(and, A Particularly Hopeful Prelude)
Final Chapter: Farewell, Nostalgic Yesterday@save_clear(restart)
A small voice with ever so slight electronic distortion could be heard throughout the room.
“It looks like this is finally it, huh?”
At the same time, a small group of individuals stared down at the ultra resolution tablet screen. The specs for handheld device cameras had improved significantly in recent times, as had stereoscopic 3D technology.
With such a high level of detail, it was difficult to differentiate the images displayed on the screen from a view through a physical window of some sort.
In fact, if it weren’t for the errant AR elements overlaid on the virtual surroundings, it might have actually been impossible.
“We never did think this day would ever come. Or rather, I guess we just didn’t want to think about it,” one of the people finally responded.
“Ten years is a long time, you know? Even if most of us were only here for some of that, it still feels like it’s been forever.”
“Speak for yourself. Seems to me like it was only a week ago.”
“They did have that old saying. Time flies when you’re having fun, and all that.”
Some light laughter emerged from the group’s idle chatter, before dying down. Everyone promptly turned to the screen again. More specifically, they looked at the figure on the screen.
“Jeez, what’s with those forced smiles on your faces? I know you’re all sad, but it’d be better to be honest with yourselves.”
An adorable little girl in hooded Raccoonicorn pajamas put her hands on her hips while scolding everyone.
“If I could actually reach out and flick a forehead or two right now, I would. It’s a shame, really. I wish screens with tactile feedback had gotten that far by now,” Spuffy added, her frown changing into a bitter smile.
It was nothing more than well made AR.
The various members of the group forced themselves to remember that fact.
“..It’s not fair.”
“What isn’t? That we have to say goodbye?” replied the Raccoonicorn girl.
It wasn’t fair to be forced to part like this. Certainly, surely, each person in the room was currently thinking something along those lines. Even if it wasn’t said out loud, it was an assertion plainly visible on everyone’s faces.
“Alright, I understand. The truth is, I’m sad about it too. A whole decade is about a tenth of a human lifespan, right? No one can discard something like that so easily. So it’s not wrong to be mad about it. And it’s natural to be unhappy about it too. But it’s not over just yet, right? And even when I’m gone, it won’t be the end of the world.”
She enthusiastically pointed at her audience through the screen.
“So do yourselves a favor and cheer up about it already, even if it’s just for a little bit!”
There wasn’t a single person who couldn’t at least grin when hearing that.
“Good afternoon, my name is Spuffy. Nice to meet you! I’ll be in your care from now on, so let’s get along, okay?”
She was supposedly a human assistance interface, or at the very least, that was how she’d initially described herself.
“Well, I’m not sure how easy to understand that classification is either, but I’m not the one who came up with the label. You can think of me as the artificial personality installed in the core of the server and app softwares. Basically, I’m here to communicate with the users and staff to make everyone’s jobs easier,” she explained with a beaming smile after the app had booted up for the first time.
“Or if you want to look at it from another perspective, you can say that I’m the software itself personified. Anyways, my official purpose is what it is, but I don’t mind if you just want to be friends.”
Since it was a social service that was similar to BBS sites, it was only natural that many friends had encountered each other while using it. Unsurprisingly, an utterly dizzying number of connections had been made in the end.
There had been fun moments that wouldn’t have been possible and precious memories that wouldn’t have been made; here in the present day, all of those things had become facts of undeniable reality.
And the chains that had linked everyone together had all come from Spuffy.
(Announcement of Imminent Closure of Service! Thank you for all your support over the years!)
In retrospect, it was inevitable that the service would inevitably come to an end, but this itself was little comfort.
Even if everyone had alternative means of contact or communication, it did not change the fact that the service itself was a testament to the time that each person had invested. Just as significantly, they had all begun to think of Spuffy as a genuine companion.
And that companion would soon disappear.
A particular young man with bleached white hair, red contacts, and a ludicrous looking (though he claimed that it exuded intellectual elegance) black cloak was staring at the ceiling when that thought occurred to him.
With a bitter smile, he sighed, before finally reaching for his tablet and tapping on a specific icon.
“Ah, I was wondering when you’d finally show your face again. Have you finally stopped sulking~?”
She popped up on the screen immediately, although with the camera being pointed upwards, she simply floated in midair.
The boy smiled at her teasing.
“Yeah, I have. And you were right, now’s not the time to be depressed.”
“It’s been fun, hasn’t it?”
“We got to meet lots of interesting people. Let’s see, there was a maid, a moon god, an underclassman, a tail-loving roboticist, a pseudo-exhibitionist, some weapon fanatics, a doctor, and so many others that we’d be here all night if I named them all. Oh, and there’s a super delusional megaloser like you!”
“H-hey! I’m at least two or three ranks lower on the ‘-loser’ tier than that!”
They both chuckled.
“You know, before it’s over, why don’t we make sure to save at least one more memory or three? We’ll make sure to preserve it and look back at it nostalgically, like a time capsule,” the boy suggested next.
“Like those embarrassing home videos that parents take of their babies.”
“S-suddenly I have a lot less confidence in what I’m saying.”
Spuffy wagged her finger at him through the tablet screen.
“Don’t worry about it. It just so happens that everyone else was thinking the same thing. So let’s go. It’ll be something to remember me by!”
The boy briefly thought about what to say.
Then, having found the words, they started recording.
“See you later.”
“Until next time.”
Epilogue: Hello, Beautiful Sunrise@begin_from_zero(plus)
Not all that long ago, intellectuals once debated on whether or not a heart could reside in ones and zeroes. Nowadays, it is thought that the answer to that question is a resounding “yes”.
Recently, a new question has emerged, wondering if bonds could also reside in ones and zeroes.
And in an uncertain place, at an uncertain time, someone looked down at their handheld device and began typing with a smile.
“Long time no see. Or since we’re starting fresh, maybe I should reintroduce myself. Nice to meet you all, my name is..”
What, exactly, is the true conclusion to that newly emerged debate?
What is it that you believe to be the answer?