A Simple Survey:Volume2 Attraction04

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Attraction 04: Sudden Death Old Maid[edit]

Old maid.

That term referring to an older unmarried woman may not mean anything to someone from Japan at first glance, but it sounds a lot more familiar when referred to with the Japanese term baba-nuki.

When you think about the English meaning, the rules of the game seem a bit cruel, don’t they?

I was sitting at a table playing an altered version of old maid.

It was a one-on-one game.

Each player had half of a 52 card deck handed to them. Then each player was given 26 jokers for a total of 52 cards each.

Both players shuffled their deck just once to complete their preparations.

Player A could freely choose cards from any part of his deck, but he could only display two cards at once. Player B would take one of those two cards.

The card taken would be counted and the other card would be discarded without being shown to Player B.

Each player would take turns in this process until all cards had been taken or discarded. The player with fewer jokers in the end would be the winner.

The winner would be given money based on the number of jokers the loser took and the loser would gain a debt of the same amount.

If a player was caught cheating, he would be given the same debt as the maximum of 26 jokers. However, the cheater had to be caught in the act. If a player claimed the other was cheating yet no evidence of cheating could be found, he would take on that maximum debt instead.

“…”

I had just added the 26 jokers to my deck and shuffled it.

On the other side of the round table from me was a blond youth covered in accessories who looked like he had everything a salaryman like me did not. He shuffled his cards as well and even stylishly placed them on one edge of the table.

The youth grinned and said, “You look out of place here. Do you know where you are? Each joker is worth 10 million yen.”

“And you are trying too hard to look good.”

“You don’t look like the kind of person for this attraction.”

“Neither do you. You don’t look like the kind of person who would screw up badly enough to need to take part in this.”

In a way, my victory was already assured from the moment I took part in this Sudden Death Old Maid.

My family had already escaped to a country with a low cost of living. They may have thought it was just an overseas trip, but I had no intention of having them come back if I lost this attraction.

I had heard the large sums of money changing hands in this attraction were handled by Spider Finances which was well known in the black market. But they would only be able to get their hands on me.

They might be able to take my organs, but they would not reach my family.

If I won, I would acquire the money I needed and if I lost, I would lose everything, but my family would be saved either way.

That was my definition of victory.

“Okay, okay. Let’s get this game of Sudden Death Old Maid started,” cut in a smiling bunny girl who appeared to be the same age as my daughter. “Have you decided on a strategy? Are you picturing victory in your mind? Have you prayed to god? Well, it’s time to begin either way. It takes so long to get through everyone with these one-on-one attractions.”

The youth and I each grabbed one of the two cards the bunny girl held out.

I had the ace of spades.

The youth had the king of spades.

“Morita-san, you got the ace, so you go first.”

“…”

Going first or last did not provide any real advantage.

Even if the youth managed to give me all 26 jokers, the game would end in a draw if I managed to give him all 26 jokers as well.

“C’mon, let’s do this, old man. Choose.”

With a grin on his face, the youth took two cards from his deck and held them out towards me. I had no way of knowing which was a joker just by looking at the backs. It was possible both were jokers or neither were jokers.

After some hesitation, I grabbed the card to the right from my perspective.

“Joker. That’s 10 million for me.”

The youth’s smile grew deeper.

“Morita-san, your count is now one,” said the bunny girl.

It was too soon to say whether I was doing well or poorly. Drawing a single joker was not enough to say anything about my situation.

For example, what if both cards had been jokers?

In that case, I would have drawn a joker no matter which card I chose. If the youth repeated that process, it would seem I had no chance of winning.

But that was not the case.

The joker I did not choose would be discarded. And we both had 52 cards. If the youth used up all his jokers early, he would pay for it later. He would be forced to present me with two normal cards for the second half of the game.

“It’s my turn. Hurry up and draw your two cards, old man.”

“Fine, fine,” I said while taking the two cards on top of my deck.

I held them out towards the youth.

The most efficient way of doing damage was to have him choose between a joker and a normal card. That way, I could have him take a joker without having to discard one. That allowed the maximum of 26 jokers to be taken.

But…

“Saaaaaaaaaaafe! Two of spades.”

I clenched my teeth and discarded the now unusable joker.

Yes. If your opponent chose the normal card, the joker would no longer be usable. This strategy made the maximum of 26 jokers possible, but it also made the minimum of 0 jokers possible.

Given the rules, which was the better strategy?

Should I always use two jokers to ensure my opponent took 13 jokers?

Or should I use the jokers one at a time to make the maximum of 26 jokers possible? I only needed the 100 million from 10 jokers to fix my ruined life, but…

“Hurry up and choose, old man.”

“…”

I hesitated.

My hand moved right, left, left, and right. I finally grabbed the card on the left from my perspective.

It was another joker.

With the same result as before, I could not tell what my opponent’s strategy was.

Was he using two jokers? Or was he using only one at a time, but I kept choosing it?

And…

If I was choosing the single joker, was it a matter of luck or was there more to it?

In other words, could he be cheating?

“Morita-saaan. Hurry up, hurry up☆” said the bunny girl.

“That’s right, old man. Worrying about it isn’t going to help. Just draw your cards.”

I took the top two cards from my deck.

This time it was two jokers.

The blond youth of course chose a joker, but he showed no sign of worry.

His expression only said that this was exactly what he had expected to happen.

“Old man, I can see what kind of life you’ve lived in these cards.” The youth pulled out two cards from the middle of his deck and held them out. “You are a fairly honest person. Fairly. You aren’t a perfect saint or anything. You normally use idealism in any theoretical arguments, but you sweat bullets and desperately search for a way out when it really matters. And those irregular actions always cause even more problems for your life.”

He brought the two cards even closer to emphasize his words.

It was only a difference of a few centimeters, but it felt like an invisible wall was pressing against my heart.

“You shouldn’t do things you aren’t suited for. This is like a salaryman in a suit trying to play baseball against the pros. If you’re gonna use those ways out, you need to have the experience.”

I took one of the two cards.

Another joker.

Nothing had changed.

I had too little information.

I could not tell what his strategy was, so I had no strategy to take myself.

“Your turn, Morita-san,” urged the smiling bunny girl.

I was worried.

Worried that the youth was cheating.

Of the many forms of gambling, cards were one of the easiest to cheat with. Or perhaps it was more accurate to say more methods of cheating had been developed because of its widespread use. It may have been similar to why OSs and browsers used worldwide had more viruses.

There were a lot of different forms of cheating, but they could all be divided into two basic categories.

The first was preparing new cards to use in a trick. You could add five or six aces of spades or prepare a card that was the same on both sides. These methods were extremely effective and did not require much skill, but the risk of being found out was high.

The second was a trick that did not involve new tools. These were about pure technique. Examples included appearing to shuffle the deck while not shuffling at all and accurately pulling out the 30th card from a deck of 52 cards. These required a high level of skill, but the risk of being found out was almost nonexistent. After all, they left behind no physical evidence.

This game would decide the outcome of people’s lives.

Not many people would leave that up to luck.

Anyone who was driven to the point of needing to take part in this attraction would already know they had no luck at all.

“Go ahead.”

“God, you’re slow. Okay, nine of hearts.”

The youth did not hesitate to choose his card. He did not appear nervous. He avoided the joker as if he already knew what he would draw.

Not a single muscle in his body appeared tense as he took two cards from his deck.

“C’mon, choose. Of course, you’re just gonna get a joker.”

“…”


The attraction reached its midpoint.

We had each taken 13 cards from the other.

“Oh, dear. You aren’t doing too well, Morita-san.”

“No, he’s not. Choosing 13 jokers in a row just isn’t normal.”

“…”

It was not normal at all.

I knew that perfectly well.

Just as the youth had said, I had taken 13 jokers. On the other hand, the youth had only taken 3 jokers from me. And those were only from the times I had given him two jokers to choose from, so I could tell something was going on.

But what exactly was he doing?

I could not stop him from cheating unless I caught him in the act. If I accused him of cheating when he had not done anything, I would take on the maximum of 26 jokers as punishment. I could not grab the youth’s hand just because it seemed obvious he was doing “something”.

And I had already wasted 13 jokers.

We each had 26 jokers total. At this rate, it would only be a matter of time before it was impossible for me to make a comeback. Once that happened, the youth would no longer need to cheat. He would only need to grab two random cards to use them up.

The youth had no idea how many jokers I had left.

That was why he had not announced his victory. But the gap was simply too large. Normally, there was no realistic way for me to win at this point.

But on the other hand…

That did not mean I had to accept my defeat.

“Old man, hurry it up.”

“Wait just a second.”

“Thinking isn’t gonna help you.”

I could cheat.

If I entered the same territory as that youth, I could still win.

However…

If the youth could cheat this well, he would notice if I made a poor attempt at it. If I was found out, I would receive the maximum debt of 260 million yen. I had no idea what the youth was doing to cheat, but he had to believe he had no chance of losing this attraction. If the situation started to go badly for him, he would immediately grow suspicious.

Should I try it anyway?

Should I cheat?

Should I try to deceive someone who was clearly more skilled than me?

“…”

I had done a bit of research into methods of cheating with playing cards. I knew a few methods I could use in this situation. But I had only practiced them a bit on my own. I was not used to using them in such a crucial moment.

Should I do it? Could I do it?

“If you hesitate, you’ll die, old man,” said the youth with a grin. “Think of it like cooking. When you slice up cabbage, you don’t make each slice after measuring out the exact number of millimeters. You get a rhythm going and chop chop chop chop chop. If you can’t do that, you’ll cut your fingers.”

He had seen straight through my hesitation.

He knew what options were running through my head.

And yet I still had not figured out how he was avoiding my jokers and forcing his own onto me.

I could see no marks on the cards or small tools to peek with, and yet the youth had complete control over all the jokers in this attraction.

He had to be using some kind of trick rather than playing fairly, but I could do nothing if I did not know the details.

What should I do?

What should I do?

What should I do?

“…”

I let out a small sigh.

I made up my mind.

Simply continuing the attraction would simply open the gap between us further. I would never win that way. If I was going to turn this around, I could not rely on the normal methods. So I had to do it. The youth would of course be on the lookout for any cheating, but my situation would gradually grow worse if I could not slip past his defenses.

“Okay. Here goes.”

“Hurry it up.”

I had not noticed it until now, but my fingertips were trembling. I was sweating. Would I be gradually cornered or would I earn the maximum prize in one go? We were both facing our deaths, but I very clearly felt my life coming to an end.

I reached a hand toward my deck.

The youth narrowed his eyes.

I was going to do it.

I was going to cheat.

If the youth reached out and grabbed my right wrist, it would all be over. I would be faced with the maximum debt.

The bottom of my index finger touched the card on top of the deck.

I grabbed two cards.

And I drew them.

“H-here.”

“Old man, you thought about trying something, didn’t you?”

The youth grinned.

I was sweating so much I thought my cheap suit had to be discolored.

“But you backed out at the last second. You made some suspicious movements, but they were a bluff. That was not enough to give you any advantage.”

I glanced over at the bunny girl. She was smiling as always.

Meanwhile, the youth reached out his hand.

He grabbed one of the two cards.

He took the card that was not a joker.

“It’s over, old man. You can’t win now.”

He grabbed the card between his thumb and forefinger.

I opened my eyes wide.

I held my breath.

I fought the dizziness I felt from anxiety.

If I was going to do it…

It had to be now.

“Wait.”

I used my other hand to grab the youth’s arm before he could pull it back with the card.

The contents of his hand fell to the table.

Those contents were two cards.

Yes, two cards that had been placed directly on top of each other.

“He’s cheating. Bunny girl, you be the judge.”

“What!? Wait, what the hell are you saying!? I didn’t do anything!!”

“Hmm?” The bunny girl tilted her head in feigned confusion. “Now, why are there three cards here where there should only be two?”

“How should-…!?”

“Because this youth brought in a third card,” I quickly cut in so he could not say anything unnecessary.

I suppressed his speech.

As the youth’s mouth opened and closed wordlessly, the bunny girl continued speaking.

“Okay, what does he gain with this third card?”

“He had the card he wanted ready in his sleeve. When he took the card from my hand, he would swap it with the one up his sleeve. That way he could swap out a joker for a normal card.”

“Bullshit!! I didn’t do that! Look, there isn’t a single card in my sleeve. If I was winning that way, I would need to have a bunch of cards hidden somewhere!!”

“…It does not matter if you have been using this method up until now or not.

“What?”

“The rules say you take on the maximum of 26 jokers if you are caught cheating. It does not matter if it is your 1st time or 100th time.”

“That’s true,” chimed in the bunny girl.

“G-give it a rest. This is bullshit!! Old man, you just grabbed my arm!! You had a card hidden in your palm and you just dropped it at the same time as the card in my hand. That’s what happened!!”

“Perhaps.” I did not force a denial. “But it means nothing if you do not catch me in the act.

It was the same as the cheating he had done.

And my turn was already over. We could not go back to cheating from the past.

He had noticed my hand make a suspicious movement, but had decided I gave up partway through. That had been his chance, but he wasted it.

The youth and I looked over at the bunny girl who was watching us from close by.

However, the look in his eyes was very different from the look in my eyes.

With a cruel smile, the girl simply said, “I explained in the beginning what would happen to you if you cheat.”

“W-wait… It was this old man who cheated!! I didn’t do-…!!”

“Oh, so are you saying she can judge cheating from the past now? I’m fine with that. But then I think she will find you are clearly the first one to have cheated.”

“Sorry, but I cannot accept any changes to the rules,” said the bunny girl.

“And there you have it.”

I grinned and dropped the single card remaining in my hand onto the table.

It pictured a clown mocking someone.

It was a joker.

“Did you think I would do something so reckless without making sure I had every angle covered?”


The struggling youth was dragged away by several men in work uniforms. I wondered if I should think too much about what was to become of him. I decided it was not worth it. No one would take part in this attraction for fun or on a whim. He must have had a pressing reason to risk his life here.

“Congratulations.”

“Thanks.”

“That was well thought out.”

“I could not come up with any other way of fighting back.”

“Hmm.”

The bunny girl seemed to be enjoying herself.

She may have been interested in seeing the sight of two people wearing each other’s souls down in the attraction. Perhaps that enjoyment remained even now that the winner and loser had been decided.

“So does that mean…”

“That I know how he was cheating? Of course I don’t. If I knew what he was doing, all I needed to do was grab his arm then.”

“I thought maybe you figured it out after the fact since he did it so many times.”

“Then I would have grabbed his arm the next time he tried it.”

“I see.”

“…So was this method against the rules?”

“No, no. If it had been, we wouldn’t have removed that youth.”

That meant I would safely earn my prize money and be reunited with my family. I still needed to be on my guard in case a gang of thieves attacked just outside the facility, though. It wasn’t over until I made it home. I had ended up having to take part in this sort of attraction because I tended not to see things through to the end like that.

“Oh, right,” said the bunny girl.

“What?”

“Do you want me to tell you how he was cheating? It will bother you if you leave without finding out, right?”

She had a point.

But…

“No, the attraction is over, so it doesn’t matter. That would be like drinking a flat soda.”