Kyon: Big Damn Hero

The Open Battle Arc I

Chapter Forty Four: Declaration of War

Disclaimer: The novel series of Suzumiya Haruhi that began with 'The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi' is the creation of Nagaru Tanigawa. No disrespect is intended by the posting of this fanfiction, as I do not own the characters or settings involved. I'm merely dabbling with another set of paints. TVTropes (the website) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License (and it's possible that this fic technically is, too; seems fair to me). Additional characters are borrowed from Higurashi, which is the creation of Ryukishi07.

Notes: Count the tropes! Save, collect, trade for swell prizes!

"Chapter One: Faith"

"Faith is an odd thing, insofar as the idea is entirely unscientific, yet simultaneously, so vastly appealing. Is it some missed quirk of evolution, imbuing us with something we do not need? Or is that egotism, and it's foolish to think we've evolved beyond whatever gifts this idea has to offer us so soon? Drawing from Pascal's Wager ... does the risk of having faith outweigh the reward?"

"Tending the Flame" - [The author's name has been charred from the document]

Still uncertain what was going on, Sasaki found herself bundled into the back of the van, a large man on either side of her holding her arms immobilized. Ahead of her, in the passenger seat, Takahashi growled constantly into her cell-phone, ignoring everything else. For reasons that Sasaki didn't entirely understand, the seat before her had a pile of electrical equipment, most of which seemed to be designed to power and provide a signal for the small television screen that was placed just before her.

She could only imagine that on top of everything else, her captors were sadists. Why else would they go through so much effort to show her Kyon and his other friend versus all those thugs?

Her heart was racing with anxiety from the moment Kyon expertly lashed out with one foot. The sword that Yuki had somehow disarmed from one of the men flashed into Kyon's hands, and with frighteningly smooth movements, the boy lunged forward, stepping just past where Yuki crouched on the floor.

She knew, on an intellectual level, what the technicalities of his form were. She couldn't name his style, but he kept a perfect, flawless economy of movement, one wide swing very early on establishing the hard-edged circle of his reach. He shifted his feet, a light, balanced stance with the sword in a high guard position.

Four men fell on him simultaneously; he spun smoothly, a single hard arc disarming the closest - with a lead pipe in hand - before continuing on to the next, cutting deeply into a chain-wielder's bicep before abruptly wrenching the sword back and dancing back a half-step, swatting with the flat of the blade to deflect a much smaller knife. Kyon's mastery of the blade gave his attackers pause - long enough for him to free one hand from the weapon's hilt and tear his handkerchief from his coat pocket.

He cast it towards Yuki's form, just behind him, without a second glance.

The vehicle Sasaki was in gave a sharp lurch, the driver swearing something quietly, but Sasaki couldn't look away from Kyon's ordeal - silent though it was at the moment.

Despite her injury, Yuki caught the handkerchief and swiftly bound her hand, rising to her feet with a blank expression. When the men surrounding the pair began to fan out, the smaller girl lunged at Kyon - for a heartbeat, Sasaki thought she was hugging him for moral support. The men chose that moment to rush the pair, and Yuki broke free at the same instant that Kyon described another warning arc through the air before him.

When the girl spun away, she had Kyon's stun-gun in her hand - Sasaki remembered him using that one well enough. Surely it would be more effective than that toy he'd gone for first!

Backs pressed together as they eyed the encroaching men, Sasaki couldn't help the tears that flooded her eyes. Was this how it was to end? She'd involved Kyon hoping he could help her, and then...

...she closed her eyes.

"Hey!" the technician yelped. "Stop her - this doesn't work if she doesn't watch!"

The man on her right gave her a rough shake. "Look," he said insistently. "Keep watching!"

She flinched back, her eyes opening reflexively. What could that mean? Why did they need her to watch? Her eyes waver with tears at the sight of another assailant with a sword, gesturing his companions back and motioning Kyon to approach for a one-on-one duel. Surely he wouldn't... Would he?

After a few bloody exchanges, leaving Kyon shaken and alarmed at how easy it was to draw blood simply by following techniques that he had learned... Techniques that were designed to kill people, he reminded himself, pulling another slash short, leaving a Sumiyoshi-rengo attacker with a deeply cut forearm - instead of severing the limb.

The man fell backwards with a spray of red and a cry of pain, and another swordsman stepped out, motioning the others back and giving Kyon a solemn nod. "You've some training," he warned, sheathing his weapon from a half-dozen paces away, holding it in place and taking a stance that the boy identified as an iajutsu form.

He had no intention of rushing from Yuki's side to assault a quick-draw specialist, so switched to a high-guard position, both hands on the hilt of his weapon, and took a single step to one side of the girl - still in easy reach should any of the attackers lunge for her. The older swordsman studied Kyon's defenses and allowed a tiny smile.

"Perhaps," he said, in a remarkably doubtful tone, "it will be enough."

With that warning, the Sumiyoshi-rengo swordsman charged; even prepared for it, Kyon was almost caught off-guard by the blinding speed of the man's rushing iajutsu attack. He only crossed a fraction of the distance with his feet; his entire body was an extension of his sword and he launched himself forward, drawing and swinging the blade about in a merciless slash that promised to cut his opponent in half. It took all of Kyon's strength to bring his borrowed sword down fast enough to catch the other man's blade.

What probably should have been a lethal bisection was deflected into a shallow - but alarmingly painless - slash across Kyon's forearm before he pinned the other man's blade. The swordsman had just enough time to look surprised as Kyon's borrowed sword snapped, the edge not designed to block such a forceful attack, and the boy then punched the side of the swordsman's face with a fist clenching the hilt.

He recovered less smoothly than he would have liked, reinforcements already surging in before the duelist conceded defeat. Kyon didn't wait for confirmation either, taking the sword that was still decorated with his blood and backing up, trying to calm himself down from the surge of anger and adrenaline.

With Yuki's small form just behind him, the pair of them pressed back-to-back, Kyon knew that retreat wasn't an option. There were too many enemies between him and the other exit, and Arakawa was trapped in his car for the moment. Well, either the car, or a wall ... there weren't many terrain features to chose from.

"Next to the car," he barked. Another slash of his borrowed sword - already badly nicked and notched from blocking - and he moved a half-step closer to the vehicle, Yuki perfectly in sync with him. He heard the crackle of electrical discharge - except...

Yuki somehow had a way to get his weapons to work, even with whatever was suppressing them?

He would have dearly loved to switch to the energy sword instead of the real one, but he didn't know if it would work - the steel in his hands was less likely to fail, and sacrificing it or exposing the beam-saber to whatever nullifying effect was going on needlessly... He flinched as another frantic defensive slash raised a splash of brilliant crimson and a cry of agony from the opposing Sumiyoshi-rengo.

He hadn't wanted to do that; it wasn't the first time he'd drawn blood, either. He tried to console himself with the fact that he'd probably done worse damage with his bare hands in the past, in some cases. As the katana's metal edge - not really designed to block, as he'd been using it - took damage, it became more vicious. A smooth blade would cut flesh, but the more jagged tears would not only leave the blade catching on his enemies and their clothes, it could potentially leave nastier wounds.

And eventually, this blade was going to snap, too. He could probably use the shorter length as a knife, but traditionally the edge closest to the hilt wasn't very sharp, anyway. Really, he was beginning to realize the value of carrying around a collapsible baton, after all.

As it was, every glance at Yuki showed her fighting in a way he'd never seen before. Almost no power, but horrifyingly efficient finesse. She was utilizing an economy of movement - between debilitating electrical blasts - she had reduced her move library to a very short list that included throat-chops, among other brutal, disabling strikes.

Would she end up killing these men to survive, he wondered? Normally, he wouldn't see the risk ... even slider energy-weapons had been negated by his shielding. But without that shielding... On the one hand, if it came down to it ... he would. He couldn't fault her for doing the same. But then, on the other hand, because he didn't relish the task, he couldn't run from that responsibility and make her shoulder the entire burden.

On the gripping hand - these people had hurt Yuki. Even if he didn't want to kill them, he did want to make them pay - and he wasn't about to let them hurt her again, if he could help it. Whatever else happened, he needed to make sure that Yuki didn't get hurt again. Setting his jaw grimly, he stepped past the next wayward smash towards him with a lead pipe and repaid it with a wicked slash along the man's arm, cutting to the bone and sending the weapon flying.

The injured man cried out in alarm and reeled back, clutching at his bleeding wound, the sword tearing free, narrowly brought to bear in time to deflect a shorter knife. He kicked away another attacker, then fell back at the same time as Yuki, the pair of them bracing against one-another, though he had to be careful not to bowl her over, considering her slighter weight.

He'd already taken a handful of glancing blows with blunt weapons - at least he'd avoided most blades, and none of his enemies had thought to bring chains. Even so, his weapon wasn't going to last long enough to put every man on the floor - and if he took too long, the early injuries could get worse. None of the enemy fighters seemed to be showing concern for the handful that were crawling or staggering away, clutching at their wounds and moaning.

No ... without something to turn the tables, he didn't see a way for he and Yuki to pull off a victory without killing some of the men in the room - starting from the moment the katana in his hands would break. He'd hold out as long as he could ... kill as little as possible.

Why hadn't they thought of contingencies for this? Every plan involved using powers or supernatural phenomenon to escape...

While she was still annoyed about how things were working out, Haruhi tried to calm herself. One way or another, she had a mystery to unravel - the purpose and function of the mysterious Suou Kuyou. Kyon might be out there, having an adventure, but she was making contact with a new kind of alien!

...provided that Tsuruya didn't just break her, anyway. "So," she said, frowning, "Kuyou? Are you there?"

The dark-haired alien remained frozen.

Haruhi pursed her lips at that, and waved a hand before the impassive girl's face.

"Maybe it was a bad memory?" Tsuruya posed thoughtfully.

"It's the only memory I know she has!" Ryouko declared. "I don't recognize her other memories!"

Haruhi squinted at Kuyou. "You said ... 'persistent observation'. Kuyou ... is it that ... whatever you are, your kind normally doesn't have memories?" she wondered.

Kuyou blinked at that, very slowly, as though roused from her reverie. "We do not," she said slowly, picking her words with obvious care before, "_ observations."

"'Retain'," Ryouko said very quietly, looking baffled. "So ... that's why ... communication was so hard... Sentience without memory ... and the IDSE doesn't have a good way to communicate to a non-data entity without using data!"

"Huh?" Kanae managed somewhat dazedly. "But then ... how could she know anything? Like sempai's nick-name? If she can't remember things, how does she know she likes him?" Mikuru pursed her lips and nodded thoughtfully in agreement with the question.

"Current observational scope includes all _ echoes within 1.345x10^11 rotations," Kuyou added.

"That one is 'light'," Ryouko added helpfully. "And that measure of time means ... back to a point on July seventh-"

"About four years ago," Haruhi completed excitedly, before Ryouko could finish. "So ... you saw the message I sent!"

Kuyou blinked several times. "You did not send a message," she replied.

"What are you talking about?" Haruhi complained. "I made up the pattern, something I felt should mean, 'I am here,' and then-"

"You did not send a message."

Haruhi's mouth fell open a short distance.

"I cannot observe him directly from within the Chorus," Kuyou added, in explanation. "I can observe his effects on other entities of similar luminosity, like you, or Sasaki. From observing her _ stresses, I came to observe her relation to Kyon. Sasaki and I are synchronized, so my relationship to him is identical to hers," she explained, before turning to Haruhi.

"'Tidal'," Ryouko offered. "Hmm, that sounds rather like some form of mega-scale spooky action at a distance. Like Kuyou created an interface, and for the parts she couldn't figure out, she just copied Sasaki..."

"Sasaki's observation causes resonant inversion," Kuyou continued, before blinking. "She influences the Chorus; wave-forms she will not observe cannot collapse in her awareness."

"Um ... Sasaki messed up her synchronization process, I think?" Ryouko mused. "So, if Kuyou had done it right ... she would have made a perfect copy of Sasaki, but Sasaki's power made her turn into ... this instead."

"You make it sound like we're all objects in space, captured in Kyon's gravitational field," Haruhi said slowly, crossing her arms over her chest.

Kuyou seemed to brighten very faintly at that comment, merely repeating, "I am attracted to him."

"So, Kyon's got some strange power to make girls fall for him?"

"M...more importantly, what's this about Sasaki preventing waveforms from collapsing?" Mikuru asked anxiously.

"Waveforms ... this is about probabilities, right?" Haruhi wondered. "So, you're saying she alters probability?"

"She prevents probabilities she will not observe," Kuyou clarified.

"Like ... when Sempai was stuck halfway in that strange space, in two places at once, and I couldn't move him?" Kanae asked, eyes widening. "It was because Sasaki-san was watching him?"


"What!" Haruhi exploded. "We just sent Kyon and Yuki after her - when she can nullify their powers!?"

Mori gasped at that, her eyes widening in realization. "Itsuki-kun!"

Taiso Daisuke considered himself among the top tier of hand-to-hand combatants in his profession. In his life he'd encountered a small handful of people better than him, and he'd determined very quickly that four of those people were in the room with him presently.

Two of them he'd expected. Firstly, Suzuki Hiroshi, swordsman extraordinaire - for all the good that had done him. Iajutsu was flashy, and usually effective, but when it failed, well, it got someone sucker-punched, and his sword stolen.

Secondly, good old Yokoharu Jiro. Even in his forties, he maintained an impressive physique, and many a younger enemy of the Sumiyoshi-rengo had underestimated him. Few lived to regret it.

The other two, he had not. He gauged that if the boy - the supposed 'Kowa-Keigo Kyon' - were not specifically trying to avoid killing his enemies, he could have dispatched the majority of them without much trouble, once he'd gotten the sword.

The girl, on the other hand, while injured, had just stepped inside Jiro's guard. Before the man could even react, the girl slammed the barrel of the stun-gun she had taken from the boy into the man's chin, firing and discharging simultaneously. Somehow, after watching the boy dismantle an expert swordsman, that much wasn't as shocking as it might have been.

Even with another fifteen men still up and armed, Taiso was beginning to suspect that the current approach was a waste of time. The man who tried to push the girl away from Jiro - or at least break her hold on the weapon - was rebuffed with a powerful slam from the hilt of the sword in the boy's hand to the man's temple, sending him tumbling away to land in a sprawling heap.

The boy's smooth recovery left him bringing the sword back - momentarily warding off three more assailants before his borrowed weapon caught on a cudgel - and shattered. Kyon seemed unsurprised, and instantly adjusted to the much shorter length of blade remaining attached, holding it easily in one hand instead of two. Taiso supposed that made sense.

Still, it had been long enough - and more importantly, enough Sumiyoshi-rengo had been injured (some of them quite badly) for nothing. He whistled loudly, reaching into his coat and pulling out the handgun he intended to finish things with.

At that cue, there was a shower of sparks from the lighting rigs near the ceiling- He looked up in alarm, as did all of the men around Kyon and his small companion. A faint, almost imperceptible red haze seemed to smudge the air around them - while up in the ceiling, streamers of ... what was that, some strange form of slow, red lightning?

Whatever it was - it was chewing through wires and girders, raining down sparks, bits of shaved off plastic, the cameras that Taiso and his companions had spent two days rigging up at the advice of their informant...

He yelped, diving to one side as the dozens of small pieces of electronics began to rain down en masse, every single one cut free of the suspension within the span of a few seconds. When he looked back at Kyon, the terrifying figure merely drew himself from his defensive stance to standing completely upright. The red haze over him and his partner intensified into an easily visible dome of crimson energy, occasionally flickering with a blue discharge of what looked like electricity crawling across the surface as it covered the pair, and a good portion of the car behind them.

A handful of crackling streamers at the edges of the dome licked out, casually slicing through the heavy door segments around the trapped vehicle. As the steel door crashed open, panels reverberating loudly against the ground outside the warehouse, the lights shut out, leaving all of the illumination in the room from the strange red glow, and the newly-carved hole in the wall around the black sedan.

Taiso yelped when he found himself surrounded by a handful of spinning red rings - and every other man of the Sumiyoshi-rengo likewise found themselves trapped in the same force that evidently cut through metal with little resistance.

"What the hell is going on?" someone screamed in terror.

Kyon snorted, shaking his head and reaching for his pocket, frowning at something or another as the red dome of energy drew away from the entrance and coalesced into a humanoid shape just before the duo in the car. The figure was somewhat vague, indistinct and flickering, and one of the red being's limbs was directed towards the Sumiyoshi-rengo.

Seeing an obvious target, Taiso didn't hesitate - he had clear shots at all three, now.

The gun rose smoothly, and just as swiftly as he raised it, even as his finger was squeezing down on the trigger - the weapon in his hand flashed with crimson energy and collapsed into a pile of smoothly severed shards. He had the brief, terrifying glimpse of a perfect cross-section of the weapon's handle - clip, bullets, and all - tumbling free of his grip before the rings of red light around him closed in more tightly.

He swallowed, doing his level best not to move any further at all.

The being turned towards Kyon and said in an eerie, resonating voice, "Vice-commander, I'm afraid the supreme commander has recalled you to headquarters. I'm sorry to interrupt your fun, but you can leave a trivial matter such as this to me."

Kowa-Keigo Kyon stared at the glowing figure of what could only be a legitimately demonic underling, obviously unimpressed with the display of power, looking - if anything - annoyed at the interruption.

Taiso began to develop a very strong suspicion that he should not have accepted this assignment, and that he had badly misjudged by dismissing the terrifying reputation of the boy they had targeted.

Before the dreaded guardian could speak, the small girl at his side leaned into him, making a sort of half-hug, managing to slip the weapon she had taken from him earlier into his coat, and then hanging onto him. One arm was in his coat, and one wasn't - it was strange to Taiso to see such an emotionless fighter transition to swiftly to clinging to her leader for support ... but if they'd overestimated her, they'd underestimated him.

He started to shake his head, and then the girl whispered something. In the horrific stillness, the sound carried - but Taiso realized the moment that he heard it, not a single man would acknowledge what they had heard.

"Yes," the boy who Taiso absolutely had not heard the name of said after a moment, grimacing distastefully, his arm rising absently and going about the girl's shoulder as he took an unsteady breath. "I... Make sure none of them die- Thank you for the update."

"Nothing more than my duty as your personal assistant," the crimson figure replied cheerfully. "Now that the cameras are off, you should be able to return directly - if the young lady could bring the driver of the car behind you along with, that would be greatly appreciated." It nodded, then turned to face the Sumiyoshi-rengo.

"Alright," Kyon sighed, nodding at the girl at his side in concern. A heartbeat later, there was a third girl there - a younger one, at a glance. Before Taiso could determine what was happening, she vanished as abruptly as she appeared, taking Kyon and his companion with her.

Not long after that, there was a flicker of light from within the car, as well.

"Ah," the figure said, sounding strangely pleased. "I've no reason to divulge plans or limitations to you, but I believe I understand the temptation to monologue slightly better now," it continued.

Taiso swallowed, wondering what kind of being the red, energetics thing was...

"Because it amuses me to some small degree ... I admit to drawing satisfaction from your discomfort. At the same time, I can explain why this is so, and simultaneously enhance that discomfort, so, please allow me to do so!" It appeared to pace, wisps of red fog trailing behind it, shedding tiny sparks of blue light every so often. "This power that you observe is the essence of human emotions. It is manifest to you now through my own power, but truly, my power shapes - it is this borrowed power that cuts. Which, as you can guess, means none of the feeling in these attacks is from me."

There was an uncomfortable pause, not one man certain what to try and do or say before the figure offered a polite laugh. "Rest assured, this is not the vice-commander's - I suspect that would be worse for you. And I wouldn't give away any of the secrets of my allies like that, anyway.

"No, no ... but let me give you another piece of information," it continued, not even faltering as one of the younger hotshots - Senzo, Taiso thought his name was - pulled his own handgun out and fired at the red figure five times in rapid succession. Ragged holes were blasted in the scarlet cloud - but the form didn't pause or hesitate, and the fog smoothly flowed back to fill those gaps without visible damage - at the same time Senzo's weapon was shredded, and the young man screamed at the touch of the crackling red energy.

"As it happens," the figure droned on, "your recent allies, the people who approached you and offered to help against the vice-commander, left certain tasks in your keeping. So, this isn't absolutely to no purpose."

Senzo fell to the ground, faint plumes of smoke rising from his tattered and ruined clothes, moaning just loudly enough to prove he was still alive. "What do you want?" Taiso finally volunteered, realizing the only way out of this problem.

Somehow, the figure seemed to smile, despite the vagueness of it. "Information," it answered without hesitation. "Specifically ... in the last few days, you've been given the responsibility of ... 'overseeing' ... a girl's family members, haven't you?"

Taiso nodded, swallowing nervously as the crimson cloud drifted before him.

"That's a wonderful place to begin," it declared. "You've been quite an inconvenience to us lately, so the more cooperative you are, the less severe I'll be required to be before releasing you to the police. We intend to know where they are, and what forces are watching over them."

The thought went through Taiso's mind - strangely - that Kyon's personal assistant was going to send them to jail, while also concealing one of the reasons they should be arrested in the first place, presumably. The best they could have gotten from pressing the dreaded guardian was to be sent to the morgue, and at the end of the day, the Sumiyoshi-rengo hit-man just didn't see any real prison holding the dreaded guardian unless he consented to it - even if he did have to kill all of them.

"I'll cooperate completely," he allowed. Really ... this burnt their new allies more than themselves. A cheap sacrifice, at this point. It said something that even though he was breaking the code ... not one of the other men present raised so much as an eyebrow at him for it.

Tsuruya was not at all surprised to see Mikuru jolt into action the second Yuki reappeared with Kyon and Kanae. The time traveler grabbed the slighter girls and moved them into the seats next to Haruhi's, but was unable to prevent her initial yelp of, "Don't die, Yuki-chan!" when she saw the bloodstained handkerchief wrapped around the smaller girl's hand hand.

In a way, that was kind of cute, but Tsuruya understood the genuine concern, too. Yuki offered no resistance as the time traveler gasped sympathetically at the gash across her small palm. Tsuruya trusted that Mikuru had the situation under control - they had access to both a hospital, and Sakura, should any of their other alternatives fail.

"What happened out there?" Kyon asked, shakily.

Haruhi made an irritated noise, then maneuvered Kyon to sit next to Yuki. "You're all scuffed," she said angrily, her voice shaking, too. "You aren't supposed to be in that kind of danger for real! Damn it, Kyon! You're so stupid!"

"Hold still," Mikuru insisted to Yuki in her most soothing voice. Tsuruya glanced to her as she carefully cleaned the injury, but unsurprisingly, Yuki didn't so much as flinch. She thought the cut probably warranted stitches, though she suspected it would shortly be rendered moot.

"Haruhi," he growled in warning, grabbing his left forearm in his right hand, through the now-tattered and dirty cuff of his coat.

"Haru-nyan," Tsuruya cut in, "Kyon-kun - we have a common enemy, don't we?"

Lowering her face, Haruhi wordlessly grabbed Kyon's coat, pulling herself into his lap and holding herself tightly against him. A smile came to Tsuruya's lips at that; Haruhi understood exactly what her warning was really about.

After a moment of surprise, he relented, hugging her back. "Sorry," he mumbled.

Sighing softly, Mikuru finished binding a proper bandage around Yuki's injury, managing a shaky smile while Kuyou watched with undisguised interest.

"Haru-nyan learned that Sasaki has the power to make things that she finds implausible not work as long as she is observing them," Tsuruya explained.

"So ... the stun-gun was plausible, but a sonic cannon wouldn't be," Kyon realized belatedly, patting Haruhi's back thoughtfully. He then froze suddenly, turning to look at Yuki in alarm, over Haruhi's shoulder. "Yuki-chan- Are you okay?"

"My ability to manipulate data is unknown to her, and so, Sasaki is unlikely to be able to directly observe it," Yuki answered after a moment. "She is able to observe the effects of my manipulations; I disabled several automatic functions rather than risk them being exposed once such an unknown danger presented itself. I will restore them now."

"You didn't add any special effects," Haruhi mumbled, her face still pressed into Kyon's chest, looking the wrong way to even notice such a thing.

"Are you sure you're alright, Yuki-chan?" Mikuru wondered. She glanced over to where Kanae was sitting, wobbling nervously - but also proud that she had managed to help. Arakawa stood nearby, looking a bit awkward after his unexpected rescue.

"I am fine," she answered, giving a very small nod, her bandaged hand closing gently around Mikuru's.

"Kyon-kun got Yuki-chama hurt!" Ryouko complained.

Guessing what would happen next, Tsuruya snatched the chibi off the table before Yuki could react, holding her like a stuffed toy. "Be nice to Kyon," the she scolded the tiny figure with a smile. "Otherwise, how can you expect Yuki-chan to be nice to you?"

Ryouko pouted cutely at that.

"Okay," Kyon sighed, shaking his head, since he was largely immobilized, with Haruhi on his lap. "Last I saw, there were four vans headed out of that warehouse, and Sasaki could be in any one of them - do we know where they're going? Even if it's going to be harder, we have to rescue her."

Haruhi's response was to wordlessly tighten her grip, which made Kyon squirm uncomfortably for a moment until he pulled one of his weapons from between them and set it on the table. Kuyou's eyes tracked to it, and she frowned slightly, tapping the strange gun with one fingertip.

The weapon's surface shuddered and rippled before it collapsed back into into a cylindrical shape, spinning on end slightly over the top of the table.

"Well?" he pressed, looking around anxiously.

Tsuruya didn't meet his eyes yet. She agreed with Haruhi that she didn't like the idea of Kyon being exposed to danger any more than necessary. But then, she also understood that Kyon was loyal to his friends, and couldn't just let Sasaki's abduction go. At the same time ... he probably didn't realize the extent of his own emotional turmoil. In any case, however, she knew how things were going to work out.

"We ... dropped everything to get you and Yuki-chan out of there," Tsuruya explained, ducking her head slightly. "Koizumi-kun couldn't follow them all, anyway."

Kyon worked his jaw for a moment, then closed his eyes and sighed quietly, leaning back in his chair.

"Those men were Sumiyoshi-rengo," he said after a moment of thought. "So ... somewhere along the line, they meet up with ... the people who abducted Sasaki." He took a breath and gave Mori a cautious look. "Isn't Tsuruya-kun's father looking out for them?"

"I... Since you requested my assistance with this task, I'm not sure, Sir," the woman apologized, looking uncertain.

"I- Yes, when did I do that, again?" Kyon wondered, sounding suddenly much more confident, his PDA out and ready to take down notes. Tsuruya allowed a small nod of satisfaction.

There was an extended moment of awkward silence before Mori quietly managed, "Oh. Ah ... Friday evening." She settled back into her seat with an expectant glance at Mikuru, before turning her attention back to the boy.

"During the book signing," Kyon realized, giving a slow nod. "Alright- Good. This makes sense."

"I'm not letting you go out and get hurt," Haruhi growled, not relenting the slightest bit. "Sasaki has always bothered me - and now I know why! What happens if she finds out what I am - and takes that away?"

"I... Haruhi, she's still my friend," Kyon countered. "Worse, if we do nothing - then that's exactly what those people are probably planning to do with her!"

The brigade chief made an unhappy noise in response, pressing her face into Kyon's coat.

"I... It will be okay, I think," Mikuru said hopefully. "Um ... Kyon-kun knows, now, right? We ... just can't do anything Sasaki believes is impossible in front of her, so..."

"So, Asahina-san and I will go back to last Friday," Kyon said, shaking his head. "That gives us the weekend to work on an answer to those vans escaping with Sasaki - and we can ask Tsuruya-kun's father for help. If he's after the Sumiyoshi-rengo anyway, then everything that happened today ends up becoming a trap for them, instead of us."

Haruhi still didn't look satisfied, but broke her grip enough to lean back and look Kyon in the face. "I don't believe there's anything you can say that would convince me to go along with this! I'm saying no! I never get to have fun, and you're always getting in real danger?"

Before he could respond, Haruhi's phone rang, and she glared at it, making it levitate over to her before she blinked at the display, looking between it and Kyon uncertainly. She answered the phone with a small bit of trepidation, asking, "Hello?"

She flinched at something she heard, her eyes widening before she sighed and gave Kyon a sharp glare. "I'm absolutely holding you to it," she warned, nodding at him, but speaking to her phone.

Tsuruya wondered what exactly his future self promised Haruhi before she hung up.

Whatever it was, Kyon himself nodded, then turned his attention to Mikuru. "Ah, Friday," she realized aloud, fretting. "Where should we go, then?"

"Tsuruya Towers," Mori answered. "Tsuruya-sama was just about to go over the information he'd gathered on the Sumiyoshi-rengo when you asked for my assistance. From there, I went back to my office to review. Ah, Sir ... there is one thing, though."

"Yeah?" he asked, looking at the woman expectantly.

"While her situation is unclear at the moment, Itsuki-kun has confirmed that Kyouko-chan was not ... a willing ally to those men," Mori explained, pulling a pad of paper from the table before her and quickly scribbling a list of names and addresses on it. "It may not be much, but given your ability in this field..." She hesitated, then shifted her shoulders uncomfortably. "I said something that inadvertently set this into motion; if it's not too much to ask, could you see that Kyouko's family is spared further trouble?"

He blinked at her, frowning, then sighed. "Yeah," he allowed. "She didn't seem happy about her situation. We may not have to be enemies, if we can help her out."

"Well, fine," Haruhi mumbled. "You get to go be a hero again..."

"I'm not doing this for fun," he grumbled, giving her a gentle hug.

"Y...yeah," she finally relented.

"Okay - so, to Tsuruya Towers. Do you know where that is?" Kyon asked Mikuru, as Haruhi reluctantly climbed out of his lap.

"Don't go straight there," Haruhi chastised. "Normally, I'd complain, since it means I have to wait longer - but since you're going back in time, go back an extra half-day and make sure you have enough time to recover from what's happened today so far. Mikuru-chan, I know he's banged up, even if he's hiding it because Yuki-chan got hurt, so I expect you to nurse him to recovery!"

Mikuru's face turned red, and Haruhi nodded decisively, glancing at her phone one last time before blushing and hanging up. Coughing quietly, she added, "You should bring Kuyou and Ryouko with you, too."

Yuki moved to step towards Kyon, and Haruhi shook her head. "You stay with us, Yuki-chan," she insisted. "We need to think about how we handle Sasaki. In the meantime, Kyon! You'd better engineer a flawless rescue! No getting hurt this time! Speaking of which, just in case, Yuki-chan?"

The smaller girl nodded and announced, "Restoration program loaded. Permission to proceed?"

"That sounds fine," Kyon allowed, before a glowing field of softly glowing green enveloped him, sinking into his greatcoat and mending it to the pristine condition it had been in before. Tsuruya grinned at the small - but visible - glow of pride on Mikuru's cheeks at the restoration of her hard work.

"Be very careful about showing your powers to her, you know," Haruhi added. "Until you can get back to us, we can't fix them if she breaks them again."

Shivering slightly at some thought, Mikuru reached a hand out to take Kyon's as he rose from his seat, giving Haruhi a warm smile as he clapped his other hand briefly to her shoulder. Kuyou drifted to join them in a strangely curving path, stopping at Mikuru's side and then slowly turning in place to face Kyon.

Tsuruya rounded the table, still cuddling Ryouko, pausing only long enough to pat Kanae's head reassuringly before placing the somewhat confused and tiny figurine on her fiance's head. "Eh?" he noised.

"Huh?" Ryouko echoed, evidently having no trouble staying in place. Well, she felt weightless, so it made sense, she supposed.

"Yuki-chan is depending on you to take good care of Kyon-kun," Tsuruya insisted, nodding.

"Okay!" Ryouko cheered, bright as always. "For Yuki-chama!"

"Okay, um ... Mori-san, Arakawa-san, normally this is classified, but in your case ... you'll want to look away from the effects of this so you don't get sick," Mikuru warned, taking Kuyou's other hand in her own nervously. "I don't... Um, normally I would suggest closing your eyes... And Kyon-kun, you know to do that, right?"

"I observe," Kuyou agreed, blinking slowly once. "Now we occult Sasaki."

Kyon nodded. "Right," he declared. "Haruhi, don't you have something to send us off with?"

She started slightly, then nodded back quickly. "Though, it should go without saying - if you bring my Mikuru-chan back with so much as a scratch on her..." She trailed off there, giving him a pointed stare, which he met with the faintest nod. She managed a smile at his level acknowledgement of her warning. "Good! So, SOS Brigade, time-travel division, move out!" Haruhi ordered, just before Tsuruya closed her eyes at the strange sound she heard - and when she reopened them, Kyon, Mikuru, Kuyou and Ryouko were gone.

Haruhi heaved an unsteady sigh, and even though a small part of it was for her own reassurance, Tsuruya hugged the other girl tightly. "Don't worry," she said, as encouragingly as she could. "Kyon-kun's reliable, right?"

The other girl managed a nod, hugging Tsuruya back even as Mori cocked her head to one side, a fingertip rising to her ear-piece.

"How's Koizumi-kun?" the heiress wondered, turning her attention to Mori.

Since Arakawa had been evacuated - thanks to Kanae - after getting the information he had needed from the Sumiyoshi-rengo men, Koizumi allowed the energy that comprised his being to disperse across a wide area in an effectively imperceptible fog. Without Yuki's aid in practicing the method, it would have taxed him to the extreme. With that help, though, the bizarre shift in his point of view was easily managed, allowing him to survey a wide area while effectively invisible.

He'd kept himself linked to Mori, as she was the one he had practiced with most, and her experienced calm let him feel a little panicked, using her superior control as the edge that manifested his powers in the first part of the confrontation... After that, he'd retrieved Kyouko, as he'd been ordered to. He and the girl were not friends, though he didn't know her personally very well.

He'd made the mistake of thinking he knew her, or at least about her.

One of many unpleasant revelations of the day... When he'd come onto the scene, just after Kyon had left, and recovered Kyouko's prone form from the place where the battle had begun, he'd thought it was an opportunity. He thought it would be a chance to glean information from her - someone on the inside of the enemy network.

He was nervous about using his ability to try and dig personal thoughts out of someone else's mind, but he could try and convince himself that it was for the greater good. Except ... when he was carrying the girl into the car, where Kasai waited, he couldn't bring himself to do it. Somehow, she'd looked too small, too vulnerable...

And even without trying, he could feel the thick morass of distress that enveloped her psyche. By the time he'd reached Kasai's car, halfway between the cafe and the hospital, he'd come to realize he didn't want to immerse himself in that emotion. He'd like to know what she knew, but at that cost...

So, he'd instead flowed into the cracks in the windows, reassuming his more natural form in the back seat of the small vehicle, next to her rousing form. "W...wha...?" she began groggily, flinching back immediately on sight of him, but not reaching for the door handle. She wordlessly turned to stare at her feet, eyes shimmering.

Unsure of what to say to her for the moment, Koizumi tried to maintain a reassuring facade. That faded the moment the vehicle gave a sudden lurch, the engine dying abruptly. "What...?" Kasai wondered, thumping at the console and stopping the car, looking around in consternation. "The battery just died?"

Warned by something he couldn't quite place, Koizumi exploded back into energy form, surrounding the interior of the car just before the windows exploded violently - reflected away instead of blasting shrapnel in across the passengers. His form erupting into crimson energy, the keen edge of focus expanded him outward. Half of himself was invested in a dome of crackling force covered the car, protecting his allies.

"I leave her to you," he warned Kasai, the rest of him forming another humanoid avatar between the car he was protecting and the source of the attack. He vaguely recognized Fujiwara, though the usually aloof, almost snobbish boy looked wild, unkempt, and well beyond the point of panic.

Koizumi didn't have to wonder what the pair of them looked like, thanks to his multiple perspectives. He was an indistinct, human-shaped mass of red light; Fujiwara was a pretty-boy with tousled hair, a rictus of rage on his face, carrying an unfamiliar weapon that gleamed and had too many edges. The street was filled with late afternoon traffic, all of which had stopped due to the confrontation. Nearby bystanders were quickly streaming to the cover of nearby stores or alleys.

"This lacks subtlety," he informed Fujiwara.

"Shut up!" the boy howled, leveling his weapon at Koizumi. "Out of my way! Let me kill her!"

"No," Koizumi countered without hesitation, uncertain where the conviction to deny Fujiwara so absolutely came from. "She's been harmed enough; I'll allow no more."

He couldn't claim to be oblivious to her presence in the car, behind a barrier of his own energy, eyes widening in confused surprise at his claim.

Fujiwara stared at him for a heartbeat, and then threw his head back, howling like a beast for a long, anguished wail before lowering his gaze and fixing Koizumi with a look of utter disgust. "You have no idea what that careless little girl almost destroyed today!" he spat.

"Then tell me," Koizumi suggested, mindful of the brave, nearby few who were trying to eavesdrop on the spectacle before them.

The other time traveler drew himself to stand tall in response, then studied a car a few vehicles before the one Koizumi was protecting. With no real warning, he turned and fired his weapon at the empty vehicle. Almost immediately, it exploded into a pillar of fire ten meters tall.

Regretting the necessity, Koizumi allowed the energy collected into humanoid shape to turn into a stack of sharp edged red blades, which shot towards the time traveler before he could spread further destruction- Strangely, as fast as he moved, the time-traveler seemed to be able to move faster. Did he manipulate time, as well as traveling through it?

Koizumi's energy raked across the street, scarring the asphalt effortlessly, leaving gouges torn out of nearby cars - but moving too slowly to reach Fujiwara? Sparks and chips of pulverized stone danced across the ground... The esper drew back to Kasai and the girl he was trying to protect.

The larger man had already climbed out of the vehicle and gone around to Kyouko's door. The female esper was hesitant to follow him - but then, given the circumstances, Koizumi thought that was understandable. "I will take this young lady to safety," the bodyguard promised.

"Please do," Koizumi allowed. "I will take care of things here-"

No sooner had he spoken than Fujiwara fired the strange weapon again, sending out a swarming stream of fast-moving lights. Koizumi didn't know what the stuff was - it moved too slow to be light, but glowed like some form of energy discharge, the beams winding in strange, rippling whorls and braids. The esper's form was strained, energy nearly overloaded with absorbing that power and grounding it into the street below, causing a four meter wide stretch of asphalt to suddenly bubble and steam before bursting into flame.

Dragging back the superheated fog of his form, Koizumi let his energy dome and humanoid form both boil upwards into a cloud, welling towards the time traveler and igniting the air around him. It was insane, he realized, but then ... the powers that Haruhi had given him went beyond reason - and if he couldn't do what he did, he would have died. Or let Kyouko die.

Not allowing himself to think about that, he swirled around, engulfing the time traveler- In the narrow gap before Koizumi completely ensnared him, Fujiwara once again moved faster than the esper thought was possible, vaulting through the only escape and twisting to somersault off the side of the building behind him. The heat energy Koizumi was still carrying was released upwards, sending another billowing fireball skyward, letting him move faster and diffuse more of his form about the area.

That crimson mist could observe wherever the time traveler went - if Koizumi could be nothing more than a decoy for Fujiwara, then he'd do the best job of it he could. Kasai and Kyouko were already out of the fair-haired boy's line of sight, and Koizumi surged after, able to fling the car that had been disabled into the alley to cut off his pursuit.

The mass of steel and aluminum tumbled through the air like an over-sized toy, crumpling and nearly bashing out the cement reinforcing wall of one of the buildings before getting wedged into place with a resounding crash and the shriek of tortured metal.

Whatever it was that let the time traveler escape, either he couldn't, or just didn't use it here- Koizumi wasn't sure. A tentative probe proved fruitless - Fujiwara's mind was protected in the same way that Mikuru's was. In either case, the time traveler was at least startled, whirling to face the largest concentration of Koizumi's current self.

"You idiot!" Fujiwara seethed, his weapon sweeping across the street without firing before he shoved it into a pocket. Straightening up, he shook his head severely. "She could kill us all!"

"Since you obviously still exist, I believe this is something of an overreaction on your part," Koizumi countered.

"You never change," Fujiwara growled, shaking his head. "It's on your head, then!" With that declaration, the boy surged forward, running at a more mortal pace; Koizumi could easily have outrun him, but Fujiwara was running away from Kasai and the hospital.

Koizumi spread out, analyzing the situation. Even if he'd talked Fujiwara out of attacking Kyouko, they had attracted a wealth of attention. Emergency vehicles were already spreading out across the city in response to the various outbreaks of violence and destruction - he wasn't surprised to see the lights of a police vehicle approaching from behind as it was.

He spread out, just catching a glimpse of the time traveler ducking into another alleyway, further away... But then, for all he knew, that could be a decoy. He pulled himself together a block and a half away, where Kyouko was trying to keep up with Kasai, and the large man tried to look as subtle as he possibly could while hustling down the street with a high-school aged girl.

Koizumi supposed that he wasn't helping the subtlety aspect much, coalescing into his proper self from a diffuse crimson mist... Kyouko flinched away at her sight of him, and the majority of other nearby pedestrians wisely avoided eye contact. "We're about a half-dozen blocks from the hospital," Kasai reported, scanning the sidewalks ahead of them. "Do you think you can make it?"

"W...why are you ... helping me?" the girl shakily asked, stumbling after Kasai to the best of her ability.

When she tripped, her attention fixed on the large man, almost as though she were trying to avoid the other esper's gaze, he caught her, surprised once again at how slight she was. Before the moment could get more awkward, he helped her to her feet, then crouched, indicating his back and suggesting, "Climb on; we'll make better time."

She shot him a single unreadable look before hesitantly complying, nervously pressing herself to his back and wrapping her arms around him. He leaned forward and hefted her, giving a nod to Kasai and trying to ignore her tiny squeak of alarm, or her nervous breath across his neck.

"I thought you were enemies, and you're rescuing me," Kyouko mumbled, her voice husky - nearly inaudible, if not for the nearness of her mouth to his ear. He tried not to think of their closeness, just grateful for the moment that she was cooperating, and not trying to flee. "Why?"

Haruhi had ordered him to. She hadn't said to try fighting Fujiwara - a task Koizumi would gladly leave to Kyon, next time; that level of energy was ... unnerving. What were Haruhi's reasons? He didn't have a link with her anymore ... instead, he was linked to Mori for the moment. Well, what about his own reasons, then?

"I have to believe what Kyon says," he realized aloud. "And I think at the core, despite what's happened, you and Sasaki-san are friends, the same way that he and I are. You were equally victims in this scenario, and as he is occupied with her safety, I must turn my attention to yours."

"Save your breath," Kasai chided, grinning wryly anyway.

Not quite able to duck his head with Kyouko clinging to his back, Koizumi felt his face color as he obeyed the older man's warning. He wondered if it was just that reminder that prompted the girl to hold herself to him more firmly.

Restless, and annoyed at her lack of real control over how things had turned out, Haruhi paced back and forth in their makeshift headquarters. Tsuruya sat between Kanae and Yuki, frowning thoughtfully.

Some things were clearly going to be inexplicable, but Haruhi's answer to that was ... if it wasn't normally possible, then why should they have to explain it? They could pretend to be just as mystified as anyone else in some aspects. As far as coordinating that, she'd had police sent to the warehouse where Koizumi had rescued Kyon, once he'd signaled to Mori that he was done interrogating them, anyway.

After that, he'd gone to escort Kyouko back - and considering what Kyon seemed to think of her, Haruhi was keen to start interrogating the enemy esper. Mori had mentioned that Koizumi reported fighting against Kyouko's time traveling ally, but evidently Kyon was a better time traveler, because the esper was able to drive off the other boy.

"Okay," she decided abruptly. "Koizumi's headed to the hospital, so we should go there, too. We'll set up in a conference room there."

"Good thinking," Tsuruya agreed, frowning intently at Yuki's bandaged palm. "Yuki-chan, why haven't you fixed your hand?"

"This injury's data is somehow resistant to transformation," she answered, turning to stare at her palm with the tiny hints of a frustrated frown.

"Another reason to go to the hospital, then," Tsuruya decided.

"You get Yuki-chan," Haruhi decided, gently jostling the slider. "Come on, let's go to the hospital, Kanae-chan."

"Will Sempai be there?" Kanae's tired voice asked worriedly.

"Hmm, you know what? You should call and leave him a message so he knows where he needs to go, actually," Haruhi decided.

"I can drive," Arakawa volunteered, seeming glad to be able to offer to do something, as well. "I feel I was somewhat less than helpful previously..."

"Well," Haruhi started, unable to finish saying that it was Kyon's fault with him gone. Berating him was one thing ... but that... "It happened, and Kyon's figuring out a way to turn it around," she decided, shaking her head. "Come on, let's go."

Shortly after that, they were en route to the hospital, the vehicle slowed due to a large number of emergency vehicles, and closed streets. Haruhi pursed her lips ... she'd like to use her powers to fix this, but her powers were kind of specific, and there was an awful lot to try and 'fix' in one fell swoop without seriously overdoing things. To say nothing of the fact that Kyon wasn't there to authorize it.

Yuki could normally handle it herself, but the girl seemed shaken by things - and Haruhi supposed that after getting her hand cut open, that was entirely justified. As things were, she was surprised that she let Kyon leave after that happened, but something in his eyes suggested that he'd more than repaid it in kind... She didn't like to think of him in those terms, even if she did think it was justified.

She could hardly be possessive and protective of Mikuru without at least extending some of that to the others - and despite how strong she always seemed, even Yuki could have moments of weakness. Since Haruhi was seated between Kanae and Yuki at the same time, she reached out with both arms and managed to snare both in a single hug, pulling both of the smaller girls to her. "So!" she cheered. "Let's keep our spirits up! Since Kanae-chan left a message for Kyon, he'll come to meet us in the hospital - even if it didn't start out well, we're really getting places, now!

"I'm not happy that Yuki and Kyon got hurt, and I think it's probably true that we were a little overconfident, but we also learned a lot from this - if we have to do it again, we'll be much better prepared, right?"

"You've heard something from Kyon-kun about Sasaki and Kyouko's family, then?" Mori wondered, looking vaguely surprised.

"W...well, he said that he and Tsu-chan's father had Sasaki covered," she offered, "and something about ... 'Kyouko's family being obnoxious, but safe'... That and the fact that he's got open time loops, which if I understand right, means he still has chances to cheat even if he doesn't use his current trip to do it."

"That is reassuring," Mori allowed. "Koizumi-kun just reached the hospital - Kyouko is being looked at."

"That's convenient," Haruhi remarked, as the hospital came into sight. "Now we've got a good chance to interrogate her!"

"Interrogate?" Tsuruya asked.

"After whatever it was she tried to do to Kyon?" Haruhi asked, rolling her eyes. Kanae shivered uncomfortably at that. "If she cooperates, that's great - but the way I see it, she owes us answers."

"Would you be willing to entrust that responsibility to me?" Mori asked carefully.

"W...well," Haruhi started, before hesitating. Kyon had mentioned at one point that the woman could be truly menacing - for all that she deferentially referred to Kyon as 'Sir' when speaking to him. She was probably the best person for the job... And, as much as Haruhi wanted an explanation for a great deal of things ... she wasn't sure she trusted herself in that questioning. She'd probably at least slap the esper for that maneuver.

"Yeah," she agreed. "That's a good idea. Hey ... I had a thought - if Kyon was injured, and Yuki-chan's injury can't be fixed normally for some reason, does that mean we sent him back with low hit-points?"

"M...Mikuru-onee is with him," Kanae said, surprisingly confident. "She can take care of him!"

"That's true!" Tsuruya agreed. "But let's get Yuki-chan's hand looked at for now, hmm?"