A Simple Survey:Volume2 Reaper02
Reaper Game 02: Setup
It seemed the blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman was named Rachel.
She attended a junior college in the city and had found out about the monitoring through a help wanted section in the newspaper.
But the high school girl named Matsumi did not have it in her to focus on each of their individual situations.
“…Hey, the wall has crumbled here,” said the man in the work uniform named Kazakami.
He was peering into one of the five rooms the time bombs had detonated in.
Either the shock had been too great or it had been set up that way from the beginning because one entire wall had crumbled leading to another space beyond.
Hiyama in her showy suit and Rachel with her skin too white to be Japanese leaned over to peer into the room.
(He settled that quite well.)
Matsumi was focusing on a single participant out of the other four.
He had given the name Higashikawa.
He appeared to be about college age. It may have been due to the extreme situation or he may have always been that way, but his expression did not seem to change much.
He had said every single one of them needed to survive in order to get back at the organizers.
It was an excellent goal.
And as a fellow participant, Matsumi had no real reason to reject it.
And on top of that…
(The bonds of a group are often strengthened by finding the odd man out and attacking him.)
As a high school girl, Matsumi knew that process quite well. That problem weighed down on anyone in the confined area known as school life.
(Normally, that odd man out has to be kicked out of the group first. Once he is not part of the group, the situation will not grow violent so easily.)
For example, say a nearby school is seen as a rival in an upcoming mock examination or club competition. A competition between the regulars of a school will unavoidably grow into a mess on the surface and behind the scenes. However, when the scope is expanded beyond the school, the competition can amazingly be carried out in a pure fashion.
Defusing that delicate situation had taken quite a lot of skill.
Although Matsumi was not sure if Higashikawa was aware of the situation he had created or not.
Matsumi switched over her train of thought.
She could not deny that she wanted to seize the initiative in the conversation, but forcing herself into an already settled situation would only cause unnecessary problems.
She double checked where she stood.
If she was going to give up on remaining neutral, she would need to focus on not being pushed outside the group.
She did not fully agree with Higashikawa’s view and she was not prepared to remain with the other four to the very brink of death. But her sense for how to remain within a delicate group told her she must not let them realize that.
They had already been united into a group opposing the organizers. If she said she would prefer to act on her own discretion, she could easily be seen as disrupting the harmony of the group. In the worst case, she could even be labeled an ally of the organizers.
She glanced over at Hiyama and Rachel, the other women.
On the surface, they seemed to agree, but had they truly not realized the risks? Or had they and they were simply making sure no one noticed just like Matsumi was?
She could not tell what they were truly thinking.
They had officially united as a single group, so the others might begin suspecting her if they thought she was trying to sound out the others.
“What are you doing?” asked Higashikawa, the one who had set up the situation.
While using her facial muscles to create a harmless-looking smile, Matsumi replied, “Wait. I’m coming.”
She then passed through the steel door that had been warped in the explosion and entered the room.
The room had been bare to begin with, but the blast had created cracks in the walls and the ceiling. Small fragments must have rained down because the floor gave an overall impression of being disorderly.
One major factor behind that impression may have been the corpse that had been blown to pieces and scattered across the floor and walls.
Matsumi did her best not to look at that.
The main issue was the back wall.
Unlike the rest of the room, the entire wall had crumbled. Another area continued on beyond it. It was a long passageway. The linoleum floor was covered mostly in a cold darkness and was eerily lit by an emergency exit.
This was not the same as a school.
It seemed more sterile yet gave off a strong impression of death.
“This looks like a hospital,” muttered Matsumi.
As no one gave a differing opinion, it seemed they all felt the same.
The five moved further in.
This passageway had a window. The darkness outside made it clear it was night. But it would prove difficult to leave through the window. They appeared to be over 10 stories up.
“What the hell? Metal bars?” said the man with a slight beard and a work uniform.
Several thick steel bars were welded to the inside of the window. They did not provide enough room to squeeze through and they looked too sturdy to remove. Plus, they could be booby-trapped with a bomb or high voltage current.
The metal bars over the window were partially there to keep anyone from leaving, but they also gave off a sense of humiliation like they were trapped in a cage at the zoo.
Hiyama pointed down the passageway.
“Hey, I see some more bars up ahead.”
“Is this a mental hospital?”
Hospitals equipped with metal bars would occasionally show up in movies or dramas. However, a high school girl like Matsumi had no idea if real mental hospitals were equipped with such inhumane bars.
However, it brought a certain image to mind.
She recalled a certain term that had recently been all over the tabloid headlines and the hanging advertisements on trains.
“…Is this that Hell Hospital?”
“Ugeh!? Not that…” groaned Kazakami with a visibly displeased look.
However, he had to be thinking something else as well:
That was an idea the organizers of these deadly attractions would find absolutely mouthwatering.
Higashikawa wiped sweat from his brow and said, “What was that again? Some kind of facility that took in children who refused to go to school and claimed to help them return to society? But they were actually thrown into a hospital filled with metal bars and put through torturous rehabilitation, right? They ignored the kids’ personal situations and assumed they had dropped out due to an immature mind.”
“An expert medical institution backed them, so the kids’ parents did not suspect a thing. I heard that by the time the authorities realized what was going on, the group had become so utterly twisted that they insisted the children were simply sleeping even though they had been mummified in their beds. I wonder how much of that was true.”
Matsumi only had the information from tabloids, but one theory said the children who made mistakes would be given a special punishment in which they were dragged to the operating room, had their skulls opened up, and received a lobotomy.
She had no idea how much of it was true, but it had been on a large enough scale to leave its mark on the history of Japanese crime.
And since it seemed like a cult linked to medicine, it was also said the health food and diet booms had helped instigate it.
“We have no way of knowing if this is the real Hell Hospital,” said Higashikawa. “We saw a lot of different stages in those attraction videos. This could be a building the organizers created to resemble the Hell Hospital for their twisted purposes.”
“That’s right.” Kazakami looked back out through the barred window. “I can’t see the lights of a city outside. And is that the sea in the distance?”
They could only see in the one direction, so they could not be certain if they were on the coast or on an island. That difference would greatly change what they had to do after escaping the building.
At any rate, they had to keep moving, so they continued on.
However, they found more metal bars not even 20 meters down the passageway. A small door someone could pass through was installed, but it was of course locked.
Higashikawa stared at the small door.
“I guess it won’t be that easy.”
“But there was only one path here. Is there a key hidden somewhere in the passageway like in the rooms or were five different passageways meant to open up in the explosions?”
“Hey, look,” said Kazakami as he pointed at the bars.
Or more accurately, past the bars. The area was too dark to see it immediately, but a small sign had been set up in the middle of the passageway. It resembled the ones used to warn of a wet floor.
But a scrap of notebook paper had been taped to it.
Extremely round writing had been written with a thick permanent marker.
It said: Beware the traitor.
An unpleasant silence fell over all of them.
It was a simple sentence. It had no basis and they had no guarantee it was accurate.
(This is bad.)
It did not matter if it was true or not. Seeing that here would cause them to begin to wonder if there was a traitor among them. To put it bluntly, that was information that must not be inputted within them. Once it made its way into their heads, it would remain as a prickling in the corner of their hearts no matter how much they denied it on the surface. It would sow the seeds of suspicion.
“They’re just trying to shake us. It’s obvious what the organizers want here,” spat out Higashikawa as he averted his gaze from the sign.
Rachel and Kazakami did the same.
Hiyama stared at the sign for a bit, but finally sighed and did the same as Higashikawa and the others.
Matsumi did not follow anyone in particular’s lead, but followed the overall flow of the situation and looked away as well.
In truth, Matsumi had no memories.
It had felt similar to when the monitoring had ended midway and she had found herself in a dark room. All she remembered was a dull throbbing pain in her head and the surrounding memories growing vague.
Unlike this time, the gap in her memories had been quite large.
Starting from the moment she had woken up, the gap had stretched back almost 15 years.
That first time, she had woken up inside an empty train.
The long benches on either side of the train had no one else sitting in them. Matsumi seemed to have been sleeping while sitting on the end of one of the benches near the door. When she frowned at the odd headache and tried to look around, she heard a slight noise.
It came from her school bag falling from her lap and to the floor.
Matsumi frantically grabbed the bag, but no one had seen her. The hanging advertisements shaking with the movements of the train displayed the faces of those in charge of the facility nicknamed the Hell Hospital.
She could not remember what subway line she was on or what station she was heading towards.
And that single question quickly made her aware of more and more things she could not remember. Once she realized that included her own address and even her name, Matsumi felt a chill run down her spine. The dull headache made its presence very well known.
In an attempt to control her unstable heart, Matsumi frantically undid the latch of her school bag and rummaged through it.
From the textbooks and notebooks she found, she learned she was a second year high school student.
She began to grow worried when she checked through every pocket and could not find a wallet or subway pass. She checked two or three times but still could not find them. She could tell the monster known as panic was opening its giant maw, but then she felt something on her thigh. She stuck a hand into her skirt and checked the pocket.
She found a sparkling pink wallet made of lamé and a cell phone that reflected light in the same way.
But when she switched on the cell phone, it displayed a password prompt. She of course did not know what that password was, so she could advance no further.
She looked through the wallet.
It also seemed to function as a card case as it held an IC-type subway pass. The surface had the normal stations she travelled between printed on it: Shirasagi to Kusanomine. The first one printed would normally be where her home was, so she guessed her home was in Shirasagi.
She also found a few store point cards with addresses in Shirasagi. The user name given on the cards was Matsumi Shirauo.
(Is that my name?)
Matsumi tilted her head but it did not feel real to her.
She also found a folded photograph inside the wallet. She unfolded it to find someone with her same face smiling between a middle-aged man and a middle-aged woman.
It was a family photo. And using a paper photo in the age of digital cameras seemed like something an old man would insist on. From that, she guessed she got along well with her family and did what her parents wanted.
The wallet also contained a few 1000 yen bills and quite a bit of change. The change pocket also held a key. It may have belonged to her house. It was not one of the uniquely shaped keys that belonged to a bicycle or scooter. She found no receipts. She must have been the type who threw them away at the register.
Nothing in the wallet listed her exact address or phone number.
All of that personal information was likely contained in her cell phone. She had had no reason write it out when it was stored there.
“Shirasagi. We will be stopping at Shirasagi next. Everyone using the Bungaku Line or the Special Coastal Line must switch trains. I repeat: we will be stopping at…”
Matsumi frantically stood up from the bench when she heard the flat voice of that announcement.
The subway train stopped at a station in the tunnel.
She stepped off onto the platform, but it was as oddly deserted as the train.
She knew her home was somewhere in Shirasagi, but she knew nothing more detailed than that. As she wondered what to do, she suddenly recalled the subway pass in her wallet.
She pulled it out again to check and it was indeed the IC card type. It was made so she could pass through the ticket gate just by touching the card to it.
And that meant it had her personal information registered in it.
She followed the arrow on the sign to walk across the platform and to the ticket gate. She used her subway pass to leave the station and approached the automatic ticket machine. She inserted her pass and called up the menu to change the registered information.
Her name, address, and contact information appeared immediately.
It seemed she lived in an apartment rather than a house.
But before she could feel relieved, Matsumi’s expression froze over.
Something she had not expected was listed along with the other personal information.
Due to what she was wearing, she had assumed that field would simply have “student” entered, but it did not. Something else was written there:
Attraction Land Sales Department
Due to the metal bars across the passageway, they could not continue on. Could it have been a coincidence that Matsumi and the others had come here? Were all five rooms meant to have a wall crumble to reveal five different passageways?
In the worst case, they would need to head back to the original five rooms and try to destroy the walls, floor, and ceilings of the other four. The five of them turned back and carefully investigated the passageway. The only illumination came from the emergency exit light which was beyond the metal bars.
That was why it took them so long to notice.
It was unclear if the organizers had even intended to hide it.
“Here…” said Rachel in a feeble voice as she felt along the wall overly slowly out of fear of a poisoned needle or some other trap. “Is this a door?”
The others gathered around her.
They felt along the wall too and it did indeed feel odd. It was cold like a sheet of metal. It likely was a door just as Rachel had said.
However, it had no knob.
It was nothing more than a flat metal panel.
“What kind of door is this? How do you open it?”
Kazakami was the one to voice the question all of them were thinking.
Matsumi pushed with both hands, but it would not budge.
“Could this be…?” muttered Higashikawa before crouching down.
He seemed to be feeling around for something in the darkness.
He primarily focused on the floor.
“I was right. There’s a switch here. You step on it to open the door.”
“Is this for an operating room? I think they make it open with a switch on the floor so the doctor does not dirty his hands,” commented Hiyama casually, but then she seemed to realize the weight of the words she had just said.
A great tension ran through the darkness.
The Hell Hospital had partially earned its name due to what went on in the operating rooms.
Children in perfect health had been forcibly dragged in, had their skulls opened, and had their brain operated on for a lobotomy. It was a bloody experimental ground.
Their surroundings did not give an enjoyable impression.
Whether this was the real Hell Hospital or not, the organizers of the attractions would feel the strongest attachment to and interest in this stage. Unless they were cruel enough to actually betray even that basic assumption, the organizers would have something set up here.
“What do we do?”
“I don’t want to go in there any more than you do, but there’s nowhere else to go.”
Rachel was too afraid to speak.
Matsumi slowly opened her mouth to speak in order not to provide too much of a stimulus.
“The odds are good this is some kind of trap or the next attraction. We need to be careful.”
Matsumi heard the sound of scraping metal.
Higashikawa must have pressed the button near the door.
The double doors opened inwards. In the next moment, the bright fluorescent lights of an operating room lit up. They were left momentarily blinded.
Matsumi instinctually held a hand up to her eyes and managed to maintain some of her vision by squinting.
The area inside was surprisingly large.
The lack of any special equipment may have strengthened that impression. It was about as large as a classroom. The color scheme was entirely made of a light blue and the walls were tiled. The ceiling was about 2 stories high. The walls of the upper floor were covered in glass. New doctors and others could observe the operation from there.
The operating table and a characteristic surgical light were installed in the center of the room. The surgical light was a device created from many different individual lights.
The two pieces of equipment gave off an impression of being isolated because the operating room was completely empty otherwise.
“What…?” said Higashikawa as he entered the operating room.
Matsumi and Rachel followed his lead and walked in after him side by side.
And suddenly, a series of loud musical tones played.
“…Oh, was that too loud? My bad, my bad,” said an equally loud voice.
The great noise brought them all to a stop.
The door to the operating room slammed shut behind Matsumi. Hiyama and Kazakami were still out in the passageway. Rachel frantically ran over to the door, but it would not budge no matter how much she pushed and pulled.
There was a foot button on the floor near the door, but nothing happened when Rachel tried it.
“I-It will not open!!”
They could hear someone pounding on the door from outside.
Kazakami’s voice shouted, “Hey, what happened!? Are you holding it shut!? This button just opened the door, right!?”
Matsumi silently looked around the operating room and spotted a speaker near the ceiling.
A female voice said, “I thought you would all give up, but it seems you are a surprisingly greedy bunch. That means it is time to begin the 2nd attraction. If you clear it, you will be given the key to those metal bars. If you fail, the door to the operating room will never open again.”
A high-pitched noise exploded out.
It came from the upper floor.
The glass protecting the observation space had shattered. Not much rained down, but Matsumi and Higashikawa jumped back as far as they could whether it was actually falling toward them or not. Rachel was slower to react, so Matsumi ran into her and they fell to the ground.
A woman stood in the space above.
It seemed she had broken the glass with a chair. She threw four objects about the size of landline phone receivers through the hole that was too large to call a gap.
Some landed on the surgical table and some missed and fell to the floor.
Higashikawa’s body stiffened in shock when he saw them.
Matsumi did not want to look toward them.
But before she could, the woman who had broken the glass spoke.
“Two of the handguns hold a real bullet and two hold only blanks. Two of you will participate. Each participant must choose whichever two of the handguns they want, aim the guns at each other, and pull one of their two triggers when I give the sign. It’s quite a simple attraction.”
“You’re insane!!!!!!” shouted Higashikawa without thinking.
At first glance, it seemed this was a decent reaction, but Matsumi felt the organizers would only rejoice at the outburst of impotent rage. The woman might have been purposefully provoking them, but that might also be too farfetched.
“By the way, the guns have laser pointers attached, so we will know if you try to aim away. Make sure to aim at the center of the other’s face before pulling the trigger.”
For an instant, Rachel’s gaze moved between the handgun and the woman on the upper floor.
She may have been considering taking the gun and shooting the woman.
But Matsumi doubted it would work. It was the organizers who had prepared the guns. They would have countermeasures prepared to keep them from being used against them.
Matsumi looked up at the upper floor.
This woman claimed to be a fulltime employee of Attraction Land.
But Matsumi had never had a proper conversation with those fulltime employees. It was unknown what the woman’s purpose was in throwing her into this situation. It was unclear if the woman even viewed Matsumi as on the same side as her.
The woman then clearly met Matsumi’s gaze.
And she smiled.
Then she announced, “The two who will take part in this attraction are the following: Matsuuumiii Shiraaaauoooooo!! Raacheeeeellll Skyyyyyydaaaaaaance!!”
Rachel let out a voice like a hiccup as her entire body stiffened.
Matsumi silently gritted her teeth. If the explosions had opened a different path, would a less cruel fate have awaited them? However, thinking on possibilities that may never have existed would not help.
“A catfight like this can only be seen tonight!! The feigned innocence of these girls is likely to come crumbling down, so I hope you’re prepared to be disillusioned, boy!! Now, let us begin. Both of you must choose two of these handguns!!”
“No!” frantically shouted Higashikawa to stop the designated girls.
He may have forgotten the simple fact that a raised voice would wear at people’s nerves in an extreme situation regardless of the intent behind it. Or perhaps he had not forgotten and was doing it purposefully.
“They’ll do anything to enjoy this. They’ll never keep their promise. They probably all have a real bullet inside so they can laugh at the idiots who honestly take the challenge!”
An odd change suddenly came over the voice of the woman on the upper floor.
It grew quieter.
It grew eerily sincere.
“We strictly adhere to the rules and results of the attractions. It does not matter if that leads to a sickening happy ending where you all survive.”
Before Matsumi and the others could think on it or analyze it, the woman’s voice reverted to the same as before.
“But whether you believe me or not, the attraction is beginning! If you use up all your time, you will all be killed!”
“Shit…” cursed Higashikawa despite having escaped the attraction himself.
Was he cursing his inability to stop his allies from killing each other or was he cursing his own relief over having escaped?
“If you have not made your preparations within 10 minutes, you will be killed. Tah dah!! I have a beer case full of Molotov cocktails prepared. …Hm? You can’t see them from down there? Well, I’ll be tossing a ton of them down there, so I doubt you will be able to escape. The door won’t be opening either.”
Higashikawa was the first one to act.
Matsumi followed suit and approached the four handguns scattered near the operating table in the center. Rachel sat on the floor with her face absolutely pale and remained perfectly motionless.
“We have to check,” muttered Matsumi more to herself than anyone else. And then she shouted out because that encouragement had immediately failed. “We have to find some way to tell which ones have a real bullet and which ones have a blank! If we know how to tell, we will automatically know if the rules are fair and how to safely clear this attraction!!”
All of the handguns were revolvers.
“If we can determine which handguns have blanks, we can clear this attraction with no one dying.”
Matsumi picked up one of the handguns and tried to remove the cartridges, but the cylinder would not open like she had seen in movies.
At first she assumed she simply did not know how to do it, but Higashikawa shook his head after he tried with a different gun.
“It’s no good. They’ve been altered so the cylinder won’t open.”
“We can’t check the cartridges, so we can’t tell which ones are real bullets and which ones are blanks!”
They were revolvers, so the cylinder was made to hold six shots in a circular pattern. If the bullet aligned with the barrel was viewed as 12 o’clock, the bullets at 2 o’clock and 10 o’clock could be glimpsed by staring into the holes on the cylinder.
“Dammit, they all look the same.”
If they could not check, they could not choose between the four guns.
If they simply chose at random, the odds of no one dying were almost nonexistent. If either of them chose the gun with a real bullet, it was over. And it was possible one of them would end up with both options holding a real bullet.
Given the different patterns, the odds of someone dying were 3/4.
That was three times as high as in Russian roulette.
“Just under seven minutes to go!”
They could not tell which were real bullets and which were blanks just by looking in from outside.
The odds were too poor to simply choose at random.
There had to be a way.
There had to be some other way of telling apart the four handguns.
“Do you have something like an eraser? And something like a ruler!!”
“How is that going to help? All of the guns are the same model, so measuring their length won’t-…”
“Just do it!! I’m not measuring their length!!” shouted Matsumi as she looked over at the operating table in the center of the room. More accurately, she looked at the four legs supporting it. She grabbed one of those square rods and pulled hard.
It was affixed to the table with a screw, so it would not budge.
Matsumi looked to Higashikawa and said, “Help me tear this leg off!!”
“Why? What are you going to use it for?”
“We have a chance if we use it! Hurry!!”
Higashikawa did not hold back any longer.
He circled around to where Matsumi was and held the operating table in place so it would not move. When they worked together, the square rod seemed to slowly bend. But it was actually the screw holding it in place beginning to break.
A high pitched snapping sound rang out.
It had bent a bit, but the leg had come off. The operating table fell over diagonally, but Matsumi did not care.
She took off the leather shoe of her school uniform and placed it on the floor.
She then carefully placed the center of the operating table leg on top.
It was a seesaw.
“Real bullets and blanks don’t weigh the same, right? The heavier gun should be the one with a real bullet inside. We can tell them apart by weighing them!!”
“How much time is left!?” shouted Higashikawa toward the upper floor.
The organizer woman replied, “Just under three minutes.”
“We can make it,” muttered Higashikawa under his breath. His voice then grew louder. “We can make it. We can clear this attraction without anyone dying!!”
Meanwhile, Rachel was not watching Matsumi and Higashikawa work as she sat on the operating room floor.
She was looking towards her feet.
She was looking at the gap between her thighs.
Rachel was not simply frozen there out of fear. She had noticed something. Something had been written on the operating room floor with a ballpoint pen. She had sat down so she could read it without the others noticing.
Due to her position, it was hard to read.
But her life could be riding on even the smallest piece of information.
The round writing said the following:
Comparing the weights is an elementary trap, so be careful.
The trick lies in the principle of leverage.
She accidentally let out a voice and briefly panicked over whether Matsumi or Higashikawa had heard her.
The principle of leverage.
Scales only worked when the bar extended equal distances in both directions from the fulcrum in the middle. So what if those distances were not equal?
Moving the fulcrum, which in this case was a leather shoe, would be difficult. With two people working on it, someone would notice the change.
But what about the handguns placed on either end of the bar?
Moving their position by just a few centimeters would be enough to lose all equality. The lighter blank handguns could be made to look heavier. Unlike normal scales, there were no plates. It would not be difficult to casually alter the positions of the handguns slightly.
In other words…
If the person measuring it wanted to, they could change the result to whatever they wanted.
They could create fraudulent results.
They could cheat.
(But they have no reason to do that.)
Rachel reflexively denied that dreadful thought that had come to her mind. The five of them were working together to survive and to ruin the organizers’ plans for them. She wanted to rely on that wonderful idea.
Beware the traitor.
There was the sign beyond the metal bars in the Hell Hospital passageway. Its powerful message flashed in the back of her mind. She could not completely deny the possibility. She wanted to but could not.
There was one reason.
There was one reason someone would do that.
(Matsumi-san can give me the two blank handguns and take the two real ones for herself. Then she will survive no matter which gun I choose at the last second. But in that case, the gun fired at me has a 100% chance of being loaded with a real bullet.)
The organizers would be at fault.
They would be seen as having tricked both Matsumi and Rachel.
And so everyone’s anger toward the organizers would increase, but Matsumi would not be kicked out of the group. Even if she protected herself by creating a situation that ensured Rachel’s death, she could easily deflect the hatred.
“Got it!! The right two have blanks and the left two have real bullets!!”
“Hurry, Rachel-san! Let’s finish this before that woman says the time is up and throws those Molotov cocktails down here!!”
She felt like she was hearing the voices of demons.
What should she do?
Rachel thought for a moment and finally stood up slowly. She approached the operating table to ensure the others did not see the small writing on the floor.
As expected, Matsumi grabbed two handguns and held them out towards Rachel.
She was keeping Rachel from making the decision.
“Be careful. The one in your right hand has a blank and the one in your left hand has a real bullet. …Rachel-san, please don’t mix them up. Just think of it as shooting with your dominant hand.”
“Um…” Rachel slowly spoke up and made a suggestion. “Both of us have one with a real bullet and one with a blank, right? We have the same setup, right?”
“Y-yeah. Why do you ask?”
“Sorry, but could we swap guns? These ones…um…they’re kind of dirty.”
“Fine, it’s the same either way,” replied Matsumi as she held the two guns meant for herself out towards Rachel. “The right one is the blank and the left one is the real one. It’s the same as before, so don’t get it wrong. Fire with your right hand on the signal. Got it?”
After Rachel took the two revolvers, Matsumi grabbed the two she had given to Rachel earlier.
Higashikawa shouted up towards the upper floor.
“We’ve chosen! How do we begin the attraction!?”
“Matsumi-san and Rachel-san, please move against opposite walls. Press your backs to the walls and aim your guns at each other. If you press the small button on the grip, the laser pointer will activate. Use that and aim at each other’s faces. Failing to do so will get you all killed, so be careful.”
Matsumi and Rachel followed their instructions and moved to either end of the classroom-sized room.
Rachel’s mind was filled with confusion as she pressed her back against the wall.
Matsumi had readily swapped out the guns.
If one set had both blank guns and the other had both real guns, that would have been a fatal move.
Was the idea of a traitor nothing more than seeds of suspicion sown by the organizers? Had Matsumi and Higashikawa both distributed the guns properly? If she did as instructed and fired the gun in her right hand, would they clear the attraction with no one dying?
A very bad feeling swelled up in the back of Rachel’s mind.
She had found that message written in ballpoint pen on the operating room floor. It had warned of someone cheating using the principle of leverage.
But could she be sure it had been written by the organizers?
In other words…
Rachel stared blankly at the girl wearing a school uniform.
Could Matsumi have written that message on the floor while no one was looking?
Had she intentionally made Rachel suspicious?
Had she lured Rachel into asking to swap out the guns?
She could have divided the four guns into the two blank ones and the two real ones and then given herself the blanks at first.
Her preparations would be complete once Rachel asked to swap out the guns out of the fear brought on by the message on the floor.
Matsumi could fake the outcomes of the measurements with a trick using the principle of leverage. But that still held some risk of suspicion being turned toward Matsumi once Rachel was killed. After all, Matsumi had suggested using scales, Matsumi had taken the measurements, and Matsumi had handed Rachel the handguns.
But what if Rachel made an irregular request?
If that coincidence was added in…
No one would suspect Matsumi of any ill will. If Rachel had not suggested swapping out the guns, Matsumi would have been the one to die. She moved from the position of perpetrator to the position of victim.
Matsumi had lured Rachel in.
And Rachel had fallen for it.
“Wai-…!!” shouted Rachel frantically, but the organizer woman spoke up to cut her off.
“The 2nd attraction will now begin. I will start the countdown. When I reach zero, each of you is to pull your chosen trigger!!”
A calm smile could be seen on Matsumi’s lips.
Was she certain of her victory?
Did she know there was no way she could die?
“Three. Two. One!”
The count continued.
The guns in Rachel’s right hand and left hand both felt horribly empty.
She could not win.
No matter which one she shot, she would only be firing a blank. Matsumi had both real guns. The bullet that flew out along the path of the laser pointer would certainly blast straight through Rachel’s forehead. Even if she swung her head to the side at the last second and successfully evaded the bullet, the organizers would kill her. Molotov cocktails would rain down from above and the flames would burn Rachel to death.
She could not be saved.
She could not survive.
All five of them surviving was the sole means of defeating the malicious organizers. When Rachel had first heard that, she had been moved, but she had been unable to pull it off. The malice leaking out from each of them had eaten away at that ideal.
(In that case!!)
Rachel gritted her teeth.
She had guns in her right hand and left hand.
She poured all her focus into one of them.
(At the very least, I do not want to end this as a mere puppet!!)
The sounds of two gunshots seemed to stab into her heart.
As Higashikawa watched on from the side, he seriously thought the shock would crush his heart.
The noise was so loud he thought something was wrong with his eardrums.
Finally, silence came.
The organizer woman on the upper floor said, “And with that, the 2nd attraction comes to an end. I hope the survivors will enjoy the upcoming attractions.”
The figure on the upper floor tossed something small through the large gap in the broken glass. It glittered with a silver light and sounded like a coin when it landed, so it was likely a key. It would be the key to the door in the metal bars.
When they looked back up, the woman was gone. She had left.
And then the solid and unmoving door opened on its own.
Hiyama and Kazakami cautiously peered in.
“Wh-what happened? We heard one hell of a noise.”
They heard a relaxed and powerless laugh.
It came from Matsumi where she stood against one wall. She was holding a handgun that still had a bit of smoke rising from it. The tension holding her in place was gone, so she slid down the wall into a sitting position.
Matsumi had survived.
The 2nd attraction was over and the operating room door had opened.
They had the key to the metal bars blocking the passageway, so they could continue on.
As for Rachel at the opposite wall…
Her entire face was soaked with sweat and her expression was one of confusion. It was as if she did not understand how she had survived.
Higashikawa took a deep breath and said, “All of us managed to survive again. Let’s keep this up.”
He then walked over to the high school girl named Matsumi.
It was only once he approached that he noticed something.
Her face still held a grim and somehow irritated look.
“Take these,” she said while pressing her two handguns into Higashikawa’s grasp.
“One of them still has a real bullet inside. Fire it somewhere harmless …Oh, I know. Fire it at the observation seats up above.”
She then used her chin to point toward Rachel who had sunk to the floor.
“Do the same with hers. Hurry.”
Two gunshots rang out.
Higashikawa had fired the two handguns with a real bullet inside straight up.
The situation seemed over.
Matsumi grabbed a gun away from Higashikawa and pulled the trigger while aiming at an empty wall. However, it seemed all but the first shot had been loaded with blanks. The cylinder turned again and again, but no bullets were fired. It would clearly be of no use as a weapon, so she tossed it to the operating room floor.
Once more, all five of them had survived.
They had no idea when or where the 3rd attraction would begin, but it seemed they were doing quite well.
However, the situation was not that favorable.
After that game of aiming a gun at each other and pulling the trigger, Matsumi alone knew the truth.
In the final instant, Rachel had fired the handgun in her left hand.
Rachel had been told the right one had the blank and the left one had the real bullet.
And yet she had fired the left gun.
Saying she panicked and got mixed up was not an acceptable excuse. Rachel had clearly chosen the left gun she knew would fire a real bullet.
And Matsumi had predicted it would happen.
She had handed Rachel a safe pair of guns, but Rachel had then asked that they swap guns. Matsumi had no idea what foundation Rachel was working off of, but she had clearly grown suspicious. And so Matsumi had secretly swapped out the guns in her right and left hands before handing them to Rachel.
That had saved her life.
If she had faithfully handed over the guns like normal, Matsumi would have been killed.
Giving the guns to Higashikawa afterwards had also had meaning.
A handgun with a real bullet loaded was a powerful weapon, but it was too dangerous for Rachel to hold. However, Matsumi doubted Rachel would have agreed if she had demanded Rachel hand over her gun. Anyone would want a weapon in this situation.
If Matsumi had tried to force Rachel, there had been a risk she would have been shot.
And so she had left her own guns with Higashikawa first. She had created an illusion of fairness on the surface. And if Rachel did snap and grow violent, the danger would fall on Higashikawa rather than Matsumi.
Fortunately, Rachel had agreed to hand her gun over to Higashikawa.
Matsumi still did not know what had led Rachel to try to shoot her.
The attraction’s rules gave no reason to want to eliminate the other participant.
Beware the traitor.
The words written on that sign tore into Matsumi’s chest.
She doubted those words had been referring to Rachel. The opposite was more likely. Rachel may have somehow realized a certain fact.
She may have realized that Matsumi Shirauo was on Attraction Land’s side.
She quietly thought while overcome with the relief of overcoming that great hurdle and the tension of the danger she had yet to escape.
(It seems simply accepting that everyone is working together for our mutual survival will not be enough to survive.)
On the surface, everything appeared to be going well.
But unseen cracks had definitely begun to spread.
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