Title: Break You to Fix You
Author: Jordanna Morgan
Archive Rights: Please request the author's consent.
Rating/Warnings: PG for vampirism and adult themes.
Characters: Mikaela and Krul.
Setting: Role-reversed AU.
Summary: In the eyes of the vampire nobles, King Mikaela has perverse interests.
Disclaimer: They belong to Takaya Kagami. I'm just playing with them.
Notes: Written for EvilMuffins in the 2016 Darkest Night Exchange. She asked for a role-reversal in which Mika is the vampire king, and Krul is a human orphan. The idea intrigued me, so here is my take on it.
Third Progenitor Mikaela Shindo had snuck out of the palace again.
It was a nuisance, having to disguise himself beneath a hood and slip away through secret corridors, but it was necessary. As the king of the vampire race, he inevitably had enough enemies already among the Progenitor Council. For all he could never prove it, he knew very well that one or two of its members were behind recent efforts to assassinate him. He stayed a step ahead of them all by being both stronger and smarter than they were—but he could only push them so far without driving them to join forces against him. Were they to learn about his penchant for stealing away to the Livestock Quarter of Sanguinem, to surreptitiously watch the young human captives there, every last noble in Japan would seize it as a chance to overthrow him openly.
His walk was rather long, winding through narrow back streets where he would remain unseen. There was no day and night in the underground city, but chronologically, it would be mid-morning on the surface. This was the time when the largest number of his fellow vampires were at rest, while the livestock were most likely to be active.
Not that they ran about playing in the streets, as Mikaela understood children had done before humanity fell. Limited food and regular draining of their blood left them with equally little strength for either frivolity or rebellion… and they feared the vampire guards who monitored them. For that reason, they kept themselves hidden away for the most part, until it was time to report for a bloodletting in return for their meager rations.
The Council had made a bid more than once to reduce those rations still further, but Mikaela thwarted that notion. He also insisted on having a number of vampires trained in human medicine, so that they could treat basic illnesses and wounds among the livestock.
In the eyes of his fellow Progenitors, this made him some sort of radical, apallingly sympathetic to those filthy little creatures—but Mikaela saw it only as common sense. Even humans once had veterinarians to look after the animals they slaughtered for food. Healthier livestock produced blood of a higher quality, and would live longer to keep producing it. He couldn't understand why the Council failed to grasp this logic.
Such efforts were a waste of time and resources, they argued. Sick and injured livestock should merely be drained and put down. If a few weak specimens met untimely deaths, they were easily replaced through the ongoing roundups of feral human young from the surface wastelands. Besides, the oldest of the livestock in captivity had now almost reached a viable breeding age. If they simply did as humans were so prone to do… well, there would never be any shortage of fresh little blood-bags then.
That last suggestion troubled Mikaela in ways he didn't care to examine.
…Perhaps it had been too long since he personally witnessed the man-made devastation on the surface. When the humans nearly destroyed themselves, they took down with them the entire world as it once was. Not only had all the works of mankind's hands crumbled, but an untold number of other animal species were wiped out by the plague, while monsters were spawned to prey on whatever natural life remained. Humans deserved no sympathy for unleashing a death that claimed innocent creatures, as well as their own guilty race.
And yet, these human children collected by the vampires…
Well, it wasn't as if they had committed the vile deeds their elders did. They were still too young to conceive such evils themselves, and they couldn't help what they had been born to. When Mikaela watched them from the shadows, listened to their conversations—as they kept trying to make sense, even after all this time, of the painful and frightening world they had been thrust into—there truly were rare moments when he glimpsed intelligence and innocence that gave him pause.
Most would certainly grow to be no better than the humans before them. Bleeding to nourish superior beings was the best use they would ever serve. However, among those forgettable masses, Mikaela was convinced there could be potential in a very few. It was another thought which he would be most unwise to let on to the Progenitor Council… but he sometimes pondered whether he could make anything positive out of that potential himself.
Because it would have been nice if things could be different. If, when the last cursed human adults on the surface were eradicated, the children who survived could be remolded into something more worthy. If they could learn to live peacefully with their vampire masters… and someday, just maybe, if they could come anywhere close to deserving respect as equals.
Mikaela shook his head. Every now and then, he wondered if the Council didn't have good reason to doubt him, after all.
He was the ruler of the vampires. Regardless of his conflicts with the other Progenitors, the survival of his own species was his first priority… and the inescapable fact was that humans were vampires' sole source of nourishment. This made their blood-rich bodies a necessary resource, a commodity whose value far outweighed any worth of their primitive minds. Their well-being could be his concern only insofar as it served the interests of his people.
Upon reaching the boundary of the Livestock Quarter, it was easy enough for Mikaela to bypass the guarded gate, remaining unseen. After all, the security measures were meant only to keep small and powerless young humans in—not to keep vampires out.
…Which was really something else he should address, he thought, as he crept stealthily down the danker and narrower streets beyond the fence. When they came for their regular bloodletting, too many livestock appeared pale and weak from anemia already. The practice of "buying" blood on the side—secretly trading candy and other treats for a drink straight from human veins, which was forbidden within Sanguinem—was becoming a problem. It interfered with the orderly official collection of blood, and it compromised the health of the livestock. For more than a few human children, making that bargain had even been fatal… and surely not always by accident.
Oh, Mikaela understood what motivated the vampires who broke that law. Processed blood was lackluster. After subsisting only on that for too long, the yearning to bite became almost unbearable: to feel warm flesh underneath one's fangs, to taste the fresh nectar of mortal life. It was something he had felt many times himself. However, he was resolved that all resources the vampires possessed should be managed wisely—including the blood of their livestock. After seeing a greedy and careless human society ravage the planet in its wanton consumption, he would not let his own kind make the same mistake.
Between the rows of bland, identical buildings that served as livestock living quarters, the alleyways were deserted. The only decorations or signs of individuality were the occasional chalked drawings children made on the blank walls. In the rebellious tradition of graffiti, some of them crudely depicted acts of violence against vampires, a bitter expression of wishful thinking that most livestock would never dare to act on. Other images were much more somber, even to Mikaela: portraits of parents and siblings lost when humanity fell.
Just for a moment, Mikaela let himself think of what it would be like to be a livestock orphan. Spending the days huddled together with others in the shadows, out of sight of the feared vampire guards. Jealously hoarding the rations received in exchange for blood, to stretch out even one more day before the next bloodletting. Cherishing the few old human-made books and toys that somehow found their way into the Livestock Quarter—relics that kept alive the memory of what had been, to them, a happier world.
Mikaela grimaced, and quickly kept walking. Perhaps it would be better when a new generation of livestock was born. Having never witnessed a time when humans were Earth's dominant species, perhaps they would more easily accept their lowly place as the natural order of things.
…Really, the vampires had saved this remnant of humanity from themselves, after all. Were they not now under the control of wiser beings, they surely would have grown up to find some way of tearing apart even what remained of the world.
Abruptly he paused in his steps, his head tilting beneath the hood that veiled his face.
The scent of human blood was in the air.
Slowly Mikaela breathed in the waft of fragrance, tasting it on his tongue. He pinpointed it as coming from a narrow pathway between a pair of buildings, to his left and several meters ahead of him. Interested and curious, he advanced toward the source, noting how much stronger the scent became. The blood he smelled was present in no small quantity.
It was dark within that small dead-end alleyway; the artificial light of streetlamps barely penetrated there. However, the eyes of the vampire king easily cut through the shadows. Two-thirds of the way down to the far end of the alley, the brick pavement was splashed almost from wall to wall with smears and puddles of red. Footprints trailed away from the mess, fading in the direction of the alley's entrance. Closer to the obvious scene of violence, drag marks and handprints led to a recessed doorway in the left-hand wall.
Mikaela approached, stepping carefully around the blood—such a waste—and discovered a small ragged bundle slumped against the door.
The figure moved at the sound of his footsteps. A little head rolled over, one eye staring up from beneath long hair that was soaked with blood. Upon seeing the white cloak of a vampire, the child flinched… but she was powerless to move any farther.
Red spilled from the side of her skull, from visible gashes underneath her torn shreds of clothes, from her nose and the corner of her mouth. The smell of it was sharp and fresh. Her blood was still flowing, even now.
When she started at the sight of Mikaela, the hand tucked down against her side had twitched. This drew his attention to a brighter lump of red in the pooling blood, half-hidden under her fingers. He wondered for a brief second if it was some part of her insides spilling out—but no, there was a bit of green at the top of it. Leaning closer, he was rather surprised to recognize it as a small fruit of some sort. A… strawberry, perhaps? It had been so long since he'd really seen anything that grew on living plants in the sunlight.
Of course, the same was true for livestock children. In the underground realm of Sanguinem, fresh fruit was even more rare and precious to them than chocolate.
Bracing his left hand on the wall, Mikaela leaned closer, and tugged the glove from his right hand with his teeth. He reached down to slide his fingers beneath the girl's chin. She turned her face away with a soft whimper of fear, but the movement only exposed what he wanted to see.
There were fang-marks on the child's shoulder; but those punctures were small, neatly-made, and not very recent. The vampire who made them had taken care to do as little damage as possible. That was probably more out of an effort to hide the evidence than any concern for the girl, but it was the last puzzle piece Mikaela needed to understand what had happened here.
This human had illicitly sold her blood on the side—in exchange for more of those dearly prized strawberries, no doubt—but the buyer was not the one who inflicted such massive blunt trauma. A vampire who became carried away while feeding would simply have torn her throat out and drained her body, instead of leaving so much of her sweet young essence to spill all over a dank alley.
Rather, there were at least three different sets of footprints in the blood. All of them were undersized, and they bore the distinctive, identical tread patterns of the shoes issued to livestock.
It was her own fellow humans who had brutally beaten the girl. Most likely, their motive was to steal the strawberries from her, shortly after her rendezvous with the vampire who provided them. It wasn't the first case in which a livestock child had been killed by its own kind over jealousy and greed.
The same traits that were so despicable in adult humans—already manifesting in their offspring.
Humans truly were wretched creatures. If those evils in them were so inherent, even at such a young age, the whole species was surely beyond redemption.
At the same time, the sight of the huddled and bleeding child at his feet caused Mikaela to feel a stirring of… something. It was too numb to be called an emotion, too distant and dim to be called a memory. Even so, it made something in him harden; made his fangs clench, his fists close tight.
He studied her briefly before he pushed back his hood, allowing her to look upon the youthful face and golden hair of the vampire king. Not that she would recognize him—he wasn't supposed to be prowling the Livestock Quarter, and no human child brought to the palace directly would ever leave there alive—but at that moment, he felt an odd impulse to appear a bit less frightening to her.
"What's your name, little one?"
Even through the pain she must have felt, she responded promptly—spurred by an ingrained fear of a vampire's impatience, Mikaela thought. Her head raised just a little, her bruised and bloodied face tilting up to him. She coughed, swallowed, and finally spoke, her voice emerging in a tiny, quivering rasp.
Mikaela raised an eyebrow. It was an unusual name. He rather liked the cryptic sound of it.
Very slowly, he crouched down, bringing his gaze level with hers.
"Tell me the names of the livestock who did this to you, Krul. I'll see to it that they're punished."
For an instant, a horrified look flashed across the child's features. She turned her face away, succeeding in a small movement that conveyed a shake of the head.
"You humans really are foolish," Mikaela sighed, in a tone of long-suffering patience. "You hate us vampires, who you now depend on for your very lives—just because we need your blood in turn to survive. Yet at the same time, you'll protect the very worst of your own kind even when they've hurt you, simply because they're human."
A dark eye flickered up at him once more. Krul struggled to draw a breath that was surely painful.
"Your fault they were hungry."
The murmured accusation genuinely startled Mikaela. He stared down at the livestock girl, her impudence undiminished even in the shadow of death—and then he uttered a short laugh. It was a heavy and joyless sound, accompanied by a disappointed shake of his own blond head.
"How terribly naïve you are. We aren't the ones who destroyed the surface world—your own human grownups did that. It was we who rescued so many of you from certain death up above. If we hadn't, you probably would've died in some monster's maw long ago." He placed his bare hand on her cheek, turning her battered face toward his own. "From the chaos your species created, we brought you back to a world of order, where those of you who obey the rules can live in safety… but you broke one of those rules, didn't you?"
"Now you understand why it's forbidden to sell blood on the side," Mikaela went on, in a regretful tone. "It's for your own health—not only to prevent your losing too much, but to protect you from your fellow humans' greed. Your kind can't bear to see anyone have more than they do. So they hate, and then they take, exactly the way it's happened to you. I'm sure you thought you were being clever, but you were really just careless… and now it will cost you your life."
At last, a glimmer of fear in the child's eyes. "You'll—kill me for what I did?"
"No… but I'm afraid it's already too late. If another human had cared enough to fetch help right after you were attacked, there's a chance you could have been saved—but by this time, you've lost too much blood." Mikaela affected the most sympathetic expression he could. "I'm sorry, little one, but you won't survive much longer. Knowing that, perhaps you'll change your mind about my offer to punish your killers."
Tears were spilling, washing away little trails in the blood on Krul's face, as she shuddered and hung her head. "I won't…"
"That's unfortunate. The livestock who have done this to you will probably just go on to do the same to others… but I suppose that's only to be expected of human nature. And they will give themselves away, sooner or later."
The vampire king considered for a moment. He contemplated the blood running down Krul's white skin; he closed his eyes and breathed in the aroma of it. Then he settled into a more stable position on one knee, and reached out toward the girl.
"In any case, if you refuse to be avenged, at least I can promise you that what's left of your blood won't go to waste."
Krul whimpered, her eyes widening with fear, as Mikaela wrapped her tightly in his embrace. She struggled, just a little, when he bent his head over her; but it was only the feeblest token of resistance. She no longer had even the strength to stand, much less to fight against the grip of the most powerful vampire in Sanguinem.
Mikaela's red eyes fluttered closed as his tongue flicked out, touching and tasting the crimson slickness on Krul's neck. He couldn't remember the last time he had known a flavor so sweet and strong. With a deep sigh of enjoyment, he began to lap up the blood from her wounds in long, slow strokes, unmoved by the useless pushing and clawing of her small hands on his shoulders.
"Please… It's dirty…" her ragged voice panted, close to his ear.
Something about that weak protest gave Mikaela pause. The unsanitary state of her wounds, there in the dinginess of the alley, was obviously not the uncleanness that troubled Krul. Instead, her tone was distinctly… embarrassed. He couldn't quite say why, but the thought was almost amusing to him.
"You must not have minded it from the vampire you sold your blood to," he murmured wryly against her skin.
Her only response was to whine and squirm, tugging at a handful of his pale hair, as if trying to pull his head away from her.
Those exertions of hers caused Mikaela no pain. On the contrary, he found something bizarrely pleasant about the way she moved against him, the heat of her diminutive mortal body. He was no stranger to the feeling of prey struggling in his grasp, but somehow it was different with her; perhaps because her fatal wounds had been delivered by hands other than his own. When he was only gracing her with a final worthy purpose before her death, he felt a gentleness in handling her that was new to him.
For so very long, daring so much as to touch King Mikaela was courting death—for humans and vampires alike. Permitting another body to be close to his own was a sensation he had long since forgotten. For a moment, it almost made him forget even the deliciousness of Krul's blood. If only she would stop resisting, and just let him hold her, he thought it would be… nice.
Suddenly, Mikaela understood why a noble of his race would discreetly transform a human now and then, even though it was frowned upon to increase their numbers.
It wasn't within vampires to forge close personal bonds with one another. They worked together, in the way such predators as wolves did; but deep down in their most primordial instincts, others of their kind were constant competitors for both prey and power. A vampire never entirely let their guard down among their own kind.
But a newly turned human: a young, fledgling vampire who would always remain weaker than its sire, who depended on that sire for protection and guidance in the world to which it was elevated…
Surely, that fond intimacy was much the same as what humans felt for the lower animals they kept as pets.
The thought was extraordinarily appealing. A small body to snuggle close, bright eyes to watch and learn from him—while he might learn the things he was curious about in humans as well. A former livestock specimen, gradually growing to be something more, would be fascinating to observe. At the very least, her feistiness would entertain him, and her education would keep him too busy for any more of these urges to creep down to the Livestock Quarter.
Mikaela withdrew his mouth from Krul's shoulder. He slipped one hand under her cheek to lift her head, turning her face to his own. She stared back at him, barely breathing, her scrawny frame trembling where his left arm still held her crushed against him.
In spite of her impertinence, she feared him to the depths of her being… but that was not what he desired from her.
"…I want to teach you, Krul," he whispered.
Slowly and deliberately, his eyes locked upon hers, Mikaela bit down on the inside of his cheek. As one fang pierced flesh, a spurt of his own blood welled up in his mouth. It had no taste to him, but he knew it was a powerful substance, bearing the seed of his immortality.
Krul gasped as his lips harshly met hers, parting them to spill a mouthful of his blood over her tongue.
He clutched the back of her head to hold her in place, until she was forced to swallow; yet once she did, and he carefully withdrew his hand, she did not recoil from him. For one moment when he broke from that undeath-giving kiss, he felt her shattered little body arch and press even closer to him, as if of its own accord.
She screamed when his blood began to work in her, but the small fingers that had been digging defiantly into his shoulders released their grip. Instead, her arms slid tight around his neck, clinging desperately to him as she was overcome by the pain of transformation.
With a pensive smile, the vampire king gently gathered his new pet in his arms, to carry her back to the palace.
2016 Jordanna Morgan