Part 36: Stillness has comeDeep breath.
The smell of this place...
My feet are wet. My clothes are soaked through with feelings juice.
What the fuck.
: I don't belong here.
: I beg to dif-
: That's not up for debate. Maybe I don't count as a human anymore, but I'm definitely not a demon either.
: Where do you belong then, Demi-fiend?
: A kilometer above Tokyo, elbow-deep in some dumbshit god's innards, avenging everyone I knew, and deciding who doesn't get to create a world over my people's dead bodies. Is Lucifer going to try stop me?
: I'm not at li-
: Never mind. It doesn't matter. We're leaving.
: You are so close to so much power, and yet you turn away? How-
: Do you not realize the doom you are perpetuating?
: I realize a jackass is this close to using me. I'm holding on to my freedom, and to hell with Lucifer if he thinks he can take it away from me.
: ...He would not.
: He could not. He gave me one Magatama. I've earned twenty-two. It would be amusing to see him try. Any other objections?
: I was looking forward to a face-off with the old man, but maybe forcing him to watch you walk away and do your own thing is a better punishment than putting a bullet in his head.
: Ha, I can get behind that.
: Do you think he's going to cry about it? It's like, you know, right? Get it? I guess you could say, the devil may-
*: No. Shut up. Get out.
: Alright then, it's decided. Let's get a move on, everybody. We got an idiot train to catch up to.
: You coming?
: You are the summoner. It is not my place to disobey.
*: We climb back out without encountering unexpected obstructions. As far as the game is concerned, we haven't explicitly refused Lucifer's offer; in fact we are not locked out of the Path of Destruction until we are locked in the Path of Creation. But it's not like we're going to change our mind!
We reach the Terminal, and head for Ginza to get ready for the trials ahead.
: It's so quiet... Now, this is what I call stillness.
: It's like Kagutsuchi's saying to come on up. Shijima, Yosuga, Musubi... Which Reason will guide Tokyo? Hikawa, Chiaki, Isamu... Who'll become Tokyo's conqueror?
: If I were you, I wouldn't place my bets just yet.
: ...The moment of fate is near.
*: We heal, register our party, and save. If we were to summon the updated Pixie from the Compendium, it would cost us 112500 Macca! Black Frost is the second most expensive summon, coming in at a comparatively cheap 59400. Our fusion options still need to ripen, in any case, so we spend no more time here, and proceed to warp again to the back exit of the Nihilo HQ.
Zed levels up on the way to the Obelisk, and has a chance to learn Gaea Rage, a group-targeting physical skill. In terms of raw one-hit damage, it's the strongest of its kind, but it actually has a lower critical rate than Deadly Fury, doesn't hit that much harder, and costs a bit more HP, so I pass on it. However, it does look pretty cool, so I branch off a save state and take a few screenshots.
Yeah, Deadly Fury almost always crits at least once when used against three foes or more, while Gaea Rage... doesn't.
There's something I didn't note before, concerning the Tower. The Magatsuhi around it is being siphoned upwards, channeling all that spiritual energy straight into Kagutsuchi. It's clearly charging up and getting ready to spawn the new world. All it needs now is someone worthy to guide it.
Let's try our luck, shall we?
We enter the Obelisk from the south, using the aperture we did see on our first trip here. This means the upper levels are not too far away.
: ...the only place in Tokyo that is connected to Kagutsuchi. Everyone went upstairs...
*: Nothing much has changed in here so far, though we do run into some Diet encounters.
Cutscene: I cannot see within
Three treasures, eh? I bet I know who has them. If the Reasons are expected to duke it out among themselves, it only makes sense the victor would need to present trophies.
Atmosphere: Tower of Kagutsuchi
*: This is it, we've crossed the point of no return. We're definitely locked into the one ending now, there is no turning back.
That said, we can still ride this platform back down to return to the Obelisk, but it is not time to regroup and recover just yet.
This is some big place for sure. There are four large doors around the room, smaller ones on a higher level, and strange light columns on every side.
The central pillar does not appear to go all the way through, like the Obelisk's did; it ends a short distance inside and continuously shoots pure energy straight up.
Lv52 Foul Shadow
Basically a type of powerful ghost, taking the form of an animated shadow. Interestingly, they are among the few demons, if not the only demons, who naturally learn all four -kaja spells. This is of dubious utility in battle since they can still only cast one at a time, but it does make them quite versatile and decent for fusion.
*: Seven Shadows! We've never seen that many opponents at once before. Zed still has Gaea equipped, and Endure saves him in extremis from a Mudoon cast. Sophia will be safer!
The columns don't seem to go anywhere, but they must be of some importance.
Oooh, the random Surt encounters are weak to Ice, unlike their mid-boss counterpart. Convenient!
We enter the large door to the south first. The symbols engraved on it are very reminiscent of the writing on the Terminal drums. Hmm!
: We've always been looking up. We've always wondered about Kagutsuchi.
: I won't.
: Thank you.
*: There's a door and a staircase in the side here, as well as a lift block in the southern end. Let's try the door first.
: The final battle for creation is about to begin. ...With Futomimi gone, it doesn't matter to us which Reason wins.
: I am a demon now, aren't I?
: I do not know if a Reason would have been denied to me before, but...
: It would definitely be denied to you now. I'm sorry.
: It's not your fault. This is better than being stuck in the Labyrinth, and that horrid girl is the only one to blame.
*: There's nothing else in that room. The staircase, then.
: I don't do cheers, kid. I'm here to kick ass and take names.
: ............ ...That's an option.
*: Another door takes us to the central room again.
: ...Some of that consists of our people from Mifunashiro.
*: This lift block is above one of the columns of light we saw from underneath, and it takes us to the base floor again. Alright then, time to take the first lift block, all the way south.
It takes us to a small room on floor 167, with only one door accessible.
This is clearly a lift up, but the other three sides are also accessible from here. Let's go back and explore them before we proceed. West is up next!
Hmm. It must only be accessible from underneath, then. I bet it's the same for all sides. Let's return to the base level and investigate.
No one's there. There's a door in the side here as well.
: Noah is incredible! We don't need to join together like those other Reasons. ...We'll soon be able to create a world where we won't have to associate with anyone...
: I hear it's a very long path, though... ...Well, you wouldn't be able to do it, so don't talk to me.
: ...Nothing would really change. I'm doing what I want now, anyway. But, it would be nice if those annoying groups like Shijima and Yosuga disappeared.
: .........! ......! ...!! .........!? ...What!? I'm listening to my music, can't ya tell!? There's no reason I need to go up just because the others did, right!?
*: Riding the lift block up, we find a room with a Float Ball and a Vitality Incense. There's also the other side of that closed door to the central lift, but we can't open it from here either. I see what's going on; each side of the area here is affiliated with one of the Reasons, except the southern one which is full of Manikins. We won't be able to open the other doors, but there must be more loot. Let's go north next.
Yup, that's the Shijima side.
: Infiltrator of our stillness, begone!
: We had a lot of fun, thanks to a certain 'somebody', but all is well.
: I'm glad you find me entertaining.
: We have our god, Ahriman, to lead us to stillness.
: ...Oh, please excuse my behavior. I became quite emotional, contrary to the belief of Shijima.
: Well, you know, nobody's perfect. And if you think anybody's going to be perfect if you get your way, then I've got a Tower to sell you.
: Guess the path to Kagutsuchi isn't going to be an easy one, after all.
*: The top floor of this branch has a Bead and an Agility Incense in a Chest. While waiting for Full K, Odin levels up; he learns Deathbound, replacing Counter, Makajamon replacing Mabufula, Wooing being discarded, Mabudyne replacing Makajamon (welp), and Maragidyne replacing Tetraja. That's all his remaining skills in one shot, thanks to Long's sacrifice.
We go back down and take the eastern path this time.
Lv64 Divine Throne
Thrones form the third order of God's angelic forces. They are the conduit of God's will; what He decides, they make known to angels and to the rest of the universe. In some traditions they are also called the Ophanim, and are literally the living wheels under the throne of God, or are even the throne itself.
: She's not only noble, she's sharp!
: Those pests...
: They are still driven by hope, though all hope has been taken from them...
: They're born from humans alright.
: ...I have no business with inferior beings, such as you.
: This is discrimination against ex-Mantra demons!
: Cry me a river, idiot. This is only a taste of the world you've been hoping for.
*: The top floor has a Cube with some inconsequential loot I forgot to note, and Strength Incense in a Chest. Zed's got his 30 Strength, and Gaea increases that to the 40 cap, so I'm quite comfortable giving Dante all the Strength Incense at this point.
We go back down, then up the southern path again, to the central lift.
Music: Tower of Kagutsuchi
*: This is where the proper Tower of Kagutsuchi track finally kicks in over the atmosphere.
The cubes behind us are periodically pushed upwards by a burst of Magatsuhi, then slowly slide back down in erratic motions. This place is already pretty weird.
We soon find a Large Terminal. It's labeled "Tower of Kagutsuchi 1". The Tower is so big, it has multiple Large Terminals. Yyyyyyup.
Albion levels up, learning Drain Attack; it replaces Sukunda.
Climbing a staircase behind the door next to the Terminal takes us to a higher level; we can see a Chest from here, but reaching it is another question entirely. The path leads us to two doors. Taking the right one...
This block takes us to the Cube, earning us a Megidola Rock. We go back and take the left one, whose cube takes us across the room instead.
We follow a roundabout path, but it doesn't take us to the Chest, it takes us to a staircase down. Hmm.
...aw heck I got turned around between encounters somewhere and just retraced my steps back to the Terminal. Derp! I'm gonna be late for full K too, dang. Oh well, nothing to it but to turn back again.
Oh. There must be a lift block somewhere. Welp, let's keep going. Zed levels up and passes on learning Iron Claw from Kamurogi.
I don't think this is the one, but let's try it anyway.
Yeah, this is a whole different set of floors. I'm not too broken up about leaving paths behind though, since I'll probably want to warp back down and investigate the whole place thoroughly later, for reasons that I'll explain in time.
Instead of going straight ahead, we find a staircase in the east side.
It takes us to the top of that block formation we saw from below.
This block takes us to the western side of the area and allows passage underneath.
Hmm. We need to move these two cubes to reach that loot, so we retrace our steps.
It takes some looping over and under, but we do get the blocks out of the way.
...uh. Can't complain, I suppose. We undo some of the block shifting and clear our path again. It's a little trickier than it first appears, but all the moving pieces are straightforward enough and it's doesn't actually get frustrating. Along the way, Futomimi levels up and leans Might, replacing Mute Gaze.
There are two short staircases on the other side of the block puzzle, on the way to the next lift. On the left...
: It's so strong, the higher levels aren't being formed properly.
*: And a lift block takes us down, to...
Ah-ha! I knew it. There's a Great Chakra in there. We go back up, and take the other stairs.
: ...Is he waiting for the Demi-fiend?
: That's strange, he didn't strike me as the suicidal type.
*: Another lift block takes us down to a spot below where we've been already, so we return to the higher floor and take the lift up.
Dang, they weren't kidding about the Tower not being formed properly.
A couple blocks could take us up this structure. Let's try east first.
That's a Chakra Pot. Down again, then west. Albion and Parvati level up in the same fight. Albion learns Phys Drain, and I let it replace Drain Attack. He already nullifies physical damage, but it'll be a great skill to pass down anyway. Parvati learns Thunderclap, replacing Makatora.
Two more choices here.
Hard to say which will be most fruitful. We try west first.
Oooh, a small Terminal. The encounters around here are manageable, mostly Surt and Gurr with the occasional Cerberus, Queen Mab, Decarabia or Throne, but it's still good to have this safety net. Another choice between two lifts further up yields a Chest with a Bead of Life in the east, and in the west...
: Big, and red? I guess Hikawa really is waiting for me.
: ...Is it still there?
: Not for long.
Okay, this looks important.
Cutscenes + Boss battle: Tyrant Ahriman
: You... you fucked up piece of shit. Asshole!
: Not my most satisfying victory, I gotta say.
: He was... gracious in defeat, at least.
: He better be, he got everything he wanted!
: For what it's worth, he had the foresight to create a scenario where it was in every way impossible for him to fail.
: Well I hope you'll forgive me if I don't spend a lot of time admiring his intelligence.
: No, of course not, the man was truly vile.
: He never intended to construct a world for everyone's benefit, only for his own. Even as he lay dying, he mourned not that his ideal died with him. What a selfish creature.
: Compared to him, I guess I'm not so bad, huh?
: No, you're just another sort of knave. This is no bodycount competition.
: Shit, I hope so, because if it was, I'm far behind you, boss. Haha!
: You shut up! He's fighting for a good cause! I know he is!
: Yeah, sure, and if you ask anyone else in this tower why they're fighting, they'll tell you the same.
: Except for you.
: I'm a lotta things, but deluded isn't one of them!
: Sakahagi. Shut the hell up.
: Afraid of a little truth?
: No, I'm just tired of your bullshit. If I don't fight, that means Chiaki or Isamu wins, and if you think that's an option, we'll soon find out how far up your ass that hook of yours can go.
: Don't pretend you don't enjoy it!
: ...alright. I won't. But I'll be a lot more pleased when the fighting is over with.
Also known as Angra Mainyu, Ahriman is Zoroastrianism's quintessential god of all evil. He's the diametrical opposite of the benevolent demiurge Ahura Mazda, and is in a way a personification of the human impulse towards greed, cruelty, treachery, deceitfulness, and other such base drives. He actively antagonizes the prophet Zoroaster and the righteous deities, and rules over the shadowy land where demons and the wicked dead dwell.
*: Ahriman has two distinct phases with entirely different attack patterns, but he has the same immunites for both: he's immune to ailments, and reflects Death and Expel.
He's basically toying with us at first. He forbids a different type of action every round, and whoever performs a forbidden action gets immediately countered with Hell's Call, an Almighty-type instant death effect with 100% success rate. (The only reason I let Albion die in this phase is because I wanted to show off Hell's Call.) On his own turn, he'll use any of the eight -dyne spells, or a basic attack. You might be in a hint of trouble if you neglect to keep your health up and he forbids healing and items at the wrong time, but otherwise this part of the battle isn't particularly difficult.
Once you deal 6000 damage, however, he stops messing around. He loses the -dyne spells, but starts using Megidolaon along with his two signature moves, Tentacle and Apocalypse. Tentacle is an extremely powerful group-hitting physical skill, and Apocalypse is pretty much the same, but Almighty instead. He also knows Dekaja and Dekunda, but he uses them rather infrequently. And that's good because if you don't increase your defense and /or decrease his offense, chances are he'll crush you pretty quick. It's worth noting that his Agility is only average, so accuracy debuffs are very effective as well. Apart from that, the battle is fairly straightforward, and if you can manage Ahriman's considerable damage output while whittling down his 18000 HP, there are no other tricks or wrinkles. I'm pretty sure the biggest reason I kept swapping allies towards the end is that I couldn't decide on who'd get the experience reward.
I gotta say though, Ahriman looks cool as hell. I love his general design, and all his animations are amazing, especially the transformation between phases. The calm, meditative posture is clearly a front; he's really this wild, cruel demonic beast, and you can tell he's using the whole "stillness" idea merely as a way to sneak into a position of power in the next world.
Also, damn, that music! Holy crap that music. I can't even... Wow. I like the Fierce Battle theme as much as the next guy, and its lyrics become gloriously appropriate for this final ascent, but it's clearly used as a fake-out, and when the Reason Boss bassline kicks in you know The Business is going down.
Drink of the wine of the wrath of the Demi-fiend. One god has been rejected.
Two more to go.
*: On one hand, yes, Nocturne is recycling visual elements for its final dungeon. On the other hand, it's recycling them into this, so what kind of dumbass would dare complain about it?
Four doors again. I bet the Shijima side is feeling somewhat less optimistic by now.
: ...DAMN, she's hot!
*: Oh hey, instead of a Shijima area in the north, there's a Fountain. Because Nocturne is amazing.
It looks like the sides might be connected on this floor, though there are lots of damage floors in between. We got plenty of Float Balls, in any case. There's an Attack Mirror in the Cube visible here.
We get into fights with lone Abaddon or Nyx in here, which is nothing compared to the multiples of those accompanied by Aciel we used to run into on the fifth Kalpa.
Lv66 Snake Yurlungur
Yurlungur is a serpent deity from Australian Aboriginal folklore, presiding over rain and the life that water brings forth. It is said to once have been awakened from a deep sleep by the smell of a woman's menstrual blood, which it later ate, then regurgitated.
: This is the second time I hear that one, and it's not grossing me out any less than the first!
*: Dante levels up and learns Stinger, a powerful single-target Almighty attack (!) with an instant death chance attached. Say what you will about Dante, this is easily one of the best skills in the game. I let it replace E & I.
> ...You received Wagtail Plume!
: Are you trying to tell me something?
: Look, everyone who isn't me gets into a bit of a lady problem every once in a while, it's no biggie. There's no shame in it.
: Hey Dante.
: Dante. Dante Fante Bo Bante. Dante.
: What is it?
: I got a lady question for you.
: The first step is admitting you have a problem. I'm listening.
: Will you be... will you... pfffhaha...
: Oh... oh wow. Yikes.
*: Come on, give the guy a break, he was written by a Capcom employee.
: SHE LOOKED LIKE MY MOTHER, YOU ASSHOLE.
: Haha, holy crap, that's not helping!
: Fuck you.
: I said, "fuck you".
: Aren't you going to say it back?
: Uh, no. Who's this clown?
: Don't ask me!
: Nobody! He's nobody... important. Let's get back to poking at my old wounds, alright?
: Fuck you? C'mon! Don't leave me hanging here!
*: No. Out.
: FUCK YOUUUuuUUUUUUuuuuu~~~...
: Well. That was strange. Are you sure you don't know-
*: In any case! Parvati levels up and learns her last skill, Radiance, which is a powerful straight damage group-targeting Expel attack. It replaces Thunderclap.
A Chest in the far east contains a Pot of Death, which is a single-use attack item that attempts to reduce all opponents' HP to 1.
Oooh, a Cube on the west side puts us in a fight against a Rangda and two Abaddons.
Lv72 Femme Rangda
A demon queen of Balinese folklore, leading armies of witches against Barong and its allies. She also rules over the Leyak, horrifying creatures that resemble floating heads with entrails and organs still attached. She's usually depicted as an ugly, half-naked old crone with bulging eyes. If something goes wrong somewhere in the world, it's probably her fault, directly or indirectly.
*: They drop a Bead Chain, and Zed levels up, passing on Samrecarm.
: Yyyyup, I'm pretty scary alright.
> The demon disappeared.
*: Hmm. It looks like we've been everywhere on this floor, but I can't seem to find the way further up. I guess it's time to try again, looking harder.
Ha, I had looked almost everywhere, then.
Doesn't look like there's much of interest in here.
: If you go the wrong way... You'll get a taste of gravity. Darkness awaits you.
: That's alright, gravity and I have an understanding.
*: Ah-ha! There's the second Large Terminal. Alright then, that's a good place to call it for now; there's no way we're scaling this huge-ass tower all in one update.
Oh, before I forget. During the last poll, ModeWondershot made a point to mention that I should have a say in the outcome, and in fact surrendered their vote to me. At first I figured it went somewhat against the spirit of the process, but I'm not about to deny that exercise of free will, and I won't be one to refuse the existence of options beyond the two I presented! That said, I didn't want to vote in public during the process because I didn't want to railroad the decision. Of course, the call is made now, and I might as well come out with it.
From a pure gameplay perspective, I would have chosen the Path of Destruction. But following my own suggestions that I made before the first poll, going with my own mind and my own gut, putting myself in the Demi-fiend's shoes, and considering the personality we've ended up giving him... I put in my vote for the Path of Creation. That's not to say I couldn't have seen him go for Destruction if the votes had swung that way, of course. I really did my best to set things up so neither option would have been out of character, but at this point, I don't have enough distance to tell if I've succeeded or not. Though the vote was pretty damn close, so I think I at least haven't completely failed!
At any rate, the poll wasn't so close that I made the difference, and I'm not unhappy about that. When I started this LP, I made a conscious effort to ensure Francois Hawke wouldn't be an author self-insert, so I could let him be his own character who could naturally take decisions I personally wouldn't take... but in the end, all along we've been making the same choices I made when I played blind the first time all those years ago, so who knows, heheh.
So! Chiaki started climbing first so she's probably the furthest up, and Hikawa's taken care of. Next on the hit list: our good friend Isamu.