A/N: Well folks, this is it. Hopefully I'm able to wrap everything up to your satisfaction. Whether I do or don't, please don't hesitate to leave your final thoughts in a review. I may write another Haruhi fanfiction someday, possibly a continuation of this one, but I'd like to improve a bit before I tackle another monster like this. o_o
I hope you enjoy chapter ten.
Of all the mistakes we could have made, this was probably the worst one possible. We hadn't met our future selves last night, when we'd been the ones taking refuge in Mr. Keiichi's mansion, so the fact that we were now staring across the room at our pajama-clad counterparts meant we'd created a paradox. I'm not sure what's going to happen next, but on the off chance the time plane is about to implode on itself, I'd like to take this opportunity to sincerely apologize.
Past Haruhi had a look of utter shock on her face. "Wha-... What's this?" she asked. "You guys see it too, right? I'm not going crazy? That's us standing there. But... how?"
Great. Judging from the way she's talking, the past version of me hasn't gotten around to having "the talk" with her yet. Lazy bum. Looking around, I saw that Koizumi and Miss Asahina were also unsure how to react to meeting their past selves. Haruhi, on the other hand, was probably coming up with all sorts of terrible ideas.
I felt a tug at my sleeve. "Kyon," Sasaki said. "Don't you think you should do something? If the transfer really worked, something like this should be easy for you, shouldn't it?"
Hey, that's a lot of pressure to throw on me like that. I'd been thrilled just to be able to make a dumpster float a few feet off the ground. Sure, it had been easy to travel through time once I got the hang of it, and closing the time rip had been a piece of cake, but I'm wouldn't know how to begin to fix a time paradox. That'd be Miss Asahina's forte.
"But it's only a paradox because you don't remember anything like this happening, right?"
...Oh, I think I see where you're going with this. Way to make me feel stupid in one sentence, Sasaki. I guess that should work, shouldn't it? It may not be a particularly elegant solution, but as long as it keeps time from falling apart, I really couldn't care less about elegance.
"Excuse me," Past Koizumi said, "but would you mind explaining what's going on here? Have you come back to give us a warning of some sort?"
I stepped forward. "Nope. Actually, this is all sort of a mistake, but you don't have to worry about that. Just focus on getting Nagato back, and eventually you'll get to this point, too. It'll all work out." I was going to have to erase their memories, of course, but maybe if I gave them some words of encouragement, it would somehow stick around in their subconsciousnesses and spur them—er, us—onward.
"That's right," Present Haruhi said. "The most important thing is to stay optimistic and never give up." She turned to her past self, whose face had lit up like she was staring into the tractor beam of the alien mothership. "Also, you should believe everything Kyon tells you. He may not look like it, but he actually knows what he's talking about, okay?"
My past self and I both scratched our cheeks at the indirect compliment.
With that, I waved my hand, and the four of them disappeared. Assuming I was using these powers correctly, they'd be frozen in the lounge, their memories reset to the way they were just before we appeared and started making a bunch of noise.
The logical thing to do would have been to get off the island before we had a chance to cause any more damage, but there was something far more important that I had to do first. It was the whole reason we'd set off on this 24-hour journey to begin with. The reason we'd risked our lives by coming back in time and attempting to battle a goddess.
Sorry, Kimidori. The SOS Brigade just doesn't work with four members.
A swirl of light particles began to collect in the center of the room. I couldn't tell you where they were coming from, only that they gathered into a brightly glowing vortex that slowly began to change shape. I'm not sure if it was actually necessary, or if it was just my mind's way of giving Nagato the brilliant comeback she deserved, but either way, it was pretty breathtaking.
Once the swirling light had molded itself into a vaguely humanoid shape, it tripled in intensity, forcing us to shield our eyes.
Then, it stopped.
I was still covering my eyes, but I knew she was there. She didn't say anything, and honestly, she didn't have to. I'd recognize her unique brand of silence anywhere.
"Welcome back, Nagato."
With our mission coming to a close, all that was left to do was tie up a few loose ends.
Our homemade TPDD had been the first thing to get dragged into the rift, but that was nothing my awesome powers couldn't fix. After restoring the pier to its former state, I summoned the TPDD back from the void and promptly destroyed it. Even if it was only half-functional, it could still be dangerous in the wrong hands.
I gave Miss Asahina her TPDD back, of course, and she gave me a very intense, very tearful hug. A day ago, I would have been beside myself with joy over something like that, but I've decided to be a bit more honest with myself from now on. Miss Asahina is cute, nobody's denying that, but I don't think it would work between us. And that's okay. I'd never admit it to Koizumi, but I think he was right about me using her as a romantic scapegoat.
Oh, by the way. Fujiwara? Turns out Haruhi broke his nose. Since it wasn't life-threatening, I just sent him back to his apartment. I did erase his memories of what he read on that chip, though, just in case it contained anything he could use against us. And in case you were wondering—which you honestly shouldn't be at this point—I didn't give him his TPDD back. If he wants to travel through time, he can grovel before the SOS Brigade and pray that Haruhi and Miss Asahina are feeling merciful.
As for the humanoid interfaces, they were no more. Kimidori, Kuyoh, and all the other TFEIs in existence were now, and forever would be, human. No more data manipulation powers to threaten us with, and they'd be free from having to follow the Data Integration Thought Entity's orders. I even took away its ability to manipulate special data once Nagato told me it could survive without it.
And yes, that also means Nagato is now a human being.
I couldn't bring myself to change her personality, though. The Nagato I'd met last December had a certain charm, but it wouldn't have felt like Nagato if I'd just snapped my fingers and made her that way, you know? Besides, now that she is human, she's free to grow and develop just like any other person. Maybe she'll become that shy bookworm on her own, and maybe she won't. That decision will be up to her.
Only after all of that was said and done was it finally time to leave the island.
"We really can't thank you enough," I said, bowing to Kuyoh. "If it hadn't been for you, I don't know what we would have done."
Haruhi, Koizumi, and Miss Asahina joined me as well. It felt odd to be so formal, but when you owe someone so much, what else is there to do?
When I straightened up, Nagato had moved to stand in front of Kuyoh. They were locked in eye contact, but this time, I wasn't feeling any animosity between them. That might just be because they're humans now, though.
After a few seconds, Nagato gave a slight nod of acknowledgement. "...thank you."
Kuyoh smiled. For once, it actually looked natural. "You're welcome."
After a few more goodbyes and thank yous, I sent Sasaki, Kuyoh, and Tachibana to the café. I felt a little bad for removing Kuyoh's abilities after everything she'd done for us, but for now, it's the best way to ensure that both sides can sleep soundly at night.
Then it was time to deal with Kimidori. I'll be honest, I wanted to get revenge. She'd tried to kill not just Nagato, but Haruhi and the rest of us as well. I don't care if she was just following orders, she still knows right from wrong.
But at the same time, if she hadn't taken action, the Data Integration Thought Entity would have just sent someone after her as well. Not that it comes anywhere close to excusing what she did, but I can't completely fault her for it.
When I turned to look at her, I was surprised to see that she was crying.
"I'm so... sorry," she said. "I just... I didn't have a choice. It's not that I wanted to, I..."
Stop. That's enough. I really don't want to have to pity you, so let's just end it there, okay?
She wiped her tears with her sleeve and nodded. "Okay."
"Hey, Kyon, gimme another refill!"
The five of us were back at Nagato's apartment, gathered around the kotatsu to share a pot of Miss Asahina's tea. It was supposed to be a welcome home party for Nagato, but aside from a few decorations and some cake—all courtesy of my powers, by the way—it was pretty much the same as any other brigade function.
I looked down at Haruhi's cup, which she was holding out to me for the third time. "Twice is probably enough. I really don't think I should be using these powers for parlor tricks anyway."
She put her cup down and frowned. "Speaking of which, when are you giving them back to me? I'm totally ready to assume my duties as supreme god of the Universe!"
Riiight. About that.
I exchanged glances with the others, doing my best to guilt them into saying something so I wouldn't have to. Just as I realized I might actually have the power to make them do something like that, Koizumi spoke up.
"That's actually something we need to discuss," he said. "I'm sure you're aware by now that these powers can be dangerous. There are quite a few other happenings that we haven't had a chance to tell you about yet, but let's just say that we've had our hands full this past year. I hope you don't take it personally when I say that I'm concerned about what might happen once you're back in control."
Ouch. Don't you think that was a bit too direct, Koizumi?
She laughed. "Concerned? About what? Come on, guys. It's not like I'm going to suddenly take over or anything. That'd be totally boring, and I wouldn't have the patience for politics. I'd be happy just having, I don't know, a branch of the SOS Brigade in every school around the world."
Haruhi, you aren't really helping your case here.
She went on. "Besides, Kyon's aware of it, and he hasn't lost control or anything. Right? So what's the big deal?"
That's true, but we have completely different personalities. No offense, but it's pretty easy to avoid doing anything rash when I don't really have any major goals to begin with. You, on the other hand, have been declaring your desire to see the world become more exciting on a daily basis since the day we met. It's even baked into the SOS Brigade's name.
"Don't get me wrong," Koizumi said. "I'm not saying we shouldn't return your powers to you. But before we do, I think it would be for the best if we altered your memories so that you don't remember the truth about us, or the fact that you have them."
You could have heard a pin drop a mile away.
Haruhi's head was hanging low, and her hair was obscuring her face, but I could tell how upset she was getting. Her fists were both clenched, and her shoulders were starting to shake.
"Absolutely not," she said.
"Miss Suzumiya, I—"
She looked up. "I refuse! I can forgive you all for hiding this from me before, because you had to, but now that I'm in on it, I intend to stay that way. I don't care if nobody has those powers. I don't want to forget everything that's happened!"
Over the past year, I'd seen a lot of expressions on Haruhi's face. There was the gung-ho grin she usually wore, the occasional look of melancholy, and countless, albeit less frequent, other emotions sprinkled in here and there. But the look she gave me when she said that... It was the look of an innocent girl trying to convince a judge that she'd been falsely accused. She didn't have any power in this situation other than her words, and I could tell she was desperately trying to plead her case. What's worse, she was looking at me. When did I become the judge? I don't want that responsibility.
I turned to Koizumi. "If she doesn't want to forget, then I won't force her," I said. "She has that right, and I'll stand by it."
I'd expected him to at least be a little surprised, but he looked like he'd known I was going to refuse all along. "I see. Well then, I guess that's no longer an option, is it? Perhaps you could simply eliminate your abilities entirely, without passing them on to someone else."
Maybe I could. That's probably the responsible thing to do. If I did that, all that would remain would be espers and time travelers. Espers aren't particularly dangerous as far as I know, and there's no way I could eliminate the danger of time travelers without also tampering with Miss Asahina's future. I guess even if she's biologically human, Nagato did come from space, so she's still technically an alien.
Aliens, time travelers, and espers. It was all Haruhi had ever wanted, but she'd never had the chance to enjoy it. All this time, I've been going on all sorts of crazy adventures, adventures she'd been looking for. I won't even lie anymore, it's been a blast. I wouldn't trade it for the world. And meanwhile, Haruhi's been desperately searching for any sign of the unknown. She's the one who's been moving forward, always trying to find something interesting, something fantastic, something truly out of this world. It wasn't fair. No, it would be downright selfish to ask her to go back to that. She deserved to have some adventures, too.
When had I started talking out loud?
"We have had adventures. They may not have been supernatural—I mean, not that I know of, anyway—but they've still been fun, right? I don't regret a minute of this past year with you guys, so don't act like it was all a waste."
Let's not get too sappy, Haruhi.
She huffed. "Whatever. You always know how to ruin a moment. So what are we gonna do?"
I sighed. No matter how I looked at it, the right choice was obvious. "I've decided I'm going to keep these powers indefinitely."
Judging from the incredulous looks on their faces, I should probably elaborate.
"I'm confident enough in our abilities that I believe we can take on whatever challenges come our way. And frankly, I don't think my mind will be half as dangerous as Haruhi's."
"Hey! You can't just keep m—"
"You didn't let me finish," I said. "I'm going to keep these powers, but I'm going to forget about them. I was able to alter everyone else's memories, so I should be able to do the same with my own. I'll make it so I think I destroyed these powers for good, and that they no longer exist."
A few seconds of silence passed.
"...So you're going to be like Miss Suzumiya was?" Miss Asahina asked.
"But why?" Haruhi demanded. "What's the point of doing that? All you'd be doing is changing things back to the way they used to be, with our roles reversed."
I finished off the rest of my tea and set the cup down. "That's the point," I said. "It's so you can go on adventures with aliens, time travelers, and espers. And I'll be the one causing trouble for once. I'll finally have a chance to get revenge for all the trouble you've caused me over the past year."
I wouldn't forget everything, of course. I'd never do that. My memories would stay the same up until the point where I made this decision. I'd be like Haruhi used to be, unaware that my mood swings and nightmares could wreak havoc on the world. Who knows? Maybe my closed spaces will be completely different than anything we've seen before. Was it the safest move? No, not by a long shot. But the only reason I'd had the chance to have these incredible adventures was because, as Koizumi and the others so often put it, Haruhi chose me. I think it's about time I returned the favor.
After that, we spent some time ironing out the finer details. I made a rule that if there was ever an emergency, all they had to do was say a special pass phrase, and my memory would automatically restore itself. That would be our ace in the hole if anything ever went seriously wrong, or if Koizumi just needed a break from fighting celestials for a while. I think he really appreciated the gesture.
In the end, I decided to get rid of the powers once and for all.
We'd tossed around some other ideas, but I think this is really the best option. It's not even really a matter of whether or not Haruhi would be responsible with them, it's more about whether anyone really has the right to wield that kind of authority over the Universe.
Speaking of Haruhi, she was surprisingly mature about the whole thing. I'd expected her to get mad, maybe demand her powers back, but she didn't give any resistance at all. In fact, if I didn't know better, I'd say she was actually being a bit more pleasant than usual. Weird.
Once that was taken care of, we continued the celebrations into the early evening. The games from the night before were still lying around, and we ended up having a big free-for-all to decide who would get to be brigade leader for a day during our summer break. This time around, there was no ulterior motive behind everything. No impending alien threat, or celestials wreaking havoc in another world. For the first time in a long time, we could just laugh and have fun without worrying about reality going haywire.
"By the way," Koizumi said, "you never did tell us what happened after you got sucked into the rift. I'm rather curious."
I shrugged and drew a card. "I just sort of wandered through this void for a bit. Then I came tumbling out in the past. Actually, it felt like I tripped over something." Not that that made any sense.
Miss Asahina's curiosity was piqued, though. "Oh? What time did you end up in?"
"Oh, that's right," I said. "That part was actually kind of interesting. It was April 1st, four years ago."
Koizumi's eyebrows shot up, and Miss Asahina's face went pale. "That's... wh-what time was it? I mean, when exactly did you arrive?"
What time? Let's see... What had the clerk said at the convenience store? A quarter to one? It had taken a few minutes for me to get there, too. "I think I got there around 12:40 pm."
She dropped her cards and stared at me in shock. "No way! You mean you actually made it past the time fault?"
I did what now?
Haruhi sighed. "Okay, now what are you guys talking about? A time fault?" She laughed. "What, is that what happens when there's a timequake?"
Actually, you hit the nail on the head. People in the future aren't too creative with their terminology. More importantly, Miss Asahina just said I made it past the time fault. But how? Every time traveler I've met so far has said it's impossible to go further back than the big, mysterious event four years ago.
Then again, Haruhi wasn't one to be deterred by the word "impossible"; maybe her powers were the same. What's more interesting is the fact that after I told Miss Asahina I'd ended up on April 1st, she'd asked for the specific time I'd arrived. That would imply that the timequake was due to happen on that exact day, sometime after 12:40.
"Come on, tell us more!" Haruhi said. "What was it like? Did you get sick? Did you make any changes? I bet you wrote down some winning lottery numbers for your past self, didn't you?"
"No, nothing like that. I just checked the date and then headed back to help you guys out."
"Interesting," Koizumi said. "When you saw what day it was, were you surprised? I'm curious as to what was going through your head."
You're the last person I want inside my head, Koizumi.
"Well, I was curious as to why I showed up there, and not Tanabata like usual," I said. "If I had realized Haruhi didn't have her powers yet, I would have stopped by to watch it happen. Maybe we could have gained a little insight into what triggered it."
"So then you thought she had her powers already?" he asked.
I shrugged. "I guess I assumed so. I've never known her without them, so my image of Haruhi sort of goes hand in hand with being able to bend reality."
She gave me a dirty look, and I corrected myself. "Until now, of course. Anyway, what's up with the third degree? In case you forgot, we're in the middle of a game, and it's your turn."
He drew a card to appease me, but didn't even bother looking at it. "Sorry. It's just that I've been forming this theory, and it has some interesting implications."
"Really?" Haruhi asked. "Well, let's hear it."
He laid his cards down. "When Miss Suoh transferred the powers to you, Miss Kimidori was dumbfounded as to how such a thing was possible. I can't claim to understand it myself, but it seems transferring data through the blades she was using was supposed to be impossible. Is that right, Miss Nagato?"
No response, which usually meant no problems so far. Koizumi kept going.
"Miss Suoh was equally surprised that it had worked. So why did she try it? And more importantly, how is it that something which was supposed to be impossible can suddenly be pulled off without a hitch?"
There you go trying to bait us into asking again.
He smiled. "My theory is that Miss Kimidori was telling the truth when she said she didn't want to hurt us. She wanted to follow orders, but she didn't want anyone to get seriously hurt. If her conscious and her subconscious were at odds with one another, Miss Suzumiya's powers could have been triggered. It's might be that the one who made the impossible possible and gave us the opportunity we needed to win was none other than Miss Kimidori herself. Deep down, she wanted a peaceful resolution."
"Whoa! Koizumi, you're a genius!" Haruhi said. "That makes perfect sense! It really makes you feel bad for the villain, too. Maybe we should incorporate something like that into the next movie..."
Haruhi, you shouldn't decide whether or not you believe something based on whether or not you think it makes for a good story. And I still don't see what this has to do with my thoughts when I went back in time.
"My point is that even when you have conscious control over those powers, your subconscious may still be able to activate them. If that's the case, and you genuinely believed that Miss Suzumiya had the power to change reality, then your beliefs may have been transformed into fact. And if you remember, Miss Suoh did say that attempting to duplicate such powers could cause massive damage to spacetime. That's consistent with everything we know about what happened four years ago."
I... That's... No. Just no. It's an interesting theory, but there are too many problems with it for me to list. And I refuse to believe that I'm the one who elevated Haruhi to godlike status. That would mean everything we've been through this past year has been my fault.
He raised his hands in defense. "Relax. Like I said, it's just a theory."
Maybe you should focus less on your theories and more on the game.
Haruhi ended up winning, which surprised no one. I'd been wondering if her powers had been the source of her luck, but I guess she's just naturally good at these sorts of things. Just once, I'd like to be the one kicking her butt for a change.
I was out on the balcony now, leaning against the edge and looking out at the city below. The sun was setting on the last day of our old life. When it rose again in the morning, Nagato would wake up as a human for the first time. It'll be interesting to see how this changes things.
The girl of the hour was standing next to me, staring straight ahead. You wouldn't be able to tell much of a difference just by looking at her; She had the same blank expression on her face, and spoke in the same monotone voice she'd had since we first met. But several times during our celebration, she'd shown signs of emotions. Smiles, laughs, excitement... They weren't all that noticeable, but they were definitely there.
"So Nagato, how does it feel to be human?" I asked. "Is it any different?"
She was still as slow and deliberate in her responses as ever, but as she spoke, a small smile appeared on her face. "It's good," she said. "Also... Thank you."
You don't have to thank me again. Hell, you really didn't need to thank me in the first place. After everything you've done for us, of course we're going to fight to get you back.
"Not just that."
Oh? Then what?
She looked up at me. "Thank you for relieving me of my duties. And of my ability to manipulate special data."
You're thanking me for making you a powerless human? Funny. Most people would kill to have the kind of power you had.
But then, Nagato had never seemed all that interested in her abilities. She'd even blocked herself off from being able to sync so she could have a little more autonomy. I should have realized she wanted to distance herself from her data manipulation powers a long time ago.
"No problem," I said. "But, you'll have to get used to being part of the no-powers club. It's not so great when the monsters start attacking."
The balcony door slid open, and Haruhi stepped out. "There you guys are. I was wondering where you ran off to."
Nagato turned and headed for the door. "I was just leaving," she said.
Crap! Nagato, what are you doing? You can't leave me alone with her! Did Koizumi put you up to this?
The door closed behind her, leaving me trapped on the balcony with Haruhi. I scratched my cheek. "Actually, I was just about to—"
"Not a chance. There are still some things we need to talk about."
Dammit. I'd been hoping she'd just forget about that "private talk" I'd promised her, but it looks like I've been overly optimistic.
She turned out toward the city, resting her chin on her palm. I slumped forward again, avoiding eye contact. This was going to be an uncomfortable conversation.
After a few seconds of awkward silence passed by, she spoke. "I still can't figure out why you didn't want me to find out. It doesn't make sense. What's so bad about me knowing that you saved my life?"
First off, nobody ever said I saved your life. We were caught by a celestial before we hit the ground, so it really wouldn't have mattered if I'd jumped after you or not. "It's just embarrassing, I guess."
"That's wrong and you know it," she snapped. "I talked to Koizumi. He said it was because you didn't want me to feel guilty."
Dammit! Leave it to a girl to ask a question she already knows the answer to. What a dirty trick. And Koizumi, you're lucky I already gave up my powers, or you'd get one heck of a punishment for betraying me like that.
"Don't blame him. You're the one who lied, now spit it out. Why did you jump after me like that?"
Hey, that's a completely different question!
Her voice grew softer. "And earlier, you pushed me out of the way. You let Kimidori stab you through the chest. It's not like you had any way of knowing you were going to survive, so why..."
Oh no. Her voice is starting to shake.
"Hey, it's not like I was really all that helpful," I said. "If you think about it, all I did was get in the way. If you'd been the one who got stabbed, Kimidori would have transferred the powers back to you instead of me. Wouldn't you have liked that better anyway?"
She turned toward me, practically yelling in my ear. "That's not the point! It's the thought that counts, and both times, you thought you were going to die. Do you have any idea how stupid you are?!"
As I turned toward her, she grabbed my shirt collar and pulled. For a second, I thought she was about to hit me, but...
Well, it's kind of embarrassing. I'm sure you can fill in the blanks.
A few seconds later, she let go, and I staggered backward. What was that? Did that really just happen? If this is a dream, my subconscious must be getting a good laugh out of tormenting me.
"...C-...Consider that a reward for all your hard work!" she said. "But you've still got a long way to go if you want that to become a regular occurrence, you hear?"
I stared at her for a moment before cracking a smile. "Understood."
Oh man. Koizumi's never going to let me hear the end of this.
A/N: And there we have it. I hope you enjoyed this story. Thank you to everyone who read/reviewed it. As I said in the beginning, the number of points where I tie it into the main series is also a big hindrance, since it'll most likely be overwritten the moment Mr. Tanigawa releases a new light novel, but I think I'd be so thrilled with another Haruhi book that I wouldn't even care. xD
If you want to play around with the idea of Kyon being the unaware god instead of Haruhi, you're welcome to use this story as a setup. I'd honestly be flattered. I'll probably do the same at some point, but for now, I think my brain needs a rest. To everyone who writes stories as long as this or longer, you have my respect.
Thanks again for reading, and remember to keep an eye out for aliens, time travelers, and espers.