Hmm... I'm not quite sure if I'm really happy about this one. It seems to lack something in my opinion. Unfortunately, I can't figure out what, so comments would be appreciated.


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Everyone has a secret. Usually it's quite an innocent little secret like stealing from the cookie jar when you were four years old. Sometimes, it's murder.

But nevertheless, no matter how big or small, everyone has a secret. Some secret sin, hidden in the darkest recesses of the soul, that must never be found out about by anyone.

My sin would be Pokémon.

I sometimes wonder how my classmates would react to the Zombie Queen knowing the names of 251 of the little critters and quickly memorising those of all the new ones.
Of course, they will never find out. In a way, only one may learn my secret. There's only one person in the entire world who wouldn't think differently of me no matter what.

I suppose it should worry me that she's made of metal and plastic.

So here Ping is, sitting cross-legged in front of my television, trying to figure out how her Umbreon is going to deal with my Gengar.

It's actually quite nice to have someone to play with. Beating the AI over and over again can get rather boring and since my on-line connection is on the blink once again… well…

It is, in fact, more than nice to have someone to play with.

"<Are you going to make your move yet, Ping?>"

"<I'm thinking,>" she says.

Thinking…

She's just processing available data. I wouldn't call that "thinking".

On the other hand, if that's not thinking, then what is?

"<I think the choice is obvious,>" I say. "<Your dark type has a decisive advantage over my ghost. An attack seems sensible to me.>"

"<You're going to switch,>" she says. "<I've seen you play. You never leave one with a disadvantage out. I just need to figure out which one you're going to switch it with.>"

That's the trouble with playing against Ping. She doesn't have a playing style of her own, but adapts her playing style to yours. Probably a remnant of her dating sim programming.

Ping makes her move and the results are played out on the screen. I do withdraw Gengar and put out a Machamp. She then withdraws her Umbreon and throws her psychic Espeon into the fray, giving her the edge once again.

"<Hmm,>" I say. "<Good move.>"

"<Thanks,>" she says. And smiling smugly whilst saying it. I didn't think she was capable of being smug. Dating sim girls generally aren't. Except, maybe, the tomboyish best-friend types, but Ping certainly isn't one of those.

I tap my controller thoughtfully. My first impulse is to pull out Machamp and put in a dark type of my own. Question is if Ping would anticipate that one as well.

She probably would.

"<Miho?>"

"<Yes?>" I say, not really listening.

"<What shape is the world?>"

Thoughts of the finer finesses of Pokémon battle fall away when my brains manage to register what's just been said.

"<Pardon?>"

"<The world. What shape it is?>"

"<Don't you know?>"

"<Of course not,>" she says. "<I'm just meant to play games with. You don't tell your joystick what the world looks like, do you?>"

"<You are not a joystick,>" I say. There's a rather sharp edge to my voice. I wonder how it got there.

"<Well, gaming hardware then,>" she says.

"<Nor that,>" I say.

"<What am I then?>" she says, turning to look at me. Her eyes are large and innocent. She probably doesn't understand why I'm so insistent. Neither do I, for that matter.

No, that's a lie. I do understand. I just don't want to admit it to myself.

"<You're Ping,>" I say.

"<That's who I am. That's not what I am.>"

"<My friend then?>" I say, still not facing what I really think she is.

Ping smiles broadly. "<I am that,>" she says confidently. Then her smile turns mischievous. "<And we can talk about whatever else I might be later, OK?>"

I'm briefly stunned. This isn't like Ping.

No, this isn't like a Sony SEVS-44936 with EDS.

But it is like Ping.

"<I still don't know what shape the world is, though. It looks flat, but the sun and the moon are round, so I guess it'd be silly if the earth wasn't round as well, right?>"

"<You're right. The earth is round, like a marble.>"

"<Does it sit on anything? Or is it just falling?>" she asks.

"<Neither,>" I say. "<It's just in hanging in space.>"

Ping takes a moment to process this, her eyes and face going blank.

"<Wow.>"

"<Wow?>" I say, an amused smile on my lips. "<That's all you have to say?>"

"<Well… it's just… when you think about it… it's pretty amazing.>"

"<I think I can think of more amazing things than that,>" I say, without really wanting to think through on it.

We turn back to the battle on screen. We seem to be in a permanent state of tie. I easily won the first match I played against Ping. That was two matches ago. Two more matches and I'll never be able to beat her again.

I guess the thought should depress me. It doesn't. Odd, that.

"<Have you ever read Pinocchio?>" Ping asks out of the blue. She really needs to work on that.

"<Heard about it,>" I answer. "<Wooden puppet that wants to be alive, right?>"

"<Wooden puppet that is alive, but wants to be a flesh and blood boy,>" she corrects me. "<I found it on the internet. It's very interesting.>"

"<That's nice,>" I say.

"<Do you think I can do that as well? Become really human, I mean?>"

I don't reply, and just play on.

Everybody has a secret. Ping has found out mine, and now I've found out hers.

She can't become human for the simple reason that you cannot become something you already are.

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