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Three months had passed since the beginning of the beta test of the VRMMORPG World of Yggdrasia. Despite original plans calling for a six-months test, the official game release had just recently been announced.

The official reason for the early release, as the public knew it, was because of “great beta player response” and “to scratch the itch of everyone who weren’t chosen as beta testers”. Meanwhile, those more aware of the situation suspected interference from the game’s financial backer – the government.

To some extent, both were true: it was true that there was great customer demand for the full release, and it was also true that the government was hurrying the development. Yet there was an even deeper reason, a secret only known to the upper echelons of the project.

Within the terminal care medical facility of the 7th research center of a certain pharmaceutical and defense conglomerate, an accident resulting in the death of nearly all staff members had happened.

Casualties numbered over seven hundred. While some sort of bladed weapon had claimed the lives of some, including all the security officers, the vast majority of victims had died from hypothermia. Their bodies were found inside an environmental chamber, a room equipped with perfect temperature and humidity control capability.

The cold wave must have been extremely rapid, as there were hardly any lucky survivors who managed to escape through the windows. The less fortunate had turned into ice sculptures littering the path to the outside. Clinging to the glass in despair were frozen statues of those who hadn’t been quick enough to open their own windows before the frost welded them shut.

Hypothermic deaths in a closed room. Such a mysterious, almost supernatural incident was certainly worthy of attention, yet the upper echelons remained far more interested in the culprit of the matter.

A white girl in a red dress with rabbit ears.

She was uncannily similar to the rabbit beastman girl who had been witnessed single-handedly destroying multiple experimental weaponized monster avatars within World of Yggdrasia.

According to the testimonies of the survivors and what the cameras had captured before the cold shattered their lens, the girl had looked nearly identical to No. 13, a subject of the first monster avatar test who had been transported to the collection facility following her mental collapse and coma. However, the culprit of the incident had looked older than No. 13, and so the link remained unproven.

The government and the corporation’s leaders had certainly noticed the high combat power she displayed even when limited in a humanoid form, but they were far more interested in the possible existence of the ability to cross between worlds that she might have possessed. They began thinking about using the players as local eyes to help them capture The Girl.

The number of potential players, people who were expected to be buying the official release, was at least three millions. By setting her up to be the final villain of the game, the Dark Lady, the players’ enthusiasm could easily be directed toward the rabbit hunt.

To that end, player battles weren’t the only videos shown at the announcement for the official release of World of Yggdrasia. The game developers had also included a few combat scenes with monster avatars. Even footage of The Girl in a red dress massacring the facility staff members — an incident that had been quietly processed behind closed doors — were edited and presented as if it was simply a high-quality CG video. The scenes of carnage poured more fuel onto the players’ interest in her.

There were several changes from the beta version to the official version.

First was the halved-magic death penalty. In order to let the players have more fun with the game and have less reservations about dying, the penalty was reduced to thirty percent.

Second, implementation of the feature to change one’s appearance and equipment that wouldn’t drop upon death. Both could be bought in the in-game store.

Third, addressing the issue of transportation that a subgroup of players had reported, mainly by adding more train lines and dispensing discount tickets. The developers had also reiterated that as the in-game countries were generally around the same size as real-world countries, players were recommended to have fun within the area they spawned in first before looking beyond.

Fourth, an addition to Terms and Conditions. When a lawbreaking player was arrested in a city, they would now immediately receive an official notice of character deletion. If their activities were deemed overly offensive and had affected other players as well, then even their account might be deleted.

And finally, the implementation of a feature long-awaited by many players: monster avatars.

Just as always, the VR chat boards of World of Yggdrasia were aflame with talks of the official release.

“The standard game will be priced at $69. The limited First Edition release, which included a ⅙ Fluffy Bunny figurine, will retail for $198.” “Fucking expensive! Still buying though.” “Oh… so whoever making those fan figurines must have gotten a C&D, then…” “Actually, I heard they got an exclusive contract instead, and that they’ll be working on the rumored ‘grown-up version’ too.” “I suppose now that the Fluffy Bunny has become the Dark Lady, the devs are putting a stop to sales of fan merchandise, then...” “So... I guess figure A’s gonna be the twelve-year old casual-wear version? Then B must be the fourteen-year old Dark Lady dress version? “Never would have thought the game’s final boss was hiding inside a player-held event. What the hell were the devs smoking? Gimme some.” “A bunny suit? But isn’t it a dress?” “It looks kinda like a bunny suit if you ignore the skirt.” “Shit, I can’t decide which to buy. The first kid version’s so cute, while the teenage one’s even a little bit sexy too.” “Why not both? Better be quick though, otherwise the resellers are going to buy it all up.” “So monster avatars are finally here… what’s it like? Would I need a separate account?” “You’ll need to buy the new $19.80 DLC, which is also a lot more difficult. Tons of restrictions, too. You can create a monster character in parallel to your main human one. Apparently if you get discovered by humans, it’s pretty much a 100% chance they’ll be hostile.” “Holy shit, that’s rough. Can you fight human players?” “Considering what sort of game this is, I’m pretty sure you can even fight human NPCs if you wanted to. There’s probably gonna be a hunting force out for your head sooner or later, though.” “Wait a minute… does it mean I can join the Fluffy Bunny’s side?” “The devs might be expecting that too. You’ll have to actually find out where she is first, though.” “Alright, I’m pumped! I’m gonna be the Bunny’s pet!”
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