Summary: Basically, Haruhi comes into contact with the Yakuza at a young age, and all shall dread the days to come.
Authors note: It has come to my attention that people with basically zero knowledge of this fandom reads this fanfiction. That... honestly makes me happy. I really want to make stand-alone fiction that isn't dependent on its source material, so I hope this story is a step in the right direction. Thank you everybody for your support and patience while I tackle some (a lot of) RL issues and commitments! (Like graduation. I'm officially a teacher and hoh boy my energy levels have never been so low.) As always, if you want status updates or you want to talk, I'm at the tumblr Artsomee. Social media isn't really my thing, but that's where you can find me directly at least. During this, without your kind words, I doubt I would have gotten this far.
Enjoy, Haruhi's experience with the Host club!
Haruhi began the next day with a warm glow of satisfaction. Yesterday dinner had been spent within the Kasonada compound and though she enjoyed the meal, her motives had been a bit more wider. The lawyer Yoshiteru had been in the area. And after a while, he had even agreed to her request.
"Thank you!" She rushed to hug the man, not caring that she was wrinkling his finely pressed suit. He had stiffened like a board, but she didn't care about that either. He could complain all he wanted later, but she was genuinely grateful. Haruhi only pulled away after she heard some snickering in the background, a flash of light, and a deeply embarrassed man vainly poking the top of her head to make her release him.
He cleared his throat, eyes flickering away. "I can't promise anything though," Yoshiteru warned her. "Kintsugi is an esoteric art and the masters aren't always that free to..."
Haruhi had slumped. She had known about that, knew it was a longshot, but guilt gnawed at her stomach alongside the ache of her right wrist.
Yoshiteru cleared his throat once more, and she glanced up to see him primly straightening his jacket. "I'll see what I can do."
She hadn't suspected he would be so quick about it, though. He had pulled strings immediately, calling a few numbers and on that same hour, she had gotten an appointment with a kintsugi practitioner.
The vase that Haruhi had broken in the Host Club room at school had been collected in the vain hope that the pieces could be later restored. Kintsugi was the art that had come to mind. It was the act of repairing pottery or such in a way that it became more beautiful in the end, because it had been used and then repaired with love. The man she got to see late into the evening explained this to her. Showed how she would go about it and such. It was a very fruitful meeting. And better yet, the vase wasn't unmendable as she had feared, and she had done a great deal in repairing it yesterday evening. Her wrist was also healing up nicely.
Why she had expected this streak of luck to hold, Haruhi will never know.
Her day began with a warm glow of satisfaction, sure, but she sure didn't look like it. Haruhi's eyes were drawn and sleep deprived, squinting and making them appear even smaller through the glasses resting on her nose. She hadn't had time to pick up her lenses. She hadn't had the time for a lot of things actually, which she was reminded of when a restless push with her fingers through her hair caught against tangled locks.
Whatever Ami had put in it two days past, it had only grown stronger like a plant nourished under the sun. At least it hadn't sprouted. But who knew, really? Other than a quick glance to make sure she looked decent enough in her borrowed clothes and forcefully shoving the tangled mess through a tie, there hadn't been enough time for anything else.
Haruhi locked her door, some finagling needed for her wrist, fishing in her bag for her phone.
She handled it with awkward care, the form bulky in her palm despite having possessed it for about a year. It was a tossup between Ritsu and Rodrigo of who would gift it to her first, and "simply a matter of time" as Tetsuya had said with a smile. In the end, a fiercely scowling Ritsu had thrust the flip phone to her chest the day after she had missed their appointment by a few hours, holed up as she was in the library with new homework. Haruhi had later been told that her absence had been noted with sirens and shouts, but she heavily doubted that considering the words came out of the straight-faced Kasanoda Senior. He wouldn't overreact over something so silly.
But she did hear some suspicious commotion that day...
Still, no matter her first impression of it, the gift was handled with care. Flipping it open, a delightful smile spread across her face upon seeing the message the lawyer she was apprenticed under had written. Yoshiteru had scheduled another meeting for her to ask questions and help her shop for the right materials needed for further repairs. Today, even. She would have to hurry, but she knew she could make it on time. Yoshiteru probably knew it too, considering he had done it on such short notice.
That thought brought her up short, and Haruhi stopped, frowning. Had Yoshiteru put up a spy in Ouran? She had yet to share her schedule with anyone yakuza related, so how...?
In either case, there was nothing she could do about it now. She looked down at the phone, noted the time, and hurried to the subway station.
A consistent part about Haruhi's life was that while she claimed to be the epitome of a normal commoner, no one seemed to agree with her. Her father was a professional okama, her childhood friend was a yakuza heir, her bank was adding up numbers from years of gifted 100-yen coins, and even her school had been a breeding ground for delinquents. She might agree that some of those elements were strange and that they more than made up an alarming picture when put together, the fact was simply that the picture involved her. Haruhi. And she was normal, really.
So she went about taking the subway and crossing streets, not even nervously flinching when the eyes of rough elderly men followed her every step. From tall houses, shops and even in police stations. It was a tossup on a normal day if Haruhi would notice someone following her. The yakuza had done her a disservice on that part, acclimatizing her for several years to the idea that if she looked hard enough, somebody would be observing her with heavy intent.
She couldn't quite muster up the effort to worry when this also happened at Ouran High.
Because it truly was just normal.
Excluding the stares from arriving without a proper Ouran uniform, there was someone else, someone with a more focused intent. Haruhi was aware of this stalker, her periphery sense picking it up easily and just as easily dismissing it. The lack of danger in this intent made her shuffle it to the back of her mind automatically. School was enough of a handful that an observer didn't merit that much in the scheme of things.
Also, the matter of the Host Club deserved her full attention.
Her entrance to the classroom was noted with the same kind of distant curiosity yesterday had allowed her. Being new in a school that usually progressed like a staircase from elementary school to high school would definitely garner some interest.
Haruhi was only waiting for that distant curiosity to morph when they found out she was part of the Host Club, arguably the most popular club though she was in essence the cleaning lady. She had joined the go-home club in middle school, so she didn't quite know what she should expect.
That particular announcement didn't come from the twins that morning like she had half expected. Haruhi assumed they would declare it the second they arrived, but they only leaned over her and whispered, "Come directly after the last lesson. Shadow King's orders." Then they walked past her, sat down and began what she could only assume to be a dramatic retelling of Romeo and Juliet to the rest of the class' enjoyment, ignoring her quizzical look.
Who was the Shadow King? And why did it sound like a title deserving of capital letters?
This thought was derailed by the observation that the twins had switched names.
Or had they switched back? If Haruhi could only get a reliable basis...
Her inner conundrum distracted her slightly from the lessons, but the second day into the school year didn't amount to much teaching beyond a summary of the previous years and an explanation on what was to come. Haruhi could afford to be distracted.
Shifting her glasses to a better position on her nose, she dutifully wrote down the teacher's scribbles. Besides, she would have the dubious fortune of working with those twins from now on. She kept an extra eye on them the whole day, though if Hikaru and Kaoru noticed, they didn't indicate so. That was, if her gaze could even be noticed among the countless others in the classroom. She rather doubted that.
Quite popular, those guys.
At lunch, she went on a quick trip through the dining hall, trying to find Kanazuki. They should probably talk about the whole Club thing. She had asked for a favor after all as she stood pining outside the doors. A favor that ended with Haruhi falling into debt. The last mentioned wasn't Kanazuki's fault of course, but Haruhi felt it was worth mentioning all the same.
She was nowhere to be found though. Asking those classmates she sat with before got Haruhi a shrug and the explanation that she usually didn't eat lunch with them. They glanced at her clothes, something complex in their expressions as they said, "Want to sit with us?"
Haruhi had seen that look before. Pity mingled with a healthy dose of aversion and curiosity.
It was a battle she had fought before but not one she wanted to handle her first week. Her answering smile was stiff and equally polite as she thanked them before retreating back to her classroom and took out her bento, perfectly content to sit alone for the remaining hour.
The students slowly trickled in during the last ten minutes, allowing her a moment to observe them. They had seemingly already formed cliques. There was a large group of girls that would gather before placing themselves into smaller groups dedicated towards gossip...? The snippets she managed to pick up was mostly about The Twins, events held during the summer and a shared like of music. Then there were the smaller groups of guys with various attributes that could be boiled down to 'rich', 'their fathers are business partners', 'known each other since toddlers' and 'they will ace every exam'. Haruhi was outside the norm here, entirely too normal to comfortably fit in a school tailored to the upper echelon of society.
Actually thinking about it, the comparison towards her middle school years became easy. There had already been groups there, too, but it wasn't anything she couldn't handle. It was comforting in a weird way to find similarities with her former school. When Ritsu got back after this week was over, it would almost go back to normal.
However, Haruhi wouldn't miss her former school's obsession with honey. That could happily remain a memory.
A pointed difference would be in the lessons. She could actually follow along with the teacher's words without having to look up what they wrote in the book. The glasses probably helped in this instance despite the long side glances she got from wearing it. The point being, the lesson went by entirely too fast.
The immediate second the hour visor moved to the number '3' and the teacher said the lesson was over, Haruhi was throwing distrustful glances at the twins. They had moved up to her, each having a hand on her shoulder. They affected a hurt look.
"Hikaru, do you see that? You scared him." Probably-Kaoru peered close at her before throwing a glance at his twin. Their grip tightened on her shoulders and they began walking her out of the classroom, barely allowing her to pick up her bag or put in a word between. He called back assurances for the girls asking about their hasty exit as the other twin picked up the conversation.
"Me?" Probably-Hikaru shook his head ruefully. "Scared of the wrong person, then. Poor thing."
"Entirely wretched," probably-Hikaru agreed. He looked down at her. "If he's not scared at the orders of the Shadow King, then there's no hope, really."
They both shuddered theatrically. "Agreed."
The irritation at the verbal tennis match and being led like a child drained. She eyed them, expression softening in her uncertainty. Were they... giving her advice? To look out for this Shadow King?
Haruhi was reminded of the gaze that she had felt following her every time she left the classroom, and it made her pause. Maybe she shouldn't dismiss it so easily.
She voiced this confusion. "Who is the Shadow King?"
They shared another look that spoke a million words without any one of them being spoken. Probably-Kaoru spoke up first with another question. "You haven't heard?"
They released her shoulder, smoothly stepping around her. Probably-Hikaru was a half-step in front of her, shaking his head at her ignorance. He leaned in to whisper dramatically, "The one who's actually running the show. In the shadows, eyes glinting and pen poised..."
Probably-Kaoru stepped forward, his head almost touching hers as he circled around her and taking Probably-Hikaru's place while she was focused on the face entirely too close for polite decorum. "Notebook as armour, none can pass through!" He lowered his voice. "Beware the wicked man, for he shan't forget your mistakes!"
"Beware!" Was echoed by his twin who moved forward again to stand beside his brother. Probably-Kaoru threw in a finger wiggle too, for extra dramatics.
They stopped walking and Haruhi realized they had walked the entire way to the music room number three. The twins clapped their hands, dispelling the mood they had painstakingly built up. Their voices were pitched normally as they spoke, cheerfully concluding, "You'll see, if nothing else!" They opened the heavy door, waving her in and giving a grin not entirely nice.
"I hope you can swim," probably-Kaoru added under his breath before the both of them left her there, the door banging closed as she stepped in.
Her confusion at his words remained even as she sat down her bag where Kyoya directed and began assembling all the tableware where he wanted them. He was a demanding taskmaster, requesting perfection and was subtly threatening just with a smile and a glance at his notebook.
Haruhi didn't mind all that much. Her contract allowed him, and her likewise, a set of boundaries just like any other type of job. Tightening her hair tie and grimacing briefly at the oily texture Ami had made it to become, she set about proving why she had earned herself a job at twelve years old, and how she had gotten hired every year after that. The confusion about this Shadow King remained however and hovered over her head. The hints they had given, what with glasses glinting and this person having 'ordered' her to come, would fit with Kyoya.
She glanced at him. He certainly looked as stern as they had described but Haruhi knew from her contract discussion with him that while harsh, he was fair. It was simply his business acumen rearing its steely head. He couldn't possibly be the person they were describing. Kyoya seemed too nice for that.
So if not Kyoya, then who was "In the shadows, eyes glinting and pen poised", while also wicked and unforgetting?
Haruhi was forced to drop the thought when Kyoya announced five minutes until she would have to stop and memorize a book with instructions he had printed out to her. The cost of it which had been added to her debt. Of course. She rushed to finish the preparations. Her last thought before settling down with the book was a straightforward wish that her coming days in the club would go smoothly.
Considering the school, maybe she was asking too much.
They all had a thing, apparently, the students involved in the Ouran High School Host Club. And this thing was what she had been briefly introduced to the other day. The president of this club, Suoh Tamaki, sold the persona of a prince, romancing the visiting students with the charm of a storybook hero. If it was his true personality or not, she didn't quite know, but it proved effective. His station saw the largest shifting of young ladies. Or customers, as they apparently paid for this.
The other hosts were no sloths, however. Their vice president Ootori Kyoya was like how he had said, cool and collected. He dealt with bookings while simultaneously giving a hint of a smile over his glasses to the ladies holding their breaths at the sight. The twins were devil types from what she could only guess was an incest fantasy that encouraged the ladies to think of themselves as the third wheel. They seemed to like it.
Mori and Hunny, however, were the wild and cute type respectively. They often came in a package for the apparent contrast they offered with their personalities.
That first day with the Hosts was spent much of the time staring in deadpan. When they weren't looking, she introduced her palm to her forehead. Why did this kind of club exist? She could sort of see it becoming popular in the same district as her father worked. But at school? The rich aristocratic school that offered scholarships to universities that was nothing to sneeze at? The Host Club was swarmed wherever they went for this kind of performance? Tamaki had explained to her that it existed because rich gentlemen wanted to serve ladies with too much time on their hands.
That really begged the question on how they had too much time on their hands in a school like this? If Haruhi dropped a grade in the class ranking twice in a row, she would lose her scholarship to attend. Since it was a private school, the costs were astronomical. The classes were vast and plentiful, the teachers knowledgeable and the few libraries that existed for books had origins from all over the world. How does these ladies find the time to be plagued with boredom?
She raked her fingers through her hair, fingers snagging at her hair tie, and sighed. Haruhi absently fixed it. Then again, her father worked in a similar club. She shouldn't be too harsh.
"Dog? What are you standing there for? Get jasmine tea for this lovely lady, will you?"
"Oh my," the fluttery voice answered, "Tamaki-sama..."
Then again, maybe this just wasn't her thing. Haruhi turned to Tamaki's station and bowed her head lightly. "Please wait a moment."
"Dog?" The light voice paused, before brightly exclaiming, "Tamaki-sama, did you get a pet?"
"Oh no, not quite. You see..."
Haruhi ground her teeth and actively ignored the words. This was about the seventh time Tamaki explained her presence to one of the customers. She really didn't need to hear another variant of it. Reaching forward with her left hand, she winced before turning the motion into a push with her shoulder instead. The kitchen door was one that swung, probably because of hands that would be filled with food and drinks wouldn't be able to open it any other way. She should probably remember that. That wasn't the point though.
Haruhi just really really wanted to know why a music room had a small kitchen attached to it.
She rolled her eyes. Rich school. Rich kids. Wasn't that answer enough?
Rubbing absently on her wrist, she plucked the tea blend onto the tray alongside the cups, quickly scanning the small list on what this particular customer's preference was. Kyoya had handed her this after making her sign a simple confidentiality contract, but it really did come in handy. Her eyes caught on the customer's picture and the accompanying text. Two sugar, no milk? But Tamaki enjoyed his tea with milk... Alright then, she would just have to bring both with her to the table. They already had sweets, so she wouldn't need to refill it for a time yet.
"Gah!" She jumped, turning around with both hands clutching the beaker of milk to her chest. "Don't do that! You startled me!"
Hunny dropped his sunny smile and peered at her in concern. "Sorry. Didn't mean to do that." Mori behind him made the same expression, though much more subdued, and nodded in agreement.
Well, now she just felt silly. "No worries." Setting down the milk on the tray, she turned back to them. "Anything you need? I'll be along shortly if you can wait."
"You know, Haru-chan, you really should be taking it more easy on yourself."
Her eyes flickered between them. Why did the mood suddenly turn so grave? Haruhi, while slightly taller than Hunny, felt dwarfed from the look he was giving her. It was pointed and entirely something Haruhi herself would give if she heard an idiotic statement. It felt weird being the recipient of it.
"I don't know what..." The pointed look remained. Shifting to her hand that she had subconsciously tucked back into the left pocket, and then back to her, his eyebrow raised. "... Oh."
"The vase didn't cut into your hand, did it?"
"No, no." Haruhi smiled, waving her other hand and backing away when he walked forward. "I'm fine, really. Thank you for the sentiment –" The kitchen aisle stopped her retreat. She couldn't easily escape either, too much effort needed to take the tray, sidestep Honey and dive out the door behind Mori's large frame.
Honey took another step forward when she slumped in defeat. He reached forward, seizing her arm in a deceptively light grip. A tug proved that his arms were more like steel bands than anything else. His hands were gentle though, eyes holding hers steadily before she grimaced and allowed him to pull her hand out. She had forgotten to put on the compressor in the morning, so the wrist was revealed in all its achy splendour. It looked better than before, the angry red had blotted out to a simple irritation and the swelling not as bad. Honey studied her wrist carefully, angling it with great care so she barely felt the usual twang that came from stretching.
After a moment more, he looked at her again. "What happened?" Awkwardly, she glanced around the kitchen. She must have lingered on Mori, because Honey chirped, "He saw too."
Her grimace twisted into a sigh. "I thought you two only just came in when that happened."
"We did," Honey agreed cheerily. "We came just in time to see it happen from a good angle. Tamaki-kun really should be more careful with new guests." Tilting his head cutely, eyes curved and with a chirping voice, he demanded, "Stop stalling."
That contradicting appearance really struck a chord with her. That sweet and menacing persona. Where had she seen...? She brushed the thought away even as it lingered in the background and focused on the present instead.
Including Mori when she gave a wry smile, Haruhi nodded in acceptance. "That morning, a car bumped into me. It was an accident. Both the driver and passenger apologized to me, so there really was no harm done."
"Except for your wrist."
"... Except for my wrist," she allowed.
Honey didn't look like he really believed her but he dropped the matter. Taking out a roll of bandages from his back pocket, he expertly rolled it around her wrist and tied it off within a few seconds. She blinked, taken aback. He smiled at her. "There you go! It doesn't look like that bad of a sprain, but you really shouldn't exert it too much."
"I know." She nodded, awkwardly pulling back her wrist. The bandage gleamed, fresh and white against her skin. If she didn't know any better, she would think it had been done by a Doctor. He must have had experience with these sorts of things. Haruhi smiled. "Thank you."
"Don't mention it!" He chirped. "You're part of the club now. We take care of each other."
Haruhi blinked. Really, this was just uncanny. Had she seen him before...? The familiarity lingered even as slowly, a smile spread, matching his radiance in warmth. Whatever it was, it could wait. "Thank you." Maybe this club wouldn't be so bad afterall.
It was his turn to blink, his expression turning quizzical.
"I really should be going now, before Tamaki-senpai is forced to leave his guest and look for his wayward tea." She took the tray, sidestepped Honey and left behind Mori, walking back into the warm glow of the music room. Tamaki impatiently waved a hand for her when he saw her.
"Yes, yes, I'm coming."
The bandage peeked out from under Ritsu's borrowed jacket, and she smiled at the sight. While she really could have done without, this club might not be too bad.
"There. I've cleaned up now." Haruhi brushed back her hair, tightening the tie that kept it from her face.
Kyoya didn't even glance up from his laptop screen, fingers continuing unimpeded across the keyboard. "So you have. You can go then."
"Alright. Take care!"
He lifted a hand in farewell, and she shook her head dubiously, leaving him alone in the music room. The other hosts had already left, picked up by their own private chauffeurs a few minutes prior. She had rushed through the cleanup, expecting it to take an hour considering the size of the room and accompanying kitchen, dressing area and cupboard for storage. Instead Kyoya had been satisfied with clearing away the cleaned dishes and folding the tablecloths because the school had a professional team of cleaners that would handle the rest.
Sometimes she doubted the sanity of rich people. This time was one of them. Why force her into a contract when they already had people that filled the exact same role? Professional ones, too?
Haruhi shook her head and mentally threw up her arms at the futility of understanding them.
Bah. Rich people.
That tingling feeling returned at once, impossible to ignore. Someone was watching.
Haruhi took a few measured steps forward, unhurried and head bowed over her phone. Nothing to see here. The feeling remained, however. She took a deep breath, and then –
She whipped around, eyes darting around and looking for anything that stood out. Some students from higher years eyed her oddly but ultimately ignored her and continued walking. A dark form quickly disappearing from around the corner caught her attention. There! Haruhi hurried back from where she had come from, rounding the corner and expecting to find someone familiar.
Except, no, nothing.
There was an alcove there though that she had missed at first. Shadows clung to the space, the lamp above obviously broken and old, considering the dust over it.
Haruhi stared at it, eyes narrowed. The feeling had disappeared. Had she imagined it?
Although she might wish it, she didn't have time to investigate. Haruhi checked the time on her phone once more and hurried off. A quick glance back made her pause, however. She fixed her glasses back on her nose, blinked, and then shook her head. Seeing a pale-yellow cat peeking out of a window? She really needed those lenses to come in the postage soon.
Haruhi fiddled with her phone and thought about the incoming session with the kintsugi master. She even thought about her day at school and wondered how the remaining three years in Ouran would pan out. Considering her middle school... Haruhi had better gird up her loins and expect a bumpy ride.
She did all of this while completely distracted. Haruhi felt those eyes on her. Felt someone watching her leave the school, and even further out, the feeling persisting as she slipped inside the subway train.
Haruhi pursed her lips.
Rich child? Someone from the Honey Club? Yakuza? Mafia? Someone else wanting to kidnap her? Or maybe –
Haruhi paused in her inward tallying list. She went over it once more. And then again.
She slowly, ever so slowly, pressed her face against her hands. Breathed in. Breathed out.
What even was her life if those options needed to be asked?
They were completely reasonable considering her past experiences, and that was completely Haruhi's point. Why? She groaned. She was a sensible person. Honest.
Her phone ringing had her looking up, smiling in apology as she retreated into a corner of the subway train and answering.
Ami's voice filtered through.
"Yes... No... It's been a long day." Haruhi settled back and shook her head, despite Ami not being able to see her. "I'll tell you later."
And it's not even been a week.
She could only imagine the chaos when Ritsu finally comes.
A/N If I would name this chapter anything, then it would be; The mystery of the Shadow King. I'm having a bit of trouble managing all of the characters I've introduced without falling back on canon episodes or simply stashing them in a corner. But I've done some planning, thrown in some red herrings among plot points, drafted a rough 'episode' list, and we shall see how it will go. Any comment will, as always, be appreciated. Thank you for reading!
Stay artsome, and see you all at the next chapter! I'm still alive and will continue this story. Nothing has been abandoned, I promise.