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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9. The Beginning of the End

It ended too soon. Only a two days had passed. They were perfect. Almost, it seemed as though they had managed to return to the better place where their lives had once been. She had been smiling more than she had in a some time. While there was a shadow in the smile, it was still a smile and he found himself happier than he had been for time. Yes, there had been moments when it was just the two of them before, but this time was different. Perhaps it was because they had watched the stars, had enjoyed something that had once been a key part of their lives because of their mother. It had been all to perfect and then he had woken to discover him in the kitchen.

"Hello, Toga."

"Hello, Father." His father had yet to look at him. He was reading a piece of paper and when he drew closer he saw that it was another order. "How was the hunt?"

"It was successful." He finally looked at him, his dark gaze cool. "Where is Shiriko?"

"She is walking the property."

He nodded and lowered his gaze again.

Looking off to the side, he tried to ignore the emotion that had briefly flickered within his father's eyes before the shared gaze had been broken. "Are you leaving again?"

"We are all leaving."

His expression briefly adopted a look of surprise before it vanished. It was unusual for the three of them to go on hunts. He could not remember that last time that they had. It had always been a pair if they were sent out with another of the family. "When do we leave?"

"Soon."

The tone was final and he nodded. Hearing the door open, he glanced over his shoulder. Shiriko was walking down the hall, brushing windswept hair from her face. She smiled brightly at him and he started to return it until their father's voice shattered the fantasy.

"Shiriko."

Her gaze moved past Toga to their father. His dark eyes held her own. She was silent, but a silent question hung in the air.

"Prepare to leave."

She nodded almost immediately. Without a word, she turned and made her way to the stairs. There was no need for any sort of explanation. The past had taught her what those three words meant.

He watched her go, the change that came over her immediate. For a moment he wished that their father had not returned and she would be able to smile as she had been the past few days. He started to follow her, but the sound of his name caused him to stop. His father said nothing when he looked over his shoulder at him, but his eyes said enough. A faint nod before he abandoned the kitchen to prepare. Shiriko's door was closed and he paused outside of it for a brief moment. He wondered if he should say something to her, but instead, he continued walking to his own bedroom.

 

A group of Level Es. Four at the minimum, maybe more. The aristocrats had been unable to control a group and there had been no measures taken to prevent the turned from descending into madness. They were trying to reach the Level Es before those that the vampire council had sent out did.

This could have been easily prevented, she knew. The pure bloods had the power to ensure that the Level Ds would remain sane, but as what had often occurred, they had not taken the necessary actions. It made her wonder of they didn't care what happened to those who were beneath them or maybe the Level Ds had chosen to allow themselves to become insane. She couldn't know. No one could know except for the vampires. It would be easier if such information were shared between the hunters and the vampires. There would be less hunts and a better chance for peace. That was too much to ask for. Often she wondered if humans had not been afraid of these creatures, if they would have been able to live amongst one another in peaceful existence. That would have been a distant dream though, a fantasy only. Humans were fearful, distrustful creatures. They had been born as such and that would never change.

"Shiriko."

She glanced at her father when she heard his sharp tone. He didn't say anything, but his expression was enough to tell her that he was not pleased that she was allowing her thoughts to wonder. Nodding, she then pushed away the thoughts that often plagued her mind, clearing her mind and focusing only on the task at hand.

 

Their screams caused her blood to run cold. She tried to make herself deaf to the sound, but it was impossible to do. Her gaze moved to her father who was killing two of the Level Est. They had come across the group to discover that the numbers were far greater than they had believed. Twenty-three vampires in total. She watched as the two fell, one after another almost in sequence, and scattered into dust. There was blood on her father's blade, dripping to the ground. He turned and started to attack another. Her gaze moved to Toga to watch as he battled before her attention was forced away when one of the Level Est attacked her. She swung her crossbow around and knocked him to the ground. Another Level E forced it from her hand. She pulled out a knife, but the second one vanished into dust. Her gaze briefly met Toga's before she turned to fight the first. Three moves and she had him pinned to the ground, the blade of her knife pressed against his neck. He appeared to be her age, but he could have been several decades older. His gaze was calm, crimson stained irises holding her own brown ones.

"You're going to kill me, huntress?"

Rather than answer him, she remained quite. Her grip on the knife tightened, but she didn't slit his throat.

His lips curved up slightly in a smile. "Thank you. I don't want to die, but I know that I'm a monster now. I have to die... If I don't then they'll force me to remain as one of them." His gaze diverted to the side and he became silent. For a time he watched the battle before he spoke again. "This was the only way that we could escape. This is the only way that we could die. They force us to feed, to remain alive, just like they forced us to become like them." His gaze returned to hers. "We didn't want this."

She tightened her grip again before pressing it against his neck, a thin trail of blood leaking out from beneath the blade. "Be in peace," she whispered. Lifting the blade, she plunged it into his heart, watching as his eyes widened slightly before his expression relaxed. He appeared peaceful before his body dissolved into dust. She remained where she knelt, listening to the gunshots and the dying screams behind her. They had wanted to die... She rose slowly and turned so that she was looking at the scene laid out before her, watching as both her father and Toga killed the remained Level Es. This wasn't a hunt. It was a slaughter. There was no mercy in this. There was no honor.

"Shiriko."

They were both approaching her. There was blood on Toga's face from a cut that he had received. She met her brother's gaze for a moment before she looked away. Sheathing her knife, she recovered her crossbow before starting to walk away.

He watched her leave, unable to bring himself to follow her. What he had seen in her eyes...

"Come, Toga."

Blindly, he followed his father, walking in her footsteps.

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