When I wrote this, I wasn't deliberately aiming to promote EA or AI safety, but given the concepts discussed I'm erring on the side of submitting it anyway and letting the judges read.

This is a Final Fantasy XIV fanfiction, but I've shown it to someone who hadn't played the game at all and they had no trouble with it, so setting knowledge doesn't seem to be required.  Readers just need some vague familiarity with standard fantasy settings to pattern-match to, and the knowledge that this is a fanwork of a video game where second person POV is accepted for player characters.

"The Warrior of Light, vaunted hero of Eorzea and beyond, is too busy crafting to receive me?"  Kan-E-Senna's voice resounds through the halls of the Rising Stones.  Tataru should have the situation well in hand, so you continue your work.  It's not the first time a dignitary has questioned your choice of day job when you're not saving the world.

"For the moment, Elder Seedseer, she is.  Barring an emergency, which you just said you do not currently have, she will be ready at the appointed bell.  Would you like some refreshments while you wait?"  Ever polite and ever firm, Tataru is a true gem.

"Thank you, Tataru, but no.  I would like to know why we cannot simply move our meeting up.  Why you have the Warrior of Light toiling like a common shopkeep to earn her daily bread."

"We have done no such thing!  It is by her own choice that she crafts."

"By her own choice?"  That incredulous tone cannot herald anything good.  "Then I would hear her reason from her own lips.  Now."

Surely Tataru is containing a sigh, for the situation is no longer in hand.  "Very well.  Pray that she is not mid-craft."  You are, of course, mid-craft, and not going to finish before they get here.  What a sight you're going to make, on one knee leaning over a glowing bundle of aether - and with both hands occupied to boot.  It's far more comfortable than it looks to the untrained eye, but that doesn't help with impressions upon the very same untrained eye, now does it?

The patter of footsteps soon culminates in Tataru's distinctive knock on your door.  "You have a visitor."

You lean back as far as you safely can, trying to reduce neck strain while looking up from this position.  "So I heard.  Please open the door for me; this aetheric construct won't hold itself together."

Tataru looks worriedly at you as she swings the door open.  You nod to her for a moment before meeting Kan-E-Senna's gaze.  I'll take it from here.

"Elder Seedseer.  You wish to know why I craft."  Despite the title, she's not that old.

"I do."

"Then let us start with what you know.  You have given me leave to study white magic, and so you are well aware that I can channel massive quantities of aether, should I have a willing source like the elementals.  Or even a source that is merely not unwilling, such as the crystals that are regularly shipped across Eorzea so that its tradespeople may use them in their work."

"Indeed, though I would hope you need not resort to crystals for spellcasting."

"As would I.  You also know that despite the power of your discipline, I do not customarily go forth to save Eorzea as a white mage."

"Your pets normally give you away as a summoner, yes.  What of it?"

"Contrary to the flashy appearance and the resemblance to primals, the summoner's art does not use large quantities of aether.  It uses such small quantities of aether that the caster can rely entirely on their own aether reserves, heavily amplified by extreme precision in shaping that aether."  You raise an eyebrow to forestall any interruptions, since you can't exactly hold up a hand at the moment.  "Care to guess how much practice I have turning tiny amounts of aether into a huge destructive force?"

"Forgive me, but you study many disciplines.  Even were we to count the prerequisite study of arcanima, you cannot have more than 50 years' experience in such things, and most likely closer to five."

"A well-reasoned guess.  Thank you for thinking it through honestly.  But it is not even close." Tataru has heard this next part too, so at least you don't have to worry about her reaction.  "Remember that I am called to save the world, instead of some other adventurer, because I have the Echo.  Because, to be brutally honest, I keep winning even when thrown into seemingly impossible situations.  The popular perception is that I keep winning due to preternatural skill at arms.  That is closer, but also not true.

"When someone else tries something that would go wrong in a fight, it goes wrong and they have to live - or die - with the consequences.  When I so much as consider such a thing, I instead get an Echo vision of exactly how it would fail.  Instantaneously... as far as everyone else is concerned.  For me, and me alone, each such vision plays out at normal speed and feels completely real.  By now, I have had so, so many of them...

"I did not start out being even passable at any form of combat.  I became a capable combatant by failing over and over and over, all in the blink of an eye.  I prevail against seemingly impossible odds by trying every possibility I can think of until something works, no matter how long it takes me to find it.  I turned to all manner of training exercises just to have more control over when I get plunged into indefinite trial and error.  I have lived a thousand thousand of your lives that no one else can see."  Oh, if only Emet-Selch knew that!

Kan-E-Senna's jaw is moving, but no sound is coming out.  Eventually she shakes her head and sputters.  "That would explain why you emerge visibly stronger from every individual battle, even the simulations... but it would also drive near anyone mad.  You're saying that your time is predominantly spent not in the daily life of a soldier, but in active combat.  Failed attempts at active combat, even, struggling desperately as you and your companions fall."

"As you say, enough to drive near anyone mad."  You sigh quietly.  "Imagine what would happen if someone of my power and position did go mad.  Consider the sheer amount of aether I can channel combined with my immense practice at amplifying it.  Even were the elementals to balk, I could simply visit the nearest market and buy enough crystals for several beast tribes to conduct summonings by brute force.  A common shopkeep would be denied such an order by regulation, but not a trader in Eorzea would dare defy the Warrior of Light."

"We would have another Calamity on our hands."

"Exactly.  You see why it is vitally important that I stay sane.  That I stay connected to the people and joys of the world, and do not, say, decide that the absence of suffering would be enough - for cleansing the star of all life is by far the easiest way to accomplish that given my skills."

Kan-E-Senna is standing so still she could have been petrified, which makes it hard to tell if she's simply processing or about to retort.  Occasionally someone doesn't grasp that preserving what makes life worth living is both the hard part and the part that matters, even with the facts staring them in the face that their vaunted hero is entirely capable of succeeding where Bahamut failed, and then you have a whole further argument to deal with... but finally she gulps and gives a mute nod.  Good enough.

"We are not in the midst of the Eighth Umbral Calamity because I do not wish it.  Neither do I wish to be the kind of person who would do such a thing.  I do wish to use my powers, my skill with aether, for creation and not only destruction."  You nod down at the unfinished craft between your hands, its steady, controlled glow confirming that you've been near-instinctively holding it in shape the entire time.  "To bring into being items of use in daily life, and so provide the people with joy.  That is why I craft.

"So, Elder Seedseer, please make yourself comfortable here.  Tataru is most capable, should you need anything.  But our meeting will wait until the appointed bell, when I am done with my day's crafting."

If you want to support my overall writing independent of the contest results, you can tip me on Ko-fi.


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