『Historic First! Woman Completes the Solo First Nonstop Flight Across the Pacific!』
Seymour sighed, folding the newspaper over its blaring headline and tossing it onto the coat in the passenger seat.
“…Nothing about yesterday, eh?”
There was no mention about yesterday’s shooting and explosion in the newspaper. And not just that. Turf wars between the various mafia families in the city raged on, but very little of it was reflected in the papers.
It wasn’t as though the mafia was controlling the information either.
To put it simply, no one cared. Instead, the most eye-catching pieces covered all kinds of records like nonstop flights, surveys of unexplored regions, and records of most time spent underwater. They didn’t even acknowledge the significance of these achievements, emptily praising them for being achievements in and of themselves.
Seymour usually wasn’t one to sigh, but today one escaped his lips.
There was a distinct feeling of averting your eyes from the truly compelling issues in favor of the sensational. A perverted feeling of having your priorities backwards. Today, Seymour suddenly felt the melancholy of the era weigh down heavily on him.
“────Hey man, you okay?”
The question directed at him through the window felt like the reverberations of last night’s explosion in his head. He pulled down the window, shifting his eyes outside.
“Yes. No problem. I’m on time, right?”
“Yeah, as always. Good work.” An Oriental man with a good build and sunglasses replied, smiling at him.
Seymour wasn’t familiar enough with foreigners to be able to guess an exact age, but he was probably at an age where he could pass as Seymour’s dad. The familiar face and voice made him smile, and he reached over to the passenger’s seat. He picked up three blue cigar boxes with 『Grind the Mill』written on them.
While he was at it, he said in a flat voice that would hide his intent, “You might want to have a chat with the client about this job. The packaging is getting visibly sloppier…or well. More like, they’ve stopped wrapping it entirely.”
It wasn’t his first time delivering a package to this man. Seymour had seen his face once or twice a week for over a year now, and like everything in life, it took them a while to get used to each other. In the beginning, the packages were wrapped up carefully on top of being in a huge dummy case. But, soon the dummy case disappeared and the box itself was just wrapped up in a cloth, and finally, today, the cigars ─ which Seymour had only just discovered were what he’d been delivering all along ─ had been left uncovered.
Seymour never asked『what』as a rule, but he couldn’t help it since the client hadn’t even wrapped it this time around. Seemingly understanding what Seymour, who was fighting back a grimace, was thinking, the man chuckled lightly.
“It simply means that your work deserves this much trust.” The job should have been finished with the hand-over of the cigars, however the man kept talking, “By the way, here.”
He thrust several bills through the window.
“Pardon? I have already received my payment.”
“That’s not it. Your car, look, it stinks.”
During yesterday’s uproar, various things had made their way into Seymour’s Essex. The smell of gunpowder and ash was much harder to get rid of than that of garbage. There were also stains here and there all over the black frame of the car.
“This should be enough for a car wash. It’s vital to your work, so you should take proper care of it.”
“Then I’ll gratefully accept your kindness.”
“Don’t worry ’bout it. Just earn enough cash to afford this kind of thing, at least.”
“Ahaha, not everything in life is about money, though.”
“Whoa, how deep, dude.”
After the man has seen him off with a teasing laugh, Seymour exhaled in relief.
No car chase, no explosions, and of course no gunshots or death either. Wonderful. A very ordinary, everyday job. Well, ordinary is quite the rarity in this city, though.
Although the afternoon traffic couldn’t be described as a traffic jam, it was still congested enough to make Seymour tap his pedals impatiently. After confirming that it was safe in front, he took a peek at the back seat. The abnormality was quite obvious even at a glance. The Essex’ back seat was clean and tidy when compared to the car’s exterior, even though it had been covered in a girl’s blood and flesh just yesterday.
Seymour hadn’t done anything that could be called cleaning. And even if he had diligently scrubbed the whole seat, the putrid stench that the stains had given off yesterday should still be clinging to it.
“Well, in other words, c’est la vie.”
After driving for another 30 minutes, Seymour’s home came into view. Although the only person who would recognise it as a home was Seymour. It was one of many garages lining this street on the outskirts of town. A perpetual salty sea breeze travelled up the river beside the street from the nearby ocean.
Seymour stopped the car in front of the garage that broadly resembled a giant dog house. He got out of his car and rolled his neck. Then sneezed. This neighborhood was often referred to as an industrial area, and had the charm of being deserted except for the periods when the various workers clocked in or out in the morning and evening, but only the bad air produced by the factory across the street was a distinct drawback.
He took the key out of his pocket and inserted it into the keyhole. As he grabbed the shutter, the rust rubbed against his palm. He liked the rough, brittle texture, and thus he didn’t go out of his way to remove the rust. Shoving the shutter twice to get it fully open, both accompanied by loud jarring screeches that threatened to bring the whole place down, he drove into the garage.
The garage itself was a cramped hole that seemed too small even though there was only one car, a tool shelf and a few materials strewn about. With the window shut, the only light source was a naked bulb that hung from the ceiling, coloring the stagnant air a yellowish-brown. The metallic material of the walls was clearly exposed, though there were some richly colored patches here and there. Those were a result of Seymour occasionally splashing some paint on them for a change of pace, and the various layers of paint managed to come together and vaguely resemble marble.
Seymour climbed the ladder to a small loft above the garage. The small mezzanine floor made the already small garage seem even more cramped. That small loft served as Seymour’s living space. And right now, there was a girl sleeping in the bed.
The girl’s ──── Lumi’s face was quite pretty. The blood and brain matter she had spilled on the back seat of the Essex last night had now settled back in her head, returning to its previous state. There was no doubt about that since Seymour had watched with his own eyes how the blood and flesh had crawled back into her body as if he were watching a movie backwards. And, she had remained asleep ever since yesterday. He had tucked her in with a blanket that more closely resembled a rag with its machine oil stains and burn marks, but her breathing had remained regular and she never woke. The hem of her skirt, which she had been wearing since yesterday along with the rest of her outfit, was riding rather dangerously high.
Making his way through the heaps of miscellaneous goods on the floor, Seymour leaned back on his workdesk and lit a cigarette. He pulled on the wristwatch he took off to drive and stretched out a leg, drawing a metallic trash can to himself. He slowly filled his lungs with smoke with an expression that was a lot more emotionless than that of the sleeping girl.
The trash can had managed to catch the ash of two cigarettes by the time the girl’s eyelids snapped open.
“…….Nh, ah.” A delicate sigh.
Her long eyelashes fluttered like the wings of a butterfly. Seymour covered his mouth with his right hand. The cigarette between two fingers, he pressed it to his mouth before pulling it away to reveal a smile.
“Goood…mooornin’…” Lumi greeted him back properly even as her head lolled a bit.
Only then did her eyes focus. Immediately a red tinge appeared on her cheeks, clearly signaling her embarrassment. Pulling her legs up under her and dragging the blanket up to cover everything from chin to toes, she said.
“Umm……good morning. Excuse me for occupying your bed all night long.”
Those are her first words after waking up in the bed of a man who’s basically a stranger to her?
There was a small chuckle from Seymour, but it was natural and unplanned, unlike a little while ago.
“I feel like you’re an early riser for a vampire. There’s still some time left until dusk.”
The word still didn’t feel quite real to him even though he had said it countless times since last night – vampire. The word seemed to be quite significant to Lumi however, her shoulders betraying how she had started at the mere mention.
“Besides, you look awfully healthy for someone whose brain was all over my backseat just yesterday.”
“What are you apologizing for?” Seymour asked quite genuinely, not intending it as a snide remark or with any sarcasm.
But his tone came out crueler than he had imagined it would, and Seymour suspected that he might be a little irritated.
Just, about what?
He saw a pang of fear flash through Lumi’s golden eyes as she perceptively sensed the sharpness oozing out of his voice.
“Vampire, huh, what’s all that about?”
“W-What’s that about, you ask…?”
“I’m not really knowledgeable about these kinds of things, so I don’t quite know what it entails.” Seymour only knew that term from the fictional stories that could be found on every street corner. “They suck human blood, are weak against sunlight, can turn into fog, can’t cross running water, transform into bats, hate crosses, perish when having a stake driven into their heart, and hate garlic. That’s about as much as I know about vampires.”
“Well, yes, that’s the kind of being I am.” Lumi had a deadly serious look on her face as she agreed with what Seymour had said half in jest.
He lifted an eyebrow, unconvinced, but there wasn’t a single sign that indicated that she was kidding.
The silver-haired girl straightened up on the bed. Lowering the blanket that had been draped over her body, she crumpled it up with her fingers, and confirmed Seymour’s words with a beautiful voice entirely unworthy of a being commonly referred to as a monster.
“I suck human blood, am weak against sunlight, can turn into fog, can’t cross running water, transform into bats, hate crosses, perish when having a stake driven into my heart, and hate garlic. ────That’s the kind of vampire I am.”
Even though he felt like laughing it off, the scene he had witnessed last night still lingered in Seymour’s mind. He couldn’t conclusively decide whether she was a vampire or not ─ it’s not like he could check by throwing her out into the sun right now ─ but there was no doubt that she had survived having a huge hole blown in her head.
‘Usually when people’s brains are splattered outside their head, they’re pretty dead. In other words, she’s definitely not human.
Seymour fell silent for a while. He only pulled himself together once the heat of his cigarette made itself a priority. He took one last puff from the last remnants of the cigarette, and ground it out against the trash can. With it, he easily extinguished the questions swirling in his head.
“I see. Well, then…” The most important question wasn’t whether or not she was a vampire. “…are you being chased by the mafia?”
He was pretty sure the same images that were being dredged up in his mind at the words were flashing through hers as well. An exploding house. A man’s head turned into bloody pulp by gunshots. Gunshots spilling her open.
“………Yes, I must be, I’m sure.”
“I’ve always lived with my mother up until fairly recently. In a small house, just the two of us. But, mother…didn’t come home one day.”
Lumi tearfully swallowed before she managed to get the words 『didn’t come home』out. Seymour didn’t feel like probing any further about this.
“And then I was taken to a much bigger house, a mansion. I didn’t really know what was happening, but there were many men there, and I knew that they were scheming something…bad…….” Lumi’s shoulders trembled, as if she was struggling to breathe.
“……And then, I ran away from there yesterday.”
Seymour’s reply was the same as before, “I see.”
He felt like just saying those two words was a little heartless so he added in a slightly flustered manner, “Okay, I understand the situation. We don’t know who exactly is targeting you, but there’s value in just knowing that the mafia is after you.”
The human-shaped entity before him was a vampire. That was worth something in and of itself. There might be dirty work they would force this inhuman monster to do, or they might simply plan to market her like some panda, tropical fish, or rhinoceros beetle. It was also possible that someone had simply fallen for Lumi’s charm, as unexpected as it might sound. Still, there was no real point in trying to guess their motives.
“You were targeted yesterday, and that’s not likely to have changed today or tomorrow.”
Lumi cast her eyes down. As soon as she did, Seymour felt the mood of the whole room plummet.
“Yes…you’re probably right. I’m still being chased, am I not?”
Then her leather boots landed on the floor with a thud. Her feet had been hidden in her shoes since yesterday, and Seymour idly wondered if they were swollen or in pain. Lumi still looked rather unstable even though she had managed to get up. Seymour lent her a hand.
His hand was flung off as soon as they made contact. But not because Lumi had shaken it off. Some invisible, mysterious force had repelled them from each other. The impact was so strong that Seymour might have stumbled if he wasn’t leaning against the desk. His entire arm was numb, like he had just been electrocuted. The force tore the wristwatch right off his arm, sending it flying into the wall and before it fell all the way to the ground floor with a loud clatter. The force had repelled Lumi as well, bending her arm backward unnaturally.
An instantaneous commotion, followed by an instinctive comprehension of the cause.
Seymour’s wristwatch was decorated with silver. Vampires were weak against silver. They couldn’t touch it. It was a well known fact in vampire folklore. .
That inability to touch silver must have produced the force. It must have been generated to ensure that she never had contact with silver.
That was the conclusion Seymour came to. Lumi’s eyes widened, either from the pain or her anxiety. Her eyes tracked the path of the fallen wristwatch, her teeth clenched and her lips pursed into a thin line.
An apology that seemed to be aimed at no one in particular. But Seymour somehow had a hunch what she’d say next.
“Umm, I’ll leave right now. I’m terribly sorry for imposing on you for such a long time. Thank you very much.” She bowed once, and started to walk off unsteadily, though it was slow enough that her hair remained limp on her shoulders despite her unsteadiness.
Seymour silently thrust his numb fingers into the cigarette pack. He spun the cigarette in his fingers, noting that he hadn’t lost any range of motion.
Bringing it to his mouth, he stopped and sighed. The scene from last night replayed through his mind. Lumi’s long hair fluttering in the wind. The moment that had been so vivid that he hadn’t even cared that his fingers had lost all sensation or that the wind had chilled him to the bone.
He sighed once more.
After making sure that he wasn’t carrying other silver besides the wristwatch, he grabbed Lumi’s hand as she passed him, the unlit cigarette still between his fingers.
“…Do you have somewhere you can go?”
Despite the hand holding her back, she didn’t turn back to look at him. Seymour could only see the back of her well-shaped head.
“Ah, no, that is…I’ve always lived with my mother, so…”
“What about the guy from yesterday?”
“That man is a member of the mafia that kidnapped me. Although he allowed me to get away for some unknown reason…”
Seymour smiled wryly at how she had said it so airily, in complete contrast to the actual words coming out of her mouth. Seymour didn’t give a damn why he wanted to let Lumi Spike get away. In the end, if he really intended to save her, then he shouldn’t have stuffed her into Seymour’s car and caused her to end up all alone.
He felt her warmth through the hand he was grabbing. It seemed that vampires were warm-blooded. And as far as Seymour was concerned, the most solid proof that a person was human was their body temperature. If they were comfortable to embrace, then they were human.
“How about staying with me then?”
He regretted his words as soon as they left his mouth. This was a choice that definitely came with trouble.
Lumi also realized it. She whirled around with wide eyes, before slowly lowering them again.
“But……I can’t trouble you Mr. Seymour, not any more than…”
That made sense. If Seymour had been sitting in his car, he would never have said anything like that. Rescuing a girl being chased by the mafia wasn’t part of a courier’s job description. But, currently his hands weren’t holding onto the wheel, and his feet weren’t resting on the pedals.
“How about this, then. Yesterday that man requested that I escort you home. And that job isn’t over yet. The place I was supposed to deliver you to was blown to pieces before you could enter it.” The corners of Seymour’s lips twitched upward. “That’s why, you see……as compensation, I’ll deliver you somewhere on my pride as a courier. Anywhere you wish to go to.”
Seymour spoke with a level of determination that was quite rare for Seymour, but even so, traces of hesitation still remained in Lumi’s eyes. Therefore, since he was already committed, he added one more brief comment.
“As a special limited time offer, I’ll even take you to somewhere that’s not recorded on the map, okay?”
Though Lumi couldn’t possibly understand the real meaning behind those words, she still laughed softly like her heartstrings had been pulled. She turned around, and for the first time, Seymour saw a faint playfulness in her eyes.
“If you tell me all that, I’ll really depend on you, you know?”
“Of course. Even though I might look like this, my job completion rate is my greatest pride.”
“In that case────” Lumi requested boldly, her seriousness undercut by the smile on her face, “────please take me somewhere safe.”
❖ ── ✦ ──『✙』── ✦ ── ❖
————– End of Part 1 —————
Taking Lumi Spike to a 『safe place』 naturally wouldn’t be a normal, simple delivery job. Seymour and Lumi were both implicitly aware of that fact, but they quickly encountered an issue that needed to be rectified posthaste. Lumi was a vampire, and wounds not inflicted by her legendary weaknesses apparently vanished without a trace. Unfortunately, this was limited to just her body.
In other words, her clothes were a tattered mess thanks to yesterday’s events.
“────Okay, we’re here.”
Because of this, Seymour had driven them to a middle class residential area nearby in his Essex a few hours after sunset.
“This place is…?”
Considering their destination, it was best for Lumi to avoid looking like a 『suspicious woman wearing filthy clothes』, thus she was currently covering herself with Seymour’s jacket. However, the oversized men’s clothing only added to her overall indecent appearance.
Seymour knocked on the door of a white house with a small garden.
“It’s my parent’s home.”
Stepping off the car, Lumi’s eyes widened, “…….Your parent’s home? So, that means your parents will be inside?”
“Why do you look so surprised? Did you think that I was some kind of car part that was manufactured in a factory?”
“That’s not it, but…it’s somewhat difficult for me to think of you as anything but a courier.”
Is that how it works? Well, maybe it’s normal to have trouble with that. Seymour also found it hard to imagine Lumi living the happy life she had before she had the mafia on her tail.
Soon after, a voice could be heard from the other side of the door, “Yes, who might you be?”
“Ah, bro. Welcome home.”
The door opened in front of Seymour as he pouted. A tall and lanky girl appeared before them. She was just slightly shorter than Seymour, but tall enough that their eyes could still meet. Her wavy, voluminous hair was cropped short, making her look rather top heavy.
“I’m back, Sunny. Long time no see.” Seymour deftly spread his arms, clearly asking for a hug.
Sunny readily ignored his gesture, extending a hand towards him instead. She patted down his butt and thighs, then moved upwards, locating and pulling the pack of cigarettes out of his breast pocket. After crushing it in her hands, she grinned.
“It really has been a long time. Hmm, I think the last time you came back home was in summer?”
“You’re probably right since you spent ages deliberating on which swimsuit you wanted to wear to the beach.”
“You tease!” Sunny casually jabbed Seymour’s shoulder.
Then she suddenly noticed the girl gawking up at her next to Seymour with a start. Having said that, it was fairly understandable. When Seymour and Sunny interacted, Lumi wouldn’t really enter their line of sight.
“Eh? Whoa!? What a cutie! Umm, who might you be? Oh, wait, bro suddenly coming back must mean…? Bah, you need to tell us such things in advance, you know!? I wonder, who’s older between us? Are you going to be my big sister? Or my little sister? I have to tell Mum right away! You have pretty hair!”
“Umm, you see…”
“Let her speak.”
When Seymour poked her forehead, Sunny slapped her hand over her mouth and mumbled through her palm, “I’m really sorry! I always end up babbling on end all by myself!”
“N-No, don’t worry. I’m Lumi Spike. Umm, Mr. Seymour is…umm.”
Seymour put a hand on Lumi’s shoulder as she struggled to find a good explanation for their circumstances. He had handled Sunny with a lighter hand.
“This is Sunny, my little sister. And Sunny, it’s been decided that I’ll take care of this girl here for a while due to work. However, various things happened and I couldn’t prepare any clothes or anything for her.”
“Due to work, huh? That’s totally fishy.”
Sunny’s eyes were pinned on Seymour’s jacket around Lumi. Come to think of it, I’ve worn this jacket in front of Sunny before, haven’t I? She’s a fussy one who never forgets small details like that.
“Are you still working as a courier?”
Seymour’s family had a vague idea about his job. The goods he actually delivered aside, at least they knew that he was a private courier who’d accept any job, no matter how shady.
“Yep, it’s a job for that shady Mr. Courier. You’ve still got all your old clothes, don’t you?”
Sunny grew as fast as bamboo once she hit puberty, so she had many opportunities to buy clothes. Out of nostalgia and sentimentality, his sister had kept almost all of those old past clothes.
“Can you lend me some? I’ll probably give them back to you soon.”
“Bro, that’s the tone you use when you don’t plan on returning things… Well, whatever, I’ll lend you some anyway. Hmm, I think the clothes I wore when I was 13 should be just right for her.”
“Which reminds me, I haven’t asked yet either. How old are you, Ms. Lumi?”
“…I’m 19 years old.”
Confronted with her big upturned eyes, Seymour and Sunny’s smiles were strained.
“Okay, I’ll wait in the car then────” Seymour started to say, as if he had expected nothing less, but Sunny immediately cut in.
“You’re not going to greet Mum, bro?”
“…… Hmm, I guess you’re right, I should.”
An unnatural pause, and a mumbled agreement. Ignoring the faintly questioning look in the golden eyes, he asked Sunny to take Lumi with her, and entered the house as well.
Seymour gently massaged the area around his eyes, knowing without looking that his brows were instinctively furrowed. This place was filled with too many memories. As he passed the short hallway and walked into the living room, he ran into his mother. It wasn’t as though she hadn’t noticed Seymour entering, but her eyes didn’t leave the knitwork in her hands.
“Hey, Mum. I’m back.”
Three chairs stood at the long table. Two were lined up at the head, close to the door, and one had been left on the opposite side. The chair that exuded an air of isolation was his mother’s usual spot. She didn’t reply to Seymour’s greeting as he leaned against the door. Seymour sighed, and sat down on the chair diagonally across from his mother.
After sitting down, he noticed a cushion had been put on the chair. Frowning at its softness, he pulled it out and stacked it on top of Sunny’s chair. The cushion hadn’t been there when he came here last time. Although many years had already passed since Seymour moved out, his mother was still buying furniture and other things in sets of three. She probably knew that this fact kept Seymour away from this home instead.
His mother slowly looked up at Seymour’s face.
“Welcome home. Why the sudden visit? Are you going to stay for dinner?”
“I just came to borrow some of Sunny’s clothes and pick up something I forgot. I’m on a job right now, so I’ll leave right away.”
“Job, huh? Did you land a decent job?”
“Not really. I’m still scraping by with my courier service, just like before.”
Sighing in lieu of a reply, his mother got up from her chair. She made a trip to the kitchen and came back with a teacup in her hand.
Putting it down in front of Seymour, she suddenly asked, “You’re not smoking, are you?”
Seymour smiled at her, one of the few people these days who was against smoking.
“I see. I’m glad to hear.” Even as she said this, she patted him down, frisking his thighs and breast pocket.
There was no longer a cigarette pack for her to find. But had he still had one, Seymour would have likely given the same answer, knowing his mother would take the same course of action regardless.
“Are you coming home soon? Look, you’ll need to get a decent job eventually. Why not give school another shot?”
“I’ll think about it. If I feel like it, that is.”
“How about picking up baseball again? You’re still growing, aren’t you?”
It was a conversation they had had the last time he had been here. And the time before. They had had this conversation over and over for many years now, and it had lost all meaning at this point. It was like the cry of a hill myna.
It was his mother’s favorite word. Each time Seymour heard her use it, he wondered how she could say something like that. It irritated him and was the reason he was unwilling to return.
For a little while after that, until he hit the limit of his patience, Seymour spoke with his mother. But, once his patience ran out, he considered all conversation after that pointless and instead knocked back his black tea in one go. It was still so hot that it might have actually scalded his throat.
“Okay, there’s something I came to pick up. I’ll go see if it’s in my room.”
“I see. I understand. Come to me if you need anything.”
Seymour brought his teacup back to the kitchen before he left the living room. He was fairly sure the sweat running down his spine wasn’t from the heat of the tea he had just knocked back.
Knowing he’d regret it if he let out a sigh, he swallowed it down and went to his room. The room had been left just as was during his teenage days, back when he still lived here.
“……Now then, I wonder what I’m going to take back with me.”
Seymour stood in the middle of the room with his hands on his hips, looking around at his school supplies, baseball bat, and various other possessions. He wasn’t in the mood to sit down on the chair or bed. It wasn’t his first time that he had brought the conversation with his mother to a close with the excuse of needing to pick up something. And since he had taken something back with him everytime he used the excuse, nothing of value to him remained in this room anymore.
Looking around the room, he spotted a picture frame on his bedside table.
Of course, it wasn’t the first time he had seen it. This picture frame had always been in this room, and he always felt a strong sense of relief when he saw it, though he would never admit it even to himself.
He picked up the frame. A single picture had been placed into the crude, wooden frame Sunny had made in elementary school. It showed the child Seymour standing next to his mother with an embarrassed grin, a broadly smiling Sunny,…in his father’s strong, military-uniformed arms.
Seymour jumped when a voice came from behind him. He had completely failed to notice the door opening. It seemed like he had been quite lost in thought.
When he looked back, he found Lumi standing there. Inside this ordinary house, her presence was even more out of place. Seymour narrowed his eyes at her dream-like appearance. He put down the picture frame, face down, knowing that it would likely be upright again the next time he visited.
“Yo, something wrong? Where’s Sunny?” He asked.
“Umm, she’s currently packing the clothes for me. So she told me to come find you, Mr. Seymour.” Her voice was more hesitant than usual, and right now, in this situation, that had an especially strong impact.
She kind of looks like she’s trying to imitate a penguin waddle. I guess she must be nervous in a house full of strangers.
“I see. Still, I’m just killing time here, too. Should we chat for a bit?”
“I suppose, we could…”
“I was wondering a while back, but we crossed a river some time ago…are you okay, what with being a vampire and all?”
Vampires being unable to cross running water was one of the core limitations of vampires. On the way to his house, Seymour and Lumi had crossed a river.
Lumi answered the question Seymour had only just remembered to ask, “I hear vampires can cross rivers in coffins, you see?”
“Okay. In other words, my Essex registers as a driving coffin, huh? Not bad.”
Even though he was laughing, Seymour was rather puzzled.
How do I describe it? Lumi kinda sounds like she’s talking about someone else’s problems. It feels a little fake, like she’s reading off a script.
Or you might as well say, she’s a vampire like they are in pictures. A vampire who jumped right out of a story. There’s no doubt that Lumi Spike is a vampire, but the fact that such a stereotypical vampire has been living quietly in this world ─ even though she’s right in front of my eyes ─ is somewhat unreal.
Since Seymour was silent, it was Lumi who spoke up this time, “Umm, is it okay for me to ask you something as well then?”
Seymour braced himself for a difficult question upon hearing her surprisingly firm tone. Seeing the silent permission in his eyes, Lumi slowly breathed in.
“Mr. Seymour, why are you a courier?”
“Hmm? Because I transport things? I receive payment in exchange for delivering their orders?”
“That’s not what I meant. I mean…” Lumi’s fingers fiddled around with the hem of his jacket, clearly demonstrating her nervousness. “Mr. Seymour, you’re a human, and on top of that, you have a place to call home. And yet, to be something as dangerous as a courier…”
The rest of her comment went unsaid, disappearing with a soft sigh. But, Seymour fully understood what she wanted to know.
She was a vampire, had lost her home, and was being chased by the mafia. Things that quite naturally led her to her current circumstances. None of those applied to Seymour. He had a proper place to call home. He had a foundation on which he could rely. And as a human, there was nothing troublesome tied to his fate. If he felt like it, he could stop being a courier today, and nothing troublesome would happen because of it. If he had one of those decent jobs, he would have a steady income, be able to show his face in society, and he might be able to lead a much happier life than he did now.
Or maybe what she really wanted to ask was: Why do people choose to be couriers, hitmen, and join the mafia? For a non-human such as her, it might be incomprehensible why such people existed among humans.
Seymour could only provide her with an answer to the former question. He had no reason to hide it either. His motivations became cold, dispassionate words, and passed his lips, “You see, I had a father. Though he’s not around anymore.”
“There was a war. My Dad was a decent man, had a decent job, and was a decent soldier, so naturally he fought well on the frontlines too.”
If he still had his cigarettes, he would have lit one up. But, his pocket was empty. Instead, Seymour tapped the picture frame next to his bed with a finger.
“And, well, he died. Despite how decent a man he was, his coffin, which I buried, was empty.”
“It’s in the past now. I don’t need sympathy or anything like that. Even with my Dad dead, I wasn’t troubled in any way. His military pension comfortably secured our livelihoods.” With a laugh, Seymour added, “In fact, my life was actually somewhat easier.”
“That’s why, yes, the reason I became a courier is────”
His father, who had lived a decent life, died miserably at the front. His life, which should have become difficult with his father’s absence, became more comfortable instead. And even though he could only believe that something was very wrong with this, he had nowhere to vent his frustrations in this world where everything had been reduced to individualism. And when he realized this, Seymour Road lost all interest in going to school and getting a proper job, making it impossible for him to keep living in this house.
After recapping all of this with a few words, Seymour’s lips quirked, “────basically because money isn’t everything in this world.”
Even though that was one of the few things Seymour believed in, it felt rather shallow when he put it into words. Though it was something that he felt he ought to scream so loudly and passionately that his voice gave in, he had already buried all that passion with his father’s coffin. Ever since then, his words were empty, regardless whether he told the truth or not.
Seymour swallowed down the frustration that threatened to close off his throat with his smile.
Just then they heard Sunny approach the room. Seymour scanned the room, knowing that he only had moments to decide what to bring back with him, and spotted something good.
“Oh, right. Are you interested in reading?”
There were several books in a pile on his desk. He grabbed the pile, tucking the books under his arm before Lumi had a chance to reply.
“Bro! Everything’s ready!”
“Gotcha. We’re coming,” he yelled back, and then added to Lumi, “Ms. Lumi, let’s go.”
Seymour tried to leave the room immediately, but before he could, his hand was suddenly grabbed.
As if mirroring the situation from several hours ago, Lumi had grasped his hand.
“What’s wrong?” He asked, looking into her eyes. They were trembling.
He was well aware that he had spoken about boring, sentimental stuff. And in this city dominated by pragmatism, sentimentality was worth the least of all. If you ever exposed any naivete from your heart, you would only be met with scorn. Because of that, her slightly moist eyes touched an unexpectedly deep part of his heart.
“U-Umm! Mr. Seymour! Would you stop addressing me so formally?”
“I mean, you can speak casually with me. You did save my life. That’s why, please feel at ease around me, just like you are with your family!”
If he was honest, he didn’t really understand why Lumi had suggested this all of a sudden. But, the request was probably her response to Seymour’s words from before. She chewed her thin, well-shaped lips. Noticing that, Seymour realized that he had to answer her quickly, and that he had no reason not to accept a girl’s request to be more familiar with each other.
“Ah, then, let’s go with that. Would Lumi be fine?”
Even though it was something she had suggested herself, Lumi’s eyes widened when her name was used directly. A scarlet tinge, like an overenthusiastic application of rouge, appeared on her flawless white skin.
Restlessly looking around, she looked up to Seymour with all the caution of a small animal peeking out of its burrow.
“U-Umm, I think it’s alright…”
“Okay, can you address me more casually as well then, Lumi?”
“W-With a man…t-that’s impossible…….”
Seymour laughed loudly at Lumi’s behavior, before Sunny’s voice came again.
“Come on, bro! Can you hurry it up a bit!?”
❖ ── ✦ ──『✙』── ✦ ── ❖
————– End of Part 2 —————
There was drama that very night. After visiting Seymour’s family, they had visited all sorts of places, buying almost all the necessities they needed for the time being.
As the first shadows of dawn peeked through the window, telling the kinfolk of the night to scurry back to their burrows, Seymour felt that it was about time to head to bed. He mentioned it to Lumi as he headed up to his loft. Only to be confronted with her suddenly asking, “But, Mr. Seymour, am I not a bother, occupying your bed?”
He almost reflexively replied with “You bet,” but managed to hold it back at the last moment. Waving his hand to dismiss her concerns, he made Lumi sit on the bed, and leaned against the nearby desk. Several tools were dislodged by his butt and fell on the floor with a loud clatter.
Startled by the noise, Seymour jerked his shoulders together, and then, after calming down, answered, “Having said that, there’s only one bed in here either way.”
“What do you do when your friends come over to stay? You give me the impression that you have many friends, Mr. Seymour.”
“Hmm, well, if I have to choose between many or few, I’d probably say that I have many friends.”
“Then why don’t we just do what you usually do then!? I’d feel guilty if I was the only one getting special treatment!”
Lumi probably thought that there was at least one more bed stashed away somewhere, that could be lent out to friends who stayed over. Seymour corrected her misunderstanding as gently as possible.
“I do have friends that come to stay over, but look, they’re all women, okay?”
“…….? Regardless of their gender, everyone requires a bed to sleep on, right?”
“I don’t know how it works when a man stays over, but usually, you see, when a woman stays over, you don’t really need two beds.” With a flick of his finger, he gestured at the small single bed, “Man and woman are normally entwined on top of one.”
Apparently she understood what he was trying to tell her. In an instant, Lumi’s cheeks were dyed crimson.
Seymour tilted his head with a grin, “So, you want to do it as usual?”
Seymour’s face was immediately hit by a pillow. He guessed that the clattering and banging sounds he heard afterwards were from Lumi turning over the bed’s mattress after imagining all the body fluids that had seeped into it over the years.
By the time Seymour removed the pillow blocking his view, Lumi had wrapped herself in a blanket and curled up, looking like a bagworm. Seymour could vividly imagine Lumi’s face scrunched in shame beneath the blanket.
“Thought so. Good night.”
“Have a good night! And sorry for throwing a pillow at you!”
He smiled wryly at her honest apology, placed the pillow down where Lumi’s head was probably situated, and lightly waved a hand despite knowing that she wouldn’t see it.
❖ ── ✦ ──『✙』── ✦ ── ❖
He woke groggily. For a moment Seymour felt as if he had returned to his teenage days. It was a feeling of nostalgia that came from sleeping with his knees squished up against him in the driver’s seat of his Essex. His body remembered the time he had spent on the streets with just this small car as his home.
His internal clock told him that he had slept for about half a day, making it evening now. Sitting up, he stretched and cracked his stiff neck. The discomfort wasn’t so bad; it was proof that he was alive. And then he noticed that the coldness that usually accompanied getting out of bed was absent.
There was a knock against the window. Looking outside, his vision was filled with hair that was more transparent than sunlight. Realizing that Lumi was peeking into the car, Seymour rolled down the window.
“Good morning. Did you sleep well?”
There were two steaming cups of coffee in her hands, indicating that she’d probably made use of the gas stove in the corner of the garage. Seymour extended his hand towards the mug she held out to him, though it was rather excessively slowly since he had a vague fear that the peaceful state he was in, which made the room feel like it had been heated just for him, would be dispelled once he woke up fully.
However, Lumi apparently interpreted his silence to mean something entirely different. Noticing that she had bent forward towards the window, she quickly lifted her head, pressed the cup in Seymour’s hand, and used her free hand to cover up her chest. With a faint, red tinge on her cheeks, she pulled up the collar of her loose sleepwear.
“……Pervert. Things like that…are not allowed.”
The last traces of his peaceful sleepy state leaving him, Seymour smiled bitterly, confident that he wasn’t in the mood for that right now anyway.
“I was just about to see something stunning.”
“It would have been better for you to have remained asleep, Mr. Seymour, if you are going to say such things.”
“That’d be a waste. After all, I wouldn’t be able to see your lovely face that way.”
Lumi was openly embarrassed by Seymour’s flirtatious ramblings. He snorted at her innocence, but it was also true that it wasn’t such a terrible feeling.
Bringing the cup to his lips, he opened the car door, and stretched once more.
“Looks like my place has managed to avoid exploding overnight.”
“I mean, it was quite possible. That’s what it means to be chased by the mafia.”
If he were to be honest, Seymour would need to admit that a part of him hadn’t expected to wake up today.
Being told this by an indifferent Seymour leaning on the car startled Lumi. Recalling the cup in her hand just as she was about to start gesturing, Lumi stop herself just in time.
“B-But Mr. Seymour, you didn’t mention a word of any of this yesterday!”
“Well, the probability of it happening was fairly low. First of all, we don’t know if the other side is even aware of me, right?”
They might have noticed that someone had taken Lumi Spike away, but it wasn’t clear as of yet whether they had identified Seymour Road as that person. The only one who definitely knew about Seymour’s involvement was the wolf-like man, but he had allowed Lumi to get away. It was hard to believe that he’d spill the beans about a courier.
“Umm, low probability means…?”
“The mafia bombs some place every day. The police tolerate that. However, the bombings have been limited to businesses that don’t belong to familia ── trade associations created by the mafia.”
Nominal trade associations had been set up by the mafia – the protection money, which was collected as a membership fee for the trade association, was a source of income for the mafia.
Seymour raised a finger after noticing that Lumi still looked confused, “『The shop was blown up because it didn’t belong to a trade association』. The police can look the other way on this. If you want to know why, it’s because the police don’t need to worry about getting bombed since there’s no familia for them to join. But, 『A private home was blown up because it sheltered someone being chased』. This is something they can’t look the other way on.”
“……Because then it’s possible that they themselves might get blown up as well?”
“You got it. If bombings start happening due to more and more reasons, the police can no longer shrug it off as someone else’s problem. That’s how this works. In that case, the police would put the screws to the mafia, and the mafia doesn’t want that to happen.”
He dramatically thrust a finger in her face 1 , then leaned back and sipped on his coffee. It tasted pretty good for the cheap stuff, a sign of how carefully it had been brewed.
“And at present there aren’t any trade associations for couriers in existence. Therefore, blowing up an ordinary person like me, at least on paper, is a huge risk for the mafia.
────but then again, everything comes down to weighing the advantages and disadvantages.”
The question is why the mafia is chasing Lumi. If the benefits of obtaining her exceed the time and effort of dealing with the aftermath and having some friction with the police, the pursuers might boldly opt for a bombing in the end. Or rather, they should have already chosen that option. In other words, it looks like Lumi’s value to them isn’t all that high,
The explosion from the day before yesterday suddenly came to mind. The destroyed remains of that private residence lay clearly before his mind’s eye. It didn’t look like a place of business. It was pretty obviously a private residence.
The owner of that house was a merchant who did not join a trade association? The destruction of the house itself was part of their objective? Did the need to pursue Lumi change in a short period of time?
Several possibilities crossed his mind, but none of them seemed to jump out as the answer. He lacked too much information to even make an educated guess.
“It’s nothing. For now, let’s get ready to leave once the sun goes down. I’ve still got a job to do.”
The income of one courier job couldn’t be called generous by any standard. It’s often said that there’s no leisure for the poor. Even if I were to take a break from my job, I’d still need to coordinate it with my frequent customers.
“While I’m working……well, I suppose I’ll have you stay at the Holiday. It’s a small, dirty, and rather smelly diner, but it’s safer than being with me.”
In response, Lumi sighed lightly, “A-.”
She lightly lifted a hand, but lowered it right away. Seymour was pretty sure he knew what she was about to say anyway. She was probably worried about being left behind in an unfamiliar place while Seymour went off to another unknown place.
However, he ignored her feelings on this. Even if she were to be tormented by unbearable feelings of loneliness, Seymour would still head out for work without hesitation. Loneliness was an illness, but no doctor could cure it. On top of that, he couldn’t bring Lumi along with him; confidentiality being key to his line of work.
Seymour yawned as he thought it all through. “────By the way, Lumi, are you hungry?”
Hearing the question, she hid the dejection in her eyes with a smile, “It’s okay. Vampires don’t need much food to sustain themselves.”
“Hmm? Which reminds me, I’ve never heard you talking about wanting to suck blood or anything like that.”
“It’s because it’s not like I have to drink every day.” Fiddling with the cup in her hands, Lumi added, “Besides, I can reduce the amount of blood I need if I eat normal meals.”
“You don’t feel an urge to…suck blood?”
“Ah…let’s see, how do I say this…to suck blood, I have to touch and press my lips against someone’s body, so, umm…” She subconsciously lowered her eyes, her expression reminding him of the first time they met. “How do I put it…? These kinds of things…they feel really vampiric, don’t they…?”
“…Do you hate these things?”
“No, I don’t. I mean, my mother was a vampire, too.”
Lumi’s earlier replies hadn’t been fluent. But, there was a pointless fluency to her words just now, as if to emphasize that she had prepared this answer in advance.
Unfortunately, the vocabulary of a courier didn’t include any convenient responsesfor times like these. Not to mention that Seymour wasn’t actually sitting in his car, but was just plain old Seymour Road right now.
That’s probably why.
Noticing his speechlessness, a fleeting smile crossed Lumi’s lips, “No, I don’t…hate them.”
❖ ── ✦ ──『✙』── ✦ ── ❖
A merry humming came from the back seat and reached Seymour’s ears. He looked into the rear-view mirror, and cast a smile at Lumi even as he idly thought that she was reflected awfully clearly in the mirror for a vampire.
“You like them? I was worried what you’d think since they’re old and a bit revealing.”
Noticing him staring, Lumi quickly stopped rocking her legs in time with her humming.
“No, absolutely not! I can’t even express how thankful I am to receive such cute clothes!”
Lumi’s outfit was drastically different to what she had been wearing a while ago. Her extremely long hair had been parted into two and held with ribbons, and her skirt was now knee-length. That alone had changed the entire impression she exuded from something old-fashioned and anachronistic to something hip and modern.
“These blue ribbons are truly wonderful…my mother used to buy a lot of blue clothes for me, saying that blue suited me. These remind me of her.” Lumi stroked her hair as she said that.
None of the strong, complex emotions she had shown earlier towards the word “Vampire” could be seen now. Seymour wasn’t sure whether she was hiding it well, or whether it wasn’t much of a problem to begin with.
Still, Seymour smiled wryly, the shirt’s collar looks way loose at the base of her neck, and those thick tights only make her legs look all the more too thin. It’s almost unreal how slender they are.
“I’m happy to hear that. For the time being, since you’re wearing all these, put on the cap as well. Just in case, okay?”
Sincerely nodding at each and every little thing, Lumi put the newsboy cap on her head. The cap would do little to stop her pretty face, silver hair, and golden eyes from drawing the looks of others, but Seymour believed that it was still better than doing nothing.
Just like that, they arrived at the Holiday. Seymour beckoned Lumi over when they got out of the car, pulling her away as she looked up at the unfamiliar building with keen interest. He knocked against the thin metal door, hearing the clerk shout, “Happy!”
A cipher. At least, on the surface.
The Holiday was a diner that served alcoholic drinks, technically violating the laws. It had been good practice to have ciphers that needed to be answered before entry was granted, though it had lost most of its purpose nowadays.
Seymour pushed open the door, which wasn’t even locked to begin with, and entered the diner. Lumi followed him nervously. Her fingers were fisted around the trailing edge of his cloak. Feeling like a mother bird leading around its chick, Seymour shook his head. He might have laughed back home, but here Seymour was no more than a simple courier. A fully fledged courier did not thoughtlessly laugh at such things.
The instant Lumi entered the diner, there was a multitude of whistles, several of which were low while others were loud and clear, directed at them. The tug of her hold on his jacket became a little stronger in response.
Just as usual, Seymour headed to his seat, second to furthest in, and lightly pulled back Lumi, who tried to sit on the furthest seat, and made her sit on his right side. That was the rule in this place.
“Anyway,” Seymour stretched on his seat, “Madela! How’s business going today?”
The usual old woman sitting on her usual chair answered without looking up from the crossword puzzle she was doing, “So-so, I’d say.”
“I see! Thank you!”
The clerk, who was standing behind the counter like a decoration, revealed a teasing smile.
“Welcome. Your companion is quite the looker, isn’t she?”
“Coffee, please. As hot as possible. What about you, Lumi?”
“P-Please give me the same.”
“『Please』! To think that this word could still be heard in this city!” The clerk immediately pushed two big cups of coffee towards them, accompanied by exaggerated gestures.
Seymour guessed that she had prepared them the moment they entered the diner.
“So, were there any calls for me while I was out?”
“There were several, but most of them expired when you didn’t take them yesterday. There’s just one case still open. They called a little while ago, but didn’t give any details. If you feel like accepting it, umm, I think you’ve got to wait another five minutes? They were quite impatient, and said they’d come over to ask you in person, so it would probably be better for you to wait in front of our diner?”
As the clerk nonchalantly told him this, Seymour sighed lightly.
I wish she’d have told me before taking my order, if she knew all that.
Looking down at his coffee and then at Lumi who had frozen after sipping a mouthful of hers, he silently pushed his cup towards her.
I’m pretty sure the sweat on her forehead isn’t because of the coffee’s temperature.
Seymour took out some small change, counted the coins, and placed them on the counter.
“Oh, right. Please allow this girl here to stay until I come back.”
“Does this place look like a daycare to you?”
“No, I know. It’s a diner, right? Of your place.”
Now that Seymour had indifferently pointed it out, it was now the clerk’s turn to sigh. In other words, Lumi’s safety here was as sure a thing as getting the answer, “So-so, I’d say,” when you asked Madela how business was going.
Of course safety couldn’t be guaranteed if something like a mafia shoot-out took place here, but there was next to no need to worry about vicious pick-up artists or kidnappings of any sort in this diner.
“I leave her in your care.” Seymour stood up.
He reached for the coat he had put down when he sat down, but Lumi beat him to it, holding it up. He was about to tell her to stay seated, but faced with the abandoned puppy look, he sighed in his mind. Seymour headed out the store, judging that it wouldn’t be a problem for her to see him off, at least.
As they stepped out onto the street, Seymour spotted a woman running their way. He asked her, “How far does it need to be transported, and how fast?”
The middle-aged client, who had just reached them, scrutinized him doubtfully. She exhaled white clouds as she gasped for breath, trying to recover from the trip she had apparently made on foot, in the absence of a car.
Seymour was fully aware that he looked like an unreliable teenager, despite his best efforts, and as such felt somewhat irritated at having that reality thrust in face like this.
“…Is it true that you’ll definitely deliver to any place?”
“As long as it’s feasible, yes. It’s a fact that I haven’t failed a single delivery to this day.”
The client wavered for a bit, but lost to her own impatience, retrieving a small package from her bag.
“I’d like you to deliver…….this to my nephew. As fast as possible.”
“Where can I find your nephew? Also, it will make the delivery easier if you have a photo of your nephew.”
“Oh, Mr. Seymour, here.”
Since Lumi was holding his coat out to him, Seymour put his arms through the sleeves. He was just going to get in the car anyway, but he’d feel bad if he rebuffed her polite consideration. Seymour figured that this would be a regular delivery job, but the client’s next words resulted in his eyes widening in shock.
“He’s going to get on the next ship, and head back to his hometown.”
“My nephew, who had been overseas, came back to visit me after all this time, but I completely forgot to give him his souvenir, and then, since I heard that you’d reliably be able to deliver anywhere, I────”
“Which harbor is it!? When is the ship going to depart!?”
“It’s the harbor in the upper area. The San Marina. It’s going to depart……in ten minutes.”
Seymour pulled up his mental map of the area as he looked down at his wristwatch. At the same time, he recalled the typical traffic situation on the streets around this time of the day. His imaginary Essex raced through the city in the blink of an eye.
It was quite clear why the woman had come to Seymour. It was an impossible time frame even by car, to say nothing of the fact that she was on foot. You could even say that this woman was lucky to have coincidentally found Seymour at the Holiday at this time.
She took Seymour’s hand, and asked, “………Is it going to make it?”
All things considered, this was going to be a reckless endeavor. Depending on the circumstances, Seymour might get arrested by the police, or worse, his car might get damaged.
At a glance, the middle-aged woman didn’t look particularly rich. In other words, Seymour didn’t have much hope of receiving substantial compensation for this. As a courier, Seymour reserved the right to refuse any work that did not appear to be profitable.
Just as Seymour plastered a faint smile on his face, about to speak,
“……If I miss this chance, who knows how many years it’ll be before I meet him again.”
the whispered comment stopped his rejection in his throat.
These weren’t consciously voiced words, much less an attempt to gain his sympathy. They had merely slipped out as her heart ached with the thought. Her lips were tightly pursed and she was chewing the inside of her cheek. He had barely been able to make out her mumbled words.
“…… Understood. I accept. It will be delivered on time.”
“R-Really!? Umm, sorry for troubling you with such an unreasonable────”
“Nevermind that. Just hurry and pass me the photo and the present. I’ll leave rig────”
“────Mr. Seymour!” Lumi interrupted Seymour who had interrupted his client.
At the same time, Lumi shoved him from behind, so hard he was actually sent tumbling instead of just staggering forward.
————– End of Part 3 —————
- The sfx used here to describe the finger pointing is very Japanese anime/manga like. Here a picture: https://stat.ameba.jp/user_images/20180220/19/asufazuru/86/c2/j/o0480047514135445834.jpg or another: https://cdn.snsimg.carview.co.jp/minkara/blog/000/040/541/720/40541720/p1.jpg?ct=3177314119aa . You can see, it’s nothing you’ll find used in any RL situation as far as I am aware.