A Frigid Enforcer
(Captain) and the crew receive an urgent request to investigate incidents of people turning into ice. The being responsible is a primal beast named Macula Marius, acting in retribution for the destruction of nature. However, Lyria realizes that it also pains her to take such action against the skydwellers. Touched by their warmth, Macula Marius decides to join the crew and overlook the actions of the townspeople for now.
???: Your skin is as soft as a fresh winter's snow... And so pleasing to poke, hehe.
Lyria: Hehe... That tickles, Marius!
Macula Marius: Was that not to your liking? Very well... More gentle head pats for you then, Lyria. Don't be shy now.
Macula Marius: Hehehe... Don't worry, (Captain). You will have your turn as well. Now come here.
Macula Marius: I want to feel your heart closer to me—a heart so warm, it could melt even the coldest ice.
One day, Vyrn wakes up a little later than usual and groggily makes his way to the Grandcypher's main hall.
There, to his befuddlement, he finds a woman who appears to be a primal beast acting particularly chummy with (Captain) and Lyria.
Vyrn: Hey, uh... So who's this lady? Sure looks like you guys are havin' a good time.
Lyria: Morning, Vyrn! This is Marius. Actually, let me tell you about last night...
(Captain) and Lyria recall the events of the previous night, when they first encountered Marius.
A few days prior, the Grandcypher received an urgent request to investigate strange incidents that have been occuring throughout the Phantagrande Skydom.
Specifically, incidents of skydwellers turning into solid ice without any warning or trace of a struggle.
Through much investigation, (Captain) and the crew came to the conclusion that a magic user of some sort was probably to blame.
They noticed a pattern: once an island was affected, the incidents would soon spread to nearby islands.
With this knowledge, they make their way to the island nearest to the location of the last incident.
Lyria: Oh, thank goodness... It doesn't look like anyone here's been affected yet.
Vyrn: We can't let our guard down just yet! The culprit might already be here, hiding among us.
Lyria: Y-you're right... We need to stay on the lookout!
Bracing themselves for danger, (Captain) and the others begin looking around for any suspicious-looking characters.
However, the search goes nowhere. The crew decides to take a breather outside of town.
Vyrn: Oof... Nothing. After all that, all we found was a whole lotta construction happening on this island.
Lyria: Let's try looking again once we've rested a bit.
Lyria: Now that you mention it, there isn't a lot of nature to be seen here...
Lyria: The lakes are murky, and the trees are almost all cut down. It's kind of sad...
As Lyria utters these words, (Captain) feels the temperature drop.
???: (Ah... So you kindhearted souls understand.)
Lyria: H-huh? I thought I heard someone just now...
The crew looks around for the source of the voice, but aren't able to find anyone.
Despite their best efforts, (Captain) and company return to the Grandcypher unsuccessful.
Lyria: Nothing happened, and we weren't able to find anyone suspicious-looking in the end either...
Vyrn: Well, we gave it our all—and it's better that nothing bad happened anyway. Let's just try our best again tomorrow... Yawn...
Vyrn: I dunno about you guys, but I'm feelin' kinda cold... Time to hit the sack.
Lyria: Good idea. Let's get some rest too, (Captain).
Lyria and (Captain) start making their way to the sleeping cabins, when suddenly...
Lyria: W-wait! This aura... A primal beast? Let's go, (Captain)!
(Captain) quickly nods in agreement, and the two begin following the trail of the primal beast.
The trail takes them back to town, but there they find that the citizens have been frozen solid.
Lyria: N-no! Everyone's been frozen...
Lyria: Huh? Wait a second...
???: So... You were still here, it seems.
Lyria hears the voice once again while inspecting the citizens and faces the direction it came from.
Lyria: That voice... It's the same one I heard earlier calling us kind...
Lyria: You... You're the one causing the ice, aren't you?
Lyria: But why would you do something like this?
???: I am merely serving my purpose.
Lyria: Your purpose?
Macula Marius: I am called Macula Marius. I serve only Mother Nature—protecting her glory and bringing retribution to those who would sully her beauty.
Macula Marius: The skydwellers here have abused the privilege granted to them to coexist with nature. I merely dealt retributive justice.
Macula Marius: And you, foolish ones, are also complicit. Now you must face judgment for your actions.
Choose: We've gotta take her on!
- We've gotta take her on!
- Is that what you really want to do?
Lyria: Wait a second, (Captain)!
Macula Marius: What is it now?Choose: Is that what you really want to do?
Macula Marius: What did you say?Continue 1
Lyria: Marius... You didn't really freeze the townspeople here, did you?
Macula Marius: ...!
Lyria: At first glance, they all appear frozen... But I can still feel the warmth of life within. I think they're just sleeping.
Macula Marius: ...
Lyria: Not only that, I can feel it... You've been struggling too.
Lyria: Maybe... Maybe you didn't want to do anything like this in the first place.
Macula Marius: ...!
Marius puts down her staff. As she looks down, the fearsome air she put on moments earlier seems to melt away.
Macula Marius: Of course I didn't... These skydwellers are also a part of Mother Nature herself. How could I want to punish them?
Macula Marius: Especially kindhearted souls such as yourselves—souls who clearly care for nature.
Macula Marius: However, if I were to leave them to their ways, the skydwellers would have destroyed what little nature remained here.
Macula Marius: The only way was to bring retribution upon them—even if it meant punishing something I loved.
Lyria: Um, this might be a big favor to ask of you now, but... could you wait a little longer before punishing the townspeople here?
Macula Marius: What?
Lyria: Not all of us are responsible for the damage done... There are plenty of us who love nature too!
Lyria: We'll do everything we can to protect the natural life here, too!
Lyria: And I... I don't want you to suffer any longer either, Marius.
Macula Marius: Even as I threaten you all with judgment, you worry for my suffering.
Macula Marius: You truly are kindhearted souls... Such warmth could even melt a heart of ice.
Macula Marius: Very well. But I won't wait for long.
Without another word, Marius releases the citizens from her icy stranglehold and disappears without a trace.
Vyrn: Huh... So that's what happened while I was out.
Vyrn: But still, uh, that doesn't explain what's going on right here.
Macula Marius: Hehehe... I have decided to overlook their transgressions for now. Rather, taking a journey together across the skies is a much more natural solution, yes?
Vyrn: Yeah, I mean... That's fine too, but... Since when did you guys become all buddy-buddy with each other?
Macula Marius: Hehehe...
Marius laughs softly and ruffles (Captain)'s and Lyria's hair affectionately.
Macula Marius: You are all part of nature, which I have sworn to love and protect. It's only fitting that I share that love with you as well.
Macula Marius: So don't be shy... Come here and let me give you some head pats.
Vyrn: Haha... Welp. Looks like we've got ourselves another character in our crew, huh.
Vyrn somewhat reluctantly receives his head pats.
Electing to skirt her duties for the time being, Marius joins the Grandcypher as a new member of (Captain)'s crew.
A Watchful Guardian
Nightmares of past events disturb Macula Marius in her sleep. During the War, she took lives from both primal beasts and skydwellers alike in order to protect nature from destruction. However, it was a painful endeavor that haunts her to this day. Concerned for her well-being, (Captain) and the crew decide to take her along on a journey.
Macula Marius: Ngh... Agh...
A nightmare of the past troubles Marius's sleep.
During the War, nature suffered at the hands of skydwellers, astrals, and primal beasts alike as a result of their battles.
Disheartened by those who would destroy nature's beauty to serve their own ambitions, Marius delivered icy judgment to those who failed her.
However, the act of taking lives proved to be far too painful for Marius.
Macula Marius: Protect Mother Nature... by punishing those who would harm her? What a joke...
Macula Marius: We are all part of Mother Nature. Punishing and killing those who would harm her is no different than killing a part of nature herself...
Macula Marius: How senseless... Am I no different than the skydwellers in the end?
Macula Marius: No, I must take action... If left to roam free, they will ravage what little nature remains... Yet, I...
Macula Marius: Wait. Perhaps there is still a way for them to coexist with nature. Surely...
During the events of the War, Marius had taken a neutral stance, choosing to protect nature and the skydwellers from destruction rather than fight.
However, centuries after the events of the War, skydwellers continue to ravage nature to this day.
Long has she endured their transgressions, clinging to hope.
Macula Marius: Please forgive me, dear nature... Just a little longer. The day will come when all can coexist in harmony, I know it...
Lyria: Marius... Marius!
Macula Marius: ...!
Macula Marius: Lyria... And (Captain)? Vyrn, too...
Lyria: Thank goodness... Oh, um, sorry for suddenly barging into your room like this. We got worried after hearing your cries...
Macula Marius: Hehe... That's fine. The gesture is appreciated.
Vyrn: Are you okay though? If anything's bothering ya, don't hesitate to open up to us!
Macula Marius: This is nothing new... You need not concern yourself.
Marius laughs quietly to herself. She leaves the room, making sure to give everyone a gentle head pat on the way out.
Lyria: Um, where are you...
Macula Marius: Just going out for some fresh air. A little change of scenery, that's all. Once again, no need for alarm.
Vyrn: She says not to worry, but whatever was happening in here sounded pretty rough... It'd only be natural to worry after hearing that.
Vyrn: Sure would be nice if we could help her somehow, but she won't tell us anything...
Lyria: Well... at the very least, I hope she starts feeling better.
Lyria: Oh! I've just thought of an idea! Say, how about... Whisper, whisper...
Vyrn: Hmm... You may be onto something here. This might just be the ticket!
Vyrn: All right! Let's give it a shot!
Lyria: Yay! Let's do it! Come on, (Captain)! You too, Vyrn!
A few days later, (Captain) and Lyria invite Marius to join them on a special journey.
Macula Marius: I don't have any reason to refuse, but may I ask the purpose of this journey?
Lyria: Hehe... That's for you to find out when we get there!
Macula Marius: Oh?
Despite her visible reservations, Marius agrees to go along with (Captain) and the others on a journey.
A Watchful Guardian: Scene 2
The crew arrive at the town where they first met Macula Marius and find the townspeople in the midst of a tree-planting festival—a sharp contrast from their destructive ways in the past. Macula Marius is pleased to learn that thanks to (Captain) and the crew's efforts, the townspeople were convinced to live greener. However, a sudden explosion sets the nearby forest ablaze.
Macula Marius: This place...
The place that (Captain) has taken Marius is none other than the town where they first met.
However, the widespread construction and industry that once threatened nature here is no more. Instead, something else catches Marius's eye.
Macula Marius: The citizens... Are they planting flowers?
Townswoman: Not only flowers, miss! We're growing all kinds o' fruits and veggies here!
Lyria: It looks like the town is having a tree-growing festival of sorts!
Macula Marius: Hehe... How lovely. Although surely such a tradition did not exist here before.
Macula Marius: The skydwellers of this island had no interest in the wellbeing of mother nature. They destroyed whatever they needed for the growth of their town.
Townswoman: Ahaha... A shameful chapter of our history, really, but true nonetheless.
Townswoman: This festival isn't one we've had for long. In fact, it's a rather new tradition we've only just started.
Macula Marius: Oh? Well that certainly is unexpected. What could have convinced you to start such a custom?
Townsman: Up 'til not too long ago, we put all of our focus and effort into the growth of the town. Not much consideration was put into anythin' else.
Townsman: But ever since that one day where we all fell into a strange slumber, we've all had a change of heart.
Macula Marius: ...!
Townswoman: All I remember is the cold... I thought I'd never wake again. It was just awful.
Macula Marius: Yes, how terrible it must have been...
Townsman: Yeah, well... While we were in that dark place, we heard a voice tellin' us it was punishment from nature itself!
Macula Marius: ...
Townsman: That really got us thinkin'... We were only concerned 'bout our own gains, burnin' through all the natural resources around us.
Townswoman: After reflecting on what we'd been doing and then what happened to us, the signs were quite clear.
Townsman: We put a halt to all the development projects we had goin' on and chose to live more harmoniously with nature.
Macula Marius: Really now? But what about the prosperity of your town?
Macula Marius: Was the fear of nature's retribution enough to convince the whole town to reconsider?
Townswoman: Ahaha... You're a sharp one. There were indeed plenty who were vehemently against it.
Townsman: But for now I'd say most of us are on the same page, choosin' to live in harmony with nature.
Townsman: And we owe it all to (Captain) and the crew.
Macula Marius: This crew? What do you mean by that?
Townswoman: They came to our town countless times to persuade us to stop our destructive ways.
Townsman: In fact, they're the ones that helped us come up with ideas for this festival!
Macula Marius: Wait, when did you...
Lyria: Hehe... I thought you'd be happy to see more people taking care of nature.
Macula Marius: All this for me? Such kindhearted souls...
Vyrn: What are we waiting for? Enough thumb-twiddling, more thumb-greening!
Macula Marius: Very well! Let's show our appreciation for nature, a love as pure as the freshly melted ice.
Marius begins to happily partake in the festivities, helping the citizens plant seeds around the town.
A sudden explosion sets the forest around them ablaze.
A Watchful Guardian: Scene 3
The culprits responsible for the fires are two men who originally came to the island to profit on new construction projects, which have now been halted. Even after being confronted by the townspeople, they throw another oil bomb onto the fields, inciting Macula Marius's rage.
Hooligan 1: Whooo-eee! Ain't nothin' like explosives to do a little quick ground-leveling!
Hooligan 2: Hahaha! Once the dust clears, we'll be able to build whatever we want here!
The crew finds a couple of men laughing sinisterly as the greenery before them continues to burn.
Vyrn: Wh-what the heck are they doing!
Townswoman: Oh, those fellows... They just won't listen...
Macula Marius: Who are those rotten men? Do you know their identities?
Townsman: Those guys ain't from 'round here... They came on business to oversee the construction happenin' on this island.
Townsman: After we told 'em we'd be putting a stop to things, they've been harassing us nonstop.
Hooligan 1: Harassment? You've gotta be outta yer damn mind!
Hooligan 2: That whole thing about nature's punishment or whatever ain't nothin' more than simple mass hysteria—we've come to snap y'all out of it!
Townswoman: Don't be absurd! We all saw what happened and are well aware of our choices!
Hooligan 1: Nah, that's just more delusion-talk. Face it—there's no other reason why you'd change yer minds so quickly about the construction!
Hooligan 2: I mean, look at all the land on this island waitin' for buildin' to happen! So much wasted potential not lettin' us turn yer dinky town into somethin' truly great!
Hooligan 1: Right? You'll all get a taste of a lavish lifestyle, and we'll get paid! It's basic math... a win-win for everybody!
Vyrn: Don't try and kid us! We know you only care about the money!
Hooligan 1: And what's wrong with that? We need to get somethin' outta this place too, you know!
Hooligan 2: So whaddaya say? You can help us help you! Open your eyes and face this reality!
The man reveals a flaming bottle in his hand and hurls it into one of the townspeople's freshly-planted fields.
Townswoman: Wh-what in blazes are you doing? Our hard work... The plants...
Hooligan 1: Better wake up and smell the roses soon... Before the whole town goes up! Hahahah!
Vyrn: These jerks... (Captain)! We've gotta do something about—
Macula Marius: Unforgivable...
Macula Marius: Foolish skydwellers, hearts as cold as ice...
Hooligan 1: You say somethin', lady? Or are you with the rest o' these sheep here? We'll gladly open your eyes to reality too!
Hooligan 1: H-huh? Aaaargh!
Hooligan 2: Wh-what's with your hand? I-it's frozen solid!
Ignoring their cries, Marius advances on the two men.
With each of her steps, the ground beneath crystallizes to frost, putting out the nearby fires.
Macula Marius: Pitiful, benighted skydwellers... choose your final words wisely.
Macula Marius: For the hour of judgment has come.
A Watchful Guardian: Scene 4
Macula Marius uses her magic to create an ethereal vision of a glimmering landscape, lush with natural beauty, convincing the culprits to put their effort into beautifying the nature around them instead. She realizes now that change can be brought forth without taking lives, and her faith that someday skydwellers and nature will coexist in harmony remains unshaken.
Macula Marius: Your cries will not help you now. Your fate is sealed.
Vyrn: H-hey... Let's all calm down!
Lyria: Wait, Marius! If you punish these people... If you do that...
Lyria: Marius... You'll surely regret it!
Macula Marius: This is your judgment.
Lyria's cries go unanswered, and Marius unleashes a wave of frigid sorcery before her.
However, the frosty wave seems to miss the mark. Instead, the surrounding plants and trees begin to blossom and crystallize—a glimmering yet lush landscape is created before their very eyes.
Hooligan 1: Wha... Were we saved?
Hooligan 2: Hey... Look at that... It-it's breathtaking.
Macula Marius: So you are capable of seeing its beauty... But the true splendor of nature is even greater.
With those words and a wave of her staff, the icy vision vanishes before the onlookers.
Macula Marius: You there... You said you wished to make money, yes?
Hooligan 2: Huh? Well, yeah...
Macula Marius: Then restore the nature here to its former glory. Surely there is profit to be found in tourism as well?
Macula Marius: Can you find it in your heart to live in harmony with nature?
Hooligan 1: ...
Hooligan 2: Say... You think y'all could let us help you plant some trees? C'mon, please...
Hooligan 1: Yeah, we'll help restore all that land we burned too... I don't even care about the cash anymore.
Hooligan 1: All I want is to see a landscape even more breathtaking than the one she showed us...
Hooligan 2: I guess we were the ones that needed to wake up. We can see clearly now though!
Townswoman: Of course! You're both still welcome to help us!
After a change of heart, the two would-be villains join the other townspeople in planting trees.
Lyria: Yay! That's great, isn't it, Marius?
Macula Marius: Oh, Lyria? What is it, do you want more head pats?
Lyria: Yes... Uh, I mean, not now! Um... You said you would be judging them, so...
Macula Marius: Oh, Lyria... I didn't mean to worry you. But I did stay true to my word.
Macula Marius: We all make mistakes... But I saw that skydwellers can learn from them, just as the citizens here have done.
Macula Marius: Teaching them the error of their ways and giving them a chance to redeem themselves is also a form of judgment. It doesn't need to involve taking a life.
Macula Marius: To not realize this is my own failure... I must have been too focused to see the whole picture.
Macula Marius: It is thanks to you that I can see clearly. Lyria, (Captain), and you too, Vyrn... You have my gratitude.
Lyria: Hehe... You're welcome!
The crew joins the townspeople once more in their festivities, helping to plant seeds all around the island.
As everyone is busy enjoying themselves, Marius takes a moment of reflection alone.
Macula Marius: (These skydwellers were able to start anew... Surely the same could be said for all of us.)
Macula Marius: (And the day where nature can coexist in harmony with all... it may be close.)
Marius smiles to herself and lets a sigh of relief escape her lips.
Thanks to the events that transpired today, surely her dreams will be a little sweeter from now on.