Something that this group doesn't do enough of.
We open on our heroes conquering a random Alician fort. This is the extent of the combat we'll get to experience in this country.
: We're done here. Let's move on.
: What? Can't we rest?
: You want to rest here while Magnus pillages from the Alician people like bandits? Or do you want to wait for Magnus to recollect itself and counter-attack?
: No, but... we need rest. Please, Siegfried.
: Anakin has a point. We can't idle and do nothing, but we need to rest, or we'll just have more casualties than we need to.
: You, too? Do Magnus's threats mean so little to you?
See, one thing you might have picked up is that Blazer intentionally made Siegfried a flawed character. Probably not as much as it turned out, but on occasion, Siegfried's supposed to come off as an ass.
: Stop acting so tough, Siegfried. You think you know how much I hate Magnus? What do you know about me? You think I'm just here for fun, maybe to kill some time, or to earn some money? Don't question my intentions just because you're a lunatic who wants to charge into every fortress as soon as possible. Your luck's going to run out soon, and I don't want to be there when it does.
With Kelik, I think it's all accidental.
: I-I'm going. I'm really tired...
: Nothing to say? Then I'm going too.
: Maybe... Maybe you're right. I never had formal training to lead an army. I'm... a knight. I know how to protect. By vanquishing my enemy, I'm preventing them from hurting others. The more I wait, the more I fear that something might happen. ...That we might be ambushed, that Shon might get hurt, or that Magnus might regain its momentum in its conquest...
: Please. Try and understand. I'm doing what's best for everyone else.
: It's not that I don't understand. It's that it's stupid. Why act so foolishly?
: I... made a mistake once. Because of my lack of initiative, my wife was killed, and I was injured. I couldn't protect the person I held most dear to me... And I don't want to make another mistake like that...
So wait, if by Siegfried's own admission, he's not used to commanding people, why doesn't he ask someone more experienced to do it? I'm sure Lyam or Haas would be okay with taking up the reins.
: You're not helping yourself like that. It might help deceive your mind, but you're only increasing your risks. You got captured once, and somehow, you've lived to tell the tale. Do you really want to make that same mistake again?
: ...No, I don't.
: Then let's stay here and rest. Traveling through snow isn't enjoyable.
It's interesting how Blazer managed to make Kelik simultaneously jerkish and offering good advice. I wish that he'd keep this sort of rude mentor attitude more often, because it's rather well done.
: Why are you fighting Magnus?
: Why do you care all of a sudden?
: Well, there's a reason why I act the way I do... So there must be a reason why you act the way you do. Am I right?
: What do I do that's so weird? I'm being myself. Deal with it.
: You push off other people. You don't let anyone get close to you. And you're always so spiteful... Even now, you're just telling me to deal with your problems... Yet you made your point about how you couldn't tolerate my problems.
: To trust is to be betrayed. ...My best friend was killed by my own brother. If I can't trust my brother, then there's not many people I can trust. And you say I'm spiteful, but I'm just not patient enough to tolerate everyone else's weaknesses.
: You had a brother?
: Unfortunately... He's kind of a mercenary, like me. The difference is, he works for Magnus. And on a permanent, leisurely contract... I know for a fact he doesn't care for this war or politics, but at least in title, he is a senator of Magnus.
Magnus hands out senatorial positions to the folks it hires? How do the folks who actually get elected feel about that?
: ...We'll end up fighting him then, won't we?
: No. When we meet him, I'm going to fight him. I'm on this journey for that purpose. My brother is a despicable person. He doesn't care who he fights for, as long as he fights. He'll kill anyone with life, destroy anything with form... I'm going to get even stronger than I am now, until I can defeat him. Then I'm going to make him pay for everything he's done. I'm going to avenge my friend.
: Ah... So that's it...
: I'm going. I've lost my cool. I... wish you hadn't brought it up...
Kelik, you never had it.
The next day, we get a visitor.
: Please leave Alicia to itself, and focus on defeating Magnus.
: This young lady has news for us. Oh, and coincidentally, she's the older sister of Inanna and Lirin.
: A Pegasus Knight?
A trio of Pegasus Knight sisters. Now there's a novelty.
: Yes. My name is Alice. I may look young, but I am second-in-command of the Seraph Knights of Alicia, protector of the domain. I've already told your General the details of the situation.
: In short, Anakin, she's saying that Alicia will be able to take care of itself and hold off Magnus. She says Magnus had taken the Princesses of Alicia hostage. As you know, Alicia's monarchy was in danger. A faction of the populace disliked having a royal family, especially since they gained that position due to their wealth. The dissenting people, including some nobles themselves, sided with Magnus in order to prevent a new Queen from taking the throne. In return, they handed over the would-be princesses... It's a hushed-up situation that only the aristocrats knew of. Apparently, everyone else has been fooled into thinking that Alicia simply lost in the war with Magnus. But the truth is that Alicia never even got a proper chance to fight, thanks to the princesses being used as hostages. Did I get that right, Lady Alice?
THAT is what you call "in short?"
: Yes. We Seraph Knights knew of it, but couldn't do anything because of the hostages. However, we've now secured all the Princesses, except for one. That final fourth one is within your army. She is Princess Cia.
: Cia was a princess? I had no idea... And she's been with us for so long...
: To be honest... She is the daughter of the deceased wife of the King. She wasn't treated well by her Father or Stepmother. It's most likely why she doesn't act very Princess-like. She's never even been treated like royalty... she is so in name alone.
Hey Cia, they're talking about you over here. You want to weigh in at all? Anything?
: I see... That explains it... Anakin. Commander Alice wants us to move on and head southwest, out of the Atheya-Alicia border, and towards the Magnian border. She said Cia should stay with us for the time being, as it's safer than returning to the bloodshed in Alicia.
: You're our General. If you think that's what we should do, then I am absolutely behind you.
: Shon said something similar. I'm afraid to ask Kelik, but...
: Kelik's not the type who'd want to fight someone else's battle. I think he'll be fine with it.
: Hopefully so.
So that scripted battle? That was all the fighting we get to do in Alicia. All the politics, the backstabbing, the hostage situations...all of that was resolved off-screen. While I am a bit glad that our group doesn't solve every problem in the plot, it's still kind of a letdown.
: Have you decided?
: Yes. We'll leave Alicia to itself and challenge the Magnian empire instead.
: That's great. Then I'm going to join you, too. I'm on Liriana's orders, so I'm afraid you can't stop me. She is the Head Commander of the Seraph Knights and the 1st-Division.
: Oh? The leader of the Seraph Knights herself, hm? Well, we're glad to have you. It's reassuring to know that Alicia is on our side.
Oh well, on the bright side, that means that we didn't have to do a dull snow map.
: We expect no enemy reinforcements for the time being. Now is our chance to strike, General.
: Good. Then we'll commence our attack. As long as the surrounding fortresses are pre-occupied, we should have no problem securing Baronia castle. Once we're done here, we'll go and help the others. Now, tell everyone to prepare for battle.
: Yes, sir!
Sure, but let me tell you anyway.
: Yes. The city of Baronia is home to many blacksmiths and vendors who supply people with weapons all over the continent, not just Magnus. If we can secure this castle, they'll likely be willing to sell us needed weapons and medicine, right?
: That's the idea. You're a smart one. You got the jist without even listening in on our war meetings. I just hope that they don't refuse us. I don't want to force them to sell us anything. Magnus probably treats them pretty well. Considering how much money Magnus has, they have no reason not to give their citizens good lives, and pay their people well.
: ...Yeah. But that sort of treatment has gotten to their heads. Now they think that just because they are living in times of prosperity, they're superior to all the other nations which aren't enjoying such prosperity. It's kind of annoying. I didn't think Magnians were really so stuck-up until I came here and saw the cities for myself... and we haven't even been here very long...
: Well, I'm sure all the nations will prosper, once this war is over. Nothing else is stopping us, is it?
: Hmm... I guess not.
After all, we'll be able to plunder the filthy Magnians, right?
: This is a great plan, but we're going to be facing much tougher enemies.
: I'm aware of that, Lyam. We've been fighting more than just Magnus's lower ranks ever since we entered their territory last week. Actually, we've been fighting some of their tougher soldiers since Aegis...
: Yes, but... this is different.
: What? What do you mean?
: My fears came from rumors at first, but... I think the enemy leader in this here castle is a man named Ivan.
Getting a little Southern for a second there, Lyam.
: What of it? Is he a high-ranking General or something?
: No, he's nothing exceptional. However, Ivan and I were a part of the same guild, years ago. I hate to admit it, but he's a powerful swordsman. More importantly, he'll do anything to win. He'd quickly kill all of his men or betray his comrades if it's for his own good. That's the kind of person he is, and that's what makes him a tough enemy. It's just like it was with Howard. Leaders here aren't just strong, but have the mindset to win.
Howard was a depressed sad sack. I don't think your theory works that well.
: I see... it might be difficult defeating him, but if we want to move on, we're going to have to do it. You don't have to participate in this battle if you don't want to, Lyam.
: No. I'd prefer if I did. Ivan betrayed our guild and sold it out to bandits, all for his own greedy ambitions. I'm the only other survivor, so if I see him... It's my job to pay him back for what he's done.
: ...I see. Thank you for the warning, Lyam.
: Of course, General.
Well, that was exhausting, but at least it wasn't as bad as Chapter 20. Nothing can be as bad as Chapter 20.
As always, we've got promotions!
The strength may not look that impressive, but bear in mind that the Assassin strength cap is 20.
Always a fan of the winding interior, Blazer has mixed it up a bit by also forcing us to go around the outside before we can even get in. We'll have to move at a fairly brisk pace through this map too, because...
: Relay it to me.
: Yes sir! They've just encountered Knight General Holton Cabal-
Still a stupid name.
: -and his forces! The rebel army is currently locked in combat!
: Damn! So Magnus has brought out their elite forces, have they?
: Our forces there have switched from an offensive strike to a defensive battle. With the combined forces from the fortress guard and the Knight General, they won't be able to hold out very long.
: Alright. Tell the leader this: reinforcements will arrive as soon as possible. He must hold out until then, or the Knight General will come here and slaughter the main force. Be sure to inform the northern forces of the situation as well. You are dismissed!
: Yes sir!
That's right! We're on a timed mission. We've got 24 turns, to be exact.
Alice is essentially your lifeline for when Inanna and Lirin disappoint you. As I'll be demonstrating at my earliest opportunity, the three of them do indeed have a Triangle Attack together, which would be nice, if it wasn't for the part where I bring Lirin and Inanna along.
Ivan will be a difficult target to hit, as swordmasters on thrones tend to be. He's not too bad though, so long as you have someone with a decent stat spread.
Of course, to get to him, we have to fight our way through this mess.
All the enemies in this chapter are at least Level 10, so they're a decent threat. Not especially fantastic, mind you, but they're getting up there.
: While he attacks this meager castle, his forces are being destroyed... and at the end of the day, I will claim my prize!
Corporate's going to name him employee of the month. It's a real honor.
As yet another example of Blazer not understanding Door Keys, this knight with a droppable key will open this door for us. But it gets better. You'll see.
One strategy I have for this map is baiting all the ranged units to attack me over the wall as I approach, cutting down on the people I have to kill when I actually get inside.
Buncha little spinny-axe halos I'm handing out here.
Suddenly, a random field.
: What, too scared to respond, worms?! You rebels got carried away, but now you realize... Just how far of a different league you worms are in.
: Knight General Holton, sir! I will now relay news of our progress to the Senators! I assume that we will cleanse these worms very soon!
: Gahahahaha, what a soldier. It's about time I find a minion who can handle work without having to ask me about every little detail. Gives me more time for the hunt... and the kill.
Look, even evil villains have to file their paperwork. It's a fact of life you just can't escape.
So anyway, back to the fighting.
Both Tekun and Yue are going to be able to promote this chapter. I'm so happy for them.
Funny thing though: that transition to Holton's little segment reset the map when we came back, so the knight unlocked the door again.
Itsuke and Liquid, violating the laws of reality together. I'm using Itsuke instead of Cia, because I wanted the kid to get a little extra action.
With levels like that, I could field him more often.
Ah, the Bloody Rifle. I can feel the RNG clicking its fingers together every time I go against one of them.
Our swordfighter's ready to deploy.
While our nomad is making me wonder why I'm bothering with him. (Answer: Because Zach would be just as bad)
It's time to launch the swordmaster!
That's a pretty unique sprite. Does he have a unique animation too?
Hahaha! Oh my goodness, he does! That's great!
Excellent stats for a shaman.
Whoa. Glad I switched him to the Javelin.
Dasher is rather odd, since it doesn't have an animation in this version of the game, but I've seen Youtube videos where it does. I wonder if that's an oversight...
Speed's okay, but these levels are still bad.
Same with Magic, but at least he's primed.
Hooray for not being weighed down by the most basic of dark magics. I can't even blame this one on Blazer, except perhaps for not changing the weights.
As an extra incentive to hurry up, this map spawns a thief on us. And what with the knight so casually opening the door for him, he's got an extra turn than perhaps he was supposed to.
Oh, and that warrior?
Darn right! It's been a while since we last saw one of these.
We've got to pick up the pace. Kevin obliges.
This Hero's the hardest nut to crack in this enemy group, capable of doubling some of our dudes.
Ace is up to the task, and this is actually not an easy choice to make, since Shon's doing well for HP.
: He had better not endanger my ambitions... I won't forgive him!
Ivan has another thing he says, but I don't show it here.
: The Knight General still isn't here... Perhaps this army that Lyam joined isn't a complete failure. Oh, how I look forward to seeing the look on his face when he sees his old friend!
Oh how cute. You think you can harm Kevin.
I'm hoping to make Ben pumped enough to use Sylmeria, because his constitution is actually fairly acceptable for his class.
Oy! Give that back!
That's my stat booster you're snatching.
Sometimes, with the Durandel animation, it looks like the sword is moving itself. And the Emblem Axe is ours.
You may have noticed the oddly colored tile in the corner of the building. No big surprise here.
Check it out! Now this is a selection!
Not too much time for shopping though. We're on a schedule.
This doesn't make up for the previous levels.
Can't say I'll get much use out of this. Nothing but promoted units from here on out, and I can't think of any unpromoted units I'd like to use it on. On the plus side, that means 10000 gold. Booya!
Still way too much defense on a Valkyrie.
I think I might use these on Storm.
I'll take that!
Drizzle is odd, since its hit rate is way worse, but it has a fantastic crit rate.
And now it's ours!
I don't like him, but I like his stats.
Can't have too many of these.
Goes without saying, but Lyam has a battle conversation with Ivan. But I'm not going to risk fighting him where he can attack me.
: You do command this group.
: So, Athram's trick worked. You're alive. It's good to see you, old friend.
: How dare you call me that--you betrayed us!
: Yes, I did. What of it?
: What?! How can you be so... cold? You act like we meant nothing to you!
: Maybe you did to the old me, but as you can see, I've changed. I've improved. And it's all because I sold out Nathan's dinky little guild.
: We were your friends! We became like family! What in the world could possibly be worth our lives?!
Employee stock options?
: Proving my loyalties.
: To who? The bandits?
: You know, why don't you join me, brother? You said we're like family. He can do the same for you that he did for me! It's so liberating. To not have to feel useless emotions like guilt or shame.
: Never! Whatever happened, you're not the same person who taught me how to control myself during battle. You're no more than a soulless husk, begging to be put of its misery...
: Then come at me, and we'll see how you measure up.
A magic lance of my very own! Sweet!
Don't mock me, punk.
You're facing the Legend Mercenaries here.
: We... aren't... finished yet......
Chugging right along!
I think I want this more than the Shadow Sword, frankly.
Still has a low hit rate, so what's the point?
: Kelik, I need you!
: What is it?
: I've just been notified that our northern forces succeeded in taking the fortress there and are coming here as reinforcements. I'll organize our defenses here and then push back General Holton's army. Take whoever is able and reinforce the rebels to the south. Help them escape from the Knight General and his forces. You must prevent as many casualties as possible!
: I got it. I'll head out immediately.
: We're inching closer and closer to the heart of Magnus. Now, we're the ones invading Magnus, trying to put an end to the source of this madness... Lily... I'll be finished soon...
Not so fast, buddy! We've got six numbered chapters and an endgame to go.
Next Time: Shopping! And an arena!
Weapon Ranks: B in swords, A in lances
HP: 37 (70%) Lck: 17 (50%)
Str: 17 (45%) Def: 12 (20%)
Skl: 19 (45%) Res: 14 (25%)
Spd: 20 (50%) Con: 7
Very good bases for a Falcoknight, good growths...Alice is ready to go right from the offset. The only possible problem is with that constitution, but her speed could compensate. Alternatively, use swords. She's well-equipped for that as well. You can see why I didn't even bother trying to raise up her sisters, because she just blows them right out of the water.