Hello, everyone. I’m Kazuki Sakuraba. I hope you’ll enjoy my new book, “GosickS: The Reaper Who Comes in Spring”.
It’s my first short story collection. I’m so thrilled!
First, I want to announce something. The Gosick novel series is already up to its fourth volume! But in the timeline, the short stories in this book come before the novels. So these are the tales from the spring of 1924 when the protagonists Victorique and Kazuya first meet.
This work originally began as a single story participating in the Dragon Cup competition, which ran in Fujimi Shobo’s monthly Dragon Magazine. Six writers each submitted a short story, and the readers voted in a poll to decide which one would get serialized. Gosick unfortunately did not win, but happily enough, was allowed to keep running, both in the form of short stories published in the quarterly magazine Fantasia Battle Royale, and as full-length novels. (I want to thank the readers for supporting me for the past year and a half! Thank you so much!)
The story that I submitted to Dragon Cup about the very first meeting between Victorique and Kazuya, who are already acquainted with each other by the time of Gosick I, ended up becoming the first chapter of this compilation: “The Traveler Who Comes in Spring Brings Death to the School”! I naturally hope that those readers who have already been enjoying their adventures in the novels will read it. And as for those who are reading Gosick for the first time, I would also feel quite happy if you were to begin reading from here.
The rest of the stories from chapter two onward were released in Fantasia Battle Royale. They tie together the period between the first chapter in this compilation and the first volume of the novels. After having just met, Victorique and Kazuya find themselves involved in various incidents, and get to know each other little by little. Their interactions are still very brusque at this point. Here you can find out the unexpected origins of Avril, the exchange student from England, which were not covered in the novel series. And then there are baffling cases about a sinister purple book, a mummy knight, porcelain dolls that roam the night, and more!
And the story at the very end, about Victorique’s past shortly before she meets Kazuya, is written exclusively for this collection and was not published in the magazine. It takes place in 1922, two years before the current time in the novels. Little Victorique, the “fearsome grey wolf”, is relocated from the marquis’ tower to the school. And Kazuya, at the end of a long ocean journey, finally reaches the kingdom of Sauvure.
I hope that those who have been following the series in the magazine will enjoy reading this new story.
So, for this afterword, I thought I would write some random tidbits about the story behind how I started to write the Gosick series. At least, that’s what I had intended to write about. Still, over two years have passed since I started this series, and sometimes my memory can get a little hazy….
Well, if we’re going to talk about the story behind my writing, that reminds me of something!
During Golden Week, around two months before this volume went on sale, I was called to be a guest at a sci-fi seminar event at the Japan Telecommunications Workers’ Union Hall in Ochanomizu, Tokyo. The theme I was going to present was “How to Write a Light Novel”. My editor Mr. K-dou from Fujimi Shobo was coming with me, and we enthusiastically discussed a bunch of things together.
The night before the seminar, while I was applying a facial mask and thinking of what I should talk about the next day, I suddenly realized, “…Oh, crap! I’ve mostly forgotten what went on when I first started writing Gosick!” In a panic, I pulled out stacks of notes from old meetings buried at the back of my work cabinet.
As I flipped through the pages in a frenzy… Some largely incomprehensible chicken-scratch jumped out at me, as if someone had left a mysterious dying message.
Below I’ve excerpted some of the parts that I found especially interesting.
“Miss Cécile is actually a robot.”
“She can go through awesome transformations just by removing her head! Because then you can swap out heads and turn her into a different teacher, right?”
“Avril can wield a saber. She’s good!”
“The suit of armor ran away!”
“The ghost inside the suit of armor is a friend … of Kazuya’s.”
“Anyway, there’s gonna be lots and lots of perverts!”
Wh-what the hell…?
Who wrote these suspicious words?
(There may or may not be the vaguest of recollections in the depths of my memory…. I desperately want to make it someone else’s fault, and yet the handwriting seems very familiar…. Oh, man… total confusion.)
The next day, during the panel discussion at the sci-fi seminar, I hesitantly asked Mr. K-dou, “Um, so I found these notes…” and he said, “Huh?” and looked dumbfounded. Yeah, I thought so. I turned around and saw that the other guests looked dumbfounded, too. Yeah, I thought so.
But! I went through a couple sets of those notes, and slowly came closer and closer to the current world of Gosick, and by the fifth set, they weren’t weird at all. Hmm! Even I, as the writer, found it deeply interesting. I was startled, but overall it was a fun experience. (But I’m not going to show them to anybody. I’m making a beeline to the nearest river, so even if you find them floating in the water, don’t pick them up!)
I should probably mention this here…
Actually, since I ended up putting half of the sequel to the story of the stone lion thief that I started writing in the afterword for Gosick I into the afterword for Gosick II, I wasn’t able to put the continuation to that story in the afterword for Gosick III due to the number of pages, but apparently I’m going to continue it here, so I guess I will suddenly segue into the story of my grandfather, the stone lion, and the drowned dog (I tried to write that breathlessly).
Here we go… Sorry for the abrupt shift! But I’ll begin now.
This is a story from the time when I remembered about the stone bookends in my grandfather’s study, and then, with misgivings in my heart, got on a plane at the end of the year, and arrived at my hometown’s airport, while heavy snowflakes danced in the air. (Really sorry for the suddenness…)
Stone Lion Theater (complete edition)
…This time I think I’ll tell the story of “The Other Stone Lion Thief”.
Perhaps the number of people who steal stone lions is shockingly high, because when I really think about it, there’s another person very close to me who has done the same thing. Now, let us tell this person’s story. He was someone unexpectedly close.
On my mother’s side.
I remember that everyone I ran into at Fujimi Shobo’s year-end party told me, “Hey, where’s the stone lion thief?” And I would think to myself, “Why should I bring her?!” My mind was full of stone lions as I returned home.
Feeling a little buzzed, I crawled into bed, and just as I was about to fall asleep, a single vague image floated up from the darkness.
Something weird-looking, whitish grey, with rounded lines…
Two weird-looking somethings…
Oh, I’m so sleepy. I’m falling asleep….
But their outlines were getting clearer. Hmm…? They look kinda like rocks. Oh, I see a face. What am I looking at here? This is…
This… This is…
I jumped up in bed. I was suddenly super alert.
“Hey, it’s those stone lions!”
Now deeply confused, I got out of bed and made a cup of herbal tea to calm myself, and just stood there with the mug in my hand. You know how sometimes in mysteries, when characters end up recalling by chance some unpleasant memory that had been sealed in their childhood? It was exactly like that.
Despite my agitation, my memories were starting to come back to me.
What I remembered was a room that looked like the quiet home library of my late grandfather, at his estate built among the mountains. My grandfather was a botanist who kept to himself. His library was enveloped in a peaceful atmosphere that just made you want to disturb it. In that room, ruled only by knowledge and stillness, there were heavy-looking books that looked like encyclopedias lined up in a row on top of a sturdy chest. And supporting both sides of those books were two stone grey bookends…
The problem was that these bookends were obviously not the kind that you can buy. One could not help but notice that these were none other than the so-called stone guardian lions.
But then I reconsidered: memory is something that can be reshaped, and I might have just now constructed a memory of them being stone guardian lions, only because I had been thinking that they looked like them. So I drank my herbal tea and calmly went back to sleep.
But the next day, and the day after that, I couldn’t shake the feeling that those bookends in my grandfather’s library had to be stone guardian lions, placed there ever so casually.
Not only could I not shake the feeling, but my memories were getting clearer and clearer. Those casual-looking stone lions were … well, not really casual at all, come to think of it. Actually, they felt really alive…
Curiosity was eating away at me.
It was almost New Year’s at the time, so I decided to ask my family about it when I visited them.
Getting there from Tokyo took about an hour by plane. I arrived on a certain day in December to a land of clean air, surrounded by greenery, with snow fluttering down on the ground in big clumps….
“How have you been? Are you hungry? That’s a nice skirt. How’s your writing coming along? Are your friends still weirdos?”
My mom was acting trés nosy when she came to pick me up, but I wasn’t feeling up to it, so I just made some vague replies. Even after we drove back to our home and I went to the living room to rest, I was still feeling antsy for some reason.
The next morning, I finally got to visit the quiet manor where my grandmother lived by herself. I gave her a perfunctory greeting, then headed to the library, which had been left exactly as it was when my grandfather was still alive.
Filled with confidence that those stone lions absolutely had to be there, I opened the heavy oaken door, then…
“…They’re not here?”
The area on top of the chest where the stone lions should have been … was empty.
I quietly left the house, wondering to myself if it had all been just a dream.
I sat in my parents’ kitchen, still thinking about my grandfather, his home library, and the secret of the stone lions. I agonized over it for awhile, and then, unable to get it out of my mind, decided to ask my mother. After all, she was my grandfather’s daughter (well, that goes without saying…).
I stood up behind my mom and called out to her, “You know…”
“What is it?”
“I was just thinking about something from a long time ago…”
“There weren’t any stone lions in grandpa’s library, were there?”
…Even I wondered if my question sounded too weird. There weren’t any stone lions, right?
My mother, who had been humming to herself while preparing the traditional New Year’s foods, suddenly halted in mid-movement, and her slim back trembled very slightly. Then, an eerie silence, full of tension and agitation, fell upon the modern, brightly-lit kitchen.
I held my breath and kept a close eye on my mother’s back. The mysterious thing was that she had become speechless rather than her daughter, when I was the one who had uncovered those unpleasant memories. What’s going on with this feeling of tension…
My mother turned to me. Her expression looked the same as ever, to the point of anticlimax.
She nodded vigorously, then cheerfully replied, “Oh, those? Your grandpa stole them.”
My grandfather was a quiet person. He always wore a frock coat and a felt cap, walked with a stylish cane, and smiled often. He had been one of the so-called “modern boys” who grew up in the Taisho era. Ever since those days, he had always loved Westernized things, and his favorite foods were ketchup and vanilla ice cream (oh, I’m not saying he drank ketchup or anything, I mean like on Napolitan or omelet rice.)
On the other hand, he poured endless amounts of love into his plants, and got to be pretty renowned as a botanist. He was reserved, and there was nothing particularly out of the ordinary about him … well, hold on.
Now that I think of it, each time he went wandering off in search of some plant, he would come back with some weird souvenir. In his quiet, tasteful library, I remember that you could find things like a Boris Yeltsin doll from Russia, or some mysterious kitschy grass skirt (the kind they use for hula dancing?). No, in that case, I get the feeling that it wasn’t much of a quiet, tasteful library after all.
Moreover, there was that time when he suddenly trapped a lost crow in the garden and decided to keep it in a cage as a pet. All he said was, “Well, I just wondered what would happen…” So from inside the quiet mansion, we ended up constantly hearing it cry out “caw!” (translation: help me!), but that only lasted about three weeks until it dropped dead.
Then there was that time when, with a big smile on his face, he suddenly threw his spoiled pet dog into a pond in the garden, and just said, “Well, I just wondered if it could swim…” I was a little girl at the time, and I was so shocked, but mainly scared, that I just burst into tears and started wailing. Then my grandfather, and my grandmother who came out to see what all the crying was about, both erupted into side-splitting laughter at the sight of the dog desperately trying to dog-paddle (actually, it was drowning!).
…I guess he really was a weird person after all.
He probably wasn’t much of a quiet and refined old gentleman. No, he usually was, but I think he definitely had some adventuresome aspects which you wouldn’t expect just from looking at him.
The more I thought about it, the more confused I was getting, so I asked my mom, who was busily cramming food inside containers, “He stole them?”
She nodded, as if it were the most normal thing in the world. “He said that stone lions looked perfect for bookends…”
“Pretty interesting, huh.”
So, what happened to the stone lions after being stolen for the sole purpose of making nice bookends?
On New Year’s Day, I again went to visit my grandmother, and the following is what happened. My grandmother and mother had a jolly time recounting the tale of their “midnight adventure”.
As for the reason they called it a “midnight adventure”, this is why. After my grandfather died, my grandmother and mother started to think maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to keep something that belongs to the gods at home… (they had a point there) and the two of them took the stone lions and surreptitiously dropped them off at a nearby shrine.
They casually deposited the stone lions in an area of the shrine that looked like it could use some, and with a “Goodbye!” and “Thanks for staying with us so long. Take care!” ran away. And then when they passed by again a few years later, the aforementioned stone lions were solemnly ensconced in the same spot as if they had already been there for hundreds of years, looking comfortable with moss growing all over them.
“We did a good deed today, huh?” “Yeah!” said my grandmother and mother, smiling serenely at each other.
Is this a happy ending…?
But when I asked, “So which shrine was that?” one said, “It was so-and-so shrine,” and the other said, “No, it was that other one,” and couldn’t reconcile their memories, nor would each one yield to the other. Incidentally, both shrines were located in famous tourist spots, and didn’t seem at all like the kind of places where you could just drop off some stone lions as carelessly as you please.
Mother and grandmother said:
“What are you talking about? It has to be shrine A!”
“You must be going senile. It’s shrine B!”
“Oh, darn you! You don’t know what you’re talking about!”
“Ha, ha, ha, you’re getting old!”
My mother started to waver and say it didn’t matter which one it was, but the argument over which shrine it was continued.
It was rapidly turning into the very opposite of a happy ending.
Neither of them would budge an inch. My mother was getting a little teary-eyed, and my grandmother was laughing uproariously.
I burrowed into the kotatsu, trying to block out all sights and sounds of the fighting. Eventually, the stress got to me, and I was attacked by a strong drowsiness. Maybe it was because I had been sipping alcohol all day since it was New Year’s, even though I can’t handle liquor that well.
I was roused from my fog by the sensation of being shaken from side to side, with my mother on my right, and my grandmother on my left.
“Get up. We’re going out!”
“Huh? I didn’t know you had plans to go out…?”
I looked up and saw my mother and grandmother on either side of me, glaring at me with their eyes popped out. I’m scared. Somebody save me. Ever since I was a kid, there had been times when the two of them could be even more childish than me. Painful memories ran through my mind like a kaleidoscope.
The two of them jostled me from side to side.
“Come on, get up!”
“The three of us are going to find out!”
I took a closer look at them, and saw that they had already put on their coats and even their scarves, and were completely ready to go out. Th-there’s no escape…! However, today was still January 1st, and either Shrine A or Shrine B would be jam-packed with people paying their respects, which meant massive traffic congestion. Going and coming back from both shrines would take a good five hours.
I slid deeper and deeper into the kotatsu, and (although it may not have been very mature of me) pretended to be sick.
“Mom, grandma, my stomach hurts,” I said in a feeble voice. The two of them exchanged a look and said, “Oh?” “Are you okay, dear?”
Then I delivered the clinching blow: “It really hurts.”
Both of them suddenly assumed more adult-looking expressions, concern clouding their faces (sorry about that…). “Now that I think of it, she’s been looking unwell for awhile now.”
“Then maybe we shouldn’t go out…”
The two of them nodded even more regretfully. And so, this is why I still don’t know what happened to those stone lions, who were dredged up from the depths of my memory like a bad dream. Maybe it’s best if I don’t find out. I hate to see my mom and grandma fight like that.
Let all the bébés of the nation know that adults can end up doing pretty weird things behind your back, even if no one ever likes to admit to it. Now that I’ve reached that conclusion, this story is over…. (the end)
Sorry for getting into that all of a sudden…. Sigh.
Now that I’ve run out of pages, this seems like a good place to write my acknowledgments.
To all of those who have been of huge help to me in writing this, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all.
To my editor Mr. K-dou: although you’ve been busy as ever, getting things done with your incredible skills, I hope you’ll keep on helping me with reviewing and editing for the Gosick series. To the illustrator Hinata Takeda: once again your cute Victorique, costume designs, depiction of the campus, and everything else was awesome!!! I look forward to working with you again.
And to the readers with this book in hand, thank you so much! I am simply happy for you to read and enjoy this book.
My next one will probably come out around winter, which is when I plan to publish the fifth volume of the novel series. After the long holiday at St. Marguerite’s School ends, something long dormant begins to move…. The wheel of history has started turning. What will become of Victorique, and of Kazuya…!?
And right now, Fantasia Battle Royale is currently serializing the tale of the summer holidays that take place between volumes four and five of the novels. Various baffling cases befall Victorique and Kazuya, who were left by themselves at St. Marguerite’s School. The only thing that can solve them is a girl’s “wellspring of wisdom”. The case of the pony puzzle will also be answered in the story of this summer. Please enjoy both series of Gosick.
Well, then, thank you so much for reading up to this point. I hope to visit with you again! Sakuraba signing off.
Prologue — appeared in print for the first time with first edition 07/2005
The Traveler Who Comes in Spring Brings Death to the School — Monthly Dragon Magazine 12/2003
An Ill Fate Befalls Those Who Tread on the Thirteenth Stair — Fantasia Battle Royale Spring 2004
The Ghost of Millie Marle Haunts the Abandoned Storehouse — Fantasia Battle Royale Summer 2004
A Golden Fairy Inhabits the Top of the Library — Fantasia Battle Royale Autumn 2004
The Headless Lady Comes at Three in the Morning — Fantasia Battle Royale Winter 2005
The Grim Reaper Discovers a Golden Flower — appeared in print for the first time with first edition 07/2005
Afterword — appeared in print for the first time with first edition 07/2005
After the Fujimi Mystery Bunko edition was published in July 2005, it was republished in March 2010 by Kadokawa Bunko.
Because the afterword is reprinted from the Fujimi Mystery Bunko edition, all of the information regarding dates of upcoming publications and magazine appearances are from the perspective of the original edition published in 2005.