As I said with the last chapter, I originally planned for the visits to Mori and Asakura to be presented together. The main benefit of splitting them was that I could refocus and make this chapter a lot tighter in terms of theme and message. Here, it’s not the visit to Asakura by itself that forms the main basis of the chapter. Rather, we see the effects of Asakura’s words as they slowly take hold in Haruhi’s mind. This is a concept that really appeals to me—the notion of being persuaded and manipulated by words even when you don’t want to be. It’s all psychology. And it has the benefit of presenting Haruhi in a sympathetic light (she has the same loathing and disdain for Asakura that we do) while opening her to persuasion.
Presenting Haruhi sympathetically is still something I have doubts about. I think, without doubt, it makes Haruhi easier to take from a reader’s perspective, but how does one explain the questionable things she’s done? Right now, the way I’ve presented her is to avoid those issues by suggesting she’s grown out of the most egregious behaviors, but still I sense some inherent contradiction. I don’t want to make Haruhi so unambiguously likable that she no longer resembled the canon character.
But that is a question for another story at this point, as it’s far too late to do an about-face with her. For this reason, I tried to have Haruhi make a conscious effort to be understanding, almost excessively so, even while she inwardly feels differently. That said, I shouldn’t jump ahead. Let’s start at the top with Asakura.
Asakura’s a character I really like writing because she can be menacing and sinister all while wearing a pleasant smile. Here, I tried to play up the idea that Asakura can imitate humanity but can’t fathom the meaning behind what people do. She thinks she does, but she doesn’t. She honestly believes she can reach Haruhi somehow, and when that fails, she opts for the most obvious tack—if she can’t get Haruhi to relate to her, she’ll drive a wedge between Haruhi and the brigade, specifically Nagato.
The idea for this scene at the café came from Arakawa Seijio, and as before with Mori, it was sorely needed to get the right angle on what Haruhi had learned. I’ve learned to be very cautious about people withholding information from one another, lest it come off as just asking for bad things to happen, but coming from Nagato, I hoped it would be acceptable. Of course, we all know what Nagato did and why. Even knowing what Haruhi can do, I felt Nagato would be very reluctant to admit her intentions. Even with Haruhi having learned what she can do, Nagato should be cautious at stirring up Haruhi’s jealousy or possessiveness. Of course, one can guess that Nagato still might not understand what she did (at least, in a way she can articulate with words), but that’d be a bit boring. At the least, I hope Nagato has learned to understand herself to that extent.
Much is made of Nagato’s loyalty to Kyon that seems to supersede all other authority. Through this is how I interpret her offer of food to Haruhi. Nagato knows that Haruhi is important to Kyon. She goes to find Haruhi when Kyon calls Nagato up and tells her that Haruhi’s missing. And, when she perceives that Kyon is in trouble and that Haruhi is dicking around rather than helping him right away, she slows time down to mitigate that effect.
Nagato comes off a bit cold to Haruhi in the process. To me, I thought this unavoidable. She didn’t just make a world for Kyon that was totally normal. She took Haruhi away from him. Perhaps that was necessary since she couldn’t adjust memories beyond a period of one year prior, but we never got a good explanation for that anyway. I think there must be some part of Nagato that resents Haruhi for what she puts Kyon through. That’s not to say Nagato totally hates her. She should respect Haruhi in some ways for having qualities she lacks and respect her for taking care of her when she was ill. Human interactions aren’t totally black-and-white that way, even if they involve an alien.
Anyone who’s savvy can probably figure out that the stereo set and CD will come into play sooner or later. I leave to the reader to guess what may be on that disc.
For a while, I contemplated writing an extended scene where Haruhi would’ve met Kyon at his house, but it didn’t seem to add very much.
The rest of the chapter is where Asakura’s influence is slowly realized. This, to me, is the fundamental difference between Haruhi and the others in the brigade. Haruhi is impulsive. She wants to do things right away, spur of the moment, and no one else in the group is really like that. Kyon shares her overall sense of wonder and awe. I think that distinguishes him most. But Asahina, Koizumi, and Nagato all have different priorities. The first two, to an extent, have been dedicated to monitoring the situation and ensuring the status quo. Nagato’s had a hand in that, too. And while Haruhi can be understanding and polite all she wants, lack of overt enthusiasm she senses from her friends sticks with her. I tweaked this rationale based on feedback, and I think now it’s very logical, very tight.
The Piggy planet scenes are adapted from similar scenes originally written for the first draft of chapter four. These are only slightly adjusted to account for the different circumstances. Originally, Asakura took Haruhi there as a demonstration of the universe’s wonders, and the distinct implication was that the Sickness the Piggies experienced was deliberately given to them by the Entity. Of course, the name Rooter and the Piggies come from the Ender’s Game series by Orson Scott Card.
The chapter is pretty long by this point, but necessarily so. The effect of Asakura’s insidious words isn’t realized until Haruhi’s back and realizes the mistake she’s made in misinterpreting a lack of overt enthusiasm for a lack of true desire. This, I feel, is the moment when Haruhi realizes just how different she is from the others—not in the sense of being an inhuman creature or anything like that but in having such a different outlook on the world, one that the other members of the brigade don’t necessarily share.