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When Danika zipped into Shrubbery's garden, she wasn't inside her tree. The tall dryad was snipping wilted flowers off of a plant that Danika would have called a Violet, but that her plant identification skill told her was a Pansy. The description told her that it had been domesticated from wild Heartsease, and was often used to symbolized thought.

Shrubbery looked up and called out, "ZipZing! How did it go?"

Danika grimaced and replied, "I don't know, but I'm afraid that I didn't do very well. It seemed more like a series of tests than a regular sort of interview?"

"Ugh, let's not talk about tests," Shrubbery replied quickly.

"The interviewer said I'd hear back in a few days, the written notification said within a couple of weeks," Danika added without asking about Shrubbery's tests. "Do you have time to start teaching me to force a plant to bloom?"

"Um, sure, if you don't mind if my mom watches," Shrubbery agreed, and gestured to the small form of a cute fluffy flying squirrel sitting in her tree.

Danika stared at the player with open mouthed surprise. Shrubbery's mother had an accumulated level of 12, and was named 'Eyes on the Sky'. Then she collected herself and said quickly, "Sure, I don't mind if you watch! Hello, welcome to the game!"

"Hi, my daughter has told me a lot about you," Shrubbery's mother replied cheerfully.

Shrubbery added, "She said she only made an account so that she can visit my garden whenever she wants, and that she doesn't want to go on adventures, but I'd like to take her to the ocean."

"Yeah!" Danika agreed. "And the mountains! Although, that might be kind of dangerous without any Karma. But if your character falls asleep the Sandman can take you on effortless tours, though everything is drawn in golden sands."

Shrubbery blinked and said, "I don't think my character has ever fallen asleep. But she doesn't have to worry about it being dangerous, because she doesn't really have zero Karma, she has unlimited Karma."

"What?" Danika asked.

"I messaged support asking if I could transfer some of my Karma to her account so that she could make any kind of character that she wanted to, and explained the situation a little for why she probably wouldn't earn her own normally, and they told us to apply through the wish section instead. I thought that was only for sick kids, but apparently it's for anyone with a terminal illness, or who's basically immobilized for a long time for a medical reason," Shrubbery explained. "And they put her application through right away, so her character has unlimited everything, even though she can't transfer coin or Karma, she can spend as much as she wants, and she's gained all her skills on the first try."

"Woah, your mom is like an NPC!" Danika exclaimed.

"What? No, she can revive," Shrubbery argued.

Danika laughed and replied, "But she basically doesn't have a Karma stat, like Sea Song Tione, and I've never seen an NPC that was obviously practicing skills like a player."

"Oh, I guess she is then," Shrubbery agreed laughingly.

Eyes on the Sky said dryly, "My daughter thinks I'm wasting opportunities, but I'm happy enough to just sit around and watch her gardening."

Shrubbery shrugged.

Danika said, "Well, I hope you won't be too bored watching us as she tries to teach me her skill. It usually takes me a lot of repetitions." She admitted a little guiltily, "I still haven't learned the shape cantrip off of the ring either."

"Well, we've been pretty busy," Shrubbery excused her easily.

Shrubbery made the practice more interesting by casting her Invigorated Bloom skill on each of the plants in her garden, instead of just repeating it on the same plant. Danika followed her around with an intent expression, while Eyes on the Sky lounged comfortably in Shrubbery's tree and snacked on sweet berries that she drew occasionally from the golden storage ring she wore.

When the soft chime of a skill rang out part way through the second lap around Shrubbery's garden, Danika checked her menus excitedly, but then announced with disappointment, "My Assimilation skill gained a point, I haven't learned it yet."

Shrubbery replied with cheerful practicality, "Then you'll be able to learn faster right? It's still good. And maybe next time you try it you'll get the cantrip too."

Danika brightened and agreed, "Yeah, I hope so!"

Shrubbery continued to demonstrate her Invigorated Bloom skill until another soft skill chime rang out. Danika examined her skills again and looked up with confusion. Shrubbery gave her a blank look, and then pulled up her own menus and said with amusement, "Sorry, it was me. I gained a skill level in it. I hadn't used it very often so it's not very high level."

"How are you being able to use it so many times in a row without having to stop and eat?" Danika questioned.

Shrubbery held out her hand so that it was lit by a warm ray of sun, and said, "My energy constantly recharges in the sun, and my tree can lend me energy."

"Dryads are so cool," Danika commented as Shrubbery resumed making her plants bloom one by one.

It wasn't until Danika had finally learned Invigorated Bloom that they realized that Eyes on the Sky was asleep. Shrubbery went still, and Danika waited with a worried expression until Shrubbery moved again and said laughingly, "She says she held still for so long that the game decided she was asleep, and she met the Sandman who was taking her flying around the mountains you mentioned before I interrupted. She says she even saw a snow leopard living there, like I talked about, and a lot of other cute animals like marmots."

"Cool," Danika said with relief, but then asked curiously, "but isn't she using VR so it should know if she's actually asleep or not? She kept eating?"

"Yeah, but it's not an enclosed system," Shrubbery explained. After a moment she added, "She said she didn't want to take so many pain killers, that they were making her feel worse than the pain did, so they suggested she try VR. The connections that transmit sensations apparently override a lot of natural sensation, but it's so expensive, so she's using a system at home that doesn't have all the extra sensors that the ones at the hospital have. I wish she'd eat as much as she does in the game though."

"Food never sounds good when you hurt a lot," Danika replied reasonably.

"I know," Shrubbery replied, "I just wish she could have both parts at the same time, you know, eating for real while eating here. Besides, apart from going still, how else does the game tell that you're sleeping?"

"I'm not sure, I've mostly put my character to sleep instead of falling asleep," Danika replied.

"How?" Shrubbery asked.

"My breath attack," Danika explained, "and when I was still in the beginner's vale my mentor fed me a bright blue berry that also put my character right to sleep without having to hold still for a long time."

"Do you know what kind it was?" Shrubbery asked.

"No, but we could probably ask the traveling merchant," Danika suggested.

"You think he'd know?" Shrubbery asked doubtfully.

"Yeah," Danika replied. "He's probably in the market square, I'll go ask really quick if you like," she offered.

"Only if you don't mind," Shrubbery said softly.

"I don't mind! I don't think it will take long, be right back!" Danika exclaimed and zipped away.

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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(4)
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Moridain @Moridain ago

I am with the Mom. That sounds like a fantastic way to spend your final days. Mountains look cool, adventures are fun, but to see your child doing things she loves?

Priceless.

Statesidespy @Statesidespy ago

Do you have a squirrel fixation? I know a few dogs and a cat you might get along with if that's the case?