Part 21: The Sisters and the Obelisk: Hey! Hey! Stay with me! What happened here?
: It's Sa... Sakahagi... Th-That traitor, Sakahagi is going wild... up ahead...
: Alright, stay here, I'm going in. If he comes back, play dead. If that doesn't work... scream as loud as you can.
*: There are hallways west and north from here. It looks like the blood smears are mostly on the northern path, but it's hard to discern a directionality and there are pools and stains at either end. Still, north it is.
There's more corridor north but the blood seems to lead to this door. We run into Shikome, Orthrus and Nue; considering the latter two like to spam Fire Breath and Ice Breath, this would be a bad time to ingest Murakumo.
Damn... he's gone already. I suppose he's smart enough not to pick a fight with me.
*: Given that he's up eight steps from where we're standing, it's hard to tell if Sakahagi is meant to be looking us in the eyes, but unlike Futomimi he certainly does have the typical Manikin twitch.
Cripes, what a mess.
I should probably go after... him...
*: The Cubes here are empty. We turn back to the main corridor and check with the Manikin by the entrance.
: Uh... Ugh...... ...Sakahagi left...
I might as well check out the rest of this place. Maybe there'll be some sort of clue.
: He's an evil Manikin...
: If not an especially thorough one.
*: Haven't seen these in a while!
: ...Is Sakahagi gone yet?
: For now, at least.
*: Aaaaand that's it, that's all there is to see in here. We leave and return to Nakamise-Douri. Neither the spirits nor the Manikin at the entrance have anything new to say, about Sakahagi or anything else, so I presume he didn't come through here. We register, heal up, and head for the Terminal.
Cutscene: The Obelisk
: Well hey, it took a while, but I have to hand it to you, you sure did find a good place to point me at. Let's get this show back on the road.
*: We warp to Ginza. We've been to this secondary entrance before, getting back there should be a cinch. I drop by Nyx's Lounge in case there's something new going on, but there isn't. We get outside, head east to the highway north of Harumi Warehouse, and go around crossing Rainbow Bridge towards Tokyo Tower again.
This dome doesn't have the spinning drums of the Nightmare System, and it hasn't been messed up by the Mantra either.
From the entrance, we can access a small empty room, and this express elevator to B15. It must be going to those other doors near the true core that we saw but couldn't reach from the main building.
Someone forgot to pay the power bill.
So it's more Nihilo-type dungeon but in the dark.
We do know the core lies to the east, though. So we go the opposite way! What if there's loot?
...first Cube contains Medicine. Second Cube contains a trap that poisons our entire active party. No one knows Posumudi anymore, but we've accumulated 29 Dis-Poisons, so it's no biggie.
Aaaand here's a good reason to have a Succubus in the squad.
Next up... A Tetraja Rock, an explosion trap that cuts our HPs in half, and a Bead.
This door in the south is still lit up!
A fight earns Sarutahiko another level thanks to his Watchful skill. He learns Counter and maxes out his slots, but I want to level him up one more time so he can learn and pass down Focus.
The power comes in sporadically in this hall, and it looks like water droplets are falling from the ceiling.
As I suspected.
There's an incredibly long corridor to the north here, but the encounter gauge is blue and we run into no further opposition.
There's a convenient large Terminal here, and the ground floor exit.
Oooh, this is new. We are now in the "top" section of the Vortex World.
Ah-ha! That's the Lucky Find paying off! Lessee...
That's the Obelisk alright. The nearby Cube holds three Life Stones.
We could head for the center right away, but I want to see how far I can explore beforehand. We run into Badb Catha, Principalities and Powers around here. They're easy to underestimate; one of them kills off Naga with Hamaon. Kikuri-Hime is again of inestimable value.
: That's strange, I could have sworn you had all the money.
: Well, we've spent more than 10000 since, someone must have stashed some here recently. The Minister, I bet. He seems the type.
*: As we travel further, Naga finds a Bead. I never really used Lucky Find before, but this is pretty cool. I don't know if I'll care to pass it down over anything of combat value, though. We'll see.
: His name was Lord Masakado Taira. He's probably watching over us, even now...
*: This little gravestone is the only enterable building in this entire region, besides the Nihilo entrance and the Obelisk.
Or, well. For some values of "enterable", anyway. There's nothing for us here. Back to the big cigar!
Atmosphere: Obelisk interior
*: Interesting. This is a Nihilo facility, but given all the squares, this is more like Mantra architecture. Except Mantra architecture looks sharp, and raw, like you'd cut yourself leaning against a wall, while this looks almost worn with age. Maybe the Obelisk would normally be an unaffiliated location, but the Nihilo have just taken it over. It does sit on the exact location of the north pole.
It's a subtle effect, but the atmospheric music here gets louder as we approach the pillar in the center of the room, and the stereo mix always makes it clear that's exactly where it's coming from. This isn't external soundtrack, that's what the real deal sounds like.
: No, really.
: This is the closest you'll ever get to Kagutsuchi, in all of Tokyo.
Looks like this is going a few stories down. I hope the building isn't as deep as it is tall.
*: There's a small terminal in the west here, connected to the big Nihilo terminal we were at a few moments ago. It'd already be a bit of a hike walking back here from a healing trip.
: Jackpot, Hijiri.
: She is collecting Magatsuhi with her powers...
Lv33 Vile Baphomet
Baphomet is a pagan deity that was actually made up by Christians during the Middle Ages. At first it was a demonization of "Mahomet", the latinized name of Muhammad, but it's most famous on account of how the Knights Templar were falsely accused of worshipping it. In the early 14th century, King Philip IV of France was heavily financially indebted to the Templars, and the Church had grown jealous of their wealth and influence; Templar leaders confessed to idolatry and various other sins and crimes under torture, and some were executed when they later recanted their confessions. In the end most Templar personnel and assets were absorbed into the Knights Hospitalier, who presumably from then on knew better than to get too big for their britches.
*: We go all the way around the room, and apart from a Dis-Mute in a corner, there isn't much to it left other than a lift platform in the north wall.
This place looks serene enough, but I'm getting some pretty rough memories coming back...
This is 15F. From the center here, we can go south, west and east, visibly to more lifts. I'm not sure where to go first so, let's say, east. We run into groups of Eligors, along with Karasu and Dis; the Eligor themselves can be tricky as they'll use Dragon Eye when they're alone.
The lift east takes us to 18F, which has nothing but a Mystical Chest with a Jade inside.
It looks like some device might bridge that gap and allow access west from here though. But that's all we can do here for now, so we go back down, then west.
Yikes. Man I'm glad Zed still has Shock, but it's unfortunate that the allies I want to train for now are mostly ice-based. Still, Principality has Zanma and Mazanma, and Naga has Zio.
Ah, so that's the other side of 18F. There wouldn't be a point in bridging this gap, then. Alright, back down, then to the south lift.
: Just as Lord Hikawa predicted... It seems a rat as wandered in!
: I assume you are here for that woman... but we three sisters are guarding the Obelisk... We are not like that useless Ose.
: It'll be my pleasure, then.
: Well, if you can get to us in the first place.
: We'd all save a lot of time if you didn't have me exterminate all your mooks first, but you gotta do what you gotta do, I suppose.
: Now... Come!
I was almost worried this place would end up being guarded by someone who wasn't a total asshole.
*: We take the lift, up to 24F.
We can go up or down from here, but my instinct tells me to clear the place out from the bottom up.
: As long as they're here, you won't be able to catch even a glimpse of the Maiden.
*: The stairs down turn into stairs up and take us to a dead-end balcony. Welp! So much for instinct.
: You must control the flow of time. ...What does that mean? You will soon find out...
*: Oh hell, now I remember. Welp, nothing to it but to go forward. We take another lift, to floor 30.
: But, if you take too much time, the floor will crumble beneath you.
: What the hell is this bullshit?
: ...A malevolent device, fitting of the Moirae Sisters.
*: Yup, I totally remember now.
> Will you touch it?
: Here goes nothing.
*: Apparently, altering the flow of time comes with a sweet drum beat.
Atmosphere: Time Sphere
So, here's the deal. Touching the sphere resets the Kagutsuchi phase to New. Stepping on a block advances the K phase by the number of square symbols on the block. And the gate opens only when the number of squares on its face matches the phase number. Here, there are four squares on the block, so we want to walk on the 3 block then the 1 block before we can cross. Of course this one is quite simple to make sure we get the mechanism, but it gets a bit trickier. Not Puzzle Boy tricky, fortunately.
The atmosphere returns to normal as we leave the immediate area, granting us access to a Cube with two Chakra Drops and a lift to 40F.
: You saw all that Magatsuhi being stored at the bottom, right?
: I didn't get a good look, no.
*: Oooh, small terminal. Again, it's a long way back if we want to leave, but having the option is nice. Naga and Principality are about out of juice, but we have plenty of back-up, so we drop a save and keep going. There are four Life Stones, a Sacred Water, and... some other forgettable treasure.
And another lift, up to 50F.
We offially can't see the bottom floor anymore.
Going east from here takes us to a strange glowy red floor, which is another type of lift. It lowers us one level below to a small room with a single Bead.
Principality has run out of MP, so we tag in Succubus. Naga is running low, but using his Trade skill allows us to cut some costly battles short, as a Berith or Arahabaki who gives us a Maragi Rock in exchange for a Life Stone and change doesn't get to take a turn and use Dragon Eye.
: Oh come now, don't think you can just buy my-
> ...You received Great Chakra!
: ...um, err, what was I saying?
*: A Great Chakra is a one-shot item that entirely restores the party's MP. Someone's trying to get on our good side!
...aw hell. Two Baphomet. One Evil Gaze, one Maragion.
That's all it takes.
Good thing there are those terminals!
Boy I'm not out of the woods yet. I had Nirvana ingested because I want its next skill, and I didn't pay attention to its weakness to Death. We'll be on Anathema for a while then, but its next skill won't come until several levels later, so I hope I can remember to switch back.
Aight, we're back again.
: Are you asking me if ugly people are important because how else would we know who is beautiful? Yikes. Well, I guess so, yeah.
> Succubus is content.
*: She gives us the schpiel about demon personalities during conversation.
The 8 gate leads to the lift, so I'll try the 4 gate first.
Three, four, two, one, two, to half waning. Alright. What's our prize?
Oh, dick move. There's no way you can come here at any other time than half-waning, so that's a cycle and a half of waiting. It's a good thing Naga has inherited Estoma, but that'll be the only time he can cast it on this run unless I spend MP items on him.
Ah, alright then. Good.
Back to the time puzzle, lessee. One, three, four, to full K. Easy.
This earns us the next lift, as well as a small terminal... and a way back to the lift down? Huh, I didn't notice this passage before, I guess it would have been a shortcut. Oh well!
Ah, I remember this. There are five lifts at the bottom, and they each follow one of the pillars upwards, and switch between pillars through a horizontal path every time they encounter one. It's easy enough to see where each will take you, and clearly the next lift is one of the central destinations, but I take the second one from the right to the eastern platform to see if there's any loot.
A chest here, and a lone spirit on the other side.
There's another spirit across the room from the puzzle entirely, but I'm not sure how to get there. While we wait for full K, Naga runs out of juice casting Zio on an Eligor, so we tag in Troll.
Oooh, nice. That one restores an ally's HP and MP to full.
It turns out the lift blocks already on this side are one-way trips to the other end of the room that I didn't know how to reach, so that's one mystery cleared up.
: Do you hear it? The screaming of a woman, coming from above?
: N... No, I can't...
: ...It's creepy!
: The world of stillness is near...
*: Divine Shot is a single-target physical move with high power, standard accuracy and medium critical rate. We haven't had a single-target physical skill since Lunge, so this one is a no-brainer. It's not easy to part with one of our current skills, though. Hmmmmmm... Heat Wave hasn't really been pulling its weight lately, since it scales off HP and I've been increasing Agility and Luck for the past few levels. We'll have better multi-target options coming up, so away it goes.
Taking the rightmost lift brings us to the other spirit we saw from the chest area.
: Is there anyplace where I can overlook the entire area?
: ...yeah, there is. Heck, you could see it from right here.
*: We head back down. Mizuchi uses the last of its MP on a Mabufula to take out a bunch of Berith, but as if on cue, it levels up, learns Fog Breath, and...
: Well then, I would say your time with the losers has clearly been of some benefit to you.
: I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW. THE RAIN IS GONE.
Lv44 Dragon Long
Just like the demon called Gui Xian here is probably supposed to be Genbu, the black turtle of the north, this is likely Seiryuu, the azure dragon of the east, and not Long of the Four Benevolent Animals of Chinese myth. Or maybe not! It's hard to tell, really; one's a water-based blue dragon and the other's a water-based blue dragon.
*: This makes him our highest-level ally so far. And evolution restores all HP and MP, so this is 171 big ones to play around with right away. Huzzah!
Aaaand that's when I remember that we have an open ally slot. Hmm. Welp, maybe I'll pick up a Berith or something. We'll see.
We're finally ready for the next floor. If we have to leave and heal up, at least I can take comfort in how most of the exploration will be done and it'll be much quicker to make our way back.
So, 77F. A lift to the east near the entrance takes us to a terminal...
...and a Cathedral? Huh. Well, fusion is one way to replenish MP, I suppose.
: I sure didn't expect to find you up here.
: We go where the client is. Always ready to serve!
: ...I've been to plenty of places where you were nowhere to be found.
: Maybe you didn't look hard enough.
: How many other people even make use of this place, anyway?
: ...That's... Err... I'm... This isn't customer-facing information, I'm afraid.
: Yeah, sure, whatevs.
*: Ooooh, wait, I was waiting until Zed was level 48, and there he is. I summon Senri from the compendium for an insignificant fraction of all the money, and...
...good Lord is Mazanma a pain in the ass to transfer.
Fairy Troll + Holy Senri =
: She's hot!!
: Well, this is intriguing new information.
: I don't know what came over me! I couldn't help it... somehow! Please forgive me!
: Well, you're not mistaken, there is nothing to forgive.
Lv48 Megami Sati
Sati is a Hindu goddess of marital happiness and longevity. Or, was? Story has it that she was born as a human, and was devoted in worship of Shiva, the god of destruction and transformation. Shiva consented to marry her, but her arrogant father disapproved of the match. So Sati told her dad to go piss up a rope and went ahead with... Yeah, no, I wish. Sati set herself on fire and died hoping to be reincarnated as the daughter of a kinder man. Oh well. Still, she was reincarnated as the goddess Parvati, who became Shiva's second wife. "Sati" became the name of a practice in India where widows throw themselves on the funeral pyres of their husbands (or are drugged and thrown on the pyres by greedy relatives); this was apparently fairly common (around 600 occurences per year, according to rare reports) until the British outlawed it in their territories in 1829, and the rest of the country gradually followed suit.
*: Normally I'd bench a new demon of the same level as our protagonist since they take so much exp to level up compared to our weaker allies, but, well, I'm making an exception here because let's just say I want this Maragidyne as soon as possible!
Aight, we save and get a move on.
Let's go the the 4 block first. Two, one, four, one, four, to half waning. This earns us 8000 Macca and a block lift to a small dead end.
Lv45 Vile Pazuzu
Pazuzu is an Assyrian/Babylonian demon king, master of the southwestern wind and bringer of locusts and drought. He's considered to be an evil and wicked being, but he can also scare off other malicious creatures and spirits. He was especially said to ward off the evil goddess Lamashtu's power, protecting pregnant mothers and newborns from her deadly influence.
Wet Wind deals force damage and may cause Stun.
*: The 8 block is next. Two, one, two, three, to full. For our trouble, we get... another block puzzle.
Left three, right three, left three, right three, to half waning. Aaaaand a dead end with a Mystical Chest again. That's it, I use a Chakra Drop on Naga and get my Estoma on.
Ah, good. Back to the puzzle. Three, one, three, one. We can access the next lift from here, but there's also a small lift block that would take us back to the Terminal and Cathedral in case we need to make a quick exit.
Floor 90. How much higher can this tower go?
: Yyyyeah, that's pretty damn clear.
: You never know... To him, even the Maiden may just be...
: A tool.
*: There are two Life Stones behind this guy, and I realize we have 99 of them. Yikes, I might as well use them for healing for a bit, maybe get back down to 70 or so. That ought to power some Divine Shots.
By which of course I mean "some god-damned shinkuu hadokens".
This floor is much smaller than the others. We must be getting close to the top.
Lv37 Yoma Onkot
A monkey prince from Thai folklore, cousin to the more famous Hanuman. Legend has it he's a great general, fighting alongside his cousin against the immortal Ravana and the Rakshasa armies.
*: A trapped cube stuns our entire party, but that's okay, because...
Is this what I think it is? There's no way...
*: Holy crap. Nocturne, I love you. We get topped off for a couple thousand. Amazing! All along I was thinking, this can't last, I'm gonna have to go back and heal up before the boss, it'll take forever. But nope! Glorious. I get Naga and Principality back in, they got some experience to earn.
I was wrong about the floor being smaller; we were actually in a small room entirely contained within a regular-sized floor.
: But, no one who has gone looking for it has ever come back alive...
: Sounds like a challenge!
: Go upstairs if you have business with the Maiden.
*: Yup, there are stairs up here, but I'm pretty sure that nearby lift goes all the way to the basement.
...or just to floor 85. Welp, we're here, and we're hoopy froods who know where our fountain is, we can check it out.
Two, three, two, one, to full K. This takes us to a Mystical Chest that we can barely reach just before the phase changes again, for a Chakra Pot. And then, one, two, one, two, one, two, three, to half waning. This earns us another lift...
...to the second basement. Ah-ha!
Yup, this is right below the entrance. Let's see that treasure!
One Medicine, a mute trap... Have I been sold another bill of goods?
Oh this is amazing! I forgot this even existed! This item essentially casts Analyze, for free, and never runs out. Damn, had I remembered this, I would have discarded Analyze instead of Heat Wave. But it's no biggie, we'd have replaced it sooner or later anyway.
It looks like there's another lift somewhere that goes even lower than this basement, but I can't seem to reach it from here. Alright then, back up we go. We recruit an Onkot on the way to the Fountain, and head back to those stairs we passed.
So much for wishing for no triple-digit floor numbers.
Zed levels up and, well, learns Void Mind from Murakumo, replacing Analyze. It'll do for now.
This entire floor here is one big lift. We must be close.
There's another lift up there. Wow.
Another small terminal. That's the fifth save point in the Obelisk so far.
: Clotho is the 'spinner'... Um, what was Lachesis? Atropos is the 'inevitable'... Hmmm... One spins the thread, the last one cuts it... What goes in the middle?
: Lachesis is the one who measures. Duh.
: AT. FRIKKING. LAST.
: I hope you enjoy being tortured to death...
: I should have brought along that Manikin fellow from Asakusa.
Oh this certainly bodes well. Three gates, three sisters, I presume?
Aight, once more unto the breach.
*: This is a pain in the butt if you don't know what's going on. There is indeed one sister behind each gate. You must defeat all three of them, in order, all in one Kagutsushi cycle. If you mess up somewhere, the floor disappears from underneath you and you gotta start over again. Clotho is on the right, Lachesis is in the middle, and Atropos is on the left.
You know, I remembered those puzzles to be a lot worse than they actually are. Must be memories from when I had to figure it out from scratch, but even then it can't have been that hard. Hmm... I have vague recollections of a giant dungeon floor filled with nothing but interlocking phase puzzles, but maybe I'm just remembering wrong.
Mid-boss battle: Femme Clotho
In Greek mythology, the Moirae Sisters are the three deities controlling the threads of fate, and specifically the time of birth and death of all gods ands mortals. Clotho is the spinner who presides over the beginning of life. Unsurprisingly, she's the healer of the trio, but if that's all you expect, you can be in for an unpleasant surprise as she also knows Dekunda, Marin Karin and Mahama.
One down... sorta.
Mid-boss battle: Femme Lachesis
Lachesis measures the threads spun by Clotho, and decides the length of time granted to all who live. Her specialty is buffs and debuffs, but she also likes to cast Tetrakarn and Makarakarn. Interestingly, if she's alone, she can use Tarukaja, since her only way to deal damage is through her basic attack; however, if she's encountered with a spellcasting ally, she will use Makakaja instead.
I'm beginning to see a pattern here.
Mid-boss battle: Femme Atropos
Known as "the inflexible", Atropos cuts the thread of life once the length decided upon by Lachesis is reached. You'd think she'd be all geared up with Mudo-type spells, but she actually has high-powered single- and multiple-target spells of all four main damage elements.
There's only one thing that can come next.
*: I use a couple Chakra Drops on Long, just to be safe.
This is definitely near the top; we could see those large openings in the walls from the outside.
We're getting a "strong power" warning from the lift right in front of us, so we go all the way around to another block hidden behind the central pillar. Principality earns itself a level, learning its last skill, Heat Wave, and turning Mana Bonus into Mana Gain.
Floor 135 appears to be a large mazelike chamber, with a Chest at each corner. Dang but we're gonna spend some time here. At least we can use Estoma with wild abandon.
Oh, wait, there are only two Chests, and also a lift down I didn't spot at first. And to think I was almost done with this place!
So, Balm of Rising and Bead Chain. Down we go.
Holy crap, more passageways down here. We can't seem to reach those, though.
We can only get to this door here in the back.
Yikes. Even Dante wouldn't survive that one. Time to head back up and finish this!
Zed ingests Geis, and we summon Kushinada, Sarutahiko, and Onkot.
: And snip your fate!!
Boss battle: The Moirae Sisters
*: Zed levels up and learns Diarama, replacing... Eh, nah, we're good for heals, never mind.
Individually, the Moirae Sisters weren't too dangerous; Clotho's offense is unimpressive, Lachesis can do no real harm unless you let her build up a buff gap, and Atropos' magic damage is fairly high but nigh trivial to heal through. They also have no resistances beyond the typical Death/Expel/ailments boss immunities (though they also have no weaknesses). All together though, they're actually a balanced party with good synergy, stronger than the sum of its parts.
Your main goals are to survive Atropos' damage output, and cause damage faster than Clotho can heal it, and both of those goals are extraordinarily difficult to accomplish if you let Lachesis run roughshod with buffs and debuffs. Sarutahiko still has Dekaja, but we don't have a Dekunda effect at this time; any debuffs would have stuck, so I had to take out Lachesis first, even though conventional wisdom would have it that you prioritize the healer. Once she's gone, the trio synergy falls apart and the remaining two are no longer much more threatening than they were on their own.
A good precaution to take for this battle is to only summon allies who have no elemental weaknesses, because if Atropos earns her sisters an extra turn, that always means Clotho gets a second cast, and that can extend the fight a fair deal. Resistances to Charm and Expel are also handy, but if your damage output is consistent, Clotho will usually choose to heal her sisters instead of spending much time trying to directly harm you.
Djed is a caster Magatama, which is appropriate, seeing as it protects from Mute (and Curse effects in general, though not from the Magatama's special Curse ailment). It teaches all -kaja spells, including Dekaja when mastered.
I check the floor around the pillar in case there's something else hidden back there, but this pillar of light is the only remaining feature of this room.
> Will you ascend?
Yuko. I'm here.