Ah, the midnight Haruhi one-shots. I thought I'd gotten all of these out of my system. Well, I recently watched through the dub of Endless Eight and got the E8 fever again. The setup of the time loops just seemed so conductive to fanfic writing, didn't it? Okay, maybe that was just me. Either way, I decided Something Different had so much potential to be more than a one-shot, so I decided I'm going to make it into a sort of anthology series of different genres. For the most part, every chapter will be a seperate one-shot, taking place in a different loop. Additionally, it would allow me to vary my writing styles: the chapters will be written from the viewpoints of varying characters. Kyon chapters will be written in Nagaru Tanigawa's rather unique writing style (or at least my best approximation of it), while others will be written with their own unique twists.
That said, before doing that, I really wanted to get some closure on that depressing first chapter, so here we go, I guess!
Loop 10,357: Masks
Main Characters: Kyon, Yuki
Other Info: Sequel to Loop 10,356: "I love you."
Something was wrong with Nagato. I was sure of it.
Yesterday she referred to me as "Kyon," which, coming from anyone else, wouldn't surprise me. However, Nagato had never once called me anything other than "you." Okay, I suppose it's possible that I'm just annoyed that my stupid nickname is spreading even further, but there was more than just that. She thanked me for... well, I'm not sure what, exactly. Probably for giving her a ride on my bike, but that was a strange thing to thank me for, especially since she'd never done so before. Even more strange was a perpetual bored expression she'd had for almost the entire day. Nagato emoting was not something I was used to. I tried asking if she was alright when we left the pool, but she simply nodded and left quickly. That was another thing. She left quickly? Nagato's motions were always deliberate, which meant that must have been as well. Was she late for something? Just what could she even be late for?
This continued to weigh heavily in my mind, distracting me so much that I was barely able to enjoy the sight of Asahina-san when she stepped out of the changing room in her brand-new yukata. I kept thinking about it for the rest of the day, save for a brief flash of deja-vu when we made it to the Bon Festival Koizumi had found, and resolved to speak to Nagato more in depth about it when I got the chance.
So, when I saw her eying a mask stall at said festival, I asked, "Do you want one of those masks, Nagato?" I reached into my pocket for some money, but Nagato told me she would pay. I nodded for second before changing my mind. "Alrigh-actually, no."
Nagato looked at me. For the first time all day, that bored expression seemed to mostly be gone. "I'll pay for it. You've done so much for me in the past, that the least I can do is pay for a mask. Which one do you want?" Nagato shook her head and reached for her change purse, but I stopped her by holding up my hand. "I insist."
She stared at me for a few moments before pointing to a mask that looked like your generic pink-haired anime girl. After I paid the 800 yen, Nagato took the mask and mechanically placed it on the side of her head.
Haruhi and Asahina-san were busy goldfish-scooping, and I didn't really care where Koizumi vanished off to, so I figured this would be a good time to see what was up with Nagato. "Can we talk for a bit?"
Nagato just kept staring at me and nodded. I smiled back and led her away from the stalls to a rather uncrowded grassy hill nearby. I sat down, but she continued standing while eying my curiously. Nagato, you can sit if you want to, you know.
Slowly and deliberately, Nagato sat down on the grass next to me.
Now how should I say this...
"Nagato... I love you."
Eh? Why did I suddenly think that? For a second, I'd imagined we were talking in her apartment. What a weird thought to come out of nowhere... I shook my head while Nagato watched me, probably confused as hell as to why I hadn't really said anything yet. Okay... here goes. Nagato, are you really okay?
Nagato gave another slight nod, just like yesterday.
Are you sure?
"I am fine."
I don't know if I believe that. There's something different about you. You've looked bored these last few days and you acted really uncharacteristic when we got to the pool yesterday.
I mean, you called me Kyon and you even initiated a conversation just to thank me. That's unusual for you.
Judging from her silence, there was at least some truth to my claims.
"It was an... error... in my programing." Nagato said with clear hesitation. It looked like something was up after all.
Nagato, whatever bothering you, you can talk to us about it. I'm not sure what we could do to help, but I know the entire Brigade, Haruhi included, would do their damnedest to help you out.
"It is my function to observe." Nagato said mechanically. Frankly, the answer seemed to be a cop-out to me. In fact, I felt as if she'd said that hundreds of times... But had she really? Had she even once?
Dispelling my weird feeling of deja-vu (huh, I seemed to be getting that a lot lately, actually), I kept pursuing my line of questioning.
Even if it's your job to observe Haruhi, I'm sure you can talk to us about whatever problems you're having. Okay, maybe not everyone could understand whatever it is you're going through, and if it involves your bosses, I guess you couldn't tell Haruhi about it, but I'm sure Asahina-san and Koizumi would be willing to lend an ear. Heck, I bet they're going through similar situations as you!
"I do not wish to talk to them."
Okay, then, if you had to talk to someone, who would you talk to?
Nagato's eyelids flickered. "You."
That caught me off guard for a minute. What could a normal guy like me understand that those two couldn't?
"The organizations that Mikuru Asahina and Itsuki Koizumi are involved in, as well as my own, are not always in agreement. Discussing our respective missions is not advisable."
Ah, I see. That makes sense.
"But also," She continued after a brief pause. "I would find it preferable to discuss situations with you more so than with the others."
I wasn't quite sure what she meant by that, but I figured this meant I might be able to figure out what was bothering her. And now I was positive that something was bothering her. "Okay then, let's discuss your current situation. You've been acting different recently. Is something wrong."
Nagato didn't speak at first. "It is difficult to find acceptable words to illustrate my thought processes."
"Then give it your best shot." I said, conveniently ignoring the fact that I usually found myself unable to comprehend Nagato's explanations.
"Due to unavoidable error data, it is becoming increasingly less desirable to continue to fulfill my primary functions. I am unable to ascertain the origin of the error data, but I believe it is adversely affecting my programming and could potentially result in actions that will not be acceptable to the Data Integrated Thought Entity."
Uh... I think you lost me. Are you basically saying you don't want to observe Haruhi anymore?
"That is correct." Nagato summarized. "I... no longer wish to continue my mission."
But why? What made you come to this conclusion?
"Infinite temporal repetition."
I'm not going to lie, I have no idea what that means.
"Clarification is unnecessary. You will understand in the future." Nagato said curtly. She almost sounded a little annoyed... was that possible?
Sigh. "Okay then." I got to my feet, and Nagato followed. "Just please let me know if there's anything I can do to help. I trust you, Nagato, and I hope you're able to trust me. I don't like having to watch you deal with everything while I just sit back and contribute nothing."
She stayed silent.
"And if you really want to stop observing Haruhi," I continued, "couldn't you take it up with your bosses? Maybe they could give you a break? I'm sure things will calm down a bit after school starts."
Nagato's eyes half-closed again, like she was bored, or maybe even depressed. "Understood." She said dully, walking back towards the Bon festival.
Damn it... I wasn't sure how, but I think I just made things worse.
"Man, what a haul!" Haruhi declared, holding up a plastic bag full of water and with a goldfish in it while beaming proudly. "I caught so many, but I wouldn't have room to keep them all, so I kept one and I gave another to Mikuru-chan." She looked at me and made a strange expression. "Kyon, what's with that weird mask?"
"This?" I asked, pointing to the green alien mask that was affixed sideways to my head. "Nagato got a mask from some vendor and I guess I wanted one too." I explained, trying to ignore the strange stares I was getting from... all four of them, actually.
Haruhi seemed a little annoyed for some reason, but she didn't say anything else. As the night went on, after enjoying some festival food, we found a more secluded area and started shooting off some fireworks.
Haruhi, of course, immediately started firing off the biggest ones we had, while Koizumi and I had to make due with whatever we could get our hands on. Asahina-san tried a few, but she gave up after dropping her eighth sparkler in fright. Nagato, meanwhile, just waved her own sparkler around absentmindedly. I think she might have been staring at me for some of the time, but I can't be certain. As things were winding down, she approached me. Haruhi, Koizumi, and Asahina-san were a little ways off, so they wouldn't be able to hear us over the sound of Haruhi riding around on my bike and shooting off whatever fireworks were left.
"Mask." She observed, pointing at the thing still hanging from my head, as was her own.
I smiled. "Yeah, I thought we could have matching masks." Maybe it was a lame way to say I was sorry for whatever I said, but I thought it might be nice. I pointed at the mask on the side of her head. "See, yours has a human on it, and mine has an alien. It's like we... switched or something? Ahahaha...?" Okay, it was a really lame way to apologize. Hopefully Nagato was unable to understand how awkward I was being right now. "After all, we're friends, right?"
Nagato stared at me straight in the eyes, and for the first time in the last two days, all of the dullness I'd seen in her eyes was gone. "Friends." She slowly reached her hands to the side of her head and pulled the mask over her face. "Thank you."
This time, I didn't question her thanks. Instead, I pulled my own mask over my face. "No problem."
Meh, seemed incredibly fluffy. Still, I hope you liked it. Please review, and if you have any ideas to go with the theme of "Something Different," let me know!