Part 21: The One Thing You Can't Run From
Welcome back. Last time on Last Scenario, we infiltrated the Antar Camp in an attempt to assassinate Tazar. While our infiltration went successfully and we found our target, Felgorn showed up just as we were about to deliver the killing blow, and told Tazar to retreat, as the Republic had just made an attack on the coast near Herzog. In the ensuing battle, we proved victorious over Felgorn, and Thorve made one last attempt to convince him he was on the wrong side. But he would not be persuaded, and in the end we let him go to let him see the truth of our words with his own eyes. Despite that failure, Wilhelm's men have captured the Antar Camp, which means it's time to see what our next step is in the fight against the Empress, and figure out what we should do about the Republic's attack. Let's get to it.
It's not like our plan was bad. It would've worked if Felgorn hadn't shown up.
Yes, but he also gave the order to retreat. It's thanks to that we could capture this camp easily. But I'm surprised you stood your ground against Felgorn. If there weren't some soldiers who saw it, I wouldn't have believed it. But I told you before that he wouldn't listen to you. There was no point in even trying anymore.
He's being deceived by the people he thinks are his friends. It would be hard to convince him otherwise. Besides, he... Never mind about him. What do you think about the Republic attack, General?
It's got me worried. This changes the whole situation. The Republic can make a quick strike to take control of Herzog, or lay in wait for a good opportunity. Either way leaves us little room to act. We don't want to bring down the entire empire.
They've already been weakened in this war. They don't have the strength to take on a united Empire. That's why they're trying to stab the Empress in the back and take the capital before we can do anything.
Even if they're desperate, they're still too dangerous to ignore.
But what do we do? The only thing I can think of is working together with the other side for now.
Working together? With the Empress? Out of the question! Even if she were to agree to that, do you think there's any effective way we could cooperate? We'd just be looking to take advantage of each other.
So what do you suggest we do?
I don't think there's anything we can do right now. Even though the battle was short, our men still need to rest. At least we know the enemy won't try anything now.
Yes, that's what we'll be doing. We need time to set ourselves up in this camp. We can just let the other two sides fight it out for now. As for you all, go back to the fort. There's nothing you can do here.
Yeah, I guess we could use some rest too. Okay, we'll go back to Fardorf. If anything happens, let us know.
Fade to black...
Following the scene, we're dumped outside Grauss's new office. We now have the full run of Antar Camp, and can actually leave to the north and explore a new area of the world map. But there's not much for us to do there just yet, so we'll be saving that for next update.
Might as well head back to Fardorf like Grauss asked. But before we leave, there's someone we can talk to in the supply room we raided last update.
Oh here, I found this. Do you know how to use it?
And with this, we round out our collection of second-tier attack spells:
Thunderbolt (25MP): Deals moderate lightning damage to one enemy.
Crisis: X-Thunderbolt (45MP): Deals somewhat stronger lightning damage to one enemy.
Stat changes: -2% STR, +3% SPD
Now then, let's get on with the plot.
Yeah, I think the situation's outside our control right now. It'd be best to see how it develops for now.
Mmm. Let's go find our rooms then.
... Yes... I've returned like you asked me to. Your Highness, Prime Minister.
Those rotten Republic bastards are trying to attack us while we're occupied with my brother. You have to stop them, Tazar! I don't care how much it costs. They have to pay for betraying me!
B-But... we've already retreated to the Kaiser Pass in the west. We don't have the manpower or resources to...
Do whatever it takes! Do you know what will happen if they reach the capital? You can't let that happen!
What a wonderful idea! You're already getting attacked from two sides, might as well start a revolt from within as well. It's not like things can get any worse or anything!
Uhm... Prime Minister, do you think that's a good idea? There's already unrest in the area...
If these are the Empress's wishes, who am I to go against them? It's only a temporary solution, right? We only have to scare the Republic away for now. Once we've defeated the rebels, there won't be anything to worry about anymore.
Exactly. It's only a matter of time until the whole country's under our control again. In the meantime, it's your job to keep the Republic army in check, so get to work. And don't fail us this time.
Yes, your Highness... I'll do my best.
Fade to black...
I've seen it many times, this city, from down below. But it looks so much different from up here. And now... it's all within my hands. Everything, as far as you can see. We've come a long way, Felgorn, you and I.
Aren't you the least bit worried? Things look safe from here, but it's not the same in the world outside the castle gates.
Worry? There's no reason for that. Our allies will come to our aid. That pathetic Republic? The young prince? We don't have anything to fear from them. I'm not like those other nobles who have no idea what's going on outside their ballrooms. I know what I'm doing.
You really think things are fine the way they are? The Empress is demanding more and more from the people. They can't take much more of this. There've been several riots already.
Yes... but it's not enough yet.
What do you mean, not enough?
Back with Hilbert...
I don't know.
You haven't seen them?
No. I wasn't paying attention to them.
Oh... I'll go look for them, okay?
And we're given control.
Ethan is no help since he apparently prefers to spend his nights staring at a wall. So we'll need to find Thorve and Randolph ourselves.
And in a completely plausible turn of events, it turns out that's not very hard since there are guards blocking the way to every location that doesn't advance the plot.
We find them on the eastern side of the fort, along with Matilda.
Hilbert... could you--
No, it's okay. I think Hilbert has the right to know too.
What are you talking about?
It's time I told you all exactly what happened with me and Felgorn in the past. In fourteen years, I've never told anyone about this. But it's not right for me to keep it a secret anyomore.
I've heard part of the story, but it looks like there's more to it than I was aware of.
You're only going to tell the three of us?
It's not something that needs to be made public.
Well, Matilda I can see, and Randolph obviously has an interest here since his son was involved, but when the hell did Hilbert become one of Thorve's closest friends? They haven't exactly done much in the way of bonding.
Well, go on. You already told me a little, but what happened next?
Yes... Fourteen years ago, Felgorn, Randolph's son Wolfram and I were fighting against the Rosehart Kingdom. We were sent off to a village. There was no need for us to fight since the resistance there was already defeated. All we had to do was secure their grain supplies.
Fade to white...
(Flashback time again. As before, I'll be using Thorve's present-day portrait to show his words.)
I wouldn't know.
But it's got to be, right? There was this other guy... I think he said the same thing.
Frankly, Wolfram, I have no idea what you're even talking about. Are we there yet?
The camera pans over the village, and, well... things don't look pretty.
I can't believe this...
It's completely burned to the ground...
But... I don't understand! I thought there were only a few rebels in this town. Why did this happen?
It's a warning. There are no organized rebels in this area. It's just locals banding together when they're under attack.
When word spreads about this, other towns will be less likely to approach us. It's... not an uncommon way to prevent unnecessary casualties on the attacking side.
No way, this... There's women... and children, and... I just...
Are you really sure this was our doing?
There's no one else around. They didn't do this to themselves.
What... What the hell? What is this!?
It was a massacre. There was no sign of the invaders anymore, but it hadn't been long since the attack. Some of the buildings were still smoldering, and the air was warm and oppressing.
Why aren't you saying anything? You don't think this is okay, do you? Is there anyone here? Anyone at all!?
Of course, we didn't know this at the time. Even if we had, I don't think it would've made a difference. Eventually, we started to think that no one was left in the town, but...
Let's just go, Thorve. I don't like it here.
No! Keep looking! Maybe... maybe we're wrong. Maybe there's some evidence that it was someone else... Huh?
He was hiding under the rubble, clutching a dead soldier's sword. It was probably all he had left. When Wolfram approached him, well, he was probably terrified, certain we were there to kill him.
Damn it! That kid!
Felgorn dashes at the boy, but a girl runs in from offscreen and blocks his attack.
With more Kingdom troops following closely behind her, we weren't willing to take any chances.
We had a substantial lead on them, but I was slowed down by the burden, and the gap grew smaller and smaller. We just couldn't carry on.
Don't stop! We have to keep running! Is it too heavy for you? Should I take over?
... I understand. Leave him here.
Hurry! We don't have much time!
Felgorn dashes offscreen, but Thorve is much slower to follow.
Fade to black...
Yeah... looks like they gave up. Damn it, we... we really lost Wolfram. That stupid kid, coming out of nowhere... This was supposed to be a routine mission. What the hell went wrong?
Music: (RECOMMENDED LISTENING)
Don't say things like that! You did what you could! Wolfram and I, we both followed you because we wanted to. It's not your fault!
He was still alive!
Wh... What do you mean?
He wasn't dead yet!
No... you probably made a mistake, right? You were just imagining it.
What... What am I going to do now? I killed Wolfram...
No! It was too late! Even if you brought him back, there's nothing we could've done! Are you a doctor? Would you have known how to help him!? You didn't kill him. That's just ridiculous. He died because that boy stabbed him. That's all there is to it.
But... I should've at least...
No... You did the right thing, Thorve. He couldn't be saved anymore, we both know that. But you, you saved both of us by letting him go. It's because of that we could escape. Come on, let's go back.
No, I can't return... What have we been doing here? Trying to become heroes? Just look at this! Look what we got instead!
Look, I know... Wolfram's death hit us both hard. I can still barely believe it, but... You know what we came here for. Are you going to give up your dreams so easily?
My dreams... were nothing like this. What's the point of becoming a hero in a world like this? It was a stupid dream to begin with.
Fine. Go and run away then. I refuse to give up. I'll make them all pay for Wolfram's death.
And what? Create more places like that village?
I'll fight. I'll fight hard to become a real hero. I'll be famous, just like we said we'd be. When I'm a hero, things will change. I'll make sure something like this will never happen again. You want to go hide from the world? Then do it. I don't care. But I'm going to do something about it.
Although I don't know the details, he continued to fight in the war, quickly rising to fame. I don't doubt that it was his anger over Wolfram's death that pushed him like that. Yes, he became the national hero he wanted to be. And I...
I just want to cut in here and say that this is honestly one of my favorite revelations in the game. Thorve's past has been built up so much that by this point the player was probably expecting some horrible atrocity, but what I think makes this scene work so well is the simplicity of what caused Thorve's guilt. He didn't unleash some ancient evil or cause dozens of deaths; he simply found himself in a situation where he panicked and made a selfish decision for which he can't forgive himself. Thorve's actions and subsequent guilt are much more human and relatable than the average "character with a tragic past" in jRPGs, and I really like his character for that.
As an aside, I always found it interesting how Thorve contrasts to Hilbert in this regard, when the latter has a past that's arguably even more traumatic. But whereas Thorve can blame himself for his actions, Hilbert cannot blame himself for the actions of the bandits who murdered his parents. As such, while Hilbert's past informs his character, and explains why he wants certain things, he doesn't spend all his time angsting over it like the average jRPG protagonist would, and I really have to give kudos to SCF for that as well.
Anyway, that's enough from me for the moment, there's more flashbackin' to be done.
I was wandering around there for a long time. Aimlessly. Always on my own. I couldn't stop feeling guilty because I couldn't help Wolfram. That's why I began to study medicine.
But I had no drive, no motivation apart from my guilt. I wasn't doing it out of genuine desire. I was doing it because I had absolutely nothing else to do. I began to realize that, on my own, I was never going to amount to anything. Over time, I started to grow more and more detached and apathetic toward the world. I would've probably faded away like that, secluded and unremembered... but one encounter changed my life.
Is Doctor Edmund not here?
Uhm, no. He's out of town for a few days. Do you need something?
Just great. My name's Matilda. I'm from the Republic army. They just set me up as part of a special forces unit, but we're short on healers. Damn it, I came all the way here to get the doctor to join us, and now you tell me he's out?
I don't think he'd be interested in your offer anyway. He may have been a soldier once, but now he's this village's only doctor. These people need him. He told me before that he wants to stay in this town until he dies.
Hrm. I'll come back another time to talk to him in person.
You're his apprentice. Can't you take over for him here?
I'm still learning. I'm not good enough to take his place. Besides, I don't stay in one place very long. I've been wandering a lot.
So you don't really have a home? I don't have a specific preference for Edmund. It doesn't matter to me who joins the team. How about you join me instead?
Yeah. The special forces are held in high regard. You'll be treated well.
No, that's... no longer something I want to get involved in. I have no desire to try to become a hero anymore.
What are you talking about? This isn't about heroism.
The irony, it hurts.
I'm looking for someone who's serious, who wants to help his country and its people. I'm fighting for what I believe in, not for fame or glory. What about you?
I... I came here to escape the war.
Hmph. You want to keep running all your life, or will you stand your ground and protect those you care about?
I lost a friend, during a war.
You think you're the only one? I'm sorry for your loss, but are you going to cry about it forever? You look pathetic. This is no way to live your life.
... I'm fine like this.
Matilda literally starts dragging Thorve out of the house.
W-Wait, what are you doing?
I told you, I need someone like you for my team. You don't want to do it? Fine, but at least decide after you've tried it first. I can't stand seeing you waste your life away like this.
Fade to black...
What I needed was someone who did have goals. Someone I could follow, to look up to. I've been following Matilda ever since that day, because she possesses something that I lack. And... that's where I stand now. I may have lost my ambition that day, but I'm happy with my current life. When I look at Hilbert, I see a young man full of energy, someone with the desire to change the world. I see someone who wants to become a hero not for himself, but because of what it means to others. A true hero. And it made me sad to realize... that none of us back then were anything like that.
I had some ideas what could've happened, but...
You have to understand, when I first met you, I was very insecure. My past is still something I prefer not to think about. How much did you know about this, Randolph?
I knew most of it, really. Felgorn came to me afterwards and told me about it. But he only said that Wolfram died in the attack, nothing more. Did you think I was going to put all the blame on you for taking my son into that war?
I'm glad I finally know the whole story, but it doesn't change anything. Let's move on. We've got more important things on our mind.
I think we all feel the same way. You got it off your chest. Good. Now put it aside and worry about the here and now.
Yeah... Why did you decide to tell us now anyway, after all this time?
It's because of Felgorn. I always envied him, because he was the only one of us who fulfilled our dream of becoming heroes. I felt that while I was hiding from the wrongs in this world, Felgorn was doing something about it, but... When I met him at the camp, I realized that I'd been wrong all these years. Felgorn was affected no less than me by what happened.
I realized that we've both been hiding, in different ways. Seeing him like that opened my eyes. But he refuses to understand. If only I could convince him...
You did all you could. If he's being a stubborn idiot, it's his problem. Getting this guy to join our side is not our priority, when we have two entire armies opposing us. I say we end this here and go to sleep.
Yeah, let's go to bed.
Fade to black...
The next morning...
Good morning. Why the hurry? Did something happen?
No, nothing bad. It's just that what you said yesterday about making people join our side gave me an idea.
Next time: Hilbert has an idea?