Part 24: The Skies AboveEpisode 22: The Skies Above
Last time, we visited the Scholars' Garden, where we dealt with the Outlander and sent him packing (and took his gun for safe keeping). Before all that, Silk Fox told us how we should go about rescuing Master Li from the Imperial Palace. Just going to the palace and beating everyone up isn't an option, and talking wouldn't help either because Death's Hand's influence on the Emperor is too strong. As such, the plan is to discredit Death's Hand by finding evidence of his corruption, and in order to get our hands on said evidence we must infiltrate the Lotus Assassins' fortress. The simplest way to do so is to join the Lotus Assassins, either via the Inquisitors or the Executioners.
We met with a scholar here in the Garden who was an agent for the Inquisitors, and he pointed us in the direction of the Inquisitor recruiter. We're supposed to be meeting up with the recruiter at the Dragonfly landing area, so let's head over there now.
Well, here we are. It seems like someone from our crew is missing, though.
I'm happy to report our bait has snagged a fish. The lnquisitors have taken notice of us. In fact, one of their representatives is on his way here now.
You were spying on an Inquisitor, and he didn't notice you? Impossible! What's really going on, Sky? Where were you?
I'm guessing Zu knows his stuff when it comes to Lotus Assassin business, so maybe we should ask Sky a few questions just in case. Maybe it's nothing, but we ought to make sure.
You underestimate me. I can be quite invisible when necessary. I followed the Inquisitor for some time without him being aware of my presence. Then I slipped away and rushed on ahead to warn you he was coming. I didn't want him to catch us in the middle of anything incriminating... like this argument.
I suppose he had good intentions, but maybe he could've at least told someone that he's got some business to attend to (not necessarily "hey guys I'll go spy on the Inquisitor, be right back") instead of suddenly disappearing like some shady weirdo.
In any event, we don't have time to worry about that now, because the Inquisitor is here.
So I ask you, why have you sought us out? Why shouldn't I just kill you where you stand?
Do the Lotus Assassins have some kind of a rule that requires every one of their elites to have a horribly disfigured face? That aside, it doesn't seem like the Inquisitor is going to let us join just like that.
I don't think that the Lotus Assassins being the true power behind the Emperor is common knowledge. Since we know the truth, maybe we can convince the Inquisitor that we're really good at unveiling sensitive information, and he might appreciate that kind of skill.
But your point is well taken. You have shown some inkling of promise merely by drawing our attention... but that alone is hardly proof of your worth. Obviously we require some type of test, some proof of loyalty before any can join. You must prove yourself useful to us before we will even consider you.
Or maybe not. Well, it was worth a shot.
I always imagine this line being delivered in the awkward style of Anakin in Revenge of the Sith. To be honest, I kind of expected the Inquisitor to yell at us for so obviously trying to suck up to him. What can I say, I'm pretty bad at being evil.
Judge Fang of the Ministry of Harmony has made a habit of openly defying our order. In the past we have tolerated him, as few pay his accusations any heed. Judge Fang has a rather... unsavory... reputation. Because of his degenerate appetites, most have dismissed his warnings out of hand. Until now.
Turns out he doesn't yell at us or even mention that at all, he just goes straight to business.
Let's hear more about this Judge Fang character.
If Judge Fang learns of these activities from Sheng's report, he may have enough evidence to cause real problems for us. We would have to take drastic action. But we prefer to deal with these things before they become problems. I was going to do this myself, but this could be a good opportunity to prove yourself.
Let's see now. They won't want us to kill anyone (that isn't the Inquisitors' style), and we need to show some initiative so we shouldn't just ask what we should do about this business. So, let's go with the least worst option. It doesn't matter, though, because the Inquisitor isn't impressed no matter what.
Minister Sheng is staying in a new Ministry hostel in the wealthy district of the city. Judge Fang spends most of his time at the arena watching the fights. The ultimate goal is to prevent Minister Sheng from delivering his report to Judge Fang. How you accomplish that is up to you... and is the true essence of the test. Remember: an Inquisitor is not a common thug. We leave that to the Executioners. We know that disgrace is a far greater punishment than death. Do not expect any help from the Lotus Assassins with this task. You will have to prove you can succeed on your own before we will even consider you for our organization.
Well, at least we won't have the Assassins breathing down our neck while we're doing this. Obviously they're still watching from a distance, but at least they're not putting any real pressure on us or trying to influence how we should do the job.
Perhaps, perhaps not. In any case, I wish you luck in your endeavor. Remember, don't let Sheng give his report to Judge Fang. We will be watching you from afar. Once you have completed your task, I will meet you back here.
Okay, that went surprisingly well. The next question is: How exactly are we going to stop Minister Sheng from giving his report to this Judge Fang? Anyone got any ideas?
Oh, good. Let's hear it!
My glorious wife's third cousin is a minor official in the Ministry of Harmony. I know a little something of the way Judge Fang conducts his business. All of Fang's ministers bring him an honor gift when they go to see him... an offering given as a sign of respect. A... a bribe, some might call it. If we replace Sheng's honor gift with something insulting--rare turtle eggs, for example--Fang would be so outraged he'd refuse to even listen to Sheng's report!
It's true. A gift of turtle eggs would be as insulting as a box of manure. Even more so because they are so difficult to track down, whereas manure is somewhat common. I admit there are still some details yet to be worked out, but acquiring the eggs is easy. I have some here that you can simply have.
Err... all right. That seems a bit too easy, to be perfectly honest.
And yeah, why is he carting a bunch of these rare turtle eggs around anyway?
There are more daunting problems to consider. For example, how will you sneak past Sheng's guards to make the switch?
People in the thread are still doubting the existence of Hou's wife. Going by this discussion, he either does indeed have a wife or he has some serious issues. Well, he obviously has serious issues no matter what, but you know what I mean. But yes, if we are to replace Sheng's gift with the eggs, we'll need to somehow get rid of his guards.
Please be quiet, Whirlwind. The grownups are talking.
No, seriously. Shut up, Whirlwind. We'll come to you for ideas when we actually need to kill something with axes.
l have no plan for you... no easy answer. But working with the Lotus Assassins is a bad idea. No good can ever come of it.
Maybe we should investigate Fang in the arena first. We might be able to stop him from getting that report without hurting Sheng... or anyone else.
Maybe you're right, Dawn Star. I just hope that in the end we don't sacrifice everything for the sake of one man, even if he is your... your beloved Master Li.
It's up to you how we handle this, but remember that the lnquisitors aren't just thugs. They're more subtle.
Zu has some understandable reservations about us working with the Lotus Assassins, even if it is just for the mission's sake. Dawn Star brought up a good point, though; we should probably start by investigating Judge Fang and figure out where we go from there.
We've got the turtle eggs, so we can pursue that route if we want to. Still, we'll go to the arena first. Well, not "first" first, because right now we'll do some more talking with our party members! Since Zu might be able to share his knowledge about the Lotus Assassins, we'll ask him how he feels about the plan.
Turns out he feels the same way he did ten seconds earlier.
Cloaked in service and honor, even the most depraved of barbarity soon becomes unremarkable.
He was made our leader during the razing of Dirge. He replaced Sun Kin, who, along with the Glorious Strategist, never returned from that campaign. I did not serve Death's Hand long, but when the orders came, he never questioned. The connection is more direct than loyalty... and he instills that in his Lotus Assassins. That is how so many were driven to kill without cause, and why I decided no more.
There was more to that event--you are right to sense it--but I have kept my silence for so long that I must carefully consider the repercussions of breaking it. I must inevitably deal with my demons. Your destiny demands it. But I must also know that those demons will be put to rest, not exploited. For many years, I did nothing. If I had known Master Li was the Glorious Strategist, so much could have been resolved, one way or another. In the end, I will have to trust that you are enough his student to find a way to protect what I cannot.
That's a lot of words, but not a whole lot of help. Oh well, maybe one day he'll tell us exactly what his deal is.
We'll get back to him later on, of course.
Silk Fox didn't talk to Sheng in Tien's Landing, so she seems a bit perturbed as to why anyone would give a shit about some idiot minister. Dawn Star's got a point, though; Sheng is an incompetent buffoon, but he did really help us quite a bit and it would be a shame to screw him over in return.
l was thinking about the Imperial City. It is such an expansive place, with a great deal of history. But my... my gift lets me see other things as well. Glimmers of the past.
It is deep and layered. The lives of people spent in the shadow of the Wall... working, dying, never leaving. All their experiences have left marks upon it. The stones echo with their passing. Sometimes, I can almost hear their voices...
It has history... ages of history, and much of it is covered in blood and misery. And not all of that is in the distant past. There are dark currents I cannot see clearly. The threads of fate are woven in the city. Or will be. Does that make sense? I don't know any more.
I am worried, but I know you will be able to set things right. Let's... let's get going. I feel a chill.
We'll get going in a minute, yes. The Imperial City is clearly wreaking havoc with Dawn Star's spirit radar, much like all the evil around here caused Ya Zhen to get strong enough to communicate through Wild Flower earlier.
The Inquisitor has a task for you to prove your worth. Get to it, and show him why you should be recruited. You could also seek out the Executioner in the arena. He would be interested in your skill as a combatant.
In case you somehow forgot what you're supposed to be doing, Silk Fox is more than happy to remind you. We don't need any reminders, though, we just want to check in with her.
Your progress is admirable, but dont become too close to the Lotus Assassins. Their power is seductive. That is how Death's Hand gained influence over my father.
Instead of taking on that role himself, my father gave it to an advisor: Death's Hand. I was only a baby at the time.
We really don't know much of anything about Death's Hand, do we? I mean, we're aware that he is a scary guy in dark armor who leads the Lotus Assassins and has serious influence over the Emperor, but who is Death's Hand? Where did he come from?
Regardless, the Lotus Monks were placed in the care of Death's Hand, a duty reserved for royalty. It was almost as if my father took Death's Hand into our family! My family! We have been caretakers of the Empire for generations. We have created a bastion of culture in an otherwise uncivilized world. Death's Hand threatens all of this. It is my duty to see that the natural order is preserved.
Apparently even Silk Fox doesn't seem to have any idea where Death's Hand came from, he just suddenly showed up at some point and got put in charge of the Lotus Monks. Anyway, we don't care about him right now, or the natural order for that matter, because we were supposed to be asking about Silk Fox herself.
I mean, if you were a man, I could understand how there might be some interest but... never mind. Is this about the mission?
Although I'm sure more than enough has been said about me by the peasants or others, I am quite used to defending myself from all quarters.
Well, since we are doing the romance subplot, I guess I should say a few words about that. With Silk Fox, you want to be careful about what you say in these conversations. As long as you don't take an indifferent or actively hostile tone with her (including badmouthing her father), you should be fine.
They, even unknowingly, have the power to see the Empire rise or fall. The love of the people is powerful. I hope, however, that I am not just seen as a giver of charity. Anyone can throw money at the downtrodden. I try to accomplish more than that.
As you can tell from my unconventional choice of traveling... companions. I think we are very similar, you and I. You are... interesting. We will continue this another time. I find myself at a loss for words. Very few people have had such an effect. Yes, you are... interesting.
That is very much enough of that for one update, so let's get going.
This guy wasn't here before.
Yes, I own it. Why do you want to know?
Well, I guess Kang might technically own it. Whatever.
However, I have had some trouble attaining parts of late. My previous... associate went on a trip to retrieve valuable parts and never returned.
Just get on with it.
I will pay you good silver, and I can sell you parts for your flyer... to make it better.
Hey, that doesn't sound so bad. Money, and upgrades for the Dragonfly? Sure, why the hell not. We're spending most of the rest of this update doing these flyer missions.
Kang isn't too enamored by the implication that his masterwork needs improvements.
Rickety? There has never been a flyer more solid than the Marvelous Dragonfly! Rickety... your wits are the only thing rickety around here!
What? The Marvelous Dragonfly is... why do I bother? You obviously have no grasp of such things.
I have some supplies in the north provinces that I need to pick up immediately. We've had trouble with bandits up there, so it might be tricky. If you could bring me those supplies, I'd have the parts necessary to upgrade your flyer. What do you say?
You've got a deal.
Very good! Here's your wind map: it'll show you where to go. I'll also pay extra if you get rid of those bandits plaguing the area.
Sounds good. We can handle a couple of bandits just f...
Ooookay then. That could've gone better. Kang tends to chime in during these sections especially when you're getting hit, but it's kind of hard to hear what he's saying or read the text boxes because A) you're too busy getting hit and there are too many loud noises and B) the text blends almost completely into the background. Here, Kang is saying "Now that was close. We need to end this."
Oh hey, here's the game over screen. Or mission failure screen in this case. Some of the flyer missions are comically difficult because many of the the enemies take way more hits than you have the means to deal with and their strategy is to fly right into you at ramming speed. Since BioWare didn't feel like giving you any invincibility frames after you get hit, getting rammed by a couple of these ships means going from full health to dead in seconds. I have the minigame difficulty set to easy, and this still took me at least half a dozen attempts.
Even then, I only barely made it, with zero health (well, maybe 1 HP) and chi left. That biplane exploded just as the Dragonfly was about to enter its hitbox. I'm sure the fact this went very poorly is partially explained by my incompetence at
Not bad, you brought back the supplies and you took out a few bandits on your way. You can have a little bit extra for that. There were some great flyer parts among those supplies. Would you like to have a look at them? Or, if you'd prefer, I could tell you about another mission I have for you.
Sure, let's take a look at the new parts.
We could've used this in the last mission. To be fair, I don't recall any of these upgrades really being worth the cost, except the final one. Might as well check what Hin Goo's next mission is.
There are many raiders between here and the prefect's home, and his ship is intended more for... luxury and less for war. Get the prefect home safely and I will reward you well. The prefect has also told me to offer you extra silver for destroying as many of the raiders as you can. The prefect is anxious to be going. Here's your wind map, and remember, protect the prefect's flyer at all costs.
Fantastic, a flyer section that is also an escort mission. I'm sure this will go great. If that prefect is from Shangdang County, can't he just throw some horrible food at the raiders to keep them away?
Thank you, almost illegible text box. We'll get to that.
Here's the prefect, it took his ship some time to appear so for a second I thought we just needed to clear the enemies and not actually escort him. I don't remember these missions all that well.
This one actually isn't bad at all despite all the signs pointing to potential disaster. There aren't that many enemies, and the ones that do show up are fairly easy to dispatch by just hammering on the fire button at all times. I would also like to point out that these sections were clearly not designed to be played in widescreen mode, because the level just cuts out at the edges of the screen.
But yeah, we made it without any issues. Hin Goo's first mission is by far the hardest of these.
I see you were able to dispatch a few of the raiders on your way. I'll top up your payment a little for that. Would you like to see some of my upgrades, or could I interest you in doing another mission for me?
We'll just grab this nickeled iron while we're here. For the record, Reverse Tides causes all enemies to slow down for a short time, which I suppose is alright when there's a horde of enemy ships trying to crash into you, but I'd rather use something that does actual damage to them. Well then, time for the next mission.
Fly to the destination on the wind map and destroy anyone who attacks you. Drop off these parts so my associate can repair his ship and return. The area you will be flying into is private land, and by right, only the Emperor's servants are allowed entrance. But there is a truth there that must be uncovered. Be careful. These imperial flyers are extremely dangerous. Good luck.
I suppose flirting with the Emperor's daughter isn't quite enough to give us the authority to fly into this area, so we'll have to do this the hard way. I must say I quite like the look of the storm clouds we're flying through in this mission.
These Imperial flyers are serious bullet sponges. We had the spread shot at one point, but then another yellow pickup spawned right on top of the Dragonfly and that meant doing the rest of this with the double shot.
Eventually, we reach the end of the stage. There is no "Mission complete" popup, so at first I thought I had fucked up somehow. But no, we're good.
I regret I have no more missions for you, but I'm always here if you require upgrades for your flyer. Thank you again.
That's all of Hin Goo's flyer missions over and done with. Thank god.
Completing all of Hin Goo's missions unlocks Firestorm, which does a large amount of damage over time, but we don't care about that because we also unlock Dragon's Wrath. This is basically a smart bomb powerup, which instantly kills just about everything. We may have completed all of Hin Goo's flyer missions, but that doesn't mean we're done with the shoot 'em up sections quite yet.
I meant to go talk to Kang, but getting close enough to the party's hangout spot at this point triggers this discussion with Silk Fox and the others.
Then what, pray tell, is he?
I... don't know, but his power does not come from study or skill. He is something darker, and we should not be trying to enter his lair.
Sky and Hou are doing their best to ignore this whole discussion.
I think Zu has a pretty good idea of what Death's Hand is capable of, so we're not going to just ignore him. We'll still be infiltrating the Assassins, obviously, but to do so without caution would be asking for trouble. More of it, that is.
Silk Fox does have a point, though, as Zu isn't exactly forthcoming with his knowledge aside from some generic warnings. Maybe she could try to be a bit less of a jerk about it, though.
Zu does, in fact, go sulk in the corner. Or somewhere. Bottom line is, he's walked off.
Dawn Star and Silk Fox really don't like each other at this point. It seems like Wu is the only one Silk Fox bothers to give a shit about, the rest of the party are just dumb peasants she has no patience for. Hopefully we can fix that sooner or later, but for now there are other matters to think of.
The Inquisitor has a task for you to prove your worth. Get to it, and show him why you should be recruited.
Certainly, but first we'll take a quick trip back to Lord Lao's Furnace.
Let's see how the furnace handles steel.
Pretty well, it seems. Calm as the Morning Breeze is a +5 increase to Mind, quite nice indeed.
It also turns out we can simply buy some sulfurous water from Zin Bu's store at any time, so might as well grab a vial of that and shove that into the machine as well.
Fits perfectly, as usual.
+5 to Body.
Eh? What? Well now, what have we here. Well, isn't that just a golden carp full of luck. Let's see here. It's... it's a wind map. Very sloppy ink, like it was crafted in a hurry, but I can decipher it. It would seem that someone wants to reward proper use of the furnace.
Where does it lead?
Through some wind, like any other of its kind. Really, I'd think you would have grasped the concept by... oh, you mean specifically. Like the previous map, there is really only one way to know for certain where it leads, and that is to get in the flyer and go there. We will have to leave the furnace before we can fly out, however. A little matter of needing the flyer. Just tell me when you want to leave. If we make it back to the real world, speak with me again, and we can head off on that little wind map adventure. Did I say, "if we make it back?" Yes, yes I did.
All right, let's get on with it. We're done with the Furnace for the time being, anyway.
All right, let's go.
Ah, I'm looking forward to this. Remembering things long forgotten is like getting to open a gift twice!
Now that we have more than three flyer upgrades, we need to select which ones we're going to use on a mission.
In this mission, the primary enemies are these... weird red balloons.
I bet there's at least 99 of these things.
The balloons also take quite a few hits if you don't have the spread shot, so this was a bit of a scruffy run and we didn't destroy very many of them. Still, we got to the end and that's what counts. I could've used Dragon's Wrath at some point, but the chi cost for that is so gigantic that it's better used in extreme emergencies.
And we're right back in the city. At least we got a flyer upgrade we'll never use! Or maybe we will, because Mirage makes the Dragonfly invisible to enemies and makes them and all their projectiles phase right through us. It's a better defensive powerup than Radiant Aura (which can only take a couple of hits before you lose the shield), and seems to have the same chi cost.
With the proper configurations, these new elements can produce spectacular effects. You should be glad.
Hrm... I see what you mean. It does seem to be a rather complicated number of hoops to go through just for some shiny baubles, even if baubles are always nice to have. Perhaps... perhaps more will be revealed with further operation of the furnace, like how the map for the last trip appeared. There must be some plan in place. Lord Lao wouldn't leave such a thing unattended for no reason, much as I would never leave the Marvelous Dragonfly at the side of the road.
Indeed. So, as we find more and more configurations and use them, we unlock more flyer missions. Hooray!
Oh, and we also got another vial of sulfurous water. We'll go back to the Furnace later on, but for now I think we should heed Silk Fox's advice and go deal with that Inquisitor business.
Let's also visit the blacksmith shop (all that smoke can't be healthy in the long run) and grab an upgrade for our longsword. The Dragon Sword, just like Flawless, has a 25% damage bonus over the basic weapon, so it's worth getting even though the focus cost is higher than that of the starting sword we've been using.
All upgrades, as you can see, transfer right over. I also totally wasted those two points on Heavenly Wave in a sad attempt to make it worth a damn, and I'm probably never using Legendary Strike again so those points can be considered wasted as well. Maybe I really should just cheat and respec using the save editor like some in the thread have suggested. I should also upgrade Stone Immortal because it's better than Dire Flame.
Next time, we're finally entering the Imperial Arena so we can investigate Judge Fang. I actually wanted to do that quest in this update, but it would've put us over the character limit so I might as well cut things here for now.