Part 22: Things Fall Apart...
You may remember the following screen. When we started the game, it looked like this:
Well, it looks a little different now:
Notice those little arrows at the bottom? Let's push!
Ah. But of course.
In fact, the arrows were already present there last time--check the update number 13 if you don't believe me! So basically the way it works is thus: You HAVE to play first either Escher/Musiea or Eluca/Zhamo story. But after you finish one of those, you can go and play the other three in any order you want.
This sounds nice in theory, but in practice, of course, there is still ONE TRUE ORDER since some stories contain spoilers for others. Specifically, the best order to play the stories for maximum impact is the following: Escher/Musiea -> Eluca/Zhamo -> Ayuta/Mana -> Olgar/Vahti. Olgar's story in particular is massively spoilery for more or less the whole plot and should definitely be played last. As for E/M and E/Z, you can more or less play those two in either order, although even there, E/Z contains some subtle(ish) hints at the overall plot that are not present in E/M. But as I said, they are a bit subtle and you will probably miss them anyway so it doesn't matter too much.
So, without further ado then, I present to you princess Mana and her devoted stablehand(?) Ayuta:
Wait, that's not...
But not unfamiliar for us any more at this point!
And here we are one more time. Will it be different from the last?
Let's go talk to some people. First up, Alto and Garrick:
No idea. But I did notice that one person from each couple is an incredibly skilled fighter.
I haven't seen warriors this strong since I first met Garrick.
You, of course, are one of them.
No, wait, he's just a stableha...
Me? But I'm just a stablehand...
Come on now, don't be so modest!
But I'm not. I'm sorry. May I ask your names?
I'm Garrick and this is Alto. We are fellow knights in the same order.
We were attacking a castle when, all of a sudden, it grew dark well before evening.
Our friends and enemies seemed to freeze in place, and before we knew it, we found ourselves here.
You're from the eastern continent, right? How did you get here?
It went from daylight to to nightfall in an instant in my country as well.
I wonder... do you suppose we have angered the spirits in some way?
The anger of the spirits, eh...?
I don't know about that, but I find this whole situation intriguing. Don't you?
Intriguing? All I am is anxious.
Ha ha. I see.
Well, my partner here is also a warrior. I don't need to protect her, and I'm sure that we can take whatever they can throw at us.
Hey... do you feel that?
Yes. Someone is watching us.
It must be the host that invited us here.
And it doesn't look like they intend to throw just any old kind of party.
I can't wait to hear what they have to say.
Hey, I've got an idea. Why don't we work together?
I think we'd get along pretty well.
When things settle down here, I'd like to have a match with you.
I haven't seen someone with your skill in a long time.
Once you've become the best there is, you get bored waiting for everyone else to catch up.
Next, over here are Museia and Escher.
Of course, with a dopey face like yours, even if you were my enemy, I don't think it'd be a problem.
...Why not test me and find out?
Ha ha, don't get so upset, I'm just kidding.
Escher! Stop taunting him!
There is no point in getting into a fight with these people now.
I know, I know. Sorry about that.
It's fine. Don't worry about that.
I'm just a little irritated.
I mean, you feel it too, right? There is some kind of... terrible power here...
Yeah. And whatever it is, it wants us dead.
Let's hope we're just imagining it...
I've got a really bad feeling about this place.
This doesn't look like a party. What's going on here?
On the other side are Zhamo and Eluca.
Keia, god of the sun... Omali, god of the moon...
When these two gods cross paths... it is said the world will end...
It's just as legends say, except...
...something's not right.
The end of the world? I highly doubt this is the afterlife.
We're not dead yet. I'm sure of it.
I know. That's why it's so disturbing. I've never heard of any magic that will transport living people to another location in an instant.
What if... it wasn't magic?
Do you know something?
Huh? Oh, sorry, it's nothing.
(What am I saying?)
I guess we'll just have to wait and see...
This place is beautiful, but something doesn't seem right.
Finally, over in the corner are Vahti and Olgar:
Hm. Obviously we already know that Vahti and Olgar have previously participated in the Arena, but...
No matter. We should go and check in on the princess.
This could be a plot of one of our enemies... Or perhaps, the spirits themselves have come and taken us away...
Spirits... Could that be why the nightfall came so quickly?
I'm afraid I don't know. But I can say this. This is an extremely dangerous place...
I can tell that something isn't right.
I know it may not mean much coming from one such as myself... But I will do everything in my power to keep you safe.
Even if it costs me my life.
And then, like clockwork...
Ayuta and Mana. Escher and Musiea. Zhamo and Eluca. Garrick and Alto. And, Olgar and Vahti.
Welcome, my children. Welcome to the Ark Arena, where the world's strongest compete.
And where you will now fight for your lives.
Fight for our lives? Are you serious?
All of you here are but one sheep in two bodies. The person standing next to you will be your partner on this journey.
Of course, we do not ask you to do this for nothing.
To the last pair left standing, I promise eternal life and eternal youth.
You may not refuse to compete in the Ark Arena. And you are prohibited from fighting until I tell you to.
If you break either of these rules you will pay with your lives.
Stop. Before you speak further, answer me this. Where are we?
Why do we have to fight each other?
I am under no obligation to answer your questions.
Hmph. You really think we're stupid enough to fight each other just 'cause you say to?
Poor Garrick can never catch a break in any timeline!
You may be the chosen warriors, but you are not yet qualified to fight in the Ark Arena.
In order to qualify, you will need to find and equip the rings beyond this door.
One is the warrior's ring, the other the companion's ring.
These two rings will prove your eligibility for the Ark Arena.
Why do we need those?
It doesn't matter why. If we don't play along, we'll all be killed.
That much is certain.
...I think we should go along with him for now.
Wait! Stop! I have to get back home immediately!
Princess Mana! Don't get close to him!
Don't stop me Ayuta! I need to go back for the betrothal!
In the east, they call engagements betrothals.
There will be no exceptions, no matter what the circumstances. The only way you can return home is by triumphing in the Ark Arena.
This can't be...
I think we should keep going. There may be a way out of here on the other side of that door.
All right. Let's catch a breath here and then for one last chat with everyone before venturing past the door.
First a quick stop with Alto. She has nothing different to say this time either.
And then, Musiea and Escher again:
That Garrick guy was strong.
Did you see the sword he had? It was a national treasure, the kind only given to heroes with exemplary records!
What a waste. It would have fetched a great price.
I don't suppose the vortex will spit out Garrick's equipment any time soon, will it?
Poor Alto. I don't know if she'll ever be the same...
If the one I loved the most was ever killed in front of me like that, I'm sure I would go crazy.
So, Escher there is the one you love the most?
Hmm. I'm not sure. I guess maybe he is.
When that monster showed up and started making unreasonable demands, I felt like my fear would have overpowered me if I had let my guard down even for an instant...
But since Escher is here with me... I feel things will be okay.
That, somehow, we'll be able to get through this.
I understand. If Ayuta wasn't here with me, I don't know what I would do.
We're so lucky to have good companions.
You're right. Thanks! I feel better now. I just know we are going to make it out of here alive.
I'm really glad there is someone like you here. All the other women are a little to scary to talk to.
Well, we can't avoid Piu-Piu any more, sorry.
No, keep going, don't change the subject now!
Ah well. In any case, we can already upgrade our stuff.
Ayuta uses dual katanas to fight.
Whereas Mana, somewhat appropriately for her position, uses bow and arrows.
And some clothes. As you could see from the pictures, Mana likes to wear kimonos.
Finally I buy a moonstone for Ayuta. As before, the other half of the pair already comes with one of those.
Getting back to the central area we can have a few more words with Zhamo and Eluca.
If I were to turn tail and run now, I would never be able to face the ones who are counting on me back home.
Besides, these things are clearly dangerous. If we can defeat them now before they can attack my country, that would be for the best.
I do not wish to fight you.
I only hope that there is a way to escape on the other side of that door.
We don't have to listen to that monster. The fact that we came here from the outside means that there must be a way out.
All we have to do is find it...
But the only thing in this room that looks like an exit is that door.
There is no other way out, not even a window. It looks like we are completely trapped.
Either way, we have no choice but to move on.
Oh, by the way, we can again get that revival item in one of the bedrooms...
And finally, finally, Vahti and Olgar one more time.