Suzumiya Haruhi:Volume3 Mystérique Sign

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Mystérique Sign

Unsurprisingly, Haruhi had recovered from her melancholic state during the end-of-term exams, and was once again acting however she pleased. As for me, it seemed like the blue color forced out by that reaction had been passed into my hands like a baton, and I was at the peak of misery. Every exam paper that was distributed made me feel worse and worse. My melancholy was probably shared as much by Taniguchi. In the midterm exams, we were like comrades who would fly right on the edge of the low altitude line together, even when the red mark of failure had us firmly caught in its radar. A person is an animal that wants someone who is at least as stupid as itself around. You can feel relatively at ease if they're around. On the other hand, this is absolutely not the case when you see somebody else relaxing.

Taking her test in the seat behind me was Haruhi, who somehow always had time to spare. Around thirty minutes before the allotted time was over, you could usually hear her sleeping on her desk.

How annoying.

All club activities are suspended during exams, but since the SOS Brigade is open all-year-round for some reason, reopening for business on a day like this is normal, even though no one had asked us to, same as yesterday and the day before that. School enforced policies do not apply to SOS Brigade activities, apparently. This is only natural, since this whole thing has been a mistake from the very beginning. And since this enigma of a brigade wasn't even a club or anything, it didn't matter. That is Haruhi's policy.

Like the other day. Although I had just managed to raise my will to study to the limit, at just the right moment, Haruhi dragged me by my sleeve and brought me with her to the clubroom.

"Look at this for a sec."

Haruhi said, pointing to the display of the computer that she had plundered from another club some time ago.

There was no avoiding it, so I looked. The graphics-editing software was showing an incomprehensible scrawl. It looked like a drunken tapeworm rolling around in its drink in the middle of a circle; I had no idea what kind of drawing it was supposed to be. I didn't know what else to think, other than that it was something drawn by a kindergartener.

"What is it?"

I said frankly.

Immediately, Haruhi responded with her mouth looking like a duck's,

"Can't you tell?"

"I can't. I don't get it at all. Today's Modern Japanese exam was easier to understand than this."

"What are you talking about? That test was so simple even your little sister could've gotten a perfect score."

Kyon: "I can't. I don't get it at all. Today's Modern Japanese exam was easier to understand than this."
Kyon: "I can't. I don't get it at all. Today's Modern Japanese exam was easier to understand than this."

Her words were really starting to annoy me,

"This is my SOS Brigade emblem!"

She answered, her face glowing with pride, like she had just accomplished some wonderful thing.

"Emblem?" I said.

"Yes. Emblem." said Haruhi.

"This? Nobody but a permanent candidate for chief clerk, who pulls all-nighters through holidays for two straight months, and retraces his footsteps while taking the hair of the dog, can see that."

"Look at it closely. See, it says 'SOS Brigade' in the middle, right?"

Now that you mention it, it's not that I don't feel like it seems like it looks like it, but I would hesitate to say it out loud that it's not that I can't see it. Well then, how many negatives did I string together? I don't feel like doing it myself, so if somebody's free, tally it up for me.

"You're the one with the most free time! And you're not going to be doing any cramming, anyway."

I was actually brimming with eagerness until just a moment ago. But, now that I think about it, you're absolutely correct.

"I'm thinking about putting this on the SOS Brigade's top page."

Speaking of which, we do have such a thing. But it's a miserable site that doesn't have anything other than a top page.

"We're not getting any more visitors. How disgraceful! And we haven't received any mysterious e-mail at all. It's because you got in my way! I thought we could've used Mikuru-chan's erotic pictures to pull in customers."

Asahina-san's passionate maid pictures are all mine, and I don't intend to share them with anyone. This is certainly one of those things in this world that cannot be bought with mere money.

"You may have made this site, but it's reeeaaaally boring, don't you agree? There's totally nothing there to liven it up with. So I thought, 'How about putting up something like an SOS Brigade symbol?'"

Just hurry up and remove it from the net. I feel bad for those people who visit this stupid homepage by mistake. Since there were no contents, there's nothing to update. All it has is an image saying "Welcome to the SOS Brigade Website!", an e-mail address, and an access counter. That counter hasn't even reached three digits, and ninety percent of those hits seemed to be Haruhi's.

While I watched as the handmade website appeared in the browser window that Haruhi had launched, I asked,

"Why don't you write a journal? Isn't it the chief's job to put up a task log? Even the captain of a spaceship handles the ship's log."

"No way, what a pain!"

It'd be a pain for me, too. To describe a day here, the only things you could write about would be stuff like what kind of book Nagato was reading, how Koizumi won at Gomoku Narabe, how Asahina-san was cute today as well, and how Haruhi was sitting quietly with her mouth closed. Having written such unexciting things, I couldn't think that reading them would be any more fun. Therefore, I won't do something that would be far from entertaining anyone.

"Okay, Kyon. Make this symbol show at the top of the site."

"Do it yourself."

"I don't know how!"

"So look it up. You'll never learn if you keep depending on others."

"I'm the chief! The chief's job is to direct. Besides, if I do everything then you guys won't have any work to do, will you? You should use your head a little, too. You won't become a better person if you only do as you're told."

Are you telling me to do it, or not to do it? Which is it? Speak proper Japanese.

"Just do it, already! You can't trick me with that sort of wordplay. You should be thankful that you have as much free time as the Greeks did Before Common Era. Come on, hurry up!"

The longer I had to listen to Haruhi's voice, which was like a crow singing noisily at the break of dawn, the more my ears would hurt, so I reluctantly opened the HTML editor, took Master Artist Haruhi's illustration, which seemed like it had been drawn by a child who had some time to waste, reduced it to an appropriate size, pasted it into the file, and uploaded it without changing anything else.

I clicked reload on the browser to verify the change. It seemed like the unnecessary SOS Brigade emblem had left its footprint on the internet world properly. I took a quick look at the access counter, and as expected, the number was still at two digits. It'd be fine if no one but Haruhi would ever see the site. I don't want it to be known that the one who had made such an awful website was me.

By the end of the day, as the first term somehow comes to a close, so do the days that have drawn out my melancholy, coming to a momentary rest that will begin from tomorrow. That rest's name is said to be the exam break. This preparatory period will last until summer vacation, and is the time when the teachers will probably mark my test papers wrong.

Damn, how annoying.

Feeling both depressed and annoyed, my feet took me to the Literature-Club-Room-Turned-SOS-Brigade-Hideout. At least I could stare at Asahina-san to achieve some peace of mind.

Nagato silently reading a book, Koizumi smiling while solving a Shogi problem by himself, Asahina-san waiting on us in her maid costume, Haruhi saying, chattering, screaming, or shouting something incomprehensible, and me having to listen to those tedious words; this composition has been the pattern these days.

Nothing has been happening recently as well, but I have felt like this since the beginning.

With a sinking feeling, I knocked on the door. Hoping to hear a "Yes~?" in Asahina's lilting voice, what came out from the room instead was,

"Come in!"

It was Haruhi's careless voice, and when I entered, Haruhi was the only one I saw. With her elbows on the chief's desk, she was doing something on the PC that she had forcefully acquired from the Computer Studies group.

"Oh, it's just you?"

"Yuki's here, too, you know."

Certainly, Nagato was in the corner of the table with an open book, seeming like she had become a figurine as she usually did. She's like an attachment for this room, so there's no need to include her in the count. She hasn't committed to entering the SOS Brigade, and is officially a member of the Literature Club. But I guess I should still correct myself.

"Oh, it's just you and Nagato?"

"That's true, do you have any complaints about it? If you do, I'd like to hear them, I'm the chief here, after all."

If I were to list my complaints about you, it would completely fill up both sides of an A4 note.

"I'm the one who should be disappointed. Because you knocked like that, I thought a client must have certainly come. Don't confuse me by acting like one, okay?"

I'm taking care so that I don't accidentally witness Asahina-san changing her clothes live. That charmingly careless person can't quite remember to lock the door.

And what was that about clients? Tell me what kind of customer would visit this room.

After that, Haruhi looked at me with disdain on her face.

"You don't remember?"

A thought startled me. She couldn't be talking about what happened three years ago after Tanabata, could she?

"You're the one who did it! And without getting my permission."

Whatever could that be...?

"You put up that poster on the clubroom building's bulletin board."

Oh, that. I let out a sigh of relief.

To get the student council to somehow approve the SOS brigade, I made up some fictitious activity plans. After concluding that a mystery-hunting brigade wouldn't even make it to discussions, we could appeal to the student council to let the SOS Brigade continue by acting as a consultation office for miscellaneous problems. If I had said such a stupid thing to the executive board, we would have been shut down in an instant.

However, I had already gone so far as making a poster by hand. I don't really remember what I wrote, but I think it had something like, "We accept all consultations." Since I'd gone to the trouble, I stuck it on a bulletin board I had happened to see. Even if someone did see it, in any case, I presumed that there would be no one deranged enough to come to the SOS Brigade for advice about their problems. This seems to be the correct answer, as we presently have no clients, which suits me just fine.

Still, as Haruhi had remembered such a thing, was she waiting for clients to actually come? It was time to go home for the day, but perhaps it was better to get myself unstuck from here. If a student with a truly strange problem came, things would get complicated.

I was deciding in a corner of my mind, and while Haruhi was moving the mouse round and round, she said,

"Anyway, look at this. Something's strange. I wonder if the PC's broken."

I looked through the side of Haruhi's hair. What the display was unwillingly projecting was our SOS Brigade homepage. However, it was subtly different from what I had made. The emblem that had been clumsily scribbled by Haruhi's hand was distorted as if it had been concentrated, and the counter and title logo had just been blown off. I tried reloading, but it didn't change. It was like abnormal data completely covered it like a mosaic.

"It's not the PC. It looks like the file on the server is corrupt."

I don't understand the internet very well, but I know that much. By chance, I had thought of keeping a local copy of the site to view in the browser, so we could still make it display properly.

"Since when has it been like this?"

"Who knows? I've only been checking the mail these past few days, so I haven't seen the site. It was like this when I looked at it today. Where should I file a complaint?"

There's no need to file a complaint. The fix is simple. I snatched the mouse away from Haruhi, and then sent the stored top page files to the server, overwriting the data with the same name. I tried redisplaying.


The site remained crashed. I repeated it many times, but the result was the same. It seemed like I had somehow contracted a can't-control-the-computer disorder.

"Isn't this strange? Maybe it's that thing, those rumors I hear about hackers or crackers that people talk about?"

"Can't be." I denied. It's hard to think that there are people with so much free time that they would go cracking a site that wasn't linked to from anywhere and that nobody looks at. It's probably some kind of error.

"How irritating! Maybe someone's committing cyber-terrorism on the SOS Brigade! Who could it be? If I find that person, I'll sentence him to thirty days of community service without having a trial!"

Taking my eyes off of the steaming Haruhi, I turned to look at Nagato who seemed to be wearing opacity optical camouflage. Couldn't this person have done it somehow? I thought. Although I could internally form an image of Nagato arbitrarily having detailed knowledge of computers, I have never seen her doing anything with the PC. To be more precise, I should say that there's hardly any scene other than her reading a book.

There was the sound of knocking.

"Come in!"

The door opened during Haruhi's reply; it was Koizumi. With his usual, excessively fresh smile,

"My, how unusual. Asahina-san hasn't arrived yet?"

"The second years have more exams, don't they?"

It was the last day of the term for us first years, and we only had three periods. It should've been okay if we had quickly gone home, so why were we all gathering in such a place? Did I have so few friends? And Haruhi, why didn't you do a counter tsukkomi on Koizumi for knocking?

Koizumi left his bag lying on the table, brought out a Diamond Game board from the cupboard, and turned to me with inviting eyes. I shook my head; Koizumi shrugged and started a single player diamond. I really couldn't wait for Asahina-san's tea.

Knock knock.

It was the sound of knocking again. This time, I was sitting in front of the chief's desk grappling with the FTP software. Behind me was Haruhi, throwing misguided and out-of-nowhere requests this way and that, and making me answer those unreasonable demands.

So that knock was the ringing sound of salvation for me.

"Come in!"

Haruhi again said in a big voice, and the door opened. Judging from the sequence of things, it was probably Asahina-san who had come.

"Ah, sorry I'm late!"

Giving a humble apology as she came into sight, a wingless angel, it couldn't have been anyone but Asahina-san.

"I had tests until fourth period......"

As she was saying the excuse that didn't need to be said, she lingered near the door, seeming hesitant. She wouldn't move to enter for some reason, and timidly continued,

"Well, that is... you see."

All our eyes were focused on Asahina-san. When she noticed that Nagato was looking at her, Asahina-san drew back flinchingly, and then, seeming resigned, began to speak.

"Uh, um... I brought a client."

That client was named Kimidori Emiri-san, a second year student who gave an impression of being timid and neat.

Presently, with her eyes fixed on the surface of the tea that Asahina-san had poured, she was sitting without raising her face. Beside her was Asahina-san, who was seated on an adjacent chair like an escort. She hadn't changed into her maid costume like I was anticipating. It was a bit disappointing.

"So, as for you." Haruhi said, making a face like an interviewer's and twirling a ball pen. Occupying the space in front of the two second-year students, she continued in an arrogant tone,

"What you're saying is that you want our SOS Brigade to look for your missing boyfriend?"

Holding the pen with the top of her lips, Haruhi crossed her arms. Although she was acting as if she were thinking about something, I knew better. She was just holding back and could burst into laughter at any moment.

How could this be? Even though I was optimistic that no one would come, our first counselee had arrived. It would be typical of Haruhi to probably want to jump for joy in this situation.

"Yes." Kimidori-san said, talking toward her teacup.

Holding the pen with the top of her lips, Haruhi crossed her arms.
Holding the pen with the top of her lips, Haruhi crossed her arms.

Nagato, Koizumi, and I were watching the situation from the sidelines. Before the pair of second year students, Haruhi went,


She hummed artificially and gave me a look.

I was becoming thoroughly resentful of myself. I never should have made such a poster! What could I have written, accepting consultations for the problems you couldn't tell other people... Was that it? All the same, it never occurred to me that there was a student who would take it seriously; wasn't I thinking normally?

Whether or not she took it seriously, Kimidori-san saw the poster about the SOS Brigade's activity objectives, and seems to have mistaken it to mean that we were a counseling office for general problems or a service business that does odd jobs. Certainly, that would be the case if you had interpreted it literally. Ah I finally remembered; the contents of my fabricated activities were "students' school life problems discussions, consulting duties, and progressive participation in community service activities." Presently, not one of those could be related to the SOS Brigade. Aside from disturbing a grass-lot baseball tournament, we haven't done a thing.

However, having seen the poster I had written by chance, Kimidori-san had discovered our existence, called out to Asahina-san, who was in the same year, after worrying over it, and came here together with her; this seems about right.

So, what could be troubling you?

"He hasn't come to school for many days now."

Kimidori-san wouldn't meet anyone's eyes, and looked intently at the teacup's rim as she spoke.

"Although he's rarely absent, he didn't even come in on a test day, which was strange."

"Have you tried calling him?" Asked Haruhi. Her mouth stopped looking like it was going to burst out laughing, and she started biting on the bottom of her ball pen.

"Yes. He doesn't answer his mobile or house phone. I tried going to his home, but it was locked. Nobody came to get the door."


A person who delights in other people's misfortune is a real good-for-nothing, but Haruhi was emitting such a cheerful aura that she seemed she might break out into a song at any moment. In short, this person wasn't even a bum. End of discussion.

"And your boyfriend's family?"

Kimidori-san was talking to her tea. It seems it wasn't in this person's nature to be able to talk to others while meeting their eyes.

"I heard from before that his parents had gone to another country. I don't know their contact address."

"Ehhh? Could that country be Canada?" Haruhi asked.

"No. If I remember correctly, I think it was Honduras."

"Ho-ho~. Honduras, huh. I see."

What is it you're seeing? I doubt you even know where that country is. Um... was it somewhere below Mexico?

"There's no sign that he's even in his room. Even when I visited him late in the evening, it was completely dark. I'm worried."

Kimidori-san said indifferently, like she was reading from a script, and covered her face with her hands. As Haruhi pursed her lips, she said,

"Mm. I can't say that I don't understand how you're feeling."

Liar. You couldn't possibly understand the feelings of a girl in love.

"In any case, it's amazing how you've come to the facilities of our SOS Brigade. First, tell me your motive."

"Yes. He often mentioned it. So I had remembered."

"Eh? Who's your boyfriend?"

At Haruhi's question, Kimidori-san murmured the young male student's name. I feel like I've heard it somewhere before, but I also feel that it isn't an acquaintance of mine. Haruhi also drew her eyebrows together,

"Who's that?"

In a voice like a gentle breeze, Kimidori-san answered,

"He said that he was neighbors with the SOS Brigade..."

"A neighbor?"

Haruhi looked up at the ceiling. Kimidori-san turned to Asahina-san and me, who had tilted our heads to the side, and then to Koizumi and Nagato, but her eyes didn't meet anyone's, and she returned to staring at her teacup. And then,

"He's serving as the Computer Club's president."

Was what she said.

I had completely forgotten. It was that pitiful president? I had taken pictures of his sexual harassment of Asahina-san (against his will), and Haruhi, using that as a pretext, acquired their latest model computer (by force), and he was even bullied into doing the wiring in tears; it was the Computer Research Club's pitiable upperclassman. No, there's no need to pity him, is there? If he has a girlfriend with such a good atmosphere, it's more than even. Come to think of it, I wonder where I put that disposable camera.

"Okay, I got it!" said Haruhi, accepting the task easily. "We'll take care of it. Kimidori-san, you're in luck! As client number one, you get your case solved for free as a bonus."

If you're going to be taking their money, it won't be a school service activity. However, is this really some kind of a case? This president something-or-other isn't just simply becoming hikikomori, is he? I don't know how he could be complaining, having a sweetheart like Kimidori-san, but I think it'd be better to just leave him alone to recover by himself.

Of course I didn't say that; Kimidori-san left her boyfriend's address on a piece of paper, and exited the clubroom in a pace like that of an apparition that had materialized.

After waiting for Asahina-san to return from seeing her off to the corridor, I opened my mouth.

"Hey, is it really okay to accept that so easily? What do you plan to do if we can't find the solution?"

But Haruhi just twirled her ball pen in a good mood.

"We can. That president is surely just hiding away with two-months-late May Sickness. We'll just march over to the president, hit him two or three times, and drag him outside. Totally simple!" She seems to be seriously thinking that. Well, I was thinking the same thing, though.

I asked Asahina-san, who was again pouring us some fresh tea.

"Are you and Kimidori-san close?"

"No, I haven't talked to her once. She was in the class next door, so I only saw her when we had joint lessons."

It would've been better if she had told the teachers or the police rather than consult with us. No, could she already have talked to them before? And because she had been ignored, she called out to Asahina-san? It's probably something like that, I think.

There wasn't any sense of urgency as we idly sipped our tea. Haruhi was unreasonably elated, and seemed to be thinking about accepting grander and grander commissions, and then resolving them. Although it was lamentable how little was remaining of the first semester, these were the circumstances that were likely to force a second round of the flyer distribution project. Just forget it.

Nagato closed her book with a thump, and, as Haruhi would say it, we proceeded with the investigation.

The club president's solo dwelling was a studio apartment. Because of the location, I thought that college students were probably the main residents here, in this three-story building that looked neither good nor bad, in a color that just looked well enough that you couldn't say if it was new or old. Its appearance was exceptionally normal. Ordinary.

Holding the note where the address was written in her hand, Haruhi dashed high up the stairs. The other three and I followed the back of her summer sailor uniform in silence.

"Here, right?"

In front of the steel door, Haruhi confirmed the name on the nameplate. The name that Kimidori-san had said was her boyfriend's was inside the plastic case.

"I wonder if we can open it somehow."

After trying to turn the knob a few times to check the lock, Haruhi pushed the button on the intercom. It should be the other way around!

"How about we come up from the veranda at the back? If we smash the glass, then we can get in, right?"

I can only wish she was joking. This room is on the third floor, and we aren't a group of aimless juvenile delinquents. I have no desire for a criminal record just yet.

"I guess so. Let's go to the building manager and borrow the key. If we say that we're friends who came because we were worried, he'll lend it to us."

Pretending to be someone's friend is your specialty. But this club president, even though he's living by himself, he never gave his girlfriend a duplicate key. That's like harvesting just the stem of the eggplant and then throwing the fruit away.


I turned around at the cold sound, and there was Nagato gripping the knob in silence.


Nagato was looking at me intently with eyes like liquid helium. Slowly, Nagato tugged at the door, and the entrance to the room was agape. The air inside was stale, but for some reason there was a chill accompanying it, lurking at our feet – or so I felt.


Haruhi's eyes were round, and her lips a semi-circle,

"It was open? I didn't notice. Well, that's okay. Come on, let's go on in. I'm sure he's hiding under his bed, so everyone, just drag him out and we'll capture him. At the worst, if he resists violently, you may end his life. We'll soak his head in beeswax and deliver that to the client."

Apparently, she doesn't feel an atom of guilt for plundering his computer. Unlike Salome, she couldn't even be bothered to get a container for the head. In high spirits, she pushed all of us into the room, and then saw that the single room was uninhabited. Not a single cockroach. Haruhi looked inside the bathroom and under the bed. There wasn't even a human shape anywhere. This had one-fourth the space of Nagato's room, and just her guest room at that, but compared to that dreary nothingness, the level of life was four times greater. A bookshelf, a closet, a desk that looked like a low dining table, and a computer rack had been left in precise order. We confirmed through the open window that only a washing machine was hiding in the veranda.

"How strange."

While hopping on top of the bed, Haruhi tilted her head in disbelief.

"Even though I thought he'd be curled up into a ball in some corner of the room hugging his knees. Could he have gone to the convenience store? Kyon, do you know some other place where a hikikomori would go to?"

So it's been decided that the Computer Club president is a hikikomori then? Could he be traveling around Central and South America on a tour? Or was he seriously hiding his whereabouts? We should have asked the homeroom teacher of the club president's class for the story before coming here.

I was looking at the computer-related books lined up in the bookshelf, when someone suddenly pulled on the back of my shirt.


Nagato was looking up at me without any expression, and then shook her chin sideways.

"We should leave."

Looking small, Nagato whispered to me. It was the first time I'd heard Nagato's voice today. Haruhi and Asahina-san didn't notice, but Koizumi brought his face close to my ear.

"I feel the same way."

Don't talk so seriously, it's creeping me out. But Koizumi, with a forced smile and eyes that you couldn't laugh at, continued.

"I feel a strange discomfort in this room. It's close to a sensation that I am familiar with. It's only similar, and it feels fundamentally different, but..."

Haruhi had taken the liberty of opening the refrigerator, "Warabi-mochi, found it! The expiration date was yesterday. It'd be a waste, so let's eat!" she said, while tearing up the bag. As Asahina-san was flustering about, Haruhi made her taste the proffered convenience store pastry to see if it was edible.

I also spoke in a low voice, naturally.

"Similar to what?"

"Closed space. This room has a similar smell as that place. No, smell is just a metaphorical expression. Feeling is also good, such that it is a feeling that exceeds the five senses."

"You're an esper?!" was a reminiscent tsukkomi that I had to restrain myself not to break into. Actually, this person was seriously an esper.

Nagato murmured in a voice that hardly shook the air.

"A dimensional fault is in existence. Phase transformation is being executed."

I can understand that.

That's just what I wanted to say, though. If Nagato were to unexpectedly look sad or something, I'd probably be scared stiff right where I stand, so it would be in my best interest not to say it. Ah well.

At any rate, it would be better to withdraw quickly. After signaling to Koizumi and Nagato, I turned my face to the translucent-mochi-devouring Haruhi.

When everyone had left the condominium, Haruhi declared that we were dismissed for the day for hunger reasons, and left for home by herself. The case that had been brought in by Kimidori-san was being put on hold for the moment; "It'll work itself out, eventually!" she irresponsibly said, and stopped thinking accordingly, and the day's matters all went up in the air.

Looks like she's already lost interest.

Haruhi wasn't the only one who didn't have lunch yet, but I pretended to go home once everyone parted, and after waiting restlessly for ten minutes, returned a second time to the front of the club president's condominium.

The other three brigade members were already waiting together. The walking dictionary space alien and the argumentative esper bastard had knowing looks, but Asahina-san asked,

"Um... What's the matter? You said we should reassemble without Suzumiya-san noticing..."

She was looking up to me with a confused expression. When my eyes wandered over to Nagato and Koizumi, my anxiety strengthened. The one who was waiting for me the most was Asahina-san, that's how I'll think about it.

"Those two seem to be concerned about the room we were just in." I answered.

"Isn't that right?"

The smiling person and the expressionless person nod at the same time.

"I believe we'll understand if we go back there. Right, Nagato-san?"

Without saying anything, Nagato started walking. We followed suit. Moving past the stairs without even the sound of footsteps, Nagato quietly opened the door to the club president's home, silently took off her shoes, and advanced to the center of the room.

The studio that was by no means spacious was already full with just four people standing in a line.

"Within this room,"

Nagato began to talk.

"A localized, non-corrosive amalgamation of asynchronous space is independently occurring in restricted condition mode."


We waited for a while, but it seems that was the only explanation. Even if you're speaking with phrases that make it seem like you just pulled words out of a dictionary and lined them up after they caught your eye, I, having no dictionary, am helpless.

"What I'm feeling is close to a closed space. The source origin of that is Suzumiya-san, but this somehow has a different scent."

Koizumi said what seems to be a follow-through for Nagato. You make a fine combination. Hanging out would be good for you. You should teach Nagato some hobbies other than reading.

"I will make considerations regarding that matter afterwards. However, there's something we should be doing right now. Nagato-san, did this abnormal space cause the president's disappearance?"


Nagato raised one hand, in a gesture that seemed to be gently stroking the space right before her.

An unpleasant premonition ran up my spine and stimulated my brain. Maybe I should have said, "Hold it!" But before I could even utter those two words, Nagato had whispered something in a voice that was like a tape running on twenty-speed fast forward, and, in one moment, a change took place as the scene before my eyes flickered.


Asahina-san leapt and grabbed my left arm with both hands, holding on to me tightly. But I didn't have the time to savor that long-awaited sensation, as I was desperately trying to verify my location, myself.

Let's see, I was in the club president's cramped studio. Definitely not at an eerie place like this. I was not in a wide, flat space, with an ocher haze hanging in the air such that I couldn't see the horizon. Who could have taken me to a place like this?

"Intrusion codes analyzed. This place is overlapping normal space. A phase has simply slipped off."

Nagato explained. Well, isn't this person the only one who seems like she can do this sort of thing? Koizumi, the only one who can go head-on with Nagato in a discussion, said,

"It doesn't seem to be Suzumiya-san's closed space."

"It is deceivingly similar. However, a portion of this data space is integrating with junk information originating from Suzumiya Haruhi."

"Up to what extent?"

"A negligible level. She was merely the trigger."

"I see. So that's how it is."

Asahina-san and I are getting along fine with being left out of the conversation. It doesn't bother me at all. I really should be grateful. As it is, though, I'd be even more grateful if we could return to the original world.

Asahina-san was clinging to me nervously as she looked around at our surroundings. It seems like this space was an unforeseen thing for her. I was the same; my eyes were flying in all directions, observing. Though I could breathe, will it be safe to inhale this stuff that seemed like a yellow-brown mist? The temperature of the floor that had felt pleasantly cool through my socks went right through to the soles of my feet. Whether it was the floor or the ground, the ocher plane continued everywhere. To think that such storage space would accompany a room that was no more than six tatami mats large. So this was a cross-dimensional space? Well, I had thought that such an atmosphere would arrive soon. I was calm, if I can say so myself.

"Is the Computer Club president here?"

"It would seem so. This differing space appeared in his own room and trapped him somehow."

"Where is he? I don't see him."

Koizumi simply turned his face towards Nagato with a smile. Like it was a signal, Nagato again raised one of her hands.

"Hold it!"

This time I was able to make it. In all seriousness, I asked Nagato, who had frozen up,

"Could you tell me what you're doing? I at least want some time to prepare myself mentally."


Nagato answered like chattering glasswork; with fingers curled, she tilted her hand upwards by about seventy-five degrees, and extended her index finger again. She then said a single word,

"It's coming."

I turned my gaze to where Nagato's fingertip was pointing.


I groaned unconsciously.

The ocher haze was slowly coiling into a swirl. It was a whirlpool as the particles that made up the fog gathered into one place, grain by grain. I had a feeling like I was a pathogen that had just invaded a body. Somehow, an image sprung from somewhere of how this ocher swirl was taking it upon itself to carry out its duty like a white blood cell. My spirit's only solace was that Asahina-san's hand was warm.

"I sense definite hostility."

The freely talking Koizumi's voice, however, didn't make me any more strained, and I had no reaction as Nagato stood like an android that was in the middle of breaking down, her hand still stretched out. Nevertheless, I could not relax. These people might have the means to defend themselves, but I didn't. It looks like Asahina-san also didn't, as she was hiding behind me. This was just the right time to want to bring out a futuristic item, though. Don't you have a ray gun or something?

"Carrying weapons is prohibited. It's dangerous."

Asahina-san answered with a quivering voice. I can understand that. Even if [this] Asahina-san had a weapon, not only will she not be any help, she's likely to just go and forget it on the train. You would expect that she would improve a little as an adult, but when I think about it, [that] Asahina-san was also very much a careless person; she might just be a scatterbrain by nature.

As I was thinking about that, a figure in the haze was gradually displaying the features of solid matter. There's probably some reason for this as well. I didn't want to know, but for some reason I understood what kind of shape the ocher mass was taking.


Asahina-san was the only one being frightened. It's certainly not something that makes you feel like you were looking at a pretty sight, and it's something you rarely see in town. Even I, who had last seen it how-many-years ago, under the floorboards of my grandmother's house in the countryside, was silent for a while.

Are you familiar with the insect known as the kamadouma?

If you aren't, I'd like to show you the spectacle before my eyes. You'll get to know it well, down to the details.

Because, this kamadouma had a length of about three meters.

"What is this thing?" I asked.

"It's a kamadouma, isn't it?" answered Koizumi.

"I know that. At kindergarten age, I was a famous insect expert. Though I haven't seen the real thing, I knew how to differentiate between an uma-oi and a kutsuwamushi. That's okay, but what is this?"

Nagato's answer seeped out like a trickle.

"The creator of this space."

"This thing?"


"Is this also Haruhi's doing?"

"The origin is different. But what started it was her."

As I was going to ask what it was again, I noticed that Nagato was still naively following my command.

"...You can move now."

"I see."

Slipping her hand down, Nagato looked intently at the materializing giant kamadouma. The dark brown benjo ko-orogi was settling down on a spot several meters away from us.

Are you familiar with the insect known as the kamadouma? If you aren't, I'd like to show you the spectacle before my eyes.
Are you familiar with the insect known as the kamadouma? If you aren't, I'd like to show you the spectacle before my eyes.

"Well. While imperfect, it seems like I can use my power here."

What Koizumi was holding in one hand was a red globe of light as big as a handball. Since the last time I saw it somewhere before, I had thought that I'd never see that ruby a second time. It seems like it had come out from his palm.

"My strength is at ten percent of what it would be in closed space, here. Moreover, it seems like I'm not able to transform myself."

For some reason, Koizumi turned to Nagato with the refreshing smile that I'd gotten tired of seeing and asked,

"Was it determined that this much would suffice?"


Nagato had no reaction. I went back to asking her.

"Anyway, Nagato. What is that bug's true identity? And where is the president?"

"That is a sub-species of data life-form. It is using the brain tissue of a young male student to heighten the probability of its existence."

Koizumi put his finger on the middle of his forehead. He looked like he was considering something, and then appeared to be somewhat concentrating on those thoughts. Raising his face, Koizumi asked,

"By any chance, is the president inside this giant kamadouma?"


"This kamadouma...... I see, this is the president's image of an object of fear, isn't it? If we defeat it, this differing space will collapse. Am I wrong?"

"You are not mistaken."

"It helps that it was an easily-understood metaphor. In that case, this'll be simple."

But it wouldn't be simple if it wasn't easy to understand. Then let's just say that Asahina-san and I can understand it.

"It doesn't seem to be the time for that, does it?"

Without raising his last word, he put the red globe somewhere with a suave smile, and then Asahina-san was hanging on to my waist, somehow. The way things are going, "somehow" is always how it's going to be.


Asahina-san wasn't just trembling, she was taking away my range of mobility. Under these circumstances, I won't be able to escape, will I?

"That won't be necessary, I hope. I'll finish it in a moment. I have such confidence, for some reason. It should be easier than hunting <avatars>."

The kamadouma that had just finished materializing is not just going to be flying away any time soon, I suppose. How many meters can it jump, I wonder. I feel like estimating..... but let's not.

I abruptly said.

"Get on with it."

"Roger that."

Koizumi tossed the ruby upwards and struck it like he was serving a volleyball. The red handball flew accurately, crashing right into the front of the monster kamadouma, and made a sound like an exploding paper balloon. It was a stupid attack, but the opponent was stupid as well. Even though I had prepared for some kind of counterattack, the kamadouma did not escape, jump, or roar a mysterious sound, rather it just stayed there peacefully.

"Is it over?"

At Koizumi's question, Nagato gave her assent. It really did finish quickly. The giant kamadouma diffused to its original misty form, and then continued thinning steadily. The ocher haze that shimmered in all directions was disappearing as well. And so was the freezing sensation under my feet.

As for our supposed compensation, a man in a familiar uniform had appeared. Falling on his back and facing upwards was the Computer Club's president.

In front of the PC rack, his eyes were closed, looking like he had slipped off his chair. He seemed to be alive. Koizumi leaned over him from the side and put his hand on his neck, and gave me a nod.

Nagato was standing before the bookshelves, gazing at Asahina-san, who was beside the bed looking dazed, and at me.

We were in a room of a studio condominium. I wondered where that vast space could've gone.

At any rate, it was all good. Whether it was gray or ocher, I've had enough of being trapped in wide spaces.

"Approximately two-hundred-and-eighty million years ago."

So began Nagato's explanation, a cosmic mystery of electro-magnetic waves, and if I were to break it up and boil it down, it would be as follows.

It was the Permian or the Triassic period when [that thing] descended to Earth, and at the time there was nothing in the world for it to possess. Losing its basis for existence, it settled into hibernation for its self-preservation. Until an information accumulation body with which it can exist on earth appears.

"It did not have the means to exist on the earth. Freezing all action, it settled into slumber."

Before long, humans were born unto the world, and humans gave birth to computer networks. Though imperfect, utilizing that childish (according to Nagato) digital information network as a seedbed was feasible. But it was insufficient, and the thing remained at a half-awakened state. However, an incident occurred which prompted its awakening. Instead of an alarm clock, floating in the net was a single detonator. It carried information that could not be measured by normal numerical values. Data that does not exist in this planet. An alien world's information data. For the thing, that was the physical medium it had been anxiously waiting for.......

Nagato ended her talk without flourish.

Nagato, who was doing something with the president's home computer, displayed the SOS Brigade online site, and projected the damaged SOS Brigade emblem on the monitor as she was speaking.

"The invocation sign drawn by Suzumiya Haruhi is the catalyst. It became the door."

"...It was this SOS Brigade emblem, from before, this thing, this summoning magic circle or something?"

"Yes." Nagato said with a nod of her head. "Converting this SOS Brigade crest into Earth standard, it holds approximately four-hundred-thirty-six terabytes of information."

It can't be. That image data wasn't even ten kilobytes. But Nagato calmly said,

"It does not correspond to any unit on Earth."

"Amazing odds, aren't they? Because, even though it was a symbol that she had just happened to draw, it was a perfect fit. She truly is Suzumiya-san. Astronomical figures are as nothing."

Looks like Koizumi is seriously impressed. However, I was seriously afraid. What was I afraid of?

Most of the things Haruhi does come from mere ideas. Forming the SOS Brigade and assembling the members were like that. Asahina-san, who was perfectly suited to being a mascot character, Koizumi, who had transferred schools, and Nagato, who was there from the beginning. And as it turns out, Asahina-san was a time-traveler, Koizumi an esper, and Nagato a pseudo-alien. She's already accomplished too much. Actually, Koizumi would say it wasn't by chance, spouting some nonsense like it was because Haruhi had desired it. Even though I'm starting to believe just a little, I still won't go for it. Because I, myself, am a simple, ordinary person. That alone should be enough counter-proof. By Koizumi's theory, it would be strange if there were no electro-magnetic wave profile hidden in me. Though there was supposed to be...

If there was another side to Haruhi's actions that I had thought meaningless, what then? She, herself, does not know the consequence. Like her own original letters, which she had casually pictured in her head, becoming some kind of message for aliens somewhere. Like a cat hitting a keyboard and producing meaningful sentences. What kinds of odds were there on such things?

That troublesome girl named Suzumiya Haruhi, who easily breaks through the walls of probability and statistics, and unconsciously arrives at the correct solutions; I'd be better off if she had made me join the SOS Brigade because she considered me some kind of an errand boy. Yep, that's the thing. That's totally better than thinking that I, myself, have such an idiotic and enigmatic alter-ego. So, do I? Perhaps my background is that there is some kind of unpredictable and unusual ability within me that I do not know about.

Is that why I was chosen? A secret me that I do not know about, frankly, does not exist.

What scares me is the next point.

Who am I?

I shrugged, in an imitation of Koizumi. Ah well, as he says it. I, myself, am the one who understands my own part the most. The long and short of it is, I am the SOS Brigade's only conscience. There is no mistaking that one. My nature differs from that of the other three brigade members. I am in the SOS Brigade for the sake of persuading Haruhi to live a normal high school life. Aside from stopping her unlawful club activities, it is my duty to make her freely disband the brigade. If you think about it deeply, that is the fast-track to arriving at a peaceful world. No, it is the only straight track.

Rather than changing how Haruhi thinks of the world, changing Haruhi's inner world would be simpler and would bother nobody else.

Then again, if I hadn't given her that strange inspiration, there might not have been an SOS Brigade. So let's see, umm, it's a case-by-case thing. Show it somehow, huh. But I don't know what day that will be, and why I'd have to do such a thing.

Let's put that aside for now.

"So in the end, what was that kamadouma, really?"

If I didn't ask this right now, the story will never end. In a tone that seemed to be saying that she was really exhaling carbon dioxide, Nagato answered,

"Information life-form."

"A relative of your patron?"

"It branched off in the distant past. Though their origin is identical, these evolved differently, and went extinct."

Or so they thought, but here was a survivor. It didn't have to hibernate on Earth, of all places. I wish it could've gone to bed somewhere around Neptune. It could’ve frozen itself so it could’ve fallen asleep.

To think that the development of the internet would become a pseudo-demon's breeding grounds. I suddenly thought of something. Going near the bed, I asked the petite upper classman,

"Asahina-san, up to what extent have the computers of the future progressed?"


Asahina-san opened her lips and froze. At any rate, it was probably prohibited, so I wasn't expecting anything, but someone else answered.

"Such primitive information networks will no longer be in use."

Nagato said, not sensing the atmosphere. Pointing at the PC, she said,

"For organic life-forms at the level of earthlings, inventing a system that does not depend on storage media is simple."

Nagato's gaze moved horizontally. When it got to her, Asahina-san paled.

Is that so?

"That is... Umm..."

Faltering, Asahina-san looked down.

"I can't say..."

In a whimpering voice, she said,

"I can't affirm or deny it; I was not given the authority. I'm sorry."

No, that's okay. No need to apologize, seriously. I don't particularly feel that I want to know―――Hey, Koizumi, why are you making such a disappointed face, is there something you don't like?

To save Asahina-san, I decided to change the subject. Hmm, what could there be, ah yes.

"Something's strange."

After waiting until I had gathered everyone's attention on myself, I continued,

"I was present when Haruhi was drawing that stupid portrait, but nothing was awakened. Why didn't that thing appear around the time Haruhi finished the picture?"

The one who answered was Koizumi.

"As for this room, it's because it had already been transformed into differing space for some time. Varying types of elements and force fields are battling and negating each other, and in contrast, it becomes just about normal. I guess you could say it's at the saturation point. Since various things have already met the fusion capacity, there is no room for further integration."

What a theory. So what you're saying is that, the Literature Club room has become some kind of terrible den of evil? I hadn't noticed at all.

"That's because ordinary people do not have such unnecessary sensors attached. That may be, but as it is, I think it's harmless. Probably."

Ah well. However, though it's good if prevailing temperatures would just cool down, I wouldn't want to be acting strangely or looking for a rope to hang myself with before I knew it.

"No need to worry, everything will be all right. Because Nagato-san, Asahina-san, and I are dutifully working hard so that would not happen."

Are you sure this isn't happening because the three are you are working hard?

Smiling, Koizumi said, "Ah well," then inclined his head as he turned up both his palms.

I turned my eyes back to the computer screen. As I looked at the broken down symbol of the SOS Brigade, I felt uneasy for some reason. Manipulating the mouse to move the cursor, I scrolled to the bottom of the page.


The access counter was displayed. It had somehow returned to normal, and was banging out the number of visitors. The last time I had seen it, the number wasn't three figures. Now, our SOS Brigade Site's counter had... Ones-tens-hundreds-thousands...... Turned to almost three thousand. How could this be? Where did it get such exposure?

"It placed hyperlinks on various locations."

Nagato quietly said.

"This information life-form did that in order to multiply. Exceedingly primitive. Its method was to copy its self-information into the brains of people who saw the sign, and create restricted space. It required as many humans as possible."

"So then, the people who had seen it... The almost three thousand of them, will end up the same as the president?"

"Negative. The data of the summoning crest had been damaged. The number of people who had viewed the correct information source is not many."

Though I had been thinking that the server was likely out-of-order, that might have actually helped.

"How many people? Those idiots that clicked such a dubious link and looked fully at that marking."

"Eight people. Five of whom are North High students."

So in that case, eight more people are trapped in ocher-colored space? In spaces governed, not just by kamadouma, but all sorts of metaphors? To help them――― well, we'll probably need to go. Koizumi asked Nagato for the addresses of those people (I wasn't surprised that Nagato knew those things somehow), and it seems like Asahina-san is also intending to follow the pair. If that's the case, then I guess it wouldn't do for me to not go as well. Though Haruhi did the worst of it, the one who had discharged this magic-circle-like thing on the net was me, so I'd better clean up my own mess.

And also for the sake of clearing up this guilty feeling.

Setting aside the victims from North High, it seems like we'll have to catch a ride at the Shinkansen somehow for the three other people that had to be rescued.


It's the beginning of the exam break. The remaining act became nothing but waiting for summer vacation in the clubroom.

As for Haruhi, when I had informed her that the club president had come to school,

"Hmm. Really."

Was all she said before flying out of the room, and is probably eating her heart out at the cafeteria right about now. Koizumi and Asahina-san have yet to come.

By the way, in the case of the Haruhi-devised SOS Brigade symbol, I had fixed it by pasting on Nagato's retake. I was able to skillfully upload it this time, well, why was that, I wonder? It should be okay for people who see this to stick their eyes onto it from now on. It almost doesn't differ from Haruhi's clumsy illustration, but if you compare them carefully, you'll see that "ZOZ Brigade" is displayed. Having that as the only difference, it was at the brink of whether strange things would or would not appear.

An epigram for the moment: I want to impulsively click the link to an unknown address, but how?

Thinking about such things, I gazed absent-mindedly at Nagato, who had been reading a technical book lined with numbers at the table's edge. Watching Nagato's face, I happened to think of something.

Though I didn't know when this person noticed Haruhi's summoning image, could she be the one who destroyed the data?

One more thing; there was Kimidori Emiri-san, the one who brought this case to us. Just a while ago, when I went to inquire at the Computer Club's room, I heard that the club president had no girlfriend. He said so himself, seeming healthy, though he was troubled about having no memory of the past several days. Not at all having the appearance of having lied, he was decidedly agape when I had mentioned Kimidori-san's name. The president was not some versatile entertainer who could give such a real performance.

I was suspicious.

Was Kimidori-san's coming to the SOS Brigade really, truly, for a request? If you think about it, the timing was too good. Haruhi did her prank drawing, and I pasted it onto the site. Then some people who had seen it were taken to some information life-form in some different dimension. After inquiring about the story from the visiting Kimidori-san, we turned towards the club president's home. And then, somehow did some exterminating.

It was a picture-perfect scenario. The one in the heart of all this was always Nagato. Though that all-purpose alien terminal having done something to Kimidori-san, which resulted in her having brought her case to us, would have been an elaborate method, I wouldn’t be surprised at all.

Perhaps she had thought about staging a pretend-client to relieve Haruhi's boredom even just a little. If it was an incident of this level, Nagato could have finished it off by herself without having to involve any of us. Hasn't it been always like that? Without saying anything to anyone and keeping silently behind the curtains, could she have been preventing these strange things before they happened?

A breeze blew in through the window, tossing Nagato's hair and the pages of her book.
A breeze blew in through the window, tossing Nagato's hair and the pages of her book.

A breeze blew in through the window, tossing Nagato's hair and the pages of her book. Her white finger pressed softly down on the margin, her white face lowered; unmoving except for her eyes, which chased the book's letters.

Or... Could it have been Nagato's wish to involve us? Living in a dreary room for years, an alien-made organic android. Only seemingly emotionless, could it be that she also has them?

Those feelings of loneliness one has when secluded.

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