Gosick I – 1.4

[4]

Soon enough, the weekend arrived, bringing with it a dolefully cloudy sky to shroud the silent grounds of St. Marguerite’s School.

The student dormitory overlooked a corner of the campus on the side of a gently sloping hill. Although it was nominally a mere student dormitory, it was actually a residence for children of noble blood. Silk curtains fluttered in the windows of the two-story building, constructed of high-quality oak. No expense was spared in furnishing the interior, from the spacious rooms granted to each and every student, to the dining hall with its sparkling chandeliers.

Kazuya and Victorique were engaged in an argument in front of the dormitory.

“…Why did you have to bring so much luggage?! You’re a strange one, Victorique.”

“This brain of mine has exhausted its intellectual powers to determine the absolute minimum necessary to carry … for travel….” Victorique’s voice trailed off sheepishly.

But Kazuya was red-faced, and he pointed at the suitcase, twice her size, that she had set on the ground. “Why is such a huge amount of luggage necessary for a day trip on a yacht?! It’s almost like you’re running away from home. This is big enough for the both of us to fit inside!”

“If I say it’s necessary, then it’s necessary!” Victorique stubbornly insisted.

But Kazuya wouldn’t back down either. “But why do you need more luggage than I brought when I moved here? And I came all the way from the Far East. Let’s see… It took me about a month by ship to get here. Anyway, Victorique, are you going to carry this all by yourself?”

“Of course not.”

“Then…?”

“You’re going to carry it, Kujou.”

“You dummy!” Kazuya opened the huge suitcase and began to inspect the contents, brushing off Victorique’s fretful attempts to stop him. She protested, “You can’t just open someone’s luggage without their permission…” and followed up with, “This is a violation of my privacy!” and so on and so forth, but at this point, nothing could stop Kazuya.

Miss Cécile, who happened to saunter by, started when she saw the two of them. “…You’re always so chummy together whenever I see you. But … what are you doing?”

“Just in time. Here, Miss Cécile.” Kazuya looked up and tossed something at her. She hastily caught it.

“But that’s my compass…!” moaned Victorique sadly.

“Yachts already have that sort of thing on board. Oh, you don’t need this life jacket, either. And then… One change of clothes is enough, not this whole pile of outfits. Hmm… Why would you bring a set of tableware?! And a chair?! What are you, a refugee?!”

In the end, Victorique was left with only a single bag of a size that she could comfortably carry on her small shoulders, and the two of them were finally ready to peacefully set off on their journey. Kazuya entrusted the huge suitcase to Cécile, and began walking toward the village.

“Kujou, a man like you is nothing more than…” Victorique spoke in a tone of disappointment. “…an overbearing fusspot.”

“That’s not true.”

“They say that traveling tests the bonds of friendship, and even good friends may discover unexpected flaws in each other….”

“What are you talking about? Oh, Victorique, you better run! I want us to take the train leaving at fifty-four past the hour.”

“Ugh…”

They ran to the only train station in the village. It was a small structure, marked with a round clock on a triangular roof. Each time a steam locomotive pulled into the station, the small building shook violently, vibrating the feet of those standing on it.

Kazuya walked up to the ticketing booth, but Victorique simply stood and stared at it absentmindedly.

“Victorique, what about your ticket?”

“…My ticket?”

“You’re supposed to buy it here. Come on, take out your wallet.” Kazuya opened her wallet, but was startled to see it crammed full of bills, and quickly closed it again. He bought her ticket himself, and pulled her by the hand to the platform.

They ran through the crowd of waiting adults like rats running along the floor of a kitchen. The train they intended to board would depart the platform at any moment. Kazuya looked back at Victorique, and tugged her by the hand. She ran as fast as she could, her blond hair streaming out behind her small body. Kazuya lifted her onto the train, and then jumped in after her.

The train carrying them began to accelerate, leaving the platform of the small station behind it with a thundering bellow….

Victorique stood near the door, gripping the handrail, her blond hair whipped by the wind into a puffy shape resembling cotton candy. Her green eyes stared wide in amazement.

The train gradually picked up speed.

Standing figures dotted the vineyards that sprawled over the village … and rapidly sped by, until the eye could no longer follow them.

Kazuya guided the motionless Victorique to her seat. She obediently followed him. They reached an empty booth and sat down facing each other in the hard seats, resting for a moment.

Then Kazuya yelled, “Why did you have to bring so much money with you?!”

“Because it’s necessary.”

“You don’t need that much! If people were to see you carrying around a wallet like that, pickpockets would make you their new best friend. My goodness, you startled me…. Victorique?”

Victorique pressed her small hands to the window frame like a child, riveted by the scenery.

Kazuya took a hesitant peek at her face. He worried that she might be angry after being lectured by him all morning long, but she showed no signs of anger, and merely stared outside of the window in awe, her emerald-green eyes opened wide.

Vivid greenery festooned the magnificent backdrop of the mountains. Buildings and roads slowly multiplied, transforming into city streets. The train departed the mountains where the school was located, and approached the towns.

Victorique took in the changing sights feverishly. On occasion, she would shift her gaze to the train wheels chugging along noisily, or the smokestack spewing black smoke.

She looks like someone who’s never taken a train before…. Kazuya stayed silent, and kept idle watch on Victorique, who stared out of the window hungrily.

*****

Their final destination was a bustling city on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea. It was a large port city, lively enough that it was hard to imagine that it belonged to the same country as their village in the foothills of the Alps. A faint odor of saltwater lingered in the air even as far as the station platform.

Kazuya ushered Victorique onto the platform. This station contained many more platforms than the one in their village, and the ceiling was so high that one could go dizzy just from looking at it. Someone could easily get lost in this place unless they were careful.

Adults who seemed to be old hands at train travel busily rushed to and fro, and red-uniformed porters scrambled past, carrying large suitcases. At this urban station where countless people crossed paths, crowds of travelers came and went on the various platforms. But there were few children in sight. From time to time, the adults passing through would look curiously upon Kazuya and Victorique, who were standing by themselves.

Victorique stood on the platform and restlessly examined her surroundings. Kazuya finally located the fare gate, and tried to lead Victorique there, but she kept darting about deliriously, beside herself with curiosity, and it was quite impossible to move her along. Kazuya summoned up his courage, and took hold of her hand firmly.

Her hand was small. It felt more like he was guiding along his young sister rather than someone who was his classmate from school.

“Don’t slip away from me, Victorique.”

Victorique said nothing, and continued to swing her head around dizzily. Whenever she discovered something unfamiliar, she would ask, “What’s that?”

“That’s an ice cream shop.”

“What about that?”

“A newsstand. …Hey, walk straight, or you’ll get trampled on.” Kazuya wrapped his arms around her small body and crossed the street with her.

The wide street was divided into several lanes where carriages and automobiles sped through without stopping. The sidewalks overflowed with people, deftly navigating the intersecting carriages and cars with sure steps, or boarding carriages. Eye-catching storefronts lined the sidewalks, bedecking the windows with extravagant pastries, dresses, hats, and folding fans.

The scent of salt again wafted through the air. They were getting closer to the ocean.

Kazuya came to a stop, and put his fingers to his mouth to whistle. A four-wheeled coach came clip-clopping up, and pulled over in front of them.

Victorique was amazed. “…Was that magic?”

“This is how you call them. Come on, get in.”

Once they climbed into the carriage, Victorique turned her head to the window, and continued to observe the people and buildings passing by, as if she were seeing something very unusual. Kazuya informed the driver of their destination, and then asked Victorique, “Say, Victorique… You don’t get out much, do you?”

She didn’t reply. But Kazuya thought he saw the look on her face suddenly darken, and decided against asking anything more.

By the time they reached the seaside of the Gulf of Lyon for their meeting with the inspector, Kazuya was already completely drained of energy.

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