GosickS I – 3.3

[3]

Kazuya came to on a bed in the infirmary. A woman was seated next to him, applying cool compresses to his head—it was Miss Cécile.

After noticing that Kazuya had regained consciousness, a look of dismay spread across her face. “Oh, Kujou, why were you taking a nap in front of the storehouse?”

“Uh, no, I wasn’t taking a nap there….” Kazuya sat up, rubbing his head. Someone hit me from behind…. But who could it be, and why? Wait! What if Avril was trying to get that book back, and she was the one…?

He looked around himself, but the purple book was nowhere in sight. In a panic, he asked, “Miss Cécile, when I was brought here, did I happen to be holding a book with a purple cover?”

She shook her head. “A purple book? No, I didn’t see anything like that.”

“I see…. Also, did anyone see Avril around the area where I had collapsed?”

“Oh, we didn’t just see her. Avril was the one who found you lying on the ground. She ran over to the gardeners to ask for help, and they brought you here.”

Kazuya mulled this over. If Avril rescued me, then wouldn’t that mean she’s not the one who struck me…?

As he contemplated the implications, he saw the door to the infirmary slowly open toward the hallway. There was a pale hand grasping the doorknob.

“…Kujou.” Avril hesitantly peeked her head into the room. “Are you … okay…?”

Kazuya’s eyes met with hers. Then, for some reason, a chill ran down his spine, and he flinched away from her.

Avril was glaring at Kazuya with an odd, decidedly un-girlish expression that he could not quite interpret.

“Gosh, Kujou. What on earth possessed you to take a nap in a place like that? Did you study so much you forgot to sleep? I don’t know what to say to you.”

She had suddenly returned to her usual cheerful self.

Bewildered by her change in affect, Kazuya stayed silent. It’s probably strange of me to suspect her…. But Avril is the one who found that purple book and then hid it away, and she might be the one who attacked me while I was carrying it, too…. Nah, I’m probably overthinking it. There’s no way she could do something like that….

Avril smiled unconcernedly, oblivious to Kazuya’s inner dilemma. “Say, did you know that the storehouse where you passed out is famous among the students here?”

“…No.”

“They say that the ghost of a dead student—”

Before Avril could finish her sentence, Miss Cécile abruptly cried out, “Eek!” and began to babble, “Um, I need to go write the next exam! Oh, yes, I have to water the flowerpots!” as she fled the room. The door closed after her with a bang, and the sound of her running footsteps faded away into the distance. Kazuya and Avril stared at the door in stunned silence.

Avril recovered first. “They say the ghost of one of the girl students haunts the storehouse, and that the stairs to the basement are actually a portal into hell. If the ghost beckons you down the stairs, you die.”

Kazuya knitted his brows. “…Is the name of that student Millie Marle, by any chance?”

“It could be. But isn’t it kind of disrespectful to spread rumors about an actual dead person just for sport? Well, I can’t stand ghost stories, myself,” Avril said in a low voice, her face solemn.

Kazuya remembered seeing that look on her face before—it looked far too adult, not at all suited to the face of a fifteen year old girl. He started to wonder whether Avril really was the same age as he.

Seeing Kazuya about to stand up from the bed, Avril lent him her hand. As she did so, she continued, “Apparently, there’s also a ghost story about the library.”

“…The library?” Kazuya repeated, startled.

“Yeah. They say, ‘a golden fairy inhabits the top of the library’. That fairy knows all the mysteries of the world, but when people go ask for her help, she demands their souls in exchange…. I think she sounds more like a devil than a fairy, doesn’t she?”

Kazuya shook his head. “If you’re talking about the top of the library, there aren’t any fairies or devils there, just Victorique.”

“Victorique…?”

“Yeah. Remember how there’s that empty seat in our classroom? The one by the window. That’s Victorique’s seat. She always skips class and holes herself up in the library. So, there’s no golden fairy at the top of the library, just a golden-haired girl, and what she demands isn’t souls, just exotic foreign sweets.”

“Hmm…” Avril’s eyes glittered with interest, and she nodded several times as if thinking to herself.

*****

Kazuya bid Avril goodbye, and began to walk down the hallway. At the far end, he saw a pointed golden head advancing in his direction. It belonged to Inspector Gréville de Blois. Accompanying him were his two deputies, wearing rabbit-skin hunting caps and holding hands.

As soon as he caught sight of Kazuya, he struck a pose, and said, “Why, hello there, Kujou! Um, well, I suppose you haven’t seen it either….”

“Seen what?”

“Just a little something I’ve lost. No, never mind, forget it….” The inspector looked as if he wanted to ask something, but instead chose to change the subject. “You see, I’m very busy. Just as I solved the case of the mummified knight, another case came along to run me ragged. Perhaps you’ve heard of a man known as Cuiaran?”

“…Nope, can’t say I have.”

“Cuiaran was a famous thief who plundered all over Europe. No one has ever seen him, and no one knows his real name. He’s been keeping a low profile for the past seven or eight years. Some say that he may have already retired, and is now living the high life who knows where. And then some think he may have died in an accident or something to that effect….”

The inspector paused, then resumed speaking briskly.

“At any rate, Kujou. Lately, the capital of Sauvure, Sauvrème, has been in a bit of an uproar over the appearance of a thief calling himself the second Cuiaran. Although he seems to be pretty young. So, according to a report from Sauvure police headquarters, they received word that this second Cuiaran is apparently heading toward this village for reasons unknown. Apparently, there was someone who saw him get on a train, although I don’t know many details other than that…. Anyway, Kujou. What do you think a famous thief would possibly want to do with a village like this? It’s not as if there’s anything valuable here. All we have are vineyards and apple orchards, and other than that, there’s just this mysterious St. Marguerite’s School of ours…” Inspector de Blois tilted his head to one side, baffled. “It’s beyond me….”

“It isn’t as if I would know either. Although, if you were to ask Victorique, I’m sure she could come up with the answer in no time…”

The inspector pretended not to hear that.

Kazuya glared at him.

And then he wondered to himself what exactly the relationship was between this eccentric aristocrat of a detective, and the extraordinarily strange girl at the top of the library.

Inspector de Blois was in charge of investigating both cases that Kazuya had been dragged into: first, the motorbike decapitation case, and then the mummified knight case. In both instances, he had solved the mysteries quite handily with Victorique’s help. But although the inspector knew Victorique’s location and the brilliance of her mind, and relied on her help, he seemed to have sworn never to speak to her directly.

On the other hand, one could say that it was Victorique who despised the inspector and treated him as if he didn’t exist….

What was one supposed to call this sort of relationship? And why did they seem to hate each other so?

The inspector suddenly spoke again as if remembering something. “Now that I think of it, Kujou. I found out something about the perpetrator of the mummified knight case, Millie Marle. That teacher of yours, Cécile or whatever her name was, used to be a student at this school.”

“Okay…”

“Are you paying attention? Cécile was a student here eight years ago. You know what that means, right? Cécile and Millie Marle used to be classmates.”

Kazuya widened his eyes in surprise.

After all, when they had entered the crypt and discovered the body, Miss Cécile never even alluded to that fact….

“I ran into her earlier when she left the infirmary, and told her about Millie Marle being the killer. It seemed to be a great shock to her.” The inspector pointed at the flower garden behind the building. “After that, I saw her wander over there. She looked like she was crying.”

Then the inspector walked away, his two deputies following him down the hallway….

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