Would it be a reach to suggest that it’s ‘Time’ for a prediction topic? Well, it’s time.
The Obvious Stuff
Let’s start with the elephant in the room: Calvard’s Sept-Terrion is Time. The only reason this was in question before Kuro is because we couldn’t tell if Eternal Recurrence was going to be a multi-stage Plan like Phantasmal Blaze. Now that we have a game worth of evidence that Time Shenanigans are going on, we can say with certainty which treasure we’re looking at. Even Falcom isn’t pretending this is a surprise, what with the long trailer hitting us in the face with symbolism and now the title of the arc is pretty obviously foreshadowing in and of itself.
Another point that seems fairly obvious is that if Reverie and Kuro were building up Garden, this is going to be the payoff as Swin and Nadia collide with the organization’s remaining members. However, I’m also going to predict that they’re still only a secondary player and not the primary arc antagonist even if they play that role for Kuro II. We know how Garden was founded (and that it’s much newer than we might have expected) and how it is or was organized; We’ve also murdered our way through its known senior leadership. Combining these two things, the mystique of the organization has been rather badly tarnished, especially the reveal that part of the organization is formed from DG remnants. Those guys were badly mistaken about their ‘True God’ which doesn’t bode well for the likelihood that their new incarnation has a full grasp on things. So ‘Garden Master’ appears to be running the show now and does seem to have some knowledge, but I think he’s being played by somebody else in the big picture. One other bit of evidence for why this is going to be the ‘Garden game’: Falcom’s shop-exclusive preorder bonus? A Garden pin, just like how last year their bonus was a 4SPG pin.
Between the evidence for Calvard’s Sept-Terrion and what Professor Epstein wrote on the last page of his notebook, I think it’s safe to say that the Nothingness that the Grandmaster first clued us into back in CS4’s stinger is what Epstein is warning about since the timing of three years from the scene in the Celestial Globe (in late 1206) matches with the ‘120X’ date, which has to be 1209 because 1208 passes during the events of Kuro with only seven of the eight Genesis orbments accounted for. Based on how bad things were with Pandemonium selectively freezing time in a single city (which would have spread to affect the entire continent had it not been stopped) I’m going to guess that the Nothingness is essentially what would happen if linear time divided by zero, Hence, Very Bad.
As I mentioned back in my Kuro predictions (and have been saying elsewhere for longer) I think that Zemuria being trapped in a time loop is why the Grandmaster’s ‘predictions’ are so accurate, and that the loop is acting as a safety valve to preserve Zemuria until some condition is met. Kuro gave us some evidence for this in the form of the Seventy-Two Devils, who got five more added to their number ‘when the world was rewritten’ according to Barkhorn. This does give us some evidence that the Grandmaster isn’t the only person aware of the loop, but the Church’s knowledge seems to be more limited and based on an observation of discrepancies between observed history and documents contained within one of the Primal Grounds. I’m guessing that objects contained within them are resistant to the effects of the loop in the same way that Artifacts placed within them are suppressed and unable to influence the world outside of the Grounds. In any event, we have evidence that time is looping and very weird things have happened as a result.
Enter the Octo-Genesis, eight devices invented by the supergenius who knew about the Beyond and understood how Artifacts work and managed to produce devices that manifest similarly mind-bending effects. I think that while they’re stated to be devices to observe the world, their primary purpose is to act as a conduit for the power of the Sept-Terrion of Time, similar to what the Gospels did for Aureole in Sky but created after the fact as a safety mechanism rather than before the fact as an intended way to use the power. We have some evidence for Time Shenanigans occurring prior to the game, as Taikun is stated to have reincarnated multiple times (and to have a ‘duty’ to fulfill) with Aaron and the one from forty years ago being only the two most recent examples. Kondo mentioned after CS4 that reincarnation is rare and happens when something interferes with the soul returning to Aidios. The one example we know of involved a Sept-Terrion indirectly (via Ishmelga getting possessive over Dreichels’ soul and being certain he would reincarnate) so it’s not a stretch to assume that a recurring reincarnation is evidence for a Sept-Terrion’s involvement. Melchior also implies that there’s a connection between the obviously time-related Pandemonium and Taikun when he transforms into a demon using the former’s power. This leads me to suspect that the Sept-Terrion of Time is in a situation more like Aureole than the other three we’ve encountered, still able to influence the world even if it’s not directly accessible. The Octo-Genesis are designed to channel its power somehow with the intention of ultimately preventing a calamity that Epstein saw coming, perhaps by serving as the means to locate the lost treasure so it can be properly dealt with in the same way as the others have been.
On that note, let’s talk about the Ishgal/Kunlun Mountains… they’re visited in the one Chapter in the game where no new Genesis appears, but the first unit still activates and lets Mare possess Yume, who is clearly interested in something that lies to the east. And Falcom is equally interested in preventing us from learning what that is, with the return of our old nemesis Distorted Text. I’m going to guess that the Sept-Terrion itself (or the means to access it) is hidden out that way, having been deliberately taken somewhere away from the Pre-Collapse center of civilization before it was sealed away or whatever else happened to it. This would also explain why Ikaruga has been hired to keep an eye out on people traveling through the region; they may not know what’s out there but their employer wants to know who goes there and to keep certain people away.
One last point and one I don’t have an answer to, I just want to observe it: For a series that uses seven for everything, it’s extremely odd that the Octo-Genesis are eight in number. I find myself wondering if one of the eight is more equal than others (ie, seven plus the one that makes them all work properly) or whether Epstein deliberately crafted one more on purpose because he thought it would be blasphemous to try and imitate a sacred number. There does seem to be something special about the eighth Genesis, as it’s seen in the long trailer to have three smaller pieces that attach to the main body, but can operate without them in some capacity as seen when the person who transforms into Grendel-Zolga pulls it out and it’s clearly missing those parts.
The Holy Beast
So, we have our Sept-Terrion but what about its minder? Well, I rather like Hellseye’s idea that the lower elements are based on the beasts from the Book of Daniel and the higher elements on the children of Loki. Lacking any better example of a a trio of dragon/serpent, a wolf and exactly one other entity to replace it with, I’m going to assume for purposes of argument that the theory is right and therefore Time’s associated Beast should be inspired by Hel. So what do we know about her? Well, she’s described as being half blue (or sometimes black) and half flesh-colored, she’s associated with death and her name (shared with the place she rules) is obviously a cognate to the English ‘Hell’. By a bit of mythological revisionism you can connect Hel to the later Christian concept of a place inhabited by demons, strongly associated in Kiseki with the element of Time. So far, so good.
Now it just so happens that we have a character who fits these traits pretty well: Mare. She’s clearly something unusual since she manifests through the Genesis interacting with Van’s XIPHA and is otherwise inexplicable to science. She obviously fits the ‘humanoid’ requirement and is normally surrounded by a blue glow and she clearly possesses knowledge that she’s unable to properly convey to the party such as when she tries explaining what drew her to the spot in Longlai. It’s almost like she’s trying to say something but perhaps she’s actively being prevented from being understood. Like a contract with Aidios that she can bend but not break, perhaps? She’s also of course able to transform Van into Grendel, which has two points of interest. First, Grendel is from the same body of mythology as Hel which slightly reinforces the idea that there is a common thread to the design of the Holy Beasts. Second, Grendel (and Vagrants-Zion) are both referred to in Japanese with the color aoguro, meaning a black with hints of blue and this is also how Van refers to his way of doing things, as distinct from ‘black, white or grey’. These happen to be the same two colors that Hel is associated with. Coincidence? Eh, maybe, but it’s worth noting anyways. In any event, I’m pretty certain she’s going to end up being our Holy Beast and her true form is going to be somewhat similar, just, y’know, a lot taller to be in line with the other four Holy Beasts we’ve met.
There’s something just off about him and I don’t like it. He knows way too much and we don’t know where he’s getting his knowledge. The first postgame Episode in Reverie makes it clear that he knows about Zemuria’s cosmic deadline and Ouroboros’ plans, he has some plan of his own and he’s willing to let Ouroboros do as they wish as long as they let him do as he wishes. Okay, fine. But if Gramheart’s plan involves the Sept-Terrion (which would be an obvious assumption I would think) then why would the Grandmaster agree to a non-interference agreement between their respective plans, when observing Sept-Terrion is what Ouroboros does.
One thing we do know for certain is that Gramheart is working on plans for a space-based military, though it’s not clear if the base he and Cronkite discuss is meant to be in space or to serve as a launching point to reach it. Either way, we’ve got space exploration in the future. This brings up the other problem: Even if you can escape vertically to some extent (there’s obviously stuff ‘up there’ since Zemuria has a sun, a moon and a night sky full of stars) you can’t escape the bounded region horizontally and there’s no reason to think that ‘up’ is going to be safer from the Nothingness in the first place. So unless Gramheart secretly has Zoa-Guilstein in his back pocket, space isn’t going to get away from the danger, whatever form it takes.
One thing that could reconcile his combination of knowledge and his plan that doesn’t seem like it would make a difference (especially since he’s got less than a year to do whatever he’s attempting) is if he’s not actually the mastermind here and knows (or has been given) just enough information to motivate him but not enough to give him the full picture.
One last bit of speculation: There’s more relevant information in Epstein’s notebooks (plural, Agnes makes this clear) than just the warning she read, and Gramheart is getting his knowledge at least in part from reading them, including at least one volume that Agnes doesn’t know about.
A new player in the game?
Another specific prediction: While MTSC is incredibly suspicious and the most obvious candidate for being behind Altera and Grendel-Zolga (as they have access to all the data from Van’s XIPHA and through Risette all the results of Arkride Solutions’ own investigations) I think we’re going to find out that it was actually the other newcomer in the field: Zect Arms. We’re given three instances of the company being up to no good in the first game, starting with industrial espionage and progressing to experimenting on monsters with new technology and finally the revelation that they provided Viola and Alexandre with advanced weaponry under the table. It’s actually the middle of those that I think is most interesting for two reasons. First, Barkhorn reacts to the revelation though he doesn’t explain what he’s thinking of. If a Dominion (however retired he may be) is concerned, there’s probably a special reason for it and not just the fact of the experiment itself. Second, it’s explicitly an experiment involving the application of Shards. We know those are instrumental in creating Grendel’s ‘body’, so it doesn’t seem a stretch that they could work out how to imitate Grendel if anybody other than Marduk can. And since they’re known to engage in espionage activities, it’s not impossible that they could have obtained some or all of the data on Mare that MTSC has, to use as a baseline. I suspect that MTSC may even have allowed Zect to ‘steal’ its data in order to advance their own agenda.
The fate of the Kinships
This isn’t really a Kuro II theory per se but since the distinction between the lower and higher elements has been raised and the question of who is the Kinship of Time is relevant, I’ve been thinking about what we know of these groups so far and I’d like to offer a prediction. The Kinships of Space and Mirage both effectively disintegrated in the wake of the Great Collapse, for different reasons but the result is the same; the majority of the population has forgotten their past and lost any direct cultural continuity, though there may be some national traits that persist. Meanwhile the Kinships of Earth and Fire, though greatly reduced in number, maintained a much greater continuity and a memory of their past as well as some of the fruits of their former Sept-Terrion. The Gnomes had a network of facilities they had constructed with access to advanced technology, while the Hexen had their magic. I’m going to posit that the nature of the ‘lower’ Sept-Terrion makes the boons they gave their Kinships easier to maintain and so facilitated a greater continuity of culture, while the higher three granted gifts that were completely dependent on the Sept-Terrion themselves, so when they were lost their respective Kinships lost everything and fell apart much more comprehensively.
I can’t prove this is correct until the series is more or less done (though like a good scientific experiment, the failure condition can be tested each time we learn about a remaining Kinship) but since it’s on my mind, I want to put it out there now. We’ll just have to wait and see what we learn about the Kinship of Time to see if it stands up to the newest evidence.
A Case of Identities
We have a lot of secret identities to work out in Kuro II, as well as characters with mysteries in their pasts. So let’s start with an obvious one.
Garden Master: It’s Ace, Nadia’s brother and Swin’s former partner in Garden. Although it was a safe assumption to begin with, we know from mentions of him in Reverie that he isn’t a creation of the novel and from that story (and its illustrations that Falcom made especially for Reverie) we know that he used a large sword that resembles Garden Master’s blade. The sword also can split into two blades, like Swin’s but symmetrical. It wouldn’t be a stretch for Ace and Swin to use a similar fighting style, whether the former always did (and the illustration simply doesn’t show it) or whether he took to it later. There’s also the fact that Garden Master has a blindfold for no obvious reason (and one with a zipper, like he wants to be a Kingdom Hearts character) which suggests a desire to conceal his identity from somebody, and Falcom teased us with his S-Craft cutin but not its name which feels like an intent to hide a name that would give something away. He also looks to be roughly the right age and appearance based on the illustrations. Now, the obvious question is ‘How is he alive, since Swin is supposed to have killed him?’. That’s where the Sept-Terrion gets involved because I think that when he talks in the trailer about ‘correcting history’, he’s an Ace from a different point in time, possibly even from a different causal line although that’s more Demiourgos’ schtick. Genesis hax are allowing him to live on borrowed time and he wants to alter history in part to undo his own death.
Nina: Now this is an interesting case, because she’s got a wicked complex about not having an identity of her own, which she compensates for by throwing herself into her acting roles. Is that natural, or was it induced somehow? She’s the right age to be a potential DG victim and it wouldn’t be hard to imagine some of their experiments leaving someone with massive identity issues since… that’s pretty much what Renne had, just in a different form. And Falcom clearly wants us to be thinking about Paradise because Renne brings up Cross by name when she’s trapped in the time sphere; that feels like a ‘Hey, remember this?’ moment on Falcom’s part. And they even did a teaser video all about Star Door 15 so they definitely want us to be thinking about it. So I’m giving Nina even odds of being Adje, the older of the two girls from that flashback. She’s definitely suspicious in general, with two scenes of her communicating with an offscreen party about events yet to happen (in one case doing so without an obvious means of communicating) and I have this theory that the scene she was practicing in her final Connect Event is the sort of line she’s going to end up actually saying at some point in the remaining arc, when she has to come clean to Judith about whatever she’s up to. As for what she’s up to, I’m honestly not sure. She talks in the parking garage about waiting for something to appear before making a decision but at this point Pandemonium and Genesis Tower have both manifested so it’s not clear what she’s waiting for.
I should add that I was really into the theory for a while that she’s a person out of time (and possibly with some memory alterations) to explain some of her identity crisis, particularly the idea that she’s actually Sheena Dirke, which would make Van thinking that the statue of Sheena reminding him of somebody just before meeting Nina for the first time (though he’s seen her films) a bit of nice foreshadowing. Unfortunately for the theory, history records that Sheena was from an aristocratic family and of western blood (and with no indication that she died young) which doesn’t really fit with Nina being biracial. So we can scratch that theory since it requires too much special pleading to preserve.
Quatre: Kondo surprisingly said (with no prompting from the interviewer) that he’s not the Quatre from Star Door 15 and they just reused a name. Sorry, I’m not convinced that they just happened to use the exact same name, for a character who’d be the exact right age and general appearance and who is a confirmed DG victim by sheer coincidence. Setting Kondo’s statement aside, the only evidence against their being the same person is that Renne doesn’t seem to recognize him (or at least she doesn’t remark on it) which can be explained as a combination of ‘This isn’t the kind of thing to bring up in public’ (we don’t see them have any non-public encounters where they could chat) and ‘As far as Renne knows, Quatre is dead and they last saw each other a decade ago’ so she wants to be certain before she brings it up. He’s clearly got something going on as we see him going nuts in one trailer scene, with his eyes changing color in the process.
Shizuna: I made a separate cracklet for her, see here.
Ixs and Jolda: Garden members who arrived via DG rather than Moonlight Horse, because we haven’t had any of those yet, they look like they shop at Creepy Cultists R Us, Ixs’ ‘magic rifle’ calls to mind Ennea and her ‘magic bow’ and Jolda’s shadow hand power seems like the kind of thing DG would find a way to give somebody as part of their side projects in Tampering In The Goddess’ Domain. We know some cultists gave their children up as experimental subjects, I’m guessing these two were similar.
The Kinship of Time: Yes, I’m putting this in here. We know there should be one as the previous four treasures each had a small group that was most associated with their Sept-Terrion and wanted to either get it back (the Crois family and the Gnomes) or wanted it to stay buried (the Auslese family, the Hexen Clan). The most obvious candidate would probably be the royal family if the Eldarion line dates back to around the Great Collapse, but since their last known member is now very dead and didn’t indicate any special knowledge on the topic, they seem to be out.
The next candidate would be Epstein himself, and thus indirectly Agnes as his descendant by adoption. He understood Artifacts better than anybody and was able to make devices with a similar degree of power (which I think are directly associated with the Sept-Terrion) which could be explained in part by his having some historical knowledge to draw on, and he also was aware of the Beyond which I think is linked in a particular way to Time. However, he’s dead (or McBurn) so if the Kinship is to play a role in this arc and it’s his family, it would have to be indirectly via giving a descendant by adoption who he’s never met some vague instructions and trusting her to do what’s right. Cool concept, but it seems a bit of a stretch.
Lastly we come to MTSC. This company is extremely suspicious and between their recent arrival on the scene with Ouroboros-tier technology and very clearly having Plans of their own, they’re definitely going to be revealed as having some bigger part to play. The only obvious point against them is that they’re located in Ored while every other kinship has been located within the present-day borders of the country in focus at the time. Everything else looks pretty good for them in both demonstrated capabilities and big-picture interests, and they’re my leading candidate for the position.
Grendel Zolga: Honestly, I haven’t a clue. I’ve seen theories that he’s Bermotti and that he’s Gramheart but I’m just not seeing either of them, because the former has nothing going for them except ‘He’s too nice, therefore Kiseki Paranoia’ and the latter is clearly playing a game of his own, while Zolga seems like they’re being played. Garden Master appears to be giving Altera orders and what we’ve seen of Zolga untransformed consists of broken speech. I don’t see Gramheart especially putting himself in somebody else’s power like that willingly, or someone being able to get to him to force him into that position.
- Nina and Gouran are related, based on the fact that they wear an identical (but for color) bit of decorative knotwork, the former as part of her wristband and the latter attached to his sleeve.
- We’re going to learn something about Sheena Dirke and her role in the revolution that colors the picture we’ve gotten indirectly up to this point. Why? Mainly because historical events having a big twist in them is a running theme in the series with examples in each country to date, and the revolution is the biggest event we know of for Calvard.
- Trion Tower is going to be Important, and to be honest I’m kind of surprised it wasn’t the basis for Genesis Tower in the first game. It was designed by Epstein and that gives it very good odds of being secretly more than just a spectacular landmark. See: The Ahnenburg and the Tetracyclic Towers in Liberl and Orchis Tower in Crossbell. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s some sort of antenna meant to interface with the Octo-Genesis once all of them are gathered together. Note too how it’s present in almost every shot of Edith in the opening movie where the skyline is visible. It feels like they want it in the backs of our minds for a later reveal.
- For a random and possibly crazy prediction based on Cody being seen in a custom Hercules combat outfit, I’m going to guess that after three games of being the butt monkeys of the setting, Hercules is going to get a moment or two of actual competence for once.
- Marduk is going to be revealed at some point before the end of the arc, maybe not in Kuro II, to have been involved with Almata in a more direct way. We know they benefited from MTSC’s own mecha designs (instead of relying on Ouroboros models like everybody else, though they have a few of those too) but they could have procured them without the direct approval of the company. However, thanks to pre-release material there’s an interesting parallel in Crafts that strikes me as a bit suspicious. In Kuro, Melchior’s ability to create Shard-based duplicates of himself with his XIPHA is called ‘Phantom Vision’. In Kuro II, we see Risette getting one called ‘Mystic Vision’ with the exact same effect. Makes you wonder if they gave Almata that technology as a sort of field trial…
- This is more an observation than a prediction but the terminology Mare uses to describe Grendel in Japanese is ‘binding equipment’ (拘束具). This is the same term that Evangelion uses for the ‘armor’ that makes the titular entities (kind of) controllable. Grendel is implied to be doing something similar for Van, allowing him to use some of Vagrants-Zion’s power while not fully releasing the Devil. I’m going to call that the ‘Alter’ and ‘Sin’ version of Grendel that we saw represent the restrictions loosening, meaning that Van is able to access more of that power at the increased risk of being consumed by it, and that we’ll see him skirt the edge again in this game. We’ve already seen some possible hints in this direction in his new S-Craft, where he seems to be channeling some of Vagrants-Zion’s power in a controlled manner.
- Related to that, I’m going to call that there’s some connection between ‘Grendel Sin’ and the Crimson Sin of the title. No, I don’t know what, I just think it’s likely.
- Shards are channeling power from the Beyond, which explains some of the fantastic things they can do. We know that Grendel is related to the Beyond (via Vagrants-Zion) and is made of ‘high-density Shards’ and they can do some pretty spectacular things, including breaking the barrier around Vantail. If that barrier is anything like Aureole’s barrier (ie, a Sept-Terrion construct) then it would be fitting if it needed something from Beyond to break it, just like Loewe’s Divergent Laws sword was needed to break the one Aureole created. Also, we have many games worth of precedent for things demonic to be associated with Time and now with the Beyond… and virtually every single Hollow Core is literally the name of a demon. I don’t think this is a coincidence; they’re actually channeling the power of demons (whatever they really are) to make the XIPHA do some of the things we see.
- This is subtle, but I think we’re being played by both of our Dominion supporters. We have that interesting OP movie scene showing Celis facing off against Van and Rion which I think is an extension of Celis’ moment in the trailer where she seems to be reluctantly gunning for Van, and Rion is taking our side for whatever reason. That feels like a sideshow and distraction though, especially since Celis appears to be part of the Marchen Garten team, which means she should be a long-term ally. No, what I find interesting is two omissions, call it the curious incident of the Stigma invocation in the S-Crafts. ‘But Yotaka, there isn’t a Stigma invocation in the S-Crafts!’. Yes, that is the curious incident.
Every Dominion who we’ve seen use their Stigma as part of an S-Craft has made use of a formulaic invocation. We know that Rion and Celis have them because they both repeat the invocation twice in the first game (at Vashtar Palace, then when breaking the barrier around Vantail) and Celis even does it a third time during the Pandemonium Edith sequence, following it up with a second line that sounds like it belongs in an S-Craft. We’ve seen both of them use their S-Crafts in pre-release footage and while Rion does use the invocation, Celis noticeably does not. In fact, Celis’ quote doesn’t use the second part of the line that she had in the first game either. Now why would you record those if you’re not going to use them again, and why would Celis not use the invocation during her S-Craft that every other Dominion does?
There’s something else screwy too, when they helped break the Vantail barrier in Kuro, Celis and Rion shouted out names that sound like they would have been S-Crafts, Prominence Agion and Murgleys Pain respectively. Guess what else hasn’t appeared in Kuro II, in lieu of entirely new (and unrelated) names? Yeah, these two are both holding back on us, I think.