The Cries of Haruhi Suzumiya
Chapter 4 - Endgame
You've heard of that "for want of a nail" poem/narrative convention, right? Where one tiny change turns a situation completely on its head? I've been thinking a bit, and I think that's applicable here. But in this case, the nail is a pit.
If Nagato didn't fall into that pit, it wouldn't have triggered Haruhi's psychopathic episode, she would have left Satoko alone, and she wouldn't have gotten tased. If Satoko wasn't beat up, her uncle would never have came back. If he didn't come back, Nagato wouldn't have destroyed him. And that led to Keiichi getting paranoid (I'm 80% sure that he saw what happened), him attacking the camp, him promptly getting exploded, and Haruhi believing she's the Hammer of Oyashiro-sama.
Ah, yes, the Hammer of Oyashiro-sama. Haruhi's taken enough levels in Nutjob to get a class change. Now she believes that she's the avatar and divine wrath manifest of a blood god. And she has powers.
It's actually even worse than it sounds.
But, for now, she's been mostly flash and talk (although she did repair my head - and that was extremely wierd and unnecessarily unpleasant). She's not wanting to kill everyone in Hinamizawa.
Remember how Haruhi promised me that we'll be out of Hinamizawa at the end of the month?
Yeah, that's not happening.
Haruhi, presumably, is not going anywhere. Thinking that you are tied to a local deity will do that to you.
"I..." said Koizumi.
He buried his head in his hands.
There's a storm rolling in. Me and Koizumi are taking advantage of one of Haruhi's unusually frequent absences to sit back and watch it. As for why I am hanging out with Koizumi, well, Nagato scares me and Asahina-san's still absent. And we ran out of books.
"You know, out of every theory I had - hell, that everyone at the Organization had, this wasn't on-"
"I know. Nobody in the world could possibly expect Haruhi to morph into a megalomaniacal psychopath. I know that's not part of your plans, so don't kick yourself for not preparing for it."
Wait, Haruhi's always been a megalomaniacal psychopath. Maybe "insane god-being" is more apt. Sounds pretentious, sure, but it beats "Hammer of Oyashiro-sama".
"It's just... well, we're fucked."
Okay, Koizumi just swore. His despair has crossed the line and went from humorous to horribly alarming.
"We're stuck in the past, with no way of getting out of here, and there's nothing we can do but die."
He buried his head in his hands again and started... crying.
I could sort of deal with Asahina-san's wish for murder, the murders themselves, Nagato's frightening change in demeanor, and the advent of the Hammer of Oyashiro-sama, but Koizumi crying over Haruhi's actions is really, scary. More of that nihilistic, soul-crushing fear is creeping in.
I smacked Koizumi on the back of the head.
"Cut that out. You being a Nietzsche wannabe is creeping me out. Just suck it up and act like you always have."
He took his head out of his hands, looked at me, and smiled weakly.
"I'll try my best, if you will."
Okay, I'm pretty sure that there's a layman or someone wondering why I haven't rallied the troops and burst out of Hinamizawa by now. My reasoning behind that is that Nagato has changed. She's cold. She's extreme. She's really, really scary. I've actually thought that she might just kill me to get a reaction out of Haruhi. And besides, she can't get out of here anyway.
"Do you think that you could try and-"
"-remedy it the same way as that incident? I'll pass."
I considered it after the festival, but I was too disgusted by the bleeding maggots to follow through. And I am never, ever, going to try that with the Hammer of Oyashiro-sama.
"And there's Asahina-san's idea." said Koizumi.
"She told you, huh?"
"Actually, it was as much of my idea as hers."
Figured as much. Asahina-san isn't capable of malice against any living creature without external aid.
"Anyway," I said, "I think if we were ever going to actually do that, we missed our shot."
There's a line from Sun Tzu that'd be apt that I said to Haruhi on the first day here, but I forgot what it was.
"Oh, that reminds me. I don't know if it was always like this, or if it's Suzumiya-san's fault, but it turns out Oyashiro-sama is not our friend."
He pulled out some sort of horn from his pocket. I could see a bit of dried blood on the thick end.
"Nagato caught it spying on us."
"When was this?" I said.
"She told me and gave me this yesterday, but I don't know when she actually got it."
Well, it looks like this disproves... a hell of a lot. That "Hanyuu" figure can't be Oyashiro-sama, for one thing. Little girls, even little girl spirits, for the most part, don't have horns.
"Storm's rolling in." he said.
"Tell me, what does it look like to you?"
It's dark and it's completely covering the sky. I can't see shapes worth jack. Why are you asking me this? The last time you asked me for my opinion on something, I nearly got my head bashed in. By you.
"Well, at least I'm not complaining on the hopelessness of it all, right?"
You do have a point.
"Well, you see how the last of the daylight is shining through that tower of clouds, making them glow blue?"
Well, a little bit.
"And- ah, there, that lightning flash. Doesn't it almost make that spot look red?"
The afterimage is a bit crimson, yeah.
"Now, tell me. What do they look like to you?"
I looked closely at the massive, piling towers of cumulonimbus clouds.
"Shinjin. You're saying that they look like shinjin."
"Well, now that you mention it, the resemblance is sort of uncanny."
A cloud crashed like a wave onto an invisible dome, breaking and rolling over it with a clap of thunder.
"They want to come in." said Koizumi. "This may very well be the last bastion of non-closed space in existence. But whatever is keeping us in is keeping them out."
Okay, either you can see something I can't, or you're being metaphorical. Although you acting like a know-it-all is reassuring in it's adherence to the status quo.
And then, I felt the quickly-becoming-familiar feeling of a massive, almost regal, and important figure near me. Couldn't think of a more grandiose way to let your presence be known, could you, Haruhi?
She had returned, and she apparently had ditched her standard attire for-oh, wow. I know it's bad convention to devote a paragraph to describing someone's attire (unless the narrator is deeply in love or the described party is one Asahina Mikuru), but this outfit needs it.
She was wearing mostly bandages. At least, I think they were bandages, because they were completely red and dripping. Haruhi apparently never got the memo that the human body only contains five liters or so of blood. The only not-bloodstained piece of clothing was the white part of her school uniform that she wore over it. She was even wearing a bedsheet or something that was also red. It looked overall like a swapped version of Rika's hakama. That's what this is, isn't it. An awful parody of hakama.
Koizumi promptly ran over to Haruhi and prostrated himself at her feet.
"Welcome, most excellent Haruhi-sama."
Okay, that's just sad.
"Thank you. Now, Kyon, look at this."
She tossed a sheet of paper at me.
"Our presence is required."
It can't be the police, or medical reasons, because Haruhi would blow them off. Or up.
"Diplomatic relations. While the message told me to come alone, you will accompany me."
"Who are we having diplomacy with, now?"
"The head of the Sonozaki family, one of the three main families of Hinamizawa."
And here it is. The moment where Hinamizawa finally rises up and throws the SOS Brigade out. Or kills us all. Either one works at this point.
"Oh, hush. They wouldn't kick me out. I'm the Hammer of Oyashiro-sama!"
She ran a fingernail along her forearm. It promptly started oozing blood and maggots.
"Ahh... oh dear, we're out of bandages."
She stared at the first aid kit, looking like she was threatening it into revealing more or regenerating the empty roll. But, to my suprise, it didn't. Haruhi just sighed, removed her headband, and used it as an impromptu bandage.
"By the way, Haruhi." I said.
"It's the end of the month."
"What's your point?"
"You said that we were going to get out of Hinamizawa at the end of the month."
"Kyon-kun, it's not the end of the month. It's only June 30th."
That is the end of the month. If we waited until tomorrow, it'd be the start of next month. Well, it never hurts to try.
"Well, let's not have them wait. The note said come when you can."
And she dragged me off.
As she meandered down the paths as if she lived here since she was born, I could hear her singing something.
"Let us run away, let us run away, to this fate that this town holds in store for us. You know that I, am your flower of hell, forever. In this wonderful place! And I will bloom here, and I will bloom here, so embrace me, my lord, for I am always yours! And Oyashiro's hammer will go and spread your will once more..."
Uh, yeah. It's weird, I know. It actually sounds like some sort of hopeful tune with tainted lyrics. But that's just what I can pick up from this snippet.
We eventually ended up in front of the gates to a massive estate. Seriously, I want a house like this one.
"Hey, Haruhi." I said.
"Please call me Haruhi-sama. Or Suzumiya-sama, but we're already on a first-name basis."
Do you honestly expect me to call you that? Is a massive ego part of your brand-new powerset?
"I just want to be referred to as something that's worth my status."
"That's fine and good. But I won't refer to you as that."
She pouted. That's the first truly Haruhi-like action that I've seen since the day of the festival.
"Also, could you cut that presence stuff out?"
"Why should I?"
"Because... look, act normal. Just because you're some sort of avatar doesn't mean you can be a dick to your elders."
"And why not? I deserve a little respect, no?"
"No. They don't know you're the Hammer of Oyashiro-sama. They probably don't even know what it is."
"I see... so it's like having a secret identity?"
Haruhi knocked once on the gate.
"Er, don't these things have buzzers?" I said.
"I don't know. I can't see any-"
Mion opened the gate, and looked down and up at Haruhi.
She moved out of sight. I could hear her cracking up. See, it's a completely ridiculous outfit. Although Mion's pretty much wearing Haruhi's garb at the moment, minus the red and with a side of cleavage.
"I apologize. Hello, Suzumiya-san."
"Hey, Mion. I'm here to talk with the head of your family. Where is he? Or she?"
"Well, Sonozaki Oryou is currently in no condition to have an attendance with others, and Sonozaki Akane is out on business. Therefore, next in line is Sonozaki Mion."
"Wait, so you're the head of the Sonozaki family?"
"At the moment, yes."
Haruhi blinked for a second, then hastily bowed.
"My apologies, Sonozaki-sama."
I think that was supposed to be a joke. If it was, it was a really bad one. Mion laughed.
"-San will suffice."
Mion looked at me. Her eyes widened, and she blinked at me.
"Um, this is...?"
"Kyon." said Haruhi. "He is my page, for lack of a better word."
The sad thing is, she's only partially wrong.
"Ah, yes, I've met you before. Well, I only prepared for one guest, but I can adjust. Are you hungry?"
I wouldn't eat anything you'd serve to me even if I was.
"Well, I'll make do. Follow me."
She led us into the house proper, and into a dining room.
"Hold on for a moment. I'll get you two something to eat."
She left the room.
"Well, Kyon," said Haruhi, "I think I have a good grasp of my powerset."
I could have swore that I heard Mion screaming or throwing a hissy fit or something. It sounds pretty far away. How big is this place?
"Powerset?" I said.
That'd be fantastic if you had a powerset. The odds of you inadvertently ending the world decrease tenfold.
"Well, I can explode heads, as you saw. I'll have to tone that down, because it's pretty suspicious. I can control my blood, there's telekinesis, I think I can-"
Mion returned with a tray. It had two bowls of miso soup, some cups, and a teakettle on it.
"I've already eaten today, so I won't have any." said Mion.
"I'll pass, too." I said. "For all I know, you've drugged the soup and poisoned the tea."
And besides, I think I smell something odd. It's making me nauseous.
Haruhi and Mion both laughed.
"Aw, come on, Kyon," said Haruhi, "at least have some tea."
Fine. But if I turn green, vomit up my kidneys, and die, it's your fault.
Mion laughed. She sounded like she was taking lessons from the late Takano, and poured the three of us some tea.
"So, Suzumiya-san, I must ask you this first; what is with the outfit?"
"Oh, this? These are bandages."
"Well, I can see that now. What happened?"
Haruhi looked at me and smirked maliciously.
"I crashed my bike."
Oh, did you really have to go there?
"Well, it must've been quite the crash." said Mion.
Seeing both Haruhi and Mion sitting at the same table, sipping tea, it's an interesting experience. It's like watching two Bond villains dining, trying to lure the other into a false sense of security.
"So, what did you bring me here for?" asked Haruhi.
"Well," said Mion, "I've heard stories about you. You are the leader of the SOS Brigade, correct?"
"And you are camping out at the junkyard, correct?"
Mion seemed to stare right into Haruhi's soul. Assuming she still had one, anyway.
"Have you heard of what happened to Maebara Keiichi and Ryuugu Rena?"
Haruhi seemed unfazed by the question.
"You mean Oyashiro-sama's curse?"
"Ah, well, I thought that Oyashiro-sama's curse had already struck?"
"Well, then, you might be wrong when you meant the curse."
"I am not wrong. The curse has struck, but something else is striking Hinamizawa. Around twelve people have either died or disappeared. Do you know what happened?"
Haruhi chuckled. Wait, twelve? Last that I counted was seven! Is Haruhi clocking in overtime behind my back? (If you've done the math, you might have noticed that apparently only six people have died - Tomitake, Takano, Rena, Teppei, Keiichi, and that corpse without the head. Well, apparently, Dr. Irie overdosed on sleeping pills the same day that Keiichi died. Personally, I think he had the right idea.)
"Sonozaki-san, I do not."
Her tone implied that she may or may not have known, but she sure as hell wasn't telling Mion.
"I assume you are aware of the power held by the head of the Sonozaki family?"
"Sonozaki-tan, I think that I have at least as much power over Hinamizawa as you do."
Mion burst into laughter. Her psychotic laugh rivaled Haruhi's in grandeur. She cleared her throat.
"I apologize for that. I just merely remembered humorous something that my sister said earlier. By the way, how is the soup?"
Haruhi took a sip of her soup. Mion was looking at Haruhi, as if she was waiting for some sort of cue.
"It's quite good, but it... it's not quite as good as it can be."
Seriously, what is that smell? It smells a bit like roadkill... Wait a second... oh, that's not a good smell. That's not a good smell at all.
"Good." said Mion.
She stood up.
"Now, Kyon, what was your first impression of me?"
That's the first time that she actually spoke to me.
"And please, I give you permission to be as frank as you want."
"You seemed like a nice, energetic, leader-type."
"I should have rephrased that. Tonight, I mean, what is your impression of me?"
"Well, frankly, you seem a lot like a villain, and it felt like you were serving us poisoned soup so that we'd be easy to take down."
Hey, she gave me permission.
Mion laughed. It didn't sound like she was laughing at my deadpan wit.
"Oh, Kyon-kun," said Mion, "sometimes people get the wrong first impression about somebody from how they act. But every so often, they get the right impression, no matter how hard the other person tries to hide it. You are smarter than you seem, and I congratulate you for it."
Okay, it sounds really weird when you call me Kyon-kun and - wait, what did she just say?
"Ahhh..." said Haruhi, "there you are. Come and help me with this."
"Draw the lines exactly the way I tell you to. Yes, I'm-"
And Haruhi was face-down in her soup.
Ah, so the soup was poisoned after all.
Wait, where did Mion go? Okay, this "Ninjamizawa" thing is really starting to piss me off. Seriously, she's as big as I am. Stop disappearing!
Woah, woah, woah. Wait. The doors are still shut. I know for a fact that she didn't open them. So, that means that she either vanished using actual supernatural means (while anything is possible these days, probably not), she ended up on the ceiling (a cursory glance reveals that that is not the case), or she's right behi-
The next... period of time was a groggy blur. Most of it was spent unconscious after being whacked in the back of the head with what was probably the tray, or seeing incoherent shapes until I was knocked out again.
Let's fast-forward until we get to a point where I'm coherent, shall we?
The first thing that I noticed was that I was unable to move and I couldn't quite feel the ground.
The second thing that I noticed was that my arms were chained to the ceiling, and my feet were chained to the floor. Well, that explains that.
The third thing was Haruhi, chained up in a similar way across from me.
The fourth thing was the myriads of torture equipment. There were chains. There were blades. There were winches and spikes and crushers and everything under the sun. It makes the shed me and Haruhi found on the day of the festival look harmless.
The fifth thing I noticed was that there was another person, directly to my left. He was a lot older than I was, and he was starting to rot.
And then it clicked inside my head.
I'm going to be tortured, probably to death.
Well, the jury's out on whether to call it a new low, because it has a lot to compare to. That doesn't mean that it won't hurt, though.
I could see a doorway if I turned my head to the right. There appeared to be a table in it with someone or something on it, and an older, familiar figure strapping it in. She walked up to me.
"Ah, Kyon-kun, you're awake."
Mion, please, it sounds really weird when you call me that.
"So, I assume you're going to torture me?" I said.
"Well, actually," said Mion, subtly revealing that she was holding a knife, "I was just planning on slitting your throat once Suzumiya wakes up. But now that you mention it, torturing you sounds like a great idea!"
I shouldn't have said that.
"No, no, I'm kidding. I was going to torture you anyway."
Well, that's reassuring. May I ask why?
"Why you're going to torture me."
"You're not supposed to be here. I only asked for Suzumiya to come along. That's why I'm going to torture you first: so I can watch every little reaction she has to you bleeding to death."
So you're going to kill me to see how Haruhi reacts? Can't you think of something a little more original?
Mion kneeled before me and started taking off my shoe. It felt disturbingly intimate.
"What are you doing?" I said.
She just looked up, grinned, and started taking off the other shoe. Why is she even doing this? Is she planning on breaking my toes?
"Well... I just want to make sure that you're comfortable."
She laughed. It was almost sultry. If I survive, I'm making a laugh catalog for Hinamizawa.
I could feel her fingertips run up the inside of my leg and-no! Down! Do-oh, god damn it. This is exactly the wrong situation to be aroused in.
"So, Mion, why would you want to conduct 'diplomacy' with Haruhi?" I asked.
"Because, Kyon-kun, I know."
Know what? There's a hell of a lot of things that fall under that umbrella.
"She killed Rena. And Keiichi. That is... it's unforgivable!"
I could see something surface in her eyes. She has what Haruhi and Keiichi had. I can tell.
"Are you even Mion?"
"...am I? Perhaps... perhaps not... perhaps I am Sonozaki Mion. Perhaps I am something else."
"Perhaps you're Shion."
"Now, what makes you think that?"
"Shion's the unstable one. The one that's quick to act. She tased Haruhi, and she almost attacked Asahina-san. And there's one other thing that I noticed about her..."
"And what is that?" said Mion. Or actually, it could be Shion. Shmion? I don't know, she's Mion until further notice.
"...she loved Satoshi."
"Yes, she loved Satoshi. She attacked anyone who said bad things about Satoshi, or anything about Satoshi in general. And... and I don't think that Satoshi would like her torturing people."
Hey, I've seen people murder over far less information.
Mion paused for a few seconds, then burst into laughter.
"So? You don't know anything about Satoshi! Why do you think I would give a damn about him? Fuck Satoshi! I could care less about him! In fact, if I saw Satoshi walk in here, right now, I'd torture and kill him, too!"
I heard an anguished shriek from deep in the bowels of this facility. Where am I, anyway?
"Oh, enough talk. I think I'll start with this," she pointed the knife at me, "and cut off your toes. Sound good?"
Look, I've had a nail driven through my hand, my skull fractured in several places with a golf club, and not one, but two gashes across my chest from a billhook. I've pretty much been enchanted with a permanent armor spell, to boot. You think that cutting off my toes would make me cry?
"Well, it'd look good in front of Suzumiya, right?"
I heard Haruhi sway and groan.
"Ah, speaking of which..." said Mion.
Mion walked over to Haruhi and slapped her across the face.
"Rise and shine, Suzumiya-san."
"Mmhrrr... where am I?"
She looked around, then glared at Mion.
"You bitch! Release me at once! That's an order!"
"Why would I? Don't worry. I'm not planning on killing you. There's a lot more that needs to be done first."
"You don't have the right to do this!"
"Really? Well, down here, you don't have the right to stop me."
"Really? Do you know who I am? What I've become? What's been given to me? WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK I AM!"
I... there's no words that can describe my reaction to that. There's a gesture, but my arms are bound.
Mion just laughed.
"Why, aren't you pretentious? You aren't anyone down here. And you won't be for much longer. Now..."
She walked over to me.
"You have a good view of your boyfriend, right?"
"He is not my boyfriend!" me and Haruhi shouted at the same time (although I actually shouted "She is not my girlfriend!"). Actually, it's this moment out of all of them that is making me regret starting up conversation with that odd girl that sat behind me named Suzumiya Haruhi.
"Well... I see that. Hmm, then you won't mind me doing this to him, right?"
And she grabbed my crotch from behind. I yelped. Haruhi yelped too and tried to look away.
"Don't try, Suzumiya-san," said Mion. I could feel her middle and ring fingers directly... well, rubbing. "You'll still be able to hear it. Actually, I think I'll do something better. Hmm... I know we have leather straps, but a katana might be harder to find..."
I really don't want to know what you can do with a katana and straps of leather, but if it's going to be sexual in nature, it's going to hurt like hell for sure.
"Hold on, I'm going to get Rika. I'm sure she'd love to watch You and Rika-chama were close, right, Kyon?"
In all honesty, I think Rika hates me.
Mion walked giddily into the next room. I noticed that Haruhi was at the breaking point if not far past it. She was muttering some sort of chant under her breath. I had no idea what she was saying, but "Oyashiro-sama" came up a lot. It started slow and methodical, but it increased pace and fervor. It quickly started sounding eerily like Nagato's magic technobabble.
I looked up and saw one of the chains holding Haruhi up pulling. Wait, it's pulling downward. But if it was going downward, shouldn't there be some slack in the-oh, god.
Haruhi was pulling the chain into her wrist.
I could see the links of chain slide under the bandages, loop around her arm, and eventually become absorbed near her shoulder. That's the third most disgusting and horrific thing that I've seen in Hinamizawa.
Haruhi gave the pulled chain a mighty yank. It broke loose from it's mountings and crashed to the floor.
I'd say that this is the only good whatsoever that's come out of her power-amplified lunacy.
That got Mion's attention. She came running out of the room as Haruhi finished pulling the last of the chain into her arm and started pulling in the other one. Mion just looked on in something that's a bit of awe, a bit of horror, and a bit of general "what the hell am I witnessing?"
"I... wha... what the hell are you doing?"
Haruhi pulled her other chain free. Mion tried to stab Haruhi, but Haruhi grabbed her by the face (ouch) and tossed her backward. Then, Haruhi whipped the chain around, severing my chains from the ceiling. I fell.
I was, however, still tied to the ground and there's still manacles on my arms. Wait, how'd she get her manacles off, anyway? Did she absorb them, too?
Haruhi pulled back one of the bandages on her arm, and let out a stream of blood. It dripped down onto the chains and manacles holding her feet down. After a second, she simply stepped out of the manacles.
Then, like a slime mold in timelapse, the blood started advancing at me. It coated me and my chains, and, like a skeleton key, it unlocked my manacles as well. It also felt just as unpleasant as being groped by Mion.
Mion sprinted away into the other room. With a bit more tact/stealth, I did the same. Don't worry. I have something that resembles a plan.
I found Rika being restrained to a table inside the room. Mion was wisely more concerned with the megapotent psychopath in the next room. She was pulling an axe from the wall when I came in. She finished and looked at me.
We had a quick, silent conversation that ended in us pretty much agreeing to save me for later. And she ran into the next room.
"Sir? What's going on?" said Rika.
"Don't worry, I'll get you out of this."
I untied the restraints holding her to the table.
Um, you don't have to keep using that cutesy voice.
"Thank you. What's going on in there?"
Before I could respond, I had to quickly duck an axe that flew right above my head. Mion dashed into this room, grabbed a sickle from off of the wall, and ran into the next room.
"Hahahahahahaha!" said Haruhi. "Run, you coward! I don't blame you! You cannot escape Oyashiro-sama's wrath!"
"Oyashiro-sama's wrath?" said Rika.
"Oh, she just thinks that Oyashiro-sama went and turned her into a killing machine. And she sorta is."
It's... it's complicated.
"Well, right now, Oyashiro-sama really wants her to stop at the moment."
Hey, I'm the snark guy. Leave the deadpan jokes to me. Only thing keeping me from snapping, too.
"I'm being serious."
Well, I've given up on doubting things at the moment.
Haruhi ran into the room that me and Rika were currently in and stood on the table Rika was on. For the sake of her, we ran into the next room.
As we ran in, Rika just managed to barely stop in front of a swinging sickle, courtesy of Mion.
"Mi-chan! Don't you have bigger things to worry about?"
"Sorry, I thought you were her."
I looked back at Haruhi. She was standing perfectly still on the table, chanting like mad, with her head turned down and her eyes shut. However, every thing else pointy on the walls was breaking free of it's moorings and hovering around her.
"...what." said Rika. "How can she-"
"Don't question the logistics. Just hide."
She's... she's something else.
"I've noticed!" said Mion.
The room that we entered was large, cavernous, and lined with cells carved out of the rock. If Asahina-san was to be anywhere, she'd be here.
Asahina-san. Why the hell am I not searching for Asahina-san? Well, actually, I'm not searching right now because I'm more concerned with the murderous psychopath and Mion at the moment.
I heard a sound that sounded like the lovechild of a rush of wind through some sort of bladder and the clash of swords. I didn't get to see what it was, but I did see Rika's reaction. It was as if she was gazing into the maw of an eldritch abomination and it was sending out tentacles to eat her.
Haruhi then practically exploded into the room we were in, landing behind Rika. There was something interesting happening with her skin. I don't know if I could explain it, but it definitely tripped a mental flag.
"Alright, Sonozaki-temee, let's dance."
Round 1: Fight! Sorry, I really couldn't resist.
At first, the two kept trading blows; Haruhi with one of her arm-chains, and Mion with her sickle. Unless one of them would try something interesting, this fight isn't going anywhere.
"So, who do you think will win?" said Rika.
"Haruhi or Mion."
"Is that all you can think of right now?"
Mion tried to grab Haruhi's hair. Haruhi countered it by tangling up Mion's arm with her chain and throwing her across the room.
"Look, this is new and entertaining."
"But they're going to kill each other!"
Not that the world would be worse off if one or the other was dead.
This time, Mion tried to bear-hug Haruhi. Haruhi countered that by having iron spikes pop out from under her skin like a bloody pincushion. Mion quickly aborted the bear-hug plan due to puncture wounds.
"Death and gore aren't new to me. But anyway, who do you think will win?"
"I'd have to say Haruhi."
"I see. And who do you want to win?"
That's a really hard question. Despite the winner, they'd still try to kill Rika. And if Mion won, she'd kill me. Or would she? And she has the plus of being an ordinary human being...
And then, Mion got really, really lucky. One lucky swing of the sickle, and Haruhi's throat was slit. Her eyes went dead. Blood started pouring out with probably impossible force and stained the last bit of white clothing she had a deep vermilion.
Well, that went completely and utterly in the opposite direction than I expected.
Reveling in the glory of victory, Mion dropped the sickle and burst into triumphant laughter.
...and was promptly joined.
Mion stopped laughing at this point.
However, Haruhi's laughing seemed to be joined by more laughter from different voices. Haruhi's posture shifted. Her eyes... still looked dead.
"Ahahahahahaha! Enough of this!"
Oh my god, I think she's talking in the voices of Keiichi and Rena along with her own. And out of slashed vocal cords, too. Further proof that Haruhi could care less about logic, and the world doesn't care along with her.
"Come now, my scions! Let us show this heretic the true power of the Hammer of Oyashiro-sama!"
She seemed to be completely unfazed by the blood (and maggots) rapidly gushing out of her throat. In fact, she appeared to be shaping the blood with her hand, as if she was pouring it into a giant invisible bowl.
Mion's look of triumph quickly turned into absolute terror. Rika almost looked like she was going to vomit.
Haruhi's blood was congregating into a massive (I'd say about two to three meters wide) crimson, semi-opaque, maggot-laden sphere. She was guiding it around with a slight gesture of her hand.
She lifted the orb up, and then slammed it at the ground where Mion was standing. Mion dodged it, but it left a massive, blood-filled pit.
Okay, powerset or no powerset, Haruhi is still one scary, dangerous bitch.
"How stupid would you have to be, Mi-chan," said "Rena", "to go against the Hammer of Oyashiro-sama? I wonder, I wonder..."
"N-n-no!" shrieked Mion. "D-don't say that! You're not Rena! You're not Rena!"
"The 'Hammer of Oyashiro-sama'?" said Rika.
"Well, from what I've gathered, it's like some sort of divine wrath manifest bent on killing anyone that Oyashiro-sama wants." I said. Wait, you're the priestess of Oyashiro-sama. Wouldn't you know?
"I have never heard of this. Oyashiro-sama would never do or create anything like that. Oyashiro-sama doesn't want people to die."
From what I've heard, saying that Oyashiro-sama doesn't want people to die would be like Haruhi secretly wanting to sit down and have a normal life. But hey, straight from the horse's mouth.
Mion pulled out a taser (so is that like the Sonozaki family weapon or something?) and tried to tase Haruhi. Emphasis on "tried", because Haruhi then clenched her fist, and Mion's body slowed to a stop.
Hold on a second. Did she just take a page out of Asakura's book? Is there some sort of template for supernatural, overpowered killers?
"What the-" said Mion.
"Well, it looks like I have the power to manipulate other people's blood, too. I'll be taking that."
She plucked the taser from Mion's grasp.
"Hmmm... this gives me an idea." said Haruhi.
With one hand, she shoved Mion across the room and into the pit made earlier. She cast her hands downward, and the chains burst from her wrists and tunneled into the ground.
"Now, do you have any last words?"
The chains re-emerged at the pit, shooting with much less grace and much more gore into Mion's forearms. Mion had full control again, although the chains prevented her from moving. She definitely had that abject look of terror one would expect from being trapped waist-deep in a pit of blood by chains bored into your forearms with a supernatural psychopath crouching in front of you.
"Who... what the hell are you?" said Mion.
"Very good words, I'd say. I am the hammer of Oyashiro-sama."\
Mion was promptly muffled. Actually, by the sounds she was making, it was more like she was either gagged or had her jaw forced shut.
"Uh uh uh! That's all you get."
Haruhi dangled the taser over the pit with the lightest touch. Mion was whimpering with a fervor that would be appropriate if she was about to be raped. I can't watch this.
I turned away, I heard the splash, and...
Mion's whimpers sounded jubilant. I decided to look again.
"I changed my mind." said Haruhi.
The chain holding down Mion's right arm released. Mion promptly grabbed the taser from out of the pit and tried to tase Haruhi. There was contact, and a zap, but Haruhi was unfazed.
"Nice try, Mion."
Great. For all we know, you just gave her electrical powers.
Haruhi stepped back.
"Now, turn that on, please."
Mion's expression pretty much said "why the hell would I do that?". However, you could see her thumb twitch slightly, and after a little bit, the taser was on. Mion's eyes went very wide.
"Very good. Now, put it down in the blood."
Mion started whimpering, and shaking her head. But her arm started shaking, and it slowly, slowly, slowly started lowering.
I turned away again.
Mion's whimpering got louder and more desperate and more horrible-
-until there was a zap, then a longer zap, and then silence.
For the sake of your stomachs, I'll leave exactly what happened to Mion to your imaginations. Let's just say that her death was the most horrifying thing I've seen in Hinamizawa by a long shot and leave it at that.
"Well, that wasn't too hard." said Haruhi. Her menagerie of voices had now added Mion to the mix. Apparently, it's some sort of collage of everyone that she's killed. They're not even really in sync, either. She was transferring some of her leg bandages to her neck to stem the blood coming from her slashed jugular.
"Was all that really necessary?" I asked.
"Do not ever question my actions, Kyon. You have no right. Besides, she was going to kill you, and probably me. Pre-emptive karma, delivered by yours truly."
And the weird thing is, she's right. As horribly wrong as that sounds, if anyone deserved to die, it would have been Mion.
"So, Keiichi, Rena, and Mion. I sort of sensed that those three had a sort of dynamic. So that's... fifty percent of the main cast. Not bad. Not bad at all."
"Kei... you killed Keiichi?" said Rika.
"Yes, yes, I did. I admit it. It was the manifestation of the Hammer of Oyashiro-sama in the person known as Suzumiya Haruhi."
"She blew his head open like..." I said. Shoot, the best thing I could use to describe it is both an American movie and I don't even know if it exists yet. "It was like if she stuck a grenade in his mouth. And she didn't even touch the guy."
"Why?" said Rika.
"He attacked Yuki and Kyon with a golf club." said Haruhi.
"Golf... club? I haven't ever seen Keiichi use a golf club to attack people. He uses a baseball bat. He always has."
Well, I'm sure it wouldn't be too hard for him to press down on the character select screen for his alternate weapon.
Haruhi finished bandaging her neck and turned her attention to the cells.
"Let's see what's in here. Who knows what we'd find? Maybe even Asahina-san."
Good to see that you still care.
She started opening the cells, one by one.
"You... you killed Kei-chan? And... and Rena-chan?" said a voice from one of the cells. "Why?"
Haruhi walked over to the cell the voice came from, opened it, and smirked.
"Ah, hello, Shion."
Okay, I swore that her Mion voice called her "sis" instead.
"No, I... oh no." said Shion.
Haruhi chuckled, pulled off some of the bandages around her neck, and showed it to Shion.
"You see this? You see my scions?"
Don't call that maggot colony infesting your flesh your scions, please.
"You did this. Your sister? Keiichi and Rena? Me? Those are the seeds that you have sown."
"No, please, that wasn't-"
"And for this, I deserve to repay you. As you deserve."
Suddenly, Haruhi rushed into the cell. There was a sound of movement, then Shion screamed, and there was a haunting, increasingly distant and increasingly messy series of thuds.
"Well, there was a pit back there. Who knew?" said Haruhi. Yep, I think I can hear the other Sonozaki in her speech.
"What was that for?" I said. Are you just going to kill off any witness to your slaughter?
"What did I say about questioning my motives, Kyon?"
"That I shouldn't?"
"Good boy. Anyway, I was just giving her what she deserved for tasing me, that's all."
"You were beating up a little girl. That was what got you tased, Suzumiya-san, and that was justified. Killing her here wasn't."
Okay, how can so much guts be contained in the body of such a little girl? Furude Rika, I thank you.
"Oh? And what right do you have to talk back to me? I am Oyashiro-sama manifest. You know that, right?"
Rika did one thing that I wasn't expecting. She burst into laughter.
"Are you serious? If anyone is Oyashiro-sama manifest, it would be me."
"Silence! I am the hammer of Oyashiro-sama!"
"Well, I am Oyashiro-sama's reincarnation. I am directly tied to it and she is tied to me."
Haruhi burst into laughter.
"You're just trying to bluff me! Silly girl! Do you... wait..."
She held up her hand. There was a good five seconds or so where nothing happened at all. Then with a speed that would make a puff adder envious, she lashed out with one of her chains at... thin air. Huh?
However, despite it not even hitting her, Rika recoiled. She looked absolutely aghast. I could see a slight bruise form in a line across her face, a little blood vessel popped in her eye. But other than that, she looked fine.
"You... what did you just do?" said Rika.
"So I hit that damn spirit?" said Haruhi.
"Yes! And that-"
"Good! About damn time that she shut up. What does she think she is, my conscience? Just 'au, au, au' this and 'stop it!' that. The only one I listen to is Oyashiro-sama himself!"
"That... that was Oyashiro-sama!"
Haruhi's split-second expression matched my thought at that moment. It was "what." Haruhi quickly shook it off, going back into her mania... but at least one of the voices sounded really pissed.
"That is blasphemy! And from you, of all people! You know what? Let's make it five out of six, shall we?"
I have absolutely no idea why exactly I did this, but I stepped in between Haruhi and Rika. I'll just blame it on some sort of admiration and paternal instinct cocktail and leave it at that.
Her other voices were gone. I could see life and a hint of tears return to her eyes. I half-expected her to choke a bit on her slit throat. I think I've put a nice crack in her mad god delusions.
Wait a minute. As good and kind as this act of heroism sounds on paper for getting her to back off, it's also a good way to get her to raise the death count for today to four.
"Kyon, what are you doing?" said Haruhi.
"You won't kill her. She's a child, for god's sake!" I said.
"So? Why not? Why can't I kill her?"
"Because you'd have to go through me, first."
No, I don't want to do that. Why did I just say that?
"Look, Kyon, ignoring everything else, I'm you're Brigade leader! You have to obey me!"
"No." I said.
"You're my Brigade leader?" I said. "No, you're not. You're not the head of the SOS Brigade. Hell, you're barely Suzumiya Haruhi! You're the goddamn Hammer of Oyashiro-sama. That's what you've been saying, right?"
"I-I am Haruhi! I'm still really the-"
"That's a lie! You're not Haruhi. You're not human. Haruhi's been torn out of you, drained out of you into some bloody pit."
"You..." said Haruhi. And the voices, the dead eyes, the Hammer is back. "You cannot betray me like this."
"I can if I want to."
No! I don't! I really don't! Oh, god, I'm betraying Haruhi and I must scream.
"Really? Who do you think you are?" said Haruhi.
"Me? I know who I am. I am John Smith."
Wait, what? What? What did I just say?
Oh, man, I really just said that. "I am John Smith". The big one. I remember using those four words as blackmail for something that was nearly deitical in power and I just used them now. How will Haruhi react to that?
At first, she didn't. She tilted her head. Then she tilted her head the other way. Then she tilted it again. She furrowed her brow.
"...what the fuck does that have to do with anything? It doesn't even make sense! You don't even know who that is! Stop saying that bullshit!"
I was then lifted out of the way, stiff as a board, and set down a few meters to my right. It was like I was cut and pasted from my original position.
"Now... where was I?"
And then, there was footsteps in the room next door.
"Rika-chan? Are you in here?"
I had consigned her to the zone of characters who had done their role for the plot and were gone for the rest of it. Out of all the living people I've met in Hinamizawa, she's the last one I expected to see.
"Satoko?" said Rika.
Hojo Satoko entered the room we were in, and stopped. She looked a bit better than how she was doing the last time that I saw her, but the look of abject terror on her face sort of ruined the image.
She looked at Rika. Then at Haruhi. Then at me. Then at Mion's corpse, then at Haruhi, then at Mion's corpse again, and then she screamed.
"Ah, Satoko-chan. It's so good to see you again." said Haruhi.
She started walking toward Satoko. Satoko stared in horror, turned to run, and stumbled. Then she looked back up at Haruhi and promptly wet herself.
Rika quickly moved herself up to Satoko, clutching her tightly and blocking her from Haruhi.
"I won't let you treat Satoko like this. Me, yes, but not Satoko. She's had really awful things happen to her that you don't even know about! You don't need to make things worse."
Haruhi laughed again. I could have sworn that I saw her eyes regain some life. Not Haruhi's life, though...
"I know exactly what she's done! You damn brat!"
Haruhi slapped the air. Satoko promptly recoiled as if she was hit directly.
"You can't help her! Don't bother."
Satoko started crying.
"Nii-nii! Where are you, nii-nii!"
Oh, god, why do you have to do this again?
Haruhi lifted her foot up off the ground, and there was a meaty crunch as a metal spike emerged from her heel like an improvised stiletto. She started digging her heel into the ground like there was an invisible voodoo doll underfoot. A spot on Satoko's side quickly imploded and started gushing blood.
"If you wanna cry, fine! Keep on crying." For once, it sounded like Haruhi's voice wasn't the loudest in the choir. "But it still isn't gonna change anything! Why are you such a baby? Do you really think someone's gonna save you everytime you shed a tear? Did you ever think how these have vexed the people who help you? Don't you get it? This is your fault. You don't deserve to breathe the same air with us. If you are miserable, then die! Don't drag Satoshi down with you!"
Hold on. I don't remember her knowing who Satoshi is.
I got the sudden feeling that I was watching a past event that neither me nor Haruhi was ever part of.
"Haruhi! Stop it!" said Rika.
"Haruhi? I'm not Haruhi! Didn't you hear him say so?"
"Fine, then!" said Rika. "Suzumiya-san! Vassal or whatever of Oyashiro-sama! Shion! Whoever you are, stop!"
When Rika called Haruhi "Shion", she stopped for a split-second and looked at Rika.
"Yes, if you're someone else, if you're not Haruhi, then remember what he said!"
Haruhi's eyes went wide after a few seconds.
"Oh, my god." Okay, that's the repentant tone you should have had after you killed an innocent young girl four days ago. "You're... you're right." And it's gone.
She turned away from Satoko, and retracted her heel-spike. Then she started clawing away a good portion of her left temple. Blood quickly started spurting out. She watched the maggoty blood flow from her head and grinned.
"May Oyashiro-sama himself damn you, Furude." said Haruhi. Just Haruhi. "You've riled my kills. I am not functioning well enough as a purgatory for them. They're interfering with my thought process. I had to let them go. But I'll tell you this. I will spare you and your friend from death tonight. Mercy towards my high priestess, you see? But after that, if I see you, you're mine. Understand?"
I don't. Are you saying that you had Rena and Keiichi and the Sonozaki twins were being captured inside your head? That's... sort of odd.
Rika looked at her and smiled.
She looked at the still shaken Satoko.
"What on earth are you down here for, Satoko-chan?"
Satoko looked at her weakly.
"There's people... looking for you... men... they're waiting outside..."
Rika looked grim.
"Even with everything thrown into such a loop as it happens, they are still a constant. How did they know I was here?"
"They followed me here."
"And how did you know I was here?"
"I... I don't know... just a hunch."
"Who are these men?" asked Haruhi.
"The Yamainu. Don't worry. They have no interest in you."
She let go of Satoko.
"Satoko, hide in one of those cells, and don't come out until I tell you to."
Satoko nodded and crawled into a cell. Wait, I think that was the one that Shion was in. I hope she doesn't look down...
Rika pointed to one of the unopened cells.
"There's a secret passage. It leads outside. Go."
"What will you do?" I said.
She looked at Mion's corpse.
"I'll hope that Oyashiro-sama favors me as much as it has favored Suzumiya-san."
Oh... that's clever. But grab a length of chain. It'd help give it an air of legitimancy.
"Farewell, Kyon." said Rika. "I hope that you can get back to your own time."
"And I hope that you end up getting out of this in the future."
Rika bowed, and then beamed at me.
Me and Haruhi opened the cell with the secret passage, and started making our way through it.
"So, Kyon, what did she mean by 'our own time'?" said Haruhi.
Eh. Do we really have anything to lose?
"Well, I have no idea how we got here, but we're in the Hinamizawa of 1983."
"1983? How come you didn't tell me?"
"Well, to be honest, we were hoping that you wouldn't notice and get us out of here subconsciously."
"Kyon, as powerful as I am, I don't think I can do that."
Eventually, we found the exit and reached the surface. Wow, it is almost pitch black out here. For reference, the sun was still up (but barely starting to set) when we went inside. How long were we knocked out for? The storm still hasn't hit yet...
"You go first." I whispered. "Make sure that this isn't an ambush."
That might sound like I'm being a coward, but you saw what she did to Mion. Some armed goons would be a cakewalk.
"It's a secret exit. Of course it wouldn't be an ambush."
"Just do it."
My pragmatism was rewarded. Haruhi stopped. From behind her, I could see a shadowy figure in the darkness in front of us.
"Who are you?" said Haruhi. "Show yourself!"
The figure laughed. Oh god, I know that laugh.
No... that doesn't make any sense.
"Takano Miyo. I thought you were dead."
Thank you for summing up the situation and my thoughts, Haruhi-san.
Takano Miyo is standing in front of us (well, in front of Haruhi), wearing a black coat and a beret. Any doubts that I had that she was evil are now long since past.
And she really should be dead.
Although if it turns out that she did come back from incineration, I wouldn't be surprised. Hinamizawa and reality aren't on speaking terms.
"Well, it appears that that part of the plan has succeeded, then." said Takano.
Okay, let's hope that Haruhi's presence is enough so that Takano doesn't notice me while I hide over in these bushes. I can't really see either of their faces, but at least I can hear them and see them gesture.
Takano looked up and down at Haruhi.
"Well, aren't you a real lady in red? What's the special occasion?"
"None of your business, Takano-san."
"Ah. You do know that you're bleeding, right?"
She pointed at her left temple.
"I know. That reminds me," said Haruhi, "now that you're alive, I need to thank you."
"Oh? For what?"
"For introducing me to the concept that I ended up embracing; the Hammer of Oyashiro-sama."
Takano burst into laughter.
"Really? Did you honestly believe that?"
"Wow. Really? I can't believe that you're that gullible! You honestly bought 'Hammer of Oyashiro-sama'?"
"Are you suggesting that the Hammer of Oyashiro-sama isn't real?"
"Of course not! I made it all up."
Wait... so you managed to get Haruhi to turn into a psychotic avatar of a god and kill at least two people using nothing but bull? Takano Miyo, you earn my grudging respect.
Haruhi burst into maniacal laughter.
"So? You're wrong. Or in this case, right. The Hammer of Oyashiro-sama is very real. And the Hammer is me."
"That would explain the ridiculous outfit. It's quite amazing what a mentally disturbed mind causes." said Takano.
"Mentally disturbed? I'm not nuts!"
If I wasn't trying to be stealthy at the moment, I would have burst into laughter.
"I am the Hammer of Oyashiro-sama! I-I've killed people with my mind alone!"
Takano tilted her head.
"Ahh. My theories are confirmed. You are very sick, Suzumiya-san. Have you been hearing footsteps?"
"What's your point?"
"I'm just observing your symptoms. Now, have you heard footsteps out of sync with your own? Felt the presence of Oyashiro-sama watching over you as you slept? Perhaps you've been hallucinating that you were... bleeding maggots?"
Haruhi recoiled slightly. Takano chuckled.
"Hallucinations? Hallucinations? This is not a hallucination! He... Kyon said so himself!"
"Ah, but you cannot trust everything that someone says. What if you just imagined him saying that?"
"That's not possible..."
"It is. It's quite unfortunate that the final symptom of the disease you have is you tearing out your own throat. You are such an endearing individual, Suzumiya-san."
Hold on a second. Tearing out your own throat? Where have I heard that before...
Haruhi tensed up for a second, and then ripped off the bandages around her neck. The blood started pouring out like a waterfall again.
"Well, you don't have to worry about that, then! Mion already did it for me! And look where I am now!"
Takano looked completely unfazed, even as a bit of the blood and the maggots dripped on her.
"Your neck looks fine to me."
"Yes, not a mark on it."
Okay, even if everything after a certain point didn't happen, she still scratched at her neck. It can't be markless. I know that's a lie.
"That's not possible! I... I killed people with my powers. I know that."
"Oh? And once you've killed them, have you seen the bodies?"
"I... Shut up! You're trying to make me think that I'm imagining all this, because you want me either broken or in an asylum! I have a theory or two about you, Takano-temee. I forgot about them after I ascended-"
That's not even remotely what I'd describe it as.
"-but your reappearance has jogged my memory.
"Oh? Do tell."
Takano was sounding like she was a fashion designer amused at a little kid playing dress-up. Has she even dropped that condescending tone at all in this conversation?
"Well..." said Haruhi, "you're part of some secret, nefarious conspiracy. Might be the ringleader, might not, I'm not sure. Something to do with Tokyo, although I'm not sure what."
"I see." said Takano. "Where did you find that information.?"
"I raided your office on the day my powers manifested. I looked through your notes and your papers."
That explains her absence when the detective showed up and Keiichi attacked. Although really? You've been breaking into places just to find information? That's... that's actually perfectly in character with the Suzumiya Haruhi I know. Although I know she wouldn't have done it alone.
"Continue." said Takano.
"Now, you personally want to become a god." said Haruhi, "I got that from a diary or something in there. And you want to do that by killing Rika, because doing that would wipe out the whole town."
Wait, if you knew that, then why did you try to kill her?
"Not that that would happen, of course."
Okay, Haruhi, you're just pulling things out of your ass. Even if you did raid the clinic, there's no way that this sort of thing would happen.
"And you killed Tomitake, too! On the night of the festival. And your goons have been watching me day and night!"
"Really. And if I do have goons, then what do they look like?"
"They-they're those garbage-men or janitors or whatever. And they're called the Yamainu."
Okay, now would be the time for Takano to burst into laughter. I know I would.
But she didn't.
"Wait..." said Haruhi, and I could tell that the emotion was draining from her face, "I'm right, aren't I."
So you acknowledge that all of that was complete crap, then?
Takano chuckled. Her face was illuminated by a distant lightning strike, and there was a very malicious smirk on it. I saw her reaching for something.
And that was it.
No last words. No final battle or blaze of glory. No more madness or hijinks. No more melancholy or sighs or boredom or disappearances or rampages or anything like that.
Just a little bang. One tiny hole in her forehead.
Suzumiya Haruhi was dead.
I watched as her body slumped down onto the ground with not a scrap of dignity or life left in it. Takano chuckled and holstered her pistol. Wait, no burst of truly maniacal laughter? That's... unusual. Not what I'd expect from the woman who shot Haruhi.
"Well, that was easier than I thought."
Takano turned and looked - directly at me. I can now understand perfectly the reasoning and logic of the giant red exclamation point, because that's the perfect representation of how I felt. Takano's bloodstained face was wearing a nice, large smirk.
"Ah, Kyon-kun. Nice to see you again."
Okay, this is twenty times worse than being chained up and about to be tortured in regards to fear.
Takano drew her gun again, this time agonizingly slowly.
"Now, I don't want to have to shoot someone who's on the ground cowering. Stand up, unless you want to get shot."
I don't get your logic. Nevertheless, I stood up slowly.
"Thank you. It was nice to meet you, Kyon-kun."
Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap. Nagato? Anyone? Can someone save me? Now would be a perfect time for a deus ex machina. In that case, Oyashiro-sama, if you can hear me, HELP!
And then, the storm broke.
A lightning bolt arced directly above me and Takano. The burst of thunder caused me to stumble back slightly (not to mention pushing me further on the road to deafness). The rain started pouring down like the bolt tore the sky open. The bolt hit a tree near us, causing a large branch to fall. I barely managed to dodge it falling, but it pretty much pinned Takano.
And exit me, stage right.
As I made a hasty retreat, I could hear Takano... is she laughing?
"Ahahahahhaha! Is that all? I killed off your 'Hammer', and that's the most you can give in return? It's going to take a lot more than that to stop me!"
Okay, she's nuts. Moving on.
The rain was coming down harder than any rain that I had ever seen. Okay, ignore tripping if you can, and keep running.
So, now what? Haruhi's dead. That changes everything. Okay, first off, what's my short-term goal? Survival. Well, that was easy. But after that? Get to camp and tell everyone that Haruhi's dead. If I end up chased, Nagato can defend me, and if shinjin somehow start breaking in, Koizumi can handle them. Only problem is, I have absolutely no idea where I am.
Wait a second. We're doomed. If the world isn't ending around me (with this much rain coming right after Haruhi dies, I wouldn't be surprised), and I survive the night (less likely), then what? What would we do, live in a town with half of the child population dead, until we grow old and die? Can other people leave Hinamizawa? Can I leave Hinamizawa? Not that I could go anywhere else...
"There's someone! I think it's him! Get him!"
Oh, that's just peachy. There's those guys in the janitor garb. What were they called? Yaseiinu or something? Either way, they're armed. And judging by the holes rapidly forming in the trees behind me, I should get as far away from them as possible.
You know, I would probably have had nightmares about being chased by armed men in a dark, unfamiliar forest if I didn't have so much other nightmare fuel in my life. And I'm not even counting the Hinamizawa events.
I made a hard right turn, ducked onto a pathway, and started running downhill. More bullets flew past me.
Out of nowhere (you have got to be freaking kidding me...), my path was suddenly blocked by more of the Yamainu. I think I tried to stop. I have no idea, because the muddy path lacked friction, and I skidded right into one of them. I had guns pointed at me before I could get up again, and more of them corralled me into a circle.
"You're surrounded, kid. Any last words?"
I tried to think of some witty snark (probably involving his parentage and elderberries), but before I could say anything, a nearby tree exploded. Another lightning strike?
Something even better.
Every single Yamainu I could see was destroyed by a flechette storm of splinters directly into their eyes and their throats, but I was unharmed. If I wasn't in a clearing, I was now.
I saw Nagato leap into the air and land near me. That's when I felt that something was... well, that something was wrong.
For one, it was the first time since the day after the festival that Nagato was wearing her school uniform. It was covered in splotches that ranged from deep reds to rusty browns, and all of it was blood. Well, that would explain why she wasn't wearing the outfit for the past few days, but it raises a lot of question.
It wasn't just the bloodstained uniform that was off. She looked at me, and her eyes seemed... almost blank. I could see the rain and the blood and myself reflected in them. It was if... well, for the first time ever, I looked at Nagato and didn't see a person, but an alien.
It was at that exact moment that something that she said echoed in my mind; Erratic behavior is present in... in all individuals here.
"Nagato, I have really important news." I said. "Haruhi is-"
She looked right at me and stared deep into me. I take it that's Nagato's way of shushing me.
"I have constructed a plan that will permit us to escape Hinamizawa and return to the original plane of reality."
"Well, that's great, but-"
"If we could provoke a large enough reaction from Suzumiya-san, she would unform Hinamizawa, reform our native dimension, and discard all of the events that have happened over the past ten days."
"Fine, but there's-"
"Unfortunately, I would have to cause a reaction, and only a suitably large reaction, such as your death, would suffice. I apologize in advance."
Look, listen to me for a sec-wait, my what?
I could only shift slightly, but that was enough to keep the knife from hitting my arm. Actually, that thing's the borderline between a machete and a freaking sword. Nagato's knife embedded itself in a tree directly behind me with enough force to make it reverberate. If my arm was a little bit lower, I'd have to get prosthetics.
"Nagato? What-what are-"
"Your death is the only action that would cause a suitable response in Suzumiya-san. Do not worry, you would be recreated."
She yanked the knife out of the tree, and then she... moved. I think. All that I saw was her posture moving slightly, a streak of pain across my left arm, and her machete gaining a nice fresh coat of blood.
"No, that wouldn't work. Haruhi is dead!"
That caused her to pause.
"...that is a lie."
Okay, screw this, I'm out of here.
Before I could even get out of the clearing, I felt something really big slam into my legs. It felt like I was ran into by an invisible truck. I fell, and Nagato was above me.
"Nagato, what are you doing? You can't be seriously wanting to kill me!"
And at that moment, Nagato did something that was as horrifying as watching Rena get beaten to death.
It wasn't even a malicious smirk or anything like that. It was a small one, like if she was amused by a bad joke. And it was infinitely more horrifying.
"This is a necessary step, that I would prefer not to do. But it has to be done."
For once, her expression told me that that was a lie. I never thought that I would ever use anything of the sort when describing Nagato. But I just did.
"Nagato, please! Couldn't you kill someone else? I'm sure that'd killing Koizumi would produce a decent reaction."
"Something along those lines was attempted, but the project was aborted due to behavioral changes in Suzumiya-san."
Yes, loss of life is certainly a behavioral change.
"Any information that suggests that Suzumiya Haruhi is dead is not accurate."
Do I have to drag you off to the body to show you?
"Status reports show that she's alive."
She ISN'T! If you didn't turn any sticks in a ten-meter radius into sawdust, I would grab one and beat some sense into you. (And then get my ass kicked.)
Wait a second, what is this project, and what does it have to do with killing Koizumi?
"In case of catastrophic events," said Nagato, "an individual with a low chance of survival and a large bond with Suzumiya-san was terminated. This could be revealed later to cause large reactions in both you and Suzumiya-san. Unfortunately, the unstored ninety-three percent was discovered by local law enforcement, and Kumagai Katsuya, Akasaka Mamoru, Keisatsu Satsuo, and Ooishi Kuraudo were forced to be terminated."
It was about then that things started to click into place inside my head. It was pointing towards a conclusion that was almost too awful to think about. Nagato wouldn't do that. She's not at Haruhi-levels of insanity, which would be needed. Is she?
"When was this?" I asked.
"It was the night of June 27th."
"Wait, that was the same time that Asahina-san disappeared, right? Or did she?"
"No. Decapitated and disemboweled."
You said yourself that she vanished into the timestream. And there's only one real way for you to know exactly how she died.
"And the other seven percent. What happened to it?" I asked.
I have absolutely no idea where she got it from. All I know is that I blinked, and she was holding a severed head. But the beautiful auburn hair gripped in Nagato's fingers was unmistakable.
"You... that's..." I said.
"Yes. I killed Asahina Mikuru. I claim full responsibility."
No... you're not that insane enough... this is a trick, isn't it?
"No. And, to translate my brain activity into colloquial terminology, killing her was immensely enjoyable."
You... you... you whore!
I lunged at Nagato-temee and tried to claw at her throat. It felt like trying to rip apart a tree trunk, and it was about as effective.
You monster! What the hell happened to you? Nagato would never do anything like that!
Several wood splinters suddenly embedded themselves in my fingers, forcing me to abort the "murder that purity-murdering bitch" plan. That actually hurt a bit. I was then forced to my knees, and Nagato was above me, ready to slice my head open like a samurai. Wait, that's a double-handed grip. Where'd Asahina-san's head go? Okay, continuity errors aren't for reality.
I closed my eyes, waiting for the demon-girl to embed the knife in my head, and...
...it didn't. Um, where's the blade in my skull?
I opened my eyes. It seemed like someone switched Nagato out with a wax model when I wasn't looking.
"Stimuli from internal caches of datan are interfering with operating procedure."
Um, that's called guilt, maybe? Love? Common sense?
Seeing as she isn't killing me at this moment, I took the opportunity to stand up, pull these splinters out of my hands (and because they were slightly paralyzed until the splinters came out, I had to use my teeth to start), bandaging the cut on my left arm with my shirt, and starting to get out of there, all in about a minute or so.
"Excess caches of stored data deleted."
She leapt right over me and cut me off.
"Freezing non-essential musculature."
She waved her hand, and then all of muscles felt heavy. I couldn't move at all, except for my eyes.
Really? Really? Did you delete your originality, too?
She raised the blade above her head, rushed at me, I closed my eyes, and...
And once again, there wasn't a knife in my head. I opened my eyes to see what was keeping her.
The tip of the knife was scant centimeters from piercing my shirt, and the only thing stopping it from going any further was that Furude Rika was gripping onto the knife.
The parallels are not lost on me.
Except that I don't quite remember Nagato straining that much. And I think she only used one hand. And I don't know if Nagato was bleeding so profusely... But it's balanced by the fact that it's an ordinary (compared to Nagato) little girl. She wins the award for "most badass lolita" from me.
"Do not kill him, sir." said Rika.
Okay, don't say 'sir' when you're not trying to obfuscate yourself.
Nagato's head tilted ever so slightly.
"Why are you defending this individual?"
"Because... look, I've seen people die. I've seen people die a lot. I've died a lot. But Kyon... he's special. Don't you know that? The entire SOS Brigade is special. I haven't seen you once before. You probably won't come back again. You're a once-in-a-lifetime experience! For all I know, you'll only die once. Me? Hell, I probably have another hundred years of death after death ahead of me. I can't spare myself. I can't spare my friends. I can't spare everyone, but I can spare him."
I'm sure that I really should be touched and thankful, but she's acting like she's in love with me, and it's creepy.
I tried to step back. Nagato pushed the blade forward, and Rika went with it.
"His death is an unfortunate necessity." said Nagato, "It is the only way that the world can be restored."
You're still assuming that Haruhi isn't dead.
"No! It's not!" said Rika. "There's at least one other way! It might just restart the cycle, but it's better than nothing!"
Nagato tightened her grip around the blade. Something that Rika said obviously struck a chord.
"I absolutely refuse to be trapped in another temporal recursion. That is not and never will be an option if I have any influence on the matter."
Nagato chanted something in her magic speech (wait, doesn't that... okay, no more questions, there's no use learning the answers), and the knife started to glow blue. Rika stumbled forward.
When Rika fell, it was almost like there wasn't a blade. But there was a spot where the blade happened to cross her forehead, and the blood started spewing from there in jets. Why Rika had stopped holding onto the blade was obvious; every one of her delicate, pale, tiny, little girl fingers was cut off slightly above the base, and they're now resting in the bloody mud below. Well, at least she still has her thumbs...
Nagato shook the blood off her blade, and used her free hand to clutch Rika's head. Rika replied by grasping Nagato's arm with her stubs.
"Would you rather be destroyed, Yuki... or live one more time?" said Rika.
"I... I know of a way... how to restart everything."
"There is nothing else. The possibility of restarting everything-"
"-is there! Just listen to me. Take me up to the Furude Shrine. I know what would need to be done."
"If we don't try it... we'll never know if it would have worked or not."
After a few seconds of possible hesitation, Nagato grabbed onto Rika's wrist and walked off.
Leaving me still unable to move.
Hey, Nagato! Come back! You need to undo this! Nagato!
Oh, damnit, I can't move my mouth either. She can't hear what I'm saying. Actually, I can move my eyes, my lungs, and anything autonomous, I assume. That's it. The rain is pouring down in amounts that would make Hawaii envious, and there's still armed goons looking for me that would love to shoot me in the head.
Fortunately, after a few minutes, I could feel a feather-light touch caress my arm. The touch was both cool like a cold glass of milk and warm like a summer breeze. (Don't ask how it felt both warm and cool, especially in the pouring rain. It just did.) If I had to pick one word to describe it, it would be "maternal".
As the sensation spread throughout my body, I could feel my muscles loosen and my paralysis fade.
I looked to see which soul I could thank for freeing me.
And "soul" was the best word I could use to describe what was in front of me.
To be specific, it was the soul or ghost (kami?) of a young girl, barely an echo on the mortal plane, but having a presence the size of Hinamizawa. She had lavender hair, and was garbed in hakama. She also had horns, which was both odd (because oddity is an inherent trait of a girl with horns) and somewhat sad (because one of her horns was broken, and I had a good idea of what had happened to it). There were scars covering her face and a few on her arms, but the massive unhealed gash gave me a good guess to who she was. Her face was mournful.
And Hanyuu was gone.
Well, let's see what's going on with Nagato and Rika. Just follow the blood trail...
Once I got to the shrine, l I found Rika lying down prominently at the top of the shrine's steps, and Nagato standing over her.
"Will this work?" said Nagato.
"I'm... well, it can't hurt to hope, can it?"
Rika over at me. She looked pale, weak, wet, and utterly helpless. She could barely keep her eyes open.
"Thank... thank you, sir."
"Why are you thanking me?" I said. "You were the one that saved my life."
"I was just... returning the favor..."
She smiled weakly.
"It's good to have met you, Kyon. I'm glad that I met someone so... so interesting."
If I was by Haruhi's side as she laid dying, that's probably what she would have said.
She looked up at Nagato, closed her eyes, and nodded.
Nagato returned the nod, and with a quick spin of her blade, Rika's entrails were visible for all to see. She twitched once, then... opened her eyes, raised her head, looked at her guts, and fell back down again. She didn't get back up.
So much blood, right on the steps of the shrine... isn't doing something like this the way to get booted out of heaven? I'm not religious in the slightest, but this is still so blasphemous it's horrible.
After a long period of silence, Nagato wiped off her machete and turned to me.
"We have business unfinished."
She stepped towards me.
"Nagato, shouldn't you see what will happen with this?" I said.
"I have given it enough. No response detected."
"Nagato, stop! This isn't necessary!"
"I am sorry."
She drew the machete back.
You know what? Fine. You're a lost cause and a monster, Nagato. You let this girl, who I should nominate for sainthood, die for the sake of our salvation, and you don't give a damn? Go ahead. Let me fall. Nothing's holding you back.
And Nagato stopped.
"I... I'm sorry."
And the blankness of her eyes was gone like a shattering aquarium. She dropped the knife, almost fell to her knees, and started hyperventilating.
She looked up at me. The look of tears and regret and pain on her face tripped every mental flag in my head and flew into the horrifying category.
"I'm sorry... I'm so sorry..."
And she dug her fingers into her throat.
Nagato was ripping away at her throat tissue. She quickly hit a blood vessel and it didn't stop spurting.
"Nagato, stop! Stop! I'm begging you, stop!"
She didn't listen. She just kept digging her nails into her throat. It was like watching a chainsaw in action. There was a loud crunching sound. I'm assuming that's her spine being mulched.
Nagato, stop! How can you even rip your head off when you have a shredded spinal cord? If you keep scratching, you'll rip your head off!
But she didn't stop. She just kept scratching and spurting waterfalls of blood. This makes at least four people's blood that I've been coated in over the course of tonight alone, and that's not counting my own blood.
Thankfully, eventually, Nagato's slicing fingers slowly, slowly, slowed down and eventually stopped. Most of her neck was pulp. Her head was literally hanging on by a thread.
Okay, that was a bit of a bad joke, but I need those. I need a coping mechanism. Wait, screw a coping mechanism, I need therapy.
Nagato (I'm not sure if she's dead or not) buckled. The sudden force caused her head to snap over her fingernails, breaking the strand of flesh and separating head from body. Only then did life exit Nagato's body.
I caught Nagato's head before it could roll down the steps. For some reason, I decided to get my inner Hamlet on and look right into the head's eyes.
And there was life. Not much, but it was there.
"I'm sorry for what I did..." mouthed Nagato. If there was any voice, it was whisper quiet.
"I know." I said.
I was caught off-guard by her stating my name. Well, my nickname. Either way, that's never happened before.
She smiled weakly.
"I... I have had to only observe for the past three years. It was... boring. Uneventful. But then... someone came into my life and gave it pleasure. Gave it excitement. Made it worthwhile."
Her eyes fluttered, like the light of her soul was flickering out.
"That would be... you."
Her eyes shut, and then... stillness.
Nagato was dead. Haruhi was dead. Rika was dead, as well. The SOS Brigade is gone. Koizumi's probably been shot by now.
At that moment, in all of my life, I have never felt so utterly alone.
"Awww... isn't that sweet?"
The voice came from behind me (...that's inside the shrine. She was inside the freaking shrine. WHERE DO THESE PEOPLE KEEP COMING FROM?). And there was that evil, way too familiar laugh.
"You." I said, through gritted teeth.
"Me." said Takano.
I set down Nagato's head and... no, wait. That sounds wrong. I'm going to try that sentence again.
I set down Yuki's head gently by her body, with the respect that Nagato Yuki deserves, and then I stood up to face the villain.
I heard so many guns clicking in the zone at the shrine entrance, it sounded like a freaking cicada. Even with the darkness of the storm shrouding the shrine, I could see five of the Yamainu, and I know there's more.
"So, you're little guardian angel has killed herself. So sad..." said Takano. "That only leaves you out of your little party."
"What about Koizumi?" I said.
And I am walking though the valley of the shadow of death, and I have no fear, because there's more than twenty guns pointing at me right now in the darkness and my amygdala has overloaded and gone into a fetal position.
"We've already taken care of your friend, don't worry."
I'm getting the strange, very peculiar sense that you're lying to me. I wonder why.
"Look, just leave me alone." I said. "You wanted to kill Rika, right? Well, she's dead, and I have absolutely nothing left."
Takano walked over to Rika's body.
"It... it's ruined..."
"The body is defiled. It's completely unfit. You ruined it!"
Ruined it? You don't even know anything about what she did.
Takano pulled out her pistol again.
"No worries, though. It should still be safe for research. The organs aren't too torn."
I... are you planning on dissecting a little girl?
"Perhaps. You won't have to worry about that, now, will you, Kyon-kun? Poor boy, with all of this blood on his hands."
I'm covered in so much blood, my skin's a universal donor at this point. Of course it's on my hands. And yet, I haven't killed a single person, making me an oddity of Hinamizawa.
"Don't call me that." I said.
And then, I had an idea that could possibly get me out of this mess. Or, I'd get shot, but I figured that I'd get shot if I didn't do anything, so the risk was worth it.
I grabbed the blade that Nagato dropped. It somehow managed to slice through the stone floor of the shrine steps and buried itself to the hilt in the floor. I pulled it out and swung it into an offensive position. It made a really cool sound - something like a mix between a bullwhip and ripping velvet.
"Ah, Kyon-kun, you are so naive. Do you not see my men out there?"
"Yes." I said. "Yes, I do. Can I ask you a question before I get turned into an alloy?"
"You wanted to kill a god, right?"
"Yes, and you beat me to the punch."
"No. No, you shot your god, alright. You shot her long before Furude Rika was dead."
"I'm not sure what you... oh."
She chuckled again.
"I knew that you and Suzumiya had a spark of love between you. Now, that's enough questions for you."
"Well, you see, Takano, when she died... the power went to someone else. Conservation of energy, if you would. Who do you think got the power?"
I smirked. Takano smirked as well.
And then, another burst of probably divine luck hit. I would never be able to explain what exactly helped me survive, but before I could boast of godly power that I know that I lack, out of the corner of my eye, I saw one of the Yamainu look startled and point his gun and his gaze upward.
And the rest of the Yamainu that I could see pointed their guns upward as well.
Well, I'm not one to disregard an opportunity when I see one. Exit me, stage... screw the stage, I'm jumping into the audience and exiting through the back of the theater.
I leapt down the steps, slashed into the nearest Yamainu (or it might have been air - with such a clean blade, you can't tell), dropped the knife, and started running for my dear life. I heard gunshots, but only a few of them seemed to be at me. I also heard a lot of goons screaming. I would look back to see what was hitting them, but odds are, I'd trip.
After I got out of the shrine complex, and onto one of the many paths leading out of there, I realized something; I'm screwed. Assuming that she had the Yamainu shoot Koizumi (it's a fifty-fifty chance that she actually did), then the SOS Brigade is dead. And who else is left from Hinamizawa, anyway? Satoko? If she hasn't been shot herself, she'd break if she found out that Rika was dead. It doesn't even feel like I'm completely there anymore. Everything's sort of melded together into an unidentifiable forest road.
Maybe... maybe just facing the bullets isn't too bad of an idea. Let Rika sort it out post-mortem.
I heard footsteps behind me. Nothing human could run that fast. What, do the Yamainu have freaking super soldiers?
I turned to try to catch a glimpse of my pursuer. All I could see was a blue blur, and I felt cold steel streak across my back.
Holy shit, that hurt. That blade sliced directly through any pain resistance that I had either been given or built up and just... damn, that hurt like hell. That is pure, unadulterated pain pumped directly into the nervous system. Only once have I felt pain that much. Is that a cursed blade or something? Am I going to get violently ill, now?
I stumbled, landed on my back, and slid to a stop, forcing mud into the wound and making it even worse. I tried to get back up again, and... I couldn't move a single muscle. It felt like someone hit "pause" on the story of my life. I couldn't even blink as the rain dripped onto my eyes.
And then, I heard a girlish giggle. I knew that giggle.
I now officially know that Hinamizawa is fucking with me. It's run out of original horror and it's delving into my psyche to fuck with me even more.
That's not possible. It simply isn't. You're a destroyed figment from a reality that already doesn't exist anymore. You're gone. Your boss is gone. Your reality is gone. You cannot exist.
But as much as I tried to deny it, there she was.
Asakura Ryoko, wearing a bloodstained (but otherwise completely dry) North High uniform and holding her knife between her fingertips. There she was, leaning over into my field of vision and letting the blood drip into my eyes.
"Kyon... I found you..."