A warm spring breeze drifted through the school grounds, stirring the blooming flowers in their beds, and the blades of grass on the green lawn.
Kazuya walked along the white pebbled path leading from the library until reaching the front of the school building. He arrived just in time to see Inspector de Blois’ two deputies confiscating Cuiaran’s two stolen works of art as evidence, with one of them carrying away Countess Ashenden’s necklace, the “Poison Flower,” and the other one hoisting the famous painting, the “South Atlantic,” off the premises.
Avril Bradley, the transfer student from England, sorrowfully watched them go. Kazuya carefully approached from behind her, and noticed that she was gazing not at the sparkling necklace, but at the large painting. “I always thought girls preferred jewels over artwork,” he called out to her.
Avril turned around, startled. When she saw Kazuya, she smiled at him, then stretched out a long, lissome arm and pointed at the painting. “That painting is supposed to be of the South Atlantic sea, right? It’s lovely! You know, my grandpa passed away.”
“Oh…” Kazuya, walking alongside Avril, bowed his head. He had read about Sir Bradley’s death in the newspaper while he was still in his home country. The famed explorer, on a certain day in his sixtieth year, had gotten in a hot air balloon…. Yes, and then…
“He set out to make a trans-Atlantic crossing by hot air balloon, but he ended up disappearing over the open sea. Everyone said he was being foolhardy and that he must have been going senile…. But when I look at that painting, all I can think of is how unbearably lovely that sea is.”
Avril smiled sadly, tears beginning to collect in her large blue eyes. Kazuya hastily searched for his handkerchief, and offered it to Avril. She wiped her tears and blew her nose into it, then handed it back to him.
“His hot air balloon disappeared into the ocean, but I’m certain that the last sight my grandpa ever got to see was that beautiful blue sea, just like a peek into paradise. I feel that in my heart.” She giggled self-consciously.
“Avril…” I’ll have to wash that later, thought Kazuya silently as he returned the handkerchief to his back pocket.
A fresh, sweet scent wafted from beds of blossoming flowers. The gravel path beneath their feet made a faint crunching sound with each step of their shoes.
Avril’s face lit up in a clear and unclouded smile, like a flower unfurling its petals. “I wish I could go on adventures to the ends of the earth, just like my grandpa did. Say, I bet the country you come from is a wonderful place, too. I’d like to visit someday!”
“Wow… That’s the first time anyone’s ever told me that. Everyone here seems to think countries overseas are all dreadfully barbaric. Just look at how they even had to nickname me the Grim Reaper.”
“Wait, you didn’t know that yet? …Oops.”
Avril giggled at his dismayed expression. “They probably feel uncomfortable with anything that’s unfamiliar. That’s especially the case with the girls here who come from noble families. But I love learning about unfamiliar lands and unfamiliar cultures. I’m sure there are all sorts of exciting discoveries to be made there. I think the world beyond Europe must be a fantastic place.”
As Kazuya walked with Avril, thoughts of another girl arose in his mind. A girl from a noble family, as Avril had said….
“Kujou, I hope someday…”
That tiny, strange girl, always with an insult at the ready, who never set foot outside of the wondrous conservatory at the top floor of the library, much less outside of Sauvure; that girl, like an enigmatic flower….
“I hope someday I can go far, far away….”
Engulfed in sumptuous dresses as exquisite as flower petals, and yet possessing such a fearsome intellect…. Victorique…
“Are you listening, Kujou?”
“…Huh? Oh, yeah.” Kazuya snapped back to reality.
Avril shot a perturbed frown at Kazuya, who had been staring into space absentmindedly. But at last, the smile returned to her face once more.
The wind blew a little more strongly.
A springtime’s breeze, still tinged with cold…
Rays of mellow sunlight fell upon the school grounds, and gently shimmered upon Kazuya’s black hair as he stood still….
A few weeks later, Avril Bradley, the transfer student and ghost story enthusiast extraordinaire, would tell Kazuya Kujou of the mystery of the ghost ship Queen Berry. He and Victorique would end up entangled in a great adventure revolving around the strange incidents taking place on board that ship.
And in their second adventure, they would come to visit the isolated mountain sanctuary known as the “Nameless Village,” and learn the secrets of Victorique’s past.
In their third adventure, Kazuya would be entangled into a mass disappearance case of people who vanished into the darkness in the capital of Sauvure….
Victorique and Kazuya would end up overcoming various perils together over the next several months.
And then, with their hearts borne aloft on the winds, the seasons around them at last shift from spring to summer.
They would spend a long holiday in the school.
And on the first day of that summer, Kazuya would receive a letter from his second eldest brother. It would feature an answer to Victorique’s puzzle of the pony, and include a challenge from him to her in the form of a new puzzle. The summer memories of Victorique and Kazuya, and of another girl, intertwine….
But that is, once again, an entirely different story….