"Before the Rising" Chapter 3:

After that bizarre experience, you would've thought I was gone for good. Wrong.

I opened my eyes, and felt a bit of a headache. Some painkillers then would be good, but I was too dazed to think rationally.

I realized I was down on the floor, so I sat up slowly and started to look around.

The houses, the scenery, even the atmosphere had changed. They were more futuristic and kind of grim.

Reality truly had changed.

I stood up and I had the desire to search for Haruhi. She was the leader of everyone, or at least she will be.

"Looking for Haruhi isn't difficult at all." Someone said from my back. I recognize that voice…

I looked behind my shoulder and I felt warmth and happiness all over my body. I found Koizumi, Nagato and Asahina. Yes! Haruhi wanted them here! Thank you, Godde-ahem… They wore some futuristic yet gothic, military-styled clothes, only on different colors. I also realized that I wore those same clothes, too.

"Suzumiya-san is quite a celebrity here!" Asahina remarked. Oh, really?

"Affirmative. In this sector, Suzumiya-san is a recognized person." Nagato replied.

"In fact, she ordered us to ´drag you' immediately to the reunion." Koizumi said. Wait, what reunion? The SOS brigade again?

"You'll see" Koizumi smirked.

We walked to what seems to be the back of a high podium. We used some… elevator kind of thing to go up. When I reached the top, I finally saw Haruhi. It was impossible to miss her!

She was dressed in a beautiful gown of bright gold, decorated with a peculiar design that looked like an embossed "H". A golden laurel wreath of the sort worn by the ancient Caesars of Rome adorned her head. She looked positively radiant, as though glowing with power from within. Tearing my sight from the admittedly glorious image of Haruhi, I looked towards outside…

I saw hundreds of THOUSANDS of individuals standing there, looking at the podium. Never in my life had I ever saw that amount of people on one place! Not even in a concert! In fact, many of the people down there were downright huge compared to the average human, and they were wearing some kind of spacesuit or armour, just like those figurines Koizumi brought!

"About time, you slacker!" Haruhi yelled at me. Hey, I just woke up from that nausea-inducing change of reality.

She turned to the people and I noticed a small microphone disguised as a button on her gown.

"My followers! As I promised before, it is time to reunite the whole of Mankind into one sole Imperium, for the glory of Humanity! As a start to our noble undertaking, we shall begin by conquering the whole of Terra from the petty warlords that plague our beloved planet!" Haruhi yelled.

The people cheered wildly. The hottest idol singers back in our time could not hope for a better response from their comparatively paltry audiences.

"With our Adeptus Astartes and the latest technology on Terra under my command, our victory is assured!"

Once again, the people cheered her.

"And now, to you, I present my subordinates and, most importantly, your commanding officers!"

Yes, they cheered again. Louder and louder each time.

"Leading the Inquisition, we have Koizumi Itsuki! He shall seek out the alien, the heretic and the daemon that threaten our safety and our way of life!" Haruhi yelled, pointing at him. The crowd cheered now at Koizumi. He, in response, just waved graciously to them, since we were not equipped with any microphones.

"Leading the Imperial Navy, the powerful force of the skies, we have Nagato Yuki!" Haruhi yelled, now pointing at Nagato. The crowd cheered too, but she didn't do something in response.

"Leading the Adeptus Custodes, my personal guards, we have Asahina Mikuru!" Haruhi yelled, pointing at Asahina-san. She shyly smiled and waved hello to the crowd. The crowd cheered again, with the male members of the crowd apparently in a state of religious rapture. I know Asahina-san is cute and all, but this is overdoing it.

"And finally, leading the Imperial Guard, those ordinary men and women who want to fight for me and lead us to victory for the peace of mankind, we have Kyon!" Haruhi shouted with a particular intensity. Was she still mad at me for being late?

Wait a minute. What?! Me?! A leader?! Are you putting into my hands that many lives?! No w-

The crowd cheered at me. Wow. Ok, that really feels good. It bumped up my self-esteem to previously unreachable limits. Haruhi, at least you could've used my real name instead of my nickname. Arrgh! What am I thinking?! I shouldn't be a leader in the first place!

"I still have some items on my agenda left unsaid. They need to know without a doubt why we fight. Oh, of course the Space Marines are utterly loyal already, but I think the common men and women of the Imperial Guard require further illumination. We meet at the HQ later, as soon as this rally is over. Dismissed." Haruhi said to us. We took the floating platform again, this time to descend. "As you know, our plans have a bright future to all citizens, but that future must be safeguarded against…" Haruhi was saying until her voice was lost in the distance.

As we were walking to the HQ with Koizumi leading the way, escorted by huge gold-armoured warriors that I later learned were the Adeptus Custodes, I talked to them. Is she really the Empress now?

"In a way, yes. That's how the story starts." Koizumi said. "Though I don't know the Warhammer 40,000 story very well, I think it should be that way. Funny." What the hell's funny?

"She's playing god when she really is a god." Koizumi replied.

Trivial matters aside! Is there any way to change this reality back to our normal reality?

"The only way to do that is that she finds this reality boring and wants to go back to our original world. However, she is really obsessed about being a true ruler of this galaxy, so this might take time. I don't think even a century would suffice. Maybe not even a millennium." Koizumi said.

"Affirmative" Nagato said.

What? Not even a CENTURY?! Not even a MILLENIUM?! By the time she wants to go back, we will be dead, feeding roses!

"According to this reality's standards, highly ranked leaders and officers in military hierarchy will live longer." Nagato remarked.

"True." Asahina said.

Huh?

"You see, the leaders, the generals and all high ranked people are granted with one gift: extended life beyond any normal standards." Koizumi explained.

Extended… life?

"Of course, dying from unnatural causes such as from fatal wounds is still possible in this reality. However, since we're high ranked and everybody's going to be protecting us, we will technically live hundreds, or maybe thousands of years." Koizumi said. "However, as time goes by, we also age. So, to live longer, we might have the need to become cyborgs or something like that. Or maybe we are truly immortal, with our physical appearance forever youthful. No one knows for sure right now."

This is really ironic. I always wanted to live a long time… but in the normal reality. Here, where peace was not found, the last thing I wanted was an extended life to see the sufferings of the world.

I really feel like committing suicide right now.

"Don't say that!" Asahina yelled at me, looking like she was about to cry.

"Executing that command will greatly affect the course of this reality." Nagato said.

"Listen, Kyon. Don't even entertain the possibility to return any time soon. It's futile." Koizumi said, looking serious.

But… I really want to go back…

"So do us." Asahina said with homesickness apparent in her voice.

"This is our new story. An adventure that will last forever. Now we are the leaders of the human race in this galaxy and we are leading them to survival. We won't be able to return until Haruhi tires of this universe or until she deems our mission complete. In any case, you could take it as us lending a helping hand to the humans of this universe. Are you up to it?" Koizumi asked me, extending his hand out to me. I reluctantly shook it. Asahina and Nagato also reached out and enfolded our hands in a warm and reassuring grip. Indeed, it has been a while since the brigade was so…united?

If we succeeded, we would be able to return to our universe and save the people of this universe in the bargain. If we failed….I did not want to think of what would happen if we failed.

Without realizing it, I became Atlas. I had to carry a big weight on my back for the sake of the old Earth, my family, my friends, my memories, my feelings and the people of this galaxy. And it was a really big weight.

A weight called Empress Suzumiya Haruhi, and this… is my never-ending adventure.