Part 23: The Amala Network 2: Magatsuhic BoogalooSo. Yuko's in trouble.
There's something inside of me telling me it's not my problem anymore. I'm almost tempted to believe it.
Either way it's not like I have a trail of breadcrumbs to follow.
*: We go down the tunnel in the back, which gives me an opportunity to shatter all previously existing definitions of "being bad at this game".
Matador. Daisoujou. Hell Biker. The White Rider, the Red Rider, the Black Rider. Dante.
The Pale Rider is still out there. And there are two more after him.
Better go back up and go bug Kamala some more. But first I have to find my way back out of the Third Kalpa.
: For a broad enough definition of "safe".
*: On the first fight we run into, against Amaterasu and two Yatagarasu, Zed's Magatama curse acts up, and he punches Succubus in the face instead of using Chaos Blade. Whuh-oh. We end up having to run away, as Zed can't keep himself from hitting his allies long enough to overcome Amaterasu's Prayer healing.
Fortunately, this happens a few steps from Dr. Dark. I don't know if he can cure Curse, but if we want to make it out of here alive, it sure would come in handy if he did.
Aaaaand he does. Whew! I wish I didn't have to spend that 5k, but it's not like we're short on cash. Still, since we got all our MP back, maybe I'll try to find that Chest I left behind again before we go and generally look around some more.
Lv46 Fairy Oberon
Oberon's fairly famous for his role as the king of fairies in S-Peezy's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Being the upstanding fellow that he is, he slips a love potion to his wife Titania on account of a domestic dispute, causing her to fall in love with a donkey-headed weaver and causing all sorts of wacky mishaps and Jesus I am not summarizing this play to you any longer because seriously. That said, The Bard didn't come up with the name himself; it's apparented to Alberich, a figure from Medieval Frankish lore who also plays a major role in Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen.
*: Near the ladder that took us to Dante's mazes, there's this golden door that we can't open yet. I suppose it requires a Sun Key.
The luck door that didn't let us pass the first time around sends us to the same spot it did before, so we can get that Chest without problems. It contains a Great Chakra!
Returning to the hub room, we take the western branch this time.
: Well, I'll try.
: Dude, forget it. Only someone strong like me can go in there. A puny wimp like you won't be able to get in. There are more doors like it inside... Even I can't get through some of them! If you wanna get in, you better build some muscle. Right now, you're just a little girlie-man.
: Ha. No comment. Just watch.
: Your strength is worthy of praise! You may pass.
*: I'm leery of normal doors in here because any of them may be one-way, but I find another toothy one quickly. It... doesn't let us pass, and teleports us back to the first room with the rude monkey dude. Maybe we can come back with Gaea equipped? I'm not sure if it takes into account Magatama bonuses.
Before we can get back to this particular door though, Geis teaches us Life Refill, which regenerates a percentage of your HP every so often as you walk around. I replace Counter with it. Back when we didn't have a good single-target physical attack, using up the Focus buff on a counterstrike was basically a free turn, but now, that means it's not spent on Divine Shot. Besides, there are better alternatives to Counter somewhere down the line if I change my mind.
Aaaand, nope, the +10 St from Gaea either doesn't count or isn't enough. Let's hit some regular doors instead.
Lv25 Mitama Ara Mitama
According to some Shinto traditions, the spirit of all living beings, divine or mortal, is composed of one central governing element as well as four autonomous souls that embody various emotions, drives or inclinations. One among those four souls, the Ara Mitama represents the creature's aggressive side, driving it to valor and passion, but also to rage and jealousy.
Like Elements, Mitama are special fusion-centric demons. When fused with another demon, they increase two of its stats by 20% and pass along some of the skills they possess if there are free slots available, but otherwise leave the creature unchanged. You can fuse multiple Mitama to a single demon to increase its stats further, but Mitama fusion can't raise any stat higher than twice its base value. The Ara Mitama increases Strength and Agility.
*: In the surrounding western rooms we find a Deathstone, a Magic Mirror, and a Bead. Another strength door lets us pass, only to an area we had been to before, but I notice a door I missed the first time and find a Chest behind, containing a Bead Chain. Barring the one stubborn door, that's all the west side has to offer. I'll check out the eastern side now, but I have a bad feeling about what we're likely to find there.
: You need a certain amount of strength, luck or magic to enter each door. The door up ahead is one of them. If you're going in, you better be prepared.
: Maybe I got so much luck that the magic door will let me pass!
: I cannot let one with such weak magic pass through!
*: Aight, time to check out the northern branch some more then. One of the luck doors there finds us wanting, and takes us to a dead-end in the eastern branch this time.
Lv44 Yoma Jinn
Jinn are supernatural creatures originally from pre-Islam Arabic mythology, beings of smoke, shadow and flame who dwelt in remote places. They were not inherently good or evil, but it would seem that your typical ritual or offering related to jinn is to ensure that they stay well away from human beings. They were later incorporated in Islamic theology; some are of a wicked nature and are roughly equivalent to Christianity's demons, others are harmless or quite benign but still not outright angels. They're typically regarded as having a sort of parallel society to mankind and are also meant to follow the Qur'an.
Lv52 Tyrant Loki
Loki is the shapeshifting trickster god of Norse mythology. He's a bit of a class clown, cleverer than the average god but not always quite as clever as he thinks. Sometimes he's a huge help, sometimes he's a harmless nuisance, sometimes he gets kind Baldr murdered, his son eats wise Odin, he leads the Jötunn giant armies in the war that destroys the world, and his daughter marches legions of dishonored dead against heaven and earth.
Lv52 Yoma Efreet
The Jinn are separated into five types, of which the Efreet are one. Efreet are gigantic fire creatures, dwelling in caves and ruins. If you encounter an Efreet you've never met before, it's very safe to assume that they're going to be dangerous, cruel and brutal, but there are exceptions, and like all Jinn they are free to choose a path of virtue or a path of wickedness.
*: A few Chests surrender a Balm of Rising, and Attack Mirror and a Chakra Pot, before I realize that futzing around with one-way doors is something I have had just about my fill of for today.
: Aight, I've had it, let's see Kamala and get out of here.
*: Aaaaand she says there aren't any Fiends around right now. Ain't that the best news!
We reach the Terminal without further incident, and warp to, let's say, Shibuya. We heard mention of the club not too long ago, and we haven't been since we met Chiaki there. Of course we heal and register our crew while we're here, but something unusual happens!
Music: The Tokyo Millenium Heretic Mansion
If you go to a Cathedral of Shadows on a New Kagutsuchi with Orthrus in your active party, the music that plays is the Jakyou Mansion theme from Shin Megami Tensei II. It's not useful in any way but it sure is neat!
More memories. It feels like it's been so very long since I've been here... but I have no way to know.
: Could it be...? Might someone have bumped off Forneus?
: Oh he's fine. Look, the very picture of health.
: Good day!
: Why I never!
: I guess it doesn't count.
: It was stupid to even ask you. Now, where's that Forneus...?
: Alright, you know what? I broke his spine. That's technically true.
: ...What!? ............ ............ Suuuuuure! A wimpy little nerd like you beating him up... Now where's that Forneus...?
: Welp, we tried.
: Darkness has an effect on things.
: That's what the guy at Rag's said.
: They kept saying, "We'll summon a magnificent demon." Sounds... fishy.
: Full K, huh? Hmm. I'll look into it.
*: We certainly know of one place where strange ceremonies may be conducted.
Cutscene + Boss battle: A magnificent demon
In Buddhist tradition, Mara is a demonic creature presiding over desire and temptation; where the Buddha would lead mankind to an enlightened existence free of want and suffering, Mara symbolizes every wordly attachment that would bind a soul to the wheel of reincarnation. He once attempted to tempt the Buddha himself by parading his daughters in front of him, but this is the Buddha we're talking about here, so it didn't amount to much. In the series he's most often represented as some kind of giant penis monster, but of course in Nocturne the summoning ritual that brought him to the Vortex World was flawed, and he only appears as a colossal, vaguely phallic blob of slime.
: Let us never speak of this again.
: Speak of what?
: ...oh well.
*: Man I could not be more chuffed about how this went. Mara's a trick boss, and the trick is that he always uses Diarahan at the start of his turn, restoring his 2300 HP to maximum. There are basically two ways to kill him: one way is to be able to deliver 2300 damage in a single turn. The other is to drain his 3000 MP so he can't heal himself anymore.
As you might guess, one way is significantly quicker than the other.
Of course, Mara isn't just a meat shield and won't sit still while you're trying to set up a damage spike or
What clinched it so quickly for us here was bouncing all four hits of a Taunt-powered Hades Blast off Onkot's Tetrakarn, causing over a thousand damage to Mara after his customary Diarahan had taken effect, therefore putting his remaining HP well within Divine Shot's kill range.
It's quite important to choose a party that can survive Mara's offense (dude is level 85, with 30 Strength and 40 Magic); Zed had ingested Murakumo for the physical resistance, Onkot and Raja Naga naturally resist physical damage, and Titan has a boatload of HP. It's pleasant coincidence that these gave me all the tools I needed to play "why are you hitting yourself" with the dicklord.
Muspell is another Magic-inclined Magatama, though no-strings-attached resistance to ailments is a pretty good deal for anyone. The first skill it would teach us is Tentarafoo.
Now I said I was done with the Labyrinth for today, but looking at my fusion options, I find myself with a good use for Orthrus, but only if I get one more level on him. And the Labyrinth is earning us a ton of experience for our time spent, so I'm gonna explore the northern branch just a bit further.
As if to reward this wise decision, Onkot levels up, learns Stone Hunt (conversation skill for obtaining gems), and gives us a Vitality Incense.
> ...You received Ruby!
: I already had one, but thanks anyway.
*: We run into plenty of Kaiwan for some reason; they're still worth a chunk of experience and they keep calling for reinforcements, so it goes faster than I expected. And I gotta say, hearing their pitiful "HELP ME!" dying cries never gets old.
A Chest gives us a Magic Incense. This is sure turning into a pleasant trip all of a sudden.
Loa are powerful spirits of the Voodoo religion, acting as intermediaries between humans and their version of God. Some of them have been given the names of Catholic saints by slaves in Haiti and Louisiana, who wanted to be able to hide their true worship from their Christian owners. They are a diverse group; there is no one Loa. Some of them are kind and benevolent, others may be more dangerous but are also said to be more fun to be around, presiding over sex and such. The famous Baron Samedi is a leader of the Ghede Loa, the spirits of the dead; he is the one who makes corpses rot in their graves so they do not rise and become zombies.
Judging from popular culture these last several years, he may have been slacking on the job.
*: Orthrus levels up and learns Fire Boost. Now we're talking! There's still more of the Third Kalpa to explore, but I've had double enough by now. We warp to the terminal in Asakusa, go to the Cathedral, run around until New K, summon Sarutahiko for 17400 Macca, and...
Orthrus + Sarutahiko =
: Haha! I am the Fiend White Rider! Behold my overflowing power!
: It's free to overflow all you want, as long as you remember who turned you into an unwholesome additive to hand-tenderized horse meat.
: ...please don't hurt me.
*: Yeah, when I saw Orthrus about to learn Fire Boost, I remembered Prominence and decided there was no way I could do without. The level of the ingredients doesn't really matter when fusing Fiends, so we could have used Titan for the fusion, or we could have used other Jirae like Hua Po or even Kodama, but I figured it would be nice to pass down some useful skill Sarutahiko had. I wouldn't have said no to Watchful, but Focus and Counter are going to make good use of his 23 Strength and give him a purpose even if a given opponent is resistant to fire and expel.
At any rate, that's enough stalling. It's time to go... online.
: Aight, Hijiri my man, I need your IT skills.
: Yup. I can't say I'm ready enough, but I'll never be, so I might as well take the plunge now.
: Here we go. By the way, tell Isamu not to spend too much time in there.
: I'm not his dad.
Oh boy. And to think I dared to believe I'd never be back here again.
...cripes I hope that Specter dirtbag forgot about me.
Atmosphere: The Amala Network
More of this. Woo.
This isn't too terrifying by now, at least.
*: It's like three crossroads before we reach a door marked Anomaly.
: Nope. This would have been way too simple otherwise.
: He may be up... ahead. When you... find... him... get yourself... out... The terminal's... acting... up... It's not... like it... should be...
: Tell me it's not the Nihilo tracking us down.
> You cannot hear Hijiri's voice anymore.
: Well. Crap.
*: A bit further we find stairs up to B1, not that this means much around here.
: Geez, we've been having a lot of visitors lately! A human kid came in and began living here not too long ago. Well, I don't care who comes, as long as they don't bother me.
*: These guys are weak to Expel, so having Sarasvati's inherited Hamaon is a huge help. I could probably use God's Bow too but we can manage without for now, and White Rider doesn't regenerate MP.
Lv15 Element Aquans
It's... a water elemental. Mmm-hmm.
Lv20 Element Flaemis
So, what's going down in your neck of the woods nowadays? It's hella snowy up here right now.
: How's it hanging?
: You seem friendly, but I'm not in the mood for chatting. "Believe no one." "The truth is within you!" You've heard it all before, right?
: That does sound familiar.
: So, keep it to yourself, would you?
: ...Um, I'm babbling, aren't I?
: Only a little.
: No one likes to be disturbed... And if you try to force your way through, you'll run into even more trouble!
*: Well, there are two side passages here, maybe we can check out that central path later.
Oh, one's a Hall of Records. The other...
: How many times you plan on comin' here? I don't want to talk to no one! I'll heal you, so just go home... Pest.
: Maybe if you stopped performing a valuable service for free, there would be fewer-
: Now is not the time for teaching, dear.
: No matter how many times you visit me, I'll heal you. Anything to make you go away!
*: And this leaves us with only one way to go.
Another maze area, with six visible hallways, and a door. Hmm. As we reach the first branch...
The door behind us just turned into a wall.
: What the hell? You want me to leave, and then you cut off my way back? What kinda idiot are you?
*: A bit further...
*: And it blocks a path that led to a Cube. An obscured corridor teleports us to the entrance of this maze.
: Oh I've never heard that one before.
: I don't need anyone else!
*: It looks like wherever we go, this creature blocks off the path directly in front of us. I can work with this.
: You need to create your own future...
*: Going directly north to the door ends up with three walls blocking the sides. Hmm. This does let us reach the Cube I saw earlier by retracing my steps, but it only contains a Life Stone.
: I do what I like. No one tells me what to do...
*: East, north, west, west, north, east, north. Whew.
We get the maze music again. Yay, Amala Network. It turns out to be more trial and error: east, north, west, north, north, east, north.
More maze zones? Those are the more typical black hallways though.
A tough fight where Phantoms successively used Mazionga, Kamikaze and Last Resort nearly causes a wipe, but Zed manages to survive. Boy am I glad I've been increasing his Vitality lately.
: I don't think Descartes would approve of you quoting him to justify fucking around with a perfect stranger!
Mitama Nigi Mitama, Kusi Mitama, and Saki Mitama
Those are the remaining three Mitama aspects. The Nigi Mitama is the rational, moderate inclination; it's opposed to the Ara Mitama, but without the latter there is no impulse or motive, and without the former, nothing of value may be accomplished. The Kusi Mitama is a spirit of logic, wisdom and observation; it is also the source of inner supernatural power for beings which possess it. And finally, the Saki Mitami is a spirit of kindness, representing blessings, growth and prosperity, aligning one's actions towards the greater good.
Nigi Mitama increase Magic and Luck, Kusi Mitama increase Vitality and Agility, and Saki Mitama increase Vitality and Luck.
*: Alright, this part wasn't so bad; the western path leads to a couple Cubes (one trapped, one with a Mirror that I didn't think to note) and the eastern path leads to the next area. Right in front of us is a Hall of Records and two other hallways, but no Healing Room.
: Eh? You got a lot prettier than last time.
: ...That's what a demon I just met over there said.
: Whew, gave me a start there for a moment.
: But, he was much madder... and fiercer...
: Aw hell. You don't learn, do you?
Boss battle: Haunt Specter
*: Good Lord that didn't have to take so long. I really should have been using Divine Shot every time I used Chaos Blade. Oh well.
This incarnation of the Specter knows exactly three skills, apart from Gathering which it only uses at the start of the fight: Mana Drain, Megido, and Dekunda. Each Specter starts out with 29 MP, and Megido costs 30, so their strategy revolves around stealing your MP and using it to blast you. They have less than 1000 HP each, so I really wasted a lot of time back there. They nullify nearly all magic, so depending on your build and party make-up it might prove difficult to deal a lot of damage to them, in which case showing up to the fight with depleted MP gauges is a viable tactic. At that point you only have to deal with the Specter's physical attacks, and though it may drain your healing item reserves it's a fair sight better than being battered with several instances of Megido every round.
: What is it now?
: ................................. ........................Hmm?..... ..........................
: ................Hmm... ......................... ............................
: ...............You...... ...You......
: ......I see...... ................................... ......................................
Well that's increasingly irritating.
: I'm Francois.
: ......I see................ ...You're... Isamu's... ................................
*: Good Lord someone's trying to break the world record for ellipses.
: .........................You...... .........Solitude...................
: Ehhhh... It's alright, sometimes. In moderation.
: .....................You...... ......Understand.... maybe... ......................Cool...... ..............................
: So how about letting me pass, then? So we can be out of each other's hair?
: ......Can......... you.........
*: Let's serve Mister Social Skills here a dose of his own medicine.
: ..................................... ...Talk to... Master Isamu... ...We all... live on our own... ...You are............ me......
> The shadow disappeared.
*: I haven't seen a lot of love for Isamu so far, but today's decision is not about how many sweet make-outs we want to do with him. In fact, if he gets his way, it pretty much guarantees we will never have to deal with him again.
If everyone could create and live in a world of their choosing, it sure would solve a lot of problems. Just imagine, having your own little universe in a bubble! No one to get in your way, no one to tell you what to do, or how to do it. Nothing that exists without your approval, without you having deliberately put it there. Everything for a reason, or for no reason whatsoever if it pleases you. You're in charge, regardless of how weak or strong you are, regardless of whether you want noise and clutter or silence and harmony. Everyone gets everything they could ever want.
Or, well. Almost everything. You can enjoy anything in any way you choose, as long as you enjoy it alone. You can find any manner of happiness, as long as you're fine with not having anyone to share it with.
How much does that matter? If at all?
Are we even qualified to decide?
Kagutsuchi is watching.