11: Questionable Identity
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Selling the existing building turned into something like a scavenger hunt, as they bounced from one contact to the next in their search for someone who could move the building when they found a buyer.

Aishin took screenshots for Edwardian, who logged on for a few minutes to post the building's upcoming availability in the forums, where he'd been dealing in the materials he'd assigned Endless Song's members to collect in their spare time.

Edwardian frowned as he swiped through the invisible screens. "I think the demands for the materials are dropping off. We should probably change our focus before the new construction in the desert really slows down."

MatchlessMinion argued, "People will still be building new places for months."

"But there are a lot more people who can supply these things, now that almost everyone knows they are common structural enchantment materials," Edwardian pointed out logically.

Danika commented, "I wouldn't mind slowing down and focusing on our own construction project anyway?"

Aishin grinned at her, and Shrubbery said doubtfully, "I'm not sure our new guild hall exactly counts as a construction project, since we'll be growing it instead of building it."

"I can't wait to set up our guild remembrance statue and get my pouch back," MatchlessMinion enthused.

"Should we do the memory quest again, for Kit's baby?" Danika questioned unhappily.

"Not unless she brings it up," Shrubbery said with unusual firmness. Danika looked at her and thought that maybe MatchlessMinion had been rubbing off on her lately.

Aishin and Edwardian both logged off a few minutes before they tracked down the gnome who had been suggested to them.

--

It turned out that the gnome, Immer Portman, had heard of ZipZing. At first Danika assumed that this was an advantage, but Portman soon corrected her impression.

"What do a thieving little murderer like the notorious ZipZing and her mates want with an honest craftsman," Immer Portman questioned darkly.

MatchlessMinion spluttered with laughter as Danika protested, "Thieving murderer!?"

"That's what we call people who go around killing and stealing," Portman agreed.

"I haven't," Danika began, but then she paused. It really depended on your definition of anyone. She'd probably been responsible for some goblin deaths at least, and goblins were half gnome.

"What has she stolen and who has she killed?" Shrubbery asked with interest.

After the gnome had finished listing everything from how she'd "had her pet assassin kill a poor lovesick unicorn" to how she'd stolen the fur "right off an elderly owlbear while he slept", even Danika had to admit that her exploits sounded pretty terrible when put that way.

MatchlessMinion's eyes sparkled as he commented laughingly, "It's like he's your fan! Even I have never heard about most of those adventures!"

"How do you know about all of that," Shrubbery asked the gnome curiously.

"It's all in the song!" Immer Portman declared.

"What song?" Danika asked blankly. The only person she could think of who probably knew of all of those adventures was Aishin, and while he was perfectly capable of having created a song about them, he'd promised to tell her about songs he wrote about her.

"Do I look like a bard? Ask any proficient bard and I'm sure they'll be able to sing you the 'Little Dragon's Notorious Tale'."

Despite his poor impression of Endless Song's guild leader, Immer Portman did eventually agree to transport the building for them, for a fairly hefty fee.

He did ask, "Is it stolen property?"

Danika had to spend a Karma to produce a copy of the guild's purchase record for him before he would believe that it wasn't.

--

By the time Kit logged on for her usual hour of play that evening, the three of them had returned to Shrubbery's garden and were industriously creating an arched gate between the two plots. Or at least, Shrubbery was industriously creating it, and ZipZing and MatchlessMinion were doing their best to assist.

When she saw that Kit had logged on, Shrubbery instructed, as she continued coaxing the branches to weave themselves into the neat arch, "Tell her where we are, and ask if we should join her."

Danika quickly posted it to the guild board.

Kit replied a moment later: "It looks like the portal is already functioning, so I'll just come there."

ZipZing, Shrubbery and MatchlessMinion all stopped what they were doing and rushed over to her when she arrived. Kit looked at their worried expressions, as they looked at her tired face, and gave a short laugh. "I'm really OK," she announced.

Danika pointed out hesitantly, "You look really tired."

"I am," Kit agreed. "I logged in last night and played for awhile when I should have been sleeping." She looked right at ZipZing and asked doubtfully, "You didn't send me a message last night did you?"

"No," Danika admitted worriedly. "Should I have? You said you'd be here today."

Kit's questioning gaze moved to Shrubbery's face. Shrubbery held up her hands and protested, "I didn't send one because I didn't want to make you feel pressured by my curiosity."

"I just asked because," Kit hesitated, but then drew out the crumpled message from her inventory. "Someone sent me this using the snow leopard cub messenger. He vanished from my messengers after the expansion."

Danika darted forward. "He vanished from mine too, and my friend list," she said quickly as she snatched the piece of paper from Kit's hand and stared at the simple sentence.

Shrubbery pulled up her menus and frowned. "He's not in my list anymore either," she reported.

Kit reached for the crumpled message and Danika guiltily pushed it back into her hand.

"I'll ask Aishin, but I'm pretty sure he'll be missing there as well. This morning Josh said that his incarnation isn't visible anywhere," Danika reported. "He might have tracked down what happened to the King of Cats by now though."

"Something happened to the King of Cats?" MatchlessMinion questioned. "Did that paranoid developer delete him too?"

Danika spun and gazed at MatchlessMinion questioningly.

The little chinchillamin put his hands on his hips and explained his reasoning. "I know I wasn't there, but it sounds like he deleted Kit's baby after he helped her in a way that a normal AI wouldn't be able to come up with, and the King of Cats is definitely not a normal NPC AI."

Kit nodded, but Danika protested faintly, "None of this game's NPCs act like standard NPCs."

MatchlessMinion replied, "Even for this game. That cat doesn't speak as smoothly as the traveling merchant, but he always seemed to be paying a lot of attention to things. Most AIs only act like they're paying attention when you're talking to them or when they're 'on guard' against you. Maybe that guy is deleting any AI that's getting too real?"

The phrase 'on guard' caught Danika's attention and she blurted, "I wish Silvam were here."

All three of her friends gave her puzzled looks. "I think she means because Silvam is actually that head developer, Lin Hao," Shrubbery said softly.

MatchlessMinion's face wrinkled into a sour expression. "I didn't need to know that," he complained.

Kit asked incredulously, "Seriously? Our newest guildmate, Magna Silvam, is Lin Hao? The same guy who responded to my first bug report?"

"Yeah?" Danika admitted questioningly.

"But Silvam is so nice!" Kit protested.

MatchlessMinion asked Kit just as incredulously, "Nice? Are you sure you don't mean annoying?"

"I don't think Lin Hao was trying to be mean to you back then," Danika offered. Kit had seemed grateful for his rather brusque resolution at the time as far as Danika had been able to tell.

Flustered, Kit tried to explain, "No, I mean, he was helpful enough. But Silvam is so sweet compared to that guy!"

Even Danika couldn't picture the busty blonde elf his character had become, after he'd changed its gender to suit the ridiculous demands that Aishin and MatchlessMinion had spouted, as being 'sweet' to anyone. Lin Hao could be uncomfortably direct, and annoyingly vague, but sweet just didn't fit.

"Sweet…" MatchlessMinion repeated blankly.

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