fault - milestone two side:above Review
By: ChockrickBear | Mar. 20, 2020 | Views: 2 | Keywords: anime fantasy visual novel politics
An emotional story of poor kids working their way out of adversity with the help of a psychopath.
It has been almost two years since I reviewed Milestone One and even longer since I first read Milestone Two, since I bought them both at the same time and started reading Two right after One. However, I wanted to cover more games rather than novels, so I decided to put off on reviewing Two even I liked it more than One. At the time, I admired Rughzenhaide's egalitarian system as an ideal society where everyone respected and helped each other. But as I wrote in my Milestone One review, I realized there were some fundamentally unequal aspects to their system, but I did not really go deep into it. As time passed, I broadened my perspectives and I am surprised at how much I have improved since then. This novel has been on the back of my mind because of its political themes, especially after going through Mhakna Gramura, and with my paradigm shift into conservatism, I have decided to give it a go again.
As Ritona, Selphine, and Rune travel to the docks to leave the Outer Pole, they encounter Melano, the leader of those who attacked Rughzenhaide. Selphine's personality suddenly changes into a ruthless leader and she orders Ritona to strike down Melano using a deadly manakravte skill. However, Melano is completely unaffected by it and demonstrates her own power that vastly outclasses Ritona's, although she spares everyone. Melano's objective was to kill Selphine to end the Path-Down (the inheritance of knowledge and memories of Rughzenhaide's past rulers), but she makes an ultimatum that as long as she does not return to Rughzenhaide, she will be spared. Afterwards, she leaves via teleportation.
Because they are in a region of little mana, Ritona's attack took a toll on her. Selphine returns to her normal self and is devastated by how she treated Ritona. They continue to the docks and depart on boat towards the Inner Pole. During the trip, Ritona and Selphine explain to Rune that Selphine's change in personality is a side-effect of the Path-Down called Empress Syndrome. During the encounter with Melano, Selphine took on the personality of Queen Rhegan, a psychopathic ruler who made Rughzenhaide as strong as it is. However, Selphine has reservations about adopting Rhegan's experience.
A country of inequality
The three arrive at Port Sasary in the country of Viscanta, where they meet Sol, a local boy offering to tour them around the city. Ritona is suspicious that he might be a scammer since he is an orphan approaching outsiders, but Selphine and Rune felt sorry for him and want to use his services to help him out. Ritona wants a safe place to stay, so Sol takes them to Neo Sasary, a wealthy gated community that charges for entry. The place is built in a naturally occurring stream of mana called the Vita Stream, which prolongs the life of those exposed to it. They go to an inn, but soon discover that the owner discriminates against Viscantans like Sol, so Sol leaves while the three girls stay for the night. Viscanta was a poor country and had received massive investments from a neighbouring country called Seris. However, this has resulted in significant wealth inequality.
Ritona experiences some sort of illness that is causing her mind and body to seize up for brief moments, but then goes away. The girls meet up with Sol and ask if there is a doctor, but he says the doctors are too expensive, even for a diagnosis. Instead, he suggests a pharmacist in Port Sasary. However, the pharmacist turns out to be a quack, so they leave, but he seems to know Sol and he raises the price of medicine Sol regularly buys.
They go to a cafe and plan their journey out of Viscanta. However, a waitress spills water on Ritona. Sol suggests going to a nearby bathhouse to get changed, but Ritona decides to go alone with Sol while Selphine and Rune proceed to the general store to obtain a map of the area. At the bathhouse, Ritona dries her clothes off with manakravte, but suspects something is off since there are no other customers. She uses an invisibility barrier to hide herself, then Sol comes in to steal Ritona's money pouch. Ritona reveals herself and asks Sol to return the pouch, but Sol escapes using manakravte. Ritona pursues him and casts a long-distance barrier to block Sol, but just as she corners him, her illness hits her and she collapses.
Days pass with Ritona nowhere to be found. Selphine has been meditating at the inn while Rune asked around. Then, Selphine awakens with Rhegan's personality. Selphine (Rhegan) is not satisfied with Rune's information gathering, so she decides to question the pharmacist about Sol. The pharmacist is evasive, but Selphine (Rhegan) tricks him into revealing his stock of narcotics. She assaults him by surprise and then performs a Mind-Dive on him to extract information on Sol's whereabouts.
They go to a cabin in a remote area and find Sol's sister, Mil, who appears to be sick and malnourished. Selphine (Rhegan) tries to interrogate her on Sol's whereabouts, only for Sol to enter and attempt to protect Mil. Rune subdues him while Selphine (Rhegan) holds Mil hostage to interrogate Sol about Ritona. Sol tells her everything, but Selphine (Rhegan) performs a Mind-Dive on Sol, and recognizes the man who took away Ritona as Rupika Greus, a former Rughzenhaide doctor who was exiled.
Negotiating the release
Sol offers to help because he wants Rupika to examine Mil, given that health care in Viscanta is terrible. Sol says there is a medical research facility run by a company called Hyvez in Neo Sasary, which is the only place to find a doctor like Rupika. Sol participated as a test subject there, so he should be able to get in for an examination. However, without money, he will not be able to get into Neo Sasary. Because Rune is an android with superhuman strength, Sol proposes a job moving soil from Seris through rough terrain. Since it would normally take multiple people, it pays well if Rune does it alone, which is not a problem for her.
With enough money, they proceed to the Hyvez facility. However, Sol's examination is no longer provided because he sold the medicine he was given, so they are denied entry. Selphine (Rhegan) decides that force is the only way, so she takes a guard hostage and demands to speak to the person in charge of the facility. The chief of the facility, Sceatoire, appears and introduces herself. Selphine (Rhegan) demands Ritona back or else she will kill the guards. Sceatoire capitulates because she does not want to deal with the mess, so she goes inside to check.
Rupika agrees to meet with Selphine (Rhegan). He explains that Ritona is in critical condition and will not be able to leave the facility for four days. He also makes a demand to travel with them back to Rughzenhaide, especially because Ritona's condition will need to be monitored and she will need to take regular medication. Selphine (Rhegan) has no choice but to wait the four days, so she asks Rupika for the method of growing a medicinal plant called sagiolla, which is what Mil needs.
Growing medicine for the poor
Sagiolla only grows in pyro-element soil from Seris, but Rune brought extra soil from her job, so she and Sol prepare the ground. However, someone from Viscanta's pharmacist guild shows up and demands that they cease and desist because they are an anti-competitive cartel who will forcibly shut down anyone who is not licensed to produce medicine. Sol is discouraged by this, but Selphine (Rhegan) pushes him to proceed because he and the rest of Viscanta will only continue to be exploited. Mil browses a manakravte book called a biblio-transmission, which acts like an internet forum, so Selphine (Rhegan) asks her to post her story, explaining that she and Sol are going to defy the guild and grow their own medicine.
Under the guidance of Selphine (Rhegan) and with the conditioning he received as a test subject, Sol quickly learns to create the right growing conditions for sagiolla. Mil is optimistic, but Sol is unsure of himself because he does not want to face reality. Mil is terminally ill, and Sol's daily routine of scraping by lets him not think about the future, so he is afraid of letting it all go to pursue this endeavour. Selphine (Rhegan) lectures him about accepting the inevitable and spending what little time there is in happiness instead of despair. His routine was without purpose and just not a good way to live.
As the sagiolla sprout, the pharmacist and three of his goons appear to shut down the operation. Rune, being an android with superior strength and speed, defeats them. But then, the pharmacist throws out fire bombs, which burned the sagiolla sprouts. However, the pharmacist is ill and coughs up blood, so Selphine (Rhegan) grabs him and performs a Mind-Dive on him.
Ever since Seris moved in and built Neo Sasary in the Vita Stream, the pharmacist could not afford to live in the Vita Stream to treat his illness and prolong his life. He wanted to make enough money to live in Neo Sasary, so he set up the pharmacist guild to control the supply of medicine and swindle his customers. He tricked Sol into buying sagiolla, which is nothing more than a painkiller, to treat Mil's illness when the real medicine would have cured Mil because he wanted Sol to keep giving him money.
Selphine (Rhegan) has a moment of clairvoyance foreseeing what would happen if she let the pharmacist go. Sol would beat him to death in a vengeful rage knowing he was responsible for Mil's inevitable death, so Selphine (Rhegan) decides to execute him on the spot to keep Sol's conscience clean. Afterwards, Selphine (Rhegan) and Rune leave to meet up with Rupika. Mil checks the biblio-transmission to find pages of replies to her. So many people have lost loved ones because of the guild, so they all want to come together and help. Sol chases after Selphine (Rhegan) and Rune to thank them for giving him and Mil hope.
Selphine tells Sol to take care of Mil and then breaks down in tears realizing all she had done was necessary to create the best outcome.
Before I delve into the themes, I want to mention the sound. There is no voice acting, which is a shame, but at least it draws attention to the music. The music is mostly based on classical instruments, especially piano, and it is very fitting for the setting, even the mood of each situation. It is not complex, but it has memorable melodies, does not sound repetitive, and has enough accompaniment to be dynamic with little sense of incomplete white space. It is relaxing, upbeat, unnerving, urgent, sad, and uplifting when appropriate while being consistent in overall tone (i.e. no sudden, wacky comedy music). The music effectively amplifies the emotions of the scenes, and is a big part of what makes the ending feel powerful, really hitting home the feeling of Sol's and Mil's newfound hope.
The moral grey of psychopathy
Milestone Two portrays Selphine growing from being an innocent angel who wouldn't hurt a fly to realizing that ruthlessness is a necessary evil to fight the greater evil of others. It is easy to think that those who distance themselves from evil are innocent and trustworthy, but such people can end up perpetuating evil because they may avoid stepping in and allow it to continue, or they may take sides prematurely because they see an opportunity to play hero without regard to context or reality.
Even though Rhegan was a psychopath, she ultimately made Rughzenhaide strong, so it is short-sighted to look at her as evil and not worth taking seriously. There comes a point where you have to suppress your emotions to do what is necessary. Selphine did not know what to do when Ritona went missing, so she had to become Rhegan to finally take the lead. Suppressing emotions is especially important when governing an entire population with conflicting interests. In order to have a free and fair society, you have to allow people to suffer from the consequences of their own free and fair choices. You have to consider that people are not innocent simply because they suffer or guilty simply because they are spoiled and arrogant.
The idea that having empathy automatically makes you good is deeply flawed. Socialists are prime examples of how empathetic people can become mass murderers. By believing that a villainous, privileged class is responsible for suffering, they can kill with the approval of their conscience. They do not need to be psychopaths, they just need to believe they are right, and they will enjoy the slaughter. Just look at these normal, happy people who participated in genocide. Empathy is not a substitute for reason, intentions do not override reality, and psychopathy can filter out irrational emotions to take the most logical action. It appears that from Milestone One to Mhakna Gramura, the writer is interested in reversing the tropes of psychopaths being completely evil and empathetic people being completely good, so I applaud this sort of risk taking.
The real bigot is the one who refuses to understand her opposition because she thinks it would taint her worthless innocence. When it comes to psychopaths, you cannot discount the possibility that there is a method to their madness.
Well, she didn't take long to figure that out. Red pill rage takes time to subside as you process how reality works and retool yourself to adapt. Then, it turns into strength and cunning to fight the ideology that made you weak in the first place.
While only briefly mentioned, there are two major country alliances that are at odds with each other: the Alliance and the Union. Rughzenhaide is a part of the Alliance, and the liberalism of the Alliance stands in contrast to the religious conservatism of the Union. However, this does not mean that the Alliance is not conservative by today's postmodern liberal standards of everything being subjective and equally viable. Rughzenhaide still runs on a monarchy that is built on a grand narrative of how society came to be and how it should proceed. The Path-Down is the embrace of history as the guiding force for the future, which makes it a conservative concept that uses the experience of past rulers to perpetuate established systems that have been demonstrated to work at making the country prosperous and secure with its own cultural identity.
Religion is a major reason why liberals reject conservatism. Their image of conservatism is defined by religious adherents speaking cryptic, superstitious messages to justify oppressive control. However, this creates a false dichotomy between secular freedom and religious authoritarianism that ignores a type of conservatism that is not religious, but recognizes emergent hierarchies from the fact that nature produces people of unequal desirability and places a limit to how liberal you can be before you are just being stupid.
Tradition prescribes lifestyle choices in accordance to what promotes social stability and prosperity, such as marriage before sex to legally bind a man and woman into taking responsibility for whatever children they produce, or prayer before meals to remind you that the food you enjoy took work to cultivate and prepare so that you do not abuse the effort of others. However, the communication of tradition can attenuate as it is passed down, turning it into little more than parroting superstition, so people will lose faith in tradition and start to think they know better than their ancestors. There comes a point where you have to reinterpret and modernize tradition or else people will become defiant, repeat past mistakes, and drift away from the practices that made their culture so great in the first place.
The purpose of Empress Syndrome is to protect the Path-Down, and Rhegan's persona reflects the need for ruthlessness in dealing with threats to Rughzenhaide's tradition. However, this means it is hypocritical to criticize the Union for its religious conservatism when protecting the Path-Down at all costs is fundamentally the same thing. Both are about protecting tradition from those who undermine it out of fear that losing it will lead to cultural collapse. The romanticizing of tradition and formal hierarchy leads me to believe that either the writer is a closet conservative, or he plans to destroy the Path-Down and create a postmodern liberal Rughzenhaide. Such a society will eventually forget its traditions, devolve into nihilism, demand multiculturalism to enrich their culturally bankrupt society, and then get replaced by the Union who maintains their traditions and has a direction for themselves in the grand narrative of human history.
Violence as the supreme authority
Despite Rughzenhaide's egalitarian society, being the strongest fighter is still regarded with a level of prestige that supersedes all other forms of mastery, especially because it gives you access to a high ranking position like Royal Guardian. It is a recognition of violence being the supreme authority. You cannot live the life you want when someone is physically stopping you, you cannot stop someone else from getting their way if you are imprisoned or dead, and the only way to defy the authority of violence is with better violence. Selphine (Rhegan) wasn't violent for the sake of violence, she used violence because it is the only way to punish and deter those cocky enough to take advantage of others.
Power is not defined by the titles next to your name, but your ability to make people do your bidding, and violence is the overarching principle that enforces your command. In order for a leader to have authority, she must have the physical strength to back it up or else people can just ignore her commands and do their own thing that could undermine her wishes. This is especially important for an intellectual leader who comes up with smart policies, but may not be personally strong enough to enforce them, so she needs to enlist the strongest fighters by convincing them that helping her will bring prosperity that benefits them. Even though she is technically in charge, she has to appease the fighters as much as possible so they do not turn on her. This is why strong fighters are given high levels of prestige and why the concept of power levels is interesting.
The pharmacist guild had authority because it was backed by thugs, so Sol could not just steal from the pharmacist. Sol's operation could only succeed if it could be defended with superior force, and Rune provided that with her android speed and strength. You would think the pharmacist guild should be regulated by the government, but laws are meaningless if they are not backed by violence. As a queen, Selphine (Rhegan) knows that government is a violent institution by design to fight the unjust violence of unregulated individuals.
The problem with government is that there is a danger that it will become the thing it was created to fight. A government is fundamentally just people who can have their own ambitions. Just as the pharmacist created the guild to profit for himself, the government can also have a conflict of interest against the people to protect and empower a princess simply because she is a pretty, compassionate girl, even though she is dangerously naive and not emotionally suited for governance. Therefore, good countries establish a constitution, which defines limits to government intervention to keep society free, the law fair for everyone, and the fighters' confidence in their leader to avoid a civil war.
Fallacy of blaming the rich
Selphine (Rhegan) explains that Viscanta is being exploited by Seris because the Vita Stream is a valuable natural resource that belonged to Viscanta, yet it was practically given away to Seris due to incompetent negotiation. The Serisians took it over and denied the Viscantans access to it, so Mil has to suffer while she and Sol were taught that they deserve it for being poor.
Socialists will have you believe that inequality is an injustice that the rich impose on the poor, but you have to consider the fact that without Seris' investment, Viscanta would likely be even worse off. The exact relationship between Viscanta and Seris is unclear, but Viscanta would not have made such a desperate deal if it was not facing some kind of severe economic problem. It is shown that a portion of Port Sasary was flooded and is now underwater. The Vita Stream used to flow through that part of the town, but it shifted further out into the sea where Neo Sasary was later built. Without Seris, the Viscantans would still be poor, the flooded part of Port Sasary would still be underwater, and no one would be able to access the Vita Stream anyways, which is a flaw in Selphine (Rhegan)'s argument that the Viscantans are being exploited and Mil would have been cured a long time ago.
Viscanta could have demanded shared access to the Vita Stream, but I suspect Seris had the negotiating advantage. If Seris had to provide all of the capital and skilled labour to build Neo Sasary, they were in a position to demand full ownership of it and reap a positive return on investment. You also need to factor in the value of Hyvez's research on the Vita Stream that could save more lives in the long run by containing and exporting it around the world for life-saving treatments instead of limiting it to whoever lives there. Considering that there are no Viscantan doctors in a city the size of Port Sasary, the Viscantans might not be intelligent enough to do the research themselves and train their own doctors, so leaving the Vita Stream in their hands would be an inefficient use of it.
Mil is not the only sick kid in the world, and you cannot discount the possibility of sick Serisians needing the Vita Stream as well. Maybe Paige, the girl Ritona met at the Hyvez facility, is one of the people saved over Mil? Realistically, I doubt the doctors at Hyvez are just sitting around twiddling their thumbs while Viscantans die from curable illnesses at their doorstep. If Seris had to provide affordable health care for Viscanta on top of health care for their own people, the doctors would not get any of their research done, Neo Sasary would have been unsustainable, and then no one would be helped. A truly exploitative relationship is when Seris has to help Viscanta for free.
Also, Neo Sasary requires a lot of maintenance because it is underwater, so they have to be employing menial labour for it. Not everyone benefits, but the number of people helped is still greater than zero, which is why you should not be so quick to blame the rich for suffering despite them being portrayed here as discriminatory snobs with evil music playing in the background. Maybe Seris did offer Viscanta a reasonable deal, but the Viscantans abused their generosity and Seris had to protect themselves, just as Hyvez stopped the medical checkup program for their test subjects because Sol sold whatever medicine they gave him.
It is important to realize that it was the Viscantan pharmacist guild that was the source of Sol's and Mil's problems, not the Serisians. All of those people who lost loved ones and want to fight back could very well be socialists looking for blood, and Selphine (Rhegan)'s interference might be the beginning of a genocide against the Serisians with Mil being the terminally ill child mascot fuelling it. Selphine (Rhegan) has already planted the vision of a moneyless utopia into Mil through their political discussions. Even Selphine (Rhegan)'s final words to Sol were "Be angry", so it is possible that socialism is coming and the Viskies will show their true colours.
Nah, you'll just die on a waiting list because the underwater hospital has to satisfy health care demand for two countries, and one of those countries has not paid into the system.
Selphine (Rhegan) explains that manakravte is a prayer to the gods, sacrificing a fraction of one's soul to manipulate the different elements of mana and make things happen. The ability to do this is a divine blessing, which is why manakravters use the term, "bless", to execute manakravte, and why it is blasphemy to compare manakravte to "magic". On the surface, magic systems seem like a pure power fantasy concept, but why would it interest the reader who lives in the real world? Because it is an abstraction of real life and we instinctively sense its relevance deep within us. We want to be able to draw power from within us to do great things, and this is not removed from reality.
Consider this: What is work? It is the manipulation of the things around us to create useful products or services, and we need an imagination drawn from within us to figure out how to make anything. We twist nature in ways that allow us to feed, shelter, and entertain ourselves. We spend our limited lives producing things and giving away the product of our efforts, and thus, a piece of our lives to other people. We are like manakravters, except we do not sacrifice ourselves to gods, but to our fellow humans.
The importance of money
Selphine (Rhegan) says that money is a trivial matter to her because Rughzenhaide is a moneyless utopia where everything is free. However, this does not mean that Rughzenhaide is some kind of model society we should replicate. The concept of mana is used to assume away scarcity and simplify their economy. It is the pulled-from-thin-air infinite and flexible resource that Rughzenhaide's moneyless economy is built on, so it is not a serious criticism of capitalism.
It is said that Rughzenhaide only uses money when dealing with foreign nations that still use it, but this just creates a massive hole in the global economy. Why doesn't Rughzenhaide just give away their goods to foreign countries for free? Why would Selphine (Rhegan) have any concept of economic negotiation when it is not needed when everything is free? Why don't they just produce everything for the entire world? Why doesn't every country do it? The underlying message is that capitalism is an arbitrary system that the strong imposed on the weak for the sake of power and greed, not an honest system designed to enforce fair exchange, protect individual freedom from external control, and prioritize scarce resources to the most productive so they can continue producing the things people want.
In the real world, money is an abstraction of human value to simplify fair exchange. It is not an end in itself, but a way to keep track of who is owed what for the work they have done. It allows people to focus on the work they do best by allowing their work to be exchanged for the things they want without worrying about the inflexibility of bartering. Giving someone money for their work is an act of gratitude, a blessing you grant them for their sacrifice to make your life better, and a promise that their efforts were not in vain. It ensures that your gratitude actually means anything and is not just lip service you were told to pay when you were a kid in order to get free stuff, which is why money should not be considered a trivial matter.
Even when you have a post-scarcity economy, there are still things that cannot be replicated, like social status and beautiful princesses, and the pursuit of those things will create competition that leads to inequality anyways. If you try to enforce equal distribution of social prestige, society would collapse as incompetent people get put in charge of important work. It would also lead to more unhappiness as talented people would be forced to satisfy those who will not give them what they want when their time and effort could be better spent on those who will.
The idea of working without desire for compensation is dishonest when you consider that compensation is not really about pieces of paper with numbers on them, but the things we desire as humans. Would you rather work for the boring guy or the beautiful princess? Who gets the mansion full of pretty maids while who is stuck with the tenement full of drug addicts? A post-scarcity economy does not make everyone equally happy, it just moves the playing field to the things that are still scarce. Not even Star Trek can give everyone their own Galaxy-class starship and make everyone captain. People are not equally talented, so inferior people who do not excel at anything would end up alone and without purpose in life, just wasting themselves every day in the periphery of society with the endless supply of drugs and booze. Also, consider that excess production will be met with excess population growth, so you will just end up with the same inequality, but on a larger scale.
If not money, then a different unit of account will be used to establish people's places in the social hierarchy. Rughzenhaide has a ranking system based on a person's mastery of different elements of mana. The lower your rank, the less you are able to accomplish with your life, the less useful you are to other people, and thus the more marginalized in society you will be. Money is already a ranking system that measures the value of your contribution to society. Eliminating money on the belief that it will eliminate inequality is nonsense. In fact, it will worsen inequality because a ranking system would be highly regulated, so you cannot just give ranks away like you can with money. Until you solve the problem of some people being better than others, you will never solve inequality.
The limit of compassion
Real-life economies run on a careful balance of production and consumption that create the illusion of abundance. We do not have unlimited quantities of everything with respect to the sheer scale of the human population, so pricing is a way to limit consumption, especially for difficult to produce goods. It gives priority to those who have money, and they have money because they produced value to society. The pharmacist raising prices on medicine is not wrong in itself. Under normal circumstances, the money would go to the producers of the medicine, who would then use the money to purchase additional materials, hire more people, and fix the supply shortage. Competition can also enter at any time to produce more as well as keep the prices down. The real crime of the pharmacist was being anti-competitive, not raising prices on the poor.
Compassion does not fix shortages and instead allocates resources to those who do not have the capacity to fix it, prolonging the suffering of everyone. If you have a limited supply of medicine and an excess number of people with the same condition, rational economics would dictate that you should prioritize the most productive to let them cash in on society's debt to them. As long as the same number of people are getting the medicine, price increases do not cost any more lives. The greater injustice is when someone who has done valuable work for society comes for medicine only to find the shelves empty and the medicine given to a kid who can only steal to survive. That is when society has betrayed him after all he had done. A society that does not respect money will renege on its promises, resulting in an unethical system that exploits the productive.
It is easy to look at a single isolated case and think society can afford to just give them free stuff, but then more people will show up to test how far you will go, which is what happened to the health care system in the UK. If you think all humans are equally valuable, then have another one, and another one, and another one, and another one. At what point do you draw the line because you are now the one who needs help as your system of charity is on the brink of collapse? When do you realize there is no end to the number of people who need help because humans are cheap to produce, expensive to maintain, and unreliable at becoming self-sufficient? What is the point of saving more lives when it comes at the cost of the things to live for?
The flaw of systemic charity
In Mil's first conversation with Selphine (Rhegan), Mil argues that working for money ensures everyone contributes to society, thus giving them the right to live in it. However, Selphine (Rhegan) counters by pointing out that Sol needed to steal money in order for Mil to live because what little money Sol made was not enough, revealing the flaw of the system. If poor people have to steal to survive anyways, why not have the government do it in a controlled manner?
The problem is that government mandated wealth redistribution is coercive by design and no less ignorant of economics. Even though we use money to measure the value of everything, money is not some flexible resource like mana. Giving everyone free money does not restock the shelves. You cannot simply convert a mansion into medicine for the poor, so eating the rich is not productive. Preventing people from buying mansions will also take away jobs building and maintaining them, resulting in more poor people that you have to feed by stealing even more. It denies people the freedom to choose their own life since the people who want to build mansions are denied their passion. In order to regulate the creation of things that would lead to inequality, socialists have to decide what you are allowed to like and by extension, what jobs you are allowed to do while they get the freedom to choose anything for themselves because they are the ones with the guns and prisons.
In the end, you become enslaved to the state. Socialism is fundamentally built on contempt of the private individual while assuming the infallibility of the state, which is why socialism has repeatedly failed in history and became the corrupt, oppressive system it claimed to fight against. If the Path-Down were real, the experience of past rulers who have observed the ignorant rise, the hypocritical rule, and the devastating fall of socialism would tell you not to do it.
"Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy."
If you want to help people, give your money to someone who needs help directly, or organize a private charity that takes voluntary donations. Instead of forcing other people to do it through government coercion, you take on the burden yourself and allow people to help on their own accord. This is the key distinction between a hero and a socialist. All of the good people you have seen in fiction are examples of individual charity, not socialism. Socialists push the burden of responsibility onto others. They expect socialism to have minimal effect on their own livelihood because they will only sacrifice the things they personally do not care about. Their "compassion" is just speaking platitudes while diluting the wealth across an ever expanding population, so their "help" is an insult while they walk away filthy rich.
You cannot help everyone because "everyone" is a moving goalpost, so you are better off prioritizing your efforts to helping those who are of value to you. You have to set limits to charity so you are not sacrificing your own happiness and betraying those close to you. You have to place the onus on the poor to solve their own problems or else you will just create unsustainable dependence. The rich did not cause the poor to exist, the poor exist by default and the rich are simply those who uplifted themselves and those around them by running businesses that create useful products and jobs. They have already done their part, so when will the poor do theirs? The greatest people uplift themselves, otherwise there would be an infinite regress of who uplifted the uplifters.
Selphine (Rhegan) did the sensible thing by teaching Sol how to grow his own medicine to fix the supply shortage. If you want cheap medicine, then go be the minimum wage doctor you expect others to be. When you are priced out of the market, you have nothing better to do than to figure out how to make the stuff you want yourself. However, the big caveat to Sol's case is that he received mana enhancements due to being a test subject for Hyvez. As a result, he has inherent talent that not everyone has. If he never had it, he might end up failing and then go back to crime. It seems there really is no universal long-term solution to the poor other than eugenics.
Strange how Rune would react like this given that she came from a capitalist country that lacks mana, yet still managed to build itself up through the talented efforts of her father. Oh wait, it is not strange, it is the mentality of a kid born into wealth and thinks basic accommodations cost nothing to produce.
So basically, you deserve to be poor. Instead of accepting reality and working to improve your own situation, you would rather blame other people and steal from them.
It is ironic that she calls capitalism brainwashing when it is socialism that relies on magic and the power of love.
The merit of discrimination
Milestone Two portrays discrimination as a bad thing, but there is little attempt to explain the basis of it. You would think that there is a difference between racial and merit discrimination, but consider that race and merit can be correlated because intelligence and personality have significant genetic components. This would explain population-level inequality without needing to blame superior groups for causing it. If the Viscantans are unable to make the money needed to be on the same level as the Serisians, is that not a form of merit based discrimination? Is the state a country is in not indicative of the overall quality of the people living there? Discrimination did not cause the Viscantans to be poor, they were already poor and the Serisians are just pointing it out while protecting their own interests.
Despite portraying discrimination as wrong, the writer was so close to realizing that there is actually some merit to it. Selphine (Rhegan) made the observation that Viscantans are "lacking in something", which is an admission to believing that certain groups can have certain characteristics that affect their socioeconomic outcome relative to other groups. Being unable to stand up for yourself is a function of your character. Not exploiting your own resources is a function of your character. Crying discrimination to guilt other people into sacrificing themselves for you is a function of your character. It was Sol's opportunistic behaviour that fuelled discrimination against him in the first place. In fact, there is no unjust discrimination presented in this story. The girls were only shocked at discrimination because they were ignorant of who Sol was and held a morally absolute stance against it.
While discrimination is commonly thought of as a fallacy of division, that does not mean that undesirable people cannot be overrepresented among certain groups. If you judge people on an individual basis, you will still disproportionately reject certain groups if you value people according to whoever gives you the things you want. This can include aesthetic preferences as well. If you like the features of these white, feminine anime girls, you have an ethical responsibility to justify and preserve their existence with racist and sexist beliefs. You have a right to your own mind and body, and it is up to you to stand up for yourself against those who seek to subvert your interests with shaming language or else you will be the one exploited.
In contrast, egalitarianism is built on the fallacy of composition. You cannot claim that an entire group is equal to another simply because there are some decent people among them. The problem with believing that all groups are equal is that it means the only reason there are unequal outcomes is oppression. In other words, it leads to blaming other people for your problems. Egalitarianism is nothing more than an excuse to claim arbitrary "rights", invade your space, and control you. Discrimination is merely a dysphemism to shame you into sacrificing yourself for those who disrespect your agency.
But diversity is our strength! They are doctors, engineers, and lawyers looking for a better life because their country is a shithole! You are just a racist, xenophobic bigot!
Rughzenhaide is portrayed as a society where women are just as likely to become battlekravters as men, which is why Ritona is among the best of the best fighters in Rughzenhaide. Gender roles in Rughzenhaide are easy to reverse because manakravte has allegedly made physical differences between men and women obsolete. In the Rughzenhaide side story, Misha is a male chef who stands in contrast to Flora, a rational female fighter who wants to protect her emotional male friend from doing something stupid.
Despite freely reversing the gender roles, there is still a bias towards traditional gender expression. Flora still has a feminine appearance with long hair and a dress, which is impractical for a fighter, while Misha lacks stamina, even though being a chef requires a lot of exertion to fulfill many orders on time, do heavy lifting of inventory, and work in the heat of a fully active kitchen in the summer for hours. Ritona being portrayed as strong-willed while Selphine being portrayed as emotional shows a bias towards seeing fighting as masculine and being emotionally supportive as feminine.
There is something intrinsically correct about designing the characters this way over having the bubbly girl be the fighter, but it is this psychological distinction that is at the root of sexism. Despite putting women in the role of fighters, the sexist comments made in the story suggests that the writer still believes that men and women are not the same. It seems he is just pandering to a shallow notion of gender equality rather than portraying gender differences as creating divergent roles that are uniquely valuable without infringing on each other. The genders should not be treated as interchangeable, but complementary.
The side story shows cracks in Rughzenhaide's egalitarianism. Misha's friend, Riggs, does construction work, which is why he is physically strong and has more stamina than Misha. But if manakravte made physical differences between the sexes obsolete, how can this be? What incentive would there be to train yourself physically when manakravte can give you all of the strength you need? How many women are doing construction? Ophias, which are permanent physical enhancements, appear to be restricted to ranking members of society while the plebs still have to put up with the natural design of their bodies.
Regardless of physical differences, women still differ in their career interests to men, which inevitably creates gender imbalances in different fields. Even when you introduce magic, I predict that there would still be far more men being battlekravters than women because fighting is a masculine interest. Men would be more likely to enjoy fighting and therefore devote the most time and resources to becoming the best at it. Also, men tend to work more hours than women, which results in them learning and accomplishing more over the long term, making them more likely to become the best in their field, which is why so many of the greatest inventors and artists were men.
Good grief... How can you say Rughzenhaide has eliminated sexism when a high-ranking member of government still thinks like this?
Some people are more equal than others, you see. Ophias are given to royalty because they have to do all of the important work nowadays. Surely none of you wishes to see Jones back?
Sol explained that there are psychological differences between men and women. He says women are more prone to groupthink, which is why he targets women for swindling. What this means is that even though Ritona had objections to helping Sol, Selphine and Rune wanted to help anyways, which pressured Ritona to follow along. Statistically, women are more agreeable than men, so they are more willing to be compassionate and trusting of others. However, being too trusting also makes them more vulnerable to being taken advantage of, which can also have knock-on effects that bring harm to others as well.
Even Ritona made the stupid decision to go alone with Sol to the bathhouse, even though she is Selphine's Royal Guardian and should be with her at all times while in a foreign land. She is also too lenient towards her opponents. Back in Milestone One, Ritona wasting time talking and failing to kill her enemy right then and there has led her and Selphine into this mess in the first place. Her hesitation in taking down Sol right then and there when she caught him red-handed allowed him to escape and led her to overexert herself. She even became unhinged upon learning that Selphine's Empress Syndrome has been going on for days because it puts Selphine's normal personality in danger, even though Selphine (Rhegan) reminds her that protection of the Path-Down is paramount.
For a position as sensitive as Royal Guardian, these are career-ending decisions. Her weakness has resulted in her collapsing on the job and putting Selphine at risk. Selphine (Rhegan) said in her conversation with Mil, "When one is dulled, one is unable to react upon sensing that something is strangely off. They become unable to defend themselves." I suspect this applies to the people of Rughzenhaide as well. Without real problems to deal with, Rughzenhaide has become complacent. They are no longer sensitive to the little things in people that make a big difference, so they default to believing in equality. As a result, Ritona was selected to be the Royal Guardian despite being psychologically ill-prepared to swiftly deal with enemies who have no sense of honour and to overrule Selphine's naivety for both of their safety. Now, Ritona's ability to use manakravte is crippled, eliminating the thing that made Rughzenhaide's anti-sexist beliefs possible.
It is ironic that the writer tries to promote gender equality while writing a story based around women's psychology being the root cause of the problems. Then again, there really is no better way to deal with the Galbrush paradox. Writing good women characters requires delving into how feminine inclinations affect how they approach situations and how it creates unique benefits and drawbacks that would not be the result of masculine approaches. It leads you to consider that maybe the misogynists have a point. Being compassionate does not mean that women have no standards, which puts them at risk of behaving like socialists saying one thing and doing another. Women are more likely to vote for left-wing political parties, especially non-religious women who do not have tradition to temper their feminine inclination to abuse the resources of others.
Toxic masculinity would have prevented the girls' situation, which is why men need to act as a balancing force against women's toxic compassion that puts good people at risk. While Selphine (Rhegan) ultimately uplifted Sol and Mil, the consequences of her meddling in local politics could lead to even more suffering of other people. To the toxically compassionate, the suffering of Sol and Mil is a tragedy, but a million is a statistic. The story has a laser focus on their specific situation to make you empathize with them, but it can make you lose sight of the bigger picture.
Fantasy escape versus fantasy analogy
As a fantasy element, mana is used to simplify the logic of the world and arrive at a realistically flawed conclusion like socialism being the ideal state of society. Socialism is just so rife with hypocrisy that once you understand it, it does not work as a fantasy escape and comes off as propaganda. Rather than use magic to simplify the world, good fantasy presents an abstracted model of reality to teach you important lessons. Look at Fullmetal Alchemist, which uses alchemy, but it is ultimately based on a truth about reality: The Law of Equivalent Exchange. The fantasy elements are used as an analogy to reality, not as a replacement.
At least Mhakna Gramura recognizes that the shallow fantasy of a perfect society cannot go on. I get the impression that Enles Land is a thought experiment of what Rughzenhaide would be like given that Fairy Bell looks like Selphine and rules over the land. When you are presented with a perfect society, you cannot help but think that there is a catch to it, that there is some grave injustice happening in the background to make it all work, and that the compassionate leader who runs it is not what she appears to be. We need stories to help us understand life and inspire solutions to our problems, not run away. Without a good model of reality, a story is meaningless and the escape has no value.
While the economics of Rughzenhaide is talked about like a Marxist evolution beyond capitalism, it is not the main focus of the story. The main message of this story is that you need to step out of your comfort zone to do what is necessary to achieve a better outcome. When you do not have a Royal Guardian to protect you and make the hard decisions for you, you have to look at the world through a harsh, objective lens, which will suggest what you need to do. The Rhegan persona reflects the necessary paradigm shift to stop being weak, that we need to bring out our inner psychopath to suppress irrational conflict avoidance and fight for our own interests lest they be overridden by others, which is a valid message regardless of your political leanings.
A look through the writer's Twitter feed indicates he is in favour of left-wing politicians and is inspired by the moneyless utopia of Star Trek. It seems like he wants to be a socialist extolling the virtues of unconditional sharing and subjective liberalism, but pro-conservative cracks show in his work. In my experience, the more you try to work out the logic of everything, the more you realize that a conservative world view is the most honest and internally consistent. This is not to say that all conservatives are right about everything, but you cannot simply distance yourself from them and expect yourself to not be a hypocrite who desires the same standards of strength, honour, and beauty they do.
What makes Milestone Two's story deep is that it presents a logical narrative of events that can be interpreted in ways that contradict the writers own views. It is still early in the story with plenty of ambiguity and speculation. But as the story progresses and the consequences of the characters' actions decided, the correctness of the writer's politics, and thus the overall quality of the story, will be tested. Where the story will go from here depends on how much of his internal conservatism he is willing to bring out. However, it has been several years since this novel was released, and it is unclear when, if ever, this series will be finished.