Web小説 「.hack//bullet」


   Another clearing, another night in the woods. This time, however, something in the wind calls Ryuuji’s name. There’s no sound to it, yet he can hear it clear as day. A path makes itself apparent in the dark of night. It’s quiet in mid-summer, but warmth all but disappears at night the farther north you are. He was now somewhere between Tokyo and Aomori, probably closer to the latter. Out here in the woods, it’s easy to forget who you are and what you’re doing. Since it had been some time now for Ryuuji without his usual devices, the feeling of disconnection from society set in with every passing day. Now free of an electric signal, he began to realize the lengths to which the impenetrable object of the microcomputer had come to permeate his life.
   Engaging with technology is prerequisite for participating in society. The Digital Zone Project unfolding in Aomori was the next step--society itself would become a kind of technology. Of course, he thought, constructs of socialization were already a kind of intangible technology used to mediate humans to begin with. The cybernetic fold of the 1960s introduced a new school of thought to society, that its structure and inner workings could be easily analogized with metal fantasies of machines. Since then, it had become inseparable--for generations now humans have been living with the idea that a person and a machine are not too far removed from each other, when any point prior in human history the very notion of this would be absurd. Now, however, the machine’s settings could be adjusted and refined, the daily lives of all its participants completely at the whim of their leaders. He who controls information controls history itself. The world was becoming less and less recognizable for Ryuuji’s lived reality by the day. Everyday some new technology, some new story, some new erasure… the intangible forces that managed human society had now become comfortable enough to go wild with it almost explicitly, creating elaborate playgrounds like Aomori for their techno-bureaucracies to take shape.
    Ryuuji could hear the beat of his heart again. It had been drowned out by so much noise, but now its vibrations filled his head every quiet moment he got. The sentiment among the generation before him is that technology permeates too much of our lives, making us miss important moments. Ryuuji knew this was only half true--that technology, like anything, can become an addiction. The pathological use of social media, for example, was psychologically not too removed from something with more of a storied and researched history like gambling addiction. The negative effects of information technology on human society, he figured, were far more subtle. The method of human socialization was changing at its very core--mute vocalizations transmitted through text, or holding the reproduced image of another person in the palm of one’s hand; soon it would be that an artificial reproduction of light in the shape of a loved one would be possible, much like the holograms of science fiction. That was precisely what troubled Ryuuji--science fiction. The world has lost its mystique, because magic items produced by capitalist magicians perform tricks they’re just so eager to explain away. The world is both terribly exciting and terribly dull--maybe that’s why so many people seek out cheap tricks in The World, he wondered.
   Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts…
   What was even the point of thinking about all this? He quickly noticed that the warmth of the heater had disappeared, and he was now in the dark woods. No flashlight, and no cellphone with a flashlight application either.
   Ba-dmp, ba-dmp, ba-dmp...
   The sound of his heart fills his head. A rustling in the trees. Was he far enough north that these mountainside stops would be home to monkeys yet? He couldn’t say--never paid much attention in the ecology units of his science lectures, and he was regretting it now. His breath punctuated the gaps between his heartbeat. A machine doesn’t act like this, he thought. Blood rushes through his body in the coolness of the night. The sounds of his being fill the ample space, and the silence of the night becomes an orchestra of noise.
    In the midst of this all, he stands completely still.
   He sees a light escape beyond the trees, and it calls him like a beacon.
   There’s a familiarity in its warmth, or at least he wants there to be. Woods like this always brought back the days spent camping in Germany, and with it the figure of Kaya. His memory of her had recently turned from one of despair to one of hope, and it became less painful to think of her--in fact, it became liberating, which is why he now assumed this trail of light between the trees must be her guiding him back to safety.
   Finally the trees clear and a small pond emerges.
   Ryuuji knelt before the body of water, and it began to glow. Whether or not it was the reflected moonlight became clear as it steadily grew brighter until finally it became difficult to look at. He stumbled backward, and felt his hands sink into the dirt behind him to hold himself up. Silently, a shining figure emerged from the water.
   There were no ripples. There was no sound. A person made of pure light.
   “Kaya,” he mouths, but his voice can’t be heard over the deafening sound of his body. A wind passes through the trees but the shining figure remains static. Ryuuji notices there’s a kind of three dimensionality to it--this vertical-standing light is a person. Suddenly, it looked at him, and transmitted its speech to his mind:
   She did not hurt me.
   What? He didn’t understand, and at the same time realized this light was not Kaya’s, but of something else entirely. Before he could respond, the wind danced across the water, the light became unbearably bright, and then he heard a noise:
   A in C major.

next ch.77: AGENTS