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Spurred on by the man’s snarl, Seymour started the Essex.
The wolfish man took up the entirety of the back seat, stretching his legs out one over the other. Mud dripped down the treads of his shoes.
“I’m going to kill Lumi Spike. And you will carry the luggage.” The man repeated once more.
Before he even processed the meaning of those words, Seymour automatically asked his usual questions, “How far does it need to be transported, and how fast?”
The man let out a sigh, obviously annoyed.
“That woman is a vampire. Killing her requires preparation. Bring the necessary items to the necessary place.” And then the man cocked his head to the side, asking, “You ARE going to accept this request, right?”
Seymour only considered the question for a beat.
There’s no trace of a lie in his words. I’ve got no doubt that he truly intends to kill her for some reason.
He didn’t know what the circumstances around this were. But, Seymour Road was a courier. And as such, he didn’t ask about things unrelated to the job. As long as a request wasn’t too ridiculous, he wouldn’t turn it down, and once he accepted a job he’d strive to complete it at all costs.
His life with Lumi might have been happy and peaceful, but no value lay in that life. The reason that Seymour was able to keep living with that monster was simply because he didn’t see any value in anything. If he ever faced reality, there was nothing but unendurable pain and burden waiting for him. It was precisely because she, his sister, his friends, the dead, and even he himself were worth exactly the same to him, that he’d been able to live with her in that bright red room.
He had to see it through, or it would all fall apart. He couldn’t afford not to be consistent. As such, given the persona of Seymour, refusal was not an option.
Seymour answered, “Of course I will. But, would it be alright for me to ask just one question?” with the same mouth that he had told Lumi to take care with earlier.
The man raised an eyebrow. Seymour took that as confirmation.
“Why come to me with this?”
Seeing how there were plenty of other couriers besides Seymour that were available in this city, he couldn’t understand why they’d go out of their way to choose the one human who had been living with her.
The man growled, “That woman is a monster, through and through. If I had asked someone completely unrelated, they might get some ridiculous misguided notion of protecting an innocent girl into their heads, but someone like you won’t do anything like that since you’ve already spent time with her.”
It was a very reasonable assertion. Seymour limited his response to a nod, and didn’t ask or answer anything further.
The man pulled a memo out of the inner pocket in his jacket in one smooth motion.
“Read this to learn about the details of the request.”
“Then drive me to the building specified in it.”
“As you wish.”
❖ ── ✦ ──『✙』── ✦ ── ❖
“A dispute’s goin’ on.”
Several hours later, Seymour arrived at the harbor in accordance with the wolfish man’s instructions. There he picked up a man supposedly called Rotton Lombard. His tall body was hidden in a cassock and a cigarette glowed between his lips. Military boots covered his feet, which he had stretched out without a care, and he played around incessantly with his bangs, which were cut diagonally across his forehead, as he spoke. He had introduced himself as a clergyman when they met, though he didn’t give off that impression at all.
“…… I’m sticking to the motto of not questioning anything about my clients.”
“Whoa, how stuffy. If you don’t relax a bit, you ain’t goin’ to survive this era, man. Besides,” Rotton revealed a cramped smile, “Since you’ve been told that we’re gonna kill a woman, you’d want to at least know the reason, right?”
“The silent treatment, huh? Well, I’m goin’ to talk either way. People tend to make up their own justifications if they don’t know the reasons. When that happens, it’s easy for things like betrayal to happen. ……Anyway, you know that we’re basically an organization that mediates disputes, don’t you?”
Rotton’s attitude, which was disgustingly cheerful for no apparent reason, grated terribly on Seymour’s nerves. In contrast to his usual professionalism, Seymour unconsciously roughed up his driving, causing the car’s interior to shake intensely. However, despite Seymour’s body grandly lurching around as the one responsible for the shaking, Rotton didn’t even tremble, as if he were glued to his seat.
“Meanin’ the killin’ we do gotta be managed. Whatever shape it might take, it’s gotta be murder fer stoppin’ disputes an’ nothin’ more’n that. But that woman’s gon’ too far with the killin’.”
Seymour suddenly recalled that Lumi had gone on her nightly escapades more frequently recently. And that disputes had recently started to plague the city again.
He didn’t know the precise rate of assassinations the Murder Inc. performed. However, as far as he was aware, Lumi had gone out to kill quite frequently. Moreover, she had done so in a city where the disputes had actually died down.
She had gone too far with the killing. She had killed more than were necessary to keep the order in the city. It had all developed into a situation where her existence had very likely become the cause of disputes. Thus, she had to be killed.
“That’s a logical development which is easy to understand.”
“Yep, that’s how it is. From where I been watchin’, s’not really all that unexpected either though. Rather, I find it weird as fuck that we’d been able to talk to that thing at all up until now.”
“I mean, monsters are just that, monsters.”
Funnily, Rotton only seemed to perfectly fit his introduction as a clergyman when he was saying those words.
“Havin’ said that, things’ve become quite hairy when it comes to killin’ that woman.”
“She definitely didn’t seem killable.”
“Nothin’ in this world is indestructible though. Not to mention that the weaknesses of vampires are well-known all over, right?”
Seymour looked out the window. The moon wasn’t visible on this particular night. Thin clouds hung in the sky, and a somewhat isolating silence dominated the night, like the entire city was locked away under a giant bell.
The biggest weakness…the one that’s easiest to understand – namely, the sun – currently isn’t out. In that case…
Waiting until Seymour turned his eyes on him to continue, Rotton laughed cheerfully, “Then it’s goin’ to be my turn. Aahh, how wonderful. Devotin’ yourself to your duty is always such bliss.” Seymour looked at how Rotton’s hands were trembling at his chest. “Well, nevertheless vampires are monsters you can’t deal with by ordinary means. And yet we don’ have much of a choice but to begin our plan before our trump card arrives. Just spottin’ an opening fer us to seize her is goin’ to be a major pain in the ass,” Rotton shook his head.
While ignoring his words, Seymour turned his eyes forward.
Quite some time had passed since Lumi left his home and he had met the wolfish man. Seymour didn’t know how the wolfish man planned to kill Lumi, but he was sure that Lumi had already finished today’s murder and might be discovering that the organization she belonged to had turned against her about now.
And then he reflected on the fact that he was currently actively helping someone who was on their way to kill her. However, no matter how hard he looked within himself, he couldn’t find a single reason to protect her. No matter how heartwarming the days with her might have been, she was undoubtedly a monster, and it was indisputable that both the world and Seymour would be better off when she was gone.
The Essex wound its way through the city, eventually arriving in front of a multi-storey building. The building had apparently been abandoned in the middle of construction, and had nothing but its framework and bare walls. Originally it might have been a lot taller, but the walls were gone by the fourth floor, leaving behind nothing but exposed iron poles towering into the night sky like the bones of a rotting carcass.
The door-less entrance yawned wide, and there were no people visible in the vicinity. Seymour drove his Essex inside and was faced with the strange sight of the unlit, battered floor being filled with a dozen men. A transparent liquid had been poured directly onto the concrete, in a circle with a diameter of three meters in the middle of the floor.
In it lay the corpse of a single girl. Her limbs had turned into minced meat, and Seymour could only wonder how many bullets had been spent to do such a thing. It was hard to tell whether her body was faintly twitching because she was still alive or already dead.
No, that was wrong. The one laying there wasn’t some random girl, but Lumi Spike. And that meant that the body wasn’t a corpse, even though it was in such a state.
“Perfectly on time. Excellent.” The wolfish man approached, calling out to Seymour.
Seymour had stopped the car, and silently nodded at him.
In that instant, a scream reverberated through the abandoned building. The source was one of the dozen men, who shared no unity in attire or age.
The reason immediately became clear. Lumi’s limbs were regenerating. Nerves twined themselves around the shapeless bones, blood vessels extended from the body, followed by flesh, before it was all covered by skin. Seymour was now certain that Lumi had held back quite a bit on the regeneration he had witnessed on their first meeting in order to garner his pity. Her regeneration was beyond rewinding a video, it was so fast that it was practically like it was respawning. Those new limbs contained immeasurable power, and her body accelerated at an inhuman speed as the floor cratered with the impact of her lunging at the nearest man.
She was repelled.
It was something he witnessed several times before. A numbness like an electric shock and a colorless power.
The instant she was about to cross the circle demarcated by the liquid, Lumi’s body was struck back into the center of the circle.
“Don’t panic. She can’t get out of there anyway.” The wolfish man pulled out his guns while admonishing the man.
The pistols he held in each hand fired, hitting Lumi’s body in two places at the same time. With each bullet he drilled a hole into her limbs, and he continued to empty his magazines into her as if he hadn’t even noticed.
And then he jerked his chin, urging the men to follow his example.
The men noisily readied their guns, and after they took aim, they began to pour lead into the girl one after the other. Each time she got hit by a bullet, Lumi’s body jolted with the force. Mysterious body fluids splashed into the vicinity, but turned into ash without mixing with the transparent liquid around her.
“Once she stops moving, cease firing for the time being. But, don’t let her do as she likes. If she regenerates, shoot her. We still haven’t worked out how strong the effects of the holy water are.”
On closer inspection, Seymour could see that the center of the floor had collapsed, like it had been the site of an explosion. It seemed to tell the tale of just how many bullets they had fired so far. Lumi’s flesh had been violated and torn apart, regenerating over and over, only to get turned into goo each time.
And yet, Seymour felt no pity with her. After all, Lumi was the predator here.
Her eyeballs, which had been crushed and split open before recovering their shape again, had been glinting fiercely the entire time. Even under these circumstances, there was no doubt that the one with the upper hand here was that monster of a girl. Without letting even a single cry of pain escape her lips, she remained conscious, no matter how much they cornered her. The more bullets were fired into her, the deeper the fear burrowed itself into the hearts and minds of the men.
Maybe I should feel some kind of emotion watching this scene unfold. But, I don’t feel anything. Just as I don’t feel the need to avenge Lumi, I don’t care about reproaching the cruelty of Murder Inc. That, which has repeated itself in this city over and over again and which will continue to repeat over and over again, doesn’t seem to mean anything to me.
However, he reflexively muttered, “This really doesn’t look like a scene from the twentieth century.”
“Seriously, I don’t wanna talk about things like holy water or barriers either. Take it out.”
Giving the command while looking as though he hated it from the bottom of his heart, the wolfish man laughed lightly. Rotton got out of the car and greeted him. He took some kind of case out of his pocket and passed it to the wolfish man.
It was a black case small enough to fit in the man’s palm, but Seymour was sure that it was the trump card to kill Lumi.
Rotton looked back at Seymour, and laughed, “You sure are a cold-hearted chap. You wanted to always stay together with that cute girly over there, didn’t you? Don’t you feel anythin’?”
Once more, Seymour directed his gaze to the center of the floor. Having instantly regenerated her right arm, Lumi tried to brandish some rubble, but the wolfish man shot her arm before that could happen. He barked instructions at the other men, and the many guns pointed at Lumi lit up in response, turning her entire body into paste.
“……No, not really.”
It was unthinkable that Lumi hadn’t noticed him there. It was impossible for her not to have seen him boldly drive his Essex in here with the final piece to kill her.
However, even under these circumstances, Lumi didn’t spare a single glance for Seymour. In other words, that was all Seymour meant to her. Just like Seymour had found no value in that daily life with her, she continued to be nothing more than a simple monster in the end. Without any begging or complaining, she had readily forgotten about Seymour’s existence now that things had developed like this.
“Nothin’, you say? Ahaha, I really wonder which of you is really the monster here.”
Seymour was terribly sick and tired of Rotton’s banter. He shook his head with a sigh.
Either way, I don’t need to overstay my welcome. I should hurry up and go back to get some sleep.
Just as Seymour tried to back his Essex out of the building…
…several things happened simultaneously.
“Uh-oh.” Saying that, Rotton held up a gun.
He had pulled out a pistol from his cassock, and aimed it at Seymour. Seymour peered down into the darkness of the barrel.
It was the wolfish man with the gun who defended him. Even though he was responding to Rotton pulling out his pistol, he was faster than Rotton. He grabbed the barrel of Rotton’s pistol with his right hand, and thrust the point of his gun under Rotton’s jaw with his left.
Seymour didn’t react to either of these movements. The gun pointed at him strongly reverberated in his heart, but his head didn’t work at all.
“If you wanna hide today’s operation, we gotta kill him, I’m pretty sure.”
“If you do that, I’m going to toss you inside that barrier, scum.”
Rotton laughed foolishly while the wolfish man made his anger clear without a single change of his expression. The man jerked his chin, telling Seymour to quickly get lost.
Seymour backed his car out with his eyes locked onto Rotton’s scorn through the windscreen. His expression made it clear that he was looking down on him for being at a loss when a gun was pointed at him. However, even that expression didn’t register in Seymour’s head.
A black muzzle.
This was what had seared itself into Seymour’s mind. But, what had shocked Seymour wasn’t the pistol Rotton still had aimed at him. He didn’t care about that at all.
What had shocked him was a muzzle from his memory.
He backed the car out of the building onto the street.
Triggered by the image of a pistol aimed right at him, a memory surfaced in Seymour’s mind. It was a memory from the day Seymour had met Lumi for the first time.
On that day Seymour had been asked to drive her to a certain house. He actually managed to do that, only for the house to blow up on him. And then, a hit man ─ thinking back on it now, it had to be someone from Murder Inc. ─ showed up, killed the house owner, and────
────pointed his gun at Seymour.
He drove the car backwards, continuing to meaninglessly reversing along the street, and thus gaining distance from the building.
『People create stories that connect facts』
Fran’s remark crossed his mind. Right after, she had also added the aphorism, 『Those facts mustn’t necessarily adhere to reality』.
For the sake of winning Seymour over, Lumi had taken shelter at his home with the first attack as reason, and started to accompany him on his job due the second attack. In the past, Seymour had guessed it to have been like that. If you just connected the facts Seymour knew of back then, it’d seem like a very plausible conclusion.
But, nowadays Seymour knew more. For example, that a gun had been pointed at him on the day of the first attack. For example, that Lumi could actually drive a car.
Recalling all that, and if I consider things based on my current knowledge, won’t I be able to come up with another story about the chain of events?
Right. In other words…
“──────────────On that day I was supposed to be shot, wasn’t I?”
There was no need to split the attacks in two stages. All would have been fine if they had shot Seymour during the first attack. They could have injured him to an extent that wouldn’t be fatal, and let Lumi save him while getting away with her as driver. If they had done it like that, another attack wouldn’t have been needed as it would have created a reason for her to definitely get involved with Seymour’s job.
After all, it was easy to imagine that Seymour would be forced to rely on the girl close to him, if he couldn’t drive his car because of an injury while having to carry out his job to make a living.
However, in reality, things didn’t play out like that. The one shot on that day hadn’t been Seymour, but Lumi who had thrown herself in the line of fire. It also caused the assailant to become confused.
There’s no doubt about Lumi not regarding humans as people and her devouring humans without a shred of guilt. She’s basically a monster. But, have I correctly interpreted the meaning of that? The fact of her being a monster, and the fact of her being brutal mustn’t necessarily conform with each other.
Many humans eat the meat of animals in order to keep surviving, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that all those people are always cruel towards animals. It’s not unusual for humans to sympathize with animals to the extent of not being able to eat animal meat, but at the same time, it’s not unusual for humans to find pleasure in a feeling of supremacy by killing animals.
Just like it’s not said that a monster, which actually survives by eating humans as it possesses a nature requiring it to eat humans, gets its pleasure out of killing humans.
“……Did Lumi cover for me?”
No, it’s probably quite arrogant that it’s 『me』. 『I』 am nothing to her. But, she’s deemed me valuable enough to protect. Allowing me to get injured, would have made it easier for her to get on my good side. But, if she accepted a certain extent of time and hardship, she could also extract my work information without getting me injured. That’s why she intentionally diverted from their original plan, and achieved her objective without injuring the courier while taking twice as long.
Even though Seymour should have been a human without any value whatsoever at that point in time.
“No, ain’t no way I would get anything like that…”
It’s wrong on many accounts to apply the same scale on her as on other people and describe it as kindness or some such. But, at the same time it’s likewise wrong to deny that it was an innate goodness that could be owed by a monster.
He stopped the car. And bumped his forehead against the wheel.
Lumi Spike must have killed hundreds, if not thousands, humans up until now. No matter how brutally she might have slaughtered them, it might be difficult to blame her for it. Rather, I’ve got no doubt that the number of humans, who would praise her unconditionally, should be high.
However, that monster was actually kind. She was extremely gentle for a monster.
“…………I have to admit that.”
Even if everyone in this world denied this fact, only Seymour alone had been saved by her kindness.
He took a breath. Lifted his face. Retrieved the gloves out of his pocket and put them on.
Noticing his hands trembling, Seymour powerfully clenched them once, before opening them again.
And then he muttered under his breath so that no one would hear it, “Did you know? There exist statistics that half of the deadly accidents of rail cars take place during the departure.”
In an instant, Seymour stepped down on the accelerator with all his might. The car roared as it suddenly picked up speed. Accelerating in no time, the lump of iron leaped into the building it had left moments ago.
Over there, the men were about to perform the final rites for Lumi. The wolfish man was approaching her, who had been smashed into pieces by countless bullets. In his hands he held a pistol and a small, black case. Nearby, Rotton was laughing while the other men were anxiously watching with bated breaths.
Seymour’s Essex plunged into that situation.
“────Haah?” The wolfish man cried out with his eyes flying wide open.
“────Eh?” Rotton flapped his mouth open.
Several of the nearby men were knocked over all at once. No human was able to oppose a mass of metal weighing over a hundred kilogram which crashed against them at high speed.
Seymour didn’t know whether the sound of a crushed frog came from someone’s yelp or someone’s body. Because there was an impact which got even passed on to Seymour inside the car, he immediately stopped the car.
He tightly pressed his eyelids closed, and breathed out. He should have adjusted the speed of his car so that no one would die from being hit by it, but there existed no guarantee that it wouldn’t happen anyway. The fact that he might have killed or injured someone was about to bog down his thinking.
In order to avoid that, he briefly muttered while glossing over that his voice was somewhat crankier than usual, “Probably at some place, right?”
Once he opened the driver’s door and got out, the wolfish man and Rotton had stopped moving on the ground. Several men were groaning nearby.
Seymour averted his eyes. He didn’t have any time to stop. He’d accept answering his feelings of guilt later on. By letting his mouth freely yap as it pleased, he allowed calmness to fill his heart.
“Sorry for disturbing.”
Since it’d have been preposterous to think that he’d be able to incapacitate all of them with one charge, Seymour loosely waved a hand at the men of Murder Inc. while they were still flabbergasted by the sudden turn of events. Then he walked up to Rotton and the wolfish man, and tore the black case out of the man’s hand. Opening it, he spotted three shining bullets which appeared to be made out of silver.
I see, so they wanted to kill her with those, huh? Makes sense.
Following that, he climbed back into his car.
“Thanks for having put up with me. Please excuse me now.”
It was at that moment that the men regained their wits.
Seymour ducked his head in response to the manifold, overlapping, angry roars. While he forced his body around within the narrow car, several of the bullets entering the car grazed him.
In an ideal world, he’d have been able to free Lumi from here, but it didn’t look likely that he’d be able to pull that off.
“See you later,” he lip-synced to the minced meat on the ground, which used to be a girl, but he didn’t know whether it got through to her or not.
At any rate, he had to toss away these bullets somewhere and make them completely give up on the idea of killing Lumi. Seymour sped out of the building with his Essex. Immediately following, he could hear three engines following on his tail.
“Figures that they’d come after me.”
Looking through his rear mirror, he spotted three cars. In one of them ─ a red Essex ─ sat a guy with red glasses whom Seymour recalled having seen before.
“Ah, give me a fucking break, will you!?”
Seymour raced his car through the dark streets. As long as he got rid of the black case somewhere, that part would be fine, but with the cars sticking to him right behind, it was hard to say that he’d be able to toss the case away reliably and safely. It’d make little sense to toss it away randomly, just for it to get picked up later again.
Apparently some of the guys in the rear cars had guns with them. Seymour didn’t expect them to hit him so easily, but if they shot the tires, it’d become fatal for his escape. He quickly dove into a complicated labyrinth of alleys.
On the bright side, those alleys were nicely frozen over. The snow, which had melted after being trampled down by people over the day, had apparently hardened again. Hearing the crunching coming from underneath his tires, Seymour laughed.
“Heeere we go!”
The instant he exited his current alley, he took a sharp turn. Even while getting the jitters over the sensation of the rear wheels sliding across the road’s surface, he somehow managed to control the car frame.
The red Essex, which was at the head of his pursuers, naturally took the turn just as skillfully. The car following behind somehow managed to take a turn as well, albeit having to draw a wide curve. But, the third car slipped splendidly.
Seymour ducked his head due to the crashing boom reaching him from behind.
Then he felt a hard impact from behind. His pursuer was pushing up.
“Today I’ve got no additional weight with me, you know?”
In the meantime, the red Essex had raised its speed in order to pull up next to Seymour’s car on the right side. It’d be dangerous to allow the two Essex to ran parallel to each other as the glasses guy could have a gun on him. And even without that, Seymour would have little room to maneuver if got surrounded by cars on either side.
“Hmm, what should I do?”
Seymour’s eyes caught onto the T-junction ahead and the railway track running beyond that. At the same time a faint vibration reached his ears. He opened the window while keeping one hand on the wheel. While turning left at the end of the street, he thrust his hand out of the window.
That hand threw the black case. It drew a parabola, flying over a high fence and landing on top of the railway tracks.
The one reacting to that was the car behind him which had been pushing up against his Essex. While destroying the fence next to the railway, they drove their car on the tracks, chasing after the black case. Then they suddenly stopped, and a man, who got out of the car, picked up the case.
Now then, I wonder whether he’s going to have the time to figure out that the case is empty.
Seymour couldn’t make a final call on that, but the man immediately realized what Seymour had perceived earlier. In short, a subway, which was running late at night, rapidly approaching his current position.
Out of the corner of his eyes, Seymour perceived how the man escaped in a hurry, leaving his car behind, just to have it sent flying by the subway in the next moment. Seymour limited it to mumbling a 『Sorry』 under his breath as a loud explosion roared behind him.
And thus only the red Essex driving next to him was left.
“………You’re the last one, huh?” Seymour muttered.
Seymour and the glasses guy. Both simultaneously let their eyes wander across the road. The subway’s surface segment separated from this street, vanishing in-between multi-story buildings. The two-lane road got immediately sandwiched by towering buildings on either side. The road itself was mostly one straight line, abruptly ending several blocks ahead ─ at the boundary of the city district ─ as the road got cut off by a huge river.
Both pondered at the same time. And both reached the same conclusion at the same moment. Seymour turned the wheel to the right. The glasses guy turned his wheel to the left. Resulting in both cars bumping against each other at full force.
It was an unavoidable situation. For the glasses guy it was indispensable to stop Seymour’s care here by forcing it off the road, seeing how the number of pursuers had dropped to his car alone. As for Seymour: he wanted to quickly get rid of his pursuers, but there was still some way to go until the next crossing, and thus he wouldn’t be able to cope with his opponent unless he hit the other car back.
As a result, both cars vied for dominating the road’s middle. The two sideview mirrors stuck in-between this contest got crushed and fell off, vanishing out of sight in no time.
And even despite doing all that, a solution to the situation was far off for Seymour. After all, a dead end awaited further down the road, and if went beyond that, he’d be headed straight for the river.
I wonder just how the chance for survival might be when dropping off the wharf into the river while stuck in a car during this season. But I’m pretty sure it’s so low that I wouldn’t ever feel on betting on it. But, having said that, I see no means to avoid it.
Neither Essex can leave the middle of the road while we’re duking it out with all the power our cars can muster. But, even assuming that either side were to relax on the attacks, the other side would immediately run their car into the other’s, most likely causing their opponent’s car to crash. That’s why I can’t ease up on this.
He exploited his hands to the limits while putting as much strength as possible into the foot stomping down on the accelerator. His opponent invested similarly frantic efforts, continuously bumping his car into Seymour’s Essex to hinder him from escaping.
At this rate, both Essex would fall into the river. With death awaiting both drivers with a probability of almost 100%.
But, if either eased up on the attacks, their car would turn into a wrack. With defeat awaiting the one to have given up first.
Both were fully aware that neither side could back down from this.
“………Hah.” A short laugh escaped Seymour’s lips. Though it was unclear to him what kind of emotions it carried.
He kept his car going. Distance until the end: 300 meters.
Next Seymour realized that the voice filling his car’s interior was his own laughter. Distance until the end: 200 meters.
Death was approaching at the same speed as the car was running. His hands had become slippery, trembling as they clasped the wheel. Distance until the end: 100 meters.
He couldn’t help being happy. Even though he was aware that he was about to die, he didn’t have any intention to fear death whatsoever. Seymour felt like he could drive on like this for eternity. Distance until the end: 50 meters.
Seymour shouted to something in his head, which felt murky due to lack of oxygen. His eyes didn’t register the red Essex anymore, but glared at something in front of him that didn’t exist. Distance until the end──────
When the strain on his hands suddenly disappeared, Seymour piously believed that his car had fallen into the river with him having died. But, contrary to his own consciousness, his hands and feet were properly operating the car, delivering a heavy, violent blow against the car running next to him.
The sound of glass shattering could be heard.
The glasses guy had eased his hold on the wheel. And that was the reason for him crashing.
Seymour realizing all of this was owed to his limbs having stepped on the brake and thrown the wheel around, resulting in the Essex stopping with the car frame halfway sticking out over the wharf.
The red Essex had run into a building located several meters further away from the river than Seymour. The car itself was in a terrible state, looking as if it had been squashed flat between the palms of a giant, but no fire or smoke could be seen rising from it, allowing Seymour to guess that he didn’t need to worry about it exploding.
Seymour remained still for a few moments. There was no indication of someone leaving the red Essex. He thought that the glasses guy had likely died in there, but a part of him also believed that he might still be alive.
Unsteadily leaving his car after a while, he faced the river. He had gotten rid of the black case, but the content ─ the three silver bullets ─ were scattered on the passenger’s seat. He picked them up and tossed them into the river. Three faint flashes as the starlight got reflected by the bullets got silently swallowed by the blackness of the river.
“I made it out alive, huh?”
Those were the words pressing out of his mouth. But, without a doubt, those were also Seymour’s true feelings.
He was well aware of the reason why he firmly gripping the wheel to the very end, even with death approaching in the shape of the river in front of his eyes.
While comprehending that the glasses guy wouldn’t hear it anyway, he muttered, “My mind was fully preoccupied with how that girl must have felt.”
Even as undying vampire, she might have faintly experienced that kind of feeling back when she threw herself towards the pitch-black gun muzzle. Maybe she might have felt a chill run down her spine despite her emotions being different of humans.
In the end, I still don’t get how she ticks, but at least we’re even with this.
His courage ─ limited to this one manifestation ─ had already run out of stock, and his fear, which finally caught up with him at full force, made him feel freezing cold. Seymour swiftly stuffed a cigarette into his mouth as if to cling onto its tiny flame.
✦ ──『✙』── ✦
He drove back into the unfinished multi-story building, noting absently that the Essex had started to make an odd noise. The moment he had arrived in front of the building, he had been struck by the uncanny silence that now surrounded it – a massive difference from how it had been before.
The men who had been still standing when he left earlier now lay sprawled on the ground. The barrier drawn onto the floor was gone without a trace. Only the signs of destruction remained…no, there were more now. Seymour suspected that the remaining men had tried and failed to stop Lumi regenerating. Something had struck the ground with great force, resulting in cracks that seemed to have rippled out from the point of impact like a spiderweb. The barrier that had been drawn in holy water had probably collapsed because of them.
And in the middle of it all stood Lumi Spike. Her clothes were a mess after having been shredded to pieces by bullets, but there was not a single injury visible on her body. Her beauty, all the more striking in contrast with the destruction that surrounded her, seared itself into Seymour’s mind, painting her as the personification of horror itself.
“They’re not dead.”
Even though he was asking after her, she answered for the men around her instead. She hadn’t killed them. She hadn’t felt threatened enough to do so. Seymour briefly wondered what it would take to push her to that point, but quickly put it out of his mind. For now the threat of her being attacked again had passed, and that was all that mattered to Seymour.
“This and that happened, and apparently the Murder Inc wanted to kill you.”
“Yes. I thoroughly experienced that with my own body.”
“I got rid of the tool that’s apparently necessary to kill you just now.”
“I see.” Lumi agreed, not even a fraction of concern present in her tone.
He was a little shocked at her indifference, but upon realizing what he was feeling, Seymour smiled bitterly, asking himself if he had really believed he’d be able to receive some words of gratitude or even a kiss from her this late in the game.
He thrust his hands into his pockets, and shook his head.
“I don’t know how things work for you people, but wouldn’t it be better to leave this city?”
“Yep, leave. Now that you’re being targeted by the Murder Inc., it’ll be impossible to live in peace in this city, won’t it? Wouldn’t it be smarter to run away for now and start over somewhere new?” Seymour asked as he put a cigarette in his mouth.
Probably because he’d done so many things he wasn’t used to doing, a terrible fatigue settled over him. Noticing that his fingers were trembling, he gave up on lighting the cigarette for the moment. As a man he didn’t want to show her the uncool appearance of him trying and failing to light a match because of his shaking hands.
Thus he simply lifted his gaze. Lumi’s eyes were clouded with what was clearly a mix of feelings as she stared at him. This startled Seymour somewhat. He had assumed that he was nothing more than a mob character for her, and wouldn’t have thought it weird even if she had disappeared in the short moment he took his eyes off her.
Lumi’s hand tugged at what remained of her sleeves for a moment. That movement also added to his vague sense of discomfort.
“Mr. Seymour, are you────” Her voice was shaking terribly. “Mr. Seymour, are you going to come with me?”
Seymour tilted his head in confusion.
The question was extremely simple and because of that, it just slipped out of his mouth.
“I mean, I’m a courier for this city. Sure, it looks like the pandemonium this time will probably have some consequences, but well, I’ll manage one way or the other. So I’ll remain here.”
“It’s okay. I’m sure someone like you can survive anywhere by herself. Just like you’ve always done up until now.” Seymour mentioned it as a parting gift.
A monster that had always been alone would be able to survive alone in the future just as well. He was certain that this fact would become a comfort to her when she left this city. Leaving aside the question of whether she actually wanted to be comforted in the first place.
However, Lumi ended up casting her eyes down in response.
“Did you say something?”
It was at that moment that Seymour, whose mind had been clouded by fatigue and the exhilaration of the chase, registered Lumi’s abnormal state. Though, it was far too late for anything.
Why was Lumi here? Did she wait for Seymour? This fact, that he had not even realized that he should have questioned, let alone understand the full implications behind, hit him with all the force of a truck.
“Why, why, why, why?”
Lumi vanished into thin air.
Immediately following that, a force slammed into Seymour. A fierce heat welled up within him, and Seymour broke into a violent coughing fit.
Lumi was right in front of his eyes. Even though he should be able to see all of her, her right hand was missing. No, that was wrong, it was within his visual field.
Her right arm was stretched out towards Seymour’s chest, however the hand at the end of it wasn’t visible. After all, it was deeply embedded in Seymour’s chest. Lumi’s right hand had pierced through Seymour’s chest.
“Eh?” He muttered, coughing.
Large amounts of blood spilled out of his mouth, and his body swayed giddily.
But, Seymour didn’t collapse. Lumi had stuck her right hand into his body, and was holding something within him, supporting his body’s weight as a result.
The thing she held in a vice-grip pulsed. It was his heart.
“Why…are you saying something like that?”
Her anguished face was a breath away from his. Tears had welled up in her eyes, threatening to spill over at any moment.
It’s me who wants to cry here.
The white-hot pain of her holding his heart with her bare hand consumed his mind. He coughed and more blood came pouring out of his mouth, splashing all over Lumi. Her hair, face, and body became bright red.
Seeing the blood on Lumi brought up a memory. At the same time, Seymour finally realized the true nature of the uncomfortable feeling plaguing him.
“Why…are you…saying something like that?”
Pain colored Lumi’s eyes. Her body was not injured in any way, and as such, she shouldn’t be feeling any pain. And yet, she was on the verge of crying, her face cramped up as if she were deeply hurt. There was something deep down in her eyes.
Something Lumi Spike the monster wasn’t supposed to possess. Even though she was a monster precisely because of the fact that she didn’t think of humans as people, she was definitely grieving over Seymour’s current ailing state right now.
Seymour’s blood ran down her face into her eyes. It mixed with the tears in her eyes, until she couldn’t hold them back anymore and they ran down her face in fat rivulets.
“D-Despite d-doing this t-to me!”
A pained scream tore its way out of her throat.
Despite the all-consuming pain, his brain recalled a single remark. A throwaway aphorism from the tobacconist girl.
『People create stories by connecting facts』
Have I ever considered what kind of facts I allow others to see?
Lumi’s crimson figure flashed through his mind. A girl who had been created by the world and had made a living as a hitman without any family to support her, unable to and never relying on anyone. Any relationships she would have built would doubtlessly require her to hide the truth of her nature, and the Murder Inc., the only ones who knew she was a vampire, was an organization capable of discarding her at a moment’s notice.
She was a being that existed all by herself in this world. And yet, they had splashed the paint that day. The red paint, which exploded in the garage instead of a bomb, ended up becoming a connection between Seymour and Lumi. 2 Dollars and 42 cents had poured down on two souls who were all alone in the world.
Seymour had accepted her being a vampire. He had built their relationship on this acceptance. On top of knowing that Lumi Spike was a vampire, he chose to spend time with her, and also her vampiric nature.
For Seymour, that was purely out of desperation, recklessness, and a fairly suicidal mindset, but that wasn’t what Lumi saw. All she knew was that Seymour Road had extended a helping hand to a monster that couldn’t build any real relationships. He had ended up assuring Lumi Spike the monster that she had a right to live.
Those were the facts she knew.
And so she had created her own story using that as its starting point.
Seymour recalled her repeated murders that slowly drifted further and further away from the goals of Murder Inc. Now, with everything he knew, he could also think of a reason for that. He suspected that his death had been part of the Murder Inc.’s greater plan. That the only reason he had been allowed to live on even after Isaac Nigel’s death had been because the information he still possessed was beneficial for the organization.
And thus Lumi had tried to do something about it. The objective of her repeated murders was to demonstrate his continued value for the organization. The more people she killed using Seymour’s information, the more valuable he’d become for the organization. Murder Inc. would be less and less inclined to kill Seymour Road.
Seymour assumed that had been her train of thought. It was a childish, simple weighing of losses and gains. And at its end rested her elimination by the organization.
As if she had wanted more of the warmth that had passed between them through their joined hands in the past, she’d seized his heart.
“E-Even though I-I could have remained a monster, if…if you hadn’t been there! Even though you taught me about humans!”
She had formed a relationship with a human. She had recognized that humans were not all that different from her. Seymour was sure that there was no way she could return to being no more than a monster after the day of the crimson shower.
In that case. The number of humans she’s killed so far must be in the hundreds, or even thousands. It’s got to be such a high number that keeping count of them wouldn’t even mean anything anymore. But, the instant she learned about humans and was thus released from her isolation, she was confronted with a sin she couldn’t atone for. Understanding that the countless beings she had previously crushed underfoot without a care had the same value as the stupid man in front of her was an unresolvable tragedy for Lumi Spike and a hilarious comedy for any outsider.
“What to do? I…having been in such a situation, even without knowing anything…what should I do?”
Maybe because his heart, which was still in her powerful grip, was approaching its limit, or maybe because he’d already lost too much blood; Seymour’s thinking gradually became duller, and his consciousness began to fade.
Despite being on the verge of killing him, Lumi clung to Seymour who was on the verge of death. It was the manifestation of Lumi’s conflicting desire to save what she was killing with her own hands. It was a contradiction that was likely an integral part of Lumi Spike now that she’d been broken by Seymour.
“Killing is wrong…not killing is also wrong…I didn’t know a way out anymore…so I thought it’d be fine for me to get killed, and yet…!”
She had fallen straight into hell at the moment she understood humanity. Seymour understood that the weight of the sins she had unknowingly accumulated must have been so devastating that she even chose death over it. And yet, despite all that, she had had to kill more people. For the sake of rescuing Seymour Road from the clutches of Murder Inc., and at the same time, for the sake of being killed by Murder Inc. at the end of that road.
Seymour wondered how heavy her heart had become with each new murder, now that she was aware of the tremendous weight of her sins. And there was no doubt that it had been Seymour who had tossed her into that hell.
“Mr. Seymour, please…kill me. Please…allow me to kill you. Please, tell me what I should do. I…I am──────”
“──────” Seymour attempted to say something.
But, he couldn’t think of any words that would be appropriate here. And even if he tried to put his thoughts into words, he didn’t have the strength to voice them.
Blood trickled seemingly endless from the holes in his chest and beneath his nose. His body had already become unbearably cold. He didn’t think he had the energy to utter a single word before he lost consciousness. His heart had run out of strength.
Lumi propped up Seymour’s body just as his knees began to buckle.
Knowing that this kindness, which gave birth to the worry that caused her to care about him above all else, was the main reason she had been thrust into this hell, Seymour could only laugh helplessly.
What’s Lumi going to do if I die? Maybe she will simply stand here until the sun reaches this spot and follow me into death. Or maybe she’s going to pretend to be a monster once more, continuing to kill until she is killed in return. I can’t tell which it’ll be, but neither changes the fact that there is only hell awaiting her no matter which she chooses. What I truly regret is that not only is she stuck on a path that leads only to hell, I am on an equally inescapable path away from her after putting her there.
Even though he was in such a situation, Seymour believed her to be beautiful. Despite her crying, despite the blood coating her, and despite her being on the verge of breaking apart, none of it affected the impression he had formed of her from the first moment they had met: that she was a devastatingly beautiful girl.
What can I do to make her laugh?
The fact that this was the last thing he could think of caused him to laugh at himself instead.
I guess a man, who lives his life frivolously, will ultimately die frivolously. What should I do──────
──────His heart thumped powerfully once.
Suddenly, an idea struck him. His heart wasn’t beating because of some wonderful, mysterious power, but simply because his idea had him questioning his own mind, trying to come up with a reason for why now of all times and the sheer ridiculousness of it all. And to a lesser extent out of embarrassment.
His heart thumped powerfully once more.
“Let’s abstain………from both………”
It was probably a good thing he was on the verge of death. Otherwise, his face would be bright red right now, he was certain. He was truly glad that all the blood that could have risen to his face had already spilled out through all his openings.
I have to somehow make sure that this kind-hearted, and above all else, beautiful monster girl, who’s bound to fall into hell and whom I broke, manages to survive one way or another. Even if she has committed atrocious crimes, she mustn’t die just because she has realized the weight of her sins. I must tell her that the path of her life was not just composed of sins, but also of other things.
That was Seymour’s responsibility, duty, and joy, or in other words, his fate. Seymour desperately spun his next words, not to die or kill, but solely for the sake of saving her.
“Lumi, let’s live together.”
‘It sounded almost like a confession.
He thought, and immediately dismissed the thought from his mind.
Those were simple, plain words of confessing one’s love.
“B-But, I have to kill in order to stay alive…”
“Killing is out. You’re not allowed to kill people.”
He could see fear beginning to take over in the depths of her eyes.
In order to truly commit to not killing people, you have to first think of the countless lives you’ve already extinguished.
Seymour saw that she understood and feared the gravity of that.
“Fi-…gures. Facing it, you see, will be absurdly tiresome. To the point that you won’t want to live on.”
He wondered if he was still capable of smiling.
“It’ll be tiresome, but you know, you’ll live on by facing your sins and bearing that burden, without dying and without killing. If you do, if you do all that────”
He wondered if he had enough energy to smile enough for her to accept his words of love.
“────I can stay with you. As long as you do that, I’ll be at your side.”
Seymour coughed violently after finishing his speech. He frantically tried to swallow down the blood that was trying to spill out of his mouth, but he had a feeling that it would just leave through his chest wound instead.
“As long as you stay with me, you’ll experience nice things.” He desperately fumbled for the right words within his muddy mind.
Words that would make Lumi Spike consider living on. Words that would convince her that living with Seymour Road would be a worthwhile endeavor for her.
“Hey, I’m quite the looker, don’t you think?”
“And, I have a place to call home.”
“I’m a good conversationalist, too.”
“I’m actually capable of doing house chores, too.”
The last line caused Lumi to laugh lightly. It sounded more like a convulsive sob as tears continued to stream out of her eyes without any sign of stopping, but Seymour was sure that she had laughed just now.
Lumi pouted, her face still a teary mess.
“M-Mr. Seymour, you’re just saying that, aren’t you? You’ve probably never even tried……!?”
“You sure? Then I’ll show you my awesome cleaning skills next time.”
Another coughing fit. However, he couldn’t tell if he’d coughed in order to hide his embarrassment or if it was his body rebelling against him.
“Look, I’ve also got my own car.”
“Yeah, that’s true……”
“I’m skilled at driving.”
“Well actually, it’s a rather rough way of driving………!”
“I’ve got many friends, too.”
“They’re all girls, though………!”
Also, he tried to think of more of his merits. Trying to prove his own value.
It’s not enough. I need something more striking to give her a reason to keep on living, to let me be at her side, and for Lumi Spike to believe that living on is the best option,’ he felt. But I think that’s it, I’m hollow. There’s no more to me that couldn’t be scooped out in two handfuls.
Seymour floundered, examining all kinds of aspects of himself. Finally he added just one last thing from within himself, from under the frankly ridiculous amount of layers of pretension that he had built up.
“Besides, I’m good at making hot chocolate.”
That was all he had to offer. It was everything of value to the man called Seymour Road, and he was sure it’d be enough. Having truly reached his limit, Seymour let go of his consciousness. Even as all his powers of thinking splintered and faded, he still continued staring at Lumi alone, and what he saw at the very end was her smile.
“────That’s very lovely.”
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