Update 14: Jelly Madchester (VS. Hollow Queen)

You all look quite serious. Is something the matter?
Yeah, but...probably not the best time to vent to a bartender. We're here to report on Wynne's request? Sorta forgot about it yesterday.
Ah, yes. Wynne was very happy to have that matter taken care of. She left a pair of goggles as the reward—said that they are suited for, and I quote, "when you just wanna hit somethin' real hard without lookin' at it."

We've been able to buy aim goggles for quite a while now. +15% accuracy is in an awkward space where the best it does is negate the occasional annoying miss, but doesn't substantially help Squall Volley.

Huh. This is a different type'a porker you cooked, right? Not the usual stuff.
Mhm. I used the black pigs today. Their meat seems like it can make us healthier.
Sure looks the part.

I cooked a gray black pig instead of a silk white pig for the first time since we got to the 2nd Land. Gray black pigs give no LUC bonus, but give an additional point of STR, and increase the HP bonus (with Robust Chef) from 28 to 43. That may not sound like much, but, not to spoil much, it actually does save someone's life during the Hollow Queen fight. So, hey, vindication.

Stats and equipment. Major changes are that I swapped out Harper's LUC accessory for an STR one, replaced the ancient makiri's LUC forges with ELM ones, and handed it off to Xiaohu.

In general, I'm not as interested in LUC bonuses for the Hollow Queen fight as I usually am because of Hollow Queen and the adds' extreme susceptibility to disables. LUC bonuses won't really provide a lot of benefit when disables are already landing consistently as-is, and I might as well take advantage of that to slightly buff up damage elsewhere.

Skill builds. Shelly has a few more points in Double Strike as a generic damage button. Otherwise, not much is different with her. Her plan, once the Hollow guards are down, is to set up Improved Link, and spam Freezing Link.

Naijou is the same as the previous update. He's mainly here for Shockwave, though Skull Crusher may prove useful if it binds Hollow Queen's head.

Harper has sacrificed some ranks of Novice skills to get Squall Volley to rank 4. While it does require a lot of TP, and won't be terribly useful when adds are in the fight, Squall Volley at rank 4 deals an average of 375% damage, with a maximum of 550%, not accounting for crits. All it'll take is a bit of luck, and Harper will be able to deal some serious damage.

Xiaohu has been heavily respec'd. She now has Glacier Rune as her main single-target damage skill, providing an average of 90% TEC damage. That's pretty good on its own, but with Runic Guidance, it can deal even more than that number suggests by way of creating artificial weaknesses with Ice Rune.

Ray is unchanged from the last update. She's going to be working in tandem with Wufan to make this fight much easier.

Not gonna lie, I'm...nervous? I guess this is nervousness.
You guess?
It's way more intense than any other time I've been nervous. There's this kinda hollow feeling in my stomach, but also nausea, but also I'm finding it difficult to stand still.
A surge of adrenaline, perhaps.
Maybe. It's not fight-or-flight, but it's close enough, I guess.
Harper. Ray. Are you two alright?
Muh? Oh, yeah, I'm aces.
I mean, that's a massive lie, but hell if I'm gonna make Xiuan wait on my count.
I couldn't sleep last night. I'll be fine once we start fighting.
That is very worrying...
I know. I'm scared that I'm not rested. But I'm not going to make Xiuan wait for me to sleep right.
Perhaps we should make Xiuan not wait any more in general. Shall we proceed into the Hollows' sanctum?

♪ No music ♪

An indescribable presence fills the room, causing you to break out into a cold sweat.
Push through it, Shelly, you've fought in worse shape...

Our quarry awaits.
It's much larger than I was expecting.

Oh gods no don't tell me she's—
She is alive. Unconscious, but alive.
You— You're certain of that?
As certain as I can be. There is a strange resonance between her and the large Hollow—a force of this magnitude could not come from something that is dead.
I do not like the sound of somethin' happening between Xiuan and the big Hollow!
I do not think it is bad, but I also...do not understand what it is to begin with.
Those fireflies we saw are gathering around the large—
Shh. There's...a weird noise.
The giant Hollow is humming a wordless tune, the same as the one the Medium sung before. It sounds like a lullaby.
...Give her back.
Harper's words seem to startle the Hollow. It suddenly ceases its humming, turns around, and narrows its eyes at her. Upon noticing Wufan, it seems to emanate an ominous sound, almost like a growl, and moves between the group and Xiuan.
Xiuan doesn't want to be here. She wants to see what's outside this forest, and...and you pull her deeper into it.
Wufan slowly steps forward, positioning herself beside Harper.
I have made grave errors in how I have treated Xiuan. I do not know if I will ever earn her forgiveness.
What I do know, Hollow, is that you are and your kind are not protecting her. You fighten her. You have slaughtered many of my kin, many of whom Xiuan has had to help bury. Even should Xiuan choose to leave us, we Vessels will suffer your terror no longer!
Ray runs towards the Hollows' leader, joining Harper and Wufan.
Ever since I was a tot, I've been scared of you ghosties. But y'know, attackin' my home, kidnappin' my best friend? That's got a funny way of making me pissed off. You're not gonna just give her up, I know, so... Oi! Shelly, Naij, Xiao! Let's go!
The other three run forwards and take their positions. Surprisingly, Wufan stands at the front, alongside Shelly and Naijou.
Hey, wait, what're you doing?!
You two are not enough to protect a rear guard of four. Let me stand with you. I would rather take grievous blows than see the other three be severely wounded.
The beast approaches!

The video of the boss fight can be found here!

The Hollow Queen emits a sharp cry, as ghostly beings form at its edges...!

Oh dear. So that is where Hollows come from.
Ugh, pain in the ass. Guess we'll just have to fight through them.

Setting up Improved Link on Shelly right now wouldn't do me much good; I want the Hollow guards dead as soon as possible, so she's just going to lob a Double Strike at one of them. Xiaohu does pretty much the same thing but with Lightning Rune, and Harper with Leg Snipe.

Naijou sets up a Charge, since there's little reason for him to not just use it before every attack.

Wufan and Ray are both going to work on disabling enemies en masse—Wufan taking out the arms to shut down the Hollow guards' skills, and Ray taking out the legs so that people that aren't Harper can reliably hit them.


Sorry I wasn't fast enough.
Don't apologize, just focus.

How'd ya like that noise?! Better than your hummin'!

Ghh... It may look like a ghost, but its arms sure feel real.
Dimensional Cut targets all player characters, but only has melee range. Since Hollow Queen is in the back row, it can only hit the front row of the party, and only for half damage.

Me? Very well then.

A response in kind.

There, they cannot shield the leader any more!


A charged Shockwave should do a lot to speed up getting rid of the Hollow guards.

With the circles having done their job, Wufan will use Dismiss Blow to take out one of the Hollow guards quicker.

Harper will attempt to bind Hollow Queen's head, rendering it unable to do anything but normal attacks.

Ray, meanwhile, will heal Shelly up from that unlucky hit of Dimensional Cut.

Not having a bind stick to Hollow Queen is generally more the exception than the rule.
Sometimes I forget it's possible.

Some non-ghost medicine for the ghost wounds.

Did not like the look of that electricity sparking up the thing's spear.
Good thing its arms are inoperable!

...Wait, circles can do that? Really hurt the beasties?
I will instruct you in offensive dismissals after we are finished here!

Get off me!

...Damn, the other one is still standing.
Not for long. Thank you, Naijou.
One benefit of charging Shockwave is that Naijou only suffers backlash damage once, instead of twice.

Given the imminent death of the last Hollow guard, I have Shelly, Naijou, and Xiaohu do the setup they would normally have done at the start of a battle. Wufan also applies Atrophic Eye to up our damage further.

Meanwhile, Harper will finish off the last Hollow guard, while Ray attempts to inflict panic on Hollow Queen. It's not that likely, given that Chaos Circle is only at rank 1, but it'd save me a lot of trouble.

No more guards.

Tcheh. Needs work, that one.

Deep, reverberating sounds are heard from Hollow Queen as new Hollows drop from its arms!
Fond of odd vocalizations, I see.
Be glad you cannot understand what it is saying.
Hollow Queen's next action after both Hollow guards die will always be summoning two Hollow seers. If the Hollow guards die after it has taken its turn, it will summon them on the following turn. Otherwise, as seen here, it will immediately summon the Hollow seers on the same turn as the Hollow guards dying.

I will crush those phantoms.

...That's a genuinely terrifying look that you're giving the Hollows, Wufan.
Wait, auntie, that look's been useful for fightin' beasties this entire time?

Shelly's not going to be of much use when it comes to attacking the Hollow seers, so she's just going to use a Link on Hollow Queen.

The Hollow seers will take so much damage from Shockwave that I opt to just have Naijou use it uncharged, in the hopes that I'll be able to kill them earlier on the next turn than I otherwise would be able to.

I probably should've applied leg binds before attacking the seers, but any physical hits deal high damage to them.

That works too! Gasses are very useful.

Even just the initial hit of Freezing Link deals good damage.
My favorite part was when Shelly yelled IT'S LINKIN TIME and Linked all o

You know I started this joke with one intention, doing the Morbin Time bit, and then midway through I was like "hey, you know, I bet a lot of people don't know that it was a Yugioh Youtuber who actually did the original joke of that, and as a Yugioh player I think that's funny"

but then I saw that it says Linkin and now I'm just thinking about Ray listening to Linkin Park and going "aww yeah that's rock baybee"
I wanted to make a joke about a Landsknecht-themed Linkin Park cover band in response to that, but couldn't come up with anything good. Insert your own joke here!

Little more than a scratch.

Dimensional Cut wouldn't be of much danger to us right now due to no-one having their evasion reduced or disabled, but it's still nice to have it disabled.

How I wish I could just use Glacier Rune without those goobers in the back potentially absorbing hits.

Only killed one on this turn, sadly, but the other will die early next turn.

Wufan and Harper will both attempt to bind Hollow Queen's head.

I realized that I had enough burst to have Xiaohu use Ice Coffin, so I'm going to take advantage of that. This should be fun.

Meanwhile, I think having Ray go for more disables would be overkill, so she opts to chuck a blast jar instead. Some chip damage, activates an extra Link hit, it's better than just tripling up on disables.

You can just triple up on those?
With enough burst available, yes! It gives me enough of a runic buffer to invoke the same rune multiple times without my body suffering from the exponential extra cost of each additional rune.

Oh, I get it. "α❄️❄️❄️Ω" means "heart".

Don't sing.

Oi, these jars ain't half bad.

What is with this thing and grabbing me?!

The phantoms are no more. Ugh...
Do not overexert yoursefl! Xiuan would never forgive herself if any of you suffered serious injuries here.
The unfortunate downside of Blood Surge's TP drain is that, while it's a small, static amount, it's still a sizable percentage of Naijou's TP.

Alright, good, Hollow Queen is below 50% HP, we're dealing good damage. Unfortunately, it's about to use Lovers' Breath, as the threshold for using that skill is 50% HP.

Naijou being at literally 0 TP is a problem, since it means he can't even use Deep Breath, which costs 1 TP. I opt to have him just do a normal attack, which'll give him some TP back.

Given that Hollow Queen does not have its legs bound right now, is about to purge all of its binds near the end of the turn, and Improved Link and Ice Rune are both about to run out, I have Shelly and Xiaohu both re-apply their respective effects.

Being an intangible being has its benefits, evidently...

Gah. Naijou missing the attack means he doesn't get his TP restored. Complete waste of a turn.

I had a feeling it was about to recuperate.
Nice plannin', auntie!

Now I can have some real fun.



Nocking so many arrows so quickly must be exhausting.
That was a total of 368 damage, over 6 hits, from one action. And that was a pretty low roll for a rank 4 Squall Volley, given that it can range from 4 to 11 hits. But that's not even the end.
squall volley baby

It may be exhausting, but it's an attack I can work with!
Multi-hit attacks combo disgustingly well with Improved Link, as you might've already guessed.

Fffffffffuck! Still...standing, but...
Think the Hollow's getting real angry at us now...
A...assistance, please...
(I apologize for having to show incoming damage in multiple screenshots, it's just a consequence of how slowly EO4's battle system shows individual hits.)

Christ. I'm very lucky Shelly and Ray survived that. Three deaths would've been a problem.

A taste of your own medicine!
353 damage, comparable to Squall Volley.

Plus that.

There, I can at least perform some techniques again...
Are you operating on some sort of "battle fever?" I believe that's what that term refers to.
I find simple strikes to be invigorating. That sounds roughly accurate.

Alright, the battle's basically over at this point.

The Hollow's flaggin', auntie, and I want you to be up when it falls.
Kaff... Thank you, Ray...



Phew. I bet we'd all be a lot less exhausted if we didn't have to deal with its stupid friends...

♪ No music ♪

The Hollows' leader is no more...
Hopefully, no-one in Vessel Town's ever gotta deal with 'em again.
At the same time, the Medium regains consciousness and looks up. She does not seem to be hurt...

Wufan rushes to the Medium faster than any of your party can and pulls her up from the ground.

Mm... Members of Guild Daffodil? Wufan? What happened...?
Wait, Wufan, you're using my—?
At Xiuan's confirmation of having regained consciousness, Harper and Ray quickly move to join Wufan, tears welling up in their eyes.
Godsdamned Hollows, scarin' us all by taking you...
Taking me? Pardon?
I'm sorry, Xiuan, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sor—
Please, wait! I'm...very confused. Are we on the lower floors of the Misty Ravine?
The bottom floor, yes.
How did I get here? All I remember before now is suffering from an intense dizzy spell, followed by lying down in bed.
Look, it's...it's a long story, but the short of it is that the Hollows attacked Vessel Town, and took you down here.
...Oh...oh my.
Wufan takes a deep breath to recompose herself.
Forgive me, there will be time for this reunion later. I cannot imagine we are all comfortable kneeling on this damp ground.
It is less than ideal, yes.
Not fun.
Aheh, sorry.
Quick question: those three have been using your non-title name, you mind if the rest of us use it? Or would you rather we just keep calling you the Medium?
If you already know my name, then I... Truthfully, it would be very nice if you used it instead of my title.
Gotcha, Xiuan.
Xiuan smiles softly. It seems to be infectious, as despite his exhaustion, Naijou smiles as well.
Hm? Do I have something on my face?
A smile, yes!
A what now?
Gggh...gck...geeheeheehee! Oh, that's a great one, Naij!
While no sounds escaped Wufan's lips, it took every ounce of willpower within her to accomplish that.
Ahaha... I had considered myself sheltered, but that is another level entirely.
I am not quite sure what about that is funny, but I am more than happy to serve as a source of mirth. At the same time, however...

Look. The Hollows' leader was guarding not just Xiuan, but another altar.
Yeah, there was another one of these at the bottom of the Lush Woodlands, back where we started out. Different colors, but it's got the same design. Same hand symbol.
To put it mildly, that is quite interesting.
The labyrinths are connected. I'm trying very hard to come up with another way of explaining this, but can't.
Oh, uh, just so you're up to speed, auntie and Xiuan, when we put the woodlands' hand thing next to a giant monument with the same symbol on it at the cliffs, it calmed the wind through the pass down.
Hm. A monument standing watch over extreme winds, much...like...
It's nothing, there is just much to think about with this. Our home and these Lush Woodlands are connected, but for what purpose...?
Truthfully, I was hoping that you might have some answers, or Vessel mythology that would explain this. I have pored over many historical and mythological volumes at the Mark Grand Court back in Tharsis, but none have offered even a theory as to the strange winds that once blocked passage towards these lands.
Unfortunately, the most that Wufan and I can offer is that the tale of how the Vessels came to settle in the Misty Ravine includes a great trek on foot through the windy pass. The winds have been there as far back as the Vessels can remember, in other words.
The labyrinth makes us fight nasty monsters, and then gives us a giant mystery we can't answer. Exciting. Also a little bit annoying. But mostly exciting.

Do not worry, I can handle carrying this on my own.
By the grace of Yggdrasil! An enormous slab of stone with metal in the middle, yet he hefts it as if it is nothing...
For a brief second, Xiuan's eyes seem to sparkle in amazement.
Naijou is cool.
Oi, maybe my brain's all mixed up 'cause of the big fight we just had, but I coulda swore we had somethin' else to do.
Present the Outland Count's letter to Xiuan?
Right, that's it.
...Y'know, now that auntie's not spittin' venom at us—no offense, auntie—the Count mighta written this letter for us to give to Xiuan all hush-hush, but, I mean, with the air cleared'n all, if Xiuan's good with it, maybe you two can fly back to Tharsis with us? Meet the Count, talk to him yourselves.
It'd make the Count happy. He's been very worried about the Vessels. I think meeting both of you would make his heart lighter.
Not to get too high-minded about it, but beyond the Count... Well, a bunch of Tharsis' soldiers have traveled out here, fought alongside Vessels against the Hollows. They've met you—well, okay, a lot more than that, but you hopefully get what I mean.
Humans and Vessels being close together again would be a good thing.
I... Personally, I would love nothing more than to talk to the Count in person, but...
Wufan closes her eyes and remains still, assumedly in quiet contemplation. Even the natural sounds of the Misty Ravine seem to cease as she considers the party's offer.
After what felt like an eternity, she gives her answer.
I cannot guarantee that every Vessel will take to this well. It is possible that the vast majority of them will oppose it, even. But, in my opinion as High Arcanist, and the one entrusted with caring for the Medium, we owe it to your group to at least meet with this "Count."
Xiuan gasps.
You...you truly mean that, Wufan?
I always say what I mean, Xiuan. No more, no less.
Well, the road towards delivering the Count's message was much longer than expected, but everything has worked out well in the end!
Feels wrong to say this about this whole "Xiuan getting kidnapped by Hollows" mess, but it worked out better than if we'd stuck to the original plan of being sneaky about this. Probably.
Right, everyone ready to thread out? Ooh, right, you two'll want to hang onto this thread with us. Takes us right back to Tharsis, real useful.

Before we head out, here's how I spent the SP we got from Hollow Queen. Nothing exciting, just incrementally improving existing skills. Ray's working towards Dismiss Blow in order to give her some offensive potential.

Right, so, uh, auntie's already been here, but— Ooh, hell, what're these nerves alluva sudden?
Welcome to Tharsis, Xiuan.
Xiuan remains still for a few minutes, observing the usual hustle and bustle of Tharsis's city square from the viewing platform near the city exit.
The amount of humans that live here is still nothing short of staggering to me. Vessel Town is much larger than it seems, but even it cannot compare to this.
Being the city best equipped to handle skyship traffic, at least on this side of the world, kinda does that to a place.
I'm sorry, I became lost in my thoughts for a moment. Shall we make way towards... Um...
Whoop, uh, the Count's place is called the Mark Grand Court.
The Mark Grand Court, yes.

Ah, Guild Daffodil and Wufan, welcome! And, if I may be so bold as to guess, miss, you are the Medium?
Yes, I am indeed Yggdrasil's Medium. It is an honor and a pleasure to meet you, Mister Outland Count.
Ahaha, so formal! Please, you may just call me the Count. Or "Sir Count," as Waylon and Xiaohu call me, if you insist on formalities. In turn, do you have a name you would prefer I use, or will "the Medium" do?
My title will do, thank you.

Right, so, let's get the obvious out of the way. Judging by the Medium's presence here, it's safe to assume that business with the Hollows in the Misty Ravine has been resolved?
Yes. We battled the Hollows' leader, and emerged victorious. The Vessels are most likely safe from any further major attacks from the Hollows.
Good, good, I can take some soldiers off of guard duty and reassign them to assisting with providing supplies and rebuilding—if our presence is still welcome, of course.
While I cannot speak for every Vessel, even our most severe hardliners appear to be tolerant of human assistance in recovering from the Hollows' decimation.
Speaking of your fellow Vessels, I've heard parts of the tale of the Titan from some of our officers, enough to understand the animosity your people feel towards humans. In my capacity as the leader of the human settlement closest to Yggdrasil, I apologize for our forebears' cowardice in the face of the Titan.
In turn, in my capacity as Yggdrasil's Medium, your apology is accepted. I cannot promise that every Vessel will immediately be so forgiving, but I will do my best to help them see humans the way that Wufan and I do.
You may count on my word as well, of course.
A large grin spreads over the Count's face as he extends his hand towards Xiuan and Wufan.
Well then! Shall we shake on a new era of human and Vessel cooperation?
Xiuan and Wufan both smile as they each shake the Count's hand.
Of course, we owe this new relationship between humanity and Vesselkind in large part to Guild Daffodil.
...Thank you.
As a gesture of goodwill, and to take a step closer to a shared understanding, I shall have my archivists comb the Court's collection for any records related to how the humans of eld acted when confronted with the Titan.
I wish to join that effort, when time permits. I believe Ace also would appreciate the chance to participate.
And we would gladly appreciate your help.
If I may pause the narrative for a moment, there is something that is irrelevant to this LP, but which I need to show anyways.

Wufan, who is left with nothing to do during the proceedings, speaks to you.

I am grateful for what you did for us, Daffodil. I would like to give you something in return. It's a staff used in training when arcanists learn the basics of spellcasting. Think of it as an oath I swear to you: Beginning now, our arcanists are at your command should you need them. We will not refuse your call. This Deep Forest Lore is used in our training. I called a master arcanist to the Tharsis bar; ask him about it.

This is where, in an unmodified, non-New Game+ playthrough of EO4, you would unlock the ability to create arcanists. Having to create a new character and grind them from level 1 to, most likely, the mid-20s would normally be a bit of a pain, but the game has two mitigative measures for that. The first, if I may skip over some dialogue...

Is the ability to recruit Wufan as a normal guild character. While you, obviously, cannot choose her portrait or name (and can't rename her), the benefit of using her is that she will join you as she was as a guest party member—level 28, and with a skill build that has a variety of useful skills unlocked, though none at very high levels.

I also neglected to mention this previously, but the deep forest pin that Wufan is equipped with is a piece of equipment unique to her. Sadly, that is the only unique thing about the deep forest pin—it only provides 16 DEF, no other bonuses.

If you do not recruit Wufan in this cutscene, but change your mind later, you can go to Vessel Town and recruit Wufan from there. We will not be recruiting her because, well, we already have Ray.
I actually did just use Wufan on my first run.

And now, we resume the narrative.

I apologize for interrupting, but Yggdrasil is speaking...!
"Deluded darkness from the sky lusting for power made manifest yearns for my body."
After Xiuan relays Yggdrasil's words, the room falls silent. Eventually, Naijou speaks.
I had hoped that we would be able to relax ourselves with the Medium's rescue, but it seems that was not meant to be..
The last time Yggdrasil spoke of its own accord was when the Medium was a child, and that was only to inform us of her connection to it. Since then, it has only spoken when we request its counsel. Something is very wrong.
That "from the sky" part is really bugging me. Assuming it's not talking about something crazy like gods suddenly reaching down from the sky...is it talking about someone with a skyship? No, that's impossible...
Ah, forget it. Blindly speculating won't get us anywhere.
I'm inclined to agree. As dire as the great tree's warning is, in the absence of any concrete information about whoever, or whatever, is threatening Yggdrasil, our best course of action is to make way towards it.
With any luck, Guild Daffodil and Tharsis's soldiers will be able to reach Yggdrasil before the worst comes to pass. If they agree to this task, of course. I realize that it is—
We'll go.
Ah, that is a relief to hear. I am deeply sorry to keep interrupting your adventure, though.
We're explorers. We'll need to explore new places to get to Yggdrasil. It's fine.
That said, if we're gonna do this, probably best that we get moving soon. Getting to Yggdrasil means we'll have to fly through the Silver Peaks, and boy oh boy that's gonna be a hell of a thing.
Indeed. I wish you all the best of luck.

Whirlwind is here as well, looking directly at you. It seems he was waiting for you to come out of the Grand Court.

Hey. First things first, glad to see the Medium up and about. Also surprised to see her up and about somewhere that isn't the Misty Ravine, but that's neither here nor there.
I am sorry, have we met?
Whoop, my bad. My name's Whirlwind, I'm an explorer, though I usually run solo. I was helping Daffodil out after the Hollows attacked Vessel Town. Snuck through the bottom floor of the Misty Ravine to make sure you were alright. Sorry that I couldn't save you myself, but there was no way I could fight that giant Hollow on my own.
There is no need to apologize. Thank you very much for your help during that crisis.
'Course. No way I was gonna turn my back on what was happening. And, uh, no way I can turn my back on those expressions you've all got. Something happen with the Count?
Mm. Not with the Count, but while we were meeting him.
The Medium— Can you tell him what happened?
If you trust him, then I will trust him as well. As strange as this might sound, I can hear the voice of Yggdrasil. During our meeting with the Outland Count, it spoke to me: "Deluded darkness from the sky lusting for power made manifest yearns for my body."
The smile that normally adorns Whirlwind's face fades as he listens to Yggdrasil's message.
...Sorry, just processing that. "From the sky," huh? Cryptic. Still, knowing you all, I'm guessing you're gonna head towards the tree ASAP?
I won't be far behind, then. Can't really ignore a plea from Yggdrasil itself. Dunno how much I can do as one guy in unfamiliar lands, but I'll do the best I can. Oh, 'fore you guys get going, mind if I talk with Harper for a second?
Wait, why?
It's a private matter.
...Alright. Just try to be quick about it, 'kay? We really don't have any time to lose here.
It'll be okay, Shelly.

So! You doing alright?
Mhm. Why do you ask?
I didn't want to say this in front of Wufan and the Medium, but I did not appreciate how a bunch of the Vessels treated me when I was helping out. From the way they said "human" with so much hate, you'd think actual venom was gonna drip out of their mouths. More importantly, though, they had some awful things to say about you.
Yeah. This stays between us, but I was doing some recon on Vessel Town after you guys first got back from it. Listened in on people talking. It...wasn't pretty. Seemed like Wufan had told people about how much she... I'm not gonna sugarcoat it, hated you. And from there, boy, did all of these Vessels that hadn't even spoken a word to you suddenly start ranting about the deceitful yellow-haired girl, come with lies about the outside world, trying to steal the Medium away to unholy lands...
Sorry, I shoulda, uh, filtered that. Still, though, it bothers me to see that woman walking with you guys, acting as if she didn't—
I don't care.
Wufan did say nasty things about me. But I don't care. She apologized, and— She hasn't called me it yet, but she's my friend.
I...I guess, but doesn't the stuff the other Vessels said bother you?
No. Even if it did, humans and Vessels are going to work together again. I can't let what they said before then bother me.
You're made of sterner stuff than me. If someone said even one-tenth of that about me, I dunno if I could forgive them. Hell, I don't know if I could keep myself from punching them.
It's better to wait for people to be your friends, instead of just making them enemies when they upset you.
Heh, I guess. Just...don't let that burn you. There's people out there who'll take your kindness one minute, then turn around and bury you alive the next.
You— No-one's tried to bury you alive, right?
Oh, no, no, thank the gods no. I was just speaking figuratively. Anyways, I've said what I wanted to, I'll get out of your hair. Take care of yourself, alright?
You too.

♪ No music ♪

You did WHAT?!
Easy, girl, easy! All I did was put another mount for equipment on it, so now yeh've got three.
...Look, sorry, the upgrade's appreciated, just don't do work on my baby without asking me first, 'kay?
Right. Just got a bit too excited to work on it, heh. I'll let yeh go now, but be careful, alright? I've got a bad feelin' that things're about to get a lot rougher.

Having three equipment slots isn't necessary right now, but it's convenient.

You sure you've got a good enough hold on that thing?
I am able to carry it on my shoulder, I think that counts as a good enough hold.
Y...Yes, that's the...joke... Ah, just go put the thing on the monument.

My eyes!

Shoulda warned you about that, my bad.

Alright, we're headed through the ravine.
How long do you expect we will be in the ravine?
Dunno. If it's anything like the one between the Windy Plains and here, probably a few hours.
...I would question why you do not regularly use the geomagnetic pole, were it not for my firsthand experience with it just now.
Sorry to put you two through that, but time's of the essence. Gotta get a foothold in wherever this takes us.

About halfway into the flight through the ravine...
...I'm not the only one that feels it getting colder, right?
No. I should go put one of my heavier coats on...

Well, that's just great. Not only are there rough winds everywhere, not only is it snowing, it's godsdamned freezing!
As you exhale, your breath turns to frost. Your hands are numb, and pain builds in your ears from the cold. An enormous snowy vista unfolds before your eyes... You noticed the change in climate as you passed through the ravine when it began to snow. This new land is certainly a harsh and frigid place. You must proceed with care. It will not be easy to control your skyship with this precipitation and wind...
Guess I'll need to get some winter gear when we're back in town, brr. Is anyone even going to be sellin' that stuff this time of year...?
Thank you for letting Ray and I borrow some of your coats, Eine.
It's no trouble. I'm just glad I overprepared on that front—given the thinness of both of your bodies, I shudder to think how poor your resistance to the cold is.
Okay, yeah, no, screw this, time to move to the piloting chamber.
You have two different means by which to pilot this machine?
Yeah, had one put inside in case of emergencies. Normally I like being able to see the open sky, both for visual and practical reasons, but there's no way I can pilot when it's this damn cold outside.
...Was I foolish to hope that our voyage towards Yggdrasil would be smooth?
Hope? Nah. Expecting would've been a different story.

The snow's going to make finding food in these mountains difficult, isn't it...
Maybe I can make some of the recipes that Uncle Ranger made when they got to a snowy stratum.
A what now, lass?
I can answer that. The Lagaardian Yggdrasil Labyrinth is comprised of four strata inside the tree itself, plus the Heavenly Keep and the Forbidden Wood, which most consider to be effectively the fifth and sixth strata, recently. The strata inside the tree are peculiar in that each are perpetually in one season. The first is summer, the second is fall, the third—which Harper was referring to—is winter, and the fourth is spring.
Makes the places we're going through almost seem quaint.
How I wish I could travel the world and see the other great trees...
Time for new food!
Happiness hares are my go-to food for the 3rd Land. Royal turkeys can provide a serious damage increase for both STR-based damage dealers and TEC-based damage dealers, but the -30 max HP penalty is a huge downside; it makes everyone significantly more frail, especially this early into the land.

I can see a geomagnetic pole, but it is...very far away.
If only we could fly over those cliffs.
Maybe Ciaran's got some bright ideas on how to get the ship higher, but for now, we're stuck with what we've got.

Aaaahh! What is that creature?! It has too many teeth!
Hmm. It looks extremely similar to the dinogator that guards the Moth's Garden, though its skin is a completely different color.
There is...one like this back in the Scarlet Pillars?
I am not sure I would have been able to sleep as soundly at night if I knew one of these was so close to my home...
That's part of exploring new places. Sometimes there's monsters, and sometimes they're scary.
I think dinogators are cute. One of my moms doesn't like them, though.
I can't say I see the appeal at the moment, but perhaps I will learn over time.
Tusked crushers act similarly to the dinogator back in the 2nd Land. They'll aggro on us once we get too close, and then pursue us until we leave their patrol area. Unlike the dinogator, however, tusked crushers can be distracted by simply throwing poultry or fish at them. No need to lure another FOE into them this time.
All Dinogators are my friends

I am not looking forward to piloting the ship around all these strong winds.
Eh, you'll probably get used to it. Being a pilot's basically a never-ending cycle of having things that piss you off thrown at you until you learn how to trivialize them out of spite.

Navigating from the 3rd Land's entrance to its geomagnetic pole is a game of ducking into these low-elevation pits to go below hazards that would cause us to crash if we ran into them.

Good thing the ice is thin enough for us to still be able to catch fish.

You see a number of bats flitting about the entrance, but they disappear inside, startled by your approach. Nothing stands in the way of you entering the cave should you so choose.
Ech. Don't like all those bats.
You good?
Yes, this cave just seems familiar.

Unlike the Miasma Forest, we don't need to explore the first cave we find before we can explore this land's maze.

Again with that hand thing.
It is safe to assume that within this land lies a deep maze that is connected to our home and the woodlands you explored.
Who or what could have possibly created these monuments and the magick behind the winds, though?
Certainly not the Vessels. We have no records of these monuments, or of that symbol.
Yggdrasil itself has not given me any answers, unfortunately.

Well! Finding the next maze certainly did not take long.
Gonna fly us a bit closer, so we can scout it better.

On closer observation, it appears to be steam. Could the cave's interior be that hot...?
There's no godsdamned way that the next place we gotta explore is a natural sauna. That's too weird, even for everything we've gone through.
I remember now. This maze with the searing heat...was my home.
The deck falls silent as everyone attempts to process what Naijou just said.
That's a hell of a bomb to just drop on us all'a sudden, Naij. Still, that means we've got someone to give us a guided tour, eh?
Most likely not, unfortunately. If what Wufan told me is correct, it has likely been over 500 summers since I was last here. Memory is an imperfect thing.
Eine's face rapidly cycles through expressions, his mouth constantly opening to speak, but then closing as he reconsiders. The young man appears to be having serious trouble processing that knowledge with the context of his understanding of biology and medicine.
Is this truly so surprising? I was somewhat taken aback, I will admit, but it has been quite clear that Naijou is very different from the rest of us.
I mean, sure, but still. Dude's lived even longer than those big turtles that live like 200 years. That's cool as hell if you ask me.
I was not consciously trying to live this long, but thank you, I suppose.
If I may shift the topic back to exploration, we should get back to filling in our map of this area.

Well, getting there was annoying, but at least we found the pole.

Another cave guarded by a mantis.
Damn, that thing's arms are made of ice. Don't wanna think about what getting hit by those things would feel like.
Can't imagine that we can just melt the scythes with some fire, that'd be too easy.
The weird geography there's going to make baiting the mantis away from us hard—there's not really many places to launch food to.

Oh, I love the Forbidden Land, Eureka.
Huh? Uhhh... yeah, I love... Eureka... Seven? I should watch that again. It's been ages, I was like, in middle school or something...?

Revenge of the weirdly-muscled birds.
We should consider ourselves lucky that it seems to have no interest in descending to attack us...

...Either I my eyes deceive me, or there is another monument outside that entrance.
It does make sense that a large cavern would have multiple entrances, though I...can't remember ever going near this opening.
Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we're not getting near there any time soon. Can't fly through those winds.
Wait, but can't we just go below those 'nados and fly up once we're past 'em?
Good thought, but I can't do that. The snow's really heavy over here, enough to make rising from the pit impossible.

Great. The chilly billy over there's got a friend.
At least launching food for this one should be easier.

Grub's on!

A heavy, unceasing snowfall acts as a barrier to entry. You can only imagine what it must be like inside.
I-It's even c-colder here than it is e-everywhere else.
Right, l-let's make a note of w-where this is, and get the hell a-away for now.
You suspect no human hand has entered this labyrinth, and wonder what manner of beast would make its home here.

Now, with that done, shall we see how returning to Tharsis from the pole feels?
Hopefully it is less nauseating than it was in the Scarlet Pillars.

I had worried that I might be tempting fate with my comment, but I am glad to see that it did not come to pass.
But...wait, how's that work? There's no difference between the last pole and this one, least not as far as— Oh, fuck it, whatever. It's late, I'm going to bed, and the rest of you should, too. 'Specially Xiuan and everyone that fought today, how are you not all passed out already?
It is a miracle I am still standing, yes.
...Oh dear, wait, where am I going to lodge for the night? Traveling back to Vessel Town would take far too long. Is there some place in Tharsis where—
You're going to go with us while we try to get to Yggdrasil, right?
It is either that, or I sit restlessly in Vessel Town until significant progress is made. That is my nature, unfortunately.
Then you can stay with us. If Wufan's okay with it.
I have no objections. I do not see how I could have any objections, frankly.
Thank you very much, Wufan! Will you be accompanying us as well?
If I am being honest, I should, but Vessel Town still has need of me as well. I suspect I will also need to placate the elders that will object heavily to Xiuan being placed in the care of humans...
Big oof, auntie. You need help with that?
Bearing the brunt of their incessant complaints is the least I can do in exchange for everyone's assistance during the Hollows' offensive.
We'll keep Xiuan safe, Wufan.
I have no doubt. If it is not too much trouble, though, please check in with me in Vessel Town when you have the time.
Next time: we handle all of the usual start-of-a-new-land tasks.

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