The Dancers of Phantom – Part 03

“I’m her daughter,” Victorique said curtly.

Ginger Pie instantly smiled. “Really? Her daughter? Wow! I have a little girl too. That means Cordelia didn’t die that night. Ah, thank goodness. Being a dancer can be dangerous. Sometimes girls just disappear. I see. A daughter, huh? So poor Cordelia found happiness.”

Victorique was quiet, hanging her head.

Ginger Pie peered worriedly into her face. Victorique could feel her breath, warm as a summer’s day. She pushed the woman’s face back with her hands.

“Ow, that hurts!” the lady exclaimed.

“We’ve been living separately for a long time for reasons. I don’t know how she’s doing, but she’s still alive, at least.”

“Is that so? In that case, I won’t pry any further.”

Victorique sat down on an old couch in the corner of the corridor. The lanterns flickered.

The glamorous photos of past actresses and dancers that filled the walls were staring at them eerily like it was a banquet of the dead. A group of beautiful women who sang and danced as they ran through an era of mania, roaring with laughter. Every face, though smiling, looked sad or angry. It was an odd sight.

“What’s with the odd outfit anyway?” Victorique asked. “You’re the one who looks like an ancient ghost, not me. I was actually terrified.”

Ginger Pie laughed cheerfully. “I’m wearing a costume for a play called ‘The Blue Rose of Sauville’, which starts tonight. I’m playing the role of the king’s mother, the Queen Mother. Not that I have much screen time.”

“There was some sort of press conference going on outside. Shouldn’t you be there?”

She shrugged. “The young actresses can handle that. Not to brag, but I used to be a star dancer when I was younger. My breasts are still as splendid as before, but my waist was half its current size. I remember wearing blasphemous outfits—a Catholic wedding dress with roller skates. We would dance around our manager who was dressed in a priest’s attire. Back then, my body was as light as a feather, and I could do any kind of dance.”

“I see.”

“But getting old is not so bad. I have a little cutie waiting at home for her big mama. And getting old means more wonderful memories. Like the days I spent with your maman. I still remember her smile and her incredibly thin waist. I have a larger build, as you can see, so I played a lot of male roles during shows. We used to do a lot of blasphemous acts together.” She made the sign of the cross and gave a seductive wink. “We did some poor reenactments of Shakesperian plays, like Romeo and Juliet, and Hamlet. Cordelia played Juliet and Ophelia, of course. She looked great! Lovely, tiny, fragile. Oh, how I wish I could have sung and danced with that sweet little girl forever.”

“So you knew my mother well.” Victorique’s voice was weak and somewhat somber. “Back when she was free. Before she gave birth to me.”

“Yes. She told me how she was banished from her village in the mountains for a crime she didn’t commit, and wandered to Saubreme to become a dancer. Every day she drank and sang and danced. Then one night, a red-haired boy started coming to our show. He was a little odd.”

Ginger Pie cocked her head curiously. “Another girl told me that he was an apprentice to a famous magician, and that it was impossible for him to come to our theater every night because he had to assist his teacher on stage. But he really did come every night. It was like there were two of him, one at the magic show and the other in the theater.”

“A red-haired man… Being in different places at the same time.” Smoking her cigar, Victorique gave a small nod.

“One night, Cordelia Gallo just disappeared. The boy stopped coming too. I asked the girl from before who he was working under, but she said she couldn’t remember. I didn’t learn anything else.”

“Ahuh.”

“Anyway, I’m glad she’s alive. As long as you live, things will work out.” She paused and shook her head wearily. “Life in rosy hues.”

“So you’re very familiar with this theater. You’ve been here for almost twenty years, after all.”

Ginger Pie chuckled. “Oh, more than that,” she said proudly.

Victorique got up and started walking to the end of the corridor.

Ginger Pie quickly went after her and pulled her pudgy cheek. “You can’t go there!”

Victorique flailed her arms about. “Wh-Why do you keep pulling my cheeks? You can grab my wrist. Or my scruff, or my dress. Let me go!”

“Oh, sorry. I used to pull Cordelia’s cheeks a lot. It’s just habit.”

“Let go of me, or I’ll kill you.”

“And the way you get mad is exactly the same. Oooh, scary!” Ginger Pie placed her hands on her hips and laughed.

Suddenly she turned serious. She pulled on Victorique’s hand and headed for the theater’s entrance.

“Cordelia’s mysterious daughter,” she said. “The theater’s basement used to be used for shows, but in the last several years, there have been some government officials and aristocrats sneaking in and out of there. It’s just weird. We’ve been told not to go to the basement without permission. It’s a dangerous place for kids. I don’t know what it is exactly, but it smells like trouble.”

Puffing on her pipe languidly, Victorique fluttered her melancholic, green eyes.

The end of the corridor was as dark as the abyss. Straining the eyes revealed nothing. There was an eerie silence in the air, as though a monster was silently waiting with its mouth open.

“Oh, that reminds me. The portraits down this corridor.” Ginger Pie looked over her shoulder. “I think it was around 1900. I had a fight with my father and ran away from my home in the sticks. Back when I just became a dancer in Saubreme, there was a girl who suddenly disappeared. She looked like the popular Blue Rose, Queen Coco. People called her the Downtown Blue Rose, and men were all over her. If only she were here, she could play the role of Queen Coco much better than the two young actresses we have at the moment. Oops, I shouldn’t be mean to them.” She shrugged.

“What was her name?” Victorique asked, suddenly interested. “And how did she disappear? Is it unsolved like the case with Cordelia Gallo?”

Ginger Pie shook her head. “I forgot her name. People just called her Miss Blue Rose. Oh, wait. I remember now. Nicole Leroux. Her disappearance was a little different, though. Aaah! A unicorn!”

Inspector Grevil de Blois had just opened the door and entered. Indeed, his golden, pointy hair looked like the horn of a beast. He was looking around, dragging his heavy suitcase, when he noticed Victorique standing in the corridor.

“There you are, my cursed sister.” He shuffled to her with a face full of rage. “Stop wandering around, you mean, torturous machine!”

“Sister?!” Ginger Pie exclaimed. “This unicorn is your brother? So that means…”

“We’re half-siblings!” Victorique’s roar reverberated throughout the theater.

Inspector Blois and Ginger Pie covered their ears, blinking repeatedly.

“I figured,” Ginger Pie muttered.

“In other words, this man and my mother are completely unrelated.”

Inspector Blois put on a scowl. “It was you who told me to wear this hairdo, though,” he mumbled.

“All cast, gather around!” a theater staff called. “It’s time for the final rehearsal. Let’s go! Chop chop!”

Ginger Pie quickly rolled up her dress, revealing her shapely calves. Exuding a sex appeal uncharacteristic of the Queen Mother, she scurried away.

“I didn’t get to ask her about Nicole Leroux,” Victorique mumbled as she watched the woman go.

Inspector Blois grabbed her arm and started walking.

“Where are we going?” Victorique asked.

“Your left cheek is stretched like dough. Did you pull it yourself? Only the left side? Why?”

Victorique pressed her palms against her face and pushed her cheek back.

Inspector Blois strode down the corridor. Victorique, stumbling as she was dragged along, saw the beautiful portrait of her mother taken a long time ago.

Shadowy, but gentle eyes. A youthful, radiant smile. Life in rosy hues.

“Wh-Where are you taking me, you unicorn?!”

“To the Ministry of the Occult’s fortress, spongy cheeks.”

“Call me that again, and I won’t cooperate.”

“When it comes to matters related to the storm, I’m afraid you don’t have a choice.” Inspector Blois went straight down the corridor.

Soon, a dark spiral staircase leading to the basement came into view. The swirling darkness had an eerie power, making the hearts of those who came tremble. Victorique and the suitcase squirmed as they were dragged into the abyss.

There was an open area in front of the spiral staircase, where large stage props were placed. Victorique, smoking her pipe, stopped.

Noticing the curious look on her face, Inspector Blois said, “The royal palace and the country house.”

“I see.” Victorique nodded softly.

To the left was the interior of an ornate Rococo-style building with scrollworked columns, gilded incense burners, and sculptures of goddesses. The royal palace, most likely. On the right was a cozy building with modest French windows, a simple dresser, and lace curtains. The Queen’s country house that was built in the suburbs.

“Quite the contrast,” Victorique remarked. “The palace is luxurious, while the country house seems quieter and more comfortable.”

“Let’s go! Ah, the dove!”

Inspector Blois glowered at the white dove that was beating its wings on Victorique’s head like it was a messenger from hell.

The Blois siblings glared at each other for a moment. Then they looked away at the same time, and resumed walking.

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