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Danika hastily loaded the application on her phone. She had three new messages waiting. The one from Shrubbery read: "I won't be able to play much, but what plants do you still need? I can ask about them in my guild. I should try to teach you another plant skill when we've got time so you can join if you want."

Danika replied: "The only one I couldn't get is called 'Winter Gem' in the spell. That would be really cool, thanks!"

The other message was from Kit and read: "He's so cute! I wish I'd gotten a bit of hair from him, but he didn't shed like a real cat when I petted him. Where are you? Is everything OK?"

Danika replied to Kit: "Sorry, I tried to gather the rest of the plants that the familiar spell uses in the mobile version in between busy times during my shift today, and so ZipZing is back in the human capital and now I'm studying for my interview. Are you ok on your own this evening?"

The one from Aishin read: "I think an NPC caught sight of you when you went back in after the stone, my guild got a mission today for the 'thief ZipZing who stole from Envoy Romero Richfield'. There was nothing about the rest of us though. It only lasts for a week in game though so if you don't play or stay in your stone for today and tomorrow, it'll just expire."

She wondered if a different party could contact the Envoy and find out how the snow leopard had been intended to end the war. It sounded like there was a time limit. She replied: "That sounds like there's only two days to stop the war between the dwarven kingdoms? I wish we knew what they'd intended to do with the cub."

She quickly sent another couple of messages to SaltySiamese and her brother explaining recent adventures and asking if they could find out anything if they had time.

Kit replied while she was writing with: "Yeah, I'm fine! Good luck in your studies."

Danika sent another message as a thought occurred to her: "Aishin said not to go back to Kalunay soon, because he killed so many of the Envoy's men, and we're in the same party. And his guild received an assassination contract for me (I'm ok though) so be careful."

Kit replied simply: "OK."

Danika frowned in thought before restarting her phone's recitation of Starcraft Technologies articles. She let her phone continue to drone on for most of the evening, about the space born technologies that were being created by Starcraft Technologies, how "Living Jade Empire" was utilizing them, and how the same technologies could be used in real world applications.

There were interesting things that Danika didn't entirely understand, like the article that spoke about how each large console produced by the company was built to share the transmission loads on the network it was connected to, and not just increase the traffic with its own use. There were also really boring things that made her head ache to try to comprehend, like when she'd learned about Living Jade Empire's currency to gain her Appraisal skill in the beginner's vale.

Eventually she decided to treat her impromptu study like a lengthy University class, and after the sunlight faded, she moved back to the screen she used most for work and began compiling notes about everything she'd learned during the afternoon. It took a long time, but trying to write it down helped her see which things she'd absorbed, and which she should probably look into again.

Danika wasn't sure if all of this effort would affect her interview at all, but she hoped that at least if she passed the interview, it would help when she began trying to learn a new kind of job.

She was a little late in getting to sleep that night.

--

Danika woke up feeling tense, and it was difficult to pull herself up from the comfortable sleeping surface and over the edge onto the floor to begin her morning. The text that waited for her when she checked her phone made her smile though. It said: "Morning, theoretically. Cold, wet, no sun."

She looked at the gray day outside her window. Even though it was winter, there was no trace of pretty white snow, only cold rain. She scooted over and started hot water heating before she did anything else. She was almost out of milk, but there was enough for one cup of hot chocolate.

By the time she finished fixing a warm breakfast her water was hot, and she beat the chocolate into it until it foamed and then added the milk. Then she flipped the spoon over and poked at the foam gently until it at least sort of resembled a sun. She thought that any professional barista would laugh at it, but at least it looked like it would convey the idea. She took a picture of it, and sent it to Aishin.

She flinched when her phone emitted a cacophonous noise in the middle of her exercises. And then blinked, and laughed. She changed her text notification tone, and read Aishin's reply: "Sweet. Wish you were here."

She wrote: "Me or the hot chocolate?" But she deleted it instead of sending it. She stared at her phone blankly, and then set it down and resumed her exercises. When she finished, she glanced at her phone and then brushed her teeth.

She submitted a new grocery order, and sat in front of the screen ready to log in for the day's shift of old account quests. While she waited she opened the mobile game application and checked her messages there.

Quin had sent: "Sure, if he has it I'll get it for you. And I'm totally going to bug him about why he's got you blocked!"

Danika replied: "Thanks ^^; "

MatchlessMinion had replied: "In one of those weird coincidences, we just got sent toward the southern most dwarven kingdom, so even though we can't contact that Envoy I'll see what I can find out tonight!"

Danika sent him: "Thank you, and good luck!"

SaltySiamese on the other hand had replied merely: "Still chasing the goblin treasure."

Danika snorted with amusement and replied: "How much is this treasure worth to keep all of you chasing after it? Do you think it's some kind of legendary treasure? Does it summon cats?"

She logged out and looked around her room. Everything she usually did in the mornings was done. She looked at her phone again. She picked it back up and opened the message again, and jumped and dropped it when her new notification tone went off.

Aishin had sent another message: "I keep checking my phone and imagining you staring at yours with a horrified expression."

Danika replied swiftly: "My expression isn't horrified!"

Aishin replied: "Ok Wink "

She started her shift with a smile that faded into a grimace as she struggled through yet another horrible hopping puzzle repetition.

--

That evening she skipped reviewing the Starcraft Technologies information and pulled herself into the VR-medi pod after her shift. She had been starving at lunch and had spent her lunch cooking and then eating, instead of logging in to the mobile version to tend her garden.

Two messenger animals waited in her garden.

Shrubbery's little golden mouse held out its message with a proud look. It read: "Winter Gem turns out to be a really common boxwood shrub used in hedges. Are you sure it's the right thing?"

A large sleek bird that Danika couldn't immediately identify delivered a note from Quin that read: "Accept before he wimps out!"

Danika gave it a puzzled look, and then noticed the faintly glowing icon in her menus. She tapped over to her friend list and accepted the invitation from Justin the Grey.

She sent a message to Justin first, since he was online, that said simply: "Thanks."

She sent the same reply to Quin. The little snow leopard bounded away a second time with no diminishing in his bounce.

A small black cat delivered Justin the Grey's reply a couple of minutes later: "No problem. I didn't realize that I'd blocked you, sorry." A small dark seed was attached to the message.

Danika held the shiny dark seed in her little clawed hand and examined it with her Plant Identification, which told her that it was a 'Winter Gem' seed, and that it would grow into a dwarf box shrub.

She sent a reply to Justin saying: "Thank you, this is the last seed I needed."

And then she sent Shrubbery one that said: "Thanks! I got one, and it says it's a dwarf box shrub? Is that the same thing as boxwood? Is there a spell that can force a plant to flower?"

The snow leopard cub gave her a sharp look as he took the last message and Danika said laughingly, "I'm done for now."

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About the author

gusdefrog

Bio: I'm not actually a frog... but frogs are cool! They have tiny little hands! And some frogs can even fly (glide)! ...and my name isn't actually Gus, but I've been wearing it long enough that it is?

Since beginning to lose my vision, I've been writing to replace the creating I used to do as drawing and painting.

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Comments(6)
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Yosha @Yosha ago

FIRST.

Edit: Nope. Thanks for the chapter.

Glowy3 @Glowy3 ago

I love the attitudes of their message animals! They're so funny🤣 I'm still remembering the mouse that floated down xD