Part 24: MEliorate
Did you find anything? We couldn't unlock these doors, so how'd you manage it?
I think that's the key... look, the teeth look like a letter, like the others we found in the deduction rooms.
Ancora still held the A key clutched in her hand.
That's right. I found a ME-card inside, and the other corner had one too. That's two... And Ava had one from earlier, too. Huh... that means our total was 17 before the vote...
And we found one more. That means we can almost do the next vote without even exploring any of these puzzle rooms yet.
Are we all agreed on who to vote for?
A death's needed soon. It's around the 45 minute mark... the hour is coming.
Right. We need to catch back with the others, see what our haul was.
There are some rooms left here, too...
I'll take care of them, whatever. You two run off to the others and consolidate the cards.
What says you won't keep one or two for yourself?
You crazy or what? We only need five, and we already have four right now. Not only that, but we're running out of time soon. Just go. I don't have the time or desire to conceal anything at this point.
What's this all about?
I wanted to have a little talk... There's something I've been meaning to tell you and all. It's about before... I wanted to thank you for saving my life. Ula's manipulation could've gotten me killed, too...
Ancora shrugged as though she wasn't too concerned. Saving the nice little girl was just as much a thing she was aiming to do than saving Avaritia, too.
It's all good, don't worry! Did you have something else on your mind...?
It's about Trist... he's clearly dangerous. What should we do...?
I don't think he'd go willingly into a vote like this. If the hour comes by, he'll probably shoot someone in the group. But I don't think we can feasibly take him down, either... unless it's by surprise.
On one hand, Ancora wanted to get rid of him. On the other, he could be a great tool to figure out what Ancora wanted to figure out. If she'd only let him go onto that trail, he could do all the work for her...
BGM: Memini Meminisse
We don't have a choice, then. We'll have to have him make a choice.
What do you mean...?
When the time flips to the next hour, we'll die. That means he'll look for the most promising and easiest target to kill. We can use that to our advantage.
Ancora explained her plan to Luxuria. The gist of it was to have the guy make a choice between two targets, and while he's unsure, Ancora would jump him and take the revolver from him.
If we slam him on the helmet, he'll completely lose balance and focus. He might even blackout. In that moment, I need you, Ava, and Superbia to grab him and carry him over to the vote booth. Then we have to get him stuck there so we can vote.
There was a slight reticence in Luxuria's words. Ancora reassured her, understanding what she was afraid of.
Don't worry, you won't be a target. I think Trist is very focused on the idea that Bia is still a danger, so I'll lure him over while Bia is still busy, then I'll do something to look threatening. That's when he'll be confused. If I time it right when Superbia comes out, he won't know what to do. That's when you come behind him and give him a good smack.
You think I can do it?
It also works if we get Ava to do it, I guess, but you have a good spot from here.
Okay, I think it'll work. Yeah, I'm a lot more confident now!
She looked like she was pumping herself up to pull it off. Ancora thought about it for a moment longer.
You should stay in this classroom. Just peek out when we're going to pass by, and then you can get him at my signal. I'll make a V with my fingers, okay? Be sure to get him on the helmet. The resonance from it is insane and could easily knock someone out.
Ancora sneaked back out of the classroom to go and meet up with Trist. There was no time to waste while Superbia was still busy, or else she'd miss her window.
I'll take care of her.
Now that the boy had given himself a self-imposed peacemaking mission, it was easy to get him on the warpath. Ancora led him to the hallway where Superbia was still searching, but she stopped near the entrance of a classroom.
The entrance to that classroom, specifically- let's hope Luxuria is ready.
This made her jump back, causing her to step onto Avaritia's feet, who had just come out of another classroom, behind Ancora. Thankfully, the teacher didn't cause a ruckus, but she did grab the girl so she wouldn't fall.
You okay, Cora?
She noticed Superbia was out.
Oh, Bia's here!
Calling out the rabbit's presence, the woman caused Tristitia to turn around with his gun taken out. The revolver was aimed right at Superbia.
Uh oh, this wasn't part of the plan. Now there's no one to take out Tristitia!
What the fuck is happening?!
Ancora only had a split moment to act. She could let things take their course and leave Superbia to die... which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, since she was one of the weakest links of the group... Or she could shove the girl out of the way of the bullet to protect her.
And so, Ancora...
It should go without saying that this is an important decision; however (unfortunately for Superbia) for this route, we're not going to do anything to protect her.
Ancora did not act. The gunshot was nigh-instantaneous, and a hole appeared in Superbia's helmet near the middle of her symbol. Almost immediately, her body crumpled down. The tall bunny girl's helmet exploded, causing everyone to step back in the midst of the dust. Her headless body remained among the group, against the wall onto its knees, like a macabre result of Ancora's inaction.
What... what, what?!
Only Ancora didn't react to it, far too shocked to do anything about it. Instead, her body crumbled much like Superbia's, right into Avaritia's arms which weren't there to hold her anymore. The teacher had taken a step back in fright, which meant Ancora hit the cold, hard floor. She pulled herself up with her arms almost immediately after giving a howl of pain.
While sat up, her gaze, through the helmet's cameras, was fixated upon the corpse of the confrontational girl. The dead body would haunt her thoughts for the next hours- perhaps even days or weeks. It was a thing, no longer a person. Tristitia looked at the group, and then stored the gun back into his pants.
It took a moment for the whole group to regain their senses. By then, it was already five past the hour. They only had 55 more minutes before everyone would surrender their right to live.
We need to reform the teams. We have rooms to explore now, are you all aware of this?
But you just shot her dead!
That was the plan, yes.
Luxuria looked over at Ancora, who had risen back to her feet. She replied with a slight shrug; a little like an apology for failing to carry out the plan exactly as convened.
I don't think we can solve the rest of the rooms on our own, though. I guess we'd need to split up the group like... Ancora alone, myself alone, and you two others together. That's the only way to have a fighting chance in what's coming, I think.
Out of nowhere, Invidia's voice rang. He was in the hallway with them, walking in from the direction of the Crossroads.
She finally spoke up, the shock of seeing him again fully pulling her out of her stupor. Everyone reacted as surprised by his appearance as she was.
I don't have a lot of time to explain just yet. First, we need to form groups to explore rooms. We're all still looking for ME-cards, right? I still have mine. No, I don't know where the rest are. Yes, I know how to escape now. Yes, ME made a mistake.
Well, I can't just behead him now. It would look too suspicious. I wonder why it didn't work earlier?
He noticed the dead body on the ground. He didn't settle on it too much, despite clearly being none too happy about it.
Three rooms. Five people left instead of four. We can make it work by having two groups of two. I know I can solve rooms alone, so who's going to be in each team?
All of them pondered on it for a very short time. With Invidia's sudden return, they forgot about the clock again. It was soon going to hit the ten minute mark past the hour. If a room took them the full 39 minutes to solve, they had to move soon.
And there needs to be two deaths this time. Only three survivors, no more than that. This is what the game has been set up to be. I can't change the rules this far in. The next deaths must include the traitor.
Avariutia and Luxuria took a glance at Tristitia, torn between leaving while the teams were in their favor, and asking Invidia for details instead.
No one wants to be grouped with the killer, huh? That's hilarious, coming from them both...
The latter option won, and Avaritia demanded some explanations.
Okay, but first, what were you doing, Vidi?
No time. I'll take the room furthest down the hallway. We're very soon at the six hours mark, and we need to find way more ME-cards still. If we don't find them, we all die.
I get that, but... at least a little answering wouldn't hurt?
You're not dead even if ME said you would be! What did you do? We can all do it, and never suffer punishment!
If you really want to know... I found the exit. But we can't take it until we have all of those nine strange keys.
He showed one of his own- it was the key Ancora traded to him before.
There's a metal plate you can open by pressing in specific spots, next to the stairs leading to the voting mechanisms. Behind that is a room that's seemingly cut off from radio and mechanism interference. The moment I made it through, I was cut off from all communication. If we go there, we're no longer reachable, but I don't think we were supposed to know that place existed until we put all the ME-cards in.
Is it a problem...? If we go in there, then we can't get beheaded like...
She pushed her foot towards Bia's corpse.
The first time was a random chance, Lux. I stumbled onto it, and Pandora must've not seen me. Now, Pandora knows. Whatever's monitoring that place will be looked at much more closely.
After the two were gone, Invidia spoke about his departure again to expand on one of his thoughts before the three would split up.
What baffles me the most is this...
He pulled out a second ME-card.
There was a ME-card in that room. I think we're supposed to figure it out early, somehow, even though it's clearly off-limits. I don't understand what the mastermind is thinking. Anyway, we have our groups ready, right? Cora, you're with Trist?
I guess that's... fine by me.
Scared? I don't have any reason to shoot anymore. Not yet, anyway, until the vote.
A sudden thought caused him to pause in the middle of his speech.
Well, if we fulfill all the conditions by six, this means six of us must die.
But if you don't fulfill the conditions, then it doesn't matter. Nobody else has to die then, the fact the bomb's going to kill us all notwithstanding.
Right, well, we should hurry anyway. Let's talk about this after we're still alive in 40 minutes.
He waved, departing from the two of them shortly thereafter. Tristitia and Ancora remained alone. Deciding to not waste any time, the horse wearer walked towards the other nearest door, as Invidia had gone for the one farthest away.
I wonder if he's really going to be fine doing it alone. If he doesn't leave, everyone's in deep mud.