Yuki's Troublesome Subroutine. Conclusion

Sorry for the delay.

7.

And I was awake, helplessly awake. I wanted so badly to go back to sleep.

But the lights were on. Colors other than blue had returned to my vision. I was back in Nagato's apartment, and the floor was gleaming with polish. I stared into her face. Wait, what?

I was on all fours, on top of Nagato. "The subroutine self-terminated," she stated, completely expressionless.

Where the hell was I? I looked around in confusion. There was the TV, windows, urban skyline. Everything was back to normal. As a matter of fact, it was as if nothing had happened.

Nagato aimed to stand up, and realizing I was still on top of her, I got up and brushed myself off. I felt as if my own grip on my sanity was still under threat. Where was I? What had she just said?

Self...terminated?

"What does that mean?" I asked.

"An extreme level of emotion was reached almost immediately, triggering an emergency scenario which continued the subroutine in a simulation. When the scenario ended in failure, the subroutine self-terminated, and erased itself."

Oh. Nothing had happened. I was back on Planet Earth. But that meant...

"Nagato?"

"Yes?"

"That was no ordinary scenario. You drew me in somehow. I experienced the whole thing."

Nagato was silent.

"I did not intend for that to happen to you," she said, finally.

What was I supposed to say in response to that? She must be feeling incredible guilt. I shouldn't have told her in the first place.

"Involving you in this incident was an inexcusable mistake. I have put you at risk twice now. I will modify my future behavior accordingly."

That's not the conclusion I wanted to hear at all. Is this Nagato completely disconnected from the message her other self tried to give me? Does she even realize what happened there?

"Do you remember what happened?" I ask.

"The experiment has already failed. The memory is available to be consulted if necessary, but it is likely irrelevant."

"Do it." I put my hands on her shoulders. "I'm asking you, as a favor. You need to know this."

Without meeting my eye, she looked lost in thought for a moment.

Then: "Oh."

"That's how it went."

"I see."

She moved my hands away and sat down at the kotatsu, directing me to do the same.

"Drink."

Nagato pushed a cup of tea at me. It was piping hot.

Apparently, the scenario had executed at the speed of Nagato's own thoughts, which is to say, it ended as soon as it began. I had arrived in her room just ten minutes ago, or so I was told. The teapot had no time to cool.

I drank my tea and another cup was thrust at me. It was good to be back.

"You know, it's true, what you said," I remarked.

"..."

"There's no way you can do what you do while dealing with human emotions. Your level of perception would drive a regular human insane."

"I said that?"

"No, but I... figured it out."

"..."

"That's the conclusion you've reached, right?"

Nagato put down her tea. "How did you figure it out?"

"Well, you know, a lot of stuff happened in the simulation. I guess I just picked up on where we were and what you were thinking."

"I can't attribute such a thing to mere intuition. You have reached the conclusion of the simulation designer, not of the personality subroutine that was running within it." A pause... "What did you mean when you said that my wish had come true?"

"I had a glimpse of one of your memories. It was kind of a revelation."

"You experienced one of my memories?"

"Yeah..."

"And, you weren't driven insane."

"Well. I didn't really have time to react."

"That doesn't explain... you must have had some kind of ability to control what you experienced."

"But I wasn't able to control anything. The scenario fell apart."

"You figured out what was happening before me."

I guess so.

"Perhaps you had no conscious data manipulation abilities. But as you may now understand, your mind is linked in to the same data network that controls me."

Sounds kind of cool when you put it that way.

"This evening, I cut myself off from the Data Integration Thought Entity, but your independent source of thought and action altered my understanding. And your demand for me to consult the memory of this event proved fruitful."

Oh...

"I believe that your actions prevented a complete mental breakdown."

Well...

"Thank you."

Nagato went to the kitchen, ostensibly to clean the kettle and cups. This was as close to poignancy as she usually came. I now understood how busy her life was, and how little tolerance there was for deviation. Perhaps that should have been a conclusion for me. But yet... I was unsatisfied. I was brought here tonight for a reason. It wasn't to get a science lesson or take a trip. That experience took me to hell and back. I wasn't going to forget about it without least finishing the conversation she had tried so hard to start. So as she reentered the room, I turned around and put my hand down on the carpet.

"Nagato. About those last things you said, during the scenario."

"..."

"Maybe this was a failure, but the pressure you feel is real. Like it or not, you are a fully functioning high school student."

"Is that so."

"Your worldview may be different, but you're still living a human life. So the same advice goes for you as any student. You only get one high school life. Make the most of it."

"..."

"You don't have to abandon your mission. You have more than enough ability to correct any slips you might make."

"..."

"Am I driving you nuts just by saying this?"

"..."

"It's okay to question yourself."

"Yes," said Nagato abruptly. "I know. I have acquired a new definition of mental stability."

I broke unwittingly into a wide grin. Suddenly, I was completely satisfied.

Fin

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Epilogue

"I'm probably overstaying my welcome at this point."

"Not really."

"Well. Uh. Anyway, I should probably get going. You'll be back in the clubroom tomorrow, right?"

"Yes. I won't cause you trouble in the future."

"It's okay, just..." What exactly was I supposed to say? I'll help you through hard times, but try not to destroy the universe again...

As I walked down the hall, a door caught my eye. "Nagato?"

"Yes?"

"Can I look inside your study?"

"No."

"...Okay." Classified information, huh? I slipped on my shoes. "See you tomorrow."

I glanced up at her apartment as I walked outside. The lights were still on. Doubtless Nagato was hard at work on something I could never hope to understand. But maybe she knew herself better now.

An interesting question. Isn't it really impossible to know yourself? Humanoid interfaces aren't the only ones with that problem. You're always the reacting protagonist. It's only in other people's lives that you're a familiar character, a beloved personality.

Well, at least, if Nagato ever wanted to learn what I knew about her, now she understood how to ask.