VI - A DISORGANIZED, POINTLESS CHAPTER
"Some people say, 'How can you live without knowing?' I do not know what they mean. I always live without knowing. That is easy. How you get to know is what I want to know." - Richard Feynman
"Do I smell... unpleasant?"
Kimidori turned to look at me from her breakfast (as I had requested from her previously, she was free to make her own and was no longer required to make mine). "You seem to have more smell data surrounding you than you usually do. Is that what you meant?"
"Yes. Perhaps I should be taking a shower?" I smelled my armpit and instantly regretted doing so. "I should definitely be taking a shower."
I never took many showers as an interface, nor did I need to. I was therefore surprised to find how short of a time it took for me to become unsanitary. I knew how to shower, of course - I still had found it necessary to do it every two weeks - but it was nevertheless quite a shock.
After taking my shower, I made myself breakfast. It wasn't much, since I still had literally no cooking knowledge whatsoever beyond how to use a microwave and follow the instructions on a styrofoam cup filled with noodles, but it was definitely better than whatever Kimidori had made for me the day before. (It is a bit disappointing that despite her status as a waitress, she hasn't picked up anything about how to prepare food well, I thought to myself.) As I loudly slurped the ostensibly nourishing concoction, I wondered how she had ruined hers so badly. Was there not enough seasoning? Was there too much of it? Was it overcooked? Yes; it was a bit overcooked. And I had a suspicion she had tried to enhance the meal's flavor with her own... unique sauce. Given that interfaces did not interpret taste data nearly as well as humans, this was not the best choice she could have made.
Of course, the mere fact that she tried at all to be creative only raised more questions about Kimidori. Whenever I thought I had started to understand her, she threw some new and bizarre habit at me. Sometimes I wondered whether she was actually a data interface or a human like I had become... except she was still quite far from human. I remembered how expressive the humans I had met were. Kimidori, compared to them, was not expressive in the slightest. And it was indisputable that she still carried certain attitudes that were more indicative of the perspective of a data interface rather than a human mind.
"Wha?" Without realizing it, I had gone into a reverie. I found that I was looking directly at Kimidori.
"Why were you looking at me?" Kimidori said, brushing her hair out of her face almost hesitantly.
I thought about it for a while. Finally, I just said, "No reason."
"I see... Perhaps you need to... How is it said... 'Organize your thoughts'?"
"From my observations, humans often have so many thoughts that they get confused. I have heard that, for instance, writing down a bullet-point list of your goals or thoughts can help."
"Oh... Well, no, I don't think so."
"Okay." Kimidori went back to reading her newspaper. "Be sure to ask me if you need anything."
"I will." I sighed.
As we walked to school, I noticed that the temperature was a bit lower than usual today. I couldn't measure the change accurately - four, perhaps five Celsius degrees colder? Although I was annoyed at my imprecise human measurement abilities and Kimidori and I didn't talk to each other, I found the walk acceptable. I just felt the wind blowing around me and watched the clouds of my breath form due to the temperature difference between my now fully human body and the cold air.
Although Kimidori had packed me lunch today, I wisely chose not to eat it. Instead I "borrowed" parts of Taniguchi and Kunikida's (I finally could remember his name) lunches again. They were a bit offended at this at first, but after I offered to share my lunch with them and they tried some, they promptly forgot their issue.
The day at the clubroom was another uneventful one. Nagato was reading; Koizumi and Kyon were playing chess; Haruhi was sitting at the computer playing solitaire and sulking. I didn't want to intrude on anyone, so I stayed out of their business and just sat in a chair in a shadowy corner of the room, feeling very much like I didn't belong. And, more importantly, very caught up in my thoughts.
So much had been happening recently that I hadn't really had time to think about anything, so excess thoughts started swirling around in my brain, and I didn't know what do to with them.
"I have heard that, for instance, writing down a bullet-point list of your goals or thoughts can help."
I decided she was right. I would make a list.
I borrowed a piece of paper and a pen from Haruhi (who only lent them to me grudgingly) and began to write:
I could not think of anything to write. I realized I didn't know what my goal was at this point.
I thought about it some more.
Hesitantly, I wrote something down.
I pondered this for a moment.
Did I really want to kill him? That was certainly what my goal had been before. And I certainly felt a surge of strong dislike (hatred?) whenever I saw him. But I did not know what the point in it would be. I had not had much time to assess it, but the situation with Haruhi did not appear to be the same as it was before. I had been distracted the previous day when I could have brought it up with Koizumi at the cafe; if only I had remembered to ask!
I revised my list.
I pondered some more.
I wasn't sure what to think of Kyon at that moment. (I looked over to him.) I knew he didn't like me, hated me in fact - the previous day's discussion had made that abundantly clear - but other than that? I knew nothing. I had no idea as to his thoughts, feelings, or motives. I usually could make some assessment, but not with him.
...Why did I assume he had motives? Perhaps he only had a passive role.
Kyon noticed I was looking at him. He gave me a very suspicious look. I stopped looking at him and looked at Nagato.
I wasn't sure what I thought of Nagato either. She just sat there, reading her book - or at least acting as though she was reading her book. I thought I caught her looking at me a few times.
I added to my list:
Uh... yes, I thought to myself. Investigate Nagato. That is an acceptable course of action. Of course. Right.
Haruhi stared at me in a peculiar way; she almost seemed like she was offended. I noticed she would look at me, then at Kyon, then back at me again. I supposed I had been staring at him. Perhaps she was trying to tell me not to annoy Kyon.
Don't acquiesce so easily! She's more guilty of that than you are! some part of my mind scolded - which was strange. It wasn't as though I found staring at Kyon to be an enjoyable activity. Truthfully, I myself rather thought I should stop. Still, that small, oddly defiant thought persisted.
I revised my list again:
-Don't acquiesce so easily (to Haruhi?)
I thought for a while longer, but Nagato finally closed her book and the SOS Brigade meeting was over, I had only added one more:
-Learn to cook
Which was, I supposed, as good a place to start as any.
I didn't have time for breakfast the next morning. Kimidori woke me up late. When I questioned her about it, she said she'd never been late for school before, whatever that meant.
Today was even colder than the previous one had been; I wasn't sure what had caused this development. I wondered if Suzumiya's mood was affecting the weather, but she hadn't seemed any more agitated than usual yesterday, so unless she was hiding her feelings, there was no reason for the chill. Regardless, I held my arms close to my chest in an attempt to regain warmth. However, it didn't stop the chill from permeating my very bones. I mean, not literally, in a figurative sense, but... never mind.
Then, about halfway to the school, something completely unexpected happened: I recognized the two boys who turned onto our road.
"Oh, good morning, Miss Asakura!" said Taniguchi, the loud one I had met the previous day. He bowed deeper than seemed necessary.
The other boy glared at me and said nothing. It was Kyon.
"Hello, Taniguchi," I said, looking directly at him so I would not have to look at Kyon.
"What a pleasant surprise!" Taniguchi smiled in a way that even I could tell was unnatural. "You're usually earlier to get to school than we are."
"Kimidori made us late," I informed him.
Taniguchi gave a forced laugh. "Hey, you shouldn't be mad at her. It's not healthy to blame others. Right, Kyon?"
"Yeah," Kyon muttered.
"Actually," said Kimidori, wearing her public face, "It was my fault. I took too long doing my hair." She looked down in an imitation of guilt. Or was it an imitation?
"Oh, really?" Taniguchi looked at her now. "Yeah, I can definitely see the extra time you put into it, Miss Kimidori!"
He seemed to lie a lot to girls. I'd encountered this sort of behavior before; it seemed to be a common mannerism of the male of the species. I assumed it had something to do with the human instinct for procreation. Of course, I didn't say anything about it, and we continued chatting as we walked to school.
"Kyon," asked Taniguchi, "Why the long face? You haven't said a word since they showed up."
Kyon gave him a rather nasty look.
"Do you not like Asakura?" asked Kimidori almost mischievously, although the meek expression on her face didn't change.
"What if I don't?" Kyon said, too casually. "Is there something wrong with that?"
"Well, no, not necessarily." Kimidori said, looking away shyly. I was amazed at how well she had managed to slip back into her public mode. "No one can get along with everyone, after all. I just think it's a shame that two nice people can't get along with each other..."
"Nice people?" Kyon and I repeated, at the same time. He shot me another of his nasty looks.
"I think I'd have to dispute that too," said Taniguchi. "I'd say - look out!"
Someone's hand grabbed mine.
I saw a car zooming toward us.
My heartbeat seemed to double in speed, but everything else slowed down. I suddenly realized I had a chance.
I could shove Kyon in front of the car and finish what I had started so long ago. I could feel it in my bones, my blood, in all of the places I could feel, that it had to be now, it had to be here.
But something stopped me. I don't know what it was. A small voice, deep from within my brain, told me that I shouldn't do it. Whatever the reason - revenge or a simple sense of duty - it wasn't good enough.
So I let the car go past, and the world and my heartbeat suddenly reverted to normal speed.
We all stood still for a moment, in shock at what had just happened. When I could feel things again, I noticed how heavily I was breathing.
"What," said Kyon finally, "The hell just happened? That guy nearly ran over us!"
"Weird," said Taniguchi. "I don't remember seeing it come up the road..."
Kimidori and I didn't say anything at all.
Merry Christmas! As your Christmas present, I decided to finally release this chapter. It's a bit... rough around the edges, especially the list-making scene (since I was tired and kind of feeling hazy when I wrote it), and the ending kind of comes out of nowhere, but screw it. Be happy you at least got something besides coal in your stocking.
The reason this took so long is that I realized I didn't have a clear enough idea of where the plot was going. I've worked it out a bit more, but it's still a bit unclear, so the next chapter might take quite a while to come out as well. Hopefully soon, though.
I finally fixed the prologue. Well, I did that forever ago. But in any case, go back and read it again if you've been reading from the beginning, please.
Also, I went back into the story and edited out all the honorifics. I'm OK with honorifics, but I'm still always a little unsure which ones to use in what situation. So I just decided to cut the Gordian knot and get rid of 'em all!