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Volume 3 - CH 1.6

Smoking her pipe, Victorique listened to Kazuya’s rhythmic footsteps as they receded further and further away.

The footsteps eventually faded, and after a while there was a sound of the library door opening. After Kazuya had left and the library closed again, the air in the library stopped, leaving only profound silence, as there had been for hundreds of years.

The ceiling-high walls of bookshelves, the majestic religious paintings far above, the long, meandering stairs—everything in the tower was wrapped in stillness. The only thing that moved was the pipe held by the girl in a lavish dress, sitting alone in the conservatory.

She brought the pipe to her mouth and smoked a puff.

Now alone, Victorique’s face clouded with a tinge of loneliness. She opened the fist that she had kept clenched the whole time.

Her palms were small, like that of an elaborate doll. Her fingernails were as small as a child’s, her fingers surprisingly thin. Both of her palms were red and swollen.

A few weeks back, Victorique de Blois had snuck out of St. Marguerite Academy and had gone to a secluded village deep in the mountains. Kazuya, finding out about her trip, tagged along and actually helped her a great deal. But she almost lost him in the process. Desperately, she saved him with her tiny hands. She could not lift heavy things, and she had not once exerted so much strength before that.

The skin on Victorique’s palms was so fragile that even now they were red and swollen to the point of being painful to the touch.

Of course, Kazuya had no way of knowing about the injured palms she kept hidden.

For a while, Victorique stared at her swollen palms as if she were looking at something bizarre. She looked puzzled, as though she couldn’t understand what had happened to her hands.

Eventually, she lowered her palms to her knees with a frown.

She turned to the beautiful kimono on the floor.

Although she had to control herself when Kazuya was present, Victorique was actually completely captivated by the refreshing light-blue color of the oriental garment. She had never seen such a design before. The negative emotions—weariness, boredom, sadness, anger—that had filled her heart until moments ago had vanished. Cautiously, she reached for the curious garment.

The silk was much rougher to the touch than the Western-style dresses Victorique was accustomed to wearing. The water lilies, which looked like they had been quickly painted with a white brush, were flowers she had never seen before. Victorique gently reached for the obi. The fluffy pink cloth was stiff and surprisingly hard. Caressing the beautiful kimono and obi, Victorique let out a faint gasp.

“Ah, how pretty!” she breathed.

With a smile of innocence and happiness that she had never shown to anyone, Victorique repeatedly rubbed her cheeks against the kimono.

The sun was slowly sinking below the horizon.

The red light of the setting sun shone all over the spacious campus of St. Marguerite Academy. Dusk was creeping in on the fountain, on the bridge over a stream, the high hedges.

The riveted library door opened quietly, and Victorique stepped out. With both hands in front of her chest, she walked carefully and slowly, carrying her kimono and obi.

She walked on for a while. She passed by the fountain, crossed a small bridge, and ambled along a white gravel path.

In one corner of the campus, opposite from the library, was a labyrinth of hedges. Large flower beds, about the height of a person, built in the form of a maze. A curious kind of garden loved by the nobility in the Middle Ages.

Gold, light purple, and crimson flowers were blooming in every corner of the square-cut flowerbeds.

Victorique entered the maze in a familiar manner, and like a young ghost sucked into the evening darkness, she completely disappeared from sight.

She walked straight through the flowers that lined both sides of her familiar path, navigating through the maze without trouble. Anyone else would’ve been lost if it were their first time.

She made it through the maze and onto a clearing. A modest front yard. A cozy two-story house, too small for humans. Outside, an iron spiral staircase connected the first and second floors.

Victorique strode swiftly into the small, colorful, candy-like house.

The inside was like a dollhouse. It was lavish, but each piece of furniture was small, as if custom-made, and looked more like colorful toys. In the bedroom was a lovely canopied bed and a mirror stand made of brass. A tiny rocking chair for children sat by the window of the small living room. On a chest of drawers was a pretty plate with a strawberry motif and a picture embroidered with beads.

Thick books were piled high from the floor to the ceiling.

Victorique entered the room with a yawn, but when she carefully placed the kimono and obi on the miniature table, she smiled broadly, caressing the cloth over and over again with her tiny hands.

“Kimono, kimono! Kujou gave me a kimono!” she hummed in her low, husky voice.

She twirled around, and almost fell, but managed to return to her original spot. She gleefully rubbed the kimono again.

She opened the door of a large wardrobe and was about to hang the kimono when she stopped.

“That rascal said to use it as a nightwear,” Victorique mumbled.

She then began taking off her own lavish dress of aqua-blue satin and black lace.

She untied the layers of thin ribbons around her chest, one at a time, from top to bottom.

Still untying…

A little more to go…

Once she was done with the ribbons, she undid the buttons underneath, one by one.

Still undoing them…

A little more to go…

When that was done, she moved to the ribbon and the buttons on her sleeves.

When she finally finished removing all the ribbons and buttons, she took a deep breath, and took off her dress. She removed the pannier—an undergarment like an open umbrella with laces that was attached to the waist to make the skirt of the dress wider—with both arms, sat down on the floor, and took off her rose-stamped boots one foot at a time. She also removed her silk, embroidered socks and put on her soft, ballet slippers.

“Phew…” Victorique stood up.

Without her heels, she looked even much smaller than before. Although her laced camisole, her three-tiered frilled petticoat, and her embroidered drawers gave her more volume, she was still much smaller than when she was wearing the dress.

Stretching as high as she could, she managed to put the blue satin dress back in the wardrobe.

She turned to the kimono spread out on the table. Her face was as cool and expressionless as usual. But there was a hint of joy in her eyes.

Slowly, she reached for the kimono and wore it.

First, the right sleeve.

Then the left.

The kimono slowly wrapped around her small body.

The corners of her mouth loosened.

But as she grabbed the obi, she frowned. “A belt?” she wondered. “There’s no buckle. A ribbon, then? It’s awfully long for a ribbon.”

For a while, she fiddled with the belt like a cat playing with catnip.

“I sense chaos,” she murmured.

Too bothered to figure it out, Victorique began twirling the sash around her fragile, thin waist. She tied it in a ribbon and nodded.

Having grown weary of thinking, she yawned loudly and sat down on the rocking chair. Swaying back and forth, she picked up a nearby book and began flipping through its pages. She lit up a pipe and smoked a puff. She immersed herself in the world of books, leafing through pages endlessly.

Night had fallen. The moon was shining all over the vast campus of St. Marguerite Academy.

The U-shaped school building was empty, and silence reigned in the student dormitory. Apart from the footsteps of the dormitory head on patrol and the faint light from the lamp on their hand, nothing could be seen, and nothing moved.

In the quiet darkness of the campus, a figure walked slowly. She was petite, with shoulder-length dark-brown hair and large round glasses that always seemed a little crooked. Ms. Cecile.

The lamp in her hand glowed orange. Wearing a thin coat over her light-gray nightgown and a round light-gray hat, she ambled along the gravel road.

When she reached the flowerbed maze, she sighed and ventured in. She, too, vanished like a ghost.

“I’m sure she’s around, but considering what happened, I have to make my nightly rounds to make sure Victorique is staying put,” she muttered. “There would be trouble if she and Kujou went off somewhere again.”

With familiar steps, she made it through the maze. She crossed the modest front yard and entered the dollhouse.

The lights were out. Ms. Cecile slowly entered the dark bedroom and directed the light of her lamp toward the canopied bed.

A large frilly pillow. On top of it was Victorique’s little face.

Her long golden hair lay spread out on the sheets. Victorique was asleep, her small hands clasped around her head like a child.

“Nothing unusual here,” Ms. Cecile said, relieved.

Then noticing something off, she held up the light over the bed.

Victorique was wearing an unfamiliar nightgown. It was light-blue and oddly-shaped, tied with what looked like a large, pink ribbon that had almost completely unraveled.

Ms. Cecile tilted her head in thought. It was very unusual for Victorique to do something different. She always went to the library at the same time, came back at the same time, and wore the same nightwear.

Once again, Ms. Cecile shined the lamp on the bed.


The oriental nightgown was quite revealing, perhaps due to Victorique’s sleeping position as well. Her little navel peered out from the top of her pretty embroidered undergarment.

The lamplight shone dimly on her pure white belly.

Ms. Cecile giggled. “You’re going to catch a cold like this.”

She set the lamp down and fixed Victorique’s nightclothes.

With a chuckle, Ms. Cecile left the bedroom.

Victorique groaned and turned in her sleep.

The nightwear that Ms. Cecile had fixed for her had loosened again. She was breathing softly like an adorable little critter.

The night wore on…

Around the same time, Kazuya was at his desk in the boys’ dormitory.

Thick Gobelin curtains hung over the French windows. A mahogany desk stood by the window, with textbooks and dictionaries arranged neatly on top of it. The wall-mounted gas lamp flickered silently.

Kazuya opened the letter from her sister and read it over and over again.

“A Blue Rose paperweight, white cotton blouse. What else, uhh… What’s a tartan collar again? Shoes, socks, pen and ink…”

Kazuya set the letter down and heaved a deep sigh.

Then, pulling himself together, he put a map of Sauville that he had brought with him when he left the country, an itinerary, and a brochure with information on department stores on the table.

He opened the brochure. “Hmm… First the station, which is here. And the department store Jeantan is over here. It’s within walking distance. Where else do I have to go?”

Troubled, he pulled out another document and pondered things over.

Even as the night deepened, Kazuya continued to plan his trip, taking serious notes.

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