Part 15: Disc 3, Part 1Edge has escaped the Uru ruins alive, but he is no closer to reaching the Tower than he was when he entered, *and* he's got another inevitable battle coming up with a huge-ass dragon and a chick who looks 14 but has been sleeping for thousands of years in a stone bed with her name on it and who is more of a monster than anything else. So what the heck does he do now?
Since Roderick morphed form again, the answer is simple - go back to Georgius!
Roderick's lasers are strong enough now to blast apart the rudders poking out from the right side of the ship, but Edge decides against it since he hasn't gotten all the way inside yet. He uses his dragon's newfound level 3 powers to open up another one of the pyramids, which releases more of the strange balls of light into the aft entrance of Shelcoof. Once that's done, he excitedly flies back inside, this time discovering a couple of item boxes deep in the corridor. All right, now we're finally getting somewhere!
Fuck, no we're not. Guess we'll have to come back here later AGAIN. But now what...
Edge suddenly remembers that there was an entire hallway full of item boxes in the Uru ruins that the floater couldn't destroy, but that Roderick easily could. Back to Uru then!
Entering the Southern Sunken Ruins, as Edge begins to make his way towards the tube that connects to the Deep North, he sees a small creature flying around in aimless circles, seemingly lost. Upon seeing Roderick, the creature makes a beeline straight for him and starts hovering right near his tail, looking as if he wanted nothing more in the world than to grab on tight to the magnificent dragon.
I guess he wants his mother. I should try to find its nest.)
After a few minutes of flying around, Edge does indeed find the nest, and the young Tobitama happily rejoins its mother. While looking for the nest, Edge found two more of the young creatures, and one by one, he leads them back. Once all three return, the mother and her babies fly off into the morning sun, leaving a Tobitama Rock behind in the nest, which Edge picks up with interest and stores in his pack for later.
Before Edge continues north to the Underground Ruins again, he realizes that he is absolutely exhausted. He heads back to camp, hops off Roderick, and gets approximately two seconds of rest before he is accosted by a familiar voice.
How did it go? Were you able to find the Tower?
Edge: Hold on just a minute. Why are you here?
Paet: I was watching you with my scanner. Your dragon is incredible! I'm finally seeing it up close!
Paet's attention turns back to Roderick, and his face lights up as he stares at him, his mind clearly soaring through the air on the dragon's back. After a moment, he comes back to reality.
Paet: ...Oh, what were we talking about?
Edge: About the Tower. I couldn't get past Uru. The underground passage was sealed.
Paet: Sealed? That's great news!
Edge: What? When did you go insane!?
Paet: Oh, sorry. I found a way to fly to the Tower.
Edge: But I couldn't get past that fog.
Paet: I know what that fog is!
Paet: It's known as "God's Carriage". Its powers are legendary. It defended the Tower in the Ancient Age. I guess there was a huge battle over the Tower years ago.
Edge: A battle over the Tower...so many lives have been lost...
Paet: If we destroy Mel-Kava, the fog will be lifted. But...I don't know where it is.
Edge: You don't know where to find it!?
Paet: Don't worry. We'll find it. There's gotta be some documents somewhere in Zoah. What's a legend without records?
About the records on Mel-Kava...I think someone in the Holy District is hiding them somewhere. You just need to find them.
Well, *that's* certainly easier said than done. From conversations Edge has had with the people living in the Liberal District, passes to the Holy District are granted only after proving your faith to those in power, as well as several years of servitude. How can Paet talk so glibly about getting in? Or...is there more to Paet than meets the eye?
Either way, Edge has some underground ruins to finish exploring.
Thankfully, Uru is much more pleasant to visit on dragonback, and Edge is able to explore the place to his liking. While poking around the room with all of the failed prototype dragons in it, Edge even finds a tunnel pointing downwards that he didn't notice last time...
leading to a secret floor! Wow, this is so cool! This is so awesome! This is so...hey, why is that door not opening?
...Admittance with Bio Equipment prohibited...
(Bio Equipment? That means...
(Yep, that's right...in order to explore the secret floors of the Uru ruins on your second visit, you're forced to use the fucking FLOATER again. And yes, there were more sloped areas in there, which meant even more pointless repetition and backtracking. I hate this place so much.)
Once the secret floors are cleared of all of their treasure, Edge and Roderick head back to the Underground Dome, where the dragon's flight capability finally allows them to reach the doors in the ceiling of the dome. In the hallway of the northern door, Edge comes face to face with more glowing green artifacts (like the one in Deep North that told him about the Protect Keys), as well as D Unit 7. Accessing the artifacts reveals some very interesting information.
<We have at last succeeded in developing the ultimate form of the dragon. But it is more than a dragon, it is a being far different...something perhaps even superior to ourselves...
A Messenger of the Gods.>
Light Wing? Ultimate form of the dragon? Edge finds this exceedingly interesting, and digs further into the records here to see if there's anything else interesting he can find.
<The Institute, which considered the development of Light Wing a renegade project, has ordered us to delete all records regarding the Light Wing. But we have decided to record and seal all data regarding the Light Wing into one memory plate, divided it into 12 pieces called D Units, and scatter them throughout the continent...hoping one day a later generation would inherit our work...>
THAT'S WHAT THE D UNITS ARE FOR???? Edge realizes with a thrill that he has already found six of them!
The other records are less exciting, making obscure references to an attack and something called the "drone" program, which Edge doesn't think much of until he reads the final record:
<Our latest subject is doing fine. That problem has already been solved by manipulating its life span.
We shall name this drone Azel.>
So that's what she is...the pinnacle of the ancient scientists' drone program, and apparently the only one that worked. Edge still has no idea what the drones are supposed to actually do, however. (By the way, her name is pronounced AH-zel, not AY-zel.)
The rest of the ruins of Uru don't produce anything much more exciting, although Edge does find D Unit 8 in that long hallway of previously unbreakable item boxes.
Leaving the ruins, Edge decides to swing by the caravan again to sell them some of the useful monster parts he'd picked up lately. A heavy cloud of despair hangs over the camp, however, and he quickly learns that Enkak, the son of An'jou, has fallen ill with Meccania fever. An'jou himself has left the caravan in order to search for the necessary ingredient of the antidote - a Tobitama Rock! Edge happily agrees to sell the Tobitama Rock he found in Uru to Baicah, who quickly whips up the antidote, saving Enkak's life and elevating Edge to a hero in the eyes of the displaced settlers. Flushing with happiness and pride at his good deed, Edge strides confidently into Zoah...and before he can take five steps, his heart has leapt into his throat and his stomach feels like it is now somewhere in the vicinity of his shoes.
Soldier: The operation is proceeding exactly as planned.
Commander: We're returning.
Suddenly, the air above Zoah is filled with the sounds of engines, as several Imperial fighters buzz the town.
Soldier: Hmph...more reinforcements? But Zoah already trembles before us.
Commander: Yes, I doubt that these zealots have ever seen a fighter plane. Zoah is ours. Let's go.
Zoah, under Imperial occupation? What in the world prompted this?
Walking around town, the mood of the populace is decidedly fearful. Aldo, an arrogant man who used to chide Edge about never making it to the Holy District, is hiding in a back room of his house. Jael, the barmaid at Juba's, shakes her head and says Edge has guts to show his face in Zoah at a time like this, especially considering damning evidence of the Empire's tyranny, like what Edge finds carved in a table in the upstairs section of Juba's:
Jared, the shopkeeper, advises Edge that the Council is considering war, and advocates leaving. Siffle, the religious gatekeeper, glosses over the situation and talks about the Gods. And Radgam, the hunter - wait, he's nowhere to be found.
As is his gun, the one he was trying to get Jared to fix for him. This can't be good.
As Edge makes his way back to the town gates in order to take to the air on Roderick and search for Radgam, he is stopped by Abner, the gatekeeper.
Abner: Are you Edge, the hunter?
Edge: Yeah, that's me.
Abner: I got something for you. Here. It's a pass to the Holy District.
...I don't understand. Why would they give one to you? Oh, I get it. Paet introduced you to Vaiman and you bribed him. Good thinking.
Edge: What do you mean by that...I don't even know who Vaiman is!
Abner: What, you didn't know?
He's second in command to the High Priest.
Edge: Why would he...
Abner: I don't know, I was just asking. Oh, there's a message for you, too. Go to the Holy District, he's got something to tell you.
Well well well, things are starting to make a bit more sense. No wonder Paet never had any trouble getting ahold of tons of Ancient Age stuff, or why he thought getting into the Holy District wasn't a big deal. With pass in hand, Edge figures Radgam can wait, gets directions to Vaiman's house from Siffle, and enters the Holy District.
On the way to Vaiman's, Edge decides to stop in the church, and tries to strike up a conversation with an old man who is praying at the altar.
Man: Hey boy...this is no place for hunters.
Edge: Who...are you?
Looks like Vaiman has granted you a pass. I don't like outsiders. Leave, as soon as your business is finished.
Friendly fellow, isn't he? Edge hotfoots it out of the church as soon as he can, and following a passage to its right, finds himself in the plaza where Vaiman and Paet call home. He makes his way around to their opulent house, and letting himself in, knocks on the door to Vaiman's study, where Paet was not expecting to see him.
Hmm...so you want to force him to attack with the dragon!?
Vaiman: Enough of that nonsense!
Be careful, Edge...He's a politician.
With Paet out of the way, Vaiman turns his attention to Edge, and begins speaking to him in the blustery, overly dramatic way politicians often do, with just a hint of sleaze in his voice.
Vaiman: So, you are Edge...please, do come in. I hear you've been a big help to my son. I should be greeting you formally, but this is not a time for protocol. Allow me to get straight to business.
...You may have known this already, but the Empire's vile stench has polluted our town. Now they are demanding we surrender. Never! They'll have to kill me first.
Edge: I have heard of their tyranny.
Vaiman: The council is leaning towards giving up the town. They feel we do not stand a chance against them. But the Empire is not invincible...
Vaiman then pulls out a flat sheet of what looks like paper, and as soon as he sees it, Edge knows exactly why he's been summoned here.
then I have a favor to ask you. I need you to defend the town with that dragon of yours. Of course, I will not ask you to risk your life without a reward. I hear that you are interested in the ancient ruins, like my son. If you will fight the Empire for us, I will show you all the information this town possesses. You may find the key you need to enter the Tower. Now, will you do it?
As if Edge needed an excuse to go attack the Empire...his body still aches from the torture he received aboard Shelcoof.
Edge: I'll do what I can. I have issues with the Empire anyway. I'll fight them.
Unfortunately for all concerned, Vaiman did not then do air guitar.
Vaiman is so pleased with Edge's answer, however, that he does a pathetic old-man happy dance before he regains his composure.
Vaiman: ...I mean, speaking for all the citizens here, I thank you. The Imperial Fleet is northwest of Uru now. There, a dense fog shrouds the land in the early morning. If you go there at that time, you should be able to enter unseen. I am counting on you, Edge.
Edge nods gravely and gets up to leave when Vaiman speaks to him once more.
Vaiman: ...Oh, wait a minute. Please keep this a secret. About the mission, and the dragon. There is safety in silence.
Vaiman never said anything about talking about it with someone who already knows, so Edge seeks out Paet by his airship to discuss the recent events.
Paet: Are you really gonna take that job?
Edge: Yeah...it is something I must do.
Paet: I see...but what are your chances? It's something to do with the Empire, right? You should find someone who's got some information about them.
Edge: You got anyone in mind?
Paet: Are you kidding!? Don't bother looking in this town. If someone finds out that you're involved with the Empire...banished, if you're lucky. You'll probably get killed.
Come to my house some day. I'm usually home at night.
Edge begins to wonder as he turns away from Paet - just who would have information on the Empire? Not to mention, someone who would tell him? It would have to be somebody who used to be in it, that much is obvious. Who, then?
Suddenly, it occurs to Edge - hunters! Usually, the only recourse for a hunter who ran out of game was to join the ranks of the Empire as a soldier or guard, much like Edge did; and usually, when their tour of duty was up, their increased experience with firearms made them more effective hunters, thus reducing the chance of not being able to make a kill when it was needed. So Edge begins to tick off the hunters he knows, seeing which of them would be the most likely candidates to have formerly served in the Empire. An'jou never said anything about service, and neither did anyone else Edge talked to in the caravan. Radgam is certainly old enough, maybe he...was...!
Edge suddenly remembers the empty pedestal and the missing gun. Breaking into a sprint, he dashes for the gates, throws them open, and makes a beeline for his camp where the dragon waits. He leaps aboard Roderick, sweeping into the air as he heads west, his eyes watering as he searches the ground for any sight of the old hunter. As he approaches the excavation site, he sees a speck of red on the ground, and he steers Roderick towards a landing spot, hoping against hope that he won't have to find a second body there.
in a crumpled heap. His back has been broken and his blood has been drained.)
Alas, it is not to be, as the old hunter fell. It was as he wanted it to be, but he fell nonetheless. Edge lifts the old man's gun from the corpse, thinking to himself "He would have wanted a hunter to have this." With melancholy filling his heart again, he turns back to the east, heading for the caravan to see if An'jou can help him.
An'jou is still away searching for a Tobitama Rock (no one had found him yet to tell him his son was saved), but the only other hunter left in the caravan, a man named Raoul (who had been hiding around the back only at night, which is why I never found him before now) turns out to be a former Imperial, and gives Edge a manual he received on the regulations for defense at Imperial bases.
Armed with the insider knowledge, Edge confidently heads for the base, ready to destroy it.
As Edge arrives at the base, a voice from the Control Tower - which the documentation said was the key to the whole thing - announces that the base is on Yellow Alert.
Luckily for Edge, the fact that the base has turned on all its searchlights only makes it easier to see, and target for destruction by Roderick's lasers, everything on the base. The searchlights are destructible,
the wind nets are destructible, and the ships that are in still in docks are very much destructible. Edge and Roderick basically go apeshit in here, firing lasers at anything that comes into range, destroying with near-reckless abandon.
All of the ships the Empire sends at them - patrol groups, Stinger fighters, Enforcers, Missile Gunships, full-fledged Warships - all fall before the dragon's relentless assault, spurred by the righteous hatred of its rider. Finally, the powers that be at the base realize that heavier firepower is needed, and Edge suddenly finds himself pursued by a huge ship, aptly named the Behemoth.
Behemoth crew: Intruder identified. It's the dragon.
Behemoth captain: Good - use the Emperor's Battlestation!
Crew: But it's not ready, the oversight...
Captain: That doesn't matter! Can it move?
Crew: Operational, except the Disintegrator.
Captain: Well, get it working!!! Now we test the power of the Behemoth.
The sub-cannon hits with a fierce explosion, eliciting a cry of pain from Roderick. Gritting his teeth, Edge moves into attack position and begins to unload on the giant ship - first knocking the sub-cannon out of alignment, then going to work on the engines.
Crew: The third engine is blown! First and second engines failing. Output dropping! Losing altitude!
Captain: Damn, we need more power! Is the Disintegrator operational yet!?
Apparently the Imperial ship's engineers are good ones, as the Behemoth reappears underneath our heroes.
Crew: The Disintegrator is charged!
Captain: Good. Bring the enemy into range.
The entire radar turns red, and in addition to having nowhere to hide, Edge figures there's no way he would be able to destroy the ship before this Disintegrator weapon fires. Thinking quickly, he charges up two gauges and then activates Shield, a Berserk technique that for a short while protects both Edge and Roderick from all harm. The Disintegrator fires - a fierce, deadly weapon that rains fire on top of dragon and rider - but thanks to the Shield, it does nothing of consequence. Luckily, the Disintegrator's barrel is a weak spot for the Behemoth,
and Roderick lands the killing blow a moment later.
With the Behemoth destroyed, Edge suddenly hears the Red Alert warning klaxon wail its message into the night. The outer wall closes in order to trap him in, and the inner wall opens to allow the base's reserve forces to attack.
Why did I think I could sneak up on an Imperial Assault Post? My only chance is to destroy the Control Tower!)
Wasting no time, Edge and Roderick speed towards the Control Tower, and even the reserve forces of the base are no match for them.
Within moments of sounding the alarm, the Control Tower is destroyed, but Edge's work here is not yet done.
Zoah? How on earth could they suspect Zoah? What's going on?
Alarm sent from the Control Tower!
Enemy approaching. Where's our fleet?! That bastard Vaiman, he tricked us!
Oh, this isn't good.
Oh, this really isn't good...
Raising rail lifts. Prepare for launch.
Oh, this really isn't good at ALL.
Let's see their Gods protect them now. Leave nothing in Zoah but ashes.
As the rocket boosters on the rear of the gigantic structure start up with a gout of flame, Edge realizes that he doesn't have a lot of time to destroy the Deathmaker before it lands squarely on Zoah and all its people (seven minutes, to be precise).
With no recourse left but to destroy the Deathmaker as quickly as possible at all costs, he uses a Speed Chip to boost Roderick's speed even further and commences his attack.
The Deathmaker's initial booster rockets are equipped with missile launchers, and staying in one place for too long allows them to lock on and fire. By swinging back around to the front at every opportunity, Edge is able to land several powerful lock-on volleys directly to the missile's warhead...
Second level boosters primed.
Accelerate, full speed ahead!
We've reached takeoff speed. Launch!
Good. Zoah forces, return to base.
Boosters stable, accelerating smoothly.
but is unable to stop it from firing its boosters and taking off from the rail system.
Once in the air, the Deathmaker uses its remaining booster and stabilizer systems to deflect any laser or gun shots that attempt to make their way through, but switching to Berserk techniques allows Edge to do enough damage...
to cause the Deathmaker to drop out of its intended trajectory and detonate safely in the ocean, far away from any settlements (and nowhere NEAR Zoah).
Exhausted again, Edge and Roderick return to their camp, where a good night's sleep leaves them much refreshed. In the morning, Edge yawns, stretches, and walks over to Roderick while rubbing the sleep out of the corner of his eye. When he gets to the spot occupied by his dragon, he unconsciously reaches out, as he does every morning now, to stroke the creature on his great neck.
As he does so, he feels a new power stirring inside the dragon, and realizes with a shock that a new Berserk technique has been learned.
I wonder why that happened. Is it because I took such good care of him?)
Regardless of the reason, Edge is happy to know that his bond with the dragon has grown even stronger, and with an extra lift in his step, heads back to Zoah to see Vaiman.
He first meets up with Paet, who is standing on the steps of the church, and calls out to Edge as he approaches.
Paet: My father is inside. What's he want with the church? I'm sure he's up to no good.
Enterning the church, Edge realizes that he has walked in on the middle of an argument between Damon, the High Priest, and Vaiman, his second-in-command - a textbook power struggle.
Damon: I hear you are spreading crazy rumors.
Vaiman: Crazy rumors? But you're the one stirring things up. All your talk about the Empire...
An air fleet of hundreds of ships? An ancient lightning weapon? Hah! The High Priest fooled by the Empire's lies and fables!
Damon: Even if that weapon doesn't exist, a battle squadron could annihilate us. Or they will kill us all... Eventually, they will leave. If we resist them, Zoah dies.
Vaiman: This town is protected by the Gods. Or have you lost your faith? Don't dragons deliver the wrath of the Gods? Humph, how can a faithless man rant such nonsense?
By this point, Edge has slowly made his way around the church, and clears his throat to make his presence known.
Damon: Who's there!? Hmm? You are the hunter from the outside. Why are you here?
Vaiman, you didn't...
Vaiman: Edge, were you successful?
Edge: The Imperial Force at the lake is completely wiped out. There shouldn't be a single ship left near this town.
At this news, Vaiman starts dancing around like an idiot again, while Damon's already bowed spine slumps noticably.
Vaiman: Did you hear that, mighty seer? Even the Imperial Command Fleet can be decimated by a single dragon. Your childish fears...
How can we fear anything with the Gods on our side? Now, the people of Zoah think I'm their savior. This town was saved by the dragon, just as I foretold. No need to guess who will be elected the next High Priest.
Damon: The Gods will punish you. You will bring their wrath upon us.
Vaiman: You may continue your rambling at tomorrow's council meeting.
Ah, sorry about the wait, Edge. Thanks to you, everything went according to my plan.
I am sorry, but can you wait until tomorrow? Permission cannot be granted until after the council meeting. Do not worry, I will be the next High Priest, come tomorrow.
Now, I must retire to my home. After all, I am a busy man.
After the conversation with Vaiman, Edge feels a little dirty, as if some of the grease that the old man's speech is laden with had found its way onto his skin. He shakes the feeling off and goes to see Paet, once again working on his airship.
Paet: So, how did it go?
Edge: He said to come back tomorrow.
Paet: Hmm...oh well. I got something for you.
Edge: A letter...who is it from?
Paet: How should I know? Isn't he someone you know? He looked like a hunter, but...he's a bit odd.
Edge unfolds the letter, and reads a hasty scrawl that instructs him to come back to the airship tonight. Edge decides that it looks important, and decides to honor the request.
Once evening has fallen, however, Edge is much less sure of the wisdom of his idea. He has become more and more nervous about this meeting as the day dragged on, and when he hears footsteps coming out of the shadows...
his puts a hand to his gun...
for a very, very, VERY good reason.
Craymen: So, it is you...
I was surprised to hear that you are the dragon rider that has caused me so much trouble.
Edge: That's all you have to say? If you remember me, then you must also remember what you did!! You murdered everyone!!
Craymen: Edge, this is war. To save the world from extinction. To obtain the key element, Azel...I needed to be ruthless. It was the only option I had. Of course, the Empire has not given up yet. I came to ask for your help...
But before Craymen can finish the thought, shots ring out, and Edge is forced to dive to the ground.
Craymen: Don't shoot!!
Zastava's ship suddenly appears over the nearest ridge, Craymen climbs aboard, and the two of them disappear into the night. A moment later, Paet leaps down to the ground from somewhere he was obviously hiding, gun in hand.
Paet: Are you all right!? Damn, I let him get away... They were from the Empire, right? I knew they were up to no good.
Hey, what's wrong, Edge!?
Edge: Oh, no... nothing. Nothing at all...
Nothing...except the fact that this new Craymen, a Craymen who isn't just some absolute evil to be hunted and who actually knows Azel's true purpose, has just made things a lot more confusing.