Part 4: Central staircase 2
I-I-If you g-get any closer--! I-I'll cut her open!
Santa skidded to a halt. He snarled at the scrawny man with the knife and gritted his teeth.
Y-Yes, that's right...
The man's smile was neither friendly nor reassuring. Sweat poured down his neck, soaking the collar of his shirt.
Y-Yeah... I'm fine...
Her voice shook, making her words even less convincing.
What the hell are you trying to do?!
I-I told you. This is my plan...
What're you gonna do to her, you sick son of a bitch?
D-Don't worry. I-I'm not going to d-do anything to her... If she just does what I t-tell her to, I'll let her go.
He started to move backward, slowly, keeping his grip on Clover. Keeping their distance, Junpei and the others followed.
Eventually, the man reached the wall. He gave a start as his back touched it, then glanced around quickly and spoke.
The left. Look on your left. D-Do you see the device on the wall?
What if I don't?
The man's nostrils flared and he looked like he was about to choke.
A-A-A-Are you an idiot?! W-W-What do you think?! I c-c-could slit your throat right now! I'll kill you if I have to.
Just do it! D-Do it now!
He pressed the knife against Clover's neck, hard. Slowly, she stretched her left hand out toward the device. Her back was to it, and she had to feel around for a moment before she found the circular panel.
It made a cold, electronic noise, and on the display above her hand, an asterisk appeared.
The game gives a bit of a repeat here of some of what Junpei read out earlier (the digital roots part). If you really need a refresher, it's in the previous update.
Junpei shifted his eyes to the door itself. The number on it was .
How had he known exactly what to do?
Good... Good, you're done. N-N-Next...
His blood-shot eyes crept from person to person until finally... They stopped on the lion--[Ace].
You, right? You're the one with the number (1) bracelet, right?
Yes. I am. So?
Th-Then y-you're next...
What are you doing?! D-Do it! D-Don't you care what h-happens to her?!
O-Okay, okay. Just calm down...
Ace held up his hands, palms out. The 9th Man jerked his chin toward the device. Slowly, cautiously, Ace moved toward the device.
After what seemed like an agonizing eternity, he reached it.
The door needed at least 1 more person. Who would that be?
His voice shook, but the knife he held to Clover's throat made his words a command.
Ace took 2, then 3, steps back.
No! Farther! More than that! Go all the way back!
Slowly, Ace did what he was told. The 9th Man's lips curled into a cruel, twisted smile. That was when Junpei understood his plan.
[Video: The Escape]
Clover's (4) and Ace's (1), added to the 9th Man's (9): 4 + 1 + 9 = 14 → 1 + 4 = 
In other words...
Hehe... Hehehe... Ehehehehehehehehe!
Now I can get out of this n-nightmare!
He pressed his own hand against the scanner panel. A 3rd asterisk appeared on the screen.
He dropped his hand to the lever on the side of the device and pulled.
Junpei leapt toward the 9th Man, but he wasn't fast enough. The man shoved Clover...
...And hopped through the door.
I'm going off ahead now. Well then... Goodbye.
He raised his hand and waved, a twisted smirk on his face.
Then he was gone.
The door ground shut with a dull clang of metal on metal.
Y-Yeah, I'm fine.
She climbed unsteadily to her feet, and once there, leaned heavily on Snake's shoulder for support.
Junpei ran to the door. The others followed him. Several pairs of hands grabbed hold of the handles and pulled. They grunted and strained, but...
That was when [Lotus], the dancer, spoke. Her voice was quiet.
Do you hear something...?
Like some sort of...beeping...
Junpei pressed his ear against the cold metal of the door. The others did the same.
You're right... I can hear it too.
What is it?
Then they heard something else.
It was the 9th Man.
Shit! Why isn't it stopping?! Goddamnit!
Th-Th-This wasn't supposed to happen! This is wrong! This is wrong!
His voice shook with fear. Safe on the outside, they stepped back from the door and looked at one another.
What is happening in there...?
O-O-O-Open the door! Please! I'm begging you! Help me! Please, get me out of here! Get me out of here!
A-Ah... Oh my God, oh my God, there's no time left...! Listen! I was lied to! He lied to me! He put me in here!
A...Aahh... Aaahhhh... Gyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaght--!
In that silence, the electronic tone that echoed across the room sounded as loud as a gunshot. All eyes turned toward it.
Let's see if we can open it...
[Seven]--the mountain--swallowed hard.
Junpei nodded and placed his hand on the scanner panel.
A red asterisk appeared on the LCD panel. The device had registered Junpei's bracelet number: (5).
His was not enough, however. At least 2 more people were needed. Junpei asked...
This choice affects exactly nothing, beyond the next line and a few minor graphics that we'll see a billion times over before we're done. You might have noticed that Clover isn't an option here, and that's because if we include her there's no way to get to a digital root of 5 with just one other person. We'd need to use Snake and Santa (5 + 4 + 3 + 2 = 14 → 1 + 4 = 5) as well, and for whatever reason we're just not allowed to do that.
Anyway, as for the choice itself I think it's quite simple really. Ace has validated on this particular one already, and ended up accidentally killing someone apparently. If so, I doubt Junpei would want June to help open it for some reason. That leaves Snake and Seven to help.
Snake, Seven... You think you could give me a hand here?
The pun was a little too on-the-nose, but the mood was still grim. Both Snake and Seven lifted their left hands silently.
Slowly, each of them placed their hand on the scanner panel.
5 + 2 + 7 = 14 → 1 + 4 = 
They'd fulfilled the conditions. If they were to pull the lever on the side...
[Music: Chill and Rigor]
Are you guys ready? I'm gonna open it.
Junpei grabbed the lever and looked back over his shoulder.
They stiffened and nodded. Junpei nodded back, and set his mouth in a grim line.
Then he slowly...
There was a metallic groan, and the door slide open.
A breath of air drifted out of it, carrying a stench that nearly made them gag. Junpei grimaced and put a hand over his mouth.
Oh my God...
Lotus and Ace shuddered. Seven grunted.
Whoa... That's...pretty bad...
Even Santa's voice shook.
He...he blew up...
It appeared that Santa was right.
The hallway on the other side of the door was splattered with chunks of torn flesh and dark, red blood.
She crumpled to the floor.
June! You okay?!
Junpei dropped to his knees and put his arm around her shoulders.
That was when he noticed. Her whole body was feverish. She was radiating intense heat...
What the hell?! Where'd this fever come from?
June didn't answer. Her face looked like wax, and her whole body began to shake.
All right, let's just rest for a minute, okay? You think you can walk?
She nodded weakly. Junpei lifted June to her feet, and guided her to a nearby chair.
Here we go...
As gently as he could, he set her down in it.
She nodded, and as she did, a single, huge tear rolled down the side of her face.
Why... Why did this happen...
Her voice cracked, broken by misery and grief and choked by sobs.
Why did this happen...
Junpei spun around.
Do any of you know what the fuck is going on here?! Who's Zero?! What's this "Nonary Game"!? C'mon!
Anybody? Anything?! What the hell is going on?! What are we doing here?!
No one spoke. Ace, Snake, Santa, Clover, Seven, and Lotus...
They simply stood there, 7 pairs of downcast eyes and 7 grim lines for mouths.
June's body shook with silent sobs.
They slowed, as the minutes ticked by, and eventually they stopped.
It's 10 o'clock, then.
Ace said what each one of them had been thinking.
That means it's been an hour since Zero's little announcement.
Seven's deep voice echoed across the room.
Fuck! I've had enough of this crap!
Santa leapt to his feet, his fists clenched.
How long are we gonna pussyfoot around like this?! We've only got 8 hours until this time limit Zero was going on about is up! Let's get goin' already! Go! Go!
Santa's outburst fell on deaf ears. No one seemed to agree with him. They stared back at him, their eyes blank and their faces tired.
Finally, Lotus spoke.
...Him? You mean the 9th Man?
Of course. Who else?
In his mind's eye, Junpei saw the corpse again.
Organs strewn across the floor like the blossoming of a grotesque flower. The explosion that had torn through his body had been powerful.
The 9th Man's neck had been twisted at an odd angle. Junpei suspected the detonation had thrown him against the wall.
Half of his face was crushed, and the other half was covered in blood.
Junpei felt something flip in his stomach.
I think he just...screwed up.
Eyebrows went up, and Santa continued.
I'm not gonna screw up like that! I'm gettin' outta here alive!
Whatever Snake was laughing at, Santa did not find particularly humorous.
What's so goddamn funny!?
What the fuck!?
I think you've mistaken the situation.
The 9th Man's death. It had nothing to do with a trap. Or at least not the sort of trap you imagine it did.
You still don't...? All right. How about you take a moment, and think back to what Zero said. Specifically, what did he say about the number of people?
He said "Only [3-5] people can pass through one numbered door." ...Right?
And after that...? You've forgotten the relevant part. What did Zero say?
Santa furrowed his brow in thought. Junpei thought back...
Another choice that only affects a few lines of dialogue inmmediately afterwards. I don't think Junpei's going to forget something that happened a short while ago, even with the somewhat... unusual circumstances.
"All those who enter must leave, and all who enter must contribute." ...Right? I think it was something like that. Whatever it was, it means that groups of less than 3 or more than 5 can't go through.
That is correct. A gold star for you, Junpei.
Snake inclined his head toward Junpei.
The 9th Man, however, broke that rule. He tried to pass through a numbered door by himself.
Then Zero's watchin' us from somewhere. Makin' sure we don't break any rules...
Oh, I'm not so sure of that.
Because this execution system is entirely automatic. You didn't notice? There's no need for him to monitor us.
Wadda you mean?
Snake looked at Seven with what could only be described as pity and sighed.
Very well. I see it must be me who tells you. I've waited long enough, I suppose. I had hoped Zero might spare me the trouble, but that seems increasingly unlikely.
He couldn't see them, of course, but perhaps Snake sensed the confused eyes upon him. When Ace spoke, he gave words to everyone else's thoughts.
Do you know something?!
What is it you know?!
Snake removed a card from the pocket of his jacket. With a flourish, he presented it to Ace, who took a close look at it and spoke.
Come on, now. What's the point of giving me this?
Santa snatched the card from Ace, but his expression of disgust quickly turned to one of confusion.
Huh? The hell is this...
Seven tugged it out of Santa's hands.
Heh. I see...
The card went from Seven to Lotus, from Lotus to June, and finally to Junpei. He looked at it, and understood.
The card was covered with small, embossed bumps. Junpei could recognize it, but he certainly couldn't read it.
Sorry guys, I can't read this.
Junpei handed the card back to Snake, who nodded at him with a small smirk.
Okay, that was fun. What's so important about that card?
I found it in my pocket. I can only assume it is a message from Zero.
W-What does it say?!
Suddenly, everyone was crowding around Snake, desperate to hear what the message said. Santa especially looked as if he were about to grab hold of Snake and shake the answers from him.
Snake raised his hand.
Calm down now. No need to panic. You don't need to force me, I'll read it.
Junpei swallowed hard and waited for him to start. He was not the only one.
Presently, Snake began to read, his voice calm. His fingers glided over the tiny bumps as he spoke.
[Music: Digital Root]
"Since you are not blessed with sight, I shall bless you--and only you--with information. I shall tell you of the function of the RED, of the DEAD, and of the bracelet."
It will verify your number. Beside every numbered door, you will find a RED.
But perhaps you are wondering... What does this detonator detonate? I am afraid this may be something of a surprise.
I have placed a [small bomb] inside of you, and the people whom you are about to meet. You swallowed it while you were unconscious.
I have no doubt that by the time you read this note, the bomb will have passed your stomach and found its way to your small intestine. In other words, you will be unable to regurgitate it. I suggest you do not try.
Think of it as a remote fuse, or [timer], for the bomb in your body. There is only 1 condition which will cause it to detonate.
That condition is that you enter a numbered door. Once you have done so, the timer will activate, no matter who you may be.
In order to deactivate the detonator, [every person who verified their number at the RED] must also verify their numbers at the DEAD. Once all numbers have been verified by the DEAD, you need only pull the lever at its side, and the countdown will cease.
Anyone who does not verify their number at the RED will find themselves unable to verify their number at the DEAD. That is to say, if you should pass through a numbered door without first verifying your number at the RED, in 81 seconds you will be dead.
So long as the door is open, the DEAD will not function. You would do well to remember this.
Lastly, let us discuss [how to remove the bracelets]. There are only 2 ways to do so.
One: You escape from this ship.
Two: Your heart rate reaches zero.
There is no other way to remove your bracelet. If you attempt to force it off, or disable the detonator, the bomb within you will immediately explode.
"This is all the information which I can impart to you. How you choose to use it is for you to decide. If used wisely, you can eliminate those who"
"I wish you the best of luck."
Snake finished reading, and carefully returned the card to his pocket.
The message had been lengthy, but its meaning was clear. [Only those who verified their numbers at the RED could pass through the numbered doors]. Teams could not increase or decrease their numbers.
The [REDs], [DEADs], and [bracelets] enforced the rules. They were judge, jury, and executioner.
In defiance of Zero's suggestions, both Santa and Seven put fingers down their throats and began to gag. The rest stiffened. Some touched their stomachs--some simply stared at their bracelets.
Junpei gingerly touched his stomach. There was a bomb inside his body. The thought of it made him queasy. His stomach felt oddly hollow, and his legs were weak.
All right, I'm gonna ask one more time. Do any of you know anything about Zero?
They were all silent, each person waiting to hear what the others would say.
Finally, Santa spoke.
I didn't see his face, though. Son of a bitch was wearing some kinda gas mask.
...What the hell? C'mon guys, gimme something. You know, like...surprise or something.
Instead, it was Santa who looked surprised.
There was a moment of silence, and then everyone spoke at once.
"Yeah, I saw him too!" "Me too!" "He was wearing a gas mask..."
As stories were sorted out, the truth became clear: All of their stories were the same.
They had been abducted at home, at midnight. The person claiming to be Zero had worn a mask. There had been white smoke, and then each person had passed out. When they awoke, they had found themselves on D Deck, in a room with a 3-level bunk bed.
Only Seven's story seemed to lack the detail of the others.
That was all he had said.
It had occurred to Junpei at the time that it sounded somewhat strange, but he didn't press the issue. He hadn't done so, because there was something that struck him as even stranger.
Junpei looked at them, thoughtfully.
So what's the deal with the 2 of you, anyway?
It was Clover that answered. Clearly, she felt she had nothing to hide.
That really so hard to understand?
Junpei was taken aback. The others seemed just as surprised.
She is correct, of course.
He laid his hand on Clover's shoulder.
Well, yeah, but...
Why? There are other people here with connections to one another. Those 2, for instance...
Snake pointed at Junpei and June.
Ah, yes. You did say you were childhood friends, didn't you.
You went to school together?
June glanced at Junpei, uncomfortable with the sudden attention. Junpei felt somewhat nervous as well, and tried to scratch his head as casually as possible.
Hey... You think maybe we could figure out who Zero is this way?
Yeah, you're right.
Junpei, June, does any of this ring a bell?
Ring a bell...
Ring a bell...?
They looked at one another.
And like it was staged, they both tilted their neck at the same time.
Well, perhaps you went to school with the son of a multi-millionaire...
Well, someone bought this boat, and set up all of...this. Whoever Zero is, they must be incredibly rich.
Well, we can't be sure of that.
Zero is most likely simply the representative of a larger group.
What sort of organization?
It could be a number of things. An army, perhaps, or a research group. Perhaps this is all some sort of psychological experiment.
If it is, then it's a pretty fucked up experiment! I mean, c'mon! A guy's dead!
I dunno who the hell this Zero asshole is, but I know for sure he's gotta be pretty fucked up in the head to do all this. If this was all 1 guy, then he's got some serious issues.
Even with the spectre of death hanging over them, their discussions continued for some time. In the end, however, they learned nothing.
All they had to show for it was impatience.
[Music: Extreme Extrication]
You really sure you want to just sit around?
No one was willing to argue this time.
Very well then. There's only one way for us to proceed.
Sure not gonna be fun running around knowin' we gotta jump when Zero says "Jump".
Well, it's stupid to just sit around here doing nothing.
Thanks to Snake's card, at least we have some idea of how this all works.
Correct. And so long as we follow the rules, we should...ah...we will most likely be all right.
Who's going to go in which door?
June looked toward the numbered doors.
Oh yeah... That's right. We can't have any more than 5 people in one door.
All 8 of us can't go in the same door.
Then it would seem we will have to split up.
Lotus looked terrified.
Come now, don't be selfish--
Call me whatever the hell you want, I'm not going in there! If I'm going to have to walk through all that blood, then I'd rather stay here!
*Sigh* And we were doing so well...
Ace shook his head sadly.
Sorry, but I ain't goin' in there either. Someone else can go into door .
Oh, Santa not you too...
Hey man, I just bought these shoes. If you think I'm getting some creepy dude's
And, to think, aside from that one possible slip up in an optional bit of dialogue, the game was doing so well on avoiding typos too.
That was the last straw.
What the hell, man?! Weren't you the one who kept saying we should get going!?
Yeah? So? Doesn't mean I wanted to go into door .
There was an awkward silence.
Finally Seven spoke.
Fine. I'll go into door . I can't go in there alone, though. Anyone else willing to come with me?
There was another long silence.
This time Snake was the one to break it.
Don't worry. You'll be fine. We may part now, but I'm certain we'll meet again later.
How do you know that?!
Because I do.
That's not an answer! If you're going, I'm going too! I'm going into door !
What am I going to do with you...
There's nothing you have to do.
Ace stepped forward.
Seven is (7) and Snake is (2). And if you add Clover's (4) and my (1), the digital root will be .
7 + 2 + 4 + 1 = 14 → 1 + 4 = 
The 4 of us can go into door --
Wait. What about the other 4? What's their digital root gonna be?
Junpei did a quick mental calculation. Lotus, Santa, June, and Junpei remained.
Their bracelet numbers were (8), (3), (6), and (5).
This is just simple arithmetic; I'm pretty sure everyone could manage this no problem.
8 + 3 + 6 + 5 = 22 → 2 + 2 = 
He repeated what he'd determined.
It's . Add up our 4 bracelet numbers, and the digital root is .
Then we can go into door .
Yeah. Huh, that worked out well.
Junpei ran over the team assignments in his head one more time.
4 people would go into door : Seven, Snake, Clover, and Ace.
4 people would go into door : Lotus, Santa, June, and Junpei.
Of course, if he went through door , he wouldn't be going with Lotus and Santa. True, it would be possible for him to bring June with him through door , but that would mean she would have to see the horrific carnage that waited there. Junpei didn't want that.
Junpei was torn. Should he stay silent, and go through door ? Or should he stop them all, and insist on door ?
As he turned his options over and over in his mind Ace spoke up.
All right then...
He began to walk toward door . Clover and Snake followed, with Seven a short distance behind.
Well, which door do you want to go through? Door 5 means we'll probably switch with Ace and Clover and go through with just Snake and Seven. On the other hand, Door 4 gives us Santa, Lotus and June. So... who strikes you as more interesting? There's no way to get Ace or Clover beyond more people shuffling around, which isn't guaranteed to happen by any means, so just assume it won't for convenience.
The (now deceased) 9th man's official art.