It really is a world of difference when you have people reading and offering feedback even before a story is released to a wider audience. Considering I wrote Echoes and all of the first book of Identity without that (and most of Before and After, too), I can only imagine the possibilities had I been in this position then. What is done is done, however. At best, books two and three of Identity I'm considering posting to FFML when I get back to them. For now, I can only make The Coin the best story it can be.
I imagined the opening paragraphs as a way for Haruhi to cope with what happened--that by finding information about lightning strikes and relating it to the reader, she could better understand what she'd done. Functionally, it served to lead us in without too much of a jolt, so to speak. This is an extremely humbling experience for Haruhi, and considering how much the scene with Mori later on plays on that, I actually considered Haruhi being a bit more resistant and unsympathetic here--or at least, giving her a stronger sense of denial. Ultimately, I stuck with how this passage originally came out, with Haruhi repentant but coping and not utterly broken. Taniguchi's parents I threw in because it seemed unavoidable to meet them. Guilt is more powerful than anger. Haruhi could've proved her power to Taniguchi's mother and explained herself, but she doesn't want to be feared, and that's exactly how any reasonable person, after learning their son had been attacked by some magic-wielding girl, would react, isn't it?
After a brief stop at Haruhi's home, we get a chat between Haruhi and Mori. I admit, I deliberately pulled a fake-out here, making it sound like Asahina (big) was coming to talk to her. Make no mistake: the many faces of Mikuru Asahina will play a big part in this story, but not in this passage. Originally, I'd planned for something much quicker, shall we say---that Koizumi would go with Haruhi to show her closed space, trying to show her the consequences of her actions without revealing himself as an esper. Over time, I decided against that. We're all savvy here. We know that any sustained deception against Haruhi pulled at this stage is likely to have catastrophic consequences. Koizumi being involved in that would be exceedingly dangerous. On the other hand, the Agency isn't likely to want Haruhi to know what she is, but they definitely want to keep her under wraps and maintain the status quo. They would see this as an opportunity to lock her down for good. Hence, we have Mori, and her presence here both protects Koizumi as well as signals his lack of overt approval. Yeah, this isn't Koizumi's idea. He's already stated he'd go with the brigade over the Agency if push came to shove.
So we have Mori, and I definitely wanted Mori to come off sympathetic on one hand while still pushing Haruhi with a horrendous lie on the other. This is dramatic irony, so the audience has to do a little reading between the lines. Of course Mori isn't losing sleep over Haruhi just because she's seen her powers--the knowledge of what Haruhi can do has been beamed into her head. How can she be an actress if she's constantly having to bug out and kill a celestial? We can definitely sympathize with Mori, knowing that this is nothing she volunteered for but was chosen arbitrarily. But as I said, the Agency would see this as an opportunity to end the recent volatility, and in that, Mori is a reluctant but assured actress, playing on the sense of innate morality she knows Haruhi must have. That's what makes Mori's ploy so insidious. I hesitated for a moment to give this character the task. We know so little about her in truth, but if you're going to go for breaking Haruhi, you're going to go all the way with it. Mori does. And that's why I like this scene.
The next major scene is in the club room, which, combined with a change I made to the above, I was able to fix up from a rather confused initial draft. Originally, I had Koizumi find out what Mori had through Haruhi by himself. Then, I had Kyon get involved, punching Koizumi in the face for his seeming involvement. I think as written now the scene is much improved and more organic in the flow of events. By this point, Haruhi has sworn off her powers to protect the world from herself, but how long can that really last? How long can she be satisfied with that, knowing she's just put all her hopes for an amazing world aside?
That's what makes the baseball half of this chapter powerful. It brings all these memories back to Haruhi, forcing her to confront what she wants with what she's chosen to do. Who is this old woman? Who's the one who sent those tickets to Tsuruya's home? As Kyon says--it's someone who means to mess with Haruhi, to force the dissonance to the forefront of her mind. I did what research I could into the process of going to Koshien Stadium to see the Hanshin Tigers play. I picked the nearest home date on a weekend in mid-June from this year, which conveniently happened to be against their arch-rivals, the Yomiuri Giants from Tokyo. In the seventh inning, the fans really do blow up suggestively-shaped balloons and release them to sputter out their air. Koshien is a historic ballpark of just slightly a more modern vintage than Wrigley Field or Fenway Park. I know not everyone's a baseball fan, so I tried to focus on Haruhi's nostalgia rather than the strict experience of the game (which, admittedly, was a pretty boring game past its halfway point).
Then we get Asakura, and I admit, I hesitated to include her in this after using her as a tool from Mori's conversation, but Asakura is the natural, most sinister choice. You've got to love the way she goes about things. Threaten fifty thousand people? Sure, why not, it'll be fun right? Eheh. I struggled a bit to figure out how to end this chapter--just with Asakura revealing herself? No, we want to connect this to Nagato, too. Let's leave Haruhi with as many questions as we can, after all. Asakura's role in this story isn't finished, of course. There's much for Haruhi to learn about herself and her powers. Her world view is really going to get upended.