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349 A Long Night, His Family and Their Family

 Day 55 - 7:10 PM - Rooftop, Corporates Office Building, Asian Mall, J.W. Jiokno Blvd., North District, Bay City Settlement, Pasay City, Metro Manila

It was one of the buildings northernmost of Asian Mall. The rooftop was filled with solar panels which powered the mall during emergencies even before the outbreak and was now being used to power a lot of facilities in the settlement. Normally at this time of the evening, no one would be here at all, however, a silhouette could be seen sitting on the northern edge of the rooftop and was staring at the opposite building which was the current military laboratory.

Of course, the silhouette belonged no other than Mark who had just left the laboratory stealthily. It was really not necessary to do so but he just did not want to get entangled and pestered by Professor Isaach who wanted permission to examine many things that belonged to him. First was Janette, a docile infected, next was the body of Gar'Vlam, third was Aephelia and Amihan, fourth was Aimee, and lastly, Chaflar. Although the professor did not really intended to do any harm and was just curious, he was still troublesome to deal with.

As he watched the people below enter and exit the military laboratory, he was contemplating.

"Really Freed... You gave me a very troublesome work."

Mark he murmured while sighing.

If he was the one who could decide, he would just take Nia and Allen's abilities away. He could either give to anyone in his group, make the abilities his or just store the crystals away and be done with it. If not, he could also recruit Nia and Allen to join him. That way, the abilities that Freed deemed precious would just be gathered in one place.

Unfortunately, he could not do that. Doing the former would be breaking his promise to Freed to only take the abilities back from those who misuse them. It was also impossible for the latter to happen as it was very less likely for the siblings to join him.

"Also, it's troublesome to pose like a good person."

Speaking to Nia and Allen like he liked that they were good people made him cringe inside. Although the children the two were helping were pitiful, they had nothing to do with him. They were not part of his group either. However, he needed to make sure that the two would think that he hated evil people to avoid the very little chance that the two would misuse the abilities they got. Mark did not want to go back and forth just to monitor the two.

"People can change."

That is why the task Freed gave him was very troublesome.

Good people that you could meet today...

...Might become evil people in the future due to their experiences.

"Hah... There's nothing I can do about it I guess?" Mark scratched his head. "I also left the general and the others without saying anything. Angeline and Paula might come pester us later like what they did yesterday... Geez... They didn't even give us enough rest."

He then stood up.

"Nah, whatever... Things that will happen will happen no matter what. I just want to go back already."

He was about to leave when he took another look at the entrance of the laboratory. There, he could see Professor Isaach, Nia and Allen who seemed to be searching for him.

"Still Freed, it's quite a karma." Mark smiled with ridicule. "The inheritors of your ex-fiancé and best friend turned out to be blood related siblings. They can never continue their romance that was cut too short...Unless they wanted to betray their moral integrity."

With that last murmur, bat wings grew out of Mark's back and he flew off under the shade of the night sky.

***

Day 55 - 7:15 PM - Military Residences, North District, Bay City Settlement, Pasay City, Metro Manila

Mark landed on the balcony of the room given to him on the highest floor of the southwest tower of the military residences.

After hiding his wings, he was about to knock on the tinted glass sliding door but before he was able to, he could only smile bitterly.

Without him needing to do anything, the sliding door slid open revealing Mei on the other side. Her hair was tied in a ponytail and she was wearing an apron while holding a spatula. From inside the room, he could smell the aroma of fried canned meat.

"Gege, welcome back. How is the day?"

She smiled sweetly and received Mark's gentle pat on her head.

"Okay, I'm home."

Mark smiled. He was still not used to this feeling but it was not bad.

"Just where did you learn that? You're behaving like a housewife."

"I saw it from your anime collection. Is it bad?"

She looked worried if she was not doing it correctly.

"Nah, its fine. Also get back to the kitchen, what you are cooking will get burned."

"Okay~!"

Mark shook his head with a smile as Mei scurried back to the improvised kitchen they set up this morning.

Once Mei was already out of sight, several small voices could be heard as three girls and two sylphs entered the room.

"""Papa!"""

The three girls called out at the same time rushing towards him on who would get the first hug.

Of course, Abbygale won while Iola came last.

"Seriously... Be careful you three."

Mark gave each of them a welcome hug.

""Master.""

The two sylphs greeted. It seemed that at the span while he was out, they finally decided on what to call him. Still, Mark felt troubled why they chose to call him that.

"Is it Odel who suggested that?"

Mark asked.

"Yes!" Amihan energetically answered. "Odel told us that "My Lord" was more used to address a master of a household but Master is way more than that."

"Unfortunately, Odel said that "Your Majesty" can't be used too since Master is not a king of a kingdom." Aephelia replied dejectedly.

Mark patted the two using his fingers.

"Geez, don't be dejected. I also told you before to change that since it's not appropriate. I may be Freed's inheritor but I'm not Freed. Still, Odel seemed to have the dominance between you three, huh."

"Yes~!"

"Humph, she's just bigger because of my current body."

The two answered in the opposite manner. Amihan did not seem to mind and seemed to be not afraid of Odelina at all while there was likely to be a competition between Aephelia and Odelina.

"By the way, where's Odel."

Mark asked.

"Aunt Odel went to the trading area with Sieg and Odette. She said that we don't have enough seasonings anymore. They should be returning already."

It was Iola who replied.

The Military Trading Area, it was where anyone could buy anything that the military had supply of. It ranged from food and clean water to medicine and clothes. Of course, most medicines were useless now since the virus and bacteria that caused common diseases were either extinct already or could not affect humans anymore due to Mutagen. Weapons could also be bought here.

And the currency? It was either the military merits gained by working in the settlement and participating in their missions or the items could be exchanged with [Mutagen Stone] which had become the main topic for research of the military.

"Well, she should have just told me before. I'm gone outside anyway."

"Master, that is not possible." Aephelia seriously replied. "Please, let the servants do the work of servants."

The stare of Aephelia made Mark smile bitterly.

"Alright, alright. I won't say that again." Mark sat on the bed and looked at the three girls. "Dinner is not ready yet, what will we do?"

Hearing his enquiry, Abbygale and Iola looked at each other. The two then ran out leaving the confused Miracle behind. Mark was also confused as what the two were up to.

It did not take long and the two returned carrying the familiar laptop he took out of Bacoor City Mall. Behind them, the [Blood Children] were following.

Soon, on the bed, everyone could be seen watching a magical girl anime on the laptop. Even when Odelina returned with her children and dinner was ready, they all ate while watching. As Mark expected, Angeline and Paula came to crash the party by complaining to Mark as to why he left without saying anything.

When sleep time came, Mark could not sleep. It was not because the large bed was crowded but because he was thinking about something.

"My own family, huh..." He whispered. "This is not bad at all."

***

Day 56 - 1:23 AM - Mount Caladang, General Nakar, Quezon

A temporary camp with several shelters could be seen with about fifteen people living inside the camp. They were not just normal people however.

They wore hides of beasts they had slain as protection on their bodies. On their necks hanged necklaces made of claws and teeth of ferocious animals. Above their heads were crowns made of feathers of birds of prey. Their hands held spears and bows made from bones and sturdy wood.

In one look, anyone could tell that they were not city folk. These people were tribesmen, very likely, those who were left of their tribe.

Inside one of the shelters which was positioned at the center of the camp.

"Grandmother, are we really taking the right direction?"

A boy about eleven wearing a tribal loincloth asked an old woman who was mediating.

The old woman did not respond and her eyes were still closed. Due to that silence, the boy could only look at his grandmother's appearance.

His grandmother was already old. Her arms and legs were thin and while they were travelling, they needed to carry her. However, no one complained as his grandmother was the only believed person to show them the direction of the salvation they needed. It was because she was the seer of their tribe. Unfortunately, the next seer, his sister, was still not of age to inherit the ability of their grandmother and their mother had already passed away.

It was already almost two months since they left their tribe in Baguio. That was then when the world became a mess. At the time they left, there were several families with them which totaled to seventy people. Now however, they people here in this temporary camp was the ones left.

They experienced hardships and was almost wiped out several times. Nevertheless, they managed to make it through despite the casualties and sacrifices. Now, his grandmother said that they were already close but could not pinpoint the actual location due to a strange reason. That was why they chose to build this temporary camp as they searched for their destination.

Yesterday, their tribesmen that went to search located a forest that was severely burned with a single tree left in the area near a large river. They also saw the remains of an airplane around the tree. South of that burned forest, they saw a small town. However they decided against living there instead of this worn down temporary camp. It was because the place was filled with stench of rotting dead bodies of animals which would not be good for anyone's health.

Hearing that news however, they were surprised to his grandmother's response. She said that their savior was responsible for all those they have witnessed. It meant that they were getting closer and closer to their destination.

Nevertheless, the people in their tribe were starting to get disheartened.

After all, it had already been a long time. They loved ones passed away and they were left struggling to death while chasing something that they did not know whether it existed or not.

Anytime soon, their hearts would not be able to bear it anymore. That was what worried this young child with a mature mind.

As the boy had those things in his mind, his silent grandmother finally spoke.

"Relio, don't be discouraged. This is a trial for us. Those that can't handle it anymore can leave and those that could persevere can stay. Only those that passed the trial can reach salvation. Although we are all one family, it did not mean that all of us deserve it."