Part 10: MEdiator
Well, that's done now.
After everything settled down, they were expecting to see a limp corpse. The result wasn't too far off the mark, but instead of being merely a corpse, it was a headless corpse. There was nothing left above the shoulders.
The smallest of the bunch immediately averted her gaze to disappear to the other side of the consoles, where there was no dead body and no explosion. Where there was no pool of blood marring the ground in its deathly crimson hue. The flood from the neck had caused the floor to take on a reddish tint, with rivulets of the liquid scattered as would drops of rain. Unlike rain drops, which washed, these drying spots remained; a reminder that this was real, and that someone had died.
Escaping death was lucky. An opportunity like this won't repeat itself. Next time, it'll be harder.
Yes. Ira's dead.
The dust slowly cleared as the seconds passed. Superbia's hands were closed in fists, and she was trembling. Despite her previous countenance, it was clear the rabbit had been affected by the outcome.
While it was lucky, he wasn't my primary target. A clean waste. At least Superbia's lost a pawn.
Let's go... we have more cards to find, and so little time.
I agree. This scene is... The smell is particularly terrible, too...
The reality of the situation was slowly sinking inside. Superbia looked at Invidia, while the boy was accusing her.
His blood is on your hands as much as all the people you've mistreated. You drove him to this point.
I... that is... none of your concern. Mind your own self.
Invidia shook his head and walked away, prematurely interrupting the conversation. It was clear that Superbia wouldn't be winning anybody's trust any time soon. The prospects did not please her at all.
BGM: Memini Meminisse
Ancora looked around; Avaritia had gone missing as soon as she went free, most likely to search for another ME-card. It was the same for Gula, who left just then. The only ones remaining around the consoles were Superbia, Ancora, Luxuria, and Tristitia.
You don't seem really... affected by it, Trist.
Tristitia finally stared back at Ancora, shrugging.
Again, Tristitia shrugged.
What you see here is just a result. A real result, mind you. It was a result brought on by what we percieved was real, like the Thomas theorem: If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences. It's a little like a placebo. We didn't really know if this entire... thing was real. If it was a joke or not. Maybe some of us didn't take it seriously.
He pointed at the lack of a head.
We were all in front of a shotgun. The one in front of him fired, but there were no bullet wounds. Those guns might not really shoot, but we still die when they get us.
It doesn't matter. We didn't get the mastermind...
The others looked at her; it was a real worry. With the timer ticking down again, they had a job to fulfill.
Truth be told, the game will really only end the moment I find out the traitor. Anything to manipulate them into thinking they won.
I suppose we'll just have to keep the train going. Hopefully, I'm not next to die.
It's not as though death is this terrible. We've been dead for like an eternity before we were born. Dying is just returning to that state... for all eternity this time. For Ira, that just came earlier than the rest of us. And the dead don't give a shit about what their corpse looks like.
He sighed after talking, leaving the surroundings shortly thereafter. His tone had been completely void of any care for the deceased. Superbia left after him, most likely to search for a new ME-card, but not without looking at the dead body one last time.
The only remaining one was Luxuria. Ancora approached her. The girl was sobbing lightly into her mask. Despite her nature, Ancora was having issues ignoring the girl while she was clearly distraught.
Um... we can go elsewhere if you want...
Ahh... hahhh... I... I guess... I can't believe this actually happened... Twice now, twice... twice a beheading...
The other's from when that girl got the wrong guess, most likely.
Want to help me put in the cards into the slots in the middle? We have to do it at some point, so we may as well fill nine cards in.
The angle of her helmet showed she gave a glance towards the headless corpse before she set off to work alongside Ancora. The two of them began collecting the deactivated cards from the consoles, careful not to wander in front of one of the shotguns. It would be too stupid if one of them fired by mistake.
It's obvious they can't fire unless a vote is cast, and that they don't shoot real bullets.
Lux, do you trust me?
Ancora asked the question, though she didn't expect any real answer out of the girl. To her surprise, she nodded while they were putting in the cards into the bomb.
I see... Well, I trust you too, Lux. You're right, we should team up. As for Bia... maybe...
Getting some allies is vital for the next round, whenever that will be.
Do you trust Ula, too? I noticed you two went off together earlier.
Yeah! Ula is actually really nice, even if she looks a little odd... She gave me the ME-card we found, you know?
That sounds nice, right. In that case, maybe Ula could be part of the team... though I don't know much about her, myself. We should talk with her later.
Ancora tried to think of who else they could trust and add to their team. Judging by what they've been told, they were going through the same thing over and over, and the others most likely considered that process, too. Solving a puzzle room. Getting ME-cards. Voting. Opening the way further in. Repeat.
Isn't this what insanity is? Doing the same thing over and over expecting different results?
Did she have an issue removing the card?
I think Vidi could be a good member of the team, too.
Yeah, okay, that sounds good...
But Ancora could tell her mind was elsewhere.
I'll go check with the others. Put the rest of the cards in, okay?
She gave a half-hearted wave that Luxuria didn't even reply to.
It's probably a better idea to get to the others and help them with the puzzle, just so things keep going smoothly.
I'm not very good at this. I only know what I know.
Before either of them could do anything else, their visions turned into the familiar fake environment once more. ME wasn't done giving them instructions.
BGM: ME Mori
The carnage isn't over yet. Far from it.
Fortunately for you, now you have an hour of respite. Please use your time well. We will be heading towards more of those education rooms now. If you'd remember the room you woke up in, they're a little like that. All the ME-cards are hidden further inside. To progress, you will have to unlock the door leading to the hallway, much like how you've unlocked the previous one. That is correct; another puzzle awaits you.
The timer inside of Ancora's helmet read exactly four hours remaining.
Once you've made your way inside, you will have to split up into three groups. You may be one, two, or three in a group. The very moment four people enter the same classroom, they will surrender their right to live. Each room has an assigned subject for you to study, and a question to answer. The subject and question will be given to you personally by me after 39 seconds have elapsed since the room's door has been opened, which is also when it will close and lock.
Please remember that once you enter a room, you will also only have 39 minutes before you surrender your right to live! Time is of the essence, and I will stop taking it from you for now. From now on, I will only appear to give you each room's subject as you enter them. I wish all seven of you good luck, and don't forget...
Anything the matter?
No, it's... just thinking. Feel free to solve the puzzle, something just caught me by surprise.
Yeah, I guess it would be a shame if the best puzzle solver would be dead, huh?
Without further ado, Ancora set off to solve that puzzle and open the doors for everyone else.
BGM: Mens Metis
And now we get to solve the puzzle, unlike last time. The solution is...
We've already solved a puzzle with a similar solution; rather than getting hung up on what words are valid, the actual answer is to spell the phrase valid words around going clockwise.
With the puzzle solved, the doors were now operational.
They arrived at a split with the road. One led to the left with many classrooms and another fork with one direction blocked by more metal plates, while the right side led to a few more classrooms as well as a locked set of doors.
Let's have a look at the long hallway.
Indeed, more interesting I say.
The three of them went down the hall, looking at each door. Some of them were stuck, bolted in place, while others were only closed. The difference could only be felt when Ancora pressed onto them with both hands.
Three of them are accessible. Those are the next puzzle rooms. Only two are down this way, though.
After a while, the hallway turned to the left.
I'm not so sure about that.
The teacher proceeded to try peeking into the familiar classrooms, to no availa. The doors were all closed as per usual, and all of them had a high rectangular window covered by a metallic plate.
This is a dead end. There's a door, but... it's got a lock I haven't seen here yet. Judging by where we are, the metal plates separate us from the very first hallway we went into.
Thinking back to the map, Ancora knew he was correct. While they spoke, Avaritia pushed onto the doors, but they were all completely bolted down.
No use for all of these doors, either. They're all completely shut. I don't think any of these are going to unlock. It's almost like they're just... walls.
Like most of them in the first hallway, huh...
He spent a moment thinking about what it meant, before he shrugged it away, motioning for the others to get a move on.
The group agreed to the proposition, and they went back to the split, where the others had conspicuously arrived seconds later, including Luxuria. After a brief discussion on what to do next, the group split back up. Luxuria, Invidia, Gula, and Superbia were checking out the classrooms down the hall, while the first trio went over to the closed door they'd spied earlier.
Within seconds, they were standing in front of it. Much like the previous two doors, this one had a puzzle next to it. However, it wasn't lit up yet.
We might have to do another voting session to force this panel to light up.
That's a guess if I've ever heard one.
It just makes sense. Everything so far has been methodically built to bar our way when we go too fast. This door isn't going to open anytime soon, then.
So what now?
They didn't have much time. The clock was ticking. A few seconds later, the other group joined back with them again, and the discussion about how to split up was delayed once more when Luxuria mentioned the possibility to form a voting group.
No, that's not a good idea. People grouping up ahead of time to decide on voting others out would jeopardize the normal decision-making process.
Someone needed to chip in, so after some consideration, Ancora...
Even though we were talking about teaming up with Lux literally like 5 minutes ago, we're going to agree with the rest of the group here.
Maybe it's better to forget about it, then. They're right, Lux.
She looked at the smaller girl, who averted her gaze. In a way, Ancora felt bad about denying her. But on the other hand, if the opportunity came again, maybe she could go back on her word. It just wasn't a good time right now, especially because four could outnumber three, but...
After they'd vote out all three others, what then? How would the final death be decided? If things turn bloody, it certainly won't look good for anyone again.
Exactly. I am exceedingly grateful you could understand our tormenting dilemma.
Luxuria and Ancora looked at the others. Avaritia, Tristitia, and Invidia were all nodding their heads. Gula didn't seem to be truly sharing their opinion, but all she could give was a slight shrug towards the two, considering she was outnumbered.
Plainly understood. I am certain this endeavor would serve only to truly and well drive a wedge between all of our personages.
She stared at her nails, making no eye contact with anyone... or helmet contact,a s it were. With no chance of making any additional alliances, Ancora gave up on the idea for now.
For now. It's a little too dangerous when absolutely everyone is around, because who are we kidding? Of course there's going to be a vote group, sooner or later.
I guess that's that. What about ME-cards, did any of you find any more?
Actually, we haven't.
Luxuria looked quite bothered, but only Ancora seemed to notice.
Of course, we won't need all those cards to vote...
And the first rooms didn't even have nine cards, either; that came later. Probably the same here, too.
But we're going to need them to finish discarding in the slots of that weird hexagon or whatever, either way.
Yeah, so there's no chance for us to slack off. The doors to the first rooms haven't opened again since we left them, so if we don't get those cards, we're completely stuck.
BGM: Memini Meminisse
Balanced teams, huh?
Ancora knew what that meant. It meant that, since she'd already proven herself to be smart, she wouldn't have much of a choice with whom to go. Going with Tristitia seemed out of the question.
Precisely. Each set had a specific individual better poised to solve these infernal contraptions. As a result, it would be best to split up according to said skillful lot.
Cora, Ula and I are the ones who did the most. From what the others said, those who did the least were Ira, Lux, and Vidi...
No, that's wrong.
Ancora interrupted him while shaking her head.
In our room, Vidi did a good amount of stuff. Bia bitched and moaned the entire time, and barely helped.
The entire group noticed that the girl was gone.
Did she even come back with the other group?
Hm... she might have remained in the hallway, come to think of it.
First, let's get the groups made, then whoever ends up with her will go fetch her. Okay?
Everyone was in agreement.
That means we should form the teams something like... Ula and Ava, Vidi with me, and the three others which would be Lux, Bia, and you, Cora, would go together.
I'm aware. Maybe she won't hate you as much if you're both put in the same team.
Huh, strange teams... you're putting girls with girls and boys with boys.
Now that you mention it, you're right. Still... I think this is our best lineup to force some differences to fall... before the next voting session...
Something was definitely nagging at Tristitia. The more he spoke, the more his tone became a little detached, as if he was thinking about something.
Ancora let it be for a moment, because her objection to grouping with Superbia hadn't been entirely shot down.
He was caught short, still halfway in his thoughts.
I guess that would be fine, too.
I don't really have an objection. It does unbalance Bia's team, though.
Then I'll take Bia with me, and Vidi will go with Lux, if that's your choice, Cora.
With those group compositions in mind, Ancora went with...
Not a vote, but you're free to discuss which of these is going to be the more obnoxious pairing we end up with!