Chapter 20 – A NEW BEGINNING
It had been one month since the start of the official beta test for the new VRMMORPG, World of Yggdrasia. The game came packaged with the newest VR system, and had become the talk of the town for its incredible realism. It was unlike any VR games before.
The game had just concluded its first official event, Subdue the Berserkers. Criticism had been mixed, in part due to the overly inconsistent strength of the event monsters; their too-real, too-terrifying behaviors; and other reasons. But in general, player responses were positive. And once the developers released an official video showcasing some of the best battles of the event, the internet was immediately abuzz with impatient people asking for the official game release.
Ever since the beta test began, the ten thousand chosen testers had been enjoying their travels of the lands and busying themselves with sharing information and playful whinings on the VR chatrooms. And today was no different.
“Y’all thought being able to spawn in any timezone was convenient, right? Yeah, I thought so too. And then it turned out that if you mostly game at night and choose to spawn in the morning, like me, you’re gonna get some really shitty jet lag. I’ve been seeing sunlight all day.”
“I know, right? Then I got way too hooked in this game and logged in in the morning too, but then it’s night in-game and there’s nothing happening in town.”
“Don’t the bigger cities have the red-light districts? The place’s a bit dangerous, but at least you can pass the night there.”
“Ah, I’m actually not 18 yet, so I’ve been playing the all-ages version...”
“Oh, whoops. Never mind, then.”
“Hey, there are kids here. Stop it with the topics.”
“Got it.” “Sorry.”
“So this also ties in to the timezone thing, but did you know you can teleport to a distant Temple and register your new spawn there? Only once though, and you can’t bring anything besides event items.”
“Hey, did you see the new trailer? It looks amazing.”
“Yeah, they used actual scenes from the event monster fights, right? Only one spawned in my area, and when I logged in it’s already dead.”
“Apparently a few of them could respawn several times. Though they seemed to stopped after three times killing them.”
“And those respawnable ones were generally pretty strong. I heard quite a lot of the rank 2 parties died to them.”
“BTW, how high do the ranks... actually ‘skill level’ is the right word, isn’t it? So how high can they get?”
“I think the devs said it’s 10? But both the current version and the official release are only going to get to 5, apparently.”
“Yeah. If you take combat skill level 5 to be an expert, then you’re going to see Rank 6 only with top-class knights, probably?”
“First time I’ve seen a game with players weaker than NPCs...”
“That’s a realism-oriented game for you. We’ll probably be seeing those top-class knights all over the town in a few years, though...”
“Man, I wish there was another monster-killing event. This time’s reward was a year-pass for the airship, right?”
“Yeah, it’s super convenient for traveling and changing spawn points. A pity the normal price’s pretty much equal to buying a mansion.”
“So only around 500 people got one, right?”
“Personally, I don’t really care. The country I picked is already so huge I’m not even sure I can explore all of it. Besides, those bosses I saw in the trailer looked hella scary! Seriously, there’s gotta be a limit to realism.”
“I mean, the ones in the trailer were the ten most powerful monsters, I think? They all got a lot of player kills under their belts before they’re dead. I don’t think the event monsters are all like that, but I have to agree they were fucking crazy. Really have to wonder what kind of AI the devs were using.”
“‘Crazy’ is right. I could actually feel the insanity. Maybe they recruited a horror game dev from somewhere else?”
“Oh yeah, did you hear? The devs tweeted that the official release may have monster avatars to choose from.”
“For real? Then does that mean I can play as something like the trailer bosses?!”
“What are they going to do about the Disconnection? I read about this 120-kilo old dude who only changed his body type and age, and he still had to deal with tons of problems before he could get used to it.”
“The tweet didn’t go into much details, only that the parts that cause the Disconnection are going to be automated.”
“So I can have two heads or turn into mist, too?”
“Bad news for you, bro. Amorphous avatars have way too many parts to automate, so they’re probably going to be shelved.”
“Man, the last three were insane. Terrifying looks are one thing, but they’re also hella fast and hit hard.”
“The last three were the ravenous toad, the two-headed fiend wolf, and the white mist, right?”
“I heard they’re all super powerful.”
“I have a Rank 2 friend that spawned in another country. They said their party of three challenged the white mist, but they literally died in seconds.”
“The white one that showed up at the end of the trailer, right? That scene scared the hell out of me, even when I knew it was just a video! You know, the one where it turned into a vague human shape while holding a broken sword, and then did a slasher smile. Holy shit!”
“Yeah, scary... but I think it looked kinda cool too.”
“Deputy Director, we’ve finished the collection process for the secret alpha testers currently in comas due to collapsed psyches, all 57 of them. This is the request to start the 30-days monitoring process from the collection facility staff. Please sign here.”
“Yeah yeah... alright, that’s done, right?”
The secretary of the 7th research center entered the Deputy Director’s room with electronic documents in hand. Brian touched his finger in a few spots. The documents changed color from a light-yellow tint to a light-blue, acknowledging Brian’s fingerprints. He gave the documents back.
The secretary bowed lightly, then gingerly asked. “Deputy Director, should I be present for the testers’ disposal thirty days later?”
“Well, somebody should. If you’re volunteering, all the better. Is there any reason why you asked?”
“Not quite... If I had to say, perhaps I just wanted to send off the girl who survived the whole thing.”
“I suppose that’s how you women are, so sentimental... No. 13, right? I thought putting her in for the final scene of the trailer would be a great idea, and I was right! Man, that part was awesome, wasn’t it?”
“...it was. However, it may lead to more people requesting amorphous avatars, once the official release is out and people can choose to play as simple monster avatars. Will it be a problem?”
“Aaaahh... yeah, that.”
Their plans for the first unveiling of monster avatars included 15 different types. They did not include amorphous monsters.
These avatar types were too unstable in terms of movements and body shapes. To use them with any modicum of skill, players would have to delegate most of the processing to the AI’s automation, and in essence this would make it no different from playing with a gamepad, like how old games used to be.
“I mean, amorphous monsters aren’t good to use in the first place. They have weak attacks and are highly vulnerable to magic. To fully utilize their strong points, the players would need to be able to freely transform themselves, but that’s totally impossible for normal people. If anything, No. 13 was simply way too much of an exception.” Brian let loose a stream of words, almost sounding like he was making excuses.
The secretary only nodded. “Indeed. Even among the secret alpha testers, she was unique...”
“The players should understand once we disclose the combat power data for amorphous monsters. So anyway,” Brian smiled sweetly, after confirming that most of his work for the day was done. “I’m off work now. Wanna have dinner? I know a place.”
The beautiful woman smiled back, just as sweet.
“I’ll sue you for abuse of authority.”
To most, World of Yggdrasia was an open-world game. A fictional world.
Only a select few of a certain corporation and the top brass of a certain country’s government were aware of the truth. That this world was real.
And it was changing. Under the influence of the unaware beta testers and the undercover staff members, Yggdrasia was changing.
In the northern reaches of the central continent lay Trestan, one of the large countries of Yggdrasia. In a nearby grassy field, a petite traveler clad in a cloak was walking in silence, steadily, tirelessly.
From their height, perhaps they hadn’t even passed ten years of age. The oversized cloak of a grown man covered them whole. The hem was ragged with tears and dirtied by the ground. Pale, bare feet peeked out with every step they took.
There were small monsters, wolves, and other such creatures living in this area of grassland. A single child traveling would be suicidal. Yet at the moment, the beasts had all hidden themselves, almost as if in fear. The child had not been attacked even once.
Following behind their steps was a bouncing ball of slime, its color of light-green masking it among the grass. The child raised their head. A mischievous breeze blew past, pulling the hood down.
Revealing a head of slightly curly hair, so white it almost glimmered in the light; and eyes of scarlet, of faintly shining rubies. Drooping white rabbit ears lightly shivered in front of the chilly wind.
There stood a girl of unearthly beauty.
[Shedy] [Race: Mistral] [Lesser Demon (Low-Rank)]
?The demon of bewitching mist that dances upon the northern seas. A canny spiritual lifeform.
[Magic Points: 750/750] 92↑
[Total Combat Power: 825/825] 326↑
[Unique Skill: <Reroll> <Cyber-Manipulation> ]
[Racial Skill: Fear]
[Simple Identification] [Humanoid Form (Adept)] [Expert Packer]
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