Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 220

The night before my birthday, Aaliyah had shown up, carrying a box larger than she was tall and claiming she wanted to start the party early. At her insistence, I opened the large, wrapped box she had brought with her. Under the wrappings was a finely carved wooden box. When I attempted to open it, nothing would move. Glancing at Aaliyah, I found her smirking at me. I should have known better than to think she’d make this simple.

“Do I get a hint at least?” I asked.

She nodded, walked around the box, and slid a small section of the box to the side, barely a centimeter. Taking a closer look at the piece, Ansegisel was written below a portrait on it. I knew that name from somewhere.

“Mila, will you do a search for Ansegisel?” I asked.

“He’s one of your ancestors, son of Saint Arnulf who claimed to be descended from Roman aristocracy.” she replied.

“Did he have children?” I inquired

“Of course. You’re probably looking for Pepin II.” she told me.

“Mind putting my family tree as you know it… there?” I asked, pointing after I picked a mirror.

“Not at all.” she told me as she complied.

I quickly located the next few descendants down to Charlemagne, but his portrait popped out when I went to move it. “Did I break it?” I inquired.

Aaliyah shrugged and said, “I made this for you. Not just anyone is capable of solving it.”

I pushed a finger into the hole and felt around. There was empty space in four directions. I elongated my finger to see if there was a hidden switch and felt writing as well as a hidden portrait.

“Ever notice that most names of Slayers don’t appear in history?” inquired Aaliyah. “Some history was altered. Other parts were completely omitted. Either way, some of your ancestors were hidden.”

“How am I supposed to know which one to move then?” I demanded, finding such a tactic unfair. I didn’t really doubt Aaliyah knew the truth of such things. She had resources and knowledge far beyond me.

“I guess you’ll have to try your luck.” she teased.

After trying each hidden plate, only one of them moved. I ran into the dilemma a few times, some of which went back to what was hidden behind Charlemagne. Others were hidden elsewhere.

When I finally finished the puzzle box by pressing Papa’s face like a button, the front unlatched, revealing an incredibly expensive-looking diadem, earrings, and necklace. There was also a gorgeous dress.

“I thought a princess theme would be fun for your party.” explained Aaliyah.

“Are these real?” I asked as I lifted the necklace.

“Of course. Just a few things your family lost over the years.” she told me.

“If you could prove that, they’d belong in a museum.” I told her.

“Nah. They’ll look far prettier on you!” she insisted.

I felt like arguing, knowing that the jewelry must be extraordinarily valuable, but there really wasn’t a way to win when fighting Aaliyah verbally or physically. I acquiesced and played with her until she fell asleep.

She woke early, styled my hair, and had me attempt to style her unruly mess as well. Then we dressed and went out. I followed her into the dining room where breakfast was held on the long, wooden table there. Everyone was in costume, as if we were some royal court.

The day proceeded in an equally elaborate fashion, and I managed not to cry as I wished my parents could be there to see everything. Papa’s face, so perfectly carved in my enormous puzzle box, kept coming to me, and each time I thought of Mama as well. Even Alma had given me a gift, an elaborate ring hosting a large sapphire, but she didn’t offer one word of apology for killing my parents.

James seemed distracted the entire day, but he had been that way since purchasing his father’s hotels. I wasn’t sure what was bothering him, but I wished I knew. I wished I could help. Just managing a business surely wouldn’t keep James so distant.

,,,^._.^,,,

The day after James completed his purchase of Somerset Suites, he agreed to interview his staff and allow me to accompany him. I was wary of an imposter, but I was also suspicious of a few I had seen before. Unfortunately, James insisted on bringing Aaliyah along as well.

James knew many members of the staff by name, having met them when working for his father. He was obviously surprised when I whispered in his ear and told him that the first person we interviewed from the night crew was a vampire. The creature hadn’t even attempted to fake a heartbeat or warm its blood.

“Jeremy, correct?” asked James. When the man nodded, he then inquired “I do realize you need blood to survive as a vampire, but have you ever killed a person when feeding?”

The shock on Jeremy’s face was priceless. He tried to flee, but I easily trapped him in a spell. James asked again if the vampire was a killer. The creature ardently denied it, claiming to be very careful.

Nodding, James said, “I’m very glad to hear that. Please take your seat and try to calm down. You won’t be harmed, and I’ll quite gladly keep you employed. I’m aware there are advantages to being a vampire, and you can surely help keep a watch over this hotel for me.”

“You can’t simply believe him, James. He’ll say anything to be released.” I whispered.

“Since my consultant has some concerns, I’m afraid you’ll be required to sign this contract, swearing by your life that you will never kill a human. You can, of course, resign, but I cannot extend to you any sort of protection if you do choose to leave. Continue working for me, and I will help keep you safe.” explained James.

I snatched the contract and read through it. I blinked, hardly believing what I was seeing here. The contract was not just with James but with Aaliyah, clearly stating that he would be killed should he break it by taking a human life. I never expected such a bold move from James, but I could guess Aaliyah was the one who put him up to it. How did she get him to go along with it?

Another vampire was found working the night shift, this one a woman. She didn’t attempt to run, probably considerably older than the first. Things went quite smoothly with her. She didn’t even bat an eye at signing a death warrant on herself should she take a life.

The next night at another of the hotels, we encountered a werewolf. The stench of his kind was obvious the moment he entered the room. Surprisingly, even James noticed this man was lying when asked about killing people.

“A werewolf and a killer then. What will you do now?” I asked, glancing at James.

The man started to transform, so I took care of him. I felt a touch of guilt when I saw James’ expression, but he simply shuffled his paperwork to the next person and told Mla to fetch him.

Mila was an integral part of the new surveillance system, given that she could easily watch countless feeds simultaneously. I demonstrated to her and James how numerous types of magical disguises could be spotted, since there typically was a flaw in the design.

In addition to reviewing the truncated footage when we could actually observe guests passing through, I felt out guests using magic as I passed through the halls of the hotels. Unfortunately, I didn’t find any with sufficient skill to have created the zombies, though several who could use magic were present.

Given the continuous sightings of zombies throughout the city, I knew my adversary hadn’t fled yet, but after most of a week without any luck in finding the necromancer, I began to wonder if I was wrong about where the necromancer was hiding.

Advertisements

Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 219

When Episode IV was over, Alma insisted that everyone take a break from our fun, so she and James could have their nightly lesson. We all moved to the gym to watch as Alma demonstrated a spell for long range communication. Seeing the sparkling energy jump into position into a very large, intricate pattern was another sign of her skill. After sparring with her, I was further convinced that Aaliyah had been right yet again: I needed time if I were to plot my revenge.

My parents had been stronger, faster, and more skilled than I am, but I didn’t believe they even managed to fight back. I needed to find a way to kill someone whom most weapons wouldn’t even slow down. Aaliyah had suggested a sword, Joyeuse, but I would need to find a way to pierce her with it without her knowing it was present.

“Do you feel you can duplicate it?” inquired Alma as she watched James examine her spell.

“Yes, I believe I can.” he replied, easily maneuvering energy to match her patterns.

“Perfect.” she told him, smiling and gazing at him as if she referred to him, not the spell. “If you were to use that spell, you could allow someone to hear your voice from half the planet away.”

“Hold on. This isn’t actually telepathy?” he inquired.

“I never said it was telepathy. You inferred that it was, and I didn’t bother correcting you until now.” she explained.

“That’s still awesome! I think I’ll have to be taught it in parts though.” stated Brenna, frowning as she spoke.

If she managed to learn the spell at all, I’d be impressed. I certainly wouldn’t be able to match those patterns yet even if I was confident in moving the energy. That sort of magic was far too new to me.

“I suppose you’re right.” stated James. “Wishful thinking I guess.”

“Sorry to disappoint you. Now visualize the target of the spell. I haven’t figured out precisely how this functions, but this area” ― Alma pointed to part of the spell. ― “seems to interpret your thoughts and ties your visualization to a target. Once you have a clear picture of the recipient in your mind, release the spell and speak. As I’m sure you’ve figured out, how much you can say is determined by how long the spell is maintained via this area.”

“Too bad your instructor didn’t explain the thought interpretation in more detail.” teased James as he smiled at her.

She frowned back.

How would James feel if she died? He already knew she was a murderer, yet still could smile at her in such a way. Would he ever forgive me if I became a murderer as well?

“Well, this is different.” stated James, his voice coming from his mouth and over by Jarod.

“Yeah! Not sure how I feel about you whispering in my ear.” laughed Jarod.

“Notice how you didn’t hear the response from up close? If the other person doesn’t know the spell, you’ll have to rely on other means for a response. In the days before all our technological marvels, this spell was quite important. We’re probably the first to bother with it in fifty years.” explained Alma.

“I like it. If my phone dies while I’m out on a job, I’d still be able to get help.” suggested Brenna.

Alma glanced at her before saying, “I imagine that you would simply charge your phone or borrow one, but I do see your point.”

I did my best not to show my shock when a tiny, glowing fairy flew into the room. I nearly asked if this was some sort of spell, but images were flooding my mind, clearly showing her disapproval with James’ absence. The tiny creature seemed to think he was supposed to be with her at all times. There was a pause in the images, but I soon felt as if I were flying, watching from the fairy’s eyes as she soared around the forest, playing with all manner of strange creatures. No one seemed even slightly surprised by this.

“Girls, you might as well learn this.” stated Alma as she looked over at Ai and Mai.

They nodded after glancing at one another and moved near her. Brenna and Emma followed them over, apparently interested as well. The twins would certainly be a problem if I exacted my revenge.

Aaliyah lightly wacked my leg with a lightsaber before turning her two on, so I pulled mine up and prepared to fight her. Brandon, Jarod, and Mila were quick to join us. Given the obvious difference in skill ― at least with what I was willing to show ― neither Brandon nor I were too keen to go up against Jarod, Mila, and Aaliyah. Honestly, I wasn’t entirely certain I could match the first two and knew I was no match for Aaliyah.

Brandon, however, would have been easy if I weren’t holding back. To make things more interesting for him, I kept a fast pace and morphed my body around the blade when he would have scored a decent hit. He didn’t complain, smiling as he continued to try slicing me with his lightsaber. Even as I fought him, I did my best to observe the other three, studying what I could of their movements.

After a fair amount of sparring, Alma announced “I suppose that’s good enough for today, so we might as well return to watching the movies.”

No one argued, so we playfully fought our way back to the theater. Darth Vader would have been envious of James’ grace if he could have seen how James moved in the costume, practically dancing as he blocked, dodged, and attacked in easy succession. As Episode V began, my plotting resumed, consuming most of my attention even after Aaliyah started to drool on my sleeve.

Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 218

Foolish as ever, Brandon rushed us despite being greatly outnumbered and outmatched. One need only glance at how he held his lightsaber and swung to know he was an amateur. James really needed to do more weaponry work with everyone.

“This one’s a traitor to the Jedi Order! Cut him down!” I commanded pointing my lightsaber at Brandon.

He stopped and gawked stupidly before saying, “Shouldn’t you be trying to capture me as Jedi?”

Without responding Brenna and Emma approached him, moving to opposite sides. Brandon moved his hand as if he was using Force Push, and the spell formed too fast for anyone but James or me to manage, lifting Emma off the ground and carrying her in a line backward as if Brandon actually had Force Powers. Well, James was more gentle with Emma than the Force would have been.

Brenna sliced at her brother, nearly catching him, but Brandon was already utilizing his own magic, altering his physique to move more quickly. As they fought, I admired James’ stride towards us. With his costume and height, he took the role of Darth Vader very well. The intimidating mask hid the typical kindness of his face, making him seem even more formidable than usual.

Jarod and James countered the moment Ai and Mai attempted to use Force Push. One of the twins went after each of them. I frowned, seeing James needed to work on his own swordsmanship as well. Jarod, on the other hand, was making the other twin dance even as she cheated, moving faster than she should.

Mila quickly intervened, blocking for the twin before Jarod could claim her hand. The twin used the moment to slash at Jarod, but he flipped up and over a chair with ease and then motioned for Force Lightning. Despite his own struggles, James created his light effect to simulate the lightning, and I smiled, admiring his work. He really was a quick study, though Cosette still surprised him, striking his arm with her lightsaber, which she had ignited after it was already in motion. James motioned for Force Push against her and created a spell to send her flying into Emma, too gently again. Despite the skill those two boys showed, we were going to win this soon. Portentia and I hadn’t even attacked yet.

A brightness too powerful for the wasters appeared near me along with a very intense heat that should have been too dangerous for the surroundings, yet was shielded so none escaped the blade. How did Aaliyah create an actual lightsaber!?

“Doesn’t anyone want to play with me?” she inquired.

“Play!?” exclaimed the twin by James.

“You could kill someone!” insisted the other one.

“I don’t suppose you would be willing to sell that technology.” I commented, knowing she would refuse.

Laughing and shaking his head, Jarod muttered “Figures.”

“Nah. I just made this to play.” claimed Aaliyah, smiling at us.

“I see. Well, please do not pull that out when we’re play-fighting. I know that Mila handed you two lightsabers when she and the others brought the gear up from the shop.” I stated, Death would be more generous in sharing her secrets. The technology used to restrain heat in such a way could be invaluable for generating power.

“Fine, Alpy, but the weight’s not quite right on these.” she complained. Looking to Jarod, she quickly said, “No offense.”

“None taken.” he told her with a laugh.

“By the way, aren’t you girls supposed to be out having a girls’ night?” inquired James.

“Mila told us about how manly you were being.” stated the twin nearest to him as she stepped over to lean on Jarod.

“And shopping was so girly.” teased Brenna as she stared down her brother.

“We didn’t want to interrupt such manly endeavors as movie watching.” insisted the other twin.

“But we couldn’t help noticing that none of you asked if we wanted to use the theater tonight.” I stated.

“And though we just met, I’m certain you wouldn’t want to deny us the room, not with only the three of you using it.” added Cosette as she stared up at James.

Overtop the last of what Cosette was saying, Portentia said, “I thought this sounded like a fun training exercise.”

“And Star Wars!!!” exclaimed Aaliyah as she jumped into the air and raised her arms over her head.

“At least Aaliyah’s explanation explains the costumes. Looking good, ladies.” commented Jarod.

“I’m glad you think so.” teased the twin who was leaning on him.

“We’d hate for you to say that Star Wars is too manly for us.” stated the other as she approached him.

“Come on! Mila, I thought we were cool!” exclaimed Brandon. “You know I was just trying to get in a guys’ night mood!”

“I didn’t blame you for anything. I simply related what you all were doing for guys’ night.” explained Mila, appearing perfectly sincere.

I was still annoyed that she, Jarod, and Aaliyah took reproducing my likeness to that extent, but I would love to see the designs. Aaliyah’s method of reproducing tissue seemed flawless, and the synthetic muscles Jarod designed were impossible to distinguish from organic ones by Mila’s movements.

“And we didn’t want to miss out on Star Wars!!!” exclaimed Aaliyah as she jumped again.

“Well, my sister hasn’t actually seen the movies.” admitted the second twin.

The other quickly pointed out “Neither have you.”

Jarod looked at them with utter dismay, as if they had committed the most vile of sins.

“Sorry, Jarod. I did try before.” I assured him.

“Once.” stated the first twin.

“When we were obviously busy.” claimed the other.

“Oh, yes. How could I have not realized that cataloging the fish in my pond was that important?” I replied, trying to emphasize as much sarcasm as possible while rolling my eyes for effect.

“That was considered field work for our class!” they insisted together.

Nodding, I said, “Optional field work, which didn’t teach you anything new.”

They spun around with a “hmph”, facing Jarod again.

“I don’t mind rewatching the first one.” offered Brandon.

“You mean Episode IV, right?” inquired Emma with a smirk.

“Of course.” he assured her.

“Shouldn’t Episode I be first?” inquired a twin.

“I agree.” I told her. “The original trilogy is made all the more exciting if you watch Episode I through III first.”

“The newer movies did have their moments, but should you watch all of The Clone Wars after them if you’re doing things that way?” inquired Jarod.

“That series is not finished yet, so we can hardly watch all of the episodes, especially in one night.” I argued, honestly not wanting the series to finish. I could enjoy an indefinite number of seasons stretching throughout the years.

Brandon nodded and said, “They do add something to the story, and I really doubt we’ll all make it through the movies in one night.”

“We’ll fight you for it.” suggested the twins as they lifted their lightsabers again.

I frowned, sensing Aaliyah putting on robes. When I looked over, she was igniting two red lightsabers, obviously joining the boys. The black robes fit her too well, and I knew we had lost. Our position became even more lopsided as Portentia stepped in front of James, squaring off with the twins. I was certain they could take her if they used their magic, but I wasn’t willing to wager on them in these circumstances.

“Girl Power!” exclaimed Emma as she charged at James.

Brandon reignited his saber and stabbed at her, nearly striking home, but she managed to evade. Brenna took advantage of the moment to attack Brandon from behind, easily striking him. His shoulders slumped as he stepped off to the side. Brenna then moved to help Mila face Jarod, but he casually cut her without even seeming to take his eyes from Mila.

I ignited my saber and stepped toward James. Cosette and Aaliyah stepped in front of me, attacking without a word. I didn’t think Cosette was holding back her speed at all, but she was still far too slow for that to be an issue for me. I couldn’t decide whether she was skilled or not as I worked to hold her and Aaliyah at bay. There were plenty of clumsy attacks from her, which I used to deflect her lightsaber into one of Aaliyah’s, but some of the attacks were just too perfect to ignore, forcing me to start dodging the instant she began to move.

Aaliyah was toying with me. There were numerous opportunities for her to strike, given that she wielded two lightsabers and Cosette was occasionally very precise, but she slashed at what was obviously my outfit instead. I frowned as I considered the various locations. The girl would have been disrobing me with her attacks.

Force Lightning signaled Emma’s defeat nearby.

“Master, Darth Vader couldn’t use Force Lightning.” stated Mila over the room’s speakers instead of her body’s mouth.

“Fine-fine. I’ll step out too.” he replied.

I used the momentary distraction to stab Cosette’s chest. There was a flicker of irritation across her face before she took a seat against the wall. Even with James out now, I knew my side was at a disadvantage if Aaliyah decided to win, though she also wouldn’t be willing to move too quickly in front of everyone. Maybe there was a chance…

“Alpy, pleeeease. You know I can rain lightning down on you while attacking with both hands.” claimed Aaliyah as if responding to my thoughts. “I really should get a third lightsaber cutting you from behind too.”

I obliged her, pulling Cosette’s lightsaber from the ground with a spell and using Emma’s to block it. I almost forgot to block as James’ lightsaber flew at me.

“James!” I exclaimed, shocked that he’d be cheating.

“Alpy, I can totally fight with a lightsaber in each hand and two in the air.” teased Aaliyah.

She might as well be able to with how fast she could move. I released the spell on Cosette’s lightsaber and created a new spell to fight James’ floating lightsaber. James took control of Cosette’s with another spell and attacked with it as well. When I jumped the lightsaber attacking my legs, Aaliyah sliced my leg with one of her sabers.

One of the twins pretended to be distracted by my defeat to trick Portentia into attacking her. The other blocked for her as the first slashed up without even glancing at Portentia, smacking her stomach.

“You’re out. We win.” they proclaimed.

“What?’ asked Portentia, obviously confused. “That wouldn’t stop me.”

“You’d be cut in half!” argued one of the twins.

Portentia shrugged and said, “I’ve had worse.”

“But your character isn’t you!” insisted the other twin.

“I don’t know. My character might heal just as quickly.” claimed Portentia.

The twins stuck their tongues out at her.

“Oh, just let her have it.” I stated. “You two won’t take on Jarod and Aaliyah, and Mila’s out now.”

Mila didn’t have a chance when Aaliyah stepped over to distract her for Jarod.

“Fine, but we still beat her.” insisted the twins in unison.

To resume the pretense of having a girls’ night and guys’ night, we divided the theater between the two groups before starting Episode IV. I smiled as the familiar words appeared on the screen, happy that my friends were finally watching this with me.

Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 217

”Mila, what’s bothering you?” inquired Aaliyah.

I did my best to look at them inquisitively, though holding back my rage and tears was taking considerable effort. Alma, who had killed my parents, was within arm’s reach, not that I could likely do much to her if I did reach her. I was managing to appear calm due to all of the distractions, but maintaining my facade felt taxing.

“Brandon used the word ‘manly’ again.” replied Mila with a frown.

“Oh? What are they doing that’s so manly?” asked Emma, grinning.

I couldn’t care less what the boys were up to. They had nothing to do with my revenge. Even thinking the words to myself, I knew they weren’t true. The death of anyone here would greatly affect the others. Everyone was very tightly knit, except me, the outcast who had barely been introduced to them. Why was I going on a girls’ night? Did they actually want to know me, or were the Slayers trying to manipulate me into joining them?

“Remember how I mentioned that the boys are planning on watching Star Wars in the the theater tonight? They haven’t actually started yet, having been sidetracked with acceptable attire for a manly night. I helped Jarod fabricate stylized lightsaber wasters along with fitting costumes, such as a Darth Vader costume for the master. Brandon found it especially manly, of course. They’ve been practicing with the lightsabers in costume for a while now, demonstrating manly ways to be killed by Jarod when not toying with Force powers.” explained Mila.

“Sounds fun!” exclaimed Emma.

At the same time, Brenna said, “Ugh. Only my brother would be going on about how manly he is.”

“Force powers?” asked the twins in unison.

Nodding, she said, “Yes, the master is utilizing spells to simulate whatever the other two signal to do. He’s been perfecting Force Lightning for over twenty minutes, trying to get the color and motion true to the films while leaving out the actual shock.” She motioned to one of the windows which darkened more before displaying a lightning effect shooting from James’ fingers.

“Let the boys have their fun. We’re each getting a very nice collection of ensembles.” stated Alma.

I couldn’t read her at all. Her face was an obvious mask between her emotions and the rest of us. Could someone really get to know her?

“Of course. Brandon did say how girly shopping is. We’re doing just as he would expect. You should have seen how manly his deaths in the kitchen were as the master prepared food.” replied Mila with a nod.

“Oh really?” asked Alma, though her voice suddenly made ice seem warm.

“Brandon has a way of contrasting all of the boys’ manly endeavors with our own girly plans. I apologize if our schedule was supposed to be a secret, but the topic came up with the master.” replied Mila.

Nodding, Alma flatly stated “I see.”

Emma grinned again, suggesting “Why don’t we go show the boys the power of female Jedi?”

“Indeed. Mila, would you mind fabricating costumes and lightsabers for us?” inquired Alma.

“Not at all.” she replied, smiling now. She motioned again to the window she had used as a screen and said, “I have a selection of styles for Jedi garments which I believe will accommodate everyone’s tastes. As for lightsabers, I’ll show you known hilts as well as what the boys are using.” Another window darkened and then lit up as Mila motioned to it. “For anyone interested in seeing which Force powers the boys are utilizing, I’ve compiled a list along with the appropriate motions, though I can’t provide suggestions on duplicating the effects.”

Mila was incredible. Really incredible. My parents would have loved seeing the things she could do. The idea that she was artificially constructed would have been just as mindblowing for them as it was to me, despite the many years of experience they had.

“Are you sure we should derail our plans? We won’t really be having a girls’ night anymore if we’re with them, and we’ll be in the way of their manly activities.” stated Brenna.

“Mila, did the boys inquire if we might be using the theater tonight?” questioned Alma.

“No. None of them pursued our schedule that far, and Brandon seems to hope that they can watch all of the movies tonight.” she replied.

Looking at Brenna, Alma said, “Are you fine with them claiming the theater without even inquiring whether or not we might want the use of it? I’m sure getting revenge for perceived slights is quite girly in your brother’s mind, so we won’t even be disappointing him. What more invitation do we need?”

Brenna rolled her eyes and smiled. “Fine, but I want to get him, though I may need help if he cheats.”

“I feel we should get some practice before attacking.” stated Portentia, who had been perfectly quiet through most of the exchange as she watched each of us intently.

“I agree. None of us will be accustomed to our new garments or the weapons, so we’d be at a disadvantage otherwise. If the boys are just starting the movie, we have time. Reaching the house will take over an hour. Will you be able to fabricate everything by the time we arrive?” questioned Alma.

“Most everything, even if the costumes chosen are a bit elaborate. I’ll prioritize the weapons, so you can start dueling, so please select them first.” replied Mila.

“Excellent. Let’s plan for our attack to coincide with the end of whichever movie they’re watching.” she stated with a small smile.

Portentia was excited to see saberstaves when her turn to pick came.

“Are you a fan of Darth Maul?” I asked.

“Who?” she questioned.

“The horned guy who uses a saberstaff with red blades.” I told her.

“Oh! I saw a picture of him.” she replied.

“You weren’t interested in watching the prequels?” I asked.

“I haven’t seen any of them.” she stated.

“No way. Are you serious?” demanded Emma, looking shocked.

“Not everyone is into Star Wars.” stated Brenna.

“Oh, come on. You know you enjoyed the movies.” argued Emma.

“Well, yeah, but I was just saying it’s okay if she doesn’t.” insisted Brenna.

“Between the orphanage and being homeless, there wasn’t really an opportunity to see much of anything, and Mama Vera didn’t own any movies when she was alive.” explained Portentia with her eyes glued to the screen.

I noted that text of what everyone was saying appeared instantly for her. Yet another of Mila’s marvels. Emma and Brenna had gone silent and looked a little uncomfortable. I needed to find out more of Portentia’s past. I hadn’t been aware of her being homeless at some point and was more than a little curious from where she came, given her abilities.

“You’re going to love it, because Star Wars!” exclaimed Aaliyah with a huge smile.

Nodding, I said, “I really enjoyed the movies, and there are actually many interesting books as well.”

Portentia frowned as she told me “I already get distracted enough with things like this. Someone might get hurt tonight because I’m not there to save them.”

“You really can’t be everywhere, so you’re not at fault for not always being at the right place at the right time.” stated Alma.

“No. The criminals are at fault. I just can’t be negligent in stopping them, or people who could have been saved won’t be.” insisted Portentia. “Imagine how many you could save in a night.”

“There aren’t even attacks every night, and I’ve heard the crime rate has substantially been diminished thanks to your efforts.” replied Alma.

Portentia shrugged, finally choosing a black hilt with silver engravings.

One of the twins sighed while the other shook her head. The selection process took even longer for the clothing, but everything still seemed to be finished when we arrived under the garage. Despite myself, I was having fun with the dueling by the time Mila suggested we head to the theater room.

I had chosen an elegant, silver lightsaber with an engraved hilt gracefully tapering toward the bottom. The wide yet thin guard which curved from the top and spiraled down might seem pointless to most, but a material such as cortosis could allow the guard to be functional against lightsabers and blaster fire. Besides, the design reminded me of a fantastical rapier.

Alma used spells to hide us and soften everyone’s footsteps to the point I couldn’t even hear them. None of the boys seemed to notice us stepping inside to see credits rolling on the screen.

“Want to watch through the credits?” inquired James.

“Nah. No real point.” stated Brandon.

“Mind starting the next one, Mila?” asked Jarod.

Alma signaled and the lights went out.

“Mila?” asked Jarod.

We all ignited our lightsabers and prepared to do battle. The boys were in for a fight.

Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 216

Mila, James, and I started walking to the room I was using after deciding on Star Wars for guys’ night.

“Sorry, master. I must excuse myself and prepare for the girl’s night.” announced Mila, looking as if this was the last thing she wanted to do.

“Oh. That’s not a problem. Isn’t it a bit early still though?” asked James, looking surprised.

Shaking her head, she said, “Of course not, master. We’re starting off our girls’ night with a little shopping followed by dinner.”

Ai and Mai had already told me what the girls had planned. James really needed to talk with Alma more often if he was really going to date her.

“Well, have fun!” he exclaimed.

Mila frowned and said, “I’ll try, master. the princess is ignoring my protests, so I’ll do my best to manage.”

“Protests? What’s wrong?” asked James, obviously worried over Mila’s lack of enthusiasm.

He just didn’t get how attached to him she was.

“I don’t feel I should be having fun without you, master, but Aaliyah insists that I should.” she explained.

I laughed behind my hand. I couldn’t help it. An Artificial Intelligence vastly beyond any other software on the planet, except maybe Ancient Tribes of Earth, was pouting.

“Your life truly doesn’t need to revolve around me, Mila, and you’ll still be here even while you’re away.” insisted James.

He had that right. Running Mila’s body wasn’t at all taxing for her hardware. I asked about details on it a few times, the last being when she started explaining the layers of a single processor by chemical compound. Though I do appreciate the relevance of the compounds used in producing the incredible speed, my memory and imagination wasn’t on par with understanding the arrangements she described by mathematical formulae.

“But… It’s just not the same. We’ve barely spent any time together in the flesh.” she complained, caressing her cheek with one hand.

Nodding, I said, “I still want to know how Aaliyah synthesized her skin. For some strange reason, they didn’t want me involved with that part.”

“I’m sure we’ll have plenty of time in the years to come, and I am taking you on a date in the near future.” stated James after a moment’s thought.

Smiling now, Mila told him “Maybe the girls will want to discuss my outfit for it.”

“Well, I hope you enjoy yourself. Catch you later.” he replied.

“Thank you, master!” she exclaimed, practically bouncing as she turned and left.

“So… you’re going on a date with Mila?” I inquired with a grin.

James sighed before saying, “She had me promise her a date before she even had a humanoid body.”

“Yeah, I know. I was already working on the body’s design when she told me. How does Alma feel about it though?” I asked, getting to the more important part. Making Alma jealous immediately after talking about dating with her could be lethal for most people. Luckily for James, he wasn’t just anyone.

“Well, she was fine with the notion until Mila showed up in that body. Now, I’m not too certain.” he admitted.

“Just make sure you plan this momentous occasion with fireworks and everything.” I told him.

“Calling a date a ‘momentous occasion’ might be a bit much, even being Mila’s first date. Aaliyah’s going to help me plan it, so I’m sure everything will be in order.” he stated.

I nodded and said, “Aaliyah does have a way with organizing things. In all seriousness though, you do realize this will be the first date with an Artificial Intelligence in the history of humankind, don’t you? No one else is even close to creating sentience like Mila, and she’ll have the entire thing documented for… well, forever!”

James opened his mouth as if to respond, shut it, and thought for a bit. As I expected, he hadn’t really considered that aspect yet.

When he finished thinking, he looked up and asked “Have you thought much about how the twins aren’t exactly human?”

“That’s pretty much a prerequisite for dating them. You’ll find out when you start dating Alma.” I replied, knowing I couldn’t say too much on the topic.

“Do you really think I should?” he inquired, just above a whisper.

“Well, you do like her still, right?” I asked.

“Yes, but… some of the things she’s done don’t sit well with me.” he admitted.

I stared at him, wondering if there was any conceivable way he could have put that more blandly. Alma was a mass murderer. Only she knew how many beings were on the tally, but there were many. Ai and Mai defended her actions, pointing out that she only murdered those believed to be murderers, but mistakes happened.

Nodding, I said, “I’m not surprised. I doubt I know as much about what she’s done as you do, but the stuff I do know about is pretty terrifying. Someone with her temper having tremendous influence throughout the world seems risky on a good day, and Alma’s far more than a politician. She’s a superweapon with a temper.” I was tempted to say more, but James was already frowning.

“So you don’t think I should date her.” he stated glumly.

I thought about saying, “No.” I knew how hard fighting my own feelings had been before, and I wasn’t sure that I really felt the same way about Laura as James does toward Alma. If his feelings for her could match how I felt about Ai and Mai, how could I really judge him for dating her? Ai and Mai had blood on their hands as well and possibly less remorse.

“I don’t really know, man. Sorry, but you might actually be a good influence on her. You’re fine with being a martyr for humankind, right?” I teased, not knowing what else to do.

“Did you know Alma studied medicine?” he inquired after thinking a bit.

“I’m pretty sure she’s studied about everything, but yes. I remember how she was helping tend people after the zombies blew up at the amusement park.” I explained, still feeling haunted by that day. I had been introduced to a new level of feeling helpless.

“Oh. Of course. She also created a more efficient system for cleaning and sanitizing the air in the new children’s hospital.” he added, obviously wanting to defend her.

“She also takes samples from people to look into their DNA on whim. The girl has some interesting pastimes.” I wryly replied. Then I reached into the closet and pulled out my Sith bathrobe. Hearing the sound of a lightsaber, I turned, finding Brandon there with a brown robe and an ignited lightsaber. “Whoa. You bought the Obi-Wan Force FX Lightsaber?”

He stood there smiling with more swagger than ever as he turned the lightsaber for me to see better.

“Would you two mind starting our guys’ night in a truly manly fashion: building a weapon?” I asked as I looked between them.

“Aww… no need to be jealous. We can go out and buy you one. Brenna said the girls are starting their night with shopping too.” replied Brandon in a mocking tone.

“Oh, it’s not that at all. I just don’t want James to be entirely left out. I mean… look at him.” I stated as I gestured to James. “How is this a guys’ night if he’s barely participating. I can get some costumes going too, and they’ll be far better than what we could buy.”

“Hmm… You do have a point.” stated Brandon, rubbing his chin. “How long will it take?”

I put on the glasses for my tablet, grinned, and said, “If Mila’s willing to help, an hour tops.”

“Of course, Jarod. You know I’ll do anything for the master.” she replied after appearing on the nearby mirror.

My smile widened as I started sorting through designs. Then I said, “Mila, please show these two various lightsaber styles as we walk.”

While James and Brandon discussed the designs they like, Mila and I worked out what to use for durability with the right amount of transparency. James was incredibly strong now. I knew I couldn’t make anything that would withstand his swing if I wanted to be able to lift it up myself, but I wanted to do the best I could manage in case he accidentally did get a bit enthusiastic. Mila and I had some debate over gyro sensors, light emission, and audio boards, but we were satisfied enough by the time the group got down to the lab.

“This place always looks so impressive. What do you need to do first!?” asked Brandon as he looked around.

“Mila’s already fabricating circuit boards. I’ll just need you to confirm which styles you want and figure out costumes.” I replied.

He grinned and said, “That’s so cool…” He walked over to one of the tables, nodded to himself, and then told us “Yep. You’re right. This feels much more manly than shopping, not to mention far more worthy of Star Wars. Shopping is for girls.”

“Oops. I think I just destroyed Brandon’s board, Jarod. I am, after all, going out on the girls’ night, shopping. I don’t see how I was supposed to concentrate on your manly endeavors at the same time.” stated Mila with sarcasm flowing through each word.

“Seriously? You know I was only joking, right?” insisted Brandon.

“Oh. Looks like it survived.” she assured him.

Brandon looked up at James, shook his head, and whispered “Women. I tell ya.” Then he loudly proclaimed “I was all for using the theater, but I wouldn’t mind starting the movies down here if you don’t mind creating a serving droid as well.”

I laughed and told him “I fear Mila would take offense. Help James pick out a costume.”

If he actually did manage to offend her, only James and Aaliyah could convince her to help us, and I knew James wouldn’t take the offender’s side in such a case.

“Jarod, can you make this?” inquired James, pointing at the screen after briefly perusing costumes. He was pointing at Darth Vader.

I nodded and grinned. That certainly would suit James’ build.

“You do have the height for it.” admitted Brandon. “I mean I could and all, but I make everything look good anyways.”

“Mila, mind making a voice enhancer for the helmet?” I asked, signaling which base module to use via the display from my glasses and a gesture.

“Already started.” she replied.

I grinned again, excited by what we were doing. If I could convince James to mimic Force powers with spells, the movies might be put off for a while.

Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 215

“Hey, man. What’s up?” I asked as I strolled into James’ office. The technology throughout this place still baffled me, despite my attempts to understand all of it. This office was one of those cases where I only had vague notions on how the furniture formed. On the other hand, Mila’s body was a fine piece of craftsmanship which I did help build.

She nodded politely to me as I entered.

“Nothing really. I just wanted to talk with you about something.” replied James as he watched me.

Rolling my eyes, I told him “Well, yeah. I got that idea when Mila told me that you want to talk.”

James laughed and said, “I suppose that would be a slight giveaway. I imagine that you’ve noticed I’m a little different now.”

Despite his laughter, James was obviously nervous. I knew his expressions too well to be fooled.

“Mysterious potions of unknown origin will do that.” I suggested.

His surprised stare was hilarious. “What? How?” he asked.

“Oh. Aaliyah texts like a fiend. I asked her what happened earlier today. Sorry, but I was curious.” I explained.

“I see.” he stated with a nod, but his eyes were studying me.

I laughed and said, “I see the potion hasn’t helped you relax. Chill, dude. Everything’s fine.”

James sighed. “How am I not supposed to worry at times when everything keeps changing? We barely graduated high school five months ago. Now I’m about to buy my father’s hotels off him. At the beginning of the year, I would’ve laughed at the suggestion of magic being real, no offense. Now… well, you know. Did I tell you Alma thinks we should start dating?” he asked.

“She’s wanted to date you for a while now. I think all of them still do.” I pointed out.

“No, I’m pretty sure the twins are more interested in you now.” he argued with a smile.

I shrugged and kept grinning. Ai and Mai were certainly attracted to James still, but their advances toward me were unmistakable. “You got me there.” I admitted. “But still… Most girls you meet want to date you.”

“Only because I have inherent magic that I can’t suppress.” he suggested.

“Nah. You’re just that likeable. Seriously. Even if you didn’t have any magic, I’m sure you’d manage to do fine.” I insisted. “Look at me… I’m not half as attractive as you, not as wealthy, and not half as charming. I’m still dating twins.”

His magic certainly played a part in his relationships, but his personality was a obviously a winning factor. People often responded to sincerity when they believed it, and James was certainly sincere in his good intentions.

“Wait. You’re dating both of them?” asked James, looking startled. “What if they… No, they have to know. Don’t they?’ He shook his head and then said, “No, define ‘dating’ for me.”

I nearly laughed as I said, “Umm… I’m worried that your brain will hemorrhage at this rate.”

“Seriously. You can’t date two girls. That’s just…” he started before stopping to consider. “Awkward.”

“Not as bad as you might think.” I replied.

“Due to their telepathy?” inquired James.

Now was my turn to be surprised. “Oh. Wow. You knew?”

Shaking his head, James said, “Not until you asked if telepathy was common in their family.”

I nodded. James could be surprisingly perceptive at times for someone who generally didn’t want to know. “Ah. Oops. I probably shouldn’t say anything else about it. Sorry, but it’s their secret.” I explained, holding up my hands to show the ball was out of my court.

He nodded and said, “I understand. Just was a bit of a surprise.”

“Not as much as you were this morning.” I argued. “When you showed up looking all glowy, I knew something had happened. I didn’t expect you to handle Ai and Mai like kittens though. I thought I was having a bizarre dream for a moment there. How fast are you now?”

“No clue. I’m not quite as fast as Alma still, but I’m much closer.” he replied.

“Is that why she brought up dating again?” I inquired, winking at him.

He shook his head, sighed, and then said, “No, actually. She brought that up before I took the potion. Apparently, dating her would be dangerous in some way. I really don’t know the specifics, but Aaliyah was adamantly against it unless I took the potion.”

“Huh. I’ll have to ask Ai and Mai what they can tell me about it.” I promised, hoping I’d be able to find out something useful for him. There were many, many secrets in their family.

“Can you tell them apart now?” he inquired.

“Nope. Well, I can if they let me get a good look at their eyes, but that’s a rarity. I just sort of go with it.” I admitted.

“That really doesn’t bother you?’ asked James, looking concerned.

I waved away his worries and said, “No, man. I’ve got two beautiful girls who actually get me. I mean really get me. If I want to run an idea by them for optimization of heat distribution in a nuclear reactor, they hold up their end of the conversation most of the time. I can’t fault them for their lapses, given that it’s not really their focus. I didn’t do any better discussing underwater ecosystems with them.”

“I really need to make time for studying more. I managed a little today, but I haven’t really had much alone time despite not sleeping last night.” he claimed, frowning as he looked down at his desk.

“You don’t need to sleep?” I asked, surprised by the idea. James would have a great deal more time if he didn’t.

“I haven’t felt tired yet, but I might just crash for a day at any point. No clue yet.” he replied.

“Wow. That will really free up some time, assuming you don’t do whatever you did last night.” I assured him, feeling a bit envious. I could do so much more in a day if I didn’t have sleep taking up my as much time.

“Oh.” stated James, finally looking up. “I was hanging on Cosette’s floor. There was an impromptu dance party.”

“James and a bunch of girls dancing the night away. Sounds about right.” I teased, knowing James was an incredible dancer.

He sighed and shook his head, looking down as he traced some pattern on his desk.

“I really want a chance to speak with Cosette. I have so many questions, but I don’t want to make Ai and Mai jealous either. Probably will have to wait until the girls are better acquainted, but dude… we’re living with a vampire. Isn’t that crazy?”

James looked up and smiled before saying, “Really is. She’s got some pretty interesting magic.”

“Oh?” I asked, wanting to hear more.

“I’ve seen her shapeshift, and she can apparently heal wounds. At least, she said that she heals the opening after she feeds. Hard to tell, since I only saw her feed on Portentia.” he explained.

“Wow. She just let you watch her?” I asked in surprise.

“Sure did. Portentia’s blood seems somewhat like a drug to her. She was a bit hyperactive for hours afterward.” he claimed.

Just that much already delighted me. Vampires always seemed like a cool myth to me. Then Emma related how her dad was murdered by one, and they seemed a bit more terrifying. Cosette didn’t strike me as terrifying, especially not if she was as careful as James claimed. Of course, the girl could have put on a ruse for him.

“I can’t believe she’s related to the twins. Their expressions were priceless.” I mentioned, thinking back on how that news struck them.

“I wouldn’t call it a close relation, since her father was over two hundred years old. You’ll probably talk the girl’s ear off when you get a chance.” he teased.

Barking a laugh, I said, “You’re probably right, assuming she won’t run off.”

“She won’t. She knows Aaliyah wouldn’t be happy with her, and she doesn’t have anywhere else to go. There’s something you can ask her about later.” suggested James. He seemed to remember something and said, “Before I forget again, we’ve been instructed to have a boys’ night tonight.”

“Well, yeah. Ai and Mai told me they would be indisposed, and Mila already posted the times on the company calendar.” I told him, wondering if he ever actually looked at the thing.

“Oh. I don’t have to inform Brandon then?” he asked.

“Of course not, master. I wouldn’t dream of shirking my duties simply because I’m helping you study.” insisted Mila, making “studying” sound suggestive with her tone.

“Helping you ‘study’, eh?” I teased, quoting the word with my fingers as I glanced at Mila.

“Oh, yes, Jarod. The master enjoys my assistance immensely.” she teased with a playful smile.

“Whoa. Stop there. No dirty innuendos in my office, you two.” ordered James.

“I suppose Mila and I can continue our conversation outside if you need to do some more work. Oh, but you’ll need her assistance, won’t you.” I teased with a wink.

“Well, now I know your ulterior motive for creating Mila’s body.” suggested James with an unconvincing frown.

“What? Are you suggesting that I had an ulterior motive for pouring so much effort into helping Mila? For shame, James. I’m merely working toward sainthood.” I insisted.

“Says the guy who’s dating twins.” he argued.

“Someone had to help those poor, lost souls.” I assured him.

James rolled his eyes and said, “I don’t want to know what sort of help you’re giving them. You can keep those details to yourself.”

Sighing, I complained “My own best friend has no interest in how my relationships are going.”

“You’re right. I should talk with them about how our would-be saint save them.” he agreed, standing and stepping around his desk.

“Whoa now…” I told him, blocking his path. “What’s said in your office should stay in your office.”

“Oh? You’re sure?” he asked with a smile.

“Nah.” I admitted, waving the thought to the side. “They’d probably be up for discussing things. Let’s just see if they’re busy.” I pulled out my phone and watched in surprise as it jumped out of my hand, floated into James’, and was set on his desk.

“No need. I changed my mind.” he told me, taking a seat again.

“Dude… Let’s watch Star Wars tonight.” I suggested.

“Huh? I suppose we can. I haven’t seen it for a while. What brought that up?” he asked.

“The way you did that reminded me of a Jedi recovering his lightsaber.” I admitted, envious as ever of magical abilities.

“Oh. I hadn’t thought of it like that before. Mila, mind checking if Brandon would be up for watching any of the Star Wars movies?” he asked.

“Not at all, master. I’ll let you know the moment he replies.” she assured him.

“Can you make this room look like Tatooine?” I hoped.

James shrugged and glanced at Mila. The walls immediately appeared to be rolling dunes of sand, and I could feel a dry wind hitting my face.

“Actually, let’s go with Alderaan.” I told them as I rubbed my eyes. “The dry air gets to me.”

I could instantly feel the difference in the nice, cool air. The scenery was beautiful, and I could see a starship flying up in the distance, the perfect subtle touch for that Star Wars feel.

“Master, Brandon is asking if we get to use the theater for our movies.” stated Mila.

James shrugged and said, “Sure.”

“He’s going to wear his Jedi pajamas then.” she reported.

“Oh… I’m bringing my Sith robe then. It’s on!” I exclaimed, liking how quick Brandon was to get in on the fun. This was going to be one awesome night!

Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 214

I turned to enter the house after watching the car pass the gates. With James’ parents gone, we had enough time for me to get a tad more work done before I was expected to participate in “girls’ night”.

“About that telepathy spell you had mentioned earlier…” started James. “Would you mind showing it to me?”

I hadn’t expected him to bring that up this soon. “Not at the moment, James. Let’s have that for tonight’s lesson.”

“Oh. Why not? Would it really take that long?” he inquired.

“Yes. As I said, the spell is very complicated.” I insisted, not wanting to admit that I had only glanced at one page of it without ever bothering to learn the spell.

Smiling and stepping closer, he said, “If you haven’t noticed, my memory’s improved considerably. I might be able to pull it off more quickly than you seem to think.”

“James, this just isn’t a good time to be studying magic. My mind’s on other things. In fact, I should get back to work.” I explained as the doors opened for me.

Before I could move, James grabbed my hand, pulling me close to him. He was so very tall and much, much stronger than he had been before his change. I didn’t want to fight to get free of him. As he stared into my eyes, I knew I couldn’t look away. He didn’t believe me.

“What?” I inquired, attempting to move to a more comfortable distance from him. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Just curious.” he replied. “I’d almost think you didn’t remember the spell.”

I forcibly pulled away, but he didn’t resist. “Now don’t be silly. I admit that I haven’t ever found a use for that spell, given how convenient texting is, but I don’t forget things so easily either.” I insisted.

He continued staring at me, studying me. Then realization was plain on his face as he said, “Oh. You never learned it. Sorry for embarrassing you.”

How did he know!? I hurried away from him, dashing into my wing, and went immediately to my library. I was going to learn that spell immediately. As I grabbed the book, I wondered if he would believe that I was simply not in the mood to show him now after I taught him tonight? I doubted it.

Having him pull me so very close was very atypical behavior for James. My poise must have slipped enough for him to recognize my discomfort in his questioning. When did James ever pay that much attention? Was he so desperate to know this spell? If he was, for what purpose did he want it?

I created a spell to hold the book as I tried pushing James out of my head. I’d need to focus if I was going to learn this quickly. The spell was just as complicated as I remembered. Unfortunately, I kept seeing James’ face, so very close to my own. I knew he wasn’t going to kiss me. He was still angry with me over my mistake with Cosette’s parents. I was more angry with myself. Accidentally killing a member of my family was unforgivable, and now Cosette lived here. The regret still haunting the back of my mind would never fade, as was right, yet I was still seeing James’ face as he pulled me close to him… Why was I still thinking about this!?

,,,^._.^,,,

“You’re lying…” I whispered, staring at Aaliyah in shock.

We had been talking about how pleasant the meal was and how much I adored James’ parents when she said such a terrible thing.

“No, Cosette. Alma really did kill your parents. At the time, she thought she was killing some murderous beasts. When you mentioned how they died, James excused himself to go yell at her, not because he suddenly wanted to give her a hug.” she explained.

James knew… “How could you let me move into the house of my parents’ murderer!?” I yelled.

“This entire estate belongs to James, not Alma. If you decide to try getting revenge, you’re in a perfect position to study her and plot. Alma is misguided, but she’s not actually a fool. I’d wager she realized her mistake before James did and has been angry enough at herself for everyone. If you get to know her, you might actually like her as a person.” she claimed, undaunted by my anger.

“You expect me to like the person who killed my parents?” I asked incredulously.

“Not immediately, though I do expect you’ll attend girls’ night with us.” she replied with a smile.

“Absolutely not. I’ll just leave.” I told her.

She jumped at me, hugging me. Then she said, “You’d never keep up to stalk her from a distance. You should at least stay until you’re certain you don’t want revenge.”

The tiny arms hugging me so gently could easily shatter my legs. I couldn’t outrun her. I couldn’t fight her off. At the moment, I couldn’t even argue with her reasoning. Tears were streaming down my face. My heart felt broken again. Today was simply too much for me already, and I was soon supposed to pretend everything was fine?

“Let’s bake a cake for the girls’ night.” suggested Aaliyah, still hugging me.

“What?” I asked, confused how cake came into it.

“We’ll bake a couple for the girls and another for the boys.” she told me, grinning up at me.

“I’m certainly not in the mood for baking.” I insisted.

Letting me go and shrugging, she said, “No, but you compartmentalize well. You’ll be able to put on a good face and bake away! By the time we’re with the others, I’m sure you’ll manage to smile, because cake.”

“Can she be poisoned?” I asked.

Aaliyah laughed and said, “If the Slayer family was so easy to kill, do you think they’d still be around?”

I frowned, knowing she was right. Revenge really wasn’t an option. Alma was far too powerful.

“Did your daddy tell you any tales of Joyeuse?” inquired Aaliyah as she stared up at me with her wide, blue eyes.

“What?” I asked, wondering what sort of joyous tales could come to mind now. Probably something involving cake.

“The sword. Your sword now. It’ll come along with the other belongings I’m retrieving for you. That sword is quite capable of killing a great number of things.” she assured me.

I nodded. I was, of course, proficient in the use of a sword, but could I actually use one to kill someone?

“Let’s get dressed for baking!” she exclaimed, running over to my closet.

I sighed and wiped away my tears. I could continue crying, arguing, and attempting to resist Aaliyah’s plan while she dragged me through it or accept this defeat gracefully. My parents would expect me to do as they had taught me, so I would. Patience, planning, and perseverance were the tools of vampires. Following Aaliyah to the closet, I mentally prepared myself. There would be a baking outfit and then a girls’ night outfit. I could play Aaliyah’s game for now.