Part 57: Ace
I left the room I was supposed to search, and headed to the 1st class cabin on B Deck.
His voice showed no emotion, no sense of remorse or interest. It was almost...bored, as though he were reciting an especially dull corporate letter.
My purpose was to obtain the number 9 bracelet. (9) is a potent ally in the Nonary Game.
I'm pretty sure everyone figured this out a long, long, time ago so I'll skip over the examples given.
As you can see, (9) is a very useful number here. With it, one can go anywhere, with anyone. So I made for the 1st class cabin to obtain it.
He slipped both of them into his chest pocket and left, as quickly as he'd come.
"Snake" was on his way to the large hospital room, and had not noticed Ace behind him.
Ace made sure it stayed that way.
Ace was certain the man was Snake.
He knew Snake had been a part of the Nonary Game 9 years before.
Snake hadn't recognized Ace immediately, but he was blind. That much made sense.
Why, then, hadn't Snake said anything to him?
Surely he hadn't forgotten what had happened to him in the Nonary Game, but not once had he attempted to confront Ace.
Ace's mind was made up. He moved.
The door opened.
9 seconds later, the door shut.
The man inside the door passed away.
After conducting my own search, I returned to the large hospital room when the 1 a.m. bell rang.
Ace's eyes were cold, and his cheeks were hollow and pallid.
When he spoke, only his lips and tongue moved. The rest of his face was eerily still.
He didn't want to. He knew what the answer would be.
He just didn't want to hear it.
Junpei swallowed, then spoke.
Ace... Did you kill Clover?
Why... Why did you kill her?
She was Snake's sister.
Additionally, she had gone through door .
Why don't you go through door  yourself? Perhaps it's hidden somewhere.
Seven and Lotus interrupted.
Yeah, but Lotus and I went through door , too.
We didn't see anything suspicious.
I doubt the two of you could find it.
But perhaps Clover was different.
I was, therefore, desperate to find her. And at last I did, in the 1st class cabin. I spoke very calmly.
Did you...see it?
H-Huh? What are you talking about...?
Hm. Very well.
By the way... What are you doing here, Clover?
Did you go take a look at the 9th Man's corpse?
Your silence suggests that you noticed. You saw something, didn't you?
She made for the exit, but Ace stood in her way.
She leapt back up and darted past him, into the hallway.
Ace followed at a run.
He was faster.
You son of a bitch...
Seven's whole body trembled with rage, and his voice rumbled with hate.
Santa's eyes were blood-thirsty and Lotus and June's faces were distorted by anger and hatred.
Ace looked at them and smiled. It was a cold, cruel thing, with no humor in it.
He shook his head and sighed.
But don't misunderstand, Junpei. I didn't lose to you. I lost to Zero. Not you.
I'm rather disgusted with myself for falling into such a simple trap. And it was a trap, make no mistake.
The man I killed in the shower room... If he wasn't Snake, then I have no idea who he was. But he was wearing Snake's clothes, and that was no coincidence. He had also been injected with something that reduced his cognition and prevented him from identifying himself or resisting me. And we can't forget the components that were removed from the RED before we arrived.
Zero made sure I would kill that man.
It follows, of course, that Zero knew everything I would do. That I would try to take the number 9 bracelet...
Suddenly, Junpei remembered the paper he'd found in the safe.
He remembered the last words Zero had written on it...
And he remembered other words, words he'd heard from Clover...
One by one, Junpei looked at the 5 people standing in front of him.
"Zero is...one of us..."
No... Junpei paused.
There was one more person...
Where was Snake now...?
Perhaps he was somewhere, laughing at them...
If he was Zero, surely he had lied about many other things...
Was he...watching them...?
He sounded as if he'd just finished doing nothing more exciting than describing the weather.
For Santa, it was the last straw.
What the hell is this shit?! You aren't going anywhere, you son-of-a-bitch! We're gonna leave your ass here to rot!
Why? Because I killed Clover? That's ridiculous.
She was nothing to you. A stranger you only met a few hours ago. Am I wrong?
It was Lotus.
She stepped toward Ace, raised a fist of her own...
[Sound Bite: Justice]
...And drove it straight into his nose.
Huh... You've got some fire, don't you?
He sniffed, and wiped a small trickle of blood from his nose with a raised eyebrow.
Well, maybe you'd like another one then?
Ah, before that... Let me give you one of my own.
Lotus scarcely had time to blink.
Ace snaked his arms around her and pulled Lotus's back up against him.
In the same motion, he reached into his coat pocket--
[Music: Unary Game]
If any of you so much as blink, I won't hesitate to pull this trigger.
3 people...? What do you mean?
Hm... Very well. Let me take this opportunity to illuminate you.
Although I suppose to be more accurate, I encouraged him to get himself killed.
While we were examining the main staircase, he came to me and told me his name. I recognized it at once. So I gave him a little...push. Just a little white lie...
I'm going off ahead now. Well then...
Shit! Why isn't it stopping?! Goddamnit! Y-Y-You l-lied! 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! It was him! He killed me! It was him!
If I had allowed him to keep such a useful tool, he--or it--would have become a threat to me. As such, I decided that he should be eliminated early on.
If I could manage to obtain it, I would be able to manipulate the game as I saw fit. I would be unable to acquire the bracelet unless its owner was dead.
He was aware of my past. He knew what happened here 9 years ago. It was important that I eliminate him before he was able to disseminate this information.
A test to see if this Nonary Game was serious, or a poor attempt at a joke. I needed to be quite sure. As such, I encouraged him to act against the rules so that I might observe the outcome.
Junpei glared at him.
I don't get your third motive. What the hell happened 9 years ago?!
Didn't I say? The Nonary Game was played.
Why?! What on Earth was it supposed to do!?
I don't really think I have any obligation to tell you that.
Ace smirked. He was trying to provoke them, and it was working.
H-Hey, what's with this gun...? Where did he...get this...?
Why don't you tell her, Santa?
Santa ground his teeth and glared at Ace.
Indeed I did. That was a pretty serious mistake, you know. Just saying you intended to leave it behind...
Ace laughed--a short, derisive snort--and gave Junpei a sickeningly pitying look.
Wh-Where are you going?!
Do I really need to explain? I had assumed it would be obvious. I have the number 9 bracelet. And now I have Lotus.
That's where you're goin', isn't it?
And how do you know that?
Santa told me about it while we were lookin' for Clover.
I see. Well, you are correct, that is my
Ah, and please, don't forget my warning. Move, and I'll pull the trigger. I don't need her alive to open the door, you know.
As he spoke, Ace began backing toward the door, practically dragging Lotus behind him.
Junpei, Santa, June, and Seven stood, frozen.
Ace had the face of a man gone mad. They had no doubt he would pull the trigger.
Ace had reached the exit.
He forced Lotus to open it, then turned and addressed them once more.
Then he stepped through the door.
It fell shut.
In the blink of an eye, they were gone.
As soon as Ace and Lotus were gone, Junpei and the others leapt for the door, in pursuit of Ace.
But as Junpei laid his hand on the doorknob--
There was a noise behind him.
He looked over his shoulder--
Hey! June, what happened?! Are you all right?!
Santa ran to June and wrapped his arm around her before she could collapse all the way.
June's fever had returned, again for no apparent reason.
Her eyes were watery and her eyelids drooped. Her breath came in dry, shallow gasps.
I'm okay... Really, I'm fine... You should... Be worrying about...Lotus...
She was breathing hard now, and she could barely summon the strength to talk. Junpei was torn. He couldn't leave June alone in the state she was in...
...But every moment they waited, Ace was farther away, Lotus's life in his hands.
What was Junpei supposed to do?!
June's eyes drifted to Junpei's. She managed to muster a weak smile.
I just need...a little rest. I'll be fine. Don't you...remember? I just needed to rest a...little bit...last time.
Think about what Ace's already done, Junpei. When he's got what he needs from Lotus, you really think he's gonna let her just walk away?
You guys go on ahead!
Junpei looked at June.
She nodded, once. She couldn't manage much more...
...But it was all the confirmation Junpei needed. His resolve was set.
All right! C'mon Seven, we're going after Ace!
Santa, you take good care of June! I'm trusting you!
Junpei turned, before he had a chance to change his mind, and started running toward the door.
He could hear Seven's heavy footsteps behind him.
Junpei and Seven exploded into the hallway, their feet pounding the metal floor as they ran.
*Pant* *Pant* *Pant*
*Pant* *Pant* *Pant*
You think they already went through?
He reached up to wipe a palm-full of sweat from his brow.
Even as he spoke, Junpei was already on his way to the larger of the number  doors.
He looked at the RED.
He spun around and headed toward the smaller door--
This RED would tell him if Ace and Lotus had moved to another room--
That means Ace and Lotus went through here.
Yeah, it seems like it.
Junpei and Seven stepped away from the door.
They retreated to the center of the room, and began to talk.
What do we do now...?
Yeah...what should we do... Well, the big door is still vacant, but--
Yeah. First of all, our digital root is not (9)...
Just then, as they were pondering what to do next--
[Sound Bite: ???]
Junpei looked up, surprised.
Seven followed suit, his eyes jumping around the room, looking for the source of the sound.
It wasn't long before they found the altar.
Or, more precisely, what was on it.
Let's open it!
I don't think that's gonna happen...
Well, you never know 'til you try, right?
Who said that?
Anyway, we've gotta try!
Junpei and Seven leapt at the coffin.
They grabbed hold of what purchase they could find, and pulled.
See? Didn't I tell ya? If you could just pull it open, why would it have something like that?
Seven pointed at a [keypad] on the side of the coffin.
The noise hadn't stopped.
In fact, as it continued, it had only gotten louder, and more forceful.
What were they supposed to do, Junpei wondered.
Was there some sort of clue somewhere?
They stood there for a few moments, staring at the coffin, and then Seven spoke.
Hey, Junpei... I remember you mumblin' about some weird numbers over by the bathroom in the 1st class cabin.
"Truth had gone..." or something like that...
Yeah, that's right... What about it?
C'mon, that's impossible.
Those numbers were the code to unlock that safe.
Yeah, but the person who set up that safe and this coffin is the same person, right? Zero set up both of these.
Well, then they might've set the same passcode for both of them.
It'd just be a waste of time. There's no way they're the same number.
How do you know that? You never know until you try. "The only necessity for success is the willingness to suffer 1000 failures!"
Who said that?
He knelt down in front of the keypad and looked at it.
Quickly, he typed them in.
It only took a moment.
Wha... You've gotta be kidding me...
There was a click...
[Sound Bite: Awakening]
And with a heavy clunk, the lid of the coffin slid off, onto the floor.
Someone sat up from inside--