I decided on the Ghast.
The immaterial, malleable demon of dust and mist. It wouldn’t be much different from the body of wet dough I’d been using. Imps and Gremlins, with their hands and legs, would have been much better for my mind. I was sure of that.
But no. I didn’t want all my experience to count for nothing.
…well. I just wanted to say something cool there. My life was going to be shitty no matter the choice anyway, so I didn’t put all that much thought to it.
Following my wish, my snow-white slime body began to break do- hey, no, wait, shit. This is bad.
I could feel myself being arranged into something different, and apparently my brain didn’t like that very much. My vision whited out, I felt myself thrown into a raging whirlpool, twisting and turning in incomprehensible directions. Nausea and dizziness began to lay siege, without mercy. Head-splitting pain. An infinite number of ants swarming-
-no, no. This wasn’t real! I didn’t have a physical body at the moment. This was nothing more than a delusion cooked up by my mind! I knew that, but fucking idiot brain!
Come on, stay a… wake…
It took a whole day for my evolution to finish.
I seriously thought my non-existent head was going to explode.
Well, to be more precise, the Evolution itself probably only took a few minutes, but after it was done I couldn’t move for all of a day.
I only just managed to start thinking human thoughts again an hour ago. Until then, my world was made of headaches, flashing colors in my eyes, and so much nausea that I couldn’t move a millimeter.
I still couldn’t, even now. My new body’s senses were all out of whack.
[NO NAME] [Race: Ghast] [Low Demon (Low-Rank)] 33/99 ・A low demon made of dust and gases. A fragile spiritual lifeform. [Magic Points: 90/90] 35↑ [Total Combat Power: 100/100] 40↑ [Unique Skill: Reroll]
Ghast. A low demon of dust and gases. See this “dust and gases” part? That was the problem. My senses extended to every single particles that made up my body.
What this meant was that every time the wind blew, armies of ants would start having a party on the parts of my body moved by the breeze.
Such a pain…
I’d been trying my best to ignore the whole thing, but on second thought, that might not have been the best idea. If I tried to get used to this body by ignoring the problem, that would mean discarding the advantage of using a monster avatar in the first place. Instead, I should turn the problem into a solution: make my hypersensitivity work for me rather than against me.
That was the strength of monsters, and also what separated them from humans.
…at the same time, I had the strangest feeling, as if I was slowly losing bits and pieces of my own human vulnerabilities from all the abuse my mind had suffered since I started using this monster avatar…
Was weakness not what make humans so beautiful, in the end?
Alright, that was enough monologuing. I got so much more powerful now; I should try to get moving as soon as possible.
That reminded me, my status showed [Low Demon (Low-Rank)]. That’s two ‘low’ in a row. How weak was the pre-evolution ball of dough, then?
I was lucky that no caterpillars or snakes came by when I was still immobile. There was a squirrel, but it ran the moment it found out I was here.
My first priority would be to learn how to use my senses. For the first time, I opened my eyes and truly looked at what was happening with my body. Immediately, a torrent of information slammed into me.
…head hurt. Too much useless information. I didn’t need to know how many blades of grass or grains of sand I was touching, or how much dust was blowing in the wind. Huh, I just realized how reliant on sight and hearing humans were, despite having five senses.
Anyway. I should try to selectively process only the relevant information. Hopefully my subconscious could handle the task for me if I practice enough. If not, well, I’d probably go insane, so I couldn’t slack off here.
Which meant I’d need to train my brain to get used to this amount of information as its new default state. Oh boy… I wasn’t looking forward to returning to reality after this. It’s going to be a hell of a time getting used to the lack of information again.
Let’s do this bit by bit, then. This sort of training was never meant to be completed in a day or two. Meanwhile, I should try to move.
I supposed this body should handle the same way as the doughy one. It was the reason why I picked the Ghast, after all. I was going to facepalm so hard otherwise.
…oh? Oooh! I just floated!
I see, I see, so Ghasts could float. Well, not surprising, actually. They were made of gases. On one hand, this afforded me so many new possibilities. On the other, stomach-churning nausea, again… Blergh.
My vision hadn’t stopped turning since a while now, most likely due to my body constantly being moved by the air currents, and it’d continue to do so as long as I wasn’t being aware. So I focused my consciousness and forced my body to stay still. Finally, I could see myself.
I looked like… a 1-meter sphere of incredibly thick smoke? Not exactly outside my expectations, but why was I white again? The game reproduced my albinism in the weirdest ways. Please stop it already.
Ah, right. You know what happens when you pour water on dry ice? That.
I drifted forward. Hey, this worked. Felt like I was bungee jumping every time I moved, which was scary, but I could move the same way I did when I was still a slime.
I couldn’t rise too much, though – there was some kind of force pulling me down, and its strength was proportional to my distance from the ground. It was difficult to get any higher than the height of the windows of a two-story building.
So that was my vertical limits. Horizontally, I could move as fast as a person walking, or race-walking if I pushed myself. Faster than dough-me, obviously. You’d think I would go ‘Weeeee! I can fly!’, but no, my perception was much too sensitive for that. Bugs were crawling on my skin every time the winds touched me. Nothing was fun about this.
…really, could I ever get used to this?
For the time being, I elected to process enough information for my senses to be slightly better than a normal person’s. Particularly my sense of smell and presence detection – for those, I tried to be as aware of the unconscious goings-on as possible.
Oh, found a red caterpillar. It looked small, so probably a male. I silently drove my body of gas closer and prepared to attack… I could just attack the same way I’d been doing, right?
I thrusted a part of me forward. There was no impact. The tentacle of air simply covered the caterpillar and sucked it dry in a few seconds.
I couldn’t believe this was the same caterpillar I used to have so much trouble with. I just won in a flash. Gruesomely, too.
[NO NAME] [Race: Ghast] [Low Demon (Low-Rank)] 30/99 ・A low demon made of dust and gases. A fragile spiritual lifeform. [Magic Points: 91/91] 1↑ [Total Combat Power: 101/101] 1↑ [Unique Skill: Reroll]
Apparently I also drained its lifeforce with that attack. Well, that was good and all, but it didn’t give me much. Could be because of my evolution. Setting the dark-reds aside for a moment, but the red ones used to give me around 7 points.
That’s it, then. I might be outgrowing this area. It’d been my plan to leave the forest once I got stronger, anyway.
…still, if I saw any, I’d hunt. Points were important, even if just one.
Another 10 more reds hunted after a day of journey. I’d gotten a lot more used to moving myself. Filtering information was still difficult.
This forest was huge. I’d never seen anything other than trees the whole time. I’m not actually going deeper, am I? That wasn’t to say coming across a human village wouldn’t be a problem, however.
Oh, I detected something. A stronger presence than most.
What was it? Where was it? I stayed on guard for a while, but saw nothing, so I decided to hover forward. There it was, behind a large tree.
Maybe I just imagined it, but I thought our eyes met. As much as I could have eyes.
It was a black caterpillar, around 60 centimeters, and twice as large as a red one.
Whoa! It just screeched and spat out fire without warning. From all the way over there, too!
[Black Caterpillar] 29/99 [Magic Points: 39/45] [Hit Points: 60/60] [Total Combat Power: 75]
Quite a bit more powerful than reddies. Was this the next evolution step of the dark-red? Why caterpillars? Get to butterflies already.
Wait, what are you doing spitting fire in a forest?! Damn it, I couldn’t afford to stay defensive fighting a high-power monster. All-out offense!
I circled around the big tree to strike from its back. It spat flame at me once, but I still continued. A part of me stretched out and enveloped the bug.
By the way, I did a [Reroll] to dodge the flame, but it failed. Like always.
Just as I thought, that wasn’t enough volume to do any meaningful damage. I went for broke and rushed at the black caterpillar, using my whole body to cover it. It resisted violently, trying to bite me.
…hmm? Didn’t hurt much. Just felt like a mosquito bite. Right, my gaseous Ghast body! Fire worked, but maybe I was nearly invincible to physical attacks!
I worked to absorb as much of its life as possible before the bug could hurl flame again. In the end, it was just a caterpillar. It never attempted anything other than biting. Finally, it wailed, breathing its last.
So I won because I was smarter than a caterpillar. Amazing.
[NO NAME] [Race: Ghast] [Low Demon (Low-Rank)] 28/99 ・A low demon made of dust and gases. A fragile spiritual lifeform. [Magic Points: 94/108] 17↑ [Total Combat Power: 103/119] 18↑ [Unique Skill: Reroll]
That was a lot of points. I got 10 points from the reds on my way here, so one black caterpillar was 7 points.
I could make use of these bugs. The best thing was that they didn’t have any way to hurt me besides the flame. So, blacks were relatively safe to kill and gave me a good amount of points, which meant I could settle down here for a while…
…that was before I found out that there were way too few blacks, compared to the number of reds. In hindsight, it should have been obvious. Monsters had more magic and lifeforce than normal animals. To grow stronger efficiently, monsters would have to fight one another. So the higher on the pyramid, the less of them existed.
…oh well, I’d just have to be patient and search. I also got used to handling myself a bit better now, so it was time to try to see how far away I could detect presences.
I rose almost to my height limit, despite the warning signals telling me to get back down now now now, spreading myself as wide as I could to let my detection sense do its work.
Normally, my range was around a basketball court. This time, I expanded my perception, only checking for magic and the general sizes of the presences themselves. The details were ignored. The more useless information I took in, the worse the stress on my brain, setting me on edge and lowering my accuracy.
Alright, focus… range at baseball field size, now… yeah, still nothing… maybe a bit further… hmm? I sensed… oh crap, this is bad, my consciousness…
I forced my body and mind back together the moment they were about to scatter and evaporate. Too close! What were the developers thinking? They didn’t even implement any sort of limits or safety checks for avatars! I’m pretty sure I was just about to become a vegetable right there if I didn’t stop in time!
…that scared the crap out of me. Let’s be more careful from now on.
At the same time, if I hadn’t forced myself so, I wouldn’t have found that strange presence. They were a long way away from me. The presence only had about half my magic, yet felt strangely powerful. And bizarre. They were killing what I suspected to be black caterpillars, one after another.
Might the presence be a human? If they were killing monsters, then perhaps… a beta tester?