Part 27: The Fated HourChapter 20: The Fated Hour
It's regarding Spanta, the Holy Blade. You see, Master Arios has already discerned the means of removing the Holy Blade's taint.
Oh, it is a simple matter.
Draw holy blood...?
Altrius's holy blood runs through the veins of every member of the Bretwalde royal family.
If you return home this way, the feudal lords will almost certainly oppose you.
It's likely that this curse was designed to be unbreakable, at least for the duration of this war.
The attack on Egvard was meant to kill the King, Queen, and Prince, and that's when the blade was cursed. Afterward, only Marie would be left. Even if someone without holy blood can use the blade (and despite his similarity in appearance, ??? probably isn't a bastard of the line, and Serdic certainly seemed sure he could use it), do you think anyone in power would stand for an outsider murdering Altrius's last descendent with his holy sword? That'd be like killing King Arthur's descendent with Excalibur, except King Arthur never prevented the destruction of the entire world.
With Serdic's death, ??? is the one person who could ever be in a position to purify and use the Holy Blade. Spanta was meant to stay corrupted for at least a generation. Having this choice at all is a victory... A victory of sorts, anyway.
Serdic gave ??? two duties: To save his country and to protect his sister. Now he has to choose.
The only army he has to muster is Verona's, which has just finished a civil war. As an uncrowned Prince, he has no political authority. He is an unexceptional soldier and no tactical genius. Right now, he has nothing.
The only hope he has to change the situation is to purify the Holy Blade and become king. That is reality. The question, then, is whether he can acknowledge that reality.
If you want to turn your head away from unpleasantness, then Rondo of Swords will indulge you. Route A is a fairy tale. Route B is a story about living with your choices.
You really should listen to this. The important part is over once they stop speaking, but I'd recommend you listen until the end for the full experience.
After you've heard it (or if you can't, for some reason):
This is one of the very few non-combat scenes to have voice acting.
As a stand-alone piece, Serdic's words are fairly simple. In context, they're excellent. Route B sets the tone for the story the moment you make your decision.
Serdic's first words, immediately after committing murder -- necessary murder, undesired murder, but still the calculated killing of an innocent -- are a declaration of responsibility. He claims no innocence, he deflects no blame, he asks for no sympathy. He chose to do this, and he has no right to turn away from it.
He never does.
And then they play the victory fanfare, just like any other map. Killing Marie will always result in a Complete Victory.
If you look up to the top of the screen, you'll notice Serdic's MC is 99. There's nothing quite like leveling up here and noticing that Serdic's status is now "Hero."
The Cherub Medal decreases the duration of status ailments.
Now, a healthy gap, to better draw attention to the above and discourage skipping it, and then...
...let's talk about
Upon cleansing the Holy Blade with Marie's blood, Serdic became the 1st Divine Emperor of Bretwalde. He is waging a battle to the finish with the Grand Meir Empire.
As with any other promotion, Serdic's stats themselves do not change -- his weapon does (substantially), but the rest of the stat changes are merely a consequences of one more Prince level.
Before promotion, Serdic isn't very impressive. His skills are really damn good for a tier 1, but his stats hold him back. He's average in attack, move, and HP, saved only by his relatively high defense. Brave Ray helps, but not enough.
Cold Monarch, meanwhile, is the best class in the game. Yes, better than Alhambra or Ansom. There are a lot of reasons why, so let's go down the list.
Cold Monarch is a tier 3 equivalent class. Serdic gets access to his tier 3 five to ten levels earlier than anyone else and about ten chapters before anyone else.
The Cold Monarch's Holy Blade is the strongest weapon in the game, with one of the higher accuracies (a +30% flat boost from the Spanta of the Prince class!) and the highest power available to any friendly unit. (It has a 0% critical rate, but criticals aren't really a big thing in this game.)
Seven Sins is the second-best OverBreak in the game, with a near-ideal combination of range and power. It's available much, much earlier than the better one, and it's on a better unit. The only enemy I've seen survive a level 3 Seven Sins is the final boss. It's an excellent OB in a game where most OBs are bad.
Cold Monarch has one of the best stat growth sets in the game, and Serdic gets those growths earlier than anyone else. He has the highest attack and third-highest HP growths in the game, with average defense and magic growths -- in other words, the class excels in the areas that amulets cannot shore up. This is excellent design for a frontliner, and Serdic has good stat bases to grow off of.
Cold Monarch has one of the best skill sets in the game, in part because it has one of the largest skill sets in the game. Most notably, he learns ZOC, Fearlessness, and Melee Guard, which have 3/3/4 users respectively, and one user for the latter two is A-route only. On top of his new abilities, Serdic keeps all skills from Prince (most notably Stand Fast, Frontal Blow, Arrow Guard, and Duelist) and learns some very useful basic skills, such as Invoke Life and Invoke Might.
Cold Monarch is one of the very few classes to have an innate ability -- in this case, 10% HP regeneration per round. This is better than the best HP regeneration amulet and is surpassed only by the higher levels of the Vital Power skill. Only three frontliners learn Vital Power, only two are really suited for it, and one of those two is A-route only. (Izuna just isn't tough enough for Vital Power to be a good fit.)
Cold Monarch is the best promotion Serdic has access to. The alternative option lacks access to the Cold Monarch's Holy Blade, Seven Sins, and the vast majority of its useful skills. I'd rate it solidly mid-level, mediocre -- quite a drop from "best in the game."
Cold Monarch is also (to my knowledge) the only promotion in the game to change a character's portrait. Whether or not you rate that as a plus is up to you. (Serdic's sudden change of eye color is never explained or commented on. It sort of fits with the general blue->red shift in his outfit, but... It's rather odd to have it completely ignored in-game.)
Sure, his movement is average, but Serdic can take punishment much better than any faster character can, and he'll only get better at it as the game goes on and amulets become more available. His offense is spectacular; between Duelist and Fearlessness, he is equally good at destroying groups and single enemies. His damage output means he can use level 1 Seven Sins often, letting him circumvent terrain, or he can build to level 3 to kill bosses. His defense is also great; Margus is the only character with both 1) better natural defenses and 2) better defensive skills. With his higher natural MC, Serdic is better at keeping and attracting attention, and having a second user of the ZOC skill opens up many tactical options -- and since it inflicts Crazed, ZOC makes Serdic even better offensively, weakening enemies while simultaneously clustering them for Fearlessness.
In return, you lose access to a very good future recruit and to one of the best support characters in the game. Without Marie, your non-Cotton mages take a substantial hit to their long-term sustainability on-map, Holy Favor becomes a highly impractical spell, and you can no longer heal indefinitely. Play your cards right, however, and you should be able to compensate.
(This is why I'm leveling Aegil. With the sudden and massive loss of magical staying power, you want someone who can keep up with the mobility demands of a more melee-focused team. Aegil's six movement helps considerably, especially since Cold Monarch's regeneration takes some of the pressure off your healer. If Laser Pope isn't your thing, you're probably stuck with Yumiluna.)
Rondo of Swords asks the player if they're willing to make sacrifices for the power Serdic needs to take back his country. If you're willing to pay that price, then the contract is fulfilled in full good faith -- a large portion of that power is delivered to you immediately, and Cold Monarch only gets stronger.
Total number of resets: 9 (+0)
Next time: Heart of Steel