50: Skill Swap
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After a minute Danika wondered if Aishin had really answered the question of why he didn't change his avatar either, but she didn't ask again. She wouldn't have done it herself because changing your avatar, aside from choosing your race at character creation, could only be done for real money.

A lot of people had complained about the cost of appearance modification ever since the beta. Even small changes like hair color cost a little money. But entirely customizing an avatar still wasn't as expensive as paying to use a licensed one.

Messenger animals had only been available for real money before the new permanent quest update too. Danika didn't mind it though because the game itself was free to play. None of your skills or stats could be modified with money, and so far the company had limited the costs to purely visual modifiers.

Danika hadn't really realized that a long silence had fallen between them until Aishin asked, "Do you want to try to learn one of my skills or try to teach me your ranged attack first?"

Danika pondered the question. She wrote a return question out and sent it: "Do you think the meditation skill you mentioned would increase the number of times I could use a skill right away?"

Aishin shook his head. "Not significantly."

She sighed and wrote another reply: "Then I'll try to teach you my 'Wind Slash' first. I know that I can learn a skill that I can see through repetition, but I'm not certain I can teach one."

Danika tapped her storage ring and removed a radish from the embroidered pouch. She targeted Aishin with her 'Impartation' skill, and then targeted the radish with her 'Wind Slash'. It seemed to be equally as effective with her cat claws as it had with her little dragon claws. She repeated the actions until the radish was reduced to shreds.

Danika ate the shreds while she got out another radish, and Aishin protested, "You don't have to eat that!" He pulled a potion bottle out of his own inventory, and then looked at her little cat face. "I don't suppose you have a bowl or a saucer either do you?" he questioned.

Danika shook her head.

Aishin poured some of the potion into the cup of his own palm, held his hand out and said encouragingly, "Don't worry, I'm pretty sure the game isn't detailed enough to have germs."

She gave him a look, but walked over and drank the potion from his hand. She wanted to ask why drinking a potion was better than eating shredded radish, but she was tired of writing messages, and the potion actually didn't taste any worse. It was a little embarrassing to lick the last of it from his hand, but it didn't seem to bother him at all. She decided that maybe the full motion console didn't have sensitive enough feedback for him to feel it.

As she started again on the next radish, she realized that not only had the potion restored her energy faster than the food, but it continued to boost her replenishment for significantly longer. She wondered how expensive it was.

Danika shredded 32 of her radishes and drank from Aishin's hand half a dozen times before they both heard the faint chime of a skill. Aishin pulled up his menus and announced, "It wasn't mine. I haven't learned it yet."

Danika pulled up her own character sheet to find that her own 'Wind Slash' had gained a level. When the soft chime of a skill rang out again 10 radishes later, she was afraid that it was her 'Impartation' skill leveling up, but instead Aishin announced with satisfaction, "I learned it!"

Aishin targeted the half shredded radish with one of his knives and his cut not only sliced through the radish, but left a groove in his floor. Danika gazed at the deep mark, and then pouted at him.

Aishin reached out and rubbed her ears. It felt amazing and she groaned. The noise came out as a full blown purr, and Aishin laughed at her startled expression. Danika did what any cat would do, she stepped away from him and turned her back on him.

"I'm sorry!" Aishin protested laughingly. "But this skill is even more awesome than I expected! I'll try to let you learn as many of my skills as we can find time for, ok?"

Danika tossed her head, but the game translated it to an ear flick, which felt weird. After a moment she turned back to him and nodded. "That's still really weird," Aishin commented with amusement.


Two and a half hours later another soft skill chime finally rang out in the little round room. Danika checked her skills and smiled. She'd finally managed to copy Aishin's 'Meditation Enhancement' skill. The description said simply: "Time spent using this skill will slowly increase health and energy capacity."

She wrote a quick message to Aishin, who just sat there and waited for her little bird to deliver it this time. It said: "I learned it! Thanks!"

Aishin flopped back on the floor and said, "Man, that was surprisingly exhausting. I've always considered this a really boring skill, because you just sit there and breathe, but hours of it on this console was kind of rough. I should have switched to my phone. I really need to disconnect from this thing and go sleep."

Thinking of sleep made Danika yawn. Her yawn triggered Aishin's yawn. He chuckled and said, "let's exit so I can stow this place in my inventory."

Danika looked at the pile of shredded radishes from their 'Wind Slash' training.

"I'll clean up later, I promise," Aishin said laughingly.

Danika placed her paw on the center stone and said, "exit," and found herself returned to the human city. It was a little disorienting because she'd entered the stone's room during the game's night, but they'd stayed in there so long that it was the bright afternoon of the following day.

Aishin appeared beside her a moment later and bent to pick up the dark stone. He ran his hand down her back before saying, "Goodnight ZipZing, at least you're a cute cat while it lasts." He stood, stowed the stone in his inventory, and logged off.

Danika blinked, and logged out too. It had been a very long day.