Part 7: Leopard maths
After the scene with Marscal and Gizel, we're dumped just outside the arena entrance and briefly regain control. We can talk to Lyon (and the guards, who have even less interesting things to say) but there's no reason to put off going forward.
A dozen steps or so, and we're right in the next dump.
Are there any among you -- the good Lady aside, of course -- who have set foot inside?
Nope, none of the others have ever been here... And even I haven't been back since the last Sacred Games.
That was sixteen years ago, as I'm sure we all remember from the last time it was mentioned actually that was a lie and that's why I'm bringing it up again.
Here, the nobility amuses itself by pitting gladiators they own against each other and betting on the outcomes.
I'll bet there's a lot more money being thrown around in those bets than they actually pay the gladiators.
We of the nobility thrill to such glorious battles. As did many past royals. However, our dear Queen Arshtat cares not for such things. She hasn't visited in years. Which, I would imagine, is why Your Highness has never joined us either!
Wager matches aren't being held right now due to Sacred Games preparations, but I could show you a practice match.
That would be nice. We're sorry for the trouble. By the way, Gizel, may I ask you a question?
Can we drop the formality? All this stiffness goes straight to my neck.
Have I said anything lately about how great Sialeeds is? Because Sialeeds is pretty great.
As you wish. Whatever makes you comfortable. Good idea, actually.
You're always much more charming when they let you be yourself.
Ah ha ha ha! You haven't changed a bit!
Plenty of history between them, I'm sure.
Anyway, back to work. Let's go.
We couldn't do anything else even if we wanted. Well I suppose we could stand on this bridge and see how far the timer will go before it rolls back over to zero, but...
...I'm sure we'd all prefer to move along.
We don't get very far inside the arena before we run into another scene.
Yes, it's the Feitas Dragon Cavalry.
So that's them? Never seen them before in person. Are they going to compete in the Sacred Games?
No, not them.
They don't side with any member of the nobility. They've sworn their allegiance to the Feitas River and Falena alone. They don't involve themselves in politics.
There's going to be a Dragon Cavalry exhibition taking place at the Sacred Games' opening ceremony. They must be practicing.
They jump out of the water...
...and land on the drawbridge we just crossed.
They're spectacular, aren't they?
Indeed. Super-fast cavalry soldiers that can run freely on both land and water. Heh, I can see why they're used for patrol on both rivers and solid ground.
Your Royal Highness, what do you say? Would you be interested in meeting them?
Personally I'd rather not bother them when they're training, but...
...I don't think Lyon would forgive me if I let her miss this chance.
Are you serious?!
Lady Sialeeds... Is something wrong?
No... never mind.
...it seems they ran off.
Ah, bad timing, it seems. They're practicing for the opening ceremony, so they must've gone back onto the river.
...That's right! You hate lizards, don't you, my Lady?
You didn't have to point that out.
Ha ha ha... My apologies.
Strongly suspecting that's the sole reason he offered to introduce us to them.
I'm sure you'll get more chances. Those two characters looked suspiciously playable.
The arena is fairly large, and we'll be spending some time around this place, so excuse me if I don't go out of my way to show every boring stone corridor. Instead, let's move on to the next event.
I think I know that voice...
Much as I wish we didn't have to.
There you go! Thatta boy!!!
I thought we left that clown behind in Sol-Falena. (music)
I thought so.
Ah, Euram, of the House of Barows. He's been following his champion's training since yesterday.
...I suppose we should go and say hi.
Oh, Gizel... And -- oh, my goodness! You brought... well, everyone!
You honor me, big brother! So you've come to cheer me on, have you?
Of course! When I marry the Princess, you and I will be thick as blood!
Yes. Thick. That's a word that was going through my mind.
...do go on.
Aren't you getting just a little ahead of yourself?
Ha! Hardly. The Sacred Games' outcome is assured, I assure you! Ha ha! See for yourself! Behold, my champion!
We pan over...
...to the arena itself.
And he's mine, courtesy of my great and wonderful father!
Daddy bought him for you, eh? Good for him.
...so you're going to marry the princess because your dad paid a guy to beat up another guy. Makes perfect sense!
He does look pretty strong.
No, wait, I was thinking the opposite of that.
You're right. Most spearmen are overconfident about their reach...
...or else they're too cautious about letting their opponent get close.
This man's stance doesn't show any sign of either fault.
Indeed! Leave it to a Queen's Knight to appreciate superior skill!
His strategy seems to be blinding the opponent with his outfit and then casually walking over and pushing them over. A fearsome technique, to be sure.
Who is he?
That's Childerich. He'll be my representative in the Sacred Games.
Wow, how about that? We get a sneak preview of the final.
That's the way, Zegai! Get him! Get him!!!
Zegai gets him. (music)
Well that was fast. Childerich really isn't enough of a badass to pull that outfit off.
Zegai wins. Flawless victory.
That was incredible...
He is pretty good!
Woo! You've done it, Zegai! How do you like that, Gizel?! NOW will you admit it? The Sacred Games' champion, the Princess' future husband -- it's not you! It's ME!!!
Too bad the guy he's fighting for has no dignity whatsoever.
Congratulations. You won a practice match. You'll understand if I'm too overwhelmed to applaud.
Ah ha ha ha! Not just a loser, but a SORE loser! Next time will be in front of Her Majesty AND the Princess, you know. You ought to withdraw right now!
hold on, let me get my Douche-English dictionary
well fuck, that could mean anything.
Wh-What's so funny?
Do you need us to compile a list? I'm warning you though, it would begin and end with "your face."
Now then, everyone. Shall we continue the tour? This way, please.
Hey... Gizel! Wait...!
Our group gives Euram exactly as much attention as he deserves.
I don't like it.
Sol-Falena may have been full of assholes and perverts, but this place is pretty bad too, in its own way. Less outright perving, more a sense that you're getting dirtier just by standing there.
...and that her companion must shield the land like a mighty god of war. And thus were born the Sacred Games, to choose for the future Queen a husband worthy of this holiest duty.
A function you've now gone and fucked up by basically handing out the position to the highest bidder. Bet that feels great, doesn't it.
What difference does it make how we treat their kind? Does Your Highness not agree?
To be perfectly honest, having to deal with this kind of shit, I'd be pretty tempted to pick up a plot laser and nuke a few things from orbit, too.
Let's see it.
Well, if Your Highness insists...
My Highness does insist.
If you'll just follow me, then. This way, please.
That doesn't look promising.
You keep them locked up like this?
Well, they are slaves.
well isn't that peachy
Sadly, that's the most strongly worded objection we are allowed.
Yes, His Majesty Ferid said the same.
Which is yet another reason he is the best dad.
But these fellows are actually quite lucky. It's no longer legal to mistreat them, nor to sell them as commodities. So ruled your mother, Prince. And, at your parents' insistence, the Senate acquiesced to it as well.
What actually happened is the queen told them she'd get Ferid to stand around and glare at them until they agreed. It took 20 minutes to persuade everyone, tops.
That's not all, you know. Arshtat and Ferid would've gotten rid of the whole gladiator system if they could have.
But our nobles so enjoy their sport. And they've a right to! Such a long-standing tradition can't be changed so easily.
That's right, tradition.
Is it just me, or is "tradition" a word that more or less only comes up when people try to defend shit they don't want to stop doing but can't find a socially acceptable reason to keep doing?
I prefer tentacles, personally. You know where you stand with tentacles. Well, unless you're the one with the tentacles. Then you're not so much standing as slithering about.
...where were we? Oh yes, traditions.
Then there's this asshole.
Prison Guard: Could you ask the Queen and Lord Ferid to lift the ban on cruelty to gladiators? They're just like animals! They only thing they understand is brute force!
Okay, there's distasteful and then there's cartoonishly evil and you, Asswipe McGenericson, aren't even trying.
Wanna know something else fun?
That man's hurt!
He's still not the biggest douche down here.
He's a gladiator. Getting hurt is his profession, you might say. Don't worry. He's been treated.
But... but look at him!
Am looking. Am not enjoying it, but he's enjoying himself less.
That's right! You can't just leave an injured man rotting in a basement!
There's nothing I can do. He belongs to Lord Barows. I can no more assist him than I could sweep Barows Mansion's floor!
That's... that's wrong!
Don't worry, Lyon. He'll live.
They wouldn't have bothered treating him otherwise.
Wait, you mean...?
Should I take offense to that, Sir Knight? The notion that we leave the weak and sickly ones to die?
Sorry if you took it that way.
Hmm. Apology accepted.
A noble considers a gladiator part of his assets. Like a horse, or a mule. When a gladiator is injured, we arrange for treatment immediately.
I take back everything nice I've ever said about the man, although I realize I haven't said much nice about him to begin with, but he is literally Hitler.
Earned it? They have to EARN basic medical attention?
"Yeah, we convinced them all that Obamacare is a communist plot that infriges on their ~freedom~ (to bleed to death in a ditch alone and unloved) so now they don't get any unless they can pay for it. Which they can't, because they're slaves and don't get paid. It's all very hilarious. You will have noticed that I do not have a mustache, but I assure you that if I did I would be twirling it."
These men live to fight. If they cannot earn that living, why should they live at all?
well aren't we surrounded by lovely people
I can't really add anything to this.
The music in the dungeon has an appropriately heavy and oppressive feel to it. It's almost a relief when the Stormfist theme starts up again.
Hard to imagine this place is only a couple of screens and two floors away.
We've reserved this entire floor for the royal family alone. Complete with accommodations for the Queen's Knights.
It's like a whole different world in here.
And it's yours. Please, make yourselves at home throughout the Sacred Games. With your permission, we'll continue the tour downstairs...
That was the last place I went to, so...
...we get this once we go down the stairs.
Suddenly, question marks!
Guard: Enough! We said no! That's why! Now get out of here!
But Ferid was a foreigner, too! How come he was okay but I'm not?!
Guard: You DARE speak of His Majesty without the proper form of address?! Do you want us to throw you in jail?!
Grr... Fine, FINE! I'm gone, already!
Guard: "L-Little Lymmie"?! You DARE disrespect the Princess, too?! You won't get away with that!
So they chase after him. He does kind of deserve a beating or something, but I don't think you generics are going to be the ones to deliver it.
Applicants for the Games?
Rejected applicants. They never take it well.
Perhaps you should do something about that bit where you claim anyone is allowed to enter because I'm pretty sure it's false advertising and I'd get pretty mad too.
He's from the New Armes Kingdom. That alone is enough to disqualify him, never mind his disrespect.
Strangely enough, I think I'd still prefer to marry him over you.
Armes is Falena's sworn enemy, you know.
So say the Godwins. And only the Godwins.
And are we wrong? Is there not conflict and strife between us? Did they not invade us eight years ago, and spill seas of Falenan blood? People do not forget such pain, my Lady, nor the loss that brings it.
"They want to, mind. We just won't let them."
Which is why the good Lord Godwin so advocates the use of the Sun Rune. Were we to turn its wrath upon the enemy, no Falenan would ever fear such pain again. What about you, Your Highness? Don't you agree?
I dunno, I think he has a point about plot lasers.
He might disagree with my choice of targets, though, but oh well.
Ha ha... You're an honest man.
It's hard to be anything else when all my dialogue options are variations on "no." I could have done with a [Force Persuade] Go jump in the river but alas.
But you know, there are many who support our opinion, even among the citizens. Ah! I have an idea. Now that we've toured the arena, why not visit the town? Quite a festival in the streets, with the Sacred Games approaching. Shall we mingle with the commoners?
For once, I think something you say has merit!
Frey needs a change of scenery.
In that case, could you all just go without me? Gizel and I have a few things to catch up on.
Indeed, my Lady? Then let me find someone to send with you in my place.
No, that's all right. I've been here before, so we'll be fine. But, Lady Sialeeds...
Georg begins to shovel the kids out the door.
Huh? Hey! Georg...!
We're preparing a banquet for you. Please come back before sunset.
I have the strangest feeling something will come up and I'll be prevented from attending.
Outside is much nicer.
I don't mind the commotion...
...I miss Sol-Falena and I want to go home
Yes, Stormfist is pretty famous for its guards.
Around this point, I realized I had neglected to visit an area back at the arena, but it will be a moment before before we can make it back there...
...as a scene starts as soon as the previous one ends.
It's a leopard. Standing right there. In a crowded street.
Stormfist is weird.
Hmm... It looks like a tiger, but something's a bit off...
Like just about everything?
I guess there aren't any of these here in Falena, then, huh? It's called a leopard. I've seen a few of 'em during my travels on the northern continent.
All right! The next question's going to be even harder! Are you ready?! I have 100 Potch here! How many apples could I buy at 17 Potch per apple?
The leopard looks pretty determined there.
What's wrong with you, Ernst...?
Townsman: Miss, he's right. The answer is five!
Townsman: At 17 Potch per apple, five apples cost 85 Potch, with 15 Potch as change. Right?
Wow, Ernst! Amazing!
Townsman: Hey, miss, what are you so impressed about? Aren't you part of the show?!
Townswoman: He sure is smart, though!
Boy: He's smarter than the girl!
Boy, who knew animals were such geniuses up on the northern continent?!
They're not THAT smart! Something's fishy here. Really fishy.
Have they fooled you as well, Your Highness?
Actually, I was just playing along so you wouldn't have to look stupid all by yourself. I'm helpful that way.
Even if it is a trick, that girl is doing an excellent job of selling the illusion!
Now that I can agree with.
And then the show is over. Too bad. I wanted to see more leopard maths.
...I don't think he's up for an encore.
It's almost time for the Sacred Games! We'll be able to make lots of money, Ernst!
I hope the leopard is in charge of spending it.
This guy is still around, too.
Nobody asked you, knave!
...still nicer than Gizel Godwin.
I had planned to enter the Sacred Games and win Lym's hand in marriage, but I wasn't even allowed to compete!
But, I'd gladly make you my wife, milady! Let's be together forever! Let's become one, milady!
Umm... Err... I don't get it, but it doesn't matter. The answer is "no."
Good thing, too. Last thing I want is to see my sister and bodyguard married off at the same time.
...Oh, I see where you're coming from, milady!
If the answer is "no" because you don't "get it," would your answer be "yes" if you DID "get it"? Is that right?
My name's Gavaya! Come back once you "get it," milady! I'll be waiting!
...Okay. But don't hold your breath on me "getting it."
Stormfist, man. Fucking Stormfist. And, against my better judgement, we can talk to him again...
I'm so furious! How does the fact that I was born in Armes have anything to do with my love for Lym?! Oh, what cruel fate! How can she not see that my feelings are sincere?!
...I don't think you understand that whole "Sacred Games" thing, but even if she were free to pick, I'd have to say you'd rank pretty low on the list.
Oh yeah, that's right: going back to the arena.
Noble: It's not that I don't sympathize with their situation, but they're so weak, they make terrible fighters. Everyone can see they're only good for better gladiators to practice on, so no one's interested in buying them.
There's a kind of market outside the entrance. Apart from the douche I'm talking to here, there are also several vendors, but they don't sell anything I'm particularly interested in. I did buy some trade goods back in Sol-Falena, though...
...and make a few hundred Potch selling them.
But not the salt. Because I need that to live.
Trading is really simple - you see the price you bought each item at, as well as the sale price. Here I'm making a lot of money selling the sugar, but not so much on the soybeans.
Aw, jeez! I hate this job!
NPCs in Stormfist are less fun than the ones in Sol-Falena. We don't get much backstory here, nor do we get much of the so-dumb-it's-funny stuff. This guy's okay, though.
Instead, he buried her body deep below the castle foundations. You could almost say that the castle itself is her headstone.
Great. Please tell me more uplifting stories.
Anyway, hee's the part I missed.
The reason it's important is that there's treasure. The Old Book is the same as always: once we have a castle, and someone to read it to us, we can be terribly disappointed to find it's the fifth translation of the goddamn creation myth or something. Can't wait!
This is considerably more interesting. However, we are a bit understaffed at the moment, so I'll go over it later.
He doesn't know that I'm hanging out here. You won't tell him, will you?
Finally, some kids.
Boy (1): I don't think it really matters if you're noble or not. Friends are friends!
Boy (2): Hey, Mr. Prince, how come it's so important whether you're noble or not?
Damn, these guys are sensible. Why don't we set Lym up with one of them? They look closer to her age, too.
Chests looted, there's nothing left to accomplish here, so it's time to look around the town properly.
Kinda kills the surprise, doesn't it? I mean, we all know who's going to win now...
Guess we can all go home, then.
It's all a terrible fuss. Peasants running rampant though the streets as if they belong here...
I agree, this is terrible. You'd think the working classes would show a little more concern for their lords and masters, but no, they just keep stomping along. Almost as if they think they're people or something.
There's also an inn. This lady has a really big mouth... that looks like a sticker stuck to her face. (music)
I just flew in from Toran, and boy are my arms tired!
...who the fuck threw that tomato?
She has a portrait, so it's safe to say we'll come back to her sooner or later.
I'm under orders to ensure that you remain in town, Your Highness. I'm afraid I can't let you through.
Bastards, the lot of you.
Stormfist is divided into two parts: the old part around the arena, and the new part outside. The new part is where they keep the less noble citizens, and this is the part where we'd be leaving it and heading out to the world map, if this dickbag wasn't standing in the way.
Our first loyalty's always been to the Queen, but after Her Majesty, it was Lord Godwin we would look to. But it never used to be this strict. Now everything they say goes. Anyone who opposes them is branded a traitor. They were so much more relaxed back then. I don't know why things had to change.
Lady, you're welcome to him. If I can just get him drunk enough at that banquet...
There's also a smith here. They still work the way they've always done. I upgrade everyone to level 3, the highest possible, with my capitalist trading profits.
Maybe he just felt like he'd ruin the Games if he stole the show.
Or maybe he didn't want Zegai to beat his face in.
Pity, really. It could have been amusing to watch.
With that, we're really done with the town. There's not much of interest, either in terms of NPCs or stores. So, let's check out this narrow alley!
Things start happening almost as soon as we enter. (music)
I'm turning left at the next corner. Follow me!
Oh boy. Excitement!
"They've left my line of sight. What do I do now? Curse my artificial NPC intelligence!"
He tries to follow us, and runs straight into Georg Prime. Oh dear, let me just get you a new pair of trousers...
I love how his name is listed as "suspicious kid." Maybe with a bit of soul-crushing platforming action, he can be upgraded to "suspicious guy."
Uh, Lyon, do you see anyone else wearing a bright orange dress around these parts?
I'm not even sure what it looks like.
...can we just start over?
Hey, come on. He doesn't look like a spy or an assassin. He's got to have a good explanation for this.
Maybe he's just a very good spy or assassin.
...nah, that would never happen.
I'm terribly sorry. (music)
What's that? That a white tatoo...?!
"Is it a... wait, what? How drunk was I last night?"
Yes, sir. As you can see, I'm a gladiator.
Doesn't sound like something we should talk about on the street. Let's look for someplace... more private.
While they do that...
...Sialeeds and Gizel have a little talk. (music)
I find these quarters relaxing, perfect for this sort of chat.
So let's chat.
Would you care for a drink?
Don't bother. I'm not staying long.
So... Why are you entering the Sacred Games? What are you thinking?
Hmm, now how to take that? Have you qualms about your ex-fiancé wanting to marry your niece?
Don't play dumb with me. Nobody cares about an engagement that was broken off eight years ago.
Your man -- Childerich, right? I'm sure you got your money's worth, but if he has to go up against that Barows boy's fighter...
He won't exactly be the favorite, now will he? You're playing some steep odds here, Gizel.
Am I? Victory, defeat -- it's all a matter of chance. You never know what'll happen in the end. Otherwise, what would be the point of holding the Games at all?
*sigh* You've always had that smile. But you didn't always hide behind it.
You've really changed, you know. You used to be this nice, innocent boy...
Do you have any idea how much I idolized you back then? Our engagement was a political ploy. I knew that. But I was happy with it. With you. When your sister ascended the throne and broke it off... Were you at all disappointed, or was it only me?
No sympathy for Hitler
I regret what we did to you. I really do. To this day.
But even so... In some ways, I think maybe my sister made the right decision.
Well, I suppose it might have put us in an awkward position, as far as the throne was concerned...
All the fighting, back before our mother's coronation... It was terrible. So terrible that my sister and I vowed that it would never happen again. Didn't you lose your mo--
That's all right. That conflict forged Falena and the Godwins into towers of strength. My mother would have wanted that.
Gizel... You don't really believe that, do you...?
Of course I do.
On that cheery note, we're going to have to call it a day. Up next... gameplay! Again! Aren't you excited? I know I'm excited!
Apparently, at some point in time, Zegai was supposed to wear a funny hat. I'm a little disappointed they didn't go through with it.