Gosick I – 1.5

[5]

Alongside a large wharf that faced the Mediterranean Sea were anchored the luxury yachts of nobles and men of means alike, in addition to foreign passenger vessels of exotic design. Sailors of varied skin colors ran between ships and shore in a constant flurry of activity.

A young man stood on top of a sparkling yacht moored in a corner of this harbor. With his horizontally-striped sailor shirt, skin-tight white pantaloons, a scarlet bandanna tied at his throat, and as usual, an aggressive point to his head—it could only be Inspector Gréville de Blois.

Once the inspector caught sight of Kazuya and Victorique, he cheerfully waved. “Ahoy there, matey!”

Kazuya waved back weakly, his face the picture of exhaustion.

Inspector de Blois nimbly jumped down from the boat and landed in front of them, whereupon he held one foot out and assumed an exaggerated pose. Then a perturbed look suddenly crossed his face. “I’ve been wondering about this for a while now, but can you explain to me again how I ended up spending the weekend with you two?”

“It’s been baffling me, too. …Nice yacht, isn’t it?”

“I’ve named it ‘The Blois.’ By the way, Kujou.” The inspector’s expression abruptly turned serious. He bent down at the waist so that Victorique, standing beside them, could also listen—since their height difference would otherwise be at least forty centimeters—and whispered, “Now, about that first gunshot fired in the neighboring room…”

“Inspector, you’re taking advantage of Victorique again—” cried Kazuya, his temper flaring up, but Victorique nudged him to stay quiet. When he peeked at her face and saw that her expression indicated that she wanted to listen, he reluctantly fell silent.

“What that bullet hit was a mirror, and it shattered into dust. Apparently, Roxane used it for her fortune-telling. It seems to have been an old and pedigreed antique.”

“A magic mirror, you say…” murmured Victorique.

Inspector de Blois shuddered. “There were a lot of tools in her room that she used for fortune-telling. We also found—”

“A silver jar full of wine, a copper jar filled with oil, and a glass jar with water in it.”

The inspector made a choked noise, and he stared at Victorique as if looking upon something terrifying.

Victorique shrugged her shoulders. “These are all tools used for divination, Gréville.”

“You sure know a lot about that sort of thing. Even though you didn’t even know how to buy a train ticket,” interrupted Kazuya. He was crestfallen when the other two didn’t respond.

“And then there’s that Arab maid…” continued the inspector.

“Hmm.”

“She’s quite a beauty.”

“Inspector, that was already in the newspaper,” interjected Kazuya again.

“That maid blurted out some cryptic words about her motive. We looked for an Arabic-language interpreter, but couldn’t find any reliable ones, so we’re still unable to fully communicate with her. The translation we have goes something like this.” Inspector de Blois stopped himself, then lowered his voice. “’This is revenge for the box’….”

Victorique looked up and met his gaze.

This was the first time that Kazuya had ever seen the two of them make eye contact. He swallowed hard and watched them carefully, wondering what would happen next, but nothing else came of it.

Then some strange voices rang out from afar. “Inspecto-o-o-o-or!”

“…o-o-o-or!”

The three looked up to find a familiar pair of men speeding toward them. It was Inspector de Blois’ two deputies in their rabbit-skin hunting caps, running up with their hands amiably linked.

“What’s going on?” The inspector puffed out his chest and snapped his fingers at the two men. They halted, and exclaimed in unison, “Inspector, nice pose!” “Absolutely smashing!”

As they offered up insincere praises, Kazuya glared at them out of the corner of his eye. The inspector is so strange because they keep licking his boots like this…. He’ll never fix his hairstyle at this rate….

Kazuya turned to Victorique, about to say the same to her, but in the meantime she had vanished. He anxiously looked around for her, and found that she had jumped onto the yacht and was eagerly inspecting it, apparently seized by curiosity again.

“Inspector, it’s an emergency! The Arab maid—”

“—has escaped!”

The inspector gasped, “R-really?!” and jumped up. He made a start toward the deputies, then seemed to remember something, and came back. “Listen, Kujou, I have to leave right now! You can go on the yacht, but you’re not allowed to pilot it, because I’m the only one here with a license.”

“What?! You’ll let us go on board but won’t let us take it out? …But that’s no fun!”

“I know! Have patience!” the inspector said firmly. Then he took his deputies’ hands and ran off.

Kazuya speechlessly watched them go. “Don’t take it out,” he says…. “Have patience,” he says…. Are you serious?!

Now feeling tired to the bone, he looked over at Victorique. She had just jumped back off the yacht, carelessly dirtying her fluffy, lacy dress, and disheveling the thin strands of her glossy blond hair.

Victorique glanced briefly at the sight of the inspector hurrying away, then airily called out to Kazuya, “Hey, you. So this yacht belonged to the granddaughter of Roxane the fortune-teller?”

“Yup, seems that way.”

“The granddaughter inherited her estate, which means that this yacht was originally Roxane’s.”

“…Yeah.”

“Hmm. So, if that’s the case…”

Kazuya was still disappointed about not being able to pilot the yacht, and gave Victorique only apathetic replies. Sensing this, she pouted, then shoved at him something she had been holding in her hand.

It was a white envelope.

“What’s that?”

“I found it inside. It’s an invitation … addressed to Roxane.”

Kazuya took the envelope and opened it, his curiosity piqued.

They sat on the edge of the yacht and read the letter, which was written in refined French. The contents consisted of an invitation to a dinner tonight on board a luxury ship moored on the coast nearby.

“I’m wondering about this part,” said Victorique.

“Yeah…”

The first section listed the menu, in which the following words were emphasized in distinctly large, ornamented letters.

{The main dish will be hare.}

Hare—

This was the same animal that the fortune-teller Roxane raised in large numbers at her mansion.

The animals that she had her hunting dog hunt down and kill….

And then there was something else—the title of the dinner.

{~A Garden Box Evening~}

“…We’ve heard that word ‘box’ before, haven’t we?” said Kazuya.

“Yeah, we did.”

They looked at one another. Victorique’s expression was already changing into the face she wore when pestering Kazuya with her cries of boredom. He was unable to describe exactly how it was different, but it was a face that he recognized from experience.

Then Kazuya looked back at the yacht.

The shiny, luxurious yacht.

It looked enticing enough … but without being able to move it … it also looked rather dull.

Kazuya and Victorique shared a nod.

“Shall we go take a look?” he asked.

“Mmm.”

*****

They followed the directions on the invitation, and by the time they finally located the ship, dusk had already fallen. An usher was waiting at the ship, berthed at the dim shoreline. After checking their invitation, he let them board.

They seemed to be the last passengers, and the ship soon cast off, moving in time with the sound of the waves.

Huh…?

Once on board, all was quiet. Ever since Kazuya laid eyes on the ship while it was still docked at shore, its color was so dark that it seemed to melt into the night, and one needed to squint in order to tell that it was really a ship, instead of a dark phantom. The smokestack was much too thick for the size of the ship, and it loomed above ominously, facing the night sky.

Kazuya felt a shudder run through his body. Huh? I feel like… he thought to himself, puzzled. I feel like I’ve heard the name of this ship before…. No, I can’t quite recall where. Oh, well.

The ship navigated through the sea as if parting the waters.

The sound of thunder crashed in the distance. Clouds were amassing in the sky.

A name was painted on the bow of the ship in inconspicuous letters.

The Queen Berry, it read…

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