Part 41: The Weight Of A Nation
Welcome back. Last time on Last Scenario, we departed Entalar on the physics-defying Brunhild II. According to Moritz, we had received a message from Wilhelm while we were underground, so we stopped in Herzog to see what that was all about. However, it seems that Wilhelm was just an intermediary--the message originated from Drakovic, and it requested two things: our assistance in the fight to take back Pargon Island from the Kingdom, and the freeing of 500 Republic soldiers by the Empire at "the right time," whatever that means. Obviously a good chunk of our party wants to help out with the former, so today we're going to be returning to Pargon Island and seeing what we can do to help. Let's get to it.
We begin this update in our room in Herzog's castle. Hilbert is once again alone in the party, so there's nothing to do here except talk to Joanna or leave.
But I never stopped believing you'd come back eventually. I knew you could do it.
Hehe... I feel like we're ready for anything now.
As we move to leave, however, Thorve enters the room.
Hey. Were you about to leave?
Fade to black...
Oh? What have you been thinking about?
About the Kingdom. My line of reasoning went somewhat like this: what does the Kingdom want?
What they want? Well, I'd say they want to conquer the world.
Yes. Everything points in that direction, doesn't it? No, in fact I'm certain that this is exactly what the King has in mind.
So... what's the problem?
Now, as far as we know, the King believed that the Havali could control demons, as long as they had Lorenza. He was protecting the Havali and searching for Lorenza, in return for this incredible power.
But that was all a lie.
Exactly. And they knew it. As soon as Ortas got his hands on Lorenza, Castor struck him down. So what does it look like? Since they knew the truth, they were trying to use the Havali for as long as they could, right?
That's what I thought. Is it wrong?
Oh, I can't say for sure if it's wrong... but tell me one thing.
I... don't really know. But it must have helped them. They even came close to bringing down the Empire.
But it was Augustus who caused all the chaos in the Empire. In the end, he never even got any backup from the Kingdom or the Havali. He did it by himself.
After all, Ortas wanted to destroy mankind. He wouldn't do anything that could hinder those plans.
Hmm... I see where you're coming from now... So, why did they keep up the alliance if it didn't benefit them?
Let me change the question around. Who benefited the most from it? It wasn't the Havali.
Exactly. The Havali alliance was the sole reason he was made a general in the first place. The longer he could keep it going, the more influence he'd be able to gain.
And now it's over... but since he conquered the Republic, he probably doesn't need it anymore.
Hilbert, I don't think King Alfred is our real enemy. Just like what happened here in the Empire, someone is slowly seizing control behind the scenes.
Hmm... have you talked about this with Zawu yet?
Yes, but she is difficult to get through to. I think she feels the same way though. This battle may go further than we're expecting. Just keep that in the back of your mind.
Hmmm. Thorve, now that you're here... I've been thinking as well. I've always been striving to become a perfect hero, like a role model that everyone can look up to.
I get that this is one of the themes of the game, but this discussion always felt a little tacked-on to me. Then again, I suppose there really wasn't any better place to put it.
First it was Felgorn, and then Alexander himself... even he was, in the end, just a normal man. And to the Havali, Ortas was a hero. And Castor must be a hero in the Kingdom for conquering the Republic. Every hero in history had flaws. There's no point in trying to be perfect.
Of course there isn't. Heroism isn't about being perfect. You already know it, right? Heroism isn't about trying to be a hero in the first place. The people you named... they were all just doing what they thought was right. They didn't try to be heroes.
Hilbert, if I can give you one piece of advice... It's to stop this silly talk. Go out and do what you need to do.
Haha... Yeah, you're right. Forget about it. But here I am, being asked for by name to help free my home country... It's a big thing. I couldn't help but feel nervous about it.
Fade to black...
But how are we going to find him? I doubt he put the location of his camp in the message.
We need to go to Melende town, near Stonewall.
Ah, so that's all? All right then. We're moving out!
And with that, we return to Pargon Island and head for Melende. It's been an awfully long time since we were here last...
Uhm, no... we...
Don't worry. I know.
Oh, you do?
You are Hilbert, right?
Yeah. How did you know?
Oh... Anyway, what should we do now?
Follow me. There's a secret passage downstairs.
All the way to the camp?
Oh, no. It just leads out of town. That we we'll know we won't be followed.
Fade to black...
Okay. Thanks for bringing us here.
What a place to build an army camp, in the middle of the mountains.
I wonder what kind of plan he has, especially with the men at Herzog.
His attack on Fardorf almost cost us the war. I'm sure he'll be just as dangerous to the Kingdom.
You can even see the city in the distance from here!
Ah, it's been a while. I'm glad to see you're all doing well.
The feeling is... vaguely mutual.
Haha, friendly as usual. What do you think? We're not doing so bad, huh?
Really, what are you thinking, stationing your men so close to the capital?
The closer we are, the faster we can respond, of course. Sure it's risky, but you can't win a war without taking risks. It's all about managing risks well. They're not just looking for us in the neighborhood. They're looking all over the island. If that's the case, this place is as good as any other. The terrain itself provides our cover.
Fade to black...
Control is returned to us here. We have the run of the camp, though in all honesty there's not much to see.
Also, it's entirely possible for us to just walk right out if we so desire. Just as Matilda said, Stonewall is rather close by.
The camp itself is made up of a small ring of buildings that don't contain much of interest. But SCF pulls a neat little trick here to make the camp seem much bigger than what we have access to: there are a number of soldiers and buildings around the area that we can't reach. You can see a few of them in the above shots.
Also, you know what we haven't done in awhile?
Win some new Hex tiles, that's what. The Mantis we pick up from Benny here is one of the better all-around tiles in the game.
There's also a little cave off in the corner of the camp that's being blocked by the soldier here. Guess we don't have much of a choice but to go talk to Drakovic then.
We find him in the large building at the north end of the camp.
I assume that you've got good news from the Emperor too?
If you're talking about the prisoners, yeah. They're ready to leave whenever you want.
How is the situation on the island now? We've been busy elsewhere, so we don't know much about what's been happening here.
Well, to be honest, not much has changed. The whole military structure has been replaced, of course. Everyone who might rebel was sent home. Oh, and Newick is dead, in case you didn't know yet.
Forgive me if I'm not bursting into tears.
One of the major themes we're going to see in this story arc is that Drakovic has the best lines in the game. It's a shame the story has taken so long to focus on him.
But the enemy general said no one else would be punished as long as they didn't resist. It makes me think if maybe they knew that Newick wasn't popular. It would've caused more unrest if some of the well-liked officers were executed.
The way you describe it, the Kingdom has gone to great lengths to keep the citizens happy.
Yeah, that's exactly the problem. The people don't have it bad. And that in turn makes it harder to make them stand up against the occupation forces. If they were being oppressed, they would've been much more eager to fight.
Excuse me for asking this, seeing as I'm not a Republic citizen, but if the people are not willing to fight because their lives are no worse than they used to be, is it right for us to push this fight upon them?
You don't understand. Do you know how much blood was shed to gain our independence? You want us to throw that all away?
No, I don't. But the population seems quite fine with it.
I'm not going to argue with you about this. If you've got a problem with it, just go back to the Empire!
No, I think it's a valid question. You're right. Things aren't so bad right now.
Look at the Empire now. I'll readily admit that you have a good leader. But will he still be great in twenty, or forty years? What about his children? I'm not fighting to improve the people's situations right now. It's to protect them in the future.
Very well. I'll withdraw myself from this discussion.
Yeah, so I told you that we don't have a lot of support among the population. To change that, we need to do something shocking, something that will shake everyone from their sleep. They think that supporting us is pointless right now. I want to change that.
I think this is the first time the game has made any sort of reference to the Republic's (former) leadership. Up until this point the player might as well have assumed that Newick was the head of state.
Maybe he wasn't the best leader, but he's still a symbol of what we stand for. But just recently, I added a second part to the plan. You see, we've discovered that the Kingdom general who led the invasion has come back to Stonewall. If we could kill him, it would mean a massive hit to the enemy's morale.
This general... That's Castor, right?
You're already familiar with him?
Yeah, you could say that.
Okay, so that's a nice goal, but it's not a plan. How do you expect to get into Stonewall to do all this?
We explored many possibilities. One of them was to dig a tunnel.
... A tunnel all the way from here to the city?
So instead, we started digging a tunnel from here to get behind a nearby enemy camp, to see how it'd go. From there, we'd be able to get much closer to Stonewall and dig a second tunnel. Well, it was only an idea, but we didn't get very far with it. We ran into something, below these mountains. Old ruins buried beneath the earth. But that led me to think... those ruins seemed to go on for quite far. It's possible that they're like ancient catacombs or something. They might be connected to Stonewall. If that's true, we could get into the city without having to dig our own tunnel.
But... you don't know where they lead to yet?
Right, that's the thing. We didn't make it very far inside. I already lost several men to what's lurking down inside. I had to put a halt to the exploration.
Yeah, I think we all can. Didn't something like this get pulled on Daniel in Exit Fate as well? Such are the perils of being an RPG protagonist, it seems.
Good, because that saves me the trouble of having to ask you. A small team of specialists, who have experience with this sort of thing, that's just what we need.
So all you want us to do is look through these ruins and see if they lead to the city?
That's all, for now.
That doesn't sound so bad. But what about those prisoners of war? You haven't told us what you're going to do with them.
I just love picturing Drakovic here as thinking, "Shit, I wasn't expecting anyone to actually respond to that awesome one-liner! Uhh... now what do I say?"
Come on, be serious.
Let's just say I have several ideas, depending on how this is going to turn out. You'll see.
All right, I was a fool for asking.
So, how do we get to these ruins?
The entrance to the tunnel is right here in the camp, just outside. I'll let the guard there know to let you inside.
Fade to black...
To absolutely no one's surprise, the entrance to the ruins just so happens to be in the cave we saw a moment ago. Let's see what we've got here.
The tunnel winds all over the fucking place. Wasn't this tunnel supposed to be heading towards an enemy camp or something? You'd think it'd just be straight if they had a destination in mind.
The tunnel spits us out in Archaeopolis, an area that looks an awful lot like the Altar of Memory we investigated for Randolph all those updates ago. Hell, they even have the same music.
Archaeopolis is a very straightforward dungeon compared to what we've seen throughout the game, and yet it still somehow manages to have one of the most annoying gimmicks.
And that's these things. The two islands you see here are floating platforms, and they move back and forth. That doesn't sound so bad, but the problem with these platforms is that they're not actually in sync. So if you want to step from one to the other, you have to get on one and hover back and forth multiple times until the second platform happens to be in the right place when you go by. It's very tedious.
Still, jumping from platform to platform usually results in treasure, so it's not all bad. The Moon Ring here is an accessory that grants +20 VIT and +20 RES to its wearer.
The monster selection in Archaeopolis is also very limited. Most of the battles contain at least one of the Mantises seen here. Mantises have little HP and only a regular attack for about 250 damage, but they're very quick and usually show up in groups of at least three. They're not too tough, but they can cut a party member down fast if their targeting doesn't work out in our favor.
The next room offers us two paths, but one of them ends in a dead end with one of those ornate chests we've seen occasionally. The Serpent Idol it contains is a key item with no obvious use at the moment.
The other path leads to a room with a closed door and chests on either side.
We land ourselves another idol and some Holy Water, an attack item which casts... well, Holy, the strongest light spell in the game.
As we're heading back to the door we run into another enemy, the Black Iguana. The Iguanas can attack normally for around 375 damage, or use Glaring Eye to attempt to petrify the entire party. Fortunately, it usually misses, so these guys aren't too much trouble.
The two pedestals near the closed door look like a puzzle at first, but all we have to do is drop the two idols we just picked up on them.
As we head through the door, we transition into a scene.
Well, it's not like we could've expected any different. This place seems to be ancient.
Randolph... Don't these ruins look somewhat familiar to you?
Familiar...? Hmm. I'm not sure. Truth be told, I haven't actually seen that many ruins before. I was originally a geologist, after all.
But I kind of feel the same way as Thorve. It's familiar. Have we seen the same building style somewhere else...?
I definitely haven't seen anything like this before.
I can't read a word of this. It must be some kind of dead language.
No... that can't be...
Lorenza? Is something wrong?
Ah yes, the same alphabet that Randolph was studying intensely before he joined us. Which totally explains why he didn't recognize it.
It's written in a strange accent, but there's no mistake about it. This is our language.
That... That's not possible. Why would something in your language be all the way here? Humans have lived on this island for... thousands of years, maybe even longer.
I... I don't know either.
What does it say? Can you read it!?
These ruins must be even older than we thought. It's unlikely that they'll have any connection with Stonewall.
Maybe so, but we should keep looking, even if it's only to find an answer to this mystery.
Definitely. We can't turn back yet.
But it doesn't mesh with what we already know. There has to be something we're missing... Let's keep looking.
And as control is returned to us, we head north to find...
Most of the platforms in this room aren't moving when we enter. We have to head to the north end of the room and flip this lever, which activates them and allows us to access the treasure around the edges.
In addition to a few Capsules, we also find one of the more powerful attack spellcards in the game:
Rage (85MP): Deals moderate non-elemental damage to one enemy 4-5 times, ignoring enemy RES and moving to another enemy if the original target dies.
Crisis: Erosion (0MP): Deals extreme earth damage to all enemies, but reduces the caster's HP to 1.
Stat changes: -1% max HP, -2% SPD, +4% RES, +4% SKL
Rage in action. Each Rage blast hits an enemy for 350-450 damage when cast by Lorenza, making it possible for her to deal over 2000 damage with a single spell. Of course, its MP cost is far beyond any other spell we've seen, and unlike most spells, each blast has a chance of missing. It's not high, but having one of the blasts miss is fairly common.
Erosion, on the other hand, deals over 1000 damage to all enemies when cast by Matilda, and it costs no MP at all. The loss of all but 1 HP is a big downside, but unless the enemy moves right after the caster, we can usually set it up to have another character heal the caster immediately afterwards. I think we're going to have some fun with this.
Anyway, we continue on and get attacked by this area's final enemy type, the Flothark. Those four smaller jellyfish you see surrounding it aren't decoration, either: they're also enemies, known as Jellies. Flotharks are probably one of the most annoying enemies in the game, as both they and their Jelly flunkies have the same supreme VIT as Ectoplasms and the Riftgate, making physical attacks useless. Worse yet, the Jellies have only one move: Water Gun. They'll use this to either hit us for around 160 damage, or target the Flothark, which heals it.
Flotharks themselves have a few techniques: Eerie Tentacle, which inflicts about 300 damage and silence to one party member, and Tidal Wave, which hits the entire party for 300 damage or so. Frankly I'd just suggest running from these guys unless you don't mind blowing a bunch of MP. If you do kill them, they can drop a Neptune Fork, the ultimate water attack item.
The rest of the dungeon is fairly boring. There's only a single straight path which eventually winds up at this save point.
And as we head north, the screen flashes suddenly.
This is... a warding spell! It's meant to keep away intruders!
Intruders? You mean us!?
BOSS FIGHT: Thanatos
Despite his appearance, Thanatos is actually a multi-part boss. Those spindly arms of his are each separate targets, and have their own attacks.
They also have a surprisingly varied set of resistances and weaknesses, considering they're all supposedly part of one entity. For the most part, I wouldn't bother trying to exploit any weaknesses in this battle except for Thanatos's light one.
The Left and Right Arms spend most of their turns casting Wind Fist and Earth Fist, respectively. These are both quite powerful, so it's best to get the arms out of the way as soon as possible. They can also each attack normally for about 400 damage, but it's uncommon.
Thanatos himself isn't actually much of an attacker compared to his arms. For starters, there are some turns where the game will display the message "Thanatos remains motionless." It's not a buildup to a powerful spell or anything, he just occasionally skips his turns. As for actual attacks, Thanatos has the same Dark Ray spell we do, although I don't think we've ever cast it ourselves.
He's also got Haunting, which inflicts blindness...
... and Creepy Touch, which inflicts enfeeble.
Really, Thanatos is pretty lackluster when it comes to damage. His technique Black Wave doesn't even inflict a status, just some minor damage. I honestly was thinking "wait, that's it?" when he tried it.
Still, he does have one very dangerous move, and that is Death's Breath, which he uses every several turns to reduce the entire party's HP to 1. If the Right Arm is still alive, it'll follow up with an attack to take someone out of the fight.
Fortunately, it's not too hard to recover from, as it's virtually guaranteed to knock someone into Crisis, and by this point all of my party members have a Heal card. In the rare case that nobody can cast M-Heal before Thanatos's next turn, well, that's what I have all these Diamond Dusts lying around for.
We're reaching the point where Capsules aren't that big of a boost anymore, but still, every little bit helps. Thanatos himself carries an Unholy Water, the dark counterpart to the Holy Water we found earlier.
Once Thanatos's arms are down, there's very little he can do to us aside from inflicting a few annoying statuses. We have more than enough time to recover if he happens to use Death's Breath.
I'm just sad he died when he did. I had a Limit Break queued up on Matilda here.
For our trouble, we land ourselves the new Sphynx Hex tile and the Shaman Staff, a weapon for Lorenza that deals earth damage.
Let's go take a look.
A king? So it was all to protect this place from looters.
Yes, and from having his grave defiled. But... that's not right.
The Havali have always been led by the family of elders.
Is there anything written here that could shed some light on this?
Hmm... No... Just his name, how long he reigned... nothing that explains anything.
But if so, how come they vanished without a trace? If there was an encounter between humans and Havali on this island, there would've been a record of it.
But uh... aren't we forgetting why we're here?
Oh, I'm sorry. As interesting as this discovery is, this isn't the time to be studying the past.
There's clearly no path to Stonewall down here. I don't think there's any reason to look further.
Fade to black...
Following the scene, we're teleported back to the entrance. Which is good, because I really wasn't looking forward to having to walk all the way out. Let's go talk to Drakovic.
If the situation were any different, I'd be ecstatic about this discovery. It's a shame, but I'm sure we'll get a better opportunity to study it in the future.
Well, I can't say it came entirely as a surprise. Thanks for trying, anyway.
So uh, does this mean you're going to have to dig the tunnel to Stonewall yourself now?
No, I've decided to do away with the tunnel idea altogether. It'd take too long. Frankly, it was a silly idea in the first place, but the discovery of those ruins could've saved it. Anyway, I feel like I can think more clearly now. Don't worry about anything. I'll have a new plan by tomorrow.
So you've got nothing else for us to do at the moment?
No, just go get some rest for now. I'm sure you can all use it.
Want to have a seat?
Is that part of your strategy as well?
Drakovic, you are my kind of character.
And for better or worse, neither have you. I've got to say, Matilda, I'm glad that we're both on the same side again. I didn't want to show it at the time, but it didn't sit well with me to fight against an old friend.
Don't think I've already forgiven you, Drakovic. All of this happened because the Republic was greedy and couldn't keep their hands off the Empire.
You would've done it too, wouldn't you? If you'd still been in the Republic army. You wouldn't have refused your orders either. So why is it different? Because I'm higher ranked? Do you think I didn't warn the Colonel about the dangers of the mission?
It's different... because I've personally met the people on the other side. I probably can't expect you to feel the same way.
Maybe so... but don't get me wrong. I wasn't entirely against it. I still think it would've been better for the Empire in the long run.
Let's stop arguing about this. It's nothing that can be changed.
You're always in the middle of things. People are thinking of you guys as heroes. But me, I just sit here and make plans. I just ask others to risk their lives for me. Heroics and the sort, that's not my thing. I just can't do it.
I guess I was wrong. You really -have- changed.
I take my job more seriously than it may look like sometimes. I worry, Matilda. I worry a lot. There are days when I do nothing but worry. But I can't let it show to my men. They need strong leadership more than anything.
You really are a good leader, huh?
Right now, the Republic is me. That may sound self-centered, but it's the truth. If I fail here, the country as we know it will be gone forever.
You become cautious, afraid to take action. You think, what if it goes wrong? What if I miscalculated? You want to sit back and wait for the perfect opportunity. You wait, you wait, and you keep waiting. But that chance never comes. It's never perfect enough. You just wait until it's too late. We don't have any advantages here. We simply can't win through conventional means. If I have a plan that could win us this war, I need to do it, right? No matter the risk.
So you have a plan?
*sigh* And so you immediately slip back into your old habits.
But Matilda, I need to thank you. For the first time since we got back, I can rest a little easier. Now that you're here, my mind's no longer as clouded. I can look at the situation as it really is. Because right now, it's no longer me who's the last shining beacon of hope for the Republic.
Hey, don't start pushing the responsibility on me all of a sudden.
It's a little thing, but I really like this particular exchange. Why? Well, let me ask you a question: when's the last time an RPG character said "Remember that time when..." and it didn't result in a flashback or tons of exposition? We don't need to know exactly what happened when their unit was trapped in the woods and the scene works perfectly fine without it. It's quite nice.
I can live with that. I should probably go to sleep soon. I'll have a lot to do tomorrow.
Next time: So, uh, remember how Zawu said that Castor needed help before he got a taste of defeat...?