That night, we were in our usual arrangement, with Alicia sleeping on top of my under a bear fur blanket.
Aside from spending way more time on managing my hair than I thought was reasonable, we quickly finished up washing. After some additional soaking in the hot water, the two of us got ready for bed. Alicia had almost fallen asleep in the bath, so I pretty much had to do all the work drying our bodies as she could barely keep her eyes open by the time I noticed.
In virtually no time, Alicia was lightly snoring while using my breasts as a pillow. It had started to feel like the only reason why I had these huge balls of fat was for her sake.
Unlike usual, I couldn't help but play with my hair this night. Just a single application of hair oil, and it felt so soft and silky. Before it was pretty coarse, but I didn't pay it any mind. Hell, it had only gotten as long as it had because I didn't really take any interest in my hair. But seeing it's potential right there in my hands, I couldn't help but imagine just how much nicer my hair could get if I put in actual effort on a regular basis.
I was annoyed at how much time we spent on it earlier, but now it felt like the results made it worth it. But this was only the beginning. There was still plenty of things that were done on Earth regarding hair care that I could still remember. I would need to spend time implementing those ideas.
But after admiring the silkiness of my hair, I went back to investigating the skill system.
I was glad that my new custom skill [Sunlight Vulnerability] that did the opposite of what it was called worked exactly as intended. While sunlight was still a big proverbial and literal pain, it was theoretically no longer deadly. Looking at the details, it seemed like the effect even worked on [Light Magic], but there was a problem with relying on it to protect me from [Light Magic]. The health restored from light was on a reverse exponential curve, which meant that the more light I was exposed to at once, the less I benefited from the skill.
At the levels that normal light would effect me, the healing was more effective than the damage done as I had experienced. But as the exposure increased, the damage would outstrip the healing done, and eventually the healing would hardly be noticeable. But at that point the damage would be high enough that unless if significant resistances were in play, other people would be taking quite a lot of damage from such an attack in the first place. The fact that I would be taking more wouldn't be that noticeable if it happened in public.
That said, I would still want to avoid getting hit by light magic if possible, even if it was weak enough that I could heal all the damage.
I considered changing the details to deal with all degrees of light magic, but the thought 'don't fix what ain't broken' came to mind. No, that was a lie. I was just worried that the skill might break if I tried to improve on it. It worked as well as it needed, so any improvement would risk breaking the code I ways I didn't have the knowledge to predict. Instead, I simply changed the skill description to 'Skill Which Increased Susceptibility to Sunburns', and left it like that.
Next, I started to quickly scan through the skill database. There was a skill common in many fantasy stories that I wanted. If it existed, then I wanted to get it somehow. If it didn't, then I wanted a way to make it. But my lack of knowledge about the system meant that there was no way for me to make it from scratch, so I needed to find the necessary parts. Not only that, but I needed more information about how the system worked, so that I could make the parts fit together.
But my rapid scans quickly revealed a skill which held tremendous promise: [Appraisal].
From the name alone, it was the exact skill I was looking for.
Knowledge was the things I lacked more than anything of this world. Normally knowledge was gathered through your connections, and on Earth, the internet and books. But here, I had none of that. Alicia was my only source of knowledge, but the information coming from a six-year-old was frankly pretty limited. At the least, I needed to be able to identify common things as well as have a way to gauge where I sat when it came to the ability hierarchy.
Stats and skills most likely ruled the world, not just relationships and money. But of those things, stats and skills were pretty foreign for me, and not knowing what common people had in regards to both limited my ability to act around others when the time came. Was my level low? High? Average? It seemed high, but without a point of comparison, I might only be as strong as a typical 10 year old. No matter how much I thought that was unlikely, without being able to directly compare, I wouldn't know for sure. The same went for skills.
I could always ask Alicia, but a girl who was unable to even help with chores would be sorely lacking in both XP and skills.
[Appraisal] was the doorway for me to learn what I needed...I hoped.
Opening up the skill description, it read that the skill was used to identify and discover the properties of an item.
So...it was only half of what I needed. I needed something that worked on people and monsters as well, not just items.
I spent a while searching, but the only other skill I could find that was even remotely close was [Sense Aura Strength]. It didn't even have the parts I wanted.
There wasn't any other option. I had to work off of [Appraisal].
But before I could move to start examining the skill's source code, a sensation that had been rapidly getting more and more familiar as the days went by attacked me.
Alicia's nightly suckling.
It was frustrating that such a thing broke my concentration so thoroughly, preventing me from working on other things.
I lay back, cradling Alicia's body so that she would fall if she moved in her sleep.
But now that my concentration was diverted from work to anything that would distract me from the wet feeling on my chest, I was reminded of something. I was hungry. Pretty hungry at that. I hadn't had anything to eat since the previous day.
It's been a while since I spent so much time between meals, and now that I was aware of that hunger, it started to overrun my mind.
Thankfully, I had some blood stored inside of my bunny bag.
With a few quick motions, I brought the bag over and pulled out a jar of blood.
These jars were a hassle to fill up, but it was times like this that made them worth it.
But as they were just large jars, it was almost impossible for me to drink from them as is. I contemplated my problem before remembering how I'd been filling the bathtub. There was no reason why the same magic wouldn't work on blood, and thus I tried it out. A small blob of cold blood floated out of the jar and went into my salivating mouth. In an instant the delicious taste of almost fresh blood filled my mouth, and I quickly gulped it down.
One after the next, I floated orbs of blood from the jar to my mouth, and before I knew it, the entire thing was empty.
My hands went to extract another jar from the bag before I thought better of it. I had three more, but it was best to save them just in case. My stomach protested the unfair treatment, but I mentally squashed it like a dictator during a popular uprising. What I had was enough to last me another day. I just needed to make sure that I ate properly tomorrow. And while I was at it, fill up the jar once again.
I was pretty happy that time seemed to stop inside of my bag, or else the days old blood wouldn't have been in any condition to have been drunk.
The next day, we made simple wheat tortillas with nuts crushed into a butter and chopped fruit all wrapped up into a breakfast burrito. I got another approval from Alicia when she bit into it.
We spent the next few hours outside again as Alicia practised sensing the spirits while I tossed around mana treats. Eventually I tried lightly played with them by making only my arm into spirit form with the rest of my body materialized to keep the little girl in my lap happy, and tried touching the fluffballs. To my surprise, it worked. I could feel their soft bodies as they danced around. Some even rubbed their bodies against my fingers.
Just to test it out, I cancelled spirit form and tried touching them, but my hand simply went through their bodies. These fluffballs were definitely some sort of non-physical entity, and this proved it.
As amusing as it was, I refrained from passing my hand through their bodies after a few goes. It seemed like they didn't like the sensation on it.
"Mmmm...I couldn't sense them again...*cough*"
Alicia was a bit depressed that all her work hadn't borne any fruit yet, but in my opinion, that was pretty premature. I might've gotten the skill quickly, but that was through the cheat known as vampirism.
"Learning a new skill takes time. Don't worry. You'll get it eventually"
My words didn't do much to encourage her, but I didn't know what else to say. There weren't any real tricks beyond what she was already doing as far as I knew.
As Alicia ate baked potato halves with sliced meat and eggs on top along with an egg drop soup, I asked her a question.
"Do you want me to teach you some other skills?"
"Yes! I do!"
For what felt like the first time ever, Alicia stopped in the middle of a meal to turn around and answer my question. Her eyes glittered at the prospect without me even telling her any details.
"It won't be easy, and it'll probably be a bit scary, but you alright with that?"
"Yes! If it means I'll be useful!"
That earnestness really put me on the back foot. This inferiority complex of hers was really tough to deal with for me. If I didn't care as much for her well being or if I was more manipulative, then it wouldn't be an issue, but I wasn't like that. At least I didn't think of myself like that.
But the source of her inferiority complex was her blindness. Because of that, she wasn't able to do much as she grew up and felt helpless all the time. Looking at her eyes, it felt like it was because light wasn't entering her eyes properly. Whatever was the cause of that milky white look in her pupils was most likely the cause, but I had no way to confirm it. For all I knew, it was merely a symptom, or even unrelated.
My own knowledge of medicine and biology wasn't much more than high school level back on Earth, so any form of surgery was out.
Could it be a skill? I hadn't seen any negative skills, but my lack of knowledge couldn't discount that. But I didn't have any means to actually check it yet.
For that matter, was it even something that came from the system, or was even interferable by the system? It was something I needed to keep an eye out for as I looked deeper into the system.
(But until I know more, I'll go for a method that didn't rely on my admin authority)
"A, alright. I'll try to teach you some useful skills, but first you need to finish lunch. You'll need the energy"
With that, she vacuumed up her meal with even more vigour than I thought possible.
"Alright. I want you to spread out your senses and try to feel the aura of the monsters here"
I instructed Alicia once we reached the third floor. The skills most useful for her were detection skills. If she could learn [Sense Presence] or [Mana Perception], then she'd be able to sense enemies around her. If she could learn both, then it would be that much better. It wouldn't be perfect, but it would be enough to be able to put up a rudimentary level of defence on her own.
"I'm going to put on a defensive spell on you for protection. Don't worry about the enemy attacks, I'll make sure that they won't hit"
The trembling in her little hands mostly subsided and she tightly gripped my hand as she strongly nodded as an invisible field of condensed air surrounded her body. I was careful to make sure that the barrier wouldn't hinder anything important, like moving or breathing. An oversight like that would be pretty stupid after all.
In a short while, a skeleton appeared in front of us. Alerted to our presence, it quickly approached our way, raising it's poorly made sword along the way. The undead clattered as it walked, and swung it's weapon down at me the moment it got within range. But for me, who had experience fighting all the way up to the 87th floor, the attack was pitifully slow and weak. The arc it drew wasn't even very clean as it wavered back and forth as if the monster was hesitating somehow.
I raised my empty hand and pinched the blade between my thumb and forefinger.
The skeleton tried to push the blade that stopped in midair, but it didn't budge even a millimetre. With that failing, it tried to pull, but nothing changed. Once again, it tried to push, but the result stayed the same.
Being an an unintelligent creature with a capacity to think on the level of pocket calculator, the skeleton continued these fruitless movements over and over, unable to understand that there wasn't any point to them.
Beside me though, Alicia had pressed her body against mine and held my left hand in both of hers.
I lightly admonished the little girl. She quickly closed her eyes and tried to concentrate.
"Now, all creatures give off some sort of presence. It's something that anyone should be able to feel. All you have to do is tune yourself so that you are sensitive to the presence that the monster is giving off. That's how to learn [Sense Presence]. The same goes for [Mana Perception]. You just have to feel the energy that's radiating out of the monster"
Alicia continued to push out her senses, but after a few minutes, I simply bit into the skeleton and sucked it's essence out. The bundle of bones clattered more loudly before collapsing into a pile.
"I think trying solely on a single monster might not be the best, so we'll move around and practice against a variety, alright?"
Well, the real reason was because I was getting bored. That, and I needed to move on so that I could get something to eat. And if we were doing that, then we might as well gather more resources. The food we had wasn't going to last forever, and there were a few special things I wanted.
Alicia responded pretty well to the ice cream I had made before, so I wanted to get more milk. The quantity of milk needed to make just one bowl of ice cream was pretty huge, so to continue making more, I needed lots of milk.
But aside from all that, there was the further reason that Alicia might continue to try singlemindedly until she exhausted herself. She needed to be made to take proper breaks, and the time between each monster encounter was perfect for that.
So as to pace ourselves, I deliberately walked slowly, even though the hand gripping Alicia's hand was silently pulled on, urging me to speed up.
I looked beside me. Alicia was looking down. Rather turned her face down. The sound of metal on something hard resounded through the stone hallway.
On the ground, there was a spiked bear trap trying to bite down on Alicia's leg, but the wind barrier I put around her had magnificently stopped the teeth from even coming close to touching her silky skin.
Even still, my back was covered in cold sweat. I was glad that the barrier had worked as intended, but I hadn't noticed the trigger for the trap at all.
(Was I getting careless?)
Not sure what had just happened, the little girl beside me simply resumed her stride, the trap yielding to the barrier before clanging shut after she had cleared it. She pause again, trying to figure out what the sound was.
"Did something happen Scarlet?"
"Eh? Ah, umm...no. Nothing worth mentioning"
A quick inspection of the magical signature of the barrier confirmed that it hadn't even weakened by any appreciable amount due to the trap. It would last quite a while when it came to traps of that level, and was most likely capable of handling traps of a significantly higher level without being breached.
That said, I wasn't going to test it's limits, not with Alicia being the one protected by it after all.
Turning the corner, a brown goat charged at us full tilt. But when I raised a hand and grabbed one of it's thick horns, the entire monster buckled and it's rear lifted off of the ground before it's hind legs clattered on the stone ground.
It tried to turn it's head and twist it's horns out of my hand, but neither it's head nor my hand budged in any way that was visible to me. The monster tried to pull and push as well, but to the same results. It's cries were strained as if it was trying to move a mountain, but from my perspective, it was just a bit cute.
But I couldn't help but wonder what was with this world. The goat wasn't too big, but the force it put into it's charge would've been enough to knock me clear off of my feet. But I didn't budge at all. Rather, the impact itself felt weak to me, and almost no force was transmitted to my body.
(Stats are scary)
That was all I could think of that could explain this phenomena. Stats in this world overcame physics. Not just when it came to things like physical power, but also when it came to offsetting the effects of it. Most likely, if my stats were high enough, I could take an ICBM to the face and not move a milimeter.
Alicia on the other hand jumped a little when the breeze of it's charge reached her, but otherwise she held her ground. A slight tremble transmitted through my hand, as she slowly let out a breath and started to concentrate on trying to sense the monster.
The goats of the 28th floor were a bit bigger than the ones on Earth. Their heads reached only a bit above Alicia's. There were large horned, small horned, and unhorned varieties. The large horned ones had thick, wide-swept horns that stuck out from the top and curved back. The small horned ones simply had small nubs that could just barely be considered horns sticking out forward from their heads.
The large horned goats were obviously male, but I quickly noticed that the other two weren't from their characteristic udders. But despite that, all three gave virtually the same drops. Sheets of moderately soft leather, big chunks of meat, and large jars of milk.
The first time I got a jar of milk from a male goat, I was pretty hesitant in actually checking it. But a cautious sniff then a lick confirmed that it was merely ordinary goat milk, despite the source.
A minute of struggling later, I removed the monster's head from it's body using some wind magic, then used a new original spell to draw out the blood from it's now still body and pooled it into an orb in the air. When the monster was fully drained, I extended a rope of blood from the orb into my mouth and consumed it all in one go.
I called the spell 'Blood Manipulation', though such names didn't have any meaning beyond sounding cool. That aside, it was a difficult spell that required a lot of concentration, since I needed to make sure that I only moved blood and not other fluids out of a complex and confined space of the insides of a monster.
Considering all that, I did want a skill to make the process easier. It was something to research for the future.
"Okay, hold out the bag for me"
Responding to my instructions, Alicia held out the white bunny plush magical bag and opened it's mouth. Using one hand to stretch the mouth a bit, I used magic to bring over the jar of milk that the monster left behind when it's corpse disappeared.
"Alright. Thanks, good job Alicia"
I pet her on the head as she closed the bag's mouth with one hand and hugged it against her chest. When I withdrew my hand, she looked up at me and gave me a full-teethed smile.
(Geez, she's too cute)
I scratched my cheek and looked away from the radiance beside me.
"Here, let's get going"
In a few dozen steps, the next monster appeared: a hornless goat. It charged at us with a cry, but I simply gave it a claw vice grip on it's cranium, and the cycle continued.
In the end, I was carrying Alicia in my arms as we arrived home at the 85th floor fountain room.
I misjudged her stamina again, thinking that our regular breaks would improve things, but Alicia herself was my clock. I had no good way to actually tell the time with any accuracy on my own, so when she pushed herself without me noticing, my own sense of time was completely shattered.
"C'mon, we're back now"
I lightly pinched her cheek, but all I got as a moan and her flopping backward as she tried to right herself. A little bit of rebalancing made her flop back onto my chest.
The act, though, made me feel like puking.
I had overindulged after spending a day hungry, and now I could swear that my belly was bulging to the point that it helped support Alicia's weight.
Fortunately, I made sure to fill up a few jars of blood, so my supply should last even if I didn't get many chances to hunt for a while.
The blood of the lower level monsters weren't that tasty anymore. After experiencing the taste of the upper level monsters, it was hard to consider the lower level ones to be anything but bland and watery, so I was compelled to make up for it with quantity, and this was the result.
That said, I couldn't shirk my duties at Alicia's guardian.
"Alright, let's take a bath now"
Her response didn't change, but her mind worked well enough for her to raise her arms. With a bit of juggling, I managed to pull her dress off. From there, I managed to remove my own clothes. I felt like I deserved an applause for managing to strip down while carrying a child in my arms.
From there, I refilled the bathtub and heated the water before entering it to soak together.
I sat Alicia onto my lap with her back to me, but as I lathered up my hands with the scented soap, she turned around and pressed her face against my chest.
(Why does she like that position so much?)
Was it instinctive? Was it something she felt was missing from her life? Was she actually gay and too young to understand?
I had no idea if any of those were even close to the mark, so I shut the thoughts from my mind and started to carefully wash her starting from the top as she slipped in and out of sleep. I needed to take special care while washing her face, but fortunately her eyes were already shut.
Once done, I took my time to wash myself as well while being careful of Alicia. Every time I moved away a little, she's grab onto me and press her face into my chest, making washing my front exceedingly difficult.
She really had some sort of obsession there. Was this really normal?
Once all of the lather had been rinsed away, I lay there with Alicia hugging my chest and soaked in the water.
But as I lightly stroked the hugging monster's hair, a realization came to me: we ran out of hair oil.
The saucer of experimental hair oil had been used up because of my long hair the day before, and I had forgotten to make more. It wasn't possible to make the same thing quickly. Simple oils that I got as a drop was really all I had, but I didn't like the idea of using that after the experience of the nice oil we made.
The only option was to make a new hair oil that didn't take nearly as long to make.
Thinking back, there was one type of lotion that was popular which I had easy access to: milk and honey. Those two alone wouldn't work as hair oil, but as the main ingredients of a hair oil might work.
I brought over the magical bag and took out a jar of goat milk, and called over jars of vegetable oil and honey. A bit of magic to make a new jar, I poured in equal amounts of milk and honey, then double that of oil, then heated it up while stirring with a simple whisk made of cutting up a piece of wood.
As the concoction mixed up and thickened up due to the extra air that got introduced while I whisked it, I occasionally checked the feel by rubbing some on my arm, then changing the ratio of ingredients by adding small amounts.
The end result was more a white cream, but I was happy with the scent, and went to apply it to my own hair to test it.
A dollop onto the top of my head and knead, knead, knead. Another dollop to the back of my head a rub, rub, rub. My hair pulled over my shoulder and one more dollop there, wipe, wipe, wipe. Pull my hair out of the water and a dollop, squeeze, squeeze, squeeze. Pull more hair out of the water and another dollop, pat, pat, pat. Once more pull hair out of the water and another dollop, wipe wipe wipe.
Finally the last of my hair out of the water and one final dollop, smear, smear, smear.
With all of my hair finally covered in hair oil, I comb the entire length with my fingers to help it soak in.
The work was tedious and monotonous, but I strangely enjoyed it as I imagined how it would turn out. Would it glisten? Would it shine? Would it become smooth? Silky? What about the smell? Would it continue to smell the same, or would it change? How would it change?
It felt like I could understand a bit why women put in so much money and effort into their hair products.
Once I was satisfied, I thoroughly rinsed the whole length of my hair to remove the excess. Unlike the previous hair oil, this one had ingredients that would go bad easily if simply left in.
The preview I got when I removed it all looked promising, so I applied it to Alicia's hair. The only problem was that she was leaning against me the entire time and a bunch of it got onto my chest, which promptly got smeared onto her face when I tried to rub the oil in all the way.
After letting it set in for a bit, I rinsed her head off as well. The results looked good.
However there was still more of the hair oil smeared around, so carefully wiped it off of her face and my chest.
But as I did that, I noticed how the skin glistened underneath.
Unexpectedly, the oil worked pretty well as a lotion as well. It wasn't really a surprise, since lotions were pretty much by definition just oils used on the skin.
My curiosity was piqued. I wanted to see what a full treatment with this oil would be like, so I carefully rubbed it across both of our bodies and let it set for a bit before rinsing off the excess.
The results were pretty good. My skin had always been soft and unblemished, but it felt like the oil treatment had worked as an enhancer to that quality. People would normally call it rejuvenation, but my skin was as healthy as it was when my body was first created not long ago, so rejuvenation wouldn't have done much at all.
Looking at Alicia, the results were equally as good. No, even better, as her body had dealt with the harshness of her abandonment.
I lifted up Alicia's limp body and rubbed her glistening cheek with my own. The softness had increased by 20, no 30%. It felt like such a drastic change was impossible, but it really felt like it.
With everything done, I got out of the bath, threw out the water, and dried our bodies. As I moved to put all the things I used away, my eyes was drawn to the virtually empty bowl of lotion I had just made.
It was a little annoying that I had already used up the larger than normal portion I had made, but the results made me happy. I needed to make more tomorrow along with some new recipes.
For now, I put it all away and went to the couch to give Alicia a proper place to sleep.