Zihark was impressive during that last chapter, but Ike and Mia aren’t about to be outdone. The Laguz Alliance (or at least the broken remnants of what was once considered the Laguz Alliance) are trapped between Daein and Begnion’s forces, so the situation calls for something a bit daring. Mia will hit her class change in this one and automatically be given Astra, though, so we can laugh in daring’s face.
The Laguz Alliance didn’t expect Daein’s attack, and it really demoralized the forces. However, Skrimir appeared and bolstered everyone’s morale, and Ike and Tibarn left Seliora Castle to meet back up with Gallia’s forces, giving everyone confidence.
Ranulf and Tibarn talk a little bit about how strange it is that Daein would join the war on Begnion’s side. Not only were they busy with rebuilding their country, but Begnion were their oppressors. The sudden alliance between the two is incredibly suspicious.
Skrimir has already healed from his injuries. Apparently the beast tribe heals quickly.
Soren explains that Daein’s troops see Micaiah as a goddess figure, which means that they’re especially fanatical and devoted. That makes them more dangerous than normal enemies because they’re willing to throw their lives away for her.
Because of that, they can’t attack Micaiah’s forces head-on without it becoming a war of attrition. Titania suggests using a decoy force again like they did to cross the river the first time, and while Tibarn is skeptical of the same thing working twice, Soren counters that Begnion is using Daein as a disposable pawn and likely hasn’t informed them of the Laguz Alliance’s previous battle tactics. Ranulf agrees that they do seem strangely unprepared, bringing no ballistae and few fire mages.
In this chapter’s sole base conversation, Lyre and Kyza fight over a gift from Ranulf. It’s a Howl skill, which can be put on a laguz unit and grants that character a chance to paralyze an enemy for one turn after they use an indirect attack. I’ve never put that much of an emphasis on laguz skills, honestly, and Volug already has Howl. But hey, it can always be sold if money becomes tight at some point later on.
I always seem to get to the end of the game and have a ton of bonus experience lying around and no one to use it on, so I’m making an effort to not just sit on it for this playthrough. Nephenee has already become a total killing machine, and now it’s Mia’s turn to have some points funneled into useful stats. That means capping her strength and getting a bunch of points in luck, defense, and resistance.
Ike is currently level 17, and having him hit the level cap (because he class changes as part of the story and not after hitting level 21) means wasted experience as he tags along with Mia and enemies invariably target him in order to get on my nerves. Because of that, Mia is going to need to be able to defeat a bunch of the enemies here and generally take the lead, and while capping her strength will help, I also like to make her a custom sword here. Ike’s group doesn’t have much money after blowing a ton of it on half-priced vulneraries, though, so it’s time to start selling things that aren’t needed. Unneeded bows, this Blue Gem from earlier, that Spectre Card thing (which I’ve never once found a use for)—all sold for some extra gold.
Mia will be fighting a bunch of enemies here, so basing her custom weapon on a Steel Sword is a nice balance between power and durability. Her skill is capped, so there’s no need to raise anything but the “Mt” to give it more power (though I lowered the weight by one to make absolutely sure that she doubles enemies, and it only cost 80 gold to do so). As for the color, I always go with purple at this point in the game. I like to turn on the battle animations for her during the upcoming stage, too, because it’s truly awesome watching her ninja her way through a bunch of enemies in a moody river area using her awesome purple sword. After doing so for something like 5 or 6 playthroughs, all of this has practically become a tradition for me.
As mentioned a long, long time ago when forging weapons was first brought up, you can use up a coin to add a bonus to a created weapon. When you do so, you choose a random card and receive a bonus based on which card it turns out to be. Back when I reviewed the game and played on an emulator (because I didn’t have anything that could record from a Wii), the first thing I checked was whether or not the choice is real. It isn’t—all cards give you the same result which is predetermined by the game. It looks random because it technically is, but there’s no need to worry about which card you pick because they’re all the same. As for the bonus I got, it was a +10 hit bonus that Mia didn’t need. Easy come, easy go.
It’s time to fight the Dawn Brigade! To be fair, it’s unlikely that you’ll manage to reach most of them in time because the river limits character movement somewhat (and the Black Knight, who can be damaged but not defeated before the required number of turns is up, is best avoided). Zihark is the only real danger here, though it’s also possible to fight Nolan, Edward, and Leonardo. As a side note, defeating characters in combat here doesn’t kill them in the game, so we can go wild and beat the living hell out of Zihark without having to worry about not being able to use him later.
Ike and Mia move down to engage the bulk of the enemies. I had forgotten how many have ranged attacks, however, which got to be a bit of a nuisance. In hindsight, I probably should have sent Nephenee and Soren down with them. Instead, I had them guard the left side while Boyd protected the right side, thinking that a bunch of enemy reinforcements would come from those areas. That didn’t really happen, and I guess my memories of struggling to defend the few characters left behind were tainted by the fact that I usually only focus on Ike and Mia and don’t have a Nephenee or Boyd to count on. In that situation, keeping the weaker units bunched together is a good idea. Given my current characters, though, it was definitely overly prudent. Anyway, Janaff and Ulki show up as NPCs, and I had some of my weaker characters rescue them to keep them out of trouble. They could be recruited by Ike, but it’s easier to rescue them since they’ll join automatically later.
Both Ike and Mia had a chance to fight the Black Knight, but I decided against it. There’s actually some extra story stuff at the end of the game that you can get if you fulfill a small handful of conditions, including having Ike fight him and survive the confrontation during this stage, but that only works on a second or higher playthrough. That means that risking having him activate his Eclipse skill and insta-kill Ike isn’t worth it here since this counts as a first playthrough.
The Laguz Alliance crosses the river while Ike keeps Micaiah’s forces busy, and after the stage, the beast tribes and bird tribes attack the Daein forces from behind. Recognizing what’s happened, Micaiah orders a retreat (and has to convince her soldiers, who are weirdly intent on fighting and dying for her).
Sothe mentions that it’s strange that Micaiah couldn’t predict the enemy’s movement given that her ability to do so has been something they’ve been able to rely on.
Something’s happening with Micaiah. I don’t remember what, exactly, but I read it as though she collapses or is close to collapsing and Sothe is holding her up. Given the ellipses, it looks to be exhaustion like she was experiencing toward the end of Act 1.
Back in Daein, Pelleas seems horrified at the news that Micaiah hasn’t managed to defeat the Laguz Alliance. Lekain is there, too, and is not-so-subtly threatening him, but Pelleas begs him for a second chance. Lekain offers him one more chance, then warps away much like how the Black Knight comes and goes by teleporting.
Almedha recognizes him as Duke Lekain of Gaddos, mentioning that she remembered him from when he came as part of the apostle’s inspection team. Apparently he arrived in place of Sephiran, which is hugely suspicious, but not very surprising given the senate’s power grab that put Sephiran in prison and sidelined the apostle under the pretense of illness. Pelleas dismisses her assumption that Lekain has something on him, however, and claims that the two are merely trying to repair relations between their countries before excusing himself to rest.