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PSO2 NGS Story Guide
The story of PSO2 NGS will likely be complex and long.
This isn't meant to be a substitute for the game, or as a transcript of the entire script/plot, but rather a way to understand, read-up-on, speculate, analyze & get a really good idea of what's going on in the game. It has some game-play hints & will point out ways of approaching story aspects, but it's not really a gameplay guide to get anyone unstuck either.
For online-only games like this, it is important to preserve their plot and characters somewhere that's infinitely stable (unlike youtube or something where the videos get taken away randomly or whatever)
Color key
Green Text: Speculation or opinions
What You Do/The official "Party Line" appears in RED TEXT
Bold Text: Important information
Choice Options: Blue Text
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Ilma pulls up the new area, Nameless City on the screen in the room. Everybody has a look and you can ask

Where Is This Exactly?
Is This The Place You Discovered Recently?

Pharia says that this is where he says he is he ‘reminded’ her earlier (when he took over) of where he is located. If you ask Where Is This Exactly? (Because you already know this has to be what Ilma mentioned earlier when he called) Crawford confirms it’s Namelss City, uncovered while everyone was researching Leciel. (By going up there and doing the quest—as was stated earlier when that quest was added, discovering new areas Zephetto hid was always part of that plan/plot.)

Zephetto is  in the lower level, she’d take everyone there now if you want.
Ilma asks why just those 4, and Crawford suspects, it’s because they have all met him in person, and he has some kind of connection to them. (With the trio meeting him exactly once, and Pharia actually living up there with him) Ilma wants to go really badly, he’s very excited about what amazing things could be there, but Pharia says completing the weapon down here (that he has been working on) is more important. He’s been working on something to fight the starless, and pharia has been helping him with it. If both go, it’ll grind to a halt. He glooms and says he’ll stay. But she’s got to promise to tell him about any and all cool tech she sees there! She swears she will. Aina says they make quite the pair, and Manon agrees. (It looks like Ilma is helping Pharia to become 'more normal', in a similar way that Aina had to help Manon with the same issue.) Crawford thinks about the request/situation and says he’s got something up his sleeve, but without more info we have to just play along. Do you think you’re up for it?

Definitely.
We Don’t Have A Choice.

These are both the same, but to sound confident you can say Definitely , Manon count her in with Aina and Crawford says thanks, he has so many questions to ask Zephetto, he’s not sure he could stop if he started…so just be careful out there. Aina says let’s move out. You can find her in the lobby, and she warns that you can’t come back for a while, so are you ready?

A cut scene shows you the city, (So that it skips over just 'where' the mystery TP was found on Leciel) Aina and Manon are ready, Pharia is reading a sign by the road. She’s now wearing an Arks Uniform that’s sort of like Aina's. It has black bike-pants, white skirt flaps in back, long purple strap (like Manons that hang from the back) purple edged shoes, hair clips like Manons but as twintails set lower, and long black sleeves with similar black gloves. Aina is impressed with this outfit, and tells her it looks great. She explains that Crawford told her that they have to all be ready to fight so she has to wear this. You can say

You Look Good
That Looks Awesome

If you say You Look Good, She says you’re too kind. It seems like because everyone wore the same thing up on Leciel all the time, there was no such thing as ‘fashion’, so she’s new to this. Next, Aina asks how did it feel when Zephetto was controlling her? Pharia tells everyone that it felt like an out of body experience, watching herself from the outside. Manon asks why Pharia? Why would he randomly pick her to talk to them?  She claims to be his backup. They question this, She’s Zephetto’s backup? Pharia was also Manon’s backup. She was aware of the new fact when his consciousness took over. You’re around if something happens to him, of course, concludes Manon.

It makes sense that he’d have another worker to take over for Manon if something happened to her after he sent down his stupid fake ‘dark falz’ thingy to beam-blast away the Aelio Town. Encountering it multiple times, he probably fully expected her to get whacked on her mission of spying on everyone.  (Specifically kicked off by Garoa’s power and also that your character was sent down to Aelio Town) Being as close to him/his position as she was, it’s also not a stretch to see why she’d be first choice to install some…backup stuff into.
The actual back up Zephetto job is probably greater than just ‘being trained to take over for Manon in 1 minute if she dies’, though.

Are You Sure Everything’s Ok Pharia?
You’d Tell Us if Anything Was Off, Right?

To be nicer to her you can ask Are You Sure Everything’s Ok? She looks startled, and says everything’s fine, but she um appreciates the concern thank you so much. She looks nervous here and looks at the ground. So everyone sets off. This is more concern over whether Zephetto is “lurking” or could be secretly ‘eavesdropping’ everyone here to get up to something nefarious rather than if he’s making her feel bad by doing what he does occasionally. It’s the safety of the group vs. him.

Aina exclaims "Wow the buildings just look to go on forever. Every one of them was full of people right?" Manon says Yeah…but what was this place exactly? Pharia says it was the largest residential district and they branch out from here. There’s clearly plenty of room for loads of people with a variety of buildings, hilly roads, elevated highways and more. This was the living area of the resurgent ARKS and there’s underground facilities too. She says that the way he said it was fragmented. Aina wants to know how something was overlooked, at this size. Pharia confirms we’re not on Halpha.

So Where Are We?
How Far Are We From Halpha?

It doesn’t matter how far we are, it matters where we are So Where Are We? She doesn’t know the location, but its orbital space Above Halpha. What do you mean space? We’re up among the stars we see at night on Halpha. Aina is shocked. But TPs only takes us so far, we can’t be too far away from the Leciel TP location. Manon feels Leciel would have detected it unless…it was cloaked…but why…

Aina asks you what they’re talking about.
I Think I Get The Basics
Not a Clue

This dialog here confirms that the area is SEPARATE from both Halpha AND Leciel. It’s a part of neither place, but it’s in close orbit to the planetoid Halpha. (So, probably modeled after the city-ships Xiao was in charge of—it uses all that architecture style, apparently similar apparatus for the sky of it, just it’s smaller and cloaked. All that makes 100% of sense with what Zephetto/and cohort would create.

It’s easy enough to follow their speculation so I Think I Get The Idea, Aina says she’s totally lost. Manon said it’s undetectable but by us too…which means he’s hiding something for sure. Pharia, do you know where we’re going? The only thing she knows for certain is where he is, a simple map, but no other details. Aina says he wouldn’t lead us into a trap right? Manon says any guess is just as good, so we should be prepared for anything. Why was it important to hide this area from the Lecielens? Does it suggest he had foes among them? Wasn't he in control of every single person up there though?

Pharia sees enemy readings ahead. Manon Agrees and you can see various animal type enemies ahead with Marmoth Lores, Fordran Lore and other FORMERS which Pharia tells you they were designed to replicate enemies ARKS fought in the past. They are genetically modified versions of existing species which  Zephetto created. Manon says she/her team were only on ARKS and DOLLS research so they never had info on not those 2 things. This just re-confirms that he was spamming animals out that were found on Naberius, Amduscia (do the Lilipa robots count hmm).

Next, you encounter some Alters. ALTERS were created by modifying genetically the FORMERS and several prototypes were tested with the final version being the largest, they suddenly mutated and acquired powerful abilities. This casually explains why there are things like the BaneHog and the smaller FreezieHedges, as well as the Chiacurio, Waulon and their smaller counterparts. Why he modified all these into not having a face at all is unknown still. (Remember: all alters have no facial features, instead that yellow blank area with pattern of black lines)

Continue forward down more hills. It’s a windy day, the trees sway a bit, and leaves blow in the breeze. There are cars parked around on the street sides and parking lots. The grass is green, everything is well manicured. It looks like everyone could have just left, even though its been probably over 100 years since anyone was here but Zephetto.

Now, DOLLS appear, and you have to fight those too. There’s not much more to say about the DOLLS, but that we have to halt their production. Manon says that’s another piece of info to have to get out of Zephetto. Now you have to fight Lava Rorox and Marioness. After you defeat those however...

A ragne appears!
As you fight it Pharia tells you that they were never able to complete the Falsspawn Genome, of the Ancient Enemy of the ARKS. We don’t know how accurate these are.(Surprised that there’s even genetics involved at all, they were painted as somewhat supernatural foes rather than organic things) If you can beat it, Aina wants to keep moving ahead quickly.

As you walk onward, she can’t believe there’s really nobody here. Pharia explains that everyone left to Halpha to proceed for the experiment. The city’s functions have lay dormant for a long time…however… Some of the functions started up again from the moment we stepped foot here. So what’s with the enemies? An enemy-powered defense system? Or a malfunctioning training program?

Is There A Way to Stop Them?
Why Doesn’t Zephetto Stop Them?

Very good questions because if he needs rescuing…why are these guys in the way? It is EXCELLENT you have characters actually asking pertinent questions and jabbing the plot along properly! Good job! This again implies he had a foe around on Leciel/among the researchers. Also the last you saw of him, he’d entered his battle Venogia mech and yeeted himself off into unknown far/outer space to blast the Starless at hand to hand combat. How’d he get ‘back’ here in the close-er orbit of Halpha? And then get himself stuck? The starless so far are just smash n bash enemies who bash to win, not capture or contain anyone.

Why Doesn’t Zephetto Stop Them? She doesn’t know. (big shocker) He’s the only one with top level clearance that could do it. Manon aks when they stopped using this place/the city? It was never revealed for her. She can’t imagine everyone here left for it and leciel. Zephetto only reveals what’s convenient for him. Everyone glooms. Aina wants to ask…so we’ll see him soon enough? Manon agrees and all 4 walk onward to follow Pharia’s mental map through the city. 

Tinos and Fuwans appear ahead. A song plays, The Song of Mourning…Aina asks about it because a sudden song playing everywhere in an empty city through hidden speakers is very eerie.  Manon says it plays every day the same time in Leciel. The same reason as Retem. Many lives were lost in the Starless war, he played the song in Leciel so we would never forget. She asks Pharia for insight, she has none, but says she’s correct. Aina feels it could be his way of expressing his emotions. They’re probably right, but it feels very Big Brother dystopian to have that sort of thing happen every day. Like a government enforced mourning…for people the government actually killed.
 Boostas will block your path next. If you can defeat those you go down another hill to face Gazzas Axe and Zamz swords with smaller enemies sprinkled along.

Pharia says objective is just ahead, but an Ikusa Engoku appears. This is the obviously Monkey King dolls boss enemy. He’s got his MK-Staff and flames powers. He grows to giant size after banging the staff on the ground, and can fire-stomp the area with big AOE. He also doubles himself (both do take damage) occasionally. (You can tell what Zephetto’s been reading and doing as he invents dolls, some of them like the Chiacurio have no Starless counterpart and do not look like anything known, while others are more storybook foes. What he makes creates insights into him.)

When you do beat this, she looks for a way down from here and summons a teleporter…somehow. She nods at you, you nod back and everyone walks toward it go in. (Think about how deadly and 'walking into a trap' this actually could be, there is ZERO way out once you TP, and literally anything/anyone could be waiting on the other side) Everyone is now in a long hall with many tubes stacked super high, a huge place just like Leciel (where you tracked Zephetto down to the first time). They're all full of more of that opaque fizzy water. Aina asks if this is just like where we went on Leciel that one time? Pharia says no on the contrary (its him again) The room on Leciel was based on this facility. Manon sees through her/that it’s really Zephetto who is talking now. She says follow me, and you have to walk down the long path between the towers of tubes. Aina says she saw it before too, and looks into the bubbling pods. What are they this time? The 3rd gen ARKS production facility, he says. Is this where Meteorn come from? (Yes, and also from Leciel, clearly these are 2 sources.)

The striving idea ARKS: a mighty force that made a name for itself in the 1000 year ago war. The war was brought to an end, and a long period of peace occurred after. ARKS was, in time, forgotten. The Starless made them relevant once more. We believed we need the same power as the ancient force to combat this new threat. Much of their history and knowledge is lost to the sands of time. All we had were battle logs, and some genetic code here and there. Once code came from an ARKS in cold sleep.

*WHAT is the source of all this blatant irresponsibility?
These aren’t some stone age cave men who can’t log anything down. You literally had machine-gods like Xiao and Xierra even able to mess with TIME ITSELF and TELEPORT INSTANTLY and they never backed up their hard drives? 1000 years is nothing to these people/machines, especially considering each human would likely live to 100 years a piece in the worst case scenarios. Even Ancient Egypt on Earth lasted something like 4000 years and they didn't even have paper to write things on yet look how far they got without forgetting all their stuff/these have zero excuse. (Obviously their medicine is very good there, nobody's going to get axed of a heart attack at 60 and up and die of it, cancer doesn't exist so outside of battle they're not going to die young) CASTs even longer (even if they had brain pieces in them that did age, you’re not going to have a heart attack at 70 or even 100 as a mostly-robo-person)
It’s easy to see everyone casting aside the militarized ARKS based society, but it’s impossible to see all records of how it went being wiped out barring some kind of plot event sabotage/something else in this situation. This "Everyone is dumb now!" is a pending plot hole unless they can plug it up with something pretty large and explain-ey
.

Aina asks what’s that?
Did you find an ancient warrior in suspended state? He confirms it’s so and says: We regret not learning much about them. Manon wants to know what that means? We couldn’t start the thaw process: it was too protected by the ancients. They decided instead to focus on more accessible things. We started looking for photon related genes and developed sims based on the data we gathered. So began the long-long experiment of the Resurgent ARKS. So 909 was the culmination. You stare her down. Manon has some questions though.

What happened to the people in the city? She says hmm. It was 100 000 members based out of here. The finest minds all worked for the Grand Reconstruction. They were The First Generation, there was the major differences between it and subsequent gens. We spliced the old genetic material directly into the first set of people they set about to create.

Manon argues a little with this, about how risky that would be. (Yes, to just mingle random DNA in of people who might be a slightly different species)  Adding that much code would….they couldn’t handle the sudden influx. Their bodies rejected it so most died. (Presumably, this isn’t killing ACTUAL anyone, it’s bodies in the tubes that just don’t “come to life” at the end of their creation period--BUT that is not specified by anyone here.) The survivors suffered changes unfit to continue. (So here, he implies the tube people who did come to life at the end of their creation period, they didn’t live long because they were so defective. He says that this caused a philosophical rift among the workers, and violence on occasions, resistance grew and we were left only 1 tenth the staff. Half of that lost to accidents too. (Like...what kind of accidents? And if you quit off the project, where would you go? Was he killing dissidents or could you just 'retire' to the housing area and refuse to do a job?)

So…the leaders of the experimental science branch/the ‘government’ controlling all this was fighting about how to produce the ‘good enough’ people to fight the starless. They started fighting each other (like fist fights in parliament, presumably) because a lot of this stuff is clearly very morally gray and causing suffering. What accidents could they have? Would the defective pod people come to life and then accidentally kill others with hidden powers? Its easy to see why there would be lots of disagreements about experimenting on the pod people, even if they were not 'living people' yet and more like embreos.

But those who remained though, continued to construct Halpha. The goal to enhance the FG to adapted to the code. He’s=Zephetto  a member of the FirstGeneration. His ability to transfer consciousness was his special power that he got during the experience. (It also makes sense that he would experiment on himself, it is in-character) He inhabits different hosts over the years. He’s still aware of the starless thereat & he’s the last member of resurgent arks. But there’s something else he’d like to show you still. She/he walks forward.

So it looks like they were splicing themselves LIVE with old ARKS DNA bits to see what they’d get. Some people got a special power they could handle and everybody else got dead, apparently. It’s no wonder he’s the last of them though, his woo-woo power (how does one even begin to have that logically work) is the ultimate death-cheat. Inhabiting an empty CAST body is the perfect thing for him though, so he was only fibbing a bit when he said he started out as a flesh-person, and now inhabits the CAST body with the skull face you see him as at first. He’s been through a lot of ‘host bodies’ as apparently confessed right here.

(Do you suppose he becomes dysphoric when inhabiting a female body?)

She/he contemplates a tube. Aina asks what it is. In this certain pod…is 909…but what? Everyone looks on edge. She crosses her arms, and demands of you, who are you exactly? An error occurs when transcribe the code of the 4th generation…so 909 is in here, yet you’re in front of us. You don’t know about it. Remember the cold sleep person? There’s more about that.

In developing new ARKS, we were meticulously cautious of the ways they stored and created the people, but the whole process was under attack and much got destroyed during the research conflicts…so he thought…if you could be…

I Have No Idea What You’re Talking About
I Woke Up Just Before Descending To Halpha

If you say I Woke Up Just Before Descending to Halpha (because it’s the truth) he dots at you. Aina frets. He says you’re not lying, but something bangs the floor and a quake hits. The starless are now paying attention. She/he goes toward a closed door which seemed to have the noise behind it. Everyone hesitates but has no choice but to follow. She/he commands to kill these first, Mannon grudgingly says understood.

Mystery Again!
WHO did/made YOUR guy if there's a copy of it in the 909 pod? Remember, only Zephetto is the puppet master here, HES supposed to be the only one who knows what's going on absolutely everywhere here
, so him having a question that's un-answered is a bigger deal than just the surface. It's CLEARLY being implied that there's something from "original ARKS protagonist guy" from PSO2 mingled with your guy despite the claims of "well we couldn't open that 1 person's cryo unit"

The Volga, Zelvin and his balrog guards all appear to fight you. What has attracted the attention of the Starless at this time? Also no one has asked Zephetto why things tried to stop you on the way to this area despite it being the major scene earlier.

Onward says Zephetto, once you beat them all.

Now, Aina asks where will we find your body? It’s in the next room, actually. Inside this big room is a wall with a force-field on one end. It appears to be full of more of that blue bubble water. You can see the vague shape of some person floating in there. It’s like a hairless purple-ish kind of guy/human looking whatever thing.  Inside here is the 4th clone host, but it has no soul implanted, he says.

(This here’s a dicey area, what is a soul? Does he mean there is no brain inside the body? They were pulling brain pieces out of dying people to make ‘living enough’ CASTS that could do technics in ARKS, is that what’s going on here? *Remember EVERY PS game there has to be a living component in something to pull off a tech. Vol Opt doing Barta & all had pieces of people in him. CASTS back in PSO era couldn’t tech at all because they were actual robots. It was only revealed later that in PSO2 most of them had living bits in them. (Obviously a ploy to play to the gameplay element because no one would pick a ‘race’ that couldn’t tech—it’s part of them homogenizing everything and getting rid of specifics so that every look plays the same regardless of what’s interesting/good/etc. There is no point in races/classes if they all play precisely the same way—but in this age of 2024, people scream the house down with bad reviews if 1 thing works slightly differently than another so...)

Like they’re able to write info like language, ability to read, to do math, logic, and etc so that the adult bodies have blank but adult brains in them from the get-go and nobody is raising babies or children or having to teach anyone the basics. Literally hatching people out as late teens.

Manon says it can’t be real, are you doing another experiment right now? No he’s not, and he’s offended that she’d ask. He lost his body in his last fight, he confesses. Aina is shocked. This shows you a black and white scene of him in his wrecked Venogia mech suit out in space. The starless vanguard…he beat it but was irreparably damaged. So he used his ability to put is consciousness to Pharia at that time. He’s been there ever since. (So, he did that without Pharia, or anyone else knowing. He rides around in there silently) Manon doesn’t like that. All this time he’s plotted how to lead us here. (It is unclear how much time has passed for the cast between when they found him up on Leciel (and he went off into space) and right now. Presumably, he died fairly soon after going up. She steps up, and says what he wants? To transfer into this clone. He wants to bring the war to an end. The 4th incorporates all learned from 909’s all battles its been in. An ARKS to surpass all others. How can you be sure asks Manon, but she can’t until he tries it. She argues back that "We need more data?" He can’t sustain himself, he needs a permanent host.

So, he can’t live forever inside of Pharia, he’s still dying/maybe there’s not enough room in a normal mind for 2 people, or there’s something wrong with him. “all your battles”, remember Leciel was pretty much always watching everything everyone was doing, but since he knew from the start that ‘your guy’ was liable to be special, it’s no wonder/logical that its activity would be the most closely watched over and recorded so that it would go into this particular clone of you that is in the big blue gel area now. (With the note being beans to you & the plot if you are a cast because the thing in there is a flesh creature--it's the same for Persona being depicted as male & not a cast the plot HAS to fit that in this case as well it can't accomodate everyone so it needs to just be overlooked here. It's not a dealbreaker or anything.)

Pharia, you know the process right? He asks this out loud, and quiets long enough for her to answer.  She does, so let’s start. He touches the force-field wall to activate the blank looking guy in the water. A circle appears in the wall as Pharia/he touches it. Zephetto says yes excellent but enemies appear! You’ve got to hold them off while he does this!

I’ll Buy Some Time.
You’ll Be Held Accountable for What You’ve Done.

Now reaaaaallly isn’t time to threaten him over…whatever he’s been doing, so I’ll Buy Us Some Time. Aina says been a while since we all fought together, Manon agrees and you fight Zamz and Valvilan axe as well as the Pluteneiede bosses. The Valvilan Axe is a new starless boss who can set up an automated turret that blasts at you. He has lots of axe attacks, of course, and is fairly tough. The turret can be broken, however. The NPCs again here are pretty good about fighting things, and distribute themselves well here to make the fight not go awry.

Getting back to him at the wall now that you’ve protected both of them during the process of him permanently (presumably) exiting Pharia’s brain, the body starts moving around in there, and Pharia seems maybe normal again. It looks at its hand and says this will do. (How it can be heard is unknown, remember dude is under water at this point) He has a distant-sounding voice, and believes he can defeat them, the DF class Starless of 500 years ago. (The body is under water, it isn’t talking, but you can hear it anyway as if it is psychic or something) And killed everyone and more planets than any other. Aina says it's terrifying that there's something out there like that.
This initates sort of a flashback for him, in black and white. It shows a battle in space, and then one body just drifting among rubble. It killed all of the Anti starless squad he was part of at that time as well, and incapacitates him also. He lost conciseness for ‘quite a long time’. But when he came to nothing was left at all. His planet gone, all loved ones gone. A body drifts in space. (him) Even the starless vanished without a trace. His world was nothing, all he could do was look on in shock. At long last he can avenge that loss. And now the mission can be truly fulfilled. Pharia finishes the sequence, he asks are we done.

But something rumbles in his water. It turns red, an alarm sounds, he breaks up into cubes while yelling now…Vael?? Well played, but stay back Aina, the glass shatters and everyone falls down, a huge explosion of energy and fog is everywhere. He has vanished but a sparkle appears and tries to shoot Aina!

She dodges a long purple spear that comes from the fog of where he was. There’s somebody there…a cubes purple person fragmenting and glowing is walking out. This isn’t him though…Aina calls for Zephetto, hello what’ s going on??

She wants to approach but you’ve got to stop her.

Aina! Be Careful!
Get Away From There!

Stop her with Aina Be Careful! She knows but it just stands there and summons a sword…that is its hand. It walks forward slowly and swings it blasting everyone down and away with a strange hit (some kind of invisible energy blows off the blade). It pins Pharia but can’t speak and staggers backward which is enough to let the team in the way. It struggles with itself and makes noises, Zephetto says run away. I’ll send this body that is Vael into Space time. You need to get out of here. He struggles, and now two swords appear on the hands and he screams to Go

What About You?
We Still Have So Many Questions!

This is a tough choice. He’s bad…but still…and the questions are so importantWhat About You? He says "Forget that, just Go"…You look back at the team and he cries in pain, dissolving the swords and creating them again. He’s clearly falling apart as he struggles against this Vael thing that has also entered the blank body with him. He freaks out destroying the area with purple beams and starts screaming uncontrollably. Everyone runs away. Manon laments no answers again, and Aina reminds her that it’s our main job to tell everyone back home what’s going on as everything starts destroying around you. A new task: “Vael” is now revealed. The quest ends.

So the 100k people or so who lived in the peaceful nice ARKS style city up there were asked to go down to newly minted Halpha. But then, we know what happened, which was that the ‘powers that be’ (Zephetto and his cohort up on Leciel) started unleashing enemies. So what did THAT memo look like?? Imagine being Doris from accounting or something and the memo comes in that “I’ve created this 10 foot tall guy named Pettas Axe and well, he’s going to be hunting you and your family for sport, so, good luck with that & please try to have a baby that has special powers.” ????

Returning to the Command Room…
Crawford is glad to see everyone, and no trace of Zephetto…so he’s got some questions, at which you can nod. (This cuts away the trio explains to Crawford part) He thinks about this, and correctly concludes that Zephetto went into the 4th clone, so his body got hijacked by something. Ilma says the rollercoaster never seems to end, what twist is around the next bend? Aina laments the loss of him. A new voice! He can’t talk long, but he tells you about something in question.

Pharia?
Is That You Zephetto?

Is That You? He says yes still him, and the foe's name is Vael the DF class starless that holds dominion, Vael preminent is the emperor of Starless. It won’t be long before he consumes the soul of Zephetto entirely, he transferred a portion of himself to Pharia before it could happen. His fusion with Vael (just now) reveals the truth of the starless to him. They’re insatiably hungry in the universe for photons to devour. Even the most minute amount summoned them 500 years ago, but they realized something, that nomatter what they consumed they were always starved for more. The 1000 years ago arks were more filling of content (As they were a whole huge civilization across 100s of planets with huge ships and all powered by photon, of course). So he decided to wait. He reasoned the prey would develop more power and photons. He then issued the order to all starless to halt the attack and retreat into space time. That is why they vanished suddenly and seemingly without reason when everyone was 'on the ropes'. This solves the biggest mystery so far.

Now the scene takes place in a sort of...imagined space? Everyone is on a black background, but present in the 'room'. Zephetto is his old self, the cast body with the exposed blue gel skull in the head. He has his own voice and gestures. Pharia is also there, so you can see all characters. It's certainly a good, illustrative technique but is meant to be like a "minds eye" type of thing that everyone is having.

As for Vael, he hid himself inside of Zephetto. Now he knows that his ability (to switch bodies) was what he got from Vael. But oblivious he proceeded with experiments, convinced it was his destiny. (Remember earlier Zephetto was convinced the reason he could switch bodies was because he experimented on himself with the old ARKS DNA technology and that it gave him "that special power", and other people got different ones) Resurecting ARKS to combat the Starless, predicting their Starless cycle…how many of these ideas were planted by Vael? 1 thing is that his hatred of the starless is his own. It doesn’t matter, he was still used as their puppet.

So, What’s Vael’s Next Move?
What is Vael After?

You already know what he’s after: Photons. Zephetto just told you consuming them is their entire agenda, so that question is 100% redundant. So What’s His Next Move? Now, this is where the beings with the highest photon ability, right here, without a doubt Vael is coming. He grows stronger in space time even now, he’ll complete his transformation into his final form using the host body that everyone just lost. It won’t be long before he joins you here. His power is immense, but don’t despair, you’re the strongest defender there is 909, or Guardian…You’re even more powerful now than when we fought, your progress lifts your friends and makes them stronger too, you’re all Defenders Prime, I have no doubt your combined might can defeat Vael. Now, his time has come…

*It's likely very signifigant that he says Guardian here. There's CLEARLY more going on with 'that frozen guy they couldn't open' than is being revealed. IS this suppsoed to LITERALLY BE the protagonist from PSO2 but frozen for all the years? Going to have to clarify and solve on it.

Aina says Zephetto…Thank You. This seems to catch him off guard a little bit. He’s not sure he has anything to thank him for. Out of all the interactions he's had, this one, he's very clearly a person. A flawed one, with regrets, but it's really REALLY good scene setting/etc that you get this single moment of him seeing his humanity here so clearly. But, you caused an incredible amount of pain, done horrible things, but if you didn’t, we couldn’t take on the real enemy so she’s grateful for that…she  shouldn’t but she does forgive him…he uncrossed his arms and looks at her for a while. He says "People of Halpha, he is truly, truly sorry. He’s only 1 final request, take care of your world." Pharia closes her eyes and confirms that he’s no longer there.
*Zepehtto’s CAST body is a VERY cool looking thing. That blue gel skull just…watching her with the eyeless sockets is a really powerful image here. They really, really knew what they were doing when they designed this guy. It’s an absolute shame he appeared for such a short time and died because the character is such a design powerhouse and genuinely morally gray and very complicated. Glimpsing his humanity there as he's forgiven by a child for murdering her father.

Aina says a "speech followed by a dramatic exit, he’s selfish to the end, isn’t he". The Selfish general of ARKS, selfish till the end. She envisions Leciel. The scene ends.

Crawford is lost for words at the staggering turn of events. For all he told us there’s still more, with time maybe we could have reconciled…But Ilma can’t just mope around because our biggest fight ever is on the way. Pharia says there’s a parting gift for us. The issue with the weapon that we couldn’t figure out? Ilma's been losing sleep over it for weeks. He reminded her of how to solve it before he left. (She does say 'left', but it is probably him actually dying as he can't sustain himself without a body and a good chunk of his brain was just deleted by Vael in the clone incident) He’s so excited! She’ll show him, and they rub the screen, and change things around while they open and close windows and change data. He’s shocked, because there are things that he did not suspect. Zephetto clearly had all the technical chops too.

Crawford says he was an exceptional engineer. Ilma says we can finally finish it! We’ll make something to finally smash this Vael jerk! You encourage him and Pharia is happy too.

The scene ends.

Well this is a turn of events!
And it looks like the game is permanently back to making sense all the time again, which is fantastic. Sure it gets side-tracked a bit (with Manon’s issues) but this is a fine rally back to actual action, plot and characters doing interesting things that make sense, and dispensing battle and plot at a good clip. There's still a bit too many unanswered questions, but its not a big deal yet.

Questions: Is Vael a person? Zephetto seems to think so
The Starless were portrayed as a mindless, devouring horde. However, they do have the concept of tool use & hands to grip things (as some of the bosses do) Are they copying others or is it by design? Remember all DOLLS are always derivitve, but are Starless also derivitive? And if so, of what?

Endless hunger for photons?
Why is the hunger NOT present in 'whatever other dimension starless goes to'? And if they're eternally hungry for more, consuming more wont do them any good. Especially here on Halpha because a planet of 100 or 200k people tops along with some sad little space colonies don't hold even a grain of sand next to 1000s of planets and 1000s of million-person ships that they consumed before. Why even bother?

What is the deal with The Guardian?
It's brought up 3 times in this chapter, each with zero explanation

Very Convenient (TM)
Still can't turn off them pesky dolls can'ya? Soooo convenient...
What about reprogramming the dolls to fight the starless? Send a his Fake Falz DOLLS against it. That thing was damn near unkillable with infinite regens in the Goop at The Volcano...the Starless would choke on that guy for a while. Also the whole "renewed DF activity" E-quest in the game stands up that it could be remade.

What's in the Secret Core of Leciel?
Don't forget about that area! The place that could only be physically gotten to by Zephetto as a form of security: remember that nobody actually got in there yet. What's in it and why hide it from his loyal minions?