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Lumi Spike never brings up her 『Mother』.
Seymour suddenly realized this one week after his eyes had grown accustomed to the red splashed on the walls. On a quiet day when he had decided to take a break from work and read a book at home.
“Uhnn,” Lumi groaned quietly.
Her body had sunk halfway into the floor. No, that wasn’t an accurate description. Her body wasn’t in the ground, but rather a shadow. Seymour’s shadow, to be precise, stretched out long behind him in the light of the naked bulb. She was settled all the way up to her shoulders, reading a magazine and looking for all the world as if she were lounging in the tub. For a while now she had been immodestly raising a long, smooth leg out of the shadow, only to let it drop back in the next moment.
Just the other day, unable to stifle his curiosity, Seymour had tried to ask her how it felt to delve into shadows.
『I’d say it feels a bit like a cat sleeping in a sunny spot, though it’s not like I can be sure of how that feels』 was the answer he received.
At any rate, Lumi lazily read like this for a while, but quickly began to play around, repeatedly looking up then back at her magazine, eventually just letting it fall on the floor with a whap.
“Mr. Seymour, what should we do for lunch today? I’ve been looking up all kinds of recipes in this magazine, but you know, I think I’d like to have a specific goal in mind.”
“Anything works for me. I’m not picky. Just make something edible.”
“Haven’t any of the girls you’ve been with told you that they hated you for saying something like that?”
“Come to think of it, the last time I said that to a girl, she threw raw pasta into my face.”
“No wonder. And what did you do with it?”
“Well, it turns out that if you chew thoroughly enough, they’re edible.”
“So you really weren’t joking when you said that you’d eat anything edible!?”
Seymour thought about things as he casually chatted with Lumi about things that had less and less substance by the minute.
He felt like Lumi wouldn’t ever have said something like this before. The majority of her knowledge and behavior had been shaped by whatever entity she called her mother. And he suspected that this was yet another lie to get on his good side.
If I remember correctly, according to the president of Murder Inc., Lumi never spent enough time as just a girl to learn these things from a mother.
Therefore her entire character sheet ─ the tendency to rely on the knowledge her mother had taught her, the display of weakness that was shivering in a sewer pipe after suddenly running away from his home, and the boldness to abruptly demand he call her by name ─ it was a setup to ensure that Seymour would allow Lumi to stay with him.
If he was honest, Seymour couldn’t deny that this fake character was tailored extremely well for the intended goal, given his character and history.
He was just about to examine his feelings on the matter but stopped abruptly. He shifted his eyes to the portable stove as Lumi slipped out of the shadow and stretched. It seemed like she was going to start cooking, but she shook her head instead, looking terribly annoyed.
“Haah, aren’t you revealing an awful lot about how men act when they think they’re popular?”
“No problem. I’m just someone who wants to experience love. Racking your brains as you think about your partner is a form of love, right? I want to see that.”
“Whoaa, isn’t that the kind of statement that might work while everything is still new, but destroys any chance of a long-term relationship?”
“How do you know so much about my personal track record with women?”
Lumi laughed loudly at Seymour’s miserable look.
This was yet another difference. As usual, she made sure to never declare herself to be a hitman. But besides that, she had started to allow a thread of her true sarcastic nature through.
“No helping it. I’ll whip something up, so please wait for a bit.”
Lumi went to the corner she had recently cleaned and turned into a cooking area. Tying the apron around it made her already slender waist seem even more petite, forming a rather provocative image. After tying the hair in a simple bun behind her head, Lumi looked for the kitchen knife Seymour had used to open some stubborn wrapping paper yesterday, and was lying in a corner of the room far away from the gas burner.
“……For heaven’s sake, can’t he keep things tidy for once?” Lumi muttered while quickly lifting a hand.
That arm vanished into a mist from the elbow down. A thin dark vapor crossed the room. That formless but unexpectedly tangible mist easily picked up the knife before returning to being Lumi’s lower arm again.
“Quite the convenient skill you got there.” Seymour muttered under his breath as he adjusted the service creeper he was using instead of a chair.
This was probably the biggest change of all. Lumi had stopped hiding her vampiric nature. For a while now she had been revealing parts of her abilities bit by bit, but each time it had been for a clear reason, such as exposing her arm to the river to prevent them falling off the bridge, transforming into bats during their deliveries, or threatening Seymour. He suspected that she had made sure not to show off too many of her inhuman abilities, keeping them at a level that Seymour could accept.
But now it was different. Now she used it merely for convenience and because she could, rather than for some grand purpose, leisurely resting in Seymour’s shadow or turning her arm into mist to pick up a kitchen knife. Just like humans used their hands to hold things and their feet to walk, Lumi naturally manifested her abilities as a vampire.
Seymour stared at the red paint on the wall. Having been splashed rather haphazardly, it was thicker in some parts than others, throwing complex shadows in the light of the bulb.
I’m sure that was the start of it.
Lumi had received Seymour’s approval to use her powers. That had changed the nature of their relationship. Seymour didn’t know if it was a change for the better or worse, but he was certain that what he thought didn’t actually matter.
He continued to stare vacantly at Lumi’s back. His eyes followed the swaying ends of her hair. The dull silver radiance burned itself into his eyes, and just as the swaying was about to lull him to sleep, Lumi suddenly turned around.
Her brows were furrowed and she had her hands against her hips.
“Give it a rest, will you? I can’t calm down over here.”
“Even if you don’t watch me so intensely, I’ll prepare a delicious lunch rather than some dry pasta.”
It’s not like I actually thought you’d do something like that, is what Seymour felt like telling her, but he figured it would be too troublesome to explain so he just let out a weak laugh instead.
But because he didn’t explain, he was left wondering how she had interpreted his reaction when she moved.
Lumi sighed, took the frying pan off the stove, and briskly walked over. By the time Seymour processed the sight of her slender legs in front of him, he was already in her shadow as she leaned over him.
Her lips pressed against his forehead. A softness that lasted for but a fleeting moment.
Pulling back, Lumi wasn’t bashful in the least, the corners of her mouth instead quirking up in apparent satisfaction.
“Well, that should be enough to tide over your need for love, right?”
After considering it for a moment, Seymour spread both arms.
“I see. I’d be even happier if you didn’t stop at that, though.”
“Didn’t I just tell you? I’m in the middle of preparing lunch. Please wait a little while longer, okay?” With those words, Lumi ruffled Seymour’s hair, and then walked back towards the stove.
❖ ──『✙』── ❖
Seymour curled up, unable to resist the urge to puke. Large quantities of vomit gushed out of his gaping mouth. He retched again and again, throwing up the watery contents of his stomach. He was unnaturally aware that his back was twitching and convulsing like a bug right before its wings emerged. The food, which had been delicious, had been now reduced to filth underneath Seymour’s body.
He only managed to stand up after he was sure that his stomach was empty.
It was currently deep in the night. A few hours after he had stuffed himself with a hefty dinner. The moon was well on its way towards the western sky.
Seymour, who had made sure to aim for the river from his spot on the riverbank behind the garage, noticed some of his puke hadn’t made it all the way into the river, and kicked it into the water with the tip of his foot.
His stomach was now empty, but his nausea hadn’t abated. It still felt like someone had stuck a hand into his stomach and was churning it up. Seymour forced himself to stop wheezing, an involuntary response to his vomiting, and spat out the sour taste in his mouth before roughly swiping a hand over it.
For the last week, his days had been filled with sudden but intense nausea. Seymour tried to think back for a reason as he tottered back to the garage. His physical condition wasn’t bad. Rather, ever since he had started to live with Lumi, his eating habits had drastically improved. He also found it difficult to believe that Lumi would poison his food.
Returning to the garage, he headed straight for the toolbox. With trembling fingers, he opened the hot chocolate can that he had buried under a heap of tools. Carelessly pouring the powder into a mug, he added some of the hot water that Lumi never failed to prepare for him.
He ran out of strength just as he finished making the hot chocolate and slowly flopped down on the ground. Seymour licked at the hot liquid that had splashed onto his hand when the mug shook.
And then he turned his thoughts back to the question of why he was feeling so sick. His eyes kept roving the room restlessly. Lumi Spike was nowhere to be found. She had curtly informed him that she was stepping out, transformed into a cloud of bats, and melted into the night sky.
She hadn’t directly stated that she was out to kill someone. However, Seymour thought it was pretty likely all the same.
But what about it? It bore no meaning whatsoever for him. This fact had been drilled into him over and over throughout the life of Seymour Road. Since nothing had tangible value and every action and reason was equivalent, there was no such thing as sin or punishment either. Everything was equal in its worthlessness.
Because of that, none of this was extraordinary. Not the monster that was Lumi, settling down here, nor Lumi frequently killing people and sucking their blood.
Seymour tried to get his breathing under control. He perceived himself as single moving body. He forcefully suppressed his own body like you’d cover the windows with wooden planks before a storm. He repeatedly told himself that his body’s trembling and nausea was meaningless until his heart could come to terms with it.
It would all be fine as long as he could maintain his happy daily life. Having the gentle and beautiful Lumi Spike stay in his sights brought the highest happiness for Seymour. That reason alone was enough for him to remain nothing more than a bystander.
Enjoy your worthless daily life for simply being so fantastic.
He could hear distant gunshots ripping through the night. He didn’t know how hard Murder Inc. strove to perform righteous murders, but stopping one dispute only meant that another would start soon after. Seymour could sense the tingle of an approaching storm fill the air.
Before long, his nausea had gently faded away, so gently that he didn’t even notice when it had gone. Seymour let out a breath of relief, and then he drunk the mud-like chocolate that had no more warmth to offer him.
❖ ── ✦ ──『✙』── ✦ ── ❖
Seymour’s car, the Essex, had served him well for a fairly long time. Although it had loyally borne the abuse of his barbaric handling year after year, sometimes its age showed and it would malfunction.
Thus, Seymour currently had his head shoved under the open bonnet of the Essex.
“Hmm, I wonder whether fixing it will help at this point. Maybe it’d be better to buy a replacement?”
Yesterday he had noticed that the engine would splutter when he tried to rev the engine.
Because today was yet another day of no work for Seymour, he had started hunting for the cause not long after he woke up ─ in other words, in the evening after the sun went down. Right now he stood in the garage, oil smeared on his cheeks and toolbox in hand. He had removed the calibrator, disassembled it for cleaning and adjustment, and reassembled it before returning it to its place in the engine.
And now he was suddenly troubled. He wanted to listen to the engine rev from beside the bonnet and not from the driver’s seat to make sure that he had properly adjusted the calibrator, if possible. But, since Seymour had only one body, he naturally couldn’t hold down the accelerator while standing by the bonnet.
His amateur’s skill was such a hindrance at times. Seymour pointlessly wandered back and forth between bonnet and driver’s seat as he considered his conundrum.
“…’at’re you doing?”
A sleepy voice interrupted both his thoughts and the pacing of those long legs he prided himself on. Lumi had apparently woken from her slumber, and descended from the loft.
Seymour briefly explained the situation to her. After listening to his story, even as her head drooped ─ probably because she was only half-awake and still thinking of dreamland ─ her body melted into the floor. Seymour was fairly sure that she had entered the shadows. He’d not yet finished processing her sudden departure before Lumi’s body abruptly reappeared in front of Seymour.
She looked towards the driver’s seat with eyes that looked a lot droopier than usual, “I’d just need to step on the accelerator?”
“Y-Yeah. Thanks. Ah, just so you know, you start an engine by────”
Seymour stopped speaking. Before he could even give her an explanation, the key, which he had left in the ignition, turned with a click, and the engine rumbled to life without a hitch.
So she can drive a car, huh? Come to think of it, I’ve never asked her whether or not she can actually drive. I just assumed that she can’t because of how young she looks and because she’s never mentioned it.
The engine slowly revved up and down. Seymour went around to the bonnet and listened carefully, even as his hand automatically went to his chin as he pondered the unexpected revelation.
“I didn’t know you could drive a car……wait, what?”
When he lifted his gaze, Lumi’s cheeks were just in the process of flushing a deep red. Apparently this was something deeply embarrassing to her, since Lumi chewed her lower lip and her entire body trembled lightly.
“Huh……? Is something wrong……?”
A thin, forced-sounding voice replied to him, “…………No, not really. But, I can’t drive a car or anything like that.”
“No, I mean, didn’t you just start the engine a moment ago?”
Given her practiced manner, Seymour would have thought that she was rather used to driving.
Once he pointed it out, Lumi pressed her forehead against the wheel, shaking her head like a peevish kid.
“You’re wrong…… It’s not like I forgot to hide my ability to drive just because I was still sleepy and slipped up……”
“So you forgot to hide it……”
“I didn’t…forget. Now listen, I don’t make such stupid blunders. Never.” Lumi objected fervently.
Seymour let out a deep guffaw. Even as he did that, he thought about how Lumi had just clearly admitted that she had fabricated her own character.
Maybe he should feel sad or shocked by that. But, just like how all things were worthless, the fact that she had deceived him meant nothing in the end. As such, Seymour couldn’t muster any of the strong feelings he ought to have.
“Well, whatever. Could you change gears for me? I’d like to test them out one by one.”
“Gear? What’s that? No, actually, what’s a car again? Wow, it’s the first time I’ve seen something like this!”
“Too late! And isn’t that way too exaggerated at this point!?”
As he watched Lumi sloppily try to cover up her mistake, he thought hard about how to somehow get her to help him with the maintenance. In the end he managed to keep Lumi in the driver’s seat until he was satisfied with his adjustments despite her incessant complaining.
“Maaan, you were a big help. Thanks. It’s so great that you can drive.”
“You’re welcome. Though I can’t drive at all. Absolutely not.”
“Ah, yeah, yeah. Gotcha.”
Lumi’s entire body transformed into mist with a poof. The mist then floated up into the loft. Since Seymour didn’t hear the sound of her human form landing, he was pretty sure she was moping in a corner of the ceiling.
This might become a great material to tease her with later.
Before heading to work, Seymour pulled out a cigarette, peering into the box and grimacing.
“Shit, that was my last one.”
Which, of course, reminded him of the cigar-selling girl. Ignoring her advice, he had bought cigarettes and a bomb. Ever since then he hadn’t shown his face at her place.
Imagining the kind of impression she might have of Seymour right now, it was now Seymour’s turn to release a long and dejected sigh.
❖ ──『✙』── ❖
“Yahoo, Mister! Everything alright with you? Things are awesome on my end!”
At the counter of the Hornsby Cigar store, Seymour encountered a brand new Fran, one that was in an unprecedentedly good mood.
Unintentionally his real thoughts slipped out, “Uwahh, how disgusting!”
“Meanie! And here I am, having gone out of my way to prepare wonderful cigarettes for you, Mister!” As she delivered her retort, Fran grabbed a pencil and repeatedly ran it across a paper.
She didn’t write in any recognizable alphabet but rather in symbols, like squares and triangles. Apparently, that’s how she managed her information as an information broker. They looked like nothing more than the scribblings of a child to an outsider, though.
“Rather, umm…ah! Why?”
“Bomb.” Seymour bluntly said.
She had been implicitly against him buying a bomb. Despite that, Seymour had taken the memo for buying a bomb from her.
“Aaahh, that. So you were talking about that, huh?” Fran giggled, “Mister, you didn’t buy the bomb, right?”
Just as he was about to ask her, “How did you know?”, he realized something.
Now that he thought about it, Seymour hadn’t done anything to the can with the bomb, he had simply grabbed the neighbouring can and left. Since he had left it back there just like that, anyone who knew of the bomb’s existence would immediately know that Seymour hadn’t bought it.
“The bomb you didn’t buy, you see, remained in the store. Moreover, no one knew it was still there. I mean, everyone believed that you had bought it.”
“I guess I should apologize for the trouble then.”
“No, no, not at all. You got it backwards. That bomb, you know, had a very interesting fate────”
“Oh, I understand. I fully understand. And I don’t want to know the details.”
Seymour now understood why Fran was in such a good mood. He was sure that someone unexpected had bought the bomb, resulting in the bomb exploding in an unexpected place.
The girl sitting in front of him loved such stories. She got a kick out of writing information on her memos that only she knew about. Being a compulsive note-taker of the worst kind in this world, her principles were founded on chaos and mayhem. Thus it was only natural that such a story put her in a great mood.
Seymour wondered just how much of an uproar that bomb had caused within the city. Then again, at least he was quite certain now, that she had forgotten any bad feelings she had had over Seymour disregarding her warnings three times over.
“Aww, and here I was, ready to tell you all about what happened to it…”
“No, thanks. Seriously. I don’t want to know anything about things like that.”
‘Well, anyway, I’m glad. It’d be a major pain in the ass to find a new tobacconist.
Seymour leaned against the counter, and ordered in his usual tone ” Please give me new cigarettes. The cheapest ones────the ones right above that.”
“Sure. I expected you to show up sometime soon, so I prepared something special for today.”
“……I’m not a fan of such things, you know?”
“Don’t worry, it’s alright. I’m not trying to take advantage of you. It just so happens that I’m all out of several brands of cheap cigarettes right now. So I thought that I’d really love to see you smoke some delicious cigarettes, Mister.”
“Hey! That’s nothing but a price hike! It just means I’ve lost my source of cheap cigarettes, doesn’t it!?” While loudly bickering about this, Seymour smiled wryly in his mind.
For a moment there, he had been worried about how things would turn out, but he was able to find common ground with Fran unexpectedly easily. It was somewhat scary to think about what had happened with the bomb, but Seymour was sure that it’d be set off in a place completely unrelated to him.
“Oh yeah, while we’re at it, can I place a request with you, Mister?” Fran added right before Seymour took his leave.
❖ ── ✦ ──『✙』── ✦ ── ❖
The next day Seymour arrived at the southern side of the city in accordance with Fran’s request. The city jutted out into the ocean on a small peninsula here. It was in this district where the rich people of this city lived.
Seymour drove the newly repaired Essex. On his right side he could see the ocean across the width of a single block. The sun dazzled his eyes as it slowly sank into the western sea. The spot where the underground train emerged into the upper world was just around the corner. Even with the windows closed, the salty air filled the car. Seymour felt like it corroded even the bottom of his lungs.
Gazing at estates big enough to play tennis in, Seymour drove until he eventually arrived at a cemetery. The cargo Fran had entrusted him with was a single bouquet.
He grabbed the flowers and got out of the car. Normally he wouldn’t care, but for once Seymour was dressed for the part he would play today – a plain, black sweater.
Giving the gatekeeper a perfunctory greeting as he passed by, he went into the cemetery. A neatly maintained path, and a frequently trimmed lawn. It was such an orderly scene; it was as if any signs of death had been zealously kept away, despite the fact that this was a plot of land filled with corpses.
He kept to the edge of the wide pathway out of a sort of discomfort. After asking other grave visitors for directions, and taking many a break to squat down and let his nausea settle, he somehow managed to find his destination.
A single gravestone that stood neatly in a line of other identical gravestones. Though the gravestone itself wasn’t particularly special, the inscription on it was rather special indeed.
That was the name written there.
“……” Seymour stayed silent for several seconds, merely glaring at the tomb. Then he shook his head. “For the time being I have to at least finish my business here.”
Seymour threw the bouquet in front of the quadratic, white stone. The funeral had been quite a long time ago, so there was obviously no other bouquets, but despite the recent rain, not a single blemish was visible on the stone’s surface.
Seymour was pretty sure that meant someone was regularly cleaning it. Before his mind could wander and begin thinking about who that might be, Seymour shook his head.
“『To the wonderful you who disturbed this city so wonderfully for me』. So she says. Laughable, isn’t it? For an information broker like her to do a thing like this…”
Seymour doubted that Fran and Isaac Nigel had ever met in person. Both were rather notorious shut-ins.
And yet, the act of offering a bouquet of flowers to a dead mafia member might point to the fact that said information breaker may still have a tiny amount of humanity left in her.
This was all she had asked of Seymour. Merely to place flowers at his grave. And yet, even though he had no other business here, Seymour continued to stand in front of the grave, pulling out a box of cigarettes as he stood. It was one of the boxes he had bought from Fran yesterday.
He opened the new pack of significantly higher quality cigarettes. He wasn’t picky about his smokes, but the sudden jump in quality made him truly appreciate how good these smokes were.
“Hey, it looks like the disputes stopped when you died. How do you feel about that? As a member of the dead, who are supposed to be more at peace than the living.”
Seymour remembered his sunglass-covered face and the scent of the tea he gave him.
“You didn’t seem like that kind of person at all, though.”
However, no matter how Seymour felt about him, reality was unchangeable. This city had obtained temporary peace through the death of Isaac Nigel. It was a worthless peace that was already on the verge of being lost again, but it was still a fact that you could see if you just flipped through a newspaper.
Besides, the accuracy of Seymour’s judgment was still a matter to be settled.
After all, he had known Fran for quite a while now, and yet he had learned that she had a hobby of offering flowers to the dead just yesterday.
“……You didn’t seem like that kind of person at all, though.” He smiled bitterly while repeating his words.
I’m sure everyone is like that for someone. Another person’s image is no more than a patchwork of their actions, and the implications that can be drawn from them ─ the will of the person forming that image is nothing but imagination. No justice or value can be found within, and I’m certain that not a single living people can laugh at the mafia that created an illusion like the Murder Inc.
Seymour remained there until he finished his cigarette. Then he tossed the remaining cigarettes and their box in front of the grave.
“I didn’t thank you for the tea yet, did I?”
He sighed, and walked off without looking back again.
Now I have to go to Fran to claim my reward, and then I’ve got a plethora of other jobs to finish today as well.
Money was always a necessity, even in a worthless world.
❖ ──『✙』── ❖
It was dawn by the time Seymour came back home. The first few rays of morning sun were already creeping steadily towards the ground at his feet.
Because of this, he moved the shutter as carefully as possible, and quickly parked his Essex inside the garage. As he got out of the car and shook out a smoke, he scanned the interior of the garage.
Seymour didn’t think much of it. Today he had returned fairly late, and Lumi lived a nocturnal life. She often waited for Seymour to come back, fighting off her own sleepiness, but it wasn’t strange for her to be asleep either.
He climbed the ladder thinking that he might as well sneak a peek at her cute sleeping face. Only, when he reached the top, he inadvertently dropped his cigarette.
The loft held only an empty bed.
Seymour had a terribly bad feeling about this.
She hasn’t come back. Lumi Spike hasn’t come back.
She had gone off somewhere on her own again today, probably to kill someone. And yet, even though dawn had already broken, she wasn’t here. Seymour couldn’t help but recall the first time they had met, and the image of her lying there with a hole in her head. Even though he now knew that the entire incident had been staged, the impression remained deeply rooted in Seymour’s mind.
She might be in the very same state right now.
『So, what about it?』
A voice whispered somewhere in his head, but that voice was left behind in the loft as Seymour leapt down. Hoisting the shutter open, he sped out the garage.
But then he suddenly came to a grinding halt, wondering where he was supposed to go. In the first place, Seymour didn’t even know where Lumi had gone today, and even if he found someone, like Fran for example, to tell him where she was and what kind of predicament she was in, what would Seymour be able to do about it?
As if he had just woken from a dream, Seymour was left standing stock still in front of his home all by himself.
Just as suddenly as he had realized that he didn’t have any information, he suddenly felt a flash of insight. He let his eyes wander towards the river. He had no proof, yet Seymour was inexplicably sure that he’d find her over there. A single place came to mind.
❖ ──『✙』── ❖
Sliding down the riverbank, he entered the abandoned sewer pipe, spotting Lumi just inside.
Rays of morning sun shone diagonally into the pipe. Lumi was leaning against the wall, tracing the boundary between light and shadow with her fingertips. No, her fingertips had already passed the threshold.
Maybe her fingers had been hit by the sunlight because she hadn’t moved in a while, or maybe she had willingly placed her fingers where the sun would hit them. The tip of her left pinky, which was just past the boundary, was disappearing. As the fingertip crumbled, small traces of ash fell in its place.
Seymour stood with the sun at his back, repeating his greeting once more, “Yo.”
Lumi lifted her eyes, but didn’t say anything. All she did was to stare at Seymour with vacant eyes. He couldn’t be sure whether she had noticed that her own finger was being turned into ash by the sunlight.
Having said that, she didn’t look like she was sick or injured either. Seymour suspected that she was likely only aware of wanting to be here. At least that was the impression she gave him. Moreover, if he left her alone like that, she might continue standing around even if her entire body was eventually engulfed in sunlight.
“What are you doing here?”
“Sunbathing does seem to be good for the health, but are you sure you want to?”
“Is it okay for me to move closer, for starters?”
“I mean, look, it’s cold.”
Seymour crowded against her, bumping his shoulder against hers. As he did, he pushed her slender body deeper inside the sewer, away from the sunlight.
Lumi’s eyes were pinned on Seymour, but in the end she didn’t say anything.
“Sure is unexpected for you to be all taciturn all of a sudden.”
“Brr, it’s freezing out here. It’d’ve been nice to have a blanket.”
Seymour shook his head, and wondered why Lumi was standing here. It was obvious why she had come here before. She had been clearly crying, and those tears were an act. Performing a dramatic scene of a girl crying all by herself in the darkness when her loneliness overwhelmed her, she induced Seymour’s pity – she had come here so that she could stay in the garage as long as she needed.
But, that couldn’t be true today.
Unlike back then, she wasn’t deliberately sobbing loud enough for him to hear it, and it wasn’t as though she had loudly opened the garage shutter. She had no reason to do so now to begin with.
Nowadays she could stay in Seymour’s garage even without putting on an act like that, and the prime reason for her even being at his place ─ Isaac Nigel ─ was already dead. By now there was very little reason for her to stay at his garage.
And yet, here she was.
Seymour racked his brains for a reason she was here. He racked his brains since he was leaning against the wall and didn’t have anything else to do anyway.
Suddenly a hand closed over his. A hand, which had lost most of its heat and parts of its pinky, grasped Seymour’s hand.
Lumi muttered in a voice as husky as the winter’s gales outside, “Cold.”
That was all.
That’s why I’m sure it must be like that. She’s a girl and a monster, but that’s not all.
The story that Seymour’s imagination had arbitrarily pieced together from the facts couldn’t possibly be her whole story. Therefore the reason for her being here was beyond his comprehension. An insurmountable loneliness, and a gentle heat that bloomed between their connected hands.
Sensing both of these, Seymour murmured, “No kidding.”
❖ ── ✦ ──『✙』── ✦ ── ❖
Getting out of bed in the evening, he picked up the newspaper that had been thrown in front of his garage. Still half-asleep, Seymour’s eyes were naturally drawn towards the river. The sewer pipe was over there. The place where Lumi had only muttered the word『Cold』 yesterday.
Lumi Spike. A girl and yet not just a girl. A hitman and yet not just a hitman. A vampire and yet not just a vampire.
Seymour asked himself whether he wanted to know more about her, and could only smile bitterly. He felt as if there was a maelstrom in his stomach.
No matter how he thought about it, there was no value in learning more about Lumi, and even if he did, there would be no value to the information that he learned. However, a question crossed his mind.
Lumi Spike frequently mentioned her 『Mother』. Knowledge imparted to her by her mother. A dearly missed life with her mother. A tiny dream of the beginning of love between her mother and father.
“……Why the ocean though?”
A story of a sandy beach and her parents who met there.
Winning over Seymour with the word mother was an easily understood plan. Seymour could definitely see why she had used that word so frequently, given this.
But, how did she decide on the details? What kind of feelings did she have when she talked about that dream?
There were all kinds of possible dreams and memories she could have mentioned. No matter the contents, Seymour would likely have appreciated the details and shown her sympathy regardless.
Seymour believed that there was some truth hidden in what she had chosen as a backstory exactly because she could have chosen whatever she wanted to…but that was probably also an illusion created by Seymour’s pathetic sentimentality.
His eyes naturally followed the river, and he imagined how they’d eventually reach the sea. The grave of Isaac Nigel could be found over there. And also the seaside road that lead to that grave. Seymour’s eyes gazed at the road.
Evening sun. Road. Asphalt. And a bit more in addition.
Seymour sighed very deeply. Then he shook his head and went back inside the garage.
Given the silence within, Lumi was still sleeping. He gently started the car’s engine so as to not wake her from her slumber. Stopping the car outside the garage, he lit up a smoke.
Then he got back into the driver’s seat and put on his gloves.
“Come to think of it, my selling point as a courier is my request completion rate, wasn’t it?”
I’ve got to finish the request I’ve been putting off all this time.
“I suppose it’s time to practice a bit for that.”
❖ ── ✦ ──『✙』── ✦ ── ❖
He decided to demonstrate the results of his training five days later.
“Lumi.” Seymour called, as he climbed the loft with the late evening sun still up. “Lumi, wake up.”
Wrapped up in her red blanket, Lumi was curled up like a baby, sound asleep. Light snores escaped her faintly open mouth.
“…Mmh, good…morning.” Lumi sat up with her head lolling and her eyes still closed shut.
“Let’s go on a little trip, Lumi.”
“You can sleep all you want, so long as you hop onto the back seat. Come on.”
“Besides, the sun is still……just a bit longer……”
Seymour smiled at her as she slowly rubbed her eyes, “Even so, let’s go.”
Lumi suddenly stopped moving altogether. Then she lifted her face. Not even a trace of her previous drowsiness remained. All that was left was a terrifyingly calm and cold-hearted expression.
Seymour supposed that this was only natural. Him trying to take her outside while the sun was still up was a clearer death threat than pointing a gun at her.
“What did you say just now?”
Seymour shuddered. Lumi wasn’t human; even if she looked like one, it didn’t change the fact that she was made of completely different stuff. She merely sat on the bed, showing no signs of abnormality, but that truth emanated from her nonetheless.
A terrifying metallic boom reverberated behind him. Turning just his head, Seymour saw that the garage wall had been gouged out. There had been no such destruction just moments ago.
Lumi repeated the same line once more, “What did you say just now?”
He felt dread settle into the pit of his stomach, knowing that one wrong word would result in him becoming no more than a pile of meat chunks. If Seymour’s senses were working normally, he’d probably have burst into tears already, but thanks to his paralyzed mind and his chronic nausea over the last few days, he somehow managed to keep his wits.
“A stroll. Let’s go out.”
“Yes. Right now, let’s go. In the car.”
He didn’t know what Lumi was thinking, with her face cast down like that. And yet, when Seymour extended a hand, she firmly grasped it. Heading downstairs, he guided her to the backseat. Afterwards, he threw up the shutter with a loud screech.
At this very moment, the topmost edge of the sun was just dipping below the horizon, dyeing the city in the crimson rays of the setting sun.
Seymour got into the driver’s seat. Turning the key, he got the engine going. Recalling the map of the city in his mind, his imagination was filled with traffic lights, cars and the sun shining down on them all.
As he adjusted the rear-view mirror, he spotted Lumi hugging her knees and sulking.
“Are we really going to go?”
“Yeah, of course.”
She sounded as if she’d kill Seymour the instant he stepped on the accelerator, and like she wanted to be anywhere but here in the car. Despite not driving yet, Seymour pulled his gloves on with his teeth, one hand at a time while laughing.
“Hey Lumi, I’ll make your dream come true.”
He suddenly let the car take off by connecting the gears without the half clutch. The Essex jumped out on the street, leaving tire tracks on the garage floor. At this point Seymour remembered that he hadn’t thought of how to close the shutter, but now it was too late.
Sure enough, Lumi hadn’t killed Seymour despite him driving outside while the sun was still up. Though it wouldn’t have been at all strange if she had killed him for it. Thus, he was flooded with relief.
However, the opposite didn’t happen either. The shadows cast by the factory on the other side of the street stretched long into the street at this time of day, not allowing any sunlight to reach into the car.
Ignoring traffic laws, he crossed through the middle lane, and took a left turn. It earned him a concert of car horns, but Seymour didn’t pay any heed to those sounds.
Lumi continued sitting serenely in the same position, even as the backseat was violently thrown around. It was pretty obvious that unnatural forces were at work here. She looked in Seymour’s direction in confusion while running a hand through her disheveled hair.
“Well, it’d also be fine to call it finishing your request, I guess.”
Beach and holidays. The meeting of her father and mother. A walk along the ocean, backlit by the sunset. Seymour knew now that all these words had been lies. And yet Lumi had chosen those lies. She had chosen that setting even though she could have chosen anything at all.
“At this point it’d be impossible to take you to a safe city, and it’s not something you actually desire, right?”
As if caught in a delirious dream, Seymour’s mouth moved all by itself. He kept changing lanes, weaving his way through the gaps between the cars. Barreling towards a crossroad that was dominated by the mad red of the evening sun, not a shadow in sight.
Even though she could see her demise speeding towards her, Lumi didn’t say anything. However, Seymour noticed that her hands tightly grasped the hems of her pajamas.
The instant they exited the shadow, Seymour quickly stepped on the brake and jerked the wheel. The Essex started to skid sideways, moving on just two wheels. Thanks to Seymour carefully adjusting the angle towards the sun, the car’s ceiling just barely protected Lumi’s body from getting hit by the sun’s rays.
As if to prove that everything, including even the timing of the traffic light, had been part of his plan, Seymour continued to tensely stare at the road with bloodshot eyes.
“But look, because I’ve decided to perfectly carry out all details of my requests────”
There was a gap in the factory buildings that had been covering the right side, leaving no shadows on the road ahead. But, Seymour didn’t attempt to head back the way they came, only faintly loosening his hold on the accelerator.
A truck exited the factory grounds. Seymour quickly nestled close, hiding the Essex behind its big frame and breathed out a sigh.
Running side-by-side, the Essex followed the truck so closely as if to vanish into its shadow. Unfortunately, even the truck would leave them sooner or later.
However, Seymour’s destination was already around the corner. The salty air tickling his nose had been gradually getting stronger for a while now. Even though Seymour knew that nothing would hide the car from the sun once he took the corner, he stepped down harder on the accelerator, only relying on the countdown relentlessly tick-tick-ticking onwards in his mind.
“────So, what about it?”
Leaving the protection of the truck, the Essex rushed out onto the street. At the same time, the subway train raced out of its tunnel onto the surface. The vibration and wind from this huge machine was transmitted to the right side of the car, causing the windshield to rattle. The train’s shadow, stretching out long, hid the Essex.
The only thing visible ahead was the road. That road along the ocean, which also led to the graveyard, extended endlessly into the horizon.
The city was dyed in the red of the setting sun. The roaring of the waves and the clattering of the subway as it raced across its rails mingled within Seymour’s ears. ‘We’re at the sea’, he assessed. Even though he couldn’t see it as it was blocked off by the subway, Seymour could strongly feel the presence of the ocean.
He matched the speed of the subway, plunging onwards.
The difference between day and night, land and sea was just as vast as the difference between human and vampire. Seymour suddenly experienced a pang of sentimentality. Clean, odorless emotions welled up from within his chest, and he suddenly felt a terrible urge to cry.
However, since he was currently a machine that controlled the car from the driver’s seat, Seymour didn’t shed any tears. The two of them continued through the dream that the girl has described.
He didn’t look at the rear-view mirror. That was why he didn’t know what Lumi was looking at or what expression she made right now. However, her small voice could still clearly be heard over the myriad of sounds.
“The world sure is bright.”
Hearing her remark, Seymour lightly shook his head. He even had a passing thought that all he wanted was for just this time to continue forever and ever, but it was precisely the transience of the moment that made it so precious.
Approaching the end of its surface section, the subway dove back into the world where no sun shone. At the same time, the last rays of the setting sun vanished, allowing the huge shadow of the Earth itself to cover the city.
Seymour slowly dropped the speed, now that the subway was gone. Seymour felt like the temperature had dropped, and it wasn’t just because the sun was gone. Now that his objective had been achieved, he lost almost all his zeal and instead felt a gaping emptiness yawn inside him. He had a hunch that it’d be a bit too much of a stretch to call that feeling satisfaction.
Seymour slowed the car almost down to a crawl.
“How was that? Did I manage to fulfill your request?”
There was no reply. When he looked into the rear-view mirror, Lumi wasn’t immediately visible. He could only see the edge of her silver hair right behind his seat. She appeared to be pressing her forehead to the back of his seat. Seymour could faintly feel her forehead through the thick material when she leaned her full weight on it. No temperature, just an existence passed on through stiffness alone.
“……It’s troublesome.” Lumi’s voice was tear-choked. “……Doing something like this is troublesome!”
He didn’t ask why or how. Seymour merely kept driving in silence.
He could hear the girl’s sobbing. He wanted to gently stroke her shivering back, but that was impossible while he was driving.
Listening to her voice, Seymour thought he wanted to cry just like her. Even though it’d have been fine if all of it had been a lie.
She was a monster, and if that meant that her every word was a lie and all her behavior was nothing but falsehoods, something like this would never have happened.
The vampire had hidden something in those identifiers that she had said to him The fact that she had grown up without any family, having been created by the world. She had been concealing the feelings nurtured by that upbringing.
And Seymour realized what she had been hiding.
She wasn’t human, but that didn’t mean that she didn’t feel anything. She was a monster, but that didn’t mean that she couldn’t get hurt. He had noticed that discrepancy.
“……Let’s go home, okay?” Seymour turned the car in the direction of his home.
The dark of the city night quietly took them into its embrace.
❖ ── ✦ ──『✙』── ✦ ── ❖
By the time she finished saying the words, Lumi had already transformed her body into a cluster of bats, forming an overlapping concert of flapping and rustling. Seymour, who had been lying in the back seat of his Essex, lightly waved a hand.
The bats rose up all at once, turning into a single stream as they fluttered out of the car. Seymour reflexively closed his eyes as countless wings and leathery skin brushed past him, and when he opened them again, Lumi Spike was already gone. The night sky peeked into the garage through the open shutter.
Lumi had started to inform him whenever she left by herself. Previously she had simply sneaked out in silence, but nowadays it had become the norm for her to give him a holler, albeit never mentioning where she was going. The same applied to Seymour’s reply of 『Take care』.
He peeled off the fur stuck to his face while smoking his cigarette.
I wonder whether this is fine. Well, it probably is. Something like playing house with a monster which ate humans was the perfect funny party story, but it really isn’t so bad. The day where I get killed by Lumi Spike might arrive someday, but that would merely add the perfect punchline to the perfect joke in this city.
For the time being, I don’t feel any more nausea. I don’t know where the future will lead by spending my days like this, but then again, I never wondered about the future during my time as an ordinary courier either.
For the time being, as long as things stay like this, I’ll doubtlessly be reasonably happy.
He tossed the stump of his cigarette out of the window, and pulled himself into the driver’s seat from where he was. Entering the driver’s seat upside-down, he somehow managed to turn himself around, grasping the wheel in proper posture.
For the time being, I’ve got to do today’s work.
For the time being, for the time being, for the time being…compromising on all kinds of things, postponing all kinds of things, and averting the eyes from all kinds of things. Handling things this way, humans can lead an unexpectedly good life and become happy. Should I consider that a salvation or a curse?
While brooding about all this, Seymour started the engine, driving the car out of the garage, but came to a stop just outside. He felt like he had become terribly exhausted just from that, and thus required a break.
It was at that very moment that his car was loudly kicked.
Contrary to the noise, Seymour’s surprise was non-existent. When he lifted his gaze, his mind still lethargic, he saw a man. Long, slicked-back hair. Starving eyes. Lips lifted as if to show off fangs. A wolfish man whose impact was on a completely different level. A member of Murder Inc.
That man placed a foot on the Essex’s bonnet. He pressed down on the bonnet with that foot, as if threatening to crush the car underfoot.
Seeing his face, Seymour tilted his head in confusion.
“Do you have some business with me?”
Even as he asked his question, Seymour already had a hunch. The hunch that such a half-assed daily life wouldn’t be allowed in this city.
“Come, courier.” The man growled. “We’ll kill Lumi Spike.”
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