Part 110: The Next StepUpdate 19: The Next Step
Arianna. You don't look so good.
...I'm... I'm all right... Would it... be alright for me to take a rest? I seem to be... exhausted...
You don't look like you feel well, Arianna. I think you should take a rest, too.
Yeah, let's head to the inn.
You think Arianna's going to be okay? She seemed pretty shocked at... well... what happened to you...
She'll be fine.
I... guess you're right. She'll probably be alright by the time morning comes around...
Probably about time we both got some rest as well, huh?
As you lie awake, you hear a knock at your door.
Are you okay?
Yes, I'm fine.
But I need you to hear this.
It's about your transformation, Sir Knight. I had no knowledge of what was to come. And my ignorance has brought you suffering...
...I am so sorry. But I don't suppose that an apology will suffice at this stage. It would do nothing to remedy the fact that I have unwittingly induced grotesque changes in you.
But... despite this... I wish to apologize to you, Sir Knight.
I am so sorry that I have brought this fate upon you...!
I'm not too worried about it.
You are so kind to me... When it is you who suffers most...! ...... ...... ...
You already apologized for that.
Thank you... If those are your true feelings, then I shall have hope for the future as well.
But there is still something that weighs on my mind. I cannot put a finger on it, but when the Black Guardian spoke of the Calamity and anomaly, it felt very ominous.
It is my duty to perform the ritual on behalf of Caledonia... but is it truly right for me to see it through?
What are your thoughts, Sir Knight?
By the way, all of these dialogue choices in this scene lead to Arianna saying the same thing.
We need to seal the Calamity.
You are most likely right. And who can say? We may find a way to restore your humanity as we continue the ritual.
Thank you for listening, Sir Knight. Your kind words have helped me reach a decision. I plan on informing the others tomorrow morning.
I will take my leave now... Once more, thank you, Sir Knight!
...Hey, kid. You're looking awfully chipper this morning.
Indeed! I gave quite a lot of thought to our predicament over the night.
Regarding the ritual, and what happened to Sir Knight...
And what the Black Guardian told us... We are to continue with the ritual, and proceed to the depths of Ginnungagap. As royalty of Caledonia, this is my duty. Will you all aid me in this?
So you've decided to continue on with the ritual, huh...
Yes. As royalty tasked with the ritual, I have a duty to fulfill this.
In addition... It is not merely an obligation of mine. I feel that... it is something that must be done.
I'll help. I want to help you, Arianna. ...You too. Right, Trand?
Trand. Say something.
Sure. I'll help out... I'm kinda curious about all this stuff that happened a hundred years ago, anyway.
...Well, that's a surprise. I thought you'd just say it wasn't your business, or it's too much of a pain. Wait... Now that I think about it, didn't you say you were interested in the ritual or something, back at Ginnungagap?
...Good memory, kid. Yeah, you got it. This old man's interested in all that ritual stuff.
I need to see for myself... what exactly happened a hundred years ago.
What do you mean by that, Sir Bertrand? Do you have some sort of connection to that ritual a century ago?
Eh, well... It's kinda hard to explain. See, the ritual might have something to do with someone I used to know. Not really too clear on the details, myself. In any case, I want to find out more about this whole ritual thing... so I guess that's why I'm interested.
...So what about you? I figured you'd be the first to sign up. What with your friend's situation, and all.
I... There's just so much that I don't know yet... I dunno. It's hard to decide. I mean, I do want to help Arianna, and it is my mission as part of the Midgard investigation team... Plus there's all that stuff about Knight. That Black Guardian said that Knight has to gain greater power...
But... what happens after Knight gets more power?
I don't really think anyone can answer that. It all boils down to whether you've got the guts or not. Either Knight gets this power, or he doesn't...
What are you going to do, Knight?
...What should I do?
That's something only you can decide. None of us should have a say in your decision.
BUT THOU MUST!
Let's continue the ritual.
Thank you, Sir Knight! It gives me hope to know that you'll continue alongside us.
...Yeah. You made up your mind. I can't be left behind, huh...
I'll help out too.
Thank you, everyone!
Well, now we've all decided we're going ahead, what's going to be our first move? Perhaps we must vanquish another powerful monster, in order for Knight to get stronger?
Sounds about right, yeah. I say we try going to the Grand Duchy, first. That old coot might have some new info on the Labyrinth.
By the way, that actually wasn't Arianna's inn scene. The game just forces that on you. We can just go to sleep again to get a different one.
As you sit there, you hear a knock at your door. Who could it be at this hour...?
Bertrand came in first place for this Stratum's inn scenes, so let's get on that.
A short one.
This place is a big change from where I grew up. It's so different but for some reason it always reminds me of my home.
To be honest, I may not look it, but I'm actually nobility... 'Course, it was in name only. We didn't have any big luxuries. I was just some kid from the slums. I'd look out the window at night, and there wouldn't be a single light for miles. All of a sudden, the head family tells us they need an heir, and I get adopted and dragged off to the city.
Man... that was such a pain. You can't be a noble unless you know all their customs, traditions, and dumbass etiquette. ...I guess it was all pretty useless, since the family eventually fell into ruin, and in the end, they had their noble status revoked.
...All I've got left is this family crest on this shield.
How did that happen?
Well, it's complicated... When you're a noble, you end up with a lot of enemies no matter what you do. I was surprised Arianna recognized this crest. Didn't really expect anybody to remember a family like mine.
A lot's happened since my family lost its nobility. I traveled all over... I've done things that I can't really talk about. ...Living a life like that... I think it made me forget what was actually important to me.
I heard you saved Arianna's life. Back when you were kids, I mean... And now... you still continue to protect the princess, but as her bodyguard. ...Hey, Knight. What does it feel like to be able to protect someone?
You should know, Bertrand.
Wh--...You... you gotta give a guy a warning before you say something like that, man. Got me right in the weak spot.
But you're right. I was denying it, and pretending I'd forgotten about it ages ago... but I guess I knew all along. I guess, all this time... all I wanted was to be able to protect someone. I couldn't admit it, but... all this time, I knew what I actually felt...
Knight, I asked you this already, but... humor me. Do you really enjoy your life right now? ...Are you truly happy?
Hah. Yeah, guess it's not like me to ask a question like that. Don't worry, I get it. ...Just forget I said anything, I s'pose.
...You want to head back to the inn? Arianna's probably gonna chew me out if I keep you out here for too long.
Regina is the only one who has something new to say after Arachne's defeat. So let's head to the Grand Duchy.
...... We were able to begin the ritual... but unfortunately, we were unable to complete it. We were told that to protect the world from the Calamity, Knight must gain further power...
...... ...Hrmm. To protect the world from the Calamity... I do not quite understand what this is about, but if the land is indeed in danger, then we must take action. But it seems in order to do so, you must defeat yet another powerful monster...
Is there anything that comes to mind?
Hrm. To be frank, our own investigations of the Labyrinth have not gone beyond the second Stratum. If you seek a foe greater than the Flame Demon, then I fear you will have to seek them out yourselves. However, with your prowess, I imagine that wouldn't be a problem at all.
Isn't there anything you know?
I'm afraid not... Truly, the authorities on the Labyrinth ahead would likely be the very explorers that have already ascended that high. And, also... if you plan on continuing upward through the Labyrinth, there is something that I would like to ask of you. I apologize for my selfishness. I hesitate to ask for your aid, and distract you from your own personal goals... However, this is a matter that is of utmost importance to High Lagaard. I would like you to obtain something for me. Would you please accept this mission?
If we talk to Dubois now...
What we require of you are plants called Snow Blooms. They are necessary ingredients in a certain medicine for... a certain someone.
Are they sick?
Yes, although... I'm sorry, but I must ask that you inquire no further.
We understand. Tell us, Minister... Where might the ingredient for this medicine be found?
Well, it's been seen on the 12th floor. We sent a cadre of guards... but alas, none have returned with a Snow Bloom. There are a few continuing the search on the 12th floor even now, so I ask that you work with them in finding the flowers. We require a total of four Snow Blooms. I bid you good luck on your mission.
Dubois has new stuff to say when we talk with him again.
I hear that the new Stratum seems to be a frozen forest... Exercise caution as you proceed. The winters of the country can be very harsh. I do not claim to understand all your hardships, but I can sympathize.
We're looking for a powerful monster anyway, so that's fine... I just wonder who's sick.
How am I supposed to know?
Huh? Knight? Why aren't you saying anything?
Let's not pursue that line of thought any further. If they're being squirrelly about it, there's probably a reason. Notice how they made the request of us even when they didn't want to reveal that bit of information.
I-I see... Being an important figure like that must be tough.
Now the town dialogue changes, but most of it is the same. Cass' doesn't, so let's check out his.
...Yeh know, I was just thinkin'. Yeh lot ever think about leavin' Midgard, and becoming real explorers?
I don't have any intentions.
Yeah, I figured. Don't know too much about it, but it's a huge organization, right? Probably for the best. Well, it looks like yer investigation's not over yet, so I'll still be seein' yeh around.
That doesn't sound bad
Hah, were yeh really thinking 'bout it!? Go on, throw away yer stable job and get into the risky explorer business! ...Like anyone in their right mind would do that! Haw haw haw!
Okay, let's get to exploring the Labyrinth.
Oh? Where was this? I saw nothing like what you speak of...
You take a better look at the mound of snow before you, certain of what you saw. Though it's hard to make out, you do indeed find a translucent stone shining amidst the snow. You may reach towards the stone if you wish.
May as well.
You take hold of the stone gently so as not to disturb the mound of snow.
Whoa, it's practically see-through I'm surprised you noticed it in all this snow.
It was a big deal.
C'mon, don't be so modest--wait, that wasn't modest at all! Hmph You almost had me fooled!
Ahahah... It was a sizable deal indeed, Sir Knight.
You put the discovery away with your belongings as you return to your investigation.
As you carefully tread down the perilous, snowy path, Flavio raises a warning. He follows this up by silently motioning towards the south side of the snowy area.
A wolf monster... It's on the small side, but are you picking anything up from it, Knight?
Mm. If it's a special one, we need to defeat it.
You are aware without their prompting that you must find a strong monster to leech the power from... You focus on the wolf's nature in hopes of answering their question. Alas, you sense nothing out of the ordinary from it.
Then that one's not it.
I should think not.
Why, though we stood here and spoke plainly, it still has not noticed us.
Maybe because it can't see us. Should we be careful of it?
You may use caution so as not to enter the wolf's line of sight, or dispatch it and remove the obstacle in your path.
Two smaller snowballs are placed one atop the other... It seems to be a sculpture.
How adorable! Might someone who ventured on ahead of us have made it?
If another explorer had the free time to put this together...
It might mean there's not many monsters around here to worry about. Anyone else wanna take a break?
You sure are eager to take breaks, old man...
You can rest for a while here near the snowman, or ignore it and hurry on.
Let's rest. If you don't, you'll get into a battle.
You decide to rest your weary feet near the small snowman for a while. Arianna takes the opportunity to look at the snowman and smile.
Haha, this brings back memories. I recall playing in the snow this way when I was a girl in Caledonia.
Does it snow much there?
Hm? Does... snow not always blanket the ground in winter? Is that not the case where the Midgard Library is located? To think something so ordinary for me would be different...
That's most interesting. We come from such different places, yet here we are together now.
Oh, right, we grew up in completely different circumstances, huh? It feels more strange than interesting to me.
Yeah. People from similar backgrounds tended to flock together at the Library.
Did I never tell you guys? Knight and I were at the orphanage around the same time, which is why we're friends.
Huh. Being with people who aren't family is a little weird for me.
You have always been with Sir Bertrand, yes, Dame Chloe? Ah...! If you have traveled across many lands, have your journeys ever taken you to Caledonia?
Uhh... Well, kinda.
The winters were harsh, but the springs were beautiful to make up for it. Great country. Lots of flowers.
To be certain!
You spend some time in conversation near the snowman. The peaceful, idle talk helps to naturally calm your minds.
Well, I think that's enough of a break. Let's get going!
With plenty of rest, you leave the area in a good mood.
Beyond the room packed with wolves is a surprising sight: a room whose floor is composed of entirely of ice!
Let's test it.
I'll try it too.
Sharing the black-robed girl's motto of test everything," you both reach towards the icy floor. As soon as you place your palm on its surface, you understand how cold and slick it is...
What is the verdict, Sir Knight?
The ice seems quite thick, as far as you can tell. You foresee no problem with the whole party traveling across it. Still, it is very different from any ordinary floor, and you should take great caution while walking on it.
I walk on the ice.
The moment you step onto the icy floor, you find yourself unable to stop slipping forward until you reach the end. Luckily, the bank of snow at the end breaks your fall as you tumble into it...
Well, this is a problem. Once we're on the ice, we can't stop until we hit something.
It's dangerous. Especially if we run into a monster along the way.
Still, it's a speedy way to travel...! I quite enjoyed myself!
You sure are carefree, kid. This ice is a serious damper on our plans.
Let's just go with the flow.
Whatever will be, will be, huh? That's a pretty bold outlook, kid.
Knowing the idiosyncrasies of the slippery floor now, you search for the best path to proceed...
Are those monsters?
Looks like it. It's hard to see with all the snow, but I count at least ten. But I don't think they've noticed us yet, so we could probably get the drop on them now if we wanted.
You agree with the young man's assessment that you could catch the monsters off guard if you act now. If you wish, you may charge into the fray, or you may slink away quietly.
Alright, here goes...
As you begin your charge, the snow underfoot melts, revealing another snow creature!
Hey, there's more of them! Did we stumble into these guys' nest!?
So many... We're in trouble if they all attack at once.
You do not like your chances against the horde either, but you are surrounded and cannot escape! Yet at that moment... the monsters display an odd change in behavior.
Wh-What is going on? They've started clustering in one place...
The hostility directed at you does not diminish as the horde of monsters clumps into a single area... To your shock, the size of the central being grows larger by the second until it develops into a gargantuan monster!
WHAT!? H-How does that work!? There were tons of them here, right!? How did they become one monster!?
Now that's a surprise... But won't it be easier to run from one big guy than a bunch of little ones?
Bertrand has a point. You can stand and face the united monster, or attempt to flee the scene.
Screw that! We can take this guy!
With a single enemy to unite against, you see hope that you may win the day. You face the gigantic snow beast and draw your weapons!
Good grief. Well, no way around it...! This old man's got your back!
It looks strong... but you never really know until you face it!
Your comrades, inspired by your courage, take up their own weapons to face the hulking snow monster. As it watches you stand your ground, the brute halts, seeming uneasy.
Hm...? It's not coming at us.
As you watch it guardedly, you hear a multitude of piping voices coming from the giant monster's mouth.
It sounds like... a great many people, all quarrelling with each other... Perhaps the monsters which banded together are at an impasse on what to do?
This is a clear opportunity if ever there was one, and you decide to charge the beast while it still hesitates!
The Snow Swarm is an event miniboss. Shouldn't give you too much trouble.
It doesn't drop anything, but you do need to fight it in order to complete your Monster Codex.
Whew... I didn't think they could fuse like that. What is the deal with the creatures in this Stratum?
Hm? Is there something by the monster?
Chloe points, and you look to see a collection of beautiful stones near where the monster fell. You pick up the stones, which you assume are the remains of the fused beast, before making your exit.
And that's the end of the 11th floor!
This is where the guard asks us the find the Snow Blooms. Now that we got to a new floor, let's go back to town.
There, that should do it... You need to be more careful, dear.
... Hm? When did the bag open? There's something strange with this bag.
Stop blaming an innocent bag, already. You just forgot to close it.
This may be a peaceful little neighborhood, but you still need to be careful! While I was out the other day, I tripped and fell on the road. Apparently, the the stone pavement was loose on a hill. I landed right on my hip, and it's been sore all day! Huh? What's my point? Um... oh, right. There's more dangers out there than just the Labyrinth, so you all still need to stay cautious. Bahaha!
As you sit there, you hear a knock at your door. Who could it be at this hour...?
Flavio was the next party member chosen for the inn scenes.
Don't come in without knocking.
What? I did knock!
Anyways, the files I asked the Library to send to us just arrived.
It didn't seem like Arianna knew too much on the details of the ritual, right? So I thought the Library might have more on it, and I asked them to try and dig up something for us...
But it doesn't look like they found much. All the information here is stuff we already knew. I guess if it's a ritual specific to the royal family, information on it is hard to come by for common folks.
Augh... this is such a pain! If they couldn't keep good records, they should have handed the whole thing to the Library!
How much technology do you think we've lost because of bad record-keeping? I know it's not the Library's place to butt into other countries' cultural heritage, but honestly... This seems different. Arianna's the one carrying out the ritual, and even she doesn't know anything about it... It's a little fishy, if you ask me, but I guess all we can do is try to find out more on it around here.
We're a hand-picked investigation team, after all! We can't give up that easy!
...If you say so.
You're starting to sound like a certain old man. Geez... at least pretend to care.
The folks at the Library have high hopes for you. If we do well here, then they'll have to take notice. You better believe I'm giving 100%!
You should be pumped for yourself.
Hmm... I guess I never really thought of it that way. Everyone talks about wanting to make their own class, or doing independent research... But ever since that whole mess where you transformed, and lost all memory of it... That's all I ever really thought about.
I was always afraid something was going to happen to you again, and wondered what I should do if it did...
You worry too much.
I can't really help it. I'm really worried about you, you know.
The reason they never took your transformation seriously was partly my fault...
Something for myself, hm...? I guess I'll think about it some. I can't spend the rest of my life at the orphanage, after all...
Sorry to barge in, anyway. We've got an early start tomorrow, so I'm going to get to bed.
You better sleep in your own room.
I said I was sorry! I'll make sure to go back to my own room before falling asleep from now on! ...Actually, better to make sure I rest before I get that tired again.
Well, I'll see you tomorrow.
It is late, and you decide to rest in preparation for tomorrow...
And since we reached a new Stratum, here's a new audio only conversation that plays here.
I didn't want to say anything, but do you really have Chloe's best interests in mind?
Uh, like I said, she just followed me and-
There you go with that again! Now see here, you're her father. You need to take care of her!
Wha-ugh, like I said, she's not my daughter!
Stop making up excuses!
Whoa, that's new. The old man's losing the battle,
Abigail doesn't have anything new to say in Story, but here's another audio only conversation that plays there now.
*Yawns* Sheesh. What a pain.
Are you tired, Mr. Bertrand?
Nah, just bored. I'm not that interested in shopping, either, so... I wish I could just stay and sleep in.
Ha ha! Then I can I recommend some medicine to help you sleep even better? We get customers from time to time, who ask for a drug so strong, that they might not ever wake up again!
Uh, kid? That's kinda...
Anyway, Regina has nothing new to say, but here's the audio conversation with her for this Stratum.
I completely understand that this place is in your hands, and that your guild plays an integral part in running it...
That said, letting that lazy middle aged man take over a seat is most definitely not happening!
Our deepest apologies!
We'll move him at once! Dude! Wake up, old man!
Likewise, Cass has nothing new to say normally. So here's the audio conversation for this Stratum. Too bad I don't know how to rip audio tracks. This is one that you should really hear for yourself.
Bartender. The usual.
Right you are. Here.
I don't recall ordering this.
It's for you-know-who. It's that time of year, idn it?
Yeah. You're right.
You-know-who? Pray tell, what are you two up to?
Playing it being hard boiled.
The drunk is back though.
...Listen up. I'm bein' serious. I can't believe a sweet little girl like that Arianna is goin' to the forest What's she doin' in there!? I've never seen a girl like that! If someone told me she was an angel, I wouldn't doubt it for a second! A girl like that, in the middle of the Labyrinth... Hey, you kids! Make sure to protect her! Got it!? Gah, I'm too worried... I need another drink to take the edge off! Bartender, gimme another!
Here's the audio conversation that takes place at the Explorers Guild, since Marion has nothing new to say in Story mode.
Every place like this is the same.
Oh? Do you have experience with guilds in other nations?
U-Uh, well I guess you could call them different nations.
I would definitely like to hear more details. Information about other guilds is hard to come by. I would appreciate it if you'd share what you know for the sake of the guild.
Ugh. I should've kept my big mouth shut.
Oh hey, Dubois has something new to say.
Is that so! Your skills are unparalleled. The prowess of the Midgard investigation team never ceases to amaze me. Now, I don't believe I've said so, but those who reach the flying castle will be rewarded with not only wealth, but titles of nobility! ...Does that, ah... does that not strike your interest? Ahem, my apologies. It is just that... You are such skilled explorers, and my wishful thinking got the better of me. Your main goal at hand is, of course, to complete Caledonia's ritual. I wish you the best of luck.
And here's the audio conversation that plays here.
Is it my imagination or...? Oh, I feel I've seen your face before.
Huh? Oh, it's tough to forget a handsome face like this.
Hm. I'm getting the feeling that it was indeed merely my imagination.
He completely ignored me.
Don't worry. You're good looking, Trand.
Hey, you're just gonna make the old man feel worse.
Oh thanks a lot, you guys.
We're done with the 12th floor, but we're not gonna tackle the rest of it in the next update. No, next time...
Something you probably and definitely shouldn't be reading at work!