The Earth Elemental Gear
With more than half of the Elemental Gears collected and a couple new friends in the party, Laura and Henri are close to unraveling the secret of the Blade of Escata.
The two remaining Gears were entrusted to the Anubito and the Petran. Dagul Bos, who destroyed Escata looking for the Blade, is an Anubito, so we're going to save that adventure for last. So it's off the Petran Tribe, who says their Gear is hidden in the Cavern of Murals.
Anzan escorts us to the Cavern of Murals, where apparently a "mysterious guardian of their ancestors" is protecting the Chestplate of Behemoth.
When Laura asks him about the nature of this "mysterious guardian," he only replies that "a mystery is a mystery." And we're off...
I forgot to screencap Anzan's Makings, but they're the same as they were in Ruby's scenario: big Spirit and Endurance Making, and great Earth Making, with some decent Fire Making, and not much else. Notably a 0 in Water Making and a 1 in Skill Making, so he's really not built to be a fighter. Of course, the Petran are a tribe concerned only with defense, and they loathe attacking.
We also now have the Ring of Jupiter in our possession, which is an accessory with a defense of 4, even higher than Black Armlets. It also has Life Protection and Fire Support, so we hand it over to Laura.
Henri is wearing the Crown of Ares and the Boots of Vayu.
The Cavern of Murals is the same as it always has been -- there are murals painted on the walls of the cavern, and touching them will make them come to life, starting battles with various kinds of enemies.
The beast paintings will contain either a Draco or a hoard of Draco Pups, the fish paintings will either have Razorfish or Principal Razorfish, and the bird paintings will have a group of Doubleheaders or an Anka.
Anzan makes an excellent addition to the party, as he's very slow and bulky, so he can stand in the front of the formation and use magic arts to manipulate turn order while absorbing all the hits from the enemy at the same time.
He starts with a variety of Earth Arts, including Detect Animals, which can weaken beasts and wildlings and stuff, and then give everyone the opportunity to chain attacks together to defeat even hordes quickly.
We find the Nebulous Hollow early, seeing the stars shining beneath. This was the "center of confusion" in Armic's scenario, where we also found one of his special items, and this is also where the mysterious guardian protecting the Chestplate is.
But we'll have to get around to the bottom side of it, instead of looking at it from up here.
With Laura's Fortuneteller at L3, we're able to read chests up to Lv 60 in hopes of obtaining better items, which is great. I try to prioritize grabbing any bestial item I find, hoping I can use it to add magic arts to items later. We'll need a LOT, since I'm not save scumming at all (as is always a rule in challenge runs for me).
Armic glimmered Sinker, which is really nice, as it's the first art we've learned that can lower the enemy's Strength Level. I'd been trying more for Drag Down with Platy, but we ended up getting this anyway.
Around this time, I also decided to switch around the weapon distribution of the party. Well, mostly, I decided to take Francis off of Spears and give him Bows instead, because all of the enemy groups in this area were making me realize how we have no crowd control arts yet. Spear instead went to Platy, who is using it alongside Staff.
Laura glimmered Heaven and Earth, which is pretty great. Besides just making sparkles come out of her sword, it can dish out a lot of damage and even stun the enemy. At this point, it's even enough to deal LP damage to small fry, meaning using it as the first action is at best an instant kill, but if not, a stun with lots of damage, and at worst, opening the battle with a big drain to the enemy's HP.
Eventually, Francis released Random Arrowshot on the bow I had given him, and I backtracked to fight all the murals, since I was avoiding a lot of them for now since we didn't have a lot of good options for fighting them. But that one ability alone was enough to make me want to go try them all.
There were a lot of dangerous situations in the Cavern -- look at this space with all this stuff going on! Diplomacy was a real lifesaver here, with Henri talking us out of a lot of sticky situations and getting us some extra treasures.
I know I said that my appreciation for Diplomacy has grown over the course of these play diaries, but Diplomacy has become one of my favorite abilities in the game now. I pretty much try to talk away every single monster that I have the opportunity to anymore.
The monster rank rises slower because you're getting in less battles, which means you can continue to power up your characters without powering up the enemies. While monster rank also affects the level of treasures and panels and stuff you get, it doesn't seem to take enough of a hit to where it's beneficial to fight more enemies. You can boost the level of panels at the end of an adventure not just by fighting, but by defusing traps and opening treasure chests and stuff, too. So as long as you keep active on the adventure, you should get good panels. You'll still want to fight sometimes (and will, inevitably, anyway) to aim for weapon art panels and stuff, but... overall, Diplomacy is really great.
When we arrive at the bottom of the Nebulous Hollow, the Chestplate appears, Anzan says this is the guardian's place, and a battle immediately ensues. I managed to screencap it before the screen was completely wiped in transition to the battle!
Instead of the serpent enemy we normally fight at the end of this adventure, we're met instead with Kummi. Kummi is a lot easier than the serpent, so that makes the end of this adventure much less difficult.
With Anzan standing in front, we don't have to worry too much about the party taking damage. Even without any good armor or anything, his 22 LP goes a long way.
Henri has a L3 Gun Arts panel, so it's pretty easy to hit the best "Hit!!!" on the reel, dishing out tons of damage quickly. It's not long before Kummi falls and we're able to take the Chestplate of Behemoth from the cave.
The panel selection at the end of this adventure was amazing! Not only did we see our first L4 Panels of the game, but we got some really nice ones.
Laura got Locksmith L4, making treasure hunting even easier.
Henri got Dagger Arts L4, greatly increasing his ability to block with the Blade of Escata (I'm still having him mostly fight with a gun at this point, though, but I like the idea of him slowly learning to fight with the Blade over the course of the adventure).
Armic got a lot of nice panels, but I ended up going with Adaptability L3, because I didn't want to replace some of his other panels for now, and I would have wanted to place them in those important spots.
Francis got Kick L3, which isn't amazing, but can be used for its high Ability Growth to boost his Skill Level quite a bit.
And with that, there's only one more Elemental Gear left to collect...