Konata had been waiting so long...
Finally, she just couldn't take the anticipation anymore. She had to do something.
"So? What'd you think?"
Konata had been watching Yasaka Kou as she read the pages Konata had put together so far. It was nerve-wracking, but in a good way. She hadn't been sure at first, but it looked like joining the Manga Research Society at school had turned out to be a good idea. Konata had found out she could be a decent manga artist if she put her mind to it.
"This is an action story?" Kou said. She didn't look up. "I wasn't really sure what to expect from you. Knowing the kind of games you played, I thought it might be a romance, or something..."
"Did you like it?"
"Yeah. This is good. Really good, actually, and your characters were great. I just didn't expect you to do an action story like that. It's really different than what Hiyori's been working on."
"But the great part is that it has a bit of everything. There's action, but I also had some slice-of-life kind of stuff in there, and some drama - "
"It's a lot better than I was expecting, really. Just make sure you get it finished in time for Comiket, alright?" She handed the papers back to Konata with a grin.
Deadlines... Konata let out a sigh as she filed them back into her portfolio. This wasn't all fun and games. If she wanted to do this, she'd have to get a schedule planned out, and lose a bit of the freedom she enjoyed. She'd have to stick to a routine.
But on the bright side... Kou had liked her manga.
"Alright. I should have the next chapter done in..." Konata didn't want to make any promises, so she finished the sentence with: "...at least a month?"
"Try two weeks, tops. Less, if you can," Kou replied with her eyes narrowed.
"Three weeks. You can't rush art," Konata said.
Kou hesitated for a moment, then surrendered. "Fine. But only because this was good."
"Alright. Thanks," Konata replied. She glanced at the clock on the classroom wall. "Oh, I better get going. There's not much time left for lunch, is there?"
She headed back to the senior classrooms with a grin on her face. She had a real sense of accomplishment from this. And, come January, maybe people would actually buy this and read it. That was still a few months away, though.
Konata was one of those people who truly enjoyed their lifestyle.
The Sun Is Eclipsed By The Moon
When she slid open the door to the classroom, she found Kagami had already come over from her class to join them for lunch. All three of them seated around the table looked up as she strolled in.
"Hey. Where've you been?" she said.
"Oh, I just had to visit someone," Konata said. "Did I mention I joined the Manga Research Club? I'm writing my own manga now. Kou-chan thinks that I'm a very talented artist."
"Wha... When did this start?" Kagami said.
Konata pulled up a chair and sat down casually. "Oh, I've just been working on some stuff in my free time. Want to see it?"
She didn't even wait for anyone to say "yes" or "no" before she whipped out her new artist's portfolio and pulled out the pages for her first chapter. She had a cover sketch that she'd colored in, while the rest of the pages were in shaded pencil sketch. She flipped through them, making sure they were all in the right order.
"Wow... This is unexpected, to say the least... So when have you had time to do this? I thought you were busy with your job down at the cafe." Kagami stared at the full-page illustration on top. "That's incredible... I can even read your handwriting."
Konata ignored what was probably intended as a veiled insult.
"How long have you been working on that, Kona-chan?" Tsukasa said. "You never told us anything about it."
"Oh, I've been doing some character sketches for a while now, and figuring out the basic plot. I didn't want to say much until I was sure I was serious about starting it," Konata replied. She was watching Kagami's expression out of the corner of her eye, trying to discern her thoughts from her facial expression. "It's about these high school students who can go to alternate universes."
"I'd like to see it too, if you don't mind," Miyuki said. "It sounds quite interesting."
"All I have finished so far is just the first chapter. I don't know when I'll find the time to get another one finished."
"Wait a sec..." Kagami said. She squinted at the page she was holding, then flipped the pages back to examine the cover. "This character is supposed to be me, isn't it?"
"Huh? What are you talking about?" Konata said innocently.
"You based all these characters on us, didn't you? Kaori's supposed to be me, just with purple hair..."
"Well, umm... I was just trying to make a good tsundere character, and you inspire me so much, Kagami! Besides, twin ponytails is basically a requirement for characters like that, I couldn't give her any other hairstyle..."
Kagami sighed. She looked back at Konata's illustration of the girl brandishing her dual revolvers. It had become blatantly obvious this was based off of her (personality-wise, at least) within about five pages. By the time her twin sister Sachiko had shown up, it just gave it away. What kind of weird fantasies were going through Konata's mind?
"It's not like anyone's going to recognize you..."
Reviewing the last few pages, Kagami said, "And Murakami Emiri's the main character, right?"
"Well, maybe she's based a little bit off of myself..."
"I didn't ask if she was." Kagami gave a sly grin. "Interesting design for... let's see..." She scanned the page, trying to find the name. "Hiromi. Those glasses, and... pink hair?" She looked up at Miyuki. "I don't really see it, but... okay."
Konata frowned. "Hey, a lot of artists do this kind of thing... They say you're supposed to write what you know, don't they?"
"May I see it?" Miyuki asked. Kagami handed the stack of papers to her. She pushed up her glasses and began reading.
Konata was completely unsure what Miyuki would think, since she didn't even read regular manga. But she had a smile across her face. Actually, what was there to be nervous about? Miyuki couldn't say anything negative, it was practically impossible for her. Maybe that was good and bad.
"I think it's quite wonderful. Um... your characters are supposed to be in high school?" Miyuki said finally.
"Yeah. My style makes them look a little young, but they're actually our age."
"Of course..." Kagami muttered.
"You drew all of these, Kona-chan?" Tsukasa was reading over Miyuki's shoulder, eager to see what they were all talking about. "When did you learn to draw?"
"I just kind of picked it up, really. I started sketching a few characters once, and it just kind of turned out looking good..."
"This is quite an interesting story, as well," Miyuki said. "Where did you come up with this?"
"Well, um... I'm not sure. I guess the alternate universe angle seemed like a good way to open it up to a lot of different plots. I actually haven't decided how long the story's going to be once I'm done," Konata said.
And already she was getting ideas on what to do next. Maybe she'd add something about vampires or some other supernatural element. She might do a few chapters in space, in some universe where people lived on Mars or something. The concept left the possibilities wide open.
The bell rang and snapped her out of her daydreams. Miyuki handed the papers back to her, and Konata carefully slid them into her portfolio. She'd get started on the next chapter... tomorrow, maybe.
"Hey, Miyuki, do you think you could show me how to do these problems?"
School had just ended for the day, and Konata had remembered that she wanted to ask Miyuki for help with something. She pulled out a sheet of math problems and watched over Miyuki's shoulder as she read them.
"No way. You're actually copying off Miyuki? That's really low," Kagami said. "My homework isn't good enough for you to copy anymore?"
"No, I need to figure out how to do these on my own," Konata replied. There didn't even seem to be a hint of sarcasm in her voice.
"What...? What's with the sudden dedication?"
Miyuki finished looking them over. "Konata-san, I don't believe we're currently doing these in our class... Are you sure these are what you wanted my help with? It's not a mistake, is it?"
Konata nodded. "Yeah, there's, um... It's this new quiz game at the arcade. I always get beaten on these questions. So can you show me how they work?"
Kagami stared at her in shock, but Miyuki just smiled and nodded. She began going over the first of the math equations, and Konata listened attentively to each of the steps.
"So that's it..." Konata said. "Thanks! I think I understand..."
"What's gotten into you all of a sudden?" Kagami asked. It was incredible how little Konata cared about academics, and then all of a sudden she'd get an interest in something because of an anime she had just seen or a game that she'd been playing. The only reason her grades were low was lack of motivation. Of course, she'd miraculously ace every test and keep herself from totally failing...
Was this girl really going to be eighteen in less than a week? That would mean she was an adult. Legally she'd be an adult, at least. Konata would never truly be mature, it was against every part of her nature.
"If you ever took responsibility for anything, just once in your life - " Kagami said, but noticed Konata was ignoring her.
At least this manga might be a sign that she was willing to put some work into producing something. It would be a good lesson for her. Even if it was incredibly weird and awkward.
Nobody was going to recognize anyone in that story, she reassured herself. Nobody.
"You know, we're not doing anything tonight, so wanna come to my house for a while?" Konata suggested.
"That sounds fun," Tsukasa said.
"My apologies, I don't think I'll be able to make it today. I'm terribly sorry," Miyuki said.
"Nah, that's fine," Konata said. "Maybe some other day we could go back to your house. That was fun when we visited."
Kagami and Tsukasa packed up their books, while Konata just had her portfolio with her. There wasn't schoolwork in it, of course, just her latest hobby. They were headed out the front door of the school when they were interrupted.
Hiyori came up to her on the way out, carrying her notebook and a folder under one arm. Konata turned around and saw her.
"Hey. What's up?"
"I heard you joined the club! Kou said you had some pretty good material," Hiyori said.
Konata scratched the back of her head in a gesture of modesty. "Did she, now? Looks like I'm already getting a reputation. Anyways, how're things going for you?"
Hiyori's smile vanished. "Not too good. I've got a bad case of writer's block again..."
"Hmm... I think Yutaka was saying she was going to go somewhere after school with Minami-chan. They probably haven't left yet. Why don't you join them? It might be good for you."
Hiyori could hear it in Konata's voice. "Wh-what do you mean by that?" she asked, but knew exactly what Konata was talking about.
"I've read your manga. It's obvious," Konata said. She raised a hand before Hiyori could say anything else. "Don't worry, I know how it is. I won't judge you."
"What are you talking about, Kona-chan?" Tsukasa stared at the two of them blankly.
"Nothing. Just some club business," Konata replied nonchalantly. "Hm... I feel like stopping by Gamers real quick before we go home. Is that fine with you?"
"Are you sure you need to buy more stuff?" Kagami said. "Weren't you saying something a few days ago about having a lot that had piled up?"
She and Tsukasa were tagging along behind Konata as she hunted around the store with an expert's eye. It was really odd the way she did this. The store clerks had never gotten accustomed to how Konata shopped, always reacting with surprise whenever she came to the counter with a huge stack of fifteen copies or so of the same book. But today Konata hadn't picked up even a single copy of anything.
"Yeah. I just thought I'd look around, and..." Konata suddenly stopped and snatched up a book. "Volume 7? It's out already?"
"I'd think you'd be especially busy with your new project," Kagami said. "You're going to try to fit everything in, aren't you?"
"Whatever. It's not like I need to sleep or anything." Coming from anyone else, that might have sounded like a joke. "But this can't wait. You've gotta buy it now or else you might not find it later. It's all part of the game." Konata lifted up the pile to select one in the middle of the stack, and squinted at the cover and flipped through the pages. "This one looks good..."
"Only getting one this time?"
"I'm a little strapped for cash at the moment."
Kagami considered saying something about saving money when you were low, but it wasn't like Konata was going to change her mind. Not when she had it in her hand, from that moment she had already made a final decision. And she wasn't done yet, she was still going down the rows looking for something else to buy.
"Speaking of which, I was wondering if you could help me with something." Konata spoke without turning around.
"What do you mean, Kona-chan?" Tsukasa asked.
"Actually, if you could do it, Tsukasa..." The gears were turning. "I'm going to need someone to man the booth at Comiket in January. Are you up for it?"
"C-Comiket?" Tsukasa had turned pale at the mention.
"You know as well as I do that nothing can get her to go back there," Kagami said.
Who could forget last time they'd gone? On New Year's Eve, every otaku in Japan seemed to leave the shelter of their homes to gather at this festival. It had been just a tad too much for Tsukasa to deal with... Actually, it had taken Konata and Kagami nearly two hours to find her after they were supposed to have met. A total disaster. That night at the shrine had been difficult too after the chaos earlier in the day.
"As long as she stays at the booth, she won't get lost. This is my first time actually selling something there," Konata said. She had picked up a manga, and was reading the first couple of pages. "Kagami and I will pick up the stuff on my shopping list, and then we'll meet back there. If we stick to the plan, nothing will go wrong. Second time's the charm."
Apparently that settled the matter in her mind, and Kagami didn't feel like arguing about it right now. Besides, it wasn't until January. Konata chose two other books before she went to the counter to check out. After that they headed towards the train to Saitama.
"Wait, so last night you actually went out there in that storm?" Kagami said. "Why did you do a thing like that?"
"I thought it would be fun," Konata replied, shrugging. "In anime, and even in movies, you always see these dramatic scenes taking place in the rain, and it never seems to bother the characters. Truth is, it's hard to ignore it even if you try. All you want to do is run and get inside where it's warm. I probably won't do it again."
They were headed back to Konata's house after the quick stop at Gamers. Everything had dried up since last night, but she still remembered coming down this stretch of sidewalk in a run with her head down once the downpour had really started. It had been a big one - the lightning was bright enough that it lit up the whole street like daylight. It was the kind of thing you only saw in anime, and was a bit terrifying in real life.
"It was so loud I could hardly get to sleep last night," Tsukasa said. "I'm surprised you didn't catch a cold, if you were out in the rain..."
"I've always been pretty healthy. I guess I just don't get sick easily," Konata said. "What a shame, I could really use those days off of school..."
"You don't work hard enough as it is," Kagami said, but Konata just gave a sly grin in response.
They kept on talking as they turned the next corner and headed down a few more blocks. The distance from the train station to her house didn't seem nearly as far on a bright spring day like this. It had been at least two miles longer last night. Now they were here.
"Oh, Konata, you're back from school already?" Her mother was headed in the direction they were coming from. "And I see Kagami and Tsukasa came over, too. It's good to see both of you."
Kanata's smile was one of the few things that distinguished her from her daughter. Mainly because when she smiled, you never got the feeling that she was up to something. Their personalities were total opposites, but in terms of physical appearance they were nearly identical.
"We were just coming over to play for a while," Tsukasa said.
"That's fine, Tsukasa-chan. So how was your day?" Kanata asked.
"Great," Konata replied. "Oh, right, I joined the Manga Research Club, so I'm going to be staying after school a couple days a week."
Kanata seemed surprised. "You joined a club? That's good, but... I didn't think you had any interest in them. I'm glad you found one you liked. You should tell your father, it sounds like something he'd be interested in."
"I didn't believe it until I saw it. I didn't think she had it in her..." Kagami said. She still had her doubts, and wondered how long it would last, but didn't say anything.
"What were you headed out for, anyways?" Konata said.
"I was just heading out to the store for a few things. Can you think of anything we need?" Kanata asked.
"Hmm... I think I'm pretty good right now. Thanks!"
They said goodbye and Kanata headed off towards the train.
Back in Konata's room, she'd placed the new manga she had bought on the shelf next to the rest of the series in an almost ceremonious fashion. Then it was back to the usual - playing games, watching someone else play a game, or reading whatever could be found in the room. She hated to admit it, but Kagami had found some really good series while picking random books off the shelf.
Right now, though, she was watching Konata as she tried to impress the school council treasurer, a shy-looking girl with glasses who blushed on nearly every other line of dialogue. Konata was strangely compelled by these kinds of games. Kagami didn't really see the appeal, but for some reason she couldn't explain she was watching anyways.
"Huh?" Konata suddenly stared at the screen in shock. "I hate it when these games do this..."
She'd tried to offer emotional support to this girl she was trying to go on a date with or something, but instead the girl had taken it the wrong way and thought she was being insulted.
"If they always made it the obvious choice, wouldn't the game be too easy? They have to make it challenging somehow," Kagami said.
Konata began looking for some opening to start patching things up after her mistake.
Tsukasa didn't say anything, instead remaining engrossed in the magazine she was reading. It was several months old, but still nowhere near the oldest one in here. Konata never threw any of her magazines out, it seemed. Especially the ones with serialized manga... But she bought all the compilation volumes anyway, so what was the point?
"You really play a lot of different kinds of games," Kagami commented. She nodded towards the stack of cases. "You've got these dating sims, which are pretty much all text and storyline, then you play fighting games which are completely opposite. Then there's everything in between."
"I've always liked variety," Konata said. She shrugged, and moved the on-screen cursor up and down as she contemplated two different choices. "If I get bored with one game, I can move on to a different one, then go back later."
"It doesn't really bode well for how you deal with commitment..."
"I guess the same thing goes for anime and manga, too. I like a lot of different stuff. Maybe it has something to do with my parents. They couldn't be more different, maybe I just got a combination of both their tastes."
"That's one way of looking at it," Kagami said. "But I didn't think your mom was into any of this stuff."
"Oh, my dad and I have introduced her to a few shows," Konata said. "I can think of a couple that she really seems to enjoy."
Later that night, Konata remembered to check her recordings. Yesterday they'd aired the new episode of Haruhi while she had been at work.
"Looks like it worked..." Konata looked around. "Hey, where's Yutaka? Did she go to bed already?"
"Yeah," Sojiro replied. He was seated on the sofa next to his wife. "She's really tired from last night. She was worried that something would happen to you... Why'd you go out there, anyway? We were all worried about you. Why didn't you at least call us?"
Her memories of that night were a little hazy. She mostly remembered coming out of the cafe, waiting for a little while in a store somewhere, then coming out into a grey mess of wind and rain. "I... don't know. I'm really sorry about that."
"Konata, it's okay if you come home late when you get stuck somewhere like that. Just let us know," Kanata said.
"It's alright now. The important thing is that you're okay." Dropping the subject, she said, "So, did you want to watch your show?"
"Yeah! I've been looking forward to this one." Konata pushed her way in the middle of both her parents on the couch and started the recording.
Konata had been the first one to take an interest in this show. She couldn't explain what had originally drawn her to it, like there was some kind of connection she felt with the characters... And then the rest of her family had gotten into it. Even her mom looked forward to watching it with the rest of the family. You could call it the Izumi's unique way of family bonding.
It was obvious enough why her dad had taken an interest in this show, particularly the scenes with Asahina... As for Kanata, it seemed like she had just decided to watch one episode a few weeks ago to spend some time with the rest of them, and decided she liked the show too. Maybe it was the comedy in the daily lives of the characters, maybe she had just wanted to know who her daughter was dressing up as at work. Whatever it was, Konata liked that they all shared an interest in it.
This episode concluded the plot of the second one, with the murder mystery on the island. This had been a good storyline. Last week had been a pretty good beach episode with some good fanservice shots during the beach sequence and a cliffhanger ending. This episode was surprisingly dark compared to the rest of the series, up until the end, at least.
It was just before ten o'clock when they finished.
"Well, I think I'll turn in for the night," Konata said, giving a conspicuous yawn as she stood up.
"Don't stay up too late this time, alright?" Kanata knew enough about her daughter to know what "turn in for the night" meant - logging in online and playing until morning. "You should get some rest."
"Yeah..." Konata sighed. "Anyways, good night!"
She went to her room and slid the door closed. No need to have the lights on, the monitor was bright enough, as usual. Time to get started on another raid. Last time she'd been on, one of the enemies had dropped Laevateinn. She'd played at least three hours longer than usual after that. It was a rush.
Her character appeared in the central town area. She checked to see if her friends were on, and sent out a message.
konakona: ready to go?
yamanka: hey, kona! ^^ havent seen u in a while
gatongo: been busy? rofl
Konata smiled, and looked over towards her portfolio. Maybe in the next chapter she'd have her characters visit a world like the one in this game. Which reminded her, she'd been trying to convince Kagami and the others to try this game out.
konakona: a little bit, thought id come back 4 a visit
This was a Monday, so that meant... She did some quick working in her head. Yeah, she could spend all night playing if she wanted to. She'd been putting in a lot of time lately, she deserved a break.
An hour went by before she even realized it, along with several floors of this dungeon. Laevateinn was serving her well. It would be a long time before she found any weapons to replace it. The added fire damage was useful against enemies who resisted physical attacks. These goblins didn't stand a chance.
"Hikaru kumo o tsukinuke, Fly Away!"
The sound of her phone ringing nearly made her fall off her desk chair. That ringtone could only mean one thing. What time was it? And that meant... She thought she had the night off. What was going on?
She found her cell on one of the shelves, picking it up as it got to the first "Cha-La." She quickly flipped it open. "Hello?"
"Konata! Where the hell are you?"
"Um... What's going on?" She tried to sound sleepy and unaware of what was going on, although she was getting an idea.
"You're late! You were supposed to be here five minutes ago! Don't you remember?"
That's right... She must have forgotten. She looked back at the screen forlornly, and prepared to log off.
konakona: sry guys, gtg
konakona: forgot i had homework
"Yeah. The usual place, then?" Konata asked.
"You're treating us all to lunch when you get here. Make it quick, or else there's going to be additional penalties!"
"I'm on my way right now."
The person on the other end hung up without another word. Konata logged off, and sighed. There was most likely no such thing as a day off. Oh well. It wasn't like she needed one.
She changed into some weekend clothes - a red T-shirt over a long-sleeve black one, and some comfortable jeans. Then she picked up her wallet. It was already feeling light. If she had just been thinking about this even ten minutes ago, she probably could've avoided having to pay for everyone.
Oh well. She'd specifically requested this job, and she wasn't completely disappointed other than the fact that she never got to spend a quiet night at home.
There wasn't a single thing she'd change about her life.
Author's Note: 40 chapters and nearly a year later, I'm finally finished! Thanks to everyone who read and reviewed, especially to the few people who left regular reviews with each chapter. Those were a true help with motivation. Hope you enjoyed the story and particularly this final chapter, whatever you may take it to mean. Currently I have no plans for a sequel, but who knows? Maybe I'll pick this up again.
Special thanks to the original writers, artists, and other assorted staff of all of the assorted properties this story crossed over with:
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
Stephen King's The Stand/The Dark Tower
Neon Genesis Evangelion
Devil May Cry
Mahou Sensei Negima
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor
Shakugan no Shana
I believe that's all of them... I highly recommend any of them if you aren't already familiar. Thanks again for reading, and be sure to recommend this to anyone you know who might be interested.