|W... T... F!?!?!|
Well, I guess nobody gets to be the hero since the damn game wouldn't let me put anyone into the recently opened slot. I guess Kirin is in charge now? Whatever, let's just get to the point where Madara rejoins the group (I can only assume that the slot is being reserved for his return). It didn't take long for the rest of the party to find him; all they needed to do was book a boat to take them through a waterfall and to the hidden town of Ryosan. The townsfolk immediately start talking about how Madara was found passed out at the waterfall two years (!) ago and has been living in Ryosan ever since.
|Why you heartless basta... oh right,|
you are literally heartless.
Madara doesn't really feel like going back into battle again or getting the remainder of his body parts so he runs away from Kirin and the others, daring them to catch him, like he's six years old. When they do finally catch him, he launches into a long-winded speech about how Ryosan reminds him of the peaceful times he had growing up and he is steadfast in his desire to stay there. The party learns that his pacifistic nature is due to the release of his chakra and that it can only be restored by finding the Dark Kusanagi blade. No big quest here; the sword is located in a waterfall behind the town. There's not even any random encounters, just one encounter with this asshole:
|You... you're going to take the|
Dark Kusanagi, aren't you?
Of course, Kageo Madara steals the D. Kusa and the empty-handed party returns to Ryosan only to find the townsfolk have been turned into moki. This is enough to convince normal Madara that he'll never be able to find peace and tranquility until the emperor is defeated. Just as he rejoins, Kirin, in an act of utter stupidity, decides to check out the situation in Ryosan for herself, without the assistance of her much more powerful friends, who were also going back to town. This is just a setup for her to be captured by Kageo, who wants her for himself as he is planning on usurping the emperor and needs an empress, I guess? Kageo summons a moki general to deal with Madara and you know what that means...
After defeating this general, Madara finds out Kirin is being held in the lamely named Dark Castle and he also gets his real heart back. The castle is full of warp points and many enemies that can cause status ailments, covering the entire spectrum of ailments. This meant having some of each type of potion on hand but with space being so limited, it's a crap shoot as to whether or not there will be enough of the correct type of potion to make it all the way through. Running out generally meant exiting the castle and hunting down a place that sells replacements. I actually didn't mind this at all, since it required me to do a little planning beforehand and to pay attention to the frequency of the different status effects. Additionally, Goriki has made physical combat pointless for monsters so it's nice to see that they can still do something to the party (though I'm sure if the trend continues I'll get annoyed with it (Future Shen: it does and I do.)). After reaching the end of the castle, Kageo takes Kirin and leaps down a hole with her while leaving yet another moki general to swiftly die at Madara's deft hand.
|I like how all these generals go through a sweet|
transformation sequence and end with a cool pose
only to be gangbanged into a pulp a few rounds later.
This time Madara got back his real throat and voice which made me feel a great shame. Here I was, all this time, going on about how cyberific Madara was but I wasn't giving him a robot voice for any of his dialogue (either in-game or in my own internal RP). Dammit, such a missed opportunity. Anyway, jumping down the hole found Madara retrieving Kirin while Kageo taunted him with his disembodied voice. Kageo blurts out that all eight moki generals have been revived and they are all waiting for Madara at Fort Egon (Spengler?). Right near the exit of the Dark Castle is the town of Royan where Madara learnt about a book called the Psalm of Nine Dragons from a man named Emishi. The book explained how to seal the moki generals up and Emishi launched into a long story about its history and current location. Since the group still hadn't checked out the shops to see what sweet gear they had, they hand-waved away most of the story due to their impatience. Later, when they returned to get a retelling, all Emishi had to say was this:
|Don't patronize me, Emishi (even if it is justified).|
The royal tomb involved some time travelling nonsense where Madara got the book by defeating a moki, went back into time, and watched a Royan thief named Fanleng battle the moki who then sealed himself in a coffin with the book.
|Well, at least he's not as goofy|
as the Shadow Warriors.
Fanleng then stole the book Madara had, ran off, and fell down a pit trap. Madara and friends returned to the present and found the book in the bones of Fanleng. Emishi deciphered the book and said that the group needed to find the magical Shadow Pot which is located in a temple near Mount Shumi.
|Man, that must have totally|
harshed their mellow, man.
To do so, the party would need a ship, so they headed east in search of a port. While travelling through a short tunnel, they ran into that rambunctious little a-hole that hasn't made an appearance for awhile. Yes, Jato showed up to throw more completely ineffective minions at the group.
|Yeah right, you're totally crushing on Madara.|
Jato was apparently blocking a trade route through the tunnel, so the gang delivered a package of rations to some snowy and hungry town. The town held nothing else of interest so Madara and pals headed south to find a city with a small village next to it. Access to the city was denied as the party did not have a Signed Permit. The folks of the village were despondent due to an approaching annual human sacrifice they have to make to their moki "protector", Kairyu. Let's ignore the words 'approaching' and 'annual' while I abashedly admit I got completely stuck here for many real-time days. I couldn't find a way to confront Kairyu so I had the party backtrack in case I missed some key item. Two separate times I found a path I had missed previously, but it just resulted in getting some more spells for the characters. I went all the way back to the Wall of Sand but refused to go through that isht again. I basically just revisited towns over and over again until stumbling into the Kairyu village during the appropriate season of summer (followed by a facepalming of myself). Surprisingly, the townsfolk weren't even mad that the group that promised to deal with Kairyu came back well over a decade later.
|He's on... what, like, victim 15 or 16 by now?|
After bringing down Kairyu, Madara was rewarded with the Signed Permit and now could access the nearby city. From these city dwellers, the group learnt that Kageo was now chief of the Moki, which isn't a good sign. There's also a tournament that was being held which was easily won by Madara and his comrades (no doubt due to all those levels gained while I was stuck). Equally as easy was clearing out a moki fortress that was right in the city. The reward for all this was the usage of a sturdy seafaring boat.
|No way am I going to get lost in this!|
With the crisp, salty winds at Madara's back, he took command of the vessel and ordered the rest of the crew to set sail for... umm... err... following the coast until finding something new, I guess?