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.


19. Almost Normal

Life was different now. She had adjusted to her new routine that now included a husband. She adjusted to playing the role of wife. That was all that she had done.

In the two weeks that had passed since she had become a part of Kenta's family she had learned many things. Her former partner and current husband was messy. It was irritating. Often she would find some of his clothes or weapons lying around and she would have to return them to their place. She had tried to leave everything where he had left them, but when he neglected to clean up after himself she had been compelled to take care of it herself. A mess was one thing that she despised. She had also learned that Kenta cared very much about the town where he lived. Unlike her father and Toga, he would often take time to make certain that everyone was well; specifically, their elderly neighbors. He had managed to convince her to accompany him one day and she had been surprised to see how much care he exhibited towards the elderly couple that lived three houses down from them. The villagers and their neighbors did not hesitate to tell her how lucky she was whenever she stopped. Nor did they hesitate to ask her when she and Kenta would have children. That was something else that she had learned. People liked small children for some reason. There was something strange about that. She knew that there was nothing wrong about them just her. She just wasn't capable of feeling such things. To do so could mean possible death when hunting. She wasn't sure sure if she should be frustrated about that fact or glad about it.

The matter itself should have been easy to ignore. However, she was unable to. What they said ate away at her thoughts. At the oddest times she found their words entering her mind. It was unwanted and yet it seemed as though it could be not helped. The entire situation was frustrating.


She glanced at Kenta when he entered the kitchen before looking away, not allowing her gaze to linger long. He did not come close to her. It seemed that, for now, he was giving her some space. "Welcome back," she found herself saying, not knowing if she really meant the words or not.

He pulled one of the chairs away from the table before straddling it. His attention remained on her back. She had returned to washing dishes. Any attention that she had been giving to him had ended. For a time he contented himself in watching her until she looked over her shoulder at him, her lips turned down in a frown that was similar to a pout. He had not noticed it until after a few days of living together. The expression was one of displeasure. She often gave it to him. He found it to be cute and it suited her.

"Is there a reason that you are watching me?"

It crossed his mind to say that it was because she was his wife and as her husband he had every right to stare at her. However, that would anger her and she would either close up to him or worse. He still recalled the day that he had entered the bedroom only to find a knife flying in his direction. She may have not been aiming it at him, but he would rather not risk making her turn her weapon onto him. "I will find something more gratifying to look at it." That didn't seem to be the right answer either for her frown deepened and she looked away. He had managed to offend her. "Sorry." She ignored him and he frowned. "I stopped to speak with Katzu-san today. Ren-san asked me to give you a message."

She did not respond immediately. Soon though, she put down the disk that she had been washing and turned around to face him. "What is the message?"

He had peaked her curiosity. That was a good thing. "She would like you to come over for tea tomorrow."

An invitation for tea. That was... not what she had expected to hear. Her expression must have given her surprise away for Kenta smirked, appearing to be mildly amused. "Tea."

"Yes." He stood up and hesitated before taking a step towards her. When she didn't move away he came to stand beside her, leaning against the counter. "You have not been invited to tea before?"

"No." The sound of him chuckling prompted her to give him a small glare. "If you have not realized this yet, Kenta, we are hunters and we are not privy to normal lives."

"You say that like it cannot happen."

"It cannot."

"Why not?"

"Attachment will lead to death."

"So the fact that I am attached to these villagers will cause them to die."

"It is possible."

"That is why I have taken precautions."

She turned her attention back to the dishes.

"You should go."

"Is that an order, Kenta?"

"No, a suggestion."

She spared a moment to give him a credulous look.

He chuckled.

"What is so funny."

"We almost sound as though we are married."

Her body went rigid and she stopped everything that she was doing. "Are you certain?"

"Yes." He took a chance and lifted his hand to brush some stray hair behind her ear. "Don't you?" She didn't draw away from him immediately, but she soon did. He watched her as she dried her hands before starting to leave the kitchen. "It is alright for you to like me, Shiriko."

She found herself stopping when he spoke.

"It won't hurt you. It won't hurt me. It won't kill us."

"You don't know that." She didn't allow him time to speak again. Quickly, she left the house.

Sighing, he shook his head before kicking the chair. It wobbled on its legs, but it didn't fall over.


Why was she standing here? She didn't know. She didn't know what had compelled her to leave the house after Kenta had gone and go to the one not far down the road from their home. Whatever madness had overcome her was a mystery. The door slid open and an elderly woman greeted her.

"I am glad to see you, Shiriko-san."

Ren had stepped aside. She entered the house and slipped her shoes off. A pair of her slippers were provided for her and she accepted them with a quiet thanks. The woman was staring at her. Her gaze was scrutinizing and she saw her give a huff of disapproval when Ren saw the pants that she wore. She ignored it.

"Follow me."

She did as the woman commanded. Ren walked straight; more so than her husband. She had an air of haughtiness as well and she suspected that Ren had not been born into the same level of society as Katsu had. Her musings ended when Ren stopped walking. She sat down when she had been motioned to. A cup of tea was offered to her. She took it and waited for Ren to sit down before she took a sip. Odd. Abnormal. Strange. Too normal. She didn't know how else to describe this. It wasn't natural. Sitting in the main room of one of her neighbor's houses was not normal. She didn't know what to make of it.

"How long have you known, Kenta?"

The awkward silence had finally been broken. However, she would have preferred if the question had been a different one. Kenta was not a topic that she wanted to discuss, but she should not have expected any less. The people here seemed to care deeply for him. She was silent for a time as she pondered her answer. Technically she had met Kenta three years ago, but she had only gone on five hunts prior to learning of their engagement. In total the time was little. Only a few months at most. "I have known him for three years," she said, deciding that it was best to avoid technicalities.

"That is nice."

Was it? She supposed that it was. He was the one person that she hunted with the most so she did regard him with a measure of trust. She gave a small nod of agreement.

"Kenta is a good man. It is nice to see that he has finally found a woman to care for him."

The woman was from a different world than her. The woman was from a different generation. The woman had grown up with different expectations about the role of a woman than those that she had been raised with. Silently repeating that to herself she managed to bite her tongue and not leave the house.

"How old are you?"

"Nineteen." She did not miss the look that Ren gave her.

"What is the name of you family?"


"I have heard of the Yagari family."

Ren had fallen silent. She did not say anything. The woman seemed to be thinking. She hoped that interest in the conversation had fled Ren.

"It used to be a noble family. I heard that your family had been participating in demonic rituals."

She was offended. Yes, her family had fallen from grace because they were hunters. Their decreased worth in the eyes of the public had occurred hundreds of years earlier. It seemed that they had not been forgotten yet, unfortunately. Then there was the matter that the public did not know of hunters. Yes, there were rumors. This though... She could feel her anger. She did not want to be here any longer. Forgotten or not there was no reason for Ren to speak of her family in such a way. Her gaze hardened. It was very tempting to injure this woman, but she needed to show restraint. Innocents were not to be harmed.

"Is it true your family mates with demons?"

If only this woman was a level E.


Kenta heard the door slide open and then closed. Leaving the main room he walked to the entrance. It was Shiriko. He saw immediately that she was angry. It probably was not a good idea to speak to her right now. She would mostly likely want to be left alone. However, he had been concerned. He had thought that she had left. When he had come home to find the house empty... He had been angry. Her abandonment of he and this home was something that he knew that she was capable of. "Where were you?"

"I was having tea."

He raised an eyebrow. "Did I hear you correctly, Shiriko?"

Giving him a sharp look, she set her boots aside more violently than necessary before stepping close to him. "Be quiet, Kenta."

He raised his hands in defense. A few seconds later and she stepped away from him. He followed her into the kitchen once she was a good distance ahead of him. "Was it that terrible?"

"I thought that I said to be quiet."

"You did. I'm just hard of hearing." He came up behind her. Grasping her waist, he rubbed soothing circles on her sides with his thumbs. "You look like you need a drink."

"Perhaps." She sighed heavily and tucked some hair behind her ear. His touches were ignored. At least, she tried to ignore them. What he was doing felt good and his close proximity was more comfortable than what she would have preferred.

"Was it that bad?"

"It depends on your definition."

He chuckled. "Ren-san will invite you to tea again."

"I will not go." He was rubbing her shoulders now and she found herself relaxing under his touch. Her eyes fell closed.

"I do not blame you." He kissed her neck.


There was a warning in her tone. He returned to just massaging her shoulders. The tension that had returned to her body was eased away for the second time. For a long time she let him do this. He kept expecting her to draw away from him, but she did not. "I thought that you left," he said after several minutes.

"What would you have done if I had left?" His answer was not immediate and she could sense a slight change overcome him.

"We don't need to worry about that

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