Part 5: Divine Selection
BGM: The Sacred Large Hall
The sight that greets me is one that I could never have imagined. A number of gears float amidst infinite darkness. I gaze up and notice a faint ray of light piercing said darkness. Then it finally registers that I'm standing up, not lying down. I find myself on a circular platform about three meters in diameter. A witness stand, like one you'd see in court, is attached to the platform. I've only ever seen one in the news and on TV shows...
Even more baffling is that this platform seems to be floating. It's attached to a much larger circle, but floats independently of it. This is just one of twelve platforms, by my count, all of which are arranged within a larger circular pattern, like a clock's face. As if in support of this analogy, the platform on which I stand is labelled with a Roman numeral, I. In the center of these concentric circles are massive clock hands, slowly ticking away.
What the hell...? Where is this?
Why, of all people, are YOU here?!
I inhale sharply the moment I hear that voice. The platform beside me, which would be Roman numeral II, has none other than Miharu standing on it.
???: Excuse me, Numeral I? I suggest you refrain from calling her by name.
A voice I don't recognize stops me. I look in the direction from which it comes, only to see a small girl with white hair.
Huh? How're you walking on thin air...?
Unlike the rest of us, she isn't standing on a circular platform. She is walking around on nothing at all. She takes another step forward, stopping on the sub-section attaching our platforms together. The hem of her skirt flutters up slightly, which reveals her slender thighs. Her hair is as fluffy as her clothes, the latter of which resembles the attire worn by a foreign noble. The hat nestled on her tiny head is kind of cute, too. Our eyes meet as we turn to face one another.
You will address me as Parca, Goddess of Destiny and the supervisor of Divine Selection. In simpler terms, I am an existence far above you mortals.
Parca's VA is Kanako Nomura; most of her other roles are unnamed or single episode characters in shows like Kokoro Connect or Mouretsu Pirates, but she also voices Chizuru Nikaidou in one of the iDOLM@STER mobile games.
...Uh, wanna... run that by me again?
Ahh... I see the shock caused by your death resulted in slightly stunted memory retention. I'm fairly certain that I explained things to you once already, but alas. Allow me to repeat myself.
Sorry, I guess? But I honestly have no idea what you're talking about...
Could I not explain things faster if you kept your mouth shut tight?
She sighs again, obviously unimpressed. Her attitude towards me, despite her being visibly younger, makes me want to keep interrupting her.
So you were able to enjoy the past few days like normal simply because you forgot? In that case, you're best off listening to her. For your own sake.
Let me rephrase that. Please listen to her.
Are you quite finished? If so, the rest of you may take this as an opportunity to refresh your own memories.
She makes her way along a clock hand to the center of the clock face. She continues her explanation mid-step, her tone as elegant as they come.
All of you gathered here have found yourselves at the juncture of causality, and thus, have been granted an opportunity to escape death. We call the process involved in affording this opportunity Divine Selection. As stated before, my name is Parca, Goddess of Destiny. We have a mere twelve weeks, eleven when excluding tonight, to spend together, but I hope they prove fruitful nonetheless.
She reaches the center of the clock by the time she finishes her self-introduction. She then stands tall, pinches her skirt, and bobs a curtsy to us before continuing her explanation.
Under normal circumstances, all twelve of you would be gathered in one location at the exact same time twelve weeks from now, when Divine Selection ends. However, your lives all came to an end before that could occur. You were all in different locations, yet amusingly enough, your deaths occurred at the exact same moment in time.
This occurrence is what we refer to as the juncture of causality.
The juncture of causality. Okay. Call it whatever you want, but I'm struggling to keep up. If what she's saying is true, then me and Miharu, not to mention the others here... We're dead. That can't be right, though. I've been living my life normally until now. So... am I a ghost? That makes even less sense. Confused though I may be, I listen to what this girl has to say.
Location is irrelevant during this occurrence, as your individual consciousnesses transcend the mortal coil the moment you die. I'm sure you've all experienced something similar while alive. I believe 'dreaming' is the term you use to refer to it. To that effect, let us refer to this as the dream world.
This world has many facets. Not only does it serve as one of many parallel worlds, but it also acts as individual mental worlds, while simultaneously comprised of humanity's collective dormant consciousness. A world that theoretically does not exist, subsiding in a fragile state. Some work was required in order for you all to be cognizant of such a world. It is for that purpose I created the Court of Fate, where you all now stand.
I take in my surroundings. No walls. No ceiling. Calling this place a court does feel fitting, considering how odd it is.
Bestowing a name upon that which does not exist is the simplest, most effective way to instill meaning. I do hope you keep that in mind.
STRANGE MAN: Cut the crap and let me put a name forward already.
A man's voice cuts in as if to silence Parca. The voice originated from the platform to my right, emblazoned with the Roman numeral XII.
BGM: Do You Understand?
The man standing there has brown skin. He's tall and muscular, with a hardened face. I assume he's from the Middle East. Actually, wait a minute. Isn't it odd that both Parca and this guy can speak Japanese? Why didn't I realize that sooner? Everyone sounded so natural that the thought never crossed my mind.
Numeral XII's VA is Maeda Kunihiro; most of his VA credits are for background characters in anime like Nerawareta Gakuen, Mikakunin de Shinkoukei, Kyokai no Kanata, and Ixion Saga DT, but he also voiced a supporting character, Larry, in the VN Ayakashi Gohan.
Nothing good comes from being impatient. I am about to mention the most important part.
She gives a stern, yet composed warning.
Let us return to the topic at hand. Of the twelve present, only one will be able to realize the rest of their fate. The cause of your deaths have been temporarily silenced while Divine Selection proceeds, but this will be undone for all those eliminated during it. Not only that, but any events in the real world caused by an eliminated member will also be undone during this period.
It may be wise to consider yourselves existences removed from the natural state of the world until Divine Selection has run its course. In other words, you cannot die by any means other than Divine Selection, although injuries and the like will occur as normal. I certainly hope this answers your silly questions, Numeral I.
She shoots me a sharp glance before she continues to speak. Much as I'd rather not, it's hard to feign ignorance after hearing her explain things this much.
So all twelve of us are here to kill one another?
You are ninety percent correct, my dear. No killing will go on in here, however. How uncouth that would be. Instead, you will simply... erase one another. One cannot kill that which is already dead, after all.
...Such an unpleasant description.
Miharu and I aren't the only ones to react, too. The others have their own thoughts to share on the matter, too. Parca's voice, along with all of ours, resounds throughout the court so we can hear each other speak. I don't have it in me to take a good look at all the others gathered. My eyes are glued to the person on platform VI- she sits in the fetal position, lifeless- almost as if asleep. I go back to focusing on Parca after that in an attempt to take my mind off the uneasiness welling up in me. I can decide whether or not to believe this after she finishes.
Three cards are required in order to eliminate someone. Each of you have been dealt cards detailing a name, a cause of death, and a regret. These represent the present, past, and future, respectively. You all have a personal card with information regarding yourselves, so I'm sure you understand. Of course, Divine Selection requires its participants to have some manner of clue in order for it to proceed, so you have all been allocated three cards at random with information regarding your peers.
What you need to do now is gather the remaining cards on your own. Obtaining information on the other participants is key, as this information will mold itself into the form of a card. Said information must be gathered in the real world. Follow this procedure, and you're certain to obtain additional cards without issue. The sole object that links this world with reality is the card book you were all appointed. Behold.
I cast my eyes down as she mentions the book. What I initially thought was some kind of handrail is actually a bookstand. Resting upon it is a single book. An auburn-colored cover with gold leaf gears decorating it...
Huh... Why's this book here?
I open it up, only to discover that it's identical to the one at Lion House.
A bright light pours out from it all of a sudden. I close my eyes on instinct and slowly open them again when I notice the light gradually fading away. What greets me now are four cards, one lined up beside another, floating above the book itself.
I Name Shishimai Rinka
III Name Federico Carminati
IV Cause of Death Fire
IX Regret Gold Medal
Each card has its own details written on them. Only one card has my own information on it, though. Maybe that's thanks to my memory being fuzzy? The other three have information on the others, so... four total. I catch myself peeking over at Miharu, but I can't see anything due to the light pouring from her book.
We're not allowed to know what cards other people have, not even how many.
That explains the bright light stopping me from seeing anything.
Miharu gives a concise explanation of her discovery. She must've noticed me looking over at her. Meanwhile, Parca pays us no mind, opting instead to continue her explanation.
The election order is decided after each participant decides what they wish to do. Keep in mind that the numbers you have been assigned will not prevent anyone from electing another. Should the person you elect opt to elect you in response, whoever reveals one personal card to the remaining participants earns election priority.
She continues her explanation to proclaim that if both reveal a personal card, they are required to reveal another. If both parties reveal all three cards, a stalemate occurs, which results in all other participants receiving their information and running the risk of being elected; nothing more. We only have three pieces of information, so revealing just one is risky enough. Conversely, if you refuse to eliminate a personal card, then you'll be eliminated.
I've only got one personal card... What's up with that? Parca moves on before I can ask.
Another point to stress is regarding successive elections. For example, Numeral I elects Numeral XII, and Numeral III elects Numeral I; should Numeral I succeed in eliminating Numeral XII, then Numeral III is given the opportunity to eliminate Numeral I. Once all have decided whether or not to elect someone, said elections will take place in chronological order based on your numeral. So concludes the basic rules governing Divine Selection.
However, know that a scenario can involve Numeral I electing Numeral XII, and Numeral XII elects Numeral III. Should Numeral I succeed in eliminating Numeral XII, Numeral III's election is null and void. In such a case, where the procedure grows more complex, the order becomes fixed so as to enxure the maximum number of eliminations possible.
Hearing her explain all that makes me realize the meaning behind these cards. I ended up dying at some point without realizing it, and now I'm being forced to take part in this ordeal. It's why I was given these cards. She calls it Divine Selection, but this whole thing... Collecting cards and eliminating others... It's practically a game. A game with our futures at stake. Gathering info on complete strangers isn't an easy task, but so long as you can manage that, then...
It's basically over should anyone gather all three pieces of information about you, right? That's just...
There does seem to be a solid strategy where you can keep yourself safe.
My eyes are affixed to Miharu after hearing her, as I hope she'll continue.
It involves holding the three cards relevant to whoever elects you. You can use those to protect yourself, causing both yours and the cards of whoever elected you to disappear. Or so I assume. They won't be able to elect you after that, but you won't be able to elect them, either.
But if the one who elects you opts to reveal one of their personal cards in response, they cancel your defense. That's the gist of it, right?
Indeed. I am glad at least one of you can recount the details.
What happens if those two end up being the only remaining participants?
...We can cross that bridge if we ever reach it.
She makes it clear that she has nothing else to add. I try to interject, but she ignores me.
That's not all, though. There's a way to escape being eliminated even if you're elected, isn't there?
A grin flashes across Parca's face in response.
For example, if one participant is elected by two others at the same time. Both have to fight for the right to elect them, and as Parca said before, they'd have to reveal one personal card for that right. Correct?
Does the election get cancelled if neither chooses to reveal a personal card...?
You certainly have your wits about you... Yes, that is correct.
Miharu closes her book when she notices Parca is about to continue her explanation. I try to close mine, but it forces itself back open until the cards can make their way back inside. After they have, I can close it just fine. Seeing real objects behave like a smartphone app is a bit weird.
Keep in mind that each individual can only make one election per night. The election itself begins once all participants have decided whether or not to take part. Should one participant obtain all three pieces of information with the revelation of another's personal card, they must wait until the next night to elect them.
Looks like there's a proper procedure for all this. First everyone has to decide if they want to elect someone, and once they've made that choice, the election itself begins. I can tell that the rules she's explaning are vital, so I try my best to keep up despite my persistent confusion.
There is a merit to eliminating another participant, I should note. In doing so, you have the right to take one of the cards they held. In exchange, though...
This has gone on for far too long.
The same voice that interrupted her earlier speaks out again.
Don't! Don't, please! Please spare me, Bill!
Shut up. You don't have the luxury of babbling on like this either, Goddess.
The man clearly has no sympathy for the woman pleading with him. In fact, he seems to feel nothing at all- much like Parca.
Very well, then. Let us begin. Tonight's election shall now take place.
BGM: The Sacred Large Hall
I can't recall much of what happens next. Once the man on platform XII elects the woman on platform VI, they are both raised upwards and out of sight. Not long after, platform XII descends with the man on it. I assume it means that he has all three of her cards and has succeeded in eliminating her. After he returns, I think he shows a card to Parca and claims it is the name of Numeral VIII. Having to say which card you take is probably what she would've explained if he hadn't interrupted her earlier. Which means everyone else gets to know the card you claimed.
Worry not, for this is all taking place as you sleep. Time flows differently from the real world here. Once you wake up, you will be greeted by the morning as normal.
Tonight's session resulted in one elimination. I bid you all farewell for now.
My consciousness begins to fade when she says that. The sensation is similar to when you start falling asleep. My train of thought has completely stopped at that point, though.
There's no way I can accept this.
Not a single thing about it.
[END OF WEEK ONE: NESCIENT PEACE]
Cardbook has updated.
While playing this VN, once Rinka recieves her first cards, you can access the Cardbook menu at any time if you need a refresher on what cards have been revealed (as well as whose possession they're in). There's no hidden information here or anything- it only updates based on what information has been given in the course of the story- but I'll still show the Cardbook at the end of an update if the contents within have changed at any point.
Note that this only shows cards that the player knows the contents of, so even though we just saw Numeral XII obtain the name of Numeral VIII, it's not in the menu under his name because we don't know what the card says yet. For now, the only information we have for certain are the four cards that Rinka has.
I Name Shishimai Rinka
III Name Federico Carminati
IV Cause of Death Fire
IX Regret Gold Medal