Part 38: Infinite light*: We return to the Tower, in the Manikin enclave, and resume our exploration. We start with the door on the other side of the central staircase.
: ...Oh, it's you again. I've decided to follow Futomimi's will and create a world of Manikins! So, I came all the way here, just to tell Kagutsuchi: "Make it!"
: I like your style, old man.
: But, there's a problem... I can't think up a Reason!
: Oh, I bet if you can punch hard enough, it doesn't have to be a problem.
: He might hit us with his hammer if we get near him. And I already have a pounding headache.
: His hammer, eh?
: It must be my dear son. He has a good heart, but there are times when he lets his muscles do the thinking.
: Are we going to have words if I insist on correcting him?
: Ha! Be my guest. It'll spare me the effort.
Cutscene + Boss battle: Kishin Thor
*: Well, that might have been the shortest boss battle we've had yet. So, Zed needs to be immune to electricity! I could use Masakados, but... Adama will do.
Boss battle + Cutscene: Kishin Thor Redux
: That was embarrassing. You do your best to transmit your values to your children, and they still manage to fall in with the worst sort of crowd.
: I THOUGHT YOU WERE GONNA SAY IT'S EMBARRASSING BECAUSE HE WENT DOWN LIKE A CHUMP.
: Yes... Well... That too, I suppose.
: This whole Vortex World is operating by Yosuga rules already, isn't it? No one's evaluating any Reason's merits. I only made it so far because I'm stronger than everyone else.
: But you are clearly evaluating every Reason's merits, are you not?
: Well, yeah, I guess everyone is in a way, but, what I meant is, my judgement only matters because there's nothing in here I can't turn into a corpse.
: If it's so distasteful to you, then stop.
: Yeah, no. If I give up now, Chiaki's gonna win anyway.
: Kid, you're overthinking this. This world doesn't matter. Nothing ever gets clean without someone doing dirty work, and if you weren't making sure none of these other assholes gets to run the show, nobody else would.
: So I'm the cosmic janitor?
: Wow, you really are King of-
: Welp, let's get a move on, we got trash to take out!
*: Thor's a lot stronger here than he used to be in the Mantra HQ and he'll mess you up hard if you give him the chance... but in almost every regard he's not as strong as Zouchouten was. Which of course makes sense because he's not an optional boss in a hidden dungeon. In any case, he has no elemental weaknesses and he can buff up his offense, but if you keep him from Shocking anyone, the worst he can do to you is unload a couple Focused up Hell Thrusts or Guillotines during a Dragon Eye.
We go back down to get our MP back. Man, the twin Mot we regularly fight around here give more experience than Thor did.
*: Hmm. We get teleported to a new room as we climb up the stairs that Thor used to guard. This won't be as simple as it looks.
: I'll never make it to Lady Chiaki's side at this rate! Let me check my map...
*: There are two ways out of here; let's go east.
Welp, Mada as random encounters now. Can't just Deadly Fury everything!
Three more ways to go.
...the first one warps us back to Thor's room. Well, it's not like we don't have a use for the experience. We keep running into encounters with various conflicting immunities, like with Hresvelgr, Randga, Yurlungur and such, which really makes Almighty damage shine. Tao Tie's Megido and Skadi's Megidolaon are all kinds of useful.
Oh hey, Zed levels up, and learns Freikugel, replacing Spiral Viper.
In many regards, Freikugel is a single-target physical attack skill. It costs HP like a physical skill, it can crit like a physical skill, and it benefits from Focus like a physical skill. It does base damage comparable to Spiral Viper's, but has a slightly lower critical rate. The big selling point here then, is that Freikugel doesn't do physical damage. It does Almighty damage.
You'll note that this is Mada, who absorbs physical damage. With a Focused critical...
Freikugel is our final single-target skill.
Alright, so. This floor is a big teleport maze, but you get to keep your automap so it's not so bad. Along the way we find a Cube with 20000 Macca, a Chest with a Bead Chain, and we recruit a Cerberus.
We can lower the red blocks in the center so we don't have to climb the stairs and go through the maze again. Yay Nocturne!
: Hmph, how arrogant it looks...
: Well I'll be. We agree on something.
: Lady Chiaki is much more elegant.
*: There are damage floors and dark areas here, and you can avoid some of them thanks to side passages if you pay attention... but Float Balls.
An unexpected teleport takes us in front of a small Terminal. I won't complain!
We get into a fight with two Mada and an Aciel; the Madas repeatedly use Intoxicate to cause Panic, and manage to kill off Skadi and Throne before we can get cured. I decide to use a Smoke Ball and cut our losses. I've got the encounters around here under control most of the time, but we can't forget that the demons around here are extraordinarily deadly.
After exploring the hallways in here for a bit, we find a lift cube in the southeast. Let's check it out.
Oooh, more of these. "Nice".
Hmm, it only takes us to a hidden pitfall that drops us back to 431F, in an area with a teleport back to the Terminal. We'll find the right lift yet!
Oh-ho! Right in the middle of the north side. It's looking promising!
: If you want to see Kagutsuchi, you need to offer the three stones to it. The stones are proof of Reason, so each leader should be carrying them.
: Ha, yeah, right. They're proof that I'm crushing Reasons, at least.
: There's nothing better than a good trophy!
: Stop talking.
: Except maybe earning a good trophy, am I right? Or am I right?
: Wow, you're actually making me miss Incubus.
: What are you talking about, boss? I'm right here!
: Wow, okay, thanks for murdering my nostalgia.
: I aim to please.
*: We turn back, return to 431F, and keep looking.
Here's another lift, in the northwest corner. Is the third time the charm?
Taking the first path south takes us on a vanishing block loop, leading to a pit and a Soma Drop, then to the main floor. Making our way back up and heading east instead takes us to a hidden pit that drops us to the northeastern area of 431F, which we haven't been able to access until now.
Heading east from here earns us another lift to 444F. Along the way, Throne levels up and learns his last skill, Debilitate, replacing Mute Gaze.
: You still know who's the boss now, right?
: I wouldn't dream of changing my mind on this!
: For better or for worse, you guys are as good as your leaders, aren't you?
: Proudly so!
*: The process to obtain all of the Seraphs in Nocturne starts with evolving a Throne into Uriel.
Hmm, we're almost level 90. Man there's something I gotta do. We find one of the many teleporters back to the Terminal, then warp to the Amala Temple.
: ...You must bolster your faith by ridding yourself of the impurities of the world. Now, give up those impurities to me...
: Sounds serious... Here you go.
> You obtained Opal x 1. Dominion left.
: That's not what I had in mind, but I'm not angry.
*: That was another special conversation. Other attempts to use Brainwash proceed as normal. It's very effective against targets of a lower level than the user, so it doesn't take long.
: You're coming with us.
*: And he comes with us, no charge, no questions asked. Rigid hierarchy has its benefits!
From here, we warp to Little Asakusa again, and hit the Cathedral.
Music: Jakyou Mansion
*: Just like bringing Orthros to the Cathedral on New K plays the Jakyou Manor music from SMT2, bringing Cerberus to the Cathedral at the same time plays the equivalent track from SMT1.
Anyway! That's not what we came here for.
Uriel + Dominion =
*: We're not done yet! We summon Throne from the Compendium for 45100 Macca.
Raphael + Throne =
*: And that's not even all! We let Cerberus go to get some space, we summon Uriel and Raphael again, for 58300 and 70800 Macca respectively, then we get into a few fights to level Zed up the rest of the way to 90.
Mastering Gaea (and passing on Attack All) doesn't change our alignment, but it does take us to the next tier of Dark titles. We're now Lord Francois Hawke.
: There's no way that won't go to his head.
*: You're one to talk. Didn't you declare yourself a Kishin at some point?
: Hey, Futomimi made it in the Kishin for getting punked by a high school girl on his own turf. It's not as exclusive a group as you seem to think.
*: We finally return to the Cathedral.
Uriel + Gabriel + Raphael =
Lv90 Seraph Michael
Michael is the commander of God's Army, the patron of warriors, police officers and soldiers. He's possibly the most important named angel, being mentioned in Daniel, Jude and Revelations, in the latter as the one who leads the final battle against Satan during the apocalypse. His name means "Who is like God", which is usually interpreted as a rhetorical question implying that nobody is, rather than actually likening him to God.
Also notably, he's the final boss of the Chaos path in SMT1.
*: So, how about that. The dude's giving orders to your strongest opponent.
: Eh. He can't do much worse of a job than his previous employer did
: What is this? Do I hear an arrogant infidel speaking out of turn? Which is all the time?
: Yeah, you do. Wanna get firestabbed again?
: Oh, crap! I'll be good! I promise!
*: So. Metatron's dead, and Michael is God's executive vice-president. Technically, Yosuga's troops answer to us now. Chiaki's still leading them, but that won't last, will it?
Alright, enough of this for now, let's head back up and sniff out Little Miss Important's last refuge.
It looks like the northeastern section has a bunch of dead-ends and lifts leading into pitfalls leading into these same lifts again, so we explore elsewhere for now. Along the way, Dante learns his last skill, Showtime, which is his powerful group-hitting Almighty attack. We have plenty of powerful electricity casters, including Pixie, so I let it replace Roundtrip.
Another lift, in the southeast this time. There's another short sequence of vanishing blocks up there, and another pitfall, dropping us to...
This has got to be it.
It's not Chiaki yet, but is sure looks like progress.
There are some lift blocks taking us out to floating islands, but again there's nothing there but a view.
Oooh, another small Terminal. Amazing!
: Probably not!
: There's an incredible treasure hidden in this tower that can manipulate life. After climbing steep paths, falling, scraping knees, finally...
*: Hmm. I know there's an infinite-use Balm of Raising in here somewhere, but I missed it and I can't remember where it is. We do have 10 regular one-shot Balms of Rising though, so I'm not too worried about it.
More vanishing blocks over fathomless chasms! Awesome!
...okay that's new. Wow. At least it's an area we've never been to before. Down here, Zed levels up. Glacial Blast is mostly useless now that we have Freikugel, so I replace it with Makakaja, in case our allies' spells would prove more useful still. A few fights later, Michael levels up and learns Victory Cry, which regenerates his HP and MP to full after every battle. That's... pretty rad. I let it replace Brainwash.
Alright, a new lift block. It takes us next to the Terminal on 444F, so this is less of a hassle than I feared.
Let's try the north path.
Whew! No traps on this one.
The eastern blocks look like they go towards the island in the middle, and the western ones look like they're going all the way to the Dominion and the lift on the other side of the room. Hmm. West seems too obvious, so east it is.
Ah, this is probably more like it.
: I'm surprised you have the nerve to even see us!
: I won't dignify that with response.
: Lady Chiaki is up ahead. Yosuga shall take that stone you have in your hands. ...And your life.
*: Just before we take the lift, Skadi levels up and learns Earthquake, her final skill. I let it replace Force Repel.
Another small Terminal. I think the game wants us to save!
Cutscenes + Boss battle: Deity Baal Avatar
: Thanks for helping me with the dirty work, Futomimi.
: I would not have dared let this chance you've given me go to waste. If it can spare others my people's fate...
: I wonder how things would have gone differently if you had let us in Mifunashiro in the first place.
: I... Uh...
: It wouldn't have gone differently at all. It's not like we would have just taken up guard duty at the entrance, we had our own stuff to do. I'm sure you did what was best for your people.
: I.. shall do my best to keep your words to heart.
Deity Baal Avatar
"Baal" is a word meaning "Lord" in ancient Semitic cultures and can be applied to a number of divinities, but the most promiment would be the storm god Hadad, who was eventually seen as so holy that it would be sacrilege to pronounce his name, and was therefore called just Baal instead. However, since Baal Avatar is accompanied by a pair of redeemed Fallen, it might be accurate to say that she represents a redeemed version of the deity after it was demonized by Hebrew culture.
The Hallel race is only used for Flauros and Ose here, representing fallen angels returned to their former stature (or a mockery of their former stature, whichever is the case) by Baal Avatar's force of will.
*: Apart from reflecting Expel effects, Baal Avatar only has the standard boss immunities. She's surprisingly wimpy on her own; she only has Beast Eye, and tends to stick to Mahamaon, Holy Wrath and Radiance, with the occasional Megidola thrown in. Her first real asset is Bael's Bane, which turns any target who isn't completely immune to Curse into a fly. Flies take a significant penalty to all their stats, become weak to Expel, and the ailment cannot be removed. (I hoped Prayer would work, but it doesn't!) Fortunately they can still perform normally any action that doesn't rely on their stats, such as casting buffs, using any -diarahan spell, or summoning.
Her other asset is Divine Will, which she uses on the fourth turn (and on the fourth turn only) to summon Flauros Hallel and Ose Hallel. Flauros knows Hassohappa, all -kaja spells as well as Tetrakarn, Mazandyne and Maragidyne. Ose knows Dragon Eye, Dekunda, Dekaja, Tetrakarn, Makarakarn, Rakunda, Chaos Blade, Maziodyne and Mabufudyne. Both of them also know Diarahan, making them a priority target. They don't come back when killed, so do make them a priority target, with Ose first because you want to get rid of Dragon Eye as soon as possible.
Drink of the wine of the wrath of the Demi-fiend. All gods have been rejected!
*: We go around the room and climb up the stairs in the back.
There's only a small room with a pitfall behind that door, and it drops us right in front of the lift to the final area, where that soul reminded us about the three stones. That's our cue to go back down, and make our final preparations. We take the nearby Terminal to Little Asakusa, and run around some until we can hire a Yurlungur.
...in the end it takes so long that Zed makes it to level 94. We're pretty close to a certain milestone, so we keep getting into more fights to gain one more level. Let's just say Skadi, Dante, Michael and Masakados make some some pretty painless grinding! (Pixie doesn't have Mana Aid, so while she tends to hit harder than Skadi, she requires slightly more attention.)
Okay, 95. Whew. Lessee... We summon Wu Kong and Arahabaki from the Compendium.
Wu Kong + Arahabaki =
: Well then!
: ...aw shit.
: Hmm. I hope you'll use this time to learn a lesson or two, Loki.
: Ha, never mind that, he's going right back in.
: I take it he's the next sacrifice, then?
: Wait, what?
: That's right! Just pop him in again.
: DON'T I HAVE A SAY IN THIS?
*: Next, we summon Raphael again. And finally...
Michael + Gabriel + Loki =
: Wrath I have more than I need. It's obedience I require from you.
: It is all that I am.
: No hard feelings about the whupping we gave you down below, then?
: You refused the fallen one's request. In this world, I have no other responsibilities. Make what use of me you will through this summoner's compact, and the Universe shall march on no matter the outcome.
: Well, I sure made my bed. Come along, then.
*: Whoops, I wanted Yurlungur because we didn't have anyone with Rakukaja, but Metatron ended up with it anyway. Welp! At any rate, Metatron is a special fusion: you need to put together Michael with any other Seraph, and sacrifice any Tyrant.
Alright, it's time. We climb back up to the final lift.
: This is it. Whatever happens next, everything will change, and it will change because of me and because of anyone who goes up there with me. I don't understand how this whole summoning thing works, but I know you have to do what I tell you. And right now, what I tell you to do, is tell me if you want to keep going with me, or if you want to turn away. I'll let you go. Ms. Takao spoke to me of freedom. It may not be a Reason, but I like the sound of it well enough. It starts here and now. Are you with me?
: I obey.
: The Emperor will grant you the honor of witnessing your victory, hee ho!
: Ha, you know I'm in. I'm all about freedom, and if it kicks the Great Will in the balls, there's nothing else I'd rather do!
: This is certainly one rebirth I'm not prophesied to miss, and miss it I shan't.
: If I had known you were going to give me such worthy prey, I would have wasted less of our time in the Amala Temple. I can't wait!
: THE FOOD GETS SO BORING HERE. WHATEVER KIND OF WORLD YOU'RE MAKING, THERE'S NO WAY IT CAN BE WORSE THAN THIS.
: You've more than earned my humble support. I will keep assisting you as I am able.
: I can't run this place as long as you're in it, and I'm not so dumb that I think I can take you down. So I don't give a shit. Just give me more stabbin' meat and I'll count us square enough.
: We've exceeded the terms of our agreement, but there's no one else in this craphole I'd rather fight with, so keep failing to disappoint me, will ya?
: Thanks, everyone. Uh, except, Pixie...?
: What, are you kidding? You really need to ask? I know this is the end of the road, but there's no way I'm turning back now. And don't you dare say goodbye!
: Ha, okay, okay! I get you. Alright then. Let's move. This insanity has lasted too long already.
*: Before we use the floating block, we go west and drop a last save at the last Terminal.
Alright, Kagutsuchi, you motherfucker.
Cutscene + Boss battle: Light Kagutsuchi
Kagutsuchi is the name of the Shinto god of fire, son of Izanagi and Izanami. His mother died from burns sustained while he was born, and his father was so wroth that he cut his body into eight pieces, from which many gods sprang forth. These events signaled the end of the world's creation; Izanami's demise brought death into the world, and no more gods would be born of the primordial deities. In Nocturne, he represents a sun simulacrum, acting on behalf of the Great Will to collect whatever power remains in the old world, and create a new one with it.
Throughout the series, Kagutsuchi is the only member of the Light race, and even then only in Nocturne. He appears elsewhere in his vastly less important fire god form, typically as a Kishin or Amatsu.
: ...are you really doing this?
*: You better believe it! Why stop now?
: Oh for..
*: Both of Kagutsuchi's forms only have the typical boss immunities, so you can use whatever strongest attacks you have at will.
His sphere form is relatively harmless. It knows all Ma-dyne spells, as well as Megidola, Dekunda, and Dekaja. Where it gets tricky is that it will use Vast Light every time Full K is up, dealing a lot of Almighty damage to your entire party. Now you might think that's easy enough to deal with, you just need to avoid starting the fight on Full K... but the phase advances twice by itself every turn, and Kagutsuchi can use Phase Shift to advance it twice more. So you better keep an eye on the phase meter and make sure you're all healed up in advance.
Once you've dealt 20000 damage, the real fight starts. Kagutsuchi keeps the elemental spells and Megidola, and gains Dragon Eye as well as a group-targeting basic attack that does Almighty damage. On top of that, Vast Light turns into Infinite Light, which functions pretty much the same, but deals even more damage. And if that wasn't bad enough, the phase never changes from Full K anymore, meaning that Kagutsuchi can use Infinite Light pretty much anytime it feels like, with the caveat that it does take up all his actions for the turn.
The number one priority is to survive Infinite Light and a Dragon Eye + basic attack barrage, and seeing as it's all Almighty damage, it means you need to stack up Tarunda and Rakukaja effects. That's really not optional. Take a look at this.
This is an early test attempt where I had no one capable of casting Rakukaja. Kagutsuchi was completely Debilitated, the entire party had an Endure/Never Yield effect, and we were still vaporized. If you can keep the buffs in your favor while you take down his 40000 HP, then he's not very difficult. And if you can't, you basically lose.
: Alright alright alright, we get the picture, stack buffs and debuffs, fine, whatever, let's pretend that's all new information. Can we get on with it now?
*: Ha, sure, I think I've made you wait long enough. Let's see what our efforts have earned us, then.
It's been a few days. Everything's pretty much back to normal.
Well, almost everything, I suppose.
For a moment back then, I was worried. I wasn't afraid for myself, of course. I was long past that. But as soon as I cracked Kagutsuchi's horrible face, I had a doubt. What kind of world would be born? Would a world even be born at all? I had murdered the Reason bearers and crushed the seed of creation.
But creation took place.
This is a new world, but... it's like the old world got reincarnated into itself. Everyone's back, like they never left. Or at least, everyone who died in the Conception. To them, it's like it never happened.
To the rest of us... To me, to Isamu, to Chiaki... We know what happened. Of course, Ms. Takao's e-mail excepted, we don't talk about it. There's nothing constructive to say, really. We see each other every day at school, and we're amicable enough, I suppose. I must admit I can hardly look at Chiaki without seeing her crush a Manikin's head in her bare hands, and I don't know how I'll react the next time I see Isamu give a thumbs down. But... I think they're grateful, in their own way. And as much as I feel like resenting them sometimes, I don't know for sure I wouldn't have acted exactly like them if I had the chance to make my own Reason. Everything was so messed up, you know? It doesn't excuse anything, but I really don't have it in me to fight my friends anymore.
Ms. Takao's better than ever. She was always kind, but whatever warmth was behind her smile before, it's grown a hundredfold since. I think she finally found her own Reason. In the end it didn't change the world, but it sure changed her, and sometimes that's enough to make all the difference.
I haven't seen or heard about Hikawa, but he's out there. He's still got his company, he's still got his money, as far as I know. But he doesn't have his cult anymore, and he certainly doesn't have the Maiden. Man I would have loved to see the look on his face when he woke up and realized how completely alive he was. I'd make a quip about being a fly on the wall, but that hits a little close to home. Of course no one's gonna know to charge him with attempted global genocide and reckless demon summoning, but I have a feeling that existence is going to be punishment enough for him.
Hijiri's running around somewhere, no doubt, but I'll be damned if I know where exactly. I haven't been able to find any issues of Ayakashi Monthly, but I haven't looked very hard.
As for me... I argue with my step-sister a little less, I fight with my step-father a little more (though I can't play anyone with a Hadouken anymore), and my mother may not understand why I've suddenly turned into the hug bandit, but she sure doesn't seem to mind. They say you don't appreciate what you have until you don't have it anymore, and I can get behind that.
That said, I can't help but feel like I've left a chunk of myself in the Vortex World. Or... or that there's a chunk of it left in me. I keep expecting people to twitch; hopefully that'll go away over time. I look human again, but on the inside... Man, I don't know. Every once in a while, I find myself trying to summon. No one's answering, of course. Other than that, I guess I better find out what it is exactly the Guardian of Tokyo is supposed to do, because that's still me. I paid a visit to Masakado's tomb again. Nothing happened. Can't begrudge a guy for taking a vacation after a thousand years, but he could have left some notes or something. In the meantime, I do my best not to get into any fights. So far so good!
Anyway, that's about it. All that's left for now is to find out how this Steven guy got my e-mail address, and who it is exactly he thinks I should be staying strong for.
: Hey guys, what's going on in this thread?
: ...Sorry. I'll... shut the door.