Set page style to Cave Set page style to Fanfiction Set page style to Parchment
Chapter 2 Main Chapters Chapter 4

Chapter 3: Crushed

The next day we'd all obediently agreed to help Haruhi. First we tried to figure out from "The Book of the Universe of the Four Gods" where we could find the other five members of the Suzaku Seven. Haruhi had already read the whole thing through three times last night. By the time we'd read it through twice, Haruhi's foot-tapping was so rapid that it was nearly a blur.

She groaned, "Why doesn't it tell us where the other five Suzaku warriors are? It's like some kind of role-playing game!"

"A good role-playing game would have better hints of what to do next," I noted aloud. "But really, maybe there's nothing to do but go and look."

Koizumi pointed out, "This being Konan's capital, a great deal of our standing army is based here, including my personal guard. It'd make sense to see if any of them are warriors of Suzaku."

"I wonder if members of the Suzaku Seven know that they're part of the Suzaku Seven," I mused aloud while servants scurried to assemble the troops in the courtyard. "I mean, it wasn't immediately obvious even to me."

We started to walk outside, and Haruhi theorized, "Maybe a warrior's mark and powers only appear when the warrior is in danger, or exerting himself somehow! It appears because the warrior needs to call on all of his strength!"

Surely you're not that surprised that it makes sense. It's not like she always says odd things.

We had now arrived out at the courtyard, and saw rank after rank of soldier standing at attention, in shining armor and with glistening spear points flashing in the morning sun. Some also carried huge wooden mallets, tucked into their belts. The ranks simultaneously saluted with their weapons, and Koizumi returned it with his sword. I wondered how he had managed to get so comfortable holding a deadly weapon so fast.

"So clearly what we'll have to do is provoke them into attacking us!" Haruhi determined.

"That sounds like an excellent idea," Koizumi smiled and nodded.

"Wait a minute," I stared in amazement at her, "apart from the fact that they never did anything to us, the whole idea is dangerous for everyone involved. Couldn't we make them do drills or run long distances? Better yet, why not start by asking if anyone knows whether he himself is a Suzaku warrior?"

Koizumi addressed his army and said, "Everyone, please listen to this young lady."

The whole army stared attentively at her, and of course, Haruhi didn't listen to my advice at all.

"I thought I'd see more power than this in this big crowd! You don't look like very strong warriors at all! And they call you the pride of Konan!" She taunted.

They say if you put your mind to it, you can do anything, but I think they ought to add a warning to the end of that saying, like, "But it's not always a good idea to do whatever's in your mind."

Haruhi's address had stunned the crowd, but that was beginning to wear off, and they were starting to get angry- and she was still continuing her barrage.

"I'll bet," Haruhi pointed at them, "that none of you have the power to defeat even feeble old people, or small puppies! Probably you haven't bathed in days either. And I'm sure that you're all ordinary, boring, normal people, and not worth much notice at all!"

I normally think of my normality as an asset, but that last jibe, though not directed at me, began to get under my skin, too. Unsurprisingly, with no restraint from their emperor and faced with a taunting girl, the soldiers at whom most of the insults had been directed were fuming, and some looked ready to rush her right away.

"I can't imagine anything more pathetic!" Haruhi shouted. She stuck out her tongue at the ranks of heavily armed men.

It was at that moment that everything snapped. First one man started to rush her, then all the soldiers began to run forward, like giant breakers rushing towards the shore.

"So what was your plan after you got them frothing like this?" I asked irritably.

She looked at me as though I were the crazy one. "I'm the priestess of Suzaku, I'm not going to die! Koizumi, order them to stop."

Koizumi obligingly shouted in a calm voice, "I order you all to stop!" To no one's surprise except Haruhi, none of the soldiers stopped. They were very close now.

"Well, we've got two of the Suzaku Seven here," Haruhi insisted. "Surely you two can protect me."

"Oh, you want me to protect you from this?" I said heatedly. I'll admit it, I was starting to lose my temper. And yes, I was scared. You'd be scared too if you saw a bunch of big, armored, angry men with spears running at you. I wasn't expecting any amount of fancy martial arts could take out this huge crowd.

I grumbled, "All right, I'll protect you," and I grabbed her wrist and hauled her out of there just as fast as I could run. Thankfully she started running too.

I wasn't quite sure where I was heading. Away was a good start! There was a stone veranda up ahead, and I was going to try to cut through it. The warriors, however, were nearly upon us, and they started throwing spears and huge hammers. I guess they were too angry and running too fast to properly aim, so instead of us, they hit the columns of the veranda as we ran through.

That would've been a good thing, except about two seconds later, the columns were hit by so many missiles that they collapsed and the whole thing came down.

I yanked Haruhi's wrist one more time to pull her near, then shoved her down.

An explosion of pain later, I came to the inescapable conclusion that I had the veranda on my shoulders. I was on my hands and knees, completely surrounded by collapsed masonry, quite a bit of it digging inexorably into my back. My legs were covered in rubble, and I was afraid they were broken, they hurt so bad. Haruhi was beneath me, lying on the ground, looking alarmed for once in her life. We were both choking on the dust in the air. I could see some of the swirling motes illumined by a fierce red glow from my forehead, which shone down on Haruhi. It must've been blazing really brightly.

Haruhi tried to say something, but she coughed and coughed on the dust instead. I sneezed on it, its dead taste clogging my nose and settling disgustingly on my palate.

Sounds were muffled in this small cavity. I thought I could hear voices and movement outside, but I wasn't sure. I sneezed again, then coughed. I coughed again, and my elbows involuntarily bent, and I found myself pressed further down by the rubble. Haruhi hadn't stopped coughing. She looked at me, so afraid-

Then I heard a whoosh and a crash, then another. Then there was a third, and the burden on me lightened. Then there was another whoosh and the sound of rocks clearing away. You have no idea how good that sounds when they were previously deforming your back.

More than anything else, I wanted to stand up and stagger off, or at least roll out of the way, but I was feeling too tired to do that. Not only that, my legs still hurt. I guessed that meant they were broken.

"Kyon! Haruhi! Are you all right!" I heard two voices cry. Hm. They both sound familiar.

I looked around. The soldiers, shamefaced, were helping move rubble at the fringes. I turned my head some but couldn't quite see who had spoken. Then the rubble to my side went flying out of the way.

Then, of all people, Miss Asahina ran into the place vacated by the rubble! And she was dressed in some sort of colorful, fancy robes. I could see a small, glowing patch of red on her robes, near her left shoulder, as though there were light shining out of her. Further surprises were in store- her divine hands unceremoniously seized a huge piece of masonry that must've weighed hundreds of kilograms, then flung it with a whoosh and a crash at least fifty meters away, over the heads of the soldiers at the periphery of the collapse!

"Asahina?" hacked Haruhi from beneath me. She coughed a bit more, then stopped. Her breathing was finally returning to normal.

"Thank goodness you're both all right!" Miss Asahina replied breathlessly.

Koizumi stepped close with some of his courtiers. He and the gentlemen in waiting picked me up and moved me onto a stretcher. Even that hurt, but I wasn't in much of a position to protest. Haruhi got slowly to her feet.

For the next few hours, I basically fell asleep, or unconscious, or something, so it seems like a good time to explain just who Miss Asahina is. Mikuru Asahina is another member of the SOS Brigade, and she's a time traveler from the future. She's actually older than Haruhi and I, but she's a very shy and kindly person, and so Haruhi finds it easy to boss her around. She has a slight lisp and occasionally stutters, especially when Haruhi gets pushy. Miss Asahina is here investigating Haruhi and the mysterious disturbances that Haruhi creates in space and time. Fortunately, Haruhi doesn't realize that she can create entirely new realities, or even that Miss Asahina is investigating her.

Miss Asahina had never shown any evidence of superhuman strength before. I had to wait to learn about that.

When I woke up, I found both my shins in splints. That didn't really surprise me. What was surprising was that my spine and skull were intact after holding up tons of stone. For some reason, being a Suzaku warrior means your limbs can be broken, but not your head, or spine. Or maybe I shouldn't count on that.

I also found Haruhi at the foot of the bed. At one point she had been sitting on a chair, but then had fallen asleep, her head and arms unceremoniously sprawled on the bed. I was very surprised to see her there.

There were two guards in the room. One noticed that I was awake and said that he'd awaken Emperor Koizumi. He left the room quietly.

A few moments later, Koizumi and Miss Asahina rushed in, looking delighted. Haruhi woke up with a start. She tried to reassume her usual aloof demeanor, hurriedly straightening and folding her arms and saying, "It's about time you got up, Kyon. How long do you intend to stay in bed, anyway?"

"About as long as it takes for my shins to mend," I replied calmly.

"It looks," Miss Asahina said worriedly, "oh, so painful."

I told her, "It was a lot worse at first. From now on, it'll just keep getting better and better."

"It'd better," Haruhi harrumphed.

"That's good to hear," Koizumi told me. I looked closer at him- his voice was drawn and he looked a bit pale. I think he noticed my scrutiny, because he said quickly, "Our best doctors will be looking in on you, and they say the only injuries are to your legs. A few weeks of strict rest should cure you. Until then, if you need anything, please ask a servant. I wish I could stay longer, but I've got some urgent business around the palace." He started for the door.

Miss Asahina looked back in surprise. Before he reached the door, though, Haruhi marched out of the room, then poked her head back in to remind me, "You don't have permission to get worse." Then she was gone.

"I hope you do recover swiftly," Koizumi bowed to me, and completed his exit.

Miss Asahina looked at him and cried in consternation, "Wait!" She turned back and bowed as well, saying, "And I wish you well too," then ran out into the hall.

He must've waited for her a little ways down the hall. For some reason I can hear them talking. "You really need to get some rest, Koizumi," I heard Miss Asahina tell Koizumi worriedly.

"I most certainly will, just as soon as I see to some final things around the palace," Koizumi said bravely.

For a moment it was silent, then Miss Asahina said nervously, "You didn't tell him."

"It's not really information that's particularly useful to him, or anyone. The danger's past," Koizumi shrugged it off.

"But Kyon should know!" she insisted.

Koizumi and Miss Asahina must not realize how thin the walls here are. I feel embarrassed, listening to this, but there's not much else I can occupy my mind with.

"You can tell him, if you want. But I found all three enclosed spaces Haruhi made last night and dispersed them. There's nothing further to do now except cheer Haruhi up. Kyon will just have to get better soon." Koizumi told her calmly, but the sleepiness in his voice was starting to overpower him.

"I'm sorry," Miss Asahina said quickly. "You go rest. I'll try to reassure Haruhi."

I sighed to myself. Koizumi had to clear three enclosed spaces by himself? No wonder he was tired.

Haruhi had been depressed enough to unconsciously make three enclosed spaces...

Oh? Hm? Excuse me, I must've dozed off again. The light from the window has changed, as well as my guards. It must've been a few hours.

I asked one of my guards, "Please ask Haruhi to come here."

"The Priestess of Suzaku?" he asked nervously.

Ah, yes. "Yes, her," I nodded, and he went off quickly.

Haruhi came in and promptly sat down on the chair. She looked at me piercingly for a moment, then turned her head away, towards the wall, and exclaimed, "I suppose you wanted me to come so you could hear me say that I'm sorry." Oh dear. She's still trying to keep her voice tough, but she couldn't stop that little quaver from coming through.

I admitted, "I honestly did. I also wanted you to hear that I forgive you."

Haruhi's not sneezing as an excuse to get out her handkerchief and wipe away her tears, is she? I thought people gave up on that after leaving elementary school. And keeping her face turned away from me like that is not helping her be inconspicuous-

Maybe for once I should just keep even my mental mouth shut.

"I'm happy that you've decided not to die on us, Kyon," Haruhi said, finally turning to face me.

There were lots of things that came to mind to say that point, but I restrained myself, looked her in the eye, and told her, "I'm not going to die, Haruhi. Just a few weeks in bed for my bones to mend and I'll be fine."

At that point, the door to my room entered, and about a subway-car-full of people swept in, carrying various trays, stands, seats, plates, chopsticks, and foods, setting them down and arranging them. A moment later, they all departed, and Koizumi and Miss Asahina entered.

Koizumi waved grandly at all the food and explained, "I asked the kitchen staff to prepare dinner for us in here, so we could be more sociable."

I managed to sit up and partake of the meal from my bed, and we all began to eat. Haruhi's appetite was very good, an encouraging sign.

At some point someone, I don't remember who, asked Miss Asahina to recount how she got here.

She said uncertainly, "First, I was finishing up some classroom chores before I went to the clubroom. Then, just when I had finished, a red light from the floor swallowed me up! I saw a giant red bird pass me as I fell into this place. I ended up, as I found out, in the harem compound of the palace. I was really frightened and didn't know what to do, so the other ladies in the harem recommended that I stay with them for the evening. So the next morning, I heard all the shouting and I came to see what was happening! Somehow I managed to throw those big heavy stones that were on Kyon- I've never been able to do that before!"

Koizumi spoke now that her story had ended, "I'm sorry I didn't realize you had arrived. In all the excitement, I never got over to the harem like I'd meant to."

I frowned at him. "You mean you were planning to visit the harem at some point?"

"Who cares?" Haruhi said abruptly, her mouth hard for some reason. "What we need to know now is whether you, Asahina, have become part of the Suzaku Seven!"

"The wh-what?" Miss Asahina asked nervously.

"I think we can safely assume that you are, seeing as you've suddenly gained the ability to lift heavy objects," Koizumi demonstrated by raising his hand.

"Oh, I guess so," Miss Asahina assented. "If you all say so."

Haruhi pumped her fist. "Another success for the SOS Brigade!" she cheered. "Now let's get that scroll here so we can unravel the next clue!"

"We didn't find any clues at all in that thing," I reminded her, but she replied, "Maybe we'll think of something new this time." Then she was gone.

We ate a little while, then Miss Asahina spoke up. "Kyon, I'm very glad you're feeling better. My, the Konan Incident! I'd heard some details, but we never did know very much about that; the details were lost over time."

I looked at her with interest, "So you know something about what's happening?"

"It's classified," she said flatly, her expression not changing.

"Did Haruhi make this world?" I inquired.

"It's classified," she reiterated, selecting another morsel of food.

One more try, I figured: "Do we ever get out of here?"

"I don't know," she responded.

For a moment, I assumed she'd said it was classified again, but then I realized what she had really said. She didn't actually know? Maybe we were in a worse situation than I'd thought.

Haruhi burst into the room. "Look what I found!" she waved her arms excitedly. In one arm was the "Book of the Universe of the Four Gods" which she nearly dropped several times before a servant managed to rescue it from her. In her other hand was a large witch hat, which twitched and seemed ready to jerk itself out of her fingers.

"The guards found this hat flying throughout the palace, and I managed to catch it! It's a real fighter!" Haruhi smirked at the hat, squirming to get out of her grasp. It seemed to want to go further into the room.

Miss Asahina put her hand to her mouth, "That, that, isn't that-"

"It does look like it, doesn't it?" Haruhi smiled.

The hat suddenly went limp, and out of it emerged Yuki Nagato, standing, now wearing the hat on her head.

"It's my hat, you know." Yuki said in her usual monotone.

"The Brigade is finally together again!" Haruhi clapped her hands. "With my leadership, we'll find the other Suzaku Seven in no time!"

Koizumi tapped his chin and said aloud, "Miss Nagato, I presume from your change in clothes and unusual mode of transportation that you are now a member of the Suzaku Seven, like us?"

She nodded almost imperceptibly.

Yuki Nagato is, under more normal circumstances, the second member of the SOS Brigade. She usually wears the same school uniform as Haruhi and Miss Asahina, but her outfit had indeed changed. She was now wearing a white shirt and blue plants, with a blue robe draped over her. The robe was patterned with white crescent moons. In her hand she held her star wand, a prop from an abysmal student film Haruhi had forced us to make, and on Yuki's head was the witch's hat she wore at the last cultural festival. This was the hat which had apparently moved through the palace on its own as Yuki's means of transport.

Although Yuki describes herself as a "biological interface" for an "informational entity" or something like that, I find it easier to think of her as an alien. She says that she's a scouting unit sent from a great "informational entity" to find out about the strange profusion of information that Haruhi emits whenever she changes the universe.

"So, what are your newly gained powers, Nagato?" Haruhi pressed excitedly.

Nagato cocked her head at Haruhi.

"Have you noticed any changes in yourself?" I put in, trying to clarify. Yuki usually understands us perfectly, but sometimes you have to be careful just how you express yourself.

"I have a new nickname. Chichiri. You know." Yuki informed Haruhi slowly.

"That's one of the seven," Koizumi agreed. "We've got four already and it's only our third day here."

Yuki Nagato unexpectedly stepped up to my bed and flung off the covers. I was clad in some sort of fancy silk pajamas, doubtless courtesy of the palace wardrobe.

"Wh-wh-what?" Miss Asahina stammered in stupefaction.

Yuki proceeded to start cutting away my cast with her star wand, which somehow proved adequate to the task. I thought it an appropriate junction at which to inquire, "Nagato, what exactly are you doing?"

"Applying a salve to instantly heal his legs, you know," Nagato said aloud. She murmured at me, "I've examined the salve carefully. It contains closely packed beneficial information. You know."

"How did you know his legs were broken?" Koizumi inquired, leaning forward to watch the operation.

"Taittsukun gave me information, you know," Yuki said tonelessly as she applied the salve to my unencumbered legs. She carefully spread it over the whole of the break while Haruhi murmured excitedly, "A mysterious healing! I wish I had a camera!"

My legs were indeed instantly healed. I slowly slid my legs off the bed, and gingerly touched the floor with my toes. Then I stood up and walked.

The room exploded in applause and congratulations. While the servants gawked, I told Nagato, "Thank you." She looked back innocently at me.

"Did you say something about a Taittsukun?" Miss Asahina asked Yuki curiously.

Nagato agreed, "An informational entity I encountered shortly after entering this world. She informed me of my nickname and instructed me to give the salve she'd made to Kyon."

"Enough chitchat," Haruhi swept her arm towards the door, "let's go find the last three warriors!"

"It's dark already," I pointed my thumb behind me at the window.

Haruhi made a frustrated noise and gave in with bad grace, "Fine, we're starting bright and early tomorrow."

Chapter 2 Main Chapters Chapter 4