The Beginning of Everything (4)
※ This is seen from Claire François’s point of view (the first loop・・・).
“I’d be troubled if Rei left now. I have to stop her no matter what it takes.”
On the way back from the director’s office to the laboratory, I ruminated over the director’s words.
Even without him saying anything, she was still absolutely essential for the research and planning.
It’s true that I, Lene, and Rei all played the biggest role in creating the eternal loop system, but among us, the most important person was unmistakably Rei.
There were already many parts of the projects that only she could understand, so the plan couldn’t proceed without her.
Rei might have said that we would be all right alone, but in practice, that was unlikely.
“However, how can I persuade Rei…?”
For better or worse, Rei was an independent person.
She wouldn’t listen to half-hearted persuasion.
While racking my brains as I walked through the corridor, I casually looked outside.
I could see countless city lights below.
In the past, this would be described as a stunning nightscape, but now it was different.
Without being protected by the power of science, you couldn’t make it through the night.
A ray of light for humanity full of such hopelessness – that’s the loop system Rei came up with.
(I have to stop Rei no matter what it takes… But, how?)
While at a loss, I opened the door to the laboratory.
“Ah, you’re back! Hey Claire-san, please stop her!”
“Lene? What is it?”
“Rei-chan said that she’s leaving the institute today!”
When I took a look, Rei was carelessly packing belongings from her desk into a cardboard box.
“W-Wait a minute, Rei! No matter how you look at it, it’s too sudden!”
“I’ve prepared documents to help you with taking over. You two will be fine.”
My words didn’t stop what Rei was doing either.
I was impatient.
“Rei. This plan isn’t as easy as you think. There are too many things that only you can understand.”
“I’ve outlined the difficult aspects in the take-over materials. You’ll be fine.”
So this is what it means to reach the end of the rope.
“Rei, why do you want to quit so much? Do you have some reason?”
“… Not really. I simply decided to quit since my work here is done.”
I felt like I had an idea.
She seemed to be hiding something.
“Rei, come here for a moment.”
I dragged Rei with me to the longue.
“Please sit down. I’ll brew coffee.”
“There’s no need. I have nothing to talk about.”
“Just sit down.”
I forced Rei to sit down and switched on the coffee maker.
“When I think about it, we were so focused on our research that we’ve hardly talked privately.”
“There’s no need to.”
Rei sulkily turned her face away from me.
Her words were unfriendly too.
“I wonder about that. I want to know more about you. Rei. Especially about your philosophy.”
“It’s… not really something grandiose.”
I grabbed two cups of coffee that finished brewing and offered one to Rei as I went to sit down.
Rei reluctantly accepted it.
“Before our research started, you said that you wondered if humans need physical bodies, haven’t you?”
“… You have a good memory.”
“I couldn’t forget that. It was the first time I’d heard it seriously outside SF.”
I laughed while pouring milk into my coffee.
Rei looked uncomfortable.
“In the end, physical bodies became a part of this plan.”
“They did. Only the bodies at the beginning of civilization will be artificially prepared, and the rest will be left to natural reproduction.”
Rei stubbornly insisted on shifting humanity to quantum beings to the end, but the US government didn’t approve that.
“Why do you hate physical bodies so much? Do you have some reason?”
“… Not really.”
“Is it related to your sexuality?”
A clear shock appeared on her face.
I saw Rei shaken up for the first time.
“Of course I would understand after we’ve spent so much time together. You are a lesbian, aren’t you?”
Rei didn’t answer, but her silence confirmed it beyond any doubt.
“If you like, you can talk to me. As I said earlier, I want to get to know you.”
“… It’s a boring story.”
Although Rei said that, she started talking little by little.
“My homeland – Japan – is a conservative country.”
“Is that so? My image of it was that it was a sexually open country.”
“Sure, polls show that it’s close to liberal. There’s no discrimination. Homosexual people have rights. However…”
“That’s only towards homosexuals who are unrelated or are in the entertainment industry. The reaction towards an average person that is part of a sexual minority is surprisingly conservative.”
“It might be connected to the Japanese culture of honesty and facade,” added Rei.
“Of course, not everybody is conservative. Some people understand it properly, but it’s difficult having to explain it to everybody one by one.”
That must be an unavoidable pain for sexual minorities.
“That’s why I’ve been wishing for so long that humans didn’t have physical bodies. If humans only consisted of their hearts, I wouldn’t have to suffer so much.”
For the first time, I empathized with Rei’s views.
Rei didn’t want humanity to ascend to the next stage or head towards the end of evolution, or anything like that.
The shackles of owning a body were bothering her, so she wanted to be released from it.
With that in mind, she continued her research in the field of soul quantization.
“I don’t need sympathy. I’m not even asking for you to understand. I can only live this way. That’s all.”
It was painful for me to see how self-deprecating Rei was.
I couldn’t help but feel sad seeing somebody who I’d spent a lot of time in the past six months smile like this.
“If that’s the case, why are you removing yourself from this project? There’s no better environment for you if you want to study soul quantization, is there?”
A high-performance arithmetic unit is absolutely necessary for soul quantization.
TAIM should’ve been perfect for that.
The conversation suddenly came to a pause.
“Oh?” I thought to myself when Rei unnaturally averted her eyes.
“… It’s nothing. As I said earlier, I’m retiring because I completed the research needed from me.”
“It’s enough, right?” Rei said and tried to stand up.
“That’s a lie. You’re hiding something. Right?”
“Isn’t it enough!? Please leave me alone!”
Rei raised her voice in an aggressive, yet weak manner.
Even so, I continued to press her.
“I can’t leave you alone. We’re friends, right?”
Saying that, I grabbed her shoulders and turned her to me.
Rei was smiling mockingly.
“Friends? Haah, you don’t understand anything.”
“I won’t understand if you don’t tell me.”
“Then let me tell you. I desire you.”
This time, it was Rei’s turn to grab my shoulders.
There was something dangerous yet desperate in her eyes.
“You didn’t notice? Since we were both women, you showed me your defenseless self, didn’t you? I thought you were tempting me.”
While saying such vulgar words, Rei embraced me.
“You want me to stay here? Very well. You just need to become mine.”
“It’s impossible, right? It’s revolting, right? You don’t want somebody like this near you, right? That’s why I’m quitting.”
Rei laughed dryly and let go of me.
“That’s how it is. Are you convinced now? Now then…”
Rei turned around and tried to leave.
I hugged her from behind.
“I’m saying that I accept your condition.”
Rei made an incredulous expression upon hearing my words.
“… Are you insane?”
“I’m very much sane. It’s a cheap price to pay for keeping a talent like you.”
“… Are you selling yourself for the project?”
“Is that wrong? Or what, do you want my heart?”
When I spoke provokingly, Rei’s face turned sad for a moment.
However, the expression on her face soon turned to self-mockery.
“No, just your body is fine. Your nature aside, I’ll at least be able to enjoy your body.”
“Then we have a deal.”
I brought my face close to Rei’s face.
“You’ll regret it.”
“If you turn back now–”
I blocked Rei’s lips.
This is how my distorted relationship with Rei began.