Chapter 2:

Fear, Riddles, and a Cruel Game Part 1

Escape from the Cult of Happy Endings

As I waited at the door, the speakers blared to life.

"Oh, before you enter the next room, we'd like to explain the rules for the room. You will have a timer of one hour. After the hour passes, the prisoner will be given a happy ending. If you wish to avoid this, you must save the prisoner. However, the prisoner will be competing against you. One of you must win and the results will determine the prisoner's survival. The clues are in the room. We wish you-"


I quickly interrupted the speaker. Something didn't quite add up, so I decided to question the voice for clarification.

"Did you not say that each room would be self contained? Doesn't that mean that receiving the rules now would mean the room requires clues from outside the room?"

"Oh, not to worry. You can find the clues to this within the room, but we wanted to help you along with skipping the elementary deductions."

Oh? If I were to read between the lines, it perhaps went something like, "You took so long that we are behind schedule, so we decided to speed things up a little by giving you some hints."

"Well, I suppose if they were such elementary problems, then I need not waste my time on such things."

"We thank you for your understanding. We wish you best of luck in obtaining a happy ending."

With that, the speakers clicked off and the door released with an audible hiss as if closed by some form of a pressure based system. Considering how smoothly the door moved, with no audible or visible signs of scraping, I  suspected the door - as well as the rest of the facility - to be relatively new. Once fully opened, I examined the next room for any obvious dangers before tossing my puzzle cube into the room. No reaction showed to my room, so I called my cube back and lightly hopped into the room myself, preparing myself to act.

Fortunately, nothing seemed to threaten me. It seemed that I really was in no danger except from any prisoners I released, but I could handle those with my cube. I had no idea how the cube actually worked as it was some strange creation by mom, but I had plenty of charges left in the cube. More importantly, I needed to look for clues.

It seemed there was a clock above the door here as well, but this one was digital and displayed 60:00 on the screen. I supposed it would tick down once I initiated the room's mechanics. There was a prisoner here as well, but he wasn't gagged, although he was bound to the wall by a chain. Oddly though, the prisoner backed away from me while shuddering and while his eyes seemed glued to me, observing my every movement, he made no attempt to speak. I could hear his teeth clattering and beads of sweat appeared on his forehead, so I surmised he was afraid of me. 

Looking around, I saw a small screen with no controls.  This suggested that perhaps he, and possibly other prisoners, saw the events in the first room. This also suggested that the reason I was told about the rules outside the room was to prevent the prisoner from hearing the rules himself. Very likely, this not only meant that the screen only displayed visuals and not sound and he was told different rules than me. Very likely, he was either told he had to win or that he had to lose, but that he wasn't allowed to tell me which. Of course, it is also very likely that he was told to do the opposite of what would save him, but that might not be the case.

I had no obligation to save these prisoners, but with them in front of me, I might as well try. I didn't see much of note in his cage. There was a tank of water above him as well as a long rubber handle attached to the roof via metal chains. The floor of the cell was a metal grate and the cell itself used metal bars. Surrounding the cell appeared to be a cushion of rubber and I could see some wires connecting to the grate. I suspected that his happy ending would consist of some powerful shock if I failed to save him.

Well, I suspected that the only way to really save him would be to complete this room properly, so I continued to search for clues. After all, the important part was determining who needed to win. Unfortunately, the only other clue appeared to be a single desk in the middle of the room with a nice chair waiting. This desk's surface was at an angle as if to hide the contents of the desk. I sat down on the chair, facing the prisoner. Upon the surface of the desk, a letter laid embedded behind a glass pane.

You alone hold the keys to life or death. No other participant may see this but yourself. Will you choose to let the man live, or will you let the man achieve his goal and leave him to his happy ending? When you are prepared to decide his fate, look to the top drawer on your right and left. Which you choose will influence the judgement.
This man bears guilt of stealing food and valuables from a family. As a result of his actions, one of his victims starved to death. Though the man himself faced death, his decision cost the life of another. Decide, will you torment him with the false rules of the left or will you choose the true rules of the right? You may only choose one. 
Also, providing any hints to the man will also result in an immediate happy ending for the man. We wish you the best of luck in obtaining a happy ending.

It seemed that I could either try to guarantee his loss or give him a chance. Even if his actions caused the death of another, did I have the right to decide his fate? That seemed like a judgment to be decided by the rules of the society he lived in. Of course, mom likely would have chosen the left, but as for my choice... The recording started as I slide open the drawer, clearly audible.

"The rules are simple. The screen will display a riddle that you must solve. You have one hour to solve three riddles. Should this hour lapse, a happy ending will be given to the detainee. The fate of the detainee will be determined by who reaches three solutions first. The participants may only speak on their turn. Should either participant speak out of turn, a happy ending will be given to the detainee. We wish you the best of luck in obtaining a happy ending."

With that, the letter in the desk burst into flames and the recording machine sparked and fried as if some sort of stereotypical espionage novel. Also in time with that, the clock started ticking and the screen displayed:

Nara's Turn

When I am blue, I bring joy,
When I am cry, I grant life.
When I am at my darkest, men lie.
Who am I?

Well, this is a simple enough riddle. Almost too easy, perhaps. An ocean might be blue to some, but it doesn't grant life when it cries. There were many things that are blue, but if I were to consider your standard humans...

"The sky is blue when it is a sunny day and most people are happy to see a sunny day. When the skies are cloudy and it rains, it is as if the sky is crying and it grants the water of life. When the sky is at the darkest, nighttime, men lie asleep. Thus, we can say that the answer is the sky."

With that, the screen changed. It seemed that the validity of our answers was hidden from us as nothing showed if my answer was determined as correct or not.

Paul's Turn

A man is given a three weights and a scale and a pumpkin.

Each weight looks the same,
But one weighs 1 kg, one weighs 5 kg, and one weighs 10 kg.
The pumpkin weighs 4 kg.
How would this man find the pumpkin's weight?

Oh? Is it just me or is that question even easier than mine? I looked to the prisoner, but he seemed oddly quiet. Really? Was it that hard? It was then that I noticed the prisoner squirming as if... Ah... I see now. A hidden rule. The question was exactly how this rule would come to play, but very likely, the prisoner was in a bind. With the device below him threatening to shock him to death, he likely couldn't risk getting the device wet. I might be set up to trigger if a certain amount of liquid passed the grates.

And, very likely, he was not only told that he needed to win, but also given some capsules or something to torment him. This was supposition, but assuming that each correct answer opened a capsule, each answer would only torment him further. That meant that this game was rigged to torment the the prisoner whether or not he survived. I couldn't even give any hints to the prisoner, so he would end up suffering needlessly.

Even though we had sixty minutes, likely the sixty minutes was more to torment the prisoner than to act as an actual limit. It seems that this organization really liked to torment people in the guise of happy endings. Now, how would I clear this room without killing this prisoner?

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