You play as the character Rean Schwarzer, who enrolls to the Thors Military Academy and became a part of Class VII, an experimental study group course that forced the nobles and commoners into one class section. Over the next six months course, Rean and his classmates find themselves lodged deep within Erebonia's complex political struggle as it begins to fracture over worsening class conflict, discovering hidden agendas and terrorist plots, threatening to enact chaos across the empire.
Much like its predecessors, the player explores a 3D environment that alternates between towns, dungeons and the overworld. Towns act as hub worlds; places where the player can purchase weapons, armor and items for use in battle, as well as talk to NPCs to receive sidequests and information about the world they live in. Dungeons are visibly filled with monsters and treasure chests, and occasionally feature light puzzle elements that the player must solve in order to progress. The overworld connects towns together to form the country of Erebonia, and functions similarly to a dungeon.
What makes Cold Steel unique is its structured gameplay cycle that conforms to the days of the calendar. Each cycle takes roughly one in-game month to complete, and all consist of the following:
Free days: On the second-to-last Sunday of each month, Thors shuts down all classes and lets its students roam freely throughout the campus and its nearby town, Trista. Most students, including those from Class VII, use this time to engage in club activities, but Rean finds himself unwittingly roped into helping the Student Council with its tasks. As such, each free day sees Rean completing a small number of sidequests on behalf of the council. Some are required, others are optional and yet others are hidden, but all provide a reward as well as a number of academic points (AP). Cumulative AP represents Rean's overall success as a student, and there are 15 achievable ranks from B7 to A0, each providing an extra reward.
Bonding events: In addition to his duties as an honorary member of the Student Council, Rean can hang out with his classmates - among others - during free days, by spending bonding points. Each free day provides a limited number of bonding points, one of which is received in the evening. Spending these points will deepen the relationship between Rean and his person of choice in the form of link experience, an extension of a system first introduced in Trails from Zero. There are five link levels from 1 to 5, and higher ranks bestow additional benefits to linked party members in battle. For more information on the link system, see the 'Battle System' subsection.
Schoolhouse mysteries: At the end of each free day, Rean must select up to five other members of Class VII to help him with the exploration of the Old Schoolhouse. This building is a mysterious multi-floored dungeon, with one new floor becoming available to explore every month. The exploration party is tasked with making their way to the depths of each floor, dealing with monsters and ancient switch mechanisms on the way. A dangerous boss awaits in these depths, and only upon defeating this boss will the story progress.
Practical exams: The Wednesday after the free day sees Instructor Sara test the mettle of Class VII with a practical exam. Opponents range from strange orbal puppets to rivals in other classes, and while winning the battle on its own is all that is required to advance the story, additional in-battle restrictions provide additional tactical challenge, giving Rean the opportunity to net some extra AP.
Field studies: On the Friday after the practical exam, Class VII is split into two groups, each of which goes to a different town or city across the empire in order to perform a field study. Generally lasting most of the weekend, it is during this time that the meat of the story takes place, as Rean and company learn about the culture and politics unique to each location. Typically, the group begins the field study with a set of sidequests similar to Rean's during his free day, and upon the completion of each set, the story advances and the political tension increases. The climax of each field study sees Class VII fighting an end-of-chapter boss as part of an attempt to stave off the immediate danger the various antagonists present.
Like previous games, Trails of Cold Steel features a 2D positional turn-based battle system, slightly modified by dispensing with classical grid-based movement, allowing the player to fine-tune the placement of characters during combat. Turn order is variable, depending on the combatants' SPD stat, as well as their choice of actions. This variability allows the two sides to vie for favourable turn bonuses, while attempting to force unfavourable ones onto the enemy.
Before the fighting begins, however, the player must prepare for battle through a thorough check of their equipment. As usual, support items can be bought from shops, as can the gear which will be slotted on their characters: weapons for offense, armor and boots for defense and two accessories for general purposes. Next, to enable the use of arts, orbment slots must be unlocked at orbal factories and equipped with quartz. Unlike previous games where a character's magical abilities were determined by the sepith elemental value on each line, Trails of Cold Steel has gone with a more streamlined system where quartz directly endow the user with arts, among other things. Furthermore, the master quartz system first introduced in Trails to Azure returns, providing an additional orbal source of skills and benefits.
Running into enemies on the field will initiate an encounter, though not all encounters begin in the same way. Ordinary encounters occur when the two parties face each other directly; if one finds themselves with their backs turned, the other will start with a turn order advantage. The player can also attack enemies on the field, and assaulting them from behind before confronting them will result in a double or triple advantage - the latter if the enemy was weak to the weapon in question. Double advantages grant all allies 10 CP, and on top of that, triple advantages inflict damage to all enemies.
Once in battle, there are six options available to the player on their turn, which function nearly identically to previous titles:
Attack: Performs a weak physical attack that depends on the character's STR and the opponent's DEF. Can unbalance (see below).
Move: Moves the character within a range determined by their MOV stat.
Item: Uses any consumable item.
Craft: Performs a character-specific skill that costs CP to use. Crafts can be physical or magical in nature, and are used instantly. Offensive crafts can unbalance unless otherwise specified.
Art: Performs a magic attack that costs EP to use. Damage depends on the character's ATS and the enemy's ADF, but they require time to cast. Offensive arts cannot unbalance.
Run: Commences an attempt to escape from battle. The base probability of escape is 60%, and increases or decreases depending on the encounter advantage and any special quartz equipped. If the attempt fails, the character loses their turn, and the next attempt to escape will enjoy a 10% increase in probability of success.
Furthermore, the player can intercept an enemy turn at any time by using a character's S-Craft, as long as said character has at least 100 CP.
The most major addition to Cold Steel's battle system is known as combat linking. It is considered to be the crowning feature of the ARCUS model battle orbment, endowing users with an intimate awareness of their comrades in battle. Every pair of playable characters possesses a link level determined by the amount of link experience gained, representing the bond between the two. As such, link experience rises with friendship and falls with conflict, and when that conflict gives way to dislike, the link may be severed entirely, if only temporarily. Characters will also gain link experience when fighting together in battle, and Rean, as the protagonist, has many other ways he can deepen his relationship with others, from spending bonding points to playing games of Blade.
The link system first comes into play when opponents are unbalanced, allowing the linked partner to perform a follow-up link attack. Every character's weapon is capable of performing at least one of four different attack types - slash, thrust, pierce and strike - and its proficiency in each is symbolized by a letter grade, ranging from D to S. Furthermore, every enemy carries an efficacy for each attack type, ranging from 0 to 4 stars. When a character uses certain attacks on an enemy and is linked with anther ARCUS user, the enemy can be unbalanced, with a probability that increases with letter grades and star rankings. As an exception, all appropriate attacks performed on criticals are guaranteed to unbalance.
There are many other perks to combat linking. As the plot progresses, two more link attacks can be performed. These attacks require Bravery Points (BP), which is accumulated as normal link attacks are performed, up to a maximum of 5. The first attack, called Rush, allows a linked pair to simultaneously attack a small group of enemies by spending 3 BP, and the second attack, called Burst, allows the entire party to simultaneously attack all enemies by spending 5 BP, as long as all party members are linked to someone. Furthermore, there are many character-specific skills that are gained with higher link levels. These can be offensive, as when finishing off a low-HP enemy after a follow-up attack, as well as supportive, such as healing a linked partner after taking damage.
In order to take a breather from the main content, the player can engage in several smaller activities at various points in the story, ranging from card games to school festival events.
Fishing is a long-standing tradition in the Kiseki series, and it returns to Cold Steel in a new form. The player is first introduced to it when Kenneth Lakelord suddenly appears in front of Rean to hand him a rod and fishing notebook, and from here Rean can fish whenever he spots a patch of disturbed water. Upon inspecting the location, Rean is prompted to select a rod, at which point the action begins. The player must first hit the select button as soon as a fish bites, and upon a successful hook must then press the corresponding buttons as they appear on screen before the time limit runs dry. A victorious catch will provide the player with various items and a certain amount of Angler Points (AP), depending on the size and type of fish caught. AP is used to buy items from Kenneth, and as Rean snags a wider variety of fish, his Angler Rank levels up, increasing the range of items available. In order to achieve the higher ranks, Rean must fish multiple times at each location. However, attempting this too many times will cause the remaining fish to scatter, at which point groundbait must be used to lure them back.
- Main article: Blade
The card game Blade was first introduced in Brandish, and in Cold Steel can be played on the train on the way to field study destinations. In it, two players take turns to vie for the higher score. Players cannot play a card that would result in a total less than their opponent's, and if the totals are the same, the two must redraw. Bolt cards remove the opponent's most recent card, 1 cards revive a bolted card, and Mirror cards switch the current totals. The game ends when one player cannot play a card to at least tie the score, resulting in their loss.
There are several other smaller activities peppered throughout the story. Whenever Rean finds himself in a swimming race, the player is presented with a brief rhythm game in which buttons must be pressed in sync in order to increase swimming speed. Several characters can ride through an equestrian course during the festival, where collecting flags and avoiding obstacles helps the jockey finish under the time limit. Finally, Mishy Panic is imported to Erebonia for the festival; the player gains points by whacking Evil Mishy but loses them by smacking others.
Moving away from the Crossbell setting in Trails from/to Zero and Azure, Trails of Cold Steel takes place in Erebonia, one of the largest and most powerful nations in Zemuria. Chronologically, the game runs parallel to some of the events of the Crossbell duology, starting in March S.1204 - roughly around the same time as the third chapter of Zero no Kiseki.
Despite its wealth and military prowess, Erebonia is in a state of political instability. The Orbal Revolution brought sweeping changes to the sociopolitical, economic, technological, and military landscape of the empire. Among the most significant changes was the formation of a class of powerful, educated commoners whose upward social mobility began to directly challenge the longstanding Erebonian nobility. With the rise of chancellor Giliath Osborne, the nobility has seen their power decline on multiple fronts. While many see this new class of commoners as a positive force of change in Erebonia, others have grown wary of Osborne's regime and his continued militarization of the empire. With tensions growing between supporters of each side, many worry about Erebonia's future.
The story of Trails of Cold Steel centers on Rean Schwarzer and his freshman year at Thors Military Academy, a famous school established by the late and great Emperor Dreichels Reise Arnor. Unbeknownst to him, Rean is enrolled as member of Class VII, a small group of students from various backgrounds and social classes gathered to take part in a pilot curriculum. Armed with state-of-the-art ARCUS orbments and donning unique red uniforms, Class VII embarks on an eventful first year that few students could ever imagine.
- Rean Schwarzer: Adopted son of Ymir's Baron Teo Schwarzer and student of the famed Eight Leaves One Blade school of swordsmanship. As the main protagonist, he enrolled in Thors in an attempt to find his own path in life, as well as come to terms with the strange power he holds within himself.
- Alisa Reinford: Daughter of the Reinford Group's chairman Irina Reinford, and wields an orbal bow in combat. She has a strained relationship with her mother and the company, and enrolled at Thors to assert her familial independence.
- Elliot Craig: Son of the 4th Armored Division's Lieutenant General Olaf Craig, and wields an orbal staff in combat. Skilled with the violin, his main love is music, but he enrolled at the half-military, half-liberal arts school Thors as a compromise with his father.
- Gaius Worzel: Part of a group of nomads of the Nord Highlands, and wields a spear in combat. On the recommendation of the 3rd Armored Division's Lieutenant General Zechs Vander, he enrolled at Thors, believing that deepening his understanding of the relationship between Erebonia and Nord will allow him to better protect his homeland.
- Machias Regnitz: Son of Imperial Governor Carl Regnitz, and wields a shotgun in combat. A combination of past trauma and family politics has led him to develop a deep-seated hatred of nobles, which only becomes more stark when he is forced to interact with them as a student of Thors' Class VII.
- Jusis Albarea: Son of the head of one of the Four Great Houses, Duke Albarea, and student of the court fencing school of swordsmanship. Despite good relations with his brother Rufus, the same cannot be said of his father, and Thors provides him with a place to thrive away from conflict.
- Laura S. Arseid: Daughter of Legram's Viscount Victor S. Arseid, and student of the Arseid school of swordsmanship. Despite nudges to enroll at St. Astraia Girls' School, Laura considered Thors to be a more suitable venue at which to improve her swordplay.
- Fie Claussell: Also known as Sylphid, she was raised by former leader of the Zephyr jaeger corps Rutger Claussell, and dual-wields gunswords in combat. Having been abandoned by Zephyr after their fatal clash with the Red Constellation, she came to Thors at the behest of Sara Valestein.
- Emma Millstein: Comes from a small, unknown village in Erebonia and uses an orbal staff in combat. Scoring first on Thors' entrance exams provided her with a hefty scholarship, allowing her to attend the academy with her feline friend Celine.
- Millium Orion: Also known as White Rabbit, she was raised as an Ironblood for Chancellor Giliath Osborne's Imperial Intelligence Division, and operates the orbal puppet Airgetlam in battle. Having first met Class VII during a field trip in Nord, she later joins them as a transfer student at the behest of the chancellor.
- Crow Armbrust: Emigrant of the Jurai Special Economic Zone, and dual-wields handguns in combat. Was part of the initial testing phase for Class VII along with three other students, but despite being a second-year he is forced to transfer into the real Class VII due to his failing grades.
- Sara Valestein: Also known as the Purple Lightning, she used to be an A-rank member of the Bracer Guild before her employment at Thors, and dual-wields a sword and gun in combat. As Class VII's homeroom teacher, she develops a unique educational program that draws from both the expected curriculum of a military academy as well as her experiences as a bracer.
- Angelica Rogner: The only daughter of Marquis Heidel Rogner of the Nortia Province, and student of the Taito school of martial arts. She never misses an opportunity to flirt with the women around her, but while her carefree attitude made her an ideal candidate to test Class VII's potential, it also puts her at odds with her father on occasion.
- Towa Herschel: The petite student council president of Thors. She adores her friends Angelica, Crow and George, who participated in the testing phase of Class VII alongside her.
- Rufus Albarea: The eldest son of Duke Helmut Albarea of the Kreuzen Province and one of three of Thors' board of directors. He likes to gently tease his younger brother Jusis whilst performing myriad duties in his father's place, and he does so with an unusual degree of both charisma and competency.
- Victor S. Arseid: Also known as the Radiant Blademaster, he presides over the Arseid school of swordsmanship as the Viscount of Legram, projecting an aura of immense strength and stability.
- Irina Reinford
- Carl Regnitz
- Patrick T. Hyarms
- George Nome
- Giliath Osborne
- Alfin Reise Arnor
- Olivert Reise Arnor
- Elise Schwarzer
- Claire Rieveldt
- Sharon Kreuger
- Michael Gideon
Prologue: "The Way to Thors"
Trails of Cold Steel begins at Garrelia Fortress, located on the eastern edge of the Erebonian Empire. The fortress is in chaos due to an attack by a heretofore-unknown assailant. A group of teenagers accompanied by two young adults rush indoors and are repulsed by the sight of numerous dead soldiers. Upon assessing the situation, the group quickly realizes that the enemy's attack was a diversion to let them reach the two railway guns stationed at the fortress. Using these weapons, the enemy plans to fire at a target in Crossbell, disrupting a trade conference currently in session and killing Chancellor Osborne in the process. Fearing the worst, the group rushes through Garrelia's interior, fighting off waves of archaisms along the way. After reaching an outdoor deck just below the railway guns, the group is attacked by two Zephryanthes archaisms. They do their best to quickly destroy these archaisms, but they're too late. The railways guns are deployed and the scene cuts away as Rean yells out in desperation.
The game then cuts to March 31, about three months prior to these events. Rean Schwarzer is seen arriving to Trista by train. After going around town and meeting some fellow students from Thors, he walks to campus to attend Principle Vandyck's opening speech. After the speech is over, most of the students leave the auditorium to attend their designated classes - with the exception of those in red uniforms. Recognizing these students' bewilderment, instructor Sara Valestein explains that their situation is a bit different from every other student's and tells them to join her at the Old Schoolhouse for an orienteering exercise.
Once inside the building, Sara reveals that they are part of Class VII, a newly-formed class that combines students from various backgrounds, including social class. This infuriates Machias Regnitz, who hates nobles and quickly butts heads with Jusis Albarea, a classmate from one of the Four Great Houses in Erebonia. Sara breaks up this squabble and proceeds to start the class's exercise proper. She presses a button on a nearby column and activates a trap door which sends Class VII falling a the basement level below - with the exception of Fie Claussell, who attempts to avoid the fall with a grappling string. Unfortunately, she is scolded by Sara, who snaps the string with a throwing knife and drops her into the basement like everyone else.
Upon dropping down into the basement, Rean finds himself in an awkward situation. He had attempted to save Alisa Reinford from falling, but had unfortunately caused her to land right on top of him with her chest on his face. Embarrassed and angry, Alisa impulsively slaps Rean and refuses to talk to him for a while. After everyone regains their bearings, Sara contacts them via their ARCUS units. She instructs them to pick up their weapons and master quartz, which were placed on stands around the perimeter of the room. Afterwards, Sara explains that the class's objective is to reach the basement's exit. Thus, Class VII splits up to look for the way out. Fie moves on alone, with Jusis and Machias following stead after getting into another argument. The remaining students split into two groups, with Gaius Worzel and Elliot Craig following Rean and Alisa and Emma Millstein following Laura Arseid.
The rest of the prologue is mostly a dungeon crawl with Rean, Gaius, and Elliot. Jusis eventually joins the team and they find their way to the exit, but not before being attacked by a statue turned monster called the Iglute Garmr. The quartet initially struggles to fight off this beast, but the rest of Class VII eventually come to their aid and they kill it together. Afterwards, Sara congratulates the students on a job well done and explains that their teamwork took advantage of the one the ARCUS units' key new features: combat linking. While Class VII is preparing to leave the old schoolhouse, principal Vandyck and a blonde-haired man dressed in red are seen overlooking the basement from afar and making small talk about their hopes from the class's future.
Chapter 1: "Unconventional Studies"
April came, and while the students of Class VII were already grappling with their challenging coursework. They received a sudden announcement that they were to take part in an unusual program—a series of ‘field studies.’
The class would be split into two groups, each sent to a different location in the empire to assist the local townships. Group A went to the rural town of Celdic, famous for the Grand Market. Through their tasks, they gained a greater understanding of one another, and all appeared to be going well on the surface, but that came to a sudden halt when they discovered that two market stalls had been vandalised during the still of night.
Determined to find the culprit, Group A made their way to the Lunaria Nature Park. They found and apprehended the group of bandits, but were immediately surrounded by the provincial army, who turned out to be in league with the bandits all along.
Just as the situation grew more dire by the second, the Railway Military Police, led by the notoriously brilliant Captain Claire, swiftly arrived at the scene. It was thanks to their timely intervention that the provincial army was forced to retreat, and the bandits were duly arrested for their crimes.
Their very first field study now at an end, Group A boarded the train back to Trista and reflected on the events that transpired over the course of their stay. It was then that Rean confessed to his fellow classmates that he was the adopted son of a baron—a noble. Surprising though it may have been, not a single one among them thought any less of him for it.
The evening concluded with smiles, each of them blissfully unaware of the two ominous figures who were watching their train head into the distance...
Chapter 2: "The Verdant City"
May came, filling the town of Trista with greenery. Meanwhile, Class VII’s schedule was growing busier by the day. Rean found himself at odds with Machias for keeping his noble status a secret. But he also learned more about his fellow classmates, including the fact that Emma was caring for a black cat named Celine.
As the days passed, the time for their second field study arrived, and the newly-organized Group A was assigned to Jusis’ hometown of Bareahard. This would hardly make the trip easy, however, as the utterly incompatible Jusis and Machias were forced to be part of the same team yet again. To the surprise of no one, the boys were bickering in record time.
The trivial squabbles one after another resulted in a number of setbacks—something they became keenly aware of when one particularly heated argument resulted in Rean sustaining injury during battle. Despite these moments of frustration, they at least felt they would be able to fully complete their assigned tasks.
To add to the growing unpleasantness, however, they were given a stark reminder of how grave the tensions between the nobles and the Reformist Faction were. When they discovered that the provincial army was greatly expanding its armaments.
With neither of them able to get much sleep that night, Jusis revealed to Rean that his background was less perfect than anyone in Class VII realized: his mother was a commoner, making him the mere bastard son of Duke Albarea. Machias, overhearing this, stepped forward the next morning to make peace, and their field study finally seemed as if it would go smoothly. No sooner had reconciliation happened, was Jusis abruptly summoned to his home, leaving the rest of the group no choice but to proceed without him.
They completed their morning tasks outside the city with little trouble, but immediately upon returning to Bareahard, Machias was arrested without probable cause by the provincial army. Rean, Emma, and Fie agreed that rescuing him was to be their top priority. As the three were discussing just how to go about that, they learned from a bracer passing through—Toval, of a waterway that led precisely to where Machias was being held.
Conveniently, the complex waterway led to quite a few places, including the Albarea mansion; they were soon reunited with Jusis this way, who had learned what happened and escaped from his home to set things right.
As they approached a massive, heavy door, Fie, who revealed she was once a jaeger, made the impassable easily passable, and they were able to successfully free Machias from his cell. On their way out, they were cornered by two large dog-like beasts from the military. However, thanks in no small part to Jusis and Machias forming a successful combat link, they emerged victorious.
But their celebrations were short lived, as they were surrounded yet again—only this time, it was by the provincial army. Even having Jusis at their side gained them no sympathy. It was only when Instructor Sara and Rufus—Jusis' older brother—appeared that they were saved from peril.
Group A’s field study had come to an end, but on a much less positive note compared to their first. On the train, they gloomily discussed the factional conflict Erebonia faced. Instructor Sara attempted to cheer them up—and succeeded—even if it was more because they were laughing at her than with her.
Meanwhile, a mysterious young girl with a silver puppet nonchalantly watched them depart...
Chapter 3: "Beyond the Railways"
June heralded the beginning of Class VII’s first midterms, as well as the onset of Trista’s rainy season. In the midst of this, the Reinford family’s maid, Sharon, was appointed caretaker of Class VII’s dormitory and with her came the revelation that Alisa was the daughter of the Reinford Company’s chairman.
All performing to the best of their abilities, Class VII scored better in the midterms than any other class. This news didn’t go down well with the nobles of Class I, of course, and the besmirched upper class students challenged Class VII to a duel. Class VII was victorious here as well, leading to a tirade of insults from Patrick Hyarms that were only stopped by Gaius’ interference.
The time had come for Class VII to prepare for their next field study, and Group A’s latest destination was the Nord Highlands, Gaius’ homeland. The journey was exceptionally longer than anywhere they had been previously, and while briefly stopped at Roer station, they encountered Alisa’s mother, Chairman Irina.
After a grueling eight-hour journey, they finally reached the Nord Highlands to the northeast. It was plain to see how Gaius had grown up with endless patience and kindness upon meeting his family, who gave Group A a warm, warm welcome. After a night of sleep, they took off on horseback to begin working.
The highlands were as vast as they were beautiful, and their time spent there was both challenging and rewarding in equal measure. During their stay, they also happened to meet the former chairman of the Reinford Group, Gwyn Reinford—Alisa’s grandfather.
At night while gazing at the stars together, Alisa privately told Rean about the discord between her and her mother, as well about when she lost her father. Gloomy as her expression was in the beginning, she felt a weight being lifted off her shoulders the longer they talked, and it was soon replaced by her usual sweet smile. Unfortunately, the night ended with her cheeks turning as red as their uniforms when she realized their classmates had overheard part of her and Rean’s conversation.
The next morning, they were informed that the watchtower surveying the border of the Calvard Republic had come under attack. The previously peaceful highlands suddenly became tense, with airships from both sides ominously circling the skies. And knowing that war could break out over a misunderstanding at any moment, Group A motioned to conduct their own inquiry into the true culprits responsible.
They found out just who those culprits were from an unlikely source: Millium, the strange girl accompanied by the silver puppet. It was her help that made their capture swift and decisive, although the man pulling the strings, known as ‘G,’ or ‘Gideon,’ managed to make his escape. Thanks to both Group A and the efforts of the Intelligence Division’s Captain Lechter, war was successfully averted. Captain Lechter quickly arrived to take control of the situation and just as quickly left, taking Millium with him; it was then discovered that she was also from the Intelligence Division.
Later that evening, Sara and Sharon both witnessed G and a masked man departing on a jet-black airship.
The next morning, Group A bade a sad farewell to Gaius’ family and Gwyn. Their field study was over. They left the land of Nord behind, knowing full well that the experience had been one they would never forget.
Chapter 4: "A Midsummer's Revels"
July had come, and preparations were underway for Heimdallr’s month-late celebration of the Summer Festival. At the academy, the addition of swimming lessons to the schedule put a spring into the step of Rean and his friends. However, Laura and Fie’s already-strained relationship was reaching a breaking point due to the gulf between their beliefs.
A surprise visit from Elise, Rean's younger sister, led to an argument between the adoptive siblings and when Rean saw her in danger soon after, he lost control of a strange power that dwelt within him. Fortunately, Crow stepped in to help, and ultimately, no one was harmed in the incident.
The time came for the month’s field study. Unlike past studies, both groups were assigned to the same location: the Erebonian capital of Heimdallr. They worked their way through the tasks given to them by Governer Regnitz, Machias’ father and a show of strength by Elliot led Laura and Fie to settle their differences through a formal duel.
After the battle, Fie revealed that the jaeger corps she belonged to was among the strongest and was called ‘Zephyr.’ After opening up to one another, their uncomfortable feud seemed to be put to rest once and for all, much to Machias and Rean’s joy.
The next day, a visit to Machias’ house led him to reveal some of his own past. Machias concluded his story by telling his classmates that his hate for the nobility was slowly subsiding, something everyone warmly welcomed.
Now back to work, Class VII received a series of frustrating and obtuse riddles from the famed Phantom Thief B, challenging them to find something he had delightfully stolen: the Crimson Tiara. Undaunted, they rose to the challenge, and once that had recovered the tiara, they received a call from Instructor Sara. She asked them to gather at St. Astraia Girls’ School, the school that young Elise attended.
They even met with Elise before the gates of St. Astraia, and she elegantly led them to a stunning indoor rose garden. More stunning than the rose garden, however, was the sight of the princess of Erebonia: Alfin Reise Arnor. Even Prince Olivert, Chairman of Thors’ board of directors, came to meet them.
That night, the prince informed them of the reasons that their class was put together. He explained his desire to cultivate the youth of tomorrow—those who could overcome the conflicts in the world. However, he warned that the other directors had their own ideas on what they wanted from Class VII.
It was for that reason they were all left pondering harder than ever about what they could, and should, do as a class. Several other strange conversations followed, such as when they found out Sara had once been a bracer, or how Rean was invited to be Alfin’s dance partner and finally, they were asked for help with an important mission by Captain Claire. Specifically, they were asked to help with security for the festival, which was believed to be the target of terrorists.
The next morning, they began their patrols of the festival as requested. The parade came to an end without incident, but just as they thought they were in the clear, chaos erupted in Dreichels Plaza. Rean and friends quickly realized this was a diversion, and leaving Towa in charge, they hurried to Princess Alfin’s side.
Upon arriving, they found the garden party where she was in attendance under attack by the terrorists. The attack was led once again by G, and Princess Alfin and Elise were both taken hostage. Rean’s party pursued them beneath the city. G summoned a mighty bone dragon, and while quite the challenge, they were able to defeat it.
Though the dragon had fallen, three more members of the terrorist group made their appearance: V, S, and their leader, C. C challenged Rean, Laura, and Fie to a duel, and his victory proved both swift and effortless. It wasn’t long before the Railway Military Police found their way into the catacombs as well, and the terrorists fled the scene, triggering an explosive in the process. As they made their escape, they finally announced their organization’s name: the Imperial Liberation Front.
The three-day long festival came to an end, and Class VII readied themselves to return to Trista. They were seen off by Princess Alfin, Elise, Governor Regnitz, and Crown Prince Cedric. But before they could leave, an unexpected man arrived to also bid them farewell. It was the ‘Blood and Iron Chancellor,’ Giliath Osborne—the man behind driving the Bracer Guild from most of Erebonia.
Disregarding that Sara was clearly not happy to see him, he gave his own encouragement to Class VII. Telling them: ‘Nurture the bonds you share, and train up bodies and wills of steel.’ As he spoke, Rean felt an aching in the left side of his chest, causing Elise to look on with concern...
Chapter 5: "Signs and Omens"
The heat of August beat down upon Trista, but none of Class VII’s nobles elected to return home, as was their right. So it was that all were present to greet two surprising mid-year additions to the class. The first was a familiar face: second-year student Crow Armbrust was forced to join their ranks in order to make up credits. While the second, young Millium Orion, was an operative from the Intelligence Division they had met in Nord. Contrary to expectations, it wasn’t long before Millium fit in so well, it was as if she had always been there.
The time for their next field study came, and Group A was sent to Laura’s hometown of Legram. And once they completed their field study tasks, they were instructed to meet with Group B and travel to Garrelia Fortress. In Legram, they were reunited with Toval and helped to train several Arseid school students. Rean also had the chance to duel Laura’s father, Viscount Arseid, also widely known as the Radiant Blademaster.
The viscount sensed Rean’s fear of using his hidden abilities and forced him into utilizing them anyway. And through this, he taught him the importance of accepting yourself for who you are.
The next day, the Noble Faction’s leader, Duke Cayenne, paid a surprise visit to the town. Troubled by recent developments in the faction, Viscount Arseid left Legram with Toval. And Group A was left to look after the town while completing their remaining tasks.
That night, they had to travel to a nearby castle to rescue two young children who had wandered inside its perilous corridors. Thanks to Emma’s knowledge of the occult and the timely aid of a mysterious knight, they managed to do so.
The next morning, they departed Legram as per their schedule and made their way to Celdic Station to meet with Group B. There, they saw a special train taking Chancellor Osborne and Prince Olivert to the trade conference in Crossbell. To Rean’s surprise, he saw it pass in slow motion, as he could clearly see Osborne, Olivert, and Towa on board.
The two groups reunited soon thereafter, finally making their way towards Garrelia Fortress. The fortress stood as a vast wall between Erebonia and its longtime enemy, the Calvard Republic. While also possessing two huge railway guns capable of targeting Crossbell City, which stood between the two. Upon arriving, they were shown inside by Major Neithardt, their military science instructor at the academy. And they soon met Elliot’s father, Lt. General Craig, and witnessed a military exercise.
They were stunned by the overwhelming power the weaponry on display possessed. In the end, each of them left with the sinking feeling that all the combat skills they were learning at Thors were for naught. Once they recovered from the shock of yesterday’s events, they were given a lecture by Sara and Neithardt.
They were soon bombarded with the news of terrorists attacking Crossbell—specifically, the site of the trade conference. And no sooner had they heard this did the fortress itself come under attack by out of control, unmanned tanks. This was followed by the arrival of two black airships belonging to the Imperial Liberation Front. Amid the chaos, Class VII resolved to aid Sara and Neithardt in subduing the terrorists. They learned their aim was to activate the two railway guns and use them to attack the trade conference and that by doing so, they intended to bury Chancellor Osborne—with little concern over how many innocents died with him.
After a fierce battle, Group A defeated S, now known as Scarlet, one of the terrorist executives. Meanwhile, Group B defeated V, revealed to be Vulcan, and together, they were able to prevent the worst case scenario. Regrettably, both terrorist executives were allowed to escape by the sudden arrival of an airship. And the voice of their leader, C, delivered a chilling warning of their next attack before the airship took to the skies.
Chapter 6: "Progressive Chaos"
In September, Thors' board of directors convened for their regular meeting. The three directors, each related to a member of Class VII, debated how the academy ought to be run. They ended up voting on whether Class VII would continue their field studies in light of the events at Garrelia Fortress. Prince Olivert delivered a rousing speech in favor of their continuation and in the end, all three directors consented, paving the way for September’s field study to go forward.
Meanwhile, all of Thors was in the midst of preparing for the academy festival that was scheduled for the end of October. And Class VII was struggling to think of something that they could do for it with their small numbers. Eventually inspiration came to them in the form of a hint from Towa. Their contribution would be a live musical performance on stage.
The day came for their next field study to begin, and they were summoned to the academy field. Once there, they heard an unusual, surprising sound—a crimson airship hovered above them. Its name was the Courageous, and notably on board were Prince Olivert, Toval, and its captain, Viscount Arseid.
It was decided that Class VII was to be taken to their field study location by airship, and everyone stepped on board. After the Courageous was shown off to the people of Heimdallr, it flew to Roer, where Group A alighted. Roer was a large industrial city, home to the Reinford Group’s corporate HQ and Reinford family residence.
Once there, they set about working through the tasks Alisa’s mother, Irina Reinford, gave them. But later that day, they came upon a dire conflict between the provincial army and Railway Military Police. Rufus and Captain Claire’s appearance prevented things from escalating further, but it was clear that something was amiss.
That night, Alisa’s mother was forced to cancel dining with them, irritating Alisa to no end. Alisa later revealed to Rean more about her family and her concerns relating to Irina’s destructive work ethic. No sooner had they finished speaking did Rean receive a call from Captain Claire, who asked if the two could meet privately at a nearby bar. He agreed, but not before escaping Fie’s notice. Rean spotted her as he left the building, and the two decided to meet Captain Claire together.
The captain informed them of conflicts within the Reinford Group, and expressed how there was a chance the RMP could personally investigate the matter. The next morning, along with their new field study tasks, Class VII agreed to look into the matter of the conflicts themselves. While they were doing so, a more pressing problem arose—a fire at a military factory in town.
And no sooner had that been resolved did they receive word that terrorists had occupied Sachsen Iron Mine. The provincial army sealed the mine off under the pretext of protecting the hostages from being harmed. But it was clear to all that their true aim was to stop the Railway Military Police from going inside.
While Group A pondered their options, Angelica and George arrived in the city after a long bike ride. Angelica believed her family was involved in all of this, and that she had a duty to stand up and fight. They all agreed to help her, and Alisa went to see her mother to try and find another way into the mine. Irina, seeing her daughter’s newfound determination, gave them a key card, allowing them to sneak into the mine. They traveled through an underground passage connecting Roer and the mine and began searching for the miners.
Partway through the mine, they found most of the hostages, and Crow volunteered to take them back to the surface with him. Thanks to George’s guidance, they eventually reached the central control room, where they found Vulcan. He revealed that he had once been a jaeger—one that Fie herself knew of. They defeated him, but then the terrorist leader, C, appeared. Unlike their first bout in Heimdallr, however, Group A was finally able to best C in battle.
However, C managed to escape, and in their place rose the familiar sight of the terrorists’ black airship. At that moment, the RMP and provincial army made their way in, but they immediately began bickering amongst themselves. C’s derisive words filled the area as the airship rose upwards...and were all of a sudden replaced by the sound of a gunshot.
Its engine hit, the airship exploded into a violent mess midair before their eyes. The provincial army saw this as a vital chance to take control of the scene, but those hopes were quickly dashed when Prince Olivert intervened. He effortlessly took command and ordered a full investigation into what happened. Any and all disputes were effectively dissolved.
In addition, Captain Claire and Sharon had a cryptic conversation that very same night...
Memoir: "Returning Home"
As the calendar transitions from September to October, the crimson coloured train Eisengraf makes its way through the dense coniferous forest known as Schwarzwald between Roer and Ymir, carrying on board are the members of Class VII, their seniors and Reinford maid Sharon. As Rean looks to the snow-covered Eisengard mountain range, he is baffled that his return home for the first time in six months would be with a group this large and diverse.
As the Eisengraf comes to a halt at the base of the mountain Ymir is situated on, the group disembarks the train at Platform 1/3 and witness the scenery of red and yellow trees growing across the mountain range. As it is the first day of October in the northern part of the empire, they can hardly ignore the chilly weather that will only continue to cool off as they scale the 1500-2000-arge mountain. Awaiting them is Claire Rieveldt, who says Chancellor Osborne thought it would be a nice surprise to have the group escorted with the Eisengraf. Claire just returned from investigating the derailed train incident in West Crossbell, leaving the group to wonder whether the Imperial Liberation Front they thought to have destroyed could have been responsible when they are interrupted by Elise Schwarzer, who welcomes them and escorts them to the funicular.
The orbal cable car starts climbing the mountain, which has become covered in the crimson leaves of Autumn. Elise curtly answers Rean that she is doing fine and greets the other members of Class VII, after which she is first introduced to Towa, Angelica and George. It takes the funicular approximately 10 minutes to climb 600 arges to safely bring the students to their destination, the Hot Springs Paradise known as Ymir.
As the students take in the rustic scenery and wooden structures in Ymir, Alisa reminisces the trip to Ymir she once made with when her father was still alive, a winter 9 years prior. Elise guides the group to their lodging, pointing to The Phoenix Wings, which Ymir had once received as a gift from the Imperial family. The branch manager guides the students to their rooms, specifically welcoming Rean back. Before he can enter the men's room, he reassures Elise that he will greet their parents later on.
After lunch, as Sara and Class VII's seniors each explore the village and its hot springs on their own, Class VII decides to get some work done first: their performance for the Thors festival, for which Elliot and Crow had finished their proposal. Elliot came prepared and brought his own orbal stereo, including recordings of the songs they would be performing. Elliot revealed and explained the formation and division of vocals and instrumentation. Crow similarly showed off the costumes he had designed specifically for their performance. They had decided that Rean will play lead guitar, with Alisa on side guitar, Gaius on bass, Laura on drums and Elliot on keyboard. Providing the vocals for the first soon would be Jusis and Machias, backed up by Rean, and for the second song Emma, Fie and Millium, backed up by Alisa.
Jusis and Machias simulatenously protest to the proposal. Crow responds he understands their position, but that it really is the best setup. He asks if they are really willing to lose to Class I over something like this, which was enough to shut up both Jusis and Machias. Emma is similarly flustered, but Crow argues that having Alisa or Laura on vocals would not offer the twist he was looking for. He explains Emma should remove her glasses and highlight the discrepancy between her and her petite supports. Alisa nods, removes Emma's glasses and calls out Sharon, instructing her to brush Emma's hair. In the blink of an eye, Emma had become a glamerous beauty albeit one with watery eyes. Alisa is satisfied with her work and Laura audibly wonders whether this look would not be a better fit for Emma in daily life. Fie and Millium also agree and Emma sighs, realising her resistance is futile.
Gaius returns the discussion to the instrumentation. Elliot explains that Gaius' experience with playing the sitar should help him play the boss. Laura's sense of rhythm and strength makes her best suited to play drums. Rean and Alisa's experience with playing the lute and violin, respectively, should help them in mastering the orbal guitar, Elliot continues. With a little smile, he adds that if his reasoning is flawed they should just practice until they know how to play it. Both Rean and Alisa break into a sweat whereas Gaius simply nods in agreement and Laura finds the prospect interesting.
The impossible performance was made possible by Elliot's efforts and Crow getting carried away, whereas the others prepared themselves for the worst. They all decided to start their practice in earnest as soon as they returned home and would use their stay in Ymir to nurture the spirit required to do so.
That afternoon, Rean walks about through the town of Ymir and brings a visit to acquaintances. They greet him with both 'Master Rean' and just 'Rean', demonstrating that the Schwarzer Barony does not particularly adhere to formalities. He runs into Emma, who has put back on her glasses back and returned her hair to its original state. She is accompanied by Celine, who reveals she boarded the train right before its departure. Rean startles Emma by asking why she is wearing glasses without strength. She had not thought he would have noticed. She quickly replies that it is like a prayer.
Laura and Angelica are caught up in a talk about martial arts. Although the two having things in common - "well-mannered nobleman's daughter,"[JP 1] "magnanimous beauty,"[JP 2] "popular among the same sex,"[JP 3] - they vastly differ in other ways - "stoic seeker of the way,"[JP 4] "whimsical hedonist".[JP 5] Angelica says she was thinking to leave "that way" to Laura after her graduation and, with a glint in her eye, wonders if they should continue their talk in the baths. Laura dismisses her proposal, stating she rather avoids making a fuss. When Rean runs into Towa at a different place, he casually mentions that Angelica was in high spirits.
In the north of Ymir, situated at the end of a hill road, is the residence of Baron Schwarzer. It may not look like a mansion, but it has been Rean's true home until half a year ago and has fond memories of the place. Rean thinks to himself that he would not return here until he would have found his own way in life, but tries to reassure himself that he did grow up a little over the past six months.
Rean is welcomed by his fosther mother, Lucia Schwarzer, and his sister. His foster father, Teo Schwarzer, returns from his hunt soon thereafter. Rean also greets their hunting dog and horse, Badeaux and Arthur. As Rean plays with the animals, Teo asks whether Rean is going to introduce his family to his friends, who have been waiting in front of the mansion's gate.
After Rean's friends continue their exploration of Ymir, he himself winds down at his parents' home. While Lucia prepares tea, Rean and Elise briefly stop by at his old room. Rean remarks how clean his room is, leaving Elise to sigh that she wanted to clean up his room for his return to Ymir but their mother had already done a job most excellent. Their eyes fall on the Eastern scroll in Rean's room, reading 'a mind free of worldly matters'.[JP 6] They wonder how Yun Ka-fai is doing as Teo steps in, stating that Rean's old master visited Ymir two months prior. Rean inquired whether Ka-fai said anything about him, to which Teo responded by handing him a letter.
The letter, from Eight Leaves One Blade founder Yun Ka-fai to Rean, who had been a practicioner for almost seven years now, featured instructions to the young swordsman. The letter updates Rean on his current status, informs him that he won't be able to visit Erebonia for a while and expresses his surprise that Rean still hasn't found the way. The letter concludes with "The seventh form that I have taught to you is 'Void.' Remember: form is emptiness, and emptiness is form. I want you to take the meaning of those words to heart."[JP 7] Homework from an old man, Teo summarises Ka-fai's letter. He recommends Rean to give it some thought in the hot springs together with his friends. Lucia then calls that the tea is ready and the Schwarzer family enjoys some brief quality time together for the first time in half a year.
As Rean heads out, Elise asks if he's dropping by again tomorrow. Lucia interjects, wondering what happened to the girl who insisted on going to St. Astraia to be out of her brother's sight. Flustered, Elise barges back into the house to clean up the tea. Teo answers that it has been 3 years since she found out that Rean was adopted. Lucia comments that their problems would be solved if Rean were to just take her as his bride, but Teo argues that Rean needs to be more than just a good son to give him his daughter. She calls him immature and wonders what the girls at Thors Military Academy could mean for Rean's future. Lucia immediately notices that an earlier conversation with Victor S. Arseid comes to her husand's mind. He points out that the crisis with the terrorist may have been resolved, the underlying problems, however, are far from solved and hopes his children will have a safe future.
Rean, still thinking about Ka-fai's letter, is greeted by his friend with whom he has the highest bonding level. When they ask whether how Rean's sister was doing, he responded in a way clearly not understanding their question. Discussing Ka-fai's letter, they return to the dining hall of the Phoenix Wings.
The group spends their dinner in harmony with the highly nutritous wild duck hunter earlier by the baron and a colourful dish full of herbs and vegetables raised by Lucia herself. They discussed the beauty of Ymir and their preparations for the school festival. The conversation flowed into more serious topics, such as the tension between noble and reformist faction, and the Imperial Liberation Front. Sara points out that there has been no sign of other ILF members, meaning the terrorist group has completely been wiped out, but the mystery as to who shot down their aircraft still remains. The tension between the noble and reformist faction has temporarily settled down thanks to a warning from the Emperor himself, but fundamentally nothing has been solved and it is only a matter of time before Rean and his classmates are dragged back to reality.
"That's why it's better to get excited for the school festival," Crow comments. The school festival is visited by nobility and commoners alike, and having them gather in the same space and enjoy the same event is what they should aim for. Towa hopes that Class VII's performance, and their mixed backgrounds, helps the audience broaden their perspective on the matter. Sara proposes a toast to beat Patrick T. Hyarms and his Class I's performance, but Towa and Machias remind her that students are not allowed to drink. After the dinner, the groups split in two to soak in the hot springs. Afterwards, they enjoyed a round of billiard and board games. In the end, Fie and Millium proposed a pillow fight. Even Sara and Class VII's seniors joined in on the battle until the inn's manager found out about their pillow fight and lectured them.
At night, Rean, Elliot, Machias, Gaius and Jusis were fast asleep in the beds in the men's bedroom, a large room decorated with simple, but good designed furniture following an underlying theme of black and white. Alisa, Laura, Emma, Fie and Millium slept in the large women's bedroom; Sara, Towa and Angelica in a medium bedroom and Crow and George in the smallest. Among the men, one was awake and pondering the contents of his master's letter. He ponders the meaning behind "The seventh form that I have taught to you is 'Void.' Remember: form is emptiness, and emptiness is form," and comes up with an interpretation: the whereabouts of one's own heart. He decides to get out of bed, still unsure whether he'd go outside or hit the hot springs, and leaves the bedroom.
Downstairs, the lobby is lit with dim light. Rean finds Angelica, who apparently just returned from the hot spring, gazing at the night sky. "Want one, too?", Angelica suddenly asks him, inviting him to a drink. Rean immediately noticed something was off about her behaviour. [...]
Final Chapter: "Put to the Test"
Safely back from their brief trip to Ymir, Rean and his classmates began practicing for their upcoming concert. Under the watchful eyes of Elliot and Crow, they put all they had into their practice sessions. And thanks in part to the fact that they weren't all complete amateurs, they were finally ready to perform. The time came for the preparatory day before the festival.
Rean chose a classmate to accompany him to collect the finished outfits from a boutique in Heimdallr, but walking out with the outfits in tow, he ran into someone he wasn't expecting to see. It was the the famous opera singer, Vita Clotilde, also known as the Azure Diva. Although, Rean was more familiar with her as Misty, the host of a radio program broadcast in Trista. Having met her once already, Rean took the chance to invite her to attend the festival and watch their concert.
The time finally came for the two-day long festival to begin.
Rean spent the first day helping the Student Council, visiting attractions with classmates in his spare time. As the day came to an end, Class VII gathered for a final meeting to discuss the concert being held the next day. During their discussions, however, they heard the sound of a bell chiming from far away. The source of the chiming turned out to be the old schoolhouse that they had become so well acquainted with.
Given permission by Sara and Principal Vandyck, they descended to the lowest floor. Each and every one of them were stunned by its new appearance. Guided by Emma and Celine, who seemed to know something, they resolved to restore the building back to normal. Eventually, they found themselves in what could only be described as an otherworldly battlefield, face to face with a monstrous black shadow.
After a challenging battle, they were able to defeat it, overcoming the trial that it represented. They were transported and knocked out in the aftermath, but once they’d opened their eyes, they discovered the building was back to normal. Suddenly, a door that was before them opened. On the other side stood a giant humanoid. A seven-arge tall, ash colored ‘knight.’
The next day, the second day of the festival began. Rean managed to put the knight out of his mind enough to focus on showing Elise, who had come to visit, around the academy campus. During that afternoon, the time finally came for their concert. Each of them gave their all to their performance, and they were able to finish both songs. When the audience feverishly called for an encore, Class VII was more than prepared to perform a third. During the third song, the audience was invited to sing along, and the concert proved to be an immense success.
After the concert, the afterparty began. Rean thanked Crow for all that he had done for him. Encouraged by Elise, Rean also decided to spend some one-on-one time with someone close to him. Unfortunately, the party was brought to an abrupt end by a shocking proclamation from Principal Vandyck.
He appeared to tell them that Garrelia Fortress in the east had vanished without a trace. A week passed since then, and the air in Erebonia was more tense than ever before. It was concluded that the fortress' disappearance was due to an attack by Crossbell State and it was shortly announced that Chancellor Osborne would be making a speech to the nation at noon.
Rean and his classmates chose to listen to the speech through a radio in their classroom. Only Crow was missing, having supposedly gone to Heimdallr to hear the speech in person. The time for the speech finally came. Osborne's words were forceful and provocative, making it clear that it would end in a declaration of war. And not just against Crossbell, but against the Calvard Republic as well, who was believed to be backing the state.
However, just as he was about to make that decisive declaration... The sound of a gunshot resounded throughout the skies of the capital. The left side of Osborne's chest was pierced, and he collapsed to the ground in a pool of his own blood. The spectators led out terrified screams as they watched in horror. The sniper who shot him was none other than C, the Imperial Liberation Front leader who was believed to have met his end in Roer.
And his true identity was revealed to be a former member of Class VII: Crow Armbrust.
Meanwhile, the students of Thors were able to witness the whole string of events through the radio broadcast. At first, they were merely listening to what was happening, but then 'Misty' spoke directly to them. After she spoke, the classroom was filled with the echo of an eerie chant, and a window into what was happening appeared before them.
Emma shared details about Vita, the Witch of the Abyss, whom she described as something of a sister to her. However, they were all too shocked by what was happening to pay any real attention to her words. As they watched the glimmering visions of the capital before them, a giant silver airship appeared from above the clouds.
Countless humanoids began to fall from it, all of which immediately set about taking over the city. They were seven-arge tall knights known as Panzer Soldats, made with modern orbal technology. The Noble Alliance had built them some time in advance—all in preparation for this day. The Soldats used their incredible mobility to overwhelm the main battle tanks guarding Heimdallr. And in no time at all, they reached Valflame Palace, making their occupation of the city complete. In command of that operation were members of Zephyr, the jaeger corps that Fie once belonged to.
Nearby, Vita Clotilde stood on top of Heimdallr’s opera house, blissfully watching the silver ark descend on the palace. She was met by Bleublanc, who praised her work, addressing her as Ouroboros’ Second Anguis. With an elegant smile, she accepted his words, then confidently issued a proclamation: ‘The bells are tolling for Crossbell, and preparations here are complete. Still, even this grand an undertaking is but a jewel in a greater crown...the second stage of the Orpheus Final Plan. The symphony awaits us. Let the second movement commence.’
Meanwhile, Rean and his classmates weren't allowed much time to process what they had just seen. Not long after their window on Heimdallr closed, they realized that Soldats were fast approaching Trista, too. Sara, Neithardt, the principal and several other instructors defended the west exit valiantly. Eventually they also received the aid of Sharon, who revealed herself to be an Enforcer of Ouroboros. But while they still had their hands full, another group of Soldats began approaching from east of the town.
As such, Class VII resolved to protect the east exit themselves. The battle for Trista began. First, Class VII fought against a Drakkhen Soldat, and by aiming for its joints, they emerged victorious. But in a sad twist of fate, they were powerless to defeat the much stronger Spiegel unit the terrorist Scarlet was piloting.
Rean resolved to use the power deep within him as a last resort..."DOST THOU DESIRE THE POWER?" But before he could, he heard a voice resound in his mind. He was standing in a strange empty space. Before him stood Celine, who urged him to call the voice's name. Loudly and clearly, he did just that: ‘Heed my call...Valimar, the Ashen Knight!’
With a bang, the humanoid that they found in the old schoolhouse came flying through the air towards them. It landed, and Rean entered its core along with Celine. Although he had never seen the inside of such a thing before, he instinctively knew how to pilot it, and with that knowledge he was able to easily best Scarlet’s Spiegel.
The air was filled with the cheers of his classmates, but they were soon silenced by a familiar voice. 'Whoa, whoa, hold up just a sec. Aren't you forgetting something?' It came from above. The source of the voice was a large, blue humanoid, one similar to the Divine Knight Rean was piloting.
It was the Azure Knight, Ordine, piloted by none other than Crow.
Rean despaired at the thought of having to fight him after all the time they had spent together. He tried whatever he could to reason with him, desperately attempting to avoid any further conflict. Yet Crow refused to listen, and with a wry smile, he declared that the Crow Rean thought he knew was never real. Nonetheless, Rean made one last ditch attempt at trying to change his mind. ‘So that’s the plan if you win, huh? But what about if I win?’
Rean trusted that Crow would come back to him and the rest of Class VII if he proved victorious, and the battle between the two Divine Knights began.
The power of Crow's Azure Knight was immense. But Rean fought back as hard as he could, and he found himself able to fight on equal terms. Finally, Rean saw the decisive opening he’d been searching for: 'Enlightened Domination!' The Azure Knight fell to its knees from the impact of Valimar and Rean's attack. His classmates cried out with relief... but that relief was not to last.
The next moment, the Azure Knight transformed. Surging with mana, it drew closer to the Ashen Knight. Rean was stunned. All it took was a single hit from Ordine to send him flying backwards, defeated. His consciousness began to fade, and all he could do was wince in fear as the Azure Knight approached. Without hesitation, his classmates stood between him and Ordine in a protective stance.
They didn't have a chance of defeating it, but they were determined not to let it draw any closer to Rean. Together, they resolved to buy him the time to escape, believing that he could one day bring the war to an end. Rean tried to protest, but Celine ordered Valimar to retreat from the area. Rean cried out in objection, his consciousness growing ever fainter. From outside, one of his close friends bade him a private farewell. It was clear from their voice how much they cared for him; how prepared they were to face anything, even death.
Fighting back tears, Rean cried out to them as the Ashen Knight took to the sky. All he could do was watch from above as the hopeless battle began. ’No...! They need me! Let me staaaaaay!’ His cries resounded endlessly throughout the crimson sky.
An alpha build of the game's engine was demonstrated in March 2012, half a year after the release of Trails to Azure. It features a small area resembling the final Alto Street in Heimdallr. In this sample, Alisa Reinford serves as main character and was capable of interacting with a couple of NPC's. From this location, it was possible to access the prototype of the Old Schoolhouse discussed below.
Instructions reveal that players could switch characters using the L button and start a battle by interacting with enemies on the field. The battles proceeded in real time, in which one character could be controlled and the others fight automatically. Switching between characters was done using the L and R buttons. One of the NPC's in this area mentions the train derailment of the Transcontinental Railroad. This is dialogue originally appeared in Trails to Azure.
A more refined version of the battle system was demonstrated on August 8, 2012. It features a three-room prototype of what would become the Old Schoolhouse near the Thors Military Academy in the final version of the game. For this build, the battle system changed from semi-real time to turn-based. S-Breaks were added in this build. Alisa still serves as the playable main character. The primary purpose of this demo was to test the free rotation of the camera.
Another room that was used during development is a prototype of Trista. In takes place before the Academy Festival. Since in this build Rean Schwarzer has assumed the role of protagonist, it can be assumed that this build was released after August 2012.
Alisa Reinford now serves as an NPC, who Rean finds wondering whether her grandfather or mother are responsible for keeping her bank account in a healthy state. Alisa, surprised that Rean overheard her, tells him to mind his own business and inquires whether that includes jobs for the student council. The demo seems to focus on emotions and gestures of characters.
Other NPC's present in this build include Becky (written as ベッキオ, or Beckyo/Vecchio), Hugo, Colette and two nameless students. An unused NPC student named Lyner is also present. Elliot, Towa, Instructor Sara and Sharon are mentioned in passing.
Falcom officially announced Trails of Cold Steel for both PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita during their investor's meeting on December 14, 2012. The press release confirmed that the game would take place in Erebonia and that the mechanics would be enhanced with a combat link system, active voice segments and a 360 degree camera. The press release also reveals the designs of Rean Schwarzer, Alisa Reinford, Elliot Craig and Laura S. Arseid. Their names, however, were not included in the press release.
The Finale of Trails of Cold Steel describes the events that transpired between Chapter 6 and the Finale, which were removed from the game and moved to the Drama CD that came with the limited edition of the game. Data mining reveals that fans were correct in assuming that the scene was removed from the game due to time or budget constraints.
Ymir as it was in development for Trails of Cold Steel hardly changed when it finally appeared in-game in Trails of Cold Steel II. The most noteworthy change is the position of grocery store Plover, which was originally positioned directly next to the foot bath in the centre of Ymir, and the residential house, which was originally situated between Plover and Baron Schwarzer's Mansion rather than next to the Valley's Echo inn in the final version. Whereas the village itself appears to be finished, the interiors remained largely unfinished. Models for Rean's adoptive parents, Teo and Lucia Schwarzer, have also been found among the files in Trails of Cold Steel despite not appearing in-game.
Trails of Cold Steel was originally released for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita on 26 September 2013. Through a collaboration between Nihon Falcom and the Sony Computer Entertainment divisions of Taiwan and Korea, a Mandarin and Korean version was localised on 24 June 2014. On 26 June 2014, Nihon Falcom re-released Trails of Cold Steel under the SuperPrice banner.
On 5 June 2015, XSEED Games announced a localisation of Trails of Cold Steel and soon thereafter Trails of Cold Steel II for 2015 and 2016, respectively. Trails of Cold Steel, as the localisation was named, was released on 22 December 2015 in North America. Apart from the standard edition, XSEED offered a limited "Lionheart Edition", which came with a sturdy box for both Trails of Cold Steel games, a paperback artbook and a pin of the "Golden Stallion", the emblem of Erebonia. Trails of Cold Steel was published in Europe by NISA America on 29 January 2016.
On 2 August 2017, XSEED published released a PC port of Trails of Cold Steel. The port features almost 5000 new voiced lines and a Turbo Mode, which allows players to speed up battles by skipping animations. The port was developed by Durante and features achievement icon art by kyotyan and garmmy.
A remastered version, titled The Legend of Heroes: Sen no Kiseki I Kai -Thors Military Academy 1204- (英雄伝説 閃の軌跡Ⅰ：改-Thors Military Academy 1204-), was announced by Nihon Falcom on November 16, 2017 and released for PlayStation 4 in Japan on March 8, 2018. The remastered version runs at 60 frames per second with compatibility up to 4K and features a higher quality of audio. This PlayStation 4 version is compatible with save data of the PlayStation 3 and Vita version through the cross-save mechanic. Save data from Trails of Cold Steel III can also be used to unlock the bonuses at the start of the game.
Key Visuals/Concept Art
- Endless History. http://www.esterior.net/2012/12/the-erebonia-set-legend-of-heroes-sen-no-kiseki-for-ps3-and-ps-vita-in-2013/
- Memoirs. Trails of Cold Steel II official website. http://www.trailsofcoldsteel.com/cs2/memoirs1.html