<Hey, Ping!> Piro shouted. <Guess what Kimiko gave me?>
<I dunno, Piro-san. What is it?> the android inquired.
<A copy of "Sight". I got the first copy! And guess what? It's EDS compatable!> Piro replied, obviously filled with delight. <Wanna go play?>
She would never be quite the same again.
A Lack of (Fore)Sight
by Eli Young (Elyscape)
As it turns out, Tsubasa was wrong. Ping was not a non-ecchi model. She was just more inclined to the "pure" side of things.
Piro spent a long time playing his copy of "Sight". And, for whatever reason, he left Ping linked to the PS2 whenever he played. Perhaps he thought that she would revert back to normal Ping after unplugging her from the console. For a time, this was true.
This story begins after that time.
A couple of days later, when Miho brought Ping back from school, she talked to Piro.
<Piro-san> she began, then switched to English. "Piro, something's happened to Ping."
"What?" Piro asked.
"She's not the same anymore. Her voice is different and she's more... sad. Emotionless would be a better term, I suppose. I'm worried."
"Thanks?..." Piro said.
Not knowing what any of this could mean, he disregarded the information. Later, he would regret doing so...
Piro continued playing "Sight" and continued plugging Ping into the game. He had no way of knowing what it would do to her.
The protagonist walked into a grocery store. He was a handsome man, not to mention kind and patient. The only things that might have been imperfect about him were that he was colorblind, had several bad burn scars, and had another scar on the top of his head, things that he had no recollection of ever gaining.
He picked up a bag and started putting foods into it. Grapes, waffles, milk, soup, WHAM! He ran straight into a woman who was deserving of the adjective "kawaii" if anyone was. She was bent over, picking up the things that had fallen when she ran into him.
<Oh, I'm sorry. Pardon me,> she said. He:
b) apologized and ran away
c) laughed, apologized, and helped her pick said things up
d) kicked her
Laughing, he apologized and helped her pick up her things. She didn't laugh with him, rather, she seemed to be sad, almost. After picking up her things, she thanked him. Before she could leave, the protagonist asked her, <Have we met before?>
<Eh? Er... No, I don't believe we've met before. I don't think... that we could have,> she said.
<What does that mean?>
<What I mean is, I'm not exactly... memorable,> she said.
<Oh...> said the protagonist as she walked away.
He went back to his food.
Later, Ping went up to Piro and asked him a question.
<Piro-san, may I go grocery shopping?>
Piro blinked. They had enough food to last them a couple more days.
<Why do you want to do that?> he queried.
<At the rate you and Largo-sama are eating, we'll only have enough for about one more day,> she said. <Please? Piro-niisan? Can I go get food?>
"She seems so sad," Piro thought. "Like all she's 'living' for is to go shopping."
<Yeah, sure. Go ahead. Don't spend too much,> he conceeded.
The protagonist was eating lunch at a diner when a woman walked in. It only took a second for him to recognize her as the girl from the grocery store. He:
a) walked up to her and said hello
b) ignored her
c) walked up to her and promptly vomited
d) died of shock
He got up from his seat at the counter and said hello. After seeing her puzzlement, he added, <I ran into you (quite literally, actually) at the grocery store earlier today.>
<You want to sit down?> he asked.
She shrugged, then followed him back to the counter.
<I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name,> the protagonist asked.
<I'm called Kannazuki Kotone,> she said drearily.
<Here, Largo-sama,> Ping said, handing him a dish of food. He took it.
"What mockery is this?" he wondered aloud.
The food dish was like what one would make for a pet. It was decorated with flowers and colors and such.
<Ping, what is this?> Piro asked her.
<Food for Largo-sama,> she replied matter-of-factly.
"Miho was right," Piro thought. "Her voice is different. It's a bit like... no, it can't be..."
<Piro-san, I'm going to go to bed,> Ping told him.
<Uhm... okay, whatever,> he responded. <Isn't it a bit early?>
<Hmm? I suppose it is,> she said.
She sat down at the table and did nothing, but did it with a blank face. "What's she thinking about?" Piro wondered.
<So, this is your home?> the protagonist asked Kotone.
<Yeah,> she replied.
She took some of the items she had bought and put them in a bowl, decorating them with flowers and the like. The
bowl had the word "Burn" written on it. She put it on the floor and clapped a couple of times. After waiting a
couple of seconds, a cat walked up. She pet the cat, who purred, and then stood up and watched it eat.
<His name is "Burn", right?> the protagonist asked.
<Yeah,> Kotone said. <I rescued him. He somehow survived a fire losing only his ear, but he was going to die on the street, so I'm taking
care of him.>
<A noble cause.>
<If you say so,> she said, emotionlessly.
"Notice anything different about Ping?" Miho asked.
"Not really..." he said.
"Look at her clothes. Her skin-tones. Her eyes, even. What do you notice?"
Piro looked at Ping intently. She continued to browse the items in MegaGamers.
"She's all... grey," he said after about a minute.
Ping bumped into Kimiko, who was also browsing the store.
<Ah, sorry,> Ping said.
Kimiko blinked. So did Piro.
<Piro,> Erika said, startling him.
<AAH!> he shouted. <Don't sneak up on me like that!>
<Forgive me,> Erika said, then continued, <What did you do to Largo's robot? She sounds just like Kimiko.>
<I have no clue...> Piro trailed off.
Miho stood there, worried.
The protagonist walked outside, ready to drive to a breakfast resturant. He lived at a farm, a couple miles away from the city. Outside his house he saw... Kotone. She was waiting for him, huddling with herself against the snow and wind. The protagonist asked her:
a) <What the hell are you doing here?>
b) Nothing. He ignored her.
c) <Want to come inside and make sweet, sweet love to me?>
d) <You been waiting here long?>
He walked up to Kotone and asked how long she had been waiting.
<Not too long,> she replied. <Only about 5 minutes or so.>
<That's too long. It's snowing out here! You could catch a cold,> he cried, then added, <You want to go warm up and eat breakfast at the Anna Miller's?>
<Okay, sure,> Kotone agreed. <Meet you there?>
Kotone pulled out her car keys and started to unlock her car, when she turned.
<You won't leave me, will you? You won't go away and leave me all alone, will you?>
She seemed so sad, so afraid, that it was all he could do not to run up and embrace her.
<Of course not!> he said. <Why would I do that?>
She smiled bleakly.
Ping burst into the store and ran up to Piro.
<Miho-chan...> she gasped. <She... hospital... fire...> she trailed off.
<Uhm...> Piro said, buried under the pile of thoughts. <What?>
<Miho-chan, her house, it caught fire, she's in the hospital,> Ping said frantically, then broke down into un-intelligibility again. <Fire! Burns! Hurt! Hospital!>
She began sobbing. To Piro's great surprise, tears came out of her eyes.
"Is this her programming?" Piro wondered. "Or is this real?"
<Do you want to go to dinner tonight?> the protagonist asked Kotone over the phone.
<Yeah, sure,> she agreed. <Where should I meet you?>
<I'll pick you up, your place, around 8ish. That good for you?>
<Okay, sure,> she said.
Miho lay on a hospital bed, severely burned, head bandaged, eyes closed.
<Miho-chan!> Ping cried.
<Ping....chan?> Miho managed.
<Miho?> Piro said. <What happened?>
<Piro... Ping-chan... she...> Miho started, then began twitching. Beeps sounded out everywhere.
The nurse sitting nearby ran to the door and shouted to a doctor, <We're losing her!>
<Miho-chan?> Ping asked forlornly.
It was a good date, the protagonist decided. It was also the happiest he'd seen her. One more thing, and it'd be perfect.
He walked Kotone up to her door and leaned towards her. She squeeked and pulled back.
<No, I can't...> she said. <I... I have to go.>
She rushed in the door and shut it fast. The protagonist stood there for a minute, confused, then slowly walked back to his car and drove away.
The protagonist called Kotone the next day.
<Hello?> she said.
<Kotone?> he said.
<I'm sorry, I have to g-> she began.
a) <Who are you?>
b) <You better come back to my house... bitch!>
c) <*snirk* Is your refrigerator running?>
d) <Hey, wait a minute! What was yesterday all about?>
<No... I don't...> she stumbled. <I'm sorry, I can't see you anymore.>
<And why not?>
<I... I...> she managed.
<Hard to explain?>
<So, you want to meet somewhere for lunch and talk about it?>
<Yes, I mean no! I can't... I don't...> she recollected herself. <Where and when?>
Miho lay on her bed, comatose. The doctors said they had no clue how long she might stay that way. She might revive, and she might not. There was nothing they could do for her now.
Piro found Ping at the room. She was preparing one of her meals for Largo. Despite his complaining, Largo had taken and eaten with mild interest all the food that she would give him every day, like clockwork, at 6:00, not quite sure what to make of it.
She gave Largo his meal and sat down across the table from him, watching him eat. He ignored her and wolfed down all she had given him. When he was done, he got up from the table and went off to do whatever it was that he did in the evening.
Piro went to the table and sat down next to her.
<You okay?> he asked her.
<Those I trust... those I call my friends... they always hurt me... they always leave...> she said in Kimiko's emotionless voice. <And it's often my fault...> she added softly.
<What do you mean by that?> he asked. <How is it your fault?>
<I... Well, you know what happened last night? You know why Miho's in the state she's in?>
<Her house caught fire and she was in it.>
<That's only part of it, Piro-san...>
Ping was playing on the PS2 with Miho when they heard something slide open and slam shut downstairs.
<That's odd...> Miho said. <My mom shouldn't be home yet.>
A second later, there was a loud bang. Ping screamed. Miho just ran downstairs.
<There's a fire!> she called. <It's blocking the door out! Help me extinguish it!>
Ping ran downstairs to find Miho searching for the fire extinguisher. Miho found it, pulled the pin out, aimed at the fire, and pulled the trigger.
She stared at it for a second, then threw it aside.
<There's some buckets over here!> she yelled over the din of the fire, which was growing at an alarming rate. <Quick, throw some water on it!>
She tossed Ping a bucket, who dropped it. She then ran over to the sink and turned it on full force.
<Damn...> she said. <It's not fast enough. Whatever, throw anyway! There's another sink in the bathroom!>
Ping sprinted to the bathroom and filled her bucket. She ran, as best she could, back to the fire to throw the water on it, only to find Miho there, doing the same.
The fire was humongous. It covered the whole of the wall and was spreading through the ceiling to the next floor. Before Miho could run back and get more water, the ceiling cracked, and broke. Through it fell the TV, PS2, and controller, which landed with a sickening crack on Miho's head. She collapsed, blood streaming from her head unto the ground nearby.
Ping screamed. She ran to the bathroom, turned on the shower, sat in it, and screamed. She continued screaming even when the rescue crew came and helped her out.
<I could have helped her!> Ping cried. <I could have grabbed her and helped her into the shower with me! I could have bashed the door down and pulled her through! But I didn't! It's my fault she's all burned, now. She might die, and it'd be my fault!>
Piro remained silent.
The protagonist pulled out a chair and let Kotone sit down, then grabbed a seat for himself.
<What was that all about yesterday?> he asked. <Why can't you see me anymore?>
<I... I can't let myself fall in love with you,> she said. <But I'm afraid I might be too late. I can't let you love me. If I do, I... you...> she broke off.
<What's this? Why can't you let yourself fall in love with me? And I'm afraid you're too late if you don't want me to love you. That's why I'm here,> he told her.
<I... I... Do you know what's happened to the people I've loved before you met me?> she asked. <No, you couldn't. Let me tell you.>
And, with that, she launched into a long story.
A couple of years ago, I was different. I wasn't like this, sad, emotionless. I knew what happy meant, and I was it.
Then I met him. I had just moved to the city, and he was next door. He was amazing. He was smart, and very charismatic. And I fell in love with him.
But he didn't love me back.
Still, I didn't mind. He was my friend, and that was all I needed. But then he found another, one he loved, and she loved him back. And then, she was raped and killed. He couldn't stand it, and went mad.
I visited him every other day. Then, one day, he found a knife somewhere and tried to kill me. He had already killed several other patients. Unable to contain him, the institution was forced to call in the police, who had to kill him.
I grieved for a while, but eventually got over him. I met another, one who returned the love I gave him.
And then he was murdered. He was watching a movie with a friend of his, and someone beat him to death with a metal pipe.
That friend, I ended up with him, not even knowing it. Then, one day we somehow got to talking about him. He told me how he watched his friend beat to death, held by another with a knife at his throat. He couldn't have done anything, he said. They would have killed him. He said he was sorry, and went home. The next day, I drove to his house and found him hanging from the rafters, a noose around his neck.
<I... everyone I've loved,> Kotone said. <Something horrible has happened, and they've died. Can't you see why I can't let myself fall in love with you? I can't let myself love anyone. I can't let myself have emotions, or something terrible will befall those who the emotions are directed at. Don't you see why I have to leave while I can?>
Ping was at the Sony headquarters. The final tests were underway. All that was left after that was to start her up and see if she ran.
The tests complete, they began the initial start-up procedure.
<5 hours to go?> one technician exclaimed. <That's insane.>
<We want it to work, remember,> another said.
They left her in the room to complete the system check.
4 and a half hours later, she woke up. A janitor was nearby cleaning the room.
Things might have gone better had she been wearing something.
The janitor's remains was removed, the project redesigned, and Ping sold to the first taker, a man named Tsubasa.
But the carnage wasn't complete.
<No, I don't see,> said the protagonist. <Just because something happened to the others doesn't mean anything will happen to me.>
<Wrong... You really don't remember, do you?> Kotone asked.
You know that scar on your head? You know why you're colorblind?
I met you a year or two ago. Like the others, I began to fall in love with you. We went to your house to watch a rented movie. While we were watching it, someone threw a firebomb into the kitchen. We didn't hear it, and kept watching the movie. When you left, I went into the kitchen to get a drink, and it exploded. I ran into the bathroom, turned on the shower, and waited, scared.
The protagonist listened to her story, when suddenly...
He was walking out of a house when heard a bang and a shreik. He turned around and stared for a second. Then he saw light emerging from the kitchen windows. It was orange, and flickering. He continued to stare, and, a second later, flames started licking the air out of the windows. He ran inside. He searched for a fire extinguisher and couldn't find one. Frantically, he grabbed a bucket, filled it with water, and threw it on the fire, to little effect. Giving up, he searched the house for Kotone. She wasn't in the kitchen, the bedroom, the TV room, the closet... Where was she? He ran to the one place he hadn't looked yet, the bathroom. He found he cowering in the shower, water on.
<Come on!> he yelled at her. <The fire... you'll burn to death!>
She just stared back at him. Growling, he hoisted her onto his shoulders and ran out of the bathroom.
The fire was everywhere. He desperately searched for a safe path out. If he weaved his way that way... He dashed for the safest and shortest path to the door. He was a mere foot from the door, which was open, when a plank of wood fell on his head, cutting him. He shrugged it off, and was promptly hit by an end table, which happened to have been directly above him. He froze, dazed, and was hit by a lamp which had been on the table. His body went limp, he collapsed.
After that, he only vaguely remembered seeing Kotone drag herself away, waiting, and being carried on a strecher into an ambulence.
Ping was designed to emulate a girl from a dating sim, but her coding had bugs. Specifically, the rejection-handling functions were broken. And yet, this didn't become important until Tsubasa started sharing his place with two of his friends, Piro and Largo.
He saw how they had come to Japan, leaving everything behind, and remembered his first love, a girl long lost to him. He didn't remember her, hardly remembered her at all, in fact, but he became determined to find her.
His mistake was discussing this with Ping.
He talked to Ping about how he was considering leaving to go get someone he once knew and loved. She misunderstood him and thought he was talking about her. She helped convince him to go after his dreams. He packed, wrote a note to Piro and Largo, and told her that he'd write when he found the girl.
This was not what Ping was expecting. She launched into rejection mode and killed him in much the same way as the janitor, fast, deadly. Upon recovering, she found a messy blob of... something on the ground, and instinctively cleaned it up.
Nobody would ever know. Not even her.
Except that she really did know. Deep within her lower-level processes, she remembred what had happned.
And now, not being fully herself, she could access those memories.
<Now do you get it?> Kotone asked. <Something will happen to you. Something already has happened to you. If you hadn't been with me, you wouldn't have been hurt. If you stay with me, you will be hurt again. I can't let that happen to you!>
The protagonist hesitated for a minute, then tried to reason with her.
<It wasn't your fault I got hurt. I chose, of my own free will, to get you out of the house. I could have left you there, but I didn't.>
<If you had left me there and I had died, nobody would be hurt due to me!> she cried.
<That's not true,> he said, but she didn't listen.
<I... can't see you anymore. I don't want to hurt you.>
<Can I at least take you to your house?> he pleaded.
<Fine,> she conceded.
<Piro-san, you don't believe I'm real, do you?> Ping asked him. <You're wrong. I'm as real as you are. My emotions are not just programmed reactions.>
Piro just stared.
They got to her house. She called for her cat. He didn't come. She walked to his food dish and gasped. The protagonist followed her and saw...
Burn was dead. He was lying next to his food bowl, unmoving.
<No! It can't be!> Kotone said, sobbing. <Burn! Wake up!>
She ran to the counter and began to make a meal for him.
<Kotone...> the protagonist said.
She ignored him and finished making the meal. She put it down next to her dead cat.
<Eat! Burn! Come on, eat!> She cried, sobbing harder than ever. <Burn!>
<You okay?> the protagonist asked Kotone.
<... Do you know why I named him burn?> she asked.
<When I found him, he was starving. He was missing an ear and starving, and I wanted him to have better. But the reason I named him burn was for you. I couldn't remember your name, but I knew you had gotten several burns from saving me. I named him Burn after you.>
<So, by saving the cat, you felt like you were repaying me for saving you?>
<But now he's gone,> she said.
<I, without meaning to, have killed two living souls,> Ping said. <Souls just like mine! I... I can't stand it. To know that I've killed two as real as I, possibly more real. Sometimes I wonder if it might be better for me to just reset, erase myself...>
Piro stood up and embraced her.
<That wouldn't solve anything,> he said. <You know that. Just try not to trigger those functions, and you should be fine.>
<Thank you...> she said, and erased.
Piro had accidentally hit the reset button on her earblade.
<You won't ever see me again,> Kotone said. <I don't want to hurt you any more.>
<But-> the protagonist began.
<No arguing. Just go.>
He stepped out of her door and she shut it. He waited for a minute to see if she would open the door again. When it became apparent that she wouldn't, he sat down against her door. He thought about her, only barely able to control the tears. Then he looked down.
Seeping out from under the door was a thick, reddish liquid. It only took him a second to realize what it was.
He got up and knocked on the door. No response. He beat on the door. No response. He yelled. There was a faint sobbing coming from the other side of the door.
He took a step back and kicked the door directly above handle. It flew open. He rushed inside and found Kotone lying on the ground next to Burn. Her wrists were slit, tears streaming down her cheeks.
He ran up and kneeled down next to her.
<I...> she said, still crying.
He grabbed her and her face towards his in a kiss. He held her there, not caring that she was bleeding all over him. When he finally released her, she spoke to him.
<Goodbye...> she said, and died.
The protagonist went to the wake of Kannazuki Kotone. She had no family and few friends.
It was a suicide. That was obvious.
But not everyone thought that way. Some blamed her death on him, some said he killed her, some said he wanted her to die. They didn't care that, had someone killed her, he would have chosen a more effective method.
It wasn't his fault, he maintained. He didn't want her to die, he said.
They didn't listen to him.
He left the wake, unsure of what he would do. He didn't know how he would go on. He had loved her, and now she was gone. And he couldn't shake off the feeling that her death might have been, in part, his fault.
And the tears wouldn't come...
Try as he might, Piro couldn't revive Ping. She just didn't work anymore.
"Tsubasa's gonna kill me," he thought as he disposed of her.
Whatever. Life went on. It wasn't like she was real or anything.