TNG Vol. 18 Chapter 1 Part 1

In order to halt the unprecedented advance of a massive monster horde on the Dragon Empire of Kilmont, Shin and his party participated in the construction of a great defensive wall.

Thanks to their efforts, the battle was nearing an end: at that time, the swarm of shapeshifting monsters, which had maintained a neutral stance until then, moved towards Shin’s position — while eliminating the other monsters in their path.

The giant slime monster leading the group, Gelganger, morphed into the silhouette of an old gentleman with slicked back white hair…

~

“Pleased to make your acquaintance. I have come to meet Lord Shin as per my master’s orders.”

“You came to meet me?”

Shin carefully observed the old gentleman formerly known as Gelganger.

Even if it was a shapeshifting monster, the size and silhouette were too different from the original one.

Being capable of human speech, coupled with its near perfect reproduction of a human being, made the Gelganger a creature Shin had never known before. There was no reason not to be cautious.

“My master wishes to speak with you, Lord Shin. Due to certain circumstances, however, they cannot move beyond certain limits. I fully understand how brazen such a request may seem, but I have thus come to humbly petition Lord Shin to visit my master.”

“I’ve been told that you monsters were created by the magic power overflowing from the Sacred Place. Especially this time, the massive spawn of monsters started fighting among themselves?”

Gelganger’s so-called “master” had prepared a “welcome” for Shin, in order to have the chance to meet him. In that light, the current monster horde was an unnecessarily dangerous means for such an end.

“I surmise that it becomes necessary to speak of the circumstances behind my master’s birth. I am afraid it will require a bit of time to do so however. Would that be acceptable for you, Lord Shin?”

“No problem, I’m listening.”

Shibaid and Sety were still fighting, but thanks to the shapeshifting monsters’ reinforcements, there was no actual danger anymore.

Based on the monsters’ movements, Shin judged that if they were planning something, the target was likely him; he told Schnee — who had come close to his position — to conceal her presence and stand by.

“As you are surely already aware, the monsters you have been engaging are divided into three categories. On that lone island, which you define as the source of magic power, there are three cities — three of what you call “Sacred Places”. The monsters spawned in the current event were born from each of them. Finally, my master supervises one of these three locations.”

“There are…three Sacred Places?”

Shin was mildly confused: he had never heard of such a thing before.

He asked Schnee and Shibaid for confirmation via Mind Chat, but the information gathered until then only mentioned one Sacred Place apparently.

The Empire’s investigations only covered the areas close to the continent, however: more than half of the island was still unexplored. It would not be impossible for two more Sacred Places to exist there.

“My master also said that you will understand if I introduce them as a ‘Boundary Guardian’.”

“Hmm…the last one of those I met tried killing me out of the blue though?”

Ishkar — or more precisely, the Guardian that took control of it — had even erected a barrier in order not to let anyone other than Shin onto the battlefield.

There was no time for peaceful conversation, as the Gelganger proposed.

If the Gelganger’s master was truly a “Boundary Guardian”, its actions became more suspicious.

Shin honestly thought that it would be more convincing if it all turned out to be a trap and they started fighting as soon as he arrived in the master’s area.

“My master is what you would call an exception among the Guardians. It is not a rare occurrence for us to be subject to attacks from the two Sacred Places located next to ours.”

“Why would something like that happen?”

Shin was positive that all Boundary Guardians were hostile to him.

Meeting one meant starting a fight to the death: there was no room for any words or negotiation, nor was there any information about them. If it was possible to gather even a little bit of intel, it was worth the risk to meet the “master”, or so Shin thought.

“The ‘Boundary Guardians’ are the protectors of this world itself. It appears that they did not view positively the appearance of those called ‘Players’, but they had reasons to tolerate them. That does not go for you, however, Lord Shin. Surely you are already aware that you possess something other Players do not. To be considered such an abnormality is certainly not in your intentions, but it is a sort of instinctual reaction for the Guardians to do so. Their actions are limited to specified areas, however, so they cannot attack you directly. It is definitely something vexing for them: that is probably the reason why you were attacked without a word in between.”

Gelganger was quite the talkative “person”. If Shin had not witnessed his slime form, he would hardly believe he was talking with a monster.

“So based on what you said, all Guardians are restricted to certain areas?”

“As far as I am aware, yes. The Guardians residing in Sacred Places are all barred from leaving them. That is the first and foremost reason as to why my master could not personally appear before you.”

Shin thought that the explanation made sense. Most of it matched with his experiences.

He decided to set aside whether to believe Gelganger’s words or not, for the moment.

“About the ‘Flood’, then…this massive spawn of monsters. Why did it happen? We have suffered severe damage and casualties because of it. You’re not going to say that it was all to look for me, are you?”

The monsters had been fighting among themselves. Even in that case, however, Shin wasn’t going to accept the excuse that the monster hordes had spawned in order to find him.

“In order to avoid any harmful misunderstandings, allow me to explain that the massive spawn of monsters — a phenomenon which you call ‘Flood’ — , caused by the overflowing of magic power from the Sacred Places, is not caused on purpose by the masters of the Sacred Places.”

“What do you mean by that?”

Shin frowned, wondering if there were two types of Floods: those caused on purpose, and others happening spontaneously.

“The magic power leaking from the Sacred Places is the same magic power emanated by all living creatures. It is possible to subdue it to a point, of course, but doing so would decrease the number of monsters protecting the Sacred Places, which would create a risk of invasion from outside threats. Because of this, a certain degree of magic power has to be released continuously. The ‘Floods’ humans deal with are the result of the transformation of part of such magic power I imagine.”

“They are not created with hostile intentions, is that what you mean?”

Regardless of the reason, the existence of such monster attacks was a fact that could not be accepted so easily.

Shin glared at Gelganger, and the white-haired gentleman shuddered. It looked just like a ripple traveling through a surface of water.

“We do not give such orders. I understand, however, that humans and their settlements suffer because of such monster attacks. I am sure that you cannot accept such a reason; that is precisely why my master wishes to speak with you. If I may hazard a guess, my master is thinking of ways to reduce or even nullify the burden of those protecting human settlements against monster attacks.”

“You’re the messenger, aren’t you? Why can’t you tell us everything directly?”

You might as well spit out everything, if you can, or so Shin honestly thought.

“There are limits to what I am allowed to say, and to my knowledge as well. Unlike you, Lord Shin, and your esteemed comrades, I do not possess the means to contact others over long distances. I am afraid that you will have to speak with my master for further details.”

Gelganger had spoken at length already, but in the end it was just a messenger.

“I guess that’s inevitable…by the way, you mentioned the circumstances you were created in before. What about that?”

“As you surely have noticed, we have been fighting the other monsters after we appeared.”

“Yes, that’s why we had the time to build the wall and set up traps.”

Shin looked to the side.

Thanks to the shapeshifting monsters absorbing the corpses of other monsters, the scene of carnage had returned to a relatively normal scenery.

After all, they could not leave such a large quantity of monster remains there like that.

If Gelganger and its followers had not come, Shin’s party would have had to use item boxes to collect the remains.

“That was a process to let powerful monsters grow stronger. Magic power would be gathered around specific monsters created by the master, to give form to groups of monsters once enough magic power is accumulated, so that those powerful monsters, such as I, can level up quickly and effectively. This is the truth behind the massive spawn of monsters. In this case, however, the other powerful monsters created in the same fashion had different objectives.”

Shin realized it was basically a form of power leveling.

If it was possible to create monsters at will, then this kind of method was feasible as well: players used such strategies in the past too. There was no reason for monsters with enough intellect not to be able to do the same.

“My master, due to certain circumstances, was researching the beings living on this continent. They thus obtained information that created the necessity of giving birth to monsters like me.”

“Might I ask what that information is?”

“Naturally. It is something deeply connected with you after all, Lord Shin.”

Shin wondered what this “deeply connected” information could be.

The first connections that came to mind were Demons and Devils. There was no denying that he was connected to both.

He could not think of anything else grave enough to force a Boundary Guardian to act.

“The information in question regards the World Tree. Due to the loss of the World Tree, this world’s self-purifying function was lost as well, prompting the appearance of Reforgerer. That being is part of this world’s system, but it is also capable of destroying the world. Because of that, my master has decided to investigate the events that transpired.”

“Eh…?”

The answer was very unexpected for Shin, so he couldn’t help but react out loud.

One reason for his surprise was that he was directly connected with the event; another one was how slow the Guardians responded. The events in Lanapacea had happened quite a while ago.

Filma and Yuzuha probably thought the same thing: they glanced at Shin, who replied via Mind Chat to listen to what else Gelganger was going to say for the moment.

“The other Sacred Place masters, while their stances might be different, reached a similar conclusion and started their own investigations. The only method they possess, however, is to release monsters under their command, which led to the current commotion. It would have been optimal if we could arrange negotiations with the empire beforehand, but other than my master, the other Sacred Place masters have very little interest in human beings…to be perfectly honest, we should agree that it was fortunate for the timing of the monster spawns from all Sacred Places were the same.”

Gelganger probably took Shin’s surprised reaction as to mean he did not know about the Reforgerer events and continued.

Shin and his party, on the other hand, could not help thinking that there had to be other ways to deal with the situation.

“I and other monsters were released from the Sacred Places, on the basis that we would share any and all information we obtained. We located you, Lord Shin, however, so the orders to investigate turned into orders to attack.”

“Defeating me is more important than investigating the Reforgerer? A monster that can destroy the whole world?”

Gelganger added that the monsters were ordered to attack Shin if they ever found him from the start, but their priorities seemed nothing but skewed to Shin.

“Reforgerer’s rampage does not entail the death of all living beings, you see. After cleansing all of the impurities, Reforgerer becomes a hotbed for new life, as a new world takes shape. We were ordered to investigate Reforgerer, but not to defeat or stop it. We were to find out only where it appeared and what it was doing.”

Reforgerer’s appearance was a way for the world to purify itself. The Boundary Guardians seemed to think that if a world was impure enough to trigger Reforgerer’s appearance, it might as well be created anew.

In other words, a reset of the whole world.

Even if Reforgerer accomplished its function, new life would be born, gradually giving shape to a new world. The Guardians allowed for such a development, apparently.

“So that’s why they took their sweet time with it.”

“That is correct. The Guardians are not on the side of you humans.”

Their stance was to protect the world, but not all living creatures in it, apparently.

“Nevertheless, your master is calling for me.”

“Yes. As I mentioned before, my master views things in a slightly different way. They do not disapprove of your existence.”

A Boundary Guardian that did not disapprove of Shin’s existence, despite him being something of a natural enemy for them. Shin could understand how that could attract the other Guardians’ ire.

“Why is that, if I may ask?”

“Unfortunately, I was not told the reason.”

“Then…what did you mean by relieving the burden of defending this area?”

“That is simple: if my master gains control of the other Guardians’ Sacred Places, there will be no need to release magic power to create monsters to defend our territory. In that case, the magic power flowing to this continent will cease as well. Without magic power flowing from the Sacred Places, there will be no massive spawns of monsters either.”

Apparently, Gelganger’s master was even open to negotiations with the empire.

The empire’s finances would be greatly relieved if they didn’t have to bear the burden of defending the frontlines. There would be more leeway for developing the region or enacting new policies for the people.

The area was always left undeveloped because of the monsters’ attacks, but if all went well they could finally put it to use. The empire would gain tremendously from such an arrangement.

“(If it’s really possible, the empire would definitely benefit from it.)”

Shibaid, who was receiving Gelganger’s information via Mind Chat, expressed his thoughts.

“(Is there anything that worries you?)”

“(If monsters stop spawning, it would be a very positive development, in more ways than one. But is it really a good idea to defeat one of the creatures protecting the world?)”

Shin and his party would never accept being targeted and were ready to defeat anyone that attacked them. The Boundary Guardians, however, were literally the world’s protectors.

Hence Shibaid had such a concern. If they really were confined in specific areas, Shin just needed to stay away.

Shin, being the Guardians’ target, was not against taking them down, but Shibaid’s comment made him cool his temper a bit.

Gelganger also mentioned the appearance of players in the world.

Shin, who thought of this world as a world very similar to the game, or as the game world turned into reality, once again faced the mystery of what this world really was.

“Does your master know of this world’s origins too?”

“As a mere creation of my master, it is beyond me to know the extent of their knowledge. I believe I can say, with confidence, that they know much more than any “human” in this world.”

Gelganger nodded lightly.

Shin had the feeling that he actually knew the answer, but Gelganger’s poker face did not reveal the slightest hint as to whether he was telling the truth or not.

It wasn’t his real face, after all. His emotions would probably never surface.

Shin himself was aware that the monsters knew more than the humans about the nature of this world.

Even among species with high longevity, such as Elves and Pixies, few were alive at the time of the Dusk of Majesty. Stories and legends remained, but no credible accounts.

What exactly happened at the time had become mythology at present.

Sentient monsters such as Fuji’s Kagutsuchi or Tzaobath, the dragon living in Rashugum, one of Shin’s homes, were more knowledgeable about the world’s true nature.

(In terms of age, Yuzuha belongs to this group too…)

Shin glanced at Yuzuha.

Element Tails were famous even among the monsters possessing extensive knowledge. It might be difficult to imagine from her small fox form, but originally Yuzuha was supposed to possess knowledge about anything and everything concerning this world.

“…very well then, I accepted the invitation. I’m going to decide how to deal with the other Guardians only after talking with your master, though.”

“Thank you very much.”

Shin did not want the defeat of the other Sacred Places’ Guardians to be one of the conditions for accepting Gelganger’s offer.

He was going to talk with its master first: he would then defeat the other Guardians if it was necessary. If it wasn’t, he would simply go back. Not that he thought he would be allowed to go back just like that, though.

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