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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31. Fractured Reality

Kenta would find no more safety in the council. He had crossed a line and even his connections would not save him now. This knowledge made him feel better in spite if everything. It would mean that no more harm would be done by Kenta.

All of this would have been prevented if their father had not arranged the marriage, but the ceremony had occurred and then everything just began to fall apart. Though their father was to blame for everything that had not stopped the anger and the desire for revenge that last time he saw him. He could still see their father; slumped against the wall with his throat torn out. The evidence of the struggle told him that something had gone very wrong. He would have left him there and continued on if he had not heard his name-

"Toga..."

"Who did this?"

He had felt foolish asking that question because he already knew. After he received her note he knew that something was very wrong and this had been proven to be true when he had stepped into the house that she shared with Kenta. The door had been open and no one had been there, but he could see signs of a struggle and there had been blood.

The house had been practically torn apart in the frenzy that was his search for her. He had found nothing within those walls until Kenta had discovered him there and then everything was made very clear.

"Vamp-"

His father had not been able to finish, but that had verified the fears that Kenta had created; that history was repeating itself. He would lose her as they had their mother and...

Toga pinched the bridge of his nose. Had he known why-

"How did this happen?"

"Shiriko knew the risk."

"That is not an answer."

"She is not like most hunters."

"And our father?"

"He threatened her life. It was necessary for him to die. Will you kill me for this? You cannot say that you would have allowed him to harm her. I can see how you felt for her."

"That is not your concern."

Had he known he would have not continued further into that abandoned house. No... He would have because Shiriko was with that bastard. It wouldn't have mattered had he known that she and that pureblood-

She was his sister and he never abandoned her. He had failed her too many times before with Kenta. Her safety was his responsibility and not even the truth would have stopped him then... But maybe the situation would have ended differently. Maybe instead of listening to her words he would have listened to what she had not been staying. That last night in Kenta's house-

He shouldn't have just left. When she told him of the child he should have made her leave at that moment. She and the child would have been safe from the start. She wouldn't have had to have lived a lie; knowing that her life was in danger should Kenta or father had discovered the truth. Instead he had waited for several weeks after that last note before he had actually taken action.

By then they had learned the truth and that had been their father's end. Perhaps it was appropriate. Shiriko had not seemed upset, but maybe she hadn't known what that pureblood had done or had just ignored the murder for the sake of her child's well being... Or she may have forgiven the pureblood. That seemed more likely. What that pureblood had said-

Shiriko was different. He had always known that she was unlike any other hunter because somehow she was still innocent and in some ways very much like the child that she had been. She had still believed in love and he knew that her heart had guided her that night as much as the desire to escape had.

He still wished that he had been the one that she had turned to. That would never have happened though. Since Kenta entered her life her former innocence had been slowly dying; he had seen it in her eyes each moment that he was in her company. With the death of her innocence came the death of his role in her life. Everything had changed and as much as he wished to deny it the plans had not included him because...

Shaking his head Toga could still call to mind each note that she had sent him since her marriage. He had read them so many times that he had finally allowed himself to see that she had been trying to protect him all along. She had moved on and in the wake of this transformation she had done everything that she could to make him understand that he was to be left behind because otherwise... otherwise father or Kenta would have stopped him permanently. This may have very well happened that night if the pureblood had not interfered and if he had not stopped Kenta before the man could follow.

"She went with that pureblood!"

"What are you saying?"

"You heard me, Yagari!"

He resisted the urge to strike Kenta. Instead he kept still and did his best to remain calm. "What do you mean?"

"I don't have time to discuss this, Yagari! She went with that bastard! That whore! I should have-"

Kenta dropped like a stone. He stepped on his throat and pondered how fragile the hunter had just become. A single stomp and it would be done. He knelt and listened to the satisfying gurgle as Kenta struggled to breath. "Choose your next words carefully. Why did she leave?" He released the pressure enough so that Kenta could speak more easily.

"She was fucking around. I knew... Didn't think it was with a vamp."

He resisted the urge to crush Kenta's throat. The bastard was lying, but he needed to get the truth from him. "Why did she go?"

"I told you fucking-"

The renewed pressure silenced him and he waited for him to calm down before allowing Kenta to speak again.

"Little monster is a half-breed."

"What?"

"Yer sister fucked a vamp, Yagari."

"How do you know this?"

"Had someone watching. The bastard came over whenever I was gone."

He renewed the pressure again and ignored Kenta's struggles to breath as he let the information sink in. This wasn't possible. She wouldn't have... But she was gone. "Where did they go?"

"I... don't know... Yer... dad... He track..ing-"

He felt as though he had been doused with ice water. Their father was tracking them. If he found Shiriko he would kill her.

"Yagari... Off..."

He increased the pressure on his neck until Kenta lost consciousness before stepping away.

That bastard- He only wished that he had killed Kenta when he had a chance, but the pure blood's solution had been just as effective.

The fact that Kenta was innocent meant little to him because Kenta was now paying for the harm that he had done and would have done because he knew that Kenta would have killed Shiriko if their father had not. Until his death he would suffer. Toga couldn't help but smile.

For once no one had believed Kenta because the dead served as evidence to his story rather than Kenta's truth. The council had finally gotten rid of Kenta and he had the satisfaction of knowing that Kenta would rot to comfort him. Kenta would no longer interfere and for now she was safe; safer than Shiriko had been before.

Sweat beaded her brow and for a moment he had a vision of her drenched in her own blood. The macabre vision did not completely fade for she lay there; the bed stained a bright crimson. Her chest rose and fell with each gasping breath. Her gaze found his. He was surprised to not see the fear that he had expected, but a calm acceptance instead. Then movement drew his attention and he was barely able to move before the blade swung through the air where he had been standing.

"I should have killed you then." He didn't stop the pained laugh.

He pointed her crossbow at this vampire. The pureblood regarded him with a calm expression, but his gaze was wary and he possessed a predatory aura. The wound to the pure blood's shoulder indicated that he could overpower him if he moved quickly enough. He shifted his gaze quickly to Shiriko and then back to the pureblood.

"Toga... Stop."

"Shiriko-"

"Please."

He lowered his weapon and the pureblood did the same. When he looked at Shiriko he saw that she had stretched out her hand; waiting for him to take it. He did so; gripping her hand tightly and hating the coolness of her touch. The infant on her breast was silent. "I'll take you home."

"No... Not there."

She smiled and he saw something that he wished he hadn't.

"Takeshi will-"

He didn't listen to the rest of what she said. Instead he regarded the heir of the Ochiai clan. The pureblood... He wanted to kill him now, but not with Shiriko here. His sister... Sometimes he wished that she was not so kind. "We will go home now. Hold onto my neck."

"No!"

Her breathing was ragged as if that one word had robbed her of most of her strength. He was silent; waiting for something that he did not want.

"She... She will go with him."

"What? I won't allow this, Shiriko! She-"

"Is his daughter." She laughed. "I knew that I would hurt you, Toga. I wish that you had come too late so that you would have never known."

"I would have, Shiriko."

She smiled, but this time her gaze was empty instead of warm. He held his hand over her lips and wished to feel her soft exhale.

Takeshi leaned forward and he reached for his knife. The vampire barely looked at him before taking Shiriko's daughter into his arms. He moved to stop him only to pause. This was what she wanted. Could he deny her? Yes... He supposed that he could, but he was reluctant to do so. Still-

"You may be her brother, Yagari, but I will not hesitate to kill you if you take her from me. I will leave Shiriko in your care. I know that you will guarantee that her body will be kept safe."

"You should have told me." He rested his hand on her name. "You never should have left her with that cocky bastard. Shiriko..."

He wished that he had not given the pureblood time to speak. Shiriko had gone and he knew that he had been more than capable of taking his niece then, but he had not moved. Instead he had listened to him. Why had he let the bastard talk?

"I promise that no harm will come to our daughter."

He hated hearing that word. The child was Shiriko's, not Takeshi's.

The bastard had dared to say that he loved her then. Of everything that had been said that night he was reluctant to believe the pure blood's claims because Shiriko had never suggested to him the possibility that she had ever been in love with anyone. But his niece... Even with her reluctance to hate the vampire community she would not have agreed to bear the pure blood's child because that was not what she believed in. The fact that his niece existed...

He had listened to the claim of love, but he refused to believe the words to be truth. Then the pureblood had managed to explain away everything – his father's death, the destruction of the Yagari family – and he had listened. Even when the pureblood described how their father had tried to kill Shiriko he had listened and he had believed the story. That had been easier than it should have been because once Kenta had told him that Shiriko had left freely he had been very afraid for her because he knew what their father would have done. He would not have allowed any shame to befall the Yagari clan.

Why did he listen? Despite everything he was still asking that question. Though he knew the answer, knew that he had wanted to hear what might have been the truth, he wanted more than anything a reason to place blame. This he had though Shiriko would say he was being foolish. Because of that pureblood he had lost everything.

"She will know of Shiriko and of her lineage. You must understand though that I cannot allow her to know you. If the councils were to know then her fate will be sealed."

Toga kissed his hand before covering her name with his hand again. For a moment he let his hand linger so that she would know before he left the marble marker.

"You don't need to keep talking, Ochiai. Just go." The words had barely left his mouth and the pureblood disappeared. He considered pursuing him and taking his vengeance, but instead he sat down on the edge of the bed and covered his face with his hands for only a few seconds before he carried Shiriko from that house.

One day he would make this right.

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