Part 14: Of cubes and dirtbags
That's the only other way from here.
: Compared to the Mantra, it doesn't take much.
: Yeah. But I just want to talk, for now.
: Commander Hikawa is on Floor B15 of the core. But, you need the four Kilas, stakes that control the Magatsuhi in this structure, to get to him. You saw those four pedestals on the way here, right? Use the Kilas there...
: That's pretty much what I figured.
: Occasionally, there are visitors like you, but they all disappear up ahead. They all fall prey to the traps made by the great Commander Hikawa.
: If you think he's so great, why are you feeding me info?
: So, why tell you all this? I figure you have the right to know before you die...
: How kind of you.
: This is the storehouse for Magatsuhi. It's separated into three floors, and each leads to a storeroom where a Kila is kept. You see that switch? It's set up so that it changes the flow of Magatsuhi. *chuckle* In other words, if you don't use the switches properly, you'll never make it to the storerooms.
*: As the spirit explained, this is essentially a multilayered maze with pathways controlled by those round switches. You can spend a minimum of time in here and go straight for the Kila rooms, but there are Cubes here and there, and I want to get them all. In fact, before we even touch the switch, we can reach...
And when we do activate the switch...
There's another switch in the northwest corner.
This one allows us to access a ladder in the southeastern corner, as well as a door in the north. But before we can reach either, we get in a fight with Nihilo patrols.
Seeing as we're now running into Forneus as random encounters, I'm extra glad I gave Zio to Kikuri-Hime.
: Even if someone were to make it that far, they'd be killed anyway. So, that's why we don't have to panic.
: Yeah, we'll see about that. Get your panic pants ready.
White Treasure Room, eh?
*: We get the usual warning about strong power behind the door.
: I am Eligor, one of the fallen angels. I guard this Kila under the order of our commander.
: I like those with intelligence.
: Are you hitting on me?
: To show you my respect, I will kill you painlessly.
: Ah, right, that'll make more sense.
: The decision is out of your hands, my friend.
*: Eligor starts the battle alone, and he's not a full boss so he only gets one turn icon. However, he gets a suprise round, and opens up with Beast Eye. Beast Eye is a weaker version of Daisoujou's Startle, turning a full icon into two half icons. He uses one of these icons to cast Gathering to summon one Dis, and the Dis uses the other icon to cast Makajam on Badb Catha. It lands, but Badb Catha doesn't have any spells yet so it's no biggie. However, on the second enemy turn, he summons a second Dis, who uses Stone Gaze (and misses), so we don't want to mess around for too long.
Eligor turns out to be weak to electricity, so Kikuri-Hime's Zio comes in handy. A couple Focus shock-crits later and we only have the Disir to finish off, which is simple enough with Heat Wave.
Eligor is another member of the infernal nobility, namely a Great Duke of Hell, commanding 60 legions of demons and appearing as a mounted knight. If he is summoned, he can find lost objects, talk about wars past, present and future, and attract attention and favor from soldiers, knights, kings, and other leaders and notables.
So there's number two. We could now take the ladder down to the next layer, but Zed used up a bunch of MP on Fog Breath, so I decide to return to the terminal and heal up before we attempt the second Kila guardian fight. We could probably win either way, but I don't feel like taking chances.
As long as we're in Shibuya, I drop by the Cathedral to register my party, and visit the Junk shop to pick up a Revival Bead and three Dis-Mute items. Heeho used to run this store, but he's gone on his trip, and he's been replaced by another "alternative lifestyle" Manikin who also gives out Lucky Tickets.
Alright then, back to Nihilo.
*: The enemies we run into down here so far are Forneus, Koppa and Fomor. Large amounts of Koppa can buff one another's offense and get pretty scary if you let them live long enough, but they're individually fragile and fall quickly. Momunofu learned Brutal Slash, a strong single-target attack that eats up a decent chunk of HP, but seeing as Kikuri-Hime knows Diarama and can replenish her MP with Mana Drain, we can still make liberal use of it.
As long as you leave the switches in their default positions on the second layer (B11), you can access a small terminal; however you need to cut off access to it in order to proceed.
Now I'm not going to detail all the switch stuff, but I'm showing you this picture here because you can clearly see the 5x5 maze on the floor below, taunting us with promises of future pain in the butt.
On the way, Zed levels up and learns Might from Kamudo, which is the last skill this particular Magatama has to offer. I replace Taunt with it.
This is the confirmation that Kamudo has nothing more to teach us. Mastering Magatama like this actually has a fairly small hidden effect, but it won't be visible in any way until we master a couple more.
: That's my line!
*: Eligor uses Beast Eye again, and summons a Yaka this time, which wastes a turn on Diarama. I foresee no great difficulty this time either. In fact, Badb Catha and Kikuri-Hima can take one Yaka every round together, so Eligor's further summons are for nothing, and Momunofu and Zed have free reign to use Focus and basic attacks. The fight is over quickly and at little expense.
We don't get the next Kila right away, though. There are multiple short paths branching off the main corridor.
A small empty room...
And another dead end with a Cube.
: ...a world where we throw away our individuality and become a part of the grand universe. There is no pain or struggling due to individuality.
: That sounds pretty good, but on the other hand, no individuality.
: ...Commander Hikawa is wonderful. All shall be bliss...
Man that Hikawa sure likes his cultists.
*: There's another small terminal here, so once we're done exploring we'll be able to heal up easily enough.
: She will be the foundation for our new world.
: That's a lot of weight on the shoulders of a high school teacher.
: So, no matter how much demons like you cause trouble, we won't be disturbed. ...The world we desire has no need for emotions in the first place...
*: Sparing a random Incubus earns us 350 Macca and a very clear voice-acted "thank you!". I hadn't decided for myself if Incubi sounded like Barry White or Mickey Mouse, but their high-pitched, nasally voice clears up all doubt.
After some more exploring interconnecting corridors for a while...
: Is this guy getting on anyone else's nerves yet, or is it just me?
: Nah, I'm with you.
: Even I would like to shove that spear up his nethers by now.
*: More Beast Eye, and another Dis. Judicious use of Shock and Zio sees us through quickly this time. However, the guy was guarding a dead end. I can only assume he's going to ambush us again as we look around the area.
A bit later we find a Mystical Chest, at half waning Kagutsuchi. I don't want to be back later, so I pass the time in the same room. Boy am I glad I have an ally with effectively infinite MP. In fact, Kikuri-Hime levels up, and learns Me Patra (replacing Taunt) and Maiden's Plea, a special passive conversation skill that sometimes pacifies demons trying to end talks out of anger.
But as we leave the room...
: I found you.
: God dammit.
: Alright, that's enough!
: It sure is.
*: He summons Incubi this time, but it's not much more difficult. In fact, I focus on taking out his summons first, and use Kikuri-Hime's Zio on Eligor himself, allowing us to come out on top every round. He does start using Mudo though, which is slightly worrying.
We should be almost done with this layer now.
Red Treasure Room, at last.
*: We get a warning about strong power, but there's no one inside. We grab the Red Kila, turn back, and...
: Well at least it's not that other asshole. Remember me?
: I am Berith, the great duke of hell.
: You're not turning me away so easily this time.
: ... Then, prepare yourself... for my spear shall pierce through your insolent skull!
*: This is already a more threatening fight. The Succubi in particular are giving me the willies. In fact, I'll outright try using a Mahama Rock.
Aaaaand they have boss immunities going on. Okay then, time to put my game face on. Kikuri-Hime's Mabufu uncovers Berith's weakness to cold and freezes a Succubus, so we're still off to a good start. The Succubi try to use Lullaby, which is the prelude to Eternal Rest; Momunofu is weak to ailments, but Kikuri-Hime voids sleep so it's a wash overall.
Aw hell, Berith uses Maragi, hitting Kikuri-Hime's weakness as well as Zed's (since I gave him Hifumi after mastering Kamudo). Badb Catha gets charmed, hits Zed, leaving him with 16 HP, and Zed counters, also leaving BC with 16 HP. Daaaaaaang. It's a good thing Kikuri could use Diarama before the end of our turn, beause the next round's two Maragi casts kill her off along with BC. I summon Chatterskull to start absorbing fire damage and cut down on extra turns. I knew I kept that dude around for a reason.
Momunofu bites it on the following turn, but the Succubi are gone and I can summon more replacements. I think it's in the bag now, though it's a more expensive bag than I'd have liked.
After a few rounds Berith starts using Hellfire, a stronger fire attack than Maragi, but we hold on thanks to a couple of Incubus War Cries, and eventually prevail.
Berith is another Great Duke of Hell, commanding 26 legions of demons. He knows much about the past, present, and future, and can turn any metal into gold. He's also enamored of the sound of his own voice; reportedly, he once possessed a nun and proceeded to recite the name of all the demons possessing her with him, and when he was done he was so disappointed that he had nothing else he wanted to say that he started naming the saints who would be most helpful in banishing each and every one of them.
To put the poop cherry on the turd sundae, Zed levels up, and Hifumi stuns him. Oh boy.
Yeah, we'll be using that terminal now. Fortunately that was the last room of this area, so we never have to see these corridors again. One more Kila to go.
The trip to Shibuya and back is accomplished without difficulty, and we reach the 5x5 cube maze easily.
It does seem pretty simple, though. The way north is already unlocked.
: There will be hell to pay if you touch that switch!
: I won't let you get past here. How's this?
: Son of a bitch!
*: Not so simple, then. We got a teleporting douchebag operating switches now.
In addition, this cube has an open side pointing straight down, giving us an opportunity to drop to the smaller layer below. I do so right away, just to see if there's anything of importance down there.
: I don't know why you're surprised.
: ............ Well... you can get to the storeroom on the floor above by turning the three switches blue.
: Huh, alright then. Thank you.
: ............ An intruder got this far...? I hope Commander Hikawa isn't slipping!
: Seeing how many of you guys are giving me clues, maybe it's not his fault.
*: Hmm, there are two ladders up from down here. This'll be every bit the pain in the ass I remembered.
During a Koppa fight...
: Alright, I can't keep slaughtering you knuckleheads like this, my fists are getting sore. How about joining the winning side?
: What the hell? You want me to join you?! I see...
> Koppa is thinking.
*: He asks for money, Life Stones and a Chakra Drop, then asks us if we think we can change the world, just like that Oni did back in Ginza.
: Every time I punch something, the world gets a little different. One of these days I'll punch something really really big, and you'll want to be there to see it happen.
: ...You might actually be able to.
: I'm Koppa the Yoma. I'm itchin' for a good fight!
: Welcome aboard.
*: He's only level 19, but on his next level, he'll learn Watchful, which allows a reserve party member to gain full experience from battles it doesn't participate in. This is what that NPC meant a while back when they were talking about Nihilo having a demon that earns experience without fighting.
: I saw one of you fight by Eligor's side, and man, you're so much more impressive than he is. How about joining up?
*: She takes money and a Bead.
: Very well, then. I am Dis of the Yoma lineage. I will serve you gracefully.
: Eh, we're not that formal in here. You can let your hair down, it's no biggie.
: Still so incredibly smooth.
: Are you trying to out foot-in-mouth me?
: Aw hell. I didn't even... Aw hell! Aw crap!
: Look, we got off on the wrong foot. I really dig the purple lipstick deal you've got going!
: Did you recruit me to fight, or because you wanted to comment on my appearance?
: Please accept my apologies, I don't know what I was thinking. I suspect with horror that Incubus' creepy may be rubbing off on me.
: As long as it's the only thing he's rubbing off on you, amirite?
: Uzume would think that was funny.
: If you'll notice, Chatterskull isn't laughing either. And Chatterskull is always laughing.
: Yeah, not feelin' it. I'd shrug, but, you know. Shoulders.
*: Now that we've befriended the most common denizens of this obnoxious pit, it's mostly just a matter of getting to the red switches and turning them blue, some of them more than once on account of the teleporting dirtbag. He gets tired of the game before we do, though.
It would have been too much to ask for the Green Kila to be right behind that door, huh?
*: Four doors on either side, and one at the end. But the side ones are all locked. Hmm. At least the far one opens for us.
It looks like another set of branching corridors, and this one has another small terminal right at the start. On further exploration, it turns out there are only a bunch of dead ends instead of the little empty rooms of the red section. One of the passages turns into a T intersection with two doors. Taking the left one...
And the right one...
Green Treasure Room. So close!
*: No strong power warning this time.
Aw man what.
: Why don't you take a wild guess, you floating sack of puss?
: Had a hard time figuring out those switches at the storehouse?
: You'll be blue and red paste when I'm done with you.
: Get back here! Dammit!
The big hallway with the locked doors comes back to mind. Is this going to turn into a Scooby-Doo climax?
Yeah, that's where he's fleeing to. Great.
Hmm, lessee. All these doors look the same, so I might as well try the first one on the left.
Man I'm going to kill that asshole so dead.
: I am Kaiwan, but I'm not the one with the Kila. Can't you tell the difference, fool!?
So I might get to kill him multiple times. That's... almost an enjoyable prospect. Almost.
*: He uses Evil Gaze, which is Death-type effect that reduces a target's health to 1. Ouch. I immediately dismiss any ally hit, but we still manage to beat him before he can actually kill someone. Did I mention I'm glad I have a healer that can't run out of MP?
In any case, we return to the main corridor. There must be a trick to this, but I'll be damned if I can remember it. Hmm. I observe the glowing, pulsating circular symbols on the walls and doors, but they all seem to shine in unison. I examine every door closely, but if there's a different one, I'm not seeing the difference. I even try to go back to the cube maze in case Kaiwan escaped there without my notice, but there's nothing there either. I return to the empty treasure room in case the only way to win is not to play, but it's still empty. I must be missing something.
I guess I might as well keep opening doors.
Hmm, the southwestern one is empty. Second northern one...
: Well, I guess it suits you... Hahahahahaha!
*: So, a single Kelpie. It only gets one turn, which it spends healing itself, but it's not enough to survive us.
A water spirit from Celtic folklore, taking the form of a strong black or green horse, perpetually wet and with kelp tangled in its mane. It's said to entice people (usually children) to ride it, whereupon it captures them thanks to its sticky skin, then runs underwater to drown them.
Maybe the trick is that there is no trick and I'm just wasting time. Next door!
: Sounds good to me, but I'll believe it when you're dead.
: ...Playtime's over.
Mid-boss battle: Night Kaiwan
*: Huh, I figured there'd be some dastardly trick to deal with so I made sure to record the fight, but they pretty much went down like chumps. Well, it's just more evidence that Momunofu is made of awesome and win.
Kaiwan is a god in Assyrian mythology, associated with Jupiter. It's also apparently another name for Hastur, some sort of eldritch entity from the Cthulhu mythos.
Finally, we can get out of this madhouse. Or, well, we can get deeper in the madhouse, as the case may be.
*: We make another round trip to Shibuya, then we return to the pillar room, and use the remaining Kilas.
So, deeper it is, then.
*: And that's an Eligor in a random encounter. Guy musta got a battlefield demotion.
: Look, you're pretty strong. But maybe you need someone to do the thinking for you, you know what I mean?
: You wish me to join your ranks?
: I'm offering you an opportunity here.
*: He takes a bunch of money, but only ends up healing Zed.
> Eligor left.
Man, you can say what you want about the Mantra, but at least their elevators were slightly more convenient than this.
*: We run into Incubi on a Full Moon, and as I see them use Evil Eye and Life Drain on our party...
: I'm really going to have to make sure you get some training, huh?
: We'll get to spend so much time together, boss!
: Oh boy.
Great, more of this.
*: Hikawa is on B15, and we're only on B14. We've got a bit further to go.
: Nihilo aren't making the best use of your talents, huh? In any case, no, I don't think so.
: I suppose I can be happy with that.
> Eligor is content.
: ...Very well, then. I'm Eligor of the Fallen lineage. Take me with you.
: I'm impressed to see you deal so kindly with your former enemies.
: If I'm going to change the world, like every other critter I meet seems to believe, I probably ought not to behave like everyone else does.
*: Oooh, Dark Might. It's like Bright Might, but works for new K instead of full. In any case, I'm really glad I managed to recruit this guy, even if only because visually it's one of my favorites. Call me boring if you like, I know it's "dude in red armor on black horse", I 'on't care.
There are a couple Cubes around, with Sacred Water and a Revival Bead inside. A bit further, there's another Mystical Chest.
> Let it continue?
: Don't let me stop you, broseph. You've more than earned your freedom to turn into whatever you like.
Lv30 Vile Arahabaki
Another pre-Shinto Japanese god, apparently a protector deity watching over travelers. Its worship was outlawed as Shinto took root, but its distinctive appearance at least is still part of Japanese culture, and you can see it pop up in the most unlikely places. Its Vitality and HP are pretty high for this point in the game, but with that extremely unusual set of resistances and weaknesses, it kinda needs to be durable. Depending on what you're up against, the guy's either indestructible or a huge liability.
The Vile are evil gods, usually presiding over disease, famine and other such disasters. They used to be called Jashin.
*: Unfortunately, Arahabaki can't keep Brutal Slash, because it doesn't have a weapon anymore. In the same fight, Koppa learns Watchful, and starts to show signs of change. Dis can also evolve later, so that's still two locked in my party, heh.
The Chest contains a Balm of Rising, which revives a party member with full HP.
And that's the whole floor, with only an elevator left in the middle northern part.
There's another small terminal on the side. This has got to be the end.
We could probably go straight to the core, but there are rooms on the sides that I want to check out first. The encounter gauge is back to blue, so it's not dangerous yet.
Oh wait, you can't actually go around, those doors are only accessible through the core itself. Welp, that simplifies things. Strong power, will you enter, etc. etc.
: You should keep closer watch on your staff, they're practically all on my side by now.
: I'm still a free agent, no matter what Gozu-Tennoh's people have been telling anyone.
: Yeah, I'm pretty amazing in general.
: And judging by your appearance... you've gained considerable power.
: For many reasons, only one of which is any of your business.
: Nobody else in this damn world seems to have any idea what's really going on, and an associate of mine thinks you're the one with all the answers. I'm skeptical myself, but here's your chance to prove me wrong.
: ...I see. Even though I nearly killed you, you've tracked me down to obtain the answers you seek.
: I commend you for reaching this place on your own. If it is truth that you seek, then I will reveal everything... all there is to know of this world.
Cutscene + Boss battle: The Nightmare System
*: Not a lot to say about this fight, really. Makarakarn reflects all spells until the start of the user's party's next round, but in this case it was just a question of having everyone punch him for a bit. Ose can also use Tetrakarn, which reflects all physical damage in the same way, but we had plenty of magic damage so it would have been even less of a problem. The biggest threat is Focus + Heat Wave, and he can max out Sukukuja stacks if you let him, but Matador and Dante forced us to deal with a lot worse than that.
A Great President of Hell, ruling over three legions of demons. He appears in the form of a leopard, presides over the liberal sciences, and answers truthfully to all questions, yada yada yada. More uniquely, he can make people insane. Specifically, he is said to make people believe they are the Pope. He must be a hoot at parties!
Dammit, did Hikawa get away?
: How's it feel to be thrown away just to delay me, hmm?
: But, you will never be able to find our commander, or the Maiden. The Nightmare System has been activated. This base will soon be closed down, and the way to the Maiden will be lost forever...
: To hell with that! I'm finding Ms. Takao no matter what Cheetahmen rejects like you think they have to say about it!
: Begone, demon! It is we, the Assembly of Nihilo, who will create the new world!!
*: A flash of light surges from Ose's body.
Dammit! They won't be rid of me that easily!
> The door is tightly shut.
: Hey. Um, I'm sorry to interrupt, but...
: No you're not.
: Okay, I'm not. But are we really going to let this slide?
*: I'm... I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about.
: It sure looks like the Mantra are going to die from lack of Magatsuhi.
*: That... would appear to be the case.
: It's strange, I seem to recall someone talking about how Magatsuhi is specifically not required for demons to live, that's it's not an essential nutrient or some other such highfalutin verbiage.
: Now that you mention it, I do remember that too.
*: Ah, well. There's a perfectly valid explanation for that.
: This ought to be good. Let's hear it then.
*: I fucked up.
: Oh! Is that what it was?
*: Yes, quite. I done fucked up, son. I apologize. Are you happy?
: A little bit, not gonna lie.
*: Well, since we're talking about remembering times from the past when mistakes were made, I do seem to recall a reckless young man killing the Four Heavenly Kings who were protecting Tokyo from God's wrath, just because they were there, therefore allowing a great flood to take place and causing the death of thousands and...
: ...ah. Yes. Well. That doesn't really have anything to do with...
*: Oh I'm just putting things in perspective.
: That's a little petty, man.
: In fact that's more than a little petty. You feel bad about temporary misleading the Internet, so you bring up accidental near-genocide? You know what the fellow's been through, that's out of line.
*: Aw, cripes, you're right. Sorry mang.
: It's... It's fine. I'm over it by now. Things got... things got better, didn't they?
*: You're made of strong stuff.
: Now kiss!
: What the hell?
*: Yikes. No.
: Nobody needs to see that.
Anathema is a spellcaster-oriented Magatama; one might think of it as the opposite of Ankh. The first skill it would teach us is Mana Drain, which is fairly tempting, if not exactly something we'd keep until the end.
: Apparently not.
: I heard that a bunch of Magatsuhi was sucked up from Ikebukuro!!
I'm not going to pretend I care about about Gozu-Tennoh and his jocks, but Isamu's still in there! I gotta go back.
But... Ms. Takao...
Hell. One problem at a time.
*: We return to Ginza. A quick look around seems to indicate that no one has anything new to say, so we go to the Terminal and teleport directly to Ikebukuro.
We can't get back to the Nihilo terminal through here either.
: ...We didn't lose, did we?
*: As we enter the Mantra headquarters...
: Holy crap, what are you doing here?
: I heard about the trial by combat, and I thought it might be you who was the winner.
: Well, I appreciate your confidence, but this is still a really dangerous place!
: Getting here was tough, to say the least, but I'm glad I made it.
: I'm listening, Chiaki.
: I decided to play by the rules of this world.
: I can hardly blame you for that. I... I've been playing by the world's rules ever since I woke up in the hospital.
: You know what the purpose of this new world is, right?
: Yeah. I do now.
: ...You probably think I'm crazy.
: I don't think there's such a thing as crazy anymore.
: ...that voice I heard when the world changed...
: Yeah, I heard it. Kagutsuchi's voice.
: Not just about what I have to do in this world, but why the world ended up like this. And then, I realized... that there were too many unnecessary things occupying the previous world.
: But, nothing new was being made. Time passed, and nothing changed. What the world really needed... it was not getting.
: But, I survived the Conception. I was chosen... That's what I'm going to believe, and now, I have to look forward.
: ...but if I can swallow it down... endless possibilities await... The power of creation... will be mine.
: The world doesn't need any more worthless things... That's why I want to create my ideal society... a paradise ruled by the strong, the chosen... The world of Yosuga.
*: And we come to another decision.
Maybe the world really was running out of juice, its potential lost or squandered. Maybe it needs the strong, the chosen, the fated, to remake it in a more... a more vigorous form. A more meaningful form.
Or maybe Chiaki's just putting a fresh coat of paint on the Mantra philosophy, such as it was.
Or maybe it's best not to get involved in that nonsense either way.
What say you?
Kagutsuchi is watching.