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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13. Escape

When their father returned, she felt strangely terrified. Why? She treaded carefully around him, feeling as though she were one of the vampires that he slaughtered whenever his gaze fell on her.

"Shiriko."

She tensed. Immediately her thoughts moved to Toga and she wondered if he knew what had occurred while he had been absent. "Yes, father?" she asked in as pleasant a tone as she could manage. He didn't say anything. Instead, he offered her a piece of paper. She stared at it for a moment, glancing briefly at his face before taking it. Why she had thought that he would have spoken to her for any other reason was beyond her at the moment. Opening the paper, she stared at the black and white photograph. Folding the paper, she then left without a word.

Toga glanced at her as she passed him. She didn't say anything, but she hadn't said anything since his proposal. The paper in her hand drew his attention. She was leaving again. He didn't want her to go. Considering how she had returned after their joint assignment... The thought of her being like that again was not a good one. It was terrifying. It was not her. He glanced at his father before going outside. He did not want to be near the man right now.

Never had she felt eager to go on a hunting trip. It was strange. The feeling was disgusting. Yet, it was better than being home. She was certain that Toga would be gone when she returned, but she had never been good at guessing such things. Even though her family had been called upon a lot, they seemed to be favoring her more than her brother as of late it seemed. Perhaps she was just being egotistical though. To think that the society, the council wanted her... It was almost as sickening to know that they might actually want her. It was becoming fairly obvious of late that her heart was not in the hunt as it was with all the others. Yet here she was, on her way to find the level E that she had been instructed to kill... or murder. That thought sent a chill down her spine. To be a murderer was not something that she wanted to see herself as. For all technical purposes though, she was. Leaving the house without so much as a word, she walked down the path that would take her to where she needed to go.

He heard the door close. It was a final sound. He stopped walking and followed her with his eyes until she was gone from his sight. Turning away, he continued on his was to the grave. The marble seemed to glow in the sun. He stared at the white stone, his gaze passing over the engraved name.

 

"Toga."

His voice was like a knife that cut through him. He turned to face his father. His expression was nonchalant. No more words needed to be said for him to know what was to come. His father's tone had been enough for him to know. "Yes, father?"

Taking several steps forward, he closed the space that separated him from Toga. He was silent, searching the brown gaze of his son. "I told you-"

"You told me nothing," he interrupted almost immediately.

His eyes narrowed. "How dare you disobey me. How dare you sink to their level."

"I am not a vampire, father."

"Did you think that I would not know? You touched her. She is your sister."

"We did nothing. I merely let her know that-"

"That was enough." His tone raised by the slightest fraction. "How dare you do such a thing. You are disgusting."

"I didn't think that you would have cared."

"Shiriko is my daughter. I will not let you taint her."

"It is her decision." The tension was thick between them. He waited for his father to turn away or to speak again, but he did neither. Instead he was left to stare down the man before him, not wavering lest he show weakness. His eyes widened by the slightest fraction when his throat was grasped and he was slammed into the wall. He grasped his father's wrist.

"You will forget such thoughts, Toga. She is your sister. There will be nothing more between you." His grip tightened by the slightest fraction. "Do you understand." When Toga failed to answer, he tightened his hold until his son started to gasp for breath and tried to tear his hand away from this throat. "Do you understand," he spoke again, speaking each word slowly.

"Yes," he choked out.

Releasing him, he watched as he crumpled to the ground. Without so much as a second glance to ensure that he was alright, he left the room. The front door slammed closed behind him.

He gasped, filling his lungs with the precious oxygen that they had been deprived of. Glaring at where his father had been, he rubbed his throat. It hurt to breathe and to swallow. Why had he allowed himself to show that weakness? Why had he submitted?

 

Each step seemed heavier as she continued forward. Her earlier enthusiasm was gone, having fled her hours earlier. The weight of the knowledge that she was to take another life was settling over her. It was heavier this time, the guilt of being happy to have the escape adding to the rest of the weight. She had been wrong. This was another murder and she shouldn't not have been pleased to be able to escape her father through this. Her hand went to her pocket and her fingers brushed against the part of the paper that was sticking out. She could see the face of the one whose photograph that she had been given. Her gaze moved to the sky. It would not be long before she reached the city. She should be able to reach the location before the sun set. That would give her a slight advantage. Her gaze lowered and she focused on what was to happen very soon rather than allow her thoughts to wander. There would be no sense in allowing herself to be caught off guard.

 

The city was vast, but she knew it by heart now. It was the location of the central command for the hunter society. Why had they chosen her for this mission? There were many hunters here in this city that were more than capable of disposing of the Level E. Was there something special about this vampire? The thought crossed her mind that they had chosen her in hopes that she would be killed on this assignment. It was foolish, but it was not so easily discarded. There was a small chance that was the case, but it would not be wise for them to kill a hunter when there were too few now. Hunters were a dying breed. She slowed down, sensing something nearby. Turning her head, she stared at the building to her left. There was nothing threatening about it from the outside. It was a simple inn. Appearances were deceiving though. Slowly, she walked towards the front doors.

Inside, the lights were bright. There were a few people in the lobby that didn't turn their heads when the front door opened. The man behind the desk glanced at the newcomer before returning his attention to the elderly woman that was checking in.

It was almost blinding and she wondered why they had chosen to keep the lights as they were. Were they trying to frighten away demons? It would not work. The most that it would do was give them the same headache that she was getting. It was possible. Humans were aware of danger, even if they did not know what it was. She stopped in the middle of the lobby. There was a vampire here. It was just a matter of learning which floor that the creature was on.

"Miss, did you need something?"

"No." Without so much as a glance in the manager's direction, she walked towards the stairs. He was telling her that she could not go up there, but she ignored him. Even if he tried, he could not stop her. Since the vampire was in here it was now pertinent that she slay it before it attacked an innocent. Murder or not, she could not allow anyone here to be harmed.

 

Each floor was carefully explored. There were a few guests in the halls, but most were either in there rooms or exploring the city. She paused every now and then to make sure that the one that she was hunting did not sneak up on her. She had learned her lesson before and it would do little good for anyone if she was killed. If she died of injuries that she sustained, that was another matter. Death before the completion of the mission though, posed to much risk for other humans. When she was certain that there was nothing on the third floor, she returned to the stairs. There was only one more floor and than the roof.

"I didn't think that hunters were so pretty."

She paused in her ascent and looked to the landing above her. There was a woman. Her red hair was chopped short and she was dressed in normal street clothes, appearing more human than vampire. Unlike most level Es, she was clean. If it were not for her wild eyes and the face whose photograph of was in her pocket, she would have thought that she had been hunting down the wrong vampire.

"Have you come to kill me?" Her voice was mocking.

No answer was given to her. She unhooked her crossbow from her belt.

"You have kind eyes." Her lips curled up into a smile. "You don't really want to kill me, do you? We can be friends."

"In another life perhaps." She raised her crossbow, but the vampire was already running. It had been expected. Running up the stairs, she threw the door to the roof open. Immediately, she moved out of range of the blow that was cast at her the instant that she stepped outside. Turning, she fired one arrow, but missed. Stopping, she looked around. There were a few places where the vampire could be hiding. Slowly, she strode to where she had entered from. Making a wide circle around the small structure she then paused. Minutes slowly passed. It was a game of waiting now. Where she had placed herself left her open for attack from all sides.

A heavy silence settled over the roof. Below, the sounds of people talking in the street carried upwards. The words that were spoken became more inaudible the higher that they traveled.

Her target had yet to appear. If it weren't for the fact that she sensed that the vampire was in the immediate vicinity, she would have allowed herself to believe that the creature had fled. There was movement in the corner of her eye. She waited. There was the soft sound of footsteps on the gravel of the roof. She turned, her finger closing on the trigger.

Blue eyes widened when the arrowhead buried itself in her heart. She fell to the ground, her body dissolving into ash.

She stared at the rains. The wind caught the ashes in its grasp and picked it up, carrying it to unknown places. "I am sorry," she whispered to the memory of her target.

 

There were bruises on his neck. How long would they remain there? He was not sure. To say that he didn't care though, would have been a lie. The man shouldn't have touched him. While he may had been his son, he did not have the right to do such a thing. He touched the tender flesh with his fingertips. The mark of his father's hand caused hate to stir within him. Bastard. He turned his gaze away from the mirror, slowly buttoning up his shirt. Buttoning the collar button, the purple and blue bruises were hidden from sight. Leaving his bedroom, he glanced at his father before going outside. Why is he still here? He should have run away by now. The heavy weight of his father's gaze followed him. It felt as though he were boring holes into his back. He wished that the man would leave, but he could only hope now that one of them were given an assignment.

 

"Shiriko."

Almost, she had made it to the door. Almost, she had escaped. She would not have truly escaped though. If one of her fellow hunters wanted her, they could very easily find her. Pausing just before the doors, she glanced over her shoulder before turning to face the man that approached her. "Thank you," she said when he handed a paper to.

He only nodded before leaving.

Had they ever given her an assignment so soon after a completed mission? She did not believe that they had. Maybe they did desire her to work more or maybe her father had said something. She would not put it past him to remain silent about how she had been. There was a chance that one of them had actually noticed how she had been on their own and had reported it. Either way, if that was the case, then they might be trying to make her numb to what she had to do or they were hoping that she would somehow accept the lie that what was being done was not murder. If only what she knew was actually understood. She looked at the image of her new assignment.

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