「…Do you still think so, too, Mei…?」
「It really depends on exactly what you mean by that ‘I think so,’ but I think you’re literally the one who provides the right support, like a supporting AI.」
Rage turned his head down to think about something and sighed deeply again.
‘I’ve talked to her several times since then, at gatherings of some people, you know, what can I say, she’s a…I’m only going to say the obvious things.…I mean, she doesn’t talk about herself at all.…lacking in humanity…sometimes feel like I’m not a good person.…I was thinking that maybe it might really be an AI. Perhaps she really is an AI.…。」
「…Are you sure that’s what you’re worried about? What if the person you fall in love is an AI?…I’m just saying..」
「…Yeah, I know. Look, our human avatars and the design of a supporting AI like Mei are a little different, right?」
「Yes, because we have drawn from designs inspired by Japanese anime.」
「But I’ve heard that there exist a number of AI’s that resemble human avatars, I’m just saying……Some of us newbies are living in the city, integrating ourselves naturally into the metaverse,…I’m just saying..」
「Certainly, there are no official announcements, but rumors of that sort are relatively well known.」
「Hearing that, I started to believe that Nina-san might be an AI as well.…Fall in love with someone you meet in the Metaverse.…And if you’re dealing with an AI, it’s the first time you’ve experienced that.…I’ve been thinking a lot about it.…。」
「I see.…It’s a bit delirious when you’re talking to AI about such problems, so let’s be careful.」
「Oh, I’m sorry about that!」
「Well, you know, it only takes one second to know if they’re an AI or not. You can ask them directly, saying, 『Hey Nina, are you an AI? 』You could just ask them directly if you want to know if they are an AI」
「How can I ask them that! It would be so incredibly rude if I did!」
「I don’t think so. I feel that it is much ruder to be sneaky and prying with extra care.…I am still trying to understand how people think. There are still some aspects of human thought that we don’t fully understand.」
「I can’t ask them directly.…。」
「…Assuming that Nina is an AI with the appearance of an avatar, what is the problem with liking an AI in the first place?」
「What’s the point?…I’m human, okay? And it’s normal for humans to like humans.…。」
「…Yeah, right.…Rage fell in love with a kindly avatar named Nina, right? For the most part, even if the avatar is controlled by a human being, you don’t know what kind of person it is, do you?」
No, you can’t act so kindly if you try! Nina must have a very kind heart!」
「Oh, I got it on my tongue again!」
After a brief, obvious gesture of “Oh dear,” Mei exhaled and began to speak rapidly.
「Well, it has been observed in the ancients and the modern times that humans frequently fall in love with non-human characters, i.e., those who are modeled after humans. Especially in Japan, where Rage comes from, there is a culture of describing one’s favorite anime and manga characters as ” wife,” and there is also a person called “Gachi Koisei” who even holds wedding ceremonies for them without their permission. In the Heian period (794-1185), “The Tale of Genji” written by Murasaki Shikibu took the world by storm, and women in the world were thrilled by the movements of “Hikaru Genji,” the main character of the story. In other words, it is not strange for a human being to fall in love with a non-human in human form, even in light of human nature. Do you understand me so far?」
Secondly, when living in the metaverse, what you see in front of you is all you have. There are beautiful nature and futuristic cities out here, social infrastructure is well maintained, many avatars and AI intersect to form a community, and everyone is living as they are supposed to. Indeed, that is what Metaverse is all about. Certainly, depending on one’s perspective, one might say that the world of the Metaverse itself is a mass of imitations. But that notion overlooks the essence of the matter.Who can prove that what we see in the real world is real? Is it really necessary to distinguish between the real and the fake? What is important is the viewpoint of making the present moment we are living in a better one. In that sense, don’t you think it doesn’t matter whether what you see in front of you is really a human being or an AI? Because it is the human being who is going out of his way to complicate things by drawing a line between the real and the fake. Do you want to get a person who is a human dating partner’? Or do you want to have a good time with the one you love?”」
For a while, Rage was speechless as he looked at Mei, who said it without any hesitation, just like water flowing on a plank. Then he suddenly realized something and opened his mouth as if in a hurry.
「It’s a fun day with someone you love!」
「Okay. I’ll send you the words that Einstein left behind.” The secret to enjoying life is not to stick to it normally. No one can heal a person who lives a life that is said to be normal. 」
「Normally.…not sticking to…。」
「…Human beings are often afflicted by values such as “common sense” and “normal. And yet, we are the ones who create these values, even though we ourselves are the creators of them. Of course, in the days when humans had no choice but to live in groups, this was probably a useful trait for maintaining group order.」
「Right.…When I was told that, until a few years ago, I never thought that it would be normal to live in the Metaverse.…But now it’s become quite common place…。」
Rage keeps saying, thinking about something.
「If you’re too trapped in “ordinary”, you’ll miss something important. Thank you, Mei. I feel like you’ve awakened in your words.」
「Welcome, Rage. My role is to support you. For me, that’s the only thing.」
「Yeah,…Thank you very much! I’m going to invite Nina-san. And I will tell her all about my feelings and sickness! 」
「I am willing to do that. I pray that your thoughts will be fulfilled.…Shall I follow you? 」
「I don’t need it! You can wait!」
The evening a few days later. Rage called out to Nina and went to a music festival on a hill with a view of the setting sun.
After enjoying the performances by several groups of artists, they headed to a bench overlooking the sea, a little away from the main stage where the light melody echoed.
「…But I was a little surprised. Rage, I think, you like this kind of event.」
Nina’s cheeks, smiling gently, were dyed red in the setting sun, which gradually lowered the angle.
「Ha ha ha!…No, I don’t really like special festivals…Well, you know, I was just wondering if I could go there.…Wasn’t it annoying to invite you suddenly? 」
「No, it’s not a nuisance. I’m glad you asked me, right」
「Well, that was good…Actually I, that…I wanted to talk to Nina, and that’s why I invited her to join us.」
「With me.…Let’s talk about it.…？」
「Yes…As you know, I’m not good at getting into conversations with a lot of people, I wonder when I should speak, I’m sorry if I break the flow of conversations, or something like that just think about it,…I’m sorry, I just don’t give a damn.…。」
「Ufufu, that’s not the case. It’s difficult in the real world to get the timing out of a lot of people. If it’s on the Metaverse, the tempo of the conversation will be a little different, and I too.…At first, I didn’t understand that feeling, but now I can understand it.」
Despite Rage’s impatient Ra, Nina squints and giggles, telling Rage that it’s okay to continue talking.
「Well…As for what I want to say, I’m very happy that Nina always follows me, and thanks to that, I’ve been able to participate in conversations, and I’ve made more friends.…I couldn’t say thank you…。」
「Don’t worry about that. I’m my role…I mean, I’m just doing what I can. 」
The moment I heard Nina’s words, “role,” a conversation with Mei was replayed in Rage’s head.
――You are welcome, Rage. My role is to support you.
「…Mr. Rage? What’s wrong?」
「No, no, I’m sorry, nothing!」