02 – The First Battle

I sighed in relief. Finally managed to get inside the game. This ‘experiment’ thing was suspicious, admittedly, but it’d still be better living conditions compared to my former orphanage.

The aura of light covering me faded. My body, formerly human, was converted into the Demon avatar I chose.

Bright, too bright! My head hurt from the 360 degrees vision I now had. I was seeing from every part of my body, instead of just my eyes. I did get the explanation, but experiencing it myself was quite intense…

The closer the simulation got to reality, the worse the feeling of disconnect became. Apparently, just a few years ago, the syndrome didn’t even exist. Not surprising considering that at the time, VR couldn’t simulate smells, and systems only used vibration to fake the sense of touch.

The corporation said they wanted to implement ‘PvP between human and monster players’, but if processing visual information alone was this bad, I’m pretty sure it’s not going to happen any time soon. Well, I mean, I guess that’s why they needed testers…

Which reminded me, they said secret alpha testers would have their sensitivity to pain and the senses turned to maximum, but I’d hoped they would use my physical data to tweak the finer details. The problem was whether they’d do it before their data gathering finished or not… I probably shouldn’t have much hope here.

So, half a year. Half a year like this, with zero rest… I guessed that was why the AI said this race wasn’t recommended. Yet still, when it asked me what I wanted to be, this was the only choice I could think of.

My vision twisted and turned, like seeing through a kaleidoscope inside a churning whirlpool. Without the ability to even close my eyes, I decided to stay still for… somewhere around an hour. Finally, the feeling abated to a level I can bear. Perhaps my brain finally managed to process all this visual information.

Urgh… I felt like puking. My head still spun from the dizziness and nausea, but I couldn’t give up here. They wouldn’t allow the secret alpha testers to give up here.

Still, the rest was worthwhile. I could finally look around. And even I, a girl who normally kept a tight lid on her emotions, was amazed by what I saw.

I’d heard that you couldn’t distinguish VR games these days from real life, but this was far beyond what I expected. A light breeze, rustling leaves, shadows and dappled sunlight dancing on the ground, the wind carrying the smell of grass, of earth, and of water. All this, I felt.

This was a forest. Around me were trees, trees, and more trees. No signs of civilization anywhere. Nothing here…

No, wait. I was a ‘monster’ right now. I had a feeling bad things would happen if I got close to a human village. If this world was as realistic as was explained to me, human and monsters were enemies.

But I had more important things to worry about. The moment I understood what was around me, finally, I also understood what I was.

…a white slime? Not the bouncy, stretchy type, but a dripping, sticky slime made of thick liquid. I looked like somebody mixed up some watery dough or oobleck, then dropped the whole thing on the ground. How does this work? Could I move? I was drawing blanks on this body’s mechanics of locomotion.

It took me a few moments to realize there was a small, coin-sized piece of crystal on the ground near me. What was this thing…?

As I imagined stretching my arms, a piece of slime flew out and wrapped around the crystal.

Aaaahh… right. Don’t think about moving. Just do it.

At the same time, it didn’t actually feel like I was moving my arms, but rather, something shot out from my shoulder. It was terribly uncomfortable.

Anyway, the crystal. What was it? This perfect sphere couldn’t have naturally formed… oh, right, virtual reality. That meant it should be some kind of item…

[Identification Crystal] - 98/99

・This crystal ball allows one to identify one’s own power and other game items.
・This is a bonus item for first-time players. One can buy a similar item in large cities, but they’re only usable 10 times.
・Looking into the crystal allows one to know the general strength of the target.

※It may be possible to learn how to identify without a crystal. Do your best!

…an identification item?

I only thought about what this thing could be, and a message appeared inside my mind. What was this number? On a whim, I used the crystal to look at a nearby tree…

[Tree] 97/99
[Magic Points: 5]

Yup, got it. The tree wasn’t a game item, so I couldn’t get any details on it. In contrast, the crystal was one, so there was plenty of information – at least, that was my standing theory. Magic points… was that the MP thing? Even trees had that? According to the extremely detailed language pack and game information pack installed in my mind, “the world was filled with mana”. This might be what it meant.

Wait, the number dropped… Was that “97/99” after the info box supposed to be the remaining uses of the Identification Crystal? It said I could buy something similar in towns, but monsters couldn’t enter towns, right?

“Possible to learn how to identify without a crystal…” I really hoped I could do that before I ran out of uses. At any rate, I still had to use it one more time. On me.

[NO NAME] [Infant Demon] 96/99

・A nameless infant demon. A spiritual life-form. Extremely fragile.

[Magic Points: 20/20]
[Total Combat Power: 21/21]
[Unique Skill: Reroll]

…so I guess I was pretty weak? The description did say “extremely fragile”, and I only had four times the magic points of a tree. I’d admit I hadn’t ever played a game before, but judging from the information jammed inside my head, wasn’t it supposed to show more details like my strength, speed, and whatnot?

Let’s see… if I remembered correctly, this game was about defeating enemies and getting stronger, right? Who is the enemy? Will they be easy enough opponents for me? Actually, how do I fight? Wait, more importantly, can I move at all?

I imagined myself moving forward… It worked, but eerghh, so nauseous…

That aside, I was curious about this Unique Skill thing. Sounded kinda cool. I started wondering about the details of the skill, and immediately some text appeared.

[Unique Skill: Reroll] 95/99

・Uses up magic power. If activated upon a failed skill check, you will reroll the result.
・The more severe the failure, the more the required magic power.
・Bonus skill. Use of this skill is limited to secret testers.

I can use this… right? It said the skill was a bonus, but I was pretty sure they were just testing to see whether using it mentally affected the user or not anyway. Also, the skill itself wasn’t exactly surprising.

I knew why I have it.

I started moving. Every time I tried to go anywhere, it felt like being pushed from a cliff while blindfolded. After a while, I realized my surroundings had gotten dark.

…half a day and I probably didn’t even move more than 3 meters.

The nausea constantly assaulting me was my brain’s interpretation of the feeling of disconnect due to my extremely inhuman body. There was nothing wrong with my body, which was currently in cold sleep. It was all in the mind… so I could only power through it.

I wondered if the other secret alpha testers had to go through the same thing. I didn’t have a chance to have a decent talk with them, and I don’t think I ever would. One hundred of us, spread all over this huge world. The possibility of us meeting was infinitesimal.

A bigger problem here was encountering the ten thousand beta testers. I couldn’t speak at the moment, so it was likely I would just be killed on the spot if I ever met one of them. I couldn’t even run.

Dying several times in a row would get your character deleted. I’m sure the corporation wouldn’t allow me to try again if that happened, and I’d lose that paid-living-expenses-for-10-years reward, too.

Maybe they’d know I’m a player if I showed them my Identification Crystal…? Anyway, I should find somewhere safe before it got dar-

I heard something.

Some distance away from me was a red… thing. It looked like a caterpillar. It reared its head, like a snake trying to intimidate, and screeched.

Was it just an insect? Or perhaps… a monster? It looked strangely powerful, probably because of the scars I saw on its back.

Crap! The red caterpillar spat something at me. Yuck!

I tried to dodge – tried being the key word. The movement itself made me want to hurl. Next came the scorching heat and pain – as much as this body could recognize pain, anyway.

But the pain wasn’t the worst thing. No, it was the disturbing sense of my body eroding bit by bit. The feeling scared me so much I accidentally used the Identification Crystal.

[NO NAME] 94/99
[Magic Points: 18/20]
[Total Combat Power: 20/21]

My magic power went down! My combat power, too!

Did spiritual life-forms have magic itself as their bodies?! And my combat power was tied to my magic?

I tried to run even as my mind was floundering in confusion, and the caterpillar gave chase. Holy hell were we slow, both of us! I oozed, it crawled. Yet it was still faster than me, even if only slightly.

Let’s see how strong it was…

[Red Caterpillar] 93/99
[Magic Points: 22/25]  [Hit Points: 30/30]
[Total Combat Power: 27]

Shit, it was stronger than me! Just as the item description said, identification really did only show the general strength.

It screamed. Again, the acid-ish projectile splashed on me. Hot, hot, hot!

[NO NAME] 92/99
[Magic Points: 16/20]
[Total Combat Power: 19/21]
[Red Caterpillar] 91/99
[Magic Points: 18/25]  [Hit Points: 30/30]
[Total Combat Power: 27]

My power dropped again, yet the caterpillar’s didn’t! This must be the difference between spiritual lifeforms and normal monsters. Also, I used the crystal way too often! It had limited uses, damn it!

Shit, it caught up! It’s biting me! Ouch, ouch! It felt like my own existence was being gouged out!

Right, my unique skill!

[Reroll]

The caterpillar tried to bite me again, but the moment its fangs were about to pierce me, they hit only air. Huh…? I got out of that attack, but was that it?

[NO NAME] 90/99
[Magic Points: 6/20]
[Total Combat Power: 12/21]

Fuck, fuck, fuck! I lost a ton of magic! This skill was way too expensive!

Oh god it’s eating me ow ow ow…

I died.

Once I ran out of magic points, my spiritual body disappeared. I was reborn later, somewhere in a forest.

My first battle was a defeat. But…

[NO NAME] 89/99
[Magic Points: 1/10] 10↓
[Total Combat Power: 5/11] 10↓

…wasn’t the death penalty only supposed to be a 10% reduction in stats?


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