Part 13: The Assault on NihiloI'm not gonna lie. I'm tempted. Someone to point me in a direction, any direction, and let me plow straight ahead without having to think too hard about it. Someone to reward me for doing what I've been doing all along.
Chiaki, I feel sick to my stomach too. I hope you're safe, wherever you are.
: I accept your gift, as reparations for wasting my time and risking my allies' lives in your sham of a tribunal. But I will not answer to the likes of you.
He's taking it better than I expected.
: Not enough Magatsuhi to sate your thirst? You are quite a greedy one.
: I don't think there's enough Magatsuhi in the world for me to...
: Insatiable greed is a demon's virtue, however. I am sure you will grow stronger without my guidance.
: That's a given.
: ...But, do not dare to oppose me. If you do... You can imagine the consequences.
: I... I'll consider myself warned.
: They are threatening us with their plot to bring the world to a halt. We can no longer overlook their madness. I have made the decision. We, the Mantra, will wage war on Nihilo, and obliterate them! I have already ordered my soldiers to attack their headquarters in Ginza. If you call yourself a demon, make haste and go to Ginza. Crush those who pose a threat to the world!
: Our goals align for now, at least.
Well, not exactly, but if I can just sneak into the Assembly during the confusion...
: I am Gozu-Tennoh, the one who will rule the kingdom of chaos...
I wish I could have asked him about Isamu, but seeing how gracious he was with me refusing his offer, it was probably best not to push my luck. I'll find some other way.
*: It's tricky to find clear information on Gozu-Tennoh ("Ox-Headed King of Heaven"), but from what I figure, he used to be a minor, local Hindu deity, and eventually found his way to Shinto as a sort of god of disease, first as spreader of pestilence, and later on is said to protect people from illness, as long as the appropriate offerings are given. For a time he was associated with Susano-o, the god of storms, but apparently there was some pressure from mainstream Shinto traditions to separate major Japanese deities from foreign gods, and Gozu-Tennoh worship fell to the wayside.
In any case, we're going back to Ginza. I'd use the Terminal, but if the Mantra have to go on foot, it means they have to go through the Underpass. I'm worried about the Manikins...
Anyway, first things first, let's get out of here.
*: Oh, while I think of it, I forgot a couple things last time.
Orthrus is Kerberos' underachieving two-headed brother, most notable for getting punked by Hercules, who was attempting to rustle his master Geryon's red cattle in order to accomplish his tenth labor.
Yaksini are the beautiful female attendants of Kubera, the Hindu god of wealth. They are specifically described as shapely and busty, probably to make them appear as treasures themselves. They're generally considered to be peaceful and kind, but according to some traditions they're actually dangerous seducers who kill men and drink their blood.
*: We can actually jump down from here and survive, if we want a shortcut to the front of the building. However, it would reduce every member of our active party to 1 HP. You can unsummon all your allies and only have to heal up the main character, so it's not as bad as it seems. That said, for now we're going back down the sane way, even if only to get more combat experience.
: You're going, right? Everyone already left.
: Yeah, I'm on my way. This'd go a lot quicker if your elevator went all the way to the ground floor, you know.
: There won't be any trials for a while.
: Me... hungry...
*: Zed levels up and learns Taunt. As we've seen, it's a double-edge sword. Some people swear by it, but it's quite a bit too risky for my tastes. However, we have both Ice Breath and Shock on our list right now, and that's one magic-based skill too many, so I take Taunt for now and replace Ice Breath. (Why do I keep Shock instead of Ice Breath? Well, they're both equivalent in power, and where Ice Breath can freeze, Shock can, well, shock. In the end I keep Shock because I think it looks cooler.)
In the same battle, Blob learns Mana Drain at last, which steal MP from an enemy. Unicorn also levels up, learning Life Refill, which gradually regenerates HP as we walk.
: I choose to take that as a compliment.
: Magnificent. Simply magnificent.
: Oh! Well, thank you.
: I present this to you as a sign of my fealty.
> ...You received Dis-Stun!
: Gee, look at the big spender.
: It's the Mantra rapture!
*: As we leave the Mantra HQ, I notice a new spirit in the main hall.
: Is he preparing a late service for all the Manikins?
*: I go heal up and save, but we'll investigate this monk before we leave.
: First that conceited jerk, and now an eerie Fiend! What's going on!? Something's up!
: A Fiend, eh? Well, Dante was probably the conceited jerk, so it must be someone else.
: How can you talk about Dante this way?
: He stabbed all my friends, remember?
: But, there's still a strong demon in the east wing. Was there a demon this strong in our army...? If you have some time, check and see who it is.
*: As we cross to the other side of the storage area in the east hall...
> The flames of the Candelabrum of Sovereignty are flickering wildly...
Cutscene + Boss battle: Fiend Daisoujou
*: Huh, that coulda gone a lot worse. Daisoujou can be a wimp or an unrepentant asshole of a brick wall; you can stack the odds in your favor somewhat, but there's a lot of potential RNG fuckery going on.
That said, Meditation, Daisoujou's most common attack, introduces an interesting wrinkle in the battle: he's going to steal your MP, so you better spend it before he does. Fortunately, the HP drain portion of the attack is nothing to write home about, and practically any offensive action any of your teammates take will more than compensate for the healing he gets from it.
Daisoujou doesn't know Dekaja or Dekunda, so it's not a bad idea to unload debuffs on him in the first part of the fight, so they're still on him when he gets serious. Because when he does get serious, you want to kill him as fast as possible, a task that is made rather difficult considering he resists both physical and magical damage, voids Nerve ailments, absorbs Curse and Mind ailments, and reflects Expel and Death effects. I'm actually glad I happened to have Taunt available for this fight, because the Rakunda effect is a big help, and Daisoujou's numerical damage output isn't that scary, even with the big offense buff.
The skills he adds to his arsenal in the second phase of the fight are Mahamaon, Mamudoon, Preach, and Startle. Mahamaon and Mamudoon are the biggest potential problems: resisting one usually makes you vulnerable to the other, and one moment's bad luck is all it takes to end you. Even if you get lucky, Preach can randomly charm, panic or sleep all your dudes, which is only marginally less bad than outright death.
Additionally, this is the first appearance of a very nasty type of special move that a number of bosses have. Startle turns a full turn icon into three half-icons, no questions asked. Not only is it a colossal pain in the butt, but you can never have any of that type of skill on any of your allies.
Now it's possible to have Tetraja Stones at this point. I think you can even trade for them at Rag's. A Tetraja Stone is a one-shot item that makes every member of your team immune to Death or Expel once. You could use some to even the odds in this fight, but considering Daisoujou isn't too far from a save point and Tetraja Stones are fairly hard to come by, it might not be the most efficient use of resources.
Daisoujou (meaning "high priest") is based on a type of Buddhist mummy. A monk would fast for three years, almost to the point of starvation, and he'd then be buried alive in a tiny tomb with just barely enough ventilation to breathe. He'd be given a small bell, which he'd ring every day until he died, at which point the tomb would be sealed up. Today we might think of this as a very slow form of suicide, but it was actually seen as a way to abandon earthly desires and die in a state of spiritual purity (according to Buddhist precepts of course).
*: Do note that he calls us "Demi-Fiend" before the battle starts; we've heard those words before, but it's the first time they're specifically referring to us.
: I'm still wondering who the hell he was.
*: We should have gained enough experience to go through with the fusion I was thinking of last time.
: This really isn't getting any easier to watch.
: I don't know, there's a sort of beauty to-
: You're a freak, you know that?
: She's hot!!
: What? She is!
: I shan't complain about the whole unicorn business, but it certainly is good to be a woman again.
: I'm with ya on that one, toots.
: Why was Blob the one I sacrificed, again?
Kikuri-Hime (meaning "Chrysanthemum Princess") is a Shinto goddess of life, harvest, negotiation and mediation. After the primordial husband-and-wife brother-and-sister (yyyyyeah) deities Izanami and Izanagi had a bit of a falling out after the former died in childbirth and the latter failed to get her back from the underworld, it was Kikuri-Hime who arranged for them to have a civilized debate about their respective situations. The outcome of the debate seems lost to the mists of folklore, but still, considering the participants' fiery, vengeful temperament, arranging that discussion must have taken some chutzpah.
The Lady race is composed of fairly major goddesses, typically presiding over the earth, motherhood, or fertility. But considering Kali (the bloodthirsty, warlike Hindu goddess of death) is a Lady in Nocturne where she was a Kijo/Femme in previous games, I'm not entirely certain of the finer details.
*: So, yeah. She has high magic, comes with a great healing spell, and then after like fifteen minutes of rerolling I managed to give her Mana Drain, Zio and Mabufu. Paraladi is alright, and I would have rather passed down Media than Taunt, but this is still well good enough. She's definitely the kind of spellcaster you want to bring along in the Labyrinth of Amala.
I was going to perform another fusion just to free up slots, but with the 2 we've gained from Gozu-Tennoh, we have four places available right now. Seeing as we're about to raid the Assembly of Nihilo, we're probably going to meet a bunch of new recruitable demons, so we'll put them to good use.
Alright, we're good to go. We could use the Amala Link to go directly to Ginza, but we're going to follow the Mantra army through the Underpass instead.
: ...The Assembly of Nihilo's gonna get their asses handed to them!
On the other hand, Ikebukuro is now practically undefended. Refusing to join the Mantra was probably the sound tactical move.
*: At first, the Great Underpass is much as we left it, except that we run into a Fomor down there for the first time. However, once we reach the Manikin gate...
Aw crap. I can't say I'm surprised, but, damn.
It feels... too quiet.
Huh, maybe the Manikins just locked themselves in, and the Mantra were in too much of a hurry to investigate.
Whuh-oh, there's one open door here...
: Holy crap, look at the gonads on you!
: To go, or not to go... That is the question! I'd hate to get killed...
: Dude, stay safe, alright?
: You could have been! Lock your door!
: They used this underpass to get there, so we all locked ourselves inside of our rooms.
*: The shopkeeper is still at his post. I buy two Float Balls and a Sacred Water for another ticket.
Well, everyone seems to be doing alright. I suppose the Vortex World can still manage to pleasantly surprise me. Now, on to Ginza, and let's hope the locals had as much sense as the Manikins.
*: As we fight our way back out the other side of the Underpass, I notice something I never really noticed before. When a fight ends, the battle music slowly fades out for several seconds, and can still be heard while you're back to walking around if you skip past the rewards screens fast enough. If you get into another fight while the music still plays, the track fades back in all the way and keeps going instead of starting from the beginning.
Things don't look too bad from here. Maybe the Mantra went straight to Nihilo.
The red knights who were patrolling the place are nowhere to be seen. I guess they were recalled to defend the home base.
: I hear that the Assembly of Nihilo has a secret weapon. Guess it's not a secret anymore...
: Aw crap, so they did pass through.
: I was just getting used to not having demons fight each other over here...
: The Assembly of Nihilo's got brains, unlike that other band of ruffians. Besides, their commander probably has everything already calculated out!
: If that's the case, then creation looks a lot like destruction. Though... I guess maybe that's the point.
: Will it be a bright future...? Or will it remain chaotic...? Time will tell...
: Huh! Shows their true colors right there.
: What happened? What are they up to?
*: Welp, three Oni in Ginza, things have definitely changed.
: Hey, I'm joining the assault on Nihilo in a bit. Wanna tag along?
: Look, come or don't, I just thought I'd do you a solid.
: I see...
*: He takes a bunch of money and Life Stones.
: Hey... You're trying to change the world, right? ...You think you can do it?
: Way I see it, I don't have a worse shot at it than anybody else.
: Are you crazy!?
: We are never gonna survive, unless, we get a little...
: I won't help you.
: Seal is a MASTER, you PHILISTINE. NOW YOU DIE.
: The Assembly of Nihilo has an ace up its sleeve. The Commander is such a bright man!
Alright, that's enough time wasted. Let's get a move on.
: Is this the end of Nihilo?
If they try to keep me from Ms. Takao again, it just might be.
Huh. Sure looks a lot more messed up than it used to be.
*: The encounter gauge is blue. The fighting is already over. There's no music, only a weird distorted drone, sounding like some sort of broken down alien machinery. Do make note of the visual design here: the Mantra HQ was all squares and right angles, while the Nihilo base is practically all circles.
The Mantra were strong, but did the Nihilo really lose this easily?
: The Assembly of Nihilo is in shambles! Hahahahahahaha!
: It's all over for Nihilo. The Mantra has won!
*: There's a tiny empty room on one side of the entrance, and an elevator on the other side. The bulk of the facility must be underground; in fact we can reach two basements from here. Let's work our way down.
Whew, that's a relief.
: Oh well... We got all their treasure, anyway.
*: He's not joking; there's a Cube in this room but it's empty.
: Seemed like the place to be. What else is a strong guy like me going to do?
: ...Well, you're too late. We already finished our attack. Hahahahahahaha!
*: There's another tiny room with an empty cube.
I have a bad feeling about this. It's too easy.
It has to be a trap.
Hopefully it's a trap for the Mantra and not a trap for me. Still, I better make sure I can't find Ms. Takao on that second basement, then clear on out of here quickly.
: ...Or at least it was. The whole thing happened pretty fast.
: Too fast.
: So, was the report about needing four Kilas to unlock the core a hoax?
: Huh? Hell, don't ask me, I just came in to do the punching.
: ...Well, Nihilo probably got scared of the Mantra and ran away.
: So they didn't even fight? Yeah, no, this is definitely a trap.
*: Another empty room.
: I can hear something coming from that door. ...Hell, we won. What's there to worry about?
What kind of Zelda dungeon nonsense is this? There better be some other way in there!
*: Well, there's one door left, straight to the interior of the core itself.
> You can hear sounds coming from inside the room.
> Will you enter?
I can't not check everywhere. In we go.
: I thought I was ambushed. Don't scare me like that!
: You're the last person I would have expected to see in here.
: You don't look worse for wear either.
: I'm sorry about what happened last time. Yeah, I screwed up...
: Eh, I got where I was going anyway.
: But, it worked out for the best. I had no idea they had a base this big... If I had used that thing correctly, you would have been here all by yourself.
: Wait, you were planning to send me here, in Nihilo country? Cripes, it would have been good to know.
: The Mantra launched their assault at just the right time. Thanks to them, my arrival went unnoticed.
: I don't think the place was as well-guarded as it first appears.
: ...... Hey, this might sound crazy, but...
: What, are you kidding? Of course not! Bunch of lunatic meatheads.
: Oh, so it's just a rumor.
: Huh. I bet Gozu-Tennoh didn't exactly make a big announcement about how I refused to join up.
: You seem so much stronger, I thought it might be true. ...Oh well.
: Man, don't act so disappointed.
: We're at the center of that big hole you see from outside.
: But, this place was filled with tons of Magatsuhi just a moment ago.
: I don't blame them... Anybody would assume that this is the core of Nihilo.
: So it really is a decoy then.
: The flow of Magatsuhi seems a little strange. It's cleverly disguised, but this is just bait. The real core must be located somewhere else inside the base. ...And that's where Hiwaka will be.
*: There's a sudden flash of light.
: It'll be even more dangerous now. I wanted to meet Hikawa in person, but... I'm not gonna fool myself. I know I won't survive that long.
: Yeah, it's right opposite this door.
: I deactivated it, so you should be able to go through it now. That's about all the help I can offer.
: Considering your position, it would be rude to ask for more. Thanks.
: ...It's up to you to decide how to deal with Hikawa. You've come this far... If you turn back now, you'll regret it, right?
: Alright then... See ya.
: I can't hear anything coming from that door anymore. ...Hell, we won. What's there to worry about?
Ah, this is more like it.
> Will you enter?
No turning back.
: They're probably getting cocky, thinking that they destroyed the core unit.
: Power-schmower. Power's nothing without brains!
: Who're you?
: Just dis guy, ya know?
: Hmmm... I don't know who you're with, but it looks like you have some brains. You just wanna make a name for yourself by taking Commander Hikawa's head, huh?
: Believe it or not, I'm not actually here to kill anyone.
: Just our luck... We were getting bored of the Mantra's stupidity. We need to welcome our guests and show them off to their afterlife comfortably.
: My goal may not be to kill anyone, but you step to me, I bring the pain, white boy.
*: It's more a one-sided brawl than a fight; they fall to a couple Focus-enhanced basic attacks. Momunofu levels up, changes Life Bonus to Life Gain (20% HP instead of 10%), and gives us a Light Ball.
Like the Karasu, the Koppa are another subspecies of Tengu. When other creatures turn into Tengu for whatever reason, if they have a cruel or ignorant nature, they turn into Koppa, especially weak and small specimens who usually end up as servants and messengers to greater Tengu.
Huh, so this must be what the Oni was talking about. I wouldn't have guessed Mantra intel would come in handy.
Yup, four colored pedestals. Let's see if the yellow one does anything.
> Will you use the Yellow Kila?
*: We do, and the light goes away.
Three more to go, then. And is that a terminal on the west side?
Alright then, that means we're close to a Fountain. Excellent!
Ms. Takao, I'm coming for you. I don't really know what to expect at this point, but if you have answers, then I got questions.