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In a dark forest with a glowing moon gazing down upon it, a young man was eating dinner out of a package by a campfire. He looked up when he heard movement come from nearby as he guarded his friend—who was currently undergoing his evolution process.

Will put his ration down and reached for his firearm when a squelching noise interrupted the silence as the Metamorphosis Pod opened up and Donny crawled out.

"It's disgusting in there." Donny groaned and Will tossed him a towel as he approached the campfire. Donny was covered all over in a slimy substance.

"How do you feel?" Will asked, returning to his dinner.

"Other than feeling kind of gross, I actually feel really good." Donny squeezed his hands into fists. He suddenly remembered something and went over to the UTV, dug through his clothes and pulled out his smartphone. "All my stats went up by three!" Donny exclaimed.

"Only?" Will let out a sigh of disappointment.

"Three is good, was I supposed to get more?" Donny asked, sitting down at the other camping chair.

"Three is very good for an evolution to Category 0, but it also means that you didn't awaken the bloodline from the transfusion." Will shook his head.

"What was it supposed to be?"

"Double." Will held up two fingers and Donny gaped at it.

Although Charlie Patton and the few others that had the same bloodline kept all information on their abilities confidential, from what was analyzed of the fights that they had participated in, it was speculated that they had twice the physical capabilities as the average person.

In Charlie Patton's case, many of her opponents had paid with their lives from underestimating her. Underneath her small stature packed a deceptively tremendous amount of power that caught her opponents off guard.

"Aww man, I missed out on a legendary skill." Donny held his head in his hands. "Then what did I get?" Donny asked, looking up.

"Most likely your original Bloodline ability." Will said, picking up a small stick on fire from the campfire and holding it out for Donny. "Try putting it in the mouth."

"Seriously?" Donny grabbed the stick, stuck out his tongue, and hesitantly brought the stick towards him before he pulled it away. "Are you sure?"

"Just do it."

"Alright..." This time, Donny slowly brought the stick of fire to his tongue. When the fire touched his tongue, Donny's face brightened up. "I don't feel anything!"

Will gestured for him to continue. Emboldened by his previous experience, Donny placed the stick of fire inside his mouth this time. After a few seconds, he pulled it out, completely fine.

"This is my ability? I guess that's kinda lit, hehe." Donny chuckled at his own joke. "But what am I supposed to be, a street performer or something?"

"It's a Bloodline ability that stems from your long line of smokers."

"You've got to be kidding me..." Donny was dumbfounded when he heard that.

"Although that bloodline is quite common, it's not too bad."

"I guess it makes sense that it's a common bloodline, there are a lot of smokers..."

"Your respiratory system should be fire-resistant now, and at higher Categories, your whole body will become entirely fireproof."

"That is kinda fire, heh."

"Your lungs should also have been dramatically strengthened. You'll now be able to hold your breath for longer than 10 minutes and your entire body will also work more efficiently now from all the extra oxygen in your bloodstream and organs."

"That sounds more useful for fighting the draugrs." Donny nodded. "I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do with a fireproof mouth, it's not like I can breathe fire or anything."

"It's funny that you should say that." Will said, packing up the camp. "That Parasite I found complements your bloodline very well."


The two returned to the compound late at night and Will brought Donny into the clinic after he retrieved the Parasite. Will sedated the Parasite and had Donny cleanse his mouth before laying down on a cot. He then injected a shot of local anesthesia into Donny's mouth to numb the pain.

"You better hold still or I might cut something." Will said, taking out a scalpel.

He made an incision at the back of the mouth and then placed the Parasite inside with a pair of forceps. Once that was done, Will stitched up the wound.

"Done." Will said, putting the tools aside and taking off his gloves. "It'll heal in three days, which is about how long it should take for the Parasite to bond with you. Tell me if the Parasite starts acting up, but it should attach itself to you now that it's inside a compatible host and has nowhere to go."

"Aul-rught." Donny said with a numb mouth.

After Donny left the clinic, Will grabbed his laptop and read through the medical databases that he had saved while he prepared himself for a blood transfusion.

Will had only seen the headlines about a few lucky or unlucky people—depending on what ability, accidentally awakening abilities that were exactly the same as the donor. There were also theories that mentioned something like this was very possible but there were no ways to test it out. By the time all this came out, everything on earth had evolved already.

There were rumors, however, that some countries and organizations were experimenting with cures for the virus and cloning in order to obtain certain bloodlines. If these rumors were true or not Will never found out.

The human body of an adult contains approximately 10 units of blood, which was how much Will had collected from Charlie Patton and Adrian Barnes each. He had played it safe with Donny's transfusion and only gave him 2 units to avoid any complications but if he wanted to awaken Adrian's bloodline, he may have to take some risks to increase his chances.

Although Charlie's bloodline would be more powerful in most combat situations, Adrian Barnes's bloodline was one that was classified as a high-level threat.

His ability enhanced and allowed him to manipulate his body's bio-electricity.

Anyone that was ever known to have the same ability as him, and in some countries, even if the ability was remotely similar, were put on a watchlist and their movements had to be reported and monitored at all times. Some countries even flat-out barred entry into their territory.

Because at higher Categories, this power could cripple all electronics. It could bring down the power grid for entire city blocks. That was how dangerous this bloodline was.

The difference between this bloodline and Will's own bloodline was immense. This was the reason why Will was thrilled when he found out that Adrian Barnes shared the same blood type as him.

Thus, gradually over the next couple of days, he drained himself of his own blood and took in Adrian's blood while watching out for signs of any complications. During that period, they also went out to clear out the area around the compound and stockpile more zeroes for Will's evolution. They also kept an eye out for clues of any Parasites.

With Donny's evolution, fighting zeroes become much easier for him. Although he still made some mistakes here and there, Donny became much more adept with his new physical capabilities.

Three days later, as they were just about to wrap up their circuit of the area, Donny brought up the subject he had been itching for a couple of days.

"I think it's about time. I don't feel the stitches anymore, I think they all dissolved." Donny said, using his tongue to feel around inside his mouth.

"Okay, go try it out on that one." Will said, pointing at a zero down the highway in the distance.

Donny let out a loud whistle, attracting its attention. The zero turned its head and began running in their direction.

"Is it just me, or are they getting better at moving?" Donny asked. "And faster."

"As time goes by they will evolve too. Especially if they've had plenty to eat."

"That's a little horrifying. Then do we have to call them 'ones' if they become Cat-1?"

"The two z-words are the ones that mostly stick. The first one because it's so iconic. While Zero also has the implication that they have 'zero' brains, to differentiate them from regular humans and wild animals." Will said, hefting his riot shield as the zero approached. "Heads up."

"How do I use it?"

"Think of it as just another muscle you didn't know you had."

"Okay...I'll try." Donny walked ahead and readied himself. He leaned forward, slid his face shield up, and opened his mouth. There was no reaction. "Ahhhhhh la la la la la."

When the zero was about a meter away and Will was about to make a move, with a pop, Donny suddenly sprayed out an explosion of steam and white chemicals. The zero tripped over just in front of Donny from being blinded unexpectedly, and its skin began to visibly sag from the extremely high temperature. It was also having trouble breathing from inhaling in the chemical vapor.

"Holy hell, that's hot!" Donny exclaimed, blowing air out of his mouth. "My mouth feels like I just ate a piece of chili pepper."

Will stepped in and finished off the zero before it could get on its feet while Donny was distracted.

"Bro, did you see that!? I was like a freaking dragon!" Donny said with exhilaration. "What was the Parasite called again? Bomber?"

"Bombardier beetle."

"Bombardier beetle." Donny repeated. "I was spitting hot fire. By the way, are there rankings for these abilities? I feel like it's normal for people to rank them."

"There are unofficial rankings."

"Unofficial?"

"Most governments and organizations are afraid of 'officially' ranking them because it will upset those who are ranked 'lower', especially if those people are going to be working for them. The most they do is classify them into typings."

"Yeah...I can see that." Donny nodded. "Then what are the unofficial rankings?"

"Your [Smoker's Lungs] alone is E-rank and goes up to C-rank if it's paired with a Parasite that works well with it. Your Parasite—which would be a B-rank Parasite, works especially well with it."

"That's...not too bad I guess. What about the legendary bloodline I missed out on?"

"Not much is known about it but I'd guess it would be at least A-rank. The same for the one I'm aiming for."

"Huuuu." Donny sucked in a breath of air. "No S-rank?"

"Masaru Matsumoto's bloodline is S-rank. There are very few people who carry what is considered S-rank bloodlines or Parasites and most of them keep that knowledge secret or they would be targeted."

Donny nodded. "Let's hope you don't roll with the same luck I did. Oops, did I just jinx it?"

After tossing the corpse into the cargo trailer, they returned home for lunch.

Will entered the clinic afterwards for his daily transfusion. Just as he was halfway through his 7th unit, or 15th blood bag, Will began to feel tired all of a sudden. When he started shivering, he knew something was wrong. Will promptly stopped the blood transfusion.

"Donny!"

"What's wrong?" Donny entered as Will pulled himself up.

"We need to get to the pod now."

Seeing Will's solemn and pale face, Donny nodded. "Okay, let's go."

"What's wrong, William?" Grandpa asked, seeing the two move about in a hurry.

Broski let out a whine, as if he felt the atmosphere.

"I need to go. Help me clean up the clinic." Will said, grabbing a blanket and wrapping it around himself instead of the usual armor.

When Will entered the passenger seat and Donny gave him a confused look but quickly entered the driver seat. At this point, Will was starting to become nauseous, his breathing and heart rating increasing to levels above normal.

By the time they reached the forest and onto the UTV, Will was suffering from hypothermia, and he had great difficulty breathing and thinking. The grueling journey to the Metamorphosis Pod was extremely taxing on Will and it felt like it would never end.

When Donny finally reached the Metamorphosis Pod, Will had passed out.

"Will?! Will, can you hear me?" Donny shook Will's shoulder but received no response. "Shit! Hold on, bro!"

Donny quickly pulled Will off of the UTV and carried him towards the Metamorphosis Pod. With no time to waste, he ripped off Will's shirt and pulled off his pants before shoving him into the Metamorphosis Pod.

With that done, he went over to a piece of tarp and removed it to uncover another pit they had dug. This pit was full of corpses that they had collected in the past few days. Because of Will's immunity level, he required many more corpses to evolve.

Donny began the process of dragging the corpses from the pit to the Metamorphosis Pod's own pit which was empty save for a few pieces of bones and cloth scattered inside, that weren't absorbed. The roots of the Metamorphosis Pod greedily accepted the offering, wrapping themselves around the corpses as they began to suck them dry. Donny even tossed in a wild coyote that had been caught in one of the traps.

Once the pit was filled up with corpses, the only thing left to do was to wait and see if the evolution would be a success.

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A note from MIDNIGHT1331

edit: may 8 - added line about rumors to fix small plot-hole

 


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MIDNIGHT1331

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