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It was another two weeks before he was allowed out of bed.  There was another week before he was able to visit Seirin.  The welcome almost embarrassed him, he was glad his skin tone hid the flush on his cheeks.  It was a new and wonderful experience to have friends, people who genuinely cared about his health and well-being.

The thought occurred to him surrounded by smiles and laughter.  He cared about them too.

The attack brought something into blinding clarity for him; he was a danger to these people.  In his own way, he wanted to protect them, just as much a Taiga.  That Tetsuya had almost died with him, it riddled him with guilt.

Kayura, Touma, and Tetsuya were determined to protect him, but that put them in danger.  Well, he could be just a determined as they are.  He would protect them too.

This is why he found himself wading through knee deep snow alone.  No goodbyes, no arguments, no tears, he grabbed his stuff and walked away.

It was the right decision.

Fuck, he was miserable.

———————-

As he entered Touou, people stepped aside giving him a wide berth.  They watched him out of the corner of their eyes, fear radiated off them.  You would think he’d be used to it by now.  Nijitani had changed him, it made the rejection by his home city that much more obvious.

Looking at the humans scatter before him, maybe they knew all along that he was different.  They had sensed something was wrong or different and kept a distance.  At least now he knew why he could never be accepted.

How would he stand living here after all that had happened?  He couldn’t go back to the valley; it would only bring more suffering to them.

Fuck it, he would think about that later.  Right now, he just needed to get to King Imayoshi and heal him.  Then he could worry about what to do next.

As Aomine approached the city gates a shadow separated its self from between two buildings.  A cloaked figure came to him; pale green eyes gleamed from the folds of the hood.  “Aomine, did you bring it?”  The figure asked.

“Yeah,” Aomine answered, watching the man uncomfortably.  He’d never cared for the royal magician, even though the king trusted him.

The man nodded, “come with me, there are some who do not want you to save the king.”

Aomine followed him back into the alleyway.  They made their way around the castle.  “There is a secret escape route that leads directly from the king’s rooms to a field in back.”  The magician said over his shoulder.  The city fell away and they followed the stone wall surrounding the castle.  The mage stopped and touched the wall, a doorway appeared in the stone, they stepped through and the hole closed behind them.  Once inside the mage threw back his hood, and continued moving farther into the acres of lawn behind the castle.

“So, you managed to find and kill a dragon.  That is an amazing feat for one man.”

Aomine didn’t respond.

The mage stopped and turned toward him, “let me have the blood and I’ll take it to the king.”

“No,” Aomine said, “I’ll give it to the king myself.”

“At least let me see it, before you give it to him.”

Aomine glared at the shorter male.  Damn Hanamiya and his nosiness, Aomine didn’t intend to tell anyone what happened.  He just wanted to pay back the king.

Hanamiya grinned, “Did you kill a dragon?”

“No.”

“So, you don’t have any dragon blood.”

“I have dragon’s blood.”

“Then let me see it,” Hanamiya said holding out his hand.

What the hell was he supposed to say?  There was not fucking way he was telling Hanamiya he was a dragon.  He would open a vein for the king, but he didn’t trust anyone else with the information.

“I see,” Hanamiya purred, lowering his hand, “the hatchling has learned something about himself.”

What the hell?

Aomine stared at him, stunned.

“Yes, I know all about you, AoRyu, my little hatchling.”

“What the hell are you talking about?  How do you know me?” Aomine roared.  Did everyone in the fucking world know about his life, but him?

“Your egg sat in my study for decades.  I even named you.”  Hanamiya said.  “My blue dragon, Ao- Mine, Aomine.”

“What the fuck?  I never met you till I was knighted by the king.  And why did you have my egg?”

Aomine was getting more furious by the moment, Hanamiya was laughing at him, teasing him with his own ignorance.

“Your egg was a gift to me.  Dragons are an amazing source of power, a living battery.  It was never intended that you would hatch.  Unfortunately, another mage attacked my dwelling and caused an explosion, which disrupted my stasis spell.  When I returned you were gone, but it didn’t matter.  My absorption spells were still in place, you continue to feed may magic as long as you live.”

“So, you just let me go.  Allowed a dragon to roam the streets of the city?”

Hanamiya shrugged, “I had no desire to raise a child and nothing short of a magical weapon would kill you.  I didn’t care what happened to you.”

Aomine took a threatening step toward the mage.  “I should fucking kill you.”

The nasty grin only widened, “you can try, but I possess most of your magic and I have so many spells on you, you will never take dragon form.”  Hanamiya looked over Aomine’s shoulder, “but he on the other hand doesn’t have that problem.”

Turning Aomine saw a man standing behind him.  Gray hair and a gray eye stared at him with hatred.  A black eye patch covered the left eye; healing wounds covered that side of his face.

“Haizaki,” Aomine felt dread settle in his gut.  He thought he could take Hanamiya mage or not, but he already knew how weak he was against the gray dragon.  “What are you doing here?”

“To finish what I started.”  Haizaki relied, “Kayura won’t be coming to your rescue this time.”

Aomine carefully edged away from the dragon, easing his hand toward his sword.

“It is actually quite amusing.  Her own actions are stopping her from saving you.” Haizaki have a dry laugh, “After I stole your egg, she went quite mad.  They lost count of the towns she laid waste to.  Finally Akashi was forced to bind her to the valley.  So, now she can never leave.  I say they should have let her continue.  Rid us of all the humans.”  The look he Aomine was full of spite and a wish to cause pain.  “She was quite the murderer you know? A sea of dragon’s blood can be laid at her door.  I wonder if she sees the irony of blinding me in the same eye as my father.  The father she helped kill.”

He deliberately ignored the mentions of his mother.  He couldn’t afford to make a mistake in anger.  “So, you stole the eggs.  Why?” Aomine asked.  He wanted Haizaki to keep talking.  His hand curled around the pommel of his sword.  A sword completely useless against a full sized dragon, but perfect for killing a human shaped dragon.

“Power.” Haizaki said matter a factly.  “If we aren’t going to wipe out the humans, we should at least be ruling them.”

Aomine could see he was getting wrapped up in his own twisted hatred.  Haizaki wasn’t even seeing him anymore.

“There was an Emperor who believed in the superiority of dragons.  The Dynasty was waging war against the human invasion.  Emperor Talpa believed in destroying humans and dragons who got in his way.”

“How are you going to rule the human world, all by yourself?” Aomine had his sword loose in the sheath.

“Oh, I learned from their mistakes.  Humans have their roll to play.  My Kyokubu have taken over major cities across the continent, with hatchlings like you powering them, no humans stand a chance.”  Haizaki’s eye began to spark.  “Unfortunately, you have become a problem.”

Aomine lunged forward, but his sword passed through the space where Haizaki had been.

Standing over him was a gray dragon with an empty eye socket and melted scales on the left side of its head.

Well shit.

There was nothing he could do about the dragon, so he turned to the mage behind him.

Hanymiya’s smile was firmly in place.  Hands moved in circles in front of his chest, a few mumbled words and a layer of shimmering blue stood between them.

“You know mage; I did learn a thing or two while I was away.” Aomine said, stabbing the sword forward.  It passed easily through the barrier and into the mage.  “You can defeat a dragon with another dragon’s blood, but not with its own.”

Haizaki roared as Hanamiya fell to the ground.  Aomine didn’t wait to see what the dragon would do, he started running.

He could hear the beat of wings.  A gust of wind hit him and he was lifted off his feet.  A clawed foot was wrapped tight around his waist.  Shifting his grip on the sword, Aomine prepared to plunge it into the dragon.  He could survive the fall.

“Are you okay Aomine-kun?” a voice asked.

The sword almost slipped from his grasp.  “Tetsu?”  He looked up and sure enough the scales were light blue.

“Hold on Aomine-kun, Haizaki is faster, but we don’t have far to go.”

“Where-” Aomine almost swallowed his tongue, as Tetsuya wheeled to the right, a burst of flame just barely missing them.

The barrel roll slowed them and Tetsuya sought to gain altitude.  Haizaki was right behind them; Aomine could hear the beating of his wings.

“You’ll both die this time, Tetsuya,” Haizaki screamed.

Tetsuya rolled onto his back and Aomine had an up close view of a blazing gray eye, before they dropped out of the sky.

Haizaki tucked his wings to follow.  Out of the corner of his eye Aomine saw a streak of red rush past them.

Taiga smashed into Haizaki sending them tumbling away.

Tetsuya righted himself; they skimmed over the tops of trees, before circling back.  They saw the two dragons fighting among shattered trees.  Taiga was obviously the larger and stronger, but Haizaki was desperate.  The battle was fierce but short, Taiga pinned the gray to the ground.  Haizaki screamed and thrashed, but was unable to free himself.

Aomine didn’t know why Taiga didn’t just kill him.  Then another dragon landed next to the two combatants.  This dragon was only a little larger than Tetsu, but it was red with a gold crest and back spines.  Tetsu stayed in the air, so they were unable to hear the conversation.

“Yo, Tetsu,” Aomine said, “who’s that?”

“Emperor Seijuro”

As they watched the gray dragon darkened until it was black as coal, then it collapsed into a pile of ash, the wind picked up and then even that was gone.

“What just happened?”

“We can make humans our Kyokubu.  In that we can will them to health or death.  In a similar way, we are bound to the Emperor.”

“You mean he can just kill you with a thought?”

Tetsuya gave a small laugh, “It is more complicated than that, but basically yes.”

“What now?” Aomine asked.

“I return you to the castle so you can complete your mission and heal the king.”

———————

The king recovered immediately.  Aomine hadn’t known it would work so well so quickly.  He also wasn’t sure how much he cared for being bound to an asshole like Imayoshi.  Still, he was his king and he couldn’t let him die.

It was over, the king saved, the evil dragon dead.  What was he going to do now?

He trudged out the castle gate.  He supposed they had given his bunk in the barracks to someone else by now.  Everyone had assumed he was dead.  He wondered what the fuck they had done with his basketball.

“Aomine-kun.”

Aomine jumped as the man appeared at his side.  “Fuck! Tetsu!”  He reached out and ruffled the blue hair.

Tetsuya swatted the hand away.  “It’s Aoko, out of the valley.”

“Huh?”

“Call him Aoko, Ahomine.” Taiga said.  “I’m Akagami, and this is Akashi.”

The two red heads were standing behind Tetsuya.  The shorter one had a single gold eye, and a stare that was really creeping him out.

“We do not share our true names among the humans.” Akashi said.

The aura around Akashi left no doubt that this was the Emperor.  “I wish to apologize to you Aomine.  My desire to rescue the remaining Dynasty dragons, has led to great suffering for you.”  Akashi bowed low before him.  Taiga’s eyes were very wide and looked as if he wanted to run.

The seconds dragged out and the Emperor did not rise.  Now, Taiga and Tetsu were looking at him in a panic.

“Uh, no, its-its okay.”

Akashi rose, he looked completely calm and in control, but Aomine had the impression he was standing on very thin ice.

“If you have need of anything, please let me know if I can be of assistance.”

“Um, I, uh, kind of wondered…” Aomine stammered.

“Yes?”

“Tet- Aoko, said that we are all bound to you.”

Akashi nodded.

“Hanamiya said he took my ability to change from my human form.  Can you do anything about that?”  Aomine asked.

There was an intense calculating look in the multi-colored eyes, like he was a puzzle to be solved.  “No. It isn’t within my power to break the spell on you.”

Aomine’s shoulders slumped.  A few months ago, it would never occur to him to want to be a dragon.  But now that he knew the chance had been taken from him, it felt like he was missing a limb he hadn’t know he had.  It really hadn’t bothered him when he first found out, but now he had flown.  Gliding through the air with Tetsu had been thrilling.

“We have been away long enough,” Akashi announced, pulling Aomine from his thoughts.  “It is time to go back.”  The Emperor turned and walked away, Taiga and Tetsuya quickly followed.

Aomine watched them go.

What was he going to do with his life now?  Where would he go?

Maybe he could go search for the other eggs?  Haizaki said they were given to Kyokubu, which meant they were most likely still alive.

“Yo, Aomine!” Taiga called.

Aomine blinked, “what?”

“Hurry up!  Let’s go home.”

Now that he was paying attention, he saw that all three were looking back expectantly.

He couldn’t stop the grin that split across his face.

“Okay!”

 

 

Chapter: Epilogue

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