Part 14: MEmorandum
What was... that all about?
No longer on its solid two legs, it had fallen, limp against the surface of the floor below. Due to the state of the body, the survivors were looking at each other, unsure if Luxuria had truly passed on. That thought was eclipsed from everyone's mind when a sudden explosion completely obliterated the small one's head. Dust and smoke filled the air, giving the terrifying scene an even chillier atmosphere.
In Luxuria's final moments in front of the shotgun, she had been thrashing about. The position of the body made it look more grotesque than it really was. From the neck was also a pool of red- a pool that none of the survivors dared approach. Droplets had splattered over the ground, remnants of the horrible blast. All of them were drying already, staining the floor with the ichor of life. Or the ichor of death.
However, Ancora wasn't dealing with any of the sights. She was looking elsewhere. She was looking left, then right. She was in a state close to hyperventhilation. She had seen things she didn't recognize. She had heard a voice that couldn't have spoken. She was completely lost in her head, incapable of understanding what had transpired.
What... was that? What was that vision?
A vision...? That wasn't a vision. It was real. Right?
Don't touch me... I've seen her... I've heard her... I even know her real name! It's Nico! How...
What's going on? What did you see? Something weird?
I spoke to her! No, it wasn't me. It felt like it was me, but it wasn't me.
She breathed in loudly, and then she calmed down. This was making her look like a freak. Ancora could see Superbia and Ira leaving the group to deal with whatever madness had taken her.
I know you don't want to believe me, but there was something, maybe it's the helmet. It just came to me; when she died it's like we... connected?
The girl felt like an abyss was growing in her stomach. The fact Invidia didn't trust her enough to believe her was eating at her.
Perhaps we're going down a dangerous road by insisting on this vision. Maybe leaving it aside will be for the best.
The only person in the group who remained close to the dead body was Gula. She was kneeling beside it, as if she was regretting the outcome in some fashion.
That makes sense, as she and Luxuria had been close before.
You aren't making any sense. And hey, Bia, Ira? Come back here, will you? We have to decide what we're doing now. We need some order in the group, or anarchy will reign.
What we're doing...? Isn't it obvious?
BGM: ME Mori
ME wasn't done giving them instructions.
Greetings once more. I'm sure you'd rather not see ME again, not after the vote and your forced witness of a dead body. I would like to remind you that there will be 5 more in total today other than this one, so you should strap yourselves in.
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.
Hopefully you didn't kill off your best puzzle solver yet, or else you would regret it now.
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 classroom 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...
BGM: Mereo Mentis
Then the image faded once more, and Ancora's vision was replaced with the real world again. She looked at Tristitia. He took an uneasy pose, no doubt thinking all that information over. Before Ancora could resume the topic, Gula and the others approached her, hounding her in Tristitia's stead.
All of Ancora's previous instability came back at once, hitting her like a truck.
It's... I saw her, Lux- or Nico- I spoke to her, I spoke to Nico. I spoke to her, and she said she was dead. But it wasn't me. It was me, but it wasn't me.
Superbia and Ira had come back at Tristitia's demand, both of them looking upon the wreck that Ancora had become.
What are you talking about? You aren't making any goddamn sense.
I d-don't really get it either... But uh, s-shouldn't we get a move on and start making up teams like what ME said?
Invidia agreed to that course of action, and so did Tristitia. Ancora was still almost hyperventilating, but by now the group was more focused on their own survival than her state of being.
I saw her, I swear...
She can't come with all of us, actually. ME said we had to split up, but we can't bring more than three people in one room. I think if we're to explore three rooms again, then, we have to split 3-2-2...
We can always m-make two groups of three, and one stays alone.
Wouldn't that be quite sad for her, however?
As much as I w-wanna be nice... It's not really my p-problem, to be honest.
And as much as I'd want to agree with you, Ira, we do have to keep our teams balanced, because we have to get the ME-cards from inside. It would be stupid to send this insane bitch alone, just to have her unable to bring the ME-cards to us.
Yeah, okay, s-sure. So let's m-make three teams of two, and we'll bring her w-with one of them, I guess.
How are we going to determine that? I didn't say to bring her along, either. Isn't it just better to leave her out if she's going to be a problem? It's not like we all have to go in, right?
It looked much like the other set when it was closed. A firm push proved she wasn't going to open them by any other way than the puzzle. It was, of course, what had been planned, so nothing out of the ordinary there. Next to the door, a panel was containing a square puzzle much like the one she previously solved. It wasn't the same puzzle, though. Obviously.
A good way to prove them otherwise is to solve the puzzle. If that's done, then they'll have no choice but to realize no one's insane here.
At least, that was the thought. Ancora stood in front of the two doors alone. With a sharp inhale, she looked at the panel and started solving it to open them.
BGM: Mens Metis
To be clear, this is the same door we open when Ira is the one to get voted on, the puzzle is just different... The solution for this one is...
The directive says M E, but there's no E on the board... The solution is to create an M E, or rather, an E that is made of Ms.
The doors unlocked when Ancora finished solving the puzzle. Giving one of them a light push, she confirmed they could be opened and left their immediate area to head back to the six other survivors. The entire process had taken a few minutes, yet when she rejoined them, it didn't take long for her to understand the discussion about how to handle the teams still wasn't over.
Okay, that's fair I suppose. How do we divide, though? You and Bia are adamant about going together, but won't that be unbalanced...?
It would be. We all need to have a team that has someone good at solving those rooms, which would be Vidi and me.
Ula can't be that bad either if they escaped their room, too...
Unless the one who was good was in fact the one who died, which then begs the question why they died at all. Though, Gula's been unresponsive for a while now anyway...
We're g-going in a circle. You want me an' Bia to s-split? That's fine I guess.
I opened the doors. The puzzle, that is- it's solved now.
Ah, you're back. I noticed you'd left a little earlier.
There was a definite change in Invidia's tone towards her.
Not sure how much I can count him as an ally anymore. Maybe it's best to be wary.
Yes, well, I thought it would be a good idea to do that while you all talked. It's not like you'd have given me a chance to explain myself. Or that you'd be willing to believe me without thinking I'm weird.
Invidia scratched the back of his head a bit, as if he was embarrassed about his behavior towards her. Tristitia didn't put so much as a veil over his own beliefs.
Heh, w-whatever. What are the teams like in your head, oh great horse m-man?
Maybe something like... First team would be Vidi and Ula, second would be myself and Bia, and the third would be you, Ava, and Cora.
If you think I'm going to group with you...
Yes, what if I think so? What if we do have to balance ourselves out this way so we actually all live?
As if most of your common survival really matters.
He didn't seem too pleased with her, but she just shrugged nonchalantly, as if it truly had nothing to do with her.
Fine, then. You're right. Happy now?
No, not really. I won't be happy until all this is over.
Have we decided yet, then? I don't really have a preference one way or the other. As far as I'm concerned, I feel more like an observer than a real participant right now.
Ah, right, sorry. I didn't really consult you when thinking those teams over.
She dismissively waved in the air.
Feh, my time is not going to stop at all.
It will if we don't hurry. We're close to ten past the hour. Let's go.
The group was, for the major part, in agreement. Gula had remained almost completely silent since Luxuria had died. After a second or so, she decided to join them again, still mute to all attempts at conversation on the way. It was like she didn't really know what she was going to do anymore.
As they set off towards the new set of doors, Ancora...
This choice does matter, since we have to start caring about TRUST again. As such, we're going to walk with Ira this time.
The lion was trying to ignore Ancora while she followed right behind Superbia and him. She couldn't blame him; no one really wanted to associate with her.
D-do you want something in particular?
Oh, no. I just thought, since we're going to group up, we should like... talk a little.
That's okay by me. There are some easy topics, too.
Hey, what are you two going on about? We're almost there, anyway.
B-barely in the hallway, you mean.
Whatever, just focus on getting there faster.
The resulting silence wasn't allowed to go on for very long before someone else talked to Ancora, yet the girl was lost in thought already.
Ancora didn't realize she was being addressed until Avaritia spoke again.
Hey, anyone home?
She snapped her fingers, which brought Ancora back to reality. Truth be told, she had been deep in thought too, much like Gula.
Oh! Sorry, I was thinking about... things. Uh, the puzzle wasn't too bad, I guess. It only took me a few minutes...
This kind of puzzle is nothing for someone like me. Maybe I could have done it even faster.
Good to know, then. We have a good chance of making it out of our room after all.
Hey, what does that mean? Do you also think I'm loopy?
The group arrived at a small intersection in the hall. There was a tiny part leading further in, towards two doors much like the ones they'd gone through a moment ago, and a longer hallway gave way to a bend.
This is where we split up, I think. There's a door ahead that can be opened for a classroom that most likely contains some ME-cards. Bia and I should head over there.
Nobody made you the leader. If anything, that was my idea too. The earlier I'm in there, the earlier I can leave it.
Deciding not to futilely argue against the rabbit, the horse waved at the rest of the group before trudging off towards the door. Superbia followed him without so much as the same courtesy. Faced with that, Ancora...
Nah, screw her. We're gonna just turn to the others.
Ancora looked over at the group and she noticed Ira was a little distraught by this. He was holding his arms and looking out of place. It was probably due to Superbia's departure. Before she could talk to him, Invidia grabbed her shoulder.
Hey, you okay? We have to keep moving; be thankful the others are allowing you to come with them still.
Oh! Yeah, sorry. Let's go.
Ira's not taking the separation from Superbia too well, huh? What's he even seeing in her anyway? So far he's been the one to cling to another person the most.
The group was left to its own volition following all that.
Gula nodded her head in acknowledgement.
Gee, this room is going to be fun, I can just tell...
The sarcasm in his tone wasn't lost on Ancora. She wished she could say something to lighten up the mood, but everything she thought up didn't seem good enough. In the end, she remained silent, just like Gula. The larger group walked further down the hall. About midway, there were two doors leading to different classrooms. True to his word, Invidia pulled Gula over into the first of them, leaving the second to Ira, Ancora, and Avaritia.
Can't say I'm a f-fan of locking myself up in one of those d-death cages again, but...
Oh, stop complaining and go. Besides, you get to be with a cute girl and a mature woman.
Yeah... those are probably the most d-dangerous things in there.
Avaritia disregarded his pique and lazily walked into the classroom after opening the door. Ira followed her after shrugging at the remaining girl, who also followed after him.