Part 52: Episode XLVIII: A Royal AudienceEpisode XLVIII: A Royal Audience
Music: Anastasia ~ Going Her Way
Our only objective now is to return to the Winter Palace Hermitage and introduce our crew of anime hooligans to the Czarina so we can umm... err... hang out in the palace and hope to catch Rasputin on his way back to his quarters to bang Veronica or something? I'm sure they'll figure it out.
Before we go, Edgar has stashed a Lottery Ticket behind his clerk counter. Sorry, pal. I know you're helping us out but we are hoarding these things like a dragon with treasure.
Nobody in town has anything new of note to say EXCEPT for Old Boris here standing just south of Edgar's shop. Speaking with him now that we have a full party result in...
Another Nibelung Scene which buffs her Bullenfogel Sword Art. I don't know if I'd be comfortable having a Guardian Mime. That feels like it would get old fast.
We could go do some shopping with the Magimel twins, but we're good for the moment and we'll have another opportunity before we get into any further battles. Plus the only thing really worth buying at the moment is a weapon upgrade for Blanca as we might get a freebie for Karin this very day.
Meanwhile, in an undisclosed basement...
Music: The Real Intentions
Masaji Kato, what on earth are you doing browsing through the Émigré Manuscript, young man?! You take your hands off that no good book immediately! Also, a reminder that despite Kato looking like he's well into middle age and having the deep dadass voice of Papa Nier, he is only 29 at this point...
AND you're hanging out with Nicolai?! What are you doing?! You were a nice boy up until your superior officer crush got murdered by government agents right in front of you and you started hitting the gym hard, climbing the political ladder and dressing up in an unusually villainous-looking cape.
Kato closes the book and turns to Nicolai.
It certainly seems to be the authentic article.
I didn't believe the rumor it was actually shaped like a skull. But here we are... Fascinating.
Well, we do aim to please.
Nicolai stands up and starts pacing over toward the opposite wall.
May I consider our negotiations to be completed, then?
Yes. Whatever may happen within Russia, the goodwill of Japan will extend to... whomever the next emperor may be.
The implications of that role changing hands in the imminent future is something we can... look past.
I'm afraid I'll require more than that.
You don't need to worry. I'm the direct representative of the Foreign Minister, Kantaro Ishimura. My words may be considered the will of the Emperor.
I thought I read Katō Takaaki was your current Foreign Minister?
He got sick and retired this year. To make no mention two Japanese foreign officials in this pact named Kato would become confusing fast in our negotiations of this alliance.
Hmm. Sounds reasonable.
As I was saying...
We look forward to establishing joint aviation and communication companies with you. Naturally, we'll shoulder the full cost. By summer, we should be able to supply you with rations and fully modern weapons.
<turns to Kato> Thank you. It sounds good.
Heaven knows we could use some imported cuisine in this part of the world.
When do you think I will be able to meet with His Holiness, Lord Rasputin?
I'm so sorry. His Holiness is terribly busy.
There's a lot to prepare with usurping power and all that. You understand.
<doubting tone> ...That's fine. Please give the future emperor my best.
Kato turns away and exit before stopping at the door.
Naturally, whoever takes over the throne will find a true friend in my country.
Meanwhile, back at the Winter Palace...
Music: Anastasia ~ Going Her Way
Now that we aren't sneaking out in the middle of the night (although given it is like early January in Russia at this point, the sun probably set around late afternoon given everything in Petrograd seems to be happening the same evening) we're free to explore the first floor of the Winter Palace. Or Hermitage. Oddly the game's save files and a handful of generic NPCs refer to it as the Hermitage while everyone else including spoken dialogue says Winter Palace. The (New) Hermitage is actually building next door (the one in the background when we're standing in front of the Alexander Column.) But it wouldn't be Shadow Hearts: Covenant if things dialogue stayed consistent.
Well, by explore the first floor I mean there is only one empty connecting hall leading to another corridor identical to the ones upstairs. But there are some new folks to bother on the way. So let's get that taken care of, shall we?
It's not my fault you failed at your job.
They're going to fire me and my family will starve if that happens.
Well, get better at your job!
Let's just remember there's still one inaccessible hall down here. It may be necessary to come back here at a later date.
Always remember to check all house plants for hidden international secret lottery tickets.
Anastasia enters the first bedroom.
Should you really be saying this to a twelve-year-old?
Hey sweetie, you won't be twelve forever and Kritsin is not just a Ladies' Man but he's a patient man. <finger guns>
It has got to be depressing being a woman and seeing your title is just "Of Marriageable Age."
Just say what's on your mind.
FLORA, I WANT TO MAKE FUCK!
On to the next room...
Why we're having a victory ball tonight!
That ball isn't for a few days... tonight is just... because. And Russia hasn't actually won the war yet.
Why wait to celebrate?
You know I am the empress' daughter, right?
Yes, I am aware. Are you aware you have informed me you are the empress' daughter near a dozen times?
<sigh> And that's why I hate these parties.
Aren't you already at a party exclusively for the nobility?
Yes, but our family's numbers could be bigger, dearie!
But he's a commoner... I suppose our love is doomed...
Why are so many of you adults openly talking to me about love and marriage?
We're all three glasses minimum deep in wine.
And on to the room after that...
Why do you open up every time we talk by saying that.
It's a nervous tick!
That is... very specific.
(Passionate Erich) Of course not, Olive. You're the most beautiful woman in the world, no matter what you wear, anyway.
You'd be even more stunning if you were wearing nothing at all.
Oh, Erich! And you're the most wonderful man in the world!
Shall we find a quiet nook to make rumpus, darling?
...I really don't need to be hearing this sort of stuff.
By the way, if you'll notice in the upper right corner of the room there is an easy to overlook chest. If loot that we find...
A free weapon upgrade for Karin. Espada provides +61 Physical and +59 Special Attack. Also, 352 bulls killed seems like a lot but apparently, by around this point in history, the matador fight record was 109 fights in a single year. I cannot find a number for the matador with the most kills but I'm sure it's unpleasantly high.
That's all for the first floor. The western 2nd-floor corridor and rooms are completely empty so no need to go there. The eastern corridor still has the same NPCs wandering around. Most of them have nothing of interest to say. But now that all the warriors are here, a couple of new NPCs have appeared to further some sidequests. In the room with the portly war profiteer merchant, a new NPC -- Zuvious, Lover of Folkcraft, has appeared. Speaking with him will advance the Trading sidequest. Remember, we last traded the Underground Film to a filmmaker in Cannes for a Daruma Doll.
You mean this Daruma? It was made in Japan. The place is famous for them.
Although this could be a knock-off copy. I did pick it up in France.
A Daruma, huh? It's so well-carved. Such smooth lines and exquisite coloring... Oh, yes! Just a bit of improvement, and this could form the basis of a new craft for us Russians! Would you consider letting me have it? I could give you something for it.
I don't know why I keep doing this but here we are...
I'm sure this'll spread all over the country! What can we call it...? I'll name it after my lover, Matryoshka!
And that's how Yuri helped inspire the invention of Matryoshka Dolls to Russia. Just ignore the first set of Matryoshka dolls was carved in 1890 by Vasily Zvyozdochkin and designed by Sergey Malyutin by commission of a rich industrialist. Although it is true they were inspired by Daruma and Honshu dolls. I don't think they got the idea from a wandering punch hobo.
Anyway, Zuvious, Lover of Folkcraft just gave us his damn lunch. Piroshki are basically just a Russian fried/baked meat bun although it can be filled with veggies. That said, I like the idea that since Yuri traded for it he figured he'd have to trade it again for something else and just dumps the thing into is fanny pack in hopes of exchanging it for something else several weeks down the line. It's also worth noting that if we had traded with that upcoming Youtuber movie critic kid in Cannes and gotten the Limestone Block, we would instead have to go trade with Chagall, Who Stinks of Ink over by the twins' shop. He'd also give us a Super Piroshki so it doesn't matter and Yuri having accidentally helped invent Matryoshka Dolls is the funnier option. Zuvious will still appear regardless but now he just laments Russia is a poor country and a cultural dead-end that sucks instead.
Moving on, in that room which holds Grand Duke Dmitri, now contains another new NPC -- Natalya, Always Serving People. If we chat with her...
<transmogrifies into Lottery Member 11> And a lottery member must never forget to serve people with tickets! So, what can I do for you, sir?
What on earth are you talking about?!
Yeah, don't worry. I got this one. It's a whole thing...
You people are strange.
Let me do the lottery.
Superb, sir! I'm looking forward to the next time I can be of service to you.
This lottery ring's gimmick is... it's a reverse ring that spins counter-clockwise. That's it. It's very easy to score the top prize. But we're actually going to blow TWO of our increasing surplus of Lottery Tickets to claim the first and second prize.
That's a hell of a vague description but this actually a Joachim only accessory that boosts the frequency of him entering his Invisible Joachythm. Also a +2 to Physical and Special Attack as well as Physical and Special Defense. Too bad he's getting the boot this chapter in favor of Anastasia in the active party.
There is nothing else to fart around within the palace. The door to the west in the central corridor that was once blocked by a guard is now accessible and that, in turn, leads to the throne room and plot progress.
...And so these are the ones who saved the princess from the vicious wild dog.
All six of them were quite heroic. Including the other wild dog.
Anastasia. What on earth were you doing out at night?
Well, I had an important chore to take care of at Edgar's.
(Please don't throw me under the bus like that, Princess...)
You couldn't take care of it tomorrow?
inside the castle.
Nevertheless... Even if you did save my daughter's life, we cannot allow strange people to wander around inside the castle.
To be honest, the fact that they made it all the way to my throne room without a single guard questioning their presences is a touch on the worrying side. There will have to be further reprimands...
<points toward the gang> But why? There's nothing wrong with them.
How can you be so certain? You would resist me whatever I said.
Music: Suffocation ~ Grim Atmosphere
The door to the throne room opens off-screen.
Hehehe. Why not go easy on her, Empress?
Rasputin starts walking toward the group.
Anastasia is at a naturally curious age.
She's bound to have an adventure or two.
<looks of uncertainty>
Surely it was God's will that she be saved by these kind benefactors.
<blank look of trying to process how this insanely evil-looking grey-skinned wizard is trusted by everyone>
<powerful glare at the guy that literally tried to kill her an hour ago>
You surprise me, Lord Rasputin!
They're clearly travelers from far away. I'm sure they'll prove to be fine companions to the princess.
If you think about it, was I not a traveler from far away once too?
Well, when you put it that way...
Very well. Anastasia, you may go with the strangers.
But only in the morning. I need not hear any adventures with unapproved wild dogs this evening.
Thank you again for saving my daughter's life. Have a pleasant stay in my land.
Thank you, Empress.
(Really wanna punch this Rasputin gu)
Empress Alexandra and Alexi depart for their quarters. As soon as they're out of the room...
Still alive, I see, little one.
Really? You're just going to say that in front of everyone?!
Given their encounter with you and this "wild dog", I believe the cat, as they say, is out of the bag. Why dance around a known secret?
Rasputin starts menacingly approaching Anastasia but Yuri is having none of that shit and blocks his path.
So you're Rasputin, eh?
You're eviler looking than I would have thought.
Yes... I've heard of you too, Godslayer.
I would have thought you taller.
You were behind my familiar's death.
If we are to be technical, it was the death of my subordinate's familiar. I would not want you to think such a crude creature is a testament to my power. But the details are irrelevant to the discussion.
The throne room doors burst open.
Lord Rasputin, my whip is ready for your loh, what...?
Hmm... Long-time no see.
I take it Lenny didn't make it after I left you all?
He tumbled out of a hole in the wall in that tower and into the ocean.
He always did say he wanted to go out that way.
Yuri enters a fighting stance.
Hee hee hee hee. Do you wish to fight here?
Sure looks like a boss battle arena to me.
I admit I could see the aesthetic appeal, Godslayer. But...
<turns his back on Yuri> Hmm. ...Let's not. There's no need to spill blood all over this lovely church.
I would just have to pay the cleaning bill after I ascend to the throne and it would do me no good.
Rasputin walks to the door with Veronica and stops.
I'll be in the Lion Shrine to the north.
Call on me any time you wish.
<makes an ugly face and shakes her fist> Eeeeee!
...Man, I shoulda punched that guy.
Rasputin and Veronica depart. A short while later...
Music: Town of Twilight ~ European Town
Oh? What tipped you off? The grey skin? The pointy ears? The sorcerer beard and outfit? The part where he's like seven feet tall?
He's obviously no ordinary man. He's on a whole different plane from Nicolai or Lenny.
<nods> Yeah, looks like it.
Not that is a very high bar to cross.
Hey... Are he and Veronica like... a thing...?
I don't know what thing you all are talking about... But that lady always goes into his bedroom at night and there's a bunch of yelling and some kind of sound like umm... a whip, I think? I haven't figured out what they're doing in there... But it's probably no good!
<nervous laugh> We'll tell you about that when you're older.
Ugh. I did NOT need that mental image...
C'mon, now, everybody! Don't look so glum. Now's the time to put our heads together and come up with a strategy.
Lucia's right, everybody.
Okay, let's go to my room, then! We can talk in peace there.
So the Empress is convinced a group of strangers that her daughter met an hour ago are cool to hang out with her via Rasputin going "ehh, c'mon it's fine" and the first thing they do is all pile into her bedroom. I'm going to go on record, for the outside, that's not a great look, gang...
Video: Episode 48 Highlight Reel (You should watch all scenes with Rasputin being extremely evil.)
Empress Alexandra Concept Art - Every single photo and portrait of this woman has a complete look of "meh, over this shit" so I guess they got that right.