It had been several months since the official release of the MMORPG World of Yggdrasia. Due to the Dark Lady Whitehare’s campaign that had begun at the same time as the official release, in the eyes of the new players, World of Yggdrasia had now become a game set in a world being threatened by the Dark Lady. Recently, with the beginning of what was assumed to be a new special event — the ‘Dark Pixie Attack’ — veteran players were now aware that even the Central Continent was no longer the relatively safe sanctuary it used to be. They, former beta players, continued to busy themselves in catching up with the latest info on the VR forum.
“So what the hell is with this event? I can’t even safely hunt outside.” “‘Safely hunting’ is such an oxymoron, though I know what you mean. Maybe the high-ranked guys can handle it, but the new players must be pissing their pants.” “They’re called ‘Dark Pixies’, right? Yeah, they’re gross as fuck. Not the Dark Bunny Lady’s minions, right?” “Hmm… the devs didn’t really say anything outright, but I have the feeling they want to pin it on the Dark Lady.” “But like, you know how flip-floppy the devs are with their game direction? Like, the details we’re getting aren’t fitting together, if you know what I mean.” “It feels to me like since that corporation’s so huge, there’s a department that’s making up an event by themselves and didn’t notice the main management.” “Personally I think the event’s nice. Killing those dark pixies raised my maximum magic a lot.” “I guess it’s an event for the hardcore gamers, then.” “Aww… but I’m the having-fun type. I just want to open a potion shop.”
“So I’ll preface this by saying that it’s still not confirmed information, but apparently it doesn’t have anything to do with the Bunny Lady.” “What do you know?” “A part of the demihumans is fighting against humans now, right? They’re saying they worship the Bunny.” “Really? That’s… troubling. There’s been a lot of requests at the adventurer’s guild to defend towns against demihuman terrorists, but they’re freeing slaves, right? Fighting them feels awkward.” “There’s that too, but those demihumans also sometimes come help out whenever a town’s being attacked by the dark pixies. In other words, the Bunny’s faction doesn’t have anything to do with the dark pixies.” “Umm… so the Dark Bunny Lady isn’t a villain?” “I mean, they’re just on different sides. Another two small countries’ Saplings were just destroyed the other day. She’s basically the enemy of the human race.” “Yeah, ‘human race’ being the operative word there... by the way, I’ve come across some weird info.” “What what? Come on, spill!” “There’s this particular site that’s only open to its members, and it says the Bunny’s goal is to liberate the Saplings from the humans stealing their mana and save the world, since mana isn’t infinite." “Lol the fuck is that? Who wrote this fanfic?” “No, seriously. Assuming that’s true, then the Bunny’s actions and the demihumans’ actions make a lot of sense in a weird way.” “God, the hell kinda twist is that…” “I mean, it’s not really official info. Just some rumors I picked up.” “Now that’s interesting. If it’s true, then I can worship the Bunny Lady without any regrets.” “If so… then who’s our enemy?”
The game had officially released the Rank 6 update. Rank 5 in this world was termed the Expert rank, and the new rank surpassed even that, requiring the players to go beyond human limits. The rank upgrade quest was brutal, but all the same, a small group of players had succeeded.
[Isaac] [Race: Human ♂] [Player] [Magic Points (MP): 200/200] [Hit Points (HP): 320/320] [Strength: 25] [Vitality: 22] [Agility: 25] [Dexterity: 10] [Swordsmanship 5.5] [Defense 3] [Reinforcement Magic 4] [Healing Magic 3] [Self-Reinforcement] [Total Combat Power: 2290]
“Please surrender! We won’t harm you!”
To the south of the Eastern Continent was the 61st human country, a small country named Arruine. In a nearby wasteland, Isaac’s clan was locked in combat with a group of beastman resistance fighters.
As a player who had had contact with Shedy, the Demon Lord Whitehare, Isaac believed that the demihumans’ efforts to liberate their enslaved comrades was a praiseworthy endeavor. But he could not stand by if the same demihumans were trying to destroy the Saplings.
Arruine’s knight squadron had been planning to raid one of the resistance’s bases. Isaac had heard the rumors at the adventurer’s guild, and he had been skeptical of the anonymous quest for investigation that the guild had issued. To prevent the destruction of the Sapling, he had rallied his clan and arrived at his current location.
The party had focused on speed and combat power. There was Isaac, the warrior; Weed, the scout; Sandria, the magician; Guy, the tank; and Mia, the healer. There were only five of them, but the party was as powerful as dozens of knights.
Everyone were at Rank 5 with their combat power close to 1500. Isaac had broken the limits and reached Rank 6, and his total combat power was nearing 2300.
The base they’d discovered had housed nearly forty demihumans. Isaac had given his call to surrender, but the resistance team leader, a feline beastwoman, had declined. They began to chip at each other in small skirmishes. Isaac’s party only had five members, yet they were putting up more than a good fight against forty resistance fighters.
Player characters weren’t affected by fatigue and were well-balanced in their status. Isaac had given his call to surrender once more with that fact in mind, and the beautiful feline beastwoman that was their leader silently walked up to Isaac. She wielded two swords, both curved like the katana.
“My name is Selille. What is yours, warrior?”
“I’m Isaac. Why are you trying to destroy the Saplings? Did Shedy… did the Dark Lady ordered it?”
Isaac’s party had once traveled with Shedy and talked with her. They could no longer see the NPCs as simple AIs. They moved, they acted just like real people. Isaac’s party was hesitant to simply rely on force just because it was a quest.
“We indeed revere her. But we do not do so because she is a Dark Lady.”
“…because our Lady is the only one doing the right thing to fix what had been our ancestors’ naiveté,” Selille scowled, her reply bitter.
“…naiveté? And what do you mean by ‘right’…?”
“I shan’t talk any further. It would be an insult to our forefathers. This is not something that concerns you, human. If you wish to stop us, then show me your strength.”
“…everyone, don’t interfere.”
Isaac helplessly readied his sword.
[Selille] [Race: Beastman ♀ (Feline)] [Swordswoman] [Magic Points (MP): 150/150] [Hit Points (HP): 250/250] [Total Combat Power: 960]
With Isaac’s [Identification], he determined that Selille was a swordswoman of around Rank 5. Isaac himself was equivalent to Rank 6, even if he hadn’t gotten all the way there yet. He had over twice her combat power.
He couldn’t understand what she’d said. But if she, the leader, lost here, then this resistance squad would probably retreat.
Everyone else ceased their fights to instead watch the leaders’ duel with intense focus.
Common sense would say that with her combat power, Selille wouldn’t even be able to win against the scout Weed, much less Isaac. Yet ever since the battle was joined, even with his superior power and speed, every swing of his sword looking as if it could cut apart boulders like butter, he had not once scratched Selille.
“…w-why…? I’m Rank 6…” Isaac muttered in bewilderment.
Selille looked at him with pitying eyes.
“Rank 6? Who granted you that title? Regrettably, the only person in the world who possessed swordsmanship of the sixth rank is the Blademaster. He seems nothing more than a fool at first glance, but I assure you, behind the fool’s appearance lay a monster beyond the realm of man.”
Isaac had completed the quest and had gained the title of Rank 6, but Isaac had not yet reached [Swordsmanship 6].
Skills, such as swordsmanship, were automatically installed into avatars. But no one possessed swordsmanship skill equivalent to the 6th rank on Earth, and only the Blademaster Calimero had the skill even in Yggdrasia. The game had based the skill upon the Blademaster, but the recreation of his swordsmanship was still not yet perfect.
To recreate the skill of swordsmanship, the system would need to analyze millions of different patterns of combat against all kinds of enemies. If there was only a single swordsman, there would be far too little data to do anything.
The same went for magic spells of rank 7 and above. Their only users had been the high elves, and they had long since been extinct. It was the reason why the developers had been delaying the Rank 6 update.
And even the recreated Rank-5-and-below swordsmanship skills and magical spells were only usable. It might not matter when the players were fighting monsters, but when they fought against opponents of the same skill level, they would soon find themselves falling behind in experience, in tactics, even if their ability scores were higher.
And finally, while the players might have the heart to feel sorrow, anger, or to be moved by a story, they still didn’t have the resolve.
Isaac was struck dumb by the truth thrusted before him. Selille sheathed her swords.
“Isaac. You have more than enough strength. But as you are at the moment, I do not think I can lose to you. Out of respect for you, we will retreat for the time being. Your comrades had not attempted to kill us, and you… you had treated us as people.”
The woman turned away. Just as she was about to depart, Isaac called out despite himself.
“W-wait, please wait!”
“…what is the ‘right’ thing, then?”
“…I shall tell you one thing. The magic of the World Tree is the life of this world itself. What do you think will happen if it is spent without end?”
Selille and the demihumans said no more. They left in silence.
Isaac’s party stayed quiet, unsure what they should say to their leader. A whisper left Isaac’s mouth.
“Is this place… is this world truly just a game?”
“…you’ve got nerves of steel, don’t you?”
Quarancinq was the City of Magic, as well as Yggdrasia’s holy land for all things magical. Its Tower of Truth housed the laboratory of Marlene, the Heroine of Magic renowned as the Sage. She was hosting a certain visitor.
Seated on a manticore-leather sofa, Marlene crossed her supple legs. In front of her were two men. One was Mason, the Temples’ ambassador that she had met many times. The other covered his whole body with a pitch-black cloak, the hood even hiding his face. The heavy presence of a Hero that Marlene was releasing sent even Mason gulping, yet the other man only gave an exaggerated shrug.
“No no, I’m actually scared out of my mind just sitting here. Please, just think of the info as my gift of gratitude for allowing me to have an audience with you.”
“…I admit, it’s quite the interesting news.”
There were two small countries, their histories still young, on a tiny continent to the northwest of the Central Continent. Their Saplings had been destroyed.
The vast majority had believed it to be an attack of the Dark Lady Whitehare, but the true culprit had been the demihuman resistance. The group had been composed of elves, dwarves, and beastmen, and their travel had been assisted by aquatic demihumans, the merfolk.
However, while the two countries only had a few tens of thousands of people each, how could only a thousand demihumans have brought down the countries without the help of the Dark Lady?
But if the information brought by the man in front of her was true, then the Hero Gold, the Warrior, had been their vanguard. He himself had broken through the castle gates and destroyed the Sapling.
Even Marlene could not believe it at first, but the man had brought proof. He’d shown her the images captured in a state-of-the-art magitool, and she had had no choice but to accept the truth.
Gold was a man who loathed hurting the citizens. Why would he turn his sword against those very same people?
The attack had gone with surprisingly low casualties, as a matter of fact. Their goal had been only the release of the demihuman slaves and the destruction of the Sapling. Yet considering the fact that such important news had still not yet reached the wider world, she could assume that the vast majority of the survivors were having trouble even just evacuating. The continent was high up north, and with the Saplings gone, they must have returned to being an icy wasteland.
It was a simple conclusion. Marlene could easily imagine the outcome just by hearing what had happened, so there was no reason Gold couldn’t have.
The face of the uncouth man flashed through her mind. Maybe there was something he had to do even if he had to sacrifice the many for it, she thought.
It was info that she could acquire sooner or later. But if a Hero had switched allegiance to the Dark Lady’s side, then it would be a huge change in the current balance of powers.
Before, the humans only needed to worry about the Dark Lady, who always acted alone. The demihumans were a nuisance, but only that: just a nuisance. Yet now, with another force capable of destroying Saplings that wasn’t the Dark Lady, human countries would need their security to be several times more stringent than it was at the moment.
The Western Continent where she was also had a Dark General, the Orc King. If they all came to attack, even Marlene would find it too much to handle. Early information was worth tens of thousands of gold coins.
“So then, what do you want of me? I’m still not done with the mana absorption magic circle.”
“We thank you for your consideration, but it is not yet necessary. Just the mobile storage of mana and magical signal detection you have given us were more than useful enough.”
“It’s fine. I got my payment.”
As a reward for completing two of the Temples’ requested spells, Marlene had been given fifty of the newest model of rapid-fire magic guns, as well as thirty thousand rounds of ammunition.
“Then… do you want me to give you the Dark Lady’s head?”
The man chuckled. “Oh no, I would prefer it if I was allowed to take the Bunny’s life myself, if possible. No, what we wish to request of you is a summoning circle to call upon the Fairy King.”
“…the Fairy King.”
The Fairy King was even mentioned in the nursery tales of this world. Legend had it that there was a ‘Fairy World’ separate from this material world, and that the Fairy King and Fairy Queen lived there.
Did this man truly believe the stories to be real? Yet it was a fact that the man in front of her had summoned the dark pixies throughout the whole world in his belief. He was the source of the current chaos.
And of course, Marlene too had received a request to hunt for the mastermind. He knew of it, and yet the man still dared to show up in front of her with so much nonchalance. He even began to negotiate.
But his daring was exactly what caught Marlene’s interest.
“What’ll I get?”
“Complete cooperation from the Temples. Supply of human resources. Information about the other Heroes. Blackmail of royalty and nobility of this country and others. How about it?”
Marlene slowly nodded.
If the Fairy King, or at least something similar, truly existed, then she was at least a little interested in witnessing what would become of the man’s wish to this existence.
“All right. One last thing, then. Would my partner in crime mind letting me see his face? Show me, mister Brian, mastermind of the dark pixie incident.”
The man silently removed his hood, revealing the demented grin of a madman, his undeniably artificial eyes of black machinery laid bare, untouched by any VR alteration.