Surrounded by the towering mountain range was a green giant several times larger.
Just how enormous was it…? While the air here was certainly a lot cleaner than Earth’s, I still could not believe I was actually seeing the silhouette of a tree thousands of kilometers away.
The World Tree… together with the ninety-nine saplings, they served as the cornerstones of this world.
…wait, no, this wasn’t the time to be admiring scenery. That ‘thousands of kilometers’ was exactly what I must cross.
More explosive wind bullets appeared out of nowhere. I promptly dashed away.
The militarized monster avatars, driven by secret beta testers, showed themselves. Five black cricket-spiders galloped after me on their eight legs, shooting their spells all the while.
It had been twenty-four hours since my first encounter with the cricket-spiders. They never stopped attacking. Every time they ran out of magic and left, they would return a few hours after. Or just ten minutes, if luck was being particularly uncharitable.
They would just revive if I killed them. They weren’t getting the penalty to their magic like normal beta players, but they should still be losing the amount I drained from them. Yet to the contrary, it seemed their magic was even slightly increasing. Perhaps they were taking turns killing monsters or humans somewhere else.
Even when I was recovering thirty percent every hour, it still wasn’t enough. My current magic was already down to half capacity.
I really couldn’t afford to keep fighting them. I stayed as human and ran toward the sea.
I was ‘the demon of tempestuous mist that ravages the northern seas’, so I could cross the ocean just fine if I turned to mist here. But with the threat of wind bullets looming behind me, I didn’t dare.
Flight as a human was possible too, but keeping it up for long hours would be rough on me, plus I’d lose a lot of my maneuverability. So I decided to just run on the water.
The mist from my feet froze the waves with each step I took.
Not very stable footing, but it would suffice. I kept up my speed. Their attempts to follow me ended in shattered ice and drowning spiders.
Really… were they even using their eyes? Why did they think my ice could support their weight?
Six days of borrowed time left.
Considering I’d have to cross the ocean, the mountain range, then another strip of ocean to reach the Central Island where the World Tree was, I was cutting it really close.
I kept on running on the frozen path for a whole day and night. As I expected, the sea had stopped any further attacks. Still, I had to constantly create mist, so I didn’t recover all that much magic.
Perhaps I should just accept the loss of secrecy and go all-out as flying mist? I couldn’t decide. Especially when there were still drones watching me from beyond my attack range even now.
A giant shark attacked me on the way. I kept up my speed, leaving behind a sinking frozen fish.
Four days of borrowed time left.
I could finally see the shore. The regions around the World Tree and its Saplings generally had mild climate and an abundance of greenery, yet the mountains here had nothing but precipitous cliffs, its rock face permitting no life.
So this was why the secret beta testers didn’t attack me on the ocean. They were setting up an ambush here! Over forty cricket spiders were occupying the relatively more level areas of the shoreline, waiting for my arrival.
The ten foremost spiders fired their wind bullets in unison. I immediately stopped creating mist and dove into the ocean.
I supposed it wasn’t time to worry about keeping secrets, then…
With the full strength of my magic, I carved out an enormous chunk of frozen ocean to throw at them. They immediately blew it apart. I fully transformed into mist, blasting through the ice fragments and their ambush. I left behind several spider popsicles as I began climbing the mountain.
But there was a surprise waiting for me. A surprise that, I was convinced, was also unknown to the secret beta testers.
There was a reason why no one ever reached the World Tree without following the official path. The mountains itself rejected all intruders.