“Fuck yes! A grinding place just for me!”
Compared to most other mobs early game, the Black Caterpillars were particularly dangerous due to their fire-spitting. On the other hand, their soft shells made them relatively easy to kill. A young man guffawed in a forest, his sword cutting swathes through his enemies.
His name was John Yamada. It sounded like a nickname you’d use in an MMO, but sadly, that was his real name. A Japanese-American university student, he was one of the chosen beta testers. Unluckily, his professors called him to resubmit a paper, and so his first login was one whole day after the beta started.
In his panic, he created a character using his real name and face. Yamada didn’t actually mind it that much, since a lot of popular streamers were doing the same thing for their channels. To make up for the lost time, he searched for good mobs to kill, which led him to the information about the Black Caterpillars on the game forum.
In World of Yggdrasia, time passed at about the same rate as real life.
At first glance, the problem wherein some players could only login at night due to their life situation seemed unavoidable, but thankfully Yggdrasia was as large as Earth, which meant timezones. Players could choose to start in the area with the timezone they wanted.
Yamada chose the country with the same timezone as his real-life residence. A large country situated to the west of the central continent, the Seize Kingdom.
When he began the game, what surprised him first and foremost was how detailed the game was. It reminded him of the first time he used the Avatar System to sight-see another country, and the immersion he felt back then. The game was so real, he couldn’t help but think this world might actually exist.
First was the town. Yamada logged in at the Temple in Seize’s capital city, then following the tutorial, went to register himself at the adventurer’s guild. The amount of people he saw on the way was astonishing.
In normal open-world games, even so-called metropolises only had at most a few hundred citizens to save on computing power. Yet here, just the main street he was standing in already had more people than that walking around.
At first Yamada thought the game simply had a few thousands players logging into the same city, like some other famous MMORPGs, but then he found out they were all NPCs. This living, breathing city was populated with AI-driven non-playable characters.
He should have guessed, really. All ten thousand beta testers from throughout the whole real world couldn’t have been dropped into a single country in-game. To determine how sophisticated the AI-driven NPCs were, he watched a street stall for a long while. And the owner actually began to scowl at him.
The wind on his skin, the pavement under his feet, the mouth-watering smell from a stall selling skewers of grilled meat. All these were indistinguishable from reality.
The sense of smell was replicated, but the sense of taste only worked for drinks. Avatars had no need for food. The human controller would still need to logout and eat normally.
As a player, Yamada was provided a lump of some sort of sweet food by the Temple. It resembled nutritional energy bars and granted a buff when eaten. But those didn’t dampen his dream to try out the street food here, even if just once, and even when he knew the sense of taste wouldn’t work. To that end, he headed to the adventurer’s guild for his first job.
But the food wasn’t the only reason Yamada was trying to earn money.
This game was realism-oriented. Unlike most other MMORPGs, you didn’t have an inventory box. You had to carry all your items by yourself. From what he’d heard, only some quest items could be stored inside your character. All other items took up actual space. If you had too many, you either used the Temple’s storage service, or made a base somewhere.
However, what Yamada was most interested were the slaves.
He was disappointed at first to see that only Humans were playable as a race. Turned out that apparently in World of Yggdrasia, all Demihumans were slaves. If you had a somewhere to live and enough money, you could buy slaves in cities or go capture the demihumans living in the forest. They could do housework, fight, carry your burden, or serve in other ways.
Slavery unnerved him a little bit at first, but all the townspeople were working the demihumans without batting an eye. The slaves were dressed cleanly enough, too, perhaps since they had to work in a city. Yamada decided to stop worrying about the matter.
Then he saw the back streets. He saw actual elves and beastmen slaves doing menial work. He saw the cute but somber girls, no one cracking a smile, and he decided his dream right there and then. He would earn enough to have a huge mansion, then he would swoop in to save the demihuman girls from their poor fates, and they would live together happily ever after.
Thus he vowed, to his own wretched heart.
This game’s growth system was weird.
There were no Levels like normal RPGs. No Classes or Jobs, either – everyone were Adventurers. Players decided on their playstyle by acquiring and leveling Skills the way they wanted, with 10 being the maximum level.
[John Yamada] [Race: Human ♂] [Adventurer] [Magic Points (MP): 40/40] [Hit Points (HP): 60/60] [Strength: 10] [Vitality: 10] [Agility: 10] [Dexterity: 10] [Swordsmanship 1] [Defense 1] [Offensive Magic 1] [Healing Magic 1] [Self-Reinforcement] [Total Combat Power: 40] [Magic]: Flame - Healing
All he had were his starting skills, magic, and basic equipment: an Iron One-Handed Sword, a set of Soft Leather Armor, a set of Traveler’s Clothes, and an Adventurer’s Backpack.
If he died, he’d lose half of his Magic Points, suffer a 10% reduction of stats, and drop all his luggage on the ground as the death penalty. However, he had heard that his starting equipment and some quest reward items wouldn’t drop, so Yamada went outside town without a worry.
The way combat and gaining experience worked were also somewhat strange.
To prevent any mishaps in normal life, adventurers’ bodies were no different from normal people. This only changed when they entered combat. Physical Combat Skills and Self-Reinforcement were activated by the use of magic. One MP was spent every minute for each level of combat skill.
That meant Yamada could only fight for 40 minutes maximum. However, magic recovered by 10% each hour, and each monster killed granted you increased maximum Magic Points and Hit Points as a form of experience. You also absorbed a part of the dead monster’s magic to recover your own.
Yamada, despite having only his starting stats, didn’t actually have that much trouble hunting outside town. The nimble wolves were a bit difficult at first, but as long as he had a weapon, wild animals were easy enough to kill – as long as they came from the forest near the road leading out of town. But the beginning mobs didn’t offer much rewards in terms of both experience and money.
The first wolf he killed was grotesquely real, too. He would’ve retched if the game didn’t automatically censor the gory mess.
He brought a few rabbits he hunted to the adventurer’s guild to sell. They complained – damaged hides, no bloodletting after the kill – and haggled the price all the way down to just 5 bronze coins (about $5) for each rabbit. He tried out a skewer of meat from a stall and vomited from the taste of paper clay, all the while cursing the developers for their overcommitment to realism.
Yamada logged out. He searched for information on the VR message board, then went back in-game and headed to the wilds, away from the capital city.
This was an Earth-sized open-world game. Even his chosen starting country, Seize Kingdom, was as large as one of the bigger European countries. It’d take days traveling on foot.
With what little money he had left, Yamada bought a ticket for a magitech train, one of the methods of transportation available, and also one of the game’s selling points. No coal or water powered this train, only plenty of magic.
To help alleviate the boredom during the ride, the game allowed players who bought a private room to either log out, or browse a version of the game forum dedicated to people wanting access from in-game.
In case you were still logged-out when the train arrived at your station, the game would send you a notification on your phone. If you were still unavailable, your next login would put you in the nearest Temple.
The ride went quickly. It was a few hours later when Yamada arrived at a rural village, somewhere in the wilds of Seize Kingdom.
Sipping on some fruit juice, the first decent thing to entered his mouth ever since he started the game, he asked a few villagers for the whereabouts of monsters. According to them, there were only wolves, rabbits, and other such wild animals near the village, but he could find some Black Caterpillars about an hour’s walk into the forest. This was the mob the game forum told him about.
Incidentally, he did try to talk to a cat-eared demihuman slave along the way. She was terrified. That took the wind out of his sails.
Yamada bought a cheap cloak at the village’s secondhand store, for appearance’s sake. He headed to the depths of the forest without a single worry, his body never tiring due to being a VR avatar.
Yamada was the quintessential ‘dumb’ gamer – he only learned by dying. No plans, no thought. No steps taken to ensure the way back, he let his enthusiasm led him deep into the forest. And there, he found the Black Caterpillar he’d been searching for. He happily began the hunt.
[John Yamada] [Race: Human ♂] [Adventurer] [Magic Points (MP): 33/52] [Hit Points (HP): 74/84] [Strength: 13] [Vitality: 10] [Agility: 11] [Dexterity: 10] [Swordsmanship 2] [Defense 1] [Offensive Magic 1] [Healing Magic 1] [Self-Reinforcement] [Total Combat Power: 93] 53↑ [Magic]: Flame - Healing
The fire-breathing bugs were quite dangerous. He came close to death two or three times, but the experience was proportionate, too. Yamada’s combat power jumped in just two hours of hunting. The best part was the skill [Swordsmanship] leveling to rank 2. Just the upgrade nearly doubled his total combat power.
According to the forum, getting from 1 to 2 wasn’t that difficult, but going to 2 to 3 would take a lot of work. Ever since his power doubled, he could kill the caterpillars before they spit fire with ease. If grinding the skill was that difficult, then he could simply go in deeper to search for stronger monsters, Yamada thought. He healed himself to a decent amount and moved on.
As mentioned on the game forum, the beginner bonus item, Identification Crystal, would show information if there was a monster in his line of sight. It made looking for prey a lot easier. Yamada abused the item relentlessly, and he used up all 99 uses in just two hours of hunting.
True, there were Identification Crystals used and sold by the town residents. But they weren’t the perfectly-processed spheres the bonus items were. Just rough pieces of rocks. And despite having only 10 uses, they were priced at 3 silver coins (approx. $300 in value) each.
The actual requirements for learning [Simple Identification] was to use the Identification Crystal 80 times on targets having at minimum a certain amount of magic power. Due to the rampant misinformation on the forums, many players failed to learn the skill while they still had the bonus item. They could still check their own status at the Temple, but the inconvenience would stay with them until they unlocked the skill.
Yamada was using his eyes, instead of his crystal, to search for mobs, when he saw a strange white mist approaching from the forest’s depths.
It looked like steam at first glance. He only realized it was a monster from the glint of light coming from inside it, which turned out to be an Identification Crystal. Yamada sneered.
‘Fucking hell! Damn thing must have plundered the crystal from another player!’
The white mist didn’t seem to be a hostile mob, but as it drifted closer, Yamada pulled out his sword and slashed.
“Yeaahahahh!! Drop that Crystal! You’re my XP now!”
The sword went through the white monster without resistance.
Normally, you’d change to magic once you found out your physical attacks didn’t work. Yet Yamada applied his gamer brain in the most idiotic way: he thought the monster simply had a high dodge skill. He just kept on chopping.
Strangely, the white mist stopped moving, looking as if dumbfounded. Then it moved, angered, to envelop Yamada. He kept screaming and swinging wildly for several minutes, until all his life and magic were drained.
Yamada’s body scattered into particles of light. He reappeared a few seconds later in the Temple of Seize Kingdom’s capital city, having not set a respawn point.
“Aww shucks, I died.”
His first defeat, yet the fool still laughed. Once again, he headed out to battle to regain his lost stats and magic points.
That was an actual beta tester. I showed him my Identification Crystal and approached, thinking he might realize I was a player. Never in my wildest dream would I expect him to rob me.
He had my level of power, but a black caterpillar’s level of intelligence. Lucky me. Never before had I felt the word ‘meathead’ to be such an apt description of someone.
I knew that when players died, their bodies disappeared and they left behind equipment. This guy just had a worn-out cloak, a few coins, and some sort of stick that looked like it was used to skewer meat.
[NO NAME] [Race: Ghast] [Low Demon (Low-Rank)] ・A low demon made of dust and gases. A fragile spiritual lifeform. [Magic Points: 123/130] 22↑ [Total Combat Power: 135/143] 24↑ [Unique Skill: Reroll] [Simple Identification]
Oh, yes, right. I didn’t notice when, but I learned [Identification].
I was finally free from the anxiety at seeing the crystal’s uses dwindle, but the skill had its own problems. I could identify myself for free, but identifying anything else used up 1 point of magic. And the skill wasn’t even any better than the crystal. It only ever showed the Magic Points, Total Combat Power, and the name chosen from my perception.
…really, so troublesome.
That aside, I got a lot of points from just a player character. Could it be… that killing humans was the easiest way to grow as a monster?