Genshin Impact’s Newest Main Quest Is the Saddest Lore Update

Genshin Impact's Newest Main Quest Is the Saddest Lore Update

An image of the Twilight Sword "branch guardian" Dainsleif.

Image: HoYover

The most poignant lines in Genshin Impact’s latest update came when I discovered a bouquet of white flowers laying next to the bodies of dead Hilichurls. As I surveyed the macabre scene, wanderer Dainsleif said, “The Inteyvat [flower] is a symbol for a wanderer far from home, meaning the tenderness of the homeland. His words were made tragic, as his beloved nation had been destroyed centuries ago. Indeed, Genshin Impact’s final archon quest is a philosophical question about loving a nation that can’t love you back.

Genshin Impact is not interested in simple answers and solutions to serious topics such as war and displacement. Whenever possible, the game likes to leave its ethical dilemmas open. And nowhere is this more apparent than the final main story quest: Requiem of the Resounding Depthswhere you help wanderer Dainsleif put an end to a dastardly plot set up by the dreaded Order of the Abyss.

A bit of background: In Genshin Impact, you play as a traveler looking for his lost twin. (I play the male version of the traveler, named Aether, so my lost twin is the female version, Lumine.) You eventually discover that your brother has become the leader of the Order of the Abyss, a dark organization that seeks to overthrow the rulers who reside in Celestia. Dainsleif is the only character who knows enough about the Order’s ambition to overthrow Celestia, and joining him seemed like the only way to effectively oppose it.

But the story got more complicated with each update. Last year, Lumine revealed that the Mages of the Abyss and the Hilichurls (Genshin’s version of the Bokoblins from The Legend of Zelda) who roamed the open world were the transformed survivors of the Khaenri’an genocide of 500 years ago. years – the same monsters that I would regularly fight during my daily quests. While Dainsleif is currently a Nationless Knight, he was once a Royal Guard of Khaenri’ah. Lumine hated him because he opposed their goal of destroying Celestia. While most of his people wanted justice, Dainsleif was the only one who opposed war.

At first, I thought his actions were noble. Here is the valiant knight who wouldn’t prioritize revenge for his nation over the safety of the world. But as I explored the ruins of an unnamed civilization and learned more about Dainsleif’s struggles, I began to doubt him.

The new quest started when I was told by miners that the Hilichurls ventured into the underground chasm without coming back to the surface. I ventured down and found that the cavern could remove the immortality curse from creatures. Despite their limited intelligence, these Hilichurls had descended into this dark and damp cave to die. Their suicides were a shocking and dark revelation for a generally relatively light-hearted game. The Hilichurls suffered constantly and Dainsleif should have shared their fate. He did, but only partially.

“Even now, I can feel the curse slowly permeating my entire being, becoming a part of me, slowly but surely replacing me.” Dainsleif said. “Perhaps it is possible to remove the corrosive effect of the curse for a while, but by cleaning it entirely…Think of it as burning an integral part of your body. It’s not a process one could never hope to survive.

An Abyss Herald and an Abyss Lector use their attacks.

Screenshot: HoYovere/Kotaku

However, Dainsleif and the Hilichurls have different lived experiences. While Dainsleif also experiences chronic pain from the curse, his body was not transfigured nor did he suffer a similar loss of mental acuity. He does not actively seek death. Despite all his suffering, he is one of the lucky ones and doesn’t seem to feel as hopeless as the countless other Khaenri’an survivors who have lost their very humanity.

During the final quest, the Order of the Abyss attempts to use a strange device to forcibly dispel the Hilichurls’ curse of immortality. Aether, my protagonist, chose to foil the plot because the Order had not obtained the consent of the Hilichurls to attempt such a reckless gamble. Dainsleif, meanwhile, left me stunned when he condemned the act of trying to remove the curse: “There’s nothing left of those hilichurls. Nothing except the curse itself.

It was hard to tell if Dainsleif was referring to these transfigured survivors or to himself. While Lumine was certainly guilty of projecting his own ideals onto these Hilichurls, so was Dainsleif. They were beings who laughed and danced around their campfires. They developed their own architectural aesthetic, and they enjoyed the poetry I read to them during a specific daily quest. Khaenri’ah survivors suffered, but they also seemed to enjoy their lives in their own way. They did not recognize Dainsleif as one of their own, and so he wandered the world alone for hundreds of years, later traveling with Lumine for an unknown period of time.

The quest features a flashback cinematic of Lumine placing Inteyvat flowers next to the corpses of Hilichurl. As Dainsleif explained, this flower is a symbol of Khaenri’ah, which normally only lives for two weeks before withering. But if they are taken out of the country, the petals harden and keep indefinitely, and do not deteriorate until they return to their native soil. Therefore, the Inteyvat symbolized the nation’s love for citizens who had traveled abroad. By offering them to Hilichurl, the Princess of the Abyss was making a symbolic gesture to convey her enduring love for the Khaenri’an diaspora. I wondered if Dainsleif had ever received an Inteyvat from his people. The Order’s abyssal monsters constantly tried to kill him, and Lumine considered him a traitor. On a daily basis, he had no reason to feel motivated to save his homeland.

Dainsleif says: "Save your strength for something worth saving."

Screenshot: HoYovere/Kotaku

To be honest, I understand. Like Dainsleif, I’m a weirdo that the Chinese have a hard time liking. The Chinese diaspora is often seen as too foreign for mainland Chinese, and we are seen as too Chinese (meaning too scary) in the non-Chinese communities in which we live. And I’m queer, which adds another layer of distrust for anyone Cishet who’s ever had to interact with me. It’s not just me who is under scrutiny from all sides – Olympic skier Eileen Gu was publicly crucified by the Americans for choosing to compete on the Chinese team. And that’s why I want Dainsleif to be better. If the absence of love prevented loving, there would be no hope for any of us. Or at least, that’s what I want to believe. The alternative is worse: to become as nihilistic as Dainsleif.

At the end of the questline, Halfdan’s ghost asks him, “Khaenri’ah…didn’t fall, did he?” Since you’re still here…” I found it frustrating when he replied, “Right. So… no need to revive the homeland. It’s comforting to think that just surviving is enough after your home no longer exists. But in the present, Dainsleif is not just surviving. He actively sabotages any attempt to give the Hilichurls a better existence.

I’m not completely unsympathetic to Dainsleif. Change is inherently difficult. After witnessing 500 years of absolute Celestia power, hegemonic change must seem impossible. But this latest quest reveals that he didn’t oppose the Order of the Abyss out of idealism; he fought them because he did not believe the Order could rebuild Khaenri’ah or save their people. Celestial has a long history of retaliation against rebellious nations, and Dainsleif is neither courageous nor idealistic. He tries to protect people in his own way, but after seeing how this quest goes, I don’t think he’s right anymore.

Should we oppose evil if innocent people suffered from it? Is it worse to accept an unjust hegemony? Genshin struggled with these questions since version 2.0 landed last summer. But in this case, I think the answer is clear. Even though Dainsleif and the more monstrous survivors of his lost kingdom are sometimes wrong in their methods, they all deserve justice for Celestia’s war crimes. It’s just a shame that the survivors continue to get in each other’s way.


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