Chapter 11: Love at First Sight

5274 years ago

The grizzled old shepherd looked out with satisfaction over his many flocks that were grazing idly amongst the fertile grasses in the floodplain between the two great rivers. There were thousands of them: cattle, sheep, and goats, clumped in scattered clusters as far as the eye could see. Some were standing still while others drifted slowly as they grazed their way through the lush grasses.

Like his fellow tribesmen the old shepherd was a nomad, moving endlessly from place to place in search of new green fields to feed his flocks. This area was a particularly rich location, and his tents had been pitched there now for almost a year. That was just as well, he thought, for the life of the nomad was hard, and his family certainly deserved the respite from the endless travel.

Although he stooped a bit, he was still remarkably healthy for someone who was well over 60 years old, particularly since the average life expectancy was only 35.

The shepherd reflected on his long and blessed life. Although he had married rather late, he had found a wonderful young and beautiful wife who had given him several healthy sons who were now strapping young men.

The day was getting late so he decided to return to his tent where he had planned to give offerings to the Lord in praise for everything that he had received in his blessed life.

As he entered his tent he had failed to spot the dust storm building on the horizon.


The old man was sitting in the desert alone. His body was covered in pustules and sores. His sons were all dead, his flocks were gone, and his wife had cursed God and left him.

He was alone.

"Why God? What did I do to deserve this? Why are you punishing me? Why? Please dear Lord, tell me why?"

A caravan pulled up. One of the leaders of the caravan looked down at the old man with pity, so he decided to stop there for the night.

He built a campfire and then listened to the old man's tale.


5274 years later

As usual when she was alone in her room, Mrs. Kurosawa was wandering deep within her mind as it trod down well worn paths.

But now there was something new.

My son is dead.

She opened her eyes.


Nagato's apartment

Oh Kyonko, my dear Kyonko. What can I do to save you now?

I realized that Kyonko had gone totally Captain Ahab on me. She was absolutely determined to get revenge on the ones who had killed her first love, no matter the cost.

Her mind had snapped. I couldn't imagine myself ever doing anything like that, to suddenly leap across the starry heavens on some mad obsessive quest deep into space.

Oh wait, I would. I did.

I mean, well, I would have.

Let me explain.

You see, twelve years ago* I had threatened the Data Integration Thought Entity (DITE) that I would launch a quest through the heavens to find and rescue Yuki from their clutches. I angrily told the DITE that I would flip the whole universe on its side if necessary, that I would do anything, go anywhere, and use all the power at my disposal, including using Haruhi's powers as the de facto goddess of this universe, all just to save Yuki. I had threatened the DITE that I would use Haruhi to erase it from existence if necessary.

So yes, I admit it. I too would have gone all-Ahab just like Kyonko had done. I would have done it.

Up until now I did not realize that Kyonko and I shared such an obsessive personality trait. Looking at her now was like seeing a dark side of my own soul.

My poor Kyonko, we are too alike. Yes, I can be obsessive too.

And here it is: I will save you, save you from yourself. I don't care if you can run rings around me intellectually, that you are master deceiver, that you are adept at spotting such deception in others, and (as I was quickly learning) that you are also a master manipulator. I will win you back. No matter what. No matter what I have to do. No matter the cost to myself.

Kyonko announced to everyone that the meeting was over. She dismissed us. She was curt.

She stayed behind with Yuki.

As I was escourting Haruhi out the door Asahina nonchalantly sidled up to me on my left. Haruhi was to my right. Hmm, Asahina wanted to tell me something, privately. It must be important. I then glanced quickly behind me. Kyonko was watching me like a hawk. I turned back to Asahina with my head facing away from Kyonko, and I made a small upturn of my nose. I couldn't move my head because Kyonko would have seen it from the back.

Asahina caught it. Good, Kyonko didn't see me. Asahina, we can talk privately later. I'll stop by your office. Then she nodded slightly and left.

Argh! Stupid girl! Kyonko spotted that nod. Great. Now Kyonko knows Asahina wanted to tell me something in secret. That means that Kyonko's going to be ready for it, planning contingencies, preparing. Nice going, Asahina, geez...

If I was going to have any hope of dealing with my younger black-hearted sister, if was going to successfully fool a master deceiver (for her own good), I would need help. But who? It would have to be another champion deceiver, someone even better at it than her. Nobody in the Brigade was remotely like that. I sure wasn't. Who could I call on for help?

I would need to recruit another master deceiver. The choice was obvious. However, he would most certainly extort a price from me, or twist my need to his advantage and exploit it for himself. To get what he wanted. And I had a sinking feeling that I already knew what that would be.

I already knew this was going to be an epic battle, a three-way chess match between myself, Kyonko, and that Fabio guy, Pham Nuwen. It would be a battle of wits, of deception, counter-deception, and counter-counter-deception, layer upon layer upon layer.

And whichever player could delve down most layers, who could see the most moves ahead, would win.

The battle would begin the moment we stepped on board Fabio's ship. I had to recruit Pham Nuwen to my side.

On the surface it looked hopeless for me. I was outgunned by two genius deceivers. But I had several advantages. Now, by that I didn't mean just the other Brigade members; it was because I knew things no one else did. And not just about Kyonko herself. I also knew something about Pham Nuwen.

And that was why I knew I had a chance.


Haruhi and I walked from the meeting in silence towards our home.

I was deep in thought. I knew that the twins were safe and asleep at Kimidori's apartment. Hmm, I would need to ask Kimidori if they could stay with her for the duration of our trip. Her being a Humanoid Interface meant that she could protect the them while we were gone.

Meanwhile Haruhi was walking fast. I kept up. I looked at her - she was excited. I could see that gleam in her eye. This trip was like her ultimate fantasy coming to life.

Oh great. Even as a young child she had always wanted excitement. I remembered the first time I ever saw her, on the first day in class at North High as freshmen. She stood up and announced loudly to the entire classroom, "I have no interest in ordinary humans. If there are aliens, time travelers, sliders, or espers here, come join me!"

This trip was going to be her every dream come true. She was going on a wild space adventure with a time traveller, an alien, a slider, and an esper. And more, I mean, that Fabio guy. And there was the mystery of who murdered Kurosawa, oh man.

Adventure! Romance! Intrigue! Mystery! Danger!

The Fate of the World! The Fate of the Universe!

Actually, even bigger than that. I had a sneaking suspicion, before this was over, that this trip might possibly decide the fate of the whole multiverse. To infinity, and beyond! Yeah, this trip could be that big.

Looking back on it all now, I think that even though this quest had not even started yet, that Haruhi had sensed it intuitively somehow, that it would eventually turn out to be the greatest adventure in our lives. I could tell that she was getting really excited.

We quickly walked up to our front door. Her eyes were on fire. She pressed herself into my back, "Kyon, hurry up."

Uh oh... oh please not now..

She needed some relief, and fast. I began to look for the house key as quickly as I could.

She pressed her body harder against my back and wrapped her arms around my waist. "Hurry.."

"C'mon, keep your shirt on, will ya?" I meant that literally. "I'm looking for the key."

She was already undoing on my belt buckle. Dang it, Haruhi!

"Hurry or I'm gonna strip you here on the porch." Sigh, she was so unpredictable that way. I mean, practically anything could set her off: If she got excited, or scared, or bored, or tired, or curious, or well.. anything. You never knew what might trigger it.

It was simply part of her nature. It was who she was. I guess it was one of the reasons that I married her.

Now, I don't mean just that reason alone, not just for all the wild and unpredictable sex I mean. Well, actually that was a pretty good reason in and of itself, but it was not the main reason. I mean, wow.. but..

Excuse me, what was I saying? Or yeah, the main reason I married Haruhi. It wasn't that.

It was because she was fun.

Haruhi was fun.

It was why I joined the Brigade in the first place. It was why I declined Yuki's offer to stay in a mundane world with her as a human and Haruhi with no powers. It was why I was about to go gallivanting across the galaxy on a crazy quest to save a world.

She was fun.

And I loved her for it.

Or at least I usually did, but not this time. Haruhi wouldn't leave me alone to unlock the door. "Dang it! Give me a second!" I put my hand to my ear. "Attention, this is Kevin Riley of NASA Mission Control. The countdown is on hold, at T-minus 30 seconds. I repeat, the countdown is on hold."

There was a danger the rocket might explode on the launch pad. And I didn't want to get arrested on my front porch.

"Just the belt..?"

"I said wait!"

After several more seconds of my fumbling around for the house key, with Haruhi causing most of the delay due to her interference with my eye-hand coordination, I finally found the key and opened the door. She shoved me inside with my pants half down.

I was dropped to the floor so hard that I think the atoms between the back of my dress shirt and the floorboards had fused to create a new atomic element.

Sigh, the sacrifices that one must make for the sake of saving a world.

Hey, why are you looking at me like that?


One hour and one shower later I was upstairs busy reviewing the briefing materials that Yuki had given us earlier regarding the mission parameters. The materials were on some kind of small unmarked USB storage device. I was scanning through the briefing on my laptop. Meanwhile Haruhi was taking her own shower and singing loudly to herself like she was in a karaoke bar.

I heard a soft 'click' down at the front door. Kyonko had quietly let herself in with her key.

Might as well get this over with. I walked downstairs in my bathrobe. Kyonko was expecting me.

I tightened the belt on my robe, "We gotta talk. Now, while she's still in the shower."

Kyonko looked exhausted. "I know, but not right this moment. First you and I need to go see Akira's mother as soon as possible."

"What, now?"

"Yes, right now. Get your clothes on."

"Mrs. Kurosawa? Really?" I have no idea what to say to that poor woman. "Do we really have to?"

"Yes, we really have to. And both of us are going." She gave me a prim smile. I knew how deadly she was underneath that mask. Now was not the time for me to challenge her.

"Ok fine. But I gotta let Haruhi know where we are going first."

"Just write your wife a note. Tell her we will be back shortly."

Now Kyonko was just pushing it. I pushed back a little, "Aye aye, Captain Ahab."

"Very funny. Like I said, we'll talk about this when we get back home. It's not as bad as you think."

No, it was worse.

She held my hand. That was unexpected. "Kyon, look, this is only temporary. I'll give control of the Brigade back to you as soon as it's over."

She looked down. "I'm sorry about this. It happened so fast I didn't have time to consult with you. I would have asked you first, but there simply wasn't time. Like I said, I'm sorry. I promise you'll give control back to to you ASAP. I mean it."

Yeah, Kyonko, if you don't get us all killed first. Then it won't really matter, will it?

"Yeah, fine, whatever. We still have to talk." A serious heart-to-heart, with an ultimatum. From me.

"We will. I promise."

"Privately. Just us."

"I promise. And I'll listen to you. I trust you."

Yes, and no, and no.

She wasn't fooling me at all.

She sighed, "We'll talk about it later. Get dressed and let's go."

"Fine, give me a minute."

I ran upstairs and switched back to my regular clothes. It was going to be a little chilly so I took a windbreaker. Kyonko was wearing her cardigan as usual.

I left a note and we walked together in silence once again into the red setting sun.


Kyonko set a fast pace. I walked alongside (not behind). We passed the park. I saw a kissing couple on a park bench.

I remembered that bench. I had sat there myself with Haruhi, long ago, in the weeks before our high school graduation.

It was where Haruhi had dropped her first hint that she thought of me as more than just a friend.

The whole thing was already starting to happen even earlier than that. She told me later that in our senior year she was already beginning to have feelings for me without fully realizing it herself.

It had all started shortly after she had discovered her powers, when we had to scramble to prevent her from going crazy with that new knowledge.

After that I remembered how she started dropping hints.

You see, that is how is usually works when a girl wants a guy. She drops little hints.

I didn't pick up on it then. It was because I was a guy.

Koizumi pulled me aside and told me to get a clue. Even then I still didn't get it.

I was totally oblivious to her hints. I didn't pick up on any of her signals at all, or I was somehow just ignoring them subconsciously. As graduation approached she began to get exasperated with me. Eventually we entered college together. There were more hints. More exasperation.

Then one day we were sitting on that same park bench, and in frustration she finally just grabbed my shirt collar and planted one on me, with my eyes open wide.

I told her to knock it off. I still didn't get it.

Looking back, yeah, I think I was falling for her too, unconsciously. But somehow I just had this mental block that prevented those inner feelings from connecting with the rest of my conscious brain. Looking back it was kind of odd.

And then suddenly I somehow figured it out. It just happened. I had an epiphany, and we had our first real shared mutual kiss. Not a stolen one from her. It happened during Spring Break of our freshman year in college when we at the beach in Okinawa.

Wow, that first real kiss was.. intense. It was just like the epic kiss in the movie From Here to Eternity on the beach with Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr. It was exactly the same: we were laying in the sand as the waves crashed over us, she was on top of me, everything.

Then a few days later she told me how much she loved watching that movie.

Hmm...

I got suspicious.

Was Haruhi manipulating me? Was she using her powers to break my obliviousness? To make me love her like in that movie she saw?

I confronted her. She swore she wasn't doing that. She claimed she didn't break Nagato's hypnosis, although Yuki warned me privately that should could do that at any time if she was sufficiently provoked or motivated. Haruhi begged me to believe her, that she would never do that to me, never force me. That she'd never force me to love her, ever. The goddess of the universe promised she would never compel me to love her like that.

I told her she darn well better not be forcing me. It had to be my free choice, to love her, or not at all. Forcing me to love her would have made our love worthless.

Actually it was way worse than that. If she forced me to love her it meant I was actually her slave and she was my master in a relationship based on power, not love. It would be based on dominance, force, submission, and all of these were the antithesis of love. She would merely be a jealous god of power imposing her will.

Kyonko and I continued our walk, and I saw a family of five pass us by in the opposite direction. The kids were cute. I didn't get a good look at the mother's face because she was wearing a headscarf. They looked like a nice family.

Hmm. Submission and force of a jealous god, like some kind of religion based only on power? Naw, that would never work. I continued to ruminate. If Haruhi used her powers it would be just force and submission. I would merely be her pet, where at best our love would be like the love of an owner for his faithful pet dog, nothing more. Pure submission. Nice doggie. There would be no real intimacy, no real closeness, no real love at all, just the high and remote Haruhi, the jealous god of crude power, petting her dog, maybe whispering to it the promise of a paradise with 72 juicy steaks every day if I did what was commanded of me.

That would have been horrible. She could have even deluded herself into thinking it was real love, a fantasy woven in her own twisted imagination, like a little girl playing out a fantasy with Barbie and Ken, having the two dolls kiss each other.

A forced kiss? It would have been like that on episode on Star Trek called Plato's Stepchildren, where on a planet modeled after ancient Greece the king Parmen had used his telekinetic mental powers to tele-operate Kirk and Uhura's bodies like dolls to force them to kiss each other just for his own personal amusement. That kiss had later been celebrated in 1960's television as the 'first interracial kiss'. But it was a false kiss. Kirk's eyes blazed with hatred in Parmen's direction while his lips were planted on Uhura. Oh man, that was nasty.

Haruhi promised she wasn't forcing me.

I believed her. I was certain of it.

Why? It was because I understood Haruhi, her thoughts, her feelings, her fears. In many ways I knew Haruhi better than she did herself. I believed her protests. She would never force me to have feelings for her against my will like that.

Granted, I admit she dragged me into the Brigade as its first member for inexplicable reasons. Maybe she had picked me that day for reasons that nobody will ever know, not even herself. But I had went along with it while complaining loudly the whole way. I could have walked out on her at any time, but I didn't. To be honest she intrigued me, and that was my choice, and mine alone.

And so I had finally admitted to myself that I had actually grew to like this weird girl that had annoyed and hectored me so much throughout my high school years.

Anyway, this all happened many years ago. As I said earlier, she discovered her powers near the end of our senior year in high school, shortly before graduation.

How it all happened is an interesting story in itself.

I remembered that was a scary time. Really scary.

After she figured out her powers existed, she conducted a small test with a lucid dream. She made a wish and it worked. She then announced to the Brigade that she would do further 'experiments'. She said her next experiment would be to go to sleep and dream of a world made of butterscotch pudding.

She claimed it was a scientific experiment. Koizumi was convinced that humanity was all going to die horribly due to mass drowning by butterscotch. To give him credit, his concern seemed pretty valid. He had to scramble to stop that one. Yuki hypnotized her.

It turned out it wasn't nearly the crisis that we all feared (Haruhi later said she was just joking). Haruhi saw how scared we were, and so she took an unexpectedly mature view of the whole situation. She even agreed to the hypnosis. She has claimed that she has never used her powers since then.

I continued my walk with Kyonko.

Kyonko's problem is love. Her first love was torn away from her. She wanted revenge.

Kyonko needed time to heal. But how could I buy that time?

There is nothing I can do!

Wait, is there some other a way to give her time to heal? Distract her perhaps?

Oh course. The spaceship captain, that Fabio guy, that Casanova, would eventually go after her if the quest went on long enough. The fact that she was too young for him, or that her lover had just died, all that would only challenge him further, to heighten his desire to win her too.

I unconsciously clenched my fists.

Fabio was going to soon meet four beautiful females: The babe (Asahina), the Mrs. Robinson (Haruhi), the cute bookworm (Yuki), and the ingénue (Kyonko).

Yeah, he will definitely chase after them, probably almost immediately. But which one would he go after first?

I know what you are thinking: Asahina (she's the hottest). No. A sexual conquest of that type would be too easy for him. He's done it a hundred times before I bet. Oh, I think he would go after Asahina eventually if the mission dragged on long enough. Hmm, I don't think she's married as far as I know. But he would try to bag the hot redhead only if he was bored or had already conquered the rest.

Haruhi first? Possibly. Fabio was really into power games. He worked with deceit and cunning on the level of Game of Thrones. She's the most powerful. And she is fairly easy to manipulate. I would have to be careful of that..

Then Kyonko spoke and took me out of my reverie.

"Kyon, are you listening? Did you hear me?"

"Oh, sorry, say it again?"

She looked away and said softly, "I just told you.. I proposed to Akira.."

I was stunned. "What!?"

Kyonko stopped and looked at me. "Well, I'm glad you are paying attention now. Yeah, I proposed. He accepted."

I was aghast. "When the hell was this?"

"You should know. You were there."

"Like hell!"

"It happened while we were waiting for the elevator to carry us up to Nagato's appartment for the briefing about the trip. I took out two silver gum wrappers and gave him one. I wrapped the other around my finger."

"You.. you did?"

"Yes. He saw it and wrapped his own around his. That was his signal that he accepted my proposal."

I ignored the fact that had I totally missed all this during the elevator ride. "You're too young for that!"

She continued to look right at me. "We both knew what we were doing."

Oh that's just great. A teenage girl playing out some kind of Romeo and Juliette fantasy.

I prepared to give a heartfelt explanation about how love really worked. I wanted to sit down and hold her hand, but I was still unsure of our friendship status so I simply looked at her. "Kyonko, you are a wonderful girl and you've been through hell, so I don't want to belittle your feelings right now, especially now that Akira is gone. But I have to be honest with you. I really think that what you had with him was a crush, not love. A crush."

"A crush.."

"And that's great. He was your first, and you were his first too. You'll never forget that memory and it's sooo wonderful. That makes it special. But it wouldn't have lasted. You were too young. It never lasts at that age."

She looked at me coldly. "You really think that? It wouldn't have lasted?"

No, it wouldn't. And I was determined to let her know the truth.

"I'm sorry but no. Trust me on this, I'm old enough to know. You are a 16 year old girl who had a wonderful head-over-heels crush, a fantasy, that you had played in your imagination of your ideal mate, which you had then projected onto this boy who then died. And now the fantasy will never go away."

I continued to press it home. "You couldn't have really known him in that short amount of time, nobody could. That kind of mutual instant attraction never works in the long run. Certainly not at your ages. You eventually grow up, life happens, and one day you will wake up and realize that the guy snoring next to you in bed is not the man you fell in love with."

I pressed it home. "You see, to really fall in love takes time. It takes time to get to know that person and for them to get to know you."

"So you're saying that happily-ever-after doesn't happen that fast. Not in reality."

"I'm sorry, Kyonko. It just doesn't."

She crossed her arms. "Well, I have a counter-example for you."

"Who?"

Her eyes were blazing at me. "The counter-example is you, you moron."

"What?"

"You and Haruhi."

"That's preposterous. Nothing happened until college, you know that."

Kyonko turned sideways and re-crossed her arms, then gave me the Kyon-is-an-idiot look.

"Think about it. In your college freshman year suddenly poof, you were head over heels for her. It happened practically overnight."

Now it was my turn to get worked up. I growled back, "She did NOT force me."

Dammit, I was ready for a real argument. It would have meant that our entire relationship was a lie. There is no way that Haruhi would ever do that to me, not in a million years.

"Kyon you are right. She didn't force you."

Phew, major argument avoided. That was good. Given her mental state I wasn't ready to pick a big fight with her at that moment.

I said graciously, "Thank you."

"She released you."

"What!?"

"I said she released you."

I got riled up again. "What the heck are you talking about?"

Kyonko rolled her eyes. "Isn't it obvious?"

"Huh? No! That's crazy!"

Kyonko sighed, "Look, Kyon, on that first day of class in North High you spied a strange girl who had immediately piqued your interest. You started chatting with her and quickly became her best friend, and indeed you were her only real friend. Then she drafted you into the Brigade as its first member. Why do you think she did that?"

I didn't respond to her question because we both already knew the answer, one that I didn't realize until years later: She had unconsciously chosen me as her future mate. Koizumi had tried to give me some small hints about it right at the beginning, about why she picked me, but those tiny hints had whizzed right over my head.

I tried to deflect Kyonko's reasoning. "Okay, maybe so, but it took four years. Four years! That's the amount of time you need to really fall in love with someone like that. I sure as heck didn't feel that way for her in high school. In fact I hated her!"

Kyonko looked up at the darkening sky. "So you claim. You kept on complaining loudly to everyone in North High how you were dragged into the Brigade kicking and screaming. You told anyone and everyone how much you detested her."

She sighed, "But thou protesteth too much, methinks. You could have quit the Brigade right at the start, but you didn't. You stayed. It was because deep down you enjoyed all the excitement and fun you were having, and therefore by extension you also liked her, although you would have never admitted that even to yourself back then."

"Oh come on..."

"True, you would have denied it with your dying breath back then. But I think you were smitten with her already."

I crossed my own arms. "Preposterous."

"Remember, she picked you. It was her subconscious mind that recognized, perhaps using some kind of low-level telepathic power, that you would have those kind of feelings for her, that you were the one for her."

That was true, although it took years before we realized it.

In our freshman year of high school she was adamant about how much she detested romance,

What do I care about men? Romantic emotions are a passing phase. It's just a form of mental illness.

But then she added,

Heck, now and then even I get in the mood for dumb stuff like that. I'm a healthy young woman. I've got needs.**

Oh man, I can testify to that.

I conceded, "Yeah, I admit I got picked. And I admit she looked kinda cute, but I..."

Kyonko interrupted me. "She had to protect herself. You were a teenage guy, full of lusty hormones. And she had a strong libido. Things could have gotten dangerous, particularly for her. That's why in her subconscious mind she threw up a mental barrier to block those feelings inside of her..."

Then she turned to look at me.

"... and inside of you, Kyon."

"So you're saying she mentally kept things platonic for all those years."

"Basically."

It still didn't add up for me. "But wait.. She told me that in our senior year that she had realized her feelings for me..."

"That's right. And when did that happen exactly?"

I thought back. "Uhm, a few weeks before graduation."

"And what else happened at that time, hmm?"

I thought some more. Oh..

"Yeah. I get it. That was when she learned about her powers and she consented to having Nagato hypnotize her to permanently suppress them."

It made sense. The barrier dropped from her mind at that moment. She finally felt the feelings that were there all along.

I continued to think. Wait, something still didn't add up. "But something is still wrong with your theory. I was still clueless for another year. Why didn't I change too?"

"It's simple. She couldn't remove the barrier in your head because she had lost her powers."

"Oh..."

"She had to overcome that barrier the old fashioned way: by wooing you. She dropped increasingly blatant hints. And so finally, after her chasing you in circles for almost a year in college, you managed to push your mind past the barrier. It then quickly collapsed and then, poof, you were nuts about her overnight.

She took a step towards me. "Those were your real feelings, Kyon, the feelings that were there all along, the feelings that had started as soon as you met all the way back in high school, the feelings that..."

I understood. ".. the feelings that made Haruhi choose me."

"Yes. She didn't create those feelings inside of you. Why? Because she didn't have to. It was already there."

She pressed her point home. "And those are the same feelings that I have for Akira. Our love was just as real as yours, Kyon. It's no different. And it happened the same age as yours. It's not a crush. It's real."

Sigh. I gave up arguing with her. She had run rings about me again.

But wait, something was still wrong...

I asked, "But what about Haruki? Are you saying..."

Suddenly she yelled with vehemence, "NO!"

I jumped back in surprise at her outburst.

She covered her face with her palm. "Ugh, sorry about that. Just give me a sec.." She calmed herself down.

Then she said, "Look, as much as I hate to admit it, I know that Haruki had... chosen me... for the same reason Haruhi had chosen you. We were somehow 'destined' to be together. As much as that squicks me out I know I can't deny that fact. But I did NOT love him."

Uh huh. I was about to make the obvious rejoinder but I stopped. Now was not the time. And besides her situation was not exactly analogous to mine anyway. It was because...

She sighed, "You know that I had initially freaked out when Haruki had forced me into joining his crazy 'SOS Brigade'. I panicked and tried to run away."

... of that. Unlike me, she actually quit the Brigade for real.

In fact she had done it a dozen times. But each time Haruki would simply hunt her down and drag her back by her pony tail or carry her back to the Brigade room. No matter where she ran, no matter where she hid, he was able to use his powers like a GPS homing beacon to unerringly track her down and haul her back.

Kyonko was a small girl and Haruki was built like a football linesman. There was nothing she could do to stop him.

Kyonko became terrified of him. She felt trapped. Things were getting out of hand. It was why Yuuki had summoned me to her world, to save her. And so Kyonko and I came up with a secret plan for me to give Haruki a major attitude adjustment (to put it mildly). He had nearly ended the world because of it, but ultimately our plan worked***. As a result Haruki became civil, and Kyonko was able to keep him under control more or less.

After that she and Haruki got along as friends. She was able to handle him most of the time. She had even saved him a couple times from some big jams with the school principal and with the police department.

Because of those incidents he had learned to respect her judgment. Haruki listened to her a lot more than Haruhi had ever listened to me. Kyonko even admitted that Haruki's antics were pretty fun, as annoying as he could be sometimes, but she claimed that she had never had any real feelings for him. They were just casual friends in an oddball kind of way.

One day the male Asahina had accidentally let slip to Kyonko the fact that she and Haruki would eventually be married, so she knew that she would eventually have to make that sacrifice. But even then she still wouldn't have loved him, or so she claimed.

About six months after my visit, Haruki made his supremely foolish (and final) act, where he had inadvertently wiped out most of the multiverse due to his stupid mistake. But just before he died he was able to save Kyonko by catapulting her into my universe at the last second. He didn't save himself. He saved her instead. She was the sole survivor from her world.

Afterwords Kyonko fell into a deepening depression. It was Haruhi who had discovered the reason why when she had found Kyonko's secret sketchbook that was hidden under her bedroom mattress. It was filled with dozens and dozens of beautiful and exquisite pencil drawings of Haruki and Yuuki, all made with the most loving care. They were the heartfelt drawings of the two most important men in Kyonko's life, both of whom were now dead.

It was obvious to me that Kyonko was in serious denial of her feelings for both men. It was why Haruhi and I had played matchmaker, to help lift her out of her depression by finding her a new boyfriend to distract her from brooding about what could have been.

In hindsight it was a huge mistake on our part. Still, I think it is good to see some evidence that she can still delude herself about her own private feelings. It meant that her heart was not totally black.

There was still hope for her.

She may have won the argument, but in doing so she let slip something that I would remember.

Kyonko broke my reverie again. "C'mon Kyon, wake up. It's getting late."

"Oh, sorry. Uh, do we really have to do this?"

"Yes, we do."

That woman was paralyzed from the neck down. Her life must be a living hell, and now she had just lost her son. That poor, poor, woman.

The last thing I wanted to do was to meet that woman in her condition, but I didn't have the energy to argue with Kyonko anymore. I was also a little curious to know why she was so emphatic about meeting her, and so soon.

"Fine, whatever, let's go."

And so, with the rueful realization that I was soundly defeated yet again in a verbal debate with a 16 year old girl, we walked together in silence to the long-term care facility on Suragawa Street.


A/N:

* See the end of the film The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (2010).

** See the episode The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumia IV.

*** See the prequel to this story, The Realization of Haruki Suzumiya.