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Chapter 5: An Empty Heart

…knows nothing and feels nothing.

A mind not to be changed by place or time.
― John Milton, Paradise Lost

Vladislaus Straud drummed his fingers on the table and then took another sip of the plasma in his coffee cup. You didn’t make it into a presentation to the board in this conference room unless you knew the place was run by vampires. Still, the cup gave the appearance of normalcy. Vlad had learned the hard way that even the sims he paid exorbitant salaries had trouble keeping their lunch down at the sight of plasma floating in a clear glass.

Or, as Miss Hell preferred it, “laid out like a banquet with the heart still beating.”

Once upon a time, Vlad had preferred it that way too. Curbing his instincts was just one of the many things that infuriated him about this modern world. Mortals and their new-fangled social mores were everywhere. 

Miss Hell and Vlad Bloodvein did not share his opinion. They took to every new age like a duck to water, especially this one. Whereas Vlad looked around at this meeting room and saw flat, lifeless, overly shiny boxes; Miss Hell and Vlad Bloodvein saw sleek design. The only thing that made Bloodvein grumpy was that he didn’t own it. 

And don’t even get me started on electricity, Vlad thought miserably.

“Sages save us from the modern age’s most annoying invention,” Vlad growled quietly. Miss Hell gave him a curious look but turned back to the presentation.

Vlad kept the rest of his grumbling about electricity firmly to himself. He didn’t care what anyone else thought. His keen vampire hearing could pick up the low frequency hum of the lights, computers, and cell phones. It went beyond annoying. The sound was deafening.

Most of all, he hated the television—the constant chatter with sims obsessively watching themselves, performing for an audience they could not see. A vampire had no reflection and Vlad preferred it that way. 

He shifted in his seat, not because he was uncomfortable (a vampire could hold any pose for hours) but because he despised what he had to do in this room. 

In 1507, a king was defined by his land and back then, his father had loads of it. But now it was simoleons that made the king—trades, stocks, and acquisitions. The only conquering in this age happened on the sage-forsaken internet. Just thinking about it made Vlad furious. His fist clenched around the handle of the coffee cup so tightly he snapped it clean off. 

“Is everything alright Mr. Straud?” Lena asked, her eyes wide with surprise. 

“Yes. Go on please,” Vlad replied smoothly. He brushed the coffee cup off the table and shoved it under his chair with his foot. He could have sworn he heard Vlad Bloodvein snort.

Lena blushed and gave him a look that was somewhere between demure and flirtatious, but continued her presentation. 

She was his VP of Business Development and wildly competent but Vlad was barely listening. What his company did, or how it did it was of little concern to him. Business ideas could soar or business ideas could fail, it hardly mattered. A vampire could outlive even a bad deal.

He had begun rebuilding his wealth centuries ago when he decided to make Forgotten Hollow his kingdom (wars required money after all). Now, he had the equivalent of an entire country’s treasury at his disposal. Having a company was just a way that he was forced, in this century, to make a show of earning it.

“…we do think that this investment will pay out quite well for the company,” Lena said as she wrapped up her presentation. 

Vlad gave her an empty smile that he hoped was flirtatious and gestured at Vlad Bloodvein and Miss Hell. “The board and I will discuss your proposal and get back to you this week.” 

She nodded and gathered her things to walk out. 

Vlad intercepted her at the door. Time to earn his dinner. “Why don’t you come by later and we can review more of the figures?” he whispered to her. 

She bit her lip like she was unsure, but nodded her head. 

“Very good,” he said softly, letting his voice caress her ear.

He watched her leave, careful not to let his frustration show. None of it meant anything but now that he was forced to seek permission before feeding from sims, this was their dance. 

“Bravo, Vladislaus, bravo,” Miss Hell clapped, her head shaking with laughter when Lena was gone.  

“Oh, so we seduce our dinner now? Is that the new thing?” Bloodvein intoned dryly. He could not look more disgusted if he tried. 

“No,” Vlad answered. But he was reduced to seducing his dinner. The curse saw to that and thus, Lena Cowder, VP of Business Development, had to be seduced. No matter how empty it made him feel. 

“Oh stop Bloodvein. It’s obvious that Vladislaus enjoys playing with his meal,” Miss Hell said with a playful smack.

Bloodvein waved a hand in annoyance. “If playtime is what he needs, I know a vampire or two who would be pleased to serve their king in such a capacity.” 

Vlad suppressed a shudder. Any creature that Bloodvein recommended was more likely to be casing him for weaknesses than giving him pleasure. Bloodvein had been eyeing Vlad’s position of power for decades. It was bad enough he was forced to roleplay Lena’s “bad boss” fantasy in order to get permission to drink her plasma, but better an idiotic round of roleplay than a knife in the back. 

“My playtime is not up for discussion,” Vlad said flatly. “What business do we have to discuss?”

Miss Hell smiled as Vlad took his seat. “The incident with the witches has still gone unanswered. We know their magics aren’t powerful enough to overcome you so what shall we do to collect recompense?” 

Mortals found her smile utterly captivating. Vlad had once upon a time too. They spent a few decades of the 1700s as lovers, though they parted ways amicably.  

“My spies report that the coven has already begun rebuilding. There are two university students recruiting around campus,” Bloodvein added.

Vlad already knew that. Bloodvein’s spies were Caleb’s spies too. They fed him information without ever realizing it was going right back to Vlad. It was how he knew of Bloodvein’s various plots for seizing power. 

“And if we don’t respond at all, it will be as if they won,” Miss Hell pointed out helpfully.

Just the thought of letting Miss Hell or Bloodvein loose on some unsuspecting students gave Vlad an anxious feeling in the pit of his stomach. He had been making excuses for months. That was his first mistake. A king didn’t make excuses. Josef Straud certainly never had and from now on, neither would Vlad.

“No,” he said simply. The anxious feeling retreated.

Bloodvein sucked his teeth and gave a sigh that turned into a growl. “No? No what? No to those two witches? Fine. Have it your way, pick a different pair.” It was a statement meant to insult Vlad, to treat him like he was some recalcitrant child incapable of making a decision. 

Vlad gave him the same nonplussed look and repeated himself. “No.”

“Vlad,” Miss Hell’s voice was quiet. At first he didn’t know whether she was talking to him or Bloodvein but then she placed a hand on her forehead and inclined it slightly in Bloodvein’s direction. 

The message was clear: Bloodvein, you idiot, shut up.  

The message was not received. Gone was the slightly grumpy but bored aristocrat. Now he was shouting. “No? You can’t just say that! I lost good vampires in that fight. What’s your explanation?”

Vlad gave him a slow and feral smile, “A king doesn’t need an explanation.”

Miss Hell tried to bridge the gap. “If you have something else in mind, we’re open to hearing it. We thought this was what you wanted,” she purred. “But it can be done another way. Two witches did seem rather paltry for you…”

“Or you’re going soft,” Bloodvein hissed under his breath.

Vlad leapt out of his seat, grabbed Bloodvein by the neck and pushed him against the wall. He squeezed until Bloodvein gasped, his eyes turning red as the capillaries began to burst.

Had Miss Hell called his name?

Vlad wasn’t sure. And he couldn’t have stopped himself. He squeezed harder until Bloodvein’s windpipe gave a sickening crunch. It was over in seconds.

“You seemed incapable of watching your tone, so I did it for you,” Vlad’s voice was low and dangerous. He watched impassively as Bloodvein coughed and doubled over, clutching frantically at his neck and taking deep gurgling breaths as the bones around his throat began to reset themselves.

In a few hours, he’d be completely healed.

But in the meantime, the pain would be agonizing. 

Miss Hell came up to Vlad, placing a hand on his back. “Now gentlemen, is that any way to behave?”

“On your knees,” Vlad bit out and watched with a distant satisfaction as Bloodvein dropped to the floor.

Miss Hell chuckled, but the sound was brittle. “Vlad, darling, it seems your mood could use a boost. After you’ve finished playing with your dinner, come hunting with me. It’ll give the witches a bit of pause while we develop a plan that’s more to your liking.” She gave Bloodvein a pointed look before returning her attention to Vlad.  

He didn’t turn towards her, but tried to relax his shoulders and capture some of his old suave. He was King Vlad the Ruthless, not King Vlad the Crazy or Out of Control. This whole display was just more proof that something was wrong. The old Vladislaus Straud didn’t crack under pressure, he thrived under it. And yet, here he was nearly breaking Bloodvein’s neck over something they should have been united on. 

King Josef, reincarnated, his conscience warned. But he ignored it. He wasn’t like his father. He just needed to get back to normal. 

“I would be delighted, Miss Hell,” he lied.

“Wonderful! Enjoy your delicious little snack! Come Bloodvein, before our King decides next time to actually kill you,” she tugged at his arm and dragged him out the door, whistling cheerfully. 

Vlad watched them go.

Are you sure about this? his conscience asked. 

Miss Hell’s laughter bounced off the walls of the alleyway. The two sims they had corned were cowering in fear, their backs against the wall.

“If we were to let one of you go, which one would it be?” Miss Hell asked, her voice gravelly and enticing. “Which of you should make the sacrifice to help us poor, starving, creatures? 

It was a lie. They weren’t even a little hungry. Together, they had already drank six sims in the dark corners of the Narwhal Arms. Miss Hell drew them in because she loved to dance and Vlad simply stood in a corner. Watching. Waiting.

He felt nearly high on the plasma. Each sim they drained had adrenaline flooding through their systems. It was nectar. It was divine. And Vlad felt nothing. He felt heaps of nothing. So much nothing that he was panting, his hands clenching and unclenching as they approached their latest prey.

The feeling of regret prickled along the back of his neck, a warning of what was to come. But Vlad would not let this conquer him. He could think his way out of this! What they were doing was natural! It was their right!

The sim on the left began to cry softly.

Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing, he thought to himself over and over again. Miss Hell briefly took on bat form and flew between the two terrified mortals, landing behind the one who was now crying in great, heaving sobs. 

“So you don’t want it to be you? You’d rather it was your friend?” she grabbed his head, angling it towards Vlad. “Do you see this Vladislaus? Smell it? Delicious, isn’t it?” 

He thought about the muscles in his eye then, marshalling them into compliance so they didn’t twitch. Once, during the war for Forgotten Hollow, he was forced to regrow an eyeball after one particularly vicious vampire tore it from his head. 

It seemed a pleasant memory now, comforting in its simplicity. Back then he had clear and discrete tasks before him: Conquer. Regrow an eyeball. Fight. Feed. Conquer. 

Who was that vampire? 

He didn’t even recognize him anymore. 

He locked eyes with the sim in front of him, reaching into their mind with a wave of his hands. This wasn’t an attack, it was a mercy. He watched rational thought abandon them, their eyes staring blankly forward.

He rebelled against his conscience. It was a mercy. Left to her own devices, Miss Hell would torture them for hours before draining them completely. 

He clamped down on the sim’s neck and drank. And as he did, he tried repeating his new mantra to himself. Nothing, Nothing, Nothing, Nothing.

And he did feel nothing. The whole run home with Miss Hell as she gleefully congratulated herself for getting him out of his funk? Nothing

Sweeping into his house and shutting the door behind him? Nothing

Leaning over the toilet and voiding his insides?

Absolutely nothing.


Credits

Definitely had to download some poses to make this chapter work. Thanks to all of the talented creators!

MLSC CH11 OFFICE by Princess Paranoia

Sitting & Talking Pose Collection by Ratboysims

Random Vampire Pose by Rosewho-sims

Vampires Suck by mememuru

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