Next day Aomine packed up and loaded everything onto the horse. He couldn’t ride it but there was nothing holding him back from using the horse in any other way. Meanwhile Momoi was chatting with that small unnerving pixie. How he hated his life in that moment. Would he have known that his journey could’ve lead to this ordeal, he would’ve happily stayed in his village and eventually died of boredom.
“Get up the horse, Satsuki.” Aomine grumbled, still very angry about the fact that he couldn’t ride the damn animal. True he could use one of his wishes for that purpose. But he had wasted one wish already; he didn’t want to waste the other ones as well.
“Eh? Won’t you…?” Momoi’s confused look was telling. Right, she didn’t know yet.
“No. Just get up and stop talking.” Man that little bug was getting at him with this magnificent constant reminder.
Momoi was all pouty but he’d make it up to her. She wasn’t really angry, just a bit unnerved ‘is all. Aomine helped Momoi up the horse, and then after taking the reins in his left hand, they set off. They had a few days of journey ahead of them before they’d reach the crown city. Momoi was handling the map, told him where to go next and for whatever they had to watch out in the certain regions. But in that moment she was being oddly quiet. Had he assessed the situation wrong? Was she angry?
“You doing good?” Aomine asked. There was no answer. “Oi, Satsuki.”
“Thought I should stop talking.” Momoi huffed.
“Are you for real?”
Then the girl started laughing. “I got ‘cha.” She was grinning, Aomine could hear it in her voice.
“Yeah, yeah, whatever.” He wanted nothing more than to reach the damn city, get to the king and leave to find a good rival -which had been his actual goal for leaving anyways. The village elders had forced Momoi onto him while he left.
“But yes, am fine so far. This horse is so cool. So comfy. You sure you don’t want to switch?”
He could hear the small fly laugh while sitting between the horse’s ears. Aomine’s fingers twitched, he wanted to rip its damn fly wings. Lucky enough though Momoi didn’t ask any further. Silence filled the air around them for a while until Momoi and Midorima started talking about magic and stuff. Aomine only interrupted them to ask for directions.
The wind was carrying the faint smell of flowers and the sun was shining bright. But then suddenly their surroundings changed. One moment they were in a forest made of fairy tales and the next it turned into a living nightmare. Aomine’s grip around the reins tightened.
“Shush.” Aomine’s voice was sharp as he cut her off. He listened carefully to his surroundings.
The place reeked of death. So rotten. The mud on which he was walking, was giving away under his leather shoes, the sound coming to his ears, squelching, as if he was walking on dead bodies. His clothes were sticking to his skin, the air suddenly humid and heavy, breathing was hard. He swallowed as his eyes darted from one side to the other. The trees around him were bony, their branches scaring the sky.
Aomine placed his right hand over his sword’s hilt. He tried to make it look casual. His nerves were on edge as they continued through the woods. Magical maps, pah. Momoi had said it would warn them of paths that were dangerous. This happened when you trusted those. They should’ve talked to some local people in the last village they passed, gotten a normal map for normal humans that actually knew what was up.
But no Miss Momoi had insisted to use a map that was gifted to her by her great-grandmother. To gran-gran’s times magic was widespread, she knows what’s up! She had said. Aomine knew it was true. To her gran-gran’s times, magic had been more widespread. People would travel all over the world to learn it. Nowadays though, people tried to ignore its existence. Searched for the reason behind flying boulders or sudden deaths in science and the like.
Aomine’s eyes darted to his right. Hadn’t there been a voice? “Stay cool!” He whispered to himself.
“I said shush it.” He looked at Momoi. She was way too calm. Didn’t she see the danger they were in? Then his eyes returned to the path ahead of them.
“Fool. You would do well in listening to the girl.”
“Oh for hell’s sake. What?” Aomine stopped, so did the horse, rather abruptly, so.
“Dai, I think.”
“Spit it.” Aomine looked around, his skin was crawling. The humid air, the foul stench of whatever the hell was trying to hunt them down brought tightness to his chest.
“I think someone used magic on you.”
Aomine froze. “What?”
“You’ve been on edge. But nothing has changed around us.”
Aomine dumbfounded as he was, was only able to blink in response. What?
Momoi didn’t comment further on the magic thing, instead dismounted the horse and said. “I think we need to rest.”
“No.” Aomine said with an absolute sound to it. “This place gives me the creeps. We’re continuing.”
Momoi sighed. “Look, Dai-”
“I said no-”
“Daiki!” Momoi’s hands were clasped to fists on either side of her body as she glared at him. “You’ve been cursed. Let go of that horse. Sit down and wait for my return.”
Aomine’s eyes widened. An order. Momoi was literally ordering him. His face distorted into a snarl. “What the he-”
“Shush it.” Momoi got closer to Aomine’s face, poking his chest as she spoke. “You will wait.” Then her face softened and she took a step back. “I got this. Trust me.” And after a smile she left. Aomine though had nothing left to do but sit down. The ground felt cold, his clothes still stuck to his skin. He crossed his arms in front of his chest and waited. Cursed. As if. There hadn’t been any people that could’ve done this. He glared at the pixie.
“Fool. If I were to curse you, my punishment would be public execution.”
“You should listen to that girl more often. Contrary to some people-“ he looked pointedly at Aomine, “she has a sharp head on her shoulders.”
“You little-” Aomine so wanted to- just a little bit of- god damn it he couldn’t bring his thoughts to an end. He felt so tired all of a sudden. A yawn ripped past his throat. Maybe if he laid down for a bit.
“Don’t dare sleep swordsman.”
“I said.” Aomine’s body slipped to the side, god he felt so sleepy. “Are you listening? Don’t dare sleep you fool.”
“Whatever,” Aomine drawled when sleep all too eagerly welcomed him in her domain.
His world was rocking. So shaky, everything dark, cold, damp. He flinched when the grip around his arms tightened. Then something was dripping down his face onto his chest-
Aomine’s eyes ripped open. What was going on? It was still dark. So dark. Cold. He slung his arms around his body, began shivering. So cold.
Someone was calling his name. So far away. Who was that?
Was it coming closer? He closed his eyes opened them again, in his body a tremor he couldn’t control. God he wanted to sleep again.
Something was tugging his shirt, clawing his arms. He wanted to speak when he opened his mouth though he only gasped. Air filled his lungs and something entirely else was suddenly in his mouth. He clamped it shut. So cold. He moaned.
Was that a sob? Yet Aomine couldn’t care less, he screwed his eyes shut and let the shivers ease him into sleep.
When he opened his eyes the light of fire was dancing at the corner of his eyes and above him in the branches of a tree was a crow. Watching him. Almost ominously. Aomine stared back. He didn’t even blink. It was like the crow was trying to tell him something. Aomine swallowed. And then began coughing uncontrollably.
When his coughing died down and he looked back up into the tree the crow was gone.
“God, Daiki.” Arms were slung around him and he was pulled into a tight embrace.
“What’s up?” Was his voice always so raspy when waking up?
“I thought you’d die.”
That was the moment Aomine finally looked at Momoi. She looked distressed, her eyes red rimmed, her cheeks pink colored, in her lower lip a quiver.
“Wh-what happened?” His voice was barely above a whisper. He couldn’t get his voice to rise yet.
“I-” Momoi swallowed. “You need to wash your head with this and chew this every few hours. Until I say you don’t have to anymore.”
Aomine stared at the leather bottle in his hand. He brought it close to his nose and screwed up his face. It smelled like burned meat. The other was just some weird looking leaf. “What happened?” He then repeated himself.
“Gran-gran’s map didn’t show the curse. It still doesn’t.” Momoi swallowed thickly. “And I only realized when I saw the blackish mark behind your ear.” She sniveled. “I thought you’d die because I realized so late.” Tears were rolling down her face.
“Hey-” Aomine stopped midsentence. Instead he pulled Momoi into a tight embrace. “Everything’s alright.” He whispered with a soft voice. He remembered how this had comforted her when her great granny died.
“No it’s not.” She hiccupped. “I should’ve seen sooner.” A snivel “I was so scared you’d die”
Aomine’s arms around Momoi tightened. He left words unsaid, they died on his lips. He didn’t know how to comfort her. So he only pulled his arms closer around her and nearly crushed her against his chest. When had the last time been that he had embraced her like this?
Only the small sound of someone clearing their throat broke them apart.
“To ease your heart, Momoi. I also did not realize there was a curse. I am a pixie, thus more sensitive to these phenomena. The wizard that cast the curse is powerful. Very sly. A curse mark behind the ear is not an easy feat.”
As it seemed the Pixie’s words were comforting Momoi. The corners of her eyes softened.
“Besides. Nobody can kill me but me. Remember?”
Aomine grinned when he saw the dumbfounded look on Momoi’s face. Then she let out a huff before she punched Aomine’s arm lightly. “You big idiot.”
Aomine began laughing. At the back of his mind though he finally realized how dangerous their journey was. He knew that he would’ve died if not for Momoi. But not through the hands of a powerful enemy that was attacking up front but through curses, powers he could not parry with his sword.
When the first rays of sun peaked over the horizon, Aomine rose to his feet and washed his head with that stinking juice. It was greenish in color and had him nearly vomit twice. After he was finished he put the leaf in his mouth and bit on it. Slowly chewing it. Momoi had told him to swallow the water but spit out the remains of the leaf. After he was done he woke Momoi up and they began packing everything up. They loaded the horse and then continued their journey. It didn’t take long for Momoi to inquire for him to ride the horse after what happened the day before.
“Just stop asking damn it.” Aomine grumbled finally.
“Yeah but normally you aren’t this generous mister knight.” Momoi crossed her arms in front of her chest. Then her eyes widened. “Wait. Pixies grant wishes but there’s always a twist to it.” She eyed Aomine. “No way.” Then she began laughing.
Aomine though only sighed, he did not approve.
“No wonder you let me ride all the time.” She laughed even more.
Since he was following Momoi’s instructions the forest around him returned to its former self. Which had Aomine conclude that the curse hadn’t only nearly killed him but made him hallucinate so vividly that he was certain they were in danger. The forest around him in that moment was lively. Birds flew by. The leaves hushed silent whispers into the wind. On some parts of the ground even flowers dared to peak out. So in general a rather pretty sight. No wonder Momoi had been so confused about being ordered into silence.
He glared at the sky. Powerless. There had been nothing he could’ve done when facing curses and magic. The pixie had demonstrated before but now this curse had proven it again. Aomine gritted his teeth. This journey was more trouble than it was worth it so far. All he had wanted was a worthy opponent. Not die out in the woods through an invisible hand.
Aomine stopped dead in his tracks. His right hand was placed neatly over his weapon, ready to draw it.
“Oh thank god.” A giant guy tumbled out of the bushes. Brown hair, droopy eyes. “You nearly stepped on Hanamiya!”
Aomine drew up an eyebrow then he looked onto the ground. His eyes widened. There was a small human just a feet away from him. If not for the warning he would’ve stomped it down into the ground. He bent down and picked the small guy up.
“Let. Me. Go.” The human struggled in his hand. Flailed with his arms and legs, hit him even. “You tyrant of a being. Let me go!”
Aomine snorted. “You’re awfully loud for a small man.”
The brown haired guy began laughing. “He sure is.”
Then Aomine nearly let the little thing fall to its sure death. “You bit me!” He screamed scandalized.
“I told you to let go.” Arms neatly folded over his chest the small human glared at Aomine. “Also you’re loud. Your breath stinks. Never heard of mouth hygiene?”
Aomine’s eyebrow twitched. He was close to snapping. So close to snapping! But he didn’t. He didn’t squish the guy in his palm. He also didn’t react to the insults. Well maybe he did. Just a little bit. “You little smurf, wanna say that again?” He snarled.
“Now, now.” Big brown haired guy stepped closer. “I think you’ve had enough fun with him.” He held out his hand with the palm facing up. “Can you kindly give him back?”
Aomine clicked his tongue. “Here. Have your nasty toy back.” Then he dropped the small guy into the man’s hand.
“I’m not a toy!” The small man screamed but was soon silenced when the giant put his other hand over him. The protests were muffled, sealed in the cave of the giant’s hands.
Aomine took a step back, placed his hand casually on his sword’s hilt. He was eyeing the giant. There was a fleeting moment of silence before the giant spoke again.
“My name’s Kiyoshi Teppei.” A big smile was present on his face. “Nice to meet you. I would offer my hand but…” He signaled once to his hands.
Aomine snorted. “I’m Aomin-“
“Ohmygodareyouagiant?!” Momoi said in one breath, successfully interrupting Aomine in the process. At least she had found her voice. “I’m Momoi! I’m so pleased to meet you.”
She was all hyper as she walked up to the giant and regarded him from head to toe. Aomine though, decided to stand a few feet away, keeping an eye on the giant.
“Oh hi.” The smile on his face twitched. “Sorry to disappoint but I’m not a giant. I know a few giant’s though.” Then it was back to normal again. “This here-“ he pointed to his hand’swith his eyes, “is my small friend Hanamiya Makoto. He can get a bit intense.”
“I hadn’t noticed.” Aomine commented.
Kiyoshi laughed in response. His eyes smiled just as his face. Constantly. It kind of gave Aomine the creeps. Yet he couldn’t exactly pinpoint why. He adjusted his hand over the hilt of his sword.
“I can offer you to stay the day. Exchange stories, maybe help one another out.” Again Kiyoshi smiled.
Really something about that smile was off. “I don’t thi-“
“Yes.” Momoi cut him off again.
Aomine’s eyes widened. Was she for real?
“Excuse us.” He said before he grabbed Momoi’s arm and dragged her a few meters away.
“Are you crazy?” He whispered heatedly. “Something’s off about that guy.” He then added, once glancing to that mountain of a man.
“He seems nice.” Momoi chirped back.
“You’re going to get us killed.”
“Trust me.” She said, her face was serious all of a sudden. The air around her changed entirely too. “I have a hunch.”
Aomine’s grip around her arm tightened for the fraction of a second before he let go and straightened up. She said to trust her. That he did. He trusted her intuition more than he trusted his own instincts. But his skin was crawling. That guy was weird. Something was up but he couldn’t put his finger on it. He gritted his teeth before he gave a nod. She said to trust her; that he would do. If things got too intense he still had two wishes free. So just play it cool. He straightened his clothes before he turned to the giant man.
“Show us the way, Kiyoshi Teppei.”
“Just Teppei is fine.”
Again that smile. His hand over the hilt of his sword stayed.