The Let's Play Archive

Jade Empire

by Doc M

Part 5: The Dragon Amulet (Exposition Dump, Part Two)

Episode 04: The Dragon Amulet (Exposition Dump, Part Two)


As we finished off last time, Master Li revealed his true identity as Sun Li the Glorious Strategist, brother of Emperor Sun Hai and former leader of the Imperial Army. He also told us he'd explain how Wu came to be in his care, so let's hear the story.


If for some reason you can't watch the video, which you really should because screenshots don't exactly do it justice, here are the highlights:

The temple of Dirge in the Land of Howling Spirits is under siege from Emperor Sun Hai and his men. A gentleman who looks like a monk of some sort is looking on, accompanied by another man who is carrying a baby. That must be Sun Li in his younger days, after he rebelled against the Emperor's evil schemes. We can probably figure out who the child is.

As the two men contemplate what to do, the Emperor's accomplices are cutting a swath through the monks.

This must be Sun Kin, the youngest Sun brother who would fall in this battle. So far he's having no problems, though.

And this can only be Death's Hand, wearing terrifying armor like that. The ominous figure who, according to Master Li, was gaining influence over the Emperor around this time.

Behind them is the man himself, Emperor Sun Hai of the Jade Empire.

After cutting down all the guards and the monk from earlier, the three of them make their way inside the main hall of the temple. Being distracted by... whatever it is they came here to do, they don't notice the guy sneaking around behind them.

This gives him the opportunity to grab an amulet from the altar.

As he makes his escape from the temple, we can see that something sinister is definitely going on there in the background. We don't know what it is, but if this plan was evil enough for the Glorious Strategist to rebel against the Emperor, it must have been something serious.

Whatever the Emperor is doing is clearly more important right now than investigating random noises, so nobody pursues despite this close call.

An explosion destroys the wall of the temple. This might have something to do with Sun Kin's death, but obviously there's no time to worry about that now.

After all is said and done, Sun Li is safe along with baby Wu and the amulet.

Who is this "Death's Hand?"

He is the right hand of the Emperor, and rules the Lotus Assassins in place of Prince Sun Kin who was killed at Dirge, a death he may have orchestrated. He shows no hesitation, and gave no thought to the lives of those we faced. His influence poisons the Emperor. I have no doubt he is utterly evil.

Well, he certainly looks the part. The coloration on the robes we saw on the Lotus Assassin earlier matched the armor of Death's Hand, which makes sense if he's running the whole thing.

Yeah, I got that impression from him in the flashback.

There were three: Emperor Sun Hai; Prince Sun Kin the Hand of Heaven; and myself, Sun Li the Glorious Strategist. Age decided our place in the order of things. Sun Hai was the eldest and therefore emperor. I was next and was head of the army. Sun Kin was the youngest and leader of the monastic order.

Your people were guardians, but we did not have a clear idea of what. It is tied to your destiny. I will explain if you want me to move on.

Can you tell me anything about my people?

Most in the Empire know nothing of the Land of Howling Spirits. I found its people to be honorable, but I can't tell you more than that. There was no time to learn more.

Let's move on. Tell me what this has to do with my destiny.

Yes, I'd say we've been waiting long enough. All this information is of course rather important and interesting, but we really want to be learning more about our destiny especially after that flashback.

Our dead no longer drift to the underworld. They wander lost, going mad. In time they may overwhelm the living.

Why haven't I witnessed this?

We are on the edge of the Empire, and not all spirits make their presence known. We are not immune, but I kept you isolated. This information could endanger you. The first assassin found us by accident. The next attack may not be so... unfocused. To fix the world you may threaten the power of some dangerous people.

We're meant to fix the world? Well, no pressure or anything. At this point we still don't know how exactly we're special or how we're supposed to fix things, since for all we know we're just really good at kicking people. It's been a useful skill and all, but that's not going to help much if we're having problems with the dead not going to the underworld as they should.

Is it safe?

No, but few places truly are. This has been a lot to comprehend, so take your time. There are instructions inside, and something that belongs to you. An amulet.

Oh, so that's where the amulet from the flashback went.

Guess we're going in.

Welcome to the Spirit Cave. This is supposedly the final test for Master Li's students, and if you talked to Lin earlier she would tell you how this place is really spooky and some students never returned from here. However, if the amulet's here and presumably has been for the last twenty years, that'd imply it's very specifically the final test for Wu and it's doubtful any other students have ever come down here. Wu is the most senior student of the school and has been here since Master Li first arrived, and it doesn't seem like anyone has graduated from the school before her. Well, nobody taught by Master Li, at any rate. I'm sure someone graduated from this place when the old master was still around many years ago.

As we make our way down the entrance tunnel, we run into this sealed gate.

[You are tied to the reason why spirits wander. Many appeared after your people fell, and some are held in this cave. They are drawn to your amulet. It is ahead, waiting for you. Be careful. It is desired by many seeking power beyond the mortal realm. I make no apology for these trials, my student. You will come to see how necessary they are.]

With that, the clay seal breaks apart and lets us venture deeper into the cave.

I quite like the look of the Spirit Cave. I mean, it *is* a cave so there's only so much you can do to make it look good, but it looks a lot more pleasant than the cave levels in KotOR and Mass Effect (or even some of the later ones in this game). There are even colors other than brown and grey!

Some water as well, letting BioWare show off their improved water effects (I always liked it when games in the PS2/Xbox/Gamecube era were showing off their water effects, even if that often meant having an early sewer level or two).

The passage takes us to this larger cavern area. There are some vases and barrels we can smash for some extra silver, but the most important feature here is the stone pillar at the back.

Let's take a look.

[The Dragon Amulet was with you in Dirge. I understand what it does, but you are the one meant to be trained in its use. I am sorry that my actions denied you this.]

Well, what are we waiting for?

Lots of things explode in this cave, it seems. Wu is taken by surprise and knocked down a bit, but doesn't get hurt.

As much as Gao liked to tell us how he was totally worthy of facing the Spirit Cave, I doubt he would have gotten this far even if he had smashed through the flimsy wooden gate.

Wu, however, has obtained what is rightfully hers. The Dragon Amulet, which was brought along with her from Dirge twenty years ago.

As a bit of an interface spoiler, the Amulet tab has actually been in the menu since the beginning, although obviously it didn't have much of anything there until now. We picked up this Flawed Warrior Gem along with the amulet, and as you can see it gives us a +1 boost to our Body attribute. Other gems give us boosts to our stats or conversation skills, or have more special effects that I'll mention whenever we get some of the more interesting gems. Right now, let's just jam this in one of the three slots and see what else the Spirit Cave has in store for us.

[Even mindless spirits may be drawn to you, just as they were confined here. In achieving your true power, you become a target that many will not be able to resist.]

Speaking of mindless spirits, here's three of them!

These guys are not too strong, although we do want to keep an eye on the one with the polearm because polearm guys in this game are jerks.

One of the spirits manages to set himself on fire by jumping right into one of the torches. Good job.

Of course, we have to use Legendary Strike against spirit enemies since our weapon is useless against them. That makes it an even bigger pain to deal with the polearm ghost since his reach is so much longer than ours, but he eventually goes down.

After we dispatch the spirits, we head towards another sealed gate.

[Hold up the amulet you found in this room]

[The amulet glows brighter, and suddenly the inscription on the clay seal is clearly legible]

[Seek the source of this problem, and eradicate it. That is your purpose and burden. I hope that the basics that I have taught you will aid you in setting everything right.]

Just like before, the seal breaks and we can go through.

There is nothing in the tunnel except for yet another gate, so let's go check that out.

[Not all spirits succumb to bestial rage. A strong will can transcend death. These beings may have powers beyond any living foe, and intelligence to beguile and confuse. All will suffer if the dead remain this way. Soon you must leave Two Rivers. Seek the source of this problem, even if it leads to the heart of the Empire. I have old friends who may guide you, but I have old enemies, too. The cave is secure; meditate on what you see here. When you leave, all will be changed.]

You know how this works by now.

Past this final gate, we encounter an FMV. I'm not sure why they chose to make a 16-second clip for an old man ghost slowly walking towards you, but that's what happened. I will also mention that the FMVs are stretched when the game is played in widescreen mode, because of course they are.

So yeah, this is the Old Master, whose tomb we saw earlier and who set up that "puzzle" with the lion statue. He obviously died long ago, but his spirit still wanders down here, most likely because of the whole thing with the dead not passing on to the underworld as they're supposed to be. I would've assumed he died before all that started, but who knows.

Master, student, farmer... whatever I was, I should be dust. Instead, I am pulled to nowhere. Frustration! The way is blocked, the shepherd is gone! Cannot escape the living. Milling... stinking... you cloud the way!

He's very rude, I must say. Must have gone insane while wandering around as a restless spirit.

What will become of the world if no souls are replenished? Eventually there will be an end. You are blind to the danger, blind to the truth. You can only understand if you see. I will make you see. I will make you understand!

It was mentioned in one of the earlier updates, but basically the way the cycle of life works in Jade Empire is that a person's spirit is eternal; it passes through the underworld and is then reincarnated in another body. However, if the spirits of the dead can't get to the underworld and therefore can't reincarnate, the world is in serious trouble before long.

In any event, we need to fight the Old Master and a couple of other spirits he summons.

I remember this fight being kinda hard on my very first playthrough back in the day. It's really not, and I have no idea what I was doing wrong back then. The Old Master can use ice magic, but he's got so little health that you can take him out with ease.

He does manage to drop a big block of ice on our head just as he dies, which is very rude of him.

His buddies go down just as easily. This was technically a boss fight, but if it wasn't for the following scene I wouldn't have bothered to put up a video of the fight.

VIDEO: A Mysterious Spirit

Once the spirit of the Old Master has been taken care of, Wu begins her meditation.

Before she can really meditate on what she's learned in the Spirit Cave today, though, something interrupts her.

We find ourselves back in a cave, but this is clearly not the same one we were in. This one has more of a water motif going on.

As Wu wonders where she is and how she got there, something materializes behind her.

Another spirit, in the form of a woman in blue. She certainly doesn't look anything like the ghosts we've been fighting.

She also doesn't seem to be hostile, and actually beckons Wu to come closer.

It was hard to see in the low-quality FMV, but this spirit has what appear to be scales on the side of her head and her "hair" seems to be made of water. It looks like it flows like water, at least, which doesn't come across in the screenshots but is quite obvious in the video.

I do not have strength to answer. I am cut open, and the way to the underworld is shut. Spirits are lost with no shepherd, no guardians. You must restore us. The amulet is a focus; it will guide you. But when you know both sides of the veil of death, ability alone will save you. I have a moment of power, a window to grant knowledge of a primal energy. You must choose between ice and fire, and I will grant the skill to bring them to your hands.

Whoever this spirit is, she seems to have something to do with the wheel of reincarnation, and she also appears to know exactly who (and what) we are. Not only that, but she's going to teach us a magic style, which will come in very handy against the undead.

This, of course, means that we can only pick one for now but will be able to learn the other element later if we wish.

I find the flame to be more useful. It does more damage, which is always a good thing, and it can immolate enemies which is also handy.

Is this the kind of style Master Li cautioned Gao against using?

This is the exact same style Gao uses, so yes.

I can do no more... I must fade. Pity those spirits that have grown twisted. You will come to know their pain when life leaves you. Pity the world if you fail, Spirit Monk, for you are the last.

As we return to the Spirit Cave from... wherever that was, a portal opens next to Wu.

We were told to meditate here for some time, but if this portal is showing up it must mean we're done here. We don't know how long we spent talking to the spirit, anyway -- in the real world it may well have been a day even though it only felt like a few minutes.

And yes, we have our first magic style. Using magic drains our chi, but the cost can be reduced by investing some skill points into the style. Most importantly, being able to throw fireballs means we now have a ranged attack, so enemies with long weapons just got slightly less annoying.

There are some goodies laying around in the cave, probably the most important being the first Iron Palm scroll. There are also a couple of scrollstands for us to take a look at before we leave, so let's do that.

Now that we are seemingly all done down here, we just have to walk into the portal. Hopefully Master Li has an explanation for what we saw here.

Apparently, that was not part of the plan.

A vision? Ah... of course you did. A natural reaction to the great amount of information I have placed before you. It may have something to do with your amulet. Er... tell me, did you learn anything about the destiny that stretches before you? Or what has led you this far?

She said I was the last Spirit Monk. What does that mean?

Be careful, I do not want you to be... misled by sources I cannot anticipate. Your people had warriors by that name. I regret that my actions caused their downfall. Twenty years ago the Empire was mired in drought. Your people revered the Water Dragon, so their temple of Dirge was the ideal place to ask the heavens for help. But the Water Dragon governed more than just moisture. The drought was part of the natural order, and not for mortals to alter. The Spirit Monks denied us access. The Emperor was incensed. He asked me to plan a display of power that would force their compliance. As our armies marched, I realized how wrong we were.

What else did this vision reveal? You were only to retrieve the amulet, learn to place gems in it, and meditate on your future. I don't want you to be distracted.

Before we can answer, Jing Woo barges in.

That doesn't sound good at all.

No, Master Li. There is no sign of her.

Your appearance put Gao's disgrace out of my mind, but it would seem that your... early exit from the caves has come at just the right time.

What better way to show mastery over your abilities than to turn them towards helping your fellow student? Seek her out. I doubt she is in the school, and someone would have seen her if she was in the village. You might want to try the surrounding marshland.

You learned in the cave how single gems are viewed as trinkets and used by self-professed healers and would-be sorcerers, but you can unlock their full potential. Make sure you have everything you need when you leave to find Dawn Star. Do not cloud your mind with anything else. When you return, your course will be clear.

Master Li hands us 250 silver and sends us on our way. We can talk to the other students if we want to, but none of them have anything particularly useful to say. It seems like Gao was in quite a hurry to leave for some reason, and it doesn't really take a rocket scientist to figure out that he probably had something to do with Dawn Star's sudden disappearance.

We can now buy gems from Smiling Mountain and Fen Do. Neither of them sells any particularly good ones, but we can afford another one of Smiling Mountain's special techniques so let's buy that. Unfortunately, we can't quite get both. Maybe if I had screwed over Kia Min in her sidequest...

This kid is all right, none of the other students really give a shit about Dawn Star.

I always thought these loading screen images were kind of terrible. Dawn Star looks weirdly off-model here, although the widescreen stretch-o-vision probably isn't helping matters.

wait what

And why has none of you tried to put out the fire?

I wonder what could have been in that sack!

Seriously guys, you could've at least put out the flames. Poor Si Pat probably died instantly, but still. Even though he didn't have any dignity in life, that doesn't mean he shouldn't have some in death.


I also wonder what on earth is going on with this woman's eyes.

These villagers don't have anything useful to say, so let's just leave them. We can ask if they thought it might have been a person in the sack, but they apparently couldn't tell.

Fen Do finally got some stuff in stock, including a few gems. We buy an Inferior Charm Gem (Charm +2).

Here, by the way, are our attributes and stats as well as our conversation skills.

On our approach towards the town gate, we run into some of Gao's men looking over what appears to be the lifeless body of the gate guard. Did Gao kill him as well?

The young master thought you might come after him, so he left us here to slow you down. You were lucky against those bandits, but we're not so easy to push around.

We're really not in the mood to grapple with these morons right now.

No wonder Gao the Lesser didn't want to face you. If you want to go after him, just go. It's not worth fighting with you.

So much for not being easy to push around.

The gate guard turns out to be alive after all, so we help him up and see if he has any information on Gao.

Gao! That spoiled little noisy cricket! He hit me without cause!

You're lucky to be alive. Gao murdered a student on his way to you.

That repulsive... I wish I'd known ahead of time. You know, before he hit me. Gate guards. We're an unappreciated lot. I'm sorry about that student. I truly am.

Did he have Dawn Star with him?

I didn't see her. He was dragging a large sack and I asked if he needed help. He said, "No, just the key to the gate," and then he conjured this ball of flame around his hand. I don't really remember what happened next. I might have passed out. No one's ever threatened me before!

What a hero.

There's only one place he could have gone if he left the village. The path leads past the fields to the swamps. What did he do? Why would he resort to attacking me just to leave the village?

Holy shit! A main character in an RPG actually manages to figure something out on their own!

Will do.

And thus, we leave Two Rivers for, presumably, the first time since we arrived here with Master Li. Next time, we'll be exploring the swamp. See you then.