This is a guide to the intricate, captivating story of NieR and Drag-on Dragoon—with all their various side materials. The first game in the narrative is Drag-on Dragoon 3, released on the PS3 in 2013, a distant prequel to 2003’s Drag-on Dragoon. But our story begins a bit earlier, with the novellas and comics released in the runup to the game…
The character portraits in this page are official art released by Square Enix. To the best of my knowledge, the artist is the character designer Fujisaka Kimihiko.
A note on translation & language
DoD3 was fully voice acted, and it received a full dub in the English release. You can install a paid DLC which replaces the dub with the original Japanese voices, while keeping subtitles that match the dub. The novellas on the game’s website were also (mostly) officially translated, but other side materials, such as the Story Side Novel and manga spinoffs, never got an official release.
There is some debate about whether the dub faithfully captures the characters and their relationships which I’m not going to get into here. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to use the official translation by default for terminology such as ‘Intoner’. But I’ll also include the Japanese terms the first time they come up, and mention possible alternate translations!
Also, for consistency’s sake, I will refer to the game’s creators in the Japanese order, i.e. (surname) (personal name), e.g. Yoko Taro rather than Taro Yoko and Eishima Jun rather than Jun Eishima. In most English-language sources, the opposite convention is used except for Yoko Taro himself. Also, since he seems to prefer it this way himself, I won’t use the exact romaji Yokoo Tarō for 横尾 太郎…
- The Cataclysm, or why everything’s wizards
- Novellas and where to get them
- The old world: Michael’s novella
- Early timeline: wizards ruin everything
- Fuck the world!—introducing Zero
- That feeling when five children burst out of your bleeding chest wound: the creation of the Intoners
- Zero’s DLC: how to pick up a dragon
- The mysterious Recorder
- Four’s novella: I’m
worsebetter than all of you
- Utahime Five
- Volume 1: you sure liked Berserk
- Three’s novella: good to have a hobby
- Volume 2: landlords are bad enough, now they’re wizards?
- Volume 3: no, I’m the most powerful!
- Decadus’s novella: “ungh”
- The DLC
- One’s DLC: having fun with your clone
- Zero talks to Accord again
- Five’s DLC: so yummy!
- Four’s DLC: it’s not like I actually want to do a genocide or anything…
- The end of One’s DLC
- More novellas!
- Two’s and Cent’s Novellas: never look after kids in a Yoko Taro game
- One’s Novella: big audio sensitivity mood
- Octa’s Novella: the walking dick thesaurus
- Five’s and Dito’s Novellas: yes, this is fucked up
- The opening of DoD 3
- DLCs continue…
- Three’s DLC: going a bit far, even for an Intoner
- Two’s DLC: you knew it was coming!
- The year in between…
- Mikhail’s novella: he’s really trying!
- Chapter 1 begins
The Cataclysm, or why everything’s wizards
The DoD games are set in a world called ‘Midgard’, but a glance at the world map shows that it’s just Europe, flipped 180 degrees. So it’s an alternate history - where does it diverge?
According to occasional loading-screen text in DoD 3, it starts with an event officially translated as ‘The Cataclysm’. An earthquake took place in the year 856, heralding the arrival of a city on the Iberian Peninsula. (In the real world, there really was a major earthquake in the year 856, but it took place in present-day Iran rather than near Spain!)
The World Inside booklet released with the 10th Anniversary Edition of DoD1 elaborates a bit. It’s presented as a record made by the character Accord (who we’ll get to later in this post), and it forms the basis for Rekka’s timeline. The earthquakes were more widespread; affecting Corinth, Tunisia, Iran and Kyoto.
The mysteriously-appearing city, filled with modern skyscrapers, becomes known as the Cathedral City. It brings with it various magical creatures—most notably dragons, such as Michael, Gabriella and Angelus.
Novellas and where to get them
Much of the side story is presented in a series of character-specific novellas. Most of these novellas received official translations, which were available as (for some reason) images on the English-language DoD3 website. That website is, unfortunately, now dead.
If you want to see the official translations in their original context, the website made it onto the Internet Archive here. Unfortunately, most of the functionality is now broken, so you have to crawl the HTML yourself to find the links to the story files. To make things easier, here are links to every novella that got officially translated:
Every official novella translation
- Zero’s novella: 1-2 3-4 5-6 7-8 8-9 9-10
- One’s novella: 1-2 3-4 5-6 7-8 8-9 9-10 11-12
- Two’s novella: 1-2 3-4 5-6 7-8 8-9
- Three’s novella: 1-2 3-4 5-6 7-8 8-9
- Four’s novella: 1-2 3-4 5-6 7-8
- Five’s novella: 1-2 3-4 5-6 7-8 8-9
- Dito’s novella: 1-2 3-4 5-6 7-8 8-9 9-10
- Decadus’s novella: 1-2 3-4 5-6 7-8
- Octa’s novella: 1-2 3-4 5-6
- Cent’s novella: 1-2 3-4 5-6 7-8
- Mikhail’s novella: 1-2 3-4 5-6 7-8 8-9
All of the novellas also received fan translations, which have been uploaded to the DoD wiki—in most cases along with the official translation images. When the novellas become relevant, I’ll link to the wiki page.
The old world: Michael’s novella
We are told very little about the world the dragons came from - the only direct glimpse comes from the Michael novella. This was never officially translated, but there are two fan translations - Rekka’s and kho-dazat’s (the more idiomatic).
So, we start with dragons. Three dragons—Michael, an older, somewhat contemptuous Angelus (aka Red), and the cruel Legna (aka Black)—are fighting together against enemies that Michael calls ‘puppets’. They have been doing so for thousands of years, with no memory of how the battle started - and they have no expectation of finishing. But a ‘white light’ causes their war to suddenly end.
(In a recent interview, Yoko Taro confirmed a running fan theory that the ‘old world’ is actually the ‘Kingdom of Night’ in the NieR setting, making the timeline a closed loop. However, to explain that, we’ll have to take a long and roundabout route…)
Early timeline: wizards ruin everything
The next part of the story is dealt with mostly in summary, on the timeline. The arrival of magical creatures in Europe is generally bad news. Most of the countries collapse, and surviving nobles retreat into the Cathedral City. There, they establish that magic is real, and they come under the jurisdiction of the Pythagoras Institute, which becomes increasingly a religious order. They start experimenting with ‘seal magic’, with the occasional accident - the timeline mentions a magician who accidentally turned themselves into a gigantic foot and trampled 2000 people.
During this time, the second part of Michael’s novella presumably takes place. He recalls a man riding him, who apologises for drawing him into this battle; together, they attacked a fortress. So far, we’ve never learned the identity of this man, though he is mentioned again briefly in Zero’s DLC.
By the 900s, this Church expands its power to rule most of Midgard. The Church establishes a feudal system of rule managed by ‘Lords of the Land’ or ‘landed lords’. To skip forward pretty quickly, a series of failed rebellions lead to the magical Church institutions dwindling in power, and the Lords of the Land seize take over magical research. Now and then, ‘Seal Magic’ is deployed, seemingly requiring large sacrifices each time to contain magical catastrophes.
In 995, 5 years before the start of DoD3, we get the first appearance of the Flower. A woman in the Cathedral City has some kind of singing-related magical accident, causing an explosion resembling a giant flower.
Fuck the world!—introducing Zero
Zero is the protagonist of DoD3: she’s cynical, often scornful, and nihilistic, born of lifelong trauma. We first meet her in her novella [content note: description of torture, sex work, slavery, sexual violence].
When we meet her, she’s awaiting execution in June 997 AD, alongside a group of revolutionaries. The revolutionaries have been brutally tortured, and in her narration, Zero sneers dismissively at them for placing trust in other people. Zero has escaped the worst of it, because she’s no revolutionary and has nothing to hide - she’s just a mass murderer who happened to be caught at the same time.
We learn that Zero grew up under an abusive mother, who treated her with little but violence and then sold her to a brothel. Zero got nicknamed Rose by another brothel worker, who she named Indigo in return. (Note that in Rekka’s timeline, the Japanese name 薄紅 is used instead). Before long, Indigo exploits Zero’s help in an escape attempt, then betrays her, leaving her for dead. This leads Zero to conclude she can’t trust anyone, and begin her career of mass murder. She slaughters everyone in the brothel, only to get captured by bandits. Giving them the slip hardens her resolve to depend on nobody.
She has a brief life with a thief who was a former client with the brothel, but when he, too, decides to betray her after she contracts a disease called the ‘scourge’, she murders him as well. We follow her as she murders and robs her way through a series of people, without mercy. It barely seems to affect her, and she wonders in a mild tone why she always kills everyone. “Maybe I kill to find out why.”
Eventually, her hundreds of murders catch up with her, and she’s captured, whipped, and set for execution. She contrasts herself with the idealistic rebels in the square, and laughs.
I could hear the girl’s voice again: What we did was right. And it was. Only the world could be called wrong—this world full of lords who shit on their people, this world with smug murderers like me. This world where those who stand up on behalf of the weak are crushed like so many worms.
This is madness. It doesn’t make any sense. Ire filled me all at once.
No. It had always been there and I just hadn’t noticed. I hated the world. I had damned it in my mind since before I could remember. I could feel the tremor of a scream in my throat. Glurp. Something warm dribbled from my mouth. It was blood, not a scream. This fucking world is trying to kill me. Fuck that. Fuck the world! Fuck you all! YOU fucking die! Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you!
As she dies of exposure, Zero catches sight of a ‘rose-colored flower’ suddenly blossoming in front of her.
That feeling when five children burst out of your bleeding chest wound: the creation of the Intoners
The Flower grows out of Zero’s eyeball, and animates her corpse. It grants her various magic powers, although I’m not sure if we ever find out what Zero could do before she creates the Intoners. According to the timeline, this takes place in June, 997 AD.
The birth of Zero’s sisters is narrated in a flashback near the end of DoD3 (Branch D, verse 7), and also discussed in the DoD3 Story Side novel. Story Side has not received a full translation, but Rekka Alexiel has some notes and partial translations here. Per the timeline, this happens in February 998 AD.
[content note: suicide] When Zero somehow ‘realised she was infected by a flower that was gonna end the world’, she attempted suicide (though, she notes she was technically already dead). The attempt is unsuccessful. As a defense measure flower creates five small children who are copies of Zero, apparently three or four years old, who immediately run away ‘as fast as [Zero] could blink’: Zero’s “sisters”, who take the names One through Five. (Incidentally—in Japanese, the sisters’ names are the English words ‘One’ through ‘Five’, transliterated into katakana.)
In Story Side, Zero has a little time with her sisters, but they flee when she moves to try to kill them. She is unable to move at this point.
Later, Zero and her sisters will be known as ‘Intoners’. In Japanese, the terms used are 歌姫 and 歌うたい, which might be translated as ‘songstress’ and ‘singer’ respectively. I’m going to stick with ‘Intoners’, per the official translation.
Zero makes some attempts to recapture her sisters, but because all of the Flower’s power has gone to them, she doesn’t really have a chance of succeeding. She resolves to kill her sisters—but to do so, she’ll need the help of a dragon.
In Story Side, Zero wonders what parts of her personality are reflected in the sisters. Five, at least, takes the face of a nun Zero killed at one point, and One the face of one of the revolutionaries being executed alongside Zero.
Zero’s DLC: how to pick up a dragon
In March 998, we get the events of Zero’s DLC in the game. Zero is, at this point, in Cerulean’s Land of Seas. She’s cutting her way through Cerulean’s soldiers, who are pretty powerless against her—but fear Cerulean’s punishment almost as much as the woman cutting them down. At this point, she bumps into the dragon Michael, who is trying very hard to play the part of a serious, respectable ancient dragon… but not particularly good at it. Despite taunting each other constantly, the two hit it off.
Michael recognises that the flower in Zero’s body is, allegedly, a long-time enemy of the dragons—though he isn’t sure exactly how much of that story is true! He takes Zero to various places to test her skills, and then fights her himself. Satisfied that Zero is strong enough to carry it through, he teams up with her to put an end to the Intoners. They make a promise: once Zero’s taken out her sisters, Michael will kill her too.
The mysterious Recorder
At some point, Zero meets Accord. Accord is an android from the old world, tasked (by whom? we don’t know!) with monitoring the various different branches of reality resulting from the ‘singularity’ in the form of Zero. Although she’s not supposed to interfere, she routinely does step in to give Zero (usually rather vague) comments and advice, explaining the metaphysics of the branching timeline.
Because oh yes, this is a DoD game, so we always have a branching timeline. We’ll get to that later.
Zero’s first meeting actually involves three Accords, who appear in her house shortly after she united with Michael, and warn her about the threat of a ‘Full Collapse’. It’s implied in later Accord scenes that there are many more Recorders, and ‘our’ Accord will be in a lot of trouble if she messes up recording the events of DoD3. Who she answers to, we don’t yet know…
Then, in the ending narration of the DLC, Michael remembers a boy who he once fought alongside. He’s going to travel to a broken world… but the narration abruptly cuts off before we learn the details.
Four’s novella: I’m
worse better than all of you
Four’s novella takes place while the Intoners are travelling together, but it’s not clear exactly where it fits beyond that—except that it’s most likely before Utahime Five. They are staying at someone’s house, and Four is getting exasperated with her sisters for making a mess—projected, always, into an external observer, what will the next person think? She sneers at her sisters as ‘loons’, simultaneously expressing an enormous amount of jealousy.
At this point, she can’t yet keep it in. She goes on a furious tantrum at Five, and then collapses into self-hatred. But she cleans up, desperate for the respect of One.
Bizarrely, this novella ends with her remembering a time when the five sisters were together with Zero. This is a false memory, created by the Flower, and apparently not shared by any of the others.
The next chunk is related in the manga Utahime Five (Five Intoners), written by Eishima Jun, with art by someone called IsII about whom I can find no information whatsoever! Rekka’s scans seem to have fallen off her website, but they’re (at time of writing) available on the Internet Archive here. [n.b. The first volume seems to have been done by a different translator, so expect a few inconsistencies.]
By the timeline, this can only be a few months after Zero’s failed attempt to remove the flower. The Intoners still appear very young, but they’re growing rapidly. They now have access to their powers, namely the ability to summon ‘angels’. Each Intoner can summon a specific angel with her song; the angels generally do not speak, but take the form of giant monsters.
Volume 1: you sure liked Berserk
We meet the Intoners as they start to confront the various Lords of the Land, under the leadership of One. Some of their more extreme personality traits are already in evidence: Five is one-note slutty and greedy; Four is starting to build her hollow, holier-than-thou attitude; Three is quiet and likes puppets; Two is chipper; One is the serious one on a righteous crusade against the Lords of the Land. Per the timeline, we’re in May, 998 AD.
The Lords of the Land, as we meet them, seem to be rather nasty pieces of work. Bass, the first we meet, has a habit for turning people into furniture and similar acts of extreme cruelty. He attempts to kill the Intoners with golems and magical beasts, created from people by his servant Partition.
After Bass dies, Partition quickly surrenders and ingratiates himself with the girls. He presents himself as an unwilling prisoner, brushing over his own roll in Bass’s atrocities, and offers the Intoners passage to the Cathedral City on a ship. Along the way, however, One is separated from the group by a sea monster (yeah it’s kinda… contrived). Shortly after, she bumps into the dragon Gabriella.
So, Gabriella… in the game more so than the manga, Gabriella is characterised as… well. In a little omake section at the end of an issue of the manga, the Intoners question Gabriella’s gender. Three refers to her as a ‘big sister’, which Rekka suggests is an allusion to the term ‘okama’, referring to a trans woman or effeminate gay man. The Japanese voice acting has a man doing what the wiki describes as ‘an obvious “drag” sound’. The English dub is a woman, but she leans heavily into the whole ‘sassy’ persona. So, tl;dr: she’s got gends.
In any case, though, moments after telling Gabriella about her intentions to defeat Zero, the pair are attacked by a man named Baltus (sometimes rendered Bartas instead), who has some kind of regeneration power. Baltus is able to fairly easily repel their attacks, but then One goes into some kind of unconscious trance, and rips Baltus a new one using one of Gabriella’s teeth—and the dragon tooth seems to disrupt his regeneration ability. Baltus is accompanied by a fairy, who teleports away. But Baltus isn’t quite dead yet: he comes back, now in the body of a child…
Three’s novella: good to have a hobby
Three’s novella overlaps with the events of Utahime Five. It chronicles Three’s obsession with dolls, starting with a doll made out of human skin she took from Bass’s castle. She makes a chess set, imiating Bass’s. It’s easy to suspect that her dolls are made out of people as well, though it never quite comes out and says so at this point. By the end of it, she’s making dolls that resemble giant babies… We’ll learn more about Three later.
Volume 2: landlords are bad enough, now they’re wizards?
In the next book, we meet more of the Lords of the Land. There’s Shaxor, an eight-year-old boy, who rules the Land of Forests; Gray, an older man, who rules the Land of Mountains; and Cerulean (or Caerula in Rekka’s translation), a woman who rules the Land of Seas. Cerulean is the only one whose name makes it into the actual game. Per the timeline, this takes place in June, 998 AD.
The Lords are in the Cathedral City, aiming to open up the ‘Mercurius Gate’ in the hopes of obtaining power. Meanwhile, we learn that Gabriella has been looking after One, who fell asleep for a full month. One and Gabriella strike up an alliance, planning to go to the Mercurius Gate themselves, and find out all the secrets of the old world.
Bartas, we learn, was discovered behind one of the walls protecting the Mercurius Gate. He tries to use his voice to get in to the third and final later, and a hologram of Accord appears, and Baltus is teleported away…
One and Gabriella reunite with the rest of the Intoners, who have been fighting their way towards the Cathedral City, against various magical beasts such as golems. They assault the Cathedral City (not for the last time!), taking advantage of Gabriella’s immense power.
As One approaches the gate, she gets a vision of a black shape with a bunch of arms reaching for her. Joyful! Unfortunately, the Lords of the Land prove capable of holding their own against the Intoners, who fall one by one. One, the last survivor, calls on the full power of her song… and the last gate opens. The black goopy entity from One’s vision emerges, and grabs the bodies of the Intoners.
Volume 3: no, I’m the most powerful!
Puppeteered by the strange entity, the Intoners call on their angels for real, starting with Three’s angel Almisael which appears as an army of baby-like dolls. It’s followed by Egregori (big armoured beast) and Armaros (just an entire castle). The angels make short work of the Lords of the Land. Only Cerulean and Shaxor manage to escape, but Cerulean soon murders Shaxor to steal his magic power, revealing she’s been magically extending her life… only for Cerulean herself to get shot down by Partition. Not a good time to be a land lord.
Gabriella, meanwhile, manages to wake up One, freeing her from the control of the black entity. The two are attacked by the angels as the black goop starts to become a big orb. Meanwhile, we see Zero approaching with Michael.
The black goop takes on the shape of a large, five-petalled flower (very much like the one in DoD3 ending D…). One and Gabriella are powerless against it, but Zero arrives just in time to intervene. She calls on her magic, and four birds alight on the petals of the flower, somehow interrupting the Intoners’ song. This is a cue for Michael to come in and set it all on fire.
The Intoners fall out of the destroyed flower, their bodies restored and now adult. Zero and Michael move in to kill them, but Gabriella intervenes, and the dragons’ go off to have a good old dragon fight somewhere off camera. But before Zero can finish off One, who should return but Baltas?
Baltas announces that he is the ‘gatekeeper’ in the language of the old, Cathedral City world. Michael, it turns out, can speak to him; we learn that Baltas has been shirking his duty because of boredom. He’s a simple guy, just wanting to go around fighting strong people. Things get rather shounen as Baltas makes short work of Zero, One, Gabriella and Michael.
So, someone needs a powerup: it’s Gabriella. Using the final wish that dragons get (which we’ll see more of later), she calls on the power of the ‘void’ or ‘underworld’, and becomes a mindless monster. To bring her back, One calls on ‘forbidden magic’, reaching inside her chest and pulling out a light. Fortunately we have Partition on hand to explain what’s going on: she’s ‘sharing her life’ or ‘becoming one with’ Gabriella. Unfortunately, this leads to yet another transformation: One takes on a demonic form, but manages to do something which sucks up all the magic and sucks it away. Her body, she says, is ‘collateral’ for returning Gabriella’s mind—her only friend.
All this in the last few pages of the manga!
Thanks to this whole series of events, Partition loses his youth-preserving magic, and becomes an older man: the same older man we see getting killed by Zero in the game’s opening cutscene. The manga ends at a period some time later, when the Intoners have secured their rule, and Partition is writing propaganda for them.
At some point—it’s not exactly shown where—the birds that Zero summoned to contain the Intoners’ songs turn into men called Disciples. Each Intoner, apart from One, has a Disciple (Japanese: 使徒; another translation is ‘Apostle’).
According to the notes on the Story Side novel by Rekka here, this was the result of a mistake on Zero’s part. She grabbed four nearby birds as a measure to contain their power, trapping them in a ‘cage’. But she was not able to kill the Intoners at that point, even with their power trapped in the birds. The birds ended up acting as a ‘device by which to regulate their power’. They transformed into humans as a result of absorbing the power of the Intoners.
Although the Disciples are a rather ad-hoc measure introduced by Zero, they soon establish a kind of encoded role. Their job is to boost the power of the Intoner’s song, and (in One’s words) ‘quell the desires that stir within them’: she lists sex, honour, cruelty and romance which seems to roughly correspond to each of her sisters.
The full mechanism is never fully explained, but it’s mentioned in various conversations that Intoners are ‘charged up’ by having sex with their Disciple. (The exception to this is Four, who is so caught up in her contradictory knot of mores and inhibitions that she can’t let herself fuck Decadus.) This certainly sets a tone: if you play Drakengard 3, although basically nothing explicit is ever shown on screen, about half the dialogue is bawdy sex jokes. (Especially once Octa joins the party and can’t stop talking about his dick.)
Per party banter in Route A Chapter 3, as far as the Disciples are concerned, they’re all 22 years old. They theorise their varied appearances in various ways.
It’s not clear how or when the Disciples took form. It appears that, to the Intoners, they just met their Disciples one day: for example, Two and Cent speak of having met, and what might happen if they hadn’t. Of the group, only One seems to be aware that the Disciples were created by magic. Even the Disciples don’t seem to be aware of how they were created.
A few hints come from…
Decadus’s novella: “ungh”
Decadus (closer to ‘Decad’ in Japanese) is Four’s disciple, by appearance probably in his late 20s or early 30s. He’s bearded and quite buff, wearing a translucent shirt which shows off his muscles.
His overwhelming personality trait is just that he’s giant masochist. Almost all his dialogue is imagining scenarios of pain and humiliation and groaning because he’s getting off on it.
Decadus’s novella covers his first meeting with Four. Apparently, he already knows his duties as a Disciple: he must ‘constantly accomany his Intoner and meet her every demand’… especially if it involves getting set on fire, apparently. ‘Ungh’.
Decadus is pretty much oblivious to any of Four’s dynamics, except as fuel for his masochistic fantasies. Rather than maybe try and help her deal with her whole complex of hangups around being inferior/superior to Five and all the others, he decides abruptly that he should be punished… this dynamic continues, with Four unable to express any of her actual desires because she has convinced herself that not doing so makes her more proper and superior, and Decadus getting off on having been left outside a door doing nothing.
As far as addressing the question of how and when the Intoners met the disciples as people rather than birds though, we have few answers!
In the events of Utahime Five, all the Lords of the Land end up dead—but, during many of the DLC chapters in the game, the Intoners and their Disciples are still waging war to overthrow them. Per the timeline, the fact of the Lords’ death remained hidden to the commoners.
One’s DLC: having fun with your clone
One’s DLC largely takes place in August, 998 AD. It concerns her creation of her ‘brother’: essentially a clone of One, created using the power of the Cathedral. Although a clone, One’s Brother does not seem to share her memories, and asks many naive questions.
One describes her reasons for creating her Brother as a feeling of loneliness which can’t be reduced to the desires of the other Intoners. Apparently the only person she’s prepared to see as an equal is literally herself: but even so, she’s controlling towards her brother, for strategic reasons keeping him a secret from everyone but Gabriella. She also sees in her brother a way to ‘forgive’ herself: she’s driven by a contradictory wish to create a peaceful society ruled by law rather than caprice, which she can only achieve by brutal conquest.
Notably, at this point One has not yet seized the Cathedral City. She’s accused of blasphemy by the soldiers defending it, who aren’t yet familiar with the powers of an Intoner. This will soon change as the Intoners carry out their conquest.
Each DLC is accompanied by a short narrative piece under the heading Memories of the Intoners, which you unlock over the course of the DLC. We’ll come back to the story in Zero’s DLC later, since they’re set after the main game. For One, it is a lecture she’s given on the principles of rule: a list of values that she and her sisters should uphold, such as ‘law’, ‘wisdom’ and ‘love’. The last entry is a postscript written three months later, after the other Intoners have died, as she waits for Zero to come and kill her.
Zero talks to Accord again
Zero meets Accord for apparently the second time on August 21, 998 AD—this is Branch D, Verse 7 in the game. Accord talks to zero about her campaign to kill her sisters, but the full conversation happens offscreen.
Five’s DLC: so yummy!
Five’s DLC is not assigned a date, but appears to take place relatively early in One’s campaign of conquest. Unlike One, Five’s attitude to the war is rather carefree, seeing it as mostly a chance to acquire new things. She is now accompanied by her Disciple, Dito, who appears as a teenaged boy, and has a sadistic streak. The DLC is mostly not that consequential: it’s a portrait of Dito venting his deep hatred of Five, who presses on obliviously and treats Dito like just another toy.
Eventually they kill and eat a giant crab, and the gross rottenness of the crab is enough to get even Dito excited.
Five’s Memory is a list of receipts from a delivery company that has been satisfying her various cravings. We learn that at some point, Five started trying to apply herself a bit more seriously to being a good ruler. Though she blows everything off with an innuendo, apparently it got to her. Of course, Five doesn’t know how to address this desire in any way except throwing money around: she orders books on Roman history and philosophy, and enormous amounts of art. She starts disposing of her vast treasure vault, and trying to plough money into charitable donations… but then Zero kills her, and the delivery company goes bust.
Four’s DLC: it’s not like I actually want to do a genocide or anything…
Four’s DLC is set during One’s conquest of the land, although its date isn’t exactly specified. It’s some time after the Lord of the cathedral city was killed, since Four is mopping up stragglers.
The DLC focuses on Four’s hypocrisy and her relationship with her disciple Decadus. Four, we learn, has a massive inferiority complex towards the others, but she tries to cover it up by inventing endless reasons why she’s actually superior to Five. She’s only killing in self-defence, and her enemies are blinded by rage—but of course, she does not see them as mere trash, because that would be wrong!
Pointedly, she actually wants to be with Decadus, but is convinced it would be beneath her to actually acknowledge those feelings. This procedes to a meta level: she will talk about how a true lady would not be the one to make an advance, and then when Decadus attempts to answer the implicit request, she can’t accept because it would imply (to herself) that her superior lecture was just an act. Decadus treats her with nothing but fawning praise, and seems to get off on what he sees as a game of belittlement and dismissal.
The shallowness of the lies is made explicit at the end of the DLC, where Four goes to wipe out a bunch of elf sky pirates (who appear nowhere else in the game!) and proceeds with brutal, genocidal slaughter-by-dragonfire despite her enemies begging her for mercy. After all, they’re not civilians, they’re not human… she can justify anything.
Four’s Memory relates her thoughts in the second between Zero’s sword hitting her and her death. She goes through everyone she knows, explaining why she hates each one… but of course, she hates no-one more than the ‘biggest bitch of them all’, herself.
The end of One’s DLC
The first part of One’s DLC takes place on Nov 4, 998 AD. One and her brother train to fight Zero, who will soon launch her attack on the Intoners…
The next part of the story is picked up by the novellas.
Two’s and Cent’s Novellas: never look after kids in a Yoko Taro game
Two and her Disciple Cent are theoretically the picture of a loving, happy, couple, although they’re both so heavily invested in playing out that role that they talk about almost nothing else, constantly fawning praise on each other. Cent appears about the same age as the Intoners, and is constantly bullshitting everyone and patting himself on the back.
Two’s novella and Cent’s novella take place in the Land of Sands. Two has been installed as the ruler, and is determined to take good care of her subjects.
In Cent’s novella, Two and Cent are killing a group of minotaurs. Cent, as we’ve often seen, lies easily and is absolutely infatuated with his Intoner. He attempts to manage her emotions… he wants her to smile and will do anything just to get that effect. He suggests sending the orphans to the Cathedral City. They’ll definitely be safe there.
Two’s novella takes place a short while later. She has installed herself in the shrine—more on that subject later, once we reach DoD1!— and spends her time fawning over Cent and cooking meals out of various magical beasts, taking advantage of her supernatural strength. She muses on each of the other Intoners’ cooking styles, and worries after her orphans.
One’s Novella: big audio sensitivity mood
The beginning of the year 999 is related in One’s novella. One parades through the Cathedral City, her conquest complete, and apparently has the full support of the people behind her. She’s doing her best to live up to her assumed role as a political leader, but she’s not feeling great—thanks, in part, to her supernaturally heightened senses. As we’ve seen, the other Intoners have each been placed in charge of one of the other lands once ruled by the Lords, but One is calling them back for the final confrontation with Zero.
As her sisters filter back in, ready for the confrontation with Zero, One obsessively researches the Intoners, baffled by the fact that she can find no mention of them in history. Of course, we know why that is! Ultimately, her search is fruitless. On March 3rd, Three arrives, and they hear Zero approach.
Octa’s Novella: the walking dick thesaurus
Octa appears as an old man (though like the other Disciples, he’s less than two years old!), who cannot stop talking about how much sex he wants to have and how big his dick is. His novella, taking place shortly after he and Three return to the Cathedral City, is mostly a character piece. That is to say, a long ramble where Octa ventures his opinions on various books, and boasts about his skill at sex. Every book, horny or not, can be interpreted as a sex metaphor. He frets a little about Three’s dollmaking, but then, well, he has to tell you how he wants to fuck the black hole Sagittarius A* at the centre of the galaxy…
Five’s and Dito’s Novellas: yes, this is fucked up
[content warning: sexual abuse]
Five is determined to own everything. Even the things she doesn’t particularly like. Her novella is set after she’s established herself as ruler of the Land of Seas, and she’s just as demanding on her staff as the old Lords were, if not more so.
Dito, of course, Five sees as just her favourite toy. Which means making sexual advances at points when they’re clearly unwelcome.
Five has a memory of someone she regards as her father. Of course, she can’t actually have a father, being created ex nihilo by the flower—her absent father is a false memory.
Dito’s novella presents the same scene from Dito’s perspective. He views Five mostly in terms of negative metaphors of fat. He, too, believes in a ‘role of the disciple’ being to ‘satisfy the sexual urges of his Intoner’, although it’s not at all clear where he got this idea. He indulges in some of his own fantasies, of turning people inside out to reveal their ‘membranes and organs’.
We learn that one time, Dito attempted to murder Five. But at one word, he was unable to attack her: apparently it’s part of the nature of a Disciple. Dito is terrified at the slightest sign of anger, constantly thinking about how he has to serve Five and how much he resents it. He’s abused, and terrified.
The opening of DoD 3
So whatever their pretensions, every single Intoner is, in some way, a real piece of work (with the possible exception of Two). Zero is at least straightforwardly violent… and now she’s coming to kill them.
The intro cutscene of DoD 3 is quite a piece of animation. It’s worth a watch!
At this point, the soldiers seem to be fully loyal to the Intoners, apparently buying the line that they’re beautiful goddesses come to save the land from war. Zero is recognised as a traitor, a role she takes to cheerily as she cuts her way up to her sisters. She starts by killing Partition, who is at work drawing propaganda; then, she fights her way through the Cathedral City with brutal efficiency and confronts her sisters.
At first, the confrontation largely goes to Zero, though the other Intoners taunt her in their way. But then, One calls on her dragon… Gabriel.
Gabriel, not Gabriella? Apparently, at some point One somehow combined Gabriella with an angel! This is addressed briefly in the Story Side novel: Gabriella underwent the process willingly, but as Gabriel she can no longer speak or act independently. The act traumatised One even more, leaving her subdued…
Zero orders Michael to attack the Intoners, but they deflect it with song, and Gabriel shoots back, removing Zero’s arm. Michael absorbs the next beam, saving Zero’s life but suffering a fatal wound in the process. The two fall down somewhere in the Cathedral City.
We’ll come back to them shortly, but first let’s see what the other Intoners do.
Three’s DLC: going a bit far, even for an Intoner
Three’s DLC is set somewhat later in the campaign, possibly after it finished, and deals with her various failed military experiments. For the most part, Three has a bored, flat affect and talks in incomprehensible metaphors; she only gets excited when talking about her experiments with her ‘puppets’ or ‘children’, which are magical creatures she’s ‘enhanced’ with varying levels of success.
Octa, of course, cannot find much to talk about except sex. Three, by this point, has entirely lost interest in the sex aspect of the Intoner/Disciple relationship. Over the course of the DLC, we learn that her ‘masterpiece’ are some humans she’s crossed with giants—and that she got the most power by carrying out horrible acts of cruelty in front of them. She describes with glee some of the methods she used to get humans particularly hateful, like threatening to kill the women first, or creating new soldiers in front of their family. Octa is horrified, but apparently unwilling to actually intervene.
Three’s Memory is a first-person diary of a soldier who, unlike most of his comrades, is eager to serve in Three’s experiments. Eventually, he gets his wish, and is made into a cyclops.
Two’s DLC: you knew it was coming!
This DLC covers the period April 14-25, 999 AD. The Intoners have now finished their campaign against the Lords, but unfortunately the land has now been overrun with various magical creatures who still need slaying. Two, we learn, has created an orphanage in the Cathedral City. Cent, determined to protect her, has been using the power of her song to ‘enhance’ the guards and the orphans.
Of course, this goes catastrophically wrong. They learn that something terrible has happened in the Cathedral City, and rushing back, find the soldiers mindless and zombie-like. Descending into the Cathedral, they find it transformed and covered in skulls… and as for the orphans, they have somehow been merged into a waxy humanoid ‘homunculus’ which crawls around on all fours, begging for Two. The sight of this breaks Two, and by the time we meet her in the main game, she has become barely functional, no longer speaking and completely dependent on Cent.
Two’s Memory is a list of recipes using the meat of magical creatures. After the events of the DLC, it switches over to Cent writing about things he’s feeding her: oatmeal, water, even his own blood. He notices her heart isn’t beating, and thinks about murdering her to stop having to care for her. But ultimately he resolves to keep his promise not to die…
The year in between…
We’re almost at the start of Chapter 1. But what happened to Zero?
Michael died, but it emerges at the end of Branch A that dragons have the power to make a wish when they die, which they almost always use to reincarnate as a new, young dragon.
So Michael chose to reincarnate, creating a new dragon, Mikhail, who is very much a child: endlessly curious, prone to malapropism (more so even than Michael), and desperate for validation from Zero. But for Zero, of course, he cannot possibly be a replacement for Michael, so she constantly belittles and criticises him. They spend a year with Zero recovering from her injuries in the Land of Seas (Britain), now ruled over by Five.
Mikhail’s novella: he’s really trying!
We see some of this year in Mikhail’s novella. Eager to please, Mikhail goes on a quest around the world, hoping to provide Zero with some ‘legendary meat’. He encounters farmers, and faeries, who (in a constant throughout DoD) are absolute dickheads. Eventually he manages to bring her a sea serpent… but it’s not quite dead. She hits him a bit.
Zero is not good at dealing with grief.
Chapter 1 begins
This article has now run to nearly seven thousand words, so we’ll save the beginning of the ‘story proper’, with all its twists and turns, to the next post. Strap in: it’s a twisty one!