Part 40: Earth
[Music: Extreme Extrication]
Santa was unconvinced.
Hey, wait a minute there. You cheatin'?
How could I do that? I wrote it down on the paper earlier.
Lemme see that.
Junpei shrugged and handed it to him.
Santa examined it furiously. The others peered at it as well.
The rest was easy.
If he wanted to go into door , he'd use his left hand, and his right hand if he wanted door . Of course, if he wanted door , that would be simple. All he need do was switch nothing, and say 6 had been what he wanted all along.
Well? What does it say?
He fought the urge to smirk.
Hmph... You got lucky.
Santa snorted, and tossed the paper aside, frustrated.
Very well. We've decided who will go through door .
1 + 4 + 5 = 10 → 1 + 0 = 1
Our only problem is the 2 remaining teams...
June and I want door .
Lotus and I want door .
That's not good. We can't open either of those doors with only 2 people...
3 + 6 + 7 + 8 = 24 → 2 + 4 = 6
Sure thing. I didn't really wanna go through door  anyway.
Eh...Well... I... Um...
June was at a loss for words. Lotus was not.
Her eyes were the eyes of a woman prepared to kill. A shiver ran down Junpei's spine.
'Til we find that  door, Zero ain't gonna split us up. We might get separated for a little while, but we'll see each other again. Otherwise, we can't open door . That's how the Nonary Game works.
A numbered door.
To the left of it, bolted to the wall, was the RED.
Ace went first, and waved his wrist over the scanner panel.
Junpei was next.
Finally, listlessly, Clover lifted her arm. She leaned toward the scanner panel.
The 3rd asterisk clicked to life, shining brightly.
Ace took hold of the lever. He took a deep breath, and turned to Junpei and Clover.
Yeah, any time.
Clover said nothing. She nodded, little more than a lethargic twitch of the head.
Very well then. Let's go. 3... 2... 1...!
The door opened.
They stumbled into the room.
There it is! Over there!
Next to the door they'd come through was the DEAD. As one, they ran to it.
They put their hands over it as if they were fighting for it.
Yes... It did...
Junpei could feel his heart pounding against the inside of his ribs. Ace and Clover were breathing hard and fast.
It was the 3rd time they'd been through the process, but they had yet to grow accustomed to it. Not that Junpei wanted to...
He planned to finish the game before he got a chance to let imminent death become commonplace.
Junpei looked around again, this time more slowly.
There was another door. Different from the one they'd entered through.
He took hold of the knob and easily, gently, pulled it open.
He closed the door again, and turned to Ace and Clover.
He fixed each in turn with a meaningful stare, then spoke.
Clover, you're in charge of this room!
O-Okay... I will...