Part 89: Well, I suppose that's enough exposition for now.-Etude of the Ruin-
There's no need to be SALTY, Weissmann. I'm sure you'll EARN YOUR SALT.
Hey Weissmann. Hey. Hey. Weissmann. Two peanuts were walking down the street, one was a SASSINATED IN MERCILESS AND IRONIC FASHION USING THE VERY SELFSAME CALAMITY THAT DESTROYED HIS FORMER LIFE AND LIKELY STARTED HIM DOWN THE PATH OF VILLAINY IN THE FIRST PLACE
I never thought we'd have the pleasure of meeting face to face again. Certainly not in a place bedecked with so many delightful peculiarities!
Hmph. I figured you might show up eventually.
With this place being full of people I've killed, you rearing your ugly head was always a given.
...Wh-Who is he?
He's the biggest sinner the church has ever been unfortunate enough to have in their ranks. The bishop of the Congregation for the Sacraments who went on to become an Anguis in Ouroboros...
Georg Weissmann, the demon I put an end to half a year ago.
...!! THAT'S him?
Heh. Not discerning your identity was truly my most careless blunder.
I never suspected that the priest before me would be the one to inherit the long-vacant position of Fifth Dominion. Life does so love its surprises, doesn't it?
Well, that was the point. Me being a Dominion was deliberately kept secret so that I could serve as one of the congregation's trump cards.
Of course, the truth's out in the open now, but it's a fair enough price to pay if it means you're dead.
Haha. The congregation always were a cunning bunch. They created such an elaborate scheme just to take out poor, little me.
Was the plan conceived shortly after your Stigma first manifested? Hmm... No, I'm sure it was. And after that, it was merely biding your time till you could make your move.
With a Dominion, the Salt Pale, and a carefully-designed game plan on their side, the odds of me escaping with my life were woefully slim indeed.
You're right about how cunning they are.
In that sense, you were probably just as right when you called me a 'damn dog.'
...I was fine with being that way, too.
Heh. How respectable of you.
I must admit...I am astounded. I had carried out plenty of my own research on Stigmas and their capabilities...
...but I had no idea a genuine article was capable of quite this much.
What're you talking about?
Haha... I suspect that deep down, you already know the answer, but it is my deepest pleasure to elaborate.
Well no shit.
The Gehenna in which we stand is a reflection of your latent desires; that you already know.
But more specifically, the cause of this is your Stigma.
What do you mean?!
After the Aureole's disappearance, Phantasma was thrown into a state of great confusion. After all, Phantasma was the Aureole's subsystem. Without the Aureole to control it, it was like a ship whose captain had suddenly vanished: lost.
To calm its own confusion, Phantasma sought a new master who could take the place of the Aureole and control it.
Specifically, it chose the person with the deepest trauma from among those close to the Aureole when it vanished.
note to future generations: please calibrate your marvelous wish-granting engines to NOT prioritize the most fucked up wishes from the most fucked up people within range
Its decision made, it found the Stigma that exists deep within you and made a copy within itself. That Stigma then manifested your latent desire, Gehenna, here in Phantasma.
Haha... And that is how both this and the Lord of Phantasma came into existence.
Well, I suppose that's enough exposition for now.
And now that we're clear of all confusion, I have a proposition for you. One that will allow you to resolve all of this without a single loss of life. A tantalizing prospect, no?
You can do that...?
You need only to cast away your humanity. Nothing more.
Your Stigma arose from the ashes of immense despair and guilt. What better way to deal with this situation than to become a being that is not burdened by such worthless emotions? To become a truly self-supporting superhuman capable of controlling every facet of themselves!
Weissmann I feel like that's your go-to answer for too much stuff in general
That's... That's no way for people to live!
Yet it is the goal I obsessively pursue in both life and death alike.
My research into Stigmas was but one part of my efforts to achieve it. My efforts with Joshua may not have borne fruit...but you! You are so very close to reaching it.
And once you become a superhuman, you will be able to fully control your own Stigma and emerge as a new Lord of Phantasma.
Stop trying to deceive him with that forked tongue of yours!
Please! I am doing no such thing. I only presented a modest proposal at best. Not one word I've said is a lie. I swear it. You could argue that I may feel resentment towards him for being instrumental in my death, but at this point, that matters little to me.
Everything pales in significance to seeing my long-cherished ambition realized...
I abandoned the church's teachings and joined Ouroboros in pursuit of creating a superhuman...and now, I finally can!
...It's all right, Ries.
You don't need to keep defending me.
Haha... I'm glad to see you understand me.
I always knew you would see sense in the end.
It's hard to disagree with the fact that I need to be stronger than I am. It was my weakness and my cowardice that led to taking Rufina's life with my own hands. It was my weakness and my cowardice that led to rejecting Mom and allowing her to die.
And now, it's those same two qualities that have led to Ries and the others getting drawn into this mess to suffer. All of those things are on me. All of them.
You're absolutely right.
But there's no need to despair any longer. You have it in you to overcome such weaknesses. Follow the path I've opened to you, and they will be a thing of the past. A mere memory.
That's one option, sure. A good one, too.
...But sorry. It's not the one I'm gonna be picking.
-Cradle Where Feelings Rest-
Man... I'm even more of a loser than I figured. Even now, I just can't bring myself to forget the taste of the chocolate I had that day.
When Rufina and Ries found me, I was crushed beyond measure. I thought I'd never be able to stand up against and overcome the despair I felt. That's why that bitter-yet-sweet taste left such a strong impression on me.
It's why it gave me the strength to move forward, even knowing how many hardships awaited.
Because for every hardship, there'll be just as much joy waiting for me.
This thing ain't gonna work out between us.
Heh. Very well. I'm not about to force you to change your mind...
...but let's see how far such pathetic sentimentality will take you when your lives are placed in mortal peril, shall we?
Astarte and Rostrum... We have to face both guardians of Gehenna's gates at once for this round, huh?
You may be a Dominion, but surely even you realize you don't stand a chance of winning here.
Not when you have to worry about that girl with you. Well? Having any...second thoughts?
Don't you dare listen to him, Kevin! I'll be fine! Don't let worrying about me stop you doing what's right!
Well, you're right about our chances of winning. Two high-ranking devils AND you against just the two of us? Things aren't lookin' so hot.
At least, that was before I knew I'm not the man I once was.
-Overdosing Heavenly Bliss (Ys vs. Kiseki)-
Kevin learned the S-Craft [Spear of Ur].
I-Impossible! What IS that?!
This is the other side of my Stigma. Its light side.
It's been there all along--I was just never able to see it. Until now.
How can this be...?
Seems like I owe you a word of thanks, Faceless.
Turning down that deal you threw out has finally allowed me to gain a little confidence in myself.
As a token of my appreciation, you can be the first one to see what it can do...as its victim!
I always knew you were nothing more than a dog... Fine! Have it your way!
Let's see how much of a difference a change of color really makes against such overwhelming odds!
oh you're a fine one to talk
I welcome you to try!
This isn't a boss fight.
It's a shooting range.
O blue seal carved within my soul's abyss...
Become a pillar of light upon this purgatory!
FLY, HOLY SPEARS OF HEAVEN!!
come to think of it Ries has been sitting on a new S-Craft for like two whole chapters now hasn't she
O heavenly servants of the Goddess!
Come down and purify...this blackened earth!
Thy will shall be as light, and if thou are truly Septian Guardians, grant me strength!
Ha ha ha ha... Can you feel it? The despair?
How does that feel?
Come! SQUIRM for me! Ahahahahahaha!
Not a chance.
Heh... Well done.
But as long as Phantasma exists...I will never die. I'll always be watching you from here, Kevin Graham... Watching to see just how long you can continue to desperately play tough before accepting the reality around you...
Haha... 'Desperately play tough,' huh?
I wish I could disagree.
What do you mean...?
How are you? Are you all right?!
I'm fine... I think I just overdid it some. Again...
I'll be okay, though. I won't flop over like I did last time I pulled this. Not after I've made my mind up to finally face Rufina head on.
Haha... Still, we might've beaten them, but we're not really in the best situation here, are we? How're we even supposed to get that door open?
I don't think we're enough to get it to budge.
But we've come this far. We can't just give up.
I think we're going to have to destroy it.
As usual, you mind if we at least try SOMETHING else before resorting to rampant destruction?
Besides, I think this gate's the most important defining structure down here--what makes this a replica of Gehenna more than anything. I can't see it being very easy to destroy...
That sounds like...!
I-Is this a joke...?
I-I've never been so happy to see someone in my life...
*sigh* And once again, you go out of your way to defy logic.
We've found you in some weird-ass places, but this one has gotta be the weirdest of them all. HOW did you get down here?
His presence is more than a little suspicious...
You're not working with the Lord of Phantasma, are you?
Th-The Lord of whatsit?
...No! Forget it! We don't have time to chitchat!
We need to run! Now! Or we're done for!
*WHOOARGHHH* *whomp* *whomp* *whomp*
Roaring, and the sound of flapping wings... A lot of them!
-Genuine Devil (Evolution)-
Are those d-devils?!
They're not as high-ranking as the two we just beat, but they're no slouches, either! Ugh... How are we supposed to take this many on at once?!
D-Do something! This is your responsibility! I don't wanna diiie! Not here!
And you think we DO?!
I sure don't...
(Damn it... I used too much of my Stigma's power. I've gotta at least try and give these two an opening to get away...but how?)
S-Stay back! Stay baaaaaack!
I don't think I've got much of a choice here!
-Overdosing Heavenly Bliss (Nasty Children)-
Kevin! Ries! Are you okay?!
Thank goodness we made it!
What is this place...?!
Oh, my... This looks like a 1:1 replica of Gehenna.
My compliments to the designer.
Nice to see you two hangin' in there!
Heehee. I can see we're in for a fun time.
Why the heck is Gilbert with you...?
After you fell down here, Celeste was gracious enough to search for your location. And thanks to you having the cube with you, we were able to find it!
She finished connecting a path here only moments ago. This door will take you back up to the garden!
We appreciate it!
I-I can't believe my luck!
Anyway, the talking can wait until later! We'll charge in and try to force an opening in their ranks!
You take that chance to break through and get through the gate! Hurry!
Truly, thank you!
Then shall we begin?
A most thrilling dance with devils awaits!
Righteousness shall be victorious.
Fall before the blade of a Vander!
Let's do this!