Part 53: Order of DarknessChapter 21: Order of Darkness
(Or, "Heart of Copper")
But I can't abandon these people. Now then, where to begin? Ah, my Princess... I'd hoped to see you one last time.
There seems to have been a flaw in their plan to gather all their soldiers in the Central Plains.
I find this line rather odd. Aegil's in-chapter conversations in the other path paint her as disliking the Order. She may have stopped the "purges," but that doesn't mean she likes them. This conversation doesn't seem to fit that characterization, does it?
What is it, Igraine?
Don't treat them too badly...
You're very gentle, Igraine.
Even this soon, we're already getting a big contrast against Route B. This is the same revolt and the same map as Chapter 21B, Heart of Steel, but Igraine never has this conversation with Serdic.
Unlike 21B, you're also allowed to send people on Errands during 21A.
??? doesn't learn anything; I'm going to wait for Null ZOC. Sasha hands the Black Ring off to Izuna, who is underleveled. I'll focus on getting ??? and Izuna caught up this level.
Clockwise from bottom:
As I said before, it's essentialy the same map. All of the Mages have White Dust, the High Priest has Oratoriorae and Cure Drop, the Priests have Cure Drop. Galahad is there, and you still need Igraine to recruit him. (Ignore Selmer in these shots, I reset because I forgot to bring Igraine. Effects are minor.)
There is, however, one major difference. When Igraine asked ??? to spare the people that don't want to fight, she means the Priests. Once you kill all of the enemy Mages, they'll attempt to run away. Allow them to do so without killing any of them and you'll get a reward after the map. It's a pretty damn good one, so make sure you do.
You might expect a large number of conversations this time, as with Route A. You would be wrong. There are four, and three of them involve Galahad. That means there's just one to show at the start.
Igraine and Aegil
Do you mean Raine?
Yes, yes. You're a member of the Order of Anrah, correct?
Hmph. I don't know what schemes you have in mind... But if you lay a hand on Serdic, then in Valen's name, I will not stand idly by. Look at this town... All these Anrah initiates are capable of is causing trouble for decent folk.
They're all only trying to find peace! It's only one isolated group of initiates who want to hurt anyone... I mean, even you had your own country taken from you by a rogue group of followers, right? How can you still think everyone who believes in the same thing thinks the same way?
Hrmph. I'll let it slide this once.
The writers are generally pretty good about the butterfly effect; the differences to the route largely come down to ??? versus Serdic and the choices each of them make. Not so with Aegil. Route B Aegil may be young, but she's intensely competent; when she's present, she always dominates the dialogue. Would Naji's "Aegy-baby" antics be so notable if she wasn't portrayed as such a strong conversationalist? Not at all. Can you, then, imagine Route B Aegil completely losing control of a conversation like this? I can't. There's missteps practically from the word 'go.'
She's never this bad again, thankfully. Even so, you're probably best off pretending she's a different character.
But enough depressing talk! Let's start the map.
First turn is uneventful; no ranged attackers means I have to weather multiple enemy spells first turn.
Serdic attacks and retreats into Cure Drop range.
Owl can't one-shot a Mage from the front. That's just... What do you even say?
Pictured: ???, Sasha, Owl, and Izuna after each taking one White Dust spell. (Serdic has an Angel Medal on, but he was missing about 5% of his HP anyway.
Owl heads back to finish off the Mage he hit earlier.
There's two Mages further off-screen to the right.
Serdic and Sasha should absorb most of the spells.
Izuna survived the turn with with 69 (goddamn it, Rondo, stop doing that) HP. Invoke Life 3 adds 74.
Good thing I got that skill, huh?
This is a good opportunity to show off Izuna's OB. As mentioned, it's one-range, so it's wildly impractical.
It is, however, pretty cool looking! And absurdly powerful. Remember Hero's 5x multiplier? Blade Blast is 6x on a much stronger character. So a level 1 OB from a base level Izuna with Invoke Might 3 does (642-defense) damage, and you can get a 1.5 or 2x multiplier on top of that. It's absurd overkill.
Shame it's so hard to use...
Instead, Izuna runs through that Mage and Marie rescues her.
Serdic moves down towards a Mage in a lower-right alley; he has OB, so he'll Brave Ray him instead of trudging through the snow. Sasha's going to stand there and tank another spell from Galahad to make sure he doesn't attack Igraine; he should be out of MP afterward.
Galahad's out of MP and everyone's badly injured, so they run back towards Marie for healing. I'd say I wish I brought Selmer, but anyone he can hit with White Dust can hit right back.
Marie heals Izuna and she runs back out to attract fire away from Owl.
Doesn't work, sadly. He retreats to Marie, Izuna moves to try and finish off the Mage instead.
Izuna's going to take an Oratoriorae... Eh, she'll be fine. 200 HP still, decent magic, +14 amulet.
The High Priest doesn't use Oratoriorae. The High Priest is six squares away. Oratoriorae reaches 6 squares at level 3. Level 1 or 2? Really?
Igraine goes and talks to Galahad.
Hrm? That voice... That face... Is that you, Princess? You've grown some during our time apart! Though you still haven't grown quite enough...
What do you mean by that...?
Height! Your height.
...Okaaay. So, what have you been doing, Grandpa?
I was watching over everyone, and at some point I got dragged into this. So here I am... an old man out on the battlefield...
You should just abandon them.
Well, that's easy for you to say, Princess.
But aren't Mephreyu and his goons the only ones that want to fight? Plus, I made Serdic promise...
This is, I will note, the only time that they actually clarify, "Igraine is saying not to attack the healers." The Priests, anyway. The High Priest has Oratoriorae and therefore can fight.
Serdic... That would be the Crown Prince of Bretwalde, yes?
He's a good person, though! Just like Raine!
Well then, I guess there's no harm in accompanying you, Princess. Once we take out their leader, the rest of them should realize what fools they're being.
Marie heals Serdic, Serdic purifies a heathen, Owl kills the High Priest. It took two attacks, but that's actually excusable; High Priests are pretty tough. He was at the square to Raine's right, letting him avoid Oratoriorae.
(Using Laser Pope during Route B has made me really good at typing "Oratoriorae." Ora-tori-orae.)
There's just one Mage left at this point.
This made me wonder if I'd failed the special condition by attacking the High Priest. But no. Killing the High Priest without killing any Priests will always trigger this dialogue, after which all Priests will flee and all Mages will aggro. Kill even one Priest and none of that happens.
The Priests will flee for the exits at the middle-left, middle-right, and middle-top. There's just one enemy left, so there's not much left to show. Izuna goes after the surviving Mage, I made Raine use Storm Rave on Owl to give Marie a few more scratches to heal, ??? goes running after Galahad for another conversation.
Time to admit fault: I forgot this conversation existed until just recently. It clears up one mystery conclusively, even as it raises even more questions.
??? and Galahad
Will you be all right, betraying the Order?
Oh, they'll probably be a bit cross with me.
I'm not sure "cross" will be the word for it...
Oh, you needn't worry yourself, Prince Serdic. I can take whatever life deals out, so long as I'm at the Princess' [sic] side.
According to some grammar guides, you can use a single apostrophe to make possessives for singular nouns that end in 's.' I'm not buying it. The only real rule of English is, "what looks/sounds best?", and that looks bad.
Oh, I refer to Princess Igraine.
We guard her as one would a precious jewel.
Again: Oops. Yes, Igraine possesses holy blood of the Darkness; that's a conclusive fact instead of a conjecture. There's still the open question of what Darkness holy blood does, though. It's very unlikely Gauss had it when he wielded the Sword of Darkness, and while Igraine was able to wield Spanta at the end of Route B, she also died immediately afterward. I'm willing to call the Morris Rule on that*, but Gauss didn't seem to be dying.
* If you have no idea what I'm talking about, go play Portrait of Ruin. In short: "You don't actually need the legendary blood to use this weapon, but it'll kill you if you don't."
Of course, the Sword of Darkness also seems to be a transient existence that's summoned instead of a permanent artifact, so it's possible Igraine can call it up whenever she wants to. Gauss was probably a special case, since the Light had grown so strong. The Order is very big on the serenity of the Darkness, though, so she doesn't seem like the type to summon up a superweapon casually.
A precious jewel, eh?
I felt sorry for her, so I struck up a friendship with her. We're not related, but she's come to see me as her Grandpa.
But I suppose our age difference is too great.
*sticks fingers in ears, hums loudly*
(I miss Route B. Probably best to think of Galahad as different too.)
So, then... You're her "Grandpa." That clears up something I've been wondering about.
What might that be?
I-It's what you deserve for getting too close to my Princess! Let that be a lesson to you, Prince Serdic!
This refers to the end of map conversation in chapter 14. (It's on page 4.)
I ask that you please protect her.
Right, of course I will.
Just for show, mind you.
One last conversation! This one unlocks another conversation next map.
Galahad and Arios
Yes, that is correct.
Which implies you have knowledge of Darkness-based magic, yes?
Well, naturally. Do you... wish to know of Darkness magic?
Yes, I am most curious... It has long been said that the Order possesses knowledge which has been lost to Almeria. For the sake of Bravord's future, I am keen to learn whatever you have to teach me.
I don't mind giving a few lessons, but... I do have one condition.
There's Elmer, one of my apprentices. He has a pretty face, but a foul mouth.
Elmer, you say? Well, sometimes a bit of kindness can set an ill-tempered youth straight.
Then I will speak to Elmer on your behalf later.
Looking forward to it!
Considering we know how sharp Arios is, it's fair to assume he's trolling Galahad and relying on his "airheaded researcher" act to deflect the consequences. I approve.
If all Mages are dead and all Priests flee, this dialogue will trigger. There's no dialogue at all for attacking the Priests.
It's hardly worth such effusive thanks. After all, if it wasn't for you, I'd never have known they had no stomach for battle.
You're so sweet, Serdic. Here, this is to show my thanks.
What is it?
Hee hee... It's a present!
If you've forgotten, the Devil Medal regenerates 5% of MP at the start of the player phase.
Yes, you can only get an early MP regeneration medal on the path where you have a healer with innate MP regeneration and the ability to give that MP to other characters. The developers are kind of jerks sometimes...
Well, if nothing else, it does let Marie spend more time casting, and we can throw it on her after Selmer reaches level 30. 15% MP regeneration!
They're kind enough to give you Sage Proofs instead of the absurd amount of Vow and Chrism Proofs in Route B. Which is nice! Not much use for those with Marie here.
Lady Aegil, there's something I've come to understand...
The color of the blood running through my veins is the same as that of Grand Meir, and Anrah.
Uh, Aegil, about that...
Then what causes one group to war with another?
It is due to their veneration of the Darkness' [sic] power. The Darkness has the power to end all that is. We cannot allow that to happen.
This is actually a side-effect of the same issue! The path to becoming Cold Monarch involves weighing your options and making a serious decision right there on the spot. This choice, from what I have seen of it so far, is less Serdic making a decision and more Serdic being unable to make a hard decision due to his feelings.
Keep in mind that killing Marie and going into Route B is an action, while sparing her and going to Route A requires inaction - not just in that single moment, but you have to purposely stand there, presumably as Serdic is unable to bring himself to take that specific action, for much, much longer than it would have taken him to actually do the deed.
This Serdic, or rather this other person, is not nearly as good a decision-maker as the Cold Monarch, and his skill set reflects that.
I may be giving this game way way WAY too much credit here.
No, I think you're giving the game exactly the right amount of credit this time.
Come, we're leaving.
Resets Since Chapter 20: 0
Next time: The Snow Thaws