A Simple Survey:Volume2 Attraction02
Attraction 02: Hide-and-Seek Gamble
“Before beginning the attraction, please answer the question on this form. Two teams of five will play hide-and-seek with a time limit of 30 minutes. If all of the hiders are found, the seekers win. If even one hider is not found, the hiders win. Under these conditions, which team do you think will win?”
I felt the most important factor in hide-and-seek was the size and complexity of the stage, but no description was given of that. However, I had always been good at hiding. For that reason, I filled in the circle for “the hiders” without thinking too much about it.
Thinking back, I should have realized sooner that the attraction had already begun at that point.
I was blindfolded, loaded into the back of a truck of a shipping company called Direct Transportation, and taken somewhere.
When the blindfold was removed, I first saw the brown, rusty wreckage of a giant Ferris wheel.
The sounds of crows carrying on hurt my ears.
“Okay, okay, okay. Let’s get this attraction started!” said a bunny girl in a bright voice while standing amid a bunch of tough-looking men in plain work uniforms. “Everyone, pay close attention to the armbands on your right arm. Red means you are a seeker and blue means you are a hider. Okay, split into your groups now.”
I had a blue armband on my right arm.
That meant I was a hider.
We lined up as per the bunny girl’s instructions. The hiders with the blue armbands made up a group of two men and three women while the seekers with red armbands made up a group of four men and one woman.
The bunny girl quickly continued her explanation in a cheerful voice.
“Now, the seekers are Tanaka Masuo-san, Satou Tadakage-san, Inoue Kyouko-san, Kinoshita Shizuyuki-san, and Kawamo Ryuujin-san. The hiders are Yamada Megumi-san, Akaumi Hatsuko-san, Hasebe Kensuke-san, Tobukuro Jirou-san, and…oh, we have two Tanaka-sans. This one is Tanaka Mitsu-san. Those are the ten participants in this attraction.”
That explanation did not actually explain who anyone was.
And the bunny girl did not seem to care.
We could work together or struggle individually for all she cared.
“The hide-and-seek stage is everything within this amusement park’s grounds. The seekers will be given cheap digital cameras. Any hiders photographed with them will be considered captured. We will determine what is valid. The hiders are free to change locations as long as they have not been captured. But if moving gets them caught, that defeats the entire purpose.”
“The seekers will wait here while the hiders are given 30 minutes to hide. The seekers will use the 30 minutes after that to seek. Will they find everyone within the time limit, or will at least one escape? That will decide the victors of this attraction, so do your best☆”
The high-pitched sound of a whistle rang out.
It came from the one in the bunny girl’s small mouth.
I was a hider, so I ran off on my own just as I had been instructed. Unlike with the seekers, there was little merit for the hiders to gather in one place. If any one of us survived, we would win, so our odds were better if we were as far apart as possible.
The most prominent feature of the neglected and worn down amusement park was the Ferris wheel, but my gaze also stopped on the roller coaster rails that cut across the grounds. In addition to the attraction facilities like the haunted house and freefall was a section with some restaurants and a large shopping mall for souvenirs.
Since we were playing hide-and-seek, I needed to enter some kind of building.
The first decision I had to make was…
“Should I stay in one place or move around a lot?”
If I was planning to stay in one place without moving, I needed to slip into some place to which it was unlikely anyone else would come. For example, a tunnel for the roller coaster. A place like that was normally off limits due to the danger, but it would be safe while the roller coaster was not running.
But if I slipped into somewhere tricky like that, I would be unable to monitor the situation and it would be difficult to escape if I was about to be found. It was an all or nothing gamble.
If I was planning to move around, I would need to hide somewhere that constantly had plenty of exits. That would allow me to sneak out if I was about to be found. But that sort of area would also be easier for the seekers to enter, so I had a greater risk of being found.
Both options had their advantages and disadvantages.
As I was trying to decide which plan to go with, a voice called out to me from behind.
“Hey. Hey you!”
I turned around to find a girl of about college age approaching.
“You have a blue armband, so you’re a hider too, right? I’m Yamada. Who are you?”
“Hasebe,” I replied.
“Hasebe, hm? You aren’t thinking of hiding somewhere tricky, are you? Y’know, like climbing up to the top of the freefall’s supporting pillar, so they can’t see you from below.”
“Would that be a problem?”
I had not decided what to do yet, but I decided to keep the conversation going.
Yamada-san frowned and said, “Weren’t you listening to the rules? The seekers just have to snap a photo of us to capture us. Even if you escape to where they can’t reach you, a single flash of the camera and you’re done for.”
Now that you mention it…
When I thought further about the digital cameras, another problem hit me.
“Then won’t we be at a huge disadvantage if one of the seekers climbs up somewhere high so they can photo all across the park?”
“Of course. Oh, right, right. Have you checked your watch?”
“C’mon, that’s one of the most basic precautions. The hiders hide during the first 30 minutes and the seekers seek during the next 30 minutes. But what if one of the seekers blows a false whistle? They can just photograph any hiders who carelessly come out.”
That was something else I had not realized until she pointed it out.
But given the reward for this attraction, the odds were good they would try some sort of malicious trick.
The winners would be given 200 million yen each.
The entire losing team would be executed. I did not know how exactly that would be done, but I doubted they would just take our lives quickly and painlessly. After all, they had gone to the trouble of luring us in with all that money.
This attraction would lead either to heaven or hell.
“The whistle was blown at exactly 4:30. Make sure to use that time as your basis. I’m a hider too, so I want as many survivors as possible.”
This was a cruel attraction with human lives on the line, but it at least had a clear distinction between friend and foe. If our team won, each individual member was rewarded, so none of us had any reason to betray each other.
“I’ll be going then. Let’s try not to get caught.”
I watched Yamada-san’s back as she ran off toward the shopping mall, but I finally recalled I had no time to spare.
The hiders earned little from working together, but the seekers earned a lot by working together.
For example, if one of them climbed up to an elevated position to watch over the amusement park, he could cover almost the entire outdoors area. If the other seekers then searched through the haunted house and other buildings, they could easily find most of the hiders.
The indoor areas were restricted spaces.
No matter where you hid, you would be found if every nook and cranny of the building was searched.
It was possible the remaining four seekers would not be able to search all of the indoor areas within the half hour time limit, but it was too dangerous to rely on an assumption.
If I lost, I would be killed.
No, even if I had never taken part in this attraction, my ruin would have come before long without the prize money.
I had no other options.
If I did not win here, it was all over.
I would do whatever it took to win. And all of the participants, both seeker and hider, likely felt the same.
I would never win if I looked at this as a normal game of hide-and-seek.
I needed a sneakier, sure-fire method that would ensure I would not be found.
If I did not enter a building, I would be spotted by the lookout from an elevated area.
If I hid indoors, I would likely be found as they thoroughly searched all of the buildings.
What if there was a third option that was neither indoors nor outdoors?
The 30 minutes came to an end.
A distant whistle signaled the end of the hiding time.
Several sets of rushing footsteps could be heard immediately afterwards.
At least one of the seekers would likely be headed for an elevated location to act as a lookout.
Given my hiding spot, my vision was severely restricted. The biggest problem with an elaborate hiding spot was the lack of information on one’s surroundings. I had no way of peering down on the complicated terrain from above like in a movie or video game.
And on top of that, it was hard to breathe.
Each time I exhaled, more lukewarm air built up. I began to wonder if I would simply suffocate here.
“Gyah!! Wait, don’t take a picture!!”
“I’ve found a hider! I think her name was Akaumi. Hey, stop that. Don’t grab at it!!”
“I just received word that someone ran toward the haunted house!”
“That stupid lookout! Why didn’t he take a picture!? Then we would have had them!!”
My field of vision was so limited that I had almost no idea what was happening, but I could tell just from the conversations that the attraction was accelerating. My heart began racing unpleasantly fast and I started to wonder if the sound of my heartbeat would give me away.
But I would be fine.
I had to be.
The seekers were searching based on the idea that the lookout covered outdoors and everyone else searched indoors. They would never find my third option for a hiding spot.
I was inside an old, dirty mascot costume lying on the ground.
You could say I was hiding outdoors.
However, the seeker acting as a lookout over the entire amusement park from an elevated location could not tell if someone was hiding within a mascot costume lying on the ground. It was possible someone might get too close and hear me breathing, but the other seekers assumed all of the hiders were indoors.
And so they would not do a thorough search of this area.
They would rush to the buildings to search them as thoroughly as possible. They did not want to leave a building unsearched before time ran out.
I had just one job.
I did not need to backflip out of the way of spotlights or keep objects between me and a moving enemy like in a spy action thriller.
I simply had to remain motionless.
I had to lie on the ground without moving a muscle.
But when failure meant death, doing nothing for 30 minutes was easier said than done. In fact, my sense of time had long since been thrown out of order. I would likely have gone insane inside that mascot costume had I not had my watch’s alarm set to tell me when the game was over.”
The costume was located near the old shopping mall.
That left me near a building if it looked like I would be found out.
I was sure this was the correct answer.
There was a risk of the seekers claiming the costume was a type of clothing and therefore a picture of it would qualify, but I was still safer than if I was running around the amusement park.
Or so I thought.
One’s surroundings would sometimes change the situation considerably.
Someone suddenly kicked at the head of the costume.
I almost cried out, but frantically held back.
This game of hide-and-seek was a team match. If a single hider remained after the attraction ended, we would all win. So all hope was not lost if I was captured. However, I had no idea how many hiders were left.
I was sick of having my life controlled by others.
I desperately tried to determine whether someone had accidentally tripped over the costume or if they were checking to see if someone was inside. But regardless of the answer, what I had to do was remain perfectly still.
Either way, it was all over if they realized someone was inside.
Please continue on.
As I desperately prayed, something unexpected happened.
I heard a familiar voice. It belonged to Yamada-san, a fellow hider.
I had no obligation to respond and the hiders gained little by working together, but it would all be over if one of the seekers saw us. I spoke quietly while remaining motionless to make sure the seeker acting as a lookout would not notice.
“Yes, it’s me.”
“Good. You haven’t been found yet.”
“What about you, Yamada-san? Do you know about the others?”
In this attraction, the hiders had no reason to betray each other. That was why I spoke to her, but then something seemed off.
She might have known someone was hiding inside the costume due to a slight movement or the sound of breathing, but how had she known it was me?
It was almost as if she had seen what had happened to every other hider.
It can’t be…
My throat grew dry.
The situation continued on nonetheless.
It can’t be!!
And then Yamada-san, who was supposedly a hider, shouted out as loud as she could manage.
“There’s a hider over heeeerrrrrrrreeeeeeee!!!!!!”
Her announcement made no sense.
But it greatly influenced the attraction regardless.
I stood up without bothering to remove the mascot costume and ran toward the shopping mall. The lookout might have gotten a picture, but I did not hear anyone announce they had gotten me.
But it was only a matter of time.
Where was I supposed to hide now? The shopping mall was large, but the area inside the building was still limited. If the four seekers not acting as the lookout thoroughly searched the building, they would eventually find me.
Yamada-san casually walked into the mall and spoke with a grin.
“It’s no use. You and I are the only hiders left. We will be found here and it will all be over.”
In this attraction, the hiders gained nothing by betraying each other.
If the team lost, Yamada-san would be killed too.
What if that assumption was not actually true?
“We were asked a question at the very beginning. We were asked whether the seekers or the hiders would win. I thought the teams were decided based on that, but…”
“But the attraction would not work if more people chose one side, right?”
I had no idea how they had chosen the teams when it had not come out to 5 and 5. Perhaps they had drawn lots.
What mattered was that Yamada-san had answered that the seekers would win.
And if the gamble was based on which side you had predicted would win rather than which team you were on…
Then there could easily be someone like Yamada-san on the hider team that wanted the seekers to win.
I stripped off the useless mascot costume and frantically looked down at my watch. It showed 15 minutes left until the alarm went off. I could never escape the seekers for that long just by running at random.
Even if the shopping mall was large, its design was very simple in order to make the space look even larger. In other words, I would be found quickly no matter where I hid. The giant fish tank in the entrance was filled with muddy water, but I could never hold my breath long enough to hide inside it.
“I don’t know how they’re going to kill you, but I promise to laugh my ass off while watching it happen.”
Whether I remained indoors or escaped outdoors, I would be found.
The seekers had already constructed that system.
I needed to find a spot the seekers would not try to search just like the mascot costume from before.
I needed a mental blind spot.
I had only one hope of victory.
And the seekers found me not long after entering the shopping mall.
I had hid inside a trashcan, but they made sure to check inside it. I may have made sure they focused on small areas like that when they found I had been hiding in that costume.
I could not remember their names, but I was photographed by two salaryman-like men from the seeker team. Then one of the organizers in work uniforms led me to the front entrance of the amusement park.
The other hiders were gathered there.
One girl had blood flowing from a split lip. She may have tried to steal the digital camera from a seeker.
After staring at a pocket watch for a while, the bunny girl finally brought a silver whistle to her lips and produced a high-pitched tone that covered the entire park.
The sound was filled with despair.
The hiders and the seekers. That whistle announced a great prize for one team and death for the other.
The bunny girl smiled and said, “Now then, I think the outcome is obvious, but it is time for the official announcement.” Her voice spread out through the area. It seemed to continue on forever. “Four of the hiders have been captured. Yamada Megumi-san is still unaccounted for. One of the hiders has survived, so the winner of this attraction is the hider team☆”
All strength seemed to leave my body.
And then a smile slipped out onto my face.
But this was not the sort of smile you would find in a child’s picture diary.
This was the smile of a man who had thrown someone else under the bus.
But I had won.
I had won.
“Ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!”
The other hiders had no idea what had happened, but their tension seemed to have melted away as well. They were all strangers, but they started embracing each other with tears in their eyes. I even had a stranger hug me and kiss me on the cheek. I was disappointed to look up and find it was a man.
Meanwhile, the seeker team was much less thrilled.
“How? How!? What do you mean you couldn’t find Yamada of all people in the end!? I thought she bet on the side of the seekers!”
“Was her cooperation all a giant bluff? No, she gained nothing from it. She’s still hiding somewhere now. If she had somewhere that safe, she could have just hidden there without bothering with the bluff!”
No matter what anyone said, the attraction was over.
The outcome had been decided.
I would be given my prize of 200 million yen. I could escape my dead end of a life. As I felt that hit home, the bunny girl spoke to me.
“Could you kiss me on the cheek? I just had a horrible experience.”
“Here you go.”
“In the West, this is a form of greeting!!”
After that moment of pure bliss, the bunny girl asked me a question.
“By the way, I get the feeling you are the one that holds the key to this attraction. Do you mind if I ask what actually happened?”
“I don’t mind as long as I know the result of this attraction is set in stone. Can you guarantee that nothing will overturn the result and my prize money will not be taken from me?”
“I guarantee it. Now, I would like to know where Yamada Megumi-san is.”
That was simple.
Yamada-san had bet the seekers would win, but she was in the position of a hider. That meant we would win if she was not found up to the very end. That was why I had done what I had done.
There was a place the seekers would never search.
A place that I could never hide in myself.
“She’s in the muddy fish tank in the shopping mall. I put some makeshift weights in her clothes so she would sink to the bottom.”
The rules never said anything about the hiders having to be alive by the end.
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