Update 56: Let's See What Kind of Trouble We Can Get Ourselves Into

♪ Recollection and Regret ♪

All of the memories I hold of her—learning, growing, walking hand in hand—she left me in awe.

If that is truly what will make her happy... Surely he will make her smile. That's all I wanted for her. To Sitri, confined within the monastery walls, he was her world. I saw the way her eyes glimmered when they spoke. And her otherworldly smile when they became engaged. The look on her face when she told me how happy she was to bear his child... It was enough for me to see her happiness—to witness it from a distance.

She died before she could see the face of the child whom she had so lovingly nurtured... The funeral was a solemn affair. We gathered in the graveyard, said our farewells, and watched as her casket was lowered into the soil. That was the end of her story.

♪ No music ♪

Should their blood prove insufficient, I will spill even my own blood to finish this.
The chalice cannot return her soul, Aelfric. It is incapable even of returning the body to life.
Please, you must stop.
Be not afraid. Today, your mother returns to us.
The time has come.
Perhaps I am not an equal man to him... But I am here by your side, Sitri.

♪ At What Cost? ♪

That aberration... What is it? An...umbral beast?
So I see... It is just as the last time the ritual was performed.
Is this really happening? Aelfric turned into...that thing?!
Ugh. It does seem like some kind of sick joke.
So this is the Rite of Rising? Quite the dangerous ritual, if you ask me...

Could it be? Perhaps his roar drew them there...
Everyone who is capable must fight this beast—now.
Archbishop Rhea.
Things ended up this way because of me. Please allow me to make up for it.
It'll give me a chance to hold up my end of the deal. Let me fight for the church.
Ahaha! So very like you to steal the glory in the heat of the moment.
Aelfric used us—he lied to us—and attempted to slay us.
Despite that, he provided shelter when I had none. We must end things swiftly, for his sake.
He's never going to be normal again, is he? For all those years, he tried to make this happen—bring her back—only to lose himself. That's pretty awful.
He made his choice. All we can do is accept it.
Let's do all of us a favor and take him out real quick-like, yeah?
We'll help too. Together we stand, together we fall.
Yes, you can rely on us until the very end.
Time to lower the curtain on this unfortunate tale.
Let's do this.
Please, act swiftly but with great care.
By my order, stop the umbral beast—stop Aelfric!

Here we are: the end of Cindered Shadows.

This...thing...is our final opposition.

Umbral Leech: Unit absorbs HP from phantoms.
Enhanced Fortitude: Halves all damage taken, negates some abilities and combat arts, and prevents unit from being moved.
Manifest Phantom: Units births phantoms.
Counterattack: Allows unit to counterattack regardless of distance to attacker.
Death Blow: If unit initiates combat, grants Str +6 during combat.
Hit +20: Increases Hit by 20.
Vantage: When foe initiates combat, unit still attacks first if HP is ≤ 50%.

Statistically, it's...a pretty average boss monster. 3x3 size, draconic, armor tiles nullify 70% of damage, the works.

Umbral Surge, its staggering blow, is...enitrely unique. Honestly, I think it's better for me to show it in action, rather than try to describe it.

Spent all of our remaining funds on repairing our weapons, and that was the extent of my battle preparations. Let's finish this.

That abomination sure as hell isn't going to back down. We've got no choice but to go all in.
Grrr! Graaaargh!

He's isolated! Let's surround him. Close the distance in one fell swoop.
Don't be rash. Conventional rules don't apply in a battle like this.
He's right. We have no way of knowing what that beast is capable of. We must proceed with caution.

Yuri performs a Foul Play to swap Hapi into gambit range of the umbral beast.
Elfie's gone now, transformed into that...thing. Sometimes the world's too horrible to wrap my head around.

This thing is fucking gross to look at.

Once all of our units have taken their actions...

An illlusion...and it looks just like Aelfric.
I'm not sure I can fight him...even if it's not really him.
Don't worry, Hapi. I can!

The beast can...feed off these illusions somehow?!
Its wounds are healing. How troublesome...
So, Umbral Leech. The specifics of that very fun ability are that, every turn, all phantoms on the field lose 30% of their max HP. All of the HP they lost is transferred back into the umbral beast.

It's in your best interests to kill the phantoms as soon as they appear. Otherwise, you will spend way longer fighting this thing than you really want to.

After the initial summoning, two phantoms will appear at the end of every enemy phase.

These things are nowhere near as strong as Aelfric, and are annoyances at best, but they've got massive HP pools. For every one of them that's alive, if Umbral Leech doesn't kill them, then the umbral beast will heal about 20 HP. Kill them as soon as you can.

General: Nullifies instant death effects and halves damage from enemy gambits.
Black Tomefaire: Grants Atk +5 when using black magic.
Black Magic Uses x2: Doubles the number of uses for black magic.
Fiendish Blow: If unit initiates combat, grants Mag +6 during combat.
Black Magic Range +1: Increases black magic range by 1.
Anchor: Prevents unit from being moved.

Also, they all drop concoctions upon death.

This is what comes of meddling with a sacred tool commissioned by the progenitor god.
But clearly it's too late to scold you at this point. For now, we must focus on dealing with the result!

No damage, but it breaks armor tiles all the same.

As long as a unit isn't being targeted by the umbral beast, just keeping them above 25% of their max HP is good enough here.

There. No healing for the umbral beast this turn.

I intended to take one for the team, but damn. This thing is way uglier than I thought.
Heh, perfect. This will be one for the history books.

There. No more armor, and no Umbral Surge this turn.

Phantoms still spawn in, even if the umbral beast is staggered.

Abby uses her last Assault Troop to guarantee that she takes the umbral beast's normal attack this turn.

Claude having just enough Atk to one-round a phantom is a godsend.

You should run.

You strong enough?

That crit speeds things along greatly.

If the Crest of Seiros appears when the umbral beast attacks you, it's bad news.

Because that means it got a crit.

First HP bar down. The beast gets Death Blow now.

You might as well give up.

Every crit is a godsend.

Damn. A crit would've meant another HP bar down.

Nice dodge, Abby.

Can't believe I had to spend Constance's turn on dealing 2 damage. Oh well, out comes Hit +20 now.

Balthus can't deal much damage to the umbral beast, but he can kill the phantoms before they can even hit him.

You're in my way.

Sweet, that gives one of my other units a turn that isn't wasted having to kill a phantom.

Ugh, a crit would've been nice...

Now, fight!

What the heck was that? We all got moved to different positions.
It's some brand of spatial-distortion magic. I haven't the faintest how to defend against it!
Damn! Don't let that thing catch you alone. It's too risky.
Yeah, don't be reckless. Stand united.
So...yeah. That is Umbral Surge. Everyone's positions get shuffled, everyone suffers 25% of their max HP as damage, and the umbral beast becomes unable to counterattack us for a turn.

Looking at the ailment description for Umbral Surge raises one question for me: is it Sitri or Aelfric that causes the beast to falter here?

Dimitri draws the umbral beast's attack on the upcoming enemy phase.


A stroke of luck means I only need two people to take down both phantoms.


I've got you!

You might as well give up.

Well, that makes things easy.

♪ No music ♪

♪ Light and Shadow ♪

Well done, everyone. Because of you, her restless soul has finally found peace. Professor... I imagine you have much on your mind.
My mother...
I was there the day she brought you forth into this world.
Sitri had always been frail. Giving birth proved to be too much for her in the end... On that fated day, it looked as though neither of you would survive.

My mother's heart gave me life?
That is correct. The heart that lies within your chest is none other than hers.
It was the only way that you could be saved.
But Sitri loved others, much as a human might—and I loved her in return.
But why wasn't she buried?
Sitri looked upon me as though I was her mother, and I wished for her to have a bright future... I would not have her buried in the cold, dark soil. Prior to her funeral, I arranged for a fake burial. Afterward, I brought her body to Abyss, where I would sometimes visit her. I never thought that anyone—especially Aelfric—would find her. I did not expect for such a tragedy to ensue...

Rhea, none of this would've happened if you'd just... Aaaaaaaagh.

Was Aelfric really just using us all that time?
How should I know? I mean, he always acted that way around me—like we were a means to an end.
But the church records indicate he founded the Ashen Wolf House 15 years ago. He mentioned he found Sitri 10 years ago, so it seems he really did mean well, at first...
What's done is done. He's gone, and we're here. That's what matters now.
You're always so quick to adapt to change, Hapi. I should follow your example.
Heh, yeah, you always get to the heart of things quickly. Right, then. I've got a lot to take care of now. I need to fill the church in on all the details about how things actually played out. And with my people freed from the monastery prison, they'll need to be accounted for.
Good luck with that whole mess. I'll be rooting for you from afar.
Surely you'll let us know if there is any way at all we can help. We'd be just thrilled.
Hell, if you want, your people can be my people. I could use some good mercenaries to watch my back.
Enough already. I get it.
It's no less than you deserve.
What you have sown, now you shall reap!
You made your bed, now shut up about it, pal.
Heh... Anyway, what do you figure will happen to Abyss? The church will want to step in, no doubt.
You got me. After everything that's happened, things can't stay the same. The church will probably assign an official to oversee things. Hopefully whoever they choose knows how to get along with Abyssians well.
Let's worry about all that some other time, yeah? I could really use a tall drink and a long sleep.
I'm with you. I hurt in places I didn't even know could hurt.
It has been a terribly long night, indeed. One I won't ever forget.

A terribly long night, but a beautiful morning, haha.

♪ Somewhere to Belong ♪

Yes. After speaking with the cardinals, my decision is final. The Ashen Wolf House was originally established for youths who were in need of the church's protection.
Somewhere along the way, that intent was corrupted, and it ultimately became a cage for you.
The Ashen Wolves are officially disbanded. You can consider this a graduation, of sorts.
You can doll this up by calling it graduating, but you're the one who sent me to Abyss to begin with. Now you waltz in here and tell us to just go live our lives, as if none of this ever happened?
You may continue living in Abyss, of course.
Abyss will always be a refuge for those who need it most. Your chains have been unbound. You are free to live as you wish now.
You ask me, this feels like good timing. This sounds pretty all right, Rhea.
After all I have been through, I must say I feel immense gratitude at the prospect of living freely.
You're just going to let me go? While I was working with the church, I still did some unsavory things...
You have already been judged for your transgressions, Yuri. You have slain the undeserving. The weight of that is yours to bear. You have time to contemplate your actions now. That is punishment enough.
What's with the "woe is me" act? She's saying you're a free man!
True enough. It's up to me to determine how I'll live my life now...how I'll make up for what I've done.

♪ A Promise ♪

Ahaha! Someone of my many talents must make decisions in short order—I'm in high demand, after all. The Fhirdiad Royal School of Sorcery demands my presence posthaste. How could I deny them? Soon, the name Nuvelle shall be renowned all throughout the Imperial capital—prepare yourselves!
Didn't you already attend that school? Leaving and going back seems... Eh, well, good luck with that.
Maybe I'll try to see my family again.
It's been forever, but now seems like as good a time as any to do that. The whole thing might be a drag, though, so maybe I'll come straight back to Abyss.
I think I'll... Yeah, yep! I'll find a way to hit it big—make tons of money!
It's about time the Indebted King of Grappling finally paid down all those damn debts.
You could always ask my brother to help you out. Seems like a good way to go, really.
Borrow from Holst? That's a hard no! Wouldn't dare to trouble my best pal like that.
That's enough about me. What are you going to do now, Boss?
Eh, who knows. For now I'll take some time to think. My main concern at this point is taking care of my people back in my hometown.
You mean you'll continue your former line of work?
No need to beat around the bush. And yeah, that's the plan. It's what I'm best at.
But I can approach things differently now. Change how I live—find ways to thrive in peace, you know?
Makes sense to me. I wish you all the best.
Thanks, friend. Right back at you. We both deserve to live our lives freely.
I may end up back home after all this, but I worry about how my rogues here would fare without a boss.
Always worrying about everyone but yourself. Stop with that already, yeah?
I'll look after Abyss.
There you go being cute again. Though I'm certain if you're around, Abyss and everyone in it will be just fine.
We'll keep an eye on Abyss, as well. Isn't that right, you two?
Absolutely. That place is a treasure trove of secrets. Just try to keep me away.
I trust your motives are not all so selfish, Claude. And yes, we promise to protect Abyss in your absence.

I should've known...
Humans are adaptable creatures. You'll sort it out just fine.
Heh, relax, will ya? We all know Yuri's not the type to abandon his pals. He's a guy who always turns up when he's needed. Hell, we should all be taking notes from him.
The world's a dreary place. We could all use a little help now and again.
As long as we're all here for each other as true friends, we can live our lives to the fullest.
You heard me. You're all my friends... You matter. You always will.
That seems like a good note to end on.
Sure does. Catch ya later, pals. I mean...friends.
With that, I bid you farewell! Hehe!

And so it is. Until next time, friend.

And that was Cindered Shadows.

Overall... Ehhhhhhhhhhhh? The plot of CS itself wasn't that interesting, although it is nice to know Sitri's name, and what happened to the Four Apostles—or, well, who they even were. Aelfric really isn't that compelling of a villain; he really does just come down to "he had the hots for Sitri and wanted to kiss her re-animated corpse." For the record, none of what happened in Cindered Shadows is canon. Aelfric isn't a cardinal in the main story, for vague reasons, although the Ashen Wolves still ended up in Abyss.

Gameplay-wise, again, eh. Chapters 1, 2, 5, and 6 are all pretty fine maps. Chapter 4 is stress-inducing to the point that I don't really like it, even if it's conceptually fine. Chapter 3 can fuck right off, it's a massive slog full of RNG and concluding on a shitty guessing game. Chapter 7 is forgettable, the phantom mechanic just isn't that interesting, and Umbral Surge only dealing percentage-based damage and causing the umbral beast to be stunned for the player phase and suffer reduced Crit Avo means it's overly easy.

I like Cindered Shadows more for the stuff it unlocks in the main game, honestly. I really like Yuri, Balthus, Constance, and Hapi as characters, and each have their own interesting applications in the main story. Abyss itself is useful almost entirely for the wayseer. And of course, the Chalice of Beginnings has a lot of tactical uses.

Before we go, I'll list what clearing each chapter unlocks in the main game.
Why the odd gap at Chapter 4? Who knows.

I hope you've enjoyed our brief excursion into the underground of Garreg Mach. Next time: we befriend Claude von Riegan.

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