Chapter 29 – A NEW COUNTRY
In the 7th research center of a certain pharmaceutical company, situated within a certain country of Earth, there was a researcher. The head researcher, in fact – even if these days, most of her hours were taken up by secretarial work for the Deputy Director, Brian. One of her colleagues had just shared with her an image they thought was interesting.
“Can’t be... but, what if...” Audrey muttered. The scene was burned into her mind.
Yggdrasia. A whole new world presented as fiction, as nothing more than a virtual reality game.
So-called ‘players’ were sent to this world as harvesters of a new form of energy, called ‘mana’. To lay the foundations, the corporation had begun interfering with the new world’s human countries since a decade ago. Temples were built in all of them as mana collectors and as revival points for players.
Yggdrasia’s humankind believed these were Temples of the God of Knowledge. In truth, these buildings served as bases for the corporation’s staff members and digistructed equipment, for on-site analysis of local peculiarities such as mana and materials, and for surveillance.
One hundred thousand AI-driven, stealth-focused remote-controlled drones were used as scouts and spotters. They flew around the whole world to survey terrains and climates. In seldom cases, a particularly perceptive monster or some other cause might still be able to heavily damage them. All the same, overall performance was good, and Earth received a massive amount of information.
Once the drones’ AI detected an unusual event, their programming required them to hurry toward the scene and record what they could. The drones at Trestan Kingdom, a country in the north-western corner of the central continent, had detected one such event at the auction hall and had recorded a part of it.
Right in front of the Deputy Director’s room was Audrey’s own desk. Using a audiovisual-only VR set, she replayed the copy of the recorded data that was sitting in her mobile device.
In front of her eyes, she saw a small girl fighting against a large group of grown adults inside the auction hall.
The video was filled with a strange white noise, almost like mist or smoke, and the girl’s movements were abnormally fast. Audrey couldn’t see what she looked like. Luckily, when the girl was sent flying by a wind spell, her side profile appeared on the screen for a split second.
And immediately after that, the screen whited out as if the drone was swallowed in mist, and it malfunctioned. The recording data ended there. Audrey’s colleague had lamented about the white noise. They thought the fight would have made for a great trailer video, if only the recording wasn’t so blurry.
But Audrey thought the girl looked familiar. Almost like a feeling of déjà-vu.
She had white skin, white hair... and scarlet eyes. Normally characteristics of an albino, yet with the addition of her long ears, she looked just like a rabbit beastman girl.
More than anything, however, glimpsing the side of her face reminded Audrey of a certain girl.
The final alpha tester. An albino girl born with a special power, who was called a ‘demon’ by her own mother. Her consciousness was already gone, and her comatose body was being kept in the collection facility.
Audrey remembered very clearly the photo attached to the documents detailing the girl’s personal information. It’s hard to forget that stare.
They just looked similar, that’s all.
Most people would brush off the matter with that. Yet for some reason, Audrey could not separate the rabbit girl from No. 13. Still, the woman decided to bury her unease, despite the protests coming from her intuition.
After I escaped the auction hall, I quickly blended into the crowd. I...
We didn’t stay there for long. The two of us climbed on top of a building and started jumping roofs. An express train was about to leave right at that moment, so I clung to the train’s roof. We were out of the capital city.
I spent a whole day on top of the train. Once we reached the next town, I got on another train – officially, this time, with ticket bought – before the news about me could catch up, and left the country border.
I only needed to give the ticketing office my money and show them a peek of my adventurer’s card, and they let me on. They didn’t check on me too closely.
I was curious, so until the train arrived, I chatted with the middle-aged woman selling tickets. She seemed like the gossipy type. Apparently, adventurer’s cards remembered the holder’s magic. If someone else was holding them – for example, a bandit – then the card would show a black mark. It would be unusable.
So basically, you would be checked quite meticulously when you entered a large town, but inside, you just showed your card and the guards would let you go anywhere. So sloppy.
By the way, I already threw away that conspicuous red hoodie along the way. Obviously.
The train I was on was going to the east of Trestan Kingdom. Its destination was a small country called Anneuf.
Saying ‘neighboring country’ might give the wrong impression. In contrast to countries of Earth, which were densely packed together and covered all the land people could live on, countries here only formed around the extremely-convenient World Saplings. So there was quite a distance. It would take a whole three days of non-stop running for the express train to arrive.
Actually, this was pretty much the same speed as a linear motor train, wasn’t it? The scenery was just blazing by. Yet even when I opened the window, all I felt was a nice breeze. I wondered if the whole train was covered with a forcefield. They did have a lot of magic to waste, after all.
Well, scenery-watching like this wasn’t much different from looking through an airplane’s window, anyway...
Trains that crossed country borders like this one had eight cars, three of them for passengers. Twelve rooms in total. Currently there were only seven groups of passengers, so I had a whole room to myself.
From the window, I watched the white-capped mountain range passing by. I could finally take a breather. I took out some food I bought from the dining hall to feed Blobsy, while checking on the results of my evolution.
[Shedy] [Race: Mistral Neige] [Greater Demon (Low-Rank)]
?The demon of tempestuous mist that ravages the northern seas. A canny spiritual lifeform.
[Magic Points: 1950/1950] 415↑
[Total Combat Power: 2145/2145] 457↑
[Unique Skill: <Reroll> <Cyber-Manipulation> <Absorption>]
[Racial Skill: Fear]
[Simple Identification] [Humanoid Form (National Treasure)] [Specialist Packer]
...alright, where do I even start?
First off, my class finally reached [Greater Demon]. My combat power might not look like it grew all that dramatically, but I felt like my attacks had gotten quite a bit heavier due to the higher density – or perhaps I should say ‘thicker mist’ – that I now had. In other words, a flat power increase.
Next, ‘neige’? If I remembered my French right, that meant ‘snow’, right? My newly-acquired unique skill probably had something to do with it.
That yellow magic stone carried within it No. 17’s power.
The unique skill [Absorption]... If I remembered correctly, the avatars’ ability to absorb mana from killed enemies was derived from this power. And as the source, No. 17’s power was a lot more versatile.
In my case, the lifeforce absorption I could do through my mist now went much more smoothly. Not only that, I could now absorb the heat in my surroundings in order to create cold air.
My combat versatility would be getting a huge boost just from this change alone.
Next... my [Humanoid Form]. Once again, this skill was using the weirdest words to describe improvement... this was better, right? What the hell did it mean by (National Treasure)...? What sort of evaluation was this?
As always, my insides were mist. On the surface, however, I looked one-hundred percent human. Absolutely no difference.
I grew in height, too, perhaps due to my higher density. Upon first gaining a body, I looked about 10 years old, at about 135 centimeters. My next growth put me at 140, and now I was around 145.
But it wasn’t just the height. A few parts of me, such as my cheeks, got a bit of a touch-up, and I was looking more feminine. Did the increase to (National Treasure) have something to do with it? I looked like a perfectly normal 12 years old kid.
But the ears. The thrice-damned ears. And the puff of tail, too. No wonder I kept getting mistaken for a rabbit beastman.
And surprises after surprises, Tiz turned out to be an emperor somewhere. I even got a weird declaration from him. Was it just because I was a rare rabbit race? Well, not like I knew how serious he was, anyway.
Now that I thought about it, there was a very real possibility people would put out a hit for the ‘killer rabbit’ after that rampage. I wasn’t sure how developed this world’s information network was, but maybe I should leave before border control noticed me.
In this respect, I was really lucky to have gotten the Elven Treasure when I did.
It looked like a pretty silver necklace. Supposedly, this was a magitool. According to the explanation on the auction listing, it helped the wearer gain control over the presence they emitted.
No wonder it was an Elven Treasure. The race was full of hunters, after all.
Upon seeing what it did, I thought perhaps it could hide me from [Identification] too.
If my hypothesis was right, [Identification] didn’t simply pull information about the target out of nowhere. The names I saw when I used the skill changed all the time, after all, so it must be relying on the user’s observational and detection skills to output the numbers.
In which case, if I could hide my presence well enough, would it be enough to fool anyone trying to [Identify] me, too? At the very least, they wouldn’t think I was a demon even if they were suspicious of me.
Maybe this was the treasure that those elven kids said was stolen from them. Still, it wasn’t like I could give it back to them now, anyway.
So, plans for the future. I’d need to start gathering information about the final magic stone, the one belonging to No. 08, once I could get inside Anneuf safely.
Twenty days of borrowed time left...
If it was on another continent, I’d be so dead. Still, the three of them agreed to meet up with each other. They had to be on this continent.
Let’s see, the fastest way would be... yeah, it’d be making contact with beta players.
I could tell them the truth, but I didn’t think they’d believe me. No. 01’s story was only barely believable to me due to his – and my own – desperation. Also, if those corporate people found out I was No. 13, they might decide to get rid of my body on Earth.
So I’d need to hide what I knew. I’d need to make contact with the beta players as a native... or in their eyes, as an NPC.
...to be honest, even I thought my plans were really haphazard. Well, not like this was a new thing to me, anyway.
Even if I acquired the information, if my target was far away, I’d be needing more travel expenses. Gotta earn money, too... what a pain. I only had one large gold and three small golds left from the money I took from those traffickers.
I only had a coat, which I was wearing over my blouse and skirt, and a robe left as my spare clothes. I wanted some more clothing, too.
...so many things to do.
Two days later, the train arrived at a port town that was the gateway to the country of Anneuf. I escaped as mist before border control came to inspect the train and disappeared into the town.
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