Part 50: Holding On
content warning: hand trauma, violence/gore, vague mention of child abuse
[BGM: Whispered Feeling]
Ever since I was a little kid I had always liked to ponder certain questions.
Why was I me? Why were other people them?
Why wasn't I other people? Why weren't they me?
Did the world really exist, and was everyone living in it the same as I?
Or was the world like a movie playing in front of me, and I was the projector of the movie? If I shut myself down, would the world still exist?
I knew I would never find out the answers to these questions.
Because I could only be myself, not anybody else.
Even when I had learned that there were over 7 billion people on the Earth, or that compared to the Sun the Earth was as big as a grain of sand on a beach, or that in our universe our Sun was barely as big as a grain of sand.
I still didn't have the answers to those questions.
Therefore, ever since I was a little kid, I had always been eager to prove myself to the world.
I must get the best grade on an exam.
I must be the last person standing in a fight.
I must be the best artist in the world.
And I almost had been the world's finest artist.
Fourteen years ago, in an unusually wet winter in Italy.
I had been living in Venice at the time, preparing for my first personal art show.
If the show was a success it would be possible for me to become one of the most highly prized artists in the world, recognized alongside some of the greatest names in history.
After weeks and weeks of preparation I was exhausted, but also excited.
When my fiancee called and told me that she had caught the flu, and that she had to be hospitalized for a few days, I barely thought twice about it.
I just told her to get some rest, thinking I would make it up to her with a huge surprise as soon as I got back home.
I could never have imagined that a crumbled and ruined world would be awaiting me.
VIRS. When the entire country was embroiled in a devastating fight against the virus and gasping for breath, I was laughably living in my own space, completely isolated from the tragedy.
When my bubble finally burst I realized everything that I had ever chased meant nothing anymore.
I was nothing but a selfish coward.
I kept painting, but only because I had no idea what else I could possibly do.
10 years later I had been diagnosed with stomach cancer.
I didn't want to, nor did I deserve to cause anyone any more trouble.
So I had the surgery alone and left China, with barely any luggage.
The world was so big, and I wanted to go see it before the end.
The Amazon jungle, Antarctica, the Middle East...
I suffered from hunger and cold. I had even been hit by a bullet.
When I had finally thrown away all of my nonsense and started truly appreciating the world for what it was, I began to realize that this world, and the lives in it, were all so magnificent and real.
Another three years had gone by, and I had been feeling pretty great when I went to the doctor for another checkup.
The doctor said I was in remission; the cancer was under control. He said my positive and relaxed attitude could be very helpful for treatment.
Before I left he told me to keep living life, and treasure it like I had been given a second chance.
After I left the hospital I suddenly had the urge to go and see a person whom I had often been thinking about.
But I couldn't allow myself to.
I could only hope that she was having a happy and good life.
I had settled down in Hong Kong. I had rented a small studio, and I had been teaching little kids drawing.
I wasn't well paid, but I was enjoying myself.
Occasionally there would be a few people who would visit my studio, and they told me that they wanted to purchase some of my pieces.
Well, my paintings were all records of the most unforgettable people and events in my life.
How could I possibly sell them?
God had always loved toying with me.
Just when I was getting used to this peaceful new life, it was shaken upside down again. Literally this time.
A severe earthquake hit the island of Hong Kong without any warning.
When I came to I had been buried under debris.
My right hand was pinned under a big piece of concrete and I had lost all feeling.
I assumed the bones had probably been broken.
A day had gone by. I hadn't had anything to drink since the day started.
A day had gone by. I thought I had heard somebody yelling something.
A day had gone by. The darkness had swallowed me.
I had gone three days without water. My body was severely dehydrated and I couldn't even urinate.
I thought I had heard someone calling my name for the past two days. I must have started hallucinating. Things couldn't get any worse.
I looked at my right hand underneath the concrete, and I still couldn't feel anything. I made a decision.
One, two, three, four...
I picked up a rock with my left hand, and smashed it at my right wrist until I started bleeding.
I sucked on my own blood, tried not to waste a single drop. Perhaps it was all an illusion, but I felt a little more energy through my body.
Yet, my decision did not seem to pay off.
Another few days had gone by. My right hand barely looked like a hand anymore.
There was still no sign of rescue.
I wanted... to live...
Well, it's all up from here for him, thankfully- this is the only Bad ending for this puzzle. From here, we'll work our way up to the S ending.
I had gone so long without any water. My body was seriously dehydrated.
I had to drink my own urine, hoping to survive until I could be rescued.
Even though I had been submerged inside the darkness, I could still sense every sunrise and sunset.
Whenever the sun went down the night chill would surround me, along with a growing desperation.
I felt something near my left hand.
It seemed to be a piece of paper, hanging out of a bag.
It was one of the paintings from my old collection.
I put the painting in front of my nose.
I started to see the vague shapes of the painting.
It was a quick sketch from my teaching days in Beijing. It wasn't really a piece of art.
The subject of the painting was a girl. She was holding a pencil, and drawing. Her face was tightened up, thinking about her strokes.
She was actually drawing me, and not very well, by the way.
I had carried this sketch with me wherever I went.
I would take it out and look at it whenever I was resting.
I had wondered if I should draw another one, but eventually I decided not to.
This sketch, even the paper itself, was one of my most precious memories.
I wanted... to live...
And now, the S ending.
[BGM: Green Fog]
...body ...there? Plea... ...spond!
I would never forget this voice. Ever.
I must have started hallucinating.
My mind went back to my teaching days three years ago.
The girl that I had chosen to be my assistant just because I had wanted to go home early, she was yelling my name.
She was angry at me that I had torn up her friend's sketch.
She did not know that we had already met the night before.
If a person could still live in his own memory after death, I wished I could return to that moment and freeze time. Then I would look at her, do nothing but just look at her, until the end of time.
A small pebble fell down on my head. I opened my eyes.
The light coming through the crack had blinded me, as I hadn't seen light for so long.
The crack was becoming bigger and bigger until my face was completely exposed in the sunlight.
I could see the person who was the closest to me, but only their silhouette. Still, it looked incredibly like her.
But how could it be possible?
The silhouette stopped moving. It seemed to be hesitating.
...How... You... can you hear me? Can you... move your hand?
It even sounded like her.
Even though I knew it couldn't possibly be her, I still teared up, unable to control myself.
I struggled to raise my left hand.
She reached out with her hand.
...Don't let go! ...Hold on. Now... keep your eyes on me.
Hold on! Keep your eyes on me!
I'm... sorry... I'm so scared...
Don't be scared... I would never leave you alone, ever...
Don't be scared... I would never leave you alone, ever...
I held onto her hand as tightly as I could, with all of the strength I had left.
Even if it was just an illusion, I would never let her go again.
I'm sorry. I have broken my word.
For the last three years I had thought about what I would say to her if I ever got to meet her again, so many times in my head. I had practiced all of the various scenarios I could think of.
Yet in the end, all I was able to mutter was a mere sorry.
She didn't respond. But I could feel her shaking.
I took a deep breath.
Could you give me another chance... to love you?
One year later, a new piece of mine was on display at the Beijing Exhibition Center.
I had named this piece The Sun.
A lot of people had asked me, wouldn't The Sunrise be a more appropriate title?
I would always respond with a smile.
Yes, to the others, the piece was about a sunrise.
But to me it was about the most important thing in my life.
It was the Sun, but not the sun.
I glanced at the girl to my right, who was staring at the painting quietly.
I put my arm around her shoulder.
It started snowing outside of the center.
The pedestrians all stopped and marveled at the scene. No one had ever seen snowing in the middle of the summer.
Yet while the snow kept getting heavier, the sun was still shining blindingly in the sky.
My eyes squinted in the bright glare, and I held onto her hand even tighter.
We both smiled.
God had really blessed me
...at least she's in her mid-20s now. Let's go back to the Mail menu now.
[BGM: Lost Memories]
[BGM: No Escape from Here]
Key of Fortune
I reached out for my Ser Spotty body pillow, but it wasn't there.
I shook my dizzy head and sat up on my bed, trying to remember what had happened last night.
I had been chased by a strange masked person on my way to the supermarket. The man seemed determined to kill me.
I finally got away thanks to a landslide just off the road.
I was completely exhausted when I came back and fell asleep as soon as my head touched the pillow.
However, this was clearly not my own room.
I sat up. The floating dust made me sneeze a few times.
I turned around and saw that there was a clearly human shaped mark on the old sofa bed. The rest of it was all covered with dust.
Some of the furniture was covered with cloth and messily arranged in the corner.
There were no windows in the room, only a locked gate. I appeared to be in a warehouse.
The only source of light was a dim desk lamp on a wooden table that had one leg shorter than the others.
There was also an hourglass, and a used syringe on the uneven table top.
A note was placed under the hourglass.
[You were pretty lucky yesterday. But can you still find the key to your fortune today?]
[This time, the game is timed, so please be aware of your time limit. If it's Game Over for you, I'll be very sad.]
The note was signed with a smiley face.
No, no... this was not just a smiley face. This was... Pi?
The infamous psycho serial killer, Pi!
Two years ago, an extremely bizarre murder case had taken over the news for a while.
A thirty-something year old man died in the bathtub of his own house.
To be more accurate, he didn't die there. His body was placed there.
All 24 pieces of it, each of them meticulously sliced.
The blood had been drained and the entire bathroom was totally spotless, as if it had just been cleaned by specially trained crew.
The only clue left at the scene was a smiley face drawn with a marker on one piece of his body.
Even more bizarre, the man was a divorced father who had been living with his ten-year-old son.
After his death, the son told the police that he had been abused by his father multiple times.
In fact, he claimed that he remembered the exact number of times that it had happened: 24 times.
Was it just a coincidence?
Was this smiley face killer some kind of a vengeful angel of justice?
The media started to spin the story, adding their own imagination and speculation. For a while all kinds of articles about justice and evil were all over both legitimate and gossip newspapers alike.
As the police were completely at a loss with the case a similarly strange, yet wildly different case happened.
A drug-addicted pub singer, who was known for frequently abusing his girlfriend and causing multiple miscarriages, was found dead in the backstage of the bar where he usually performed.
The crime scene was very clean and showed no signs of a struggle.
They were only able to identify traces of blood on the floor after using luminol.
His vocal chords had been ripped away from his body.
Meanwhile, a cassette tape was found beside the body. The tape was a recording of the singer's own voice, but completely off key.
A smiley face was drawn upon the tape.
Afterwards, the police referred to the suspect with the codename Pi, because the smiley face looked a lot like the symbol π if it was rotated.
They tried to prevent all information regarding Pi from leaking. Yet somehow the media kept finding more and more juicy stories.
They soon summarized several characteristics that were shared among Pi's victims:
3. Some kind of abnormal perversion.
For instance ------ A middle-aged man who was extremely into S&M that started targeting neighborhood children.
A man who always cheated on his partners and then beat them up when he ended the relationships.
An elementary school principal who was a pedophile and molested his own students.
Molested the students?
It was as if a bomb had just gone off in my brain.
It must be because of that goddamned gossip article!
He was after me for the wrong reason!
However, I had no other choice but to find him so that I could explain myself.
I read the note again.
I rolled up my sleeves to examine my arms.
And I found it. There was a tiny blue-ish needle mark on my left arm.
Crap. There wasn't much time left.
The warehouse gate had been secured by an ancient looking lock.
The lock was covered with carved markings and seemed quite heavy and sturdy.
There was a keyhole in the center of it; it seemed to be a challenge.
To make things worse, it wasn't that I couldn't find a key ------ A chest had been placed right next to the gate. It was filled with keys, lots of them in all kinds of shapes.
I flipped the chest to the ground desperately.
All of the keys poured onto the ground in a chaotic flood of metal. There must be thousands of them!
About half of the sand was still in the top half of the hourglass.
I probably only had approximately one hour left.
Even if I could try one key every three seconds, I would have only gone through less than half of these keys.
However, I had no time to waste, and I had to start trying them one by one even though I had no idea what to do next.
50 minutes had passed.
I inserted another key into the key hole.
The Goddess of Fortune had never favored me, ever since I was a little kid.
The final grains of sand had dropped onto the small dune in the bottom half of the hourglass.
Excruciating pain exploded in my chest. I couldn't even hold the key in my hand anymore.
I dropped the key onto the pile. It made a clinking sound and I collapsed onto the pile.
I must have completely wasted my time watching all of those crime-investigation thriller movies. All I could think of right now were the scenes where the victim died. I couldn't remember even a single scene where the heroes escaped because of their intelligence.
It hurt so much that I curled into a ball on the ground. My mind was almost gone, and I felt warmth beneath my nose.
I wiped my face with my hand. Blood.
It was over. I was going to die in a godforsaken place that no one would ever know about, because the psycho serial killer had got the wrong guy...
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