15: Field of Clover
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They stopped at the market square in the middle of Fogton and made their way to the merchant. The square definitely wasn't empty, but it was far less crowded than it had ever been before the expansion. It showed just how many people were busy playing in the new desert.

The traveling merchant smiled and greeted them cheerfully, as they approached. There seemed to be only one customer ahead of them at the moment. When the tall man with the distinctive scar finished collecting his quest reward, Danika zipped up to the merchant, and then hesitated.

After a moment she asked the question she'd thought of while moving the stone seats around in her garden. "Do you know how I can find the King of Cats?"

The traveling merchant replied, "There are very few in this world who can find the King of Cats, usually the King of Cats will find those who interest him whenever he pleases."

"Who can find the King of Cats then?" Danika questioned.

"The Witch, the Hound, or the Queen of Night, might be able to find him," the merchant replied seriously.

"Shouldn't the gods know where he is too?" Danika asked, while looking at the dragon cuff that wrapped around one wrist.

The merchant visibly hesitated before replying, "The Jade Emperor should know the location of everything within his Empire."

Danika gazed at him with a frown, but Shrubbery suddenly pushed forward and asked, "What about your son?"

The merchant looked at her calmly and replied, "My son no longer exists within the empire."

"Why doesn't that make you sad?" Shrubbery complained helplessly, but Danika had a different question. She waited to hear the merchant's reply first though.

The traveling merchant said simply, "Thank you for being worried about me, I appreciate the concern of all of my friends and acquaintances. I am not sad because my son did not die."

It looked like her guess that death was not the same as deletion for his reactions was correct, and maybe some definitions needed changed. For now, Danika just asked the next question she'd thought of, "Can you find the King of Cats?"

The merchant winked at her and replied, "It isn't necessary."

Danika immediately spun, and searched the area for cats, but she didn't see any. Shrubbery gave her an odd look, and Danika returned an embarrassed shrug. The merchant merely smiled. Danika bought a bit more candy as usual.

"A cat might be able to call upon the King ZipZing," the merchant suggested just as she was turning away.

Danika glanced back at him, and nodded, before yielding to the nervous character who had approached while they talked. She shifted into a cat using her transformation skill first, since she hadn't managed to weave a new belt yet.

Shrubbery asked, while they walked, "Why does the King of Cats matter so much to you? The snow leopard was cute, but, I don't know, it feels like maybe you're using it as a distraction so that you don't have to deal with the deletion of the baby?"

Danika looked up at the tall dryad beside her, and then glanced forward again, and dodged a person who almost ran over her as they exited the square. "Why is the baby more important than the cat?" Danika countered. "They are both NPCs that we've known."

Shrubbery gazed down at her and then sighed. "I guess that's true."

"The main difference for me is that the cat still exists, somewhere. The baby is already gone, and I can't undo that," Danika said after a moment.

"Someone should be able to," Shrubbery complained. "Everything else in the world has automatic backup systems these days, why not this?"

"I guess because it would mean Starcraft Technologies would have to invest two orbital computers into 'Living Jade Empire'," Danika speculated.

"But someone could accidentally delete one of the gods, or something that would completely break the game," Shrubbery pointed out.

Danika shook her head. "Josh said it was only system generated NPCs that they can't restore."

Shrubbery sighed. Danika didn't know what else to say, so she just went back to watching for other cats.

When they reached the garden of the player from 'The Gardener's Club' guild, who Shrubbery intended to buy clover seeds from, Danika was amazed by the extent and complexity of her garden. She'd thought the lot they were going to plant their guild hall tree on was going to leave a really big garden space around it, but this country garden was at least six times that size.

The seeds themselves were very tiny, but Shrubbery purchased an enormous amount of them. Danika remembered how much work gathering a few hundred olives had been and cringed. She couldn't imagine how long collecting those must have taken. After a few minutes she decided that the gardener simply had to have some sort of seed collection skill.

Danika used her Purrfection from her skills in her subpath to transform into a cat again on the way back, but she still didn't see any other cats around.

--

When they returned to Fogton, MatchlessMinion was waiting, with several buckets of normal looking earthworms.

Shrubbery smiled and reached into one of the buckets and pulled out a specimen to examine. Danika shuddered, and MatchlessMinion smirked at her. She was glad that she hadn't had to catch them.

Danika escaped into her garden, to start producing leafy plants. She planted the new clover seeds around her apple tree and among her stone dragon print seats. She planted mountain strawberries again in the same area, and was surprised to see that there were still existing living plants struggling to survive on the edge of the circle of soil.

It had been almost a week for the garden space since everything had last been trampled. She went around the perimeter again looking for smaller signs of life, and found a few more plants that were still living. She used her plant growth spell to encourage each one, and planted the other edible plants in the empty spaces.

After she had everything growing well, she went around and trimmed leaves off of each plant. She carried the bags of leaves out to Shrubbery, who had MatchlessMinion spread them out, like he was already doing with the much larger quantity of leaves that she was producing from her larger and more established garden.

Shrubbery assigned ZipZing to encouraging a section of broad leaved flowering shrubs into blooming, and the petals were added to the leaves. Some dryadic or gardener's magic was used to encourage the worms and plant material to stir the soil into a state that looked suspiciously like potting soil. Then Shrubbery cast clover seeds across the entire lot.

"We're going to live in a field of clover?" MatchlessMinion questioned doubtfully.

"Just for now, until the soil improves," Shrubbery assured him. "It could be worse, it could be mustard."

--

When she finally logged out to sleep, Danika felt exhausted. She found that she was actually looking forward to returning to work in the morning, where she'd actually be able to accomplish things and help people.

Shinichi had sent her a text that made her smile for no reason. It said: "I'll be asleep by the time you read this, and awake for hours before you get up. Eat something delicious OK?"

She wondered if it meant that he'd eaten something delicious, or if he'd eaten something that wasn't.

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