Part 14: dilemmAS
BGM: Abyssal Snarl
I wonder... did Ray find it in one of these escape rooms, too? Were they planted here to make us fight each other? If that's the case... boy, I am glad I found this one before anyone else did.
Deciding that had been enough time wasted, I snatched it up and stuffed it into the bag the old man gave me. As I went to fetch E again, I thought at least I had a way to hide it. As long as nobody checked it, the bag would conceal the firearm.
I took her down to the little lobby. Since the doors were unlocked, we could step forward, and back to the station. It was time to give our farewells to this area.
Huh, you're going to confront Ray? But isn't that dangerous?
I reassured her with another message.
How did we get into this situation? This doesn't seem right...
I wordlessly agreed with her in my head. She was right: none of this was correct. The stations weren't right. The participants were all mismatched. Even the trains were somehow different.
And yet, now that I thought about it, we always usually rode the same train. They took a long time to travel through the entire line; they were long enough to make it last around an hour from start to end. So then, why did we always wait so much? There were multiple trains, after all.
Unfortunately, before I could really form up some kind of idea about this place, the train arrived. I took E's hand again and stepped forward. The whole time, she had been silent, perhaps as pensive as I'd been.
Stations came by. The train stopped at each of them, but this time around there was not a single soul ready to board the train along with us. On the way between the penultimate station before the lounge and the lounge itself, I realized that I could've made full use of this time by asking E's opinion during our travels. I'd wasted some time.
I also felt tired, so ultimately, I didn't know if I really wanted to proceed with that.
There is literally no reason for this to be a choice, as it doesn't impact the flowchart in the slightest. Also, if you don't talk to her, Simon just sits in silence for the rest of the ride, so we'll talk to her.
I quickly grabbed a strip of paper and wrote my question to her. All it asked was about her thoughts on why the train took so long to arrive every time we used it.
I included that part on the message too. It had happened before already. The chances of that happening were null on the normal metro system: if you didn't specifically come with someone, chances are you'd miss each other.
Hmm... what's the likeliest scenario, I wonder? Maybe there's only one train. Smiley is alone, right? I mean, we can't really know that, but... if you were just one person, what's easier to take over?
That means Smiley may not be operating on a large scale, huh.
The train slowed down just as our discussion came to a halt.
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
Soon, the train stopped its movements. I snagged E's hand again. I didn't really want to pull her along everywhere, since it felt sort of...patronizing, in a way?
Unlike all the times you have been explicitly patronizing about her disabilities, Simon?
I didn't have a choice, unfortunately.
She followed me into the lobby. For a moment, I expected the door to close behind us, but I remembered this wasn't one of those escape rooms. Finally, we went up the stairs.
Because I had to explore an entire room with E, who was less active than the others, I expected someone else to have come in before us. Yet, no one was here, and there were no traces of anyone coming by since our departure either. I shared that thought with E, who simply nodded and quietly sat down onto one of the couches. There was nothing to do but wait. Again, the thought of the trains taking a while went through my head.
I gotta do something. I'm going insane waiting here doing nothing. Maybe take a walk? No, maybe just take the train and go somewhere? With or without E?
Annoyed, I grumbled something unintelligible even to myself while writing another message on a piece of paper. I gave it to E; it was telling her I was taking a small walk around the station, so I wouldn't be there for a bit. She acknowledged it, and I took off.
I hated wearing the damn thing too much. Something felt off about the situation, but not enough to warrant messing up my hair to this degree. As soon as I stepped out into the station, I heard and saw a train arrive.
Hey, who's that?
I'd come down on the opposite side, so I couldn't see who came out. They were alone. Getting a bad feeling about it, I pushed my hand into the bag and grabbed the gun. Maybe... No, this was too early to tell. I ran back up the stairs.
BGM: Alarming Silence
He brandished the gun from earlier. His finger was on the trigger. Did he not realize that was dangerous?
Okay, okay, please put the gun down!
I was trembling. Regardless of what the man was saying, he might kill E like this, and then, he might decide to kill everyone else to hide his crime. People's senses were addled when they drank alcohol, and what he had was just that, right?
No, I ain't fuckin' putting it down. You know what everyone's gonna say, right? Ray, how could you kill her? I didn't! I fucking didn't, it's what she did that killed her!
It didn't take very long for me to put two and two together. Since he had her head, that meant her collar had activated. The scene was still horrifying, though. Even knowing what might be the truth.
You know this is... super... super serious, right?
Of course I fucking know!
Then put the gun down if you're genuine about it!
Not if they also have a weap-
Her sprite ran into his here; the implication is she knocked him over, even if it didn't really look like it
BGM: Accelerated Scuffle
The small girl had arrived out of nowhere. The train containing Jasmine and G probably came by while we were having our altercation.
The girl pushed the man down to the ground with surprising strength. Because she caught him off-guard, he needed a moment to get his bearings together. That gave her the advantage.
I didn't do shit! She killed herself! She's the person who doesn't belong, anyway!
You liar! You lie, why do you lie?! You killed my sister!
Everything happened very quickly. The two of them got caught up in a ridiculous rolling dance on the floor, while I backed off a little further. I bumped into Jasmine.
No, he has a gun. This isn't safe, anytime now they'll...
Ahh! It hurts! Why?!
The gun Ray held had fired during the altercation. He'd kept his finger on the trigger the whole time, and now, he was reaping his mistake. Right after it happened, the two of them separated.
As soon as he was free from her, Ray rapidly kicked with his legs until his back collided with the wall. He looked positively out of his mind.
This is self-defense... she leaped at me! You saw that, right?!
He pointed at us both, but we couldn't say anything to him. It was more accurate to say we didn't know what to say to begin with.
Fuck! I didn't... I wouldn't... goddamn! I just wanna fuckin' get out! You're all insane...
Hey, Jas, give me a hand, will you?
She didn't seem bothered by my use of her other nickname, even though it partially exposed her name to two others. She probably figured that there was no time to waste. Quickly, she examined G's body. It was difficult to do while the twin was gesticulating.
Please stop moving! We'll help you, okay?
But it hurts! It doesn't stop!
I have to take her to the infirmary quickly. I'll wait there if the others aren't done, but... we really can't afford to waste any time like this.
She looks fine still, what do you suggest...
No, it's just a matter of time. Look where the bullet pierced.
I did notice it was somewhere on her chest, but I couldn't tell exactly. She was howling in pain as a spot of red grew on her shirt. With the way she rolled on the ground, she stained everything redder and redder.
Okay, the blood isn't stopping either...
Jasmine snagged one of the pens from my bag without even asking me. She didn't care which one it was. Finding the wound, she stuck the pen into it.
Ahh! What are you doing...?! It hurts! Stop!
I'm taking out the bullet! Then we'll make something to stop the flow...
With a disgusting sound, the bullet was snagged out by one end of the pen. I left it alone, instead deciding to take off my jacket, leaving me in my shirt. I took that off, too; I needed to use something, but my uniform was all I had. However, the shirt was definitely a better loss than the jacket. If I lost that, it would be my blood on the ground after I contacted my employer.
I'll use this, then. Quickly!
As I secured the cloth around her more firmly, G's blood also got onto my hands.
Jesus fuck, it doesn't stop!
I helped Jasmine transport G, leaving behind my jacket for now. I'd put the torn shirt back on at least, though looking back at it, that had been a mistake; it quickly got stained with blood, too.
Quick... quick... down the stairs... Careful now.
We were in the lobby shortly. Once again, a train arrived on the other side of the platform. Finally, I let go of G. This whole time, I'd smelled the metallic horror oozing out of her wound. It was positively disgusting, and almost dizzying. I knew we had iron in our blood, but this... Perhaps my senses were heightened as a result of the stressful situation.
You'll be okay?
BGM: Abyssal Snarl
And then there was me, blood on my hands, with a half-stained and half-torn shirt on, standing next to H's severed head. This would be difficult to explain.
Good grief! By Euclid, what happened here? Explain yourself, young man.
Marco looked at me strangely.
Listen, it's not what it looks like... I mean, maybe a little, but... I kinda need a better shirt first. I'll explain while I change.
If you wanna know... everything... just look at the head. Look inside of the head...
What is he even saying?
I think he's going a little crazy.
I am not crazy!
Whatever you are, let's take it from the beginning. I came back with E, and then...
She was always reliable and always so calm. I didn't understand how she remained calm, even when faced with someone who was on the verge of death.
I related my arrival to the two of them, followed by Ray's return, Jasmine and the other twin coming in, the fight and its outcome, and finally the ending to this terrible tale. I was thankful they didn't decide to believe any kind of falsehood before I finished talking.
BGM: Algorithm Simile
You are saying that, if I get this right, Ray came back with the young girl's head, proceeded to grow increasingly erratic before the other twin tackled him to the ground. I wonder if we can trust his word, then. This all seems quite peculiar to me.
Yeah... there was a fight, and he ended up shooting G too, no?
Ray didn't offer any comments on his side. He was positively distressed. It was up to me to play some kind of mediator, because I understood that Ray might not have wanted to shoot.
Well... I can't vouch for what happened with H, once he snagged her from us, but I think what happened with G was, at the very least, an accident.
Ah, well, I don't really want to, but I think we should consider that too...
Very well then. However, the fact remains he has a dangerous weapon at his disposal.
I kept quiet about the gun I had. If that fact came out, it would've been very bad news fo rme. Perhaps keeping it had been a mistake... In that moment, I thought to get rid of it, but how?
Since you seem to be more acquainted with him, I will leave the burden of unarming him to you.
Woah, hold up. I'm not more acquainted with Ray than any of you. Just because we shared this little episode earlier doesn't mean anything, even if we're the only remaining participants of that horrible event.
Marco looked at me, worried. I was worried too, but the old man did make some sort of sense. I gave up on my objection to his demand.
Let us rest for a little, chat some to exchange further information, and then we should be off with E to a new station. Given the man's state, it is perhaps better for him to remain here for now.
Ray didn't seem to hear us. It was a little selfish to make this choice without his input. On the other hand, the earlier we were out, the better it was, and our numbers had shrunken to an odd composition. Someone would have to stay out this time, and Ray would most likely be it.
Yeah, let's sit down. We did just come back from a station already. You don't mind?
No, no, go ahead. I'll think about some things, and... talk to Ray, I guess.
BGM: Ambient Strain
Provided I ended by talking to Ray too at least.
This is the game's way of saying 'you can talk to everyone, but Ray will continue the story'. So we'll talk to everyone else first, starting with Agnos!
So, what did you find in the infirmary? Anything special?
No, nothing of the sort. I thankfully got there in time, and your friend recuperated quickly. Either his metabolism is strong, or there's something else at play here.
That's good to know at least. I don't really care about the specifics so long as he's doing fine.
Sometimes, the specifics can be very helpful. You may learn things you've never thought about before.
Still, while we didn't find anything new, we did think it strange that there was an infirmary here. Do you think it was placed here for this very purpose?
Who knows. I can't understand what Smiley is thinking.
All these stations... I can understand the security room, but otherwise... It is as if they were set up this way to form some kind of place where you could co-exist with others for a long time.
That seems a bit far-fetched. I took the metro yesterday, and none of this was here.
It is true that it would be difficult to put all this together without anyone's notice. I am, in the end, as much in the dark as you are, young man.
We said our farewells for now, and I went to talk to someone else.
That someone else being Marco.
Oh, no, I don't think we did. I spent almost all of it on that cheap-ass bed.
What's with you and beds, anyway? You keep harping about the bed I just bought, and now you find that hospital bed cheap, and...
Hey, there's a difference! You still owe me for that bed. The hospital doesn't owe me anything but a bunch of medical bills.
Did you meet someone, like a nurse or something?
The ninth person?
Or maybe someone in their nineties, at least. I'm talking about old man A.
I didn't exactly want to picture A as a nurse in my head, thank you Marco.
He's probably a bit younger than ninety, and he's not a nurse either!
When you say things, my imagination doing something is just natural. Don't say things you don't mean!
Okay, okay. I figured you might have more interest in imagining A as a nurse than me on a bed, torso naked, laying on my side...
Marco, not you too...
Oh, whatever! I'll go talk to somebody else, you insufferable squeaker.
Hahaha! I'll see you later.
Let's just...go talk to E.
I took a piece of paper and filled in E with what happened. The girl immediately gasped when she read what I wrote, putting her hand over her mouth.
Oh no, poor C! I hardly knew them, but they didn't deserve this.
You should be careful of what you write... That's the only link I have with the, um, outside world. Outside of my head, that is.
Perhaps telling her about the events might've not been the best move I could do. Now she felt bad about it! But knowing was always better than not knowing. At least, that's what I told myself, getting ready to speak with another person.
Well, we put it off as long as we could. Time to talk to Ray about giving us his gun.
What...? You got... something to say?
He wasn't looking at me. The poor man looked crushed. Judging by his change in manners, I could only guess that he truly hadn't killed H.
Uh... how do I say this? The others are unnerved because you have a gun, so... you should get rid of it. I can deal with it, if you want.
The man trembled a little, while sipping from his drink.
BGM: Anaphora Solution
What do you mean, weird? It's just a head.
I internally cackled like a madman when I said those words, not out of insanity, but out of consideration for my choice of words. A head was never just a head, it was a severed head, a gross... a... ah, fuck, I didn't want to think about it.
Before you do, just check the neck. Check through the neck... and leave me here... I'm not gonna do shit... til I get out...
Hey, what are you doing?
Ray said to look at the head, so I will.
Can't get his gun?
No. He looks useless enough right now. I can tell he's not going to be an issue anyway, so long as nobody bothers him.
He vacated my location. I took a look where I said I would, even if it felt a little disgusting to do so. It wasn't easy to see, since a lot of the insides were burnt, likely as a result of that laser beam from her collar.
I didn't have a lot of biology classes, but I did remember some of what I was taught. The inside of the neck didn't match with what I knew. For instance, there was this constant smell of metal. Blood did smell like metal, but not like this. The reason for this smell was... there was actual metal inside. Small cables ran along the inside of the neck.
Everything was painted and masked to look like actual organs within. However, if you looked at it from up close, it was definitely a fake head.
Huh... This isn't a real head...?
It was just the inside. There was metal and weird fluids... The stuff on the inside looked like organs, felt like organs, but certainly wasn't made of organs. I decided to take my lunch with me instead of leaving it on the floor, and walked away from it.
So far, nothing makes any sort of sense. Did we find the person who doesn't belong? This head looks made up. It doesn't look like a real head. What about the ninth person?
BGM: Ambient Strain
We should probably get a move on. There's no telling how long it will take J, or if the twin can even be saved in the first place.
Just as I thought, we should head out now. Unfortunately for them, we do have this Dating Game to beat, and we can't stay idle too long.
I agreed. I wanted to get out more than ever, and there was no point in staying here when the ninth person might be eluding us even further. Leaving Ray behind, our trio walked towards the open doorway. On the way, A grabbed E's hand and she followed, understanding we were going to leave.
Carefully, we went down the stairs. We were heading out in the same direction as before.
Let me think... I believe they are the church, and the theater. After those two stations, we will have unlocked and explored this entire side.
Fitting, since we're two teams of two.
The old man smiled as I understood why he chose this side. We waited for the train in silence, only broken by the screeching of the large compartments once they came in from the tunnel.
Just the same, the train traveled through several stations without any spoken words. It stopped a few times, and every time, it went off again. After it left the gymnasium station, A motioned at us.
We have to come to a conclusion. I believe we are in one of the rare moments when our groups are a little interchangeable. You see, as you have the bag with the pens, anyone could communicate with E.
I knew what A was getting at: he could group with me if I gave this bag to my friend instead. However, I absolutely didn't want to give Marco this bag, and for obvious reasons.
Hmm? Do you have another way to proceed with this? If you don't want to, that's completely fine. We have all the options open, after all. I personally would be fine going with M again, if you desire to accompany E once more.
Something was odd with his suggestion. I couldn't help but think that he was trying to split Marco from me again. Sure he mentioned how all options were open... But his tone indicated that I was heavily encouraged to go with E at the very least.
I'll think about it really quickly, then. We still have a minute before we get to the church.
Marco shrugged. He didn't seem to care. Perhaps I was being too paranoid after my witnessing of a dead person's head, and none of this mattered.
Whatever it is, I'll go at the next stop. This metro's making me antsy now...
Maybe I should go with you, then.
Whatever you say, pal!
He guffawed in his usual fashion.
And besides, I still have some topics to go over with him, as he'd been passed out for most of our previous exploration.
I see. I'll take that in consideration.
BGM: Alarming Silence
Especially considering it contained my gun, making it an option I couldn't pick. My decision came when we finally stopped at the station leading to the church.
Time to vote!