Part 29: Bonus Feature B3: Raising HopeBonus Feature B3: Raising Hope
The first stop Hope made above the world of water was yet another world of water. It was shallow, and warm, but seemed so empty in comparison to the world she had just left.
It did, however, have talking fish statues that gave her a warning about losing track of time. If they had known Hope they would have realized that keeping track of time had never one of her strong suits even before she entered the tower.
Soon Hope found another weapon like the one she had sold in the world of water, a clumsy and random thing that she had no idea how to work. Someone would surely want it later.
Various new monsters sought her out in the tower, including one that she didn't want to blame for the statues littering the place but well, one hears stories, you know? But Hope has grown swift indeed, and only one of them stood no chance of harming her.
Hope could not imagine why people would leave perfectly functional weapons lying about in neat boxes next to the stairs, but she was just as happy to take them with her.
As she climbed the monsters grew more dangerous, and several times Hope only barely escaped by the skin of her teeth. She was growing tired, and injured, and wanted nothing more than a safe place to rest.
Finally she came across the familiar face of the man who she had met before entering the doorway to another world, and knew that she must be close. The man in black climbed the tower, and Hope followed, all unknowing. His advice was cryptic, but Hope knew it would make sense when she needed it most.
Hope stepped out of the tower onto misty clouds, hiding a surface that was solid enough that it could support and nourish trees. Any moment Hope expected to miss a step and fall through the clouds possibly forever. There would have to be a bottom somewhere, wouldn't there?
Nearby there was a town, so Hope supposed that if the ground was solid enough for that it could probably be trusted.
Being a polite, if hungry, girl, Hope didn't bother to tell the villagers that their town was hidden in the clouds. It would simply have confused the issue.
The people spoke of a brutal tyrant, and the man in black's words made more sense to Hope. Her standard practice thus far had been to find the most dangerous creature in a given world and slay it, and there seemed to be no reason to change it.
Before that, Hope sought out a store to get herself the best armor that could be found in the world. It was scaly and sleek and very pretty, and Hope still bore the scars of her climb up the tower. Luckily, after the many monsters she had killed to get this far, Hope had as much gold as she could wish for.
Immediately afterward, Hope found the pub where all the guards spent their time and picked a fight. She wasn't very good at it, but they got the idea.
They offered her a job on the spot, and although she still wasn't sure it was the best idea Hope decided to go along for the ride. The worst thing that she could see happening would be that she would be forced to go ahead with her plan immediately instead of later.
When people called Byak-Ko the White Tiger, Hope hadn't exactly expected him to actually be a white tiger although she should have considering her previous experience. She was so surprised that she couldn't do anything but numbly agree with the task he set before her.
Of course, as soon as she left Hope amused herself with the local wildlife. Dragons and lizards were even more similar than she had expected so far as taste went.
Before long Hope felt that she was ready to continue with her mission. She had no intention of actually completing it, but knew that coming back to say so would probably lead to violence.
Flying around in her borrowed glider Hope chanced upon a strange building that seemed incredibly out of place. Igloos, so far as Hope knew, were usually built out of snow in cold places and not in the middle of forests on top of clouds.
Somehow it was square on the inside, and a trio of monsters was menacing a girl about Hope's age.
Hope had a brief conversation with her ghosts, and they were in full agreement as she had known they would be. With no hesitation, she cut them down from behind Hope had no pity to waste on such creatures. Indeed, she had scarcely any pity in her heart at all.
The girl's words made little sense to Hope wasn't this the girl she was supposed to be bringing back? Perhaps if someone else had grabbed a similar girl, she could return and maintain her disguise just a bit longer...
Of course, it would have to be a good bit longer as she had forgotten where exactly Byak-Ko's castle was.
Hope climbed the seven floors of Byak-Ko's tower and chatted with the other guards on the way up, trying to appear nonchalant. They happily told her where Byak-Ko was, and if she had actually wanted them to be good at their jobs she would have reprimanded them severely.
They even told her where their newest captive was. Hope would have been tempted to punish them for their severe incompetence, if she had not considered that killing the stupid guards might result in Byak-Ko accidentally hiring smarter guards to replace them.
Walking through a palace designed by a cat had its problems, including a disturbing tendency toward ledges and walkways that must have seemed like highways to a feline.
In the room at the end Hope found the girl she was seeking surrounded by guards who were competent enough to actually ask her what she was doing there. This did not end well for them.
Unfortunately for Hope, it turned out that her luck had run out or had never existed in the first place, as it seemed that the entire thing was some kind of plot by Byak-Ko to get his hands on both sisters. Hope was caught by surprise, and soon found herself taken directly to jail.
Hope was imprisoned with crude louts, but she didn't stay there for very long. The other inmates must have been as weak as kittens if they couldn't break out.
The talking sword being unable to break out on its own made a bit more sense, although it certainly startled the spirits around Hope. As it was not nailed down, Hope took it with her.
On her way out Hope helped herself to the treasures within the prison walls, including a helpful set of gauntlets that were giant in attribute and not in size and an elegant and precise weapon that appealed to her tremendously.
Indeed, there was so much treasure that Hope couldn't carry all of it and had to gulp down some potions that she didn't precisely need. It was terribly wasteful, and the treasure in the box was a book bound in thin black leather than Hope could not even read although it certainly made an impression on the haunts.
They were most upset that the first two gliders they checked were not working, as they wanted nothing more than to get to a place where that book could be exchanged for less troublesome gold.
Escaping from the prison Hope knew that the castle could only have gone to one place with the treacherous Mileille guiding it. Given Byak-ko's propensity for speeches and playing with his prey, she knew that she was in time.
The guards were much less friendly this time, but they served a new purpose where Hope was concerned. She'd missed dinner in the jail, you see.
Hope climbed all the way to Byak-Ko's room, but somehow in the twisting pathways of the castle he had avoided her. The guards must have been laughing at her behind her back well, those that were still alive that is.
Hope hastily headed to the base of the castle, only to realize as soon as she left that the entire time she had been climbing the castle had been moving as silently and smoothly as a cloud. Hope would have called the square formation of trees unnatural, if she had not seen such things all over this world.
Byak-Ko was in mid-speech, but Hope was not in a mood to wait for him to finish and so cut straight to the chase. And cut she did!
One, two, the L-Sword cut through
The laser blade went bzzz k-thwk
She split his head and killed him, dead
As her ghosts began to laugh
As white tigers were most definitely and even more endangered species, Hope decided not to dine on Byak-Ko and left him lying on the ground. The fact that he had six limbs might also have played a role in her decision.
The ghostly voices were upset enough that they would have gladly killed him again, but the sisters produced a new SPHERE out of salty tears and thin air.
Mileille sent her away in a rush, but Hope didn't see much of a need to hurry. Byak-Ko was certainly not likely to get up, but it would have made sense that Mileille would want Hope to leave quickly from the scene of her tragic loss.
Instead, Hope helped herself to a glider and went to investigate a small bank of clouds that had caught her attention. It might have been its sheer isolation that appealed, or she might have glimpsed the top of a building poking through the clouds.
The town had a full fledged bookstore, which was of course was of no interest to Hope.
The weapon store, on the other hand, was well enough stocked that Hope bought a few spares.
After a quick stop in at the more visible town, Hope felt equal to the task of climbing the tower to the next world. If she burned through that many potions and weapons, finding the exit would be the least of her problems.
Hope had her doubts about the new sphere, but it worked well enough it was certainly a reason to be curious about where the other spheres had come from. Whose tears and what magic had formed them in the other worlds?
But that was a question for another time. The tower beckoned, reaching through the sky.
Remember when I said that this was the most dangerous segment of the tower? Medusas and stronger physical attacks are the reason. We don't have access to any defense against status effects yet, so a single stone based attack means we're done. With only one character to absorb damage it's also all too easy to go down under a group of enemies as well. That 295 damage took an entire X Potion to recover from. Long story short? Run. And save often. You can pick up a couple of extra X Potions from the statues on the roof, but talking to them too often will trigger a fight. Recovery springs help out a lot.
Once you get to the Cloud World, the first order of business is to get ahold of some Dragon Armor. It makes you immune to most elements and status effects, and is pretty much a gift from the heavens. You can still take some physical damage, but a lot of enemies prefer to use elements or status effects and will happily do so while you butcher them. Dragons are particularly prone to breathing fire at you constantly as if they can't quite figure out why it's not working. It's adorably ill-suited for their survival.
Money isn't really an issue at this point, so it's time to start boosting stats and the like again. My first splurge took Hope up to exactly 99 agility and started really working on strength. We've got this far on agility, but some of the better gear in the game is strength based so it'll pay dividends in the end. We can't do anything about HP yet, but that's coming. The second splurge took us up to 125 agility, which is what I used to take down Byak-Ko. For a single character run, I feel no compunction at all in taking advantage of some shoddy programming. For climbing up the tower we go to 155 agility, at which point things just start to go nuts. Combine that with a plentiful stock of L-Sabers and we're going to be one-shotting monsters into the next world.