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Of Magical Amulets and Bad Ideas

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     Shouto crouched on the thin ice, praying to whatever god above that watched a poor fool like him to not let him fall through. He'd told himself earlier this was an incredibly bad idea but no he had to prove that his luck wasn't as terrible as everyone, including himself, thought. He reached the final few inches and plucked the leaves of the rare winter plant he had to go through hell and back to pick. He leaned back lightly and softly placed the leaves into his bag letting out a relieved sigh. Then, steadying his balance he stood up and took the first few steps back to safety. He was nearly there, desperately ignoring the faint cracking behind him, when he took a wrong step and fell thigh deep into the freezing cold water.

   "Inko's bloody skull!" he cried, quickly scrabbling himself out of the hole and back onto stable ground and hopefully not onto another patch of thin ice. Regrettably, he might add, he could land in one of the icy snow falls and then freeze off all of his limbs just trying to get out.

   Fortunately, he landed on very much solid ground much to hit relief and he glanced up into the falling snow very dazed and very cold. He heard the faint steps of his loyal friend, Shadow Watcher, coming down off a snow drift to probably drag his frozen ass to camp if he had to. Shouto glared faintly as the purple-haired boy hid his smirk and grabbed Shouto's wrists and dragged him father away from the recently broken ice.  

 "We should change your name, Flare Spirit," HItoshi said crouching next to Shouto. He only called him Hitoshi for when he went down to the city with him, but what Hitoshi didn't know wouldn't kill him. Speaking of, the tired boy's face was solemn, but his eyes belied the joke to follow. "How about 'Froze in the Lake'? 'Lake' for short?"

   Shouto glared at him for that double meaning, stupid elements. Swearing,he glanced down at his soaked and stiffly frozen clothes. He should have worn his other winter gear. Yes, this set kept him warm and probably saved him from getting sick but he needed all the spare gear he could get. It didn't matter that he had a...survivable home to go to. His father was very negligent when it came to giving his son more than the bare minimum. Hitoshi's father, Shouta, (as his city name was), had traded them to Shouto for the rare Dawnfire flower petals he'd found last fall. His father wasn't too happy he went out to the tribes again. Teenage rebellion was a terrible siren.

 "Animal Skins?" his sister sighed at him in disbelief. "Of all the things why skins? You could have gotten food to get us through winter. Or maybe some herbs to make sure we can't get sick?" His sister than stalked towards him and hugged him angrily with tears in her eyes and Shouto felt terrible. He probably should have traded for supplies but they were worth far more than what he traded in and he knew that. But as usual Shota insisted in his grumpy generosity as he always did to Shouto because of his home situation. Well that and the two he cared for in a small cabin in the woods.

   Hitoshi wrapped his extra cloak around Shouto when he sat up to help fight the cold. "Why is it that you only go after the riskier plants. To make money?"

   "Well partially. That and see if one day i can beat my terrible luck. Maybe break the supposed curse i have." Shouto sighed out, rubbing his hands together to generate friction. The silver cuffs around his wrists were surprisingly temperate considering they were just dunked in freezing cold water. Though he should make sure he doesn't heat them too fast on the side of precaution. Not that he thinks they would melt, as they haven't yet. But just in case.

   It was a logical end to a rough day. Both he and his friend had been out since dawn, and all they had to show for it was a few leaves worth a bit, lots of bark, some wilting petals the survived the frost, and a squirrel that didn't escape fast enough. His dwindling spare funds had sent him back up the frozen mountain to forage for the camp nearby.

   "Well that was a waste of time." Shouto commented, ignoring the fact that it was his idea. As per usual his luck was a bare minimum.  He glared grumpily at the hole in the ice where he fell contemplating another thing to entertain his time with. "Let's do something else. Anything else. Just not more foraging. Literally anything but that." Shouto grumbled.

   Hitoshi tilted his head, the few beaded braids swinging lightly. He never quite had the hair to keep it in braids so he only did one on each side and collected beads instead.1  "What would you....?"

   "Let's go hunting." Shouto interrupted to save a whole back and forth. He may be slightly impatient. He lightly taps the bow on his back in significance.

   Hitoshi frowned, contemplating it. "We could try the Burnt Meadow. The deer should be migrating through there. Lark saw them there a couple days ago."

   "Then that's where we go." Shouto said not really thinking much on it. It was the Winter Hunt time. The leftover deer dealing with the food struggle much like the hunters will be scavenging and easier to chase down. Winter stock was getting low for him, thanks again to his father, so he needed to at least get something other than porridge and more porridge into his system. Anything other than porridge would make up for his terrible luck today. So to the east they went, leaving the frozen waters to only more frozen water just in powder form. Shinsou set a quick, and rather relentless pace down the valley of the frozen Musutafu. Shouto let his thoughts wander and finally warming up yet also cooling down at the monotonous motions of physical exertion.

   It was hard to stay angry at the beauty around him. yes, winter is cold and unforgiving yet it is also a beautiful phenomenon that people ignore. Even if the plant life of summer doesn't thrive, the winter life rises up and amplifies the beauty in their own way. The light shifting of snow from nature around them filled the peaceful silence becoming part of the scenery itself. The day slowly cooled as evening was arriving and Shouto tugged the second cloak a bit closer around him, puffing out a breath of frosted air.n Winter didn't bother him, no he preferred it to summer no matter how cruel Lady Winter could be. Burnt Meadow is where a very large summer fire recently raged but now it has a different type of burn. Frostburn. Due to it's en-sheltered area the Meadow is so cold it burns. But it is also one of the most traveled areas of the forest for any species. Pine trees lurked the meadow only about at knee height and it was filled with wild grass until the frost. But now it has the perfect amount of hidden shelter even with the tall grasses gone.

   Around a dozen deer lurked around, eating the bark off the low trees to garner what they can to survive. Ears flicking to check for sounds, they stood out with their reddish tints against the bright snow. It made sense for them to be on guard. Shouto forced himself to relax. Out of the two of them Shinsou has the straighter shot as he was logical versus instinctive like himself. But judging from the field they should both be able to take a deer which made Shouto's stomach grumble slightly in hope for a decent meal tonight.

   The boys circled the meadow to remain downwind of the herd, no sense in startling them early. Crouching behind a large, snow cored rock, Shouto slid the bow off his back a lightly prepared an arrow while keeping hid breathing steady. Along with his clothes, the bow was new as well and also clan-made, much like anything in his life that lasted for the actual time he needed then less. He lightly unbent his knees slightly and slowly drew the bow back but paused at a faint noise. Was that..rumbling? He scanned the mountainside lightly and zeroed in on where the noise was coming from. In the distance a small avalanche had started if the faint powder cloud was any sign. He glanced over to Shinsou with a questioning look which he replied to with a shrug. It isn't melting season yet so the snow shouldn't be loose enough to slide yet.

   The deer in the meadow became of the noise quickly too. They raised their heads and moved around nervously, stamping their feet and with the whites showing in their eyes. Shouto glanced at the mountain again. Oh that snow is closer then he thought and the air was starting to get heavy with the powder cloud exploding outward. He spotted faint colors of blue and purple in the clouds. That's odd, he thought, must be a trick of the light.

  The herd moved around a bit more in panic as if unsure of where to go, then turned as one and charged straight in their direction. Well shit... Shouto quickly re-pulled the arrow back and launched it, missing completely as expected. Hitoshi didn't do much better in the panic. Shouto quickly turned and sprinted after the herd, using his street agility and instinct to dodge objects well, hoping to try again. But as ha was a man chasing a deer it was no use even if he managed to catch a faint glimpse of their tails before the deer vanished. He huffed in exasperation as his luck and trudged back to where Shinsou stood staring at the avalanche. It knocked down tree in it's path tearing apart the forest in front of it and leaving little behind.

   "What even is going on?" Hitoshi asked no one in particular with a small shake of his head, "We aren't even close to melting season."

   As they watched the avalanche gained momentum as it passed into the edge of the large meadow, leaping over the small ravines here and there. It was beauty in it's most horrid state. The gales tugged at Shouto's clothes and snow stuck to him like a magnet. He brushed off a bit of the powder becoming aware of the danger they were currently faced with. He mentally slapped himself and then tugged Hitoshi away, "Come on, we better get out of the away before we become splinters like the trees!"

   They ran across the frosted ridge, sliding in the lightly packed snow, knowing if they fell in any sort of way they were doomed. Both boys dived behind a large rock face and watched as many animals, even ones in hibernation, darted past in fright just ahead of the speeding snow and ice front. 

  And after came three rich-looking riders like herders guiding the untameable avalanche down the mountain.

  Shouto stared blankly at them, his brain offering no explanation. The boys were the same age as Shouto and Hitoshi, yet wore fine silk cloaks and wool the was sewn into their stirrups, and longs stoles glittering with exotic markings. The horses the boys rode were military grade flatlander horses and not the mountain ponies Shouto was used to, but delicate legs and proud necks with silver embellished saddles to top it off. Shouto knew his horses, and these horses were worth a year's wages at the least. If he wasn't so shocked and generally stoic he guessed he would be drooling at the sight of such riches. This is worth a lifetime of his earnings. The boys rode with an arrogant pose, oblivious to the surroundings around them and only there for their own goals.

   Next to him Hitoshi went still, his tanned face slipping into a hardened mask he used down in the markets his eyes losing their sharp glint of wisdom. "Charmcasters," he exhaled, using the clan term for wizards. "I should have known." He glared slightly at the boys.

   Charmcasters?  Shouto thought ignoring the spike of excitement that flashed through him. In all of his questionable running around he's never been this close to one. Wizards didn't even think about spending an ounce of time around people like him. They lived in the large, ornate palaces surrounding Yuuei Castle, and attended the King at court. Many served as ambassadors to foreign courts much one purpose as a wizard carries many legends behind them and have the power to back many of them. The best among them was named the High Wizard, an adviser and magical guard of the current royal on the throne of Yuuei. He was warned by a good friend of his to stay away from those blue blooded wizards. They will treat you like the dirt they see you as and throw you to the wolves after.

   But, just like anything forbidden, wizards sparked curiosity in Shouto, but this was the one things he hasn't tested his luck against yet. Charmcasters weren't allowed in the Spirit mountains, except to their council house on Grey Lady 2, overlooking the vale. Nor would they venture into the gritty streets of Kamino where Shouto lived. If they needed something from the markets they would send a servant to fetch it. Who then in turn would send another servant to fetch it for them. It's like a game. In this way the three different factions of people achieved a vaguely balanced peace; the wizards of the Northern Isles, the Valefolk of the valley, and the clans in the upland.

   As the three riders drew closer to their outlook Shouto analyzed everything about them. The one in the lead had an explosive amount of spikes of pale blond hair that had no rhyme or reason to them. He wore an extreme amount of rings on his hands for how rugged they looked, and an extremely well carved pendant hung from a chain around his neck. With that much detail it must be a powerful amulet. His stoles were emblazoned with gold eagles, claws extended ready to attack at notice. Gold Eagles, Shouto thought, must be his wizard house emblem. 

   The other two weren't really notable, both blond haired and really too regal much like the lions on their stoles. Assuming due to the similar looks, they were probably related. They rode a little behind the rather angry looking blond and seem to at least respect him thought they didn't show any care for him otherwise. Both didn't wear a visible amulet unlike the lighter blond.

  Shouto would have been content to remain hidden as they rode past, but Hitoshi apparently had another idea. He slid out from the shadowy overhang, the irony of his name, and spooked the horses he basically stood directly in front of. Shouto noticed the faintly hidden smirk at the riders struggling to keep their seat Hitoshi gave only because he knew him for so long.

  "I am Shadow Walker," Hitoshi stated blandly in common, "of Erased Pines Camp." He skipped right over the traditional welcome and went straight to the meat of the problem. "This camp demands to know who you are and what your purpose is here on Shimura, as it is expressly forbidden by the Naeming." Hitoshi stood still, glaring at the three wizards opposing him and looking vaguely small compared to the boys on horses. What's going on with Hitoshi?  Shouto wondered, reluctantly moving away from the shadows himself to support his best friend. He didn't like that the charmcasters were trespassing either even with the irony of that statement. But the point is that he was savvy enough not to go up against hexes and the like. Of all things did Hitoshi have to stand up to this?

   The grumpy boy, must be a resting angry face, glared down at Hitoshi haughtily, then blinked for a moment, before resuming his overly grumpy demeanor. Do they know each other? Shouto contemplated as he looked between the two. Hitoshi didn't seem to recognize him.

   Even though Shouto was taller than Hitoshi, the wizards' gazes seemed to completely ignore him and they analyzed a bit then returned to his friend. Shouto glanced down at his shoddy clothes that were a mismatch of Vale street clothing and clan clothes. Well that's fair honestly nut now he can take advantage of that possibly.He was used to feeling invisible.

   Hitoshi wasn't unnerved by the glares the charmcaster sent him, "I asked you what you names were," he ground out. He tilted his head at the long passed avalanche, "that avalanche had wizard color strings in it." 

   Shouto blinked, now how did Hitoshi know that? Maybe he was bluffing?

   The angry boy with the eagle signet glanced at the other two, as if he was contemplating even deeming an answer necessary. His companions just shrugged nonchalantly, obviously having no ties nor opinion to the situation at hand. "Katsuki Bakugou of the Arsalan House," he grunted out with a sharp smirk as if he expected us to cow in fear, "we're here on orders. King Yagi and his fucking nerdy kids are hunting in the Vale. We are two drive the shitty herd down so the useless hunters will actually catch something for once."

  "The King ordered you to set fire to the mountain just so his men could hunt something?" Hitoshi asked incredulously, eyebrows raised.

   " I just fucking said that didn't I? Are you deaf?" Shouto bites down on the laugh that garnered. The boy was shouting so loud he was probably deaf himself. Not to mention the King ordering the forest to be set on fire just for a good hunt was one of the worst excuses he could come up with.

  "The deer don't belong to the king," Shouto drolled out. " We have as much right to hunt them and he does."

   "Anyway you are using magic underage which is, again, forbidden," Hitoshi states. "Not to mention you are also wearing an amulet which is, yet again to no one's surprise, forbidden." he said as he waved lightly towards the gleaming amulet around Bakugou's neck.

   Hitoshi must have struck a nerve, or well an actual one, because Bakugou's face twisted up into an even deeper scowl if that was possible. "That's none of you fucking business, you're from the shitty-ass clans," the boy growled lowly.

   "Well, Katsuki Jinxflinger," Hitoshi spit, resorting to using the clan insults for wizards, "if King Yagi want to hunt deer in the winter, he can come up into the mountains after them, as he always has."

   Bakugou raised his eyebrows and tilted his nose up, "Where he can sleep on a dirty as fuck floor shoulder to shoulder with a dozen filthy as hell kinsmen and go an entire week without so much as a hot bath and come home smelling of campfire and sweat and a case of the fucking night itches?" He bit out a rough laugh and his companions smirked a little. " I don't blame him for preferring the the much better accommodations in Vale then what you bastards provide."

   Well he's denseShouto thought, recalling the comfortable lodges with the sleeping benches, the tales spun around the fires in the evening, the shared food of a group of family. So many times has he comfortably fallen asleep in clan furs with the stories winding through his evening thoughts and dreams. Shouto knew he wasn't clan, but he sure as hell felt like he was welcome and belonged there. It was the one place he didn't fell he was only one step ahead of his inevitable death.

   "Prince Izuku was fostered in the clans for three years and from what i heard, he had a wonderful time." Hitoshi snapped while faintly jutting his chin proudly.

   " His clan-bred mother had some damn archaic ideas." Bakugou retorted with a faint sense of pride and his companions snorted lightly. "Me? I always knew Deku was going to be useless but having his head full of shitty ideas like clans and hunting? That's just fucking proof at this point."

   Suddenly Hitoshi pulled his hunter knife out and waved it dangerously, "Care to repeat such a treasonous statement, jinxflinger?" he stated coldly, just as cold as the weather around them. Bakugou hid his flinch with a glare and directed his horse back slightly to put more distance between himself and the glinting knife. " I'd say it's more likely more a jinxflinger to curse or put the prince under an illusion than fore Prince Izuku to have been harmed at the camp." Hitoshi pushed, knowing he was getting on the blond's nerves. Quietly, Shouto stepped up beside his best friend who was dragging them into a very dangerous situation. He lightly places his had on his own knife's hilt as a thinly veiled treat while remaining out o f the way of Hitoshi's throwing arm. But a blade against magic? Even two blades with one of them being highly skilled?

   "Step the fuck off, Eskimo." Bakugou glowered and glanced lightly at the knife. " My father says that those who go to camp, come back proud and opinionated and not court ideal. Obviously that can be a problem for the Future King when dealing with other Nations being nosy as all hell." he smirked deviously as if that wasn't an insult to the Prince's intelligence. Not that Shouto cared but it was the social standard of it.

 Hitoshi did not smirk back. "Are you saying that the blooded heir to the throne of Yuuei isn't savvy enough to handle court?" Ah great he's slipping into street slang. Another strike against us.

  "Watcher," Shouto bit, but Hitoshi slid a faint 'I've got this' look at him. Shouto sized up the three wizards as he would on the streets of his town when things got rough. All three had heavy, elaborate swords that are probably worth a small fortune and haven't seen much use to this day. Best way to clean this up quickly was to get them off there horses which a quick slash at the cinch strap should do. Get in close so they can use the swords at all and take out Bakugou. The others will cut and run for the looks of things.

   " One of the more sparkily wizards cleared his throat lightly, obviously not liking where this was going. He was well...the more..sparkily of the two? With rather well-shined everything from his hair to his boots. "Mon amie," he stated with a faint islander accent as he nodded towards the valley below. " Come on, we'll miss the hunt. Allons-y."

   "Hold the fuck up, Aoyama." Bakugou snapped as he stared as Hitoshi, red eyes burning. "Aren't you called Shinsou?" he ground out using Hitoshi's alias and last name. " It's Shinsou right? The fucking mind tricker in the streets? Fitting you use it in the streets as you're a damn mongrel; no family."

   Hitoshi froze. "That's my Yuuei name," he said, glaring defiantly at the boy. "My real name is Shadow Watcher."

  "Shinsou is a goddamn wizard's name," Bakugou said raising his tone slightly and crawling his hand towards the amulet. "Must be nice steali-"

   "I stole nothing," Hitoshi snapped. " I didn't choose it as i am clan. Why would i want a sullied jinxflinger name?" 

   Good question, Shouto contemplated, looking at the two boys having a staredown. When Shouto brought Hitoshi down to the markets to test his mind-numbingly good luck at reading between the lines he told Hitoshi to choose an alias. He said he would use the one Shouta offered second to him. but why would Bakugou know Hitoshi's second alias, did they stir the waters that much?

  Bakugou's temper obviously rose and it took a moment for him to respond, "So you fucking claim, Shinsou," Bakugou drawled out. "Maybe you are a bastard child of someone and needed to-"

  Hitoshi's arm flashed up, but Shouto just managed to knock his elbow lightly to put the toss off course but still carry a front of defense. It went flying directly bast the Bakugou heir and into a tree trunk behind him. Come on, Hitoshi Shouto mentally scolded tilting away from his friend's incredulous glare. Killing a wizard friend of the Prince would be just my luck but can we try not to fulfill my ultimate demise early? The charmcaster sat frozen for a moment, as if he didn't expect us to try to fight back at all or be worth his time. Then his face split wide with a viscous and bloodthirsty grin. He extended one of his surprisingly rugged hands toward Hitoshi, took hold of his amulet with the other, and began muttering a charm in who knows what language, stumbling over the words a bit.

   "Bakugou." the lesser oh-my-god-it's-too-bright lion wizard hissed, nudging his horse closer, "It's not worth it. The fire was one thing because it can be passed off as in accident but if you kill a-"

   "Shut. The Fuck. Up Monoma," Bakugou gritted. " . Am going to teach this sprung-up, whiney, useless as hell, fucking spineless tribe fucker some respect." he practically shouted out, He quickly restarted the incantation looking extremely annoyed he had to start over.

  Try and be a peacemaker and look where it gets you. I swear my Karma is beyond negative at this point. Must've been a serial killer in my last life. Shouto mentally grumbled with a slight sigh. He quietly unslung his bow and knocked an arrow, aiming directly for Bakugou's probably nonexistent heart. "Hey, Katsuki," he said. "How about this? Shut it or i shoot."

  Bakugou turned his rage at Shouto, while widening his eyes a little as if now realizing he was there. The shiny brothers, Monoma and Aoyama, were quick to grab at their swords only to stop when Hitoshi knocked his own arrow.

  "Smart move," Shouto says blandly, "I'm guessing jinxes are slower than arrows."

  "You just threatened to fucking murder me," Bakugou hissed. " Do you realize who i am ? I will hunt you down to your fucking shitty grave for that and my parents will re-kill you after i do, half-n-half bastard."

  "Why don't you run back and learn some real magic before you start making threats?" Hitoshi growled, jerking his head pointedly down the trail away from the camp. " Go on. You don't belong here. Get off the mountain. Now."

  Bakugou obviously didn't want to look weak in front of the other wizards but he realized he was kinda stuck. "Just remember you assholes," he bit, fingering his amulet and his hands lightly sparking, "it's a long way down this snowy as hell mountain. Anything can happen to idiots like you."

  Shit, Shouto thought. He'd been ambushed too many times in the streets and alleyways of Mutsufasu. He knew enough about about bullies to recognize the trait in Bakugou. This boy would hurt them in he could, and he would hurt them if could, and he wouldn't play fair doing it.

  Keeping his bow tight, Shouto nodded towards the blond who curses too much in his opinion. "You. Take off your your jinxpiece," he demanded. " Drop it on the ground."

  "This?" Bakugou touched the evil-looking amulet that hung around his throat. When Shouto gave a slight nod the boy snarled angrily. "You being fucking serious?!" he curled his fist around it. " Does a useless clanny even know what this it?"

  "I have an idea." Shouto said narrowing his eyes. He gestured again at the amulet with his bow. "Take it off and drop it on the ground."

  Bakugou sat frozen, the anger slowly drifting off his face surprisingly. "You can't even fucking use this, you know," he bit out looking between the two best friends. "If you even touch it, which you probably will you damn idiots, you'll be dead as hell. Completely dissolved." 

  "We'll take our chances," Hitoshi said, catching on quickly to Shouto's plan.

  The blond's eyes narrowed in anger again. "I should've fucking known," he sneered. "You're just a bunch of shitty useless thieves."

  "Use your head," Shouto puffed. "What would I, a non-wizard, do with truck  like that? I just don't want to have to be looking over my shoulder all the way home." 

  The less shiny Monoma leaned towards Bakugou and muttered quietly in Vale, "Better give it to him. You know what they says about the Inuit. They'll cut your throat and drink your blood and feed you to their wolves so no one will ever find your bones."

  Ow. The extremely glittery Aoyama nodded vigorously. "Or they'll use us in rituals. They'll burn us alive pour plaire à leurs dieux." Bakugou glared at the literal brightness of the sun somehow trying to convey he didn't understand a word Aoyama just said. Shouto gritted his teeth, trying to keep the amusement of his face and to not flinch at the literal star-level brightness the boy was made of. It seems like jinxflingers had their own reasons to fear the clan.

  I can't give it to them, you idiot." Bakugou hissed. "You know fucking why. If my mother finds out I took it, we're dead meat. She'll probably punish us through the damn afterlife too."

  "I told you not to take it," Monoma grumbles just as quiet. "I told you it was a bad idea. just because you wanted to show off to Prince Izuku..."

  "Well it's not like we're fucking allowed to have our own shitty damn amulets," Bakugou growled. "It was the only one...What are you fucks looking at?" he grumpily demanded, noticing Shouto and Hitoshi's interest in the conversation probably realizing for the first time that they also understood the flatlander language.

  "I'm looking at someone who's already in trouble and is digging his grave at this point," Shouto said dryly with a small smirk. "Now, drop the amulet."

  Bakugou glared at Shouto as if actually seeing him for the first time. "you're not even clan Scarface. Who the fuck are you?"

 Shouto knew better than to hand out his name to an enemy. "They call me Dabi." he said, searching around for a name at random. "Streetlord of Hosu."

  "Dabi, you say." the wizard tried to stare him down, but his gaze kept slinging away. "...fucking strange. There's something... you seem..." his voice trailed off almost as if he was distracted.

  Shouto looked down the shaft of his arrow, sweat trickling down his back. If Bakugou wouldn't give, he'd have to figure out what to do next. But, he had no clue so might as well jump for it. "I'll count to five," he said, holding onto his blank mask. "then I put an arrow through your neck. One."

  With a quick, vicious movement, the angry boy yanked the chain over his head and dropped the amulet on the ground. It clanked softly as it hit some packed snow, it's red jewels glinting in the light.

  "Just try to pick it up," the charmcaster said, leaning forward. "I fucking dare you."

  "Go on! Get out of here!" Hitoshi snapped. "I reckon you'd better think about how you're going to stop the avalanche. If you don't I guarantee the King won't be happy, whether he asked you to start it or not." Bakugou stared at him for a moment, lips twitching in burning rage and unsaid curses. Then he wrenched his mount's head around and drove his heels into the horse's sides. horse and rider charged downslope as if they were, in fact, trying to catch the avalanche.

  Monoma stared after him, then turned to Hitoshi, shaking his head. "You fools! How is he supposed to deter the snowfall without the amulet?" He wheeled his horse, and the two wizards followed Bakugou at a slightly less reckless pace.

  Shouto let out his breath and released the tension on his bow, re-slinging it on his shoulder. {"What was that about your public Vale name? Have you met Bakugou before? He doesn't seem like the type to come down to the markets."

  Hitoshi chuckled and jammed his arrow back into his quiver, "Where would i even meet a jinxflinger?"

  "Why did he say that stuff about your family?" Shouot continued ignoring the blaring social cues as he usually does. "{How does he know..."

  "How should I know?" Hitoshi bit, scowling a little at the air. "Just forget it, Let's go."

  Obviously Hitoshi didn't want to talk about it. That's fair, Shouto thought. He had no room to complain what with all the secrets he kept as well. "What about this thing?" Shouto crouched and studied the jinxpiece warily, afraid to touch it. "Do you think it was a bluff?" He glanced up at his friend, who was watching from a safe distance. "I mean, do you think they need this thing to stop the avalanche?"

  "Just leave it," Hitoshi said with a shudder. "Let's just get out of here."

  "That jinxflinger didn't want to give this thing up," Shouto mused. "Must be valuable." Shouto knew traders of magical pieces in Musutafu. He'd dealt with a few of them a time or two when he worked the streets. A grab like this could pay for the supplies he needed for a year. You're not a thief. Not anymore. If he said it often enough, it might just stick. But he couldn't let it lie. There was something bonechilling yes fascinating about the amulet. Power emanated from it like heat from a stove on a cold day. It warmed him where he was cold yet also didn't make him too hot, almost as if it evened out his weird temperature preferences.

   Using a stick, he lifted the amulet by its chain. It dangled, spinning hypnotically in the reflected light, a silver translucent stone carved into a snarl of serpents with ruby eyes. The staff was tooped with with a brilliant round-cut onyx larger than he'd ever seen, and the snake's eyes were blood red rubies. Shouto  had dealt in jewelry from time to time, and he could tell the craftsmanship was exquisite and the stones were in prime quality. But the lure of the piece went beyond the sum of its parts.

  "What are you going to do with that?" Hitoshi asked behind him, his voice already heading toward disapproval and worry.

  Shouto shrugged, still watching the spinning jewel and taking in it's vicious beauty. "I don't know."

  Hitoshi shook his head. "You should pitch it into the ravine. If Bakugou took the thing without permission, let him explain what happened to it and keep your hands clean."

  Shouto found himself unable to even contemplate throwing it away. It didn't seem like the kind of thing you'd want to leave lying around for somebody- maybe even a child- to find. Shouto shudders at the thought. He fished a square of leather out of his carry bad and spread it on the snow. Dropping the amulter in the center, he wrapped it up carefully and placed it in his bag. All the time wondering, How had it come to this? How had he and Hitoshi ended up in a standoff with wizards? What was the connection between them and his best friend? Maybe it was just the latest in a long line of bad luck. Shouto always seemed to find trouble, no matter how hard he tried to avoid it.