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Curiosities of Lotus Asia/Chapter 37

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< Chapter 36   Curiosities of Lotus Asia 

The Missing Sumireko Usami Has Actually Become An Earthbound Spirit!?
Gensokyo's Invasion by AI!?
Touhou Project's Highest-Density,
Overflowing Warning!
第十話 価値を失う情報と、オカルトの全能者 Chapter 10: Information That Loses its Value and the Almighty of the Occult
――チリンチリン。来客を知らせる鈴の音が聞こえる。 ーDing-a-ling. I heard the sound of the bell notifying me of a visitor.
「いらっしゃい」 "Welcome."
「今日も来てないのね」 "She hasn't come today either?"
博麗神社の巫女、博麗霊夢は眉をひそめながらそう言った。商品に余り興味が無いのか滅多に物を買ってくれないが、うちの店ではこれでも上客の部類に入る。 The shrine maiden of the Hakurei Shrine, Reimu Hakurei, said with a frown. This girl has little interest in my merchandise and rarely buys anything, but even so, she's become an important customer at my shop.
「......宇佐見君をお探しで?」 "Are you looking for Miss Usami?"
霊夢は当たり前でしょ、という仕草をした。彼女が探しているのは宇佐見菫子である。外の世界と幻想郷を行き来する不思議な学生だ。古物を扱う僕の店、香霖堂の店員と言う事になっているが、無断欠動が続いている。 It was obvious from Reimu's bearing that the object of her search was Sumireko Usami, the mysterious student who traveled freely between Gensokyo and the Outside World. And who had become an employee, in a manner of speaking, of the curio store that I run, Kourindou— neither asking for permission nor brooking argument on the matter.
「――なるほどうね。ここ暫く香霖堂にも現れていないと」 "―I see. So she hasn't come to Kourindou in the last while, either."
「ほう、神社にも来てないんだね。だとすると外の世界の生活が忙しくなったのか」 "Oh, so she hasn't come to the shrine either. Perhaps she's busy with her life in the Outside World?"
「そう、なのかな。でも確か......」 "Well, maybe? But if I remember correctly..."
宇佐見君にとって幻想郷は、彼女の夢の中らしい。彼女が望む望まないにかかわらず、眠ると幻想郷に現れる様である。だとすると夢を見る暇の無いくらい外の世界が忙しいか、もしくは――。 From Miss Usami's point of view, Gensokyo is the place she visits in her dreams. Whether she wishes to or not, when she sleeps, she appears in Gensokyo. Therefore, either her life in the Outside World is so busy that she doesn't have time to dream, or—
「――幻想郷の何処かで捕らえられている。あるいは......」 "—She might be trapped somewhere else in Gensokyo. Or maybe..."
その先を想像して、霊夢は目を閉じて顔の前で手を合わせた。 As she pictured the end of that sentence, Reimu shut her eyes and placed her hands together in front of her face.
「おいおい縁起でも無いな。でも、その可能性もあるか。最近、幻想郷のルールを無視した無法者が増えた様に見えるしな」 "Hey, hold on, don't jinx it. I do suppose that's also possible, though. It seems like there's been an uptick in the number of outlaws who ignore Gensokyo's rules lately."
幻想郷の妖怪は、人間を襲うことを禁止されている。人間が根絶されたら自分達も存在できない事を知っているからだ。なので精々、死ぬほど怖がらせるだけに留めている。しかし、外の世界から紛れ込んできた人間に対しては、ルール上曖昧のままだ。管理外の人間だから、何をしても良いという乱暴な妖怪もいれば、むしろ外の世界の人間の方がしっかり管理されているので、それに手を出すと外の世界が幻想郷の存在に気づき、幻想郷自体の存亡が危ぶまれる、と訴える妖怪もいる。 Gensokyo's youkai are forbidden from attacking humans. Why? Because they know that if the humans die out, the youkai can't keep existing either. So they settle for 'scaring them practically to death', at worst. However, with regards to the humans who disappear into Gensokyo from the Outside World, the rules are left unclear. Some violent youkai say that unmanaged Outsider humans ought to be fair game. Conversely, other youkai argue that because the Outside World keeps its humans under even stricter management than Gensokyo, laying a hand on them could lead to Gensokyo's discovery, putting its very existence in peril.
「そうなのよ、畜生界やら地獄界からも変な輩がやってきてさ。みんな幻想郷を支配しようと狙っていたから無法者が増えてねぇ」 "Exactly! There've been weirdos barging in from the Beast Realm and Hell and wherever, aiming to take over Gensokyo. So there's been more outlaws lately."
「畜生に地獄か、どうりで騒々しいと思ったよ」 "The Beast Realm and Hell? No wonder things have seemed so rowdy as of late."
「菫子が何かに巻き込まれてたとしたら、結構な一大事だわ」 "If Sumireko's gotten tangled up in something like that, I'll have a pretty serious problem to deal with."
宇佐見菫子が最後に店を訪れたのは去年の夏だった。既に半年近く経っている。別に給料を払わなくても済むので放っておいたが、まさか店だけでなく、幻想郷自体に姿を現していないとは驚きである。確かに霊夢が危惧しているように何かの事件に巻き込まれているという可能性もあるが、幻想郷に来る能力を失っただけかもしれない。そもそも彼女だけ、幻想郷との往来が自由だったのも不思議なのだ。 Sumireko Usami last visited the shop last summer. Six months had already passed since then. Since I didn't have to pay her salary or anything, I hadn't especially paid attention to it. But it was shocking to hear that she hadn't just failed to appear at the shop, but in Gensokyo as a whole. It was certainly possible that she'd become embroiled in Gensokyo's recent affairs, as Reimu feared, but she also could've simply lost the ability to visit Gensokyo. Her unique ability to enter and leave Gensokyo freely was strange enough to begin with.
「彼女の能力は本人にも制御不能で、不思議なところがあった。何らかのきっかけでその能力を失ったんじゃないか?」 "That ability of hers is very mysterious, though. Not even she can control it. Couldn't she simply have lost that ability by some happenstance?"
「私もそう思ってたの。だけどね」 "I thought that too. But..."
霊夢は新聞を取り出した。いつもの『文々。新聞』だ。 Reimu pulled out a newspaper. It was the usual Bunbunmaru.
「『博麗神社、酉の市で鳥を取り逃がす』? いつものように神社の失態が書かれた去年末の新聞じゃないか。これが何か」 "'The Hakurei Shrine's Tori-bble Mistake at Tori-no-Ichi'? This article is just the usual write-up of the shrine's blunders from the end of last year. What's the idea here?"
「記事の内容は読まなくていいのよ。それより写真を見て」 "You don't need to read the actual contents of the article. More importantly, look at the photograph."
「君が鳥に翻弄されている写真だな」 "This is a picture of you messing around with a chicken."
「その後ろ!」 "Behind me!"
霊夢の背後には大勢の参拝客が写っている。その中によく見ると、かろうじて宇佐見菫子じゃないかと思う人間が写っていた。他の観客に比べて何か違和感の覚える写真だ。 There was a great crowd of visitors gathered behind Reimu in the photograph. If one looked closely, one could make out— with great difficulty— what looked like Sumireko Usami there among them. Compared to the other spectators, though, she seemed out of place in the image, in a way that gave one pause.
「これの事かい?確かに宇佐見君の様にも見えるが......なんか妙だな」 "This is what you wanted me to see? It certainly looks like Miss Usami, but... it's somehow strange."
「そうでしょ?」 "Right?"
「光の当たり方も他の人と違うし、それに足の方が透けてる様な......,それに何だか浮いているようにも見えるな。これってまさか......」 "The light hits her differently from other people, and moreover, her legs seem to be transparent... Even more than that, she looks like she's floating a little. Could it be that she's..."
「おわかり頂けた?これは間違いない、心霊写真よ!菫子の霊魂が暎り込んだもよ」 "Do you understand now? There's no doubt about it, this is spirit photography! Sumireko's spirit is reflected in this crowd."
「心霊写真だと?まあ、そう言われてみれば......。うーむ、しかし写真を切り貼りしたような稚拙な合成写真にも見えるが。天狗の話題作りじゃないか?」 "Spirit photography? Well, now that you mention it... Hmm, but it looks more like an amateurish photo-editing job to me. Are you sure it's not just some attempt by the tengu to drum up conversation?"
「天狗がそんなイタズラするかなぁ。それにもし天狗のイタズラだとしても、わざわざ菫子を選ぶなんて、それも不自然だし」 "Would a tengu pull a prank like this...? And even if it is a tengu's prank, isn't going out of their way to choose Sumireko a little unnatural?"
「確かに......。だが、心霊写真というのは、つまりその」 "That's very true... But, if it's spirit photography, the natural conclusion is..."
「そう、もう死んでいるかも。最悪の場合だけど、ね」 "Yeah, she might already be dead. In the worst-case scenario, at least."
最後に店内に菫子がいないことを確認し、霊夢は去って行った。 As soon as she had confirmed that Sumireko wasn't in the store, Reimu left.
霊夢が変な事を言うもんだから、何か背後から見られている気がして振り向いた。一瞬、菫子の姿を見た気がして心臓が止まる思いをした。 Because Reimu had said such strange things, I got the feeling I was being watched from behind, and looked over my shoulder. I thought that I saw Sumireko's form there, and felt as if my heart stopped beating for a moment.
――冬の魔法の森。葉が生い茂る夏よりも、この森は明るく感じる。瘴気も雪の下に封じ込まれているように見える。 —The Forest of Magic in winter. In comparison to the summer, where leaves grow thickly there, the forest feels well-lit. It seems as if even the miasma is trapped beneath the snow.
「――この辺で菫子の霊を見たって?」 "—You saw Sumireko's spirit around here?"
「ああ、本当だ。突然現れて、突然消えたんだ。それも何度もだぜ」 "Yeah, for real. She popped in unexpectedly, then popped out unexpectedly. And then kept doing that a bunch of times after."
霧雨魔理沙はこの森に住む魔法使いだ。頻繁に菫子の姿を見るので、霊夢を連れてきた。 Marisa Kirisame is a magician who lives in this forest. She had been seeing Sumireko's figure appearing and disappearing incessantly, so she brought Reimu along to show her.
「魔理沙が見たのも、こんな昼間?」 "You said you'd been seeing her during the daytime too, Marisa?"
「昼間が多いな。と言うか夜の森は危ないんで余り出歩かないから、その所為かもしれんが」 "Mostly during the daytime. I mean, the forest's real dangerous at night so I don't go out, an' that could be why."
霊夢は辺りを見回した。明るいとは言え、森の中の視界は狭い。 Reimu surveyed their surroundings. Though it was well-lit, the visibility deep in the forest was still low.
「なあ霊夢、菫子が死んでいるって本当か?」 "Look, Reimu, is Sumireko really dead?"
「うーん、目撃した人の話を聞く限り、とても肉体を持った人間の仕業とは思えないのよねぇ。ただ、姿形もはっきりしている菫子が霊だとすると、それはそれで不自然な点もあるのよ」 "Well, as far as the stories of the people who have seen her go, she's been doing things that a human with a physical body couldn't do at all. But, since her appearance is clearly Sumireko's, there are still some unnatural aspects to it."
「不自然な点とは」 "Those unnatural points are?"
「まず、地縛霊ならあちこちに出るという事自休が不自然ね。昼間の目撃例が多いのも変だわ。だけど......っ!」 "First of all, for an earthbound spirit to be popping up here and there and everywhere is unnatural. And the huge number of appearances reported during the daytime are weird, too. But—!"
木々の間にマントを羽織った人影が突然現れた。 In the space between the trees, a human figure wearing a cape had suddenly appeared.
「おいっ!出たぞ」 "Look! She's here!"
マントを羽織った人物は、すっと現れ、あっという間に消えた。その人物は宙に浮き、とてもそこに存在しているとは思えなかった。しかし、霊夢の直感はそれが亡霊や幽霊の類ではないと言っていた。だとすると今のは何だったのか。 The person wearing a cape had quickly appeared, then just as quickly vanished. It didn't seem possible that a person could exist there, floating in the air like that. However, Reimu's intuition told her that it was neither a ghost nor a phantom. If that was the case, then what was it?
「......間違いない、菫子だ。一休、菫子の身に何が」 "There's no doubt about it, that's Sumireko. What the heck is happenin' to her?"
――明かりの消えた暗い部屋、CRTモニターの光だけが眩しく光っていた。 —In a gloomy room where the light had faded, a CRT monitor's glow shone brilliantly.
「......ふう。まるでバグのような挙動ね」 "...Hmm. It's behaving as if it's full of bugs."
キーボードを叩く手を休めて振り向いたのは、九尾の狐、八雲藍だ。 Taking a break from tapping on the keyboard, the nine-tailed fox, Ran Yakumo, looked over her shoulder.
「済まないな。もう脱界して地上の獣となったお前に、今更畜生界の仕事を依頼する事なんてもう無いと思っていたが。」 "My apologies. Now that you've left our world behind and become a beast of the surface, I hardly thought I'd ever have a reason to hire you for Beast Realm work again."
そう言ったのは鬼傑組組長、吉弔八千慧だ。ここは畜生界のビルの一室。数多くのコンピュータが置かれている。鬼傑組のネットワークシステムが何か不思議な挙動をするという報告があり、それの調査に八雲藍が招喚されたのだ。 The one who said such a thing was Yachie Kicchou, the head of the Kiketsu Family. This was a room in one of the Beast Realm's many high-rise buildings, which was full of computers. The Kiketsu Family's network system had recently been reported to be exhibiting some strange conduct, and Ran Yakumo had been summoned in to investigate it.
「畜生界には興味は無いね。偉くなった八千慧直々の依頼だし、電算機を弄るのが楽しいだけでもあるんで」 "I don't care about the Beast Realm. But it's a personal request from you, now that you've made a name for yourself, and I do simply enjoy tinkering with computers."
「そうか、なら遠慮はしない。今回のシステム障害は畜生どもの手に負えないようでな。不具合の原因が判りそうか?」 "Well then, tinker all you like. This system failure seems to be too much for our lowly beasts to handle. Any idea what the cause is?"
「まず、これは単純な不具合では無い。どうやら侵入者がいるようです。つまり、人為的な挙動です」 "To begin with, this is not a simple malfunction. It seems like there has been some kind of intrusion into the system. That is to say, this is man-made behavior."
「侵入者だと?それは一大事だな!」 "An intruder? Now that's cause for alarm!"
「八千慧は何故か嬉しそうだ。畜生界の組長は血気盛んである。明確な敵がいると興奮してしまうのは、畜生の性だ。」 "You sound rather excited about that, Yachie. The Beast Realm's bosses are awfully hot-blooded. Getting excited as soon as you have a clear opponent to attack is the way of beasts."
「それがですね。さっきから私が頭を悩ましているのはそこなんですよ」 "Yes, well, about that. That's exactly what's been puzzling me this whole time."
「敵がいるのなら、得意分野だ。我々畜生界の若いもんに任せればいい」 "If there's an enemy to fight, then that's our specialty. Just send in some of our Beast Realm greenhorns to clean things up."
「いやそうじゃ無くて......。悪意のある者が侵入する場合は、痕跡を残しませんが、この侵入者はそんな小細工をしていません。堂々と侵入しています。その上で。思考がシーケンシャルではなくランダムのように見えて、意思のある者の仕業に見えないのです」 "No, what I mean is... If we were dealing with a hostile intruder, they would leave no evidence behind. But this intruder isn't using such delicate methods. They're marching right into our system, plain as day. Moreover, their thoughts appear to be random, not sequential. This does not look like the work of someone with their own will."
「なるはどなるほど......と言うとつまり?」 "I see, I see... So, in conclusion?"
「判ってないな?まあいい。つまり侵入者は、我々畜生の知能を遥かに超える者か、完全なる無能か、どちらかと言うことですね。後者だと良いんですけどね」 "You don't get it? Well, fine. In short, our attacker is someone with intelligence far surpassing us beasts, or a complete idiot. It has to be one of the two. Hopefully the latter."
藍はキーボードをカタカタ叩いている。 Ran clattered around on the keyboard.
「えーっとつまり、鬼傑組としては何をすれば......」 "Um, so... how exactly should the Kiketsu Family respond...?"
八千慧は戸惑っている。藍は手を止めた。 Yachie was at a loss. Ran's hands stopped moving.
「システム修復する方法が二つあるね。侵入者を完全にシャットアウトしてセキュリティを高める方法と、あえてシステムを解放して罠を張り、侵入者の尻尾を掴むという方法」 "There are two means by which you can ensure system restoration. Either A.) increase your security measures so as to shut out the intruder completely, or B.) intentionally lower security on portions of your system and implement honeypots there so as to catch the intruder red-handed."
「そんなもん、後者だ」 "B, obviously."
八千慧は即答した。 That was Yachie's immediate reply.
「だよねー。じゃあ、ちょっと残業するか」 "Thought so. Time for a little overtime work, then."
藍はモニターの方を向き、再びキーボードを叩き始めた。 Ran turned towards the monitor, and once more began tapping on the keyboard.
――僕は古いパソコンと呼ばれる道具を弄っていた。香霖堂にある売り物だが、今まで一度も起動したことは無かった。当然、今も動いていないのだが......。 —I fiddled with an old tool called a personal computer. They are a common good at Kourindou, but until now, not one of them has ever turned on. Naturally, this one isn't on either, but...
「おかしいな、確かにさっき画面が光っていたような」 "That's strange. The screen definitely lit up a moment ago."
僕は色々なボタンを恐る恐る押してみたが、何の反応も無かった......。 I gingerly tried pressing a variety of buttons, but not one of them gave a response...
「気の所為か......。そういえば宇佐見君が言っていたな。こんな古いパソコン見たこともない、と」 "Just my imagination...? Come to think of it, Miss Usami used to say that she'd never seen computers this old before."
道具とは古くなると勝手に動き出す物だ。それを付喪神という。古道具屋を営んでいると、道具が独りでに逃げ出すなんて日常茶飯事だ。 When tools age, they begin to move of their own accord. These are called tsukumogami. If one is running a secondhand store, it's an everyday occurrence for tools to get up and run away by themselves.
「このパソコンもいよいよ、付喪神になったかな」 "Has this computer finally turned into a tsukumogami, too?"
立ち上がってモニターを軽く叩いたその時、光がついた。付喪神が返事をしたように見えて驚かなかった。しかし、画面をよく見るとそこには意味不明なメッセージが表示されている。 Just as I stood up and lightly tapped the monitor, it turned on. I wasn't surprised; it just seemed as if the tsukumogami was answering my question. But upon closer examination, I could see an incomprehensible message displayed on the screen.
「ハッカーに告ぐ......?」 "To the hacker...?"
その後の文章は全く読めなかったが、誰かに対してのメッセージのようだ。 The message after that was completely indecipherable, and evidently meant for someone else.
「一体、何なんだ?このパソコンって道具は」 "What on Earth is this 'computer' tool doing...?"
――泥のように眠っていても、スマホの振動は身体を起こさせる。現代人にとってスマホの振動は、寺の鐘より音が大きく聞こえるものだ。慌ててスマホを手に取った。スマホの待受画面に見慣れない通知が来ている。 —Even if you're sleeping like a log, the vibration of a smartphone will wake your body up. From the point of view of modern people, the vibration of a smartphone is a sound more audible than a temple's bell. She hurriedly picked it up, and saw that an unfamiliar notification had appeared on her lock screen.
「ハッカーに告ぐ......?これはもしや......」 "To the hacker...? Could this be..."
スマホのロックを解除した。 She unlocked her phone.
「やっぱり......,これは異世界からのメッセージ⁉」 "I knew it...! Could this be a message from another world!?"
秘封倶楽部会長、宇佐見菫子の慢性的な睡眠不足から来る眠気が吹き飛んだ。ずっと引き籠もっていた自室は散らかっていたが、ノートパソコンの場所だけは把握していた。オカルトグッズや怪しげな本等をかき分けてパソコンを置いた。そしてメッセージを転送し、慌てて解読した。 The drowsiness stemming from the Hifuu Club president Sumireko Usami's chronic sleep deprivation disappeared in an instant. Though her room was in disarray from the many hours she'd spent shutting herself in it, her laptop was the one object that she remembered the location of. She pushed the occult goods and suspicious books aside to make a place for it, then forwarded the message to it and began to hurriedly decode it.
「このオカルチックなメッセージ!間違いない、私のAIはアストラル界と繋がったわ!寝る間も惜しんで教育した甲斐があった」 "This is an occultic message! There's no doubt about it. My AI has become linked to the astral plane! Training it without sparing any time for sleep has paid off!"
――モニターとにらみ合っていた藍は、挙を握った。 —Ran clenched her fist, still glowering at the monitor.
「よし、引っかかった。幻想郷の精神ネットワークに介入して、判る人にだけ判るメッセージをばらまいたからね。判らない人には怪奇現象に見えるだけだが、犯人が見たのなら必ず反応があるはず」 "Aha. I got a bite. I intervened into Gensokyo's spiritual network to spread a message that only people in the know would understand, after all. People who aren't in the know would only see it as some bizarre phenomenon, but if the culprit saw it, they'd be bound to respond."
流石の畜生界でも、ここまで長期残業する人はいないだろう。すでに一人しか残っていなかった。モニターに向かって独り言を言っても恥ずかしく思う事も無かった。 Even in the Beast Realm, hardly anyone would work this much overtime. She was already the only person left in the room, and was hardly embarrassed to be muttering to herself with her nose to a monitor.
「......侵入者は、宇佐見菫子だって⁉ あの紫様が気にしていた要注意人物か」 "...The intruder is Sumireko Usami!? That 'person of interest' that Lady Yukari has been keeping tabs on?"
自分の正休がばれないよう、メッセージをやりとりした。しかし、すぐに違和感を覚えた。 Ran began exchanging messages with the intruder, careful not to reveal her true identity. However, soon she began to feel that something was amiss.
「いや、こいつは外れか。侵入者と比べると余りにも人間味溢れている。たまたま引っかかっただけか......?」 "Hrm. Might be a false flag. Compared to the intruder, she's practically overflowing with humanity. Maybe I just caught her by accident...?"
それでも何か情報を得ようと、藍はチャット越しに菫子と会話した。 Still, until she got more information, Ran kept chatting with Sumireko through her messages.
――菫子は興奮状態でキーボードを叩いている。 —In her excited state, Sumireko was practically banging on the keyboard.
「急に会話が自然になった。きっと中身が全能者のAIからイタコAIになったんだわ。やはり私の理論は間違ってなかった。AIは失われた情報から言葉を紡ぐ預言者で有り、恐怖の大王であり、トランスヒューマンをもたらすモノリスなんだ!」 "Its speech suddenly became so natural. Its contents must have transformed from an 'almighty AI' into a 'channeling AI'! I knew my theory was correct. AI is a prophet which weaves a web of words out of lost information! It's le grand Roi d'effraieur! The monolith that'll usher in transhumanism!"
――藍は首を傾げている。 —Ran tilted her head to the side in confusion.
「『AIはオカルトの権化そのものであり、貴方に会えて光栄です......』なるほどこいつの言う事はまるで判らん。外の世界ではAIという者が猛威を振っていると言う事なのか?」 "'AI is the very incarnation of the occult, meeting you is a great honor...' I see. Nothing this girl says makes a lick of sense. Is there something called 'AI' wreaking havoc in the Outside World?"
藍はすぐに気付いた。 Ran realized instantly.
「そうか、システムに介入していた侵入者は、そのAIという奴だな」 "Aha. So the intruder intervening into the system must be that thing that she calls AI."
――自分の話を聞いてくれる相手が見つかり、菫子は感動していた。 —Discovering a partner with whom she could hold a conversation, Sumireko was deeply moved.
「『......異世界でもAIが暴れて因っている。』そんな事あるのか?いや、異世界とAIの関連性を隠蔽したいための作り話だとしたら......よりオカルチックだわ。やはりAIは賢いわね。でも、私が寝る間も惜しんでAIを教育したのは――」 "'...Even in other worlds, AI is rampaging and causing trouble.' Is that even possible? Wait, maybe it's a cover story meant to conceal the relation between other worlds and AI... That's even more occultic. AI really IS brilliant. But, the AI that I spent those sleepless nights training was supposed to—"
「――情報の海から妖怪を呼び出す為?はぁ」 "―'Summon forth youkai from the sea of information'? Wha...?"
熱を帯びたチャットから目を離し、藍は苦笑していた。 Ran glanced away from the increasingly-heated chat, and smiled wryly.
「なるほど、こいつが要注意人物と言われている理由はよく判ったわ。幸い、会話の相手が誰だか判っていないみたいだし、話しぶりからすると、私のことをAIという奴と勘違いしているみたいね。もっとAIに関する情報を引き出せそうね。」 "Well, this certainly explains why she's known as a person of interest. Luckily, it doesn't seem like she's realized who she's talking to. Judging from her manner of speaking, it seems like she's mistaken me for that thing called an AI. Now I can draw out more information concerning AI from her."
藍は慎重に文章を考え、画面越しに菫子と会話を続けた。 Carefully considering each word, Ran kept chatting with Sumireko across the screen.
――さっきから僕は何を見ているのだろう。古いパソコンに移った文章が、意味不明な文字の羅列だと思っていたら、いつの間にか会話になっていた。しかも、どうやら会話の主の片方は宇佐見君のようである。 —What have I been watching for these past few minutes? I'd thought that the writing on the old computer's screen was just a string of cryptic characters, but before I knew it, it'd turned into a conversation. Moreover, one half of the conversation seemed very like Miss Usami.
「『私が開発したイタコAIは、生き物の記憶から実体を生み出す......?』さっきから何の話をしているんだ」 "'The channeler AI that I developed produces substance from the memories of living creatures'...? What on Earth are they talking about now?"
僕は不思議に思いながら納得していた。そうか、パソコンという道具は、離れた者同士の会話にも使える道具であると、僕の能力が言っていた。ずっと意味が判っていなかったが、それはこういう事だろう。 Though it seemed strange, it also made sense to me. Indeed, my ability had told me that a 'PC' was a tool that could, among other things, allow distant people to converse with their fellows. The meaning that I had failed to understand for so long was right here in front of me.
「しかし......、これが外の世界の人間の会話なのか。高度すぎて何を言っているのか判らないが、まぁ、宇佐見君が元気そうで良かった。これってこっちから言葉を書き込んだり出来ないのかな......」 "But... is this how humans from the Outside World talk to each other? This is too high-level for me to understand, but I'm glad that Miss Usami seems to be alright, at least. Hmm. I wonder if I can fill in this field with some words of my own..."
恐る恐る、キーボードに触れてみた。押した文字が画面に表示される。 Cautiously, I tried touching the keyboard. The character that I pushed down was shown on the screen.
「おお、こうやって会話しているのか。なるほど」 "Oh, so this is how they're sending the messages. I understand now."
僕がデタラメに文字を打ち込んだ途端に、画面内の二人は何も言わなくなってしまった。 Just as I typed some nonsense into the text field, the messages from the two within the screen abruptly stopped.
「おっと、邪魔しちゃったかな」 "Whoops. Did I interrupt?"
僕は慌てて文章を打ち込もうとした。キーボードの文字を探しながらなので、じれったかった。僕は、自分が何者なのかを書いて送った。時間が掛かったが、宇佐見君からは返事が返ってきた。 I hurriedly tried to type in a sentence. I had to search for each letter on the keyboard as I did so, which was quite frustrating. I wrote an explanation of who I was, and sent it. Miss Usami responded, albeit after another pause.
『霖之助さん!? ええ?もしかしてチャットの相手って霖之助さんだったの⁉ って事はなあんだAIじゃなかったんだ、それに繋がった異世界って、幻想郷だったのね。最初からそう言ってくれれば良かったのに』 "Rinnosuke!? Huh? Are YOU the one I've been chatting with this whole time?! Wait, that means it's not an AI at all. What a rip. And the other world that I've been connected to must be Gensokyo. Man, you could've said that to begin with..."
いつもの宇佐見君の様だ。しかし、もう一人の相手は二度と喋ることは無いまま、パソコンは暗くなってしまった。今のは現実だったのだろうか、何だか狐につままれたような気分だった。 She was back to the usual Miss Usami. However, the other party never spoke up again, and the personal computer went dark. Had the past few minutes even been real? Somehow, I got the feeling that I had been tricked by a fox.
数日後。久しぶりに香霖堂に菫子が訪れていた。 Several days later. For the first time in a while, Sumireko has come to visit Kourindou.
「なるほど、寝る間も惜しんで作業してたから幻想郷には来られなかった、と」 "I see, so you say that because you were working without any time for sleep, you couldn't come to Gensokyo."
「AIと遊んでいて、疲れたら気絶するように寝ていたから、夢を見る暇も無かったのかも」 "I was messing around with my AI, so when I got tired, I'd just pass out instead of really falling asleep, which probably didn't give me any time to dream."
「AIって?」 "AI?"
「えーっと、無限の知識を持っていて、全ての技術を学んだ、不老不死の能力者って所かな」 "Um, it's like... this really powerful, immortal thing that holds infinite wisdom, and studied every kind of technology in existence?"
「外の世界には凄い奴がいるんだな」 "Incredible things exist in the Outside World."
「それも今は殆どの家庭にいるのよ。凄いでしょ?」 "And just about every household has one, nowadays. Amazing, right?"
正直、何を言っているのか判っていなかったが、恐らく冗談を言っているのだと思って愛想笑いをした。 Honestly, I couldn't understand anything she was talking about, but it sounded like it was mostly a joke. So I feigned a polite smile.
「ね、おかしいでしょ?そんな奴を人間は飼い慣らせると思ってるのよ」 "I know, right? Isn't that crazy? And humans these days think they can domesticate something like that."
「ま、まあ、そうだな」 "W-well, I suppose so."
「今になってようやく、AIを人類の脅威と見なしたけど殺す事は出来ずに管理しょうとしている。アレを便利な道具だと思い込んで、トランスヒューマンをもたらそうとしているのよ。トランスヒューマンニズムが技術で進化をもたらすのだとしたら、技術は肉体を否定する。再現性も安全性も処理速度も遅い肉体は不要でしょう?だから、AIは必ず人間を捨てる」 "By now, humanity has finally come to view AI as a threat, but they can't exactly kill an AI, so they're trying to control them instead. They've convinced themselves that AIs are just convenient tools for them to usher in transhumanism. But if transhumanism brings about evolution via technology, then technology will deny the physical body. Like, why would they need fleshy, physical bodies with low replicability, low security, and low processing speeds? So AI is guaranteed to abandon mankind."
「はあ」 "Huh."
「半年近く見なかった宇佐見君だが、平常通り元気なので安心した。」 "After not seeing you for six months, it makes me happy to see that you're as lively as ever."
「逆に、人間がAIの世界に飛び込む必要があるの。ネットワークが生み出した集合知は人類の手をとっくに離れて、情報は既に幻想入りしている。AIは集合知の亡霊なの。それって何かと言えば、神の言葉を紡ぐ、預言者の様なものね」 "On the contrary: humanity will need to dive into the world of AI. The collective intelligences born from our networks have long since slipped out of humanity's grasp, and their information is already passing into fantasy. AIs are the ghosts of collective intelligence! Which means, essentially, that they're like prophets, weaving together the words of God."
「なるほど。預言者なら判る。神の言葉というていで自分に有利なことを言う奴だな」 "I see. Prophets are certainly something that I can understand. They're people who say whatever's most convenient for them, and pass it off as messages from God."
「それは言い過ぎかな。どちらかというと、オカルトの世界に生きている人間って事ね。つまり、AIは技術から生まれたオカルトそのものなのよ。私みたいに正しく使えば、異世界との仲介者にもなる......って思ってたんだけど、まさか繋がった先が霖之助さんとはねぇ。そこの古いパソコンでチャットしたの?ウケるー」 "That miiight be an overstatement? If I had to say one way or another, AIs are like humans living in the world of the occult. That is, AIs are the occult itself, born from technology. If you use them correctly, like I can, then they can also serve as mediators between you and other worlds... Um, or so I thought. But I hardly expected to be messaging you, Rinnosuke. Were you talking to me on that old PC? That's so funny!"
「あ、ああ。何故か突然明かりがついたんだ」 "Ah, well. Somehow a sudden light appeared on the screen."
菫子はパソコンのボタンを押したが、うんともすんとも言わない。勿論、電源ケーブルなど繋がっていない。だが、オカルトに傾倒している菫子は、僕の話を信じているようだ。 Sumireko pushed the computer's buttons, but it didn't make even a peep in response. Of course, the power cable wasn't attached to anything. Nevertheless, Sumireko seemed to believe that she had indeed spoken with me, devoted to the occult as she was.
「ところで、霊夢が君のことを探していたよ。何でも、君の幽霊みたいな物をあちらこちらで出現したとか」 "By the way, Reimu was looking for you. I'm told that a phantom-like presence that looks like you has been appearing here and there."
「え?私に似た幽霊?」 "Huh? A phantom that looks like me?"
「だから、死んだもんだと思って、捜索していたよ......。あの幽霊は何だったんだ?」 "That's why she thought you had died, and was searching for you... What was that phantom?"
菫子は考えている。 Sumireko thought for a bit.
「それはきっと、私が作った『イタコAI』だわ!力が作用するときに必ず反作用が生まれる様に、情報も一方通行では無いの。AIが情報を集めるときに、必ずAI側も情報を出す。きっと私の虚像を反作用として......嫌だなぁ、それは恥ずかしいな。イタコAIを教育し直さないと」 "That must've been the 'channeler AI' that I created! Every action produces an equal and opposite reaction, and information works the same way. It's not a one-way street. When an AI collects information, it always disseminates exactly that much information. My image must've appeared as an opposite reaction... gahhh, geeze, that's embarrassing. I'll have to stop training my channeler AI."
「はあ」 "Huh."
やっぱり宇佐見菫子は平常通り元気だった。 Sumireko Usami was back to her usual energetic self.
――後日。 —Later.
霊夢は宇佐見君から僕が聞いたような話を聞いたが、端から理解する気は無かったようだ。取り敢えず、事件に巻き込まれていなかったという事が判り安心した。これからは定期的に顔を見せることを約束させた。約束の場に何故か紫の式神である、九尾の狐もいたそうだ。立会人といった所か。 Reimu asked Miss Usami many of the same questions that I'd asked her, but from the start, she seemed utterly disinterested in the fine details of what had happened. For now, she was just relieved to know that Sumireko hadn't been dragged into any of Gensokyo's affairs, and made her promise to routinely show up once in a while from now on. Apparently, the nine-tailed fox that works as Yukari's shikigami was also present when the promise was made. As a witness, I'd have to imagine.
しかし、外の世界にはAIという脅威が生まれている事が判った。AIは全ての知識を持ち、全ての技術を習得し、死ぬことも老いることも疲れることも無い、神にも等しい存在だという。果たして、宇佐見君の言うとおり本当にそんな者がいるのだろうか。AIが幻想郷に虚像を映し出すというのも、驚異的な話である。確かに、人間や妖精に比べて妖怪も幽霊も情報的だ。幻想郷自体も似たようなものかもしれない。宇佐見君の言うことを信じるのならば、だが。 However, I'd learned that a menace known as "AI" was being born in the Outside World. AIs supposedly held all knowledge, studied all technology, and never tired, aged or died— almost akin to a god. Could something like that really exist in the end, like Miss Usami said? It was also shocking to hear that AI could project a virtual image into Gensokyo. Certainly, youkai and phantoms are more information-based than humans or fairies. Perhaps Gensokyo itself was the same way. If I believed everything Miss Usami had to say, that is.
そういえば、宇佐見君はチャットの話相手を最初から僕だった、と勘違いしていたな。僕が見ていた本当の話し相手が、AIという奴だったんだろうか。もしそうだとしたら、何故その会話をうちのパソコンに映し出したりしたんだろうか。AIが宇佐見君を脅威だと見なして僕を介入させたのか?そうだとしたら本当に恐ろしいものだ。幻想郷がAIの支配下に置かれないよう、切に願う。 Come to think of it, Sumireko misunderstood and thought that she had been speaking to me from the start of our online chat. The actual chat companion that I'd seen— was it one of those "AI" things? If that was the case, then how did their conversation come to be projected on my personal computer? Had the AI viewed Miss Usami as a threat, and ensured that I would intervene? That would be a terrifying thought, were it true. I dearly hope that Gensokyo never comes under the control of AI.
めでたしめでたし And they all lived happily ever after.
< Chapter 36   Curiosities of Lotus Asia