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Aomine sat in a chair alone in the now empty bar  trying to piece to together exactly what had just happened.

One minute he was having a conversation with the bartender Riko next he was in a fight with a large red haired guy.  The dude came charging out of the kitchen.  Always up for a god fight Aomine had stood up to meet him.  The fool didn’t know who he was dealing with.  No one beat him in a fight; he was always the fastest and strongest.  When the enraged man threw a punch, he had reached up to grab the fist.

Something had gone wrong then.  Instead of stopping the fist, it had kept coming.

Then everything went black.  Aomine rubbed his sore hand absently while he tried to think.  There had been voices.

Taiga-kun
Go get
I’ll kill him
Interesting
Doesn’t know
My friends
Find them
No one
Leave him

He couldn’t make heads or tails of the conversation.  The room had been empty when he opened his eyes.  He had pulled himself into a chair to get his bearings. Rubbing his face in frustration, he pulled his hand away with a hiss.  The side of his face hurt like a bitch and his fingers ached like he’d smashed it into something.  Then realization hit him.  “That Fucking Bastard!”  He’d been punched with his own hand!

Next time he saw that red haired jerk, he was going to kick his ass.

He was just getting up to go look for the bastard when the front door opened, admitting Riko Junpei and a green haired man.

“Aomine,” Riko said, “This is Shintaro-sama, he’s our doctor.”

“I don’t need a-

“Sit!” Shintaro dropped a black bag on the table.  “Be quiet.”  He grabbed Aomine’s face in a tight grip and started examining the damage.

Aomine bit back a pained noise as fingers like steel twisted his head this way and that.  Cold green eyes starred down at him.  It gave him the creeps. He had the impression the dude would just as soon snap his neck as treat the wound.

“No damage to the eye.  Bruising and swelling should be treated with cool compresses.”

Aomine stretched his neck in relief when the doctor released him.

A hiss of pain did escape when the damn doctor grabbed his hand.  There was no compassion or sympathy as his hand was poked and prodded.  When the center finger was bent backward, pain shot down his arm.  “Shit!” Aomine cried, yanking his hand away. “Get the fuck away from me!”  He cradled the arm against his chest.

Shintaro let it go, not reacting to the outburst.  “Most likely sprained, but possible fracture; avoid using it for a few days.  If the pain remains come to my office and we will do a casting.”  He opened his bag and pulled out a little black pouch.  Carefully he laid three green blade like leaves on the table.  “Chew these to help you sleep.”

With swift movements he had the bag repacked and headed for the door.  He stopped and bowed at Riko, which she returned.

“Thank you, Shintaro-sama.”

The doctor nodded and left.

Riko turned to Aomine with an awkward smile.  “Sorry about this,” she apologized.  “Tiaga is very protective of… well all of us.  He won’t attack you again.”

Aomine snorted.  “He better not, I’ll be ready for him next time.”

Junpei raised an eyebrow and gave a sidelong glance at Riko, but didn’t say anything.

Aomine glowered.  Those assholes didn’t think he could take one guy?  Sure he was big, but Aomine could have dodged that punch if he wanted to.  Next time, things would be different.  He fully intended to be swinging first.

Riko cleared her throat, “anyway, Nijitani doesn’t have any inns.  So, we have arranged for a family to let you stay with them.”

Where the hell was he? What kind of place had no inns?

Gathering his pack, he followed Riko out the door.

Outside it was full dark, but the streets were illuminated by lanterns.  It made the village look warm and inviting.  A complete divergence from his experience so far.

He could see Shintaro.  The doctor had his hand on a man’s shoulder talking quietly into his ear.  The man nodded and Shintaro patted his shoulder before moving on.

The man came toward them.  As he got closer Aomine could see he had bright blue hair, blue eyes, and an unfortunate bang hanging in his face that Aomine could never have tolerated.

“Aomine, this is Touma.” Riko introduced.  “Touma and his wife will be lending you a room.”

Touma held out his hand, “Its a pleasure to meet you Aomine.”

“Uh, thanks,” Aomine said, shaking his hand.

“Good night Riko, Junpei.” Touma said, turning away.  “If you will come with me Aomine.”

Aomine shrugged and followed.

—————–

Aomine stopped just over the threshold, staring.  There were books everywhere.  This was obviously the living area; a couch, two chairs, a low table, and a fireplace.  The walls were lined with books, floor to ceiling.  There were even stacks behind the furniture and on the table.

He would admit, only to himself, that the written word was the one thing in life he found truly intimidating.

Touma saw him staring and smiled, “forgive the clutter, I collect books.” He gazed around the room fondly.  “My wife says we may have to build another room just to get them out of the way, but I really like having them within easy reach.”  He looked back at Aomine, “feel free to read any you like.”

Panic started inching up Aomine’s spine.  No one cared if a street kid knew how to read or write.  The baker’s wife (where he used to steal bread) had taken pity on him and taught him to write his name.  To this day, that was all he knew.

Touma continued, not seeming to notice his guest’s paralyis.  “Let me show you to your room.”  They went down a short hallway and stepped through the open door at the end.

It was a small room, the walls were a pale blue, a bed was pushed up in the corner, taking up most of the wall under a window.  A woman was tucking a sheet around the mattress.  The other contents of the room, a dresser, a chest and a crib were pushed against the other wall, under a shelf of colorful books.

Aomine eyed the crib with distaste.  He didn’t really care for children.  The thought of sharing a room with one turned his stomach.  He could just as easily camp outside in the soft grass.  At least he wouldn’t have to listen to babies crying.

“Kayura,” Touma said softly.

The woman reluctantly turned from the bed.

“Aomine, this is my wife Kayura.”

The woman was slightly shorter than Touma with waist length blue hair and matching eyes.  She was giving him a look he didn’t understand, but he was too preoccupied to really pay attention.

He pointed at the crib, “Am I supposed to be sharing a room with a kid?” he asked bluntly.

Kayura immediately burst into tears.

Aomine’s jaw dropped and he started waving his hands in the air.  What did he do?  He had no idea what to do with a crying woman.  Forget the books, this was way worse.  He’ll share the room with a herd of kids, just to stop the tears.  Hell, he’d go sleep in the snow again.

She ran from the room and Aomine just stood there not sure what to do.

Touma sighed, looking at Aomine with sad resigned eyes.  “Sorry.”

“N-no, I-I-” Aomine sputtered.

Touma raised his hand.  “No, its okay.”  He sighed again, before continuing.  “This was going to be our son’s room, but,” a pained look flashed across his face, “we lost him before he was born.”

Aomine felt like a total shit.


The bed was soft and warm.  Aomine’s body cried in relief at not having to lay on the cold hard ground.  He should have been able to sleep like a baby.

That was the problem.

This was a dead baby’s room.

He lay awake most of the night, just waiting for the ghost of the room’s true owner to come for him.

Aomine tried to distract himself.  Riko admitted that there are dragons here.  Now he just had to find one.

One dragon.

Then he was out of here.

——————–

Aomine was up and dressed as the first rays of light touched the valley.

Touma was sitting at the kitchen table, a pile of eggs, bacon, and sausage before him.  He looked up from the book he was reading and waved Aomine to a seat.  “Have some breakfast.  Would you like coffee?”

“Sure.”

Aomine grabbed a plate and dug in.  His stomach was delighting in two good meals in a row.  It didn’t compare to the curry from the previous evening, but it was doubtful much could.

Touma went back to reading and breakfast passed in companionable silence.

Aomine hadn’t noticed last night, but Touma appeared to be about his age.  He spoke and held himself like a man much older.  Kayura was no where to be seen, but he assumed she didn’t wish to see him again.  He stood, “Thank you for the meal and a place to sleep last night.”

Touma sat his book to the side, but did not stand.  He watched Aomine with curious reserved eyes.  “The room is yours for as long as you remain.”

Nervously, Aomine scratched the back of his head.  “I don’t think that is a good idea.”

“Don’t worry about my wife.”  Touma said calmly.  “She wants you to stay, even if it causes her some pain.  Trust me, she would be more hurt if you left because of her.”

That floored him, how could she not want to see him, but want him to remain in her house? He didn’t really want to stay in that haunted room, but now he would cause the woman to cry more if he stayed away.  Fine, whatever, he could get by with just a little sleep on a soft bed.  Maybe he and the ghost could make friends.

“Okay, thanks.” Aomine agreed.  “So, Touma, where would I find a dragon?”

“Oh, they’re around,” Touma replied.  “But they don’t like to show themselves and they know you are coming.”

Aomine frowned, “How do they know about me?”

Touma pointed at his sword, “It reeks of magic.”

Aomine touched his sword, it tingled at the touch, as it always had.  “It was enchanted, so it could cut through dragon scale.  Its called ‘Ryukatto’”

“We are very sensitive to magic here and dragons even more so.”  Touma rose, “I do not wish you luck in your hunting.”  He walked to the door, but stopped to look back.  “Return safe.” He said, before leaving the house.

For a few moments Aomine stood uncomfortably in the empty kitchen.

What was wrong with these people?  Why didn’t they want him to kill a dragon?  It was a dragon for fucks sake.

 

 

Chapter 3

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