World of Yggdrasia, a world sustained by the World Tree and ninety-nine Saplings.
Tolldorre was a breathtakingly beautiful large country situated to the north of the Western Continent. People called it “the Gateway to the West.”
Inside a thick forest within the country, several monsters were huddling together. The rag-tag group consisted of beast-type, bird-type, goblinoid-type, insect-type, and more, all monsters of different races and ecologies. They were staying vigilant of their surroundings, exterminating the occasional stray monsters with unnatural coordination.
“So that’s everyone, pretty much?”
“Two or three haven’t shown up yet. Looks like they’re having a bit of trouble joining.”
“It’s fine, isn’t it? Not like all of us can show up every time.”
“Yeah. Besides, we’ll still be getting new members.”
“Alright, let’s get started. Everyone, make parties of five or six, then we’ll go leveling.”
They were normal players using monster avatars.
At first glance, they simply looked like a group of online friends playing together, but they hadn’t been setting up secret conclaves in the middle of a forest far away from human eyes just because their avatars were enemies of humans.
“What’s the level range we should aim for?”
“Considering we’ll be discovered by humans sooner or later, at least equivalent to Rank 3. We need one evolution and one rank-up, but honestly I prefer a bit more strength than that.”
“Man, the next evolution’s gonna be a long way away. But if I’m going to be seriously traveling the world, then I wanna get to Rank 5. Maybe one thousand total combat power or thereabout.”
These players were using ‘mods’ — unofficial modifications to the game — that allowed them to log in without going through the official channels and away from the developers’ watching eyes.
As they weren’t under developer observation, they wouldn’t be able to request developer help if their avatars met with bugs or glitches, and if something went wrong with their VR devices due to a bug in the mod, their warranties wouldn’t apply.
These players still risked the dangers to log in because they had begun to hold suspicions toward the developers, as well as toward the game world itself.
Everything began when a player attempted to use a simple mod and found out it didn’t work. They simply wanted to pretty up the status screen and other such visual elements to their liking. This type of mod didn’t affect gameplay, and other games generally turned a blind eye towards them, yet the mods that should have worked in World of Yggdrasia hadn’t. All of them.
The modders hadn’t been able to mess with the system of mana absorption that had replaced the normal experience system; the use and acquisition of special skills like [Identification]; as well as [Spells] and [Combat Arts]. They hadn’t been able to modify most aspects of World of Yggdrasia, as if the things happening there weren’t programmed.
Then one day, a player had posted the following words on a personal website:
“It felt just like I was going on a tour to another country in real life with my avatar.”
Debate erupted. People discussed the overly-wide game world, the too-realistic NPCs, and the things no one would’ve batted an eye to in the real world but wouldn’t make any sense in a game. As more and more people came to hold suspicions, the aforementioned personal website was abruptly frozen by the service provider. This only further fueled the speculations.
A group of players continued their discussions on private servers or on heavily-locked-down Asian servers. The programmers and hackers among them began creating a mod to fool the developers’ eyes. They planned to log into and discover the mystery of World of Yggdrasia.
Currently, there were 17 members in the group. They were thinking of inducting another ten-odd new people in their next recruitment.
Some were in it because they felt the corporation was lying to them. Some had been feeling guilty for hurting the demihuman slaves. And though their thoughts varied, behind it all, one single wish united the group.
“Let’s gain enough strength to travel as fast as we can, then we can meet up with the Dark Bunny Lady!”
“So we meet again, my lovely little bunny! You might have gotten the drop on me last time, but I swear on my name, Calimero the Hero, that I shall put an end to your atrocities on this very day!”
Standing there was a young man around twenty clad in armor of glittering silver, with sparkling golden hair and blue eyes on a handsome face that looked to have known none of life’s hardships. He was twirling his overly-decorative longsword with his fingertips. He smiled, showing his teeth, white as if bleached, then pirouetted into a striking pose.
[Calimero] [Race: Human ♂] [The Idiotic, Perverted Blademaster] [Magic Points (MP): 600/600] [Hit Points (HP): 350/350] [Total Combat Power: 14400]
Only silence answered the man. They were in a forest to the north of the Western Continent, where, by all accounts, it should have been impossible for the two to have come across each other. The mango-lookalike fruit that Shedy had picked for her kins froze in an instant, then shattered in her grip.
This was not the first time she encountered Calimero.
It had started after she destroyed the Saplings of Torrann Caliphate and Savanhuit Republic. In the two weeks or so afterward, Calimero had kept showing up out of nowhere to interfere with Shedy’s worldwide quest time and time again.
“…hmph!” Shedy stomped the ground, propelling herself forward into a kick.
Calimero barely dodged it with a tumble, then stood back up in a single gravity-defying move. He flicked his bangs, as if brushing off the dirt, and showed her a smile full of white teeth.
“So intense, just as always. Do you want to meet me that much?”
A vein faintly popped on Shedy’s forehead.
Despite the two of them speaking the same language, she’d felt like Calimero had never understood anything she said. She’d attacked him, of course. She’d fully intended to kill him. Yet time after time, Calimero survived. Time after time, he showed up in front of her in the most unexpected places.
Calimero was a genius. The greatest genius of this world.
He had been born as the third son of a certain count. In a twist of fate, by three years old, he’d received a Hero’s Blessing from an elemental; by six, he’d defeated the knight leader of his country with swordsmanship alone; by nine, he’d seduced and eloped with the queen; and by twelve, he’d defeated the strongest swordsman of Yggdrasia to claim the title of Blademaster for himself.
He was the polar opposite to Shedy’s seriousness.
He, by dint of being a genius, had never had an attack hit him ever since he was born. He’d never suffered anything as uncool as a skinned knee, much less a wound. He’d never even come down with a cold, much less a serious sickness.
It was perhaps the reason why he’d never had any injury that Shedy’s [Causality Alteration] could latch onto. Even when she’d blown up the whole area to bury him alive, somehow, he still lived.
The genius was truly loved by the gods.
At the same time, his personality did not exactly endear him to many. Every time the Warrior saw Calimero, he gave a look of pure exasperation and sighed a sigh deeper than the ocean. Every time the Sage met him, she scowled at him in disdain, saying “don’t come any closer to me, halfwit.”
Calimero, the ultimate genius, only had a single weakness, if it could even be called one.
“Please stop doing bad things! I’ll come with you to apologize to everyone, and we’ll all live together in peace. I’ve already built a cute little rabbit house for you, right next to Linda’s and Lily’s place!”
There was a legend surrounding the Blademaster Calimero.
One day, he was invited to a dinner party at a certain royal palace. There, he had made advances on the queen even as the king was beside her; he had proposed to the princess behind them; he had seduced the feline beastman girl that the royalty was keeping as a pleasure slave, even as she was standing further behind in mute disbelief; he had tempted the royal pet, a female dog named Lily, to help delay the guards as he ran; and he had cajoled a mare named Linda to help him escape.
Calimero was a skirt-chaser. An inveterate woman-lover. Some said he loved women so much he would seduce anything, even a dragon, as long as they were beautiful and biologically female.
Shedy blasted arctic mist from her hands, blowing away both the posing Calimero and the seventeen monsters currently running toward them.
She turned to blankly glared at the direction of Calimero, now nothing but a far-off silhouette, then tilted her head toward the monsters that were practically bouncing toward her as soon as they saw her. Meanwhile, she continued to pick some fruits and move toward the next country.
Several minutes later, Calimero broke apart the frozen ground and emerged.
“Oof, that’s cold! Hahahah, the little bunny sure is shy!”
In just a single instant, he had instinctively smashed apart the ground and warded off the cold with his magic. He suffered no serious wounds. He looked toward the direction his sword was pointing to on the ground.
“Alright, that way.”
The Hero Calimero cheerfully muttered. He began walking toward the direction where Shedy was last seen.