Author's Note: I've edited this chapter as well as the next two as a part of my quest to complete my many neglected stories. The story itself remains the same, but I hope I've managed to clean up some of my writing. Thank you, as always, for reading!

Disclaimer: I do not own Harvest Moon nor its characters.

-/-

Chapter One

"Come on, lucky seven," the man whispered. "Roll out nice and easy for Daddy..."

"Just roll the damn dice," his companion muttered just behind him. He had dipped the brim of his hat just low enough were it was difficult to see his eyes, but he wore a scowl without shame. "We don't have all night."

"Maybe not, my good friend," the first agreed, "but this one roll is all we need to make this night seem all that much longer." With those words, he pulled the purple scarf around his head low over his dark brown eyes. He smirked, his hand's shaking becoming slow and less feverish, until his lips parted in an even white grin. "Here we go!"

The dice bounced across the crate. They were easily to follow, their bright red color being the only thing to separate them from the dirty brown of the walls and the people therein. Not a single dusty eye could look away. Breaths were held and fists were clenched as the dice came to a stop at the crate's edge. No one dared to move until it was certain.

"My Goddess..." an old man gasped. He leaned over his cane and pulled on his white beard in disbelief. "He's done it. The lad got himself a-"

"Seven!"

The man in the bandanna gave a cheer as he swept up the large pile of bank notes laid out before him. When he took the dice as well, a surly-looking fellow across from him growled

"Let me see those dice of yours, Viento," he demanded. "You had to've cheated to get a roll like that."

"A sceptic, eh?" Viento rolled the dice in question about in his hand. "You want to see them? Then be my guest."

As promised, he offered them to the other man across from him. The doubtful fellow shook the pair while suspicious clarity, but it was only after he threw them on the crate that he seemed to be sure. The first roll read seven, and it appeared as if he might be proved right. However, a second roll showed just four, followed by a third of nine.

"I'll be damned," the old man mused aloud. "He really is just that lucky."

"Satisfied, gentlemen?" Viento jeered with an even wider grin. He took the dice back, but he refrained from gloating any further. "Come on then, Gray, let's head back," he said, nodding to his companion. His weight rested heavily on his left leg as he stood. "I'll buy you a drink back at the inn."

The redhead said nothing as he followed him through the small crowd and towards the back door, but the angry scowl on his face refused to fade. Even his bright blue eyes were burning although no one could place just why he was so put out by the night's events. That was aside from his friend who playfully tapped the brim of his faded and battered hat when they stepped out into the night.

"Just what were trying to pull back there, Kai? Did you really think they wouldn't notice?"

"Oh, relax," Viento assured him. He glanced back at the tired wood shack behind them before walking away and lowering his voice. "It's not like any of those idiots could figure it out anyway," he went on. "You know that as well as I do."

"Yeah, and I also know how you are with those tricky sleeves of yours." Gray pulled on said dark leather sleeve. When he did, another set of dice fell to the ground. They were a perfect seven. "That's why you rolled them down, isn't it? So you could switch between these bastards and the honest ones."

"Good eye," Kai laughed. Then his face softened and became more solemn. "You know I hate to do this, really," he said, picking up the trick pair, "but it's the only way you and I can make any money these days, it seems."

"No shit." Reaching into his trench coat while they walked side by side, the redhead pulled out a small tin flask and unscrewed the lid. After bringing it to his lips and tipping it back, he growled in disgust. "Damn thing's empty again."

"Well, it's no wonder," his friend sighed, shaking his head. "You're like a baby on a tit with that thing." Gray's face reddened at the remark, but the man limping beside him only shrugged. "Don't give me that look," he sighed. "You know that's how it is."

"It isn't any of your damn business."

"Maybe not," the man with bandanna replied, "but we can talk about that later. We have more important things to worry about, after all, like finding us some dinner and that drink I promised you."

Kai's right leg suddenly became rigid, bringing him to an abrupt halt, which went unnoticed by his companion.

"It's your damn money, not mine," Gray grumbled. His heavy black boots kicked up the dust from the road as he stormed ahead. When he realized he was walking alone, he stopped and glanced back. "Did that cursed leg of yours stop working again?"

"Must've gotten some sand in it..."

"You're always getting some sand in it."

"Well, it's not like I can help it," Kai snapped back. His eyebrows furrowed together over the thin bridge of his nose.

He knelt down with great difficulty, his right leg making a slight popping sound while he did so, and rolled up his jeans as best he could to have a look at it. It was a prosthetic leg. It was also mostly metal , appearing to be made of either brass or copper, and the armored plates were lined with rivets. There were gears where the apparatus was connected to what was left of his original thigh as well as the artificial knee and ankle joints, but they had all come to a halt.

"Can't do much about it here, I guess," the young man decided after giving the leg a once over. "Mind giving me a hand?"

"Goddess, you're useless." Despite the grit of his voice, Gray reached down to help his crippled friend. He hoisted him up with little effort, only grunting in annoyance once, and gave Kai his shoulder to lean on. "Hope Ann can fix it without her killing you first."

"Yeah," Kai chuckled. "Let's hope..."