It was a bright springtime afternoon.
St. Marguerite’s Library was housed in a square tower that soared high into the sky. Inside, walls formed by huge bookshelves surrounded an atrium, which was permeated with a slightly damp atmosphere that could only be described as the scent of books.
This library was one of the most famous structures on the campus of the distinguished St. Marguerite’s School, nestled in a mountain range in the northern reaches of the Kingdom of Sauvure, a country known as the “little giant” of Western Europe. The library’s long labyrinthine staircase, said to have been deliberately constructed in the form of a maze to hide a king’s secret trysts with his lover, seemed to stretch all the way to the heavens.
Near the ceiling was an unusual conservatory lush with vegetation, lit up by rays of the sun that emanated from skylights. From here, a thin plume of smoke rose into the air, reproducing the scene that Kazuya had stumbled across the other day.
It came from a white ceramic pipe, held by a girl small enough and beautiful enough to be mistaken for a porcelain doll. Her emerald green eyes were lost in a state of deep meditation, focusing intently on the undulating tendrils of smoke.
Her magnificently long blond hair draped to the floor like an unwound velvet turban. A pink velvet lace-up ribbon emerged from her breakably thin back, drooping downward like the furled wings of a small bird. Upon the lap of her billowing dress, luxuriously embroidered in countless rows of white ladder lace, sat a heavy, opened book.
Books radiated out in all directions on the floor next to her. Curiously enough, the spaces between them were dotted here and there in pink marshmallows.
The girl suddenly stirred.
She had heard the sound of someone entering the library, vigorously opening the leather-covered swing door hammered through with round brass tacks.
The girl poked her head through the bars of the railing and looked down. She knitted her brows ever so slightly.
It was impossible to tell whether her pale green eyes belonged to an innocent child or to an old woman who had lived for too long. She leaned her tiny body against the railing and looked downstairs as if something had caught her interest. But the expression on her small, marvelously proportioned face, remained stony, clouded in weariness, the face of a cold doll.
The figure who had just entered the library, on the other hand…
“…I don’t really want to see her. I wonder what I should do.”
The figure stood in the library atrium, muttering under his breath in apprehension.
Thanks to the stellar grades he had earned in his home country in the Orient, Kazuya Kujou, fifteen years of age, had recently arrived in Sauvure to study abroad. But because of a superstition circulating amongst his classmates that “the traveler who comes in spring brings death to the school,” they had nicknamed him the Grim Reaper. For the past half year, his days had been full of hardships, and he was still unable to make any close friends.
Then, just three days ago, he accidentally became embroiled in a murder case, and just so happened to meet this mysterious girl at the top of the library (in fact, she was his classmate, but she spent all her time in the library and had never once come to class). With the help of her intellectual powers—which she referred to as her “wellspring of wisdom”—he had just been rescued from a dangerous situation.
“Hmm…. There’s definitely something I want to ask her about…. But I can’t really figure that girl out, and she seems kind of scary…. She might actually hate me…. Achoo!” Kazuya sneezed.
Although it was springtime, a cold wind still blew with the lingering scent of winter. As he sniffled, he saw something fall from the top of the library and flutter towards his head.
It was a single sheet of white gossamer.
Upon examination, it was a piece of tissue.
Kazuya reached out to catch it, then blew his nose with it. For a moment he stared at the tissue, deep in thought. Then, realizing that the person he was planning to meet at the top must have dropped it for him, his eyes opened wide with surprise, then lit up in a joyful smile. Looking up at the top of the tower, he called out, “Victorique! It’s me, Kujou!”
He began to enthusiastically climb the labyrinthine staircase.
Several minutes later…
Panting heavily, Kazuya gripped the railing with one hand, spent from climbing the never-ending stairs. He greeted the girl—Victorique—who was smoking her pipe.
“Hi, Victorique. Thank you for the tissue.”
She said nothing in reply, instead keeping her head buried in the book she was reading.
Kazuya sat down beside her. “And, thanks for the other day.”
“So, um, there’s another thing that I kind of wanted to talk to you about.”
“Victorique. Are you listening…?”
Several moments passed with no response. Her doll-like profile conveyed nothing except an imperturbable coldness that rebuffed all interaction. Just as he was about to run out of patience, Victorique finally spoke coolly, without bothering to lift her head from her book.
“Don’t get so close to me. It’s a nuisance.”
“Wh-what do you mean?!” he replied indignantly.
“You’re the Grim Reaper, aren’t you?”
Kazuya had been growing steadily more infuriated with Victorique’s brusque attitude, but her mention of the “Grim Reaper” threw him off balance.
“So? What’s your point?!”
Up to that moment, Victorique’s eyes had been fixed on her books. But at the sound of Kazuya’s shout, they widened slightly in surprise. A fresh breeze seemed to breathe the slightest puff of life into her icy expression, piercing through her veil of boredom.
“There’s another reaper. She’s the one who’s the real Grim Reaper!” exclaimed Kazuya.
“I mean Avril Bradley! That transfer student from England. She may look like a regular cute girl on the outside, but on the inside she’s hiding some—Hmm? What’s that for?”
Still continuing to face away from him, Victorique held out one of her hands, which were as small as those of a child.
Kazuya gazed at her palm curiously. “…What?”
She waved her hand at him a few times, saying nothing.
“Tch! I get it. You want those exotic snacks of yours, right?” Kazuya dipped his head in defeat.
This girl, whose favorite phrase was “tedium is my greatest enemy,” was unwilling to aid Kazuya unless he gave her unusual snacks with which to amuse her. And so, before coming to the library, he had returned to the dormitory to empty out the luggage he had brought from his home in search of some interesting dried sweets.
While solemnly brooding over whether or not this could be considered bribery, he packed a small bag full of snacks to take with him.
“Here, Victorique. This is some candy that my big sister sent me. It’s called kaminari-okoshi.”
Victorique, who had been ignoring Kazuya all this time, suddenly raised her head, an expression of intense curiosity on her face. She set her book on the floor, shoved her hand inside the bag, and began to blissfully stuff her mouth full with candy, while grasping the bag greedily like a small animal guarding its food.
“Munch, munch… What is this? Why is it so absurdly hard? Do you consider this some sort of delicacy?”
“Something like that. Anyway, Victorique…” Kazuya carefully monitored her face as she chewed.
Victorique sighed. “Very well. If there’s something you want to say so badly, go ahead and tell me.”