Qualia the Purple
Arc 2: 1/1,000,000,000th of a Kiss
Chapter 11: Being "Me," and the Answer
I easily managed to become someone who was not me.
If you want the theory behind this, I can always make one up for you. If you want to know how this actually worked, I can think of something for you. But at any rate, first I became my mother. My mother isn't precisely me, but she shares half of my genes, so in a sense she was half me. And I knew I could become me... and just believing that was enough. I just needed to think flexibly, and then it would be possible for the infinite me's in the infinite possibilities of these infinite parallel worlds. These me's could do anything. Anything but save Yukari, that is.
So I stopped being me, and became my mother.
I also tried becoming my father.
If I could become someone else once, then it was quite simple the second time around. I next became my grandfather. And then my grandmother. And then my great grandfather. And then my great grandmother. I continued tracing my lineage back to its roots, but then I tried reversing directions. I became my teacher at school. That teacher had been a distant relative in the far past. An ancestor from very, very, very far back also was connected to Nanami. So I became Nanami. Yes, the farther back I climbed, the more people I could become. My sense of time began to get screwy; it felt like my brain wasn't completely there. This seemed to be the price I paid for becoming other people. Of course... there might've been a number of other things that I lost through this process, but I had no consciousness of them so I couldn't say what they were.
It wasn't like there weren't any problems when I did this (you've probably already realized it, but I was far from all-powerful).
Unfortunately, when I became my father, or my mother, or Nanami or someone else, it wasn't like I was becoming me, but rather half of half of half of an even smaller, even more dilute half of me. Maybe that was why my usual sharing of knowledge and experiences with my other selves didn't work well in this scenario. How should I put it... it was like I could only share memories of objective, external truths - I could tell where my father or mother or Nanami went and what they were doing - but I had no idea what they were thinking or their internal psychological states at those times.
I also had no idea why, but there were just some people I couldn't become even if by all logic I should've been able to become them... but I didn't really worry about this too much.
There was no point in sweating the small stuff.
The important thing here wasn't that I could completely become Nanami, or I could become anyone else in the world, but that I could reject me, and could become an existence that wasn't myself.
To test this out, I became Nanami and tried to protect Yukari.
But Yukari was still killed.
Well then... I suppose it's time for trial and error again.
Even if I became my teacher, even if I became my parents, even if I became a complete stranger, I couldn't save Yukari. I became the Prime Minister, and then a police officer, and then even the drill-wielding Kasoku, but I couldn't save her. No matter who I became, it all turned out the same. It was almost strange how impossible it was to save Yukari... it reminded me of that nursery rhyme from Mother Goose. Do you know it? Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king's horses and all the king's men, Couldn't put Humpty together again.
No matter who else I became, I couldn't save Yukari.
Right now, I had become Nanami, and I was looking at Hatou Manabu through Nanami's eyes.
It wasn't a me on the other end of a phone call, but a real, living and breathing Hatou Manabu.
A genuine "me" born to my parents, but still a different me.
It was quite interesting (although maybe this should've been obvious to me), but even though I had become someone else, Hatou Manabu still existed as normal.
And I couldn't share the knowledge of this Hatou Manabu.
This Hatou Manabu and I were completely separate existences.
Right now, in front of the me who had become Nanami, this Hatou Manabu and Yukari were talking happily together.
But Hatou Manabu didn't know.
Didn't know that nobody could put Humpty Dumpty together again.
I suddenly had a flash of an idea, and killed Hatou Manabu in one world. Nothing really changed. In another world, I threatened Hatou Manabu and forced her to stop being Yukari's friend. As expected, nothing really changed. It seemed that the existence or nonexistence of Hatou Manabu did not affect things too much.
One time, I tried being Yukari's mother.
In short, I realized that Yukari was being targeted because people knew about her purple eyes. So I just had to be in control and make sure the world never knew about those eyes - at the time, I thought this was a brilliant idea. I placed Yukari in constant supervision, never conceived her siblings, never even paid much attention to my husband, focusing all my attention on Yukari instead. I was very strict with her to make sure she never slipped up and revealed the secret of her eyes, and trained her to behave properly so that nobody would ever suspect anything.
... Yeah, I guess to an outside observer, my methods might have seemed too harsh.
But this was Yukari's very life that was on the line.
So I became a monster, hiding Yukari away so that nobody would ever know that she saw other living beings as robots. I didn't let her cry, didn't let her complain, and didn't let her get away with even the tiniest mistake, making her vow each time to me that she would never make the same mistake again. On the other hand, I also showered her with affection to make sure she didn't misunderstand my true feelings. I scolded her sharply to make sure she didn't forget what I taught her, and etched my lessons forcefully into her head, but after all that I would embrace her. When she did well, I would praise her profusely, and I would constantly try with all my being to make it clear to her that I was doing this not because I hated her, but precisely because I loved her and wanted to protect her.
Yes, I was different from Alice's mother.
I wasn't doing this due to some desire for attention, but purely because I wanted to protect Yukari.
My training was so effective that even her father never realized the truth behind her eyes.
But the price for all this was that Yukari never became friends with Nanami, let alone Hatou Manabu. In fact, she never made a single friend at all. But I believed this price was well worth paying.
It was more important for me to keep Yukari safe.
And in order to do that, I would make sure nobody else ever learned of her sight.
She didn't need any friends who might end up exposing her to danger, at least not right now. No, if she could just make it past her third year of junior high...
But in the end, Yukari never made it to her third year of junior high.
In fact, she never even made it to junior high at all.
On her first day of school, Yukari was hit by a car and died from her injuries.
According to witness statements, Yukari had been seen wandering around, unsteady on her feet, and it almost seemed like she had walked deliberately into the middle of the road...
Please, somebody tell me.
Where exactly was I going wrong?
As I became others and continued to cross over infinite worlds, I eventually felt like I finally understood things.
Understood where I was going wrong.
... In the end, could it be possible that neither Jaunt nor myself had anything to do with Yukari's death?
Maybe it was this world itself that was against Yukari... against me.
If you want to call that fate, then I won't stop you.
But for now, could it be that there was something about this world that was prejudiced against Yukari, prejudiced against her different way of seeing things, and was just hoping for her death?
Yes, my fundamental mistake was thinking that I was the only one who could determine reality with certainty.
But if I just thought about it with a cool head, I should've realized that if I could do this, then there should be other people who could do it as well.
At least in the beginning, I had been a normal person. A commoner.
If we explain things using the Copenhagen interpretation, then no matter how much I wanted to determine with certainty a world in which Yukari was still alive, the fact was that I was not the only person who was observing this world. All the people living in this world were also observing it. Hypothetically, if the world were fixed by a majority vote of the sum total of those observations, then even if there were infinite possibilities, I was but one vote in the crowd, and maybe a being like Yukari who saw people as robots was just such an abnormality to normal humans that they all wanted to eliminate her. Just like the certain kind of geniuses that Alice had mentioned before.
If the sum total of all observations in the world recognized Yukari as an abnormality, then maybe her elimination had been determined with certainty?
Was that why nothing I did seemed to work?
Yes, no matter how many times I opened the box with the cat inside, as long as I myself was still in that box, then I could only be lured into believing that the cat was alive or dead. Once the entity that locked me in that box opened that box and observed what was inside, then the result I had thought was determined would just change on me. No matter what I tried, this other entity would re-determine the results, and maybe that's why I was trapped in this situation right now...
What I needed right now was knowledge.
And a good vantage point.
I needed to know what I should observe.
And what had already been observed.
... I would never accept that this was fate.
If there was another box that I was trapped in, then I would escape from that box.
I finally began to understand my problem.
And thus, all that was left was to become like light and arrive at the answer.
I would definitely... definitely win this fight.