Ashina Castle is under siege and there are a few new mini-bosses here. Start by heading out towards the castle and eavesdrop on a guard, then kill him. You can quickly run up and stealth kill the large enemy with the bell in the courtyard, then grapple over the door and you'll see a guard run onto the bridge ahead and cower. Drop down and approach the open door and you'll encounter an Interior Ministry samurai. Fight him if you're so inclined (he gives 686 exp!), then talk to a dying guard under a tree. The main bridge entrance is not available so you need to find another way in.
Drop down into the water, swim under to find a Treasure Carp Scale, then swim into the opening in the wall. Kill a Treasure Carp and continue forward, then swim to the surface when you can. Grapple up to ground level and while you could grapple up to the roof on the right, instead curve around and into a small building. Drop off to a lower level and go right to commune with the Ashina Reservoir idol (so it can be traveled to later), then go back inside, grapple up, and exit through the opposite door.
You''ll see another Interior Ministry samurai waiting to ambush a guard, so kill them (stealth kill the samurai if possible), then commune with the Ashina Castle idol just ahead and to the right. The goal now is to get back onto the roof of the large central building, which is easier now as there's a path from a roof on the right side of the central path.
Run onto the steps and grapple up to the right, then head forward along the rooftops. Use the new bridge to get up to the main roof, then run left and follow the path around to the right until you can grapple into the window at the end. Just run past all of the enemies as fighting them would be an absolute nightmare. Once inside, commune at the idol.
Go up the steps and circle around to the right to backstab a blue robed enemy. Looking into the large room, you'll see a Lone Shadow samurai not really paying attention. Run up and stealth-kill him and you should hear another ogre below (you could farm these two enemies for ~750 exp each time if you were so inclined). Jump over the railing and grapple to the central wooden beam, then run to the edge directly above the ogre. Hang from the ledge and lock onto the ogre and drop down and perform a plunging deathblow (GIF), then quickly run through the open doors into the next room and the ogre cannot follow you, so use this to your advantage to carefully attack him from safety. Once he is defeated you will receive a Prayer Bead (28/40) and the Shinobi Medicine Rank 3 skill. Leave the keep through the back door to see two enemies with their backs to you. Follow the path around and grapple onto a branch to Eavesdrop on the spear enemy, then kill him and the other guard and continue forward to commune with the Old Grave idol. Consume four prayer beads to receive the Seventh Prayer Necklace. Backtrack and head across the bridge where a Lone Shadow samurai will ambush the other two enemies. Run past them and continue along the path that leads to the Great Serpent Shrine.
You will be attacked by a few dogs when you reach the first building, so kill them, then creep forward and you'll see a mini-boss in the next building- Lone Shadow Masanaga the Spear-Bearer (VIDEO). As another strong Lone Shadow enemy, the same tactics will apply. Attack until deflected, then be ready to react to his counterattack. He will likely use a five-kick combo starting with a slow spinning kick that ends with a perilous attack that can be Mikiri Countered. He will also have a new poison combo that can inflict poison if not deflected properly. Carefully sneak around to the right and get behind him for a stealth deathblow, then defeat him to receive a Prayer Bead (29/40).
Travel from the newly available idol to the Upper Tower - Antechamber idol in Ashina castle. Kill the blue-robed enemy and then the Lone Shadow samurai from behind, then do a stealth deathblow on the first guard in the next room and use Bloodsmoke Ninjutsu so you can stealth kill the second enemy. Head upstairs and commune/rest at the Sculptor's Idol.
If you look into the next room you'll see the next mini-boss- Lone Shadow Vilehand (VIDEO). There is a Lone Shadow samurai to the left of the door that you can very carefully stealth deathblow and use Puppeteer Ninjutsu if you'd like. Either way, this Lone Shadow behaves very similarly to the others and is basically identical to the one that you just defeated at the Great Serpent Shrine. Look out for his five attack combo that starts with a slow spinning kick and ends with a perilous attack that can be Mikiri Countered and his new poison attacks. Defeat him to receive a Prayer Bead (30/40) and a Lump of Fat Wax. Before continuing onward, run back to the idol and travel to the Poison Pool idol in Ashina Depths.
From the idol, make your way into the cave to find a gravely injured enemy who claims he was hurt by a large ape:
Continue into the open area ahead and prepare for another battle with the headless Guardian Ape (VIDEO). This time, though, you have to defeat his headless phase twice with the second phase being accompanied by another ape.
The first phase is no different than before- deflect his attacks, punish him when he falls onto his chest, and avoid his perilous attacks. After you deal the first deathblow he will run away and a second ape will drop in to help. I suggest immediately using an Ako's Sugar for extra damage.
Things will get hectic while they are both attacking you so you want to stun the brown ape with firecrackers and kill it as quickly as you can, then shift focus back to the Guardian Ape. Try to bait the Guardian Ape into doing the bloody terror scream by getting close, which should provide you enough time to firecracker the brown ape, then unleash a barrage of attacks and kill it. You can then shift your focus back to the Guardian Ape.
After dealing the second deathblow and the Shinobi Execution, you will receive Memory: Headless Ape and two Prayer Beads (31/40 and 32/40). Then approach the ape to deal another deathblow which uses the Mortal Blade to sever its immortality (GIF) and unlocks a trophy:
You will also receive the Bestowal Ninjutsu, unlocking another trophy:
Use the nearby Homeward Idol and travel back to the Upper Tower - Ashina Dojo idol in Ashina Castle, then redeem four prayer beads for the Eighth Prayer Necklace and enhance attack power with Memory: Headless Ape to permanently increase your attack power (from 7 to 8). With all of that done, it is time for an extremely difficult boss battle. Make your way out through the open window in the dojo (beware the Lone Shadow samurai) and follow the roof around to the right, then grapple up to the upper level to trigger a cutscene. Approach Owl and talk to him to be given a very important option: Obey the Iron Code, Forsake Kuro or Break the Iron Code, stay loyal to Kuro.
The first option leads the Shura ending and the second leads to the other three. Select the second option, Break the Iron Code, stay loyal to Kuro
and prepare to battle Great Shinobi Owl (VIDEO
This fight is daunting. Owl is relentless and his attacks deal a large amount of posture damage, even if properly deflected. His posture bar depletes very quickly until you can get his health lower, so you need to chip away at his health and do your best to avoid/deflect his attacks, managing your health and posture along the way. Prepare for a long battle as you don't get a lot of opportunities to deal damage to Owl, so depleting his health bar will take a while.
As with many other enemies, attack until you get deflected, then prepare to deflect the almost certain counterattack. You will sometimes hit him for damage if he tries to do certain attacks/jumps/evades rather than deflecting you.
His main attacks during this phase:
1) Two-shuriken toss followed up by a forward flip sword slash: guard/deflect the shuriken, then dodge forward just to the right of him to avoid his slash and follow up with a whirlwind slash to hit him twice.
2) Kick-backflip-shuriken toss- deflect the kick, then dodge the shuriken.
3) Debuff bomb toss often preceded by a running slash: deflect the slash, then avoid the cloud of smoke and try to get some damage in. If you get debuffed, you can't heal or use items for 30 seconds.
4) Single-shuriken toss to charging slice: deflect both (you will stagger briefly)- do not mistake this for the two-shuriken toss to forward flip.
5) Slash/shoulder charge combo: this is rare but very dangerous. He does a slash to shoulder charge to follow up slash, then throws out a swathe of firecrackers and ends with a great slash. You need to deflect the slash/charge/slash and immediately dodge (or run) forward and to his right to avoid the firecrackers and final slash, then counterattack.
6) Multi-slash combo: he does a few of these and if you get the timing down you can deflect until the end, then dodge through the final slash and counterattack. The most common is a double slash, then a spinning slash that you want to quickly dodge through to the right. He sometimes instead finishes with a slower overhead angled slash that you want to also dodge through to the right but you need to delay your dash slightly to avoid taking damage.
After the first deathblow, his second phase begins, which is similar but adds a few new attacks.
1) Kick-backflip-shuriken toss instead throws out a wide arc of poison that lingers for 10 or so seconds.
2) Ground pound that releases a harmless cloud of smoke but stuns you briefly and breaks your lock on. Try to run away and lock back on quickly.
Continue with the same strategy you used in phase one and after you deal the second deathblow, you'll get the prompt for the Shinobi Execution, after which a trophy will unlock:
You'll then receive Memory: Great Shinobi and the Aromatic Branch. Commune/rest at the Sculptor's Idol, then enhance attack power with Memory: Great Shinobi to permanently increase your attack power (from 8 to 9). From here, you want to take care of some specific tasks related to the endings.
Head inside and talk to Kuro multiple times. You'll receive the Page's Diary during one conversation and Okami's Ancient Text during the next. Continue talking to him until you are told to talk to Emma. Do so (rest at the idol if she's not nearby) to receive the Immortal Severance Scrap, then talk to Kuro again. Interact with the Incense Burner, then finish the conversation with Kuro and talk to him once more (Dragon Tears will be discussed). Hug the wall inside the library for an Eavesdrop opportunity with Kuro where he says "We're almost there... do what must be done."
Rest at the idol and Emma will have moved upstairs. Talk to her and choose "I agree. Kuro cannot be allowed to die." Rest at the idol and talk to Emma again to receive Tomoe's Note. Talk to her once more, then go back to the idol and travel to the Old Grave idol in Ashina Castle. Head left and talk to Emma twice by the tombstones, then travel to the Dilapidated Temple. You will see Emma and the Sculptor inside- before doing anything else, go around back and Eavesdrop through the open window.
Then go inside to talk to Emma and "ask about what you overheard." Then "ask what she is hiding" to receive the Father's Bell Charm. If you interact with the Buddha statue next to Emma you will be taken to Hirata Estate on a different timeline, but don't do that quite yet.
Travel to the Inner Sanctum and ask the Divine Child for rice. Immediately consume it, then travel away to any other idol and then return. Request rice from the Divine Child again, consume it, then travel away and return. Talk to the Divine Child and she will request a Persimmon. Give her one and you will receive Rice and Rice for Kuro. Travel to Upper Tower - Kuro's Room and talk to Kuro. You'll give him the rice, then rest at the idol and talk to him again to receive a Sweet Rice Ball. Consume the Sweet Rice Ball, talk to Kuro, then return to the Inner Sanctum. Talk to the Divine Child (twice, if needed) and give her the Holy Chapter: Infested. Rest at the idol and the Divine Child should no longer be inside. Travel to the Halls of Illusion via the blue beam of light in the back of this area and talk to the Divine Child straight ahead.
Leave the Halls of Illusion, then travel to the Main Hall idol in Senpou Temple. Exit the hall to the left and head into the nearby cave. Run forward and after dropping to a lower level, turn around and crouch to get into a low pathway. Follow this path to the end to find a monk that you can interact with. Do so to receive the Holy Chapter: Dragon's Return, then travel back to the Inner Sanctum and talk to the Divine Child twice. Choose "Give Persimmons of the Serpent," then rest at the idol and the doors will close. Approach them and Eavesdrop, then rest at the idol and the doors will open back up. Go inside and talk to the Divine Child a final time to receive the Frozen Tears.
Return to the Dilapidated Temple and interact with the Buddha statue. You will appear at Hirata Estate in front of the burning area in a different timeline.
Inside the burning area where you met Owl much earlier, you'll see an enemy with his back to you. This is Lone Shadow, Masanaga the Spear-Bearer (VIDEO) who you already fought at the Great Serpent Shrine and the battle is similar, but this time, he can use a whistle to summon dogs. You want to interrupt this as soon as he does it to prevent the dogs from being summoned and the easiest way to do so is to throw a shuriken at him. His attacks are basically the same as previous battles but he does have a few new attack combos that you should be able to deflect easily. Stay aggressive with attacks/deflects and watch to Mikiri Counter the perilous attack at the end of the five kick combo. As long as he never summons the dogs, you shouldn't have much problem dealing both deathblows, after which you'll receive a Prayer Bead (33/40). Continue past some enemies (Gachiin's sugar and Bloodsmoke Ninjutsu make it easier) deeper into the estate and around to the right to reach the next Sculptor's Idol.
Head through the burning building and grapple onto the roof. Look ahead and you'll see three weak enemies on the ground and three Lone Shadow samurai on the roof. Running past them can cause problems, so I kill them. Start by inching around towards the first Lone Shadow and get his attention with a shuriken, then drop down and go back towards the idol where you can fight him alone. Repeat with the second, then go back to the roof and kill the third from behind when he walks the other way. The three normal enemies below should be none the wiser, so drop down and kill them, then head into the large open area where Juzou the Drunkard was fought much earlier. If you grapple onto the tall rock you'll see him again, this time with a Lone Shadow samurai and an Eavesdrop opportunity.
There are a few normal enemies in the courtyard (one off to the far right) and several enemies in the room to the left that I suggest you clear out first. Then run in and take out the other two normal enemies before running away, ideally kiting just the Lone Shadow samurai so you can take him out alone.
Run away again if needed so that Juzou loses aggro, then sneak up and deliver the first deathblow from behind (VIDEO). He behaves the same as before so deflect, dodge, and counterattack until you can deal the second deathblow, after which you will receive a Prayer Bead (34/40). Carefully enter the next building. There are a few enemies patrolling inside and some of them are reasonably tough. You should be able to stealth kill a spear-wielding enemy patrolling the hall on the left once he turns his back. You can then hug the nearby wall, lean out, and throw a ceramic shard at the visible enemy to lure him to you so you can perform a stealth deathblow (GIF). Repeat with the second visible enemy and all that will be left is a spear-wielding enemy behind the screen. Kill him, then rest at the Sculptor's Idol just ahead.
The next area is where the Lady Butterfly battle took place. This time you'll be fighting Owl, but it's a younger version than the one you killed in Ashina Castle and another step up in difficulty. You need to kill him eventually but not necessarily right now, so since this is one of the toughest bosses in the game, I suggest coming back for him later. Instead, travel to the Wedding Cave Door idol in Ashina Depths.
Enter the cave and run to the back of the area. You'll see a palanquin like you used earlier to get past the giant snake.
Go inside and interact and press to pray, which triggers a cutscene. When it's over you'll regain control in the game's final area- Fountainhead Palace- and a trophy will unlock:
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