Even if I had a proper plan to foolproof my life against the whims of seemingly normal everyday schoolgirls, inexplicably something would happen. That was the kind of power I'm up against. No amount of planning can circumvent divine decree. If I were to declare checkmate, the board would be thrown up in the air, pieces scattered across the floor. With no small portion of certainty do I say that I would likely be the one picking up the pieces.
From time to time I stop to think and wonder whether any of this is my fault. Perhaps it's my indecisiveness, my "let the wind carry us" attitude. Then I remember I don't have that kind of attitude under all outward appearances. I am merely resigning myself to the only choice available. It's tricky, maintaining your sanity while operating under a supposedly predetermined pretense. Sometimes I like to imagine that I still have free will.
So I ran all the way across the city to its pride, the domed stadium that went up only what, three years ago? Within its walls I may have made one of the biggest mistakes ever.
Of course, I can't really imagine what is a mistake anymore. Recently I've found myself lacking in assurance and determination. My decisions have been somewhat arbitrary, and rather than following the desires of the heart or any other applicable organs I've been operating more or less on whim.
So I made a phone call that Sunday morning, and I arrived in the park in accordance with the arrangement I made, right on time.
She, of course, was punctual as well. She wore a simple shirt and pants today and while that was not as alluring as many of the other outfits I've seen her in it was enough to make me almost doubt my cause. I remained resolute, despite the doubt running across my countenance and I addressed her in what was surprisingly a calm manner.
"Look," I said. "I don't think this is going too well."
"What isn't going too well?"
"This thing." I gesticulated in a way which was the least likely to get my point across. "You know, us."
She tilted her head. "It's not? That's impossible. Everything I've done has been calculated to within one hundredth percent."
She smiled up at me and just from that I could feel my heart starting to race.
"Everything has been arranged without you knowing. This--" She repeated my gesture and I had to bite my tongue to maintain my silence, for it was unbearably cute and terrifying. "--is a statistically successful relationship."
"Actually there were a few options I hadn't considered." She seemed troubled for a moment. "Well, there really was no need to create a potential scene. Everything was within acceptable ranges."
Shock and disbelief mixed in my countenance, topped off with a small dosage of onsetting depression. "Ryoko, what are you talking about?"
She waved off the question. "Forget about it. How was your visit to the dome?"
"You know about that?"
"Relax. Just tell me what happened."
It seemed that this week I had been plagued with some sort of anemic disorder. Not that I had been suffering in the physical sense but I could recall several moments over the past few days where I had blacked out for at least a two second span. It wasn▓t a particularly long period of time and I freely admit that I▓m not exactly a bastion of good health but the frequency of these episodic bouts of unconsciousness roused a small bit of concern. At the advice of a knowledgeable friend I began taking dietary supplements, hoping that they would alleviate the symptoms of what I had assumed, no, prayed was a temporary problem.
In hindsight, I could easily have guessed that my current bout with luck would deny me any such comfort. Oh, well. I was quite surprised that in my mad dash out of school and into the city, dragging a bewildered and quite possibly angry brigade chief behind me, that my problems seemed to continue stacking themselves. It was quite a miracle actually, that despite my wavering consciousness my body proved quite capable in maintaining a straight path to that destination that on a whim I felt compelled to go.
If only I knew where it was.
Although my initial reaction was one of defeat, a few moments thought convinced me that despite what was going on I should give in to what would be the quintessential human reaction and panic.
I doubted that what I was doing looked good. A young man dragging a girl behind him was a rather suspect scene, and her protests weren't helping at all.
"What's the matter with you?"
"Where are you taking me?"
"Stop, you're pulling too hard. Let go!"
I didn't reply. Eventually she resigned herself to the notion that I wouldn't deviate from our path and stopped protesting. This brought about a measure of relief, but sparked a new worry.
Do I even trust myself that much?
We stopped at a busy intersection and for the first time during the entire trip I looked up. The crowded thoroughfare was a familiar one and the sight of it brought back memories.
"Ah," I said aloud. "I wanted to come to the stadium."
I let go of her hand and began to make my way across the street. I was walking at a relaxed pace now, no longer feeling a sense of urgency in the back of my mind. In fact it was exactly the opposite. Everything seemed very clear now.
Haruhi hesitated for a second, then followed after me.
It was empty, of course. We climbed to the highest seats and I stared out over the empty building.
"Have you ever been here, Haruhi?" I asked.
"One time before." She answered, a hint of bitterness on the tip of her tongue. "I didn't like it."
It struck me as something of great interest, this subtle hint of emotion. Out of all the things in the world, Haruhi did not announce displeasure with many things. There had to be something significant with this event.
"It was in elementary school. My family went to a baseball game. At the time I had no particular interest in baseball, but when I arrived, I was in absolute shock. The number of people filling the stadium was stunning, I had never seen anything like that before in my life. All these seats, each holding a person. There were so many I couldn't pick out individuals. I asked my dad how many people there were and he estimated around fifty thousand. Considering that pales in comparison to the actual population of Japan and even that is a tiny drop in the bucket known as the world, it was disheartening. I thought that I was special, unique amongst everybody. That moment made me understand how insignificant everyone is, and I still think about it a lot."
I almost laughed. That was enough to bring our brigade chief down? That was all it took?
"Haruhi, look at this place now. Even though you were amazed by how many people filled up this stadium, isn't the lack of people equally impressive?"
She followed my gaze as I tried to lead her in coming around to my point of view, but she didn't understand.
"It's like the outside world doesn't exist right now," I told her. "After all, you can't see it right now can you? Can't hear it right now? All you know about the outside is just a collection of memories. Without the sights and sounds of the outside world, we might as well be the only two people in existence. Just us."
Then I yelled her name at the top of my lungs.
"Idiot!" She started hitting my arm. "What are you doing? I'm right here."
My shout was still echoing, bouncing off the ceiling and the empty chairs. I saw a brief glimmer of understanding in her eyes.
"If I wasn't significant, any old guy could have brought you here to show you this. If you weren't significant then it could have been any old girl standing here with me."
For the first time ever, Haruhi seemed embarassed and confused. For the first time in a while, I remembered that she was cute.
I checked my watch. "Oh, school's just about over. Guess that was all I wanted to show you, sorry for taking up your time."
I made to leave but her voice stopped me. "On excursions, brigade members should ensure that their superiors arrive at home safely."
"Oh, is that a new rule?"
"More or less, that was what happened."
"Ah, so that's how it was. Good to know."
Asakura smiled at me again.
"That's it then."
"Our relationship. That's it."
I was suddenly confused. "Wait, I didn't--"
She placed a finger on my lips. "Kyon, hush. The reason I originally approached you was in order to collect certain data, I had to set some things in motion. Everything went according to plan so you should return to your normal life."
My life wasn't exactly normal, but how could she say that?
"I know it seems a little bit cold but," she pointed behind me, "I think you'll manage."
I followed her finger and saw, standing not 30 feet away, Haruhi. I walked up to her, fearing that she saw me with Asakura.
"Haruhi, what are you doing here?"
"What, are you stupid? You're the one who asked me to come."
Chalk up another member of Haruhi's circus.