Part 58: Catch Me If You Can
content warning: vague allusion to CSA
[BGM: Friend of Mine]
So, this puzzle is pretty straightforward in how it's solved- we just need to prioritize what card we give Hotaru and what card we want in our hand, as these are the two primary details that alter everything else regarding this card game- specifically, what Carlos' hand looks like afterwards.
Unsurprisingly, there's quite a few endings besides the S to get here, so let's take a look at some of the other Bad endings we can get here...
I took the card from Hotaru. It was an ace!
Why would he give away an ace?
I double checked my hand: 3... 6... ace... ace... 21!
Hotaru and I slammed our cards on the bed at the same time.
I looked at Hotaru's hand: 8, ace, ace, ace. He had 21 too.
Wait... how, how could there be 5 aces?
I grabbed him by his collar. So that's how you've always won! You're a cheater!
Hey, shut your mouth! You're the cheater!
The other inmates were all woken up by our yelling, and they were now booing and cheering from their own cells.
Hotaru pushed me away, Count the cards!
We counted the whole deck, and we realized that not only was their one too many aces, it was also missing a 2.
We both stripped all of our clothes off to prove our innocence. We searched through the entire cell and still couldn't find the missing 2.
Hotaru suspected that someone must have messed with the cards the last time he played.
In the end, we had to get a new deck and restarted the game.
Unfortunately, luck was not on my side this time.
So, now we know that there's an extra ace and a missing 2 in the deck, which is good information to have. Unfortunately, the rest of the Bad endings don't give us any new information and are just Carlos losing in various ways, so I'll run down the other outcomes quickly and otherwise skip them for redundancy's sake:
Giving Hotaru an A and wishing for a 6 results in them discovering the five aces, but Hotaru refuses to play again due to believing Carlos is cheating;
Giving Hotaru a 3 and wishing for a 6 results in neither of them getting 21, but realizing there's five aces when they show their hands, leading to a new deck being obtained and Carlos losing;
Giving Hotaru a 3 and wishing for an A results in neither of them getting 21, but Carlos being closer and winning the first hand, only to lose to Hotaru getting 21 next round;
And lastly, giving Hotaru a 6 and wishing for an A results in neither of them getting 21, but Hotaru being closer and winning the first hand, followed up by getting 21 next round.
With that, let's get to the S ending.
I took the card from Hotaru. It was an ace!
Why would he give away an ace?
I double checked my hand: 3... 6... ace... ace... 21!
I slammed my cards on the bed.
Hotaru looked at the cards, and yelled: You cheated!
He showed me his hand ------ 2, ace, ace, ace.
How could there be 5 aces?
No, I didn't! It must be you! Don't lie to me! If, if you're still a man, just own up to it!
I honestly did not know where the fifth ace had come from.
Even though I didn't think Hotaru would do something like this, I couldn't afford to be a pushover right now.
Hotaru looked a little tense.
He was silent for a while, and eventually squeezed out a sheesh.
Fine. You won. But let me be clear, I'm not a miracle worker, either.
Of course, of course. All I'm asking is for you to switch cells with Pi...
Please. Please say yes. Please say yes!
I silently prayed to the Lord in my heart, and both of my hands were clenched into fists.
Hotaru looked troubled this time. That... Sorry, I can't.
I collapsed into the chair and let out a disappointed sigh.
I didn't expect that the plan would fail at this step. I was so close.
Well... listen. I'll tell you why, but you have to promise not to tell anyone.
Hotaru put away the cards and lowered his voice.
...although even if you do, I can guarantee you'll be the one to suffer.
He got off the bed.
Then he started pulling out the stuff that he had been piling underneath it.
Then he told me to look under the bed.
I lay down on my stomach and put my head to the ground.
Wow! A huge hole!
[BGM: Lost Memories]
NEW MESSAGE: Catch Me If You Can
[BGM: Friend of Mine]
Catch Me If You Can
9:30 PM, Hotaru changed into his robe and went to the guards' monitor box.
9:45PM, I managed to incite Jin and Qiang into a fight and created a little chaos.
9:45PM, Pi made his cellmate fall asleep.
9:47PM, while everyone's attention was drawn to Jin and Qiang, Pi came into my cell.
9:53PM, Hotaru came back.
9:55PM, all of the inmates had gone back to their own cells, and the gates were all locked up.
10 PM, no guards showed up for the roll call.
10:07 PM, Hotaru, Pi, and I climbed into the underground tunnel through the hole in the floor of the cell.
So far, everything was going smoothly, according to plan.
The tunnel was in the basement floor of the prison. There was another monitor room at the end of it.
It had a skylight window on the ceiling, which was right under the prison yard.
It was also located on the edge of the yard near the prison walls. It was the only area that wasn't covered by the search lights.
If we could get there without being discovered, freedom would finally be within our reach.
But here came the biggest obstacle in our whole plan: the guards in the monitor room.
Every night there would be two people on duty in the room.
Most of the time they stayed inside. They would leave and patrol the basement floor every once in a while.
We had to get into the room, during their patrol, without running into them.
We must then get out through the window before they came back; only then would the plan be a success.
For an entire month I had been observing the patrols while I hid in the underground tunnel.
There was a lot of heavy machinery on the basement floor. They had divided the whole floor into many smaller lanes.
Traversing all of the lanes would take a very long time, therefore most of the guards didn't really bother. Their patrol routes had no schedule or patterns whatsoever.
However, there was a pair of peculiar twin brothers, who would always follow the same route without exception.
It was such a huge break for us.
Naturally, we decided to choose a night when the twins were on duty to carry out our plan.
To be absolutely sure, I had even drawn a map of their patrol route, haha...
The monitor room was in the northwestern corner of the basement floor, and we set out from the southeastern corner.
We could use the machinery as cover.
However, there was nothing blocking the view in the lanes. The moment the guards appeared in the same lane as us, in either direction, they would see us immediately.
In short, we had to get to the monitor room in a limited amount of time, while avoiding the patrolling guards.
I had planned our route in advance. It should be------
But I seemed to have made a mistake.
After 2 intersections, we were caught by one of the twins!
After the guards saw us we began running towards the monitor room in the hope of still making it.
But before we could climb out through the window, we heard the deafening alarms screaming outside.
We were doomed...
We were each put into solitary cells afterwards.
The hole under the bunk bed in Cell 28 was also filled.
The next time I saw Pi and Hotaru was a week later in the yard.
Pi was still his usual self. He seemed to be having lots of fun even if he had failed to escape.
Since our failed attempt at escaping, the guards started to distance themselves from Hotaru to save their own skins.
Hotaru no longer played his card games with others, as he no longer had any income.
It was all my fault.
I even had a map of the patrol!
How could I have miscalculated our route?
I thought about the angry looks Hotaru gave me.
I thought about the fact that I might never be able to get out.
I thought about the people that wanted to hurt Alicia.
I felt so hopeless.
Was there absolutely no other way to get out?
Lord! Please guide me!
Now THIS is a video game puzzle! That said, this is very straightforward, you either get the right solution or you don't, very little room for variance or error. If you want to try and solve the puzzle yourself, here's the point to stop scrolling.
That said, there is one more Bad ending, because there's another way to fuck it up besides 'run into a guard', so let's check that out first...
But I seemed to have made a mistake.
Somehow, we walked into a dead end.
Just when I was double checking my map, we heard someone yelling from a distance.
The twins had seen us...
Yeah. You either run into the twins, you run into a dead end (and then get caught), or you get the S ending. Pretty cut and dry. In any case, the proper solution to get out of here is...
At 10:30 PM, we managed to sneak into the monitor room.
Looking up through the window at the corner of the ceiling, I could even see the sapphire color of the starry night.
We made it!
...VERY cut and dry, in fact.
[BGM: Lost Memories]
NEW MESSAGE: Final Fantasy
NEW MESSAGE: Blinking Light
NEW MESSAGE: Pi's Concerns
[BGM: My World]
My name is Pi.
It's not my real name.
But everyone kept calling me that, so I decided to take it.
Sometimes I wondered if God and fortune had abandoned me.
But I knew that there were many, many people in this world who might be as unfortunate as me, or even more so.
I was determined to look for them, approach them, and seek out the culprit who had turned their lives into living nightmares.
I would never be a god, but I was a deliverer of God's punishment.
Evil deserved to be punished, and the unfortunate deserved to be salvaged.
As for the sin of revenge, let me be the sole bearer of its wrath.
However, I had begun to gradually realize that the evil in these humans was almost like bacteria, or a virus; they could be everywhere.
They could dwell in a dark, humid, disgusting back alley...
Or a loud and ecstatic pub...
Or a joyful and innocent elementary school...
I could still remember the lust in that PE teacher's eyes when he had mentioned his students.
It was sickening. It was stomach-turning.
Even though I kept eliminating them one after another, I always ended up running into the next foul bastard hiding in another evasive corner of the city.
I finally came to one conclusion after my activities had been published in the papers.
Instead of tracking them down one by one, a more effective way was... to deter them with fear.
The last target I had on the outside had been an unemployed young man who I had accidentally run into on the street.
I picked up the newspaper that he had dropped and there was a story about someone molesting young children on it.
That someone was him.
It grabbed my attention, so I decided to follow him for a while.
As it turned out, he was clearly not a pedophile. The article was just gossip that had to have been planted by someone who had wanted to slander him.
Still, I figured if I left my smiley face signature next to this pedophilic young man, as the press called him, it would become another viral story in the media for sure.
And then the real perverts would certainly think twice before committing any more atrocities.
Maybe they would even be scared shitless, and wouldn't dare go outside...
My logic was impeccable.
But my luck wasn't, and things didn't turn out the way I had planned.
Life in prison wasn't so bad.
There were plenty of evil men who had received a much less serious sentence than what they deserved.
Occasionally, I would send a couple of them to hell in the name of justice.
However, for every day that I had to stay in prison, more evil went unchecked in the world outside.
The thought made me feel anxious every single day when I was in there.
Therefore, the moment that I heard Carlos mention prison break, I immediately joined his plan without any hesitation.
Today was the day of our escape.
I was guessing that we might have run into some trouble.
I said guessing, because I couldn't see what was going on in the yard from where I was standing.
Carlos was supposed to follow Hotaru out through the window.
And I would follow them.
However, Carlos was still lying on the ledge beneath the window.
Since there was only enough space for one person, I had to hide myself behind the door.
So far, only Hotaru was up in the yard.
I had never fully trusted that shorty.
If he dared to betray us, I would not let him get away with this.
Right at that instant I heard the footsteps of the prison guards on night duty.
The twins had come back from their patrol!
The door squeaked as it was pushed open.
I held him tightly.
There was a syringe in his hand.
I choked the neck of the guard in front.
But I didn't want to kill either of them.
There was no reason to punish them. Besides, as long as I could get out of here, there would be nothing they could do about me.
I was too careless.
This man was much stronger than I thought. When my chokehold just barely loosened up for an instant, he reached his arm backwards and stabbed me in the neck with the syringe in his hand.
It somehow felt familiar to me.
Only this time it wasn't poison in the syringe, but a strong hallucinogen.
Everything before my eyes suddenly began to look bent and twisted...
All the shapes were tangled together...
And then untangled...
And restructured again...
And they morphed into emptiness.
There was only me left, standing in the center of a dark vacuum.
A man emerged from the dark. He walked towards me and stopped in front of me, looking down at me coldly.
He had oily dark hair and a round belly. He was carrying an empty beer bottle; he could barely stand.
Where is your mother? Did she go to Alex's again?
I felt something familiar yet strange growing in my heart.
But... who was this person?
My splitting headache started up again as if someone was squeezing my brain.
I kept enduring the pain in my head and pulled out an imaginary gun.
I pointed it at the oily-haired man, and pulled the trigger.
I heard a gunshot, but then I found myself holding a cooking knife instead.
A bloody knife...
The man standing opposite of me split into two people.
A man and a woman, both with blonde hair and blue eyes, were holding each other intimately.
The man seemed a little nervous while the woman had a smirk on her face. They were looking directly at me.
She was also holding a gun in her right hand. It was the same one that had just been in my hand. A wisp of grey smoke was rising from the tip of the barrel.
Bastard... Bas...tard... Bastard...
No! ...No! I was not a bad child!
My brain felt like it was being tumbled with a thousand knives. Everything started morphing once again.
The pain had spread across my entire body; I felt like I was drowning in it.
I couldn't distinguish the boundary between reality and hallucination at all anymore.
Who, who on earth were they?!
Help... help me... help...
[BGM: No Escape from Here]
My name is Carlos. I had planned a prison break not too long ago.
Besides me, Pi and Hotaru were also involved in the plan.
They were both inmates in Hong Kong Central Prison, just like me.
On that night, we overcame lots of obstacles and broke into the monitor room on the basement floor.
We were so close to freedom.
The room had a skylight window with two layers.
The inside layer was a sliding glass window to keep the dirt out, and on top of that was a window grate to protect the glass.
Underneath the window there was a small ledge that was barely large enough for one person to lie upon.
When the weather was nice, the guards would open the glass window for ventilation.
That must be why the ledge was covered with dirt.
Hotaru slid the glass window open, pushed the grate, and climbed out.
I was about to follow him.
But he turned around, dropped the grate and stepped on it.
What was going on?
I was suddenly reminded of what Pi had told me in private.
That little shorty is a sneaky bastard. I don't like him at all.
When I first heard him say that, all I could think about was, Yeah. You're one to talk...
I figured he only disliked Hotaru for the same reason that he disliked people like Kai.
But now, I realized he might have had a point.
Hotaru, should we trust him?
I would not be surprised if he betrayed us right this moment.
I laid down on the ledge.
Through the glass, I could see another dark figure joining Hotaru, but I couldn't tell who that was.
It was probably a prison guard.
No other people would be in the yard at this hour of the day.
Hotaru was talking to the person.
Even though there was only a grate between us, they were speaking so quietly that I still couldn't hear what they were saying.
Shouldn't the guard be suspicious about Hotaru being there?
Or maybe Hotaru was close enough to him that he would just let him go?
Or... maybe Hotaru had planned this all along?
The dark figure moved a little.
He unzipped his pants and let out a deep breath.
A stream of foul smelling yellow liquid suddenly rained upon my head through the grate.
And it kept going!
What the hell was that? Why would anyone pee in public like this?
I finally couldn't tolerate the smell anymore and let out a cough.
The guard noticed me.
Two minutes later, surrounded by a dozen prison guards, I was pulled up to the ground through the window.
I finally saw the face of the other man. It was Morgan.
After our escape failed, we were all sent to solitary cells.
I only learned later that Morgan was a drug addict.
It was pure coincidence for us to run into him on that fateful night.
Morgan had been out walking that night, high as a kite.
He didn't even realize that Hotaru was trying to escape when he saw him.
It was me who ruined the whole thing.
If I could have kept quiet, we might still have been able to make it.
Lord, would I have to spend the rest of my life in prison?
[BGM: Whispered Feeling]
My name is written as Tachibana Hotaru on my passport.
But most people only knew me as Hotaru,
as it was also my moniker.
It had been written in Hiragana and hung over the door of my room in the okiya.
The geisha okiya, located in Shinjuku 4-chome in Tokyo, was where I grew up.
On a moonless night, I, still a newborn baby, had been left at the back door of the okiya.
I was wrapped in a piece of plain white cloth, and there was a glass jar with fireflies in it next to me.
The faint blinking lights of the fireflies (hotaru) had grabbed the attention of a sister that was coming back late. That was also how I got my name.
Since then, the sisters in the okiya had become my family.
And that day, July 9th, became my birthday.
I had shown a talent for dancing and performing since I was very young.
The mama of the okiya wanted to send me away to a kabuki school, but I didn't want to leave the okiya.
After some arguments and compromises, I became a male geisha.
It was not something particularly uncommon in the past, but in contemporary Japan it was almost unheard of.
Still, rules were made by people.
For a long time a paper fan, a kimono, a shamisen, and my family were the entirety of my world.
Until I met the savior of my life.
It was a stormy evening.
Kizumi-kai was holding a banquet at our place, welcoming some guests who had come all the way from China.
Menacing bodyguards in black suits were everywhere, from the gate to the back yard.
A lot of them had a suspicious bulge on their waists.
I was told those were concealed guns.
Kizumi-kai was both a stakeholder in, and the protector of, our okiya. It was also the most powerful gang in the Shinjuku area.
The okiya had prepared many performances for this night.
No mistakes would be allowed.
The opening act was Plum Blossom Creek, a dance that I had performed numerous times before.
However, on that night, I had caught a little cold; I wasn't feeling too well.
With the atmosphere feeling so tense in the room, I was so nervous that I accidentally flung the fan out of my hand in the middle of the dance.
The fan hit the head of a guest.
It then fell into the boiling beef pot in front of him.
The entire room became deadly silent. But a young Chinese boy sitting at the corner of the table burst out laughing.
Kizumi-kai's men were outraged.
I immediately dropped to my knees and begged for forgiveness. I was trembling from head to toe, too scared to even look up.
One of them had already released the safety on his gun when the laughing young man said something.
I couldn't understand what he had said, but it must have been something nice.
He became the savior of my life.
Our story had a fairy tale beginning.
But we didn't get to have the best ending.
Two years ago, he died.
I only heard about it later, by accident, from some other customers. They also said that it had been a suicide.
It couldn't be possible.
I began to regret a lot of things.
It was always him who would come to Japan to visit me, but I had never gone to Hong Kong to visit him.
We could only meet two or three times a year, and only for a few days each time.
He would never tell me in advance, so every time was always a surprise.
Sometimes I would fantasize about it when he was not with me.
I would think to myself, maybe he was in Japan, and maybe he would suddenly appear in front of me!
The last time he came to see me I was on a trip to Tottori with the sisters, so we missed each other.
But I never would have thought that it would be my last chance to ever see him. He killed himself while I was away.
I couldn't let him die like this.
Against the objections from my sisters, I packed up all of my belongings and savings and came to Hong Kong.
I finally managed to find his housekeeper who had always looked after him.
The housekeeper accompanied him to Japan a couple of times. We had met a few times, and I knew I could trust him.
He told me that he had never believed that his young master would have committed suicide.
He knew somebody who wanted the young master dead, but he didn't have enough proof.
The Lin family was a huge clan that had grown to have too many factions and infighting.
If you wanted someone gone, you either made sure you had sufficient evidence against him, or you killed them.
Was that somebody responsible?
To find out the truth I needed more information, and more money.
After spending some time on the street looking for clues, I had an idea. I bribed a few cops to arrest me for something made up, just so that I could be sent to Hong Kong Central Prison.
In here, not only would they take care of my room and board, I could make more money and collect more information with my special gift.
Everyone in the prison had their own value to me.
Some of them were worth the few hundred bucks that I could win off them in a bet.
Others might have power and connections that could help me get closer to the truth.
The drunk and barely coherent prison guard who was standing in front of me right this moment fell into the latter group. His name was Morgan.
[BGM: No Escape from Here]
W-Were we not just together? Did you miss me already, sweet baby? Ha... haha...
He was supposed to be doing the roll call tonight, so I had gotten him drunk earlier, hoping he would be sleeping it off.
Who knew that he would be out wandering, doing drugs again... His deeply sedated brain was probably making him unable to think anymore.
Nevertheless, him being here was still a problem for us.
I had to be calm.
I pulled my cap lower.
Care for a drink?
Hold on one second...
Morgan unzipped his pants and started doing his thing without even turning away.
Oh no! That was... oh God...
I heard someone cough under the window.
Carlos, you idiot... we were so screwed...
I should not have agreed to help that idiot escape.
I had been in Cell 28 for a long time.
At first, it was just me. Soon I found the hole under the bottom bunk bed, which was big enough for one person to escape.
Perhaps somebody else had tried to escape from here, but for some reason he had to abort, therefore leaving the hole behind like this and without being discovered by the guards.
I thought it was a blessing from the gods, gifting me with an exit strategy like this.
Once I had enough money, I could just disappear without a trace.
I had never revealed this secret to anyone else.
Never would I have imagined that my plan would be ruined by someone like Carlos.
I didn't know that he would want to switch me out of this cell after winning the card game.
I had no choice but to tell him the truth.
One thing led to another, and it ended up being a prison break involving three people...
Damn it, I should not have told him. I should have just made up some other excuse.