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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21. Porcelain Doll

The letter was one that she had not expected to receive. She examined it for a time as if to reassure herself that this was indeed what it showed itself to be. Her heart fluttered with anticipation. It was unusual for her to be excited about a letter such as this one, but it was her chance. She took special care in opening it. Pulling out the paper within, she then unfolded it. The face of her assignment was that of a young girl. She can't even be seven. Reading the words on the paper she saw that the girl was eight. She had only been one year off in her guess. Hunting children was something that she despised doing. It seemed wrong. Yes, Level E children were more dangerous than the adults, but that meant nothing. This girl was still a child; vampire or no. She could refuse this assignment, but it would only be passed to someone else.

"Shiriko."

Glancing at Kenta, she saw that he was looking at the paper that she held. "It is an assignment."

"Are you sure that you want to take it?"

"Why wouldn't I?"

"You never seemed enthusiastic about the hunt."

She frowned at him before looking away. "It is only a hunt." Folding up the paper, she stuck it in her pocket.

"What is the assignment?"

"Does it matter? It is only another Level E."

"That is true." He grabbed her arm as she passed him. "Would you like some company?"

"It is not your assignment." She pulled her arm free from his grasp. He didn't follow her into the bedroom. She was grateful for that. Kenta seemed to have a tendency to follow her around and it was annoying. She didn't like that amount of attention. It was unusual. Of course, he seemed to want her to accept his presence and she gradually was. A frown darkened her features. He had moved her weapons again. Sighing, she left the bedroom and went to the small room that Kenta reserved for his hunting supplies. Her weapons were on the work bench. After gathering them she stepped back into the hall. Kenta was where she had left him. She pretended not to notice him.

"You are leaving now?"

"Yes." Grabbing her jacket, she pulled it on before moving to open the door. Kenta stopped her from doing so. She glanced at him.

He reached out to touch her cheek. "Be careful. I would like to see you again."

"I will."

Moving out of her way he then opened the door for her.

She walked slowly down the road. After a few steps she found herself looking over her shoulder at him. He was smirking as if satisfied that she had done so. She ignored the small wave that he directed to her and turned her gaze forward.

 

A weight had been lifted from her shoulders. She felt as though she could breathe. However, there was a strange feeling to despite the freedom that she was experiencing. She couldn't quite place her finger on what it was and she didn't want to think too much about it. There were things that she needed to attend to and she couldn't afford for distractions.

"You look lost."

Drawn from her thoughts, she turned her gaze to the woman who had spoken to her. The woman was standing outside of a flower shop, looking at her with a thoughtful expression. "No, I know where I am going. Thank you."

She nodded. "You seem knew here."

"I am just passing through."

"Thought so."

She didn't want to talk to this woman. While the delay would not exactly be unwelcome she couldn't afford to let the child run rampant through the city. Children had little understanding of what they should or shouldn't do when they were human or vampires. As vampires the children were to be monitored because they posed a greater threat than adults. When the child was a Level E though, that was dangerous. These children had no restraint, no sense of control. Even if she didn't want to slay a child it needed to be done for the good of society. "If you excuse me I have to go." The woman nodded and she took that as a sign that she was allowed to continue on. Walking with a fast pace she moved away from the flower shop.

 

The cemetery had not been too hard to find. She stood before the several gravestones. Incense was burning and flowers had been set before the stones. Her gaze passed over the names. The surname was the same as her prey. She had not received the message in time. The girl had slaughtered her family. She allowed her gaze to linger for a time longer before turning and walking away.

 

The sun had set by the time that she reached the house. It had not been too long of a walk from the cemetery, but the hour had been late when she had finally arrived to the city. For a time Shiriko stood outside of the house. It was possible that the child had moved on, but she doubted it. Children were attached to their homes. It mattered little that the girl had slaughtered her family. The city was familiar and the girl would have had friends before she had been turned into a vampire. These friends would be her next victims. A few more minutes passed as she solidified her will before she walked to the front door. Grasping the knob she turned it. She had expected to find that it unlocked, but it was not. While she could easily break down the door she decided against it. The neighbors could not be alerted to her presence. Lifting her hand, she knocked. Several minutes later she heard the soft patter of feet on the other side of the door. A few seconds after that there was the sound of the door being unlocked. The door was opened and she stared at the young girl before her.

"Mummy and Daddy aren't home."

"I am here to see you."

 

Blood splattered was splattered on the walls. There were more crimson stains on the floor and furniture. The girl must have caught her family off guard when they were enjoying an afternoon together.

"You can sit."

Her gaze turned to the girl. She had sat down on the piano bench. Her short legs were swinging as the girl hummed to herself. The girl was adorable; the image of innocence. Blonde hair fell in soft curls around a small face. Her eyes were large and the irises were a bright green in color. Her eyes reminded her of emeralds. The girl was precious. She was certain that when she was human that the girl had been sweet. Now though, the girl was a predator.

"Why do you stare?"

Honey crossed her mind when she heard the girl speak. She knew that her family had welcomed her when she had returned home. Her mother had probably been cradling her perfect daughter in her arms when the girl had pressed her lips to her neck in what should have been a cute, little kiss, but had instead been the mark of her death.

"I don't like it."

The girl was adorable when she pouted. She watched as the girl lowered her gaze and smoothed out the wrinkles in her red dress. The girl's name was fitting. Akane.

"Are you a hunter?"

Akane was looking at her again, her eyes large and curious. The girl's question surprised her. She was much too young to know what hunters were. Had the one who had turned her told her before leaving without giving the poor girl the blood that would have kept her sane? The giving of one care and the refusal of another was cruel. "Yes."

"You don't look like a hunter. You're pretty."

It made her uncomfortable listening to Akane. The girl did not sound insane. In fact, she sounded quite collected for such a young child. She wasn't even comfortable being in the same room as the girl. The way that Akane was talking to her and the way that she had so easily welcome her into the house... Yes, it was very possible that Akane saw her as a meal. She was almost certain of that. Almost. She really wasn't that certain. If she were a meal than Akane would have acted as if she were. Akane was treating her as a guest. This situation, this interaction, felt normal. Had the council been wrong about this one being Level E? No, they weren't wrong. The girl was detached. There was something in Akane's voice that sent chills up her spine. That may have just been the normalcy of her tone. It was more likely due to the fact that Akane had led her into the sitting room and had not tried to hide the evidence of her crimes. Akane had not tried to blind her to the fact that she had killed. "Have you faced other hunters?"

"No, you're the first." Akane swung her legs. She stared at the limbs in a thoughtful manner. "You're here to kill me."

"Yes."

"Why?" She looked at Shiriko when the woman didn't answer her. "I know you're a hunter, but why?"

Why? She didn't know why. She didn't know why she continued to do this. There was no reason to. She didn't want to. It was her family. Her family demanded this from her. Her father demanded this of her. She wasn't a hunter. Well, she was, but she didn't feel like one. She didn't want to kill Akane. She didn't want to kill any of the vampires that she had slaughtered.

"Miss?"

"You are a threat. As a child you lack control and as a Level E you have become too dangerous. As such I cannot allow you to continue to exist." She spoke gently and slowly so that the girl would understand. A part of her hoped that the girl wouldn't understand. Children shouldn't be dangerous. Children shouldn't feel dangerous or different. Children shouldn't be killed because they were threats.

"Oh." Her legs stopped swinging. "I see."

I'm sorry.

"Okay then." She jumped off of the piano bench. "I'll make it easy for you."

Akane should be running. She should be running far away from her.

"It'll be okay. I think that I understand. I killed my family. That was bad. I shouldn't have done that."

Why aren't you running?

"What's your name?"

"Shiriko."

"Shiriko..." She nodded to herself and smiled. "That's a pretty name. I'm Akane."

She already knew this and she wondered if the girl knew that.

"You can do it now."

Akane needed to run now.

"I'll close my eyes and count to three."

She watched the crimson stained irises as they disappeared behind pale eyelids.

"One."

Just run.

"Two."

Her grip on her knife tightened.

"Three."

 

Her face was wet. Why was it wet? She hastily wiped her face with her sleeve. It didn't help. She used her hands and tried to wipe away the tears. They wouldn't go away. If only she could stop. She choked on a sob. Covering her face with her hands she tried to stop crying. Why?

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