In Your Dreams - Chapter Twelve

The Song of Orpheus

A Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu fanfiction

co-authored by Halbarad and Brian Randall

Disclaimer: No disrespect is intended with the posting of this story. Situations and characters are property of Nagaru Tanigawa, and are used here without permission. His stuff; we're just borrowing it for a wee bit. Additionally, some tinting (characters and settings) are borrowed from Higurashi, which is the property of Ryukishi07; the gaggle of cousins that appear are covered by the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.

Note: Takes place after novel eight and ignores novels nine through eleven. Welcome to a divergent AU! This is not a proper crossover; just using some established characters due to laziness.


My head snaps up from the half-trance I've been in for most of the long hike from Okinomiya. I feel about as shocked as Kyon looks, although I do try to keep my mouth from hanging open the way his is doing right now.

None of the others seem to be any more on-the ball than either Kyon or I am, with the possible exception of Yuki - although I can't really picture her stepping up to take control of the conversation anyway. I manage to get my composure, though, and of course the first thing that comes out of my mouth is the first thing to pop into my head.

"Kyon! If you keep your mouth open like that you're going to start catching flies!"

I feel like co-opting the facepalm technique that Kyon's practically patented as I realize what I've just said, but it does at least have the intended effect; he closes his mouth and just stares at the four of us goggle-eyed for a minute instead.

"What are you even doing here?" he splutters.

I can't help but feel a little irritated by the reply. "We traveled over twelve hundred kilometers to get here, and that's the most you can say?" I bark back at him. "Not to mention that the last ten were on foot!"

That finally seems to snap Kyon out of his daze, and he takes a minute to look over the Brigade: mostly tired - in Mikuru's case, probably on the verge of collapse - muddy from at least the knees down, and all of us bearing fairly heavy backpacks. Yuki and I are probably in the best shape, but I know I'm certainly feeling the strain of the trip even despite that.

Eight hours by train from Nishinomiya to Aomori, then another two hours on a local line from Aomori to Okinomiya - the closest city we could reach via public transportation - which is where we spent the night last night. Follow that ten hours of travel up with getting up early this morning, shopping for some simple supplies that I don't think the JSDF would bother with, and then hiking ten kilometers over slippery, muddy hills. At least it hadn't been directly raining; several of the locals in Okinomiya had commented that the break in the rain was simultaneously welcome, overdue, and unexpected.

"Sorry," he says, grimacing a bit. "Yeah, it's good to see you, but Asahina-san looks like she's about ready to pass out. Did you end up coming all the way out here just to find me?"

"That was part of it," I admit grudgingly. "But we're also here to help, and we brought supplies with us!"

Kyon eyes our backpacks, then sighs a bit. "All right, I suppose we'd better go drop those off, then get you back to my aunt's place to clean up and rest."

With that, he turns around, starting to head back down the hill and beckoning for us to follow. I fall into step with him, the others trailing along behind us. A quick check reveals that Kyon was pretty much right about Mikuru, though; it doesn't look like she's going to make it a lot further. She's been pretty determined about the whole thing - I haven't heard her complain once on the entire hike out here, although she has yelped a few times when she's slipped and fallen.

"So how far do we need to go?" I ask, casting a second glance back at Mikuru, who seems thankful that the trip is at least downhill.

"I was on my way back home from the school when we ran into each other," Kyon explains. "That's where we'll want to drop off your supplies, then we can head back up to Aunt Mion's place to let you take a bath and relax for a bit."

"That sounds good - we didn't get a chance to clean up before we left Okinomiya this morning," I admit. "I figured with as rough as the trip to get here would be, we'd just need to wash again after we arrived - and I wasn't wrong, either!"

"I'm honestly surprised you made it," Kyon says, scratching the back of his head as the road levels out and a few small homes appear off to the sides of the road. It's vaguely familiar, then I realize this is Hinamizawa itself - the same as Kyon showed me in the dream, although I think when I saw most of it we were probably looking at it from the mountainside that's behind us. "Even the JSDF and the locals haven't tried going cross-country; I'd be worried about causing a mudslide out in the middle of nowhere with no one around to help."

I grimace at that; I hadn't even considered that happening to us. "I guess it's all a credit to Yuki's pathfinding skills, then!" I announce, giving the quiet Brigade member an appreciative grin.

"That... would probably do it, yes," Kyon agrees hesitantly, looking back at Yuki himself. "Thanks for looking out for everyone, Nagato."

"No problem," Yuki replies in kind, the girl - no, the alien - giving Kyon a hard-to-read look. I intend to get to the bottom of that soon, too - but Kyon is right, first we all need to relax a bit.

Kyon's been leading us along the village streets while we chatter, our steps crunching through gravel aside from one two-lane asphalt road. Shortly we come upon the school building - smaller than any school I've attended in Nishinomiya, but then this is a tiny village by comparison, too.

Our guide pushes his way inside without hesitation, although none of us stop to change our shoes - even Kyon. His first stop is the first floor faculty office, although apparently he doesn't find what he's looking for there.

"Kyon-kun? Back so soon?" an unfamiliar voice calls, followed shortly by its owner as she comes out of a stairwell. It's a middle-aged, blue-haired woman; as she approaches, I can see that she's pretty short, too - not much taller than Mikuru or Yuki. She pauses as she spots the Brigade, although she doesn't look worried, exactly. Her eyes flit between each of us before she finally settles on me, and...

Okay, that's kind of unnerving. The look she just gave me says she can see right through me and all the way out the other side, and didn't miss a thing in the process. Whatever she saw, though, she seems to be keeping to herself as she turns back to Kyon.

"Hmm, who have you brought with you?" she asks lightly, a small smile playing on her face.

"Er," Kyon starts sheepishly, looking to me first, "Haruhi, this is my aunt, Fuurude Rika. Aunt Rika, these are the members of my club back in Nishinomiya." He then proceeds to introduce us all by name, and I take the opportunity to look around at the others to see if they've picked up the same thing I did. Mikuru clearly didn't; she's slumped against the wall with her eyes closed, probably trying to rest after the long hike to get here. If Yuki spotted anything, I can't tell from looking at her, and Koizumi looks kind of rattled himself - although he's doing his best to paper it over with his usual smile.

As Kyon finishes up the introductions, Rika turns back to me, although her gaze is thankfully a lot less searching this time - maybe even a little amused. "Well, I suppose that answers the who, but not really the why - shouldn't they all still be in Nishinomiya?"

Kyon turns to me at that himself, clearly expecting me to explain... well, I guess I haven't actually told him why we're here, even if it should be obvious. "W-well, I have to look out for my club members!" I bluster. "When we found out that Kyon was trapped up here, we organized a fundraiser to help out with the relief efforts - and so we're here to deliver the proceeds and help out in any way we can!"

I take the excuse to look away from Rika, fishing through my backpack to withdraw the supplies we brought with us. "And... we've started with a load of supplies already!" I hold up a package of flashlight batteries triumphantly. "I know the JSDF has been bringing in the essentials, but with as long as the power's been out up here I figured there are a lot of dead flashlights and other things, so we brought as many batteries as we could carry with us!"

"Well, that'll certainly be a help," Rika admits, taking the batteries from me. "Still, though, if you raised funds it would have been easier just to donate them directly to one of the aid organizations like the Red Cross, wouldn't it?"

I don't bother to hide a snort of derision at that. "We could have, but you can't tell the Red Cross where to use your donations - not that they'd waste the money or anything, but I wanted to make sure it got used here!

"So, I figured we could start by bringing in a load of things the JSDF probably wouldn't make a very high priority, then we could talk with the village leaders and figure out what else was needed - then we could carry supplies back and forth between here and Okinomiya!"

Rika smiles wryly at that. "Not that I don't appreciate the sentiment, Suzumiya-chan, but coming here was very foolhardy - it's not safe to travel on the roads or cross-country until things dry out more. I'm glad you made it here safely, but I can't in good conscience let you go back to Okinomiya on your own until the main road out of the village has been cleared. If you really want to help, though, I'm quite sure we can find work for you and your friends here in the village - and if you've brought money, that will certainly be a help once we can start bringing supplies into the village directly!

"For now, I think Kyon-kun should take you back to Mion-chan's house. It's a long trip from Okinomiya on foot, and I'm sure you'll feel better after a bath, zabu-zabu!" She claps her hands and smiles at that, giving Kyon a knowing look.

"Alright, Aunt Rika," Kyon says, nodding. "We'll get the batteries dropped off in the office, then head back up the mountain."

"Such a dutiful nephew!" Rika grins, turning away to return to her own business. "I'll probably be back up shortly myself, once I finish with the ohagi here."

"Ohagi?" I look at Kyon, confused. "Isn't it the wrong time of year for that?"

"Eh... my aunts had the ingredients, and they figured it'd be a good way to raise everyone's spirits, so they made up a giant batch and we brought them down here to hand out. I was actually on my way back from that when we ran into each other."

"Mmm," I grunt, slipping out of the straps of my backpack. "So... who is your aunt? She sounded like she was in charge here!"

"She sort of is," Kyon admits. "She's the shrine maiden of the Fuurude Shrine here, and the position goes a long way back. The village is run by a council of three families, and hers is one of them." He takes the backpacks from myself and Koizumi - without a hitch, actually, which surprises me a little; those batteries weigh a ton for as small as they are.

He ducks back into the office that he'd checked out a minute ago, Yuki behind him with her own backpack. While they're away, I check on Mikuru, who hasn't moved since she sat down. Much to my irritation, she's out cold; at first I figured she'd just fallen asleep, but after my attempts to wake her up prove unsuccessful, I let loose a short, sharp sigh.

"What's wrong?" Kyon says, crouching down next to me to look at Mikuru. I didn't even hear him come out of the room! "Does she have more batteries that need to be dropped off?"

"No, she was carrying some water and rice balls, in case the hike took longer than we expected," I reply, shaking my head. "But she's passed out - how the hell are we supposed to get her to your aunt's house? We can't just leave her here, after all!"

"I... guess I can carry her?" Kyon offers.

"Very gallant, Kyon," I retort, giving him a skeptical look. "If I didn't suspect it was just an excuse to snuggle up to Mikuru-chan, I might even give you credit for it. How about I carry her instead, and you take her backpack?"

"I wasn't..." Kyon sighs at that, shaking his head. "Look, you and the rest of the Brigade already hiked what, ten or fifteen kilometers to get here?"

At my nod, he continues. "Well, it's another two back to my aunt's place, mostly uphill. If you really want to carry Asahina-san all that way I'm not going to argue, but I was suggesting that I do it since the only thing I've done today is help my aunts make ohagi and then carry them down here."

I'm still doubtful of his real motives, but his logic is sound, at least. "All right, fine - but I'll be watching you! Now, let's get going - the sooner we can get to that bath, the happier I'll be!"

Even though I'm pretty sure it's not a dream, I give a quick reality check, just to confirm. I almost can't believe Haruhi did that!

Then again, this is Haruhi we're talking about. If I can't make it to the club, I guess she reasoned the club should come to me, huh?

Since I'm crouched at Asahina-san's side with Haruhi, I give her a gentle nudge, but that doesn't rouse her either. Grumbling about it, Haruhi pulls her backpack off, which finally makes her blink blearily. "Whoza..." she starts sleepily.

Turning, I prompt, "Climb onto my back, Asahina-san."

"I'll be keeping a very close eye on Mikuru-chan to make sure nothing bad happens," Haruhi adds helpfully.

Gee, thanks!

"After all," she continues, "she's one of us, and we have a responsibility to take care of one another!"

"Ah," Koizumi belatedly remarks, shaking his head to clear it. "I could always..." But by then it's too late, because Asahina-san leans forward and collapses across my back with an incoherent mumble. Her arms go around my neck as her weight falls onto me, and I grab her legs carefully.

"You're just as tired as the rest of us," Haruhi says, shaking her head at the other boy. "And Kyon's right - he is the official 'odd-jobs' man."

Just like old times! I knew Asahina-san was small, but I'm surprised at how lightweight her soft form really is! "Alright," I say, rising, leaning forward a bit to keep the older girl in place. "Let's get to Aunt Mion's so you can all get cleaned up." Of course, as soon as I say that, I realize that thanks to Asahina-san's earlier tumbles, she's gotten quite a bit of mud on me, as well.

That's a small price to pay, though.

Shortly, we're back on the road headed back - again. I realize that the bag I'd forgotten was picked up by Nagato. That saves me a trip! "Thanks for the help, Nagato," I remark.

"We have to work together," Haruhi says resolutely, knuckling back a yawn and giving the hill leading up to my aunt's place a stern glare. "...just like going to school," she mumbles, so quietly I almost miss it.

"This one's probably a bit worse because of the altitude," I offer.

Haruhi starts, then rolls her eyes. "And I guess being trapped up here, you've had time to acclimate," she muses.

"My aunts insist the mountain air is great for me," I agree. It's mostly a quiet trip; while I think I could chatter the entire way up, everyone else is too tired.

Nagato might be an exception, but she's not typically very talkative anyway. Since it's quiet, I think back to what Haruhi said about Asahina-san. Does that mean she's figured out what I hoped she did about Asahina-san, and took it well? I do think Haruhi's at her strongest when she's looking out for others, so I can't help but smile at that.

Not that being surprised by my friends doesn't bring a smile to my face anyway!

"I think we should probably let Mikuru-chan wash first," Haruhi declares between breaths, as we approach the top of the hill. "Is there enough room for her to rest during the day?"

"Aunt Mion's house is pretty big," I say with a shrug. "You'll probably have to share a room with Asahina-san and Nagato, but the furo should be big enough for all of you."

"Yeah, well..." She trails off and raises her eyebrows at the sight of the house once it comes into view. "Oh," she says quietly.

It's not as massive as the mansion we stayed in during the summer trip last year, or Tsuruya's winter villa, but it's big enough to fit all of my cousins and their parents. I'm pretty sure at least one room is free, which ... probably means I have to share a room with Koizumi, actually.

Oh, well. There are certainly much worse fates!

When we get to the door, it opens before I can reach it, my aunt Rena looking out at the crowd of us and wiping her hands on her apron. "My!" she remarks. "Rika-chan called, but it looks like your journey here was rougher than anticipated!"

"Hmmm?" Asahina-san mumbles, rousing again, then gasping. "Wha- Where-"

Before she can panic, I crouch, giving her a chance to climb off my back instead of knocking us both over.

"Back with us, Mikuru-chan?" Haruhi teases with a smile, helping the sleepy time traveler steady herself.

"Alright, young ladies," Aunt Rena declares, clicking her tongue. "The furo is prepared, so this way- Kyon-kun, you and your other friend will either need to use the shower, or take your turn once they've had a chance to wash up."

Sharing a bath with Koizumi? A room is one thing, but that... "Up to you, Koizumi," I say with a shrug, climbing to my feet as Mikuru totters into the house, leaning on Haruhi for support to take her shoes off.

"I'm fine with waiting a bit," Koizumi replies. "Thankfully it's not cold! We can actually wait outside, since we are a bit muddy."

"Alright," Aunt Rena agrees, bundling Nagato, Yuki, and Haruhi off to the bathroom. On her way away, she calls back, "Would you care for some coffee while you wait?"

"I- I would love some coffee," Koizumi answers, forcing a smile that seems even more false than normal.

I wonder what that's all about? Probably he wants to talk to me about Haruhi and what she's been up to. Rather than hold the door open, and knowing that the strange cousin-free reprieve can't last forever, I call back, "We'll be on the side porch for a bit - thank you for the coffee, Aunt Rena!"

"Okay!" she replies, before the house muffles whatever else she says.

I shrug and close the door, leading a slightly more alert Koizumi around to the side porch. Judging by the balls and other toys scattered across the house, the cousins were playing earlier. Did they wear themselves out? I wouldn't be surprised if after the ohagi and playing hard enough, they all went down for a nap.

After Koizumi and I sit down on the porch - which offers a good view of most of the village - I stretch a bit. Normally I'd expect to be exhausted, but after all the other manual labor I've been stuck with, that felt instead like a decent workout! "So," I ask, settling down. "Did I miss anything exciting?"

The esper heaves an exhausted sigh. "I don't know," he admits in a low voice, giving me a weak smile. Not his usual plastic one - this one's strained so much it shows the real weariness underneath. I'm not sure I've ever seen him so stressed! "I'm ... more out of my depth than usual, and I don't know what's going on.

"Suzumiya-san decided to investigate my cover part-time job, which has caused my superiors no end of anxiety. Other than that, she hasn't behaved as we've anticipated, which is making everyone in the Organization even more nervous."

"When does Haruhi ever behave as expected?" I return.

Koizumi blinks at that, sagging faintly. Wow - for him to let this much show, he must be really worn down! "I mean," he states carefully, "while she was initially very upset about you being trapped here, she adapted to it much more quickly than I would have expected. We thought closed space would form, but so far, none has!"

"Isn't that good?" I ask, frowning.

"It- Well, in theory, yes," Koizumi answers, turning to gaze at the village. "It's ultimately a seemingly positive effect, but we cannot understand the why of things. If Suzumiya-san begins to behave irrationally, then who knows what could happen?"

It's hard for me to be sympathetic to this, but I'm spared answering by Aunt Satoko sliding the door open with one toe. "Hello!" she says brightly.

I introduce her to Koizumi, who starts to rise to give her a proper bow, but Satoko waves a hand dismissively. "No need to worry about formality," she insists, setting down the tray she was carrying. "You're worn out enough from what I've heard! Just rest; there will be plenty of time for proper introductions once everyone's clean and rested!" She pauses, then touches a thoughtful fingertip to her lips. "Well, in the meantime, I'll let you two chat - I imagine there's a bit of catching up to do, hmm?"

Giving us one last pleasant smile, she waves before retreating into the house and sliding the door shut behind her.

Koizumi doesn't waste time pouring himself a cup of coffee from the service, adding a surprising amount of sugar and a splash of cream. Since it's a lull, I pour myself a cup as well. Why not?

After he takes a sip, which seems to revitalize him a bit, the esper sighs. "My hope is that you might somehow have some insight into Suzumiya-san's behavior," he admits, shaking his head. "In my Organization, things are becoming rather ... tense."

I frown, tasting my own coffee. Less sugar and no cream; just the way I like it. I recall Koizumi mentioning that he once had to write a letter of apology over a certain incident involving Nagato. I suppose that his superiors must cause him stress, too.

Then again, being fair ... how surprising is that? Nagato's boss is something of a jerk. An alien jerk, but still a jerk! Asahina-san's superiors certainly haven't treated her as well as I'd have liked. Why should Koizumi's bosses be any different? And worse, Haruhi discovering his nature should lead to a world of trouble for him.

Of course ... just because it should doesn't mean it has to. Haruhi certainly seems to be getting along with Nagato and Asahina-san well enough, doesn't she? "Koizumi," I finally say. "This might be hard to do, so keep in mind this isn't something I'm saying casually. I think that everything will be fine if you're just honest - really honest - and trust Haruhi."

He raises an eyebrow at that, his smile turning sardonic as he drains his cup and pours another.

He's silent for a long minute, digesting what I said. "I promised," he said slowly, "my loyalty to you and Suzumiya-san, should it come to that. Is it ... time for such a thing?"

"Look ... no one can probably really understand Haruhi perfectly," I tell him. "And, anyway, people change, or sometimes just don't react the way you'd expect. I personally think Haruhi's been entirely reasonable about things. But being honest, if you're only ever showing her a mask and hiding things..." I shrug.

"I ... don't know if I can just tell her everything," he says softly in answer, staring deep into his cup, as though it were pooled wisdom, somehow able to help him out. "Is that what you're saying?"

Running a hand through my hair, I shake my head. "Haruhi wants to solve the mysteries of this world, right?" I prompt.

He gives a nod at that.

"So ... don't just tell her. But if she asks, answer her questions honestly. If you can tell her truthfully that she's the real leader, not some shadowy boss somewhere who's getting cranky that she's handling a bad situation reasonably well... I think everything will work out."

He nods slowly again, draining his cup. "Alright," he declares, setting the vessel down. "I will do my best."

And at that, Aunt Rena slides the door open. "Okay!" she cheers, smiling brightly. "If you two are ready, the furo is free!"

"Ah, yes," Koizumi manages, smiling pleasantly. "Um..."

"You go ahead," I tell him, shaking my head. "You can use it after that hike. I'll just take a shower."

"Very well then," he agrees, climbing to his feet.

"So you'll take care of that coffee tray for me?" Aunt Rena asks, winking. "I just spent a good hour cleaning up after all that work in the kitchen!"

"Er, yeah, that before the shower," I agree with a chuckle.

After the bath, I'm feeling almost as good as new. To my surprise, I'm actually the first one out of the furo; Mikuru staying to soak longer isn't a surprise, but Yuki staying with her is - although given how exhausted Mikuru looks, it's probably good that someone stays with her until she gets out of the bath.

I've just finished getting dressed and stepped out into the hallway when a rustling noise and a series of thumps grabs my attention. Tracing the noise back to its source leads to a partially opened doorway further down the hall, with a couple of voices audibly shushing each other coming from inside.

"Who's in there?" I ask, which immediately leads to a deeper silence as even the shushing noises cease. Letting my curiosity get the better of me - not that it's really much of a struggle - I push the door open further and stick my head into the room, looking for the source of the noise.

Which is rather obvious, really. There are two girls in the room: one with dusty blue hair that I'd put money on being Rika's daughter, and another brown-haired girl that's suspiciously familiar - and then I remember just where I saw her.

The blue-haired girl shoots me a suspicious look, then snaps out a question: "What do you want?"

The voice is immediately familiar; it's the same one that tried to hang up on me the first time I called Kyon up here - one of his cousins, although I can't remember her name off the top of my head, or if Kyon even told me what it was.

"I wanted to find out what the noises I was hearing were," I retort, giving her a sharp look of my own. "And it looks like I found the answer to that question."

Both girls jump at the sound of my voice, then glance at each other, seeming just as surprised at the other's reaction as they are to me. The brown-haired girl speaks up next, and hers is definitely a voice I recognize!

"Are you Kyon-nii's girlfriend, I wonder, I wonder?" she asks, cocking her head on one side as she gives me a closer examination. The question throws me off my stride badly enough that I almost miss the flash of even greater suspicion from the blue-haired girl. I probably would have missed it, too, if it wasn't for the way she visibly deflates afterward.

"I'm..." I fumble for a moment, trying to come up with a decent answer. Girlfriend? I... maybe if he asked, but that's certainly not what we are now! Anyway, this isn't the time or place to try to puzzle that kind of thing out. "I'm his Brigade commander, Suzumiya Haruhi! And I know I've heard both of you on the phone before, when I called to talk to Kyon - you're Kyon's cousins?"

The girl that must be Rika's daughter cringes a bit at the mention of the phone - yeah, she's absolutely the one that called Kyon 'Kyon-nii-sama' and warned me to stay away from him! The other one takes the reins of the conversation, though. "Yeah! I'm Ryuguu Yurie, and this is Fuurude Matsuri - it's nice to meet you!"

"I recognize your voices," I admit, looking between the two younger girls. "Although I'm not sure whether to thank you or give you a penalty, Yurie-chan." At her suddenly puzzled look, I explain. "Kyon told me you relayed my orders the way I asked you to, but... you were eavesdropping on our phone call, weren't you?"

She flushes guiltily at that, and I can't help but smirk as she lets out a quiet "Oops..."

"I'll let you off this time, since you've been keeping an eye on Kyon while he's been up here," I allow. The two girls exchange a look at that - wait, have they actually been watching Kyon while he's been here?

"So... um, Suzumiya-san," she starts out, glancing over at Matsuri for confirmation, "was the assignment you told me to give Kyon-nii about that dreams book?"

"That's right!" I nod, then pause - how would she know about that? Actually, that's not a bad question anyway! "It was, but how did you know about it? Have you been spying on more than just Kyon's phone call?"

"He's our Kyon-nii!" Matsuri finally shoots back, glowering at me. "We can watch him if we want to!"

"And hang up on phone calls he's having with other people?" I retort, giving her a dubious look. Just like I thought, that prompts her to look away in shame - I couldn't imagine someone not getting in trouble for something like that!

Yurie looks pensive for a moment, then turns a curious look to me. "You're Kyon-nii's... friend, right?" She pauses, and I try to conceal any reaction - I can guess what she was thinking about saying there!

Instead, I draw myself up to reply "I'm his Brigade commander!" I shoot back, then stop to think for a moment. Is that all I am to Kyon, all he is to me? I shake my head a bit, then finish the thought. "But yeah, I'm also his friend."

She pushes forward on receiving confirmation. "Um... maybe you might know, then. Have you seen him do anything weird or amazing?"

I blink at that. "Kyon? Doing something amazing?" I give the brown-haired girl a puzzled look at that. "Not particularly - I mean, he's not completely boring, but if I had to pick someone to describe as 'perfectly average' it'd probably be him."

Technically, what he's been able to do in dreams is pretty amazing, but... I don't think it's really any of his cousins' business - they're nosy enough already!

Yurie looks disappointed at the response, turning to her cousin and lowering her voice to a whisper, although I can still make out what she's saying. "Guess it's up to us to find out, then."

I frown a bit at that. "Find out what?"

She blushes in response, seeming surprised that I overheard. "Um..."

Matsuri scowls at me. "I guess Kyon-nii is more willing to show us the awesome stuff he can do instead of you," she shoots back. "Kyon-nii is a hero, and we're going to find out exactly what he can do!"

I blink in surprise. "Kyon? A hero? How do you get that?"

Yurie grins in reply. "Kyon-nii rescued Matsu-chan from the flood! I helped him find her at the saiguden, then Kyon-nii got her out before the building got washed away!"

I raise my eyebrows at that. Kyon, rescuing one of his cousins from a raging river? That is pretty awesome - and he never even told me about it when we dreamed! I guess if it happened recently there hasn't been time - we didn't meet last night, and before that we were kind of busy talking about Mikuru, but even so that seems like a pretty big thing to just keep quiet about!

"That does sound pretty amazing for Kyon," I allow. "But not really all that weird - people can do all kinds of fantastic things in emergencies!"

"He was super strong! He threw Oyashiro-sama's statue off the top of me like it didn't weigh anything at all, and he pulled me out of the mud without even blinking!" Matsuri shoots back.

"Adrenaline can make people extra-strong," I counter. "There are even stories of people lifting cars with that to help!"

"While he was standing in really deep mud himself?" Matsuri retorts, shooting me a triumphant look. "Even if he was just super strong for a little while, he should have gotten stuck too - and he just ran out with me like he didn't even notice it at all!"

That does sound a little strange, but... "That could still just be adrenaline, or the mud wasn't as bad where he was standing or something."

Yurie sighs at that, shooting Matsuri a slightly annoyed look. "Maybe, but what he did with the door was literally impossible."

I raise an eyebrow. "How so?"

Matsuri is the one to explain, looking over to Yurie for confirmation before she explains. "Well... the saiguden is a storage building for our shrine, so it's really old-fashioned - sliding paper doors and stuff. Kyon-nii," here she pauses, mimicking the action of grabbing a doorknob and pulling a door open, "opened it like it was a regular door with hinges and a doorknob."

That gets my attention - mostly because it's the same way he does all of his doors when we're dreaming! "If the building was starting to wash away, maybe he just tore the door off and it looked like he was opening it that way?"

Yurie shakes her head in reply. "No - it had hinges! I was outside watching while Kyon-nii went inside to get Matsu-chan, and the door was standing open on its hinges, and I could even see the doorknob on it!"

I frown at that. That one I can't explain so easily; I could see Kyon on an adrenaline rush pulling even a sliding door out of its track, but you'd have to break the door itself to do that - it'd just collapse if the frame was shattered, and even if it didn't break it definitely couldn't stand open on its own!

The two girls glance at each other, seeing that I'm not just blowing this one off. As I see the look they're sharing, I start to wonder: is this what's special about Kyon, why all of these unusual people have gathered around him?

"That does seem pretty weird," I finally say, rubbing my chin. "Have you seen anything else?"

Yurie sighs and shakes her head. "Nothing that big, but... just yesterday, we went over to my house to get some things, and Kyon-nii was chopping wood for my Mom. I was watching him, and he was tossing the pieces of wood onto the woodpile - and they all landed perfectly without him even looking! And he went super fast, too - he filled up the whole wood pile while we were there, and we only stayed for about an hour!

"And the other thing... well, I know it could just be a coincidence, but he said the rain would stop soon, and it did! By the time we got back here, it was already starting to get sunny, and it hasn't rained at all since then!"

"And the radio said it was supposed to keep raining for the next couple of days, at least," Matsuri adds. "I was listening to it while Yurie-chan was gone - they said it was supposed to get worse, not better!"

I try not to scoff at that, but I can't keep the skepticism out of my voice completely. "The wood pile thing... okay, maybe," I say dubiously. While I'm definitely not going to say Kyon's not capable of doing it, for him to pay that little attention and do so well is a little odd. "I can see it being a little weird, since Kyon's not exactly the most coordinated guy in the world-"

"He is too!" Matsuri shoots back, giving me a dark look. "Kyon-nii-sama is the most awesome!"

Yurie shoots her a warning look at that, and I can't help but grin a little - both at the comment and the embarrassed look on Matsuri's face. I can understand some hero worship from her since he saved her life and all, but it seems more cute than anything!

"Anyway, the woodpile thing I can see being a bit unusual, but the weather?" I shake my head. "There's no way Kyon could do anything about the weather, so it just has to be a coincidence - even if it really is a weird one."

Yurie nods sadly at that. "I know, but it's just... Kyon-nii already did something impossible with the door on the saiguden, so maybe he can do other things that should be impossible? I wonder, I wonder..."

She does have a point... and I have to admit, Yurie seems sharp as a tack. Just from the little bit she heard on the phone - and the orders I told her to give Kyon - she figured out that he was working on stuff with dreams, and then to top that off she's been paying enough attention to pick up little details like the woodpile at her house.

I give her a confident grin as I stand up to leave. "Well... I don't know how much of it has to do with Kyon, but I'll definitely talk to him about it - we've got a lot of things to discuss with all the time he's been gone from the Brigade, and I'll make sure to get a straight answer from him about this stuff too!"

"Thanks, Suzumiya-san," Yurie replies, smiling weakly. "Um... tell us how it goes, then?"

"You bet I will!" I fire back, giving the two girls a wave as I head out to join the others. Kyon, you're going to have to answer some tough questions yourself!

I finished my shower and changed clothes before Koizumi got out of the bath- But if Haruhi had led the others on a grueling cross-country trek, I couldn't fault him.

Of course, by the time I find my way into the hall, Haruhi is leading the dozing Asahina-san toward the one empty room remaining. Nagato trails behind, probably ready to catch the time traveler in an instant should she collapse. She must have been even more worn out than Koizumi!

"Ah, let me get the door for you," I suggest, hurrying down the hall before Haruhi could order me to do it herself. Once the door was open, I realize that the futons in that room are still folded in the closet. There were also only two of them, but that would have to be sorted out later. Before Haruhi leads Asahina-san's trudging figure through the door, I'd unrolled one of the futons and set out a pillow.

Haruhi gives a grudging nod of approval and leads the already half-dozing time traveler to the bedding, where she collapses almost instantly and bonelessly, emitting a soft snore. Even that is charming, from Asahina-san! Haruhi beats me to the blankets, pulling a thick comforter over Asahina-san's form and pausing with a frown.

"I should make her put her proper pajamas on, but I don't want to make her stay up any longer if she's so worn out," the brigade chief grouses. Shaking her head, Haruhi leans close to Asahina-san, softly pressing the back of her hand to the older girl's forehead. "No fever," she judges after a moment, nodding. "Hmm, but maybe I should watch over her anyway?"

"I will see to her wellbeing," Nagato offers softly, causing both Haruhi and I to jolt slightly.

Haruhi looks about ready to question the nearly silent girl before realization of some sort flashes in her eyes. "Alright," Haruhi agrees. "You must be tired, too, huh? Don't wear yourself out, though! Now, Kyon - be a gentleman and set up that other futon! If Yuki wants to rest, too, it should be ready for her!"

I shrug and haul the second futon out of the closet, rolling it out on the floor. "There are only two, though," I remark. "Where will you be sleeping?"

Haruhi makes a face at that realization, then shakes her head. "Just put it right next to Mikuru-chan's," she declares. "I'll sleep in the middle. Like we've said before, it's okay for girls to sleep together."

I try not to think about that too hard. It's actually easier than I would have expected, seeing Haruhi kneeling on the futon at Asahina-san's side, patting her wrist like a concerned sister.

Things like that remind me of how far Haruhi has come... And this was after she learned that Asahina-san was a time traveler. Seeing her like that ... it really does reassure me that Haruhi can be trusted with the truth she deserves.

She shakes her head abruptly, patting Asahina-san gently one more time. This prompts the older girl to mumble something in her sleep and release a contented sigh between tiny snores. Looking up, she nods as Nagato and says, "Thanks for looking out for her, Yuki. Don't forget to take care of yourself, too!"

Nagato offers her miniscule nod in response, and Haruhi springs to her feet, as though eager to be off. Her eyes flash as she rounds on me, and she gestures me into the hallway.

Oh, boy...

I nod at Nagato myself, then follow Haruhi once she rises from Asahina-san's side. In the hall, we gently slide the door shut, letting those two rest. I don't know if Nagato really needs it, but at least she's got the opportunity, if she wants it.

Haruhi looks down the hall both ways, freezing at the sight of Aunt Satoko.

"Well, hello, there," the blonde woman says with an almost-concealed smirk. "So, you must be Kyon-kun's girlfriend that he's been so reluctant to talk about?"

Haruhi blinks a few times, her face reddening very faintly. "What has he told you?" Haruhi wonders curiously.

Aunt Satoko clicks her tongue and gives me a mock stern look. "Almost nothing!" she declares. "Though ... since Matsu-chan has only really calmed down after Kyon-kun rescued her and Yurie-chan from the flood, that might have been very wise of him!"

I can't help but sigh and hang my head. Haruhi brightens thoughtfully. "Kyon rescued his cousins from trouble?" she wonders. "I'd love to hear more of that!"

I cough and gesture to Haruhi. "Aunt Satoko, this is my friend, Suzumiya Haruhi. Haruhi, this is my aunt Satoko."

"Pleasure to meet you, dear!" my aunt says brightly, nodding at Haruhi. She then raises a thoughtful fingertip to her lips. "Though ... I would love to chat, there's still a lot to be done. Hmm, but Suzumiya-chan has to have walked all this way, according to Rika-chan." She smacks one fist into the opposite palm. "Ah! Kyon-kun, why don't you take your friend for a short walk around the property? I'm sure you have a lot to discuss!"

"Sure," I agree. It will be almost impossible to talk to Haruhi once the cousins stir from their naptime.

I am a bit surprised that Aunt Satoko has let go of the opportunity to corner Haruhi with some questions of her own! I'd expect that she would have a lot of questions for the girl who led an expedition into such a troubled area, and at such risks!

"Also," Aunt Satoko adds with a wink, "we can all chat more properly over dinner anyway!"

...or she's just waiting for the unneeded firepower that the other aunts will bring to bear. It's almost enough to make me worry for Haruhi!

"Right," I mumble, scratching the back of my head. After leading Haruhi to the front door, we step outside just as I hear Shutaro stirring, calling down the hall that he's thirsty.

Haruhi gives me a flat, dubious stare as we walk to the slope that overlooks the town, behind a screen of trees from the house.

"So!" she declares, wheeling on me abruptly. "You rescued two of your cousins from a flood?"

"It's not so big a deal," I say with a shrug. I admit, I am a bit proud that I kept them from being hurt, but being completely honest, it was simply the right thing to do. "Matsuri was being careless and sulking..." I trail off and squint. It's easy enough to pick out the shrine through the trees from here, so I point it out. "There's the shrine - down the slope toward the river is where the saiguden that Matsuri had hidden in was."

Of course, there's nothing but a muddy ribbon of land next to the still-swollen river, now.

"Anyway, once the surge of water was coming, I had to take care of her." I shrugged at that. "That's ... really not that big a deal compared to ... other things. Even though you've come all the way here - how was your investigation going?" I can't help the worry that enters my voice at that, despite how gently she was treating Asahina-san earlier. "Have you talked to Koizumi? Or Nagato?"

Haruhi grimaces, then settles down on the grass. Since she's made the first move, I absently sit on a flat patch of grass myself.

"I tried looking into Koizumi-kun's dream," she answers sourly. "I wasn't able to reach him, and it ... wasn't pleasant. It's a concern, but I didn't have enough time to really pursue it further- Though it made it clear you were important to him, anyway."

I wasn't sure what to make of that.

"That being said - tell me all about this heroic rescue of your cousins!"

This again? I sighed and ran a hand through my hair. I'd recounted the story often enough already! "There's not that much more to say... Matsuri was sulking, after she was punished for interrupting our phone call. She went to the saiguden by the river, and Yurie helped me find her- The whole building was sinking into the mud when I got there, and because of that, the statue of Oyashiro-sama had fallen on top of her, pinning her in place.

"I pulled the door open, moved the statue aside, and then ran for all I was worth, carrying both of them. Adrenaline can let you do amazing things!"

"The door pulled open?" Haruhi pressed, raising her eyebrows thoughtfully.

"Of course," I agreed. "And it's a good thing it opened that way - if it opened into the building, the mud would have blocked it."

"What if it was a sliding door?"

What kind of question was that? "Well, in that case, the building was tilted - I expect the frame of the shed would have jammed it," I said after thinking about it. "It's very lucky it was built the way it was!"

"And then you managed to outrun a storm surge?" she demands, raising her eyebrows.

"It wasn't that far to the nearest upward slope," I answered, a bit defensively. "What's with all the questions? For me, a lot of it was just an adrenaline-fueled blur, anyway."

Haruhi makes a face at that answer. Before she can ask another question, I hear my mother calling, "Kyon-kun! Can you help out with something?"

I sigh and shrug, offering her a lopsided smile. "Anyway ... more errands to take care of, I suppose." I climb to my feet and walk away, though Haruhi seems strangely intent on where I was sitting. "Are you coming?"

"In a minute," she replies, her gaze shifting to the distant river.

Well ... I guess I can just ask Nagato what else Haruhi's been up to later. In the meantime, I call back, "Coming!" to my mother and hurry through the trees back to the house.

Moonlight slants across the floor of the guest room where I've been sleeping with Mikuru and Yuki - or trying to, anyway. My body is certainly exhausted; a long train trip, followed by a shorter-than-usual night's sleep and then a ten kilometer hike through rough, unfamiliar terrain... it's definitely been a long day!

But my mind is going way too fast to make sleep even a remote possibility; I've been tossing and turning for hours, and finally I just decide to give up. I try to stay as quiet as I can, sitting up from where I've been laying between Mikuru and Yuki.

As I rise, Mikuru gives out a little whimper in her sleep; she's been doing so off and on for most of the night, at least as long as I've been in the room. I'm hoping she's not having any trouble in her own dreams - I'd definitely help her out if I could, but that's dependent on me getting to sleep in the first place.

I was actually really impressed with her today! While she got the lightest of the packs when we left Okinomiya, it was pretty obvious that she wasn't in any kind of shape to make that long a hike cross-country - but she never complained even once, even after she collapsed in the mud a couple of times. I'm honestly not surprised that she passed out after we got here; while she managed to wake up long enough to have dinner, she went back to bed again almost immediately afterward.

Dinner... I try not to cringe at the memory of that, hugging my knees as I stare blankly ahead. The meal itself was like facing a panel of inquisitors; between Kyon's mother wondering why we were here at all, and then all of his aunts asking leading questions about whether Kyon and I were going out...

I didn't dislike any of them, really, but seeing a half-dozen variations on a knowing smirk from all of Kyon's relatives - not all relatives, I found out, but close enough friends that they might as well have been - I felt like crawling into my futon and hiding just to avoid the embarrassing questions! Kyon had to have felt the same way; I think both of us were running out of variations on "no, we're just friends" by the time the meal was over.

And just when I thought that escaping the dinner table would be a reprieve, we were asked to keep tabs on Kyon's cousins afterwards. Kyon's little sister is fun; she's always a little ball of excitement and energy - but I have to admit, the charm wears out kind of fast when you multiply that by seven. And it was only seven because Matsuri and Yurie were apparently grounded after having to get rescued by Kyon, or we would have been dealing with nine cousins all at once.

Somehow, I'm feeling a lot more sympathetic to his grumbling in having to come up here to look after them!

It wasn't entirely bad, but after such a long day having to deal with looking after the entire troop of them after dinner was easily as mentally draining as the walk to get here was physically exhausting. Even with the whole group doing something as seemingly mild as playing cards and board games, the countless small squabbles had me ready to tear my hair out at points.

Kyon was the one that held the whole thing together, somehow; I'm used to watching him snark at suggestions in the Brigade, but watching him use that to defuse arguments between his cousins was a side of him I've never really seen before. I hadn't thought of him as a peacemaker prior to that, but after seeing Makoto and Shutaro almost come to blows over an argument about cheating, then end up apologizing to each other after just a few pointed words from Kyon...

Even if my other theory about Kyon turns out to be wrong, he's inhumanly patient if nothing else!

Given all of that, though, you'd think that I could just pass out, but my thoughts keep moving at a million miles an hour, and I can't keep my eyes closed even though I want to. With a sigh, I glance over at my impromptu roommates - and start as I notice that Yuki is awake and staring at me, her eyes almost seeming to glow in the faint light coming in through the window.

My breath catches for a minute, then I shake my head, beckoning Yuki to follow me as I rise and head out into the hallway. I've been wanting to talk to her again since I found out about Mikuru and the rest of the Brigade, but with all of the insanity around the fundraiser and then the trip to get up here, there just hasn't been time. But if she's not sleeping, and I can't sleep anyway, now's as good a time as any.

Once I've confirmed that Yuki's following me, I head out to the kitchen; it's far enough from most of the bedrooms that I don't think I'll have to worry about anyone else in the house overhearing us. As we walk - and I try not to get lost in the unfamiliar house - I try to settle my stomach; I've got a mild case of butterflies, but it's actually not all that bad considering what I'm about to say.

A big help in that regard is actually knowing what Kyon thinks about Yuki. I'm not blind; I've known for a long time that he and Yuki are kind of close. I don't really know why, but to be honest it doesn't actually bother me all that much. I've definitely given Kyon hell for ogling Mikuru enough times, and I was dead serious when I read him the riot act about dating her - the two of them getting tied up in some sappy romance would have distracted both of them from the Brigade, but just being Yuki's friend wouldn't cause the same kind of problems.

...okay, I'll admit that there may have been some ulterior motive in laying into Kyon about Mikuru. Kind of hard not to admit to at least that much after going through the entirety of dinner with his aunts and uncles, glowing like a stoplight at all the leading questions. Damn it, this is the last thing I needed right now! I've got too many other things on my mind! Not just this whole mess in Hinamizawa, but the investigation of the other Brigade members, trying to figure out what to do to help Mikuru, trying to figure out why the other Brigade members are here and what it has to do with Kyon, what Kyon might actually be himself...

I've got enough to deal with at the moment, though, and so I set that aside for now, because I have to. Instead, I turn my attention to the purple-haired, silent member of my Brigade, who in turn is simply watching me with her usual expressionless look. I vent a short sigh, letting my hands rest on my hips as I study Yuki.

After a few moments, I realize that I'm just putting things off again - not that Yuki seems to mind at all, but we can't just stand here all night, either. "So... you told me before that you couldn't tell me anything about yourself, but you'd tell me if I figured it out myself, right?"

She simply nods at that, and I take it as a cue to continue. "I found out about Mikuru-chan," I begin, watching Yuki's face to see if she gives anything away at that. I might as well try to read a stone wall, though! "After finding out about her, and remembering something that Kyon told me once - something I thought was a joke...

"Are you an alien, Yuki?"

The answer is underwhelming, but typically Yuki: a simple nod. "In essence," she agrees.

I blow out my breath at that, shaking my head slightly. Even if it wasn't much of guess - Kyon gave me the truth, months ago! - it's still something of a relief to have confirmation. That answer wasn't completely what I was expecting, though. "What do you mean by 'in essence'?"

Yuki eyes seem to dim a bit at that. "I... am unable to be more specific," she replies, her gaze slipping away from mine.

"That's it?" I huff, scowling. "You're going to tease me with that and then just leave me hanging?"

"I am restricted from providing information directly to you about my own nature," Yuki says, her eyes shifting back to lock onto mine.

"Restricted?" I raise an eyebrow at that... but thinking about it, that sounds awfully similar to what Mikuru told me in the dream, too - that she wouldn't be able to tell me anything about the fact that she was a time traveler outside of the dream. "Don't tell me - you've got some total jerk of a boss too? Even if you want to tell me, you can't?"

She pauses for a moment, then repeats herself. "In essence."

I snort at that, scowling. "This is not at all what I had in mind when I said I wanted to meet aliens and time travelers and have fun with them," I grouse. "What fun is it if you've all got to deal with superiors that won't even let you do what you want?"

Yuki offers no comment in reply, and I simply shake my head. "At this rate, I'm going to find out that Koizumi-kun's family is being held hostage to make sure he's in the Brigade or something," I mutter. "Anyway, Yuki - you obviously can talk to other people about what you are, or else Kyon wouldn't know, is that right?"

She nods in confirmation. "I am not permitted to give information about my true nature specifically to you," Yuki clarifies, the slightest hint of regret in her tone.

"But you would if you could?" I reply, crossing my arms as I look back at her.

"I believe it would be beneficial at this point," the pale-haired girl says. "However, the option to make that decision has not been left to my discretion."

What kind of weird and crazy mind control must these aliens have?! Even Yuki thinks it'd be a good idea to tell me, but she just flat-out can't!

I try not to grind my teeth, then finally give Yuki a small nod. "All right, thanks for at least giving me some confirmation then," I say, my voice tight. "I have no idea how, but you have my word that I'll try to help you with your boss... somehow."

"Thank you," Yuki says softly, then the ghost of a smile seems to cross her face in the faint moonlight from the window over the sink. "I believe that matters may be changing significantly soon - your help will be appreciated."

Changing soon? What, if I come out publicly and say who everyone is that's going to change things? I was planning on doing it soon anyway - I want to get real straight answers from everyone, at this point - but this just solidifies my resolve to get it done as soon as I can arrange it! I almost go on to ask Yuki how she expects things to change, but don't make it that far; I suspect it'd count as 'providing information' to me and she'd have to clam up about it.

"It's a promise," I say, giving her a small grin. "As the Brigade chief, I have to look out for my Brigade members, don't I?"

Well, that wasn't what I had in mind when I set up the Brigade - taking on mind-controlling aliens and time travelers might be fun in theory, but in reality it's a bit daunting! It doesn't matter, though - these are my friends and my Brigade, and I'm not letting anyone take them away from me without a fight!