Seymour reflexively got up when the phone rang. However, it wasn’t him, but a regular customer who the clerk called after she put down the receiver.
“May, you’ve got work. I noted down the details, so please take a look.”
Seymour heard May ─ a woman with trimmed-up hair, lots of bare skin and tattoos ─ reply casually and then the sound of someone opening the door and leaving.
After seeing May off to some kind of job with a wave of her hand, the clerk directed a fed-up look at Seymour who was still stuck halfway through getting up.
“What? Is something the matter?”
“……No, nothing.” With a sigh, he flopped back down on the chair. “It looks like it wasn’t a call for me.”
“Well aren’t we all gung-ho about work all of a sudden? Did something happen?”
He didn’t reply. Having not been called for yet another day, he could only come to one conclusion: The Oriental guy with the sunglasses ── the man who always requested for 『Grind the Mill』to be delivered, was dead. Of course, this also meant that Seymour’s theory that his client had been Isaac Nigel had been correct.
One week has passed since the newspaper featured the article about the death of the Blood Familia’s big-shot. Seymour frequently visited the Holiday during that week, and checked all the requests that came his way. However, in the end, the request for him to deliver『Grind the Mill』 never came again.
A job he had received several times a week for more than a year had suddenly stopped. No matter how you looked at it, the reason must be tied to the death of that man.
A heavy sigh spilled out of Seymour’s lips. He took a little sip of the now completely cold coffee. With a grimace, he added copious amounts of milk. By the time he found it somewhat drinkable, he had halved the concentration already, and no matter how much he added it wouldn’t change the fact that mud would still taste like mud.
“Putting that aside, where’s Lumi? She was always following you around like a puppy, but I haven’t seen hide nor hair of her these days.”
Seymour furrowed his eyebrows at the blatant curiosity of the clerk.
“……We had a little fight over our work policy.”
“Hahaha, it’s because you worked her like a horse. We’re talking ’bout you here, so I’m pretty sure you didn’t even give her a proper share of the pay, did you? I mean, anyone would feel like going on a lil’ strike in a situation like that.”
“Ahahaha, I thought she was a girl who doesn’t know how this world works. That’s why.” His mouth moved as if it was a separate entity, giving some random, noncommittal reply.
“You sure look like you truly believed that bullcrap.”
Rather, the issue was that Seymour didn’t feel like explaining that it had been Lumi’s own wish to work.
Today also ended without him being called to work. Eventually, when the eastern sky began to be colored in shades of gray, Seymour left his seat. In the end, the bottom of his coffee cup remained hidden beneath murky fluid.
Hunching his shoulders against the bite of the cold, he headed to the driver’s seat of his Essex. As he was about to get the engine going, his mind wandered to what had been weighing on him over the last few days.
──A request by some nameless man to deliver Lumi Spike to her uncle’s place. Now that he thought about it, Seymour hadn’t quite caught what that uncle had said. In fact, even Lumi failed to say anything of substance.
『Y-Yeah, good evening. But, you’re────』
That was actually all he heard from their conversation. If he disregarded the information that he had been given before the job, Seymour had only seen Lumi ring the bell of someone’s home, and then someone who had been very surprised to see her had opened the door. In other words, it was pretty much certain that it hadn’t been the home of Lumi’s relatives.
Some mafia familia had probably designated the house as a target to be blown up. And Lumi pretended it was her uncle’s home to match the timing of her visit to the explosion.
So that Seymour Road would shelter Lumi Spike.
He turned the key, but the engine didn’t start.
──The request to deliver a gift to the San Marina, and the second attack.
After sheltering Lumi, Seymour hadn’t even tried to take her with him to any of his jobs. It wasn’t because he didn’t want to, but rather because there were too many reasons against him taking her. However, that all changed because of that request.
He was made aware of the possibility that she could be attacked at home or the Holiday, which he had previously considered to be safe areas, and on top of that, Lumi had suddenly proven her own worth during a surprise job.
I can’t really tell whether that job was actually a set-up, but that’s not really important here. However, the reason I took Lumi with me on that job…the sudden attack, and the water tank that suddenly came crashing down; there’s no doubt that all of these were caused intentionally.
He turned the key, but the engine didn’t start.
It’s simple once you connect all these incidents. And that unnatural sequence of events only makes sense under a single premise: everything that had happened between meeting Lumi Spike and now had been in order to make sure that Lumi Spike would accompany Seymour Road ── in order to murder he secluded Isaac Nigel.
He turned the key, but the engine didn’t start.
His irritation reaching its peak Seymour kicked the dashboard with the sole of his shoe. That little movement made him pant heavily. No matter how much he inhaled and inhaled, he felt like there was no air in his lungs. He clearly heard the blood pounding in his ear.
He slammed his forehead against the wheel. Ignoring the loud blare of the car horn, he stayed like that for a short while. He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to ignore what was going on inside and outside of him. He reset his body like a machine, pushing all his agitation away.
Soon the irritation, which had been creeping slowly towards panic, faded away. He calmly grasped the key, and gently turned it. The engine started up, sending its low rumble through his body from below. Little by little he let the regular rhythm of the engine settle his mind.
Either way, it’s a safe bet that it’s in danger.
As for what was in danger, it’d be the way of life of the human called Seymour, and the career as a courier that defined his very existence.
Taking advantage of Seymour’s job, Lumi had murdered someone. This was an insult, not just to Seymour’s personal disgust at the concept of murder, but also to his very existence. Even though she was fully aware of how Seymour had become a courier and why he chose this way of life, Lumi Spike had chosen to use him as a tool.
I have to confront her about it.
Seymour decided while stepping on the accelerator.
❖ ──『✙』── ❖
“Oh, welcome back.”
When Seymour rolled up the shutter, he was greeted by Lumi’s smile. She was holding a plate underneath the flickering, cackling, naked light bulb.
Seymour silently got out of the car, leaving the door open. Staying well within reach of his car, he moved to the boundary line created by the light leaking out of the garage. This way he could jump into the driver’s seat at a moment’s notice. With the engine still running, he just needed to slam the accelerator and the Essex would charge into the garage. Of course, running over Lumi in the process.
“Mr. Seymour?” Lumi called out to him, having seen that he was standing stock still. “You’re not going to come in? Ah, please dust off your clothes before you do that. I’ve been making slow progress with the cleaning of this garage!”
“I made some delicious pasta today, you know? I bought a lot of nice shrimp at a store in the neighborhood. Mother taught me how to make pasta for sad days. I’m quite confident in the taste.”
“Since Ben came over a little while ago, I shared some of it with him. It looks like it came out great. Ehehe, I held back on snacking today.”
No matter how you looked at her, Lumi seemed very much like an ordinary girl, tilting her head in confusion. Her limbs, so white and slender they made you wonder if they knew what muscles were, possessed a softness Seymour was well aware of.
Lumi had introduced herself as vampire, and Seymour had personally witnessed the abilities that that had granted her, but they had been nothing more than idyllic tricks like changing into bats, and he couldn’t quite connect the concept of murderer to this girl in front of him. Above all, her clear fondness towards him, despite looking somewhat troubled right now, had something of an irresistible charm.
He took a deep breath in, holding it for a good while before exhaling.
The determination that he had believed to be so steadfast and tough, dissolved into nothing but softness the instant he saw Lumi’s face.
“It’s nothing. I’m back.”
He felt terribly pathetic. He folded his body back into the car, and drove into the garage. Lumi closed the shutter after him, controlling it to minimize the shaking.
This had happened every day ever since Seymour had seen the news of Isaac Nigel’s death. He understood it rationally. There was no doubt that Lumi had killed the mafia man. She was responsible for his death, directly or indirectly; with the information and evidence in his grasp, it was impossible to conclude otherwise.
Moreover, he could be fairly sure that she wasn’t part of the mafia herself.
Disputes among mafia familia almost never found their way into the news. In other words, Isaac Nigel’s death being reported on the front page of a newspaper meant that the scene of his death did not adhere to mafia practices. Based on that, it also meant that the being called Lumi Spike belonged to an organization of a significantly different and nastier nature than the mafia.
Having said that, Seymour had not confronted her with all these facts even once.
“It does look tasty. But, I don’t really think that it’s a good idea to feed Ben.”
“Is that…so? He appeared to be very happy about it, though?”
“Of course he would. But if you make him happy once, it would be wrong not to do the same next time, right? That’s not a responsibility you should be taking, though.”
“Oh my, but I always make you happy, don’t I, Mr. Seymour?” Lumi chuckled.
Seymour’s face screwed up into a terrible grimace just as he was about to sit down on an empty can that served as a stool, at the table which consisted of a board placed on now empty paint cans.
“In short, that means you’re going to take responsibility for me, right Mr. Seymour?” Lumi’s voice was filled with amusement.
While searching her words for an underlying meaning, Seymour sighed heavily and gave her a somewhat safe reply.
“I give up. Should we invite Ben over for dinner next time then?”
“Doesn’t that basically mean you won’t take responsibility for me!?”
There were hints of fawning and disappointment in her voice. Despite the fact that she was definitely putting on an act, Seymour’s heart throbbed.
A lacking sense of urgency. A weak sense of danger. He understood it rationally. That Lumi Spike was a hitman for some kind of organization, that she had used him to kill someone.
And yet, he only understood it rationally. It wasn’t as though he had actually witnessed Lumi Spike killing anyone, and it wasn’t as though he could call himself an acquaintance of Isaac Nigel either. Even though her crime was an undeniable fact, that very fact didn’t feel real to him. The death of a man, who should have been his acquaintance, felt ridiculously far away. So distant that even when he strained his eyes, he still couldn’t quite see it. And that was the very reason why he could avert his eyes from that reality.
Sitting down to dinner with her like this was bliss. Even though a maelstrom of doubt and suspicion swirled inside him, it was so easy for Seymour to put off dealing with it all that it was actually quite sad.
“Anyway, let’s eat……wait, have I always had this tableware?”
“I bought it some time ago. Ah, I used the money you gave me for buying ingredients, so it’s okay, right?”
“Hee, somehow I get the feeling that the number of things in here that were bought by you has been steadily increasing.”
“Rather, let me tell you: for your information Mr. Seymour, this is the third time you’ve used that fork. You never noticed until now?”
“……Oh, really?” Inclining his head, Seymour brought the unfamiliar pasta to his mouth with the unfamiliar fork. “Yep, it’s great.”
No matter who died somewhere in this city, her food still remained tasty.
❖ ──『✙』── ❖
“Gah, I’m totally bored. Mister, please tell me an interesting story.”
“What’s it all of a sudden with you?”
“Look, I’ve got no work if the night is peaceful. So I’m bored.”
Fran swung her feet to reinforce how bored she was. Seymour noticed a trace of alcohol on her breath, concluding that it wasn’t just nicotine that was currently swirling within her body.
Having decided to take a day off today, Seymour had come here to buy cigarettes. He didn’t even try to hide his bewilderment, shaking his head as he repeated the same words he always said in situations like this.
“The mafia disputes have reached a stalemate, huh? An information broker having nothing to do is proof that the city is peaceful. Please stay like this for the rest of your life, ok?”
“If I just keep sitting around without using my head, I’ll just become fat. Got it, mister? I’ll blow up like a balloon.”
“Just give me the cigarettes…please.”
“Which ones tickle your fancy, dear gentleman?”
“The cheapest ones────the ones right above that.”
“Mister, you truly are unchanging, aren’t you? Well, seems like you might be quite a bit of fun, though. Your current girl seems to have lasted a fairly long time so far.”
“Don’t talk about things beyond your age. Cigarettes.”
“Booo,” Fran puffed up her cheeks. She spun around on the chair to search for the cigarettes in question.
Seymour looked back over his shoulder while bouncing the cigarette in his mouth. Lumi was inside the Essex parked on the road. Noticing him looking, she looked up from her book, and waved at him with a smile. Because her expression was just like it had been before, as if nothing had ever happened, Seymour’s became stilted instead.
It was virtually impossible for her not to have realized the suspicions Seymour harbored about her.
Or rather, Seymour thinking further, assuming that Lumi’s objective was to murder Isaac Nigel, why is she still staying at my garage? Since she’s already accomplished her objective, it would be much smarter to leave as soon as possible and silence me while she was at it.
“…… All things considered, the nights have been truly peaceful.”
For a while, gunshots had echoed throughout the city every night, though no corpses were ever found the next morning. But, now that he thought about it, Seymour didn’t recall hearing any gunpowder explosions over the last few days either.
The dispute between mafia familia, which had been going on for a long time, might have come to a temporary conclusion, Seymour reckoned.
“Mister, something on your mind?”
“Nah, it’s just that things I don’t want to think about keep cropping up in my head.”
Nothing good ever comes from poking your head into mafia matters.
Seymour extended a hand, trying to pick up the cigarette packs Fran had laid out. But, that hand was suddenly accosted by Fran’s.
“I’ve decided to charge a 『somewhat interesting story』 instead of money for today’s cigarettes.”
“I’m sure I asked for the second-cheapest cigarettes, though.”
“Yes. That’s why I’ll give you the cigarettes for a 『somewhat interesting story』. By the way, the cheapest cigarettes would cost you a 『dull story』.”
Seymour’s eyebrows wrinkled in irritation. For just an instant, he seriously considered forcefully shaking off her small hand. But, he didn’t plan on buying cigarettes from any other store but this one, and Fran was a girl.
Seymour leaned forward, transferring his weight to the counter.
“An interesting story, huh?”
“I have high expectations of your taste, mister.”
“Let me see. Did you know?” Seymour started off with a solemn expression. “You are also acquainted with Lumi. That girl is actually a vampire, and a hitman who’s been hired by some organization. So, she hasn’t been staying at my place for a romantic reason, but to extract information from me to kill someone.”
“Ahahahahahahahahaha! That one’s terrible…even for a made-up story.”
It was a big hit. Fran loudly slammed her hand on the counter several times, laughing so hard that the cigar fell out of her mouth.
“Mister, I didn’t expect to find a comedian in you! That wasn’t a 『somewhat interesting story』just now, but a 『very interesting story』. Want me to up the grade of your cigarettes?”
“Nah, I’m cool with these.”
“Really? Okay, then let’s say I owe you one. You can make me a request sometime in the future.”
To hide the fact that he was more embarrassed than he had expected, Seymour chewed on the filter of his cigarette. Taking the packs from her, he tried to walk away, but Fran called after him.
“So, mister, did you cheer up a bit?”
“Aren’t you smoking a cigarette today?”
Putting her middle and index finger together, Fran tapped them on the side of her mouth not already occupied by her cigar.
“A slovenly guy like you usually only comes to buy new cigarettes when you run out. Did something happen?”
A smile reflexively formed on Seymour’s lips, “Who knows?”
“Mister, you’re one of our cherished, regular customers. We’ll go the extra mile for you.”
“……” Without answering, Seymour waved a hand.
Her gentle words just now were obviously calculated. As information broker, Fran was intentionally trying to maintain her connection with Seymour Road. She cajoled him for that very reason. And yet, he was touched by such a ruse, showing Seymour exactly how tired he was.
I’m pretty sure that this is from me continuously putting off dealing with Lumi.
He was living with a killer: it was impossible for that not to weigh on his mind.
“……I really gotta do something about this, don’t I?”
Even as this thought filled his mind, he was mesmerized by the beauty of Lumi’s profile as she sat with her eyes lowered.
My resolve will likely fall apart like a house of cards today as well, and I’ll end up spending an ordinary, everyday life with her while ignoring the matters at hand. From the outset, the man known as Seymour Road is not associated with such attributes as resolve or determination.
That was his belief.
He walked up to the Essex. While he opened the door and got into the car, Lumi stifled a laugh with a hand placed on her mouth. Apparently she had returned to reading her book again. However, Seymour couldn’t catch a glimpse of the book spine in her lap from the driver’s seat.
“You like it?”
“Yes, it is funny.”
Lumi revealed a smile with all the innocence of a girl who had just had her first bite of cake in her life. But, since Seymour had returned, she closed the book with a thump.
At that moment, Seymour managed to see the front cover. It had 『The Four Riders of the Apocalypse』 written on it.
Seymour knew the contents of that book. But that was only natural, seeing how that book had come from his room back home. For this reason, Seymour was aware that the story mostly revolved around wars – a heartrending tragedy where most of the cast died and the plot was pretty depressing the whole way through. And he also knew that it didn’t contain a single sentence you could call funny.
“────About that.” His throat got drier by the second. Seymour had to exert all his willpower to prevent his voice trembling. “Is it really funny?”
Lumi apparently didn’t understand the meaning behind his question since she tilted her head in confusion.
But, she nodded a moment later. With the same tone she used when she had laughed after reading a comedy the other day and a guileless expression , she answered, “Yes, humans doing things is funny to read.”
An ice-cold shudder traveled down Seymour’s spine. It would have been much better if this had been Lumi’s way of intimidating him or elevating herself. It’d have been better if Lumi, who had revealed her brutal nature, had said so with the intent of frightening Seymour.
But, neither of those applied here.
She had simply said what she actually felt. With no intentions of starting a power play, Lumi had merely spoken the truth as it was for her.
“──────I see. I’m glad to hear that.”
Seymour somehow managed to force his trembling hand, which had almost grabbed the door handle so he could escape, back onto the steering wheel. The premonition that it’d be a bad idea to do anything so careless and thus draw the attention of the ’thing’ in his back seat onto himself stopped him from simply running away.
His mind suddenly flashed back to the image of the mother cat suckling her kittens. Back then he thought it was cute.
People could passively look on as the kittens struggled for survival because that battle was unrelated to them.
And the same theory applied here.
Lumi Spike read stories depicting human wars, and laughed at them as though she were actually reading a comedy. Or rather, she could laugh at it. Since humans were unrelated to her, she found amusement in whatever the humans were doing.
She’s not human. Definitely a vampire and not a human.
That realization only fully hit him now after all this time. It hadn’t been the fact that she was able to suck blood, turn into bats, or that she hated the sun, but the fact that she simply wasn’t human.
A monster and abomination. The natural enemy of the human race. I’m 100% certain. She’s definitely a hitman.
He was long past the information gathering stage. He had no doubt that she had killed people, bloodying her own hands. It was unthinkable for her to have any aversion to murder with an indifferent disposition like hers.
“……I’m going to…start the car.” Seymour desperately tried to push down his dread, plastering a smile on his face.
A physical feeling of disgust assailed him. A fear that screamed at him to get away from here at all costs. At this point, he had lost sight of just what was sitting in the back seat of his car.
He had felt like he had built some kind of relationship with Lumi. He had felt like there had been some value to his days with Lumi ── even if she was a hitman ── something that was a little more than his daily struggle against fate.
However, those feelings only applied to Seymour.
No matter what Seymour did or encountered, he believed that Lumi Spike would enjoy it with a smile. Because she was a demon, and not a human.
He stepped on the accelerator, letting the car roll forward. As if she was discomforted by Seymour’s silence, Lumi tilted her head in confusion once more. Even though her smile remained unchanged, Seymour couldn’t find a trace of loveliness in it anymore.
“Mr. Seymour, is something wrong?”
“No, nothing.” He took a hand off the wheel, opening the window. “It’s all good as long as you enjoy it.”
If only that were true, Seymour mumbled under his breath as he tossed his cigarette out the window.
Caught in the wind, the cigarette lit up brightly for an instant, before vanishing completely.
❖ ── ✦ ──『✙』── ✦ ── ❖
The next day.
The crux of the matter is why Lumi Spike came to live with me, Seymour assessed.
“How far does it need to be transported, and how fast?”
Currently Seymour was in the middle of receiving a package from a client, a man with a short boxed beard. He somehow managed to wedge the long, crooked package, which had the contours of a boat’s oar, diagonally into the back seat of his Essex.
Hearing the client’s reply, he confirmed the delivery.
Since they had agreed on payment in advance, Seymour started his car after receiving his money. Fortunately there was still a good while left before the time appointed in the request. As he gazed out the window, he allowed himself to give voice to his thoughts. Thoughts that swirled inside the car before vanishing into thin air.
“If she had a flawless grasp of my requests, there wouldn’t have been a need to come to my place.”
He assumed that there existed someone who had wanted to kill Isaac Nigel, whose whereabouts had been unknown at the time. If they had already known all of Seymour’s requests back then, it would have been redundant for Lumi to infiltrate his home or accompany him on his jobs. They could have simply gone straight to Isaac Nigel to kill him.
“In other words, Lumi didn’t know how exactly she would come to know Isaac Nigel’s location.”
He guessed that she or the organization she belonged to had only concluded that 『It might be possible to find out Isaac Nigel’s location by accompanying Seymour Road on his job』.
It was likely that they had zeroed in on Seymour, or rather, monitored him for a good while beforehand. Couriers like Seymour could be valuable information sources for hitmen. Because of that they had tried to obtain a clue on how to kill Isaac Nigel from Seymour.
“────No, isn’t that actually backwards?”
It was absurd to approach Seymour for the sake of finding Isaac Nigel. Leaving aside the fact that the surveillance would need to be perfect, it made no sense for her to come to live at Seymour’s place if their information was at the level of not even knowing the extent of Seymour’s jobs.
That’s why it should be the opposite. They must have had a lead on Isaac Nigel’s whereabouts to begin with.
Seymour also had an idea on what kind of lead it might have been.
──『Toi Mo』 ─ the rare cigars in the blue box.
The killers knew that Isaac Nigel smoked those cigars. If you considered how a man in hiding could get his hands on those cigars, the options would be limited. Isaac Nigel had probably hired private couriers like Seymour to bring the cigars to him without leaving a trail that would lead back to him. For this reason, the killers had decided to spy on Seymour Road, no, perhaps not just him, discreet couriers────
For an instant, his hand on the wheel trembled violently with the chill that shot through Seymour.
Logically, there was no other explanation besides that one. When one thought of reasons why Lumi Spike would be in Seymour Road’s home, the only one that made sense was this one. However, at the same time it also hinted at something else.
It was clear that Lumi Spike was a hitman, that she belonged to some kind of organization, and that this organization probably provided back up for her.
However, Seymour was unable to get a read on the scale of that hitman organization. If his current train of thought was correct, they ought to be much bigger and have much more power than he had originally suspected.
After all, that organization had obviously investigated couriers other than Seymour. The organization only knew that someone was transporting the cigars, but not who. They knew that the mafia guy was buying 『Toi Mo』, so they simply checked the distribution of cigars in this city to find out which courier was doing the deliveries. They had thought up such a search to find a needle in a haystack, executed it, and succeeded in their objective.
That was the power held by the organization standing behind Lumi Spike.
“…Well, whatever. For the time being, I’ve found out how I should figure out the organization looming in Lumi’s shadow.”
❖ ──『✙』── ❖
When he opened the Holiday’s door after his delivery, he was greeted by music for once. A gramophone had been placed on the stool in front of the piano, playing a record.
“Madela! How’s business going today?”
“So-so, I’d say.”
“I see! Thank you!” Seymour turned to look at the gramophone even as he answered as usual.
“Is Sasha in?”
Seymour asked this of the clerk after planting himself in his usual seat because he had seen the collage of small bears surrounding the rotating gramophone. The paper bears danced to the music with hands entwined.
“Too bad, you just missed her.”
“Okay, please lend me your phone for a minute then.”
“You have to order first.”
“Owen…and Gordon have their own telephones, don’t they? Also, Rose, if I remember correctly?”
“You have to order first.”
“……Coffee. As hot as possible.”
After handing him a cup of disgusting brown brew, the clerk furrowed her eyebrows, obviously curious.
“Why’ve you suddenly got it into your head to contact your business rivals Owen Stanley and Gordon Banister? Though I don’t get how Rose comes into play here.”
“Won’t I be able to figure out James’ whereabouts if I call Rose?”
“Oh, so that’s what the deal is. Are you guys finally in the mood to set up a courier union?”
Owen, Gordon, and James, the husband of Mrs. Rose, were all couriers like Seymour. Of course there were a lot more couriers working in this city, and Seymour knew quite a few of them, but the number of people who possessed a phone, had a varied circle of acquaintances, and who Seymour could get in touch with was quite small.
“Something like that. So could you please lend me the phone?”
“Lending is out of the question, but I can call them for you. Since there’s no guarantee that I’ll be able to reach them right away, prepare yourself for a long wait, okay?”
In other words, she’s telling me to order more since I’m going to be here for a while anyway, huh?
Seymour leaned on the counter, and began to drink his coffee as slowly as humanly possible.
“What should I tell them if they ask me what you want?”
“Something along the lines of me wanting to have a little chat.”
In reality, that was a lie. Seymour didn’t have it in him to actively try to get along with other couriers. After all, most of the people who end up doing mafia work like being a courier are brawny and intimidating.
That said, assuming Seymour’s speculations proved to be correct, Lumi Spike ─ or the organization standing behind her ─ should have gathered information on a far bigger scale. In other words, something should have happened to the other couriers, too.
Seymour didn’t know whether it would be something obvious like Lumi Spike visiting them or something completely different. Besides, it would be foolish to assume that they took place at the very same time as Seymour’s case. However, it was unlikely that a hitman had investigated Isaac Nigel, immediately hit upon Seymour and determined him to be the right man.
“If I ask those guys, someone will probably have noticed something…”
“Ah, I was just getting all excited over the possibility that I might meet a new, cute girl.”
“You’re not happy with Lumi? What a greedy bastard.”
Seymour exchanged some casual banter with the regular customers and clerk of the Holiday, interrupted Madela at her crossword puzzle, and upset his stomach by drinking too much of the nasty coffee. By the end of the night, between his various activities he had managed to contact several couriers and set up meetings with them.
“You were a big help. Next time I’ll order something expensive as thanks.”
“It’s just going to be more coffee anyway, right?”
“Please get an expensive coffee ready for me then.”
“That would be a waste of beans, wouldn’t it?”
Is she aware of how terrible she is at brewing coffee?
Seymour stood up with a bitter smile, stretching to get rid of the stiffness that had built up over the last few hours. The first on his list was Gordon. He’d meet him tomorrow ─ or rather today, seeing as the sun had risen already. He figured that he had enough time to go back home and catch a short nap.
Remembering the monster in the shape of a girl who was likely waiting for him back home, Seymour’s face cramped up into a grim expression. While lamenting over this, he left the Holiday, opened his Essex’s door, and flopped down onto the driver’s seat.
“────Yo, would it be alright for me to ask you to do a job?”
Seymour got goosebumps from hearing a voice right behind him.
His Essex was locked, yet the voice came from the back seat, right behind the driver’s seat. Some stranger had sat down without him realizing.
Looking back, he hit his back against the steering wheel when he instinctively tried to put some distance between them. The honk of car horn loudly replaced Seymour’s scream. Instead, he managed to sound calm even though his throat felt like sandpaper.
The one sitting behind him was a woman.
“Oh my, wa-hahaha. What’s wrong? According to the rumors, you only ask your clients, 『How far』 and 『How fast』, don’t you?”
A strong smell of medicine, mud, and death wafted by Seymour’s nose. It gave him a terribly ominous feeling, reminding him of a hospital right next to a cemetery. Seymour couldn’t tell the woman’s age at a glance. Her long, unkempt hair and the baggy, unfashionable dress that resembled a hospital gown made her feel simultaneously like a child in her teens and like a 30-years old adult. Her eyes, which were big and bulging in contrast to her thin and emaciated body, gleamed dangerously.
And on top of all that, the woman had neither a left arm nor a left leg.
“……Who are you?” Seymour searched his memory while he repeated his question to regain his composure.
However, naturally he possessed no memory of ever meeting her. While he was at it, he also wondered vaguely if he had a gun stashed somewhere he could protect himself with, but that was naturally a bust too.
Because it was covered by her dress, he couldn’t clearly tell how much she had left of her leg. From the way the sleeve fell in, he guessed she had lost everything below the shoulder. And he hadn’t noticed earlier because of the poor lighting and the way her hair was draped around her like animal fur, but she was also heavily scarred. Awful burn marks pointed to the cause of her missing limbs.
A keloid scar wound its way out from under her collar, cradling her cheek and ending at her temple. Seymour was more than certain that there were even more scars under her clothes.
“Wa-haha, that’s the second time. It looks like you’re allowing me to witness something rare.”
Probably because of her scars, the woman’s voice sounded awfully listless. Like a monotone, emotionless monologue. The flat laughter, that she insisted on repeating, made anyone listening feel insecure.
Nonetheless, Seymour managed to recover some of his composure after seeing the woman for himself. At the very least, she didn’t appear to be some kind of burglar. She didn’t have a single item about her person, let alone any weapons. As such, Seymour suspected that the odds of her trying to kill him were rather low, even though she clearly had some kind of agenda.
Comforted by that thought for an instant, he immediately realized his blunder.
The woman was clearly in no state to walk around by herself, and he couldn’t see a cane anywhere. And yet she was sitting in his car by herself.
“Yo, yo, hello. I’m the president of Murder Incorporated, Claudia Hollocks. Nice to meet you.” The woman lifted the right corner of her mouth, the only one she could move freely, forming a crooked smile. “Ah, I guess it’s going to be easier for you to understand if I introduce myself as Lumi Spike’s employer. A dealer in murder. The ringleader behind Isaac Nigel’s murder.”
❖ ──『✙』── ❖
The woman requested that Seymour transport her, and he didn’t decline. Or rather, he wasn’t in a position to decline. The other side had completely taken the initiative. At a glance she might be no more than a one-armed, one-legged woman, but he had no idea what she might be hiding. Even if they were inside a moving, closed room right now.
The woman ── Claudia grinned at Seymour as he silently and gloomily kept his eyes on the road.
“Hmm, you’re more taciturn than I’d heard. Your driving skills seem to be superb, though.”
“……The car is already running, but let me ask, how far do you want to be transported, and how fast?”
“Let’s go with your home then. As for the time…let’s see…how about when we finish our lil’ talk?”
“Talk? Are you asking me to provide you with a funny story?”
“Oh, you do sound confident there, don’t you? In that case, you must tell me by all means.”
“I’ve actually become rather confident in my skills recently. But setting that aside, why my place?”
Seymour collected his thoughts. It’d been mere hours ago since he had contacted his acquaintances to investigate the organization ─ he had just learned that the people behind Lumi Spike appeared to be called Murder Inc. 1 In other words, almost no one could have grasped his actions yet. No matter how quickly Claudia might have reacted, there were very few people who could have informed her of Seymour’s movements.
Just as he seriously began to think about who it might be, Claudia’s hollow laughter interrupted him.
“Wa-haha, it’s meaningless for you to try to figure this out. My Murder Inc. has penetrated this city on a fairly wide scale, but the number of people who actually belong to us is low.”
“In short, you like peeping, huh? Not very praiseworthy behavior, I gotta say.”
“You’re not praising it, but you’re also not criticizing it either. You’re quite the modern guy in that sense.” She rebutted, and shook her head awkwardly.
Her hair swayed with a rustle, causing the muddy stench to spread. Seymour wrinkled his nose.
“Actually I hadn’t planned to appear in front of you. Lumi had accepted the job alongside the responsibility of preventing you from investigating the death of Isaac Nigel if we left it to her.”
As a matter of fact, Lumi did succeed at that to some degree. It was undoubtedly a fact that Seymour was nearly swept away by the pleasures of a relaxed daily life, willingly averting his eyes from the death and crime right in front of him.
“Where did she slip up? Well, I’m not really surprised though since that girl can be rather careless.”
“You came here after I started to investigate you people ─ the Murder Inc. In other words, you’re going to seal my mouth?” Despite his question, he didn’t really believe this to be the case.
It’d be pointless for someone ─ and moreover a woman like her ─ to make an effort to meet him if they wanted to silence him. Besides, this woman didn’t have the look of someone who would kill others. He couldn’t believe that a twisted woman like her could exercise such crude and plain malice as to commit murder.
“Wa-haha, quite the dangerous words for the likes of a courier. As if.”
Seymour tried to determine how credible her words were, but reading Claudia’s expression and tone was as difficult as trying to tell the difference between snow that fell today and snow that fell yesterday.
“I said it a little while ago, but it’s because you’re a very modern man.”
“Am I? Even though I may look like this, I was raised in a traditional family.”
“I mean, you’re attempting to oppose Lumi, but you haven’t challenged her for the murder itself, have you?”
This was one of those times where he truly regretted not smoking a cigarette. He couldn’t dodge troublesome questions by simply blowing out some smoke.
But, Claudia didn’t even wait for an answer from him, snarling with a raspy voice, “Then again I can understand. Confronting the truth of a murder in this city, where business doesn’t shy away from anything, is tough. Very tough. You’re not so much of a child that you wouldn’t be able to believe that, but neither are you enough of an adult to accept it.”
“No matter how skilled a driver I might be, there are limits on how long I can prolong this drive.”
“Sorry. One of my many faults is my tendency to digress. Anyway, to summarize, I came here to explain what we are.”
Explain ─ Seymour’s finger reflexively drummed on the wheel in response to that idyllic term.
“Eh? I seriously thought that you’d come to silence me or something.”
“I already told you that you were wrong about that, didn’t I? You’re the kind of guy that needs a reason, be it for lacing up your shoes, deciding on your breakfast menu, or even accusing someone of murder. You’re aware of it yourself, aren’t you?”
Seymour recalled the smile of the girl who only looked like a monster to him now. Given that his emotional state had deteriorated to the point that it was plainly visible to anyone who looked at him, Claudia’s diagnosis pretty much hit the nail on the head.
“It’s a rare chance, so I thought that I might provide you with a reason that might give you some more food for thought.”
A corporation of murderers. He savored the name he had been given slowly on the tip of his tongue. As a term he never heard before, it carried a rather unfamiliar sort of timbre; one that his mouth wasn’t used to.
“Murder Inc. I’m the second president of the company so far. No wait, I think first would be more correct. I mean, being the second without a predecessor doesn’t make much sense, does it? Oh well, the finer details don’t really matter. Anyway, Murder Inc. is the name of an organization that earns its money from the mafia by killing the mafia.”
“That’s not something so unusual that you’d need to go out of your way to introduce yourself. Even I have several hitmen, who get rid of nuisances for money, amongst my acquaintances, you know?”
“You’re misunderstanding. It’s the opposite. We kill the mafia first. We decide on a target by ourselves. We don’t take requests. Then we get money for it from the mafia.” Probably aware that her explanation was somewhat lacking, Claudia scratched her head with her right hand, and added, “Seymour, who suffers the biggest loss if there’s a dispute between mafia familia?”
“I can at least tell that the undertaker is the one making the biggest profit.”
“Wahaha, your joke sure is lackluster. I’ll give you the answer. Nowadays the ones who suffer the biggest loss in a dispute between mafia familia are the mafia familia involved.”
I’m sure it’s not the first time Claudia has explained this.
Seymour could clearly imagine it, given how smoothly she was talking, as if she was reciting a book she had memorized.
“It’s all about business. The days when hitmen raked in the big bucks are long over since paying reparations has become way too expensive. And yet, I can only laugh at the foolishness of the mafia which cannot completely stop with its disputes.”
“But, you people kill people, don’t you?”
“Sure. The roots of a conflict go pretty deep, but are surprisingly simple to unravel. If you kill the ones causing the conflict, most disputes stop.”
Seymour recalled Fran’s overly bored look on the night so calm that it’d depress any information broker.
Sure, ever since his death, you’ve stopped hearing any gunshots in the city.
Seymour couldn’t confirm anything since he wasn’t in a position to know what was happening behind the scenes, but Claudia had just implied that Isaac Nigel’s death had been the very reason for the end of the disputes.
“We kill the mafia. We kill anyone who triggers disputes, and anyone who jeopardizes the peace of this city. And then we bring up the bill with those who benefit from the targets’ death. In other words, to the mafia familia in question. Just recently, we received money from the Blood Familia.”
They earned money from the Blood Familia for killing Isaac Nigel, a high-ranked member of the Blood Familia. Reality truly was terribly twisted and perverted, but business and benefits had shaped it into what it was today.
A dispute was disadvantageous for the mafia, but familia couldn’t afford to enforce its laws on its members every time a dispute occurred. Thus the existence of an organization which would kill the mafia members that caused a dispute of their own accord was beneficial for the mafia.
Seymour couldn’t tell whether things really worked like that, but he could see the logic.
“So in short, you’re telling me forgive Lumi since your murders are righteous, correct?”
“No, I won’t go that far. It’s up to you to decide whether you forgive her or not. All I’m here to tell you is that: Just like you’ve found your niche in this city by providing discreet solutions for transport, we’ve established our value in the city by providing discreet solutions to inter-organizational disputes through murder.”
“……What are you telling me to do then?”
“I told you. That’s something you must decide for yourself.”
Irritated by how Claudia seemed to see right through him, Seymour rounded a corner more roughly than he usually would. Claudia couldn’t prop herself up and fell over. Wriggling like a caterpillar on the backseat, her murky eyes stayed pinned on Seymour.
Far from feeling better, Seymour felt disgusted instead.
“Look, you’re a guy who broods over all kinds of things, right?”
Seymour couldn’t find any words to rebuke her mockery.
“Lumi Spike is a convenient tool I’ve obtained for our objectives. She’s an inhuman monster who was raised without any ties to the world, who doesn’t feel any guilt. No, it’d be better to describe her as a natural occurrence. Humans wouldn’t be able to last with no connections.”
Claudia’s words, which completely deprived Lumi of any humanity, didn’t trigger any strong emotions in Seymour whatsoever. He was sure, just like she regarded humans as no different from animals, humans regarded her as more of a tool than an actual living being.
However, unrelated to that, Seymour felt like something else disturbed him about Claudia’s statement just now.
“You say natural occurrence, but that makes it sound like Lumi simply grew in some field somewhere.”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying.”
“Don’t tell me,” Claudia’s lips curved upwards, “you thought vampires had existed all along, lurking in the dark edges of unwritten history, or something like that?”
Seymour slightly dropped the car’s speed. The scenery just outside the window seemed to rush past and disappear from memory like a fleeting blur.
“What do you mean?”
“Just as you’ve heard. Vampires are monsters who are stronger than humans, live longer than humans, and eat humans. If such monsters had actually existed throughout history, humans couldn’t possibly be the ones who rule the world, right? That monster suddenly manifested in the modern era.”
“That’s……a little too silly to believe. A vampire suddenly popping out of nowhere is even more ridiculous than vampires existing all along.”
“And yet, as far as my research shows, there is no evidence that vampires have existed at any point in history. Not even a trace.”
Claudia managed to get upright, using her right arm to push herself up. While her posture was still shaky and more than a little unsteady, the same couldn’t be said about her gaze. It pierced through Seymour even when it was reflected in the mirror.
“That thing is something along the lines of an epoch’s dreams.”
“A dream…by the epoch…?”
“Too many people died in the war. Everyone lost sight of what defines the world. Because the entire world is absurd and unrealistic, it seems comparatively normal to pray for nonsensical things if everything’s already a mess anyway. In response to this mindset, the epoch has created an illusion called vampire.” Claudia spat, “What a shitty era to live in, right?”
The words voiced by the president of the Murder Inc. lacked a sense of reality in all respects, and were terribly disconcerting. But, it was also true that he could relate to some parts of her statement.
Lumi Spike possessed all the vampiric traits written in stories. All this time, Seymour had wondered if such a being could really exist. However, now that he had been told that she was actually a vampire born from the legends – in other words, the other way around – he was able to understand it to some degree. A fairytale creature just without the fairytale.
Eventually he could extend their drive no longer. A short while after Claudia stopped talking, seemingly having said everything she wanted to say, the Essex arrived at the garage.
A single man stood in front of Seymour’s home, half melded into the darkness. It was a man who had wolf-like ferocity, Seymour remembered. He had apparently come to pick up Claudia.
Seymour stopped the car, and let out a sigh.
“Is it fine for me to ask just one more thing?”
“Feel free, ask away.”
“Why are you doing this? You don’t look like a person who’d care much about world peace.”
“That’s obvious, isn’t it?” Claudia opened the car’s door, and grabbed the man’s hand. Claudia’s empty left sleeve fluttered as he lifted her up. “To get my revenge.”
Her words brimmed with a nasty undertone, like blood oozing out of a torn wound.
“I want to slaughter as many mafia members for as long as possible, hopefully killing them all in the end.”
Burns. Amputation. Explosion. As the images took hold of him, Seymour shook his head. By the time when he opened his eyes again, the president of the Murder Inc. and her employee had already vanished.
“Ah, fuck! Just what the hell’s going on!?”
As he lowered the shutter, he noted how the eastern sky was dyed red. After that, he noticed it.
There were no sounds coming from within his home, and he didn’t sense any presences inside. Lumi Spike was gone.
His brain was exhausted from his encounter with Claudia, and he was now at a point where he couldn’t even muster up the strong emotions he should probably be feeling about Lumi’s absence. All Seymour could manage was to silently lean against the garage’s wall, giving in to his fatigue. He traced his finger through the remnants of the paint he had splashed on the wall. Even now he did it every once in a while for a change of pace.
However he was so bummed out now that he couldn’t even remember when and why he had washed the wall with the green paint on his fingertip.
Moments passed. Then, his ears caught the sound of hastily flapping wings. In the next moment countless bats poured through the thin gap left in the small window at the top of the garage. The bats gathered, became one, and transformed into a girl in the air.
“Whaa!” Lumi yelped with wide eyes when she saw Seymour in the garage, before whirling around and fixing her posture.
She landed on the ground with her skirt skilfully tucked between her thighs so she wouldn’t flash anyone.
“You’re home already, Mr. Seymour? You’re a little early today, aren’t you?”
“……Guess so. I’m home.”
He didn’t ask her where she had gone. Lumi, a hitman, had taken advantage of Seymour’s absence to go off somewhere. Not through the shutter, which would have shown traces of her comings and goings, but through the window. Even without the faint whiff of death clinging to her silver hair, her objective was as plain as day.
“Fufu, I went on a little stroll. Mr. Seymour────” Her golden eyes narrowed, turning into thin lines like her eyes were merely slits in the skin cut by a razor, “────did you encounter an evil woman by chance? You stink of mud.”
“Who knows. I just did my work normally.”
“Is that so? That’s great to hear. I’ll prepare dinner right away.” Lumi started to walk away with soft, gravity-defying steps. “I’ll whip something up quickly with what we have on hand, okay? I’m already full, so I’m just cooking for tonight.”
He breathed in slowly. He had thought about it in a vague sense before, but just now Lumi mentioned that she was full. Lumi – a vampire who couldn’t sate her hunger with ordinary food.
For Lumi ── or rather the Murder Inc. there was no point in keeping Seymour alive. It’d have been one thing if he didn’t know anything, but they knew he suspected her of murdering Isaac Nigel. Regardless of whether or not he had any proof, leaving him alive was risky. On the other hand, erasing a man like Seymour, someone whose death wouldn’t be mourned by anyone, bore little to no risk.
And yet Seymour was still breathing, peacefully sitting here and eating his dinner.
There could only be one reason for that.
“Your belly is full, eh?” The corners of his mouth twisted up into an evil smile. “Then tell me, what did you eat and where────”
He cut himself off abruptly…
“Yep, just as I thought. There’s a weird stench clinging to you.”
…because Lumi had glided over to him, and pulled his head to her breasts. With the tip of his nose pressed against her soft chest, his voice was muffled.
His brain was torn between appreciating the soft press of a woman against him, and the reflexive need to scream at the approach of a monster.
“Medicine, and mud. That’s no good. A smell like that doesn’t suit you.”
“Hey, what’s that about?”
“The smell of gasoline and smoke suits you. Smelling like you do now just makes me want to drool.”
Almost as if, Seymour thought, I’m nothing more than a meal for her if I smell different to how I usually do.
Seymour was a well established presence in the city’s goods distribution system. His information held value: Lumi had come to his house for that information. And because of that, she couldn’t kill Seymour as long as he had value as a source of information.
At least, that’s what she had seemed to imply.
He heard a giggle. Lumi pressed her nose against Seymour’s nape.
“Say, Mr. Seymour, if, hypothetically, monsters existed in this world and if, hypothetically, they needed to eat humans to survive, would it be wrong for that monster to kill and devour people?”
“……Well, there’s no way that killing people could ever be interpreted as a good thing, is there?”
“But, even if some religions tell people that it’s wrong to eat this, there aren’t any that tell people not to eat anything at all.” He sensed her mouth snapping open. “I mean, not being able to survive without food is something that applies to humans and monsters alike.”
Something warm and living touched his nape. Seymour was sure that these were Lumi’s lips, fangs, and tongue. Her canines, which he usually didn’t consciously register, felt as long and sharp as fangs right now. Their hard points scraped along his skin. However, she had adjusted the pressure so that they wouldn’t break his skin, just moving with soppy, wet sounds.
His heart thumped inexplicably hard just once. Lumi laughed, though there was an unreadable quality to it.
She released Seymour’s head with the same abruptness she had grabbed it with. Lumi put her hands behind her back and smoothly stepped back, putting some distance between her and Seymour.
“Alrighty, I’ll go make dinner then.”
Seymour slowly crumbled on the spot as he watched her leave. His butt hit the cold ground of the garage as all his strength left him. He sighed and rubbed his neck where Lumi’s saliva still remained.
It wouldn’t have been at all unexpected if she had torn his neck apart at that very moment. Seymour didn’t feel this way because he had sensed any bloodthirst from her, but rather the exact opposite. Just like a human wouldn’t become all frenzied in front of a steak, Lumi gave off the same calmness as someone with a meal before them. Because of this, Seymour knew that he had not been spared for any reason in particular.
“Oops, I almost forgot.”
Lumi returned, still facing away from Seymour, her steps falling lightly on the ground. Walking backwards just like a kid, she only turned her head to look back at him, and laughed cheerfully.
“Mr. Seymour, if you’re tired, how about taking a nap first?”
“I don’t think that I’m that tired yet…”
“What, I’m in a great mood right now, so I wouldn’t mind letting you sleep with me, you know?” Lumi smiled with her canines bared.
With her looks, it was definitely an attractive offer, but Seymour couldn’t stop thinking about how empty that offer was. She didn’t have a shred of shyness.
It was all because Lumi Spike was no human. Even women who didn’t sleep with human males would sleep with male pets. That was all.
If embarrassment was something born through empathy between two beings, Lumi doubtlessly felt nothing towards Seymour whatsoever.
Seymour silently waved a hand, sending Lumi away towards the portable cooking stove. He then thought about what it meant to be a monster.
Is it good or evil for a monster to kill people? In the first place, who’s right was it to decide?
Seymour gazed out the window in search of an answer, but there were no laws written on the approaching dawn sky, no matter how hard he looked.
“Ah………” A meaningless sound escaped his lips.
His thoughts gained a voice through that sound, and he started to think that it’d be just fine if he stopped thinking about it.
It’s all fine since I’ve managed to save a cute girl. If that girl is a murderer, it’s fine so long as I confront her about it.
Even though it should have been as simple as that, all kinds of things kept happening. The world continued to turn, completely leaving the individual called Seymour in the lurch, and he couldn’t get a reading on the course of events at all. Even identifying a villain as a villain would lead to nowhere in this intoxicated city.
Lumi is a monster. The murderer Lumi contributes to the peace of this city.
What about it?
Seymour was becoming more and more unsure about what he should do with the monster.
“……………I really need a drink right now.”
❖ ──『✙』── ❖
Hearing the honking of the car horn just as she stepped out of her university, Sunny’s face immediately screwed up. The end of her lessons was accompanied by the setting sun, which gave her face a mysteriously impactful crimson gleam.
Leaning against the door of his Essex, Seymour lightly waved his right hand causing the cigarette between his fingers to leave a faint trail of smoke. He added a smile too, though it wasn’t so much directed at Sunny as to the female classmates near her.
Sure enough this caused them to start chattering loudly amongst themselves. The girls noisily bombarded Sunny with questions as Sunny frantically responded.
Chortling under his breath, Seymour entertained himself by imagining Sunny’s retorts since he was too far away to hear them.
“『You’re wrong, he’s not my boyfriend. He’s my bro, err, brother. Yep, my brother. So, no, I’m not fooling around. L-i-s-t-e-n to me, you’ve got it all wrooong!!』, or something along those lines, right?”
Sunny quickly jogged over after shaking off her classmates. Seymour was sure the faint blush on her cheeks wasn’t just from being embarrassed.
“Hmm, 『Brother, I told you to not wait for me in front of my university, didn’t I?』 is incoming.”
Sunny’s shoes skidded to a halt inches in front of Seymour. Sunny’s boisterous voice rang out.
“Brother! I told you to not wait for me in front of my university, didn’t I!?”
Seymour let out a bark of laughter, then took a puff and pointed with his thumb at his car.
“Wanna go on a date from now on? Or would you rather go home? I’ll give you a ride.”
“Haaah….. Take me home then.”
Aside from his courier jobs, Seymour reckoned that Sunny was the woman who had enjoyed the services of his Essex the most. Of course, his sister didn’t really count as a woman to him. Sunny deftly jumped into the car, and as soon as Seymour was sure she was settled on the back seat, he started his car.
Sunny finally spoke up when they got caught in the third traffic light, her head swaying with the car as it jerked to a stop.
“Brother, is something the matter?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Usually when you just drive without even trying to ask me for anything, something has happened, you know?”
Seymour unconsciously massaged his face with a hand.
“Hmm, am I so easy to read?”
“Your logic is weird, but it’s not like you’re complicated. It becomes obvious pretty quickly.” Sunny giggled while brushing her bangs out of the way.
Seymour shook his head while looking into her green eyes. He hated expressions like you’re an open book.
“Recently my sisters have become quite sharp. It’s tough on your elder brother.”
“Eh? Wait, sisters, plural? Our family only has one daughter, doesn’t it? Have you discovered some complicated family circumstances by chance?”
Come to think of it, Fran and Sunny have never met, have they? Seymour tilted his head in contemplation as he watched Sunny yell from the back seat with a pale face.
“Ah, no, that’s not it. I’ve simply got a friend in the business who calls me『Bro』.” 2
“Ugh, my brother is shadier than expected.”
“No, no, wait, almost everyone secretly wants to have a girl they know call them 『Bro』, right?”
“Disgusting, absolutely and utterly disgusting! Regardless of whether it’s true or not, you’re really sick!”
Seymour guffawed, and then let the topic drop. He had a vague feeling that Sunny was pressing her back against the back seat to put as much distance between them as possible, but he dismissed it as his imagination.
Sunny’s university wasn’t very far from home. Which meant that he needed to bring up the reason he had come all this way to talk about with her quickly.
He breathed in.
“There’s something I’d like to hear your opinion on. That’s okay with you?”
On that fearsome vampire, the man-eating monster, that occupied his mind. On the world he couldn’t understand anymore. He needed to redine the world as he knew it. Recently he had been doing too many out of character things. There had been too many incidents. The boundaries that defined him as Seymour had been blurred and he needed to redraw them clearly. By nature, Seymour Road wasn’t someone who would think about so many things.
And in such times of doubt, Seymour would always bring it up with his sister.
“As a matter of fact, things have gone a little south at my job.”
“……” Sunny narrowed her eyes.
She was terrifyingly quiet, but Seymour could tell from her eyes that her emotions were raging within her like a sandstorm. And yet, even though he had noticed it, Seymour barreled on cheerfully, “How do I put it…? It looks like I’ve been party to something unsavory. And I’m sure it’s still ongoing.”
“……Take the next right.”
“Didn’t you say that you wanted to go home?”
“I changed my mind.”
Seymour drove, following Sunny’s directions.
“Anyway, right now I’ve been associating with a bad person. But you see, I don’t have enough fighting spirit in me to confront them. That’s why I’m kinda unsure on what I should do next.” Seymour explained, citing it as the reason he had come to consult her.
But, in reality, this wasn’t grounds for a consultation whatsoever. After all, Seymour knew very well what Sunny’s answer would be. It was plainly obvious.
Sunny straightened in her seat, staring straight into Seymour’s eyes. It was a gaze without a hint of darkness, full of conviction and confident righteousness.
“It is wrong to not punish bad people properly, brother.”
Not a single word deviated from what Seymour had expected her to say. Each one was said clearly and distinctly in an even staccato.
“Bad things are bad. They must be punished.”
A statement that would have elicited nothing but raucous laughter downtown. This city, with its rampant corruption and empty shell of a system of law, no longer knew the meaning of the word ‘punishment’.
“……Figures.” Seymour nodded, even as a taste of iron flooded his mouth.
In the past, when his father died, morality lost all meaning in the Road family. With the values they had been brought up with gone, the two children in the family were left at a loss. Between the two, the sly, older brother had left home as quickly as he could. He did so because the family still had a mother who, despite everything, had still clung to those morals. She did so because she couldn’t bear the solitude.
And because of this, the younger sister, who had been unable to leave the house, had had no other choice but to be close with her mother.
“You understand, don’t you? We have to be fully aware that each of us has a home built on a hill. That’s why we cannot overlook bad things.”
That last line was an expression of the previous era’s moldy ethics, and despite coming from his sister’s mouth, it had still lost most of its former appeal. Having taken up the responsibility her brother had abandoned, his sister, who believed in morals that wouldn’t be any less of a lie no matter how fervently she believed in them, thrust her righteousness at him. They didn’t let Seymour ignore the bitterness and pain hidden behind pretty words and cheerful tones.
Before long, Seymour’s car stopped on a road by a river. Surveying the vicinity, he saw that they were in an industrial area, devoid of private houses or stores a female university student would enter. Yet, Seymour didn’t ask where they were nor why they had come here. Because he fully understood that it didn’t matter where they were.
The younger sister, who had refused to even let her elder brother drive her somewhere, politely expressed her gratitude, got out of the car, and stretched her body.
Seymour could only respond shallowly with a vague sense of selfish sorrow, “You’re welcome. By the way, is it fine if I ask you one more thing?”
“There’s still more?”
“I might be killed by that bad person if I try to punish them. Do you think I should still go for it?”
Sunny flashed a bright smile at him.
Morals that didn’t take any circumstances into account were a sort of emotional escape from reality for people. And since she had no interest in facing reality, Sunny’s morals were broken, rather than merely damaged.
That spelled the end of the conversation between the siblings. Seymour started his car, and almost immediately lost sight of Sunny who had started to walk away without even a backward glance. He briefly thought that it might be dangerous for a girl to be out on the streets all by herself so late in the evening, but dismissed it upon deciding that even Sunny wouldn’t be that stupid. Besides, these days the mafia disputes were at a standstill, and public order had improved somewhat.
Driving onward, Seymour took some slow breaths, stiff and awkward. He had anticipated that things would turn out like this when he decided to consult Sunny. Seymour had gained many things by leaving home and becoming a courier. On the other hand, he had left Sunny behind in that home and lost many things. Seymour had sacrificed Sunny.
It’s a pleasant feeling, he thought. It’s a nice feeling of dismay. The disappointment I feel towards the world and her balances out with the disappointment I feel towards myself, making it easier for me to organize my thoughts.
If I still saw Lumi as nothing more than a cute girl, I wouldn’t have ever brought this topic up with Sunny.
However, just now Seymour had sought his sister’s advice, and she had lived up to his expectations. He’d made up his mind.
To be honest, it doesn’t really matter what Sunny said. I don’t have any interest in being a righteous person or what will happen when I stand before God. However, the mere fact that Sunny told me all that bears importance.
I’m well aware that I’m where I am today because I run away and discard things. I rebuilt myself on the unchangeable past, the grief I caused others and my own imaginary sorrow. Seymour Road is who he is after transforming his sister into something like that. It’s a sin that can never be forgiven. For this very reason, there must be in the mere existence of Seymour a value that is equivalent to everything I abandoned.
He daydreamed of such things.
Whether the murderer Lumi was good or evil, whether he should oppose the Murder Inc. or not; all those worries had become meaningless. He disregarded everything except for what was really important.
Lumi had taken advantange of Seymour’s job as courier, and used the information she extracted to commit murder. She had harmed the value of the Courier Seymour Road. That rang true even in this new and otherwise incomprehensible world. And that alone was plenty of reason to fight her.
Well, let’s just say that it’s plenty.
“A crime requires a punishment, huh?”
Putting a cigarette into his mouth, Seymour pulled a box of matches out of his pocket. He struck a match with one hand, but was quickly caught up in his thoughts, his hand frozen in midair. Soon the match burned down to Seymour’s finger before ever reaching his cigarette.
❖ ──『✙』── ❖
“I had lots of fun!” Lumi happily exclaimed as she walked next to Seymour along the dark street at night. “At first, I didn’t think I would be able to keep up with something like boxing just by listening to it on the radio. But once I actually heard it, I was unexpectedly hooked.”
They were on their way back home from the Holiday.
Tonight there had been a title match between the long-reigning lightweight champion and his young challenger. Many homes had radios nowadays, but even though they could have listened to it at home, there were people who didn’t think it was the same as getting together and getting hyped together. Contrary to what you might expect, Seymour’s stance was that one needed to show up to these events, and thus he’d come in to excitedly listen to the fight in the Holiday with Lumi.
For a while now, Lumi had been loosely swinging her right arm, obviously picturing the instant the champion’s powerful right hook shattered the challenger’s titleship dreams. Her shapely legs being covered by trousers was a fresh change, too.
With the sandwich he had bought at the Holiday in hand, Seymour loped along a little slower behind Lumi. He had a gentle smile on his face as he followed her.
“I’m happy to hear that you enjoyed it.”
A faint tang of alcohol lingered on his breath. That didn’t mean he had chosen to drink. But, with the Holiday being in a more chaotic state than usual, there was no way he’d have been able to calmly enjoy a coffee. It wasn’t unusual for alcohol to have been added to the various drinks at hand, which was why Seymour was now walking through the night.
Multi-storey buildings lined the street, connected occasionally with junction bridges. The girl, the moon, and the night. Framed by the buildings and bridges, these three formed a beautiful scene right out of a painting.
The champion’s clever match pacing, and the challenger’s bold way of attacking. Carrying a lively conversation like close friends would do, speculating on what and how the champion might have been defeated, their shadows melted into the night.
There were many cars out on the road. Their occupants might have enjoyed the boxing match at the actual venue or simply listened to it live at some bar or restaurant just like Seymour. Traffic as you wouldn’t expect at night slowed everything down on the road.
Trucks whizzed past the sidewalk, inches away from impact and blowing Lumi’s hair around with them. Seymour narrowed his eyes, as if each and every strand held secrets.
The junction bridges cast big shadows that formed even darker spots on the dark nighttime pavement. Stopping just one step short of such a shadow, Seymour tried to call out and say to Lumi『Let’s cross the road around here』.
However, the words he had on the tip of his tongue and the words he actually said were completely different.
“────Even when you heard about the state of the war through the radio, you laughed. Didn’t you?”
Lumi stopped. The wind, the cars, the hustle and bustle; all of it sounded awfully loud to him. Lumi blended into the shadows, making it impossible for him to see her expression even though he could make out the fact that she had turned to look back over her shoulder.
“Maybe I did. A war happens, it’s broadcast, and everyone enjoys it; I don’t see what else I could do but laugh about it, now that the world has come to this.”
Seymour hadn’t meant it like that. Even without having it spelt out for her, Lumi probably knew as much.
She took an audible step towards him.
“So, what about you, Mr. Seymour?”
Dread welled up in his heart. I have to start walking again, he believed. I must cut this conversation off and keep walking home.
However, there were countless cars on the road, making a crossing next to impossible.
“What do you mean?”
“What would you do if you heard such a thing on the radio?”
No answer to that question came to his mind. Lumi wrapped her arm around Seymour’s, grasping his hand in hers. He could sense her comfortable softness and her gentle pulse.
“It doesn’t look like we’ll be able to cross the road, does it?”
Lumi began to walk, and Seymour was forcibly dragged along since she was still holding his arm. They headed not towards the road, but into the shadows of one of the array of buildings.
Seymour suddenly had a feeling that his life was in danger, even though he was still confused as to what she was planning.
“In the first place, why is it wrong for me to laugh? At people and the death of people.”
Lumi kept walking. Her toes met the outer wall of the building.
“As I said────”
“Don’t you think that it’s like it gives being alive some meaning?”
Lumi kept walking. Vertically, the soles of her feet sticking to the wall.
“Don’t you think that being alive is something wonderful?”
Seymour tried to pull away from Lumi in panic. But to no avail.
Lumi’s hand, which had him in a vise-grip, didn’t budge at all. Lumi’s slender fingers, which were entwined around Seymour’s wrist, had him trapped far better than any handcuffs could manage. Paying no heed to Seymour’s fervent struggle, Lumi walked up the wall.
Seymour’s right hand was pulled up.
“Even though no one can ever guarantee something like that?”
Lumi trudged on. Inevitably, Seymour was forced upwards as well. His toes left the ground. His wrist and elbow screamed at him in pain as his full weight hung from his right hand. The ground was rapidly getting further away. Even though Lumi’s pace felt relaxed, the width of her strides and the distance they were actually traveling didn’t match.
“Even though there’s absolutely no meaning in me being born?”
Lumi’s feet didn’t stop. They continued on interminably. Until they finally reached the junction bridge halfway up the building. There, her feet stepped onto the underside of the bridge, where she finally stopped, upside down. They were several dozen meters above the ground. In a place impossible for a human to have reached by themselves, she calmly showed him an upside down smile.
Lumi treated the underside of the bridge like the ground, switching heaven and earth. Beneath her hung Seymour. The sandwich had earlier slipped out of Seymour’s hand and was now a messy splat on the ground many meters below him. If Lumi were to let go of his hand, it’d be Seymour’s turn.
“Besides, Mr. Seymour.”
Only Lumi’s hair hung down towards him in the darkness. Gravity pulled it down to twine like spider’s silk around Seymour’s face.
“Besides, hehe, something like war on the radio…if being alive is so wonderful, you shouldn’t have said something like that.”
Seymour could see the blazing glow of her eyes through the strands of her hair.
“If being alive is so wonderful, you must first and foremost protect your own life, Mr. Seymour. If you don’t treat it with respect, then your priorities are all backwards.”
He was swaying irregularly. Entirely suspended by just his right arm, he was swaying.
This is a threat.
An eerily calm demeanor and countering that, a violent threat. Even though cold sweat ran down his spine from how he was being toyed with, Seymour still spoke up.
His right arm hurt. Tied down by gravity, his body was hurting itself. However, at the same time Seymour recalled his sister. The little sister he had hurt and broken.
That illusion made it so that he couldn’t help but say, “That’s the reasoning of a monster, and not that of a human.”
Lumi started to laugh in a high-pitched tone, so pleasantly and sweetly that it was actually surprising.
“You make it sound as though humans aren’t monsters of sorts.”
In the next instant, a strong gust hit Seymour in the face without any warning. He closed his eyes instinctively, and realized that it hadn’t been wind, it had been the sensation of being carried off somewhere.
Hurriedly forcing his eyes open after feeling that they had come to a halt, he found himself on the opposite sidewalk to where he had been a little while ago. In the few seconds he had closed his eyes, he had crossed the road that shouldn’t have been possible to cross.
Both his feet were planted on the ground, and no hand was grasping him. Lumi was several steps away from him and was looking his way with a gentle smile on her lips.
Shaking out her hand like she had exerted herself with some minor physical work, Lumi said, “Pheew, it’s a little easier to get home now, right Mr. Seymour?”, as if she had done all that with this in mind.
His thoughts and tongue were still paralysed with the fear that had coursed through him moments ago. Averting his eyes from Lumi, Seymour didn’t make any mistakes in replying this time, “Quite so.”
❖ ──『✙』── ❖
Seymour spent the day after the incident with Lumi feeling unsteady, like he was still reeling. The illusion that he was dangling and could fall at any moment loomed over him.
For this reason, Seymour sought a distinct change. The power to change the situation. It was so obvious where he needed to go to cope with the threat called Lumi Spike that it was laughable.
Seymour leaned against the counter of Hornsby Cigar Store.
“Won’t you sell me a bomb?”
The cigar fell out of Fran’s mouth after hearing this sudden question.
“What’s wrong? Have you finally despaired of the world and decided to kill yourself?”
“Tell me, why is that the very first thought you have?”
“Mister, people like you give off a restrained and mild-mannered impression all their life, but when you decide to die you really throw off all those restraints and go all out, don’t you think?” Fran repeatedly nodded at her own words.
Her statement seemed to be based on some kind of conclusion she had formed, but Seymour was smart enough to not probe further. He had decided that poking his nose into what she, an information broker, might or might not know probably wasn’t a wise choice.
It was mid-afternoon; the sun had not yet begun to set. Daytime was meaningless to Seymour, and he’d be asleep around this time usually, but he was here today for a reason.
Fran placed her chin on the counter and curiously asked Seymour as he failed to suppress a tired yawn, “Or rather, why would you need a bomb if you don’t want to kill yourself?”
“Normally you’d need a bomb to blow something up, wouldn’t you?”
“Blow up who?”
“I see. So you’re going to blow someone up, huh?”
“Listen to me.”
Fran pursed her lips, booing at him.
“But, I don’t really like bombs, you see?”
“It sure is unusual for you to dislike something that isn’t a cigar brand.”
“Bombs leave nothing behind, so they suck.”
“I told you, listen to me. Also, give me nice strong cigarettes later, too.”
Since he had visited Fran today to buy information, Seymour still had cigarettes from the last time. But, despite that, Seymour still put in an order for new ones.
Fran picked up the cigar she had dropped moments ago, wiped the dirt off it, and put it back into her mouth. She took a few pulls, rekindling the dying embers before she cocked her head to the side in confusion.
“Or rather, this place sells information, not bombs, you know?”
“But, you can sell them. Bombs, that is. Right?”
“Well, that’s……we can at least act as an intermediary and point you to the right place.”
With a sigh, Fran spun in her chair and turned her back to Seymour. There were a lot of shelves installed within arm’s reach for her, despite how short she was. She was apparently looking for information stored on those shelves.
“I’d prefer it to be a bomb with a timer, also as small as possible.”
“Which reminds me, Mister, do you know of the Murder Inc.?”
Seymour’s heart jumped when she abruptly brought up the name. However, Fran had merely mentioned the name as part of her idle chatter and hadn’t noticed his agitation. After prudently seeing through that fact, Seymour nodded.
“I’ve heard about them, at least.”
“Well, considering the job you’re doing, I guess it’s not weird for you to have heard of them. Ah, but how truly regrettable. One of my favorite pastimes is explaining all kinds of things to you to earn your admiration.” Fran chuckled without a hint of actual regret. “Anyway, about that Murder Inc., it’s funny that the current company president claims to be the second generation. I mean, in the beginning it was a company in name only that didn’t even have any employees, let alone a president.”
“……What’s up with that? Oh, please make sure that the bomb is strong enough to blow up a garage.” As he said it, Seymour’s nose registered a faint smell of mud hanging in the air.
“The trigger appears to have been five unrelated murders that all seemed to have occured all of a sudden. By mere coincidence and chance, five people were murdered at the same time, and they all happened to be members of the mafia.”
────As a result, it ended an ongoing dispute.
Fran cracked her neck as if she wished that she had been able to see the murder scenes.
“The mafia, who were forced to abruptly end the dispute, must have had some suspicions deep down: 『Something like this is impossible. Someone must have perpetrated this whole show』. Their attention was drawn with those five murders, and before long, the name Murder Inc. cropped up.”
A series of mysterious crimes that were never committed and an organization responsible for them despite not actually existing. A company called Murder Inc. had settled the dispute, something that shouldn’t be possible under normal circumstances.
“So, what you’re saying is that the current Murder Inc. is just a copycat of the urban legend that is Murder Inc., something that was supposedly created before all of this but never actually existed?” Even as the words left his mouth, he realized how strange it all was.
A vampire that shouldn’t exist was hired by a company that shouldn’t exist. And at this very moment Seymour the individual was about to be crushed by these two supposedly non-existent things.
“You got it. The power of people’s imagination is terrifying. The minds of the people, who refused to believe in coincidence, created an unreal shadow with the name Murder Inc.”
Fran whirled around in her chair once more. Her eyes homed in on Seymour. When he saw a sort of murkiness in them, Seymour was shaken for an instant. But then she blinked and that vague feeling disappeared, just leaving behind Fran’s usual eyes, dulled by smoke.
“Do you understand, Mister? Whenever people reminisce about the past, they’ll imagine things they couldn’t have experienced. They’ll manufacture a selfish story that does nothing but chain facts together. But, sometimes those fictions will betray reality. And likewise, there are times when that betrayed reality will turn into fact.”
“Is it okay if I just sum it up as mafia folks being foolish?”
“I’d say you could take it like that, too. Here you go. Are you really going to buy that, even after all that?”
Fran had placed a pack of cigarettes and a piece of paper on the counter. Seymour suspected that the memo had where he could buy a bomb written on it.
He carefully and slowly analyzed what she had told him.
‘Maybe she’s warning me. Detonating a bomb isn’t just a matter of the physical realm. The fact that I’ve bought a bomb will naturally spread throughout the city. It’s also possible that Fran is going to sell that information. And that very fact is a kind of a bomb in and of itself.
No one would know why Seymour bought the bomb. Just the fact that he had done so would spread, allowing people to speculate to their wildest imaginations. That alone was more than enough to blow up the existence that was Seymour…probably.
Realizing that fact, Seymour grabbed the cigarette package, and with it, the piece of paper, fully aware of what that meant.
“……I see, I see.” Fran shook her head while looking down.
He opened the package, took out a cigarette, and lit it up before paying. Seymour filled his lungs to the brim with smoke that seemed to sting more than usual.
Although it contradicted the boundaries that he had defined himself as, he abandoned everything. He filled himself with the shortsighted sense of self-worth that came from deciding that punishing a murderer was all that mattered and decided that it didn’t matter what others might think.
“Thanks. How much do I owe you?”
“Let’s call it even with the debt from the other day.” Fran shrugged her shoulders. “Mister, since you like bombs so much, how about you go Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to your hearts’ content in a place of your choice?”
“Thanks. I’ll be back.”
❖ ──『✙』── ❖
『Makdi Makdi – wall inside the shop – third from below – fourth from the left – red paint can』
This was all that was written on the memo.
Is that going to be enough? In other words, if I go to this place, and buy this, I’ll have a bomb. Though I don’t know whether the bomb has been put into the paint can in advance or if I’ll need to exchange the can for it at the register.
There was a slight problem since Seymour didn’t know where the Makdi Makdi store was, but that wouldn’t be too hard to fix.
If I enter some random shops and ask the employees over there, as long as it’s not a completely unknown store, someone will know. The fact that Fran hasn’t told me how to find it must mean that this method should work.
Fortunately Seymour’s plan bore fruit at the third shop he entered to ask. Lightly waving a hand at the female clerk who had told him what he wanted to know, he walked over to the Essex he had parked in front of the shop.
I think it’s going to take me around 15 minutes by car. Looks like I’ll be able to find this place while the sun’s still up.
Just when he was about to open the car door, someone called out to him from behind.
“────Oh? Ain’t that Seymour!?”
Seymour couldn’t immediately identify the speaker from just the voice, but he naturally turned around without putting up his guard. It didn’t occur to him in the slightest that he ought to be wary either. Basically, he was pretty sure that it was someone who had been close to him in the past but had now grown estranged.
He turned towards the voice with that thought, and his eyes widened when he spotted someone he hadn’t expected at all.
For just a fleeting moment, his days as a student flashed through his mind. A young man in a well tailored suit stepped up to him. Although there was an unfamiliar mustache on his face, Seymour remembered those finely chiseled facial features very well.
Michael Touring – an senior who had looked after Seymour when he still was a student.
“Oh, oh, I wasn’t expecting to meet you here. So, what have you been up to?” Michael powerfully slapped Seymour’s shoulder once he was close enough.
Seymour frowned even as his lips stretched into an involuntary smile upon Michael’s nostalgic pushiness.
“I could ask you the same. Since you’re in a suit, I’m guessing work? Sure doesn’t suit you, though.”
“You got it. You still doing the same old thing? You haven’t changed a bit, man.”
The carefree smile on Seymour’s lips froze immediately. Because he had heard footsteps, followed by a woman who came and snuggled against Michael’s side. Gorgeous blond hair, and a voluptuous body. She put an arm around Michael’s waist.
A woman unknown to Seymour. One he didn’t recall having ever seen.
The woman spoke up with a sweet tone that seemed to bewitch anyone listening, “Michael, is he someone you know?”
“Yeah, Rosalia. Come to think of it, this is the first time you’re meeting, isn’t it? Let me introduce you two. This guy is Seymour. He was a junior of mine at school, and works in the transport industry right now. Seymour, this is Rosalia. My wife.”
If he was frank about it, Seymour didn’t remember a single word she said – probably some sort of greeting following Michael’s introduction – nor did he know what he had answered. But, he apparently managed to give a proper response. By the time he came to his senses, it had been decided that Seymour would drive Michael and his wife to the neighborhood of their home, and he was already sitting in the driver’s seat of his Essex as usual.
What kept playing in his head like a refrain all this time was a scene from the past.
A head that was politely lowered. A pretty whorl of hair on the head. A dearly missed life inside his car. Seymour’s first job.
He didn’t recall much about the woman back then, but at the very least he knew she didn’t have a flashy name like Rosalia. Moreover, Michael had said it was their first meeting when he had introduced Rosalia to Seymour.
Despite the fact that his brain had completely stalled, Seymour’s mouth seemed to have a mind of its own, yapping on without a care. Noticing that, he almost laughed at himself. Letting his mouth run off with random stuff all the time was quite handy at times like these.
“Still, I gotta say, Seymour, you really haven’t changed at all. You’re still doing an unreliable job like this?”
“By the time I realized, I had missed the timing to call it quits.”
“That’s no good, man. We’re already adults. We have to contribute to society and properly provide for our families. You gotta fulfill your responsibilities as a man.”
“Haha, it looks like I suck at these kinds of things. My true character is being blithe and irresponsible, I’m sure.”
“Give it a rest, Michael. It’s a bad habit of yours to push your own values on others like that. Despite being so young, he’s so hard-working. Right, Mr. Seymour?”
“Hey, hey, wait a minute. You’re calling this guy hard-working? Want me to tell you how much of an idiot this guy was during his student days? Let me warn you though, it’s going to take all night.”
“For the most part, that applies to you as well, Michael, are you sure you want to do that?”
“Oh my, I’d love to hear the full details. Could you elaborate?”
“That’s really bad. Stop, stop! We’re newly-weds, okay? What are you going to do if she suddenly files for divorce?”
A red light. The car came to a halt with a screech. A vibration. Maybe because he had pitched forward with the sudden stop, but the words that had been swirling around inside his head suddenly spilled out of Seymour’s mouth.
“Which reminds me, Michael, did you split up with the previous person?”
“Huh? Previous person?”
“Look, I mean, umm, the person I drove around.”
“……Aaahh!” After tilting his head in confusion for a bit, Michael suddenly laughed out loud. “Dude, what kind of old story are you digging up there!? That’s from back when I was still a brat, isn’t it?”
“……You have a point there.”
He started the car again, leaving the words that had spilled out behind.
That was probably all it meant to Michael. Even after bringing up his former girlfriend, Michael didn’t look perturbed in the least, and Rosalia didn’t seem to mind either. In short, their relationship was strong and bolstered by mutual feelings. They had built a bond that wouldn’t be shaken by something of that level. Michael had discarded this past.
Eventually they arrived in the street that Michael had requested to be the destination, and Seymour stopped his car once more. Michael opened the door with a trustworthy grin.
“Man, don’t mess around for the rest of your life, okay? If you need me to, I can at least introduce you to some open jobs.”
“Okay, I’ll rely on you when it comes to that.”
Rosalia stepped out of the car, showing off her long legs and never even glancing back at Seymour. Of course Seymour noticed that she had dusted off her butt with one hand after it had come in contact with the seat of his Essex. He watched them walk away together while recalling a certain whorl of hair.
It was a story of that extent. A situation limited to nothing more than that.
Leaning back, he looked up at the car’s ceiling, and let out yet another sigh. He exhaled all the air in his body just like that, and felt like turning into a thin piece of paper and flying off somewhere. He continued to breathe out stubbornly until he completely ran out of air. But, in the end it didn’t change anything, and since he was still alive, he had to breathe. After taking a rather involuntary breath in, Seymour got out of the car.
Makdi Makdi was right around the corner. On autopilot, his body passed through the entranceway of a very unassuming general store. An elderly person, who seemed to be half asleep, stood at the register. Weaving his way down the gaps between the stuffed shelves in the cramped store, Seymour headed deeper inside.
He came to a stop in front of a shelf that hosted a wide array of paint cans. Seymour absentmindedly wondered how many people in this city were aware that one of the cans here contained a bomb.
“Third from below……fourth from the left……” He mumbled the instructions on the memo under his breath, but didn’t lift his arm.
If he took the bomb home, he might be able to kill Lumi. No matter how powerful a vampire she might be, there was no way she’d be able to cope with the garage blowing up around her in the daytime while she was asleep. Even, or maybe especially if she was that legendary being, that dream of the era, she shouldn’t be capable of fending off sunlight, her greatest and most obvious weak point.
But, what about it?
Seymour suddenly questioned why he had decided to fight her. He slowly lifted his index finger to trace the paint can in question. However, that can was heavy and didn’t seem like it could be moved, like it was rooted to the shelf.
Seymour had left home in search for something definite that ought to exist in the world, and began to work in an attempt to cling to something definite. Being a courier was a tiny, weak light in the darkness he was navigating, Seymour discovered. He moved things from one place to another, creating value by ensuring everything went smoothly. It was an action with clear significance that was difficult to deny.
Even though that was meant to be true, Seymour was left with nothing once he had learned that all that had been meaningless. All reason and sentiment had been pulverized by the cold impartiality of worthlessness. Even his past sins ── the fact that he was who he was right now because he had sacrificed a single girl, his little sister, didn’t feel like as much of a driving force as it had been before.
Unable to endure the weight of the bomb, his finger veered off to a simple, unrelated can next to the can with the bomb. That can, full of red paint, made him feel like he was grabbing someone’s freshly severed head.
Seymour slowly made his way to the register, and placed the can on the counter with a clang. Even the weight of a single paint can was too much to bear for his hand that had never held anything to begin with.
As the old man talked, the beard around his mouth shifted around. Feeling like he was older than the clerk, Seymour mumbled while bowing towards the counter, “I’m sure. Value is just a hallucination. You won’t find value anywhere. Not in me, not in you, and not in this world.”
Like his body had become hollow inside, his own words echoed within. Nothing was written in stone about the world. Absolute value didn’t exist anywhere. Even the rule that you mustn’t kill others wasn’t actually set in stone.
“That’s why stuff like sins and punishments don’t exist either.”
The old man grabbed the red paint can, and cocked his head to the side in puzzlement.
“I don’t quite get what you’re saying, but this can costs 2.42 Dollars.”
The old man implicitly told Seymour that he wouldn’t hand over the can until he paid for it.
❖ ──『✙』── ❖
Lumi Spike was already awake by the time he came back to the garage.
After she had started to live with him, Seymour had mostly stopped being active during the day. Not to mention something so out of character as coming home with an unfamiliar can in hand and lowering the shutter without even driving his Essex into the garage.
It was only natural that the vampire girl would have suspicion in her eyes as she stood dumbfoundedly still inside their home. Seymour tossed the can at her.
“……Whaa!? What is this?”
Lumi caught the can with both her hands, and seemed confused as she looked at its red exterior.
“Didn’t I tell you? Every once in a while, I paint my walls. As a change of pace.”
“You never mentioned anything, but……well, it’s obvious if you look at this wall.”
It was a wall that had been painted over many times with layers of designs that had been carved into it over and over again. Looking at that, Lumi smiled wryly.
Seymour grinned at her, “So, let’s catch a break together.”
Once you gave up on everything, it became easy to do anything. Even as he stood here with a monster that had caused him to tremble so much before he didn’t feel any fear and was able to simply smile like before.
“Recently, there’s really only been stuff that brought down the mood. Let’s change that mood by changing the wall’s color.”
“That sounds great. It’s a lovely idea! Let me get ready to paint then. I’ll search for a paint brush, and then we’ll────”
“────No.” Seymour shook his head distinctly.
He stopped Lumi from opening the can. He took a breath, and made sure there was a smile on his face. While imagining that his head would be blown off the second he said his next words, despite everything and anything in him being paralyzed, he spoke up.
“You’ll be the one to splash the paint, Lumi Spike.”
“You can do that, can’t you? If it’s you, you can splash the paint across the entire garage without any preparations, right?”
“Let’s do it like that. That’ll be fine. Let’s paint over everything like that.”
A long silence. Seymour had no doubt that Lumi was picturing killing him and leaving the garage. Her good-looking face had frozen, looking like a death mask, and it seemed as though even her breathing and heart rate had come to a grinding halt.
Then she sighed.
When Lumi’s shoulders twitched, he thought that he’d definitely be killed for real and not just in Lumi’s imagination, but Lumi just placed the fingertips of her right hand on the paint can.
“Very well. Let’s do it like that.”
Her slender white fingertips swayed. Just this small movement caused the can to dance through the air. The can spun before gravity caught up to it, and Lumi’s fingertips blurred in the instant it stopped moving. They turned into fog.
The thin mist that Lumi’s fingers had become pierced the can with a sword-like sharpness, contrary to their appearance. Seymour was certain that she had used the same trick during the second attack when the water tank crashed down. That clear cross-section, that had clearly been cut by something beyond sharp, crossed Seymour’s mind.
Immediately following this, the paint can burst open from within.
“Aha, ahahahahahahaha! Hahahahahaha!” Lumi laughed happily within the crimson rain. Her extended arms, her hair as it fanned out as she spun, and everything else was painted over red. The bloody color was hurled in all directions like it had exploded and splattered across the ceiling, the walls, the floor, the furniture, Seymour, Lumi and everything else equally.
“Kuh, haha, hahahahahaha!” Without realizing it, Seymour was laughing as well.
He couldn’t resist the overwhelming feeling of happiness. The moment the can burst open, it felt as if his former self had burst open too. The trivial past created by the courier Seymour Road, and all the sins he couldn’t atone for completely evaporated.
In the end, it was just a can’s worth of red paint. Even though it didn’t take very long for all the paint to land on some sort of surface, the two were out of breath when they came to themselves, broadly grinning as they faced each other.
“What should we do? It’s splashed all over the entire garage.”
“Isn’t that just fine? The ugliness kinda suits us.”
“Idiooot. You’re the only one who’s ugly here.”
A blob of paint thrown by Lumi hit Seymour’s face.
- In English
- Fran calls him onii-san, but I opted to take it as “Mister” as younger girls sometimes call younger adult men to express a sense of familiarity. In Japanese it’s the same kanji, in English this gets somewhat killed in localization. But then again, I don’t want to rewrite the whole thing here to make it fit since I’m not an official publisher