TNG Vol. 16 Chapter 2 Part 2

Baomultan.

Affectionately called “Baltan” by fans, it was a monster that, despite its horrendous looks, became so popular in THE NEW GATE that it was even turned into merchandise.

It was called “environmental protection monster”, as it visited polluted areas, absorbed the pollution and returned the areas to their normal state.

As a result, in the areas recently visited by Baomultan it was temporarily possible to find high-quality metal and rare plants.

If the player defeated Baomultan before it completely purified an area, it was possible to obtain parts for powerful equipment highly resistant to status ailments.

Because of this, conflicts often broke out between the players who wanted Baomultan’s parts and the players who wanted to gather the materials that appeared after the purification.

“This Baomultan monster isn’t strong?”

“So-so. At full power, it can be a match for Kagerou.”

“And you call that ‘so-so’!? It’s definitely dangerous!!”

“Before the Dusk of Majesty it wasn’t really dangerous. Besides, there were other circumstances in the conflict.”

In the game, a great number of players hunted Baomultans, so no one thought that it was dangerous.

Information about it was commonly available, so the players who couldn’t defeat it did not even try fighting.

There were also other players who chose not to fight it, for different reasons.

They were the “Baltan Protection Squad” and “Baltan Playpals”, organizations outside the scope of guilds.

It sounded like a silly joke, but they actually existed.

At first glance Baomultan looked like an undead dragon, but it actually had a mellow personality and did not attack approaching players unless provoked. It was even possible to touch it a little.

There was a certain player recorded footage of what various monsters did in their natural habitat, how they reacted when players approached etc. and posted it online.

Eventually, the player released a video with Baomultan as target.

A few days after the video was released, things began to unfold.

In the battle between the players who wanted Baomultan’s parts and the players who wanted the parts that appeared after purification of the area, the “Protection Squad” and the “Playpals” suddenly burst in.

The video had instigated the secretly formed community of Baomultan fans into action.

Their stance was close to the players who wanted the parts that appeared after the purification, so the balance of the two factions’ conflict changed greatly.

“Eh? What are you saying? Protecting monsters? Playpals…?”

Shin’s explanation utterly confused Tiera.

For this world’s denizens, monsters were creatures you either fight or run away from. Some made monsters their partners or worshipped them, but they were a very small minority.

“I know it sounds absurd but… Baomultan is just adorable…wait, adorable? No, that’s not it…anyway, it’s hard to just go fight it as soon as you see it.”

Shin didn’t quite know how to explain it.

Maybe it was one of the game settings or they used a simple AI, but Baomultan and some other monsters could recognize players.

In Baomultan’s case, if a player approached it in a peaceful manner and touched it enough times, it would start being interested in the player.

When the player entered Baomultan’s area it would spontaneously approach the player and walk together. 

When the player left Baomultan’s area, it would follow them until the edge of the area and watch the player leave.

Many players were moved by the lonely expression on its face as they left.

The posted video contained such a scene too, so the players interested in interacting with Baomultan increased. What followed could be called the “Baomultan Boom”.

“We started considering Baomultan a source of ‘Moe’…we’re done for…”

“After playing a bit with Baomultan I started thinking that its nickname, ‘Baltan’, isn’t strange at all.”

“ITT: monsters and moe”

“In my head Baltan is a cute loli: degenerate and proud”

These and many other threads popped up like mushrooms. Baomultan’s popularity exceeded even the creators’ imagination.

The fact that it spawned randomly, disappeared after a certain time and was a Divine Beast-like monster, making it impossible to tame, also contributed to its popularity.

It never stayed always in the same place, so after a while the time to say goodbye would definitely come. It was a half forced series of meetings and farewells.

“It’s still a monster, though. There were always players who wanted to defeat it for its parts, so there were often fights between those who wanted to fight Baltan and those who wanted to protect it. Sometimes they both lost, though.”

“Eh? Why, what happened?”

“When Baltan goes into fight mode, it sees all players as enemies. So it would attack the Protection Squad and Playpals too. It doesn’t matter if they had become friends before. The players who wanted to defeat it attacked it like before, while the Protection Squad and Playpals tried to get in their way. And Baomultan attacked all the players. The players who didn’t want to defeat Baomultan were fine with being attacked, so sometimes they clung onto other players and were knocked out together.”

They could do so since they wouldn’t actually die, but it was an incredible episode nonetheless.

It was unknown whether Baomultan had an affection stat.

Maybe it was reset during battle, or maybe when it was attacked it considered those of the same species as the attacker -if the attacker was a monster, all monsters of the same species; if the attacker was a player, all players or all players of the same species as the attacker- as its enemies, or so the players theorized.

“Maybe Baomultan saw them all as the same person. If it was attacked by a certain species, it could see all people of the same species as potential attackers.”

“I wonder. We might know the truth if we could talk with it, but it’s only possible in unique cases.”

Shin replied to Tiera’s words while recalling the monsters he met until now.

The Element Tail and Kagutsuchi were primary examples. Kagerou understood what Shin and the others said, but it couldn’t talk. 

Tamed monsters were the same. They even understood what the tamer wanted them to do from facial expressions and gestures.

“….wait, we could just have Yuzuha translate what it says.”

She did it for Kagerou before. If it was possible with Baomultan, they could communicate with it, Shin said excitedly.

“Kuu, I don’t think it’s possible.”

Yuzuha, however, mercilessly denied such a possibility.

“It’s not the same as you did with Kagerou?”

“Kagerou is like a comrade for me. That’s why I understand. Kagutsuchi is a Divine Beast and it understands human speech too. But Baltan is very different from us.”

Their role in the world, species, and ecology were all different. Yuzuha added that there was not a language common to all monsters.

“I can talk with monsters of my species or similar species, but Baltan and I are too different.”

In this world, most people spoke the same language.

Some species used unique alphabets, but they were only used on very rare occasions within the same species, so not knowing them would never be an inconvenience.

Among human-like creatures, then, there would never be a situation in which communication was impossible.

For Shin and the others, Yuzuha and Baomultan both belonged to the monster category, so they thought that they could communicate normally.

“I see…not all people speak in the same language either, after all. I guess it can’t be that easy.”

In Shin’s former world, it was common for people from different countries to speak different languages. To not be able to communicate with other human beings was a normal occurrence.

Considering this, Yuzuha’s explanation made sense.

They decided that they would try once, just in case, then moved to the next topic— or tried to, but Hydro and Oxygen stopped them.

“What’s wrong, you two?”

“Shin, You’re talking like it’s completely normal, but who is that boy? Or girl? I mean, I see the name, but it’s beyond our imaginations…”

“If what we see is not wrong, it’s an Element Tail? A real one?”

“Kuu?”

Oxygen and Hydro stared intently at Yuzuha, who was perplexed by their reaction. Shin’s party was used to her, but their reaction was the normal one.

Shin had asked them to stop calling him master, so both Oxygen and Hydro started addressing him without titles.

“Yes, she’s a real Element Tail. A lot of things happened, and now she’s my partner monster.”

“I thought Divine Beasts were impossible to tame, but you overcame even that…I’d like to know what happened in detail. Oh, and can we take some of her hair as a sample? I’d like to perform an endurance test.”

“I’m intrigued too. Could we have some tears too? There’s a concoction I would like to try.”

“Hey now, you two…”

Shin was sure that they were really interested only in experimenting. After hearing the conversation, Yuzuha hid behind him.

“Hahaha, we are just joking, of course. We would never use Shin’s partner for an experiment!”

“Of course not~.”

“It doesn’t sound like a joke when you two say it…”

“True, true.”

Filma commented with a sigh, followed by Sety nodding. They were a High Lord and High Pixie duo, so their words and movements were pretty similar.

“Hmm, I suppose we went a little overboard. Let us be a little more serious, then.”

“Just a little?”

“Hahaha!”

Shin wondered if Hydro had always been like that, but he didn’t know the other support characters’ personalities in detail, so he concluded that she probably was always like this.

“Back to the topic of Baltan, then.”

Shin returned the conversation on the right track and Tiera raised a hand.

“Ehm, that…Baltan, right? It appears to purify the land, right? In that case, I might be able to help too.”

Shin had started calling Baomultan by its nickname, so Tiera adopted it too.

After learning about Baomultan’s abilities, she thought that maybe she could help it with her own.

Shin, however, shook his head.

“No, Baltan’s purification has nothing to do with miasma. Everyone started saying it absorbed pollution, so that became the common term, but it actually isn’t all bad stuff. I guess it would be more correct to say that…it takes in minerals that are oversaturated in one spot and redistribute them. When certain things accumulate too much in the same place, the environment and ecology can be damaged.”

“So it’s like when plants absorb too much nutrients and dry up instead?”

Tiera apparently grasped the concept and tried giving her own interpretation.

Its redistribution of materials was the reason why Baltan was called the “environmental protection” monster.

Probably because of the game settings, unnatural concentrations of specific materials sometimes randomly appeared. After Baomultan appeared, the affected area would return to normal.

The areas visited by Baomultan became rich in resources because their balance was restored and resources were better distributed, or so the players thought.

It wasn’t enough to explain the phenomenon, but in this world there were many elements that did not exist in reality, so accepting that explanation was the only way.

Baomultan could even restore haunted forests and cursed lands, so it definitely had abilities other than absorption.

“Yes, I think you got the gist of it. Of course, it also absorbs materials that would clearly have negative effects. I didn’t see it all with my own eyes, so you just need to remember that it doesn’t just remove impurities.”

“Okay. So does that mean that there is an unnatural concentration of something in Romenun now? If you say that the vegetation is currently receiving negative effects, I think I can see it…”

Tiera recalled the plants she saw on her way to the building. 

Elves could sense the state of plants and the earth. She had felt that the situation was like what Shin explained.

“No, that’s not it. Baomultan didn’t come to purify Romenun.”

“I thought so. That’s the normal state of Romenun’s vegetation, after all.”

Oxygen answered Tiera’s question, then Schnee interjected.

Tiera was mildly shocked to learn that the plants she saw were in their “normal” state, and rightfully so.

Baomultan often appeared in areas so unnaturally changed that they seemed to be rotting, in decay.

Around Romenun there were many plants scattering status ailments only because of the effects of the guild house, but the land itself was in its normal state.

“…is it Durgin?”

Shin mentioned the name of a monster that formed a “duo” with Baomultan.

Durgin also removed pollution from the earth, but it didn’t purify it like Baomultan, it simply absorbed noxious elements into its body.

The difference was that it couldn’t purify the land like Baomultan did.

“Correct. I think it happened about 500 years ago, after there was a large tremor and Romenun’s position changed from its original one. A Durgin fell on the area next to Romenun, and it was larger than any Durgin I had ever seen.”

Hydro’s words suggested that she probably did not know about the Dusk of Majesty. The tremors and Romenun’s movement were probably caused by the crustal shift that occurred after the Dusk of Majesty.

Durgin fell into a lake formed by the crustal shift, but did not float to the surface or move.

Hydro added that the fall probably killed it, or it was already dead.

“After that, it was truly horrible. Maybe because it released everything it had absorbed until then, the lake turned a nasty color and the smell was foul too. The land around it started changing colors too. The area under Romenun’s influence was safe, but the rest turned a horrible color, a sort of greenish-black, in a radius of about 5 kemel.”

The land was dying: it was a scenery so horrible that such words came to mind.

The Durgin had probably absorbed noxious elements beyond its capacity and then turned into a poison itself.

It was said that some could contaminate the earth when they landed and could spoil the very air.

In such a situation, the original relationship of Durgin gathering pollution and Baomultan purifying would be broken.

Baomultan could not purify such an extent of pollution.

“If I recall correctly, the first Baomultan arrived about 1 year later, right?”

“Yes, I think that’s about right. The Durgin was pretty large, so the Baomultan was rather large too. We’re used to seeing it by now, so it doesn’t really feel big anymore.”

Oxygen thought for a bit, then replied to Hydro’s question.

“The first? Do you mean that others came?”

Shin thought that the first Baomultan probably failed to purify the pollution completely, but Hydro and Oxygen both shook their heads.

“No, only one Baomultan came. It probably reached full capacity, though, because it didn’t stay long.”

It couldn’t fully purify the pollution and was severely exhausted, so after about 1 year it died.

“From here started phenomenons outside our knowledge. We were really surprised, I tell you. We tried burying the dead Baomultan, but its corpse disappeared, replaced by another Baomultan.”

More precisely, the remains of the dead Baomultan slowly turned transparent and disappeared, then after it vanished completely another Baomultan appeared out of the empty space.

“After witnessing it, I thought that Baomultan had a phoenix-like ability, that allowed it to return to life after death.”

“I, instead, thought that Baomultan wasn’t a monster, but a purification device created by the planet to protect itself.”

They were both researchers at heart, so they started theorizing about Baomultan’s abilities.

Thinking about it, how did monsters increase?

Some monster species had both male and female versions, but they were rare cases.

Cashmere’s monster ranch mainly housed tamed monsters.

Shin had heard Cashmere mention about monster babies being born, so she might have been knowledgeable about it.

“Okay, setting Baomultan’s ecology aside for a moment…how’s the current situation?”

“The purification progressed, I’d like to say, but it looks like it will still take a long time. Just how much had that Durgin accumulated? Since we know how it looked like at first, we can tell that things are getting better, but I guess it will look different in your eyes. We can only stay in that area for 30 minutes max.”

Baomultan’s area was on the opposite side of the direction Shin’s party came from, beyond Romenun.

Shin knew that Hydro and Oxygen had high resistance to status ailments, as they had to perform all sorts of experiments, so if even they had a time limit the area had to be incredibly polluted.

“Should I go take a look?”

“It would be really helpful. We’ll explain what we discovered first. You’ll probably find it hard to believe, though.”

After this premise, Hydro started talking.

At first, not even moss would grow in the polluted area.

At present the lake looked very different, it changed from a mass of sludge to a blue surface.

Even if it looked clean, though, it was actually something like sulfuric acid, a liquid that would melt anything it touched. The lake was also continuously spewing toxic gas.

The land too had regained a natural-looking color, but it exhaled toxic gases too, different than the ones emanating from the lake.

The toxic gases from the lake and the ground interacted with each other and covered the ground in a sort of mist 1-2 cemel thick. It had to be cleared before you could see the actual ground. 

Another phenomenon that Hydro and Oxygen did not know about also occurred.

“There are flowers blooming. A lot of flowers of all colors, covering the ground…or, considering how it looks, covering the fog.”

Various flowers in full bloom, without any respect for the season, their usual habitat or the original vegetation.

“Are they really flowers?”

“We wondered that too and researched them, but did not find any poison or elements they wouldn’t naturally have. The fact that they grow and bloom there is unnatural, but we could not find anything strange about the flowers themselves.”

“The vapors, poison gas and the mist emanated by the lake and the ground are all noxious for plants. We can say with certainty that there are no places in that area without poison. Normally, it would be impossible for any plant to grow there. We tried planting Bluehinnes and Harbellas, which can absorb poison, but they shriveled and died in half a day.”

Hydro mentioned plants that were also used as ingredients for antidotes and potions that gradually restored HP. Shin was familiar with them too and knew their effects well.

Those plants had strong antitoxin effects and should be able to withstand even very strong poison. If they could only live for half a day, the area they were planted in had to be a land of death.

“Is Baltan exhibiting any strange behavior?”

If the situation was so unnatural, it might have affected the Baomultan too, so Shin asked about it to Hydro.

“It isn’t acting differently from what I know about it, at least for now. It moves a bit in the area, but it generally simply stares at the lake.”

“Normally it just needs to be there for the purification to take place. As far as we have observed, it’s completely calm.”

Baomultan did not need to eat. It was so docile that you could approach it and touch it, so it hadn’t caused problems at the moment.

Its personality was just as Shin remembered; Hydro and Oxygen had interacted with it several times, so now it recognized them as individuals.

“I see…”

Shin noticed something in what Hydro and Oxygen said.

When Baomultan completed a purification, it normally lied down on the ground and disappeared. Then useful metals could be excavated from the ground and the ground itself grew richer.

Judging from the way it disappeared, it didn’t look like it died, but more like it completed its task and was teleported somewhere else.

It sometimes looked at the players before disappearing; there had been barely any reports that a Baomultan died before fully purifying an area, too.

“…you said that it died many times, right? Do its remains disappear every time?” 

Shin thought that if its remains did not disappear Hydro and Oxygen would have collected them for research, so he asked them about it.

“That always goes according to knowledge. We have witnessed it collapse multiple times, but it turned transparent and disappeared every time.”

“…by the way, the flowers started blooming after the first Baltan died, right?”

“Yes, I think so?”

Hydro said that the first Baltan appeared about 1 year after the Durgin fell. It was more than 500 years ago already.

Hydro asked Oxygen for confirmation, but after such a long time he couldn’t say it with confidence either.

“Please wait a moment. The research records from that time….here they are. Let’s see, 351 days after Baltan died the first sprouts were found, which increased day by day. Eventually they increased so much that we couldn’t keep track of the exact number.”

Oxygen and Hydro could stay in the polluted area only for a limited time, so they couldn’t record the exact number of the flowers.

“As expected of a researcher, you kept really precise records.”

Shin was impressed, he knew he wouldn’t be that diligent.

“Observation and recording are the basis of research, after all. This is all we have observed in the polluted area. Then there’s one thing that we noticed.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s about the remains of the Durgin in the lake. Since Durgins and Baomultans are a set, we thought that the Durgin might come back to life too. It hasn’t moved at all in 500 years, though.”

It was a concern, but still just a possibility. Differently from Baomultans, Durgins were aggressive, so their ecology was still for the most part unknown.

“We’ve built a long relationship with that Baomultan, at this point. It looks like its memory resets every time it resurrects, but we’ve watched over it all this time, so we’re kind of attached. It’s nearing its limit now, so we might be getting a little nervous.”

About 10 years passed since the current Baomultan appeared, so based on past trends it should be nearing its death, Hydro continued.

Berett said that they couldn’t approach the area, but if Hydro and Oxygen wanted they could leave Romenun.

The reason why they did not do so was Baomultan’s presence. Even if it was a monster, they had grown attached to it.

“Let’s go take a look after lunch, then. I don’t know if I’ll be able to find out anything, but I want to see it with my own eyes. Even if it comes back to life, I’m sure I can chase it away.”

Shin trusted Hydro and Oxygen’s words, but after seeing the situation with his own eyes he could have a different impression.

Additionally, using skills such as 【Through Sight】, 【Far Sight】, and 【Clairvoyance】 he might also find out something about the Durgin’s remains.

“Thank you. We are pretty confident in our research skills, but as you know our fighting power is low!”

“Not much we can do about it.”

“No reason to be proud about it either…”

Hydro and Oxygen were far superior to average players in their field of research, but being specialized in research meant that their fighting power was low, or rather, they had little to no battle experience.

Even with level and stats inferior to theirs, it wouldn’t be difficult to defeat them with some battle experience.

Depending on the situation, Tiera could probably win too.

“Besides, if you use the items you invented you can even win against people with higher stats, right?”

“Well, that’s our job after all.”

Oxygen replied while blushing and Shin sighed.

They had little fighting experience and some of their stats were on the same level as advanced Chosen Ones, or a little lower. The stats they focused less on were probably around 300.

The tools they developed, however, covered such disadvantages more than enough. Battles weren’t only about punching each other, after all: they used all sorts of items causing status ailments.

Items that prevented status ailments were extremely rare and depending on the quality of the materials and skill of the creator, it could be possible to break through the protective effects of such items.

Hydro and Oxygen’s master was Hecate, the most knowledgeable among all Rokuten members about item crafting.

The items and materials she used had completely different rarity.

Normal resistances and immunities meant nothing: her items would break through them, inflict all sorts of status ailments and gradually lead the opponent to a nightmarish death.

Even Shin was careful not to risk having to fight her, despite being protected by most status ailments by his high immunities.

“I bet you made lots more in these 500 years.”

“Indeed, they have surely created dangerous items we have never heard of.”

“You know, there’s a word for people like you: “mad scientist”.”

Filma and Shibaid agreed that Hydro and Oxygen probably had many more dangerous tools up their sleeves, and Sety used a word she learned who knows where.

Shin mentally agreed with all three of them.

“Let’s talk again after lunch. I’ll borrow the kitchen, then.”

“Oh, it sure is nice to be able to eat Schnee’s cooking after all this time. Do you need me to show you the way?”

“No, I remember where it was. Do you have enough ingredients? I can bring more if you need anything.”

“I harvested this morning, but with these many people we’ll need a little more. I’ll go pick them up.”

“I’ll help you, then. I want to see what you have too.”

“Understood. Come this way, then.”

Hydro started walking in an affected way, maybe because she was leading Schnee.

Schnee sighed a little. Apparently Hydro’s passion for cute and beautiful things was still present.

“Sorry about her. Schnee is beautiful, so Hydro is feeling excited for the first time in a while.”

“I know she’s that kind of person, don’t worry.”

Oxygen explained apologetically, but Shin told him not to worry. His personality was not as extreme as Hydro: on the contrary, he was pretty normal.

“Hmm, what can I say, I’m speechless.”

“I truly lament my lack of vocabulary.”

Oxygen and Hydro both felt their expression loosen as they tasted Schnee’s cooking.

Schnee prepared a simple menu: salad, soup, and pasta (carbonara).

The ingredients grown in Romenun had very high quality, thanks to the soil, fertilizer, and environment. Cooked with Schnee’s expertise, they would surely turn delicious.

Shin and the others were very satisfied too, of course.

“Cooking, hmm. I always thought that as long as you could have the necessary nutrition you didn’t need anything else, but after tasting something so delicious I must change my mind.”

“We can’t recreate this ourselves, though.”

“You have the time, so why don’t you train your Cooking skill?”

“That time is for research!!”

Oxygen and Hydro turned down Schnee’s proposal in unison.

If they had the time to train their Cooking skill or anything else, they would use it for research. That was the basis for all their actions.

They were concerned about Baomultan also because it was a subject of research.

Many researchers cared little for anything they were not interested in. So Oxygen and Hydro had been created, and remained like that even now.

“That contradicts what you just said…”

“I said that I would have a change of mind, not that I would train my Cooking skill.”

“That’s just sophistry!”

Hydro did not seem to even register Filma and Sety’s interjections. In a way, she was refreshingly frank about it.

“We have had our enjoyment, now shall we proceed to the research? I’d like to observe you too, Shin, it’s been a while.”

“What did you say now, all casually like that?”

Even High Humans were subjects of observation. Oxygen and Hydro had not changed at all.

Shin checked how much poison resistance their equipment had. If it was higher than the equipment of Shin’s party, it would be dangerous for them to enter the area.

“I should have expected it, your equipment’s specs are higher than ours. To think there is such a gap between the items we made and the ones made by Shin.”

“The materials’ rarity is different too. The technique isn’t enough to cover for the base materials’ quality, after all.”

Hydro and Oxygen looked at Shin’s equipment and expressed their opinions.

Shin thought they were using equipment Hecate gave them, but they were both using gear they crafted themselves.

“If we used the equipment Mistress Hecate gave us, we could probably stay in the area longer. We have our pride as researchers, though. We cannot rely forever on something that was given to us, you see”

Both Oxygen and Hydro strove to continue their research in order to one day create something on par too, then superior to Hecate’s creations.

“We’re going to use it this time, though. We cannot become a burden for you.”

“Can I see that equipment too, then?”

“Yes, please. But I think you made these, Shin.”

Oxygen then showed Shin an accessory he knew well, the 『Age of Gods Earring』.

On request by Hecate, it was specialized to prevent and weaken status ailments caused via physical matter and even weaken the effects of attacks that broke through status ailment immunity, often used by the highest class of monsters.

Shin crafted them with the highest rarity materials available at the time, so paired with a High Human’s natural resistances they could prevent most status ailments not caused by magic.

“Your goal is this?”

“That’s right. The materials are too rare for us to obtain, so we’re trying to get closer to it with other methods.”

“We still have a long way to go, though.”

“The results are showing, though. At least, back then I couldn’t have attached so many effects to these materials.”

Shin talked while looking at the full-face gas masks Oxygen and Hydro had created, called Prototype 6522.

Even with a high crafting level and advanced facilities, if the quality of the materials was poor there was a limit to what one could do.

Shin knew more or less what effects could be attached to the materials used to make Prototype 6522, and concluded that he wouldn’t have been able to craft the items he was looking at.

It was the result of Oxygen and Hydro’s efforts.

“It truly feels rewarding to hear that.”

“That’s right…”

Oxygen and Hydro smiled proudly, praised by the creator of the items they were aspiring to one day overcome.

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