We’re incredibly close to the end now, which means that it’s time to start throwing the stronger characters into mobs of enemies so that they can massacre everything and start to hit level 20 (which is actually level 40 after their class changes). Ike in particular has a tough fight coming up against the Black Knight, so he takes priority in the upcoming stage, though Nephenee and Boyd play similarly heavy roles. Zihark and Mia, on the other hand, can’t take enough punishment to play a large part given how many hard-hitting enemies are in this chapter, so getting them to the level cap will probably require using up our mostly-unused pile of bonus experience.
The Black Knight asks Ashnard if he ordered Ena’s death, and he says that he did, but that he told Petrine that he didn’t care if she was just captured instead. He didn’t say that (I make a lot of screenshots and can easily check such things), but this doesn’t factor into anything. I think it might be a quirk of the otherwise great translation. Anyway, the Black Knight responds by telling Ashnard that Petrine’s troops managed to capture Ena, but that they don’t know what to do with her now that Petrine is dead. Ashnard tells him that he doesn’t particularly care either way so long as she isn’t in his presence because she causes Rajaion to “grow restless.”
There are two enemy strongholds, and the plan is to have a small force attack the weaker of the two while the main army focuses on the stronger one. It’d be reasonable to expect that Ike’s group is the diversionary force tasked with attacking the weaker stronghold to distract it (so that it can’t send troops to attack the main army from behind), but nope. Today we get to be the main army and fight a ridiculous number of enemies. It’s going to be raining combat experience.
Tibarn’s army and a couple Gallian units make up the diversionary force, and the only base conversation of note for this chapter is with him. He’s saying goodbye to Reyson before leaving to do reconnaissance on the weaker stronghold, and after apologizing about Leanne being kidnapped while in his care, Reyson tells him that he can tell even amid all of the chaotic energies of the war that she’s still alive. Ike is curious about his ability to sense her from afar, and he explains that it’s not something exclusive to herons, with cat-type beast laguz having the same thing to a lesser degree and dragon laguz having an equal or greater such sense.
Lots of enemies have been attacking Boyd with indirect attacks lately, so I put every one of his axes (except for the Poleax that, again, does bonus damage against horse-mounted units) into the convoy and bought him three Hand Axes that have a 1-2 range. Bow users and other indirect attackers don’t stand a chance now.
Marcia is lagging behind as always. It’s incredibly likely that she won’t manage to hit the level cap by the end of the game (especially if Zihark and Mia need lots of bonus experience), which means no Radiant Dawn stat bonuses, but I’ve been phasing her out lately anyway because of how terrible her stats are. She’s decent against magic-users, of course, but most of them are now surrounded by physical attackers who she’s simply not equipped to fight against. Still, I used a Occult scroll to give her a skill called Stun that has a chance to immobilize an enemy. This isn’t going to magically make her a useful unit, of course, but the skill could potentially help everyone squeak through a bad situation if I make a stupid mistake.
I really love this background art. Basically, Elincia shows up in armor and with a pegasus that she intends to ride into combat, with both provided at the order of Elincia’s heir-to-the-throne uncle (I never mentioned his name before, but it’s Renning) before he supposedly died during Daein’s invasion. Elincia has an unbreakable sword that can attack 2-4 times just like a Brave Sword can, and she can be kind of useful in the next game if you put a lot of time and effort into her, but there are better units and her availability isn’t great. She’ll mostly just be a burden.
And that burden starts right now! Elincia is a required unit for this stage, and while we can bring 19 (!) units along with us to fight, most of them will be bench warmers huddled around to protect her while the useful characters eliminate all threats.
Ugh; Nephenee hit level 15 and got nothing. No HP, no strength, no defense or resistance. Nothing. That hurts. This stage is straightforward: you start out at the bottom-right, and enemies come from the left and top of the screen. All of the heavy hitters move up to engage the enemies while everyone else protects Elincia (in case reinforcements come from the bottom of the screen, which they apparently don’t). There are some flying reinforcements who come in from the top, but Boyd finished them off. Eventually it was Ike and Nephenee pushing forward and killing everything, but I moved Boyd in once Ike hit the level cap and stopped earning experience.
The boss of this stage is named Bertram, one of Daein’s Four Riders. He’s apparently new, having only risen through the ranks after Daein conquered Crimea. He’s also a mystery who speaks strangely and says weird things. This isn’t crucial information or anything, but it’ll factor into some developments in the sequel.
Ashnard orders that the rest of his troops be sent to reinforce the weaker stronghold now that Ike’s forces have conquered the first of the two. One of his men accuses him of intentionally splitting up his troops to give the Crimean forces the advantage, and he confirms that he’s interested in seeing their progress and personally fighting against them if they can make their way to him. At first, this seems absolutely insane, but it makes more sense when you remember that he values strength over all else. To him, those who died were weak and beneath his notice, while the Crimean forces that continually triumph are potentially worthy of fighting him.