Part 20: The Broken WallTaking their leave of the seekers, Edge and Azel mount Roderick and fly to the north, returning to the Tower. Their aim this time around is not securing it, or controlling it...but destroying it.
Unfortunately, it does not appear that this goal will be easily attainable. Instead of arriving at the bottom floor already inside the control center like last time, the only entrance Edge finds is at the very top. If that weren't enough of a problem, instead of lying quietly like a sleeping giant as it was before, the Tower is alive and awake, and Edge gets the feeling that it does not appreciate their incursion.
Edge: The entrance that Craymen used is blocked.
Azel: ...The Security System inside the Tower is active... So...
...I'm sorry...I thought... I could help you, but... The controls to the Defense System are completely isolated...
Faced with this new difficulty, Edge swallows down the lump in his throat and turns to his fellow passenger.
From here on, if anything happens to me, take the dragon and find Gash, at the Seekers' base.
Edge: Why not?
Azel: It doesn't work that way. You are not just the dragon's master, you both share a higher purpose. He chose you... This dragon exists only for you... The two of you are linked. If you die, the dragon loses his purpose, and will deactivate.
Edge: Were you and Atolm linked?
Azel: Yes, and I will miss him... Right now, Edge, I believe in you.
Edge nods, and proceeds down the central shaft of the Tower's upper floors. A short way down, however, what looked like a cluster of mushrooms from above begins to expand outward from the main pylon, becoming a trio of smaller cylinders, topped with what look like wheels, resting on a ledge by the shaft's outer wall. Edge cannot figure out for the life of him what is going on...that is, until the shafts begin to rotate, soon spinning so fast that he knows that attempting to fly Roderick any further downward would get them bludgeoned to death.
We can't go any further.
Azel: The Tower's defense system has identified us as hostile. If we can get out to the outer area, there may be a switch to activate the Rotor Pile. I'll try to force the gate open. Let's go, Edge.
Flying back up, Edge sees a pair of gates that were locked shut a moment ago, but Azel's powers are enough to open them. Proceeding through one of the gates, Azel pipes up:
To enter Sestren, go to the control area at B1F.
While exploring the outer area of the Tower, Edge finds another one of the cross-shaped switches like those he saw at Uru, and hears a voice say "Switching control of Rotor Pile #1 to direct access" after activating it. Edge heads back to the central shaft and accesses the Rotor Pile,
hearing the voice confirm its shutdown as well. Proceeding past the now inert Rotor Pile, Edge finds a second one down a ways further, and must enter the outer sections of the Tower again. Passing through another gate into the northern section of the 14th floor,
Edge finds a couple of item boxes.
D Unit 12 is in the one on the right! Oh please please please please please please...
Edge has them all! The moment that Edge gains possession of the final D Unit and places it with the others, there is suddenly a flash of white light...
and Roderick morphs into the Light Wing, the "ultimate form" of the dragon that the Ancients mentioned!
Not to mention it looks pretty badass, too. Now, the interesting thing about the Light Wing is that unlike all other forms of the dragon besides the Basic Wing, it can't morph into different forms. But, it offsets that by exhibiting all of the full-gauge characteristics of each form equally - meaning that when all three gauges are full, the Light Wing will gain health, BP, defense, clear all negative status effects, and gain the ability to counterattack.
The menu screen shows the final fully assembled D Unit, as well as that lovely ring of green showing the level 6 laser rank.
Hey...level 6 laser rank! Edge can do all sorts of neat stuff with that!
First stop, the excavation site.
Edge remembers the wind net that he had to shut down to get through here the first time...
now, he can blow it up!
There also happen to be a bunch of items hidden in the fans, so it turns out to be for more than just the fun of wanton destruction.
Next, Edge remembers a sunken ship that he saw in the Garil Desert while on the way through here with Gash...
that yields to his lasers as well. Inside, Edge finds Plasma Swarm, the final Extra Class Berserk technique, completing the collection. (Sure, he really hasn't been using Berserk techniques much, but they're nice to have.)
Next up on his list of places to visit is the Forest of Zoah. While there the first time, Edge is sure that he saw more forest to explore beyond the Grig Orig, and he is correct. While exploring, he sees a strange-looking golden fruit hanging from a bough above the treeline, and grabs it.
Sniffing at the fruit, Edge can detect no real odor, which strikes him as odd. If the fruit had any taste, it would have a smell, wouldn't it? Edge is about to toss the fruit back down into the forest when he finally notices that Roderick hasn't taken his eyes off the fruit since Edge picked it, and is actually *drooling*. Figuring his faithful dragon deserves a treat, Edge slips the fruit into his mouth and then nearly falls off his back, as Roderick gives a cry of delight and takes off at a speed Edge has never experienced before, rolling, flipping, and gamboling about like the dragon pup.
When Edge finally calms the dragon down, he finds that Roderick's maximum flight speed has in fact increased. He uses this newfound quickness to zoom back down to the south, in order to find one of the cocoons he used earlier to enter the forest proper - so that he can finally pass through that secret door he found when down there the last time.
Passing through the door Edge finds a quiet section of forest, safe from the fires caused by the infested Grig Orig. There are item boxes strewn here and there, as well as a large, square-shaped ruin in the center of the area. As he flies around it, Edge can see spots in the wall that look like they could be doors, but he can see no way to enter. Turning back to the northeast, he suddenly finds an artifact similar to the one that was used to open the Oasis in the Garil Desert. Accessing it causes it to break like its fellow...but this time a blue spark shoots out from it, following an unseen trail along the ground...
and exploding against one of the doors to the ruin, breaking the seal.
Inside, Edge finds a small, flat plinth with a Dragon Crest rotating atop it, much like the one he found in the ruins at the excavation site and inside the Genesis Chamber of Shelcoof. Twice now he has found Dragon Crests, and twice he has found a dragon immediately afterwards. What will happen this time?
...um, nothing. Roderick cannot access this Crest, nor does it seem to do anything. Disappointed, Edge returns to the Red Ruins proper, and while exploring further finds another one of the rotating artifacts. Edge destroys it as well, opening up another door in the central ruin, next to the room with the Dragon Crest in it. This time, he finds nothing but an empty plinth.
Suddenly, he remembers - he took the Dragon Crest from inside Shelcoof! This plinth must be missing its own! Taking it out, he places it on the empty plinth...
and as he does so, both Roderick and the dragon pup begin spinning as the air crackles with energy, slowly drawing ever closer to each other...
until they meet with a blinding flash of light. When it fades,
Edge finds himself astride an entirely new dragon, with no pup in sight.
Yes friends, it's the Solo Wing, the true form of the dragon! Panzer Dragoon aficionados will immediately identify this form as the dragon from the original, as well as the final form that Lagi could achieve in Zwei. The shots that follow of the different forms of the Solo Wing also correspond to former dragons from the Panzer series, with the Attack, Defense, and Agility forms being the Windrider, Brigadewing, and Skydart from Zwei (respectively), and the Spiritual form is the Dark Dragon from the original.
Re-morphing the dragon into the ATT/AGL hybrid that has served him so well, Edge figures that he's done all he can do outside the Tower - now, it is time to re-enter it and finish things.
With the upper floors of the Tower open, Edge and Azel quickly return to where they were, searching the outer area of the 14th floor for the switch to Rotor Pile #2. Backtracking quickly, they deactivate the device, then descend past it to find an elevator, which connects them to the middle section of the Tower. As they exit the passage leading away from the elevator and re-enter the central shaft...
they find a hulking piece of ancient machinery hanging in the air before them, unmoving and unthreatening, but most defnitely in their way.
A moment later, an explosion sunders the being from within, splitting it apart into two separate pieces...
each of which have the capability to fire at our heroes. Edge decides that they've had enough fun, so he ducks into one of the safe zones behind the piece on the right...
and starts firing volleys of his own. Soon, the right half of the monster succumbs to Roderick's lasers, and to Edge's surprise, the left half does as well. Edge shrugs - he's not going to complain about monsters spontaneously combusting - and turns back to Azel to ask her what that just was that they fought.
We'll see more of them on the lower floors.
Edge: I know... It'll be dangerous... You can change your mind and go with Gash.
Azel: Don't worry about me. Besides, this is my decision...
Edge: ...I understand. We should go!
Resuming their journey, Edge finds that these floors are slightly different than the ones above, mainly due to the fact that as Edge flies Roderick through a strange, rainbow-colored beam that stretches across a passage,
an alarm sounds, and Edge is attacked again!
In this first fight with the Scorpitaras, Edge tries his normal method of blowing away his enemies with lock-ons, but since the Scorpitaras are small enough to only allow Edge to lock on with 4 lasers each, he cannot do enough damage to them before they attack with a powerful Gravity Orb and then disappear to recharge.
Azel: That was the sensor for the Alarm. If we don't deactivate it, we'll be overwhelmed.
Edge soon finds the switch for the alarm system to turn off, and the pair go merrily on their way.
Turning a corner, they come upon a large wall blocking their way, with a rotating piece above it. Edge tries Accessing the upper piece, which slowly moves down towards the wall...but when the two pieces come in contact and the upper piece is not aligned to fit in the slot...
the two pieces crash together and break apart from the strain, releasing a Sentinel - another one of the Tower's guardians that lies in wait inside the trap, attacking anything that releases it. Fortunately, the Sentinel is large enough to handle all 12 of the Solo Wing's lock-ons, and goes down rather quickly.
Moving on, Edge figures out exactly how you're supposed to deactivate the traps that the Sentinels hide in, but what fun is that? (Also, how am I supposed to get as much EXP as possible?) In fact, Edge is so eager to get some fighting in at the Tower that he begins to activate every trap possible. The Scorpitaras, it turns out, are especially vulnerable to Edge's gun, so he is now able to destroy them before they can attack and escape, and the Sentinels are pushovers. Edge finds himself enjoying the carnage...taking the best the Tower has to offer in defense of itself and knocking it down over and over and over again, and taking a small measure of revenge on behalf of his species.
Passing through the remainder of the outer section they are in currently, Edge finds himself in a spot in the Tower that he doesn't remember from his first visit.
Edge: I've never seen this area before...
When the Tower was activated, the internal structure changed. We'll need to activate that Rotor Bridge...
Agreeing, Edge accesses the central pylon again, rotating the central bridge to allow him access to the west half of the 9th floor. Unfortunately, the passage that they find on the other side of the door leads nowhere but to a dead end.
Edge: A dead end?
Azel: Edge! What about those Energy Pylons?
Wait, what energy pylons?
Oh, THOSE energy pylons.
Locking on to and destroying the pylons causes them to drop from the ceiling and land heavily on the floor, with such force...
that a hole is blasted in the floor.
Dropping down again, Edge and Azel make their way back to the central pylon, but after passing through the gate...
and are attacked by yet another guardian. The radar around the Battle Droid quickly turns all red, and a quick-thinking Edge uses a Shield Chip...
which turns out to have been a really good idea, saving them from taking a lot of damage. Taking a moment to swing around the Battle Droid, Edge finds its weak point...
locks on with the full measure of Roderick's power...
and beats the guardian down until it falls. After it has died, Edge hears Azel speak up from her spot behind him, a hint of melancholy in her voice.
Edge: I hope so...
Edge: ...Azel? What's wrong?
Azel: Huh? ...Oh, I'm sorry... It's just...
Azel: I was thinking about that guardian.
Azel: ...I'm sure, just like me, it was waiting to be activated for a long, long time... But after thousands of years of sleep, it's short conscious existence was spent fighting and dying...
Azel: ...Edge? Why did the ancient ones create me in the shape of a human? I cannot see any advantage for me to be in my present form.
I'm really not that different from the guardians...
Edge: You're wrong!
Edge: When you saw that guardian die you felt pity, right? When you woke, you may have had little value for life, but now you have feelings and emotions! Azel, I think...
you're becoming human...
Turning back to look at her, Edge swears that if Azel could blush, she would be blushing like crazy at the moment. After appearing to regain her composure, she changes the subject.
By destroying that guardian, the Tower's defense system must be in total disarray. We can use the elevator to take us directly to the top floor so we can get out of here. Before we go to the control area, it might be a good idea to leave the Tower and get supplies.
Edge, however, stocked up with Jared before they left the Seekers' Stronghold, and that is not needed.
All that is left to do is save the information of their journey on the nearby ancient device, and proceed through the gate that leads to the elevator to the control center.
Azel: Yes... But are you sure we should do this, Edge?
Azel: Even I do not know...what horrors live in Sestren, or what surrounds its location... I don't even know if it exists... Even if we get there, there is no guarantee that we can return.
Azel: It is you...that must make those choices. You can still go with the seekers...
Edge: And leave you behind?
Edge: You're determined to go no matter what happens, right? Well, so am I.
Azel: ...You are right. To do as Craymen wished was the sole purpose of my existence... But now, I want to do something of my own free will. For once in my life, I will decide my own fate.
Edge: ...I see.
Azel: Thank you, Edge.
Because of you, I came this far.
Edge: We did it together.
And with that, Edge activates the final elevator...the one that will take them down to the control center...the first step on the path to Sestren.
Hurry, to the dragon...
Edge: Azel, what about you!?
Azel: I must stay here. There is much to do...
Edge: What do you mean?
Azel: When you leave for Sestren,
Sestren will not be able to escape.
Azel, what will happen to you?
Azel: I am... the only one...that can destroy the Tower.
Edge reaches out his hand in yearning for her...
and Azel is forced to admonish him in order to get him to leave.
As Edge turns and runs for Roderick, he hears Azel speak again, for what he desperately hopes is not the last time.
As Edge vainly attempts to swallow down the huge lump blocking his throat, he finally manages to call out to Azel as well.
Azel then fully opens the gate to Sestren, and in a flash of golden light,
Edge and Roderick have disappeared, sent on a beam of golden light to where Sestren awaits...
as Azel, true to her word, destroys the Tower.
Edge and Roderick find themselves floating in a very strange place. They appear to be encased by some sort of ethereal sphere, but no matter which direction they move, they never seem to get closer to any of its walls. In such a place, Edge wonders how on earth they will find Sestren - or anything for that matter - until, a moment later, something finds them.
A ghostly apparition of a dragon, but that's not just any dragon - that's Roderick, just as he was when Edge met him! Suddenly, a flash of blue caches the corner of Edge's eye, and with a start, he realizes that another apparition has appeared, this one looking exactly like Roderick did in his Valiant Wing form. Before his disbelieving eyes, three more dragons appear...the Stripe Wing, Panzer Wing, and Eye Wing in succession. In wonderment, Edge tries to reach out to the apparition of Roderick in his original form...
but soon finds himself encased in an intangible tunnel, locked in battle!
Insubstantial it may look, but it takes damage from Roderick's lasers all the same, and Edge quickly dispatches it. After the battle, Edge finds himself still surrounded by the four remaining dragons, this time the Valiant Wing peeling itself off from the group and engaging.
The Anti-Valiant Wing immediately morphs into its Defense class form, and spends the entire fight continually increasing its defensive power, lessening the damage of each successive lock-on volley. The fight is long and arduous, but Edge and Roderick eventually triumph, and Edge takes a moment to repair Roderick's wounds and recharge his Berserk power before taking on the Anti-Stripe Wing.
This wing goes into attack mode immediately, so Edge Shields up and uses the protection granted by his Berserk power to stay on the good side of the lock-on volleys the two dragons trade.
The evil Panzer Wing morphs into an Agility class dragon, which Edge has matched in speed and outclassed in power, so it goes down quite easily.
Finally, the Anti-Eye Wing chooses a Spiritual class form, and Edge, knowing there's no way to dodge, chooses to Shield again, which thankfully protects him from Roderick's most powerful Berserk techniques being used against him.
Now it's up to us...
Sestren, show yourself!
Having defeated the five anti-dragons, Edge calls out into the void, challenging the supreme being Sestren, who finally shows himself in the form of an Anti-Solo Wing.
Sestren: With a human...
Our purpose is to fulfill the will of the ancients. But...you have chosen a different path...
You ignore your duty...you disobey the ancient ones...
Now, Divine Visitor...you shall die!
Edge recoils at the horrific sight of Sestren's coporeal form, a disgusting, insect-like hunk of oddly put-together flesh. Charging his gauges, Edge opens fire with a lock-on volley...that only acquires one target, one of the five balls of energy floating around Sestren.
Edge feels his soul being pulled out of his body, and he realizes that he is somehow seeing through the eyes of Sestren. Whether this effect of battling him is intentional or not, Edge is still curious to see what he will see.
A golden being, floating through Sestren's world at the end of time and space...
The being suddenly throwing off its golden sheen, turning black...
Suddenly, Edge hears Sestren's voice echoing through the void: "Impurity detected. Pursue at once."
With a gasp, Edge realizes what he's just seen. A being, dwelling in Sestren's world, throwing off its influence and departing - this must be the origin of the Heresy Dragon! Eager to see more of Sestren's memories, Edge shoots at a second energy ball.
A beam of light, shooting towards the ground...searching for something?
A...Coolia pup? With wings...and a green glow in its throat...Edge thinks back to the diary Zadoc gave him, the one that belonged to the former dragon rider...what did it say again?
My friend, the heresy dragon, had a birth that was equally heretic. My friend was born as a mutant Coolia, and was raised in my care.
That's it! That must be what he's seeing...but before he can mull on it further, Edge hears Sestren's voice again. "Impurity located..."
Shelcoof...on to the next memory.
That was until the floating tower appeared, and he gained the power of the dragon.
Edge sees how it worked now. The Heresy Dragon escaped from Sestren and wandered the world, inhabiting the bodies of baby Coolias, but those pups kept getting killed by the superstitious villagers. It wasn't until the man who wrote the diary, "Skiad Ops Endow," rescued a mutant coolia pup himself...that the Heresy Dragon was able to inhabit it long enough to provoke Sestren into sending out Shelcoof, which, in turn, activated the Heresy Dragon's own powers.
In the next memory, Edge sees the Guardian Dragon that he fought at Georgius, fighting a Solo Wing dragon...that must have been what the coolia pup eventually morphed into.
Impurity near, eliminate it...
The next memory is Endow and the Heresy Dragon's destruction of the Guardian Dragon, and of Shelcoof. As the memory fades away, Edge gasps with recognition as he sees a dragonless Endow looking solemnly at a Dragon Crest...the Dragon Crest that Edge found in the Genesis Chamber...a Dragon Crest with a green glow at his throat!
By destroying the Tower of the Sky, Shelcoof, our journey came to an end. Exhausting all his power, he discarded his body, and entered a deep sleep.
With this memory, Edge is able to put a little bit more of the story together. The Heresy Dragon, having achieved his true form and defeated the Guardian Dragon, gave everything he had left to destroy Shelcoof, giving up his body and sealing it away in the Dragon Crest...which explains the fact that the dragon pup emerged when Edge picked it up, not to mention how the fusion of his own dragon and the pup resulted in Roderick achieving the Solo Wing form himself.
The next memory...another Tower...
Impurity reacquired... Eliminate it once more...
The last memory is of a new battle, with Sestren sending one of his defender dragons after a second Solo Wing reincarnation of the Heresy Dragon. Eventually, the dragon sent by Sestren managed to mortally wound his first rider, and the torch is passed...
The parallel drawn is too strong to ignore. Like the young man in the brown outfit who took the hand of the injured rider, Edge too took the mantle of dragon rider...possibly from the same dragon. Edge can guess that the second Heresy Dragon was also tasked with destroying a Tower, and from Endow's account he can tell that the task takes a lot out of the Heresy Dragons that survive long enough to perform it.
Edge remembers that Roderick first came to him in Basic Wing, a vastly inferior form of the dragon he now is. Perhaps being riderless for so long sapped his strength, and the Heresy dragons only can perform their duties to their fullest when they are paired with a rider.
Suddenly, Edge shakes himself out of his reverie. Sestren's body has changed shape...it looks like it's time to fight!
The ghostly Solo Wing dragon turns out to be Sestren's weak point, and Edge eagerly trains his gun on it. Even though the attack hurts Sestren greatly...
he immediately counterattacks, his damage being done in the cruel manner of stabbing Roderick straight through his heart, cries of pain coming from the mighty dragon as each inch of the poisonous dagger drags through his insides.
Edge tries shielding the two of them, but it is not very effective. Each time he attacks Sestren with the Pulverizer, a Through the Heart counterattack is launched, breaking the Shield apart and still doing damage (although, thankfully, much less of it). Still, he persists, repeatedly doing great damage to Sestren, while minimizing as much of it as he can.
With the battle well and truly joined, Sestren morphs once more,
darts into the ether surrounding them,
and brings back a Guardian, which he crashes into Edge and Roderick with a great explosion. (Fortunately, the two of them were shielded at the time, and thankfully, the attack did not cause the shield to dissipate.)
As Edge continues to pour damage into Sestren whenever he can, the supreme being becomes desperate, going back into the ether again and again.
With Sestren's attacks failing and his health dwindling, Edge knows that victory is his. He carefully puts the evil Solo Wing in his sights, pulls the trigger...
and destroys Sestren, sending his flaming body to scatter throughout his own realm.
When Edge awakens, he is floating in the ether of Sestren, and Roderick is nowhere to be found. Who, then, was just speaking?
Outside world? Who could Roderick mean? Certainly not Edge - they're both from the same world. But there's no one else here!
It can't be...
: Bye bye, fourth wall!
Whoa...my mind is blown. Come to think of it, the screen that I entered my name in looked a lot like Sestren's realm, and a small ball of light flew away when I hit start...could that have been the ball of light that carried Edge safely down to the bottom of the ruins, at the excavation site?
"The soul who dwells inside Edge"...what a great way to refer to a player. But enough about me - what's going to happen to the characters I...*we*...spent so much time with?
But before Edge can finish his sentence,
he and Roderick fuse together...
and are gone.
The next thing I see is a valley:
the valley where Gash is waiting for Edge.
I don't think he's coming, man.
Gash: I know.
Seeker: I'm sorry, but...our food and water supplies are...
Gash: I know!
Set up camp.
A voyage without a destination...
And with that, the credits roll.
You don't think we're done yet, do you?
After the credits are finished, the scene shifts to a desert scene. Coolias are meandering about, men are clustered together talking about important matters, and a couple children run about and play. After a moment, I hear a man's voice. Is that...An'jou?
An'jou: ...You're heading west?
There may be fewer monsters, but there are electrical storms.
He's talking to a mysterious person who is completely shrouded. Their back is to me, so I can't even see what they look like, and they haven't spoken a word yet.
Suddenly, a child runs in to the stranger, and falls down.
The stranger reaches out with a hand of obsidian black to help the child up...
Yep, it's Azel.
With the child happily running and playing again, An'jou again tries to appeal to the stranger's sense of reason.
An'jou: The person you're looking for...is he really worth risking your life?
Azel's only reply is a pained expression, but undaunted, An'jou keeps up his end of the conversation.
An'jou: The two of you were from the town of Zoah? You've lived through that war...hmmm...
There's a village just beyond this desert. Why don't you come along? We could always use the help.
Just from the look in her eyes, the old hunter can tell that she will not be deterred from her quest.
Giving An'jou a final nod in respect for his help, Azel turns her coolia to the west...
and rides off into the unknown.
With the game finished, I'm given a play results screen (as you can see, I was reasonably completist)...
and a sweet piece of Azel artwork.