Dark Hills is the tenth and final main Mission.
Reaching the outskirts of the forest that surrounds the Dark Hills after weathering the strange events in Belbasa Harbor, the party are confirmed by Aster to be in the vicinity of the landmark that borders the Kingdom and the Empire. He states there should be a small village, Helte, nearby, where they can start their search for Cherisa and her army, and then plainly, and awkwardly, expresses his intent to stay behind, away from the danger. At that moment, Evelyn beckons the party's attention, where they look down from the cliffside to observe a massive stronghold in the land below, and the most likely place where the Queen would be with her troops. The mage makes the suggestion that the fortress itself was there long before the Kingdom occupied it. While Carol bemoans the idea of having to fight an entire army to reach Her Majesty, Suki interjects and suggests they tried to find a way to reach Cherisa without fighting her troops, however difficult it may seem. After some reluctance from the thief, the party eventually concedes to accompany her into the darkened land. They then head into the village, and find the local inn to get some vittles for their journey ahead. After the decent meal, the girls begin discussing a plan for infiltrating the fortress, with Athena putting forward the obvious idea of frontally attacking based on the hunch the Kingdom's troops will be more worried about imperial attackers than home-grown ones. Evelyn counters that, while the soldiers may not have the physical advantage, their sheer number outweighs that. Carol then puts forward the other obvious choice of sneaking in based on the hunch that, as an ancient fortress, it would have many nooks and crannies, some of which they could easily slip through to get to Cherisa and Krystina. The party once more shoots that down with the assumption that the soldiers might already have found out any existing secret entrances. As they continue pondering, a woman stranger approaches from her nearby barstool, raising their suspicions, before stating that she simply wishes to offer her services to them. She states her name as Ayano, a traveling warrior, that has dwelled in Helte for some months. In that time, she repaid the villagers' kindness by hunting down game for meat and furs, in turn allowing her to gather a great deal of information about the surrounding forest and its contents, which she now wishes to share with them. While her loyalty lies not with the Empire nor the Kingdom, she does wish to help the village that helped her for so long by preventing its destruction in the coming war. She claims that she knows of a path that the soldiers have overlooked, though it won't provide a direct access point to the fortress:
- If Suki refuses Ayano's offer, and does not accept it afterward, they will be left with having to go through a stretch of the forest that is littered with Kingdom guards. Though you will have access to your stealth items here, it is more likely you'll end up having to fight.
- If Suki accepts Ayano's offer, she asks them to meet in the area west of Helte. There, she will reveal to them a partially hidden cave system that will bypass most of the soldiers between you and the fortress, speeding up the completion of the Mission.
In either scenario, Suki and co. manage to reach a semi-abandoned mining site. Save at the blue chest, then follow the cart tracks to the north, where the party will come across the entrance to the mine, finding it heavily guarded. Suspecting that this is another attempt to mine resources for the war effort, in the same vein as the settlers of Jormunga, Athena makes the statement that, as a large army requires a large stockpile of weapons, it will take longer for those weapons to be crafted than they will stopping the war, and thus the party moves onward to the east. After fighting their way through another contingent of Kingdom soldiers patrolling the forest, the girls reach a fork and go to the left, where they discover a stranger hiding in the bushes, observing the pair of guards ahead, and talking to herself about how to take down her target, before plainly acknowledging that she's been discovered. The woman, a bounty hunter named Rynn Dallas, reveals that she knows about Suki, though only her kidnapper persona, from wanted posters with an order for her capture, the reason depending on whether the natives or settlers were sided with during Mission 7. Rynn's greed apparently blinds her to her being obvious outnumbered, as pointed out by Athena, but the hunter won't listen to reason, even her own. She immediately learns the hard way not to bit off more than she can chew, and is trussed up and silenced by the party. Either leaving her bound, or untying and hearing out, and accepting, her offer to distract the guards, the party manages to reach the bastion on the edge...
Upon arrival, regardless of whether or not Ayano's offer was taken beforehand, she will appear bound and gagged by Evangelynne, having been discovered by the sentries. The guards taunt the elite Kingdom warrior, referring to the circlet she wears, before taking Ayano into the fortress. The party will then approach (save at the nearby chest first), and Evangelynne will recognize them from their encounter in Florian, though before she can give Cherisa's location, she is struck by an intense bout of pain, the circlet's gem noticeably glowing. The guards chuckle at her attempt to defy Rolina, before the elite is joined by her lackeys, and intiates battle. Despite her nigh-impossible combat skill, Evangelynne is Subdued and her guards Knocked Out. While Suki is free to go ahead, the option to ungag her exists, upon which, if taken, the elite soldier will express confusion before the kidnapper states that she recognized her attempt to help them before defeating her. Before she can give any information, she is once again struck by the circlet's painful enchantment. The party debates why she hasn't removed the cursed item herself, though Evelyn interjects stating that an enchanted item like it works according to the will of the one who cast the spell, in this case Rolina; if Evangelynne disobeys any order from the Sister, she is struck with pain for it. Suki asks if there's some way to get it off, and the mage complies, casting a spell that seemingly defeats the enchantment. They test this out by asking once again about Cherisa, with the elite warrior now fully able to speak of her own accord. She then promptly informs them that the Queen has been imprisoned in Krystina's quarters near the top of the fortress, the Lady having retaliated for her daughter's attempt to negotiate with the Empire. Evangelynne agrees to accompany them to rescue Cherisa and stop Krystina before she can ignite war between the two powers, leading them through the desolate stronghold. Before they get far, however, a guard approaches, forcing the party to hide, as he directs the elite warrior to Rolina, with her pretending to still be affected by the circlet to avoid suspicion, of which Suki notes will prove a great advantage to them in the future. Making their own way through the fort, either through absolute stealth or fighting with the patrolling Kingdom soldiers, the party manages to locate a secondary entrance to the fortress. Inside, passing through a small lobby with a blue chest, they ascend to the first floor only to come face to face with Rolina again. She taunts Suki with the fact that, as a kidnapper, calling her Princess no longer seems likely. As the party closes in on her, citing their ability to defeat her before even with Evangelynne at her side, the holy Sister pulls out a different card, and summons to her side the newly-minted Major Rielle. Mockingly thanking them for helping her reach the Captaincy in Ghiaccio, she then reveals her latest promotion to Major was of her own accord, though Rolina slyly reminds her that her promotion was only based on her combat performance, with another chance to prove it now, as they initiate battle. While victory may have looked promising to them, both warriors find that dream dashed as they are Subdued and Captured. While her companions advise against ungagging Rolina, the option remains open for Rielle, though Athena is quick to gag her again at the first opportunity, before which the Major reveals that Rolina locked Cherisa in her quarters, behind them. Before entering the room, the mercenary makes the cheeky decision to lock their two captives in a nearby room. Inside the Sister's quarters, there's no sign of the Queen anywhere, until a loud rasping comes from the nearby wardrobe twice. Throwing open the doors, the party are surprised to discover Cherisa, tightly bound and firmly gagged. As Suki begins to undo her binds, the companions question why someone like Rolina could get away with doing this, to which Cherisa answers saying that Krystina gave the holy mage free reign to torment her daughter, even encouraging her to do so, for her attempts to defy her mother. As she once again attempts to apologize to Suki for what she put her step-cousin through, the Princess stops her, and solemnly accepts that she did what she did because she loved her. With the Queen untied, Suki notes that she never learned to fight, with Cherisa teasing back that she was never interested in participating in the rounds of play fights that her step-cousin was fond of, eliciting a round of intense teasing from Carol, a few light chuckles from Athena and Evelyn, and some hasty excuses from Suki. Getting serious once again, Cherisa inquires if the party intends to confront Krystina, to which the Princess confirms, citing her belief that the throne belongs to Cherisa above all. The Queen, therefore, makes a plea for them not to fatally harm her mother, to which the thief half-jokingly, half-truthfully claims they'll simply, thoroughly tie her up. Cherisa agrees to stay back in the room, while informing them that her mother is very likely atop the fortress' tower, vainly gazing out over the land that she hopes to claim. Reinforcing her resolve to end this war, Suki leads the party out of the chamber towards the tower. En route, they encounter Evangelynne once more, where, freed from her circlet, will state she had the guards knocked out while they were still under the suspicion of her enthrallment. Carol then openly wonders why she still wears the trinket, to which the elite professes keeping it as a reminder of both her weakness in becoming Rolina's slave, and her intent to rise above that weakness, with the thief ruffling her feathers one last time, before she lets them ahead, stating that she'll keep any guards from joining their fight. If she wasn't freed from her circlet, then a pair of guards will take her place in the hallway. In the next chamber, however, they are immediately caught by a pair of guards, who loyally defy the Queen's rule for Krystina. Before anyone can make a move, from behind them, Leroy leaps into the fray and knocks one of them out, then states to the party that he came to their aid both for personal reasons, and because the Guild demands that the one responsible for their troubles in Ghiaccio be dealt with. Just then, the lone guard summons reinforcements, to which the expert kidnapper agrees to fight them back while Suki and co. deal with Krystina. Climbing their way up the height of the tower, passing one last blue chest, they emerge at the summit of the Dark Hills, and their end goal...
Outside on the plateau of the fortress' tower, the party comes face-to-face with the manipulative Lady Krystina, Suki's own step-aunt. She snidely greets her step-niece, followed up by her companions' plainess. As the Lady starts to wane into a long monologue, Carol awkwardly interrupts her, with Athena and Evelyn following through as well, clearly mocking her. Krystina takes the opportunity to once again express her contempt for the Princess that was supposed to become Queen, and vows to erase her from the Kingdom's lineage. With her companions voicing their lifelong support, Suki is encouraged to step up against her scheming relative, reiterating her promise not to kill her, nor to allow her to continue terrorizing the Kingdom and its people, as the ultimate battle commences...
In pure spite of her incredible strength and magical prowess, the party manages to overwhelm, Subdue, and Capture the Lady Krystina. The party is finally able to breathe a sigh of relief, though Athena worries that they might have gotten serious backlash if they'd done this within the Kingdom's borders, though Carol playfully points out they're likely to get a pardon for their actions there. As Krystina's muffled protests echo outward, Evelyn questions what they're going to do with their latest captive, Suki states she will be turned over to Cherisa, without any hope of getting free. Leroy then comes up from behind, and offers to take the Lady to the Guild, but before that, admits that he still hadn't finished off all the guards, and asked for some help. Athena decided to leave Suki with her captive relative while the rest of the party accompanied the expert to deal with the problem. Alone for once, the Princess firmly states that Cherisa will reclaim her throne, without any chance for Krystina to stop her. The manipulator grunts loudly, attempting to get free, as Suki comments her skill with rope has improved since last they met, and thus she has no hope of escape. The Princess then admits that she does not feel deserving of being the Queen, but neither does her step-aunt, as the Mission ends.
Strategy and Tips Edit
- Sneakiest - If you accepted Ayano's offer, upon exiting the cave, you will face off against a pair of armored Kingdom soldiers. While they may seem like any other armored foe, these ones are much more dangerous, as in addition to their "Leg Sweep", on occasion they also demonstrate a "Wide Sweep" move that will affect the entire party, with a chance to inflict Confused status as well. Use whatever strategy works best, ideally Carol's "Quick Claws" and Athena's "Leg Sweep", though throwing out one of Suki's "Low Blow" moves every now and then won't hurt anyone but the soldiers, and keep in mind that one or more members may become Confused at any time.
- No Bother - This short leg of walking does not even bother with giving you a way to stealth by, so simply walk right up to the guards and thrash them. It will save you the time and effort of actually worrying about getting caught.
- Opportunist - Nothing like a bit of intrigue during wartime, huh? You will be facing off against Rynn Dallas, a bounty hunter, Rynn Dallas. She wields a moderately strong basic attack, and a "Greater Light" spell that can inflict Blinded status, which shouldn't prove too taxing considering you have a full party with you. Wail into her soft body and Capture.
- Unwarranted - A serious tack in the plan if you accepted both Ayano's and Rynn's offers. You will be facing off against Evangelynne and two Kingdom Soldiers. Her fighting style remains much the same from her battle in Mission 8, so use whatever worked during then, but keep the Soldiers in mind too. Potion and perfume never fail to lend a hand.
- Fort Sneaky - The initial area of the fort has three soldiers patrolling a small area that is halved by a single building, with virtually no place to break line of sight. Your best option is throw down a smoke grenade the moment you see one of them notice, but not detect you. The second section is more widespread and has more guards patrolling the area. You are bound to be detected at least once in this area if you attempt to reach the large door at the other end; it's not the way forward. Go for the small opening in the northeast corner. The last area before entering the fortress is a bit more linear but will require at least one stealth item use to get around behind the southernmost building. There are a pair of loot chests in the area, but you will be detected easily if you try for them; the risk is yours to take. Get to the lit door and continue.
- Triple-Crossed - This battle shouldn't be too unfamiliar, so long as you have a good memory. You will be facing Rolina and Rielle. Call upon your knowledge of their respective battles from Missions 8 and 5, and you will have no real trouble fighting them both off again.
- End of the Road - The final battle of the Mission, and the story itself, may seem a bit unfair, what with you having your entire party against one foe, Krystina, but it is more fair for her than you'd think. Despite being the only enemy, Krystina boasts an impressive 4000 HP, only outmatched in this regard by Hyranda when she was possessed by the Eye. The Lady also makes use of an incredibly powerful basic attack, an "Enchanted Barrier" Skill that will reduce much of the melee-based members' effectiveness against her, a "Greater Heal" spell that can ruin a Subdue attempt if timed properly, a "Greater Water" spell to significantly decrease your party's capabilities regarding Skills & spells, and a "Greater Darkness" spell to heavily damage members, with an added risk of inflicting Muted status on Evelyn to prevent her using any spells. Watch for when she uses "Greater Darkness" as its damage will quickly Weaken a medium-level kidnapper for Capture. Make it rain potion and perfume here if this is the case.
- Rynn Dallas
- Kingdom Soldier