The new school year brought at first almost no change. I remained in Class 5, Haruhi Suzumiya remained in Class 5, and Okabe-sensei had a fit of laziness and decreed the seating arrangements would be unchanged except to accommodate new students moved in from other classes weeks before the new term began. Whatever the reason behind this choice, I was not in support of it, for this meant Haruhi would remain behind me. Even just a few seats away to keep her happy and give me some form of warning to brace for impact...
The only minor changes were that a few classmates had went into other classes, replaced by others moved in a similar manner. It seemed Okabe-sensei hoped to get a new class leader out of his new students. One of the candidates, Ichijouji-san, stood by the door, his girlfriend with him. They were once more in separate classes and had elected to share a romantic goodbye until lunch. This however merely drove one of Ichijouji-san's new classmates to envy.
"Look at him, flaunting his catch in front of us mere mortals..." Taniguchi muttered. His anger at the two lovebirds was cut short to my listening as Haruhi herself arrived.
"Kyon, today's the day! After class remember we have to look our best when in session, so we can give good bait to new students to join the Brigade! With my plan we'll catch them hook, line and sinker!" She said.
What's with all these fishing metaphors today? I dread to find her plan too. She refers to the end of the day where the new intake of students will tour the various clubs in session, and possibly pick a club out to join. But no doubt some horrendous plot was in store.
However, it turned out the plan was not too horrific. Haruhi and Asahina-san both wore Cheongsams, both looking quite delightful to be honest, and so, the first years who wandered in largely saw an oddly calm SOS Brigade meeting, for Haruhi was pretending once more to be the Literary Club. Haruhi was oddly enthusiastic at the end of the day, with only three names of applicants on her sheet...
"Tomorrow I'll interview all three to test their suitability for the Brigade, then we will all vote! Rest well for the year ahead tonight!" She said as she left.
Well, you don't have to tell me twice. No homework for the first day, I think an early night is in order. Goodness knows I'll never have a long rest in the mornings anytime soon.
True to her word, Haruhi indeed interviewed her three candidates at lunchtime, and for once had asked me to stay away. I made the most of this brief spell of peace, which of course did not last nearly as long as I hoped. Haruhi returned, clutching a small folder.
"What's in that? More flyers?" I asked, a feeling of dread.
"Nope, top secret documents! Chief's Eyes only at this time!"
Well, fair enough, I'm sure whatever it is it can horrify me when the time comes.
"It's the information on the successful candidate who has applied to join the Brigade!"
Successful? There were three.
"Yes, and two of them were as expected unsuitable. However, it is in the best interests of the Brigade to redirect those who have come to us in error to their optimum place in life. They were more likely to fit in to other clubs, and so I gave them application forms to the right places. Our own membership standards must be exacting and demanding! We must ensure that for the good of the brigade we only recruit those as good as or better than our current roster!" Haruhi proclaimed.
Well, since I'm in the Brigade I guess that should make it a little less stringent than you say.
"Don't be so self-depreciating, you're not allowed. Only I can be dismissive of what you do!"
Haruhi entered the clubroom with her usual enthusiasm, thrusting a sheet of paper into each of our hands. Some randomly-organised notes and a photo of a smiling first year looked back, with brown hair down just past her shoulders. Kamiya Hikari, also known as Kari. Interests: Photography, Cosplay, Videogames. Ready to investigate the supernatural and question the mysterious. Brother was a student at the school previously... There was a random assortment of information, and it seemed to be very little told me anything about who Kamiya "Kari" Hikari really was or why Haruhi wanted her in the club, except two little words: Photography. Cosplay.
Oh, and there was also a segment blacked out by ink. It seemed to say something about "Likes" but the rest was obliterated by a careful yet obviously energetic application of a ballpoint pen.
"This is the information on our new applicant. I want you to read it, make comments or ask any questions, and then we will vote to see if we agree she is suitable. As Chief, I have four votes, and each of you have one."
"She seems to be an ideal candidate, Suzumiya-san." Koizumi said. How could you be able to find that in this jumbled up mess?
"It says here she Cosplays, does that mean..." Asahina-san said.
"Oh, no, Mikuru-chan, don't worry, she's not being recruited to replace you, but she could stand in for you in an emergency. After all, this is your third and final year, and so your academic studies may demand more of your free time!" Haruhi said. It seemed at first glance like she was being considerate, but the truth was that Haruhi will likely drag poor Asahina-san from the exam hall if she feels bored enough.
"I see. That's fine."
Haruhi scanned the room. Myself and Nagato were still reading.
"She is acceptable." Nagato then spoke up.
"Okay, so I suppose that's the votes from you all? What about you, Kyon?"
I looked at the picture again. I'd seen her somewhere, probably the day she applied, but she didn't seem unusual at all. Perhaps she really was a normal human being. The blanked out portion made me worried though. I would have to check...
"No problems from me." I said to Haruhi.
"Excellent! By a vote of Seven to One I proclaim that Kamiya Hikari is the SOS Brigade's sixth member and close this meeting! Kyon, be in early tomorrow, you and me are going to tell her the good news in the morning!" She said, heading for the door.
I've no complaints at the short meeting today, but why can't the vice commander do that?
"Because if I am incapacitated it is his role to take over the club! Honestly, Kyon, it's in the Twenty-Fourth Amendment!"
What Twenty-Fourth Amendment? You mean the American laws about the President and Vice-President? I'm pretty sure you mean the Twenty-Fifth... But of course, Haruhi had already left. I waited a moment. It seemed the other Brigade members were thinking with me.
"So, what is she really?" I asked.
"Well, she's not a time traveller, that much is certain." Asahina-san said first.
"I have some knowledge of an unusual factor about her, but Nagato-san can explain more I'm sure." Koizumi said.
"Oh great. So she's another alien?"
"Incorrect. She is a Digidestined." Nagato said.
"Um... Nagato-san, what is a Digidestined? I've never heard the term..." Asahina-san asked.
"The Digidestined are guardians chosen by the Digital World to protect and preserve that world and the beings that reside there. There are approximately three hundred and six individuals around the world who are described as Digidestined, in groups of varying size spread across all six main continents. Many of the Digidestined are chosen between the ages of five and thirteen, though some older individuals have become Digidestined."
"What is this Digital World? Is it related to your Integrated Data Entity?" I asked.
"Negative. The Digital World is terrestrial in origin, though outside factors may have influenced its creation. It is caused by the build-up of information and data of the human global communications network, and has given rise to data lifeforms known as Digimon. The Digidestined either enter the Digital World to keep peace, or prevent attacks on Earth by hostile elements. "
"Great, so she's some kind of computer hopper who goes into a computer world like The Matrix or Tron, and fights computer monsters, or fights them when they come here. How come this group never came up before?"
"Well, until now, there has been no reason for it. The Digidestined and the SOS Brigade are separate entities, and only now is there a crossover between our groups. The Agency of course did do some research into them, but we could determine that to us and to Suzumiya-san, they were mostly harmless." Koizumi answered.
"Well, they've been hiding their activities from the media at least. I guess that's a good sign."
"Well, they did need some assistance it seems. Do you recall the incident where the terrorists used knockout gas over the whole of Odaiba about seven or eight years ago?"
"Not first hand, We were on a foreign vacation that year." I replied.
"Well, that was just one attempted invasion of our world, it seems, thwarted by the Digidestined. There have apparently been other incidents, but we cannot find any conclusive proof. It could be they are doing something to cover their tracks or someone else is helping them, possibly an entity from the Digital World itself."
"Wait... They've been around for eight years minimum? Surely they should have attracted greater attention from your people, Nagato?" I asked. After all, as far as I knew, the Data Entity sounded similar to this Digital World but larger.
"They were not observed until four years ago, at the same time as the space-time event emanating from Suzumiya Haruhi." Nagato said, slamming down a dreadful implication.
It was almost worth it, for Koizumi had the same thought. His face was priceless but I fear mine was worse. For that time period was no coincidence. Nagato's people had scanned us before, and found us not worthy of much attention. Surely they would have found the Digimon then? I had one conclusion...
"Haruhi made them exist now and retroactively into the past, but somehow they managed to remain hidden from the Data Entity."
"...A credible theory." Koizumi admitted, resuming his smile.
"This is possible. Our observations of the planet before do show an anomaly. Data from the internet indicated messages posted from around the world using the term Digimon, approximately ten years from the present date. These messages seemed to indicated that Digimon was a television anime, and that many of those posting were greatly dissatisfied with the ending. All of these posts no longer existed when checked again four years ago, yet the sites and similar posts from ten years ago either remained active or could be reached through archiving services." Nagato explained.
"Perhaps Suzumiya-san was a fan of the show too, and when whatever sparked her into doing the event four years ago happened, she had that on her mind at the same time..." Koizumi said. He was clearly alarmed at the possible implications.
Haruhi had brought television characters to life to play out her own personal, preferred ending. What other horrors were hiding in the dark, brought from a land of fiction that to us, was never anything but a hidden reality? That sense of dread weighed down on me for much of the night and morning after.
The next morning, it seemed Haruhi had no trust in my early arrival skills, and subsequently had arrived at my home to drag me to school with haste. It meant I was there twenty minutes earlier that I would have been normally, but this meant we were only five minutes before Kamiya-san, who I met properly in person for the first time.
"Hikari-chan, I am pleased to announce that the SOS Brigade has elected to endorse your joining of our elite group by mafjority vote!" Haruhi said. The first year girl smiled, and then bowed.
"Thank you, Suzumiya-san, for allowing me to join." She said. Oh no, please do not let this sweet, innocent, charming and cute young lady become another victim of Haruhi's depravations!
Just then though, both myself, and to my surprise, Haruhi were rendered momentarily speechless by the arrival of a fourth person. A tall, blonde, blue-eyed behemoth rounded the corner, and if he noticed us he made no show of it. He simply changed his shoes. I felt intimidated just by his presence. What if we truly do harm his childhood friend by letting her join this insane club? Will he crush us underfoot?
"I'm going on ahead to class, Kari, see you there." He said. This huge man is a first year? He makes me feel like a midget!
"Okay, TK, I'll be along soon." Kamiya-san waved the colossus goodbye. Haruhi was the first to speak next.
"...Wow, that guy was pretty tall... Your friend?" Haruhi said, and for a brief moment Kamiya-san seemed alarmed.
"Uh, yes, Suzumiya-san. I've known him since we were little."
It's hard to believe that towering fellow is a first year let alone that he was ever "little"...
"Hmm... Well, I'll introduce you to the rest of the brigade later at the meeting after class! See you there!" Haruhi said, before bounding off. I of course, had no choice in following for Haruhi would simply have dragged me if I didn't.
Haruhi had told me to go ahead to the clubroom, for she was going to meet Kamiya-san and bring her to the meeting. Sure enough, she arrived with the new Brigade member in tow, under her own power surprisingly enough. Perhaps even Suzumiya sees that innocent and frail-looking aura around her, and wasn't prepared to be rough in bringing her here.
"Everyone, I'd like you to meet our new member, Kaimya Hikari-Chan."
"Pleased to meet you all." Kamiya-san said, bowing slightly. Oh, you poor girl, you don't know what horrors face you.
"Koizumi Itsuki , Vice Commander!" Haruhi proclaimed, pointing at the esper.
"Greetings, Kamiya-san." He said, with his usual smirk. No doubt she found it charming.
"Asahina Mikuru, the Brigade's Moe Mascot!" Haruhi carried on, pointing at Asahina-san
"Welcome, Kamiya-san" Ashina-san said politely.
"Nagato Yuki , our silent character!"
"Hello" Nagato said, glancing up from her book. Haruhi's pointing then aimed at me.
"And you've met Kyon." She said. I greeted her also.
"Now, Hikari-chan, tell us a little about yourself, your hobbies and interests, friends, that sort of thing."
Didn't you give us a fact sheet?
"Those were just to see if you agreed she was fitting, not to get to know her!"
"Um, well... Obviously I like photography, cosplay, and I occasionally play videogames and read some manga, but I'm not obsessive about them. Some of my friends from my old school are here in North High. Miyako Yolei is a second year, so is Ichijouji Ken. Maybe you know them..."
She knows Inoue-san and Ichijouji-san? Are they Digidestined too?
"...but there's also Izzy... Izumi Koushiro in third year."
"Ah, he's in my class! He's a real computer expert." Asahina-san said. Kamiya-san continued.
"In my year, there's Motomiya Daisuke... We all call him Davis. He's a pretty good Soccer player. And then there's Takaishi Takeru. We all call him TK, and he's great at basketball. He was one of the best players in our old school... In fact, he was the best player I'd say."
Takeru... A boy she's familiar with, so Takeru-Kun, shortened to TK... That's quite sweet actually. Why must she reveal her innocence with every word?
"A top basketball player?" Haruhi shouted. Someone teach this girl to use a more quiet voice indoors!
"Yeah. He was the top player on the team in our Middle School all three years running and he was voted Player of the Year for the whole school district league last year."
"Was he that guy this morning?" Haruhi said. Like a predatory animal, Haruhi had the scent of potential prey. This could not end well.
"Ah, good. He's quite cute too actually, that'll help add some more appeal too. We have our senior cosplay mascot of course, but the younger girls of the school won't be interested in the older males of the group we have. He'll be a good way for the schools girls to be more interested in our group and it's only fair that if we have cute women we should at least have one handsome guy!"
This sounds like Haruhi has a plan... An alarming plan too in some ways. I had to try and slow her down.
"Perhaps we could hear more about him? Since I presume that you intent to have him join the Brigade also.
"Hmm, good point, it's only fair we hear more about him and vote." Haruhi said.
"Anything else interesting?" She continued.
"Well, his French grandfather told me... " Kamiya-san began, but it seemed that was interesting enough for Haruhi.
"His grandfather is French? Can he speak French too?" Haruhi said, regaining her loud voice.
Kamiya-san shook her head.
"Not fluently, only a little."
"Oh. Well, a little is better than none. Well, he gets my votes. A tall, blonde, handsome, French-speaking athletic underclassman."
"But what if he says no?" I asked.
"Well, Hikari-chan can convince him..."
"Well... If he does say no I could always blackmail him. I've got a lot of things that I can use on him."
Well, never judge a book by its cover! It seemed far from the innocent lamb I though was being brought here like a sacrifice, that we've allowed a devious lioness into our midst! She's no Haruhi, but the wanton cruelty that this polite and seemingly nice young woman had just displayed towards her childhood friend stunned me. And so direct too! She described it in such blunt uncaring terms!
"Where is he just now?" Haruhi asked.
Takaishi-san, I pray to any and all available deities in the area that they have mercy on your soul if you are close by. For they and I know Haruhi won't.
"Actually, he said he needed to borrow a scanner for something. I think he said he was going to try the Computer Research Society..." Kari said.
"Really? Well, let's see if he's still there..."
Haruhi charged out, heading next door.
"Are you Takaishi Takeru ?" She asked. Thankfully, this was all the noise involved before she returned, dragging that tall underclassman from this morning.
I realised now that truly, my perceptions were wrong. In Kamiya-san I had seen a fragile and innocent girl, when she was truly a cruel creature with an angelic disguise! And in Takaishi-san, I had seen nothing but a huge goliath, towering over me and making me think dread thoughts of the furious vengance he could wreak upon us. Yet it seemed he was a gentle giant, wide-eyed and fearful, no idea where his future would lead. I apologise for my rash assumptions!
Still, he did seem normal. Embarrassed at being dragged by a far, far smaller girl, and perhaps still insanely tall, but he did look like a regular human. Though odds were, he was another of these "Digidestined."
"Now, Takeru, I've already had Kari explain all about you..."
She did not tell us you knew of her evil. I hope you do and you are used to dealing with her...
"...But I want to ask you directly if you are willing to join!"
Wait, what about the voting? You never asked the rest of us!
"Yes I did, every one of you could easily have said no. Besides, that was last year's recruitment rules, while we were a fledgling group. But now, as an established brigade we must ensure our recruits are the best of the best of the best!"
I could only stare in confusion.
"How would it affect any other clubs I'm in?" The unfortunate underclassman before us enquired.
"Well, normally I ask for full dedication to the brigade, but in your case one of the reasons we think you're suitable to join is your athletic ability. The brigade needs to be seen in public, and having a member be a prominent member of the basketball team would do wonders! I've heard a lot of the new first years are interested in watching the basketball team this year..."
As Haruhi said this, Kamiya-san whispered something to her. I made a resolution to fear and dread such moments in future. Kamiya-san's true colours were flying proudly now...
"Aaah... Perfect! You're meeting requirements already! One final check though..."
Here we go. The supernatural, the strange. Aliens, Espers, Ghosts, Time Travellers, Sliders, Evil Twins, Digimon...
"Do you believe in the supernatural and the strange? In aliens and espers and time travellers and ghosts?" Harhui continued. Hey, is she reading my mind now or am I really predicting her?
"Well... I'd say I've got an open mind on most of those things but I'm pretty sure half of all UFO's are just secret government projects..." Takaishi-san said.
"What about the other half?" Haruhi said. Get out of my head!
"...Um, ghosts playing jokes on us."
What? Is this some sort of joke?
"An excellent theory! Real aliens would have stealth technology and cloaking abilities, so most unidentified objects in the sky must be just top-secret fighter planes and spy drones, but until now I thought the aliens must have been making mistakes and being seen for the rest of the times! But your theory is much more sensible, ghosts drawing attention away from themselves by having us look at the skies!"
Typically disjointed logic from Suzumiya Haruhi.
"So, then, Takeru. You have all the necessary requirements. It falls to me to ask: do you want to join?"
Takaishi-san looked at what he thought was his only current friend in the room, as if seeking guidance. No you fool, she's on their side now!
"Well, so long as it's not going to clash with my Basketball training..." He said.
"Excellent! Each member of the brigade has one or more roles. Kari for example is going to be Junior Member Number One, Cosplayer Semi-Professional and Part-Time Mascot, Brigade Photographer and Public Relations Agent! Your roles are Junior Member Number Two, Assistant Cosplayer Semi-Professional, and High-Profile Sports Personality!"
"Wait, if Kamiya is to be our photographer does that mean she'll be holding the camera this time?" I realised. I had many camera-related queries but Haruhi seemed to get my main meaning for once, for her reply was indeed related to the dreaded sequel to our dreadful movie.
"Hmm... Possibly. We may need to test something. The previous film was well directed and well acted, but on occasion the camerawork was a little off, usually when tracking a moving object. Maybe Kari is better at that... " Haruhi said. Well, it appeared to depend on the object being tracked. If that object has blonde hair and blue eyes, or is spherical and orange Kamiya-san certainly has the credentials to take good still images.
"I have a question though. I don't actually know what this group does, or even what it is. Or even what your names are." Takaishi-san asked in confusion. Oh no, here she goes again...
"Our mission is easy! To seek out the unusual, the supernatural and the strange!"
I swear she changes the mission of the brigade every fifteen seconds. Some day the answer will be to rescue a cat from a tree...
"And as for names... We are the SOS Brigade, and I am the Brigade Chief, Haruhi Suzumiya!" She said, introducing herself before moving on to us mere underlings.
"Itsuki Koizumi, Vice Commander!" Haruhi said. Was she going to go in the same order as before?
"Pleased to meet you." He said, with that smile again. I hope he doesn't find it charming.
"Mikuru Asahina, Moe Mascot!" Haruhi said, moving beside Asahina-san.
Well, my worry Takaishi-san may have found Koizumi's smile pleasant has faded. I know the look he just gave Asahina-san for sure. I can't blame him, but to his credit he looked for only a second!
"H-Hello..." Came the nervous reply.
"Yuki Nagato, Silent Character!" Haruhi moved on.
Yuki looked up from her book again and simply nodded. Unfortunately, I detected a distinct and lingering stare from Takaishi-san. Not unexpected but still it feels alarming.
"Kari you of course know... And finally, Kyon." She motioned towards me.
"Just Kyon?" he asked. Ah, perhaps a chance at last to reveal my real name to someone before they stick me with "Kyon" for the rest of my life!
"Actually, that's a nickname, my real name is..."
"Quiet, Kyon." Haruhi cut me off.