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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10. Crossed Paths

His final words refused to abandon her thoughts. She could only replay his words in her head, the emotions that were within his eyes as he spoke. He had been sincere. Before now, she had never considered another reason for the Level Es existence, but what he had said had caused new ideas to form. Did they all choose to become Level Es? This was something that she had thought of before, but now... Had all those that she, other hunters, the vampires kill choose madness only so that they could die. Was this one of the reasons why this uneasy peace existed between the races, to exterminate those who defied the council? Who was truly insane? The sound of her name caused her to lift her head. Hunters milled around in the interior of the building. She could not see the one who had spoken her name. Stepping away from the wall that she had been leaning against, she left the building and stepped outside.

"What's wrong with your daughter, Yagari?"

"She has always been strange." He followed her with his dark eyes before looking at the gruff hunter beside him. "Is there something the matter?"

"No." He looked at where the woman had been. "The girl has been out of it lately," he said more to himself than anyone else. His gaze lingered for a moment longer before he turned his gaze back to him. "Here," he said, handing the man the sheet of paper in his hand. "You might want to take it easy, Yagari. You've been killing off Level E's faster than everyone else here. We all need to work you know."

"I will keep that in mind." He watched him go before looking at the photograph that was clipped to the piece of paper. Hatred flickered within his brown irises before he tore his gaze away from the assignment. Folding it neatly in half, he then tucked it away within the inside pocket of his coat. He glanced to his left when he heard approaching footsteps. "I am going, Toga."

He nodded. To ask would have been pointless. He knew by know what that lone sentence meant. His father walked away without so much as another word or a glance over his shoulder. When he was gone, he glanced around in search of Shiriko. She was no where to be seen. He frowned ever so slightly before walking towards the records room on the chance that she was there.

 

It was cool outside. Winter was approaching, but it was still several months away. Now, there was only the rotting scent of fall in the air. It was a soothing smell and she took a deep breath, her mind clearing for a moment. Her gaze turned and she looked over her shoulder when she heard the door behind her open. It was her father. She met his gaze for a brief moment before he was gone, walking past her without a word. Watching him leave, she found her thoughts drifting to who his next victim might be. Victim. She had never associated that word with a vampire. They were always only killers. To be anything more would be a joke... At least, it had once been a joke. Now, she could not be sure. Her father's dark form was gone and she stared for a moment longer at the area where he had been before starting to walk down the sidewalk. She supposed that she should have waited for Toga, but she knew that he would figure out that she had gone sooner or later. There was no inclination to walk back into that building. It was not as though he would be lost without her. Turning down an alley, she followed it to another street that ran behind the buildings. There were fewer people here and as such it was far less suffocating.

"We didn't want this."

His final words refused to leave her. She could still picture his expression, his eyes. He had been so sincere. His death made her feel as though she had committed murder and, in a way, she had. Why had she killed him? He had not seemed insane. In fact, the Level E had been far more sane than most hunters that she knew. If not for a slip of paper he would have been alive. All of those Level Es would have been alive. Why had they been killed? Was it because they had abandoned their masters, fled to seek something better than the existence that they knew? Had it been because they were a threat to humans? What was the true reason? The only thing that she knew was that the group that she and her family had hunted down had been driven to seek death because they had no other way to escape. It was not fair. There was a group of Level Ds ahead of her. She stopped walking and matched their crimson gazes. They started to walk towards her and her hand moved instinctively to her crossbow. The group passed her without so much as a word. When they were gone, she lowered her hand. So easily she had reached for her weapon and they had not even threatened her. What was she?

"So our paths cross again, huntress."

She turned to meet the gaze of the one that had spoken her. "Takeshi-san," she said, her voice sounding breathless.

The corners of his lips twitched. "Hello, Shiriko-san."

"What are you doing here?"

"Walking? Why are you here, Shiriko-san."

"The same."

"I see. Perhaps we could walk together."

"That would not be wise?"

He quirked an eyebrow. "How so? Do you fear that I will feed on you?"

"No."

"Then why?"

She opened her mouth to respond, only to close it. Diverting her gaze, she started to walk again. In a matter of seconds, he was beside her. She didn't look at him, keeping her gaze trained forward. For several minutes it was silent between them and she was thankful for the silence. She did not know what to say to him. He had saved her life, but that made things no less difficult. They should not even be together right now. It was wrong. Everything that she had been taught told her that it was wrong. Then again, she had begun to question everything that she had been taught.

"How have you been?"

The question was so casual and as such she found herself looking at him with faint surprise on her expression. "I have been... well enough."

She had hesitated in her response. "Do you feel it necessary to lie to me? I believe that there is no reason for you to other than the fact that I am a vampire and you are a hunter. Perhaps I was wrong or that reason is fit enough."

His words were strange. It was odd that he should hold such interest in her, but she supposed that it was not at the same time. Everyone possessed some level of curiosity. Still... He was right though, and she had no reason to believe otherwise. There was the chance that he could harm her, but she did not think that he would. That might have been her holding a false belief of goodness in beings that were said to be monsters. "No... There is no reason for me to lie to you." She was silent for a few minutes. "I am confused," she admitted.

"A confused hunter? I do not believe that I have ever heard of such a thing."

Her lips curved up in a slight smile before it quickly vanished.

"What puzzles you, Shiriko-san, if you pardon my question?"

"I do not mind. I am questioning my purpose and if it is indeed what it is supposed to be. I do not know if what the hunters do is proper and as necessary as we have been led to believe."

"What has made you think such things?" he asked, looking at her.

"I have been since I was a child."

His gaze lingered on her. Her gaze was turned forward and she seemed ignorant to the weight of his gaze though, he knew that she was not. There was a sadness in her expression that was strange for her people. Of course, when he had first met her, he knew instantly that she was not like the other hunters. There was a weight on her shoulders that the others did not carry.

"Why do the pure bloods turn humans?"

"That is a curious question."

"I suppose."

He was silent for several minutes as he thought of a proper answer to give her. "We began to turn humans out of necessity for survival. Now, though, it is done for reasons even I do not understand. For some, it is out of boredom."

"Did any of the humans that were turned choose to be?"

"Some."

"What of those that did not?"

"They became vampires like the rest." She said nothing and when he looked at her he saw that she was frowning, the only sign of what she was thinking.

"That is a cruel thing to do."

"It is cruel of the hunters to kill my kind."

"Yes, it is," she said after a moment.

Silence fell between them. The street ended and so another street, to the left, replaced it. Several sidewalks were tread with the silence remaining unbroken.

Dusk fell and her gaze lifted to the sky. The sun was retreating to the western horizon, staining the sky a brilliant orange with the darkness creeping forward and devouring the color. It was a beautiful sight. Calming, even with the pure blood that walked beside her.

They reached the end of the city and only then did they stop.

"This is where we part ways, Shiriko-san. Thank you, for allowing me to walk with you."

"There is nothing to thank me for."

He took a step closer to her until only a small amount of space separated them. "If you say so." Stepping away from her, he walked down the street that led out of the city. "Perhaps our paths will cross again."

"Perhaps."

"Take care, Shiriko-san."

"The same for you." The night swallowed him or perhaps he had simply transported himself to where ever he now wished to be. She stared at the spot where she had lost seen him before turning around and starting to walk again. Passing several inns and the building where the hunters kept their base, and where Toga might still be, she continued to moving forward. She didn't want to stop. There were several chances to do so, but she didn't. Even when the sun set and darkness consumed everything, she continued moving forward. Almost, she was afraid to stop. She didn't know what it meant and what it did mean to continue walking. Even as the city faded behind her and she continued walking in the direction that was opposite of home, she did not stop. To do so held consequences that she did not completely understand. As such, she continued walking, ignorant of where her feet carried her. Later, she might stop, but for now she would not, refused to.

 

The house was dark, empty. He turned on all the lights. Walking slowly through the interior of the house, he searched each room. There was no one. Ascending the stairs, he went to her bedroom to find that, like the rest of the rooms, it was empty. He walked to the window and looked outside. She should have been home. It was not like her to leave without a word. Where are you, Shiriko?

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