My Lord Father,
I am writing to inform you of my intentions to marry Midoriya Izuku of the Yagi Clan, after four and a half years of courtship. As he is the heir apparent of our Emperor, may his name live for a thousand years, I see no reason for you to refuse to give your blessing and consent, given the advantageous nature of this match. It would certainly increase the prestige you supposedly lost with the peacetime, and after all, is that not what I was born to do? The fact that I love Izuku with all my heart, and will never love another, is of no concern to you I gather, so I ask you to consider this match from the view of your legacy, and that of the Todoroki clan.
You could neither find nor arrange a marriage of higher prestige or status. I should know, seeing as all your letters to me for the past three months have talked of nothing but betrothals and your arrangements for my future spouse. You are correct Lord Father, in one respect. I will be newly turned sixteen on the 11th of January, in a week’s time, which is when this letter should reach you, and I must think about who I must wed. Rest assured that I have done exactly that. All that remains is for you to give your consent and blessing, since I have only reached the age for betrothal, and not the age for marriage.
One last thing, Lord Father, before I end this letter. I know that you have been busy arranging a betrothal to Lady Yaoyorozu, the topic being the most discussed in all our letters to one another, as of late. In case you are not aware, Lady Yaoyorozu is recently betrothed to Lady Jirou in what appears to be a love match, and I have wished them congratulations on your behalf. Seeing as your work to arrange a betrothal between the two of us has now fallen through, I cannot possibly think of any excuse other than your dislike of our Emperor, may his name be remembered through history, to refuse my match to Izuku.
I await your reply.
The fine paper marked with the seal of the Todoroki clan is slowly but surely burning to ashes in Shouto’s hands, the inked response of his father crumbling away at the blackened edges.
The letter stops burning, as Shouto looks up to meet the bloodshot eyes of Lord Aizawa Shouta, one of the ministers of the Emperor, a reluctant onmyōji, and his teacher for the past five years.
“Yes, Lord Aizawa?”
“Please stop burning your correspondence in my carriage and in my presence. I have no wish to go through all of my eye medication before we even arrive in Yuuei.”
Shouto bows his head, carefully replacing the letter in his lap, where hopefully it would not catch fire.
“I apologise, Lord Aizawa.”
His teacher sighs, careful not to disturb his kanmuri as he rubs at his temple.
“What is the matter Todoroki? You have not stopped looking at the letter since you received it this morning.”
The letter had arrived courtesy of a stone-faced messenger on horseback, just as Lord Aizawa, and by extension Shouto, had been about to leave for the capital for official business, and Shouto’s fist clenches at the silk of his hakama at the memory, the temperature within the carriage suddenly dropping. Lord Aizawa sighs again, before gently tapping Shouto's knee with his fan.
“Does it involve Midoriya Izuku?”
Shouto jumps, and his cheeks bloom with a light pink, “How did you-”
Lord Aizawa has the beginnings of a smirk as he replies in a monotone, “I am a court onmyōji, remember? In addition to that, the two of you have been my students for the past five years, most of which were spent in my residence. Am I correct, then?”
He cannot bring himself to respond, even as the heat in his cheeks rise, and his teacher lets out a small amused huff. “Have faith, Todoroki. I have a feeling that everything will go as the two of you wish it.”
Shouto’s frowns, his voice cautious as he replies, “And how do you know that?”
Lord Aizawa smirks again, as he scratches his chin with his fan, and Shouto internally groans as he realises that-
“What is the official business that bids us to go to the capital?”
He’s testing him. Again. At least he knows the answers this time.
“To provide assistance with the preparations for the One for All peace celebrations in March, a month’s time away. One for All celebrates the lasting peace won by our Emperor and his forces, and goes for a period of a month, and while celebrated throughout the country, the main festivities are in the capital.”
Judging by the gleam in Lord Aizawa’s eyes, he'd been right to provide an explanation unprompted. Go beyond, plus ultra, after all.
“And what is it that they say about these celebrations again?”
Shouto turns to look at the road ahead through the bamboo partition. In the distance, the faintest outline of the capital can be seen, and he feels his mouth quirk upwards into a small smile. “That it is a celebration of miracles.”
Shouto’s lips are soft against his, as Izuku’s hands reach out to cup his jaw, and he has to remind himself to be quiet, when Shouto gently rests his hands on his hips to pull him closer and away from the paper of the sliding screen door. Even at this late hour, the palace and its grounds are still bustling, the light from the paper lanterns and the tails of the palace kitsune casting shadows of frantic figures dashing through the hallways and paths, as people and magical beings alike rush to finish the final preparations before the official start of the celebrations in a week’s time. No one, not even the Emperor himself, is able to escape their role in the organisations, and Izuku feels a small pang of guilt for climbing out of his chambers and using his magic to sneak into Shouto’s rooms when there is still work to be done.
A warm tongue teasing at his mouth draws him away from such thoughts, and this time, he does moan as his hands slide up to lace around Shouto’s neck, pulling himself ever closer. Shouto’s fingers lightly tap at his hip through the silk of his nightwear as a reminder, before he slowly pulls away for want of air, nose running sensitive lines against Izuku’s throat, his breath sending shivers of pleasure down his spine.
“I missed you, Izuku.”
Izuku grins, fingers carefully pulling Shouto’s face towards him, before leaning up on his toes to press another quick kiss to his smiling mouth. “I missed you too, Shouto. It's been too long.”
Shouto lets out a small groan before settling to sit cross-legged on the tatami floor, Izuku sitting sideways in his lap, their hands never leaving each other’s grip.
“You have no idea how hard it was, seeing you every single day, unable to touch you or talk about more than friendly pleasantries and affairs before being pulled away to the next task.”
Izuku chuckles at the soft whine in Shouto's voice, hands gently pushing Shouto’s hair away from his eyes as he leans in to press his forehead against his. No letter or group conversation could ever compare to the feeling of actually being in Shouto's arms, to the intimacy that came with the two of them being alone together.
“I think I may have some idea, since I was feeling exactly the same.”
Shouto huffs, “If the Emperor had not called a sudden meeting with all the ministers on the other side of the palace grounds just now, we probably wouldn't have been able to meet like this until the celebrations themselves.”
Izuku grins bashfully, and he resists the urge to chuckle when Shouto's mouth drops open in realisation.
“Izuku, did you...?”
At his beaming smile, Shouto leans in for another kiss, and Izuku shivers in delight, as one of Shouto's hands cups his nape, massaging away the knots there. His breath hitches in pleasure when Shouto’s fingers run gently along the bags beneath his eyes, soothing them with the briefest touch of his ice magic, before replacing them with his lips, “Izuku…”
“I will rest! I promise!”
Shouto gives him a doubtful look, and Izuku worries his lip, ducking his head as he admits, “After I finish everything in my room.”
The expression does not change, and Izuku sighs, leaning in to kiss Shouto's nose, “After I finish everything in my room, go through the preparations, help to write messages of thanks to all the nobles who attend, make sure that all the stall owners are properly settled and scheduled in accordance to their preferences, help check over the protection barrier, and talk to Father - Oh! I talked to Father already! Mother too! About the two of us!”
Shouto's eyes widen, and even though his voice remains steady, Izuku can see the raw hope in his eyes, and it takes everything he has to not kiss him right then and there.
“What did they say?”
Izuku does kiss him then, and the next words are breathed against Shouto's lips with a giddy grin.
“They said that they could not think of a better or more noble person, and they give both their consent and blessing!"
Shouto mouth quirks upwards, but the hope in his eyes is quickly replaced by bitterness, and Izuku pulls himself closer, fingers running gently through Shouto's hair.
“At least we only need to convince one parent.”
He presses a slow kiss to Shouto's cheek, lips lingering on the smooth skin.
“We'll find a way, Shouto! Somehow! We'll get him to agree to a betrothal.”
Shouto shakes his head, “I didn't tell my father that I wanted a betrothal.”
Izuku's breath catches in his throat, his fingers unconsciously loosening from Shouto's locks, hands slipping from his head. No betrothal? But Shouto had been the one to... His thoughts must show on his face, because Shouto's eyes widen, and he immediately grabs his hands, pressing kisses to his palms.
“Not like that, Izuku! I meant that a betrothal is not enough! He's already organising another one since the first fell through, and I…”
He presses a slow careful kiss to his fourth finger, and Izuku's breath catches for a completely different reason, as Shouto leans in close.
“I don't want a betrothal. It's not enough, not anymore. I told him that I wanted a marriage. A wedding. With you, Izuku.”
Izuku chuckles wetly, as he interlocks their fingers to pull Shouto in for an enthusiastic kiss.
“In that case, we're going to need to do a lot more convincing then.”
“You getting caught in my lap in my chambers in only our nightwear would probably do the trick,” jokes Shouto dryly.
Izuku stares at him, eyes widening. “Shouto, that’s it!”
“We have to create a scandal! One so big the entire capital will want us wed, and your father won’t be able to say anything against it.”
Shouto’s brows draw together in thought, before he smiles, his eyes filling with mischief.
“If we can be wed and spite my old man in one fell swoop…”
Izuku chuckles, “Are you doing this just to marry me, or to spite your father?”
Shouto pouts, “ Izuku . You know that I want to marry you! Of course, I wouldn’t at all mind tarnishing the bastard’s reputation in the process, with you getting caught in my chambers.”
Izuku worries his lip in his thought as he considers their current positions, before shaking his head, “Just this isn’t big enough of a scandal to guarantee a marriage. A few comments at most, and maybe talk of a betrothal. We need an event so big, everyone in Yuuei will know.”
Shouto grins, arms wrapping tightly around his waist to draw him even closer, and Izuku snuggles happily into the warmth of his chest, “What exactly do you have in mind?”
The first day of the celebrations is one of a cloudless sky, and the crowds gathered in the capital gasp and cheer as the Emperor’s kirin dances above the city to commence One for All. Its bell-like laughter fills the air, mixing in with the raucous sounds of the people below to create a chorus of wonder and joy. The golden gleam of its scales glittering in the sun is blinding, and Shouto grins as he slips on his mempo, his movement unimpaired by his armour as he steps onto the tournament platform. He can hear the crowd around him roar their approval at the announcement of his name to everyone gathered to watch the open tourney, the first of many events held during One for All. They take in the Todoroki crest of fire on his kabuto, the bright lacquered shades of blue and red of the armour’s bamboo, the vibrant splash of red over the area of the left eye on the otherwise snow white mempo.
However, most of all they take in the braided cord wrapped around the tekkō of his right hand, the bright shades of green standing out against the inky black, bringing to mind the distinct colors of a certain heir apparent, and if the assortment of gasps that ripple through the audience is anything to go by, it’s done its job. Shouto cannot help but chuckle softly as he draws his katana and gets into his fighting position, ice crystals and small embers appearing on his shoulders and upper arms, his opponent doing the same with their own magic, the green silk twisted over Shouto’s wrist winking away all the while.
“Izuku, I can’t possibly take this! Your mother — ”
Izuku smiles before leaning forward to press a soft kiss to his lips, the silk of the braided cord soft in their joined hands, the quiet energy of its protection blessing keeping time with their pulses.
“My mother made it for me, yes. And I’m choosing to give it to you. I was planning on giving it to you for your birthday when I saw you again.”
“My mother gave it to me, and told me to use it how I wished. Wear it, hide it, give it to somebody I would trust with anything.”
Izuku untangles their fingers, with a smile as soft as flower shoots in the spring. “I helped her to make this, Shouto, which means that a part of me exists in the threads.”
Izuku carefully pushes it into his open hand, before closing the fingers into a fist, and placing a lingering kiss on the knuckles.
“Please take care of me.”
Shouto swallows past the lump in his throat, and blinks away the wetness in his eyes, before swiftly removing his own cord from around his wrist, smiling at the memory of his younger self helping his mother to loop and weave the fine threads. The blue and red of the cotton is nowhere near as fine, but if the sudden wetness in Izuku's eyes and his awed smile are anything to go by, Shouto doesn't think he cares about the material.
“Then in that case, please take care of me as well.”
“VICTOR: MIDORIYA IZUKU!”
The crowd lets loose a collective cheer, and Izuku laughs breathlessly from behind his mempo, as he sheaths his katana, free hand reaching up on instinct to wipe the sweat from his forehead. Even from his standpoint on the tournament platform, he can hear the chatter in the seats, the projection mirrors and spells set up around the seats and throughout the city broadcasting his image to all. He knows what they’re focusing on - the deep blue and apple red cotton cord around his wrist, the colours contrasting with the mossy green of his tekkō.
The colour scheme, Izuku knows, is all too familiar to the crowd, having already appeared only an hour earlier, when Shouto had defeated his opponent without even needing to use his katana in close combat. The cheers only crescendo in volume as he bows first to his opponent, and then to the rest of the spectators, and he grins up at the tourney participants’ seat section, eyes immediately resting on a distant head of white and red, split in a perfect line down the middle. Somehow, despite the distance, he knows that Shouto is smiling back in his own subdued way. Izuku lifts his hand up in an enthusiastic wave, the blue and red threads dancing with the movement, and not even his victory in his tourney match can compete with the rush of joy that fills his veins when the figure in armour lacquered in the matching colours shyly waves back.
“Can you believe that the Emperor’s Heir and Lord Todoroki’s youngest are in a courtship?”
It is all that people can talk about as they slowly filter out of the tournament hall. Despite herself, Uraraka Ochako places a careful finger on her lips, as they step out into the crowded streets. Beside her Tsuyu Asui nods, and they walk hand in hand behind the largest group of spectators, careful to keep their distance. It’s unlikely that anyone will recognise their faces from the open tourney earlier, given that everyone was wearing a mask and helmet, but Uraraka doesn’t want to take any chances. After all, she’d taken them off when she’d gone to sit with the other tourney participants after her own match, so there’s a very minute possibility that people will notice her. At least they’re not wearing their armour or carrying their weapons; those have all been stored in the tournament hall’s amoury for security, and for the reinforcement of their respective protection blessings.
As they follow the group, Uraraka feels a twinge of guilt for chasing gossip about one of her closest friends, even if it’s out of concern. The guilt only grows as they pass the food stalls, the smell of freshly grilled meat and fish, honeyed fruits, sweet breads, and red bean filling the air, until it becomes a weight on the exhausted muscles of her sore shoulders as they navigate around the throngs of people celebrating and laughing. Tsu’s eyes widen, and a soft ribbit escapes her mouth at the sight of all the fare on offer, and Uraraka desperately hopes that the growls of her belly are hidden by the chatter all around them, the adrenaline from the tourney disappearing as the smell of cooking grows ever stronger. The streets are even more crowded here, and Uraraka nearly stumbles as Tsu tightens her grip and overtakes her in order to keep up with their target.
“Tsu, aren’t you hungry? We haven’t eaten since this morning before our matches, we could get something first?”
Tsu’s throat bobs as she swallows heavily, but to Uraraka’s surprise, she shakes her head,
“The people in front of us are talking about Midoriya. We should find out what they’re talking about.”
There’s no trace of guilt in her voice, and Uraraka smiles weakly, “It doesn’t bother you that we’re trying to eavesdrop on gossip?”
“Midoriya will find out one way or another, and it should be from a friend when he does. Don’t you think so, Uraraka?”
Tsu’s hand slips from her own, and Uraraka’s eyes widen as she turns to place them firmly on her cheeks, the cool skin heavenly on her senses in the warmth generated by both the cooking food and the crowd. Uraraka giggles at the adorable tilting of Tsu’s head and Tsu sticks out her long tongue teasingly in response.
“Besides, this way, we get to spend even more time together, Uraraka. We can eavesdrop and then enjoy the festival, rather than just enjoying the festival."
She can’t argue with that, and she laughs lightly as they jog after the spectators, hand in hand all the way.
“Can you believe that the Emperor’s Heir and Lord Todoroki’s youngest are courting?”
A ripple of shocked murmurs passes over everyone in the immediate vicinity of the vendor’s stall, most dropping their sticks of grilled seafood in surprise, and only Nishiya Shinji’s fast reflexes and the activation of his wood magic prevents the food from hitting the ground.
“What did you just say?”
“Wait, could you please repeat that?”
“There’s apparently a courtship between Young Todoroki and Young Midoriya!”
“Are you being serious right now?”
“When did this happen?”
Takeyama Yu shrugs, taking a large bite out of a grilled squid, before taking another bite out of the one in her hand.
“They were wearing each other’s colours during the tourney today. A pretty big indicator if you ask me.”
Everyone within hearing range of Takeyama’s loud, confident voice goes quiet immediately, the sounds of prices being haggled and orders being shouted dropping away into a blissful cocoon of silence, before the noise comes back with a vengeance. From the back of the crowd, a young girl with brown hair floats up into a nearby tree, joined by a frog spirit, judging by the long tongue the other girl uses to reach out and curl around a branch, no doubt to escape the crush of people surging forward, eager to hear court gossip. The vendors hurriedly push their wares off their grills and cooking fires, before leaning forward over their counters, eyes wide, all thoughts of business gone. Around them, the wooden stalls creak and groan under the sudden weight, but hold against the pressure.
“Wearing each other’s colours?!”
“Exchanging favours already?”
“A little early, don’t you think?”
“Try very. How long has this courtship been going on again?”
“Surely, we would have heard news if there is a courtship between the two of them?”
“If there’s been no news, then the courtship must be fairly new then.”
“Mount Lady, are you sure you weren’t mistaken? Could it have been the colours of another clan?”
The woman in question rolls her eyes, rising to her famous full height, as she turns towards the voice, plucking yet another stick of grilled squid out of their hands, ignoring their protests, “I don’t think my eyes are bad enough to mistake the colours of two braided cords on a projection mirror.”
“No matter how you look at it, exchanging favours at such an event is too much for an early courtship!”
“Are you calling me a liar?!”
“Maybe they’ve been courting for a while?”
All eyes turn back towards a wide-eyed young woman, her light blue hair arranged into an intricate twist at her waist, and the muscular young man with short blonde hair beside her. Behind them, another young man with dark hair nibbles away at a piece of dried octopus, eyes cast downward to his geta-clad feet. The fair-haired boy tilts his head, blonde ponytail wiggling with the moment as his brows draw together in thought.
“You know, Hado, you could be right! The two of them are hardly in the capital together at the same time, so it would make sense if they’ve been courting for a while, but no one knew about it.”
There’s a low murmur through the crowd, as everyone considers the new information, and even the two in the tree lean closer.
“That’s actually quite possible.”
“The Emperor’s Heir is here for half the year, but young Todoroki only comes a handful of times.”
“Aren’t the two of them under the private tutelage of one of the onmyōji?”’
“Could be. Can’t remember the name though.”
“I think he spends his time in Endeavour when he’s not under the tutelage of that onmyōji.”
“Wonder if it has something to do with Lord Todoroki?”
“They probably started courting sometime during their tutelage in that case.”
“No wonder we had no idea.”
“The two of them do make a lovely pair.”
The young woman points to the people murmuring in agreement around them, pale blue eyes wide with curiosity, and an innocent smile on her mouth, “You all sure do change your minds quickly, huh?”
Unseen by the murmuring crowd, the girl and the frog spirit in the tree slip away.
The chattering of the crowd is loud enough to shake the tournament hall’s foundations, and Izuku sucks in a deep breath, adjusting the kusazuri around his waist, as he stretches out the sore muscles in his body. The hallway leading to the entrance of the tournament platform on his end is empty, and he is grateful for the lack of people.
Being the heir apparent to the Emperor, and the youngest son of one of the most powerful Lords in the court, had saved him and Shouto from any direct questions, but the questioning gazes of everyone in the crowd had weighed heavily on his mind yesterday. On top of that, the last two days have been brutal, and even with the limit of one daily tourney match per participant, and the healing magic of Chiyo Shuzenji, the court physician, the tourney itself is still a competition amongst the best of the best throughout the nation, with everyone fighting to the best of their abilities.
Izuku winces as he massages out a particularly stubborn knot in his shoulder. At least the matches are all separated by age. Izuku shivers at the thought of having to compete against someone older than him. He’d be able to hold his own, no doubt about that, but then his body would ache even more.
Izuku gasps in surprise, slowly turning around to meet Shouto’s eyes, his mouth quirked upwards in a subtle smile.
Shouto grins and catches Izuku in an enthusiastic hug, the leather and bamboo of their armour lightly brushing against one another, laughing when Izuku easily picks him up around the waist to spin him around in a small circle.
“What are you doing here? You should be getting ready! You have to enter the platform from the other side of the building! Can you able to make it back in time?”
Shouto’s kutsu-clad feet touch the floor once more, and he grins, hands cupping Izuku’s jaw to pull his face up for a kiss.
“Don’t worry, Izuku. I’ll be back in time, but I need to tell you something.”
His hands move to Izuku’s shoulders, the touch comforting even through the protection of his sode.
“My father arrived in the capital last night.”
The determination in Shouto’s eyes tells him everything, and Izuku nods solemnly, before leaning forward to gently press his lips against his.
“We’ll get married, Shouto, before the end of One for All. I know we will.”
Shouto hums against his mouth, pulling away just enough to rub their noses together.
“I believe you, Izuku.”
Over the din of the audience, the laughter of the kirin can be heard, signalling the upcoming beginning of the tourney match, and Izuku leans in for another peck, fingers tugging at the silk cord on Shouto’s wrist.
“Don’t you dare go easy on me.”
Shouto grins into their kiss before stepping back to help Izuku put on his mempo, the green lacquer a shade slightly lighter than his hair, which promptly disappears under his kabuto, the helmet carefully streaked with gentle reds, and greens, the pattern bringing to mind a field of flowers in bloom. The Emperor’s crest of the kirin’s golden horns is reflected in Shouto’s eyes, as he steps back, mouth set into a mischievous smirk, before he puts on his own mempo, fingers hooking into the cotton braid on Izuku’s tekkō to pull him close for a gentle touch of foreheads.
“Only if you don’t go easy on me.”
“IT’S THE MATCH THAT EVERYONE HAS BEEN WAITING FOR! ARE YOU ALL READY?”
The voice of Yuuei’s herald, Yamada Hizashi, is nearly drowned out by the bellows of everyone watching, the sounds echoing throughout Yuuei, as even people gathered around the projection mirrors in different parts of the city scream their approval. The seats today are filled to their absolute capacity, and the chatter and gossip in the crowd is even louder than usual, as discussion flows between both the lower classes and the nobility about the relationship between the two participants.
“Lord Todoroki’s youngest and the Emperor’s Heir are—”
“Oh, this should be interesting! Two people in a courtship battling each other like this?”
“How long has this been going on?”
“A little early, don’t you think?”
“They’re still wearing each other’s favours!”
“How romantic! It must be true-”
“Madness! So early on in their courtship too!”
“According to one of their classmates, young Todoroki has always had quite the eye for—”
“Power? Why would he need it? Endeavour is one of the richest provinces, what with their exquisite metalwork and—”
“Wonder how the two will fare against one another. This is their first year participating in the tourney matches, after all. And being in a courtship on top of that!”
“I don’t think I would be able to handle so much pressure!”
Only one viewer does not take part in the discourse, their fire magic manifesting as a robe of flame across their face and shoulders, arms crossed tightly across their chest. Even Yamada himself is taking part in the discussions, despite his being seated away from the rest of the spectators.
“MIDORIYA! VERSUS! TODOROKI! LET THE BATTLE OF THE TWO LOVERS BEGIN! START!”
The air wrapping around the right side of Shouto's body turns cold with frost as he activates the magic there, sending a barrage of ice flying across the platform towards Izuku with a stomp of his kutsu. The gasps of the crowd can barely be heard as he flicks his right wrist to conjure up a frozen wall behind him, just as he hears the telltale sounds of Izuku activating his own magic. A loud bang echoes throughout the tournament hall, as the ice shatters and cracks, followed by a howl that could rival that of a raging okami, the particles flying outwards towards the seats, only to fall harmlessly to the floor courtesy of the protection spells cast throughout the hall.
No such protection is offered to Shouto, as the force from Izuku’s blow against his ice threatens to send him flying out of the boundaries of the platform, if not for the barrier he had constructed earlier, the wind generated from Izuku’s retaliation blowing cool on his body even through his armour and clothing. As the cloud begins to clear, Shouto can spot the telltale signs of Izuku’s magic; the patterns of red lightning visible through the eyeholes of his mempo as he dashes across the length of the platform towards him, katana drawn. Shouto grins, letting his fire magic loose on the left side his body as he rushes to meet him, the screams of the crowd dropping away. Come at me with everything you’ve got.
The ice flies apart with a simple flick of his fingers, and the roars of the crowd fall away as Izuku runs, the magic of One for All coursing through his entire body. Shouto always creates a wall of ice to keep himself from being sent flying whenever he first uses his ice. The cloud of frost is clearing, and Izuku grins when he sees the familiar silhouette. The wind from my blow should have pinned him against it.
A flash of orange ignites suddenly from the figure, and the warmth is comforting even through the layers of his armour. The warmth only increases and intensifies as Shouto rushes towards him, and Izuku doesn't waste any time, crouching downwards, before he uses his magic to propel himself forward, the blade of his katana hidden behind the right side of his body. The warmth becomes scorching in barely the blink of an eye, and Izuku swings his katana outwards, the flames fanning over Shouto’s right side from the power of the blow. That should delay his ice from forming immediately .
His blade thrums with the energy of One for All as he uses the momentum to complete his pivot, and Izuku takes a deep breath. The flames are already extinguishing from the force of his blow, but if he strikes Shouto right before he can retaliate...Izuku can already see Shouto getting ready to defend, katana raised, and ice already flickering to life in the form of barely visible frost. Izuku grins. Come at me with everything you've got.
The crowd roars to its feet, as twin towers of ice and flame erupt the second the katana meet, the heir apparent’s magic crackling all the while. The tournament platform seems to explode as a thick cloud of steam erupts outwards and up towards the sky, and the audience leans back as one to gape at the sight. Below them, the silhouettes of both Midoriya and Todoroki are barely visible, and the screams and chattering of the spectators crest as they run at one another again, their figures seeming to melt into obscurity.
“WHAT A PASSIONATE EXCHANGE!”
“Look at the power of young Todoroki!”
“It’s going to be a close one, what with young Midoriya’s magic and all.”
“This is so manly!”
“I’m getting nervous...”
“Don’t be, Uraraka! I’m certain that Midoriya and Todoroki know their limits!”
“Come on Bakugou, don’t give me that look! You think it’s manly too, right?”
“Yeah! Just because you lost to-”
“Midoriya and Todoroki are evenly matched here!”
“I wonder what this means for their courtship?”
“Ohhh, it is a new one after all!”
“Do you think it will dissolve?”
“Hardly! Have you even been watching their match so far?”
“They suit each other well, don’t they?”
“Perfectly, I would say.”
No one takes note of the lone spectator standing at the back of the seats, the flames on their body licking higher, their jaw clenching tighter, and their brow wrinkling further with every comment.
“You decreased the time needed to activate your magic! That’s amazing, Shouto!” exclaims Izuku from behind his mempo.
The beginnings of sweat drip down Izuku’s face as he weaves and sidesteps away from the calculated strikes of Shouto’s katana, the leather of his armour, and the shitagi beneath it already damp from the steam.
“I wanted to surprise you.”
Even though Shouto's face is covered by his mempo and his figure is barely visible through the steam, Izuku can sense his smile and joy in every single one of his movements, from the playful flicks of his katana, to the way his kutsu seem to slide against Izuku’s calves every time they step together, to the teasing wiggling of his shoulders as they prepare for their next exchange of blows, and a delighted giggle breaks free from his throat even as they run at each other again.
“You did it for me?”
“What kind of future husband would I be if I didn’t try to impress you from time to time?”
The solemn words are whispered into his ear, a promise, as Shouto readjusts his grip on his katana to grab his arm and pull him close, and Izuku's free hand flies to cover the blush on his face out of instinct. One of Shouto’s legs snakes behind his, his other hand sliding to grip his shoulder, and Izuku gasps as his centre of gravity is shifted and his focus on his control over One for All slips, white steam turning blue then turning back to white as his back gently hits the platform floor, Shouto’s hands never leaving their steady grip on his body. He can already feel the phantom cold of ice forming beneath him in expectation, and Izuku grits his teeth in concentration as Shouto’s free leg moves to kneel on his katana hand, the same one encased in Shouto’s grip, and the hand on his shoulder begins to slide down his arm.
The thrumming of his magic floods his veins once more, and his free hand swings out to push carefully at the side of Shouto’s shoulder.
You’re not going to hurt him. You’re not! You won’t! You can’t!
Sure enough, the sensation is light enough to only unbalance Shouto’s position from where he’s straddling him to send him rolling to the side, and Izuku gasps as he scrambles to his feet to put some distance between the two of them. There’s no patch of wetness from where he was lying, no lingering chill through the protection of his armour, and Izuku’s eyes widen as Shouto swiftly gets back to his feet.
He won’t use his magic while there’s still steam, not without the risk of creating water or ice or a fire he can’t control. And risk hurting me.
The second thought brings a smile to his lips and a deeper blush to his face as Izuku drops low towards the floor of the platform to swerve around Shouto, the white clouds blanketing them curling with every movement.
The cover’s not going to last forever, especially if I keep using One for All like this.
Already the steam around them is dissipating from his actions, the mossy green lacquer of his armour at the corners of his vision blinking into colour, Shouto’s motions no longer an indistinct entity as he turns to face him.
The magic of One for All hums as he leaps upwards into the air, just narrowly avoiding the outward swing of Shouto’s katana, the blade reflecting off the rays of the sun, the wheat palette of the platform floor the perfect backdrop to its glare.
He’s hovering above Shouto now, the tip of his katana close enough to strike the crest on Shouto’s kabuto if he swings it down.
Shouto begins to look up, the white and red of his mempo brilliant in the light as both of his hands raise in jōdan, katana ready to strike.
Izuku flicks his katana towards the platform, red lightning coursing through his body.
He’s starting to fall.
Shouto’s blade swings in a downwards arc instinctively at the movement, his arms no longer fully raised above his head, and they’re close enough that Izuku can see Shouto’s eyes widen in realisation through the eyeholes of his mempo.
Izuku pulls his katana back from its feint, before immediately bringing it down once more onto Shouto’s, releasing his magic to propel himself forward the second their blades meet, and the steam around them roars away with a whoosh, fanning outwards to the edges of the platform and beyond.
His knees are braced on Shouto’s shoulders now, the impact of One for All sending them flying towards the floor.
It takes everything Izuku has to maintain his balance on top of Shouto, as they fall together in a heap, and he can’t tell if the breath that rushes out of him is from the impact or from the racing of his heart.
Yes! I did it!
And then Shouto’s hand moves, the green silk on his tekkō vibrant in the steam-free air.
“IT’S A DRAAAAAAAAAW!”
Shouto’s breath leaves his body in an easy laugh, joined almost immediately by another familiar set of chortles. Despite being enshrined in ice up to his forearms, the laughter that flows out of Izuku’s body is carefree, his head bobbing up and down from the action, and the remaining breath in his body leaves for a completely different reason.
You fill me with warmth in a way my fire magic never could.
His hands itch to touch Izuku wherever he can reach, to feel the vibrations of his laughter against his chest, to press kisses to his face, to have his voice whispered into his ears. Izuku’s laugh trails off into a series of giggles, his gaze mischievous through the eyeholes of his mempo, and Shouto blinks. Was I that obvious?
“C-could you maybe release me now? It’s getting a little cold, and y-your shoulders might be going numb soon?”
Shouto blinks again, before his eyes follow Izuku’s gaze downwards to where he’s frozen his body to his own, and he blushes as the reality of their position finally hits him; Izuku straddling his chest, knees pressing solidly down onto his shoulders, the glittering ice snaking up like vines from where they’re connected, stretching all the way to Izuku’s outstretched arms.
Izuku’s gentle sigh is muffled by his mempo as the ice drips away from his body, but Shouto hears it all the same, his hands moving up to tentatively rest at his waist through the protection of the kusazuri.
“Are you hurt, Izuku?”
Izuku’s smile is evident in his eyes, and he shakes his head as he unhooks his kabuto from his mempo before tugging it off, green curls springing free from their sweaty hold until they resemble a vibrant forest canopy, the shades to which his mempo could never compare. The green lacquer over his face is pulled away next, and carefully deposited on the ground beside them, and finally, finally, Izuku’s unblemished face blinks back at him, lips drawn into their customary open mouthed grin.
“So...you froze me to you.”
“Only way I could think to end this without hurting you.”
Izuku laughs again, before carefully placing his gauntleted hands over Shouto’s and slowly pulling them to their feet. He hides his wince well, but Shouto still moves to help hold him steady as he shakes out the remaining cold in his legs, before reaching up to remove his own kabuto and mempo. Izuku’s hands are gentle as they carefully tug the chin cords of the kabuto free from the mempo’s hooks, his touch warm even through the layers of leather and bamboo.
“Only way to end this in a draw , you mean.”
Shouto sticks out the tip of his tongue as the mempo is removed from his face, laughing at Izuku’s exaggerated pout.
“I promised that I wouldn’t go easy on you, Izuku.”
The pout turns into a shy smile as Izuku ducks his head, sweaty curls tumbling into his eyes.
“And I recall that I promised you the same.”
Their fingers brush as Izuku returns his armour to him, the touch as light and teasing as their ones from moments earlier, and Shouto worries his lip as memories of their fight play through his head, one question in particular lingering in his mind. He bends to carefully place both articles of armour to the platform floor, before reaching up to scratch briefly at his nape.
“So…did I impress you?”
Izuku's eyes seem to glow as his hands close warm and secure around Shouto's, his thumbs stroking along his knuckles.
“You never fail to impress me, Shouto.”
He brings them up to his mouth to kiss, and the left side of Shouto’s body threatens to burst into flame at the action. As heat floods his face, and as his heart threatens to pound through the bone of his chest and the leather and bamboo of his dō alike, Shouto silently thanks Lord Aizawa for all the lessons he had been forced to undergo in controlling his fire magic during their years together. The cheers of the crowd crescendo as Izuku’s lips pull away, the sound an irrelevant and distant ringing in Shouto’s ears as their eyes meet, and Shouto laughs as he presses their foreheads together, their gaze and hands never leaving one another, his own eyes crinkling with the force of his grin until it matches Izuku’s.
“You never fail to impress me either.”
The cheers and clamor of the crowd rise to a roar as the two competitors embrace on the platform below them, until not even Yamada’s voice can be heard over the din despite his magic working at its full power.
“WHAT A TURN OF EVENTS!”
“They put their armour on the ground? They must really trust one another then!”
“What scandalous behaviour from the heir! Kissing young Todoroki like that! And young Todoroki is no better! Embracing the heir in such a manner!”
“Did you see what I just saw?”
“I wasn’t snoring in my seat until the end, so yes.”
“Yes, but it was rather sweet of the two of them to do so. What a way to tell each other that they are no hard feelings!”
“It’s serious then, in any case.”
“Serious or not, that is inappropriate behaviour for a couple still in the early stages of their courtship!”
“Calm down Kaindo, they’ve known each other since they were young.”
“Five years, if I recall correctly. Still can’t remember the onmyōji’s name for the life of me.”
“Yeah, they could have been courting for a while like that young lady was saying a few days ago!”
“But was it actually confirmed that they have been courting for years?”
There’s an audible grumble from the four armed man as he crosses two of them across his chest, “Inappropriateness aside, I suppose that this confirms that the two of them are in a serious courtship. And that they genuinely trust and care for one another.”
“I think everyone knew that already.”
“Look at them wrapped up in one another. It’s almost like they’re in their own world.”
“What do you mean almost?”
“I agree! I don’t even think they can hear the crowd.”
“I say they’ve actually forgotten that the rest of the world exists!”
The pointed glare from Lord Todoroki Enji and the sudden blue flare of his fire magic do nothing to silence the laughing woman or the growing number of people agreeing with her statements, the nods and the assertions sweeping through the crowd like the plague. Nor do they work to dispel the swarm of gossip and chatter from spreading throughout the stands and the city, as conversations regarding his heir’s farce of a relationship filter out the sound of cheers and applause in his ears.
First he throws this match into a draw to spite me, and now this.
His son and the Emperor’s boy have drawn apart from one another to bow to their audiences, but their hands remain entwined in one another’s, the projection mirrors broadcasting the image for all to see. The sight makes his jaw tightly clench, the sensation of pain masked by the annoyance flowing through his veins. Even as Shouto makes his bows towards his area of the stands, his heir does not meet his eyes, gaze focused entirely on the grinning runt at his side, as they look at each other and chuckle.
Disgraceful. My own creation turning into something so weak under the influence of the Emperor’s worthless son.
The smell of soot fills the air as a clumsy bystander stands too close to his flames, and Enji wrestles his magic back into subordination, as the mere thought of the Emperor brings the taste of bile to his mouth. He forces his eyes to close, large fingers pressing into his eyelids as he fights off the inevitable headache brewing as a result of his heir’s pettiness, the sounds of chatter and laughter around him falling away.
The celebrations are long, and the opportunities for another match are plenty. I will make sure of it.
He ignores the fresh thundering applause as his heir and the Emperor’s adopted weakling no doubt take their leave, and good riddance.
You’ll soon grow tired of acting simply to spite me, Shouto. I only hope that you’ll grow up quickly and end this little game of annoying me with your actions when you do.
He presses his thumbs in harder when the chattering around him doesn’t stop, his teeth clenched so tightly they could shatter bone .
I refuse to lose the fruit of my labours to the Emperor. He will not win this time.