"Mmm..." Sophie groggily opened her eyes and blinked several times once she noticed that another set of eyes were calmly watching her. "Lone... Lone! Lone! Lone!" the little girl wrapped her arms around his neck and began sobbing.
Unsure of what to do, Lone just returned Sophie's hug. "What's with the overreaction?"
Sophie pulled away from Lone momentarily in shock before she dove her face back into the nape of his neck. "You... You wouldn't wake up! It's been so long! Uuuuu..." Sophie's cries filled the bedroom.
"'Been so long'?" Lone muttered. He continued to hold Sophie as he waited for her to calm down.
It took some time, but after roughly ten minutes, Sophie managed to settle her emotions. She got off of Lone and scurried out of the room quickly before returning with some clothes and some soup.
"I-I'm not that good at cooking... but I made some mushroom soup for you... I-I know it doesn't look that good, but I promise it's really tasty! It's the only thing I remember how to cook from when I was roaming Earth, fleeing the Templars..." Lone couldn't help but smile at Sophie's adorable attitude.
He brought the bowl of soup to his lips and took a sip. 'Salty, but warm.' He blew on the boiling hot liquid a bit before he continued eating. Once he was done, he returned his attention to the very nervous girl twirling her golden-blonde hair anxiously. "It was delicious, thank you very much, Soph."
A smile bright enough to put the sun to shame appeared on Sophie's face. "I'm glad..."
"By the way, where did you get the mushrooms?" Lone asked as he began to put on the clothes that she had brought for him.
Sophie sat down on the king-sized bed and crossed her legs before she said, "There's a small patch of edible mushrooms and herbs on the edge of your dome. You never knew about them?"
Lone shook his head. "Must've slipped my notice. I've been creating food via my magic for a while, so I guess I stopped looking for other sources." As he was sliding his arms through his shirt, Lone realised something. 'Dome? So I've only been out for two or three days if that's still up. Anyway, I should ask to be sure.'
"Soph, how long was I unconscious for?" Lone finished putting his clothes on and sat down on the bed next to Sophie.
Without hesitation, the girl scootched right next to him. She was practically sitting on his lap at this point. Apparently, she had been deeply afraid and badly affected by him not waking up. "I-It's been two weeks..."
"What?! Two weeks?!" Lone's shouting scared Sophie a bit, making her shrink back. "Sorry, just... How is the illusionary dome still active? It should only have a shelf life of three days before it needs renewing."
"I-I've been giving it my mana... I'm really happy that you woke up when you did. Of course, I'm happy that you woke up in the first place, but I feel like the dome might explode soon," Sophie explained with a concerned look on her cute face.
"Well, you should have said that straight away. Still, you can funnel your mana points into my spell and keep it active? How does that even work?" Lone said as he got up and began travelling to the illusionary dome.
"I dunno," Sophie shook her head as she held a few of Lone's tails closely to her chest and followed after him. "I have a lot of mana points, so I just thought about putting them in the barrier and it happened."
"I definitely can't do that. Maybe it's to do with your Mana Sensing unique skill?" Lone asked.
"Maybe. I never knew you couldn't do that. You always make me feel like you can do anything. You're really amazing, you know that?" Sophie's undisguised admiration made Lone blush.
"I'm not." Lone's voice clearly stated how much he felt that he wasn't deserving of Sophie's praise.
Sophie tilted her head. "But you left a proper life behind, unlike me, and you've adapted so well to this place. Most of the people that I met while I was still... travelling, we're very bad at getting used to new situations. They hated that I was an immortal girl, so they always tried to burn me. Not once did a person just accept me and question their old way of life."
Lone ended up laughing lightly. "You think I've gotten used to this place?"
"You haven't?" Sophie questioned.
"Not even slightly." Lone's depression was now seeping through his very being. "If you weren't here for me to talk to, I honestly think I might have gone insane by now. Do you think a normal person like me can just endure being cut up and torn to pieces by a boar and goblins several times? It fucking sucks, but I don't mind doing it if it means that you're safe. How to explain it... You're like my anchor. Does that make sense?"
Shock filled Sophie's blind eyes. "I never knew you were struggling... I-I just assumed-"
Lone stopped walking and placed his finger on Sophie's lips, preventing her from talking further. "It's fine. To be honest, I probably am more adapted to our situation than most people would be. It's definitely lucky as fuck that I used to study engineering. Not to mention that my Creation Magic is an incredibly convenient skill."
Sophie's cheeks were dyed red. For some reason, as soon as Lone had touched her lips, she felt her heart tightening up. It felt strange, horrible and nice all at the same time. "All of your skills are really useful. Mine are terrible... especially my new one..."
"Wait. 'New one'?" Lone definitely heard her saying 'new one'. 'Did one of her skills get unsealed?'
"Mmm." Sophie nodded her head softly. "When you let me out of the dark room, and after I'd cleaned you and put you on the bed, I noticed that I had a bunch of messages from the system. I'd ranked up and one of my unique skills was unsealed. Weird, huh?"
"Maybe... Maybe not. We've already established that your level is tied to mine, so maybe your rank is as well. And it's also not out of the realms of reason that you'll get one of your skills back every rank-up." Lone frowned. "But you have seven skills left, and the letters only go up to A, meaning you'll get them all back if you can reach A-rank?"
"I never even though of that." Sophie's dead eyes were sparkling. "You're really smart, Lone. I guess that makes sense since you were a teacher."
"I'm not quite sure what your medieval idea of a teacher is, but that has nothing to do with my intellect," Lone joked as he rubbed the girl's hair playfully. "Anyway, what skill did you get?"
"Em, well, it's a really useless one..." Sophie averted her eyes as she squeezed Lone's tails.
"C'mon, don't be shy. Tell me. None of your skills are useless, no matter how useless they may sound. True, some of them wouldn't be very helpful right now, but eventually, I'm sure we can find a use for them all," Lone said in an attempt to boost Sophie's confidence.
"Mmm... Well, It's my Body Manipulation skill. That's the one I got," Sophie said in a very quiet voice.
"Ah, the one that lets you change your body to be five or ten years older?" Lone asked as he approached the illusionary dome and began the process of taking it down and replacing it without revealing their base.
"Yup. See? It's useless," Sophie protested as she patiently waited for Lone to finish.
Once he was done, he wiped the sweat that formed on his brow. "Jesus, this thing really was about ready to explode. Dangerous shit. I'll keep a note of that for the future."
"You swear a lot for a teacher," Sophie noted with a cute frown on her face.
Lone chuckled. "Hahaha, you're not the first person to tell me that. You, Zar and my sister. All of you seem to notice it, huh?"
"Who's Zar?" Sophie asked as she trailed behind Lone and followed him back into their home.
"Just some Canadian kid who I played a game with. Nice girl, but she always kept her feelings very close to her chest. Y'know, the type who says yes to almost anything, even if she doesn't want to do it. A crowd pleaser I guess," Lone explained with a dismissive wave of his hand to add emphasis.
"'Canadian'?" Sophie didn't recognise this word.
Lone sighed. He gazed at Sophie with a slight disappointment in his eyes. "I told you about all of the countries only a few weeks ago. Did you really forget already?"
"Sorry," Sophie avoided his eyes as she apologised.
"It's fine. Not like it really matters, I'm just upset that my teachings didn't stick with you. Maybe I was a crap teacher after all?" Lone mused sarcastically as he stroked his growing stubble. It had been two weeks since he'd shaved, so a fine looking beard was starting to take root on his face.
Sophie got flustered. "Th-That's not it! I just always get distracted by your fluffy tails..."
"Hmm, I should really start regulating your access to my foxy limbs, shouldn't I? You're almost like a drug addict," Lone said with absolutely no seriousness in his tone.
Sophie's face fell. What Lone had just said to her, was the equivalent of telling a normal person that the world was coming to an immediate end. "Please don't!"
Lone laughed. "I was only kidding. Anyway, why don't you show me your other forms? I'm curious about what you look like as a fifteen and a twenty-year-old."
"Ah, thank God..." Ironically, Sophie had picked up thanking God from Lone over the past half a year despite the fact that she herself had killed the man. "Sure. I don't mind showing you."
After saying that, Sophie stripped herself of her clothes and grew before Lone's very eyes. He hadn't thought of that. Of course her clothes wouldn't grow with her. He still felt nothing upon seeing her slightly taller but just as flat fifteen-year-old body, but he feared what would happen upon seeing her twenty-year-old self.
Sophie didn't give Lone the time to say or do anything and simply became her twenty-year-old self. Her hair flowed down to her toes. Her face was noticeably sharper, like a European beauty. She was certainly far less cute and much more elegant than her younger selves. Her chest had grown from an A-cup to a double B-cup. She was maybe half a foot taller, so still very short, but she looked far more adult now.
Lone ended up turning his head away after he found himself staring at her. 'Shit. She's exactly my type. Fuck. I should have told her to never use that new skill of hers!'
"Lone?" Sophie was scared. She ran up to him and pressed her body against his chest as she stared up at his face with those beautiful grey eyes of hers. "Why are you looking away? Am... Am I ugly?"
"Ah, fuck." Lone felt like he had been sighing a lot today. He could also feel something else not quite so harmless welling up inside of him. "Please go back to your kid form. To be honest, you're far too attractive right now. It's hard to look at you without wanting to attack you."
"Attack me?" Sophie confusion was only growing, but she did do as she was told and reverted to her ten-year-old form. She then walked over to her clothes and put them back on.
"Fuck!" Lone suddenly yelled before he stormed off to the bathroom.
Sophie couldn't be more puzzled even if she tried. "He said I'm really attractive, but why is he so... frustrated?"
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- The Scottish Slothy Sloth
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