A Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu fanfiction
by Brian Randall
Disclaimer: The series begun with the light novel 'The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi'/'Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu' is the creation of Nagaru Tanigawa. No disrespect is intended with the creation of this work.
Note: Contains spoilers through book one. This specific fic is being written to try and accomplish the same goal as At a Glance, except using positive reinforcement instead of negative. That is, some felt that Kyon's role in AaG was lacking in compassion and his actions were manipulative. This is a try to appeal to people who felt that way without rewriting AaG. I hope everyone can enjoy it.
What measure is a dream? Not the collection of images that run through your brain when you sleep, recycling your experiences from the day for reasons that scientists still don't understand, but the more nebulous concept of goals. Some might dream to become politicians, or star athletes. Maybe they dream of being those same scientists who might eventually unravel the secret meanings to the other kinds of dreams.
But you can't put them all on the same scale.
Someone might dream of someday ruling the world, while someone else across the globe might have a dream of having rain feed the drying crops. Oh, sure, the future ruler of the world might immediately focus on solving the issues of the one who dreams of rain, but those aren't things you can put side by side.
So when you listen to dreams, at least in my view, you have to look at them all as separate things. Contrast, for instance, someone who dreams of going to school without being haunted by the distant past - things that happened before they were born - to someone who dreams of someday meeting aliens, sliders, time travelers, and that sort of thing, and then being able to set aside concerns like school entirely.
If you compare them, unfavorable conclusions could be drawn; the one who wants to go to school may be aiming too low. The one who wants to ignore school entirely may be aiming too high.
However, if a dream is just a dream, is there any reason to think that one is 'better'? They're different for different people, and that's probably entirely fine.
After all, Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream a decade and a half before I even attended high school, and who wants to compare theirs to that?
Given the choice, I'd give up mine to help his come true.
It was with those sorts of thoughts, the pretension and pride of someone who has completed middle school without undue problems, that I went on to Kitago.
The school was newly built, only having opened the previous year. I supposed that meant that all of the seniors must have transfered in, last year if not the year before. The idea of everyone coming together from elsewhere in the city suited me well. The opening ceremonies were brightly lit thanks to a sunny day, and filled with the chatter of excited students.
In short, I could not envision things being much better than they were. My new uniform, as clean as every other students', made me one of a vast group, and I saw more than a small number of familiar faces from my middle school.
I couldn't help but be pleased at the way things were going. After all, even if the climb up the hill just to reach the school depleted my energy, it was a small obstacle compared to what my parents had endured, or their parents before them!
In fact, I thought everything would be so sickeningly bland that I wouldn't even realize that the first month of school had passed until I looked back at it, complaining of homework, but unable to truly regret it.
This did not quite happen.
When our homeroom teacher, a handball fanatic with a practiced smile, had us go through our introductions, I finished my own. Confident that nothing else out of the ordinary would happen, I sat down.
And behind me, a student that I would not have singled out in any way beyond being pretty slammed her hands to her desk as she rose to her feet. Her chair skated noisily behind her and banged against the next desk behind her, thanks to her excitement. I couldn't help but turn around as she drew in her breath, puffing out her chest and crossing her arms as her eyes flashed and she declared: "From East Middle School, I am Suzumiya Haruhi!"
Her flashing gaze targeted me for a lingering moment, before sweeping on to the rest of the class as she continued, "Normal humans do not interest me! If you are - or know of - aliens, time travelers, extra-dimensional travelers, or espers, then report to me! That is all!"
The entire class was stunned by her outburst, but she just snorted quietly and dropped back to her seat, her gaze sweeping to me.
I couldn't help but feel like I was staring into the sun under the intensity of her gaze, so quickly looked away.
That was our introduction.
Later that day, on a break between our teachers making their introductions, I turned around to regard Suzumiya Haruhi. Her eyes were already locked on mine, her expression wary.
"Did you really mean all of that?" I had to wonder.
Her eyes flashed. "Of course!" she snapped. "Are you an alien?"
...that's not what I was. "No."
Not that, either. "Not that I know of."
"From another dimension? Time traveler? Onmyouji?"
"None of those things," I said, feeling uncomfortable under the intensity of her gaze.
Her response was an irate scowl, almost a sneer.
"You're ... not really answering my question," I tried in a pathetic appeal.
Grumbling, she turned her face away, resting her chin on one small fist. "I am, absolutely," she said after I had started to think she was going to ignore me. "Normal people are completely uninteresting."
Given a choice, I'd take 'uninteresting' over some alternatives, but what was with this girl?
I couldn't understand her behavior at all.
As the next few days covered our introduction to the faculty and the opening ceremonies, I found ample opportunities to observe Suzumiya Haruhi.
During the track events, she demonstrated that she had the potential for a top athlete. The school uniforms weren't terribly modest, either, so it was equally clear that she could probably get almost anyone she cared to as a boyfriend. That wasn't my motivation for watching her, but the same observation drew the attention of one of our classmates from the same middle school as her.
While Taniguchi would rather have hid in the shade and skipped as many events as possible, the majority of students were participating. I had no great desire to stick out that much, and so he put up with something he'd rather avoid, just to share his wisdom with me.
Kunikida, a former classmate from my own middle school joined us, at the edge of our year's group.
Pitching his voice low to avoid being overheard by any nearby girls, Taniguchi assessed, "Suzumiya looks good, but it's not worth the trouble. Instead, turn your gaze to the adorable Asakura Ryouko! Now that's a girl I'd like to date!
"Other than her fine physical form, she's intelligent, has the maximum possible charm points, and is a shining example of a traditional girl! She's the iconic 'Yamato Nadeshiko'! Without question, I rate her an 'A plus plus.'"
I couldn't help the prickle of irritation that such a scale produced. "Really," I drawled flatly. "Have you graded all of the girls, then?"
"Yep!" Taniguchi said with pride. "And I memorized the names of all the 'A's and better!"
Kunikida, able to tell I was getting tired of Taniguchi's pride already, contributed, "Kyon doesn't like the idea of people being excluded."
Taniguchi blinked at this, looking confused. "What? But Suzumiya's trouble! That's all I'm saying. I've been stuck in classes with her for three years before this one, so I should know!"
"If it's a judgment you made from knowing her that long, it's one thing," I said, shrugging my shoulders. "But what about those other girls who didn't pass your muster?"
"Well, Kyon has this thing for weird girls," Kunikida offered, shrugging himself. "In middle school, when there was a girl who was standoffish and didn't really fit in, he decided to befriend her anyway."
"Was she cute?" Taniguchi asked, raising his eyebrows.
Kunikida rubbed his forehead and sighed. "The point of this is that I suspect that Kyon, being Kyon, is going to try and befriend Suzumiya the same way."
Taniguchi looked upon my mildly irate expression with something akin to horrified awe. "Kyon," he said, incidentally letting me know that the nickname Kunikida had brought up was going to stick, "you are seriously taking one for the team. Okay! I will tell you everything I know in order to help you with your quest!"
I wasn't sure I wanted that help! I wasn't sure about the nickname, either, but I'd take it over forced formality. You win some and you lose some, I suppose.
"Well, it's just information," Kunikida offered kindly. Ever the peace-maker... "Take what you can use and otherwise make your own judgments, Kyon!"
"We'll see," I allowed, shaking my head. "If she's that cold to everyone, then I'll just be wasting my time, wouldn't I?"
"That's right!" Taniguchi said, nodding quickly.
The idea of agreeing with such a sentiment so quickly spurred me to give Suzumiya more of a chance, just to be contrary to Taniguchi's approach.
I spent some time after that observing the enigmatic Suzumiya Haruhi in her native habitat. Taniguchi offered up his own opinions, but I decided I couldn't take anything he said at face value.
Other than that, since we'd spoken once, I tried to make it a daily habit to have at least one verbal exchange with her. For all of her indifference to 'normal people,' she never told me to leave her alone, which I decided to take as a sign that I was making progress.
On the other hand, I could have been entirely wrong, and it was simply that no one else understood how to approach her on her own terms.
The girls in the class would try and draw her into discussions on their own from time to time. Their topics didn't seem to interest her when they talked about the latest television shows they'd seen, but sometimes instead of giving them a cold brush-off, she even got worked up.
There was an exchange that went something like this:
"Suzumiya-san, did you see the latest episode of Conan: Boy From the Future? It seemed like something you might enjoy!"
"That's so stupid," she retorted. "Who would want to watch such a pessimistic show? Civilization advancing and nearly destroying itself before they achieve anything remarkable, or contact aliens? No one should waste their time watching something like that!"
Then the girl that Suzumiya had rebuked would slink away, not likely to try again.
Another would try something like this:
"Ah, Suzumiya-san, did you hear about the new Lupin III movie they're releasing next year?"
"What about it?" she returned guardedly.
"You haven't heard? It was a very popular show! They're going to release a movie and a whole new season next year! It's about this legendary thief, and-"
"I've heard about it," Haruhi said flatly. "If it doesn't feature powerful sorcerers or amazing feats of supernatural strength, what's the point? I certainly wouldn't waste my time watching them. Some simple thief? Bah!"
"I...is that ... so?" yet another girl laughed uneasily, before retreating.
I had no input on this myself, as my family did not actually own a television worth watching anything on. Some days, when my father was home from his job at the factory, we would crowd around the small black and white screen and watch - more listen - to the baseball games. Beyond that, it couldn't really hold my interest.
The only girl who never gave up was Asakura Ryouko. Her attempts were milder, and in return, Suzumiya simply ignored her instead of giving her the brutal dismissal she offered everyone else. Really, Asakura Ryouko's attempts underscored her traditional nature - her ability to brush aside almost any slight for the greater harmony of the class. And so, Suzumiya seemed to tolerate her and no one else.
Aside from me, I supposed.
It didn't hurt that after Asakura Ryouko was made class representative and our seats were reassigned, I kept my own position sitting right before Suzumiya. It was a very nice seat, though, so I couldn't complain too much.
Aside from keeping myself from just dismissing her out of hand, like Taniguchi seemed to.
There were other details, too - Suzumiya changed her hair every day, using a different number of colored headbands and putting them up in a different number of ponytails. Or braids. Or...
So one day, not long after her rejection of joining the other girls for their small film festival, I asked her what it meant.
She turned to stare at me as though unable to believe I had dared to broach the subject. As uncomfortable as that made me, feeling almost as though I was on the wrong side of the incident at Honno-Ji, I asked, "Why do you change your hair every day? I've noticed a pattern, but is it to attract the attention of aliens?"
"When did you notice?" she asked.
"Hmm, a while back." Though, in truth I had only figured out the pattern recently.
Shaking her head, she fell into her habit of ignoring my question and asking one of her own, returning, "Have I met you before somewhere, a very long time ago? Maybe with your sister?"
"How did you know I have a sister?" I asked in surprise. I mean, I wasn't trying to hide it, but how did she find out?
Her eyebrows rose. "Keeps her hair back with a ribbon, just a little shorter than you?" She held one hand at the level of her own head to indicate the relative height of this theoretical sister.
"Much shorter than me," I answered. "She's about that height standing up."
Suzumiya grimaced at that, looking irritated. "Girlfriend?" she pressed.
I didn't have one of those. The closest thing to that ... no, she hadn't used a ribbon for her hair anyway. "Nothing of the sort," I replied, frowning.
"And you don't have a gakuran style high school uniform anyway, do you?" she concluded with a sigh, eyes hooded.
The official Kitago uniforms for boys looked nothing like the traditional somewhat military-styled outfit that many other schools used. Why should she even ask that? "What is this all about?" I finally asked. "You never really answered my question."
Blinking again, as though she had tasted something particularly foul, she bit out, "I think every day has a different feel." Then she launched into an explanation about the significance of the colors of her hair ties, which I had missed. I only caught the significance of the number of points.
I wondered if what I said had any impact on her at all, really. After that, I spent all of Golden Week doing part-time work with Taniguchi, and getting even more tired of his incessant nattering. But when we came back from that working vacation and returned to class, I found she had cut her hair short.
As drastic a change as that was, especially if it was due to my remark, I could only offer, "I think long hair suited you, but that's a nice look, too."
She gave me a scowl in return, saying nothing.
And that was more or less how our days went.
One day, I asked, "Is it true you've tried out and quit every club?"
"Yes, and they were all awful," she grumbled, crossing her arms over her chest.
"Well, I should probably join a club, myself," I said aloud. "If you find a good one, you'll let me know, right?"
She gave me an odd look at that, but ultimately agreed, "Fine - I will!"
"I was in a study group in middle school," I added thoughtfully. "It wasn't any fun, but I suppose it was better than nothing."
"Is your math bad?" she asked, sounding bored. "You're probably the top student for history in this class."
"History is important to me," I answered. "We learn from our mistakes, or we're doomed to repeat them."
"I'd rather just avoid making the mistake in the first place."
"An excellent idea. I try and learn from the mistakes of others, myself."
"Hmm," she mused, unimpressed.
It was true, though. While I suspected that Suzumiya was just as good at me, or could be if she cared, I had become the history teacher's favorite student. I wasn't striving for the distinction, and I didn't really want to stand out, but I could accept being known for being good at one small thing without too much difficulty.
Not content to leave things like that, I asked, "What kind of club are you looking for, anyway?"
"Something amazing," she replied without hesitation, getting worked up and sitting bolt upright, fists on the desk before her as she scowled in determination. "Something phenomenal! Something truly radical!" Then her eyes narrowed. "So! What does your history say about that?"
What could it? "This school is only in its second year of normal operation," I offered with a shrug. "However, if the concept for such a club existed already, undoubtedly this amazing and phenomenal club would have branches across the country, and a longstanding tradition stretching back to the occupation."
"Are you saying that in the three decades since World War Two, every type of club that can be formed already has?" she challenged me, her gaze hardening.
Why would this be so important? "Not every type," I answered. "Thinking about things, there's the 'Electronics Research Society.' Isn't that new and cutting edge? They're always finding and trying to make the latest devices you can imagine!"
"They are not amazing," she returned acidly. "The things they make are all copied from instructions in magazines. They may make useful things, but themselves? Nothing they make or use helps an important project like SETI! Don't even get me started!"
Before she could go off on a tirade about them, and in fact following her suggestion to 'not get her started,' I continued, "Anyway, the point of it all is that if such a club existed, you would have discovered it in your searching. I believe it's safe to say that if you haven't, it's because this club doesn't exist. Perhaps some day, or even in some distant land, some remarkable person will come along and pioneer something that suits you - but until then, I don't believe you'll find it.
"Isn't it better for unremarkable, average people like us to enjoy what's already available instead of becoming discontent and asking for even more? We must respect proper bounds and know our limits to avoid overreaching, after all."
I felt that this speech was, for me, especially eloquent, so sat back, satisfied with my delivery.
Suzumiya was giving me a look that was difficult for me to discern, looking simultaneously amazed and disgusted, her mouth hanging open a short distance as she stared.
Shrugging, I turned back to face the front of the class, thinking that was the end of it.
It was not, in fact, the end of it.
After lunch, when I was fighting the exhaustion of boring math lessons, as well as the more pleasant tiredness of enjoying a filling meal of rice and vegetables, my dozing was interrupted by Suzumiya hauling my seat backward, nearly knocking me to the floor. "I've got it!" she shouted loudly enough to rattle me. "Kyon! That's a great idea!"
I found my balance, needing to climb to my feet as my chair finally fell over, clattering to the floor. The entire classroom, including Saotome-sensei, were all staring at us blankly. Aoyama-sensei, the history teacher, would have liked me well enough to overlook it with a pointed cough.
No such luck here.
"Suzumiya-san," I replied, turning to look at her. "This is the sort of matter that can wait until after class, is it not?"
She stared at me in annoyance as I indicated the rest of the classroom, then righted my seat and took it once more.
Saotome-sensei cleared his throat loudly, and I was spared as he determined that Suzumiya was more worthy of admonishment than I. "Suzumiya," he said flatly, drawing her gaze to him. "Buckets. Hall. Now."
The class drew in a low murmur of breath as Suzumiya snorted indifferently, not hesitating a second to grab the buckets from the cleaning supplies and march out into the hall.
Saotome-sensei was not a teacher to get on the wrong side of. While I had no doubt that Suzumiya could withstand it...
Should I have been happy I was overlooked? I felt bad for Suzumiya, more. She was enthusiastic about it and ... stuck out. And the nail that sticks out gets pounded down.
When she came back, in the brief window of time we had before our next teacher started lessons, I had to ask, "Do your hands hurt?"
"Nothing I haven't handled before," she dismissed breezily. "They're stiff for a bit, but it's not that bad. You never know your own limits until you've tried such a thing! Do you think you could handle that trial, Kyon?"
I didn't really want to find out, actually. Such tenacity, though...
When the next break came, I had to take a look at the buckets that Suzumiya had put in the back of the classroom. I could see then that she hadn't done it half-heartedly, either - she had actually filled them with water, and probably held them for the entire remainder of the class!
Despite everything, her spirit wasn't bent in the slightest. A little bit, I had to admire her resolve!
Other than a few seconds flexing her hands before she ran off, she didn't show a sign of the ordeal. I would have been tempted to follow her to ask her more, if the proper and considerate Asakura Ryouko hadn't cornered me, a look of concern on her face.
"Kyon-kun," she said sternly. "No one else has had any luck reaching out to Suzumiya-san. Therefore, since she seems to listen to you in some ways, I'll look to you to speak to her on our behalf! Understood?"
"I feel like the Dutch, suddenly," I answered with a sigh.
Asakura Ryouko giggled at that, steepling her fingers beneath her chin. "Just so~! As Suzumiya-san repels everyone else from her borders, we will rely on you to host communications with her, like the isle of Dejima!"
"Great," I sighed. "I'm pioneering a new form of rangaku."
Taniguchi turned to stare at us, looking confused at our references to historical events.
Perhaps pitying him, and perhaps just finding the situation amusing, Kunikida translated it plainly: "They're making the comparison that Suzumiya-san is as closed as Japan's borders were, centuries ago."
"So Kyon's like Admiral Perry?" Taniguchi returned, scratching his head.
"No," I sighed. "When our borders were closed, the shogunate still allowed trade through the Dutch. They also allowed information from the outside world, especially sciences and such, to come through. This type of learning was called 'rangaku.' It's frequently suggested that it's thanks to this our country was able to adapt and modernize as quickly as it did, once Admiral Perry actually did force the borders open.
"Going on what our honorable class representative is suggesting, my role is now going to be maintaining those communications with Suzumiya."
"So then, thank you, Kyon-kun!" Asakura Ryouko said, her cheeks dimpling as her smile widened and she gave me the full formal traditional bow from the waist at ninety degrees.
Refusing such a traditional girl such an earnest request would undoubtedly earn me the scorn of my classmates, so I had no choice but to accept.
Turning to Taniguchi she added, "Taniguchi-kun, you should apply yourself to your studies better!"
"Will you study with me?" he asked hopefully.
I shook my head. Just like that, I was pushed into taking that role? What would Suzumiya think of that? I resolved that I had to ask her.
I never got a chance to ask, as it turned out.
On our next break, Suzumiya grabbed my hand before I could say anything, and with inhuman strength hauled me across the campus at a breakneck pace. We ended up coming to a halt in a stairwell leading to the roof, currently empty of anything but the faintest lingering traces of cigarette smoke.
"Okay!" she declared from the top of the stairs, gazing straight into my eyes. "Based on your suggestion, we're going to form a club!"
"We ... are?" I returned, not expecting that.
"That's right! You said it yourself - such a club as the one I want doesn't exist - so we obviously have to make it ourselves!" she proclaimed, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world.
The rest of my class was spent wondering what Suzumiya had in mind instead of actually focusing on my lessons.
Once they let out, Suzumiya barked an order at me to be prepared, and I sighed and trudged my way down to the office. Evidently, the paperwork was my responsibility. Since history and records were my forte, naturally, wasn't paperwork as well?
So I gathered the requisite forms and went home to pore through the details.
I had agreed I'd join whatever club she found that was worthwhile, but this was not what I had expected! According to the school's policy, a club needed five members, a teacher to act as a sponsor, and a charter, unless it were a type of club that were already recognized by the school - like a study group, or a sports club.
That meant we were three members, a charter, and a sponsor short. I wasn't eager to rely on my 'favored student' status with Aoyama-sensei to get him to sign, but if nothing else could be done, that would be an option.
Wrangling the charter from Suzumiya would be a better first step, I determined.
That thought in mind, I finished my homework and went to bed. Sleep was elusive, and I couldn't help but make more comparisons. The Edo period was when the isolationist policy that Asakura Ryouko compared to Suzumiya's stance on the rest of the class was established. Other systems were established then, too, and I was not at all a fan of some of them.
Considering some of the problems that followed families like mine from that time, I don't know that I could be blamed.
And while Asakura Ryouko seemed to be trying to unify all of her classmates into a cohesive whole, much like Tokugawa Ieyasu when establishing that period...
I tried to put such worrisome thoughts from my mind and simply sleep.
But it was a long time coming.
The following day, when I got to class, Suzumiya was waiting for me, her dour expression lighting up into a grin as she set eyes upon me. I actually froze and looked behind me, to see if some oni or space alien were standing behind me ... but no, that smile seemed to be targeting me.
How strange that was.
"Did you get the paperwork?" she asked without greeting me, once I reached my seat.
"Yeah," I sighed. "We're missing three more people and a charter."
"That's fine, that's fine," she said dismissively. "I can handle more members! So you can write up the charter!"
"It would help to know what our club is actually about, though," I countered, frowning. "I can't very well write a charter when I don't even know what you've got planned ... and anyway, we also need the signature of a teacher."
She blinked at that, scowling. "We need a sponsor, too?" she grumbled, shaking her head in annoyance. "Saotome-sensei's irritated at me, still. Well, maybe we can convince him anyway. So I suppose I'll have to handle that, as well!"
Sighing, I offered, "If you can write a reasonable charter, I will take it to Aoyama-sensei."
Suzumiya immediately perked up at hearing that. "Very well!" she agreed magnanimously, gracing me with a smile I would more have expected from the proper and traditional Asakura Ryouko. "He adores you, so that should be fine! Three more members and the charter? That should be no problem! I'll get a club room for us at lunch, and handle those parts! Excellent work, subordinate!"
"Just like that?" I had to wonder. I wasn't sure I liked being a subordinate, especially to Suzumiya ... but I didn't feel like she was crossing any lines she shouldn't have, yet.
"Just like that!"
Well, if she had that much confidence...
After class, I was hauled immediately off by Suzumiya once more, to Kunikida and Taniguchi's undisguised amusement. The only small consolation I had was Asakura Ryouko giving an approving nod to me, though it was tempered with a look of concern toward Suzumiya. This time, instead of dragging me to the stairwell to the roof, I was allowed to slide to a halt before a clubroom.
I felt like a trespasser in such a building - as I recalled, it was completed only this winter, the final addition to the school. The floors were immaculate, and the nameplates of most clubs were, too. Some of them were handwritten notes on card-stock, probably awaiting their more permanent replacements, like the 'electronics research society' one door down. The room we stopped before had a painstakingly hand-inked card reading, 'literature club.'
"Not that I have any objections on principle," I said slowly, eying the sign, "but there seems to be a problem insofar as this room is already claimed."
She ignored me and opened up the door. "This will be our headquarters!" she proclaimed, like a conquering daimyo, surveying her newly claimed territory. Almost as though she knew what image she had put into my head, she crossed her arms over her chest and smiled in satisfaction.
Scanning the room, I saw a pair of bookshelves with a very small number of books present, a filing cabinet, and a long table with a chair at it, occupied by a diminutive slip of a girl. Her thick rimmed glasses caught the light as she tilted her head to regard us briefly.
"Never mind 'seems' to be taken - this room is clearly occupied," I said to Haruhi quietly.
"It's fine, it's fine," she dismissed my concern, uncrossing her arms to wave a hand. "I asked earlier - she'll be a silent character supporting us."
"Really?" I had to wonder. "And you..." I paused. Who was this girl, anyway? She was probably in our year, wasn't she?
"Nagato Yuki," she whispered demurely, before turning her attention back to her book.
I glanced at the title. 'Stranger in a Strange Land'? It must be engrossing. I had no idea what it was about, but couldn't help but admit some resonance with the title, between her and Suzumiya.
"Well, Nagato Yuki-san, you don't have any problems with Suzumiya-san taking over your room and using it for..." I had to trail off. I didn't even know what she was actually planning!
Nagato's response was a quiet, clipped, "It's fine."
"There!" Suzumiya declared triumphantly. "So, we will be using this space! Kyon, be sure to meet here after school every day from now on!"
And then, without waiting for a word of confirmation, she whirled and dashed away.
Alone with Nagato Yuki, I scratched my head and sighed. "Well ... in any case, thank you for your patience, Nagato-san. If it becomes a difficulty, please be sure to let us know immediately," I said earnestly.
"It is fine," the quiet girl replied again, once more tilting her head to eye me through those glasses.
"Then ... I suppose that I'll see you tomorrow," I said, somewhat lamely.
Her head shifted the tiniest distance in response. Was that a nod? If the light coming through her glasses hadn't changed, I wouldn't have even caught it.
With nothing else to do, once her attention drifted back to the page before her, I silently excused myself and went home.
The following day, after class finished and Suzumiya raced out, I sighed and gathered my things. At the time, I couldn't feel any sense of urgency.
Taniguchi and Kunikida approached, the pair of them looking excited about something or other. "Kyon!" Taniguchi called. "I have some money left over from working through Golden Week. You must as well, right? So Kunikida and I are headed down to the train station - they've installed a new arcade cabinet in that little cafe nearby!"
Hmm? Video games were interesting to watch, but I didn't have the spare change to play. Asking to borrow from either Taniguchi or Kunikida didn't much appeal to me.
"It's called 'Space Invaders,'" Kunikida added. "It just got put in a day or two ago - when I saw it, there was a line of people waiting to try it out. We'd best hurry to avoid having to wait forever!"
As much as I'd like to hang out and just blend in, I'd rather not spend money to do it. That all said, I shrugged weakly, using the excuse that Suzumiya had conveniently handed to me. "I've been drafted into some club by Suzumiya-san," I apologized. "Who knows what might happen if I were to be too late?"
The pair of them stared in surprise for a moment, before Taniguchi's expression fell slightly. "I'm honestly not sure how to feel about that," he said, almost in an aside. "I think I should say thanks for falling on that sword for the rest of us, Kyon!"
Kunikida winced at the other boy's remark, giving me an apologetic smile. "Some other day, then," he said with a shrug.
I nodded back as he followed Taniguchi out the door, then walked to the club room we were going to be sharing with Nagato Yuki. When I got there, it was just me and that silent girl.
"Hello, Nagato-san," I greeted her somewhat awkwardly. When I checked, the book title was different, this one reading 'A Gift from Earth.' "A new one already?"
Looking up silently, she gave another of her incredibly small nods.
"Do you enjoy it?" I asked, pulling up one of the other folding chairs in the room and unfolding it to sit opposite her.
"Unique," she answered.
I supposed she wasn't the talkative type. Well, what else was there to do, then? Perhaps I could ask to borrow one of the books she'd finished?
Before that thought could go much further, the door crashed open. I really thought Suzumiya should go a little easier on the furnishings! This building was brand new, after all!
"It can take it," she returned without hesitation, hauling in a wide-eyed and unfamiliar girl, then turning around, slamming the door shut, and locking it.
"What's going on here?" the new girl whimpered. I hadn't seen her before, but she was very pretty, and looked on the verge of tears. She might have been older, too - was she an upperclassman? I was certain that she would have made Taniguchi's 'list' if she were in our year. "Why are you locking the door?"
I rose to my feet, frowning, and Nagato shifted in her seat to watch.
"I've detained this girl to join our club!" Suzumiya proclaimed proudly, crossing her arms over her chest as she leaned against the closed door and grinned.
"Wah," the new girl half-yelped, shying away and bumping into the table. Since I was already standing, I moved the two steps necessary to catch the girl when she stumbled. "Eee!" she cried, freezing up.
I was stuck in the awkward position of holding her arms, unable to let her go until she found her footing. Suzumiya's smile faded, but she quickly grinned, evidently thinking I was holding the other girl still just for her benefit. Without hesitation, she leaped forward, cupping the other girl's face in her hands.
"Look at this!" Suzumiya cheered. "This is Asahina Mikuru-chan! She's got a cute, incredibly youthful face, doesn't she? And a knockout body like this-"
Before her hands could descend further, I gently lowered the trembling Asahina-san to the floor, incidentally shielding her with my body. I couldn't think of any other way to help her.
"Suzumiya-san," I said flatly, releasing the older girl and standing straight once Suzumiya was thwarted. At my feet, upperclassman whimpered and curled into a ball. "What exactly are you trying to do?"
"Have you seen her chest?" Suzumiya returned in indignant disbelief. "It's huge! I'm almost jealous of it!"
I had no idea where to even begin with that violation of personal space. Pressing one hand to my face in irritation, I remarked, "You don't need to use your hands to see, Suzumiya-san."
"Right," Suzumiya agreed suddenly, grinning, evidently distracted. She marched around me and the still-sniffling upperclassman. "Visual arts are entirely the focus here!"
I turned to stare at her, still uncertain where this whole thing was going. "What are you on about?" I had to wonder.
"It's about..." Suzumiya began slowly, rummaging through her schoolbag before releasing another triumphant cry. "Aha~! This!"
And then she held aloft a device I hadn't ever seen before, and couldn't identify, except that it seemed to fold up into a small rectangular box, with a smaller raised square section atop it. "Some alien machinery?" I asked, confounded.
"No, but that's a good idea," she answered, unfolding it and snapping various pieces into position carefully. It took her less than a minute to transform it into something that looked like a ... camera? My mother owned a camera, but it was shaped nothing like that device. Suzumiya then loaded some flat panel-like thing into the camera, and asked, "Now you get it?"
"It's a camera, isn't it?" I asked, just to be sure.
"Right, right," she agreed, moving back around the table and handing it to me. I had only gotten to hold my mother's camera a few times, and only she and my father knew how to operate it, so I had to stare at the device in fascination, turning it about a few times before accidentally pressing a button-
There was a blinding flash and grinding noise, and Suzumiya snatched it away. "Hey!" she snapped. "That film isn't cheap!"
"Ah," I managed, blinking as my eyes teared up. "I didn't expect that."
"Then never mind the idea of you taking the pictures," Suzumiya groused. "Honestly..." When I finished regaining my eyesight she showed me a rectangular card with a square inset into it. That square ... seemed to have what looked like an impression of me staring down at it in consternation. As my eyes cleared, the picture itself seemed to sharpen.
"An instant camera?" I asked in realization. It wasn't my eyes clearing, it was the photograph actually developing!
"Yes," she said dryly. "And if you've never seen or used one before, I don't have the time to show you how to use it properly anyway." Shaking her head, she muttered, "I swear, what small village did you come from before moving to Nishinomiya?"
She wasn't looking at me to catch the way I flinched at that. It was probably just an offhand remark, but even so...
Her focus was instead on the picture I'd accidentally taken, and she made a face before shoving it into her school bag, grumbling about the waste of film. "Anyway! With this, Asahina Mikuru-chan - ah, I'm just going to call you Mikuru-chan-"
"Eh?" the upperclassman managed from where she had sat up on the floor, and was watching us with wide eyes. "N-no, I don't..." She trailed off as Suzumiya raised her eyebrows expectantly. For whatever reason, Asahina-san's eyes went past her, and locked with Nagato-san's. "I ... see," she said slowly.
Shaking her head, Suzumiya set the camera on the table and then raised a single finger in the air, swinging it in a slow circle as she explained, "We're going to get those useless electronics people next door to build something worthwhile for us - I know they've got a small pile of oscilloscopes, so we'll have them make an electronic telescope! I'm sure they have magazines showing how to make those by amateurs!"
"Those- Those are meters across," I said in protest, vaguely remembering that from an article I'd read not long ago.
"Ah, that's just the dish!" Suzumiya said, grinning. "The electronic instrumentation isn't so difficult - think about it! Only last year they found the 'Wow!' signal! There could be aliens all over trying to reach us, and SETI can only cover so much of the sky! As part of our search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, we're going to pitch in and scan, too!"
I ... vaguely recalled reading about that signal. "And we're somehow going to find something that bigger observatories missed?" I wondered, dumbfounded at this girl's enthusiasm.
"Yes!" she exclaimed, pumping a fist in the air. "We're going to find something stupendous, maybe even something like the five-note-sequence from Close Encounters!"
"From what?" I asked, echoed by a confused noise from Asahina-san.
Suzumiya's sharp gaze fixed back on us as her smile vanished. "'Close Encounters of the Third Kind'!" she snapped. "Don't you watch movies? It only came out a few months ago in theaters!"
"The last movie I remember seeing in theaters was, 'The Terror of Mechagodzilla,'" I answered slowly.
She stared at me before rolling her eyes. "Whatever," she said flatly, picking the camera up again. "Mikuru-chan, come on - you're going to help us get that telescope!"
"Eh, um..." Asahina-san whimpered. "O...okay, Suzumiya-san..."
I was too distracted to protest, and it didn't seem like Asahina-san had that much of a problem with things, either, hesitantly following Suzumiya's enthusiastic march out of the room.
Even if it was a radical topic shift from Suzumiya's behavior, I couldn't help but think back to that movie I'd seen with my parents. It was not only the last movie I'd seen in theaters ... it was also the first movie I had seen in theaters. It was right after my elementary school graduation, and my parents had asked me to pick a movie that was showing. Nothing else had appealed to me, and my sister was being watched over by my aunt.
It had been quite an experience for me. I couldn't imagine what it was like to see new movies all the time. Had there been an article about the movie Suzumiya had mentioned?
I shook my head and turned to Nagato. "Do you see many movies?" I asked.
"No," she answered, already studying me instead of reading her book.
"Television?" I posed.
Giving the most difficult to detect shake of her head, Nagato replied, "No television."
"I suppose that makes us kindred spirits, then?"
She continued to stare at me wordlessly. I couldn't help but wonder if maybe Suzumiya should have asked the Electronics Research Society for instrumentation to observe Nagato Yuki's tiny movements instead of signals from deep space!
I was roused from these thoughts by the door crashing open again - but this time it wasn't Suzumiya who opened it. It was instead the form of Asahina-san, sobbing as she stumbled through and plowed straight into me. I was nearly knocked over myself, managing a feat of minor heroism by bracing myself against the table with one arm, and supporting the crying girl with the other.
Suzumiya traipsed through the door next in high spirits, her smile vanishing the moment she saw me with Asahina-san. "Enjoying yourself?" she grumbled, slamming the door behind her.
"Not particularly, no," I answered as sternly as I could.
I was more off-balance than anything else, and Suzumiya snorted in response, striding past me to stuff a small stack of those instant photographs into her schoolbag. The sight of her made Asahina-san drop to her knees, hugging herself against one of my legs tightly.
"What in the world just happened?" I asked.
Suzumiya opened her mouth to say something, then paused and thought better of it as Asahina-san abruptly cut off her sniffling. "I...it's nothing," the upperclassman mumbled, her face pressed against my leg just above the knee, and not moving to let go.
"I find that difficult to believe," I answered with a frown. "Asahina-san, what did Suzumiya-san do?"
"...nothing," Asahina-san lied, abruptly releasing my leg and scooting away, staring at the floor to one side. She had about as much skill at deception as my younger sister! In other circumstances, I might have thought it was cute. "I...it's nothing at all."
My gaze turned to Suzumiya-san, who returned a stony glare of her own.
"Okay," I said with a sigh, crossing my arms over my chest. "I don't know what happened outside of this room, and evidently neither of you are going to tell me."
Suzumiya allowed a nod in response. "So, what are you going to do about it?" she asked warily.
"I'm going to say that ... I don't know that a club that's looking for the paranormal is going to make a good impression on them if we're not comfortable with one-another," I answered after a moment of thought, thinking back to what a close middle school friend of mine might have said. "If Asahina-san is made to cry, I can only think that she wasn't able to feel accepted, or something crossed a bound she finds acceptable.
"If you can't tell me, I can only think that you don't find me worthy of trust. For Asahina-san and yourself, I suppose this makes sense - you've only just met." After a pause, I added, "As far as I know.
"But, Suzumiya-san, we've known one-another longer. So if you don't want to tell me, that's how it is. But in that case, can I ask you one thing, instead?"
"Fine," she answered curtly, narrowing her eyes.
"If aliens came down, and brought you into their group unexpectedly, without evidently asking you if it was alright, and then did whatever it was that I'm never to know about - how would you feel?"
"If it were aliens-" Suzumiya started, before I interrupted, waving a hand to forestall her retort.
"Wait, that was a mistake on my part. Please pretend I didn't start the question that way. Trying again, let's say a normal person - a fellow human being like you and I. I can't know what happened, but is it something a subordinate should expect from their leader?"
Her mouth snapped shut and she scowled furiously, growling, "As if for one second I would allow-" before she cut herself off and grimaced, looking like she tasted something exceptionally foul. Shaking her head abruptly, she marched past me to Asahina-san's side, and with supreme effort she said, "Well, I ... didn't- Well, fine! That's fine! That was your initiation trial, Mikuru-chan, and you've passed!
"You've done not just well, but phenomenally well! All our members had to do something difficult to come this far - Yuki gave us this room, Kyon managed to get a teacher to like him well enough to sponsor our club, and now you've done your share and gotten us important equipment! Naturally, nothing was meant to do lasting damage. Have no worries - those pictures will be destroyed, and no one else shall ever see them!"
Suzumiya was nearly hyperventilating, but it was as though a switch had been thrown, and she changed from angry, to her typical eager and excited self. No, in fact, she was even more fervent than usual.
"Furthermore," she continued, reaching down and hauling Asahina-san to her feet effortlessly, "as a member of the SOS-Brigade, you have earned the protection of not just Kyon, who's adequate in those things, but myself!"
"Wha- Wha- Wha...?" Asahina-san managed, her eyes widening even further. "B...but-"
Suzumiya made a determined, satisfied noise and nodded fiercely. "That's right- If ever such a situation arises, I am the leader of this organization! Therefore, it's my responsibility to handle anything before my subordinates! Understood?"
"O...okay?" Asahina-san said dazedly, looking about as confused as I felt.
"Good!" Haruhi exclaimed, her grin widening. Turning back to me, her smile fading only the tiniest bit, she asked, "Satisfied, Kyon?"
Scratching my head, I allowed, "If Asahina-san has no complaints, I don't have anything to object over. I do have one question though, Suzumiya-san."
"Another one?" Suzumiya returned, frowning. "Asahina-san, do you want to tell Kyon about your initiation trial?"
The upperclassman shook her head vigorously. "No, no, this is fine!" she spat out quickly, forcing a smile of her own and waving a hand at me in a warding gesture.
"So, there you have it!" Suzumiya declared.
"That's not it, Suzumiya-san," I sighed.
"Well, what then?" she asked, a bit testily.
"What's this 'SOS-Brigade' that you mentioned, Suzumiya-san?"
Suzumiya blinked several times, looking genuinely surprised, and then grinned mischievously. "That, I will show you tomorrow," she declared authoritatively, waggling her pointer finger at me. "Now- Mikuru-chan, would you like me to walk you home?"
"O...okay?" Asahina-san managed, still sounding bewildered. "Um ... thank you, Suzumiya-san?"
"It's my responsibility to care for my subordinates," Suzumiya reiterated, grabbing her bag and Asahina-san's as well. "Kyon, Yuki, the two of you can be excused for the day as well!"
I could only scratch my head and wonder just what the hell had happened as the two girls left, with Suzumiya now behaving as though she were Asahina-san's self-appointed protective sister. I looked to Nagato to see if she had any insight, but she merely blinked and turned her attention back to her book.
...so that seemed to be that?
The club meeting the next day had a positive feel to it - Suzumiya ran ahead of me, but I wandered into Asahina-san in the hall. "Ah, hello Asahina-san ... or should it be Asahina-sempai?" I wondered, bowing a greeting to her.
"Ah- It's fine, it's fine," she said with a pleasant smile, shaking her head. "Um, let's see ... you're called 'Kyon', is that right?"
"Then, is it okay if I call you Kyon-kun?" she asked hopefully.
A girl like that could call me almost anything, and I wouldn't complain - but less formality is preferable. "I don't mind," I agreed.
"Um, then you can just call me Mikuru-chan, like Suzumiya-san does!"
Somehow, I couldn't help but think that she deserved a bit more respect than that. "Is 'Asahina-san' fine?"
Slightly taken aback, she allowed, "I don't mind, Kyon-kun. Ah ... thank you-" She cut off as we reached the clubroom door, both of us pausing when we heard a mechanical noise of some sort, repeating every few seconds within.
Concerned for what Suzumiya might have devised next, I opened the door, to be immediately assaulted by a faintly sweet smell. Come to think of it ... this is the same scent as a test handed out by the teachers on some days, isn't it? A bit stronger, but the same thing, by and large.
Looking up from where she was working the crank on a large box-like machine, Suzumiya grinned at the pair of us. "Kyon, come here," she ordered. "You didn't know how to work an instant camera, but you can use a spirit duplicator, can't you?"
"Ah," I realized aloud. "I've seen one of those used before, but never done it myself. What are you doing?"
"Mass producing fliers for the club, of course," she answered, rolling her eyes. "I had Yuki make the master copy - her handwriting is very neat - and I want you to help finish producing them. Now, you turn this crank like so..."
Distracted by the novelty, I followed her instructions, very quickly churning out copy after copy of her flier from the machine. Yuki tended to keeping the supply of alcohol level. It was only after I'd taken up my assigned task that I thought to ask, "Where did you get this, anyway?"
"Yuki helped," Suzumiya answered with a shrug, carefully stacking the already-produced copies. They were stark aniline purple, again just like many of our tests. "The literature club has access to one of these, but she couldn't carry it here on her own."
"So I see," I mused. Once Suzumiya declared that we'd made enough, Nagato helped clean the machine and walked out of the room with the small tray of alcohol used in development - to dispose of it, I suppose. "To be honest, my mind went somewhere completely different when you said 'spirit duplicator,' Suzumiya-san."
"I wish," she answered dryly. "I think they're sometimes called 'ditto machines' - but it doesn't matter. It's another tool for the SOS Brigade!"
Though she had just mentioned it was for the literature club. Somehow, I wasn't surprised.
"You said you'd explain what this 'SOS Brigade' is," I said, shaking my head and taking a seat next to Asahina-san.
"That's right!" Suzumiya proclaimed, pulling the master copy she had Nagato draw up out and presenting it to me.
I wasn't sure what to make of the paper before me. It was ... in some ways exactly what I'd expect - it announced the mission of her club to find 'aliens, espers, sliders, and time travelers,' and also included a giant block of characters spelling out the name.
'Save the world by Overloading it with fun, Suzumiya Haruhi's Brigade?'
"Astounding," I said, not really able to muster any other response.
"Right! That's the spirit!" she agreed, nodding in satisfaction.
"And now- Ah, Mikuru-chan, will you help me distribute these at the gate?" Suzumiya asked. "If we hurry, we can get stragglers leaving the school who don't have other clubs yet! We'll find at least one good recruit there, and if not, we'll be able to put out the word on who to contact if someone sees something amazing!"
"W...what does that mean?" Asahina-san asked worriedly, intimidated by Suzumiya's blaze of positive energy. Not that I could have blamed her.
"Simple," Suzumiya said authoritatively. "Just stand next to me and say, in your adorable, waif-like way," and then Suzumiya shocked me by effortlessly shifting her demeanor, "'Um, please, would you consider taking one of these fliers?' whenever someone walks by!" Of course, the moment she was done, she shifted back to her more energetic tone.
What a switch!
"That sounds fine," Asahina-san answered tremulously, offering a timid smile.
Nodding in determination, Haruhi grinned and linked her arm with Asahina-san's, taking up the stack of copies in her free hand. "Then, let's go! Yuki, Kyon, you can relax here for a bit, since you already did your part - good work, subordinates!"
The pair of them then marched off, Asahina-san with only the faintest fraction of Suzumiya's blazing confidence.
I ran a hand through my hair again, sighing. That seemed to be going well enough, right? I turned to Nagato, who was once again stuck with me. This seemed to be a repeating scenario.
Today's book title, which she returned to the moment after putting away the spirit duplicator, was, 'The Bicentennial Man.'
"What's that one about?" I tried.
She looked up and blinked, then answered in her soft voice, "An artificial human that wishes to become a real one."
"This is ... interesting?" I didn't really read much outside of history books, and the occasional Getter Robo manga. Those were about all that fit into my entertainment budget.
"Fascinating," she replied quietly.
That was not getting me anywhere. "Should I leave you alone to read it?" I asked quietly.
She closed the book, still staring at me. For a long minute she said nothing before finally blinking and setting it down. With conservative, almost mechanical motions, she rose to her feet and went to the bookshelf, picking up the book she had been reading two days before. Returning to the table on feet less audible than a ghost's, she handed it out to me.
"Ah ... thank you," I allowed awkwardly, accepting the imposing tome. This thing ... looked pretty thick.
She gave a single curt nod in reply before sitting down and opening her book back up.
I sighed; that was really enough of an answer, wasn't it? If she were interested in conversation...
"Read it," she said quietly, confirming the point in my mind.
So much for that!
Steeling myself, wondering if my time might be better spent getting a part-time job, I cracked the daunting volume open. I had gotten only a few pages in when the door smashed open, nearly startling me out of my seat. "Suzumiya-san, can't you be a bit more gentle with this building?" I protested in annoyance.
She shot me a dark look and opened her mouth to snap something before spotting the book in my hands. Rolling her eyes she sighed and shook her head. "Whatever," she answered dismissively, as Asahina-san stepped in behind her, wobbling on her feet and looking shell-shocked.
I bit back a sigh of my own. "What happened?" I asked, offering my seat to Asahina-san and managing to keep myself from tacking on a 'this time.'
"Eh, evidently the official advertising window for new clubs has already passed, and we can't recruit until we get more people," Suzumiya groused sourly. "But that doesn't matter - we still gave away about half our fliers, so the word is out there!"
"Which means we're just short on members," I mumbled. Once she collapsed into her seat, I asked our unsteady upperclassman, "Asahina-san, are you alright?"
"Eh, g...getting disciplined is scary," Asahina-san whimpered in response, crossing her arms on the table before her and hiding her face.
"It was just a warning," Suzumiya countered. "They said we'd get in trouble next time, so obviously we won't bother with a next time. Hmm, we still need to figure out what to do about the missing fifth member of our team... Well - we can worry about that later! Okay, everyone, I want us to meet up and keep ourselves busy, even if we are a member short!"
"When is this?" I wondered, frowning.
"Sunday," she clarified, taking the seat next to Nagato, who hadn't even looked up when she came into the room. "We'll meet up in front of Kouyouen station in the morning, at nine sharp! Don't be late, understood?"
I didn't actually have a part-time job to claim had priority, so sighed and nodded. At least I would have Saturday free.