I was glad I was able to make a reason for Alicia to come regularly. Now I didn't have to come up with some arbitrary reason to make her soak up some sunlight every day.
We sat down in the middle of the small clearing in front of the cave, with Alicia in my lap.
I gave her suggestions the best I could as to how to feel the spirits. Since they were all around us, there was no need to direct her senses in a particular direction.
As she closed her eyes and stuck her arms out cutely like she was trying to grasp something, I scattered around a bunch of mana treats. It's been a little while, so I figured a special service was warranted. At the very least the fluffballs were enjoying it.
Aside from Alicia's training while she basked in sunlight, I also had something I needed to do as well.
Testing my new [Solar Power] derived [Sunlight Vulnerability] skill was pretty scary, but I needed to know for sure if it would work as intended.
I raised an arm and took hold of my sleeve, but stopped at exposing the fingers of my gloves. Anxiety filled my heart.
Even if this worked as intended, it didn't change the fact that sunlight hurt. The skill only healed damage done while exposed under sunlight, so I'd still be receiving all the damage like normal.
The more I thought about it, the more I hated this kludge of a solution. It felt like trying to treat a knife wound with pain killers. Well, it wasn't that bad, but still...
I took a deep breath, then yanked my sleeve up to my elbow.
Even before I finished the movement, pain flared up my arm. It felt like I had thrust it over an open flame.
But I grit my teeth and endured, opening the eyes I instinctively closed to look at the result.
My forearm was bright red, like that after being seriously sunburned, but it didn't catch on fire or turn to ash. It just stayed red even after several seconds. To be extra sure of the results, I opened up my status and glanced at my HP.
The last digit was jumping all over the place, constantly going up and down faster than the eye can see, but the tens digit didn't move once. Even before the digit could go down by even one, my skill recovered the damage I received.
With my confirmation, I quickly pulled down my sleeve, letting me sigh in relief as the pain quickly subsided. My HP had returned to full and a quick touch of my arm through the sleeve confirmed that there wasn't any trace of any injury left.
But while I was engrossed in my experiment, Alicia had turned around in my lap and was staring at my face. Or rather, facing me directly?
"Ah, nothing in particular?"
What was she on about?
"But you stiffened up all of a sudden. It seemed like you were in a lot of pain"
(Damn. I didn't want her to notice, but I guess that was impossible)
"I was trying something out, but hurt myself a bit while doing so. I'm alright though. It's already healed up"
"Really? It doesn't hurt anymore?"
"Yup, I'm fine. Here"
I pulled Alicia's arm into my sleeve and let her touch my forearm. Her small fingers lightly touched my skin, but when I didn't react to it, she more firmly stroked it, then squeezed my arm.
"See? It's all fine already"
"It really is...It really doesn't hurt?"
"Not anymore. Well, we've been at it for a while now. Maybe you wanna go have lunch?"
Alicia jerked and sat straight up, stiff as a board.
"I'm fine! I'm not hungry!"
"Really? Are you sure?"
I tried poking her in the belly, but she just stiffened up even further. Amused by this, I tried rubbing and massaging her belly through her thick dress to see how she'd respond.
Alicia squirmed as I played with her thin body. This belly of hers really was more concave than flat. Supermodels might be envious of this part of her, but to me, it just seemed dangerously close to anorexia more than anything. I was glad she loved my food so much. It shouldn't take her long to get some much needed padding to her body.
Fed up with my playing, Alicia turned around and pounded her fists into my chest, alternating left and right. But after a few repetitions, her fists slowed down and eventually stopped. She just pressed her hands against my chest instead for a bit.
"They're so big and soft..."
I was wondering what was going through her head.
"Like a mama's! But much bigger!"
My body stiffened at her words. That was a comparison I wanted to wholeheartedly reject. I was way too young to be a mother...rather, such age concerns hardly mattered technically, as I was this big while physically younger than this little girl, but it was on the inside that wasn't old enough...or rather I was old enough that my mom used to occasionally bug me about getting married and having kids...but I wasn't ready for such a thing! My heart is still youthful! My heart was too young to have a child yet!
"They're so big and soft...like a mama's"
Repeating her words, she jumped into my chest, rubbing her cheeks against my mounds...er...mountains?
"Errr...Alicia? What do you think of me?"
I hadn't really thought about it until now, but now that she brought it up, I was a bit concerned.
"Like, I mean or relationship. How do you see me?"
(Was that too abstract of a question for her?)
"Like a mama!"
"Yup! Like a mama!"
It was the worst answer I could ask for.
"Ah...er...but don't you already have a mama?"
"My mama left me in the forest..."
(Dammit! We came all the way back to that!)
Was she trying to overwrite her memories of her biological mother with me?! Or was it just something about how I've been treating her that reminded her of her idea of mothers? Or was I totally off and it was something else?!
Or was it that she'd been unconsciously thinking me as her mother since that first day and that was the root cause of her nightly suckling?!
If it was the last one, then I really needed to get her to stop that association, or my sanity wouldn't last!
"Ah! Umm...then that means you don't like to think about your mama much, right?"
Alicia nodded weakly after a few seconds.
"Well...then did you have a big sister before?"
"A big sister? You mean like a bigger girl in the village?"
"No, not like that. But like a bigger girl who lived with you, but wasn't your mama. You said you had smaller brothers and sisters, but did you also have a bigger sister?"
She shook her head.
"Okay, then how about I be your bigger sister? I don't think I can be a good mama, but I can be a great big sister for you!"
(Please please please say yes)
She answered enthusiastically after a minute of consideration.
"Alright! That's a good girl!"
I hugged her with one arm and patted her head with the other.
"Ehehe...a big sister..."
It sounded like she liked the idea now that she had a chance to digest it.
"Why do you squeeze them so much?"
My body froze for the second time in that many minutes.
(What's this girl's obsession with tits?!)
"Umm...it's because I prefer it this way"
"Ehhh? But they're so big and soft! If you squeeze them like this, they're not as soft!"
(That's the entire point, little girl!)
It wasn't like I couldn't understand her reasoning. I used to think that when big women complained about their chest that it was some sort of lie or an indirect way to gloat, but now I could understand that it was 100% truth. Well, at least for many of them. Tits this big was nothing but a bother, and easily got in the way of everything if you didn't have a way to keep them from bouncing everywhere.
It sucked to have to pay close attention to how they moved even when bound just so you can move around without losing your balance constantly.
Sure, they gave a girl a big leg up when it came to turning a guy's head, but frankly, I didn't even want to think about what sort of expression a guy would make at my current body. I may have gotten used to the idea of being a woman now, but that didn't include how guys would treat the new me. Just the thought of dating some guy gave me the shivers.
Unable to give her an 'E for Everyone' answer, Alicia puffed her cheeks and pouted cutely until an idea occurred to her.
"Do you think I can get boobies as big as yours when I grow up?"
If I was drinking something at that point, I'd have spat it out with the force of a blue whale.
"Wh, why would you want such a thing?!"
"Eh? But your boobies are so soft and comfortable! They're so nice to sleep on"
(That's only true from a second person perspective!)
As the less than proud owners of such flesh pillows, I had professional license to refute her argument, even if the length of my experience was pretty short.
But explaining it in a family friendly manner was beyond my abilities, clearly.
"Mmmm! Why do you squeeze them so tightly..."
It didn't seem like she wanted to let this topic go, but I was getting pretty desperate to run away.
"Uh, hey. Are you sure you're not hungry? We've been out here for a while now. If we stay too much longer, you might get sunburned as well"
"It's when you stay outside under the sun for too long. Your skin gets red and itchy, and it starts to hurt if you do it too much. So how about it? Let's go back and have lunch!"
Her resolve was wavering.
(What was it about our current situation you liked so much?!)
"Besides! To be a proper big sister, I need to make sure you eat properly as well! Don't you want to be a good little sister?"
Oh? A nibble.
"Yup, really. I don't want to be a bad big sister, and I bet you don't want to be a bad little sister, right?"
"So let's go back to have lunch. There's no need for you to bear being hungry, and I don't want you to as your big sister!"
"Okay, let's go"
I sighed, relieved that she finally accepted my offer.
"Umm...are the spirits going to come as well?"
"The spirits. Are they going to come home with us?"
"Ah, umm, no. They don't like being inside caves it seems, so they'll stay outside"
(Wait, was this the reason why she didn't want to go back?)
"Don't worry. They like being around this area, so when we come back out, we can see them again"
"Umm...everyone, thank you again for saving me!"
Alicia bowed her head with her heartfelt thanks. The little spirits jumped around happily, delighted at her gratitude.
"We'll be back tomorrow. See you guys"
I tossed a bunch of mana treats at the happily dancing fluffballs before taking Alicia's hand and turning back to the dungeon.
Back home, I removed my outerwear and Alicia's boots then quickly made some herbed pork stir fry and potato salad for lunch. Alicia helped make the salad once the potatoes and eggs were boiled.
After that, we spent the afternoon working on some new soap and hair oil. The soap I had made before was starting to run out, so it was past time to make more. At first I was planning on working on it on my own while talking with Alicia, but she insisted on helping like usual. Since the process involved a lot of magic, she helped out by stirring the ingredients during several of the steps.
This time, since it wasn't just for me, for the soap, I added some oil made from grinding then soaking orange zest in hot water, then evaporating that water with magic and removing the zest grinds. From what I heard in my last life, essential oils seemed to evaporate at a lower temperature than water, so being able to get rid of the water with magic simplified the process quite a bit.
On top of that, I crushed the beans of a yellow fruit I found a while back. When I found them, I got pretty excited, but the realization that I couldn't eat them dampened my mood for a while. But I was glad I found them, since I spent time harvesting them with Alicia. And now came time to use them.
I boiled the ground beans, removed the pulp by straining with a new spell I came up with at that moment, then evaporated all the water using magic. Once I got that far on my own, Alicia helped out by mixing the warm butter with a few drops of orange oil and some sort of oil I got from a big walking tree monster.
The end result made me pretty happy. Why? Because the beans I made the butter from was most likely cocoa beans. That was why I got so depressed when I first found them, but this was a nice alternate way to use them. I thought the combination would work well, and Alicia positive response from the scent was more than enough proof for me. It was to the point that her stomach was growling at me when she took a sniff at the final product.
Now, I was pretty interested how she'd respond on the day I manage to make chocolate.
But for now, with our new soap and hair oil finished, we got ready for dinner. I had the leftover pot of stew from the day before. She hadn't tried it out yesterday, so I was interested in how she'd respond. I did make sure that she was served a new bowl and not the bowl that was left overnight. That still needed to be thrown out the next time we went to explore the dungeon.
Once again I squeezed some orange juice to drink, and for dessert I stirred and chilled the cream I made the day before and combined it with honey and berries to make ice cream.
Alicia's response when it came to the stew was pretty glowing.
"Everything you make is so tasty!"
I patted her on the head as she ate, as I was forced to let her sit on my lap since she still resisted from getting out of physical contact with me for any reason. At least I had magic to do things from a distance. If it wasn't for that, this sort of lifestyle wouldn't be possible. Then again, I had my doubts if continuing this sort of relationship was healthy for her, but baby steps.
When she was done, Alicia turned around and hugged my body as I gently stroked her head with one arm around her back. I let her be like this for a bit to rest after her meal. Her body was weak. She probably didn't get many chances to move around due to her blindness.
That was something I had to fix. While there was a limit to how much I could get her to exercise safely, she successfully got levels from my kills. At the very least, it should give her a certain degree of protection. There were many things having high stats couldn't do, but one of the few things it could certainly do was increase her ability to survive.
If I could give her that, along with some tools to be able to get a rudimentary amount of independence, then her future wouldn't be nearly as bleak as it currently is. I still had very little idea of how the world worked outside of this forest, but I doubted it was something that a blind person could survive.
From what she's already told me, there wasn't much leeway to help the disabled in human lands. If that was the case, then the only way for Alicia to survive over there was to have the ability to survive without the country's help beyond what a normal person had access to.
Fortunately, skills solved a lot of those problems. I might be able to teach enough skills to her that she could find employment by the time she was an adult.
If not, then at the very least, I hoped that I could teach her enough that she wouldn't think of herself as a hindrance.
"Hey Alicia, let's go and try out our new soap and hair oil"
Without my help, Alicia grabbed at her dress and started to pull it off.
I couldn't decide if it was because she was excited about taking a bath or because she was a bit of a nudist. I was desperately hoping it was the former.
Well, that said, I was pretty interested in testing out our new products.
"Alright, here we go"
I lifted Alicia up after removing my top, and took off my bottom as I carried her over to the bathtub.
Once again I had forgotten to drain it after using it. It was becoming a bad habit. But magic was insanely versatile! I removed all the stale water from the tub and floated it to the fountain to swap it with fresh water.
But as I tried to cast a second spell to lift off a new blob of water, the first spell ended, dropping the huge amount of water into the fountain, causing it to overflow and spill all around. Fortunately I raised a new blob of water fast enough that the spillover stopped before spreading too much, but the effect was pretty unexpected.
"Ah, erm, I spilt some of the old bath water"
The little girl patted my head as she consoled me.
My feelings were pretty mixed about being comforted by a six-year-old, but I decided to take it as is.
"Mm, thanks Alicia. You're such a good girl!"
In turn she let out a delighted laugh as I rubbed my cheek against hers.
I quickly filled the bathtub and heated it up before entering it with Alicia.
"Fuuu...soaking in hot water is always nice"
"Mmmmm, me too..."
Alicia answered and leaned back into my chest. It was cute how she was just imitating me like that, but a part of me hoped that she didn't just say that for my benefit.
"Alright, let's start washing then"
"Yup, the soap. Now don't move. We'll start with your hair"
She really was excited for that. I couldn't help but smile at her eagerness.
I took one of the bars of scented soap we made and lathered up my hands. The soap was still that muddy grey, but I had no complaints about the smell. Rather, it was pretty excellent.
"It smells so good!"
"It does, doesn't it?"
Full of thick lather, I rub Alicia's hair and gave her a scalp massage as I went. Since her hair was short and wasn't full of dirt and oil like before, it was a quick ordeal and I soon rinsed her hair before moving on to washing her face, then the rest of her body.
Once I had made sure that every square centimetre of her body had been properly cleaned, I moved on to myself.
"Can I help wash your hair Scarlet?"
"Is it no good?"
"Ah, er...I guess it's fine"
I didn't expect her to ask something like that. There probably wasn't any harm in letting her help, though it wasn't going to be so easy with it being as long as it was.
First thing first, I pulled my hair from behind over my shoulder so Alicia could properly touch it.
"Wow, it's so long!"
"Yea, I guess it is"
Alicia lightly pulled on my hair as she felt just how far it went. I guess I never let her feel it properly before, so she was pretty surprised about it. But my hair just kept going on and on. Since we were in the tub my hair floated on the water's surface, making it easy for Alicia to gauge it's length.
"Wow! Is your hair longer than me?"
Longer than she is tall maybe?
"Hmm...I guess it is?"
(Heh, it's my prided long hair after all)
"But it's not very soft..."
I froze at her words.
"Everything about you is so soft, but your hair isn't"
Children can be so cruel, even when not intending to. Rather, was I even supposed to take the first part as a compliment? I couldn't get happy about being called soft, but the latter bit actually hurt a bit.
"Th, that's what the hair oil's for after all! I just haven't been able to make one I liked until now!"
(What am I making excuses for?)
"Your hair's going to be really soft too then! Wow! Really long and soft!"
"Exactly! Just you wait!"
(Ah, what the hell kind of promise am I making?)
But I couldn't hate it. Ever since I became conscious of the poor quality of my hair, I couldn't help but think about fixing that.
With that thought in mind, Alicia helped me both lather and oil my hair up.
While the bar of soap we made would last for a week or two, we only made a small saucer of hair oil, and all that was used up in one go thanks to my long hair. There was just barely enough for Alicia, but we needed to make another batch tomorrow.
That said, I could feel a marked improvement just buy adding a thin layer of oil to my hair. It must've been a sign on just how much I've been neglecting it. My body was pretty amazing in many ways, but this was one place where it was hardly any different from when I was human. That said, it wasn't like I did anything special to my hair back then, but modern shampoo was pretty amazing as well.