Voices of the Dead
“Hate me if you want, but I cannot die now.”
If Dart’s journey is partly about the Black Monster and partly about realizing the present he has with Shana, Rose’s, too, has a personal component and a component related to the Black Monster. While Dart needs to understand that the closure he seeks doesn’t necessarily lie in revenge, Rose has to emotionally connect with the killing she has done and face it, as an important step towards truly regaining her ability to feel.
As mentioned under Immortality, I believe part of the reason Rose is the way she is — emotionally repressed — by the time she meets the group is not just due to having lived for so long, but because she had to emotionally detach herself from what she’s been doing: Had her feelings — the guilt, the self-disgust, the voices of the victims and those who pass on the story of the Black Monster — got into the way, she wouldn’t have been able to continue the mission, or even carry on living. And after having taken so many lives, becoming desensitized would not just be an understandable consequence, but could also be a defense mechanism.
Rose’s narrative arc concerning the Black Monster, however, is not to be mistaken with a narrative of redemption. Rose does not regret what she has done, and does not seek forgiveness or redemption. Though she may act together with Ulara’s Winglies and has been carrying out her gruesome duty for millennia, she is neither a victim of fate nor a tool that carries out orders without question. Rose’s actions are her own, and reflect her unchanging beliefs and undying devotion. Rose is not forced to kill and to save the world — Rose chooses to continue saving the world, and if that requires killing, so be it. The agency she has is perhaps best visible at the end of Disc 3, when Zieg reveals Shana and Rose’s true identities to the group. Rose does not hesitate even for a moment to jump at Shana with the intention of striking her down, despite their bond and regardless what the group may think of her after the fact.
Sure, Rose is emotionally vulnerable during Disc 4 after Dart of all people has learned that the monster he has been searching for is someone who has been walking by his side, someone he considers a comrade, perhaps even a friend. And in an hour of genuine despair, Rose even tells Dart to judge her by killing her — which goes against everything you’ve seen of Rose, the woman who will see her mission through no matter what. (By that point, she no longer has to assume the role of the Black Monster as the Moon Child has been taken to The Moon That Never Sets. Nevertheless, the world that she has been protecting is still in danger.)
But that despair and the forgiveness that Dart eventually grants are, although inextricably linked with Rose’s deeds as the Black Monster and a big part of Rose’s story and her role as the Black Monster, of highly personal nature. Dart’s forgiveness is personal because it does not speak for other victims of the Black Monster or those who have survived. It speaks for him, as the child who was deprived of his parents and his hometown, as the adult who spent years obsessing about revenge, and as the comrade who felt betrayed by Rose. Dart’s forgiveness and Rose’s breakdown and relief are between the two of them and part of their relationship. That is also why that part of Rose’s journey is covered on Dart’s page rather than in the following, for interpreting it as Rose’s absolution would not just be misinterpreting her character and her story, it’d massively cheapen what she stands for by denying her the agency behind her actions.
Still, Rose never apologizing for her deeds and not being on a quest for forgiveness doesn’t equate to taking pride in what she has done — what she has had to do — or the absence of guilt and sympathy, or the lack of awareness regarding the way she is perceived by Humans. After all, in her very first conversation with the party, she says
“I am used to being hated.”, and leaves the player wondering what she might have done that makes her speak that way of herself. And although Rose considers her stay with the group as a kind of break from her mission, over the course of their journey, there are several moments and stations that not just remind her of what she has done, but make her face personal victims of her mission.
The first incident takes place in the later half of Disc 2 when the party examines the Phantom Ship that is adrift at sea, which has been described in detail in Catching Up. During this episode, Rose is shown to recognize the scene of her last bloodshed, though she keeps quiet when the ghosts of the ship’s crew beg the party for help and the ghosts of Princess Louvia’s knights attack the group (more specifically Rose, who is part of the group) because they recognize that the Black Monster has returned. Rose essentially relives the last moments of the people she killed on the ship as they desperately cling to life even in death; overcome with fear and regret, they are unable to fully die and to move on.
Rose may look calm on the outside, but as pointed out, she loses it when she hears the group’s perception of the Black Monster — not just because they’re rightfully passing judgement on the sacrifices Rose has agreed to make, I assume, but because they are the honest words of comrades she has grown fond of, unknowingly directed at her specifically and all the more direct for it. Rose may not have cared much about what the Humans think of the Black Monster, and she’d remain loyal to her duty no matter what. Being judged by those she has taken a liking to must have reached her on an emotional level though — as the blood-stained Black Monster or as the comrade who wishes for this friendly “break” to last just a little while longer after such a long period of loneliness.
Following the events on the Phantom Ship, the time spent with Dart in a cave while reminiscing about Zieg and her past, and the celebrations by the end of the disc, Rose temporarily leaves the party early into Disc 3 without taking no for an answer or revealing what she’s up to:
“Please go ahead. I remember I have some important errand to do. […] I’ll catch up with you soon.” While the group heads to Deningrad to consult the national library, Rose pays a visit to what remains of Neet, Dart’s hometown and latest scene of tragedy. Rose halts at the town’s entrance, and it takes her a moment to bring herself to explore Neet’s ruins instead of turning back:
Nothing has changed. (Am I… hesitating?) It’s silly.
Deeper into the town, she chances upon a small group in front of a kind of shrine or gravestone, consisting of several knights of Mille Seseau as well as two of the nation’s Sacred Sisters. Just like Dart, Luanna, the Second Sacred Sister, survived the carnage of Neet eighteen years ago, though she has permanently lost her eyesight.
Luanna: Who is it?
Rose: I didn’t mean to surprise you.
Luanna: You are?
Rose: Just a traveler. Please don’t be alarmed.
Luanna: There are people of Neet, and my mother, sleeping here.
Setie: Are you here to visit the grave too?
Rose: I guess so.
A flashback starts to play, detailing Luanna’s last moments with her mother as the Black Monster — Rose in her Dragoon form — closed in on them. After threatening the woman and obtaining the crucial information regarding Princess Louvia’s location, the Black Monster turned and left mother and daughter to the flames. Did Rose spare the young girl back then in an act of mercy? I heavily doubt so, since Rose left with the words
“My objectives will not be satisfied until I kill every single person who was present as the Moon Child passed through.” and considering that Rose has always been thorough regardless of the toll it takes, whether on herself or on the Humans she wishes to protect. Rose left the two of them to the fire in the belief that it would inevitably take their life. Though painful, Rose may have made that choice so as not to use more violence than necessary, so as not to stain her sword with more blood than necessary — even if the result remains the same.
Rose has a short conversation with Luanna, who says that she has been given another power, perhaps in exchange for her eyesight: She is able to see people’s souls, and feel their pain so as to heal their hearts. It’s likely that she feels Rose’s inner turmoil — part of it being the burden that she has carried for so long, part of it the recent chaos in response to the events on the Phantom Ship, her current journey and new comrades, as well as the memories of Neet — as she goes on to offer Rose her help:
“If you need to heal the pain in your heart, please tell me.” But Rose turns her down and says it’s not necessary. It’s possible that she is afraid of Luanna finding out her identity as the Black Monster, but I think the more plausible explanation here is that Rose doesn’t feel as though she deserves the healing that comes with Luanna’s kindness. Not when she is the Black Monster, not when Luanna is still praying for Neet’s dead, not when Dart is still looking for the creature, and certainly not when Rose has no intention to abandon her mission even as she accompanies Dart and pretends not to know.
Instead, Rose offers to accompany Luanna’s group back to Deningrad so as to protect them from the dangerous monsters that lurk in the woods. Rose doesn’t ask to be forgiven, and Rose left the little girl from back then to die, but Rose isn’t heartless. Rose has never been heartless, and the gesture in this scene demonstrates that. It isn’t meant as compensation, as Rose isn’t trying to make amends (here or at any other point), but it still is a gesture of sympathy: sympathy towards a victim of hers, and maybe also sympathy towards a survivor who, despite the traumatic incident, has retained her good heart.
It’s worth noting that while Rose visits Neet and the game has her automatically return to Deningrad with Luanna, the party itself is never required to go to Neet in order to advance the story. To the group, and thus to Dart, Neet is an optional location, even though they are aware that Mille Seseau is the country where Dart was born. In a way, the game does draw attention to Neet being optional by placing a sidequest item there that can only be picked up if you deliberately head to Neet with the group. There’s no extra scene, but it’s noteworthy because Rose cannot pick up the item while she’s visiting Neet.
This may just mean that at this point in the game, Dart’s development is further along than Rose’s as far as their relationship to the Black Monster is concerned. Dart has already told Rose on Disc 2 that he no longer thirsts for revenge, and that he’ll see what he’ll do with the Black Monster once he meets it. Dart doesn’t feel the need to see Neet again because what’s left between him and the Black Monster is something personal, with the answer lying within himself. Whatever actions he takes from now on, they are not motivated by getting revenge for the town or the people of Neet. Rose, however, may only just have started moving, as she most likely visits Neet not just in response to the Phantom Ship experience, but precisely because of Dart, who is victim, survivor and comrade — someone she knows, rather than the countless faceless lives she has taken.
Fort Magrad is an optional area close to the end of Disc 3. It can be visited by taking a detour while traversing the Snowfield on the way to the ruins of Capital Vellweb. While there, Rose not just explains the place’s historical significance to Dart, but also has several flashbacks of Emperor Diaz and Zieg. In fact, she is so lost in her memories that Dart ends up calling out to her multiple times to pull her back to the present. When they reach the court area, Rose kneels down in front of something that looks like a war monument. Shortly afterwards, the sword stuck in the monument springs to life, assumes the shape of a living armour, and attacks Dart and Rose.
The Polter Armor is an agglomeration of souls of the soldiers who fell in the Dragon Campaign, which are now reacting to the reappearance of Dragoons. Given the information on Fort Magrad, they must have been the Human soldiers fighting under Emperor Diaz, making them the Dragoons’ allies during the ancient war, which begs the question why they’re attacking Dragoons — and Rose, who fought at their side. It’s possible that these souls haven’t been able to find peace, and, restless as they have become, begrudge Rose for still being alive. The party leaves after beating this optional boss and thus possibly laying those souls to rest, Rose parting with the words:
I cannot complain that people bear grudges against me.
Death City Mayfil
When the group visits the remaining ancient Wingly cities one after another on Disc 4, Mayfil is the last station of their journey before they head for The Moon That Never Sets. The ghost of Lavitz, a former member of the group, appears and lets Rose know that there are countless souls in Mayfil who know her and are unable to move on. They are the lives Rose has taken as the Black Monster: the newborn Moon Children and those in its immediate vicinity. In one of the rooms that the group passes in Mayfil, darkness envelops them as these souls close in on Rose.
Rose: Don’t come here.
Souls: The Black Monster. Finally you are dead. Like me. Like me. Like us.
Rose’s Dragoon Spirit lights up and disperses both the darkness as well as the souls.
Rose: Hate me if you want, but I cannot die now. (Please wait until everything is over.)
Not once does Rose complain about being hated, or think of the people’s responses to her actions as unjustified. Rose’s Dragoon Spirit lighting up displays, once more, the strength of her conviction, and she assumes a self-assured stance when declaring that she has no intention of dying just yet. But in a quieter voice and while wrapping her arms around herself, she adds that she does not fear death, and that she is ready for it. Rose does not cling to life, but she must see her mission through. Her lowering her head and hugging herself really show how much her mission has worn her down, and how much it takes for her to pull herself together and to keep going. And perhaps she knows that the end isn’t so far away now that a final confrontation with Zieg is in sight.