The electric car of the researcher Jennifer, self-proclaimed Dark Lady worshipper, carried the two of us onto the highway in the suburbs. It was an old vehicle, paint discolored with age.
“It’s a Japanese car from quite some time ago. I’ve driven it over five hundred thousand kilometers and it’s almost never given me trouble!”
I didn’t really get it. It’s probably supposed to be amazing.
Anyway, just getting a mean of transportation was honestly helpful. I could move faster by myself, except I’d be spending magic power for high-speed movement when I needed to be saving as much as I could.
Which reminded me, this might actually be the first time I rode on a car. The last time had been the truck carrying me from the hospital to the facility. It was closer to a prisoner transport than a ride. It didn’t count.
I rested my elbow on the open window frame and leaned on it. I closed my eyes, feeling the wind on my cheeks, careful to keep the hood where it was.
When was the last time I could relax like this, I wondered…
“It’s a great day for a drive! You think so too right, my Lady? Ah, should I put on some music? There’s this alternative rock band I can recommend—eep!”
My good mood ruined, I shut her up with a blast of coldness. The car skidded left and right for a moment.
“I-I’m sorry… my Dark Bunny Lady looked so much like a normal girl I sort of just…”
What the hell was with that title? As I glared at her in exasperation, a sports car revved its engine to overtake us from behind, paying no attention to the speed limit. As they passed us by, so close they grazed our car’s side mirror and my elbow, a voice rang out.
“Fucking slowpoke geriatric, get that fucking scrap heap off the fucking road!”
I looked at Jennifer and answered her.
“You really think so?”
I snapped my finger. The sports car that overtook us began to zigzag, one of its tires now burst. It veered off the highway and plunged into the empty fields.
“…did … my Lady did that?”
Jennifer’s face blanched a smidgen. Maybe I scared her a bit too much?
“…call me Shedy.”
“Don’t call me the Dark Lady, people are going to look.”
Jennifer’s pale face visibly began to redden.
“Yes, Shedy! I’ll help you as best I can! Please give me an autograph later!”
Maybe I should stop being so nice.
“Sorry for the wait, Shedy!”
I didn’t need to eat or sleep, but humans needed their meals and bathroom breaks.
Which was why we were currently parked at the burger chain with the large M symbol that had stores open even in Antarctica and the Saharas. Jennifer came back to the car with a large paper bag.
“Is this fine, Shedy?”
She gave me some Coke in what might as well be a bucket, as well as a huge burger.
“A normal Coke and cheeseburger! Oh, here, there’s some fries too.”
So this is the normal size… I’d lost my chance to refuse. I stared at the thing in my hand, my mind wandering.
I used to have to pretend to eat and store the food in my [Inventory], but ever since my Humanoid Form turned into Human Form, I’d gained the ability to eat if I wanted to.
I actually had tried eating. I first bought it for Blobsy, but since she preferred monster meat, the salted herring sandwich had been languishing in my [Inventory] all this time. I’d tried a bite, but it just felt like eating papier-mache.
I didn’t know if I’d lost the ability to eat normal food when I became a demon, or if the food was just terrible, but I’d learned to not leave a single scrap of food behind for survival reasons since a long time ago. So I’d still finished it. I’d honestly thought that defeating and absorbing living beings would still be a lot more satisfying than eating that.
Which was why I wanted to bow out this time too, but on the other hand, I’d never had a hamburger before. I took a tiny bite.
I stared at the thing in my hand, then took another bite.
“Did you like it?! That’s one of our national comfort food!”
For some reason, Jennifer drew close to me with a beaming smile. I pushed her face off and frostily glared at her.
“Explain where we’re going to next.”
…that reminded me, there was this thing where demon worshippers gave “offerings” to their demons, right?
Our next destination was the 4th research center. Just as I’d suspected, the 4th and the 7th were doing research about the other world. Both of them were set up with the dimensional-crossing system.
According to Jennifer, the 7th were working on the growth-capable normal avatars and researching mana, while the 4th was doing work on the magical weapons and militarized monster avatars.
“What about that thing that monsterize players?”
“Aaahh… that. Yeah, that’s some crazy stuff. The players would get their game suddenly shut down and their character data deleted, they’d get their arms twisted by HQ and the 4th, and only the 12th is left to deal with their complaints. Don’t you think that’s terrible? Of course, as a player myself, I’d be raising hell too if I ever got my character deleted out of nowhere.”
The 4th research center was doing that too? Apparently the military stuff used to be worked on by the 7th, and the recent reckless attacks on me had begun ever since the weapon development project was transferred to the 4th.
Which meant that first facility where I’d gone all out had been managed by the 7th. I’d flatten the 4th too, of course, but the 7th was the one that I’d promised to visit since way back then.
I narrowed my eyes at the thought. Jennifer in her driver’s seat timidly talked.
“Umm… Shedy, are you okay with a motel’s frozen pizza for tonight’s dinner?”
Three days later, in the evening. We’d crossed states and arrived at the 4th research center located in the suburbs.
“But Shedy, we’re still quite far away.”
Seen from the highway, the enormous site of the 4th research center was still in the distance.
There were barely any trees around it, only sand and rocks. Other than the 4th, there were only a few drive-ins, gas stands, motels, and trailer homes. If we got any closer, we might invite some unwanted attention.
“It’s fine, just wait here.”
“B-but-” Jennifer sputtered, apparently misunderstanding that I no longer needed her. I scowled at her.
“If you die here, I’ll lose a driver. Just stay there.”
I dashed toward the 4th research center while trying to stay hidden behind the rocks and boulders.
Not much security. With the 12th having all its guards dying from an ‘accident’ (which just meant it wasn’t being reported), this place had ramped up its security by quite a bit, yes, but it wasn’t security against me, a demon.
A quick glance revealed to me nearly a hundred watcher drones equipped with simple taser guns flying around the vicinity of the compound.
On Earth, where they couldn’t use mana, the drones were being powered by wireless electricity. The farther they went from the wireless charger, the less efficient the charging would be. The number of drones they could field 24/7 truly showed the resources they had as a large enterprise.
And my eyes even revealed stealth drones. They were more power-hungry than normal ones, yet there were at least the same amount of them as normal drones, perhaps even more.
But it still wasn’t enough precaution for me.
In Yggdrasia, they were deploying at least dozens of times more drones at locations where they predicted me to appear.
To be honest, even AI-driven watcher drones were actually a pretty good way to see me.
While I’d gotten used to [Cyber-Manipulation] by now and could disappear from the vision of several drones, if there were hundreds of them watching me, the corporation might be able to realize the unnatural space from comparing all the camera viewpoints.
The human perception was really good at latching onto that sort of abnormality. It was the reason why while I could erase myself from the cameras, I still did my best to not show up on them in the first place.
But here? They didn’t have enough drones, and they had too many drones.
Just a hundred wasn’t enough for the AI to recognize the abnormality. At the same time, there was a whole hundred drones — they didn’t have enough real humans to watch every single one.
Of course, that didn’t mean I could afford to be careless. Another one of my worries was coming into direct human sight. But the corporation was so paranoid about industrial espionage, this compound didn’t even have a single window.
Anyway, to deal with both at the same time, I searched for what were probably buried power lines that fed power to the wireless chargers, then used them as a medium to hack the indoor power generator and lowered its output to the minimum.
As the sky began to darken, the lights of the distant 4th research center compound dimmed, if only barely.
At the same time, all the drones began to move slower. Did they change into power-saving mode? I’d thought they would change to the state’s power supply if they still can’t find out the cause after enough time had passed, though they seemed the prideful sort. Would they actually do so?
With the drone security network now weakened, I slipped through them under the cover of night. I jumped over the five-meter high wire fence, not a single part of me touching it, and entered the compound of the 4th research center.