I yawned and stretched, smiling as I looked at my siblings sprawling on our furniture. Sleeping on the floor was incredibly easy with the thickness of the blankets here and the lushness of the carpet, not that I needed to sleep on a floor anymore.
Last night had been incredible. We dined, we danced, and we met all kinds of people that Mila had wanted at her birthday party. I was actually acclimating to a sentient computer faster than I would have believed. Talking with her was just natural, there was no question of her being alive.
Feeling hungry, I decided to head to the kitchen and see if Marco had saved any food for us. If not, I’d collect some fruit. The convenience of food here was going to make us fat. As I left our room, I nearly bumped into someone and exclaimed in surprise.
James was there, tall and unwavering. He smiled as he said, “Good morning. Mind checking on your siblings? Training starts in fifteen minutes, and I didn’t catch any of you at breakfast.”
“S'excuser. I’ll get them.” I assured him quickly before heading back into the room. I shook Babette’s shoulder as I passed her and then kicked our brother. Anything less than a solid kick would never wake him.
Feisty as ever, Babette jumped at our brother, assuming something was his fault. I tried to stop them, but they weren’t listening.
“I didn’t wake you! She did!” insisted Achille as he pointed at me.
“You probably made her!” claimed Babette as she attacked him again, knocking him through our lovely table.
I knew we’d need a sturdier table, but things were made to look nice more than to handle bodies being thrown at them around here, not that our old home held up any better.
“Shut up, shut up, shut up!” I told them urgently, knowing James was waiting.
“Ouch!” exclaimed Achille after Babette took advantage of his distraction to kick his leg.
Then she scampered off to the door before he tried to hit her back. “James! Good morning!” exclaimed Babette in English, obviously oblivious to how she looked. Her hair was a frizzy mess going in every direction and her new pajamas now had a torn sleeve.
“You three have thirteen minutes before I expect you in the gym for this morning’s exercises. If you ask nicely, Emma will probably help mend whatever was broken in there. If she can’t, Mila might assist you.” he replied, his voice leaving no question that there would be consequences if we were late.
“Merci!” she exclaimed cutely, putting on a front to try easing the tension. “Achille stumbled onto the coffee table.”
“I did not!” he argued, earning a smack from me for arguing in front of James. He had the nerve to block, so I really let him have it until he exclaimed for me to behave.
Considering James was here, I might have gone overboard, but James didn’t say anything, merely nodding before walking off.
“Must you two make a scene in front of James!? Did you forget yesterday already!?” demanded Babette as she rounded on me.
I stared at her indignantly before saying, “Me!? He was the one who had asked for you two to be woken up!”
“You should have warned us!” insisted Babette, putting her hands on her hips as she glared at me.
“You two didn’t let me get a word in!” I told her.
“Hey. She attacked me!” insisted Achille till we both glared at him.
“Just get ready!” ordered Babette before jogging to her room.
She rarely let anyone else have the final word, always making things seem like someone else’s fault. I stormed off to my room and looked around for what might be good for some exercise. My siblings and I had enough Slayer blood in us to not really need exercise. Well, maybe we did with the food here, but we weren’t mere humans. James was probably underestimating us.
Nearly at the same time, we all met in the common room and headed out without a word. Thankfully, Mila was kind enough to light the way for us, creating illuminated arrows on the hall’s endless mirrors.
When we arrived in the gym, we stopped and stared. James was fighting everyone and didn’t seem to be struggling at all. Brandon had become a giant, but his huge fists were easily knocked aside, often toward someone else who had to duck out of the way. The floor warped and moved with plants growing up out of it to lash at James. He easily deflected those, sometimes shattering branches with a casual movement. A wolf darted around the others, nipping at James and darting away faster than I could clearly follow. That wolf eventually became Cosette in a smooth motion as she blocked for Kayla, who had been fighting as well as the rest of them from what I could see.
The young girl had a type of telekinetic magic, which she used to block debris, catch her fellow attackers when they were thrown, and occasionally to attack James from other directions as she ineffectually punched or kicked at him.
When Babette tapped my shoulder, I turned to see where she was pointing, and my mouth dropped open. There were arms and legs on the ground around Dani and Portentia. I remembered Dani’s frightening skill with magic and her physical strength quite well. Seeing her be obviously outmatched by the extraordinarily pale girl with her black staff was more than a little frightening.
If not for seeing James fight nearby, I would have thought Portentia was a master of masters at fighting. She had a way of diverting Dani’s attacks that left the other girl vulnerable for a hit very frequently. Dani would block with magic or twist just enough to evade as often as she took a hit hard enough to knock her back several feet. Neither of them seemed to care about the mangled limbs around them, but my eyes kept returning to the pile. Suddenly, both were swept away by a spell and lined up next to the ones who had attacked James.
He smiled as he faced them, saying, “Time to get serious, everyone. Don’t want the triplets to get the wrong idea about our exercises.”
“Wh-What happened over there?” I asked into the brief silence after James had spoken as I pointed at the limbs.
“Sorry. Portentia tends to cut off her limbs if someone attempts to bind her.” explained James with a casual shrug. “I should have warned Dani.”
“You really should have! It’s disgusting, Daddy!” she exclaimed with a grin, not looking disgusted at all.
“You’re the one who repeated the tactic. Three arms and two legs is a bit much.” he replied with a frown.
“B-but… she…” started Achille, who was pointing at Portentia.
James smiled again and said, “Yes, she regenerates instantly, never tires, and will hunt you relentlessly if you commit a crime. Best to abide by the law.” Then he playfully winked.
I nodded, not wanting to even attempt fighting Portentia after what I just saw and heard. Whatever she was, she was beyond me.
“Portentia! Again!?” demanded one of the twins as she strode into the room. “Emma, you owe us another finish for our doors and floor.”
Emma winked and asked “Where?” The plants grew back into the floor and a shiny finish covered the spots that had warped.
“Fine.” stated the perturbed woman. Then a torrent of water shot past her, scooping the blood and limbs off the floor and carrying them away through the door behind her. “No more missing limbs today.” she ordered.
“I don’t know if I will ever really be used to this place.” claimed Maple as she shook her head.
I hadn’t even noticed her, Jemal, Brenna, and Dejon hanging back by a wall during the chaos. At the moment, I really understood how she felt. The skill at magic and fighting I just witnessed made what I was used to seeing seem like beginner’s work.
“You will in time.” insisted James. Then he walked straight at my siblings and me. “You three will be working with Raine today.”
Raine was suddenly standing by him. “B-but… I-I… R-Really?” she asked in surprise.
James nodded and said, “Achille, Babette, and Heloise need to review the basics, and I am quite confident that you have seen enough in your months here to be a capable instructor.“
“B-But they’re… afraid.” argued Raine.
Never to admit fear, Babette quickly said, “Am not.”
“I certainly don’t want to make you angry.” insisted Achille as he stepped in front of our sister, blocking her with his arm.
After taking a calming breath, I said, “I want to learn. Just seeing you people… Even the kid is incredible.”
“Plus, Raine speaks fluent French and at least fifty other languages. I haven’t checked how many too recently, but she learns at an absurd rate.” added James proudly as he looked at the blushing girl.
She didn’t argue, stepping up to us with no apparent confidence, though she could have torn us to shreds on whim if she felt like it. As she tested us, we were very well aware of the difference in strength between us. When she moved my arm to correct my position, I couldn’t have fought her. There might as well have been a wall gently pushing me into place.
Unlike how Raine walked, seeming to be the most timid person I have ever seen, her martial arts were top notch to my eye. She flowed effortlessly from position to position in her demonstrations with not a hint of hesitance. I didn’t doubt James when he assigned a half-demon to teach us, but I couldn’t understand why this incredibly powerful person was so… awkward… when not instructing us.
“Mila, do you know why Raine is…” I started once we were back in our common room, hesitating as I decided how to put it.
“Scared.” stated Babette bluntly, ignoring Achille’s ashen expression.
“Where some people with power take pride in it, Raine has always worried about unintentionally hurting others.” explained Mila.
“A compassionate demon?” questioned Babette in surprise.
Sounding amused, Mila said, “Half-demon, but yes. The Master wasn’t lying when he told you that Raine is one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet. You’ll get to know your co-workers much more quickly if you spend some time with them. Unlike at your old job, you really are with friends here.”
I nodded, trying to picture it. There had always been us three and everyone else. Trusting anyone outside of the family was like asking for a knife in the back. Yet, I trusted James. If he wanted me dead, there was no reason for messing with our heads. After realizing that I was only picturing myself and James hanging out, I forcefully tried picturing what hanging out with Raine would be like. I’d have to overcome my fear for that picture to be anything but unnatural. Picturing myself hanging out with Cosette seemed almost worse, despite what she did for us yesterday. The girl was too intimidating. I hadn’t thought Brandon was intimidating until he became a giant today.
Who here wasn’t intimidating? Jemal? I doubted we could hang out with him without his sister around, and she was really young. Dejon seemed unapproachable. Maple, maybe?
Babette shoved me. “Let’s get some food after I shower. I’m starving.” she told me, dodging when I tried to shove her back.
“Leave me some hot water!” exclaimed Achille with a grin.
“Fine. Achille can bring us some food while we get cleaned up.” I announced, heading to my room to figure out what I wanted to wear today. Having so many clothes now made things more complicated, but I liked it.
Achille sighed loudly, but I heard him heading to the door. We’d clean up, eat, and then see what else we were supposed to do for today.