A Simple Survey:Volume2 Reaper05

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Reaper Game 05: Conclusion[edit]

Part 1[edit]

He swung his arms around as hard as he could.

He ripped apart the thick plastic material with his hands and ran out of the bag and into the bar.

The bunny girl was sitting on a random table.

Her legs were crossed and she was grinning as she looked down on Higashikawa who was breathing erratically on the floor.

“It was probably too dark to see, but there was a pool of powerful acid below. Once the wire was released and they fell in, there was no way to save them.”

“Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!”

He tried to curse at her, but he could not even form such simple words.

He ignored his trembling tongue and lips, and instead simply shouted out. As the cries of beasts contained certain signals, Higashikawa’s showed less intelligence than a wild beast.

He stretched out his arms in hopes of dragging the bunny girl down from the round table and climbing on top of her.

But then something happened.

The bunny girl did not actually do anything.

“…!?”

As soon as Higashikawa gathered strength in his legs to leap at her, his feet unnaturally slipped. He collapsed clumsily and face-first to the floor as the bunny girl grinned.

“It’s no use. That attraction was quite absurd. As soon as it ended, the preparations were complete.”

“Shut up!!!!!” He finally managed to form proper words. Higashikawa followed his emotions and spat out those words from the floor. “I’ll save them… I’ll save those nine no matter what!! They took the risk of choosing black to save me after I gave up on my life! All of them did!! Every single one!! It is definitely wrong for them to be used and then killed. Why did they have to die while I survived!? That’s why-…!!”

“But what are you even going to do? The stoppers for the wires were already released. They should all be dissolved down to the bone in that pool of acid. And the bones will melt away before too long.”

“…!!!!!!”

Higashikawa bit his lip and the flavor of iron oozed out.

The hope inside him was no more than refusing to imagine what he had not directly seen. It was the same as closing a cat in a metal canister and thoroughly beating the canister from outside. Saying the cat might still be alive because you had not looked inside was much too evil to be called wishful thinking.

He knew that.

He knew the truth.

Yet Higashikawa Mamoru would not give up on those nine.

He refused to give up on them!

Higashikawa’s thoughts circled around and around and around and around in his head like they had been tossed into a maze with no exit. Sweat poured from his body. He rolled clumsily across the floor, balled up in the fetal position, and could not move a single finger.

He was distancing his mind from any information from the outside world.

Was he focusing his thoughts or was it simply escapism?

Meanwhile, the bunny girl’s expression was that of someone cleaning up the trash after having fun with some noisy fireworks.

“Hm, hm. So this is what resided within me. Well, it makes sense given the format. This is the sort of story that would lead to this absurdity being overwritten onto me.”

She was saying something.

But it did not matter.

While looking down on Higashikawa who was still breathing erratically on the floor, the bunny girl broke apart one of the laptops sitting on the same round table as her. She pulled an industrial product made of colorful cords out from within.

It used a thin panel instead of a cylinder, but it resembled the time bomb used in Higashikawa’s first attraction.

“This was prepared as a penalty in case you tried to access anything we didn’t want. But the detailed design was outsourced, so I don’t really know how it works.”

Even as she said that, the bunny girl’s slender fingers ripped out the colorful cords one by one.

Over half of the 20 or more cords were likely traps.

If she carelessly severed one of them, it would explode.

And yet…

“When it isn’t supposed to explode, nothing can make it explode. This is not just a dud or a malfunction. When I am not supposed to lose, I cannot lose. Those are the rules that surround me right now.

“…”

She was annoying.

She was a bother.

What did it matter? What did that bomb with its cords ripped out matter?

“You can think this is some kind of trick if you like. But an answer like that is not going to be enough to defeat me,” said the bunny girl offhandedly.

She then tossed the silent bomb out the bar door with the carefreeness of someone tossing a magazine into the trash after reading through it.

A great roar and vibration came from the shopping mall, but Higashikawa still did not care.

What did it matter?

Would that help him save those nine?

If not, he just needed to remain silent.

Higashikawa Mamoru could not think about anything else. He could no longer think at all.

“This may be thanks to roleplaying using the storyline of gambles that toy with human lives. This goes well beyond luck or fortune. Just by standing here, I can call in an infinite supply of success. Perhaps this is something like being Nike, the goddess of victory in Greek mythology. Anyway, I played the dealer, so my version is for the part of the ruler. I have acquired the character of the Unbeatable Emperor from gambling stories. This is a good start, and it shows our project is progressing smoothly.”

She was no longer expecting any reply from Higashikawa. She seemed to be satisfied as long as someone was there to hear her speak.

There was no reason for it. This explanation and conversation held no meaning. The bunny girl was simply doing it on a whim for self-satisfaction.

Or…

Perhaps that irresponsibility was linked to the mysterious concept of the absurd she had mentioned.

“Killing those nine has created a great current. Now we on the organizer side just have to wait for our objective to complete itself. Do you know what is important here, Higashikawa-san?”

While still lying on the ground, Higashikawa finally moved just his eyes in response to his name.

“That’s right: how to deal with you.”

The bunny girl’s smile deepened.

It spread unnaturally far like butter melting in a frying pan.

“Now that those nine deaths have met the absurdity requirements, we have no logical reason to care about you any longer. Do you know what that means? What do you think is about to happen to you?”

Would he be saved?

Was she saying he would be let go?

After everything they did, would they not fight him or even give him any more challenges!?

“That’s right.”

The bunny girl smiled.

She smiled and smiled and smiled.

She pulled a knife from her cleavage and spun it around in her hand.

“If we used logic to decide what to do, the absurdity we went to such lengths to bring here might disperse.”

She would kill him because they had no reason to kill him.

Things were going well, so she would destroy everything.

If any logic remained, she would overturn it.

It was as if the world had been filled with a rule that made everything the opposite of what it was supposed to be.

She will be here soon.”

The bunny girl stood up from the round table.

She approached with a smile and a glittering blade.

“She is an aggregation of the absurd that has taken the form of a pure white girl. That absurd existence is on a completely different dimension from me. Higashikawa-san? The situation you have fallen into is most definitely absurd. If the girl and the absurd can each affect each other, then that girl can be made to appear by preparing the absurd. Makes sense, doesn’t it?”

At this stage, Higashikawa was still lying unmoving on the floor.

It was not that he did not know what was about to happen to him.

He did not think he could avoid the blade with miraculous physical ability. Nor did he think the bunny girl was so unskilled that she could not successfully stab him.

He remained silent.

Even his breathing stopped.

He truly did not make a single noise.

“Now, Higashikawa-san. I do not know if you are simply not listening or if you have lost the ability to understand what you are hearing as words, but…this is checkmate. Farewell.”

She did not hesitate.

No convenient hero rushed out to save him and no hidden ability exploded out of him at the last second.

The bunny girl’s right arm swung down and brought the knife with it.

Part 2[edit]

The result was simple.

Despite having his life placed on the line, Higashikawa was not interested in what happened.

As he lay on the floor, his lips moved ever so slightly.

“…Huh?” said the bunny girl. Higashikawa did not bother looking up. “The blade fell out of the handle? No, wait, wait, wait. I already proved I have the power to never lose when I am not supposed to lose. So how…how did you call in success here?

What was she saying?

Why was she still talking about that?

Higashikawa could not understand it. And that was why he muttered something while lying with his right ear pressed against the floor.

He spoke about what truly mattered.

“…I can hear it.

“What?”

I can hear a creaking noise from below the floor. Isn’t that the sound of those bags hanging from the wires!?

At the same moment, the laptops placed along the bar’s tables all grew red. Warning messages displaying errors appeared on all of them. From the diagram displayed along with the errors, this seemed to be related to the bags and the pulleys and gears that controlled them.

“Due to a malfunction in the attraction’s devices, they’re still hanging there? And this isn’t just one or two malfunctions… All nine of them malfunctioned!?”

The bunny girl snapped her fingers and all of the error messages disappeared. In their place, profiles for Higashikawa and the others appeared. The profiles included brief overviews of their qualifications and academic histories as well as records of their actions in the attractions.

It included a section titled Progress Report #201.

The material added under Initial Setup said the following:


Higashikawa Mamoru.

Viewing of and assisting in the production of snuff films.

Mutilating a corpse and instigating the same.


Hiyama Tomoko.

Viewing of and assisting in the production of snuff films.

Mutilating a corpse.


Kazakami Shinzou.

Viewing of and assisting in the production of snuff films.

Mutilating a corpse.


Matsumi Shirauo

Viewing of and assisting in the production of snuff films.

Mutilating a corpse.


Rachel Skydance

Viewing of and assisting in the production of snuff films.

Mutilating a corpse. (Unclear if she would have done so on her own.)


“I see. When we had Player 1 mutilate that corpse in the first attraction, you took that irregular action. You convinced Rachel Skydance to mutilate her corpse in order to save her. …And that created an imbalance in the criminal charges!! That’s why!!”

“…”

The technical details did not matter.

The nine of them were still alive even if just barely.

In that case, this was no time to be lying on the ground trying to escape reality.

Higashikawa Mamoru slammed his fist down on a nearby laptop and grabbed a sharp fragment of the broken screen.

At the same time, the bunny girl pulled out a new knife and rushed at Higashikawa.

They both took action.

Higashikawa shot to his feet and thrust the sharp fragment directly at the center of the bunny girl’s chest. The bunny girl swung her knife horizontally to slice through Higashikawa’s throat.

However…

“!?”

“!!”

Both attacks failed.

Cracks ran through Higashikawa’s shard and it shattered before reaching the bunny girl’s chest. Meanwhile, the blade of the bunny girl’s knife once more slipped from the handle and stabbed into the wall to the side.

The two glared at each other from close enough to grab at each other.

As the bunny girl tossed aside the knife handle, the confidence from before had vanished.

“It looks like this just isn’t going to work. At this distance, it is infinite. Even if we brought in a Gatling gun or a shoulder-fired missile, we cannot kill each other. That is simply the type of character we have been constructed as.”

“…”

“All ten of you in Player 1 and Player 2 were supposed to end this as equal characters that were nothing more than gamble participants. You would never have been able to defeat the Unbeatable Emperor who was your dealer. But your irregular actions caused an imbalance in the criminal charges meant to guide in the absurd. You could say you obtained the position of a character with the opportunity to play a special role among the participants. You could call that character the Ever-Victorious Challenger.”

“And what does that mean?”

“I like that look in your eyes. You’ve finally worked up the will to kill me. But it’s no use. The situation can never change as it is. We each have a great power that calls in success, so we will always automatically avoid death no matter how hard we try. This is a world where we could fight for 100 years and never reach a conclusion. …There is still much to research about the absurd. After all, this has even twisted time and continuity.”

“?”

“You still don’t get it? The mechanical malfunctions that saved those nine from death were most likely brought on by the character you have been given. However, when did you acquire that character? As the dealer, I gained the Unbeatable Emperor only after sacrificing those nine to guide in the absurd. Your Ever-Victorious Challenger must be the same. …And yet your power saved those nine. You saved them using the character you obtained from their deaths. What can you call that if not a contradiction? This is a power that can ignore time and continuity, so how are normal weapons like knives and bombs supposed to decide our victory?”

Higashikawa did not understand what was happening, but he began to wonder if the bunny girl did not have control of the situation.

The cat had been removed from the box and its state could not be explained.

It was truly absurd.

“Then what are we supposed to do?”

“This.”

The bunny girl snapped her fingers.

Immediately afterwards, a change came over all of the laptops in the bar. White letters of the alphabet scrolled across the black screens at high speed. This was not simple English, so Higashikawa could not understand it.

“What are you doing?”

“Changing the settings of the facility’s master key,” said the bunny girl offhandedly with a single card in one hand. But what she said was very important. “This single card lets you unlock all the doors, view any files, switch on and off the traps, and control any device. It can drag those nine up with the spare machines or it can drop them into the acid.”

The master key.

That would be the best item for rescuing the other nine and for escaping the facility.

“Why are you letting me see that?”

“Because it is necessary,” readily replied the bunny girl. She moved in close enough that he could feel her breath on his face. “In the end, we are both supported by the gambling absurdities that control this field. Knives and guns have no meaning anymore. Those reasonable responses would be exterminated by the absurd. And thus we must compete according to the rules of the absurd. We must disturb these powers that call in success like the goddess of victory. That is the only way to rob the other of their power. Only once we do that can we kill each other.”

“So are you suggesting betting that master key on an attraction?”

“More or less. If you win, only your red and black card will function as the master. If I have the master key, the nine of them will die. If you have the master key, I will lose my life and the organizers’ project will be destroyed. It is only once we both put everything on the line that this attraction can overturn the absurd. This level of gamble is needed.”

“What exactly is the attraction? Guessing the password?”

“That would be meaningless. You have obtained the Ever-Victorious Challenger, so you would probably get it right just by randomly hitting the keys. And so I have put together some more interesting questions.

“…”

It was undoubtedly going to be something horrible.

Higashikawa had learned all too well how cruel the bunny girl was during that attraction with the red and black cards.

It would be something far, far above the upper limit of his imagination.

Finally, the letters stopped scrolling across the many screens.

Instead of some strange program code, it now displayed proper Japanese text.

Higashikawa focused all of his attention on grasping what it said.

And…

“……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………Eh?”

As soon as he understood what it was he saw there, Higashikawa Mamoru’s thoughts stopped completely.

Part 3[edit]

As Higashikawa stood motionlessly, he heard the bunny girl whispering in his ear.

She was so close he could smell the sweetness of her breath.

“This was originally set up on the facility’s exit as the final challenge we could watch you suffer through.”

The final challenge.

It was not proving some difficult problem that troubled mathematicians the world over and it was not an ancient piece of text that no linguist had been able to translate.

However…

In a way, this was a much more dreadful challenge for Higashikawa than some obviously difficult problem. It was a cliff. It was a precipice.

Higashikawa spoke aloud its name.

“The attraction monitoring we took part in…?”

“ ‘Attraction 01: Deadly Bullet Game’, ‘Attraction 02: Hide-and-Seek Gamble’, ‘Attraction 03: Bang, Bang, Bang!!’, ‘Attraction 04: Sudden Death Old Maid’, ‘Attraction 05: Loser Resurrection Game’, ‘Attraction 06: Grand Slam Homer’, ‘Attraction 07: Memory Game’, ‘Attraction 08: Washing Away Blood with Blood’, ‘Attraction 09: Killing Someone by Solving a Mystery Not Involving a Murder’, and ‘Attraction 10: Earn 200,000 Yen with 1 Millimeter’. …Well, I’m sure you recognize all the names. However…”

The bunny girl smiled.

She smiled cruelly.

Her smile did not seem to simply contain evil; it seemed to symbolize evil itself.

This time, the rules in our archives have been updated. The deficiencies in the rules have been compensated for thanks to the monitor form you filled out.

It was budding.

Something pitch black and filled with cruelty was blooming.

On a personal level, this was the most difficult problem in the world.

“You must now give a strategy for the attractions you have completed yourself!! If you can get through all 10 attractions, you win. If you cannot come up with anything for even one, you lose. See? It’s just a simple monitoring, right!?”

They might have answers.

There might be holes remaining.

But he had been the ones to close up the holes. This attraction used the answerer’s own thought processes to seal up the holes the answerer would think up first.

Even if the questions could be answered easily with a third party’s thought processes, the answerer himself could not use those.

In other words…

“The answerer has prepared his own personal dead end! Even as his life is on the line, he himself blocks his way as his most powerful enemy!! Really, don’t you think these are the perfect kind of absurd questions for the situation!?”

Bringing out these questions almost assured a checkmate on her part.

It was like heading back into a maze one had already sealed the exit of.

However…

“If I clear this, I get the master key?”

“What?”

“I don’t know what all this Unbeatable Emperor and Ever-Victorious Challenger nonsense is about, but those absurdities with embarrassing names will disappear and I’ll be able to punch you right in the face, right?”

“Wait, you actually intend to answer them? But this attraction was made so your own thought patterns would lead you to surrender!”

“…”

Instead of answering, Higashikawa Mamoru turned toward a nearby laptop.

(You call this hard?)

He knew of a much, much harder problem. And he knew the people who had solved it. He had seen the answers given by those nine who had risked their lives to save his life in that attraction using red and black cards. They had not simply trusted Higashikawa. The entire group of ten had trusted the entire group of ten, and so they had played black so they could all survive.

Compared to that choice…

Compared to that answer…

He was not about to let these pathetic lines of text frighten him!

“This is the final challenge,” decisively said Higashikawa Mamoru as he faced the laptop. “Prepare yourself. This will be the last attraction. I don’t give a shit about the Unbeatable Emperor or the Ever-Victorious Challenger! I will destroy all of your plans here!!”


The final challenge is about to begin. Please prepare paper, a pen, and the answer sheet you made during the monitoring.


Final Challenge 01: Deadly Bullet Game

In this attraction, items with point values are used to defend against bullets fired from head on. What is a surefire method of clearing this attraction?

Point of Improvement 1 from Your Form: (                                                                                                                                                                  )

Point of Improvement 2 from Your Form: (                                                                                                                                                                  )

Point of Improvement 3 from Your Form: (                                                                                                                                                                  )

Your New Surefire Method:

(                                                                                                                                                                                                                             )


Final Challenge 02: Hide-and-Seek Gamble

In this attraction, the participants are divided between hiders and seekers and play hide-and-seek for a set time. If a hider is photographed by one of the seekers’ digital cameras, he is considered “caught”. What is a surefire method of clearing this attraction from the standpoint of a hider?

Point of Improvement 1 from Your Form: (                                                                                                                                                                  )

Point of Improvement 2 from Your Form: (                                                                                                                                                                  )

Point of Improvement 3 from Your Form: (                                                                                                                                                                  )

Your New Surefire Method:

(                                                                                                                                                                                                                             )


Final Challenge 03: Bang, Bang, Bang!!

In this attraction, five participants are handed five handguns. Each gun has only one bullet. They fight to the death and the last survivor wins. What is a surefire method of clearing this attraction?

Point of Improvement 1 from Your Form: (                                                                                                                                                                  )

Point of Improvement 2 from Your Form: (                                                                                                                                                                  )

Point of Improvement 3 from Your Form: (                                                                                                                                                                  )

Your New Surefire Method:

(                                                                                                                                                                                                                             )


Final Challenge 04: Sudden Death Old Maid

In this attraction, a shuffled deck of cards is divided between Competitor A and Competitor B. Then they are each given 26 jokers. Competitors A and B must hold out a pair of cards and play old maid with them. The competitor with fewer jokers at the end wins. What is a surefire method of clearing this attraction?

Point of Improvement 1 from Your Form: (                                                                                                                                                                  )

Point of Improvement 2 from Your Form: (                                                                                                                                                                  )

Point of Improvement 3 from Your Form: (                                                                                                                                                                  )

Your New Surefire Method:

(                                                                                                                                                                                                                             )


Final Challenge 05: Loser Resurrection Game

In this attraction, pairs are created. To win, one member of the pair must have their heart stopped and the other must breathe life back into them. What is a surefire method of clearing this attraction?

Point of Improvement 1 from Your Form: (                                                                                                                                                                  )

Point of Improvement 2 from Your Form: (                                                                                                                                                                  )

Point of Improvement 3 from Your Form: (                                                                                                                                                                  )

Your New Surefire Method:

(                                                                                                                                                                                                                             )


Final Challenge 06: Grand Slam Homer

In this attraction, at least one home run must be hit from balls pitched by a cutting edge pitching machine in a domed stadium. The batter has 10 chances. What is a surefire method of clearing this attraction?

Point of Improvement 1 from Your Form: (                                                                                                                                                                  )

Point of Improvement 2 from Your Form: (                                                                                                                                                                  )

Point of Improvement 3 from Your Form: (                                                                                                                                                                  )

Your New Surefire Method:

(                                                                                                                                                                                                                             )


Final Challenge 07: Memory Game

In this attraction, the participant is shown a video on a monitor, must answer quiz questions to pass through bars blocking their path, and must answer a memory-based question at the end. What is a surefire method of clearing this attraction?

Point of Improvement 1 from Your Form: (                                                                                                                                                                  )

Point of Improvement 2 from Your Form: (                                                                                                                                                                  )

Point of Improvement 3 from Your Form: (                                                                                                                                                                  )

Your New Surefire Method:

(                                                                                                                                                                                                                             )


Final Challenge 08: Washing Away Blood with Blood

In this attraction, the participants kill each other using various weapons drawn by lots. What is a surefire method of clearing this attraction?

Point of Improvement 1 from Your Form: (                                                                                                                                                                  )

Point of Improvement 2 from Your Form: (                                                                                                                                                                  )

Point of Improvement 3 from Your Form: (                                                                                                                                                                  )

Your New Surefire Method:

(                                                                                                                                                                                                                             )


Final Challenge 09: Killing Someone by Solving a Mystery Not Involving a Murder

In this attraction, the contestants must enter a 2 digit number and then use various question cards to hide their own number and work out the other’s number. What is a surefire method of clearing this attraction?

Point of Improvement 1 from Your Form: (                                                                                                                                                                  )

Point of Improvement 2 from Your Form: (                                                                                                                                                                  )

Point of Improvement 3 from Your Form: (                                                                                                                                                                  )

Your New Surefire Method:

(                                                                                                                                                                                                                             )


Final Challenge 10: Earn 200,000 Yen with 1 Millimeter

In this attraction, your own body is fixed into a guillotine. You must use buttons that drop and stop the blade to stop the blade at the very last second. What is a surefire method of clearing this attraction?

Point of Improvement 1 from Your Form: (                                                                                                                                                                  )

Point of Improvement 2 from Your Form: (                                                                                                                                                                  )

Point of Improvement 3 from Your Form: (                                                                                                                                                                  )

Your New Surefire Method:

(                                                                                                                                                                                                                             )

Part 4[edit]

“…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………You’re kidding.”

The bunny girl muttered those words in shock.

She showed a look of amazement that had not been seen on her face before.

“But…you shouldn’t be able to solve those. You shouldn’t be able to solve them!! Those are the worst possible questions for the answerer because they used the answerer’s own thought processes to seal up his personal loopholes!!”

The worst possible?” Higashikawa Mamoru frowned doubtfully after he finished typing. “You think that’s the worst possible? This was nothing more than a simple monitoring.

“Oh, I see. It was because they were absolutely impossible to answer. That’s why! That has to be it!! That brought the absurd into play, didn’t it!? The power to make the impossible possible allowed you to answer those unanswerable questions!!”

“…”

Higashikawa Mamoru slowly shook his head.

He did not need any strange powers to solve something of this level.

It was just a matter of preconceptions.

The fixed idea that he could never solve it would restrict his thoughts. By resetting everything and rethinking from square one, he could find a way through.

This was just a game of creating a question and solving it oneself.

It had nothing but himself in it.

But Higashikawa knew of something else.

He knew of his nine comrades who had taken on the burden of others’ lives and futures and shown him the way to the best answer.

When he thought of them…

When their lives hung in the balance…

He could no longer think of this as his own choice. It exceeded the boundaries of playing a game with himself and new pathways of thought opened up.

When someone falls in love, gets married, has a child, or takes on responsibility for anything important, their thought processes transform into something new. This was the same as that.

“I win.”

“…”

“I win. It doesn’t matter if you accept it or not. I won the final attraction. The master key I need to rescue those nine is mine. And more importantly, we no longer need to be bound by those ridiculous powers. Isn’t that right?”

“Ha…ha ha,” laughed the bunny girl.

It was not that she had stopped thinking out of fear or that she was laughing out of desperation.

Some decisive core remained. She had not broken yet.

“Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!”

“…What do you find so funny about this? Are you laughing at your own fate?”

“I can’t help but laugh. This is so absurd. This is truly absurd!! This is not what we organizers had hoped for, but it is actually of even higher purity! After that conclusion, there can be no doubting it. Objective Alice will be led here!! Our great desire shall be fulfilled!!”

The bunny girl snapped her fingers.

All of the laptops gave off a dazzling light. They were not simply displaying something. The devices themselves had obviously exceeded some sort of limit. The excessive amount of electricity caused them to give off light on the level of a camera flash, but the great burden then caused the laptops to burst to pieces and send sparks flying everywhere.

“!?”

Higashikawa covered his face with his hands and the bunny girl was gone by the time he could see again. One door to the bar was suspiciously sitting open, but he did not know if she had actually escaped through it.

However, he held the key to the entire facility in his hand.

And he still had that unnatural power to call in success that apparently came from the absurd. If what the bunny girl had said was accurate, this power was on the level of the goddess of victory who caused conflicts among the gods because simply having her on your side would give you victory in a war.

If he tried to find her, he could find her right away.

If he tried to kill her, he could kill her right away.

“But more importantly…”

The nine dangling in the great pit below the floor came first.

Higashikawa thought all of the laptops had been destroyed, but when he looked around the area, he found one laptop that was conveniently unscathed.

He did not know if it had simply survived or if his power had overturned continuity once more.

Part 5[edit]

Higashikawa Mamoru was a complete amateur when it came to operating such specialized devices, but all it took was randomly hitting a few keys to safely draw up the bags the nine were trapped inside like a giant game of goldfish scooping. It all went unnaturally smoothly as if some invisible force was controlling it all, but he did not care at the moment.

“H-hey, what’s going on!? Weren’t we going to be killed!?” asked Kazakami in disbelief even as he broke through the thick plastic and crawled out.

“It felt like the process suddenly stopped partway through.”

Harumi and Rachel did not seem to understand what had happened either.

After helping Hiyama out of her thick plastic bag, the high school girl named Matsumi asked, “Where’s the bunny girl?”

Higashikawa replied, “She’s no longer a threat.”

With that said, Higashikawa and the other nine left the bar. They were supposedly in a vast sealed-off area prepared by the organizers with several layers of locks keeping them in, but Higashikawa had the master key. All the electronic locks were meaningless. He easily opened the hidden doors that were practically part of the wall, the traps and sensors set in the passageways were not active, and they made it to the exit with no trouble at all.

It was a small back door made of aluminum or stainless steel.

Given everything that had happened, Anzai was cautious.

“W-will it really be this easy?”

“After everything so far, I get the feeling they are having us let down our guard before sending in something huge.”

Even Hotaru, who had given off a comparatively calm and collected impression, was overcome by suspicion.

But Higashikawa felt they had no reason to worry.

The issue had already been settled at the level of those strange absurdities. Higashikawa and the others were protected by rules of an insane world where people could not hurt each other even with shards from broken monitors, bombs, or knives. No matter what the bunny girl and the other organizers were plotting, Higashikawa doubted it would go as they expected.

And so…

He did not hesitate to grab the doorknob and turn it.

The door opened wide.

The first thing he noticed was the wind.

It was nothing more than the air of a moderately cool night flowing in. However, that wind tugged at all of their heartstrings. This was not the stale air of that vast enclosed area. This was freely flowing wind. They were overcome with emotion when struck by this completely normal sensation.

It symbolized their freedom.

It proved they had escaped alive from those attractions.

“O-oh.”

Someone spoke.

It may not have mattered who it was.

All of them then cried out.

“Oooooooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!”

They cried out, shouted out, and then scrambled to be the first one out the door. The door was small, so they were squeezing past each other to get through. They lost their balance and fell to the ground.

They tasted dirt.

Dirt.

This was not a floor. It was a flavor that could only come from the earth.

As he reflected on that flavor, Higashikawa’s tear glands finally gave in.

“Ha ha ha!! We won… Dammit, we won!! Every single one of us escaped those insane attractions aliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiivvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvveeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!”

He rolled onto his back and stared up at the starry sky. The wind had a salty smell to it, so they may have been near the ocean or on an island. He looked around while still on his back and spotted distant silhouettes of what might have been a domed stadium and a crane from a harbor.

They may have been facilities related to the past attractions they had seen in the monitor videos.

But it did not matter.

They just needed to escape. That would mean they had defeated the organizers.

The career woman named Hiyama stared down at Higashikawa’s face.

“Excellent work.”

“…We made it somehow. Almost everything was thought up at the last second, though.”

“You could have abandoned us.”

“That wouldn’t have been a victory. After everything we went through, we had to win.”

He grabbed her outstretched hand to stand up.

But then…

“…?”

When he placed his other hand against the ground to support himself, he felt something oddly hard. It almost felt like metal. Higashikawa brushed away the surface of the dirt and found something odd.

It was a handle.

He then uncovered a square frame two meters across.

“What is this?”

“It might lead to a basement,” whispered Hiyama.

Kazakami shook his head.

“Stop that. We got out. That’s all we need to do, right? If we leave and head back home, we can survive. We don’t need to head further in!!”

“But will the organizers really just let us leave?” suggested Hotaru.

Aisu spoke up in agreement.

“They have our personal information. They won’t attack our homes later, will they?”

“…”

Rachel crouched down in fear.

Survey v02 465.jpg

Higashikawa honestly doubted the organizers could damage them now. He did not understand any of this absurdity or Ever-Victorious Challenger nonsense, but the power balance had already been made clear. Regardless of Higashikawa’s own ability, the organizers would be automatically eliminated due to the power to call in success.

But would that power protect him forever?

He had no idea what rules it was based in or what fuel it consumed to function. It could be that once he left this place, once he woke up the next day, or once he had forgotten about it, he would suddenly find the power was gone and he was completely defenseless.

Had they truly ensured their safety?

Was it not better to approach the core of the organizers while he had this overwhelming power and could get away with a bit of risk?

With Anzai’s help, Higashikawa opened the door in the ground. As expected, it contained concrete stairs leading underground. It was too dark inside to see what was there.

“Are the organizers in there?” asked Harumi.

“Who even are the organizers? It certainly sounded like there were more than just the bunny girl,” said Kozue.

Higashikawa was just as curious.

For one thing, he still did not know why they had carried out these large-scale attractions. It seemed the bunny girl had achieved some sort of goal, but he did not know what that meant.

And…

If he could gain control of whatever that was, would he be able to use it as a powerful card in negotiations with the organizers?

“What should we do?” asked Anzai Kyousuke. “Will we continue on or escape outside?”

“…”

Higashikawa thought.

Having all ten of them leave together would likely be the greatest result. But any slight mistake would get them all killed.

On the other hand, the cornerstone of the organizers’ plan might be right before his eyes. The thought of stealing it or destroying it was too much to pass up. Higashikawa and the others had been on the receiving end the entire time, and they finally had a real chance to fight back.

What would he do?

What would he choose?

After thinking for a while, he finally spoke.

“I’ll go. If there are any traps, it’s better if only one person is caught in them.”

Higashikawa and the other nine had defeated the organizers. They had all survived the attractions.

But the one who had won under a special set of rules and had gained the most from his victory was clearly Higashikawa. The one to set foot in the most dangerous place had to be the one who had obtained the Ever-Victorious Challenger.

Anzai asked, “Are you sure?”

“If we overlook this here, it could come back to bite us in the ass. I will find something we can use to ensure we will not be attacked again after escaping. That is the best possible ending.”

Having said that, Higashikawa looked down at the staircase.

Hiyama spoke from behind him.

“If anything happens, just shout for help.”

“I will.”

He took the first step.

After feeling the hard concrete underfoot, he continued down into the darkness belowground.

He was greatly reminded of the abyss of hell.

Before long, the pale starlight could no longer reach him. It was pitch black by the time he reached the bottom of the staircase. He felt his way along and found a metal door in front of him.

He turned the knob.

It did not seem to be locked.

“…”

And then…

Higashikawa Mamoru…

…opened the door.

Part 6[edit]

The room was dimly lit.

But compared to that the complete darkness from before, this was quite a bit more light.

The small square room was about the size of a school classroom. About 50 folding chairs were lined up evenly within. A film projector was located against the right wall and a pure white screen hung down on the left wall. The room’s light came from the film being shown.

The screen showed Higashikawa, Hiyama, and the others.

A compilation of footage from their struggles in the Hell Hospital was being carelessly shown.

About 30 of the 50 folding chairs were filled. The people sitting in them were mostly middle-aged or elderly and did not look like they had struggled a day in their lives. They did not even turn in Higashikawa’s direction when he suddenly entered the room. He could see the sides of their faces dimly illuminated by the light of the projector. They were all smiling. That unity lacked any humanity. Higashikawa could feel a sense of revulsion run from his fingertips and across his body like when seeing a swarm of insects.

Higashikawa felt an uncontrollable heat in his head when he spotted the bunny girl among them.

“You bitch!!” he shouted and ran over to grab her shoulder.

But then…

Amid all of the unmoving people, the bunny girl alone turned just her head in Higashikawa’s direction.

Yes, just her head.

There was nothing but her shapely face and spine.

Her smile bloomed on her face like she was some horrifying flower in a vase.

“…Eh?”

Higashikawa’s vision grew psychedelically distorted.

His brain refused to comprehend what he was seeing.

From her neck up, her bright skin and wonderful complexion remained unchanged, but below her neck was nothing but a white backbone. And some sticky, flesh-colored liquid had spread out across the folding chair and the floor around it. That was all. What looked to be her clothes had fallen away with the liquid.

That was truly all.

She could not be alive any longer.

Even if she could change her expression and carry a conversation, something about her was definitively different from a living human. She had become something on the level of a character from a story where a head blinked after being removed by a guillotine.

“What…?”

His question was simply about what had happened to the bunny girl.

But…

Could it be?

He turned toward the middle-age and elderly people who were not moving no matter what.

Were they the same?

“Our…”

The bunny girl’s coquettishly glittering lips moved.

Given the state she was in, it seemed horribly wrong for the bunny girl to still be alive and still smiling as always.

“Our objective was to capture the absurd. We were to call in Objective Alice who symbolizes the absurd and capture her.”

“What…?”

“The gambling storyline as well as the Unbeatable Emperor and Ever-Victorious Challenger characters gained from it were nothing more than side effects. We had no interest in the gambling story itself. Our objective was to capture the special girl who can be called the guide for all storylines, be they horror, gambling, love comedy, suspense, action, battle, sports, science fiction, or fantasy. Of all the countless storylines derived from the guide, the gambling one was the easiest to use. We tried to work our way back from there to approach Alice, the guide. …That is what this story really is.”

At first, it seemed she was explaining it to him, but she was not checking to see if he understood. It was as if she was a digital recorder spouting back predetermined information.

“You may not believe it, but we are an ideological association that stands on the side of justice. To be blunt, this is a great problem that cannot be resolved by any honest means, so we have been constantly working towards resolving it all at once using dishonest means.”

The absurd.

Objective Alice.

Higashikawa had no idea what those terms referred to, so he had no way of understanding what the rest of the explanation meant. However, the bunny girl omitted any explanations regarding them to an unnatural extent.

It was as if someone had edited out the information he must not hear.

“The absurd is an existence that disturbs the proper parameters of things. If used well, we thought it could lead us to the answers to all sorts of problems without having to find a real solution. We thought it could be used like a book of prophecy.”

The bunny girl gave an oddly vivid smile.

Higashikawa could not tell what emotion was contained within it.

He was not even sure if anything remained of the bunny girl’s will.

“But when we attempted it, this is what happened. It seems we angered Alice in the process of our emulation. She used her full ability to protect you or someone in your group.”

The cause of this insane phenomenon.

An existence that had so easily wiped out the organizers of those attractions.

An overwhelming character that held far greater power than Higashikawa’s unnatural ability to call in success.

The strange guide who smiled as she tied together the stories of an omnibus horror movie and stood above the evil spirits and monsters that did as they pleased in the stories.

“But this is a new discovery.” The bunny girl’s expression was one of true joy. “After all, we now know Objective Alice can feel honest anger based in an honest moral framework. That means provoking her that way could eliminate the need for an emulation based in detailed formulas and-…”

The bunny girl’s words suddenly came to an end.

Her beautiful eyes rotated to an odd angle.

Higashikawa heard a splashing noise.

That single flower that had just barely remained intact had finally turned to a flesh-colored liquid and splattered to the floor.

At the same moment, all of the middle-aged and elderly people left in the other chairs melted to the floor as well. It sounded like bucket after bucket of water was being poured to the ground.

It was like a switch had been thrown.

It looked as if a lawnmower had made its way through that creepy flower garden.

They had been absurdly left alive until then just to tell Higashikawa those words.

“…”

Higashikawa felt confused that he was still breathing.

That was how removed from reality it all felt.

He audibly gulped and finally truly felt that he was still alive. He finally came to a conclusion.

(The organizers are gone. We should be safe for now.)

But as soon as he thought that, he heard a small noise.

He had not noticed it before and it seemed strange that he had not, but the room had another door. The lock clicked open and the door cracked open on its own.

He could not see anything through the gap.

It was possible something was peering out at him.

But the organizers were gone.

Higashikawa had concluded that.

In that case…

Who was beyond that door?

Who was left?

“…You’re kidding.”

If what the bunny girl – or whoever had been making her speak – was right, Objective Alice had given this cruel punishment to the organizers in order to save Higashikawa and the others.

And now something else was inviting him into that extraordinarily deep darkness.

Were they trying to save him? Or did they have some other objective?

None of it fit together and everyone’s intentions seemed scattered everywhere.

It brought a certain word to Higashikawa’s mind:

Absurd.

“…”

If he turned back toward the staircase to the surface, he could likely ignorantly meet up with the other nine and safely return home.

But if he headed further into the darkness, he could arrive at the truth in exchange for a fair amount of risk. But this risk would surely be more than he could handle with a puny absurdity like the Ever-Victorious Challenger.

Sweat poured from Higashikawa’s brow and he felt it drip down along his nose.

Which path should he choose?

And finally…

He chose.