The group passed through riddle door after riddle door, with a surprisingly small amount of failure. After Ryan’s first mistake, they made sure to go nowhere near whatever buttons the door held until they were sure of the answer.
'P-a-w-n-s.' Julia punched in, the second to last door opening happily in result. The group walked through without question, finding themselves in front of a unique door indeed.
The other doors were made of metal, but designed to look like wood. Reinforced doors that couldn’t be just… broken down, but made with a certain aesthetic. Specifically made to appear to be mahogany. This one, on the other hand, held no such style, and instead simply looked like a door that might be placed in a vanilla bank vault. This door even had a small numbered keypad, instead of the massive, flashy, show off one found in the last number related riddle lock. It was almost as if this door was the first to be made, the others being added as they went when they found the first to be too easy to get through.
Above the bank vault door, a metalic frame stood, this frame silver in color rather than gold like the others. In the frame, a set of numbers.
''1, 11, 21, 1211, 111221, 312211, 13112221, 1113213211, 31131211131221, 13211311123113112211'' followed by a blank space.
'Okay, this looks… complicated' Julia admitted, looking over the numbers 'Maybe it’s some sort of… equation, where the number that you have to add grows bigger by-'.
'I doubt that it’s an equation.' Ryan piped up, copping glares from the others 'I mean, these riddles are designed to slow us down, while the guards catch up.'
'Your point being?' David asked, eyeing him curiously.
'Well, if we got this far, it means that someone on our team is incredibly smart,' Ryan said, gesturing over to Julia with a smile. 'But maybe too smart. A smart person might get stuck up on trying to figure out how twenty one adds up to one thousand, two hundred and eleven, in example.'
'... That’s a surprisingly smart observation.' Julia remarked, looking over to Ryan as if examining a complete stranger 'So what you’re saying is that I’m too smart to solve this, then?'
'... maybe? I mean I’m sure you could, given enough time,' Ryan stated 'But I don’t think we have enough time, so-'
'So you want to try it?' Nathan asked, an edge to his voice 'Remember how that went last time?'
'That time, I was trying to be smart. That’s not my job.' Ryan chuckled out, looking up at the numbers curiously 'But… I think I’ve got this.'
'Care to explain?' Julia urged, seeing no relationship between the set of numbers.
'The first number is one. The second, eleven, or in other words, one one. The third, twenty one, or two one. The third, one thousand, two hundred and eleven, or one two one one. The numbers list off the components in order of the previous… number.'
Ryan smiled to himself, the others looking at him strangely. Honestly, there was probably a way that he could have described that using simpler words, though Ryan was nothing if not a natural born show-off.
'So the next number… should be…' Julia said, looking up to the number '11131221133112132113212211..?'
'Punch it in!' Ryan said with a cheerful tone, happy to be the one to solve the final riddle. Julia punched in the lengthy code. All went silent, for what felt to be an eternity, but in reality was little more than a few seconds. After those excruciatingly long seconds, the door’s lock released, and began to creak itself open, the sound of rusted metal being forced open grinding against the group’s collective ears.
The door flung open to reveal treasures far greater than they originally thought. Originally, all they expected to find was a sceptre made of gold that contained a fist-sized diamond upon its head. What they found, along with that, was a reinforced room filled with tapestries, art, precious gems, bars of gold, all equally valuable, all more than likely stolen.
'Jesus, there’s got to be… billions worth of treasure in here.' Julia gasped as she carefully moved from display case to display case, examining the pilfered goods available.
'We came here to steal the sceptre,' David reminded Julia. 'So we should just grab it and… wait, is that the Mona Lisa?'
David gestured over to a wall, where a large amount of paintings hung. Sure enough, the Mona Lisa, or at very least a very expensive recreation of it, hung casually, as if it were just another painting on the wall. In fact, the painting to its right was The Birth of Venus, and to the left was The Starry Night.
'Those have to be just… incredibly convincing recreations, surely.' Julia stated, not too sure about that, as she examined the paintings closely.
'I’m liking that doubt.' Called an unknown voice over the speakers, causing the four to jump. A screen lowered from the ceiling, revealing a crimson lipped woman, with cheekbones sharp enough to cut the diamonds that she had stolen 'Unfortunately, they are just recreations, though you would have no idea how much a convincing fake can fetch, if one knows where to look.'
'We’re not looking for any trouble, we’ve just been hired to-' David began, before being cut off by laughter.
'Not looking for trouble?' The woman chortled out, her laugh as fake as her eyelashes 'You knocked out my guards and broke into my vault. You have an interesting way of not looking for trouble, sweetie.'
'This sceptre was a piece within a museum, as donated by the archaeologists who unearthed it.' David explained, gesturing towards the sceptre, its brilliant diamond shimmering in an almost unnatural way 'You stole it. I have no idea how, considering the security within the particular museum, but you stole it nonetheless. We’re here to steal it back.'
'So, you’re looking for trouble.' The lady confirmed, with quite the smirk, before hatches began to open along the walls, revealing what looked to be machine guns of some sort, all aiming towards the four treasure huntsmen. Instinctively, Ryan raised his hands into the air, Ryan and Julia following his example shortly after.
'Before you fill us with bullet holes and find a way to make it look like an accident regardless,' David began, trying his best to stall for time 'I have to ask… what’s with the riddles?'
'The riddles? That’s quite simple, really. As a child, I only really loved two things. Things of great value, and riddles,' She cooed, a gleeful smile spreading across her face 'I always had a mind for them, you see. So, when I found myself within my line of work, I decided to craft a vault with locks that could only be open through riddles.'
'And how’d you find yourself within that line of work?' David urged, trying to continue to stall the lady, as the other three looked around the room.
'I see what you’re doing, sweetheart, and I’m afraid that it won’t-' The woman mused, before she was cut off this time, by none other than Ryan.
'Wait, wait, you said you had a mind for riddles, right? How about a wager?' Ryan offered, piquing the woman’s interest, and causing Julia, David and Nathan alike to shoot him looks that screamed ‘please shut the hell up.’ Looks which Ryan chose to ignore. 'One of us, the person chosen by you, gives you a riddle. Get it right, feel free to fill us with lead. Get it wrong, you let us go.'
'... my my, what a delicious wager' The lady hummed '... Alright, I accept.'
'Okay, and seeing how you’d probably select the dumbest member of our group to choose a riddle for you,' Ryan continued 'I guess that I should think up a riddle for-'
'You? Oh, no, no.' The woman laughed out 'Please, you’re much smarter than you or your friends give you credit for. That final riddle? You solved it like it was child's play! And let’s not forget how quickly you did that math in the earlier room? Even though your maths was completely unnecessary, I couldn’t help but admire how quickly you managed it all. No, I think I’ll choose…'
The woman paused for a moment, considering her options, before her eyes landed upon one person, a wicked smile splintering her near plastic looking face.
'You' She said, looking to Nathan 'The lady over there is far too smart, nearly on my level, so she’d be too big of a challenge. The challenge maker there thinks differently, perhaps in a way that I wouldn’t be able to follow. So it was between you and your leader. And obviously, he’s your leader for a reason. So naturally, the hired muscle was the last choice.'
'Jesus, do you overthink everything like this?' Ryan asked, surprisingly finding himself somewhat impressed… though he would never admit such.
'So, give me a riddle then.' The lady demanded, ignoring Ryan’s little question. Nathan looked between the three, as if silently asking for help, which the lady wagged her well manicured fingers at 'Ah, no outside help, dear.'
Nathan mentally cursed. He didn’t like to admit it, but honestly, sometimes he did feel like the weaker link. Julia was smart beyond her years, David was beyond amazing at rallying troops, him being the natural born leader that he was, and Ryan… well, he was the string that kept everyone together. What the hell was Nathan good for?
'Alright, I’ve got your riddle.' Nathan said, stepping forward with a faked level of confidence 'Four treasure hunters, three men and one woman. They stand in a room filled with treasures. In front of them… roughly forty guns, lining the walls, all aimed towards the group and ready to fire. And yet they survive. How?'
'Child's play!' The woman laughed out 'They just get behind whatever looks the least expendable. If the rooms filled with treasure, the guns are there to guard it, so the controller of them would never risk shooting!'
'Thanks!' Nathan smiled, before the group quickly grabbed some display cases and rearranged them to act as a shield. Without a single second left to spare, the group dived behind the shield, Julia quickly grabbing the sceptre beforehand. The woman’s eyes widened in realisation.
'You tricked me' she hissed out 'You tricked me, and so very easily, too.'
'And because of such, we’re at an impasse,' David said, smiling and giving Nathan a grateful nod 'You shoot, we die, and your precious things go with us. You don’t shoot, we don’t die, and your precious thing goes with us. Tell me, what would you rather lose? One treasure, or many? If you’re as smart of a woman as you claim to be-'
'-Then the answer is obvious,' The woman confirmed through gritted teeth, before the guns retracted and the panels in front of them closed 'You may go. And take that sceptre with you. It’s far too tacky anyway.'
The group carefully edged towards the door, making sure to drag along the display cases, just in case. Upon reaching the door, they rushed out, happy to escape.
Well, happy until the saw their path blocked by the guards they had left unconscious earlier, all armed and all harboring nasty grudges.
'... Not going to be that easy, huh?' Ryan asked with a sigh.
'When is it ever?'