The Land of Parts
'The sum of the whole is greater than its parts. ... Right?'
When Kino stepped outside from the small restaurant, Hermes was not where she had left him. Frowning, Kino glanced right and left for any sign of him before remembering there was no way he had simply wandered off. Shifting on her feet, Kino turned around and went back through the door. Inside it was just as quiet as when she had left. One of the waitresses dressed in pink and white walked by and Kino caught her lightly by the arm. The waitress didn't look much older than Kino, though she was much taller. She stopped and blinked.
"Oh, you again?"
"I'm sorry," Kino replied, lowering her arm. "Did you happen to see the motorrad outside? It seems to have gone missing."
The waitress stiffened very slightly, but Kino caught the motion. There was a moment of uneasy silence and then the girl's mouth opened slightly. At that moment a large plump man burst through a door that led to the kitchen. He strolled over and clapped the waitress on the shoulder. She yelped and her mouth snapped shut.
"I'm sorry, traveler. No one here has seen anything like that. Maybe you left it somewhere else."
Kino glanced between him and then the waitress. She was looking away, staring hard at her feet. Kino looked past them to see another waitress and the cook staring at the scene with stony silence. When she looked their way, they both turned and went quietly back to their work. After several seconds of simply standing there, Kino looked back at the two in front of her.
"That must be it. Thank you. And thank you again for the food."
Kino headed back into the streets. She, of course, knew what they had said wasn't true. She had left Hermes parked right outside next to the large window. While she ate, she had watched him sit there. It was when she had turned her back to pay the bill that he must have vanished. Him along with most of her belongings save for her weapons. Kino was grateful for that, at least, as the country they were currently in left her feeling very on edge. But now she had a mystery to solve. She strolled down the strangely empty street. The few people that passed her gave her a quick glance and then made an effort to avoid her. This was possibly because both her Woodsman and her Cannon were in plain sight. Her coat, hat and goggles had been left on Hermes, after all.
She paused when she came upon an elderly man stooped on some stairs. The building behind him was old and practically falling apart. Kino hoped it didn't because a building of that size would cause a lot of damage if it collapsed. She approached the hunched over man as he huddled underneath a blanket. This struck her as odd considering the air was rather warm.
The man looked up and Kino greeted him with a small bow. "I'm sorry to bother you, but did you happen to see a motorrad come this way?"
The old man squinted at her through the glare of the sun. Then he waved a hand dismissively. "Nothing like that, boy. Nothing like that. Those things don't really exist here in case you didn't notice. No technology like that. Not ever."
"My name is Kino. Not 'boy'."
The man coughed. "Don't care what your name is, boy. Better leave here at once or else."
More coughs racked his brittle frame. Kino frowned and moved on. She almost told him she would gladly leave if she could find her ride, but thought better of it. It was the afternoon of their third day and she absolutely had to leave here no matter what. A part of her told her she could easily leave on foot, but that part was quickly silenced. She couldn't abandon Hermes. So on Kino walked. The other people she came across and asked were equally as unhelpful. They gave her nervous looks or glanced over their shoulders like they were being watched. They all dismissed her with the same line, 'There's not such thing in this country.' Kino eventually began to notice that the level of technology was not as high as the buildings and roads suggested. She saw no cars or motorcycles despite the street signs and paved roadways. All the buildings looked like they were falling apart, like they hadn't had any maintenance done on them in years. Not to mention Kino remembered how she had had to wash her clothes by hand even in her hotel room because there were no machines that did it.
I wonder why, Kino thought silently. It was clear at some point such things had existed. But now there was not a trace. So as Kino wandered in search of her partner, she also searched for some kind of answer to that pondering. But people were just as short with her on that subject as they were on the subject of her missing motorrad. She wandered for hours and finally as the sun began the set, Kino promptly leaned up against a building and let out a frustrated breath. She wiped sweat from her forehead with her sleeve and stared up into the orange sky. A black bird circled overhead. There was still absolutely no trace of Hermes. Not even a clue had been presented to her.
A noise from her right caused her to look over. A girl in pink and white peered nervously from behind the building whose wall she was leaning on. It was the waitress from the restaurant. Somehow she looked smaller standing there, strands of short brown hair sticking to her sweaty neck and wide dark eyes frightened.
"This way," She whispered urgently. "Please."
Kino straightened and moved towards her without a word. The girl ducked back behind the building and as Kino turned she saw it was an alley. She followed the girl through the alley, glancing around at the stacked boxes and trashcans. She noticed the further they moved through the alleyways that the boxes were filled to the brim with mechanical parts. They walked for what felt like a long time, the light slowly fading. Then at last they came to a dead end and Kino spotted Hermes on his side just behind a few boxes. The waitress stepped aside as Kino hurried over to him. She frowned when she got there. The motorrad looked pretty beat up. His tires were missing.
"Kino!" Hermes suddenly exclaimed, startling the waitress. "Oh, Kino! It's terrible! Look what they did to me!"
Kino crouched down beside him. "Yeah. They really did a number on you. But it's all right."
"All right?!" the motorrad sputtered. "Look! They took my wheels!"
"We can replace them."
"They pried the speedometer out, too!"
"We can get a new one."
"The brakes are gone!"
"Those needed to be fixed anyway."
"And the worst part is they took the kickstand. The kickstand of all things! I can't stay upright now!"
"I can lean you against the wall for now."
Kino did so, lifting the bike up and then against the back wall of the alley. Hermes wailed. "You don't even care!"
Kino knelt in front of him and draped her arms over him. It was an odd sort of embrace and caused the motorrad to stammer. "W-What?"
Kino offered him a lazy but fond smile. "It's okay, Hermes. Your parts are always replaceable. But you're not."
To that Hermes' only reply was stunned silence.
With help from the waitress, who gathered spare parts from the various boxes in the alleyways, Kino went to work fixing Hermes back up. However Kino wasn't exactly a mechanical expert and could only do so much. Thankfully the waitress, whose name was Serah, was a mechanical genius. She worked into the night right there in the alleyway, Kino doing what she could to help. (Which wasn't much.) Hermes was uncharacteristically silent. It was just after midnight when Serah finished the work.
"It's temporary," She whispered. "He'll last for a little while but not long. You'll need to get better parts in the next country you visit."
Kino stood from where she was dozing against the wall and approached, checking Hermes over. She nodded. "I understand. Thank you for all your help."
Serah stood and wrung her hands nervously. She glanced around and then looked back as Kino double checked Hermes. Then she went about making sure all her stuff was still there.
"You must leave," Serah said after a moment. "Please."
Kino glanced up at her. "Yes. Actually… do you mind if I ask you a question?"
"Why did you help us?"
Serah's dark eyes widened and then softened. She looked away and a strange look of nostalgia came over her face. "When I was ten years old, I had a motorrad like yours. It didn't talk, though, but… sometimes I felt like it did. Sometimes I thought it was the only one that really understood me. Actually, a long time ago, this country was full of things like that. People were really fond of their machines. Everyone had something they considered their mechanical counterpart. For me it was my motorcycle. For my dad it was his car. My mom had the washing machine. Some of my friends had scooters."
Serah lifted her gaze to the cloudless night sky. Kino watched her and got the sense she had forgotten Kino and Hermes were even there.
"Everyone was so happy and friendly back then. But then… One day a new government took over the country and proclaimed that it would pay high amounts of money for spare parts. And just like that… everyone took apart the machines. They tore them to pieces just so they could sell the parts. I refused but then one day when I came back from school, my motorcycle was gone. I looked but I never found it. And the government took barely a fraction of the parts offered, gave the people no money, and abandoned us."
Both Kino and Hermes were silent. Serah blinked and looked back at them quickly. "But people are stupid. They keep doing it thinking maybe one day the parts will be worth something." Tears stung her eyes and she shifted her gaze angrily at a box of parts behind Kino. "So they take apart all the machines they come across or find. There's no reason for it anymore, but they do it anyway. And no one talks about it. They pretend it doesn't happen. But they're stupid. No one wants a bunch of useless parts."
Serah turned away. "Hurry, before someone sees you."
Kino, who had put on her coat, hat and goggles at this point, mounted Hermes and kicked up the newly placed kickstand. The motorrad was still uncharacteristically quiet. "Thank you," Kino said quietly. "Farewell."
The engine roared nosily to life and Kino sped out of the alleyway. She turned sharply into the streets and continued on, shattering the silence of the night. She did not look back as they cleared the broken gate and headed down a dirt road. Kino put as much distance between them and the country as she could before she finally had to stop and rest for the night. Neither had said a word. Kino laid out her sleeping bag and didn't bother with her tent. She was exhausted and the air was warm anyway. She lay there for a while in silence, staring up at the sky.
"That place was just downright depressing," Hermes finally spoke up. "The next country we go to better treat me better."
Kino smiled. "I'm sure it will."
"Hey, does this mean you broke your three day rule?"
Kino turned her head. "Huh?"
"It's way past midnight. We were still there after the sunset."
Kino paused thoughtfully and then rolled over, back to the motorrad. "I guess so."
"… You're way to calm about it."
"I wasn't just going to leave without you."
"Who are you and what have you done with Kino?"
"… Go to sleep, Hermes."