she stated.

What!? She knew about Portentia?

“James, dear, please come visit us as soon as possible. We have much to discuss. I have a feeling that you’ll believe what your father and I saw. He’s… not taking this well.” she told me.

“I will. I’m not in the country at the moment, but I promise to come see you as soon as I’m home.” I told her.

“Why aren’t you in the country? Are you taking spontaneous vacations now?” she asked.

“Oh. Not exactly. I was meeting with some of Alma’s family.” I admitted.

“You two aren’t engaged without telling us, are you?” she inquired.

“No, mother. I’ll let you know when that day comes.” I promised.

“So you are planning to marry her?” she asked.

“She’s right next to me. Let’s talk when I get home.” I suggested.

She sighed and said, “Tell her ‘hi’ for me, dear. I love you.”

“I love you too. Tell father I’ll be there as soon as I’m able. Bye, mother.” I replied.

“Bye, dear.” she told me just before hanging up.

Adelmar sighed dramatically, his anger appearing diminished as he stared at me from the stairs where he had stopped. Then he said, “Just go. I did leave you after you had a meal prepared for us, so I will consider this fair play. My cousin’s plane is already being prepared, and I’ve arranged for your dinner there.”

I nodded, turned toward the door, and took Alma’s hand when she moved to follow.

“And James…” started Adelmar. “There won’t be another abduction attempt on your parents. I’ve seen to that as well.”

He wasn’t lying, which surprised me somewhat. Turning toward him, I said, “Thank you.” Then I ran out of the door with Alma in tow.

Not having to deal with security at the airport was still strange to me, but I appreciated the expediency despite the questionable legality.

“What are you doing?” I asked when I saw Alma casting strange spells after we were underway.

“I’m creating a tailwind for us and providing a few other little adjustments that should help hasten our flight. I’m truly sorry that your parents have been brought into this. That should not have happened.” she assured me.

“They know about Portentia.” I stated.

“I heard. We can assume she took a head injury in front of them.” she replied.

“Maybe. They could probably guess if they saw any of her skin. I doubt there are many in the city with skin that white.” I told her.

“No, James, there aren’t. They could easily suspect in that case, but your mother sounded quite certain. I imagine her mask was destroyed, so they would have no doubts. You should ask your secretary why Portentia was there. I doubt she had a stroke of good luck.” suggested Alma.

“No need to bother my mother, master. I can verify that she scheduled Portentia to look out for your parents.” announced Mila from my phone. “Though I certainly don’t have as many facts as her to utilize, I still can see how a second abduction might have seemed prudent while you and Alma were out of town. Would you care to see a video of the attack?”

“Yes, please.” I told her. The more I knew, the better prepared I could be for my parents’ questioning.

The large T.V. across from me turned on, and Alma moved over by me to watch as well. My parents were shopping in Bonnaire’s, which was surprising given how father hated the expense. As I watched, the security gate closed off the front just after a woman entered.

“How could they have known my parents would be there?” I wondered aloud.

“They didn’t, master. This group had followed them for several blocks.” replied Mila.

“My family actually does drills for occasions such as this.” confessed Alma. “They’re reasonably efficient.”

I didn’t really want to know how someone practiced taking over a store, especially not while watching the woman and my parents being surrounded by armed people in masks. Portentia’s entrance was anything but subtle. She cut a hole through the security gate, dove inside, and immediately attacked.

Though I normally would appreciate witnessing Portentia’s restraint, these people were after my parents. Her skill with Midnight was quite obvious in how precisely she sliced apart the firearms present, disabling attackers with a single hit from the blunt end immediately after. Then the woman who I had thought to be another hostage yelled something, and Portentia’s head exploded. At least, I was guessing her head exploded from the horrific chunks flying behind her, but she stood there, maskless and uninjured. Did her head grow back between images? Movies away from home were slow to my sight anymore, and security footage seemed especially bad.

“Remarkable.” stated Alma.

I had to agree. Portentia wasn’t even delayed by the apparent loss of her head. Even her long, white hair was back. She struck the woman once, and reached a hand toward my parents. Their hesitation was obvious, but they followed her nonetheless. I wouldn’t have a convenient explanation for what they had seen.