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A note from gusdefrog

💕 Thanks for reading, all your comments, ratings and reviews! Yesterday reached a 350 rank!?

Danika planted the Winter Gem seed, and cast her growth spell on it. She wasn't sure what to expect, so she had placed it on the emptier side of the garden. She watched it grow with interest, and it soon fluffed up into a short rounded shrub beside her strawberry patch. It didn't look anything like a box to her. 

She watered all of her plants, and then settled down for awhile in her pretty garden and began to examine every aspect of her menu screens for anything that she'd missed. She searched for subtle icons and other drop and drag functions, like being able to transfer items through messages. Then she read through all of the official help sections for the game, which had expanded quite a lot in the last few months.

There were occasional small points of interest, such as the page that explained that some kinds of skills were available to all paths, and that despite the different names given to them, the effects were identical. Mostly though, the pages were focused on either the simple mechanics of operating the game from the wide variety of systems that could access it, or advice to get beginners started on their first adventures.

MatchlessMinion's plush grey cat delivered a long message that read: "So, as far as I can discover, the war between the two dwarven kingdoms is actually because of humans. More and more humans have been moving into the two kingdoms bordering the human kingdom. One of the kingdoms has been welcoming them, and the other has been trying to keep them out. The deadline seems to have been the new Queen's birthday celebration in the one that's trying to keep them out."

Danika sighed. It looked like her choice had prolonged the war. She didn't think it had been the wrong choice, but she wasn't sure that there had been a right choice. She told the snow leopard cub as she sent the reply containing her thanks, "I hope your life contributes something even more amazing than a period of peace between two kingdoms to the world some day."

She was startled when her usual notification popped up to say that it was time to sleep. She hadn't meant to spend the whole evening in the game. After a moment of thought, she huffed a cloud with her breath skill and stepped into it to meet the Sandman. 

When he appeared in his sparkling golden sands, she asked, "Can you show me more about 'Living Jade Empire' in general before I sleep?" 

The God of Dreams smiled at her and replied, "Let's take a tour then."

Danika was whisked through all of the large racial capitals, including all of the ones she hadn't visited. She viewed legendary creatures from a distance, and even the elemental gods, the Black Turtle of the North, the Blue-green Dragon of the East, the White Tiger of the West, and the fiery Crimson Bird and her mortal twin in the South. She flew through the sky beside dragons with the whole map laid out beneath her, until she truly slept.

--

On the day the interview was scheduled, Danika began her day early with her familiar routine. She received her grocery order at the scheduled time and had everything put away before her shift started. Aishin had sent his usual short greeting, and she hadn't had to think too much about her reply.

Her shift felt long, but Danika wasn't sure if she should blame that on her nervous anticipation for the interview, or if it was just the usual annoyance of the horrible quest chain in the old game. The only thing she did in "Living Jade Empire" was log in long enough to water her garden. She also received and sent a few messages, but they were short and contained nothing of significance, although she laughed at SaltySiamese's: "How did you know it might be related to shapeshifting into a cat?"

After her shift ended, she attended to a few last minute things and then pulled herself over the edge of the VR-medi pod and completed the various connections. She took a deep breath, and then instead of connecting to "Living Jade Empire" she launched the interview application.

She was greeted by a familiar black notification screen that read: "You will have 90 minutes to create a scene with a simplified tool set that will impress your interviewer." 

Danika took another deep breath and then tapped start. A timer appeared in the corner of her view and she was standing in a flat white space with misty borders in the distance. She wasted precious moments being distracted by the fact that she had a human body, but quickly brought up her menu screens.

She had a set of crafting skills with simple shapes that could be assigned a small variety of textures, and there was another section for plants and animals. She looked around the space and then tried applying a texture to the white floor. It changed to bare earth. She swiped over to the plants and spread some grass around. Then she examined the creatures and summoned a bird, who asked her, "What's my motivation?" 

Danika blinked at it and then questioned, "How complex can that be?" 

"I will complain if I don't understand it," the bird replied.

Danika didn't reply right away, instead she flicked back to the plants and placed a big bramble that could have berries. She adjusted it so that the lower branches were empty of ripe berries, and then added a single golden berry at the top. As she'd hoped, she could edit properties and trigger events when the berry was picked.

Then she told the bird, "Your motivation is that your wing is broken and you're hungry."

The bird exclaimed, "Ouch!" as its wing broke. "Not very nice are you?" it complained. 

Danika set up a set of gates that held a set of golems behind them. The gates were bound by vines. Then she set things up so that if the bird were attacked, its mate (who would be waiting in the fog) would come and take the golden berry, which would cause all of the greenery to shrivel, which would free the golems who would burst out and attack.

If the bird was fed ordinary berries, it would thank the person for healing it up and warn them about the golems behind the gate, letting them choose whether they wished to open the gate and provoke them. If the bird was fed the golden berry it would cast an area growth effect that would make hidden flower seeds bloom across the meadow and increase the plants binding the gate. Then the bird would gift a seed from the bush that would grow another bush with a small chance at bearing a golden berry, before flying off to meet its mate.

If the person ate the golden berry it would give them the basic growth spell that ZipZing knew. If they hadn't fed the bird yet it would coax them into using the spell to ripen the berries on the lowest branches, if they had fed the bird it would warn them to strengthen the vines sealing the gates and then fly off to meet its mate.

The timer clicked over to zero before she had added any more complexity to the scene, and Danika looked at the little meadow with its solitary bush and very basic stone gated golem prison worriedly. She hadn't managed to create any justification for the locked up golems, and there was nothing particularly striking about the scene.

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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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