Right then, it's time to head to a short area for a change. Area 4-5: Aura Plateaus is a standard 3-screen area, unlike the last two.
The first screen has nothing on it until I try to move forward, at which point a sign falls from above, along with a giant X and a giant O, which plant themselves on the rocks in front of me. The sign reads, "The Sage and the Fool are the best. True or False?"
I'm almost tempted to fall into this one on purpose just to humour them, but I still step on the O anyway. This gives me some Banangos (tossed because I've already got some) and a note that says, "Oh... I guess that was a bit easy. —from the Red Sage"
Anyway, I've got places to go and stuff to do, so I move on. The next screen contains an ape and a wyrm, neither of whom are very threatening. This screen also contains two things to examine: the ground and a mint bush. The bush leads into the second bath scene which I already said I'm not bothering with, so I ignore it (even if I wanted to see it, the fact is I can't finish the button mashing needed to do so. I've heard horror stories of it actually causing physical harm to people who've attempted it
, even.) The ground, meanwhile, is more interesting. Fia claims that the limestone ground, made from carbonate deposits from marine life, were once home to silver and mithril mining operations. I pick one up, and some Mithril is added to my inventory.
The next screen contains a window I can look through. I can ask Serene to examine it, or I can throw a rock through. The second one is the correct choice, and it leads to a timing minigame. Success causes a bat to fly out of the window. It is vitally important that you catch this bat and save it.
One timing minigame later, I am the proud owner of Mr. Bat III, who in Serene's hands inflicts upon his target five physical, non-elemental hits, each with a power of 160. That's better than the Crystal Lance will ever do, so I drop that and make a mental note to never drop this guy. Seriously, he's Serene's best option against at least one of the final bosses. This is followed by a poorly-translated exchange between Rose and Cierra, after which I'm free to move on to stage 4-6: St. Claremonts.
The first screen has a chest containing nothing I don't have, so I move forward. The second screen, meanwhile, will have something for me when enough time has passed here (20 turns). Fortunately, there's plenty to do here while I wait.
First, I move south, and encounter an Undine. She identifies herself as Aria, and explains that her sister Iria was the girl we saved before. She then heads off to get a reward for us, insisting that she must give us something. She is the queen, after all.
Anyway, I've got four turns to waste before she'll have something for me. As such, I head north from the previous area. Here, I encounter two girls with a golem. Entering the code in the Golem Manual causes the golem to shut down, changing the name of the enemy grout from "Golem Operators" to "Sad
Golem Operators". It also gives them a free Break Out, which I'm not particularly concerned about. One of them is a mage, who I display actual magical skill for by way of Cierra, earning a Salamander Rod that replaces the Blood Fang. This screen also has a golden door I can't go through, so I head back to the Undine screen.
Sure enough, Aria is waiting for us, along with Iria. After Iria thanks us for saving her, I receive the gift of...a bow. Yes, the water-dwelling race has bows. Note, however, that it's the next bow tier: Iria's Bow. I replace my worn-out Elfin Bow and get to training with those new weapons for these Over Skills:
- Iria's Bow: Buster Shot: Level 1, 1-hit physical non-elemental attack, power of 285
- Salamander Rod: Fire Blast: Level 1, 4-hit magic fire-elemental attack, power of 87
- Iria's Bow: Purity Arrow: Level 2, 4-hit physical holy-elemental attack, power of 135, effective against flying enemies
- Salamander Rod: Scarlet Screen: Level 2, 5-hit magic fire-elemental attack, power of 94, can't hit flying enemies
- Iria's Bow: Gatling Shot: Level 3, 6-hit physical non-elemental attack, power of 156, effective against flying enemies
- Iria's Bow: Holy Arrow: Level 1, 3-hit magic holy-elemental attack, power of 130
- Salamander Rod: Firestorm: Level 3, 6-hit magic fire-elemental attack, power of 136, last attack hits all
Anyway, I still have quite a bit of time before I can get what I'm waiting for, so it's time to explore to the east of the central area, where we crush some random bandits. I finish them with Lina, earning a replacement Power Wrist. I then ignore the door in front of me and head north instead, because the door opens into an area where I can't do anything. Since the treasure chest on the subsequent screen is blocked off by an invisible wall, I head east.
The next screen has an enemy group called Treasure Hunter Z, referencing an old Squaresoft game made by people who later formed Sting Entertainment (I think). I check to see if they can stand up to a Firestorm. They can't (and the attack looks disappointingly unlike a Dragon Slave).
I then head south, and encounter a treasure chest containing the Golden Key. I could've come here from the area directly west, but I'd be on the other side of an invisible barrier. I then retrace my steps back to the second screen, which has flooded partially.
Entering Look mode reveals a bottle floating in the water, which is what I was waiting for. Picking it up reveals that it has something in it, which I take. The bottle contains the Music Sheet, which would open up the music player if I hadn't obtained it on my last playthrough. More importantly, I get to keep the bottle, which will figure into a sidequest later.
I then head north to the golden door. Following the established pattern, the Golden Key opens it, giving me access to that chest I passed up earlier. Opening it grants me the legendary Holy Grail, and I didn't even need to kill any heroic spirits to get it! I then backtrack all the way back to the screen before the Golden Key.
Now that I'm done here, I head east to the final screen of this area, where the golem the Sage alluded to earlier is waiting for us. Fortunately, we have the code to stop it, so I don't have to fight the thing. I also get another note, which says, "Cheater! —from Red Sage"
With that done, I'm finished this area. Next time, we'll finish the whole business with the Sage and Fool, and probably do a fair bit more while we're at it.