Update 11: Arcane Incantation



Impact-absorbing body armor composite material, trial number one. Begin testing.
You're certain that I will not be able to injure Ace through this armor?
Well, no, I can't be certain. That's what this round of testing is for. I am very confident that Ace will not suffer any serious injuries from this, though.
Special Waylon metals and my unbreakable body: a winning combination.
Very well, then. Prepare thyself for a barehanded flurry, Ace!
Wait, "thyself?" Who says that—
WHAM
...I had intended to subject your creation to a flurry, Waylon, and yet it failed absorb my initial strike.
My alloy was far less effective at absorbing impacts from hand-to-hand combat than I'd hoped, yes. More importantly, however...
Iiiiii'm okay! Don't worry! Just need a bit of help getting out of the ceiling!
Of course, Ace.




Whoof. Alright, so. Obviously, that kinda sent me flying into the ceiling foam.
Ineffective at preventing forced momentum, then.
But! Didn't feel a thing when Naij actually hit me. Like, didn't even register that I'd gotten hit until I was flying up into the foam.
That is very impressive, at least.
It's very encouraging, yes. Now, to figure out the correct balance between injury mitigation and momentum absorption...


Huh. Anyone recognize that ship over there?
I've never seen it before, no.
It's a single-flier skyship, and it's not Kirjonen or Wiglaf's. Realistically, there's only one person it could be.
That's a bit odd, eh? Hard to go anywhere in Tharsis without seeing those "don't go in the Misty Ravine" notices.
Perhaps he is seeking to conduct his own diplomacy with the Vessels.
...I don't like this. He may need help.
Indeed. The man may have a silver tongue, but I doubt the Vessels will take kindly to an unknown human showing up at their gates. One really has to wonder what in the world he's thinking.
If he is in as much danger as we surmise...perhaps we should stop deliberating and simply be on our way to Vessel Town?
Mhm.
Yeah.



An encounter on the way to Vessel Town puts me one level away from Veteran skills.

Marlin and Naijou save their skill points. The other three continue to rank up skills that will still be important once we hit Veteran.

Uh. Where are the guards?
...In the trees! They're... My gods, they've been badly injured!
Oh hell, don't tell me the damn—
Marlin! Shelly! Assist me in pulling the gate open!
Aye!

♪ No music ♪


Wounded Vessels are groaning on the ground and everywhere there are signs of a struggle. What has happened...?
Gods almighty, what...
A-A-Ah...
What villains could bear the Vessels enough malice to do this?!
Hollows.
I— Excuse me, everyone, I need to tend to the wounded!
A man approaches from further within. It seems to be Whirlwind...



Ah, Daffodil. Had a feeling you'd be here sooner than later. Just got here a bit ago myself. Terrible thing, all this, isn't it?
That is putting it mildly, is it not?
Fair. I'm kinda at a loss for words here. Should've figured something bad was up when I could just walk in without anyone saying "boo."
There is dissembling in his tone, but you cannot read his true thoughts in his expression...
W-What happened here?
Didn't see whatever went down myself, but I've overheard enough.
It's the Hollows, yeah? Had to've been...
I heard that word being thrown around, but I've got no clue what it means. Mind filling me in?
They're... Not really full-on ghosties, but they're still see-through. We're...supposed to have magicks that keep 'em on the lower parts of the forest. Hasn't stopped the spooks from comin' up to be pains in the arse, though, as my friends've seen.
I surmise that large-scale attacks upon Vessel Town are unheard of, however.
Right, right. Usually it's just one or two of 'em attackin' someone that goes into the forest. This... Nothin' like this's ever happened before.
You know if these things can think?
Couldn't tell ya. Never actually met one until that run-in with the Medium. The adults here don't like talking about 'em, either.
Hrm... Bah, no, Whirlwind, doesn't matter. Okay, so, brace yourself, because here's the really bad news: the Medium's been kidnapped.
She— She what?!
A-Ahhhh...
Damnable wraiths!
...Shit.
Well, that's... No way to sugarcoat it, that's bad.
Really messes up the mission, doesn't it?
...Messes up the— My friend's in danger, you godsdamned empty-headed dingbat!
Woah, woah, sorry, didn't mean any harm, it was just on my mind.
How can Xiuan's safety not be the first bleedin' thing you— Aaaaaaagh! What are we doin'?! We need to— I need to get to the lower—
Ray!
What the— Let go'a me, Harper!
No! You'll get hurt if I do!
Xiuan's gonna die if we don't—
You do not know that for certain.
Whirlwind looks around the town again, seemingly troubled.
...I, uh, don't mean to interrupt, but anyone else hear someone else shouting?
I think that's Wufan shouting, over there!
Not far away is a familiar Vessel, the arcanist called Wufan. You can tell from here that she has lost her composure. She is lashing out at a group of Vessels.


Have you forgotten how much we rely on the Medium's guidance? Can you think of nothing but yourselves?!
W-With all due respect, High Arcanist, it would be extraordinarily unwise to chase after the Hollows, especially without the elders'—
We do not have the luxury of time! I will not wait as the rest of you do nothing until the elder committee allows it! I am going!
After her outburst, she turns her back to the other Vessels.
...
Ah—!
Her eyes lock with yours for a moment before she turns away, as if ashamed, and rushes down the stairs.

♪ No music ♪


I can't tell if that's very good luck or very bad luck on her part.
It's pretty bad luck, if you ask me, seeing as she's headed to the lower floors alone. What's she going to try...?
I...hah...I just saw Wufan...running towards the descent... What happened?
The Medium was kidnapped. By Hollows. The ghost people we ran into before.
Oh... Oh dear.
Well, nothing for it, I guess, but to go after her. No-one'd benefit if she got herself hurt.
You say that, and yet you are descending alone as well?
Just how I do things. Do me a favor. Or, well, two favors. First, let the Count know what happened. Second... Don't rush into this, alright? Take a day or two to take care of other business you've got in town, maybe.
But... It's my fault this happened...
You— What— Do you hear what you're saying? Leave the friend I've known since we were babies in the Hollows' care?
And that's why I'm telling you that. These Hollows, I think that they...well, think. Maybe not like we do, but they're a cut above the stuff you've fought up until now, and it sounds like there's a lot of them waiting on the lower floors.
I do not follow.
Listen, call it a hunch, but I don't think they mean to hurt the Medium.
Yeah, I am gonna call that a hunch.
...Got me there. Look, here, how about we do it like this? Give me a day or two to scout ahead. I dunno if I can fight the Hollows, but I can sneak through the trees and look for the Medium. Perk of adventuring alone. Soon as I find the Medium, I'll let you know.
With what? A smoke signal? Flying back to Tharsis?
Better. Way better. Here, Harper, catch.
Wah!
...What is this?
It's a linkpearl. Well, "communication sphere," if you wanna get technical about it. Waylon'll recognize it. It's part of a pair—I've got the other, see? You touch it...
And whatever you say gets sent to the other pearl. Useful, huh?
The instant I can confirm the Medium's status, you'll know.
Alright. Don't get yourself kidnapped by Hollows, you got it?
Heh, I'll try.
And be quick with makin' sure the Medium's okay.
Whirlwind nods, waves, and disappears into the maze. Once you are prepared, take the stairs to the lower depths. Below lies the nest of the inhuman Hollows...



...The Medium's life is in his and our hands now.
Not quite what I signed up for, but eh. Things happen.
You and Ace really are peas in a pod when it comes to not stressin' out, ain't you?
Can only speak for myself, but it's how I keep my heart from twistin' itself in knots, hoppin' out of my body, and settin' sail on its own, lass.
...
Well, fat lot of good standing around will do us. Let's get back to the ship and wait for that pearl thing to go off, alright? What we've all seen today was...
"A few steps shy of a massacre" is how I would put it.
Something like that. I think we all need to take some time after this. Gods know I do...
I assisted as many people as I could. The Vessels' healers seem to have things under control now, at least.
It's real easy to convert the mystic stuff inside our circles into healin' energy. Knew that was good for healin' a bunch of people, but...only time I've ever actually seen that bit was, well, while we're explorin'.
...Let's get goin'.



Marlin, come with me. We will handle affairs in town. Shelly, Harper, Eine, Ray, please go await the arrival of the Air B'n'B.
Whuh? What's with you taking charge all of a sudden, big guy?
Everyone is quite shaken and worried. You are suffering from anxiety as well, that much is clear—
Is it?
It is to me, at least. His vocal projections and manner of walking are unsteadier than usual.
That's some good guesswork.
It is no guess, I am merely stating what I can observe. Please, the rest of you, take some time to clear your heads.
But—
Please. I am suggesting what seems best for your mental states. We have an unknowable amount of waiting ahead of us—take these early hours to not worry about mundane matters such as conversing with those assisting us.
...Thanks, Naij.
...
What...are you doing, Harper? Why are you attaching yourself to me?
This is a hug. It means many things, but I am using it to tell you "thank you." Thank you.


Found it a while ago, Dalla.
Oh, why didn't you say so sooner? I'll have to cook a special feast tonight in your honor! Perhaps I should invite the Outland Count...
He partakes of the food here?
Every now and then, yes. The way he "ooh"s and "aah"s over his food makes me so happy to have him sample my cooking.


...Listen to our gear?
Ah, I understand what she means. Loose clasps or minute amounts of rust can change the sounds that our weapons make when we strike enemies, or when our armor is struck by them.
Yup, pretty much what he said. Ya do da gear maint for ya guild?
No, that task falls to Ace. They have told me about important aspects of maintenance, though, on account of the modifications that need to be made to armor to fit my large frame.
Huh! Didn't take 'em for da metal-brain type. Still, good dat ya've got someone thinkin' about dis stuff.


Whoops, right, we've got a handful of new materials for you.
It's like all my birthdays've come at once!
Berund Atelier has the following new items in stock:

...Or not. Dat was disappointin'.
We'll make up for it next time we go to a new floor, aye, lass?
Aye-ya-ya!
Never heard someone go "aye" like that.
Meh, it just feels right, y'know?



Requests.
Have you been stalled by the Count's proclamation regarding the Misty Ravine as well? I have had many customers bemoaning it.
Not exactly. We are stalled, but for unrelated reasons.
Mm. Well, perhaps now would be a good time to handle requests, then. Your journey takes priority, I understand, but explorers have a duty to Tharsis's people as much as they do Tharsis itself.


Man staring at a map:
Something troubling you, lad?
You could say that. The Misty Ravine... It's aptly named. You can easily get dangerously lost in that forest. I don't know how it happened, but I walked down the same path for days...
That sounds related to the strange phenomenon that Ray mentioned.
Whatever it is, take my advice: don't lose track of your position on your map, and you won't get lost so easily.
Monster researcher:
Hmm... Big moths still exist in the Scarlet Pillars. I thought they were extinct...
You mentioned something about moths? We ran into a few in the Misty Ravine.
Oh? Perhaps you might be the perfect explorers to take my request. Please, go inquire with the bartender.
Haunted runemaster Menou:
What is that object you are holding?!
Huh? Why the freakout?
It is...intensely evil. Something about it unnerves me.
I don't know if I'm seeing what my friend here is seeing, but something about that plant-thing is evil. Mind telling us what you've got there?
It's a dangerous bud...clipped from a petaloid... You can obtain it by defeating a petaloid before its flower blooms.
Those things bloom the second we hit them at all. How in the seven hells are we supposed to do that?
A nightseeker friend of mine obtained this bud for me. If you have one in your guild, perhaps you should ask them... Now, please, go away. I'm busy...
Menou isn't giving the full story here. You have to defeat a petaloid with specifically instant death in order to obtain a dangerous bud.

"What about petrification? That also kills enemies instantly." No, the drop is specifically flagged for instant death. Yes, petrification has the same practical effect, but the game only checks for instant death. Thankfully, we're close to being able to have Merula learn Assassinate, which will help take care of getting a dangerous bud.

With that taken care of, let us peruse the— My word.
That's a lot of buildup. Are we the only ones taking care of requests at this point?
There are a number of petty requests with minor payouts that newer guilds tend to handle. For the more complex matters, however, yes. I would guess that very few guilds are capable of setting foot in the same areas that you do.
Aye, that tracks. Mind goin' over what's posted, then?
Gladly.
Mist monster:
First, we have a request from the guildmaster. There has been a rumor going around of a monster made of mist that appears on the first floor of the Misty Ravine.
Wait, other guilds have set foot there?
No, especially not with the Count's decree. The rumor is mainly spreading among the town's soldiers, who have been doing reconnaisance there. It has rattled the soldiers quite badly, and so the guildmaster wishes for you to unmask this mist monster's true identity.
Odds on it being a Hollow?
I would put them quite high.
If it helps, this monster appears between 7 and 9 in the morning. If you need further information, please ask the guildmaster.
Headwaters, continued:
Count wants to know where more water is?
Correct.
Talk to him to get the full request?
Also correct.
Moth eggs:
Ah, that man over there mentioned putting up a request related to moths?
...Ah, yes, that one. I had hoped no-one would see it...
Hm? You say something, Kirtida?
Pay my mumbling no mind, Marlin. That man is an entomologist who wishes for someone to bring back a...moth egg. He said it can be found in the Moth's Garden, which I am told is...guarded by a large alligator-like monster.
We're familiar. This explorin' stuff just gets stranger and stranger, eh?
Undoubtedly. And more disgusting, as well...
Slay the illusionist!:
And this last one?
It is related to an earlier request. One of the soldiers reported a strange humanoid creature in the Misty Ravine that used a strange spell to prevent the soldier from approaching it. The soldier asserts that it is unrelated to the fog monster, and has not seen this illusionist monster since. He suspects it may have retreated to a lower floor.
This is but an assumption, though.
True, but if what the soldier says is true, it would be best if this illusionist can be eliminated before less-renowned guilds stream into the lower floors of the Misty Ravine, no?
This is true. We will accept, then.
Wonderful. That was the last request I had available. Kismet be with you, Guild Daffodil.



Afternoon, guildmaster.
Hello, Marlin and Naijou. I hear matters have been...difficult, in the Misty Ravine.
Something like that, aye.
I see. Let me offer some advice: explorers get stronger by putting themselves in extreme situations. This issue with...the Vessels, was it? It may give you headaches from the stress now, as will the depths of the Misty Ravine, undoubtedly, but when you come out the other end, you will find yourself stronger for the trouble. These tribulations will fuel your advance to a higher caliber of explorer.
That is quite powerful advice, yes.
You say that, but you don't seem particularly fazed by it. At least not as much as Marlin over there.
I meditated long on the trials and tribulations of both life and combat, many years ago. What we are faced with now is multi-faceted and complex, but in the end, it is transitory. We shall overcome it.
...Hah. You're a warrior monk type, then?
I suppose so.
We'll have to go out for drinks sometime. I'd love to hear your thoughts on a variety of matters.
By the by, we accepted a request regarding a mist monster.
Ah, good, I was hoping your guild would take it up. Unfortunately, I don't know much besides the fact that it shows up from 7 to 9 in the morning, and hangs around the eastern dead end. I'll be waiting for you and—hopefully—the monster's head on a pike. Or on a sword. I'm not picky.



Ah, welcome, you two. Do you have good news for me?
No. Unfortunately, the situation in Vessel Town has grown more dire.
Oh dear.
Long and short of it is that ghost monsters attacked, hurt a lot of the Vessels, and kidnapped the Medium. Took her down into the lower floors. Whirlwind said he'll do some scouting ahead for us before we go deeper.
He's as dependable as ever, I see. Honestly, I don't know what this town would do without him.
...Still, to think this would happen so soon after you first arrive at Vessel Town. Hopefully we have not brought misfortune upon them, hoh.
On another note, you had a request for us? Another game of "find the headwaters?"
Correct. Not much to explain, simply find me the headwaters of the river that runs through the Scarlet Pillars. I eagerly await your report.

♪ No music ♪


Good evening.
I trust that the rest of you have been informed of what transpired in Vessel Town.
Indeed. It is...very troubling, especially the fact that we must wait for further contact from Whirlwind.
How did Merula, Ace, and Waylon handle the news?
The three of them did not say much when we were being informed of what happened. I believe everyone has retired to their rooms for the evening.
And you?
I do not find doing nothing to be very pleasant. I made some minor progress on my research between the discussion disbanding, and the two of you returning.
Aye. Say, while we're waitin' for Whirlwind to get back to us, you remember that request we took to find the weird flower that changes based on what time it is?
Oh, yes, I looked over the posting.
Well, it's not like we need a full crew to go get it. You two up for piloting the ship until dawn?
That would be better than my usual nighttime routine.
I doubt I would be able to sleep otherwise, so yes!



...Well, I wasn't expectin' that.


Could use some more hardiness, myself.


I see the horizon is starting to brighten.
We should get going, then.



It may be the flower you were charged with finding... To be certain, you decide to investigate.


That is an interesting bloom.
The gradation of color on the petals, white to red, is as beautiful as the peach-colored light of the dawn sky.
Oh, how I would love to study how this strange coloration came to be.
We can come back and pick another one like it in the future, probably. For now, let's just carefully pluck this thing...


You two bring the ship back to Tharsis. I'd rather get this flower to Kirtida before it can wilt, or something.
Very well.



Well. You're here quite early, Marlin.
And I've got a good reason. Take a look.
My... What an unusual flower. The pattern is quite striking. I assume you picked this just a bit ago?
Right. Ariadne threads are a very convenient thing, eh?
Very much so. Haha... This twilight glory is so beautiful that it may be difficult for me to part with when I deliver it... Ahem. That was a joke. I will, as ever, take full responsiblity for my end.
Never doubted you for a second.
There is the matter, though, of how to reward you. Hmm... I suppose that, since this flower has elements of both the morning and night blooms, it may be appropriate to reward you with both. I am sure the client will agree when she sees what you fetched her. Go ahead, take them.


Heh, that's very kind of you, Kirtida. Thanks.



Aside from only getting one of the books for delivering either of the normal flowers, you only get a total of 6500 EXP, rather than 7500.


Xiaohu is pretty much always going to be the recipient of intelligence books, it's just kind of a no brainer. Up until she runs out of uses of them, at least.


So, wait, hold on, what's this about a mist monster?
Exactly what it sounds like, lass. Soldiers've been complaining about a weird monster on this floor, and it's our job to see what's going on with that.
I'm reasonably certain what they're describing is a Hollow.
Me too, but we'd best check and make sure, eh?

♪ No music ♪


In the thick fog stands a large, shadowy figure with seven colored rings!
...This is no monster. This is not even a Hollow. It is merely a trick of the light.
How so?
Look above us. The foliage has a bit of a gap in it just in front of and above us, letting the sun in. The early morning light is piercing through the fog—hence, the rainbow effect. I cannot believe the soldiers believed this was a monster...
At least there's no actual monster.
We should be off to report to the guildmaster.



It was merely an effect of the morning sun shining through the foliage. The light's angle made the fog very lightly reflect and distort whoever was standing in front of it.
...I'll need to have a long and hard talk with my men, then.
It is somewhat unbelievable that trained soldiers would panic at this, yes.
Let's say your courage and curiosity "killed" the monster and be done with it.



That is quite the expression on Eine's face.
The mist monster was merely the sun, at certain hours of the day, hitting a particular patch of fog and making it seem as though there were humanoids facing you.
...Ah. Well, at least it ended up being nothing to worry about, no? Here's your reward. The guildmaster also told me to send you to the guild upon completion of this quest.


The pranayama guide gives us access to Calm Breath, a burst skill that costs 1 burst to use, and restores 50% of the user's max HP. Because it's not a fixed amount in the sense that it is a fixed number of HP restored, it is affected by both the Medic class skill and Heal Mastery.

Calm Breath is very powerful for a number of reasons. It doesn't cost the user's full turn to use, it only costs 1 burst per use, the base restore on its own is quite high, it is much more preferable to use it rather than items or medic skills to patch up minor wounds during exploration since burst is much easier to replenish than items or TP, and it's buffed by the Medic class skill.
i do not think i have ever used it for that purpose because it's only usable in battle lol


Let's go to the guild now.



As embarrassed as I am that my soldiers were in a panic over something so trivially debunked, I promised you training as a reward, and I am a man of my word. Which of you will challenge me?
Allow me, please.
Oho, this should be interesting. Come at me!


Woah...!
Cool.
Man, you'd normally gotta pay to watch a one-on-one this good.
Hold on, how many burst skills is the guildmaster using?!


Think we got the gist, yeah.
That was quite the amazing bout.
Ah, you flatter me.
I merely gave the guildmaster the same respect I would give any fair challenger.


The guildmaster will give us a few quests throughout the course of the game, and in addition to new burst skills, he'll also reward us with the ability to equip more burst skills at once. Each increase greatly expands our tactical options for both random encounters and FOE/boss fights.

I equip Calm Breath in the new third slot.
♪ No music ♪


Gaaaah... I dunno about the rest of you, but I need a break after everything that's happened...
We've been on active duty for a while, aye. At this point, taking a break would be a matter of stayin' healthy, I'd say.
Indeed.
I'm still going exploring. I want to fix what happened.
Harper, that's hardly—
I'm going, Eine.
...Very well, but at least let me accompany you, in case physical exhaustion sets in.
That's hardly necessary. Aren't you exhausted as well?
Well, yes, but my duty as a practicioner of medicine comes first.
You are a teenager, Eine.
Does that diminish what I said?
...I see your point. Still, if we're volunteering for the next exploration group based on concern for others, then I shall join as well.
I could use some time back on the field. Sure, count me in.
I'm goin'. Not gonna let the Hollows mess up my home without feelin' some Vessel Vengeance.
Is that a thing?
It is now.



This is Whirlwind. Please tell me someone's listening to this.
I'm here.
Good. I need to get out of here soon, but I can confirm the Medium's okay. She's on the third floor of the Misty Ravine. There's a huge Hollow just...watching her sleep. It's not moving at all. I don't think it's going to hurt her, but we'd still better get on this sooner rather than later.
We'll head to the second floor today. Thank you, Whirlwind.
No prob, little lady. Now, I gotta get out of here. Damn floor's choked to hell and back with Hollows.


Don't overextend yourselves, okay? That goes doubly so for Harper and Eine. If what Whirlwind said is true, then it doesn't seem like the Hollows are going to do anything to the Medium. It's still important to get her out, of course, but you don't need to put yourselves in excessive danger because of it.
You can tell me to play it safe all you want, but—
Ace...
...Alright, alright, please don't get sad. Waylon, you've got enough muscle, shove me into the ground if I do something dumb, alright?
I don't think we share the same opinion on what that means.
I'll leave what it means up to you.



This is real damn creepy.
Where are the Vessels?
Everyone's prob'ly recoverin' from the Hollows' attack. You can see a few people in windows.


We are in Hollow territory at this point, correct?
Yup. Don't let 'em spook you.


More of this strange mist.
At least Harper knows how to keep our map coherent, even in the face of the spatial distortions.
Mhm. It's tricky, though.



Please tell me those "teeth" are not actual teeth.
I could tell you that, but I would be lying.

Glutton Vine
Level: 21HP: 272STR: 22TEC: 26VIT: 19AGI: 22LUC: 21DS: 68
EXP Given: 1190

Damage Vulnerabilities:
125% 75% 100%
150% 100% 100%

Disable Vulnerabilities:
50% 100% 100% 150% 100% 100%
100% 100% 100%
100% 100% 100%
  • Coiling Vine: Attempts to bind one party member's legs, with a high chance. Slow.
  • Bite: Deals medium bash damage to one party member. Reduces hit targets' physical defense by 50% for 4 turns.
  • Coiling Vine: Attempts to bind one party member's legs, with a 70% base chance. Has a speed modifier of -5.
  • Bite: Deals 110% melee STR-based bash damage to one party member. Reduces hit targets' physical defense by 50% for 4 turns. Has a speed modifier of ±0, and a base accuracy of 99%.
  • Glutton vines always use Coiling Vine when in the back row.
  • If any player characters have their legs bound, glutton vines will always use Bite, targeting those with bound legs.
  • Otherwise, glutton vines have an equal chance of using either Bite or a normal attack.
  • If the Glutton Vine is in the back row:
    • Use Coiling Vine.
  • If the Glutton Vine is in the front row:
    • If any player character has their legs bound:
      • Use Bite, targeting player characters whose legs are bound.
    • If the above did not occur:
      • 50% chance to use Bite.
      • 50% chance to attack.
Drops:
  • Bud Tusk: 60% chance. Sells for 86 en.
    • Talwaar (66 ATK): Made from 1 Ebony Claw (Black Claw Drop 2) and 1 Bud Tusk. Costs 3070 en.
    • Spatha (59 ATK, 1 Slot): Made from 2 Bud Tusks. Costs 1840 en.
    • Hex Club (69 ATK): Made from 1 Bud Tusk and 1 Jet-Black Pith (Chop: Misty Ravine B1F). Costs 2770 en.
  • Pliant Vine: 40% chance. Sells for 99 en.
    • Kamatha (59 ATK, 1 Slot): Made from 1 Pliant Vine and 1 Strong Vine (Take: Miasma Forest). Costs 2300 en.
    • Long Bow (67 ATK, 2 Slots): Made from 1 Largebill Bone (Largebill Drop 2) and 1 Pliant Vine. Costs 3840 en.
    • Sack Dress (34 DEF, +5% Max TP): Made from 1 Paulownia Bark (Chop: Moth's Garden) and 1 Pliant Vine. Costs 940 en.
Carnivorous plants par excellence, the 'glutton vine' is a mobile, leafy predator with sharp enough edges to shear straight through human skin. In addition, their sap serves to weaken the integrity of both skin and armor, and their vines are adept enough to actively bind the legs. It's not the worst plant I've ever seen, but it's certainly not pleasant.
A support monster if I've ever seen one. Glutton vines can disable your evasion and make someone extremely vulnerable to physical damage if you let them live for too long. A 50% physical defense debuff is enough to make great lynxes legitimately threatening, to say nothing of later enemies that these strange plants can be encountered with. While they do take an extra 25% damage from cut and 50% from fire, being in the back row can make killing them annoying, especially if you're dealing with more imminent threats in the front row.

To top things off, while they take extra cut and fire damage, they are resistant to stab damage, which unfortunately reduces the efficacy of using a sniper to kill them with full-damage back row attacks.

...That was a very gross noise.
Their bodies seem to be absorbing the arrows, somehow.


Yeowch! Bad kitty!


One battle in, and I've already had it with monsters biting me.


I'll be taking some of that... What'd you call it, Ray?
Whatcha mean I "called" it? Didn't call it much of anything.
You said something about it, though! Something about...uh, Liszt?
Oh, said you'd be gettin' Brahms.
What?


Goodbye, great lynx.
Forget about knocking monsters off their feet, that blast just sent it flying into the trees...
This is what a properly-maintained and tuned drive blade can do.





Moving on.



Right impressive coif that boar's got.

Raging Boar
Level: 22HP: 306STR: 28TEC: 25VIT: 23AGI: 23LUC: 22DS: 69
EXP Given: 1733

Damage Vulnerabilities:
100% 100% 100%
100% 100% 100%

Disable Vulnerabilities:
100% 100% 100% 100% 125% 100%
100% 100% 100%
100% 100% 150%
  • Raging Fangs: Deals severe stab damage to one party member. If the attack does not miss, attempts to stun the target, with an extremely high chance. Fast.
  • Raging Fangs: Deals 150% melee STR-based stab damage to one party member. If the attack does not miss, attempts to stun the target, with a 80% base chance. Has a speed modifier of +5, and a base accuracy of 99%.
  • Raging boars have an equal chance of using either raging fangs or a normal attack.
  • 50% chance to use Raging Fangs.
  • 50% chance to attack.
Drops:
  • Boar Tusk: 70% chance. Sells for 94 en.
    • Rapier (65 ATK): Made from 1 Boar Tusk. Costs 2760 en.
    • Ring Mail (48 DEF): Made from 1 Boar Tusk and 1 Crane Ginseng (Take: Misty Ravine B2F). Costs 2060 en.
    • Chain Helm (16 DEF, +1 VIT): Made from 1 Boar Tusk. Costs 1270 en.
    • Iron Gloves (14 DEF, +3% Phys Damage): Made from 1 Boar Tusk and 1 Mint (Take: Misty Ravine B2F). Costs 980 en.
    • Stab Charm (+50% Stab Resist): Made from 1 Boar Tusk. Costs 800 en.
  • Boar Skin: 50% chance. Sells for 98 en.
    • Half Armor (40 DEF): Made from 1 Boar Skin. Costs 1540 en.
We don't really have boars where I come from, especially not this sort with their unsettlingly large tusks. Anyhow, what I've learned about boars is that every inch of their body is designed to kill. They are furry, oinking killing machines. Do not ruffle their mohawks, it enrages them.
I do not like raging boars. There's nothing particularly complex about them, they just deal physical damage very quickly, with a very high chance of just taking away one of your party members' turn with little recourse.

I remember Wolf Grandma had a lot to say about boars.
Such as?
I don't like swearing, so I can't tell you a lot of what she said. She did say to go for the legs, though.
This is me forgetting that boar enemies mainly relying on their legs is something that EOU started. Raging Fangs uses the head, so leg binds do nothing to it except make it act last.

I mean, that's still a good benefit, especially since I don't have Head Snipe yet, but I was expecting the leg bind to render the boar completely helpless.

That's little more than chip damage.

I could've just had Ace or Harper hit the boar with a normal attack, and then have Waylon use Assault Drive, and the battle would've been over. The gulf between other Novice damage modifiers and Assault Drive is very wide, though in general, other party members will start to catch up with Waylon's damage as we get into Veteran.





So, uh, how do we get around this giant moth without fighting it?
Let's see where the path behind us goes.





Ah. The moth's other side.
There's another path forward, at least.
Wait, I've got an idea. These things get angry at us if we fight near them, right?
That was the behavior I observed on the first floor, yes.


Let's just get in a fight, then.


Now that it's not blocking whatever was in front of it, let's just circle back around.


Welp, that wasn't too hard.
The power hammer lets us add STR forges to weapons at Berund Atelier. Unfortunately, we're already coming up on, if not already past, the point where ATK forges add more damage than STR forges for our main physical damage dealers.


An unremarkable battle with a raging boar gets us to an important milestone...

We have unlocked the next tier of skills! This is where you start to get some real choice in skill builds, and where class identities really start to solidify. In my opinion, this is where EO4 starts to get considerably more fun.


I had a few characters save up SP for when we hit Veteran, so don't be surprised when you see multiple new skills already being learned.

Ace gets their next rank of their class skill, which increases the amount of TP they get from being targeted with an attack from 3 to 4.

They also get the first two ranks of Line Shield, which lets her take damage for a row of party members. Multi-target attacks are starting to become more common for major fights, so Ace kind of needs this in order to really function. The TP cost is pretty hefty, relative to their total TP pool, but being targeted with two attacks will mitigate most of it.

Waylon gets several new skills right out of the gate. Firstly, his next class skill tier reduces the cooldown of Drive skills by an extra turn, taking Assault Drive down to 6 turns, and the elemental Drives down to 7 turns.

He also learned Cool Edge. Like Impulse Edge, it requires that Waylon have used another Edge skill prior to it. In addition to dealing damage, Cool Edge also reduces his current overheat duration, much like Heat Sink, though Cool Edge only reduces the cooldown by two turns, instead of Heat Sink's three. The trade-off for the lower overheat reduction, besides the damage, is that Cool Edge can be followed up with Charge Edge, making it an important part of Waylon's during-overheat rotation.

Now for the big boys. Waylon has one rank in each of the elemental Drives. They all have identical data, aside from their attack type, obviously. While they cost a bit more TP than Assault Drive, and have a one-turn-longer cooldown, they also deal more base damage than Assault Drive, and can benefit from elemental weaknesses, which are not only naturally more common than cut weaknesses, we can also create them by way of Xiaohu's elemental Runes. They're not straight upgrades over Assault Drive, but they're damn close. It won't be long before Assault Drive gets obsoleted in favor of them.

Lastly, Waylon put a skill point in Hunter Sense. When gathering food on the overworld, Hunter Sense gives a chance (23% with one instance of it in the party) to prevent food points from disappearing after gathering from them. Nothing earth-shattering, but it can make finding certain rare foods easier.

Harper only had one skill point to spare, so she only gets Head Snipe right now. It's a Snipe skill that inflicts head binds. It also costs more TP than Leg Snipe and Arm Snipe, but deals more damage.
the big ticket item is rapidly approaching

Eine is finally able to learn Revive, giving me a way to revive people without having to use nectars. The TP cost is very steep, though, so I can't use it too much.

Ray, funnily enough, doesn't even put her skill point into anything in Veteran. She instead finally grabs her class skill, which gives her TP when a circle ends—either through its duration naturally wearing off, or by being ended through a Dismiss skill. She didn't have it until now because, well, she didn't have any Dismiss skills yet, and circles take a while to wear off naturally.

I think I can shoot some of the thinner trees down.





I can't see, is there something in the trees?
Mm... Looks like a Hollow to me.
When you cautiously peek through the branches, you see a shadowy monster with its back turned to you. If there is anyone in your party skilled at ambushes or sniping, you could try attacking the monster.
I can hit it.
Harper peers into the thicket with an arrow readied...
It's not moving. This is an ambush.
The party quickly turns and sees that a horde of monsters has surrounded you!
Tch, now these're Hollows. No mistakin' that.
They seem flustered!
Luckily, the monsters panic to see you penetrate their ruse and you catch them off guard as you enter battle!



So they're capable of complex ambushes. Hm.

Hollow Believer
Level: 23HP: 156STR: 22TEC: 29VIT: 19AGI: 23LUC: 22DS: 73
EXP Given: 1849

Damage Vulnerabilities:
150% 150% 150%
100% 100% 100%

Disable Vulnerabilities:
100% 125% 150% 150% 150% 100%
100% 100% 100%
150% 150% 200%
Notes:
  • This enemy has an extra 50% evasion, on top of their natural evasion.
  • This enemy does not build accumulative resistance to binds.
  • Icy Blast: Deals heavy ice damage to one party member.
  • Icy Blast: Deals 90% ranged TEC-based ice damage to one party member. Has a speed modifier of ±0, and a base accuracy of 99%.
  • When on Misty Ravine B2F, Hollow believers are equally likely to use Icy Blast over normal attacks.
  • If the battle is taking place on Misty Ravine B2F:
    • 50% chance to use Icy Blast.
    • 50% chance to attack.
  • If the above did not occur:
    • If the Dark Overseer is in the back row:
      • 80% chance to use Icy Blast.
      • 20% chance to attack.
    • If the above did not occur:
      • 30% chance to use Icy Blast.
      • 70% chance to attack.
Drops:
  • Mist Wand Shard: 80% chance. Sells for 97 en.
    • The Blues (77 ATK, 1 Slot, +10% Max TP, +1 STR): Made from 3 Mist Wand Shards. Costs 3200 en.
    • Mist Rod (51 ATK, +2 TEC, +1 LUC): Made from 1 Mist Wand Shard. Costs 2180 en.
  • Panic Chakra: Obtained by killing the enemy while they are afflicted with panic. 100% chance. Sells for 121 en.
    • Life Belt (+25% Max HP): Made from 1 Jet-Black Pith (Chop: Misty Ravine B1F) and 1 Panic Chakra. Costs 1400 en.
Having the ability to utilize complex sorcerous incantations, this manner of Hollow, while actively hostile to outsiders, piques my curiosity further. Eusociality is a trait largely seen in insects, but it seems that for a manner of creature with higher functions, it can lead to terrifyingly complex ambushes and strategies.
Hollow believers are a simpler version of the Hollow exile we fought when we first met the Medium. They can only use Icy Blast, but in return, their TEC is considerably higher, which means they can really pour the hurt on physical-oriented classes.

I know how to hit ghosts.


Great part about these see-through bastards is that it's real easy to mess with their bodies. Hold still, yeah?


Good to know that works as well on them as it does any other monster.


Shit! Agh!


D-Dammit, I...I can't move!
And that's what I was alluding to in the Hollow believer description. All it took was two uses of Icy Blast to kill Ace from full HP.





Gahhhhh... Thanks, Eine. Lemme tell you four, it's not fun being awake, but hurting all over, and also unable to move your arms and legs.
I can imagine.



Well, I mighta got knocked flat on my ass and almost frozen, but hey, coulda been worse.
Good job on sensing the ambush, Harper.
Mhm!
You thank your guildmate for their meritorious deeds and resume your walk down the forest path...
You get to choose which party member attempts to attack the illusion. Picking a nightseeker or a sniper lets you get a preemptive attack during that battle. Picking any other class, going by the scripting, seems to result in you getting blindsided instead.


...Hey, there's not, like, an incredibly evil monster behind us, is there?
No. Just the way we came.
Huh. Weird.


Obtained mint x2 and crane ginseng x1.
A very rare (and strange) instance of a Take material being used to make equipment.

More importantly, we can finally start gathering materials to make amritas. Shame that they kinda suck and are a huge pain in the ass to stock up on.
♪ No music ♪


Okay, this time, I'm not the only one that feels something, right?
Something is—
Over there.


The lights disappear without a sound.
...Those are the same lights that were floating near the Medium. She's this way.
As much as I loathe to say this right now, I am starting to feel exhausted...
Can't say I blame ya, after gettin' jumped by Hollows.
Something tells me we're not gonna get far with an exhausted medic.
...
Far be it from me to assume to know others' thoughts without even having met them, but I doubt the Medium would want us to overexert ourselves on her behalf. We should end here for today.
...Right. Mhm.



More junk.
Now dis is a box'a junk!
How did we come to call materials "junk," again?
"Junk" is fun to say.
Berund Atelier has the following new items in stock:

Man, dat was fun. Ooh, ooh, wait! Wales, looks! Been messin' with some'a ya designs for a while, and dat box gave me da perfect parts ta finish it. I call it... Da Blues.
Hmm...


Well, while the name is somewhat inexplicable, I cannot fault your work here. You'll forgive me for making some modifications once I'm back at my workshop, though.
Hey, I can barely lift dese things once I'm done wit'em. Whatevah ya gotta do ta carry 'em's fine by me.
I buy The Blues for Waylon. Every upgrade for him is fun to get, though the last drive blade for the 2nd Land involves having to kill a very dangerous FOE.

I splurge a bit on an armor upgrade for Ace. Maybe that'll help them not die.

I also grab a fist shield. The DEF increase is negligible, but combined with the VIT, it's...well, it's an upgrade.


The fireflies were down this way yesterday. Let's go.


That's just rude.

What greets you are the vestiges of a fierce battle. Unmoving Hollow bodies are stacked toward the side of the room. A number of Vessels, all injured, are also inside the room, but thankfully there seem to be no casualties.
Oh. Hello.
...
The Vessels do not say a word to you. As the silence begins to grow even more uncomfortable, you spy a familiar face.


Jeez, man, the hell happened to you? The hell happened here in general?
More importantly, weren't you exploring this maze alone?
Yeah, well... I was trying to see if there was anything that might help us on this floor, then I heard what sounded like a bunch of fighting, and my arms and legs just kinda moved on their own after that. Guess something in me just really wanted to help the Vessels out...
Is that so?
Ah, c'mon, don't give me that look, Waylon.
...Anyway, I'd have told you what was going on through the linkpearl, but it's hard to activate that thing in the middle of a fight. Sorry, heh.
It's okay. Do you need help?
I'm more than willing to assist you and these Vessel soldiers.
Nah, I'll— Ngh. I'll be fine. I do need to tell you something, though. Wufan was here too, and... It was the damnedest thing, but I could've swore she was talking with one of the Hollows before she struck it down.
...Huh. That's... I'unno what that means, but...
Probably nothing good, if you ask me. Right after she finished that Hollow off, she took off ahead. Looked real pale from where I was standing. Well, kneeling, but you get my point...
Uh-huh. We're going to go on ahead.
...You're sure you don't need help?
Yeah. Just make sure you save the Medium, alright?
Wait.


Humans. Please, tell me, why do you come to ours and the Medium's aid...?
Because helping people in danger is the right thing to do.
I do not understand. Your presence is corrosive. You understand this, yes?
We're not hurting anyone by being here.
Yes, you are. The Medium... She used to be quieter, more dignified, and knew patience. Now, she is willful. She would not cease arguing with Wufan after you were banished. Even moments before the Hollows attacked Vessel Town, the Medium and Wufan were still arguing... It was unnerving. She is Yggdrasil's messenger. She should not behave—
Stuff it.
Ah, Wen Ray-shin. You are actually a perfect comparison for—
Don't wanna hear it. I can tell you, the Medium was like that 'cause she wasn't happy.
She was alone.
You seem to be mistaken about her circumstances. She was far from alone, between—
You can have many people around you, and still be alone.
...I see that this discussion is intractable. Perhaps your behavior has rubbed off on Wufan, as well. It would explain her irrational behavior, at least.
If you don't need help, we're going to go.


The leg hammer lets us add leg bind forges to weapons. Another forge type we will not be making use of.

I'm confused. How is there a shortcut that leads back to the starting corridor if we've had to pass through distorted physical space in order to get here?
Don't ask questions you ain't prepared to hear the answers to.
I can't tell if that's a serious response or not.
Nah, it's serious. Seen a few of the thinkin' types in Vessel Town try to puzzle that out, and they all kinda broke from it.
...These mazes are as much a mental hazard as they are full of physical hazards.





The lights again.
I must confess, these lights remind me of an anglerfish's lure. Can we truly be certain these will lead us to the Medium?
Far as I'm concerned, they're the best clue we've got. If they lead us to a Hollow ambush, we'll just do what we always do.
Perhaps the Medium would be willing to tell us what these lights actually are once we've rescued her.





Obtained mint x3 and crane ginseng x1.


Messed up when I was mapping that 3x3 room out earlier and marked the way forward as a solid wall. Oops. At least that's an easy mistake to notice.


That's a very large bird.
Huh? Where?
Behind the trees. It can see us.


Say hello to giant moas. They can aggro on you and track your movements from behind walls.


Curious. It didn't follow us.
Perhaps it avoids the connections between distorted parts of the area?


That appears to be the case. Good guess.


Not a very smart birdie, eh?


This is just making a mockery of the rules by which physical existence should abide.
You're really getting worked up about this, huh?
My frustration is merely the most predominant emotion amongst a sea of others that I am experiencing as we trek through this forest.


Well, there's the stairs down.
Whirlwind said that the Medium was on the third floor, but... Mm. We need to go back.
Wait, huh?


I drew a wall here. There is no wall here.
I'm getting that real bad sensation again.



Perhaps this is the spellcaster that Kirtida requested that we slay.
Just a Hollow, huh? Alright, let's—


As you stare into those eyes, you momentarily lose all sense of direction!



...Dammit. Naij did say it was an illusionist, huh.
Its eyes looked dangerous. Let's sidestep into it.


I am...somewhat astonished that worked.




Dark Overseer
Level: 23HP: 800STR: 23TEC: 30VIT: 24AGI: 25LUC: 22DS: 74
EXP Given: 2477

Damage Vulnerabilities:
150% 150% 150%
100% 100% 100%

Disable Vulnerabilities:
100% 125% 150% 150% 150% 100%
100% 100% 100%
150% 150% 150%
Notes:
  • This enemy has an extra 50% evasion, on top of their natural evasion.
  • Icy Blast: Deals heavy ice damage to one party member.
  • Icy Blast: Deals 90% ranged TEC-based ice damage to one party member. Has a speed modifier of ±0, and a base accuracy of 99%.
  • The Dark Overseer has an equal chance of using either Icy Blast or a normal attack.
  • If the battle is taking place on Misty Ravine B2F:
    • 50% chance to use Icy Blast.
    • 50% chance to attack.
  • If the above did not occur:
    • If the Dark Overseer is in the back row:
      • 80% chance to use Icy Blast.
      • 20% chance to attack.
    • If the above did not occur:
      • 30% chance to use Icy Blast.
      • 70% chance to attack.
This is just a Hollow believer with more HP. I do not understand why Beyond the Scorching Heat is used here.

It can't move now. Hit it.


All that weird ghost power that actually hurts, and it decides to bonk me instead.
Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.


This is an exceptionally hardy Hollow.


Yep there's the cold. Ow.





Really don't know what to say about that. The dark overseer's AI script is literally copied and pasted from the Hollow believer, right down to having multiple blocks that it cannot use, because it is only ever fought on Misty Ravine B2F.


Well, that was somewhat anticlimactic. In a good way.
'Least when other explorers get down here, they won't be even more confused than usual.
Hey, anyone else hear that noise? That chirping?
It's coming from over there.


I'm surprised that there are completely normal birds on the lower levels of this forest.
This chick would not be out of place in Tharsis, yes.
It seems to have fallen out of its nest. But it shows signs of having been treated and should recover soon.
Wait, hold on. Was that Hollow, like, trying to guard this baby bird?
...I think so.
So we beat up a Hollow that wasn't even attacking us, just warping us away so we didn't hurt this bird.
Huh.
That is a possibility, yes...
I can't say whether or not we did the right thing, but we've fulfilled the request, at least.
...Admittedly, I find it very interesting that a Hollow was displaying concern for another living creature, especially something that isn't another Hollow. Loath as I am to admit it, Whirlwind may be correct.
We should probs get moving. Thinking too much can wait until we're back on the ship.




...


I hope you have a good life.


Case the start of the floor like usual, then get back to the ship. Sound good?
I see no issue with it.


It feels as though our surroundings are getting darker and darker the deeper we go. It is...quite ominous.


...Nope, don't like that.
Whuh?
Can't the rest of you smell that? Blood.
Auntie!


It is Wufan, who had struck out alone to save the Medium. She is seated meditating on the ground. The wounds on her body seem fresh, and you assume that she must have seen her share of combat en route.
...
...
...Auntie?


Wh— Hell with the book! Are you alright?!
...
You're hurt. Let Eine help you.
No.
"No?" No?! You're bleedin' everywhere! From tryin' to fight a buncha Hollows on your own, I bet! Let Eine help you, you—
I do not deserve your treatment, or your pity.
It ain't pity, you idiot! You're—
Please, Ray.
Wha—?!
I implore you, be on your way. The Medium needs your help. It is regrettable that I have made you waste even a small amount of your time.
I'm not going until you're okay.
My wounds will close with time and meditation. I will not repeat myself, go—
No.
Harper sits down in front of Wufan.
It's not just your body. Your heart is hurting too.
Yeah.
Ray sits down as well.
...Hey, should we—
Surely I can at least—
No. This...is for these three to talk out, I feel.
...



I know that they were merely trying to trick me, but...their words cut to my heart nonetheless.
Why?
Because I have told myself much the same sentiment. That is what I was doing when you walked in—contemplating the factors that led to this crisis. I asked myself: why could I not stay calm where you were concerned?
What does "you" mean? All of us?
On some level, yes. But... Truthfully, it was regarding you and Ray in particular.
...
I envied you. It is mortifying to admit it, but that is the truth. I, a woman of over one hundred summers, was envious of a child, and a human who was born, and will die, within my lifetime.
Why were you jealous of us? Of me?
Your very existence gave her so much that I simply could not. While the Medium and Ray may have very different temperaments, they share an intense curiosity about what lies beyond these lands of blood-orange stone.
...When you, Harper, told the Medium of the outside world in great detail, my heart sank. Your words transformed "the outside world" from a nebulous concept into a vivid thing. I had feared what Ray might divulge, but to have such an experienced adventurer and traveller—
I'm not a traveller. This is the first adventure I've ever gone on.
Impossible. I cannot accept that. You spoke with such passion regarding settlements all over the world, and of these strange creatures that travel on the wind.
It's true. Before I left for Tharsis, I spent all my time in my house. My moms, my mamas, Uncle Ranger, and me. It was nice. I love my moms, mamas, and Uncle Ranger. But I wanted to see what the world is like. I wanted to know what it was like to be able to look around from a really tall hill and not see ocean. I wanted to see a pooka. I wanted to have things I could look at and tell a story about, like Money Mama does with her maps. I wanted to make the kinds of friends that have to leave eventually but visit my house every year or two so they can talk with me and tell me about how their lives have been, and I can tell them about how my life has been.
...All of that is what I want. But I've only gotten a bit of it. Everything I told the Medium was what I've heard was from my moms, mamas, and Uncle Ranger, who spent a lot of time in High Lagaard. What I've heard from my moms, mamas, and Uncle Ranger's guild friends, who went all over the world after they finished. What I've heard from my grandmas and grandpas, who were explorers in Etria.
Bein' real blunt, Auntie, Harper's not some authority on what the world's like. And if she ain't that, then I'm extra ain't that. We're just curious ladies. Like Xiuan.
How do you—?!
She told me, Auntie. I know she's got holy powers, and I know how much we respect that. She's important enough to have a title, I'll give you that. But she's not just Yggdrasil's voice, y'know? Callin' her "the Medium" all the time is stiflin'. Doesn't let her be herself.
...That's what she told me, anyway. Anyways, like I was sayin' before, you got it kinda backwards. Harper and I ain't answers to Xiuan's questions about the outside. We just ask the same questions as 'er. And that ain't some kinda set-in-stone fact about us, it's just somethin' we do. Somethin' you could do, if you wanted. There's...nothin' to be jealous of, really.
...
For what seems like an eternity, Wufan says nothing, only staring into the distance. The stillness in the forest is broken by a tear rolling down her cheek.
How... How could I have... I, I...
The beleaguered High Arcanist's voice quivers, in stark contrast to the sternness and anger that defined her previously.
I... I am...a failure, in every...every possible respect... I have failed as a representative of the Vessels, I have failed as a protector of Vessel Town, I have failed as Ray's guardian, and...and I have... I have failed...
Wufan begins sobbing.
I...have failed as Xiuan's mother...
Unable to contain her grief and self-loathing any longer, Wufan nearly collapses, her arms barely keeping her face and chest from falling onto the damp forest floor.
And now...my failures have dire consequences... The Hollows will not release Xiuan, my credibility amongst the other Vessels is in tatters, I have wrought an unbridgeable rift between myself and my dearest friends' child, and... I cannot even imagine how my...my daughter...must think of me now...
The room is silent, save for Wufan's sobs.
...
Ace finds themselves without much sympathy for Wufan. Good intentions or no, the fact remains that she still utterly fucked up in handling her responsibilities, the kid she was trusted to help raise, and her own daughter. Seeing a person with over a hundred years' worth of experience fail so completely makes them think about how to do better than she does.
...
Eine desperately wants to start bandaging Wufan's wounds, seeing her refusal of treatment as a form of self-harm, but is also very aware of the emotional gravitas of the situation. It would hardly be proper bedside manner to intrude.
...
Waylon worries for Harper and Ray. It cannot be easy to be the epicenter of someone's anxieties and fears. His concern especially lies with Ray, for whom the whiplash between her guardian disowning her due to jealousy, and the events currently taking place, must be incredibly difficult to comprehend.
...
...
Harper moves towards Wufan, and hugs her.
What... What are you doing?
...
Stop... I do not deserve—
The Vessel's protestations only serve to make Harper hug her tighter.
Being angry at people who can do good things doesn't make anyone happy. You hurt Ray and Xiuan. A lot. But it's not too late to help fix this. I don't know if Ray and Xiuan will forgive you, but I think you'll be able to go to sleep easier if you help save Xiuan.
...
Auntie... I dunno if I can look past banishin' me from Vessel Town. Or bein' scared of me, because I came back home after travelin'. Because you were scared of Xiuan wantin' to leave too.
...But I also don't think you're some kinda awful evil, either. Even saints've gotten jealous and hurt others, I bet. It's all about what you do now, I guess. So...
Ray extends a hand to Wufan.
Let's go beat the tar outta some Hollows, alright?
...
Harper releases her hold on the Vessel, who then takes Ray's hand and gets back on her feet.
I can hardly refuse such magnanimity. You have grown much since you left for lands unknown, W— Ahem. Ray.
Thanks, Auntie.
I am incredibly sorry to interrupt, but may I please bandage your wounds now, miss Wufan?
Ah, yes, I would greatly appreciate that.
Yeah, uh, it's gonna take a lot of washing to get that blood off your stuff, Harper.
I don't care. I did the right thing.
If you say so...
While your healer attends to my wounds... My apologies, but I have not had the pleasure of being introduced to you two.
Ace. That's my name. I'll keep things from hitting you.
I am Waylon van Houten, engineer in service to His Majesty, Emperor Alfodr. Now that amends have at least begun to be made, I am pleased to make your acquaintance.
Whoa, where'd the extra stuffiness come from?
Cordiality—and verbosity—are very effective at resetting the mood, in my experience. Now then, is there anything you can share with us regarding the Hollows? Anything about Xiuan, as well?
I will share all that I know, yes. It was sixteen years ago that I found Xiuan.
Found?
Yes, found. I was patrolling the lower floors, when I noticed a strange set of floating lights. They seemed to follow me, no matter what turns I took, and they directed me to the center of the floor. It was there that I found her, her infant self tucked underneath a soft blanket, cradled in an exceptionally well-made basket. The only other object was a small parchment on the basket's side, which read: "Take good care of her."
How the hell's that possible? Beyond the fact that this baby was just out in the middle of this monster-infested pit, how the hell did a human baby get here if you haven't talked to our kind for hundreds of years, before we came along?
Oh, she was like me.
...What?
I am quite certain I know what happened with Harper and Xiuan, it is a known phenomenon, but perhaps we should focus on the threat at hand: the Hollows. What can you tell us about them?
Hollows began appearing in the Misty Ravine not long after I found Xiuan.
So, what, she brought them with her, or something?
You are half correct, actually. I doubt Xiuan, as an infant, consciously summoned the Hollows, but they seem drawn to her. I can only speculate as to why. I have had my suspicions that perhaps her ability to hear Yggdrasil's voice is related to this, but confirming that is unfortunately difficult, if not impossible.
Have the Hollows ever been as violent as they are now?
Not on this scale. However, those who violate the rules of Vessel Town have an uncanny habit of being found dead elsewhere on the first floor. I have no doubt that these incidents are the work of Hollows.
It almost sounds like they're trying to protect Xiuan.
Fat lot of good they're doin', seein' as they're hurtin' people she cares about...
That is all that I know regarding the Hollows. Are you all ready to proceed?
...I want to, but it's late, and we have been exploring and fighting without stopping for the past few days.
I said this yesterday, but I doubt that Xiuan would wish for us to overexert ourselves on her behalf.
That... I cannot disagree, but—
She wouldn't want you getting yourself killed because you rushed ahead, okay? You were bleeding real bad until Eine got to you. Last thing Xiuan needs is for you to die before you can say "sorry" to her.
You can sleep in one of the bedrooms on our ship. Once you're done recovering, we'll find Xiuan.
...Very well. I am concerned for Xiuan's safety, but I also doubt the Hollows would hurt her.
Let's return to town, then.



This is a human settlement?
Way different from home, huh? This place's called Tharsis. We come back here a lot to get missions, do things for people around town, and sell our junk.
Sell what? To whom?
Funny you should ask.


So, uh. Who's dis chick dat that looks kinda like Ray?
W-Wufan. I am the High Arcanist of the Vessels.
She's my auntie. Helpin' us with the stuff going on in the Misty Ravine.
Cooooool. Ooh, ya use da same kinda staffs dat Ray does, but more intricate-like! Ya mind if I take a look at it?
P-Perhaps another time?
Aww. Okay, but I'm gonna hold ya ta dat.
Oh, right, we were talking about junk earlier. Here's today's box of junk.
Mm... Not seein' anythin' new— Wait! Dis is perfect! Wait one sec, I'll be right back!
Berund Atelier has the following new items in stock:

Ta-daaaaahs! I was right, dat ginseng's perfect for makin' amritas. One sip'a dis syrup'll take ya from dead tired to ready ta punch as many monsters as ya want! In a different way from nectars, dough.
We...use the ginseng for similar concoctions in Vessel Town. It is quite a remarkable plant.


While we're here, I add a ATK forge to The Blues, and two LUC forges to Harper's ancient hindi.


Oh! Hello, miss, I haven't seen you around before. Are you a new member of Guild Daffodil?
No, we are merely offering each other mutual assistance.
Are you a Vessel, like miss Ray over there?
Correct.
Not just another Vessel, she's my auntie.
How wonderful! Please, miss Wufan, when you have some time, you must tell me what sorts of foods your people like. If any more of you come to Tharsis, I want to make sure you're well-fed.
I-I can hardly refuse such a request, but perhaps another day? We are preoccupied at the moment.



Good evening, Guild Daffodil. Good evening to you as well, High Arcanist Wufan.
How do you already know my name?!
Haha, please, do not be alarmed. I merely have a good ear for rumors and spare bits of information. Tharsis's soldiers and guards frequent my establishment, so I am privy to matters that our normal explorer clientele are unaware of.
...So, I take it your soldiers have been making their way into the Misty Ravine.
That is what I assume, yes. As I have heard it, tensions were...somewhat high, at first, but dissipated once both sides agreed to help treat each other's wounded.
...
Maybe everyone in town hates humans less than you thought, eh?


Perky dancer:
Hey, you're one of Guild Daffodil, right?
Yes?
Ah, good, you can probably handle this, then. See, you know the lake in the northwest part of the Scarlet Pillars? Apparently, a skyship crashed near there, and they haven't been able to find the crew yet. The guild posted a request for it, if you're interested.
Thank you, but I am curious why you are telling us about this, instead of accepting it yourself.
Oh, that's easy. I don't want to see a drowned body.
...Fair enough.
Graceful landsknecht:
...
Oi, what's gotcha down?
Oh, I... You can keep a secret, right? See, I...went real deep into the Misty Ravine. Wanted to see if I could find some treasure or something. And I...I think I ran into one of those Vessels that the guards are talking about.
...Yeah?
Those poisonous claws, and those long tails... They were howling so madly, I couldn't get a word in.
...
...
I got scared and hit one without thinking. I guess I wasn't keeping enough of an open mind...
Right. Well, all you gotta do is say sorry next time you see them, eh?




I cannot help but notice that you did not correct him.
And you would've? Can you imagine tryin' to explain to this guy "nah, I'm a Vessel, you somehow mixed up a monster for us"?
...An ape, no less. How one would confuse a black-furred ape for us is beyond me.
Dull-witted sniper:
Heard some guards grousin' about hitting these weird ghost things. Y'know what'll let you hit things every time?
A sniper. Like me.
...Oh. Well, uh, if you didn't exist, y'know what else would let you hit them?
Breaking their legs.
...Oh.


Right, so, see all those pieces'a paper posted up there, auntie? Those're requests from people all across Tharsis, askin' for help with stuff that explorers deal with.
A communal method of requesting assistance. A novel concept, I must admit.
Hey, Kirts!
Is...that a nickname for me?
It is now. Help me show Auntie what kinda stuff gets posted up there. What's the top one about?
Missing person:
This one is somewhat more serious than your usual fare. One of our soldiers has failed to return after patrolling the lake at the Scarlet Pillars, and a friend of his is requesting assistance in finding him.
...Oh.
Would this not be a matter for other soldiers to handle?
Normally, yes, but between keeping an appropriate amount of eyes and muscle in the Lush Woodlands and early mazes, as well as assisting with the matter of the Hollows, our town's forces are spread thin.
...I see.
There is one thing I should mention. As there is a chance that the worst may have occurred... Tharsis soldiers can be identified by the badges on their collars. If necessary, please...at least bring that back.
Atelier request III:
Well. Uh. How 'bout that other one?
A far less dire matter, thankfully. It is another request for materials from Wynne. She will be able to tell you more about it.
Phew, somethin' normal.
With that, I feel compelled to tell you that while these requests do merit your attention at some point, please do not feel pressured to attend to them immediately. Kismet be with you, Guild Daffodil and Wufan.



That is one way of putting it, yes.
On that note, I see you have an unfamiliar face amongst your ranks tonight.
Pay me no mind, they are merely assisting me witih something.
You're just gettin' tired of introducin' yourself, aren't you? This here's Wufan, she's a big deal in Vessel Town, and she's my auntie.
I see. Whatever is occurring in your home, I wish you the best of luck with it.
Thank you.



Well, 's what he said, anyways. Dunno what the hell a Vessel or a Medium is.
Well, I'm a Vessel, that's one thing.
Oh.
The Medium, she's...pretty important. Let's say that.
Riiiiight. Real helpful. Y'know, I'm gonna ask yeh what the hell any'a this means once yeh're done with whatever's happening.
Yup.



Ahh, forgive me if I'm wrong, but you must be Wufan, the Vessels' High Arcanist.
Information certainly travels quickly amongst your kind. Yes, that is my name and occupation.
I assure you, meeting you would be one of the most joyous occasions of my life, were it not for the unfortunate present circumstances. I cannot have our soldiers act as a vanguard against the Hollows, but we have told them to support your fellow Vessels with medical assistance, among other things.
That is very kind of you... I'm sorry, I don't have your name.
Ah, where are my manners? I am the Outland Count, the leader of Tharsis.
The Count is a very nice and helpful man. You can trust him.
I...will do my best to.
By the by, I assume you five saw Whirlwind on the lower floors of the Misty Ravine?
Yes. After he confirmed the Medium's safety, he ended up getting injured while assisting the Vessels.
Right, that's about what I'd expect from him. He is rather prone to assisting others for little to no reward, but you already knew that.
Does he not ask for much when he assists you with official matters?
Right on the money. Funny story, you know what he wanted for assisting with our first skyships? A simple glass headpiece.
What, did he want you to make him, like, a crown or something?
No, actually, he merely asked for a glass headpiece that I already possessed. It was a family heirloom, so it was admittedly not without value... But still, what use could an explorer have for such a bauble? I'll never understand that man.
Weirdo.
This has nothing to do with anything, but I was reminded of the Count's dialogue for talking to him and then refusing to give him the location of the headwaters while that quest is active.
I don't mind some gentle teasing, but I am not a patient man. Those who see patience as a virtue are mistaken. Do you disagree? Then consider that I am now a Count, and think about it.
I think it's mildly amusing.


...My companions did mention that we finished the request regarding the illusionist, right?
No, Ray neglected to tell me that.
Normally I would be annoyed, but...she can be forgiven for having thoughts be all over the place at the moment.
I can imagine, given what is happening to what I assume is her home.
There is significantly more than that. Let's leave it there.
I see. Here is your reward for the request. May you and your friends stay strong even admist this crisis, Waylon.


Brilliance belts increase the wearer's maximum TP by 25%. Not a spectacular upgrade, in my opinion.


The level ups are a more fulfilling reward.


Ace pushes Line Shield up to rank 3, unlocking Party Shield in the process.

Waylon putting another skill point into Cool Edge unlocks Charge Edge, a very powerful skill.

Harper puts her skill point into Discerning Eye, which gives her a chance to immediately find rare food when gathering on the overworld, regardless of the actual result of the gathering formula.

Eine gets Toxin Study, which allows the party to consume poisoned food without suffering adverse effects.

Ray gets the first rank of Dismiss Heal, which allows her to end her currently-active circle, and restores all party members' HP.

While it does require that a circle be active in order to be used, it compares very favorably to Party Heal, the medic skill that heals all party members. It heals for more HP, it costs less than Party Heal even after accounting for the TP cost of using a circle skill, and it is fast, whereas Party Heal is slow.

With that, phew. There's still footage from this recording session, but I think we can all agree that ending things here is for the better. Next time: we go into dungeons not named Misty Ravine.

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