Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 187

“Aren’t you going to take it apart?” asked Portentia, looking as if she was ready to rip the giant, metal fist apart with her bare hands to see what was inside.

“Eventually, sure.” I assured her. “I’m going to have Mila scan it first for explosives, tracking devices, et cetera. Don’t want to risk breaking anything, and a tracking device might be useful if there is one.”

“Aren’t you worried about her tracking it here?” asked James.

I nearly sighed, but instead said, “Ha. You’re joking, right?” He, of all people, should realize that we take jobs from all sorts of clients. Explaining away the hand would be easy if Maxine came peacefully and somehow managed to find her way down here. As I looked between him and Portentia, they obviously weren’t thinking things through, so I told them “Imagine what Alma would do if Maxine tried to start something here. Besides, the estate’s defense system is absolutely incredible from the little I’ve seen, and no signal’s getting out of here in any case.”

James pulled out his phone and looked at it. Then he turned it to me and said, “I think elevators block signals better, Jarod.”

He had full bars? “Oh. Mila’s probably relaying it as she does for mine.” I told him, realizing she probably did that automatically for him.

“No, I’m not.” she replied. “In fact, I can’t even find a signal coming from his phone. The princess must have installed some technology I don’t understand in it.”

I smirked, turned back to James, and asked “You say an elevator blocked your reception?”

He nodded, saying, “Yeah. When Portentia, Alma, and I got stuck in that elevator at convention.”

I barked a laugh before telling him “I have the strangest feeling that Aaliyah chose to ignore you for some reason.”

James looked shocked at first, but his expression quickly changed to consideration.

“Maybe we should take a look at your phone instead.” I suggested.

“But… but the fist!” exclaimed Portentia, sounding exasperated. “Who knows what we can get out of it! You might be able to find some weakness in her suit or find some way to hack it. You’re the tech master!”

I felt for her as she was practically pleading, but I couldn’t help rolling my eyes before explaining “More than likely, I’ll just see the finger mechanisms and possibly a weapon of some sort. I really doubt she conveniently placed something in the fist to reveal her secrets. However, being able to transmit a signal that can penetrate this garage could have many uses.”

Seeing Portentia’s disappointment saddened me, but there was nothing I could do about the truth.

“Master, I don’t recommend examining your phone too closely. The princess is superb at keeping her secrets, and she keeps them very well.” insisted Mila.

“Yeah, she’s right.” I agreed. “I really wish Aaliyah would share more of her tech, but I can’t really complain to her when she does so much for us already. Oh well. So what’s this job you’ve hired me for?”

“I missed part of that. What job?” asked Portentia.

James looked between Portentia and I before turning to her and saying, “I’ve hired Jarod for the next few hours. Sorry, but there are a few things we need to do.”

“Oh. Okay.” stated Portentia glumly. “Promise to tell me what you find when you get around to examining the fist?” she asked, looking into my eyes.

I nodded and vowed “I promise. I’ll even give you the details if you want.”

She rolled her eyes and shook her head as she said, “Yeah. As if that ever does any good.” Turning to James, she told him “Be sure to hire me next time. You know I’m a great listener!”

He laughed and said, “I never doubt that you’re paying attention. Sorry for stealing Jarod away. I’ll try to make it up to you soon.”

Grinning and grabbing his hands, she told him “It’s a date!” Then she spun around inhumanly fast and skipped to the lift.

“I’d call that another win for Portentia today.” I stated, watching her head up the lift. “Tired of your endless string of girls yet?”

“Asks the guy who seems to be playing with the twins.” he retorted.

“I’m not playing with them. We’re going to start dating.” I admitted.

“Which one?” he asked.

“Don’t know. Can’t tell them apart.” I replied.

James’ look of disbelief was incredibly amusing. Surely he figured out that the twins were telepathic by now. Didn’t he? Well, they were more than telepathic. They shared each other’s feelings. When I had nearly stopped the heart of one, the other felt it as if it were her own heart. The two weren’t physically conjoined, but they certainly were mentally.

James was just staring at me for a while. He eventually asked “That doesn’t bother you at all?”

“Should it?” I teased.

“Jarod! They’re two different girls! You know you’ll have to figure out which is which and pick one to date, right? As close as they are, there’s no way they’d want to share you.” he claimed.

He really didn’t know. I shrugged and said, “I offered to implant chips into their arms, but they refused. Not my fault if they don’t want me to know who I’m speaking to at any given moment. Relax. Breathe. If things get serious, I’m sure Ai will figure something out without forgetting Mai feelings.” I did my best to emphasize their names as a joke, but he still seemed worried.

“Okay.” he replied. “Just be careful. I don’t want any of you getting hurt over this, and you know those two can really hurt.”

“Did they tell you I managed to make Ai’s heart skip a beat the first time we sparred?” I asked.

“As I recall, you nearly killed her by stopping her heart.” he stated quite seriously.

“Yeah, but her heart still skipped a beat.” I replied with a shrug. If I hadn’t come that close to killing her, our relationship probably wouldn’t have progressed at all. The twins were significantly beyond humans, and I needed to be their equal, despite my humanity, to warrant attention.

James seemed to be considering what I said all too seriously. What was eating at him now?

“So I’m sure you didn’t hire me to talk about my budding romance. What’s up?” I asked.

“Want to take me for a spin? I haven’t seen your Mustang in a while.” he suggested.

“Sure, but my boss makes me charge for gas.” I teased.

“Well, you’re a best friend for hire, not for free. Losing money on a job would be silly.” he replied, still serious.

“So would be charging gas money on an electric car.” I retorted. “You haven’t gotten a ride since I reworked the old girl.”

He followed as I started walking to the lift. I fought the urge to let him take the lead. I still didn’t understand why being in front of him always had bothered me, but it did. Everyone always looked to James, including me.

“Don’t expect too much.” I cautioned. “I don’t have Mila incorporated into the Mustang or any of the digital works you have. I honestly haven’t decided what all I want yet. Aaliyah provided me with a power source when I inquired about buying one. No charge even. That’s another problem with my first suit. I haven’t figured out a good way to power it yet. Got it running with a power line at the moment. I wish Portentia could have cut that out of Maxine’s monster. I was really tempted to stick the power source Aaliyah gave me in there, but Mila would probably rat me out.”

“Would not!” she exclaimed indignantly.

“Sorry, Mila!” I apologized. “We both know she’d find out somehow though.”

James laughed, finally loosening up again. I felt as if tension just left the air, like I had finally started breathing again without knowing I held my breath. I mean, I hadn’t been, but the feeling was similar.

James seemed to be appraising my baby as he walked around her. Then he hopped in her like he had hundreds of times before. We spent so many hours together working on this car, and I still sometimes felt shocked that James was my best friend. Everyone wanted to spend time with him, but he chose me for some reason.

I eased us back out of the garage as I considered where to go.

“Whoa. You didn’t shift. Did you disconnect the stick without removing it?” asked James, sounding shocked.

“Yes and no.” I replied. “You see, I cheated a bit on your Aston Martin. Mila handles the transition between gears to smooth things out. The torque from my engine is enough to seriously damage things if there’s any misalignment, so I felt more comfortable with an outrageous computer handling it. For this, I decided I really didn’t need as much top speed, although I gained some back from a lighter car, so there’s no shifting. The shifter now controls the noises the car emits through the speakers to simulate a combustion engine. Pretty sweet, huh?”

“Yeah. You’re amazing as ever.” he insisted. “Wow. Sorry that I didn’t help out at all.”

I grinned at his sincere apology. “Don’t sweat it. I know you’re busy. Besides, I have a great job, an awesome place to live, and some cool new friends thanks to you.” I explained. “Things are going great for both of us, so relax. You stress way too much.”

He nodded, but still seemed to be stressing out. What could possibly be tearing him up this badly?

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Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 186

<Are they here yet?> I asked again, signing to Mila. I wasn’t sure how many times I had asked already, nor could I really care. I was bouncing with excitement, having fought off Maxine and taken a trophy off her suit.

<They’re almost up the drive.> she replied. < I should warn you that James and Jarod both have plans, so they won’t have long to hear you out.>

<They always have plans. If James worked anymore frequently, he wouldn’t sleep.> I insisted. I already wasn’t sure how he found the time. He wasn’t like me, so he needed his sleep.

<Don’t worry. I monitor his sleep cycle to ensure he receives adequate rest each day.> she assured me as if reading my thoughts.

I nodded, trusting Mila’s judgement. She knew a great many things that I didn’t, some of which she couldn’t reveal to me. I still wondered at times how I became so lucky to have such a home. The answer was always James, of course. Without him, none of this would have happened. He was such an incredible person, and I needed to get his attention before he slipped away tonight.

<Turn around.> ordered Mila, vanishing from the mirror.

I spun to find James stepping into the house. “James!” I exclaimed. “We need to talk. Is Jarod with you?”

He watched as Alma walked off, and then opened his mouth to say something.

Before he could answer, I saw Jarod stepping in with one of the twins holding his arm. The other twin and their brother followed. Jarod was saying something, but I missed it.

“Jarod! I need to show you something.” I insisted. “Are you free?” I asked, hoping that his plans weren’t starting immediately. Mila implied they weren’t.

“Jarod will be indisposed all night.” claimed the girl on his arm.

The other twin was saying something as well, but I couldn’t see her well enough past the others to know what exactly. I didn’t bother looking around to see if Mila transcribed what she said. They rarely spoke without harassing someone, so they were probably just teasing me. I became slightly more interested when I noticed Duncan looking startled by what was said.

“No, I don’t. I haven’t even finished healing from the last match.” he was insisting.

I hoped they weren’t trying to get him to fight me. With him already injured, I might hurt him too much.

The girl who was on Jarod’s arm had turned around to bug her brother. Duncan was quick to remove her hand, but I couldn’t see him speak past her head. Didn’t anyone understand this was important? I needed James and Jarod! The twins started hugging one another and staring at their brother. What were they doing now?

As they turned around to grab Jarod, they said, “Jarod, please save us from our perverted brother!”

What!? Those two had to be half villain. I felt sorry for their brother. Jarod seemed to be saying something, but I couldn’t see what now. I was running out of patience. I needed him to come see what I had before he was forced to leave. The girls seemed to be fighting over Jarod, pulling him back and forth between them. James was turned, watching the exchange. Was I really going to lose my chance here? No. I needed to do something. I started to formulate a plan of attack when everyone suddenly looked off to the side. I turned to see Alma there, serene as ever.

For once, I was quite glad to see her when I realized she had called off the twins and their brother. The three followed her away, leaving Jarod and James with me! She might be part saint after all.

Someone touched my shoulder, so I turned to find Jarod looking at me.

“What’s so urgent? I have half an hour before a job James hired me for, something rather vague I might add.” he informed me, signing as he spoke.

His sign language wasn’t perfect yet, but he was sweet for bothering to learn at all.

“I have part of her suit!” I exclaimed, finally getting to tell them.

“What?” they both asked in surprise.

“While you were out being duped at the villain’s party, I was fighting her. Well, I was too late at most of the scenes, but I got some help from a friend getting to the last one. I didn’t manage to stop her from breaking in, but I did take her arm and send her running!” I explained. Mila didn’t want me to mention her aid yet. She seemed concerned about how James would take it.

“Maxine was actually there the whole time.” stated James.

Nodding, Jarod said, “She must have an accomplice or some clever type of control system.”

I hadn’t considered that she might not actually be in the suit.

“So where’s the piece?” he asked.

I smiled and said, “In the garage, of course. I wanted you to be able to work on it.”

I started walking that way and explaining how the fight went. Jarod seemed impressed by the lasers, but I insisted that they were nothing compared with my staff, Midnight. Dodging missiles was pretty intense, but I related what happened as best as I could up until we arrived. James, noticing the fist, immediately knelt down to look at it. He was interested! I hadn’t been sure with how impassive he seemed as I told my tale. Maybe he was spending too much time with Alma.

James jumped when we started descending into Jarod’s work area.

“There’s a subfloor?” he asked, looking around.

I didn’t know how to take him not being aware. How could he not have known? I missed most of what Jarod was saying, but he just seemed to be explaining what was down here to James.

“Whose is this?” asked James as he walked over to the old Volkswagen that was being repaired.

“Oh. Brandon asked for an oil change the other day, and I noticed some other problems. This is a 1987 Silver Volkswagen Quantum Syncro Wagon. Bit old, but it’s in reasonably good shape now. I just have a bit more that I want to do to it.” explained Jarod.

“I have no idea how you find time to do anything.” replied James, looking completely sincere.

“I actually have more room in my schedule than you on most days.” insisted Jarod. “I had Mila give me an analysis on a whim one day. Hey, Mila, would you mind moving this over by my suit?”

I knew Jarod had been constructing a suit as well, but I hadn’t seen it in action yet. Well, I hadn’t seen it at all. He was keeping the whole project hidden. I missed part of what they were saying, but Mila was transcribing for me on the far wall.

James had asked “Is your suit behind the sheets?”

Then Jarod told him “Nah. That’s a little project for Mila. It’s not ready yet. My first suit’s straight ahead, though I doubt I’ll be using that too much.”

“Oh? Why’s that?” asked James.

“I was mulling over a new idea during the… umm… auction. The problem with a suit like Maxine’s or my first one is that they’re too bulky. Even if I figure out the power supply, I couldn’t use the suit in many parts of the city without risking collateral damage like Maxine constantly causes. I was reading up on some tech the other day that could potentially replace muscle for electronic arms. Thinking through the tech used in creating a cyborg, I’ve realized I might be able to make a less intrusive interface to communicate our thoughts to a durable fabric that could enhance our strength by acting as additional, external muscle while also providing support to save our joints.” explained Jarod.

“The general idea is nice, but that’ll take a bunch of research and development if it’s possible.” insisted James.

With a shrug, Jarod said, “I think I can manage. Thanks to Aaliyah, we have access to resources that most people don’t. Plus, my assistant is top notch, right Mila?”

“Not having to sleep does have its advantages, but I am still learning a great deal from you.” she replied.

“The biggest part I’ll need your help with, James, is finding a way to enhance the design with magic.” stated Jarod.

James stared at him, looking surprised.

Jarod smiled as he said, “I know you have a ways to go, but Ai and Mai don’t know how to enchant things like Midnight there. Alma, if she does, hasn’t been interested in aiding in my endeavors. For now, there are some spells that Mila’s chosen from her database which should give temporary boons.”

“I’ll try, but I have a long ways to go.” replied James.

I was growing impatient again. Yes, everything said was important enough. Jarod could come act as my sidekick if he finished any sort of suit to help him keep up, but we had something important to do at the moment! Weren’t they interested in what was in the mechanical hand?

Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 185

The night started off wonderfully. Plenty of influential witnesses arrived at the gala, so no one could reasonably accuse me of the robberies taking place. The first couple stops went without incident. Calamity, the would-be hero, arrived at the scene of the third stop just as I was leaving, which gave me a nice laugh. I wondered what she hoped to accomplish.

I set my machine, Theophany, to autopilot for a couple minutes as I went on stage to announce the next performer. When I returned to my seat, I focused on Theophany to resume manual control. The slight lag in this interface was always a bit disconcerting, but I didn’t even have ideas on how to further reduce it.

Within a minute, I was landing, almost finished for the night. Most of these stops were just for show, but a few were supposed to house some dirt in safety deposit boxes that I could leverage. I easily brushed aside the door and started cutting through the vault door. As I was sifting through boxes, a motion alert triggered, so I turned, finding Calamity charging at me. I shot her through the chest with my machine’s laser, but it was ineffectual as I suspected it would be.

I tried to grab her, so I might pin her down. The lag was making things difficult. Damage warnings started appearing. She was hitting my suit hard enough to dent the armor!? I fired Theophany’s thrusters, jumping back toward the entrance I had made. I needed more space to move. I didn’t have time for this. The cops were surely rerouting to here by now. Deciding to give up on this bank, I fired a missile at the entrance.

Calamity dodged, flipping back from it and actually kicking the missile into the air. I was impressed. I tried a series of smaller missiles, but she dodged well enough that the explosions only knocked her back for a moment. More disturbingly, I wasn’t getting any useful readings of that staff. Was it really just a big hunk of metal? How strong was she!? I used my laser to cut it in half, but there wasn’t any damage to it. Worse yet, she had used the time to get on top of me.

Theophany was actually taking substantial damage.I needed to escape. I swung to knock Calamity away, but there was a hull breach. The entire hand had been severed! I took flight immediately, smashing into a building as I attempted to level her out from the awkward takeoff. I was half afraid Calamity would give chase into the air. She had too many surprises for me this night.

As I did my best to maintain flight with the damaged and missing components, I considered this encounter. Half of that staff had changed into a blade, but what kind of blade could cut through this armor? I needed to make improvements if I were to ever come back here, but I wasn’t entirely certain where to begin. Instead, I started thinking through ways to capture an opponent, focusing on ones that’d completely immobilize them. Not only did Calamity have a dangerous weapon now, but she seemed to have learned how to fight extremely well.

If we met again, I wouldn’t want to be in my suit, so my plans would have to account for the lag. If she managed to disable Theophany entirely, I’d use the self-destruct and be nowhere near her to avoid capture. I knew I couldn’t handle her hand-to-hand. She seemed faster than me and had to be significantly stronger. I’d make more suits and work on software to help them act somewhat independently.

By the time Theophany was parked, I needed to do a last farewell. Taking to the stage, I said, “I do hope you all had a wonderful time tonight. Sorry for all of the disturbances. I never would have guessed this would be such a busy night in the city.”

Rushed, but I wanted to get out of town just in case. There was so much to be done. I still made a point to approach James one last time. I didn’t want to leave without speaking to him one last time.

“The evening was delightful. Thank you.” stated James II.

He wasn’t as tall as his son, but he was a competent businessman as well. Unfortunately, Lady Pendreigh was making a move on his business according to my sources.

I smiled at him and said, “We’ll be able to help so many children with the funds we’ve raised. Thank you all for your contributions.” Then I turned to James III and told him “James, I’m afraid that I’ll be leaving even sooner than I expected. Please do come visit anytime you wish. I’d love to show you around my city.”

“The packing is complete.” whispered Aengus.

I nodded and said, “Sorry, but I must be off. Thank you all again.”

I let Aengus guide me away as I considered what sort of bait might lure Calamity to my city. I needed time to build a suitable trap, but I had time. No one knew the true identity of Marvelous Max.

,,,^._.^,,,

I walked with Ai and Mai on my arms towards the limo, but all I could think about was how Maxine could be controlling her suit from the gala. She must have invented some sort of interface that could communicate directly with the brain, but how did it work? Any sort of transmission and scanning devices had to be extremely small if they were to be incorporated into her glasses. The long-ranged transmissions could be done by some device hidden in the area, but her goons probably moved it already.

My thoughts had carried me into the limo and part of the way home. I almost stood when James asked Mila to stop the car. I looked around for what caught his attention as he stepped out of the car.

“Are you okay?” asked James, calling out to someone across the street.

The man did seem injured by his gait, but that could be an old wound. What was James doing?

“Oh. I see how that must look to you.” stated Alma. “Let me show you the truth.”

The man suddenly flew toward her, but no one in the area seemed to care! She had to be using magic on them of some sort. I was glad she excluded me in whatever spell messed with their heads.

I saw why Alma acted as she did when the man was close. His flesh was rotting. His arms stretched out toward James as if wanting to grab him.

“A zombie!? Are you serious!?” I exclaimed. On my list of things I hoped to be confirmed as real, zombies weren’t toward the top, but they were still on the list. This was incredible!

“You could call it that, yes.” stated Alma.

I blinked and turned my head, unprepared for the flash of light surrounding the zombie. The man was gone when I looked back. Alma apparently incinerated him instead of wanting to investigate further.

“Let us be off then.” she stated.

“I didn’t realize you were having problems of that nature. My family has a specialist in these matters if you care for assistance, Lady Pendreigh.” offered Duncan.

“Thank you, but there’s no need. I’ll manage.” she replied.

“A zombie specialist? Are there so many in Japan that you need one?” I asked, still feeling excited.

“Of course not.” he stated, looking slightly offended. “We like to deal with these matters quickly, so we trained someone toward that end.”

I nodded glumly, having my short-lived dreams of seeing this specialist in action bashed.

“Most families destroy that sort of knowledge for good reason. Many of the practices are unsavory.” insisted Alma, apparently put off by word of the specialist.

Duncan was quick to assure her “We do oversee our specialist, Lady Pendreigh. There’s no need for you to worry about him doing anything unpleasant.”

I understood why he didn’t want too much of her attention in his family’s territory. The twins had told me enough to know that Alma could easily sweep everything they owned into her pockets on a whim.

“How long has this been happening?” asked James.

Alma stared at him for a moment before saying, “I encountered the first zombie nearly a week ago. Whoever is creating them seems to abandon them after he’s done with them, so I can’t simply follow one back to him.”

I nearly smirked at hearing her say “zombie”, since her accent even made zombie sound posh, as the twins occasionally put it. I started asking for details as the limo continued on its way. Ai and Mai kindly answered. When they told me of zombies marching on a town, I grew excited, imagining how that would look here. Unfortunately, the creation of so many was tedious enough to be impractical for most people, so I couldn’t look forward to z-day.

“I guess I’ll have to tell Aaliyah we don’t really need all of those provisions for it. She’s going to be so disheartened.” I informed them.

I still asked a few more questions on the way back, since my excitement wasn’t completely deflated. As horrific as a zombie apocalypse would have been, seeing it still could have been incredible, given my allies.

Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 184

I watched James closely as his limo drove us toward the gala. Lady Pendreigh was openly showing affection for him, but I never heard rumor that the two were actually courting. There were numerous games she could be playing, and I was certain to only be seeing what she wished if a game was in play. Her affection for James seemed quite real to me, and I still had no clue what all he could do. His assets, however, were remarkable.

Over the past two days, I found myself captivated with his home. Great wealth was casually displayed with no apparent security, but his entire staff was formidable. Jarod regarded Mila as a person, not just a machine. If she was as sentient as she seemed, he was right to do so, and her value would be incredible.

Even Mila’s value was nothing compared with the discovery of living fey. How James found them and gathered them in his forest was a mystery. Had he really let the little one indoors on accident, or was he showing more of his power? The tiny creature seemed to regard him as an ally, possibly even a friend. Even a handful of fey was a very dangerous force, and I believed James had many. Just who was he?

“Since you’ll be with us longer, I was wondering if there was anywhere which you wanted to visit? I’d feel remiss as a host if I didn’t manage to spend some time with you away from my home.” stated James, noticing that I was watching him.

Did he now want to deter me from viewing more of his home, or did he have other assets to unveil? A straightforward approach might serve me best, so I said, “Thank you for the consideration, but I have seen more wonders in your home than I ever would in the city. I simply wish to visit that remarkable forest and see the creatures within at least once before I go.”

He casually nodded as he replied “I’m sure we can manage, though my secretary will likely require a contract. The creatures there are quite rare and precious.”

A contract from her was not a mere trifle. I worried over what this might entail. His words might even be taken as a threat. Who was I, after all, to argue with the one with Lady Pendreigh on his arm?

“I see.” I stated. “I’ll have to discuss this with my family after I peruse the documents then.”

Lady Pendreigh smiled slightly as she said, “I found the contract to be pretty standard fare for her, Duncan.”

I nodded and tried to fight the wave of fear which brushed over me. Aaliyah’s contracts included many, many ways to forfeit one’s own life, and I had imagined too many times what having her come for me would be like.

Turning to Lady Pendreigh, James asked “Did mother ever finish that painting for you, Alma?”

He was incredibly relaxed next to her, a man of power regarding her as an equal at best. He possibly saw himself above her.

“Yes. Her talent is quite extraordinary. I was very impressed by her work.” she replied.

I had looked into James’ family, but I didn’t find out anything remarkable. His parents were talented humans as far as I knew.

“Oh, so you’ve already picked it up? Mother never mentioned that you stopped by again.” he replied, a hint of disappointment in his voice.

Lady Pendreigh turned from him. Her face was still a porcelain mask, but she seemed slightly uncomfortable to me. What did he have over her? Was this some sort of code?

“No, I haven’t. I made arrangements for her to hold onto the painting for now, as I don’t feel the timing is right to have it publicly displayed.” she claimed. “Ah. Let’s have a stroll through the park, since we have some time. I do like this one.”

I glanced out the window but saw nothing particularly interesting. Did she want space from us to discuss something with him? I surmised as much when the two set out walking without waiting for my sisters and Jarod. Normally, I’d use spells to enhance my hearing and listen, but such a trick around Lady Pendreigh was dangerous. If she felt insulted, I could die. I dissuaded the others from trying to approach with idle conversation. As I spent more time around Jarod, I couldn’t deny his intellect. How was he chosen to be the apprentice of Death? Perhaps there was even more to him than I had guessed.

,,,^._.^,,,

“Did mother ever finish that painting for you, Alma?” asked James.

I was certain James didn’t realize how much he distressed me at times, but did he have to bring up that bloody painting right now? Every time I thought of that visit I paid to his parents, his anger at me came fresh to my mind.

“Yes. Her talent is quite extraordinary. I was very impressed by her work.” I assured him.

“Oh, so you’ve already picked it up? Mother never mentioned that you stopped by again.” he commented.

I released his arm and turned from him. I couldn’t look at him right now. “No, I haven’t.” I admitted. Then I quickly explained “I made arrangements for her to hold onto the painting for now, as I don’t feel the timing is right to have it publicly displayed.”

I could feel Duncan watching us, studying. I knew everything said around him would surely be relayed to his mother. Must James prod sore points right now? The Williams-Wynn Memorial Park came into view, so I gave into a whim and said, “Ah. Let’s have a stroll through the park, since we have some time. I do like this one.”

The limo pulled over, and I quietly thanked Mila for not questioning me. James stepped out and offered me his hand after the door opened for him. I stared up at him and found myself wondering again how a human developed such a perfect face. He was unusually attractive.

After briefly enjoying the view, James asked “What is your home in England like?”

I stared up at him, trying to discern how he came around to ask such a thing. Still uncertain, I told him “My father owns a castle, but I wouldn’t really call it my home. I only visited the place a few dozen times in my life. I should go see father again soon.”

He nodded, looking thoughtful and took a few more steps before asking “Where did you call home then?”

“Nowhere, really.” I replied with a shrug. “Up until coming here, I spent most of my life traveling. At first, I was traveling with my mother and learning the family trade. Then I took over. Mother probably wouldn’t have approved of me staying here this long, but Adelmar, my cousin, does.”

I was thankful that my cousin wasn’t intruding at the moment. He’d surely say something highly inappropriate about my stay.

“Wait. Was Adelmar the one who sent the tiara to Aaliyah as a birthday present?” he questioned.

I nodded, saying, “I do apologize about that spell I used on you. I hadn’t meant for you to feel unwell, but that spell affected you differently than it should have. I’m guessing your magic threw things off a bit. Otherwise, I would have stayed longer.”

I did feel quite guilty over that affair. James had done nothing to deserve such treatment.

“You were the one who delivered the tiara? I suppose that makes sense, given that the tiara looks extremely valuable. Why would your cousin give something like that to a young girl?” he asked.

I stopped and stared up at him. He knew enough about her to know she was far more than a young girl, but, I supposed, he apparently didn’t know enough. I wasn’t in a position to explain either. I started walking again as I said, “I do wish I could explain. I am sorry, James, but I am privy to a great many things which I cannot share, at least not yet. Hopefully, someday. Hopefully, soon.”

Taking hold of his hand again, I gently squeezed it. There was so very much I wished I could convey. I had many secrets that I needed to keep, not all of which I’d even be able to tell after we were wed. If we ever were to wed… Would James be able to survive if I were to court him? I had plans prepared to protect him from the worst of the opposition, but the wisdom of them was questionable.

I turned our conversation to Ancient Tribes of Earth to distract myself from my other thoughts. There were many events I had considered which could help keep our guild lively. With thousands of members, we needed plans that could involve everyone in one way or another, and I didn’t feel James fully considered them enough. Too often, people were simply glad for his presence. He wasn’t accustomed to having to work to entertain.

All too soon, the count in my head ran out, and I announced that we should be off. Arriving too late wouldn’t be any more acceptable than too early, and we all had to maintain our image. The gala was perfectly acceptable, much to my ire. I would have enjoyed seeing Maxine slip in her execution. Even I could admit that she was talented, despite her unsavory nature, but being knocked down a few pegs might help her realize that the world wasn’t her toy.

Chad was quick as ever to greet me when we made our way to him. Aaliyah was there, of course, grinning in that insufferably adorable manner. In part, I wanted to hug her like some exotic pet. I also wanted to throw her as hard as I could against the wall, but she’d only come back and execute me for making a fuss in front of her father. I wasn’t remotely amused by her choice of donation for this auction. Where I was giving a priceless wedding dress that had belonged to an ancestor, she chose to donate the very gun which killed that ancestor. I wouldn’t be remotely surprised if she had pulled the trigger herself after forcing someone to enchant the bullet.

After the initial exchange of pleasantries, James’ parents joined us. They didn’t seem particularly glad to see me, but I could understand why. We conversed for a time before the lights dimmed. Maxine took to the stage, greeting everyone and explaining how the auction would proceed. Then we were treated for music before getting our first viewing of the items up for auction. I made note of what I would acquire as well as what seemed to please the others, just in case. Knowing the tastes of James’ parents particularly interested me, so I might find something suitable for each of them at a later time.

Some time later as we ate, a table near us went vacant in a hurry. I had overheard their discussion, so I was the first to hear of the robbery. Given the timing, I was certain this was Maxine’s handiwork. She couldn’t simply raise money for children without committing some nefarious act. Her reputation would be ruined.

Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 182

Beautiful images and feelings danced through my head as I skipped beside James. He and Alma seemed far more calm than I felt. Were they not listening to this fairy as she showed us her world? I felt like I was flying, though I knew my feet frequently touched the ground. The images and emotions with them were so very vivid. If I closed my eyes for a moment, reality could be forgotten. This was beautiful, though I wouldn’t really want to escape reality for long, not with how close James and Alma were.

James was charming as ever, and I honestly hadn’t gotten over him even knowing he wasn’t really interested in me. I knew I’d never compete with Alma. She was a flawless, otherworldly beauty with enough talents for dozens of people where I was passably cute and barely had enough talent for one person. I couldn’t really complain, since I’d date her in a heartbeat too. I knew I could dazzle away from Somerset Estate. The competition level here was just far too high. The most human of us was mind-bogglingly brilliant.

“What’s bothering you, James?” asked Alma.

He stared at her, leaving me to admire how his hair looked from the back. After a moment, he said, “Please don’t be offended, but I’m worrying about your temper. I only spent one night around these creatures, but I already feel they can be taxing.”

Her smile made my heart jump, though she was looking up at him.

“Don’t worry. I’ll leave if they annoy me too much.” she assured him after taking hold of his hand.

I felt a stab of jealousy, completely left out next to these two lovebirds, but for all the sorrow poking at my heart, I still was immersed in the joy flowing through my head. Our new little friend loved flying, and the world seemed so large from her perspective. She could easily hide behind the leaf of a tree to play tricks on her friends. I saw some of them in her visions, giving me a better idea what to expect inside the forest.

I couldn’t believe I had spent so long here, even becoming the groundskeeper, and I had never wandered into the forest. At least, I had forgotten for the moment what being next to the forest was like. Standing there on the brink of entering was suddenly a bit frightening. There was an eeriness that sent a shiver down my back, and I still couldn’t feel a single plant on the other side. I wanted to run away.

James bravely stepped forward, comically stopped by Alma’s grip on his hand. She was so tiny next to him with well over a foot of difference in their heights. She was also perfectly thin, like a well-crafted doll with an hourglass figure. I seemed petite most places, but Alma made me feel tall and big-boned. I wondered again what holding her hand was like.

Suddenly releasing James’ hand, Alma said, “Oh. Sorry, James. I needed a moment to disperse my typical protective spells. When I did, I started seeing these images of Emma and that fairy frolicking around the woods. I knew of how the fey communicate, but experiencing it is fascinating. She’s so happy… and ignoring me. I must say that I’ve never had anyone give me the cold shoulder quite like this before. It’s more of a sensation than anything in the image.”

A bright light flashed between us all, leaving a spot dancing in my vision.

“What was that about?” asked James.

“Sorry. I thought about grabbing her, and she seemed to know. Don’t look at me like that, James.” demanded Alma. “I wasn’t going to hurt her. She seems to believe that I’ve been ignoring her since we met. She knows you’re ignoring her, but isn’t mad at you? That’s not fair.”

I didn’t get as much from the little fairy’s images as Alma seemed to but I barely resisted the impulse to hug Alma. I didn’t manage to stop the giggles. She was so adorable on the verge of pouting, but I didn’t want the lecture about not giving in to such desires. Totally had that one before.

Realizing James and Alma were staring at me as I laughed, I tried to explain “She’s been complaining about you both for half the walk. I didn’t realize you two honestly didn’t know. How could you not!?”

“I actually have to work at hearing them. My magic seems to block out their form of communication.” explained James.

“That’s new. How much do you know about your magic, James?” asked Alma, staring at him again.

I wasn’t surprised. James seemed to have an abundance of tricks with his magic. He had learned so very fast.

“A fair amount, I think, but being certain is hard when I’m constantly seeming to learn new things about myself.” he explained.

Alma laughed, a beautiful pure sound, and said, “Well, I’m defenseless now, so try not to be too charming.”

James glanced at me, smiled, and said, “I may have failed to mention that I have a number of magical abilities, but, in my defense, I’m still learning about them as I previously mentioned.”

I smirked and said, “Man-slave, you just keep getting more incredible, don’t you.”

Alma grabbed us both by the hand and pulled us with her into the forest. She gasped just inside.

I stared in wonder at the seemingly endless energy here, and I finally could feel the plants. There was so much life here, plants and others as well. “Whoa. It’s like a magic whirlpool!” I exclaimed. I could feel dancing in the distance as various sorts of feet rhythmically hit the grass. Animals roamed freely, not even alarmed when something bipedal dashed through a bush nearby. There were a few plants I didn’t recognize, which was extremely rare for me. I’d have to investigate eventually, but now… now wasn’t the time.

“They’re coming.” I announced.

“I know.” replied Alma. “How could they not with this little one calling for them though?” she asked.

I had been too engrossed in the plants to notice, but Alma was right. Our little friend was practically singing in our minds, announcing James’ return. She also was warning of Alma’s presence and… I grinned, feeling her excitement about me.

I stepped back, shocked when a naked girl jumped James. I hadn’t felt her approach. “She can become invisible!” I exclaimed. She looked like… an elf. She really had a nice body too, but her ears were larger than normal and came to distinct points.

“More than that, I’d say.” replied Alma. “Were you able to feel her in the grass?” With a gentle ease, Alma pulled the girl off a James.

“You’re right. I can’t.” I admitted.

“I thought not.” stated Alma, staring the girl down and maintaining her grip.

I didn’t know whether to pout or laugh when Alma made cloud-like clothing appear over the girl’s form. She really knew what she wanted from James and seemed confused by why Alma pulled her away.

“James, we need to have a talk about you coming here later.” stated Alma.

More were approaching, but these I could feel distinctly as they touched the plants. Alma clad them with her magic as well. I stared down in shock as a walking tree hugged me. I could feel someone inside the plants! Not just inside… connected. A girl… family. Her thoughts. I felt so much love from her. The bark pulled away, and I saw her. She had beautiful, green hair and skin the color of oak. Her eyes were a light, leafy green.

“She’s your grandmother.” stated Alma in shock. “Well, with a good hundred ‘greats’ thrown in for good measure.”

The girl looked my age, but I knew what Alma said was true. I could feel the recognition in the fey’s thoughts. I hugged her tight against me and felt the strange sensation of knowing her from head to toe. Her body was plant-like enough that I could feel her distinctly. The bark had been physically connected with her until she let it go.

She was showing me the forest, and I watched as plants grew to her whims. I knew these feelings well. I could easily empathize with her love for them. I realized after awhile that I was probably stronger than her. She could only reach a couple thousand feet at best. I could stretch my magic over miles. How could I possibly be stronger than one of the fey… my… my great grandmother?

I nearly let go of her as an image came to me of plants tearing through men in armor. I realized there were other images from those around us. There was a man of fire burning his way through an army, melting their armor into their flesh as they screamed. I watched as a shirtless man grabbed the burning man. The fiery man screamed out just before his head was crushed in the shirtless man’s grip. I could see images of the others fleeing. I felt my great grandmother’s fight. The stench of death was unbearable.

“I shouldn’t have asked.” stated Alma, looking shocked. “These poor creatures were there, James.” She gripped James’ arm and said, “I’m so sorry. I had asked if there were any like me here, and they showed me the last they knew. That was likely one of my ancestors killing another. I hadn’t realized how far these creatures had come, but I recognized that man. We just saw Europe nearly two thousand years ago at one of my family’s battles with the fey.”

I felt sad, angry, and so disturbed at first, but then there was joy as images of life in this forest came to my head. The fey were so very happy here. I let their joy wash over me, cleansing me of what I just witnessed.

“James. James! Listen to them. Listen.” urged Alma, shaking his arm.

I wondered for a moment at the flowers around me, trying to think of when they appeared. Were they mine or my great grandmother’s? Both of ours? They were beautiful. I could easily picture us skipping along with a flower garden appearing in our wake. She obviously knew what I was thinking, picturing it as well. I wanted to spend more time with her. What would mom think of this? I needed to show her someday.

Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 181

I nearly dropped my fork halfway to my mouth when I noticed a light out of my sister’s eyes. Hovering over James’ plate with a slice of his bacon bigger than her held aloft by tiny little hands was an actual, luminescent fairy. I quickly looked to verify with my own eyes as well.

“Man-slave! A fairy! A fairy is eating your bacon!” exclaimed Emma.

Luckily, the little creature ignored her.

“Is that some sort of magic?” asked Brandon.

“She’s so cute!” exclaimed Brenna right over him.

“I thought all of the fey were dead. She is one, isn’t she?” questioned Jarod at the same time.

Possibly to himself over the fuss, Marco said, “I’ll have to figure out what she likes to eat and order doll-sized dishes.”

:This is really happening.: stated my sister and I at once, still disbelieving what we were seeing.

:I’ll text Lady Pendreigh.: agreed Mai, understanding my thoughts on the matter.

If this really was what we thought it was, we were all in danger.

James raised his hands for silence, staring all of us down until the loudest noise was the fairy fighting with the bacon. I was impressed by how much she was eating and how quickly she was eating it.

“She lives in the woods on my estate and followed me home.” he announced.

“You are a man of many surprises, James.” replied nii-san in his thick Japanese accent.

If not for Lady Pendreigh, we would worry what he would tell mother about this discovery, but mother wouldn’t dare encroach as long as Lady Pendreigh was here.

As the little fairy wrestled a sausage, James smiled and said, “I don’t think you’ll have to try too hard to find something she’ll eat, Marco.”

Smiling and nodding, Marco seemed to agree.

“After my leg heals a bit more, would you allow me to stroll through your woods and see if there are any more like her, James?” inquired nii-san. “This is quite the discovery.”

James looked hesitant as he said, “Give me a few days to think on it. Oh. Wait. Weren’t you leaving after the auction?”

“Due to my injury, and now this discovery, I feel a need to extend my trip, as long as you don’t mind me taking advantage of your hospitality a while longer.” he replied.

“Oh. Of course. Stay as long as you like.” insisted James.

“James, don’t move.” ordered Lady Pendreigh the instant she arrived. She was staring intently at the fairy.

:Seems we were right…: mumbled Mai.

I was just as distracted as she was, having watched as the fairy glanced at Lady Pendreigh before diving into James’ shirt, still holding what remained of the sausage.

“She really does find you scary, doesn’t she.” commented James as he smirked at Lady Pendreigh.

He might as well have struck her with the brief moment of distress that showed on her face.

Then her emotions washed away, and she said, “Funny, considering she’s one of the most dangerous creatures my family ever encountered. She could kill most of you before I could react.”

Before she was finished speaking, my jaw dropped. Images were flooding through our minds. In them, we saw Lady Pendreigh wreathed in fire and pointing at James’ food. As the little fairy hid, Lady Pendreigh swept up the last piece of bacon, devouring it as she smiled down at the little creature. We continued watching as the image went through other possible ways that Lady Pendreigh might take the food away.

:That’s amazing!: exclaimed Mai.

:I know… Why didn’t we think to take James’ bacon in such a manner!: I teased, despite being equally awed at the fairy’s telepathic abilities.

“Apparently, she believes you’re here to steal her food.” explained Emma.

Nii-san and Lady pendreigh looked confused, so we told them “She has telepathy!”

The fairy’s thoughts suddenly changed, picturing James angrily waving his finger at Lady Pendreigh. Outside of her thoughts, she flew out of the pocket and up to Lady Pendreigh in a most defiant manner. Then she dove back down at James’ plate.

“Charming, but she’s dangerous, James. We need to find a place where she’ll be safe away from people.” stated Lady Pendreigh.

“She has a place. She lives in my forest.” insisted James, staring her down.

“But she… the forest. How many are there?” she asked, closing her eyes. “I always wondered why there wasn’t so much as a bird there. Who did this? How?” She was quiet for a moment, casting numerous spells, when suddenly she winced before sitting down. She rubbed her temple as she said, “I can’t advise anyone to study the enchantment around the forest. There are defenses I’ve never seen before.”

Mai and I glanced at one another. The forest was off limits, so we avoided it. We never considered what might be in it. The idea that there was an enchantment there beyond Lady Pendreigh was frightening. Who could have made such a thing?

The fairy suddenly darted off into the hall with another of the sausages, and we wondered what startled it. A moment later, we saw the fairy fluttering around Aaliyah as she entered the room.

“Marco, could I get another plate?” asked James.

“Me too!” exclaimed the diminutive girl, wearing her secretary glasses and munching on the stolen sausage. She finished chewing and then asked, “What?” Pointing the sausage at the fairy, she said, “She offered.”

The little fairy ignored the sausage pointed at her, already eating other things.

“Busy day today, everyone!” announced Aaliyah, crawling onto James’ lap. “Boss-man, sir, you’re going to be late for training if you don’t hurry. Alpy? What’s wrong?”

“Hmm? Nothing. James, will you let Ai and Mai handle training everyone today and take me into the woods?” inquired Lady Pendreigh.

We sighed, having intended to spend the morning with Jarod and nii-san.

“Why? What do you want to do?” asked James.

“I suppose we can make time, but as your tenant agreement states, you’ll have to sign a visitation form to enter the forest and be escorted by the boss-man.” muttered Aaliyah as she looked at James’ phone.

“Emma, will you join us as well?” offered Lady Pendreigh.

“Of course!” exclaimed Emma, grinning at her.

We could guess that Lady Pendreigh wanted Emma’s company because of the exceptionally strong fey blood running through her veins, but we still felt put out by being given work and left behind.

“I’m sure most of you want to see them after meeting this little one.” stated James as he motioned to the fairy. “I’ll see how we can manage after gauging how the fey react with these two.”

Jarod was obviously feeling disappointed as well, but at least he might join us. He obviously had much he could teach in the martial arts lessons.

Everyone finished their food quietly while watching Lady Pendreigh creating balls of light and sending them toward the fairy. Residual energy poured off the little creature as she caught the lights and sent them back. The entire time, images danced in our heads, showing us different ways to maneuver the light. There was a questioning tone to it.

“What’s her name?” asked Emma.

James paused with his fork halfway to his mouth as he said, “Apparently, they don’t use names.”

“You’ve gotta name her.” insisted Brenna. “We can’t just call her ‘fairy’ all the time.”

Smirking, Brandon said, “Unless that’s her name.”

Brenna hit him, but he kept grinning. We agreed with Brenna that a name was appropriate.

“We could name her ‘Lucia’.” suggested Mai.

Nodding, I said, “Or perhaps ‘Lucita’, since she’s so small.”

“I like ‘Glimmerwing’, because she glimmers and has wings.” offered Emma.

“Could just call her ‘Laser’, since that’s how she’ll kill you.” stated Lady Pendreigh, though she was still smiling at the fairy.

“That’s horrible! You can’t name a girl that.” protested Brenna.

Looking intrigued, Jarod asked “Can she really create lasers?”

“According to what I’ve read, which is admittedly one account, these little ones created ‘beams of divine light which burned through scores of men’. The author is credible though.” replied Lady Pendreigh.

Jarod was grinning instantly, probably considering wacky ways to make use of such magic.

:Wacky, but brilliant.: admitted Mai.

We could never argue against his brilliance. He really was remarkable.

“You can’t tame them or reason with them. There’s no trusting fey. They feel, and they react. If you’re going to give her a name and admire her like a pet, you should realize that she’ll probably outwit you and destroy you in a moment of anger. Though I feel my family went too far when they attempted genocide against these creatures, I’m not going to tell you I approve of keeping them in the house either.” explained Lady Pendreigh.

Despite her warning, the rest of us continued debating on what the best name would be, at least until the plates were taken away. Then we demanded everyone, at least those who were coming, to get to practice. If we were ordered to act as instructors, we wouldn’t let Lady Pendreigh down.

Best Friend For Hire Reprise, Entry 180

I wasn’t accustomed to the master sleeping away from the house. I couldn’t monitor his vital signs very easily as he slept in the forest. I couldn’t guard him against possible threats. I knew the Princess had been with him, but she left before he woke. The most I could possibly do for him was attempt to rouse him through his cell phone. I couldn’t even send one of the others to fetch him, since that would be a violation of contract for most. Emma could come, but would she ever leave again if she came here? I wasn’t certain. No matter the case, I doubted the master would want her to be wandering around alone here, despite the great power which she possessed. The forest was, after all, home to the fey.

I was aware when the master awoke by the difference in his breathing. Then there was the crinkling sound of paper, though I had no idea from where he would have received paper in the woods.

There was the sound of a kiss, and the phone rose, probably from the master standing. I doubted he would be holding his phone aloft, expecting the fey to bow before it. The idea did amuse me enough for a few simulations on what that might be like.

As the phone moved through the forest, I followed the its position, knowing the master was still in possession of it by his breathing, though I had no idea why he was heading in that direction. I realized he had fallen at one point, but there was nothing I could do to help him. His slowed movement worried me, but he didn’t ask for help immediately. After a time, he finally spoke.

“Home.” he stated.

“Of course, master!” I replied. “Breakfast is being prepared for you as we speak, so please don’t delay. Marco hates serving a meal that’s sat for too long.”

I displayed a large blue arrow on the device, so he could easily know which direction to go. I never would have guessed that the master was lost in his own backyard. Shouldn’t the fey have shown him the way? Maybe he didn’t know how to ask them. Nonetheless, he was coming home now, so I informed him of the day’s schedule.

,,,^._.^,,,

When I decided to return home, I left the boss-man a note explaining how I couldn’t miss my daddy’s pancakes and asking the boss-man to tell our friends “goodbye” from me. I even left a P.S. on the back, knowing he wouldn’t notice until after thinking I was being as tricksy as the hobbitses. The P.S. did, of course, baffle him further, making him wonder at the brilliance of my mind.

Mila’s worries over James were perfectly adorable. She longed to protect him but didn’t know what the best approach would be any better than my fey friend knew how best to seduce him. The fey was being as forward as ever, making James quite nervous as he tried to gently force her away. Had she used her full strength, he wouldn’t stand a chance. Luckily for him, our little fairy friend intervened, creating a flash of light while chewing out our amorous friend.

Another of the fey started examining James’ pants. They had a vague understanding of clothing, tending to remove and discard them when people were “trapped” in them. As James attempted to communicate with our friends, I also watched the distant past where auntie first learned of the fey’s tendencies toward clothing. She was most adorable in her stern rejection of their aid, keeping her clothes from moving through use of her magic.

James learned how disheartening his absence would be for our fey friends as he tried to explain that he needed to leave but would return to visit. They were creatures of the moment, so his explanation was a bit confusing to them. He would improve greatly over time. In the future, James conveyed more complex ideas to our friends without the slightest difficulty. He was far older there, casual ruler of a vast empire that stretched across the stars. I loved watching him grow.

In the present, James’ wandering mind let him learn of how fey saw familial bonds, though he didn’t fully understand it yet. There were too many nuances for him to catch for now. Then he got to see Emma and learn of how the fey would watch when she came to play. His embarrassment at seeing her skinny dipping in the pond through their vision was sooo cute. Most boys his age would have held onto the image with all they had, but James pushed the thought out of his head as he did too many things. He didn’t feel himself ready yet to think on such things, even forgetting his own dreams quickly.

James attempted to instruct our little fairy friend to guide him through the forest, but she grew distracted far too quickly by her desire to play. She wanted to show him every part of her home and share the joys she knew.

When he stumbled, the fey were all confused. Tripping was entirely unnatural for them, and they didn’t know what James was doing. Had he simply asked for help, his little bruise could’ve been healed in under half the time, but he wouldn’t have wanted to be there that long.

I was already smelling Marco’s cooking and even enjoying the tastes of the meal. My daddy’s pancakes were made with love and perfectly reasonable skill for a human, but his best day as a chef couldn’t compete with Marco’s worst back when Marco was only ten. Marco was a prodigy in the kitchen with a true love for food that helped him surpass the works of others by leaps and bounds. Now that he had a home, he knew a happiness that he hadn’t known he was missing.

James did that to people often. His magic affected emotions greatly, helping others to feel what he felt. Unfortunately for those others, his anger seeped into them as something distinctly foreign and terrifying in its presence. No one gave furious speeches quite like my boss-man, and no one who heard one wanted to do so again. I could do worse, but that wasn’t my shtick.

Finally realizing that our little friend wasn’t being entirely helpful, James asked Mila for help. She gladly showed him the way, wanting to pick up his presence on all of her sensors.

James underestimated our little friend as he made his way toward the house. He thought he had sent her away, but she wouldn’t leave him if she could help it. The fey were intensely emotional about everything and could seem to forget those emotions in the blink of an eye if distracted. The full intensity of the emotions would return with a reminder and be lost just as swiftly again. Our little friend was as bright as she was tiny, capable of focusing on more than even the average fey, and James never would leave her thoughts.