Part 23: Episode 23 - Fulfilment of a PromiseChapter Twenty Three: Fulfilment of a Promise
I wind up spending all my upgrade money on the Justeen, enhancing its ZZ Grenade by two levels and the Handgun by one. Moving swiftly on
Music: Conversation with Friends
: Yeah, I think so. Immediately preceding the final showdown, he concentrates his entire being to this one task...Man, I am a true Maintenance Superstar!
: Always talking dumb crap, but he can get it together when it counts. Respect. Compared to other peeps I know...
: Whuh! Why are you looking at me like that!? I helped out too!
: What? Why are you smiling now?
: I! I'm not! It's nothing!
: Hee, hee...Oh, I see it now. Is that it?
:... Yeah. Now that is what I would call the 'Tenno Mountain which divides ground and sky.'
: Tenno Mountain?
: where outcomes and destiny are decided.
Yukito suddenly whacks Cage!
: You are facing a conflict! I sense it!!
: Well, yes...I really would much rather not fight. To fight against Ares...But then again...
: Hunh?...I don't know, someone who cares?
: Not a bad answer. But this is how I see it. Anyone who's only around in happy times is not a friend. When you're really suffering, or struggling, just giving you a pep talk isn't enough either. A friend is someone who can tell you honestly all that's not good about you...don't you agree?
: What's not good about you...a friend?
: Between true friends, there is no need to watch how you act; see how they respond. A person who can't criticize you honestly doesn't deserve to be called a friend. That's just an acquaintance. What do you think?
: I don't know...But I do want to tell Ares that what hes doing is wrong. Even if it makes him dislike me...
: Here's a tip. There are no absolutes in this world. If anyone says that he is definitely right, he's probably already wrong. Isn't that a pretty simple rule of thumb?
: Heh heh...Well, he does tell me I suck all the time.
: Twede, maintain this pace and pass over it.
:...Understood. After it has passed that point, I will make Saoshyant retreat to outside the immediate battle area on auto-pilot.
: I had been concerned about the volume of oxygen in the vicinity, but they themselves have limited plant function, to the point that fire hazard has been eliminated. It is highly likely that they did this in preparation for 'Marlblanke.'
: All right then. Come on, everyone!
: Hunh? We're going right over, right? How is that going to work?
: At the closest point, we'll jump down.
: swing those acrobatics!
: You're aware that Saoshyant has no defence mechanisms, right? Down there is the sea, and we don't have time to board the normal way anyway.
: Yeah, I guess...but...
: That's true...If we are surrounded by enemies like what happened a little while ago, it would be trouble.
: OFs on Caliburnus.
: Uno, dos, tres...Hm? We're missing a frame? What about Calibur? Wait. Where is Ms...Robin?
The sound of fists pounding against metal rings out
: No way...in there?
: Please, do not let it bother you.
: Er? But...
: TwEDe!! TWEDE!! You're not going to get away with doing this to me!
: Please remain quiet until this battle is over.
So yeah, Twede locks Robin up in a closet or something to keep her from fighting. To be honest I think it feels a bit out of place; Robins been fighting with us for a good while now and has already pointed out numerous reasons why her coming along is a good idea. This sort of scene would make more sense if it was placed earlier on in the story, in my opinion.
:...Don't get me wrong, I knew it from the get-go, but you're not half as aloof as you come off.
: No, it is my -
: Regardless, she will stay here. All we can do is fight, but Ms. O'Connell is different. Take care of everything else.
: Besides, no guy wants his girl dead. Come on you people, we should all support his love life.
: What? Why is it so quiet around here?
: So, shouldn't we get going soon?
: Dana, we'll talk about this later, forgive me...
The screen fades out and everyone leaves, but
It looks like Robin has a plan
This should read, Fulfilment of a Promise.
Music: Offense and Defence
The Saoshyant enters the Oxygen plant, moves east a little bit, then the BIS units initiate their hard drop.
: That frame has too much armour. Bullets should be DODGED. This design is so...cowardly.
: Yeah, as much as humanly possible. Maybe it was that embrace I got from that lovely lady.
: Oh? I thought you had no interest in women. I'm not within the parameters of eligibility for you.
: How rude of you. I am an equal opportunity kind of guy. As long as the cuteness factor is there, what's the difference between a guy or an animal?
: *Mumble*...Why do I have to be together with the ole man, when I could have been having passionate liaison with an older woman....
:...What did you say?
: Yeah yeah. Why are you so grumpy, anyway? Jealous of Yukito??
:...Wh! What's that supposed to mean?!
: Huh? N-No, wait!
: You guys...Will you stop doing your routine during crisis times?
: Ha ha ha...
: Cage, something is coming from above us!
: The enemy?!
: install it just in case something like this should happen!
: With this 'Miniature Lipstic Laser Saw,' something I made wayyyyy back when. The board didn't like it, but...see! It's actually very practical!
: There you go again...Why do you always, ALWAYS...
: Fine, I will no longer stop you, so please go and seek safety.
:...You ARE stopping me.
: Aah, she got you on that one, eh?
Unfortunately the comedy comes to an end right about now
Because Ned arrives with a squad of flunkies.
: You gotta work on your originality.
: Shush!! I heard that you took ole Zephyrs down, eh?
: Hm. Are you saying that even losers like you will avenge your friends?
: Heh heh! That's pretty funny. That was no loss. You came all this way and you're going already? No wonder! You're not close to winning over me, I'm immortal!
: You have no intention of handing it over, do you? That's perfect. I'll just tear you all to shreds, then. Raptors! Pound all of them down, and don't stop until they've turned into dust! *Cackle* Let the party begin!
The game gives us control here.
Player Phase Music: Offense and Defence
Enemy Phase Music: Impact
Okay, so we start out a fair distance away from Neds forces. There are multiple stages to this mission, but for the first part its a good idea to head north, snag the Local Server and then wait for Ned to blunder into our guns. Ned himself has brought a new unit to the table, so lets check it out before we start.
The new foes are the Mummy Heads, another Raptor variant commonly seen throughout the ZOE series. As opposed to the Cyclops these guys focus on ranged attacks above all else and dont even mount a melee weapon. Mummy Heads come in two varieties, Type A and Type B, with the only difference being that Type Bs mount the slightly more powerful but slightly shorter-ranged Halberd in lieu of the usual Phalanx.
Overall they arent too much trouble; the inability to move and fire on the same turn really lessens their damage potential.
We cant reach the Local Server on the first turn but that doesnt matter since itll take Ned at least two turns to catch up with us.
Still, that much firepower might cause problems. Luckily there are plenty of buildings around to provide defensive bonuses.
I cluster everyone together before having Nadia grab the Local Server. This is the last one in the game and provides a truly ludicrous ability for two of our units.
Neds getting closer. Two of his Raptors will be able to strike on his turn, and after that things are going to get a little hectic.
Only one of those Raptors manages to hit, thankfully.
Neds flunkies are all nicely strung out in a straight line, which is good.
Ugh, these little buggers are durable.
Okay, now all three Raptors are down. That still leaves quite a few others, though the Beam Gun LEVs arent really a threat to us anymore.
Yukito ends the turn with a good old Handgun tap.
The enemy Mummy Head opens up as soon as Neds turn begins. Its damage output is surprisingly low.
Not that it matters since Warren evades the shot.
Semyl isnt so lucky, even with the terrain bonuses.
That could have been a problem.
Looks like Warren is Mr. Popular this turn.
Anyway, here we are at the start of our next turn. We have plenty of targets to choose from, but Im going to start by picking off the weaker Beam Gun LEVs to save time.
Have I mentioned how much I love Yukitos pistol grenade? Because I love Yukitos pistol grenade.
These guys are basically nothing to us now. We wont be seeing them again after this mission.
And thats the last of them. Now we can focus on taking down the unmanned units.
Mummy Heads are pretty tough, but they also have a larger than normal critical hit spot. My final act this turn is to repair the Caliburnus with the Calibur and use the Vjayas resupply ability to restock Yukitos ZZ Grenade.
We all saw this coming.
Since they lack melee attacks Mummy Heads will happily plink away at our units from a distance. Its annoying since it means well have to leave our defensive position in order to deal with them.
The Mummy Halberd is essentially the same as Testaments version except much weaker.
Ow. Cyclopses are frighteningly accurate, despite being six levels lower than our average team member.
And thats it for Neds turn.
Okay, lets start by getting rid of those Cyclopses.
Uh one down I guess. Im kind of running out of interesting things to say in between kills.
Since this is the opening scene of a multi-part battle its a good idea to feed all your OFs kills to increase their Spirit. Unlocking a few Burst Attacks will make the next parts go by much quicker.
Alright, all thats left is to heal up Semyl, crush the remaining Mummy Heads and then give Ned a good pounding and the next part of the mission will begin.
Hmm. I think Ned might be programmed to target the current weakest member of your group, since Semyl would have been much easier to hit
If you look closely youll notice that those grenades dont just appear from nowhere they shoot out of tiny flaps that open on either side of the Mummy Head. Ive never noticed that until now.
Alright, lets finish this.
We should have just enough power to kill off both the last Mummy head and Ned in one turn.
Alright, now for the final touch.
Yknow Mebius was the first one to really get on Neds nerves back when she was first introduced. So its only appropriate that she gets to put the boot in him once and for all with her shiny new attack.
: Gimme a Frame, I need one to make myself a new body!
If there are no other enemy Frames present Ned starts to panic a bit.
: What the ! Theres nobody here?! What am I gonna Yikes! Theyre gonna get me if something isnt done! Rats!
Then a Raptor appears from offscreen and scoots over. If there are still other enemies present then the above dialogue is skipped.
: Whuh! Wh-what!! Stop! It's me!! Ned, the one and only! Can't you tell?!
: Don't! It's only a communications device failure! C'mon...Good boy! Please! Be a goo...sto-stop! Stopppppppp!!
And thats Ned gone for good. Hes not coming back this time.
: Is he...gone?
: He was really persistent.
: All humans are fixated on 'life,' and do whatever they can do to foil 'death'...I can appreciate this concept now.
: Huh? What's that?
: Aw come on. You didn't like my drum roll? Or are you holding the thingie about Phil-Phil and the old man against me?
:...What ARE you? What are you trying to do? And, where are Myona and Ares?
: when people get all emotional like that. I mean, I can't even talk to people like that!
:...Did you people not see that light? The 'Razor-thin beam that slit the heavens'...I was totally mesmerized...Just remembering it has such an effect on me, see, I'm already...Cage, you big pervert! I can't believe you tried to make me say all that!
:...She shows no indication of wanting to communicate seriously.
: I know. You're telling me not to lose my temper, right?
: Battle mode has been set up. Let us begin quickly. Please give me a command at once!
: Huh? Pharsti...? Are you feeling anger too?
: I do not know. However, I cannot rule out that possibility.
: What is this...?
: These are 'unmanned Grafficanes.' Features had to be compromised, but it's still better than the one Phil was riding. Ares is out back...*Giggle* If you can get past me, you're welcome to go and see him.
: If we can get her out of the way, the rest of the frames are all unmanned. They hardly pose a threat.
: Okay, got it. We're going to make you get out of the way!
Thus begins the second stage of the mission.
The Unmanned Grafficanes can be a huge pain. Their specs are the same as Phils Grafficane but theyre better pilots than he ever was. Amantes Scarmiglione is the same as ever. Thankfully weve got some time to heal up and resupply before her group gets to where we are.
Oh, and the Raptor that spawned in to kill Ned sticks around.
Its not just for show.
It can be a nasty surprise if youre not expecting it.
After healing up, resupplying and repositioning its time to face the Grafficanes.
I love the fact that theyve kept their formation.
One good thing about these guys is that they give out so much money and experience.
These guys are a menace if they manage to get their attacks in, so crushing them quickly is the best plan.
The Caliburnus is running low on ammunition, so I move the Vjaya over to restock it. I wind up regretting this quite soon
Now imagine if there had been four of these guys all attacking at once. Their damage output is equivalent to that of the Raptor variants if not higher, and their huge HP pool makes them extremely resilient. I tore through two of them and mauled the third so quickly only because of the extra Spirit and Burst Attacks gained from beating all of Neds flunkies. Since Amante appears as soon as Ned dies, you can potentially find yourself facing down his remnants and the Grafficassholes at the same time.
If youre prepared for them though its possible to take them down before they can do too much damage.
Just one more
Now its just Amante and her Cyclopses left to deal with.
I cut out a few turns of Amante and her posse moving up.
Annoyingly we cant reach the last Cyclops. Ill content myself with farming a few levels from Amante in the meantime.
Ill kill her if I do any more, so
She can still be deadly though.
So can these guys. But thats fine because were about to finish them both and begin the final stage of this mission.
: That's because we're not alone. Everyone is working as one.
: As one...I guess I am a little jealous.
: I was always alone...I always had a lot of boyfriends, but they were only interested in how I look...I didn't choose to look this good...In all honesty, I...
: To tell you the truth, I kind of liked you. So I didn't really want to fight. I wish we could have met under different circumstances...
: Cage, don't be swayed. She is...
: Cage, will you come here...I'm so scared...
Oh come on. Even Cage wouldnt be fooled by such-
: Cage! It's dangerous!!
: She's the same as all of us. Nobody would help her, that's all.
: Ohhhh, shut up!! You talk too much. Cage, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. A truly desirable man will at times pretend to be fooled when a girl is lying to him. Hope you can become a more attractive guy someday...Adieu!!
: Are you all right?
: Yeah, kind of...O-Okay, now we have to look for Ares and Myona.
: Yes, let us hurry.
Okay! Thats Ned and Amante down for the count. The path to Ares is open, but well be heading to another map to confront him. Yep, its another two-map mission. Music: Tragedy
: The energy levels in the area are surging to abnormally high levels. In other words, it may be more accurate to say that we have been lured into a massive energy field.
: So, Ares is close by?
: I would expect...right before our very eyes.
:...Ares. (Hm? I don't see Myona's OF anywhere...I thought that was the origin of the Marlblanke beam...?)
: Ares! Where is the Marlblanke Beam? We came to destroy it!
: Good to see you again...heh heh...There's no need to look so angry. You're looking right at it, this is the frame.
Yep, the Black Frame has the doomlaser attachment as well.
: Whoops, I can't use this on you right now! It takes some time the gather enough energy to make it work.
: I understand now, that is the Animus...And you are the origin of Marlblanke this time...I'm going to stop it!
: That's cold...I thought we were friends, and that you would hand over the new Animus and go home...But I guess you just don't care enough about our friendship to do that.
: Ares...Why are you doing this? What Zephyrs did can't be forgiven. But you're doing the same thing as him! How am I supposed to cooperate with you?!
: expand, and envelop the entirety of Mars with a great ball of fire!
: (Vale's revenge? His wrath? Something is really off...) Pharsti, is it really Ares talking?
: There is something very unnatural about his communication, but there is no doubt that the voice is coming from Ares' physical body.
: You saw the light of Marlblanke. Not all OFs can do that. It requires the 'Mindflow System,' as well as a human who can be aligned with the system and operate it.
: That light is the result of the mind accepting the frame as its body, and fully utilizing the entire reserve of Metatron that is found throughout the OF; this, however, is a great burden on both the frame and its runner. Iblis and Nerokerubina will reach their limits at some point. And for the time being, there are only two of us who can run the system to 100% of its capacity...we need more people who can do the same. You understand?
In short its basically synchronization from Evangelion and dozens of other mecha anime.
: The version of the 'Mindflow System' installed on Iblis, Pharsti, and Nerokerubina, Ver. α, proved too difficult for normal people to handle. It holds great potential, through the built-in communicator module that links it to the runner. The new Animus, on the other hand, runs on 'Mindflow System Ver. ß,' which can be easily operated by anybody, even without any special training.
: Do you mean to say that if you were to analyze the system on Testament and mass-produce it, that anybody could create that 'light?'
: Exactly. The blueprints for that black box, unfortunately, have been lost. What you are riding is the only Ver. ß in existence. Come and join me, Cage. Let's illuminate the world with light...If we can do that, there is no reason to ever be afraid again!
Finally we get an explanation for why everyones been after Testament. Not only is it a powerful Frame in its own right, any old Joe Bloggs off the street can hop in and start shooting death rays everywhere. Now lets see how Cage reacts
: Ahh. Finally I've been able to talk some sense into you. If you will join me, we will be invincible! Hurry, hand it over.
: Before I do that, let's catch up. Ares, do you remember this?
: like ages.
: What happened? Now, hand it over!
: Who ARE you?
: real Ares wouldn't have reacted that way! Ares would have become a little shy, and said, 'You still have that old thing?' You're not Ares. You're controlling him with the Selfbinder, just like you did to Myona!
:...What are you talking about? Cage, just give...
: You're using his body...and his voice...You don't deserve to speak to me!
Music: Promise of Reunion
: Of course you don't know what it is. This is a memorial of the friendship between me and Ares! And now, it's also become proof of the fact that you aren't Ares! Ares! Can you hear this?! No matter what, I am always going to be your friend! Even if the whole world turns against you, I'll always be on your side! All of me!!
: What nonsense are you spouting...?! Uhhg! Wh, what is...Damn! What is happening! The controls...can't be maintained...?! You...gghhh...what did you do...? What is this...uggggggghhggg.
:...Remember how you were just talking about friendship? I'll show you what friendship is...I'm stopping you because you're my friend, Ares! This is my definition of friendship. Come on, Ares!
Ares summons unmanned reinforcements!
: I'm sorry, Pharsti. It must be hard on you with the non-stop fighting, but work with me a little more!
: Okay, Cage! I am ready!
And the game gives us control here!
Player Phase Music: Wetworks
Enemy Phase Music: Atrocity
This is the final part of the mission. Its us against Ares at long last, though hes brought a few friends along to help even the odds.
Ares himself is pretty damn scary. He has the armour rating of a Nerokerubina and only 5,000 less HP, plus his IAS sprite lacks the enormous critical zones that make the former easier to kill. Rusty Cutter costs nothing to use, Venom Rain barely sips at his EN with only 2 Energy required per shot and Soul Eclipse is capable of oneshotting our regular LEVs if he manages to get the Spirit for it. He only needs 5, by the way.
Oh, and your eyes arent deceiving you; there really are two Unmanned Nerokerubinas accompanying him. Good thing our Spirit rating carried over to this mission!
Now Id usually sit back and let Ares come to me, but Im aware this update is dragging on and it seems thematically appropriate so Im charging ahead with this one.
Lets do this!
No sense in holding anything back.
Im just taking out what I can. These guys arent the real threat anyway, Ares is the one to watch out for.
Testament is as awesome as ever.
Thank you, Mebius, for not leaving the guy alive with 80 HP.
Alright! All the Raptors are dead, so the only ones left are the heavy hitters. Lets see what Ares has in store for us.
I dont like it when an enemy can shave off half my HP with one attack.
Yeah, you dont want to fuck with Ares. Even his basic attacks will cleave our units in half.
Right. First order of business is to take out those Grafficanes.
This also has the advantage of getting Yukito in range of the Calibur for healing.
Alright! The Grafficanes are history, and that just leaves Ares and the Neros. We could go for Ares now, but those Neros give out a truly absurd amount of cash and experience.
I decide to take the risk.
Huh. Okay, thats not a disaster, Ill just-
Fuck, I forgot he could move that far!
Ugh, that sucks. I mean, its not as if Semyl was going to do anything useful anyway, but
Cage is still capable of dodging, at least.
By destroying the Caliburnus Ares has unlocked Soul Eclipse. This is a Very Bad Thing, but Im determined to get the sweet rewards from taking out those Neros!
Wait, 3,000? Goddammit I thought it was 5,000! Ugh, guess I might as well kill the other one while its here
God bless critical hits.
Razma spits in your face, Ares! And by spits, I mean shoots a shitton of grenades.
Okay, now lets hope Ares doesnt kill anyone important.
Okay, now lets-
Huh. Guess hes not going to waste a Burst Attack on something that wont survive his normal attack.
Just to show you guys; Ares doesnt fuck about. He pretty much never stops shooting crosshairs at you.
Its our turn now and that means its time to murder the final Nero.
I have the Vjaya resupply the Orcrist because its attacks are more powerful.
Its actually kind of funny; Warren has beaten the shit out of so many dudes hes out of ammo and energy for all of his weapons except Absolute. Ill see about resupplying him as well.
Okay I know I should save this for Ares but seriously fuck this.
Oh, and before I forget.
This has been an exhausting mission, but its nearly done. Just have to survive a little longer
Well, if you have to go, might as well do it in style
Yeah, youre not getting up from that one.
But it bought us some time to reorganise and resupply, so Im not complaining.
Huh, Ares seems to have a lot of trouble hitting Razma.
Now, all we have to do to win the mission is to reduce Ibliss HP to below 50%. Unlike the other lower enemy HP objectives its literally impossible to outright kill Ares instead, since 50% of 20,000 is 10,000 and the damage caps out at 9,999 even on critical hits.
But after such a long slog I dont really care, so lets just get on with it.
: per fect plan
: The cannon has ceased to function. It is no longer capable of firing.
: OK. Now...
: Cage, we have succeeded in damaging the enemy computer, and stopped the interference waves.
: If he had been controlled before, it is highly possible that he is not now.
: Pharsti, you are the best!
: Ares? Is it you? Say something!
: Don't come.
: What? What are you saying! There's nothing to worry about now!
: Cage...you don't understand at all. I...I don't want to see you...
: Cage, please stop bothering us. Please...
: Myona! You've gone back to normal too!? Thank god...
: Cage, stop right there.
: What does that mean? You've become yourselves again, so why do you still have to fight? Why, Ares...Myona!
: Stop us if you think you can...
:...If and when you do that, it'll really be goodbye...So please don't, Cage. Please...
Myona and Ares retreat.
: In practice, an attack at this time is very risky. The frame has been weakened by the constant battle. Saoshyant should retreat.
: Cage, please. You must retreat.
BIS retreats, and the screen fades out.
Music: Every Day
: What's wrong? Why are you so blue?
: I don't know, bro. I just feel like we're missing something. We did help them, but isn't there something else we should have done?
: Are you talking about Ares? But actually going after him is dangerous. We overexerted ourselves attacking 'Marlblanke.' The most Saoshyant can do at the moment is to fly from one point to another. We won't be able to catch up with them anyway.
: Are we going to just let them be taken?!
: Well, what do you suggest we do? Shelter them? That small group of people has been controlling the events on Mars. We've just been puppets. I'm not saying that's a crime. But...when they decide something - how can we possibly go against it? The last battle was our last hope.
: Cage, you did everything you could, as a friend. But he made his decision, and nothing can change that. Humans have the right to choose their own destinies.
Cage leaves and walks over to the Hangar.
: Sorry, Pharsti. I'm going to go.
: I won't cause you any trouble...I'll even go alone.
:...You have not changed your mind?
: Yeah, I've already decided that two very important people to me are still suffering. I can't leave them.
:...I do not quite understand, but if you say so, that must be correct. What will you tell everybody?
: This is my personal issue. I can't drag everyone into this. And I also want to find out what Ares meant when he said that 'It's not over yet'...
: I understand...The minimum amount of recuperation has been completed just now. Let us leave immediately.
: Cage, I have already said this to you. If you wish it, I will do whatever I can to help. I stopped you earlier because I needed to load up sufficiently. I will always go wherever you go!
: Pharsti...you are the best!!
: Hee, hee...You are the only person to say that to a computer.
: Then, what am I?
: That's a secret.
: Are you mad at me? I'm kidding...You're a friend, I think...
:...I knew it. Cage, where do you think you're going?
Music: Z.O.E. 2173
: Wait! Come back! Do you want to die?!
: You said it yourself earlier. Humans have a right to choose their own destinies. Right?
: Before that, you advised me once to 'think for myself, make my own decisions, and take responsibility for them.' There are things that I must do. Thank you for everything up until now.
: Please tell everyone that I am so glad I got to meet them. Goodbye...Pharsti!
Testament takes off in search of Ares and Myona. Meanwhile, on the bridge
: Let's let him go. I'm sure it won't end badly.
: Razma, he's gone.
: (Hurry, Cage...Don't allow yourself to have any regrets...)
And with that, this monster of a mission is finally over!
But thats not to say theres nothing to look forward to next time, since we just received the most game-breaking upgrade ever from the Local Server. Double Action allows both the Vjaya and Testament to take two turns to every other units one, and its just as beautifully bullshit as it sounds.
And thats that! Just two more missions left!