Part 9: MEditate
content warning: suicidal ideation, suicide
It's time for a new path. Starting from the beginning of the flowchart:
Ancora wakes up in the classroom (after activating our own helmet) and, after speaking to the others, she introduces herself to Superbia. After solving the classroom and leaving, they meet three other participants- Ira, Tristitia, and Avaritia. This time, we're going to introduce ourselves to Ira...
The situation had come to a standstill between the two teams of three. All of them looked upon each other as if judging each other's potential threat level. The entire scenario was playing out similarly to a pack of predators sniffing out who would be the first to go, regardless if their given animal was a carnivor, herbivore, or omnivore.
This really can't last any longer. I can't blame anyone here for hesitating this much, because it's hard to tell who can be trusted... if anyone can even be trusted. The thing is, not even I know which one will be most useful... But there's no point in hesitating, then. It's a gamble, and that's all there is to it- so it doesn't matter.
As Ancora contemplated her options, Invidia and Superbia moved forward. Deciding to not fall behind, the girl did much of the same. Within the next moment...
Not much of a talker, huh?
Ira moved his arm to flex a little, showing off to Ancora. From up close, he seemed even more built than he looked from afar.
He's stuttering? It's kinda weird... Is he afraid or something? Or maybe it's genetic...
A-anyway, I bet you want to know my name? It's I-Ira. Short and to the p-point, isn't it? Not that I chose it, t-to be fair... It just sort of p-popped into my head. Like, t-that's my name and then I knew.
So much for not being chatty. Maybe he's shy, and he's making efforts to get over it.
Ira scratched his helmet a little, which made it look like he was scratching the back of his head. The fact he was wearing the helmet didn't seem to hinder him much.
And you, uh, w-what's your name?
According to what we found in our room, I'm Ancora.
I guess you guys found the list of names, too?
Yeah, with the w-website address. I'm not too g-good at all that stuff.
Oh, don't worry about it, it's fine! I figured that part out already, no problem here.
I d-don't suppose you know anything about these helmets? I wanted to take it off, b-but when I tugged on it, that weird little girl appearead again a-and I was told if I tried that again, it would c-... cut my head off.
Sorry, I'm... in the dark, too.
T-that sucks... L-Let's talk about it later, then.
With a nod towards the others, he turned to the side a little bit, making it clear he was done talking with Ancora for now.
Yeah, he's a little rude. Then again, Ira takes after the sin of Wrath, so one can't expect otherwise.
Ancora you literally made fun of him to his face for not being good with computers, you're literally on the same level here when it comes to rudeness.
After everyone introduced themselves to each other, they all took a few moments to sort everything out.
From here, the six group up again and discuss their predicament, as well as wondering on the status of the last three participants- just for Gula and Luxuria to exit, alone. After another video message from ME, the two explain the third person with them died before they could get her name. The group begins introductions once more, and while Ancora thinks they should handle the puzzle first, she ultimately ends up talking to Gula. Afterwards, she solves the puzzle attached to the hallway exit, which allows the group to enter the Crossroads. In the process, Superbia hits her head and falls over, and this time we are going to follow Ira to see if she's okay...
A loud clank echoed from behind. Superbia fell down onto her ass, screaming some profanities.
Are you okay?
Interesting that he'd be the one to ask, given how Superbia treated him just before. Either way, there can't be any harm checking up on them... maybe?
Looking around, Ancora noticed Luxuria wasn't staring at the happenings, but at her instead. Not too far off, Invidia had his arms crossed, deep in thought. Presented with those options...
Superbia was holding her head, muttering profanities while trembling. Ancora understood what happened very quickly, after looking at the doorway and noting Superbia's height.
It looks like she hit her helmet's ear on the doorway. Serves her right...
Yeah, I'm fine! This- ugh- Pandora is a total dumbass for giving me that helmet. I'm already tall- I don't need even more height, and especially if I can't see the damn things.
T-that's good then, you're okay...
Hah, you think I need your pity?
Um... I think he was just trying to be nice.
The rabbit shrugged, one hand still holding the helmet.
And it won't make this fucking helmet stop vibrating so hard, anyway.
Ancora and Ira stared at each other.
Yeah, like it's resonating... holy shit, just can this noise! Ah... it's finally slowing down.
The rabbit took a few uneasy steps, before setting straight again. Just as though nothing happened, she walked back forward with the other students.
From here, ME returns with another message explaining that the group will need nine keycards to be able to initiate the first round of voting- and that if they don't, they all will die once the hour is up. The group splits up to look for a few remaining keycards, giving Ancora the chance to find a quiet corner and hack into someone's helmet. She can only hack helmets whose frequencies match her own (as they change frequencies semi-regularly); of the options she has, she decides to hack Ira's helmet.
The conversation she listens in on reveals that Ira and Superbia know each other from outside of the game, as they are a couple, but that they are hiding this information to not seem suspicious to the others. They agree to work together to escape alone, leaving the others behind, and Superbia wonders about what each of the group's crimes were. Ira and Superbia confirm that they both have lost their memories to an extent, but before any more information can be gleaned, the frequency changes, and Ancora disconnects.
Ancora regroups along with the others and they examine the strange cylinder in the Crossroads where the voting is to be held. The group insert keycards into the nine slots, and the cylinder retracts into the ground while another video message plays from ME. The eight all attach their helmets to their respective terminals to begin the voting process.
Superbia immediately goes on the offensive by stating she believes Ancora to be the mastermind. Ancora responds in turn by stating that, from a logical perspective, if she was the mastermind she wouldn't pick the name that immediately sets her apart from the group- it'd be too risky. Some of the others are swayed by this, but not everyone, which means Ancora must go on the offensive even further...
BGM: Mercedis Mellitus
She said she's among us, but she could be lying. I don't see why she'd want to put herself in danger. Also, Pandora being a girl's name is dangerous to assume, too.
The most likely scenario is that Pandora isn't a girl, but instead a boy, and we've been misguided from the start.
She does bring a good point with this... Due to that name, it was easy to think Pandora was a girl, but it's possible she's a guy pretending to be a girl. Maybe he'd think he's less suspicious that way...
Yeah, h-huh... I mean, that makes sense, but we're really o-out of time soon...
Wait, y-you don't actually think that, do you?
Fuck off, Ava. He's stupid, but he's not Pandora.
Please don't insult each other, this isn't going anywhere... Maybe Cora's right...
I'm just saying it how it is, and I already know he's a bit of a dunce.
Just a little bit more, and we'll get it. Ira seems to be getting very angry, and Lux is getting on the train. Time to drop the bomb and secure this outcome.
And how do you know all that about him? You two seem really familiar with each other. It's almost like you've got a relationship together... Something you don't want us to find out.
No, shut up. I won't have any of it, this is stupid. You can either vote with me, or die like everyone else, because you'll be dead wrong. Cora is grasping at straws.
Is that why you're suddenly way nervous about it? You're a bad liar, Bia.
Is that the truth, then? Speak up, bunny.
That's not the truth at all! Just a stupid lie!
Shut up, say nothing, you imbecile. You're dumb if you think...
Okay so, let's assume we do... what then? What does it matter? Is that gonna turn us into the mastermind or something?
Bia, we should tell them...
No, stop talking! The only reason why you're not a barefoot hobo is me, so you're gonna listen!
At that point, Ira closed his hands in fists and punched against the console, causing Superbia to shut up after releasing a small cry of surprise.
L-look, before this starts degenerating, yeah, we're dating. Not only are we dating, b-but I can assure you that she's the real d-deal. She's not an impostor. I k-know her well enough for that. She's like this all the t-time. But me? I'm an accomplice.
What are you saying? Just vote for Cora...
No, I'm not voting for Cora. I'm voting for myself.
Ira went against Superbia, which clearly was making her increasingly angrier as the seconds passed.
I'm an accomplice, so vote for me. A-all of you, vote for me. It's a better future than living it out with you like this! Consider this... my personal choice, my decision.
No, you're not! I'm not voting for your dumbass self, you're just-
I'm just what? No, Bia, you're just mad because this is my choice. That's been my crime, anyway. My crime is that I'm an accomplice to all the bad shit going on here, and I won't let you kill Cora, too.
For the first time, Superbia seemed to be at a loss for words. His tone had definitely changed. He wasn't even stuttering anymore. No one dared interrupt their discussion.
How can you say that...? I've never...
I can say it because I'm tired of it. Maybe you'll be less of a sad sack in the future. I'd rather die and teach you that life is shit when you're alone. I'd rather die, die than vote for someone who doesn't deserve it, Bia! This is what I can do... this is all I can do in defiance!
You... you did this to yourself, Ira... Fucking idiot... You won't... make me feel bad over it...
We'll see about that after I'm dead. And for everyone else, I'll see you in the afterlife. Our lives, being toyed with like this... heh, just what we deserve, isn't it? But I won't stand for it, still! Find that asshole and kill them... that is my wish.
Calmly, Ira pushed the button. From Ancora's view, it wasn't clear who he voted for, but from his tone, it had been crystal clear; he voted for himself. Silence settled in until everyone realized they only had a few seconds to spare before the shotguns were going to fire. Immediately, everyone voted.
Seems like they're voting for Ira. Invidia, Tristitia, and Superbia probably voted for him just now. With their votes, that's four. This is going to be a majority vote. Well, I don't know if he was the traitor, but he didn't feel like it. Time to vote, for what it'll matter. Sorry, Ira, but I can't let your wish come true.
It's like she says, our vote doesn't actually matter here. We already know how this is going to shake out. Which is why I voted for Superbia again.
The screens above the voting consoles settled onto Ira's symbol. It was clear what was to follow: it was his execution. Every shotgun but the victim's released their hold, leaving the participants to witness the macabre outcome.
Time slowed down. Eventually, everything froze.
Lock #7 obtained.