With a first chapter of a story, which I haven't had the privilege of writing since April of last year, it's all about setting the stage. In a lot of ways, I'm aware of how this story isn't like "Before and After," as while Rei was influenced and affected by others, Haruhi is much more overt in her feelings and opinions of people. Where Rei would learn from others, Haruhi's interactions with people have a distinct character. She finds what she likes and dislikes in them, and that's what lies at the core of her narration in this story.
Each scene is part of a progression in Haruhi's thought process. The first, in which she decides that this coin business is worth pursuing, is also a chance for Haruhi to be a bit of a showoff and interact obliquely with Kyon. Being a physicist, I enjoy the tidbits of science and mathematics that are sprinkled in the original books, and this was my attempt to work some of that in here. As I say in the note at the end of the chapter, this is a mathematically-valid limit and historically, it plays a part in the recognition of e as a special number. For my part, I think it's much better to look at the derivative properties of exponentials, but it's all about the same, at any rate. Haruhi, remember, is exceedingly gifted athletically and academically. Why is this? I could say it comes from a general thirst for understanding, for trying to find something amazing in the world, but I can't say for sure.
Something I knew I wanted to setup here was Nagato being outside their classroom. In a typical Haruhi novel, Kyon has to adapt to the developing situation, gathering advice from Nagato, Koizumi, or Asahina as it's available or necessary. Haruhi is never privy to this conversations, so this is the beginning of something going on behind her back. Nagato's exceedingly capable and powerful. She already knows what Haruhi's beginning to exert conscious control. While Haruhi leaves, Nagato is telling Kyon and he's thinking about what he's going to do. Kyon, at least initially, won't want the world to be upended, but it's also something he's going to consider greatly. What can he do? Dissuade her? Convince her it's all nothing? Nagato, for her part, is there to observe. While she and Kyon aren't in direct danger, she won't interfere, even if she wants to, for there's a great deal of scrutiny upon her from the Entity.
But Haruhi's not concerned with all of that just yet, even if she does notice it. She recalls here what Kyon told her in "Snowy Mountain Syndrome" and that Nagato fell ill in one of the divergent plots of Dissociation and Surprise. These are all things that Haruhi's knowledge of is incomplete, but what I hoped to get across is that the brigade and its members are intensely important to her. In Haruhi's mind, they've stuck together because they're kindred spirits. It's not just an inaccurate description of reality; it's just not true. While Koizumi in particular and the girls too may be loyal to her, they all have other motives. As I've said, they're not seeking the extraordinary; they already know it exists and are trying to understand it (Nagato) or contain it (Asahina and Koizumi).
Part of my effort to soften Haruhi a bit involved extending the club room scene here. As Haruhi prepares to dress Asahina, she asks the latter how she feels about that. Does Asahina actually enjoy it on some level? I think so. Does she also feel compelled to say yes regardless, in order to keep Haruhi appeased? I think so too. Perversely, it's an equal relationship of sorts. Their inequities are just so piled on top of each other that they cancel out. It's equally...not so good.
Of course, you can't soften Haruhi so much that her wackiness doesn't come out. It's utterly shameless for her to set up this scheme, and yet it's effective. Originally, Asahina would be approached by these two boys and Haruhi would actually kick one of them in the shins, sending him flying a few feet. Again, I toned this down, and her defiance manifests as a "natural" sinkhole. In keeping with "Remote Island Syndrome," where Kyon submits that Haruhi would never see someone killed, it would've been over the top, in my mind, to have her harm this brat with her power. She's not nearly angry enough to do anything of the sort. Yet.
This is also where Kyon returns, of course, and while he enjoys Asahina in her Santa suit, he's also trying to subtly trying to dissuade Haruhi, a symptom of his confused thoughts on the matter. At this point, Kyon's probably trying to see if anything really comes of this investigation. Maybe he doesn't need to dissuade her; maybe he's asked Nagato to make sure nothing really happens. I don't know if I ascribe to this theory, but I think it's fair for Kyon to be more passive and observant rather than forwardly engaging of Haruhi.
Haruhi's plan for analyzing these coins is, in my mind, quite logical. Asahina is going to be the slowest link in any assembly line. Better to have everyone else waiting than to have a load of work pile up on her at the end of the chain. Haruhi's "oversight" is a way for me to hedge this sympathetic portrayal just a little bit.
But in the end, nothing is found, and Haruhi returns to a state of melancholy. This, to me, is the pivotal Kyon moment. Screw logic. Screw what the others need him for. As much as Kyon snarks Haruhi--he's done it more than once this chapter--he's at least considerate of her feelings. He backs off. He tempers his earlier criticism and encourages Haruhi to pursue the matter if she feels she should. Perhaps Kyon is weary of the masquerade. Maybe he justifies this to himself. He might think it unlikely that Haruhi actually will, but some good credit from her will make his life easier later. Or maybe his thoughts are more aggressive than that--Haruhi's had the powers of a god for so long now, the people around her should accept that she has them. There are several explanations here. Part of the freedom of writing from this perspective is that we don't really know what Kyon's thinking here, and neither does Haruhi. While she appreciates him as much as she's willing to admit, the idea that their outlooks on life are fundamentally at odds is ingrained in her. To me, part of the challenge Haruhi puts to herself is convincing people like Kyon to look for the unusual. She just doesn't know that Kyon's already made that choice in Disappearance.
So we get home, and Haruhi's mother is a bit of a lethal chef, so all she does is prepare ingredients and let her daughter do the rest. Based on the current plan for chapter two, we'll meet Haruhi's father as well. But this is where a seemingly meaningless scene comes back from Chekhov's Armory to hit the point home. Originally, Haruhi was going to have thought Kan was interested in little girls and cemented that in reality by having some questionable photos come out, but I thought this would be a little better. There's nothing like the image of a politician freaking out in front of kids and shattering a wooden table for a few laughs. And while originally, I also had Haruhi realize what that meant explicitly before the chapter was over, her mother's line here seemed like an excellent hook for chapter two.