Apotheosis of a Demon – A Monster Evolution Story

Chapter 18 – SECRET ALPHA TESTER NO. 01 – B
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Chapter 18 – SECRET ALPHA TESTER NO. 01 – B

This world of Yggdrasia actually existed...?

Was he saying this was an actual planet somewhere in the universe? I read on, hoping that the words could shed light upon my confusion.

This place was discovered due to my mother and her power: manipulation of cyberspace. Thirty years ago, when my mother was still active as a hacker, her power was analyzed. The results became the foundation of the very first brain-computer interface VR system.

A certain corporation in the defense industry recruited her. In her time working there, she accidentally discovered a faint disturbance in cyberspace. Further investigations and analysis revealed a world entirely separate from Earth.

Yet, that world was much too far away. With the use of the latest technology of the time, Digistruction, they sent a scouting drone that could create its own light sources through. It turned out that the planetary system this new world belonged to did not correlate to any records on Earth. Yggdrasia itself was determined to be an Earth-like planet, but its atmosphere was different and more importantly, unsuitable for Earth humans.

So someone found out about this planet... Then why did no one publicize this? It would’ve been the find of the century... or perhaps, somebody wanted this to be kept a secret?

Regardless, investigations continued. The corporation had officially received the government’s blessings to continue the survey. They found out that this world was surprisingly similar to Earth in culture, and that the native humans’ level of civilization was equivalent to Earth’s Middle Ages.

The similarities received heavy attention from the scholars. In the end, they came to a conclusion: the form of energy that had created the dimensional disturbance had also, in the past, caused some sort of information to travel both ways between Earth and the new world. Natives in the new world called that energy ‘Mana’.

Mana... So if this world was real, then did that mean magic was real, too?

This world was sustained by the infinite mana created from the World Tree and its Saplings. Compared to the other races of the new world, the ‘humans’ there were relatively weak, but could quickly increase their population. They had founded countries, like parasites leeching off the Tree and the Saplings. Yet despite their achievements, they were only using mana as fuel for the special ability they called Magic.

The corporation wanted to explore the possibility of using mana as a source of normal energy. They, and their government, believed that drone surveying wasn’t enough. After deciphering the native language, they pretended themselves to be God to the kings of the larger countries, complete with divine prophecies.

The false God gained faith with agricultural reforms, simple yet convenient technology for the mass, and other such improvements. With trust now cemented, God told the people to research about mana, and to create the technological foundation for using mana to power tools.

So they put on a mask of God, granted the native people technology, then had them begin research. Where were they going with this?

The research was successful, and the first applications were in developments of magitech tools that served a role similar to electrical appliances. With the technology transfer, in just ten-odd years, magitech trains and airships were born. Before Earth’s intervention, the human population in Yggdrasia were several hundreds of millions. With access to powerful magical barriers and weapons, in ten years, that number quickly swelled.

At first, it was simply intellectual curiosity. Next, the corporation wanted to find a way to utilize the faint mana they detected from the dimensional tear. Then ten years ago, everything changed when they discovered the child that would be called No. 17.

Native fauna on Yggdrasia could kill other life-forms to absorb magic and lifeforce from their victims, and convert them into their own power. And No. 17, found in Tibet, had the same ability. With the results from analyzing the child’s genome, the corporation established a method to gather mana by having the remote-controlled drones kill other living beings.

Did that mean that when I defeated enemies and raised my magic, a part of that was sent to Earth? And perhaps the death penalty that cut my magic in half was also for this purpose.

From observing the new world, they understood that it was possible to send ‘waves’, like radio signals, through the dimensional distortion. From the fact that mana was faintly leaking to Earth, they hypothesized that mana was a form of wave that suffused the atmosphere. Based on that theory, they succeeded in creating a system to send the mana that the drones gathered to Earth.

At the time, there was no way to make the drones even decently powerful. However, the problem was solved once they discovered No. 08.

His power was to materialize ‘force of will’. Combining it with another power previously analyzed – the power to convert materials from the surroundings or from the atmosphere into amino acids and other such biological matter – the corporation was no longer limited to robotic drones. They could now create the human form, so similar as to be indistinguishable from real human beings.

The VR avatar system had already been introduced on Earth by then. Higher realism came with its own problems, such as mental instability. To investigate these problems further, and at the same time seeing the opportunity of infinite energy in the form of mana, an opportunity that arose once sending human avatars into the new world became possible, the government invested a vast sum of money into the corporation and told them to develop a system for large-scale mana harvesting.

Which resulted in this game, World of Yggdrasia.

I see... Just the beta test alone already had three million applicants. If the same amount of people bought the game when it’s officially released, the corporation would basically gain three million soldiers and their money, too.

But the government judged that the game alone wouldn’t be enough to cover the country’s energy needs. They urged the development of weapons that could gather mana more efficiently, weapons that could be deployed on both Earth and the other world. Non-humanoid remote-controlled weapons. Monster avatars.

This corporation had branch offices everywhere on Earth. Within research centers masquerading as orphanages, they conducted analyses upon the twenty people with special abilities that they’d gathered. With the completion of mana-gathering avatars, now the corporation was looking into investigating the problematic sensation of Disconnect that was happening to monster avatars. They were planning on pushing us secret alpha testers into the worst circumstances possible, as a part of their experiment. They would see all of us bled dry.

So we were just disposable pawns... and that inhumane orphanage was even one of theirs.

Writing this must have taken No. 01 days. In the beginning, the words were chicken scrawls, but they got better as time went on. And then... they started to deteriorate.

Us secret alpha testers were orphans from around the world, every single one possessing some sort of mysterious power. But many of us were orphaned in suspicious happenings. Some of our parents were killed, some bankrupt, some gone by other means.

At first, there were only twenty-three of us. We were gathered at the research center, with numbers becoming our new names. Then, at the government’s behest, the corporation added another seventy-seven despite their trivial abilities. Exactly one hundred of us were dropped into this new world.

Around here was the point where No. 01’s mind must have been breaking down. His words began to veer off-course, letters started varying in sizes, and once in a while I could see deep gouges in the rock wall.

My mother, the woman who discovered this world, were pushing her power more and more with each investigation. In the end, it crippled her. I inherited the same power, even if mine was much weaker. Then I met No. 08 and No. 17 at the research institution’s orphanage. We spent our childhoods with only each other to turn to.

With my power, we had managed to infiltrate the personal computer of a researcher through the internet. That was how we knew we were only disposable test subjects. We had no families, no friends aside from each other in the real world, in Earth. So we started looking for ways to escape to the new world.

That’s... impossible, right? Weren’t they using avatars because they couldn’t send live humans here?

The Unique Skills of us secret alpha testers were based on our real abilities. With the mana native to Yggdrasia, perhaps our powers could be strengthened.

[Materialization of Will], [Absorption of Magic and Lifeforce], and [Mental Manipulation of Cyberspace]. These are our powers. If we can use them to their full potential, we should be able to escape the shackles of the System, transfer our consciousness, and gain new living bodies here on this world. Even if doing it would send our real bodies into a coma, there’s a high chance the corporation would still keep us powered people alive. As long as our connection to the machine were still intact, no matter how tenuous it might be, I could still maintain and strengthen it through our minds.

But our plan was a failure. We underestimated them.

It was a desperate plan, born from children clutching onto faint hope.

Here, No. 01’s handwriting began to turn outright misshapen.

They wanted to use us until our minds either broke down, or until our brains stopped working altogether. The broken ones only had an extra month of life support. After that, they would be disposed of.

The corporation’s promise of ‘half a year’ that they told us? An utter lie. We were never meant to survive that long.

Day after day, I saw myself losing bits and pieces of my mind. My first death here, in this world, was a revelation: with our sense of pain adjusted to the maximum, the moment of death brings with it agony like nothing else. Among those of us who had avatars with a sense of pain, that first death must have sent dozens into comas. Especially the younger kids.

And the feeling of Disconnection, too, they worsened day by day. I thought I could hold myself together with a familiar animal form, but once I evolved, I grew another head.

That head is just a beast. Violence is all that drives it. It would take any opportunity to take control of my body.

I can’t rest even for one second. I can’t sleep. It would eat me alive if I so much as close my eyes.

I didn’t know how bad he had it. But I could see how far gone he was from his deteriorating letters.

Whoever’s reading this, if you’re a secret alpha tester like us, then you must take our magic stones. All three of ours. We promised to each other to keep our powers in the stones so that even if one of us died, the rest could still live on.

Perhaps it’s impossible. It would be the end once our real bodies were destroyed, after all. But there must be a way. It must be possible. The World Tree with infinite mana is here. The holy land that surrounded it rejects normal monsters, but maybe a monster with the ability to absorb magic can find a way.

I can’t do it. This is the end for me. There were only around 20 of us alpha testers left. I found that out after infiltrating their monitoring system. Even No. 17 had lost his mind. He was much too kind. His heart couldn’t endure this life of kill-or-be-killed.

By the time you read this, if the two-headed wolf is still alive, then please...

Please kill me.

His words stopped here. After that, it was just the scratchings of a maddened beast.

I was relatively sane thanks to a series of fortunate coincidences, but it looked like everyone else didn’t have my luck. Most of them had broken.

It must have been torturous... yet you still held on, fighting those beta players. You didn’t want to die by the hands of that corporation, right?

...yeah. I got it.

I won’t let them kill you.

I’ll lay you to rest myself.

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