Suzumiya Haruhi:Volume6 Where did the Cat Go?

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Where did the Cat Go?

The end of the year is creeping up on us in the middle of the winter break. Originally we expected to be looking forward to Koizumi and his merry men's detective game production; however on the very day that we had arrived at Tsuruya-san's villa, we found ourselves lost inside that strange house that was seemingly a mere daydream. This event led to a state of emergency with Nagato having fainted on the ski slopes and Haruhi screaming and yelling over it.

Fortunately Nagato's health has returned after coming back to normal space. No matter how I put it, this has been one very hectic day. The date on the calendar is still the thirtieth of December, a day before New Year's Eve.

Come tomorrow - which is New Year's Eve...

The project, long in planning, is going on as planned. That project is simply the surprise activity that busybody Koizumi will host, really unnecessary: the winter version of that messed up detective game. The only difference compared to the last game is that we know from the beginning that this is merely a game and that it is at the heart of the whole co-ed experience. As for the disaster on the snow mountain, that mirage of a mansion, the fake all-nude Asahina-san, some principle of Mr. Euler and Nagato out cold with a high fever, this was all just an unanticipated prelude. That incident wasn't Haruhi's style, and I really want to have a word with the nameless perpetrator. Although Nagato fell, at least Koizumi and I — it is debatable as to whether or not Asahina-san (small) contributed at all — had managed to somehow get us through the maze.

Right now in this villa, we also have Tsuruya-san, who doesn't seem to be the average person, as well as Koizumi's associates, which would become an even more unnatural circumstance should I overlook them.

Finally, in a very SOS Brigade-esque... no, I should say very Haruhi-esque fashion, we can finally proceed ahead as planned with the extra-curricular activities.

Concern about how this year would end lingers on in my head and won't go away. It seems that only I have that question, so I better keep my mouth shut as I'm in the minority.

Let us verify the cast for this act: there is myself, Haruhi, Nagato, Asahina-san, Koizumi, Tsuruya-san, my sister, Shamisen, Mori-san, Arakawa-san, as well as Tamaru Keiichi-san, and his brother Yutaka-san.

Haruhi proposed that the sequel to the Mystery Tour should begin as soon as possible.

On New Year's Eve, after finishing the breakfast prepared by Mori-san and Arakawa-san, we start by gathering on a raised public meeting space on the ground floor of Tsuruya-san's estate. This area is as large as at least 20 tatamis and all covered with cypress wood flooring, similar to a wooden stage made for speech-making or to put on a drama. There are eight sunken hearths that comfortably seat eight individuals each. Of course, the floor also has heating and a warm breeze comes from an efficient electric heater, all of which keeps people in the public area and the walkway really cozy.

Looking out of the window, the sky above the ski slopes is about as bright as the kind of uniform blue you get when someone sprays blue paint over a polyester board, but today skiing is prohibited.

"I am still a bit worried about Yuki, so let's stay indoors today."

With that, Haruhi proclaims the skiing ban. Nagato has been using her expressionless look to try and convince Haruhi, who wants to drag her off to see a doctor, that 'I am all right', but there is no one that can reverse the decision made by our own chief.

"Hear this! No outing at least for today! Before I am sure that you have fully recovered, any contact sport or anything that might get adrenaline pumping are not for you, okay?"

Nagato looks at the eyes of Haruhi, which are as wide as the moon, and then turns her vision towards the rest of us lined up on the side. It is almost as if she is asking 'I am fine with this, but how about you?'

It seems that there is more than one person that shares Haruhi's sentiment.

"I wholeheartedly agree. We would be worried if we were to leave Nagato-san aside while the rest of us go out. All for one and one for all... it might make for quite a tale,"

Koizumi crisply responds. The non-full members, being my sister and Tsuruya-san, both readily agree. I don't know why it is that I can't be sure of Shamisen's opinion, who my sister is carrying right now, but he didn't even make a sound, so I assume he has no comment.

"Why don't we push the schedule ahead then?" Koizumi's vision heads out of the window. "It's fine to have the detective game, originally set to start this evening and end at midnight, start early."

Can we begin now? Please do this before Haruhi's burning eyes, glimmering in anticipation, start to roast my nerve cells.

"I apologize, but it is best to wait until snow starts to drift again. The weather forecast suggests that it will snow in the afternoon so please wait until then."

I had only dragged that ridiculously heavy Shamisen along because you're the one who said that a cat is required. Now you say that you need to have it snowing. What is this? If you want snow, there's a pile of the stuff outside.

"I need a condition of non-stop snowfall. Ahh, I cannot go on any further, for it is a part of the deception."

Having said that, Koizumi smiles at the bright calico in my sister's arms and grabs the hiking backpack next to the heater.

"Having anticipated such a situation, I have brought several games with me, which should be enough to keep everyone busy even for an entire day."

I expected something like this, but with him taking out one board game after the other, I wonder if Koizumi simply detests video games?

We can really enjoy ourselves, but what of Mori-san and Arakawa-san? Arakawa, the butler who doubles as head chef and the ever busy maid Mori-san who has been constantly tending to our needs are both actually members of the 'Organization' that Koizumi is a part of, tasked to keep an eye on Haruhi.

The demeanor of the two is so reserved that I feel rather apologetic about it. Just as I was about to lend them a hand with the cooking as well as with the cleaning duties —

"There is no need. I sincerely thank you for your goodwill."

The demure pair politely rejected my offer.

"These are duties within our competence and are our responsibility."

Eh? Are the two of them actually butler and maid in real life? Were they hired by Koizumi and his cohorts to come here just to put on a show?

Perhaps seeing my concern, Arakawa-san removed the professional mask and put a full smile on his face.

"Our appearance is all due to having gone through professional training,"

He explained to me. At the moment, the two are nowhere to be seen in this public area and are probably busy in the kitchen.

As for the other two actors — Tamaru Keiichi-san who had made his vast fortune that affords him a lone island as a summer resort from the field of biotechnology, along with his brother Yutaka-san — they have yet to appear. Their arrival will mark the climax of Haruhi's career in the field of tabletop games. The nerve-wrecking tradition that is to be the after-meal exercise and uses punishment games as the bet is set to begin by two o'clock in the afternoon. Meanwhile Haruhi is becoming a billionaire as the rest of us fall knee-deep in debt.

The two guests are led to the public area by Arakawa-san, who went out to greet them, and they chat with us a little.

"If not for the train delay due to the snow, we would have arrived in the morning."

Tamaru Keiichi-san, who appears to be an ordinary uncle no matter how you look at him, has as warm a smile as in the summer.

"Ahh, hello everyone, it's been a while."

Tamaru Yutaka-san, the sunshine boy, shows an exaggerated smile to Koizumi as he waves to us, and then addresses Tsuruya-san:

"Hi, my name is Tamaru, pleased to meet you, and thank you for your hospitality. To be invited to the Tsuruya family's retreat is an honor."

"Not at all, don't be so modest!"

Tsuruya-san happily continues:

"You are all friends of Koizumi-kun and with the entertainment that you've all prepared, I am more than happy about everything! I love a good show!"

No matter who she talks to, Tsuruya-san seems to have a way of turning the other person into a friend in about fifteen seconds. She must be like that in Asahina-san's class. I am quite envious of the male students in that class.

Mori-san and Arakawa-san greet the Tamaru brothers once again.

"We welcome your arrival, dear guests."

"Sorry to trouble you all even in winter." Keiichi-san gives an awkward smile. "Thanks for everything, Arakawa."

"Have you all had lunch by now?"

Mori-san inquires with a smile. Yutaka-san replies.

"We already ate on the train. Please bring our luggage to our rooms."

"Of course, please leave it to me."

Arakawa-san returns a deep bow as he suddenly gives Koizumi a look.

"Well then, everyone,"

Koizumi stands up like the the priest in a marriage ceremony-

"With everyone so anxious to start, let us begin the game. Of course that might be an inconvenience to the Tamaru brothers who have just arrived."

His smile seems a little stiff. Could it be that Koizumi lacks confidence with the game arrangements or that some awkward situation is awaiting us?

"Let me state that the only victim will be Keiichi-san. This will not become a serial murder case. And there is only one murderer so please rule out the possibility of multiple suspects. As for motivation... you can ignore it as there is no meaning in that. Lastly, once we start setting the stage-" He points to the clock of the wall, "-which should begin between two and three in the afternoon, save Arakawa-san and Mori-san, no other person may leave this public area for the duration. Yutaka-san is to stay here as well. If there is anything that needs to be attended to before we begin, please see to it now. Can all of you abide by those rules?"

Everyone nods.

"There are still seven minutes till two o'clock, but that's not a problem. Let us begin."

Koizumi gives a nod to Tamaru Keiichi-san.

"Well then-"

Keiichi scratches his head with an awkward look, as he is once again the center of attention, repeating the role of the victim as in the summer. He stands up and then talks to us as if he is baiting us:

"I suppose that my room is the small hut outside the main house."

"Yes, please follow me," Mori-san says.

"I would like to take a little nap. Having to wake up so early this morning left me sleep deprived. I might also have caught a cold, as my nose is acting up."

"Oh yes, Keiichi-san is allergic to cats. This might have been caused by the cat."

Even for an act, this is getting too carried away.

"Might be. Ahh, don't worry too much about it. My cat allergy is not all that serious. It is a pain to be in a small room, but it isn't much of a problem if we are in a wide open space."

After that he gives a reminder:

"Oh yes, can you come and wake me at about four-thirty? Is that ok? At four-thirty?"

"Of course."

Mori-san bows, then stands up straight and elegant as she walks out.

"Please follow me. This way."

Hurrying to catch up to Mori-san, Keiichi-san disappears into the hallway after having spewed out a whole bunch of long-winded lines. The whole interlude screams, "All's right with the world!"

"I will take my leave then. Yutaka-san, I will help you with the luggage."

Arakawa-san the butler gives a full ninety-degree bow and quickly leaves with the bag and coat.

Having seen them all off with his eyes, Koizumi faked clearing his throat:

"With that, scene one has come to an end. Please enjoy yourselves on this wide-open floor."

"Hold it,"

Haruhi objects.

"What's with the hut? Where is it if it exists?"

"Oh yeah," Tsuruya-san responds, "it was not built with the house, it's just a very small extension. Eh? Did none of you spot it?"

"Not at all. Koizumi-kun, to hide any lead is against the rules. Not telling us is just not fair. Let's all go and take a look."

"I had planned to take everyone there later on..."

Koizumi's smile is rather forced with how fast the pacing of things has become. However there seems to be room to salvage the situation after he has a look at the clock.

"I understand. It's not a problem to go and have a look right now."

"Over here!"

Tsuruya-san heads out in the lead. Everyone else naturally follows. Even my sister has come along while hugging Shamisen. Although I don't really think that the girl and the cat will be of any help with the deduction.

Just beyond the public area is a walkway ending on the central courtyard. The exterior wall is glass, and so the view of the courtyard outside is crystal-clear.

I don't know exactly when, snow had begun to drift from the sky.

The accumulated snow was already knee-deep. The landscaping is Japanese in style and it's only because of the snowfall that it seems to be totally white everywhere. Within this white scene, a small building that looks to be a hut stands by itself.

After a short walk, Tsuruya-san opens the door leading to the courtyard and points to the building.

"That is the hut that my grandfather uses to meditate. He hates noise and in order to escape from the clamors of the villa, he locks himself inside whenever we come here on vacation. Don't come if you don't like the noise! But it's odd not to invite him. He's a tough old geezer to please."

Tsuruya-san might be complaining about it, but her tone is filled with a sense of longing as well.

I carefully observe every detail without overlooking anything. There is no solid wall anywhere on the passage between the door from the villa to the hut. Only the roof keeps out the snow. Thanks to that, the stone path from the house to the small hut is covered by snowflakes. Thank goodness that there's only light snowfall today as things won't be so good in a blizzard.

The subzero air that blows in from the wide open door freezes us without any jacket to death, especially Shamisen who is struggling about in a bad mood as he wants to get back to his warm bed. My sister finds Shamisen in this mood to be highly amusing, and before I can stop her, she heads out of the walkway after putting on her slippers and pushes Shamisen close to the piles of snow.

"Hey, Shami, this is snow. Want to eat it?"

Shami shakes about like a carp trying to break free from the fishing wire, and the moment that he gets free of my sister's arms, he gives a 'umeow~' in a show of his own dissatisfaction and storms back to the house, vanishing without a trace. No doubt he is going back onto the heated floor to continue with his sleep.


Mori-san, after having led Keiichi-san to his room, comes toward us on the stone pavements with a movement so light it's as if she's weightless. This beauty of age unknown gives us a charming smile.

"Is there something that I can help you all with? If you need to find Keiichi-sama, he would be inside the hut."

"You sure?" Haruhi questions with her face showing a sceptical look.

"I am positive." Koizumi answers instead. "That is because the script is set up this way."

When we return to the public area, the clock points exactly to two o'clock. Koizumi sighs apparently in relief.

"Allow me to remind everyone not to leave on your own before three o'clock. If you have to do so, please allow me to escort you."

Koizumi walks to the bag over in the corner and starts to take things out of it. Why not just take everything out at once?


I notice something. Shamisen is nowhere to be seen. Koizumi has placed things over by the heater, and the cushion that is placed over the heat vent is the preferred seating of the cat. I thought that he'd be laying there still by this point. Although this concern-

"Let's play this to pass the time. Is that alright, Suzumiya-san?"

vanishes without a trace with Koizumi's comments.

"Sure." Haruhi seems to be in high spirits for some reason. "It might be a bit early, but we'd be playing later on anyway, so might as well. Koizumi-kun, gimme that."

Haruhi grabs a paper bag from Koizumi and takes out some strange things from it, a few pieces of paper that might be for sketching and the same number of envelopes. I suddenly feel a sense of anxiousness that is kind of hard to describe.

"This is Fukuwarai." Says Haruhi. "Did you all play it when we were kids? This is meant for tomorrow, but it would be a waste of time to not play it right now."

This is obvious just from the looks of the setup. Be it the facial features or the hairline, all of these are cute versions of our portraits. The outlines are actually very true to the original, quite identifiable even without facial features such as eyes or nose. That could be the reason why Haruhi's so very smug right now.

"This is my work. I did it myself! And it's all done by hand. There's even one for Tsuruya-san. I even did one for for your sister knowing that she's coming along. Sorry about that Yutaka-san ~ I don't have much of an impression of your face..."

"No worries." Yutaka-san sounds quite relaxed about it. "It is natural for you not to have much of an impression of my look."

"I suppose."

Haruhi looks at us members with a smile.

"Not bad huh? We can play the game with our faces. But let me tell you that there's no going back. The faces when they're done will be glued and put to display in the clubroom, so you better take this seriously or the portraits that will be put to display for generations to see will be some cubist impressionist work."

Her head is always thinking of the silliest things. Well Haruhi's got quite the artistic talent, with her capturing our features really well. If we put the pieces together right, it should be easy to identify these as our caricatures. That point alone means that we can't let Haruhi down.

However, just how does she find the kind of time to do this stuff?

"Who wants to start first?"

Tsuruya-san bravely raises her hands the moment Haruhi asks that question.

Tsuruya-san, while she does not seem to be an average person, has no x-ray vision. After having been blindfolded by a towel, she arranges a laugh riot of a portrait beautifully and makes the room catch infectious laughter, which of course drives her to hilarity having seen the final results as she tosses about on the ground. Not even with laugh bags can you crack up like that.

The second-up is Koizumi. His handsome face is ruined in an instant. After having taken off his shroud and getting a look at his final works, he shakes his head with innumerable woes, but knowing that I come next makes me unable to really laugh about it.

What a game this is, making me feel butterflies in my stomach. As I mentally prepare myself-

"Pardon me for a second." Koizumi whispers to me. "I need to talk to Arakawa-san and the others about tomorrow's arrangements, so I will excuse myself for now."

With that, he walks out of the public area. I have no idea what it is that he needs to talk about, but that isn't terribly important. How will my personal portrait appear when it is enshrined in the clubroom is now totally up to my ability of spacial orientation.

My self-portrait ends with a burst of laughter. Oh well, it's better than making an absolutely plain face and chilling the room to below freezing anyway. Although Tsuruya-san, aren't you laughing a bit too hard over this?

As I take off the towel and hearing Tsuruya-san's high-pitch squeals, I see that Koizumi is back. I look at the clock out of reflex.

The time is slightly past two thirty.

"Pardon me."

Without knowing what he's planning, Koizumi somehow returns with Shamisen who disappeared into nowhere only just a while ago. Just what's Koizumi doing with him?

"Nothing. He wouldn't let go of Mori-san in the kitchen."

Koizumi puts Shamisen directly on the cushion at the heater and he curls up into a ball having being bathed in the warm wind. Putting the cat somewhere warm while it has a full stomach is a sure-fire way to tame it.

"How are the results?"

Koizumi sits right next to me and looks toward the hearth. Tsuruya-san and Koizumi as well as my portraits have already been vandalized by my little sister and are now glued and ready for display. Instead of posting these, I suggest posting something else such as full-size shots of Asahina-san's cosplay photos.

Time flies by and up next are Asahina-san and Nagato. Asahina-san looks cute doing just about anything as she struggles to find the facial parts with her shaking hands and by the end has made a funny, but very cute portrait, while surprisingly Nagato also completes an ultra-modernist picture. Of course, judging from Nagato's expression, she has no idea why it is that her own self-portrait tickles at people's funny bone as she stares at her own seemingly 'happy' work.

...judging from Nagato's expression, she has no idea why is it that her own self-portrait tickles at people's funny bone as she stares at her own seemingly 'happy' work.
...judging from Nagato's expression, she has no idea why is it that her own self-portrait tickles at people's funny bone as she stares at her own seemingly 'happy' work.

Just as we are dueling to the bitter end with the Fukuwarai pictures...

"Everyone, it is almost three o'clock,"

Koizumi suddenly announces.

"I would like to give everyone a recess for now. Please stay here from three till four o'clock. If anyone needs to go to the washroom then please do so right now."

Save Nagato, Yutaka-san, Koizumi and me, everyone else has left the raised floor. Nagato studies her own portrait while Yutaka-san stares at Nagato's profile with interest.

I ask Koizumi:

"When will the murder occur?"

"Let's not talk about that for now. Take a look outside the window ok?" He points to the window. "You can see that it is snowing outside right? Please remember that. Even if it weren't snowing, I would have liked you to treat it as such, but things are actually falling into exact place so there's no need for that.

Just as I start to examine the reassuring smile of Koizumi, the gang of four girls have returned. Yutaka-san seems to be the most likely suspect. There is no one else that fits the profile better, although I have yet to discover anything odd in his behavior.

Haruhi steps right into the hearth.

"Koizumi-kun, let's play that next. Would you get it for me?"

"Sure, is this it?"

Koizumi heads toward the bag and I follow him to see just what kind of hand-made game gadgets he is about to dig out. Just as I look from behind him as he digs around in the bag, he quickly turns back and looks at me and as if he is doing magic, takes out a large sheet of paper from the bag.

"Please give this to Suzumiya-san for me, thank you."

That folded piece of paper fluttered with the hot winds from the electric heater. After expanding it, I suddenly get this odd feeling. It isn't over this enormous piece of paper though. Before me is Koizumi who is putting the bag down and beside me is the heater. Shamisen is sleeping soundly on the cushion to my back.

This scene is not really bizarre, but I keep feeling that something is up with this. The oddest part would be that Koizumi seems to be anxious when I stick with him.

"Kyon, get over here! Stop standing like an idiot!"

I head back to the hearth rather unwillingly and Koizumi joins us soon after.

The hour hand is now exactly pointed at three o'clock.

"I made this with Koizumi-kun."

Haruhi is so swollen with pride that she's almost up in the air and is this close from having pride written all over her face.

"This the Sugoroku custom made for the SOS Brigade. I made it square by square personally, so be grateful as you play on it."

By the way, the first square that I park on after the first dice toss has the following words written on it:

"Only to Kyon, thirty sit-ups."

There are also 'Play strip rock, paper, scissor with the next person that comes to a stop', 'say five different things to make the chief happy', 'honestly answer everyone's question (things that put people on the spot)' and so forth. This Haruhi-made version of the game has rules that spell out punishment game.

With the rules set out as such, the players have to oblige. Asahina-san and Yutaka-san stop at the rock, paper, scissor square, but Asahina-san has no idea what the name of the game is and totally freezes up, so I take over instead. As for the other events, they are almost like a parade made to torture me. An hour after the game had started with Tsuruya-san reaching the end point, I am about to drop dead.

I am sure that Koizumi is not intervening out of pity, but seeing him raising his hand to comment is an enormous relief to me.

"Everyone, it is now exactly four o'clock."

Koizumi announces like a live show announcer.

"Free activity time now begins. Please return by four thirty. By the way, please refrain from going out. Of course, that applies to anyone who is not the murderer."

"Well then, excuse me."

Tamaru Yutaka-san gives a smile laced with hidden meanings as he leaves his seat.

"I am going to open up my luggage in my room. Hmm~ I should return in five minutes."

Yutaka-san leaves the floor after having said that. "We're off to the kitchen." Haruhi and Tsuruya-san also take off. Within a few minutes they return with desserts and juice. None of us has left the hearth save for them, since no one wants to be wrongfully accused as the perpetrator of the crime, since that's the worst thing to have happen to you.

Note that Yutaka-san has indeed returned in about five minutes.

The time is just past four thirty.

Mori-san has come to the public area and informs us that:

"Keiichi-sama is not answering my calls."

She acts out an unsettled look.

"I've tried to wake him in the small hut, but there's no answer and the door is locked from within."

"The moment has finally arrived."

Haruhi stands up full of spirit.

"Let us go see the situation at the scene."

Haruhi marches over to the walkway like the guide of a tour group, with us trailing behind.

When we arrive at the courtyard and open the door, we find enough outdoor shoes for all of us. Arakawa is already at the door of the hut when we step onto the corridor leading to the hut.

"What's the situation?"

"I see that Mori has informed you all. It is as she has said, the door is locked from inside. The key and Keiichi-san are both in the room. By the way, there is no spare key. That sums up the situation."

"That's it." Koizumi starts to explain: "There is no need to break down the door. Everyone just has to think along the lines of there being no spare key. Arakawa-san, key please."

Arakawa the butler extends his palm and a key is in his hand.

"Pay no heed to this key that shouldn't have existed."

Haruhi steps right in the moment that Koizumi has opened the door.


Keiichi-san waved at us with one hand. The elder Tamaru who is lying on the bedsheets points to his chest and says:

"I have been stabbed again."

On his chest was the handle of a dagger. It's one of those common little toys that you can buy just about anywhere to scare people with.

"Who stabbed you?" Haruhi asks.

"That I can't tell you. I am a corpse by now. Dead men don't talk."

With that, Keiichi spreads his arms and lies flat on the tatami.

"Everyone please listen to me." Koizumi starts again: "Please observe the surrounding. The key to the hut is on the desk. It would be the one that Keiichi-san was given when he arrived. To put it another way, the killer did not leave through the door."

Koizumi proceeds to the window by the engawa.

"This window is closed, but not locked. That is to say, the killer escaped through this window. In addition, notice the thick layer of snow outside."

Koizumi opens the window and we all take a look at the courtyard.

"Let me explain the perpetrator's escape path. The killer no doubt must have escaped through here if not through the door. To walk on snow must mean that there's footprints, but there is no such mark on the snow. Please look above the window. This hut has an overhanging roof on all four corners. A thin layer of snow has accumulated beneath them. It looks to be that the killer must have gone along the field beneath the roof or along the outer wall of the hut and back to the corridor."

I stare at the ground that Koizumi points to and then at the sky. Snowflakes are drifting down gradually.

"The footprints of the killer have been covered by the snowfall. From the rate of accumulation... yes, let me make the point that the footprints won't disappear with less than thirty minutes of snowfall."

Koizumi seems to seek everybody's consensus on the matter.

"This is my scenario setting, so please forgive me. Dead men won't talk and I, as the game planner, sure won't lie about anything either."


Haruhi looks at the snow and then at Koizumi, her face sinks as she hugs her chest.

"That's it?"

Koizumi gives no response and only merely points to the sheets. Within the soft quilt, something seems to moving about. Could it be...

Haruhi is the one that moves the quilt out of the way, and she says the following on the object:


The thing that narrows its eyes from the sudden exposure to light is none other than my cat.

We take our place over the hearth once more.

Mori-san and Arakawa-san are standing perfectly still behind us. Only Keiichi-san the victim has done his duty and by now should be leisurely enjoying hot coffee over at some restaurant.

"Let me summarize the key points. Keiichi-san went into the hut for a nap at about two o'clock. The body was discovered only recently, at around four thirty. The perpetrator must have committed the crime within the last two and a half hours. The entrance of the hut is locked from inside and the key is in the room. Let me remind you that there is no spare key. The window to the side is unlocked, which means that the killer must have escaped through the window."

The above is Koizumi's explanation.

"It is impossible to head to the corridor through the window without a trace. Having no footprint indicates that the original footprints have been covered by snow."

Koizumi looks at the calico that my sister is hugging.

"Lastly, Shamisen is present on the scene of the crime along with the victim. Please think back to when you have last seen the cat, before we have discovered the body and the cat."

The last time that I saw him would be when Koizumi had announced that we could head to the washroom. He was sound asleep, curled up in a ball, when Koizumi took out Haruhi's self-made sugoroku punishment game.

"Eh? Really?"

Haruhi pokes at her forehead with a finger.

"I didn't notice Shamisen for the last three hours. Was he really there?"

"I did see..." Asahina-san shows reservation with her words. "Eh, did see it when we were playing the Fukuwarai. It was lying on the cushion and sleeping."

"He was asleep when I last saw him too!" Tsuruya-san says. "Just as I was heading to the washroom, I saw the kitty laying there, curled up in a ball, but I don't remember if I saw him when we started with Fukuwarai."

Based on everyone's testimonies, I seem to be the last person to have seen Shamisen. Basically, Shamisen has no alibi from three till four thirty.

Could it have been that Shamisen woke up in the middle of our game and went for a leisurely walk? And after walking round and round he headed to Keiichi-san's hut and dug into the bed in order to catch some sleep...

Hmm? No way.

"I do not think that the cat would leave on his own to go to the hut." I propose. "He was freezing to death just by being outside for a little bit and he was freaked out by the snow. That and there's no way that he could open the door to the courtyard by himself."

"That is true."

Koizumi nods.

"Therefore someone must have taken him there. It would either have been Keiichi-san or the killer."

"It couldn't have been Keiichi-san."

Haruhi extends her neck.

"He mentioned before that he is allergic to cats, although it might have been too dead obvious, but it does answer that question, almost as if it were said intentionally."

"Of course, for that is the setting to the drama. If such a setting is not present things will get problematic. That is to say, the one that had taken the cat into the hut must have been the culprit, which is a hint in itself."

Haruhi raises her hand regarding Koizumi's speech.

"Wait a second. How about this? Shamisen was here at three, and he's gone right after that. The killer must have left the house before four-thirty, at the latest. Given that you need thirty minutes to cover up the tracks, the time of the crime has to be pushed back to around four. That would mean that the killer must have taken Shamisen somewhere between three to four, which would also be the time that Keiichi-san was killed."

"True, definitely quite logical."

"As if that was logical. This doesn't add up. Only Tsuruya-san and I left here at four, but I was with her at all times, so I couldn't have been the culprit. Although Yutaka-san is suspicious, he couldn't have done it with that thirty minutes of time required to cover the tracks."

"That's true."

"True my ass! That would mean that everyone's got an alibi since we've all been staying put over here for that one hour."

There are eight of us that were playing the Fukuwarai at three, being myself, Haruhi, Asahina-san, Nagato, Koizumi, my sister, Tsuruya-san, and Yutaka-san. Since the break before three until the start of free time at four, none of us had left. The only thing that had mysteriously vanished would be the cat.

"Could the killer have been Arakawa-san or Mori-san?"

We decide to call the two attendants over for interrogation. Haruhi asks as if she is a prosecutor:

"Well then, Arakawa-san, what were you doing at three o'clock?"

Butler Arakawa returns with a polite bow.

"I have been at the kitchen since two o'clock, cleaning up the dishes from lunch and preparing for tonight's dinner as well as making snacks and preparing the ingredients for tomorrow's breakfast."

"Were there any witnesses?"

"If I may." Mori-san in maid attire shows a smile on her beautiful face. "I was alongside Arakawa as we prepared the meals. He did not leave my sight until four-thirty when I went to wake Keiichi-sama."

"Likewise." Arakawa-san says. "At least from three to four-thirty, I am positive that Mori did not leave the kitchen at all, if you would accept my testimony."

"That is to say that you two are providing alibis for each other."

Haruhi nods her head.

"But that leaves the possibility that you two share the crime. It is entirely possible that one of you is covering for the other."

Haruhi's glimmering eyes turn to Koizumi as if she is demanding another explanation.

"That would be impossible. The premise of this murder case is that it has a sole assailant and that both Arakawa-san and Mori-san will not make any false statements. By the way, the two of them did not commit the crime. The guarantee is that my word, as the scenario designer, is right." Says Koizumi.

"If so, who can the killer be?" Haruhi seems happy. "Everyone has a flawless alibi, so wouldn't that mean that nobody killed Keiichi-san?"

Koizumi seems to be a little bit pleased. Haruhi has really scratched where he itches. He shows a smile:

"That is why I would like to ask everyone to think about it and solve the mystery, or this would not be a detective mystery game."

The premise of this murder case is that it has a sole assailant and that both Arakawa-san and Mori-san will not make any false statements.
The premise of this murder case is that it has a sole assailant and that both Arakawa-san and Mori-san will not make any false statements.

"The first step is to think of the reason behind the culprit using Shamisen."

Haruhi, who has risen to chair the deduction meeting pokes at the nose of the lazy calico that my sister is embracing.

"Otherwise there's no meaning then. Just what could the killer have been up to that makes him ask for help from a cat?"

If the cat could speak once more, he'd have the best testimony, for he is a witness.

"Definitely. I feel as if that there must be a reason for Shamisen to be present on the scene of the crime."

I know that much without having you spelling it out. The real headache is the rationale behind all of this.

"Kitty, kitty, umm~" Asahina talks to herself in such a cute way, as she puts a hand over the head of the cat. "Kitty, calico, mew. Umm~ umm, little kitty, eat cat food."

There's not much sense to that.

Tsuruya-san, who seems to have a very keen sense of observation, sticks out her tongue and her eyes slants upward just like the mascot of a brand of candy. (note: That would be Peko-chan of Fujiya) Maybe that's just how she looks when she is in thinking mode. She shows this most interesting look and hugs her chest in silence.

Nagato is almost synonymous to silence. Although I'd say that she should keep quiet given the current state of affairs, I dare say that Nagato has already seen through Koizumi's stupid plot. Let's hope that she will jump in when everyone else gives up on the deduction game.

"The real key here is Shamisen's disappearance. If we assume that he wasn't there in the beginning... that'd be a sealed room mystery? A temporarily sealed room made possible by the snowfall... hmm?"

Haruhi who was thinking aloud suddenly lifts her head and stares at Koizumi's smile and then gives a glance over towards Yutaka-san's collected expression, then at Shamisen's sleepy face.

"Temporary sealed room... alibi... ahh, I get it."

Haruhi sudden turns my way.

"Kyon, what do you think of when we're talking about alibis?"

"Police drama." I start to regret it the moment I utter that out. "Ur... two hour detective mystery theater." The comment that comes right after only makes me all the more embarrassed. As I think of what to say next, the clock ticks by a second at a time.

"It's a conspiracy!"

Haruhi answers her own question.

"What else could it have been other than a conspiracy to provide an alibi? Shamisen is a setup to give the culprit an alibi."

What kind of setup?

"Use your head for once! Listen, at what time did Shamisen's alibi start?"

From three o'clock till about four-thirty. The last time that I saw him would be around three, and he's transported to the scene of the crime by four thirty.

"Stop thinking about that period of time. Think back at events earlier than that."

Before three? Wouldn't that be when we were roaming about in the villa? Wait, hold on.

"Koizumi, when was it that you had the cat brought back here?"

The easy smile on that handsome face seems to change to a more accented angle.

"At just past two-thirty."

"Where did you get him from?"

"The kitchen."

Koizumi gives a smile to Mori-san.

"Is that right?"


Mori looks at Shamisen with a smile.

"When I was tending to clean-up work in the kitchen, this cat would not let go of the side of my leg. I couldn't resist his begging, so I fed him with the leftovers, but he only got more underfoot... Koizumi-san came by just in time, and I asked him to bring the cat back here."

I remember now, Koizumi had said that he needed to talk about tomorrow's plans and left his seat for a while.

"That was at two-thirty?"

Mori-san, the maid in plain attire, displays a brilliant smile that would have people take a few steps backward from its glimmer.

"Err... I believe so. I did not look at the time so I cannot be sure of the exact moments, although it should have been around two-thirty or so."

"Starting when had Shamisen been staying there?"

"About two. It was grooming its fur when I returned from the cabin."

That's basically his whereabouts. After my calico escaped the clutches of my little sister, he went off to beg for food from Mori-san, and then got taken back here at around two-thirty by Koizumi. That's no doubt why he was napping so soundly the moment he hit the futon by the heater.

He simply sneaked back there, so that's it. The calico roaming around the estate after having escaped the clutches of my sister, went begging for food from Mori-san and then he was brought back by Koizumi at two-thirty, which would explain why he had been napping the moment he got to the futon close to the heater.

"With this, there exists an explanation for his whereabouts from two to three."

An alibi for an hour? What did Shamisen see going from here to the hut?

"There is a scam here."

Haruhi squeezes her eyes and touches her throat. It is as if the clues will leap out just by her doing this move.

"The only thing that we are sure of is the movements during that one hour, while everything else is sketchy, especially as to the whereabouts of the cat after three. The explanation for the cat's absence, and how Shamisen fell to the culprit's lap..."

Haruhi shows an expression of contemplation, and I acted along with her. My sister looks on at us with a bewildered expression, Yutaka-san looks on with only a smile. He probably knows the truth already, given that he is the lead suspect.

"Need more hints?"

"A moment."

I halt Koizumi's comments as I start to organize my thoughts.

It was at around two that Keiichi-san headed off to the hut.

The cat was last seen at three, and nobody had seen him from then till four-thirty when we found him in Keiichi-san's room.

If the killer sneaked off to the main building through the window, it had to be done early enough so that the falling snow can cover his tracks. The time of murder can be deduced to be around three to four.

However, from three to four, all of us, including Yutaka-san were on the open floor and did not go out. It is only after four that Yutaka-san, Haruhi and Tsuruya-san had left.

Hmm, all right. I nodded sympathetically.

"Give us some clues."

Koizumi lifts his shoulders.

"I thought that the first to have noticed would've been either you or your sister."

With that, he falls to silence.

"What did you say?"

What kind of a hint is that? For goodness sake, my sister and I aren't nearly as sharp as Haruhi and Tsuruya-san.

"Ahh, I got it!"

A brightly lit Tsuruya-san raises her voice after Haruhi,

"I know it now! Haruhi-nyan! The proof that the cat isn't there is the alibi for the culprit being absent."

Tsuruya-san continues with a look of sudden realization on her face:

"Yeah, that's it! That's why the kitty cannot be elsewhere. Not just anywhere, and not in the hut, but rather it has to be in the public space that everyone is at."

I did not understand one word that came out of Tsuruya-san's mouth. While Asahina-san and I are dumbstruck, Haruhi seems to follow, and shouts out at a high decibel level,

"That's it! That's right, that's it! Tsuruya-san, nice! Basically, within that one hour, the cat must be at a place that it can be seen by all, for if the culprit didn't do that, his own alibi for not being there would be blown."


Tsuruya-san makes a loud snap with her fingers.

"Shami went missing not at three, but at two-thirty... no... rather within the thirty minutes between two-thirty to three... in other words, the time of murder should be at around two-thirty, am I right?"


Hold on for a minute all right? Would it be too much trouble to explain to those of us that are lost what you two have come to realize? I can't make head nor tail out of the current situation.

"You're slow. Kyon, for Shamisen to go missing from three to four-thirty, and then to emerge at the scene of the crime afterwards would puzzle who?"

That would be us.

"Well, who stands to gain from that?"


"As if it's nobody! The killer was the one that whisked Shamisen away and locked him into the hut! There has to be a reason as to why the murderer would do that. Let me ask you again, which part would be the most beneficial to the murderer?"

Haruhi's eyes glare at me menacingly, as would the eyes of the culprit at the detective.

The two smile at a certain individual and as partners performing in unison, they name the murderer in one synchronized breath...
The two smile at a certain individual and as partners performing in unison, they name the murderer in one synchronized breath...

"Ahh-" I say. "Shamisen would be at the hut... because of the culprit taking him there, so the moment that Shamisen vanished would be the time of the murder..."

"That's it?"

Ahh? What's it?

"You still don't get it! Everybody thinking this way is how the plot was to start. The killer wants us to think that the interval of time where Shamisen has no alibi for absence is the moment that the crime occurred!"

"Everyone has an alibi from three to four." Tsuruya-san picks up with the explanation. "However what about after two? Does the fact that we were told not to leave the scene mean that nobody had left?"

"That is because the murderer must ensure that he has an alibi from two to three." Haruhi continues. "So, he has to make it seem as if Shamisen never left here. Why is that? It's because Shamisen, having gone missing from three to four-thirty, would actually establish the murderer's alibi. That is because Shamisen cannot possibly be over here and at the scene of the crime simultaneously; so knowing when the cat was here leads one to think that the murderer couldn't have taken him to the hut at the same time. But the last person to have seen Shamisen was you, and that was at three. The culprit wants us to conclude that he would have taken him to the hut at around three, so we fall into his psychological trap."

"With that, who the murderer might be is obvious. It would be the person that has no clear alibi at about two-thirty and who was close to the kitty before three!"

Tsuruya-san chuckles.

"Kyon, are you following this? Think outside of the box. We only have to find the person that can take advantage of the time when Keiichi-san entered the hut, at two, to four-thirty, when we broke into the room. If you think about it, there can only be one person that could've done it. However, if you assume that the murder took place after three, he would have proof of absence from the scene. In summary, we made a wrong assumption on the moment of murder!"

Haruhi, not to be trumped, shows a bright smile.

"That's right. Keiichi-san was killed before three. Shamisen was taken to the hut at that time as well."

"Hold on," I start asking, "how can you account for the Shamisen that I saw at three then? How about the Shamisen who was napping that Asahina-san saw before three? Could Shamisen split himself?"

"Kyon, you still don't get it?"

Haruhi shows a victory smile in stride.

"I will now explain the actions of the murderer to you. First, since the creator of the game assured us that Mori-san and Arikawa-san are not the culprits and would not give false alibis, their testimonies are not important."

It seems that the only ones that don't get it would be me, Asahina-san and my sister.

"The murderer left this public space some time between two and three, took Shamisen from the kitchen and whisked him off to the room in the hut where Keiichi-san was at. It is not important whether or not the room was locked. At any rate, the murderer went into the room, assassinated Keiichi-san, and locked the door from the inside, leaving Shamisen off to the side, and snuck back into the house from the corridor empty-handed."

"Wait," I further inquire, "what about the Shamisen that I saw? Where did the Shamisen that was sleeping by the futon over the heater come from?"

"In short, that cat would not be Shamisen."

Haruhi glanced at Tsuruya-san. Having assured herself that Tsuruya-san's expression is in total agreement-

"To conclude, based on the scenario, there can be only one murderer, and that culprit could've only done it by himself within the window of a few minutes at around two-thirty, while everyone else would not have had the chance to have gone back and forth between the main building and the cabin. Regardless of any alibi, that person would be the culprit. I have already disproved his alibi. Assuming Shamisen really did go missing at around two-thirty, then there is no other explanation than that the Shamisen you saw was a fake."

Tsuruya-san stretches her neck.

"Let's put it this way, Kyon-kun, lemme ask you. Was the Shami that you saw from two-thirty till three, the real Shami?"

I am flabbergasted with her asking me that. It's true, I only saw the back of the cat, both as it was brought in or as it slept over the futon. I did not see it from up close.

But then, a fake? Where'd the copycat come from? Could it be that clones of Shamisen have been secretly engineered somewhere?

"How would I know that?" Haruhi answers in a delighted manner. "I tell you, all that is irrelevant speculation. The calico that was dozing off from two-thirty to three on the futon was not Shamisen, and could not have been Shamisen. Be it a clone, a doll, or a similar cat... it would not be your calico."

"Haruhi-nyan, everyone should know by now who the killer is, so let's just announce his name already. We can't move on if we don't do that."

Tsuruya-san happily offered this opinion. Haruhi lightly nods in agreement.

"Yeah, especially for Kyon, for if we hold it back any longer, he will probably be pondering about this throughout the entirety of the winter break. Ready- do it together?"

"Sure. The culprit of this murder case is-"

The two smile at a certain individual and as partners performing in unison, they name the murderer in one synchronized breath...


Koizumi lifts his hands like a wanted suspect being arrested by famous fortune hunters with dual Winchesters.

"That's right."

He continues with a slightly bitter smile, as if defeated:

"I am the murderer. I would have liked to have everyone think about this for a little longer, but I still fell victim to the combined minds of Suzumiya-san and Tsuruya-san."

Haruhi's mouth is sticking out with her laughter,

"Why didn't you give us free time at around three instead of four? That way, figuring out who the murderer is would have taken more time."

"That's right, that would have made it more difficult to determine who the culprit might be," Koizumi starts to explain. "Should one of you have left, that is, to have taken more than five minutes away around three'o clock - the five minutes being the time from the hut to the house - it would be difficult to remove the person from the list of suspects. In other words, it would make it rather easy for the murderer to be misidentified. Instead of risking that happening, I made it so that nobody could possibly be a suspect; otherwise the game would become too difficult to play."

Could it be that the thought simply didn't occur to you, seeing as you are talking up a storm over this?

"Where did you hide the double for Shamisen?"

"In my room. I had Arakawa-san ship it into the room beforehand, so as to not have him be an accessory to the murder. From the view of the scenario, I was the one that brought the double in."

Koizumi's facial expression looks like a slave student part-timer that is getting off work.

"I took the cat out of my room after having done the murder. Everything that followed would be obvious to you all."

So Koizumi brought a double in at two-twenty. But-

"Where is the cat?" I ask once more. "Where'd the fake go? Where would that fake Shamisen whom I've never seen up close have gone off to? It would be more than a coincidence if it had disappeared as well."

Koizumi gave a quick glance at Haruhi, as if defeated, and then our very own chief steps up and strides to an end of the floor where the heater is located.

"Kyon, just think back to the scene carefully. Wasn't Koizumi-kun right beside the cat as it slept on the futon when you saw them? Koizumi took out the Sugoroku from the backpack and handed them to you right? With that, you took the Sugoroku game to the hearth, which had all of our attention. Koizumi used this break to stuff the napping cat into the backpack. Therefore..."

Haruhi grabs the backpack standing by the wall while the heater blows warm air through the area.

"It should be in here."

Saying this, she tips the open bag upside-down and a ball-like shape falls from within.


This cat really resembles Shamisen a great deal, to the point that I can't help myself but to blurt that out. Whether it's the physique or the expressions, this is a one-to-one copy. The largest difference is that this cat's a female. Male calicos are rare finds in the world, you could go ask your biology teacher as to why that is so.

The fake Shamisen at first sat still on the floor. Then, raising her tail, she heads over to sniff noses with Shamisen who my sister is still holding onto. My cat stares at the female with his round eyes, and then he frees himself from my sister's hands. The cats' noses take aim at each others' rear ends. Following that the two start to chase each others' tails, going round and round. After about ten seconds though, the female gets hit on the nose.

"Oy! Shami!"

Shamisen, who was now groaning and complaining from his throat, gets picked up by my sister; after staring around for the longest time, the female jumps onto Nagato's lap for no apparent reason and sits there.


Nagato lowers her expressionless gaze, coming face-to-face with the kitten that is looking straight back at her. Eventually she carefully extends her hand.

The copycat seems to be very satisfied with Nagato's stroking, as she closes her eyes and curls up in a ball. The two cats are very similar, although with a hint of difference. I for one have spent two months living with Shamisen, making it rather easy for me to tell my own cat apart from this other cat's face-

"So that's why you said that you assumed that I or my sister should be the first to notice that something seems off?"

"Exactly. I was breaking out in a sweat when you came to me. Had you already discovered the truth, I would've told you the whole story secretly and dragged you along with me. However, after examining your expression, it seemed that you did not notice anything at all."

So sorry. That would be to Shamisen.

"The hardest part was to find that cat."

Below is the supplemental explanation from Koizumi, the lead.

"I only found out that an identical cat to Shamisen does not exist after physically going out and searching for one. I thought that all calicos are the same at first, but it turns out that I am too naïve. I only found a similar stray after having gone across the country, but the match is not one-hundred percent. The only way to go was to dye parts of the fur on the cat. However, the preparation work didn't end with that, as training was required for the cat."

What trick did it need to learn?

"The most common trick taught to dogs- 'wait.' All would be for naught if it started to walk all over the place, therefore I needed to teach her to pose herself asleep until I give her instructions. If she moved during the thirty minutes on the futon or during the hour in the backpack, it would lead to major trouble."

Koizumi shakes his head as if he is reflecting on on the affair. This cat might have the potential to be a show cat given how it was able to learn such a trick. It might actually be easier to teach Koizumi on how to hypnotize cats instead.

"I have named the cat as Shamisen the Second, Shami-ni in short, as I couldn't think of a better name."

With that puzzling excuse out of the way, Koizumi cleared his throat:

"The detective game has come to an end. Suzumiya-san and Tsuruya-san have both made the correct deduction, so both deserve the prize. I will present the prize shortly."

Koizumi gives a bow gracefully.

"This concludes the event. I thank everyone for their support, especially Tsuruya-san for lending the guest house, Tamaru Keiichi-san for posing as the dead and Yutaka-san as the misleading character, and of course for the great help from Arakawa-san and Mori-san. I give you all my deepest gratitude. Thank you for your supporting roles from the opening till the end."

Haruhi and Tsuruya-san start to clap like monkeys, and my sister follows, while the seemingly totally stymied Asahina-san goes along as well. Seeing Nagato, with a cat on her lap also clapping along without making a noise, I clap my hands as well.

Way to go, Koizumi.

The prize is a tiny, electroplated trophy. On the trophy, a cat is engraved doing a headstand, made in manga style. From the looks of it, it looks somewhat like Shamisen. Since Haruhi and Tsuruya-san have already taken a 'V' pose, shoulder to shoulder with the trophy up high, I can get on with taking their pictures to commemorate the event. Shamisen the First and Second are of course included in the scene.

A while afterwards, Mori-san and Arakawa-san send out the Toshikoshi-soba earlier than expected. Haruhi and Tsuruya-san immediately start to gorge on the meal, while Koizumi over to the side doesn't even lift his chopsticks. Oh yes, I have never seen him chowing down on food.

"How did you like the skit?"

This is a rarity, for even in the fantasia yesterday, Koizumi had not asked my opinion with such an unsure smile. Although I did not want to praise his self-production and acting-

"That should be fine right?"

I drank the noodle sauce, with broth and Nagi added to the mix.

"Haruhi's mood is as good as it ever gets. You should be happy with that."

"Having heard you say that is an honor. My hard work has finally paid off, for ultimately this detective drama was made to appease Suzumiya-san."

You appeased her alright, but you had me lost totally. Asahina-san, who was just as confused, is still trying to make sense of it with her notebook open.

"That one is the one at two, and this is the one at three. The cat arrived at between two to three... or was it two thirty? Umm... mew mew."

I chew away at my soba with a deeply concerned look. The person most confused would be my sister, but she is lying down on the floor and eating away as if she doesn't even care about the mystery.

I take a breath of relief seeing Nagato's appetite back to normal, with that female calico on her lap. When it comes down to it, having everyone acting as usual is the bottom line, although the strangely out of line Koizumi is still trying to get sympathy from me:

"My mind has been totally occupied by this event ever since the winter co-ed was announced. Thanks to everyone, I am finally free. I hate being the culprit, and I am not really killer material. I am also happy to resign the role of the detective. I am best as a commentator."

I think that the role of the commentator should be abolished. It's fine so long as nothing happens that would require you to blabber away endlessly-

-an idea just flashed before my mind!

"This murder drama didn't need to be acted out, right? It simply follows your script. If that's how it is, then wouldn't it be fine to just give people printed scenario scripts and leave it at that?"

Koizumi's face seems to be stuck as if noodles were stuck in his throat, and following that he murmurs out a sound like a heavyweight challenger who had been struck in the head, with nonstop bleeding and the doctor telling him to throw in the towel.

"...I suppose that's true." He doesn't seem to want to admit it.

"Oh yes, Koizumi-kun,"

Haruhi speaks while asking for a refill from Mori-san,

"I leave next summer up to you as well. We've already been to a lone island and a snow mountain, so the stage next time should be something even more suspenseful, such as a place with some odd name. Anywhere is fine, even overseas. Hey, how about a castle? An old fortification made of stone is the perfect setting."

Haruhi has effectively scrapped Koizumi and my desire, as she swings her chopsticks around like a conductor's baton.

"I know a great place! My dad has a friend who happens to own a castle overseas!"

Tsuruya-san has 'delivered' without fail and goes along with Haruhi. This is just great; now Haruhi is in an even more elated mood than before.

"Hear that? Everyone had better get their passport done before summer vacation, alright!"

I look on to Koizumi, and simultaneously sigh in defeat. We cannot withstand the battering of the joined forces of Haruhi and Tsuruya-san as a duo. I, after all, am only a minor character whose task it is to persuade Haruhi to give up on her plan to conquer the world. Koizumi is only the SOS Brigade's expert drama producer. It might be easier to deal with opponents out of nowhere than the Titanic Sisters.

It looks like if I don't think of something, the SOS Brigade will spawn an overseas division sooner or later. I hope that the situation then won't become totally uncontrollable - I say this to myself, in the depths of my ears, with my deficient language skills.

This would be the first time ever that I am to spend New Year's Eve without television.

Mori-san and the others are all taking part in the second round of Sugoroku. This is easy on Haruhi but hard on me, and without any notice, we're already into nighttime. The lavish feast and time for chatting have gone by, and midnight is quickly approaching while we squander the time away; when we finally notice the hour, the year's about to end.

"When we wake up tomorrow morning, we can start the Fude Hajime and the Hanetsuki tournament."

Would you let us have some Zouni before anything else?

"Of course, that's a must for New Year's. After all, we couldn't be satisfied with just playing Fukuwarai."

Haruhi stares at the clock on the wall.

"It's bad if we don't visit the temple."

It's not that bad. No matter how easygoing the buddhas are, they no doubt won't want to see you paying tribute to them. The shrine that we used for backdrop during the filming of that movie probably has posted warning signs out to forbid us from visiting them.

"What're you talking about? To be so blessed as to be in a country where all sorts of religions are practiced, it would be a shame not to do everything. Besides, why not celebrate New Year's as we've already done Christmas? The idea of not celebrating New Year's is like having already reserved for a banquet and leaving after only looking at the utensils! That's why we definitely have to be there for the temple visit!"

Well then, why not dig a snow cave out in the courtyard, and put in a donation bin and a little shrine? Well inside the cave, a Miko-wardrobe clad Asahina-san would be the resident deity. That way we wouldn't have to run to some temple, and I would devoutly worship through day and night, and after that, followers will no doubt flock in, and with that kind of influx of people, the donation bin will definitely not be empty.


Haruhi holds onto the sweet shoulder of Asahina-san.

"Although it is hard to just not have Mikuru-chan dressed as a Miko, I want to see her in a long sleeve kimono first! Although that would be fine to do when the co-ed is over and we're back at home. Let's go to some nearby temple or shrine! Ahh, of course Yuki has to get dressed up too! Myself as well."

Asahina-san's ear lobe is now reddish from Haruhi biting on it. Haruhi nods after having a look at the clock.

"Everyone, it's time."

On Haruhi's direction, we sit in a circle. The five SOS Brigade members not withstanding, Tsuruya-san has also become a part of the circle, and my sister along with the two cats are sitting beside her. The temporary quartet of the Tamaru brothers, the maid and the butler also are invited in by Haruhi. Are you sure that's alright? If things don't go well, you'll all be bossed around as honorary members.

However, nobody is taking heed of my concern, as everyone shows unique smiles. Obviously, a person who is still frowning about at this point would be facing rough times ahead, so I drop my complaints.

On Haruhi's order, we all bow, and say that all-too-common phrase together.

That is a phrase which we say year after year because we're all out of ideas, and it'd be weird to use something else as a substitute. A sentence that is in five-five-five format. (Akemashite Omedetou Gozaiimasu, or Happy New Year)

(Where did the Cat Go End)

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