"Ne! Takashi!" Honey could see his towering cousin ahead of him and he sped up, dragging Haruhi with him and leading the Hosts with her as bait. "Can Haru-chan and I- Takashi?"

"Come on, Morinozuka,"Sneered the teen standing eye-to-eye with the silent Host. "Or are you scared you'll lose?" His taunt carried well, making anyone who heard him freeze- had he just insulted Mori-senpai? Haruhi heard Honey gasp and tensed herself: Mori was kind, Mori was gentle, Mori was selfless- how dare he? Haruhi felt the twins beside her, Tamaki and Kyoya on their heels, and she bit her cheek. She shouldn't get in over her head. Last time she had, she received a swift blow and an icy dunk in the ocean as her reward. It would be fine; Mori could- "Well?" The nameless teen gave the tallest Host a little shove. "Do it, you-"

"Leave Mori-senpai alone!" Haruhi blurted, unable to contain it as her senior regained his balance. In an instant, she was beside Honey's cousin and the centre of attention. Tamaki and the twins called her name frantically and the boys flanking Mori's antagonist mocked them crudely as their leader stepped toward her.

"Or what, 'Haruhi'?" Scoffed the teen, leering at her. "Are you gonna poor me to death?" He and his friends laughed, turning Haruhi's determination to iron, and Mori looked down at her in well-masked surprise.

"What?" Haruhi asked, catching sight of his expression.

"Fine!" The teen grabbed Haruhi's arm before Mori could reply and squeezed hard: "You can be-" Suddenly, Mori intervened and did the same to the boy's arm. Haruhi's captor let go with a gasp and Haruhi held her sore arm tightly against her thin body, outraged at the sudden use of force.

"Leave Haruhi out of this, Takao." Mori said sternly, sounding almost frightening. "Haruhi doesn't practice ken-"

"It's Hosts versus us, Morinozuka;" Takao growled, "dojo aside, which makes him fair game." Pulling out of Mori's grip, Takao snapped, "You" –He pointed to Mori and Haruhi,- "us," –He and a boy grouped together,- "school dojo, six weeks. Winner takes club funding."

And then Takao and his cronies were gone.

Haruhi locked eyes with Mori again. "What just happened?"


Soon, the Hosts were gathered in Music Room #3 –which they had closed for the day- and Honey had explained the altercation for his quiet cousin.

"So my precious daughter is going to fight one of those kendo brutes?!" Tamaki groaned, draping his hugging self all over Haruhi, who took it in stride. "I simply won't allow it! Haruhi's a-"

"Senpai, could you stop screaming in my ear?" Haruhi asked politely, leaning away from the blond Host King as much as she could. Tamaki took one look at her irritated expression and fled to his specially-delegated sulking corner, a scared shadow hovering over him. Haruhi considered apologizing, but reconsidered.

"Haruhi doesn't know the first thing about kendo!" Hikaru and Kaoru said, taking turns to speak. "What chance does she have at winning?"

"And how on Earth will she have time to train?"

"What about the club?! If she loses-"

Haruhi –listening to their complaints and concerns silently- felt her heart sink. They could have at least tried to be supportive.

"Haru-chan won't lose." Honey said suddenly, surprising everyone. "She's got the best teacher ever!"

Everyone stared at him in disbelief. 'Damn rich people,'