Thanks for the comments, guys. I mean, if they'd just narrowed the time gap between the last time they'd seen each other (a few years compared to 'since we were in elementary school', especially now that Junpei is a college student
), I probably wouldn't be so harsh on the whole Akane/Junpei thing.
I am a notorious anti-fan of the Obligatory Love Interest characters; I'd probably still harbor some dislike for her anyway. I will admit that she has a very adorable character design, though, and I really do hope this isn't the same overdone insta-relationship junk.
With that said, on with the story!
When we last left our heroic ensemble, a voice from a speaker was, well, speaking to them.
???: I am [Zero] ◊... The captain of this ship.
, eh? I'd complain about your cliche Awesome McCoolname
villain, but since the theme here seems to be numbers, I'd actually be more disappointed if he broke the trend.
Zero: I am also the person who invited you here.
The voice was harsh, obscured occasionally by the crackle of static...
...But Junpei recognized it. How could he have forgotten it? It was the same voice he had heard from the man in the gas mask.
GASP. Who'd have thought the man who drugged and kidnapped Junpei would be— of all things— the villain! I am truly in awe.
Silver: Hey! Asshole! What the hell is this?! C'mon out here! I wanna get a look at you!
Lion: What do you mean to do to us?!
Zero: I mean to have you participate in a game.◊ Some of you, I know, are familiar with this game. The [Nonary Game]. It is a game...where you will put your life on the line.
Hey, nobody told me about that when I signed up for this game! Damn the fine print, damn it straight to Hell! I demand a lawyer!
Dancer: Nonary Game...?
Mountain: What the hell's that?!
Hell if I know! I'm sure we'll find out, though.
The voice continued, implacable.
Zero: The rules of the [Nonary Game] can be found upon your persons. They are simple rules. Read them.
Dancer: Nonary Game...?◊
Is there an echo in here or something? Yes,
Nonary Game. He's already said it twice.
Silver: Hey... There's something in my pocket...
I bet there is.
Silver: Check this out.
Silver reached into his pocket, and pulled out—
Aw, come on. Not in front of the kid!
—a small slip of paper.
The rest of them reached into their own pockets, and pulled out similar slips of paper.
Junpei followed suit, and dug into the pocket of his pants. He felt the tell-tale crumple of paper◊ , slightly damp from his earlier ordeal.
Junpei: Hey, I got one too!
Don't get so excited, Junpei; it's not a Golden Ticket or anything.
Lion: Then it would seem Zero has seen fit to grace us each with a letter. Would you mind terribly reading it to us, young man?
His request had been delivered to Junpei who, after a short moment of surprise, did as he'd been asked.
The letter reads as follows:
"On this ship, you will find a handful of doors emblazoned with numbers.
We will call them the [numbered doors].
The doors in front of you are a pair of the same.
The key to opening these numbered doors are the [numbered bracelets] that each of you possess.
Should you total the numbers on your [numbered bracelets]...
...and find that the [digital root] of that number is equal to the number of that door, the door will open.
Only those who have opened the door may pass through.
There are, however, limits.
Only [3-5] people can pass through one numbered door.
All those who enter must leave, and all who enter must contribute.
The purpose of the game is simple.
Leave this ship alive.
It is hidden, but an exit can be found.
Seek a way out... Seek a door that carries a ."
Junpei had reached the end of the letter. There was a long moment of silence, and then the speaker crackled to life once more.
Zero: There is one last thing I must tell you.
"Psyche, bitches! You're really doomed."
Zero: As you have no doubt surmised, this ship has begun to sink. On April 14th, 1912...the famous ocean liner Titanic crashed into an iceberg. After remaining afloat for 2 hours and 40 minutes, it sank beneath the waters of the North Atlantic. I will give you more time.
That's sure nice of him.
Zero: [9 hours].◊ That is the time you will be given to make your escape.
The voice finished, and the speaker went silent.
The sound of a bell tolling echoed through the hall.
It came from the dance hall adjacent to the stairwell. It took those assembled on the stairs mere moments to trace the sound to an antique clock◊ embedded in the wall.
The sound of the 9th bell faded away. The 10th never came.
That meant the time was 9 o'clock. Most likely 9 o'clock in the evening. When Junpei had peered out the window of his cell, he'd seen nothing but blackness.
I saw a fish!
It had to be nighttime.
Didn't we just come to that conclusion? Why repeat it? I haven't forgotten in the two seconds between now and the last time you brought it up.
If that was the case, then they would need to escape by [6 AM] the following day...
Zero: Now, it is time. Let our game begin. I wish you all the best of luck.
The speaker went silent, and did not speak again.◊
Silver yelled at the speaker with language coarse enough to embarrass a sailor, but the rest of Junpei's companions were silent, deep in thought.
Junpei, too, was consumed by his thoughts. There was a great deal he didn't understand.
I'm not surprised.
Who was Zero...? What was the Nonary Game? Why had he chosen to make them part of it?
Was he a criminal who took delight in playing with his victims? Or did he have some other purpose?
And why had Junpei been chosen as part of this insane game? Why had any of them been chosen?
But one question was foremost on his mind...
They hadn't seen one another since elementary school. Why had she appeared now? Coincidence...? No. That seemed impossible. There had to be a reason.
He didn't know what it might be, but... There had to be a reason.
Of course there is! So people with no lives can start shipping wars.
Lion: Very well!
The lion's voice seemed oddly loud in the silence.
Lion: Standing around here won't do us any good. Best we get moving, don't you think?
Junpei: ...Get moving?
Akane: Are you planning to open the numbered doors?
Stay out of this, Akane; the men are talking.
Dancer: H-Hey! Wait! Don't tell me you're actually going to do what this...this Zero says?!
That goes double for you, lady.
Lion: No, no, that's not what I mean.
The lion shook his head, mildly annoyed.
Lion: I'm saying, let's find another way. After all, we haven't really examined this place yet.
...I don't know how that was confusing, but whatever. The Gang splits up and searches about on the other decks, but when they meet back up, they've hardly found anything, aside from a few doors with astrological symbols and exactly one metric fuckton of water◊
on D Deck.
Strangely, however, the water had risen no higher than D Deck.
The flow seemed to have been stopped somehow, as evidenced by the surface of the water on D Deck, which was as smooth as glass.
The prince knelt down and gently drew his hand across it.◊
Prince: Perhaps this Zero fellow has used some sort of remote control to seal a watertight door lower down... He said that our time limit was 9 hours. In other words, this water won't rise for 9 hours.
Mountain: Then you're sayin' we won't sink 'til then?
Prince: Well, that may be a little too optimistic. No point to wishful thinking.
There were 3 metal doors◊ on C Deck.
A single door stood off to the side, with 2 more on the wall facing the central staircase.
None of them had numbers, or verification devices.
They were, however, locked like the other doors.
No matter how much they pushed and shoved, the doors refused to move. The mountain and the lion threw themselves against them a few times, but to no avail.
Everyone Else Dumbass Count: 2
The door in the back had a keyhole. Just above it was a strange mark in the shape of a circle surrounding a dot.◊
There were 2 other doors◊ on C Deck as well, but it was clear they were elevators, as each had a button next to it with an upside-down triangle.
They tried pushing the button. No response. Apparently there was no power running to the elevators.
Of course. That would be too easy.
To the left of the elevator doors was a card reader. The card reader also had a strange mark◊ on it. It looked like a lower-case "h" with a dash drawn across the upper stem of the "h".
Junpei stared at it for a while.
PRETTY, PRETTY; SHINY, SHINY.
Turns out, that's the symbol of Saturn, and the one they saw earlier was the Sun symbol.◊
On A Deck, there's a door with the symbol for Earth◊
on the lock.
Junpei then takes the time to notice how utterly◊ caged in◊
they are, and proceeds to angst about it.
Junpei: We're trapped. All the exits go nowhere...
Junpei was not happy.
The girl with pink hair spoke up.
Pink hair: Well, I'm sure they go somewhere. We just can't open them.
For shame, Junpei. Schooled by a little girl.
Mountain: You don't know that. For all we know, they just open into walls, or take us in circles.
Prince Edgeworth thinks otherwise.
Prince: No, I'm sure they go somewhere. Otherwise, what point would there be? And we can open them. Well, 2 of them, at least.◊
Junpei: You mean the numbered doors...
No, he means some other
doors, except the doors are invisible. Also, you can't feel the doors.
All eyes turned toward the doors with numbers on them. The atmosphere in the room grew tense.
Dancer: H-Hey... Wait a minute. I think I said this earlier, but I don't think we should do that.
The dancer moved in front of the doors, as if to block them.◊
Yeah, good luck with that, sweetheart.
Dancer: We'd have to be crazy to open these doors. If we do that, we're doing exactly what Zero wants us to do.
Then, everyone started talking all at once, arguing about whether to go or to stay, about when the ship would sink, and, well, about pretty much everything that's happened so far.◊
After a few minutes of this, Junpei, master of eloquence that he is, kindly tells everyone to shut their noise holes◊
before they get a knuckle sandwich.
They fell silent, and all eyes turned to Junpei. He felt each stare burning into him, but he refused to flinch.
Junpei: Before we try and decide where we're going to go, there's something else we oughta do.
Pink hair: What's that?
Junpei: We need to exchange information. We don't know anything about each other. I want to know who you guys are... Who you are, where you came from, why you ended up here... Don't tell me you aren't curious too...?
"And then we can exchange phone numbers and make friendship bracelets and paint each other's nails..."
Naturally, everyone just stands there, letting the crushing silence be Junpei's answer. Well, until Akane pipes in, anyway.
Akane: I agree. I think Jumpy is right.
Akane: Oh! I'm sorry. I'm talking about him... I just call him Jumpy. His name is Junpei...
She pointed toward Junpei.◊
Akane: We're childhood friends. We went to the same elementary school...
Mountain: Wait! Stop!◊ Don't tell us stuff we didn't ask you about! Zero's probably watchin' us right now. What're you gonna do if he's listenin' in?!
Akane: Would...that be bad...?
Mountain: Hell yeah it would! We don't know how much that bastard knows about us. Maybe he just picked a bunch'a random people to kidnap. If that is the case, then it'd be dangerous for us to let him know too much. If Zero knows who we are, he could go after our families.
That's... that's actually a really good point. There's hope for these people yet!
Mountain: Maybe he'd tell us he had 'em to get us to do stuff, you know?
Akane: But...we still need to know what our names are... It's going to be hard to talk to each other if we don't have names.
Mountain: All right, then why don't we have code names?
HECK YEAH CODE NAMES. I want one, I want one!
Akane: Code names?
Mountain: Yeah, we'll each pick somethin'. Like... I'll be [Seven].
Junpei: Seven? Why are you Seven?
The mountain stuck out his left arm.
Mountain: 'Cause this bracelet number◊ says (7).
Silver: Oh, I get it. Yeah, that's a good idea.
Indeed it is, sassy urban boy!
The group goes around and everybody picks a codename, then explains why they picked it.
Spoiler alert: It has something to do with their number.
The silver-haired boy becomes Santa◊
. (His number is 3; 'san' is 3 in Japanese.)
The lion is Ace◊
, since his number is 1.
The dancer is Lotus◊
. A lotus has 8 petals. Go on, try to guess her number.
Edgeworth wants to be called Snake◊
. His number is 2, like snake-eyes, and it's double meaningful since he's blind. No relation to Snake, Solid or otherwise.
Our resident loli is Clover◊
. Her number is 4, like a four-leaf clover.
When Junpei's turn comes, however, he gets cut off. Thanks to Akane, they all already know his name, so there's no point in him getting a code name now.
Akane stepped forward, nervously.
Akane: Then you should all call me by my name too. Because...I mean... It doesn't seem...
Mountain: It doesn't seem fair to "Jumpy"?
Silver: You're thinking it's not cool for you to hide your name after you told us his?
...Wait, why are they still referring to them by their nicknames and not their codenames?
Akane fidgeted awkwardly. Junpei decided he had to do something.
NOT-BOYFRIEND, TO THE RESCUE!
Junpei: What's your bracelet number?
Akane: It's (6)...
She hesitated for a moment, then held out her left hand. As she'd claimed, the bracelet's face showed a (6).
Junpei looked at it for a moment and thought.
Junpei: All right then... Why don't we call you [June]? ◊
Junpei: Yeah, you know... It's the 6th month of the year. So you're [June].
Akane kneaded her hands and looked up at Junpei, uncertain. He smiled back at her, reassuringly.
Junpei: Are you good with that?
She thought about it for a few more minutes, then seemed to come to a decision and gave Junpei a small nod.
Their names decided, Junpei ran over them quickly in his head.
(1) was [Ace] ◊.
(2) was [Snake] ◊.
(3) was [Santa] ◊.
(4) was [Clover] ◊.
(5) was [Junpei's] number.
Akane was (6), and Junpei had given her the code name of [June] ◊.
(7) was [Seven] ◊.
And (8) was [Lotus] ◊.
That meant that 8 of them, including Junpei, had revealed their bracelet numbers.
But there was still 1 person left...
We'll get to him on the next installment of I Can't Think of a Fake Title for 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors!