Part 18: The Forest ShadowEpisode 17: The Forest Shadow
Last time, we went to the Great Southern Forest and fought about eight hundred ghosts (rough estimation). Lord Yun, the owner of these lands, has offered to make a copy of his wind map for us if we find out why the forest is so messed up, and the signs seem to point at an ancient fox spirit known as the Forest Shadow. The proprietor of the local inn has offered us a hefty reward for killing the Forest Shadow, but more importantly they gave us the crystal needed to complete the ritual that opens the path to the Forest Shadow. Now that the path is open, what we'll do with the fox spirit depends entirely on what happens when we meet her.
Oh yeah, I should probably point out that this update is potentially , depending on your employer's tolerance for fox boobs (of the barbie doll variety, but still).
This... doesn't look like the realm inhabited by something that sickens the forest and makes ghosts appear all over the place. It also has some rather lovely music.
Never mind, looks like we've got another restless spirit incoming.
For so long, it appeared you'd be one of the easy ones. Then that whole bandit attack happened, and I haven't rested since.
Or maybe it's just whoever this happens to be. I wonder which fight this person is talking about, we've had a few of those recently.
No easy task, I might add, especially since you embarked on this wild quest to find your master.
Our calculations keep the universe in balance. Without us, chaos... anarchy... utter ruination.
If Whirlwind isn't with you, Zin Bu still says something to this effect except it's obviously not addressed directly to the big man.
You can't just guess at it! You must have records. Itemized records, in triplicate, signed by the Overseer of Carnal Destruction and Disorder herself!
The Celestial Bureaucracy? Turns out it's not just a fancy name for Jade Empire's pantheon of gods, but an actual bureaucracy full of paperwork and all that red tape bullshit we know and love.
Gao the Lesser? If that report was already so massive, I can't wait until they get to the part where we meet Gao's dad.
Uh, sorry about those harmonic combos and that kind of thing, I guess.
I'm being relegated to a much lower role, in trade and commerce. My only consolation is that I will no longer have to track your exploits. I'll be lucky if I ever attain the rank I had before you came along, but I have a plan that just might get me there.
Cool. Let's hear it.
I need you to buy from me and sell to me, if you wish. I already have a supplier, a friend of mine from the Untimely Deaths department, who was also demoted recently. By getting rid of the other suppliers and buyers, I can save time and be more efficient. Perhaps then I can regain some of the honor I lost through this demotion.
I just love the idea that we, as the protagonist of an RPG, are causing so much death and destruction that the guys in heaven keeping score are basically flipping over their office desks due to all the extra work, and then getting demoted because they can't handle the workload. That's fantastic.
You gain the envious ability to buy and sell at your whim. And I... I can prove my worth in my new role. Perhaps I will even do well enough to get promoted.
Yes, we now have a vendor we can access at any time except during a fight. That's kind of great, although due to the way items work in Jade Empire (no health potions or anything like that to worry about) we don't exactly need to access his wares that often.
Still, that is a useful perk to have and Zin Bu sells some very nice stuff if you can afford it. He does sell his items at a 25% premium compared to other merchants and also buys items for 50% less than you'd get in most other places.
Simply call upon me as you would any of your followers, and I'll be there. In the meantime, I have much to do. I'm afraid my supplies are a little low at the moment. But fear not, I will acquire new items as quickly as I can. I should go and see what I can dig up for you. Don't worry, I'll be around. Just call on me if you need something. Good day!
Right. Let's take a look at what Zin Bu has for us at the moment. As he said, you can access the store by choosing him in the Followers tab like you'd choose any party member.
Not much in stock yet, just like he said, but there is one thing we most definitely want. Unfortunately we can't quite afford it yet even if we sell some of our surplus gems (shouldn't have spent all that money on Spear Catches Leaf's techniques, I guess) but that shouldn't be a problem for much longer.
Your followers have their own comments about this place. The Black Whirlwind, of course, mainly thinks about drinking and gratuitous violence, so there isn't that much for him to enjoy here.
This monkey's gone to heaven.
Up the hill, we find some fox spirits who don't seem to care for our presence very much. At least they haven't attacked us, so that is something. Being ancient spirits, they obviously speak Tho Fan. (I haven't really bothered to point out the Tho Fan speakers most of the time, because it's not all that important)
We will take you... The demons come again! Human, if you value your life, help us against these ﬁends!
That toad demon to our left is ready to rock.
The fox spirits are actually very strong in a fight, even more so than you might expect. Toad demons barely last seconds against them, and having Black Whirlwind going to town with his axes helps things along even more.
Beware of more demons. They grow more aggressive as our mistress weakens from the disease in the trees. The Mother, the demon they serve, is now strong enough to send her minions to attack us directly, breaching the sanctity of this place with her magic.
There we have it. The Forest Shadow is not the cause of the disease in the forest, and it seems a demon called the Mother may be the culprit instead.
This is the realm of the Forest Shadow, my mistress. It is her piece of heaven. She will tell you more. You must go speak with her as quickly as they can.
Why did your mistress attack me?
She spoke of your... encounter. She regrets attacking you and considers it a mistake. She said you would seek to confront her. Go to the upper islands and do so, but know that not all in the forest is as it seems.
Ah, so it apparently was the Forest Shadow who attacked us and that man on the bridge. Makes sense, considering her powers.
Why are these demons attacking this place?
This is the home of our mistress, the Forest Shadow. For lack of a better metaphor, she is at war with a foul demon known as the Mother. These demons serve the Mother, and as the Forest Shadow weakens they grow more bold. Even attacking this sacred place. They will attack you, as well. My sisters will try to protect you, but we need your help as much as you need ours. You must reach my mistress quickly.
I will go speak with the Forest Shadow.
Climb the bridges between the islands. Her home lies above us on the highest of the islands. Go carefully. More demons are coming. I can smell it. The Mother will not win this day, no matter how many demons she sends!
More demons are indeed on the way, but as we saw earlier this toad is not a match for the fox spirits.
The Mother has also sent in some horse demons, who remain annoying as ever.
I was sure we were out of the explosion's radius. Oh well. We can now turn into a horse demon, but as is the case with most transformation styles I've never really found any reason to do so since we can do plenty of damage as it is.
Attacking horse demons will hurt you. Yes, thank you for that, we kind of noticed already. As we can do the Tien's Landing main quests in any order, this can be your first encounter with horse demons and was possibly meant to be, considering the presence of this bookstand and the fact we got the transformation style here instead of when we fought our first horse demon at the pirate lair.
That must be the Forest Shadow's place up there, so let's finally go and find out what's going on with the Great Southern Forest.
I see the Mother brought in some heavy hitters as well. That fox spirit isn't dead, just knocked down from an attack. I don't think they even can die, to be honest.
The Black Whirlwind, as mentioned before, is the only party member worth half a damn in combat. He'd better be, since he doesn't have a support ability. It's still not really worth using him instead of Dawn Star or Sky (whose support skill restores your focus), but at least he doesn't get completely chumped by every useless mook you run into.
Apparently, the horse demon's dying explosion can hurt other enemies. It actually seemed to kill this toad demon.
Once we've dealt with that terrible trio, it's time to go see the Forest Shadow. She also seems to be having some problems with demons, but at least she isn't alone.
She has an elephant demon guardian, something very useful to have when your home is frequently invaded by flaming horse monsters.
Not that the Forest Shadow herself is a slouch either, of course. We've already seen what she can do. Now, with the gritty reboot of Petz: Horsez taken care of, we can finally talk to the Forest Shadow.
You are too quick to turn away potential allies, Shining Tusk. We know our enemy, this one may yet prove to be a friend.
A friend who reeks of those beasts at the inn? Hmmph. Do what you wish, Mistress, but I will be watching.
You have just met my guardian, Shining Tusk. He is slow to trust, and quick to anger, but he will not harm you. Not without cause.
That's good. I don't really feel like fighting another elephant demon right now.
You were attacked at the bridge by a mad fox spirit. The spirit tried to kill you, yet you fought her off. You survived because I had no intention of harming you.
"A mad fox spirit"? That was obviously Forest Shadow herself, as she is the only one of these spirits who has the decency to wear clothes. The fox we saw definitely had the same outfit as Shadow here, albeit without the giant halo behind her head. Is that attached to the collar, or does it just float? Hard to tell from this angle.
If the intention was to confuse us, that certainly worked.
They hate me because I oppose the creature they serve. All of the people in the inn are... corrupt. They cloak themselves in spells to conceal the horrors they have become.
Why did you kill the man I met on the bridge?
The man on the bridge was from the inn. He was no longer human, despite the illusion that concealed him. I couldn't risk that he would find a way out of the forest.
Why didn't you attack Spear Catches Leaf? Why me?
Ah, the hunter. He is a true soul. But while he may suspect, he knows nothing of the corruption in the inn. He knows nothing of the real reason my forest suffers. I have no doubt he would be an ally if I called, but he does not possess your skills. He cannot deal with creatures that cloak themselves in human guises in the Pilgrim's Rest.
Enough mysterious hints. What's really happening in the inn?
I mean, we could probably piece it together from that but...
The Mother was awoken by the rage of the spirits of the dead. Those denied passage to the underworld with the death of the Water Dragon. She feeds on their anger. Her dark power has twisted the innfolk into monsters that crave the flesh of humans. Cannibals.
Yes, as someone in the thread already figured out from the highly subtle hints, the weirdos in the inn are cannibals (even though they're technically not human anymore). If you keep talking to Hou, who keeps dropping more hints things aren't right, you actually can get the cannibals to reveal themselves pretty much immediately. I chose not to do that because I wanted to keep their true form hidden for the time being. It also seems the Mother isn't causing the ghosts to appear and was in fact awakened by their anger.
She has been here longer than your Empire, human. This forest has held two spirits for longer than history can remember. It is the way of my kind. When we are tied to your world, as I am to the forest, there is a dark side to match the light. Usually one side will be dominant, but even in broad daylight there are shadows.
So why am *I* so important?
You know the Water Dragon is missing, and that your world fills with the spirits of the dead, but this forest has illustrated what that really *means.* The Mother's awakening and her spreading corruption is just a beginning. One of many that happen all over your empire. You do not want to see the end.
So if the Water Dragon isn't restored, the whole world will be like this horrible forest or even worse. Let's try to avoid getting to that point, shall we?
A woman in blue? She would often appear in such a guise, yes. The form of a celestial dragon can be intimidating, especially...
We've finally discovered the identity of the blue spirit that has been talking to us. You've probably figured out by now that she is the Water Dragon (the scales and the water motif were kind of a giveaway) but now we actually know.
Ah, here we go again.
The best part of this reveal is the fact I can now finally post the music track that plays during the Water Dragon spirit's appearances. It's possibly my favorite track in the game.
MUSIC: The Waterdragon
What remains after that is beyond you. Or is meant to be. Not everything can be owned. Not without price. You will pay a debt earned by another. I lack the strength to help you. You cannot avoid your fate. When someone steps beyond their station, others must fall to fill the gap.
That would be Emperor Sun Hai, I assume.
If you fail in your destiny, your true enemy falls with you. And if he falls... so do we all. You must win... but in doing so, you will lose. It is a painful circle that must be allowed to close. You do not truly have a choice until you confront what comes after. You will be free to act, but there is a cost.
Well, that's a lot of cryptic and vaguely ominous words.
Now that I am sure of your role in things, it is all the more vital you choose which fork in the road you will take.
My guess is no, but it's worth a shot.
You need to make your way to the Imperial City, and I know Lord Yun holds a wind map you must have. He will only be satisfied if you "cure" the forest, as he understands it. And so, the choice: will you attempt to destroy me and tell Yun that I was behind the corruption of his land? Or will you brave the more dangerous road and face the Mother?
Do we try to kill this clearly benevolent ancient protector of the forest and side with a demon who turns people into cannibal monsters? Hmm. I wonder.
I'm all ears, human.
Very pointy ones, too.
There are caves beneath the Pilgrim's Rest. They are infested with cannibals, and the creatures work tirelessly to free their mistress. For all their diggings they will not completely free her until I am destroyed... or until I release her. And that is exactly what I plan to do. You must go to the Pilgrim's Rest. I will release the seal on the door beneath the inn so that you may enter her lair.
What will I face there?
The people of the inn are her followers now, and they are nothing more than cannibalistic monsters. They will know that we have allied, and you will have to face them. Individually, these cannibals are not exceptionally strong or skilled, but they are fast, and they attack in groups.
Where is the entrance to the Mother's lair?
Inside that place, at the back, you will find a lift descends to what was once a storage area. Once I release the seal on the Mother's trap, many more caves will open.
That's the obvious secret door we saw earlier but couldn't interact with.
That's all I need to know to face her.
Once the seal is broken, I will not be able to close it again. You must not fail. You will find a way to defeat the Mother, and you will survive. You must. I will find you after she is dead.
Since we're here, we might as well learn more about the Forest Shadow, the Mother and the fox spirits.
If you're thinking to learn our tricks, you will be disappointed. I'll happily tell you more of my kind if you wish. though.
Are most of your kind tied to nature in some way?
"And is that why everyone except you is running around with no clothes on?"
The Mother is the dark balance to my lighter influence. You will find that most anchors are like that; the heavens maintain balance in all things.
I keep hearing about the foxes' tricks. Can you give me an example?
Suppose you were a young noble who has just inherited a fortune. One of my kind might approach you as a wizened sage and ask for aid in studying an ancient artifact. Your response would determine the reaction.
Let's see... which one of these has us acting least like a moron?
Your response was proper, as you balanced your wealth with the "sage's" need, but did not do so foolishly. The fox has a nose for people's character, and we judge by their intentions as much as their actions.
Maybe the fox spirits should've written the moral choices in this game.
A most ancient tale, and one long forgotten by your kind. The Mother tried to corrupt this forest once before and failed, leaving herself weakened.
How did you become involved?
As you may know, when a spirit is anchored to a place or person, there is often a... balance. The highest powers of heaven enjoy nothing more than the struggle that ensues. The Mother is my counterpart. As a fox, I test the spirit of humanity, and what I would test, the Mother corrupts.
How did the Mother first try to corrupt the forest?
It was much the same as now. Dark promises of power were whispered in the minds of impressionable men who eventually became her cannibal servitors. As her power grew and more of your kind fell under her sway, the forest twisted and blackened. I fought her by destroying her followers and closing the paths into the forest. It was not enough. As the trees twisted, I grew weaker, and I realized that I could not win the day. The forest could not be saved.
How did you eventually trap her?
The only way to regain control of the forest was to lose control. I had been fighting the Mother's magic with my own, but I realized almost too late that I could not defeat her that way. Instead, words became my weapon. Many kingdoms claimed portions of this forest for their own, and I visited each under the guise of a mysterious crone. To each king I spoke of the plans of the others to destroy the blighted forest with fire; that fire, said I, would spread to any kingdom that was not prepared.
Were any of the kings actually planning such a thing?
None of the kings ever intended to destroy the forest, thinking that somehow the disease would pass and the resources could be salvaged. Hearing that their peers were prepared to unleash a firestorm upon them, however, made each king prepare a similar retaliation. It was only a matter of days before each king enacted what they thought was a pre-emptive strike. With fire breaks dug and their kingdoms safe, fire broke out on every border of the woods.
The forest burned?
Of course it did! Have you not been paying attention? (the other choice that continues this dialog tree is "What happened to the forest?" and that's even worse)
I too was diminished, but like the easily fooled kings, I was prepared for the flames. Weakened, the Mother fell into a torpor, and I worked tirelessly to help the forest regrow. It was a victory through sacrifice, but the forest regrew stronger than even before.
I should go deal with the inn.
Of course. Breathe deeply. You will find yourself in other places where the air is less pure soon enough.
We could also have asked about Shining Tusk, but the only interesting thing about him is that he's apparently "one of the most light-hearted of his kind". Elephant demons don't have time for your shit.
The Forest Shadow can teleport you straight back to the forest or you can just walk back to the portal (I skipped that bit of dialog). We'll walk, because there's stuff to be found.
Yeah, as tends to be the case, perfect order turned out to be kind of boring, so the Great Dragon decided to spice things up a bit. There isn't much else here in Forest Shadow's heaven, so let's just head back on over to the portal so we can go deal with the cannibal freaks.
There are more demon fights along the way, but nothing we didn't see on the way up. I kept this in because I wanted to show off how strong the fox spirits are in combat. Yes, they took out nearly the entire health bar from that toad demon in an instant. And since we should have about 10,000 silver now...
Not that this will do much good until we have some skill points, of course. Next time, we'll return the Pilgrim's Rest inn and deal with the Mother and her followers.