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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30. The Black Knight

Word had spread too quickly for her to have been content with the situation. Her original plan had been to send a letter to her father, but Kenta appeared to have contacted him before her because the man arrived at their door one morning. She welcomed him and went through the traditional exchanges before she was ignored by him. Her father was far more eager to speak with Kenta. She was perfectly fine with this. It spared her from having to deal with the usual unpleasant exchanges.

She had thought that her father would express desire for her to send the child to him when it was old enough. Nothing was mentioned about future training. However a consensus seemed to have been drawn that she would bear a son. Her lips twitched. She supposed that she would be happy to have a son, but she wanted a daughter first. Some traditions were meant to be broken.

"You will have to stop hunting of course."

Rather than becoming upset she just shook her head. "For a time, but I will have to hunt again. It is my life, father. How do you expect me to teach my child everything that I have learned if I just stop?"

"I will teach him," Kenta said.

She could imagine that the two were involved in a plan that did not include her.

"Your son will be sent to me when he is old enough."

"I see." She said nothing else. Arguing would be pointless.

"I am proud of you, Shiriko."

She almost dropped the apple that she had been slicing. Glancing over her shoulder, she stared at her father. He was looking calmly at her and for a moment she thought that she felt tears in her eyes. What were the tears for? Was she happy? She knew that she had wanted to hear him say those words for so long. Ever since mother- She turned away and the two began to speak again. She bit her lip to keep from laughing. What would he say if she said what she truly wanted to? She could certainly imagine his words.

 

He hugged her when he left. She had held him longer than she ever thought that she would. His embrace was tight and for once it was warm. She brushed her lips against his cheek in a moment of confidence and he had returned the sentiment by kissing her brow. Again she felt tears and this time she blinked them away.

"You are not to hunt."

"I know, father."

He grasped her chin and forced her to look into his eyes. "Shiriko."

"I understand."

"Good." He turned to Kenta. "Keep watch over her."

"You have nothing to worry about."

She watched Kenta and her father walk through the door. They were speaking still. She could guess their words. Her father was probably cautioning him to keep guard to guarantee that the child was born and that no vampire drew near to her. Was he afraid that history would repeat itself? She supposed that was very likely.

Leaning against the door frame she suddenly felt tired. Laying a hand on her abdomen she allowed herself to be comforted by the knowledge of who she now carried.

When she focused her attention again her father was walking down the road and Kenta was making his way over to her. He was strutting; acting very much like the proud father that she expected him to behave as. Kenta had made such a point to tell her father that he had known before she had the opportunity to tell him. This had only interested her father so much. His true interest had laid on why she had not said anything. She had stated that she had wanted to wait; feigning nervousness as the actual reason.

Kenta neared her and she turned her back on him. Going to the bedroom she laid down. Kenta left her alone, but he normally did now. If she acted tired then he let her rest. He had stated on more than one occasion that he wanted his son to be healthy. Curling up she closed her eyes. It would be dark soon.

 

The swell of her abdomen made her happier than anything else. She laid her hand over the area. The smallest smile curved her lips. There was life within her. She could hardly believe it sometimes. The reality of the situation was overwhelming at times, but not unpleasant. She was happy for this. The thought of bringing another life into this world was just wonderful. This was worth the sacrifices.

Kenta had left her alone in the few days that had passed since her father's leaving, but when they were together he was not as persistent as he had once been. Rather he seemed devoted to making sure that everything in the house was fixed before he was called away for the next hunt. He doted on her and she was caught off guard. This marriage was becoming like one she had heard about from the village women; the one that others wished for. This wouldn't last though. She was certain of that. They were together for the child only. He was acting this way only because he would finally have his heir. There was nothing else. There couldn't be.

Then he was gone on another mission. He had made certain that Ren would be there to watch over her despite her protests. At least he told her of his intention this time. It would not be like before when he had left.

Ren seemed to cling to her. She chatted her ear off about everything that she would have to do before the baby was born and what she would have to do after the delivery. Though she did not like the woman's presence she listened. None of this had been explained to her and she would have to know as much as she could to prepare herself. Though Ren was a bothersome woman she began to feel some affection for her. Ren had lived a long life and knew more of the world that her father desired for her; than what she could ever hope to imagine. From their conversations Ren made it sound as though having this child would be simple. She doubted this greatly. This was a new life that they were discussing not a chore that could be completed everyday. Perhaps if she ever had a second child then the experience would be easier, but not for this one.

"Everything will be alright, dear. No need to worry."

Ren's hands were dry to the touch when she patted her hand. She moved her hands away, not wanting the woman to touch her. Ren frowned, but didn't say anything.

"You must miss, Kenta."

She didn't respond to this. Yes, she did miss him because it was good to have his support especially now.

"You'll need him now."

No, she didn't need him. She wondered if Ren was aware of this. Kenta certainly knew so perhaps Ren did too.

"He'll be back soon enough."

This was true. Time seemed to be passing quickly these days. She was hardly able to grasp an hour and acknowledge what day it was before the days blurred together again. This was for the better. If the days dragged by she would probably go mad with nothing to do. She missed traveling. She missed her normal day activities. Kenta had taken those away from her too and now Ren tended to much of the house. Somehow she managed to keep the weapons secret, but that had only been accomplished by keeping a close eye on Ren. She supposed that she had Ren to thank for this. As maddening as the woman was she was useful in some ways; especially when it came to making sure that she remained paranoid rather than being lulled into a sense of comfort. To an extent she was grateful for the woman's assistance. Now that she was becoming larger she needed that help. She made certain to thank Ren each day.

"We are almost out of tea."

"I will make some more."

"No. I have it."

She let Ren do what she wished. Propping her chin on her palm, she gazed out her window. She wished that she was at her home. It would have been nice to tend to her garden during this period. The memory was a peaceful one.

 

The sight of Toga's handwriting on the envelope surprised her. There was no return address, which meant that he was on a mission. She thanked the man at the desk before leaving the building. Barely any time had passed since she stepped on the street that she had torn the envelope open. The message was brief.

Shiriko,

Come home. You should not stay there. Please. If you will not consider yourself than think of your child.

Love,

Toga

It would be useless to deny how tempted that she was. She wanted to be at home, but their father was there. Her father would be angered if she returned and she could only imagine what Kenta would say. The implications that he had made about her and Toga still stung and her father would only worsen the situation.

Pressing her palms to her eyes she took a deep breath. She wanted to go home. She wanted to be anywhere except here in this empty house and this blind town. Kenta had written her and promised to return within the week, but she knew that once he was here again that she would want him to be away. She was tired of this place and she was tired of him. Between Ren and Kenta she felt trapped. The house was becoming a prison, but that was what was wanted. Her father had wanted her to locked away; kept from pursuing a love that would be more awarding than a marriage where nothing existed between she and her husband. But that had been the purpose of the marriage too. Why should she have been allowed to keep her freedom?

She felt movement and she laid her hand on her abdomen as if that would comfort her child. When her child had calmed she sat herself down at a bench near the fountain. Fishing through her satchel she found a pen and a scrap of paper.

Toga,

I will not return home. I have no place there any longer.

Blotches were forming on the paper. She was startled by the sight. Cursing her vulnerability she hastily wiped the tears from her eyes. Biting her lip, she resolved to not cry again.

You will understand in time, Toga.

Please, forgive me.

Love,

Shiriko

The post master appeared pleasantly surprised by her return. She filled out the envelope before stuffing the paper inside. When Toga would finally receive that message she did not know. Brushing the stray hair from her eyes she tried her best to ignore the guilt.

"Shiriko."

She looked to where he stood and smiled. He was at her side in an instant, kneeling down and laying a hand on her abdomen. His gaze lightened and she could see happiness in the dark depths.

"You are well?"

"Yes."

There was no real reason to feel guilty. She had made her decision and it had been the wisest one; certainly better than the other options that existed for her. Though, she was certain that there was another path that would prove less disastrous for her.

"That man has done nothing to you?"

"No... He dotes on me."

He gently took her chin and turned her head so that their gazes met.

In his eyes she could see that he knew that she was keeping something more from him. She was reluctant to tell him because if this was indeed true then-

"I believe that he suspects that it is not his."

"Are you certain?"

She wanted to say that she was, but she couldn't. Turning away, she stared at the ground. He was silent beside her. In time his hand covered hers. She welcomed the cool touch. It was comforting.

But she was happy now; happier than she had ever been before so this must have been the correct choice. No... She knew that this had been right for her. Anything else has been, would be foolish and would only hurt her more. She couldn't live with that pain anymore.

His arm wrapped around her shoulder and she leaned against him. He was brushing his hand up and down her arm. The caresses were light. She closed her eyes. This touch was more innocent than previous ones. A pleasant shiver traveled down her spine.

Toga would receive the message too late. How she knew this she did not know, but the knowledge rang true in her heart.

I'm so sorry.

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