After school one day, I climbed the stairs towards the ComClub’s room. Kagurai-senpai said, “Gakuta wants to play games with you. Apparently, my power is insufficient. It seems I’m no good at retro games where you have to use a controller,” to invite me. I think she meant I would be having a competition with her. The game happened to be the one I was currently hooked on, so I was definitely up to give it a go.
More than anything, I was overjoyed to be able to play games alone with senpai. It was adorable how she was too embarrassed to invite me, instead using Gakuta-kun as an excuse. I was so happy I ended up arriving ahead of schedule.
“—Brain–– World, B3 World for–”
I heard a voice from the club room. She seemed to be practicing her ventriloquism again.
Growing curious over what they were talking about, I crouched down and inclined an ear.
“The buggles they scattered through this era are mostly cleaned up.”
“Doesn’t matter, we’ll probably be in this era a while longer. There are other things we have to settle.”
“I know, Gakuta. I quite like this time period, so I don’t mind. No matter how far I dig into Heisei Literature, I never hit the bottom. ‘Moe’ truly is wonderful.”
“You really like playing at being a literary girl. You really don’t look the part.”
“You think you look like someone who enjoys retro games?”
“Gyahahaha! No doubt about that.”
“… Hey, Gakuta. Are we really doing the right thing?”
“In our time, human lives have started to be ruled by the computer. Almost everyone spends more than half of their day in the virtual—the B3 world. It’s an era where it’s been deemed abnormal not to be dependent on the net. If you want an extreme example, there are couples who meet, who marry, who live, who die in that land of ones and zeroes, once never meeting in reality… as people, as lifeforms, there’s no way that’s the right course…”
“And the one who thought that and took action on it was ‘Reloader’—meaning our enemy.”
“Their goal is simple, understandable. The complete destruction of information technology. For that sake, they aimed for the era the internet spread, and leaped into the past.”
“They want to reform history. They’ve got to be stopped, isn’t that what an ironclad hero of justice would do?”
“I wish it was as simple as those old-age movies. Hey, Gakuta. I’ve already noticed it. That those folks upstairs are hiding something.”
“The way we’re going, humanity will be destroyed, right?”
“… Yeah. That’s right.”
“As I thought.”
“In the near future… a few hundred years, mind you, but eventually, the machines will completely supersede the humans. The B3 World will no longer be managed by human hands. With artificial intelligence, right now flesh and blood humans outnumber them eight to two, but I’m sure that’ll reverse eventually.”
“So slowly, so slowly, humanity will perish, won’t it.”
“That’s right. Gyahahaha! And those heroes of justice who wanted to do something, gave it a go, were ‘Reloader’. Though the guys up top covered it up.”
“How ironic. All my colleagues believe they’re working for humanity’s sake.”
“The facts won’t help their motivation. That’s why they’re silently deceived and worked to the point. Gyahaha. So, Monyumi. What’re you gonna do? Abandoning your duties? Or are you gonna ask ‘Reloader’ to let you join their gang?”
“… I’m not changing anything. I’m going to live as I always have.”
“Don’t you think humanity should perish?”
“After doing whatever they wanted and bringing it all onto themselves, it’s inevitable that they fall. Just because it’s become possible to jump to the past, that doesn’t make for a reason to change history. And the way they’re going about it is a little too forceful for my tastes. The way I see it, they’re just plunging the world into chaos with their hapless struggle.”
“Quite a tongue on ‘ya. Well, the higherups hold pretty much the same outlook. And of course, they’re searching for other ways to prolong humanity’s existence.”
“It’s pointless. Humanity will fall. Once humanity falls, a different force will rule this planet. Once they fall, it’ll be the next. And as the generations go by, and by, the earth itself will eventually perish. And a new planet will be born. That’s all there is to it. Nothing much, in the grand scheme of things.”
“Oh me oh my, playing it cool I see, Monyumi.”
“But even I won’t let it be forcefully brought to ruin by someone’s hand. This is just something like humanity’s lifespan.”
“You say the darndest things. So the ‘present’ is where humanity contracts its incurable ailment. The ones who’re desperately trying to prolong its life, by all means, are ‘Reloader’, and we’re the ones who want it to die in peace.”
“I do want to let it die in peace. That way will surely be for humanity’s sake.”
“Keh. That so. Well ‘n, to my magnificent AI self, I guess it doesn’t really matter. Whether ‘Reloader’s revolution succeeds or fails, I don’t give a damn.”
“… I know you care.”
“Like hell I do.”
“Of course, you care. I mean, we’re family, after all.”
“Isn’t that right, big brother?”
“… What might ‘ya be talking about? I don’t know the first thing about that stupid spy who got his body all burnt up by ‘Reloader’.”
“I’m just your adorable little mascot character. With the wickedest tongue out there, your cute Gakuta-kun. Gyahaha! My only function’s to provide you some battle support when you dive into B3 World, just an AI pet.”
“… Right you are.”
“You got that. Well, if I were your dumbass brother, then I think this’s what I’d say at a time like this. ‘Do your best’ I’d say.”
A solemn, yet be that as it may, a warm air leaked out from the club room. I was crying. At such sadness, such sorry, I couldn’t hold back my tears. So Gakuta-kun wasn’t just a stuffed animal. Kagurai-senpai’s hobby wasn’t something like ventriloquism. She just… needed someone to talk to.
She always put on a strong front, but she actually wanted friends so badly she didn’t know what to do with herself. She was too embarrassed to honestly come out and say, ‘please be my friend’. That’s why she used Gakuta, always practicing how to speak to people.
Ventriloquism wasn’t a hobby, it was something she just happened to pick up while practicing how to talk to people, a sorrowful trick. My own teary sobs were so loud, a majority of the contents of her conversation didn’t enter my head, but I fully understood the circumstances. I was sure I didn’t, but understood that I did.
Kagurai-senpai was really a kind and delicate woman.
Her strong attitude was armor to protect her tender heart.
I wiped my tears and slammed the door open.
“K-Kagoshima!? At least knocked. You surprised me there…”
Rapidly closing the distance, I strongly grasped both her hands.
“Please know that I’m your friend!”
“I-I see. Thank you…”
Kagurai-senpai seemed somewhat reluctant. While I felt an immense difference in our levels of enthusiasm, I wouldn’t stop.
“So please stop using your stuffed animal for conversation practice!”
Her tired smile gave an impression somewhere along the lines of, this guy is making another merry misunderstanding.
… How strange. This was supposed to be where she was moved to tears and jumped into my chest.
“Let’s seal Gakuta-kun. As long as you have him, your heart will never open up!”
“Oy, brat! I shut up for one minute, and you get on your high horse. You think I–”
Swiftly, silently, Gakuta’s mouth that had burst into yelling was covered up by Kagurai-senpai.
“Thank you, Kagoshima. But you see, Gakuta-kun is also a precious friend. He’s a comrade who’s fought by my side.”
“… Ptooey.” Said Gakuta-kun.
While being a stuffed animal, his head looked like it was turning red for some reason. I couldn’t bring myself to accept it, but I got the inkling the matter was resolved, so I decided not to think too hard about it. Both of them (?) seemed happy enough, so live and let live.
“Now how about we start the game? You know why I called you here today.”
Kagurai-senpai lined up chairs and pressed the power button on the TV and game console.
“Entertain Gakuta-kun all you can.”
“Umm. In the end, that means I’ll be fighting you, right senpai? Gakuta-kun is a stuffed animal so…”
“That’s right. In short, I’ll be operating Gakuta, and Gakuta will operate the game.”
Looking closely, Gakuta-kun’s form had changed from when I last saw him.
A hole had been opened around his bottom so that a hand could enter. He was becoming even more like a ventriloquism doll.
“Well, to summarize, I’m giving you a handicap,” Kagurai-senpai grinned. “Just goes to show, my stuffed animal is more than a match for you.”
“Kuh. You don’t know who you’re dealing with.”
‘Why are we going through such a pain in the ass, Monyumi?’
‘It can’t be helped. If we don’t do this, we can’t play it off. I’m letting you game so just accept it.’
‘You opened a damn hole in my prided hips. This goes beyond hemorrhoids.’
Or so it looked like they exchanged such eye contact, but it must’ve been my eyes playing tricks on me.
“Alright, let the games begin.”
Kagurai-senpai equipped Gakuta-kun on her left hand.
And there, the incident occurred.
Gakuta-kun, meaning Kagurai-senpai suddenly let out a scream.
“W-what’s wrong, Kagurai-senpai!?”
“W-wrong! It’s not me, Gakuta-kun just…”
“Eh? Isn’t it you, senpai?”
“… Yeah, it’s me. I let out a scream. Fufufu, I’m creepy, aren’t I…” Kagurai-senpai’s eyes went hollow in self-abandonment. “… Oy, Gakuta. What’s the matter?”
“My ass! My ass, my ass–! I’m getting a real off feeling about this! Naa!”
Shrieking out, Gakuta-kun writhed his body left and right. I’m sure Kagurai-senpai was moving him from inside, but his movements were far too realistic, creepy for that. Just how do her finger joints work?
“Pull it out, pull it out! Seriously pull it out! Hurry and pull it out, Monyumi!”
“G-got it! Mn, huh? It’s not–”
“NNAaaa! Don’t move it! It feels disgusting, disgusting–!”
“D-don’t move it… then how am I supposed to…”
“Gyaaaah! My little sister’s digging me out! My little sister is…”
“S-s-silence Gakuta! Don’t recognize me as your sister now of all times!”
“No more fisting—Kuh! No more incest!”
“D-damnit… it’s not coming out…”
“This is bad, this is bad! What’s so bad? It’s bad that it’s starting to feel a little nice!”
Kagurai-senpai raised a truly girly scream, performed an overhead throw as if to nail in a one hundred seventy kilometer per hour fastball. Gakuta-kun popped off her hand, “erk!” he collided with the opposite wall. “I can’t get married anymore…” he muttered with a somewhat entranced face.
Kagurai-senpai’s face was red, her breath rough.
[INSERT IMAGE HERE]
I was taken aback.
Of course, Gakuta-kun was just a stuffed animal, so every single thing that just happened would have to be Kagurai-senpai’s one-man act.
I never thought she was the sort of person to tell such terribly dirty jokes…
“W-wait, Kagoshima. Don’t try to quietly leave the room while you still have the chance.”
“… Umm, a moment ago, I said I was your friend, but please just write me down as a pen pal.”
“He gently took distance!”
“I don’t hate you, senpai, but… my mom always told me I shouldn’t go out with someone lacking in moral decency…”
“Noo! You’re wrong, you wrong Kagoshima! That was an unforeseen incident! I’m not the sort of woman who would show off dirty jokes to my underclassmen! I’m actually no good with dirty humor… umm… so, I’m not the sort of pervert who would repeatedly cry out indecent words!”
“Wait, you’re not?”
“…… Fu… fufufu. Fwahahahaha! Yeah, that’s right. I’m just a perverted woman who’ll say all manner of dirty words!”
Gazing at the smile of someone driven to madness through severe damage to the heart, I gently shut the door.
Let’s just pretend today never happened.