GosickS I – 3.4

[4]

As Kazuya brooded over what he should say to her, he headed toward the garden behind the main campus building. There he found Miss Cécile next to the flower beds. She was crouched down and poking at the ground with a stick in her hand, sighing disconsolately.

Kazuya was still not quite sure of how best to approach her, but before he could ask her about the case, the sight of something tucked under her arm caught his eye. To his surprise, it was the purple book he had lost.

“Miss Cécile, that book…?!”

His teacher heard his voice and stood up.

“How did you get that book?!”

She blinked in surprise. “Oh, you mean this? I found it on the ground behind the flowers. Is this yours, then?”

“Y-yes, it is….”

“You shouldn’t treat your books like that. But what kind of book is this, anyway?”

She left unsaid the question of what he could possibly be doing with a book about resurrecting the dead. Kazuya grasped her meaning nonetheless, and mumbled a perfunctory excuse while thinking to himself, It was on the ground behind the flowers…? Why would that happen? After Avril hid that book and it was retrieved, someone attacked me and knocked me out while I was carrying it. But if this book is so valuable, why would it end up getting tossed in a flower bed…?

The memory of Victorique suddenly losing interest in the book and walking away just as she had begun to read it so feverishly, was also starting to gnaw at him. What’s the meaning of all this…?

Kazuya put his face in his hands. The sight of his distress elicited a puzzled look from Miss Cécile.

He recovered his composure, and asked, “By the way, Miss Cécile. Inspector de Blois told me something a little while ago….”

“Oh, really? What did he say?”

“Um, well, he said that you used to be classmates with Miss Millie Marle.”

Miss Cécile gave a start. “…Yes, that’s right.”

“Were you friends with her?”

“Yes, I was. So this is all quite shocking to me….” A cloud passed over her face.

*****

Moments later, Kazuya and Miss Cécile left the flower garden, and started walking slowly through the expansive, park-like school grounds.

Miss Cécile knitted her brows. “The truth is that I never wanted to go to the crypt by myself in the first place. I knew Millie was resting there, and that made me sad. That’s why I asked you and Miss Avril to come with me.”

“I see….”

“But then all this happened…. I couldn’t imagine Millie actually killing someone….”

Without intending it, they had ended up in front of the storehouse where Kazuya had been attacked. He pointed at the building, and said, “That was where I collapsed.”

Miss Cécile looked scandalized. “Oh, Kujou, why did you fall asleep in a place like this? Why would you do that?”

“No, I didn’t quite fall asleep….” Kazuya took a careful step toward the storehouse. “Avril said that the rest of the students make sure to stay away from here. It seems that they like to tell a ghost story about the ghost of a dead girl—Millie Marle. They say she haunts this area, and tries to drag people into hell.”

“My goodness!” Miss Cécile looked appalled, and more than slightly frightened, as she gripped Kazuya’s arm with both hands and peered into the storehouse.

Dust had accumulated on every surface in the room. Old tables and chairs were heaped into tall piles, and near the back, a decaying spiral staircase led to the basement. Rays of sunlight infiltrated into the darkness through the partly opened door, and sparkled upon white specks of dust dancing in the air.

But then…

From the back of the room—no, from the direction of the basement, Kazuya and Miss Cécile thought they could detect the sound of a faint, keening wail.

They exchanged a look.

Then they strained to listen again. But this time they heard nothing but silence.

“Miss Cécile, just now, I thought I heard something that sounded like a voice….” Kazuya turned to her, but was startled to see the look on her face.

Behind her large, round glasses, tears were pooling in her droopy, puppy-like eyes. Her shoulders trembled violently.

Then she said, “I’m scared!”

“…Huh?”

“I’m scared! I’m angry with you, Kujou!”

“At, at me? Why?!”

“Because I’m scared!”

Apparently, Miss Cécile was prone to fright. Kazuya was reminded of the time earlier in the infirmary, when she suddenly began to blurt out excuses to leave the room the moment Avril had mentioned ghosts….

Now having shed her previous guise as a kind and caring teacher, she poked a finger at Kazuya accusingly, and pushed him into the storehouse.

A chilly wind blew past them, caressing their cheeks.

Once inside, they heard a loud noise out of nowhere. Quaking in fear, Miss Cécile clung to Kazuya’s back. “Let me know if anything happens, okay? I’m taking off my glasses! Then I won’t be able to see anything, whether ghosts or anything else!”

Kazuya turned around and saw that she had in fact taken off her glasses, and was now looking up at him with an unfocused gaze. Her brown eyes, looking much larger than they usually did while she was wearing glasses, darted about nervously.

She then tripped over a wooden box on the floor, and let loose a shriek that resembled the cry of a small child. Kazuya said exasperatedly, “Miss Cécile, it’s not safe without your glasses; please put them back on.”

She clucked her tongue in chagrin, then put on her glasses.

But the next moment…

Save … me….

They heard a soft voice. Kazuya and Miss Cécile turned to each other, and shook their heads to confirm that it didn’t belong to either of them.

Save … me!

It was the voice of a young girl.

In the dim light of the storehouse, the pale upper body of a girl seemed to materialize in front of them. Blond hair, large blue eyes, and a long, straight nose adorned her lovely face. But her skin was unnaturally pallid, and her cheeks were sunken.

Miss Cécile screamed, “A ghost just appeared?!”

And then, with a peculiar slithering sound, the girl vanished.

Miss Cécile screamed again. “A ghost just disappeared?!”

Then she removed her glasses again with her trembling hands, and with an oddly stubborn look on her face, handed them to Kazuya. “Now I won’t be able to see anything ever again!” she cried out as she grabbed his arm and yanked him toward the exit. Then she stumbled outside, screaming, “N-o-o!”

“M-Miss Cécile…?!”

*****

Miss Cécile fled as fast as she could, screaming all the while. However, due to the shortness of her legs, in the end she could manage no more than a slow trot, and Kazuya needed only to slightly hasten his normal walking speed in order to catch up with her.

“Miss Cécile, your glasses, your glasses!”

After leaving the storehouse safely in the distance, Miss Cécile finally slowed to a halt. She took her glasses from Kazuya’s hands and arranged them neatly on her face, then said in a very firm voice, “…Kujou, you’d best not tell any of the other students about what just happened. I’ll give you a failing mark if you do!”

“I’m not going to tell! And I never fail my classes. But more importantly… What on earth was that just now?”

Miss Cécile shut her eyes tightly. “A g-g-g-ghost?”

“…Miss Cécile, there is no such thing as ghosts.”

“But it wasn’t Millie Marle either.”

“…Oh?”

She reopened her brown eyes. “It was a ghost, but not Millie’s ghost. It didn’t look anything like her. That wasn’t the face of anyone I’ve ever seen at this school.”

Their eyes met in bewilderment.

“…Then whose ghost is it?”

A cold wind seeped in between their bodies as they stood frozen in place….

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