17 Sustainability ratio (Julia)

When I wake up and open my eyes, I freeze in place. Somehow, I've rolled on the bed while sleeping, and now I'm clinging on Leo.

To be more precise, I tried to climb on him during slumber. My leg is latched around his. One of his arms is folded behind the head like it was when I fell asleep, but the other supports my head. He's looking at the ceiling, blinking from time to time.

He must have endless patience if he lets me sleep like this.

When he turns towards me, I use all my concentration to not wince. If I retreat now, he'll think that I'm embarrassed and start teasing me for that. And he's surprisingly warm after drinking blood.

«Good morning,» I whisper with the most natural tone I can summon.

He continues to stare at me, so I just move an inch further. This way, he can get up when he wants.

«Staying here will become complicated,» he starts. «I'll find you a room not too far from here.»

I bend my lips downwards, and he snorts, ruffling my hair.

«Don't look at me like that; it's better for you. I can't bite you too often, or you'll feel dizzy.»

«I feel all right,» I say before realising it. I should keep quiet about it, but my body has already recovered. Since I don't know how to explain the reason for it, though, I'm forced to stay silent and just nod at his decision.

It really is for the best.

I can't continue to have dirty thoughts and over-react at every single skin contact. Instead of helping me, Leo's proximity is seeming to increase the effects of the link.

«Also, you should make some friends. It won't happen if I'm always with you.»

I nod again. Friends seem like a good idea. It's a pity I'm not good at socialising.

But I'll do my best. If Leo thinks that I'm doing fine, he won't have any reason to keep me at a distance!

I shake my head, getting rid of those irrational ideas.

«I'll teach you how to fight,» he continues, pretending not to guess my thoughts.

Fighting? Seems interesting.

«You personally?» I inquire, just to be sure.

«Yes,» he nods. «I can't risk someone hurting you.»

«Thank you!» I grin.

«But first, you need some clothes. You can't continue to use mine, and the set I brought you is not enough.»

«I don't have money,» I point out.

«I do.»

So what?

Since he doesn't look like clarifying, I have to ask.

«Will you lend me some? I can work to pay you back...»

«Work? What can you do?»

«At the base, I worked in the laundry.»

«Without electricity?» he inquires and grabs my hand. «Why are your fingers so soft, then?»

«Because I take care of my skin,» I utter fast.

«Get ready,» he says all of a sudden and walks to his desk.

We get out of the school and head in the streets. It's the first time I see Fortress. It's not too large of a city, and its buildings are rather old.

The street lamps are quite strong. To make humans feel safer, I guess.

«Are there many humans here?» I ask, trying to start a conversation.

«The majority. There are around a hundred humans for each vampire.»

«Oh, are the numbers like that to make it sustainable?»

«Most of the humans here are refugees. They fled from another town or had their homes destroyed after the war. The vampires don't have close relations with them, usually.»

«You have your own society, right?»

«Something like that. Two to three people are enough for a single vampire, so most cities where vampires live have numbers that go from five to twenty humans per vampire. They are slaves, though, in those cities. Here, they're citizens.»

«Now I understand why Amadeus is so lenient with humans,» I chuckle. «Because he once loved one.»

«I think he had always been like that.»

We stop in front of a small shop, and we get in.

«Here works and lives one of my contractors,» he explains, and I somehow feel bothered by his words.

«How many do you have?» I inquire with calm, even though I'm not unconcerned.

«Three. Well, now four.»

«Do you visit them often?»

«Ah?» he mumbles, surprised.

«I mean... How often do you need blood?»

«Once or twice a week; it depends on the mood.»

Oh, so not that often. I thought it was everyday. And if Leo is good with a few drops like yesterday, then it's not that expensive. I thought they were insatiable beasts.

A woman walks in from the back of the shop and shows us a polite smile when she sees Leo. She's around twenty-seven. Maybe twenty-eight.

Mhm, she's the same age as Leo. But the latter didn't age, so he looks way younger.

«Hello,» she greets us. «Are you here for the transaction?»

«No,» Leo shakes his head. «I'm here for clothes.»

I don't like this girl, even though she's nice and pretty.

«And who is the lady?»

«She's the one that will wear the clothes.»

«Oh,» she murmurs in surprise.

Yeah, he's buying me clothes. Problems?

«Come with me, then. You can come back later, Leo.»

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She closes the door and leaves the vampire alone at the front of the shop. She takes out a tape measure and starts to write down my numbers.

«You sew clothes?» I say, amazed. «I thought you sold pre-made pieces.»

«It's the first time I meet another contractor,» she starts to talk. «Leo is always so silent that I wondered if he didn't like me in the beginning. You must be special, though, if he's taking care of you this much!»

Before I have time to inquire about the link between this girl and Leo, I realise that she's a chatterbox. She doesn't stop talking unless she asks me some questions.

After all, she's not a bad person.

If only I can manage to erase from my mind the image of Leo biting her white neck, I could even try liking her.

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