The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya (Haruhi Suzumiya Series #4)by Nagaru Tanigawa
This third volume in the Haruhi Suzumiya series is a collection of four exciting short stories that chronologically take place before The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya.
The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya:
In her latest attempt to give the S.O.S. Brigade more public exposure, Haruhi signs the group up for the city-wide baseball tournament./b>
This third volume in the Haruhi Suzumiya series is a collection of four exciting short stories that chronologically take place before The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya.
The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya:
In her latest attempt to give the S.O.S. Brigade more public exposure, Haruhi signs the group up for the city-wide baseball tournament.
Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody:
It's like Back To the Future! In order to prevent an impending disaster, Mikuru takes Kyon back in time, where he meets Haruhi as a seventh grader.
The computer club president at school mysteriously disappears, and it's up to the S.O.S. Brigade to get to the bottom of it!
Remote Island Syndrome:
It's vacation time when a relative of Itsuki's invites the S.O.S. Brigade to stay at his island villa. But then a dead body turns up, and Haruhi and the gang get mixed up in a thrilling murder mystery.
Read an Excerpt
The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya
By Tanigawa, Nagaru
Little, Brown Books for Young ReadersCopyright © 2010 Tanigawa, Nagaru
All right reserved.
THE BOREDOM OF HARUHI SUZUMIYA
One day in the “Save the world by Overloading it with fun Haruhi Suzumiya Brigade,” or SOS Brigade, hideout (which was technically still the literary club room), Haruhi made the following loud announcement, sounding very much like the captain of a high school baseball team that had drawn the top seed at nationals.
“We’re entering the baseball tournament!”
It was after school one day in June. Two weeks after the nightmare-esque incident that had rendered me unable to focus on my studies. Consequently, I was facing my midterm results, the real nightmare, in early summer.
On the other hand, Haruhi, who didn’t listen to a word in class regardless of how attentive she appeared, managed to score in the top ten for our year. If there is a god in this world, he or she has horrible judgment and a nasty sense of humor.
… Well, none of that really matters. The issue right now would be Haruhi’s announcement.
What did she just say?
I looked around at the faces of the other three people in the room.
The first one to catch my eye was the baby face of Mikuru Asahina, the upperclassman who looked like she was in middle school. An incredibly adorable girl who looked ready to fly up into the heavens if you were to attach white wings to her back. And I am also aware that she has a dynamite body unbefitting her face and petite stature.
For some reason, Asahina, the only person in the room not wearing the high school uniform, was garbed in a light pink nurse outfit as she stared at Haruhi with her lovely lips slightly parted. She’s dressed as a nurse not because she’s a nursing student or a costume-wearing fanatic, but simply because Haruhi ordered it. She must have bought it off some shady Internet site again. Haruhi brought the costume and forced Asahina to put it on. Any person would wonder, “What is the purpose of this?” Allow me to answer.
“There isn’t any.”
At one point, Haruhi had delivered the decree, “You must always wear this outfit when you’re in the club room!” and Asahina had responded, “Y-You can’t be serious…,” while in tears, yet she obediently followed orders, even when passing out club flyers to the whole school. She’s so sweet that I just want to run up to her and give her a hug, though I haven’t done so yet. I swear.
Incidentally, her standard attire two weeks ago had been a maid outfit, and that maid outfit was currently on a hanger in the corner of the club room. The maid’s one is cuter and suits her better, plus it matches my tastes, so I’m hoping she returns to her roots soon. Asahina would probably grant my request. While acting all flustered and embarrassed. Yeah, I like it.
And after hearing Haruhi’s announcement concerning baseball, Asahina, currently a nurse, responded.
She reacted in a voice as lovely as a canary chirping before falling silent. An understandable reaction.
Next, I turned my gaze to the other girl in the room.
Yuki Nagato was about as tall as Asahina, but if you were to compare how much they stood out, it’d be like comparing horsetails to sunflowers. As usual, she appeared to be oblivious to everything going on around her as her eyes were firmly locked on the pages of her thick hardcover. Her fingers would move to turn the page every ten seconds or so, and you would finally know she was still alive. You could probably get more chatter out of a parakeet that knew Japanese and more movement out of a hamster in hibernation.
It doesn’t really make a difference whether she’s here or not, so there isn’t much point in spending effort on a thorough explanation, but I suppose I should at least try to introduce her. She’s a first-year, just like Haruhi and me, and the only member of the literary club that originally occupied this club room. In other words, our student association known as the SOS Brigade is renting this room, or it’s more like we’re parasites who’ve turned this room into our stronghold. Naturally, we still haven’t been recognized by the school. The charter application I turned in a while back was refused by the student council.
I turned away from the apathetic Nagato to find the grinning handsome face of Itsuki Koizumi next to her. He looked at me with an amused expression on his face. It pisses me off for no real reason. This guy’s less relevant than Nagato. The mysterious transfer student—except that Haruhi’s the only one who calls him mysterious—brushed aside his bangs and that annoyingly good-looking face broke into a smile. Our eyes met and he shrugged so naturally I wanted to beat him down. Does he want me to beat him down?
“What are we entering?”
Nobody else reacted, so as usual, I reluctantly posed the question. Why does everyone want to treat me like Haruhi’s interpreter? I don’t think you could find a more painful role.
Haruhi triumphantly handed me a flyer. As I noted Asahina, who had nothing but bad memories when it came to flyers, covertly huddling up out of the corner of my eye, I read the flyer out loud.
“The Ninth City Amateur Baseball Tournament is seeking participants.”
This town apparently holds a single-elimination tournament to determine a champion baseball team. The event is organized by government officials so it’s an officially sponsored annual event with a lot of history.
I muttered as I looked up. Haruhi’s bright shining face was 100 percent smile and practically touching me. I reflexively took half a step back.
“So, who’s entering this baseball tournament?”
I already knew the answer, but I asked anyway.
“We are, obviously!” Haruhi declared.
“Does your ‘we’ include Asahina, Nagato, Koizumi, and me?”
“Do we have a say in this?”
“We’ll need to find four more people.”
As always, she hears only what she wants to hear. I suddenly thought of something.
“Do you know the rules for baseball?”
“I have a general idea. It’s a sport where you throw, hit, run, slide, tackle, all that good stuff. I joined the baseball team for a bit so I know the basics.”
“How many days were you on the baseball team?”
“A little under an hour, I think. But it was dead boring so I left immediately.”
“So why do we have to participate in a baseball tournament if you found it dead boring?”
Haruhi’s response to this obvious question was as follows:
“It’s a chance to make ourselves known across the land, Kyon. If we win this tournament, it may be the spark which will eventually allow the SOS Brigade name to stand on its own. A golden opportunity.”
I would prefer that the name of this brigade not spread any more than it already has. Besides, what’s the point of making the name stand on its own? How is this a golden opportunity?
I was perplexed, and Asahina was flustered, while Koizumi murmured, “I see, I see,” with an unperturbed look on his face. I couldn’t tell if Nagato was troubled by any of this or if she’d even been listening at all, but she had the usual stiff porcelain expression on her face.
“Right? Isn’t this a nice idea, Mikuru?”
Faced with that abrupt question, Asahina panicked.
“Huh? Huh? B-B-But…”
“What is it?”
Haruhi circled around Asahina the way an alligator would approach a fawn drinking water on a riverbank and suddenly threw her arms around the bent-over, petite nurse, or hospital attendant rather, from behind.
“Wah! Wh-What are you—What are you doing…?!”
“Listen up, Mikuru. In this brigade, the leader’s orders are absolute! Insubordination is a severe offense! If you have anything to say, we’ll listen to it during the meeting.”
Meeting? Like those meetings that are held so she can arbitrarily force us to do stuff that makes no sense at all?
Haruhi had her arms around the struggling Asahina like an albino Japanese rat snake.
“You’re okay with baseball, right? Just to be clear, we’re aiming for first place! I won’t accept a single loss! Because I really hate to lose!”
Asahina trembled with her eyes darting around and her face flushed.
Haruhi, who was practically executing a sleeper hold, suddenly bit down on Asahina’s ear as she glared at me. Maybe because I looked at her like I wanted to be in that sleeper hold.
Why do you care? You’re just going to ignore us anyway.
Koizumi voiced his agreement.
Hey, don’t just cheerfully support her. Throw in an objection every once in a while.
“In that case, I’ll go get equipment from the baseball team.”
Haruhi shot off like a miniature tornado. The emancipated Asahina sank into a chair as Koizumi offered his interpretation.
“Aren’t you relieved that we aren’t capturing aliens or going on a camping trip to search for cryptids? If we’re playing baseball, we shouldn’t have to worry about encountering any of those unrealistic phenomena we dread.”
“I guess so.”
At the time, I agreed. Not even Haruhi would say that you would need aliens, time travelers, or espers to play baseball. When the alternative is to look around town for supernatural phenomena that couldn’t possibly happen (that was the SOS Brigade’s main activity), I’d much rather play some baseball. Plus, Asahina was bobbing her head up and down.
In hindsight, our conjecture was completely off the mark. I could have lived with being off the mark, but it ended up piercing the wall behind the bull’s eye and flew off lord knows where, but I didn’t realize any of this until later on.
Basically, in my opinion, it didn’t have to be baseball. She would have been fine with whatever happened to catch her eye. First off, this not-quite-a-student-association with the embarrassing name “SOS Brigade” that still isn’t recognized by the school was basically just created by Haruhi on a whim. After all, the long and frightfully conceited official name of this enigma of a brigade is the “Save the world by Overloading it with fun Haruhi Suzumiya Brigade.” My plan to change the name to something slightly better went to pieces unfortunately, and ever since, there hasn’t been an opportunity to change it.
At one point, I had asked Haruhi what the purpose of this club was, and she’d responded with a look on her face like a foot soldier who had just killed an enemy general.
“To find aliens, time travelers, and espers and have fun with them!”
The famous words that would confirm Haruhi Suzumiya, already known in our school for her bizarre behavior, as a complete freak.
And yeah, much like how a crow goes after shiny things, how a cat instinctively jumps after anything small that rolls around, or how a person who sees a cockroach in the kitchen goes for the insecticide, anything that draws her attention, be it dodgeball, gateball, or portball, will lead to her saying, “Let’s do this!” I should probably be happy that it wasn’t a rugby tournament. Since that would require finding even more members.
In other words, Haruhi was bored.
I have no idea what kind of negotiations were involved, but Haruhi returned like a whirlwind carrying an assortment of baseball equipment. The cardboard box, which looked as though an abandoned puppy could fit into it, contained nine beat-up gloves, a chipped-up metal bat, and a few dirty baseballs.
I took a close look at the flyer again.
“This tournament uses softballs. What’s the point in bringing hardballs?”
“A ball is a ball, right? They’re the same. You hit it with a bat and it goes flying, guaranteed.”
“The last time I played baseball was at my grade school. But I still know the difference between softballs and hardballs. Hardballs hurt more when you get hit.”
“So don’t get hit then.”
Haruhi said it simply with a look suggesting she had no idea what I was talking about.
I gave up.
“So when is the game?”
“That’s the day after tomorrow! That’s way too soon.”
“But I’ve already registered us. Ah, don’t worry. I put ‘SOS Brigade’ for the team name. No mistakes in that department.”
I felt exhausted.
“… Were do you plan on finding the other members?”
“Just grab any bored-looking people we see walking around.”
She seriously meant that. And anybody who catches Haruhi’s eye, with one exception, is not a normal person. The only exception would be me. And I have no intention of becoming acquainted with any more people I can’t understand.
“I got it. You just sit tight. I’ll find members. First off…”
I went through the boys of class 1-5 in my mind. Who would be willing to come if I asked… Only Taniguchi and Kunikida, probably.
Once I mentioned them, Haruhi responded.
“Those are fine.”
She referred to her own classmates as objects.
“Better than nothing.”
Everybody else would probably run away the second the name “Haruhi Suzumiya” came up. Let’s see, what to do for the remaining two?
Asahina timidly raised her hand.
“If you don’t mind, my friend would be…”
“Then we’ll do that.”
Haruhi replied instantly. Anyone works, apparently. You probably don’t care since you’re completely in the dark, but I’m a little worried about this. Asahina’s friend? Her friend from when and where?
Asahina must have noticed the concern on my face since she turned to me.
“It’s okay. She’s from this age… ahem, someone I met from my class.”
She said to reassure me. And then Koizumi opened his mouth.
“Then allow me to also bring a friend. In fact, I can think of an acquaintance who has expressed interest in our—”
I cut him off before he could finish. “You don’t need to bring anybody. Anyone associated with you is bound to be a weirdo.”
“I’ll take care of it.”
“If she’s willing to take anyone, I have other people to turn to.”
Haruhi nodded in a generous fashion. “Then let’s start training.”
Well, that was where the conversation was headed.
“Right now? Where?”
“The school field.”
I could hear the soft sounds of the members of the baseball team going “Hey, batta, batta” through the open window.
By the way, I know I shouldn’t just mention this out of nowhere, but the truth is that the other four people in the club room aren’t ordinary humans for various reasons. Haruhi’s the only one who doesn’t realize what she is. The other three revealed their identities to me unsolicited and urged me to understand their situation. Their claims were so far beyond my comprehension that if my common sense were to be considered Earth, they would have been somewhere out past Pluto’s orbit. However, after my experiences during the previous month, I had learned that apparently it was all true. I didn’t really want to know that, but you could say that ever since I was included as one of Haruhi’s flunkies, my wishes have had almost no chance of being granted.
Simply put, Asahina, Nagato, and Koizumi were in this school because Haruhi was. Everybody seemed to be extraordinarily concerned about Haruhi.
As far as I could tell, she was just a hyper girl, but apparently I was the only one who felt that way, and my conviction had begun to waver in recent days.
I swear. My head hasn’t snapped.
The world has.
And so, I was standing on the dusty sports grounds along with the other brigade members who had strayed off the beaten track.
The members of the baseball team who had been chased out of their practice space were shooting us annoyed looks. That was to be expected. This strange group of people showed up out of nowhere, and then the leader, a girl in a sailor uniform waving a bat around, started yelling unintelligible things, leaving them dumbfounded. The next thing they knew, the baseball team’s allotted space on the grounds had been occupied and they’d been ordered to fetch and toss balls. If that isn’t considered annoying, I have no idea what is.
Plus our group was a bunch of people in regular school uniforms with a nurse mixed in.
“Let’s start with a thousand hits!”
Per Haruhi’s announcement, a rain of hits came pelting down on the bunch of us who were standing in a line near the pitcher’s mound.
Asahina crouched down, covering her head with her glove. I turned toward the incoming white balls, determined to prevent her from being hit. At any rate, Haruhi was sending out a real flurry of killer lasers. She’s a pro at whatever she does.
Koizumi had his usual smile on his face as he blithely fielded hits.
“Indeed, it’s been a long time. This brings back memories.”
Koizumi bared his white teeth at me as he lightly stepped around Haruhi’s wild barrage. If this is such a breeze for you, help cover Asahina.
I glanced at Nagato to find her standing erect facing forward. She stood perfectly still, paying no attention to any balls that flew her way. She didn’t even flinch when a ball passed her ear by mere millimeters. Occasionally, she would slowly move the glove on her left hand with robotic motions to catch and drop only the balls that were on a collision course with her. You could move a little more, you know. Or am I supposed to praise your dynamic visual acuity?
I probably shouldn’t have been paying any attention to other people as a ball took a weird hop and grazed the bottom of my glove, landing a direct hit on Asahina’s knee. What a mistake.
The nurse version of Asahina shrieked.
She began sobbing. I couldn’t watch anymore.
“Take care of the rest,” I said to Koizumi and Nagato before I helped Asahina up and moved outside the white line.
“Hey! Where are you going?! Kyon! Mikuru! Come back here!”
“She’s retiring due to injury!”
I raised one hand to counter Haruhi’s protest as I took Asahina’s arm and headed for the nurse’s office. A much more appropriate place for her nurse outfit than the dusty club room or the rough sports grounds.
Asahina, with one hand covering her tearing eyes, apparently didn’t realize I was the person she was clinging to until we were already in the hallway.
She jumped away, releasing a little shriek so cute I wanted to record it, and looked up at me me with a slightly red face.
“Kyon, if you’re so nice to me… it’ll happen again…”
What will happen again? I shrugged.
“Asahina, you can go home now. I’ll tell Haruhi that it’ll take two days to recover from the hit to your leg.”
“Don’t worry. It’s all Haruhi’s fault anyway. There’s no need for you to worry.”
I waved my hand. Asahina looked up at me with her face lowered. Her teary eyes made her twice as sexy.
Asahina flashed me a smile so lovely my knees were buckling, as she turned back to look at me, before reluctantly walking away. Haruhi could learn a thing or two about how to behave by watching her. It’d do her a world of good.
When I returned to the sports grounds, I found that fielding practice was still going on. What amazed me was that the members of the baseball team were doing the fielding while Koizumi and Nagato stood behind the fence.
Koizumi smiled cheerfully upon spotting me.
“Why, hello there. Welcome back.”
“What’s she doing?”
“Exactly what it looks like. It would seem that we weren’t responsive enough for her as she’s been that way for a while.”
She had perfect control. Every ball she hit flew exactly where she said it would.
The three of us had nothing to do as we watched Haruhi’s impressive batting before that crazy girl finally set down the bat and wiped the sweat off her brow, looking satisfied. Koizumi spoke with an amused look on his face.
“Quite amazing. That was exactly one thousand hits.”
“The fact that you counted to one thousand is what’s amazing.”
Nagato turned around in silence. I followed her lead.
“Say,” I proposed to the petite, sailor uniform–garbed girl, who was turned sideways. “Could you make it rain on the day of the game? Something big enough to cancel it?
“It is possible.”
Nagato responded plainly as she continued walking.
“However, it is not recommended.”
“Alterations to the local environmental data may result in aftereffects to this planet’s ecosystem.”
“How long will it be before these aftereffects show up?”
“Between a few centuries and ten millennia.”
That won’t be for a while.
“Then I guess we probably shouldn’t.”
Nagato nodded her head about five millimeters as she continued walking at a fixed pace.
I turned to look behind me and saw Haruhi, still in her school uniform, on the mound ready to begin pitching.
Two days later. Sunday. 8 AM on the dot.
We met at the city sports grounds. There were two baseball fields adjacent to the track. Each game would last five innings. The top four teams would be determined by evening, and the semifinal and final matches would be held next Sunday so it was a two-week tournament. There were many other teams around but we looked pretty out of place since our team was the only one in school gym uniforms. Almost all of the other participants were wearing baseball jerseys. And this was the first time I’d seen Nagato in something besides her school uniform, but I digress.
I found out afterward that this baseball tournament actually had some history behind it (it was only the ninth one, though) and was apparently a fairly serious competition. In that case, I wish they’d rejected Haruhi at the front desk.
By the way, a single phone call was all it had taken to garner ready consent from Taniguchi and Kunikida. Taniguchi was in it for Asahina and Nagato while Kunikida just said, “Sounds like fun,” and decided to join in. Good thing they’re simple-minded.
The second-year Asahina had brought along to help was named Tsuruya. A cheerful girl with hair as long as Haruhi’s had been who was looking at me.
“So you’re Kyon? I’ve heard a lot about you from Mikuru. Hmm… Heh…”
As she was talking, Asahina became noticeably flustered. What did she say about me?
And then, Haruhi was currently staring at the fourth member, brought by me.
“Kyon, come here for a second.”
Haruhi dragged me to the side of the tournament’s main tent with an iron grip.
“What are you thinking? You’re going to have that thing play baseball?”
Thing is a bit rude now. That thing’s still my sister.
“She introduced herself as a ten-year-old fifth grader. She’s such a sweet little girl that it’s hard to believe she’s related to you. So anyway, she would do fine if this were Little League, but the baseball tournament we’re entering is open to the general public!”
It’s not as though I brought my sister without any thinking. This was by design, careful and thorough. Here was my logic. The fact of the matter was that I had absolutely no interest in waking up early on Sunday morning to engage in athletic activity. I had no control over the forces that had brought me to this place on this day. In which case, it would only be natural for me to want to get this over with as soon as possible. In other words, we just needed to lose fast and go on home. Considering the members we had besides my sister, we already had no chance of winning our first match. Regardless, this was Haruhi we’re talking about. Watch us end up winning by accident. That would definitely be a pain. It was necessary to add a factor to guarantee our loss. With an amateur grade school girl added into the mix, it’d be a joke if we won.
I couldn’t tell Haruhi, but I did, in fact, have a working human brain of my own.
Haruhi snorted as she turned to the side.
“It’s a good enough handicap. I’d feel bad if we slaughtered the other team.”
Apparently, she is seriously intent on winning. I wonder how.
“By the way, we haven’t decided on a batting order or positions yet. What are we going to do?”
“I already thought that through,” Haruhi said with a satisfied smirk on her face as she took some folded-up pieces of paper out of her pocket. We just found out who our roster would be. What was she going to base her selection on?
“You don’t have any problems with deciding through this, right?”
Eight lines were drawn on each sheet of paper. There were two sheets. It looked like ladder lottery to me. Maybe I was hallucinating?
“What are you talking about? It’s obviously a lottery. One for batting order and one for field position. Also, I’m the pitcher and leadoff.”
“… So all you came up with was the method for deciding?”
“What’s with that look on your face? Got a problem with it? It’s a democratic method. They used lottery to choose government officials in ancient Greece!”
Don’t compare the ancient Greek government system to modern Japanese batting order selection. And you’re the only one who gets to choose your own position. How is that democratic?
… Oh, well. This should mean that it’ll take even less time for us to lose. When they were explaining the rules earlier, I remembered hearing that the game would be called if one team was up by ten. I should start getting ready to go home now. After all, our opponents for the first match were the three-time defending champions and the leading candidates to win this tournament.
The Kamigahara Pirates. A local college baseball team. I’d have to say that they would be considered a hardcore club. They looked dead serious. Every member was here to win. It was obvious just from watching them warm up. All of them were pumped up and shouting as they practiced throwing the ball home and setting up double plays. They were the real deal. Quite frankly, they just had a different look in their eyes. For a moment, I was starting to wonder if we were in the wrong place, before I looked at our surroundings and confirmed that we were at the city sports ground hosting the baseball tournament.
I had been fine with losing, but I was starting to want to escape reality. Our team was so pathetic that I wanted to apologize to the other team.
As I plotted how to flee in the face of the enemy, Haruhi made us all stand in a line.
“I’m going to explain our strategy now. Everybody do exactly as I say.”
She sounded like a manager.
“Okay? First of all, do whatever it takes to get on base. Once you’re on, steal your way to third base. Batters should hit strikes and ignore balls. Simple, right? By my calculations, we can score at least three runs an inning.”
That may be what the calculations inside Haruhi’s brain are saying, but I have to wonder where she gets all her confidence from. Obviously, it doesn’t come from anywhere. After all, she’s the very embodiment of unwarranted confidence. However, most people in this world would call such a person an “idiot.” And this is no mere idiot. She reigns at the top of the food chain of the idiot world. The queen of idiots!
Allow me to inform you of the starting roster for Team SOS Brigade as determined by the god of fortune.
Leading off is pitcher Haruhi Suzumiya. Batting second is right fielder Mikuru Asahina. Batting third is center fielder Yuki Nagato. Batting cleanup is the second baseman, yours truly. Batting fifth is the left fielder, my sister. Batting sixth is catcher Itsuki Koizumi. Batting seventh is first baseman Kunikida. Batting eight is third baseman Tsuruya. Batting ninth is shortstop Taniguchi.
There you have it. No subs. No manager. No fans.
Once we had finished lining up and greeting the other team, Haruhi promptly went to the batter’s box. Since we’d completely forgotten about those things called helmets, the staff lent us some secondhand white ones. As for the stuff we’d brought ourselves, there were enough yellow megaphones for the whole team courtesy of Haruhi.
Haruhi pushed up the brim of her helmet as she raised the metal bat she’d stolen from our school baseball team and flashed a cocky grin.
The umpire called for us to play ball, and the opposing team’s pitcher began his windup motion.
The first pitch.
A metallic sound rang through the air as the white ball flew a fair distance, passing over the head of the center fielder backing up furiously and hitting the fence after one hop. By the time the ball came back to the infield, Haruhi was already on second base.
I wasn’t particularly surprised. I would expect Haruhi to do this well. Asahina and Koizumi probably felt the same way and I’m guessing Nagato doesn’t know how to be surprised. However, the remaining members, without exception, had astonished looks on their faces as they stared at Haruhi repeatedly pumping her fist up and down. Especially the ones on the other team.
“That pitcher is totally weak! The rest of you follow my lead!” Haruhi shouted cheerfully. But it completely backfired. The opposition no longer felt like holding back just because they were facing girls.
Our second batter, Asahina, was wearing a helmet too big for her head as she nervously stood in the batter’s box.
“P-Please go easy on me—Eek!”
A high inside fastball flew by before she even finished speaking. Those bastards. If you hit Asahina, there will be dire consequences. Immediate brawling.
Asahina was still as a statue as she watched the second pitch fly by. Once the umpire announced that the batter was out, she returned to the bench, noticeably relieved.
“Hey! Why aren’t you swinging the bat?!”
Haruhi appears to be saying something, but we can just ignore her. All that matters is that Asahina is safe.
Our third batter was Nagato. She wordlessly walked to the batter’s box, dragging the tip of the metal bat along the ground.
She let every pitch go by and was immediately struck out. She then silently returned and turned to the next batter, me.
She handed me the helmet and bat before mutely sitting down on the bench and going back to being a prop.
Haruhi’s angry yelling was getting annoying. Well, it was her fault for expecting anything from Asahina and Nagato.
“Kyon! You’d better get a hit! You’re batting cleanup!”
What can you possibly expect from a cleanup chosen through lottery?
I followed Nagato’s lead and stood in the batter’s box, without saying a word.
The first pitch I let go was a strike. I was surprised. It was pretty fast. You could even hear the swooshing sound of the ball slicing through the air. I had no idea how fast it was, but I could barely see it. In fact, I saw the pitcher throw the ball, and the next thing I knew, it was in the catcher’s mitt. Haruhi doubled off a pitch like this?
The second pitch. I tried swinging. The metal bat sliced through empty air. Swing and a miss. Didn’t even touch the ball. I doubt it’s going to happen.
The third pitch. Whoa, the ball curved. Was that what they call a curveball? If I hadn’t swung, it would have missed the outside corner and been a ball, but I swung and it was all over. Three consecutive strikeouts. Three outs. Change sides.
The opposing team returned to their bench as Haruhi yelled and waved her hands from the middle-left side of the infield.
Feeling pretty ashamed.
Our defense, quite frankly, had more holes than an anthill in a savanna.
The outfield was especially horrendous. First of all, Asahina was in right field and my sister was in left and neither of them was going to be catching any fly balls. We found that out during pregame warm-ups. So when the ball flew toward right field, it was me, the second baseman, and when the ball flew toward left, it was Taniguchi, the shortstop, who had to run at full speed to where the ball was falling. Whenever Asahina saw the ball flying toward her, she would crouch down and cover her head with her glove, so we couldn’t expect anything from her. My sister, on the other hand, would cheerfully run after the ball before watching it drop three meters away from where she was, so that was another lost cause.
Nagato, in center, fielded the ball perfectly, but she only reacted to balls within her range. And her movement was sluggish, so if a line drive got past her, the batter was guaranteed a double.
… Just lose quick and go home. That works.
“Let’s shut them out! Yeah!”
Haruhi was getting pumped up by herself. It goes without saying that the chest protector, shin guards, and catcher’s mitt for the person on the receiving end of her pitches, Koizumi, were all borrowed.
The opposing leadoff batter bowed to the umpire before heading to the batter’s box.
Haruhi threw her first pitch with an overhand motion.
An impressive fastball with great spin, speed, and control. The pitch was right down the middle, but the force behind the ball was so intense that the bat didn’t even twitch.
Naturally, I, along with the other SOS Brigade members, was not surprised. If she were suddenly named to the national soccer team, we probably still wouldn’t be surprised. Anything is possible with Haruhi.
But the same couldn’t be said for the opposing leadoff batter. He stood in a daze as the second pitch flew by. He finally swung on the third pitch, but unfortunately, he struck out. Her pitch apparently had a tendency to change slightly when it reached the batter. Really vicious, just like Haruhi’s personality.
The second batter, after receiving advice from the leadoff batter, gripped his bat to bunt. But after hitting two fouls, he also struck out.
I was getting worried. At this rate, the game might not be decided until the last inning. However, the meat of the order delivered. The third batter landed a solid hit on Haruhi’s pitch. If you keep throwing fastballs in the strike zone, you’re going to give up hits.
The ball sailed far above Nagato, who didn’t move a muscle, and disappeared outside the ballpark.
Haruhi glared at the third hitter circling the infield as though she were Queen Medea, just betrayed by Jason.
In any case, we were now one run behind.
We proceeded to give up a double to the cleanup hitter, and an error by Kunikida on the fifth hitter left runners on first and second. The sixth hitter landed a Texas leaguer inside right field to bring in a second run. The seventh hitter drilled one down the third base line, but Tsuruya scooped it up effortlessly and delivered a laser to throw the batter out. Finally time to change sides.
The score at the end of the first inning was 2–0. It was surprisingly close. Except I didn’t want us to put up a good fight. We needed to give up ten runs pronto so we could go home.
Our fifth, sixth, and seventh batters, my sister, Koizumi, and Kunikida, went down one after the next, and we found ourselves back out in the field for the bottom of the second before we could even catch our breath.
It appeared that the opposing team had perceived that the outfield was our weakness. They began focusing exclusively on hitting fly balls. Every time, Taniguchi and I would dash to the outfield to try to catch the ball. We were successful around 10 percent of the time and it was excessively tiring. Well, it was a small price to pay for saving Asahina from her predicament. After all, she still looked cute when she was all frightened and huddled into a ball.
And so in the end, we gave up five runs this inning. 7–0. Three runs to go. The game should be over next inning.
Top of the third inning. Our turn to go on the attack.
Tsuruya, with her long hair tied behind her back, was keeping it alive with foul balls. She appeared to be a person with good reflexes, but eventually, she popped the ball up behind her and the catcher caught it. She returned, tapping her helmet with the bat.
“That’s a toughie. It was all I could manage to get the bat on the ball.”
Haruhi creased her brow as she watched, seeming to be deep in thought. Nothing good ever happens when she’s thinking.
“Hmm. It looks like we’re going to need that.”
Haruhi puckered her lips and slowly motioned to the umpire.
She then grabbed Asahina, sitting properly with a megaphone in her hand, by the neck.
Haruhi disappeared behind the bench, dragging the petite, gym uniform–clad girl with her. Both of them had been carrying sports bags with them, and it soon became clear what had been inside those bags.
“W-Wait…! Suzumiya! St-Stop… it!”
I could hear bits and pieces of Asahina’s adorable shrieking.
“Come on! Get undressed! We’re getting changed!”
The wind carried Haruhi’s booming voice to us. This again, huh?
When Asahina finally reappeared, she was wearing an exceedingly appropriate outfit for this event. A sleeveless shirt and pleated miniskirt ensemble in bright blue and white. She held yellow pompoms in both hands.
A cheerleader in every sense of the word. Where did they get an outfit like that? It’s a mystery.
“Looking good there.”
Kunikida commented in a carefree manner.
“Mikuru, can I take a picture?”
Tsuruya chuckled as she took out a digital camera.
I should mention that Haruhi was wearing the same outfit. She could have just worn it by herself… but I didn’t feel that way. Asahina in a cheerleader outfit was, quite frankly, a ridiculously adorable sight. She looks cute no matter what she’s wearing.
“It might go better with a ponytail.”
Haruhi had gathered Asahina’s hair together as she brushed it from behind, when she noticed my gaze and puckered her lips like a duckbill. Ponytail canceled.
“Come on. Start cheering.”
“What… H-How do I do that…?”
Haruhi circled behind Asahina, grabbed her slender pale arms, and began waving them up and down. Like some kind of funny dance. Haruhi was loudly hissing, “Say it! Just say it!” or something in her ear.
“Eek! Everybody! Please hit the ball! Please do your best!”
Asahina screamed at the top of her lungs in a falsetto. At the very least, Taniguchi appeared to be psyched up as he recklessly swung the bat in the batter’s circle. Of course, I doubt that will be enough to get a hit off the opposing pitcher.
As expected, Taniguchi returned to the bench dejected.
“Yeah, there’s no way I can hit that.”
That brought us back to the top of the order, and Haruhi once again stood in the batter’s box.
Still wearing that cheerleader outfit.
Previously, Haruhi and Asahina had dressed up as bunny girls, which had been a spectacle rather rough on the eyes, but the impact here was much the same.
At the moment, the opposition was having difficulty deciding where to look. Asahina was wonderful in every possible way, and the same could, for the most part, be said for Haruhi, barring her personality. Like her looks or figure.
Haruhi did not overlook the fact that the pitcher, whose control suddenly went out of whack, threw a really sweet pitch. She hit it past the center fielder for another stand-up double. While some miscommunication occurred during the throw back to the infield, Haruhi slid into third base. I was wondering where the third baseman’s eyes were when Haruhi slid.
And the next batter was a beautiful cheerleader whose charms surpassed those of Haruhi’s. Asahina, cowering with the bat in her hands, was dizzy with embarrassment as she endured the stares of many males (including myself). Very nice.
The opposing pitcher was unable to manage anything beyond a wobbly pitch at this point, but I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when Asahina still couldn’t hit it. Even when he was throwing easy ball after easy ball.
Her eyes were shut when she swung the bat, so it’d be pretty hard for her to hit anything.
Soon enough, she’d racked up two strikes. At this point, Haruhi began waving her arms around on third base. What is she doing?
“That appears to be a bunt signal,” Koizumi explained calmly.
“Did we ever decide on any signals?”
“No. However, we should be able to conjecture what kind of signal Suzumiya would use in this situation. She’s probably signaling for a squeeze.”
“Signaling for a squeeze with two outs? Even a tenured manager would try to come up with something better than that.”
“Presuming that Asahina’s chances of hitting the ball are practically zero, using a squeeze play when the opposing team least expects it may possibly cause the infield to commit an error. Or perhaps she believes that even Asahina can at least manage to make contact with the ball.”
“They’ve all figured it out, though.”
Their infielders were all ready to swoop in on the ball. There was probably something wrong with Haruhi’s gesturing. Everybody could tell that she was signaling for a bunt.
As expected, the squeeze play ended in failure. After all, Asahina had no idea what a squeeze was to begin with so she simply tilted her head and watched Haruhi’s obvious signals with a puzzled look on her face while the third strike flew by. Three outs. Change sides.
Like a puppy resigned to being scolded by its owner, Asahina returned in low spirits and stopped when Haruhi called her over.
“Mikuru, come over here and buckle down for some pain!”
Haruhi raised both hands to pinch Asahina’s trembling cheeks and pulled.
“This is punishment. Punishment. Let everyone look at your funny face!”
“Pwease stop… Wit hurts…”
“Are you an idiot?”
I whacked Haruhi’s head with the megaphone.
“It’s your fault for giving signals that make no sense. Just steal home by yourself or something, stupid.”
That was when it happened.
Ring-ring. Koizumi pulled a cell phone out of his pocket and looked at the LCD display, cocking an eyebrow.
Asahina had a startled expression on her face as she looked into the distance with one hand pressed against her left ear.
Nagato looked straight up into the sky.
Koizumi stopped me as we were dispersing across the field.
“Things have taken a bad turn.”
“I really don’t want to hear it, but go ahead.”
“Closed space has just appeared. On a scale never before witnessed. It appears to be expanding at an alarming rate.”
The gray world I was already familiar with. As if I could ever forget. Getting stuck in that gloomy space left me traumatized for life.
Koizumi continued to smile.
“Allow me to explain. Closed space is an unconscious way for Suzumiya to release stress. And Suzumiya happens to be in a foul mood at the moment. Therefore, closed space has appeared, and as long as Suzumiya retains her foul mood, it will continue to expand, and the Celestials you are well acquainted with will continue to rampage. There you have it.”
“… So you’re saying that Haruhi’s got her panties in a bunch because we’re losing a baseball game? And it’s so bad that she’s creating that stupid space?”
“So it would appear.”
“Is she a child?!”
Koizumi didn’t reply. He simply chuckled. I sighed.
“She’s so full of it.”
Koizumi gave me a look.
“You’re still saying things like that at this point? And you sound as though it doesn’t concern you. The ordeal before us is largely related to you. We used a lottery to determine the batting order, correct?”
“A ladder lottery, yeah. What about it?”
“And consequently, you became cleanup.”
“I’m not particularly happy about that.”
“It doesn’t matter to Suzumiya whether you feel happy or under pressure. The issue here is the fact that you drew cleanup.”
“Explain in a way I can understand.”
“It is very simple. You became the cleanup batter because Suzumiya desired it. This wasn’t a coincidence. Suzumiya wished for you to play a big role as the cleanup batter. And then she was disappointed by your dismal performance.”
“So sorry about that.”
“Yes, I am also troubled by the current situation. At this rate, Suzumiya’s mood will only continue to worsen and closed space will continue to expand.”
“… So, what am I supposed to do about it?”
“Hit the ball. A long hit if possible. A home run would be terrific. Especially if it were a huge one. How about trying to bounce one off the scoreboard?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. I’ve only ever hit home runs in video games. And there’s no way I’m going to hit a ball that curves like that.”
“All of the concerned parties sincerely wish that you can do something about this ordeal.”
“Wishing isn’t going to help when I’m not a genie or a monkey’s paw.”
“Let us do everything possible to prevent the game from being called this inning. If we allow the game to end now, it will mean the end of the world. We must do all we can to hold them to two runs.”
Koizumi didn’t look very worried, considering the gravity of his words.
Bottom of the third. Haruhi went to the pitcher’s mound without changing clothes. Asahina was also wearing the cheerleader outfit as she stood in right field.
Haruhi had no qualms about exposing her bare limbs as she went into the same windup motion she used regardless of whether or not any runners were on base.
The first batter hit a line drive that happened to be on a direct course for Nagato, which led to an out. But she didn’t even turn her head to look at the second batter’s deep fly that landed between left and center for a triple. Haruhi’s red-hot pitches were as strong as ever, but if you keep throwing fastballs, you’re bound to give up hits. No wonder these guys are a lock for the championship. Following that, two hits and a fielder’s choice by Kunikida led to two more runs. Our backs were against the wall at this point. And there were runners on first and second. The game would be called after another run. And who knows what would happen to the world then.
Clang. The white ball shot into the air. Headed toward right field. Asahina was all flustered in the vicinity of where the ball would land. No time to think. I sprinted with all my might to the right side of the field for the umpteenth time. Make it in time!
I dove. And caught the ball. The ball sat in the tip of my glove.
I then threw the ball as hard as I could to Taniguchi, who had moved over to cover second. The runner had been expecting extra bases on that hit since he didn’t even bother tagging up before he started running. Taniguchi stepped on the base with the ball in his glove. Out. Double play.
We somehow pulled it off. Man, I’m exhausted.
I basked in Asahina’s admiring gaze and flashed a victory sign as Taniguchi, Kunikida, my sister, and Tsuruya all walked by and patted my head with their gloves. I glanced at Haruhi to find her glaring at the scoreboard (which was basically a portable whiteboard) with a troubled look on her face.
As I sat down on the bench with a towel over my head, Koizumi walked over.
“Picking up where we left off…”
I really don’t want to hear it.
“There actually is a way to remedy the current situation. During the previous incident, when you and Suzumiya were in the other world, how did you make it back?”
Seriously, don’t remind me of that.
“If we use that method again, it may get us out of the current crisis.”
Koizumi chuckled. “You’re really starting to piss me off.”
“I thought you would say that. How does this sound then? We just have to win the game. I just had an excellent idea. I’m sure it will go well. After all, her interests should coincide with ours.”
And with a grin on his face, Koizumi walked off toward the white circle where Nagato was standing still. The only part of her that showed any sign of movement was her short hair swaying in the breeze as Koizumi appeared to whisper something in her ear. Unexpectedly, Nagato turned her head to look at me with emotionless eyes.
Did she just nod her head? Her head bobbed like the head of a puppet whose strings had just been cut, before she trudged off to the batter’s box.
I glanced left to find Asahina staring at Nagato this time.
Her face paled as she voiced those curious words.
“Is something up with her?”
“Nagato appears to be reciting an incantation.”
“Incantation? What’s that?”
“Um… That’s classified.”
Asahina bowed her head apologetically. It’s fine, really. I can’t do anything about it if it’s classified. Huh, I guess something unimaginable is about to happen again.
I could recall a thing or two regarding Nagato’s incantations.
One unusually hot evening back in May. If Nagato hadn’t barged into the classroom that day, I would certainly be resting in a grave somewhere. Nagato had muttered some kind of incantation at a ridiculous speed to repel the attacker who had tried to kill me. Oh, right. Nagato was still wearing glasses back then.
I wonder what she’s going to do this time.
I found out soon enough.
One swing of the bat. Home run.
Nagato barely used any strength when she swung the bat yet she connected with the center of the pitcher’s fastball and launched it into the sky before it disappeared beyond the fence.
I turned to look at my teammates. Koizumi had an elegant smile on his face as he nodded in my direction. Asahina’s face looked a bit stiff but she didn’t seem to be surprised. My sister and Tsuruya were innocently going, “That was awesome!” in admiration.
However, everybody else was simply dumbfounded. Including the members of the opposing team.
Haruhi skipped over to home plate to tap the helmet of Nagato, who had indifferently finished her lap around the bases.
“That was incredible! Where are you hiding that strength?”
She took Nagato’s arms and bent them back and forth. Nagato stood still with a blank look on her face and let Haruhi have her way.
Eventually, Nagato walked over to the bench and handed me the bat.
She pointed at the worn metal bat.
“This has been modified with a boost in attribute data,” she said.
“What’s that mean?” I asked. Nagato stared at me for a while.
And with that, she trotted back to the bench and sat down on the end before burying herself in a thick book she picked up from below.
The score was now 9–1 in the top of the fourth. It appeared that this would be the last inning.
It appeared that their pitcher hadn’t entirely recovered from his shock, but his pitches were still more than fast enough as far as I was concerned.
And then I found out what Nagato had meant.
The bat moved on its own. Dragging my arms and shoulders with it. Clang.
I thought that I’d barely hit the ball, but it went flying over the stands as though carried by the wind past the grass and into the next field. Home run. Jaws dropped.
I see. Homing mode, is it…
I tossed aside the bat, which had apparently obtained the ability to automatically go after balls and hit them twice as far as normally possible, and began jogging around the bases.
Once I reached second base, I looked up and my eyes met Haruhi’s as she waved her arms up and down, but she quickly looked away. You could just celebrate the way my sister and Tsuruya are. As far as I could tell, Taniguchi and Kunikida were astonished while Asahina, Koizumi, and Nagato were silent, and the nine members of the opposing team had looks of bewilderment on their faces.
I was feeling pretty guilty, but the opposing team wasn’t done being astonished.
My sister tottered over to the batter’s box next with the batter’s helmet hiding over half of her face since it was too big. I’m surprised she could even walk straight. The secret weapon I’d prepared to ensure our defeat took a full swing at the first pitch and sent it flying over the fence. In other words, what most people call a home run.
There’s a limit to how ridiculous you can be. A little girl in fifth grade just sent an eighty mph (estimate) pitch thrown by a college student all the way to the main stands. It’s hard to believe this is happening in reality.
Haruhi didn’t doubt reality for a second. She greeted my sister, who had quickly circled the bases, and swung her around, all smiles.
“What wonderful talent! You have a bright future ahead of you! You could definitely make it in the majors!”
My sister squealed cheerfully as Haruhi swung her around.
This is just… Whatever, the score’s 9–3 now.
I was sitting on the bench and holding my head.
Our home run offensive was still under way. The score was now 9–7. Seven straight home runs in one inning. I’m assuming that we set a tournament record.
Taniguchi returned after a big hit.
“I’ve decided to join the baseball team. I could make it to the nationals with my batting sense. After all, it felt like the bat was hitting the ball by itself!”
Kunikida stood next to him sounding overly optimistic.
“Yeah, no kidding.”
As their mind-numbing conversation continued, Tsuruya was slapping Asahina, who looked unusually stiff, on the shoulder and laughing loudly. It’s a good thing they’re all so simple.
“You and me! Man-to-man!” Haruhi said as she held the bat. Isn’t the pitcher the one who’s supposed to say that?
The metallic clang I was already sick of hearing rang again and the ball bounced off the scoreboard.
That made the score 9–8. During this period, the opposing team had gone through three pitchers. They probably didn’t want my sympathy, but they got it anyway. Poor guys.
We completed a rotation as Asahina, Nagato, and I hit consecutive home runs and we finally took the lead 11–9. Eleven consecutive home runs. I was starting to feel like this was getting pretty dangerous. Since I had a feeling that the members of the opposing team were looking at our bat instead of our players. They probably figured it was some kind of magic bat. I guess they weren’t exactly wrong.
Before I handed the bat to the next person up, my sister, I brought Nagato away from the end of the bench where she’d been reading.
“That’s enough,” I said as Nagato’s expressionless black eyes actually blinked multiple times in succession as opposed to her customary one blink every ten seconds or so.
“I see,” she responded.
She placed her thin fingers on the handle of the bat I was carrying and recited something really fast. I couldn’t make out what she said, but I doubt I would have understood it if I had, so it didn’t really matter.
Nagato then removed her fingers, returned to the bench, and picked her book up again without saying a word.
My sister, Koizumi, and Kunikida struck out so fast you had to wonder if their previous hits had been some kind of fluke. In fact, it’d been plain cheating.
I’d forgotten, but this match had a time limit. In the first round, ninety minutes was the limit. The organizers had done this so they could get through all the necessary matches today. Therefore, the next inning would be dropped. If we lasted through the bottom of the fourth, we would win.
Is it really okay for us to win?
“We cannot afford the alternative,” said Koizumi.
“I have received word from my colleagues. Thanks to our efforts, the expansion of closed space has been checked. However, the Celestials remain so we still have to deal with those. But it would be a great help if no more of them show up.”
But if they make a comeback now, it’ll be a walk-off loss. There’s no need to think about how bad Haruhi’s mood will be then.
“And so I have an idea concerning that.”
Koizumi smiled to reveal teeth so white I wanted to tell him to go do a toothbrush commercial. He whispered his idea to me.
“I am very serious. This is our only remaining option if we wish to make it through this inning while giving up a minimal number of runs.”
Once again, good grief.
We informed the umpire of a change in positions.
Nagato would take over as catcher for Koizumi. Koizumi would move to center field. And I was switching positions with Haruhi to stand on the mound.
Haruhi was grumbling when Koizumi first informed her about the pitching change, but then she made a face once she found out I was the relief pitcher.
“… Well, okay, I guess. But if you give up a hit, you have to buy everyone lunch!”
And with that, she retreated to second base.
Nagato was just standing there like she was spaced out while Koizumi and I put the chest protector and facemask and whatever on her. You sure about letting such a gloomy girl be catcher?
Nagato trudged to her spot behind home plate and squatted down.
Okay, time for the match to restart. There wasn’t much time left, so I didn’t get a chance to warm up. I have to throw the first pitch of my life on the fly.
In any case, I gave it a throw.
The ball somehow managed to land in Nagato’s glove. Ball.
“Take this seriously!”
That was Haruhi shouting back there. I’m always dead serious, man. I tried to sidearm it this time.
The second pitch. I was hoping that the batter might be fooled a little, but no such luck. His bat rushed straight for my weak pitch. Damn, I basically fed that one to him!
The umpire yelled loudly. He swung and missed so that would be a strike. However, the batter was looking at Nagato’s hand with an incredulous expression on his face.
I understood how he felt. How else would he react? Anybody would be in disbelief after watching my weak ball abruptly drop thirty centimeters right when it was on the verge of making contact with the bat.
Nagato remained squatting as she snapped her wrist to return the ball to me. After catching her floater, I wound up to pitch again.
Every time I threw the ball, it turned into some kind of half-assed fastball. And my third pitch was way off the mark—or it would have been if it hadn’t changed course after a few meters, curving in a way that obviously ignored stuff like inertia and gravity and aerodynamics. It even managed to accelerate before it landed in the catcher’s mitt. Smack. That was a good sound. Nagato’s small body shook a bit.
The batter’s eyes were as wide as saucers. The umpire was also speechless. After a while, he finally opened his mouth.
“… Strike two!”
He didn’t sound very confident. This is getting annoying so I’ll just get it over with.
I was just randomly throwing the ball at this point. Not even trying to aim or anything. Not using much strength to throw the ball either. Nonetheless, every ball I threw would go inside the strike zone if the batter didn’t swing, and curve if he did.
The secret lay in whatever Nagato was mumbling every time I threw the ball. And it was so secret that I had no idea how it worked either. It was probably some sort of data manipulation like how she’d previously saved my life and reconstructed the classroom or whatever she did to the bat earlier.
As a result, this was like pitching to an electric fan. Without a doubt, Yuki Nagato was the MVP for the day.
In no time, the opposing team had racked up two outs and the last batter was at a 2–0 count. Should it really be this easy for me to close the game? Sorry, Kamigahara Pirates.
I turned to the batter, whose face was pale at this point, and threw a normal pitch without exerting any effort.
The ball changed course toward the strike zone. The batter swung with all his might. The ball changed course again toward the outside corner. The bat swung around so hard you could see an afterimage. Strikeout. Whew, it was finally over… except it wasn’t.
The ball spun toward the backstop. It appeared that she’d gone overboard on the curve. The ball grazed Nagato’s catcher’s mitt and the Mystery Ball (my name for it) sank like a forkball before bouncing off a corner of home plate and rolling off.
It was a wild pitch.
Given this last chance, the batter dashed off. However, Nagato remained frozen in her catcher’s stance, squatting in silence with her facemask still on.
“Nagato! Pick up the ball and throw it!”
Nagato looked up blankly in response to my instructions before slowly standing up and chasing the loose ball. At an excruciatingly slow pace. The batter had already touched first base and was attempting to make it to second.
Haruhi was standing on second base and waving her glove around.
Nagato finally caught up to the ball and picked it up, staring at it as though it were a sea turtle egg. She then turned to me.
I pointed straight behind me. Haruhi was standing there shouting at the top of her lungs. Nagato nodded her head about a millimeter—
Whoosh. A white laser beam passed the side of my head. It took a few strands of my hair with it. I didn’t realize the laser was Nagato throwing the ball using only her wrist until I saw the ball knock Haruhi’s glove off her hand and all the way into center field.
Haruhi was staring at her previously gloved hand while the runner had apparently fallen down right in front of second base in terror.
Koizumi, the center fielder, picked up the glove and withdrew the ball before walking over to the batter-runner with his universal beaming smile on his face as he bent down to tag him out. Then he apologized.
“I’m terribly sorry. We happen to be a slightly unreasonable group.”
As I wondered if he was including me in that unreasonable group, I released a deep sigh.
The members of the Kamigahara Pirates were weeping. I didn’t really get it, though. Were they going to be punished by alumni later? Or were they just frustrated by the fact that they lost to a team of high school amateurs that had more females than males and included a girl in grade school. Probably both.
On the other hand, Haruhi, who obviously didn’t care about the grief the losers were feeling, was in high spirits. She had a smile on her face much like the one she had back on that day when she came up with the idea of creating the SOS Brigade.
“Let’s win this tournament and enter the national tournament this summer! Dominating the entire country isn’t just a dream!”
She was shouting stuff like that in a serious tone. Taniguchi was the only one who looked interested, though. I merely wished that she would give it a break already, and I’m pretty sure the High School Baseball Federation felt the same way.
Koizumi had come over next to me while I wasn’t paying attention.
“By the way, what do we do now? Shall we continue into the second round?”
I shook my head.
“So basically, Haruhi will be in a bad mood if we lose, right? Which would mean we have to keep winning. That would require more of Nagato’s bogus magic. No matter how you look at it, it’s pretty obvious that there’s going to be trouble if we keep ignoring the laws of physics. Let’s forfeit.”
“That sounds best. The truth is that I need to go help my colleagues soon. To eliminate closed space. It appears that they need more people to deal with the Celestials.”
“Say hello to your people for me. To those blue guys too.”
“I shall do that. In any case, this incident has taught us that it is a bad idea to allow Suzumiya to be bored. We should take that into consideration during future endeavors.”
After telling me to take care of the rest, Koizumi headed off toward the administrative tent to inform them that we wouldn’t be advancing to the second round.
He left me with the harder job. Guess I don’t really have a choice.
I walked over to where Haruhi was forcing Asahina to dance the can-can with her and poked her in the back.
“What? You want to dance with us?”
“We need to talk.”
I took Haruhi outside the field. She became unexpectedly quiet.
“Look over there.”
I motioned toward the bench where the Kamigahara Pirates were sobbing.
“Don’t you feel bad for them?”
“They’ve probably undergone intensive training for this day. The opportunity to become the champion for four years running was on the line so they were probably under a lot of pressure.”
“They probably have a few benchwarmers who didn’t even get a chance to play, that are holding back their tears. Yeah, like that guy with the crew cut behind the net. You really have to feel bad for him, right? He’s never going to get a chance to play.”
“What’s your point?”
I just said it flat out.
“You’ve had your fun, right? I’ve had enough to share with anyone who asks. I’d rather just go grab lunch and talk about stupid stuff. To be honest, my arms and legs are completely worn out.”
That was the truth. After all that running between the infield and outfield, I was physically exhausted. Mentally too.
Haruhi then made her favorite face, the one that resembled a sulking pelican, as she glared up at me. I was starting to get worried when she finally spoke up.
“You’re okay with that?”
“I sure am. Asahina, Koizumi, and even Nagato probably feel the same way. My sister’s been over there practicing her swinging for a while now, but if you give her some candy, she’ll drop the bat.”
Haruhi alternated looks between me and the field as she thought it over. Or maybe she was just pretending to think it over. She grinned.
“I guess that’s fine then. I’m pretty hungry anyway. Let’s go have lunch. I was thinking, baseball sure is a simple sport. I didn’t expect to win so easily.”
I kept my mouth shut and shrugged.
When I told the captain of the opposing team that we were letting them advance to the second round in our place, he began thanking me profusely while weeping. That just made me feel even guiltier. After all, we basically stole that win by using some ridiculous methods of cheating.
I had immediately turned to leave when the captain told me to hold on and whispered in my ear.
“By the way, how much do you want for the bat you guys were using?”
And so, at the moment, our group, excluding Koizumi, was occupying the corner of a family restaurant and chowing down.
My sister had grown attached to Haruhi and Asahina and sat between two of them, stabbing at her hamburger steak with a knife in a dangerous fashion. Taniguchi was holding a serious discussion with Kunikida about how he was going to join the baseball team. Yeah, he can do whatever he wants. Tsuruya’s attention was now focused on Nagato. “So you’re Yuki Nagato? I’ve heard a lot about you from Mikuru.” Her random chatter was ignored by her reticent underclassman, who silently munched away at her BLT sandwich.
Everybody had ordered way more than necessary, but that was expected. Since I was paying for everybody.
Haruhi had announced that little tidbit as though it were some kind of brilliant idea. I have no idea how Haruhi came up with it. Nobody has ever been able to trace her pattern of thought, so I wasn’t exactly surprised. I didn’t bother protesting because it would have been too much of a pain. In fact, I was in a pretty good mood.
Because I’d managed to get my hands on some unexpected extra cash.
Here’s to the success of the Kamigahara Pirates.
The following happened a few days later.
After school one day, we were in our room in the clubhouse, living another normal day as usual.
I was playing Othello with Koizumi as I drank tea made by Asahina in her maid outfit. Nagato sat next to us reading a philosophy book she’d borrowed from the library that looked like a thick dictionary. By the way, Asahina was dressed according to my request today. It’s definitely better to be served by a maid than by a nurse. And Asahina stood carrying a tray as she intently watched our match.
This was the usual scene in this room as of late.
And this peaceful time, as tranquil as the grand Yellow River, was always ruined by Haruhi Suzumiya.
“Sorry I’m late!”
Haruhi apologized for no reason as she jumped in like a cold winter draft.
Her entire face was lit up by a smile, which gave me the creeps. Whenever she smiles like that, something’s bound to happen that will leave me exhausted. We live in a funny world.
As expected, Haruhi had something stupid to say.
“Which one do you want?”
I placed a black piece on the board and flipped over two of Koizumi’s white pieces.
Haruhi held out two sheets of paper. I reluctantly took them.
More flyers again. I looked them over. One was for a soccer tournament. The other was for a football tournament. I’m seriously going to curse whoever it is that prints these things out.
“I was actually planning on doing one of these two instead of baseball. But the baseball tournament just happened to be earlier. So, Kyon, which one do you want?”
I succumbed to my feelings of gloom and looked around the club room. Koizumi smiled wryly as he flicked at his pieces. Asahina was shaking her head with tears in her eyes. Nagato remained buried in her books with her fingers being the only part of her body showing any sign of movement.
“So how many people do you need for soccer and football? Will the roster from last time suffice?”
As I watched the glowing smile on Haruhi’s face, I tried to figure out which one would require fewer people.
Excerpted from The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya by Tanigawa, Nagaru Copyright © 2010 by Tanigawa, Nagaru. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Nagaru Tanigawa is a Japanese author best known for The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya for which he won the grand prize at the eighth annual Sneaker Awards. Tanigawa is currently working on the tenth novel about Haruhi Suzumiya and the S.O.S. Brigade.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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I read this book before the other ones, so I didn't know what to expect. What I found was a TON of fun! I would LOVE to be on the S.O.S. Brigade and I would be SUPER happy if Kyon offered to switch places ( I would force to stay, though. XD) I learned about Haruhi when I got bored and went on Youtube to watch random anime videos. I wish that Haruhi was my best friend! I envy you, Kyon!
That is a great novei about the boredom of her. Anime rules forever!! =] <3
Dear IceFeather i would like to join ur clan my names griffinstar im apurple cat with purple eyes and i have an apprentice dragonpaw with spikelike fur thats ginger red yellow stripes and need of aplace to call home
After a slight dissapointment from the previous novel, I entered this one with caution. I am happy to say that the thrid volume in the Haruhi Suzumiya series is a great read. Four seperate short stories that follows Haruhi Suzumiya's S.O.S. Brigade through many random adventures. Tanigawa seems to be at his best with The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya, understanding what his fans really wanted. This novel even gives some developement into the other three club members, especially Yuki Nagato. The only bad thing I have to say is that the first story in the book is quiet boring compared to the other three.