The week passed peacefully, Felicia slowly adapting to her child body and mind, as well as the big mansion. During the day she explored and talked to the servants, acting like a cheerful obedient child. She would check in on Darius, but that kid was either reading a math book or writing out a math problem. If not doing either of those, he would simply stand there in a daze.
Felicia thought with a frown, ‘That can’t be a healthy way to live…’
At night, when the world was quiet and there was only DARS to keep her company, she would weep over the loss of her family and friends. DARS never commented about her crying, only doing his ‘bounce, bounce’ motion lightly on her shoulder. She would talk to him about her life, her first or original life as she thought of it now, afraid that she might forget them if she didn’t.
[Even if you forget in this timeline,] DARS explained after she expressed her fear of forgetting her original family, [You will remember again when you go back to your room.]
“The white room?” Since it was at night and she was alone, she sometimes talked to DARS out loud.
[Correct. User should remember that when the user returns to that room, she will be ‘reset’.]
‘Can’t you think of a better term than ‘reset’? It sounds really disturbing…’
The three dots on DARS’ face disappeared until only one big dot remained. Felicia had no idea what this was supposed to be expressing and could only stare at him stupidly and wait.
Finally DARS offered, [Other words that might parallel reset are: reboot, restore, reload, erase, restart, default, refresh—]
“Refresh! I like that one!”
A slanted pixelated line appeared on DARS’ face. [I think ‘restore’ would be better.]
“But ‘refresh’ just sounds… more organic and less like a machine.”
[What’s wrong with words that sound like a machine?]
Felicia opened her mouth as if to speak and then, seeing the very machine looking DARS, closed her mouth. Picking at the blankets on her bed, she cleared her throat and said without looking at him, “...n-nothing’s wrong with it…”
[Then, the user’s request to change “reset” to “restore” has been accepted.]
“HEY! I want it to be ‘refresh’!!!” She started throwing a small tantrum, flailing her arms and legs on the bed. DARS was hit in the flail and sent sailing to the other side of the room. “Make it ‘refresh’!!!!!!! Refresh! I want REFRESH!”
There were some serious advantages of being a child. Throwing tantrums when angry was one of them. Adults always had to suppress, suppress, suppress what they were feeling but kids were expected to show everything they were feeling on their faces. The more Felicia adapted to her body, the less restrained she became in this regard.
A #### appeared on DARS’ face and he suddenly floated closer to her, until his strange flat-round circular body pressed against her cheeks.
[The user understands she is not an actual child, yes?] Several pixelated ? appeared on his face as he spoke.
Even though his words rarely fluctuated with emotion and he didn’t have a face, and only barely something that could be classified as a body, the pressure he was immiting was enormous.
Felicia immediately stopped her tantrum, giggling awkwardly.
‘Heh, I got carried away. Sorry.’ She tried to look cute and defenseless.
[The user will refrain from throwing tantrums in front of me in the future.]
This was not a request, but a statement. Felicia nodded hurriedly in agreement.
[Continuing the previous conversation.] DARS changed the subject, floating away from Felicia’s face and hovering serenely. [When the user is restored—]
Felicia's nose scrunched but she remained silent.
[—it is like the user is returning to the time before the mission. What the user learned during the mission, intellectually, will remain. However, concerning attachments and emotions acquired during the mission, those will disappear. As I said, if the user has any attachment remaining, it will be similar to the feeling a person gets over a fictional character they like.]
[The emotions and events that caused the user to forget her parents during a mission will no longer be there when she is restored. The user will remember her parents exactly the same as before the mission.]
She furrowed her brows for a moment and then muttered, “...really like a factory reset then…” before saying to DARS directly, ‘It’s a little hard to imagine what this ‘restoring’ thingy will be like.’
[User does not need to imagine, just wait. It will inevitably happen.]
‘Huh, I guess that’s true.’
Felicia stopped crying so much after that. It’s not that she didn’t mourn the loss of her family and friends, but with the hope that DARS’ boss may actually let her see them again someday paired with the restore thing, the fear and anxiety had lessened quite a bit. There was comfort and freedom in knowing she’d never really forget them.
As she rolled into her second week as a child, Felicia decided she had to do something about Darius. His way of living… it wasn’t healthy! When thinking about the extra goal, she realized part of the problem was Darius was way too single-minded. This single-minded approach to life meant that when he got older, he didn’t know how to balance work and play. She needed to get him to diversify his interests now, when he was still malleable and young.
She found him standing in the library doing some kind of math word problem on the floor. Having discussed with DARS how to approach him, she tapped his shoulder.
Darius stopped what he was doing and looked at her.
“When you’re done with this problem, come find me, okay?”
He gave a single blink at her and nodded, returning to what he was doing.
Felicia didn’t take this cold response to heart and wandered around the library while waiting for him. She found her host didn’t like big books, but there was a children's section that had some simple novels involving adventures and mysteries. Quite a few involved princesses and fairies, causing Felicia to chuckle. Mr. King was really thoughtful, he’d bought books for his new daughter even knowing she wasn’t a heavy reader, just in case.
She went through several of these short, simple stories before Darius had finished and came to find her. He didn’t even speak to her, only standing quietly in front of her, waiting.
Felicia almost jumped out of her skin when she glanced up and found him staring at her. She hadn’t heard him at all! Was he a child-ninja or something!?
Sighing, she put the book down and hopped off the overstuffed chair she’d been sitting on.
“First!” She raised her index finger and spoke haughty. “If you are asked to talk to someone, or want to talk to someone yourself, you need to say something like ‘hello’ and not just stand there quietly. That’s creepy.”
He simply blinked at her, not saying anything.
“Second!” This time she grabbed his hand and grinned widely, “It’s not good to stay inside all day! Let’s go play!”
She then dragged him out of the library, all the way out of the house, to the backyard. Because he was a year younger and a shut-in, he was too weak to physically remove himself from her grasp or fight back to prevent himself from being dragged outside. Like a cat on a leash, she pulled him along.
After several minutes of walking across a well manicured lawn, Felicia stopped and sat down. She took off her shoes and socks and then told him directly, “Take off yours too.”
Having been dragged away from the places he liked, Darius became stubborn.
She raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean no?”
“I don’t want to.”
“Too bad, you’re going to play!”
“I can play inside.”
“It’s not good for you to be indoors all the time!”
“Because humans need sunlight.”
Darius stared up at the sun and squinted, then looked back down at Felicia. “I’ll stand next to a window. Inside.”
“It’s not the same! You need fresh air too!”
“I’ll open the window.”
Felicia’s lips puckered in annoyance. “It’s not the same! And standing next to an open window ISN’T playing.”
“I’ll read or do a math problem.”
“That’s not playing either!”
This time Darius furrowed his brow.
“Then what is playing?”
Felicia grinned. “It’s having fun by moving your body! When you play your body will like it and you’ll feel… heh… refreshed afterward!”
“Look, just do it once with me. If you don’t feel refreshed, I won’t make you play this way in the future, ok?”
Apparently this was an acceptable compromise, Darius nodded.
“You won’t regret it, so take off those shoes and socks!”
This time Darius did not object, promptly sitting down and removing everything from his feet.
The mansion’s lawn didn’t just look beautiful, it felt beautiful too. Felicia had discovered this last week: walking on the grass was like walking across a cool, soft carpet. There wasn’t a single weed or sharp object or biting bug anywhere. She’d run across as much of the lawn as her child body was able to test it to make sure. She didn’t even encounter a rock, much less something genuinely harmful.
Felicia had never experienced this kind of lawn before and couldn’t get enough of it. Where she’d lived in her original life had a lot of pointy crabgrass and fire ants. Her host had never lived in a nice enough area that it was safe to walk across without shoes. Felicia the adult found the whole experience novel, Felicia the child just enjoyed the cool feeling of the grass between her toes and freedom to run as fast she liked without getting scolded.
Alas, Darius did not understand what he was supposed to do and could only awkwardly follow after Felicia as she ran around. Felicia stopped when she realized Darius wasn’t “getting it”. The point of this wasn’t to bore or annoy him, just to get him used to doing something that wasn’t in his typical routine. She stopped running and walked next to him, taking his hand in her own.
“Darius, we’re brother and sister now, right?”
“And you know I’m a year older than you, right?”
She cleared her throat, “That makes me your older sister!”
He didn’t respond.
“So… erm… you gotta listen to me in the future.”
This time he turned to stare at her.
“Because I’m older than you!”
He frowned. “But I’m smarter than you. Logically speaking, the smarter one should be listened to.”
Her mouth dropped open, speechless. Who knew this kid could actually talk back?!
“You’re only smart in one area though, math, but I’m smart in a lot of areas! Logically, shouldn’t the person smart in a lot of areas take the lead?”
“Are you smart in a lot of areas?”
“Sure! Want me to prove it?”
“Do you know why the sky is blue?”
He shook his head showing he didn’t.
“Because of how the sunlight interacts with our atmosphere! Light is made up of different colors. The atmosphere has different thicknesses. When the blue light hits our atmosphere, it scatters. Other colors, like red, can pass through easily. During the evening, the sky is red because it’s going through the thicker part of the atmosphere. Scientists call this “Rayleigh scattering”.” Felicia puffed her chest out, proud that she’d remembered such random trivia.
Darius' eyes widened as she talked.
“Do you know why your skin is so white?” She pointed at Darius. It was clear he was genetically a white person, but he also suffered from being an unhealthy pale, because he stayed indoors way too much.
He looked down at himself and shook his head again.
“That’s because of melanin, the color pigment found in human skin. The more melanin you have, the darker your skin. Melanin is also good for protecting your skin against radiation from the sun, which can make you really sick. But on the flip side, if you don’t have a lot of melanin, it’s easier for your body to produce vitamin D, which also needs sunlight. Without vitamin D, your bones and teeth get frail and you break easily. That’s why people in really hot places that get a lot of sun tend to have dark skin, they get so much sun it’s dangerous. While people from really cold places that are overcast most of the year, tend to have lighter skin because they need to be able to get vitamin D from the little sun they have.”
Darius looked at his skin with more interest.
“Did you know concrete and cement are two different things?”
He stopped looking at his skin, staring at her blankly and then slowly shook his head.
“It’s true, cement is an ingredient used in concrete. Cement is made of limestone and clay. Concrete is made of cement, air, water, and stuff like sand or rocks.” She pinched her chin to give the appearance of being deep and wise. “Concrete has been around for thousands of years! Even the ancient Chinese and Egyptians used it to build stuff! Your house’s foundation is made of it too! Isn’t that cool? From the Egyptians to your house, society is built on concrete!”
Felicia knew a lot of really random trivia. She always had a good memory to begin with, which was why she was good at studying, and retained most of what she learned with ease. This, paired with her original Dad’s tendency to leave science, history, and biology magazines in the bathroom, meant she was constantly absorbing new information and sometimes reminded of what she’d already learned.
Standing to her full height, she looked down at the slightly smaller Darius and asked arrogantly, “What do you think? Am I smarter than you in areas outside of math?”
Darius froze. His mouth turned into a straight line and he looked down.
[He does not want to admit it, but the user is correct.] DARS helpfully observed.
“Pff!” Felicia held her hand to her mouth and giggled slightly. She saw Darius noticeably stiffen and remembered DARS’ warning about not belittling him. She wasn’t doing that, but he might mistakenly think she was.
Rearranging her facial expression to a neutral one, she proposed, “How about this? In math, I’ll do what you say. But in everything else where I’m smart, you do what I say.”
The hard line of Darius’ mouth relaxed.
He looked up, a twinkle in his eyes, and a slight smile on his lips, “Okay.”
Felicia was stunned.
Almost as quickly as the smile appeared, it was gone. Felicia almost didn’t believe what she’d seen and only after confirming with DARS did her heart settle down.
Not only could he talk back, apparently he could smile! For the first time she thought, ‘Eh, he can be cute just like a regular kid too!’