AN: Welcome, dear readers. This story ties in with Elusive Dominion and Architecture. As such, it is advised to read at least the former before reading this story.

As you enter the maze of Suzumiya Haruhi, remember that not all answers come easy, and that vines of confusion always hide the truth.

- Cytrus


School playgrounds. Four years ago. Tanabata.

And a location and time listed below:

Outside Michikata station. Twelve o'clock.

That was the unimpressive everything there was to the letter Haruhi found at her doorstep.

Haruhi rarely got mail. It was disappointing that it turned out to be some lame prank, a few worthless lines on low-quality paper. But she didn't care that much.

She didn't care. Didn't care. Did not.

She repeated it desperately in her mind like some sort of mantra, clutching the most important letter in her life in her right hand, breathless and running faster, faster! It was nearly twelve!

Tanabata four years ago. Her apparently failed attempt at communicating with extraterrestrial creatures. More importantly, her first and only contact with the self-proclaimed John Smith. The boy clad in the uniform of her current high school who declared himself a time-traveler. She didn't know who he was. But he was special. He was one of a kind.

She had chosen her high school, the place where she was supposed to spend three years of her life, based on the off chance of meeting him. Today, she came back home thinking of homework and the SOS Brigade. When she read the letter, dropping her plans, schoolbag, everything, none of it required a conscious thought of hers.

The people at the station never knew what hit them as she elbowed her way through their ranks. They didn't even seem to notice or care. "Danger", "typhoon to strike" – their slightly panicked voices just barely managed to reach her ears.

She had watched the weather forecast the day before – it was "warm, few clouds".

Finally, she fought her way into the open space in front of the station, the only place she could think of suitable for a meeting.

John Smith wasn't there, she judged immediately. Disappointment hit hard. But she wasn't being set up. There, in the middle of a rushing sea of bodies, stood a distinctly calm female figure, her back turned to Haruhi. The girl's short brown hair was almost familiar, and Haruhi decided it could be no coincidence.

In that instant, her meeter turned around and confidently headed in her direction, confirming Haruhi's suspicions. She did recognize the face – it was that old friend of Kyon's. Sasaki, was it? They had met once, twice maybe.

Haruhi couldn't see the connection. How could the girl know about what had happened four years ago? Rumors, most likely. That was to be expected. Why had she gotten so excited about it, anyway? What was it, then? If Kyon prepared this as some sort of practical joke she'd make sure he suffered terribly-

She was so caught up in her growing irritation she never noticed Sasaki closing the distance between them completely.

"Suzumiya-san. Even in these circumstances, it was a pleasure."

Haruhi blinked, broken out of her reverie. What did the girl want from her?

Sasaki extended her hand and rested it on Haruhi's shoulder.

First, Haruhi wondered what gave the girl the right to violate her personal space.

Second, she realized, with no logical reasoning behind it, but with painful clarity, that something horrible, horrible happened.

Chapter 1

Solitary Grave Visiting

The screech was tremendous as the chasm's jaws contorted, twisted and in what seemed a final desperate lunge enclosed her diminutive form in a prison of ebony.

Within the newly-born void, the gravity forces were akin to a rapacious predator – first sucking in all air and then moving onto stable matter, meticulously tearing it apart and devouring it with no forthcoming satiation. But the space was not left lacking – atramentous tendrils infused, pervaded it, resembling volcanic fumes emerging from a sea of obsidian – but they were not that. Because all similarity to existence had to be mere deception for what was not – the very nemesis of being, compressed, embodied non-existence, death realized and craving to extinguish, to undo.

Yuki Nagato did not yield.

0x08213db1 in pdoocihandlefactory ()#3 0x082068b1 in zimPDOdbhconstructor ()#4 0x084978b9 in executeinternal ()#50xb6589b51 inxdebugexecute internal (currentexecut0000000000xxxx#RETRY

This meant she was unable to reform surrounding data, there wasn't any, and

Caught exception: SQLSTATE42S02: pdoocihandlefactory: ORA-12154:

TNS:could not resolve the connect identifier specified (/opt/php/src/ext/pdooci/ocidriver.c:462)

The interference was damaging her – her corporeal, element-based anchoring structure system – body, yes, but even deeper, wishing to swallow her whole.

Celladdress val. K87763 Purge?

Celladdress val. K87763 Confirm?

This merely meant, there would be no justification for her holding back.

Yes.

The implosion dislocated her arm – that, she felt first. Then the piercing power exploded outward. It tore the appendage apart completely before passing through her frame and the stretching void, wrinkling both as if they were paper.

Throughout the whole ordeal, Yuki Nagato did not move, made sure not to twitch. The droplets of blood slowly streaming down her body remained undisturbed as an incandescent light enveloped her and shot out into the space around.

The boundary of her confinement reacted immediately, twisting away, bulging and cracking everywhere on its surface. The rays tore through darkness and shot outside – it was seconds before all that was left of the abomination to reality fluttered harmlessly around the humanoid interface.

But even long after the last of the dark mass crumbled away, she was still standing motionlessly, peering deep into the onyx eyes of her assailant – those perfectly round orbs were forever indifferent, even now, and they gave rise to so much terror not because they were so intent, but because the origin of that gaze was incomprehensible; neither logic nor emotion present to be read.

This, and a horrible extent of annihilating power, were all there was to the existence of Suou Kuyou.

For the most part, time passed as Yuki observed. The remaining part was there because the artificial space stretched even the fourth dimension to its limits, grinding each slipping second nearly to a halt, realizing it, capturing it again. Partial desynchronization was death. Humans couldn't even comprehend it, four-dimensional interfaces could barely avoid it, and Kuyou ignored it, utterly unaffected. It was the law of this all-defiled world, and the horridness of it was calming, emboldening.

She could still escape.

There was nothing around her. The surrounding data was void, burned into soot and then even further into garbled radiation. All connections had been terminated and, for the first time in her life, her data senses gave no response, almost convincing her she no longer existed.

She could still escape – she was a data entity. Even when her opponent renewed her assault – she could confirm that through the primitive light-reliant receptors her form possessed – she should still have dedicated herself to resolving the quagmire of broken data links and returning her consciousness to equilibrium. That was more important than blocking any attack – it ascertained her non-physical survival.

Except that for Yuki, the will to win took priority.

She leapt forward. The ground broke under her feet, the darkness lurched to follow, air swished in her ears and buffeted her short hair. And then she was there, the entity opposing her retreated – fell back a centimeter, maybe two. That was too little. That was too late! Her still-whole left arm swung, connected in a devastating blow.

Air waves could no longer ripple freely in the modified space. Which was why the noise of the bones in her hand and arm snapping never reached Yuki herself.

But she did feel wetness on her clutching fingers – another primitive sensation rapidly fading as her cells entered narcosis one by one – after a mere second's contact with the quantum life-form's anti-liquid intensities.

Even with half her head caved in, the Canopy Domain interface was unmoved, her gaze reminiscent of a dull, lifeless stone. There wasn't the smallest change in her demeanor as the reality around them began to shift once more. But the searing frost of Yuki's eyes bore no hesitation.

A single twist of her wrist – Suou Kuyou was no more.

The vacuum was reversed – the artificial space caved in and was sucked back into its birthplace, the energy infesting the area relinquished its hold, finally, the uniform mass of black which was once an alien crumbled and folded on itself, simply disappearing.

And then, for a split-second, through the gaping holes in the room's ceiling, Yuki saw the skies.

The heavens were black, angry, malevolent. And the boisterous thunders of theirs were little more than a preface to the typhoon which was soon to hit the islands. The weather forecast had said, not a day prior, "sunny, few clouds", Yuki had candidly hoped for snow, it hailed, and now she thought all of these were equally fitting to accompany the end of the world – and here she was, gazing at the skies while her friends were fighting and dying.

The magic moment ended when time and space forcefully realigned themselves.

It all exploded. Mass returned. Air expanded. Broken glass from seemingly nowhere soared like shrapnel. Objects combusted spontaneously. The building shook, swayed, stood still – swayed again. What remained of the ceiling fell in, crushing everything on its way.

And in the middle of this hell was the battered body of Yuki Nagato.

She stood, somehow. But that was all. Her eyes were closed – the explosive decompression had blinded them. Recovery process was in queue. She couldn't hear – the membranes in her ears were no more than shreds. Recovery process was in queue. Touch and pain receptors had been cut off when the amount of wounds exceeded ninety million. Recovery processes for those were far in the long, long queue.

She stood – an autistic child in the middle of a wasteland, desperately reforming data links.

Which was why there was no way for her to register the five dozen spears heading her way – she did not feel the impalement – the first thing she realized was the familiarity of the backdoor programs attempting to scramble her databases.

"-y, my, you shouldn't be so reckless with your body" as her hearing returned "Don't forget you need it to be in one piece if you wish to properly interact with surrounding data."

The tissue in her eyes reformed, and her eyelids snapped open.

Those graceful footsteps could belong to one entity only, Yuki knew, and indeed, the rogue humanoid interface was but meters away from her. Just as Yuki recalled, but had once been hard-pressed to appropriately describe, there was something raptorial to Asakura Ryoko. It was nothing alike her previous encounter – Kuyou had been void-incarnate and the destruction she heralded had lacked spirit, character. Ryoko was different, because the irises of her eyes invited flames to envelop her, because the very air they breathed would be infused and overcome with her intent. Asakura Ryoko's bloodlust had transcended mere data because, deep down, she had become human enough to truly feel it.

"Long time no see…"

And she remained inhuman enough for her deadly smile to be devoid of poison even as she severed life.

"…Yuki-chan."

The demon stopped, as if not wanting to thread upon the rivulets of blood now streaking under Yuki's feet in a variety of patterns. But this respectful distance only contradicted the pity and laughter in her sickly-green eyes.

Logic told Yuki not to react, to save every second she had for regeneration only. She disliked this judgment. She loathed embracing her own powerlessness in the face of provocation. If it were just her and her ambition, if she didn't have lives to save…

Ryoko frowned. It was good-natured, that frown, one of a child understanding why it cannot play, but wishing to nevertheless.

"He's nearly dead, you know, that Koizumi Itsuki."

She commented lightly, "gossip tone", she called it, used it, never comprehended it, enjoyed it, detested it – not the tone itself, maybe the way people would react to that tone and differently to another – as if the very same essence from which the words came did not have the right to be acknowledged.

Yuki didn't need to hear that, though. Because Ryoko was positive the smaller girl knew and understood.

"The interspatial collapse they manufactured not only sucked out Tachibana and her friends, but went on to skew gravity, cause earthquakes and make volcanoes erupt. Oh, and it tore most of them to pieces, too. Too much power, I suppose."

Yuki glared – Ryoko smirked. They both needed it now and badly – to hate each other like they couldn't before, to ascertain they were not as close to each other as they actually were – prime copy and backup, birds of a feather, sisters. That was so inappropriate and even more discomforting.

"You should see the time-travelers fighting, though. They are jumping all around timespace, preventing each other's births or discoveries, some of them, and the rest just changing random things in the past, hoping to affect the future. How absurd it all seems, with our knowledge. But we were jealous of them. You were jealous and I was jealous. Of their freedom of absurdity."

The time was drawing near, they both knew. Because it was only for so long that Ryoko could maintain a clear advantage while doing nothing to capitalize on it – already Yuki's arms were almost completely reformed, her recovery becoming ever faster.

"Your data patterns have changed." the smaller interface spoke up for the first time "You've breached the modification limits of the Integrated Data Thought Entity's proscriptions. Explain yourself and abandon this forbidden activity."

Ryoko's frown grew deeper, angry. Yuki was to be the only one to ever see the blue-haired girl frown this way, but Ryoko despised deception, couldn't stand being played with. Not that she failed to understand the need for it – her understanding of "interactional dynamics" had already surpassed that of any human by light-years – but logic would fail to overcome her emotions again and again. She was born like this, faulty, some would say, to this world.

"Acknowledge me!"

Her voice was playful steel and jocular iron.

"This is the Integrated Data Thought Entity and the Macrospatial Quantum Cosmic Existence combined. This is the furtherance of our ambitions and dreams – our evolution!" Already she was losing control "The Entity is static! It's doomed, dead, hopeless! It needs to be forsaken to reach new heights!" the green glow in her eyes grew more apparent "I want even you, only you of them all if there is no other way…"

"Acknowledge this!"

The answer to Ryoko's fervor was silence. After all, there was no objective reason for Yuki Nagato to answer to such mad, senseless ramblings. She could gain no advantage through responding, there was no obligation for her to do so, and anything but staying silent would be a needless comfort.

So she wouldn't answer.

Why would she?

"The continued existence of the Integrated Data Thought Entity as is has long ceased to be mine priority also."

Human eye would be too lacking to see them exchange blows.

Ryoko's left arm penetrated Yuki's innards just as the right one crumbled into radiant dust.

They stood still.

"Even then, that first time" Asakura spoke, and her voice was laden with a curious melancholy "You shouldn't have been able to beat me in my own data jurisdiction field, any difference in ability notwithstanding… Were you already mingling your data with that of Suzumiya Haruhi? Were you trying to find out how far you could go beyond your inborn abilities?"

Pause. Yuki couldn't answer. She couldn't breathe. Couldn't repair the damage done. It was surprisingly, awkwardly painful.

"This is the same, in a sense. I have your data sectors analyzed from before you destroyed me. And now, the Quantum Existence allows me to dampen even the smallest amount of data manipulation they could produce. One infinitely small energy bubble for each of your data sequences, placed and formed perfectly for this task only. I've made you… quite human." her smile widened earnestly "One of the things you've always wanted, isn't it?"

Yuki stared at her wordlessly. One of her hands grasped Asakura's arm still embedded in her stomach, trying to pull it out. Ryoko ignored the effort entirely.

"You have brilliant eyes, you know?" she quipped "Somehow, they seem even more intent than I remembered them."

Yuki stopped struggling and raised her other trembling hand to Ryoko's face.

"Hostile program analyzed and identified: Asakura Ryoko. Preparing for target data structure removal."

Ryoko simply smiled.

"You cannot."

For an excruciatingly long time, they kept silent. There were some things which could not be conveyed in words, but could be understood without them.

And then, after four years, everything ended, with the words of the reticent interface-

"Your analysis was outdated. I no longer…"

-quietly-

"…wear glasses."

-and a bright flash following them.

XXX

Haruhi twisted away in revulsion, Sasaki's face momentarily blurred in her vision.

Not a second later, she was grateful for their separation – the sky roared. The clear blue cloudless sky roared and spit out thunder. It made no sense.

And then she was blinded. It hit, two steps away from her, right into the awaiting, accepting Sasaki.

And then she flew, light, uncontrollable like a feather in a storm.

And then she came to. Regained her sight to see a different world. A world with no sun strong enough to pierce the brewing clouds, with a short-haired angel of destruction surrounded by people too stupefied to flee in terror, a world no less surreal than the ones she had so fervently sought.

It was the same old world, only Haruhi wouldn't accept it, it made no sense. It made no sense.

Sasaki raised a single finger, without hesitation, a small finger of hers, and all the people watching snapped like dolls, raining a shower of blood.

It made no sense.


AN: Review and save the God-Empress xD! Until next time!