Part 33: MErogenesis
content warning: reference to (previous) attempted sexual assault
It was as if all of those thoughts rapid fired all at once, taking only the span of a single moment. Ancora panted in her helmet, registering all of that information. Avaritia had stopped her movements to inquire on her state.
Are you all right, Cora?
Yes. Let's... let's keep going.
The group seemed surprised when Avaritia came up, too. They looked at each other in turns, noticing the teacher had the shotgun Ancora previously had. However, no one commented on that. Tristitia went straight to business, and understandably so.
Based on what you've seen, Cora... Pick a bowl. Any bowl.
Ancora briefly paused. Four minutes remaining. She made her choice.
I'm picking the cyan bowl. The 15 ME-cards are under that bowl. You said you would switch them, but I saw, you said you didn't switch them in the end!
I don't know how to call it. I just know. You did nothing to the cyan bowl... That's what you said, and I'm choosing to trust your words.
Tristitia's insistence in questioning her was making Ancora grumpy. To not heat up the situation anymore, he acknowledged her request, and lifted the cyan bowl. Underneath were 15 ME-cards.
Hah, I was right! You liar! You thought you'd pull a fast one on me, and make fun of me.
She spat the words at the horse-boy. He shook his head, just as Superbia took center stage to finally reveal what was bothering her so much.
Yeah, he lied, and I guess it was part of the plan. But... I did touch the ME-cards, and the bowls. They're under the red bowl now.
Don't be dumb, they're under the cyan bowl. We just checked...
Let's check under the red bowl, then, if you're so sure.
The wolf offered a solution to quell all disputes in a quick and elegant manner. Tristitia lifted the red bowl, and underneath was...
BGM: Mereo Mentis
15 of them, to be precise. While Ancora stood there, dumbstruck, in much of the same state as Superbia, Invidia picked up the ME-cards and counted them in his hands.
Yes, that's 15 ME-cards. And since we now have those under the other bowl, too...
Wait, wait! Wait, I say. Let me see them.
She took the cards from him, and she also threw the bowl away to look at the other ones. She compared them: the two lots of 15 had exactly the same cards. A few of them were used up in both piles, since they'd already served for a vote.
But this is... Why? How?
No time to explain, and besides, I think it would fly over your head. Right now, we have to do the vote.
Wait, we just have to put in the cards, and-
Do you know if we fulfilled the other conditions for the Kill ME game, too?
Well, no, but...
Then there's no time to waste! Go!
The group woke up from its collective stupor when everyone realized they had approximately one minute of life left. If they did nothing, then they would all perish.
On the way there, Ancora noticed her boot was lighter. Someone had taken the gun she had, and she didn't even notice in her hurry.
That's definitely not good. If someone took it, that means they still have a personal agenda beyond winning this game.
Quick, put the cards in, you morons!
Standing in front of the consoles, everyone looked at each other and upon Superbia's call, they all put the cards in. Then, the timer froze, and ten minutes began counting down.
Okay, phew. Ten minutes of respite. What do we do now?. How do we tackle this? Do we even have an idea of what we're going to vote?
First, we should determine if the mastermind's dead...
Those ME-cards came out of nowhere, and I'm very confused it actually worked.
I'd like to live, so we should vote for someone, regardless of who it is.
Unless it's you, right?
I don't even need to say it, but yes, I'd like to not be the one voted out.
But about the mastermind...
And the ME-cards...
Tristitia was already putting the ME-cards that were spent into the bomb, while everyone else was talking. The cacophony, however, continued, and then two minutes had already vanished into thin air.
They can't understand each other. This is going nowhere, right towards an untimely death.
Everyone did just that, all of them turning their head over to look at Ancora's outburst.
Six minutes! What do we do? Forget the ME-cards, forget the mastermind. Someone has to die, right now, the vote is underway.
Right. These ten minutes were bought with someone's life. One of us is a dead man walking, but who?
Okay... listen. I know you're going to vote for me, so stop trying to avoid the elephant in the room. I don't... especially want to die, now that we have a way out.
Nobody would, but you're the biggest asshole of the group, and-
Look who's talking! But I'm not here to plead my case. I wanted to say, Bia, you've improved greatly, and I'm glad that's the case. I don't get what's going on with the ME-cards, so... At least, you could explain that, Vidi? Then I'll accept my fate.
Basically, it goes like this...
As he began talking, Tristitia came nearer to him, to make sure he understood what the wolf was saying clearly. But before he could say anything else, Tristitia suddenly grabbed him from behind and locked the barrel of a revolver against his helmet.
Do you always just say what when someone says something you don't agree with?
No, only when it's fucking dumb!
I have a reason for thinking that, but I can't say it right now. Right now, you can vote for Superbia, and kill the mastermind so we can win, or I'll kill Invidia, who is my second suspect.
He must've made the same kind of deduction. I have the same suspects in mind.
Ancora mulled it over. Superbia watched in slight apprehension. Avaritia still had the shotgun, but Tristitia's stance was unwavering, and it was clear if she made one move to lift it, he would immediately kill Invidia. As for Invidia himself, he remained motionless.
The tense situation didn't resolve itself yet, but all of them were surrounding Tristitia, with Avaritia resting against his console while waiting for the verdict of the situation.
I'll need to vote too.
Yes. That's fine, but first I want to see all of you vote for Bia. Two of you must do so. It would be in poor taste of me to ask for Bia to vote for herself, so... Cora, Ava? Would you two do the honors?
Neither Ancora nor Avaritia wanted to sacrifice Superbia, now that they had made it this far, but they didn't really have a choice. They moved to their consoles and prepared themselves to off the rabbit.
BGM: Mercedis Mellitus
Well, that's a little silly. No point in having that then, I guess we'll just go back to the normal view. Some of the equipment can break down since it's not the highest quality stuff, which is what probably happened.
The view was switched back. Attaching their helmets to the shotguns trapped the two of them there, and they pushed the button after some hesitation. At first, it looked like they wouldn't, but they ultimately abdicated in favor of Tristitia's demand. After which, he remained true to his word, and he released Invidia. With their helmets stuck there, though, Ancora and Avaritia could do nothing but wait.
He kicked the shotgun away while waiting for them to move over. His gun was aimed at the others this whole time. If anyone stepped out of line, it was over for one of them, and maybe even for the others, too. The timer had already gone past one minute remaining. In only a few seconds, it would be all over if they didn't finish entering in the votes.
Fine, then. But I'm not voting for Bia.
That's okay. I only need three votes, anyway. With Cora and Ava done...
You only need your own vote with them, huh? I hope you burn in hell, you fucking pig...
It's not me who's the pig. I'm the horse.
Maybe not the time, Trist.
Finally, Tristitia entered his vote in a hurry with five seconds remaining on the clock. The votes registered, and the outcome came.
It's no surprise now. Superbia is going to die... which isn't exactly something I'm mad about. After all, she was one of my suspects. With Superbia out of the picture, Invidia remains... Is there a way to kill him without triggering anyone's suspicions? He's the traitor, right? He even admitted it himself.
The results flashed on the screens. Tristitia's symbol showed across all of them.
I switched the portraits so you voted for yourself.
What?! No! The portraits! No time, no time! The murderer has to die at the very least!
In a last ditch effort to attain his primary goal, he immediately shot Superbia's helmet, since his console was easily in range of hers, giving him a clean target. In the same moment, the shotgun fired at him and, much like others before, his head was cleanly detached from his body in a rapid explosion. The corpse fell to the ground with a trail of blood coming from the neck.
Unfortunately, Superbia collapsed. He got her in the head, so the helmet did its job. After the explosion, the rabbit's body lay motionless in a similar position to Tristitia's. The aftermath of the macabre scene left the three survivors rather flabbergasted. With two bodies, however, the total amount of deaths came up to six. While the moment left the two others in shock, Avaritia was already on the move.
Quick! Put the ME-cards into the machine!
With this call back to reality, Ancora realized she only had twenty seconds before death. Quickly, she grabbed the ME-cards from around the other consoles and brought them over alongside Avaritia. The two of them put the cards into the contraption. The timer froze when it reached eight seconds remaining.
But I'm not even sure if Superbia is the usurper. My other possible guess was...
But Invidia was nowhere near. He had already left.
Don't worry about him. He grabbed the keys from the bodies. I think he's gone on ahead to open the way out. He's going to need our keys, too.
Ancora cast a glance back to the dead bodies. She couldn't feel much for Tristitia, but it was clear she was feeling something for Superbia. Annoyance? Perhaps. Sadness? Maybe. Superbia might have usurped the game, but she still showed growth.
But was she the traitor? It's so... annoying. I can't confirm it. And to hell with growth. If it was a double, then she really didn't. Was it even a double? I can't be sure, that's what's annoying.
Go ahead, I'll join you shortly.
Ancora wasn't sure. She looked over at the dead bodies, then to the revolver next to Tristitia and the shotgun on the ground not too far off from him, too...
Don't worry, I'm not going to touch it. I have no reason to now that we've won. We're the remaining three survivors, right?
If you say so...
The girl decided to give one final show of trust and leave them aside. Before she left, though, she saw the screens on display; they no longer had Tristitia on them. Instead, they said: Error: multiple TRUST detected.
BGM: Memini Meminisse
Ah, I see. That makes sense now. That's why I'm getting these visions. By getting the TRUST value high, the connectivity between two helmets is enhanced. That means once one deactivates, it's capable of communicating with mine. Problem is, when multiple ones die at once, then it's interference upon interference and the communication can't be established.
And that's why I knew all these things about them, and why I could tell them about their own selves. When the connection was established, they became a part of my information. That's what people are, right? A bunch of information. Memories, experiences... Everyone is the sum of all of those and nothing else. Existence by osmosis. But enough about that, I'm so tired, Let's go now.
Oh, Cora. Before you go, take these.
Before the girl could go, Avaritia gave her two keys: the L and S keys.
Make sure you don't lose them on the way there, you'll need all of the keys.
Thanks. What are you going to do?
Honestly? I kinda have to go to the bathroom.
Much like Avaritia had assumed, Invidia had gone further in. Following after him, Ancora stepped through the door. It was a small room, unworthy of mention- just a checkpoint to see if the G key had been gained. The door to the elevator opened. Inside was Invidia, pressing on a button to keep them open for Ancora, since he'd heard her walk by.
Finally, she stepped into the elevator. That's when Ancora met with Invidia again, who waved her over to the nearby panel to push every key inside and turn them all. Strangely, the panel only took eight keys, leaving the G key unused.
Where are we going?
Outside, I guess.
But the exit is on the ground level, and I don't remember an elevator here...
BGM: Memini Meminisse
That's because this isn't the school you think it is. This is a replica.
I figured as much. The question is... how? How does she know this? Could it be... is she the traitor?
Nothing to do now but wait. In maybe a minute, something is going to happen, but first, I want you to think clearly about the keys we found. I want you to think about what they mean.
You figured it out?
Invidia remained eerily silent, listening to what Avaritia was saying.
About the keys... They have a lot of letters on them. Specifically, there's a key for all the letters L, I, A, S, P, G, I, T, and A. Two keys come back multiple times. This is an anagram. What can be made with the letters L, I, A, S, P, G, I, T, and A? Is it trying to tell us something? Is that the real purpose of the paper we found way back in the first room?
This one's pretty straightforward, but if you haven't figured it out yet, I spoiled the answer:
That's right. You can form the words A PIGTAILS with them. And the note said... A fake with PIGTAILS. Did it point towards Superbia? Who else had pigtails here? I guess there was Luxuria, too, another good candidate for being a fake.
Suddenly, a flashback of something else came through Ancora. As though thinking about Luxuria triggered it, the girl began panting heavily. She held her stomach and Invidia inquisitively grabbed her shoulders.
Is something wrong?
No... no hope...
She held onto the sides of her helmet in a panic. She was having a panic attack regarding Luxuria- real name, Nico Hope. She could remember what he tried to do to her. He was a guy. And he tried to get her.
Calm down! Just... stop thinking about it.
BGM: Memini Meminisse
Anyway... the keys... the keys... The keys! They're all us! The letters with the keys, they're all representing us. P for Pandora, I for Invidia, T for Tristitia, and so on. But there's one that's not part of the group. It's the A key. The anagram isn't talking about pigtails, it's talking about how A is a fake with PIGTAILS- the rest of them all. But there are two A keys, just like there's Ancora and Avaritia. What does it mean?
But before that question could be answered, Invidia spoke just as the elevator ceased all movements.
Are you done with your little talk?
Almost. The door will open shortly, now. Follow my lead and you can take off the helmet like this.
Alright, let's go then, on your lead.
It wasn't supposed to come off until we leave this place. What are they doing? Did I make a terrible mistake? Maybe Superbia wasn't a traitor. Maybe I was overthinking it. Occam's Razor... the most likely suspect was Invidia since he previously vanished and did all this weird stuff. Was Avaritia the real traitor, then? Was I played for a fool?
The helmets came off.
These things are terrible to wear. Anyway... You like gambling, right, Cora?
I don't understand what is happening.
It's okay. This door behind us will open at the probability of 288 to 1. Do you feel lucky, Cora? Or should I say, miss Penmill?
How do you know my last name?!
I know everything about you, miss Penmill. And as for you...
Avaritia pointed at her. More specifically, she did so at the helmet itself, grabbing under the jawline before pulling onto the thing's sides.
It's time for you to surrender your right to live. I'll see YOU later.
That one... that one is meant for me.
And then... it was dark again. But as the helmet was removed from Ancora's head, a certain set of directives was triggered to be made manifest.
It won't help me now, though. Now I know the directives... but I don't know for which helmet they are. Everything is mixed... or a melange, as it were. If only I knew for which helmet they were for... but maybe you know that. Maybe you can help. If you can... you know where to go.
???? directives obtained.