Melvi Dormentaire is a homunculus created from experiments conducted on Lord Avaro by House Dormentaire. He was the intended recipient of Szilard Quates' knowledge and memories and thus bears a deep hatred for Firo Prochainezo, who received those memories in Melvi's stead.
Melvi is serving as the main dealer at the Runorata Family's casino party at Ra's Lance in February 1935 in lieu of Carlotta. He is also the head of Time, one of Huey Laforet's factions, after usurping control from the Croquis. While he is officially affiliated with three organizations - Time, the Runorata Family, and House Dormentaire - he ultimately acts under the orders of his yet-to-be identified Master.
Since Melvi's genetic makeup is taken from the cells of the Avaro Family head, he looks identical to how Lord Avaro looked as a teenager. This means he bears a striking (if not identical) resemblance to Gretto Avaro.
Melvi has short, wavy brown hair and brown eyes. He is often seen in his dealer's outfit, which consists of a black vest and bowtie over a white shirt and black trousers.
Melvi usually presents himself as a gentleman, speaking in polite, bland tones when necessary. The vast majority of his smiles are false when he acts this way, and while he tends to be competent at concealing his emotions he occasionally lets them slip when agitated. He is prone to intense sarcasm as well.
When he does drop his gentlemanly façade entirely, he either thinks he has the immediate upper hand, has lost control of his emotions, or he is alone and free to express himself. Most of the time, the dropped façade reveals the deep, seething hatred that seemingly consumes his soul - hatred for Firo. While others (like Ennis and Luck) have recognized that hatred for themselves, Melvi is quick to verbally affirm that hatred - he announces his hatred for Firo to Firo himself, to Ennis, and most of all to himself. In fact, one of the only times we see him smile genuinely is when he is alone and contemplating devouring Firo and obtaining Szilard's memories. Over and over, he reaffirms that his desire is to become Szilard Quates, and kill Firo.
However, there are hints in the narrative which imply that Melvi's true desire may not necessarily be the very thing he proclaims it to be. One of the most telling lines comes from a conversation he has with Carlotta, in which he silently reaffirms his hatred for Firo and his desire to become Szilard "almost as if trying to convince himself that that hatred was his own desire."
Furthermore, his conversations with Ennis during her captivity convey a keen interest on his part in the idea of souls and a sense of self. He seems fixated on the idea of humans' memories and their effect on Ennis' personality and self-sense. This, coupled with his line, "see you, puppet. It won't be long before I'm human," suggest that what Melvi really wants is to really experience reality by using the memories of a natural human. Overall, Melvi does not appear to be happy - possibly because he is an artificial homunculus.
Still, it must be said that Melvi does appear to genuinely enjoy provoking Firo and otherwise causing him distress.
Melvi often acts highly confident and smug, as if he is invincible and holding all the cards. In 1935, he can afford to feel this way because he is surrounded by extremely powerful people - Claire Stanfield acts as his bodyguard, he is affiliated with the Runoratas, and so on. However, such confidence belies insecurity and the truth of the matter: it is clear to everyone around him that without the protection of others Melvi is supremely vulnerable. Melvi himself is made keenly aware of this every time someone directly threatens his life, filling him with primal fear at the thought of devourment. The mortality checks don't appear to last, since Melvi continues to look down upon others and occasionally (and sometimes deliberately) underestimate them.
Not only is Melvi aware (on some level) of his physical inferiority, he is even more sharply aware of his role in relation to those he takes orders from. At one point, he fancies just for a moment that he is the puppetmaster playing everyone else like marionettes, because the idea is both intoxicating and not true.
Melvi's true feelings towards his 'master' aren't clear, but thus far he seems willing to carry out his master's wishes.
In early 1935, Melvi - accompanied by his disguised bodyguard, Claire Stanfield - visits a Martillo Family casino during its hours of operation. He approaches a gambler named Nader Schasschule (who has been fidgeting on the sidelines), and asks him if something is the matter. Nader flinches; Melvi comments on his odd reflexes and apologizes for startling him. He hands Nader one of his special slot machine tokens as an 'apology' and suggests that he "give it a spin."
Nader cautiously thanks him, and inserts the token into the nearest slot machine. He hits the jackpot: . The machine's loud celebratory music goes off a moment later, drawing the attention of everyone in the casino. Melvi offers him congratulations and begins clapping, prompting the rest of the casino patrons to erupt into applause. By the time casino manager Firo Prochainezo congratulates Nader on his win, Melvi has disappeared back into the crowd; the crowd includes the likes of Ronny Schiatto, Rail, Jacuzzi Splot, Ricardo Russo, and Christopher Shouldered.
A man (a cheater Firo threw out earlier) comes screaming down the stairs with a gun in his hands. He shoots off a few bullets, but before he can cause harm to anyone Ennis comes flying down the stairs and takes him out with one kick. Firo apologizes to the customers and advises them to leave, since the gunshots will likely draw the attention of the police. Most of the patrons flee in panic, afraid that they will be arrested for illegally gambling.
Graham Specter enters the casino and clashes with Christopher. Ladd Russo and Lua Klein follow soon after. The situation escalates, and Ladd and Christopher devolve into fighting. Taking advantage of the chaos, Melvi uses another one of his tokens to hit the jackpot on another slot machine, with Claire standing nearby. With everyone's attention now on him, Melvi smiles warmly, claps his hands and declares, "bravo, bravo! What an interesting show!"
Ladd brusquely asks who he is, and Melvi gives his first name as an introduction. Ladd insults his name and taunts him - if he enjoyed the show so much, why doesn't he pay for it? Melvi considers this so-called 'payment', and scoops up a handful of the winning tokens flowing from the machine as an offering. When Ladd scoffs, Melvi offers him a troubled smile and pulls out one of the cheapest tokens from his pocket. He inserts it into the second slot machine on his right, and pulls the level. As the slots spin, Melvi proceeds to insert his tokens into slot machines two through six (the ones that hadn't already hit the jackpot) one after the other. And all of them hit the jackpot. The victorious musical canon fills the room.
It is obvious that he has cheated somehow, and as everyone glares at him in suspicion, Melvi spreads his arms wide and smiles - as if to say that he is the master of the enormous amount of coins spilling forth from the slot machines. Once the music eventually stops, he amicably explains to Firo that while he had wanted to see more of everyone's show, he had to stop it otherwise he wouldn't have had time to greet Firo. "After all, you'll be coming to see me soon, as well."
A moment later, a young man wearing a tailcoat and biker goggles comes down the staircase. Behind him descends Carzelio Runorata, accompanied by several becoming women and guardsmen. Finally, the twin of the man in the tailcoat enters the casino last, acting as the group's rearguard. With an obviously fake smile, Melvi approaches the group and expresses surprise at "Master Carzelio" having come in person. Carzelio asks Melvi to call him Cazze, but Melvi chides him for his informality when he and Melvi are supposed to be offering "a formal greeting."
Melvi informs Firo that it is nice to make his acquaintance. He reintroduces himself as 'Melvi', and elaborates that he will be serving as a dealer at the Runoratas' soon-to-be-opened casino. Behind him, Cazze eagerly thanks Firo for joining in on his grandfather's festivities; at Firo's confusion, he introduces himself by name. Firo politely thanks him, and then asks Melvi if "all of this" was his idea of a 'greeting.' Melvi shrugs and admits that he was looking forward to observing how Firo would deal with the cheater, his own slot machine miracle, and the crazy man with the gun...and that the results were "downright exhilarating." He calls Firo's friends 'interesting', and says that he's run out of time to chit-chat.
Ladd stalks toward Melvi, oozing with unbridled loathing. Cazze asks Melvi who Ladd is, and Melvi dismisses him as a "homicidal maniac, just a crazy murderer. Nothing to be concerned about..." Cazze expresses enthusiasm at seeing a "real live murderer." With obvious bloodlust, Ladd pinpoints Melvi as "one of those." That is, Melvi must think that no one will lay a finger on him thanks to his Runorata connections.
Still smiling, Melvi confidently agrees with Ladd's assertion. "Of course. You would have to be a complete fool to try." The thought that he might die in the casino has never once crossed his mind. Ladd confirms this once more - that Melvi thinks there's no way he'll die because nobody here would be stupid enough to go after him - and Melvi again agrees, as if he's deliberately trying to provoke Ladd. "Naturally. And I certainly wouldn't be killed by someone like you."
Fully intending to kill Melvi, Ladd leaps into the air and strikes down at Melvi with his metal prosthetic arm. Melvi doesn't even attempt to dodge - and he doesn't have to. Claire (to reiterate: disguised) smoothly breaks Ladd's momentum with one hand, and corkscrews him into the air and against the wall behind Melvi. Ladd immediately switches his focus onto the apparently bearded bodyguard. Impressed, Firo turns to Luck Gandor and heaps praise on Melvi's bodyguard - only for Luck to immediately call out Melvi's bodyguard as someone he recognizes.
Despondent, Claire removes his disguise, much to the the immediate reaction of everyone not in the know. He explains that he made a contract with Huey Laforet (the father of his sweetheart, Chané Laforet) and now he has to act as "this creepy bastard Melvi's bodyguard." Melvi smiles bitterly and shrugs at the epithet. Firo's burgeoning frustration with Claire is nipped in the bud when Ladd vocally recognizes Claire, brimming with hatred.
Ladd and Claire start fighting, and Graham and Christopher do the same. Luck and Firo have the patrons evacuate, only to see Nader escaping with them. Firo makes to order Nader to halt, but Melvi quietly advises him to leave 'trash' like Nader alone. No longer able to hide his own hatred, Firo snarls at him, "You little shit, when did you...!" Melvi leans forward and whispers in Firo's ear that Firo has just revealed his true self - something that won't do at all, since a dealer must always keep his poker face.
Firo corrects him (manager, not dealer) and threatens that if Melvi wasn't one of the Runoratas, he'd be on his way to the bottom of the Hudson. Melvi's reply is unrepentant ("oh dear. Was it something I said?") and Firo issues a warning to him: He'll give credit to Melvi where it's due, given that Firo didn't see through his 'little games' today. But now he knows that that Melvi is a 'total nutcase,' and that he must absolutely be planning something for the opening of the Runorata casino.
Melvi suggests that he and Firo play a game at the casino's opening. Firo scoffs, assuming that Melvi want to steal something along the lines of Martillo Family turf or money from him. Melvi takes a deep breath, narrows his eyes, and reveals his personal desire: He wants the knowledge of Szilard Quates. So saying, Melvi smiles and bites his lip. A drop of blood trickles down from the cut; a few seconds later, the blood retreats back into the wound - which promptly reseals itself.
Firo's eyes widen, and Melvi (wearing his false smile once more) adds, "this is only a chip to counterbalance yours, but I think it's enough." He looks forward to a good match with Firo. Turning away, he calls out to Claire - Felix Walken - that they'll be leaving soon so he should wind down 'playtime.' Ladd pants at him to wait, since the fight isn't over. Claire remarks that the fight never actually begun, and that none of them will ever beat him. He invites Ladd to try again some other time. Ladd picks up one half of the baccarat table, but before he can throw it at Claire Melvi pulls out a gun from his jacket and aims it at Lua.
Ladd's bloodlust is instantly directed towards Melvi, who smiles and replaces the gun. He informs Ladd that the gun was a 'warning,' and that he really did mean it when he said they should leave it at this for now. He cocks his head to the side and smirks, and Ladd clenches his fist so tightly he draws blood. He announces that he had two 'bastards' he swore he'd kill once he got free of Alcatraz: Claire, and Huey. Melvi is now number three on his list.Melvi's expression darkens for a moment. "...Well, do what you want. If you can manage it." A moment later his expression turns to normal, and he heads for the stairs. Claire and Cazze follow him. Melvi pauses by Ronny (who has been watching by the stairs' entrance the whole time) and whispers that 'this fight' is only between him and Firo, as fellow immortals. His people have no ill intent towards the Martillos. Ronny notes that starting a fight with Firo means that he is starting a fight with the rest of the Family...but no matter.
Melvi takes his first step onto the stairs just as Maiza Avaro begins descending them. Maiza rushes down the stairs out of concern for Firo, only to freeze on the last step and stare at Melvi's face. Melvi excuses himself, nods lightly, and disappears up the stairs.
Once Melvi and Claire emerge into the daylight, Czeslaw Meyer runs away at full speed down the street. Cazze reunites with Mary Beriam and escorts her to his car as his twin bodyguards wait nearby. Tim approaches Melvi and asks what he was thinking, making his subordinates go through all that trouble just so that he could show his face to his enemy. Melvi advises him to watch his expression (lest he scare someone), and Tim disgustedly reminds Melvi of his position as the leader of Time and the scale of Huey's latest experiment.
Melvi assures him that he will fulfill all of his orders, and not do anything forbidden. He also reminds Tim that as long as he does both of those things he is free to do whatever he wants, just as everyone who follows Huey can. Tim flatly states that he can't stand Melvi "just so you know," and Melvi returns the sentiment: "Please don't take this personally, but I despise you, too." Melvi walks to his own car, with one last statement: all he is doing is following his master's instructions.
Meanwhile - seaplanes fly low over the city, shooting blanks into the air. Everything to do with the seaplanes is in fact a plan executed by Melvi and Time, in order to distract the police so that Melvi could have his meeting with Firo uninterrupted.
That night, Melvi returns to a Runorata villa, his temporary place of residence. He enters a room that faces the courtyard, turns off all the lights, and lies down on the bed. By the window curtains, a voice calls out to Melvi and remarks on his dramatic performance back at the casino. The voice belongs to Melvi's 'Master', and it is clear that he'd snuck past the guards in order to meet with Melvi. Indifferently, Melvi tells his 'Master' not to worry about it. His master praises Melvi's bodyguard's efforts as well, and Melvi admits that he was surprised by his bodyguard's ability.
His master says that he's about to set his own preparations in motion, and warns Melvi that they might interfere with Melvi's own movements. He hopes that Melvi won't hate him too much, and Melvi tonelessly replies that of course he will not. The other individual is his 'master' after all, and he only listens to his orders. If his master told him to die, he would "obediently offer [him] the head and right hand of [Melvi's own] corpse." His master comments that it is so like Melvi to do it 'obediently' rather than 'happily,' and says that he only wishes for Melvi to use his current position to 'make a mess of things.'
He adds that he would like Melvi not to call him 'master', since it's too stiff of a word. After all, Melvi knows his real name. He can give him a nickname, or call him anything he pleases. Melvi replies that he'd like to stick with 'Master,' at which his master chuckles and calls him a "spiteful bastard." The laughter fades away, and the curtains fall silent, signalling that his master has left. Once Melvi is sure he is alone, the false smile he has worn all day melts from his face. He falls into a deep sleep.
Half a day passes following the riot at the Martillo casino. Melvi and Claire head to the jazz hall Coraggioso, where Melvi introduces himself to a Gandor man as a Runorata messenger, requesting an audience with the Gandor brothers. The underling leaves to receive permission, returns, and leads them into the basement. There, they greet Luck, Keith, and Berga. Melvi bows courteously, while Berga chews Claire out for siding with the Runoratas.
Claire and Berga begin sparring with one another, and Luck and Keith invite Melvi into their quieter meeting room. Melvi asks if they should stop the fight, but Luck is unconcerned given Claire's abilities - even if they tried to do something to Melvi now, Claire would stop them. Melvi engages Luck in a debate about trust and friendship until Luck finally asks what Melvi is scheming. Melvi notes the use of the word 'scheming,' and Luck reminds him that he was there to witness Melvi's exchange with Firo the night before. He concludes that Melvi isn't actually here as a representative of Bartolo, and is instead acting on his own interests since Bartolo would never parade around someone as important as a hotshot dealer.
Melvi acknowledges Luck's deductions as correct, and introduces himself to him and Keith as 'Melvi'. He asks the brothers if the Gandor Family will make an agreement with him personally (that is, Melvi and not the Runoratas). Luck asks Melvi to elaborate, and for the first time Melvi's false smile droops a little. He remarks that "that certainly was fast." That is to say the idea of a Mafia family agreeing to a deal with a "youngster" like himself individually is rather ridiculous, and that he'd imagined the Gandors would be indignant or incredulous.
Luck doesn't deny this, and agrees that not only should Melvi expect to get shot, he should imagine rusty scissors. Specifically, the most painful way those scissors could bring suffering to the human body. Melvi contends that he'd been planning to bluff with oh, is that all? to whatever Luck said, but that he hadn't expected Luck would give him such specific imaginings. Luck offers Melvi a mechanical apology and says that he'd determined the sort of person Melvi was and decided to "be a little mean" about things.
Melvi calls him and Luck birds of a feather, considering that Luck isn't as blunt as Firo. Luck again asks Melvi to explain the agreement; Melvi apologizes for digressing and explains that he is offering a truce. While he views Firo as his own personal enemy, he bears no ill will towards the Gandors. Of course, he is aware of the Gandors' friendly relationship with Firo, as well as their brotherly history with Claire. If he knows that, Luck says, he should go home. Melvi asks if it wouldn't be best to hear him out for the sake of Luck's subordinates, and Luck counters that if his subordinates are involved then there is nothing personal about it, and that it would become an issue on the Family level.
Melvi glances as Keith and reiterates that he isn't talking about the Runorata Family. Luck flatly states that that doesn't change Melvi's affiliation with the Runorata Family, which in itself is a grave matter. If Melvi is "too stupid" to understand the significance of that, then there's no value in further conversation. Melvi narrows his eyes and proposes the reverse: Luck is the one mistaken. He disparages all of Luck's "little family customs" as for humans, and he deliberately looks towards the exterior of the room. Luck follows his gaze, and Melvi springs to his feet, knocking his chair behind him. He kicks off the table and the wall to cut around the desk and land behind Luck.
The table Melvi had shoved into him blocks Luck from standing. Sneering, Melvi reaches his right hand out toward Luck's head; Luck turns to meet Melvi's eyes, realizing that the dealer had been masking now obvious bloodlust. Keith reacts just in the nick of time: a split second before Melvi's finger touches Luck's forehead, he snaps his left hand out and grabs Melvi's wrist. Melvi's wrist isn't actually being grabbed with much force, but to Melvi (likely influenced by the overwhelming pressure Keith is exuding) it is as if his wrist is being crushed, and he lets out a 'small sound.' His smile vanishes.
Keith reaches his right hand out towards Melvi's head without hesitation. Melvi attempts to kick at Keith's torso, but the don easily avoids the kicks. The sharp light in Keith's eyes is clear: Revenge. A life for a life. Melvi finally realizes that the one he should beware of was never Luck (the one he'd judged the wisest), but the oldest brother. Keith had never let his guard down for a second, all the while silent and watchful. The realization comes too late -- Keith's intent to kill him is purer than anything Melvi has ever seen, coiling around him like a spider's thread "as if to tear his soul apart." The illusion seizes Melvi in the space of less than a second.
Melvi fully believes that he will be killed by Keith's counterattack. However, a heavy marble ashtray crashes through the room's window towards Keith. Keith uses his right hand to catch the ashtray, all the while keeping Melvi's wrist firmly in his left hand. Claire addresses Keith from the other side of the window, requesting that he stop and leave it at that. After all, he's Melvi's bodyguard and has to keep him from dying.
Berga quickly realizes the situation unfolding in the meeting room and verbally confronts Melvi. Before he can rush into the room, Claire sweeps his legs out from under him and sends him sprawling out onto the floor. Looking into the room, Claire instructs Melvi to apologize to Luck and Keith. Melvi asks, "what? What did you say to me?" with a wavering smile, and Claire clarifies that if Keith was making it that obvious he wanted to kill Melvi, Melvi must have done something. He'll protect Melvi all right, but the Gandors are his family. With a blank expression, he repeats his demand.
Melvi's false smile has returned. He says that he is "incredibly sorry," and explains his actions as "only a bit of fun to test you." He admits that it was rude of him, and asks their forgiveness. It is obviously an insincere apology. Luck observes that since 'Felix' is Melvi's bodyguard, all they can do is send Melvi home without fus. He will allow Melvi to save face, and tacks on, "Don't worry about it. It was just good luck." Melvi accepts the favor, and agrees to leave. Shooting a glare Claire's way, he bows politely to Luck and Keith and exits the room.
Some Gandor Family members make to block him from the stairwell, but Luck gestures for them to let him pass. From there, he tells Luck that he is looking forward to their 'banquet' in February, and then makes his way up the staircase with his false smile plastered on his face. Claire soon follows after him, after some parting words with his foster brothers.
On the street, Claire asks if Melvi did everything he needed to while in the Coraggioso. Melvi's answer drips with sarcasm: "Yes, Felix, and it was a completely pointless visit thanks to you." Claire grins and says that it's good to do something pointless once in a while. To himself, Melvi thinks back on Keith's unexpected move - he'd thought the brothers didn't even know they were immortal. Yet not only do they know they're immortal, they even know about the right hand. He clearly cannot deal with the Mafia using 'normal methods.'
Sighing, he informs Claire that he's heading back to the villa. Once there, Claire has his permission to return home for the day. Claire offers to show Melvi around the city if he actually has some free time, and Melvi dryly responds that he wants to see as little of Claire as he can. Claire retorts that if he weren't on the clock, he'd be about to grind Melvi on the railroad tracks. Throughout the exchange, their smiles do not waver.
The two fall silent, and enter the car waiting for them outside. Inside, Melvi labels the Gandors as 'impossible,' and resigns himself to having to 'take care' of them at the party, 'nice and slow.' He turns his face to the window and closes his eyes so that Claire won't see his expression. Picturing Firo's face, he silently scoffs he didn't seem like much. Seething with hatred, he wonders how someone 'that important' got his hands on Szilard's memories, and cannot believe that Firo is letting them 'rot uselessly.'
His hatred is admittedly ironic, since he is in a similar position with the Runorata Family.
Melvi tells himself that it won't be much fun to simply devour Firo. He vows to take everything from Firo - little by little - right up until the day of the party. Once he devours Firo, he'll be able to experience his suffering in his memories as an added bonus. He smiles a real, genuine smile at the window. That in itself sounds delightful.
That same day, several organized hits are carried out by men under Melvi's (Time's) influence: one on Edward Noah that lands the inspector in the hospital, one on Kanshichirou Yaguruma and one on Maiza Avaro (both of whom deal with their assailants). And finally - a bomb is detonated at the apartment of Firo, Czes, and Ennis. Melvi's men kidnap Ennis and leave Czes behind. The attempted kidnapping of Isaac and Miria at Fred's Clinic by several men is also likely one of these orchestrated hits.
Immediately after (or during) the apartment explosion, Melvi rings up The Alveare and asks Seina for Firo. Firo instantly recognizes Melvi's voice over the phone; Melvi calls the recognition an honor and asks after Firo's, Yaguruma's, and Maiza's health. Firo advises him to consider which part of the ocean he'd most like to be drowned in (and what he'd like to have in the concrete). Melvi notes that this punishment doesn't involve devourment; Firo counters that devouring Melvi offers him nothing. Melvi replies that his personal gamble with Firo is troubling him: since he wants Szilard's knowledge, he was thinking that Firo would devour him if he lost.
Firo snarls that Szilard's knowledge would go well with Melvi's brain, and Melvi agrees - except that in itself wouldn't be all that interesting. He pauses, and says that "it should be right about now" and asks that Firo not hang up. A moment later, on the other side of the line, Czes dashes into the Alveare with his clothes in tatters. Firo calls Czes' name, and Melvi orders him to stay on the line right where he is, dropping some of his usual politeness.
He listens as Firo asks Czes what happened - Czes tells him about the explosion and Ennis' kidnapping. Melvi breaks out into laughter and exalts the timing of the phone call. With theatrical aplomb, he declares the stakes 'even.' If Firo wins their little gamble, Melvi will return Ennis to him unharmed. If Melvi wins, he'll claim Szilard's knowledge from Firo. Of course, that means devourment - but then again, Firo could cheat and create a homunculus, share the knowledge with said homunculus and give it to Melvi instead. That is, if he can manage it before the casino opens.
Melvi barrels on. He asserts that he does not plan to devour Ennis, but if Firo tries anything funny he can't guarantee what will happen. Pain and humiliation for all eternity, perhaps? He laughs again, coarsely and full of hatred. With a tremulous voice, Firo asks why Melvi hates him so much. Melvi ceases laughing. Censuring all emotion from his voice, he replies: "It's simple. You devoured Szilard Quates. You stole my future. I'm just taking it back." He terminates the call.
Once he hangs up the phone, he says to himself, "now then, all that's left is to seal the demon" before leaving his room. In the hall, Carlotta loudly wonders what kind of magic allowed Melvi to have a phone all to himself in his room. Turning, Melvi asks if she was eavesdropping, and sarcastically adds that "that hobby is generally frowned upon, you know." He observes that she is dressed in her dealer uniform, which isn't "much of a hobby either."
She says that she doesn't care who Melvi is, so he shouldn't worry about what she wears. If that's the case, he replies, than could she ask her followers to stop tailing him? Carlotta retorts that she didn't ask them to follow him; he questions her intentions. Surely she didn't ambush him just to snark at him. Carlotta replies that actually, that is exactly all she came here to do. Since it was Don Bartolo's decision to make Melvi the manager of the new casino, begrudging Melvi would be betraying the Family.
Melvi smiles bitterly and says that the loyalty of the Runorata higher-ups towards "Mr. Bartolo" never ceases to amaze him. He adds that he is also working hard to be as much use to Bartolo as possible. With an icy expression, Carlotta offers Melvi one piece of advice: He should be a little greedy. If he doesn't, the rug will be pulled out from under him. Melvi notes that since she did eavesdrop on his telephone conversation, she should know all too well that he is 'filled with greed.'
Carlotta responds that if the feelings he expressed over the phone were his actual feelings, then it doesn't really matter. For the first time, she smiles slightly - and Melvi's smile disappears a fraction. As she leaves, she says, "I hope you'll realize what it is you really want, Melvi Dormentaire." This is the first mention of Melvi's surname.
Melvi pays a visit to the half-ruined basement of a certain New York warehouse, where his people are currently holding Ennis prisoner. He looks her over upon entering the basement; she is sitting in a chair with her hands cuffed behind its back. Her legs are bound with barbed wire so as to mitigate struggling. Her clothes are torn and scorched from the explosion.
Ennis looks at him 'with intense caution,' and with a scornful smirk in return he asks her not to look at him like that. They are alone in the room, since her guards moved to the upper floor of the warehouse as soon as he'd arrived. Ennis asks Melvi who he is, and his shoulders slump. He reminds her that he introduced himself at Firo's casino, and he repeats his name and profession for her benefit. Ennis cannot think of any motive someone like Melvi would have for abducting her, and he counters that there are plenty of potential explanations. For instance, what if the Runoratas captured her (the family of a Martillo capo) in order to take down the Martillos?
Ennis replies that she has "some memory" that the Runoratas are a large organization, and would never need to be so roundabout in their methods. Melvi seizes the opportunity: he asks her if that is really her own memory or a memory that Szilard gave her. Or...maybe it's a memory from someone she'd once devoured. Melvi abandons all pretenses of politeness and asks if his face is familiar to her. Ennis hesitates. Melvi clicks his tongue and remarks that "the alchemist" she devoured apparently didn't pay much attention to people. He is referring to the one immortal she had devoured under Szilard's orders once upon a time.
He explains that if Ennis really devoured an alchemist from the Advena Avis, Melvi's face should be somewhere in that alchemist's memories. But then again, "they" only knew each other for a couple of months, after all. He clarifies that the face the alchemist would have seen would have been the "real one," not Melvi's own. He does not know how identical the two of them are. Melvi offers Ennis a self-deprecating smile. At her obvious confusion, Melvi comments that ultimately it all has nothing to do with a "newly-born homunculus" like Ennis.
She demands to know his connection to Szilard, and his reply is immediate: "I am Szilard Quates. Or I should have been, technically speaking." He reveals his surname to her, and she gasps in recognition - Szilard had told her much about House Dormentaire. Ennis says that she doesn't understand, and Melvi lifts her chin up with his hand, bringing their faces close together. He asks if Ennis believes that the alchemist she devoured is still alive inside of her, emphasizing that the question is an important one. After all, Ennis stole the alchemist's knowledge and memories from him - his feelings, his loved ones, his enemies - everything.
Melvi had intended to deliver that statement in a cool and collected manner, but here and there a hint of emotion betrayed him.
He asks if Ennis thinks she is the same 'her' she was before she devoured the man -- does she have the same personality she once had, the same soul? Ennis remains silent, and averts her gaze. He apologizes, and figures that he won't be able to get an answer out of her for now. With an unpleasant smile, he says that they have plenty of time for her to think about her answer. Comparing a conversation to a game of catch, he then declares that if Ennis answers his questions, he'll answer her questions.
Melvi shuffles towards the staircase, pauses, and then reveals that he was "born as Szilard's spare." In other words, his 'new vessel.' He turns to face her, his eyes filled with singular hatred for his next words: "Firo Prochainezo stole my future. He killed me." By devouring Szilard, that is. Melvi had originally been positive that Maiza was the one who devoured Szilard - he would never have dreamed that Firo would be the responsible culprit. He confesses that he had been "far more concerned" about Ennis than he should have been. Emotion tinges his voice once more; he asks Ennis how many years she thinks he spent investigating her. How many of his colleagues snuck into the Alveare to watch her?
Ennis goes pale, and Melvi smirks in satisfaction with her reaction. He states that his people have a long reach - even bigger than the Runoratas'. Walking toward the staircase, he reminds her that he can inflict as much pain on her as he likes since her body is immortal -- he just hasn't done so yet because he is a 'gentleman.' Ennis protests that their conversation isn't finished. He refers back to his earlier simile, and affirms that if she wants to ask him anything she must seriously consider her answer to his question. "It'll help me continue to be kind to you."
As an afterthought, he informs her that tomorrow his people will move her to a better place, where she will be free to use amenities as needed. If she tries to run, he will kill everyone he captured with her, regardless of whether they're immortal. Ennis demands that he let Czes go, and he calls her an idiot. He will only kill an innocent if she runs away. Furthermore, Czeslaw isn't safe from Melvi as an immortal - Melvi will kill him regardless. He reveals that he can also devour an immortal with his hand - a method Ennis knows quite well.
He laughs as he ascends the stairs.
(Meanwhile, Melvi's - or rather, the Dormentaires' - people gather on boats around the world, and proceed to summon Ronny Schiatto to their ships one after the other. They are acting on misinformation that Melvi has given them: he tricked them into thinking that Ronny can only be summoned out at sea, and then planted timed explosives on their ships, meaning that he fully intended to blow them up once their usefulness was at an end. The constant summoning is a plan that he intends to last throughout the casino party -- essentially keeping Ronny involuntarily occupied so that he cannot interfere with his business).
A few days later, Melvi heads to Ennis' first-class cabin on the Dormentaire ship his men moved her to the day after their basement meeting. He knocks on her door, enters without permission, and vulgarly jokes that he'd hoped he'd catch her in the middle of changing (he doesn't actually have any interest in her in that way). He asks if she has thought of an answer, reminding her that it's an important question for both her and him. Keeping a certain distance away from her, he repeats his question from the cellar verbatim.
Ennis has thought of one. She states that she didn't use to have a soul, and that she has now become a "different being' after devouring the alchemist. Melvi chuckles: she has admitted that her past self has died. She acknowledges that may be true, but then says that she is a different being today than what she was yesterday. Melvi tilts his head questioningly. Ennis explains that people change due to accumulating knowledge and experience, and that "we" observe "phenomena" like the human heart and soul in others, not "ourselves." Without anyone to "observe us, we may as well be dead."
She elaborates. In devouring the alchemist, Ennis gained a link to the world through his knowledge. However, the first time she truly connected to the world was the day Szilard died, and she met so many people. That is, when her world expanded. In Ennis' mind, her soul is formed of the countless connections she has to the world. What makes her herself are the people who acknowledge her - and she will continue to evolve as she meets more and more people.
Melvi calls her answer 'convenient' and asks that if she believes herself to be different from when she once didn't know the difference between right and wrong, does she think she can be forgiven for her previous actions? Ennis vehemently disagrees. Her actions then resulted in her current connections to the world. She would not be able to defend herself if one of the alchemist's friends called her a murderer.
Melvi continues to hide his emotions, and asks if Ennis doesn't care if Firo calls her a murderer. He himself killed Szilard. She exclaims that that incident was self-defense, and he sneers. How can she claim 'justifiable anything' for a mafioso whose committed numerous crimes? (Melvi's smile has weakened. He does not realize that it has. It's weakened in the face of a sudden strong determination in Ennis' eyes). She corrects him: Mafia, not Camorra. When he tries to argue that nobody cares about such pedantism, she fires back that Firo cares, that it's important to him. Furthermore, she will not deny Firo's crimes. However, Firo's illegitimate work is not connected to the Szilard incident.
Melvi wonders if it would have been better for the world if Szilard had wiped out an organization like the MArtillos. Ennis admits that she can't say Firo is a good person in terms of general society. He lives prepared and willing to do 'certain things,' but she doesn't believe that he will ever have to act on his resolve. In contrast, she describes Szilard as incomparably evil with a will to match. If he were still alive, he'd be turning the world on its head.
Melvi's smile twists, and he replies that Szilard must have been a true monster if his own creation is speaking of him so harshly. He wants to know if Ennis has ever thought that Szilard's knowledge will corrupt Firo and turn him into a monster as well. She believes Firo won't; he is stronger than she is. Melvi dryly remarks on Ennis' immense faith in Firo, and cracks his neck before heading for the door. He quips that he didn't come to her room for an argument, he'd just been running a work errand and decided to 'drop by.'
Ennis asks who he really is, and he elects to give her an answer (now that she has answered his question). He announces that he doesn't actually have any Dormentaire blood despite his surname: he's actually an incomplete homunculus created by House Dormentaire. Melvi proceeds to reveal that the Dormentaires got their hands on some of the Grand Panacea. One dose for for "the greedy woman," another for "her little toy, the injured girl," and the last for "the head of a ruined aristocratic family." They experimented on the former aristocrat for two hundred years to eventually create Melvi.
He smirks, and pats his face. "Apparently Maiza took after his mother, and Gretto looked just like his father when he was young." Ennis feebly processes what she's been told. Melvi exits the room with one last parting shot: "See you, puppet. It won't be long before I'm human. Just like I promised before...I'm going to be reborn as Szilard Quates."
Outside the room, Melvi reverts to his polite demeanor and asks the guards if Ennis has attempted escape. One of the guards replies in the negative. Melvi smiles and snarks that he'd thought she would put up more of a fight...although perhaps the amenities of a first-class cabin are satisfying her. Considering the sea surrounding the ship, he muses one what would happen should she actually escape, and how many days it would take her to reach land. He warns the guards to stay alert, and reminds them that should anyone try to hijack this ship, the 'others' will sink it.
Melvi strolls down the deck, surveying the five ships floating in the water nearby. Aboard the ships are the seaplanes he'd had 'attack' New York a week or so ago: one flying boat and seven seaplanes in each. Enough firepower to start a small war, but in reality the planes and boats belong to different factions. The Dormentaires own the ships, and Time owns the planes. Melvi wonders how much Huey has "figured out," concerning the Dormentaires, since Huey would never believe the the Dormentaires were content to only serve as his partners in crime.
Although he is all too aware of his own position, he allows himself for a moment to be drunk on the idea that he is a puppetmaster and everyone else his marionettes. He mumbles that he is looking forward to betraying Huey after he finally becomes Szilard Quates....and after that, he'll kill Elmer C. Albatross just like his master wants.
The first day of the party (which is to be three days long) finally arrives. Outside Ra's Lance, Melvi (guarded by Claire) greets the newly arrived members of the Runorata Family, now acting in his role as the party's main dealer. He leads the group into the hotel, where members of other Mafia families fall silent upon seeing the Runoratas. Those from smaller gangs fearfully make way for them, whereas members from more powerful gangs carefully size the Runoratas up.
All gangs, that is, except for one. Five members of the Gandor Family - the family with the least amount of power in the whole room - refuse to move from their spot, blocking the Runoratas' path. They are the Gandor brothers, Maria Barcelito, and Tick Jefferson. Melvi courteously greets Luck and thanks him for 'the other day.' With equal formality, Luck seconds the sentiment and expresses regret for not being a better host.
Behind Melvi, Claire cheerfully greets the Gandors. Tick covers Maria's mouth to stop her from accidentally revealing Claire's identity as the assassin Vino to the room. Luck comments on how some gangs may up disappearing completely because of the casino games, and Melvi responds that his people aren't planning on going after the Gandors 'this time.' Luck advises him not to consider this a "one-sided hunt," to which Melvi sarcastically retorts that Mafia hunt each other down and devour each other all the time.
(Melvi's remarks make Luck all the more certain that Melvi is not a Runorata mafioso. To Luck, Melvi clearly regards the Runoratas with scornful contempt and considers them different beings from himself)
Melvi scoffs that the Gandors are no different from the Martillos, and that in the end "you're all going to get swallowed up anyway..." Before Berga takes (violent) matters into his own hands, Firo (accompanied by Maiza, Randy and Pezzo, and other Martillo capos) arrives and tells Berga that Melvi isn't "worth it." He has a lot of things he wants to say to Melvi, but settles on simply correcting him: Camorra, not Mafia.
Melvi greets Firo and remarks that he's awfully relaxed. Firo replies that he has to be, since he's gambling. Melvi privately doesn't like this calm, collected Firo, and silently wonders if Firo gave up on Ennis. After all, that's what he would do if he were in Firo's position. Firo announces that he's looking forward to their game, and the two exchange sharp barbs. The tense atmosphere is broken by the arrival of Cazze, who cheerfully greets Firo and offers to show him to his room. The other Mafia guests whisper at Cazze's presence.
The Martillos follow Cazze onward, and Maiza spares only one glance in Melvi's collection. Melvi privately considerings this interesting - Maiza is apparently ignoring his own personal feelings on the situation. Aware of the gang's determination, Melvi murmurs to Firo as he passes that the two of them will settle things on the third day. He attempts to provoke Firo by suggesting he makes the most of his last two days with his friends -- and Firo's quiet response is as cold as ice: "You've taken this a little too far."
The words trigger a primal fear from within Melvi, and his right hand moves quick and instinctively towards Firo's head - got to kill Firo before he kills him. In the same instant, Firo's hand moves with the same unusual speed and snatches Melvi's hand mid-air. Firo lightly shakes Melvi's hand, and offers him regards before the Martillos leave the room. To everyone else in the lobby (except for the Gandors) the exchange had seemed like a regular handshake.
Melvi remains rooted to the spot, not quite able to move after such an encounter. He does not notice the Gandor brothers smiling as they descend to the basement. Finally, he looks down to see a sheen of sweat on his hand. Claire chuckles that Melvi "really pissed" Firo off, and adds that Firo is "tough to beat" when he is serious. Enough to give even Claire some trouble.
After the first day concludes, Melvi stares through one of the hotel windows at an unusually dense fog filling the streets outside. He frowns, since as far as he knows nothing his people did today would "cause such a ruckus."
The next day, Melvi heads back to the Runorata villa. There, Carlotta confronts him and asks if he'll actually appear at the casino party tonight, since apparently the night before he let the other dealers handle matters while he wandered off somewhere. Melvi explains that last night was for observation purposes, since he didn't want to reveal his hand too earlier. To whom, wonders Carlotta. To anyone, replies Melvi, including Carlotta herself. Of course, if Bartolo has other orders Melvi will follow them.
Melvi's attempts to shroud his real motives with vague answers are seen through by Carlotta. She states that she doesn't care what Melvi's real goal is, but if he's using the Runoratas the Family will want compensation in return. She doesn't have a right to force him to pay that compensation, so he should consider this a request. He assures her that he will be at the party tonight to set the stage for the third night - and that he does intend to benefit the Runoratas.
Carlotta isn't convinced that Bartolo promoted Melvi for profit's sake, and she doesn't expect Melvi will earn much for the casino. She believes that she would have absolutely brought in a bigger profit. Melvi wryly notes that she sounds like a sore loser, and she repeats the warning she gave him once before: he needs to be a little greedy for his own sake. An arbiter without his own desires isn't suited for the gambling table or the Mafia.
Once she leaves, Melvi snorts, "desires? What nonsense." Privately, he agrees that he's not suited to be a dealer or a mafioso. No, he's suited for the heights that Szilard Quates reached, and he certainly has his own desires: he wants to make anyone who stands in his way - especially Firo - taste despair. Melvi thus reconfirms the hatred that encompasses his being..."almost as if trying to convince himself that that hatred was his own desire."
At some point that day, Huey and Melvi hold a meeting. Huey matches Melvi's smugness with smugness of his own, which irritates Melvi. Melvi inwardly sneers that the only thing Huey has on him is experience, and he considers devouring Huey now - only Huey places his own right hand onto Melvi's forehead first. Melvi freezes. Huey serenely points out that Firo outclasses Melvi in every way, and that for his own safety Melvi should probably avoid going anywhere near Firo. Melvi naturally does not appreciate this advice.
Later, Melvi learns that Claire has invited pretty much anyone with a grudge against Claire personally, Huey, or the Runoratas to come fight him at the room he'll be guarding tomorrow night at the party. Melvi is not happy with this development in the slightest, and Claire blithely argues that it'll be easier for him to fight everyone if they're in once place. Not to mention, Claire was only hired to make sure Melvi's face-off with Firo goes smoothly -- not to save Melvi's life. If Melvi is killed in his confrontation with Firo, so be it. If Melvi wants Claire to keep him alive, then Claire wouldn't bring him to the confrontation in the first place. Then he'd save Ennis, and move Melvi far away until Firo eventually calms down.
Melvi is surprised that Claire thinks so highly of Firo; Claire insists that Firo is probably the only person alive who could stop him if he suddenly went mad and attacked Chané Laforet and the Gandor brothers. In fact, he thought Firo's strength was obvious (to Melvi) from the get-go. Melvi is not having any of it, and Claire essentially shrugs - at the very least, he did try to warn Melvi.
That night, Melvi finally assumes his role as the party's main dealer. While he works (and cheats the patrons of their money), he looks down at practically everyone he engages with.
(To be continued in 1935-E).
- The faction that Melvi heads, "Time," is in charge of the systematic mass production of new planes, weapons, and other related items.
- The identity of Melvi's master has not been confirmed in the narrative as of 1935-D. However, it is highly likely that he is Lebreau Fermet Viralesque.