Part 21: Princess Eruca's Fireside Chat
We've arrived at the Sand Fortress, where we're supposed to meet Otto. Remember: in the Standard History, the Sand Fortress is under Granorg's control.
We were meant to rendezvous here...
Guess Otto didn't make it.
????: Are you going to write me off as dead that fast? Give me a break.
Otto! Those injuries... Are you all right!?
Otto: Oh, I'll live.
Marco. He needs healing.
Otto: Ahh... Much better. But we can't stay here. Our pursuers should already be nearby.
We need to move on, quickly.
Otto: But be careful. This fortress is currently Granorg territory. The men stationed inside will be our enemies. I'll head in first and thin out their numbers a bit. Lady Eruca's safety is up to you!
Otto runs inside, and then we wait for less than five seconds.
That's long enough. Let's go!
Music: To the Battlefield
The Sand Fortress is full of the same enemies we fought in Granorg, with the addition of these barricades. The part pictured above is impassible without either using Vanish, or fighting the enemies.
Because of the Sand Fortress' design, unless we want to run around and fight everyone (which I really should do because I'm 10 levels lower than I should be, but I'm just so lazy), once we reach the stairs we can just go straight down to the bottom floor.
*GASHUNK GASHUNK GASHUNK*
Wh... What's that sound?
Otto: Bah... We've picked up a troublesome tail. You're hearing the Executioner's Footsteps... It's Palomides' division of the Dias Knights. When they're on the march, it sounds like no other troop in the army. It's eerie.
You may remember Palomides as the guy who kicked our ass back in the second update, when he dealt over 1200HP of damage in a single hit.
*whimper* I don't like it... I'm scared...
Otto: ...Oh, well. Hey, Stocke.
Otto: I'll buy you guys some time. Take Lady Eruca to Cygnus.
Music: Where the Wind and Feathers Return
Otto, no...! I won't allow you to go on your own!
Otto: My goodness... What an honor to have the princess herself worry on my account! It puts a spring in my step... I feel like I could keep fighting even to my death.
Otto: ...Stocke. Look me in the eye... ...... Good... That's what I wanted to see. I think I can trust you with Lady Eruca.
Otto: But if anything happens to the princess... You're a marked man.
Otto: Now I'll go show them what I've got! Maybe the Executioner will give me a decent challenge!
Otto embarks on his suicide mission.
It's too dangerous to stay here. Let's go to Cygnus.
...... Yes, let's.
I HATE BEARTRAPS GODDAMN IT
Anyway, to reach Cygnus we have to head through Judgement Cliff, so we leave the Sand Fortress and head over there.
Music: Beyond the Wilderness
We'll have to rush if we hope to reach Cygnus today. Tell me, though, Eruca. Why are we headed there?
To meet Garland, the king of Cygnus. Cygnus is officially taking a neutral stance in the conflict, after all.
King Garland the Mighty... Do you know him?
No... This will be our first meeting. But I've heard that Garland is very honorable. I doubt that he'd send us away before hearing our plea.
Question is, what do we do until we get there? This area's not safe at night.
Hey, Aht, do you know anywhere around here that's safe to camp?
Oh! There's a cave to the west! There shouldn't be any monsters in there!
A cave to the west? All right, let's check it out.
Judgement Cliff has a new enemy: Storms. They are tornadoes which Stocke can beat into unconsciousness with his sword. (???)
Of course, physical attacks hurt these tornadoes with no problem. Their attack: Cyclone, hits all of our party members at once for pretty serious damage (because I'm 10 levels below what I should be.)
The crab is just like the crabs from before, it takes 1 damage from all our attacks, so we have to poison it to do anything. This one can poison us, but it's not really a threat.
West Judgement Cliff is plagued by perpetually falling malevolent boulders. They drop from the sky nonstop, and always drop above your current position, so you have to stay on the move if you hope to avoid taking damage. If you get hit by these rocks (you will.) they do 50 damage to every one of your party members, including those who aren't in your battle party.
Judgement Cliff is the worst place.
Because it wasn't already as unfriendly as possible, Judgement Cliff also has bear traps. Behind these two is a chest with Sniper Rounds, a weapon for Eruca.
This is a physical weapon, so it's completely worthless and Eruca should never even look at it.
Thankfully, despite trying its best to kill you every chance it gets, Judgement Cliff is only a couple screens wide. We just have to run through this short cave and we'll reach our destination.
Aht runs ahead and calls for us.
Aht does this a lot when she talks. Captain Oblivious in the thread asked for gifs of Aht, and I agreed to make one and then promptly forgot for four hours of gameplay.
In addition, courtesy of the coolest dude: HenryEx, we have gifs of Aht in battle.
I'm pretty sure Captain Oblivious was referring to her battle animations, but I figured I'd make one of her overworld hop to complete the set.
(Hmm... This seems like a good place to set up camp. It should be safe.)
Wow, what a pretty place.
There's a skylight up there. That way it's bright, even at night!
Now that's about what I expect from a traveling performer. You sure know the good places.
Okay, why don't we set up the tent here? Give us a hand, Marc.
Gonna watch the fire, Stocke? Thanks, I appreciate it.
Wait, I never said...!
Raynie leans in close to Stocke
(Yeah, but you have stuff to ask Princess Eruca, right?)
(What makes you say that?)
(You keep looking at her.)
(...I thought I'd been careful to make sure no one noticed.)
(Women notice this stuff.)
I know JRPGs are full of ellipses, and pointing this out isn't really anything new and exciting, but this is just silly. I mean, a whispered ellipsis? Really?
(Thanks for helping out...)
(Sure thing. Take your time.)
Raynie backs away from Stocke.
Whewwww, am I beat! After we get this tent set up, I'm going straight to bed!
Oh, Raynie... Don't worry, Stocke! I'll handle it! I can take first shift watching the fire.
(Hsst! Marc! Ugh... Men.)
That's all right... I'm sure you're tired. I'll keep watch tonight.
No, no, I'm fine! You go to bed and relax!
(Marco sure is enthusiastic... I know he's only doing his best to help, but I have to talk to Eruca. And if I don't do it now, there may not be another opportunity later. I have to think about this one carefully...)
Deal with the fire
I'm doing things a little different from usual here. "Leave it to Marco" is the choice that leads to a bad ending, but I think in this case, it would be better to show the correct choice first. The reason for this will be obvious soon.
I appreciate your concern, but I'm not quite ready to sleep just yet. I'll watch the fire for a while and then get to bed with that load off my mind. I'll wake you up to take over when it's your shift.
Umm... All right, if that's what you want. I'll get some sleep before taking a shift. Rest well, Stocke...
...Everyone else seems to be fast asleep.
So they are. On the other side of this wasteland is Cygnus territory. You should rest while you can.
Yes... ...... My stepmother... I didn't think she'd sacrifice innocent citizens who had nothing to do with the Resistance... I wish I could have looked into the future, so that this might never have happened...
...... ...Why me?
You never answered me that. Why did you seek our help?
There are other things I'd like to know, too... Why do you seem so sad every time you look at me?
Music: RADIANT HISTORIA
...You look like him.
Someone looks that much like me?
...I had an older brother. His name was Ernst. He was kind, and just, and strong... But he's no longer with us. My father killed him...
His own father...!? The late King Victor?
My father was a tyrant. He put too much stock in his ability to perform the ritual. To save the earth, or to destroy it? Either was in his power. He thought of himself as God... And he began to desire all that there was in the world. He never saw the people's suffering... That's why my brother Ernst opposed him directly.
My brother was always one to put his ideals into practice. He did many things for the country. He dug irrigation ditches, built bridges, erected bulletin boards, assisted the tradesmen... The Resistance was originally formed by those my brother had become especially close to. They grieved over his death and came together to protect his ideals.
...I see. And that's why you went to the Resistance for support.
My brother was also an eager diplomat, building relations with Alistel and the Beastkind. He went to them to do whatever he could to help. He was extremely popular with the people of our nation. My father grew afraid... He dismisssed my brother's idealism as empty words at first. But slowly, he came to realize that he would be replaced. The people would chase him off of his throne, and my brother would rule as the true king... And he would be forever judged a fool by history.
That's why he killed his son.
For high treason. For daring to disagree... And I could do nothing for him.
I loved him so much...! But I was too afraid of my father, and could do nothing...! That's why... That's why...!
Eruca... Calm down...
...I'm sorry. I shouldn't carry on like that in front of others. But... It's strange. Whenever you say my name, the storm in my heart calms. You are much like my brother.
My name is Stocke. I am, unfortunately, not your brother...
I like Stocke. Most JRPG protagonists would probably encourage her, but he just flatly says "I'm not your brother."
...I couldn't help him. That's why I made a decision. I will perform the ritual that my brother was meant to perform... If the world that my brother loved is about to disappear into sand... Then I must stop it at once.
So there's more to your desire to complete the ritual than your duty as a royal...
...I will answer the question you asked before.
About what it is you want us to do about the ritual?
Yes. I need you in order to perform this ritual... I need your power specifically, Stocke.
Yes... But that will be the last of the last resorts. If at all possible, I would like to complete the ritual without relying on you. That's my deepest wish...
...If worse comes to worst, and you must use that last resort... What must I do?
I'm sorry. I can't tell you any more. As I said, it's only to be used when all else has failed. So... Don't worry about the details. But... I can say that as long as things go on the way they are, no ritual of any kind can be performed.
Because of Protea.
Then we'll start there. I'll remove Protea from the throne and install you as queen. And until that happens, I won't ask any more questions. Is that a deal?
It's late... You must be tired. Rest well, Eruca, if only for a little while.
...Thank you, Stocke.
Eruca stands up and heads for the tent.
Stocke turns to face the bushes.
Wait, aren't we in a cave? Where did Rosch come from? Has he just been sitting in those bushes the entire time?
What's wrong? Why did you come all the way out here...?
...Tell me. Are you in league with the enemy?
Music: To the Battlefield
Did you really betray Alistel?
I didn't betray anyone. I simply assessed the situation and aided in the princess' escape.
You're traveling with the person you were meant to assassinate. I have to call a spade a spade.
You haven't really betrayed us, have you?
All right. Then step aside, and I'll do it for you.
Wait, Rosch. This isn't the time for us to be at war--
Don't get in my way, Stocke.
...I won't let you kill Eruca. She needs to live if we hope to save the world.
Save the world...? I didn't think you'd get taken in by such grandiose hopes! I don't know how they sweet- talked you into this, but don't abort your mission. If you can't do it, I'll do it for you. Now move!
No! I can't let you do this...
If you're going to get in the way, I'll have to deal with you before killing the princess.
Wait! I don't want to fight you!
I don't want to fight you either. So do your job and kill Eruca! And if you can't, then shut up and stand aside! I'll finish her off!
Grant me this favor, Rosch. Just let us go.
I... can't. It would mean I'd abandoned my mission. And if I do that, Sonja's... You see what I'm getting at?
Ngh... What am I supposed to do!?
You can't kill her, and you won't let me do it for you. So there's no choice... Alistel's enemy is my enemy. You understand, don't you, Stocke?
Yeah... I'd expect nothing less from you, Rosch. Even if Sonja wasn't a hostage, you'd still fight for what you believe in.
You're my best friend after all... You know me better than anyone. Now... Face me, Stocke!
Music: The Red Locus
Like the Heiss battle in the Alternate History, the trick to this battle is to change turns with Rosch until you can hit him seven or eight times in a row.
On his first turn, Rosch will use Iron Wall. This will reduce the power of our physicals to 0. The best plan here is to just spam Fire, but you can also push him off the square and use physicals. I don't know why you would do this though, because Rosch has ridiculous physical defense.
Rosch mostly uses Steel Lance, which hits several times for about 50 damage to a severely underleveled Stocke. (Yes, it's closer to 60 in this screenshot, but that's because you take more damage after changing turns, and I based that "50" on ordinary circumstances.) He also has a one-hit attack that does about 40.
As you can see, physical attacks do nothing when he's on that space. (I stole a worthless Healing Herb that I can't even hold, by the way.)
After Rosch has taken some damage, he starts using Guard Break. If he manages to hit you with this and lower your guard, you're probably fucked.
Stocke's max HP right now is about 350.
In the end, Rosch isn't a terribly difficult battle, even when you're underleveled. All you have to do is spam fire and hope he doesn't lower your guard.
Music: Where the Wind and Feathers Return
I've gotten into some pretty serious scraps with you in the past... But this is a first. In a plain fistfight... We'd be evenly matched...
Because Sonja would always stop us...
Is that princess so important to you...? Enough that you'd... go against your mission...?
Honestly... Maybe this was for the best. Alistel... is in shambles... Hugo left it in ruins... But... I didn't have the courage to rebel against my country... I busied myself with missions... And this is what happened. If only I had a strong heart like you... I get it... I see what you're doing... Keep going... until the end...
Why... Why did this happen!? I should've seen it coming! The White Chronicle warned me about this so it wouldn't happen! He was my best friend... Why!?
...... ...I haven't forgotten what you said. That if you died, I shouldn't strain myself bringing your heavy body back... But to just take your mechanical left arm... To take your Gauntlet home. Let me keep that promise, at least.
Obtained Broken Limb
...But I refuse to accept this outcome. I'm going to save you, whatever it takes. I swear by this Gauntlet.
Music: The Melody Connecting the World
Of all the people you'd end up fighting, I didn't think Rosch would be one of them...
Is this because I didn't complete my mission?
That is only half of it. The other half that brought about this result is rooted deeper...
Rosch said... he didn't have the courage to rebel against his country. If he'd been more willing to fight against Alistel, then this wouldn't have had to happen...
That's exactly it. He should have abandoned his mission and rebelled against Alistel.
Convincing him won't be easy. He's a military man to the bone. He's sworn loyalty to Alistel, and orders, to him, are absolute. How can I make a man like that abandon his mission...?
Stocke... What was your reason for abandoning your mission?
...It was Eruca. After I heard her story, I began to think about things in terms of the world, not my country. I realized there are things more worth fighting for than Alistel.
You see it now, Stocke. Rosch needs to change his way of thinking, just as you did. One can grasp it intellectually, but it doesn't matter if your heart won't follow your head. You need to be strong enough to act upon your beliefs.
And if that happens... We won't end up killing each other... ...It seems the key to all this is the other history. Over there, Rosch and I are together. That'll give me more of a chance to change his mind.
...You seem to have hit upon a course of action. I wish you well, Stocke.
I just want to ask one thing.
What is it?
Eruca was saying something... Something about needing my power for the ritual as a last resort. What does that mean? Does it have something to do with the White Chronicle?
I... can't tell you.
But you know.
Yes, we do know. But telling you would influence your actions unduly. Then we would be no longer guiding you, but steering you... And that is forbidden. We can't control history. Only you can make those decisions, Stocke.
We will return now, then.
The key is in the other history... Wait for me, Rosch...
Progress in this history has been blocked, not because we're unable to continue, but because Stocke refuses to continue without saving Rosch's life.
But, collecting his broken gauntlet has opened up the Alternate History, so we can continue over there...after a detour.
Music: Beyond the Wildernerss
Much appreciated, Marco. I'll get some rest. I'll be counting on you.
Right! Good night, Stocke!
(This is so awkward...)
U-Um... Aren't you going to get some rest?
I suppose... There were some things I wanted to think about. And I needed to speak with Stocke, as well.
Stocke? I... I'm not interfering with anything, am I?
Oh... Oh, no! Of course not! I'm sorry; I didn't mean it like that...
(She's so melancholy... I guess she's really serious about this.)
Well, I suppose you and Stocke are alike in some respects.
(Was that a smile? Why would anyone be happy to hear that they're like Stocke...?)
Music: Where the Wind and Feathers Return (Piano Arrangement)
Stocke checks on Eruca first, then runs to Rosch's side (completely ignoring Marco. Poor guy.)
Rosch... What have you done!?
Hey... Stocke... Long time no see... ...... I failed... I didn't think... the princess had so much fight in her...
Why did you do this!?
That's... my line... Why did you betray Alistel, Stocke...? I didn't want... to believe it... But after seeing it for myself... I had no choice... but to accept what Heiss told me...
......! Hang in there, Rosch! Rosch!
Rosch killed Marco and Eruca... Before losing his life as a result of the wounds Eruca inflicted on him. Now Stocke is pursued by Alistel soldiers, with nowhere to call home... He continues to stay on the move along with Raynie and Aht. With Eruca gone, however, the only means of saving the world is utterly lost.
I wish I could say it was just a stroke of bad luck... But history is created by the overlap of countless coincidences.
If Rosch had met you before he performed such an extreme act of violence... Perhaps you could have stopped him.
Hang in there, Stocke.
I think it's better to confront Rosch without expecting him, so I felt like it would be best to break my usual pattern and show the correct choice first.
Next time we'll bring that gauntlet back to the Alternate History, and then do some sidequesting.