Disclaimer: The characters from the Suzumiya Haruhi series are the property of Nagaru Tanigawa; Yukari belongs to ZUN, at least as far as she belongs to anyone. I suspect she's got her own ideas about that. No disrespect to either creator is intended; I'm just giving my poor account of a meeting between two rather unusual people.

A big 'thanks' to Brian Randall for his help in being a sounding board and giving this a once-over before I published it.

Yesterday has to be one of the most bizarre days I've had in a long time, and I'm not even sure how much of it was real! If that woman wasn't just me imagining things, though...

I'm probably getting ahead of myself if I want this to make any kind of sense though. I should probably go back to the beginning and start over.

The Brigade met up as usual for our weekend city search this week; it was pretty low attendance, though - Koizumi and Yuki made excuses and bailed out. I'd have complained more, but I have to admit that lately I've been less enthusiastic about these searches - they're fun for hanging out, sure, but we never actually find anything strange, or even slightly unusual.

Until today anyway.

The search itself went about the same as usual, although I'll... admit I was probably keeping a closer eye on Kyon and Mikuru than looking for weird things. All the same, I did catch sight of something strange - a woman in a long purple dress with a parasol - but I only caught a glimpse out of the corner of my eye, and neither Kyon or Mikuru said they'd seen her when I asked them.

I figured it was just someone cosplaying in public, which while it's cool in itself, is not really the kind of strange and unusual thing I'm looking for. At least I didn't think it was the kind of thing I was looking for, until after the search broke up.

After Kyon and Mikuru headed off at the station, I decided to head back to our usual cafe to pick up a drink before I went home myself. It was after I'd gotten a table to sit down and finish my drink that she showed up again - yes, that same cosplayer I'd seen before. Without even asking, she just sat down at the other side of my table and started in on what may be the weirdest conversation I've ever had - and you'd better believe I have pretty high standards for that kind of thing!

The woman chuckled for a minute, then leaned on her hand as she looked at me across the table. "Well, well, well. Who'd ever have imagined that I'd find another on this side."

I give her a scowl in reply. "Excuse me, are you talking to me? Isn't it kind of rude to sit at someone's table without asking, much less start talking to them out of nowhere! You should at least introduce yourself!"

She seems to find that funny for some reason, breaking out into a real laugh - which irritates me even more. "Yes, yes, I suppose that's true," she admits, her smile fading to something a bit more wistful. "You can just call me Yukari; I doubt my other name would mean much to you." She shakes her head a bit at that. "And since I've gotten my side of the formalities out of the way, whom do I have the pleasure of addressing?"

"Haruhi," I grit. If she's not going to give her family name, I'm not either - two can play at this game. I know I'm being rude, but my mood was already starting to go sour with the half-assed search and having to watch Kyon and Mikuru the whole time. "What do you want, I'm not really in the mood to talk right now."

She smirks at that - at me! - and shakes her finger. "Now now, that's no way to behave," she scolds. "I've come a long way to see what you've been doing, and I think you should have a little more interest in what I have to say once we have a chance to talk."

With that, she draws a line in the air - and I can literally feel my anger shrinking away, being replaced by curiosity. It's a weird feeling to describe; I have to admit I was a little curious why some complete stranger would be talking to me, but not this curious! It's definitely not natural, and more than a little creepy - and with that smirk on Yukari's face it's completely obvious it's something she did to me.

My mouth literally falls open. "What... who are you?"

"We just went over that," she replies with a smirk - it's like talking to a female version of Kyon, but as amusing as that mental image is it takes a backseat to the fact that sitting across the table from me is most DEFINITELY a strange and unique person - or is that just that weird curiosity talking? Now I'm not even sure! "As far as what I am, well... that's not really so important, is it? It should be enough to say that I'm... someone much like yourself, perhaps in a different form." She settles back in her seat, the smirk softening into a knowing smile.

"What do you mean, like me?" I'm babbling - I can tell I'm babbling, but I can't seem to stop myself. "I can't do anything like that - how could I be anything like you? And what do you mean it's not important what you are? I've been looking for people like you for ages!"

"What kind of person do you think I am?" Yukari raises an eyebrow.

"Well, obviously you're some kind of esper or psychic, or how else could you have controlled my mind?" I blurt out in reply. "I mean, you stopped me from being angry - you can't tell me it wasn't you that did that!"

"Well, yes, it was me," the blonde admits. "I didn't actually control your mind, though; it's more accurate to say that I have a very good understanding of the balance between things, and by changing that balance I can change a lot of other things - like your emotions."

She gives me a slightly puzzled look at that. "Surely you can do as much yourself, though? I suspect the method is a bit different, but..."

"Are you kidding?" My eyes widen in shock. "I'd absolutely love it if I could do something like that, but I definitely don't have any kind of strange powers."

"I'm not... oh my, you're completely serious, aren't you? You don't have any idea what you... oh, now that's just precious!"

With that, she breaks out into a full laugh, and I can feel my anger bubbling up, but pressing against whatever it is she did to make me less angry to begin with - it makes my chest feel tight, and I grit my teeth. "Urgh... this may be funny to you, but I don't like you talking about me like I'm not sitting right in front of you! And can you stop messing with my anger, this feels really weird!"

"Sorry, sorry," she says, her laughter trailing off. She waves a hand in the air absently, and the pressure on my chest is gone all of a sudden, which makes me gasp. I'm a bit more angry than I was a minute ago, but the curiosity is still there - and it feels a lot more like it's balanced naturally, so I'll assume she really did stop whatever it was she did. "I won't say anything more about you, then."

"No way! You can't just tell me I've got mysterious powers and then not tell me what they are! Or are you just messing with me?" I frown.

"No, I'm being perfectly serious," the purple-clad woman replies with a smile. "You do have abilities beyond what most humans have, but for your own sake I won't tell you what they are. I can tell you from personal experience it's much more satisfying when you have to work to accomplish a goal, rather than simply having it handed to you, so I'll just leave it at that. You'll find out on your own in time what it is you can do, I'm quite sure."

I cross my arms under my chest and sit back at that. "I still think you're messing with me," I retort. "If you aren't here to tell me what my powers are, why did you come here?"

"Well, as I said, we're somewhat similar in a way, but given current circumstances I'm not really going to go into the details of how," Yukari replies with a smile. "My original thought was just to introduce myself and see if you had any particular plans... although I suppose that's still not a bad place to start, if you don't mind sharing."

Well, this one's easy to answer. I puff my chest out and prepare to make my usual announcement, but Yukari puts a finger to her lips. "No need to shout, my hearing is just fine."

I deflate somewhat at that. "I... someone told me, a while back, that aliens, time travelers, and espers were really real! So ever since then, I've been looking for them - I want to find them and have all kinds of fun with them! I'll admit, I haven't been able to find them so far, but I'm sure they have to be out there! And if you're sitting here across from me, that's certainly proof that there are unusual people out there for me to find!"

"Well, I'm not any of those," Yukari replies. "I've never run across a time traveler myself, although I suppose it's not entirely out of the question. Aliens... well, the only ones I've met are rather stuffy and stuck-up, so I don't spend much time around them. I'm not sure exactly what you mean by an esper, though? It seems a bit vague."

"Espers! You know, psychic powers, mind-reading, that kind of thing!"

"Ah, I see. Well, I do know one person that can read minds, but believe me - if people can read your mind you're better off not being around them. Imagine someone interrupting you and finishing all your sentences, or stealing your ideas to use on other people! And they've always got this smug attitude, just because they know what you really mean..." Yukari huffs a bit than that - maybe I hit a nerve? "Definitely not any interest in those for me, although I suppose they wouldn't be so bad if they could do other things with their mind besides mind-reading."

I have to sit back at that - she's getting pretty worked up. "Whoa... I guess I never really thought about it like that," I admit. "Still, though, I have it on pretty good authority that they really exist, so I've been looking for them for a while!"

"So you truly believe that these people are real, and are out there for you to find?" She raises an eyebrow.

"Absolutely! Normal humans are boring, so there must be beings out there that are more interesting!"

That prompts another full laugh. "Normal humans can be a lot more interesting than you might think," she replies, her eyes twinkling. "Take it from someone who's met quite a number of them over the years - the most normal ones are always the ones that can surprise you more than anyone. And some of the ones with the more 'interesting' abilities tend to be rather dull and predictable."

"If you say so," I grumble.

"Call it the benefit of experience - I'm sure you'll find out for yourself as you learn more about the people around you," Yukari says. "Think about it, though; if you had some special ability or power outside of the ordinary, wouldn't you tend to fall back on using that whenever you ran into any kind of trouble? If you put that person into an unexpected situation, you can almost guarantee how they'll try to solve it; it's the person that doesn't have any unusual powers - unless you count normal intelligence and creativity - that really has the potential to come up with something you never expected. They don't always do so, but I'd rather take a gamble and lose from time to time than take a sure bet and win every single time."

I open my mouth to say that's not important, but then I actually stop for a minute and think about what she's said. It certainly sounds reasonable, but how could it not be interesting to see aliens and espers using flashy powers to defeat a villain? That would be awesome! Yukari pauses for a moment when she sees me try to talk, but I just shake my head a bit. "I'd still want to see the amazing abilities, though; even if that's what they always use, how could it not be fun to watch them doing things that normal people can't?"

"Oh, there's a certain attractiveness to novelty, of course; the problem is that novelty tends to wear itself out after a while," the purple-clad woman says. "Be that as it may, though, let's circle back around for a moment. I asked you whether you really believe that - and yes, I was paying attention, so you don't need to answer again. My advice is to hang on to that belief; it's more important than you might think it is."

"Belief is important?" I say doubtfully. "If they exist, they exist, and if they don't, they don't; whether I believe in them or not, it's not going to change the truth, whatever it is. I believe it, because I want it to be true, but if I'm wrong, I'm still wrong."

"Ah, the voice of logic," Yukari says, sounding resigned. "Let's consider something, then. You say you're interested in the unusual; I'd guess you're familiar with old myths and legends, then - the tales of oni and tengu, youkai and magic. Yes?"

"I... well, I know some of the stories. Things like kappa living in stagnant pools, or abandoned objects being left for a hundred years and coming alive, that kind of thing. But those are just legends - no one believes that those are actually real."

Yukari sighs a bit at that. "Don't I know it," she mutters, barely on the edge of my hearing. "What you say is true, but consider the times when those legends were first made, hundreds and thousands of years ago. Do you think the people back then believed they were real?"

I stop for a minute to consider that. "Well, maybe? I guess so... after all, if no one actually believed them, how would they have become legends in the first place?"

Yukari beams at that. "Excellent, you see right to the heart of the matter from the beginning! Yes, in the old times almost everyone believed in the stories. As an example, kappa living in stagnant ponds was originally a story meant to keep children from wandering around unclean water, either for fear of disease or falling in and drowning. There were always reasons for the stories, but people believed in them nonetheless, even when they knew it wasn't quite as simple as the legend made it out to be."

"So... you're saying that reason - logic - isn't necessarily a substitute for belief?" I frown a bit.

"You're on the right track, yes," Yukari replies. "Logic is wonderful; humanity wouldn't be where they are today if not for science and logic, but logical explanations don't necessarily have to replace belief in the fantastic or amazing that can explain the same things. Most humans have a hard time grasping that; if something has a logical explanation, they think that the logical answer is the only answer, and so they lose sight of even the possibility of the unusual. I imagine you've run into that yourself, if you've been searching for the fantastic; I doubt there are too many out there that think you'll actually find what you're looking for, hmm?"

I can't help but frown at that - as much as I hate to admit it, she's completely right. "That may be true," I mumble, "but not everyone thinks like that - I have friends that help me, after all! If they thought I was crazy, they wouldn't stick around, so they have to at least believe in part of it!"

Is that really true, though? Kyon's certainly complained enough about wasting time searching... but then again, he sticks with me anyway, so he must believe we can find something. Yuki's never really said much of anything either way, but she's always there to look, and she's never complained about any of my suggestions. Koizumi agrees with whatever I suggest, no matter what it is, and Mikuru... I'm not sure Mikuru even could say anything even if she didn't believe - but even if she couldn't say anything she could still leave, and she hasn't done that yet either.

Yukari's just watching me while I think; she almost looks... eager. "I'm very glad to hear that," she says, smiling a bit as she catches me looking at her. "It's important that you keep looking for what you believe in. However, I've got something I'd like you to see... would you be willing to go on a little stroll with me, Haruhi-chan?"

She looks a little too eager for this, I'll admit; I don't know if this is such a good idea... but then with such an unusual person, how can I pass up this chance, either? "You're not going to spirit me away or something, are you?" I say doubtfully. All this talk of legends brought that one back into my head, I guess.

For some reason that makes Yukari break out into the widest grin I think I've ever seen - it's actually kind of disturbing. "Ah~n, caught~" she says in a singsong voice. "You see right through me, Haruhi-chan - but would it be all right as long as I promise to bring you home afterwards?"

"What, you're serious?" I raise an eyebrow.

"Oh, deadly serious," she replies lightly, her grin calming down to something a bit more human. "Although I think if we stick together, there's not too much for us to worry about - I have a bit of a reputation in such places, after all." Her eyes twinkle. "It's an unusual offer for me to offer a round-trip ticket, I'll admit, but in your case I'm willing to make an exception. Once we're done, you'll be home in bed before you know it - you have my word."

"All right, I'll come," I agree - I'm still not convinced this is totally legitimate, but if there's even the slightest chance of finding out more about the only guaranteed extraordinary person I've ever met I'm definitely going to take it!

The woman in purple says nothing more, leading us out of the cafe and out to the trail by the brook in the park. We're just passing a park bench when she finally breaks the silence. "I'm going to tell you this because I think you'll believe it, and I want you to believe it - and if you believe it, I think it will be very, very interesting indeed, for both of us.

"There is a place where all the stories are true, all the legends are real. The place where the oni throw wild parties and drink their guests into oblivion, where the tengu share news on the wind and the kappa swim free in the rivers." While she's speaking, the world starts going dark. It's really weird to see in the middle of the day; it's like the middle of a solar eclipse even though there's nothing blocking out the sun. There's something creepy about it, though; my skin is starting to crawl, and it feels like a hundred eyes are staring at me from the shadows.

"There are humans there, but they know to be careful - not all the youkai are friendly, and even the ones that seem to be may be hiding what they truly are." I dart my eyes to the side to look at Yukari, and she's got that same unsettling grin as before. This is getting really weird, but I'm not going to back out now; I decide to simply close my eyes until the feeling passes. Yukari falls silent as I close my eyes, and slowly the sensation of being the center of attention fades away.

"Open your eyes, Haruhi-chan," Yukari whispers in my ear, her voice barely louder than a breath.

When I do, my mouth falls open in awe. We started out in the park, next to the little stream; wherever we are now, though, is unlike anything I've ever seen before in person.

I'm standing on the top of a tall hill, and stretching out in front of us is a vast, grassy plain. There's what looks like an old-fashioned Japanese village a few miles away at the base of the hills, and another smaller building some distance away, by the edge of a huge forest. The air is amazingly clear and pure; it's like standing up at the top of a mountain. While the scene itself isn't all that unusual, other than the complete lack of anything that looks even slightly modern, it's hard to really describe the way it feels. I hate to fall back on cliches, but it's like the sky is more blue and the grass is more green - like everything is too real to be real, like it's all larger than life. Bah, this is terrible - all I can put down are these cliches, but I can't really come up with any better way to describe what it was like.

As I turn around to take in more of the view, the most amazing thing comes into my vision - it's like a giant shimmering curtain of light draped across the hills. The hill we're on is empty, but maybe a mile away at the top of another hill I can see an old Shinto shrine, and the curtain seems to go right through the middle of it. "What... what is this place?" I manage to gasp out.

"This is my home," Yukari replies - and I jump, since her voice is coming from above me. I look up to see her literally hanging upside down, her long blonde hair almost touching my head as she looks down at me with that same grin. "The place I love most, the home of fantasy and illusion.

"Take a good look around, Suzumiya-san - look around and remember this place." As she speaks, some enormous insect... no. Not an insect. It's a fairy. A literal fairy - gossamer wings, maybe a quarter the size of a human, wearing a long dress and holding a flower - comes shooting straight towards me, until Yukari backhands it and it explodes into a shower of sparkling dust. "Annoying little things," she tuts. "Usually they know better than to bother me, but a human from outside... well, they've never been strong on either brains or common sense, really."

"Was that..." I gape at the dust as it falls to the ground. "Did you just kill it?"

"Oh, easily," Yukari replies, completely untroubled. "They're rather annoying little pests, really - although I wouldn't worry about it too much, it'll have itself back into shape within a few minutes, I'm sure. They never stay dead for too long."

"What! You're telling me I just saw a literal fairy, you just killed it, and it'll be back in a few minutes anyway?"

"I didn't tell you it was a fairy, you said it yourself," Yukari says matter-of-factly. "I did tell you that all the stories are true, after all; around here, you're quite likely to meet fairies, ghosts, and youkai of all descriptions. I could even introduce you to a couple, if you'd like."

"But this is... it's unbelievable! It's amazing!" I shout, which prompts a stern look from Yukari.

"Why is it unbelievable?" she says with a frown. "You have eyes, you have ears, you have your other senses. What do they tell you about what you just saw? Was it real?"

"It... it looked real enough," I stammer. "But fairies don't really exist - they're just something out of stories!"

"If they're only out of legends and stories, then, why did you just see one?" Yukari raises an eyebrow.

"I... wait, just before we got here, everything went dark, and I felt really strange - maybe I've been drugged and this is all a hallucination! I was drinking back at the cafe; maybe you put something in my drink and I'm just dreaming all of this. Maybe what my senses are telling me isn't actually right!"

"That's logic talking," Yukari shakes her head, turning right-side up and touching down on the ground next to me. "Logically, that explains away what you saw, what you're seeing now. You're right, that's definitely a possibility, although you never saw me put anything into your drink - mainly because I didn't. However, set all of that aside for a minute; what do you believe about what you've seen?"

"I..." That pulls me up short. What do I believe about what I just saw? As I stop to think, there's a slight breeze that picks up sparkling dust particles from the hilltop, blowing them a ways down the hill - where I see them reform into the same fairy that Yukari just obliterated, or one that looks a heck of a lot like it. It glances back up at the hilltop where Yukari and I are standing, then zips away in a hurry.

Given all of this? Yes, it's definitely possible I could have been drugged. But I don't think I was. I think, whatever Yukari did, wherever she's brought me... I think I'm actually here, and that I just saw a fairy get killed and come back to life. I pinch my arm just to make sure; it definitely hurts, although given how much I'm trying to process at the moment I kind of feel detached from the pain anyway.

"I... believe it was real," I finally say. "I believe that I just saw you hit a fairy and that it disintegrated, and that I wasn't actually imagining it or hallucinating it, even if I have no way to prove that I wasn't."

"Good," Yukari says with a smile. "Hold onto that belief, and remember this place. Belief is more powerful than you know, girl; hold on to what you believe, and you may find that the world will bend itself to your belief, rather than the other way around."

With that, she leans over and kisses my forehead - hey, that's rather forward for someone I've just met! I can't even back away, though - I'm hit with a huge wave of sleepiness, and I feel myself starting to collapse as everything goes dark. Just before I lose consciousness, I can hear Yukari's voice on the edge of my awareness.

"Sleeping and waking, dreams and reality... they're simple enough borders, and I'm hardly the first person to have bent this boundary - I can see that you've blurred them on your own before now. Just remember our talk today, Haruhi-chan; remember too that it's your choice whether to believe this was all real, or only a dream. If you do, my hope is that we meet again, in this world or another..."

And that's the last thing I remember before waking up to my alarm this morning. It's been driving me crazy all day - I could swear that the entire thing was real. I know meeting Kyon and the others yesterday was real, but... could I really have gone to some other strange land where there are fairies and crazy women hanging in midair? Could I just have imagined everything from the cafe on in some kind of weird dream?

I haven't mentioned this to anyone else yet; I'm not really worried about people thinking I'm crazy - hell, a lot of people already think that - but for some reason, this feels... private, like it was meant just for me. I've considered talking to Kyon about it, but I'm not really sure how to even bring it up, and I'm not sure what difference it'd make if I did tell him. Even if he believed me, which I don't think is likely, this is still a decision I'll have to make for myself, one way or the other. He wasn't there, after all - he might be able to offer an opinion or advice, but it's still something I have to choose for myself - what do I believe about what happened yesterday? I was so sure when it happened; it seemed way too real and memorable to be a dream, but given that I woke up at home right afterward, now I'm not so convinced.

Actually, once I think about it for a while, I'm think I'm going to believe it really happened - why not? Thanks to that John Smith, I've believed for years that there are aliens, time travelers, and espers. Why not add fairies and youkai to the list?

I've given a lot of effort to trying to find the unusual and weird, and that person and that place are some of the most amazing things I could imagine. That place - that Gensokyo - was a beautiful place, and finding it again would be completely awesome - I could get the whole Brigade involved, map the place out, and find out what kinds of crazy stuff actually lives there! After all, if I believe what Yukari said - that if I believe I can bend the world to meet me - then I will find what I'm looking for - maybe soon, maybe a long time from now, but as long as I believe I know it's going to happen.

And if... no, when I do, I hope I get to meet her again, and thank her for keeping me pointed in the right direction. And I will - after all, if I believe, I can make it happen.

Author's Note: Just a short "what if" that popped into my head; there really aren't too many characters out there that have basically unlimited ability to warp reality, so I can see the ones that do exist being rather interested in seeing exactly how the others use their abilities. Of course, given that Haruhi's got no clue what she's doing (yet) and Yukari's had quite a lot of experience in manipulating people and messing with their heads, I imagine any meeting between the two would end up with similar results - Yukari's going to set Haruhi off in one direction or another, then sit back to watch the fireworks.

This is a bit of a prequel for a longer crossover idea I've got; my writing skills aren't much to write home about, though, so I figured I'd test the waters before I try something too ambitious. If there's enough interest I might see about getting that put together, though.