Qualia the Purple
Arc 1: Various Notes on Marii
Chapter 6: Marii's Mortal Enemy
You're probably getting a bit tired of hearing it, but Marii Yukari saw other humans as robots.
I happened to find this out by accident, and Yukari generally kept this part of her a secret. She didn't want to cause trouble and have other people think she was weird. She had already gone through similar experiences in her past.
Of course, if all you needed was the will to do something to make it happen, then life would be quite easy indeed. In Yukari's case, her special sight always led her to behave a bit odd, and she was pretty famous not only at our school but also in our town for her strangeness.
I didn't mean that people disliked her, though.
In fact, she was quite well liked.
She was the archetypal "oddball girl" in our class, living in a world of her own, and she was generally favorably received by our classmates. In fact, she had become something like a class mascot.
This was nothing to be surprised about.
She was really cute, after all, and her erratic behavior just served to make her seem even more like a small, harmless animal.
I'm not saying that appearances are everything in this world, but certainly visual information is one of the fundamental sources of information for decision making and was very difficult to ignore. This is exactly why Yukari seeing everyone as a robot had put her through a lot of hardship. At any rate, when people found something cute, they wanted to protect it; that protective behavior was an instinct implanted into us that helped us pass along our genes, and those instincts could be said to be an immutable law of nature. So, the fact that she was well-liked was quite natural, and the fact that I couldn't help but worry about her sometimes was also not very surprising.
But no matter how obvious and logical all this was, there were still strange people in the world who refused to abide by that logic. There were even people who seemed to hold bad grudges against Yukari.
They didn't revel in tormenting her or anything like that, but simply couldn't stand the sight of her and would approach her with hostile intent.
The chief example of this was a girl named Tenjou Nanami.
Tenjou seemed to clash with Yukari at every single opportunity.
Even though she was in a different class, there were times when she would deliberately barge into our classroom during break periods.
She would never resort to direct violence, but she would stand in Yukari's way, or snatch away her notes, or issue childish sounding challenges.
"My my, if it isn't Marii." Unlike me, Tenjou referred to Yukari by her family name, but she said it in such a manner that it was almost like Marii was Yukari's first name. "... So, how is that hidden third eye on your forehead doing?"
"I-I'm not hiding a third eye on my forehead!"
"Oh? Is that so? ... Ah, you only had one in your past life, right? In this life, instead of that third eye, you have an anti-demon seal carved into your hand that you use to fight demons day in and day out, right? How is that doing? Been tingling as of late?"
"...... I don't have an anti-demon seal or whatever carved into my hand."
So, let's admit it, the way she went at Yukari didn't really amount to "bullying"... it felt more like two kids fighting, and so everyone else in the class (myself included) felt it would be kinda silly if we tried to interfere. So we just left them be.
Actually, Yukari seemed like she wanted to get closer to Tenjou, so if we tried to step in and didn't handle things carefully Yukari would probably end up defending Tenjou instead. It was a pretty ridiculous "love" triangle.
So, when Tenjou confronted Yukari, we would all just sit quietly and watch.
However, there was only one time that Yukari lost her temper at Tenjou's teasing and actually fought back.
It was during one of our lunch breaks when Tenjou said the following:
"Can't you just go back to where you came from?"
"Where I came from?"
"There's a Planet Marii somewhere, right? And you're really a Marii-ite who came from there, right? So shouldn't you get off the Earth already and just go back? Or are you planning an invasion or somet-"
"I'm from Earth!"
The noisy classroom quieted down instantly at Yukari's strong reaction.
Marii wasn't very fond of standing out and would usually shy away from public attention, but this time was different.
She didn't even seem to be aware that everyone was looking at her as she continued forcefully.
"I-I'm not a 'Marii-ite' or whatever! I was born here on Earth, so I'm definitely from Earth! From Japan!"
"...... I didn't-"
"Just cut it out. Don't go to other people's classrooms just to raise a fuss."
I cut in, and Tenjou shot me an impressively sharp glare. But she didn't say anything more and stomped angrily out of the room.
I chased after her. I just felt something welling up in my chest that I couldn't quash.
I guess it was because I was usually grumpy and couldn't express myself very well, but sometimes when I felt a strong emotion I had a hard time controlling myself. Like now, after I saw a side of Yukari that I almost never saw before.
It's possible that Tenjou realized that I was chasing after her, because I found her waiting for me in a secluded area at the bottom of a flight of stairs.
She spoke before I had a chance to ask her anything.
"You're... Hatou, right? So, did you know? About her eyes, I mean."
By the way she asked that, I guessed that Tenjou herself did know.
Well, to be honest I had my suspicions that this had been the case. From the way Tenjou teased Yukari, it felt like she was teasing that part of Yukari in particular. So yeah, maybe Tenjou really did know. That Yukari saw everyone else as a robot. That Yukari had never seen anybody else who looked human, who looked "the same."
In that case, Tenjou should be able to understand... she should be able to understand how terribly lonely seeing that every day could be.
When Yukari had argued back at Tenjou, she had never once used the word "human."
She had said she was from Earth... that she was from Japan... but never once did she say that she was human.
She probably just couldn't. Something inside of her head was just breaking hard when she tried.
She could never find anybody else who was "the same," and that was why...
I felt anger rising up inside me again, but at the same time my mind chilled into focus. I nodded slowly at Tenjou's question and answered her.
"Yeah, I know. About how she sees other people... and you know too, don't you? But you still go off and say things like that..."
I stopped talking when I saw an ominous smile on Tenjou's face.
Tenjou looked like she was carefully sizing the situation up as she stared at me. She spoke.
"I did. I've known about her little problem, way more than you... actually, compared to me, you probably don't know about her at all."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Do you want to know? Well, if you want to keep being her friend, it's probably better if you did know."
"What are you..."
But before Tenjou could open her mouth and respond to me, I heard a loud "Gaku-chan!!" from down the hall.
Yukari came running up to us. She had probably realized I wasn't in the classroom anymore.
By the way, my family ran a naginata (1) dojo, and I myself was pretty decent at the naginata (on the flip side, I was pretty bad when it came to mental meditation and things like that, so you could say my hands were faster than my brain).
So, it was possible that Yukari thought I was going to use physical force to deal with Tenjou here.
Yukari gasped for breath in front of us, while I saw Tenjou's expression twist nastily.
Until that moment, I had thought that Tenjou didn't hate Yukari as much as her words and behavior might imply.
She was just a kid who was too embarrassed to admit her true feelings.
But, as Tenjou looked at Yukari, although I saw a tinge of mournful regret on her face, I also sensed a cool, pale flame that burned in her eyes. The tension in her expression threatened to let loose in fury at any moment, and certainly... no, there was absolutely no questioning it now... she looked like she hated Yukari.
At the very least, in that single moment Tenjou sincerely felt hatred for Yukari.
".... U-Umm, Ten-chan......"
Hearing Yukari call out to her, Tenjou gave her a look that was rather difficult to describe, before finally giving a light motion of her head.
Did she just give a little bow? Was she apologizing for what she had said earlier? Either way, that motion only lasted a split second, and soon Tenjou had lifted her head up and was giving Yukari a glare.
"...... I... I will never forgive you. And I will never accept you."
Leaving off with that, Tenjou turned heel and began to walk away.
I couldn't stifle my anger anymore, but more importantly I really wanted to continue our conversation from moments before. So I tried to stop her.
But Yukari held me back.
"Stop, Gaku-chan... it's fine. Umm... I guess it's my fault if Ten-chan hates me anyways... it was something I did before. So it's fine... please don't get angry..."
I saw Tenjou begin to turn around for a moment, but then she stopped and just left.
I watched her retreating back before checking with Yukari.
"Yukari, you knew her from before, didn't you? She knows about your sight, doesn't she?"
"Yeah. She was... my best..."
"But you aren't friends anymore."
"Wah. No, we are! At least, I think we are... I hope Gaku-chan gets along with her too..."
"Absolutely not. Not with her."
"...... Please don't say that......"
I saw Yukari looking up at me with a lonely look in her eyes, so I stroked her head. But then I began to think.
What did Tenjou think I didn't know about Yukari?
I mean, sure we haven't known each other for long, and I admit there's probably still a lot of things about Yukari that I don't know, but I knew everything I needed to.
Even if there were some parts of her that were a bit different, she was a human just like me, and she was my precious friend.
Tenjou... I don't know what happened between you and Yukari in the past, but I won't let your words get to me.
After that day, Tenjou didn't let up on teasing Yukari.
But, the target of her ire had also expanded to me.
Well, rather, I should say that I began to assertively join in on their spats.
Sometimes, we even butt heads without Yukari present... actually, lately that's what's been happening more often than not.
I'll give her credit for not going around and spreading Yukari's secret, but other than that we really didn't get along.
That was my relationship with Tenjou Nanami.
(1) A naginata is a traditional Japanese weapon, and looks somewhat like a longsword at the end of a long pole.