Part 23: The Magnificent BastardEpisode 21: The Magnificent Bastard
Last time, we arrived in the Imperial City and learned that Silk Fox is in fact Princess Sun Lian, the daughter of Emperor Sun Hai. She has told us to meet her at the Scholars' Garden entrance and discuss her plan to help us find Master Li, and that is where we are starting today. It also turns out there is a loud and annoying Outlander causing trouble in the Garden, and we'll be taking a look at that once our business with Princess Lian is finished.
I hope Silk Fox doesn't mind the fact we spent quite a bit of time flying around in the Dragonfly and futzing with Lord Lao's Furnace with Kang the Mad. At least that gave her ample time to find a change of clothing.
I should have seen it coming. I suspect that we share a similar strength.
As the Heavenly Lily I am above suspicion, but I am restrained by fawning servants. Silk Fox can go anywhere, and people are not shy about their reactions. There is a thrill, of course. And it allows me to find information useful to us both. Death's Hand brought your Master Li to the palace a few days ago. I saw the flyer. He was bound in chains. He must be powerful, but I still don't believe he is Sun Li the Glorious Strategist.
Not that we'd really expect her to have recognized Master Li as her uncle, as she must have been very young when Dirge happened and Li was declared dead, but might as well make sure.
I discovered this looking through records for information on Death's Hand. Perhaps he tried to influence Sun Li and Sun Kin before corrupting my father. But it doesn't matter who your Master is. I could take you to the palace, but Death's Hand controls what my father hears. He must be discredited for you to succeed.
Construction on the Wall has stopped for the first time in generations. The workers now toil in factories, building powerful creatures of stone and clay called golems. Death's Hand could use these automatons to seize the Empire, and my father is oblivious. We must infiltrate the Lotus Assassins and find evidence of this treachery.
We know Death's Hand is an evil jerk and basically the true power behind the throne already, so it wouldn't be out of the question for him to try a coup. If he actually is building an army of golems behind the Emperor's back, that is worth investigating. There's just one small problem.
That sounds a little bit... irresponsible.
Point taken. Most of the Lotus Assassins we've met have ended up without their heads, and the rest weren't in any condition to report back to their boss either.
I would wager that you may profit from their tasks, too. Can you see the beauty in using their own methods of recruitment to fight them? I think they deserve it.
If you prove yourself in the arena, they will notice you. My people can spread rumors of your interest. The Executioner will take a real interest when you finish the Silver Round. Or, if you prefer, the Inquisitor recruiter is also seeking new peopie. He might be open to persuasion.
You know a lot about the Lotus Assassins. Why?
Death's Hand rules over the Lotus Assassins, so I take special interest in their activities. I've had most of my life to ask questions. You suspect my motives? You have no reason to doubt me. If I wanted the Lotus Assassins to find you, I could simply tell them your name.
Fair enough. Well then, looks like we've got some work to do.
Or seek the Executioner. My people will spread rumors of your interest, and he will approach you in the arena. They like fighters who have passed the Silver Round.
Spoiler: We're doing both paths.
Silk Fox doesn't think very much of our crew at this point. I recall her being taken aback quite a bit if you tell her to go wait at the flyer; she can't believe you'd travel with one of these peasants rather than her.
We'll take Silk Fox along because hey, new party member. We're also going to have to do something about that attitude of hers sooner or later. I can just about see Dawn Star staring daggers at Silk Fox from off-screen.
Right, let's see if we can find this Scholar Dongow.
Guess that'll have to wait, because our little welcoming committee from earlier is back.
We... didn't do anything, though. We stated our business, then these two started talking about hauling us in just in case, and before we could say another word Princess Lian showed up and told the guards to scram.
Wasn't expecting you to, but okay!
We didn't do anything! Oh well, since these highly professional and not at all corrupt Imperial guards clearly want a fight, they shall have one.
Oh, that one is the guard captain. I didn't even realize because they both look like generic guards.
The bamboo casks in this area contain something flammable, so you can try to trick the guards to hit them and get set on fire. Or you can set yourself on fire, which isn't even slowing us down right now. I've been playing a Tempest rogue on my latest Dragon Age: Inquisition run, so my characters setting themselves on fire in combat is something I'm very familiar with. Even if they don't actually get stronger by doing that in this game.
Let's just pretend I made some godawful fire-related pun here and move on.
Since we are in the Scholars' Garden, there naturally is plenty of reading material to delve into. It would appear our scholars here are having what is basically the Jade Empire equivalent of a science vs. religion debate.
That's Scholar Dongow over there in the orange robes, but first we'll check out this scroll.
Oh hey, there's something we can use at Lord Lao's furnace. Let's see what it says.
Activate the conductor, the Clapper Chimney and the Cranking Cauldron, press the tiger button while using iron infused with nickel as fuel. The scholar who wrote this seems to find the whole idea ludicrous, but we'll see what Lord Lao's Furnace can do with steel
That, however, is a mystery to be solved another time, because we need to talk to Scholar Dongow and ask in extremely subtle fashion if he could point us in the direction of the Lotus Assassin Inquisitor.
Good job, very inconspicuous. We're a shoe-in for the Inquisitors!
Nobody here suspects me to be anything but an overzealous scholar, and I'd like to keep it that way. So, you want to know about the recruiter? You have a flying machine, do you not? Yes, I know about that. Go back to the landing area and someone will meet you there.
He already knows, I'm sure. Now go, I will not speak to you about this any further.
That went surprisingly smoothly.
More intense debatin'. I think this is the hypothesis that inspired the rebuttal we read earlier, these things are found out of order around here.
The Scholar's Garden is a very pretty area, and it also appears on the Chapter 3 version of the main menu screen. I'll show that off soon enough.
This debate seems to be more about how much of the universe was created by the divine, rather than whether divine beings exist. I'm not sure how well versed the average person in the Jade Empire is on matters like this, but Spirit Monks like Wu definitely know the Water Dragon is real (as does the Emperor, of course) and we've already seen a few celestial beings on our travels.
We also know that the Celestial Bureaucracy are regulating pretty much everything you can think of and keeping track of everyone's deeds, and obviously the Water Dragon was responsible for all the water-related business and guiding lost souls into the underworld until Dirge happened.
There is another bookstand to our right, but we ignore that for now because we're distracted by that strange man in the massively garish outfit.
VIDEO: The Outlander (pro click)
I strongly recommend watching the video. I can't stress this enough.
Looks like we've got one of our warriors challenging the Outlander.
And there's the "strange firework" the Minister of Culture mentioned when he asked for our help. I don't think I ever actually identified the Minister (nor did the game, for that matter) but that's who he's supposed to be.
Ladies and gentlemen -- John Cleese.
I'm not sure how BioWare got John Cleese to voice the Outlander (my guess is "a handsome sum of Microsoft's money") because up until that point most of his video game roles had been in James Bond games where he voiced Q, but I am so, so glad they did get him on board. Even if he is doing it for the paycheck, he still puts in a quality performance and doesn't phone it in in the slightest.
Good lad. Found him wading in the mud planting weeds. You can't keep your crackers crisp doing that! God help you if you don't know the horror of a soggy biscuit. I've given him dignity, and unless one of you has the will to deny that I'm your better, I suggest you start learning. We'll have you in proper trousers by the morrow.
Now, I didn't ask to land here, but if a storm is going to cast my ship into the very heart of such a dark empire, I'll bring the light of knowledge wherever I can. You must hunger for guidance. You're like children. I mean, only a handful of you can even grow a decent moustache! What kind of place is this?
Can you now? Shall we put that to a test? I welcome the chance that you might impress me with a glimmer of intelligent insight. But, I will acknowledge that I am likely to disagree just because I know you are... lacking. We will need educated men to judge the merits of our arguments.
I've gone to great pains to learn your barbaric tongue, only to find that none of you have much to say. Can you convince me otherwise? I've heard a distinct lack of couplets and quatrains, to say nothing of pentameters. Is it any wonder you people live as you do?
I like that the game bothers to mention that Sir Roderick actually took the time to learn the language of the Jade Empire, instead of just being able to converse with us with no explanation given. It's not a huge deal by any means, but I tend to appreciate small details like that.
Anyway, we're going to have a debate with Sir Roderick on the merits of the Jade Empire. Frankly, I wouldn't last ten seconds if I had to actually argue against John Cleese on any subject, but since we're in a video game we might have a shot at doing well at this.
Er, whoever you wish. These five, standing here. I'm sure there will be a balance of opinion. The test must be fair. Go on, talk to them all to prove I haven't coerced them. We'll begin the debate when you are ready. Then, we'll see how you fare in combat. I doubt you'll do very well. Like the rest, you're all just too damn skinny.
This should be interesting.
I would be honored to sit in judgment of the debate. Several of my fellow scholars have also volunteered.
Before we get to do anything else, the Minister of Culture comes to inform us that he'll be one of the judges for the upcoming debate and give us a bit of advice on how to proceed.
Of course, I doubt his arguments will have the weight that he expects. Not here in the heart of the Jade Empire.
What strategy should I take?
The best course is to appeal to the individual preferences of the judges. We are... theoretical thinkers, really. It is not so much the subject but the tactic that triggers reaction. Each judge will respond only to argument styles they favor. If a judge likes fact, use it once and he will join your side. Use it again and he will switch back, just to further debate. Other arguments may not interest him at all.
What kind of arguments do you favor?
I am ill-equipped to see my own faults, but I, like my fellow scholars, am adept at exploiting the weaknesses of others. Scholars Heng and Zou are easily swayed with simple facts. Cite such details and they are certain to change their opinion either for or against.
I'll get ready for the debate. Goodbye.
All right. So, it doesn't really matter what you say, it's how you say it. Got it.
Now, we're supposed to go talk to all the judges and try to remember which one of them likes which argument style. Let's pretend I did that, and get back to Sir Roderick to start the debate. You can see in the video that I quicksave twice in very quick succession at this point, probably just to make sure that I actually did save.
I just want to make sure this is more entertaining than simply blathering about whose walls are higher or whose philosophers really know what's what. It will be a simple matter. Five judges, six topics. I'll pose my argument about why your foolish land stumbles like a child, and you try to answer. The judges will raise their arms to indicate whom they favor. Arms up for you, arms down for me. After six topics, if you have a majority, you are the winner.
Seems simple enough.
I will pull no punches, and I expect no mercy on your part. Let us see which of us is truly superior.
All right then, let's begin.
What manner of society would use the silver coin as the basis of trade? Gold is clearly superior, which you admit by using it for important statuary. Your understanding of what determines value is flawed. Your rebuttal?
Okay, here's how the debate works. We have five different argument styles we can use, and five judges who all have their preferences. Again, only the tone matters, not the actual content of what you're saying. Numbering the judges from left to right, here is what each of them likes:
Sympathetic: 1, 3, 5
Mocking: 4, 5
Dismissive: 3, 4
Factual: 2, 3
We open with the Sympathetic option, which gets judges 1, 3 and 5 on our side and gives us a majority early on. Of course, this is just the beginning.
How can you truly know they are uncivilized until you've proven it by conquest, crushed them beneath your heel? You sit here thinking while far off lands yearn for direction. Not unlike what I am attempting with you.
Judges 2 and 3 like arguments based on facts, so we get 2 on our side but lose 3 since we already had his vote on the last question and he now wants to argue some more. Just like the Minister said.
Any decently civilized people would have developed a proper array of personal sidearms by now, like old Mirabelle here.
As we now only need to get judges 3 and 4 on our side to win the debate, we use the dismissive tone since both of them like that. Personally, I'd have gone with facts, but once again it doesn't actually matter what you are saying. It's kind of a shame that this debate is a glorified light switch puzzle, but there you go.
I was a bit torn on whether or not I wanted to get the judges to reach consensus against Sir Roderick or if I'd let the debate play out, but I eventually decided that completely owning Sir Roderick was the way to go after all the shit he has been talking. I also like his reaction.
Hmm. Clearly these people are incapable of fairly comparing one of their own to an outsider. This is a farce!
Then perhaps it was my mistake to think you would be open to anything other than your own backwards ideals. Bah!
Sore loser, I see. Of course, we're not quite done with Sir Roderick yet even though we won the debate.
We still need to duel him.
The entry hall here has walls to be up against, corners to be backed into, and floor enough on which to be down but not out. Whatever your metaphor, I'll beat it.
Uh, someone might want to clean up the bodies of those two guards who had a most unfortunate combat-related accident soon after we walked into the entry hall.
Frankly, I don't know what you people are capable of.
I will return when I am ready.
Quickly now. Sir Roderick Ponce Von Fontlebottom *the* Magnificent Bastard is not one to let a duel grow stale on the vine.
We could've started the duel right there, but I need to do a couple of things first.
Such as talk to Percival the squire here, but mostly save the game.
I am ready now. Let's begin.
What? Good. Let's get this over with so I can return to schooling the rest of your fellows. I envy you. You are about to experience for the first time the skill that has forged an empire and traveled the world. There will be pain as well, but I imagine it will almost be worth it.
A FADE TO BLACK LATER
Let the duel... begin! Now, as you might be able to tell from the screenshot, we start with Sir Roderick aiming Mirabelle at us, and that's absolutely not a situation we want to spend any real amount of time in.
We're not going to mess around in this fight, so we're using our strongest style to do as much damage as we possibly can in a short amount of time. We're also spending the fight in focus mode, because the last thing we want to do is allow Sir Roderick to fire his overpowered blunderbuss at us. Is Mirabelle a blunderbuss? I think it is because it has the flared muzzle, but I don't know much about guns so I might be mistaken. Anyway, Mirabelle doesn't kill us in one hit, but it does an absolute fuckton of damage (edit: to all three stats, apparently) and knocks us down, giving Sir Roderick extra time to reload the gun (which takes forever) and aim it at us again (which takes only slightly less than forever).
Once we've hit Sir Roderick a few times, we jump over him to attack from behind and force him to change his aim.
Do that a few times, and Sir Roderick learns his lesson.
ANOTHER FADE TO BLACK LATER
Turns out we didn't kill him, in fact he looks to be totally fine. I guess that armor protected him.
I suppose I should have seen it coming. Your win in the debate was a sure sign. I do believe I have underestimated the lot of you. Regardless, you have beaten me. That's a point of honor I cannot deny.
I wouldn't be much of an ambassador for my country if I didn't abide by its customs. The Duchess of Ulmsbottom's Rules of Engagement are quite clear on this matter.
Mirabelle... is yours. Treat her well. She's a finicky lady.
Now, normally I would take the essence gem (The Silver Tongue: Charm/Intimidation/Intuition +6) or maybe one of the techniques (each adds +3 to an attribute), but I know the thread would never forgive me if I didn't take Mirabelle out of Sir Roderick's hands. It's probably better this way, at least now we can be sure he won't be pointing that thing at anyone else.
Farewell, Sir Roderick. I kinda wish he were a party member so we could have more John Cleese, but sadly this is the last time we see the man. At least we'll always have Mirabelle to remember him by.
We're not going to use Mirabelle all that often (wouldn't be much of a martial artist if we just shot everyone, would we?), but I assure you she'll get her day in the spotlight very soon.
Before we leave, let's find some more light reading.
This is the bookstand we missed earlier. I could've sworn we already read this exact same thing in the very first update, I'm gonna have to double-check...
Huh. How about that. I wonder why this is in two different places. We still get EXP for reading it, so I won't complain too much.
We have to talk to the Minister of Culture again to actually finish the Outlander quest, but I didn't realize it at this time (since we got Mirabelle and everything) so we'll be doing that later. Right now, I would say it's time we got to know Silk Fox a bit better.
Meet the Executioner in the arena, or go back to your flyer to meet with the Inquisitor. Hurry or you'll lose your chance to help your master.
I thank you for your courtesy. One always likes to hear when one's gifts are appreciated. It is difficult for one of my rank to give gifts, even ones so simple as what I gave you. A princess is not normally allowed to show favorites.
The Imperial Palace holds many treasures... although Death's Hand carted many off, to what end I do not know.
Silk Fox isn't quite telling us the whole truth here. The Imperial Favor isn't just any random gem she found at the palace's treasury:
In-game description of the Imperial Favor gem posted:
The emperors of the Sun dynasty have long been famed for their magical aptitude, but they also enjoy the adulation of the people of the Jade Empire. Imperial Favor was cut by a master gem smith, who worked for weeks to create a gift that would suitably honor Princess Lian's coming of age.
It's most certainly not some random trinket. Seems this was in fact a prized possession of Princess Lian's, and she's given it to us to show her appreciation.
But the price I may pay for helping you could be greater still. I am destined for the throne, destined to rule the Empire after my father, but... That will be meaningless if Death's Hand keeps his hold on my fathers mind. I fear one day he may try to... interfere with the Imperial succession. Or perhaps convince my father that he should be Emperor by marriage.
Let's at least make sure that doesn't happen. BioWare romance dialog to the rescue!
You are strange indeed, but what you say is true. The Heavenly Lily could never abide such a situation. I would bite my own tongue before ever allowing that... "man" to touch me. I'm sorry, I've ruined the mood. We should continue our talk another time. First, we must expose Death's Hand, reveal his treachery and manipulation.
We've learned a little bit more about Silk Fox and her personality, as well as her fears concerning the future. Hopefully we'll also manage to get her to hold our party members in higher regard than she does now, or things might get awkward.
Next time, we'll... shit, I forget what we're doing next time. I think we start the quest to earn the Inquisitor's favor, maybe visit Lord Lao's Furnace again as well.