Frida: I... I have the impression that people are... scary.
Ven: I see. Take it easy. If necessary, don't talk to anyone.
Frida: It's sad not to talk to anyone...
(He squeezes your shoulder gently.)
[This, the last skill of the Dispersion branch, will help a little with a lot of my frustrations in previous battles, making it less likely that we'll be cut off by our own clones with no path to victory.]
(The two go to bed.)
Frida: I know you as well as any mortal can, Urd. Thank you for gracing my weak self with your presence.
Ancient Shadows: Pity we do have, yes, yes. But what must be done, must be done, yes, yes. If you must suffer, suffer. If you must burn, burn.
Ancient Shadows: That doesn't concern us. No, not really.
Whispered Anguish can paralyze you at short range, restraining your ability to move and act. [In other words, they directly sap your psyche and movement points. Praise the Norns there is only one. If we had the misfortune to be in range of two or more, which will surely happen later, we could start a turn with no mana and no movement. As for triggering the hiccups, they're positioned so that we can bounce from one to another in rapid succession, which is amusing.]
(The next day...)
Frida: Uh... No, thank you. Goodbye.
Armi: Eh, yes, don't leave so quickly!
Ancient Shadows: (Hissing in your ear.) It's true, that. Don't go so fast. Stay a little...
Ancient Shadows: Yes, stay a little.
Ancient Shadows: You still have a lot of things to learn.
Frida: I'm happy to try.
(You take the food and swallow slowly. You feel unwell. Something in you is struggling, strugglingstill struggling, years later. As you finish the first portion, you retch several times. Finally, you run towards the entrance and vomit on the doorstep.)
(Ven kindly helps you to sit down, then goes to clean in silence. He is still as preoccupied.)
(Frida says nothing and looks at the wall.)
Ven: (He puts the food back in his pack.) Don't worry. It was worth a try. Do you want to try to drink a little water? Your lips are white.
Frida: No. There's no point.
Ven: (He clenches his teeth.) Well then... Try to sleep. We'll see tomorrow morning.
[Dust Inferno. This track caught me quite off-guard the first time I heard it, to say the least. It grew on me eventually though.]
The Desert: You have already been here. Do you remember? On your knees, on your knees, in the snow, crying, spitting, vomitingon your knees in the snow, crying, crying, and nothing stopped you. Do you remember? You have already been here.
On your knees for hours on end, dominated, possessed, bought, bought forever. Your stomach was burning like a pyre never burned. Do you remember? It lasted for hours. That day, you stopped understanding. That day, you went mad.
[Even if we had access to Pyre Princess here, these guys would take forever to kill. Even with three Burns applied to them, Wildfire only does about 10,000 damage to enemies. That's ten turns minimum, though likely more, due to cooldowns and needing psyche points for other skills too. Not worth it. Anyway, you can also see the bones we're supposed to collect a little to the left of the Burning Tear.]
The Desert: Your stomach was burning and he was moving inside you even after he had gone, as if he was going to move like that forever. Your knees were burning slowly in the snow for hoursyour knees were burning and you didn't hear them.
How long can one burn, burn in the snow without anyone hearing, without anyone coming? I turned black, black to my bones, that day in the snow... Kneeling, as in useless prayer, I waitedno one came to save me from the flames. No one could have done so.
Slowly, I turned black and no one came. Slowly, I went mad.
(Frida pushes through the clouds, not bothering to shield her eyes from the sand, as her whole body is burning anyway.)
The Desert: Your weary eyes wander. In front of you, coming out from between the trees, a few meters away, a little girl looks at you, terrified. She cries, she screams. Open-mouthed, stunned, you watch her. She is crying. For how long do you watch each other? Her eyes full of tears, your eyes full of saltLeila...
And then she ran, ran crying, ran and you didn't watch her leaving, and you didn't see her again for a long time. Leila... When Inkeri arrived, her eyes were empty, so empty...
Inkeri, your look... When you took me gently in your arms to clasp me to you, to hold me tight, tight against you, as though you would kill me, I understood that you would not cry. In that look that one doesn't show to children, in this unfathomable void, I understood...
What comes after? After, there is nothing... I am tired, so tired. Everything should have finished that day, but you held me tight, tight against you, and I screamed, I screamed, I screamed... Everything should have finished that day.
Let's finish with it, go on...
[Nope. This box is lying. Whispered enemies are the black ones, but there are two invisible Anguishes too. Even if we devote all of our PP to nothing but Pyre Princess skills, it is literally impossible to do enough damage to all six of them within ten turns. And with our build, it is practically impossible to survive long enough to do that anyway. After raging for a few minutes, I kill three of them and call it a day.]
Frida: I am not mad. It is not madness to run from things you cannot defeat.
(So long... Your arms are crumbling slightly, as though eroded by the wind. A sharp, white light, just below the horizon. Kneeling in the sand, you slowly lose coherence. Peace, at last.)
(In this mode, your Movement Points, Psyche Points, and Energy Regeneration are reduced to 0. Your energy points are reduced to 1. Your base abilities are replaces by ashes abilities.)
[Repulsion becomes Wind Will Carry It Away, which teleports us to the targeted destination, with a range of five tiles.]
[Anticipation becomes Looking Back, which takes us back to our previous position before our last teleport.]
[Detection becomes Mist, which lets us dodge all attacks for one turn.]
[Flight becomes Gray Sky, which uses a Movement Point to reduce the cooldown of all other abilities by one turn.]
[We can only use those four abilities for the duration of the fight. The light-blue Springs tiles give us two MP, which we will need, because these are after us:
[We must step on five of these tiles to win:
Winter Voice: I feel alone, and stupid, in my phantom world
To contemplate the tasks of which I am incapable
They are not wrong, the people who call me brat
All that I know is how to play in the sand.
Winter Voice: I cannot do much about it, life made me that way
It is doubtless too late, after all it matters little
I am still going to play, for the time that I have left
I am going to play, to play
So that the wind may carry it away.
(Ven is on his knees next to you. He regularly dabs a piece of wet cloth on your face and lips.)
Ven: Not dead yet, young lady?
(Frida tries to respond, but she can't.)
Ven: You... (In your semi-consciousness, you notice that his voice trembles a little.) You have a strong heart. (He seems to want to say something else, but he can't. His hand trembles as he continues to wipe your face with the cloth.)
There is a house a few kilometers away. I'll try to carry you gently until there. Try to hold on. Don't make any unnecessary effort and, above all, don't try to get up. The blood must not go down to your feet.
(He picks you up off the ground, obviously without any difficulty. You must not weigh very much, after several days without eating, and drinking very little. Your head nodding against his shoulder, you fall half-asleep.)
(You wake up slowly in a strange house. At least, judging by the creaking of the wood and by the river, strangely far and near at the same time, you presume it is a house. Also, the agreeable sensation of being in a bed. You don't open your eyesa damn towel covers your forehead and eyelids. Your throat is less dry.)
(You move slightly. Not far from you, a movement is felt. Someone is walking towards you. Then a woman's voice is raised.)
Hello! (The voice is cheerful.) Are you awake? My name is Chichi! This is my house. It's your friend who brought you here last night. He is still asleep. I gave you a little to eat and drink. It's rare to see people with these types of problems around here. People generally have enough to drink. With the snow and the river. (She laughs.)
If you rest well, tomorrow you will be able to walk and talk. You will have to stay for a few days. You are in a terrible state. What a pity, a pretty girl like you... Ah, but I am talking too much. Sorry, I don't often have visitors. I will let you rest!
(You remain awake for some time, thoughtful, then you go back to sleep. The day passes, between sleep and dozing. The young lady comes regularly to offer you a drink, gives you small quantities of food which, to your surprise, go down without difficulty. She finishes by falling asleep not far from you. You also fall asleep.)
(When you wake, you feel distinctly better. You get up with difficulty, drowsy. No one is in the house. You go towards the exterior.)
[Sorry for the wall of text, but aside from the dialogue boxes, the game shows nothing but a black screen until now.]
[The Wall skill is pretty basic, and similar to Emptiness, but it leads to other cool things.]
[Note the plant next to the door... Look familiar?]
Frida: Hello... I've known better days.
Chichi: I have spoiled you. (She laughs.) It's not often that I have visitors here. Your husband shouldn't be much longer. He slept a lot yesterday and has gone hunting to vary the menu a little.
Frida: (Blushes like a peony) Heh, he is not my husband!
Chichi: Ah, he's not your husband? Excuse me! Since you were traveling together, I just assumed... Anyway! So tell me, what could have happened to you to put you into such a state?
Frida: Hmm... I didn't particularly want to eat.
Chichi: So, in summary, in fact you have stopped eating, stopped drinking, and continued to walk and sweat until you collapsed in the grass and died a little, is that it? That's not very intelligent, is it!
Frida: You are direct, aren't you.
Chichi: (She laughs.) There is a reason, isn't there? Have you had a deception in your lovelife? Have you lost someone? Were you very ill? I don't know, do I...
Frida: I have lost my father, it's true. But that is not really the reason.
Chichi: Why not tell me about it? It doesn't really matter, does it? We are alone here. I think that it will do you good. I have succeeded in making you eat, and I will succeed in making you talk, you know. (She smiles.)
Frida: (Sigh) I have come back from something that I would prefer to forget.
Chichi: For you to have forgotten and then for it to come back like that... It couldn't have been very pleasant, I suppose. (She seems more serious, thoughtful.) A bad sexual relationship? Imposed? ...Young?
Chichi: I see... (Her eyes are suddenly more inexpressivein a flash, they remind you of Inkeri's. It's a painful experience. You fix your eyes on the river, concentrating.) Hmm, a member of your family?
Frida: Not really, but...
Chichi: How long ago?
Frida: Six or seven years.
Chichi: (She remains thoughtful for a few moments. You look at the river.) ...Good! We can talk about that later! You should go back for a rest. You are not yet in a state to remain up for too long. Do you like reading? I have some interesting books. I will take care of the meal soon. (She seems to perceive something behind the house.) Ah, wait! There is your friend. He seems to have had a good hunt.
Frida: A little.
Chichi: (She smiles.) She has slept a lot and eaten and drunk well since she arrived. She will be on her feet in two days, I think!
Ven: Thank goodness for that.
Frida: Yes, he's adorable.
Ven: (He smiles.) You should go back to sleep.
Frida: I'm going to do that.
[I know this conversation mostly just rehashes what we already know, but I figure they wanted to give the option to talk about it to someone if you didn't pick up Ven, or to talk about it with someone with a very different perspective and personality.]
(When you wake up, the house is empty. You get ready rapidly and leave. The sun is shining brightly, as in the preceding days. Chichi is busy fishing.)
Frida: Better than usual.
Chichi: Do you feel better? I mean, has the morale improved a little?
Frida: Yes, a little... The worst is over.
Chichi: I was thinking about what you said to me yesterday. I was asking myself how you could have forgotten all that, despite everything. I mean, I understand that it is a very difficult experience, but... it's strange, isn't it?
Frida: I was rather fragile as a kid, and a little immature.
Ven: I was just talking about it with Chichi. You didn't tell me exactly what happened, afterwards. If you want to talk about it, of course. I'm curious to find out how an entire village can act as if nothing happened. I mean, that's what they did, right? Otherwise you would have remembered sooner.
Chichi: Yes, I think that's interesting as well. It's true that it is strange. How did they react?
Frida: I remember this kid. Leila. She was there, hidden, when it happened. She followed me everywhere... She was young. Twelve years old, thirteen at most.
Ven: (He sits in the grass. Shortly after, you and Chichi follow suit.) It must not have been easy for her either.
Frida: Yes, now that I think about it. That's probably why she became the way she did.
Ven: Is she the one who told the village?
Frida: Yes. After he left, she came out from behind the trees and she looked at me. She was livid. Then she ran off crying, to look for the volva... When Inkeri arrived, she didn't say much. She knew it was no use. She took me home and spoke to my father for a long time.
Ven: He didn't say anything? He didn't do anything?
Frida: I don't know. It's a blur. I remember staying locked in my room for a long time. Screaming, laughing, acting crazy. For hours, or for days, I don't really know. I couldn't talk anymore. I wouldn't let anyone except Inkeri in.
Chichi: It's as though you had gone mad? (She bites her finger, frowning.) But how did you become, eh... normal again? Sociable? I don't know...
Frida: I could no longer bear it going through my mind, so I think that I created for myself a new world after a time. I could not accept it.
Chichi: Just like that, from one day to the next?
Frida: No, I think it was very gradual. People thought I was becoming normal. I remember, ah...
Frida: One day my father alluded to it, and I didn't understand at all what he was talking about. There was a long silence, he stared at me, and then said no more.
Chichi: He never tried again?
Frida: No. Even when I was very ill and I had almost died the following year, he didn't try again.
Ven: Hmm... And the people? How did they react? It's strange that no one let the cat out of the bag, no?
Frida: Hans was the only woodworker in the village. They couldn't really punish him in any way. So they asked him to stay in his home and to never come out. He never came out and I never saw him again.
Frida: I don't think my father would have accepted it, but... maybe.
Ven: And no one ever talked about it?
Frida: Only the heads of the main families knew... Everyone avoided the topic.
Chichi: And your behavior never seemed bizarre to those who did not know about it?
Frida: They more or less thought I was mad, I suppose.
Chichi: Yes, I see. That explains it. And what finally made you understand everything?
Frida: The death of my father changed things. It took me a while to understand why, but I didn't wait to understand before leaving.
Frida: And you, Chichi? We are speaking a lot about me, but tell me a little about how you came to be a fisherwoman on the banks of the river.
Chichi: Me? Oh, my life is not as interesting as yours...
Frida: Why not?
Ven: (He smiles.) One life is as interesting as another. Can't you see that Frida is tired? Don't be selfish, talk about yourself for a bit!
Chichi: (She laughs.) There is not much to say. I was born in a village on the other side of the river. My parents did not live to be very old. I fell in love with a man and I followed him... We set up home together here... We lived several years here. And then one day, he left. He never came back.
Frida: Just like that? From one day to the next?
Frida: You have never tried to find him again?
Chichi: No. The world is huge. My chances of finding him again are slim. And then, he will finish by coming back again one day... don't you think?
[I'm sure you guys already figured it out due to the portrait (honestly, I don't know why she looks so pissed off in itshe never gets mad about anything), but Chichi is the third and final potential companion for our party. If I recall, there is another choice a little after this to invite her along if you skip this one, but I figured I would ask here since this update is getting rather long. I'm guessing that you guys will vote to bring her along, but since this is one of the few major choices left, I wanted to ask. And, like with Ven, there is the option of how to treat her in dialogue: coldly/indifferently, politely, or flirtatiously. Let me know what you think!]