The Cries of Haruhi Suzumiya: Tsukuribanashi-hen
Chapter One: Fresh Start
Hello, readers, and welcome to the second arc of The Cries of Haruhi Suzumiya. This is a sort of continuation of Kamigoroshi-hen (in the same way as Tsumihoroboshi-hen is a continuation of Onikakushi-hen in Higurashi. If you haven't read Kamigoroshi, go read it now, and read this one afterwards, or else you might not get this one.
Anyway, on with the show...
I see your face, from way off in the distance. And I recognize it.
I do not remember who you are. I do not remember what you have done, if you were a hero or a villain.
But I know you. I have seen you before. I remember your face.
But do you remember mine?
What was that?
I just heard someone say something along the lines of "I know you. I have seen you before." just now. Sounds like... I don't know, maybe a little girl, maybe someone older. Nobody I knew, that's for sure.
I never thought I would have seen you again.
And there it is again. Look, mysterious voice, I don't know who or what you are, but cut it out. It's creepy.
And I felt the bus that we were riding in slowly come to a stop. I opened my eyes to see where we ended up.
Now, you're probably wondering why the SOS Brigade is on a bus, and where we probably have arrived. Well, why the hell are you asking me? Why would I know? I'm just Haruhi's living luggage cart at this point in the adventure. Go ask her.
According to the tiny bits of information that Haruhi has let me know, we should have just arrived in Hinamizawa. Hinamizawa is a small village in the mountains somewhere in Gifu, which is famous for a festival held sometime in late July. And, according to Haruhi, there is a chain of murders that have been occuring around the festival. The investigation of which is why we, the SOS Brigade, are here.
You know, in all honesty, I was sort of looking forward to this until I woke up just now. I was looking forward to a normal, supernatural-free murder-mystery that wasn't provided by the Orginazation. But now, with that spirit... assuming I'm not going mad, that's definitely supernatural. Let's just hope that the two are unrelated and be done with it.
At this moment, I wasn't the only one awake. Nagato, as still as she would be if she was sleeping (assuming she even sleeps), was reading. Koizumi was sitting up and stretching, obviously having just woken up. Asahina-san and Haruhi were still sleeping.
I remember you... but do you remember me?
No. I don't. Stop saying that. You're creeping me out.
I'm sorry... I'm really sorry...
That's just as bad. Please, just leave me alone. Go bug someone else, okay?
I pulled out a pencil from my pocket, got up from my seat/bed, and rapped Haruhi on the forehead. She popped her snot bubble, stirred, and grumbled.
"Wha? Don't hit me..." said Haruhi.
"We're here." I said.
"What? Where's here?"
"Hinamizawa, I think."
"Oh... right, that."
She sat up and stretched.
"Well, if we're where I think we are, we're not quite in Hinamizawa yet."
"Eh, I'll explain when we get everything unpacked. Speaking of which, hop to it."
She stood up and stretched again.
"That goes for everyone. We're moving out."
Koizumi stretched, got up, and started unloading some of the bags. I did the same thing. Haruhi decided to wake up Asahina-san up by reclining on her with her hands right on her breasts. I'd chastise Haruhi for doing that, but Asahina-san's expression (a light smile before she opened her eyes, and total shock afterward) made me decide against that.
"I just have one thing that's bugging me." I said.
"And that is?" said Haruhi.
"Why this bus? I mean, really, it has an odd smell, the seats suck, and I haven't seen anyone but us get on or off. Couldn't someone get, I dunno, a friend or a relative to drive us?"
"Well, my parents had to work, so I couldn't get anyone. Too bad." said Haruhi.
Well, what about Koizumi? He has his Contacting skill maxed out. Surely he could have gotten someone?
"Unfortunately, I couldn't find anyone at all." said Koizumi.
"What, nobody?" said Haruhi.
"No. Arakawa and Mori were off trying to help a friend of theirs stuck on an island, my parents had a business meeting, and that tied down pretty much everyone else."
"Well, that sucks."
Come to think of it, Haruhi, where'd you get access to this bus?
"I found the schedules on the internet. It's the only bus that goes to anywhere near Hinamizawa."
Eventually, we finished grabbing all our bags (really damn heavy bags - there's about a duffel bag for each of us, and then two more. It must weigh more than an elephant in total.) and we made our way out of the bus. The bus drove off, never to be seen again.
We were currently standing at the outer fringe of a pretty large town. This can't be Hinamizawa. Where are we?
"Alright, gang!" said Haruhi. "As I've said, this isn't Hinamizawa. Not quite yet. I couldn't find a bus that lead up there. Currently, we're outside of O... oko..."
"Okinomiya." said Nagato.
"Yeah, that's it. Anyway, in case any of you missed the memo-"
I really seriously doubt that Haruhi knows how to write a memo.
"-we are going to be in town for the Watanagashi festival. I've heard that it's supposed to be quite lovely."
Asahina-san smiled and nodded. The light of the sun through the the grove of trees behind us illuminated her large, shining golden eyes and beautiful auburn hair.
"That's right. I've heard Tsuruya-san say nothing but nice things about it."
"Yes. However, the real reason that the SOS Brigade is here is to investigating a strange chain of murders that have been happening around the time of the festival."
"I thought it was a curse?" I said.
Haruhi gave me an odd look and raised an eyebrow.
"What are you talking about? I don't remember anything about a curse."
And the wierd thing is... I don't, either.
"Where'd you hear about that?"
In fact, in my recollection, the only memory of a mention of a curse is what I just said. Why did I say that?
"Although... if it turns out that there is a curse, that would be even... anyway, I don't think we'd be able to get a ride to Hinamizawa, so I guess we'll be walking."
Walking? Really? How far is it from here?
"It's a few kilometers from here, but it shouldn't be too bad."
"Kilometers? Really? Can't we take a cab or a bus or something?" I said.
"Kyon, if I could have gotten a bus to take us there, I would have. But there's no bus stop. And, seriously, don't they charge extra for bags with cabs? We don't have much cash on hand."
What, with all this crap? Asahina-san would pass out. Heck, I'd probably pass out, too.
I wonder... can he help me?
Didn't I tell you to stop talking?
"Well, we're gonna carry on, with all our bags." said Haruhi. "Unless someone," and she shot me a devious look "wants to carry them for us."
"What, me?" I said, "No. I already have enough."
"Well, you know, I would like to not have to carry these..."
How about we mutually shut up?
Koizumi frowned and shook his head, wearing an expression completely alien for that pretty face of his.
"I don't know... I'm just getting a bad feeling."
"About having to walk?" said Haruhi.
He dropped the frown.
"Yes, that's it. I'm just concerned that, you know, one of us could faint, or fall and sprain an ankle."
Koizumi, not instantly confirming to one of Haruhi's ideas, to her face? Something's definetely up.
"Well, suck it up, Koizumi-kun. We're gonna walk anyway, because that's what I want to do. Now, which way is the fastest..."
Haruhi pulled out a sheet of paper with a map on it and started looking at the various nearby roads that led out from the bus stop. Nagato had walked up to the forest edge and was staring into it like she was expecting it to swallow her up. Asahina-san was teetering around like a top winding down under the weight of her bags. Koizumi was standing off to the side, hand in chin, staring dourly at the ground.
"So, what was that about?" I asked.
"I'm getting a rather odd feeling. Something about this place is wrong."
"Well, it must be some sort of esper thing, because I don't see anything wrong with this situtation."
That wasn't really true, but it wasn't 100 percent falsehood. Sure, that spirit is creepy, but I don't think it can harm me. I think it's just ambience.
Koizumi went back to his default smile.
"In any case, it doesn't matter. I'm sure that we'll enjoy ourselves here in Hinamizawa."
If you're who I think you are... then... why are you here?
"Out of curiosity, is this odd feeling manifesting itself as a voice that's talking to you like an old friend?" I said.
"Uh... no, it isn't." said Koizumi.
"Yuki, what are you doing?" said Haruhi.
I looked. Nagato was still standing still, facing the forest.
"Hinamizawa is in this direction."
Haruhi glanced back at her map, and then gave Nagato a look. It was a spot-on replica of the tired-looking emoticon, the one made with two minus signs with an underscore in the middle.
"Yuki-chan, that's through the forest."
"It is the fastest way."
"So, it's through a forest, and those look like mountains in the background. What if one of us fell down a ravine or something, hm?"
"It is safe."
"Well, how do you know?"
"Actually, Yuki, to be honest, I don't."
"Out of curiosity," I said, "how much faster is it?"
"Following major and minor roads would extend the distance betweenm here and Hinamizawa by approximately thirty-seven percent."
Haruhi looked at her map again.
"Well, if we go about a kilometer every 5 minutes... round the percent to thirty-three... Yuki, you have a point. That's about a half-hour of time we could shave off. Alright, guys, let's go!"
She grabbed two duffel bags, started walking in the direction Yuki was facing, stopped about a hundred meters out, waited for Nagato to catch up, and kept pace with Nagato from then on.
Your entire group... why do you all seem so familiar?
Nagato and Haruhi walked into the forest. Me, Koizumi, and Asahina-san grabbed the last of the bags and followed.
Especially her... the doll-like one.
I hustled ahead to match pace with Nagato.
Wasn't there someone like her? Someone who wasn't nice at all?
No... she can't be. She's dead.
By this time, Haruhi had gotten the gist of where we were going, and was leading the pack as usual. Might as well make this quick, so that we don't walk in circles for three hours.
"Look, this is totally going to sound crazy, but I keep hearing this... this spirit."
No... oh, no, it is her...
Au au au au...
"It's real, right?"
Nagato looked left, then right.
Please don't see me please don't see me please don't see me
Whoever this spirit is, she's afraid of Nagato. I wonder why.
When Nagato's gaze passed a certain point, the spirit shrieked, and then, silence.
"Thanks." I said.
"Yuki-chan, aren't you supposed to be leading us?" said Haruhi, falling back slightly.
"I forgot." said Nagato. Haruhi pulled her ahead.
And we kept walking. There wasn't much in the way of noise; just our footsteps, the occasional tune that Haruhi whistled, and the cries of the higurashi.
What exactly are we getting into in Hinamizawa?
What - or who -was that spirit? How does she know me? And why is she afraid of Nagato?
And why does it feel like this whole concept has been done before?
After, oh, I'd say an hour or so, we eventually reached a good-sized, two-story house.
"Well, I think we finally made it." said Koizumi.
"What, you're calling this Hinamizawa?" said Haruhi.
It's attatched to a road, isn't it?
"This is the outskirts of Hinamizawa," said Koizumi. "We've come in at an odd angle."
"Hmmm... I see." said Haruhi. "By the way, Yuki, thanks for leading us. There's some chocolate in one of these bags that you can have later. Who knows how long it would have taken uf we went some other way?"
Well, if you were leading us, we'd either completely encircle the town three times before we reached it or miss it entirely. And out of all the things I'd use to reward Nagato, food's at the bottom of the list. I'd just shell out a couple thousand yen and get her a game.
"Thank you," said Nagato.
We circled around to the front of the house. Haruhi set her bags down and walked up to the door.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"Kyon-kun, I am acquiescing lodgings for our traveling party."
It took me a few seconds to comprehend what the hell she just said.
"Lodgings?" I said. "Don't you already know where we're staying?"
"Nope." said Haruhi, probably trying her hardest to sound as nonchalant as possible.
"No, wait, that's not true."
Thank god. She wouldn't sink so far as to go into a town (that doesn't even have any hotels, for one thing) with no plans whatsoever on where to stay.
"I'm carrying out my lodgings-garnering plan as we speak."
"What, you're just going to knock on their door at somewhere around dinnertime and ask if we can stay for a week?"
"Ah, see, you're starting to catch on, Kyon-kun."
You've gotta be kidding me.
Haruhi knocked on the door.
"...is anyone even in here?" she asked, after a while.
"Doesn't look like it." said Koizumi.
"Oh. Well, should we just go in-"
"And just move into someone's house? That's ludicrous." I said.
"Fine, fine. It's probably locked, anyway. Let's go to the next one, then."
"You're going door to door, now?"
"What, you got any better ideas than this?"
I know fully well that this is a stupid idea, at least.
Nevertheless, we walked down some steps to a much smaller, two-story house. At least this one had lights on.
"Alright, take two." said Haruhi. She walked up and knocked on the door.
"Just a second!" said a voice from inside. A little girl's voice, from the sound of it. The door opened.
I was right; it was a young girl, probably somewhere between eight and ten. She had short blonde hair in a headband, a pink shirt, and denim shorts. She looked... I'm not sure if "scrappy" is the right word, but I'm gonna go with it. Currently, she had a quizzical expression.
"Can I help you?"
"Um, yes," said Haruhi. She knelt down to meet this girl at eye level. "Are your parents here?"
The little girl paused and blinked.
"...no. No, they aren't."
"Oh. When will they be back, then?"
For a half-second, the girl looked suprisingly solemn.
"They... they won't be back."
"They're... are they dead?" said Haruhi.
The girl nodded.
"I'm sorry. That's really unfortunate." said Haruhi. "Well, do you have an older sibling taking care of you or anything like that?"
"I have an older brother."
"Good. Where is he?"
"No! No. He's not dead."
"Satoko-san, who are you-" said a voice from inside.
The voice's source, another small girl, froze when she saw us. She looked to be about the same age as the first girl. She had a much rounder-looking face, with long purple hair, straight-cut bangs, and big purple eyes. She was currently wearing a green sundress. Her suprised expression and thin body gave her a very waifish look.
"...you look familiar. Have I seen you before? Like, sometime in the past?"
Personally, I'd call that an interesting choice of words, considering who else has said that to me.
"No, I don't believe we had," said Haruhi, rising back up. "Is this your house, too?"
"It is, sir." Sir? Haruhi is in no way a "sir".
That's who I was talking about.
Oh, great, not you again.
Her... I think I remember her. She managed to strike me. She wasn't human... then.
I saw the waifish girl's eyes get wider, and she took a step back, as if... as if the spirit was talking to her. Okay, something's wrong with this.
Don't let her hurt me...
"So, where are your parents?" asked Haruhi.
"Oh, they're currently sleeping in the ground, sir."
"In the... oh. Oh, that's unfortunate. So, who's your guardian, then?"
"We take care of ourselves, sir."
So, these two girls are both orphans (adorable orphans, I might add), living all by themselves, looking out for only each other. Judging by her expressions and the occasional mouthed word, Haruhi and I were sitting next to each other on the same train of thought.
"Wow, that's so cool! I thought orphans only lived like that in fiction!"
Haruhi reached out and petted the blonde girl on the head. Suddenly, the blonde girl's expression snapped to one of terror, and she swatted Haruhi's arm away like it had just been pulled from the forge. Then she blinked, and the terror was gone. Okay, what is up with these girls?
"...she doesn't like being petted, sir." said the waiflike girl.
Haruhi tilted her head slightly, then nodded.
"So, how can we help you?" said the blonde girl.
"Well, I was going to ask if me and my friends-"
She gestured at the rest of us.
"-if we could stay here, but I don't really know-"
"Oh, we'd be happy to let you stay with us for the night." said the waiflike girl.
"Well, it'd be a lot longer than that, actually. A week, at least."
"Oh. That's problematic, sir. But you can still stay here at least for one night."
"Thanks a bunch."
"My name is Furude Rika, and this is Hojo Satoko. Come in, come in."
We entered the house. It looked exactly as small on the inside as it did on the outside. I don't even know if we could all fit in the main room. "Problematic" is a bit of an understatement. (Speaking of which, I'm not sure if a ten-year-old should know that word. These two are very interesting, indeed.)
As we switched our outside shoes for our inside ones, Rika lightly rested her hand on Nagato's shoulder.
"Don't hurt anyone, okay, sir?"
Wait, "don't hurt anyone"? I mean, true, Nagato could kick Godzilla's ass singlehandedly, but one, she only releases the whoopass if something wants to munch me, stab me, or possibly if I ask politely, and two, you don't know that.
"Oh, we didn't interrupt you in the middle of dinner, did we?" said Asahina-san.
"Oh, no, we're actually making it right now." said Satoko. "Do you like curry?"
"Eh, it isn't my favorite, but I'll eat it." said Haruhi.
"That's good. Um, sir," said Rika, turning to me, "would you mind helping us out in the kitchen?"
"Of course he wouldn't." said Haruhi.
I would have said yes anyway...
"Thank you, sir."
Me, Satoko, and Rika went into the kitchen while the rest of the SOS Brigade sat down and started talking. Now, I know perfectly well how to make curry, but our author lacks knowledge that me, Tanigawa-sama, and probably most Japanese people have about the curry-making process, so it'll have to be glossed over.
As it was being made, Rika was humming a song. As I passed closer to her, I realized she was singing something really quietly.
"Please, hold my hand, as I lay here, my blood flowing down like tears, and up to the final moment, we can smile together..."
She looked at me and looked embarassed.
"It's a religious song, sir. Um, can you get something for us to drink from the fridge?"
She beamed at me.
Alright, who the hell is this girl? She communes (or at least can hear) spirits, she sings really disturbing "religous" songs. I mean, I don't know of any religious songs that involves imagery of flowing blood. Must be some messed-up religion. I'd grill her here and now if Haruhi wasn't in the next room.
I opened the fridge. Inside was an almost-empty bottle of soy sauce, two bowls of tofu, a carton of grape juice, various other things, and, in the back...
"Yes, sir?" said Rika.
I pulled the wine bottle out of the fridge.
"Oh, that?" Rika started blushing. "Uh, well, sir, that's for when... when guests come over. Right, yes, that's it."
"...I don't believe you in the slightest."
"Hey, you have wine?" said Haruhi, from the other room. "I'll have some!"
"Yes, I think I'd like some, too." said Koizumi.
Rika, blushing so much she looked like a beet, took the wine bottle from me.
"Thanks for the help, sir. We can take it from here."
As I walked back into the main room, I heard Satoko say "I didn't know we had wine..."
"Something's up here." I said.
"Yeah, you're right." said Haruhi. "What's with the wine?"
Eventually, Satoko served us our curry, and Rika served the drinks. Everyone got identical-looking, deep purple, presumably grape-derived drinks. I took a sniff of mine. Didn't smell like wine. Please, don't get Haruhi drunk. That's just asking for trouble.
"So," said Satoko, "who are you?"
"My name is Suzumiya Haruhi. I'm the leader of the SOS Brigade."
"SOS...?" said Rika, tilting her head.
"These four dunces."
"Oh, alright," said Satoko.
"More importantly, sir," said Rika, "why are you here?"
"Because we needed a place to stay for the-" said Haruhi.
"I meant here, in Hinamizawa, sir."
Haruhi was cut off from speaking by Koizumi raising his hand to shush her.
"We are in town to view the Watanagashi festival. It's something of a hobby of mine to go and see various festivals of all sizes, and a friend of a friend recommended this one to me. So, I decided to ask Suzumiya-san if we could attend, and she said yes."
Rika took a long, meaningful sip of her "juice".
"Very nice, sir. I don't think I've ever met a better actor than you. I would have believed you if I didn't know that that was not true."
Satoko tilter her head. "You mean that wasn't true?"
"No. They're investigating Oyashiro-sama's curse."
She looked at me. Oh god, it's more like she's staring through me and deep into my soul. Is she trying to see my inner self or something?
That's unnerving as hell. Cut it out.
She looked back at Koizumi.
"Well..." Koizumi chuckled and smiled. "You are very clever, Furude-san. We are indeed investigating the curse, although I wasn't completely lying when I said that I want to see the festival. In fact, it wasn't even my idea. I am in Hinamizawa because Suzumiya-san wills it."
"Because Suzumiya-san wills it?" Really? You sound like you worship her. In fact, I'd buy it if you said that Haruhiism was your official religion.
"You sound like you worship her, sir." said Rika.
Oh, great, she's dictating my thoughts, now. Stop with the creepiness!
Rika looked at me and blushed.
"I'm sorry if I creep you out, sir."
"Well," said Koizumi, "I don't worship her. Our relationship is defined by the SOS Brigade alone. Actually, I suppose I'd be an atheist. I do believe that beings with power approaching omnipotence exist, but they aren't omnipotent."
That sounds like you believe in godlike aliens. Not unjustified, true, but not something that you should say out loud.
And now that he mentions it, you're probably wondering what my creed is. Well, I'll just say that I'm not a Buddhist, and my religion has more than one god. That's all you get.
"Interesting. If you ask me, gods exist, sir." said Rika.
"Well, of course that'd be the answer if we asked you, Rika-chan." said Satoko. She turned to the rest of us. "She's Oyashiro-sama's shrine maiden."
"Who is Oyashiro-sama, anyway?" asked Haruhi.
"He's the main deity of Hinamizawa. He's who the Watanagashi festival is held for."
"Fascinating. So you're the number one expert on Oyashiro-sama, then?" said Koizumi.
"I'd say so." said Rika. Satoko nodded in agreement.
"And I'd assume that you'd kill us if we delved too deep into Hinamizawa's secrets?"
Rika looked suprised.
"What? Oh, no, no sir. I won't hurt you. But, well, I think I'm the exception rather than the rule. Please, just stick to trying to solve the mystery of the murders. Hinamizawa is a very dark place, and everyone has their skeletons in their closets. Don't open them, please. They'd get really mad."
Don't give Haruhi guidelines. She'd just go out of her way to break them for her amusement.
And dinner proceeded, as the dialogue turned to the nature of gods. Koizumi hit a stride, and I tuned it out. Eventually, it was time for us to go to bed.
"So... Just pick a spot, sir." said Rika.
"What, on the floor?" said Haruhi.
"Yeah. We don't have too many blankets, but it's summertime, so you should be fine."
"I think I have some sleeping bags in one of these..." said Asahina-san.
As Asahina-san looked through the bag, I mentally surveyed the floor.
"There's not enough room for all of us. Unless any of you can sleep standing up, someone can't sleep here."
"Well, I guess you can sleep with me, sir." said Rika.
The slack-jawed look that Haruhi gave me and Rika was something so spectacular that I could barely contain myself. Seriously, this moment is the number one reason that this story should be adapted into visual media.
It took Rika a few seconds to get why Haruhi was making that face.
"Oh, no, no, no, no, no. Not like that at all, sir!" Rika was beet red. "I mean that there's more room upstairs."
"Well... fine. But Kyon, I don't care how you usually sleep, you're wearing pants tonight."
Before Rika could say anything, Haruhi turned and left.
"Are you sure it's okay?" I asked.
"Don't worry about it." said Satoko.
I went up the stairs. There wasn't much in the way of furniture. Just closets and mats.
"Well, maybe over there, by the window. Does that work?" said Satoko.
"Alright, good night."
Satoko laid down on the mat, pulled a cover over herself, and went to sleep.
"Good night, sir." said Rika.
I laid down on the spot Satoko pointed out, pulled a cover over me, and tried to sleep.
After a few minutes, I heard someone next to me stir.
I stirred and look. Rika was sitting up, looking at me.
"Hmm?" I said.
"Oh, sorry, did I wake you up?" she said.
"No, I didn't fall asleep yet."
"That's your name, isn't it? Kyon?"
"Uh... I guess so."
Woah woah woah. Hold the freaking phone. Haruhi never gave you our names. I don't remember me or anyone else mentioning my name. How the hell do you know that?
Rika looked over at Satoko. She was out like a light. Rika looked back at me.
"Before today, have you ever heard of the name Furude Rika?"
Holy crap, that was not Rika's voice. It was creepy and cold. You know, you suck at the not creeping me out thing.
"No... no, I haven't."
"I see. You... you don't know who I am?"
"Nope. No clue."
She sighed. She looked... depressed. Was I really supposed to know her?
"Well, just remember this: Hinamizawa is going to go into a dark time, soon. But it's still light right now. Enjoy the bright days while they last, because they won't."
"What do you mean, "dark time?"
"You'll see. Or hopefully, you won't. Just try to satisfy your leader enough so that she'll leave, and do that as soon as you can, before bad things happen."
"I don't want to see you suffer. And also, out of anyone in Hinamizawa, even your friends, I will always believe you. No matter what happens to everyone else."
She looked at me with an expression of utmost sincerity.
"I'm your friend, Kyon. No matter what happens."
"Why do I get the special treatment?" I asked.
"If you are who I remember... but... I don't, really. All I can remember is that your face, and your name, were attatched to a very good person."
I heard Haruhi stir loudly from downstairs.
"Get some sleep, sir."
And the normal voice is back. If that's even her normal voice, that is.
Look, this whole "I'm your friend, no matter what" thing is a lot harder to buy when you're both putting on this creepy child schtick and not explaining a damn thing. I don't trust you yet. At all.
I laid back down and tried to get some sleep. I wasn't unsucessful, but it was mostly nightmares. I don't remember what it was, only that the final, lingering image was Haruhi with a perfect hole in her forehead.
I stirred and looked around. Rika wasn't in her "bed".
She was sitting in an alcove in the corner of the room, holding a bottle of wine.
She was the reason for... for this.
Ah, strange spirit. We meet again.
"Oh. But did she hurt you in this time?"
I knew it. She is talking with that spirit.
No... she didn't hurt me. I ran before she had the chance.
"Well, was she like the girl that almost killed me so long ago?"
No... I think she might be okay this time. But it's too early to make judgment.
Who are they talking about? Nagato? Haruhi? Someone else?
I don't feel comfortable with them around. Not even the one you're fond of.
"Well, it's just for one night. I'm still amazed that, after so, so long, they return. I knew for sure that that was just a side story, like an extra picture in a flip book."
But him... Kyon, wasn't it?
"Who is that?" I asked.
Oh, he's awake...
"Who is who?" said Rika. She only seemed like she was partially trying to cover up something.
I'd like to know that, too.
"Her. That spirit. The one that you're talking to right now." I said.
Does he mean me?
Yes, I mean you!
...how? There's no way that he can know that I'm here. It's impossible.
Rika's eyes somehow went even wider than they were. I'd estimate that 1/3 of her face is ocular right now.
Au au au...
"You can hear her?"
I... I think that it's a really bad thing that he's hearing me...
"Yes. Who is she?"
Only... only... the only ones that could hear me were the ones that... auu...
At this point, this spirit seems to be in despair. Then, she was silent. The room was soundless. I think I scared her off...
Rika's eyes relinquished control of her face. She took a sip of wine, and smiled solemnly.
"Her name is Hanyuu. Don't worry, she won't hurt you. She can't harm anything."
"Alright, that's good to know. Can you get her to stop stalking me?"
"...I guess so. How can you hear her? Nobody else can besides the two of us. And only this time."
She said something about others that could, but only if they could... something. And what's that about "this time"? More mysteries. Freakin' fantastic.
Rika left the alcove, went downstairs, returned sans bottle, and went back to her bed.
"Good night, Kyon."
Who is Furude Rika? More importantly, who is Hanyuu? And what connection do they have to me? What the hell is going on in Hinamizawa?
The rest of the night passed relatively smoothly. The thought of the strange girl sleeping next to me kept rattling in my head, making my sleep uneasy.
I wasn't alone. When I had gone down at around four A.M. to get something to drink, I saw that Nagato was sitting up. She was trembling. When I asked her what was wrong, she only said one thing.
"There is... nothing."
Even after a bit of prodding from me, those three words were all that she said.
But as of now, she seems as energetic and talkative as she usually is. But it's probably the first time I've seen her look tired.
She wasn't the only one that didn't have a good night's sleep. According to Haruhi, Asahina-san had a pretty bad nightmare. But any worries of ours are long gone.
We had eaten a light breakfast, and now Satoko and Rika are taking us down to the school to meet her friends.
Walking around Hinamizawa like this, I might have to change my original impression. If you just ignore the murders, the strange spirits, and the creepy children, it's actually quite lovely. The air feels great, the architecture of the houses is beautiful, the climate is nice, there's no sounds around besides the natural ones, and every so often, you pop out onto a fantastic vista overlooking the town or some other beauty. Hell, if it wasn't for the fact that this town scares me, I'd move here.
We passed a few people on the way there. They seemed to not care for us until they saw Rika or, in one case, Satoko. They greeted the passerby by name when we passed. When one of us asked who we are, Rika just said that we were "friends".
"You know," said Haruhi, after a while, "for a so-called cursed town, it's really nice and... oh, what's the word. I dunno. It just feels more like light than darkness, that's all."
Well, I see that you were sleeping soundly through the night. Lucky.
"Oh, you won't be disappointed, Suzumiya-san." said Rika.
After about five minutes, Satoko suddenly raced ahead of us.
"Wait, I still need to get Keiichi-kun today. I'll meet you there!" she said, and she was out of sight.
Eventually, we came up to a building. If this was the school, it was really tiny. And it doesn't even look like a school.
"Oh, it's the school. Well, we use it for a school, anyway." said Rika. "If I recall correctly, we're just renting it out from the forest services to use as a school."
"And this building is used by the whole town as their school?" said Asahina-san.
"Well, while it's for all grades, only about half of the town goes here. The other half goes into Okinomiya to the school there."
"Well, that's interesting." said Haruhi.
A boy ran up to Rika and us. He looked athletic, thinner and with a bit more muscle than either me or Koizumi. He had brown hair, purple (is that a common eye color for this region or something?) eyes, and his expression was friendly enough. He was wearing a white shirt and brown shorts. All in all, he looked like an archetypical country boy, the sort that's usually the love interest for the "city mouse" heroine.
"Keiichi-kun! Good to see you! I thought you'd be there by now!" said Rika.
"Hey, I didn't expect to be called in on a Sunday. Especially to school."
He looked at us and blinked.
"Who are these guys?" he said. "Friends of yours?"
"Oh, they're just in town for the festival. We just met last night. They're looking for a place to stay."
"Yeah, that's pretty much it." said Haruhi. "Thanks for the hospitality, but your house isn't made to hold seven. And you talk really loud in your sleep."
Rika blushed. Haruhi walked over to the boy and shook his hand.
"I'm Suzumiya Haruhi. Pleasure is mine."
"Maebara Keiichi. Nice to meet you, too."
He looked past Haruhi, at the rest of us.
"And who are the others?"
"Oh, they're the SOS Brigade." said Haruhi.
"The... the what?"
He tilted his head.
"That's right! The Saving the World by Overloading it with Fun Suzumiya Haruhi Brigade!"
And Keiichi burst into laughter.
"Ahahahahahaha! What, really? That's your group's name? Oh, man, I'm sorry, but that's the dumbest name I've ever heard!"
I like this guy already.
Haruhi pouted and crossed her arms.
"Well, I like it. It's gets the point across."
A point which seems to mean nothing, but whatever.
"So, is everyone already there?" said Keiichi.
"Satoko ran ahead, but I don't know about the others." said Rika.
"Did she now..."
"You know, come to think of it, what the heck are we doing here, anyway?" I asked.
"Oh, we're playing a few games. I'm sure you'll have fun." said Rika.
"Well, I am sure that we will." said Koizumi. "Shall we enter?"
She led the group and Keiichi into the building and down the halls. Eventually, we reached what I assume is the classroom, Keiichi stopped us.
"Well, Suzumiya-san, go on in."
Haruhi raised an eyebrow. "Why?"
"Sir, I really don't think that-" said Rika, but she was cut off from saying anything else by Keiichi patting her vigorously on the head.
"Uh... okay." said Haruhi skeptically, as she opened the door-
-and a pan full of flour dropped straight onto her head. Keiichi burst into laughter. The people inside the room laughed as well. I admit, I had to turn away so that nobody could see my expression.
"Oh ho ho ho ho... wait, you're not Keiichi-kun." said Satoko. The laughter stopped.
Haruhi was standing almost unnaturally still. The pan was obscuring her expression.
I looked at Rika. Her eyes were consuming her face again, and I saw her mouth "oh, god".
Now, don't worry... let's not jump to conclusions, now. Maybe she isn't sick this time.
The pan fell from Haruhi's face. Her expression was, pardon the pun, deadpan. That, combined with the powdered face, made it, hands down, the funniest thing that I have ever seen.
"Who did this?"
"That would be Satoko." said a female voice from inside the room.
Haruhi entered the room.
"What? No! I would never do anything like this!"
There was another clang, followed by laughter. I could hear Satoko groan.
"There. We're even, now." said Haruhi.
There was more laughter from inside, including Haruhi's. I saw Rika breathe a sigh of relief.
"Aww, but that was an accident! I didn't even know you would be the first through the door." said Satoko.
Keiichi entered the room.
"Ah, so you were trying to get me, eh?"
"What? I would do no such thing!"
There was more laughter.
"Come in, come in." said a voice from inside. We did so.
It was pretty much empty, except for Haruhi (who was spinning the pan around like a top), Satoko (the wearer of said pan, which was distended to the point were it looked like a sugegasa), Keiichi (aiding Haruhi in her endeavor), and two girls.
The first one had long green hair up in a ponytail. She was wearing a long pink skirt, a white shirt, and a brown vest above that. The main thing that popped out to me about her was her chest. Very impressive. Not quite as large as Asahina-san, even present-day Asahina-san, but much more, shall we say, taut. I'm not a pervert who's staring at a lady's chest, I'm merely being thorough in my observations. Anyway, she had green eyes and an overall athletic build.
"Why, hello there."
The second one had short, red-orange hair in a sort of "pudding cup" style. She was wearing a rather generic blue, yellow, and white serafuku. She had big, sea-blue, beautiful eyes, and a friendly smile.
"So, I supposed that you guys are the new arrivals that Rika-chan mentioned?" said the green-haired girl.
"Yes, sir!" said Rika. "They call themselves the SOS Brigade."
"Oh, that's an interesting name," said the redhaired girl. "I wonder what it means?"
I cut Haruhi off with a raised hand.
"It doesn't matter. They don't need to know the whole name."
I caught Keiichi whispering something in the green-haired girl's ear. She laughed.
"Well, it's quite nice to meet you." said the green-haired girl. "I am Sonozaki Mion. And you are?"
"I'm Haruhi. Nice to meet you, too."
Is Haruhi actively going out of her way to be as callous as possible?
"Suzumiya. Suzumiya Haruhi."
"Well, Suzumiya-san, you are certainly forward, aren't you."
Calling Haruhi "forward" in that context is like calling a typhoon "blustery". Which one is more destructive is up to interpretation.
"Yes, she can be like that at times." said Koizumi. "I would call her the perfect definition of the blithe spirit."
You know, either you're referencing a play that I know you've never heard of or you're referencing Shelley, who I know you couldn't understand.
"My name is Ryuugu Rena," said the redheaded girl. "It's very nice to meet you."
"Rena, huh?" said Koizumi. He walked up to her and grabbed her hand. "Koizumi Itsuki. The pleasure is mine."
Rena blushed. Haruhi rolled her eyes and pulled Koizumi away.
"Don't flirt. It's not like we'll ever see them again after we leave, anyway."
"Well, Suzumiya-san, it never hurts to make a good first impression."
"Well, Suzumiya-san, go get washed up." said Mion. "We still need to get the classroom set up."
"Alright. Where's the nearest bathroom?"
"I'll show you where it is," said Satoko, removing the pan from her head. "I need to wash myself off, too."
Satoko and Haruhi exited the classroom.
"Well, we need to set it up." said Mion. "Can you guys help us move all the desks into the center?"
"Gladly," said Koizumi.
As we were doing so, Rika walked over to Keiichi.
"Sir, you need to be more careful around her."
"Yes. She... she can get really awful if she's pushed too far."
"What, does she have a bad temper?"
"No, she just... never mind, never mind. Forget I said anything."
That's a surefire way to make us remember everything you said in crystal clarity.
She smiled at us.
Ugh, my teeth. You are damn good at acting like an adorable child.
Haruhi and Satoko entered the classroom, clean as whistles.
"So, Suzumiya-san, I admit, I'm fascinated by you." said Mion.
"Really?" said Haruhi.
"Yep. Where are you from?"
"Oh, we're from-", and I am going to censor what she had said because I do not want you bastards coming into my home town and wrecking my life with all of the information that you have doubtlessly picked up from my stories.
"Really?" said Rena. "That's really far away, isn't it?"
"Eh, we're basically on the same latitude, according to the maps."
"But still, Hinamizawa is really out of the way. How'd you find out about here?" said Keiichi.
"Oh, I just Googled 'supernatural murders in Japan', and this was the easiest one to get to."
Good grief, you just revealed our true intentions.
"What do you mean by 'googled'?" asked Satoko.
"You know, googling. To google. It's where you look something up on a search engine."
"What's that?" said Mion.
"You don't know? Haven't any of you used the internet before?"
"Nope." said Rika.
"Never heard of it." said Keiichi.
"You haven't even heard of the... wow, I didn't expect this town to be so... backwater."
"I have another question." said Rena.
"Yeah, alright." said Haruhi.
"Why are you in Hinamizawa? Are you in town for the festival?"
Haruhi was about to answer, but Rika cut her off.
"They are, sir."
You saw through it the other day. Why aren't you telling your friends the whole truth?
She... she wants to keep you safe.
I thought I told you to stop stalking me.
I'm not watching you...
"Well, alright, then. So, let's get this show on the road, shall we?" said Mion.
"So, what are we doing?" I asked.
"Well... Rika, why don't you explain. You called us out here."
"It's just what we usually do, sir." said Rika. "Games and such."
"Right. Well, we-"
She gestured to Keiichi, Rena, Satoko, and Rika.
"-are the Games Club."
I could see Haruhi mutter "And you think we have a dumb name".
"That's pretty much what we do in a nutshell."
Mion walked over to a closet and opened it. It was filled to the brim with, well, games.
"So, Rena, should we start with basic games, or should we go straight to the punishment games?"
Haruhi cocked her head.
"Punishment games? You mean, like S&M?"
Rena could not have gone redder quicker if she had been splashed with paint.
"W-what? No no no! Not at all! It's not like that at all."
Actually, from my first impressions from Keiichi and Mion, it doesn't seem to implausible.
"What's that?" said Rika. Keiichi whispered something into her ear, and she went red as well.
"We don't do anything of the sort, sir!"
"We usually just do silly things." said Mion.
"Yeah, like doodle on someone's face with marker, or stick Keiichi in embarrasing costumes." said Satoko.
"Hey! That's a lie!" said Keiichi. "It's the losers that get stuck in the costumes."
"That's what I said."
If this was a cartoon of some sort, Keiichi would have had steam shooting out of his ears.
"Costumes, you say?" said Haruhi. "Like, maids and cheerleaders, stuff like that, right?"
"Uh, I think we have a few things like that." said Rena.
"Can I see them? The SOS Brigade has a monumental collection of cosplay, and I want to see if you guys can match up."
We have a half-dozen costumes, give or take. That's about as monumental as a backyard shrine.
"Uh, sure, I guess." said Mion. "They're back in the closet, on the left, but watch for the-"
But Haruhi was already in the closet, rummaging through it like a badger in a trash can. After a bit of searching...
Gah, don't make that sound! That's inappropriate as all hell! I mean, there's freaking children in here! Oh, god, the mental image...
"Holy crap, you're packed! Maid outfits, cat ears- is that a swan? Wow, Rena would look great in that!"
"That wasn't for Rena..." muttered Mion.
"Ah! Look at this, Mikuru-chan!"
Haruhi popped out, holding an extremely small one-piece swimsuit that appeared to have been crossed with a catgirl's regalia.
"This would look great on you!"
"Ah... no, no it wouldn't!" said Asahina-san, going pale and blushing at the same time and looking so damn adorable.
"Yeah, that thing is for little kids!" said Keiichi.
"So? It'd still fit."
Actually, while it'd would be really, really, really tight, most certainly only barely covering the vital regions while still outlining them with perfect precision, and covering the absolute minimum of her assets... nah, it'd probably just snap. That, or she'd be arrested for indecent exposure.
Haruhi stepped towards Asahina-san, wielding a grin that should rather be purring and batting at a ball of yarn.
Asahina-san looked... adorable. The cower, the blushing, the trembling lip, the eyes brimming with tears...
And then there was a faint "pop".
Rena beat me to the punch. Her nose spurting blood, she glomped Asahina-san.
"Mikuru-chan is soooo adowable~!"
"Eep, don't grab me there..."
Rena hugged her even tighter. Gah, so close to overload, where are the tissues...
"So cute~! I want to take her home with me~!"
"Well..." said Rika, "that's actually a good idea, sir."
"What? I can really take her home?"
"Yeah, if she doesn't mind."
"Do you mind, Mikuru-chan~?"
"Yay! Rena is so happy right now~!"
You lucky bitch.
"Well, sir," said Rika, "I called you guys here because these new people came into town. They don't have a place to stay. They were staying at my house, but it's much too small for seven people. Can some of them stay with you guys?"
"Sure, no problem for me." said Keiichi.
"Yeah, sounds great." said Haruhi. "One of us per one of you. Works out perfectly."
Did you not notice that the young ones were sharing a house?
"Sir, there's only four houses." said Rika.
"Oh... well, I don't suppose that one of you could double up?" said Haruhi.
"We'll see." said Mion.
"So..." said Haruhi, "Mion, I'd like to stay with you."
We're choosing already?
"Eh?" said Mion.
"Yeah. You're a leader, I'm a leader. It works out great!"
Haruhi grabbed onto Mion's tie.
"Uh, well," Mion laughed a laugh of someone forced into an awkward and unfightable situation. "Well, I have no problem with-"
"Great!" Haruhi let go of her tie and wrapped her arm around Mion's shoulders. "Mion and I are goung to be staying together. Now, what about you guys?"
"Well, I think one of us has been chosen." said Koizumi, nodding toward Rena.
"Well, what about you, Keiichi-kun?" said Satoko.
"I don't know. I'll have to see who you pick."
"Well, I'll just let Rika pick for me, then."
"Oh?" said Rika. "Um, well... I'm going to pick Kyon."
"Well, thanks, but no thanks. I can't really sleep in your house." I said.
Plus, there's the inherent air of creepy.
"Oh... that's really unfortunate. To be honest... you're the only one I want to stay with."
"You know, Rika," said Mion, smirking, "do you have a crush on him?"
That is what it's coming off as.
By the way, that's completely one-sided. I do not have a crush on her whatsoever. That's not even denial; she's a youth. There's not a single lolicon fiber in my being.
Rika blushed and looked startled.
"N-no, I don't have a crush on him, Mi-chan. I just... I'd want him near me so I can keep him safe, that's all."
Here, let me take that shovel before you dig yourself too deep.
"Ohohoho..." Satoko laughed. Wow, that's a hell of a cackle. "Rika-chan, I didn't know you like older boys! Keiichi-san better watch out!"
Rika and Keiichi both went "bwuh!" in exactly the same way.
"I-I-I don't! Look, I know, I'll pick..."
She started to point at Nagato, but-
Please... not her.
-only hesitated on her for a moment before pointing at someone else.
I don't want to risk myself...
"Yes. I'd be happy to stay with you." The intonation implied a bit of bewilderment, not that any of them could tell.
"Alright, that just leaves Kyon and Yuki." said Haruhi.
"I'll go with Keiichi." I said. "He seems like he'd be alright to stay with."
"Sure, no problem."
"So, that just leaves Nagato, then."
Nagato looked up from her book that I swore wasn't brought in with her.
"What?" said Haruhi. "Yuki, you need to stay somewhere!"
"Not necessarily. I can... there are hotels in Okinomiya. I will rent myself a room."
"Yuki, you should stay in Hinamizawa. It's a long commute from here to there." said Haruhi.
"I will walk."
"Well..." Haruhi tilted her head. "You sure that there's nowhere else?"
"Well, suit yourself."
"Well, now that that's done with, what should we play?" said Keiichi.
"Hmmm..." said Haruhi, starting to pace. "Well, when I decided to come to Hinamizawa, I was expecting scary things. You know, like cu-"
Haruhi stopped. Rika had pulled on her sleeve. She raised a tiny finger to her lips.
"Well, anyway, I'm in the mood to be scared, so here's my idea; we all sit in a circle, and we have, like, tokens or something. We go around, naming things that are scary, like, say, blood. If we're scared, we pitch the token. Whoever has their token last wins."
"That... er..." said Mion.
"That doesn't really sound fun." said Satoko.
"Well, I'm willing to play it." said Keiichi. He leaned toward Haruhi. "Rena cheats at all the games that we play." he said in a stage whisper.
Rena snapped out of her Asahina-powered trance and started giving Keiichi weepy eyes.
"I... I'm not the only one who cheats!"
"Oh. Right. That is true." Keiichi smirked. "I was mistaken; all of my friends cheat."
"No I don't!"
"Only when they do, sir!"
"Fine, let's do this," said Satoko. "I know I can beat Keiichi at anything!"
"Alright, you can try." said Keiichi. "Good luck with that."
We all sat around the group of tables. Rika was on my right, and Nagato was on my left. Mion got out some poker chips from the closet and gave everyone one before sitting down.
"Well... Suzumiya-san, start us off." said Mion. "I still don't quite get this game."
"Alright." Haruhi leaned forward, furrowed her brow, and pursed her lips. "Something scary, something scary... I know! How about getting a fingernail ripped out?"
There was a mutual wince and shudder. Some of us covered our hands.
"That does sound painful..." said Aasahina-san.
"Ooh, are you out, Mikuru?"
"Ummm... no, I'm not really scared by that, to be honest."
"What? Really? Is anyone scared by that?"
Most of us shook our heads or did some other representation of "no". Haruhi pouted and slumped back in her seat.
"While it sounds like it'd be painful, and certainly the circumstances could be scary," said Mion, "the actual nail-ripping just sorta sounds like it'd suck."
Haruhi (who was sitting to the left of Mion) looked at Mion, then looked at her hand and ran her fingers over Mion's fingernails. Mion drew her hand back, looking embarassed in a disturbingly deredere sort of way.
"Just a dumb thing my sister did, that's all..." she muttered.
I caught a glimpse of her hand; three fingernails were missing. Fortunately, if anyone was looking at Mion, they'd be too distracted by the (presumably) accidental lesbian undertones.
"Alright, my turn." said Keiichi. "How about... being chased by a swarm of angry bees?"
"Ooh, good one." said Satoko.
"Yeah, that'd really suck." said Haruhi. "I think I'm out."
She threw her chip into the center.
"I'm out as well." said Koizumi.
He flipped his chip into the center. Asahina-san and Rena followed suit.
Next up was Rika. Well, this should be interesting.
"Well... I saw this on a TV show once, and it was really scary."
I don't recall you having a TV.
"Anyway... the main girl woke up one day, and it was two weeks ago! Everyone acted the same way as they did the weeks before. And when she went to bed at the end of that week, it went back to two weeks ago, too! Week after week, she lived that week. She did that for years and years and years, only the same two boring, dull weeks! And she tried to tell her friends that this was going on, and while they believed her sometimes, over and over, they couldn't do anything to save her. She had to live the same two weeks for all eter-"
Nagato suddenly rose from her chair. For those of you who aren't as Nagato-savvy as I am, in conventional human terms, that'd be the equivalent of shouting "stop talking!" at the top of your lungs.
She cast her chip into the center. Haruhi tilted her head.
"Really? I don't see how that's scary. I mean, really, time just goes in a straight line. It can't do stuff like that. It's a dumb concept."
"Different strokes for different folks, as they say." said Koizumi. Personally, considering that you caused such an occurence, Haruhi, the hypocrisy is vaguely amusing.
Nagato looked at Haruhi. I saw her eyebrows lower a fraction of a centimeter.
"So, it's my turn now?" I said.
I leaned back and smirked.
"I have a good one."
Oh, I'm going to hell for this.
"Alright... watching your brother or sister die a horrible and painful death, right in front of you, and you could have done something to save him or her, but you didn't do it, so it's all your fault."
Hey, that would scare the hell out of me. Or maybe it'd just scar the hell out of me.
The reaction was a big one. Mion flinched, closed her eyes, and turned away. Satoko looked like she was a mirror that I had just shattered. Everyone else, except for the empathy-devoid (and I presume sibling-devoid as well) Haruhi, looked shocked or unnerved at what I said.
Yep, Beezlebub definetely has a devil set aside for me.
I felt a tug on my right sleeve.
Rika's eyes were saucer-sized. She looked like I had just given the order to invade Manchuria.
"S-sir, why did you say that?"
"Hey, it's scary, isn't it?"
"Well, it is, but that's way too much! You don't know how personal something like that is!"
Hey, I didn't stop you with your story, which is, if slightly stranger, even harder hitting for one of us.
Mion opened her eyes.
Keiichi walked over to Satoko, who wasn't really moving. You could see the tragic mental movie playing in her head.
"Are you okay, Satoko-san?"
Judging by the way she's shivering, I'd say that's a no.
I think I broke her. Whoops.
"Look, Satoko-san," I said, "I'm sorry. I didn't know that that would hit so close to home."
"Satoko...?" said Rena, walking over to her as well.
After a few seconds, Satoko started moving again. She smiled and looked at me.
"That was a good one. I'm out."
She laughed and threw her chip into the center, as if her reaction to my scary tale didn't happen.
"Don't worry, it's not your fault." said Satoko. "I'm alright. You're really good at scaring people."
Slowly, the friendly atmosphere started filtering back in. The game continued, until Haruhi decided to speak again.
"Oh... oh, I see." she said.
"Satoshi died, didn't he?"
The result wasn't the equivalent of slamming on the breaks. Oh, no, it was the equivalent of being stopped instantly by running over a giant electromagnet. Rena and Mion looked at Haruhi, their smiles immediately dropping.
"No." said Mion.
"He transfered out, that's all." said Rena.
And then, they went straight back to the game. I didn't just imagine that, did I?
Keiichi tilted his head, showing that I wasn't hallucinating. You could see the question mark radiate from his head.
"Who is Satoshi? I haven't heard you mention him."
Neither have I.
"Isn't he Satoko's brother?" said Haruhi.
"Well, yes, but... nobody had told you that, sir." said Rika.
"Really? You haven't?"
"Huh. I know something that I couldn't have known. Eerie. Awesome, in a sense, but eerie..."
Eventually, the game wrapped up (thanks to my already-crazy life filling me with enough cynicism to incapacitate a horse, I won, but Haruhi insisted that I was disqualifed due to "scarring of the innocent", so I gave the victory to Rika), and we started packing up.
"Well, that was fun." said Rena.
"Yeah, I suppose so." said Koizumi. "I suppose we shall get going?"
"Yep. I'll call all of you sooner or later, alright?" said Haruhi.
"Sounds like a plan."
And so, we left the school in relative silence.
"See you later, Kyon!" said Haruhi, as the SOS Brigade divided itself.
I waved goodbye and walked off with Keiichi.
"So... are your friends like that all the time?" I said.
"What, when your friend said Satoshi?" said Keiichi.
"No, I can't say that they are. But I wouldn't be one to know."
"Yeah, I only came to Hinamizawa about a month ago."
Really? Well, I was fooled.
"So, we're both going in blind, then?" I said.
"Going into what?"
"Whatever is in Hinamizawa."
"Uhh... I guess, although personally, it's not that bad."
"But I don't know... I suppose I could see things getting darker..."
"I just hope that Hinamizawa doesn't kill me."
"Yeah, me too."
I got really lucky with my choice of roommate. Keiichi's house was probably the best possible option. In fact, and I apologize to my dear mom and dad, but I want to live here.
For starters, his house was huge. I did not expect Keiichi to live in a goddamn mansion. The only thing that bugged me about it was a lack of any technology that came after the mid-eighties. That's a point that I'll come back to.
His parents were very kind, and welcoming to me. His dad was an artist, and his mom was a housewife.
And, best of all, it wasn't too close to Hinamizawa. With any luck, nobody will go out of their way to bug me.
Hinamizawa is probably at its prettiest out here. That'd be because any black spots are out of focus at this distance.
I had a few phone calls that evening, and all of them were on the Maebara house phone. There wasn't a hint of reception in this town.
Haruhi called, asking how I was doing and ranting about how she was. Apparently, the Sonozaki family had an immense estate, which came complete with lots of rooms that, in her words, were "absolutely and utterly off-limits". I told her to listen to Mion's parents and not do anything stupid.
"Screw that! We'd be gone before they could do anything to us, anyway." she said. "And besides, her parents don't live here."
I really hope that she doesn't do anything overtly stupid, but only because I'm associated with her and I'd probably get punished in the same way that she would be.
I also had a call from Koizumi. He wanted to meet with me tomorrow, at some restaurant.
"Why then? It's not that dark out. Just ride over here."
"Well... there's a few things that I need to double-check, and another that needs to run overnight to get a baseline. But... if there's any merit to my theory, this situation may have gotten much, much worse."
"Oh, that's nice, so where did you want to meet with me?"
He gave me the address and the name: Angel Mort.
"It's not very hard to miss. I'll see you then."
And that was it.
After that, I had dinner with Keiichi and his parents. They made miso soup, and it was delicious.
"So, Kyon..." said Keiichi's dad, "I hope you're enjoying yourself here."
"I am." I said. "But, there's one little thing that's bugging me."
"What's that?" said Koizumi.
"It's your stuff."
"What about it?"
"Well, it seems... outdated. No offense, but don't you have anything made after 1985?"
They just looked at me like I was a bit odd in the head. Oh, crap, I think I just offended them. I hope there's not some dark reason why they don't have any new things.
"We..." Keiichi's mom laughed. "Of course we don't."
You say that so matter-of-factly.
"Yeah, we'd have to be time-travelers or something if we wanted stuff after then." said Keiichi.
"So, 1985... is in the future?" I said.
"Well, yeah. What year do you think this is, anyway?"
They froze. Keiichi's mom gasped.
"...that's way off, I take it."
"Yeah, it's 1983." said Keiichi's dad.
"So, Shouwa's the emperor?"
"Oh... oh good god."
I have gone twenty-seven years into the past.
Goddamnit, Haruhi, I thought that this was going to be normal.
There was more silence. Then, Keiichi's dad burst into laughter.
"Well, well, well! Looks like we've got ourselves a time-traveler!"
Look, there's a difference between being a time-traveler and being someone who has gone back in time. I'm merely a victim of circumstance.
"So, what's the twenty-first century like?"
Figuring that they are so far off the beaten path as to be pretty much unable to screw with the timestream too much, and that a twenty-seven year difference is a drop in the temporal bucket, I decided to indulge them with a few facts about politics, the economy, and a few technical things.
"Oh, so that's what that internet thing is." said Keiichi.
"Yeah. You know, this whole being-in-the-past thing makes a few things make a lot of sense."
"Yeah. I suppose that a lot of the things that you're used to don't exist." said Keiichi's mom.
"Well, make sure that nobody ever finds out about this, okay? Don't mention it or anything I've said to anyone."
"Alright, your secret is safe with us." said Keiichi's dad.
I don't really know if they believe me.
I was going to be sleeping in my own personal room. Did I mention that I chose well? That night, it wasn't a good night's sleep. I felt like... like someone was watching me. I sat up.
"...Hanyuu, isn't it?"
"Look, I thought I told you to stop following me and leave me alone."
"Look, I know you're in here, so go away!"
"Is something wrong?" said Keiichi, entering the room and looking very much like I had woken him up. "Is someone in here?"
"Oh, it's just... nevermind. I'll be quiet now."
"Alright. Uh, I have a question for you."
"Well, how did you get here? Into this year, I mean."
"I have no idea."
"Oh. Do you know if you can get back?"
Oh, god. He has a point.
I could very well be stuck in 1983, with no way to get back home.
"Well... I'm sure my friends can think of something."
If Haruhi could get us into this (as she very well could), she can get us out. Or, failing that, Nagato can think of something. Or Asahina-san. Or Koizumi.
"Well, good luck, then."
And he left.
Sleep wasn't easy. All I could think of was how much Haruhi could ruin my life without trying.
Koizumi was right. Angel Mort was hard to miss. Having the name in giant letters on the front of the building certainly helps.
I parked my bike (or rather, Keiichi's bike) and headed inside.
Angel Mort wasn't a small establishment by a long shot. I think. I honestly couldn't give you a straight answer. The waitresses were too distracting for me to pay any attention to small details like that.
Disconnected, frilly sleeves. Lots of purple fabric, which, if I had to guess, was either leather or latex. Extremely frilly skirts. Loads of space between skirt and boot. A very nice drop in the neckline-
I realized that I had zoned out and was inadvertandly ogling one of the waitresses. Goddamnit, Angel Mort, you're forcing me to be a pervert. Cut it out.
"Can I help you?" said the waitress.
"Uh, this is... a cosplay cafe?"
"Yes, I suppose you could call it that."
Why the heck would Koizumi want to meet me here?
"Well, yeah, I'm just meeting a friend here. Is there a Koizumi Itsuki-san here?"
She looked down at her lectern. I found myself looking down as well.
"Yes, he's over there."
She pointed to a booth. There he was, smiling and waving at me.
"Thanks," I said.
I sat down at the booth. Koizumi was smirking the same smile that he always did.
"Good to see you," he said.
"Alright, first off, why here?" I said.
"Well, we're in town. This signi-"
"I meant here. This is a freaking cosplay cafe!"
"No it isn't. There's only one kind of uniform. You could call it a sort of maid cafe."
The fact that you know the difference makes you look really sad.
"Anyway, it's quite covert. Would you expect the fate of the world as we know it to be discussed in a place like this?"
"The fate of the world, huh..."
"I have news."
"So do I."
"Here's your drink, sir." said a waitress, handing Koizumi what was probably some sort of soda. "And what you you like to drink, sir?"
"I'll have coffee. No cream, one sugar, and nice and hot."
On the off chance that Koizumi's news is so breathtaking that it would cause me to do a spit take, I want something that's hot enough to make him at the very least freak out.
The waitress bowed and left. Koizumi took a sip of his drink.
"So, you said that you have news."
"I do. Don't worry, it's probably more groundbreaking than yours."
That caused him to chuckle. You know, as creepy and unpleasant as he is, I end up hanging out with him way more than I should.
"Well, then, it must be pretty impressive. Let's hear it."
"This is 1983."
"Oh?" He stopped smiling. "Isn't that beyond the deadline of time-travel?"
Don't ask me, I'm not the time-traveler.
He sighed and slumped back in his chair.
"That is indeed more of a bombshell than my news. Normally, that would be concerning, but in conjunction with the current circumstances, the magnitude has increased hundredfold."
"Define 'current circumstances'."
"Well, as of last night, Suzumiya-san is powerless."
"I did a few tests. Suzumiya Haruhi has no discernable differences in her ultralogical footprint compared to yours."
I was silent for a bit.
"...the hell is an ultralogical footprint?"
"Basically, it's an artistic representation of how different one is from an unpowered individual, based on several factors. I can explain further if you like."
If you start, you're getting a salt shaker to the forehead.
He started smiling again for a second.
"And this isn't unique to her, either. I am completely devoid of my powers. And I'm compeletely cut off from the organization."
Well, that'd make sense, considering that they don't exist yet.
"Indeed. But, I checked in with Nagato, and she's much worse off than I am."
"She is completely cut off from the Integrated Data Thought Entity. No, that's not correct. Any part of her that was enough of the IDTE is gone. She can do no more than a normal human can. Probably less."
Completely cut off, huh. Well, she was completely serviced to an entity that had no emotions whatsoever. You have to admit, maybe not having that thing in her could have a bit of a silver lining-
"I don't know if you get it. Whatever good that could come from it is irrelevant. It'd be like having part of your soul taken from your being. But even then, I don't think that that's a good metaphor."
"And Asahina-san?" I asked.
"No idea. I haven't talked to her yet."
"Here's your coffee, sir." said a new waitress.
"Thanks." I said.
"Would either of you like something to eat?"
For the first time, I looked at our waitress. Hold on, those are familiar. I looked up at her face.
Well, I didn't expect that. Out of everyone that could have been our waitress, at the absolute bottom of the list was Mion. Nevertheless, there she was, looking fantastic in the waitress outfit.
"Well, Sonozaki-san, I didn't expect to see you here, and as our waitress, no doubt." said Koizumi.
"Oh, you must-"
"And I would like to apologize for the unnerving that we caused the other day. I didn't know that Satoshi was such a touchy subject."
Mion looked like she was about to say something, but she didn't.
"By the way, what was up with that?" I asked. "Is Satoshi that much of a faux pas?"
She just sort of stared into space, deep in memories.
"Yes... yes, I suppose he is, isn't he."
At that moment, I shivered. It wasn't cold, but at that moment, Angel Mort felt... weird. Not weird in the sense that it felt strange, but weird in the fantastic sense.
"Anyway," said Koizumi, after I don't know how long, "I'm not hungry."
"I'm not, either." I said.
Mion bowed and left.
"You know..." said Koizumi, "let's not talk about Satoshi anymore. I don't think that he's related to the curse, and Furude-san said that it would be a bad idea to be distracted by that sort of thing."
"Well, what if he is?"
"If that's the case, then we should look into it. But for now, we have bigger problems."
Come to think of it, I wonder how deeply Oyashiro-sama's curse and Hinamizawa's past are intertwined. It'd certainly make it harder to solve the curse...
"Between you and me," said Koizumi, "right now, the curse isn't a problem. We're stuck, in the past, with no foreseeable way out. To be honest, a depowered Suzumiya-san is hard to comprehend."
I noticed that Koizumi looked tired. I never thought he could have bags under his eyes. Did he even sleep last night?
"Sheesh, she loses her powers, and it's suddenly the end of the world, huh?" I said. "You know, I'd think that would make the world safer, wouldn't you?"
"Well, I would be less concerned if we had some of our contacts on hand. But, as you said, they don't exist yet, or they can't or wouldn't contact us. All we have on hand is a depowered SOS Brigade, which I personally feel is inadequate."
If it wasn't rude as hell, I would have splashed my coffee in his face and called him pathetic. At least here, everyone has their own personalities. If he could only imagine the worlds I've been to, maybe he'd stop complaining.
"So that's your news, then?" I said. "Every one of us is normal?"
"Indeed. You know, in my opinion, you're taking a rather cavalier approach to the situation. You do realize that we could be trapped here forever, right?"
"Maybe you should at least try looking for a way out before putting on the sandwichboard. Do I need to smack you?"
"That won't be necessary. I need to meet with Asahina-san, anyway. I'll talk with you later."
He got up, placed the necessary cash on the table, and walked out. I followed suit a few minutes later.
Unfortunately, the ride back would be much more interesting than I'd prefer.
I left Angel Mort, got on my bicycle, and started the long ride home. After I made it out of the city and onto one of the roads to Hinamizawa, I realized that this probably wasn't the road that I came in on.
As the path changed from pavement to dirt, I realized that I was well and truly lost.
It was about four when I left Angel Mort, so I still have a good amount of time before the sun sets and I get eaten by a grue or something.
After who knows how long of riding around aimlessly, I eventually ran into someone else on the road.
I hit the brakes on the bike.
The man I had ran into was tall and athletic-looking. He had glasses and a camera, and he was wearing a lot of greens and browns. I'm going out on a limb and guessing that he's a photographer.
"Ah, hello. Maebara-san, isn't it?"
"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't recognize you, and I've heard that the Maebara family just moved here, so I jumped to conclusions. I'm Tomitake. Nice to meet you."
"Just call me Kyon. Nice to meet you, too. So, how do you get to Hinamizawa from here?"
"Oh, you just need to make a left up the road, at the junkyard. So, I take it that you aren't from Hinamizawa?"
"Nope. I'm just in town for the festival, and then I'll probably be leaving some time after that."
"Well, so am I. I'm a photographer. I come into town every so often to take pictures. So, when did you get here?"
"Two days ago."
"Alright. Do you know when you'll be leaving?"
"No idea. I'm not the leader of my group."
"Oh? Then who is?"
"Suzumiya Haruhi. She's currently staying with Mion, if you know who that is."
"Mion... Sonozaki Mion?"
"That's the one."
Tomitake's eyes went wide.
"She... is she living in the Sonozaki estate?"
"She said that she was living in a mansion, so I think she might be."
"That's... that's incredibly dangerous for her. Hinamizawa is incredibly... touchy, towards outsiders. The Sonozaki family is the worst of all. They're incredibly xenophobic. But... I suppose if she excersises a lot of caution, she could end up okay."
Haruhi probably thinks that "caution" is a French loanword or a sort of pastry.
"You know," I said, "I met Sonozaki Mion. She seemed nice enough. So did all of the other kids."
"Well, it could be that the youth of Hinamizawa are a lot more forgiving than the elders. Although, judging by some of the things that happened in the past, they could just be acting."
Wouldn't surprise me in the least.
"Well, I'll let her know, then." I said.
"You know, I don't know if it's in your best interests to be in Hinamizawa at this time of year. I mean, yes, there's the festival, but there's…"
"Oh, you've heard of it?"
"Only the name. I have no idea what it really is."
"Well… every year, for the past four years, this year being the fifth, on the day of the festival, one person dies, and one person goes missing. Have you heard of the Hinamizawa Dam Project?"
"A few years ago, the government planned to build a dam upriver of here. It would have completely flooded the town."
Seeing as I'm standing in Hinamizawa and I don't have to wear any SCUBA gear, I'm going to assume that the plan didn't go through.
"The town fought back against it with all the force it could muster. Things… escalated."
People were killed, I take it.
"Only one person, at the time, at least. Right before Hinamizawa won and the government put the plan on indefinite hiatus, the director of the construction was found dead. Butchered, in fact. They still haven't found his right arm." People ascribed it to their prayers towards Oyashiro-sama."
"And that was the first year? Who went missing?"
"Whoever ran away with his right arm."
"Well, tell me more."
"The year afterward, a couple who strongly supported the dam was killed when a guardrail broke and they fell while on vacation. Only one of their bodies was found.
"The next year, one of the priests at the Furude shrine who was on the fence about the dam died suddenly of a mysterious illness. His wife apparently drowned herself in Onigafuchi swamp soon afterwards. Her body wasn't found either.
"Last year, the wife of the younger brother of the couple was found beaten to death by some drug-addled psycho. His nephew vanished a few days after that."
"Lot of couples dying, by the looks of it."
"Yes, parents, as well. You can't help but feel bad for the children."
"So, it looks like if I don't have anything to do with the curse, I'd be fine. Right?"
"Well, if you asked me, I'd agree with that. Now, I must be going. It was a pleasure meeting you."
"Likewise. Thanks for the info."
He started walking off, but stopped after a few paces.
"You said you'd be leaving in a few days, correct?"
"Yes, right after the festival."
"Tell you what. I'd recommend that you'd stop by the clinic as soon as you can. Hinamizawa has a few nasty diseases that you probably should be immunized for."
"Oh? Like, some strain of malaria or something?"
Dying of coughing my lungs out would not only suck, but it'd be boring. Painful, but not good story material.
"No, it's... it's something unconventional. Here."
He pulled out a slip of paper from his pocket, wrote something on it, folded it in half, and gave it to me.
"Don't lose this. There's a blonde nurse at the clinic in town. She'll know what this is."
I pocketed the note. "Thanks. Take care."
"You, too. And be careful."
I rode off.
Part of me wanted to see what the note said. But I suppose that I am an honorable enough gentleman to give Tomitake the benefit of the doubt. Plus, it's getting dark. I need both hands on the bars.
Mion... she seemed like the nicest girl yesterday. But that was just her. Come to think of it, I remember her saying "I have no problem with you". Yeah, definitely some italics there.
Considering how much Haruhi embodies things that a tradition-obsessed village head would hate, her living in the same house as said tradition-obsessed village head can't end well.
But that doesn't explain what happened when Haruhi mentioned Satoshi. Mion had stopped for a split second. The heck was up with that?
And what about Rena?
At that moment, a combination of low light, me not paying enough attention, and a light left turn made it so that I didn't see the pedestrian until we nearly collided.
I made a hard right turn, dodging a collision, but I spun out and ended up on the ground.
As I proceeded to scold myself for being less attentive and letting my thoughts consume me while in motion, I saw who I almost hit.
If I wasn't already on my ass, I would have been floored.
Whoever she was (and judging by the good view if her shape I'm getting, I'm guessing it's a girl), she was garbed in a white beret, a white dress with a purple sash, and black boots.
I didn't care about that. What she was holding was a lot more interesting.
Imagine a cleaver. Now, lighten it a bit and extend the length by about fifty percent. Now, give it a sharp point at the end, perpendicular to the handle and the size of your thumb. Picturing it? Good. That's what she was holding.
As my mind raced to find any practical application for a tool like that, the girl turned to face me.
She just... looked at me. She didn't say anything. She didn't run over to help me up or ask if I was okay. If she wasn't staring directly at me, I wouldn't have thought she had noticed me. She just smiled.
Why does Rena have shuch a sharp instrument that looks like it's only good for murder?
After what felt like an eternity or two, she waved at me. After another eternity, she turned and walked away. I swore that I had seen a stippling of red on her dress.
Damn, and to think that I almost hit her. If I did, I probably would have gotten disemboweled, or... I can't even think of what could happen if I hit her.
After she was safely out of sight and then some, I got up, dusted myself off, repocketed the slip of paper, and got back on the bike. I rode (slowly this time) all the way back to the Maebara household.
I don't know if this influences my views of Hinamizawa one way or the other, but I know two things.
One: Riding your bike at high speeds when it's dark out on these roads is a very bad idea.
Two: There is most definetley something going on in Hinamizawa.