Part 55: Search
Minor note: update may potentially get a little in places. You should be used to it by now, but fair warning since it's different to before.
Junpei couldn't shake the feeling that he'd heard about Soporil before...
Developed 6 years prior, it was made from the extracts of several different roots.
It became popular almost as soon as it was made public, with many governments placing large orders. Demand for Soporil skyrocketed, and as it did, so did the stock of Cradle Pharmaceuticals.
Why do you know all this...?
Santa's information was interesting, but Junpei couldn't help but feel a little suspicious.
Santa's reply was blunt and simple.
From Ace? When...?
By the number  door, at the central stairway. When we were searching the 2nd class room. Remember how Snake, Seven, and you went to door ?
After that, we just started talkin', and...I guess it just came up, you know?
Are you worried about something?
As he spoke, Junpei looked over toward Ace.
He seemed to be having difficulty with the 9 boxes.
What the hell is he doing...
He turned back to June and Santa.
June, don't push yourself, all right?
Santa, could you take care of her?
He gave them both a short nod, then turned and headed toward Ace.
Ace's back was to him as Junpei approached.
The older man turned around to look at him. His face was pale and covered in sweat.
Nothing. I...my vision has gotten rather blurry, I think perhaps because of fatigue. I can't see very well, at the moment.
What can't you see well...?
Ace held the cards out to Junpei, splayed out in the shape of a fan.
Presbyopia is basically the inability to focus on anything that's nearby. It apparently only happens to people as they get older, and I'm pretty sure if you were myopic and got it (which is totally possible) then you might very well be functionally blind. I'm not a doctor, though, so that's just what it sounds like to me.
Growing old is a difficult thing.
He made the best attempt he could at a self-deprecating smile, but his face was flushed and his lips were pale and drawn.
At any rate, I'll leave the rest to you. I'm feeling awfully tired, so if you don't mind I'd like to rest for a bit.
He shoved the cards into Junpei's hands and walked quickly away.
[Music: Digital Root]
Junpei looked down at the cards in his hands.
All of the pictures were quite clear, and each person easily recognizable. Was Ace's vision truly so bad...?
...But if it wasn't, what had made him so uncomfortable?
That was when Junpei remembered what he'd heard from Lotus much earlier...
Well, put simply, it means a condition where the mind can't distinguish between human faces. In other words, my face would look the same as Clover's, or even yours. So they can't remember faces, which is how most people recognize each other. That means that people with prosopagnosia have trouble recognizing even people they're close to.
Junpei took another look at Ace.
He sat at the base of the stairs, looking quite depressed.
Still... Junpei felt perhaps it was best he keep Ace's condition to himself, at least for the time being.
Doing his best to clear his mind for the task at hand, he turned back toward the boxes.
It was time to solve the puzzle of the 9 boxes!
9 cards with pictures...and 9 boxes. Junpei stared at them for a moment, and then began.
As soon as he'd inserted all of the cards--
He peered inside.
In each box was a single [pin].
They looked a little like sewing pins, but much thicker.
Junpei collected them all quickly, and shoved them into his pocket.
From here, we solve the room as before. Take the pins to complete the digital roots puzzle, then complete the magic square, then have the Pushmaster make us a path to the coffin with the gun in it. That scenes plays out exactly the same here as it did before, so we'll skip ahead.
Quite a way ahead, now, even. We'll take the key from the coffin, leave the room, head back to the staircase, reconvene with Seven and Lotus. Clover's still MIA like she was before, and we split up to go look for her.
[Music: Unary Game]
She's not here...
No, she isn't.
All right. Just in case, we should go take a look in the shower room.
The shower room?
June bit her lip. She knew, as Junpei did, that there was only one thing to see in the shower room, and it wasn't pleasant.
Well, we might as well check, right? Let's go.
There was a screwdriver stuck between the door and the frame.
Junpei and June slipped through the door, moved down the hallway, and stepped into the shower room.
Yeah... I don't think she's here...
June's voice was faint, and she placed her hands over her mouth. Her face looked a little green.
The stench in the room was almost unbearable. It had grown far more unpleasant since their last visit. If Junpei had eaten a lunch, he would have had difficulty retaining it.
He wanted to leave the room as soon as possible, but...
He had to be sure. And the only way to be sure was to check the other side of the divider.
He stopped at the corner and turned his head.
As he'd expected, Clover was nowhere to be seen.
The only thing on the other side of the divider was a dead body, lying in a reddish-brown puddle of dry and drying blood.
The accident hurt him really bad... To save him, they... They had to cut off his arm...
They stepped through the door, and out of the shower room.
Down the hallway they went, searching for Clover in every corner.
They had reached the stairs when--
Seven appeared, breathless and yelling.
He looked pale, and his face was drawn.
Something terrible had happened.
Junpei's breath caught in his throat.
Did... Did something happen?
Seven drew a shaking hand across his face, and gulped down a breath of air.
I found her...in the 1st class bathroom...
*Pant* *Pant* *Pant*... *Pant*... *Pant*... *Pant*...
All sound ceased for Junpei. The world was an empty, muffled expanse.
Then he began to hear his own breathing.
[Music: Chill and Rigor]
June's mouth moved, but he heard nothing.
She tried once more, and then her energy was gone, and she collapsed against the wall.
He could have helped her, but he hadn't, and now she was dead.
So he stood there, frozen in place.
Why... Why had this happened?
He forced his body to move.
Each step felt like another nail pounded into his heart.
Finally, he was in front of her.
Easy, that is, were it not for the slowly-expanding puddle of blood beneath her.
He traced its source to her back.
A gash just beneath her shoulder blade.
Was the weapon a knife, perhaps?
If it was a knife, the killer had taken it when they left...
Junpei lifted a limp June from the floor, and carried her from the bathroom.
It was a foolish question, and he knew it.
Yes... I...I think so...
Her voice was weak.
The fever had gone down, but the emotional scars she'd received were not likely to recede as quickly.
Junpei laid his hand on her shoulder, and they walked back to the bedroom.
You should get some rest.
He lowered June, until she was sitting against the bed.
She nodded, once, and stared at the floor.
Once everyone was back in the bedroom, Junpei walked slowly to the center of it, and looked around as the slumped figures gathered there.
Who was the first to find the body?
Seven spoke from behind Junpei. He turned around.
Seven's hand was up.
Why'd you come to this room?
I found her body in the bathroom... Soon as I did, I ran outside.
Then I went back to the bathroom. Ace, Santa, and Lotus showed up real soon after that. But I guess you 2 hadn't heard me, or something, 'cause you didn't show. So I took off down the stairs to look for you. After that... I mean, you know the rest, right?
Junpei nodded and closed his eyes. There was one more thing he needed to ask.
When we finished all the puzzles in this room, and got the door open... You stuck one of those [plates] in between the door and the frame, right? Why'd you do that?
So we could come back to this room--
Well, I don't know.
Seven sighed, and shook his head.
There were 2 doors standing next to one another. He opened the one on the right.
Behind the door was a closet.
Seven stepped inside.
He stood in front of one of the shelves that filled it, and gestured toward a small box.
The box was a small, metal cube.
[Music: Who is Zero?]
He looked at Junpei.
This is the reason. This [safe]. We couldn't open it when we were getting through this room.
I couldn't stop thinkin' about it. Besides...
And if we did, I didn't wanna screw around with door  again. So I put that plate in the exit door so we could get back in that way. You get it now?
Junpei nodded, and looked at the safe.
He grabbed the handle and shook it.
It was as locked as it had been when Seven found it.
Had someone opened the safe, dislodging the rust?
Junpei left the closet.
Seven followed him back to the bedroom.
The room felt tiny and oppressive, and the thick metallic smell of blood filled the room.
Junpei turned, and headed for the living room. Anything to get out of there.
He took his time, and examined the room carefully.
Maybe I should have another look at it, just in case...
Quietly, he pushed open the door.
He wiped his mouth weakly, and stared at the dead body.
The pool of blood that framed it was half dry, but so thick that it had taken on a texture not unlike that of an egg yolk prepared sunny-side up.
On the floor, next to the broken mass of the man's head, lay his glasses, cracks spidering across the lenses.
The bloodstains near them had already dried, like scabs on the floor.
That was when he noticed.
Clover concept art #1.