Title: Unmasked
Category: Anime/Manga » TMoHS
Author: xXxJazzy B. RealxXx
Rating: Mature
Genres: Horror/Violence/Romance
Published: August 13, 2008


∞ Disclaimer:

I do not declare ownership of the characters that are used in this non-profit work of fanfiction.

Inspired by the verses to, "Can You See Me Now (Clowns)" and "Sacrifice" from TATU, I was moved enough to dramatize a darker interpretation of Itsuki Koizumi's innards. As a throw back to my inspirations, lyrics from the Russian pair will {vaguely} summarize each chapter. The symbol (*) will indicate that an event or quote is from canon material. If this is your first time reading this story, then please head straight to chapter fourteen's Author's Note after you've read chapter one.

Happy reading!


¶ Chapter: The Demolished Man


"Clowns will only let you know where you let your senses go..." ~ T.A.T.U.


It wasn't a soothing sight to behold: unicorn-shaped clouds pillowing the red sky to sensationalize one's eyeshot of the sunset.

It didn't win him.

Not when rain could've given his melancholy a better cleansing. Yet, while he favored cat-and-dog weather over sunshine, he was usually able to at least smile nigglingly at it with a sense of nostalgia for those rainier days. Arms crossed and hand chin-clasped, the deputy chief licked his lips, supposing that maybe they were too dry to crack anymore smiles for the evening.

There was, in precise estimation, zero-point-zero activity in the S.O.S. Brigade's clubroom. A few exceptions might've been the clicking of a computer mouse, the shuffling of a book being thumbed through, the purling of tea being poured, and―of course―the coquetry between Mikuru and Kyon. Overseeing them from his shoulder, the deputy chief remained stationed by the window; careful not to invite suspicion. He would later relax his hands into his pockets and decide that he could no longer lie to himself: the problem was her.

Slipping his fingers through his bangs, he fell under the clock's ticking hypnosis and replayed the scene in his head...

Tick―tock.

Tick―tock.

Tick―tock.

Tick―tock.

They were late.

Tick―tock.

Unfashionably.

Tick―tock.

Such a bother.

"Miss Suzumiya and Kyon are certainly taking their time!" He would remember smiling at the clock; he would remember itching to smash its white face and tear out its black hands.

For the sake of better judgment, he kept the urge camouflaged under the aegis of his smile. Besides, the sun's rainbow-ringed precognition had become a rather popular extravaganza among the student body. Chair by the window, Itsuki could overhear campus gossip.

"I insist on saying there's an angel's halo around our sun! It must be foretelling Judgment Day!" The sun's audience said in their newscaster voices, giving him enough bigotry to foretell their academic scores.

"Bad weather is imminent," Itsuki explained to no one in particular as he stroked a bang away from his eye. "That is the message the sun's "halo" is billboarding."

He shook out his hair before entertaining himself to another round of chess. As he played alone, he didn't expect a reply from Mikuru Asahina or Yuki Nagato. It would have been unusual, really.

"A-Ahh~...Koizumi?"

The Moe character's arms were tucked into her apron as she trembled like a hen before a slaughterhouse. This behavior was not unusual for her character, but such exaggeration of it was usually reserved for Kyon and Haruhi. Circumspect by nature, he rotated his head by half an an inch, double-blinked, and gave her an innocent grin.

"Yes, Miss Asahina?" His organs contracted at his own voice—the voice of a boy who had no real flesh.

"Ehhmm..." Mikuru glanced at the tea kettle, jittering from the shoulders with knee-knocking anxiety. "Here's your...tea!"

Her shifty eyes made him suspicious enough, but the smile beaded in sweat gave her away. Mikuru's heels clacked across the floor as she hurried over to him with her titter-tottering tray, expectedly tripping on the end of her dress when she reached him. Squealing like a kitten, she just barely managed to balance the two cups of tea on the platter.

Itsuki helped steady her by the waist with the grace of a million charms. "Oh my, careful now!"―chuckle, chuckle―"Are you alright?"

"E-Eh―um," Mikuru's face went pink and blue. "Y―Yes, thank you, I'm...fine..." She handed him his cup with a smile. "The teait's not as hot as it was, but I hope you can enjoy it."

Itsuki thanked her for the offer as he cradled the bottom of the cup and gave the treat a test sip. Carefully inventing his next reaction, he hummed his compliments to the tea maiden, "Mmm, although it may have more of a tang than yesterday's, it holds the same excellence. Is this a new brand, Miss Asahina?"

She fidgeted once, twice―perhaps a full three times, and the little peeps she clearly wanted to squeal out were muffled behind her teeth-bitten lips. Itsuki paid a critical eye to the substance steaming in his tea cup and began to weigh out the chances of poison being the new tang.

Mikuru's head sank between her shoulders as she began to relay: "According to―...within an axiomatic transgression...and...you are...―ah no, this isn't right. One's responsibility as beta reader...ahh, this isn't right either. Uwah! U-Um, th―...there is a message...something that I...! I have been assigned to pass on an important message...! Yes..."

"Oh, really?"

Contrary to the sheepish face he gave her, Itsuki was miles from it. He could play dumb, but he was never stupid, for there was no better gentleman than a Cad wearing the bow-tie of one.

"Koi―zumi," Mikuru braced herself and looked him in the eye, voice surprisingly firm at the cords. "In the future, please do not overestimate the importance of the role as..."―her abashment was coming back up her throat, so she swallowed it down―"...editor of "Snow White" in this temporal plane. It reinforces the responsibility to edit the screenplay, but any investment outside and inside of that..." Mikuru's pupils suddenly enlarged as she clapped her hand over her ear.

The actor lost concentration on the canon personality he'd skeletonized for his character when his face gave way to a more genuine emotion. Yuki, who usually turned a blind eye from her associates during club time, had now looked their way. Itsuki looked from Mikuru to Yuki with the preying eye of a mildly-peeved Siamese, eyebrows suddenly snapping up with a type of, "Ah!" expression.

"Then, I presume, that must've been an omen of some kind?" The smile he faked wasn't pretty this time.

No answer; just the clock:

Tick―tock.

His hand clenched around his tea cup.

Tick―tock.

Mikuru whimpered despite the glare she wore.

Tick―tock.

Yuki pushed up her glasses with a mid-finger.

Tick―tock.

He squeezed it tighter.

Tick―tock.

Tighter.

Tick―tock.

Tighter.

Tick―tock.

"I understand." —Itsuki turned and drank his tea, continuing to grin.


That little lamb's bodement made his lips too stiff to grin more than five watts last week, and now his blue funk was following into this week. Their transaction was no anomaly at this point, however; he recalled himself saying crystal halos around the sun foretold bad weather.

"Deputy Chief!"

Itsuki flinched and turned around to face the brigade's pissed off Hell Cat. With her hands on her hips and a childish pout, her unmerciful glare was no more threatening than a girl in her terrible-two stage.

"Oh! Miss Suzumiya," Itsuki took on the grin of her ex-transfer student, even though the growl in her chest convinced him that his existence was on the slip of extinction.

Haruhi stuck her face in Itsuki's to inspect it, which made his lips strain wider. His shameless Commander was so close that he could smell last period's chewing gum, along with the mounds of deodorant overcoating the musk she had accumulated from sweating during gym's push-up exam. Itsuki's eyebrows curled higher as his closed eyes remained uplifted to hide his discomfort, but the sweat sheening on his temple betrayed him.

"Where's your head been for the last two weeks?" Haruhi squinted. "You've been attached to this window with an umbilical cord all afternoon, and you haven't been adhering to your duties, either!" The scrawny girl searched him―head bobbing up and down as she analyzed his stance before staring him blank in the face again. "...And your face..."

The heteroclite made a face like his was displeasing to look at.

"As guilty as charged, Miss Suzumiya..." The court jester held out both hands while his shoulders deflated. "Fortunately, the crime isn't as felonious as it appears. My concern has simply been preoccupied with my test results."

"Your tests? Hmph! Don't lie to me, Deputy."

His smile broke like a plate.

"Vice Commanders can't have their nuts and bolts unscrewed!" She wagged a finger, completely oblivious to the anxiety she had stirred in him. "He has to always be on his toes! If you can't keep up with the requirements the position demands―"

An unshakable chill ran down his tailbone before he went blank and muted her out. Haruhi's words were not the cause of this sensation, but rather, her terrifyingly accurate perception.

"Are you listening, Deputy?"

Had he really―truly―been so butter-fingered with trying to hide his melancholy behind the typical masquerade this week? Was she always going to be able to fish out the fibbery in his rehearsals now?

"Hey! Do you understand me or not?"

Apperceiving Haruhi's impatience, he returned to the daylight with a little piece of his mask missing. Itsuki's waist seemed to fold in half as he bowed before saying, "I understand, Miss Suzumiya."

Slighting her eyes at the Cheshire one last time, the Hell Cat marched off without a second look back.

'...That encounter ended sooner than it should've. Normally she'd choke her victim until the truth was gagged out in tears.' Itsuki's plastic grin relaxed into a smirk. Contradictory to its more relaxed feel, he was troubled.

The new year showed its changes in mostly her, and as the saying goes, change did not always equal improvement. In the physical range, the short haircut that once emblematized the length of her attention span grew back into its wild streamers. While it didn't river down her legs like it did in her first year, it was long enough to middle her back. He projected his speculations onto Kyon―almost on purpose―by telling the cynic that she must have specifically grown it out to wear ponytails. Ducking and dodging such adventurous topics became a ritual for Kyon, so his significant other reacted with wise-cracking counterarguments and a dismissive snort.

In the mental range, the year had trifled with Haruhi's emotional altitude. Housing a type of raw longing in place of last year's eccentricity, repressed libido and sugary whimsies were now locking horns with her conscience. "I am an energetic girl after all, plus my body has its needs, but I'm not dumb enough to take on this troublesome stuff...!"(*) Of course, subliminal drives have always "operated below the threshold of her consciousness" before then. They were too far under the surface to be distinct, but they were always intense enough to "influence her mental processing." She then decided to determine a diagnosis by combining existing statements. "A mental illness," she guessed. "All feelings are white noise."

She'd whisper that so-called "All A are B" syllogism over and over on her mattress as she churned the sheets; using only denial to narcotize her "hormonal imbalance." It was simple: Haruhi Suzumiya's humanity was ambushing her. The only imbalance he detected was her heavy-heartedness. It was human to fantasize about authoring one's own fictional romance and desiring every bathetic sensation that came with it, but romance was a villain in red to her. With Kyon's attention still rollicking around Mikuru and passionate pairs exploiting themselves in bathrooms, it was no wonder she aimed her pistol at the human heart itself.

Coveting romance behind the back-doors of her mind―or more precisely, the intimate subcategories under its title―and denying her right to bathe in them caused moodiness. She could be sitting quietly, twirling her hair with that Suzumiya-glare of hers, and he could sense her state of daze and unsorted melancholy. It was as if she could not make sense of her feelings and opted for depositing the hairiest ones into a trash bag. While she decided to contain it instead of cure it, Closed Space reacted. As he had mentioned to Kyon, he was concerned about the splurge of Closed Space, but he felt likewise when, "Miss Suzumiya was not herself."(*)

Itsuki's grin dimmed by another watt as he watched her yammer on about how a graveyard had more life than their clubroom.

"Koi―zumi," Mikuru braced herself and looked him in the eye, voice surprisingly firm at the cords. "In the future, please do not overestimate the importance of the role as..."―her abashment was coming back up her throat, so she swallowed it down―"...editor of "Snow White" in this temporal plane. It reinforces the responsibility to edit the screenplay, but any investment outside and inside of that..."

Bunny eyes with the adorable, butterball face of Mikuru Asahina would haunt him in his nightmares for a week more.

"That almost made me forget...—Kyon! Help Itsuki find his brain's nuts and bolts while I drop by the Computer Room!"

'"Itsuki"?' Itsuki's smile was cracking like glass.

"What happened to those blackmail photos?" Kyon mumbled over the rim of his tea cup, having been fairly content with the lax atmosphere. "And how many more payolas do you need to milk their president, Emperor Showa [Hirohito]?"

The voice of reason was automatically ignored by the voice of impulse. "Seventh sense tells me they're planning on pulling some shenanigans on our wireless, and eighth sense"—'There is no eighth sense!' Kyon's head screamed—"tells me they thought I wouldn't have been able to sniff them out beforehand, so the goal is to enslave their leader's best henchmen and force them into paying off their debts with elbow-grease!"

So Adolf Hilter was now donning sailor uniforms; go figure.

"And plus, we could use a few extra hands on the mops!"

Kyon held the knot between his eyebrows. 'I'm guessing Toyotomi Hideyoshi forgot to tell Haruhi that the idea of banning slavery was quite popular in the late 1500s...'

"And since Mikuru's behavior has been marking off her points too, it's time to earn back those tally marks, Mikuru!"

The computer chair Haruhi kicked aside went wheeling past Yuki in a whirlwind that took the chapters of her book with it. Pupils chasing the flying pages, the cyborg moved her hand up to hold them down, but the back-shelf's sudden earthquake caused her to turn and blink at the pyramid of books on the floor. If Kyon had to guess, it might've even made her eyesore.

"Kya!" Mikuru edged back as Haruhi stalked forward. "H―Hah, M-Miss Suzumiya...! Can't we consider an―nother way to negotiate with the president...?"

Mikuru's voice weakened into a squeak when Haruhi closed in with a cannibalistic grin. Kyon's compassion for the sinless Time Traveler cranked up five dials as he spectated the theatrical drama. After all, seeing such a bitsy, lily-white beauty decide to use his back for shelter inspired him to believe it was his duty as a man to protect the Cherubim from the Apollyon, but his heroic deed resulted in Haruhi mistiming her step and crashing into his chest. That hadn't been a part of his strategy at all, so when he suddenly felt his nipples being seared off through his blazer by the girl's glare, he wondered if it were too late to throw courage back into the sea. He compared Haruhi's expression to the contorted face of Kiyo, for those eyes were wildly similar to the dragoness in Japanese myth that'd been said to have sought revenge on a priest who'd fallen out of love with her. Evidently reenacting the fate of that very priest, Kyon felt his soul bid farewell to his body.

'Honestly, why me?'

Determined to get his spine back, he tried to give her tooth and nail with an argument that had the possibility to stick―

"Look, Your Excellency," Kyon folded his arms, sounding braver than he actually was. "If you plan on navigating in this world, why don't you hear out Miss Asahina's advice and negotiate professionally for once? You'd get what you wanted at a faster rate, Miss Asahina wouldn't have to play the role of God's sacrificial lamb, and we'd all be happy for a change." '...No "irony" intended on the God-metaphor.'

The weight of Haruhi's glare was still on his blazer, and unless his eyes were playing optical illusions on him, he believed to have seen a decimal of melancholy in it.

"Mikuru!"

The mascot's head popped up.

"A-Ah! Y―Yes?"

"Come on!"

Haruhi elbowed Kyon out of her way and snatched the third-year's wrist. The fire was everywhere―in her temper, in her snarl, and in her breath, but to make matters worse, she spat not one insult Kyon's way. If she had, this could've been passed off as a "normal event."

"Yuki! You're coming with us, so borrow my book-marker."

"Uwah! W-Wait! Pl...please, slow down~!" Mikuru's breathless sobs did not guilt-trip or stop Haruhi from dragging her past the doorframe and into the halls.

Yuki departed with them, and the room was left with Kyon and Haruhi's deputy chief.

"...Couldn't you have executed that with better...'craftsmanship'?" asked the latter.

This guy―was he complaining already?

"I was never good at arts and crafts." Kyon glared at the tall figure blaming him from his spot by the window.

There was nothing too dangerous about this person's smile, but the message in his eyes was transmitting very unpleasant signals.

"I understand that I didn't have much tact with it, but it's not like it was done for the shits and giggles of purposely making her..." Kyon tried to find a synonym for the word. "...sourpussed." '...I didn't want to say angry, but didn't that sound too goofy just now?' He accidentally let his thoughts escape into the current conversation: "Then again, there couldn't have been a better way of phrasing that sentence with Haruhi as the topic..."

It would have been more sensible to not reply to his self-talk, but Itsuki invited himself to Kyon's reflections anyway.

"You needn't worry about phraseology." Irritating his ally with another smile, he went on to address Kyon's first statement. "This is true from your standpoint, but that truth does not necessarily repair the situation. Instead of restating the problem, we should try to come up with a solution."

Making a point of that kind sounded like this sphinx of a person was blaming him. The tone was polite as could be, enough to make the Red Queen bat her lashes and curtsey for him, but that didn't alter the accusatory subtext. Nothing was more two-faced than his Charles Grandison act, as it was often used as a pipeline to splurt out careless opinions and indirect arrogance.

Armed to the teeth, Kyon sassed him right back. "There's nothing wrong with my gray matter, so you don't have to be a broken record. Don't you think I experienced trauma from that myself?"

He was positive that he was more unsettled by Haruhi's actions than this slippery fellow. Because she was in the same class as a flammable liquid with high volatility, it was screwy for such a detonative girl to keep her feelings boxed in without eventually blowing up on him. The situation could be compared to lighting a gas can on fire and finding the gas station completely intact.

"I have a theory―"

'It's for the birds!'

"Relying on pure hindsight, it's possible that your words were not the cause of Miss Suzumiya's change in mood. Perhaps the sight of you rescuing Miss Asahina and condemning her as the villain did trigger it, but the root must lie elsewhere."

"Is it even more possible to pigeonhole this as her brain simply being a madhouse?"

"Is it? I would classify this as a matter of the heart. I'm sorry, but I was under the impression that you might've understood the way this worked after all of our discussions concerning Miss Suzumiya's subconscious mind."

'That smile on his face...how irritating when it's fused with words like that!' He wasn't trying to seem spoiled, but Kyon was not in the mood for this today. "Your "scientific" psychoanalyses for the anatomy of Haruhi's brain have always detonated mine, so naturally, I might not be in sync with you."

"The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking."

Kyon's sarcastic look spoke volumes. 'No, you are not Albert Einstein, and I wouldn't call your beliefs "science" until Haruhi-tology has been printed in the text books.' "Your belief system about Haruhi being God and recreating this world four years ago "was aided by invention," wasn't it? It's a hair away from Thales's, "the Earth is flat and floats in water like a log," so commercializing beliefs like that would be an insult to people with common sense. I'd also like to throw Einstein's quote right back at you: "In so far as the statements of your geometry speak about reality, they are not certain, and in so far as they are certain, they do not speak about reality. You should take care not to make that intellect your God.'"

"Are you implying that the Organization's theory about this reality is false?"

"I'm saying beliefs of this nature have some personality, but they butt heads with the just-as-justifiable beliefs of Miss Asahina and Nagato, and unfortunately, this "God" does play dice with the world."

"But can we deny that Miss Suzumiya is a person with a sun and crown of twelve stars upon her head, while the Earth simply lies beneath her feet?"

'What sappy Greek novel did you get that from?' "What you call "God" is an eccentric girl who makes a mess."

"In contrast to the Organization's gospel, I do not believe in singular "Gods" or Deities obliviously living in a world that they themselves have created, and I've expressed these plot holes with you. The subconscious power of Miss Suzumiya has changed everything except mankind's need to rationalize the paranormal, and thus we, the Organization, lean towards paralleled explanations to rationalize the phenomenon that is Miss Suzumiya. There is faith in the possibility that our way of interpreting this reality could turn out to be paper-thin, but as I've also stated, Miss Suzumiya is the source of our powers, and this universal fact is irrefutable. The belief that she can either reconstruct or accidentally destroy this world is something each faction has agreed upon. If we were made to think otherwise, we would be troubled by our existence. My sanity's stability depends on this belief like a Christian to Christianity. This is the side I am with, and that can not be changed."

"From a subjective point of view, I think Western films like Inception and The Matrix had better roots for their axiological approaches on reality, and haven't you referred to ours as a possible dream or virtual world?(*)"

Itsuki flashed him an elusive grin. "So this is something you remember? That was my third eye speaking out. Do not think much of that kind of imagination. After all, there is no evidence to support a feeling in the bones. I have the talent of making incredibly useless things sound premonitory."

"I pledge "agreeance" with both hands, but I'm not as troubled by it as you are. Though as Thomas Jefferson might've said, "speeches measured by the hour, die by the hour," and I'll admit that I've been looking at the clock every once in a while for the past eight minutes."

With an apologetic smile, Itsuki freed Kyon from the conversation and returned to the window. No one said a thing for the remaining ten minutes, but Kyon was perceptive enough to sense his ally's plight. As he stood there in brown study, there was a sinister look on his face that should've never been introduced to his expression to begin with. It could be guesstimated that the expression was symptomatic of his mood towards the destruction Haruhi's Celestials were bound to create, but...

Kyon sighed.

He didn't want to do it, but he did it anyway, and while he was doing what he didn't want to do, he sooner than later discovered nothing could save him from another convoluted rambling now.

"..." Kyon squinted. "Are you sure you're not just being too paranoid? Your interpretation of it is already negative, and calling Miss Asahina's message an omen is over the top. There isn't enough evidence to throw it into the apocalypse-cubbyhole just because the undertone sounded scary."

"I suppose I should be grateful for your concern," Itsuki chuckled half-heartedly as he tapped a chess piece against the table.

If Kyon hadn't known any better, he would've graded this unusual show of impatience as a sign of future warnings. He began to wonder whether or not the serious demeanor that was Itsuki's potential personality would ever materialize in front of him. It couldn't still be hibernating at a time like this!

"I wouldn't rank the feeling as something of concernment compared to actual unsettlement, but I'm not as heartless as you think I am."

"I never had such impressions of you. It's been said once before, but you are a very kindhearted person by my standards."

"I really don't feel my ego being fed when you try catering to it with glib compliments."

"As expected of you."

A laugh, but not enough to divert Kyon from the Esper's melancholy. The assistant leader would not share any eye contact with him―a distinctive quality that triggered the emergency alarm in Kyon's brain―and now the cynic felt himself panic to pick a feeling to be ill with. Nonchalance didn't suit the situation, sarcasm would be like serving him cold fish, and uneasiness might've made the atmosphere heavier than what was necessary. While his mood was like an open vein, he highly doubted that he could request the Esper to lie horizontally on a couch and unleash the dormant feelings he usually kept inactive. Something like that required a crowbar over friendly chatter and rhetorical questions.

Like many actors, he wanted to keep his private self private. The Esper had changed his entire personality for Haruhi to fit the way her conscience imagined him to be, but to counterbalance her mysterious-transfer-student stereotype, he had to act like the exact opposite of one to parallel with her more rational thinking. It was in his best interests to stabilize her mentality, so even if she'd get bored with him in the future and carelessly toss him aside like a paper ball hitting the rim of a waste basket, the outcome of her mental stability was more important.

'...But Koizumi had let himself go today, in front of Haruhi, and she noticednot too happily,' Kyon added.

His lap-dog behavior and Colgate smiles were either over the top or not enough to costume the new temperament he was donning, and if it had Haruhi paying any kind of, "Ehh?" attention to it, then it was certainly more than him just having an off-week.

Kyon glared at the profile of Itsuki's smiling face. 'I also can't write-off Haruhi's behavior...'

Itsuki's catlike eyes sliced into Kyon's face for longer than what was comfortable. Without warning―and really, there should've been a warning for this―he exploded into the type of laughter that would make a trick-or-treater skip his house on purpose.

Muffling this shuddersome laughter into his fist, he went on to giggle, "For some reason, all of this has been causing my usual brain pattern to fluctuate; my withdrawal from reality is really quite phenomenal."

'Don't you mean troublesome? A regular person would be troubled, I think.'

He became serious―"As an overseer of Miss Suzumiya's status quo, I would not encourage obstacles for either of you, and this goes without repeating."

"I figured that much." 'I mean, you're a Kyon x Haruhi shipper or something creepy like that, even if you know your wishful thinking will never happen.'

As if that split-personality did not exist a moment ago, Itsuki folded his hands on the table and smiled like a pure-hearted Catholic boy. "Then, you can see why I do not understand Miss Asahina's perspective."

"...To be frank with you," Kyon raised a finger. "This almost reminds me of the time when the adult Miss-Asahina from the future told me not to get too friendly with the Miss Asahina in this temporal plane..."

"Is that so?"

"...Gch!" The odd noise that came out of Kyon's mouth when he hit another realization made them both jump.

"...Hm?" Itsuki blinked, before―"Oh! ...Were you considering what I think you were?" He leaned across the table as if to taunt him. "If you don't mind me saying, these are very odd thoughts for you."

"Tch! And you weren't thinking these same things just now? You read my mind by coincidence, so that must mean you were assuming something similar to me!"

"What you're assuming is something that is not in my role to play. As I've said before, that role was given to someone else, wasn't it? I wish for the story to carry on the way it was assembled. Miss Suzumiya and I..." he giggled into his balled hand again. "Yes, since this is coming from you, I should feel honored by that kind of assumption, but such an assumption would not be the case."

"You aren't giving my psychic skills enough credit here. After a year of this, you should know when I can tell you're talking backwards to convince yourself of the very same half-lie you're telling me in that moment."

"Oh? Can you also sense a few demons residing inside of me?"

"That's Lorraine Warren-psychic, you bastard."

Toying with his bangs as he grinned at him, Itsuki began to ramble: "Then taking your earlier hypotheses out of the picture, I can't put my finger on Miss Asahina's meaning. Cryptograms and Da Vinci Codes of this nature are really not my specialities, you see. Perhaps you can help me with this?"

"That's the language you speak in all the time!"

"Let's change the angle, then. Why do you believe her superior decided to toss me such a prophecy in the middle of sophomore year? I'd have more than enough self-control after four years of the same business, don't you agree? This recommendation from her could either be a predetermined event or a lie to elude me. If the former, it may mean that I somehow rewrite what was meant to occur in the future and lapse reality single-handedly. Or maybe you have some association with this omen?"

"Why are you asking me?"

"What could possibly happen, I wonder? It's beyond absurd, isn't it? I put you and Miss Suzumiya before myself; I have no interest in my own affairs."

"I don't feel like that last sentence was relevant unless you were pleading your case for something else, but do you want my honest opinion?"

"I'm not certain – I feel an anchor of sarcasm dropping in."

Kyon's eyebrow ticked. "Buy yourself a sense of humor before you leave here."

"Just kidding...sorry about that. As you were saying?"

"I would discuss this again with Miss Asahina herself. Running around in circles with questions, unless you're asking questions you already know the answers to, won't take you anywhere other than a dead end. It really can't be so predetermined, but maybe you are inviting your own destruction. After all, "any man who insists on faking an innocence that isn't there turns himself into a monster." At the same time, I have a hard time believing this isn't something deeper than own your psychological state."

Itsuki propped his chin up on his fingers like a solemn-faced detective exchanging secret information under a lamplight.

"Then you too believe this involves Miss Suzumiya's psychological state." He closed his eyes and smiled coolly. "I am a being who is an embodiment of Miss Suzumiya's unconsciousness(*), so therefore, our psychological states bisect. In this way, we are...interlinked."

A flashback of scattered phrases from another conversation floated up to Kyon's mind:

"...I'm envious of the deep level of trust between you and [Miss] Suzumiya. [She] always seems to count on you a lot, while you place a great deal of trust in her as well. Now do you understand why I'm envious of you?"(*)

Curiosity shined in his eyes. "...Do you find that unlucky or honorable, Koizumi?"

Opposed to the curiosity in his, melancholy had shone in Itsuki's. Kyon identified the look of half-cloaked feebleness with the same look the alternative-universe Itsuki gave him after he revealed his envy of Haruhi's interest in Kyon(*), but proceeded to justify them as the rightful match.

"Somewhere in between," Itsuki answered with a light-hearted laugh.

"...Then maybe this is why Miss Asahina predicts you'll be the one to alter something without even being conscious of it. If there's something you're building up or putting off, your reaction might be similar to Nagato's overload(*), so maybe something has to change, and maybe it'll end up being necessary."

"I have to reject this theory. You see, I have more faith in myself than Miss Asahina's premonition."

"If that were true, then why would you let it eat you up for so long?"

...A tickled Esper sat back in his chair and folded his arms. "How is it that you can see through my own smoke-screens better than I can?"

"You're not exactly the Morse Code, and if this does involve Haruhi...―what's so funny? Do you always have to be giggling like that?"

"Sorry, I just couldn't help but...espy an onslaught of jealousy when you came to that name."

"Don't get poetic about your hallucinations and just use grammar normally!" Kyon tried to keep his cool on a reasonable temperature. "That whole sentence combination was grammatically incorrect because of its subject alone!"

"Listen," the laughing attitude Itsuki was playing at left as quickly as it came. "I ask you not to misunderstand my earlier bias."

"What exactly are you trying to get across to me by making a statement like that?" Kyon's monotonousness didn't switch like Itsuki's mood. "This conversation was more or less about why Miss Asahina—"

"What about 'Miss Asahina'?"

Kyon and Itsuki found themselves facing the wrath of Haruhi as a duo this time. It was a quiet type of wrath, one that was clear, but bottled up in the stance of her hands on her hips, the scorch in her eyes, and her sugary chirp.

"Dah―I…" Kyon felt like flailing like a hapless chick. 'Wait, why the hell should I be so nervous about this? I don't even know what I did wrong!'

"Did everything go as planned, Miss Suzumiya?" Itsuki's 'tweet-tweet' saved the day. "Kyon and I were just debating over whether we should check in on you and Miss Asahina."

"..." Haruhi narrowed her eyes at his optimism and darted them back to Kyon.

Inside of Haruhi's pupil, Kyon could see the reflection of himself being burned alive as his fists banged on her cornea.

"...W―Wait, where's...Miss Asahina?" Kyon's line of vision panned horizontally―'I mean, Nagato's standing by the computer with Haruhi's manga, but...―wait, why IS Nagato horning in on Haruhi's belongings?' Kyon watched the interface flip through Haruhi's possession conscientiously. 'It's almost as if she's scanning...'

"Idiot! You're so predictable. Your face looks more retarded than what's normal for you when it squinches up like that." Haruhi threw a thumb over her shoulder to point at the sniffling Mikuru.

Although he was watching the silver-haired second year cease her investigations and return to the chair by the window, Kyon rebuked Haruhi, "You didn't use Miss Asahina as your sacrificial lamb again, did you?"

The angle of Itsuki's eyebrows changed before he stepped back into the conversation with a rescue-mission, "We had anticipated all three of you, Miss Suzumiya."

Haruhi dragged her office chair away from the book-pile, plunked into it, and then angrily spun around to face her computer. The hot blue flames could almost been seen engulfing her body and the chair as one. Was that smoke piping out of her nostrils or was that his unshakable hallunications at work again?

"All of you, clear out in the next five minutes. I'm locking the clubroom early today."

Kyon was Haruhi's ripcord; he released gas from the hot air balloon during emergency, but this year he seemed to be inflating Haruhi with even more hot air, which meant more work for an Esper or ten.

"I'm sorry! This is all my fault...!" Mikuru sniveled into her palms, poorly avoiding the intensity of Itsuki's stare.

Kyon cracked out a half smile for the maid-cosplayer, "There's no reason for you to blame this on yourself, Miss Asahina."

Two minutes had passed, and already Haruhi was kicking everyone out of the clubroom. Her barking combined with Kyon's, "It hasn't even been five minutes yet!" was crystal clear orchestra for on-lookers in the hall to hug their books and blink pityingly at. As each member lined up in the hallway, Itsuki began to wonder if Kyon was simply clueless of the on-coming apocalypse when he accepted Mikuru's invitation to meet him after school. It was not so much the ambiguous invitation that vexed him, but the fact that it took place in front of Haruhi.

Reluctantly, and with a few cute stammers and forefinger-twirls, Mikuru whispered the location into his ear, which was a move that unknowingly made the two look even more suspicious. Itsuki studied the languor movements of Mikuru and Kyon as their backs became specks. Checking his LCD screen for a signal, he heaved his school-bag's strap a little higher on his shoulder and glanced in Haruhi's direction. To his amazement, she was not power-walking at top speed, but staggering along the halls in a mood she'd been fixed in for the past week. The source? Unidentifiable.

He monitored the halls like he'd done earlier; taking the white walls and tall ceiling into appreciation, and then visualizing the plague of gray contaminating it all. It was not hard to picture that very hallway being showered in avalanches as a blue orge's fist bulldozed the school house. Tonight, there was no doubt the world as they knew it would be altered.

He had been blamed for allowing the world to be suctioned into a pit of nonexistence the first time, and then testified against for insufficiently guiding Kyon the second. As the protector and overseer of Haruhi Suzumiya's lifestyle―the director of the script that he revolved around her―he was being viewed in a weak light by four factions, one of which was his own. Alongside their doubt, he also questioned his ability and whether "Miss Suzumiya" chose him to be fated to her journey through life. Three strikes, fifty votes, and someone else would replace his station in supervising her from a position within or outside of the S.O.S. Brigade.

The Esper timed the patterning sways of her hair.

...And tonight will be his third strike.

"...Mm?"

Because he had been too busy eating his own heart, he really hadn't heard the steps of the taciturn bibliophile approaching him―if there had been any to begin with.

"...Miss Nagato," Itsuki acknowledged with a half-in-character and half-himself nod, reacting to her presence with a foreboding one of his own.

Holding out a stack of notepads to him like a monk egging a foreigner to look into their future, Yuki Nagato's oblong orbs met Itsuki's with purpose. She looked at the book-bag under his arm, which carried his communicator, and then locked her attention on him with thinning eyes. Giving her the expression of someone who was amused by the transition, the smiling sycophant took the materials she offered to get a closer look.

"...You've obtained Miss Suzumiya's homework." Frown. "Did she leave this in the clubroom?"

In truth, he identified that last; what stood out to him first was the Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle under her thumb, and from observing her in the clubroom, it had stood out to the diligent super-human as well. When he looked back to the android's face, her pupils were directed at someone other than himself. Looking for the point of attraction, he found that centerpiece to be their Walter Mitty brigade leader. She had stopped in mid-stride to watch the sunset from the mouth of the hallway and take in the last rays of day. There was nothing unfamiliar about the glum disposition she often dressed herself in, but the sight of her unanimated face in this tranquil moment left him reflecting on the disasters that would come out of it.

Hardening at the heart, Itsuki turned back to Yuki and―"...Miss―...Nagato?"

...Her disappearing acts were not unfamiliar either. With a tight chest, he stood alone in the halls with Haruhi Suzumiya's homework in hand. A group of colorful first years gossiped about the expression on his face as he gave the school house windows a once over. It wasn't a pacifying vantage point to behold: stratus clouds cascading the red sky to sensationalize his eyeshot of the sunset. It didn't win him―not when liquid sunshine could have given his melancholy a better cleansing.

Itsuki closed his eyes and smiled emptily to himself. He pressed a finger to the groove of his brow, and...―with the trembling pause of his left foot―...changed direction.


Author's Notes


I definitely wanted the style to sound familiar before it gets the chance to wheel off. I didn't mention this, but this takes place before Sasaki comes into the picture, so this would be an AU that stands on its own two feet.

"-San" is not used because I feel that since this is English-translated, the English interpretation of it would be '-Ms/Miss' or 'Mr/Mister' and should be written as such. However, terms like "Sealed Reality" and "Avatars/Celestials" will be plucked straight out of the light novel, so you won't see the story using the Dub's "Shinijin" terms. Why change already English-translated titles? Seriously, Dub!