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.


25. Firestorm

"It has been a while, Toga."

Kenta may be his brother-in-law, but he was bothered by the lack of formality. They didn't know each nor did he care to get to know the bastard. Nothing more was said to him, but he didn't care too much about that. Kenta seemed to understand that his lack of response meant a lack of interest in any sort of conversation.

"How is Shiriko?" He had not intended to start any form of conversation with Toga. However, he needed to know. He had heard nothing from Shiriko since the marriage.

"She is fine... She doesn't seem to like the idea of settling down."

He caught the frown on Kenta's lips. So his brother-in-law was not happy... At least, not with Shiriko's independence. That was good he supposed. It meant that Shiriko had not abandoned herself. He wondered if their father new. It was possible. He and Kenta seemed to be close. Something about what he said did bother him.

Shiriko was not a hunter at heart. This was clear to those who were close to her. She was the one whom he had always imagined having a family one day. Her maternal instincts were strong. Often he had imagined raising children; chasing after them in the grass, playing games, and helping them to maintain the innocence that both of he and she had lost. Even though she did not want to be Kenta, it had crossed his mind once or twice that she might be happy. As much as he did not want her to be happy with the bastard he did have brief thoughts of her having the family that she had always desired. Did Kenta not fill this role? "Is she happy?"

Kenta glanced at Toga, saw the coldness in his eyes and shook his head in amusement. "I think so." He smiled to himself. "We've been... good together."

His legs felt heavy. Toga clenched his hands tightly at his side. He was torn between being glad for them and ridding the world of Kenta then and there. Apparently he had been wrong. They were happy. Maybe Shiriko had fallen in love with Kenta in which case he could not harm the man in any way; not that he could anyways. If Shiriko now wanted to be with Kenta then he would have to stand back and let her have what she desired. Maybe she was waiting to have children until relations with the vampires became more peaceful. That was something that Shiriko would do.

Silence fell between them. It was tense, but neither seemed too bothered by it or if they were they said nothing. Toga was left to muse about what little Kenta had revealed and the significance of this knowledge. Their possible happiness made him sick. As much as he wished every bit of happiness for his sister he hated that it could be with Kenta. The brute was not worthy of her. Their relationship was just a convenience for their father, a way to get her out of the house and away from him. He knew that he was jealous. Shiriko was the one who he desired to be with. She had not completely rejected him and the thought of another-

He gritted his teeth together until it became painful to do so. Only then did he relax his jaw.

"Something the matter, Toga?"

His only response was a look to the older male. Kenta only shrugged and looked ahead again, appearing amused. Hatred boiled within him. The thought crossed his mind to get rid of Kenta and use the mission as a cover up for his death. A handful of hunters had fallen victim to their prey in the past. A level B had the capacity to overwhelm a hunter; especially one like Kenta. As skilled as the man was he did not always think first. Getting rid of him would be simple enough. The thought of Shiriko and what Kenta's death would mean to her prompted him to dismiss the thought.


Kenta had insisted that they stop at a tavern once night fell. He was adverse to the idea, but the man still dragged him in. Rather than fight him he allowed himself to be guided towards the nearest table. Kenta had apparently been here before. The owner greeted him warmly and within seconds two large pints were placed before them. He regarded his drink with disinterest as Kenta took several deep swallows.

"You don't drink, Toga?"

"I do... Just not on a mission."

Kenta ignored the pointed look that was given to him. He waved towards the bar keep and was answered with plates of food.

The meal was of more interest to him. They had not stopped in their travels save out of basic necessity. The need for sustenance, aside from water, had been non-existent. His stomach growled and he picked up his spoon. As much as he wanted to devour the stew then and there, he forced himself to eat slowly. Kenta was eating like a starved men and he felt that some form of manner was needed at their table. The stew was good though and he had finished the bowl within minutes. Thankfully a second helping was waiting for him. He made his way through the next bowl more slowly, taking time to enjoy the flavor as well as the bread that had been provided. When he had finished eating, he then took a few sips from his pint.

"About time."

He ignored Kenta this time.


When Kenta had finished his meal, he leaned back in his chair. Holding his pint in one hand, he regarded Toga. The other hunter was quietly nursing his own drink. He had asked for water at some point and that was of more interest to him than the pint. Toga was not as uptight as he came off. He did break his rule of drinking on a mission. Of course, Toga did seem a bit tense. It didn't take a genius for him to figure out why. "I consider myself lucky, Toga. Shiriko is a lovely woman."

"Yes," he said, having very little interest in conversation.

"She doesn't talk much about you." This seemed to peak Toga's interest for he finally looked at him. He took a long drink before continuing. "I thought that you two were close."

"We are." He had said the wrong thing. Kenta smirked and then laughed.

"You're a disgusting bastard, Toga."

His grip on the pint tightened.

"Because we're family now I'll make things clear. Shiriko is my wife so whatever little fantasies about her that you have floating around in that head of yours, just forget them. Go find yourself some woman and make yourself a few kids."

His reflection stared back at him from the amber depths, anger burning in his eyes.

"Hell, I know a few in this town who like your type. They're a bit twisted themselves, but I'm sure that you can handle that."

He forced himself to ignore Kenta. For Shiriko he had to ignore Kenta.

Toga hid how bothered that he was well. He wasn't blind though. Satisfied for now, he focused instead on finishing the drink in his hand.


Sleep was not restful. The moment that he closed his eyes he was greeted with images of Shiriko vanishing in one form or another, whether it be death or just simply ceasing to exist. The nightmares forced him awake until at last he gave up on sleep and just stared up at the ceiling. The thin walls of the inn allowed him to hear Kenta snoring in the room next to his. The loud noise caused an uncomfortable prickle on the back of his neck that irritated more than Kenta himself. No longer able to just lay still, Toga stood up and paced the room. He eventually came to stand by the window and stared out at the night.


They left early the next morning. When he had been unable to return to sleep Toga had left the inn to wander the streets. It was during his nighttime constitutional that he had heard word about a possessed man who matched the description of their level B. He gained as much information from the group of boys before leaving them to whatever trouble making that they were busy with.

Waking Kenta had been a chore in itself. After a brief showdown in which they had both pointed their guns at each other, Kenta had woken up enough to realize that he was not a threat. Following this they left the inn and returned to tracking the level B. Kenta had appeared surprised that he had found the general location of their prey. When he had said as much he had returned with a statement that he didn't drink himself into a stupor. Judging by the frown on Kenta's face, he had not appreciated the comment and he had been left alone afterwards. Smirking to himself, Toga led the way down the street.


The orders had said fire. He hated when he had to deal with pyro kinetic aristocrats. Toga ducked behind a wall to escape the attack against him. Kenta was on the other side of the playground. His right arm had been on fire, but he seemed to have put it out. They exchanged looks before Kenta left his cover, firing off several bullets at the level B. He remained where he was, waited, heard Kenta swear, and then ran into the open.

Remaining low to the ground, he kept his eye on Kenta and the aristocrat as they sparred with each other. Kenta seemed to be keeping the vampire distracted. He ducked behind a slide. Glancing at the next area that he would have to traverse he then looked to the pair again before leaving his cover. He placed his finger on the trigger of his revolver. A few more steps and-

"Shit!" He fell to the ground as a ball of fire soared over his head. "Fucking idiot." Kenta had crawled away to safe cover. Cursing his name, he jumped to his feet and ran towards the level B. The male cocked his head, appearing amused. When he was within a few feet he jumped to the left, avoiding another attack. He fired off two shots. The vampire hissed in pain. He dropped to the ground.

Their target was angry. The vampire had decided to make the playground blaze like a bonfire; forcing them both from their cover. They shared another look. This would have to be finished now. Their anonymity was gone and soon officials would be coming to put out the fire. They both charged at the same time, firing off shots. The vampire took a few steps back, his body jerking as bullets littered his chest. One struck true and he disappeared in a flurry of dust.

"Let's get out of here."

As flashing lights drew closer with the sound of sirens, they both disappeared into the nearest alley.


Kenta would be returning soon. He had said that he would not be gone for too long; that the mission would be simple business. The man possessed far too much confidence. She was uncertain if she missed him. His absence had been noticed when she had woken up alone the next morning. She had cooked enough food for the two of them as well before remembering that he was gone. Maybe she did miss Kenta. He was a suitable companion, but she didn't much like the fact that she longed for his return.

Shaking her head, she returned her attention back to the garden. Despite her best efforts the plants were having difficulty growing. This was frustrating and she tossed one dead plant aside. How could Kenta stand to live here? The soil of his land was hardly fertile.

"You have changed."

The voice startled her. She refused to turn. He had managed to sneak up on her without her knowledge again. That fact alone was enough to embarrass her, but to not put her in any sense of unease. She folded her arms. That was concerning, but not too much so. "What do you want?" He didn't answer her. Instead she felt him come closer to her. He was only a breath away now. She felt him touch her hair or at least she imagined that he was. A shiver ran down her spine. She imagined that he was smiling now. Turning, she was met with a familiar crimson gaze. "Hello, Takeshi."

"Hello, Shiriko."

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