Part 23: MEninges
The room came back into view after that vision, which had taken only but a split moment to play out.
Back to our senses, now. Let's see the aftermath of the earlier altercation.
The girl's sight was completely filled with nothing but the fuming remains of what was once Gula, the cow-themed girl. Where her head had been was instead a charred mark, joining the other a little further away; Ira's mark. Her head had already exploded by the time Ancora realized what happened. She so, so hated having deaths like these.
But this one... it seems very possible it might have been the traitor.
This time, the silence lasted longer. They were down to five people. Still far from enough ME-cards to escape this place alive. No traces of Invidia's body, either. The group seemed to be at a loss, but the way forward through the puzzle door was now open.
I don't know...
What I think is that... we didn't. Ula was manipulated into doing what she was doing. If the portraits were changed in the triangle, as we suspected, which voting for Ava proved... Then someone else changed two other portraits.
He grabbed Luxuria by the arm and pulled her against him.
This is the mastermind. The other portraits that were switched in that triangle were Ava's... and Lux's.
No! It's not me, I'm not the mastermind! I'm not Pandora! Listen, the others too.. Bia and Cora's portraits were switched, too!
That's also true. Hmm...
No one dared to move as Tristitia contemplated the issue under a new angle. Finally, he released the girl and threw her away, then put the gun back in his pocket.
He gave a tap of his hand against his pocket, making it clear the revolver wasn't just for show.
Uhh, where did you get that, anyway?
I found it in the room I explored last, and it's staying with me. I can't trust anyone here, not entirely anyway. Right, that reminds me, I have other things to share...
No one dared to interrupt him, now that he had the gun and made it known.
Something weird is going on here. Specifically, about ME... Do you remember what she said after Ira died, but before we solved the puzzle?
Ancora thought about it, forcing herself to remember the final lines that she said to them back then.
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... I'll see you later.
Me said seven, even if by all accounts we should have been eight.
That's... actually interesting.
Those messages aren't recorded. They're spoken in real-time, and I can only assume this means that the mastermind among us is someone who's been proficient at retaining their speech without getting flustered.
So it was Ula...?
No, it wasn't. She loses her speech as soon as she gets flustered or embarrassed; therefore, the cow cannot be the culprit. I didn't hear any stuttering, so the lion is also out. So far, we've got two innocents killed. Well... innocent of being Pandora, at least.
Really smart. He's probably going to live to the end, but it's also definitely someone I'd want to get rid of as soon as possible, as much as I can help it.
Whichever it is, there must be a good reason why the mastermind thought it was more interesting to actually be in the group. I doubt they'd just up and leave if that's the case... so I'm willing to currently rule out Vidi. I'm not ruling out the possibility of them being in a room somewhere, though. For the purposes of this one, there are cameras in the Crossroads, and they could have spied on us, maybe. Anyway, I have other questions too...
He walked forward, specifically stepping towards Ancora until the two of them were talking face to face, so to say.
How did you know Ula changed the portraits?
I don't... I have no idea. I just sort of knew... it's like the information reached me from elsewhere. I didn't know, and then in the next moment, it came to me...
So like an epiphany, then?
This is looking like a death sentence so far. Let's hope there's a way out.
The first one is that you can spy on people using cameras. This would make you the mastermind. However, it doesn't make any sense, because you tried to tell us about the change in portraits. You wouldn't give yourself away like that. I don't see the point in switching the victim of the vote unless it was you, and it didn't seem like it was going that way. Not to mention, to begin with, there are no cameras anywhere as far as I can see except in the Crossroads.
BGM: Mereo Mentis
A what, me?
Good stuff! A psychic, as if those exist. Entertaining his false idea is probably for the best.
A psychic. You get to know things we don't, by using psychic abilities. There have been rumors of psychic usage before to explain things such as...
He was looking for an example. Soon, he pointed at Luxuria.
Turn around or I shoot.
Before he grabbed the revolver, the small girl did as told and turned around, exposing the back of her helmet.
This symbol, for example, has been drawn all over the world in various places. It's impossible that each person who drew this was told how to do it by someone else. This trend predates the internet, too. There's been a theory that the Cool S was a mark of psychic abilities. That one day, someone, somewhere, used their psychic abilities without meaning to, and grabbed the knowledge on how to draw a Cool S from someone else.
That might also explain this epiphany. You know what an epiphany is- we spoke about it earlier. You mentioned something about talking to dead people, right?
Yeah, I remember the epiphany. A moment of clear lucidity, or an idea that comes out of nowhere...
For that... I do actually have no explanation whatsoever. ...maybe he's right? No, it's still far too loopy to be considered true. Why do I talk to dead people?
Maybe in moments of extreme stress, you pull information from the world itself. I've played games that dealt with things like that... and the world is formed of what we know, isn't it? It's possible what's happening here... is the same as those games.
That's gonna be a really tough sell for me, you morons.
Superbia interjected in her usual fashion.
You're right. We have to solve the puzzle.
He stepped to the side, watching everyone. No one else seemed to want to walk away from the consoles. By then, everyone had forgotten Gula was dead not too far away.
Well, take the lead. You've got the gun.
That's exactly why I can't do it. You all go, I'll follow.
I'm not getting shot in the back!
You can either go, or I can kill you right now.
His tone was much less friendly. The horse was making it clear he was not joking around.
Superbia walked towards the hallway into Wing A, followed by Avaritia and Ancora. Luxuria went after them, and finally, Tristitia walked to close the line.
Something's not matching with the countdown, either. There are 30 minutes left before the next vote is required, but with the time it'll take to solve the puzzle and the next rooms... It's not looking good. Once again, someone has to die, or they need to start hurrying up.
Let Ancora solve it. So far she's been the fastest to do this, and it's like Bia said. We don't have a lot of time.
Approaching the panel, the girl readied herself to solve it, as she'd done before.
BGM: Mens Metis
The solution for this puzzle is...
This one's actually really straightforward- the rows and columns have to be the same. That's it! So the top row is ATOM, and the first column is also ATOM, second row/column is TIME, etc.
The doors unlocked after the puzzle was dealt with.
You mean, survive or get killed by you one by one?
Despite what it looks like, I do want to make it out alive, and I also want as many of you to survive as possible. But I'm not against making sacrifices for it. Now go check what's further down this hallway, before I lose my patience.
Superbia shrugged and walked off, figuring this wasn't her problem. Avaritia and Luxuria accompanied her too, but when Ancora began walking away, Tristitia grabbed her wrist.
I wonder what that's all about. Doesn't sound too good...
To put it simply, I want you to think about Vidi. You're a psychic, and I want you to try and communicate with him.
I think that's a little bit crazy...
She agreed very quickly after he reached for the revolver again. There was no negotiating with him in this state. She tried, and tried, and tried. Thinking about Vidi... thinking about Vidi... but there was no result.
Sorry, I can't... do it.
Maybe he's not dead, then.
No, like... I don't know if I'm a psychic, but every time I could hear about a dead person, they sort of 'spoke' to me right after they died. This isn't a case where I can control it.
Hmm... I have an idea, then. But I can't do it just yet. Go explore with the others, I'll be right back.
The boy left her alone. The blond girl was as dumbfounded as before.
It wouldn't kill him to say what's on his mind before the grand events he's orchestrating.
After a brief cursory check, gaining her a ME-card which she pocketed in one of her boots, Ancora was startled by Avaritia suddenly slipping into the room behind her.
What's this? It was locked before, wasn't it?
I used this key to get in... like earlier. I thought maybe you guys couldn't unlock it...
She showed the key to the teacher.
We found keys like that, too, but... they didn't work in these locks. I guess only the A key works. That reminds me... I haven't thanked you yet for saving me, have I?
Ancora shook her head.
It's okay, I don't want anyone to die... but I also don't want anyone to get tricked into dying. It's probably the worst...
Everyone looks to the teacher for support, but so very few understand that she's in the same boat as everyone else. It's easy for me to get things I want given my age. I'm older, more experienced, more knowledgeable... But here, I'm stuck. Vulnerable, fighting against impending doom... I'm the same as you all. So thanks for helping me, and if you need my help later, I will gladly lend it.
I don't know how genuine that is. But it seems genuine enough. I can't see her lying like that because, as she said it herself, her life was saved.
Oh, um... thanks. The first thing I need is probably more ME-cards...
Scouring the rooms next to this one, I found one. Maybe the other classrooms here will have some. Okay, I'll go check them too. Let's meet back at the doors.
Ancora agreed, and the two parted ways. However, there was only one hallway leading inward. After Ancora left the corner room, she walked in the same direction as Avaritia, despite the two of them having given their farewells.
This is terribly awkward.
For the bear-themed helmet wearer, the destination was simple: the other corner room. All of the corner rooms contained a ME-card, after all, and there was only one of them left to investigate. Looking into the nearby classrooms, Ancora noticed Superbia was searching in one, and another was being searched by Luxuria. Past them, she arrived at the corner and unlocked the door.
That makes... three. With five people remaining, we're almost there.