The Great War and Prohibition. It’s no exaggeration to say that those two things screwed up the world.
Seymour thought while driving his car. It felt to him as though all trace of the tears and blood that had been spilled blended with the evening sun, despite the fact that not a single scar from the war remained on the townscape visible through the windshield.
The biggest scar the Great War left behind was the collapse of traditional values. It was difficult to believe that anything was just when standing on a battlefield where ten thousand people had been pulverized in a single day.
A righteous human would live righteously and die righteously. If you conducted yourself righteously, you’d be rewarded righteously. The definition of righteousness was as precise and exact as the international kilogram prototype. Seymour was pretty sure that the people of the past believed the world to be like that to a greater or lesser extent. And in reality, there might have been such a world before Seymour became old enough to be aware of the things around him.
But that world was smashed into smithereens by the countless bullets shot during the Great War. It was a matter of course for the postwar world to be defined by individualism. In the absence of a generally agreed upon set of moral values, it was only natural that people stopped pursuing the path of personal righteousness. Why bother trying to be a paragon of virtue when no one even agreed on what was virtuous anymore?
It was clear just by looking out the window. People were drinking booze, and smoking cigarettes on the streets. The hair and skirts of the women kept getting shorter with each passing year. Vulgar advertisements that screamed for attention as if the world were ending were plastered on every scrap of paper. Illegal conventions were organized by young people, and attended by formerly young people trying to recapture their youth.
The value system that should have existed had broken down, and immoral acts, which had once been restrained by those values, lost their stigma. Morality and immorality had become no more than different hats to be worn when the mood struck.
Seymour widened his eyes as a drunkard with a hip flask in one hand jumped out onto the roadway. He dodged the man, by pulling hard on the steering wheel, crossing over into the opposing lane in the process.
And then there was Prohibition.
How did a law prohibiting the production and sale of alcohol make it through congress and become law? Seymour didn’t understand, and he was pretty sure he didn’t want to know.
However, he fully understood the results. In short, plenty of alcohol continued to be sold at stores, street corners, and diners, just like before, even after the enactment of the law. In the end, the law ended up resulting in no more than a new source of income for the mafia, which had been in this country since the old days. The common people, who saw drinking as a part of everyday life, welcomed any new alcohol producer, even if the source was an illegal organization. Even police officers, who were the ones who were supposed to crack down on them, and members of congress, who were the ones that passed the law, were included among the people who wholeheartedly rejoiced over the existence of bootleggers.
Throughout history, there had never been a time where organizations like the mafia were approved of so openly. And there would probably never be a time like this again.
The Great War, and Prohibition. Those two things broke the world. And when Seymour became conscious of his surroundings, he found himself in that broken era.
That was all there was to it.
“Back then everything was better,” some people said. “We are in the middle of a golden era,” other people said. Seymour didn’t know which of them was right, and he was pretty sure he didn’t want to know.
However, once he considered that there weren’t as many cars around in the past as now, Seymour didn’t harbor an overly strong desire to return to the past.
The designated meeting place was located in a relatively high-class residential area. It wasn’t an area full of exclusively single family houses with big gardens, but neither was it a neighborhood with beggars at every street corner. You could describe it as ordinary, a term that told you almost nothing, except that it was wholesome, but that was a precious thing in this city.
He brought the car’s frame close to a berm, and stepped on the brake. Arbitrarily picking a curb, and being able to park his black Essex perfectly parallel to it, gave him a feeling of satisfaction.
Once the car stopped moving, coldness suddenly permeated it. Without stopping the engine, he took his hands off the steering wheel, and stretched them backwards while making sure not to hit the car’s roof. The sun had already sunken, and the crescent moon, looking like a curved claw, floated in the sky. Gunshots could be faintly heard in the distance. It seemed that the disputes between fellow mafia clans were as intense as usual.
His eyes wandered to the rearview mirror. In the past he had been proud of being tall, but after he had started to ride in cars, the times where he found it annoying instead increased rapidly. He put his forelocks in order, and fixed a faint smile on his lips. One that was more businesslike than what he’d use to call out to a girl walking through the city. This perfunctory smile was primarily to avoid upsetting the other party, as opposed to an attempt to win them over.
He moved a hand towards his chest. While he debated whether he should slide his fingers into the breast pocket, he turned his eyes to his surroundings. It was right when his index finger touched his cigarette pack that he spotted a pair that seemed to be his clients. One man, one woman. The woman was faintly quickening her pace to keep up with the man.
Seymour tapped the underside of the pack, and put the cigarette, which popped out, between his lips.
The man had apparently combed back his bouncy, frizzy, light brown, hair against its will. He reminded Seymour of Tarzan forced into a suit, or a wolf with a collar around its neck. He had a disturbing aura, as if the cloth of his suit was acting to bind violence itself into the shape of a man. He was older than twenty, but hadn’t passed thirty yet – approximately the same age as Seymour.
And then the woman. No, girl?
Seeing the appearance of the girl, Seymour’s cigarette jerked in his mouth.
What stood out most about her was the silver hair extending all the way to her hips, and, her golden eyes, that shone so strongly that they were visible even within the darkness.
Silver hair is pretty unusual, but I don’t think it’s bleach or anything.
It was her face that made him think that. Putting it bluntly, the girl was beautiful. Her hair, which was even crisper than the snow piling up on the street, and her eyes, which seemed to emit a light from within, were eye-catching without being over the top. However, because of the simple beauty of their mere existence, he couldn’t imagine that she would need to doll herself up.
If he were forced to nitpick, he didn’t particularly care for the way the outer corners of her eyes slanted upwards. However, if that was the only thing standing in the way of a relationship with her, Seymour would almost certainly become a fan of slanted eyes on the spot.
“You’re Seymour Road?”
It was the man who posed that question. He had a voice that resembled a growl, fitting his outward appearance.
Seymour pinched out his unsmoked cigarette, and dropped it outside the car. He turned his eyes towards the wolf-like man, but his focus remained on the girl at the edge of his sight.
Judging from her appearance, the girl was probably in the latter half of her teens. He couldn’t be too sure, as her face was too pretty, but something about her facial expression, which lacked any toughness, and her slender limbs, which missed any fleshiness, gave him the impression that she was at an age that could hardly be called adult.
He attempted to guess the nature of the relation between the man and the girl, but gave up on it. When he opened his mouth, his standard questions came out.
“How far does it need to be transported, and how fast?”
“This one, to this address. Within 40 minutes.”
He lowered his eyes at the bills serving as payment, and the memo, which were both passed to him. Fortunately, he could immediately place the address on the map inside his head.
Pheew, that’s great. Nothing makes a man look more uncool than rubbing his nose against a map. If I drive normally, it’ll take around 30 minutes, huh? On the way, we’ll have to cross the bridge spanning over the administrative district, but that’s the most I need to pay attention to. The pay is good as well. It’s not excessively low ─ such requests generally end up being troublesome ─ nor is it excessively high ─ those requests generally end up being troublesome as well.
The girl opened the back door and got into the car. Even though the backseat looked far too big for the girl’s slender body, she politely sat down in a manner that took up as little room as possible, pressing her knees.
The man started to shut the car door, but stopped just before it closed. He peeked into the car cautiously, scrutinizing it with his eyes.
“Oi, be very careful while transporting her.”
“There’s only one kind of careful in my line of work.”
Seymour replied, with the underlying implication that he was always paying appropriate, accurate attention, but it apparently didn’t get through to the man in the right way. Looking displeased, the man shut the door while snorting.
“We’re off. If you want to hold onto something, please feel free, okay?”
He hadn’t expected a reply to his remark, but the girl spoke up. Her voice was slightly husky, like a soft carpet, and a bit lower than he had imagined.
“Would it be better for me to hold on?”
It was the first time that he had been asked something like that.
While stopping the corners of his mouth from curving upwards he replied, “Yes. The departure of a car is dangerous. There was actually a study showing that half of all deadly accidents in cars happen due to a passenger suddenly bumping their head right when the car starts to move. Probably. Somewhere.”
“I understand. I will make sure to keep holding on…!”
Her far too serious response, accompanied by a firm nod, made Seymour laugh deep inside his throat. He stepped onto the accelerator, albeit a tiny bit more carefully than usual. The girl’s hands tightly grasped the seat and door until she was sufficiently convinced that the car had finished accelerating.
As midnight was approaching, there wasn’t much traffic. The city’s residents, long ago spat out by the many-storied buildings that lined the streets of the city center, were mostly within their homes, in neighborhoods like this, by now. The congestion, which lasted from morning till night, had become part of the natural scenery of the city in the last few years, but no trace of it could be found now on the roads illuminated by the street lights.
Seymour turned his gaze towards the rearview mirror. The girl wasn’t gazing outside the window, nor did she harbor any interest or vigilance towards the courier, Seymour. Instead, she kept her eyes down throughout the journey. Her expression didn’t look as if she was engaged in self reflection, rather, it seemed as if her inner self had curled up into a ball, locked up in a birdcage.
Still, how to describe it? I feel like she’s a girl who doesn’t fit in anywhere. Her long hair, her long skirt, and even her dress, all properly buttoned up to her collar; none of it fits with this era. Being in the backseat of a Sedan-type Essex doesn’t suit her at all. However, if someone were to ask me what car would suit her, nothing would come to mind either. Be it a Bugatti, a Lancia Lambda, or a Ford, I kinda can’t feel that it’d appropriate for her to be in any of them. Or, going even further, she’s a girl who doesn’t fit in with this city, be it the aftermath of the war, the individualism, the mafia, the utilitarian pleasures, Prohibition, or even the Jazz spreading in the city.
Having thought up to this point, Seymour remonstrated himself. Not asking 『what』 was Seymour Road’s main selling point. Of course, there was no need to come up with sentimental conjectures about the girl on the backseat either.
Well, be that as it may…
Feeling that her proper bearing and lowered eyes were oddly silly, Seymour turned the wheel slightly roughly as they turned a corner.
The girl’s small yelp. Her swaying head. And her knees, which had been glued together, it was all thrown into disarray. She lifted her golden eyes. Being stared at through the rearview mirror, Seymour made an effort to gloss it over with a serious face. He was satisfied. He had appeased his childish, mischievous, heart.
“Excuse me. The road’s surface was frozen.”
That was a lie, but it was true that the road was dyed white at spots thanks to the snow that fell yesterday. However, the far more dreadful spots were the black areas of the road. Over there the snow had been flattened by many tires over the day, and was now in the process of freezing over again as night had fallen. Those patches were far more fiendish than any snow.
Seymour got very startled when the girl still spoke up because it was something he had done secretively. However, the girl apparently hadn’t noticed Seymour’s childish lie.
“Umm, the window, is it okay for me to open it?”
“Yes, of course. Do you know how? Please be careful, okay? There’s a study stating that half of the deadly accidents in cars actually come from unexpectedly getting stuck in the window when opening and closing it, but…”
“That’s a joke, right?”
The one before was a joke as well, Seymour politely added in his mind.
Even though the girl’s voice carried a laugh, her expression fell somewhat short as usual. The girl opened the window by clumsily turning the handle. The wind blowing into the moving car was biting. Seymour opened and clenched his right hand as his body quivered for a moment. In a flash, his body became so chilled that he could feel the blood flowing to the tips of his fingers.
This might interfere with my driving. Despite this thought, he had no intention of telling her to close the window.
“……It feels great.”
The girl calmly stared outside the widely-opened window. She faintly inclined her body so that several strands of her hair were caught by the wind, floating outside the car. Despite the numbing coldness, she didn’t blink, let alone tremble. She looked as if she might suddenly get carried away by the wind as soon as he took his eyes off her.
The car approached the big bridge spanning across the administrative district. Seymour powerfully stepped on the accelerator.
The girl’s hair was shoved around by the wind blowing into the car. Having her head thrown back a bit by the acceleration, the girl smiled faintly, as if rejoicing over his rudeness rather than minding it.
The world outside the window was dark, with only the city’s dazzling lights standing out. Because the car repeatedly passed lamps atop the bridge, that darkness stood out all the more. Within that darkness, which was far deeper and calmer than that of the ocean beneath them, only the girl’s eyes appeared to shine like morning stars.
Probably because of that. The girl abruptly muttered a few words. He had no clue why she muttered those words, but her voice was filled with her own sincerity, seemingly leaving her no choice but to voice them out.
“The night’s darkness, that’s something decided by people.”
Hearing those words, Seymour lightly nodded his head. He didn’t know the girl’s name or her circumstances, but he didn’t think he would forget this moment for the rest of his life.
This girl, who didn’t fit in with this city at all, seemed to only be at ease within such darkness. And the fact that it was him and his car who provided that environment made him awfully happy. Of course, that was no more than a selfish, strong, emotion soaked with sentimentality, though.
While maintaining a considerably higher speed than usual, he even thought that it’d be nice for this bridge to continue indefinitely. Seymour was gripped by the gentle impulse that now was a time where he could say even something like that.
“…….Can I have you close the window?”
However, what came out of his mouth next were those words.
“Eh? Ah, it must be cold, right? I’m very sorry!”
“It’s not particularly a problem, but, ah…”
Once he ambiguously spoke up, the girl tilted her head to the side with a gesture devoid of ill will.
“It’s Lumi. Lumi Spike.”
“Although it’s not my place to say so after having heard it, it’s better to not tell your name to the people in this city, Ms. Lumi. You never know where shady people might lurk around.”
“But, Mr. Driver, you’re not a bad person, right?”
The girl ── Lumi, hurriedly wound the window’s handle as she spoke. After shrugging his shoulders at her words, Seymour glared through the rearview mirror, and let up on the car’s accelerator.
“By the way, Ms. Lumi, we’re being chased by several rugged cars. Do you happen to have an idea of who they are?”
Several cars were reflected on the mirror’s surface, which had become slightly cloudy due to the wind. Seymour thought they were just parking, but just now each of them turned on their headlights. The parting words of the beast-like man crossed his mind.
『Oi, be very careful while transporting her.』
This city was divided into five administrative districts, many of them connected by bridges. In other words, the bridges of this city were perfect for ambushes.
Lumi widened her eyes. With just that, her mimetic muscles were expressive enough to betray her unrest better than a hundred answers could have done. She quickly cast her eyes, which had been turned outside the window, down.
“……I’m terribly sorry.”
“These things happen. In short, it means those cars aren’t just big fans of mine, huh?”
“U-Umm…please stop the car. I-I think it will be alright as long as they catch me.”
“Alright, you say?”
Lumi raised her eyes, as if that was a matter of etiquette. Her eyes firmly looked into Seymour’s eyes through the mirror.
“If I’m caught, you will be safe. That’s why… I’m asking you to stop the car.”
Seymour answered while properly staring back at her, “I see. I must decline.”
At that time Seymour had removed one hand from the wheel, and was in the process of rummaging through his pocket. With one eye on the pursuing cars, that had sped up, and were continuing to gain on them, he revealed a smile.
“All I wanted to know was whether you had any idea about what was going on. Anything beyond that is my problem, Ms. Lumi.”
“B-But, they are really dangerous! I’m sure they are the mafia or something like that. The lives of others don’t mean anything to them────!”
“Mebbie,” said Seymour with a muffled voice.
His voice was muffled due to the thin gloves he was holding in his mouth, having just taken them out of his pocket. He pulled on one glove all the way to the fingertips, while biting it with his mouth. Next, he held the wheel with just his right hand, and repeated the same procedure for his left hand. A few small bits of the gloves were already indented, and partly pierced, because of Seymour’s canines. Those markings were evidence that he had done this many times before.
“But, I’m a courier. Things like obstacles or interferences are irrelevant.”
Five in total. Two in front, and three from behind. They’ve been slowly tightening their encirclement with coordinated movements, like a swarm of orcas targeting a whale.
He took one deep breath, and, immediately after, he drove his foot into the accelerator.
“I’m simply going to deliver you────okay!?”
It was such a wild acceleration that it almost gave them whiplash. The girl screamed behind Seymour as he swiftly changed gears.
The pursuers probably hadn’t expected Seymour, who appeared ready to comply for an instant when he started to slow down, to do something like that at all. The teamwork of the five cars was praiseworthy, but they had been slightly careless.
The Essex thrust its nose through the small gap in their coordination, created by their turmoil. It was a radical maneuver. He heard the sound of Lumi bumping her head against the door as the car flew past their pursuers, up to the bridge’s end.
“Ah, please hold on tight, okay?”
“Y-You’re a bit late in telling me that!”
Lumi shot back, with tears blurring her eyes, Seymour laughed loudly.
We were saved by the night. Right now, there’s hardly any cars out on the streets. If this had happened during the day, we’d have already caused an accident, or gotten stuck in a traffic jam, which would have likely led to us getting caught by those men while trying to escape on foot.
He recklessly turned several corners. There was no change in the movements and numbers of the pursuers. It seemed as though they didn’t mind stirring up trouble, even if they were in the middle of the city. The reality of the word mentioned by Lumi, Mafia, fully hit him.
“Well, I don’t have a problem playing tag until morning like this, but────”
“Morning is no good!”
Her voice put a puzzled expression on Seymour’s face, but he didn’t look her way.
Seemingly becoming aware of her overly hysterical reaction with a slight delay, Lumi plainly shook her head, while tightly holding onto the backrest of the passenger seat.
“I insist, morning is no good.”
“Hmmmm. Well, morning won’t arrive within our 40 minute window anyway.”
To be precise, 28 minutes are left, Seymour thought after looking at the clock.
“You plan on continuing the delivery!?”
“A situation like this won’t serve for a good reason to stop my job. Man, I really can’t stand capitalism.”
One of the pursuing cars resolutely closed in on Seymour from the side, about to forcibly push his car off the road.
Seymour swiftly stepped on the brake, dodging the car’s oncoming frame. Immediately following, he threw around the wheel, forcing the car into a U-turn by making the rear wheels drift. A pursuing car, which nearly went into a head-on collision due to his sudden turn, veered off in a panicked manner.
While perceiving in the corner of his eye how Lumi, who ought to have held onto the passenger’s seat, was sent tumbling again, Seymour quickly scanned the road.
“Anyway, it kinda looks like a normal escape attempt won’t do us any good. I guess it’s necessary to become slightly unreasonable here.”
“It’s possible for you to get even more unreasonable!?” Lumi, who had almost completely toppled over, frantically yelled at him.
“Yeah, grab on tightly────no, wait! Don’t move!”
“Stay just as you are!”
Lumi was laying almost upside-down. That naturally meant that her long, chaste, skirt couldn’t defy gravity either.
Her pale legs were visible up to the backs of her knees. She had faithfully stopped moving upon Seymour’s sudden, serious instruction, and during that time Seymour concentrated on those legs, with a gaze twice as serious as when he had been focused on the road. Due to the reflection of the light, a faint sheen of sweat – probably because of her nervousness – stood out on the backs of her knees. Even though the city was overrun with that level of exposure, just adding the fact that something, that was hidden by a skirt, had been exposed, made it excessively seductive for some inexplicable reason.
Lumi said that the night’s darkness is decided by the people, but just like those poetic words, I believe that the seductiveness of exposure is also decided by people.
The destination of a car driving straight forward is easy to predict. Likewise, if a man stares right at something…. At the instant Lumi realized that her legs had caught Seymour’s attention, he turned his eyes back to the front.
“Man, that was dangerous back there. Thanks for freezing, you were a big help.”
“Is that true!? Is that really the truth!?”
“Yes, indeed. If you hadn’t done so, both of us would have turned into minced meat on the road.” Seymour declared solemnly.
Be that as it may, their pursuers had been trying to close the distance he had earned through the U-turn while he had been pulling off that peeping. It was the truth that their situation was relatively dire.
Well, it’s just the perfect spot.
They had been approaching an alley that he had been zeroing in on for a short while now. If one were to ask what might be perfect about it, the answer would be the alley’s width, which was narrower than all the cars involved in this chase, including Seymour’s. On top of that, a fire hydrant had been planted at the entrance to the alley.
While heading that way, Seymour sharply turned the steering wheel around.
“Mr. Driver!?” Lumi screamed.
His action might have looked suicidal from the outside. The cars behind them lowered their speed slightly.
Seymour firmly clenched his back molars, and while stepping on the accelerator, he pressed his left foot against the car’s floor, bracing himself with all his might.
Then he called out behind himself, “Please lean against the left side!”
“Here we go!”
The alley was narrow. That meant the distance between the walls was small. The image of himself becoming a chunk of meat, indistinguishable from the car’s frame after crashing into the wall head on, crossed his mind.
In the next moment, the Essex’ right tires hit a curb, bouncing up.
Lumi said, as she stuck to the door like chewing gum. Seymour focused on the car’s frame, making sure to close his eyes partly, so as to not be thrown off-balance, while still heading straight into the alley. Just like that, the Essex plunged into the alley with the wheels on one side airborne.
Seymour could hear a grinding sound from beneath the car’s frame, as the fire hydrant had been somewhat taller than expected. However, that was all. He had lifted the tires on the right into the air, leaving only the tires on the left planted on the ground. Because of that, the Essex could forcibly enter an alley that should have been too narrow to accommodate it.
Crashing sounds came from behind them, alongside an aura of agitation. Someone, who had kept chasing under the assumption that Seymour would avoid the alley, had likely crashed into the alley’s entrance, unable to make a turn in time. Following that, the sounds of many brakes were audible.
Pheew, great. It seemed that none of their pursuers could pull off driving on two wheels in order to follow Seymour.
“Please calm down. At this point it’s no different from driving normally.”
After rocking his body, the right tires dropped onto the alley wall’s surface. Like this, there was no risk of them falling over anymore either. The car sent a trash bin flying. Seymour knitted his eyebrows due to a banana peel, that had turned pitch black, sticking to his windshield.
He invoked the map in his mind. If we leave this alley, we’ll come out on the main street on the opposite side. Our pursuers will need several minutes to reach that place if they take the detour. If it’s only that, diving into another ─ I’d like to spare myself from driving on two tires again ─ alley, and thus getting out of the pursuer’s sight will be easy.
“Alright, we’ll be okay now.”
As they exited the alley, they no longer had to drive on two wheels. When the right tires dropped to the ground, the car bounced up once due to the recoil.
“N-No matter how many hearts I’ve got, it wouldn’t be enough…”
“It’ll be alright now. From now it should be okay to drive normally.”
“That’s great to hear…and, thank you very much.”
Hearing a thanks is really rare in this city, Seymour’s lips ended up twisting in a cynical way.
“Ah, but, it’ll be quite a close call on whether we’ll make the time limit of 40 minutes. Should we use a few more shortcuts?”
Lumi’s scream echoed into the night.
❖ ── ✦ ──『✙』── ✦ ── ❖
What he found at the place of the address was a single house. Not grand enough to have a huge garden, but a step up from being stuffed into a cramped apartment building. The faded paint made it clear the occupant was not someone of class, but they had enough pride to keep the gutters and such in good repair.
Normally Seymour would not have said these words out loud, but he got a bit careless as he stopped the car and let them slip. He had slightly misread his distance to Lumi, and thus he gave voice to something a courier usually shouldn’t ask.
Lumi gave no hint that she minded the question. She leaned forward, shortening the distance between them. She was engulfed by an odorless air that seemed to sting the nose. Her hand was firmly clasping the seat, as if to say that she wouldn’t let go for the time being.
“It’s uncle’s home.”
“Yes. I am, umm……being chased.”
This time he managed to maintain the proper professional distance. In other words, he could nod at her words without showing any kind of curiosity.
Something like loneliness appeared on Lumi’s face in response to Seymour’s behavior. When Seymour saw the emotion on her face, although she tried to hide it, a feeling of guilt strongly welled up within his heart.
In the end, Lumi continued speaking without going into the details, “So, my uncle is here. He will protect me.”
“That’s good. I’m a simple courier, but I dislike stories with too much of a bitter aftertaste.”
“Yes, you really saved me there. Thank you very much.”
Lumi extended her hand towards the door, but stopped. After moving her eyes left and right, she said in a timid tone, “U-Umm, could I have you tell me your name?”
“…. The man who was escorting you already knew my name, didn’t he?”
“I want to hear it out of your mouth. …….Is that a bother?”
It’d be fine to just say it’s a bother and refuse. I’m pretty sure that would be the correct move for a courier. I’ve already exchanged more words with her than I should have in the first place.
Even so, something inside him couldn’t let go of everything that had transpired between them. He answered her despite himself.
“Seymour Road. Please call me whenever you need my service.”
“Okay, Mr. Seymour! Let’s meet again!”
Lumi’s bright smile seemed to even illuminate the night.
Lumi got out of the car. As he saw her off, Seymour thought that that smile was the most valuable reward of the night. After placing her feet on the ground and bowing, Lumi headed over to the gate of the mansion. A middle-aged man came out of the house. Lumi patiently waited for him. The man’s face was dyed with surprise at having a visitor at such a late hour.
Seymour could hear Lumi’s voice through the glass of the car’s window.
“Y-Yeah, good evening. But, you’re────”
I don’t get the situation, but I’m sure she’ll be safe now.
Just when Seymour was about to step on the accelerator, thinking that things were resolved────
An explosion blew everything to smithereens. All the house’s windows simultaneously burst out from within, and the vibration jolted even Seymour’s core within the car. Heat burst forth, and then silence in the next second. What next reached his eardrums, which remained numb due to the explosion’s thunderous roar, was the sound of fragments raining down. Countless small objects, that might have been part of the building, furniture, or even living beings, struck the bonnet of the car.
Turmoil. What Seymour, who had stopped moving, witnessed was a man with a gun at hand, who had appeared from within the grounds of the house that had gone up in the explosion.
He didn’t have time to react in any way. Even his fingers, which were grasping the steering wheel, didn’t twitch at all.
A bullet penetrated the head of the house’s owner. The man’s body crumbled down. The assailant fired further shots into the head of the collapsed man. When the man stopped shooting bullets, the man’s head had turned into mush.
The assailant let his eyes wander. What they settled on next was Lumi Spike, who stood stock still, like she was brain-dead.
And, even more brain-dead was Seymour, who kept grasping the wheel. He knew that he had to get away from here. He fully understood that, but…
His eyes moved, stopping at the figure of the silver-haired girl. What’s going to happen to her if I make off? Such a stupid question popped up in his mind, and the answer to it was as plain as day, without even the need to think about it.
The events taking place happened at the same time. If you were to think about it, it was obvious. A girl simply standing stock still, and a guy sitting in a car. Which was more likely to get away, and which should be killed first.
In other words, the man shot his gun at Seymour,
Lumi thrust herself into the line of fire,
Seymour didn’t know what Lumi tried to say at the moment she threw her body in the bullet’s way. That’s because the bullet, which flew at supersonic speed, churned through her brain. He understood that from watching her head get thrown backwards, and her body collapse after losing its strength, and the dark red spray of blood dancing through the air, as if chasing it.
What the fuck is going on?
Seymour’s mind raced. He watched as the assassin tilted his head to the side, wondering just what to make of the dumbfounded Seymour, then turned around and left. Maybe he decided Seymour was not a member of the household ─ not a target that ought to be killed.
What was left behind was Seymour, who didn’t know what to do, and the corpse of the girl, laying on the street with her head blown open.
Lumi’s face had lost its shape, with her right eye gone. Her hair clung together due to the blood. Her left eye wasn’t visible through her closed eyelid. Her limbs were a mess, pointing in all kinds of directions. The shoe had slipped off one of her feet.
Her mouth was open. That mouth, which had laughed at Seymour’s stupid jokes, muttered something poetic as she watched the sky, and smiled at him at the end, was now a simple hole, gaping wide open.
While gazing at her in a daze, Seymour’s mouth moved on its own accord.
“I-I have to escape……!”
After all, that alone was the truth. There was no way to know when the assailant might change his mind and come back. It was obvious that there was something fishy going on with this situation.
Such a flashy attack was unprecedented for a mafia dispute. Not content to just send a bomb, they even went as far as sending a gunman to shoot any survivors. The reason for doing all that was the girl, the girl that had turned into an object laying sprawled on the ground, or the owner of this house.
That’s why I have to get away at once, that’d be the appropriate response for anyone in this city, let alone a courier,
“……………………Aaaaaaaaaaaahhh, fuck it!”
However, that girl said 『Let’s meet again』.
Seymour kicked the door open and grabbed Lumi’s body. It had a creepy, clammy feeling that made it hard to believe that it had been alive not long ago. Her limbs swayed powerlessly, and the contents of her head spilled out, having lost their enclosure.
Seymour grabbed the girl’s arm, dragged her across the ground for a bit, and then tossed her body into the backseat of his car. He didn’t know what result he could expect from that action, but he felt like he couldn’t leave this place without her.
“Ah, jeez! Come on!”
Returning to the driver’s seat, he slammed the accelerator like he was trying to break it. The accelerating lump of iron allowed him to leave the sweltering heat of the burning house behind.
“Shit, shit! What’s the deal here!? After I finally thought I had done a job I could feel good about for a change!”
He roughly turned the wheel. He knew that the girl’s body was rolling around in the backseat. That tumbling, which he had found charming on the way here, felt awfully eerie on the way back.
In the first place, what’s the point in taking her back home? If I try holding a burial for the corpse of an unknown girl who died in a shooting, or something like that, someone will definitely contact the police, I’m sure.
And if they were to examine Seymour’s job, they would be sure to find as much dirt on him as they wanted.
However, rather than that, “────────Fuuuck!”
The girl had died. Lumi Spike had died.
Seymour had a hard time believing that someone like him was so shaken up over this fact. Today he had been hired to transport her by coincidence, and even though they ran into a bit of trouble, their acquaintance amounted to a single car ride.
Although that was all, he wondered what was going on with him.
“Calm down. Please settle down. Feeling shaky isn’t all that unusual after something like this. That’s right, isn’t it? It’s just all the unusual things that happened today.”
The sirens of a firetruck reached his ears. ‘Someone has probably reported the explosion by now.
The constant rhythm reverberating from the car’s lower frame soothed Seymour’s heart. ‘It’s alright.’ His body was already moving toward a clearly defined goal, namely, gaining distance from the murder scene as quickly as possible.
“That’s right. It’ll be okay. Nothing else could surprise me toda────”
Seymour was shocked to hear a voice coming from the back of the car. He was pretty impressed with himself for not causing an accident right at that moment. Somehow he managed to stabilize the car, which had drifted wildly into the opposing lane, by turning the wheel with all his might.
Then he looked into the rearview mirror.
Without him noticing, the girl’s corpse had stopped rolling around. It’s not that it was gone. It ceased rolling around, and was now sitting upright in the backseat. Its kneecaps were tightly pressed together again, too. The head injury hadn’t disappeared. Her skull still featured an exceedingly dark, gaping, hole. Despite the fact that it was still missing a lot of pieces, the mouth of the girl’s corpse ─ or maybe the mouth of something that wasn’t even a corpse, moved distinctly.
“U-Umm, a-are you okay…?”
The voice was garbled as would be appropriate for a corpse, but Seymour found himself just as unable to form coherent words.
“No, eh, oi, eh? D-Died, shot, your brain! Hey, fuck!”
Apparently oblivious to Seymour’s shameful behavior, maybe because she couldn’t see properly without her right eye, Lumi continued with a care-free tone, “That’s…g-great. A-As long…as you haven’t been injured… Sorry, f-for this. I-I dragged you into my business…”
Lumi choked. Each time her head shook, more of its content spilled out with a glugging sound, and the contents which dropped out slowly slithered back up along her legs, as if trying to return to where they came from by their own will.
Lumi’s lips formed a smile that looked like a spasm. Masochism and self-deprecation. Those emotions, which didn’t seem to suit her, were clearly portrayed on her face.
“I-It’s o-okay. I-I’m a v-vampire after a-all…”
Lumi collapsed with those words, cutting her sentence short. She was as silent as death. However, despite her body not moving at all, the blood and flesh continued to squirm around like insects living in soil. I guess that means she’s not dead. Seymour mused about the word she used.
Even though I should have more information now, I still don’t understand. I have no idea what I might have just gotten myself into, or even what the body on my backseat might be. However, it’s pretty clear that the invisible risks will only keep growing in number.
However, even though he had been thrust into this situation, it was still a fact that the thought of discarding Lumi never occurred to Seymour.
To take his mind off his trembling fingers, Seymour removed one hand from the wheel, and put a cigarette into his mouth. While gnawing on the cigarette without lighting it, he muttered,
“It’s all fine. Nothing else could surprise me today.”