Part 19: Princess Eruca
Now that we've learned Vanish, we can make progress in the Standard History.
In the Standard History, Heiss has given us the mission to assassinate the princess of Granorg, Eruca. After infiltrating the castle through the sewers, we were stopped in our tracks by a group of guards thanks to the bandit duo: the Desert Crows, who were caught sneaking into the castle.
Music: Shadows Dance in the Darkness
It wouldn't be wise to stir up any trouble at this point. ...Let's pull back. We need to reassess our situation.
"Cross reference them with that tip off we got!"
That passage is crawling with guards, and we'll never get through unnoticed.
Raynie, Marco... We're going right through the central pass.
Huh...? You sure 'bout that? Didn't we just say it was crawling with guards? Don't tell me... We're going to take them all on?
No, like I said, we can't risk raising the alarm. So...
It's a special technique that hides one's presence... I saw Heiss use it. ...And I asked for a brief lesson.
That was all it took to learn it? Man, you really are something.
That's amazing, Stocke! I didn't think anyone but Heiss would be capable of that. Is there anything you can't do?
...... Regardless, this should make getting through the guards considerably easier. ...Let's move.
Stocke steps out of the dungeon and uses Vanish. The camera then pans down past the guards, and up a nearby staircase.
Music: To the Battlefield
That went better than we could have hoped! ...It was still a little frightening, though.
That was really something, Stocke. All that's left is to find the target's room.
It could be anywhere. This is bigger than Alistel's castle, so a thorough search may be difficult... I suppose we'll just have to be persistent?
...We have no information on the whereabouts of the princess' room.
Then we'll just have to search them one by one.
...It seems so. But stay vigilant. We still can't afford to get caught.
(It's awfully quiet...)
The castle is completely deserted, so we're free to run around without using Vanish. Stocke won't let us leave the castle or head back down to the corridor with the guards, so our options are limited.
We're able to explore the meeting room and the throne room, but aside from a hidden chest with 2000G in the meeting room, there's nothing interesting either room. The only other room we can enter is across the hall from where we entered.
We pass through a familiar room, and head out to the courtyard.
(By the way, there's a hidden chest with 2000G out here.)
...Did you see her? The princess?
Quiet! ...Up there... On the terrace!
The girl enters the door, and the camera pans back down to our party.
I only got a glimpse of her from behind, but I'm almost certain that was Princess Eruca. Beautiful golden curls... The rumors were right on.
(So that's Eruca...)
We might be able to climb up if we use those vines.
...All right. Let's go over the mission briefing once more. Our target is Princess Eruca. ...We can't afford to hesitate. Don't give her a chance to struggle, and make it clean. If this goes even a little worse than perfectly, we'll be surrounded by guards in no time. Once the deed is done, we pull back the same way we came, and then escape Granorg. ...Got that?
Let's move out.
Investigating the vines will give us the option to climb up. It warps us to the top instead of showing an animation of Stocke climbing, of course.
There's no one here... Don't tell me she left the room...
Th-This isn't good... If we have to relocate her...
(...Something's not right. This feels... like a trap.)
Raynie! Marco! We need to get out of here, now!
"You're not going anywhere!"
By the way, Rebellion is one of my favorite tracks in the game, so of course it has to one of the shortest.
"Looks like you were a little too slow. The princess isn't here!"
So it was a trap!
"Fools! Your entire plan was leaked!"
We're up against three soldiers and three archers. I've been underleveled for this entire game, so what should be a simple fight is complicated a bit.
The real annoying part of this fight is the archers that can heal 60 damage at a time. I can't do 60 damage in a single hit (Unless I put Stocke two or three attacks into a combo and use a skill), so leaving them alive is a bad idea and they need to be killed first.
Aside from that, the soldiers can power themselves up as usual and deal crazy damage to Raynie and Marco (Stocke has been through the Alternate History, so he's a pretty good level and can take a lot of hits.), but in the end, it's just a battle against generic enemies.
How could they have known we were coming!?
Could there have been a double agent!?
There's no time to talk! Head for the underground cells!
We flee Eruca's room and head back down the vines (Stocke isn't willing to enter the castle through her door). The castle is crawling with soldiers now, so we can either fight our way out or take the lazy way and use Vanish.
The enemy groups we encounter are made up of the same soldiers and archers we just fought off, sometimes in the exact same numbers.
I have the skill I need now. It'd be best to avoid open confrontation.
We sneak past the guards and head back down the stairs to the dungeon we entered through. But at the end of the corridor, instead of heading right and into the dungeon, we head left and enter a different room.
The castle library is located here (The basement, right next to the dungeons, is kind of an uncomfortable place for a library...). There's nothing important here at the moment, but there are two hidden chests, containing three Mana Crystals and a Cocktail Dress.
None of our party members in either timeline can equip dresses, so I guess this means we'll be getting a new companion sooner or later.
The entrance to the underground waterway... It's blocked from the inside!
So it was a trap after all!
Looks like we're running out of options...!
????: Hold your breath!
There's a bang and a flash of white.
"Ungh... Gas... What the... Can't... stay... awake... ......"
????: ...Hey. ...Over here, you guys.
????: ...Are you coming or not? Don't waste my time.
We have no proof we can trust you.
Besides... The waterway's entrance is blocked. There's no way out.
????: Well, I just came through there, didn't I? So if that's finally sinking in, you better come with me before more soldiers show up.
????: Listen, I don't care one way or the other if you guys die here, okay? But "someone" asked me to rescue you, so here I am. That being said, I'm going to go on ahead. ...And if you're not behind me, then that's not my problem.
The man exits to the right.
...What should we do, Stocke?
If we stay here, our chances of making it out alive are even slimmer. ...Let's follow him.
????: You're living up to your description pretty well.
...Who are you?
????: Me? I'm Otto. I'm a member of the Resistance.
The Resistance? Why would the Resistance be in a place like that?
Otto: We'll talk later, Stocke.
...? How do you know my name?
Otto: All right, that's enough questions. I hate having to explain things. If you need answers, ask the other guys. Let's go.
The screen fades to black as Otto leads us away.
Music: Forever Proud
Isn't this... the bar we came inside before?
Looks like it... At least we might be able to relax a little here...
We leave the doorway and head to the center of the bar, and Otto follows us in.
???? (robed figure): Thank you for your hard work, Otto.
...Are you the one who had us rescued?
???? (robed figure): That is correct. I hope you aren't too shaken. Please allow me to introduce myself. But first... Marie, if you could please take my cloak.
Marie: Yes, M'lady.
????: Now I can introduce myself properly. My name is...
Music: RADIANT HISTORIA
(...! I just got the strangest feeling...! The moment I saw her, it hit me like a ton of bricks!)
(I... feel like I know her... But that's impossible... How could I know the princess of Granorg...? What does it mean, though? Who... is she?)
That golden hair... Can we be sure she's the real one this time!?
Inordinately dedicated to her work, Raynie enters her battle stance.
Otto: Whoa, don't do anything stupid. I'm glad you're all workaholics, but maybe you should consider the position you're in now.
I have some idea of what your mission is... But please... Lay down your arms and listen to what we have to say. ...If possible, we could use your help.
...What? Are you serious?
First let me ask you... What do you all think about this war?
W-Well, that was kind of out of the blue...
Hm. If it's an answer you want... ...Then this war is my job.
He's right. That's more or less what war is. To defeat foes in the name of a country. The state affairs of the enemy are inconsequential.
...That's just our way of protecting our homeland. My country is dear to me, and this is the only way I know how to show it.
...... ...Thank you. I can accept how you all truly feel.
...... ...Well, thanks.
...Then let's stop beating around the bush. Who are you all, and what do you expect from us?
The man in green leaves the counter and stands by Eruca.
????: That's where I come in.
Please do, Pierre.
Pierre: We are the Resistance, a force that is opposed to the current regime. Our objective? To oust Queen Protea from the throne and make Eruca our new leader.
Sounds like Granorg's problem. That has nothing to do with us. ...Or are you considering hiring us to assassinate Protea?
Pierre: No, we're talking about things that are much bigger than petty power struggles. The entire world is on the brink of annihilation, after all.
Music: To the Battlefield
A kingdom's revolution and the end of the world hardly seem related. You'll have to explain that one.
Ah... Well, this may be a bit long-winded, but please be patient with me. ...In a time long past, there was an empire on this continent with great power. Its name is lost to the ages, but it is known that they thrived on the fruits of Mana. That empire vanished without a trace, and as a result, the Mana of the land became unstable. To this day, the balance of Mana has not been righted, and we all live with the empire's folly. Mana slowly escapes from the land, and when it is gone, all that is left is sand... ...Thus the desertification of our continent. The reason it occurs is because Mana is steadily being lost.
What!? I mean, the desertification is the whole reason we're at war, isn't it? And it all goes back to this mysterious ancient empire?
Pierre: Yep, you nailed it. They left us one hell of a mess.
Then... Is it also the cause of the Sand Plague that no one has managed to fully understand?
That I am unsure of. Still... There is one thing we know for certain. The direct cause of the land's desertification can be linked to Granorg's royal family.
Huh? Didn't you just say the lost empire is at fault? How is the royal family implicated?
The kingdom of Granorg was founded by that empire's imperial priests. We are their bloodline. And through that blood, we have inherited the ability to control Mana, be it ever so slightly. Thus, we also inherited a duty. A duty to keep the Mana of the entire continent stable. It's a spell that we in the royal family refer to as "the ritual."
Wait... You can stabilize Mana? What happens when you do that?
...The desertification stops.
Really? If it is only a ritual that must be performed, why has the problem persisted for so long?
...She said she can stop it, not end it entirely.
Exactly... The spell can only stabilize the balance of Mana temporarily. Over time, the balance is slowly lost again. It never truly ends. The empire destroyed the very core of nature that maintains Mana's balance, after all.
Pierre: So to bring you up to speed, the royal family has always mananged to stem the desertification. In other words, the royal family has saved all of our hides by performing this ritual. ...But for as important a duty as it is, it stopped happening after certain events...
I assume you're referring to the passing of King Victor and Protea's rise to power? If memory serves, that's about the time the desertification gained momentum.
That is correct... Needless to say, my stepmother is not royal blood, having been a commoner before marrying... In other words, she cannot perform the ritual.
Pierre: King Victor himself planned to perform the ritual, until he met the business end of a blade... He left behind only Protea, who does little more than sit on her arrogant tush. The kingdom is going belly up, the war has escalated, and she won't let Eruca do her job.
That is why I emphasized this earlier... The royal family is the direct cause of the intensified desertification in recent years. At this rate, I would say our continent will be nothing but sand in less than ten years.
That's all the time we have...!? Y-You expect us to believe a crazy thing like that!? Ten years? No, less than ten years? That's preposterous...
Both of you, calm down.
Pierre: Believe us or not, that's your choice to make. But if you don't, I hope you remember this conversation in a decade.
(All of this... I doubt they would lie about it... Rather, I already have reason to believe them. It's just like what Lippti and Teo said about the destruction of the world... This may be what Heiss meant about the truth of this continent as well... My mission is to use the White Chronicle and prevent the world's destruction... If that's the case, do Lippti and Teo want me to perform this ritual? And then there's Heiss... What is he scheming...? And how much does he know about all this?)
...Let's say for a moment that everything you just said is true. You still haven't gotten to the part that matters the most, Eruca... Where do we fit in to all this? You haven't connected the dots.
I can gather that you want to perform this ritual. Why do you need our help to do that? What role are we supposed to play?
*BANG BANG BANG*
"Hey! Open this door!"
Soldiers! From the palace!?
They're probably looking for us!
Pierre: There's no time. I'll handle this. Just go along with anything I say, and keep your mouths shut if you can manage that. If you keep your heads about you, this should go just fine.
Wait, I have to hide my face! Marie! My cloak!
Marie: Y-Yes, M'lady!
"What's the hold up!? We'll break down this door if we have to!"
Pierre: Don't be hasty now! I'm coming to open it right now!
Pierre unlocks the door.
"Haven't we told you before not to lock anything!?"
Pierre: My sincerest apologies, sirs. This place is just so... run down, you know? The wind keeps opening the door, and it's terribly drafty if we don't bolt it.
"Tch... All right. But you better have that fixed soon."
"Nothin' prettier than a modest lady... You're just my type. What's your name?"
You sure you should be hitting on women while you're on the job?
"What was that!? I don't take orders from civilians!"
No, really... Maybe I'm hearing things, but I think I heard a captain's voice from outside.
If they find out you're slacking, who knows what kind of trouble you'll be in.
"W-We're not... I mean, we're just making our rounds... Damn it, fine! Hey, let's get going!"
The soldiers leave the bar.
Marie: Oooh, that dirty soldier! How dare he speak that way to the princess!?
A weird observation about this scene: Marie blinks. She's the only character in the entire game with a blink animation, and it's really bizarre. As long as she's facing the south, she blinks at regular intervals. It's really distracting during that huge plot dump, because her blinking and the speech bubbles are the only things that are animating.
Pierre: True. If that's the extent of his skill with the ladies, he's probably a lonely man. But such is the state of Granorg... In any case, I had no idea acting was a skill they taught in the military. Good job.
Well... We are fugitives at the moment.
...So what's the plan now, Stocke?
Like I said earlier... We're still missing the most important part of the story. Besides, this isn't the time or the place to give our answer. And... we've been talking for too long.
I agree, Stocke. This scene has been going for half the update.
...You're right. I understand. You three should leave the city for now. If it pleases you, seek out the mayor of Cornet Village, a village to the east of here. ...But please do not forget this... The desertification will keep advancing, regardless of this raging war... If it is not stopped, even if one side wins, we will have all truly lost...
Marie: Lady Eruca, we should head back to the palace...
Understood. ...Everyone, I leave the rest to you.
Otto: I'll escort you as far as the palace, M'lady.
Thank you, Otto.
Otto: Aw, don't thank me. I should be the one thanking you for the honor.
Otto turns to face Stocke.
Otto: If at all possible, I'd like you on our side. The princess needs you. ...Just think it over.
Music: The Melody Connecting the World
You have finally met her. She will have great influence on how your future is shaped. ...Let us now add a new chapter to the White Chronicle.
Stocke climbs the stairs and enters the door on the left.