Qualia the Purple
Arc 1: Various Notes on Marii
Chapter 9: Marii, What do you See?
"Umm, Miss President. My friend has a track competition tomorrow, so I was wondering if it's going to be sunny."
"Oh hoh hoh. Marii-chan has quite the affection for her friends, does she not? ........ Hmm. Yes, it does appear that the sky is smiling upon us today, so I would be nary surprised if the sun were shining tomorrow in the morn."
"Wah. Really? Great, thanks! Also, why are you talking like that?"
"...... If you must comment on it, I really would prefer you do so less directly..."
Our class president's weather forecasts were almost never wrong.
In our class, if you wanted to know the weather, you asked the president. For example, even if the news said that it was going to be sunny, if the president said it would rain you made sure to bring an umbrella, and in most cases the class president would be right. She undoubtedly had a talent for reading the weather, so everyone in the class thought she would make an excellent fisherman, but she seemed intent on betraying all our hopes and dreams and was aiming to be a weather forecast lady instead.
But, I wonder if our president had noticed?
Noticed that it was Marii Yukari who first discovered she had this talent.
After all, it was Yukari who had been the first to ask the president for the weather.
Yukari asked, the president answered, and her prediction came true... that kind of exchange had happened so many times between Yukari and the president that soon everyone started asking the president about the weather, and eventually the president's accuracy became quite famous.
So, indeed it had been Yukari who had discovered the president's abilities.
I had once asked Yukari why she chose to ask the president about the weather, and she responded with a chuckle.
"Well, my eyes are telling me that Miss President has a lot of amazing sensors equipped. So I thought with all those sensors, predicting the weather would be a piece of cake for her."
... Of course, to me it didn't look like she had any sensors at all.
Just as our oracle had predicted, the next morning was a beautifully sunny autumn morning.
Yukari was in the highest of spirits and went to cheer on her track team friend whom she had known since elementary school, and I came along too.
But honestly, from how things were turning out, her friend really didn't need any cheering at all.
Yukari's track team friend was so obviously skilled of a runner that even a layperson like me could tell he was talented. And from the sound of the crowd, I anticipated that there were lots of hopes riding on the possibility that he could even make it to Nationals.
I mentioned to Yukari that it was pretty incredible she was friends with a person like him, and she puffed out her chest.
"Well, I was actually the one who told Shou-chan (her name for her track friend) to try track out. Shou-chan didn't really know what club to join, so I gave him some advice. I told him that he would be good in track."
"... And the reason for that was... let me guess..."
Yukari nodded at me and leaned her head in towards my ear.
"... Please keep this a secret, but Shou-chan's feet have amazing-looking rollers and Vernier Thrusters on them."
Well, I knew what rollers were, but I didn't know what she meant by Vernier Thrusters... I guess they were probably just something that would be very convenient for running.
As if to prove her point, Shou-chan kicked strongly off the ground and flew forward like the wind, easily outsprinting his opponents with his superior running.
Of course, just like the sensors on our class president, these rollers and Vernier Thrusters that were supposed to be attached to Yukari's friend's feet were not visible at all to normal people. But even then, seeing Yukari's friend run, I couldn't help but believe her a bit when she said he was using things like this. I mentioned this to Yukari, but she just let out a sigh and muttered to me.
"If Shou-chan actually used his rollers and Vernier Thrusters properly, he could run even faster though..."
For some reason, I felt a chill run through my spine.
After finishing up lunch at school, Yukari and I were chatting idly when I decided to jokingly ask her what kind of guy she was into.
Yukari blushed and looked down, before covering both her cheeks with her hands as if she was aware she was heating up. I heard a lot of wah, wah, wah's coming from her before she seemed to steady herself and answered me.
I almost fell over in shock.
At the same time, I heard a terrible clanging behind me, and when I looked back I saw that Tenjou had fallen over while clutching a desk.
I had no idea why Tenjou was even here, since she was in a different class, but when she realized we were looking at her she quickly stood up, hoisted the desk back into its upright position, dusted off her uniform, and gave us a haughty "hmph" before swiftly turning around and leaving the room. But whatever.
By Kasoku, Yukari was referring to Kasoku Tomonori, a boy in our class.
In other words, a boy who not only existed, but existed pretty close to us already.
To be honest, I really wasn't expecting this.
Just like girls tended to really admire guy idols, I was expecting her to pull some really cool robot from some robot anime she had seen to answer my question.
But no... she picked "Kasoku-kun"...?
Someone as random and completely unremarkable as "Kasoku-kun"?
His personality was... well, I didn't know much about him, but my impressions of him didn't go much farther than "wow, he has really narrow eyes..." So you could probably tell that he didn't have many traits that stuck out, and that he didn't have much of a personality, and yet he's the guy that Yukari would choose? Exactly when and how did a guy like that manage to bewitch a pure girl like Yukari? Maybe he looked cooler through Yukari's purple eyes?
It seemed that the human body could lose all its strength when exposed to situations that were just way too shocking; I collapsed into my chair and sprawled out on my desk, unable to stand up again.
"...... K-Kasoku, you said? That Kasoku? ... That completely unremarkable Kasoku? Exactly what about him do you like...?"
Yukari looked a bit embarrassed and paused for a while before answering.
"... Well, you know they say that a man and his drill is a romance made in heaven? (1) ... That doesn't mean only men like drills. I think drills are pretty romantic too."
"Kasoku-kun is designed to look pretty human, but he has an amazing drill. It's big and shiny and it makes me shake just looking at it. It's not spinning right now but it gives this feeling that if he ever decided to use it, nobody would be able to do anything to stop him, or something like that..."
I squinted my eyes at Kasoku, who had his back turned towards us and was eating lunch, but of course I couldn't see anything like a drill.
"... I'm not sure what you mean, but... do you mean he's kinda a dangerous guy? Drills make for pretty dangerous weapons, don't they?"
"Wah. No no no, drills are just tools for cutting, right? But... they're also romantic."
... Romantic? What was...?
Yukari continued, her cheeks still tinged slightly red.
"There are other people who have drills, but Kasoku-kun's definitely is the best. Well, the student council president's drill also comes really close though..."
"Student council president? She has a drill too? She's a girl though... didn't you just say drills are for guys?"
"Yeah, the student council president has one. But unlike Kasoku-kun's drill, her drill is always spinning, but it's spinning so amazingly fast that you can't tell it's moving at all. It's really cool-looking... like some kind of glittering sword. That's why whenever I'm in front of the president I always feel kinda nervous."
"........... By the way, what about me? Do I have something... something like that?"
I was supposed to never ask her about what I looked like, but that question came out of my mouth before I realized it, and I think Yukari was also going with the flow so much that she just answered me straight away.
"Gaku-chan doesn't have anything like a drill, but she's all-purpose and that makes her super strong."
"Yeah. Gaku-chan has all these amazing adaptable compartments... with the right parts you could travel by land, air, or sea... even survive in vacuum or in the middle of a pool of lava! Short distance... long distance... you can deal with it all! That's pretty amazing, you know? Having this kind of adaptability is... wah! Wait! You're not supposed to ask me about that!"
All-purpose... adaptable compartments... those were all words I wasn't used to hearing very much, and yet Yukari's words sunk surprisingly deep into my mind.
I see... if I were a robot, then yes I could see myself being something like that... Without any reason whatsoever, I manage to convince myself of that.
I just had the feeling that she had hit the bulls-eye on this other me that I didn't know.
So... this was how Yukari saw things through her eyes.
".......... By the way, these adaptable compartments... could I also attach a drill to one of them?"
"Wah. Gaku-chan thinks it's romantic too now, huh?"
"....... Nah....... just thought I'd ask..."
For the record, from that day on, Tenjou began to not only aim her attacks at me and Yukari, but also at Kasoku.
And this may sound utterly absurd, but... well, I thought with that amazing drill of his, Kasoku could probably deal with Tenjou without me or Yukari rushing to his help.
It was the same day as when the police apprehended a suspect in relation to what had become popularly known as the "Tokyo Dismemberment Murder."
That day, Yukari's parents had left with her siblings to go on a parent-child camping trip organized by the elementary school, so I went over to hang out and spend the night at Yukari's place.
It wasn't rare for us to have sleepovers, but my place was a dojo and was really noisy, while Yukari's place had her siblings who adored her so much that they wouldn't shut up.
With her siblings gone, we could relax and enjoy our time together, so I found myself really looking forward to today, but ever since I got to Yukari's place around noon she just seemed completely restless about something.
I had seen a notice about the arrest of a suspect in the "Tokyo Dismemberment Murder" on the morning news, and the story was on the afternoon news as well.
And Yukari was watching that news with rapt attention, almost as if she was getting sucked into the TV.
Even when I spoke up to her, I got nothing but absentminded responses in return.
After the news ended, she flipped through the other channels, looking for other programs that were talking about the murder.
When her search returned no results, she opened up a newspaper instead and began to stare a hole through a photo of the apprehended suspect.
Yukari looked like she was backed into a corner by something, but I restrained myself from asking and just watched over her.
"... Sorry, just give me a minute."
Yukari apologized to me, and then seemed to steel herself for something and dialed out somewhere on her phone.
She took the telephone receiver and went down into the garden. Maybe she didn't want me to listen in?
I plopped down on my side on the porch and idly stared at the plastic robot model in front of me as I casually listened in on Yukari's phone conversation.
"Hello... yes, this is Marii. Umm... yes. I saw it in the paper... but that suspect doesn't look like the murderer to me."
Startled, I lifted my body up and looked at Yukari.
Yukari had already hung up the phone, and when she realized I was staring at her, she gave me a weak smile.
"...... Sorry, Gaku-chan. Umm, there might be some people coming over tonight."
In fact, it wasn't even night, but early evening when a few visitors showed up.
There were two men; one older man completely adorned in a suit, while another, younger one who stood by and looked slightly less professional. The younger man was carrying a briefcase.
Even before they introduced themselves, I could tell that the two of them were somehow connected with the police.
When they approached the porch, they finally noticed my presence and seemed rather alarmed. The briefcase-carrying younger man stiffened and seemed to want to say something to me, but the older man stopped him.
He probably had noticed. Whether consciously or unconsciously, Yukari had hid herself behind me and was gripping my elbow with just a finger. ¬¬¬ The older man spoke.
"You sure about her?"
Yukari started a bit and quickly let go of me, but before she could answer I nodded and once again wrapped Yukari's arm around my own, making it clear that I wouldn't let her go.
The older man thought in silence for a while before nodding.
They stood in front of the porch and showed no signs of wanting to come up into the house. Instead, they began talking right there.
"... Well, let's get this done with quickly then, shall we? Marii-san, I apologize but... please take a look at these."
The older man looked at the younger, and the latter took an envelope out from his briefcase and handed it to Yukari.
He also spoke to me.
"... You should probably look away."
What came out of the envelope were photos that were filled with red.
The red of blood... and the red of dismembered body parts.
Dark red, light red... various reds that decorated various pieces of discolored skin...
I knew exactly what those photos were just with a glance.
They were photos of a murder crime scene.
Of the crime scene for the Tokyo Dismemberment Murder. And those photos... they weren't fakes. They were the real thing.
I quickly averted my gaze, but I felt my vision haze and the blood draining from my face.
It was ultimately the warmth from Yukari's arms that helped me manage to stop myself from completely succumbing to the oncoming darkness.
Yukari's arms were clutching tightly to mine as she looked at those photographs.
Her body was trembling, but she didn't look away at all.
I planted my feet firm into the ground. If I couldn't look at those photos, I could at least try to support Yukari here as much as possible.
How long was it that we remained like that?
"...... I've had enough."
Yukari finally spoke up and put the photos away.
"Okay, now have a look at these."
The younger man passed a binder to Yukari next.
I readied myself, expecting another round of terrifying photos, but it was actually a scrapbook of photos of different people.
They looked like suspect records; I saw the mug shots of five people taped onto a brief record of their personal histories.
There was a middle-aged woman, a somewhat elderly man, a girl wearing a sailor's uniform... there wasn't any consistent pattern to the people in the photos I saw.
These documents were probably copies of the originals, as much of the information had been censored by magic marker to keep others from reading the suspects' names or addresses.
There were multiple photos of each person taken from different angles, and Yukari looked through those photos again and again.
Finally, Yukari pointed at one photo.
"... It's her."
The younger man looked surprised.
"... T-This girl?"
The photo Yukari had pointed at was one of the girl in the sailor's uniform. No matter how you looked at it, she was still underage, and couldn't have been out of high school yet.
The middle-aged man didn't even blink, but the younger man was clearly disturbed by these events. However, Yukari didn't mind him and continued.
"... Yes. It is probably her... the way the body was destroyed... out of these five, the only one who could've done it... this way... is her."
After she finished that sentence, Yukari hurriedly shook her head fervently.
"Ah, umm... of course, that's just what it looks like to me. I can't say anything for sure..."
"We know. We are using your opinion as nothing more than for reference, and you do not need to worry yourself over what comes of this investigation... I do apologize again... making a child like you help with something like this..."
"... No, it's fine... I'm the one who called you this time..."
In the end, the two men took their leave without ever coming up into the house.
At that moment, Yukari got a phone call from her parents who were still at the parent-child camping trip, so I was left watching the two men leave by myself.
At some point, the sun had set, and it was now dark outside.
Just as the two men were about to get into the car they had parked outside, the older man turned to me and spoke to me in broken fragments.
"... You... her eyes... do you know?"
"Yes. I know."
The middle-aged man seemed to understand and shrugged. He took out a cigarette from his bag and lit it.
The lit end of his cigarette burned ever brightly red through the night's darkness.
He took a deep draw from his cigarette, exhaled, but for some reason stopped there and disposed of his cigarette in a portable ashtray he had taken out of his pocket. He then looked me in the eye again and spoke.
"Her eyes... they are a very rare gift."
"... I know."
"If you can... please be there for her in the future."
"I don't need you to tell me that."
The man nodded before giving me a rather pained smile. He then got into his car and rode away.
I watched until I couldn't see his car's lights in the distance anymore before going back into the house, where I was sure Yukari was waiting for me.
A week later, I read in the newspaper that the suspect in the Tokyo Dismemberment Murder had been released.
In the end, Yukari's talent with assembling plastic models and home electronics were really just secondary to her true ability.
She saw other living things as robots, and that itself was her true ability.
Her ability was her gift from God that made her who she was, and yet it was also her curse. I could neither reject nor refuse to acknowledge that ability, and without including her ability concepts like "Yukari's happiness" and "Yukari's misfortune" were devoid of meaning. So, I had no choice but to accept that ability unconditionally. To reject it would be tantamount to rejecting the existence known as "Marii Yukari" itself.
And so, I would not reject it.
I would not refuse it.
I would never, ever reject her purple eyes.
(1) Complete expression is "doriru ha otoko no roman." A phrase that is sometimes used in mecha anime, etc.