Some distance away, in a wide-open area littered with boulders and rocks, ten adventurers who seemed to be beta players were locked in mortal combat with the two-headed horned wolf.
[Two-Headed Horned Wolf] [Magic Points: 315/340] [Hit Points: 372/415] [Total Combat Power: 499]
The beta players were all at around 200 combat power. The party was composed of more than just warriors. At least, I also saw a magician, plus someone holding a greatshield.
A nimble woman wielding a shortsword was holding the wolf’s attention. When it tried to approach her, a shield-holder immediately intervened and held it at bay. Any damage the shielder took was healed by a magician. Once the wolf stopped moving, the warriors swiftly attacked with axes and spears.
Was this what good cooperation looked like? The beta players were moving so well. Even though the horned wolf was stronger than any single one of the players, I couldn’t imagine it winning at all.
But the wolf continued to toss around the warriors, all the while just barely avoiding being wounded too severely. The two heads were acting on their own. Completely unpredictable. The party’s assault had stalled.
The left head was rampaging in beastly frenzy, while the right head calmly watched and dissected the beta players’ movements, managing their attacks.
The wolf wasn’t exactly the mad beast that I met that first time… I didn’t know what happened then. Perhaps it-they really was an alpha tester like me.
If this continued, I was quite sure they’d lose. But what if… what if I joined in? The wolf was still putting up a good fight. Maybe I could tip the scale?
Worst case scenario, I’d get killed alongside them… Oh, whatever, who cares. Death would just cut my magic in half anyway. I could handle being weakened for a while.
Alright, charge! But Blobsy’s fragile, so ‘lie low over there, okay?’
The first one to realize was the bow-wielding woman. As my density in humanoid form rose whenever I gained more power, in gas form, I now covered an area of several square meters.
“Somebody check for new info!”
“Shit, who’d have time for it right now…”
“I got it! It’s the white mist monster! Not a new one, some people’ve seen it before. According to the newest location update, it’s getting here really quickly!”
“Combat power… 499! An event monster, gotta be!”
Event? Was there an event going on? And the corporation was even exposing our locations for the beta players to hunt us?
“It’s intangible! We need one magician and one archer to aggro it!”
“Got it! We’ll buy some time, so deal with the wolf quickly!”
“Alright, freak, come over here!”
The archer was firing at me, all the while moving away from the main fight.
I wasn’t just making myself a bigger target with this form. As long as they could see me, they would [Fear] me, even if the effect wasn’t exactly significant. And while my defense did drop when spread out like this, damage received from piercing attacks was reduced, too.
The fight would be a lot simpler if I could kill the two trying to drag me away, but they’d probably just run around to waste my time once I made my intention clear. Plus, magicians were my natural enemies.
So obviously, I hit them right where they didn’t want me to.
I pretended to chase after the two. At the same time, I stretched out a part of myself from the edge of my gaseous form, aiming for a white-robed girl who was busy healing the shield-holder. My tendril of gas slithered forward and struck.
“Shit, it attacked us? Support!”
“You two, come back!”
The reckless shapeshifting played hell with my vision. It’s been a long time since I felt dizzy again, but I couldn’t afford to be distracted here.
I couldn’t stay and leisurely absorb the healer here. The whole party would just gang up on me. So I circled around to her back, turned to humanoid form, grabbed her neck and used my dagger, formerly belonging to the bandit leader, to slice it open.
All players, all humans, would take heavy damage if you hit them in the right spot. No matter how much hit points they had, this fact wouldn’t change.
The white-robed girl collapsed in a daze. The beta players were flabbergasted, and their shock quickly turned into an uproar. But the one most surprised was me – from the corner of my vision, I saw the calmer head of the wolf looked at me. And their eyes widened.
The girl lying on the ground turned into light particles and disappeared. The beta testers started to panic.
“What the fuck is this thing?! It just turned human!!”
“Calm down, guys, we can handle this! Anyone who can do healing magic, help the tank!”
“Gotta deal with this white one firs-”
“Shit, the Cerberus-aaaagh!!!”
The two-headed wolf… the Cerberus, apparently? They sent the tank flying and pinned him down.
The tank covered himself with his shield, trying to ward off the fangs. The warriors attacked the Cerberus all at once to rescue him.
“Let go of him!”
“Quick, heal, heal!”
The moment the beta players were distracted by the wolf, I returned to gas and attacked the magician who was readying a healing spell.
“Damn it, the white monster again!”
“Fuck! It’s targeting the supporters first!”
“Melee people, help!”
The magician held himself in a ready stance with his staff, even while I was enveloping him. Perhaps he still remembered my previous shapeshifting.
But I wasn’t going to do that all the time. Unlike my gaseous form, my humanoid form was actually quite vulnerable to physical damage.
I was delaying the magician’s healing. As long as the Cerberus took the opportunity to finish off the tank, we should have a much higher chance of winning this.
…but my expectations were betrayed.
“Whoa, what the hell is wrong with this thing?!”
As the warriors attacked the berserk head of the wolf, it changed target from the tank to them.
Damn it, why?! Just a bit more and the tank would’ve died! The calm head also looked like they wanted to finish off the tank, and suddenly, the cooperation between the heads were gone. The Cerberus started rampaging without reason or rhyme. And then, the wolf abruptly charged at me.
Wa-Wait, wait, no, why?!
I escaped in a hurry, but still got hit. The magician lost his balance and promptly found his neck between the wolf’s fangs.
The Cerberus unceremoniously bit down and crushed his head.
“Fuck, what’s wrong with these monsters?!”
“We’re retreating! Use Bind-type skills to hold it!”
“Got it! [Shadow Bind]!”
The archer’s odd-looking arrow stabbed into the Cerberus’s shadow. The wolf continued to rampage, but they couldn’t leave the spot.
“What about the white one?!”
“Stop it with spells! [Combat Arts] if that doesn’t work! Drink potions if you’re out of magic!”
Obviously, I had no intention to face off against eight beta players by my lonesome. I looked at the Cerberus’ eyes, and I could see even the calm head returning to its former madness like when I first met them, so I decided to retreat here.
Luckily, the beta testers didn’t pursue.
According to what I’d learned here, the attacks on me were due to a game event that was going on. The alpha testers’ locations were constantly broadcasted. Nowhere was safe for me.
I didn’t plan on having the Cerberus as a neighbor, so I silently grabbed Blobsy and left. I followed along the mountain range, going through craggy terrain and steep cliffs. This should make it much harder for the beta players to follow me.
Hopefully I could survive through this event just by wandering around these mountains, I thought gloomily. A quick check confirmed that no one was near me. I sighed in relief.
I wondered if there was somewhere to hide away… The beta players already knew where I was, but at least I wouldn’t be getting sniped. Dying that way would be terribly unfunny.
Wait… that cliff face over there. I think I saw a hole. I headed there, thinking to have a bit of a rest, and found out it was some sort of den for a rather large animal.
Perhaps I could Evolve now, after that fight. If so, I might be able to win even against that beta player party.
[Shedy] [Race: White Ghast] [Low Demon (High-Rank)] ・A low demon made of dust and gases. An intelligent spiritual lifeform. [Magic Points: 433/502] 25↑ [Total Combat Power: 482/499] [Unique Skill: Reroll] [Racial Skill: Fear] [Simple Identification] [Humanoid Form (Normal)] [Skilled Packer] [※Evolution Unavailable]
Yes, my magic finally broke 500! And my… evolution… unavailable? Unavailable?! Why? And my combat power didn’t follow my magic this time!
…okay, deep breath, calm down, let’s just identify that line…
[※Evolution Unavailable] ・As of the current game version, no further monster evolutions is implemented. ・New evolutions are planned for Beta Version 2.0.
What…? So us alpha testers couldn’t evolve any further? If I couldn’t evolve, did that mean my combat power was stuck here?
What should I do? Even if I survived past this event, how was I to hang on for half a year with JUST THIS?
…ah, yeah. I’m fine, Blobsy. It felt like I almost ceased to exist for a moment there. Thanks to the little jiggly ball, I regained some measure of control.
Alright, let’s think positive. I no longer needed to sleep with this body. That meant that if I could escape to the sea, beta players wouldn’t be able to reach me, right? Well, not like I even knew where it was.
I started to climb up the mountain, thinking I might be able to see where the ocean was… hmm? What was this? I saw scratches on the rock face. There were a lot of them.
No, wait, they weren’t just scratches… they were English.
Who wrote this? Could it be… this was the Cerberus’s lair?
Even in my humanoid form, I still couldn’t write very well. I couldn’t imagine how long and how much effort it took to carve these letters. The handwriting was horrible and at the same time, desperate. I started reading.
My name is Hans. If anyone can read this, I have left these words behind so that you can know the truth of the corporation behind World of Yggdrasia, and the truth of this world.
I am test subject No. 01. I was granted the body of a ‘Fiend Wolf’. I was dropped into this world as a test subject for an experiment investigating the mental stress of using monster avatars.
I knew it. That Cerberus really was an alpha tester…
The monster avatars, our avatars, had been calibrated to a horrifying degree. No normal game developer would allow this.
They explained to us testers that our sensitivity would be set to the maximum. They neglected to mention that it was the hardware’s maximum, not the software’s.
Pain was several times the normal amount. Eyes so sharp I could see through darkness clear as day, and my hearing was similarly powerful. I was shuddering just from the wind touching my skin. My sensitivity was so high I couldn’t even sleep. I had expected these to an extent, but even with that, my mind was quickly pushed to its limits.
Perhaps monsters not very sensitive to pain, such as slimes or avatar types with an undefined form, would have an easier time. But they had to deal with a problem no normal avatars had to: the ludicrous sense of disconnect from their real bodies. At least, I wouldn’t be able to bear with it.
As a matter of fact, according to my own investigations, almost every testers who used amorphous avatars had logged out after a few days. I didn’t see any of them return.
If there was someone who can handle such avatars, I think it would take a person with an incredibly diminished sense of self.
…well, I used to have people rejecting my existence all the time…
The purpose of this experiment was to design a system that could make use of a monster’s power, a power wholly non-human, as much as possible. They would test the limits that a human can endure, and what the user couldn’t, they would leave to an AI’s management. But that wasn’t to implement ‘Human and Monster PVP’ into the game as was explained to us 100 testers.
It was for limited warfare. For use in invasions. Once all of us alpha testers are gone, they would begin a secret beta test with the army’s soldiers.
Warfare…? And they were planning to grind all of us down to dust just for data?
I had discovered the truth. I had talked to my allies. We planned on taking refuge in this world, the world that the government was planning to invade.
You must be wondering what world I was talking about. But you must have already realized, right? You’re here reading this, after all. Look at the incredibly realistic scenery. The people with thoughts so complex no AI could possibly be driving them. Don’t you think it feel just the same as using an avatar to visit somewhere else on Earth?
You must have realized that this world of Yggdrasia isn’t just a bundle of data on a server. It is no fiction. Yggdrasia truly exists.