Part 4: Exposition Dump, Part OneEpisode 03: Exposition Dump, Part One
Last time, we stopped a bandit attack on Two Rivers and faced our first spirit opponents, summoned by a mysterious assassin looking for Master Li. Master Li has told us we're ready to hear about the role we are meant to play, so we'll be heading his way soon enough.
First things first. The ruckus at the beach gave us enough EXP to level up, so let's take a look at what we can do here.
I do like it when the game does my work for me.
We put one point to Body and two to Mind, which gives us a bit of that extra focus we want for more fun times with weapons. At this stage, Fortune's Favorite drains focus at an immense rate and we want to fix that as soon as we can.
Here's the style menu. We've got ten points to put into our styles, and right now we'll focus on our martial and weapon styles. Heavenly Wave is a support style that slows down enemies, but I've never found it all that useful compared to some of the other support styles.
We'll prioritize focus cost reduction for now. A bit of extra damage and speed won't hurt so we put one point into each, but we really want to maximize the use of our weapon style as soon as we can. Of course, the higher the rank the more skill points it costs to purchase.
As far as Legendary Strike goes, we'll put a couple of points into damage and one into each of the other categories. We haven't used chi strikes yet, but might as well power those up a bit already.
That'll do it. Master Li mentioned that Dawn Star can explain the nature of the spirits we fought earlier, so let's have a quick chat with her before we go back.
This is so confusing. Master Li said I could explain the nature of spirits, but... these were different. That sorcerer forced them to appear, like wild dogs let loose. So many spirits seem lost, asi if the way to their rest is blocked. I didn't think they were dangerous, but those on the beach... I sensed madness. Time drove them mad. You disrupted them by defeating them in combat. They will not reform in a long time. I hope there is peace in that, but I don't know. So much is worrying me.
Punch the ghosts hard enough and they'll go away for a while. Simple enough.
I was worried enough when we were expecting bandits, now it seems there are dangers we don't even know about. Master Li called that... that sorcerer an *assassin.* Assassins don't attack at random. They have very specific prey. I don't... I don't want anything to happen to this home. I've never belonged to anywhere else.
I really should have asked Dawn Star about her name here. I assumed I could still pick that option once we're done talking about where she used to live, but it doesn't appear again after this. She mentions that there apparently was a red glow on the horizon the morning she was born, and that's what she was named after. This may or may not be relevant later.
Would it be strange of me to say I don't know? I have very little memory of my home before coming here, even though I was three years old when I arrived. I remember moving around a lot... never staying anywhere for long... and for some reason, the robes of that sorcerer looked familiar to me. I don't know why. I'm sure it's nothing. Just the memories of childhood playing tricks. With glimpses of the spirit realm invading my thoughts. I could have seen them anywhere.
Why did you move around? How did you come here?
I can't remember specific incidents, but I am used to being shunned. People are not very welcoming of those who appear to not let the dead lay peacefully.
That would explain why she seems to spend so much of her time isolated from the other students. If you talk to them at the school, they may mention that Dawn Star tends to keep to herself.
Master Li doesn't know who that guardian was, or what I needed protection from. He promised to look into it, but he has not had time. Your training has taken precedence. My abilities are just a curiosity. You are the center of attention here. I prefer it this way. I can just... be.
Honestly, at this point it feels like Dawn Star's abilities are a lot more special than ours. She has a connection to the spirit world whereas we just seem to be really good at kicking people in the head. Of course, we don't yet know what Master Li has to say about our special role.
Yes. I suppose you know something about that, as well. I hope this does not sound odd, but I am glad we share that. Thanks for this talk. The events on the beach worried me, but you always improve my mood. Let's get back to what you need to do.
How did you help Master Li find out about the restless dead?
I don't want to think about it too much. Manipulating chi has not come as naturally to me as it has to you. The things I do are... different. I can see spirit shapes and hear the odd whisper. Master Li was surprised, but he has not had time to look into it further. Your training is his primary interest. Hopefully, I'll find my skills useful for more than just keeping me up at night. Could we go on to something else?
What do you know about the spirit world?
We are all spiritual creatures. When we die, our spirits are released to find their way to the underworld. The journey eases the transition from life to death. If their time among the living was troubled or painful, spirits sometimes get lost. They can seem almost alive and are often mistaken for living creatures. They usually only appear for a short time. They say what they need to say and then are drawn to the underworld.
What makes them so threatening?
If a person's life was very traumatic, his or her spirit can lose its way for a long time. They can go mad trapped in the world of the living. Maddened spirits change. They lose their connection to the living world and begin to channel darker emotions. They can be very dangerous. I've only seen hints of those. It's been enough. I'm very worried about what may be coming.
What happens to them in the underworld?
I don't know. That's the kind of thing old men sit on mountains to discover. Some say it's a place of judgment. Maybe it's about reincarnation. You'd think we could just ask the spirits themselves, but if we can't really understand our own answers, how can we hope to fathom theirs?
All right, that's enough of that for now. Hope you enjoyed the info dump on ghosts.
Here's the journal. Nothing fancy about it, just showing it off for posterity.
We see an old man over there tending to a statue of Emperor Sun Hai, but we'll leave him to it for now and have a chat with him later. There are some other people on the beach we can talk to, the guy in white is Ni Joh who was mentioned by the farmer in town and somehow seems to have survived a cannon ball blast without a scratch. I mean, we did too, but we're the protagonist so that doesn't count and everyone next to Ni Joh blew up into a pile of gibs.
"Alive and useless, just like you" is accurate but a bit harsh, so let's not go there.
When we earn Open Palm points, a glowy blue halo appears over our character's head. Obviously, getting Closed Fist points is represented by a red glowy thing. I pick Closed Fist options so rarely that I forget what it is, but I do know that your shadow grows tentacles if you have enough Closed Fist points. That's kind of neat.
As we start heading back towards the town, we bump into this lady who says she's looking for Dawn Star. Doesn't seem to be looking very hard, considering Dawn Star is right behind us, but never mind that.
I'm glad, Mrs. Jong.
Having said what she needed to, Mrs. Jong walks off and Dawn Star explains what the deal was.
Some spirits return because of trauma, to rectify something that disturbed them in life or death. They are very focused. When the pain is gone, they find rest. At least, they are supposed to. Jin's spirit told his mother the accident wasn't her fault. Now he wanders, unconnected to this world and unable to pass to the next. Troubled spirits can be set to rest for a time, but unless the greater problem is corrected, it seems all dead are destined to wander until they go mad. I'm sorry. This has been difficult. I don't want to think about how it affects... specific people. I'm still not sure I should have told Mrs. Jong about her child.
I don't think the issue was with Mrs. Jong not wanting to hear it, she just didn't understand how Dawn Star's abilities work and then apologized when she realized her mistake. You can't really blame Mrs. Jong for not understanding, either, because the spirit world is weird and creepy, but Dawn Star was trying to do a good thing and it just didn't quite work out.
I guess blame is easier to understand than chance. Come on, we should go see if the students are all right. Master Li will be waiting.
Before we go anywhere, let's help ourselves to the bandits' loot which amounts to 122 silver. Not exactly a pile or riches, but it's something at least. We can talk to some of the peasants around town, but all they say is basically "I'm glad Master Li is here and his senior student is such a badass".
In the southern part of town, we run into these fine gentlemen.
It wouldn't be a BioWare game if we didn't get harassed by a bunch of drunk idiots at some point (well, actually I don't remember if that happens in any of their games aside from Jade Empire and KotOR).
Unfortunately, these inebriated fellows are actually Gao's goons and can't be talked down unlike the guys you run into on Taris early on in KotOR, so we're fighting.
It's just as well, I didn't show off the Heavenly Wave support style yet so this gives us a good opportunity to do so.
Heavenly Wave, as the popup over this guy's head suggests and I mentioned while leveling up, slows enemies down. Unfortunately, low-level Heavenly Wave is itself so ungodly slow to use that it's far more efficient to just use your martial or weapon style in most cases. There are some boss fights where it can be useful, but I find other support styles to be much more effective. Support styles also don't work on certain enemy types, although I can never quite keep track of which enemy resists what unless I try different styles on everything.
After we dispatch these jerks, I do what I should have done a lot earlier and switch Dawn Star to support mode.
Her longsword just does so little damage that it's not worth using her in battle, especially since she doesn't seem to have all that much health. Active chi recovery is far, far more useful and Dawn Star's one of the better support characters as a result.
Student Si Pat has been assigned to guard the school gate, which seems like the kind of job that should perhaps be left to someone who can actually fight. We can harass him by testing his knowledge on the different styles (Martial, Weapon, Support, Transformation, and Magic) as well as how chi works, but we'll look into that stuff when it's relevant. There's enough talking in this update as it is.
Before we head back to the school's courtyard, let's check this side path to the north. There are monkeys
I like this little area the path leads to, it looks really nice with the waterfall and leaves falling from the trees.
More importantly, there is this tomb we can interact with.
[A small bowl sits beneath the stylized image of a lion, ready to accept offerings of silver to speed the spirit of the departed to his rest.]
[The coin disappears through a thin slot in the bottom of the bowl. There is an audible clicking sound.]
We did see a statue of a lion earlier, so we might want to give that another look in a little bit.
First of all, though, Kia Min is back and we can chat with her, so let's ask her how she's doing after that injury she received in the bandit attack.
It is good that you are here. My foolish lack of attention forced Master Li to come to my rescue and left me with a wound that will take a few weeks to heal. Master Li assures me I will heal in time. It's a shame, as Smiling Mountain was teasing me just yesterday with some "special prize."
My sidequest sense is tingling.
He teased me by saying if I could go one higher, he might have a prize for me. I suppose he might make the same offer to you, if you're up to it. If I could fight, he could likely round up enough opponents for you to make a run at a new record, but I can't face anyone with this wound.
Is there anything I can do to help with your wound?
Unless you can speed up time, I'm not sure there's much that can be done. Master Li has already tended to it. Then again, I vaguely recall a grass or herb that hastens the healing process. Someone like Old Ming might know for sure, he's quite interested in herbs.
Remember the old guy at the beach who we ignored earlier? That's who we're gonna go talk to now. We can ask Kia Min more questions about the herb and Old Ming, but she doesn't have anything useful so let's just get this show on the road. She does say that she'll reimburse us if we have to buy anything, so that's nice. The important thing for her is to be able to fight again as soon as possble.
Also, remember how Master Li ran to the beach inhumanly fast? We can do that too by activating focus mode outside of combat.
We manage to actually run past this villager, who seems to be in a bit of a pickle. Of course, we'll ask if we can help in any way.
Oh, you're one of Master Li's students, right? Yes, I've heard about you. Quite skilled, they say. Well, don't mind me.
Why are you nervous? Anything I can do to help?
Oh, I wouldn't think to presume. The town doesn't owe me anything, and neither do the students of your fine school. I'm not from Two Rivers, though I do occasionally come into town to do some business. Today has not been an overly good day for me. I was hoping to make a little more silver than I did selling my wares.
Why do you need money badly?
I owe a small amount of silver to a man who works for a... gentleman named Gao the Greater. He's quite insistent that I pay, but I'm falling a bit short. It is no more than the price of a small pig, but Gao the Greater takes his debts very seriously.
What will happen if you don't pay the twenty silver?
Gao the Greater is not known for his generosity. I.... No, I'll figure a way out of this myself.
Yeah, I think we may be able to spare twenty silver to help this guy out. We don't need Gao the Greater's thugs breaking this poor bastard's legs, even if he kinda brought this on himself by borrowing money from Gao's associates in the first place.
That seems close to begging, and the spirits of my ancestors would be shamed if they thought I was doing that.
Ah. I see he needs some convincing. This is our introduction to the three types of persuasion checks in Jade Empire, instead of just a singular Persuade option we can use Charm, Intimidation or Intuition. Your skill in these depends on your attributes, which I went over in the introductory update but just in case you didn't read it: Charm = Body + Mind, Intimidate = Body + Spirit, Intuition = Spirit + Mind. Most persuasion checks in the game aren't particularly hard, and if you're playing a character with fairly balanced stats you should be able to hit them pretty consistently.
JUST TAKE THE MONEY YOU JERK
I'll take just enough to pay back what I owe. Many, many thanks!
That will make his life a lot easier. Gao's father is not a good man to have angry at you, from what I hear.
Farewell, student! I'm off to deal with my debt so I can get back to my farm in peace!
We heard Dawn Star approve of us helping the guy out. As is the norm with BioWare games, your companions will chime in with approving or disapproving comments based on your actions. Dawn Star is maybe the most compassionate of your followers, so she likes it when you do nice things and help people. But with that sorted out, let's finally do what we came here to do and talk to Old Ming about that herb.
One of the students was wounded during the bandit attack.
Oh, yes. I heard about that. Some fool girl out walking on the overlook, wasn't it? Serves her right for not studying or meditating, I say! Well, there's no accounting for youth. She probably wants something to get her moving again, so I'd say you need a poultice made from red silk grass clippings. Merchant Fen Do should have some, but don't let him talk you into clippings of bearded tongue grass. That won't do at all.
What's the difference between the two grasses?
Aside from "bearded tongue grass" sounding really gross, that is.
Bearded tongue grass will make her feel the same, but it's only deadening the pain. It doesn't actually do her any good. For most people, bearded tongue grass would be fine, but I know the fool girl would start practicing again and tear something vital. That could leave her crippled.
All right, that's all we need to know. We could ask Old Ming about a number of things such as the Emperor and the Long Drought and spend fifteen minutes listening to him go on and on, but he doesn't really have anything to say that won't come up in a less boring manner. So, we're off to see Merchant Fen Do for that herb.
And don't you let that Merchant Fen Do talk you into the cheap stuff! He might make a few extra silvers, but your friend's health isn't worth his profit margins.
Thanks, old man. This is one of those quests where the Closed Fist path has absolutely nothing to do with the supposed Closed Fist philosophy. If we were to tell Kia Min that no, you should just let it heal on its own and maybe train harder in the future so you don't get hurt next time, that'd make some sense but if we bought the bearded tongue grass we'd basically be doing it just to be a gigantic asshole to a person who hasn't done anything to us. Closed Fist obviously doesn't appreciate "weakness" like getting injured by bandits, but it also doesn't expect us to actively fuck over those who we deem to be weak (how are they supposed to get stronger if they get crippled due to our actions?) Which is what we'd be doing in this quest if we took that path. I suppose we could tell her she needs to take it easy, and if she aggravates the injury it's her own fault?
I guess you could argue that we'd save some money and Kia Min would be able to fight at least once, which would help us get the special reward from Smiling Mountain, but the amount of silver we'd save there is so pitiful that it's not worth it in the slightest. Speaking of which, here's Fen Do.
The only shame is that their ship sunk. Think what we could have done with their plunder. Ahh well, that's another opportunity lost. In this town, it's vital for a businessman to keep tabs on anyone with two coins to rub together. Things haven't been this slow since the Long Drought. That master of yours keeps things ludicrously stable, while merchants thrive on strife. During the Long Drought, prices rocketed into the sky like fireworks.
Let's talk about what you can do for me.
Happily. We don't need to waste time on my gripes when there's silver to be spent.
I'm looking for ingredients for a medical poultice.
Let's just get to business so we can get out of here.
Anyway, I've checked my stocks and I only have enough ingredients to make one dose of the salve for a poultice. I'm not sure how much good it will do by itself. Might take a bit of the sting away.
Seriously, if you get the bearded tongue grass you're worse than double Hitler.
Expensive stuff that. Very pricey. Hard to acquire, too. Would certainly help her wound, but I know something just as good. Get her some bearded tongue grass and she'll feel better. It won't hasten the healing any, so she'll have to take it easy, but it will deaden the pain.
If you think you can justify such opulence to heal something that time would take care of, who am I to argue? I'll just need your payment to prepare the poultice.
50 silver isn't bad at all, we have several hundred, but let's see if we can get a discount anyway.
Once again, we can use our persuasion skills to try and get him to lower the price. I think charm should work nicely here.
We now get the red silk grass for 40 silver, which isn't a massive discount but every little bit helps.
That's all we need for now. We can also ask what Fen Do has for sale, but it turns out he has absolutely nothing. Apparently, people are scared to travel so goods don't get to Two Rivers.
Right, let's head back to Kia Min and tell her we got a poultice that should help her wound.
The poultice must have cost you some silver. Let me repay you! What did it cost?
Obviously, the "best" option (as in the one that earns us the most Open Palm points) is to refuse the reward, but if we're going to do a fetch quest I'd rather not lose money while doing it. We may be Open Palm as hell but we're not stupid. So, let's just tell the truth.
We make a huge profit of ten silver, but more importantly we can now try Smiling Mountain's challenge.
I wonder if Smiling Mountain is his birth name or if he earned it later.
Is there anything you need? Perhaps a training session with some of the students? It would do them good.
Are there students available to spar with?
Yes, and the students are on edge from the bandit attack. It would do them good to work some of that out. And now that Kia Min is feeling better, maybe you'd like to challenge her record in my little training exercise.
All right, let's go. We could've sparred with students before and actually earned some stat bonuses from doing so, but when you ask about sparring before doing Kia Min's quest Smiling Mountain says "Well yeah I guess I could set it up but I'm sure you want a bigger challenge" and I assumed that meant it was just an option for new players who want to practice combat.
Yes, we took them all down with the sword.
Our reward for beating these guys into submission is Alloyed Body, a special stat-boosting technique (+5 to health and focus) devised by Smiling Mountain. We can also buy some slightly worse ones from him, all of which have some sort of a negative effect to one stat along with the bonus to another one. We buy Heart of Gold (Chi +3, Focus -1), sadly not being able to afford another technique to go along with it.
Before we talk to Master Li, there is the matter of the lion statue we saw earlier.
[The altar and statue serve to show students a real example of lessons otherwise presented abstractly in class. It has not seen use in some time. The altar is less ornate than the statue, and was replaced many times after frustrated or deliberate outbursts from students, but that, too is part of the exercise. There is mention of a greater reward for the more investigative path, but that was probably an additional element of the test performed by the master who placed it. You cannot recall Master Li ever referring to this statue. Different masters prefer different methods of teaching.]
[Approach the altar.]
As you may remember, we picked up red, blue and yellow lion figurines. The obvious solution would be to place those on the altar one after the other, corresponding to the sphere's color and doing so gives us 1 silver, but as the text said there is a greater reward for a "more investigative" path. And we did find that lion head token earlier...
[Place the token from the Old Master's grave in the lion's mouth.]
Oh my, such a fiendish conundrum.
Apparently, solving a "puzzle" a three-year-old could figure out counts as a momentous occasion.
Our reward is Gaze of the Lion, another technique that boosts our stats permanently (Health +2, Focus +2). You can also smash the altar for 25 silver pieces if you prefer.
All right, now let's go talk to Master Li.
It means, however, that I must accelerate your training. These invaders discovered us by accident, but as you likely suspect, they are related to your destiny. You have trained hard and are ready. You will have a pivotal role in some great events, my student... after you return from the Spirit Cave.
Well, that sounds slightly ominous.
If you spent less time coddling her, you would have many promising students instead of one.
Once again I should've picked the bottom response. It's not wrong, and since we're talking to Gao it doesn't matter if we're dicks to him.
I understand that this student has received preferential treatment and I have suffered for it. Whatever is in this Spirit Cave, I am worthy of facing it too! If she is truly better than me, let her prove it. I challenge her.
Spoiler: He's very much not worthy of facing the Spirit Cave.
I will not have you brawling in the street. If this must happen, it will happen in the ring, as a proper test of your abilities. Gao, you are restricted to styles that I have taught. I know the dark tutoring your father, Gao the Greater, has imparted, but I won't have any such sorcery here.
Hobbled before I begin. Of course, how else will your precious protégé win?
I am ready now. Let's begin.
Then let the fighters meet in the arena.
VIDEO: Boss: Gao the Lesser
Apologies for the desynced audio in this clip, I didn't notice until I was preparing a video for the next update that the sound is off. Premiere Pro apparently still doesn't like variable frame rate footage from Shadowplay. The video in the previous update was fine because the game and the video were both 30fps, I did the INI tweak after that to run the game at 60fps. Guess I'll either record in 60fps from here on or just play the game at its default 30fps.
Gao has quite a bit more health than any of the foes we've fought before, and also uses Heavenly Wave to try and slow us down. Chi strikes help us do a bit more damage to him, that's what the blue glow around Wu's hands is.
Gao also uses area attacks quite often, and I figured I'd return the favor.
All in all, Gao isn't that tough. I didn't need to heal that often, and the reason my focus is so low at the end of the fight is that I tried using focus mode and the sword at the same time. That drains the focus gauge like nobody's business.
Defeated, Gao hobbles off.
Or at least pretends to do so. What, you thought he wouldn't try to cheat at some point, preferably when we let our guard down? (Also, I just noticed that part of the bottom of this screenshot and a few others is cut off for some reason. I blame Fraps.)
Master Li isn't having any of it, and steps in to block Gao's fire spell.
That is the face of a man who has realized he fucked up.
And this is the face of a man who has finally had enough of dealing with Gao's antics.
You are no longer welcome among my students, and your father's house shall have no more business here, despite his influence.
I was not beaten! Not by this peasant!
You were defeated by your own foolish ambition and predictable temper. I will speak with you in my chambers about your expulsion. Go now!
Enjoy the words of your fellows. I will wait in the main hall, where we will discuss the Spirit Cave. Be certain you are ready when you come to me; your life is about to change.
We won't spend too much time chatting with the students, as they basically just tell us how cool we are and how Gao is a big jerk. We've established both of those things pretty well by this point, I think. We'll listen to what Dawn Star has to say, though.
I hope he isn't allowed to stay. Punishment just makes him worse. Master Li has bent like a willow to accommodate him and his sorcerous father.
Master Li does what he must. He is our master.
But don't you wish that some things made more sense? Anticipation is grueling... so much could be happening that you just don't know about. It scares me sometimes, all this talk of troubled spirits. I didn't ask to be a part of it. As much as you want to know more, I doubt you had a say in your fate, either. I'm... I'm sorry, this is supposed to be a happy time. You've proven your ability and... Master Li is waiting for you. You should go to him.
Yeah, not spending too much time talking to these guys. We can ask Lin about the Spirit Cave because she's heard a bunch of rumors, but all she really has to say is that the cave is really spooky.
Let's just go see for ourselves.
Yes, Master. I am ready.
Wait outside, Gao. I will finish with you later.
Does it have something to do with the bandit assassin?
I take responsibility for it. You see, I used to be more than a humble teacher. To learn of yourself, you must learn more of me. I was once leader of the Imperial Army.
Master! You've never said anything about this!
I will tell you more, but first, we have an uninvited visitor.
He should respect even the most humble person, because who knows what lies within? That includes you and me both.
Why hide that you are the Emperor's brother?
I was ashamed. He seized your homeland during the Long Drought. It was an aggressive change in the Empire that would soon bring Death's Hand to power. I withdrew my support, and tried to rally your people against the siege I had helped plan. A doomed effort. Many died on both sides. Sun Kin, another brother, also fell.
This, I think, is a good place to stop for now. This update is long enough already, and we've barely gotten started with all the exposition. There's a reason why this update is named as it is.