Part 30: The Holff RuinsMusic: Dreams Showed by a Cloud of Dust
Stocke faces a door to the right, and a Gutral steps out.
Music: Wildness and Toughness
...... So you're the one this meeting was arranged with...
Eruca and Aht step into the inn (I'm not sure why they weren't there from the beginning.
I've heard rumors about how big you Gutrals are, but wow, they don't do you justice.
Every human who sees us for the first time says the same thing.
...Princess Eruca. Is it true that you wish to join forces with the people of Forgia?
Yes... I seek an alliance that would benefit from your strength.
You say this... knowing full well that Gutrals despise humans?
...I do. This crisis affects all that live on this continent. Not just humans.
I understand that. But... The gorge separating Beastkind from humans is as deep as the history that created it.
...May I ask what you think of the idea personally, Sir Bergas?
I answered your plea and have met with you here as such. Do you really need to ask?
...I apologize. ...Then you will lend us your strength, Sir Bergas?
Hmm. Indeed... On one condition.
...In Forgia, one must undergo a trial before they can be seen as a trusted comrade. I would have you undertake that trial.
A trial, eh? What does it consist of?
It is simple enough in theory. If you head east from Itolia Wasteland, there is a place called the Abyssia Forest... You must obtain a "Beast Mark" from the depths of Holff Ruins inside that forest.
Beast Marks are a ritual tool that have been passed down in Forgia for ages. Bringing one back allows one to hold oath with our tribe for the first time. In other words, it's an oath ritual. One of trust.
I see... So that's how your people do things.
It is. If humans were to uphold Forgia's traditions, the villagers may reconsider things. If you can accomplish this, I will take responsibility for convincing them.
Thank you very much.
Well, congrats, Princess. The ritual sounds like a big deal, but it should be a cake walk.
Be as confident as you like... But I will advise you not to take the ritual lightly. Our clan's guardians await you inside the ruins.
Guardians? Wait, you mean there are others like you protecting the ruins?
Indeed. All of them are strong Gutrals, worthy of this trial. And they are not all that dwell in the ruins. I don't claim to know what organisms live there.
No wonder it's called a trial. ...Seems worth doing.
I understand... We will overcome this trial and return with the Beast Mark without fail. Upon completion of this task...
Gutrals always keep their word. Leave the rest to me. If that is all, I will go on ahead and wait for you at Holff Ruins.
Wait... I almost forgot. I must give this to you. It is proof that you are undergoing the trial.
Obtained Gutral Armlet
My clansmen are on guard east of Itolia Wasteland. Show them that armlet, and they will let you pass into the forest.
Bergas leaves the inn.
We should head to Holff Ruins as well.
East of Itolia Wasteland, in the depths of the Abyssia Forest... That area is Gutral territory... There will surely be monsters that are foreign to us.
You're right... Let's make sure we're prepared before we move out.
You may remember the Beast Mark is the macguffin we were asked to get back in the Alternate History. It looks like we'll be clearing that roadblock before long!
Music: Beyond the Wilderness
I pointed these Gutrals out when we were in Itolia Wasteland earlier. We can pass by without any trouble now that we have the armlet.
Welcome to Gutral territory. We've nearly filled out the entire map, now.
Wow! This is amazing, Stocke!
I didn't know there were places left in the world where nature could grow so freely.
...Cygnus was more than likely once dominated by lush vegetation.
When I was living in Cygnus, the desertification had already begun. But it wasn't as bad as it is now. Still, it's hard to imagine Cygnus being overrun with plant life.
In the past... When the ritual was still being performed, vegetation was more plentiful. But ever since my stepmother became queen, the desertification has been increasing...
Right, things really took a turn for the worse about that time. Protea isn't of royal blood, and she can't perform the ritual. That's why the desertification intensified, right?
Well, that's partly true, but I believe it goes back further than that... My father didn't perform the ritual either.
Your father... That would be the late King Victor? Why didn't Victor perform the ritual if he was of royal blood?
It's not that he intended to neglect his duty to perform it... ...But even if he wanted to, he couldn't. The Sacrifice necessary for the ritual refused to do his duty, and escaped...
Sacrifice? Like, a living sacrifice? That's a pretty sinister word. Does this ritual you guys do require human blood or something?
I had imagined something so much more peaceful... I didn't think there would be any "sacrifices" involved.
So the Sacrifice has to be someone specific? Why?
Music: The Melody Connecting the World
...It all begins with the ritual caster offering a part of their soul to... someone who has died. With this newfound soul, the one who will be sacrificed is returned to life... The Sacrifice goes on to train their soul, so that when they reunite with the caster... The two souls have become so powerful, they can successfully complete the ritual.
So the Sacrifice must gain power, then return the borrowed soul to the caster... ...What happens when they do that? The Sacrifice is no less human than the caster. Has your bloodline really been repeating this perversion of life for centuries?
Stocke's right. It's abhorrent.
...I share your sentiments. It's a cruel and unjust method that cannot be forgiven. ...But ever since the flow of Mana was thrown off balance by the lost empire... The continent would be engulfed in sand within a decade's time if we failed to perform it...
So some sacrifices have simply been overlooked.
...... ...That is how the continent has survived to this day.
That's the worst part. No matter how you look at it, it's wrong.
S-Stocke...? If the royal family doesn't perform the ritual, the land will perish! Is that... Is that the result you would rather have?
That's not what I'm saying. It's the continent's reliance on this ritual that I take issue with. Until the land's balance of Mana can be restored.... ...Then all of us surviving by means of the ritual is only postponing the inevitable. It's continually applying a bandage to a bloody wound, instead of healing it.
Stocke... You think along the same lines as my brother once did...
...But our thoughts on the matter are of little consequence. Eruca, I'd like to know what you think.
I... don't want to sacrifice anyone either. I admit that it is only postponing the inevitable, and that it truly solves nothing. And that is why I want to perform the ritual using only my own strength.
...I see. And if you should fail...?
...... If that were to happen, then--
H-Hey, Stocke! We're almost to the Holfy Ruins! I wanna see inside!
You mean Holff Ruins...
Does it matter!? Let's hurry!
What's gotten into her all of a sudden?
Erm... Besides, we kinda have to hurry! If we don't, we'll keep the big, scary Mr. Bergas waiting!
All right, all right. We get the picture. So calm down, would ya?
Aht... Do you... already know?
Music: Wildness and Toughness
Welcome to the obligatory forest maze dungeon!
There's a sign immediately in front of the entrance.
The land of snow closes, while the land of forest becomes two.
(...Is this some kind of code or riddle?)
I'm sure this is a hint on how to get through the forest. I think the "land of snow" is the path to the north, and the "land of forest" is the southern path. Rather than caring about these signs, I prefer to just wander aimlessly until I get it right. (and by that I mean I followed a guide because fuck forest mazes)
Hey, look who it is!
Ah... The fish got away.
Sorry for scaring off your catch.
No, I'm sorry for making a fool of myself. Would you like to join us for a meal? I wouldn't want you and Aht to go hungry.
I'm sorry, but I can't stop to eat right now. I need to take care of something urgent.
I see. Well, good luck with that, and please take good care of Aht.
Of course. I'll do my best.
I could ask you the same question.
I'm here as a messenger. I have a letter for Bergas. Well, I did that, but...
Is something the matter?
You remember that guy in Granorg...? He... kinda followed me here.
Of course I don't remember that guy. Don't you know how long I go between updates?
The gatekeeper from Granorg.
Yes... I don't think he'd try to come this deep. But he's probably waiting at the entrance to the Abyssia Forest. And I bet he'll be there until I come out.
That's a lot of trouble for him to go through. Shouldn't you see him?
I told you. Humans and Beastkind are too different. I knew this when we were together. If we let this go on, one of us is going to end up hurt. I have to end it now. I imagine he'll give up eventually, though.
Well, that's all we can do here, so let's resume wandering through the forest.
What the hell is all this?
Oh, a soldier and a chest! The chest has a Right-Cut Scroll in it. The soldier...
This is... ...It's that gatekeeper. It looks like he was attacked by a forest monster. He's holding something...
Obtained Letter to Liese.
It's a note in a language I can't read. I should ask Liese to take a look at it.
I bet the beartraps got him.
You can come here before talking to Liese, but the gatekeeper's corpse won't be here. Now that we've found him, we go back to Vanoss and Liese's camp.
I found his body in the forest.
He had this letter on him. I can't read it.
You showed the Letter to Liese.
He... He wrote this in the language of the Satyros...
What does it say?
When it rains, we soak together. When it is hot, we burn together. We endure as clouds, peacefully.
They're Satyros wedding vows...
That's what he had with him.
I'm so stupid... He really thought about this. He wanted to make it work, and I never even gave him a chance. I've made a horrible mistake and there's nothing I can do to ever make it right...
Hm? Liese isn't here... I wonder where she went. Stocke, do you know where she is, by any chance?
Yeah, she ran off. You should probably go after her. She's got a lot of emotional issues right now...
No, I don't need to be worried. She's not like Aht, she can take care of herself.
I don't know, she might step on a beartrap. They're everywhere.
But I'm sad to hear about Liese's loss. If she had just made a different choice in the past, this wouldn't have happened.
(A mistake in the past...? I wonder what her mistake was... I should go to the past and find out.)
Just in case you didn't get the point of the last 30 hours of gameplay, the game flat-out tells you that you can go to the past to solve people's problems.
Anyway, back to wandering the forest.
As you explore Abyssia Forest, tigers often leap from the bushes at you. It's terrifying every time.
Hey look, there's a barrel behind this tree. You'll never find it unless you happen to get close enough for these buttons to appear. There are some rocks nearby, so we can just push this out...
AAAH OH MY GOD
The rocks are directly south from the tiger trap. After blowing them up we immediately step on some hidden beartraps and find a sweet Gaia Blade in a hidden chest.
The Gaia Blade boosts your max HP by 100. The magic boost isn't good enough for it to be worth putting on Stocke, but it makes a good weapon for Marco.
Continuing north, we get chased out of the forest by an angry boar.
Next stop: The Holfy Ruins.
Music: Shadows Dance in the Darkness
Ah! So these are the Holfy Ruins!
Holff Ruins... ...It seems Sir Bergas is not here yet.
I don't think we need to wait for him, right? He knows we're going to do the trial. According to him, we just need to get the Beast Mark from the depths of these ruins. Otherwise the people of Forgia won't trust us.
Yeah, you're right.
Without further ado, let's head inside.
This game really likes to throw large enemies at you out of nowhere.
At the end of this hallway (which contains six angry Gutrals) is a giant door that refuses to open.
To open it we have to press this gigantic switch that's sitting right next to the door. Look at this crazy puzzle, what is this, Professor Layton?
The enemies here can buff their magic defense, destroying my Dancing Death+Burst Light strategy, so I just sneak by everyone.
This dungeon is basically a series of gray rooms that occasionally have giant holes in them. (that chest has an Expert Fist for Gafka, by the way.)
This is honestly one of the more boring dungeons in the game.
About halfway in is a really big room with a couple of lizards and a hidden chest with a Divine Pact in it. This is Eruca's last Pact (yes, already!), so we'll turn it in when we're done here.
After a series of gray corridors, we come to another locked door. There's no switch in sight though, so our only option is to press onward.
We basically had to head west through a doorway and loop around to the south. This switch is technically located in the same room as the door, but we had to take the scenic route to get around a big hole in the floor.
After opening the door, we head back around and go inside.
So that's the Beast Mark...
Yep, sure looks like it.
Stocke! There's something over there!
Music: To the Battlefield
On your guard, everyone! This one isn't like the other Gutrals!
This guy really isn't dangerous. His main attack, Underworld, hits everyone multiple times with a chance of inflicting poison. He also has a single target attack, Death, which can also cause poison.
If you let the poison get out of control he could be a threat, but with Aht's level 2 traps, no one can stand against us. He's also weak to fire, so Aht's Flame Star Trap wrecks him.
After we defeat the Shadow, he glows black and turns to sand, as we're all too familiar with.
(He must be under the influence of the Black Chronicle's wielder... ...Who is he?)
The man glows black for a moment, and disappears.
Well, we beat the dungeon's boss, so all that's left to do is step forward and take the Beast Mark.
Yay! We found it!
Then the trial is complete.
Phew. Glad we got that done without anyone getting hurt.
The screen begins to shake.
I-I think you spoke too soon...
On your guard, everyone! Something's coming!
Music: The Red Locus
Another goddamn spider.
Like most spiders, he does crazy amounts of damage, often to your entire party at once. If you let this spider live for long, he'll quickly overwhelm you with damage.
Of course, I didn't let it live that long.
I dedicate this combo to everyone who played this game and hated fighting these spiders.
That combo got us 671 bonus experience. My only regret is that I couldn't kill it before it got a chance to act.
Music: To the Future that Awaits Ahead
We did it!
...You think that thing was related to the spiders that attacked Cygnus? I never expected to fight something like that again...
Perhaps the "guardian" that Sir Bergas mentioned... ...was actually that spider.
Well, something like that could only make its dwelling this deep in the forest.
I wonder if the Gutrals are always fighting against things like that... If so... I'll be glad they're on our side.
I don't know if they're always fighting... But having them on our side is most reassuring. We will need their strength in the fight against Granorg, after all.
All right. Let's get the Beast Mark back to Bergas.
Obtained Beast Mark.