A Simple Survey:Volume2 Reaper03
Reaper Game 03: Reversal
They approached the door in the metal bars blocking the passageway, inserted the newly-acquired key in the keyhole, and turned it.
“It’s open!” shouted Kazakami in his work uniform.
They all passed through the metal bars and continued on.
The operating room had more or less confirmed their suspicions, but they were definitely in a hospital. They found hospital rooms, bathrooms, a nurse station, and a medical office. There were a few dozen hospital rooms and they could feel their tension slipping away as they searched through them one by one. Even in this situation, it was a tedious task.
The different variations in the rooms provided a great many types of objects. However, all of them were completely normal sights in hospitals. The square rooms with all but the bare minimum removed had been much more unnatural.
“This fire extinguisher could be used as a weapon.”
“Hey, I think these floor lamps in the hospital rooms could be used in place of wooden swords.”
Kazakami and Matsumi were selecting object after object and checking the weight and feel with somehow cheerful voices. They were looking for weapons. To Hiyama, it seemed less like they wanted something to protect themselves with and more like the more normal and cluttered areas had raised their spirits after so many empty areas.
And she sighed so the others would not notice.
Then she cautiously whispered in Higashikawa’s ear.
“(What do you think?)”
“(I agree that this is a risk. We do need powerful weapons to oppose our enemies, but we will all become each other’s enemies if something causes the group to split up. If that happens, we might be able to recover if we are unarmed, but weapons could cause the situation to spiral out of control. On the other hand,)” added Higashikawa, “(we can’t deny them a weapon if they say they want one. Doing so could cause the group to fall apart.)”
Hiyama completely agreed.
Apparently, the organizers had given them four handguns during the attraction in the operating room. If they were prepared to give them those weapons, what could anyone hope to do with a fire extinguisher or floor lamp? And while those weapons were not enough to overpower the organizers, they were more than enough to smash an ally’s head. Kazakami and Matsumi may have wanted a weapon more for a sense of security than any practical use, but in Hiyama’s eyes, they were gleefully choosing a suicidal option.
She could have agreed if they had tried to create some sort of protective equipment like a bulletproof vest, but not this.
It frustrated her that she could not put a stop to it even though she knew they were putting themselves at a disadvantage.
As Higashikawa had said, they could not force their opinions on others if they wished to maintain the group of five. And yet the actions of any one of them could greatly affect the fates of all five.
“Do not be led astray. This has probably all been calculated out. The organizers want to split us up. This is like the North Wind and the Sun. If we do not remove our coat even after growing sweaty, we will win.”
Hiyama did not completely agree, but she nodded anyway. There was no need to create more cracks here.
She honestly felt their odds of survival would rise dramatically if all five of them did not have equal rights to speak.
In other words…
She wanted some strong leader to take command of the group.
She heard someone gulp.
It was the blonde-haired, blue-eyed Rachel. Despite how gorgeous she looked, she seemed to have grown even more hesitant to speak after the attraction in the operating room. Hiyama had been outside the operating room, so she did not know what the woman had experienced.
“The fire extinguisher is probably stronger in a single strike, but reach is more important for our safety. It would probably be best to take this apart.”
It seemed Kazakami and Matsumi had decided to use the floor lamp. They removed the lamp cover, pulled off the cord, and grabbed just the 1 meter 50 cm wooden stick.
Hiyama grew even more dejected.
She had no confidence in her ability to get along with those two.
Hiyama half-sarcastically felt Higashikawa was an amazing person to be able to speak to the two of them.
She also felt his presence as an individual was growing more diluted the more he emphasized the group of five.
“Could you try the same thing as before with those sticks?”
“Hm? What do you mean?”
Higashikawa’s reason for leading Kazakami and Matsumi there was likely to prevent them from growing violent if provoked.
They had been under a lot of stress. They had been forced to take part in such unreasonable attractions. If the stopper was removed, it would begin to overflow.
And now they had acquired makeshift weapons. If they lost their means of controlling their unstable hearts, many different factors could lead them to growing violent simply to relieve stress.
If that meant they attacked the wall or a door, it was no real problem. However, that same violence could be turned on a human. And the victim would be Hiyama or one of the others who were still rational.
The five of them headed for the elevators.
The elevator hall next to the nurse station was small, but it still contained four normal elevators and one freight elevator.
However, to match the Hell Hospital theme, each of the elevators was completely blocked off by a semicircle of metal bars. The shape reminded Hiyama of a bird cage.
These metal bars had doors in them too, but they used a card reader. The key from the operating room could not open them.
“There we go…”
Kazakami stuck the wooden stick through the gaps of the metal bars to reach inside. He was trying to press the elevator button.
The button clicked a few times as he pressed it, but it did not light up.
“…Doesn’t seem to be doing anything.”
“But if we could get through these bars, do you think we could force open the elevator door? This isn’t an action movie, but we might be able to reach the first floor if we climb down the shaft.”
“But we can’t find the card key to get through,” said Kazakami while stomping on the floor in frustration.
Hiyama felt this was a sign he was growing more confident with the weapon.
“We couldn’t use the stairs either,” cut in Matsumi while holding her own wooden stick. “Let’s head that way. There were two sets of emergency stairs and they were both covered by metal bars. We couldn’t go up or down.”
“It looks like the key from the operating room only gave us free use of this floor. First it was the five bombs and the wall. Then it was the four guns and the key. Now it’s this entire floor and multiple card readers.”
“I hope there isn’t a limit to how many times we can use the card and we’re stuck here forever if we don’t use it on the door to the exit.”
“They crawl through the ducts in action movies, right?”
Hiyama hated how they had to go through with each and every childish suggestion. There was no way a chance like that had been left for them and yet they had to pull one of the hospital beds out into the hallway, climb up on it, and remove the duct cover.
It was all a waste of time.
As Hiyama thought on that, Higashikawa stood on top of the bed with Matsumi sitting on his shoulders peering into the duct.
“Hmm, it’s too dark to tell much, but it’s too small to fit inside.”
“Th-then,” said Rachel in a frail voice as if to force back her unease. “Do we need to find the card key to continue on?”
Hiyama could not believe she thought that
The enemy had prepared handguns and bombs for the attraction. With such destructive traps, it was possible they could remove some of the explosive and use it for themselves. But using it on the obvious metal bars would be completely foolish. Hiyama could not believe none of the others had realized they needed to destroy the walls or the floor.
But Kazakami reached his limit on his own. The weapon had given him more confident, but it had also given him a shorter temper.
“Gaaaaaaahhhhhhh!! I can’t stand this, I can’t stand this, I can’t stand this!! I’ve had enough! I can’t keep doing what they want again and again!!”
“I said I’ve had enough!! The rest of you can do it yourself. That’s how it was with that last attraction, right!? You can continue on without me. One of you has to complete the attraction is all!!”
After that outburst, Kazakami ran off down the dark hallway with his wooden stick still in hand. Higashikawa began to run after him, but Hiyama grabbed his shoulder.
She whispered so Matsumi, the other one with a weapon, could not hear.
“(Leave him be. You don’t want to break a bone or anything over an angry outburst, do you?)”
After a short pause, they heard noises of destruction in the distance. Rachel covered her ears with her hands and crouched down. Kazakami was likely attacking everything nearby in order to pacify his heart that was near bursting.
He may have thought he was a strong person, but his driving force was clearly that of a weak person.
Higashikawa asked a question with the expression of someone looking at an extraordinarily large pile of laundry.
“Wh-what should we do?”
“As I said, leave him be. He’ll run out of breath before long. Once he stops moving, he will come back to his senses and realize his actions are meaningless.”
But that was only for the brief period before the blood rose to his head once more.
Despite Hiyama’s expectations, the sounds of destruction continued for quite a while from beyond the darkness. Kazakami must have had quite a bit of strength remaining. Hiyama was coldly impressed that he could continue destroying without growing tired of it.
She had always had a desire to watch any violent actions from a short distance away. She had been surprised when she had learned the people around her were not the same. It seemed normal people’s fields of vision narrowed when they sensed danger and they lost the ability to think straight.
She had always felt that actually lowered their chances of survival.
And she felt as if that state had continued ever since she was forced to take part in these attractions. She felt unpleasantly focused. It reminded her of being tired but unable to sleep.
She was not normally such a cold person.
Or at least she wanted to believe she was not.
The four left behind by Kazakami sat on the floor, leaned against the wall, or otherwise took a comfortable pose to help restore their strength. No one had suggested it, but they had all naturally started to do it.
“Hey,” asked Higashikawa.
“What is it?”
“I have no idea what the organizers are after, but they have to be monitoring us at all times, right? How do you think they’re doing that?”
“They probably have cameras, transmitters, or other sensors.”
“But where are they? I haven’t seen any security cameras…”
“Well,” cut in Matsumi sluggishly. “Do you know what the lenses on cell phones and smartphones are like? They’re practically the size of a pinhole. They could hide them almost anywhere. Even if we found one or two of them, we could never destroy all of them. And they could even have hidden tiny GPS devices on our bodies.”
While still crouched on the ground, Rachel glanced over at Matsumi, but then averted her gaze without saying anything.
Higashikawa seemed to have noticed it, but he made sure to keep the flow of the conversation going.
“If we used something like paint to cover the walls and floor, do you think we could cover up all of the tiny camera lenses they’ve set up?”
“That’s a good idea. I’m in the perfect mood for spray painting some graffiti anyway.”
At that point, the sounds of destruction finally ceased.
Hiyama and the others exchanged a glance.
“…Is he done?”
“I hope so, but could the organizers have done something?” said Hiyama in a tone of voice that made even her shudder.
Rachel jumped in fright when she heard those words. With that reaction, she may have thought Hiyama actually wanted that to have been what happened.
Hiyama could not deny she would not mind too much.
Finally, they heard the footsteps of someone walking down the dark hallway.
Was it Kazakami?
Or was it the organizer woman?
They all focused on the darkness and saw…
It was Kazakami.
He was quite sweaty and seemed to have learned his lesson.
“I guess…well…sorry about that. I said a lot of things…but I didn’t mean it. Let’s work together to escape here. I won’t argue against that.”
He was lying.
Hiyama was convinced of it.
But as she expected, Higashikawa accepted him back with a slightly stiff smile. Hiyama felt a headache coming on as she let out a slight sigh and spoke as nonthreateningly as she could manage.
“Do you have a moment?”
“I remember seeing some wire back over there. It was in a locker for cleaning supplies in the medical office. I doubt we can use it to pick any locks, but it might come in handy. I will go get it.”
“In that case…”
Before Higashikawa could say something cooperative, Hiyama held her index finger to her lips.
“I’ll be fine on my own. The organizers did not appear despite that rampage of his. Nor did he set off any kind of trap.”
Kazakami must have only just now realized that possibility because his face quickly paled, but Hiyama did not care.
She gave a slight wave and headed down the passageway.
She did not actually care about the wire.
She wanted some time to think alone.
She had to think about whether she could truly overcome the upcoming attractions along with that group.
Hiyama was a relatively perfect person.
Some of it came naturally to her and some of it was an intentional facade. It was rare for someone to only have one or the other. In Hiyama’s case, she had set clear values for her goal and worked to achieve them.
This could be seen in her academic history, her occupation, and her qualifications.
And not all of it was that sort of thing that could be filled out on a form. Some categories were more approximate such as her personal relations, her breast size, the feel of her skin, and her weight management. She sought perfection in everything she could think of that was within reach. She always sought perfection. Some might view it as a sort of sickness.
The main force driving her toward perfection were the words of a certain “curse”.
“…This is quite something,” she muttered in shock within the dark hallway.
The wallpaper had been partially torn up and even the window protected by the metal bars had been broken. Most of the unlit fluorescent lights had been broken. With the level of destruction, one would have thought a riot had occurred. Hiyama raised her level of caution once more when she saw how much that man had done on his own.
But she was not afraid of his strength.
She was afraid of how he had not grown tired of the violence until he had destroyed everything so thoroughly.
“That damn deviant,” she spat out.
However, her words were surprisingly calm and lacking any real emotion. Some may have felt those words more sharply than words filled with obvious hatred or scorn.
The curse came.
She could not tell if it was overflowing from the darkness or from within herself, but the curse that would suddenly make her suffer had arrived.
“ . That’s her, right?”
“It be helped.”
“That course horrible that you think?”
She heard a strange noise. Despite how “calm” she was supposed to be, it took her several seconds to realize it was the sound of her hand grabbing at her face.
And yet the curse would not end.
Once it began flowing out, it would not stop until it had taken over Hiyama’s heart.
“After all, the higher ups of the university and even said .”
“The latest that course that girl mistaken.”
“Or even become . I even heard a worldwide .”
Hiyama would not go on a rampage.
She was not the type to force her problems onto others like Kazakami was.
She continued taking shallow breaths for over 20 seconds as she stabilized her mind. She could feel her heartbeat gradually returning to normal.
(To hell with you. To hell with all of you.)
Treating a criminal’s family the same as the criminal was a horrible prejudice, but this curse was even more unreasonable than that. She did not want to remember what idiot it was that had proposed the idea, but it seemed wrong to assume such a great connection just because the “course” of someone’s life (their birthplace, living environment, etc.) was similar to that of a historical criminal. Saying that was no different than saying everyone who ate meat was a mass murderer or everyone who put three sugar cubes in their coffee was a rapist.
She wanted to deny it.
She wanted to deny that curse.
However, she had no intention of arguing against everyone who attacked her. A pointless argument was exactly what they wanted. And anyone listening would not think very hard about who was right. She had no interest in unproductive arguments. Her “counterattack” had to be something more effective.
After finally completely sealing the erupting curse, Hiyama calmly came to a conclusion.
To be blunt, she hated people like Kazakami.
However, the organizers had likely chosen the participants knowing full well Hiyama would feel that way. After all, the organizers wanted to see people painfully struggling. She did not know how they had done it, but it would not surprise her if they had analyzed everyone’s personalities and created a group that would not get along.
In fact, they had no reason to select people who could work together.
She could not let herself be manipulated.
She had to remain calm.
She could not let any malice be stirred up within her.
She had to remain the same as always.
The attractions the organizers forced on them were unreasonable to the extreme. They would only laugh at their pathetic results if they gave in and acted rashly. She would not let herself do as they expected. She would escape the expectations of the organizers who supposedly controlled the entire situation. She would overcome every problem she was faced with. She would find an opening and take advantage of it. She would return home safely.
And she needed help to escape.
She needed that help even if the only option was some hopeless people who would be nothing but a burden.
“I’ll be fine,” muttered Hiyama.
She had come to a conclusion for the moment. She needed to return to the elevator hall where Higashikawa and the others were, but she had claimed to be getting a bundle of wire from the medical office locker. That meant they would find it odd if she returned without it.
It was annoying, but Hiyama turned toward the medical office.
She heard a crunching noise. When Kazakami had broken the window behind the bars with his wooden stick, the glass shards had scattered across the dark floor. She had stepped on a shard with her pumps. The shard was small enough to not puncture the bottom of the shoe.
But Hiyama was not focused on the floor.
“Why is this…?”
Hiyama did not return.
Higashikawa and the others had no clock, so they initially assumed their sense of time was off. They assumed not even a few minutes had passed and the constant tension was making it seem longer.
But they eventually began to think something was wrong.
“Hey,” said Kazakami. “Her name was Hiyama, right? Well, how far was she going?”
“She can’t have gone too far. Our path is blocked off by the bars.”
Then why was she taking so long?
None of them had an answer to that question.
“…What should we do? Should we go looking for her?” suggested Higashikawa.
But Matsumi frowned from where she sat on the floor and replied, “We don’t have to. She might just want to be alone. Or maybe she had to use the bathroom.”
“Um…” said Rachel while crouching and avoiding looking in Matsumi’s direction. “What if Hiyama-san found some kind way out? If she did…”
She was not coming back.
It sounded nice if you said she was scouting out ahead on her own.
However, it could also be said she was leaving the other four behind while heading for the exit.
Kazakami grew concerned.
“W-wait a second!! Then we need to hurry. Hiyama is taking it all for herself!!”
“Taking all of what…?”
“Do you really think the organizers will leave the exit open? They might let the first person through and seal the door afterwards!! What if the card key can only be used once!?”
Nothing like that had happened with the previous attractions and they could all pass through the door even if the card key could only be used once, but Kazakami was overwhelmed by the danger he had thought up.
Kazakami had started to subconsciously swing around his weapon a bit, so Higashikawa agreed to search for Hiyama rather than try to oppose the man. He doubted there was some convenient way out, though.
“I’m not going,” bluntly said Matsumi who had her own weapon.
Everyone turned toward Rachel.
Her shoulders jumped slightly, but she hesitantly stood up.
From her past statements and actions, she did not seem the type to charge into danger, but Higashikawa figured she was afraid to be alone with Matsumi and her weapon.
No one had died in the operating room attraction, but it still must have been quite a shock for her.
“Then let’s go. Matsumi-chan was it? If anything happens, just shout.”
“Sure thing. And don’t call me ‘-chan’.”
Matsumi did not care about Kazakami’s concerns, so she watched the other three head down the passageway.
As they did, the man in the work uniform began muttering something.
“Dammit. Hiyama is going to pay if she went on ahead and left us behind…”
Hiyama would want as many survivors as possible just like everyone else, but that idea seemed completely missing from Kazakami’s logic.
Higashikawa felt something odd on his back.
Rachel was nervously grabbing onto his clothes. However, Higashikawa doubted this had anything to do with her viewing him in a favorable light. Hiyama had disappeared and both Matsumi and Kazakami held ominous weapons. The only safe person nearby just so happened to be Higashikawa.
They spotted a figure about 15 meters down the hallway.
It was too dark to see anything in detail, but glass was scattered on the floor where Kazakami had gone on his rampage. A female silhouette was visible in the middle of it. This was definitely Hiyama.
The figure was not standing.
She was collapsed on the glass-covered floor.
All three of them were confused.
That confusion was of course partially due to Hiyama’s unmoving form collapsed on the floor with glass shards everywhere.
But that was not all.
The other figure swinging a fire extinguisher up into the air right next to Hiyama was even more unexpected.
Rachel let out a scream at the top of her lungs.
The figure holding the fire extinguisher turned toward them.
They could now see who it was.
“The organizer…!!” shouted Kazakami.
The woman looked between Higashikawa’s group and Hiyama before tossing the fire extinguisher aside and running away as quickly as she could.
It was of course Kazakami who first shouted out and began pursuing her. His weapon was nothing more than a floor lamp, but it was enough to change how he felt. He was able to run off into the darkness the organizer woman was trying to disappear into.
Higashikawa began to head toward Hiyama, but Rachel gave a strong tug on his clothes.
He turned around and she shook her head.
He understood where she was coming from.
After sensing even the slightest hint of violence, she did not want to approach. She could not handle any more. Higashikawa felt the same.
“She might not be dead yet. We might be able to save her.”
Rachel slowly let go of Higashikawa’s clothing, returning his freedom.
He ran over to Hiyama, but Rachel did not follow.
The hallway was dark enough that he could not see her injuries with any detail. But from her silhouette, she at least had no broken limbs, her skull had not caved in, and she had no other obvious signs of damage.
“Are you okay? Hey, can you hear me!?”
The organizer woman had been using a fire extinguisher. It was a blunt weapon. She had likely been aiming for the head. Higashikawa was unsure if he should shake her, so he settled for shouting at her. He wanted to treat her, but he did not know what he was supposed to do for a blow to the head.
He doubted cooling her with ice or a compress mattered much in a life-or-death situation.
After Higashikawa had shouted for a short while, Hiyama finally let out a groan.
But she did not get up.
She may have had a concussion.
But then Higashikawa heard a cry come from the direction the organizer woman and Kazakami had disappeared in.
It was a male voice.
“Shit!! What is going on!?” shouted Kazakami in an irritated voice.
The organizer who controlled the stage may have fought back. Or he may have fallen into a trap.
Higashikawa wanted all of them to return home alive.
He did not want to leave Hiyama, but he could not ignore Kazakami if his life was in danger.
When he forcefully called her name, the blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman jumped in shock while watching on from a short distance.
“Look after her for me. I’m going to go check on Kazakami!!”
If he waited around for every single opinion, he would never get anything done, so Higashikawa ran off into the darkness without waiting for Rachel’s reply.
(But why did this happen?)
Higashikawa thought while rushing along.
(Why did the organizer appear on the same stage as us? Isn’t she afraid of us fighting back? They didn’t seem like the type to leave such an opening.)
They still had not seen the rules of the overall attraction. Perhaps there was some rule behind the organizer woman appearing at this time.
If so, discovering why the organizer had taken action could lead to discovering the overall rules and perhaps even a method of reversing the situation.
“Wait. This is…”
Higashikawa saw a sign and stopped running after Kazakami.
He was at the medical office.
This was where Hiyama had intended to get a bundle of wire.
He took a slight detour before running after Kazakami once more.
He found the man next to the emergency stairs.
Kazakami shouted at Higashikawa as if to send out his frustration over having the metal bars block his path. He did not kick at the bars, but that might have been because Hiyama had mentioned the possibility of traps earlier.
“Shit, shit!! We really do need the card key to these bars!!”
The emergency staircase headed both up and down. The organizer woman was catching her breath in that space. Just as Kazakami had said, she held a thin card in one hand.
They could not reach her like this.
Now that he was sure of that, Higashikawa placed a hand on Kazakami’s shoulder.
“What are you going to do!? She has the card key. We can’t do anything!!”
“That’s not what I’m doing.”
Higashikawa pushed Kazakami completely out of the way and approached the metal bars without worrying about any traps. More specifically, he approached the small door meant to let people through.
But he was not trying to open the door.
His intention was the exact opposite.
“What?” said Kazakami in confusion.
The organizer woman who had been trying to escape to another floor spun around when she realized what was going on.
Higashikawa used the wire he had taken from the medical office to tie together the metal bars and the bars of the small door. He wrapped the wire around again and again and again.
It was as if he was locking himself inside the birdcage.
In a way, that was exactly what he was doing. But in another way, it was the exact opposite of what he was doing.
“She left her safe zone and entered our cage. She ran away because she knows it’s dangerous standing on the same stage as us. So why did she take that risk in the first place?”
Higashikawa bent the wire back and forth enough times that it broke off due to metal fatigue.
After making sure the metal bars were sealed shut, he gave the rest of the wire to Kazakami.
“Seal off the bars in front of the other emergency staircase and the elevators just in case! That way, the organizers can’t reach us!! The invisible rules to the overall attraction are probably hidden somewhere near Hiyama. If we can figure those rules out, we won’t have to continue feeling our way blindly through a minefield! We’ll be able to move freely!!”
The organizer woman frantically ran up the emergency staircase and Kazakami ran toward the other emergency staircase.
If they knew the rules, they could fight back.
In all likelihood, they were done for if they could not make a reversal here.
Higashikawa ran back to where they had found Hiyama collapsed on the floor.
She had still not gotten up. Rachel had stayed by her side without running away.
“…There has to be something here.” Higashikawa walked right next to Hiyama and looked all around. “Something. Something that will help us reverse this situation!! She didn’t carry her here after attacking. She was attacked here, so it has to be something visible here. There has to be some logical reason the organizer attacked Hiyama here. Some rule!!”
But he did not find any revolutionary information.
Due to Kazakami’s rampage, the hallway’s wallpaper was torn up, the glass supposedly protected by the metal bars was broken, and the unlit fluorescent lights were broken. Several sharp fragments were scattered on the ground, so it was a dangerous place to be lying in.
But that was all.
Higashikawa could see nothing that hinted at a special rule. He started to panic. Sweat poured from his forehead. Some overwhelming rule was supposed to have shown itself. If he could not find something like that here, they would continue to be toyed with while not knowing the rules. He had no proof of it, but that was the future that appeared in his mind.
The sweat pouring from his body only irritated him further.
He used his sleeve to wipe the sweat from his brow, but then he frowned.
Something had caught his attention.
“Where’s the wind?”
He focused on a single point.
He focused on the window that had been protected by the metal bars.
“The glass was broken, so at least some wind should be coming in. So why is it so stuffy in here?”
It may have simply been windless night.
Despite the season, it may have simply been a hot, calm night.
He grabbed at the bars over the window and focused outside once more. Higashikawa should have been seeing the scenery from the deep darkness of the hallway about ten stories up.
“What the hell?” said Higashikawa in confusion.
There was no change. Despite the night scenery spreading out in front of him, the air outside the window and inside the window was exactly the same. The temperature, the humidity, the freshness, the lack of wind, and everything else were exactly the same. It was as if there was no distinction between outside and inside. It was as if it was all one giant mass.
And more than that…
Higashikawa looked down.
The scene he saw there would have sent a chill down the spine of anyone who was afraid of heights.
He saw something sparkling there.
They were likely from when Kazakami had broken the window with his wooden stick. For some reason, they were unnaturally floating partway up the 10 story height. No, it was more than that. They threw off the sense of distance in the scenery. Those countless glass shards looked completely out of place in the otherwise perfect scenery.
Could it be?
Could it be…?
“There isn’t any night scenery or ocean outside,” muttered Higashikawa blankly. “We aren’t actually 10 stories up.”
He had lost a major assumption.
Higashikawa converted the truth before his eyes into words.
“We were only made to think we are!!”
Most likely, all of the windows were covered with a semispherical wall. By adding some trick art onto the inside, they had all been led to think they were 10 stories up and that they could see the night scenery out the window.
If it was daytime or the hallway was fully lit by the fluorescent lights, they may have noticed it right away. But the slight oddities of that scenery were hard to notice with so little light.
That was also why the emergency staircases and elevators were blocked off with metal bars. That helped hide that they were not actually 10 stories up.
That was the rule. That was why Hiyama had been attacked. And in that case…
“I’ve got it.”
Higashikawa entered a random hospital room and disassembled a floor lamp into a wooden stick like Matsumi and Kazakami had. When Rachel saw Higashikawa enter the hallway with the weapon, she let out a small shriek.
But he was not planning to use it on a human being.
Higashikawa stuck the wooden stick through a gap in the bars and pushed it in.
As expected, it struck something hard that should not have been in that night scenery.
But it did not stop there.
The wooden stick dug in as if it had pierced through a cardboard box. When he pulled it out, a thumb-sized hole had opened in the trick art of the night scenery. Bright light poured in through the hole.
There was something beyond it.
There was a space there.
The organizers were hiding some secret there.
“Dammit, dammit!! If only we could do something about these bars!!”
Higashikawa let go of the wooden stick and grabbed the bars with both hands without worrying about possible traps. He poured his full weight into shaking them back and forth. He knew there was no way that would move metal bars that were welded into place, but he had to try.
And then something truly bizarre happened.
With a snapping sound, all of the metal bars broke away from the window frame.
Higashikawa fell on his ass, but then he realized he did not even have time to ask questions.
He was falling out the window.
His shoulders forcefully struck the semispherical outer wall that was covered in trick art.
With the sound of ripping cardboard, Higashikawa rolled beyond that wall.
After being in the dark for so long, the bright lights burned his eyes.
“Kh… Where am I…?”
He looked around to find a tidy-looking bar. One wall was covered with a giant monitor, but it seemed to be used for decorative lighting. The area also contained a counter and a few round tables. A laptop computer was prepared in front of each and every chair. They all displayed a map of the Hell Hospital that Higashikawa and the others had been in with a few strange dots on it. As expected, it showed no information on any floors besides the one they had been on. It had not been an actual hospital.
His eyes met with someone else’s.
She was a college-aged girl with large headphones over her ears.
This was not the organizer woman they had been confronting before.
(If she’s here, she must be one of the organizers!!)
Higashikawa picked up his wooden stick from the floor and held it tightly in his hands. He smelled a slight scent of vanilla. She had clearly been relaxing at leisure while watching their suffering.
And then a loud voice came from behind him.
“Hey, listen to this. While I was wrapping the wire on, the entire set of bars came off! …Wait, what the hell is this!?”
It was Kazakami and Matsumi.
Perhaps due to their weapons, they did not hesitate to head through the “hole” that Higashikawa had found. And then they spotted the organizer just as he had.
Belligerence ran through their eyes.
Higashikawa felt he had just seen the moment when pent up anger ripped away the façade of justice.
Fear ran through the eyes of the headphone-wearing organizer woman.
She frantically looked over to the room’s exit.
But she did not make it in time.
Matsumi threw her wooden stick at her back. An odd cry of pain leaked from the headphone-wearing woman’s mouth. She somehow managed not to trip, but Kazakami had already run up to her.
He grabbed the headphone-wearing woman’s hair and forcefully pulled her to the floor.
Kazakami swung his wooden stick down on her upper body. He did not hold back and clearly swung it as hard as he could. Matsumi did not stop him. She picked back up the wooden stick she had thrown and headed toward the headphone-wearing woman as well.
It was enough violence to make Higashikawa want to turn his back.
But he also felt it was unavoidable.
This was one of the organizers who enjoyed toying with human lives and forcing these attractions on people. Anyone would want to get back at someone like that.
Another door opened.
This time it was the organizer woman who had escaped through the metal bars of the emergency staircase.
This woman who had showy hair and looked like a cabaret club girl was the one Higashikawa and the others had faced up until now. However, she looked so confused that Higashikawa almost questioned whether she really was the same person.
“Wait! We can explain!! Please save Kozue!!”
The cabaret club girl frantically tried to approach, but Higashikawa held up his wooden stick to hold her back. She gritted her teeth, but stayed where she was. Meanwhile, Higashikawa could hear a sound similar to a thick blanket being beaten.
At first glance, their reversal had been a success.
But Higashikawa felt that something was seriously off about the situation.
He felt something leading up to this did not add up.
Suddenly, it came to him.
(They easily gave us four handguns during the operating room attraction. The organizers must have plenty of weapons. So why? Why aren’t they using those overwhelming weapons to hold us back? Even a single handgun would turn this entire situation around.)
It had been the same when Hiyama was attacked.
Why had the woman used a fire extinguisher? The organizers could freely use bombs and guns, so they should have been able to kill Hiyama much more easily and certainly.
(Something isn’t right. This is odd. It was also strange how fragile the bars over the window were. And if they had simply made the semicircular wall outside the window out of concrete, we couldn’t have done anything even if we caught on to the trick. And Kazakami said the same thing happened with the other bars. It’s almost as if…)
Suddenly, Higashikawa noticed a corkboard on one wall.
An A4 piece of paper pinned to it said the following:
That required no explanation. It was a list of the participants in the attraction. Photos of their faces could be seen near the printout.
But that was not the issue.
Next to it was a list of other names.
At first, he thought it was a list of the organizer’s names.
“Player…2?” muttered Higashikawa before feeling an unpleasant sweat.
He finally realized something.
He caught on to a certain malice.
He learned of the cruelty of the true organizers who controlled the entire attraction.
“No. Wait, Kazakami! Matsumi!! Don’t kill her!!”
“What!? What are you saying? We’re done for if we don’t turn this around! And you have no right to tell me what to do!!”
It was partially Higashikawa’s fault this had happened. He had prevented the five of them from fighting amongst themselves by turning all of their hatred toward the organizers. He had guided Kazakami’s violent nature in that direction.
But the true organizers may have expected even that.
“You have to stop!!”
“She is not one of the real organizers! She’s from a different group of players taking part in this attraction!!”
Kazakami and Matsumi both turned toward Higashikawa.
The girl named Kozue who had been pummeled again and again by those wooden sticks was lying on the ground and only faintly breathing.
Could she still be saved?
Higashikawa did not know, but he had to at least ensure she was not injured any further.
“The real organizers planned for us to escape like this! They let us escape so we would turn our anger on the first people we met. There was no other way for us to get past the bars on the windows or hallways. We thought the Hell Hospital was the stage, but a larger stage had been built around that. We’re all trapped inside while split up into different groups!! They want us to kill innocent people without even being told to!!”
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