The Let's Play Archive

Jade Empire

by Doc M

Part 31: Black Leopard School

Episode 29: Black Leopard School

Last time, we finished most of the sidequests we had open in the Imperial City. There's only one major bit of side content left to do before heading over to the Necropolis in order to continue the plot -- we're gonna hit the Black Leopard School, located in the Market District.

The large gate to our left leads to the school via an uphill path. We don't have any other business in the Market District, so we might as well head straight up the path and see what goes on back there.

Here we are, welcome to the Black Leopard School. Well, before we really get there, we clearly need to get past these jerks who are blocking the entrance.

I believe I already brought this up when we arrived in the city and the Black Leopard School came up, but Student Wen said way back at the start of the game that he used to study at a school here in the city. However, he couldn't learn a damn thing because the school had two feuding masters. That's the school we're at right now.

Clearly, both masters have their supporters among the students.

We don't know what the Second Brother business is about but we can probably assume he's one of the higher-ranking students of the school and has gone missing for whatever reason. I'm sure we'll find out more soon.

The students pass right by us without even saying hello, those four up ahead are a different group. And yes, Dawn Star, this is a school, as indicated by the giant "Black Leopard School" signs all over the place. As for the size of this place, I don't really think it's that much larger than the Two Rivers school; sure, that main building is quite big, but the school's grounds are actually quite cramped.


I'll show you.

Great, more bickering students. Master Smiling Hawk and his supporters are apparently major proponents of brute force, so he's clearly the evil Closed Fist-aligned master here and Master Radiant seems to be the opposite.

I'm just visiting. Please let me pass.

Ha! You sound like my weakling friend over here. "Please let me pass." No! Now, how about you just turn yourself around before you get hurt.

Getting in a fight immediately after walking through the gates wasn't really the plan, but these idiots clearly want a beating and we'll be happy to oblige.

C'mon... let's teach our visitor some respect!

Come at me, you monkeys!

VIDEO: Wu the Lotus Blossom vs. Black Leopard Students

These novices clearly think they can take us because they've got the numbers advantage. However, it's also rather obvious they didn't watch Wu's arena fight against a bunch of Black Leopard students. If they had seen the fight (or any one of our fights, really), they'd know that they are hopelessly outmatched here.

We've got a couple of guys using Leaping Tiger, but it doesn't matter what styles they try.

I decided to cycle through all four styles mapped to our quick select. The way I see it, these chumps wanted a fight, so we're giving them a proper one and not holding back at all.

I wonder if they've seen the Dire Flame style before. Well, if not, this should serve as an effective introduction.

Oh, their little ring leader is trying a power attack. Not gonna happen.

Let's give them some Storm Dragon/Leaping Tiger spam for good measure. They asked for it.

Good night. Maybe they'll think twice next time they feel like threatening a visitor.

Err, yes... I guess we might have gotten a bit carried away there, even if the novices started it.

The other guy doesn't seem to mind, though.

Come on, you Iouts. You'll be scrubbing the dining room floors for your part in this little altercation.

First Brother Kai here seems like a decent fellow, so he probably won't mind if we tell him those students are a bit too rowdy for their own good.

Fortunately, you seemed more than capable of handling the situation. In all my years, I've never seen anyone but a master with skill like yours. I... would not normally ask, but would you be interested in joining our school? It would be an honor to have someone of your skill.

Huh, that's quite sudden. We still have a job to do as well...

...but as a wise man once said, there is no knowledge that is not power. Learning from the masters here may help us greatly in the future.

[fade to black]

Good news. Master Radiant agreed to let you join, a rare honor indeed. In fact, he would like to meet with you... once you have proven yourself. First however, Master Radiant wants to ensure that your fight against the novices was not just luck. You must now defeat each of the brothers here at the school.

Seems like an odd way to do things, but who are we to argue.

You have proven you can defeat our novices. Now you must prove yourself against the brothers. The brothers have trained long and are second only in skill to the masters. Sixth Brother is the least skilled, so you will start with him. Work your way to Third Brother. If you succeed against him, you will then challenge me.

What about Second Brother?

Second Brother is... not here. For now, you must face only Third Brother and myself... after you've defeated the other brothers.

Second Brother is missing and probably dead, got it. We'll ask around about him in due time, but the way Kai worded that doesn't exactly build confidence.

Master Radiant and I have tried for some time to temper Master Smiling Hawk's... ways. He is cunning and ruthless and has little regard for students. Normally, I wouldn't speak openly about such things, but you are new, and your skill will draw his attention. Be careful... Master Smiling Hawk is a dangerous man.

Really, if this guy is so awful, why not just send him packing? Surely Master Radiant is capable of doing that, especially with the help of guys like Kai here.

For now, be careful and focus on defeating the brothers. Start with Sixth Brother and ask him to fight with you. I'm sure he'll be eager. Once you've defeated all of the brothers, come and see me. Good luck.

Go beat up all the brothers, and then we might tell you what's going on here. Got it.

That's Sixth Brother up ahead, next to Dawn Star, but we're not beating him up just yet. First, we need to do a bit of exploring, and our first stop is that scrollstand in front of Sixth Brother.

This scroll talks about the creation of the Black Leopard Style by a warrior named Zou How, who most likely founded this school as well.

There aren't that many points of interest around the school, really. This seems like it might be the tombstone of Zou How, but we can't interact with it. The only other thing here in the courtyard is a chest with a Superior Intimidation Gem in it, so let's head inside.

The main hall has three doors to the left, and we'll take a look at those shortly. We can also see another scrollstand up the stairs, but that can wait as well. Let's take a right instead.

Master Smiling Hawk's room is located next to the dining hall. The door is locked and I don't think he'd appreciate us barging in even if it was unlocked, so we'll just go check out the dining hall.

That's Third Brother over in the corner, but we'll ignore him for now and talk to the woman next to him.

The lady who just sent that poor novice running in sheer terror is named Whispering Willow. I can think of at least two things wrong with that name, as she's not exactly what one would call "willowy" and her voice sounds like the school bus driver from the early seasons of South Park. Had we brought the Black Whirlwind here, he'd be smitten with Whispering Willow at this point (he basically says "Now that's my kind of woman, she can beat me up anytime") and trying to hit on her in his usual understated manner, with the kind of success you'd probably expect.

Would you? Oh, that'd be lovely!

Questions about what? Go ask your teacher if you have questions.

Tell me more about yourself.

Me? Is this some ploy to get an extra serving of fish in your soup tonight? It won't work, you know. But... since you asked. I am the headmistress here at the school. I organize everything that these witless fighters forget to do. Paperwork, laundry, cooking... you name it. It's a thankless job. Never so much as a smile or wave as I labor over my work. If it wasn't for me, this place would fall apart.

If we had Whirlwind with us, we could also find out that Whispering Willow used to be a famous opera singer until a "freak costume incident" ruined her voice. Whirlwind would still like to hear her sing, maybe over a bowl of wine, but Willow informs him she'd "rather be dipped in boiling oil and fed to cannibals".

Learning and fighting... they are very good at both, but put any one of them in a room with a lady and they'd just wither away. I'm surprised they even let you join. Never seen a girl in here except to help with the cooking or the cleaning. I hope you knock some sense into those boys.

What do you know about the masters?

Masters! Ha! I'm the only master of this school. Those other two hide in their rooms all day long doing who knows what. How can you be a master of anything when you never participate? It‘s unnatural. Of course, it wasn't always that way, or at least, that's what I've heard. There was only one master once. Makes sense to me. Too many cooks in the kitchen, as I always say.

I must be going, goodbye.

Good. I have work to do.

Well, that was enlightening.

We can also talk to the novices we beat up earlier, but they don't have anything interesting to say aside from thinking Third Brother can take us. We'll see about that.

All right then, Sixth Brother Gaoshan. Let's do this.

I'm Sixth Brother Gaoshan. If you think you can defeat a disciple of Master Smiling Hawk, challenge *me*. I assure you, I'm much tougher than the novices.

Sure. Let's fight.

All right, follow me.

We could ask about Second Brother or the Black Leopard School in general, but I doubt Bro #6 here has anything particularly relevant to say about either so let's just commence with the punching.

Sixth Brother prefers the "drunken bear romping around" martial style, also known as Iron Palm.

It's pretty slow and not that great, honestly.

This fight doesn't take long at all. Gaoshan simply can't keep up with our relentless assault.

At least he has the courtesy to bow afterwards.

Sure, whatever you say. Just go ahead and pretend you didn't get totally curbstomped back there.

Our next opponent is inside the main building. First off, though, here's Master Radiant's room. We can't get inside at the moment, obviously.

Fifth Brother's room is next to Master Radiant's. Brother Shangjin is waiting for us inside, ready for the upcoming fight.

It would seem Master Radiant is up to his tricks again. Regardless, you‘ve defeated Sixth Brother so we can spar. Would you care to try your skills against mine?

Let's ask him about Second Brother, first. He seems much friendlier than Brother #6, so maybe we'll even get something out of the guy.

I know if I was a follower of Master Radiant I would likely get very bored, very quickly. Maybe he just decided to go to a new school, somewhere more peaceful.

Well, we did learn Second Brother vocally opposed Smiling Hawk and then disappeared all of a sudden. Not suspicious in the slightest. But that's enough of that, let's fight this guy.

Fifth Brother is pretty much just a generic staff-wielder. As such, he puts up no challenge whatsoever.

Come on, Black Leopard School. You can do better than this.

My pleasure. Time for the next fight. By the way, everyone bows to you after the fight, I'm just cutting it out after the first time.

After we've checked out this scroll, that is. Turns out Zou How, Master Black Leopard, never passed on all the secrets of the Black Leopard style and so the style died with him.

I wonder how much of the Black Leopard Style is still known and if the students actually learn any of Zou How's skills here. In any event, here's Fourth Brother Yu, and we shall challenge him to fisticuffs.

Since you've defeated Fifth Brother, perhaps you'd let me decide just how talented you are. Care for a match?

What do you think happened to Second Brother?

I've been trying to find that out myself. I even sent a few of the students into the city to see if they could discover the truth.

Ah, those must've been the guys at the entrance who were saying they were going to go look for Second Brother.

Third Brother told me that Master Smiling Hawk sent Second Brother into the city, on an errand, but nobody saw him leave the school. I fear Second Brother has run into trouble, and I suspect Master Smiling Hawk is behind it all.

Never saw that one coming, nosiree. Right now it's time to fight, though. There will be plenty of opportunity to talk about Second Brother later.

The previous fight reminded me that Iron Palm exists, so I decided to give it a try against Bro #4. It's not great, especially without any upgrades. The slow attack speed and lack of damage can be fixed by putting some points into the style (this was the last recording session before I used the editor to give myself 999 skill points, so from the next update on we'll actually be able to do something with all these styles we've accumulated), but my main problem is that Iron Palm's animations look really dumb.

Here's the Iron Palm area attack, getting blocked by Fourth Brother Yu.

And this is the power attack, kind of a charging headbutt. This thing should make your character sprout ram horns, like in Battletoads.

It also won't go through a kick to the face, so that's great.

Let's just do this the old-fashioned way and get it over with.

Okay then. Next up, we've got Third Brother. That should be interesting, as the novices seemed to think he's tough enough to give us a proper fight.

And hey, look who it is! Third Brother himself also seems to think he can take us.

Aw, he noticed? Oh well.

This can only go well, I'm sure.

Third Brother walks off and leaves us alone with Master Smiling Hawk. I bet you can't guess what he wants.

I suppose it wouldn't hurt to tell him.

We won't mention anything about Master Li being the Glorious Strategist, of course. Smiling Hawk doesn't need to know that much.

You have talent, and with Second Brother's death we have need of a new brother.

In case you didn't figure it out yet, yes, Second Brother is dead. We can probably also guess why he is dead, but let's ask Smiling Hawk about it anyway.

I asked him to do something for me. He refused. Let me be blunt. Master Radiant is holding this school back. He‘s holding *me* back. Radiant is weak. He follows the way of harmony; his methods are slow and pitiful. This school belongs to me! I want Master Radiant removed, and you're the one to do it. You have certain abilities that will enable you to defeat my rival.

I'm not sure if Mr. Hawk here has noticed, but we also follow the way of harmony (most of the time, anyway). Why in the hell would we help him when he's obviously an evil jackass?

You are the only one here capable of defeating Master Radiant. And rest assured, I will reward you extremely well for ridding me of him. To begin with, you'll have to deal with First Brother Kai. Destroy him, and you'll be left only with Radiant, but together they would be too powerful.

Well, this is really more a case of not wanting to help this idiot than any sort of loyalty to First Brother or Master Radiant. Granted, First Brother is one of the few likable people here at the Black Leopard School, so that counts for something at least.

Do as I ask, and I will teach you things that no one else can. I also have a few rare items that should appeal to you. Simply kill First Brother and Master Radiant. The task is straightforward.

Great, I look forward to it.

Hey there Third Brother, let's get this over with.

Smiling Hawk's name isn't supposed to have an article in front of it, but occasionally it gets one in these dialog scenes.

I wonder what kind of training he means.

No bowing before this fight, this is serious.

As I said earlier, I usually reserve the Storm Dragon/Leaping Tiger spam for enemies who have annoyed me. We don't need to abuse the trick in this fight because we can totally take Third Brother, but he's a smug jerk so he deserves it anyway.

Eventually, I just start using Leaping Tiger exclusively and never stopping for even a split second. Third Brother has no chance whatsoever, and you may notice we didn't even take a hit.

Well, uh... I guess we did kinda cheat, at the start anyway.

Bye, Third Brother!

I like it when the dialog assumes we just went through a difficult battle instead of completely humiliating our opponent.

I also like being able to say this.

Master Radiant was sure you would prevail, he asked me to bring you to him once you defeated Third Brother. You won't have to test yourself against me after all. Come, let's go see him. He is anxious to speak with you.

We're instantly teleported into Master Radiant's chamber.

Uhh. Okay then. This explains quite a bit, actually.

Gotta love how the first two options here are "You're a ghost?!" Of course he's a ghost! At this point, it's kind of easy to tell.

My spirit could not leave this place, due to the way I was killed. First Brother and I keep my death a secret, well he and Second Brother, until his recent demise. The other students just think I'm an irritable old curmudgeon who doesn't like to be disturbed... not too far from the truth. But no doubt you're wondering how I died.

"Peacefully died of old age" is probably not the answer here.

Oh, stuff it. It's not like I really expect you to listen. Talking just helps to keep my mind sharp. Now, where was I? Oh yes, the story of my demise. Before Master Smiling Hawk was a master, he was Third Brother Liu. He was a gifted student, although not a very good fighter. He preferred books and knowledge over combat... but his thirst for knowledge was unhealthy. Smiling Hawk was never content with his place here. Eventually, he sought to move beyond his station and take what he had not yet earned.

Smiling Hawk was smart, but he wasn't wise. He discovered a technique that allowed him to harness another person's style and power. This technique was unnatural. I reprimanded him and told him to stop dabbling with things that he could not control. Of course, in my arrogance, I assumed he would obey my wise instructions. But Smiling Hawk had no intention of letting go of his newfound technique.

Not sure why Master Radiant expected Smiling Hawk to give up his awesome new technique. This guy was a nerd who was obviously very ambitious but sucked at fighting, and then he suddenly got this super-special ability to absorb other fighters' skills and become the best there is. Hell, that's basically the plot of the story mode in Mortal Kombat: Deception.

At any rate, Smiling Hawk decided to try out his technique on me. With my power, he could become First Brother... and more. But Smiling Hawk failed to realize the true nature of his technique. It does not merely borrow your style and power; it takes your life.

Oh. Well, in that case he probably should've read the manual a bit more thoroughly first. Never mind then.

There's nothing more humiliating for a master than waking up and realizing you've been beaten by a bookworm... and in your own room, no less!

And Smiling Hawk didn't even bother to try it in a fight, just decided to sneak into Master Radiant's room and attack him in his sleep. Lovely.

Smiling Hawk chose the easy route to power, but it has cost him. The power has changed him and corroded his spirit, but it also makes him very powerful. First Brother and I have kept him in check, barely. But the balance slowly turns in his favor as he gains more and more power.

If he can kill you and absorb your powers just like that, it seems like we're at a disadvantage here.

As a spirit, I can see your power... and its source. It is different for you than for anyone I have ever met. I won't tell you that Smiling Hawk cannot harm you, but I'm certain that he cannot steal your power. Not the way he stole mine, at any rate.

Oh. Well, that's really convenient.

I suppose making up a lie is not gonna work for Smiling Hawk as long as Master Radiant is still around in ghost form.

He has had no experience battling spirits. and he fears that he just may lose... he is driven by greed, but controlled by fear.

So that would be why Smiling Hawk wanted us to do his dirty work. We've done plenty of ghostbusting by this point, after all, so removing Master Radiant would probably have been a relatively simple task for us. More so than it would've been for Smiling Hawk, anyway.

"The" Smiling Hawk again. But yes, he is going down. I'm not sure why there isn't a slightly less gung-ho option here (aside from the "Lie" one, but that obviously doesn't count), but whatever.

More like "writing proper dialog options is not one of BioWare's strengths".

Back to Smiling Hawk's room we go. We don't really know what's expecting us in the upcoming fight, but Master Radiant at least seems to be convinced that Smiling Hawk can't just absorb our soul or whatever.

Radiant is dead... his time has passed. Now is the time for the living! Help me destroy him and I will make this school more powerful than ever before! Now you see why I need you. You have the power to deal death to the spirits... to Radiant! I will give you one chance to change your mind. Now that you've seen what Radiant truly is... help me remove him and I will reward you.

Really? Man, I thought Radiant said this guy was smart.

I liked you, and I had so hoped we could come to some sort of... agreement. But I suppose that just won't... work.

VIDEO: Boss: Master Smiling Hawk

Hey! That's very rude, you know.

Despite the power of Smiling Hawk's attack sending her right through the wall, Wu easily lands on her feet and is no worse for wear. It was obvious we couldn't have a boss fight in such a cramped space as Smiling Hawk's room, so we needed to get to the dining hall somehow.

Skill, huh? I assume he brought one of Master Black Leopard's old books along with him and wants to show that to us, because that's the only way I can see Smiling Hawk showing us true skill.

You know what? Fuck this guy.

When you knock his health down to 50% or so, this happens. Third Brother shows up along with... I think it was Fifth Brother, he's just offscreen here.

Fifth Brother wants nothing to do with this shit, so he runs off and literally disappears in the next frame.

See? Weird.

Smiling Hawk doesn't want Third Brother's help in this fight, at least not the kind Third Brother expected to provide.

Instead, we're treated to a demonstration of Smiling Hawk's special technique, which instantly kills Third Brother.

The most noticeable effect of Smiling Hawk using his technique on Third Brother is his health getting fully replenished. Smiling Hawk also switches to the Ice Shard style, although he was already in the Ice Shard stance during that cutscene so I don't think that has anything to do with his special technique.

Sure, let's have ourselves a magic battle, why not.

Actually never mind, let's just beat the shit out of Smiling Hawk with Leaping Tiger and Dragon Sword.

Down goes the Hawk, and we also manage to smash a table in the process for some added style.

After Smiling Hawk's defeat, this student shows up. Yes, we did kill Smiling Hawk, thanks for noticing.

Master Radiant and First Brother are waiting for you. I'll go tell them that you survived.

With Smiling Hawk gone, I can finally heed the call on my spirit. Much longer and I would have been torn from this place forcibly.

And besides... you are ready. You know enough. And what you do not know, you'll figure out. That is what it means to be a master.

You *are* very likely the most skilled fighter I've ever known, but your path lies in a different direction... many directions, if I don't miss my guess. This school needs stability, and right now, Kai offers that. One day, when your adventures are done, you'll make a great master. Until then....

That's a missed opportunity for a martial arts school management minigame if I ever saw one. Something like that was indeed planned when Jade Empire's development was in its early stages (previews from late 2003 mention a city-building element and training your own students) but was axed by the time E3 2004 rolled around.

I was afraid to use it against Smiling Hawk. If he had stolen it from me, he would have been almost unstoppable. Well? Are you interested in learning, or are you just going to stand there?


I must be going. First Brother Kai will never truly be master until I am gone. The students must follow him, and him alone.

If you wait outside, I will join you in a minute. I have something I would like to offer you in thanks for your help.

Sounds good. Our work here is done, so we'll let Master Radiant and First Brother Kai say their goodbyes in peace.

Paralyzing Palm is an excellent support style. I haven't used it enough to be able to say if it's actually better than Storm Dragon, but it's definitely up there. Heaven's Blessing is a damage shield gem, which creates an aura of wind (constant effect while the gem is equipped) that damages attacking enemies. Frankly, I think it sounds more useful than it actually is. If you decide to side with Smiling Hawk, you get the Hidden Fist support style (used by the pirates in chapter 2) and the Gem of Black Flame, which adds +3 to Mind and Spirit.

I wanted to thank you for all you‘ve done, but I also wanted to show you some items that belonged to Master Smiling Hawk. I thought you might find something of interest.

We can always come back and beat up some students, but we probably won't be doing that. We'll get to beat up plenty of folks as it is.

Rote of the Endless Mind adds +5 to chi and focus, while Gem of Inner Genius gives a +10 Mind boost at the cost of -5 hits to Body and Spirit. The +10 boost is pretty good, but not really worth the tradeoff.

Before we leave, let's just pay a quick visit to the main building.

Err, sorry about that. Blame him for smashing the wall, though.

We can enter Master Smiling Hawk's room through the hole in the wall, but none of his stuff can be interacted with. No more goodies for us here.

We are done with the Imperial City sidequests for now. Next stop: The Necropolis.