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Aomine awoke to a pain in his neck.  I must have slept on it wrong he thought.  He blinked up at the swaying branches, the leaves were reflecting a reddish light.  It must be getting close to evening.

He attempted to sit up, but groaned in pain.  His body hurt all over!  What had hit him?

Aomine shot up then and immediately grabbed at his aching back.  A dragon!  He had fought a dragon.  It had been huge and amazing to look at.  Or would have been if it hadn’t been trying to kill him.  Nothing he had been told could have prepared him for it.

He stared at the grass at his feet, trying to wrap his mind around what he now knew.  There was no way he was killing a dragon.

They had their own language.  Which meant they communicated, had emotions, relationships and intelligence.  Perhaps Riko hadn’t been joking when she asked if he was going to speak with a dragon.

“What am I going to do?” Aomine asked aloud, running fingers through his hair.

“For starters-,”

Aomine spun around at the sound, straining his already abused back.  He hissed in pain.

Leaning casually against the willow, book in hand, sat Touma.

“-you should come back.” Touma said.

Aomine turned back to stare at his feet, “I found dragons.”

“Are you okay?” Touma asked.  His voice was even and calm as always.

“I fought one, but I’d have died if another dragon hadn’t saved my life.”

Touma was silent for a moment, “I know.”

Aomine wanted to jerk his head around again, but instead he moved slowly to meet Touma’s gaze.  “How do you know?”

“We have known him a long time.  He made sure I knew where to find you.”

“You knew they spoke?” Aomine asked, feeling a little betrayed.

“Of course.”

Touma’s complete calm was really starting to get on Aomine’s nerves.

“Why the fuck didn’t you say so?” Aomine spat angrily.

Touma watched him carefully, “Would it have mattered?”

“Of course it matters!” Aomine was really angry now.  What kind of person did they think he was?  “It would be like killing a person!  I’m not a murderer!”

A sad smile curled Touma’s lips, “It hasn’t stopped humans before.”

“They must not have understood-”

“Of course they did!”  Touma snapped, his calm breaking for the first time.  “Humans have murdered dragons of hundreds of years.  What do you even know about dragons?”

Instinctively Aomine wanted to snap back, to defend himself and other humans.  But he stopped short.  What did he know?  “Nothing,” he said softly, “nothing at all.”

Touma sighed, “Its getting dark, let’s go home.”

As Aomine stood, he sucked in a deep breath.  Pain shot down his legs.  He placed his hands on his knees and just breathed for a few seconds.  When most of the pain subsided, he turned to host.

Touma had his shield pack and sword.  He started to walk away and Aomine slowly followed.

“Touma,” Aomine asked, “do you know about dragons?”

“Yes,” Touma replied.

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

“Well, the short answer is, you didn’t ask.”

————–

Aomine noticed as they arrived to town, the people were giving them a wide berth.  They didn’t meet his gaze or gave Touma sympathetic looks, then hurried away.

Shit.  He was used to being treated like this in Touou, but it hurt a lot more here.

He decided to stop looking, just concentrating on his feet till they reached Touma’s home.  As they entered the house, he saw Kayura step from the kitchen.  Her eyes were red and puffy.  Even as he watched her eyes filled with tears.  Would she ever look at him and not cry?

“Touma,” she sobbed and rushed toward them.

She threw her arms around Aomine and cried into his chest.

Aomine couldn’t move.  No one had hugged him before.  He looked desperately at Touma, what should he do?

Touma gently rubbed Kayura’s back, speaking softly.  “Its okay, I told you I’d bring him home.”

Kayura nodded, slowly pulling away.  She wiped at her eyes, giving Aomine a watery smile.  “I made dinner and Shintaro-sama will be by to make sure you are alright.”

“I- I-,” Aomine didn’t know what to say, no one ever worried about him.

Touma gave a small smile, “the proper response is ‘Thank you’.”

“Thank you.” Aomine said and watched Kayura’s smile get a little firmer.

————

Aomine found it difficult to eat normally with Kayura watching him.  It was as if she were afraid he would disappear if she blinked.  But at the same time he didn’t really mind.  The way she fluttered around him, taking care of him, he imagined it was what having a mother might have felt like.

“So, uh, Kayura,” Aomine said, “Do you know dragons as well?”

Kayura looked at Touma and once he nodded, she turned back to Aomine.  “Yes, everyone in Nijitani is connected to dragons in some way.”

“So, I pretty much alienated everybody.”

She reached out and touched his hand.  “No, some of us understand, we aren’t angry with you.”

“It’s true,” Touma added, “many are angered by what you did, but most are willing to forgive.  Very few of us can say we don’t regret something we’ve done in our lives.  I know I can’t.”

Kayura nodded.

Aomine frowned, “What did you do?”

She turned a little pale, her eyes again going to Touma.  Kayura looked nervous, but the look Touma gave her was full of heat and she blushed.  He smiled at her, “That is a long story for another day.”

There was a knock at the door and Kayura hurried to answer it.

She came back quickly, “Shintaro-sama is here.”

Aomine arose from the table, “Thank you for the meal.”

Kayura smiled and began to clear the table.

He and Touma went into the living room.

————–

Aomine was leaning against his hands pressed to the door, while Shintaro poked and prodded his abused back.

“Does dragon’s blood really heal?” he asked, trying to distract himself from the sharp fingers digging into his spine.

“Of course,” Shintaro replied.

“Its not that simple,” Touma said, “even if you had succeeded in killing a dragon.  The blood would have killed the king, not saved him.”

“Why?” Aomine hissed through a stab of pain.

“The blood of a dead dragon is extremely toxic.  It is poisonous even to dragons.”  Shintaro made each factual statement somehow sound angry and irritated.

“To heal, the dragon must give the blood willingly.  A little will heal, more will dramatically pro-long life and gain immunity to disease, enough and they will live as long as a dragon.”

Shintaro had a tight grip on Aomine’s head, not allowing his jaw much movement, but he still managed to ask, “Do dragons give blood often?”

“No.” Shintaro said and snapped Aomine’s neck.

The loud crack filled the room, freaking Aomine out.  Honestly he wondered why he wasn’t dead.  It took a moment for him to realize his back didn’t hurt anymore.  He twisted his head back and forth.  A grin suffused his face, he felt better than he had before the fight.

“Wow, thanks Shin-chan.”

Shintaro glared at him, gathered his items and left in a huff.

Aomine sat on the couch next to Touma.

“When do dragons give their blood?”

Touma leaned back and watched him, with the same careful expression he always had.  Aomine felt like he was always being judged and the out come would decide what Touma would say.

“Usually, because they feel some kind of connection to the person.”

“Why?  Why not heal everyone who is hurt or dying?”

“Two major reasons; one most humans hate dragons and two it binds the dragon to that person for life.”

“Binds?”

Touma nodded, “even the smallest amount of blood, gives part of the dragon’s life force.  The more blood consumed the closer the tie to the dragon.  If the human dies, the dragon feels it.  If the dragon dies, everyone who is bound to him dies as well.”

Aomine thought about it for a while before the true implication of what Touma said started to sink in.  “If I had killed a dragon, would people in town have died?”

“Yes.”  Touma replied. “Everyone in Nijitani is tied to a dragon in some way.”

Aomine let his head fall on the back of the couch.  “Why did he save me?”

“Because, we believe you are a good person and you have already proven we were right.”

————-

Aomine lie in bed just staring at the ceiling thinking.

So far one piece of information had been right.  The dragons fled to the north, to get away from humans.  Somehow he had found a magical valley filled with the creatures and their blood bound people.  Those people were called Kyokubu.

He had no idea how many dragons lived in the valley, but Touma had assured him that there were many.  Where did they all call home?  The red dragon had been massive, where could he possibly be hiding himself.  True the valley was big, but if it contained more than a few of that size, it would be hard to miss.

Touma had answered other questions, like why did humans hunt dragons almost to extinction?  Especially when it took a small army of humans to take down even a smaller adult dragon.  “Greed, pure and simple.” Touma had said.  “Dragons make their beds of gold.”

Aomine had lifted his eyebrow in surprise, “Really?” he scoffed, “Of all the stuff they told me, that was the one I didn’t believe.”

Touma laughed.  “You like the feather bed in your room?”

“Yeah, its amazing.”

“It is soft and warms to your body temperature.  Well dragons are very heavy and gold is a soft metal and is like a downy feather to a dragon.”

Touma had even had a few questions of his own.

“Who enchanted your sword?”

Aomine looked over at his sword, it was nothing special.  It had been his sword for years before receiving the enchantment.  “The king’s doctor, he is a sorcerer.”

“Do you have any idea of the components or spell he used?”

“Nah, he just asked for a sword and some of my blood.”

He knew by the look on Touma’s face that the man knew something more about what had happened with his sword, but wasn’t going to tell him.  It was subtle, but Touma always got a sad pitying look on his face when he hid some knowledge from Aomine.

Its not that he felt he was being lied to, but he wasn’t trusted to know all their secrets.  Something else to remind him that he was an outsider.  Aomine hadn’t wanted to deal with how that made him feel and went to bed soon after.

Now he lay here with the most important question unanswered.  How did he get a dragon to volunteer to donate blood for his king?  That was his mission, the king’s life depended on him, that hadn’t changed.  He had to find someway to get dragon’s blood to his king.

Unable to sleep, he rose to see if Touma were still awake.

There was light coming from beneath the master bedroom door.  He raised a hand to knock when he heard voices.

“Kayura, please stop.” Touma said in a soft calming voice, it had a note of desperation.  “Please don’t do this.”

“I need to tell him.” Kayura’s voice was near the door.

“You must not.  It wouldn’t be fair to him, to put that kind of burden on his shoulders.  Seijuro-sama is right, he needs to chose his own path.  Just because he came here doesn’t mean he will want to stay or even should stay.”

“How can you say that?!” Kayura’s voice rose in pitch, full of agitation. “How can you do this to me?  He has to stay!”

“Telling him won’t make it easier, it may even drive him away.”

“I don’t care what Seijuro says!” Aomine took a step back from the door, there was a rising note of hysteria in Kayura’s voice, “He is my son!”

There were muffled sobs and Aomine could only imagine Touma holding his wife close as she cried.

Aomine stumbled back to his room.  So, that was why Kayura had been so concerned for him.  She had replaced the child she lost with him.  He had moved into her child’s room and taken it’s place.

He looked around the room, it now felt more haunted then ever.

 

Chapter 6

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