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Qualia the Purple
Arc 2: 1/1,000,000,000th of a Kiss
Chapter 3: Alice Foyle and Jaunt (1)
Alice Foyle was what people would call a "genius."
That didn't mean she was just smart... although she certainly was plenty smart. But when she stood up at the teacher's podium, her blonde hair waving back and forth and extending past her waist, everyone should've been confused about why an elementary schooler was in our junior high classroom. Indeed, she was still a child - she was only eleven, but she was a girl of rare talent, who had already earned a college degree - and an Ivy League one at that - even while she was dealing with her other responsibilities.
Ultimately, the reason this girl named Alice was extraordinary didn't boil down to the simple explanation that she was smart.
No, her true genius lied in her way of looking at math.
Apparently, to Alice, mathematical equations looked like drawings.
Whether it was something simple like addition or something difficult like the wave equation, Alice could express equations as drawings, although unfortunately her drawings couldn't be understood by other people. And then, she could "intuitively" solve those equations (for those of you who are a bit confused about what that might mean, don't worry. I don't understand it either. And I doubt the leading physicists in the world could understand it either. Just think of it as Alice being able to put together equations by drawing a picture). It also seemed that she would be able to display her true strength if she just had a "quantum computer," and she once had said something like "If you actually make a quantum computer, even P=NP wouldn't be a problem at all!" (of course, I had no idea what that meant, but judging by how proudly she said that I could guess that it was probably something pretty amazing).
Because of her unconventional approaches to problems, people had also placed their hopes on her for discovering a "Theory of Everything."
The Theory of Everything, or the Grand Unified Theory, was a theory that could coherently account for all the forces that existed in the natural universe.
If we could formulate that theory, then scientists hoped that we could explain everything from the strange behavior of quanta to the mystery of how exactly the universe was created. It was scientists’ dream, their Holy Grail.
And these scientists were saying that Alice might play a role in the discovery of that theory, so you could probably infer from that just how much of a genius she was.
But Alice herself was not a scientist at all, or at least she wasn't at the present moment.
She also wasn't studying physics or anything like that.
No, she could just manipulate numerical formulae using that vision of hers.
By thinking through feeling and not through cold calculation, by literally drawing a picture, Alice could arrive at the correct answer. Or she could construct numerical formulae. She lived on a plane that normal humans could never hope to climb to, and it would be no surprise if she caused a paradigm shift in the world of mathematics. Her abilities could change the world, which was precisely what qualified her as a "genius."
Although, Alice's condition did closely resemble that of someone else.
Urged by the teacher to stand in front of the class, Alice gave us a dazzling smile and spoke quickly and smoothly.
"Hello, people from Japan. My name is Alice Foyle. We may only be together for a short time, but I look forward to being here with you.
... Especially with Marii Yukari-san.
I was especially looking forward to meeting with you."
Alice Foyle had come to Japan in order to recruit Yukari into the organization she belonged to: Jaunt.
Just like a rose with hard thorns was perfectly fine as long as you just looked at it, Alice Foyle just seemed like a cute little girl if you viewed her from afar.
And maybe it was because she was a foreigner, but I could feel that she would grow into a tremendous beauty in the future.
She was just a child, yet she always looked so crisp and unwilling to show weakness; it was both cute and a bit intimidating at the same time.
However, the only moments Alice didn't seem like that were those when she was with Yukari.
When Alice talked with Yukari, she seemed genuinely her age and wore a carefree expression. As much as I hated to admit it, it was really hard to look away when she was like that.
Alice spent as much time as possible stuck to Yukari by the hip.
When the two of them linked their arms and walked along side by side, it just brought an aura of calm to their surroundings. And when anybody, even those who knew about Alice's true nature like Nanami and me, watched them from behind, staring at Alice's long blonde hair carelessly spilling down her back alongside Yukari's hair, which was undoubtedly lengthy itself, it was impossible to hold back a sigh of awe at these two fluffy little animals. Yukari herself was fairly fond of skinship, so she didn't seem too displeased with this arrangement, and honestly I felt that the vision of Alice's fluffy blonde hair happily swaying next to Yukari's fluffy black hair was a far more powerful symbol of peace than silly little doves (... granted, I admit that just because Alice and Yukari looked this way from the outside, it was impossible to figure out how they felt about things on the inside).
In front of my classmates, Alice put on her sweet act and just seemed like a precocious child who had worked hard in a foreign, unfamiliar land before joining our class, but in front of Nanami and me (and also there was a boy named Kasoku Tomonori who often came asking for a fight with Nanami, but he's not very important to this story so I'm going to omit any details about him), Alice ended up exposing her true self since we were always with Yukari.
The first minute I found myself alone with Alice, this was the first thing she said to me:
"Let me just make it clear that I have no intention to get cozy with you commoners. Become mixed up with inferior specimens and you may become inferior yourself, after all. The only type I care to associate with are geniuses like myself. Such as Yukari."
"...... Yukari is a genius?"
"Yes. Yukari is a genius. Yukari, you should understand that as well. But these commoners might not be able to understand. They are inferior beings who cannot accept anyone who is different from themselves... so Yukari, please hold your head up with pride. You are the one who is worth something. Those who do not acknowledge your worth should be ashamed that they are even allowed to be alive."
Alice told us that she still found Japanese a bit difficult, so when she talked she often sounded a bit stiff.
But I mean, sure sometimes her sentences came off a bit awkward, but in reality she was most likely deliberately trying to sound stiff so she could be ruder. That was especially obvious whenever there weren't any other classmates around us.
"Commoners... that's quite a word you picked there. But aren't you the one who's going around and trying to burn down bridges? I don't know if she's a genius or whatever, but we've been her friends for a while and she's been fine with it. And it's not just us. That applies to everyone else in the class too."
"Is that really true? Hatou, is it not possible that this is only what you think? Well, let us leave Hatou aside for a moment. What about you over there, Tenjou?"
"Me? Me... don't lump me together with Hatou, okay? Hmph, who would be friends with a girl like this? Don't make me laugh! Marii's more like an enemy, with those abnormal eyes of hers..."
"Just shut it, Tenjou."
"...... Uuu, Ten-chan..."
Nanami still just couldn't be honest with herself. But whatever. I'll let her be.
Alice called people without any special abilities like us "commoners," and she didn't even try to hide her contempt for us.
You could even say she hated us.
In that regard, Alice was a prototypical genius.
She was just a child, and yet she possessed abilities that far surpassed those of any adult. Because of that, she stood out from her surroundings, and was persecuted for her differences... indeed, Alice was the spitting personification of the so-called "genius image." She never tried to tell anybody about her past, but whether she liked it or not, her attitude made it easy to imagine that something must've happened in that past. And in the end, she was still as young as a normal elementary schooler. The more she acted like she hated ordinary people, the more it became painfully obvious that she was still a child.
This might be a bit cynical of me, but that was probably precisely why Jaunt had sent Alice out here.
They had piqued her interest and imagination with the idea of meeting a girl who was also a similar kind of "genius," and had made Yukari a kind of symbol of how her own future might be like... all so she would be effective at recruiting Yukari into Jaunt.
Most importantly, Alice seemed to genuinely view Jaunt as her guardian.
"Yukari. Jaunt is there to take in and protect 'special children' like us, and was created to help us grow. There may not be many members, but they even have constructed a school for us. Do you understand, Yukari? I am going to tell you something very important now.
There are other children who are like us.
Children like you, but who have just not been discovered, who are hidden away from the world.
You and I are quite blessed to be able to meet like this. In most cases, people like us are not even given that opportunity and just fade away. They have no other choice. These children most likely still exist to this day, but they just have yet to be discovered, and even though they possess incredible, potentially world-changing abilities, they are only envied by those around them, targeted, and not allowed to blossom.
Jaunt is an organization that was established to take in and nurture these children.
... But there are some rather sensitive issues at play here, so Jaunt operates in secrecy. But it is quite a proper organization that enjoys support from the government as well."
By the way, it seemed that "Jaunt" was just an abbreviation, and the organization's proper name was different.
Originally, "Jaunt" was the name of an ability that appeared in a certain science fiction novel. And apparently, after they had used it as a name for a while out of convenience, the name just stuck.
"Jaunting is what they called a special phenomenon that appeared in a novel written by Alfred Bester. Have you heard of teleportation? Of course, it's not something that has ever been scientifically realized. It is nothing but a fictional ability, and in this work it was an ability that allowed humans to jump through walls and long distances instantaneously through sheer will. It was an ability that the people of the future had acquired and using as a mode of transportation in place of normal vehicles... but it was also more than that.
It was also depicted as the symbol of a new age, as an ability that shouldered the burden of transforming the entire world.
It was a symbol of dynamic advancement that came from the burning human desire for power. Through jaunting, humans were able to break through a stagnant age and rise to new heights. Jaunting was the innovation that people should chase after, the new way of adapting to the world, the signpost that directed humans to their bright, open future. That was what jaunting meant in this work.
In the beginning, 'JAUNT' was just an anagram formed from the initials of the founding members, but now that name is symbolic of the ideal that jaunting represents. We seek out unique abilities in this world that would remain buried otherwise, protecting and nurturing those abilities, all for a better future. That is the meaning of our name, the meaning of Jaunt. In other words, it just is not true that we have forgotten our true name, but that 'Jaunt' has already become our true name."
Alice's eyes shone as she spoke about the organization she belonged to.
She proudly told us that 'Foyle' was a name that had been given to her by the current chairman of Jaunt.
That the minute she joined the organization, she had thrown away her original family name.
On a later day, I found out more about her name.
I found out that the name "Alice" was also not a name she had been given by her birth mother, but something she had decided for herself.
When she was taken in by Jaunt, Alice found herself in a completely new environment, and gave herself a new name. She probably was drawing from Alice in Wonderland, wanting to become like that blonde-haired girl she once saw in a cartoon long ago...
I didn't realize this until later, but Alice's natural hair color wasn't blonde. She actually had black hair but had dyed it.
"... Until Jaunt found me, I did not know what I could accomplish. I just lived life lazily from day to day. But now, I can stand here before you so happily and with such energy because I had found Jaunt."
"This sounds really sketchy. Like you're a used car salesman or someone from a cult or something."
"My, my, are you an expert on such things? If not, then please shut your mouth. Trying to justify things you do not want to understand by just wantonly applying convenient labels to them... this is why I hate being around commoners. Well, I admit I am used to this type of unjustified persecution though..."
"Are you sure it's unjustified? Why don't you use that genius brain of yours and think about it? You... you little know-it-all."
"Just shut it, Tenjou."
"Wah wah, Ten-chan..."
If for a moment, you'd allow me to make excuses, I'd probably say that everything that happened was a case of bad timing.
After all, all this was only slightly after I had gotten involved in the Tokyo Dismemberment Murder case.
I believed that I had already recovered from the shock of being attacked and then having my left hand "healed" with a cell phone. It might've just been that the reality of it hadn't sunk in yet, but at the very least I was fairly calm and I wasn't afraid of Yukari after she had repelled my attacker, so it wasn't like I was screaming and trying actively to get away from her (apparently for a period of time Nanami was like that though).
However, now that I was calm about everything, there were definitely some things that did sink in.
Yukari's ability wasn't just that she saw everyone else as a robot.
After all, she had managed to completely restore my severed arm to its original state.
After she had fixed that severed arm, within a day I could use my left hand again without feeling that anything was off. Was this possible by any standard of modern medical science? Could it be... no, it was pretty obvious actually, but Yukari's ability was quite precious, was it not?
Just by looking at a photo, Yukari correctly identified the culprit in the Tokyo Dismemberment Murder.
Also... I remember Yukari had called some strange things her "friends" back in the warehouse...
You couldn't be considered a genius just because you were smart.
No, you had to have something that could change the world if you wanted to qualify as a genius.
Whether it was science, or literature or art or music, or even political science, it was a genius who had appeared and dreamed up these genres.
To think that one person couldn't change the world was to think like a commoner.
A genius would surely change the world. He or she would become an impetus that would move the Earth itself.
Of course, there was a limit to how much power one person could have, but geniuses also had the ability to turn their many followers into patrons.
Just like Alice had said, Yukari was definitely a genius.
She said she could see people as robots. But those were just her words, and there was no way to verify that.
Because of that, she could get away with just being thought of as a girl who was a bit strange, and otherwise could live normally.
However, what happened to me and Nanami was very real, and this outcome was completely reproducible - we could actually testify to what she had done, and not just take her at her word.
If people found out about what Yukari had done to Nanami and me, if people found out about her purple eyes, then it would definitely incite panic throughout the world.
And if her abilities could actually be analyzed and explained, then that would usher in nothing less than a scientific revolution.
Yes, my friend Marii Yukari certainly possessed the ability to change the world.
And, even though I was Yukari's friend, I couldn't really do anything for her with regards to her abilities.
I couldn't help guide her down the right path, nor could I hide and protect her.
On the other hand, Yukari also seemed to feel indebted to me whenever people who were targeting her ended up attacking me, or whenever I got wrapped up in something because of her.
This really is just an excuse, but... the timing was just not good.
In the beginning, Alice just tried to go after Yukari.
Alice would tell Yukari that she shouldn't stay around commoners. That we would end up betraying her and causing her pain. Even if we seemed to be friendly on the outside, we really feared her on the inside and were making fun of her and laughing at her from the shadows. That's what commoners did, according to Alice.
However, I really had come to terms with Yukari's abilities and the whole Tokyo Dismemberment Murder incident, and once she realized that Yukari's trust in me was unwavering, Alice changed tactics.
She started to come after me as well.
"Hatou. If you really have accepted Yukari for what she is, then you should be able to understand exactly how wonderful Yukari's abilities are. Exactly how precious they are. But to let those abilities just fester and rot in the midst of all these commoners... do you not feel you are betraying your duties to humankind?"
"... That's... but, that doesn't have anything to do with Yukari. Yukari has her own life she wants to live."
"Yes, I quite understand that. However, that is something a spoiled child might say. Everyone has a duty he or she must fulfill to society... and no matter how you and Yukari feel, do you really think you can continue to hide her away forever? Certainly, it might not be easy to notice Yukari's powers, but we managed to find her, did we not?"
I had heard that Yukari's father was a pretty big deal in the National Police Agency (not to be confused with the Metropolitan Police Department).
Yukari never had gone into details, but it seemed that after he had found out about Yukari's way of seeing things, Yukari's father had retired from his job and moved here. It was probably for Yukari's sake... is what Yukari told me. And she seemed to be fairly preoccupied with the thought that her father might've quit his job because of her.
That explained why, for a period of time, Yukari would help her father's juniors with their work as long as they kept it off the record.
However, by trying so hard to keep these things private, they ended up drawing attention to themselves, and suddenly there were people showing up who had looked into Yukari and knew that she claimed that she saw others as robots.
They had also looked into the incident with Nanami.
And this time, what had happened to me was the straw that broke the camel's back.
To be quite honest, there were quite a few people who had heard Yukari say that she saw other people as robots.
After all, because of that line, Yukari had been bullied as a child, and had even lost friends.
But, in most cases, people would just go "So what?" and that would be the end of that.
Whether Yukari was telling the truth or not, it's not like anybody could verify what she said, and it didn't really affect anybody in real life, people thought.
However, what had happened to me was a different story.
What had happened to the murderer, who suddenly had come to peace with everything, was a different story.
Leaving Nanami's incident aside for now, certainly everything that had happened to me had come to a rather bizarre conclusion. The murderer had taken me hostage and barricaded herself in that warehouse, and later a large number of bloodstains and blood-soaked instruments were found there (and it was determined that the blood was definitely mine). But despite all that, I didn't have a single visible wound on my body, nor a sign that I had been hurt. The same applied to Yukari, who had faced off against the murderer by herself. Meanwhile, the murderer seemed to have a sudden dramatic change of heart and turned herself in.
And after all was said and done, not a single page of a police report was filed, and not a single record of the incident was left behind, almost as if some higher power was flexing its muscles from the shadows.
It would honestly be hard to not find any irregularities in this affair, even if you tried hard not to.
"Unfortunately, Yukari has yet to tell me what exactly happened during that incident, and all we have right now is circumstantial evidence. However, anyone with a working brain, even a commoner, would be able to put two and two together well enough. That is why I am here. So, I ask you once again.
Do you really think you can keep Yukari hidden forever?
When an organization full of commoners appears and wants to use Yukari's abilities only for evil purposes, are you confident you can protect her?
Because we can protect her.
Jaunt was created precisely to protect people with abilities like mine or Yukari's from those kinds of commoners. We have the power to accomplish that goal.
Let me repeat the major point, Hatou. Can you protect Yukari? Does a mere commoner like you really have the strength to do that?"
I knew the answer to that question all too well, but it was an answer I could not give her.
The timing really was just too bad.
Yukari's parents had quit their jobs and moved here for her sake, and because of what had happened to me they were quite shocked. They felt that something similar might happen in the future, and although we were lucky this time, there might be casualties eventually. But even if they thought that, they didn't make any rash decisions and wanted to respect Yukari's feelings on the matter.
I didn't really check this, but Alice had probably told Yukari something similar to what she had told me.
That Yukari couldn't just try and stay hidden from the world forever.
That at some point, someone would set eyes on Yukari's abilities. Maybe it would just be out of curiosity, which would be fine, but maybe that person was trying to use Yukari's abilities for something. At that point, maybe they would take hostages, and maybe like that incident with me, they would have come up with some peculiar theory to justify attacking us (it wouldn't be strange for commoners to be prejudiced against Yukari after all). And when that time came, could she really say with conviction that like the last time, she could protect her friends again?
Even if Alice had persuaded Yukari in that fashion, I really couldn't criticize her for using a cowardly line of attack or anything.
Because as Yukari's friend, ignoring the possibility that such things could happen was just running away from the issue. And if we waited until after something fatal happened, then it would be too late.
But, more than anything... even if she was trying to be heavy-handed... Alice really seemed desperate about it.
Whenever I started thinking about Alice Foyle, I felt myself losing my cool.
It was probably because somewhere in the bottom of my heart, I still blamed Alice for Yukari's death. I know I was just grasping for straws and acting out of anger, but for some reason I just couldn't get rid of that thought, and I really felt like I hated Alice.
But on the other hand, I felt affection for her as well.
It was a bright, verdant affection, which seemed to completely be at odds with my hatred.
It was also an unintended affection, developed over my many, many repeated meetings with Alice.
These conflicting emotions existed simultaneously inside of me. My feelings were a contradiction onto themselves.
Alice herself was also undoubtedly a good girl.
She might call us commoners and show contempt for us, but that's just because she didn't want to be hurt. Yes... I knew. After meeting her so many times, hating her, loving her, protecting her, killing her, I came to know about a lot of things that I didn't even want to know. That's why I knew all this. That's why I knew that Alice wasn't her real name. That's why I knew she dyed her hair. That's why I knew she had been bullied before... that people had called her "the Demon Child."
Alice didn't have a father.
Her young mother got addicted to drugs, and then became involved with a cult religion.
When Alice was born, her mother took it as God's blessing, but when Alice began to demonstrate that she had strange abilities and began deviating from the normal path, her mother took that to be a symbol of her own sins. She thought that her own rampant drug addiction had influenced her unborn child. She decided that Alice was a demon child born out of her drug habit, and that correcting the situation would be her atonement for her sins.
Yes, I knew.
I knew that her mother's convictions were just a warped form of attention seeking.
That to Alice's mother, Alice was nothing more than a symbol for her need for atonement, that Alice just being Alice was in and of itself a sin, that until Jaunt found and rescued Alice, Alice had been living while rejecting any value that she herself might have had. No, not living... she was being allowed to live. Just so her mother could feel like she was abiding by god's teachings.
Alice had once asked me something.
"Hatou, exactly what do you think about Yukari's way of seeing things? Do you not find it creepy?"
"Not really. Yukari's eyes are just wonderful. Or I guess... I'd say they're really full of life?"
"Yes, Hatou. Exactly. That is quite a precise assessment for a commoner. I suppose you are only a semi-commoner. Indeed, Yukari's purple eyes are wonderful things that can show us the full bounty of the world. They are nothing short of gifts from the heavens that we should be thankful for.
And yet, why do you act as if they are bad things and continue to try and hide them away?
Why do you not allow Yukari to be herself?"
It was a life or death struggle for Alice trying to convince Yukari. Come join Jaunt, Yukari. At Jaunt, you won't have to hide your eyes. At Jaunt, you can just be yourself. At Jaunt, people would let you do that. There isn't a single person at Jaunt who would persecute us geniuses. Just because you have special abilities doesn't mean anybody at Jaunt would reject you.
"Yukari should be at Jaunt. She should be with people with the same abilities, with her comrades."
It wasn't Yukari who was searching for friends... it was Alice.
It was Alice who needed friends. Friends who weren't commoners, who had the same types of abilities as she did. If they also had these types of abilities, then they wouldn't reject her, wouldn't betray her, could be her true friends... That's why she was so desperate.
She was searching for companionship.
And she felt that Yukari was like her, which was why she was desperately trying to recruit her.
So, could I really have criticized someone like that for being cowardly?
I... we... we didn't have it in our power to protect Yukari.
We couldn't even protect her from this everyday world of ours, let alone vicious criminals and mysterious organizations.
But, if Yukari went with Alice and joined Jaunt, then they could protect her.
She wouldn't have to hide away there. She wouldn't have to reject her own eyes.
And that wasn't all. If this organization really was gathering up promising "genius" candidates with bright futures, then Yukari might even learn to develop her own abilities. They might be able to unravel the mystery of why only Yukari saw other people as robots. And when that happened, maybe they would be able to allow others to share Yukari's vision of the world. If that occurred, then Yukari would truly stop being alone.
What... what should I do here?
If I really wanted to be a friend to Yukari, should I stop thinking in terms of what I was feeling right now and start thinking in terms of what was best for Yukari?
And if so, what should I do here? As a commoner, was there anything I could do for Yukari?
If I was really Yukari's friend, and not just acting like it, then I should choose...
In the end, a single phone call made up my mind.
My mind was actually pretty much already made up... but I just couldn't take that final step. And as I lay in bed that night feeling troubled and not able to sleep, that phone call came.
Came right to my left hand, to that phone which only knew a very limited set of phone numbers.
And nothing in the world could've prepared me for the person on the other end of the call.
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(1) A reference to the novel The Stars My Destination, a somewhat obscure sci-fi novel. Alice was clearly somewhat inspired by the main character, Gully Foyle.
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