Qualia the Purple
Arc 2: 1/1,000,000,000th of a Kiss
Conclusion: Approaching the End
Even though I spent a somewhat embarrassing night in my girl's pajamas at the hospital, I still ended up going to school the next morning.
I mean, it was nice that I got taken to the hospital and all, but my wounds were actually disproportionately shallow when compared to how much blood I had lost. Maybe it was because the wound was on my left hand, but it was almost strange... even so, the doctors insisted on wrapping a huge bandage around my hand (just for appearances, if I had to guess), and if you looked at me from afar you might be tempted to think I had suffered a serious injury.
As I approached our school that morning, I saw Yukari standing in front of the school gate. She seemed to notice me and rushed over with a worried look in her eyes.
I also caught a glimpse of Nanami standing in the gate's shadow.
Had they been waiting for me because they were worried for me? Honestly, this wound really wasn't a big deal... ugh, now I feel kinda bad... and at the same time, grateful that I had friends like these.
I watched Yukari running over to me, but before I could call out to her, I heard a voice from behind me.
"... My my, you certainly look healthy this morning, commoner. I suppose you should be thankful your blood tends to rush to your head and not to your hands. "
I let out a sigh and turned around.
"Good morning, Alice. Thanks for all these kind words so early in the morning."
"Wah, wah, good morning Gaku-chan, Alice-chan. Umm... Gaku-chan, your left hand..."
"Do you not understand sarcasm, commoner? Smashing your hand into a window like that... I suppose your eyes must be just as useless as that head of yours."
"Well aren't you in a bad mood this morning, Alice. Were you worried? I mean, if you want to pick a fight with me I'll take you on. After all, you're mostly the reason I couldn't sleep and ended up like this."
"...... What is that supposed to mean?"
"I was thinking all this time. Thinking about what you told me about Yukari."
Alice's expression didn't change, but that look in her eyes showed me that she was very interested now in what I had to say.
"... So, did you succeed in gathering your thoughts, then? If you are Yukari's true friend, then you should know what you have to do for her sake."
I nodded, turned back around to face Yukari, and continued.
"... Yukari, I guess in the end, I don't want you to transfer."
Yukari and Alice both looked at me blankly.
Yes, it was true that I might not have any special abilities to protect Yukari.
I couldn't even protect her from this world of ours, let alone some evil organization.
But even so...
"Of course, I prioritize Yukari's opinion here. And let me just say that no matter what Yukari chooses, I'll always... always be her friend. That won't ever change.
... But I honestly don't want her to transfer away from our school.
... We're still kids, and someday... someday we might have to separate from each other as adults. But, that's why... if we have a choice right now, then I want Yukari to stay here. And if there's anything I can do to help make that happen, then I'll do it. I'll try my best. Those are my honest feelings."
Alice cut in before I could continue.
"... Okay? And what do you plan to do if some misfortune befalls her?"
I looked Alice in the eyes, not backing down.
"... I know that's a possibility. So I won't try to force Yukari to do anything. But... if possible, I want a chance. I know I'm being selfish, so even if I get mixed up in something because of Yukari, even if I fall into danger, I accept the risk. I'm ready to face that. And if the opposite happens, if Yukari gets mixed up with some dangerous stuff because of me... well.
Yukari, I want you to be prepared. Be prepared for the possibility of something like that happening. Just like I'll be prepared.
And most of all... I want you to do all that while staying with me... staying with us. We'll face those things together.
That's what I want you to decide.
Of course, if you don't want to shoulder that burden, then I won't force you to either..."
Yukari was about to say something, but Alice stopped her and let out a frustrated sigh.
"Hatou. That is a rather unfair argument. You are trying to put Yukari's feelings of friendship to the test. Do you really think a true friend should be doing something like that? Can you really argue that and still hold your chest out with pride and claim yourself to be Yukari's true friend?"
"Yeah, I can. Got a problem?"
"This is why commoners are so... ugh! Yukari, please think about this logically. A friend is someone who should be considering what is best for you. If Manabu were your true friend, then she should be rejoicing and giving you her blessing for this opportunity to start your life anew. If she cannot do that, if she prioritizes her own selfish desires over your well-being, then she cannot be your real friend! She is just trying to use you, and she will eventually betray and reject you! There is just a long, impassable trench between us geniuses and these commoners, and someday, someday in the future, I am positive she will-"
Alice began a long-winded speech at Yukari, but before she could finish I smirked and interrupted her.
"Wanna try it out then?"
Alice stopped in her tracks and slowly twisted her neck to look at me. I could almost hear her muscles creaking.
".......................... What? ....................... Try what out, precisely?"
"Ugh, are you not listening? Alice, why not try it out and consider me your friend?"
"Yes, let's become each other's friend. Then you'll be able to figure it out, right? Figure out if I'm lying to you or not. Figure out if I can be a real friend or not. Does that not make sense?"
Alice completely froze, and I continued with a note of challenge in my voice.
"Or maybe you're just scared? I'm totally fine on my side though."
"W-W-W-What are you saying?! Do not push your luck, commoner! As if I would ever be afraid!"
"Really? Okay, then you'll be my friend? Yay!"
"No... that's... well, I suppose you are in fact only a semi-commoner, but... no! I will never trust a commoner! I can never trust-"
"Oh come on, your ears must not be working. I'm telling you to just try it out, right? Science is fundamentally driven by trial and error, isn't it? Also, are you that worried that I'm going to betray you or something? I guess you really are scared of me?"
"I would never be afraid of the likes of you! Do not pretend as if you have the power to have any effect on me!"
"Well then, there's no problem."
I reached out my hand, and then Yukari joined in.
"Yes, Alice-chan! I'm asking you too! If you can be my friend, then be Gaku-chan's friend too! Don't just decide it's impossible from the start! Please!
... If you really consider me your friend, then you have to accept my other precious friends as well..."
Alice squinted and grumbled for a bit, glaring at my outreached hand.
Finally, she let out a huge sigh and spoke.
"....... If Yukari is so eager for me to do this... if that is what she wants no matter what... then I understand. I will try... but be aware that I only do this to help Yukari save face."
Alice held her hand out and timidly grabbed the fingers on my outstretched hand.
Without a moment's delay, I reached out even further and grabbed her small hand. I shared a firm handshake with Alice.
"Great. Well then, we're friends from now on!"
"D-D-Do not take this the wrong way! I am just here to peel back your skin to reveal the monster inside! And then I will open Yukari's eyes to the truth..."
I suddenly looked around, and noticed that Nanami was nowhere to be found anymore.
I sighed and called out to Alice and Yukari.
"Well, let's get to school then. Yukari, Alice."
"Do not so lightly call me by my first name, commoner!"
"........... I'm pretty sure that's what I've called you all this time though, little miss foreigner."
Ahh... that's how simple it was.
Yukari was on the other side of Alice gripping onto one of her hands, while I was on this side gripping onto the other one. Alice's cheeks were tinged red but she showed no signs of trying to shake me off. Seeing that, I felt the muscles in my cheek loosen.
I see. If I was powerless by myself, then I just needed to seek help.
And if someone else seemed like they were crying out for help, then I just had to reach out to them.
We just had to meet anew and start over.
I might have taken quite a long detour on my way here, but when I tried looking, it took but a moment...
"By the way, do you two know about Fermat's Principle? Tenjou told me about it, but..."
"Wah, wah? Fur-mah?"
"Of course a genius like me would know about Fermat's Principle. To summarize, Fermat's Principle states that-
To find that road along which light traveled.