“Wah, there it is!” Kim cried out excitedly, interrupting the conversation Felicia and DARS were having.
Felicia bent over and lifted herself up to look through the front seats and out the front window.
A huge house, perhaps more appropriately called a mansion, was at the end of a long driveway. Old trees lined either side of the road and a large fountain was in the center of the circular end of the driveway. Even before they drove up there were several people standing outside the front doors.
Some were wearing uniforms and Felicia decided they were likely servants.
‘Huh,’ she thought, ‘It really is a mansion then…’
She’d never stepped foot in a mansion before, much less known anyone who had servants for their house. One of her friends was pretty rich and their family had a maid that came once a week. That was as close to such extravagance as she ever got. The idea of living in a place this fancy was really astonishing.
There were two people not wearing uniforms. A gentleman who looked to be in his late 40s, perhaps early 50s, and a young boy.
[The man is Damien King and the boy is his son, Darius King.]
Felicia’s eyes widened as her vision focused on the boy. He had short black hair, a button down shirt, and suspendered children’s dress-shorts that had a crease in the front. Currently he was looking down and she couldn’t make out his face.
‘Wait…’ She blinked. ‘How does this body not have any memories of Darius?’
[The host only met Damien King a few times before her mother married him. If the user searches the host memories, she may remember that Damien King mentioned having a son a year younger than the host during one of those few meetings.]
‘But the wedding…’
[Darius did not attend.]
Before DARS could answer, the car stopped and Kim excitedly got out. Felicia watched in astonishment as Kim totally neglected her daughter and rushed over to Mr. King. She plastered herself up against the older man, kissing him so deeply Felicia felt a tiny bit scandalized despite herself.
It was only when they were side by side that it registered to Felicia that Kim was much younger than Mr. King. The host, being a child, didn’t take note of such things and so it never crossed her mind. But Felicia was a highschool graduate and immediately noticed.
Is this the infamous “rich old guy marries a trophy wife” stereotype?!
While the two newlyweds were grossly making out, one of the servants came over and opened the door. It was a middle aged man with thinning speckled brown hair.
He smiled kindly, saying, “Welcome young lady. Shall I carry your backpack for you?”
When he pointed next to Felicia, she noticed the obnoxiously pink backpack lying next to her. It’d been there the whole time, but she only then took note of it. Shaking her head hastily, she grabbed it and held it tightly.
Though she’d been a child once, being one again made her feel vulnerable.
Everyone and everything was bigger! It was alright in the car, which was enclosed, but out in the open made her feel uncomfortable.
[User, channel the host’s feelings.]
‘Oh. Right.’ Felicia furrowed her brow and found that the host had some lingering excitement about the move. Apparently she’d been looking forward to getting a new, bigger home.
Felicia thought to herself, ‘This feeling of excitement is what I need to get over feeling so small!’ Instantly,a strange feeling like pressure slowly being released swelled up in Felicia's chest and she found… she was excited instead of afraid.
DARS had been right. Adopting her host’s memories and feelings wasn’t that hard. It didn’t feel like she was losing herself either, just that she was really truly adopting these feelings as her own.
The excitement caused a huge grin to spread across her face. Instead of holding the backpack, she put it on her back where it belonged and held her head high.
While she did that, she looked up at the servant and asked, “My name’s Felicia, what’s yours?”
Even if she was a kid, it was basic manners to introduce herself.
The older servant, who must have been feeling a little anxious at her initial timidness, noticeably relaxed.
“Hello Miss Felicia, I’m Mr. Howard, the butler. Do you know what a butler is?”
She nodded automatically and then froze. Actually the host didn’t know! She’d responded as herself just then!
[Do not panic.] DARS instructed. [The butler doesn’t know you.]
Sure enough, the butler wasn’t alarmed that she knew. Instead he chuckled and gave her a gentle pat on the head.
“Miss is smart, as expected!”
Felicia giggled nervously, her smile a little awkward.
“Sweety!” Kim seemed to have remembered she had a daughter and unglued herself from Mr. King. “What are you doing being all shy? Come over here!”
Felicia tried to keep the smile on her face as she thought angrily, ‘Who’s being shy?! You were sucking face this whole time, you want an audience?!”
Instead she casually told the butler goodbye and ran over to Kim.
Standing in front of Kim and Mr. King made the height difference more noticable. She had to strain her neck to look up at them.
How did kids do this all the time without developing a crick in their necks?!
Kim walked over to her daughter, bending down and kissing her on the cheek. As she did, Kim whispered, “Don’t forget the greeting I taught you.”
Then she stood up and moved behind Felicia, gripping her shoulders.
‘So forceful!’ Felicia thought in annoyance, while at the same time searching her host’s memories. Luckily the greeting she’d been taught had been earlier in the day and didn’t require much thinking.
When Felicia realized how Kim wanted her to behave, she couldn’t stop herself from looking up at her mother, nose wrinkled. This was the wrong response, as Kim immediately squeezed Felicia’s shoulders. Her manicured nails were long and they dug into Felicia’s shoulders.
Felicia rearranged her face to what she hoped was a “charming” look and giggled. Looking up at Mr. King, she smiled widely and said, “Hello Daddy!”
She didn’t want to do the rest of it, but Kim pushed her forward forcefully.
Sighing in her heart at the injustice of it all, Felicia threw her pride as an almost-adult away, and ran forward, embracing Mr. King’s thighs. She was too short for a hug at the waist. So embarrassing!!
“I’m so happy to be your daughter! Let’s be happy forever and ever Daddy!”
Felicia really thought this was laying it on way too thick, but to her shock it worked. Mr. King gave a deep chuckle and reached down and picked her up. Felicia wanted to stiffened but she forced herself to relax and continue smiling. Her host had been looking forward to calling this man “daddy”, so if she just channeled that desire it didn’t feel so horribly awkward.
Mr. King had a square jaw, a row of white teeth, deep blue eyes, and black hair with only a little white around the temples. All in all, for someone near or in his 50s, he was decently handsome. Felicia felt if she had to be held like a child, being held by a handsome man was a decent consolation prize.
“Ah, dear Felicia! I’m happy to be your daddy! We will definitely be happy, I promise.” He then hugged Felicia.
When he didn’t stop after a full minute, Felicia began to get suspicious.
‘DARS, this guy doesn’t... ya know… have an unhealthy interest in kids does he?’
[...User’s mind is really terrifying. No, Mr. King is simply happy to have a normal, cuddly child.]
‘Huh? What do you mean normal?’
But once again, DARS was interrupted by the people around Felicia.
“Let me introduce you to your new younger brother.” Mr. King said, setting her back down. “Do you remember me saying I have a son?”
Felicia glanced at Darius, who was still looking down, and nodded. “I remember.”
Mr. King also turned to Darius, “Darius, come and greet your new sister.”
Hearing his name, Darius finally looked up. Felicia realized what DARS hadn’t been able to say and why he mentioned “normal”.
Darius was a stunning little boy in appearance, but his face was blank. There was no excitement, no fear, not even a flicker of interest. His eyes were the same color as Mr. King’s eyes, deep blue, but they felt… empty.
Felicia couldn’t help wondering if this kid was even capable of speech.
“Hello, my name is Darius King.” Darius spoke in a smooth unemotional voice, proving Felicia’s worst fears unfounded. “I’m 5 and I like math. What about you?”
Felicia opened her mouth to return his greeting, but he was already looking down again, apparently done with the conversation. Getting this kind of reaction left her feeling speechless. Mr. King sighed, apparently disappointed.
[Ask Darius about math.] DARS advised.
‘Oh right… he did say he liked math…’
Taking a step forward, Felicia smiled brightly and asked, “Do you really like math?”
Even though he didn’t look up, Darius responded, “Yes.”
“Ok then…” Felicia tapped her chin, looking purposefully thoughtly. “What’s 149 times 362?”
He immediately responded, “53,938”
Felicia had already done this math problem in her head and knew he was right.
“Heh, not bad.” She chuckled, “What’s your favorite math problem?”
Darius stopped looking down, finally meeting her eyes with his own. There was a small flicker of interest in his deep blue irises.
“There are different kinds of math problems. Do you mean word problems, puzzles, algebra, geometry—”
Felicia held up her hand, “So there’s all sorts? How about you show me your favorite in each category?”
The younger boy froze for a moment, apparently not expecting her to ask that. He then nodded, turning on his heel, and almost running inside without a word to anyone.
Felicia watched him and laughed. Looking up at Mr. King, she spoke cheerfully, “Daddy, do you mind if I go play with Darius?”
Mr. King looked genuinely astonished and simply nodded.
As Felicia was skipping into the house, she heard Mr. King say to Kim, “Why didn’t you tell me your daughter was so smart?”
‘Er, will I be in trouble for that?’ Felicia asked, only belatedly realizing a multiplication problem with big numbers like that would be way over her host’s head.
[Even though Mrs. Kim realizes something is strange with her daughter, because it made her look good in front of Mr. King, she won’t care.] DARS explained, following invisibly behind Felicia. [Mrs. Kim is selfish. She only cares about appearances. Don’t break her things or make her look bad, she won’t care what you do.]
‘What a crummy parent…’
It was a good thing DARS was with her, otherwise Felicia would have never found Darius. This kid really did a full sprint towards the library without waiting for her. The house was a mansion and she’d never been here before. Without a guide, how would she have found him?
‘Why is this guy so…’ Felicia hesitated and then changed the question. ‘DARS, is this kid… you know… um… mentally handicapped?’
‘Then why is he so… uh… odd?’
[He is intelligent but…] DARS three dots blinked as he thought. [...empty.]
‘Empty? What do you mean?’
[He does not understand the world around him.]
‘But he’s not mentally handicapped?’
[His mind is functioning as it should.]
‘Huh…’ She frowned slightly but the conversation ended because she’d arrived at the library.
Darius was in a big room that had every wall lined with a bookshelf. Felicia’s heart was moved and she sighed in appreciation. She liked the smell of books, and of course she liked to read.
It was just a shame that her host was an airhead. She could vaguely feel her host being uncomfortable at the sight of so many books.
When Felicia quickly sorted through her host’s memories to figure out why, she found the little girl barely read and spent most of her free time watching TV. And not even child-appropriate shows either, but daytime soap operas and Terry Spring-type shows. If she read at all, it was fashion magazines Kim left lying around the house. Kim was rarely home to supervise her, and even when she was, she didn’t seem to care what her daughter watched.
Felicia felt outraged. Was Kim trying to raise an idiot!?
Walking over to Darius, she found him putting a book on top of another book. A sizable pile had formed in the time it’d taken for her to get here.
“What are you doing?” She asked curiously.
Darius glanced at her but didn’t stop moving to get another book. “You said you wanted to see my favorites in each category.”
“R—right.” She looked at the pile of books and gulped. Felicia liked reading, but she was only average with math. It didn’t help that her host was already reacting negatively to all the books. Would she really be ok?
“How about we look at the ones you already picked before getting more?” Felicia suggested weakly as he placed another book on the pile.
He grabbed the one he’d just put down and sat down directly on the floor. Not knowing what else to do, Felicia sat down next to him. He opened up the book and flipped the pages, finally stopping.
“I like this one.”
She stared at it and felt her forehead start to perspire. It was… probably… some kind of algebra right?
Turning to Darius she asked slowly, “Could you… show me… how to solve it?”
“Ok.” He stood up and walked over to a desk, pulling open several sheets of paper and a pre-sharpened pencil.
Seeing so many sheets of paper, she had a small mental breakdown. He was just getting extra sheets right? He didn’t need them all RIGHT?!