At a Glance
A 'Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi' fanfiction
Disclaimer: The novel series of Suzumiya Haruhi that began with 'The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi' is the creation of Nagaru Tanigawa. No disrespect is intended by the posting of this fanfiction, as I do not own the characters or settings involved. I'm merely dabbling with another set of paints.
Note: This is an AU, so it helps to be familiar with the first novel, or the first season of the anime.
People often reflect on the trivial-seeming thoughts that occur to them before a change in their life, something that causes their perspective to shift in a way they never anticipated. Sometimes they are specific things; belief in Santa Claus, perhaps. Maybe a desire for an encounter with the supernatural.
For reasons that don't bear being explained just at this point, my own fantasies and desires as I entered high school were different. Naturally, I had long outgrown wishes to meet espers, super powered martial artists, most magical girls... Granted, I did have my biases. I wouldn't have minded meeting an angel, maybe a kind alien, or a generous time traveler.
But wishing for those things didn't get me anywhere, really, and life continued without them. So, as most will do, I learned to adapt.
When I entered Kitago, my desire, more than anything else, was to have the most normal life I could. To make friends, to attend classes with my fellow students... Maybe find a girlfriend...
Reflecting on that, it seems very simple. Then again, isn't it said that the most simple desires are the purest?
Ah, well, that's probably not true at all. It's something I say to make it seem my wishes were more reasonable than they are. It took some doing, and quite a bit of unashamed begging on my part, but my wish was granted, mostly.
I got to go to middle school and did reasonably well. So, despite my mother's misgivings, I attended high school as well.
Really, the hardest part about it was actually getting there.
That probably sounds like a pathetic achievement, from your perspective, and I'll grant that on the surface, it may even be that. I don't really know enough people like myself to say that it's wrong, either, though my personal feelings... Well.
These digressions aside, certain things I will never forget. I learn few faces, but I remember every face I learn. The voices of my classmates I know will echo in my ears for long years, of that I am certain.
However, until the day I die, I will never for a single heartbeat forget the introduction of Suzumiya Haruhi on my first day at Kitago.
I gave a short speech of my own, keeping it minimal, naturally, avoiding pointing out anything about myself that would make me sound any different from any other student. I had already listened to the speeches of a few others I had known from middle school, so I was confident there was no need to explain myself. Naturally, I didn't rise from my seat to deliver my speech.
This brought a few quiet murmurs, but I was certain it wouldn't be an issue. Our teacher, who had introduced himself as Okabe, made an approving noise and led a quiet round of applause at the end of my speech before calling for the next student.
I heard her seat slide back across the floor as she rose, slapping her palms against the desk. "From East Middle school, I am Suzumiya Haruhi!" she practically yelled, her voice high and firm, but edged with frustration. "I have no interest in regular people! If you are an esper, alien, slider, or time traveler, come meet me! That is all."
Without turning around, I heard her seat scrape back as she sat down heavily.
This was our first meeting.
At some point later, between classes, I turned halfway in my seat, not really facing her, but obviously not facing the front of the class. "So," I began, maintaining my usual expression, a small half-smile, "did you really mean that?"
"Mean what?" she returned, crossly. "And what's with that, not even meeting the eyes of the person you address?"
"No disrespect," I murmur. "Anyway, about time travelers and aliens?"
"Hmm," she muses very slowly. Haruhi has a tremendous presence; I can feel her intensity on me. "Have I met you before somewhere? Maybe a long time ago?"
I think I would remember. "You tell me?" I ask her, quirking one corner of my mouth up in a deeper smile.
"Humph. So, what are you then, some kind of poser? You know, they don't let students here dye their hair; you may look cool now, but they'll fix that. Don't you know, 'the nail that sticks out gets hammered down'?"
I turn to face forward in my seat again. "I've heard that before," I say calmly. "But they'll leave me alone."
"Humph!" I hear her muttering under her breath a bit after that; my hearing is exceptionally sharp. "Who does he think he is, trying to act all cool? And who do you think you're really impressing with one stupid white streak?"
My mistake; reaching out to this oblivious girl... Well.
At lunch that day, Kunikida, a friend from middle school, moves to sit next to me. Haruhi runs off, so another student joins us for the meal. Taniguchi has bad enunciation, but it's not the end of the world; I do detest people who talk with their mouths full, but what can you really do? I don't know that we're friends, Taniguchi and I, but he's amiable enough, and not insulting.
We stick together in a trio throughout the opening athletic events. I don't have a P.E. uniform, since I'm exempted, but Kunikida and Taniguchi come to sit by me and study the girls as they go through their athletic trials. Taniguchi gleefully tells me which of the girls he's rated the highest, and while I listen, it's really difficult for me to appreciate all of the details he shares.
"What about from our class?" I ask, interrupting his tirade. "If you're judging girls, who's ... good?"
"Eh? Oh," Taniguchi answers, his lecture cut short. "Well... You've met Suzumiya Haruhi, and while she's got top athletic skills, grades, and what everyone will admit is a nice body... Trouble-maker, one hundred percent, maybe more. She's done some crazy things, and she's bad luck. My advice is to avoid her at any cost!"
"Well, we're seated together by name," I reply. "That's not likely to change. You're behind her, aren't you?"
"That's exactly right!" Kunikida's hearty laugh agrees. "Taniguchi, you're already in Kyon's debt! She knows you, but pays attention to him because he sits in front."
High school dream number two: destroyed. Ah, well, Kunikida didn't mean any harm by it. I'm confident by the end of the day, everyone will refer to me by that nickname.
"Aside from her?" I ask.
"Ah, well... Next, and I'll say she's the best of the lot, Asakura Ryouko," Taniguchi continues. "A double plus, in my book! Ideal personality, impossibly hot body; every girl wants to be her friend, every guy would love to date her!"
"Oh, man, Kyon!"
Yep, the nickname is latched onto me, now. No escape.
"You don't know- Her hair is perfect, her legs are fine... That rack is a pretty sweet sight for sore eyes!"
Time for someone, no, make that anyone else's opinion. "What do you think, Kunikida?" I ask.
"Mmm... Well, I don't really know about grading girls based on looks ... I think I know your thoughts on that."
No need to explore that any further. I catch something in the distance, and I tilt my head, focusing on it.
"Eh, there's Suzumiya being the natural-born gifted athlete," Taniguchi says, somewhat irritated. "But, I dunno... If you really want to give it a shot, Kyon, I'm told she doesn't turn anyone down. Anyone. Her longest relationship wasn't a full week, and her shortest lasted just five minutes!"
I didn't ask, Taniguchi...
"Don't do that to yourself; you already took a bullet for me by sitting in front of her!"
"It's funny," I remark, face in my usual fixed half-smile. "She doesn't seem to know?"
"Eh! She can't tell?" Taniguchi gasps. "You're kidding! Well, tell her-"
"It's actually kind of nice," I interrupt him. "I like being treated just like anyone else. Don't you?"
"Er... I can't say I agree," Taniguchi says doubtfully. "But it's your call. Personally, I'd make the most of what you've got, if you want my opinion."
I didn't ask for it, actually.
"Ah, sorry, Kyon," Kunikida says, his voice troubled.
"No, no," I tell him quickly. "I appreciate your help, Kunikida. Don't get the wrong idea."
"It's decided!" Taniguchi announces. "Kyon, realize what a personal sacrifice I'm making for myself, here, but tomorrow I'm going to explain your situation to Asakura Ryouko! If she's half as nice as she seems, I'm positive that she'll treat you well."
And that's how my next trouble began.
Personally, I believe that Taniguchi's 'personal sacrifice' was an excuse for him to talk to the most likable girl in our class. So, even though I recalled her introduction vaguely - she was actually the second student to be introduced, she was introduced to me again.
I didn't bow to her - I never bow, really, not to anyone. I'm a firm believer in handshakes, even if they're a Western concept, and most of the people around me take it in stride. Why wouldn't they?
She sounded friendly enough, a faint note of concern in her voice as Taniguchi and she discussed my situation as though I wasn't there.
Exactly what I had tried to avoid.
"So," Taniguchi said, in the manner of one who has completed a great task, "I leave Kyon in your care, Asakura-san!"
"Well, I don't believe Kyon will be trouble for anyone," she replied in a warm voice. "You aren't a trouble-maker, are you Kyon-kun?"
"Not intentionally," I answer.
"It's decided, then," she tells me. "How do you come to school?"
"I take the train," I answer. "Just like almost everyone else. I get off at the station at the bottom of the hill and take the path of most resistance. It's not that hard, is it?"
"That's commendable!" she tells me. "Okay, I'll meet you there every morning from now on, and make sure you get to class on time. Won't that be nice?"
My fixed half-smile doesn't waver. I've been told I'm just not expressive enough, but I cant really bring myself to be concerned about it, all things considered. "If you like," I answer. "Well, if you end up becoming class representative, it'll become an imposition for you. Kunikida doesn't live far from me; we went to middle school together, so with his help, I'll be fine."
"Are you close friends, then?"
My phone has five numbers on speed dial on it. Those are the only numbers I call. One is my mother's cell. Two is my home. Even though she's only ten, my sister has a cell, too, and she's number three. Kunikida is five, and a girl I studied with in middle school is six. Very simple, and I like the layout. The top three buttons are my family, the right side of the middle row are my friends.
Four is an unlucky number, so that is unassigned. That's also why I left that girl's number on my phone; I don't want to have only four numbers. Realistically, though this may sound a bit sad, Kunikida may be my only actual friend.
Well, an honest reply is: "Kunikida is my best friend."
"Is that so? Well, good! But what makes you think I'd be class representative?"
"You seem popular," I answer. I can tell by her voice, though. She has that concerned, somewhat affectionate tone that everyone naturally gravitates towards like a mother hen. "Hmm, that sounds like a weak answer," I realize aloud, right after I say it. "Let's say I have a sense of intuition, and more than just being popular, everyone looks up to you?"
"Hehe, that's very kind of you, Kyon-kun," she tells me. The smile is in her voice. "Still... If I were to gain other responsibilities... It would be best to have more friends, wouldn't it?"
"Naturally," I answer her.
"Ah, I know! Suzumiya-san seems to need friends as well! Why not keep up conversations with her? Perhaps you two could become close!"
I can honestly say I didn't see that coming.
I'll admit, though. Before Taniguchi's 'sacrifice', Haruhi had initiated a conversation with me again that morning. It went like this:
"Playing with a pocket computer before class?" she asks, poking me in the back as she sits down. "What kind of delinquent are you?"
"Oh, you know," I answered her, turning halfway around and giving my usual half-smile. "The kind that conquers all that falls beneath his watchful gaze. My plans for world domination are contained in here."
"Real modest, aren't you?" she retorts. "What an idiot. Anyway, you got special permission?"
"It has my textbooks on it," I say, more honestly. "Makes things simple."
"What? Are you kidding?"
"I have a bad habit of losing things. One PDA is easier to keep track of than a collection of textbooks."
"...right," she says, in the tone of one who believes they are being lied to.
I don't really know that I'd consider this exchange a strong basis for a friendship. I'll admit, she amuses me, more than just a little bit. But friends? Doubtful.
"I'll talk with her," I tell Ryouko. "But I can promise nothing."
True to her word, Ryouko is waiting for me at the train station on the way to school every day. We walk to the school together, even though I always show up at least a half-hour early.
I don't run.
"It's a nice, bright day out today!" Ryouko tells me, some time during our third week of class. "Ah, the skies are clear, the leaves are green ... I can't wait for summer uniforms!"
Doesn't make much difference to me, really. "It's warm," I say.
"Aha, sorry, Kyon-kun, I just like to admire the world around us, you know?" She takes my elbow in one hand, pulling me closer to her to speed up the pace a bit. "Do you?"
"'Summer rain; on the wall traces of; torn poem cards,'" I quote at her.
"Ah, hmm ... Basho?"
I nod, not turning my face. "I like the way Basho describes things," I add.
"Do you write?"
"I ... a little," I confess, nodding again. "In middle school, when I was studying with a friend, we would occasionally write renga."
"Ooh! Collaborative linked verse!" The amazement in Ryouko's voice seems somehow misplaced. "I'm a huge fan of that~! But ... no one ever wants to make renga with me. Ah, let's do one now! Shall I go first?"
"If you like," I agree. "But short ones. Maybe two haiku and responses each? There's only two of us, after all."
"So, almost a rokku, then? That's fine!" she says, pausing a moment before she begins. "Sun shines in clear sky; footsteps carry over earth; today's journey starts." She pauses again, waiting my response.
"Heads shy away from the sun; what gives life also can burn." She makes a thoughtful noise at my response, and I begin the next haiku: "There is no wind now; only echoes of winter; whispers of the storms."
"Spring and renewal begin; life bursts anew from the earth." She takes a tiny, sharp breath and holds it a moment before adding, "Scents of ocean now; the sun touches on the sea; wind bears and is born."
I draw something of a blank for the next verse, and fumble a bit for words. It's all sun and wind... Two seven syllable lines before my next haiku, my response to her: "We swim through the sea of life; like anchovies of the sun." Ugh, that was weak. I guess I'm a bit rusty... She giggles at my response anyway. Well, here's my last haiku, then: "Amaterasu; grace us forever with light; we fear and adore."
Smoothly, with no hesitation, she responds, "This is the role of mankind; enslaved by mother nature."
Yeah, that's not a renga I'd try and publish any time soon. I started out strong, but my follow-up was weak. Her verses were good, at least, I think.
"We should do this every day we head to class together," she decides.
That's the kind of thing that strikes me as adequate. Making poems with a soft-voiced friendly girl every day before school? That's the treasured memory that you would hope to get out of attending school, isn't it?
Trust me; it never works out the way you'd expect.
Over the following weeks, at Ryouko's insistence, if Haruhi doesn't initiate conversations by badgering me about not conforming to the behaviors of other students (a rich irony, that), I try and strike up a discussion every morning. Breaks and lunches are free; she tears off like a demon escaping hell the second the chime rings.
Me, I stay in my seat as long as possible. Arrive early, leave late, and the problem is solved. I have developed a bladder of steel by this point; if I were to get detention, I could tough the addition of that out without flinching. The one exception to this is when everyone else changes for P.E. The girls use our classroom, the boys use the classroom next door, and I wait in the hall to follow Kunikida and Taniguchi to the field.
Today's renga with Ryouko were more failures on my part, though her verses were strong and artistic, as usual. She decided the subject would be Haruhi, and her hair. I don't really know why; I gather that hair is important to women. For myself, I like my hair just long enough to slick back the critical length and ignore.
Problem dealt with.
Anyway, Ryouko told me the pattern of Haruhi's ever-changing hairstyle and mentioned that I should ask Haruhi about it. I'll confess, this is the kind of thing I don't really understand any adequate reason for. Then again, with Haruhi's genius-level obliviousness, it should be amusing, at least, to find her reaction.
"So," I say, turning halfway to her as I hear her footsteps coming from behind, and the characteristic thud of her flinging herself into her seat. "The tied off points correspond to the days of the week?"
"You noticed?" she asks, sounding both irritated and surprised. "Well, yeah. I think every day gives off a different feel."
The only days that feel different to me are holidays and other days I don't have school. "It's not to attract aliens or time travelers?"
Immediately after that, she launches into an explanation involving days of the week and colors. I play with my PDA and tune her out while pretending to nod thoughtfully. Naturally, she doesn't even seem to notice; I demolish the level four AI at chess.
The level five AI absolutely murders me.
"Ah," I tell her, when she's finally done. "So that's how it is."
"What, you have a problem with it?" She sounds annoyed.
Really, I could absolutely not care less. "I think, if you're trying to attract the paranormal, your hair is your slightest concern. Wouldn't they be more interested in your personality?"
"...huh," she mumbles, still sounding annoyed. I turn to face forward in my seat again, catching more of the muttering she probably thinks I can't hear. "Who asked you, anyway?" Yes, who indeed, Haruhi? Who indeed.
The next day, of course, I was late to class thanks to a doctor's appointment. It wasn't all bad, though; I got to take a cab to school once it was over. Kunikida met me as I wandered down the halls, because I arrived between periods. "Kyon," he said in a low tone, voice minutely awed, "I don't know what you've said to Suzumiya-san, but she cut her hair in response to it."
"Amazing," I reply. "Naturally, I really don't care."
"You should at least ask," he says doubtfully. "Come on... You're a bit late, but the votes haven't been tallied; you can still decide who you want for class representative."
"Does it seem that Asakura-san is going to win?" I ask.
"Ah ... most likely," he answers, tone apologetic.
Pity. My renga haven't really been improving; she'll probably be too busy to walk to school with me. Well, it's not like I need her to defeat the hill.
"I'll vote for her, too," I decide.
"Hehe, isn't it supposed to be anonymous?"
"Another thing I really don't care about," I reply flippantly. I find my way to my desk at my leisurely pace. The soft breathing of a sleeping Haruhi and the anxious fidgeting of a standard Haruhi are both absent. As per normal, she's gone during break.
She dashes in just before the chime, her footsteps from behind pausing as they approach. I can tell hers apart from anyone else's, because the boys all weigh more, and the other girls don't walk like they're trying to kill the floor. She gives a quiet, annoyed, "Humph!" and drops herself in her seat behind me.
"So, what kept you?" she asks, irritated.
I shrug. "Council of Evil had a meeting," I tell her. "We're really stuck on this 'Superman' thing. He keeps destroying all our good doomsday devices, you know?"
"Really," she says in a flat, icy tone.
The teacher stumbles in, dropping notes and books with a loud crash, apologizing loudly to the class. Deciding we have a minute before true order is restored, I half turn towards Haruhi, and give my usual half-smile. Are those two halves a whole bit of effort for her? Or a quarter?
"Yeah, really - but I found out a perfect plan to stop him. Now, I haven't ever seen Superman myself, obviously, but I hear he's bulletproof, right?"
"Supposedly," she returns, grudgingly curious where I'm going with this.
I force a full smile. "Well, after you run out of bullets, you throw your gun at him, right?"
"Yeah, and he dodges it," she says, annoyed.
"Exactly! We just need a gun that launches other guns at him, and he'll be so busy dodging, the world will be ours for the taking!"
Taniguchi snickers in the seat behind Haruhi.
"Wow, do you take classes to learn things that stupid to say?" she asks, unable to keep a tiny trace of amusement from her tone. That gets a snicker out of him, too. Well, Taniguchi is nothing, if not easily amused.
"It's a gift," I tell her. Actually, it's a dumb joke I found on the internet. I always keep a couple squared away for the hell of it. "Anyway, what's up with the change in hairstyle?"
"At least you noticed," she grumbled, again at that 'you're not supposed to hear me' volume. I turn to face forward. "Do I need a reason?" she asks haughtily. "I felt like a change!"
And changing it every day wasn't working out? Whatever.
"As long as it works for you."
"It wasn't for me," she whispers.
Sharp hearing is a gift and a curse.
After Ryouko became class representative, which was that day, our seating order was reassigned. For simplicity, pretty much everyone but me drew lots for where they would sit.
I have a seat in the row furthest from the doors, but at the very front of class; quite accessible. Well, the end of an era, right? Take care, Haruhi, wherever you end up being assigned!
...I foolishly think.
Everyone gets up and mills around to go to their new desks simultaneously, which is great fun for me. After I get to my new seat, Haruhi asks me, sounding amused, "Are you always so clumsy? Is that why you don't have to do anything in P.E.?"
"If you must know," I answer, not turning to face her, "I'm actually a ninja. My home is just small pieces of furniture and personal items on ten meter tall bamboo poles in a pool of sharks. This tame terrain is hard on me, since I'm fresh out of enemies, and it'd be unfair for someone with my ninjutsu to square off against my fellow students. It's really for everyone else's safety!"
"Geez," she says with a trace of amusement and a load of feigned disdain, "if you were the dictator of an island country, you would be Fidel Sarcastro!"
"Ooh," I remark. "Nice."
I'll need to remember that one.
"I'll slash enemies to ribbons with my razor sharp wit!"
I can't help but laugh a little; she chuckles, too. How odd; did I just have a friendly moment with Haruhi?
"So," I start, the next day, when she sits behind me, "is it true that you'll date anyone who asks?"
"Huh?" she returns, her voice sounding strange. "What, you and Asakura-san already broke up?"
I cock my head to one side. "Hey, class representative," I call out.
"Yes?" Ryouko replies from the desk next to mine (also assigned, not drawn for, surprise, surprise).
"Were we dating?"
"Oh, um, well, I'm quite flattered, and I'm sorry if you got that idea, but..." Her voice is simultaneously amused and apologetic. "Well, I think you're a fine person and a good friend, Kyon-kun, but I didn't think our renga meant that much."
"Aw, shucks," I reply. "And Haruhi here just got my hopes up. I was all set to tell my mom and everything!"
"We'll always have our renga!" Ryouko assures me. "I wrote the best ones down!"
"Best ones?" I jibe. "Must have been from the day I came late."
"Now, now," she chides me. "I have class representative work to do."
Realistically, it's a bit of a pity, but I had no illusions. And speaking of pity, I wouldn't want that.
"I'll leave you be," I tell her. "Like you said; we'll always have Paris, right?"
She giggles, but otherwise doesn't respond. Fair enough.
"Anyway, I guess it's none of my business Haruhi, so, my bad."
"Well, whatever you heard, it's probably all true," Haruhi allows. She sounds outwardly frustrated, but I get the hint of longing in her voice as she rants, "I've dated a lot of guys, yeah, but they're all losers! Every single one!"
"Oh? Hmm, normal humans, right?"
"Of course! If I could find someone amazing, I'd date them - boy or girl! An alien, an esper... Anything but a normal human! Wouldn't that be more fun?"
"Looks like it," I reply.
"And on top of that," she continues, still ignorant of my way of saying I don't care, "they almost always ask me out over the phone! Isn't that kind of question best asked in person!"
"You know more than I do," I answer, facing forward and turning my attention to the PDA.
"Geez, why even ask if you ignore my answers?" she berates me.
"I heard you," I tell her. "I'm not ignoring you."
"Why can't you look people in the eye when they talk with you?" she grumbles. "That's a key concept of communication, you know! You're failing it so hard I'm guessing you've never had a girlfriend?"
"Bingo," I answer. The level five chess AI is still murdering me. Level four is still a joke. Irritating, that.
"Huh! With your attitude, I shouldn't be surprised!"
"Shouldn't be, you say? That suggests that for some reason you are. What reason would that be?" I wonder aloud.
"Eh... W...well ... I'd think some girl would fall for your 'bad-boy' act," she says in irritation. "You've got that streak in your hair, no teacher asks you to write on the board, you get to use that PDA instead of a textbook, I've never once seen you get cleaning duty... You get to sit out P.E., I don't think I've ever seen you turn in homework, and I've never even seen you hold a pencil!"
I chuckle at her and eject my PDA's memory card, holding it up over my head. "Homework," I tell her, before putting it back. "I get memory cards from the teachers with my tests on them, too."
"So, what, your family's some computer based conglomerate and the school gives you preferential treatment?" She sounds intrigued. "That thing doesn't even have a screen!"
"I'm really good with computers," I agree, tapping the PDA's cordless ear-piece. "I got my first one when I was eight."
"Hmm..." She's amazing to still not have figured it out. "I thought you just listened to mp3s all day."
She's a legend in her own right, really. I don't have the heart to spell it out for her ... and, as I've said before, it is kind of amusing.
Another day, and this I also won't forget, I ask, "Is it true you've joined every club?"
"Is it true you've never joined a single club?" she retorts. "What, are you spying on me, now? Some crazy stalker? Until you turn and face me, I'm not giving you straight answers!"
"I was in a study group in middle school," I reply, making her settle for my half turn and half-smile. "I can't join sports clubs. My deadly ninjutsu, remember? And yeah, sorry about the stalking and spying thing ... it's just reflex, what with my mad ninja skills."
"Humph, you couldn't just hold back?" she asks, skepticism and amusement warring.
"Sorry, Haruhi, I have only two speeds; walk, and kill."
"Well, as puppet-master, loyal Taniguchi fetches rumors at my beck and call. I merely sit in the shadowy corners and weave my intricate web of lies," I tell her.
"No, not really. He also has only two speeds; blab, and drool over girls." Sometimes, I wish Haruhi would stay in class during breaks and lunches.
That might spare me Taniguchi.
"Ugh, at least you're amusing," she sighs. She shifts in her seat; it slides back across the floor, and then her elbows thump against her desk. "All of the other clubs are boring. I tried each one, looking for something new and exciting. But they're all lame, terrible, awful... Wastes of time!"
"What kind of club are you even searching for?"
"A club that involves espers, sliders ... something exciting and new!" she practically yells. Then she does yell. "I'm trying really, reallyhard-"
I cover the ear without my ear-piece, letting my half-smile slip. Strangely, she falls silent instantly. "Despite whatever you may think, my hearing is quite good," I tell her, turning away and lowering my hand. It's probably sharper than hers. "We're in the same room, so conversational volume is fine."
"Urg..." She grumbles. "You think you're so great," in that mumbling 'she thinks I can't hear' volume. Seriously, that girl... At a more normal volume she continues, "I'm trying really hard to find those things! Wouldn't you like to see something amazing before your high school life is over?"
"I would," I answer without a whit of hesitation. "More than you probably guess."
"Absolutely," I confirm. "If a club existed that would allow me to see such things, I would join it instantly."
Once more in that tone that she thinks I can't hear, she says, "I'm going to hold you to that."
After a truly harrowing experience I never wish to repeat, by which I mean Haruhi seizing my necktie and literally towing me ... I don't even know where ... by some miracle I don't trip on any stairs or otherwise die. I honestly don't know how I lived. And at this point, I have no idea where I am, or how to get back.
It was after class, so at least Haruhi isn't disrupting my life ... much. "Ta-da~!" she cries. "Well, well, what do you think?"
She still hasn't figured it out! Well, fine, then. "I have no idea what to make of it, or where I am," I tell her in complete, frank honesty.
"This is our clubroom!" she tells me, annoyed. "Take a look around! It's actually the literary club room, and this girl here is the only first year member of that club. So! From this day forward, our club will meet here! I went ahead and got the paperwork myself, since you don't ever do anything involving paper!"
"We have a club?" I ask, somewhat astonished. "And, wait, who is this first year girl?"
"Nagato Yuki," a soft voice whispers.
I incline my head slightly, trying to locate the speaker.
"Anyway!" Haruhi says brightly. "This is going to be the club that we use to find espers, aliens, time travelers ... whatever! This is where we'll make it happen!"
"And you say I joined this club?" I ask, a bit surprised. "Has Nagato-san?"
"I don't mind," that same voice whispers back.
Ah, she's in one corner of the room, opposite me. "My mother will be surprised," I finally decide. "But you're positive we will find these supernatural beings, Haruhi?"
"Of course! Of course! Now, I've got things to prepare - meet here after school from now on, understood?"
"No," I answer, too late, as Haruhi has run away.
Abandoned with this strange girl I haven't really been properly introduced to, I try and make small talk. "What does the literary club do?" I ask her.
I get the impression that she studies me for a while, while it's silent, but there's no real way to tell. "Read," she finally answers.
"Ah. What are you reading at the moment?"
The book's pages rustle as she flips through them. A moment later, she says in a different, more hesitant tone, "'The Fall of Hyperion' by Dan Simmons."
"Is it any good?"
Her eventual response is, "Unique."
I feel a bit sorry for her, so I decide since we seem to be alone to be frank with her. "I'm sorry if I bother you. I tend to have that effect. I can tell Haruhi I have no interest in joining her club, if you would prefer."
"Stay," she says in that whispering tone, this time with no hesitation at all. "I do not mind."
"If you're certain," I decide. What's Haruhi up to, anyway? I hear Nagato's book close softly. She's so silent when she moves that her footsteps would be impossible to hear if we weren't alone in that room.
I'm startled when she takes my right hand in both of hers. "Certain," she says softly.
"You go on ahead!" Haruhi cheerfully orders me the second class lets out the following day.
"Oh, sure," I tell her as she runs off, vanishing into the hubbub of the other students. "Kunikida," I call more loudly, as I pocket my trusty PDA, reflecting on my first victory against the dreaded level five AI. That puts our score at a little over six hundred to one.
I'll need to work on that.
"You seem lively today, Kyon-kun," he tells me as he draws near. "Headed home?"
"Evidently I've been drafted," I tell him, giving my half-smile and collecting my bag. "This school is a maze, so I wanted to ask you for a favor."
"Oh? I hope you don't expect me to join a club..."
"I'm happy being a member of the Going Home club," Taniguchi contributes from Kunikida's side.
"Well, I need to get to the old club house, to the literary club," I say.
There's an uncomfortable pause before Kunikida asks, "You joined ... the literary club?"
"Haruhi's using their room," I explain. "The student there, Nagato Yuki, is the president of the club, but said it was fine for Haruhi to use the room, so..."
"Ah, alright," Kunikida says, though he still sounds hesitant. "I can teach you the route."
They drop me off at the door to the literary club room. I knock on the door as their footsteps diminish behind me.
The door opens almost immediately. Before she even says hello, Nagato Yuki's small hand takes mine and leads me into the room. There's a table in the center, so she gives me a seat there before settling into her own chair. The scene then becomes static and unchanging, except for the quiet click of buttons as I play with my PDA, and the whispering rasp of fluttering pages as she reads her book.
"Is this really a club?" I muse. Nagato says nothing. The level five AI gets revenge for my one victory twice before I achieve a stalemate.
I'm feeling pretty good about that when the door opens. "Ta-dah!" Haruhi announces.
Then, expectant silence. Nagato says nothing. I don't see anything worthy of discussion.
"Eh? Well? What do you think?"
"I think club's a bit slow when you don't bother showing up," I answer, tapping keys.
"Kyon!" she growls. "Show some appreciation!" The sound of faint whimpering carries as the door slams shut, and the resounding click of the lock being thrown cuts through everything else.
"Is this a guest?" I ask.
"There's a limit to my tolerance," Haruhi warns.
"W...why is the door locked? What is this place?" someone unfamiliar sobs.
"You can behave badly in class, but I don't know a single reason why I should let you get away with it in the club!" Haruhi snaps. "Stand up and greet her properly!"
I sigh and put the PDA to sleep, setting it carefully down before I slowly rise. Turning towards Haruhi, my half-smile fading, I say, "You really don't get it. That's just amazing, Haruhi."
"Shut up! Look, this is Asahina Mikuru!"
"Waaaaah~! D...don't touch me there!"
"Fascinating," I drawl. "Is she joining our club?"
"Of course! Check it out - cute, loli face, enormous breasts - they're huge! Bigger than mine! I'm almost jealous! And, hmm, down here-"
Then Asahina releases a shrill cry and a yelp. The next thing I know, I'm stumbling backwards over the chair with the weight of another body forcing me down. My back is pressed against the tile heavily; my breath is knocked out. My head strikes the floor, and something amazing happens.
When I can breathe again, someone clinging to my chest and shivering, while sobbing apologies, the first thing I manage to say is, "I hit my head."
"N...not my fault!" Haruhi protests hotly from above me, her voice a mixture of concern and anger. "Mikuru! You shouldn't jump around so carelessly like that!"
"I see stars," I add.
Brilliant streaks of light, anyway, leading in all directions. They're blazing, and every single sound causes a dozen new lines to shoot about, smearing my perceptions. Oddly enough, the pointless lights make it difficult to hear.
I'm aware of Asahina sobbing repeated apologies, still, before she cuts off with a sharp gasp as realization sets in. Notice that, Haruhi?
She gets it.
It's amazing to me that Haruhi still doesn't.
Haruhi's voice is an indistinct grumbling buzz, before Asahina's soft weight is unceremoniously lifted off me with a protesting yelp. "Anyway," Haruhi says angrily, "we're going to get a computer for our club. You say you're good with those, right?"
I don't move from where I am on the floor. "Yeah," I answer. "Sure."
The door unlocks, opens, and slams shut with a thudding reverberation.
The quiet one's voice, when it finally comes, is so soft that no trails of light accompany it. "She is unaware," Nagato remarks.
"I know," I reply. "Isn't that actually kind of amazing, though?"
After a pause, Nagato rises from her seat, soft steps padding to just short of my head. She crouches down, and her fingertips trace across my forehead. "Astounding," she finally judges, before shifting to one side and pulling me slowly upright. After a minute or two, she's gotten my still-wobbly self back into my seat, and pressed the ear-piece that had gotten knocked loose into my hands.
She hovers at one elbow a minute longer, so I thank her and ask, "Can you get the USB blue-tooth adapter from my bag? If Haruhi brings in a computer, I'll need that to use it worth a damn."
There's a pause before, "Understood."
While she goes through my bag almost silently, I tinker with my PDA, preparing a new profile to interface with the system Haruhi seems to think we'll be getting.
I hear a commotion in the next room over, but dismiss it, focusing on my project; it does help dull the pain in my head. Just as I'm finished, the door opens, Haruhi crowing in triumph as an unfamiliar male voice moans in defeat.
I pretend to ignore them while eavesdropping. This fails spectacularly when I'm nearly knocked out of my seat again, the somewhat familiar soft sensation of Asahina collapsing into me as she sobs.
What the hell just happened?
"Haruhi," I say slowly, unused to people clinging onto me while they weep.
She immediately breaks off berating the boy who is setting up the computer. "What?" she asks in annoyance.
I spend a moment trying to sort things out, then finally decide, "Asahina-san and I are leaving early. We'll talk tomorrow."
"Wha- But- Why?" she sputters indignantly. "We're just getting started!"
"I think it's quite obvious that Asahina-san is done," I tell her. I put my PDA in my pocket, then hesitate. She is still half-clinging to me, though she's settled down a bit, subdued to a hiccuping whimper.
"Fine!" Haruhi snaps, sounding unreasonably hurt, considering the situation. "Run away, then!"
"I don't run," I tell her, grateful that Nagato put my bag back precisely where I left it. "Didn't I say we'd talk tomorrow?"
Though, what the hell I'm supposed to say is unclear at this point. Asahina's situation seems to demand more of my attention in any case.
She starts, releasing me when I try to rise, but conveniently, immediately grabs my arm. Thanks to that, it's surprisingly little trouble getting to the shoe lockers. She drops me off in front of my own, and shortly after that, we're outside of the school.
"U...umm," she whimpers. "I'm ... s...sorry to ... lean on you like this."
"I really don't mind being leaned on," I assure her. "I know I miss ... well, a lot, really. So if I can make up for that in some way by being someone convenient to lean - or land - on, then I feel more like I've done something of use."
"O...oh," she breathes.
"I head to the train station at the bottom of the hill," I explain to her. "Do you mind going with me a bit while we talk?"
"T...that's fine!" she agrees, her voice still quavering slightly. "U...um... I...if this doesn't seem too strange to say, it's that w...we ... probably shouldn't become too close."
Naturally, when a soft, nice-smelling girl gets surprisingly physical with you, this is what you should expect to hear.
"Wouldn't want to make your boyfriend jealous," I answer with a brief sigh.
"Eh!" Asahina squeaks in alarm, before giggling - which gives me an ... interesting sensation when my arm is being squeezed against her chest. "I don't have a... Ah... N...no, it's not for that..."
"Alright. You're not the first nice girl to tell me that we should be just friends," I say, not bothering to pretend a smile. So, along with Ryouko, Asahina can join the list that certain girl from middle school started.
Whatever; she was crying earlier, so I can put her ahead of my own self-pity.
"Ah, um... Y...yes, I should like us to be friends," Asahina agrees, sounding strangely uncertain. "B...but..."
"Never mind us," I tell her. "Or me at all; I'm just nobody. What did Haruhi do that had you so upset?"
"T...that..." She trails off; my arm is grabbed tighter.
I don't think she's very good at this not being 'too close' thing.
I'm not going to start complaining right away.
After a quiet moment she determines, "I... I'd rather not say. Um ... t...this is the train station..."
The familiar tones of an arriving train sound, as the recorded voice blares out a notification.
"Tomorrow, then," I sigh, as she releases my arm.
"Yes," she says, her voice steadying slightly. "W...with Kyon-kun there, I can keep going, too!"
I don't get this girl at all; she may be more confusing to me than Haruhi.
"You're a fast mover," Haruhi grumbles from behind me in class.
I rouse myself from my contemplation of the chess game I was playing on my PDA. This is our morning exchange, immediately following the first real 'day' of her club. I can't beat the level five AI without more focus than Haruhi will allow when she's present. It's kind of a pity, really.
Or maybe I should look at it as a challenge?
"Ninja training, like I said," I remind her, not turning to face her.
"Idiot," she grumbles, in that voice she thinks I can't hear. Hmm, no more amusement? What's she got to be upset about?
More loudly, she says, "So - I don't think I'm going to allow dating between club members! And she's a year above you anyway!"
"What's this?" Ryouko muses from the side, seeming drawn into the conversation. "Kyon-kun ... are you dating an older woman?" She sounds scandalized, but also amused.
"No ... but it seems that the list of girls that won't be dating me has increased again," I answer. Realizing that this sounds a bit too self-depreciating, I quip, "Then again, when you live a life like mine - well, it's dangerous for girls to get close, so it's not like it doesn't make sense!"
"Why do you have to make everything a joke?" Haruhi grumbles.
I ask her, "Why does everything have to be so serious?"
"Joking around is fine, but not when it gets in the way of getting things done!" Haruhi snaps. "So, can't you be just a bit serious?"
I turn around in my chair halfway, turning my face towards her. No half-smile this time. "If you make Asahina-san cry again, I won't spend another minute in your club," I tell her.
The whole room seems strangely silent at that for some reason.
After a pause, when she doesn't answer, I add, "I'd really rather spend my time joking around."
"W...whatever," Haruhi sputters, before muttering under her breath - this time genuinely too quietly for me to hear.
I turn back to the only half-way facing her pose I usually stick with. "You still want something done with your computer, hmm?"
"Yeah," Haruhi allows cautiously. A moment later, she catches the implications and huffs a sigh. "Fine," she growls. "J...just ... don't get all touchy-feelie with your girlfriend during club meetings!"
"Which girlfriend?" I wonder. Ryouko giggles, and I add, "I mean ... a player like me, evidently I've got tons of 'em. Ryouko-chan and I are between relationships at the moment, but it could be her."
"I'll let that joke pass once," the class representative chuckles. "Suzumiya-san - don't tease Kyon-kun like that, and maybe he won't tease you back."
"So you and Mikuru..." Haruhi begins.
I wonder if Haruhi is just slow to pick up everything.
"Asahina-san and I aren't dating," I explain to her patiently. "So don't worry about that driving someone from your club in tears."
Haruhi makes a strained noise, then spits a quiet curse at me before her chair slams to the floor and her feet pound away as she leaves - nearly knocking over a protesting Okabe in her flight.
That seems like a bit of an overreaction.
"What was that about?" I wonder to Ryouko.
"Sensei is here," she answers in a whisper, before her chair slides back and she rises, calling the class to attention.
I sigh; it's not like I could chase after Haruhi, anyway...
At lunch, I'm joined by my two friends once more. "So!" Taniguchi begins, taking Haruhi's usual place. "That was an interesting show this morning!"
"Taniguchi," Kunikida reproves mildly.
I attempt to ignore them both and just eat my lunch.
"Okay - but seriously ... how did you do that? I've never seen Suzumiya look so scared of anything in her life!" Taniguchi explains with his mouth full.
I don't really even know what I did, though.
"Accidentally unleashed one of my ninja powers," I say in an apologetic tone. "You know, the one that makes someone face the visage of a terrible demon in their own mind? Well, I guess her imagination was just powerful enough to backlash like that. Happens sometimes."
"Hmm," Kunikida noises, his longstanding reply to my evasions.
"Well," Taniguchi decides, changing the subject, "did you catch the game last night?"
"I caught a recording after I finished my homework," I allow. "I don't think the Hanshin Tigers are taking anything impressive home this year."
Kunikida snorts, and then the rest of the discussion is pleasant divergence, going over player stats.
Why would Haruhi be so worked up over a simple snide remark? It's not like I haven't shared dozens - if not more - with her before.
When I reach the club room after school that day, I call a greeting as I enter.
Asahina responds nervously, and then there's Nagato's quieter answer.
"Haruhi went home?" I wonder. "I didn't think she'd take this so hard..."
"W...what happened?" Asahina asks, clearly confused.
I sense Nagato's curiosity as well, though she says nothing.
Sighing, I decide it's better not to relate the entire truth... But then, there's no good reason to lie to these two, either. So, just don't tell them everything.
"I told Haruhi that if she made you cry again I'd quit the club," I answer. "But then ... for all the trouble she caused you yesterday, I can't really feel bad that she decided to take it seriously." I don't say anything for a moment as I find my way to the table, and then my seat.
"O...oh," Asahina finally responds.
"Mm. Haruhi said she wanted this club to be about finding ... time travelers, aliens ... that kind of nonsense," I say. "What do you two think of that?"
It's strangely quiet for a long while, just the sound of Asahina's soft, somewhat nervous breathing. Not even the sound of Nagato turning pages in her books can be heard.
"U...um," Asahina finally hazards, "i...is that what this club is about?"
Come to think of it... "I haven't any idea what she put on the paperwork," I mused. She must have written my name in a register without asking me. "But that's what she said."
"O...oh," Asahina manages in response.
"Well, what did she tell you when she convinced you to join?" I wonder.
"I, er..." There's a pause, and then she answers, "Ah ... that is ... she told me that I was exactly what this club needs?"
"You know ... you don't have to be in this club, if you don't want to," I try.
"N...no, this is where I need to be," she insists. "Um..."
Awkward silence reigns supreme once again. With an internal sigh, I change my tone slightly, saying, "Well then, Nagato-san, I think it falls to you to decide the topic of conversation. I don't seem to be able to start one up, myself."
She shifts in her seat, and her quiet steps approach before she sets something on the table before me.
I pick it up, somewhat curious. It's not like I'm not familiar with books, though they are by far one of my least favorite mediums.
The only thing I care for less is manga.
My fingers trace over the title, revealing that this is one of those few books I can actually read. "'Ringworld'," I quote the title.
Usually I only bother with digital copies of books ... but if she went through the trouble, well... "Thank you, Nagato," I allow. "Is this your book?"
"It is for you," she answers, her voice hovering near and behind me.
Well, stands to reason, after all. She's a member of the Literary club, regardless of what Haruhi might say, and with her gone... "Thank you very much for that, then; is there anything I can do to pay you back?"
I get the impression she's trying very hard to steel herself for something, when she finally says, "Read it."
"Can do," I assure her, opening the book up and running my fingers over the first page.
"U...um ... in that case ... is there anything I can read?" Asahina asks timidly.
"Yes," Nagato agrees, moving away from me. My attention, however, is on the pages before me.
After getting home, enduring my sister's constant and friendly pestering, I settle down in the living room with my new book. When my mother gets home, this prompts her to remark in surprise. I ignore that, right until my sister starts and says, "Kyon-kun! A paper fell out!"
My mother finds it before I do.
"Kyon!" she gasps, sounding pleased. "Did you make a friend?"
"She's in that club I joined," I offer. It would have to be Nagato; Haruhi hadn't known about the book, and if she did, well...
"Is this a girlfriend?" my sister yelps, making the couch shake with her jumping.
"Not knowing what the letter says, I couldn't possibly guess," I answer.
"It's not to you, it's to me," my mother answers. "Aw ... she's shy! She wants to invite you over for dinner, but she's afraid that- Well, this is fine! How wonderful for you, Kyon!"
"Dinner?" I wonder, frowning.
"Yes!" she says, nodding. "Now, let's see... I'll give her family a call and make the arrangements. I think you'll be ready tomorrow, won't you?"
"Evidently," I answer.
"Good," she decides, before going to the phone.
"Tell me!" my sister demands from my side, putting her small hands on my shoulder and giving me an insistent tug. "Who's this nee-chan?"
Sighing, I check the page number I was on and close the book. "She's shorter than me," I answer, "but pretty strong for her size. She wears glasses, and she loves to read."
"But ... what's she like?"
That ... is actually a very good question.
The following day, Haruhi is back to class, a quiet, tense bundle of energy, radiating irritation from the moment she drops heavily into her seat.
I still have no idea what she got all worked up about. I don't really want to make it worse, but I also don't want to ask about it.
It wouldn't kill me to be a little nice to her, if she was so down... Whatever happened to Asahina, she didn't seem really concerned about it the next day, surprisingly enough. So...
"You know, the club meeting yesterday was alright," I remark, instead of greeting her.
"Oh?" she asks sourly in response.
"Seemed to be lacking leadership, though," I muse.
She shifts in her seat, and much of her gloomy aura seems to dissipate. "Oh?"
"Huh," she muses in response, sounding remarkably relieved.
I guess that takes care of things, then?
The club meeting is interesting, after that.
While somewhat subdued, Haruhi also seems to be recovering her energy - though she's surprisingly polite to Asahina, now.
In the meantime ... Haruhi wants me to do things on the computer. Well, fine; I'm good at that. She wants a web-page created. I can do that; setting up and configuring the server, that's the easy part. Whoever set up the computer initially took care of most of the things I'd have to hunt down, and I had Nagato install some software to let my PDA talk to the computer.
And by 'talk' I suppose I mean 'place a back-door into the system'. But, hey; the system can spare a few cycles and megs of RAM to give me a command-line-interface that Haruhi can't even see when she's using the system. That does let me mess with the system without leaving my seat.
She even actually laughs the first time I do it, waggling the fingers of one hand in her general direction as I declare the problem to be fixed, 'auto-magically'.
"I think you would make a better web-page for the Brigade if you actually got out of your chair and looked at it!" she protests.
"GUIs are easy-mode," I respond. "Real ninjas surf via telnet on port eighty."
"I ... what? I know what a GUI is, but what the hell?" Haruhi asks, chuckling.
"T...telnet would be text only," Asahina clarifies.
"See?" Haruhi protests. "Text only- We need a great, flashy layout! Something to draw people in! Come on, can't you fix this?"
"How often have you found something on the internet because it had a great picture on the front page?" I wondered. "Because search-engines don't usually check art or layout; just content. If a picture has alt-text, that much might show up, but in a search engine that's pretty much just going to be a text description of-"
"Now you're boring me," Haruhi grumbles. "I still want it to look better than this!"
"I'm all about function over form," I answer. "So, how about since I already made the page, you adjust it to taste?"
"I- Uh... Some subordinate you are!" she sighs. Then, very quietly, she mumbles, "Well ... it's not like I'll be handing out fliers, now..."
"What's that about fliers?" I wonder.
Her chair creaks as she sits up abruptly. "I was going to make fliers for the club, and we... Never-mind that, though," she sighs again, before she begins tapping away. Not wanting to be an electronic voyeur, I disable my PDA's wireless link to the desktop and focus on the more important task of the diabolical level five AI.
After a fierce battle of attrition, it wears me down, pinning my king. I think I'm making it really fight, though.
Remembering something Haruhi mentioned, I ask, "What 'Brigade'?"
"Eh?" Her typing abruptly stops, and in answer, she rises from her seat and marches to my side, slapping a piece of paper onto the table before me. "Here!" she says, sounding smug and self-assured. "Take a look!"
"Um ... the ... 'Save the world by Overloading it with fun, Suzumiya Haruhi's Brigade'?" Mikuru asked.
"I'm sure he can read it himself, Mikuru-san," Haruhi says, somewhat dryly. "But, see? Like this drawing here! That's the kind of thing I want on the website."
I bite back my caustic rejoinder of, 'Well, good luck with that.' Instead, I give a small grunt in response. "I don't really know what to make of this," I answer truthfully. "I suppose as long as it doesn't conflict with my Council of Evil business, it's fine though."
"You are really slow on the uptake," Haruhi chides me.
"I can't see why you would think that," I tell her as earnestly as possible.
"There are none so blind as those who will not see," she says, with remarkable gravity.
I want to laugh, but instead respond with the same seriousness, agreeing, "Truer words have never been spoken, Suzumiya-san."
She makes a satisfied noise at that, and her steps lead her back to the computer, where the quiet tap of keys resumes.
Haruhi is always the first to go, and after her, Asahina excuses herself as well. Once Nagato and I are alone, she walks to my side on almost completely silent feet, the fingertips of one hand touching gently on my shoulder.
"Yes, right," I say, shaking off my admitted nervousness. "I'm sorry if I do anything wrong, or bother your family ... I haven't ever done this before."
I rise from my seat, and Nagato takes my hand after handing me my bag. I follow her silent guidance to the shoe lockers, and after that, she leads me into the warmth of the afternoon.
I know almost nothing about this girl, and quiet people, by-and-large, have always been a mystery to me. I'm not really worried ... my mother seemed convinced that it would be fine, after all.
It's just that none of that tells me what to say or do here.
We walk the familiar route to the train station, and then turn to one side, going an unfamiliar direction. Eventually, we reach a point where she pauses, opening a security door to the lobby of her apartment building before we ride an elevator up some distance.
Not much longer after that, she leads me through another door to the place where she actually lives.
I'm seated at the table and handed a cup of tea before I ask, "Is your entire family as quiet as you?"
"I am alone," she answers.
Disconcerting. I would be hopeless without my mother and sister. How does Nagato get by?
"I didn't have any idea," I tell her honestly.
She shifts about and her quiet feet pad across the rug. "I will prepare dinner," she says in that whisper-soft voice.
Without anything better to do, I give the level five AI a break from its largely victorious streak and lose myself in the book Nagato gave me for a while.
I shouldn't be critical, but this is honestly a bit more boring than I had anticipated.
Some time later, with almost no sounds of cooking, the smell of curry begins to fill the air. Not long after that, Nagato re-enters the room. I clear the book off the table and she sets a plate in front of me with a clank before taking her own seat. "Tea," she comments, notifying me that she's refreshed the teapot.
"Thank you," I tell her earnestly, finding the chopsticks and hesitantly trying the curry. Nothing to write home about, but no real complaints. It's decent, I guess.
After I finish eating, I set the chopsticks down on the plate and prompt, "Nagato ... I appreciate you inviting me over, but I have to admit; I don't understand why you asked me here."
She takes a soft breath and begins suddenly, haltingly, explaining, "There is an issue concerning myself and Suzumiya Haruhi. Words may not be sufficient to explain the situation. Despite that, your attention is requested."
I can imagine far too many things that don't really make sense at that. "Ah ... okay," I allow. "Though I think it should be obvious, you have it."
She pauses, presumably collecting herself in the silence before she explains, "Suzumiya Haruhi and myself are not ordinary humans."
"Yeah, I get that," I acknowledge, shrugging. "I'm not really a typical example myself."
"That..." She starts speaking before trailing off, clearly at a loss for what to say next. Finally she says, "In this case, you are relatively normal."
I get that, too, but I don't say anything else.
A moment later, Nagato launches into her explanation. Once she concludes telling me that she's the advance for an alien civilization, sent to observe Haruhi, but distracted by my 'interference', I tell her, "I don't think you're very funny, Nagato-san. I had really hoped that-"
I cut myself off right there.
Instead I say, "Thank you very much for the meal and the story. I'd like to leave, now."
"You do not believe me."
"You're just another name on the list, Nagato-san."
"I..." She trails off, her voice troubled. "List?"
I don't let myself tell her about that - but she's right after Asahina and Ryouko. Maybe one of them will tell her.
"I'll find my own way home," I decide.
"I will take you."
"No, thank you."
"Why do you look so exhausted?" Haruhi asks me the next day, when she sits down behind me.
"Someone decided to play a practical joke at my expense," I answer without thinking about it. "I took a long time to get home."
Followed by the fact that I wasn't about to tell my mother what really happened ... so she filled in the blanks and then gave me a stern lecture about 'responsibility', which was really fun.
I mean, it was an awesome time, and the ideal follow up to last night's post-dinner discussion.
"What?" Haruhi asks, suddenly indignant. "Who's picking on one of my Brigade members!"
The other Brigade members?
Saving myself a great deal of trouble, I sigh and rest my head on my crossed arms. "It was Batman. He came in out of no-where and stole my prototype gun-gun."
"You know, that thing that would finally get Superman off our backs, so we could rule the world?" I shake my head. "Some days, it really just doesn't pay to be evil."
"Damn it!" she snaps. "Don't joke around like that! Looking so upset over a- Ugh!" She grumbles loudly in annoyance, then more quietly, in that whisper, "Don't make me worry about you like that..."
At least Haruhi's not mean, just oblivious.
I hate that list. Why did I even make a joke about it?
And of course, now it's real, and taken on some sort of malevolent sentience.
Normal high school life. That's all I wanted. And then ... this?
The next few club days are fairly mellow, with Haruhi discussing ideas for places to search for aliens and espers with myself and Asahina. I don't want to bear a grudge against Nagato, but I admit I'm somewhat relieved she doesn't contribute to discussion except when Haruhi prods her. For myself, search locations are naturally limited, so I abandon reason and suggest mythical or fantastic places. This seems to amuse Haruhi, at least.
I'm sure I'll get over it ... and it could be that maybe Nagato just doesn't know how to talk to people. I can be in the same club with her, but after that, well, friend might take a while.
If anyone else notices, they don't remark on it, so I think that things might actually calm down for a bit.
The following Tuesday, of course, I find a note in my locker.
Despite a very strong urge to ignore the missive, I find myself loitering in the hallway outside of the classroom once Haruhi dismisses us.
Not sure what to make of the note, but deciding that I should at least believe that anyone who would bother going through the trouble was sincere, I let myself into the room at the appointed time. "Hello?" I asked, having - naturally - no idea who might have sent me the message.
"Ah, hello," Ryouko answers, her voice sounding faintly troubled.
I stop a few steps into the room and wonder, "What is it that you wanted me here for? And why a note instead of asking me directly?"
"I'll explain that in a bit," she says hesitantly. "I'd like to ask you a question, first, though. I suppose you could say that I asked you here to ask you a question?"
"Okay ... I guess. Is this something about Haruhi?"
"Yes! Well ... somewhat... Actually, let's disregard that for the moment. This is, a bit, more about initiative, I suppose?"
"You sound very uncertain," I remark. Her feet were shifting in place as her balance went from side to side with the force of her indecision; the quiet grinding noise of the few particles that the cleaning team had missed against the floor breaks the otherwise completely quiet air. "Calm down ... what's bothering you? Were my jokes too much?"
"Ah, no, no... I can't feel you've ever overstepped any bounds, personally. At least, not in my observation," she assures me, stepping closer and placing the fingertips of one hand on my shoulder. "Um, no, it's more... Let's say that a situation has become stable, but also uninteresting because of that stability. Does that make sense?"
"I can imagine that," I allow. There's a certain amount of dissatisfaction with my current situation, as things stand, though it has ... more or less ... worked out in a reasonable manner.
"So ... when it's stable, wouldn't it be okay to upset that, in the search for something more interesting?"
"For a whole series of reasons, I can't blindly say 'yes' to that," I return, frowning. "Thinking about it ... if things aren't broken, why fix them?"
"But ... they are uninteresting... It's all so stagnant..."
Well, she's the kind of girl who made class president. No wonder she's tired of all of the boys at this school - myself included. "In that case, maybe you should consider how to change the environment."
"That takes rather a lot more authority than I think I can get away with, long-term," she mused. "It would be an abuse of authority, certainly."
"Well ... I meant by that, changing which environment you're in, not altering your current environment entirely to suit you."
"Oh ... I had liked the first one a bit more..."
I can't help but laugh. "Being honest, don't we all? But really, I think that's one of the lessons we're supposed to be learning here at school, certainly much more than math or science or anything like that in particular - it's how to deal with the world. If things here aren't satisfying for you, shouldn't you instead maybe consider finding some place where things are more to your liking?"
She's quiet for a long moment, her grip on my shoulders tightening before she sighs. "Aha... It was foolish of me to hope for otherwise, I suspect... The idea of a sweeping dramatic approach - a truly jarring, maybe even alarming change in the social dynamic... But you're right, too. In that case ... really-"
"You will not-" Nagato's voice breaks through Ryouko's speech, and I almost turn, hearing her behind me. Instead of facing her, I keep my attention on Ryouko, though. "What is..." After a heartbeat she sighs and says, "I see."
"What?" I ask.
Ryouko's arm shifts a bit, and the pressure of her fingertips increases before it suddenly lessens, incredibly faint at the end. "U...um, hehe, I ... already overstepped my bounds, didn't I? Oh, well - I can tell you that I hope with your future, you're happy, hmm?"
I don't understand... "Nagato- What do you have to do with this? And what are you talking about, Asakura?"
"Ah- I have to go, and was considering... Well, we may meet again, Kyon, but somehow, I think..." She trails off and giggles, though it sounds somewhat pained. "Oh, well - take care of that girl there, won't you? As the departing class representative, and the most protective member of your little club - you've got an important duty! So ... good luck!" And then, her breath was against my face, and the next thing I knew, I could feel her lips pressing against my cheek, the softness of her nose pressing into my face gently as her hair brushed my forehead, and the sensation of her hand on my shoulder fell away, dissolving as though it had never been.
Something amazing happened again, there. Before I could get my bearings or really understand what was going on, my vision filled with those same blurry smears, completely dazing me.
I got sense of my surroundings in an awkward position on the floor, held in someone's arms. My face was in the - and I try not to be critical here - limited softness of a small but undoubtedly female chest. All the same, let's be honest; no man complains about a pillow of this sort.
Unless they have a better option, but I admit, in my dazed state, my mind wanders far, far afield.
"For-for-for~got my ba- Oh," Taniguchi barks, along with the sounds of the door being slammed open behind me. "Um... S...so, should I offer my help or is everything in order here?"
"Everything is fine," Nagato's voice answers.
"Right on! I- Well, take care!" The door slams shut again.
Silence for a moment, Nagato's soft breath brushing against my cheek, my head still pillowed on her chest as I'm sprawled on the floor.
"Asakura Ryouko is a friend of mine," Nagato explains, somewhat haltingly. "She engaged me to confuse you with a prank. When this did not work as planned, I persuaded her to more seriously consider her motivation for doing this, as I deeply regretted your reaction to my involvement in this plot."
I spend a minute digesting this.
"What do you really feel, then?" I wonder.
"It would be ideal if we could be friends."
Those thoughts were on my mind, as it so happened. Ryouko put her up to that prank, though?
In answer to my unspoken question, she continued, "Asakura Ryouko's motivation, to clarify, is that she wanted to cause you trouble because she was romantically interested in you, but did not realize this until after she'd suggested distance between you. After this, she engaged in her juvenile tactics and coerced me..." She trails off there, and the fingertips of one of her hands traces across my forehead, banishing the last of the trembling, greasy lights in my vision.
"I guess I'm sorry I took it out on you, if it was actually her fault," I allow.
"Suzumiya Haruhi, however, may have a negative reaction to the disclosure of this information."
"I'm not sure I really see why."
There's a pause before Nagato sighs very, very softly, and says, "She will see it as a missed opportunity to regain your trust and good graces by defending you from Asakura Ryouko. She may attempt to extract some measure of vengeance or otherwise retaliate against me to satisfy the desire for that same thing."
"So, basically ... because you and Ryouko were friends, you want me to play dumb about that story you told me, and what happened in here so that Haruhi doesn't take it out on you?"
I guess that's not actually too unreasonable. I still don't get it, exactly, and there's no reason to give full one hundred percent trust to Nagato - especially given that she did play along with Ryouko's scheme ... whatever that was - but then, she's probably easily cowed by either Ryouko or Haruhi. I can actually understand that, though.
But, how did I end up on the floor?
"Asakura Ryouko stumbled and happened to forcefully trip you. This was ... entirely on accident. She fled from shame, and due to a need to catch her flight."
Alright, then... And Nagato's presence?
"I was concerned for your wellbeing considering past interactions between her and yourself." No hesitation on that one, and honestly, I believe that.
"In that case, I probably should get home soon."
"I will walk you to the station," she agrees, helping me to my feet, levering me off her chest.
Hmm. I guess we have to stick together, or something like that?
"Thanks then, Nagato."
"It is nothing."
The following day was the worst day of my life.
It didn't feel that way when it started. Everything went as I'd expect it to normally - alarm goes off, get up, brush teeth, wash, get dressed, breakfast, brush teeth again (might as well, right?), begin the walk to school...
Even alone, everything is fine, and Asahina meets me at the train station to walk to school with me.
The obvious issue withstanding, spending time with her isn't so bad, and then it's time for class. Haruhi is already bouncing in her seat when I work my way to my own seat. "Blinded by grief, eh? Give it up - you were close to Asakura, so what happened?"
"I don't know a thing," I lied. I knew a little, but I had hit my head, so I had no idea how reliable any of it was.
"Huh," Haruhi sulked, clearly unconvinced.
She drilled me with different wordings of the same question all day during breaks, until finally deciding at lunch that I genuinely was clueless, and dismissing the others from the club. At the end of class, she hauled me along with her by my hand, instead of my necktie. For the sake of the novelty, I allowed this, and she grumbled, leading me after her out of the school.
"Slow down!" I insisted, nearly stumbling with every single curb.
"You speed up!" she demanded. "You're so dumb!"
"How is speed even related to intelligence?"
Grudgingly, she did slow down, working up a fuming temper the entire time, starting with a diatribe against school in general, but specifically the conspiracy that was trying to conceal the circumstances of Ryouko's departure.
Eventually, we made it to an unfamiliar location. Through some means, Haruhi got us through a number of doors she labeled, 'weakly secured', and then disguised herself as a charming, sweet, innocent schoolgirl who just-so-happened to be looking for her friend.
It's even possible that while I wasn't paying attention she left the room, and someone else took over for her.
She extracted some information from the man behind the counter - evidently Ryouko had paid in cash, the man had never seen her other family, and she'd vanished in the night to move to Canada without any further explanation.
Haruhi was deeply dissatisfied with this, but she didn't express this in words until after I was hauled through the security doors with her, outside once more.
She led me with her in annoyed silence for a time, until I began to wonder how I would ever get home. "Let me tell you something," she said abruptly, coming to a stop somewhere, and turning me - by force - to face her. "I can see on your face, even though you don't have the chutzpa to say it, that you think my club and my ideas are stupid."
"I never said anything like that," I protest.
She chuckled humorlessly. "Let me see your phone," she demanded.
I was concerned enough. "Where are we going, anyway? Do you even have a destination in mind?"
"Shut up! Listen it's... So, nowhere."
Despite my misgivings, I handed it over, uncertain where this was going. It beeped and clicked as she mercilessly pummeled the buttons. "Okay," she said, after a minute, handing it back to me. "Now, listen close, alright?"
"I'm listening," I allow.
"So ... do you know what it's like to feel unimportant?
"I'm not talking about something that comes along that you're not part of - I mean, truly irrelevant. Like, nothing at all matters, alright?
"There's a reason I feel the need to search for the amazing. So, in sixth grade, I went to see a baseball game with my family."
I can't help but stiffen at that. She either doesn't notice, or doesn't care. I'm not sure which.
"And ... when I was there, at one point, I saw everyone in the stadium, packed in like wiggling grains of rice. I asked, 'How many people are there', right?"
"Well, my dad said, 'Probably as many as fifty thousand, maybe?' I had thought before he said that, 'Hey, did the entire country come here all of the sudden to watch this one game?' And then later ... when I got home, I did some math. Do you know what fraction of the nation fifty thousand people is?"
"Something around ... what would it be, zero point zero five percent, something like that?" I knew a lot of stats about the nearest stadium, as it turned out.
"Huh! Smart-ass!" She fumes for a moment, and there's the thunderous sound and vaguely nauseating sensation of something huge moving past as a train roars along. When it passes, Haruhi has somewhat calmed and says, "Well ... maybe somehow you, of all people might get it, huh?"
"I follow you so far," I allow. "But what's your point?"
"The point is this! Of all the people in that stadium, some of them surely must have an interesting life! At least one of them! If there was only one, why the hell couldn't it be me?" she complained.
"After that everything was so dull... It was- It was like the color had faded from everything, can you imagine?"
"Mm, yeah, no trouble imagining that at all."
"You and your attitude!" she cries, her voice hitching on the verge of hysteria. Have I been overdoing it? I can't feel I am ... but then, this is only her half of the story.
"Sorry, go on? I'll be good," I sigh.
"Er... A...anyway," she says, coughing, "what I'm saying is that no matter what I'm not going to give up! I'm not every going to quit! I'm going to find something amazing, something truly special and astounding! I don't ... don't really know what it is with one hundred percent certainty at this point, but then, if I knew, what kind of mystery would it be to uncover! I'll never give up or stop - I'll always, always keep on searching for that brighter future!"
"That's ... inspiring," I answer, somewhat flatly.
"Oh- Whatever! I expect you to keep pressing on, too- So, you've given up on finding something amazing and remarkable with Ryouko."
You don't know the half of it.
"Whatever! We're going to keep on looking for something amazing, even if it has to be something else! So fine - you're dismissed. With that, let's go!"
She stepped away from me, just ahead of the sound of the gates going down before another train thundered past.
What a stupid, selfish little girl.
As it turns out, there are some things to consider. I will relate a number of details that I couldn't have known at the time barring omniscience, or at least some form of telepathy, but I know them now, so I'll spare you some minor agony. First, some review, for things both you and I should know.
The cell phone is an interesting device, though I'll admit, I've never become particularly adept at using it outside of calling certain, important people. It does a lot of things I don't care about because I've got this awesome PDA.
I also tend not to pay much attention to cell phone numbers, because they're a pain, and I have the magic of speed-dial.
On this particular day, speed dial one went to Haruhi's voice mail box. This did not help me in the slightest, so I hung up without leaving a message. No one was home; my mother was at a late meeting, and my sister had her phone off because she was seeing a movie with her friend Miyokichi. Kunikida's phone went to voice-mail - again, I passed on leaving a message.
I skipped over that middle-school girl, though I called home and did leave a message, explaining ... some ... of my current situation. It would be a while before it got an answer, but I had to hope. After that, I called Taniguchi, since he had insisted I have his number.
There was no answer there, either, but I left a voice mail anyway. After that, another call and voice-mail to Kunikida, and I began to wonder why I hadn't thought to have my uncle's number saved for situations like this.
You may call me pathetic, or a quitter, but given my situation - hell, I wasn't even entirely certain how close I was to the train, which it felt at that moment ran far too frequently. So, I called emergency services, since it was a number I could remember.
Two days later, after uncomfortable circumstances I don't particularly wish to relate here, I was back at school again.
Asahina met me at the train station, sniffling quietly - revealing her presence before she even announced herself, actually. She wordlessly took my arm and led me up the hill to my classroom, where I claimed a seat before the majority of the class arrived.
Not long after that Haruhi stormed in, stomping across the classroom, unmindful of the fact that a careless collision on her part bumps into a desk and sends it scraping across the floor. "Kyon!" she roars. "Where the hell have you been?"
A number of other students have arrived - though I can't tell because that strange thing where I see stars is happening again, thanks to Haruhi grabbing my coat and jerking me around, causing my head to shake back and forth.
Almost as quickly as that starts, she's wrenched off me, and Taniguchi's angry voice cuts in, "That's enough, Suzumiya, you stupid bitch!"
I had thought things were bad enough given what I had to do to convince my mother to let me go back to class.
"How the hell do you get off-" Haruhi begins.
"Enough! I know what you did to Kyon!"
"I- What?" Haruhi sounds completely confused, and - despite everything - I actually start to feel embarrassed for her.
"You idiot! You ditched him in the middle of nowhere, some place he's never been before, and replaced his mom's cell phone number with your own in his phone book?"
"S...so?" she retorts hotly. "It's not like he's an e...elementary student!"
"No!" Taniguchi roars, before I hear stumbling, and someone fall, landing to sit heavily on the floor, palms slapping the tiles loudly. "He's blind!"
"Oh, no way," one of the other students, near the back of the room whispers in awe. "Seriously - Suzumiya was really that ignorant?"
"Better ignorant than intentionally cruel," someone else retorts.
Well, I think my school life is just about ruined.
So, thanks for that, Taniguchi.
"N...no," Haruhi moans weakly from the floor. "T...that- I-" And then she scrambles to her feet and I hear her thunder away, crying...
...again, I guess.
Haruhi avoids class for a while, and since I fought so hard to stay, I don't drop out of school, even though I feel more like an object of pity than anything else. I still go to the club, motivated more by Asahina and her strange behavior - helping me to school in a mysterious suffering silence - and Nagato's odd request that I be her friend.
And, I guess because she's a member of the literary club, she's able to find copies of books in braille, which is a fun alternative to recorded books. I really appreciate that, actually.
It's the second session of that club that Haruhi returns, though she skipped school that day. She comes in after we've settled down and Asahina has served the three of us tea from a set she thought to add to the other strange things Haruhi had stacked in the room.
I can tell it's her footsteps outside the door. She pauses for a while, and I go ahead and finish my current page of 'Stranger in a Strange Land'. Not long after that, she sighs and opens the door, though with less than her usual enthusiasm.
"H...hey," she calls in greeting weakly.
"Hello, Suzumiya-san," Asahina says cautiously.
"Hello," Yuki echoes.
"Nice to see you," I say, smirking.
"Y... Ah, heh... You..." Haruhi clears her throat and then closes the door, stepping around the table and taking her usual seat. "Um, so... I don't- Okay, it's too late to not want to be stupid, and I guess it's pointless to say that much. God ... I get it, though. I was so distracted by my search for things that were amazing, I made something amazing myself after all-
"Suzumiya Haruhi - the incredibly stupid girl - W-who manages to s-somehow not even notice that the o-only person she really p-pays attention to is d-d-different, h-huh?" Her voice picks up a tremble long before she pauses for breath, then she shifts, and I hear the wood of the desk creaking; I imagine it in her grip. "So ... I have to apologize, because... W...what Taniguchi said is true, and th...there's probably no reason to search for the amazing until I can even s- notice the things around me, right?"
"Don't be ... too hard on yourself," I allow. "I mean ... my eyes look fine, I hear, and I kind of went out of my way to try and keep you from knowing about it. I've had most of middle-school to practice... So, it blew up in my face, but..." And I think about it, but being honest, "I can't really hold it entirely against you. I mean, a little, but I'm not that angry considering how much of it is my own fault, huh?"
"I... Hehe," she starts, laughing uneasily. "I guess so... Say, how d...did it happen, if um ... I can ask anyway? You weren't ... born unable to see?"
I settle back into my chair and think a little.
Did I want to share this with Asahina and Nagato?
What the hell... Most of the facts are out there anyway.
"About ... five years ago, my father was going to take me to a baseball game," I start. "Um ... there was a ... a truck in front of us. One of those big delivery platform trucks, you know? It was filled with cement piping segments a half meter across. Someone had secured them properly, and then later, someone else had filled them with lose rebar that was being moved between sites.
"This had the effect of unbalancing the load..."
There's the sound of Asahina's soft gasp, the rustle of Nagato turning a page in her book, and then the squeak of Haruhi's chair as she adjusts her position.
"Um ... I remember it really well, actually." It's the last thing I ever saw, after all. Several tons of rebar-filled cement tubing suddenly landing across the hood of our car as we pulled away, into traffic... The pickup with the terrified driver to our right, trying to somehow evade, the storm of bars being launched through the compartment of the vehicle like buckshot, most of them only clipping me, catching me slightly. To the side, the central mass of steel was...
In the driver's seat...
"A...after three months in the hospital, I started rehabilitation. So, my eyes are undamaged, but the optic nerves have been severed. They react to light, still, but the rest of my brain can't receive any signals from them, really. Anyway, um ... my uncle on my mother's side is a lawyer, so he sued the transport company.
"The uncle on my father's side owned a small computer firm that was going under - they invested the proceeds from the court case and the ... insurance from my father... Well, after my medical expenses were taken care of, the money mostly went into developing things like this." I heft the PDA in one hand, angling it so Haruhi can examine it more closely - I think.
"Oh," she exclaims softly, realization seeming to set in. "Hey! It's exactly as I guessed! Your family does own some sort of computer conglomerate!"
"It's a small company," I say, personally doubtful. "But ... I really like the stuff they make."
"Huh... That's... Well, you haven't really said you've forgiven me, and I have to admit, even if you do want to say I'm not entirely to blame... I do feel stupid, and that you have to let me do something to make it up for you!"
"Well, then I leave that to be your responsibility to figure out what that thing you have to do is," I retort, putting my PDA down on the table before me. "Now that you know my big..." and I have to chuckle a little bit at this, "secret, haven't I become dull to you yet?"
"Hardly!" she protests. "You have some amazing skill to get by without being able to see! Hey- Hey, if you were trying to see how long you could keep me from noticing, what was your plan?"
"I don't know," I admit, shrugging. "It was kind of just a misguided prank, you know? I thought it was kind of funny..."
She makes an angry noise before she sighs. "You're probably right," she allows. "Well, what about your bigger plans? You know, your hopes and dreams?"
I think about that a bit, then say, "Well, my plans are really, really boring. Behind the council of evil jokes, and everything."
"Those are kind of funny..."
"Only kinda? I'm flying blind here!"
Asahina giggles before gasping in embarrassment. "Oh, I shouldn't have-"
"It's fine," I assure her, before she can get really started.
"Well, in that case ... what were those plans though, Kyon-kun?" Asahina wonders.
"I am curious, too," Nagato adds, not sounding ... quite as interested as her question suggested.
"Nothing big," I sigh. "I mean ... go to school ... make some friends... Maybe at some point meet a nice girl..."
"Eh~!" Haruhi chirps, suddenly sounding far too happy, as her chair makes skating noises across the floor. "Is that- Ehe, you've never had a girlfriend?"
"Well, we've been over that, for some reason..."
"Hehe," Haruhi chuckles, sounding mysteriously pleased. "Okay. Okay! That decides me!" Her voice has circled around to behind me, and her fingertips suddenly touch on my shoulders. I can feel her breath tickling the top of my head - strangely, even the scar where my hair has turned bristly and stiff seems to feel it. "I think some of what I said to you last is still applicable.
"At the same time, you've opened my eyes ... er... I..." She coughs, one hand rising briefly to smother it before she quickly continues, "You've made me more aware of amazing things that I could have overloo- uh, missed by being close-minded. So ... if one of the things you're seeking is friends, then I'm going to try really hard to be one- Because you're amazing, and that's the kind of person I've been trying to have fun with!"
"What, really?" I wonder, somewhat surprised as her fingertips creep down and her palms rest on my shoulders fully, thumbs pointing down my shoulder-blades. It makes me shiver nervously.
"Ah..." Asahina breathes. "O...oh, but, that's true, Suzumiya-san! I agree! Kyon-kun- You're really amazing!"
"Hah-" Haruhi starts to laugh again before catching herself, her breath tickling my scalp again.
Strange sensation; I wish I could say I disliked it.
"Um... But ... thinking I might have missed things I shouldn't ... do you think that maybe ... letting Yuki have this club back as a literary club is..." She trails off without completing the thought.
"It is not needed," Nagato returns. "This is fine."
"No; you deserve your club back," Haruhi decides. "W...we can just also do other stuff, right? And, hey, if someone else joins, then it won't matter, because we can do whatever else we like outside of school as friends! That Brigade thing wasn't taking off anyway."
"Really?" I wonder. "I heard- I'm not clear on everything, but I heard that there was a transfer student recently, and you might want to investigate him or her for mysterious circumstances, right?"
"I've got to l- search closer before I search further," Haruhi declares, shifting her grip and dragging my chair backwards a few steps before she shifts herself in front of me, taking my hands in her own. "So, maybe later we can check that out. For now, I've realized you don't even have any idea what kind of appearance I have!"
"That's true," I admit.
"Heh," she chuckles, slowly moving my hands to her face, presumably crouching before me. "So," she murmurs, before falling silent, "someone told you about my hair, huh?"
...she's pretty sharp after all, I guess. At least, when she focuses.
"Alright! Who's up for an outing this weekend? The four of us, so far, and, hmm ... what can we do? Hey! Let's check online for a library with a braille section, huh?"
"That sounds interesting!" Asahina agrees without hesitation.
"...very interesting," Nagato chimes in quietly, not much later.
"Um ... well, I'm not sure my mom wants to let me out alone..." I admit. "Given that I told her, eh ... that I got lost on my own a few days ago..."
Haruhi gasps softly at that, as I finish exploring her face - committing it to memory. I guess, really, she is pretty, actually. Soft - that's for certain; her skin is amazingly smooth...
"W...well, we'll meet up at your house, and your mom will have a chance to meet us all," Haruhi decides abruptly, rising to her feet, incidentally filling my hands with something ... very firm, but also soft ... for a heartbeat before she squeaks, Asahina gasps, and I hear what I gather is a soft chuckle from Nagato. "Ah... Em... Er... W...well! Anyway, we'll promise to take care of you!"
"Y...yes," Asahina agrees, sounding like she's trying to stifle a giggle of her own.
"That is fine," Nagato chimes in.
And then, hey, after a terrible day, why not a great one? So maybe things will work out, and Haruhi seems nice enough when I'm not trying to be 'clever' and hide things from her...
...maybe, somehow, that girlfriend thing I'm hoping for will work out anyway, huh?
Author's notes: So there you have it. Been working on this one off-and-on for ... eh ... a few months. It's just a kind of an idle thought, and then grew into this, and ... here it is. Posted as a one-shot, because it kind of doesn't go further. ;3
Well, it does, but I don't need to tell that story. Originally, I was just trying to see how long I could carry it before it was obvious what the difference was, but then I decided that the actual story of how Haruhi would handle interacting with someone who was disabled was more interesting. Plus, I wanted to see if I could write from such a PoV...
Nagato's probably somewhat OOC, but if she weren't, she would be practically inobservable to the narrator of the story. Well, it may be reasonable to say the entity has instituted some social protocol for such situations, though.