On the Thursday afternoon bike ride home, I asked Sasaki why she had given in to Suzumiya about the movie.
"Kyon, you make it sound like we're bitter rivals. While I don't know her feelings, I still admire her. I remember feeling left out, when she'd lead her elementary class on some sort of interesting activity. Well, now I finally am in the same room. So club or brigade, it doesn't matter. We've found a way to all be on the same page and leave nobody out."
"Except Suou." I kept my eyes on the road ahead of me.
"Just let her come along at her own pace. I'm sure she'll surprise as all some day. I'm amazed that Nagato would push her own idea out there like that. I think I smell some of your handiwork in that?" Sasaki leaned down towards me.
"You have a keen nose. Nagato just wanted to bounce the concept off me first. She's a big science fiction fan, as you can see from what she reads. Her apartment is starting to get big stacks of books, so remind me at the meeting tomorrow, to say that we need to help her carry up some bookcases."
"So how many times have you been inside Nagato's apartment?" Sasaki leaned back and slightly tightened her hands on my shoulders.
"Just twice. Is she your rival for something?"
"Fu fu fu fu. Of course not. I'm just concerned for two friends of mine, that's all."
That evening Nagato texted me to complain about Suzumiya's hijacking of her story.
"Perhaps she's doing you a favor?"
There was a noticeable delay, then Nagato texted back. "What?"
"Using a boy moves it even further away."
"But the other things she's adding."
"Let her, but write your own story."
"Isn't the book going to be about her story?"
"With one chapter for the short story the movie is based on."
"Can we do it?"
"It's not a lie, is it?"
"So write down your notes so far, and bring them to the clubroom tomorrow, so we can get started on that part."
At lunch on Friday, a girl with long flowing dark green hair came to the door of our classroom. "Which one of you is Kyon?"
I put my empty bento away and excused myself from Sasaki and Kunikida. "Can I help you, Miss?"
"Tsuruya." She grabbed my arm and dragged me to the windows away from the classrooms, then she released me to look me over.
I felt like a fish swimming down a stream under the hungry eye of a stork. "Is there some problem?"
"You tell me. My friend Mikuru-chan's been real depressed ever since she joined your club."
"Yeah, what is it?" Tsuruya stared in my face.
With all the problems with Nagato, not to mention the squabbling goddesses, I had overlooked whatever that problem Asahina said she had with time travel. What exactly was I getting dragged into? "Look, if you're such a good friend of hers, why don't you ask her yourself?"
She crossed her arms and turned to face the window. "I've tried. She just clams up and shakes her head." Then she looked back and wagged her finger at me. "If you've gotten her in trouble, then I sure hope for your sake that you're ready to take responsibility for it."
"I don't think our friend would appreciate having people say such things so loudly. And no, from what little I understand, that is not her problem."
Tsuruya looked almost ready to strike me, but then the bell sounded, announcing the imminent start of classes. "Don't think you've gotten out of this bunko. I'll be keeping my eye on you."
I hurried back to the classroom. Sasaki had questions, but no time to ask them, as the teacher had arrived.
At the meeting that afternoon, Suzumiya said that we'd meet at the cafe on Saturday to take up the location finding for her movie. I explained that I had to go to Nagato's to help her move in some bookshelves. Suzumiya exploded at this, but finally made it a brigade mission, to get it out of the way.
That next morning we met at Nagato's apartment and Suzumiya had exactly the response I had expected. She loved the empty space in Nagato's apartment and wanted Nagato to buy some furniture so she could use the place for her interior shots.
Koizumi mysteriously not only had a friend with a truck available, but also knew of some places that were trying to get rid of excess furniture.
The next weekend was at the start of June and Suzumiya executed her plans to get a video camera and props. By this point Sasaki had become the go-between who dealt with Nagato on the writing side, and Suzumiya on the movie issues. At lunch I was now the one to turn my chair around while Sasaki pulled her chair over to Suzumiya's desk. The two goddesses would talk while I ate in silence.
Sasaki rarely came riding home with me and would instead leave with Suzumiya. On those days when they both left immediately after school, I'd take the time in the clubroom to work on my homework. Both Nagato and Asahina offered to help me with this, but their explanations left me more confused than enlightened, as they came at the problems from their own perspectives. Nagato wanted to use some of the items Asahina mentioned as examples of what a far future society would be like for her story, but Asahina talked her out of this. The espers only showed up when the goddesses did, and Suou just sat there in the clubroom.
That week I met with Asahina and asked her about her time travel problems, but she could only provide small details. She didn't know much herself and had expected to rely on a future she could no longer contact.
The weekend after that we were out filming when Suzumiya shouted cut.
I turned off the video camera and put it to the side to rest my arm.
"You can't just give Koizumi a peck on the cheek, Tachibana!" Suzumiya walked up to them.
"What?" Tachibana backed away from Koizumi.
Suzumiya grabbed Sasaki, who had put down the reflector board, wrapped her arms around her neck, bent her over backwards, and kissed her. I could even see Suzumiya's tongue move against the inside of Sasaki's cheek.
After a full minute, Suzumiya broke off the kiss and turned back to the pair of espers. She kept an arm around Sasaki's waist as Sasaki leaned against her. "Now, that's the way you do a kiss."
"I can't do that on camera!" Tachibana blushed and glanced at Koizumi.
"Sure, you can." Suzumiya reluctantly let go of her girlfriend to give Tachibana a pat on the back.
"The whole school will see it!"
"Do you want to be a famous actress or not?" Suzumiya grabbed Tachibana's hands.
Something about that scene prodded me into action. I thought about it all day at school on Monday, but couldn't see how to pull it off.
There was only one person I could ask about all of this, and it was somebody I had to keep out of the loop. That afternoon on one of the rare rides to her house, I figured out a way to ask the question, without spilling the beans. "Sasaki, I've got this idea for Nagato's story, but I don't have it all figured out, so I thought I'd ask you about it first. If you don't mind?"
"No, go right ahead."
"Her time traveling character gets stuck in the past and has to deal with another time traveler who is jumping around and making things difficult for her. The only problem is that the enemy time traveler never reveals his face. So how do you defeat somebody who is watching from a future perspective and keeping to the shadows?"
"That's a tough one. Presumably the person in the future will have access to the full historical record, and so will be able to adjust for anything people in the past have done."
I pedaled in silence for a minute as I thought about what she had said. "Thanks. That's it."
"Let me think about it for a bit longer, but I think I see how to do it now." I stopped in front of her house and watched her walk up to her door.
Sasaki suddenly spun around to wag her finger at me. Then she smiled and walked into her house.
As I pedaled off I considered how much happier she had seemed lately. And Suzumiya also. They were surely the oddest couple I had ever seen. They seemed to agree on absolutely nothing, and yet they brilliantly coordinated with each other, while each retaining her own unique perspective.
When I got home, I went to my desk, turned on the radio as loudly as I was allowed, and took out my homework. As I pretended to read my math textbook, I let my hand drop down to the hilt of the invisible knife on my belt.
"Let's run away together." I whispered.
"Is this what you humans call madness?" Asakura's voice sounded in my head.
"A mere human has been messing with Yuki. Will you help me catch them or not?"
"Very well, who is it?"
"I do not know. I doubt they've even been born yet." I outlined my plan to Asakura and finally got her agreement. She even agreed that my two victims were in her opinion expendable, and that she would bring me the elements needed for my mad scheme.
The next day I left the goddess to have their lunch together, and took a trip outside the classroom to drop notes off in the shoe lockers of my two targets that read: "Suzumiya and Sasaki seem to have chosen each other. If you've got any ideas for how I can break them apart and get in there myself, then please meet me at the top of the stairway after school today. -Kyon"
I excused myself early from the clubroom, but the two goddesses were so busy haggling about story ideas that they didn't notice. I honestly didn't know how far they had gone at that point. Sure, there was the occasional kiss, and they did seem to have their hands all over each other a lot of the time, but whatever they did away from the school and the rest of us was a private matter, that I didn't care to ask the espers about.
Taniguchi and Kunikida were surprised to find that I'd called them both up, but they were willing to listen to my woes about the lesbian couple. We sat down next to the locked door at the top of the stairway and after a half hour of their pleading the cases for their factions, I offered them tea from my thermos. Within a few minutes they nodded off. I turned off their cell phones and tied them both up.
I waited for the school to turn dark and silent, then finally I drew the combat knife and sliced through the roof lock with one swipe. A most impressive weapon, but it would have only one chance.
I tied the ropes firmly then gently lowered the two agents over the side of the roof. A single glance assured me that the drop would be fatal.
I sat back and waited for a few hours. Then I stood and put my hands loosely at my sides. "I guess they're not going to show. Ah well, I'll hit the road and vanish from the history books now."
"What do you think you are doing?" A unfamiliar boy asked from behind me.
I turned around to face him, and carefully crossed my arms to leave my side free. "Are you the one who has disrupted Yuki?"
"So what if I have? What is your excuse for doing this? Don't you realize the dangers if the authorities are forced to take you away? You can't just leave things like this."
"I'm not the one who messed things up. You are."
I was pushed to the side by a sudden gust of wind. It felt like a bullet train, but it was only one girl shaped object. She grabbed the knife from the sheath on my belt and plunged it into the stranger's left eye before he could react.
He shuddered and died.
I stood and brushed myself off. "Why didn't you go at me that fast the first time, Asakura?"
"I have learned my lesson about you humans. I will not hesitate from now on." She pulled her knife from the skull of the corpse.
"So he was a time traveler?" I looked down at the body. He didn't seem all that impressive, but his face seemed to remind me of somebody. I just couldn't put my finger on whom.
"The TPDD is built into their brains. That needs to be shut down in order to stop them."
"Give me a hand with the two stooges." I turned to the ropes.
"Save them yourself." Asakura plucked her sheath from my belt and returned her strangely clean knife to it. Then she picked up the body and vanished. She didn't even leave a bloodstain behind.
I pulled the two boys up, untied them and slapped them awake.
"What?" Kunikida seemed totally bewildered.
"What the hell did you do, Kyon?" Taniguchi clinched his fists as he stood.
I crossed my arms. "I just did something for Asakura. You know what she is, so do you want to trouble her any further about this?"
Nobody did raise a stink about it, and that weekend Asahina called my cellphone at home to tell me to meet her at the park near Nagato's.
When I met her, she explained that her connection with the future had been restored. The timelines were still tangled up and she'd need my help in the next few days to make some trips to the past.
"Won't that negate all of this?"
"No. You've established some new fixed points, but there are some paradoxes in the past that need to be seen to, or classified information will happen."
Nagato's faction agreed to keep her human, in an attempt to better communicate with Suou, or so they said. I think it was just that they were soft on her.
Whenever Asakura saw Nagato, she would give her a look that was a strange cross between contempt and longing. I didn't dare mention this to her, because she had her knife back.
I struggled with my grades for a bit, but then Yuki found a more human perspective and managed to coach me into passing grades. She even settled for the crummy college that finally accepted me, and let me move into the one bedroom apartment she rented nearby. It wasn't a surprise to anybody when we got married right after graduation.
I'm proud of my son, though I admit that he's a bit odd. It wasn't much of a surprise to me when Yuki finally admitted that he had inherited a connection like hers.
A much bigger surprise was in store when Suzumiya and Sasaki came by to see our infant child and Suzumiya was inspired to become a mother herself. She even talked Sasaki into it.
"The only way I can be sure in my heart that I'm not cheating on you, is if you are there and a part of it!" Suzumiya grabbed Sasaki's hands. "Don't you want to be a part of my child's life from the very start? And can't I be a part of your child's life from the very start also?"
"You can't be serious." But I saw by the expression on Suzumiya's face that she was. I turned to my wife, "Yuki?"
"It's okay." She dropped her gaze down to our baby.
She later told me that her alien masters had ordered her to agree, but she waited until after she had been excluded from our bedroom for a week so that Suzumiya could have her way with me and Sasaki. I wasn't at all surprised that their cycles were coordinated, but apparently Suzumiya's womb was a little less stable place to rest in, so she had her daughter a week before Sasaki had hers.
So now I have 'twin' daughters with birthdays a week apart from each other. That's certainly started a few conversations. Yes, the daughters live with us. It took Suzumiya barely six months after her daughter was born to conclude that motherhood was boring. So she dropped the baby girls off to Yuki and my care and went out with Sasaki on their great adventures.
The two would show up each year for the birthdays, until that great storm hit their flight coming back home one year. I like to think that the two of them washed up on some tiny tropical island and are still having the times of their lives, but Yuki informed me after the plane went down that the daughters had inherited the offices of their mothers.
I noticed a bit of a change in the girls at the time, but they had each always taken after their mothers. At least they get along with each other, while also never agreeing on anything. My boy is wise beyond his years in the way he makes sure he doesn't agree with one of them too much over the other. I try to follow his example.
So my three children (from three different mothers) are going to school now and having their own adventures (along with Itsuki's and Kyouko's kid), but I'll leave it to them to write their own stories.