Ante. "Ante". The black Shy Guy, the Anti-Guy, was named "Ante".
Not that it mattered much. He always rolled with everything Monokame said, from the game's planning and preparation all the way to its production. But he knew they both answered to someone higher on the chain. That's the nature of machines like themselves.
He's spent every day of his existence wandering the resort. With the sheer amount of rooms to see, no two walks were alike. His favorite time is after midnight, when the Guests are (usually) too asleep to pollute the peace.
The morning of the Fourth Day was no different. No murders. No intruders. No escape attempts. No fights. No accidents or injuries. All cameras online. All traps in top condition. All Visitors checked in. All Residents checked in. All Maid corpses disposed. All bloodstains cleaned. All S.E.M.M.I.s fully operational. All Guests will be sent to the Conference Hall.
At 12 PM, the day would be different. Monokame willed it to be so.
11:58 AM Day 4
Ante entered from one of the elevators. He positioned himself beside the Front Desk, in a spot where he could see the Conference Hall, far enough for the Guests to miss him.
Despite the distance, his eyes drew in every detail. Shiki sewed Misham's Joker card, while he explained the usefulness of Sayaka sacrifices. Hinata covered his ears. Silas listened without fear. Tamaki asked Lumoi what he was saying. Her hands said, "Nothing important." Shun and Mya kept Amarantha in her seat, though that didn't stop her from hurling vocal punches to Misham's head. Ashe and Jaleh traded their scientific know-how. Ivy asked about her black gem, but no one gave an answer. Shiri kept spewing cutesy nonsense. Kiet challenged Gai to more Mario Party. Kazooie smoked another blunt, earning Naraaki's ire. The fumes were strangling Yuzuki. Rumiko, Edwin, Makika, and Kirika tried to steer everyone to the next topic, but Sanani was the only one to respond. Only sarcastic retorts. Riku merely listened to all the chaos.
Then the Grand Clock cried "Noon!", its DINGs and DONGs snapping them all to attention. Monokame spawned on the TV screen to explain the Truth Bullets. Ante knew his words without looking at his flapping jaws.
"They're all true statements about this game, and each one is unique. No repeats! No lies! You all have the freedom to share it with others or keep it to yourself. Entirely your choice! When I snap my claws, they'll appear as a separate page on your E-Handbooks. And remember, this is NOT the Challenge Event. That's tomorrow!"
The SNAP was so sharp it pierced through the window, escaping into the ears of every employee, even those who were miles away.
Twenty-four handbooks shivered at once. Twenty-three were showered with their owner's attention.
Riku was the first to go. He shot out the door as fast as a cannonball, staining the floor with saltwater.
Tamaki couldn't control his eyes either. Despite their constant leaking, he gasped like a dying fish. "Lu-chan... I would like to be alone for a moment... Please excuse me."
Lumoi tried to follow after him, but Hinata blocked her. "Let him be, girl. Every dude needs some me-time." He was the only one to not read his Bullet.
"He needs me as well." She shoved her way past him.
Silas made his exit seconds later, his shovel glued to his fingers.
Kirika's soul was seeping out her skin pores. It took all her strength not to faint. "This must be a lie. It surely must. No way is it real. It can't be."
Shiki sandwiched her Handbook between herself and her doll, then whispered her ramblings. A two-way conversation's worth of words.
Ashe tossed hers into her satchel, before kneading her forehead and temples.
Naraaki hugged Yuzuki, but they didn't share theirs with each other. They promised not to do so, going so far as to lock their pinkies.
Mya rocked in her chair, as if it was a playground spring ride, asking a single question again and again. "What do I do?"
Ivy shriveled even more than usual. The slightest nudge could have turned her to dust.
Shiri was speechless. No matter where one looked, she had an expression of pure despair.
Misham flooded the room with an eruption of laughter.
Kazooie played more notes with his trusty kazoo.
Sanani and Gai had their poker faces on. The former had the gall to grin at the others.
"Come on, you guys. Don't let Monokame win this set." Shun stuffed his Handbook in his pocket. "Let's keep calm. Let'skeepcalm!"
"NONE OF YOU ARE HELPING!" Amarantha rammed her Handbook into the table. The WHAM was impressive, but it didn't receive so much as a scratch.
Another miracle was Kiet's Handbook not cracking from the hydraulic squeeze he gave it. "Con rùa chết tiệt..."
Jaleh burned with a similar flame of fury. "So he thinks he can toy with me, hmm? We'll see about that."
"He's certainly a clever one." Makika saw steam rise from Rumiko & Edwin's heads while they gazed at their Handbooks. "Are you two faring okay?"
"Yes, sorry. I'm just thinking."
"I could tell."
"I-I-I'll be f-f-fine. Th-Thank you."
After one more speech from Makika, the Guests poured out of the Conference Hall. Twenty-three scattered to the rest of the Resort.
Shiki stayed in the Lobby. Ante watched her look around, her head panning & tilting like a video camera, still holding Kuroko and her Handbook close.
Then they locked eyes, and everything froze.
"Are you... Death?"
Ante said nothing.
"You have his aura. I feel like I'll die if I stay in your presence."
Ante still said nothing.
"Too bad for you," said Kuroko. "Shiki doesn't want to die. She told me herself!"
"I'm going to die a different way."
"That's not the phrasing I'd use, dear..."
"You know what I mean. Both of you."
Ante craned his head back, until his mask faced a certain spot on the wall. An alcove too high to reach, and could only be seen from his position. Inside were a few chairs, some small tables draped with white sheets, flower vases for each of the tables, and a miniature model of the resort inside a glass case.
Shiki shook her doll's fist. "Will you say something? It's rude to ignore someone when they're talking to you! Hmph!"
Ante walked away, towards an elevator. There was no need to look back. He heard the shuffling of Shiki's feet.
12:11 PM Day 4
Kirika tried to pass through the entrance, only for a gate to shut in her face. The Goomba hopped from behind the Cashier's Counter.
"Tokens or Chips?" he said.
"Neither. I only want to explore."
"Tokens or Chips? Pick one."
"I need your handbook."
"For the love of-" She shoved it in his face. "Here."
One exchange later, she got inside and went straight for the Blackjack tables, starting with the one Sanani had been seated at. She inspected the base, the legs, the underside, the chairs. Just about every nook and cranny imaginable. The Teller Guys watched her do the same with the Roulette tables. Then the Poker tables.
But she didn't find anything off or suspicious.
"That sly son of a bitch. 'Everything but the floor', he said."
She checked the Baccarat tables next. Yet again, nothing.
"Alright, next up is the-"
WHEE WHEE WHEE WHEE!
The sharp siren shocked Kirika so bad, she wound up hitting her head under the table.
The next sound she heard was the torrent of tokens from one of the slot machines.
She ran to the one responsible and found a mound of the silver trinkets partially burying the feet of its respective seat. Just about 50 grand!
But no one was there to claim it.
"Who used this machine?" She looked around. Found nothing. "Hello? Anybody?"
She heard nothing.
"If no one speaks up in five seconds, I'm claiming the whole stash."
Seven seconds of silence passed.
"Well, good thing I came prepared." She removed a foldable bag from her pockets, then scooped handfuls of tokens into it. She was halfway through when she heard another familiar noise.
Her head shot up once more. Her ears sent her eyes to another slot machine, but nobody was using it.
The slots weren't spinning.
A third machine.
The levers weren't getting pulled.
WHEE WHEE WHEE WHEE!
All the machines rocked side-to-side.
Dancing and singing and CRRRANKING out words!
Encompassing Kirika with constant clamor!
All she could do was cover her ears, but it wasn't enough.
The sounds slipped through her fingers.
Screaming was useless. It would only shred her throat.
So she took an opportunity to make it end. Like she always did. She ran!
But she slipped on the token pile!
Landed face-first on the floor!
And when she tried to get up, she saw Ante, standing across from her.
His visage cauterized itself in her eyes. It stung so much, she had to keep them shut!
. . .
. . .
...She had no clue how long she had been laying there. She remembered closing herself from the casino, but woke up to the embrace of silence. It felt like she had slept for hours, but her Handbook said 10 minutes. The slot machines ended their party, but Ante hadn't left.
Turning away helped her spot Gai approaching her. "Kirika? You okay? Did that Shy Guy do anything to you?" He extended an arm to help her on her feet.
She accepted his offer as fiercely as a starving beast. "When did you get here?"
"So you didn't hear anything?"
"Can't say I did. What about him?"
Kirika couldn't get herself to look at Ante. Like the same poles of a magnet, an instinctual force kept her away. "He didn't do anything, and that was somehow worse."
"I get it. Maybe."
"I'm sure you do. I must be going now. If I offer you the rest of those tokens, do you promise not to speak of this with anyone?"
"Embarrassed, are you?"
"Partially. It's more that I don't want to start a panic. Just warn the others to stay away from this casino."
"You should follow your own advice. What were you doing back here?"
"I didn't believe Sanani's account when he explored the place. He claimed to have checked for traps, but said nothing about hidden compartments or treasures, which have been discovered in nearly all the regular guest rooms."
"Ah, one of those half-truths."
"Precisely. I needed to search here one more time, in case he had swiped the key, or anything that would be useful to us."
"Makes sense... and what about me?"
"Do you trust me as little as you do with Sanani?
"I wouldn't be giving tokens to him."
"That's certainly convincing. Alright, you got a deal."
"Thank you, Gai. Stay safe, and enjoy your newfound funds." After bowing, Kirika grabbed her bag and speed-walked for the exit.
Gai waved goodbye, then walked to the Bar. The moment he took a seat, a Bartender Guy spawned behind the counter.
"I'll take a Roy Rogers on the rocks. And a bag for the coin pile over there."
The 'tender got to work, mixing the cola with the grenadine.
During the wait, Gai spun in his stool, only to see Ante standing behind him.
"Oh? Is it my turn?"
They stared at each other. No cracks. No breaks.
"I'm sure you'll give me a ride as fun as hers, but I need to take a rain check on that. I've got a game to play."
A tall glass drove across the countertop, braking right beside Gai's seat. The caramel-colored concoction chilled with the ice cubes. A peppermint-striped straw poked out like a periscope. A sole cherry sat at the top, like a king. Gai lifted it by the stem and dangled it in Ante's face.
"You want this?"
No reaction from Ante.
"...Course not. You want something else, right? I'll get it later, if there's time." Gai bit it off the stem, savored its ripe flavor with every chew, then spat out the pit. He washed it down with a sip of the Roy Rogers.
By that point, the bartender returned with a gray bag adorning the Hope's Peak emblem.
Ante turned for the exit. He knew Gai was watching him leave, but he didn't care.
He had another place to be. It was...
12:42 Day 4
Game Chamber - Sector 3 (Arena)
Kiet was in the center of the ring, practicing his vovinam. His strikes so sharp, and his weaves so swift, he might as well have been sparring with invisible men inside that cage. All his moves were perfect, as befitting of an Ultimate.
Ante had the privilege to enjoy all of it from the audience seats. The only one in attendance.
The boy concluded his latest battle with the honorable bow of a martial artist. After that, he pointed a fiery finger at Ante. "You! Come...Come here!"
He took his time stepping into the ring.
"You are a...a machine, not human, correct?"
Ante gifted him with a nod.
"Does that make...make you hotel property? Or are labelled as an...an employee?"
Kiet waited for an answer, but he didn't get one. Ante stood completely still.
"...No matter. I challenge you to a fight. If I win, you must...must give me a reward of some form."
"GRAHAHAHAHA! Check out the balls on this fella!" said the devious turtle, who dropped from the ceiling and landed between the two.
"Don't you start with that dramatic name crap! Seen that way too much in visual novels... Anyhoo, I thought I'd warn you that fighting this guy is a very, very, BAD idea."
"I heard about him from...from Riku, but I wish to see it for myself."
"You obviously weren't listening that well, so I'll put it another way. Remember when you foolishly attacked me in the lobby?"
"...Yes." Kiet clenched his fists at the utterance of 'foolishly', but he kept himself at bay.
"Well, you should be thankful Ante wasn't there at that time. He's not as merciful as I am."
Ante didn't grant them any form of support or denial. He kept his eyes fixed on Kiet.
"You continue to underestimate me. Recall that I dealt...dealt a blow to you that day."
"Your Ultimate talent means nothing here."
"I am NOT the Ultimate Escape Artist! And yet, I freed myself from Hanoi's T-15 jail, I broke out of Xuan Nguyen Prison, and I am one of three people in history to escape Chí Hòa Prison alive!"
"Yes, yes, I know your history. You don't need to repeat it."
"I accomplished all three on my own, and this accursed hotel will be no different. I will prove there is no prison in the world that can confine me!" Kiet stepped past Monokame, straight towards Ante. He didn't stop until he violated his personal space. "The same goes for you, hooded machine. I am The Unbreakable Conqueror! Your mask will be one of many faces I have carved destruction upon! And when I do, I expect a prize that will aid my escape."
Ante gave no reaction of any sort. He just kept looking up, at the boy's face.
And yet, the fumes of extinction rose out his eye holes.
Kiet felt his skin sting from their sulfuric acidity. His eyes watered. His nostrils burned. But he didn't back down. He refused to.
"Back away, Ante. Now."
Ante did as instructed, without hesitation. Monokame got himself between them once more.
"Tell you what, Mr. Conqueror, with the first Challenge Event right round the corner, I will make an adjustment to it. Just for you."
"Aw, no fair," said Sanani, who was leaning back in an audience seat. "I want special treatment, too."
"When did...did you get here?"
"During your little rant. Did you know your verbal tic vanishes when you're mad?"
"Fighting Ante is off the table, but if you pass the challenge, I will grant you a battle against me. And if you win THAT, then you'll get a reward."
Sanani made his way into the ring. "All righty, bossman. Let's face it, we all know I'm going to try it, so I may as well ask while you're still here. Hypothetically speaking—don't shoot me just yet—if I were to find and abuse a loophole in the rules, you're going to be a good sport and let it fly, yeah?"
"That was...was a very fast response."
"Yeah, almost too fast."
"You've forgotten this is a game we're all playing. If you find a way to win, then pursue it by all means! But you better make it count. You might only have one shot." Immediately after saying that, Monokame retreated into his shell and out the room.
"He said 'all'. What did he...he mean by that?"
"Good question. Let's ask Ante. What say you, little guy?"
Ante shifted his gaze to the Cheater, who merely laughed in it.
"Very insightful, thank you."
"I must leave now."
"Hold on a minute, friend. I have something for you."
"What...What is it?"
"An idea. You are an expert at escaping. I am an Ultimate at cheating games to win. It's literally my best skill. And Monokame just gave us the greenlight. If we work together, we could both get out of here. Whoever's watching us won't know what hit em."
"Don't trust me, eh? I don't blame you. Why don't we share our Truth Bullets? Just us, no one else. Our little secret."
"If you heard me earlier, I said...said I would do it on my own."
Sly still smiled as he watched Kiet walk off, leaving him alone with Ante. "Without an axe, no tree can be cut down. Do you agree?"
Ante never took his sight off him.
"You probably know every proverb in the book." He crouched to offer a handshake. "Pleasure to meet you, Ante."
Ante didn't take it. Didn't even look at his hand.
"Your eyes are like drills. They want to see mine so bad. Maybe dive a little deeper than that? Well, if they're that precious to you, you can have them. But only if you remove your mask. And you gotta go first. Deal?"
"Does everyone here have speech problems? Or is there something about me you don't like?"
His robes reeked of smoke.
"I don't blame you. I feel the same." Sanani stood up and turned his back to him. "If there's one thing you should be thankful for, it's that Kiet didn't see my Bullet. Another proverb applies to him: Landing a single punch on your enemy's nose is more satisfying than hearing well-intentioned advice from your elders."
He then stepped off the arena and crossed the entrance to Sector 4.
Meanwhile, Ante walked through the other entrance. The one leading to...
1:07 PM Day 4
Game Chamber - Sector 2 (Arcade)
He stopped beside a Polybius machine, a spot giving him clear view of Twilight Syndrome 2. He knew exactly who was coming to play it.
Rumiko and Ashe looked like two lost campers in this forest of games. On opposite sides. The trees seemed to blind them with their bright screens. Ashe reached the red cabinet first, but Rumiko got there seconds later.
"H-Hello, Mrs. L-Langdon."
"Rumiko, how nice to see you here."
"S-S-Same. I d-didn't think you were into v-video g-games."
"I'm not, but somebody needs to guard this particular one. If it's anything like the first, it could drive somebody to murder."
"Th-That's very true... W-Would you like me to k-keep you c-c-company?"
"I appreciate that, dearie, but searching rooms for clues is your strong suit. That's why you're here, correct?"
"Y-Y-Yes, that's r-right! I h-hadn't thoroughly e-explored this area y-yet."
"Then explore to your heart's content. I'm not cut out for that kind of work, especially with death traps lying around." She sat down in front of the machine, leaning her back against it, and pulled her laptop out of her satchel."
"You won't g-get bored or l-lonely?"
"I have my aerodynamics to keep me company." She pet the laptop, like it was some cat.
"...Do you p-promise not to p-p-play it?"
"You have my word."
"...O-Okay. Th-Thank you."
"It's my pleasure. Best of luck with your search."
On that note, Rumiko went to the bowling alley.
Ante stayed with Ashe, watching her type away. Her glances for anyone nearby helped her notice him, and as time ticked by, his glare become harder to ignore.
"What's with that look? There's no reason to give it. I meant what I said."
He didn't stop staring.
"If it weren't for your rules, I'd destroy this thing. The stuff inside it could hurt several people. Is that what you want?"
He didn't stop watching.
"Whatever you're aiming to do, it isn't working. Surely, you have somewhere more important to be. You should head over there. Now."
"This is incredible... Your thesis could change the world as we know it!"
"Who said that?" She sprung to her feet and looked around. It certainly didn't come from Ante. The only other place was...
Ashe set her eyes upon the screen. The pixels portrayed a pretty schoolgirl wearing a standard sailor fuku. Her sole identifying feature was her orange hair with a dark purple bang going down her left side. She stood inside a school's lab with a boy in stereotypical scientific garb. She had a piece of paper in her hands. Below them was a text box, which read the exact sentence she had heard, printed below a name.
This is incredible... Your thesis could change the world as we know it!
"What's the meaning of this? I didn't press anything."
The text box changed. This time, a male voice accompanied it.
Thank you, Miss Shono! That truly means a lot, coming from someone like yourself.
Ashe found her answer in a flashing message at the top of the screen.
INSERT 3 CREDITS TO PLAY
"Oh, that's right. Christophe told me about this. Arcade games display a portion of it when it's inactive, as a way of attracting players. Of course this machine would be no different." She flicked the joystick, naively thinking that would bring the title screen back. It didn't. She wiggled it a few more times, but the trailer continued.
I can't believe I finally got to this point. My great ancestors would be so proud of me.
Ashe pressed every single button. Repeatedly. But it didn't stop.
May I have it back now, Miss Shono?
Ashe slammed the buttons and slammed its sides. Even tried to shake the machine. No effect.
Ante watched her composure deteriorate into that of a huffing, puffing mess.
Of course! Here you go!
Then the schoolgirl turned to face the screen. She peered straight at Ashe's face.
Wanna know what happens next? Give me three credits to find out!
That's when the woman blacked out. She was lucky to not have her cranium crack from the fall.
Sakura howled a maniacal laugh that would lure Rumiko back. As expected, she immediately kneeled to check Ashe's body.
"M-M-Mrs. L-Langdon, a-are you okay?" She shook her. "P-P-Please wake up!" She put on ear to her chest. Hearing a heartbeat brought her some ease.
But she lost it as soon as she saw Ante.
He walked towards her.
She tried to stand back up, but tripping on Ashe's leg kept her down. "S-S-S-S-STAY B-B-BACK!" Her stuttering had stutters.
Ante kept walking. He got closer.
Rumiko kept crawling backwards, until she bumped against the Twilight Syndrome machine.
"Hello, Ruru! Wanna play?"
She glanced up to see Sakura Shono, smiling from the screen.
"Now's your chance!"
Ante stood inches away from her. His eyes made note of the way she welded hers shut. The way she shielded them with her hands after that. The way she curled into a shivering ball even after that.
Then he walked back to Ashe and poked her on the cheekbone. His arm sent a slight shock that zapped her awake. She gasped as if she had escaped a bad dream. He left the scene before she could spot him.
The cabinet displayed the title screen once more. Sakura Shono was gone.
"Rumiko? Is that you?"
Ruru poked her head out. "M-Mrs. Langdon..."
Seeing each other sent them a new urge. The uncontrollable urge to hug and be hugged.
1:23 PM Day 4
Game Chamber - Sector 1 (Clubhouse Lounge)
The cue ball collided with the purple 4, pushing it down the bottom right pocket.
"Another solid sunk," said Edwin. "You've got a great technique."
"Technique?" Hinata punched the cue ball with the pool stick. It zoomed right to the red 3. Another impact, but it didn't land in the middle left. It bounced off a corner instead, and a few other walls for that matter. It stopped after hitting the red-striped 11 into the top right pocket. "Aw shit. You're up, Eddy."
"That nickname has the same number of syllables," said Amarantha. She was examining the scarlet elevator nearby. "Why use it if it doesn't shorten the name?"
"Dawg, there's no way I'm calling him 'Ed-win'. Gotta go with what sounds better."
"You don't put that much emphasis on the suffix."
"It's fine, Mary. I'm okay with anything he calls me. Thank you for the concern." Edwin sinks the 13 ball with a wonderfully-aimed shot. Middle right pocket. "I have a more pressing question to ask you, Hinata."
"You haven't looked at your Truth Bullet yet. Am I right?"
"Yep, and I'm gonna keep it that way."
The shout made Edwin flinch. His pool stick hit the cue ball on the side, sending it spinning into the bottom left pocket. He sighed before saying, "I can understand not wanting to share it with anybody, and don't get me wrong, I'm not asking you to do that. But choosing to not see it at all? That has me curious."
"Dawg, I seen what all yours did to you. Those awful looks on each face. I ain't havin' none of that, you hear me?"
"Ignorance is bliss. That's the mindset you're using."
"If ya wanna put it like that, yeah."
"THAT'S STUPID!" Mary flipped around like a coin and sped her way into his space. "The Truth Bullets are supposed to have useful information. Even if you don't share it, you could still do SOMETHING with it! You could use it to HELP us escape!"
"That true?" Hinata pulled the cue ball out the pocket. Lined it up with the 7 ball. "How is your Bullet helpful to us?"
"IDIOT! Answering that question would count as me sharing it!"
"I think she's implying you could perform tasks in secret. Tasks that would ultimately benefit everyone."
"Nah, then I'll have people like you on my neck every hour. Don't want any of that crap." Another aggressive shot. Both balls sank. Bottom right.
"If you don't want to deal with it, then give it someone who does!" said Mary.
"No way, babe. It could be used against me."
"You won't know that until you see it yourself!"
"Not worth it."
Edwin stopped her from screaming. "Mary, could you check on Makika? She should be in Sector 7."
"...Fine!" She stomped off.
"Man, what an uptight chick. No need to kill the mood like she does."
"You both have good points." Edwin placed the cue ball by the 9 ball. "Sorry for bringing the subject up."
"Don't worry about it, dude. Just let me be me, and we'll be square."
"I hear you." He planned on hitting another precise shot, but he saw something on the cue ball. Ante's reflection. "Don't panic, but we're being watched."
Hinata didn't hesitate to view the other tables. The little guy was standing atop one of them. "Oh, him. We'll be good."
"You think so?"
"Yeah, he doesn't do anything but look at ya. Just treat him like he's a bee."
"Alrighty." Edwin sunk the 9 ball. Then the 10 ball. Then the 8. "Good game."
"Same." They shared a firm handshake. "So what's next?"
"If it's alright with you, I'd like to start investigating again. See if Mary and Makika found anything. Want to join?"
"No thanks. I'll keep 'investigating' this room, starting with the cupboard."
"Suit yourself." With a light chuckle, Edwin made his exit.
Hinata went straight to pulling out some PlayStation games. He didn't set his eyes upon Ante, who always had his locked on him. "Must be dull doing what ya do all day."
Ante said nothing.
"Like I told Eddy, you're a bee. Buzz around or buzz off. It don't matter, you dig?"
Like a drill, his stare dug into his skull.
"You want to play something with me? Just say yes, and I'll set it up." Shortly after saying that, the pressure faded away. Hinata turned around to see that he wasn't there anymore.
Ante had already left. He had gone to...
1:34 PM Day 4
Game Chamber - Sector 7 (Minigame Hall)
As mentioned previously, this sector had only a green pipe and a computer terminal. The former was wide enough for anybody to fit in, and its height was just tall enough for anybody to jump in, but the inside was sealed with a mechanical trap door.
Makika was at the terminal, reading a long list. She was four-fifths of the way through when Mary walked in.
"You won't believe this! Hinata will not read his own Truth Bullet! We're all trying to process what we've read, and he chooses to ignore it all! It's so reckless and selfish!"
"Calm yourself, Mary. I agree that it would be better if he had read it, but it's ultimately his decision and we must respect that."
"I know, but-"
"It's also possible he lied about not reading it. From what I've seen in my life, people will lie about anything to protect themselves."
"You're not wrong about that... Huh, I should've thought about it that way."
"No matter. What did you learn about that elevator?"
"It wouldn't open, and there's no button for it to go up. There's no doubt in my mind. It's the same one featured in the other killing games!"
"Then it must lead to the trial room. Somewhere several miles below us. I presume this pipe only goes down as well."
"Have you tried it?"
"Not yet. I apparently need to select an option from this terminal before it can open."
Mary glanced at the screen. There were tons of bizarre names: Handcar Havoc, Bobsled Run, Rocky Road. The list went on and on. "Hey, I recognize these! They're all Mario Party minigames!"
"If that's the case, then the pipe..."
"Let me see that." Mary shoved Makika aside and selected 'Shell Game' after a bit of scrolling. The pipe opened up.
"Wait! This could be dangerous!"
Her warning fell on deaf ears, for she had already jumped inside. The pipe closed.
With a heavy exhale, the Priestess said, "What am I ever going to do with her..." She couldn't finish that line of thought. Her instincts pulled her head to the sector's doorway.
Ante stood there, watching her.
"My, my, you're quite good. I felt a bit of fear just now." She took a meditative stance. "None of the others could pull that off."
The voids in his eyes locked with the plus signs in hers.
"Do you have something important to tell me? Or are you introducing yourself?"
He recorded her calm demeanor, as expected from someone like her.
"Could it be that you're incapable of speaking? If so, I'll have to be extra observant when you're around."
Edwin entered the scene at that point. He nearly jumped when he saw Ante. "How did he get here before me?"
"Hello, Edwin. Have you encountered this figure before?"
"Yeah, during my game with Hinata. He was right out in the open, but I don't know when he showed up."
"So I was right the second time." Makika gave a light wave to Ante. "Pleased to meet you."
"What are you doing?"
"He's making himself known to everybody. I assume he's been approaching each of us after we received our Truth Bullets."
"I see." He wrote in his notebook some more, then knelt to Ante's level... at a safe distance. "Hello, there. I'm Edwin Crawford. Who might you be?"
Ante tilted his head to the ceiling. Or at least, what was assumed to be a ceiling. The lights on the walls stopped after a certain height, the area above became a sea of pitch-black shade.
"I think that means we should look up."
As if on cue, a gigantic monitor lowered as slow as a drawbridge.
SOLO MINI-GAME: SHELL GAME
Find the Koopa Troopa that has the treasure. You have ten seconds.
Your reward is $1,000. Have fun!
1:41 PM Day 4
The pipe sent Mary to the top of a stone tower, stranded in a sea of sunset clouds, and vanished before she could have second thoughts. There were four Koopa Troopas standing by, with one of them holding a treasure chest. They made sure she got a good look at it...
Then they hid in their shells. They hopped, swerved, and shuffled around her.
She tried her best to follow, but doing so only made her dizzier. She nearly fell over by the time they made a split-second stop.
At the voice's command, a timer spawned on one of the clouds. Ten. Nine. Eight.
"How? How could any human being win this?"
Seven. Six. Five.
"I can't see everywhere! This isn't like the games!"
Four. Three. Two.
"HOW IS THIS FAIR?!"
Mary leaped for the Koopa on the right. Touching it by her fingertips was enough to trigger it.
It popped out its shell... and revealed the chest!
1:42 PM Day 4
Game Chamber - Sector 7 (Minigame Hall)
The phrase 'MARY WON!' overlaid the footage of Mary on the floor, out of breath. After that, the monitor shut itself off and climbed into the darkness above.
"What an incredible stroke of luck..." said Makika.
"She's right about it not being fair," said Edwin. He added more notes and sketches to his book. "You normally get a bird's eye view of this minigame. We got that, by watching the monitor, but Mary didn't. She can only see what's in front of her, so she literally has to move to keep her eye on the chest. But the Koopas move too fast for her to even do that. Picking the right one on the first try is nothing short of a miracle."
"I hope she realizes that."
"I'm sure she does. It's confidence, I'm sure. That must be it."
"You're very kind, Edwin."
The green pipe spat Mary out. She helped herself up as fast as she could. "There! You got your answer!"
"Are you okay?"
"I'm fine! Just need some time to stretch. But thanks!"
"Thank you for your contribution, Mary, though I ask that you consult your decisions before you act on them. Who knows what would have happened if you guessed wrong."
"I think in this case, she would've been fine."
"This case? What do you mean by that?"
"I have a theory, but... I don't want to test it out."
"Why not? I can handle another one!"
Mary went for the terminal, but Edwin grabbed her by the wrist. "Mary, please. Let's hold off for now."
She immediately pulled herself free. "Don't do that!"
"Edwin, there is no need for you to be apologizing." Makika stood in front of the terminal, blocking the others from it. "I propose we avoid this from now on. It's clear to me that it's one big death trap."
"...You're right. This place, the Truth Bullets, the Challenge Event around the corner. It's all getting to me. I'm really sorry, Edwin."
"It's fine. We all get like that at times."
"I'm glad to see you two make amends so easily. That will bring us closer to escaping. Now, let us head somewhere else."
"Yeah, I've got some-WAIT, WHO IS THAT?!" Like a lance, Mary thrust a finger at Ante.
"Nobody to worry about." Makika walked past him, into the doorway. "As you can see."
"I was concerned too, but she's right. He doesn't seem to do anything." Edwin was about to leave, only for Mary to cut him off.
"Hold on, there's something I want to ask you. While it's just the two of us, if you don't mind."
"Sure thing. What's up?"
"Are you a big Mario Party fan or something? You know a great deal about it, more than people who play it casually. I expected Riku and Gai to have that knowledge, but not someone like you."
"That's a great question. Truth is... I played them a lot as a kid. They were basically my only friends for a long while."
"Oh... I didn't mean to-"
"You're good. I had also spent these last few nights playing through all of them. To refresh my memory."
"How much sleep did you lose doing that?"
"That part I will keep secret."
Ante watched them giggle like grade-schoolers.
"Alright, so if you're an encyclopedia on this stuff, do you know which minigames are safe?"
"I should. Why?"
"I know what Makika said, and I agree with it, but I still think there's something we can learn through this room. I want to give it one more go."
"Well, now that you mention it, there is one detail I wanted to confirm. Completely forgot about it until now."
"I promise to do a safe one."
"Thank you for that, but I'd like to be the player this time."
"It'd be really helpful for me. I haven't experienced a minigame yet, and I need someone to call for help if something goes wrong. Can I count on you to do that?"
"Yes, you can!"
"Awesome! You're the best!" Edwin searched the terminal until he found the aquatic-themed minigames. "Something didn't sit right with the accounts on the first day. Misham said he engaged in the minigame called 'Treasure Diving'. That one is most likely based on 'Treasure Divers' from MP1, which is a 4-Player minigame, but he was able to play it by himself. Same thing happened with Ivy and Kiet. They played one that resembles 'Pair-a-Sailing' from MP4, a 2-vs-2 minigame. It's true that the motorboat required exactly two people, so they could form a pair, but they did not have an opponent pair to face. It was just the two of them."
"So... the minigames are adaptable."
"That's what I intend to test out. I'll pick one that normally needs four players... and one that's safe. Let's try... 'Cast Aways'." He tapped the name and pressed the button. The pipe opened once more. Before hopping in, he said one more thing. "Wish me luck!"
Mary didn't get to watch him, though. Something else had her full attention. He had his attention on her, too.
"I know what you're doing, and it's so annoying. Hypocrites like you are the worst."
Ante pointed at her.
"You think you know everything? Because you spied on me? You think you can say anything because of that? You have NO right! NONE!"
He pointed at himself, but never took his eyes off her.
"Stop it!" No matter how much she looked away, his gaze never faded. She flapped her arms as if they were paper fans. "Just leave!"
He pointed at the monitor.
"I said STOP!"
Mary kicked him the head.
He landed on his back. His mask flew off.
She stared at him, waiting for something to happen. Sadly, her impatience got the better of her, so she cautiously approached him.
He stood up as soon as she got close enough.
Close enough for her to get a clear view of his face.
Clear enough to send her screaming and running.
She would soon block the sight from her memory. She never got to see the 'EDWIN WON!' message on the monitor.
Ante walked to his mask. He fastened it back to its proper place, making its hold extra secure.
The pipe ejected Edwin shortly after that. "I was right! The 4-Player minigames get adjusted when there's only one player. Also, I can confirm that the one I did was completely harmless. Well, I did hurt my hands a little bit from using the fishing rod, but there was nothing life-threatening." He didn't realize Mary was gone until after he had said all that. "...Mary?" He looked around, but there was obviously no sign of her.
Ante followed every movement of his.
"You... had your one-on-one with her, didn't you? You scarred her away?"
No point in answering rhetorical questions.
"...Fine. I needed some me time anyway." He flicked his lighter some more. Open. Close. Open. Close. "So, what do you want with me?"
Ante kept watching him.
"I assume there are hidden cameras watching every move we make, so you're not here to catch me when I let my guard down. You're also not here to learn more about me, because you already know everything. The killing game organizers are always thorough in their research. If it's neither of those, only one possible motive remains."
Ante nodded. No need to hide it or spell it out.
"Then cut to the chase and do your worst. I'm getting really bored from waiting."
Edwin snapped to see the monitor. All that was there was a profile image of him and a word. A single word the minigame voice repeated every second.
"MISS!" "MISS!" "MISS!" "MISS!"
With each chant, the picture turned one year younger.
"...What's the meaning of this?"
"MISS!" "MISS!" "MISS!" "MISS!"
Fourteen. Thirteen. Twelve. Eleven.
Ante turned his back to him. He made his way to the doorway.
"Hey, we're not finished here! I asked you a question!"
"MISS!" "MISS!" "MISS!" "MISS!"
Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven.
Ante kept walking.
"I demand an answer! NOW! WHAT are you trying to say?!"
The voice was louder that time.
A new image replaced the one of seven-year-old Edwin. It depicted an adult woman, of Chinese nationality, wearing a retail worker's uniform. Her smile vibrant and pure.
She turned paler. And thinner.
The color in her eyes faded. Her hair turned a sickly gray.
The background changed from a wall to a bed.
Her teeth lost its luster, but she smiled all the same.
Edwin couldn't pry himself away. "God... damn you..."
Her eyes had closed. Her posture turned stiff.
Ante left him behind. He had somewhere to go. It was...
2:25 PM Day 4
Paradise Beach - Northern Half
From the stage, he watched Naraaki help a baby octopus that had washed ashore. The way he carried and placed it into the water was not unlike a mother bringing her child to a crib. "There you go, little guy. Hope you find your family."
Yuzuki never crossed the shoreline. She kept looking at her Handbook. "Can I ask you something?"
"It's about our Truth Bullets, right?"
"I just want to know why we made that promise."
"...That's to protect both of us."
"...I figured that was it. I wouldn't have agreed for any other reason."
"Once it's safe, I'll share mine with you."
"As will I, Aaki."
"Thanks for understanding, Kiki."
They soon heard the static crackling of a metal detector. The racket became harder to ignore as Silas got closer to them. He held the detector in one hand, his special shovel in the other. When he saw Naraaki rush to Yuzuki's side, he told them, "Relax. I don't want anything from either of you."
"Are you, um, looking for—buried treasure?"
"You could say that." When the detector BEEPED at Silas, he plunged the shovel into the exact spot.
The bear trap's jagged teeth bit into the blade. Somehow, there were no dents. Or even scratches.
"That's, uh, some shovel. What's it—made of?"
"Don't know. Family never told me." Silas pried the trap open, then proceeded to bury it.
"Wait, what are you doing?" said Naraaki.
"Putting this back where I found it."
"You don't say. Why the hell would you do that?"
"Why are you so worried about it? You'll be fine if you remember where it is."
"We should, um, add some form of—marker to it... In case we forget." Yuzuki tried to draw a circle around the spot.
Silas erased it when she was only a quarter of the way done.
"WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU?!"
"I said to remember it. Not to cheat."
"Cheat? CHEAT? EXCUSE ME? Are you TRYING to get us killed?!"
"Only the reckless will die from this. If they want to live so badly, they'll buy a metal detector like I did. I'm frankly surprised you hadn't done that already."
"We, uh, can't afford one—yet."
"That's too bad. What will you do to get more cash?"
"None of your business! Get out of my sight, if you still want those disgusting teeth on your gums!"
"By all means, knock them all out. I'd probably look better without 'em. Go for my jaw bone, while you're at it."
Naraaki tried to tackle him, but Yuzuki anchored him with a bear hug. "YOU PATHETIC WASTE OF SPACE! If you want that so bad, then step closer!"
"You should thank your friend," said Silas. "You almost stepped on the trap."
"Silas—can you, um, leave us alone? Please?"
Both boys were about to say something, but it vanished when they noticed Ivy a couple feet away, crawling on the beach. Her eyes zig-zagged over the sand, until she spotted the sparkle of gemstones. Rocks she would claw up and toss into her bag.
"She really likes to—collect gems, huh?"
Naraaki kept switching his view from Ivy to Silas. "...Makes sense. Her talent revolves around it."
"Her dedication to her hobby is respectable. Her story will reach a fitting end, soon."
"Huh? What—do you mean by—that?"
"I had found several traps in that area. There might be some right below those gemstones. No need for you to worry, though. One less person for you to distrust."
"SON OF A-"
The boy broke free from Yuzuki's grasp.
But he didn't charge for Silas!
No, he ran to Ivy!
She saw another black opal.
Its colors called to her.
She thrusted her hand towards it!
But she didn't get to touch it. Naraaki's right arm took her place. He dove to shove her out, but in doing so, he left himself open.
The ocean air juggled his screams. Ivy crumbled into a blubbering mass of pebbles. All she could say was, "I'm sorry."
Yuzuki couldn't get closer to them, no matter how much she told her legs to move. "Silas, get the nurse! Get anybody! PLEASE!"
Silas did neither. He continued to scour with his device.
Ante sent a wireless signal. A minute later, some Bell Guys escorted Naraaki to the Hospital. Yuzuki and Ivy followed them.
Only after they left did Silas finally notice him. "So, you're this 'Anti-Guy' the gloomy kid talked about."
Ante stared at him, still atop the stage.
"Dead silent? That's fine. Better company than the others."
Ante watched him continue his hunt.
"If you're as fearsome as they say, then it'd be an honor to die by your hand. But I gotta find this 'treasure' first. You mind giving a hint?"
Ante jumped down and walked past him, back to the resort. Every step left a deep, distinct footprint.
"Guess you do."
2:51 PM Day 4
Hospital - Waiting Room
"You cannot see him yet," said M from behind a shielded desk. "There are no visitors until he is medically cleared."
"He needs me! Please—just this once."
"I'm sorry, Yuzuki, but there are no exceptions. You can stay in this room for as long as you like. You can also request to have me call you when he's ready."
"...Okay." She claimed the chair farthest away from where Ivy was seated.
The girls sat in silence for what seemed like an eternity, but was really three minutes. That's how it usually is when waiting for something. They were too busy watching the floor to see Ante walking in. He took a seat with considerable distance from both of them.
Four agonizing minutes later, Ivy moved herself to a chair next to Yuzuki's. She pulled something out her bag, but concealed it in her left fist. "I challenge you to a game. All you gotta do is guess the gem I'm holding. Winner gets 40 grand."
"...I don't have that much. What would happen—if I lose?"
"Just play the fucking game, okay? You won't go into debt. Promise."
Yuzuki looked at Ivy. At her face. At her eyes. Her blue eyes. A darker shade than Naraaki's, but the fires within them burned just as bright. Then she looked at her hand. "Uh... Is it, um, is it a—black opal?"
Ivy opened up. Sitting in her palm was exactly that. A black opal. "Good job."
Yuzuki's Handbook vibrated. She pulled it out to see...
Time — 3:00 PM
Balance — $41,000
Challenge Event begins in 0 Days; 22 Hours; 10 minutes; 18 seconds.
Room — 544
A cacophony of "um"s and "uh"s poured from her the moment she read the balance.
"Thank you," said Ivy.
"Why are—you thanking me?"
"Hope it helps you." She handed her the black opal. "Take this, too."
She stood up to leave, but Yuzuki grabbed her wrist. "How did you get this much?"
Ivy pried herself free. "To use the opal, type 'black opal' into the ATM. That's how it works for any of the stuff you found."
M took her exit shortly after Ivy did, leaving Ante alone with Yuzuki.
She tried to meet his gaze, but she could only last for about three seconds. "Is there something you want—need with me?"
Ante kept looking at her. Her black eyes hugging the floor once more. They almost matched the craters in his mask.
"If you don't—If there isn't, can you please leave me alone?"
He hopped off his hair. He recorded the way she trembled the moment he did. The way it sped up as he got closer and closer to her.
"Please—Please—GO AWAY!" She slammed her eyelids shut. "Too much—All of this is just too much."
Ante walked past her. He went straight to the patient rooms. Specifically...
3:05 PM Day 4
Hospital - Ward 4
The first thing Naraaki saw was the blue cast encasing his arm. His fingers and thumbs poked out of it, like little turtle heads.
The second thing was M at bedside. "Congratulations, Mr. Tsukamoto. Within two months, your arm will make a full recovery."
"Two months... TWO MONTHS?"
"Your radius, ulna, and humerus had snapped from the jaws of that trap. It normally takes about eight weeks for those bones to heal."
"You're literally back from the dead! You must have some sci-fi bull that'll fix me up. Just give me that!"
"...I have to get you a sling. Once that's done, you'll be cleared to leave. I'll bring Yuzuki here as well."
She stepped out before he could get another word in.
With nothing else to do, he glanced out the window. Miles away, he could see an incredibly small island. The same one Mary and Shun had seen on Day 1. The tower attached to it wasn't active, but Naraaki could easily recognize it. A lighthouse.
He then turned his head back to the door. The sight of Ante standing there almost sent him off the bed.
"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU?"
Ante waited for him to catch his breath.
"Are you just gonna stand there and watch me? Where's Yuzu?"
Ante approached his bed.
"Don't move another inch! I don't care who or what you are, but I'm not in the mood to play any of your worthless games, so back off!"
Ante chose to stop, but he kept on peering.
"...You think that mask makes you so scary and powerful, don't you? That's the only reason you'd wear it. No sense for robots to have them. Well guess what, it's not working."
With his robed arm, Ante pointed at a portrait on the wall. It depicted a blonde, baby-faced boy with a group of men at his sides. All of them were dressed in black two-piece suits; the men sported sunglasses. None of them smiled. Their professionally neutral lips gave warning to anyone who looked them the wrong way.
Naraaki soon felt slugs of sweat climb down his back. "W-What's that supposed to mean? I told you I'm not playing around!"
Ante pointed at it again.
"USE YOUR DAMN WORDS!"
"Aaki?" Yuzuki ran into the room, stopping at the doorway. "AAKI!"
"MOTH-BABY!" Naraaki leaped off his bed to dash to her.
M snatched away their hug by stepping between them. "Return to your bed, Mr. Tsukamoto. I must fasten your sling. You can leave after that is done."
Ante watched the three of them a bit more. The Nurse worked her magic, while the Guests absorbed each other's company.
After that, he left. His next destination...
3:23 PM Day 4
He approached Ivy, who sat along the ledge. She was kicking her reflection in the water, but it always came back whenever she stopped.
She looked at him once, only once, before resuming her swashing.
He kept standing and staring.
She soon exhausted her legs. The waves and ripples vanished, revealing his presence, so she flipped him the bird. She kept it up until he left.
"I can do this all day. No way am I losing to the likes of you."
" . . . "
A new reflection joined them. It belonged to Mya Wilson, and it was holding her sandals.
"Hey, Ivy!" she said with a summer face. "Mind if I keep you company?"
Ante watched her plop down next to him. He watched her swing her legs like hammers.
A wall of water flew into him, soaking his robes.
" . . . "
"Oh my! Please forgive me! I just wanted to dip my feet. I didn't realize how hard I dropped them. There should be towels by the bar, if you need to dry up."
Ante and Ivy stared at her.
"I didn't hurt you, did I? I would think not, since it's just water. If I did, I'll accept my punishment."
" . . . "
Ante left. He headed for the towel rack.
"Phew! What a scary robot."
"That was fucking mindless of you."
"How? There aren't any rules for getting anybody wet."
"If he wasn't waterproof, that would've been violence."
"Isn't everything waterproof nowadays?"
"But advanced tech like the stuff here surely would."
"Yes, but- oh, screw it! I'm trying to tell you that little stunt could have backfired. If you won't accept that, then kindly fuck off."
"That's rude. I only wanted to help."
"No one asked." Ivy started mumbling afterwards.
Mya's eyes combed through her, digging every detail. "Something happened to you today and it's distressing you. It occurred about an hour ago, not when you read your Truth Bullet."
"How did you-"
"I'm a fortune teller, silly! The planets tell me all. Please lend me your hand, and I'll give you a palm reading. On the house!"
Ivy observed her for a solid minute. "...She must really care." Her voice in that moment was below a whisper.
"I said fuck it! If it's free, then I got nothing to lose." She shoved her right hand before her. "All yours."
"Thank you." Mya took hold of the hand as if it were century-old parchment. The tiniest amount of extra force could tear the whole thing. She gleaned over every line at least three times. "Oh! I see... Yes..."
"Let's start with your Life Line. It says you're a person who sticks to their morals. You always do what you believe is right. Your Head Line tells me you keep an open mind. There are many subjects that bore you, but you make an effort to give everyone a fair shot. According to your Heart Line, however, that can be a challenge at times. You have two sides, with one serving to protect and control the other."
"Yeah... that's me..."
"There's more." She traces a finger along the line. "You're in a happy relationship with... another girl. A childhood friend. The bond is so strong, you would be engaged in the next year, but... there was one drawback. A tragedy."
"No fucking way! How the hell are you doing this?"
"You lost someone... no, several people. All of them close to you. Your grief set your emotions off-balance, which is why your dichotomy exists. A section of the line is perfectly parallel with your Life Line and Head Line. From that, I've learned that this loss also influenced your beliefs."
"Can we stop? I'm getting real uncomfortable."
"Sorry about that. I'll move on to the Fate Line and Sun Line. I promise it gets better from here."
"There are no breaks in your Fate Line, which means you will not stray from your path. Meanwhile, there's a single break in your Sun Line, implying the need for you to overcome past experiences. Putting these together, your future is crystal clear. You'll live a fulfilling life if you move on and press forward."
"You better not be bullshitting me."
"My readings are always accurate. Your star is rising, so show those traumas that they can't keep you down. Believe in yourself, but don't hesitate to ask others for support!" Rather than releasing Ivy's hand, she pulled her into a firm hug. "You looked like you needed one right now."
"No problem! I may be the least informed on killing games, but even I know the only way to truly win is through teamwork." The hug ended. "Is there anything else I can do for you?"
"You're good. I'm gonna rest in my room. Catch you later, Mya."
"Bye for now, Ivy." She waved until she could see her no more. Then she said one thing to herself: "We'll both follow our goals. We'll do what's right."
Before taking her leave, she saw something that shattered her bright demeanor.
Ante had been at the bar, beside the towel rack, the entire time. He had never left that spot. And yet he was looking right at her.
He saw everything. He's still watching.
That single fact made her run. The fastest out of everyone today. Double the speed of Riku and Mary combined.
Ante left after that, but not to follow her. No, he was going to...
3:57 PM Day 4
Reception Shops - Bottom Floor (Weapons Store)
Riku inserted his Handbook into the cashier dock. "A pistol and a dagger."
The payment went through. The Hammer Bro took two weapons off the shelf. Handed them to the boy.
Out the corner of his eye, he saw Ante by the store's entrance. "You again..."
"You know what, this is perfect." Riku drew the pistol at him. "I don't care if you're a superboss. This ought to do something to you."
No reaction. Not even a flinch.
He aimed for the right eye hole and stepped closer. "Not gonna run? Or attack?"
Ante looked up to see his face. This gave him a better shot at his target.
The Hammer Bro was polishing his hammers.
"You've got nothing to lose, either. Perfect."
An airsoft pellet shot out the gun. It bounced off the mask, hitting just the ridge of the eye.
. . .
"...FUCK!" Riku threw the gun straight to the floor, making it shatter upon impact. He pulled out his new knife. "You sick son of a bitch. Like it or not, we're ending our games right now!" He lunged for him.
Ante didn't move.
. . .
The blade went into the eye hole... only to retract into the handle. When Riku pulled it away, the blade popped back out. He tried again with Ante's chest. Same result. Rather than sink into his body, the blade got pushed inside. Then the built-in spring pushes it out.
"DAMN IT!" He stormed back to the Hammer Bro. "Get me bombs or grenades! The strongest ones you have! As many of them as I can aff-"
"Riku-chan? What are you doing here?"
"Huh?" He turned to the entrance again. Tamaki was standing where Ante used to be. "I, uh... I was getting weapons to use against the Anti-Guy."
"Anti-Guy? Who is that?"
"Y'know, a Shy Guy, like the bellhops, but dressed in black. Has these lines under his eyes. Kinda like the bags under mine, but more extreme. Makes it look like he's cried. You never saw anybody like that?"
"I'm afraid I haven't."
Little did they know, Ante had moved to another part of the store. He observed both of them from there.
"Ok... Well, what are you doing over here? This is last place I would think to see you."
"You would be right... Truth is, I was on my way to the Item Shop to buy a Lottery Ticket. Then I noticed you in here and felt the need to see if you were okay. You looked really upset."
"I told you, I was going to attack Anti-Guy. But the stuff they gave me were toys!"
"Why? Why would you do something like that?"
"He's the biggest obstacle in this game. I'm sure of it. If I take him out, or damage him just a bit, you guys will have a better shot at escaping."
"That's not the point! If what you said is true, and with Rule 5 in place, then facing him head-on will get you killed!"
"It's a risk I'm willing to take."
"That is not a risk, and you know it."
"Wow, you really haven't seen the other killing games. It's normal for a few students to make the ultimate sacrifice if it allowed everyone else to live. Sakura Oogami, Gundham Tanaka, Ryoma Hoshi, just to name a few from the Hope's Peak game. There was at least one noble hero like them in every game after that, and now it's my turn."
"Noble? Hero? I'm sorry, Riku-chan, but what you're planning would'nt be either of those. It would be nothing more than wasteful!" The dams in his eyes burst open. "What would happen if we still couldn't escape after your sacrifice? What if more people die after it? Or worse, because of it? If any of those come to be, you would have thrown away your valuable life for nothing!"
"...Who are you to tell me how valuable I am?"
"You know NOTHING about me! How could you possibly know my worth? There's only one guy who knows it. ME. And here's the cold hard truth. I. Am. Fucking. WORTHLESS! A complete nobody who's unworthy of living! Giving it up to help you all is the only good I can bring to this world."
"It's true that I don't know you that much, but..."
"That... That just can't be true! There are people who would miss you if you died!"
"NOPE! There's nobody like that in my life! I have no one outside who cares about me!"
"But... I was talking about people inside."
"You mean like... you?"
"Yeah, right. We're strangers! You have no reason to care."
"Do I need a reason?" The sobs launched out, full throttle. "I'm very, very, sorry for upsetting you. *sniffle* I didn't mean to cause you trouble, but in these past three days, I've grown fond of everyone here. *hic* Including you!"
. . .
"...You really mean that?"
"I swear to you, I do! *sniff* Your death would devastate me and everyone else. You don't want to cause us that kind of pain, do you? *sob* Please, Riku-chan. Reconsider."
. . .
. . .
"...Cancel my order."
The Hammer Bro nodded, then resumed his polishing.
"I don't think everyone cares about me... but I'll trust that you do, at least."
"Oh, thank you, Riku-chan!" Tamaki wrapped him in a strong hug. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"
Riku didn't bother to break free. "Nice... this feels nice."
"I'm sorry again."
"For acting like I knew your past. That was wrong of me."
"Don't worry about it. I'm sorry you had to see that pathetic side of me... Shit! My life is so full of shit! I thought it couldn't get any worse, but then my Truth Bullet came around and proved me wrong."
"You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to, but if you ever want to get things off your chest, I'll listen... or rather, read your lips."
"I'll hold you to that offer."
"Good." Tamaki let him go. "I must get going. Lu-chan must be worried about me. I'll see you later, Riku-chan."
"Yeah. See you."
They left the store together, then split apart. Tamaki headed towards the Item Shop. Riku went to the escalators.
Ante walked out after that. Watched Riku's exit, then turned his gaze over to Tamaki. He followed him for a few steps...
...then he had to stop.
He sensed someone behind him.
"Turn around," said Lumoi.
He obeyed her demand.
"I will say this once. Stay away from Tama."
They looked each other in the eye for a long while. Neither blinked. Ante stepped closer to her, while she remained still. His body blew a baneful blizzard her way, and yet she held her ground.
"You know what I can do. What I'm capable of."
. . .
. . .
. . .
Ante showed her his eyes.
They flicked on, from within the eye holes, like flashlights in a cave.
The right was red with white rings. The left, white with red.
Each one a vortex, sucking every sight at an epileptic speed.
Lumoi's eyes began to strain. Her head started pounding her skull in a frenzy, conjuring illusions for her.
Red and white. Floors, walls, ceilings, doors. The whole mall flooded.
She could stand no longer.
. . .
. . .
Ante hid his eyes. He walked to her limp, sprawled body. Checked her pulse, breathing, heartbeat.
With that taken care of, he shifted his focus back to Tamaki.
He's already left the Item Shop, so his next stop is...
4:19 PM Day 4
Reception Shops - Bottom Floor (Lottery Shop)
Tamaki handed the Bob-omb a blank Lottery Ticket. "These are my numbers: 2. 1. 0. 9. 1. 3." While they waited for it to print, he made one other request. "I would also like a Scratch-Off Ticket... The birds sang early."
The Bob-omb looked at him until the machine finished printing. He handed Tamaki the completed Lottery Ticket, along with a fresh Scratch-Off Ticket.
"Pardon me, but do you have a quarter or any object I can use for this?"
They shook their body left and right.
"I see... Thank you very much." He turned around to leave, only to see Ante in his path. "Oh... are you the Anti-Guy?"
"Riku-chan told me about you. He said you're dangerous."
"...We're here as punishment, aren't we?"
"I don't know what the others did, but we've escaped from you before. We'll do it again, and we'll help them too. I may be a weakling and a coward, but I will use every resource at my disposal to ensure you don't torment us any longer!"
. . .
Ante stepped aside, then pointed to the Weapons Store. To the sleeping beauty on the nearby floor.
Tamaki had no trouble recognizing her. "Lu-chan?" He sprinted to her.
Meanwhile, Ante took his sweet time heading to...
5:37 PM Day 4
Kazooie had been laying on the bed for a long time, smoking more weed and letting his mind wander. Letting his eyes roam around a room he already explored. Nearly everything was the same as every other room, albeit in different positions. Only unique thing was a portrait on the wall. There were no words engraved on the frame, but he knew it depicted an adult couple of Ultimates. Husband and wife. Brain Surgeon and Astrophysicist. Nothing useful to him. Nothing on the wall behind them.
He pulled out a piece of paper from under the covers and held it up to his face. He had found it in one of the desk drawers, but he felt like reading it again.
HOPE'S PEAK KILLING GAME PARTICIPANT LIST (Page 1)
1. Makoto Naegi - Ultimate Lucky Student*
2. Byakuya Togami - Ultimate Affluent Progeny
3. Yasuhiro Hagkure - Ultimate Clairvoyant
4. Chihiro Fujisaki - Ultimate Programmer**
5. Kiyotaka Ishimaru - Ultimate Moral Compass
6. Hifumi Yamada - Ultimate Fanfic Creator
7. Mondo Owada - Ultimate Biker Gang Leader
8. Leon Kuwata - Ultimate Baseball Star
9. Sayaka Maizono - Ultimate Pop Sensation
10. Kyoko Kirigiri - Ultimate Detective***
11. Aoi Asahina - Ultimate Swimmer
12. Sakura Ogami - Ultimate Martial Artist
13. Celestia Ludenberg - Ultimate Gambler****
14. Toko Fukawa - Ultimate Writing Prodigy*****
15. Junko Enoshima - Ultimate Fashionista******
16. Ryoko Otonashi - Ultimate Analyst*******
* - Will be unaware of his hidden talent: Ultimate Hope.
** - Refer to the PARTICIPANT SECRETS Document.
*** - Will forget her talent.
**** - Refer to the PARTICIPANT SECRETS Document.
***** - Refer to the PARTICIPANT SECRETS Document.
****** - My sister, disguised as me.
******* - Me, wearing a disguise and pretending to have amnesia.
## THIS DOCUMENT HAS BEEN OFFICIALLY REVIEWED AND CERTIFIED BY THE LEADER OF THE DESPAIRS, THE ULTIMATE DESPAIR HERSELF, JUNKO ENOSHIMA ##
Kaz put the paper down.
When he did, he finally noticed Ante standing across from the bed, staring straight at him.
He stared back.
. . .
Ante said nothing.
Kaz said nothing.
. . .
. . .
This went on for at least five minutes. Kaz continued to smoke for the entirety of it. Ante was unfazed. Then again, neither of them were.
That is, until they heard footsteps and a voice.
"SHUKI! SHUUUUUUUUUUUIKIIIIIIII! WHERE ARE YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!"
The walls did a good job muffling the noise, but it couldn't succeed when the source got closer and closer. No amount of soundproofing could ever hope to contain her.
Kaz shoved the paper into his hoodie pocket, then buried himself underneath the covers.
The door was kicked open. It's a miracle it hadn't broken off its hinges.
"This room smells funny! Kinda sussy! Hee-hee!" Shiri tiptoed to the bed. "Big-sis Shiri sees a boy-shaped lump on this bed! I wonder who it could be... HA!" She yanked the covers off. "...Aw, it's just Kazooie-chi!"
"Shun's not here." With his shield gone, Kaz could see the whole room again. It was just the two of them there.
"Phooie! Guess you'll be my playmate now!"
"WHAAAAA?! WHY NOT?"
"I'm comfortable right here."
"Have you been laying here smoking weed all day?"
"AYE-AYE-AYE! That's pro-level loner behavior!"
"Wat'chu mean 'And'? Everybody knows being a loner is no fun!"
"Yeah, uhhh... I don't give a fuck."
"UUUUWWAAAAAAAA! NAUGHTY NO-NO WORDS! Say sorry to Shiri-Shiri right now ~su!"
As if things couldn't get worse, Misham flew into the room. Literally. A square-shaped panel in the floor spun as he emerged from the room below them. "HUZZAH! ANOTHER SECRET UNVEILED!"
"Mishaaaam! Kazooie-chi won't hang out with me! He's being a lazy loner!" She stomped in place like a toddler would.
"I'm minding my own business."
"Mr. Kazooie, I'm disappointed in you!" Misham thrust his usual gestures into his face. "Everyone else is working hard to escape, and here you are doing absolutely nothing! It's the exact opposite of progress! The least you could do is play a minigame to earn some currency!"
"If I told you I've been searching for clues, would you both leave me alone?"
"The stench of cannabis tells me otherwise!"
"YEAH! You can't hide the truth from us, poyo!"
"Whatever." Kaz got himself off the bed and headed for the door.
Misham blocked him. "You're not leaving until you do something productive!"
Without another word, Kaz left the room... through the closet.
"Ahaha! Yes, that will count! Many thanks!"
"How did he do that, desu? Does he have maaaaagic?"
"It's elementary, Ms. Pureya! The resort has a network of hidden passageways connecting dozens of rooms together! I've found a few of them before, but this one here is a marvel to behold!" He pointed to the floor panel. "The bed for Room 681 is positioned right below this spot, and it is secretly a trampoline in disguise! All I did was leap onto it, and whoosh! I wound up here!"
"That sounds FUN! I want to try it!"
"Of course! There's simply the matter of getting this panel to open up." He tried to pry it with his gloved fingertips, but it wouldn't budge. "No success..."
"OOH OOH OOH! Let Shiri try! She has an idea!"
"By all means!"
She positioned herself onto the panel and performed a series of attack stances. "SUPER SHIRI GROUND POUND!" She jumped, then crouched in mid-air. The sheer weight of her biggest body part SLAMMED against the panel, causing it to flip like a coin, sending her down to a bed that soon bounced her back up.
Misham applauded upon her return. "INCREDIBLE! More progress attained, thanks to you!"
"Incredible is right! I'm doing that again!"
"Ahaha! Wait one moment, if you please! I wish to take this opportunity we have alone to address an elephant in the room."
"Elephant? What elephant, uwu? I don't see no elephant."
"Do forgive me... it's your buttocks!" He leaned behind her to get a closer look at them. "They are rather large for the average woman your age, or any age for that matter. I've never seen anything like it before, so I can't help but want to learn more! What did you do to pull this off?"
"Ara Ara! Have you really never seen a booty before, or are you trying to hit on me?"
"Pardon, but do I look like I'm attracted to you?"
"I don't know what you look like at all."
"Perhaps I wasn't clear. What you have is unnatural. I've seen chests that size in anime only."
"What can I say, nyan? I got genes so great, no jeans can fit me!"
"Genes do not account for the rest of you being small and thin. I will ask again: What is your regimen?"
. . .
. . .
"...OHOHOHOHOHOHOHOHO! You are one smart cookie, Misham-dono! Say hello to my precious babies!" She softly stroked her left cheek. There was truly no other way to put it. "This one is Yoko." The right one received a rougher petting. "And this is, uhhh... Hideo! I fed them the finest of pizzas, cakes, and other tasty treats! Then I let them rest by either standing still or staying seated in a nice chair!"
"AHAHAHAHA! BRILLIANT! It must have taken you years to perfect them! I assume you rigorously exercised every other part of your body?"
"Ding-Ding! Shiri also takes these special Shiri-supplements! Her cups stay at C-Level!"
"Fascinating! All that effort, for a niche market!"
"Same reason you wear that suit all the time, baka!"
"Is it, now? Do you know something about me?"
"Maaaaybe! Maaaaaybe not! Butt one thing's for sure... I want us to be friends."
"I shall consider it."
"GREATO! Now back to the trampo-bed!" She ground-pounded the panel once more, descending into Room 681. Seconds later, she reappeared back up.
But instead of landing on her feet, she did another ground-pound. The bed below bounced her up.
Another ground-pound. The process repeated.
And another one.
And another one!
She did not come back after that.
Misham waited for the floor to flip again, but it never happened. "That girl... We do have a compatible chemistry, but she is a strong one... Just... like... YOU!"
Ante ignored his theatrics.
"I have tons of questions to ask you, little one! What is your role in the killing game? Are you our enemy or an ally? Why approach me when I'm alone? What's the purpose behind your design?"
He ignored all of them.
"Ahaha! Perhaps you can only answer yes-or-no questions! Very well! Assuming you're a bigger threat than Monokame, are you the real head-honcho here? And do you have a connection with the Truth Bullets in some way?"
No nods. No head shakes. Only observation.
"...Your death glare means nothing to me. Never has and never will. I will keep making progress, with or without your assistance. Nothing you do or say will change that." With that statement, Misham exited through the closet passageway.
Ante did not follow him. He waited for her to kick the door open again.
"MISHAM! MY BOOTY BROKE THE BED! I'M... eh? Where'd he go?" Shiri got on all fours to crawl like a dog, sniffing the floor and wagging her 'tail' as she did. She barked like one upon seeing Ante. "KONICHIWA-DESS! Nice to meet you! I'm Shiri! Who are you, wan-wan?!"
He stood completely still. No objection to her smelling him.
"Ooooooooooo! I know! You're none-other than the great, powerful GM, using an avatar to see me!"
He shook his head.
"You're not? But they're your master, aren't they?" She nearly stuck her fingers into his eyeholes. "They see everything through you, so they're watching me right now! You're here so they can see me."
He ignored her ramblings.
"Let Shiri serve you, master! Everyone calls Shiri an excellent dancer! She'll bring a performance that will blow you away! Here's the opening act!" She turned herself around and swung her 'tail' in a rhytmic fashion for half a minute. It wobbled even after she stopped. "Hee hee hee! Ready for the main event, myaster?"
She peered over her shoulder, only to find nobody there.
"What?" She quickly faced forward. That's when she saw him again.
His mask was centimeters away from her face.
With a yelp, she flipped onto her back and scooched as far from him as she could.
Once more, Ante shook his head. Slowly. Left. Right. Left.
"Wh... why did you move? You missed it, didn't you? No, you must've seen some of it... right? Were you not happy with it? Was that what your response meant? I could do a different dance!"
Ante turned around. He out the door.
"WAIT, DON'T GO! Please... At least tell me if you-"
After shutting the door, he walked further down...
5:58 PM Day 4
Jaleh pushed another maid, S-42, into another trap.
The wall between Rooms 754 and 756 zoomed to the wall between Rooms 755 and 757. A hydraulic press on steroids.
The body popped like a pimple. The force was so strong, some of the blood flew to the elevator a few yards away.
The wall took a longer time retracting to its original position.
"That makes twenty-five for this floor so far." She added another X to a sketch she had drawn in her e-Handbook. "This should be enough data."
Ante stood behind her. After watching that brutal display, he tilted his head up so his gaze could tap her noggin, forcing her to look his way.
Her eyes shifted down to see him. "Do you have a problem with me, little critter?"
No words spoken, as usual, but the look she felt told her everything.
And it made her laugh. Not chuckle, or giggle, but laugh. Like she heard the best joke in the world.
"That's funny! Simply too funny! I don't know if you've realized it or not, and that makes it more hilarious!"
He kept staring.
"I'm all too familiar with that look you're giving me. The kind people give when they think they're above someone else. But where is your head pointing right now? The only direction that lets you see my face!"
Ante lowered his head.
"Consider this a lesson. Like the animal kingdom, our world runs on a food chain. Those who break boundaries will always be at the top, where they belong. Sooner or later, everyone realizes their proper place in it."
. . .
A black substance started oozing out the bottom of Ante's eyeholes. It flowed as slow as raw honey down the mask, directly over the once-dried streaks, then dripped to the floor like blood droplets.
"...Hmph. Seems you finally learned it, yourself. Nobody can drag me down to their disgusting levels... Not even you."
"WHAT THE HECK IS THIS?!" Shun ran to them. "WHATTHEHECKISTHIS?!"
"Careful there. Step any closer, and you'll wind up like that."
The boy stopped himself so hard, his sneakers left skid marks. "A death trap did this?"
"Correct. One of the Sayakas showed it to me."
"So Misham wasn't joking. You and him really went on a streak, sending so many to their deaths, making the whole fourth floor look like a war zone! This one was no different, wasn't it!?"
"...A little gratitude would be nice."
"If I hadn't killed her, I wouldn't have known anything about the trap, and therefore would have been unable to save you from it."
"But... but you-"
"Surviving requires sacrifice. If you can't realize that, then you're as pathetic as that masked freak!" She pointed at Ante, who remained as still as a statue. The black liquid had stopped seeping out of him by that point.
"I'd rather die than foul my integrity!" Another random jump.
"What a nonsensical boy you are. Is there something wrong with your brain?"
"Not at all! Notataall! There a problem with yours?"
"Mine couldn't be any more perfect. I don't spout any illogical drivel, or display bizarre mannerisms."
"Says the one with tons of red cards on her hands."
"Red cards? ...You are very much like your sister."
"She is NOT my sister!" He yanked off a strand of his wood brown hair. "Here! Serve me a DNA test!"
"I don't have the tools for that." She headed for the elevator. "Talking to you has been a waste of my time. I have much to prepare for."
Shun watched her leave, then looked to Ante. "I'll show her... I'll serve a decisive kill that'll shut her up, along with every other naysayer out there! ...Wait, that came out wrong!"
Ante stared at him. The tears had long since dried up. The streaks looked exactly as they did beforehand.
"Kill is a volleyball term! I swear! It means an offensive move that ends with an immediate point!" Yet another random jump. "I'd never murder anybody! That'd make me a hypocrite!"
Ante walked to him. Past the pasty remains of one S-42. He kept staring.
"She called you pathetic... I watched you cry... So why? Why do I feel so afraid of you?" His legs tipped over, pulling him to his knees. "Please... You gotta believe me! Yougottabelieveme! I just want to prove them wrong!"
. . .
After watching him for another minute, Ante walked past him. He didn't look back. He only heard his cries.
That was everybody.
His task: Complete.
He spent the next several hours wandering the resort. It wasn't until much later that he entered...
10:00 PM Day 4
Ultimate Suite 32 (Taxidermy Suite)
This suite was obviously one the Guests could not access yet. The resort's standard room made up less than one-tenth of its size. It may as well have been a small house. With two bathrooms, two bedrooms, two closets, and a living room, the only essential it lacked was a kitchen.
Stuffed animal sculptures decorated every space and every corner from head to toe. The beasts dominated the living room. The aquatic creatures controlled the bathrooms. The avians owned the bedrooms. The insects ruled over the closets.
A tall, costumed person relaxed in a cushioned armchair. Watching a log fire on a wall-mounted flatscreen. A human cosplaying as Ante, but with one huge difference: their mask. Instead of a Shy Guy, it bore the likeness of a grinning Phanto.
Ante let himself inside and stood before this person.
They spoke to him in another language. Their mask's voice-changer deepened their pitch to an unrecognizable degree.
"귀하의 작업에는 문제가 없었습니다. 맞습니까?"
"그들 중 진실의 총알을 공유한 사람이 있습니까?"
Ante shook his head.
"예상대로." The Phanto stood up. "적이 보고 있습니다. 그들은 우리를 볼 수 없지만 이미 우리를 쓰러뜨리려는 움직임을 보였습니다. 이것은 우리에게 도움이 될 수 있으므로 정상적으로 행동해야 합니다. 손님을 계속 주시하고 게임에 방해가 되지 않도록 하십시오."
"나는 이미 이것을 다른 사람들에게 전달했습니다. 당신은 해고되었습니다."
11:58 AM Day 5
Ante entered from the same elevator as yesterday. Monokame had already gathered all the Guests. They murmured amongst each other as they watched him walk to his side.
"Alright, everybody! Before we begin, some introductions are in order! You've met this fella at least once yesterday, when your Truth Bullets were fresh on your mind. This is the Anti-Guy, but we call him Ante. He is the third caretaker of Tranquil Tower Resort, and head of security."
"Third?" said Edwin.
"Yes, and I am the first. The lovely host who accommodates for all your needs!"
"Th-Then who i-is the s-s-s-second?"
"He is on his way."
The clock struck twelve.
BONG! BONG! BONG! BONG!
Joining the tolling bells was a series of earth-shaking STOMPS. Each one louder than the one before it.
It didn't take long for him to appear.
His skin blacker than the sludge from Ante's eyes. His hair a glowing inferno. His shell spikes and carapace had a faint hue of sun red. His eyes pupil-less and crimson. The same shade found in Monokuma's eye. Essentially, he was Fury Bowser with a slightly tweaked color scheme. His size was that of a regular Bowser, but when compared with the twenty-four Guests, he was still a giant.
"Greetings and salutations, our esteemed Guests. We hope you've been enjoying your stay here thus far. I am the second caretaker, as well as the judge who presides over the trials, should there be a need for one. My name: MORSER."
"I take it, then, that you're in charge of executions as well?" said Silas.
"...You would be right, but this is not the proper time to discuss such matters. We must start the first Challenge Event. Please open your e-Handbooks."
No one had a choice. The moment they did, their screens displayed a new message.
CHALLENGE EVENT #1: MINIGAME MANIA
All Guests are forced to participate in minigames every five minutes. Their e-Handbooks will give them the name and location of a minigame, and they must reach that location within five minutes. After completing the minigame, they will receive a new one to complete. Rinse and repeat.
Guests have the option of playing Cooperatively or Competitively. If they choose Cooperative, their opponents will be Robotic Nightmares.
Those who win the minigames will still earn money, just as they did before.
This event will last for one week. It will end each day at 8 PM and begin at 8 AM the following day.
Robbing a Guest of their life will bring the event to a premature end.
"Are you fucking with me?" said Ivy. "This is so unfair!"
A few of the others complained with her.
Monokame roared at them. "Unfair? We put so much effort into giving you these minigames, ways for YOU to make money so you could escape sooner, yet barely any of you bothered to try them! And you're calling US unfair?! Pearls before swine, I tell ya!"
"It's understandable. Our research has shown that at least half of you despise physical activity, which comprises a majority of Mario Party's minigames. However, if you cannot bother to leave your comfort zone, what chances do you have of leaving the resort?"
"Mister, uh, Morser?" said Yuzuki. "These 'Robotic Nightmares' mentioned here—what are they?"
"A very good question." He then snapped his claws.
Seconds later, a fleet of mechanical cyclopes swooped in. Their dark-gray bipedal bodies had humanoid hands and cleats for feet. Wires connected their slender heads to their shoulders. The red light from their circular lenses matched the highlights in their joints.
"These are who you will face, should you choose to work together. They are designed to excel in every sport."
"This is where your adjustment comes in, Kiet! Instead of playing minigames, you will be fighting special versions of these baddies in the Arena! The battles will always be one-on-one, with each bout being more challenging than the last. If you beat them all, I will be your next opponent as promised!"
"I wish I could see that," said Sanani.
"The time for talking has sadly come to an end," said Morser. "I wish you all the best of success in this event. It begins in three... two... one... GO!"
Challenge Event Begins in 0 Days; 0 Hours; 0 Minutes.
To Be Continued
Author's Notes: There you have it! My biggest and most ambitious chapter to date, at 15,570 words!
Hopefully, the wait was well worth it. If not, I sincerely apologize. Special Thanks to everyone who is still supporting the story, despite the delays. You're the best!
There's no telling when the next one will come out. I won't give any form of date, so I will just say it'll be out when it's ready.
I hope each and every one of you had a Happy Holidays, and I wish all of you a Happy New Year!
A Special Message for the Creators of the 24 Guests:
If you would like to know your character's Truth Bullet, simply DM me with the message, "I wish to know my OC's Truth Bullet." If I do not receive this message, I will assume you wish to stay in the dark about it.
There is a lot of truth in what you said. I won't say which parts are which, though, cause that would take away the mystery. Thanks for the review! =D
Things have gotten better for me. I did end up finding work, but that means I will have less time to work on this. I hope you found work between July and now. Even if you didn't, I won't stop rooting for you! As always, thank you for reviewing. They make my day!