The next stage will finally give us back control of Micaiah and her forces for a chapter (though Act 3 still skews pretty heavily toward Ike), so this is where things really start to heat up. I’ve got to be honest, though—this game isn’t as hard as I remember it being, and with one or two exceptions, I’ve made it through every stage on my first try. Several years of experience with other games will do that, I guess. Maybe at some point in the future I’ll run through the game on hard again to show off how crazy that can get. Also, after thinking about it a bit, I don’t remember ever having to fight Nephenee. If she’s not going to become a problem, then there’s no reason not to turn her into a merciless killing machine like in Path of Radiance.
There’s no new information in this narration: Zelgius beat Skrimir in single combat and in doing so broke the will of the beast tribes, so Ranulf has decided to use the three days Zelgius gave them to come up with a peace treaty in order to retreat.
That nameless senator from before isn’t a happy camper. Remember, the senators were hoping to use the war as a convenient excuse to eradicate the laguz, so Zelgius stopping their march by defeating a single laguz and then ordering his men not to attack while they retreat runs contrary to their (semi-veiled but hardly hidden) wishes. Of course, Zelgius phrased his intentions to the senator carefully enough that his actions didn’t run afoul of the senator’s instructions, which only makes it that much more frustrating because it’s not possible to punish him for success.
The nameless senator’s lackey, however, reminds him that he’s in charge and that he’s not bound by Zelgius’ order to not attack. With that in mind, this rectangle-faced jagoff is given free rein to head off and cause trouble for the Laguz Alliance.
Tibarn’s group is out scouting Zelgius’ forces to ascertain whether they’re actually planning on following his orders while Gallia’s forces retreat (so Lethe, Lyre, Ranulf, Mordecai, and Kyza aren’t available for this stage), which means that Ike’s group is left alone at Seliora Castle. Ike tells Reyson that he was tasked by Tibarn with taking him to Gallia, but Reyson refuses and decides to stay with Ike’s group out of loyalty to the hawks that haven’t yet retreated. He’ll be surprisingly helpful during the stage.
This is another chapter with only one base conversation, and in it, Ike asks about Jill since last he heard, the two operated some kind of delivery service together. Haar tells him that she got involved with Daein’s liberation, but when Ike is brings up the possibility that he might want to go help look out for her, he doesn’t seem interested. Haar and Jill have a complicated relationship, but we won’t delve into that too much because Jill doesn’t deserve happiness. Also, I’m pretty sure it’d require using her more than is necessary. Act 4 might have a base conversation or two about it, though. I don’t really remember. Anyway, this conversation ends with Haar giving Ike a “souvenir,” that being a Corrosion skill. This is going to go onto Mia immediately.
First, though, we have supports that can be strengthened. The first and most important of which being Ike and Mia’s, which is now maxed out at an A-level support that gives them a fairly large avoid bonus to match their natural talent for dodging. You’ll see the effect of this during the next stage. It’s glorious.
Meanwhile, Nephenee and Soren reach a B-level support. Because the only thing scarier than Nephenee is one with attack and avoid bonuses.
Speaking of which, she’s hit the cap for enough stats that using bonus experience on her is a good idea. You can see just how powerful the bonus experience can be in this game as the points are funneled into her strength over and over again (thanks to how few stats can actually be raised), and eventually her magic. There might be an Imbue skill in her future to make her even more indestructible during Act 4. The only downside is that it costs 14,000 points of bonus experience to level her up here, which doesn’t leave much left over for all of the other characters in a similar position of having a bunch of capped stats already. It’d have cost more if I had taken her all the way to the class change, too, but I figured that it’d be a waste since the class change will give her the same stat increases no matter how she reaches it.
Like most of Ike’s allies, Mia started the game as a second-tier class. That means that this Corrosion skill that reduces an enemy’s weapon durability by her level is actually her displayed level plus 20. Right now as a second-tier level 13 character, she’ll destroy 33 uses of an enemy weapon whenever Corrosion activates. That’s already enough to destroy certain weapons, and it’ll only get better.
That rectangle-faced jerk from earlier shows up at Seliora Castle and threatens to attack if Ike doesn’t forfeit it. As for the mercenaries, they’re a bit surprised that anyone is attacking given Zelgius’ earlier order, but it’s not like they’re helpless.
This is a chapter where repositioning characters before the fight is a huge help. Ike starts off near the glowing point that they’re trying to defend, but Reyson can be used to get him down to defend the front of the castle with Mia by the first turn. Meanwhile, Nephenee and Soren deal with the enemies coming from the right with the help of Oscar (mostly as a human shield) and Heather (who steals an item but doesn’t help much outside of that). There are a bunch of gaps on the left side that the less useful characters block off. Gatrie and Haar take the top-left gaps, while Brom takes a more easily missed gap below them. Titania and Shinon block off the lower-left and do some damage with ranged attacks, but really, the primary goal is to keep enemies from entering the castle, so getting experience is merely a bonus.
Boyd goes down into traffic to lighten the load Ike and Mia face (there are a bunch of archers who become a hassle, so having an extra unit taking out an archer per turn really makes a difference), and the idea is that the Ike/Mia and Nephenee/Soren pairings clear out the immediate threats before pushing forward. If I had given Nephenee a ranged weapon like a javelin, I’m confident that she could have reached the boss in time, but I didn’t think that far ahead. As a result, the boss retreated after 10 turns of defending. That’s a little disappointing, but Mia got some decent level-ups and Nephenee hit the class change, so I’m not in a position to complain.
Levail shows up to force rectangle-face to retreat, and he grudgingly obliges. Not before threatening Levail with consequences, of course, but I don’t think he ever shows up in the game again. The consequences he’s referring to might be something the senators do at the end of this chapter, but it’s more likely that they had planned it out all along and rectangle-face is just making empty threats.
Having finished his scouting, Tibarn shows up not long after the battle and tells Ike that rectangle-face and his men were acting contrary to Zelgius’ orders, but that the soldiers in Castle Gaddos who are loyal to him can be trusted not to attack.
He also mentions that he ran into Sigrun, commander of Apostle Sanaki’s pegasus-mounted Holy Guards. She was traveling alone and wouldn’t divulge any information, but told Tibarn to “please escape at once.” Very, very weird.
Sigrun eventually enters Castle Gaddos, which Tibarn had mentioned she was hesitant to get near, and tells Zelgius that she comes with orders from the senate. They’ve repealed his cease-fire and ordered him to destroy the Laguz Alliance and its allies, and when he mentions that Sephiran would have never agreed to such a plan, she tells him that Sephiran has been stripped of his title and placed under arrest for “treason and fomenting rebellion.” She also tells him that the apostle has gone into seclusion because of a supposed illness, and Zelgius quickly realizes that they’ve both been captured by the senate as part of a power grab. Sigrun begs him to follow their orders because Sanaki and Sephiran’s lives are at risk if he doesn’t.
Back in Daein, Micaiah is summoned by Pelleas. Almedha takes some shots at her, viewing her as unimportant compared to her son, but Pelleas tells his mother that she’s the only person left who he can count on, explaining (for the player’s sake) that Izuka and the Black Knight disappeared mysteriously after he was crowned.
He then tells Micaiah that Daein is entering the war on Begnion’s side, and that she’s to mobilize the Daein Royal Army against the Laguz Alliance. The reasons for this aren’t initially clear, but the game will eventually explain what’s happening here.