Filmed before a live studio audience at Andyjay18 Studios in Reseda, California, just down the hall from Two and a Half Manhoods and So You Think You Can Lap Dance.
"No Konata, I don't think they had EVAs in World War I. Or any kind of mecha," Kagami groused, facepalming yet again.
"Well, maybe if they had, they might not have been locked in stalemate on the Western Front for over three years," Konata mused.
"But if both sides had them," replied Kagami, "then they would've been evenly matched and still neither side would gain anything. Of course, if the British and the Germans hadn't been obsessed with trying to be the top military power in Europe, the whole damn mess might not have happened. Now c'mon; let's get back to studying."
"But we're talking about history now!" Konata said. Kagami sighed in resignation. That much was true. "What about…th-that guy who assassinated the archduke? If someone had seen the gun in his hands as he ran up to him, or if the archduke had had more bodyguards, then it all could've been avoided, right?"
"Well, perhaps," Miyuki chimed in, her left pointer finger held up. "But like Kagami-san was saying, the political situation at the time in Europe was quite tense. Arguably, the rivalries extended back to the Congress of Vienna a century before, or even to the French Revolution. So it's not so easy as to say that World War I could've been averted simply by removing Gavrilo Princip."
You're talking about the roots of a war that killed millions and then set off an even bigger one, thought Kagami, a sweatdrop running down her right temple, and you're still smiling?
"It's all so depressing," Tsukasa said, leafing through her history book. "It's like we have the answer to the question now, but we forgot what the question was. And then of course with the questions we have now, we don't have the answers yet. I wish we could just read ahead or go back somehow."
"Well, that's why Mikuru went back in ti…" began Konata.
Kagami cleared her throat. "Before we go off on that tangent again, all I can say is that that's why we have history class. You've heard that saying, 'those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it'?"
"Yeah…I…guess so, Onee-chan," Tsukasa answered. "But haven't you also said that you're skeptical about fate and you have to do your best on your own?"
"Well yeah," said Kagami. "But there are still…patterns in life and society. Good ones and bad ones. You have to recognize their signs through, say, social movements, the rulers currently in power, even the weather at times. Sometimes they should be obvious, but most of the time they're not. And that's why I don't believe in fate. If our lives were all scripted out already, like if we were just some of Konata's manga characters, all the answers would seem obvious."
"Jeez, you haven't read enough manga lately!" Konata replied. "You know how a good manga artist keeps you guessing until the end. Heck, since there's so many plot twists in everything, sometimes it's a shock when the original suspect turns out to be the real bad guy, and at first you just thought he was too obvious. And speaking of history, maybe we should come over to my house after school and have a H*talia marathon. It'll help us learn!"
"Of course I know that about manga, and all other fiction!" Kagami said. "But I'm talking about real life here. Y-yeah, I guess you could say it's like a book at times, but you're writing it, so all the plot twists, mysteries, whatever, are all up to you, not some flakey author who'd just as soon send you…out on a date with a guy who secretly wants to gang-rape you with his buddies or…fighting radioactive monsters in a nuclear wasteland. And speaking of real life, you should spend some more time in it if you want to graduate along with us. So no H*talia today; let's get back to our books."
"Hey, I know that!" responded Konata. "But like I was saying, if you just remove one piece from all that happened, like what's-his-name who shot the Archduke of Austria-Hungary, or even Napoleon, then things might've turned out a lot differently."
"That's right," Miyuki added. "That's what's called a variable. They also appear in higher math fairly frequently, and they're also why those math problems about how long it would take two trains traveling between two points at certain speeds are merely hypothetical. For instance, what if one of those trains was delayed?"
"That's our Miyuki-chan!" Konata said. "Oh, and Kagamin, did you just say that you're the only 'author' of your life story? Do we have the first known atheist miko here?"
Kagami's eyes shot open. "Shut up! When did I ever say I was atheist? I mean…sometimes I do wonder…I don't really believe the Japanese islands were created by some drops of water falling off Izanagi's spear, or the Western thing about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden…but just because I think we're all in charge of our destinies doesn't automatically make me think there's no God! And frankly, you've never struck me as religious yourself."
"Well, it just seemed funny to me. Yeah, your dad made you and Tsukasa mikos…"
"Look, can we just get back to studying?"
"So are our fates all laid out for us? I-if I get hurt playing volleyball in gym class, or Dad and Mom are in a car crash or something, was it all planned beforehand? Are the gods going to punish us if we think we're on our own, or will we go to hell? I'm kinda scared now…" Tsukasa murmured.
"Umm, I'm going to get some more books," Miyuki said, blushing slightly.
Going back among the shelves, Miyuki remembered why libraries were some of her favorite places. All those books represented the collected and distilled wisdom of the ages, the passing of culture, history, and general knowledge. She could, and on many occasions did, spend much time just browsing, and was often entranced by some of the items she just happened to come across. For instance, there was the collection of newspapers dating back to the 1950's; somehow, gazing at everyday stories (not just major world-shaking events but also routine affairs concerning normal people, as well as columns on celebrities, movies, and music of the day) as well as the original advertisements seemed as close as one could get to time travel. It was one thing to read scans and summaries on the Internet, but to hold the actual physical object in your own hands… There were entire encyclopedia series devoted to various animals and plants, broken down into volumes with such titles as Charadriiformes and Myrtaceae. There were several very old editions of various works; when she next had the chance, she hoped to check out an intriguing-looking Renaissance-era play she had stumbled upon called The King in Yellow. Perhaps she could convince the Drama Club to perform it; it would be a nice change of pace from Romeo and Juliet or Journey to the West.
Yes, a library could help answer all the questions on your mind, and then some. But right then Miyuki was looking for something more prosaic, if not to alternate history enthusiasts; a book about the Great War.
Perhaps for obvious reasons, most of the books on World War I had somber or drab covers, often gray, white, brown, khaki, or even straight black (indeed, this was true of most literature in the history section). So Miyuki was somewhat surprised to see a bright red spine sticking out at her like a sore thumb between a gray book and a black one.
She was even more surprised to read the bright yellow characters printed along it: Takara Miyuki.
Miyuki just blinked and stared at the name. This wasn't too strange, was it? "Takara" was a common Japanese family name, and "Miyuki" a common girls' name, right? She wouldn't have been too surprised if there was at least one other person named Takara Miyuki elsewhere in the Kanto Region, or even in Saitama Prefecture. And Tokyo was the biggest city on Earth. Just about anyone could be out there; another Hiiragi Tsukasa, another Izumi Konata, a doppelganger…
She pulled the book from the shelf and immediately wished she hadn't.
A teenage girl with long pink hair and nervous violet eyes behind a pair of glasses stared back at her, a stunned expression upon her face. Miyuki jumped backwards, bumping against the shelf behind her. Again just the name—her name—made up the title in bold yellow kanji. There was no author's name below the "title" or at the bottom of the cover.
She could see her hands trembling as she opened the cover. For some reason there was no publisher's information, or even a copyright date. This story wasted no time in getting started. "Takara Miyuki was a smart, pleasant girl well noted among her classmates for her enthusiasm for learning, studying, and reading, and she still would have been if she hadn't picked up a certain book in the library during a study session. To be certain, even she could have had no way of knowing such a thing lay in wait.
Going back among the shelves, Miyuki remembered why libraries were some of her favorite places. All those books represented the collected and…"
Miyuki forced her eyes away from the page. There was just an ordinary bookshelf in front of her, with ordinary books. She glanced to her left and her right and saw only the ends of the shelf, with another row beginning to the left after a hallway and to the right, only an empty desk against the wall. The only sounds were the humming of the fluorescent lights above. It was the same old library where she occasionally came to browse or just relax after school. And yet now she had found…this.
Her legs were trembling such that she now had to sit down to continue reading. Continue reading? As much as this tome frightened her, she had to see where the story went. Maybe it was just a coincidence. Plenty of stories had tall, shapely, studious heroines, right? Tall, shapely, studious heroines with long, pink hair and glasses who just happened to bear her name.
Miyuki just blinked and stared at the name. This wasn't too strange, was it? "Takara" was a common Japanese family name…
Since Miyuki had read the passage about the red book buried in the shelves, a small moan began issuing from her throat. By now the moan had developed into an audible groan, and her jaw had fallen completely open. And still she forced herself to carry on. She had to see how this book ended.
That is, until she reached the passage: And still she forced herself to carry on. She had to see how this book ended. It came at the end of a page, which she dutifully turned. And then: And still she forced herself to carry on. She had to see how this book ended.
Despite the now-epileptic shaking of her hands, she flipped through a few pages, desperate to see what would happen next. She had only gotten a short way in, yet the book was quite thick. She had to know. She had to see.
The first paragraph her eyes landed on began: Despite the now-epileptic shaking of her hands, she flipped through a few pages, desperate to see what would happen next.
"Hee hee," she murmured softly (for this was a library after all), "I have to know what'll happen next. I just have to know." She flipped through a few more pages and read only, Despite the now-epileptic shaking…
She then noticed that no matter how many pages in the book she turned, she never seemed to get any closer to the end.
"No!" she said, somewhat more loudly than a murmur. "I have to get to the end! It's not fair! It's not fair! Where is the end?" She tore through the pages like a madwoman, but still the end never seemed to get any closer. "Where's the end, where's the end, where's the end, where'stheendwhere'stheendwhere' WHERE'S THE FUCKING ENNNNND!" Seeing no way around this, Miyuki grabbed a handful of pages and tugged with all her strength. They seemed much more firmly bound than a normal book should be, but soon enough, she thought she heard a slight cracking sound.
She let out an unhindered yowl as a bolt of the worst pain imaginable surged through her body starting from her left arm, knocking her flat on her back. A blue flash filled her vision and faded to black. It was only for a few seconds though, and when her vision returned, she pushed herself back into a sitting position. Her heart throbbed, her swimming head felt like a rung bell, and still her hands quaked out of control. And still that…thing sat open in front of her, mocking her. Inviting her to see what cannot be seen.
"IT'S NOT FUCKING FAAAAIR!" she screamed, slamming the book shut, grabbing it, and climbing to her feet. "I just wanted to see the ennnnnd!"
"So let's see…" Tsukasa murmured as she jotted down some notes. "Guns of August…Field Marshal Haig…the Somme…a long way to Tipperary…say Onee-chan, what's in mustard gas again?"
"I think it has bleach in it, or something," answered Konata. "I just remember someone mentioned it on 2chan, and I thought it was kinda creepy how something so deadly can be made with ordinary stuff everyone keeps under their kitchen sink. Miyuki would know; why don't you ask her when she gets back?"
"Tsukasa, I don't think the ingredients of mustard gas are gonna be on the exam," Kagami muttered. She turned to Konata. "And as for you, I think you should perhaps pay less attention to certain freaks online before you get yourself arrested. Now let's get back to work."
Just then Miyuki darted into the study area, a red book under her arm.
"Well speak of the devil," Konata said. "Say, we were wondering, what's in mus…"
"Ha ha, I just wanted to see the ennnnnnd, ah ha haaaa!" Miyuki gibbered, charging past their table and toward the door, ignoring the other students and their teachers as their gazes followed her. She briefly turned toward her friends. Her skin was the color of chalk, her hands shook profusely, and a visible glaze of sweat dampened her face and arms. And somehow her violet eyes, usually amiable and softened by her glasses, now seemed sharper, harsher…and terrified. "But you can't see what's in front of you until you get there, right? Burn, baby, burn! Wa-haaaa!" And then she was gone through the library door.
Konata's eyes had opened all the way. "What the hell was that about?" she gasped. "Where'd Miyuki-chan go?"
"Okay everybody, let's all sit down and be calm," Kuroi announced. "Takara may simply have been studying a bit too hard, which is more than I can say for some of you. I'll go out and look for her; the rest of you just stay put. Sakuraba-sensei, please make sure that none of them leave this room."
Tsukasa had curled up as much as she could in her chair. "O-onee-chan, did Kuroi-sensei just say that Miyuki's gone insane? She's never seemed to have any…problems. But she didn't look too healthy just now…"
"I-I don't know," Kagami replied. But then…she's not in any clubs, but she is class president, and she almost always seems to be studying, and she always gets at least third place in events during the sports festivals, so it seems like she trains before them…so she does seem to have a lot more pressure in her life than the rest of us…hey, wait…
Kagami's vision had suddenly drifted to the magazine rack. Some library assistant had apparently inadvertently placed a book there amongst the periodicals. But that alone didn't derail Kagami's train of thought, or cause her to rise out of her chair and start walking toward it. It was the book's apparent title and picture.
Hiiragi Kagami, in gold-embossed kanji, with a picture of a teenage girl beneath. The girl had purple hair tied back in twin tails, and wore a haunted, deer-in-the-headlights expression on her face. There was no author's name.
Kagami didn't know any other people with the family name Hiiragi (besides her relatives, of course), but she had heard the name a few times in the news or light novels (and hadn't there been a character by that name in that recent anime about kindergarteners?). The name Kagami was somewhat rarer though, perhaps since not everyone had a Shinto priest for a father. And that picture… What could be inside that book?
Her brief reverie was shattered by a piercing, almost inhuman scream. Almost. In her surprise, Kagami's eyes darted upwards toward a red plastic box with a handle. In case of fire, pull down, read the notice printed above it.
In case of fire.
"Burn, baby, burn!"
The final connection in her head was made less than a second later, when Kuroi's voice cried out, "TAKARAAAA! NOOOOO!" As class president, she recognized where her voice was coming from…as well as Miyuki's horrible scream.
The incinerator chute.
Not sure what she could do, Kagami made her way toward the library door. All of a sudden it seemed as though she were underwater, and the other students' and teachers' voices faded to dull background whispers.
She glanced out the doorway just in time to see a large ball of flame, about the height of one Takara Miyuki, hurtling past and still screeching until she reached a window at the end of the hall, then diving through the glass.
AN: The main "source" for this story was a German short story called Es steht geschrieben (It Stands Written), by Hans Daiber. (If you know German, I'd gladly recommend it.) I'm not sure if it translated completely well to Lucky Star, since of course the latter is an extroverted, multi-character, dialog-driven gag series, while the former was of course a somewhat disturbing Twilight Zone-ish piece with only one character and was almost completely devoid of dialog. Also, Daiber's story opened with the typical intro: "(Name) was just an ordinary person…", which I usually try to avoid. I prefer to open in the middle of a conversation…but in the case of this story, it caused some trouble with the setup. Still, the original story affected me enough to want to "pay tribute" to it someday, somehow.
I also tried to tie it all in with the banter about World War I, history and fate after reading the TV Tropes article on "Hitler's Time Travel Exemption" and alternate history speculation and I'm not sure if it all came together well, but meh. I'm a history buff. It is a long way to Tipperary; it's a long way to go.
PS: Whoever points out the Twilight Zone reference wins…nothing.