It had been three days since that battle. Three days since the secret alpha testers were all gone.
I lost to the beta players, back then. My consciousness was on the verge of being extinguished, but at the very last moment, I managed to escape the clutches of the System and evolved.
I didn’t know how I was able to evolve. Perhaps the blue magic stone from No. 01 had something to do with it.
At first, I thought that meant he could have evolved, too, but he didn’t. Maybe the ‘no further evolutions implemented’ mentioned in the text I identified didn’t mean that there was a software lock to prevent evolution. Maybe the developers simply wasn’t yet able to recreate those higher-ranking monsters.
Maybe the corporation still hadn’t completed analyzing the powerful monsters in this world.
Then why was I the only one who could evolve? The clues lay inside No. 01’s knowledge. It didn’t tell me everything, but it was enough to make a guess.
It must be because I was a Demon.
Within the blue magic stone was a part of No. 01’s knowledge and memories. Perhaps he didn’t want his insanity to take these important things away from him, so he had engraved them all inside this stone.
According to his knowledge, there still existed some unidentified monster species. The developers could have just removed the choices altogether, but they wanted diversity. So they decided to let the player’s consciousness determine their evolutions.
In the end, it seemed like this was the reason why all the other alpha testers who picked these unidentified monsters had had their minds broken upon the first evolution. The form they took was too grotesque, too horrifying to bear.
That was too close… Perhaps in a way, my choice of an amorphous monster was the correct one.
In other words, I think I had just managed to, by my own will, unconsciously determined the self I wanted to evolve into.
[Shedy] [Race: Mistral] [Lesser Demon (Low-Rank)] ・The demon of bewitching mist that dances upon the northern seas. A canny spiritual lifeform. [Magic Points: 750/750] 92↑ [Total Combat Power: 825/825] 326↑ [Unique Skill: <Reroll> <Cyber-Manipulation>] [Racial Skill: Fear] [Simple Identification] [Humanoid Form (Adept)] [Expert Packer]
As a result, I was able to evolve and survive. Now I had a whole slew of new things to comment on.
First off, ‘Mistral1’? “Oh no, it’s the white mist,” people kept saying, then I would deny them in my thoughts “No I’m not, I’m made out of gases, not mist,” and now look at what happened. I can’t believe their words actually affected me this much…
Then my class. I was still at “Lesser”? And “Low-Rank”? Where were all the good adjectives? Who even decided these rankings…? Anyway, it seemed like I still had a long journey ahead.
I gained more magic, and this time my combat power went up correctly. What a relief… If my combat power stayed still forever no matter what I did, I’d be super nervous going into fights with multiple enemies.
Despite killing tons of beta players that time, my magic didn’t grow all that much. No surprise there. When I died, I was still under the shackles of the System, so half of my magic was taken.
And now, I had no further revives. Oh boy…
The unique skill [Cyber-Manipulation] used to be No. 01’s ability. It was how I escaped the System’s monitoring.
It wasn’t my own skill, so it was quite weak – or rather, I hadn’t been able to fully utilize it yet. But mid-way through the process, my consciousness was cut off, and so did their monitoring. For the time being, they should still be believing I was truly gone.
Now, [Humanoid Form (Adept)] and [Expert Packer].
Let’s start with this weird Packer thing. To be honest, I think ‘Skilled’ had already turned into ‘Expert’ since the last fight, since I noticed that even when dispersed, I still couldn’t see the items I was carrying. Where could they be? How curious!
And now, the most important topic of the day. Humanoid Form.
As (Normal) turned into (Adept), I got a boost to my magic and density. I didn’t need to carefully craft my body, I just needed to remember what I used to look like for a near-perfect mimicry.
But the damn rabbit ears were still there.
They were the same white as my hair. The spindly ears drooped from the top of my head all the way down below my chin.
“Maybe the hood could hide them…”
Blobsy responded to my voice with a bounce.
In the beginning, I couldn’t speak. Once my transformation became near-perfect in fidelity, enough so that my mouth could hold air, I started practicing. Then it turned out that if I just let my body’s instinct guide me, speech would come rather easily.
Still, my human form was only on the outside. Inside of me continued to be thick mist. It took some practice for me to be able to move like a real human. I spent a whole month moving as an inhuman mass, after all. My walking gait was still wobbly.
Contact with humans was going to be inevitable. I didn’t want my mannerism to reveal who I am, so during the brief moments of no time, I took the chance to walk around the mountains and generally just practicing being human.
I looked about the same as I used to, so getting used to it probably wouldn’t take long.
By manipulating cyberspace and cutting off my consciousness, I had managed to escape the System. Perhaps No. 01 didn’t do the same because of the low chance of success. He didn’t want to fail and bring trouble to his friends. Yet despite my success, I still wasn’t completely free.
I’d been using mana to maintain the monster avatar, and ever since the beginning my brain had already been acting in place of a part of the System to process my actions. There was no problem with me, except for a critical one: my consciousness was here, yet my real body… my soul was still on Earth.
In No. 01’s plan, as long as he was under life support, he could still use [Cyber-Manipulation] to maintain the fragile link to his real body. But then, despite his mind already nearing the limits, he risked another use of his ability. He found out that the bodies of the comatose testers would be destroyed after one month.
I had thirty days left to live and to find a solution.
No. 01 said that if I could gather the magic stones from his friends, No. 08 and No. 17, then get to the source of this world’s life, the World Tree, perhaps there’d be a way. Fleeting hope, but hope nonetheless.
My clock was counting down… no. Let’s stop with the pessimistic thoughts. I could have died in that battle. I should count myself lucky to get a thirty-days extension instead.
It’d be tough going to travel the whole world in just thirty days. Luckily, the humans had high-speed transportations. Maybe I could get on a magitech train.
So the point of all of this roundabout explanation was that: I needed an appearance that could get me inside the humans’ cities.
Luckily, No. 17 had died relatively close to me. I could follow to the north of the mountain range where I used to be to reach them. There was a high chance the beta party that killed them and took their magic stone was staying in a nearby country.
Within the information No. 01 left behind was a map, complete with the countries’ locations.
Closest to No. 17 was a small country. But if No. 01’s magic stone looked like a gem, then maybe No. 17’s looked similar, too. Perhaps the beta party would take it to the large country further south to the small country to sell it.
Judging from the location of the mountain range, I should be getting close to that large country by now.
Another half a day of walking through the grassland, and I finally found a small road. Following it, I found a farming village, looking similar to the one I once saw before.
Well, I said ‘village’, but there were easily a few hundred people living there. And I saw around the same number of beastman slaves working the fields.
…now, the question was, would I be pushed back by the village’s barrier? I only saw a fence to defend against wolves, so my guess was that the barrier was specifically for monsters…
Unwittingly, my steps turned timid. I came closer and closer. Yet it seemed like there was no such barrier on the road. I wasn’t sure why.
Instead, there were two soldiers standing guard in front of the village entrance. They were wearing simple, matching armors with some sort of crest. I fixed my hood, making sure my ears weren’t visible.
My cloak was squeaky clean thanks to Blobsy, but it was still an oversized piece of garment. The hem was all ragged and full of tears.
“Hey, you kid over there! Stop!” One of the soldiers called.
“Ain’t seen that sort of look before. Not a village kid? Where’d you come from?”
“…over there,” I pointed to the grassy field.
The soldier looked even more incredulous. “Suspicious. Show me your face!”
“Nah, man, no need for that. Look, if you can pay the fee, we’ll let you in, alright? Just one silver.”
Surprise flashed on the other guard’s face, then quickly turned into a leering smirk. I was probably getting ripped off here.
I paid without any complaints. For a moment, the guard looked puzzled; apparently he just wanted to make a bit of trouble for me. He hesitantly looked to the other guard.
“Oh, sorry, it’s actually one silver for each of us. Should have been clearer, really.”
I gave the other guard another coin. They looked pleased with themselves, then waved me through like they were chasing away cats.
“Aight, come in quick. Don’t make trouble.”
“And kid, it’s another two coins when you’re leaving. Get it ready.”
I never thought they’d be asking for bribes this shamelessly.
That was a huge expense, even if it was necessary. Well, not like I actually knew how much a silver was worth anyway.
Honestly, if I was standing guard, I wouldn’t have let a shady kid hiding her face in a hood who just walked from the grassy field inside the village. In a way, them being shitty people worked out well for me.
Fixing up my appearance was my current top priority. I only came here to find information about the big cities, among other info, and to find children’s clothes, otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered with this sort of village that looked like it had zero interesting things going on.
I glanced to the side of the road, looking at the fields being worked only by beastman slaves. I walked on, towards an area with a few buildings packed closely together.
The atmosphere felt like the sort of shopping district you usually see in the countryside. A few people sent me looks full of suspicions. I saw a place with sheets of fabric and old clothes hanging outside and entered. Inside, the plump shopkeeper saw me and grimaced.
“This ain’t a playground, kid.”
“I want clothes,” I said, setting a few silver coins on the counter. The woman’s attitude turned a whole 180°, and she instantly put on a smile.
“My, my, children’s clothes, right? I have a few good pieces over there, honey.”
There weren’t much in variety. I picked up a few dresses and sashes.
“Do you have shoes? Leather, if possible. And a coat with a hood, too.”
“Here ya go. Boots still new, see? And this coat here, I got it from a merchant from the capital. Really popular with the girls, I hear!”
“Do you have satchels?”
“Aight, cloth or leather?”
Honestly it was just my bias speaking when I picked leather. The material really gave off that ‘rugged traveler’ feel.
I also picked up some underwear and socks, then changed in the back. This coat fit me so much better. I could hide my ears while still showing my face, so I looked a lot less shady now.
I left the changing room. The shopkeeper woman took a look at my face. She seemed somewhat surprised.
“My! Honey, you look adorable! Have you finished shopping?”
“Alright. I’ll just take those coins you left on the counter, then. I’m taking a loss here, so you better be grateful, okay?”
There were a few large silver coins together with small ones. Were the large ones really so low in value? These were just secondhand clothes. I thought all the stuff I bought wouldn’t even reached 150 dollars…
I returned to the shopping district. With decent clothing, there were a lot less suspicious gazes now, but a few of them were staring at my face, perhaps due to seeing an unfamiliar kid.
There was a street stall selling skewers of meat, with chairs to the side for customers. I started a conversation with the owner, almost as a way to run from the uncomfortable stares.
“Excuse me. How much for one of those?”
“Welcome! Small skewers are one copper each, large ones are three.”
“I want as much as I can buy with this, then.”
“Thank you for your business! One small silver it is, then. And an extra small skewer for such a cute young lady.”
I handed over the coin. The man was all smiles as he gave me three large skewers and two small ones.
So that’s 10 coppers, not counting the extra. A small silver was about 10 dollars, right? If the currency followed powers of 10, then a normal silver was 100 dollars?
…and that woman took five of those.
I thought people in the countryside were supposed to be caring and good-natured…
The owner of the stall seemed like a decent guy, so I asked him a few things, like where the large cities were. Supposedly, I could ride a horse carriage to a neighboring town half a day’s ride away, then get a stagecoach to the capital.
He told me where the town was. I gave my thanks and left the shopping district. Blobsy, still hiding inside my satchel, happily chomped on the skewers.
But then I detected a human magical signal tailing me. When I escaped into a nearby copse of tree, their walk turned into a jog and they caught up.
“Girlie, wait up.”
They turned out to be the kind man running the street stall.
“…mister stallkeeper? Did you need something?”
“Yeah, I mean, I noticed, you know? I saw them peeking out earlier.”
He smiled wryly, scratching his head. And then he took out a wooden pestle, probably taken from his stall, and smacked it against his empty palm in an intimidating gesture.
“Girl, you’re one of those beastmen, right? Must be a canine type, then, by the looks of your drooping ears? Come now, you stinky demihumans aren’t supposed to be coming into human lands, didn’t you know that? I’ll sell you to a nice place, so behave yourself and come with me, okay?”
What the hell do you mean, ‘okay’? I thought the attitude was limited to the slave hunters only, but even normal human citizens were like this? And the man didn’t even seem to be thinking he was doing something wrong. He reached out his hand to me, with the same kind of nonchalance as a hunter would have when they shot a rabbit just because they saw an easy prey.
I sighed, exasperated. This was so far beyond my expectations. Weren’t they supposed to be real, living people, not NPCs programmed with cruelty?
Answering the man’s beckoning, I also reached out my right hand…
And returned it to mist, which then proceeded to invade his mouth, filling his lungs and stopping his breathing. I drained him dry from the inside.
‘Hey, Blobsy. Some more snack for you.’
Author’s Note: The human race doesn’t see this as a crime. Perhaps to them, demihumans were nothing but livestock.
Shedy can’t afford to be discovered, so she’s hesitating less and less.