I saw some strange monster avatars.
They were avatars, right…? I saw them when I was at the coast near Soixansept Kingdom. The country itself was situated on a landmass southwest from the Central Continent that seemed to be unsure whether it wanted to be a continent or an archipelago.
Looking at the guidebook, the countries here seemed to have quite the South American-ish atmosphere to them. The large country Soixansept Kingdom reminded me of the tropical paradises back on Earth. It was also one of the most famous tourist destinations on this world. The surrounding countries weren’t much different with their resorts and developed tourism.
But my original plan wasn’t to go to Soixansept. I had wanted to ride the World Tree network to the neighboring country, Sanhuit. Just as always, I bounced off its barrier, but in a way that put me on a trajectory toward a reef near Soixansept.
…No, I’m not sulking.
Blobsy cleaned off the seawater and seaweed on my cloak in a jiffy.
Considering my landing spot, I had thought to might as well take the chance to look around the nearby country. Some time later, on a beach some way away from a port town, I saw a few adventurers fighting against several monsters.
The adventurers were a party of three. Their combat power were all below 100. They all had similar, familiar-looking equipment, and their movements were somewhat awkward. Maybe they were players.
Their opponents were three monsters.
A black donkey, an evil-looking goat, and a rooster with a snake for a tail. They were standing on each other like the town musicians of Bremen.
…monsters? Were they really just normal monsters?
All three only had around 60 to 70 combat power. Yet as a totem pole, they were practically wiping the floor with the players.
Yeah, they were totally players using monster avatars here.
I was honestly surprised the game developers actually went through with it. Still, their movements looked rigid, all three sharing the same kind of inflexibility. Were they controlling the avatars in semi-automatic mode, then?
The scene just looked like a group of ex-beta players bullying the newbies, really… Well, whatever. Not like they were harming anyone. I got ready to leave them to their business.
Suddenly, an unexpected breeze blew past. I instantly held down my hood, but it took me a single beat later to do the same with my skirt.
The skirt was just reflex, really. When materialized, layers of cloth filled the inside to the brim. Just a bit of wind wasn’t enough to reveal anything.
I looked around. Dozens of meters away, the player and the monster parties were no longer fighting each other. All of them had already dropped to the ground, their gazes fixed on my direction.
“…” “…” “…”
In a blink of an eye, that particular part of the beach and the blue ocean behind it froze over.
…I had more important things to worry about than such frivolities anyway. I was quite sure I didn’t show my ears, but that attack just now might have just brought suspicions my way.
I needed to leave right away. Unfortunately, the World Tree network was unavailable to me until I destroyed and revived another Sapling, and so I could only rely on my own power. I departed before the watcher drones could flock to the scene.
I stayed human and sprinted straight north from Soixansept, hugging the western coastline and ignoring Santseis, a small country I encountered on my path. Once I reached the rugged, uneven forest to the north, I turned full mist and flew through, exiting to the sea.
Twenty thousand combat power was no joke. I wasn’t as fast as an airship, obviously, but I could keep pace with an express train. This continent was really more like two smaller ones connected by a bit of land, so by cutting through the sea, I could save a ton of travel time.
It still took three days without rest. I came to the upper half of the continent not just to escape, but also because there were two large countries there.
Wartos, the City of Pleasure.
Sautonn, the City of Gambling.
As you could see from their titles, the two countries weren’t exactly wholesome. Similarly, the word ‘City’ reflected the fact that these two nations’ government and population were concentrated in their capital cities. The countries themselves weren’t actually all that big.
Still, they were among the richest countries in the world. And in both countries, the mafia held more power than the royalty. It was the reason why the guidebook recommended the unexperienced tourists to never stray from the main streets.
Wartos had shops where you could buy and use some seriously nasty drugs. And Sautonn, well, just imagine a Las Vegas without human rights.
I chose this region because I thought most normal players wouldn’t come here. And because I was thinking that since the place was full of bad people, people who didn’t like being watched or observed — one of the more decent preconceptions I had — then that probably meant they were more magically vigilant. Which meant less watcher drones. Maybe. Hopefully.
In other words, it was just another one of my harebrained plans.
Well, those weren’t exactly the only reasons, though…
Three days later, I arrived at the coast near Wartos. I turned human, wore my cloak, and headed toward the City of Pleasure. First off, I’d need to find a way to get in.
To be honest, I was nervous trying to attack a large country. Still, considering the current situation, I had a chance of success.
Some time later, a large city showed up in my view. From afar, I saw buildings meshing together like a messy jigsaw puzzle. And I was quite sure the dangerously-colored cloud of smog covering the whole city wasn’t just my imagination.
There was a line of merchant carriages in front of the main gate, coming either to buy or to sell more drugs. Border control was taking quite a long time for each one. I wondered if they were being careful of foreign mafia and spies?
But despite their vigilance, the security itself wasn’t all that tough.
People in other continents were still not taking what I was doing seriously. They thought it wasn’t their problem yet. They were only worrying about spies, not about existential threats to their nations.
And with how the mafia held more power than the king, their soldiers and knights were powerless. Their military wasn’t even enough to protect the whole country.
I wouldn’t dare try this in other countries, but with how thick the fog and how thin their security were, it might just be possible for me to turn into mist and pass right through the front gate, the only hole in the barrier.
I approached the gate, using the nearby bushes as cover. Then I dispersed myself into thin mist and quietly drifted through the gate. With my mastery of the human form, I might be able to pass through the barrier that way, but let’s leave the experimentation for when it’s safer.
The moment I flew through the gates, incredulity showed on the gatekeepers’ faces for a moment. Then they took a long drag of their bizarre-smelling pipes and puffed out smoke, looking on cloud nine. My worries were unfounded, it seemed.
I walked up to a street stall selling what looked to be some kind of taco. I bought a portion and asked the owner my question. “Can you tell me where the king’s palace is?”
The middle-aged man replied even as he continued cooking the tortillas. He sounded bored.
“What, you aiming to join the harem too? Forget about it, girl. Sure you’ll be rich, but you’ll get your brain melted from all the drugs there.”
Then he flicked his head to show me the direction.
It was somewhere in the center of the city… no surprises there, I supposed, considering the city was built around the Sapling.
Well then, how should I go about this? Honestly, with how the city was, I could probably just turn mist to slip right inside the palace. Still, this was a large country. I had no idea what sort of traps they had set around the Sapling.
And even if things went smoothly, I still wanted the human race to notice what I did. At the very least, I wanted to make sure they remembered it this time.
Likely, the mafia also had their own combatants to supplement the lack of soldiers and knights of this country. A head-on fight was risky until I knew how much they had.
Still, my chances were good.
As the first step of my plan, I walked around town, pretend-eating my food while acting the part of a starry-eyed country bumpkin. The bait didn’t take long to get a bite.
“Hey there, little lady. I have some good stuff here. Want some?” A ‘town pharmacist’ called out to me.
The suspicious-looking leaves and ointments basically ranged from about 1 to 5 small silvers.
“Mister, do you have anything better?” I said, flashing him a large gold coin and further tipping him a silver. He beamed.
“Whoa hoh, little lady, aren’t you quite the connoisseur? Sure we do, but it’s back at the office. I don’t have it on me right now. And if you can handle the price, we can help out with getting you a place to stay and demihuman slaves to play with, too.”
“Can you show me your place?”
It’d be troublesome if he decided he wanted to sell me off, like what happened to me before, so I tipped him another silver and played the part of a generous customer. He suddenly changed his tone of voice.
“Well then, my lady, please come thisaway!”
I wondered if they had some sort of fixation with the idea that people in their trade weren’t supposed to have offices on the main streets; after passing through an absolute labyrinth of alleyways, we entered the warehouse district. I was guided to an old three-story mansion.
“Yo Boss, we’ve got an amazing customer here!”
The man shouted out as we entered the building. Deeper inside, a man who looked about forty stopped working on his documents and stood up. He walked toward us with a grin on his face.
The boss looked from my face, still covered in my hood, to the heels visible from under the hem of my cloak and quietly nodded. He led me into a meeting room.
“All right, lady. What would you like?”
“Something long-lasting and with little after-effect. How much of it can you supply?”
“How much do you want?”
“Let’s see… enough to fill five full horse carriages, for the time being.” I casually said.
The boss blinked. “…we do have something. The kind that the Central Continent banned for being too intense. Not enough to fill five carriages, but our storehouse in the back should have enough for four. Lady, do you have the money? A single carriage of it is going to run you a hundred large golds.”
“Oh, don’t worry about it…”
I got what I needed to hear, so I froze the whole floor. I shattered the iced-over door and headed toward the back storehouses.
I began my search, freezing whomever I encountered on the way. Then I found out there were multiple storehouses.
“…I really should have asked them to guide me there first before doing that…”
Apparently this base belonged to one of the larger mafia families. I thought I was just dealing with medium-sized group.
Oh well, what’s done is done. I wondered if maybe I should go look for survivors or wait until someone else returned. As I kept on searching for the storehouse, suddenly, I heard something from my side.
…hello, mister… monkey?
Author’s Note: Map update. The stage of this chapter is set in the lower-left region of the map.