Qualia the Purple
Arc 1: Various Notes on Marii
Chapter 12: Marii's World
I had a bad feeling about today... is what I could've said if I wanted to sound cool, but it's not like I really had any real premonitions or anything like that.
Because I practiced the naginata, people at school thought I must be a pretty old-fashioned person, and it's certainly true that following my grandmother training, I always made sure to clasp my hands together in front of our family shrine every morning, but to be honest I didn't believe in spiritualism or sixth senses or anything like that.
When I saw that the new suspect in the Tokyo Dismemberment Murder was on the run, I immediately wanted to run over to Yukari's place, but that was not because of supernatural senses or something, but simply because I knew Yukari seemed rather preoccupied with that particular case.
She was probably already pretty anxious since she didn't know how the investigation was going, but now with this news I could imagine she was really shaken.
If I went to her, I might be able to be her support. I might be able to help her relax.
The moment I thought of that, I felt myself growing ever restless, and, taking advantage of the fact that it was Saturday, I decided to head over to Yukari's house in the morning.
If I really did have a sixth sense, when I heard the doorbell ring I probably wouldn't have assumed it was Yukari coming over because she was scared, and I probably wouldn't have bounded over and opened the door without any further thought whatsoever.
But I did, and I was met with a girl giving me a sweet smile.
I felt a ringing in my head when I first caught sight of this older, slender girl with long hair. I thought that the ringing came from the fact that this was the first time I'd seen someone this beautiful, but in reality my brain was trying to point something completely different out to me, and as I tried to calm my heart by taking a few deep breaths, I finally noticed.
She was much, much older than she had appeared in her photo, but this girl... she was her.
The same girl that Yukari had pointed out that night, after staring so long at those gruesome crime scene photos.
My practice with the naginata should've tempered my mind and body, but I found in that instant that I couldn't move a single muscle.
I couldn't even call out, but only watched helplessly as the girl pushed what looked like a stun gun into my stomach.
She chuckled and spoke.
"Why so afraid? Don't worry, I won't kill you that quick. You're going to be my precious bait, after all.
... Marii Yukari, was it?
That girl who has the same eyes as I do... you'll be quite useful for drawing her out."
Her words seemed to knock me out of my stupor, and I felt I could finally move my limbs again.
"Don't screw with me!" I shouted, leaping at her...
And then, I knew no more.
When I next came to, I found myself in some kind of unfamiliar factory, lying on my back.
Well, to be precise, I think I was lying on my back, but I honestly didn't really know what position I was in.
It was almost as if I was weightless, but I couldn't even tell if I was standing upright or lying on my side.
The only thing that led me to the conclusion that I was lying down was that I think I was staring at a wide factory ceiling right now. But even then, I couldn't say for sure what I was looking at... it was like my brain had decided it was too annoying to think right now and was refusing to work, so I honestly couldn't say if that was really the ceiling that I saw.
My mind was all befuddled yet stinging, while there was a vague throbbing around my midsection... I definitely felt rather strange.
I tried to rotate my head to check my surroundings, but my neck wouldn't budge at all.
Exactly what contraption was I being bound with right now...? Actually, was I being restrained at all? It honestly didn't feel like it, yet my head wouldn't move. I desperately strained to at least get my eyes to move and finally saw what looked like a person there.
The girl who had shot me with that stun gun was there.
In the midst of that hazy, distorted scenery that seemed to come straight out of a bad dream, I saw her sitting on some kind of stand and looking down at me with a smile.
But, rather than that obnoxious face of hers, my eyes were drawn to what she was holding in her hand.
For some reason, she was holding onto a mannequin arm.
My vision was a bit hazy, as if a light mist had descended over everything and taken me out from reality, and within that surreal world that mannequin arm gave off a bizarre sense of presence.
Oh, how I tried to look away, but for some reason my eyes were pinned to it.
For some reason... I felt like I'd seen that arm before. I felt like it was something close to me.
There really wasn't any good reason I should feel that arm before, but I just had the feeling that, somehow, I knew that arm quite well... was that because that thing looked just a bit too real? I figured it was just a mannequin arm because it was only an arm, but taking a better look at it, the elbow part of the arm was bright red, almost as though it had been severed from a body just now by some kind of blade or something... was that a movie prop? Suddenly, I began to get a really bad feeling in the pit of my stomach...
The girl chuckled and spoke.
"Oh my, awake, are you? How lucky for you to wake up... I should warn you that it's in your best interest to not fall asleep again. I used up all my own special anesthesia already, so the next time your eyes shut they'll most likely be shut for good... Well, in any case, you're clearly beyond saving already, but wouldn't it be nice to be able to cling to life for just that one minute longer?"
The girl stuck her tongue out and licked the mannequin's fingers, and I wanted to look away from what was turning into a rather inappropriate scene, but I couldn't even shut my eyes, let alone move my head. Instead, I thought a bit about what she had just said.
Is that why I felt so strange?
But, I was also perfectly conscious... well, no, I wouldn't say perfectly... ah, my head is spinning...
"Oh, right, I do believe this belongs to you."
The girl said that and then pointed the mannequin arm towards me.
When that arm came closer, I finally realized that the mannequin's arm was in fact a left arm, and that the arm was also gripping onto a cell phone.
... Was that my cell phone? The one I had just bought?
The cell phone fell from the mannequin arm's grip and went out of view.
Judging from where she dropped the phone, it should've landed around my chest, but I didn't feel anything. Was that because of the anesthesia?
My cell phone... unconsciously, tears began to well up in my eyes.
I had just gotten that phone for my birthday... and Yukari had modded it for me too. It was a one-of-a-kind cell phone.
Yeah... I should've called her... should've called Yukari first. She was the first entry in my contact list too, but I still wasn't used to using the phone, and now things were like this...
I remembered what this girl had said right before I had lost consciousness, and I tried to talk.
But, of course my lips did not move.
She had said something about her own special anesthesia, but exactly what kind of anesthesia would reduce someone to a state like this?
... Also, why anesthesia in the first place? If she just wanted to bind me, there were plenty of easier ways...
The girl suddenly turned to the side.
I wanted to see what was going on, but since I couldn't turn my head, I was just left staring at this girl's facial expression.
The girl seemed to be looking at something, and her lips slanted into a smile.
"...... So you finally came. Quite late, I must say. I almost thought you had abandoned this girl here."
A response echoed through the room. It was a voice I recognized.
I finally understood what was happening.
Yukari had come.
She had been called out by this suspec-... no, by this murderer.
All because she had used me as a hostage...
I felt my vision darken.
Run! I wanted to shout, but I couldn't move at all. It felt almost like I wasn't in my own body. No matter how much effort I put into it, no matter how much I prayed... only my ears still worked, and I just lay there helplessly as I heard Yukari's footsteps approaching.
No... please... Yukari, don't come...
Your eyes had been right all along.
This girl was the true culprit behind the Tokyo Dismemberment Murder.
She was dangerous... too dangerous...
I heard someone gasp.
"That's terrible... why would you do something like that to Gaku-chan...?"
"... You're quite different from what I had imagined. Are you really Marii Yukari?"
"You said on Gaku-chan's cell phone... there was something you wanted to ask me? I'm here... I didn't bring anybody else... but why did you have to do something this terrible to Gaku-chan? Just to ask me something?"
I could hear tears mixed in with her words.
As Yukari began to sob, the other girl seemed to be rather disappointed, and tossed the mannequin arm towards me while heaving a long sigh (it should've landed somewhere around my midsection, but of course I felt nothing).
"Before anything else, I just want to check... you're the girl who found me out, aren't you? You're Marii Yukari... the girl who sees humans as robots, aren't you? You have nothing to hide. I spent a nice, long time with that young detective and he told me everything."
The news had mentioned something about her killing a detective before running...
Silence fell upon the warehouse.
The girl rested her sneaker on my shoulder.
And I heard Yukari respond in the affirmative.
"...... Yes. That's me."
The girl let out a shrill laugh.
"I see, I see. Well, I do have a confession to make. I'm the same way."
"Well, in my case it's not really robots. It's more like everyone looks like bags of flesh to me."
Her toes ground themselves into my shoulder (is what I think was happening, but I wasn't exactly able to feel anything very well right now).
"Yes, to me, humans look like nothing but piles of flesh that have been strung together. It's been like that for as long as I can remember. Everyone always tells me that life is a precious thing, and yet I've never been able to feel 'life.' That's why I can do things like this without blinking. Don't you see? Our eyes might show us different things, but we are the same, are we not?"
"And since you and I have the same eyes, I wanted to ask you something. Something that I would never be able to ask normal people and expect a calm answer back. But I'm sure someone like you would have no fear and would give me a fair answer to my questions."
"... Ask me about what?"
"About the truth."
The girl stopped stepping on me and showed me her back. She was probably facing Yukari again, with her feet shoulder width apart and her hands on her hips.
"Marii Yukari. You see humans as robots. Am I correct?"
"And robots themselves also look like robots to you, yes? You're not saying that humans look like robots, and robots look like humans to you, correct?"
"Yes. Robots also look like robots."
The girl took in a deep breath, seeming relieved.
And then, she asked.
"... Then, answer me this. The humans who look like robots and the normal robots... from your point of view, is there any difference between the two?"
The conversation was cut short with just that one word.
Silence filled the air.
And soon that silence was replaced by hysterical laughter.
The girl, she was laughing.
Her entire body was convulsing back and forth like a caterpillar as she laughed, and I almost thought she was having a seizure. Tears even began to pool in her eyes.
After her shrill laughter had echoed through the warehouse for a while, the girl wiped away the tears from the corners of her eyes and shouted.
"Yes! Yes, that's it! That's the truth! Thank you! That's exactly what I wanted to know! ... Look, just look. My eyes have been right all along. My eyes have been showing me the truth all along. Humans are nothing more than bags of flesh. Nothing more than contraptions built of organic matter. Life, that precious thing, is but a lie! Such a thing are nothing more than an illusion, nothing more than a mere concept. There is no such thing as a soul."
"In the olden days, people believed that the earth was one flat piece of land on the shell of a tortoise, and that the sea trickled down into the cosmos, but that was just a delusion born from ignorance. In the olden days, people decided that the earth was the center of the universe and all things in the universe revolved around the Earth, but in reality the Earth was nothing more than another planet orbiting the Sun. In the olden days, people believed that humans had been created human from the very beginning, but in reality humans are nothing more than a type of monkey.
Even now, humans believe that they have souls, that they are imbued with life.
But, just as the geocentric theories had been wrong in the past, that is but a delusion that is waiting to be broken. That is but a delusion that humans created to make themselves feel special. In reality, humans are nothing more than slightly more advanced machines that can move around in more complicated ways. Yet humans just continue to mistake this for 'living'...
No, neither 'life' nor 'the soul' exist. That is reality."
"Yes, I was right all along. My eyes were not mistaken. Yes, I had wanted to know all this time. Life, the soul... people say these things are precious, but I've always wanted to know if things like that really existed. Things like that, which I’ve never been able to sense myself. Were my eyes just abnormal? Or was it the rest of the world that was wrong?
And no matter who I cut into little pieces, I could never find the answer to that question. Until I asked you. You gave me the answer.
Everyone else was wrong. The rest of the world was wrong. The one who had been right all along was me.
Humans are not precious. They are not special existences who possess souls, but are just things that can move in slightly more complicated ways than machines. They are merely moving sacks of flesh... that is the human's true form, a form endowed with neither life, nor a soul, and-"
"Why do you think that?"
Yukari casually let that question loose, almost as if she had had enough of this girl's long monologue. The girl responded with a proud look on her face.
"Why, you ask? Isn't it obvious?! Weren't you the one who said it?! Humans are no different from the robots they themselves create, you said!"
"... So what?"
Yukari piled on another question, and the girl shrugged her shoulders, seeming surprised that Yukari didn't understand. She began to talk again, sounding like she was lecturing a child...
When she suddenly looked around her with suspicion.
It seemed like she had heard something.
But before the girl could confirm what it was, Yukari's voice rang through the warehouse and pressed her for a response.
"Yes, that is indeed what I said. There's no difference between those two. But how did you get from what I said to your conclusion?"
"Well, that's... what don't you understand? Look, it's like this, right? Robots do not live and they do not have souls, so if humans are no different from robots, then humans also-"
"Why do you think that?"
This time, Yukari's voice was crystal clear.
I heard a rustling sound somewhere.
It was a really dry, light sound.
If a big bug moved along the floor, it might sound something like this. My mind was so hazy that I thought it was my imagination for a second, but it seemed the girl had heard the sound too and once again was looking all around her.
She was no longer smiling.
Her body stiffened up as she spoke.
"... What was that just now?"
"...... What was what?"
The girl became enraged at Yukari's obviously evasive answer.
"Don't screw with me! Don't tell me... I told you to not bring anybody else with you, but you called the police and-"
"Wah! No! I really didn't bring anybody else! But... well... I did think this was a bit unfair of me, but I was pretty scared... and you told me to not bring anybody else, but you never told to not bring anything else, so...
More importantly, let's continue.
Just because there's no difference between humans and robots, why does that mean humans aren't alive? Why do you think robots have no souls?"
"... T-That's... that's obvi-"
The girl's body shook and she took a step back.
What was wrong with her? Exactly what was happening?
I could hear Yukari's voice closer to me than it was before.
"This might be a bit rude, but I don't think your eyes are any different from normal human eyes. You just want to feel like you're special, but your eyes aren't special at all. They aren't the same as my eyes."
"H-How dare you say that."
"I really don't know a lot about hard things like 'life' or 'souls.' But I'll answer only the question you asked me. Yes, to me, humans and robots aren't all that different. And so-"
"W-What the hell is that?!"
The girl suddenly yelled out, cutting Yukari off.
Shock crept into her voice as she began to mutter to herself.
"... P-Plastic models? No... that's impossible... plastic models wouldn't... so what the hell is that?! This must be some kind of trick! Someone's controlling them with a radio controller, something like that..."
Before I realized it, the rustling sound was now coming from all directions.
The girl screamed.
"Stay away! D-Don't... don't come any closer! What is this... make them stop! Make them stop moving and keep them away from me!"
What in the world was going on? I desperately moved my eyes around.
But, the only part of my body I could move right now were my eyeballs, so I couldn't really check everything around me. All I could do was strain my eyes and ears... and even then, I couldn't really fully trust the information I got from those senses while I was under the influence of this anesthesia here...
Suddenly, the girl turned towards me.
I saw the unmistakable tinge of fear on her face.
Her eyes met mine... and she raised her right arm.
I don't know when she grabbed it, but I could see her gripping onto what looked like a saw with a jagged blade in her hand. For some reason... the blade was already dyed red (and seeing that sent a chill through my body), and I saw that blade coming swinging down at me...
In the next instant, the girl was holding onto her right hand.
Something had hit the saw out from her grip.
The girl almost fell over, but regained her balance and broke out into a run.
She quickly went out from my field of view, but I soon heard the sound of her feet stop while the dry, rustling sound filled the air more and more. Soon, it sounded like it was coming from everywhere.
"Stop! Don't come! Please! Stop them!"
"It's fine. You don't have to be that afraid. No, really, everything's fine, okay? They're not going to do anything that terrible to you."
"... T-This... this can't be happening... w-what the hell is this? What is this?! What the hell are those things?!"
"...... I can't really say for sure how you see them through your eyes, but these are all my friends. So please, just calm down?"
"F-Friends? What the hell does that mean?! W-What are you?! Y-You-"
What in the world was happening? I moved my eyes all around, trying to catch a glimpse of the scene.
And then, something crept into the corner of my field of vision.
A black shadow was approaching.
Something was taking a good long look at my face.
For a second, I thought that girl had come back, but there was way too much of a size difference.
No, it was more like I was looking at a dwarf or a fairy.
I squinted my eyes, trying to get a better look.
My brain wasn't really cooperating right now, but even so I wanted to take a look.
And so, I got a good look at that.
That was something that quite resembled the plastic models I've seen at Yukari's house.
The 1/144 scale, plastic model robots that decorated the garden and fences and various other places at Yukari's home.
But, it was impossible for that to actually be a plastic model. The parts that made up its body just looked way too alive. Its skin looked like skin of a living creature, and from how it looked there was no way this thing wasn't alive. And if this really was a plastic model robot, there'd be no way it would be peeking down at my face with a look of worry in its eyes and tapping me on the cheek. So this thing can't have been a plastic model, but this entire situation was also impossible, so... ahh, I understand now.
My brain grew hazy even as screaming floated to my ears from the distance.
This must be a hallucination.
A delusion brought on by the anesthesia.
That home-made anesthesia or whatever had made my brain all fuzzy, so now I was seeing all these ridiculous things, and oh, what ridiculous things they were. Yes, this wasn't reality...
I must be dreaming.
Well, then I had to wake up right away. I don't know how much of this had been a dream, but I had to wake up and save Yukari...
And then, I felt my consciousness blurring again...
It seemed I had fainted.
How long had I been out? A few seconds? Hours? I squinted and tried to take stock of my surroundings, but I just found myself staring at the same ceiling.
However, I seemed to be alone.
Those small shadows had also disappeared.
But I heard Yukari's voice coming from somewhere.
"Have you heard people say this? Whether something is good or bad is up to the one with the remote control. So, that means robots themselves aren't bad, right? And I don't think you're bad either, of course. What's bad is whoever has the remote... in this case, the programme-... no, maybe a bug?"
The girl's voice followed Yukari's.
"W-What are you going on and on about?! Also, w-what the hell is this?! W-Why don't I hurt? Why isn't there any blood? I'm like this, but why can I still talk?! ... W-Wait, just wait a little. What are you planning to do with that?"
"Calm down? Don't be afraid. I'm going to use this to make just a small fix to that bug inside you... everything will be fine. This is my first time trying something like this, but I'm sure it'll go well, so no need to worry. No need to be afraid. Look, it won't hurt at all-"
"H-Hey, stop you idiot! Something like that isn't supposed to go somewhere like that! S-S-Stop, stop, stotototototototototototototototototototototototototototototototoTOTOTotototototoToToTototottotoototototo-"
"You, be quiet for a bit."
And then, the girl's voice suddenly cut out.
And my own consciousness once again lost itself in the darkness...
The next time my eyes opened, I found my head resting on Yukari's lap for some reason.
Yukari had placed my head on her knees and was holding the mannequin arm in both her hands. She took a good look at it, tilting her head to the side.
"Wah. What should I do... the damage is getting worse. Wah. Wah. I don't think I can use that here either..."
She suddenly looked down and we made eye contact.
Yukari's eyes widened and for some reason she hid the mannequin arm behind her back and smiled at me.
"Wah, wah... umm... you'll be fine, Gaku-chan. You'll definitely be fine. I'll make you all better. Yeah, this is actually the second time I've done this, and this is way easier than that time with Ten-chan. So just relax and sleep, okay?"
Yukari's hand softly reached out and gently closed my eyelids.
I suddenly was enveloped by darkness, and I found I could no longer open my eyes with my own strength.
... Mmm, didn't that girl say something about how I shouldn't go to sleep?
I'm sure she had said something about the anesthesia and how if I slept again I wouldn't be able to wake up... remembering that, I tried to communicate this to Yukari, but I couldn't put any strength into my eyes or my mouth. I got the feeling that someone was stroking me on the head, and I couldn't fight against the overwhelming sense of sleepiness that overcame me.
My consciousness weakened bit by bit.
I was being sucked into the darkness.
And right before my consciousness completely faded...
"... Is Gaku-chan going to get angry at me like Ten-chan? Maybe she'll hate me after this too... I really really don't want that. That would hurt so much... but, I guess, I mean..."
Gaku-chan is my precious friend.
I could've sworn I heard someone saying something like that.
Maybe it had really just been a bluff, or maybe everything had really been a dream. Either way, what the girl had been saying about not being able to wake up again appeared to have been a lie.
When I came to, I was in my own bed.
I checked the clock, and saw that it was nighttime.
I asked my family, and they told me that I had come home right afternoon, complaining that I wasn't feeling well, and I had dove underneath my covers right after that. I didn't remember doing any of that though...
According to my grandmother, a middle-aged man had visited the house while I had been sleeping.
He had told my grandmother that he was a detective, but once he heard that I was sleeping he just went away.
All he left was a verbal message that the culprit in the Tokyo Dismemberment Murder had given herself up and that there wasn't anything left to worry about.
My grandmother had found it rather strange that he came all the way here to tell me something like that, but I just fed her a random excuse and skirted the issue.
And right now... I was sitting on my bed and staring at my left hand.
All the while I was remembering back to that mannequin arm, a memory that still existed within my hazy mind.
I gripped my hand into a fist, and then let it relax.
It felt completely normal.
Of course, there wasn't any sign that my left arm had been severed nor any sign that it had been reattached.
In that case... yeah, I must've been overthinking it.
That must've been a dream all along.
I heard my cell phone ring.
I had only gotten that phone recently, so the only person who I had a ringtone set up for was Yukari (to be honest, I was pretty bad with machines, so she was the one who had set up the ringtone in the first place). I stiffened... and with a whole lot of courage, I answered the call.
Nothing strange happened, and I breathed a sigh of relief.
I was calmed even further when I heard Yukari's pleasant voice on the other end right after I picked up the phone.
"...... Hello? Gaku-chan?"
"Yeah, I'm here. Yukari... Yukari? Are you okay? You're not hurt or anything right?"
"Eh? Wah, wah, what do you mean? Of course I'm fine... but Gaku-chan, are you okay? I mean, uhh... there's not any reason really I'm asking this, but umm... your left hand, for example... is that okay?"
"Yeah. Everything's fine."
I heard a huge, full-bodied sigh of relief coming from the other end of the call. Hm?
Yukari was supposed to be smarter than I was, but she had some pretty airheaded parts to her too.
Yukari spoke timidly.
"........ By the way, Gaku-chan... about today... do you remember anything?"
"Nah, my mind's a blank. I think I came back home after lunch and I've been sleeping the entire day, but I can't remember anything. I get the feeling I had a pretty awful nightmare though..."
"Really? Mm, I see... okay, that's great!"
"'That's great?' Are you even listening? I just told you that not only can I not remember anything, but I had a nightmare."
"Wah. Umm... well, Gaku-chan, I think you should just sleep well tonight. A good night's sleep and those nightmares will just vanish. Maybe you shouldn't look at your left hand until tomorrow either... well, anyways, take care of yourse-"
Yukari started to end the call, but I held her back.
I casually led into my next question.
"Hey, wait a moment. Before that... there's something I want to ask you."
"...... What is it?"
"Well, it's just... my cell phone, it's nowhere to be found. You wouldn't happen to know where it is, would you?"
A short silence later...
"... Cell phone? W-Who knows? Must be somewhere... I guess? Wah, wah, umm... I wonder where it is...?"
Yukari sounded quite flustered, and I let out a huge sigh at hearing her still trying to fool me.
"Can't you cut it out and just accept it? Marii Yukari! I remember everything, alright? I mean, it's night already, but I think we should meet today... let's talk?"
"Okay then. Let's umm... right. Let's meet in front of the school then."
I checked that Yukari had hung up and ended the call.
And then I moved my left hand away from my ear and stared at it again.
I could see the current time faintly glowing through my skin before the luminescence eventually vanished.
My hand now looked no different from a normal hand.
No matter how I looked at it, through my eyes it looked like nothing but a normal hand.
There were no traces that would suggest it had rung like a phone or displayed the time just a minute ago.
I changed out of my shirt, which was damp with sweat, and headed for the school.
Yukari arrived before I did.
"...... So then, Ten-chan fell off the jungle gym."
Nighttime had fallen on our school grounds. Yukari and I were lined up side by side and sitting down in front of our locked school gate.
Yukari's words came out slowly, haltingly.
She told me how in the past, Tenjou and her were playing alone on a jungle gym that was scheduled to be torn down.
And about how Tenjou's hands slipped and she fell into the middle of the jungle gym.
And then the jungle gym, which was already so close to being demolished, completely collapsed right on top of Tenjou.
"And Ten-chan's body was just in this terrible, terrible condition... and I knew if I just left her she would stop moving forever. So I tried my best and rebuilt Ten-chan. It was my first time trying something like that, but I just kept on believing and believing and believing that I could. I told myself... I could do this. This wasn't anything different from making plastic models. Wasn't any different from fixing electronics. And after I built up all the parts and replaced all the things that were broken, I ended up repairing Ten-chan."
"...... So you did it like how you used my cell phone to heal my hand?"
"...... Yeah. I used the jungle gym."
"Ah." I exhaled and looked at my left hand.
It was already plenty shocking that I had almost lost a hand and Yukari had healed me (and what's more, she used a cell phone, not bandages). (1)
So I wondered how shocked Tenjou must've been to have been on the brink of death and to have had her body rebuilt with a jungle gym. How traumatic that must've been to a young girl...
"And Tenjou... she knew about all this?"
"Yeah. Actually... I was so focused on fixing her that I completely forgot to put her to sleep... so umm... Ten-chan saw everything... from start to finish..."
"Ahh... I guess when you mention that, it's kinda hard to put all the blame on Tenjou..."
Sure, Yukari might've saved her life, but those circumstances were a bit...
"So... what about Gaku-chan?"
Yukari's serious tone got me to turn to look at her, and I saw her giving me an equally serious look.
"What about Gaku-chan? Are you angry at me? Do you think I'm gross? You went through so much all because of me... you were terrified, and there's also your left hand, and, umm, also the other parts..."
"...... So, does Gaku-chan hate me now?"
Her purple eyes stared right into my face.
Ahh, her eyes... they were really pretty.
I could feel myself getting sucked into those eyes... and hell, I almost wanted to be...
I unconsciously averted my gaze and looked down at my left arm again.
There were no visible wounds, no seams... it looked perfectly like a normal arm.
But, that was because I was looking at my arm through my eyes.
Yukari saw things differently.
Just like how Yukari sees humans as robots, I couldn't see humans as anything other than humans. In other words, the cell phone that had been swapped into my body to replace some damaged parts had become part of me, and I no longer could perceive it anymore. Just like the class president's sensors, or Shou-chan's Vernier Thrusters, or Kasoku's drill, I can't sense the cell phone that was supposed to have been used for my left hand.
Yes... just as Tenjou had said, I really didn't understand.
It wasn't that Yukari and I just had different ways of looking at things.
No, the things we were looking at, those things were also different.
I looked down and saw what just looked like an arm connected to my body and made of organic matter, but Yukari saw parts. She saw joints and seams and armor, but it wasn't that things just looked that way to her... those things were in fact real to her. They didn't just seem that way, but those parts could be touched, had functions that could be checked... and that was precisely why Yukari saw them like that. The forms she could see actually had meaning, and Yukari was fully aware of that.
So, she could fix things.
She could mend and rebuild things.
Such feats were impossible for people like us who couldn't see the things she could, but to Yukari and her purple eyes, those things were like that.
Even if we were looking at the same apple, Yukari and I were seeing different things.
I knew that. But, I only knew it, and in fact I really didn't understand how Yukari saw things. At the same time, Yukari really didn't understand how I saw things. Neither of us could escape from the worlds that were presented to us, and neither of us could enter into the worlds of the other.
I couldn't see what Yukari saw.
And Yukari couldn't see what I saw.
We lived on two parallel lines, never meant to cross no matter how long we waited and how far we walked.
"...... Gaku... chan."
The helplessness in Yukari's voice brought me back to myself and I met her gaze.
Seeing her eyes quivering in uncertainty, I silently apologized to her for leaving her alone and spoke.
"...... I'm not too sure what I look like in Yukari's eyes, but... I do know how things look like to me, through my own eyes."
"To me, Yukari looks like a friend."
I heard Yukari inhale and I chuckled.
"Come on, don't be that surprised. It's obvious, isn't it? You're the one who said it. I'm an all-purpose model with amazing adaptability, right? So I'll be fine. As if I'd hate you just because of something like this. Yeah, sure, I might've been broken, but you fixed me so it's not like I have a right to complain... I think Tenjou understands all this too, but she just can't come to terms with it.
To me, you're a friend.
So... if in your eyes I also look like a friend... I don't care if I look like a robot or whatever, but that makes me pretty happy, I guess."
Yukari seemed overcome with emotion and threw her arms around me. I pat her head and fell into thought.
Certainly, I couldn't really see the same things that Yukari could.
But, that didn't only apply to Yukari - whether it was Tenjou, or my parents, or any other humans who had the same eyes as me, that was still the case. In the end, that's just how humans were built. For example, even if we had the same eyes, I couldn't really describe what made a red apple seem red to anybody else, and I couldn't truly understand what redness meant to other people either. Humans were existences that were never meant to intersect.
However, we could at least share the experience through our understanding that what we were looking at was the color of an apple.
Even if we couldn't prove that we felt the same kinds of things... I could have faith that this was true.
Yes, Yukari and I were like two parallel lines.
If we just let those lines be, then they never had any hope of crossing. And that is why we had to reach out to each other. That is why we had to draw each other close. If we didn't do that, our parallel lines would never approach each other. If left alone, we would never cross... and so I knew I had to take it upon myself to reach out, and so I wanted her to reach out to me as well, and prayed that we could get closer.
As those out-of-character thoughts floated through my head, I looked down at Yukari, who was clinging to me and now shedding tears, and I hugged her right back with all my might.
We might see the world differently, but as long as we felt the same things, then I could have faith.
Have faith that even if by only a little, my feelings could get across to you.
(1) A bit of wordplay here: bandages is "houtai," and cell phone is "keitai," with the kanji for "tai" being the same.