Part 52: 5
Junpei and the other 3 proceeded down it, silently.
Some distance along it, a large room opened up on the left-hand side. It looked...familiar.
Junpei and his companions drew to a stop, and began to discuss what their next move should be.
We've seen this elevator before.
We got off the one on the left just a little while ago.
Then we went through the number  door, and that took us to the engine room...
Yes, and after that we passed through the cargo room...
And now we're back here...
Junpei approached the elevator.
Gently, he pushed the triangular button on the wall next to it.
A moment passed...
The elevator door opened... And shut.
Pushing the button had apparently restored power to the elevator.
The elevator was now functional.
What do we do? Should we return to C Deck?
No, this hallway keeps going.
I agree. Let's go.
Their decision made, Junpei and his companions left the elevators behind, and continued down the hallway.
Some time later...
Santa, who had been walking several paces in front of the rest, suddenly stopped.
Set in the wall in front of him was a door.
So far as Junpei could see, there was no other way to proceed.
It was the door, or nothing.
All right. Let's open it.
Junpei took a deep breath, readied himself, then grabbed the doorknob and pulled the door open.
He paused for a moment, then stepped through, into the room.
...And there he saw the number that had hung over their heads since they'd woken up.
Like the numbers on every other door, this one, too, was a rough shape made of red paint.
Its door was set into the back wall of the room.
Junpei leapt toward it with a sudden burst of hopeful energy.
He grabbed hold of the door handle and shook.
Nothing, but he hadn't expected it to open.
The RED sat on the wall, next to the door.
Its screen read [VACANT]...
As he stood, frozen, unsure of what to think or feel--
J-Jumpy! Look! Behind you!
He spun around.
...And couldn't believe what he saw.
...A second door...?
It was a small single door.
It sat in the starboard corner of the room, on the same wall as the door they'd entered from, but in the opposite corner.
There was no mistaking it. A RED sat on the wall next to this door as well.
Junpei shook the door handle pointlessly, and muttered to himself.
It was Santa who answered.
Just think about it. Zero never said "There is only one door with 9 on it".
"It is hidden, but an exit can be found."
Of course, we just assumed that there was only 1. After all, why would there be more than 1?
Now the reason for the bracelet numbers being [1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9] was clear... Divided in 2, the digital root for both teams would be (9).
For instance,  and ... The digital root for both teams would be (9). Or  and ... The digital root would be also (9).
There were many other workable combinations, but they all ended the same way: with a digital root of (9).
But eventually, they would reach the room Junpei now found himself in, and realize the pointlessness of whatever violence they'd visited upon each other.
Fortunately, they hadn't started to fight one another, at least not yet.
But if one misstep was made, if the wrong mistakes happened, the stakes would rise and the noose would tighten.
The thought of it sent a chill down his spine.
So... What are we going to do, Junpei?
A voice broke through Junpei's frantic thoughts. Santa's voice.
It brought Junpei back to his senses. No use worrying about the future. He needed to figure out what they were going to do next.
In other words, the 4 of them couldn't open a door with the number .
But...what if there were only 3? Could door  be opened with 3 of them...?
No! We gotta go back!
That wasn't a possibilty he was willing to consider.
Santa and Ace agreed.
Junpei let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding.
A-Are you sure...? I...I don't mind...staying...
June's body betrayed her true feelings.
Her eyes were wet with the beginnings of tears, and her legs shook.
It's okay. There's no way we'd leave you behind.
Santa had said what Junpei had known the moment he realized which 3 people could go through the door.
Besides, I'd rather drown at the bottom of
Maybe I'll get to go to Atlanta.
June blinked tears from her eyes and bit her lip. She didn't seem to know what else to say.
Very well. Best we head back to C Deck then. We should be able to take the elevator we passed earlier.
Ace knew it. They all knew it. But there was nothing else they could do.
They would find the other 3, and search for another solution.
All right. Let's go.
Ace looked at all 3 of them, then turned and headed through the door.
Santa and June followed.
Junpei started toward the door, then stopped.
[Music: Who is Zero?]
He'd been too busy with other concerns to notice the room itself.
It didn't seem terribly important now, but...what exactly was it?
Junpei looked around the room, for the first time noticing the things that weren't doors with 9 on them.
A red carpet ran between 2 columns of wooden benches that ran the length of the room.
The carpet began at the large set of double doors, and ran toward the bow, toward... Junpei wasn't sure.
A coffin. A coffin...
What on Earth was a coffin doing in a place like that?
But before Junpei had time to answer that question--
Santa's voice echoed in from the hall outside.
Right! Okay! I'll be right there.
Junpei turned on his heel and left the quiet, somber room.
[Sound Bite: ???]
They took the elevator up to C Deck.
Once there, they headed back toward the main hall, and the central staircase.
It didn't take them long.
Junpei found Seven and Lotus waiting for them.
They didn't look happy.
As usual, I recommend just clicking that link in lieu of reading further.
We've got a problem.
[Music: Unary Game]
Junpei and his 3 companions looked at one another.
He turned back to Seven and Lotus.
What do you mean...gone?
Santa, Ace, and June had their own questions to ask.
You 2 went into door  with Clover, didn't you?
Seven and Lotus responded as best they could.
Yeah, we went through the door together.
But Clover barely spoke to us...
She just did her own thing the whole time.
There were 4 rooms on the other side of door ...
The fourth room? That would be... the Captain's Quarters...
She just said "I'll take care of this one..."
...And shut the door.
She must have blocked it with something on the other side.
We waited for a while, but Clover didn't come out.
We called for her, but she didn't answer...
It was empty.
Clover wasn't there.
There was a door on the other wall...
...And it was open.
We ran after her, of course, but...
Well, obviously we didn't find her. You've figured that much out.
Junpei thought for a moment.
When did this happen?
You certainly have excellent timing.
So you haven't searched anywhere other than near the staircase?
No, we haven't.
Finally, Ace spoke.
His voice had an edge of resolve and concern.
We haven't much time left. Let's begin!
There were quick nods all around, and the 6 remaining players spread out.
She's not here...
No, she isn't...
They searched a little longer, but with no luck.
They couldn't find Clover.
Finally, they gave up, and left the central hospital room.
Slowly, they made their way back to the hallway.
At last, they reached the stairs, and Junpei spoke.
I'll head back to the stairs, and take the elevator down to E Deck. June, you can take the stairs up to B Deck.
All right. That sounds good. But...um...
Huh? Oh...s-sure, right... I'll, um, I'll do that.
9 years ago, it came naturally--after all, they were children.
But now that they were adults, it felt...strange.
Regardless of what he might hope for, to call a woman he wasn't dating by such a childish nickname felt...odd to him.
If you don't get this, then the very short version is simple enough to follow: it's a Japanese respect thing. How you address someone is incredibly important.
In short, it was simply easier for him to call her "June", and leave it at that.
All right, I'm going then.
You be careful too, Jumpy.
Yeah. Got it. ...Take care.
Junpei looked after her for a moment as she ran up the stairs, then turned around and took off for the hallway.
A light in a dark place, June's smile had given him hope--both for escape, and possibly...for something else.
It was that hope that raised his spirits just enough that they might soon be fully dashed.
Junpei felt his blood turn to ice.
Her body was limp, and her skin, smooth and pale as always...
...Was covered in bright red blood.
Junpei felt his chest constrict. He couldn't breathe, and his legs began to shake.
A slow, cold drop of sweat trickled down his back.
He felt his stomach somersault.
Junpei's mind went blank--all his thoughts replaced with endless, hissing white.
Driven by little more than instinct, he began to walk toward Lotus, slowly.
Each slow movement of his stiff limbs brought him closer to her corpse.
Yes, Junpei thought, his mind slowly returning, she had been killed. Someone had killed her.
There was a deep cut on the left side of her chest.
Blood still oozed from it, although clearly her heart had stopped beating some time ago.
He took little comfort from knowing she must have suffered very little.
"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."
"In other words, once the bracelet is taken outside the confines of the ship, or detects that its wearer's heartbeat has fallen to zero, it will shut down automatically."
Was that why the killer had ended Lotus's life? So that they might have the number (8) bracelet?
The thought had only just entered Junpei's mind when--
He heard a noise. A sound like a sharp knife cutting through wet meat.
It struck him as strange that the noise came from inside his own body.
A moment later, the pain hit him.
It wasn't merely pain--there was heat, extreme heat, as well. He felt as though molten iron had been splashed against the side of his body.
His voice was little more than a weak groan.
With what little strength he had left, Junpei turned his body, trying to catch a glimpse of his attacker--
But as he did, the knife dug itself in deeper, twisting viciously.
He collapsed to the floor--a puppet with its strings cut.
His arms and legs lay where they fell, oddly twisted and awkwardly positioned.
With that recognition came...nothing. He felt no emotions--not anger, not sadness, not regret.
The paralysis that had claimed his body had reached his mind.
His killer glanced down at his body...
Then, without a word, climbed into the elevator and was gone.
Soon, it swallowed up the last that remained of Junpei's mind, and his consciousness left him.
There was nothing more.
Into utter emptiness, he fell--Into Zero. Whatever Junpei had been was gone.
I know I technically can't blame this one on you guys, but it is sort of your fault by proxy.
On the plus side: at least we didn't get shot, like you'd have expected to happen.
...Actually I don't know if getting stabbed is better or worse. Don't really want to find out either.