Part 74: Neptune
They ran across the hallway, straight for the large metal door.
Next to the door was the Uranus card reader.
Out of the library and into the hallway they ran.
At the end of the hallway was a door. Junpei reached into his pocket to pull out the key as he ran toward it. The key he put into the lock was the [Neptune key].
He turned it.
The lock clicked.
As one, they shoved the door open and poured through it.
In front of them was another great metal door.
Above it was a metal plaque.
It read "INCINERATOR".
This's the first time I've seen it from this side, but yeah...I think so.
Yeah... Right here.
Junpei ran up to it.
Pull that, and the door should open.
As he spoke, he pulled the lever.
The motor in the door groaned, as it slowly ground open.
There was no time to waste.
As soon as the door had opened far enough to admit them, all 4 dashed through.
Then suddenly, there before them, were the 4 who they'd parted from earlier.
Ace and Lotus stood in front of the number  door.
And then there was June...
What had happened...
Junpei ran toward June.
He skidded to a stop in front of her and knelt down.
What's wrong?! Are you okay?!
When she spoke, he could barely hear her.
Of course I did. I made a promise.
I'm so glad you're here... So glad...
She mumbled the same words over and over, weakly. Junpei could feel his heart breaking.
Hey... What happened to you?
I'm...fine... I just fainted. I wasn't feeling very good...
Are you sure?
Yes. I just need to rest a little longer. I'm...sure I'll be fine. You shouldn't worry about me...
She was looking toward Santa. Junpei turned to look as well.
Seven grabbed him by the collar and roared at him.
Hey! Where is it?! Where's the gun?! You hide it somewhere!?
Despite himself, a grunt of pain escaped Santa's lips as Seven shook him.
I...don't have it...
What?! Who took it!?
What, isn't that obvious?
Oh, Ace. What are we gonna do with you? Can't turn our backs for more than 5 minutes without you turning evil on us.
Ace had her pinned to him with the other arm, and she was shaking visibly.
Her fiery attitude was gone, replaced by fear.
She didn't dare speak.
There was sweat on her forehead, and when her eyes weren't flicking up to the gun pressed against her, they seemed to desperately want to say something.
Just what the hell do you think you're doin', Ace...
Seven's deep, baritone rumble shook the walls.
You have me at a disadvantage, and I don't like that. You know me, but I don't know you. Do you have any idea how much I've suffered? Can you even begin to understand my pain?
Hmph. Another irritating insect. And how do you know that, hm?
Junpei couldn't say--he just knew. Another unexplainable mystery.
No matter. If you don't want to answer, it makes no difference to me.
Behind Ace, Junpei could see the RED. It was placed in the small indentation on the wall.
Quickly, Ace placed his hand on the scanner.
It beeped, and he forced Lotus's hand onto it as well.
Then at last, he reached into the pocket of his jacket... He pulled something out and pressed it against the panel.
The 3rd asterisk appeared on the RED.
His smirk made Junpei's blood boil.
Wait... Something about the way he'd spoken...
Did Ace not know who Zero was?
Junpei's eyes flicked toward Santa.
Junpei wasn't sure if it was real pain, but he wasn't sure it wasn't either.
What the hell did Santa have up his sleeve this time...
I will escape, and the rest of you will have a slightly less pleasant ending. I suggest you enjoy your final moments. Goodbye.
Lotus tried to take advantage of Ace's confusion, and managed to twist herself out of his grasp, but--
He waved the number (9) bracelet over the RED and then his own bracelet as well.
He pulled the lever a second time...
The digital root should be (9)! It has to be (9)!
Then why...why isn't it opening?!
It was just below the RED.
Seven chose that moment to act.
He moved far faster than a man of his bulk should have been able to, and he launched that bulk straight at Ace.
[Sound Bite: Seven]
Lotus ran, straight for Junpei.
She darted around behind him, and stuck her head out, making sure to keep Junpei between herself and Ace.
Phew... That was close. Too close. Thank you, Seven.
Don't mention it.
Seven stood over Ace, his breathing slow and heavy.
Just 1 punch ain't enough for this piece'a shit.
But if a suspect can't talk, they ain't much good. Once he's locked up in a cell, we're gonna have a little chat.
Yeah, you finally figured it out. Dumbass.
Ace planted his hands on the floor and shook his head.
Junpei walked toward him.
He stopped, and looked down at Ace, with pity on his face.
He peered at Junpei, geniunely confused.
All right. We'll just go through 'em in order then. Let's start off with Kubota.
[Music: Digital Root]
You killed him without making it look like you killed him.
The way I figure it, you had 4 motives.
You could add (9) to any number, and the digital root wouldn't change.
In other words, number (9) could do whatever they wanted.
Ace had wanted to remove that threat as soon as possible.
He convinced Kubota to break the rules so that he might see what happened.
Next was Nijisaki. While everyone was off looking for the missing part for the RED... You ran into Nijisaki near the big hospital room.
Chiefly because, when you met him, he was dressed like Snake. That was why you thought Nijisaki was Snake.
Why... How did...
I'll get to that.
Anyway, you thought he was Snake. Snake was one of the kids in your experiment 9 years ago.
But his presence made you think...
"Whatever the reason, anyone who knows my past is a threat."
"Before he tries anything, I need to get rid of him."
That was when you decided you had to kill him.
You just waved it over the RED, verified your own number, and then grabbed Nijisaki's arm and forced it over the scanner panel.
9 seconds later, the door closed.
And then 81 seconds passed...
Then you mean to say Snake is still alive...?
Thank you for killing the wrong man, but I can't say I like knowing that you wanted me dead. Although to be honest, even if you hadn't tried to kill me...
Heh. Well, I wouldn't blame you...
Ace's self-derision was frustrating.
...But Junpei kept his emotions in check, and continued.
When Clover and I were investigating the chart room you came over to talk to me. Do you remember what you said?
I handed you the pocket watch, and you left the room.
It followed, then, that he knew how to get out of the wheelhouse.
All Ace had to do was place the pocket watch in the indentation on the door to unlock it.
With the door open, he was able to enter the captain's quarters.
Next to him was an ax that fairly begged Ace to kill Musashidou with it.
He picked up the ax and swung it, burying the blade deep in the other man's chest.
When they reached the wheelhouse, Ace slipped his hand into Junpei's vest.
He pulled out a piece of paper, the piece of paper Junpei had used to cheat during the vote.
But it wasn't the piece of paper that Ace was after. His true purpose had been to slip the pocket watch into Junpei's pocket.
What had made Ace so desperate?
That was the only thing Junpei hadn't been able to figure out.
You obviously did it, but...why?
Because of this...
Slowly, Ace reached down and pulled something out of his pocket.
It was a folded piece of paper.
Junpei took it and opened it.
This was what it said:
If I went through that door, I knew I could get to the captain's quarters. As you said, I knew how to enter the wheelhouse.
If I could, then my alibi would be set. At least, that was the plan... Unfortunately for me, you got to it first.
You meant to kill him from the beginning, then? Musashidou, I mean.
I asked him...and he answered. He seemed groggy. Perhaps he had only just awoken from sedation.
He seemed confused and disoriented when I encountered him.
But yes, you are correct. I intended to kill him from the beginning, even though I didn't know who he was.
Although he had confessed, his sins were not forgiven.
Junpei felt revulsion for the pathetic man on the floor near his feet.
But in among the revulsion was a hint of pity.
After all... Ace had not been the only person who murdered those 3 men.
Junpei spoke quietly.
Ace... You've figured it out, haven't you?
Yes. So it would seem.
Everywhere I went, everything was already prepared.
There was an ax in the captain's quarters.
Nijisaki as well.
I'm quite ashamed of myself. But yes... Yes, this was a trap.
I did everything he wanted me to do.
By manipulating Ace, Zero was able to kill 3 people and keep the blood off his own hands.
That's why this Nonary Game happened.
Junpei looked over at Santa.
As Junpei spoke, he stood up, his legs still shaky.
Ain't no point tryin' to play dumb anymore,
Seven's face was sad as he spoke.
My memory came back, kid. You're Aoi Kurashiki, no doubt about it. Never thought I'd be back in this room, talkin' to you.
After all, the person who planned the Nonary Game this time around was Zero...
Heh. Looks like you really do have your memories back, huh.
Santa's smile was sarcastic, and...something else.
Well, I guess there's no point in hiding it then, huh?
I was one of the kids in the Nonary Game 9 years ago. I made it out. So did Snake over there.
Santa Concept Art #2