Crown of Thorns

The war was something that she never desired, but her birthright as a daughter of the Yagari family forced her to be a part of it. She killed level Est and slowly destroyed herself until the night her life was saved. Salvation was a distant dream, but maybe it was closer than she had originally believed.

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27. A Change in the Game

Kenta's desire for an heir to his name seemed to be great. When ever time was free for both of them she found herself in his embrace. The experience was... different. She could not say that she entirely liked it. While she had grown fond of him during their months together, at one point in their past, those feelings had quickly vanished once Toga had been brought into the mix. If their partnership was to work, and to possibly even evolve, then trust was necessary. His false accusations had destroyed anything that had begun to form. Kenta was aware of this. He seemed to accept this for he made no further attempt to win her heart. Instead, he now seemed more interested in guaranteeing that she remain at his side. Maybe this was what had prompted his sudden desire for a child. He was a fool if he thought that would keep her with him.

She had not wanted to bring a child into a loveless marriage. While she herself had always desired a creature that was a part of her, she did not want one with Kenta. He was not a part of what she wanted in the future nor was has he ever been. However, something had changed; something even she had not expected.

"I am leaving, Shiriko."

"Be safe." The words were false and she felt nothing for desiring that something happened to him while he was on a mission. Such a thing could be possible. All that she needed to do was send out word and he could disappear from her life forever. However, she did not want to draw unwanted attention from the council.

The door slammed closed. She walked to the window and watched him leave. Ren was walking up the door. Kenta paused to talk to her. She saw Ren look in her direction and she frowned. Instinct told her that the woman would be watching her more closely now. Kenta's suspicions were too great for her liking and he just chose the most intrusive woman to be her keeper. She wondered if he was purposefully trying to irritate her. They stopped talking and Kenta was soon lost from her sight. Ren did not move though. Instead the old woman walked up to her house. She sighed and went to answer the door once she began to knock.

"Hello."

"Hello, Ren-san."

"May I come in?"

"I was about to leave for errands."

"Well, that is fine. I will stop by later."

She frowned. If only Ren's memory was fading then she would not have to deal with the woman. Curse Kenta. She excused herself as she stepped past the woman. Locking the door behind her, she quickly made her way to the town. The quick trip for groceries may have to last longer than she normally planned. If she returned home late enough then she could possibly save herself the torture of having to spend several hours sipping tea with Ren.

 

The town was busy. Of course, it was the middle of the day. Shiriko glanced over her shoulder every now and then. She was keeping in eye open for Ren as well as the few aristocrats that she sensed nearby. The former was nowhere to been seen. Ren had followed her into town. It seemed that for now Ren's own errands were distracting her. After selecting some vegetables, she then made her way to the bakery. While she much preferred to bake her own bread, she had little desire to as of late.

"Shiriko-san."

She paused as a woman approached her. If she remembered correctly she worked at one of the clothing shops. She had seemed nice when they had first met, but she wished that she could recall her name. "How are you?"

"Fine. And you?"

"Well enough." She continued to make her way to the bakery since the woman had taken to walking with her.

"I was surprised to see you. I have not seen you in town for a while."

"I have been busy." Her words were not a complete lie, just an absence of explanation. Between the few missions assigned to her and convincing Kenta of the lie that she did wish to have a child with him, her time had been rather occupied.

"I just wanted to come over to tell you that you look well."

"That is kind of you."

"You seem to be glowing. Kenta must be treating you well."

She frowned, but her companion did not seem to notice. "He has been." That was true, even if she did not want to admit as much.

"Well, I should be going now. Don't be a stranger, Shiriko-san."

"I will not." She returned the woman's wave. It would be best if she learned her name before she came to town next. Without the distraction of conversation, she quickly arrived to the bakery. After a quick purchase, she paused in the main square. All of the errands that she had to run had been completed. However, she had caught a glimpse of Ren and she was not going to leave until enough time had passed where the old woman may have gone. With nothing specific to do, she made her way to the post office. A letter to Toga was in her jacket pocket. She had not planned to send the letter today, but she didn't know what else to do. Right now she desperately missed the company of her brother.

A bell rang above the door. She would not get over the oddity of its presence. Going to the post master, she handed him the envelope and the necessary change for a stamp. "Will you hold any mail for me, please? I plan to come to town from now on to get."

"That can be done."

"Thank you." With this finished she left.

 

Her visit to the town had been boring. However, she had forced herself to stay until sunset. By the time that she reached Kenta's house night had fallen. In the surrounding area she could sense a handful of vampires. However, they seemed only to be taking advantage of the night to visit. She sensed no threat from them and they did not approach her. Still, she made certain that an arrow was in a crossbow just in case it became necessary for her to use it.

She had barely finished putting away her groceries when she heard a knock on the door. Without looking out the window she knew that her visitor was Ren. She didn't bother pretending that she was not home. It had been her mistake to leave the lights on. When she opened the door she made certain that a false smile was on her lips.

"I hope that I am not disturbing you."

"Actually, I was planning to go to bed."

"So early?"

"I have not been sleeping well." Ren saw through her lie if the tisking sound meant anything.

"I am alone this evening. My husband isn't going to be home until tomorrow."

"Sorry to hear that."

"Do you mind if I sit with you for a while?"

"Shouldn't you be at home? It will be black as ink in less than an hour."

She waved her hand as if to dismiss Shiriko's words. "I am not worried about that."

Apparently she would have greater difficulty to get rid of Ren. She should have expected as much. Stepping aside, she allowed the elder to enter. "Would you like some tea?"

"Milk if you have some."

"Of course."

 

The clock on the wall told her that it was nearing midnight. Ren was still talking about she and her husband's marriage. Normally, she liked to hear such stories. With this woman though she would much rather be tortured. She wondered why Ren was still here. Kenta had mentioned to her that Ren did not like to stay out too late after night came. Ren could not be this devoted to keeping an eye on her.

"Are you alright?"

"Fine." She pinched the bridge of her nose. "I am just tired."

"It is not that late."

Maybe this was a form of torture. "It is almost midnight."

"That is early. I do not sleep much."

For one reason or another she believed Ren. The circles under her eyes were dark enough. "I would like to go to bed soon."

"Go ahead."

"Would you like me to walk you home, Ren-san?"

"I can just sit here. I probably won't sleep either. I don't like to sleep when Hideyoshi is gone."

"You might be more comfortable at home."

Ren frowned at her. "Are you trying to kick me out?"

"No... Yes." She was too tired to pretend to be nice. Right now she couldn't act like Ren was a welcomed visitor. "I can walk you home."

"Then you will be walking home alone. It is not right for a young lady to be out alone at night."

"I can take care of myself, Ren-san."

"I'm certain that you can."

She wondered if Ren was trying to imply something sordid.

"Well, I suppose that I should be going. It is quite late."

Shiriko rose with her and took the tea cups to the sink. Rinsing them out, she set them aside to wash in the morning before rinsing out the kettle. Ren was waiting for her beside the door. She slipped on her jacket before following the woman outside.

 

The night was not too cool nor was it too warm. The weather was very nice. Above her was a full moon. Ren had been less than grateful for the escort home and she had been kind enough to make another comment about it being wrong for a woman to be walking alone. Although this time she made certain to remind her that she was married. Rubbing her eyes, she wondered why she put up with Ren. The game between them was pointless. Was it really so important to make Kenta think that he had won at the cost of her sanity.

"You seem troubled, Shiriko-san."

She glanced at Takeshi. "It is nice to see you." He smiled at her and she returned it. "When did you arrive here?"

"A few hours go. I saw that you had a visitor."

"Yes..." They were both quiet for a time, but she felt as though the silence was comfortable. "I noticed that there were several aristocrats nearby."

"A social event is occurring tonight."

"I was not aware that a family was living in this area."

"You are not meant to."

She gave him a quick glare, before the look faded. Stuffing her hands into her pockets, she returned to being quiet.

"You are troubled."

"I have had much to think about lately."

"Have you deciphered these thoughts?"

Her lips twitched with short-lived amusement. "There is nothing to decipher." He said nothing. She felt as though he was waiting for her to continue. "Kenta wishes for a child and I have agreed."

"You will make a good mother."

"Thank you." She glanced at him. "Some would think that such a compliment is strange coming from a vampire."

"I apologize... Teasing is unnecessary."

She laughed before she could stop herself.

"I did not think that I funny."

"It is fleeting." She ignored the look that he gave her. Never before did she think that she would be joking with a vampire much less a pureblood. Such a thing was forbidden among the hunters, but then again she was not like most hunters. This was strange, but it was a good strange. She was enjoying Takeshi's company.

"You have changed."

"I have." It was a statement rather than a question.

"Do you regret your decision?"

"No. I have made the best choice for me." Takeshi stopped and she stopped with him.

"Are you so certain?"

"If I was not then I would have reason for concern." She began to walk again. Takeshi remained by her side until she entered the house. This she was grateful for.

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