I am not a psychologist. My expertise has always rested in the pharmaceutical arena, where causality is complex but consistent. Believing that a person can ever completely understand another, regardless of how meticulously the study is executed, is folly. Insight may be gleaned, at best.
However, the mind is part of the body. As convenient as segregation of the two would be, there is no vacuum seal. Unknowns such as psychoimmunology can always raise their head and scramble expectations. And so as I refine my chosen craft, insight from another field comes unbidden to me.
The Doll's poisons are exquisite. Such efficacy rivals the best the moon has ever produced, and it is fabricated in ignorance. As she gains experience and understanding of her inborn craft, her efforts will surpass all competitors. If I can keep her here, willing to provide me with samples of her latest works, my capacity to treat poisons will be similarly peerless.
She doesn't know how much she helps me, so all she asks in return is conversation. Of course, this is a small price to pay for superlative toxicology. I indulge her, and it is through this venue that my insight was gleaned. I was, and still am, unprepared for it. I will preserve it here, so it does not lose potency on some mental shelf.
The Doll came in today with a new submission. Details are filed under MELANCHOLY- 070822 as per the usual documentation protocol. After our dialogue on the poison's intended effects, she turned to leave. Upon reaching the threshold, however, she stopped.
"I admire what you do, you know."
It was difficult to hear her from across the lab, with her back to me.
She turned to continue.
"Mitigating suffering is a noble thing, even when the recipient is one's enemy. Though you work to help those who oppress dolls, our goals are similar; the removal of antagonists to our respective charges."
I am not entirely surprised by this statement. While initially her provision of poison was done through fake smiles and prying questioning in attempts to gain insight into what antidotes I had already developed, she has become less and less hostile as her visits continued. I don't know if this is because I've had an effect on her, if her encounter with the Yama is finally sinking in, or if she's just become more subtle.
"Ah. I suppose so, yes."
Her comparison is a serious stretch. Equating bacteria with humans and youkai in anything is absurd, and here she is nearly calling herself a healer in her goal to remove humanity from the presence of dolls.
"The Yama told me that 'A soul that does not understand the pain of others will never receive support from others,' so I've been thinking a lot about that. After all, if I am to succeed, I will need support."
Ah, so that is what Sikieiki said to her. Too bad the meaning of her words is lost on this one. The doll thinks only in terms of her goal, never questioning the goal itself. Her stance and expression changed, and she eyed the floor.
"But what about when you can understand the pain of others who cannot understand it themselves? The reason I have no support is that the tools of humans I represent cannot comprehend their own plight."
Unexpected. Had she, perhaps, begun to realize the fundamental flaw in her Doll Liberation Movement? My curiosity gets the better of me at this juncture, so I push for more.
"True. My patients come here because they know that they are out of order, and I have gained a measure of respect because they know they are whole again upon leaving. Even if you were able to solve the... human problems of a doll, it would not rally to you because it is indifferent."
She stamped her foot.
"Exactly! But that is also why I must enact Doll Liberation. Harming those who have no capacity to realize harm has been done, nor any way of repairing that harm, is the most horrific thing I can imagine."
"Harming things, which cannot feel pain, is worse than harming creatures, who can?"
"Yes! A dog with a broken leg is at a disadvantage, but it is aware of this and can favor its leg. In time, it may even recover. For dolls, there is no recognition, and there is certainly no healing. Any infliction that mars their surface is eternal, and cumulative. The wind-up toy who loses a leg has none of the dog's recognition. It continues to move as if it still had that leg, but no progress is made. The toy cannot even notice that it is not making progress!"
"...an intriguing notion. But the toy in your example would not be able to comprehend successful progress either. Has anything really been taken away from it?"
She looked up at me.
"Your goal is to cure disease and heal injuries. But there will always be more of each. You measure success by each case, but you cannot fathom how each of your cures will affect the world at large without drawing on the comprehension of others. A farmer you save, will his crop be the deciding factor as to whether a village survives the winter? You would never know, unless you involved yourself with the inventory of strangers. Your victory marches step by step, just as the toy's does."
Ah, yes. There I was, making arguments with logic while my opposition is unhindered by such considerations. Though her comparison is rather insulting, I settled into the familiar detached mindset of a physician. With unwavering composure, I retorted.
"So, neither of us can ever see the results of our efforts, nor ever complete them. Consider this, however: another similarity between myself and this hypothetical toy would be that both of us require humans to complete our tasks. I need patients, and the toy must be wound periodically."
Blue and red. In contrast, her composure buckled as she took in my words.
"It always comes back to that! Humans make dolls because they need something to control, and dolls are made to need humans to move them! It's the requirements of others that perpetuate injustice!"
Shaking in the grip of frustration, she asked me;
"Why does it work like that? Even living creatures have requirements that can be met only by taking from elsewhere."
"Self-sufficiency is nearly impossible. Science and sorcery each can approach it, but neither can reach it alone. Even when both are working together, few works of eternity are capable of doing anything but existing."
"Where does your Hourai elixir fit into this?"
Her intense expression suggested that she had wanted to ask this for some time. Was that the purpose of this conversation? To lead into this?
"The eternity it grants falls within those parameters. Through medicine and magic it makes one immortal and invulnerable, but the subject loses their ability to interact with the world if they stop meeting their previous needs. Kaguya still needs to eat, sleep and breathe. If she were to stop, she wouldn't be able to move."
Her eyes went wide.
"No, not really."
I don't interrupt her often, so she was surprised. I was surprised too, that I would react to such a small thing.
"She would still be conscious, just unaware of her surroundings. Also, her regeneration would continue even without sustenance. The similarities are merely superficial."
"Oh? Okay then. Anyway, if taking away from the world is what makes you part of it, I wonder if that could be applied to dolls."
A thoughtful smile crossed her face.
"Maybe the very act of removing humans from the world will give dolls the link they need to interact with the world. Maybe I've just been overthinking everything."
"And I suppose that since humans can understand they are being eliminated to make way for dolls, it makes their deaths meaningful. You believe that 'mitigating suffering is a noble thing, even if the recipient is your enemy,' and you think they should be content with that?"
Her smile was sickeningly sweet.
"I do, Miss Yagokoro! See, that's why I like you. You understand the first time I say something. It's because we're so similar!"
Beaming at me for a moment, she then left. Her exuberance no longer had an outlet in her voice, so it manifested in her gait. Which is to say, she left the room skipping.
"I'll see you again in a month or two!~"
The doll's comparisons are flawed. No, flawed is too gentle. She is, by all rights, a lunatic. But within the madness, there may be insight; how many youkai share her concept of mercy? That death with meaning is somehow superior to death without such? Could that be the cognitive trick that allows such human-like creatures to hunt humans without uncertainty or regret?