GosickS I – 3.6

[6]

At the same time as Avril was fleeing the library, Kazuya was rushing to return to it. After comforting a distressed Miss Cécile, he stopped by the dormitory, gathered together some exotic sweets to take with him, and took off running again.

Just as he was about to walk into the atrium of the library, he bumped hard into someone who happened to be making a hasty exit at the same time. “Whoa!”

The person he had bumped into turned out to be Avril, panting raggedly. “K-Kujou…”

“Avril, what’s wrong?”

“I, uh, went to that conservatory that you told me about….”

“You climbed all the way to the top? Exhausting, isn’t it? So … what on earth’s the matter, then?”

Avril looked as if she had something to say, but she remained silent. At last she shook her head and said, “Nothing. Nothing at all…” and hurriedly exited the library.

“What’s gotten into her, I wonder?” Kazuya scratched his head at her reaction, but decided against following her, and went ahead into the library.

*****

The library was cloaked in its usual stillness. It was a tranquility with a certain air of slight dustiness.

As Kazuya gazed up at the labyrinthine staircase, tracing its length all the way to the ceiling, a faint melancholy clouded his eyes. Then he gathered up his courage and nodded determinedly to himself, and began to ascend the stairs with loud, firm footsteps.

But the staircase was ever so long.

He continued climbing.

And climbing.

…And climbing still higher.

Kazuya lost all sense of time. He was seized with the feeling that he had been placed under an evil spell, and was merely passing the same point over and over again. When he accidentally looked over the side of the staircase, he felt his head spin from the tremendous height, and was forced to pause for a moment.

Suddenly, Kazuya spotted something small and golden move near the top of his field of vision. He stopped climbing and looked up, squinting his eyes. “Victorique?”

“…I suppose you’ve brought some sweets for me.” The faint sound of her husky voice echoed from far above.

A look of exasperation crossed Kazuya’s face. “I do. It’s called karintou. It might be a bit hard to chew, but I don’t want to hear any complaints.”

“…Hmph.” Her small head withdrew from sight. A half-second later, her long blond hair languidly followed in her wake, undulating then disappearing, like the tail of some ethereal creature of myth….

*****

At last, Kazuya finished climbing all the way to the top of the library. Between gasps for air, he asked, “I ran into Avril just as I was arriving, and she mentioned something about visiting the conservatory. Did you see her?”

Victorique pretended not to hear him.

“Well?”

“…Dunno,” she answered curtly.

“Does that mean you didn’t see her? That’s odd.”

Victorique plucked a single piece of karintou from the bag he was holding, and eyed it suspiciously. She looked it up and down and side to side, then held it close to her small nose and took a sniff. “It smells sweet!”

Kazuya took a quick peek at Victorique’s expression, and saw a smile slowly spreading across her face—perhaps she was pleased with his choice of sweets, he thought, his mood brightening. “Of course it does. It’s candy, after all.”

“But it looks like dog poop.”

“…Girls shouldn’t say such things.”

Victorique parted her small lips, and popped the karintou into her mouth. Then she grimaced. “It’s hard!”

“I guess you don’t like hard things, then. You threw away the kaminari-okoshi because it was too hard for you back then, too. Oh, Victorique, you’re just like a little old granny. …Ouch!”

She had kicked his shin with the pointed toe of her boot. As he keeled over in agony, from the corner of his eye he observed Victorique extending her hand for a second helping, as if she’d found the karintou to her liking. The sight of this filled him with relief.

“…Ow, ow, ow. Anyway, Victorique. Let’s go on with the other thing I came to talk about.” Kazuya began to breathlessly retell the latest events. “I saw Inspector de Blois again a little while ago. Apparently, he’s searching for a copycat of some famous thief called Cuiaran, but no one seems to know for sure what he looks like or who he is. So—”

“I already know about Cuiaran,” interrupted Victorique diffidently.

Kazuya gave a start. “What do you know about him?”

“What he looks like and who he is.”

“….”

“It’s that girl Avril; she’s the second Cuiaran. She was just here earlier proclaiming that for all the world to hear. Made for quite the moronic sight.”

With this, Victorique seemed to lose interest in the discussion. Placing her book back on her lap, she once again began to read with remarkable speed, finishing each page in the blink of an eye.

The piece of karintou in Kazuya’s hand fell to the ground with a plop.

Victorique looked up at him. “What’s wrong? Standing right there with your mouth wide open like a fool. Don’t blame me if a fly goes inside.”

“Avril is Cuiaran?!”

“Didn’t I just say so?”

“…Really?”

“Why should I lie?”

Victorique returned to reading and nibbling on pieces of karintou, while pointedly ignoring Kazuya.

Then Kazuya shrieked, “Nooo!”

“Shut up, Kujou!” Flying into a rage, she grabbed pieces of candy with her small hand and threw them at Kazuya. “Be quiet! You’re interrupting my reading!”

“Nooo! …Wait, how is that possible?”

“How should I know?”

Victorique smoked her pipe unconcernedly for a few moments. Then she suddenly turned to look at him, a resolute smile on her lips. “Isn’t there something you want to ask me?”

“…What would that be?”

“About the truth I reconstructed by means of my wellspring of wisdom, while amusing myself with fragments of chaos in order to pass the time?”

Kazuya leaned forward. “Are you saying you solved the mystery? But what else do you know about this case?”

“I know who the first Cuiaran was.”

“Huh?” Kazuya stared at her in amazement. “Is it … someone we know? Really? Come on, tell me, tell me!”

Victorique opened her green eyes. They flickered with a cold fire—an uncanny flame, the likes of which Kazuya had never seen before, filled with fearlessness, and a deep sorrow….

“It happened something like this.”

And then Victorique uttered a certain name…

*****

The great thief Cuiaran came to St. Marguerite’s School, and a certain mysterious transfer student followed in his footsteps as the second Cuiaran.

Her target: an enigmatic purple book, in which was written the dark rite for reviving the dead….

The foreign student from the Orient, Kazuya Kujou, was dragged into the case along with his guardian angel—or was she an evil spirit, come to take his soul?—the mysterious girl Victorique, who delighted in the exercise of her own wonderful mind.

The adventure of Victorique, Kazuya, and the purple book would later come to an unexpected conclusion. But that is an entirely different story…..

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