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.


4. Demon Knight

There was no guarantee that the one she hunted was the monster that Tetsuo had told her about. Despite this though she felt the need to investigate and find out if this vampire was the one that she was looking for. After much searching she found a trail, but it was several days cold. Regardless of this though she followed it. There was a chance that she could find a trace that was warmer. The clouds had not yet unmasked the moon and there was only darkness around her. She knelt down, examining the trail once more. Her brow furrowed. Something isn't right. This trail has been put here purposely. She rose slowly glancing around her. There was nothing of immediate threat that she could sense and yet her uneasiness remained. Whatever vampire had left this trail knew of her presence. Why didn't I notice this earlier. Calm down Shiriko you don't have time for this. Drawing her crossbow, she notched an arrow before lowering her arms to her side. Walking forward, she continued to follow the trail. There was no way that it would reveal itself now, but she would play its game and lure it out.


The creature was hunting her. It was behind her, far enough that it was beyond her range to injure it with any of her weapons, but close enough that she could sense it. She kept her mind clear, not wanting to allow it to instigate her. For the past hour it had been playing with her, but she had kept on her path. If she took action now it could prove hazardous. It was required for her to wait and have the vampire make its move on her terms. The creature moved so that it was to her left. She shifted her eyes enough to see a shadow before it hid itself from her sight. It had not taken her long to realize that this was no level E. This vampire thought things through and did not act rashly. Taking another step she caught her foot and staggered forward slightly. Within her peripheral vision she saw it run towards her from her left, its speed carrying it to her quickly. Stepping out of the false trip, she spun and pulled the trigger of her crossbow. The arrow closed the distance that separated them and she heard an animal-like cry when it buried itself within the vampire. With little time to wait she quickly reloaded the weapon and fired again. The vampire remained unhindered despite the second wound and she was pushed to the ground, the crossbow torn from her hand.

"What do we have here?"

As the vampire lowered its jaws to her neck she hit the heel of her boot onto the ground. A blade snapped out and she kicked out, aiming for the thigh. Above her the vampire howled in pain and she found herself thrown several feet when it struck her. The breath was stolen from her when she struck the ground. Raising herself into a crouch quickly, she watched him as the best that she could through her blood hazed vision. There was a dull pain in her head, but she knew that her injury was worse then it seemed.

The vampire lifted his head and sniffed the air. "Your blood smells delicious." It lowered its head and looked at her with hunger filled eyes.

It ran towards her again, but she found herself unable to move. As it neared her she watched as it was thrown to the ground by a second form. The scene before her was swimming. The sounds of fighting and howls of pain, and the smell of blood were the only things that she knew clearly. Her body lurched forward and she struck the ground.


There was the sound of crackling wood. She opened her eyes before closing them again.

"So you are awake."

She opened her eyes and tilted her head enough so that she could see the one who had spoken. A man stood on the other side of the fire that was between them.

"You are lucky to be alive. The wound that you received was serious."

He was standing beside her now and she gazed at him with half-lidded eyes. "You're a pureblood."

"It's good to know that your senses are not dulled huntress."

His hands brushed against her brow, his touch cool. "Why are you here?"

"The same reason that you are here. I was hunting that level C."

He held up a paper that she recognized as the profile that the council had provided to her.

"I do hope that you will forgive me. I noticed the paper and my curiosity got the better of me." She shook her head and closed her eyes. He frowned and looked at her with concern.

She vaguely felt the brush of his lips on her forehead before she slipped away again.


The sun hung low in the eastern sky. He felt the light, but knew that it would not touch the area where they were directly. Branches spread out above them creating enough shade for it to be comfortable. He glanced at the woman who lay unconscious beside him. She had not woken since late last night. He was surprised that she was still alive, the wound that she had received had robbed her of much of her precious blood. There was a pale line on her brow, the only remaining sign of the wound that he had healed. The scar though marked her perfect appearance. Leaning down, he pressed his lips against the mark. Minutes passed and when he pulled away it was gone. She stirred and moments later her dark eyes opened. "Good morning." She attempted to rise, but he grasped her shoulders and forced her to lay back down. "Please remain still. You have lost much blood and are very weak."

She nodded and did not try to rise again. "Why are you helping me?"

"I am not a monster huntress. I was not going to allow you to die."

"That does not answer my question."

He smirked slightly. "My kindness is not enough? Very well then, your fighting style impressed me." She laughed softly and the sound was like a quiet song in his ears. "To assure you huntress, your injuries have been healed and your strength should soon return."

She closed her eyes and released a heavy sigh. "Thank you pureblood."

"If I tell you my name, would you call me by it or would that be to much of me to ask?"

"No, it is not," she said, looking at him again.

"Then allow me to introduce myself. I am Takeshi of the Ochiai clan."

"My name is Shiriko."

He was not surprised that she did not tell him her surname. "It is an honor Shiriko-san."

She smiled slightly. "The honor is mine."

Her voice was weaker and he laid a hand on her brow. He felt her body tense, but it was only for a brief moment as if his touch surprised her. "Rest now. I promise you that no harm shall befall you." Her eyes slipped closed again and he sat back. Her breathing was soft, a mere whisper compared to the sounds of the surrounding forest. He turned away to look at the now silent fire that had burned out shortly before dawn's arrival.

"Why are you here and not at your home?"

"You should be resting," he said, his gaze returning to her. For a time he gazed at her in silence. "You are not like most hunters Shiriko-san. While most of your kind would ignore protocol and attempt to slay me for being so near you do not. For what reason do you stay your hand?"

"Curiosity… And the fact that I am in your debt Takeshi-san."

"You should not say such a thing Shiriko-san. A vampire would take advantage of such a statement."

"You would not though."

"How can you be so sure?" Her eyes opened and he could feel himself being drawn into their depths rather than her eyes in his. It was strange, though he tried to read her thoughts he found himself unable to and yet every word she spoke he knew to be the truth.

"I believe in your honor."

It her answer should have surprised him and yet it didn't. "Then you are a fool," he said, turning away.

"If you say so," she whispered, closing her eyes.

He glanced at her from the corner of his eyes. She is a strange creature. Reaching out he touched her cheek lightly with his fingertips, but she did not stir. He diverted his gaze once more, willing himself not to look at her.


When she awoke it was still light and she wondered how long she had been asleep. Sitting up, she felt no trace of the weakness that had existed the previous day. Her eyes scanned the area, but Takeshi was nowhere to be seen and she did not sense him nearby. She stood slowly, pulling on her coat that had earlier served as a blanket. Her weapons lay nearby and she picked them up, returning them to their places on her person. A final glance around the area revealed the area to still be empty besides her. Lowering her eyes she made sure that there were no embers burning within the charred wood that had earlier served as a fire before leaving the area. She did not have far to walk before she saw the town that she had been to prior to her fight with the vampire. Behind her she sensed the weight of eyes watching her and she glanced behind her. "Thank you Takeshi-san," she said whispered to the wind before turning away.

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