The Cries of Haruhi Suzumiya: Tsukuribanashi-hen

Chapter Four: Retribution


I asked the oracle what I should do.

She told me that the gods were helpless. She couldn't help me.

I asked the prophet what I should do.

She told me that her god was gone. She couldn't help me.

I did what I thought was right

And I did the wrong thing.

...

That's not one of my poems.

Someone else wrote it. They tried to make it sound like I did.

I know what the poem is about.

It's about a man who hurts everyone he cares about, and he doesn't know that he is.

It's one of my favorite stories.

I laugh every time I read it.

Nobody could be that stupid.

Giggle giggle...

Fredrica Bernkastel


"This is the Okinomiya Police Department. How may I help you?"

I was giving an update to Ooishi. Even though I had to make it from a phone booth, with barely any money to use, I figure he should be kept up to date with everything that's going on, especially with such a "milestone" as Rena's death.

"May I speak to Detective Ooishi?"

"Who is this?"

"This is Kyon."

Silence. Then...

"Hello, Kyon." said Ooishi. "Are you giving me an update?

I told him about just about everything that's happened. Of course, I phrased certain things in certain ways. I told him that I defended myself against Rena, for example, and I completely glossed over Koizumi.

"Interesting. Very interesting... you defended yourself against Rena, and a few hours later, she dies of stab wounds. How did you defend yourself, anyway?"

"Oh, pretty well. I'm okay."

Ooishi grunted. I heard a lighter flick on the other side of the phone.

"Well, we've been investigating Rena's death to the best of our ability. With all the press coverage, we pretty much have to. It's going quite well, I say."

"Is it?"

"Yes. Ryuugu Rena died after being stabbed, oh..." There was a rustling of paper. "...ten times. Let's see, four in the chest, two in the abdomen, one in the right thigh, and three in the neck. Punctured the right lung and the intestines. She died in her hospital bed, but forensics still has to determine whether blood poisoning, the lung injury, blood loss, shock, or some other thing was the exact cause."

"So, you have the body?"

"Well, no. The town wants to have a funeral for her before anything else happens. They've pretty much doomed any hope of a useful autopsy."

"Yeah, I heard on the news that there's rumors of them interfering with the investigation."

"Well, fortunately, we have enough evidence to move in on who we think the killer is."

"Really? What sort of evidence?"

"Well, the killer was right-handed, and a bit taller than she was. We've taken shoe prints from the scene in plaster, and they're of an unknown brand. She was stabbed with a sharp instrument. Not a knife or a sword. We're guessing that it was with a pair of scissors. And then there's the testimonies..."

Wow, and I was thinking that the police were going to be useless.

"Of course, if we make an arrest, that would aggravate Hinamizawa, and we're trying to avoid that," said Ooishi. Even if the attacker turned himself in - something which I condone, by the way - the Sonozaki family would still try to do the deed themselves. Hell, I wouldn't be suprised if they broke into the jail to break the murderer out so they can deal with them. themselves."

"So, the police are effectively canceled out by the sheer force of will that Hinamizawa has?" I asked.

"Well..."

I saw a familiar car drive by slowly. Ooishi was inside, talking on an old-fashioned (but probably contemporary, come to think of it) car phone. He waved at me.

"Not exactly, but a lot of force is going into keeping them away from the man who killed Rena."

"So you can bring him to justice."

"Well, personally, we're getting closer than ever to taking down the Sonozaki family. They've done much worse than killing a girl."

"I totally understand what you mean."

I thought back to Haruhi, and her back. At least Rena died quietly. I think.

"So, I heard that you got kicked out of your house," said Ooishi.

Holy crap, news travels fast. Is this guy a quest-giver or something?

"Good thing, too. His neighbors called us in about two hours after Rena died. It looks like he had smashed the TV in, and he was saying quite a few interesting things. Mostly about you."

"Really?"

"He was raving about how you were a time-traveler, and that you knew more than you could, and he fiercely denied that he would ever kill Rena. We had to call in Irie-sensei to sedate him. He's currently en route to a mental hospital in Nagoya."

I saw someone coming down the road.

It was Haruhi. In a very refreshing change of pace from yesterday, she was at a full sprint."

"I gotta go," I said, and I hung up.

As I got out of the phone booth, Haruhi literally skidded to a stop, and grabbed me by the shoulders.

"Kyon! You gotta see this!"


Once again, I'm being dragged along by Haruhi off to some adventure or other. In every other case, I'd be grumbling all the way. But this time, I'm actually enjoying it a bit. It's a return to what we had before Hinamizawa.

"So, what's this you're showing me?" I asked.

"It's a secret! I don't want to spoil it for you."

Sounds interesting. Unless the secret happens to be a bullet that you lodge in my chest. That's not so interesting, and in fact would be fucking terrifying, out of nowhere, and it wouldn't surprise me at this point.

"So, how are things on your end?" I asked.

"Not good at all. I have to get all my stuff and leave the Sonozaki estate in twelve hours. All of us have to leave Hinamizawa in twenty-four hours and we can't be in Okinomiya after forty-eight. That's what Sonozaki Oryou said, anyway."

"She's actually spoken to you? Outside of the trial?"

"Yeah, she has, every so often..."

After a second, she turned back to me.

"Weren't you wearing that yesterday?"

"Yeah. I got kicked out, without getting a chance to change my clothes."

"What, by Keiichi?"

"Yeah."

"Ahh. I heard that he went nuts."

I nodded. "I think that the eviction and the going crazy were the same thing."

Actually, sad thing is, he's probably perfectly sane, that everything he said was true, and that he's currently taking up the Cassandra role of the story.

"You know, I'm surprised you're in such a good mood," I said.

"Well, even though we're being kicked out, as a leader, I feel like I'm obligated to stay in a good mood so that everyone else doesn't get depressed or worried."

Yes, worried was a decent summation of how I was feeling yesterday when I saw you acting freakishly quiet yesterday.

Anyway, might as well get the elephant in the room out of the way.

"So, how's your back?" I asked? I couldn't tell visually, because she had changed her shirt (although you'd think it'd be sticking... then again, she probably got medical attention, seeing as she isn't, well, dead).

"What about it?"

"Well, is it feeling better?"

"What are you talking about?"

"Oh, come on, Haruhi, I saw full well what they did, and you can't hide it."

"Kyon, I know this seems ironic given how I reacted a few days ago, but I have no idea what you mean."

I... I don't blame her. I'd repress that memory too, in a heartbeat. Must have been painful beyond belief.

I decided to poke the hornet's nest, in an almost literal sense. I did so by tapping Haruhi somewhat firmly in the center of her back. Not on any of her organs, mind you, just on her spine.

Her reaction was instant. She froze, flinched, and gasped.

"My... my back..."

She started breathing really heavily, and she was shivering. She even doubled over slightly and hugged herself.

"Haruhi?"

After a good twenty seconds of hyperventilation and what I can probably assume are awful flashbacks, she straightened up.

"Can we... not talk about it? Ever?" she said. Her voice was weak.

"Of course."

We started walking again.

"Yes, I'll be fine. I admit, I thought I was going to die, yesterday, after the Sonozaki family... they did things, and you brought me back there. But... I lived through it. The scars will heal. Life goes on."

"That's good." I said.

"Either way... Kyon..."

"Yes?"

"You're an asshole for doing that. Never do that, or anything like that, again. Got it?"

"Yes, of course."

We walked for a bit more, before Haruhi suddenly froze and snapped her fingers.

"Oh! That reminds me."

She turned around and grabbed me by the collar. If she gets any more mercurial, we're going to have to strap wings to her feet and write "Hg" on her forehead.

"When we get back home, you are going to be the SOS Brigade's official butler for life! You will have to be courteous to all Brigade members, follow my every order without complaint or hesitation, and you'll have to call me Suzumiya-sama."

"Okay, first off, with an exception, I do that anyway. Second, why?"

Haruhi rolled her eyes at me.

"Let's see," said Haruhi, "there's what you did a minute ago, you got Asahina kicked out - and then some, we're all being forced out, compromising the security of the SOS Brigade, and you attacked Rena. Fatally, if I recall correctly. Need I go on?"

"Look, she was a psycho bitch," I said.

"Well, she seemed nice enough. Definitely too nice to murder."

"To you, maybe."

Silence.

"Besides, she was going to hurt Asahina-san if I didn't do anything." I said.

Haruhi only responded by furrowing her brow, frowning, and crossing her arms.

"Well, you'd have to wear a suit, anyway. That'd be new."

Eventually, we reached the edge of the river-formed canyon, and Haruhi started making her way to the bottom.

"It's down there?" I asked.

"Sure is. Found it this morning."

I followed her down. Nagato and Asahina-san were down there. They were standing by a tarp with something obviously under it.

"So, Kyon, the three lovely ladies of the SOS Brigade would like to present to you..."

Haruhi gestured. Nagato and Asahina-san grabbed the corners of the tarp.

"Da-da-da-daah!"

The tarp was removed and - oh fuck me.

"A dead body!"

It was a broken, discolored corpse. Male, probably a teenager. His head was hanging at an unnatural angle. From what I could tell, he was missing a good part of his face.

Sound familiar?

I decided to, instead of swearing out loud or running or any noticeable revelation as to the identity to the body, I decided to cross my arms and do what a lot of people say I do best.

"So, you have this cheery little ceremony because you found a dead body? A bit macabre, don't you think?"

"Well, how would you have done it?"

"If I was getting you to come see a dead body I found," ignoring the fact that she's the last person I want dicking around at a crime scene, "I'd just find you and say 'hey, I found a dead body'."

"Well, that's boring. You gotta do it with style."

She turned to the girls and smiled.

"Alright, now it's time for the SOS Brigade to become forensic investigators!"

Yup, now that I thought about it, she was in fact wearing an armband that said "Forensic Investigator".

"Okay, first thing we should do is determine the time of death," said Haruhi. That means we should check the body temperature, and look for rigor, algor, and livor mortis. Also look for maggots, we can use those as well."

"I'm surprised that you know all this forensic jargon, Haruhi." I said.

"Well, I heard that North High had a CSI club, and I was bored one night, so I read a forensics textbook."

"One, North High never had and doesn't have a CSI club or any sort of forensic program. Two, you read a textbook for fun?"

"Yeah, well, it was more interesting than a biology textbook, that's for sure."

Honestly, I can't even picture Nagato reading a textbook for fun. She usually reads mysterious and incomprehensible science fiction stories, anyway. (Might have something to do with the fact that she is pretty much straight out of a mysterious and incomprehensible science fiction story herself.)

"Anyway, I was really annoyed when I found out that North High didn't have anything like that, but I guess the info came in handy, now, hasn't it? Anyway, flip this body over, why don't you."

We flipped the body over. His limbs flopped awkwardly.

"Look, Haruhi, this is disgusting. Can I go, please?" I asked.

"No, no, no. I need an assistant for this investigation. I think that Yuki might have, I don't know, some sort of bug, and Mikuru's still traumatized from two days ago, I'd guess."

"It's just, well... I don't want to get sick. I don't want corpse... -itis. Corpse-itis. Or whatever you get."

"Well, probably some water-spread disease or fecal thing. Cholera or dysentery or some kind of Oregon Trail disease. Oh! Completely forgot."

A second later, a pair of rubber gloves hit me in the face.

Haruhi handed out gloves to everyone else. She then out-and-out straddled the body and poked at his face.

"Holy crap, there's nothing here. No teeth, no eyes... someone's turned this guy's face into soup."

I noticed that Nagato was actually assisting a bit. She was looking at the corpse's hand, lifting it, running her fingers over the stumps. Haruhi noticed this as well.

"Wow, someone took his fingertips off. I guess whoever wanted this guy dead didn't want anyone else knowing that he's... hm."

She started looking at the corpse's notable features with renewed vigor. Nagato walked up to me. I felt her fingers run over my hands, my pockets, the scissors within.

"No..."

She turned away from me. Oh, god. She knows. She knows.

"I'm sorry..." I felt myself say, hopefully too quiet for anyone to hear.

I'm sorry.

Nagato went up to Asahina-san. I couldn't hear what exactly was said, but Asahina-san's expression more than made up for it. It was terror, nausea, and panic. I had really, sincerely hoped that she would never make that face at me again. I already had my heart torn out once by her making an expression like that at me.

Asahina-san started to go pale, tremble, and her balance was vanishing. Even Haruhi stopped her corpse defilement for a second and looked up at her.

"Mikuru, if you feel ill, go ahead and stand back a bit."

Asahina-san swooned, a greenish tinge came to her face, and...

"There she blows..." said Haruhi. She pulled out a stopwatch and paused it. "That was... from discovery until now, ten minutes and eight seconds. Interesting. More than I thought."

"What, you were timing how long it would take until Asahina-san vomited?"

On that note, Asahina-san threw up again.

That was an image that, at the moment the technology became available, I would rid from my memory forever. It's the complete antithecal expression of Asahina-san. It'd be like seeing Haruhi, completely broken, hugging herself for comfort because- wait, that's already happened. At least Nagato is acting... well, she's not going too far from who she is, at least.

"Well, I know that I have the composure to keep from spewing, and I'm not even sure if Nagato has ever puked once in her life."

Asahina-san started to wobble. Haruhi got off the body, and she caught Asahina-san before she could faint and hit her head on a nearby rock.

"Look, I think we're done here," I said. "If you keep going over the body, the cops will think that you were the murderer. The killer obviously knew what he was doing, so I fail to see what we can find out from this corpse."

"Well, there's more that we can get from it - DNA, striae, that sort of thing - but we can't use that here and now," said Haruhi. She took out what looked like a film canister and scooped some of the face goop into it. "Now, what to do with the body..."

"Throw it into the river and run like hell?"

"Well, that doesn't sound bad, but we probably should..."

She trailed off as she realized that the others were either too sick or too Nagato to give any feedback.

"Yeah, sounds good. Help me with the tarp."

Me and Haruhi each grabbed a side. The two of us heaved the body into the river with a splash. It floated about ten meters before washing up on the shore of the river.

"So, yeah, second part of that plan is now go," said Haruhi.

Instead of the short-but-steep way we took down, we took a longer, but less steep path up. Asahina-san was being carried up in the arms of Haruhi.

Yeah, I could have carried her, but there was no point of asking. Considering that she's reacted with fear at pretty much everything I've done, she'd probably have a heart attack if she woke up in my arms. I think that the best thing I could do for her is leave her be.

That left one last option.

"Hey, Nagato," I said.

"..." said Nagato.

"Um, what's the address of the hotel you're staying at?"

She stopped and looked at me. Her eyes basically said "Why?".

"I... I need to talk to you."


Nagato was staying at a hotel in Okinomiya. It was a pretty simple hotel, with an external staircase. I'd say it was four stories tall, give or take - not a skyscraper, but high enough to really ruin your day if you fell of the roof.

I went up to the room that she said she was staying at and knocked on the door. She answered it.

"Come in."

I entered and she shut the door behind me. It was an unremarkable one-bed hotel room. The only thing that stood out was the absolute lack of noise. No outside ambiance, no air conditioner, nothing. Just the sounds of our footsteps.

Nagato sat down on the bed. That was when it really hit me how badly off Nagato was. She was at least ten pounds skinnier, and she looked like she could pass for anemic. Her hair was unkempt and her clothes were mussed. I had the feeling that Nagato was mere minutes from wasting away into oblivion.

I took a seat in the only chair in the room.

"So, how are you?" I asked.

"..."

It took her a whole two minutes before she responded.

"Unwell."

"Oh."

"Various processes, both physical and mental, are starting to fail. Previously autonomous functions are now manual. Certain mental processes are running unchecked by previous programmed and biological safeguards."

"Like what?"

"Today, there was a mental process that ran directly in opposition to the basic survival instinct. It was that the thought of self-destruction would be enjoyable."

"You... you wanted to kill yourself?"

"...yes. I believe that would be the easiest way to convey that mental process."

I was unnerved. Wholly unnerved. "Nagato, please, don't do that. I... don't think that I could live if you killed yourself. That might just push me over the edge and into madness."

Nagato sighed. "Yes, that would be a consequence."

She looked at me. Her eyes seemed dull. Normally, they have a certain shine to them. Not today.

"So, you wished to talk to me. Why?"

I realized that there was a distinct unnerving quality to her voice. It was... as odd as it sounds, it's not monotone enough. It's gone from "HAL 9000's sister" to "psychologically traumatized girl". It's just human enough to be creepy as hell.

"I... I want to confess."

"..."

I told Nagato everything. I told her about Rena. And about Koizumi. I didn't miss a single detail. I even told her about what Rika said to me, and about what I could figure out about Hanyuu. Every remark, every revelation, Nagato reacted the same.

"..."

But there was a subtle change. Her shoulders had slackened a fraction of a percent. Her eyes were different in some unexplicable way. Her mouth had a slight curve to it.

I think I ended up confessing for the better part of an hour. I ended with a rather simple phrase.

"Yes, I've done a lot of bad things. You don't hate me for doing so, right?"

She didn't respond. She did, however, pour a cup of tea for me and one for herself.

"Please don't hate me, okay?"

More of that unnatural silence.

"All of your reported actions are reasonable responses to your situations," she said, after what felt like an hour.

"Well, can you do anything to help me?" I asked.

"I shall devote all of my capabilities to assisting you."

"Thanks, you're-"

"However, currently, that is approximately synonymous with no help at all."

"So you can't help me."

"The lack of the Integrated Data Thought Entity has affected me to a greater extent than I have predicted. There is only one function that I can perform that is beyond the capabilities of a normal human, but it is selfish and of no help to you."

So, this was fruitless. But I wasn't expecting much, anyway. I'm a bit disappointed, sure, but if I was in Nagato's shoes, I'd probably react the same way.

Even as I finished off my tea, she never touched hers. She simply looked into it, like she was trying to predict the future with it. As I stood up to set my teacup down on a surface, she finally spoke again.

"Why?"

One word shouldn't have shaken me that hard.

"Why what?" I asked.

"Your actions may seem rational to you, but I would advise reassessing your motives. I am asking you so I can see how you answer: why did you kill them?"

"Uh, self-defense," I said. "They tried to kill me, so I defended myself in kind."

"You had said that you attacked Rena after she threatened Asahina-san."

Nagato shifted slightly and looked back at me.

"Regardless, your actions have had consequences. By my estimates, only .27 percent of people in Hinamizawa have no animosity towards you."

"That number doesn't help at all."

"Out of everyone in Hinamizawa, only three people do not hate you to any degree."

"So, the entire town, besides the SOS-"

"That is not the case. There is one person native to Hinamizawa who does not hate you."

That implies that a member of the SOS Brigade that hates me. I destroyed that thought the moment it entered my brain.

I then had a sudden flash of inspiration. I know who she meant. I knew who could help me. She could help me a hell of a lot more than Nagato could.

"Thanks for that fact," I said. "You've helped me out more than you probably thought you could."

"Good." Nagato looked back into her tea.

I started to get up.

"Before you go, I have decided that I should let you know one thing," said Nagato.

"What is it?"

"It..." She looked down at her tea. "I had previously archived a backup software operating system. It is a remnant of previous erratic activity. It has, to my knowlege, no recollection of any events that have happened here, no recollection of the SOS Brigade, or you, and... and is completely, fully human."

She looked back up at me.

"If necessary, I can overwrite my current operating system with the backup system. It is irreversible. As I have said, it is self-destructive, and of no help to anyone but myself - who would not be considered the same person by most individuals."

"Well, why do you tell me this?" I asked.

"At 0600 hours tomorrow, the Nagato Yuki you have known will not exist. I will have deleted this current operating system and have replaced it."

"So..." It took me a while to think of how to respond to what she had said. "You're killing yourself, or what makes you who you are."

"I am replacing software so I can properly manage my system and reduce the possibility of hardware failure."

"Nagato, look, it's not like switching from Windows to Linux. You're destroying yourself and replacing you with someone else."

"It is the only way to survive."

"...no. No, I'm not going to let you do this. Nagato, I'm ordering you to never even consider that possibility again."

She looked surprised for a second. She looked back at me for a minute.

"...I'm sorry, but I will have to refuse."

"...what? Nagato, please, you can't do this. If you're going to go through with this, you might as well just jump out the window and let yourself splatter on the ground. It's essentially the same thing."

"Conditions have changed to the point where it would be both recommended and preferred for the change to occur."

"Nagato... Yuki. Please."

She gasped. She set her tea down and looked at me. She was genuinely surprised. It was like I was looking at an alternate Nagato.

An alternate Yuki... Oh. That explains how she had a backup persona on hand. It's a leftover from when she tried to rewrite the world so that she was an ordinary human girl. In that case, she changed everyone but me so that I could have a world that she wanted, so that she could have a life that she wanted with me. I guess now, she's changing herself so she can have a life... period.

"...I'm sorry," said Nagato. "What has been done has been done. I cannot reverse the process. And... and the status quo has changed to the point where existence as it has been is impossible. I am starting a new life."

She walked over to the nightstand and picked up a pair of glasses that I hadn't noticed. Silently, and with a second of hesitation, she put them on. She sat back down and looked back at me. I hadn't seen her wear glasses in ages, and despite all the humanistic traits she has, she's never looked more like the first day I met her than she did now.

"Are you? Or are you just using a life that you had that someone decided against?"

"..."

She grabbed her tea again.

"Yes. You have encountered the replacement personality before."

"Well..." I stood up. "Okay. You're right. Things have changed, and they will never be the same. I guess this is goodbye, then."

"Kyon..."

That hit me hard. She said my name. She said my name. Well, nickname, anyway, but it's still a hell of a thing.

"I have one last request."

"Sure, anything," I said.

"No more deaths. Please. I know you can."

"I'll do my best."

"Goodbye, Kyon."

"Goodbye, Yuki."

I walked out. As I grabbed the doorknob, I heard a sound. It was oddly source-less, considering the complete lack of sound in the rest of the room for the rest of the time.

It was the sound of a droplet of water dripping into a pool.


I didn't give the sound much thought. I had a certain someone that I needed to meet, and that was occupying the main part of my mind.

I'd like to emphasize the "was", because as I entered the hallway, I almost bumped into someone. A certain someone who was the last person I ever wanted to see.

"Oh! I'm terribly so-" said Mion.

She didn't finish her sentence before I gave her a taste of my fist.

"You eavesdropping bitch!" I said.

She stumbled backwards and tripped. I planted my foot directly on her sternum.

"How much did you hear?"

"I-but-I-"

She didn't seem smug or overtly defensive. She looked... kind of scared, really. Bah. Knowing what she did to Haruhi, this has to be a ploy.

"How much did you hear, Mion?" I said.

"No! Please! I-I'm not Mion!" she said.

"Sure you aren't."

"No, really! I'm her twin sister!"

The sheer... awfulness of her excuse caught me off-guard for a second. She's not even trying.

"That's the worst excuse I've ever heard," I said. I shifted onto my knees, still keeping pressure on her chest. As completely psychotic as this sounds, this is cathartic. In addition to any personal injuries she might have inflicted on Haruhi, she's also the future head of the family that hunted me down, attacked my friends, and made me a pariah.

"I-I'm serious! I live here! I-"

I grabbed her throat and cut her off. I'm pretty sure I smiled at that moment. Mion's so deeply in-character as her twin, she isn't fighting back. I thought she was smarter than this? Oh well, better not look a gift horse in the mouth, as they say.

I pulled out the scissors in my other hand, raised them above her eye, and-

One of the doors opened.

"..."

Nagato didn't say or do anything. She just looked at me. It was the same expression that she was wearing inside, but the little discrepancies seemed magnified. She looked... disappointed.

My attention had focused on Nagato for no less than a second. That's when I felt the zap.

There was a harsh burning right on my collarbone, followed by everything going black.

When I finally regained consciousness, Mion was gone.

"Gr, fuck you and fuck your family..." I muttered.

So, Mion carries around a taser? Good thing that I didn't try attacking her- oh, wait. Well, live and learn. If I ever decide to go after her again, I'll plan for it.

I got up, dusted myself off, picked up the scissors, and started heading out to Hinamizawa.

My destination?

Rika's house.


I'm your friend, Kyon. No matter what.

Well, let's hope that still is true, shall we?

I decided not to retrace my steps that I took into town. Instead, I found the bus station where we had arrived here, and I took the same path that the SOS Brigade took on the day we arrived.

Hinamizawa and Okinomiya are a lot farther apart than I remembered. It was pitch black when I finally found Rika's house. The lights were on, which meant that someone was home. I knocked on the door.

"Who is it?"

That was Satoko. Well, this got harder.

"It's me," I said.

There wasn't an answer. I could hear someone fidgeting with the chain on the door. Eventually, it opened a hair.

"Go away."

The door shut on me. I opened it back up before it could be locked.

"Look, I need to talk to Rika,"I said.

"No, you don't. Go away."

"Look, I'm really sorry about what happened to your friend, and-"

"Are you? Are you? Which one? You killed Rena! And now Keiichi's crazy and Itsuki's gone and Mion's all..."

Her rant had descended into weeping. I looked inside. Satoko's eyes were filled with nothing but tears and hatred. Burning, completely unchildlike hatred.

"Why do you keep hurting my friends..." she said.

"Look, I am truly and honestly sorry for what I did to Rena," I lied. "And I am also sorry for what happened to Keiichi. I'm going to Rika so I can be forgiven in a proper ceremony or something."

"No! She's not in! And even if she was, I wouldn't let you in! I won't let you hurt Rika! Ever! I won't let you hurt her like you hurt Rena-chan or Keiichi-kun, or anyone else!"

"Please, I really am sorry-"

"That's a lie!"

I felt a small but strong arm grab my shirt and throw me into the door. I braced myself on the door, which proceeded to be slammed on my fingertips.

It didn't get much of my hand, but it got the tips hard. I felt pain which I haven't felt since before I came into Hinamizawa. I felt a nail break. Agghhhh...

"And you aren't even content with hurting my friends, are you? You have to hurt your own friends, too!" said Satoko.

"What?"

"What happened to Itsuki-kun?"

Itsuki-kun... did she really just call him that? How close did they get while rooming together?

"You did something to him, didn't you! He went to talk to you and then he disappears!"

I'm sorry.

Ah, there you are. Can you get Rika for me, wherever she is?

Yes, I will.

"You-you're a monster! That's what you are! I-I-I hope you get... get demoned away! I hope you disappear, and are never seen again!"

"Satoko-chan, what's going on?" said Rika. So she was inside, and Satoko was lying. I see.

"Oh, n-nothing!"

The pressure on my fingertips suddenly went away. I retracted my hand and cradled it. Rika and Satoko were talking, but I didn't comprehend it due to my mental process sounding more vulgar than a shouting match in a sailor's bar. By the time I could focus on external stimuli, their voices were too distinct to hear. I leaned against the door until I heard someone undo the chain.

Rika let the door swing open. It almost seemed like there was a small thundercloud hanging around her. She looked like she knew exactly what I had done, and that I had failed her... which I had. I'm surprised she's still reacting kindly to me.

"Come in."

The house was silent. I noticed that Satoko was giving Rika an all-to-familiar look. It was one of pure fear and concern. I hate the fact that people always make that face around me.

"Rika... please. Don't," she said.

"I'll be fine, sir. Actually, I'd like to speak with him alone."

I nodded. I figured that she'd be touchy to talk to me about the supernatural around Satoko.

"No."

"Satoko-chan, please-"

"No! I won't let him! If he does, I know he'll hurt you or kill you or make you disappear or something horrible like that..."

Rika sighed. She shifted so that her hair was obscuring her eyes.

"Go." There's the creepy voice. Satoko actually stepped back. "I want to talk to him. This is a matter between him, and me. If I get hurt, it's my fault. If I die, it's my mistake. But it isn't yours. You don't need to think of yourself as my guardian. You aren't responsible for me, and if you think you are, sooner or later, you're going to be crushed."

She just gave Satoko a full double-barrel dose of her creepy side. It looked like Satoko was about to have a heart attack.

"I-I-I just don't want anyone else getting hurt, that's all!"

"He doesn't want to kill me." Those five words had a strange weight to them. I felt like I should have written it in a different color. Red, perhaps? "There's no reason for it."

Rika straightened up. She beamed at Satoko.

"How about you go and get some more soy sauce? I heard that Mi-chan is giving some out."

Rika, I don't suppose you know this, but when you apply extreme cold to something, followed by extreme warmth, it tends to break. It's called thermal shock.

Satoko didn't answer for a few seconds, then she nodded and headed out. Rika sighed and partially shifted back into her creepy state.

"Hanyuu, go and watch her," she said. "Make sure she doesn't do anything drastic, or get herself hurt."

Okay.

I took a seat. Rika left the room and came back with a bottle of wine.

"This isn't the first time we've sat here, in this room, and talked one-on-one, Kyon."

"Really."

"Yes. But that time, it was me who wanted to talk to you, instead of you wanting to talk to me. That time, it was before the sun set, but now, we are in complete darkness."

Well, I take it you mean the metaphorical sort.

"I do. But... I have to apologize, Kyon."

"Why?"

Rika looked at me and smiled. It was a sort of ashamed, don't-be-mad-at-me smile.

"After what had happened with you after the festival, I spied on you. And I didn't keep my promise, either. Hanyuu was watching a lot of what you have done."

"Oh. Well, I probably could get pissed off at you for that, but I realize that I'm not in any sort of position to get mad at anyone for what they've done."

"I suppose so."

"And, seeing as you're still talking to me in a civil manner, you don't hate me for what I've done."

"I don't hate you, no. I've stopped hating people for promises they've broken a long time ago. It doesn't matter."

"Well, seeing as you know what I've done, we can skip the confession."

"Well... yes, but I would like to hear your side of things."

"Okay, sure."

"I'd also like to know why you're here asking for my help. There isn't much I can do."

"Well, you're more familiar with situations like my own. Come on, I'm sure there's times when someone went to you for help after their life has gone to hell."

"...yes, there have been many situations like this. But-"

"So you have to have had at least one time where you fixed it, right?"

"I..." Her demeanor shifted down ten degrees. "There has been situations where they have been resolved, yes. But only by themselves, or by people who weren't me. People who are out of this story right now, in the asylum or in the grave."

"So I screwed myself over, is that what you're saying?"

"No, not necessarily. You are a complete wild card, so to speak. I don't know what you're capable of. You could get it fixed, in theory, but I don't know how."

"Alright. Well, you could at least explain the actions of your friends, then."

"Okay, I'll do my best."

"Thanks. First off, Rena."

"What about her?"

"Well, she's been doing stuff that normal people can't do. The one thing that really stands out is how she made my neck start disintegrating just by touching it."

She tilted her head slightly.

"I haven't seen that before. I think I missed that part, and Hanyuu's watching Satoko at the moment, so could you please explain it a bit more for me?"

"Well, she touched my neck, and it started itching. I itched it, broke the skin, and this white dust started pouring out - which I recognize as disintegration."

"I haven't seen anything like that. But it reminds me of something else that happened."

"Also, her eyes. They were all slitted. Come to think of it, Koizumi had those too, before he fell."

"I've heard of the eyes, but I haven't seen them myself."

She took another sip of wine. "Anything else?"

"Not really. Now, can you help me escape this?"

She laughed. It had no mirth or positive emotion in it whatsoever.

"I can't. I've been trying for a century, and I haven't gotten anywhere-"

"I meant escape the Sonozakis hounding me. I could really care less about the whole time loop thing at the moment."

"So, you do not wish to escape the well, but you don't want to drown. That is more reasonable."

That also makes less sense, but I'll take what I can get.

"I can only do so much, though. And not for very much longer. In about twenty-four hours, I will be dead."

"Wow. You have precognition?"

"I have experience. I am not personally aware of what happens to this world afterwards, but I doubt it's a good thing. It doesn't matter, though. You and your friends need to get out of here."

"How?"

"On foot, by car, it doesn't matter. Get as far from Hinamizawa as you can."

"But, that doesn't fix a major problem that I have, but that's one I suppose we can put on the backburner."

"You mean that you're from the future. Koizumi-san mentioned that. As for that... I can't help you there. Get help from your friends. I recall that they can perform miracles."

I don't know... Asahina-san can't do anything. Plus, she hates my guts.

And Nagato is nothing but a shadow of her former self - and in a few hours, not even that. I'd be a miracle if she could shift time forward even a nanosecond.

As for Haruhi... she doesn't even know if she can help. I could just tell her, but that could very well screw everything over. Unless...

That was when I had an idea. It would kill all of my problems in one fell swoop. Not only could it get me out of Hinamizawa as well as 1983, not to mention clear my soul of all the sins I've committed, I could even mend the bond between myself and the SOS Brigade.

It wasn't a good idea. Oh, hell no. It wasn't sane in the least; on the contrary, I'd call it batshit insane if someone told me that idea. But... these are insane times, and that seems like it'd be just crazy enough to work.

Besides, there's not really anything else I can do.

I stood up. "I know what I have to do." I started to leave.

"Sir? What's that?"

I stopped at the door.

"I have to kill Haruhi."


Alright then. First off, yes, you read that right, and I'm being serious. Now, I fully understand that you're thinking that I've gone completely off the deep end. Allow me to explain why killing Haruhi is my best option, and after that, maybe I won't seem as crazy.

Haruhi is somewhere close to omnipotent. Now, I recall that Koizumi had said that it was possible that Haruhi's powers would transfer to someone else when she died. Now, you might also recall that Koizumi said that Haruhi was powerless. Well, going off of what I've seen her live through, if she was as human as I am, she'd be dead by now. In other words, Koizumi's wrong on that regard, but he better be right about the other theory.

Now, I'm not dumb. I've noticed that Haruhi's had some sort of bond with me. Therefore, if she perished, that power would be transferred to me, allowing me to banish the darkness from the world.

...okay, that sounded a lot less Knight Templar in my head, trust me. Don't worry, I'd return the status quo by relinquishing the powers once I'm done. Once she's dead, I'll go to sleep, and I'd wake up in my own bed in my own house, and everything that occured in Hinamizawa would be but a dream.

Wait. Hold on a second. How, exactly, am I going to kill Haruhi? I mean, sure, I'll probably just stab her, but she's faster and stronger than I am. I can't run her down or fight her without getting my ass kicked. Taking a page out of Rena's book wouldn't be wise.

But what about a different book entirely? Asakura Ryoko lured me into an empty classroom, acted like the nicest girl in the world, got my defences down (not like I had any reason to suspect her of trying to kill me, period), and then tried to stab me at close range. I think that's easy enough to emulate.

Now, what about the locale? Getting caught is the last thing I want. Haruhi is staying with the Sonozaki family, which removes the option of a house call. I can't afford a hotel room, and, seriously, who would let me borrow their house for a murder?

And then, I passed by the perfect locale. The school was empty at this hour. There was only a padlock on the door, too. That came off easily. I slipped inside.

The interior of the school was dark and quiet. However, the full moon shining through the windows gave it an ethereal glow. The lights weren't necessary, but I turned them on anyway. They didn't add much more than an eerie hum.

I entered the classroom and turned on the lights. What immediately caught my eye was the flowers on the teacher's desk.

They were a memorial. The flowers were surrounding the framed portrait of Ryuugu Rena. It was the perfect portrait of an innocent girl extinguished before she could reach her prime. I put the picture face-down before it could start staring at me or talking to me or any creepy stuff like that.

There was a phone on the wall. I decided to call the only place that I've known her to be. It also happens to be the riskiest possible place to call. Let's just hope that this isn't Mion's number, but is some personal line.

The phone rang, rang again, and...

"Hello?"

A stroke of pure luck! I got Haruhi on the first try.

"Hey, it's me." I said.

"Kyon? You're still awake?"

"Look, you need to meet me at the school. I need to tell you something."

"Just tell me now."

"This is the Sonozaki line, isn't it? I don't trust it."

I heard a sigh over the phone. "I'll be there when I can."

"Good. Meet me inside the classroom, the one we were in the first day we were here."

"Alright." She hung up.

I noticed that, on the far wall, there was a slightly smaller memorial. It was for Keiichi. It had a card on it.

I opened the card. It said "Get well soon!" in it, and it had several signatures in it, including Satoko's, Rika's, and Mion's.

Holy crap, I screwed this town over, didn't I? Even though she was psychotic and possibly possessed, she was still a friend to a lot of people...

Okay, when I get Haruhi's powers, I'll make sure to not miss Hinamizawa. In fact, I'll fix the whole issue here, when I get the chance.

Eventually, Haruhi arrived. She looked tired and worn.

"You couldn't sleep either, huh," she said.

"Haven't slept in a while, really. I've been on my toes too much, I guess."

She nodded and grunted in agreement. "You know, this school is really creepy when it's abandoned like this. So, what's this news?"

"You know that corpse you found? The one without the face?"

"Yeah, what about it?"

"I know who it was."

"Oh? But... it didn't have any sort of... oh."

She gave me a wierd look. It was a little bit fear, a little bit accusation. "Kyon, if you murdered another person, I swear-"

"No, no, it's not that. Look at this."

I pulled out the scissors. Haruhi saw them and looked confused. "Where'd you get that?"

"It was upriver. I think it was the thing they used to remove the face."

"Hm. So... who was it?"

"Alright, brace yourself." I put one hand on Haruhi's shoulder.

"Well?"

"...I'm sorry."

That was it. That was when gripped her shoulder, pulled her towards me, and sunk the scissors into her.


It was warm.

There was blood, and it's pouring over my hand and onto my clothes and onto the ground and oh god it's so warm.

Oh god, what the hell am I doing? When was this ever a good idea?

I'm sorry…

No! You shut up! You haven't done anything that you have to be sorry about! I just stabbed Haruhi!

I just stabbed Haruhi…

…what? Don't give me that look! Don't just tilt your fucking head and look at me all confused like that! Scream! Cry! Faint! Attack me! Do something! Please, don't just look at me with those big eyes as if you haven't been stabbed!

"What's wrong?"

Please don't say that… look down or something. Anything.

"Why are you crying?"

Because… I screwed up…

I started to pull the scissors out of her abdomen. Only then did Haruhi look down.

She looked back up at me, her mouth ever so slightly open. She looked like me stabbing her was as incomprehensible as the Data Entity.

"I'm sorry…"

I could barely get those words out.

She looked back down at herself, then back to my face, then back down. One hand went to the scissors, running over them, over herself, over the blood. The other hand was just being held limp.

I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I've really sorry.

Will you forgive me, Haruhi?

"Did… did you…" said Haruhi.

She started to stumble forward. I stopped her and slowly let her to the ground so that she didn't hurt herself any more than I already had.

"Wait, stay there, I-I'm gonna call an ambulance, alright?"

I tried to get up, but I felt a hand grab my arm. Even when dying, Haruhi still can grab me hard enough to keep me from going where I want to go.

"Don't leave me."

I felt another hand on the side of my head, tilting my view against my will to look at Haruhi's face. She was… elegant. She wasn't crying. In fact, she looked confused more than anything.

"Why?" she said.

"I… I don't know. I had no idea what I was doing. I'm sorry."

She… she smiled. Why are you smiling?

"Thank you for giving Kyon back. If only you didn't wait so long."

Her smile faded. She looked... wistful, if anything.

"You know... I think I finally know who you look like," she said.

"John Smith?"

Her eyes went wide. "You... you know that name?"

"No, it's more than that. I'm John Smith."

She blinked. "But... that's not possible... unless..."

She smiled again.

"Time travel. That's it. It's real, isn't it."

"It is! And so are aliens, and espers, too!"

"So... you were right. They're all real..."

"Yes! Isn't that great! It's all real, and it's out there, waiting for you!"

She stopped smiling. "Don't bother. There's not much we can change here."

"Yes, there is! I swear, if you can get up, I'll do whatever I can to erase this event from every universe possible."

"But... it happened. Nothing you can do can change that it happened. In this world, the one we're currently experiencing, you stabbed me, and I'm dying."

"Look, I know I've made a horrible mistake, and I'm sorry." I sighed and sat beside her. "Punish me however you want. Kick me out of the SOS Brigade, tell me to go jump off a bridge, whatever you want, I'll go along with it."

Haruhi chuckled weakly. "Do you really mean that?"

"Yes!"

"Well... I think I know what would be a good enough punishment for you. I think you know what it is, too, deep down..."

She tilted her head towards me.

"It was nice seeing you again, John Smith."

Haruhi tilted away from me before going perfectly still.

She was dead.

Suzumiya Haruhi was dead. By my hand.


I am an idiot.

No, wait, let me rephrase that.

I am a fucking idiot.

I didn't have a good reason. This wasn't self-defense. I just murdered Suzumiya Haruhi in cold blood. I just...

I realize something. I know that I've come across as madly in love with Asahina Mikuru. I know that it might seem that there's something between me and Nagato. But now, I realize, with the 20/20 hindsight that we all have, that I was in love with Haruhi.

I just killed the girl that I loved.

Well, let's see if this was in vain. Unless fate felt like completely screwing me over, there should be... something. Some sign that her capabilities are now mine.

Nothing. Every possible invocation of her powers didn't work.

She didn't stir.

"Well?" I shouted to nobody but myself. "That's it? All that, and for nothing?"

"Apparently so."

That voice from nowhere kickstarted that fear-laden adrenaline rush that I was becoming disgustingly familiar with. I turned to face it.

It was... no, that can't be her. That can't be real.

What it looked like was Asakura Ryoko. She looked the same as I remember her looking; long blue hair, North High uniform, and a knife. Taking a page out of my nightmares, her uniform, face, and knife had a spattering of blood on it.

And she was clapping.

"Well, I have to say, I'm impressed with your form," she said. "The proximity and lack of warning were good ideas. I should have used them."

"...what the hell are you." I said. I removed the scissors from Haruhi with care and pointed it at "Asakura".

"Don't you recognize me? I'm Asakura Ryoko."

"No. Asakura's dead. You can't be real."

"What?"

"You have to be a figure of my imagination. No demon knows of you, and there's no way in hell you can be the real deal."

"I'm not... real? But I look real, don't I? I sound real, right?"

"That's just hallucination on my part. You only exist in my mind."

"But..." She walked over to me, and with inhuman speed, she cut with her knife. The side of my neck was suddenly in pain. "I feel real, don't I?"

"N-no..." I said. "You. Are. Not. Real."

"I'm... not..."

And then, she did something that really surprised me.

She applauded.

"Yay! You've finally managed to figure out the difference between reality and mental images!"

She looked down at Haruhi. "It's so sad that you had to learn so late, though. A lot of suffering could have been avoided!"

"Okay, so you're not real. Stop mocking me, alright? I don't need a hallucination of Asakura messing with me, especially not now."

"Messing with you? I'm not trying to. I'm just pointing out something you missed. There's a lot of facts down here in your subconscious that you're not even aware of."

"Look, I don't know what part of my psyche or subconscious, if any, you're representing, but fuck off."

She looked taken back, almost shocked.

"I..." She looked back at the door. "Alright then. Besides, this conversation is being interrupted anyways."

And as she vanished, the door to the classroom opened, and Nagato and Asahina-san were at the door.

They looked at me. They looked at my clothes. They looked at the scissors in my hand.

And then they looked at the body.

Nagato closed her eyes and looked away with a way-too-human cringe. Asahina-san didn't do that. Her eyes darted from me to Haruhi and back to me. She tried and failed to formulate words.

"Look, I can explain! Honest!" I said.

She screamed and ran off into the hallway. I almost followed her, but I didn't. Being chased by me, after all that I've done, would probably break her mind.

I looked back at Nagato. Her eyes were firmly shut. She was trembling.

"Look, I know that I screwed up, big time. I honestly thought I was doing the best thing. Can you forgive me? Please?"

She very suddenly stopped trembling.

"No."

And she opened her eyes.

Now, if I was in a better state, I might have said "et tu, Nagato?" or something of the sort. But, because of all that mental stress that I just went through, I actually said something a bit less poetic; "Are you fucking kidding me?"

Her eyes were slitted.

"You have directly terminated the cause of my being on this planet." Any human traits that she had... ever, were gone. This was pure alien. "I am automatically required to give retribution."

She closed her fist. Suddenly, it got a lot harder to breathe.

Nagato, how? How did you let yourself get possessed, too?

The "choking" hurt. It was some interesting way of doing so, as well. Instead of, say, an invisible python wrapping around my neck, it felt like the iron in my blood had coagulated into an iron bar that was pressing directly inwards on my neck, right under the skin.

But this was easy enough to bypass. It's just a physical entity in my throat.

I'll just tear it out.