Part 35: Team LotusEpisode 33: Team Lotus
Last time, we finally got around to advancing the main plot after several hours of messing around with sidequests. We've made it to the Lotus Assassin fortress and become a Lotus Acolyte under the seemingly less than stellar tutelage of Master Gang, and now that we've infiltrated the Assassin lair we need to find evidence of Death's Hand's corruption. However, being a lowly Lotus Acolyte means you're utterly expendable and you have to do everything you can to get ahead, so we've already had to deal with some of our fellow acolytes trying to kill us (which didn't end very well for them).
By the way, here is the Open Palm idle animation. It's much less interesting than the writhing shadow tentacles Closed Fist folks have, but that's what we get for being in perfect harmony with nature.
Master Gang told us to meet him down in the central chamber, so let's not make him wait too long. There is one slightly annoying thing about this area that doesn't come across in screenshots, and that is the odd shimmering on the walls. It has something to do with the bloom lighting not quite playing along with the specular effect on the walls, and if you disable the bloom everything looks normal. However, this place loses a lot of its atmosphere if you turn bloom off, so we're not doing that.
Ah, there's Master Gang. Let's go talk to him and find out what our first assignment as a Lotus Acolyte might be.
Turns out that will have to wait a bit, because we've got people being harassed by ghosts.
Or maybe the demonic entity from Evil Dead.
The poor bastard gets his soul taken (or something like that) by the ghost, who decides to go back to the chamber he came from. Not sure why he doesn't try to attack us because we're right there, but maybe he's had his fill of human souls for today.
The old scorpion had one of his followers shatter a spirit shard during training. There are ghosts everywhere! I've lost eight slaves and three acolytes to them. You, new-blood! Get over there and occupy those ghosts until I can get real Lotus Assassins to clean them up. Golem production cannot be delayed by this!
Master Gang clearly doesn't expect us to fare any better against ghosts than that slave back there did, but frankly this is a great opportunity for us to show Gang what we can do. Instead of having to do something horribly evil for our first task, we'll get to use our ghost-busting skills!
We can talk to the various Assassins in this chamber, but they don't have much to say to an acolyte like us.
Let's go take care of that little ghost problem they're having, then. The door we're looking for is the one to our left, on the west wall.
Behind the door is a fight against a handful of generic ghosts and a Ghost Lord. As usual, we'll leave his spectral lordship for last, because he's the one enemy here without any ranged attacks.
Maybe I also should've put down a couple of the ghosts the old-fashioned way instead of going for harmonic combos immediately, because... well, this can apparently happen. Got frozen just as I was trying to do a combo on a petrified enemy.
Aside from that slight mishap, these guys don't pose a problem to us at this point.
This chamber has a bunch of clay golems lining the walls and pillars, and they can get smashed up during the fight with those ghosts. Sadly, we can't pick up a golem arm and use it as a weapon, not that it'd work on ghosts anyway.
The other door in the chamber leads to the soul extractor room, but we can't access that just yet. So, let's just head back to Gang and tell him we got rid of the ghosts.
Recruits are rarely of use before we strip them of their outside identities, but you beg a more... interesting application. Could you be the one I have waited for?
Since we're pretending to be training in the ways of the Lotus Assassins, we probably shouldn't try to talk all humble at this point.
I need a favored protege, someone willing to risk everything in my service. I will preserve your intellect, allow your inventive mind to remain, in exchange for two tasks. One is your duty anyway. The other is something to secure your future at the heart of the Assassins. Lotus Acolytes are utterly expendable. You deserve better.
Well, that sounds nice and convenient. I bet we won't even have to shave our head or disfigure our face!
Since this is clearly a stroke of luck for us, we'll play along for now and follow Master Gang's orders like a good obedient assistant.
Golems are fueled by the souls of the dead. The recently dead, it turns out, make far more obedient and powerful golems. Especially if brutally killed. We no longer mine the Necropolis for souls that linger near their resting place. We butcher slaves instead, and extract their souls into spirit shards. Tonight we require a shard of exceptional quality for a Jade Golem that will control the latest battalion of golems. You will oversee this in the extraction chamber.
Well, that seems a bit unethical, but we'll see how it goes when we get there. Let's see what else Gang wants from us.
Kill Master Shin, my superior.
Huh. That escalated quickly. Not really surprising, though. The Lotus Assassins seem like the kind of organization where this sort of thing is a perfectly legit way to advance your career.
You are perceptive. It is a tricky matter and therefore a good test for an otherwise expendable acolyte. Your kind die often in the machinations between masters.
Yep, doesn't seem like this kind of stuff is too rare around here.
That whole thing about butchering slaves does seem a bit dodgy and hopefully we'll find some way to avoid that, but killing Master Shin and his silly hat shouldn't be a huge problem. We killed Inquisitor Lim already, and Shin is small time compared to that guy.
That is your task to figure out, acolyte! This is a dangerous place. Find a way for him to have an accident that disgraces him. I, of course, must not be implicated. Talk to my acolytes at their stations in the golem press room and the Soul Extractor. These are dangerous machines, find a sharp corner Shin can crack his temple on.
I'm sure we can arrange something fun. Before we do anything else, let's just ask Gang a few things.
I have some questions, Master Gang.
Proceed, but do not waste my time.
Tell me about Master Shin.
You already know enough about him. He is insufferable, concerned only about his own advancement. He sabotages my efforts at every turn. When he is gone, I will ascend in rank, and I will reward acolytes that are loyal to me. Perhaps I will even introduce you to Grand Inquisitor Jia in the heart of the fortress.
Now that sounds grand.
I will hear you.
What are spirit shards? Are they similar to essence gems?
Shards infuse the golems with life. Souls are extracted from the vessel that holds them, whether a corpse or slave, and sealed within a crystal shard. The more recent and brutal the death, the more effective the golem. Our soul extraction process is deliberately painful. Essence gems are trinkets that can focus minimal amounts of chi. There are very few people who can make use of them effectively.
Of course the Lotus Assassins had to figure out the most needlessly brutal way possible to power up their golems. Wouldn't be evil enough otherwise.
Anyway, let's learn more about this jade golem we've heard so much about.
Jade Golems are infused with spirit shards made of multiple souls. They are highly ordered servants, and they serve as pacifiers for other golems. One or two golems can be controlled by will alone, but an army requires these jade intermediaries to maintain order. Such numbers are dangerous without a lieutenant.
How many golems have been produced?
I do not know. Hundreds? More? Many are here, waiting for a Jade Golem to command them. In the end, we will replace the weaklings of the Imperial Army entirely. Imagine it, acolyte. An army of loyal, nearly indestructible golems, dedicated to enforcing the will of the Emperor under Death's Hand. A beautiful sight.
Nearly brings a tear to my eye, it does.
You can also seek training from Acolyte Trainer Guang. I am sure you are her superior, but she might have something of use to you.
So yes, that'll pretty much be our to-do list for the rest of Chapter 3. Let's get to it.
Lots of scrollstands behind that Assassin lady, but we'll check next door first.
Alright, you keep on keepin' on.
This is the Keeper of the Archive, and as her title suggests she can tell us a little bit about the Assassins. Let's see if there's anything interesting she'll bother to tell an acolyte.
True secrets are held only in the minds of Grand Inquisitor Jia and Death's Hand.
I want to ask about what's in the archive.
I will answer, within the limits of what someone of your ranking is permitted to know. Recent or old entries? You must give specifics.
Tell me about the Lotus Assassin leadership.
All you are allowed to know of your masters is that Death's Hand is the will of the Emperor and Grand Inquisitor Jia rules this place for him. Obey their wishes when they are made apparent to you or you will be destroyed. That is all an acolyte needs to understand.
Right, so it would seem scrubs like us aren't worthy of learning much of anything.
I almost feel bad for Master Gang.
Well, whatever, let's get the dirt on him. Hit me, Keeper.
His mediocrity is magnified by the successes of Master Shin, an Assassin who arrived at the same time and has catapulted through the ranks. Coincidentally, Master Shin is the one who personally documented many of Gang's failures. There is, of course, nothing strange about this.
Obviously not. Even though he's not the most skilled Assassin or instructor, it seems like Master Gang might not be quite as incompetent as he's made out to be and Master Shin has been actively fucking him over. I wouldn't be surprised if Shin set up some of those "failures" himself.
You are permitted to know that Death's Hand returned from Dirge as the Emperor's trusted confidant after all others around him proved to be traitors. After defeating the drought, the Emperor was no longer a slave to the natural order of things. He needed utterly loyal disciples to replace, and kill, doubters. The Order of the Lotus was quickly transformed from its weak role under Prince Kin. Death's Hand was the new way, and those who disagreed were destroyed.
What was so different in the way you were trained?
A whole lot more would be my assumption.
Soon you will have nothing else but your life here. Your role as a Lotus Assassin leaves no room for anything other than loyalty to Death's Hand and the Emperor.
No one questioned such a brutal change?
All who did were killed... except one who first hid his doubt. On a mission to cleanse a traitor's family, he rejected Death's Hand and turned on his fellows. The bodies were unrecognizable. More have died to him over the years, but few remain who know his face. He was our most skilled, most vicious, and most hated.
I think we might already have some idea of that rogue Assassin's identity...
There are few fates worse than being reduced to nothing. Lotus Assassins can belong nowhere else. Service to Death's Hand is your life.
So this rogue Assassin escaped punishment?
He escaped death, but there is no greater penalty for a Lotus Assassin than to be removed from the sight of Death's Hand and our Emperor. No doubt many of his years have been worse than death. Once you are truly indoctrinated, you will know the hunger to serve that such loyalty brings.
Tell me about recent campaigns.
Slaves continue to be brought to the fortress from the Wall and unimportant villages that have no voice to object. Our golem force continues to grow. Operations in Tien's Landing have temporarily halted, but we received glorious news that a hated enemy of the Emperor has been delivered to the palace! The accomplices who hid him were butchered, their pitiful village razed. We look forward to a day when all who oppose our masters are dealt with.
Well, that's, uh, great news. All hail Death's Hand!
It is unimportant. All that matters is that he was caught. We don't need to know any more than that. It is a glorious validation of all that we do to serve our masters.
All right, that's about as much we can get out of her. Well, almost, since there was a dialog option I forgot to pick (the "Assassins need a historian?" one), but never mind. While we're here, let's check out the scrollstands next to the Keeper.
Ah, perfect. The last configuration for Lord Lao's Furnace. The last one we can find just laying around, anyway.
The two scrolls we can read (a couple of them are just for decoration) basically just contain more Lotus Assassin propaganda. Not too surprising, really.
Here's what happens if you try to select Kang in the party menu screen. Guess we've got to go talk to him at some point when we have some downtime.
Here's the trainer Master Gang mentioned earlier. Let's find out if she has anything fun she can teach us.
So I've heard.
Sure, why not.
The sparring match doesn't exactly last very long.
You, new-blood, you will be the trainer now. When I am promoted, you will train all my acolytes. You! Assist her, if you can even do that.
Welp, looks like we accidentally earned ourselves some extra duties.
Whoops, I forgot to be evil this time.
My duties--your duties now--include training Master Shin's personal entourage. In the past, if a trainer was too good, Shin had that trainer killed to keep Gang weak. I think one member of his entourage is a full Lotus Assassin. I have survived by appearing unimportant, and staying out of the fight between Gang and Shin.
Hm. If we're going to kill Master Shin, we should probably try to thin out his little entourage first so they're not around to mess things up for us.
You are supposed to train the Attendants in his entourage. Some need it, but if you seem too skilled, your next fight will be against the hidden Lotus Assassin. Besides, it wouldn't weaken Shin for long. I suppose he would be alone and more vulnerable if he had to fight right away, but he will replace them in time.
Would there be an outcry if one of Shin's entourage died during training?
Accidents happen, and even the attendants in his entourage are just acolytes, and therefore are utterly expendable. There would not be much fuss. However, you would probably find yourself training the hidden Lotus Assassin in the next bout. Any skilled acolytes under Gang are quickly disposed of.
Eh, I daresay we can take one Lotus Assassin if/when it comes to that. Any way to speed this stuff up?
Are you mad? Well, it doesn't matter, you must train one at a time. If you seem to be too strong a target, I'm sure they will accommodate your death wish.
How did you come to join the Assassins?
I showed my ability in the arena, and when I asked, their recruiter agreed. I have only one skill, and this was the best place to exploit it.
What ability do you mean?
Based on what she said about the arena, we can probably assume what that skill is.
We are all here for one reason, and that includes you. We are killers, plain and simple. There are no Lotus Assassins with hearts of gold.
No hearts of gold to be found here, absolutely none. We do have a bit of silver, though, so let's see what Guang has got for sale.
A few gems we don't need, the Ice Shard style we also don't need, and a few techniques. Okay then. Let's take a look at those techniques...
Nothing too exciting here, but we've got plenty of silver so we might as well pick up all of these (Window to the Abyss: Chi +10, Focus -3; Deadened Nerves: Health +10, Chi-3) except Fearsome Visage (Intimidation +3, Charm -1) since we don't really use Intimidation.
The description for Fearsome Visage reveals that fucking up your face is in fact something Lotus Assassins might do on purpose to intimidate their enemies. Speaking of which, let's see which member of Master Shin's entourage we'll be "training" first.
She is replacing one of the acolytes who did not return from Tien's Landing. There was no explanation. I assume he was weak and was discarded. You can find her and all of the other Attendants by the doors to the inner chambers. They wait there for when Shin leaves to inspect new slave shipments.
All right, great. Making enemies is something that just seems to come naturally to us, so we might as well speed things along a little and get straight to the fighting.
Goodbye. If you wish to begin your likely short career as trainer, Attendant Kitan waits with her fellows at the doors to the inner chambers. I'll say this: if you *are* going to try and fight them, hold nothing back. They *will* be trying to kill you.
All in all, Guang seems relatively nice for a Lotus acolyte. Well, there was that whole "it's awesome when we kill our enemies and their whole families " thing, but she's still probably the friendliest person we're going to meet down here.
Hello there, folks. I shall be your combat trainer today.
This would be Attendant Kitan, then.
Is that so? I would be more concerned about yourself if I were you. Let's move this fight to the Hall of Induction, so I have room to enjoy this.
To the Hall of Induction it is. Let's go.
Okay then, Attendant Kitan, show us your moves.
That's nice, but you can do better. Perhaps we should learn about something known as Harmonic Combinations for today's lesson. Let me demonstrate.
Now, I know I said the power attack of Stone Immortal has terrible range, but it actually has quite decent range and I was being dumb. See, I kept trying to use it against Lost Spirits and Ghost Lords, which of course float a couple inches off the ground, so the attack simply doesn't work on them.
Attendant Kitan is now very familiar with harmonic combos.
I would be very careful if you intend on continuing to train the others. They will not let the death of Kitan go unanswered.
Three more to go and Shin is helpless if called to fight.
What? That is your plan? I wish you luck, but I'm staying well out of the way. This is going to get really ugly.
That's a great plan, is it not? Guang doesn't seem to think so. In any case, she can probably tell us who we're supposed to train next.
Attendant Kai Feng is waiting for you with his remaining fellows at the doors to the inner chambers. I wish you luck.
Kai Feng, huh? Not quite Kai Leng, but probably just as big of a chump.
Hey, we were just doing a harmonic combo demonstration. It wasn't our fault she died when she turned into stone and exploded.
Well, time to get the next lesson underway.
Once again, we're heading to the Hall of Induction.
I think we'll continue on the topic of harmonic combos.
Different harmonic combos produce different powerups. You saw Attendant Kitan drop a health orb, which is what you get whenever you finish a combo initiated with Stone Immortal. Now, let's try out Storm Dragon and see what that gives us.
Well, uh, we would see it if that explosion of blood and gore wasn't blocking the view. This combo produces a focus orb.
Yeah, and now Kai Feng is splattered all over the floor and walls, maybe some bits even ended up on the ceiling. So?
Shut up! This fool will pay! You'll see. You'll regret this.
All right, you guys want to throw down right now?
Apparently not. I suppose we'll just follow them back down, where an ambush totally isn't going to be waiting for us.
I might have lied about that last bit.
Right, let's get this over with. I don't know why they even bother at this point, having witnessed what happened to the last two people we fought.
These guys like to use the Viper style, so you'll probably end up poisoned for a good chunk of this fight. It's not a huge issue or anything, since we've got a ton of health and chi to work with.
I think this was one of the remaining attendants.
See? Focus powerup. That's the one from the harmonic combo just now. Oh yeah, and Master Shin's entourage and their friends are now very dead.
Master Shin's enemies are probably very impressed with your actions. I can only speculate, of course.
He will get his due eventually, don't you worry about that.
Well, we've certainly thinned out the competition by this point.
On the east wall of the main chamber is the door to the golem press room, but we're not going that way just yet.
Instead, we'll be heading to the Soul Extractor room. Next time.