Part 20: So one of the stars of the show makes his grand appearance.-The Hermit's Garden-
Th-That looks like...!
Heh. So even he ended up in here.
So one of the stars of the show makes his grand appearance.
This is someone you know, too?
Haha. 'Know' is an understatement.
He's everyone's favorite black-haired prince.
Is this a dream? Or some kind of illusory tactic meant to disorient me?
Trust you to get right to theorizing.
Sorry, but this ain't no dream. Or illusion, for that matter.
I'm surprised to find so many of you here.
Mind telling me exactly what this situation we've found ourselves in is?
Umm... Guess that wasn't enough to convince you this is all actually happening, huh?
Oh, not at all. Consider me convinced.
While the idea of this being an illusion seemed initially plausible, the existence of your companion over there made it quite unlikely.
Joshua when did you become this much of a dork
Am I right in assuming that you're a member of the Gralsritter?
You can tell?
Well, you're with Kevin and use a templar sword to fight. It's a safe enough assumption on my part.
My name is Joshua, incidentally. Joshua Bright.
Ries Argent. I'm a squire.
Since we're on the subject, I'm curious how you came to be familiar with us and our organization.
W-Wait a second, Joshua! Why does HER being there prove this isn't an illusion? Is me being here not proof enough for you?
Oh, you know, I don't think I've seen you with that visor on before, have I?
Does that have to do with that delivery company you mentioned running a while back? It suits you.
She's the supervisor.
Yeah, that's it. We're doing awesome for ourselves these days, too!
...But you didn't answer my question!
Surely you can tell just by looking at me that I'm the real thing?
Generally when you're in an illusion, the other people who appear in it are people you're familiar with. That reason being, they draw on and utilize knowledge the victim has within in order to create the world.
I've met the rest of you, but Ries is a complete stranger. And not any complete stranger--an unusual one, too. So she may not prove for certain this isn't an illusion, but she does make it rather unlikely.
I... I think I get what you're saying... Maybe...
Basically, the reason I don't prove this isn't an illusion is because we're so close?
Well, you could put it that way, I guess...
Haha... Okay! That's fine by me!
Anyway, it's so good to see you again, Joshua!
I'm glad to see you're looking well, too. You've grown a bit in this past half year, haven't you?
Aww. You noticed!
I'm surprised to see you got caught up in all of this, though...
It must've been a real surprise to find yourself here all of a sudden.
Yeah... It still doesn't feel completely real to me even after all this time, to be honest.
Umm... You don't know where Estelle could be, do you?
...I wish I did.
That said, I'm sure she was surrounded by the same white light I was.
I'd say the odds are fairly high that she's somewhere in Phantasma like us.
Actually...where were you before you ended up here, anyway? Your last letter said that you were in Erebonia. Were you still there?
Oh, no. Not anymore. We're over in Crossbell at the moment...or were, with the situation as it is now.
Really?! We were flying over there before I ended up here, too!
Hmm... I wonder if there's anything to that.
It's relatively close to Liberl, so that may have something to do with it.
I myself was in Erebonia, but I was in the town closest to the border with Liberl...
...I've a question for you, Father Graham.
Supposing that we assume all of this was caused by an incredibly powerful artifact... do you think such a thing would be able to exert its influence as far as Crossbell or Parm?
I seriously, seriously doubt it.
The only thing I can think of that was able to affect that wide an area was the Aureole's Orbal Shutdown Phenomenon. That actually DID reach the southern edge of Erebonia.
So it would need to be something as powerful as one of the Sept-Terrions, then. Although speaking of which...is the Aureole itself still unaccounted for?
You can't mean this is the work of the Aureole!
I don't think we should rule out the possibility, Tita.
But even if we assume the Aureole is involved in some way, that wouldn't answer most of the questions we want answers to.
Indeed... Such as who our enemies are or how Grancel ended up filled with fiends and magic barriers.
Or how we ended up facing actual embodiments of devils from church scripture or the presence of the higher elements...
Until we have a theory that can explain all of those mysteries, we should probably refrain from jumping to conclusions.
I would have to agree.
Still, that being the case...
...I'd like to propose we focus on working out what happened to Grancel first and foremost.
My thoughts exactly.
I know you're probably worried about Estelle right now, but would you be up for helping us?
That was my intention from the beginning.
I can't very well turn my back on friends in need, for one thing. Besides, I think I'll find her a lot faster by helping out rather than sitting in here worrying.
I hope we do.
*sigh* Well, I'll be glad to have you with us, at least.
That's what I wanted to hear! Cheers, man.
Well, as soon as we're ready, we should make our way back to the capital. I expect something will have changed there as a result of us releasing Joshua from his stone.
See my vest.
Evil Eye has had its range cut drastically, because it was making Flicker kind of obsolete. In exchange, Dual Strike gets a 100% chance to poison the target.
Joshua starts with a nice up-to-date quartz setup, too. I won't need to synthesize anything for him yet.
If you're curious about what Estelle and Joshua were up to before they got caught up in all this Phantasma ruckus, there's a manga that covers it.
I've gone over the whole area, but I can't find any traps at all.
It's still possible there may be varieties I'm not aware of, but I think it's safe to conclude that this area is free of them for now.
Thanks. We had a look around ourselves and reached the same conclusion.
It's only this area that's safe, though. Take one step outside and there're baddies around every corner.
For now, it's probably for the best if we don't act alone. I don't know what our enemies are trying to achieve...
...but I don't see any reason why Estelle wouldn't have been drawn in here, too.
So please let me help however I can.
Well, getting stuck here comes with its perks, at least. I can deal with weird if Joshua's here to experience it with me!
Say, you wanna go walk around bizarro Grancel later? Just the two of us?
I see that you have a knack for looking on the bright side...
Heehee. I'm so glad we were able to set Joshua free from his stone. I've really missed him!
I'm worried we haven't found Estelle yet, though... It sounds like she's probably in one of them somewhere, too, after all. I hope we can find hers soon. Oh, and Olivier's, too, of course!
Oh, there's no need to say that just because I'm here.
That idiot's prepared for far worse than being sealed in a stone. If anything, it might even do him some good.
I'm sure there are a lot more people out there stuck in sealing stones and waiting to be rescued.
We should hurry and find them so we can set them free!
...but the selection of books from all across the land is really quite impressive. Perhaps one of them contains information that might help us discover what this place is.
...'Flamant's Nobility Annual,' 'The Man Without A Name, Volume 4'... 'Ored's Unspoiled Beauty,' back issues of the Imperial Chronicle...
Well, none of these are going to be of any use to us.
I was hoping I might be able to find information about our foes here in this library... No such luck so far, unfortunately.
Still, what was the person who built these shelves thinking by making them so high?! Surely no human being could reach the top shelf here...or any of the ones in the upper half, for that matter.
-The Castle At Dusk-
Ha...ha... Someone really knows how to give people a scare.
This seems to be quite an old castle, so it's certainly fitting for something like this...
I'd personally dock points for overdoing the theatrics, however.
Ugh... I can't bear to stand outside here a moment longer!
We should make our way inside at once!
Yeah, we should.
All right... Let's do this!
Well, there doesn't seem to be anyone inside.
...We're not alone, though.
Be careful. They are gathering.
-Fighting Right On-
Here comes the welcoming party.
Grant peace to these poor, lost souls...
-The Castle At Dusk-
Where has everyone gone?!
I don't know, but we should start looking right away.
Even if no one's here, we might be able to find some kind of clue as to where they are now.
I can only hope so.
In particular, we should focus our search on the throne room, royal guard room, royal keep, and the sealed area. Those seem the most likely areas to house clues.