Part 15: mASquerade
Looks like we're going with E again, this time to the theater.
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
I guess I'll take the next station with E. You two can leave at this one.
Take care of her, yeah?
Of course I would. I wasn't some kind of creep or maniac. I gave a half-hearted wave as they disembarked, but neither noticed me. The two of them disappeared beyond the doorframe.
I wondered what we'd find once we were at our station. I knew it was a theater, but I didn't know what it meant. Every time I thought about those stations, I always wondered... why? How?
Once more, there was no theater readily in the open through any of the stairs leading up from a station. Those stairs normally took us to the gates which we went through by using a metro pass. They didn't lead us to random rooms like these.
What are you up to, Smiley...?
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
I didn't need them for this first part, since the girl followed as soon as I grabbed her hand. Yeah, normally, handholding could be a lot more embarrassing if you were like... sixteen years old. Obviously I was an adult. This didn't faze me.
Wohh! The train left before I even thought about making it to the doorframe.
That was fast! Normally they wait until we're inside... Maybe this is because it's the last station?
BGM: Ambient Strain
Maybe it was just a bad feeling, or maybe it was just my imagination. It was very active sometimes... always imagining worst case scenarios... bah! Finally, I made my way to the staircase. With E in tow, it didn't take long for us to ascend to the theater. The door closed behind us with a soft sliding noise, but I didn't pay attention to it. By now, I knew how this place operated. None of this was surprising to me.
Getting up the stairs was harder than anticipated. E's blindness made it very difficult. Normally, blind people still had their ears to guide them, but someone who was blind and deaf... They didn't have anything but physical contact to guide them, right? Maybe changes in temperature, too...
BGM: Anaphora Solution
It was a miniature theater. Its seats were full. Tons and tons of robots lined up, immobile, facing towards the stage. Some of them had half-fallen over. Many of them were amputees. I approached one and examined it closely.
Eep! Watch out, I almost fell.
I was about to excuse myself but I refrained from it. Instead, I helped her to a seat on the front row before I went back to examine that robot. As usual, she wouldn't be much help.
Simon she literally was vital to solving the puzzle in the gymnasium because she could read Braille, what the fuck are you on about??
Hah... Fake robot people, huh? I guess it does look kind of disconcerting at first.
I wrote onto a piece of paper to inform E of the situation. While she just read it, I pushed onto one of the robots to test its weight. Maybe they actually were just empty shells.
No, it was somewhat heavy. Tons of cogs and wiring were on the inside, probably.
I did. Everything in this room felt strange. My steps brought me closer to the table set up on the stage. It was the thing that stood out the most.
On it was a box with a piece of paper. It had nothing written on it, but I could faintly make out some markings. Also, it wasn't completely flat to the surface of the table; something was under it. I flipped the sheet over, thinking nothing of it.
A screen at the back of the area lit up with a few numbers. At first, it had shown 10:00, but soon it rolled down to 9:59, 9:58, 9:57...
BGM: Accelerated Scuffle
It was a countdown!
Huh? What does that mean?!
I quickly read the paper over while disregarding the object under it. I would get it momentarily, but first I needed to understand what I had unwittingly triggered.
All will die? What does that mean? Us both, or... everyone-everyone?!
I set the paper aside. My questions found no answers. Looking at the table, I saw a key with a loop that loosely resembled the number nine.
Is this the number nine we're looking for? Wasn't it a person? How do I sacrifice it? Using it would just... it would...
I took a glance over at E, still sitting, quiet; unaware of the situation. This was what we'd searched for, but... it would... It would damn her. No, it would kill her. I refused to mince words. Desperate for help, no matter the form it took, I shoved a hand into my jacket. There, I found my cap and I hesitantly put it on. I hated wearing it, but maybe this would help me find a way out of this mess, somehow.
There has to be some other way. I need to seek a way out.
BGM: Active Search
Well, before we start looking at all the stuff in here, we gotta check the map!
Hmm, something seems odd this time around, but I can't put my finger on what it might be. Anyway, I want to start by checking out the stands some more, because robots!
If anything is happening, don't be afraid to share with me!
Yeah, I couldn't do that. She probably realized something was amiss, because I tried to lift a robot not too far from her. Either way, the timer was ticking down, I was quickly running out of things to search!
So this is a new addition to the remake, since there's an actual investigation system this time. Previously, Simon just kinda did all his poking around in text form, so you couldn't exactly run down the clock. It's impossible to look at everything before time runs out, but I went and grabbed everything you have the option of looking at, so nothing will be missed.
To continue the investigation, I want to check out that balcony over the entrance.
Unfortunately, there was no staircase leading up there, either from the hallway or from within this room.
Is this inaccessible? I don't understand. I should come back with something that can help me get up there.
Something like, say, that ladder in the backstage area, maybe?
Still, there was a ladder. Even if the time was running out, I could maybe go check out that door in the back of the entrance side with it.
Usually, when you were presented with two options, there was always a third, more hopeful one, no? Even if we had to make it ourselves... I had to keep looking around. I needed to find that third option.
The act of actually obtaining the ladder is its own separate action. So I guess we'll do that!
I grabbed the ladder and it automatically became a part of my inventory. I couldn't stuff it down my pockets, but I could carry it over anywhere else in the immediate. How did the boy with the green tunic do it, anyway? Didn't he carry an entire raft and a grappling hook.. and a sword, a shield, bombs, arrows, a bow, and so much more? I really needed some kind of bag of holding to carry all of this with me.
Since it was so cumbersome, if I dropped by this side again, I'd leave it here. Whether I was done using it or changed my mind about it didn't matter.
I didn't care even if it was an asspull solution! Oh God, please, save E and me!
That's right, we still have to actually carry it over and use it. Simon spent two minutes staring at the ladder.
I found a ladder, so I used it to reach this balcony. By putting the ladder at the very top of the rows of seats, I could reach up there and sneak over the railing. I quickly went over to the door to try and see if it would open.
However, the handles didn't budge. In fact, the door didn't move either when I pulled. It didn't look locked; it looked like it wasn't a door. And before any smartass decided to ask if I pushed on the door, too, I did and the result was the same. After another long look around, I realized the door wasn't leading anywhere. On the other side of the wall was nothing but empty air- the hallway outside was very tall, and the corresponding spot there was nothing but a wall.
Surprise! This isn't the solution, it's a red herring that uses up almost all of your timer to actually find out! That said, there's still other stuff to look at, as well as the option to try and talk to E. I'm gonna start with the entrance hall.
Damn it! I should've checked the map more closely! I could've seen this obvious setup!
This was a trap. There was only one way back out- the way E and I just came from. I shook my head, focusing on the search in this room instead. Nowhere to go but up from here.
I wonder if the hanging lights have anything worth examining? There could be a clue hidden up there.
Wait, shit, the search! I couldn't get caught up by something stupid like that. Those lights wouldn't guide me out of my predicament.
This, somehow, takes Simon two minutes to realize. All that's left to poke at is the stage itself and the table.
The point was, they wouldn't be in any way helpful to me, and I wasted some time; it was yet limited, and I had to do something more productive with it.
Somehow this ALSO takes Simon two minutes. I'll look under the table, then check out the box sitting on top.
That was the desk on stage with the box in which I could discard the key and the paper telling me to do it. Nothing else was underneath it. If this was used in, say, a magic show... I thought perhaps there might've been a trapdoor for disappearing acts. However, there was none of this here. It was all solid. A normal theater, then.
If only there had been a way out here... I could've pulled my own disappearing act, and vanished from this place. If I didn't figure out something, anything, I'd vanish from the world.
This is what it meant by sacrifice, then. If I drop it in there, it'll count as saving everyone's lives?
I swallowed. If I did this, I might be losing my only chance at escaping this place. The alternative wasn't amazing, either. Was this choice meant to make us fight for it? If I had been in a team with someone who knew what was happening, surely things would be far different... Now, the choice was up to me.
Looking at the box gives you the option to drop the key in and end the investigation immediately by making your choice- that is, by choosing to sacrifice the key rather than E. However, there's still the option to talk to E, but, well...
Information could be like a curse, right? There exist information hazards, where simply knowing something would cause you harm. This was one of those. I wanted to ask her, but I really couldn't afford it. The pain of this choice wasn't hers to bear.
That's right... it wasn't hers to bear. It also wasn't my pain to bear, either. Neither us nor anyone else in this place should have to handle this whole situation in the first place. I clenched my teeth in disgust. This place was... horrible.
What a dilemma. The more I thought about it, though, the more it made sense not to use the key to leave. Where there was life, there was hope.
All this thinking had taken its toll on the time I had left. Soon, there was almost none of it. I held my head in my hands, squeezing tightly. Damn it! Damn it all! What could I have done?! The more I tried to get back to the search, the more I decided that sacrificing E wasn't something I wanted to do! I didn't have a choice, then!
If you try to talk to E, no matter what else you've done, the timer runs out. Which brings us back to what happens if the time runs out...
Shit... this... I can't do it. My will is not strong enough...
That was it. There was barely any time left. I had to pick now. The timer was ticking down. I had to pick now! The only option I believed was fine was... this one!
BGM: Ambient Strain
Not to mention, sacrificing someone else for my own gain? That wouldn't win us this strange game. The victory conditions were absurd to begin with. But I didn't have the time to think about that yet. Right now, I had to focus on the issue at hand. The timer was almost up. Ten minutes would soon have passed if I did nothing.
If you run out of time, Simon makes the decision to sacrifice the key. There's no dialogue difference whether you run out the clock or manually make this choice while exploring the room.
Applause rose from the crowd of robots again. Of course, they were the same stock sound as earlier, and they didn't really come from actual people congratulating me on doing the right thing. Despite that, it felt like they were telling me I took the right path. That now, everything would be fine.
BGM: Anaphora Solution
You may believe this to be unfair, but betrayal is part of life as well. It is not betrayal from me, however. You have betrayed yourself. Still, perhaps in a corner of your mind you believe this to be acceptable.
I do hope you have given your due farewells to your friends beforehand.
I took E's hand into my own while he spoke, until I realized he was done. In fact, he wasn't on the screen anymore. It had become pitch black once again. E was smiling, as though she'd understood the predicament I'd been in before. Whether that was the case, I couldn't know. Maybe she sensed my unease in here?
Some of Smiley's words were indeed weighing down on me, though. He spoke of a cage of my own making. I tested that theory. I walked towards the door in the back of the room, behind the desk. E was contently following along, still without a care in the world.
My other hand closed upon the handle. I turned it, and just like I figured, it was locked. Now that I'd thrown the key away, there was no opening this. Still, I had to try. I rammed my body into it. I gave up very quickly, as this only made me dizzy. Just like we'd confirmed much earlier at Ray's demand, I could now also confirm even the doors leading outside from each station were impossible to bust through. Only one thing to do, then: I'd leave this station and bring E back to the others, so that we could continue our escape attempts.
I went down, and... oh, this door didn't have any sort of doorknob, that's right. The only way to open it was with a code. I didn't have any code, though. I was slowly becoming more and more frustrated by the moment. Was there something I overlooked? I went back upstairs with E, taking a quick glance in the bathroom at the end of the hall before entering the theater again.
BGM: Alarming Silence
There was only one door back, strangely enough. Normally, each station covered the entire room overhead, right? So you could go down both sides... but this one only had one door. Only one accessible side. I had no idea what this meant, exactly.
Is there something wrong?
I considered how I should tackle the problem with E. Clearly, we weren't going anywhere anytime soon. But since this was the end of the line... I thought perhaps someone might stumble onto this station and help us from outside, if I waited long enough. Or maybe there was a secret passage!
I wrote a message to E. I was going to search around a little further. E beamed at me, deciding to leave it in my hands, as she was of no use otherwise.
I'll stick around, then! We've got some comfortable seats here.
I left her in one of the theater rows, in a spot empty of robots. At least she wouldn't have to sit around these... strange, uncanny machines.
I touched the walls. I believed maybe there was a secret passage somewhere that could lead down to the station, on the other side. And yet... My search was fruitless. There had to be something to do, somewhere to go to. I searched for something. I didn't know what that something was, but I figured it would be a better use of my time than waiting without doing anything.
BGM: Alarming Situation
When I was given the key to leaving this place, it wasn't just a key to leave the entire subway train system. I twas a key to leave this very station too. Perhaps... there was no way out. I still had to seek a way out, though. I couldn't stand doing nothing.
I sort of knew what happened to people who were in total isolation. They went completely insane after a while, already having hallucinations after a few days at best. Inaction could just, at any moment, rob me of my sanity. If I was alone, it would be worse... but I wasn't alone, was I?
Before that thought was made manifest, I already had begun walking towards her. It was a silly notion, anyway. If I left her alone, she'd go crazy too, especially due to her circumstances!
I wrote a message to E after sitting down with her. I told her every event that had happened here. She looked a little concerned, and she had every right to be.
I really wonder... How did we even end up in here? It doesn't matter, I guess... as long as we're still alive...
I agreed with her. I was still alive and I just had to think. But her hand in mine made it increasingly hard to do so. Something flashed within my head.
I wrote it on another paper. Strangely enough, she looked very... happy.
BGM: Agoraphobic Sloth
You know, even though we're stuck here, I think that's fine for me. Do you agree?
I agreed. I readied my papers so I could communicate with her.
We were at the mercy of the others finding this place anyway. We waited for dozens of minutes.
Half an hour went by.
A whole hour passed us.
Two hours eventually elapsed.
By the time the five hour mark came by, I wasn't even thinking about escaping anymore. She and I both were enjoying each other's company. No, nothing gross. Just wholesome pastimes.
We discussed things of all kinds. Escape? That didn't matter. I didn't even care.
Perhaps this was all that was important. If my friends couldn't find me, if no one came to help, if nothing else happened, then we would help each other remain sane.
This room... was a world of our own making. You may think it to be only make-believe, but for us it was real. After a longer time had passed, I started to believe this was really all I needed.
BGM: Anaphora Solution
She and I were both happy, together like this. Her disabilities weren't even on my mind anymore. Escaping wasn't on my mind anymore. Smiley wasn't on my mind anymore.
Everything was right as it should've been.
Everything was right... as it should've been. Darkness would be coming for me soon, but I didn't care.
Everything was... right... as it should've been.
Deep inside, a malignant darkness was growing, as if I remembered I should have been doing something, yet still wasn't doing it.
As the darkness came, I screamed, internally. Quietly. Eternally.
Next time, we take another option.