Chapter 2.Winter: Gifts
Two months had passed since Keigo received two RUICAs from Kanalu. Keigo thought about how to approach Takashi, a junior high school student, and ultimately asked Tsubasa for help. He thought that Takashi might be more inclined to open his mind to Tsubasa who was closer to him in age and had known him since childhood. Through the RUICA, Takashi had apparently been conversing with Tsubasa, but actually Keigo had sometimes been the participant, pretending to be Tsubasa.
Takashi had lost the ability to be open with other people because he had gotten used to spending his time quite alone. He had a lot of electronic gadgets such as digital TV, DVD, a PC to access Internet, and a PDA, but he did not realize that these could be tools for communicating with people. When he was younger, he had been very active and liked to play football. However, since the time when he entered junior high school, he had shut himself away from society. He did not know what to do with himself. For a while, he performed well at school, but lacked motivation. He lost interest in his studies and then stopped going to school altogether. He could not find purpose and meaning in his existence. He was filled with anxiety and dissatisfaction.
Takashi repeatedly asked Tsubasa about universities. "My father said that I'm not on track for university. Is university an interesting place? Are you a loser if you don't go to university?" Tsubasa found it difficult to answer Takashi's questions and asked for his father's advice. Keigo, pretending to be Tsubasa, answered Takashi, "Well, there are many different things one can do without going to university. On the other hand, university graduates have more career options." "Do a lot of people graduate, join a company, and then lose their job? If that's the case, what's the point in going to university?" Keigo replied, "People need to work to earn money to support their families." "Then they shouldn't have families. I don't want to get married and have a family. I won't need to support a family, so I won't have to work." "Think about the value of your life, Takashi-kun. People find self-fulfillment in their work," Keigo replied.
Keigo continued communicating with Takashi via e-mail, but found it difficult to persuade him. He asked himself whether he could really answer Takashi's questions for himself. Why did he work and what did he need money for? He had worked hard for his family and found his life worth living. However, he asked himself whether his current work, recommending which of his subordinates to retire, provided self-fulfillment.
Strange as it might have seemed, Keigo did not feel guilty about communicating with Takashi in the persona of Tsubasa, because in doing so he was able to provide counseling. It seemed to Keigo that if someone trusted an imaginary person, and found relief confiding sorrows and worries to that imaginary person, then virtual technology was not a bad thing. Of course, it depended on the time and place.
Reading their ongoing conversation, Tsubasa thought, "I understand Takashi's feeling. On the other hand, my father's thoughts show that he still has a young spirit. I should give him more credit."
Kanalu monitored these exchanges between Takashi and Tsubasa, and between Takashi and Keigo in his role as Tsubasa. He did not participate in the conversation. This was an infringement of privacy, equivalent to opening mail.
Sometimes, thought Keigo, it was acceptable to violate privacy in the service of a higher good. Within internal mail systems used in universities and companies, e-mails were monitored by system administrators. A confessional did not contain just a priest and a supplicant; God was there as well. People who sought salvation wanted to deliver their worries to whoever could save them. Similarly, professionals who counseled abused children and suicidal people had their sessions online. It was not easy to build a system that maintained a balance between privacy and client protection.