116 Fresh Brothers and Sisters

    "Hey, uh, is this him? He's just a nerdy-looking researcher isn't he?"

    "Hmm?" Hearing Sam's voice, I turn to find him holding the limp, burnt body of Carl. "Yeah, that's him. Is he alive?"

    Sam pulls his shirt up and wraps it tight around his finger to avoid contact with the piranha solution. Placing his fingers on Carl's neck, he pauses for a moment. "Hmm, yeah. He's alive. But, just looking at his body, he probably has several broken bones."

    "Well, that's okay. Take him into one of the offices and lay him on a table somewhere and then go check on Aponi." He shrugs and marches off with Carl's body while I glance around, looking for the other people of interest. "Akemi? Akemi! You're still here, right!? Akemi!" I shout while strolling toward the location I left Dr. Wright.

    "...I'm here," a small voice eventually answers.

    Out walks the little Asian woman with a green face and few drops of tears dripping from her eyes. She keeps her sight straight forward to avoid seeing the gore that covers the floor.

    "Ah, good. I was worried you weren't able to keep yourself from getting involved in some way. Retrieve the researchers that barricaded themselves and meet me in that office over there." I point toward the office Sam took Carl's body.

    Without a word, she turns and starts to walk away with tiny footsteps.

    "Oh," she shivers while waiting for me to finish speaking, " Good job. You did well. I'll be giving you a reward I believe you'll cherish for a very long time to come."

    "Tha... thank you," she stammers.

    Moving toward the edge of the room, I toss a big piece of drywall to the floor, exposing the unconscious figure of Dr. Wright. Liquifying the blood spikes that I previously used to stake him to the wall to keep him from fleeing, his body starts to slump over. I move to allow space for his body to drop, and just as his head is about to hit the ground, I catch him by the collar.

    'Hmm, I don't believe the stakes caused him to lose consciousness. That head injury must be rather serious.'

    I drag the Doctor toward the office Sam took Carl. "Welp, come on, Doctor. I have an idea that might just save your life! No need to thank me now! If things work out, you'll have the rest of your life to do that after all," I say with a laugh.

    Stopping near a lab, I scan the room while still dragging the body of the doctor. Eventually, I come across what I am searching for, a rack of several vials. With a quick slice of my wrist, I feel the vials with blood.




    Presently in the office, I sit at the desk with a warm smile. Regrettably, however, the deathly silence suggests that the seven other people in the room do not think so.

    "So, I originally sent six of you to assist with the sabotage of their position. It seems the idea you came up with was the piranha solution." I prop my arms on the desk, placing my head in my hands playfully. "I wish to know two things. Whose idea was the piranha solution, and did any of you know about the plan of the one who betrayed me? Come to think of it, I did kill six people, but you were all partners here."

    "It was me," a man raises his hand with a firm demeanor, but a single drop of sweat gives his true feelings away.

    "Which one?" I ask.

    "Both. The piranha solution was originally my idea, and it was my partner who subverted our sabotaging."

    My gaze falls on Carl, who Sam laid on a desk in the corner of the room. "Hmm, did you know about the traitor? Did you try to stop it?" I ask, approaching Carl's body.

    "He tried to convince me to help, but I thought I had talked him down from doing it." He pauses, choosing his next words very carefully, "I was going to report him. After all, I'd preferably not die, but with everything going on, I was unable to do it before he made his move."

    Near Carl sits the vials I filled with my blood. I stop as if I am scrutinizing them. "Anyone else?" I ask, spinning around on my heel. "Anyone else have anything to add...? Perhaps, you also assisted in one way or another?"

    "W-was something wrong with the piranha solution?" one of them asks in a quiet voice.

    "Maybe, maybe not, I'd like to know if you wish to take credit for it first. Oh, and anything you can add about the traitor, as well, is valuable."

    "...Everything was a group effort. The piranha solution especially, but the... 'traitor' approached all of us, and all of us turned him down."

    A few of them hesitate, yet all of them eventually join in agreement.

    "Ah, surprising, I expected at least one of you would try to throw the others under the bus," I respond, "Now let me ask you all something... Is there anything you wish to protect or maybe something you crave?"

    They don't respond to my annoyance.

    "Come on. Everyone craves something, isn't there something you want? Someone you care about...? I'm sure you all know that life, as you all know it, will be ending in the future. Otherwise, why would you work in a place like this?"

    The room stays quiet. I smile, showing my fangs and extend my claws, and they immediately begin to talk after that. The conversation drags on, but it is similar to the ones I have had with Aponi, Sam, and the others in the past. To summarize, one person said they wished to protect their brother; another wants to find his mother before the world ends, one wanted wealth, and so on.

    'I think they'll all do fine.' I walk to the desk and pick up one of the vials. 'Anyhow, Carl's breathing has been slowing, so I guess I should probably go ahead and get on with it.'

    "In a moment, we'll have a toast along with a story," I inform them, "But first!"

    Picking up one of the vials, I open Carl's mouth. Some of his skin sticks to my fingers, causing my thumb to burn, but I suppose it is my own fault for forgetting about the leftover solution. With his mouth open, I pour my blood down his throat. The effects are rapid as his skin turns pale, and his breathing and heart rate stabilizes.

    'Welcome to the family, I suppose. Even if you're a bit strange and a bit of a pushover, it takes more than just a few soldiers for a race to reclaim lost glory... It also needs messengers!'

    I place the empty vial to the side and turn toward the others. "Everyone, take a vial! However, before we all have a drink together, how about we all have a nice long discussion on theology."

    My eyes fall on the body of the unconscious, Dr. Wright, whom I basically just propped against the wall in the corner. His mouth opens, and he vomits.

    'He should be fine until I'm done talking. His breathing is stable, and I don't smell blood, so he's got time.'

    Picking up the vial-rack, I hold it toward the researchers with a tiny smirk. "Careful not to drop them! They are a gift from someone high above us, who watches over us always."

    With dodgy eyes and faces full of questions, they all take a vial.

    "Now that everyone has a vial, I'd like to tell a little story!" I hop onto the nearby desk and clear my throat, "In the distant past, there was said to be a beautiful Goddess with marvelous blood-red eyes and long luxurious snow-white hair...... "




    After the story ended, I explained to them what I expect of them. It took quite some time to make them believe anything I told them. I'm fairly certain they still don't believe much of it, but we still discussed terms and what I'll expect of them.

    "So let's recap. First, if you accept this vial, you swear eternal loyalty to the Goddess. Second, all work you do is for the benefit of the Goddess and her people. The day will come that you'll be free to come and go as you please, but that will likely be years to decades from now. Third, any betrayal will label you a heretic and result in immediate execution-additionally, leveling of any type is not allowed without my permission; this rule is temporary but no exceptions currently."

    I pause, making sure everyone is still following along before continuing, "Finally, in exchange, you will have a responsible amount of my support in your endeavors, including any resources, or knowledge I may provide in the pursuit of the thing you want most in life... Not to mention all the physical benefits you'll receive. If you understand all that, then you may drink."

    They look between one another when one of them asks, "Why us?"

    "...How many times are you going to ask that? Right place, right time, more importantly, the Goddess has told me that you will all make excellent brothers and sisters. Now either accept her blood into your body or give me the vial and leave." He drinks. Seeing him, the others join him, except for Akemi, who hesitates. "Under the Goddess, you'll have a much brighter future Akemi. Drink," I say to her warmly.

    With a tiny nod, she also submits and drinks from the vial.

    'Wait. I should have probably told them to lie down first.'

    As their skins turn pale, they all collapse to the floor, falling into unconsciousness.

    'Extraordinary individuals for an extraordinary future... Ugh, that was embarrassing; I'm glad I didn't say that out loud.' My attention returns to the unconscious researchers. They shiver as their bodies undergo a significant internal transformation. 'I'll have to watch them carefully, but with an altered body comes an altered outlook on the world and life in general.'

    Standing, I press the flower in my hair, changing it back into my top hat. I reach into the rim, feeling around to check my supplies of blood bags, finding I'm starting to get low on red blood cell bags.

    'Going to have to set up a "donation" program soon if I'm going to increase our numbers. That will be part of Carl's job, I imagine.'

    Suddenly, Aponi enters the room. Her antlers have receded, indicating she blew off all her steam somehow, well, I say somehow, but I can see a bit of blood on her knuckles.

    She scratches the back of her head with an awkward look. "They thought they could take me, but without their suits, it didn't really work out for them. A-anyway, I feel better now, and Sam is making sure they bathe the Brutes."

    Her eyes move across the room, stopping on the unconscious people. "Are these the researchers? They seem different, somehow? Weirdly more... familiar maybe?"

    "They should. They're new brothers and sisters, after all."

    "What! Really?"

    "Mhm," I reply with a happy nod, "Now that we have a place with... 'renewable resources,' we can afford the costs of having more of us. More importantly, the Goddess recognized that they were qualified. Personally, I'm doubtful they'll be the only ones here to receive her gift."

    "Who else? More researchers?"

    "Yes, but also those exo-soldiers. Though, I'm not as sure about them since they seem rather stubborn, proud, and hard-headed. We'll see what happens with them; maybe they'll just be permanent Brute nannies."

    "Yeah." Aponi watches the group of unconscious researchers a little wistfully. "Oh! What are we going to do about getting Kardama and Jimmy!?"

    "I'm not sure. I need to speak to everyone, but..." I motion toward everyone in the room, "as you can see, they are all unconscious. Still, worst-case scenario, we have to wait until the magic runs out of Mana and deactivates on its own."

    Her eyes move to the man in the corner of the room. "Is Dr. Wright going to talk? Or, more specifically, ever talk again? He looks like he's on death's doorstep."

    "He'll be fine. As soon as Akemi wakes up, I'll be able to save his life."

    "Once Akemi wakes up?" Her eyes wander onto the only Asian woman in the room. "Why? Is she a surgeon or something?"

    "Well... Carl is actually a neurologist, but no. Still, before we discuss it, give me my ring, so we can wrap them in blankets. Otherwise, they won't stop shivering, and when they wake up, they'll feel absolutely awful."

    She nods while taking out the ring and returning it to me. I ignore that she asks under her breath, "Who is Carl?"

    Removing some blankets, I toss a few to Aponi and move to the center of the room. While Aponi and I cover the newly christened vampires, I explain, "So about your question, let me ask you, have you ever heard of something known as a vampire drudge?"
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