This is another of those straightforward, enjoyable chapters that I like. Granted, it can get a little long because the allied units insist on being suicidal idiots instead of waiting patiently for you to reach the “arrive” point, but the ballistae are the only real irritation here. Honestly, I think that I just like the stages where it rains. Otherwise, this is pretty much a “use your strong units to steamroll mobs of enemies” stage, and letting your stronger units slaughter entire groups of powerful enemies is always fun.
Lucia tells Elincia that many of her other retainers (the important ones, basically) are waiting at a Crimean castle called Delbray, and explains that they survived by hiding in plain sight as merchants and street performers. Apparently Daein was so willing to overlook such people that the retainers were able to meet in secret despite the strong military presence, and they’re all ready to fight Daein on Elincia’s behalf.
This is the first time I’ve ever had Ike and Soren reach an A-rank support, and the information learned here is such a great head start on a few of the plot lines in Radiant Dawn that I restarted the system and recorded it as a video rather than relying on a single screenshot. The short version is that Soren is a Branded, which are basically descendants of humans and laguz who are shunned and considered an abomination by both. Branded have a mark that denotes them as such (which is the mark on his forehead, though the marks aren’t always on the forehead), and it’s easy to confuse this mark with a similar one created when a person allows a spirit into their body. Magic is described as an interaction with spirits, so those who do this are given enhanced powers and a mark, and are referred to as Spirit Charmers.
Given how many skills are lying around unused, I crammed an extra skill down Boyd’s throat. This new Guard skill allows him to occasionally cancel an enemy’s counterattack, which could help keep his HP up when facing tougher enemies later on. I also forged a new sword for Zihark since his last one was almost broken, as well as putting four points of bonus experience into Marcia since she was close to leveling up and needs as much help as she can get. She gained a point in strength, skill, luck, and resistance, which is definitely a step in the right direction.
Geoffrey is waiting impatiently at Castle Delbray for Elincia to show up, driving Bastian crazy. Bastian has a weird pseudo-Shakespeare manner of speech, so now he knows how everyone else feels around him. Geoffrey becomes more and more anxious, eventually rushing outside to see if he can spot the approaching army.
The good news is that he found an army! The bad news is that it belongs to Daein.
Bastian rushes off to warn Elincia to steer clear of Delbray while Geoffrey’s forces fend off Daein’s troops, and Lucia decides that the only way to protect Elincia is to abandon Geoffrey to near-certain death and move on to a safer location. Elincia refuses to leave anyone behind, but Lucia tells Ike to leave and march southwest.
This is where you can finally see angsty Ike starting to become fun Ike. He effectively says that they’re going to ignore Lucia’s advice in its entirety and instead cut their way through Daein’s army to rescue Geoffrey and his people. Period.
I should probably start with a disclaimer that while I’m writing this on a different day, I played through and recorded this bit of gameplay on the same day as chapter 23’s gameplay, and I’m noticing a weird little pattern here: whenever I’m incredibly sleep-deprived, I forget to check the movement range of one or two enemies and leave Mist completely at the mercy of an enemy. This time it’s a flying unit who lances her right in the face, but leaves her just alive enough that she can be healed by Soren (who’s been able to use staves since his class change, which isn’t something that I’ve been focusing on as much as I probably should be). Soren also gets hit by a ballista bolt on that same turn, while Reyson narrowly avoids a flying unit’s ranged attack shortly thereafter. Other than that mess of a turn that I lucked my way through, though, things went pretty much according to plan. Ike, Boyd, and Nephenee did their usual thing while Mia and Zihark helped clean up.
There are two houses here that can be visited, and some house-destroying units show up after awhile, so it pays to hurry. The Black Knight also comes in after awhile, though he can’t be damaged for reasons that will become clear later. He’s likely to kill anyone who fights him, and the post-battle conversation with him is better if you don’t even try, so I pretty much ignored his presence (while taking care to remain out of range since I didn’t remember if he pursues nearby units or not).
Despite not caring much about Geoffrey or Bastian, this scene where they pledge their loyalty to Elincia is one of my favorites. Lucia can be pretty cool because she’s the same type of fast sword-user as Zihark and Mia (and Stefan), but their earlier presence ensures that she won’t see much use beyond occasionally helping clean up a troublesome enemy or two when no one else is available.
Toward the end of the chapter, Ike rushes to the Black Knight and talks about how he ignored his appearance during the stage because he has a contract with Elincia that comes first. When Ike finally attacks, though, his blows do no damage whatsoever. The Black Knight explains that his armor is blessed by the goddess (!) and therefore unable to be damaged by weapons that aren’t similarly blessed.
The Black Knight explains that Ike already has a blessed sword called Ragnell. See, back when Ike-dad and the Black Knight fought, there was a cutscene where Ike-dad was disarmed, only for the Black Knight to throw a sword to him so that he could continue fighting. He refused the sword and continued fighting with an axe until he died, either because he couldn’t/wouldn’t wield a sword after crippling himself or because he was resigned to die there (I’m not sure which). I always forget that the sword is important, so I didn’t think to bring it up back when that happened, but yeah; Ike has a blessed, unbreakable sword that can damage the Black Knight, and it’ll eventually become his go-to weapon with which he’ll take out a truly comical number of enemies. Just not in this game, because he’s at the level cap and other units need the experience. Ike’s mostly finished as far as this game is concerned.