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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1. Prologue: The Hunter

The Sakura blossoms fell gracefully from the tree. It was beautiful, but far too early for the tree to be losing its flowers. She reached above her, trying to catch them as they fell. The attempt was pitiful for it was like reaching for the stars. She felt a soft brush in her hand and closed it. Lowering her hand, she looked at the fragile pink blossom and smiled to herself. Maybe it was possible.

"What are you doing?"

She rolled onto her side and smiled. "Dreaming," she said her voice soft and almost musical. Her eyes held her brother's as he approached her. "Are you leaving again?"

"Yes." Toga sat down beside her, watching as she frowned and turned away from him. "I'll come back."

"I know," she whispered.

He sighed and ran a hand through his messy hair. "You're angry."

"No… I just don't like the idea that you're a part of this war."

"You're a part of it too. You were the moment you were born."

She sat up and turned to look at him with dark brown eyes that were almost black. "I thought you had to leave."

"I will be, but I need you to get ready."

"When do they have us hunt together?"

"Now it seems." He smiled and saw that she was attempting to look annoyed and she would have if it weren't for the slight smile she wore.

 

Her hunting clothes were like a second skin. She pulled her hair back in a ponytail before turning around and walking to her bed. A long leather jacket lay on the covers and she fingered the worn fabric gently. There were so many memories in it. She had worn it on her first hunt and on every hunt since then. It was a reminder of what she was and who she was becoming. A hunter for eternity. There was a knock and she looked up to see Toga standing in the doorway.

"It's time to leave."

"I'm coming." She picked up the jacket and pulled it on, the familiar warmth passing through her. Walking over to him, she caught the crossbow that he tossed to her. "Thanks." He turned away from her without a word and she followed him out of the room. Her eyes remained on his back and a smile pulled at the corners of her mouth. As if sensing her gaze he glanced over his shoulder at her before looking away. "Are you going to tell me who we're being sent to hunt?" she asked, when he neglected to ask the question that she expected from him.

He reached into the inside pocket of his coat and pulled out a crumpled paper before pausing to hand it to her.

Glancing at the paper she saw that it was an older man whose face had been imprinted upon the page. She frowned slightly and folded it up, tucking it within her own inside coat pocket.


The town itself was not secluded, but it was also not one that would be frequently visited or held any hope of growing in great numbers beyond its current population of five hundred and thirty eight. Her eyes moved to the sky above. It was a gray day, the sun having my obscured by the clouds that cloaked the sky. She lowered her eyes to the road before them. There were few people wandering the street, but it didn't surprise her. She looked to her brother who had stopped beside a building whose windows had been boarded over. The scent of blood carried on the slight breeze that drifted through the all but barren town. He started moving again and she didn't need him to speak to understand what his body language revealed. She looked from building to building, studying each shadow for the possible danger that it may hide. He could be anyone, but it more than likely that he was just in one place.

They passed slowly through the streets, each step careful. There was a piercing scream and then silence.

The space where Toga had been walking ahead of her was empty, but she knew that he was close. There was a building to her left and she stopped. Her eyes moved to the roof where she saw the dark shadow of her brother. Taking out her crossbow she then walked slowly to the door. It was unlocked. Opening the door she then passed through the threshold before closing the door silently behind her. The scent of blood was stronger within. Stopping before the staircase she stopped and closed her eyes, listening. The house was still, but eventually she could hear heavy breathing above her. She opened her eyes and started to walk up the stairs, taking each step one at a time. Pausing on the landing she looked up at the top of the stairs, searching for any sign of movement. Starting to move again she found herself at the mouth of a long hallway. She walked slowly forward, pausing at each closed door to open it and examine each room thoroughly. In the second room on the left she found that the stench had become overwhelming. Her eyes moved to a door located at one of the side walls. On the other side she could sense him and she opened the door slowly. There was a man kneeling in the center of the room, his back to her. Before him the body of a young girl lay. She raised her crossbow, her finger on the trigger.

"Why do you hesitate hunter?" He rose slowly as if the action pained him before turning to face her. Blood stained his mouth. "It is polite to answer your elders," he said, madness flickering within his eyes.

He lunged at her and she pulled the trigger. The arrow buried itself into his chest and he hissed in pain. The level E stumbled to a stop and she notched a second arrow. She prepared to fire again only to hesitate when his body turned to dust. Lowering her weapon she stepped forward before kneeling down beside the girl. Pressing her fingers against her neck, she felt no pulse. "She's dead."

Toga stepped forward and placed a hand on her shoulder. "We finished our job."

Yes… Our job.

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