Devil Emperor's Armor

We're not going to go take on Forneus right away. Sealing the Abyss Gates is the main quest, so of course we'll put it off! Actually, I plan on sealing Forneus's very last anyway. So for now, we're going to head back into the Naj Desert, this time going the opposite direction of the Divine Tower (because we're definitely not heading to take on Maximus, either!)

I always hate traveling in the desert. The enemies are really easy to avoid, but you keep getting "stuck" behind these little sand mounds and have to backtrack a lot, just trying to reach the right side of the screen.

And crossing the desert is just the first part of some very long travels, so it always feels a bit intimidating, too.

After going right enough, we reach the Akbar Ridge. If you can see the little flower-looking thing that's kinda... floating in front of the cliff's edge in the lower left part of the screen, that's our current target. We can actually scale the cliff there and go down into the... sand water.

I don't know if it's supposed to be flowing sand or water or what. It's not quicksand, but it looks like sand, but there are fish in it... but then when we fight the fish, they're like "land fish," so really I have no idea.

But if we scale the cliff, we have to fight the plants. This is a pretty tough battle, and I'm pretty sure these plants are put here to keep you from coming here too early, because if you're not prepared to fight them, you're not prepared to move past this point.

These things can hit pretty hard. They can take out over a third of a character's HP in a single hit with just their normal physical attacks, and even more with some of their special abilities, and there are three of them, so they can easily overwhelm you if you're not careful. I think they also get healed in a wind field, and they can drain HP from party members while attacking, too. They're pretty dangerous.

I don't think they can be put to sleep or paralyzed, either. They can probably be stunned, though, but you'll need someone fast, and I forgot to change out of Genbu formation, so everyone is slow.

I did manage to take them out, though. Once one goes down, it gets a lot easier. Sadly Herman and Tiberius both died, and since they are both wearing the death rings, they can't be revived.

For beating them, though, we get a Heliotrope, which is a potion that restores all of the WP of the entire party. Very nice to hang on to.

This place is pretty winding and fun to navigate, even if there's not much here. I don't think there are any treasures or anything, just the occasional fish. We can't run when we're in the sand-water, either, so it's hard to evade them.

We eventually reach a very large waterfall (sandfall?) which we can fall down if we want to. We want to. But once we head down here, there's no getting back to the world map for quite some time, so we're pretty much forced along the following series of locations and events.

Once we fall down the sanderfall, we reach this arid canyon place. If the screen looks a little weird in places, it's because they are doing that like... wavy heat effect. The passages are a bit more narrow here, so it's harder to avoid battles. I generally avoid battles if I can, unless I'm trying to train (like I want to master a weapon art or something) or want to clear out enemies from an area to make it easier to navigate.

But we do run into some enemies here, including these cool tiger guys. I probably just like them because I'm a furry, but hey.

After passing through a few areas of canyon, we come to this like... wasteland area. Monsters are pretty scarce here and very easy to avoid, so it's not very dangerous, just very big and empty.

We've been traveling for quite a while now, and if you don't know where to go here, it can be kind of frustrating. Not that it's difficult or even really time-consuming, but running all the way to the edges of the area to see if it transitions to a new area or just... stops you from moving... is pretty tedious when you've already come this far.

Heading north (hint: go north lol) we start to find a more grassy area, and even a river! This kind of thing means there might be civilization nearby, right?

No, I wasn't setting up for a surprise about how it was more wasteland or something. There's actually a village here.

Half of the people here just laugh about our stupid-looking clothes.

But hey, they let us sleep for free. Not that the 6-Aurum fee at other inns is really steep or anything, though.

And when people sleep on the floor, they use their dead or dying sprites. And of course the two in actual beds are the two people in the party who don't close their eyes when they sleep.

Or maybe they're really awake.

Herman: What's wrong, Mikhail. Can't get to sleep?
Mikhail: I'm just thinking about Loanne. I shouldn't be this far away for this long...
Herman: Well, there's nothing good that will come from worrying. Come over here and let me help you relax...

dehehehehe.

The shop here has Cherry Birch Bows, which are the most powerful bows you can buy. This is one of the reasons I wanted to come here next. I buy two of them.

Wandering around town, we learn that this place is called Mung Village. Recently it seems some weird and detestable clan called the Zelnam has been coming from north of the grasslands and getting into fights for no reason and stuff. And to the south of the grasslands live a bug-like tribe called the Neft. Even though the Mung people and the Neft aren't able to communicate, they haven't caused any kind of problems, and they've peacefully coexisted.

When we approach one tent, there's a girl standing outside who immediately runs inside and calls to her master upon seeing us. And when I say master, she uses a word which is used for like a teacher of Zen, or a sage... it's kind of hard to really translate, but "master" seems the best. I'm a bad translator, so that's why I'm giving notes -- because my translations are probably bad lol.

Heading inside the tent, the girl introduces herself as Xi Ling of the Mung Clan. She introduces her master as Bai Mei-Niang, who is able to use her magic arts to communicate with the Neft.

When we talk to Mei-Niang, instead of saying anything, she walks in circles around us, looking us over. Maybe she's interested in the old man harem, too. Or maybe Mikhail. Or I guess she could be a furry, too, and be into Boston.

I'm not blaming her at all.

She says that we seem to have come from the west. Apparently, this is her first time actually seeing someone from there in her life. And we even understand each others' language! But what are we doing all the way out here?

Mikhail responds that we jumped into the sanderfall and couldn't get back (he refers to it as "dry river" so I still have no idea what the heck it's supposed to be).

Mei-Niang seems astonished at how stupid we are. She tells us that to the east of Mung Village there is a city called Xuan Cheng.

Now, I don't know what this place is actually supposed to be called. It's the only city in the game that uses Chinese characters in its name. Since everything out here in the eastern side of the desert seems to be based on China, and the characters here have Chinese names, I'm assuming we're supposed to read this in the Chinese way.

The Japanese reading would be something like "Genjo," and the meaning would be something like "Mystery Castle." The Chinese reading of these characters, at least from my research, seems to be Xuan Cheng, and would have about the same meaning, so I think that's what they were going for. The "Gen" is also the "Gen" in "Genbu."

I've seen it written as "Genjo" in like ... one place unofficially, and some English-speaking fans have taken to the name "Gen Castle," which takes the "Gen" from "Genjo" and then just literally translates the "castle" part. But the entire city is called this, not just the castle, and it's referred to explicitly as a "town" and not a castle, so I'm going to go with Xuan Cheng.

Though I guess Japanese players would just pronounce it the Japanese way, and the game doesn't instruct you how to use the Chinese pronunciation, but... I think Xuan Cheng is more appropriate? If the game was localized, I think that would be the better name to use. I tried looking in the official guide (I don't own it, but an ebay listing happens to have that exact page photographed) and it doesn't have an official pronunciation or Romanization listed, it seems (which may suggest the Japanese pronunciation is expected, but..)

ANYWAY!

It seems that Xuan Cheng is our ticket home, but Mei-Niang says if we entered the city, we'd be arrested on the spot, because we look way too suspicious. Though, she says if we're willing to help her out a bit, she can talk to General Young for us. (Note: the word she uses for "General" is "Shogun" and I have no idea what a proper Chinese equivalent to this would be, so we're just going with "General" lol).

Mikahil asks what she would have us do.

Firstly, she wants to be able to talk about the west with someone from there, especially about stuff like magic arts. She pulls Tiberius aside and says he'll be good. (Maybe she really is interested...)

Then she says she has more for us to do. She wants us to travel to the home of the Neft. And we should take the girl with us, because she'll be helpful with answering questions about stuff and helping us cross the desert. Though we don't have to cross the desert, so I don't know why she said that part.

She calls out to "Ling-Ling" and tells her to escort us. Xi Ling gets mad and says she's not a little kid anymore, so she should stop calling her Ling-Ling.

She tells us that recently the Zelnam have appeared in the area, and while the Mung people refer to them as "Zelnam," they're actually monsters from the Abyss. She worries that they're going to do something unspeakably terrible.

And with that, we're off, with no explanation of what we're actually supposed to do, other than to go to the Neft place.

It's south of the grasslands, so basically you just keep going south there and you'll end up in a cave. You just sort of... appear there. There's no entrance lol.

There are these like shirtless blonde guys wandering around, so we go to try to talk to one, but...

We end up in a battle. Well, these are Abyss monsters, after all.

The Zelnam are pretty difficult. They can dish out a lot of damage and they take a while to take down. They can be put to sleep and paralyzed, but they tend to recover very quickly from it (like, at the end of the same turn you inflicted it often...) and they must have a high Spirit, because they seem to be a little less likely to fall victim to the status effects compared to normal monsters.

We also are traveling with Xi Ling now, and Tiberius had to stay behind to, uh, keep Mei-Niang company.

Xi Ling is amazing with a bow -- she's already stronger than Herman and Trucks and she just joined the party. Her Skill level and starting Bow level are both huge, so she's good right off the bat. That also means she can make great use of the Hunter Shift formation. This formation has four characters form a "shield" for an archer in the back. The character in the back gets a big boost to their Bow arts.

Xi Ling also comes with a great Bow art called Sidewinder that does bonus damage to frogs. It's not a bad thing to have in the arsenal, so I make sure to master it while we're here so the party has it permanently.

The Zelnam are kind of hard to avoid anyway, so we get in plenty of battles. It's rough, and we do lose some LP across the party, but we also get a lot of levels up as we fight. It's a shame that poor Tibby has to miss out on all this growth opportunity, though...

We see some weird-looking things deeper in the cave in a place we can't reach yet.

They kinda look like big bug mutant things, so these must be the Neft. I don't think I've ever seen an official art of the Neft (I don't even know if such a thing exists), but I would certainly love to see them illustrated in full, more than just a little sprite. They look pretty cool just as little sprites, and you know I love bug monsters, so they're probably hot as hell, too.

When we finally get around to them, they just say "... m e a t..." when we talk to them. We're using Mei-Niang's magic to communicate with them, I guess. Actually I think this was explained but I didn't get a screencap of it and forgot...? But we do have an item in the inventory called "Psycho Helm" and I think maybe Xi Ling gave it to us before we departed, and it contains some kind of magical power that lets us communicate with the Neft. I think. I don't really know. Oops.

Very deep in the cave, we find a much more talkative Neft, though. Well, it at least says something more than "meat." But all it says is that their home is currently being invaded by the creatures from the Abyss. They try to communicate with them, but it seems no use.

Yeah, we kinda realized that already, pal.

At this point it's very unclear what you're supposed to do, and I always think that somehow I'm not talking to the Neft properly or something. Like seriously, every time I play this game, I forget what you're supposed to do.

There are two specific Zelnam (maybe they are leaders or something?) that you have to defeat. There's no indication really that you need to do this, nor are you told which two they are.

They're a bit peculiar, though, as they're both at dead ends on opposite sides of the caves, and they don't wander around like the others. You have to actually go up to them and initiate the fight, not just bump into them like normal enemies. And I don't think they respawn like the other enemies when you leave the area and come back (once you've defeated them, of course).

They don't say anything though. They just fight you like anything else when you approach them. I ran around for a while worrying that I was supposed to have done something in Mung before coming here or something, but eventually remembered that I needed to beat these two guys. The party was getting kind of worn out. Thankfully, once you have defeated both, all of the enemies disappear from the caves, and only the Neft remain.

Returning to the talkative Neft deep in the cave, it's even more talkative now that we've fought off the invading Zelnam.

This time it says that the Neft live peacefully alongside humans here in the grasslands. And for the sake of the continued harmony of the grasslands, we should fight off the Abyss creatures once and for all. Then it seems to realize we are from the west (this thing is pretty knowledgeable and perceptive for a bug that lives in a cave...)

It tells us that 600 years ago, the Devil Emperor destroyed the various cities of the eastern part of the world, and the refugees from those cities came to live in this area. Since then, no one from the west has ever traveled back here. Our arrival must be the sign of something to come.

It says that the Abyss creatures come from north of the grasslands, so there must be something up there.

Returning to Mung Village, Mei-Niang sees that we were able to communicate with and help the Neft. She says she's also finished her "communications" (wink, nudge) with Tiberius and she's also talked to General Young for us, so we should try visiting Xuan Cheng. Mei-Niang herself is going to try researching about the Zelnam.

... And as soon as we arrive in Xuan Cheng, we're arrested on the spot for looking suspicious.

We're taken to General Young, who says we are indeed suspicious. He introduces himself as Young Fang, who watches over this city under the Emperor. Emperor is written differently here, I guess to make it clear that it's not exactly the same as the "Emperors" we have in the west.

Anyway, he says he has many things he wants to ask us, and he'd appreciate our honesty and cooperation. I don't know if I missed a screencap and forgot what was said next, because the next thing I have him saying is "Unbelievable already! Detain them!"

And now we're locked up. Our cell is pretty nice, though. We have like a changing folding curtain thingy, stocked bookshelves, a bed and table... I mean, we pretty much were just given a free studio apartment in Xuan Cheng...

Mei-Niang walks up like, "Oh, so this is where you were. Let's go." and just opens the cell. Like she doesn't think this is strange or anything LOL. Anyway, she tells us that she's ascertained the exact location the Zelnam are coming from. There's some place north of the grasslands that's seeping a bunch of Abyss energy out into the rest of the nation. So, we're gonna go try to stop it.

General Young appears and begs his master not to just go around doing whatever she wants. He was only following the Emperor's orders and adhering to the Emperor's information. Laws must be abided.

Mei-Niang replies, "What does that kid know about anything?" So I'm guessing she doesn't have too high of a regard for the Emperor, or maybe for statism in general.

Well, definitely not, because she goes on to start complaining about how all the Empire cares about is getting their way, and the Emperor and his lot are a bunch of bleeping bleeps, and she knows Young knows it, too. The real problem is that the Abyss Energy creeping in on their home.

It literally has a "bleep" sound spelled out.

Young begs his master not to use such language, and says that the Eastern Empire has been building up forces to fight the Abyss creatures for many days now, and he has full confidence in their abilities. But he isn't as confident in blindly believing in these randos from the west who just suddenly showed up.

Mei-Niang tells him that people coming from the west is obviously some kind of premonition, and he finally concedes and agrees to accept his master's words.

We're now free to walk around the town, but we still can't get back to the world map -- we have to go fight the Zelnam and solve the problems here.

Xuan Cheng has an inn so we can rest here, and in the bar there's no option to dismiss party members. But what's great about the bar is that there's someone here that teaches Solar and Lunar arts. And they have the "high tier" arts that aren't available anywhere else in the world, but they cost a ton of money. I want to buy several of these, but I'm a bit strapped for cash, so we have to keep moving on so we can get back to the banks in the west.

We head north to the Zelnam cave by leaving Xuan Cheng. This place has a lot of little doors and little rooms, so lots of respwaning monsters, but also lots of treasures.

Our elemental monster rank is high enough that we've moved on from fighting Naked Wind Girl and now fight Naked Fire Dude.

After a bit of exploring, we find this ominous suit of armor propped up in a sitting position against a wall, as if there's actually someone inside holding it up. But there's obviously not, because there's no helmet and we can clearly see there's no one inside.

Totally not going to be some kind of cursed Abyss armor or anything...

Haha, tricked you! This is the Devil Emperor's Armor, and since the Devil Emperor was the one who opened the Abyss Gates to begin with, it's probably emanating some kind of Abyss Energy and spawning the Zelnam.

This becomes a bit more apparent by the fact that it constantly spawns Zelnam into battle every single turn. If there aren't two Zelnam guarding the armor, it will spawn new ones to take their place.

If you happen to defeat the Zelnam quickly, it might not always respawn them right away. But defeating them quickly is hard for our party, as it takes multiple turns just to take out one.

The armor itself is also completely immune to magic arts (either that or its magic defense is so ridiculously high that even Tiberius's most powerful arts still do 0 damage, or perhaps it just happens to resist all the elemental types of arts we have?)

So that means we only have a few options for actually dealing damage to the armor: Ward's Tomahawk art, which isn't particularly powerful, and Trucks's and Herman's bow arts. Which aren't that strong at this point, since they mostly have utility arts and not really attack arts. But we did master Sidewinder from Xi Ling, so we're able to use that at least.

Thankfully, the armor doesn't have a lot of attacks, and the main difficulty in this battle is just dealing with a constant onslaught of Zelnam. Mikhail would use nap to put them to sleep every turn while Trucks tried to get them each paralyzed with Imprison. If I happened to get a turn where they were both asleep or paralyzed already, Mikhail would heal himself with the ki-gathering martial art, and Trucks would shoot an arrow at the armor. Tiberius spent the battle healing and protecting allies with Water Ball. Ward used Tomahawk and Herman used Sidewinder and were the only two that could really dish out damage, even if it wasn't a lot.

Attacking the Zelnam themselves was usually a bad idea, because hitting a sleeping one would wake it up, and killing one would just spawn a new one that wasn't afflicted with sleep or paralysis. The Zelnam have some strong attacks, including ones that can hit multiple party members in a line, so it's better to keep them immobilized.

It took a very long time, but we didn't run out of WP, and the armor finally went down. You don't have to actually defeat the Zelnam to win the battle, so you're sitting there dancing around with your levels up in front of their paralyzed and sleeping bodies. I guess if they weren't immobilized at the time, they'd just be watching like "nice moves, bro."

Afterward, it seems everything is peaceful and General Young recognizes the strength of the warriors from the west, and says we should fight the Abyss together again sometime (is he... asking us out?)

Mei-Niang tells us to try leaving Xuan Cheng, and we now have access to the world map! We can talk to General Young again, but all he does is say like "Isn't the East great?" or something. Mei-Niang says to let her know if we need her, and we're able to recruit her. Well, we weren't able to now -- I'm assuming because we had a full party -- but she is one of the most powerful characters in the game if you want to use magic arts.

And with that, we can finally go back home, grab our money, and come back to buy some great magic arts.

Except... we can't. I went to the bank guy and he says something like "Oh, I don't handle My Lord's money" or whatever. And I couldn't seem to get to my bank anywhere. I didn't find anyone in the castle who was holding my money either.

So I eventually gave up and looked it up online, and it seems that unlike all the other characters, Mikhail's money doesn't go into a bank account when he accumulates more than 10,000 Aurums. Rather, the excess goes to Loanne's treasury, to be used for that throne management minigame. And there's no way to transfer that money to your party.

So all this time we've been collecting money and it's just... gone.

Money is kind of hard to come by in this game, and doing stuff like the bandit subquest and pirate caves exploration is one way to build up some money, as well as doing Fullbright's finance minigame subquest. And we did all that just to have the money disappear. Or rather, go toward a really obnoxious minigame that I don't even really understand. So I was pretty mad.

So, now broke and without magic arts, we can finally return home. And now the entire eastern part of the world map has opened up to us, and we can revisit Mung Village or Xuan Cheng whenever we'd like.