On the one hand, there was Lily. Covered in dirt, having gone without a shower for gods knew how long, her hair long, messy, dirty, dry, clumped. Having stayed in a land of emptiness and desolation for an unknown length of time.
On the other hand, there was a clear, sparkling, gently flowing lake, situated in the middle of an idyllic clearing, with the natural sun in its pre-noon position, bathing the clearing in a warm, tender illumination. The chirping of birds resounded through the sky, a light breeze rustled the trees. A multitude of fish swam beneath the surface of the lake, in water clear as glass.
Confronted with this situation, Lily responded in a perfectly natural manner for a girl in her late teenage years finding a clean body of water after not washing herself for an uncomfortably long time.
She immediately sent her probing magical tendrils outwards through the ground, constructing a mental map of her surroundings, checking for the presence of living creatures. She found several small animals, but otherwise discerned no immediate threat.
This task complete, she started walking towards an opening in the trees, heading deeper into the woods.
Lily turned around and gave Iris a puzzled look.
“Are you sure you don’t want to take a bath? It’s a shame that your hair is caked with dirt, it’s very pretty.”
Lily was confused for a moment. A bath? She scrunched her eyebrows as old, unused neural connections fired, trying to remember what a bath was. Then her eyes lit up, and she performed a running leap into the lake, laughing as she surfaced.
She stood still for a moment, savoring the feeling of cold water against her skin, in her clumped, oily hair, on her face. She cupped the water in her hands and drank deeply, committing to memory the feeling of water -actual, real water – gushing down her throat, sloshing around in her mouth. She looked around as she slowly remembered how to tread water, and she fixed her gaze on Iris, who was watching her with a warm look.
“Hey Iris! Are you waterproof?”
Iris smiled slightly and replied.
“Yes, I am, as is the metal you used to make your limbs.”
Lily had forgotten about her metal arms in the excitement of her rediscovery of the concept of hygiene. She giggled at her own absentmindedness, which caused Iris to widen her own grin.
“I’m waterproof, but I don’t need a bath. I have my automated self-maintenance mana subsystems for that. This dirt on me is just a retexture, after all.”
As she said that, her skin shimmered and the spots of dirt completely vanished.
“Well, maybe for you, Iris. But I can’t very well wash my own back. Help me out, would you?”
Truthfully, with her mechanical arms’ range of motion, Lily was perfectly capable of washing her own back. But more than anything, she wanted Iris to feel less like a machine and more like a human. It was the least she could do for the girl who had been her only companion in that barren wasteland.
Lily beckoned over at Iris to join her in the water.
Iris stepped down to the lake, as Lily swam over closer to the shore, where the water was shallow enough for her to stand. Taking Iris’ hand, Lily led her deeper into the lake, until the water level hovered just under Iris’ chin.
She turned her back on Iris and began scrubbing her body, leaving her back for Iris to attend. She scrubbed down her skin hard, slowly removing the accumulated dirt and blood. As she did, she began to feel Iris’ slender fingers rubbing down her back, kneading and massaging as she loosened Lily’s muscles in addition to scrubbing away the dirt.
Eventually, she began to work on her hair. In the time she had spent in the wasteland, her hair had grown far longer than she had ever kept it. Where she once kept her hair short, at shoulder-length at most, it now flowed long and unchecked behind her, tickling the back of her thighs.
With Iris’ help, Lily slowly and painstakingly scrubbed away the dirt and grime that intermingled with her hair, the dulled mossy color gradually giving way to her original vibrant green. Slowly, the dirt was cleared, the scalp cleansed. Soaked in water, aided by Lily’s <<Extension>> magic, her hair regained its natural softness and shine, the water causing it to almost glint in the sunlight. She stepped out of the lake, hair trailing behind her, Iris watching her in admiration.
“…It’s very pretty, Lily. I knew a bath was a good idea.”
Lily turned around and regarded her reflection in the lake. What greeted her was almost a stranger. Gone were her youthful round cheeks. The face that greeted her had angular proportions. Where her eyes had once shone with the light of naivety, they now had a hardness to them that was hard to spot at a glance, but became obvious following prolonged inspection. The two main constants that remained unchanged were her eye color and hair. Her eyes remained a vivid, bright red that contrasted her pinkish white skin. Her hair was the same green, but longer. Much longer.
She gently brought her hand behind her back and lifted the ends of her hair in front of her, examining them, considering whether it might be better to cut it short, for easier movement. A glance at Iris, shaking her head, convinced her otherwise.
“I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right. It probably will cause issues. But you should keep it. You look amazing with it.”
Lily smiled and let go of the ends, letting her hair sway naturally behind and around her, swirling around her hips and arm.
“Well, if you insist, I’ll happily carry this burden.”
Extending a hand to help Iris out of the lake, Lily gave a smile and acquiesced to Iris’ opinion.
“Well then. We’ve just only gotten started. Since we’re clean now, let’s get moving. We have a world to explore.”