GosickS I – 4.2

[2]

Kazuya left the library and began running across campus in search of Inspector de Blois. Along the way, he ran into several teachers, and to each one he described the inspector’s peculiar hairstyle—his blond hair hardened and twisted into a point, like the tip of a drill. One teacher told him, “If you’re talking about that odd-looking man, he went that way.”

Kazuya set off running in the direction to which she pointed.

Soon enough, he located the inspector. The vibrant rays of the setting sun, fast approaching nightfall, glistened upon his golden drill. Kazuya explained to him that Victorique had instructed him to go to the storehouse, although he wasn’t exactly sure why.

Inspector de Blois frowned. “I’m not familiar with this ‘Victorique’ of whom you speak, but I’m willing to go take a look.”

“Inspector!”

“…Don’t make such a terrifying face, Kujou,” the inspector said, hurriedly moving in front of Kazuya as the two of them continued to head toward the storehouse.

*****

Inside the damp and gloomy storehouse, dusty tables, chairs, and tarnished mirrors were strewn about in disarray.

The inspector took a timid step inside. “Kujou, from what I understand, this place is haunted, is it not?”

“Yes. By the ghost of Millie Marle. At least according to rumor.”

“Then you and that Cécile woman saw something, too?”

“…Are you implying that you’re scared?”

Inspector de Blois swung his head over his shoulder. The tip of his drill nearly stabbed Kazuya’s forehead, forcing him to hastily duck.

“I’m not scared!”

“…But Miss Cécile said that the ghost we saw wasn’t Millie. She looked like someone else.”

“Then who was it?”

“Beats me. It’s just that, when I told Victorique about it, she said it was Avril Bradley, and that I’m supposed to go rescue her. But I didn’t know what she meant. I mean, Avril is alive and well; I even just bumped into her on the staircase of the library earlier….”

“Hmm…”

They exchanged a look, simultaneously cocking their heads in bafflement.

“Even I, great inspector that I am, have no idea.”

“No surprise there.”

“…Hmph!”

After a moment of exchanging glares with each other, they went back to making their hesitant entry into the storehouse.

At the very back of the room…

Someone was lying on the floor.

The inspector uttered a short screech. Kazuya rushed to his side, then realized that on the floor was a girl about the same age as he. “Are you…?!”

Her eyes were closed.

The ghost we saw earlier must actually be this girl. I had a feeling that it wasn’t a ghost, but a person….

Helping her up, Kazuya peered into her face, then gasped.

She’s really cute!

The girl’s facial features were finely proportioned, with a straight nose and a mature air to her face, which was framed by short blond hair. Long athletic limbs extended from the simple white dress that clothed her lithe and slim body, reminiscent of a young doe. But her skin and clothes were soiled, her hands and feet were bound, and a partially unwound gag was wrapped around her mouth.

“Can you hear me?!” Kazuya quickly removed the gag from her mouth and untied her limbs. As he gazed into her face, her eyes suddenly opened.

…Her eyes were blue and limpid, like the sky on a clear summer’s day.

Tears immediately welled up and spilled from their corners. She reached toward Kazuya and clung to him. “Save me!”

“You’re saved! It’s going to be all right now. There’s a policeman here, too. But … who are you? Why are you being held prisoner in a place like this? Who did this to you?”

The face of the girl with the large blue eyes contorted in fear. “I’m the real Avril Bradley!” she cried out.

Kazuya gasped. “You’re the real Avril…?”

“Yes!”

“Then, that other Avril is a fake….”

Kazuya remembered the unease he sometimes felt around the other Avril. While she usually behaved like any innocent and cheerful young girl, sometimes her demeanor would abruptly shift, turning very cold. Moreover, there were occasions when he thought she looked much older than she should have been.

He guessed that those times when she acted innocently and cheerfully were in imitation of the real Avril…

And Victorique had said that this impostor of Avril was also the second Cuiaran.

“…Hold on a minute. That would mean…” Kazuya jumped up, remembering where the fake Avril—the second Cuiaran—was this very moment.

“At the library! V-Victorique!?”

“What’s wrong?”

Kazuya handed Avril to the inspector, then dashed out of the storehouse. The inspector called after him in alarm. “Kujou?!”

“The second Cuiaran went to the library. I don’t know what she’s trying to do… But that’s where Victorique is! A little girl, all by herself…”

Kazuya ran down the gravel path.

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