17: Questionable Cats
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Danika pulled up her job list, to find only one thing on it. She gave a snort of laughter, and Ariana raised her eyebrows at her.

"It says, 'cannot be refused' on it, and there's only the job from Lin Hao," Danika explained.

Ariana chuckled. "That sounds like something he'd do, what's the job say to do though?"

Another message from Silvam arrived and it said: "Oops, I asked Devon to set it so that you only have the cats to work on and other things won't be forwarded to you today. I didn't think of communicating that way."

Danika rolled her eyes and had her assistant start the mobile version of the game and set it so that Ariana could hear and see it as well, and then she shared the job, because there was just too much information to read it directly. 

Silvam asked, "Have you already," but Danika cut him off.

"I haven't, I'm reading the job now. And Ariana is here to help too," Danika replied, trusting that her assistant would relay that through ZipZing, as it hovered beside her holding up a larger-than-usual screen at a convenient angle. 

"Okay," Silvam replied. 

She decided after a bit that Lin Hao wanted her to examine the logs for each of 20 different cats he had tagged, summon an instance of each and ask a list of questions, and set it up to log another week.

When she said she was finished, Silvam began by asking, "Have you already found the King of Cats?" 

"No," Danika answered, "but I want to try summoning an instance of him here."

"Uh, sure, go ahead and try that?" Silvam agreed doubtfully. 

"Why wouldn't that work?" Ariana asked. 

"Because Josh said he couldn't find his incarnation anywhere," Danika replied. Then she instructed her assistant simply, "Summon an instance of the King of Cats." 

The King of Cats appeared as a silver cat, and glanced around with interest before turning to glare at her.  

"Hello, it's been awhile," Danika said hesitantly.

"Wait, what? Did he appear just like that?" Silvam demanded from the mobile screen.

"Yeah," Danika agreed.

"Actually never met this face before," the silver cat corrected.

"Wow!" Ariana exclaimed. "He sounds like he knows who you are!?" 

The cat glanced at Ariana and then ignored her and stared at Danika. "What want? Have not given messengers choice yet." 

At the same time, Silvam demanded, "What did he say? Hey, be sure to log your work space! That's not automatic!" 

Ariana blinked, and then pulled up her own menus, since they were still in her workspace. 

"Ah, um, no, sorry," Danika replied to the King of Cats nervously. "I wanted to know why no one has been able to find you anywhere since you, um reclaimed your title?" 

The cat narrowed his eyes at her and then said sharply, "Am King, like Emperor. Am not fat elemental or small foe to be always somewhere. Not merchant to be always many places. Not have to be anywhere."

Danika blinked at him, while Ariana stared open mouthed. From the mobile screen Danika's assistant held, Silvam demanded, "Hey! ZipZing! Tell me what's going on!"

"I think he says that he doesn't have to exist anywhere if he doesn't want to," Danika summarized.

"Yes, who tell?" the silver cat asked with interest.

"Uh, Magna Silvam?" Danika replied warily.

"What?" Silvam questioned. "Holy!"

"What?" Danika asked with confusion, until she looked at the screen. The silver cat stood beside Lin Hao too. He looked like he was laughing at them all, with his smug little face.

Ariana laughed, and then covered her mouth. The cat flicked an ear at her. Danika glanced at her quizzically. 

"I mean, of course he can. Cheshire?" Ariana giggled. 

"Oooh," Danika replied laughingly. She turned back to the King of Cats and said, "Thank you. And thank you for saving so many people during the expansion." 

"Oh, just expansion of world?" the silver cat enquired sharply. 

"And now," Danika added quickly, "and for giving the message to Kit!"

The King of Cats gave a huff more suited to the snow leopard he used to appear to be, and replied, "Request granted once." 

He narrowed his eyes again and glanced at the celestial dragon that served as Danika's assistant. Her eyes followed his gaze and when she looked back, he was gone. Danika didn't summon him back, she looked back at the mobile game screen and Silvam's chibi form. 

Magna Silvam seemed to be in a staring contest with the little silver cat, until she protested loudly, "I did not! What do you mean don't fix him, I never said I would!?"

The silver cat got up and walked away, ignoring Silvam's shout of, "Come back here!"

Silvam chased after the cat for a moment, but obviously lost sight of it when she reached the low garden wall.

"Did you hear what he said?!" she demanded when she reached ZipZing's inert form again. 

Danika replied curiously, "No, what?" 

"He said... No, nevermind," Silvam said with a frown.

"Hey," Danika protested. 

"Who's not supposed to get fixed?" Ariana asked.

Danika repeated the question, and Silvam replied, "I need to think about it, I'm not actually sure if he was talking about who I assumed he was. Anyway, just ask the other cats that list of questions, and I'll message you later."

"Wait," Danika insisted. "At least explain, why cats?"

"It isn't obvious?" Silvam asked with surprise.

Danika reached out and tapped the emote that made ZipZing's head shake back and forth.

"They're curious," Silvam said as though stating the obvious.

"Of course?" Danika replied.

Ariana shrugged when she looked at her.

"NPCs aren't. All of their AI is reactive, not active. The ones that seem curious are usually reacting to a story, but the cat AI's actually seem to be truly curious," Silvam explained. And then he logged out before Danika could ask anything else.

"All of the AI's don't just react to things," Danika objected anyway.

"Well, actually as far as I understand the system, they do," Ariana replied.

"Even back before we changed the quest system, those white mice in Paul's quest shouted things and talked amongst themselves," Danika argued.

Ariana grinned and replied, "Their reactions to your presence were pretty convincing right?"

Danika opened her mouth to protest but paused. She'd already decided that the traveling merchant was only obeying the complex routines of different parts of the system, and he was probably the most complex NPC she knew. She sighed and replied, "Yeah, I guess they are. Let's start asking the list of cats the list of questions then?" 

"Sure," Ariana agreed.