Part 39: USurper
Got a minute to talk about something?
This... this is the ruined hallway. Why am I here?
My initial thought was that I'd passed out and someone else carried me here, but that was clearly wrong. For one, the stairs had no metal plates blocking anyone's ascension. For two, Invidia was talking to me. Or, more accurately, to Ancora. This was Ancora's helmet. This was a vision of the first hacking session I remember. During that hacking session, I stopped monitoring Ancora's actions. All this time I thought she merely rested against the wall.
What's up? Did you find something?
Yeah, that's been drawn all over the place. It's the Super S, right?
Actually, people call it the Cool S. I don't see what's so cool about it beyond the fact it's square instead of round, but anyway... Do you know how to draw it?
No, I never really cared for it before today.
BGM: Memini Meminisse
Now you have a Cool S.
What does this have to do with anything, anyway?
It's simple. People see it as a Cool S, but I don't think that's right. Do you notice something strange with this shape?
Ancora thought about it long and hard, but she didn't get what Invidia was saying. I didn't either, to be honest.
Look at how it was drawn. You only draw the outline of it, right? If you filled it up, it wouldn't resemble the letter S anymore, but would just be some kind of blocky blob.
Oh, you're right. But I still don't understand why this is important...
Anyway, I just thought that was cool. Heh. I'm going to search the bathrooms to find a ME-card.
He gave a wave and then disappeared within, leaving a stunned Ancora alone.
So this is the meaning behind the Cool S? The fact it's an empty S? That's a little silly, but whatever.
With the discussion over, the frequencies shifted, and I was sent back to consciousness.
My head hurt. I slowly rose to my feet again. The last hallway... That's where I was. What was that, previously? A vision? I rubbed my head- no, my helmet. I looked around myself. Everyone else was still there. I didn't know how much time had passed, but I was back, at least.
Yes, I'm fine. I just passed out for a few minutes. But that's just what I think. How long has it been?
Just that, a couple minutes. We wondered if we had to continue alone, or something. It took all my energy to keep the group together, so I hope you're thankful for that.
I focused on my thoughts. I tried to remember what we were doing before I conked out. Right, we gathered ME-cards, and I was sending them to their rooms. The next classrooms contained some ME-cards, as did the rooms in the corners, but I decided to deal with that after the classrooms themselves were solved. I knew we needed the keys in them.
Okay. The next classroom is...
Does it matter that much...?
It just weirds me out how we're in a school, but there's a bar. And there's a bedroom, and a manor, and a chapel of all things too?
Yeah, I'm also very confused as to what this place is. Are we even in the school anymore...? Like, how can someone turn the school into that kind of thing?
You'd need to be incredibly wealthy for that.
Whatever it is, this empty S is as the root of all our troubles.
You know, empty S suspiciously sounds similar to the word emptiness... It's just missing the n sound there.
I thought about that, too. Which brings me to my question: did anyone here ever meet Pandora for real? The one from My Emptiness.
BGM: Memini Meminisse
No, I haven't.
Avaritia spoke for the first time in what felt like an hour. Maybe it had been an hour. I was surprised by that fact, anyway; it wasn't like her to remain silent for that long. Perhaps being kept on her toes due to me revealing myself as Pandora got her tired, which is an advantage I'd push as much as I could.
I haven't, either.
Ancora visibly hesitated when the topic shifted to Pandora. It was as though she was reticent, since she might say something she would regret.
Yeah, just messages and directives.
Like who was the next target for something...
A silence settled as everyone thought about it. No matter how they spun it, though, it wouldn't change anything.
Ugh... The more I think about Pandora, the more my head hurts. Let's just go for the next classrooms already...
No objections here. Very well. The next classrooms will be on our right I think... This one has a duo that's pretty much the same for both of them. It's a, uh, reactor. A twin pair of reactors.
I paused a little, as though that realization made me think about it for a little bit.
A twin pair of reactors.... A twin pair of reactors? Twins...
No, no, just thinking. Anyway, let's see, about that place. The reactor rooms are for...
It's Tristitia, obviously.
It's your room, Tristitia. Here is the answer. The question you'll have to answer is-
But no word came out of my mouth. I tried speaking it. I knew it was What is your true enemy? but no matter what, I couldn't say it.
I can't say it. I don't know why, but I can't. Either way, you'll be told inside. Remember to say the phrase asking to be let out before the answer, too.
That's debatable. Either way, it seems I skipped a classroom while going to this one. It's on the left.
As Tristitia vanished inside, I guided the group to the other one. This one was that Stars room.
The astrology and greenery rooms are for... Ancora, that's yours. Here's your answer to the room.
The girl didn't look very trusting of me. Maybe my sudden passing out had eroded what trust I'd built with the others. I had to make a good show of trust to win them back. While Ancora hesitated, I decided to write more about the directives. I filled out the entire page with every step she needed to take.
This is the greenhouse, right? I hate the color green... I can't see it too well.
Yeah... I was hoping nobody would find out.
I handed it over to her. She finally, yet still reluctantly, took it.
Here you go. This one has some colors in it, so you'll definitely need this note... And the question you'll have to answer is, what are the keys?
The keys...? I guess I have no choice but to trust your answer, because I have no idea what those are.
Ancora hesitated again. I looked at her, and after another minute, she entered the room. After the door closed and locked, I looked at everyone else. The remaining people with me were Avaritia, Invidia, and Luxuria.
Maybe the next will be mine! I can't wait to see what's in there!
What's going to happen to the remaining three of us?
Honestly... I don't really know. There are only six classrooms other than the starting ones. Maybe... is it possible the starting ones were the classrooms meant for the three leftover participants among us?
Of course I know. It's because Ityne and Marco were never meant to be real participants, isn't it?
We arrived at the final door, on the left. Just like ME had said, every door so far had become unlocked. No puzzles, no locks, nothing. Perhaps the doors that barred our access to the extra ME-cards were also unlocked. If that was the case, I'd send everyone to them posthaste after this. Maybe that's why we had three leftover individuals.
The final room is... Uh...
I didn't really want to say it.
I'll let you find out for this one. The corresponding participant is... you, Luxuria. The question you'll have to answer is Who are the two characters participating in this test?
I have no idea who those people might be...
To be honest, I don't know either. I don't think anything beyond their name is important.
Much like everyone else, he reluctantly opened the door.
This is a big mess!
I forgot about that part. When the room will have started, just scream 'HELP' and the door will unlock so you can go further inside.
As the diminuitive boy entered the room, and the door closed and locked, I wondered if I shouldn't have given more directives to everyone. They would probably be fine, so I quieted my thoughts.
Instead of pursuing that idea, I did something more productive. Accompanied by Avaritia and Invidia, I opened the door in the corner which, as I'd guessed, was unlocked. I stepped inside, still followed by the two others. This was where I'd do my confrontation.
Ityne... Marco... I think we have to talk now, don't we?
Um, sorry, but my name's neither of those. What about you?
He turned to Avaritia.
My name is neither of them, too. Not that I can prove it, because we aren't using our real names...
Do we have to stick to that? We don't have a classroom, so we're like a team, right? What's so bad about that at this point?
Well... I don't know if I can trust you both.
You can trust me.
Suddenly, we can all go? And we have to follow this girl's directives now? And she's named Pandora? Sure, you aren't the Pandora from My Emptiness... but does that really change anything? For all we know, that's just a farce. If Pandora is behind this, of course you'd have your avatar tell us that you're harmless.
I had to summon my presence of mind to try convincing her otherwise.
Do I know anything that could help me here...? Maybe the real names from those visions?
This is probably damning in your eyes, but I know both of your names already.
Except we're not Ityne or Marco. I don't know anybody named either of those.
Your names are Erelle and Mark, right? That's what you'll tell me?
I guess if we're there, it doesn't matter anymore. Yes, my name's Erelle. Also, Mark? That's remarkably similar to Marco.
I swear I'm not Marco. I'm just Mark. I have six sisters, all older than me- three of them are triplets...
Wait, hold on- hold on I say! Triplets...
What? What's so fascinating about that?
I think... we might have a room assigned to us. What if the rooms for us are the triplet of classrooms we all came out of? They were all the same, right?
Yeah, what about them? We already escaped them.
I see. We haven't opened those...
Let's gather all the ME-cards in the corner rooms here, and then we'll meet in the Crossroads. It's time we finish this.
Hold on. Why do we still have to do what you're telling us to?
Because... because I don't know who I am, exactly.
And this is our problem, because...
Because I'm Pandora, but I don't know what my name is, if it's even Pandora. I don't know who I am, I don't know how I got here, and I don't know what I'm doing.
I punched the wall which made the room shake. I pulled away instantly, holding my first in my other hand. Erratically, I looked at the others, who had both taken a step back.
Call me Avaritia, at least. And I agree. Let's... let's do as she says.
The two of them were suddenly afraid of me. This was the final confirmation I needed.
BGM: Mereo Mentis
Somehow... Avariitia and Invidia weren't Ityne and Marco. They wouldn't lose composure like this. If they weren't those two, then... where were Ityne and Marco?
Okay, then search this corner room and the other one, over there.
I pointed down the hallway outside.
We'll meet in the Crossroads after that.
And with those words, without even waiting for them to respond, I left the area. The trip back to the Crossroads was uneventful. I expected to bump into someone who would've solved their room by now, and yet there was no one. I was almost frightened by that fact.
Did I make a mistake? Did I send them to their deaths? No, there's no way. These answers should've been right. I'm bothered because this time, I feel... if I mess it up... there's no coming back.
Exactly where I remembered they were, I found three ME-cards. There was a fourth one, according to Invidia, but it was behind the wall.
How do I open it again? I can't access the middle area. For some reason, this time, it's completely closed off, and I can't open the metal plates at all...
I stood before the plates. While I'd noticed them earlier, from up close I saw there were a few open slots reminiscent of some ATM card slots.
Do I... use my ME-cards here?
I thought there was no point thinking about it for too long. I slipped each of the cards I just got in the slots, for a total of three filled in. As soon as I did, the secret passage opened.
Well, that's convenient. Why three? We needed to use nine to unlock the middle stations... Maybe it's supposed to be 3 and 9 together for 39. That number again. Why? And, why am I talking to myself? Is it because Ancora did it a lot? I guess... if I'm carrying all their memories, I am all of them, including her...
Carried it over...? From when? Why do I think that all of this already happened, as if it was gospel? I woke up in that room, and then that was it, right? Earlier, I did have a vision... of Invidia explaining the Cool S. What did it mean, though? Why do I feel like I've done all of this over and over again?
My thoughts were interrupted when Invidia walked up to me, followed by Avaritia. They had finished doing what I'd asked of them.
Found some answers?
No. Only questions. I had to enter three ME-cards in these slots to open the secret door here...
Secret doors, now? You know with every passing second you grow more suspicious, right?
I know, but I swear...
Whatever, let's get a move on.
The two of them went into the secret room. I let them explore it, knowing full well there was nothing they could've accessed there yet. We needed all the keys for the elevator to be functional. Unless there was some sort of skip I wasn't aware of. I kept an eye on them, just in case.
The two of them returned momentarily. I had to assume neither of them really were Ityne or Marco, as they had absolutely no idea of how to operate the elevator.
All three of us went into the first hallway again. I entered the classroom I solved by opening the box, followed by the two other masked participants.
BGM: Memini Meminisse
Sounds like a you-problem again. But assuming you're the only person who could open these boxes- which once again, mind you, doesn't help your case- then that question is for you.
I noticed Avaritia left the box to instead open the safe behind the portrait.
And there's a piece of paper here. It's different than our room's. It says E=MC2. What does that even mean?
That's the equation of mass-energy equivalence...
Yes, I know what it is. What does it mean, though? Why is it here?
Give me that for a second. I want to see how it's written.
Does that mean... that MC2, whatever that is, is E? What's E?
The one in our room wasn't this, but I can't remember what it is. Let's go check it.
The two of them left the place. This time, I was the one who followed after them.
We entered the other room. Avaritia already had her hands on the piece of paper. While I waited for her to read it aloud, I realized the metal box in here wasn't actually unlocked, so I remedied that.
This one says Midair Avionics. Some kind of airplane company?
Are you sure? That seems like an anagram to me. You know what they are, right?
Be that as it may, I don't think I can solve that anagram anyway... Midair Avionics, Midair Avionics... Nope, nothing comes to mind.
I opened the box while they talked about it. This one asked Where are you? which, honestly, was a pretty good question.
This one's asking where I am. So now we have one asking who I am and one asking where I am. I hope the last one's gonna ask me how I am, because I'm not doing well at all!
Yeah, you and me both.
The two others walked away, but I froze up on the spot. You and me both?
I stepped out of the room to join the two of them. They were heading to the final classroom.
I said I didn't feel well at all either.
No, what did you say? The exact words.
You and me both? I think that's what I said?
A glacial feeling spread through me. He shrugged and entered the room, while I remained outside for a second.
That... that was not right. When I was in Ancora's helmet- whenever that had been- he said you and I both, and then Ancora corrected him to you and me both. This time, he said you and me both, as if that was natural. It might be unimportant, but it's inconsistent...
I came back from my thoughts when the others' voices rose from within the room. I stepped in to see what they were talking about.
Oh, that's weird. Now that I think about it...
I already knew what this meant. It meant that A was a fake with 'PIGTAILS- the rest of the group. Whoever A was, though, it could've been either Avaritia or Ancora.
Maybe it's meant to point out that I was a fake in Ancora's helmet? But that never happened here. Okay, hold on, me. First open this box.
I was afraid of what I'd find. For some reason, I didn't like this box at all. I slowly approached it...
I took a breath.
I took a step.
I took the box.
Just like the others, it was very light. Avaritia and Invidia both stared at me as I lifted it effortlessly.
Tell me about it.
I dropped the box back to the ground, unlocked it... and then I saw the question. This time, it asked me...
BGM: Mereo Mentis
What are you?
Who am I? Where am I? What am I?
Pandora, our school, a human. Boom, I answered all of them.
No. Why hide these questions so well if the answers are simple? But first, Mark...
I walked towards him. He recoiled slightly as he sensed my menacing aura.
Who are you?
I have a lot of evidence to believe you aren't who I thought you were now. Marco. Where is Marco? You're supposed to be Marco.
I pointed at Avaritia.
And you, not-Ityne. Who are you, too?
Who are you? Where are you? What are you? Find ME to answer those.
Wait, there are...
...two of me?
Marco shrugged. He took several steps closer to us, forcing us back from his menacing presence.
Sleep for now. You'll find ME shortly.
I fell down to the ground like a marionette without its strings. I barely caught a glimpse of Avaritia and Invidia doing the same. All became darkness...